I don’t bother learning actors’ or singers’ names. I can’t tell you the name of a song or the lyrics. And yet why I was so intrigued with Lady Diana Spencer I have no idea. I hear it said that ‘every girl wants to be a princess.’ Not me. I didn’t identify with her at all, and yet she captured my attention and holds it till this day. The 26th anniversary of her tragic death reminds me of where I was when I heard the news. In 1997 my husband and I went to a nice restaurant and left our young son with my dad and his wife. When we picked him up, they both came to the door and told us that Princess Diana had died. It was that big of a deal to me and everyone knew it. I stayed up to watch her funeral. I even cried when they showed an envelope on her casket that was addressed to ‘Mummy.’
When she first came on the scene in 1981, she was so authentic and seemingly innocent. I watched as the media too became enthralled with her every move. We all witnessed the transformation of a young lady into a Princess who used her position to work on making the world a better place. I was away in college when she married Prince Charles. Back then, we didn’t have DVR’s so I stayed up all night to watch the wedding live. The spectacle didn’t disappoint. Her dress had a 25’ train and a tulle veil attached to her tiara that was 153 yards long. It was epic.
When the Princess Diana doll in her wedding dress became available in 1987 by the Danbury Mint, my mother purchased one for me. I still have it. After she died, my husband mentioned that the doll would be more valuable now. And it is, but not so much so that I would sell it.
When she gave birth to William in 1982, a friend from college who was from England said, ‘Another mouth to feed’ while rolling her eyes. She was unimpressed with the Royals, not even Princess Diana could soften her heart.
As she matured, Di became more and more confident. Even when she no longer was a Princess, the media still followed her and she continued to increasingly be more savvy with the world platform.
Relatively recently, her clothing was on display on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. We happened to be there for a soccer tournament, so my husband drove me to the ship and stayed in the car while I walked through the display. This is another instance where I’m deviating from my usual behavior because of her. I’m often the one that opts out of museum-type excursions. I was hoping the wedding dress would be there, but it wasn’t. It was still fun to see many of her outfits. She had a remarkable flare for style.
Side note. I titled this blog ‘Let Di be a Lady’ because while at a bar someone told my friend to act like a lady. Lady Di had just been introduced to the world and my friend retorted, ‘Let Di be a lady!’ That became an inside joke for years.
I woke up this morning thinking that the paparazzi had taken pictures of her as she was dying. Those have never been revealed, but someday surely they will be. Not something I would want to see. But it’s probably inevitable. It is so sad that she left this world early, but as Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu rightly said, “The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long.”
I’ve always had 20/20 vision, until I didn’t. My eyes blurred everything up close and I ended up placing reading glasses in every room so that I could grab them if I needed to read. I tolerated this for about ten years. At my recent annual checkup, I asked the doctor about Lasik surgery. She said that instead, I was a candidate for cataract surgery and could have corrected lenses inserted at that time under my insurance. The caveat was that my left eye would see far and my right eye would see close up. It would take my brain time to get used to this and about 60% of the people who had it done liked it. Or, I could pay about $5,000 to have both eyes see the same. Whichever procedure I chose, would be final. I wouldn’t be able to undo the lenses. I opted for the free insurance surgery. There would be two surgery dates, first for the left eye, followed by surgery on the right eye three weeks later.
On the day of the surgery, I had to fast for eight hours. Not even allowing for water. At the office were several other people. Each of us had a designated driver that had to stay in the waiting room for the entire three hours it would take to complete the procedure. Oddly, they had televisions in the waiting area and the channel was set for an animal station where polar bears were chasing, killing and eating baby penguins. Anyhow, when it was my turn, I was taken to a small room where I was asked a lot of questions and a purple X was placed on my skin above the left eye. Then I was taken to a staging area where there were four gurneys lined up with curtains separating each one. I laid down as was directed and I placed a hair cap on my head to keep the hair away from my face. The doctor came by and confirmed that I wanted to do this, which I confirmed. Then an anesthesiologist came in and inserted a substance into an IV that was in a vein in my left hand. I was told that I would be awake but the substance would make me not care about anything. After a few minutes I was wheeled into an operating room where they taped my eye open. I saw two bright, small lights in the shape of squares. But I felt nothing, and I didn’t have the urge to try to blink. Just a few minutes later I was wheeled out into a recovery area and helped to get up from the gurney to a recliner-like chair. I was offered crackers and water. My husband was called and drove the car to a side door that led to me. When I got up to leave, I was a little dizzy and held onto his arm for balance. I was given sunglasses that shielded light from all sides. He asked where I would like to go for lunch and I selected Chili’s Grill & Bar as I was craving their chicken tortilla soup. The lights were so bright that I had to keep my sunglasses on inside.
Everything looked very bright and blurry. But amazingly, I could read the menu at Chili’s without my reading glasses! At home, I looked in the mirror and realized the purple X was still on my forehead, it took a while to get it to come off. The next day I was able to drive myself back to the doctor for a checkup. He said everything was fine.
Three weeks later I went in to repeat the process for the right eye. This time, I asked for rubbing alcohol to remove the purple X before going out to eat afterwards. This time my husband took me to Westwood’s BBQ & Spice Co which is a delicious locally owned restaurant.
I was able to get rid of all my glasses and can now see clearly without them. I would totally do it again knowing what I know now. However, I would also have paid the $5,000 for 20/20 in both eyes because there are times when something (like the head of someone sitting in front of me) is blocking one eye and that’s the one I need to use at that moment.
