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Nice thing about living in a senior mobile home estates.  You can leave for a week and not worry about anyone nosin’ around or gettin’ friendly with your valuables.  First, it’s a gated community and second, nobody wants anybody else’s stuff anyway. 

Another nice thing is there’s always someone who doesn’t mind comin’ in and waterin’ the flowers, the garden and takin’ out the garbage bin.  Now there’s a story.  The moral of which is . . . be careful who you ask to water while you’re on vacation.

Howie’s a good man at heart.  Salt of the earth and all that.  Just a tad bit to the right of Glen Beck, but a trustworthy man, nonetheless.  A neighbor asked him to water the flowers and put out the trash bins while they were gone on a cruise.  Everything started well, until the gracious volunteer discovered something had smelt to high heaven in the garbage bin.  Being the helpful Howie that everyone knows him to be, he decided to wash out the bin.  Well, he was runnin’ water and ammonia into the bin, swishin’ it with a broom, when he got a cell call. 

Obediently answering his wife, he hightailed it home to discover she had dropped a large can of tomatoes on her arch.  Quicker than you can say, “Lickety-split”, the two were off to the emergency room.  Four hours later they returned home to water flowing down the gutter, across from their mobile.  Howie muttered something about people being too damned lazy or stupid to turn off the water on their plants.  Then it hit him.  He had been working with a hose, gallon of ammonia and a short-handled broom on the neighbor’s garbage bin.

Yup, that’s where the water was coming from.  Howie didn’t know it, but he had accidently knocked the gallon of ammonia into the bin when he ran across the street to answer his wife’s stricken call.  He simply walked back across the street, turned the hose off and made his way to the bin.  Of course, it was full of water.  Those bins have to be at least 60 to 80 gallons.  He figured he’d just push it over and let the water pour down the car port and drive way into the gutter since the overflow from the bin had been running through there for the last 4 hours..

Now this is where the ammonia becomes important.  So far, the ammonia had been pretty much a docile, but potentially, harmful weapon in the bottom of that garbage bin.  When Howie went to turn it over, he discovered the low center of gravity of that bin.  He struggled and then realized the bottom was round, so if he could just get it started, it would turn over easily once the upper, heavier end of the bin took sway.

He should have discovered one other thing too.  And he did . . . he did . . . in an instant when that sucker began to fall like a bucket off the tope of a door.   He discovered that with a round bottom, one could not control the direction of the fall of that river.  Like a dam breaking, the bin and the water chose to go the direction of least resistence.  And water poured into the flower beds along the car port.  No big deal, Howie thought.  It’s only water.  His mind didn’t change on that issue, even when he found the gallon jug of ammonia in the bottom of the bin as he turned it right-side up.

Since it’s too late for this to be a long-story-short, let me just say . . . when the neighbors returned home the flower bed was filled with dead roses, daisies, lilies of the Nile and Agapanthus.  Dead. 

I don’t know whether the neighbors were forgiving or not, but I’m glad I was there the afternoon Howie explained the whole experience.  I thought the wife might have a coronary, she was laughing so hard and the husband finally pulled out a chair from the kitchen for fear of falling down with laughter.  That story still makes the rounds at a pot-luck or two each year, in a much shorter version.  Nowadays we tell it out of respect for Howie and for how we loved him while we knew him.

An Apology To Nature

In the scheme of things, I love being the human in this animal kingdom of ours.  But sometimes, I’m ashamed of our tactics. 

I turned a corner in the estates the other day and there, hanging between one of the social halls and a home was a forty-foot strip of crime scene tape.  Now, I’ve watched enough CSI and NCIS to be quite conversant with crime scene procedure  and protocol.  No investigators were present, so I surmised the “scene” was being secured for further investigation.

I mean, how cool is this?  How often does this excitement come to our little enclave?

Yeah, I know, I soon sobered to the occasion and realized something horrible must have happened.  One too many Wednesday night meat loaves?  Too much bran in the muffins once again?  One too many pairs of whitey-tighties left “near” the hamper?  The faucet still dripping after all these months . . . years?

I’m glad to report,  “None of the above.”

It seems we have a red tail hawk’s nest in the pines towering over the club house.  Evidently she’s been swooping and sashaying toward any moving object near the hall.  So far it’s affected bingo attendance, pot-luck participants and two texas-hold-em tournaments.  Think about it, if you were on your way to the “Emergency Preparedness Meeting” last month and out of nowhere comes a screeching mother from on high, talons open and beak ready to scalp you . . . what would you think?  You’ve been preparing for earthquakes and fires and here comes a missile from the heavens, ready to give you a new name, “Ol’ One Eye.”  Now this is an emergency!

