Saturday, December 25, 2010

More Holiday Presence

Merry Christmas, Folks!

Before I get to the description of how things went at our huge and festive Holiday Gala, I want to tell you about some celebrating we did much earlier in the season. In fact, it was the first week of November. Oceana, George, Rocco, Lynne and I went to see the gingerbread house in the lobby of the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. I must confess that when I first heard about this outing, I was more jazzed about hanging out with the aforementioned crew than I was to see some oversized gingerbread dollhouse. I was sure it would be artistic and expertly crafted and all, but I was somehow underwhelmed at the prospect.

When we walked in the door of the hotel, the first thing we saw was a beautifully decorated tree so big we could barely see the limits of it. After taking pictures in front of it, we walked around to the other side, and my jaw dropped. In front of us was a full-size, two-story house, complete with windows and stairs and large archway leading to the hotel's lovely lobby on the other side. There were tables inside the house with paper and crayons, and children were happily coloring. The entire structure was made of gingerbread. The experience was touching and magical.

We took pictures here, too, and read all the statistics about how many thousands of individual pieces of gingerbread went into its construction. We then walked through the arch into the Fairmont's large, elegant lobby, beautifully draped with garlands and lights. A talented pianist, who looked a bit like Clarence, the angel in
It's a Wonderful Life
, played Christmas songs while the five of us lounged on a couple of couches, drinking cocktails, eating hors d'oeuvres and chatting. At one point, a woman came in with her four-year-old daughter, who was dressed in a black and white holiday dress of velvet and chiffon. The child was immediately enchanted by the piano music, and spent a good 15 minutes freestyle dancing around the piano in a style reminiscent of Isadora Duncan. Her mother, apparently as delighted as we were, never took her camera off her. “Is that stills or video?” I asked her. “I wish it was video!” she replied, mock-forlornly. The piano player was tickled by the young dancer as well.

At a house meeting several weeks later, Karen, who is a professional folk singer, said she'd like to schedule a time for us all to sing Christmas carols together. Sierra, who works at the Lake Merritt Boating Center, responded by saying that every year the Center had a tradition of taking people out on a boat at night and singing carols on the lake. This sounded like a great idea to us! Karen called up and reserved the entire boat just for us Morehousers and a few friends and family. On the scheduled night, we all showed up at the dock just before 9pm. Sierra was dressed in a complete Santa outfit. She wouldn't wear the beard, however. “I tried it and it itched too much. So I'm Mrs. Santa,” she said. After plying us with hot cider and cookies, she had us all get on board the boat, which was decorated with Christmas lights. She handed out songbooks, cast off the lines, and started driving us around the lake, itself softly illuminated by the famous “pearl necklace,” the string of lights that borders its entire 3-mile perimeter. Out on the water, in the relative dark and quiet, we sang our carols together.

As you may recall from earlier posts, I'm a bird-watcher. I noticed that there were flocks of water birds that could faintly be seen in the dark swimming away from the boat. Sierra took the opportunity to steer us over to the corner of the lake that had been cordoned of for the protection of the birds. She gave me a little halogen flashlight and, as we floated passed, I shone it on the sleeping pelicans (both white and brown), egrets, and herons that I had until then seen on the lake only during the day. This was a fun bonus. Then, after a last round of carolling, we headed back to the dock, thoroughly happy from such a convivial event.

You know, I still haven't gotten to the description of our big Gala. Oh well, it'll have to wait until next time!

Until then!

Best Regards,


The only difference between a coward and a hero is which way they run when they're afraid.

-- Vic Baranco

Fairmont Tree.jpg
Gingerbread House.jpg

Mrs. Santa.JPG
Christmas boat.JPG


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Holiday Presence

Season's Greetings, Friends!

Please accept my apologies for not having written in so long. We've been very, very busy, thank God!

Lynne and I are going to be on the East Coast in January to visit our families. We will be attending Jane's Mark Group on Wednesday evening, January 12, and we'd love to see as many of you there as possible. We'll send out the details later, but we wanted to make sure you saved the date.

In the meantime, here's what's been happening so far this holiday season: December's festivities started off on the first Saturday of the month. Lynne and I drove down to Jack London Square on the Oakland waterfront, which we had been wanting to do since we first moved here. It's a festive place with shops and restaurants and promenades. We had dinner at Scott's Seafood Grill and Bar, which is right on the water. As we were walking in, I asked Lynne if she'd be willing to wait longer in order to get a table by the window overlooking the harbor. “Yes I want a window table, and no I don't want to wait for it.” I've learned not to give voice to my skepticism at such times. Sure enough, when I asked the hostess if there were any window tables available, she said "Of course!", and took us immediately to what appeared to be the only available one. (Score another one for my wife, The Manifester.) The restaurant was beautiful, elegantly lit and festooned with holiday garlands. From our table we got to watch several boats decked out in Christmas lights glide by in the dark. It was a very romantic evening.

Earlier that day we at the Oakland Morehouse had hosted an Introduction to Pleasurable Group Living. The teachers were Marilyn, Ilana, Jack and our very own Sierra. Lynne and I were in the course, along with several of our housemates. There were also new students from a variety of locations and backgrounds, all of whom were articulate, inquisitive, open-minded, and seriously exploring the idea of living in an intentional community. It made for a very dynamic three hours of conversation. I particularly enjoyed the review of the history of group living, culminating in the invention of the postwar, experimental two-in-a-box lifestyle, complete with television programming like “Ozzie and Harriet,” to show people what their own lives were supposed to look like. As one of the teachers said: “Turns out Big Brother wasn't watching us; we were watching Big Brother.”

One of the benefits of group living is that there's always the potential for a party to start at any moment. A couple of nights after the IPGL, a bunch of us were hanging out in the kitchen around 9:30pm discussing plans for our upcoming Christmas Gala, when Karen, bless her heart, decided it was a perfect time to break out her ice cream collection. Karen is an ice cream freak, and has a particular fondness for unusual flavors. She brought out seven or eight different pints, opened them, and passed out spoons and bowls. Oceana, in the meantime, had been having us sample different brands of eggnog in order to choose one for the gala, and Jillian offered a bottle of brandy to spice up the samples. Some folks were even observed combining ice cream, eggnog and brandy.

just the the beginning of the fun we've been having this month. The next time I write I'll let you know, among other things, how the gala went and where to go for the January 12th Mark Group.

Until then!

Best Regards,

The only difference between a coward and a hero is which way they run when they're afraid.

