Sunday, July 5, 2015


I was walking with Wilma one day when I noticed that a pretty plant perched on many a front step we passed. Tied around the festive wrapping paper was a card that said "Enjoy your pepper plant!" on one side and showed a business card on the other.

Pretty soon we met the woman in the photo, who was pulling a little red wagon full of plants. "Hi! I'm Diana," she said. "Would you like a pepper plant?"

She told me she was a real estate agent and she was giving the plants away. We talked about the neighborhood. I told her I already had a real estate agent. Diana said, "That's great! Please take a plant anyway."

So, being a lover of free things, I took my plant, thanked her and walked on.

She had canvassed the neighborhood. Those plants were all over the place.

My pepper plant has been enjoying my back porch for two weeks or so, and I've had time to think about Diana Nikolof's evil plan. She gave something of value and she did it cheerfully. In my case, she gave while knowing I would not buy her product. She didn't know I was going to write a blog post about her. She didn't even know I have a blog. She only knew I wasn't in the real estate market and that if I were, I had another agent to call.

Networking is giving. And I believe it pays off in the long run. You can't know how it's going to pay off You just have to get out there and give.

What do you think of Diana's methods? I wonder what I can give at book fairs, etc? Should I walk around the neighborhood and leave bookmarks on peoples' doorsteps? I don't think people care much about bookmarks, but I don't have Diana's budget. 

You like Smarties, don't you? Everybody likes Smarties. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Dark Arts

Our family friend is in medical school. He let it slip that there's a med school course—two courses, in fact—in Non-Treatment 101 and 102. It's is a well kept secret, like Dark Arts classes at Hogwarts.

As you will guess, these classes are inhumanities electives. Very popular.

Non-Treatment 101 teaches doctors how to keep a patient coming back for follow-up appointments and, without actually doing any healing, charging patients and insurance companies for a wide variety of "healing services." A good Non-Treater can keep you coming back for years without helping you at all. The very best can also sell you a lot of drugs you don't need and for which there is no generic equivalent.

Non-Treatment 101 is a prerequisite for the more advanced Non-Treatment 102. This class is complicated to explain (med school courses are for the superior of brain and often difficult for us laypeople to understand), but it's basically this: How long can you keep the patient sitting in the waiting room, then the exam room, before you deign to sell them ten minutes of your distracted time for several hundred dollars?

Non-Treatment 102 is popular because it's purely recreational. It doesn't create income for the physician or for the drug companies, but med students and doctors report emotional rewards: in a stressful profession it's pure joy to peer out into the waiting room and watch all those unhealthy, unhappy people check their phones, stare at the ceiling and try to get comfortable in the office chairs as their pain and suffering intensify.

Want to get an A+? Don't provide magazines.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

No Solicitors

dramatic re-enactment

A knock on the door. John answers.

John: Hi, what's up?

Solicitor: Hello sir, can you help us out? We're selling, um...

The solicitor stops speaking. There is a brief pause.

John: Not now. We're having a physical therapy session.

Solicitor: Oh. Oh! Right! Okay! Bye!

Little feetsies hurry away.

I guess you had to be there.

Note to schools, summer programs, etc.: please don't make your kids sell door-to-door.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Now I Am Five

I have been living with my humans for a year now. They made today my birthday. I didn't tell them different because I don't know. So now I am five.

I get two meals and two walks every day, and I get a treat each time the humans have their meal. I think the treat I get in the morning is medicine but I will eat it because it is mine and because I will eat it.

I get a bath sometimes. The whole pack joins in this activity. I like baths.

I have a cage, but I almost never have to go in it, so I made it my office, for when I need quiet time.

I have three bones. I am tired of the blue bone. The red bone is for outside. The chicken flavored bone is for family activities inside.

I have five places.* FIVE! Plus a couch**, and sometimes an armchair if no one's watching. At the shelter I did not have these things, but I got meals and sometimes walks and treats. I had a cage which was too noisy to be an office.

What I have learned this year:

I have learned to walk on the leash without pulling. I wish we could go faster at the beginning, but after that it's fine. My fur is growing back where I used to pull against the harness.

Sometimes we see dogs. I do not like dogs! But I get a treat if I don't bark at them, so I begin to see their uses. I WILL NOT LIKE CATS.*** EVER.

photo by John Sandel
The back yard is mine. The sun is there. I am safe there. I can have a nap or I can bark. I bark at sirens. I rage at the mailman. I throw myself against the fence if a cat walks on top of it. I only do that when it's important because the humans make me come inside if I do it. I think I took out some fence boards but they must have put them back. I don't know how that works. I would like to give my humans a dead cat but they don't want one.

