Tuesday, April 29, 2008

About Melissa Riggio

I recently read about a remarkable young woman in the news and have been meaning to post about her. Melissa Riggio was the 20-year-old daughter of Barnes & Noble CEO Steve Riggio. She died earlier this month of leukemia. Melissa had Down Syndrome and was the inspiration for B&N's creation of a section filled with books about children with special needs. Melissa did not allow the Down Syndrome to define her life. A graduate of Bernards High School in 2007, she was crowned prom queen at her senior prom. She won the Self Advocate Award from the National Down Syndrome Society in 2003 and worked as an office assistant at the Somerset Hills YMCA in Basking Ridge, N.J. She also was a poet and a songwriter and took voice, drama, and dance lessons. She recorded several of her songs with singer/songwriter Rachel Fuller. Below is a song/poem written by Melissa. Rachel put this poem to music and recorded it, singing with Melissa. If you search her on the internet, you will find out more about how much this special young lady accomplished in a very short life.

The Ring
by Melissa Riggio

I’m in the Ring outside
I’m following my belief
I’m looking at the sky
I saw God following my heart
I’m an ordinary woman

The Ring is falling down my way
The wind is blowing me away
The Ring is falling down, down my way
The wind is blowing me away

And so I came back to
The center of the Ring
Am I just a broken angel?
God has sent me here to heal
To be an ordinary woman

Friday, April 25, 2008

More Messages from Escrowland

This house selling business is not for sissies. Let me tell you about my relations with Roto Rooter this week. They came out to inspect our septic system and our hot water heater. First, the septic. They dug two whopping holes in my yard and opened the tank holding all the shit we have produced for 17 years. Then they proceeded to pump it out into a truck. (I vacated the premises during this procedure, wondering how people get into this trade. I can’t recall ever hearing a child say, “I want to pump shit when I grow up.”) Their comment about the pump-out was that they had never seen any septic tank so full of dental floss. I said, “wow, that means we have very clean teeth.” Upon reflecting on their description of what kept getting tangled in their pumping machinery, I realized it wasn’t dental floss but hair extensions from 10 years of raising a Black daughter with braids. After the pumping, they tested our leach lines and told me that they appeared to have failed. Failed leach lines can cost a lot of money. After chewing my leg off and running screaming down the hill (in reverse order because you can’t run with your leg chewed off), I ate an ice cream sundae to cheer myself up. But the next day Roto Rooter came back to dig more holes in my yard, only to discover that, woo-hoo, the leach lines were not the problem. The person who built the septic system had put in 3 feet of pipe between the septic tank and the leach lines for an unknown reason and the pipe was completely overgrown with roots. Apparently all our shit has been draining into our yard behind the bedroom and not leaching into the leach field. Yummy. How did that escape notice? Roto Rooter cut out the pipe and the roots and put in a new little piece of pipe. Then they ran water from my garden hose down the thing for awhile and finally proclaimed my leach lines “capable of carrying a full load.” Sounded to me like a toddler with a messy diaper. With the septic squared away, they turned to my hot water heater, which they replaced with a brand new version. The new one sounds like a truck coming down our driveway whenever the gas turns on, and at intervals it makes a crash like cymbals when it finishes reheating the water. What fun. All systems go.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

House Hunting Story

Even though we have opened escrow on a house, our recent days searching for the perfect house are still fresh in my mind. I still have some stories about house hunting. In fact, I think my realtor and I could write a book entitled Adventures in House-Hunting. Maybe we should. One of our most hilarious moments was the evening in February when we looked at a house in the dark. This was before Daylight Savings Time began, back when sunset occurred a few minutes after lunch. We went to see a brand new house, not quite finished, and discovered the electricity was not yet hooked up. We entered the house at dusk. I thought I loved the house and the views from the windows. But of course I couldn’t see. I stumbled down a couple of stairs in the hallway (who puts stairs in a hallway?), felt my way along a wall, and turned into a pitch dark room with no windows. “I think I found the dungeon,” I called. Cindy joined me and we felt around the walls together. “What do you suppose this is?” I asked. Pantry? Library? Photographic Dark Room? “It’s the laundry room!” Cindy exclaimed, “I can feel the washer hook-up.” We felt our way back out and up the stairs to a room with a great view of a darkening forest of live oaks trees dripping with winter lichens. “I love this view. I’ll take it,” I told Cindy. “If you wind up buying this house, it will be one for the history books,” she replied. Later, upon returning in daylight, I discovered that the house has literally no yard whatsoever (the little bit of decking is the only outdoor space), a huge barbed wire fence dividing the back deck from the live oak trees (which are not part of the property), and is situated across the street from the gun club. Pow pow pow, morning, noon, and night. So much for house-hunting after dark.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Cabo Notes 7