-- Vic Baranco

Friday, September 17, 2010

I Love(d) New York

Hello Friends,

Wow, what a trip! I swooped into New York on a Thursday for six days so I could work with my mother helping her prepare for her big move to her new home at the Atria senior apartments on the Upper West Side. It was also going to be a chance for her and me to spend some actual time together. We hadn't seen each other for six months – not since Lynne and I moved out here to California. During this first visit back to New York, I would also end up squeezing in Sunday lunch with Deborah and Keith in the garden of a lovely Italian restaurant, plus go to a huge, awesome Mark Group at Sexy Spirits, before swooping back home to the Oakland Morehouse on Wednesday.

Even though I was three thousand miles from home, I experienced several Morehouse miracles while helping my mother decide what to keep and what to discard of her belongings. For years, there has been a very large pegboard in her office. Since before I was born, possibly as far back as when my parents first got married in 1949, that pegboard has been collecting tools, mostly of my father's acquisition, that I also had used on countless occasions. To give you an idea of how far back this goes, the collection included a large pipe wrench that had its original price written on it: $3.29. The same wrench today would cost anywhere from $15 to $35.

My mother planned to take none of these items with her to her new home, and the two of us were in despair as to how to dispose of them. I mentioned our dilemma to my sister and she suggested craigslist. I posted an offering of all the tools for $100 and the requirement that the buyer must come pick them up. Within an hour I got a response. A man came over the next day, paid my mother $100 in cash, packed up every last tool (except the hammer, pliers and two screwdrivers he insisted my mother would need during the process of moving), and left. It was like a dream.

Then there were the books. My mother has always been an academic, an intellectual. At age 19, she was graduated magna cum laude from Radcliffe. Our challenge was to dispose of the 86 shelving feet of books she had amassed over her lifetime. I knew she would want to take some of them with her, but the vast majority had to be removed from the apartment somehow. 

Again, help came from the extraordinary women in my life. Lynne reminded me that our friend Jill had started a business selling old books on the internet, and that she lived within blocks of my mother. I called Jill, and my triumph at hearing that she'd be happy to unburden my mother of all her books was exceeded only by the pleasure of talking to her on the phone. I would have loved to have spent time with each of our friends individually on this trip, and regretted having had to turn down several invitations to do so. But here was Jill, with a perfect excuse for a brief social visit. She came over and we had a nice hug and a quick chat. She then spent 20 minutes inspecting my mom's collection of books and announced that, if she were to come over for one or two hours a day for the next two weeks, she could remove every volume. Mom was thrilled. At last report, there are now 86 feet of empty bookshelves in her apartment.

These were some of the highlights of the trip. Thanks so much, Suzanne, for the ride from JFK. I apologize for having given you directions that got you lost in your own neighborhood, although it was a great excuse to hang out longer with you. Thanks to Deb and Keith for the seriously fun meal together. Thanks to the Mark Group Leaders for putting on a great Group, and thanks to Margret, Tina, John, Topaz, Armin, Jane and Park for adding your friendship to the proceedings. Thanks also to Tiffany for the late night pickup when I landed back at SFO. Most of all, thanks to Mom for setting the whole thing up.

New York was indeed a nice place to visit. Even better was returning home to my wife, my dog and my wonderful housemates. Our California Adventure continues, as you'll hear about in future posts.

Best Regards,


The only people who deserve happiness are the ones who can have it.

-- Vic Baranco

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Roll Call

The day after I wrote the last post about my recent experiences with the Snowy Egrets, I believe I received a sign from the local Snowy Egrets that they, as a group, were aware of my recent intense attention on them.

I was on my morning walk along the lake when I spotted a Snowy Egret flying low across the water, headed for the edge of the lake wall, where it landed about 20 feet ahead of me on the side of the path. I had frequently seen gulls hop up onto the wall and stand next to the stream of human pedestrians, but not egrets. As I got within about 10 feet of it, it waddled to the middle of the sidewalk, amidst all the people walking to and fro. This surprised me even more. An egret's feet are not really adapted to walking on a concrete path, so it was an odd sight; it was as if I were watching a cartoon of an egret. Then, when I got within five feet of it, it pooped right in the center of the path and then ran back to the edge of the wall. As I drew even with the bird, I was close enough to touch it, and it seemed to look me in the eye before it took off across the lake again.

As we all get to interpret our lives however we like, I choose to believe it had been sent by its people to say, “Hi!”

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Roll Call (or, The Wisdom of Lynne)

Dear Readers,

Recently, while standing at the railing overlooking that little section of Glen Echo Creek that dawdles through Adams Park on its way to Lake Merritt, I watched a Snowy Egret do its classic super-slow-motion walk through the shallow water looking for fish. Its foot appeared to quiver in pain each time it took a step. A Snowy Egret's legs are black, and its feet are bright yellow, so it's easy to see them under the surface of the water. This one's right foot appeared to be missing some or all of its toes. The bird was essentially walking on a club foot. This was surprisingly upsetting to me. I felt bad for this creature who seemed doomed to spend the rest of its life having to survive by hunting in pain.

I didn't tell Lynne about this experience for a couple of days, as I was certain that, given her empathy with animals, it would bring her down even more than it had me. Then, that Saturday morning, we were breakfasting at the IHOP in Emeryville, and I saw that my withholding a communication from my wife was putting distance between us.

"There's something I haven't been telling you because it's kind of negative, but I can feel that it's getting in the way of me relating to you that I'm not saying it.”

"OK, I get it. What is it?”

I told her the story of how it had so disturbed me to see this poor crippled bird.

"First of all,” she said, “Animals adapt. They don't sit around wondering 'Why me?' when a catastrophe happens. If they get injured, they adjust and get on with it. That's how they survive.” I started to feel better. “And besides,” she added, “he might have been born that way. For all you know, he might never have known any other way.” I was by now quite happy I had brought it up, as she had so simply and elegantly given me a winning context for the situation. I finished my scrambled eggs in a much better mood and feeling much closer to Lynne.

As I walked along Lake Merritt the next day, I passed a different Snowy Egret -– one with two normal-looking feet -- feeding in the water fairly close to the lake wall. I suddenly stopped to watch more intently because it seemed to me that, each time it took a step, with either its right foot or its left, its leg quivered. It occurred to me that what I had been assuming were convulsions of pain in the club-footed bird might actually have been a fishing technique. By shaking its feet as it walked, the egret could agitate the silt on the lake bottom to flush out any small fish or other edibles that might be hidden in there. I almost laughed out loud at myself standing there by the water as the joggers huffed by me.