Someone contacted the local branch of Fish & Game Department and was advised it was most likely a mother hawk and she was simply protecting her infant’s nest.  The F&G folks further encouraged us to disrupt the hawk’s flight pattern.  Where one of our folks got crime scene tape, I’ll never know!

Well, the yellow tape is down now.  I haven’t seen mom nor baby recently.  I suppose we did the right thing for the Golden Ponds Senior Mobile Home Estates.  But I sure miss that beautiful bird. 

I’ve sat motionless at times on the ponds trail after I spied her ahead in one of the trees.  I’d look ahead for her every time I took that trail.  Like a statue she’d study the shallow pools; patiently she’d pick her prey.  I’ve seen her descend on lizards, rodents and fish.  A meal in her talons almost every time.

An odd thing happened on Memorial Day.  About 2:30 in the afternoon, all the kids were in the swimming pool of our family’s newest home owners.  Their abode is in the foothills that abut upon the barren land that precedes the National Forest.  My son, Tim, saw a red-tailed hawk with prey dangling from strong talons.  We estimated the snake was at least 6 feet long.  The snake, twirled and fought against the muscular talons and the hawk rose higher and higher on the updrafts in the hills.  We must have watched him clutch and circle for three or four minutes, at times out of sight and then moving back toward us again.  Finally, the master of the currents alternated down drafts and aeronautic precision and landed in the “no-man’s” land amid scrub oak, yuccas and mustard grass.  Out of sight, the hunter enjoyed his meal, no doubt.

How majestic, how knowing, how suited to his environment he is.  And we respond to such heavenly  displays . . .  with crime scene tape.

Serendipty Treasure

Gil, from up the street, plays with sticks.  It’s his hobby.  It’s the thing that keeps him from being a religious nut.  If it weren’t for the sticks, I think he would have passed over into cult-dom a long time ago.

We had our estate-wide garage sale the other day, even though only a fourth of the homes have garages.  Some folks went so far as to put a sign at the entrance to their carport, “Carport Sale” they read.  A lifetime of being right makes one  just gotta be right, I guess.

The Estates puts a classified notifying the surrounding communities of our multi-mobile junk/treasure sale in the Daily Rag.  Folks come from all over the inland area to scarf up the knickknacks of dowagers who don’t wish to dust them anymore or who are mad at their kids and decide they’re not gonna get these treasures in the will.  I suspect about half the undocumented/illegal population of southern California shows up and are summarily disappointed there are no baby clothes or cribs for sale.

Mostly, the treasure is stuff bought in the sixties or seventies and was quality furniture, appliances, kitchen-ware or household goods at the time.  Now it’s taking up space in a closet that needs to be thinned out or the “kids” have delivered the ultimatum, “Mom, you need to get rid of this couch.  It’s so seventies.  I’m glad the neighbors don’t see it.”  Of course, the neighbors may have their own set of seventies stuff that’s lasted a good long time and served extremely well too.

I remember toying with the idea of buying a certain home in Albuquerque once.  It was owned by an Old Maid who was an aid to a state senator or something.  He had been in New Mexico politics for ages and she, this unclaimed blessing, had served him for decades.  He was about to retire, explicably, so was she.  She had kept this home in Albuquerque for weekends away from Santa Fe and the capitol rat-race.  Now she was purchasing a condominium or a humble adobe in Taos and she wanted to sell the ABQ home.

We loved the patio covered with the limbs and long-eared leaves of the giant birds-of-paradise.  The front yard was covered with stately oaks.  The lawn was impeccable and seasonal flowers were in abundance.  The inside of the home was another story.  Everything was straight out of the forties.  Everything.  I could see Gary Cooper lounging on the flowering couch, the bird of paradise theme had been brought inside to almost everything, even the dining room chairs.  Claudette Colbert and Fred Murray could have lived here.  The master bedroom had a mural on one wall of what, I would discover later, was a perfect painting of one of the famous falls on the road to Hana.  Somehow we fell in love with this house, but it was going to take all we could afford to buy it.  There would be nothing left over for changes.  We discerned it would take ten years of “raises” to our income to get to a place we could afford any remodeling or the addition of a new theme to the home.  So we backed off.

I tell you that little aside to give you an idea of what might be lurking in the homes of older folks in the senior mobile home estates.  Certainly not the forties, but most certainly the seventies come through as a revolving theme.  I digress.

So here they set.  The accoutrements of a life high-on-the-hog in the seventies when children were being raised and sent to college and to war.  Here set the remains of a dramatic and traumatic downsizing when a couple, or single, decided to give up the big yard, the air conditioning bills and the upkeep of a four to five bedroom home they no longer needed.  Here also sets the “Oh, Mom’s gonna love this for Christmas” gifts that weren’t quite as embraced as the kids had hoped.

