City of Oakland, You Suck! (Or, a Tale of a Valiant Fight against a Parking Ticket)

I don’t get angry very often these days. I used to be more moody and volatile but I generally present a sunny disposition to the world.

Just call me Little Mary Sunshine. Only Genevieve, not Mary. It’s my name.
My angst years have given way to my rose-colored glasses days.

But the City of Oakland has succeeded in crossing a line and getting me riled up. I’m as mad as hell, and I am not going to take this anymore!

Yes, this is about a parking ticket. I am a law-abiding citizen. I pay my taxes. I have never been pulled over by the police. I return library books by the due date and if I don’t I happily pay the fines. I dot my i’s and cross my t’s. I PAY TO PARK WHEN IT IS REQUIRED.

Monday, Otober 10, 2016 was a Federal holiday for Columbus Day. Where I live, the holiday is celebrated as Indigenous Peoples Day. I’m fine with that. Monday is a day off for me anyway; my weekends are Monday/Tuesday in my new job.

columbus-day2indigenous-peoples-day-posterI did try to put money in the parking meter just down the street from Ultimate Grounds Coffee on Park Boulevard. I inserted my debit card but the meter wasn’t taking money. Then I saw the Meter Holiday sticker. Well, it seemed clear to me. The machine was telling me that I didn’t need to pay. BUT I WOULD HAVE IF REQUIRED.

All I wanted was a chance to relax over coffee with my friend Ann.

Ann was the one who noticed the City of Oakland Parking Patrol out writing tickets. So we ran outside to talk to the rather grumpy gentleman. He walked down to where he had already ticketed my car. We showed him the meter with the sticker. He shrugged his shoulders and said he didn’t get the day off so as far as he was concerned it wasn’t a meter holiday. But he did suggest I send photos of the meter sticker to the City of Oakland with my online submission for a wrongfully issued ticket. Which I did, right away.

Right there between Labor Day and Veteran’s Day.
October 10, 2016. Indigenous Peoples Day/Columbus Day.

Yesterday, I received in the mail (how primitive, snail mail) the decision that the ticket was properly issued and valid.


Properly issued? Valid?

Now this is the part that really gets me–in order to file an appeal, I have to pay the ticket, then have a hearing, then, if I am vindicated, get a refund. I think they are counting on me not having the time or gumption to fight it. They bet wrong!

They’ve pushed me over the edge!

It’s really not about the $58. Yes, it’s a lot of money for me. I don’t make a whole lot more than minimum wage working in animal rescue. I’m in it for the psychic rewards, not the material ones. This is what my work days are like.


I could do a lot with $58. Donated to an animal shelter, it would do a lot of good for the animals: toys, food, microchips, towels, blankets, there’s always need.


So I am going to fight tooth and nail for the $58.


City of Oakland, watch out. You don’t know who’s coming for you! My inner warrior has been unleashed and she is a mighty force. At least I think she is; it’s my first time meeting her. I’m picturing Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games.


Or Melissa McCarthy in Ghostbusters. Whatever.


Who you gonna call? Me, that’s who! I just have to see if I have postage stamps because it’s a mail hearing. Snail mail. Sigh.


I’m a Believer, It’s the End of the World As We Know It, and Here Comes the Sun

I’m in a covers mood. After being plagued by earworms (Is there a cure for earworms?Or, Help! I Need Somebody…) I started thinking about the earworms I was suffering from that happened to be cover versions of songs. I was in Atlanta (Look Homeward, Angel, or Things Thomas Wolfe Said) visiting, and my sister Ellen keeps the radio on stations of music from the 60s, 70s and 80s.

It just happened to be Ellen’s birthday while I was in Atlanta.

I was born in 1961, so my sweet spot is pretty much music from the mid 1970s. Maybe not the best era for pop music, but we are teenagers when we are teenagers. C’est la vie. I seem to have been living under a rock, since my list of original versions of songs tapers off in the 1990s (with one most beautiful entry from Lou Reed in 2008). The covers, however, span the years, showing that a good pop song is timeless.

Ellen and I started a handwritten chart, which quickly got out of control!

It’s a work in progress.
Just a couple of pop divas hanging out.

I have cleaned up the list to make it legible. I do not expect anyone to agree with me on the choice of cover versions; a good song (and even some bad ones) has a lot of covers and our tastes differ. It would be a boring world if we all liked the same things!

I should get a juke box and put all of these on it. Please forgive typos and misspelled names.