As always, I passed the creek in the park on the way home. I looked over and saw that the club-footed egret was there again, only this time it was in repose. It was standing sleepily on one foot, as herons and egrets sometimes do.

Guess which foot it was standing on.

Thanks for reading.

Best Regards,


The thing for a man to be enthusiastic about is the woman he's with. The thing for a woman to be enthusiastic about is herself.

-- Vic Baranco

Friday, July 23, 2010

A “Typical” Day (Part V)

Hi Folks,

We're baaack! Remember, if you'd like to review any of the posts that led up to this one, please feel free to click here.

The story continues as Tiffany and I were sitting on the couch on the second floor in our effect uniforms, talking in quiet voices while the Effect Course was finishing downstairs. This couch is across the hall from the door to Sierra and Jess' bedroom, which was open, as it usually is (an endearing quality of theirs). We speculated as to whether they were actually inside up in their loft bed. We concluded that they probably were, given that they had just come back on a 25-hour plane flight from Africa earlier that afternoon. Where were they going to go?

As if in confirmation, a few minutes later, Sierra walked down the steps from the bed, stretching and yawning. She looked at us and giggled in appreciation to see two uniformed effect staff sitting in the hall outside her room. She asked what time it was, and we told her it was 9:30.

"Wow,” she said, “We've been sleeping for, like, eight hours. Jess is still asleep.”

She started to rub the side of her neck, complaining that all that
sitting on planes had not sat well with her. I offered to give her a neck rub (I am a full-service effect person.). When she said yes, I stood up and had her sit on the couch while I massaged the knot that was bothering her. This was, of course, quite enjoyable. She used the time to describe to us the segments of their flight from Capetown to Johannesburg to Germany to Washington, DC, to San Francisco.

After about five minutes, she thanked me for the massage, stood up and walked back into her room. She saw Jess coming downstairs from the loft bed and she said with a certain pride, “Jess, come look at our Maid Brigade,” and pointed to Tiffany and me sitting side by side on the couch. He smiled in that
Mona Lisa way he does.

As 10 o'clock approached, I took off my bowtie, unbuttoned my top shirt buttons and went outside to bring our car around. I had arranged with Lynne that, once the Effect Course ended, she would escort the newly-graduated student down the front steps to the street and into the car for our return trip. I waited while Lynne opened the back door for her to get in, closed the door, then joined me up front.

In the rear-view mirror, I could see our passenger smiling in contentment. She explained that Kate had made a point of telling her that I had not yet done an Effect Course, so she understood she could not divulge anything of what had happened during the evening, a circumstance that seemed to tickle her somewhat, as if she had something over me.
It was a pleasantly mellow, late-night ride back to her house, as classical music played from the car radio.

After arriving at her place, Lynne accompanied her to her door, said good night, hugged her, and got back in the car. Without saying anything to each other, we seemed to agree that we had enjoyed the peaceful mood that had been set, and we continued it on the ride back to our house. When we got home, we chatted with a tired and happy Kate about how the car ride had been. She told us she was glad the student had had the restriction of not being able to reveal anything to me, as she had thought it would deepen her experience of the course to digest it silently as we drove.

It had been a rich, full day. At the beginning of A “Typical” Day (Part I), I mentioned that the only thing that could be said to be “typical" about our days here at the
Oakland Morehouse is that they tend to end with us crashing headlong into our luxurious bed, exhausted and gratified in equal measure. This day was no different; it was the next thing we did.

It's been a pleasure chatting with you, friends.

Thanks for reading.

Best Regards,


The trip to enlightenment is more fun than being enlightened.

-- Vic Baranco

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A “Typical” Day (Part IV)

Hi again, everyone!

Previously on A "Typical" Day: Lynne and I had just dropped off the Effect Course student at the Morehouse
and we were now headed off to go out to dinner together.

Early on in Lynne's
Evaluacy, Linda had taken her for a pedicure and then afterward to lunch at a restaurant called Barney's on Piedmont Avenue. Lynne had liked the place and had expressed a desire to return there sometime for dinner, so Barney's was our destination this evening.

At the end of an earlier post, I mentioned the many and varied charms of Oakland. Well, Piedmont Avenue is one of those charms. It's about five blocks of unique, festive, eye-pleasing shops and restaurants – most of them locally owned - along a gently sloping street. It being such a pleasant neighborhood to explore means parking can be a challenge. We managed to find a space, however, about a five-minute-or-so walk from the restaurant. The weather was slightly chilly that evening (just right for the
rust-colored leather jacket ), but otherwise the air was clear and fresh with occasional scents from people's gardens, so the walk to and from the car just added to the specialness of our time together.

As soon as we entered Barney's, I sensed a unique feel to the place. It was quite busy, and there was a convivial hum. At the same time, I couldn't characterize it as noisy. A very warm but not pushy waitress found us a table. Lynne ordered the falafel platter, I the Piedmont Salad, and we also got a strawberry milkshake to split between us (Lynne had had one on her previous visit and insisted I experience it.).

The shake was awesome, and, believe it or not, the salad was even better! It had chunks of feta and bacon and fresh slices of crisp red onion. It was the best salad I'd ever had. The perfect accompaniment to a strawberry milkshake. It was so gratifying I couldn't eat the whole thing, and I had the friendly waitress box up the remainder for me to take home. It was a memorable restaurant experience and I look forward to going there again.

I had to get back to the house for my 9pm to 10pm effect shift, so we drove home in time for me to change into my uniform. When we walked in the front door, there was an impressive hush over the household, as everyone had his or her attention on the theatrics going on in the bunk room, where the Effect Course was still in progress. Connected to the bunk room by a pocket door is the dining room, where the staging for the course was happening, including, I speculated, changing of costumes and props for the various actors involved, who all talked in whispers as they slipped quietly in and out of the room.

Enjoying the backstage intensity of it all, I went down to my room, changed and came back upstairs. Normally I would head for the kitchen at this point to do the dishes, etc. However, the only part of the first floor that wasn't off limits to Those of Us Who Hadn't Done the Effect Course was the front hallway, the kitchen being too close to the bunk room presumably to risk either unintended noise being heard by the Effect Course student or hints of the content of the course being overheard by uninitiated folks like me. So I sat down on the blue couch in the front hallway.

After a few moments, Tiffany, who had also not had an Effect Course, joined me on the couch. For some reason, she was also wearing an effect uniform, and for some reason, I never asked her why. So there we were, two people sitting on a couch quietly wearing uniforms that stated simultaneously “We are here to serve,” and “We are invisible.”