At my follow-up appointment, she gave me a new prescription for glasses for times when I needed both eyes to behave the same. The person who fitted me said that I should wear them all the time to protect my good eye. She pointed out that if the good eye was damaged, I would only have the bad eye to see. Hmmmm, that would have been good to know before I’d done all this. But I don’t have any intention of using glasses all the time, that was not the point of this procedure. It’s been over a month now and I still find myself reaching for glasses when I want to read something. I had seven pairs of glasses placed in strategic places throughout the house. Now, they’re in a bag tucked away in a closet. I’m sure they’ll be donated to charity once I stop mindlessly reaching for them.
In the heart of California’s Central Valley lies a remarkable story of nature’s resilience and human ingenuity. Tulare Lake, once a thriving natural lake for thousands of years, succumbed to the demands of the growing agricultural industry and gradually transformed into agricultural land. However, due to an extraordinary confluence of factors, this dry expanse has experienced a spectacular resurgence, reclaiming its former glory as a majestic lake. This blog explores the captivating journey of Tulare Lake and its recent revival.
Tulare Lake holds a significant place in the history and ecology of California. For millennia, it served as a vital water source for indigenous communities and a vibrant ecosystem for diverse plant and animal species. The lake covered an expansive area, supporting a thriving ecosystem and attracting a variety of migratory birds.
As California’s agricultural industry flourished, the need for controlled irrigation systems became apparent. Dams and canals were constructed to divert water away from the rivers that fed Tulare Lake, gradually depleting its water source. By redirecting water for agricultural purposes, the lake dried up, leaving behind fertile land for farming. The agricultural expansion came at the cost of the natural lake’s disappearance, severing a vital connection between the region and its ecological heritage.
Over the years, the dry lakebed of Tulare Lake found new purpose during periods of intense weather events. In 1969 and 1983, it served as a controlled flooding area, safeguarding surrounding communities from potential disaster. These managed flooding events demonstrated the area’s capacity to absorb excess water, but they were incomparable to the scale of transformation witnessed this year.
The current year brought an astonishing turn of events for Tulare Lake. Unprecedented snowfall in the surrounding mountains resulted in a massive influx of water into the region. Combined with the imminent arrival of hot weather, the excess snowmelt posed a significant risk of flooding. In a stroke of visionary planning, authorities made the bold decision to allow Tulare Lake to reclaim its natural state temporarily.
As our family embarked on a journey to witness this extraordinary phenomenon, we were greeted by an awe-inspiring sight. The newly restored Tulare Lake stretched out for miles, its immense expanse reflecting the sun on its surface with wildlife already preparing for their new habitat. Partially exposed structures peered out from beneath the shimmering surface, serving as reminders that this land has had a varied life.
Tulare Lake’s revival serves as a testament to the resilience of nature and the potential for environmental reclamation. The rapid transformation from an agricultural landscape into a resplendent lake is a testament to the power of nature and the potential for human intervention. This extraordinary event serves as a vivid reminder of the importance of responsible development coupled with preparedness and flexibility with land use.
Our family explored the North Coast of California. I started to write a blog about our experiences, but thought I’d see what the AI (artificial intelligence) ChatGPT would come up with. Below are my instructions, the initial writing I gave it and finally, what the AI came up with in two minutes. The only thing that wasn’t true was the cheese factory in Loleta. I guess we’ll have to try that next time we’re up there!
This is the instruction I gave to ChatGPT:
Please add personalized fun or interesting details to this blog:
Exploring the North Coast, California
Getting there and back is the hardest part. Arcata has a small airport but there are no direct flights from Fresno to Arcata. You have to fly into San Francisco to catch the Arcata flight. By the time you’ve jumped through all the hoops, it’s just easier to take the 7 ½ to 9-hour drive, depending on traffic and the time of day. We stayed at a VRBO in McKinleyville. The house sits right on the Hammond Trail which was perfect for both the walkers and runners of the family. It boasts wooded areas, beautiful vistas of the Mad River and Pacific Ocean and a variety of terrains along the 5.5-mile path. On the trail, right in front of our house, we saw joggers, walkers, bicyclists and horseback riders. We even caught a glimpse of a skunk, which thankfully ran the other way.
We ate at Renata’s Creperie and Salt Fish House and shopped at the North Coast Co-op which a truly a super market. A fabulous place to explore. We found a vast selection of local hot sauces where the hardest decision was how to pick only seven bottles as we’re all hot sauce connoisseurs.
Hiked in the Arcata Community Forest, also nicknamed Fairy Forrest behind Cal Poly Humboldt.
On Saturday’s Arcata has the most wonderful Farmer’s Market.
We ate at a variety of places in Eureka including Pile High Deli, Brick & Fire Bistro, Lost Coast Brewery, Smoke House Bar & Grill,
We visited the Sequoia Park Zoo & Redwood Sky Walk where we saw otters, spider monkeys, red pandas and, my favorite, the bird known as the Crested Screamer. When the bird belts out its cry, the entire area can hear it. Despite our efforts we couldn’t get the one at the zoo to scream for us. Until my husband found them on You Tube. When he played it the zoo bird went nuts and screamed at the top of its lungs. Hilarious highlight of our day.
Humboldt Botanical Gardens
Old Town & Waterfront Eureka
We hiked the Trinidad Trail and frolicked at the Dry Lagoon Beach where the rocks are mostly flat and make for a perfect competition for how high can you build your rock tower but the water is too rough to swim or surf so there are fewer people here.
