Tue 17 May 2011
A minister bought a parrot from a pet store, as the story goes, but after he took it home was dismayed to discover the bird had been taught to cuss a blue streak. The minister liked the bird but not the cussing, so every Sunday he would drape a cloth over the parrot’s cage to simulate night and prevent the critter from stirring.
The scheme did a pretty good job of keeping the Sabbath holy, but it broke down when a group of church ladies dropped by on a weekday to discuss the parish’s annual potluck dinner. As they arrived at his door, the minister quickly threw the cloth over the parrot’s cage, only to have the bird squawk as the ladies came into the room, “It’s been a damned short week.”
In the San Francisco Bay Area, it’s been a damned short spring, summer and fall. Winter weather is back before the end of the school year. On Sunday, snow fell on Mount Hamilton near San Jose. In West Marin, the story was not snow but rain.
On Monday night alone, 0.59 inches of rain fell in Point Reyes Station. Just down the road, Olema picked up 0.85 inches. Marin Municipal Water District this week reported that as of Sunday, its seven reservoirs were at 98 percent of capacity — compared with 87 percent at this date in an average year.
I was sitting at the desk in my loft a week ago when a raccoon looked in my second-floor window, hoping to attract my attention so I would go downstairs and give it some peanuts. I immediately went out on my deck to take a photo of the raccoon on my roof but couldn’t see it in the dark. So I did what I could. I pointed my camera toward one end of the eaves, and was lucky enough to catch the raccoon illuminated by the flash.
The rains on Monday night were accompanied by high winds, which blew over my garbage container before Redwood Empire Disposal could empty it, so raccoons volunteered to do the emptying themselves. I discovered the mess Tuesday morning when I went to the bottom of my driveway to pick up the morning Chronicle.
My timing was fortuitous. No sooner had I put all the garbage back in its container than the garbage truck came along. If I’d waited another five minutes to retrieve my newspaper, I would have been stuck with a full container of garbage and not enough room for another week’s worth.
Before the recent rains started, the fields around Mitchell cabin had been getting pretty dry, which raised fire-safety concerns, so my friend Terry Gray of Inverness Park agreed to take a Weed Whacker to the grass immediately around the house on Monday.
But it turned out to be an exercise in futility. While Terry was cutting grass, a drizzle started, and it soon turned into rain, which drove Terry indoors. Not a lot of fire danger for the moment, we concluded.
My oldest stepdaughter Anika Zappa Monterroso (left) and Lynn Axelrod at Nicks Cove in January. On Saturday, Anika, 24, received a bachelor of science degree in Retail Merchandising from the University of Minnesota’s College of Design.
One project that did get finished before the rains began was digging up and cutting down thistles. My lady friend Lynn Axelrod and I spent four days doing this, both on my property and on four neighbors’ properties. (Their thistle problems can quickly become my thistle problems.) In all, we filled 19 contractor’s bags with thistles — enough to keep outgoing green-waste containers full for the next three months.
Anika, who grew up in Guatemala, worked her way through college at Best Buy stores in the Minneapolis area. With her in my dining room two years ago is Janine Warner of Los Angeles. Janine was a reporter at The Point Reyes Light when I owned the newspaper, was later the editor of all online editions of The Miami Herald, was subsequently on the faculty of USC, and now works as an internet consultant and author.
Janine, who is scheduled to visit here next week with her husband Dave LaFontaine, has written more than a dozen books — many of them in the computers for Dummies series — and has sold more than 500,000 copies.
As a former college English instructor, it occurs to me that Herman Melville in contrast sold only 3,000 copies of Moby Dick during his lifetime and earned a mere $556 from the novel. Most of his other books sold 1,200 copies or less. Melville’s writings while he was alive brought in just over $10,000, and at one point he was forced to declare bankruptcy. When he died in 1891 at the age of 72, he was a mostly forgotten author.
Obviously, what’s selling in the publishing world has changed drastically in the past century. Ironically, it appears that books geared to readers who consider print media passé are now among the best sellers.
Perhaps if Melville had written Harpooning for Dummies, he would have had a larger following during his lifetime. “Whenever it is a damp, drizzly, November in my soul,” to borrow a phrase from old Herman, I long for May, but this year come May, we’re instead getting another dose of November.