There was a problem, however. The couch faces the main door to the dining room, which is a pocket door as well. This particular pocket door will sometimes roll back open six inches or so once it's been closed. This was uncomfortable for me because it meant we kept being able to see into the dining room by default. I felt as if we were making it awkward for the participants, who were attempting to keep everything secret. I suggested to Tiffany that we go sit on the couch in the second floor hallway, across from Sierra and Jess' room. We would be out of the way, we could converse without disturbing anyone, and we would still be available if anyone needed us for anything.

This change of venue led to a delightful home-after-an-extremely-long-plane-flight encounter with Sierra, which I'll be more than happy to share with you next time. Until then, my friends!

Best regards,

The word surrender exists because it's an experience everybody wants to have... under the right conditions.

-- Vic Baranco

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Roll Call

Turtle is back in da house! After an absence of several weeks from the quiet Glen Echo Creek pool in Adams Park, the turtle was once again sunning himself on his rock as I passed by today on the way to the lake. It took a moment to be sure it was he, as he was so covered in seaweed, which also trailed off his back and down behind him, that I thought it might just be a new rock on top of his larger customary perching rock. In order to confirm what I thought I was seeing, I strayed off the sidewalk and moved to the railing to get a closer look. This was a bit much for the turtle, and he quickly jumped into the water, disappearing under the mud and murk that lay on the creek bed.

I had not evidently scared him quite to death, as on my return trip from the lake 20 minutes later he was back in position, but with somewhat less seaweed on him.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A “Typical” Day (Part III)

Hi, Dear Readers,

Forthwith, the report on the next segment of the day I was describing in my last two posts:

When we last left our aspiring hero, I had just finished changing the tire on Linda's car. My next move was to change out of my grubby tire-changing clothes and, believe it or not, take a nap. I assure you, readers, these are no ordinary naps we've been taking these days. These are power naps. Because of the lifestyle we've designed for ourselves, I have learned to set a timer for 10 minutes and do some fast, deep sleeping. None of this fooling around with “drifting off to sleep.” There's no time for that. So my head hit the pillow, I slept heavily for 10 minutes, then awoke refreshed and ready for whatever the Muse was calling for next.

In this case she was calling for me to feed and walk the dog. I put on some nicer, around-the-house clothes, fed Spritzie, and took her for a stroll around the block. As we were walking back into the house, Taj and Evelyn pulled up in Evelyn's minivan with Taj' new mattress inside. They asked if I would help him take it upstairs to his room. I took off the beautiful rust-colored leather jacket that Marty and Ruth had given me when we first arrived in California, and went out to the car to lend a hand.

I change costumes as often as five times a day. I have to notice what clothes I'm wearing at any given moment in case I get surprised with a new activity. Don't want to get my nicer duds dirty or torn while doing something like moving a mattress. And, just because I have a construction project planned for some time later in the day doesn't mean Lynne wants to have to look at me in work clothes while I'm hanging out with her or socializing with our housemates.

After Taj and I hauled his mattress up the stairs from the street, and then up the next flight of stairs to the second floor into his bedroom, and then hoisted it up into his sleeping loft, the next item on my schedule was to do Withhold Monitors' practice with Nicole. She and I were each students in the month-long Withhold Monitors Training Course, along with six others in the house, and a regular part of the training is making half-hour appointments with each other to practice what's referred to as “pulling” withholds. Nicole is a pleasure to practice with, as she is a dedicated student and makes the session feel safe. (BTW, all eight of us that were in that training have since been officially certified as Lafayette Morehouse Withhold Monitors, including Lynne.)

At 6:30, Lynne and I started getting ready for the part of the Effect Course I was allowed to help with, as someone who wasn't allowed to know anything about it: I would be driving, with Lynne, to the home of the Effect Course student to pick her up and bring her to the house at exactly 7:00, when her course was scheduled to begin. When we got to her house, Lynne went up to her front door to fetch her. She came out of her house dressed to the nines in a colorful pants ensemble of orange and brown silk, totally psyched for what lay ahead. She chattered the whole trip back to our house about how much she was anticipating the evening. We had to moderate our speed on the freeway to make sure we got her there exactly at 7:00. After escorting her into the house, Lynne and I followed through on our personal plan for the evening, which was to go out to dinner together.

Well, folks, I thought this would be a good juncture at which to tell you about a comment I received after one of my last posts. One of you wrote:

You long winded son of a gun ! how am I going to read all that?”

As I'd rather tease you than bore you, we'll continue with the events of the day (and there are plenty more) in the next post. Thanks, as always, for all of your feedback.

Best Regards,


There is no end to how good life can be if you find it good in the first place.

-- Vic Baranco

Roll Call

A pair of terns were fishing today, with quite a different style than that of the Brown Pelican. Terns are closely related to gulls, although they are smaller, pointier and sleeker. These guys were about a foot long. They hovered above the water, maintaining a stationary position with very rapid wing beats, in much the same manner as a hummingbird. When they would see fish that were swimming close to the surface, they would plunge to just above the water and grab them in their beaks. It was infrequent for them actually to dive below the surface, as they are reputedly poor swimmers, but sometimes they would.

A “Typical” Day (Part II)

Hi Folks,

At the end of the last post (see Part I), I was getting ready to remove my tools from Sierra and Jess' balcony before they would be returning home from their trip to Africa. Oceana had said that they would be arriving by 3:00, and would I have my tools out of there by 1:00? It's a good thing she planned ahead so deliberately (as is her wont), because we got a phone call from Tom and Joy, who were picking Sierra and Jess up at the airport, saying they were arriving two hours ahead of schedule. Oceana had been finishing sprucing up the room, Virginia had been hastily hanging curtains, and Lynne had been bringing up the food to be put in their welcome baskets. The three of them scurried to wrap things up, and I barely had enough time to remove my last batch of building materials, when the doorbell rang.

As I came downstairs, the door opened and in walked Sierra and Jess, followed by Tom and Joy. It was great to see all of them. As anticipated, Amenshi went a little nuts with happiness to see his mom and dad after such a long absence. There were a few minutes of communal hellos back and forth, and then Sierra looked over at Lynne and me and said, “Oh, my new housemates!” and came toward us with her arms spread wide, and hugged us both simultaneously. This was sweet and unexpected. I took some of their bags upstairs and left them alone to continue being greeted by the other well-wishers.

