Hook

By Edna Coulson Hall

 

June.  July.

Mowing, raking, bailing –
hay-making with Dad, with Granddad.

Wet?  Rain?  When?
And for how long?
How much?

Dry days and hot.  Hot.
Sweating, reddened deep,
shoulders blistered —
we bless the sun.

Atop the squat Ford tractor
pulling slow, pulling straight
through sweet scented alfalfa.

Hay hook in hand
stabbing bail and bail and bail –
lifting, twisting, stacking.
Neat.  Make it neat.
Winter might come early,
might stay late.
Pack the mow, snug’em tight
and neat.

Hay hook for hay work,
for carrying buckets heavy with grain,
for bolting a gate lock.

I scratch my name into
its work-slicked handle
with a rusty nail –
“Edna.”

Dotti

By Treva Perkins

A dear old friend of mine recently died.  In January.  Peacefully.  In her sleep. She was dear to me because she and I could talk forever about anything:  politics, women’s rights, food preparation, the arts, Los Angeles freeways, gardening, Mexico, news… any topic.  Dotti was an intellect.  Forward thinking.  Open minded.  Because of these attributes she never aged even though she lived to be 95.

In my mind, Dotti will live on forever.  Talking.  Laughing.  Insights that amaze with wit that amuses.

Here’s to you Dotti!  May your new journey be as rewarding as your life was a beautiful gift to all of us who knew you.

Oh, That Guy…

By Janet Clark

Who? Oh, that guy. Yes, I know him. No, no, he’s not Chinese, he’s from Vietnam. I don’t know when he immigrated, but you can see he’s not very old. Late thirties, maybe? You’re right. He’s not a big man, but what a hard worker. He’s been delivering newspapers in Poet’s Corner for about five years. Since he took over the route there’s never been a single day the papers weren’t delivered. Maybe a little late once or twice. If I’m awake I hear a comforting “thwack” as the paper hits the driveway around 4.30 a.m.

By the way – that guy happens to be one of the kindest people I know. For years I subscribed to the San Francisco Chronicle Thursdays through Sundays. Then, one day the Chron raised prices to the point I could no longer afford delivery. I sent a note to that guy letting him know my reason for quitting the paper and thanking him for his reliable service. The morning I was to receive no Chronicle there was a newspaper on my driveway. Attached to it was a crudely penciled note.

“Good morning, thank you for the Christmas card you sent me. I always have extra Contra Costa Times papers. I’ll throw one every day and if you need me to stop, call this number. Dien Lam.”

For a year and a half he has faithfully left a Times on my driveway. From time to time I put a ten dollar bill in an envelope and mailed it to him.

Recently the San Francisco Chronicle ran a special “We miss you. Ninety dollars for the entire year!”

I signed up.

Now I get two papers every morning – carefully rubber-banded together so I only have to stoop over once. You know that’s getting harder to do early in the morning these days? Stooping.

Oh yeah, that guy is just the greatest!

Doug, the Guy

By Treva Perkins

Oh that guy!  There was no way that I was going to give him the satisfaction of even looking at him!  And those girls hanging all over him as they all walked the hallways ooogaling and cooing.  There were at least four or five of them at all times sauntering down the hall with him arm in arm.  It was disgusting.  Didn’t they know how ridiculous they looked?  And the guy had a big smile that said it all; he loved it! I couldn’t stand it.  All of this frenzy took place toward the end my ninth grade year at George Jacobs Junior High, in Eureka, CA.  This tall, slender Elvis look alike with his dark hair and creamy white skin had shown up at our school and was making quite a stir with the girls.  He and I didn’t have any classes together so the only time I saw him was passing in the hallways always accompanied by a bevy of silly girls.  No, I was not going to be part of the harem.

