Archive for October 2009


October 9, 2009

This is part two of the stressful road trip to California.  For Part One: LIFE SUCKS, please click back one.

The funeral was held at St. Ignatius church in San Francisco where John had actually gone to school and his old principal even presided over the service.  It was a giant and beautiful church which was completely filled with his friends and family.  John managed to pack a full house!  I doubt I will even be able to fill up an RV trailer with enough people for my funeral.   The service was your usual churchy funeral with the priest somehow working in John’s name when talking about Jesus and Lazarus.    It was not until my brother’s eulogy that I felt John was finally brought into the room.  I did not have to ask my brother if he was going to give the eulogy, I just instinctively knew he would.  He has given at least a half a dozen in his lifetime; 3 of which I was honored to see him perform.  The first was for a young girl in his 8th grade class who died unexpectedly.  The next was for our own mother.  My brother has a gift for words and I knew it was important for him to speak on behalf of his best friend who was like a brother to him.  As part of his tribute, my brother read a letter that John’s 8 year old son, Seamus wrote for him.  Not a single eye in that church was dry during that moment.


It could not have been a more beautiful day in San Francisco.  When we were leaving the church, a red tail hawk flew by and caught our attention as he swooped repeatedly over our heads calling out to us over and over.  Hello John, we called back, not surprised by his transformation into this glorious bird.  He loved nature so much.  The reception was held at the yacht club with a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge.  We sat and watched flocks of pelicans and even saw a porpoise and a harbor seal.  This is when it all became more real as his loved ones gathered and shared hilarious and heart breaking stories about our friend.  He was a teacher and many of his former students came and spoke about how he had affected their lives.   It was a day of tears and even more laughs; a day of life affirming beauty and tragic loss.


We just had one day in between the funeral and my Grandma’s 90th birthday, so my sister had a little impromptu celebration for Finn’s 2nd birthday, which was just right around the corner. 


We had been planning my Grandma’s party for months.  She is the beloved matriarch and even at 90 years old, she is sharp as a tack; my role model for accepting people for who they are.  Both of her living children, all 5 of her grandchildren and 5 out of 7 of her GREAT-grandchildren were present, plus a myriad of other family and friends.  It was another beautiful day; this one celebrating the other end of the spectrum; a full life.  I was extremely grateful I could be a part of this momentous event.



  1. On Thursday, September 17th, we are on day two of a two day road trip to California
  2. While driving up a steep grade in Grants Pass OR, I accidentally put the car into reverse
  3. The car instantly breaks
  4. Mentally thinking: This is going to take HOURS to fix
  5. Get towed to a dealership instead of a cheaper, faster transmission place
  6. Spent 3 hours just trying to figure out what to do
  7. Town was sold out of rental cars
  8. Decided to have the dealership fix it, because they had a car we could rent & we really wanted to attend a funeral the next day, 400 miles away
  9. Dealership suddenly remembers they do not rent to folks needing to drive out of town
  10. I cried in front of the dealership guy
  11. He gave us the car
  12. Hoping for a cheap, easy fix, we transfer all of our stuff to the rental and head to California
  13. Mentally thinking: The car will be ready by the time we are driving back to Seattle in a week and we can pick it up as we head back home
  14. Do not hear from dealership until 11:00am the next day
  15. They say the transmission is dead
  16. They need to order a new one
  17. The only new one they could find is in Texas
  18. It will take them a week for the new transmission to be shipped & then a few days more to fix it
  19. Estimated cost is $3500
  20. Our plans of picking up the car on the way home are dashed.
  21. Rental car costs $25 a day
  22. We will have to make another trip from Seattle to Oregon once it is fixed
  23. Decided to just be glad it was this we are dealing with & that we were not in a terrible accident instead
  24. We take 3 days to drive home and drive along the glorious Oregon Coast
  25. We get home exhausted on a Wednesday
  26. On the following Saturday, we throw a birthday party for our son’s 2nd birthday
  27. We are hopeful we can plan to pick up the car the following weekend & not have to miss any work
  28. We call to confirm we can pick up the car on the weekend
  29. Dealership cannot guarantee
  30. I tell them that I know this is the name of the game, but it is still shocking it could take this long
  31. Still driving the rental car
  32. The rental car is nice, but it has manual door locks and windows, which is annoying
  33. By Wednesday, October 7th the car is finally fixed.  I will believe it when I see it
  34. Sasha leaves at 5:00am on Friday to go pick up the car 23 days after it broke
  35. Hallefuckinglujah


October 2, 2009

This is the story of how in one weekend I went to a funeral to mourn the death of a 45 year old man and then went to a birthday party to celebrate the life of my 90 year old Grandma; but first I broke my car trying to get from Seattle to San Francisco and almost missed the whole thing.



