Questions and some Answers

I saw these questions on Judy’s blog and thought it might be fun to try it. You can find them on Question Time over Coffee
Have you ever slept on / in a hammock?
No. I’ve BEEN in one but didn’t like it much.
Do you find it easy to maintain friendship with other people?
Yes and no. I have some life-long friends, but very few. More casual friendships based mainly on proximity usually fade pretty quickly. I don’t consider myself good at “friends” because a lot of things I like to do such as writing and painting aren’t done socially. Even walking in nature with my dogs isn’t very social. I’ve found very few people in my whole life who think THAT’S fun.

I also think that as we get older friendship is a different thing. We’re not “out there” as much or in the same way. We don’t need to form alliances or transactional relationships because we’re not working. What’s called being ‘set in our ways’ seems to me to be that we are more self-aware and knowledgeable about the amount of ambulatory time we have remaining, and we might be less likely to be profligate with it. I come from a long-lived family, and I’ve seen it. BUT I would really like to find another woman around my age and ability who wants to go X-country skiing but so far no luck.
Are you a person of ethics? 
I believe in being kind.

If so, how does that impact your daily life?
I think ethics are part and parcel of who we are, so ethics wouldn’t so much impact our daily life as determine it.
Are you decisive or indecisive as a person?
It depends. 😀

What is your process of writing a new post for your blog?
I get up in the morning, make my coffee, feed my dogs, drink my coffee as I write my blog. I write to a prompt every morning and have for 9 years now. It’s fun, it’s built a community and helped me as a writer.
If you were asked to create a Top Fifteen Book List holding books that you felt everyone should read at least once in their life and would never regret reading what titles would you include?

I honestly don’t know what everyone should read. My neighbor loves mysteries and comes over to tell me what she’s reading. I would never read them, but she loves them. My 15 favorite books? I can write to that, but I don’t know. I’ve read so many books I can’t even remember…

Stones of Silence by George Schaller
Candide by Voltaire
Italian Journey by Goethe
Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
Emerson’s essays
Sections of Thoreau’s Walden
No Horizon is So Far and Skiing Into the Bright Open Liv Arneson
Red Chamber Dream by Cao Tsui Chin
Eiger Dreams by Jon Krakauer
Tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki

So many books and parts of books — I can’t list them all or narrow them down to 15.

I like my own novels 😍
How important is it for you to know a person’s real name? 
[Be this online, off line, social media or blogging] 
I don’t really care
When at school what were your top five subjects that you were passionate about?
Art, English (literature), Physics — truth be told, I didn’t like school very much

Why was this – what did you love about them?

I love art. It was the only subject I was passionate about. I was good at English. Physics told me something about the external world.

Are those five subjects still present in your life today in any form?

I’m a writer and a painter. And physics is an inescapable aspect of life.
Are you a photogenic person?
Depends who’s taking the picture. My friend Lois takes good pictures of me even though every time I look like one of my maternal aunts. What’s up with that?

Are you eager to appear in family or friend snap
s?
I don’t care. I’ve learned it can mean a lot to the person taking the photo.

Are there many photographs of you from and over the various stages and ages of your life?

No.
With regard to the paranormal do you choose to not believe because there is nothing to believe or because you feel it is safer to not believe?
“There are more things in Heaven and Hell than are dreamt of in all your philosophies.”

Are you a non-believer or a believer?
Yes.
How are you with meeting strangers/new people who might or could become new friends? 
I’m an open, friendly, curious person. I give people second chances and the benefit of the doubt.

Is there a process you adopt to identify if they are the right fit for you?

Generally if we hang out more than twice I think there’s a shot at friendship. If we have common interests then there is definitely a shot. If they can engage in conversation that’s NOT about other people, that’s a good sign. If they have a sense of humor and understand how to converse for amusement, then I’m in. I avoid people who like to show off or are unnecessarily polemical or competitive. I’m a good listener so a lot of people will use me for that. That’s their thing, but it is usually not a two way street.

Featured photo: Selfie after I came back from X-country skiing for a couple of hours. I don’t look happy in the photo, but I was VERY happy — and tired. I was trying to get a photo of my eyes to go with the China book in which there’s a chapter about how my green eyes surprised the people in Guangzhou, where I lived. It’s not a flattering photo, but somehow I like it.