Humboldt Bay Wildlife Refuge
This is what it provided me in less than two minutes:
Exploring the North Coast, California: A Personalized Adventure
McKinleyville: A Serene Retreat
Getting to McKinleyville can be quite an adventure in itself, especially if you're coming from Fresno. With no direct flights available, the journey involves a stopover in San Francisco before catching a flight to Arcata. However, for those seeking a more scenic route, the 7 ½ to 9-hour drive offers stunning coastal views, making it a worthwhile option. Our stay at a charming VRBO in McKinleyville provided the perfect base for our North Coast explorations.
The Hammond Trail, a Hidden Gem
Nestled right next to our McKinleyville abode was the Hammond Trail, a hidden gem for outdoor enthusiasts. This 5.5-mile path meanders through wooded areas, offering breathtaking vistas of the Mad River and the vast Pacific Ocean. We were delighted to encounter a vibrant mix of walkers, joggers, bicyclists, and even horseback riders along the trail. Our most unexpected encounter was a skunk scurrying away, providing us with a memorable wildlife sighting.
Arcata: Culinary Delights and Enchanting Forests
Our culinary journey in Arcata was nothing short of delightful. Renata's Creperie and Salt Fish House satisfied our taste buds with their delectable offerings. However, our most exciting find was the North Coast Co-op, a supermarket paradise. As hot sauce connoisseurs, we were overwhelmed by the vast selection of local hot sauces, leaving us with the challenging task of narrowing down our choices to only seven bottles.
To immerse ourselves in nature's enchantment, we embarked on a hike through the Arcata Community Forest, fondly referred to as the Fairy Forest by locals. Its lush greenery and tranquil ambiance transported us to a fairy tale realm. On Saturdays, we indulged in the vibrant and diverse offerings of the Arcata Farmers Market, immersing ourselves in the local culture and flavors.
Eureka: Eclectic Dining and Unforgettable Zoo Moments
Eureka greeted us with a plethora of dining options. The Pile High Deli, Brick & Fire Bistro, Lost Coast Brewery, and Smoke House Bar & Grill catered to our varying culinary preferences, leaving us craving for more. However, our most unforgettable moment occurred at the Sequoia Park Zoo & Redwood Sky Walk. Amongst the otters, spider monkeys, and red pandas, the Crested Screamer stole the show. The bird's powerful cry echoed throughout the area, captivating everyone. Despite our failed attempts to make it scream, a hilarious discovery awaited us. After finding a YouTube video featuring the bird's call, we played it, causing the zoo's own Crested Screamer to join in, resulting in a chorus of laughter.
Trinidad: Hiking and Rock Tower Competitions
Trinidad beckoned us with its natural wonders. We embarked on the Trinidad Trail, immersing ourselves in its captivating beauty. Later, we found ourselves at Dry Lagoon Beach, a paradise for rock tower enthusiasts. With mostly flat rocks at our disposal, we competed to see who could build the tallest tower. Although the rough water prevented swimming or surfing, the absence of crowds allowed us to relish this serene coastal haven.
Loleta and Humboldt Bay Wildlife Refuge: Nature's Oasis
Our North Coast adventure continued in Loleta, where we marveled at the Loleta Cheese Factory, sampling an array of artisanal cheeses. The Humboldt Bay Wildlife Refuge provided a haven for nature enthusiasts, offering a chance to observe various species in their natural habitat.
The North Coast of California has much to offer for adventurers seeking a blend of natural beauty, culinary delights, and unforgettable moments. From the tranquil trails of McKinleyville to the enchanting forests of Arcata, the eclectic dining scene of Eureka, and the serene havens of Trinidad, Loleta, and the Humboldt Bay Wildlife Refuge, this region promises an unforgettable journey for all who venture here.
Kingsburg and Reedley California are significantly haunted places. So says Ghost Hunter Josh Rodriguez. Josh has investigated over 30 places throughout California, but most predominately in the South Fresno County area. It all started when he was two years old. His family was living in a home on Elkhorn Road and Josh was playing in the living room when all of a sudden his body flew across the room, according to his mother, Rosa. While the experience was painful, the bigger effect was that Josh was traumatized and it took him years to develop his speech. In addition Josh began having the ability to see and communicate with ghosts. As he grew older, he began researching and studying everything he could get his hands on regarding the spirit world. The more he learned, the less frightened he became and the more confident in his abilities to ghost hunt.
According to Josh, “I know how it feels to be made fun of, so when I heard people talking about seeing things that they couldn’t explain, I knew that I was meant to help them. You need to be respectful of people, but at the same time skeptical. You don’t want someone trying to trick you. But at the same time, you want to help people. My phone rings constantly now with people wanting me to help them to understand what’s going on.”
Rodriquez explained that ghosts reside in places, not necessarily structures. If a house has a ghost in it and the house is torn down, the spirit will remain in the same area regardless. He also asserts that despite popular belief, there are very few ghosts in cemeteries. Instead, they tend to be where the living are because they prefer activity to silence. Poltergeists are entirely different. They are evil spirits who require specialized, and possibly dangerous, techniques to properly deal with them.
In order to further understand the anatomy of a ghost hunt, Josh took my husband Robert, photographer Danny Valderrama, and myself on a hunt in the Kingsburg area. The house is currently occupied by Berta Torres and Jose Barajas who have seen at least four different spirits on the property. According to the couple, there is a large man wearing a cowboy hat, a lady who wears white linen, and two men. They say that the two men are mean and often play tricks on them and push Jose from behind. The lights flicker, the lady in linen was seen by Berta and a guest walking through a wall, then look at them and continue to walk through the house, loud bangs, doors slamming and trees shaking for no apparent reason. Strange and unexplainable things have happened on the property throughout the 15 years that they have lived there. The couple told us about their experiences and then left for the evening so that we could begin the investigation.