Probably the reason that I caught his attention was because I ignored him, thoroughly. Certainly I didn’t mean to bring this interest to myself because not only was I terribly shy, but I didn’t want to be pulled in to being part of the troupe.  It wasn’t too many days before one of the girls approached me and said that Doug wanted to call me.  After all of these years, details are few and far between but I did talk to Doug for at least an hour on the phone after dinner for several nights.  He didn’t live anywhere near me so popping over for a visit was not to be.   Doug asked me to the prom.  Considering all of the girls who had been dying to date him, I couldn’t believe that he picked me.  On the evening of the prom his aunt, who he was living with at the time, drove us to the school for the gala event.   This was my first real date and on the way home in the back seat with his aunt driving up front, I had my first real kiss.

With the end of the school year, Doug seemed to disappear as fast as he had swooped into town.  I can only imagine that my parents might have sighed a breath of relief when this whirlwind liaison ended.   

Guess Who?

By Nahide Craig

Over the last 12 years reading and hearing about his policies I knew in my heart he was no good for the country.  He was a master mind of manipulating the poor and the uneducated into religious promises and gifts just to get their votes while he and his family benefitting millions of dollars from bribery and nepotism. Last summer I saw myself the changes he brought to the country and I was appalled. Was all the new construction, roads, bridges, tunnels and roads considered progress? Was bringing extreme conservatism through pushing religiousness and extreme measures to a country with constitution requires secularism considered a progress? Was there a secret motive behind all of these for his own political future?

Hearing his speeches I can see that he can be convincing, sympathetic and even emotionally close to people. This was his only gift. Even his lies sounded true and sincere as if they are coming from his heart and for the benefit of the country. Of course the biggest beneficiary was himself and his closest family so far.

Then he became more autocratic and wanting to change the constitution to his liking and jailing the journalist, closing TV stations and newspapers. When he became paranoid and started to fire the judges, and sending high ranking military commanders to jail. And finally some financial scandals related to his cabinet members and then to his son became public. Thanks to the foreign press to make these issues open in public through the news and the media, because news in local media came to paralyzing halt with most prominent authors being in the jail.

When reading this one can guess at least half a dozen government heads. I guess I will not reveal it for amusement and for guessing game.

Arrival

By Treva P

My husband David, my daughter Stephanie and I disembark from our first-class Pan Am flight shuffling into a stark gray building where we present our passports and then wait to be picked up by the driver of my husband’s new boss.  New boss, new job, new city and new experiences to come in this my first trip and move to Sao Paulo, Brazil, circa 1976.  The city and the sky are gray, not attractive.  It is August and this is their winter.  We are quickly whisked away to a downtown hotel in the middle of the city where we will stay until we find and rent a house. 

Our first obstacle to overcome is what to do with our dog.  We had snuck Liza, our small, adorable black Lhasa Apso dog, on board the plane in a black carry-on bag.  It was astonishing how well she did on that long trip traversing thousands of miles from Pasadena.   Once we settle in for the flight, she peeks out from the bag munching on treats and slurping up water.  But now our need is to figure out how we are going to keep her in our room when dogs aren’t allowed in the hotel.  This is going to be challenging, especially taking those necessary twice a day walks.  David is assigned that duty.

Stephanie is a real trooper behaving perfectly and adjusting to her new surroundings.  She turns one year old this first week we are in the hotel.  A cupcake and a celebration will be in order.

Upon recalling our arrival in Sao Paulo all those years ago, I cringe to think about how naïve we were.  Taking a dog on the airplane? Moving with a one year old?  At the time, living and working overseas seemed adventurous and seemed the right thing to do for David’s career.  It eventually was good for his career but that first year in Sao Paulo was a tough one in many many ways.   For a couple of months after we moved into a rented home outside the city, I was isolated because we didn’t have a car or a driver.  And, once we were given a car, we discovered that finding our way around was annoyingly difficult – we were always losing our way.  That first year there was an emergency room visit late into the night, a second pregnancy and an appointment with an obstetrician who didn’t understand the term ‘natural childbirth’, a large rat in the back yard, our maid was as lonely as I was since she had no one nearby with whom to talk, and then there was my less than adequate Portuguese language skills.  The difficulties continued.  David wasn’t given the position for which he was hired so he became very despondent and miserable with his job and his boss.  You can only guess what it is like to live with a man who is so torn, disappointed and discouraged.  For a year I tried to console and emotionally support him.  After those excruciating months, David was hired by a competitor bank for the very position for which we had moved in the first place.  It was then time to move to Rio de Janeiro.