I know some words. I already knew "sit," "stay," "no," and "leave it." What is "down"? I don't know "down." I know "off." "Love" means "good." I learned "lick" (mostly comes after "no") and "come" (optional). These are human words. I don't say them. I say many dangerous things.

I had a swimming lesson! I will tell you about it when the female gets the pictures.

I like to cuddle.

Some things still confuse me. I have more to learn. I like learning.

For my birthday I would like to have a bath and a dental chew. I hope we will celebrate my birthday today. Sometimes I still worry that I won't get to stay here, but a year is forever so I think I get to stay.


*Wilma's "place" is her pallet. She does indeed have five, so she can participate in family activities in the living room, dining room, and offices. One pallet stays in the bedroom for sleeping. 

**In the photo of Wilma on the couch, Boz's ashes and photo are in the background. Wilma knows about Boz, but we haven't talked to her about ashes. She's too young for that just yet.

***We use the word "cat" to denote "small animal," so Wilma won't have to distinguish verbally between squirrels, cats, opossums or chihuahuas. Too many syllables. We just say "no cat." 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Use Me

Camelot & Vine has hit the big time! I'm dealing with some of the same issues that the big New York publishers deal with!

23 cents may seem cheap. But wait. Here's Diana Gabaldon's huge hit, Outlander:

I doubt she minds. Her book has been made into a big cable TV hit, with gorgeous stars and gorgeous countryside and gorgeous costumes and gorgeous gorgeousness.

I don't mind, either. After all, if they're selling it used, then it had to get used in the first place. And look at this, at the end of the Camelot & Vine used sales list. 

What? I mean, what? Do people pay that kind of money for a used paperback? Not unless it's a first edition, signed by Dylan Thomas. People don't even pay this kind of money for a new hardback. So I wonder what the motivation is behind this pricing. It's certainly not sales.

Friday, June 5, 2015


I'm tired tonight. It's been a long day. A lot of freeway driving and traffic, a friend's funeral, car trouble. All this took up the whole day. And tonight: leftovers.

My feet burn, my shoulders ache and my ears are ringing. I feel drained.

But I can look forward to a good night's rest. I can be glad of friends who shared the day with me, one who did most of the driving and another who backed me up when my car backed out on me. The leftovers weren't great, but they were okay.

And today I did not get my heart broken by the loss of a dearly beloved. The hardest thing for me about my friend's funeral was knowing how much harder it was for her family.

I have tomorrow.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

A Charter Invitation

I would take them up on this. Really, I would. It's about $115 less than what we were paying Charter when we canceled—on January 21st, 2009.

But we canceled for obvious reasons.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Mt. Wilson Observatory: A Great Adventure

The grand finale of the Mt. Wilson Observatory tour is the 100-inch telescope. Here, Edwin Hubble worked to discover his theory of the expansion of the universe. Yep. Major important stuff.

Notice anything different about how the roof of this facility opens, as opposed to the roof at the 60-inch I posted about the other day? Our guide, Observatory Superintendent Craig Woods, explained that after the 60-inch was built it was discovered that this vertical opening, as opposed to the horizontal one at the 60-inch, made for a stronger structure. 

By the way, Craig has been known to climb up to the top of the roof. 
But he's no fool, he gets strapped onto a safety catch.

The 100-inch (that refers to the diameter of the mirror) is a big telescope, though there now larger ones in the world.  

John took this picture of me and Craig at the 100-inch.

He also took a couple of great panoramas of the inside of the telescope housing. Click on these to enlarge. 
They're pretty cool.

This one really shows how big the space is. Craig and I are over on the left. We're looking into a hole in the floor. It's a sort of trap door big enough for a giant to keep his lunchbox in. The Observatory is keeping the top part of the 100-inch telescope there.

The two telescope-looking things here really are scoping devices for the 100-inch. And there are buttons. And stuff. I was just trying to explain Steampunk to Craig when we came upon this.  

I think if any one thing can convey Mt. Wilson's past, present and future importance it's this building, this telescope. Hubble's discovery was seminal. He made it here, sitting on a bentwood chair, measuring the movements he saw in the skies. There may be more powerful telescopes in the world now, but even those still observe what he discovered here.