Josh had been to this home before with a psychic. The psychic got scared and abruptly left the area. This would be Josh’s second attempt at communicating with the spirits at this location. He began pulling out his equipment which was held in a large duffle bag. The first test would be with an Electric Voice Phenomena (EVP) device. The EVP can be any recording device including a microcassette player. When trying to capture an EVP sound everyone must remain very, very still. Creeks, shifting of feet or any movement will be recorded and could be misinterpreted later. Asking the ghosts questions will prompt them to answer back if they are around and willing to cooperate. Josh asked the female spirit which decade she had died in. She responded “yes” when asked if she had died in the 1970s. We did not hear this, but when we reviewed the tape later, the recording device had picked it up.
Next we used a Ghost Box where a device and amplifier are used to establish white noise. Questions are sometimes answered at frequencies we wouldn’t be able to hear otherwise. Here is the dialog we heard with Josh asking the questions and a spirit answering them:
How many spirits are here? 7
What is your name? Ruben
How old are you? 10
Where did you die? Kingsburg
And then; Please stop
Danny Valderrama brought two additional devices. A parabolic microphone and an electromagnetic fields (EMF) meter. These scientific devices are popular with ghost hunters. The EMF meter is popular because ghosts will often cause a spike in the EMF which becomes a ‘heads up’ for the ghost hunter that they are nearby. The parabolic microphone picks up sounds that might not be heard under normal circumstances. There is a trailer house on the property where the spirit with the cowboy hat is said to have died. We decide to go to that area with our devices. While we talked about who should go, the device spiked to its maximum when Danny said he would go. Josh asked, “Should Robert go?” No response from the meter. “Should Jolene go?” No response from the meter. “Should Danny go?” The meter again shot to its maximum. Brave Danny volunteered to venture to the trailer along with Robert. Not-so-brave Jolene stayed a safe distance away, ready to report what news the others brought back. While there, Danny and Robert picked up more readings on the EMF meter. Danny felt a brush against his ear when there was no one nearby.
Pictures were taken with several different cameras. There are times where an orb or other image will appear in an area, but is unseen by the human eye. Tapping was done as a form of communication as well. Josh invited the spirits to tap if they were present. We did hear tapping but agreed that it was inconclusive. As we finished our hunt, Josh had each of us put a special powder and oil on our bodies to ward off any spirit who might want to leave with us.
Josh says that ghost hunting is done predominately at night because there are less distractions and other sounds than there are during the day making it easier to see and hear spirits. However, spirits are active all the time. He says that people call him when they’re at the end of their rope, feeling frightened and wanting to move away from the dwelling. His goal in these instances is to become the liaison between the two worlds where he can explain to the homeowners who the ghost is, or was, why they’re doing whatever they are doing and in some cases, to attempt to get them to leave the area. He does not charge for his expertise because he considers it more of a calling than a profession. He looks forward to the day when he can meet again the spirit who threw him across the room when he was a toddler. He has a few things he’d like to say to him. For more information about Josh’s services, visit his website, www. http://paranormalcrys.webs.com/ .
As popularity for the creature grows, so does media coverage
It’s the strangest thing. A few years back, if I told someone I was going Bigfoot hunting, they would have scoffed. But now, as I told just about everyone I came into contact with, the standard reply was, “Oh, I want to go!” or “My (family member) would LOVE to do that!”
What has happened recently to change public opinion about Bigfoot? Perhaps it’s the internet, where more and more people turn for information. It used to be that the major networks controlled information. Not so much anymore. Now there are websites dedicated to Bigfoot such as bigfootencounters.com
Shows like radio’s Coast to Coast AM (originally with Art Bell and now with host George Noory) have enjoyed great success with paranormal topics that include Bigfoot on a regular basis. Animal Planet’s Finding Bigfoot follows a team that includes a scientist on Bigfoot hunts based on reported sightings. There are even apps for Bigfoot. Download Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy to keep updated on Bigfoot news. The History Channel’s show Greatest History’s Mysteries goes into detail about the sightings reported all through history along with theories on their existence. Giving traction to the Bigfoot phenomenon is England’s Oxford University where scientists there have called for people to send in any DNA that is believed to be from Bigfoot so that they can test it and determine more about the beast. There is a Bigfoot Museum in Felton, California, a Bigfoot Symposium was recently held in Visalia and even an unofficial Cryptozoology Boy Scout Merit Badge (which includes Bigfoot).
I attended a Finding Bigfoot Town Hall Meeting at the Shaver Lake Community Center earlier this year. Stunningly, it was standing room only in the large hall with several local people getting up and telling their Bigfoot stories. Being a paranormal fan since the days of Fright Night, Night Gallery and Twilight Zone, I found the experience to be fascinating, if not bone chilling, as some of those stories were startlingly detailed and terrifying. The people giving their accounts were residents from Shaver, Fresno, Oakhurst, Kingsburg, etc.
Moving backwards in time, Native American Indians from a variety of tribes in several U.S. regions have told tales of Bigfoot sightings and interactions. The local Tule River Tribe have pictographs actually showing what resembles Bigfoot on large boulders in their Reservation. National media has shown the drawings which have been dated back to approximately 500 to 1,000 years ago.
How does one go about hunting for Bigfoot? First, you find out where there have been sightings. Jeffrey Gonzalez, founder of the Sanger Paranormal Society, says that there have been sightings all over the Sierra Nevada. There are even reported sightings as close as Zediker and Ashlan Avenues in Sanger, the Kings River south of Reedley, and at Herndon & Highway 99 in Fresno on the San Joaquin River. Gonzalez has taken my family along with the Valderrama family of Kingsburg on two Bigfoot hunts. We’ve been in two areas where there have been frequent sightings and spent the night there. Part of me thinks it would be amazing (to say the least) to see a Bigfoot. Another part of me hopes to never see this creature. I guess that’s the fun. It’s especially unnerving when it gets dark and everyone turns in for the night. Every little sound is magnified and sets your heart pounding.