I had promised Linda that I would change her tire that afternoon, as she had punctured it pulling up to the curb when coming home the day before. I put on a pair of latex gloves and went out to her car to inspect the situation. She was already outside waiting for me, and insisted I put on sunglasses. I had considered doing that prior to walking out of the house, but thought that dark glasses might be an impediment while trying to see to change a tire. I still have to get used to the quality of the sunshine in California being different from that in New York. Sunglasses here are a higher priority. Linda lent me a pair of hers that she had in the car.

The whole time I was working on her tire, Linda was emptying what seemed like an entire household's worth of belongings from her trunk, because we were going to have to put the damaged tire in there after I installed the spare. It was kind of comical: Every time I looked up from my work, there was Linda pulling yet another item out of her trunk: An oversized bag of crayons, followed by a raincoat...a large quantity of high school text English saddle... It was as if there were a large hole in the bottom of her trunk and she had a posse of clown henchmen passing stuff up to her from under her car.

I had trouble lifting the car using her jack, which I was unused to, so I took the one from the trunk of my car, which was conveniently parked right next to hers. After that, the entire process went miraculously smoothly. I'm used to at least one or two obstacles arising when I change a tire, but this was a surprisingly easy job to complete. Linda was very appreciative, which made it that much more fun.

Friends, I'm only at about 3:30 in the afternoon of the day I'm describing. What say we call it a night and wait until the next post to see what transpired in the late afternoon and evening of this “typical” day?

Thanks so much.

Best Regards,

There are no steps to rightness. You either are or you aren't.
-- Vic Baranco

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Roll Call

Today on the main stage (the big lake), a newcomer: A Brown Pelican maintained what seemed like a constant 40-foot elevation above the water's surface by alternating a steady flapping of its great wings with holding them still in two graceful arches, banking in circles, all the time looking for fish in the water below. (The average wingspan of a Brown Pelican is about seven feet. Imagine someone as tall as Kareem-Abdul Jabbar lying down; that's a Brown Pelican's wingspan tip to tip.)

When something would catch its eye, it would shoot its feet straight up in the air and its beak straight down. It would then dive-bomb into the water with a splash. One time I actually saw it come up with a fish, which it tossed a little ways up in the air to position it correctly for swallowing. After gulping it down, it circled back into the air to repeat its elegant ritual.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A “Typical” Day (Part I)

Dear Friends,

Several weeks ago, at Marilyn's suggestion, I started a thread on the More Life Forum called "A Typical Day". The title was meant to be ironic, as the only thing typical about our days here is that they generally end with the two of us crashing headlong into our luxurious bed, exhausted and gratified in equal measure.

Here's a fun example of a “typical” day in our Oakland Morehouse lives:

It was a Tuesday and the day started out, as Tuesdays do, with our nine o'clock Ops Meeting. This is a morning-after confab to follow up on Monday night's House Meeting. The folks who attend the Ops Meeting are the ones who enjoy getting down and dirty discussing action plans for some of the activities that got scheduled the night before. Much of what had to be arranged this particular morning were preparations for Sierra and Jess' return that afternoon from their 10-week honeymoon in Africa. In addition, Kate would be teaching an Effect Course that evening, and this required complex planning, involving just about everyone in the house.

(I am one of the few people I know who has been fairly active in Morehouse for 23 years who has never had an Effect Course. Lynne has had the course; I haven't. The agreement is that, if anyone who has had the course divulges any of its content, it diminishes the experience for someone who hasn't yet had the course. So, of course, no one has ever told me anything about it. What I can tell you, from the faint whisperings I've overheard over the years, is that during an Effect Course the student is put completely "at effect" for a period of several hours, while all of his or her senses, including conceptual thought, are stimulated. Participation in the course is by invitation only.)

As a result of the disclosure ban, my presence at the Ops Meeting meant the group couldn't get too specific regarding plans for the Effect Course. They would have to wait until later when I wasn't around to discuss it in more detail. In fact, several times during the week leading up to Tuesday night Effect Course, people whom I consider to be my dear, intimate friends would suddenly stop talking when I would walk into a room!

After the Ops Meeting I went for one of my brisk walks down to Lake Merritt. The time difference makes my morning walks convenient for phoning East Coast family and friends, so I returned a call from one of our buddies from New York while I took in the wildlife (human and otherwise) around the lake.

After I got home, I started designing a “Welcome Home” sign for Sierra and Jess, which was something I'd volunteered for during the Ops Meeting. They had been having a great time in Africa, so I found a cheerful watercolor
on the internet of a Zambian landscape. The tones were mostly browns and deep greens. I used a casual scripty font to write “Welcome Home, Sierra and Jess!” in white across the top. Then Lynne found a picture that looked a lot like Amenshi, Sierra and Jess' dog, and she Photoshopped it into the foreground of the landscape, so it appeared as if Amenshi were running toward them to greet them after not having seen them for 10 weeks. Lynne then e-mailed the finished sign to Linda, who printed it out, and I went upstairs and taped it to their bedroom door.

I had also agreed during the Ops meeting to get my tools off the balcony by 1:00 that afternoon. I have been reconstructing the balcony off Sierra and Jess' room pretty much since my Evaluacy ended in early April.

Why is it taking so long, you ask? Good question! First, it's a more complicated construction cycle than anything I've undertaken before. Second, I work on it about two hours a day. This is not the fastest way to finish a project. Luckily for me, while my housemates are very encouraging when they see me working, no one is pressuring me to get it done more quickly. I really appreciate this, as it allows me to take the time to figure out how to do the job as properly and thoroughly as I can, and avoid the mistakes I sometimes make when rushing.

My friends, if you're interested in finding out what happened when Sierra and Jess finally arrived, plus many other fun events that occurred during this rich, rich day, please tune in for the next installment!

Fun chatting with you all.

Best Regards,

There is no higher level of awareness... There is only awareness.
-- Vic Baranco

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Roll Call

In attendance today at the “secluded” creek in Adams Park: The Mallard (this time with his wife) and the turtle. The heron wasn't there, and apparently had sent in its place a hummingbird, giving further evidence to the assertion that size doesn't matter. The hummingbird kept busy checking out the underside of the wrought-iron railing, bobbing up and down along its length, and I found myself wondering what nectar it expected to find there.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Urban Wildlife: It's Not a Myth

Dear Nature Lovers,

No, the title does not refer to the activities within our four walls, although we certainly have been leading a “wild life” here. This post is about the more familiar, outdoor use of the word wildlife.