 We had been planning my Grandma’s 90th birthday party for months.  It was going to be a big event with all her friends and family in a special restaurant in Santa Rosa, California.  Sasha & I were going to take a week off work and drive down with Finn in my reliable ’97 Buick Le Sabre.  It may look like an old, white man’s car, but it runs like a dream and I have never had any problems with it after buying it off Craig’s List 6 years ago.  It is like a couch on wheels.  We were going to take a few extra days at the beginning of our trip and drive down the coast, making several beautiful, ocean-side stops along the way.

My company had been for sale for an entire year and the sale had finally just gone through about a week before my vacation.  We had a staff meeting soon after the announcement of the sale.  I assumed the meeting was to celebrate, but it was only to tell us that the company that bought us as an attachment to another, more successful company, did not really want us and were putting us back up for sale while they kept the other company they were really after. Thus, within a few days, we were for sale, bought and for sale once again.  After learning the news I became depressed for about 24 hours.  Over the last year I had become accustomed to living in a black hole, not knowing what was going to happen.  I did not want to live in darkness any longer, but at least I am used to it, so I quickly moved on from the crappy news.  I still had a job for the time being, after all.

Then, on 9/11, I received an unexpected and terrible blow on a personal level.  A family friend and old San Francisco roommate of mine was killed in a terrible motorcycle accident on his way to work.  He was my brother’s best friend, a good friend to my sister for 30 years and an all around good person.  He left behind an 8 year old son.  The funeral was going to be the following Friday morning in San Francisco, where John was born and raised.  I wanted to go.  I needed to be there.  In order to make the service, we would have to alter our plans and save the coastal drive for our return trip. We would get to my sister’s house in Ukiah by Thursday evening and then would drive the last two hours to San Francisco early Friday morning.

Two nights before our trip, Sasha got food poisoning.  I woke up in the middle of the night to find him lying on the bathroom floor in a pool of his own sick.  Sasha is a fantastic barfer.  Most people are able to sense the impending upchuck and get to a toilet in time.  Not Sasha.  His vomit is always sudden and plentiful.  Our first new years eve together in 1999 (party!), he damn near destroyed the carpet in my studio apartment.  This time he at least made it to the bathroom, but the flowery, silk outer shower curtain bore the brunt of the reappearance of his Ezell’s fried chicken.  I was relating the tale of Sasha’s stomach woe on top of my work & grief woes to my friend and I had the audacity to ask the universe: What Next?

Day one of our two day drive to California could not have been improved.  Sasha was feeling better and Finn slept most of the way.  We were going to try and get as far as Medford, Oregon which is just under eight hours of driving.  As we got closer, we kept seeing signs for the Seven Feathers Casino Resort, who had just finished a remodel.  We knew we could get a nice room for the same price as a crappy room at a random Best Western, so we ended our day of driving a bit prematurely and took full use of their pool.

Sasha usually ends up doing most of the driving, but I wanted to do the first leg of day two, because I don’t like the last stretch into Ukiah.  I forgot that I would be driving the mountainess area of Grants Pass, Oregon.  I was doing fine, but the steep inclines and huge logging trucks all around us made me a little nervous.  At one point I was going up a steep grade and made a grunting sound trying to encourage the car to get a little power.  As I was driving up and up on Interstate 5, Sasha said it would be easier if I put the car into 3rd gear, but instead I accidentally put it into reverse and instantly knew we were screwed.  The car made a terrible, sick sound.  I had just enough momentum to avoid giant trucks and pull it across 2 lanes of traffic to rest it on the shoulder.  The shoulder part of the road is also used by giant trucks who are trying to let faster moving vehicles by, so they had to steer around us making the moment that more terrifying.  and yes, it is near impossible to throw your car into reverse while moving in the forward overdrive position on the freeway, but somehow I managed it.

For a full minute I sat with my head in my hands.  The engine was running, but the car would not budge.  I knew this had happened because we had failed to renew our AAA membership that year.  The rule is, if you have AAA, you do not need it.  We called them anyway and they let us renew our membership before coming to get us.  They said it would be 40 minutes for a tow, but the guy arrived within 20.  No car seat, so we strapped Finn into the truck with a regular seat belt.  Our second moment of bad luck was getting towed to a dealership instead of the local transmission repair shop. 

We spent 3 hours at the dealership going back and forth over how they could help us and this was before they even looked at the car.  This was smack during Finn’s nap time, plus he did not get much lunch, so he was like a wild animal.  If we waited around to see what kind of repairs the car needed, we would miss the funeral.  I called the two car rental places in the small town, which were completely sold out.  We considered trying to get the car towed to the repair shop that would be cheaper and quicker, but the dealership had car rentals for $25 per day.  This decided us to use the services of the dealership.  When I tried to arrange for the rental car the guy suddenly said: “Oh, I forgot, we don’t usually let people take our cars out of state”.  This is when the culmination of stress, heartache and anxiety caused me to burst into tears in front of this total stranger.  I told him I have the most awful luck on earth and that this was the 3rd worst month of my life.  The tears worked.  He let us have the car.  We quickly transferred our tons of luggage from the Buick, gave it a kiss and abandoned it in the parking lot in this weird Oregon town.