Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Alice in Tommow Land

It all starts when Alice has an early Monday morning eye doctor appointment in Bellevue -- a city 90 miles south of where she has lived in a small rural community for 26 years.  Alice concludes that rather than enduring the grueling 2-hour (at least) commute in the morning rush hour ... she could spend the night in a Bellevue hotel.  Flawless logic.

A caring granddaughter suggests The Bellevue Westin Hotel. A nice place for Gram. Alice now relies on the granddaughter's advice about cell phones and hotels.  Although 50 years younger, the granddaughter has wisdom in all things technical and having to do with travel. She's been to Africa and many other places.  Alice does not have a passport.  Nor can she go to Canada for fish and chips.


First stop is the Buddhist Temple in Lynnwood, where the monk was previously hugged.  Alice knows little about Buddhists' precepts.  She locates the "hugged monk" who remembers her.  Alice apologizes for her transgression. But the monk, who is very wise, tells her a lovely story in which the Buddha distinguishes between hugging a woman and hugging a person.  The first is not allowed; the second receives the Buddha's stamp of approval.


They talk for awhile, and Alice feels enveloped in some special sense of peace and love from the wise monk that flows over her like a silken fog.  Finally she tells him to "go away" lest she feel tempted to hug him again.

After Alice soaked up all the peace and serenity of that special place, spending extra minutes fascinated by the water rippling over a rocky slide into a pool of happy orange Koi.  The air is lightly fragrant with incense.  She watches the sacred ritual in the temple where people line up with scarves and candles and walk up to a raised area (like an alter).  She spots "her" monk taking each scarf and gently placing it over the arm of the giant gold Buddha.



Then a second monk places his hands on either side of Alice's hands, showing her how to bow her hands slightly three times after she makes her donation.  Now she's been touched by two monks.  Either she is viewed as so old that she is not considered a woman; or she is somehow special.  She ponders this with each reluctant step towards her car to leave that lovely serene place ... and head for the Bellevue Westin to check in.

OMG!  Bellevue, once a charming small town, is now a huge soul-less city.  The skyline is filled with too many tall glass towers, the roads with too many cars, the sidewalks with too many people.  She actually gets lost amid the traffic and towers that all look alike.


Finally the destination is miraculously found.  Alice has brought daffodils -- her favorite "happy" flower -- to the person who helped her navigate the maze of registration.  And better still, the kind person upgraded her room for free.  Free is always good.

She checks in and gets a card, two cards actually.  No one uses keys anymore.  Except the packet contains a small key in  the packet that opens something.  Going back to her car, parked at the front door, she continues her adventure, hoping to be back in an hour.



She has driven all the roads for years -- years ago -- so they are imbedded somewhere in the depths of her memory.  How hard can this be? 

But poor Alice has no clue of the changes that "progress and pavement" have wrought since she left in 1986..  She remembers when the only shopping was at Saddler's General Store.  Everything you needed plus live crab.  It was such a lovely peaceful tranquil place to live.


Now, as she drives up the hill to the magical plateau -- the place  which used to be trees and farms and trails is now transformed to legos stacked up in row and row.  Each group of lego stacks are cris-crossed with roads filled with cars.



Most cars are SUVs with cute pictures of the "family" on the back window in cute stick figures of parents, kids and pets.  All the cars are big and new and shiny, filled with people taken from the pages of magazines.  All looking "just right" which of course varies so much it is hard to pin down.


But Alice has driven these roads for years.  She is confident of finding her destination -- even though she forgot to jot down the address.  Beaver Lake is a small lake in a formerly lovely area.  She lived for ten years less than a mile from her destination.  Piece of cake.


 
First she misses the turn onto "her" street.  It all looks so different now.  Not a problem as she turns into Shoofly Farm where she got her first bunny 12 years ago.  It's 4 acre of paradise.  Trees, tranquility, ducks and chickens and a rabbit greet her as she pulls into the familiar drive way.

 

Alice wheels out of the tranquil farm and takes the missed turn.  Oh my!  How different.  Subdivisions of McMansions have replaced the horse trails her daughters used to ride.  The bears who lived there have no doubt retreated ... to somewhere ... although it is hard to imagine how they implemented the relocation.  So many SUVs, going so fast, to no doubt important places.


She is shocked that she drove right past the 2 1/2 acre place she owned and lived for 6 years.  It was an overgrown, breeding ground for the state flower -- the Rhodedendron.  And was sandwiched in between McMansions on three sides.  An anomoly for sure.  Also a gold mine, sold 28 years ago at a loss when the market went to hell.