O Fortuna…

Last night I learned that a friend was in a terrible car accident a couple weeks ago — his car vs. a truck — on the highway that runs north and south through Colorado, but only a few blocks from me. The victim is the junk sculptor I interviewed last month. I’ve always liked him, but didn’t know him until I got the idea of interviewing him for Colorado Central Magazine. That led me to a two hour chat with him in his work shop last month. We had a blast. As I left — thanking him — he thanked me for the interesting conversation. 😮

I tried to keep the interview focused, but he and his workshop made that difficult. Neither of us is very linear and the interview was 2/3 interview and 1/3 random discussion and discovery. I sent him the draft of the article. He liked it and wrote back, “Thanks for understanding my art.” Anyway, I contacted the magazine last night and told them. They’re going to put the article up online with the GoFundMe link. John’s going to make it, but his care and rehab will be incredibly expensive and slow. And, as he said, “I only have 3 circles.” He works on a potato and barley farm and that’s his portion. John is kind, authentic, friendly — a whole lot of good adjectives. A lot of things in his body were broken and repair was touch and go. Godnose how rehab will be. I hope he’ll be able to come back to his shop and put more things together as he loves to do.

I don’t really want to say the same old thing, “We never know,” because we all KNOW we never know.

OTHERWISE, to my immense surprise, Bear wanted to go with me and Teddy yesterday. It was balmy for late November and the light was beautiful. As we were on our return, I saw two people approaching — a very tall man and a very petite woman. These are the only two other walkers I ever see out there. They are very nice and the love the dogs and the dogs love them, so there was much petting of dogs and chatting and “I always love to see you out here!” Apparently last time Teddy scratched the woman’s arm and that led to an infection. We agreed it was Teddy’s nails, the dirt from the road, and his overweening enthusiasm. The critical moment for socializing Teddy was 2020. He never jumps on me, never, ever, ever, but he doesn’t generalize from “Martha” to “human beings” I think because I was more or less a unique entity during that important juncture in the development of his hyper-active Aussie brain. I felt really bad about the scratch and infection, but the woman felt bad about my feeling bad, so… I held Teddy down so she could pet him because she really wanted to.

Then we were on our way. It’s an interesting thing that they — and I — go out there for the quiet and solitude and are very happy to meet, and chat with, others who are out there for quiet and solitude.

There isn’t much snow left and, of course, what’s there isn’t real snow but what snow evolves into after a week of deep cold, heavy frost, and sun, but Bear was happy when it was her turn to smell and wander. My fitness app (grrrrrr) tells me that when it’s Teddy’s turn, we walk 3 mph (and he’s pulling). When it’s Bear’s turn, we walk 1.2 mph and, for some reason, Teddy isn’t pulling. I think he understands. Here’s the snow angel Bear made in what’s left. No, not the shadow. That’s me.

I’m No Truman Capote, but Some Thanksgiving Memories

SO my solitary Thanksgiving had its significant wins and irrelevant losses. The biggest loss was my can opener which broke and made pumpkin pie impossible. Oh oh poor me…

As holidays have a way of doing, it made me think of some PAST Thanksgivings. As a kid, my Thanksgivings almost always involved my family, and usually my Aunt Martha had Thanksgiving with us. Sometimes even a bigger family event. This was a Thanksgiving when I was a little kid — maybe 5 years old so 1957?. This is our house in Englewood, CO, and the people? My mom’s on the right facing, two of my aunts and my cousin, Linda. My best MEMORY of this Thanksgiving is seeing the Wizard of Oz on TV and the next day running up and down the street with my two boy cousins — David and Greg — the sons of my Aunt Jo, holding the dishtowel in this photo — running from a “tomato.” My cousin David didn’t get “tornado.” His smart and preternaturally sophisticated older brother, Greg, said we should be glad we weren’t running from a watermelon.