During our several visits to the Oakland Morehouse over the years prior to moving here, we had never seen the place in the context of its larger neighborhood. All I had really noticed was that it was a large purple Victorian house on a quiet suburban cul-de-sac. What I hadn't realized until we were actually living here was that it's smack-dab in the middle of a big city. Oakland is the eighth largest city in California, and the Morehouse is about a half-mile from the 30-story glass office buildings at the edge of the downtown business district.

What makes this setup even more intriguing to me is the presence of Lake Merritt, which is situated between our house and the skyscraper district. The lake is a large brackish tidal lagoon that exists in complete bucolic contrast to the urban environment that surrounds it. It is ringed by a three-mile pedestrian path, and people in business suits walk to work along it, sharing the path with joggers, dog-walkers and mothers teaching their kids to ride bikes. All of this goes on while 30 feet away the rush-hour traffic whizzes by on Harrison Street. The Lake is also historically significant in that it was the first-ever official wildlife refuge
in the United States, having been so designated in 1870.

As many mornings as I can, I take a brisk solo walk for about 20 minutes along the lake. Of all the sensory stimuli I encounter, my favorite is the bird life. I have been a bird-watcher since I was a small child, and have tramped through deep woods and mud with binoculars and a field guide to catch glimpses of anything in feathers. I once stumbled upon several hybrid Blue-Winged Warblers in an overgrown pasture. I have stood motionless for 10 minutes watching a Pileated Woodpecker (a pterodactyl-like bird the size of a large crow) decimate a dead tree with its mighty beak, looking for insects. I have a modest “life list” of about 125 species of which I'm very proud.

Never, however, have I seen such a motley array of birds, many of whom I would have considered to be secluded forest-dwellers, be so comfortable within the confines of a bustling city. Along with egrets, gulls, geese, cormorants, and several types of ducks, there are some very odd-looking creatures, like the American Coot and the Eared Grebe. The latter I find notable for its demonic red eyes and the white feathers that sweep back on either side of its head, not unlike Paulie Walnuts in The Sopranos.

On my way to and from the lake, I pass Adams Park, a small oasis on the grounds of the Veterans' Memorial Building, which houses the local senior center. The last 75 yards of Glen Echo Creek emerge from underground here, run through the park under a wooden footbridge, and then under Grand Avenue before emptying into the northwest corner of the lake. The flow of the stream is so slow before it goes under the footbridge that it forms a quiet little pool. Trees overhang this pool, and it is simultaneously both secluded and completely available to be observed by anyone interested in stepping three to four feet off the sidewalk and standing at a wrought-iron railing above the water. 

Pretty much every time I stop to do this, I find some combination of the following: A Mallard (fairly common), a Black-crowned Night Heron (sometimes standing on one leg), and a large turtle warming itself on a rock. When all three of them are there at the same time, they're kind of a gang, even though they don't appear to be paying any attention to each other. I often take a moment to enjoy these smaller neighbors of mine before continuing home, sometimes stopping in at the Whole Foods on the corner before making my way up the hill the last three blocks to the house.

Lynne and I moved to California to be with a particular group of people; to immerse ourselves in and share our lives with our Morehouse family. Getting to live in the City of Oakland, and continuously discover its many and varied charms, has turned out to be an unexpected bonus

Thanks again for reading.

Best Regards,


There's no effort in being interested.

-- Vic Baranco

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Eaglets Have Landed (Part III)

Dear Friends,

Here are the highlights of the 10 days between our arrival in Connecticut and our arrival in California:

  • Finishing unloading the truck and storing all the boxes in the basement. Then Lynne following me in the car as I drove the truck to the local U-Haul to return it.
  • Researching a flight we could afford that we could also coordinate with an available cargo reservation for Spritzie. This took many hours on the computer and the phone. We would drive to the library every day to use the public computers there, as Lynne's parents had no internet access.
  • Once we bought our plane tickets, finding out that the airline wouldn't waive their 10-day limit on Spritzie's medical certification to fly. We had had her examined 15 days earlier back in Yonkers, thinking we'd have purchased tickets within the 10-limit. We now needed to pay for a Connecticut vet to examine her again and re-certify her. (Consolation: She was an extremely nice vet.)
  • Visiting Lynne's father, who was staying at the local senior center until the physical therapy he'd been assigned could get him walking again, as he'd been having some trouble doing that. It was a pet-friendly place, so we got to take the dog with us on these visits, which was a treat for Lynne's dad. As a tough, old-school, retired fighter pilot, he was anxious to return home to his wife rather than be confined to a wheelchair and be dependent on and take orders from nurses.
  • Spending time at Petco to select a dog crate that was compliant with airline guidelines, would be comfortable for Spritzie, and fit within our budget. Once we made our purchase, we wanted to familiarize her with it. We kept the crate in our bedroom for a week with its door open until one night she got the hint and slept inside.
  • Going to the movies and generally socializing with Lynne's mother, who was an absolute angel, opening her home to us and taking compassionate care of us while we underwent this transition from our old life to our new.
  • Getting to know Lynne's brother Randy's new girlfriend, Debi. They invited us over for dinner at her house a couple of nights before our departure. She's a truly lovely person, and we were so glad we got to know her before we left. We hope they'll come stay for a visit with us here at the Morehouse.
  • Randy taking the day off from work and borrowing Debi's Jeep wagon so there'd be enough room in the car to take Lynne, me, Spritzie, the luggage and the rather large dog crate to Bradley International Airport in Hartford. He was patient, cheerful and encouraging as he took us to the industrial part of the airport to a cargo warehouse and waited with us while we filled out all the paperwork for Spritzie's travel arrangements. We said good-bye to our dog until we would see her again at San Francisco airport. It was pretty nerve-wracking to imagine her traveling alone in a cargo hold for 3,000 miles.
  • Getting on a small propeller plane for the first leg of our trip -- Hartford to Newark -- only to be told we'd be delayed for an hour, and there wasn't time for us to deplane, so we'd just have to sit there and wait. (I was mollified by them compensating us with a free drink.)
  • Calling the Animal Help Desk of Continental Airlines while sitting in a restaurant at Newark Airport until it was time to board, and finding out that Spritzie had somehow ended up on an earlier flight and would arrive in California an hour before we would.
  • Standing up from where I was sitting in the boarding gate area at Newark to look around, and hearing a voice say, “There's Gerry!” Miraculously, Jack, Ilana and Kassy, who had spent the previous week in Philadelphia teaching several courses, had just 15 minutes earlier been dropped off at the airport to fly home, along with Carol Sue, who had been with them doing effect. They were going to be on the same flight to California as we were! It seemed like a providential sign. (Carol Sue was going to be on a separate flight to Florida to visit her mother.)
  • Landing at SFO and walking briskly and anxiously to the luggage office to pick up Spritzie. She was sitting wide-eyed in her crate. She seemed a bit in shock at what she'd just undergone, and was tentatively happy to see us.
  • Getting out to the airport sidewalk where there were four cars waiting: Two for Jack, Ilana and Kassy and their luggage, and two for us, our luggage and our dog. As each car had two people in it, there were a total of eight Morehousers there to greet five Morehousers. It was a brief but lively sidewalk party of 13 friends, with quick hugs and greetings before everyone was whisked away.
  • Arriving at our new home, the Oakland Morehouse, and being led to the guest room. We had been prepared to rough it during our two-week Evaluate Program. Instead, we were confronted with this beautiful, romantic bedroom with a king-size bed surrounded by luxurious maroon velvet drapes. We were told that we were going to be given a day to rest from our travels, and then our Evaluacy would begin. We had completed our journey, and we were now in heaven.
Thanks again, readers, for being part of our lives.