\Nice people walking around the lake gave Alice incorrect directions to her destination.  So she wound up on a narrow curvy dirty road going nowhere.  Somehow she managed to turn around without baking into the trees that lined the dirt toad. And she gave thanks that the rental car did not hit a tree or fall off the edge.



After making a desperate phone call (on the new cell phone with help from kind strangers walking their dogs), she gets the address and locates the place.  Words cannot describe how she got in and out of the narrow "driveway." A miracle?  There is a God?

Covering the rough terraine of "yard" Alice discovers there is no key under the mat.  So her well-planned "house warming" gifts cannot be delivered there..  After the harrowing trip to locate the elusive destination, Alice realizes she's had enough of nostalgia.

Now heading back to Bellevue and the lovely Westin Hotel. the sun is setting over Lake Washington and Puget Sound and she finds the correct tall glass tower among the flock of towers that look alike.


Ah ... but she has made it.  And the sweet valet remembers her and thankfully takes charge.

Alice is handed off to a gallant gentleman, young enough to be her grandson, who grabs her odd collection of baggage. She feels a bit like the Clampetts when they first get to Beverly Hills, but is too exhausted to focus on the image.


He guides her, dazed, through the huge lobby to the bank of elevators.  And then through the maze of hallways to her hotel room:  1501, which turns out to be a lovely huge corner room with 2 walls of windows and some kind of special king-sized heavenly bed.


The gallant prince, sensing Alice's frayed condition, takes care of her suitcase and bags of "stuff."  Then he gratiously fetches ice in the silver ice bucket for the Grey Goose Alice brought.  He even whips out the magical key from the door card packet and opens a small fridge with OJ .... but no Galliano.  Can't have everything ... even at the Westin apparently.

The prince leaves and Alice is stunned at the walls of windows and towers of lights in all directions.  She stares momentarily -- unable to move -- holding the vase of flowers she brought to make the room seem like home.


Then, to top off this amazing day of Adventure, Alice discovered the cell phone she learned to use --  sort of -- yesterday ... plays music!  Richard Clayderman on youtube fills her perfect room with lovely sounds of his familiar piano playlists.

Alice is simply overwhelmed at her day as she sits in a soft chair with feet elevated.  Sipping a healthy vitamin enriched orange juice with Grey Goose that was cleverly brought in a small thermos.  She doesn't want the night to end, as she admires the tall glass towers filled with rows of lighted squares.  Red, yellow, green lights sparkle below in the clear night air.

Her room of walled glass is quiet except for the lilting strains of piano music from a magical device that is apparently much more that simply a phone.


Alice eyes the massive king-sized bed with the heavenly down comforter and pillow softness ... and wonders how she will explain this night as a "vital and necessary expense" in lawyer-speak.

It seems so obvious. When one has survived for 68 years of the perilous journey of life ... then it seems that having one glorious night on the 15th floor in a room enclosed by two walls of glass ... is simply a reward for enduring all the challenges that life has scattered along the path traveled.

Who can say that one night of bliss is not an earned reward for still standing?

The next morning, Alice's eyesight has improved dramatically, delighting the doctor, who says "That just so rarely happens."  She doesn't mention the monk or the other "odd" things that happen in her life.  She just takes the prescription for new glasses (not so strong) and gives thanks to whomever is listening.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Compassion, Patience and Love

This post is for people who have a mental health issue, or love or know someone who has one.  People with screwy brain chemicals are more common than you think.  They could be your friends or co-workers or even loved ones.

Hollywood dramatizes issues like bi-polar people -- with Carrie in"Homeland" -- an exaggerated extreme case -- so viewers who forget this is Hollywood can say, "I'm sure glad I'm not crazy like she is."  Then they return to their lives and don't give a second thought to those of us who have been given this challenge in a more realistic, mild form in our lives.  Without Brody.


When I first posted "The Wilderness" and "Better Days" I received a great outpouring of emails filled with stories and sentiments.  Stories about Uncle Tom (who was actually manic) who inherited a million dollars and blew it in Atlantic City within a week.  Or relatives who found it unbearable to live with the pain of their "issue" (depression -- which is not sadness) so they ended their lives or wander aimlessly around airports or dark downtown streets. 

It must seem better to some to end their lives rather than admitting to being depressed, which for some ---  especially teenagers -- is akin to saying "I have leprosy."  So they say "I'm just sad" until it overwhelms them and we read about them in the newspaper.  To me, that is ever so sad, but true ... and so preventable.