Here is the anatomy of a Bigfoot hunt. Once you’ve established where you’re going, and who is going with you, two very important factors, then you should pack up. Include apples, as Bigfoot apparently likes them, some sort of protection, in case someone or thing in the wilderness wants to be aggressive, motion sensors so that you’ll know if Bigfoot is around your campsite, a motion sensor camera/recorder or video camera, which is capable of night vision recording, so that if you see him, at least you’ll have proof. You should have binoculars to look for him in the daylight and night vision binoculars for the evenings. Bring a parabolic sound amplifier to let you hear sounds far away, so that perhaps if you can’t see him, you’ll at least be able to hear him. Bring women and children as Bigfoot seems to be lured by the sounds of their voices. Once you’re at your destination and have set up camp, start looking in the woods where there are shadows. Bigfoot is an expert at observing unnoticed. Stay together as you explore your surroundings as a single person is much easier to bother, and more susceptible to abduction, but that’s another story, than a group of people. Take the apples and throw them on the outskirts of your campsite. Go to youtube and search for Bigfoot Tree Knocking to listen to how Bigfoots talk to each other. Bigfoot hits a stick on a tree in a specific way. Bigfoot hunters use this tactic, along with calling (also available on youtube) to catch his attention and perhaps head your way. Set up your night time equipment. Have a nice dinner (in case it’s your last), enjoy some story time around the campfire to enhance your sensitivity, and turn in. Hope that your motion sensors go off, or that your cameras catch something. Gonzalez occasionally sets out food, away from camp, and positions a motion sensitive camera facing the food in hopes of capturing a hungry Bigfoot on film.
But be careful for what you wish for. One local seasoned Bigfoot hunter came face to face with a Bigfoot when he ventured away from his group. He came back and told them what he had seen and then determined that he had seen enough, never returning to hunt again. Another, who is a high school principal in the area, has collected photos, videos and other proof that Bigfoot exists. He is keeping it until he writes a book regarding his encounters. Gonzalez even has DNA that he believes is from Bigfoot. One of the reasons people with Bigfoot proof tend to be careful with their proof is that in the past when they’ve given it over to be analyzed, the specimens have become lost. These stories have added fuel to the government conspiracy theory that they’re suppressing Bigfoot information. Hunters tend to be very guarded with their findings.
Gonzalez says that people sometimes see things that they don’t understand and they want to talk about it and receive explanations for what they saw. His 24 hour hot line is designed to be the local support to any paranormal sighting, from Bigfoot, to UFO’s, ghosts, and anything else that is unexplained by traditional means.
Whether Bigfoot is a missing link, an alien, a figment of people’s imagination, or something else, the fascination continues to grow and the topic has entered the mainstream culture. Naysayers are fast becoming the minority. Who would have thought…
To report sightings of any kind, call Jeffrey Gonzalez at 559-287-8367.
Oh, and by the way…..happy hunting
Over the summer, my husband and I travelled to Southern California with friends and stayed on the Queen Mary (QM). We were actually down there to NASCAR race in Irwindale, but decided to stay a couple of nights on the Queen Mary just to make a weekend out of it. We reserved spots for the “Dining with the Spirits” tour which included dinner at the QM restaurant, Sir Winston's, followed by a late-night guided tour of the ship's paranormal hotspots. Unbeknownst to my husband and I until that weekend, the couple we were travelling with were seasoned paranormal travelers and had brought equipment to use during the tour.
We checked into the Queen Mary and got to our rooms. If you ask at the front desk, they’ll give you a list of all of the paranormal sightings both in the ship and in the hotel rooms. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it), our room had no record of any unusual observations.
We unpacked and left with our friends for dinner in Long Beach. When we returned to the ship, we said good night to them and walked toward our room, which is much further aft than theirs. Because the corridors are very long and narrow (we are on a ship after all), my husband pulled out his iPhone and started taking pictures of me as I walked down the long hall to our room. It made a photographic shot that he thought would be unique. He took four shots in total. When we got to our room, he looked at his photos and asked if there was anyone in the hall with me. I replied, “No. No one. Why?” He asked, “Are you absolutely sure? No one was in the hall with you?” Of course, being that we’re on a documented haunted ship, I thought he was teasing me, and answered, annoyed, “No. I already said no.” He produced his iPhone and I noticed that his hands are trembling. His hands trembling made my blood turn cold. I looked at the photos. Me. Walking down the hall toward our room. Again, me further down the hall. Then, me, further this time and a bell hop, in a complete bell hop uniform, is walking towards me with his head tilted as if he’s helping me find my room. Next shot, just me, no one else in the hall.
We called our friends and we all attempted a reenactment. We figured out where I would have been in all four shots and there really is no explanation for how someone would have appeared in one shot that took place in between three others without either my husband or I seeing him. In the reenactment, the bell hop was about five feet away from me. So creepily close.
The next morning, we showed the photo to the front desk, and they confirmed that the uniform in the picture is not a uniform that has been worn on the Queen Mary by their staff.. Later, I looked through a QM coffee table book in our room and discovered a photograph taken in the early 1900’s of the bell hops who serviced the ship back then. They are wearing the same uniform as the man who appeared in our photo. Gloves, cap, brass buttons, everything.