I am not going to post each and every song and its cover(s) on the list, as much as I would like to. Here are a few of my favorites, or if not my favorites, at least memorable versions of these songs. I am sure each and every one of you can add so many titles to this list. Feel free to add yours in the comments!

On my birthday, in 1992, there just happened to be an amazing tribute to Bob Dylan at Madison Square Garden. The moment I remember most clearly is Eddie Vedder and Mike McCready performing Dylan’s 1963 Masters of War. It’s pretty intense.


A song that I played over and over again during a certain sad period in my life: Alison Krauss & Union Station’s 1995 version of Baby, Now That I’ve Found You. It’s much more melancholy than the original to me. And despite the cheerful face I generally show to the world, I love a good melancholy, make-me-cry, song.


Stevie Nicks’s song Landslide also serves the “I’m sad and I’m going to listen to this song over and over” purpose.


Ellen’s request for the list: Ewan McGregor singing Elton John’s Your Song  (1970) to Nicole Kidman in the 2001 film Moulin Rouge.


For my own selfish ends, I have to get some Hall & Oates in here somewhere! So here they are covering The Spinners 1972 hit I’ll Be Around.


I’m sticking with the original on this one; I’ve been singing this one in the car all week now so I have to post it to get it out of my system!


This one cracks me up. I love R.E.M., and It’s the End of the World As We Know It (and I Feel Fine), is a good song. I will not brook argument on this one. I’m posting the original and the cover, which I first heard as filler music on NPR. It made me laugh, and we need more laughter in the world.


In the songs-that-make-me-cry category is Eva Cassidy covering Sting’s Fields of Gold. I remember the first time I heard it. It was a Sunday, I was driving to my job in Benicia from Davis, listening to Acoustic Sunrise on KFOG radio. Heart-breakingly beautiful.


Ellen keeps up with current pop music better than I do, so this is her pick: Sam Smith covering Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car. I’d never heard of Sam Smith before (I mentioned that rock I live under), but I approve.


I can’t not post the awesomeness that is Richie Havens performing Here Comes the Sun.


In case you’ve never hear Peter Gabriel’s 2010 cover of Lou Reed’s 2008 song The Power of the Heart, I hope you love it as much as I do.


I think I’ll leave you with something to cheer you up and make you dance. If this doesn’t make you dance, I give up!

Tim Gunn and Ruby Dee walk into a bar…

I have strange dreams. I wish I knew what they meant. Or maybe I don’t want to know! The human brain is a strange and wondrous thing. And sometimes infuriating.

I seriously doubt I look this cute when I am sleeping. I’m more likely a Homer Simpson style sleeper.

In the early morning mash-up of what I can remember of my dreams this morning, Ruby Dee lived across the street from me and was trying to get me to weed between the paving stones leading to her front door.

What’s wrong with a few weeds anyway?

I really didn’t want to do it, and was trying to work up the courage to say NO to Ms. Dee. I don’t think about Ruby Dee. Ever. I’m sure she was a wonderful person, and she and Ossie Davis were an awesome couple. But I couldn’t name anything she starred in and I have no idea how she felt about weedy walkways. And where was Ossie in this weed pulling debate?


Ruby Dee
Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, photo by Moneta Sleet Jr.

Meanwhile (in the dream), I was also taking a writing class from Tim Gunn. Tim Gunn who teaches FASHION, not writing, and who is my favorite person on Project Runway. I love Tim Gunn. But he was being kind of mean to me in my dream.


In this dream writing class, I was supposed to be writing a story in which someone agrees to do something they don’t want to do (like weeding pathways, I guess) for someone they care about. I was not inspired by this assignment. So in his “make it work” way, Tim made me go outside with him. Outside just happened to be a vast ocean, and his idea is that we  would walk on water into the giant waves. I refused. Vehemently.


Maybe Tim Gunn was just trying to rid me of my new old-lady habit of wearing a big old cardigan sweater over my bathrobe. Tim–it’s warm and comfy!

Perhaps Tim Gunn can walk on water, a la Peter Sellers in the wonderful 1979 movie Being There.


But I can’t. Or shall I say, we will never know if I can because I am afraid of water and will never go out there to find out. This fear is called aquaphobia (not hydrophobia–that’s when you have rabies, which I don’t).

“Aquaphobia is a specific phobia that involves a level of fear that is beyond the patient’s control or that may interfere with daily life. People suffer aquaphobia in many ways and may experience it even though they realize the water in an ocean, a river, or even a bathtub poses no imminent threat.” (

When you Google aquaphobia, this is always the first image that comes up. Creepy, yes?