Of course the Thanksgiving after President Kennedy was shot was bizarre, but honestly, from my perspective as a sixth grader, the most bizarre element was we didn’t do anything but watch TV. It was unusual, even given those events, then the truth came out that my Aunt Martha had a big, bloody blister on her foot, and watching “history” was just a way of saving face. The grownups watched but none of them were in the room to see Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald; only my brother was there to see it. Somehow they were mad at him because they missed it.

A reality of Thanksgiving is that after a few days together all the time we all got on each other’s nerves and wanted to get back to “normal” life.

The WORST Thanksgiving of my life was back in something like 1984? when the Good X and I decided to go to Ensenada. We got in our SAAB and headed south. Just south of Tijuana, the pin that turns the distributor broke and the car stopped. We sat beside the highway, wondering what we were going to do when some Angeles Verdes (Green Angels) a kind of roving Tourist Assistance organization of the government happened by.

Mi Español primitivo was very useful and pretty soon two talented mechanics had diagnosed the problem, taken the distributor apart, said, “See?” in Spanish to the Good X who nodded and to which I said, “¡Si!” They then looked along the side of the road for an appropriately sized nail which they cut to fit the hole where the pin would go. The reassembled the distributor and we were on our way to Ensenada.

Ensenada was great. We wandered around and had some rotisserie chicken then headed back toward home when it began to rain. Seriously rain. Torrents. Buckets. By the time we got back to Tijuana almost two hours later it was dark and still pouring rain. The rain had been even heavier there. The Tijuana River was prone to flooding AND it WAS flooding. The main road was in Zona Rio along the river. We were afraid the water was going to be too deep to drive in. We could hear the water splashing on the underside of the car. No way to know what debris was down there, either. Big rocks? Anything. We ran over something…

We made it across the border. Yay! Then, just across the border, the car overheated, steam rising from under the hood. The Good X opened the hood, jumped back, and all we could do was wait. There were no Green Angels in the US, either. After a while, the engine cooled. There was enough water left in the radiator, so we headed home to Hillcrest, the neighborhood where we lived in San Diego.

It was 10 pm. I cooked us a couple of hotdogs, we wrapped them in slices of bread, and called it good. They were turkey hotdogs anyway.

One wonderful Thanksgiving was in my little stone house in Descanso. I had learned by then that smoked turkey was not only tasty but fool proof. You didn’t have to “dress” it but you could cook the stuffing/dressing outside the bird. SO about 10 am I put the turkey in the oven for dinner at 2 (it still took a while to heat up). My friend Kris showed up and we headed to the Lagunas for a Thanksgiving hike. After a couple hours on the trail, enjoying the Jeffry Pines, the autumn cool and conversation we went back to my house and finished what we had to prepare. It was a potluck Thanksgiving and when people started appearing, so did the rest of the dinner — including sweet potato pie. All of my guests were intelligent and funny and happy to be there. After dinner, my friend Denis complained that I didn’t have cable TV so he could watch football and ended up telling stories to my friend David’s two kids and going to sleep on the sofa. The two little boys went to sleep on a corner in the living room and, true to their breeding, my two Siberian Huskies curled around them to protect them and keep them warm.

The ONLY downside to that Thanksgiving was after feeding some ten people, the dishes remained. It took two hours for Kris and I to clean up.

I’ve had some beautiful Thanksgivings since I returned to Colorado with my friends in Colorado Springs and my wonderful neighbors. Maybe the most important Thanksgiving was the one in which the good X and I discovered Mission Trails which opened the world to me in so many ways. It made a tradition out of hiking on Thanksgiving.

In 2012, my stepson and his wonderful wife came up to Descanso for Thanksgiving. Before dinner, we took a beautiful snowy hike on the Garnet Peak Trail.

Hiking is my personal Thanksgiving tradition, but I didn’t yesterday. The thing about traditions is that once in a while it’s good to break with them so they don’t become an excrescent obligation on the face of the calendar.

Featured photo: my mom and grandmother after Thanksgiving Dinner in Englewood, CO, 1958?

Reconstruction

At the invitation of Chris I joined a group on Facebook that posts drawing prompts. I just did my first one. It wasn’t easy, but it would have been easy four months ago. It took two tries. It’s OK, but not exactly “me.” That said, I’m happy with it because I learned something from it and it’s not ugly.