I am somewhat happy that I didn’t see him in the hall that night. Although it’s unsettling because it begs the question of what else don’t I see?
Oh, and as for the Spirit Tour? That’s another story…..
While I was on vacation, my dad stopped texting me. I tried calling but his phone was off. I called his neighbor and asked if he could go over and check on him. He called me back and said he was fine. Two days later I returned home. The next morning, I drove to his house to check on him. He didn’t answer the door. I had a key, but he owned five dogs, two of them were pit bulls who had been aggressive toward me in the past. As I rang the doorbell, they tried everything in their power to breakdown the door to get to me. I called 911 and explained the situation, explaining that I didn’t know what services I should ask for. Within minutes two police cars were there. One of the officers asked how I was doing I answered that I was nervous. Soon thereafter animal control showed up along with the paramedics. By now, many neighbors were standing outside watching. The first responders and I huddled and determined that the police would go in first. As they’re unlocking the door I said, “Wait! I just remembered that he has guns in there, not sure how he’ll react if he thinks he’s being broke into.” With that, we huddled again. The officers suggested that I go in first and call out to him. I agreed but asked if I could borrow their mace if the dogs attacked me. They said no. I remembered that I had mace in my car. I got it out and explained that I didn’t know how to use it. One of the officers showed me how to do it, then let me practice. He said that I should spray it toward the ground and away from the dogs. They would run off without needing the spray to hit them directly. As I’m practicing in the front yard, more neighbors came out to watch.
We line up at the front door, first me, then the officers, animal control and the paramedics last. I unlocked the door, turned the handle, then turned back toward everyone and said, “I’m going in!” Which made all of us laugh. I cracked open the door and yelled “Dad, are you ok?” He yelled back from the back bedroom “NO!” It was a huge relief to know that he was alive. But the dogs were going crazy. With my mace, I go as quickly as I can through the kitchen and out to the garage. The dogs followed. When they were all in the garage, I ran back into the kitchen and closed the garage door. I yelled to everyone that the coast was clear. Immediately, the officers stepped aside making way for the paramedics to get to the back bedroom. The house was too small for me to be in a place where I could see what was happening. I waited in the kitchen, looking around. I realized that the dogs had been locked in the house with him. They had no food or water and there was feces and urine everywhere. The smell was nauseating. My dad had become a hoarder and his house was disgusting to the point where I hadn’t gone in for several months. But this was a new level of revolting.
They ended up taking my dad out in a gurney. He looked terrible, pale, and weak, his hair all over the place, his beard matted. They took him to the hospital for evaluation where he stayed for a few days. I remained at the house to feed and water the dogs. The animal control person said that I could be charged for elder abuse for letting him live like this. I turned on the lights and locked up the house before heading to the hospital.
The prognosis was dehydration. Nothing broken, nothing else wrong with him. A miracle. When I finally got to see him, he said that he fell off the bed and couldn’t get up. His phone was on the other side of the room, and he was too weak to crawl to get it. I asked why the neighbor had thought he was fine. He said that the neighbor had asked if he was inside and he said yes, thinking he would come to his aid. Instead, the neighbor assumed he was ok, thus delaying a rescue.
I had known this day was coming. Earlier in the year he and I had toured assisted living places. I found out that he was getting lost when driving around town, a town he had lived in since he was 15. He liked Oakmont of Fresno the best but refused to go because of his dogs. I asked if I could begin trying to rehome them which he wouldn’t consider. I said that there would be an event that would force him to move. This was the event. I called and made the arrangements to have him moved directly to the facility from the hospital.
I had taken pictures of all the dogs and posted on social media that they needed new homes. After two days, I gave up and was left with no choice. I called the SPCA and asked if they could come pick them up. They met me at the house and together we managed to get them all into their vehicle. Again, I had the neighbors standing in their front yards watching the scene. And believe me, it was a scene. I told him I was thankful for his help, without him I would have had to just open the front door and let them out. My next problem was his house. With the dogs there, no one would dare break in, but now they were gone, and everyone knew it. I asked my mother to help me get all the valuables out before dark. We took the guns, ammunition, jewelry, etc. We agreed to come back the next day with her cleaning lady and my husband to go through the massive amount of junk to make sure there wasn’t anything else of value. When we arrived the next morning, we realized that the house had been broken into but there was so much clutter that it was impossible to know if they had taken anything. We worked all day and determined that we had found anything of value. We then hired a contractor to come in, clear everything out and pull up the carpet. After about a week, and four full size roll-offs filled, the house was in condition to renovate or sell. We sold it without having to list it. With the dogs and house out of my care, I had more time to focus on settling him into his new home. There was very little in his house that was salvageable. Over the years he had amassed collections of magazines, toys, etc. Unfortunately, he hadn’t stored anything properly rending all his collections useless. I had to purchase nearly everything for his apartment at Oakmont. Just as he seemed settled and content, COVID came along and forced him into quarantine. I was grateful that he was safe, being cared for and eating well. I don’t think he would have fared well otherwise.
In my November, 2022 blog I talked about our unsuccessful challenge to get from the Mandalay Resort and Casino to the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas. We had a reservation at the popular restaurant, Mott 32. My son had discovered that they serve Peking duck in an extraordinary way, and we were all excited for the experience. Unfortunately, we didn’t arrive promptly at our reservation time, and they cancelled it. We were out of luck, and out of duck.