Best Regards,


There's one essential ingredient to glory…doubt.

-- Vic Baranco

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mill Valley Dilly-Dally (with apologies to the Roches)

Hello, Adventure Readers!

My first two e-mails started to detail the challenges of our journey west – I've wanted to tell you that story – but our lives have raced along since we've actually arrived, and apparently there is a desire to here about that stuff as well. The following was e-mailed to us by one of you in response to my last installment:

"What a great story Georgia things go slow so I am use to that, but this is slower than any slow I know anything about. I am hearing all these great stories about you going to mark groups and doing fun things getting make overs so come on now!!!!!”

Oh, how I love feedback! As my goal is to please, my description of the journey that it took to get us here will take a break so I can include a story of the fun we've been having since we got here.

Here goes:
I was looking at the Lafayette Morehouse website recently and noticed that Sugar, Ezra and Carrie were going to be leading a Mark Group in Mill Valley the following Wednesday. That sure sounded like a good time to us, and it figured to be a one-shot deal, as Ezra and Carrie were going to be flying back on Friday to start their new life together in New York. We figured we would try to get to this Group.

On Sunday, I saw Ezra in Lafayette and asked him if he could give us directions to the Group, and who the host was. He said, “David Wood.” That sealed it: We were going. David was an old friend from the East Coast. He had been travelling a lot over the past couple of years and we hadn't seen him or heard from him in some time. We certainly hadn't known that he was living in the Bay Area, and we were pretty sure he didn't know that we had moved here, either. I asked Ezra not to tell him we were coming to the Mark Group, so it could be a surprise.

The directions on David's website said that, if one used Google Maps and a GPS, plus David's detailed instructions and the customized maps he'd posted, there was about an 87% chance of finding his house. We poo-pooed this, figuring our GPS was infallible. We left ourselves plenty of extra time, just in case, and boy, did we need it. Once we got within two or three miles of the address, it took us about 20 minutes of searching tiny, narrow roads carved into cliff sides with no guard rails before we found a mailbox with David's house number on it next to a postage-stamp-sized parking space. However, there was no house. That particular amenity could only be reached by walking up 108 stone steps. (Lynne: “108?! Did you read these directions ahead of time?”)

Because we'd left extra time for the trip, we actually got there at the scheduled starting time for the Group. As it turned out, we were the first to arrive. The look on David's face as he viewed us coming up those steps from his all-glass living room was priceless. He was completely surprised to see us. (“I don't get much walk-in traffic.”) But the biggest kick came about five minutes later when I mentioned that we had recently become residents of California. His eyes got wide and his jaw dropped. It was great.

Next the group leaders arrived, and then two carloads of participants. Once they all made it up the steps, David took everyone on a house tour, explaining that the place had been built in 1964 by a German World War II pilot who had personally carved the stones for the foundation out of the hillside itself. He had lived there with his wife until 2007, when they had gotten too old to climb the 108 steps (and they were only in their 80's!). Needless to say, the views from this exotic residence on top of a mountain were spectacular. We could see all the way across the valley to the mountain on the other side, while closer in were redwoods whose roots started far below where we stood and whose trunks shot up past us ending in branches high in the sky above us.

After the tour, we sat down in the living room by a fire and the Group started. The people in the room were Sugar, Ezra and Carrie, David, Kiva and Michael, Jill and Jeff, and us. It was the perfect grouping, big enough to have a good variety of hot seats, and small enough to be incredibly intimate, filled with love, and sometimes raucously hilarious. The group leaders set just the right tone, and we all jumped in.

There were many fun moments. It was a treat to watch David, who was the only single person in attendance, as he was exposed to people who were all in very dynamic relationships. Everyone knew each other pretty well, to varying degrees, and each person was quite open, revealing unique intimacies about life with his or her partner.

Carrie's hot seat was particularly gratifying. We had met her for the first time at a boisterous, large, crowded Mark Group during our Evaluacy a month earlier, and we had since been in several courses with her, but had never really sat down and gotten to know her. On her hot seat this night, we got to see what a mensch she was.

We were all having so much fun that, after the Group was over, David brought out food and drink and we were compelled to stay and party for a while. As we were leaving, I asked David, as he had warned everyone that there'd only been an 87% chance of our finding his place, what he saw as our chances of making it home that night. His reply was, “I hope you like sleeping in your car.”
You'd never know he used to do stand-up.

Predictably, even though we were using our GPS again, we took several wrong turns (this time in the pitch dark) before reaching the bottom of the mountain. Between the late start, the house tour, the after-party, and the difficulty of navigation, we got home at 11:30 from a Mark Group that had been scheduled to end at 9:30. All in all, it was a totally exhilarating evening.

Thanks for reading!

Best Regards,


Those who speak do not know. Those who know do not speak.” I wonder who said that.

-- Brian Shekeloff

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Eaglets Have Landed (Part II)

Sent to mailing list April 19, 2010

Dear Fellow Adventure Junkies,

Our apologies that is has taken us so long to send you this second installment of our tale. We've been quite busy recently (and loving every moment of it!).