I do not desire a swimming pool, or even a hot tub. I do not soak in bubble baths. I have recently discovered that pedicures are nice, but if someone has ever drowned getting a pedicure I haven’t heard about it. If you have, please don’t tell me.


I like to gaze out upon water, like at calm lakes and ponds (see Falling in love with frogs), preferably from a rocking chair on a porch.


Don’t get me wrong. I am a clean person. I shower.


You’ll never refer to me as Pig-Pen, who traveled in a cloud of dust but was actually a cool, free spirit.

Rain is good. Good for staying out of, indoors, with a mug of hot coffee, a book, and a cat.

My perfect day.
Hey, there’s even a t-shirt. Just make mine coffee instead of tea.

Is it a total coincidence that I woke up from these dreams to rain outside? (Cue theremin sound here:)

That’s good news–it means I don’t have to pull weeds for Ruby Dee! Now to my coffee, cat, and a good book. Perhaps Tim Gunn’s The Natty Professor: A Master Class on Mentoring, Motivating and Making it Work!


Or maybe The Fear of Water Cure.


But then I’d have to buy a bathing suit. Is there a word for bathing suit anxiety?


Stay dry.

Look Homeward, Angel, or Things Thomas Wolfe Said

Thomas Wolfe had a thing about home. So did E.T., but his wish was much simpler: call the folks and get a ride back.


Thomas Wolfe was a little more complicated. He was born October 3, 1900 and died September 15, 1938. His father ran a gravestone business in Asheville, NC. He died of miliary tuberculosis of the brain at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore just shy of his 38th birthday. Wlliam Faulkner called Wolfe the best talent of their generation. High praise.


Look Homeward, Angel was Wolfe’s first novel. Published in 1929, it is a fictionalized account of his early life in Asheville. It caused an uproar in Asheville at the time, and Wolfe stayed away from the town for 8 years. Maybe that has something to do with his notions of home as well.


You Can’t Go Home Again was published posthumously in 1940.


I remember there being a made-for-television movie of the book in 1979, starring Chris Sarandon as the young writer in the story. I don’t remember if it was any good.


I am more of a Steinbeck fan myself. He also said you can’t go home again.


I recently went home again.


I thought I was going home again when I took a job at the University of California, Davis last last year. The town of Davis itself felt like home and I was quite comfortable th. Campus also felt like home. Some things had changed, as I expected they would, but the general feeling of being there was much the same. For reasons I won’t go into, it didn’t work out, but it had nothing to do with the place.

In my own literary efforts, I hope to one day finish a memoir about moving away from home (see The Do It Yourself Museum ©, maybe someday brought to you by the Hallmark Channel ™). Home in this story is to me the house we lived in in Atlanta until the summer of 1972. I still dream about that house frequently, and remember the details of it better than most of the other countless apartments and houses I’ve lived in over the years since.

So many memories. Dyson Drive, late 1960s.
Dyson Drive house, early 1960s, before a back addition of a breakfast room, a large bedroom for my sisters, a second bathroom, a little teeny tiny bedroom for me (the littlest one).

I was in Atlanta for a short visit to celebrate October birthdays (we are the 3 Libra sisters). We had a wonderful time, with mani/pedis, bargain shopping, great food, a day at the Atlanta History Center (an upcoming blogpost) and a visit to the old neighborhood in Druid Hills.



For the most part, the changes were no more than I expected. I don’t have any illusions that things remain the same. My Atlanta childhood memories are uniquely my own. My mother’s memories of the same places were different as were her mother’s. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute and happily disagree with Messieurs Wolfe and Steinbeck. You CAN go home again!


First we explored Emory Village, which we used to walk to to go to Horton’s. Horton’s is hard to describe; basically think old-fashioned five-and-dime with a soda fountain. A little change in your pocket as a kid went a long way at Horton’s!