We met Larry S. Webster, the Site Manager for CHARA, the Center for high Angular Resolution Astronomy, a project of Georgia State University. Larry has been with Mt. Wilson for 37 years. He lives there, with his wife and daughter. (What a childhood! That kid is on a first name basis with every squirrel on the mountain.) Larry told amazing stories about a building in Pasadena that was once part of the Carnegie Observatories. Just before the building was to be torn down, with all the old records in it, Larry went in with a flashlight (because the electricity had already been turned off) and rescued everything he could fit on his truck. He couldn't get it all and some things were lost. But many precious papers, records, and items are now preserved, thanks to him. I hope these will one day be part of a Mount Wilson Museum and archive here on the mountain.

There's a board of directors. They are thinking of ways to keep the place alive. Let's listen for the call and take part when it comes.

For now, join the Friends of Mount Wilson Observatory. Take a day to go on up there. It's a vigorous hike, or a leisurely drive. Have a hot dog, chili, or pie at the Cosmic Cafe. 

 And enjoy your discoveries.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Mount Wilson: The 60-Inch Telescope

When I said Craig Woods has the keys to Mount Wilson, I meant he has all the keys. He took us inside the housing for the 60-inch telescope. I love that he can flip a switch and the motorized roof opens like the mouth of a big, mechanical monster. Anyone walking by can hear it grinding its teeth.

The 60-inch has lately been used mostly for Hollywood parties. Fun, huh? Take your famous friends up the mountain and watch the stars through a bigger, better telescope than you could ever fit into your back yard. It's a great way for the Observatory to raise much-needed funds. You can schedule your own viewing party at either the 60-inch or the 100-inch telescope. You can also get guided tours of the Observatory. And keep an eye on the website and the Facebook page for other special events throughout the year.

Here I am lying on the floor beneath the telescope, looking up at the 60 inch mirror.

John and Craig give you an idea of the size of the building, though I didn't manage the top of the dome.

I took this one of Craig inside the building that houses the 100-inch telescope. If you're familiar with the Mount Wilson Observatory, you might recognize the window on the center right. It's the visitors' viewing gallery, open to the public—from the other side. We got to bypass that and go inside via a rear staircase. I'll show you that part of our visit next time.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Mount Wilson: Solar Telescope

The Solar Telescope at Mount Wilson is still used for studying sunspots. 
Great strides have been made in this science here.
The telescope is tall. And look what a beautiful day it was! I didn't alter this photo one bit.

The wooden frame. The screws. The old courier typeface. I wonder how long ago this sign was hung.
Craig Woods, our guide, has been up in the elevator. We were forbidden to go. I'm sure that was for the best.

This door is an entry beneath the Solar Telescope. I remembered it the moment I saw it.

Boz visited there on his Mount Wilson tour in 2011.

More Mount Wilson insider photos to come!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Mount Wilson: Science in Transition

The Mount Wilson Observatory was founded in 1904 by George Ellery Hale, who encouraged the likes of Edwin Hubble and who also had a great deal to do with the way Pasadena looks today. Think the city center plaza and City Hall. Think Caltech. Thank you, Mr. Hale.

More than 100 years later, important astronomical research continues at Mount Wilson, especially the CHARA Array, operated by Georgia State University. Don't ask me what it does. I've had it explained to me twice, once by John and once by Craig Woods, and I still don't get it. But it looks cool from above.

Craig Woods, by the way, is the reason John and I got a behind-the-scenes tour. He's our friend and the superintendent at Mount Wilson, the guy with all the keys. He's up on all the experiments, the history, and the equipment at Mount Wilson. Plus he's willing to climb some precarious ladders.

I hope you'll take another look at my May 10th post about Mount Wilson. Here's a further explanation of those photos:

First, that big engine, and its rheostat, power the tool-making shed. 110 years ago, when you got up to Mount Wilson with your mule cart or your Model-T, you weren't about to run down to Flintridge if you forgot your screwdriver. If you needed a tool or a part, you made it. Many of those magnificent old things are still there. Some explain themselves, some don't. Unless you're Craig, then you know what they are.

Near the tool shed is another shed that's a treasure trove of maps, blueprints and files. There's a small library with early Scientific American magazines and other works. There's an ancient and dusty stand-up grand piano and a pool table that hasn't been used in, I would guess, 20 years.

Off the upper left of this map is the 100 inch telescope. You can see the circles indicating the 60" telescope and the smaller but taller Solar Telescope, which is still in use. The 60" has lately been used for a couple of Hollywood parties. Stars, stargazing. This is an old map so it doesn't show all the buildings you might be familiar with if you've toured Mount Wilson in recent years. Off the pathways to the right, beyond the "no entry" signs, there are some cabins that are not currently in use. Fixer-uppers.