My son and husband flew back to Las Vegas in January for a business conference and stayed at the Mirage which happens to be directly across the street from the Venetian. I reserved a table for them and confirmed that they would be dining on the Peking duck. Since they were just across the street, they arrived for their table at the prescribed time. I wondered with all the hype; would the actual experience be disappointing. We have a family text group and we all waited for their assessment in anticipation. You may be curious as to what makes this entrée so enticing. Here is the description from their website:
We begin with hand-selected special breed ducks that are 42 days old and 2kilograms in size. They are prepared over 48 hours in our custom refrigeration system with our special marinading technique and then finished in a brick oven smoked with Applewood. The duck is hand-sliced table-side, using age old techniques with a special Mott 32 signature cut which locks in all the juices. It is combined with the duck’s crispy Applewood smoked skin brushed with brown palm sugar; and topped with the succulent duck breast meat. It is served with Hoisin, peanut and sesame sauces, freshly sliced cucumber and scallions, and the thinnest steamed pancakes.
Note that the word ‘pancakes’ above translates into ‘rice paper’ to us Westerners. I’ve used rice paper and pancakes interchangeably in this blog. It is very thin, and sticky in the shape of a circle. Similar to what contains spring rolls.
Here is the description of the experience from my husband and son’s perspective: The chef at our table was obviously very schooled at his craft. The duck was presented in its totality as cooked. He ceremoniously showed us so that we could take a picture if desired. Then he carefully filleted it starting with the duck skin. He had a very sharp knife that was shaped wide so he could also use it to carry the meat. He artfully prepared the fried duck skin into bite sizes pieces on a plate and surrounded one edge of the plate with brown palm sugar. This would be our first course. Then he perfectly spaced out all the ingredients he would be using. He began to prepare the rest of the duck by delicately cutting the best part of the meat and removing the scraps. The slices were created in such a way to include the duck meat, skin, and the fat layer in between for optimum succulence. The slices were placed on a plate by the chef. The waiter brought a bowl of Hoisin sauce and placed a dollop of peanut sauce in the middle of the Hoisin, when she spun the bowl it turned into a spiral galaxy of flavor.
With the remains, the chef prepared duck fried rice. We were given a bamboo steamer to share that contained the rice paper pancakes, each divided by pieces of actual paper. We used a tong to remove a rice paper pancake topped with a piece of paper and placed it on our plates. It takes practice because the rice paper is sticky and you need to slowly peel the paper off while keeping the pancake flat. Once it’s on the plate, you add sauce, duck, cucumber and/or scallions on top. You can either fold two sides in, and roll it like a burrito, or just roll it without folding the sides since the rice paper is sticky enough to tether the ingredients. The chopsticks are used to lift the roll to your mouth, taking bites. When you’re finished with one, the process starts over again. The entire experience lasts about two hours.
Many nearby diners watched the fanfare as well. My husband and son used chopsticks even though one of them is challenged with such utensils. The entire meal was prepared in a way that made chopsticks easy to use. The taste of everything was excellent. The duck didn’t taste like anything either had had before. It melted in their mouths because of the special technique used to hold the subcutaneous fat, and they ate slowly to savor every moment. Even the duck fried rice was pleasantly unique and has become the standard for all future fried rice dishes. To borrow from a scene in a recent movie, they did not eat, they tasted. A friend commented that for the price, they could have gone to a buffet several times. But the retort was that a buffet isn’t an experience. This was.
In summary, worth it!
If you go, make reservations as far out as possible and be sure to call and confirm that you want the Peking duck. They only prepare a few for each evening and can’t adjust the quantity because of the 42 day life of the duck and the 48 hour preparation period….and don’t be late!
When my sister-in-law invited us to Nantucket, Massachusetts to celebrate her birthday, we happily agreed. Nantucket wasn’t on our radar at all, but she had been there before and loved it. We flew into Boston, spent the night there then drove to Hyannis to catch a ferry to Nantucket. We were arriving in December to experience the Nantucket Christmas Stroll. Sounds somewhat interesting, but we have something similar in Kingsburg called the Julgranfest and assumed it would be like that. Very wrong. We were shocked at the thousands of people who were there. Many were dressed in fun Christmas attire such as a group of lobsters and a large family of Who’s from Whoville . People even dressed up their dogs. It started decades ago when the merchants of Nantucket didn’t want their residents travelling to Cape Cod to shop for Christmas presents. The festivities begin the first full weekend in December and last from Friday through Sunday with the highlight event being Santa arriving by boat and announced by the Town Crier. As Santa boards the historic fire engine and makes his way through town, those lined up to greet him follow along. There are so many people, it’s hard to do anything but follow in the crowd.
We stayed at a Vacation Rentals by Owner (VRBO) house that is located in the downtown area. The cost this time of year for the rental is about $300 per night. For the Stroll weekend the cost soars to $1100 per night. And this is for a small home. It is in walking distance from the ferry and downtown. Everything we wanted to see was in the downtown area so we left our rented Lincoln Navigator at the ferry parking lot in Hyannis. We were glad we did as there was a great amount of traffic and very little parking.
I usually go for runs when traveling but couldn’t do so in Nantucket. The downtown streets are created with cobble stone making a good run impossible. The regularly paved streets just outside of downtown are too narrow to be safe. Because the island is heavily populated with tourists and owners of summer vacation homes the island pretty much closes for the winter months. The Stroll weekend is the exception. We participated in the walking Tour of Cliff Mansions where we saw multimillion dollar homes owned by the likes of Tommy Hilfiger and former Secretary of State John Kerry. The group wondered how the Kerry security detail were able to protect him when there wasn’t much room to park. And I will say for $50 million dollar homes, I expected them to be bigger and more grandiose. The guide said that for most of the owners, these would be their fourth, fifth or sixth home and that most of them are vacant except for the summer months. Nearly all the houses had lookouts on the roof. I imagine that it would be so amazing to sit up there in the summertime and stare out at the ocean.