People thanked me for reminding them to be more patient or understanding.  Others confessed that they were sorry they were not more loving and compassionate to their friends or loved ones dealing with a different "reality" than others.  Then apparently they forgot and moved on.

I feel blessed because I am "mildly" bi-polar.  And after going through hell with meds for almost two years -- including not being able to eat and losing 35 pounds in a hurry.  Or not being able to read.  Or pick a book out of the library.  Or write an email.  And certainly not being to write creatively, which is my gift in life.  It was a dark time.  Feeling "brain-dead" at times, or having headaches for days on end.




Then I switched meds and by some miracle found the right medication, and thankfully the right dose.  Although that process took 11 months of being patient and realizing that meds alter our brain.  But still having the courage to stick with the choice of learning to deal with an altered brain, since choosing instead to sit in the garage with the door closed and the car running is devastating for the people left behind.  Only desperate people do that.

Then on a chilly November day, I was suddenly able to write.  My fingers could barely keep up with what my mind/spirit wanted to say.  And ever since, I can write.  And I'm not brain dead.  And I can think.  And I'm not only grateful for every single moment of everyday, but am happy.  And STABLE:  not afraid of the dark pit of depression; not afraid of the "bouncing off the ceiling" with ebullience.  How lucky am I, I thought.

But alas ... I learned that the people around me did not all share my happiness.  Some were worried that I would fall off the edge of reality, I guess. And others tried to "help" me by suggesting that I "act more sedate and not so happy ... or Godforbid don't ever get frustrated (like normal people get from time to time).

 One of the more interesting bi-products of being bi-polar is that your brain processes very fast.  So if you're already intelligent and knowledgeable about many things and articulate ... all those "attributes" operate faster than "normal" people.  The discovery of this by-product was much more than simply a surprise.




It was fun for awhile, actually.  Being able to speak about politics again after 2 years of silence.  Being interested in everything.  Caring deeply about inequities around me and using my gift of writing and persistence to change things.

Within 2 weeks of the return of my gift of writing, which brought ME pure joy ... IT ... started.  And ... IT ... was the people in my life who "loved" me trying to "HELP ME BE MORE NORMAL"    As if I had a magic switch so I could better conform to THEIR view of what "NORMAL" looks like.  Sometimes that included telling people "Don't listen to her; she isn't herself; or she is manic and crazy.

I'm not sure how they convinced themselves that was helpful.  But, who understands everyone, you know?  The amazing part is that some people actually believed it.  And some of those people are trained professionals in their respective fields ... and they believed it instead of believing me. 

Talk about being shocked!  Will I forgive those people?  I suspect not. But life goes on anyway, doesn't it?  I mean, there's no BIG UMPIRE in real life who sees these things and calls FOUL! 

People don't understand that folks like me who are bi-polar and on the right medication and the right dose are just fine.  All we need is the compassion, the patience, the love and the understanding that loved ones and friends pledged when I "came back."




We cannot control the speed of our brain any more than we could have dragged ourselves out of the black muck of depression.  We try.  But ... the brain has a "mind" of its own apparently and continues to process information lickety split.

Some people wanted me to be more heavily drugged; or maybe have electro-shock therapy.  Get me back to laying around and not causing any trouble.  Making it so I no longer got frustrated at the constant barrage of advice from everyone who is now an "expert in mental health."




And my supposedly trained LMHC even suggested that I switch drugs now -- in the middle of a personal crisis -- when I'm feeling wonderful.  Switching drugs can be terrifying.  And the one suggested has a nasty little side-effect of sometimes causing a rash that kills you in a couple of days. 

And I paid for advice like that!  I paid cash, because Medicare doesn't cover LMHCs.  Perhaps that's a good thing.  That way they can't screw up too many older people. 

Some people got nasty, and yelled at me for leaving messages that were filled with frustration.  Some just gave up on me and cut me out of their lives.  And all those "friends" who were so happy I was back?  That happiness didn't last long because they didn't understand this new version of ME.  Why didn't I filter things better?  Why didn't I exhibit more patience?

Then I did something unforgivable once.  I hung up the phone on a "friend" who was diagnosing my condition.  And that person was not happy.  And then that person took something from me that I miss every day.  Have I ever gotten an apology from that person?  NO! 

How do people live with themselves after demonstrating such impatience with someone who is "different"?  I don't know.  And apparently no apology is even necessary.  After all "she is the crazy" one."  I mean, I admit:  I HUNG UP THE PHONE, which is apparently the 11th Commandment that Sister Lucy never mentioned in Catechism. 