Part I ended with us sleeping over at my brother's house in White Plains to avoid driving home in the storm that had blacked out the entire neighborhood. The next morning was Sunday, March 14. My brother woke us up at 7:30 and reminded us that the clocks had been moved up an hour to Eastern Standard Time. There was still no electricity, but the weather was considerably calmer. No wind, and a drizzling rain. Rather than drive back to Yonkers, we decided to go directly to the Bronx where our our reserved U-Haul truck was awaiting us. Our plan was to store the remainder of our belongings in the basement of Lynne's parents house in northern Connecticut and then fly to California out of Hartford. I was to make the 2½-hour trip from Yonkers driving the 14-foot rental truck containing 40 or so boxes, and Lynne would follow in the car with Spritzie. After picking up the truck at the U-Haul, we got to practice our skills at caravan driving, as we drove up Broadway for 25 minutes from the Bronx to Yonkers. It went very smoothly.

After parking the truck in front of the purple house, I went off to get refreshments for the crew, and when I returned, there they were: Deborah, Margret, Will, Cindy and Bruce, all ready to form a bucket brigade to bring the boxes from the porch down the steps to the truck, where I carefully loaded them so they wouldn't shift or fall during the trip. What a heroic bunch these friends were! A job that would have token one person a back-breaking two hours took six people a fun 25 minutes. The rest of the afternoon was spent hurriedly getting any leftover stuff into our suitcases. At about 4:30pm, we took off.

We had to stay off parkways because I was driving a commercial vehicle, so we went north on Broadway to Tarrytown and turned east on the Cross Westchester Expressway. The first big test for the caravan came shortly after, at the split between I-87 and I-287. As the dusk darkened I watched in my rearview mirror to see if I could tell if Lynne had split off onto I-287 behind me. As if reading my mind, she flashed her headlights to assure me she was still with me. Of course, we had our cell phones with us and Lynne had the GPS she had given me for Christmas with her in the car. But the most reassuring knowledge was that, the farther along the route we got, the more familiar it got to Lynne, as we were headed to her parents' house, the house where she grew up, so she knew the route well.

As it got darker and darker, it was harder for me to see Lynne in the car behind me, but it was easy for Lynne to see me in the big U-Haul truck in front of her. After making one rest stop, and driving more slowly than we normally would have, the caravan arrived at the old homestead at around 8:30, and we carefully parked the truck and the car in the parental driveway. We were greeted by Lynne's mother, as well as Lynne's nephew and his fiancee, who promptly made us toasted cheese sandwiches. Lynne's nephew, a very strong young man, helped me unload some of the boxes from the truck and take them to the basement. It was getting late, however, and we left the rest of the cargo unloading for the next day.

As we lay in bed that night, we reflected on what we'd just accomplished. My image of it was that we had achieved “escape velocity” and muscled free of earth's gravity. Lynne's take was that we were a tree with very, very deep roots that had taken all our strength to pull up. The end result was that we were not only not living in a Morehouse anymore, we were no longer residents of Yonkers, or even New York State. And we weren't yet residents of any place new. We felt kinda homeless.

OK, kids, off to bed now. We'll tell more of the story later.

Thanks for reading!

Best Regards,


To get what you want you're going to have to do whatever it takes, even if it means being happy.

-- Vic Baranco

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Eaglets Have Landed (Part I)

Sent to mailing list March 30, 2010

Dear Co-conspirators in Fun,

Well, we made it! We are in the middle of the first week of our
Evaluacy at the Oakland Morehouse. The journey from where we were to where we are was possibly the greatest challenge either of us had ever faced, and the results have been well worth it. Here's a taste of the first few steps of our adventure:

Once the decision was made on February 20th that we were going to leave Yonkers, the subsequent three weeks were spent pretty much non-stop sorting through, throwing out and packing 16 years of accumulated worldly possessions, and navigating the bureaucratic obligations of dismantling New York More and turning over operations of the charity, We Are Family, Inc., to the Board of Directors.

Don't worry: There was also much that was entertaining during this time. On the very first weekend we started packing, we got to experience our final major East Coast snowstorm prior to becoming residents of the State of California. It was a doozy! After 48 hours, we ended up with about 18 inches of snow, more than either of us could ever remember from one storm. The following Tuesday and Wednesday (once the roads had been cleared enough to go out), we had back-to-back days of farewell lunches at our favorite restaurant in the area, Harvest on Hudson, in Hastings. The first lunch was with my father and my father's girlfriend, and the second one was with Deborah and Keith. These meals were poignant, opportunities both for final best wishes to each other, and also for discussions of our expectations for our new life, which were just beginning to become real to us.

On Saturday, March 6, our dear housemates threw us a going-away bash which 40 people attended. It was an extremely fun and gratifying way for them to have arranged for us to say good-bye to so many good friends. Thanks, guys! The next day, Sunday, March 7, we drove into Manhattan and had a farewell brunch with my mother and sister, also a very emotional experience. My mom, in particular, made a point of letting us know that, while she was extremely disappointed that we were leaving, she completely understood it was the right move for us to make at this point in our lives.

On Saturday, March 13, the movers arrived and loaded up the boxes of stuff that we were shipping to California. That certainly felt like a milestone! My brother and sister-in-law had invited us to a dinner party that same night which was also to include my mother, my niece and nephew, my nephew's recently-pregnant wife, and her parents. During what should have been a half-hour drive to their house in White Plains, there was a violent rainstorm. (It was later rumored that the winds had reached 75 mph.) Our way was often blocked by large fallen trees, and several times we had to detour off the main road because emergency crews were clearing branches and downed power lines. We sometimes had to drive right over branches and wires, and flying debris occasionally struck the car. It felt as if we were in a movie, driving through a war zone.

Had it not been for the fact that we were on our way to be with family members whom we'd be seeing for the last time before moving 3,000 miles away, we would have considered turning back. But there was no way we were going to miss this party, and we kept going. It took us 20 minutes longer than it should have, but we got there. In addition to the relief of arriving alive, it was, needless to say, a joy to see everyone. (We always have a great time with my family.) Then, just as a truly lovely, intimate dinner was about to draw to a close, the storm took out the electricity in the entire neighborhood. We had dessert by lantern-light and then moved into the living room where we all sat quietly chatting around the fireplace in the relative dark, save for the light of the fire. Rather than risk driving home in the storm, we spent the night at my brother's. The next day we were going to be leaving Yonkers for good.

We're figuring that this may be more than enough of the tale for one sitting, so we'll sign off now. Please stay tuned for the next installment. In the meantime, to quote Thornton Wilder, ...we're hoping the rest of you have just the right amount of sitting quietly at home... and just the right amount of adventure!


Best Regards,

Trust is built on a repetition of experience.

-- Vic Baranco