On the Road to Vermont

By Nahide Craig

Mid August 1964: After a very long and bumpy flight from Istanbul here I am in the USA. I landed in New York and yet with another flight I am in Hartford Conn. My friend met me at the airport and we started to drive to Vermont to his parent’s summer home. The 4 lane highway had a heavy traffic even in this late night and incoming lights on the curvy highway looked like a four strand diamond necklace. Traffic was orderly and the roads were impressive. After an hour or so we were in the narrower country roads, so dark and also beautiful.

Even the darkness of the midnight one can discern on this two lane road the land forms, orderly fences signs for entering and exiting different counties and states. After three hours of drive, we were almost in middle of the nowhere, he suddenly stopped at the road side by an unknown structure to me. I asked him why are we stopping and what this thing is. He said “a Coca Cola machine! Aren’t we thirsty”? I started feeling like I was really in America.

Now, after almost a half a century later, I am driving with my husband from Hartford to Vermont to visit my friend who picked me up in Hartford. What I see now in this four lane highway is a traffic jam; what happened to the four strand diamond necklace? The road to Vermont is still bucolic, beautiful, and long. The coke machines on the road now have many more beverages also beef jerky and even ice – cream bars. I am sure I am in America!!

If Only

By Edna Coulson Hall

Even now, as a far removed elder of my rural Ohio home-based family, I enjoy a reputation that tinges on myth. I was the one who left, the one who sallied forth in the midst of a fierce blizzard to see what it was that lay south of the Ohio River and west of Cincinnati.

My journey began in January 1964: South to New Orleans where the original plan for a three-day stopover stretched to three weeks. Finally heavy rains and a flattened wallet convinced me to turn westward.

Texas was a half week crossing. Next came New Mexico. I hardly blinked. In Arizona I saw my first road runner, my first desert palm. I stopped at a roadside trading post just east of the California border.

Inside I was drawn to a table piled high with rugs I thought of as Navajo despite being told I was in Yuma Indian Territory, I checked my not-so-ready cash. I could sleep in a motel with abundant delayed maintenance and call a sleeve of soda crackers and jar of off brand peanut butter dinner or I could buy a rug. The store owner hovered.

“Pretty one you got there. All made local. No two alike. You won’t be sorry. Good price. Let me lay it out for you.”

“No,” I said. “I don’t have the money. Really. I’m pretty much broke.”

“Hell, Little Sister, you need a job? I can help you with that.”

Little Sister? Was that Arizonian for Miss? And a job? What was the man talking about? I looked around. I was the only customer in sight. Clearly the man, Big Brother(?) didn’t need help. I stepped backward toward the door. “Just a sec,” he said and disappeared behind a burlap hung doorway.

In my attempt to escape I knocked against a row of little papoose style dolls and was trying to set them straight again when the man reappeared waving a torn scrap of yellow tablet paper. “Lookee here,” he crowed. “I gotcha a job interview with Colonel Oakley himself at the First National downtown.”

I held a papoose in each hand and stared at him. Appointment? Oakley himself? Where? “Ah, where?” I said.

“Straight on down the road to Main. You can’t miss it.”

He took the dolls from me and set them on the counter and clapped his hands together. “Best get a quick move on,” he said. “I told Col. Bob you’d be there in ten minutes.”

I hardly remember the rest, but the following Monday I was officially made Secretary to Col. Robert Oakley, grandson to the famous Annie-Sure-Shot Oakley, Trust Officer of the First National Bank of Arizona, Yuma Branch. I worked there until September when I had saved enough to resume my travels. I eventually settled in San Francisco.

People still ask how I had the nerve to make that long, long trip all alone. My question went to my mother. “How could you let me go that awful blizzardy day? Didn’t you think about hiring a couple of people to kidnap me and haul me off to some obscure location where wayward teens were reprogrammed via Tough Love.”

Mom said, “Because I thought if I asked you to stay, you would say no to me and leave anyway, and that would break my heart.”