There are now 3 stores where Horton’s used to be.
The old Kroger, where I used to love to go grocery shopping with my mother on a Saturday, is now a CVS. I saw something on the Internet that it used to be the nation’s smallest Kroger store, which is probably why I liked it.
For many years (41 to be exact) this was the home of Everybody’s Pizza. I don’t remember what it was before that! It opened in 1971.
This was a KFC. Falafel King is a big improvement if you ask me!
One of these shops used to be the wondrous Alexander Stinson store. It was a, to us, groundbreaking shop, my first exposure to anything remotely counterculture in Georgia. It was opened in the 1960s by Bill Stinson, an English professor and a deft hand at creative merchandising and display. There were eventually 3 stores. I LOVED Alexander Stinson.
The old cinema. The last time I was there was on a visit in 1978; my sister Ellen took me to see the Jill Clayburgh/Alan Bates film An Unmarried Woman. I also fondly remember the sandwich shop, as well as when I learned what PDQ stood for in Pizza PDQ.

And you can’t go to Emory Village without wandering into the gorgeous entrance to Emory University. When I was a high school senior in Sacramento, California, I desperately wanted to go to either Emory or to Mount Holyoke (that’s also a different blogpost; I went to neither).

Next stop: Fernbank Elementary School and the Fernbank Science Center.

The old sign out front is gone.
It’s been replaced with this sign.

The old building is gone, a new, large, spiffy one in its place. And that’s okay. The kids of the neighborhhood deserve a nice, new school with updated facilities. Yes, the Cat Stevens song (Remember the Days of the) Old Schoolyard plays in my head (see Is there a cure for earworms?Or, Help! I Need Somebody…) but it’s just a song and new kids in the neighborhood are making their own special memories.

Frankly, not all of my schoolyard memories are that great (I remember when the torment of my school years, the President’s Physical Fitness Test, was instituted at Fernbank. Nightmares!)

New school.
Plastic playground equipment and softscaping. I survived metal equipment on blacktop, but I did have a lot of skinned knees.
Please don’t make me do the President’s Physical Fitness Test ever again!

At some point in my childhood, the Fernbank Science Center was built across the street from the school, and basically over the fence from our backyard. On hot summer nights we would walk over to the planetarium, which was blissfully air conditioned.

The backyard of our old house is over that fence.

My favorite memory of school is GOING HOME at the end of the day! We lived so close, and walked rain or shine. When we moved to California and I had to ride the school bus, I was in total culture shock. This was my walk home:

I loved this house, it looks pretty much the same, and I hope I keep dreaming about living there!

Just remember, there’s no place like home.


And every woman should have a pair of red shoes. It was my mother who said that one.



Is there a cure for earworms?Or, Help! I Need Somebody…


I have what is arguably one of the stupidest pop songs EVER written lodged so firmly in my brain right now that I am on the verge of scheduling myself for brain surgery to have that place where earworms go and NEVER DIE surgically removed.

Looks like earworms were particularly bad in the late 1940s.

By earworm, I mean the “musical” kind, not the kind on The Twilight Zone that really eat your brain.


Right now, I’d rather have that kind. Because then I might finally have SILENCE from the insipidness that is the song Midnight at the Oasis (David Nichtern, 1972, performed ENDLESSLY by Maria Muldaur).


In case you are lucky enough never to have heard this song:

Midnight at the Oasis

Midnight at the oasis
Send your camel to bed
Shadows painting our faces
Traces of romance in our heads
Heaven’s holding a half-moon
Shining just for us
Let’s slip off to a sand dune, real soon
And kick up a little dust
Come on, Cactus is our friend
He’ll point out the way
Come on, till the evening ends
Till the evening ends
You don’t have to answer
There’s no need to speak
I’ll be your belly dancer, prancer
And you can be my sheik

I know your Daddy’s a sultan
A nomad known to all
With fifty girls to attend him, they all send him
Jump at his beck and call
But you won’t need no harem, honey
When I’m by your side
And you won’t need no camel, no no
When I take you for a ride
Come on, Cactus is our friend
He’ll point out the way
Come on, till the evening ends
Till the evening ends
Midnight at the oasis
Send your camel to bed
Got shadows painting our faces
And traces of romance in our heads

No, it’s not Shakespeare, it’s not T.S. Eliot, it’s not Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan. It’s not even Dr. Suess. It’s just BAD. No offense, David Nichtern. And I am sure you and Maria Muldaur did quite well from this song. Can you invest the money in a cure for earworms, PLEASE?

David Nichtern, probably a perfectly nice man, but I will never forgive him.

I have NO IDEA why this song has been on an endless loop in my head for 4 long days (and sleepless nights). It is not on the playlist on any of my devices, except for the hard drive that is my tormented brain. I am happy to share:

This is one of the images that came up when I Googled “friendly cactus”; it makes me laugh. That’s good.