Are you sick of Cabo stories yet? Here’s another one. After our first day at the beach, we returned to our room to clean up for dinner and the key didn’t work in the lock. Interesting. We tracked down a young lady in housekeeping who didn’t speak English. My Spanish dictionary was locked in the room. After playing charades for a few minutes, we finally took her to the door and handed her the key. She quickly figured out the problem. She fetched a young man, who spent the better part of an hour trying to open our door. Ron and I stood on the shaded verandah and waited. It’s a good thing we looked so cute in our swimsuits. Eventually, we went to the nearby restaurant buffet, where I had a little guacamole. Great guacamole, never did get enough of it, on or off our towels. By the time we returned, the door to our room was open. The lock was in pieces on the floor. While we washed up and dressed for dinner, the young man changed our locks and provided us with a new key. He did not speak English, so I looked up in my dictionary the word for “fixed” and asked him if the lock was fixed. He laughed his head off, took the dictionary, and pointed to an alternative definition. I had apparently asked him if the door was sewn (as in mended, by sewing up with a needle). I can think of worse things than getting locked out of my room in a place with endless beach and endless guacamole.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Cabo Notes 6

I’m still full of Cabo stories. This is the story of the messy towels. The hotel gives each guest a card that can be traded in for a big fluffy white cream-colored beach towel. At any time, you can exchange the towel for a clean one. Ron picked up his first towel and got about six yards from the towel house before he stepped on a lady’s sunscreen bottle, which was lying open on the ground. The sunscreen squirted out all over the ground, the lady’s beach chair, and the lady. Ron immediately offered his towel to clean up and the lady wiped all the sunscreen off of her and her chair on Ron’s towel. (I was laughing too hard to help.) As we walked away, Ron commented that he felt like he was in a Jacques Tati movie. If he had been Tati, he would have wound up rubbing the woman down with the sunscreen in a ridiculous but terribly sexy effort to get rid of the lotion. If he had been Harpo Marx, he would have had the lady performing sex with him under his coat in the beach chair by the time he was done. But Ron simply had a towel loaded in sunscreen. I traded towels with Ron and told him I’d get him another one. While I was trading the towel, Ron stopped in at the restaurant to see what was cooking. He attempted to fix himself a little plate of guacamole and chips, but somehow came away with most of the guacamole on the other clean towel. When I saw the towel, I imagined Harpo rubbing a beach lady down with guacamole. I took Ron’s other towel and headed back to the towel house. Somehow along the way, my towel fell out of my beach bag. So this time I returned to the beach house with a towel covered in guacamole and had to confess that I had lost the other towel. The beach towel lady gave me two fresh towels and was, thankfully, not judgmental. She probably figured I’d swum up to the swim-up bar one too many times for 10:00 in the morning. Either that or I was participating in a guacamole orgy.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