There’s a book by Laurence Durrell that’s very inspiring to me as an artist — that is the last book in the Alexandrian Quartet: Clea. Every artist has obstacles within him/herself. The most common is fear. But there are skill obstacles (which are frustrating but IMO fun to push through), vision obstacles (both objective and mental), intellectual (putting the idea of how something should be in front of what it IS or wants to be), and something else which I don’t have a word for. I discovered when I was trying to put together Rainbow Girls in Wheatland Wyoming soon after I had Covid. I couldn’t do it. It wasn’t that I didn’t think I could paint/draw it — I did draw it. It was something else that I had not experience before, it was that I couldn’t “see” the painting in my mind’s eye. I don’t know how to explain that, but it’s a real thing. I paint TOWARD something which is, for me, like starting a relationship. “Hi, my name is Martha,” kind of and the painting answers and we “talk” in colors and images and there it is, a kind of dance or dialogue.

Now, for me, it’s like sitting at a dinner with people who are talking around you, even to you, and you understand maybe two words out of five? Not enough to make a sentence or get the big picture. As I was working on this little watercolor/watercolor pencil piece, just a small still life of a dish that has a lot of meaning to me, I could feel it. I could feel the brush saying, “Are you there? I can’t hear you clearly.” I don’t need to relearn the technique of painting. I need to FEEL the relationship between my eye, my mind and my hand.

In Durrell’s book, the character, Clea, is a painter, but (in her mind) something has always been missing from her paintings. The book is set in North Africa in WW II and if I remember the story correctly, Clea loses a hand diving in the bay and hitting a mine. I don’t remember why she was doing that — but that’s I believe what happened. Her hand is replaced with a prosthetic hand. She has to learn to paint with it and, to her surprise, she is able to paint from her authentic self with that hand, something she had never been able to do. Durrell’s books are wonderful, unforgettable, but I read them a long time ago and don’t have them any more so I can’t check my memory or put something beautiful here to share.

Covid affects the brain and the connections between the brain and bodily functions — digestion, breathing and thinking. I don’t know why I got “long Covid” but I did. Grrrrrrrrrr…… 🤬 Anyway, I can’t let this beat me out of the ONE thing I have fought for my whole fucking life.

MAK the Knife?

I haven’t painted since July when I got Covid. My imagination hasn’t worked in that way and the concentration needed for painting is different from “normal,” and I haven’t had it. Yesterday, struggling still with Covid’s lingering residue — which I’ve accepted could last a long time — I decided I could try at least ONE thing.

I have one of my garden signs hanging on the fence in my front yard. I don’t like the painting very much, and apparently no one else did, either, because it didn’t sell. It’s a salmon poppy against a blue sky. It should have been pretty, but somehow it really isn’t. I hung it on my fence during the spring and summer drought for a little color and to get it out of my studio. It’s a nice enough painting, so, no reason not to, right?



But poppy season has passed, holiday season is upon us in full force starting today, and I thought yesterday, “Well, I can do that.” I went out to my studio and took out a primed piece of plywood that was ready to become a garden sign. I had the thought of painting something seasonally acceptable, specifically, “Let it snow,” sort of like a prayer flag with my and Bear’s and every farmer’s prayer written on it.

Then the magic of painting kicked in.

I listen to music when I paint. I listen to YouTube, and sometimes they put a song I like in my list that I haven’t listened to in a while. The song in question was this:

Whoa… Two things happened. One was hearing a song I think is beautiful and has to do with snow. The other was the word “fox”in the band’s name. I’d already experimented on the sign with something I have long wanted to try. I’d painted the snow on the ground with my palette knife. That was fun. I knew it would be, but nothing I’ve painted so far lent itself to that experiment. I’m not sure a board is the best surface for that, but maybe. Painting with a knife uses a LOT of paint, but I have a lot of acrylic for which I gave thanks to my deceased friend, Alex Colville, more especially his wife, my friend Louise, who, last year gave me Alex’ paint. It’s a nice story. You can read it here.

I drew a fox across what was to be the letters. I had the idea the letters would remain, but as I began painting the fox — directly squeezing paint onto the board — I saw they wouldn’t. The whole thing changed.