We had dinner Saturday night at The Charlie Noble and ordered whole boiled lobsters. Lobster dishes are on just about any menu in the region. And while they were more flavorful than the ones we eat on the West Coast, I’m just too lazy to wrestle with an entire shell of a lobster. I asked the waiter if the chef could undress it for me and the response was a resounding ‘no.’ They were probably in the kitchen snickering at me. In my defense, I didn’t think they brought me the correct tools for such an endeavor.
Sunday we visited the Whaling Museum. Nantucket was considered the whaling capital of the world in the 1700’s and 1800’s. That night we took the evening walking tour, Nantucket Ghosts and Haunted Places. It’s about 80 minutes and we saw five of the most haunted places on the island. We had the perfect tour guide. His inflections, paired with a cold dark night heightened the experience greatly. At the most haunted house on the island, I asked the guide what the owners of the homes think when there are frequent walking tours in front of their homes. He said they don’t mind, and in fact, a couple who had been on the tour years earlier, actually purchased the most haunted one recently. Their son sleeps in the third story room where unseeable entities apply pressure on their human victims leaving them paralyzed for hours. Yeah, I don’t think so, chief. At the last place on the tour, the Unitarian Universalists Church, the guide was talking about the pastor who was seen giving sermons well after he had died. A woman across the street started yelling at us saying ‘What’s the point?’ and other things while pointing at a small window. We figured out that there was an LGBTQ flag, hardly visible, in one of the windows. The theory is she assumed we were talking about that. We explained that we were on a ghost tour to which she retorted that she was a physic. She continued to yell at us as we disbanded. It seems her perception was that she had broken up a group of haters. Maybe she had too much Stroll?
On Monday we left on the ferry back to Hyannis, got our Navigator and drove to Woods Hole to catch a ferry to Martha’s Vineyard. Now this is where the title of this blog comes into play. My husband Robert drove that monstrosity from Boston through Cape Cod on to four ferries, around numerous roundabouts and through many narrow streets. He never complained, got agitated or angry. He was a great sport and didn’t mind getting lost and delayed. And we now know what the word ‘Masshole’ means.
So, Martha’s Vineyard. I thought it would be more posh. Our VRBO was nicer than the Nantucket one and far less expensive. There was a little path on the side of the house that circuitously took me to the Atlantic Ocean. Finally, a place to run. I was able to run all around the pier with beautiful homes and beach as my view. I even got to see the famous bridge in the movie Jaws where the shark comes out of the water. The houses predominantly have cedar siding that turns grey as it weathers. We downloaded the ‘www.getyourguide.com’ to look around the island since there weren’t any actual tours going on in what they call the ‘shoulder season.’ The app uses GPS to tell you what you’re looking at as you drive along. When there isn’t anything noteworthy it will tell you an interesting story about the island. We visited the Gay Head Lighthouse and Mytoi Gardens on our excursion. We took a small ferry to Chappaquiddick, nicknamed ‘Chappy’ by the locals, to see where Ted Kennedy crashed his car off a bridge, killing his passenger. On the other side of the bridge is the ‘Cape Poge Little Neck Bomb Target Site’ where the military practiced bombing during World War II. The sign warns to not go off the paths and to keep pets on leashes because even in 2009 they were still finding practice bombs buried in the dunes.
On Wednesday we took the ferry back to Woods Hole and headed to our next VRBO in Falmouth. The nicest and biggest house yet, also, the least expensive of all of them. Yelp showed an axe throwing bar, which we just HAD to do. Ok, maybe just me and the others indulged me. It’s all in the wrist.
Now we are in Cape Cod, or the Cape. We drove up to Provincetown which was the first place the Pilgrims stopped before reaching Plymouth and today is known as a heavily populated LGBTQ community. In fact, I estimate that every third house had a Pride flag. Unfortunately, the famous Pilgrim Monument was closed for the season. Heading back down the Cape we stopped at the Sandwich Glass Museum and Salt Pond Visitor Center. That evening we stopped in Chatham for their
On the way back to Boston, we made a quick stop at Plymouth. We saw the underwhelming rock that the Pilgrims reportedly stepped on while departing the Mayflower and the Mayflower II which is a replica of the tiny ship that was home to 102 people for 66 days. They don’t provide tours in the off-shoulder season months. On the way back to our hotel near the Logan International Airport we drove by the Boston Commons which was dressed for the season in large Christmas trees, bright lights and a large ice rink.
The weather was good for Massachusetts in the winter. I got to finally wear a coat that I bought for Alaska but didn’t need. There were far less people because of the season and that was nice. But, because we were in tourist places with few tourists, there weren’t very many places open. We learned to call a place before heading that way, despite what Yelp said. The beginning of Spring or the end of Autumn might be better, but then you miss all of the Christmas decorations, which were spectacular. There are signs everywhere warning to watch out for Great White Sharks. Advice included not swimming at dawn or dusk, staying close to the shore, and avoiding seals. It’s funny that they have a sign in this region for densely populated areas which says, ‘Thickly Settled.’ The first thing that struck me when we were in the region was the thick New England accent. According to Google, “Common traits of New England accents are non-rhotic or “r-dropping” pronunciation and a nasal-a sound. The “r-dropping” such as father /fa tha/ may come from the influence of English colonists.” My first encounter was a waitress asking me a question which I didn’t understand even after she repeated it. Finally, Robert figured out she was saying ‘beverage.’ When I responded, she had difficulty understanding that I wanted water. I should have asked for ‘whada.’
Thoughts that are alien to any of my other projects can be found here.