It appears as if no re-thinking of the actions was done.  And maybe, when dealing with Manic People (which I am not, by the way) you get a pass on even caring about the hurt and loss that resulted.  Perhaps we are counted as "three fifths of normal people" like black people (i.e. slaves) were counted when the Constitution was written.  The exact wording of that little gem in the history of our Constitution is included below.

The Three-Fifths Compromise is found in Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the United States Constitution which reads:
Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. 

Even people who have a mental health issue -- whom we established are only worth three-fifths of "normal" people -- go through personal crises in their lives.  And then things become even more difficult than they were before.  So the "crazy" ones escapes the reality of what's happening ... and play music and use social media as ways of tuning out the screams of reality.

Only Eeyore (or readers of "Winnie the Pooh") truly understands.

 



And all those loving, understanding, compassionate friends who were "happy" I was back forgot that yes, I'm back, but I take a mind-altering medication which is powerful.  More powerful than my will power no matter how hard I try.  So they get annoyed and write me "helpful" reminders.

Thanks folks for all the love the caring and patience and understanding.

I'm not sure, of course, but perhaps that's why your friends or family members stop taking their meds.  And occasionally they wind up on the railroad track or on drugs or wandering around train stations or living with the bums on First Avenue.  Because when they reached out for your help, you didn't have time to be extra patient or understanding or loving.

Some of you have believed in me and loved me no matter what I say or do.  As one of my friends put it, "I will always love you, Dorothy, if you are up, down or sideways."  For my friends who are like that:  Thank you!  You can't even imagine how much that kind of love means to me.


 

And for the rest of you ... what goes around comes around.  God help you if something like this happens to you or a loved one.

These little snippits of  true stories will be in my memoires.  But this issue of betrayal from "friends and loved ones" has just become such a BIG deal recently.  So I decided to speak from the heart -- once more -- and hope somebody somewhere is listening. 

And maybe, as a result, just one of you "normal" people will reach out with patience, love and compassion to some lost soul in your life who is suffering and wandering around feeling that no one understands them or cares that they even exist. 

This lovely note was posted by my grand daughter, a brave 14-year-old who is wise beyond her years.



Maybe one day cach of you can actually save a life with compassion, love and patience.  Because isn't that the whole point of what we're all doing here?




Thursday, March 13, 2014

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf Redux

Imagine George and Martha on Medicare.  George has been to rehab, and Martha takes Xanax.  They have finally decided to call it quits, both feeling quite pummeled and worn out.

Naturally they cannot agree on how to divvy things up, so each hires someone to represent them.   Lest they verbally shred each other over the first edition of William Blake's Illustrations of the Book of Job and George's pension from the college.


Since we were introduced to them for such a brief time previously, we didn't realize they actually had a family, who had gone forth and multiplied, as progeny do.  So of course, this means others are involved in this severing of their strange alliance.

At least they both agree the "others" as they often called them should not be dragged into the milieu.  So, when one of them called, George or Martha would simply say they were enjoying retirement so much they didn't have time for visits.

Actually they did try to spend their "golden years" doing some traveling.  But they couldn't agree on where to go.  Martha dragged George to some small Oceanside town where the wind blew constantly and the rain came down sideways.  They were deluged with water.  George hated it.


George then convinced Martha to try one of the Retirement places in the desert where everyone had fun all the time.  The sun was warm and the swimming pools pleasant, except during Spring Break when every one's grand kids came to visit.

Having developed a taste for out door hiking, George got up early and covered miles of trails edged by flowers that hid the rattle snakes and tarantulas.  Martha, of course, didn't like to hike, so she read books by the pool with the q-tips (as she called the ancient, skinny grey-haired women).  The cabana boy was a distraction, but he was so shallow.

 
George agreed there were too many old people there, so they moved to Sedona, a small artsy town surrounded by stunning red rocky cliffs.  It was the location of several vortexes, which appealed to Marth's new-agy interests of late.
 
They rented a place on Oak Creek in the canyon about 3 miles from town.  The house was perched on the edge of a creek, so the sound of the fast moving water over the rocks permeated the whole place.  It was glorious.  George joined a hiking group and Martha sat on the rocks in the creek and contemplated her life.
 


Then the tourists came:  4 million of them!  Kids and babies in diapers and dogs splashing in Martha's creek.  The privacy and serenity of the place was shattered.  Besides the sun shone in the gorge fewer hours than in town.  Then came the monsoons and the javelinas.
 