My house is crawling with inspectors. A guy turned off my water and pumped my well for hours to see if it would blow up. It didn’t. It produces 11.5 GPMs, which is apparently a really good thing. I told him to go in the house and taste the water. Best water in the world. The pest inspector set up his laptop on my dining room table and catalogued all the critter damage to the structure. Far be it from me to mention the skunks, snakes, rattlers, mice, raccoons, opossums, ahem, what else? that might potentially be living under my house or in my walls. He’s looking at mold and termites, I imagine. Mold we have. Termites, I should think not. The whole house inspector, who was an older man, rather serious (if he were a dog he’d be a basset hound), lit up when I managed to get him to start talking about ballroom dancing. He is an avid dancer and teaches the stuff. He informed me that my toilets are loose (does that mean we might fall off while having a long sit?) and that I have a gas leak in my hot water heater. He is not allowed, legally, to give me any further information since I was not the one to employ his services, but he did give me a hint—don’t light a match near the hot water heater. (Have to get that fixed.) Meanwhile, our buyers are out somewhere on the property with a surveyor trying to find our property corners. They have been out there for three hours and so far they have found one corner. The other three corners appear to be eluding them, but they have the general idea. They got a lot of points in my book when I asked if they wanted me to remove the compost (in two large containers) and they replied, “heavens no, why would we give that up?” The realtor’s secretary was planning to come out with a pickup truck and take the compost if the buyers didn’t want it. I wonder if I can sell just the compost to the highest bidder? Tomorrow, on to the septic system inspection. That will be the most fun of all. As far as I can tell, someone is going to look at 17 years worth of our shit with a camera. Who would want to do that for a living?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Living in Escrow Land

We've crossed over to the wild side. We opened escrow on the sale of our house on Wed. and we opened escrow on the purchase of a house on Sat. So now we spend the next two months on the edge of our seats as we find out if everything will go through as expected without any deal-breakers to throw us into a tailspin. We have a dumpster in our yard that is large enough to house a family or three in a developing country. And we have already filled it to the brim with the detritus of 17 years raising 3 children in a country home. It has been slow going since Ron and I keep stopping to read letters, journal entries, notes, and messages from our distant past. At dinner last night, Sudi said he cleaned out under his bed and he told us he stopped every few minutes to remember things about objects he found (many of which are now in the dumpster). "And I don't have stuff from 30 years ago," he added. He got that right. On the one hand, I am relieved to have thrown out all my early poetry and love letters so no one can read it. On the other, I want to dig through the dumpster and pull that stuff out and spend the next week rereading it. As for all the accumulated junk, well, it's just junk. I'm not throwing out the good times or the people I've enjoyed in my life by throwing out the souvenirs.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Cabo Notes 5

More stories from Cabo?

Here you go.

You would think they would have rice water in Mexico, wouldn’t you? Ron loves the stuff. But we didn’t see it anywhere in the vast reaches of the Dining Hall at the luxury hotel. So Ron asked a waiter for some “horchata,” as it’s called around here by the Mexican-Americans in our town (who obviously hail from a different part of Mexico than our Baja waiter, as you will see in a minute). The waiter didn’t speak much English, but his eyes lit up and he ran off, returning moments later with a fork (horqulla?). Ron never did find any horchata.

If there was no horchata, there sure was pork. We wonder if pigs thrive in areas covered in cactus. Cabo was a pork haven. I never saw so many versions of pork as they had at the Cabo Dining Hall. They provided sandwich fixings for lunch every day, but rather than offering a variety of lunch meats, they offered a variety of pork. Ham. Honey Ham. Smoked Ham. Canadian Bacon. Bacon. Ham that tastes like turkey. Ham that tastes like tuna fish. Ham that tastes like tofu. Ham pressed into the shape of cauliflower. No wonder the staff at the luxury hotel are all young. Everyone down there dies of a ham heart attack before they hit 40 from eating all that pig.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

House Hunt Drama

I told Cindy-the-realtor that we have been through so many houses and so many offers that I should receive a real estate license by the time we open escrow. She promptly invited me and Ron to join her real estate business. I told her I didn’t think that would work because I like to stay home. I would be calling her all the time and whining about could she show some property to my clients because I don’t want to take off my house socks and get in the car.

Here’s the update. The prospective buyers for our house have been countering with our counters fast and furious, we are a few numbers short of an agreement, and we have high hopes of opening escrow by the end of the week. Yesterday we drafted an offer on a house that could suit our needs. It would need some remodeling, but I can hang with that. I like the idea of re-visioning the living space, something I have never had the opportunity to do. So we are one step short of a giant leap in homeownership. Will keep you posted.