I had such a good time. It’s not a masterpiece, and I’m not happy with the proportions of the fox, but I’m trying to ignore that and leave it alone.

So now my job is to varnish it and hang it on the front fence.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone whether you’re in the US — where it’s a holiday today — or anywhere else in the world. One of my most beautiful Thanksgivings happened in the PRC in 1982. No turkey, but we had a chicken. No mashed potatoes, stuffing, or sweet potatoes, but we had potato salad. No biological family, but a home filled with Chinese friends and chosen “family.”

As for today’s prompt? I think the Aussies have the BEST slang.

Dictionary of Australian slang 

Packapoo ticket

1) smth. messy;

2) toilet paper

Not the Best Evening of My Life

Ahh… 1993, the beginning of the tattoo craze, and I was there. Tattoo Ted and his wife, originally from Batavia, Iowa, tattoo parlor on Rosecrans Street in San Diego, near the Naval Training Base and the bay. Samples on the wall, not actual SKIN samples, but photos. We’d been planning it for a weeks. My friend was very afraid of needles because of HIV. He was from Zürich where, at the time, heroin was such a problem that public toilets had blue lights so people who went into them to shoot up couldn’t find their veins, so, in parts of Zürich there were used needles everywhere. Because of this he systematically, with the hysterical thoroughness driven by paranoia, researched every tattoo parlor, studying their sterilization processes. We ended up at Tattoo Ted’s because of his autoclave, not because of his skill.

After looking at the wall for a while, I picked out a Celtic Knot — an absurd choice given my appearance, like it needed to reinforced? Everywhere I’ve traveled people have immediately said, “You must be Irish” except China where the consensus was that I was Swiss. I’m both those things and the official name of Switzerland is Celtic Confederation (Confederation Helvetica). My friend got a tribal to go around his ankle, not because he was from a tribe but because he thought it was cool.

I wasn’t young; 41, and my skin had already lost some elasticity, so as I sat there with my back exposed — the tat is on my left shoulder — Tattoo Ted found it a challenge to do well on the loose canvas. “Stretch her skin, buddy,” he said to my friend, who tried with a mixture of horror and hilarity. It’s one of the worst tattoos anyone ever had that wasn’t done by the other kids in high school history or something. It’s like and not like those in the featured photos. And no, you can’t see it.

It’s black. Just an outline. I was supposed to go back and have it filled in with color, but I never did. Why not? Well, there are a lot of things in life more fun than getting a tattoo. There’s even PAIN that’s more fun than that, like falling off your bike and landing on a broken Coke bottle or playing tennis barefoot on an asphalt court on a 95 degree day or being sideswiped by a pick-up truck that tosses your head against a curb.

The boys on bikes were all jonesing for tattoos but no one had that kind of money. NOW a couple of them (in their late forties) sport complete sleeves, from wrist to shoulder. Their first tattoos were done by their friends using a needle and ballpoint pen. When they turned 18, and got jobs, they got tattoos as dumb as mine. One of them got the name of his hometown across his back in Gothic letters — that made me laugh because I figured if he got lost, all anyone had to do was put a few stamps on his back and send him home.

Anyway, that’s $100 I wish I had back.

Thankful for Shoes

Bear and I took a walk, not really news, but…

Last night my annoying health app gave me this information. It’s part of the fall warning system built into the Apple Watch. I hate this information because for the life of me I haven’t been able to figure out any way to improve my “walking steadiness.” I last fell on September 26. A few weeks later, I got my new shoes, and here’s the story:

I seriously NEVER thought shoes would make that much difference. I was already wearing really good hiking/walking shoes, not flip-flops or something like that, but expensive shoes made by an excellent Italian boot manufacturer, Asolo. They’re great. Supportive, water-proof everything anyone would want, but something about them has been — apparently — wrong FOR ME. I have NO idea what, but now that I’m not wearing them, I feel it. I didn’t know I was struggling. I just thought I was old and worn out and so on and so forth. I’m still 70 but..

Most of the time this past month or so I’ve worn the slip ons (featured photo) but I also bought legit boots/shoes that I wore in the snow. They were also great, wonderful, amazing, comfortable.