George was fit and happy hiking with his new friends, which included a young woman who ran a taco stand in town  His eyes sparkled again.  Nonetheless, it was always Martha who finagled what the next move would be.

The last straw for her was when the neighbor warned of the cougar who was seen on the trail not far from their place.  Martha couldn't remember if wearing bells kept cougars away ... or was it bears?


They moved back "home" and bought a different house, realizing that traveling didn't work out so well.  George, now fit and feeling the best he had in years, was going to try his hand at growing roses.  In no time, he was in the local chapter of the Rose Society, and even completed the grueling Master Gardener class.

Martha got in touch with her softer side by getting a rabbit.  Such adorable little things they were.  Cuddly and quiet.  Her choice was a Jersey Wooly, who was a registered show bunny, of course.  He even had the tattoo in his soft, tender little ear.  His name was Rochester.  She promptly changed it to Benson and adored him.


But alas ... an unusually cold and wet spell left George's roses covered with black spot.  And soon afterwards, Benson died, leaving Martha bereft.  At last she knew what it meant to have a soul mate, and he had been ripped from her bosom.  The pain was too much to bear.


So ... nearly half a century of life together was ending in the same manner it started.

Finally the trauma of it ceased and they agreed how to divide the spoils of their life together.  George headed back to where it was warm where he could hike with interesting people.  Oddly enough, he never did find Martha interesting, but was too caught up in his busy life to realize that until now.

Martha retreated to a special little town she found on the stunning Oregon Coast, and found peace and serenity at last with the constant pounding of the waves.  The sunsets, the calmness of the evenings, the freshness of the beach in the morning when she and the sand pipers were the first ones to leave their footprints on the sand.


The one redeeming thing George and Martha did was to act with civility in the company of the "others."  At the Annual Family Thanksgiving Gathering, they would each take their places at the table in the special vacation spot they rented for the occasion.  Good food, animated conversations, and much laughing would fill the room.


George and Martha stood outside and waved good-bye to the "others" as they took off, in a cloud of dust, and returned to their busy, active lives.

Then George and Martha climbed into their separate cars and drove away . . . returning  to what was left of theirs.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

San Francisco, Part II: the reality

** This post was published in the Argus in November 2010 and is reprinted here with the permission of the owner. **

 

San Francisco:  The Reality

 
We can make dreams come true! I just had that mystical martini at the Top of the Mark, and now must return from a trip to San Francisco with my daughter. It was better than I could have ever imagined.

Our mission: three days to visit San Francisco, while staying somewhere comfortable and peaceful with a good view of the water. We decide on Sausalito, since there are many ways into thecity.

 

The place is enchanting. It had been designed and built with smooth polished redwood and walls of glass.  A magical yacht-like structure, anchored safely on the hillside above the bay. The entire Eastern wall of the five-story building (thankfully with an elevator!) is floor to ceiling glass, with vistas so captivating, they forced us to stop and simply stare out at the view.

 
 
Across the bay in the distance at night, The City sparkles like a huge craggy pile of bright shiny jewels that beckons to visitors. During the day, it lures us to cross The Gate and enter the kingdom of the money changers, where we are bombarded by the din of The City.

Cable cars, with riders jam packed together like sardines in red and gold cans, attached to rails that traverse the narrow streets. Taxis and buses, clinging to the pavement at steep angles as they navigate the narrow, crowded, hilly streets, fortified by row after row of dwellings with shared walls and no yards.

 
Fisherman's Wharf, an iconic destination that draws in tourists the way Mecca draws in pilgrims to worship at the Kaaba. It’s the same Pier I visited 50 years ago: Sabilas, Aliotos, Grotto No. 9. A sensual collage: smells of freshly cooked crab and seafood; huge vats of hot bubbling, scented water; persuasive voices of vendors hawking their products; workers calling out the orders; the greasy smell of hot fried dishes; the strains of eclectic music.
 
 

 

We eat fresh hot crab while straddling a near-by railroad tie, savoring the sweetness of the warm crab meat, drenched in butter that leaks down our fingers and moistens our lips until they shine in the sunlight.




After buying bread at Boudin's and chocolate at Ghiradelli’s Square, our last destination is The Mark Hopkins Hotel for the martini that is the essence of my return to this City after forty-seven years.

But we are stranded at the corner of Hyde and Beach with few cabs and the Blue Angels thundering overhead. Marooned in a sea of people coming and going and chattering in all languages while heading to places with purpose.