I don’t listen to the radio much at all anymore. My listening of choice for drives longer than 5 minutes is whatever audiobook I have going. Currently, it is book two of The Hunger Games. If there is a connection, I have no idea what it might be.


If I do listen to the radio, at home it’s more likely to be NPR and in the car, the dial is set to, I hate to admit it, I Heart 80s.


I am much more of a 10,000 Maniacs girl than an anything-1973 girl.


My gift to you:

Yes, there was good music in 1973 (Allman Brothers, The Doobie Brothers, Three Dog Night, Dr. John, Pink Floyd…). But I was 12 years old in 1973. The music I remember is more like Tony Orlando and Dawn, Helen Reddy, Karen and Richard Carpenter. And Maria Muldaur and her blasted camels and friendly cacti.


The earworm phenomenon can happen with music you love, yes. But that gets to be its own kind of torment. The last time this happened to me in a really bad way was with the beautiful Damien Rice song The Blower’s Daughter (aka I Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You).

The Blower’s Daughter (Damien Rice, 2001)

And so it is
Just like you said it would be
Life goes easy on me
Most of the time
And so it is
The shorter story
No love, no glory
No hero in her sky

I can’t take my eyes off of you
I can’t take my eyes off you
I can’t take my eyes off of you
I can’t take my eyes off you
I can’t take my eyes off you
I can’t take my eyes

And so it is
Just like you said it should be
We’ll both forget the breeze
Most of the time
And so it is
The colder water
The blower’s daughter
The pupil in denial

I can’t take my eyes off of you
I can’t take my eyes off you
I can’t take my eyes off of you
I can’t take my eyes off you
I can’t take my eyes off you
I can’t take my eyes

Did I say that I loathe you?
Did I say that I want to
Leave it all behind?

I can’t take my mind off of you
I can’t take my mind off you
I can’t take my mind off of you
I can’t take my mind off you
I can’t take my mind off you
I can’t take my mind
My mind, my mind
‘Til I find somebody new

Please listen; click here:

I already had a thing for Damien Rice and was playing O (on CD, it was back in the day of ancient technology like compact discs) a lot.


I love a good brooding singer-songwriter.

Then in 2004 I saw the movie Closer. Supposedly the stars of the movie are Julia Roberts and Jude Law. But I think the movie belongs to Clive Owen and, most of all, Natalie Portman. She broke my heart in that movie.


The opening scene:

haunted me for days. And the beautiful song lodged itself quite snugly in the deep, dark part of my brain where earworms live and it would not shut up. I started to worry about my mental health. I started to hate Damien Rice. Not really, but I would’ve liked some peace. I didn’t get any sleep. But at least it’s a good song!

Now, Midnight at the Oasis. It is not a good song. I have tried replacing the earworm with another, but no worm so far has been able to defeat it. In the arm-wrestling contest (if worms had arms), Maria Muldaur beats Damien Rice every time. I need an intervention.

So I am going to bring in the heavy hitters. First up, Todd Rundgren. Here:

he is in a 1973 clip performing Hello, It’s Me (1968, released in 1972), one of my favorites and one whose earworminess I can attest to.


Hello it’s me,
I’ve thought about us for a long, long time,
Maybe I think too much but something’s wrong,
There’s something here that doesn’t last too long,
Maybe I shouldn’t think of you as mine.

Seeing you, or seeing anything as much as I do you,
I take for granted that you’re always there,
I take for granted that you just don’t care,
Sometimes I can’t help seeing all the way through.

It’s important to me
That you know you are free,
‘Cause I never want to make you change for me.
Think of me,
You know that I’d be with you if I could
I’ll come around to see you once in a while
or if I ever need a reason to smile
And spend the night if you think I should.

It’s important to me
That you know you are free,
‘Cause I never want to make you change for me.
Think of me,
You know that I’d be with you if I could
I’ll come around to see you once in a while
or if I ever need a reason to smile
And spend the night if you think I should.
Sometimes I thought it wasn’t so bad.
Sometimes I thought it wasn’t so bad.
Sometimes I thought it wasn’t so bad.

Maybe Todd can finally bring Maria down off the throne. If not, I guess I’ll just ride my camel off into the desert, like Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia, toward that oasis with the friendly cactus.

Peter O'Toole In 'Lawrence Of Arabia'
Peter O’Toole with his camel in a scene from the film ‘Lawrence Of Arabia’, 1962. (Photo by Columbia Pictures/Getty Images)