Mount Wilson Observatory is old. Newer, larger telescopes dot the planet. The larger the telescope, the deeper into space an astronomer can study. Although Mount Wilson still has many uses, it's now in a transition phase, becoming a museum. Funding will be needed to preserve all those beautiful blueprints and plans, to maintain those telescopes and historic buildings, to keep it all available so the public can visit and learn about the early days of astronomy.

It's also a place of natural beauty, everywhere you turn, even on the steps climbing up the hillside to the tool shed.

More soon.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Birthday Adventure 4

This is an engine. I think we can all agree on that. But do you know where this engine is?

This is a rheostat. It's in the room next to the engine. Do you know where that room is?

If it's not obvious what these are, you're too young to read. But where are they?

OK, now I'm giving it away.

John and I got a private, behind-the-scenes tour of Mount Wilson. This was my big birthday present and it was more wonderful than I could have hoped. I'll post more in a few days, but for now, read up on the wonders of the beautiful, historic Mount Wilson Observatory.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Litfest Pasadena 2015

Come on down and join us in the Playhouse District on May 9th. We're going to have ourselves a Litfest!

Litfest is Pasadena's annual celebration of literature. Starting in the late morning and continuing into the night, there will be panels about everything from poetry to mystery, memoir to YA. I'll be on the "Adventures in Self-Publishing" panel at 4pm at Vroman's upstairs. PLEASE NOTE, THIS IS A TIME CHANGE.

Or spend the whole day in the District. Check out the area restaurants and shops. Listen to all the panels you can get to. Meet the authors and buy their books at Vroman's. As for my books, Vroman's already has Act As If in stock, and for the weekend of Litfest they'll have Camelot & Vine as well.

Just so's you know: if you can't come to Litfest there's always Amazon, but let's buy local when we can. You can buy both of my books at Hoopla! in Altadena and the Flintridge Bookstore in La Canada, and you can get Act As If at the Pasadena Museum of History Store

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Drought? What Drought?

Pasadena encourages us to save water. Good god, I can't water my lawn more than 3 times a week. If I can't grow grass what am I going to eat? What will I drink?

And what will I do a year from now when we don't have any water anymore?

I've been pouring my coffeepot rinse water on plants. If there's water left at the bottom of your glass at my house, it might go on a plant or be used for rinsing dishes. And after I've rinsed one dish I will reuse that water to rinse the next, and the next. John's getting tired of the bucket in the shower. I told him, "Fine. So don't let the shower warm up. We need all the water we can get for our grass!"

And the faucet leak. The first plumber who came told us it would cost $500. Really? Yeah, he said, $300 for labor and $200 for the faucet. It's only going to get worse.

Thank goodness the Nestle company continues to drain springs in Sacramento and San Bernardino (with a long-expired permit) while advocating for the privatization of water rights. This works out for me, because I can afford to buy bottled water. Screw the poor people, right? Let them drink cake.

On with the fracking!

Friday, April 10, 2015

This is What 60 Looks Like

photo by John Sandel

I've never been one to lie about my age. I'm beginning to consider it, but I don't think I'm fooling anybody.

It's hard to get used to how I look as I get older. I think we all feel this way, at least around a milestone birthday. Maybe when I turn 61 it won't hit me as hard. Some days I'm fine with how I look. Some days I'm not. That was true when I was 30.

Isn't age a surprise? All my life I've known it was happening yet it's still shocking to see the signs: the muscles of my upper arms as loosely defined as a boiled potato, the little bumps that appear in odd places and decide to stay, the wrinkles that deepen like windblown crevasses on the surface of Mars.

That last one is more reality than metaphor.

Wilma is unconcerned about age, although she has a milestone birthday coming up, too. She'll be 5 in June.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Ceci n'est pas une chienne sur un divan

A cold is like a mosquito. It's not the worst thing in the world but it's an annoyance, and it usually comes along with a lot of other mosquitos to bite your friends and family. If a normal mosquito bites you it raises an itchy bump. If a bad mosquito gets you, you've got malaria.

This is a roundabout way of saying it could have been worse and I'm glad I got a flu shot this year.

All week I've been shuffling back and forth to the kitchen for more cups of tea between longeurs in the armchair doing crosswords. I don't have energy for much else.

I've postponed all my appointments, even those with loved ones. I kept one appointment with Wilma the other day, accompanying her on her morning neighborhood hunt, and was laid out for the rest of the day. This annoyed Wilma; she does not have a cold and would have appreciated more hunting or at least chasing and biting things in the back yard.

But as you see, we've worked out a deal. When she can't have violence, she can have doggie bliss.

"This way lies madness," you say. But Wilma's smart. I think we've got her trained to believe she's allowed to lie on the towel, not the couch. So when the towel is not available, neither is the furniture. I'll let you know how that works.