Seriously, it never occurred to me that just shoes would make such an incredible difference. I’m walking 3 mph and change, enjoying it a million times more, walking farther. I feel like a new person — or the person I remember being.

Seasons are Birds

Lined up along the road, around the pond
Black with golden heads, beady-eyed curious
Gregarious and brave, sun’s yearly bond
Brings them here in springtime’s furious rush.
Small brothers, shiny black and red, take flight
Together from the willows or sing their
Rusty-spring song from lonely fenceposts, write
Love songs in the sky, sonnets in the air.
Partnered up, squawking geese, chase their rivals
Down the road. There is no way around it;
All beauty hides a fight for survival.
Fox tracks in spring snow, a raptor’s silent lift.
Eggshells on the road, strewn feathers, remind
me to savor my own moment in time.


This sonnet is a VERY casually constructed Shakespearean sonnet. You can learn more about the form here.

Winter Light

Because there is no rest for the wicked (huh?) I was persuaded to take my two canine sidekicks out to the Refuge for a late afternoon walk. I’d already ridden the Bike to Nowhere through some Spanish mountains and thought “That’s it for today,” but I was wrong. How do you resist two dogs attempting to help you put on your socks, looking at you with their yearning canine eyes, communicating more clearly than any human ever could? How do you resist that? How do you pretend you don’t know what they’re saying? Dogs see through that anyway. Is evasion possible? of course it IS possible but do you really WANT to evade it? So there we were, in Bella, heading south under a spectacular, bright blue sky that didn’t have even a single cloud. Meanwhile, Mohammed’s Radio played “Where the Streets Have no Name.” Clearly (ha ha) the jaunt was destined.

There is a change in the angle of sunlight, moving further south, only a month away from the shortest day of the year, the light is becoming winter light. We usually do an out and back walk, and I noticed the light on our return walk. The return walk was Bear’s “turn” which means she got to walk on the nature side of me and follow her heart’s desire within the length of the leash. During Bear’s turn, we went more slowly than we do on the way out when it was Teddy’s “turn.” He doesn’t savor the experience; he chases it. He pulls and sniffs, can’t get “there” fast enough. He’s like a kid with birthday money at the mall. Bear will hurry toward the experience then take her time savoring it.

The road is elevated about four feet above the wetland, for obvious reasons, and on the north side of that slope there are still snow and tracks. Along the road were several spots where deer and/or elk had bedded down in the grass.

When it was her turn, Bear pulled, too, but not ahead. She pulled down the slope to get closer to the spots where the ungulates came up and went down. At one point she was rolling in the snow and slid almost all the way down. Luckily, I was able to bring her back up the slope before that happened or all three of us would’ve been in the ungulate bed.

Meanwhile Teddy stayed close to me, sometimes touching my hand with his nose, “Are you still there, Martha?”

For most of my dog-owning life, I didn’t leash my dogs. It was only after a ranger in the Laguna Mountains took me aside. He’d caught Ariel and just loved her. “You should leash her,” he said. “Here’s why.” He went on to explain that if my dog encountered a cougar there were a lot of possibilities. 1) nothing would happen, 2) the dog would be killed by the cougar, 3) the dog would run back to me with the cougar following, not a pretty situation.

Ariel had great recall, so I didn’t worry about her running off, but I also didn’t think about mountain lions and packs of coyotes. I kind of ignored the Ranger until one of my dogs, Mila, Chow/Golden retriever mix, went off to join a very large pack of coyotes. I got her to come back, but there were upwards of 20 coyotes in the valley below the trail on which we were walking. That was it. When I became an owner of Siberian huskies, it was obvious to me THEY had to be leashed or they’d head into the territory ahead of the rest which was their primary motive in life, to find poop, game, or an Iditarod… 😉

At the Refuge dogs have to be leashed, so I try to minimize the effect of that on what is in my dogs’ nature to do. Both of these dogs equate their restraint with freedom which is a very interesting philosophical position. I really admire them.

