My oldest stepdaughter Anika, 22, is about to visit for a week from Minneapolis where she has been attending Normandale Community College. Anika, who holds dual US-Guatemalan citizenship, has received high marks in her classes and has been accepted by the University of Minnesota for the fall semester.

With badgers openly hunting gophers on this hill at the moment, I’ll, of course, warn my soon-to-be Golden Gopher to watch her steps. Thanks to Wikipedia, however, I can at least pass along this tip regarding protection from badgers: “Scandinavian custom is to put eggshells or Styrofoam in one’s boots when walking through badger territory, as badgers are believed to bite down until they can hear a crunch.” And doesn’t that sound like comfortable footwear?


Anika has been working her way through school at a Best Buy store in Minneapolis. A while back, the company wanted a Latina model for a photo, and she was picked. To her surprise, the picture ended up in an ad recruiting staff for a new Best Buy store in Mexico City.

But getting back to my story…. While Anika is here, I’m going to let her use my second car, a 17-year-old Nissan that I seldom drive. Years of grime and pine sap had become embedded in the paint, so last Friday I took the Nissan over the hill to a car wash, thinking she should have a clean vehicle to drive.

The Nissan came out looking great, but as I was driving home through San Anselmo I noticed something wrong. I was in slow traffic, but my speedometer read 40 mph. I had no way to judge my true speed, and to my dismay, I realized I was about to enter Fairfax where local law enforcement frequently ambush unwary travelers. Driving in that border town without a working speedometer seemed like going on patrol in Kabul without a flak jacket.

Luckily there were three or four cars ahead of me, and by keeping my place in the convoy, I made it through unscathed. However, when the convoy went through the San Geronimo Valley and got up to about 55 mph, my speedometer said I was doing almost 90. I kept looking for cops but fortunately encountered none.

Back in Point Reyes Station, it was already too late to have the speedometer worked on that day. Worse yet, if the speedometer was failing because the odometer was failing, the work could not be done any time soon. State government has to give an okay in advance for odometers to be replaced. As a result, I spent half the weekend cursing my misfortune.

Come Monday morning early, I took the car to mechanic Sean Bracken, and to my delight he quickly solved the problem. It turned out a 1992 Nissan lets you set the speedometer to read in either miles per hour or kilometers, and during the car wash, the switch had apparently been reset. It was a lesson gladly learned, and Sean was good enough not to charge me for it.

But then, several weird things happened last week. While my car was being washed, I read in that day’s Marin Independent Journal, “Two women were arrested on animal cruelty allegations Thursday in the ritualistic killing of chickens near Mill Valley.” The article goes on to quote a law professor who says religious belief is usually not a defense in criminal cases. What the hell was going on?

Dominating Friday’s IJ was a lengthy account of FBI agents raiding Novato Sanitary District offices. Odd — especially since no reason was given. Odder yet was a comment deep in the story that the raid on the sewer district “has nothing to do with an ongoing bank fraud investigation after more than $500,000 was electronically lifted from Novato Sanitary accounts at Bank of Marin. Some of the funds have been tracked to former Soviet republics, and some money has been recovered.” I wonder which republics did it.

Were columnist Herb Caen still alive, an article in Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle would have provided him with an obvious “namephreak.” Paparazzi in Miami have reportedly managed to get photos of a Catholic priest cuddling on a beach with his girlfriend. The article noted, “The Rev. Alberto Cutie [is] a celebrity among Latino Catholics for his good looks, media savvy, and advice about relationships.” Accompanying the story was a photo of Cutie, and indeed he is one.

“Make me chaste and continent,” said Saint Augustine, “but not just yet.” Or maybe never, says the Rev. Cutie, who believes priestly celibacy is not necessarily a blessing.