No toys on the towel, though. We have to draw the line somewhere.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Better than a Kegger

Back when I was in college, when you wanted to have a party you purchased a keg of beer and some plastic cups, then played LPs until everyone passed out on the sofa. That was fun, but I wanted to host a more grown-up party for the official launch of my book, Act As If: Stumbling Through Hollywood with Headshot in Hand

I kept the invitation list small because my overwhelming wealth is overwhelming in the wrong way, and I thought I couldn't afford to feed a lot of people. It turns out we had plenty. If you want some crappy wine, come on over and sit on the porch with us. We're serving even the Cabernet on ice.

So it's official. Act As If, a humorous look at the life of a journeyman actor in Hollywood (journeyman as in "not famous") is on its way to being what it's going to be.

There were a lot of people to thank, and I'd like to thank them again here:
  • The Pasadena Musem of History, where we were so comfortably accommodated in air-conditioned splendor and where my guests were invited to view the exhibits as a bonus. 
  • Richard Gilbert-Hill, editor of the ActorsInk newsletter at, which spawned my column, Act As If, which spawned the book. Richard is an actor, writer and voice coach. He wrote the book's beautiful foreword.
  • Liz Hanley, theatrical agent at Bicoastal Talent. Liz and I go way back. She makes the book possible as much as Richard does, and she's a character throughout the book.
  • Greta Hanley, commercial agent at Bicoastal Talent. Without commercial auditions, some of the wildest essays would not have been possible.
  • Paula Johnson, who designed the book. The cover is great, the interior is great, and Paula is great.
  • Along with Liz, the book was blurbed by Kat Likkel (writer/producer, My Name is Earl, Galavant), Fran Montano (artistic director, the Actors Workout Studio), Rick Hall (actor, Curb Your Enthusiasm) and Jane Macfie (actor, The Mindy Project). These people took the time to read and comment for the cover.
  • The actors, casting directors, producers and friends who contributed their stories and support. I don't think a book can be made by one person alone.
And John Sandel, my beta reader, editor, co-teacher, husband and friend, without whom nothing is possible.

You can find both Act As If: Stumbling Through Hollywood with Headshot in Hand and Camelot & Vine at Hoopla! in Altadena, Flintridge Bookstore in La Canada, the Pasadena Museum of History gift shop and, soon, Vroman's in Pasadena. If you're far away there's always Amazon, where the book is available in paperback or for your Kindle.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Best Laid Plans

When Birthday Month began I made a pledge: "I'm going to have a minimum of one adventure each week," I said, "and I'll tell you about my adventures adventure is something I haven't done before."

Today's post is about best laid plans.

For Birthday Week, and I mean for my actual birthday, John had a super, one-of-a-kind adventure planned for me. I was pretty excited.

The day before my birthday, our adventure fell through due to no fault of John's. So we called on friends who helped us plan a good substitute. The adventure that happened, though, was that John and I woke up sick on my birthday.

Okay. It wasn't really an adventure by my definition. I mean, I've been sick before. It wasn't how I wanted to spend my milestone birthday, either, nor was it how I wanted to spend the week. Don't worry, I'm way better now.

What do you do when you commit to something for yourself but your time is committed elsewhere? How do you prioritize yourself? I need to get better at that

As it stands, I will have to have my birthday next week. I promise I'll report back to you.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Friends (Birthday Month Adventure #3)

When I decided to have an adventure each week during birthday month, I hadn't realized how hard it would be to include adventures in my schedule.

I defined an adventure as something I hadn't done before, which alleviates the pressure somewhat. All I had to do was go to a library branch I hadn't visited or take the train somewhere new. But due to unforeseen adventures this week, ones I won't be blogging about (but they're good), I didn't have time for an adventure I could blog about until the last minute!

Whew! Thanks to my friends, I made it. And I had a wonderful time. Here we are outside Flintridge Proper, a restaurant/pub I hadn't visited before, where we enjoyed happy hour and each other's company.

I don't suppose a woman of my age and obvious sophistication has a BFF, but it sure is nice to have very good friends. Here are (left to right) Karen E. Klein, Desiree Zamorano, Janet Aird, Karin Bugge, me and Margaret Finnegan. Aren't they fabulous? Don't worry about me, being photographed like this is how I decide which clothes to put in the Goodwill box.

Many thanks to the nice young man who took our picture. I asked him to make us look "hot, sexy and fabulous" and I believe he managed.

Thanks for dinner, dear friends! Most of all, thanks for your friendship.