And here sits Gil, purveyor of extraordinary sticks.  An indefatigable man who doesn’t know what it means to “do nothing.”  His body can’t keep up with his thoughts anymore, but he sure as hell gives it all he’s got.  He’s a reader and a thinker.  I’ve already shared books with him and he can’t wait to give me a synopsis and personal criticism of each I’ve loaned him.  He especially loves the ones about the Dismal Trade, my vocation, the funeral business.

So, Gorgeous makes her way to the fifty or so paperbacks on carport display, looking to increase her mystery collection.  Enroute, she moves a cylinder of canes to pass by.  One seems to reach out to her like one piece of velcro to another.  She can’t shake it off and it ends in her hands.  Gil speaks across the crowded driveway, “That’s a forty-dollar cane, but you can have it for free.”  Now, Gorgeous loves sales, but she becomes absolutely orgasmic over the word “free” when uttered by a seller.

It is my estimation this cane was made from the unholy wedlock of a persimmon/eucalyptus/myrtlewood orgy in the dark distant past of incestual vegetation.  I called it “gnarly” and I wasn’t trying to be a beach dude when I said it.  It really is gnarly.  There are twists and bends that defy explanation, but when you place it to the ground, it automatically spins to the proper position.  The dang thing is so well-balanced, it has reminded me there is a God and He has a plan.

Gorgeous is now the proud owner of an original “Gil” cane.  It’s far too beautiful, far too functional, far too regal to be called a cane or an irish  shillelagh.  We call it “Whimsical”.

UPDATE:  Gil stopped by yesterday and gifted Gorgeous with a uniquely beautiful hiking staff.  Now we’re set for vacation!!

The Beginning . . .

It’s comin’ up on two years we’ve been here in the Golden Estates.  I was dragged here, kickin’ and screamin’ by a wife who said it’s time to sell our home and simplify.  So, just a couple of months before all hell broke loose in the real estate markets, we sold our home and moved to a senior mobile home estates.  It made Gorgeous look like she was the guru of California real estate.

One of us had to admit to being 55 or older,though, to qualify.   I did so.

Somethin’ should have warned me about moving on April 1.  First thing I did was fall off the pneumatic tail-gate at it’s apex.  My wife described it much like a flounderin’ harbor seal out of water, fallin’ from a precipice.  It felt more like a bundle of papers thrown from a movin’ deliver truck.  This will not be the last time I shall fall durin’ my sojourn at The Ponds.

Tricky thing about falling from a truck . . . it pretty well dims any hopes of carryin’ anything for the next two or three days.  I walked like I had osteoporosis and shuffled like a kid tryin’ to kill all the ants on the sidewalk.  So, I relegated myself to being the supervisor of an unwilling regiment of misfits, misappropriates and misdemeanors.  No one takes the move as seriously as the people being moved.

A grandson and friend came in from Arizona to help.  Since he had grown up in the area, he couldn’t wait to be cut loose and party.  A significant other of a daughter came too and proved to be the best worker of all of us.  Like an ant, he was able to lift and maneuver a gazillion times his own weight.  A couple more sons and a daughter-in-law rounded out the muddle of movers.

There are times in life you wish everything would be carried out in a strictly military fashion.  If your idea of a highly disciplined work force is a grocery clerks union at bargaining time, then you’ve got an idea of how things went.

We have this 84 foot couch, or at least it looked that long when we tried to tip it up and get it in through the two logical doors.  The only opening left was the door into the living room.  But to get there, you had to carry the elongated couch up the carport, through the breeze-way, cantilever it over the slope, as two men swung it carefully back onto the walkway.  From there, we made our way across the front of the house and onto the front patio.  From thence we wiggled, wended and warped our way into the living room.  Did I mention this particular couch was destined for the family room?

If you’ve not surmised it yet, our home is laid on the lot backwards.  Now wait, it makes perfect sense.  If the manufactured home had been placed properly on the lot, it would have been the only one on the block to be placed so.  Instead, it was inverted so the living room and picture windows looked out on a 180 degree view of the valley.  Yeah, we bought a house with a million dollar view.  I’m waiting for the county to find a way to tax it.  The downside is that our bedroom windows face out onto the street.

It’s seems like everyone had to leave at noon for somewhere.  That left Gorgeous and me with the two guys from Arizona.  Actually, things speeded-up a bit because of their willingness to work quickly to leave early.  Amazingly, we were all moved in within the day.  Of course, putting it all where we wanted it is a whole other story.  In fact, I’ve still got two boxes in the storage shed holding treasures that may end up in the next garage sale.

Welcome to The Golden Ponds Senior Mobile Home Estates.