Friday, April 4, 2008

King Remembered

I want to take a serious moment outside the fun of blogging to acknowledge the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His brief blazing life was filled with such astonishing accomplishment for good, for progress, for positive change. Lost to us at the age of 39. How we miss you Dr. King.

House Hunt Blues

Last night we expected a counter-offer on our house from our buyers. It never appeared. We also expected to hear details about another offer that could materialize. Didn't happen. There is a brand new big house on the market that we can afford that I saw right before we went to Cabo and I've been thinking a lot about it. I went for a drive-by (OK, I got out of the car, so it wasn't a total drive-by) and discovered that the property is covered in poison oak now that it's spring. Not to worry, a very quaint and lovely house in a converted church turned up on the market and I went to take a peek of the outside yesterday afternoon and fell in love. I drove straight to Cindy-the-Realtor's office to make a date to go inside for a look, only to be informed that the seller mysteriously pulled the house off the market the day before. I was having a bad house day.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Cabo Notes 4

As we were leaving Cabo, I felt a little guilty for not taking advantage of any of the activities advertised for visitors to Baja. I didn’t go whale watching or parasailing or jet skiing. I didn’t swim with the dolphins or do a sunset cruise. I lounged around at the pool or on the beach. I enjoyed our luxurious room, which was a big splurge and rare treat. (This trip was our way of celebrating the 30th anniversary of when we met.) I finally stopped feeling guilty about not doing any activities when Ron mentioned to me in the airport that he had just overheard two women in wheelchairs comparing notes about how they broke their legs parasailing. My guess is they were drinking margaritas up there and landed wrong. There were certainly a lot of drunken guests at the hotel. One evening, as I was waiting to book the rental car, I sat in the lobby and watched one snockered person after another stumble past. One young woman half-carried her girlfriend through the lobby while the girlfriend flapped her arms and yelled “wheeee.” It was a big party scene. The hotel staff was almost entirely young people who receive room and board with the job and spend their evenings partying in the hotel. Probably 80% of the staff was under the age of 35. Many of the guests are also young folks, off for a good party time. At dinner one evening, we saw several beautiful young American women in very short black evening dresses. The young Mexican men on the kitchen staff stood behind one of the food counters with their tongues down to their knees while they ogled these gals. Ron laughed his head off. He finally went up to the young men on staff who had stopped dead in their tracks, transfixed by these women in the short skirts, and Ron shouted at them, “Hey, FOCUS guys! Can I get a ladle here?” Most or all of them understood English and could tell he was razzing them for getting completely distracted by the women. He got a good laugh out of them.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Cabo Notes 3

In our itty bitty rental car, Ron and I drove to Todos Santos. This is an arty town a little more than an hour’s drive from Cabo. Todos Santos is full of art galleries and boutique-y tourist trap shops. Every few feet there was a shop with traditional Mexican pottery, silver jewelry, woven rugs, vanilla, and T-shirts. The town is quite picturesque, with classic adobe Southwestern architecture. We walked and Ron took pictures and of course we bought a few things to take home. It was after our visit to Todos Santos that we met up with Sudi and friends at Los Cerritos Beach. The beach was so pleasant that we had a hard time leaving. It was nearly sunset when we crammed ourselves back into that little car. As we pulled out of the lot, David drove up alongside us in his truck and rolled down the window. “Find a car and follow it back to Cabo,” he warned. “You don’t want to be the lead car on the road because you might hit an animal and get killed.” Ron thanked him for the tip. That’s how we drove back to Cabo at 10 MPH behind a large truck because Ron was afraid to go in front. We saw plenty of cows (in slo-mo, or should I say slo-moo?), but none of these alleged cows were on the road. When we arrived in Cabo, we couldn’t find the entrance to the hotel. The Riu Santa Fe is an enormous luxury resort with thousands of guests and a staff of about 500. We could see it from the “highway” (main road) but couldn’t figure out how to get to it. You would think the road to it would be marked. But no. Eventually we literally drove a half a mile down an alley that appeared to be in the right spot and fortunately led us to the main gate. Maybe they want to keep the resort a secret? Who knows. Very bizarre.