 Finally a cab shows up, and carries us up the hill higher and higher and then stops at a light. We are literally hanging suspended on a hill so steep that we are pressed back against the leather of the seat. At last, we pull into the circular drive in front of a tall, cylindrical hotel with the gold of the letters “Mark Hopkins” glistening in the sunlight.

 

 We ride the elevator to the 18th floor. I tell the woman at the desk how long I have waited to be there; could we please have a nice table by the window. "It is first come first serve," she explains. We round the corner, but there are no empty tables by the window. We take the next best one across the aisle from the window.

 

 It is a perfect table, and our martinis are promptly delivered: Bombay Sapphire straight up, with olives on the side for me, and a Lemon Drop for my daughter, which turns out to be a lovely thing in a glass rimmed with sugar.



 
Before we could take the first sip, the caring woman from the front desk places a slender oval tray -- adorned with 4 huge strawberries that had been dipped in chocolate –- on the table in front of us. "I am so sorry you could not find a table by the window," she says. "Please accept this as a token of our apology from the Mark Hopkins."



Neither of us expected this sweet, heart-felt gesture. Tears fill our eyes and flow down our cheeks. Unexpected gestures of kindness are always the most touching.

The song is right. I did leave my heart in San Francisco.

 

 

 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

San Francisco, Part I: a dream deferred


“Up and Down the Samish” was a column I wrote for a local paper, The Argus.  I was “hired” to write about clean water, but my very cool editor would occasionally give me some creative latitude.  This post and the one next week were published in the Argus in October and November 2010 and are reprinted here with the permission of the owner.

Ok … here we go …  

“San Francisco – The Dream”

The fog comes on little cat feet…” a poem about San Francisco, right?  It turns out that Carl Sandburg wrote that memorable line about Chicago. Nonetheless, when I read the rest of the short poem: “It sits looking over the harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on,” I hear Tony Bennett singing softly in the background about where he left his heart: San Francisco.

 I grew up in the San Joaquin Valley in the middle of California, so my family made numerous treks to San Francisco in the 1950s. We took visiting relatives to have crab at Fisherman’s Wharf and then across the Golden Gate Bridge for clam chowder in a funky place called Sausalito.

One of my favorite trips, with just my mom, was to see “West Side Story” which opened in some theater where the seats were plush and the screen was huge. When we came out to the street, walking to our car, I can still remember the absolute exhilaration I felt at the energy exuded by thecity. I felt it pulsing through me, and decided at that very moment, I would make this magical place my home when I was old enough.

But I got derailed, and wound up in Alabama for several years, before I managed to make my way back to the West Coast and Washington, where I’ve lived for so long, I feel like a native.

One real regret, at the banishment to Huntsville when I really had my sights set on San Francisco, is leaving California before I was old enough to have a martini at The Top of the Mark. In the fifties and sixties, to some kid in the middle of farm country, that was classy: sitting at a table by the window, above the stacks of city buildings with the harbor beyond, sipping that romantic drink – either with an olive or a twist. I hadn’t yet decided.

They didn’t have any hippies in Alabama, so I missed all that, as well. No Free Love South of the Mason Dixon line. Instead, there were drinking fountains and bathrooms labeled “colored.” And most of the restaurants had reserved signs on the sea of empty tables, to ensure the color of their clientele.

Much has changed in fifty years. All those ugly signs are gone; schools are integrated; we even have a black president. What hasn’t changed is that I’ve never had that mystical martini at the Mark Hopkins Hotel.

Time has a way of slipping by. We get caught up in family and work and daily struggles. Even when we travel, some of us don’t slow down and take the time to make those old but never forgotten dreams come true.

Why do we let those dreams slip through our fingers? Surely there has to be some way to set aside a bit of time for dreams, regardless of the hub-bub of our lives. How foolish we are to believe that feeling indispensable hides the cloak of mortality we all wear.

My daughter, Lis, interrupted my lamenting about lost dreams by calling and telling me she ordered two round-trip first class tickets to San Francisco International.
“We’re going,” she said. “Enough about this dream of yours. Time to stop dreaming and start packing.”

My assignment was to find us a place to stay.

She was right, of course. My bunnies (and the dang cat) can do without me for a few days. The Husband might not even notice I’m gone … except for the quiet that will settle over the place.

I surely will enjoy that first sip of an icy cold martini, with extra olives on the side. And then, “… while watching the fog inch through the Gate,” like Mr. Sandburg did in his later years, maybe I, too, will tell some nice waiter at Top o’ the Mark: “It doesn’t come in on little cat feet after all, does it?"