While Bear was rolling happily in a patch of snow, I had the chance to notice the light. From a photographer friend a long time ago I learned always to turn around. “I’ll be taking a photo, completely absorbed in it, use up my last plate, then I turn around and there’s a better picture. Now I look around first.” When I turned, I saw that the long snow shadows matched the sky, reflected the sky.

Featured photo: Frozen pond

I realize I write the same post over and over but this is my life. I was thinking as I put this together this morning that maybe it’s a good thing to offer a few minutes of Refuge.

“Hey, Vito…”

I was thinking this morning of how many lawsuits are going on right now over stuff in DC over the past few years. It’s a good time to be a lawyer, I guess. That said, I’m not going there no no no no…. I came within inches of law school, well closer, really since I WORKED at a law school for a few years when I was a grad student. Great job, too, doing PR and fund-raising for the law school. I liked it. Smart people all around me and I met one of my life-long friends there. BUT…as I didn’t know then and certainly know NOW things change all the time…

New Dean, new administration, my immediate boss asked to leave over something, going for his job, being turned down, yada yada yada that’s a life-long chorus, I think. SO… got a job at one of Denver’s largest law firms. THAT was weird at first because they thought the young associate who’d recommended me was sleeping with me. They wanted him SO badly (judge’s son) that they hired me as if I were a condition. That was the late 70s/early 80s ladies and gents. When it became apparent I WASN’T this guy’s main squeeze, they were kind of stuck with me. I worked there for three years, becoming the paralegal (!) to the city attorney(s) for Lakewood, Colorado’s second largest city. It was a good job for me because that kind of law encompasses about everything there is in law. I didn’t work in the cop shop — well I did, later — so I wasn’t dealing with the court docket, etc. but all the other stuff. We had more than 2,000 active paper files.

I kind of liked the job, but I had the Wanderlust. Also, it didn’t pay great. One day one of the clerks — a friend of mine with whom I went skiing pretty often — said, “So what do you think? You’re not going to get promoted to lawyer.”

I signed up for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Stuff happened between my signing up and actually sitting for it. (Wanderlust; ‘luv’). I signed up for the Peace Corps. I signed up for the Foreign Service Exam. I passed the written Foreign Service Exam. The Peace Corps? That was weird. I was ready to take the ONLY opening they had at that moment, in Thailand, but when the person interviewing me didn’t know where Bangkok was, I backed off. What if I wanted to come home? And luv’. OH well…

So I showed up for the LSAT early one Saturday morning in a classroom kind of thing at Denver Muni. Halfway through or so I realized if I passed, I would go to law school. I realized I didn’t want to go to law school or be an attorney. I got up, turned in my exam and left. Oddly, I still passed. How I have NO idea.

The most fun part of my life as a paralegal was during Denver’s penny stock fraud in the early 80s. My main boss was tired of being City Attorney and wanted to do something more exciting and was slowly moving out of our office. This was one of his earlier ventures into the big wide world that was not the City of Lakewood. I got to take depositions of some of Denver’s mafia figures, the best was the deposition of an elderly lady from the Smaldone Family. Her lawyer pleaded that she was too old and too frail to come to our offices to do a deposition in person. The judge agreed and she was allowed to depose herself (great language in law, anyway) over the phone. I took that deposition.

The Smaldones were Denver’s mafia family, centered in North Denver in what was historically the “Italian Section” sometimes called “Little Italy.” I’d lived in that neighborhood for a year in a carriage house behind an old mansion. It was in that neighborhood I discovered I loved teaching.

Mrs. Smaldone was full of Italian charm, and I liked her, but I asked the questions I was supposed to and pushed her when necessary to give me straight answers. Some of my attorney colleagues thought she was the brains behind the whole thing, but I’m not sure that was true. Maybe. It would have even easier to judge if I could have seen her in real life, but I couldn’t. If the phone deposition hadn’t worked, I would have been sent to her house, but the phone depo worked.

The day after our deposition a dozen long-stemmed roses arrived for me from Mrs. Smaldone. My boss didn’t know if that meant I’d done well or done badly, but they were beautiful. She also called him to tell him what a treasure he had in me and that he should hold onto me. I still don’t know if that was good or bad. I hope it just meant that I treated her with, you know, respect.