Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything

I am now the answer to life, the universe, and everything! That started a week ago. But I've been neglecting LiveJournal for a while now, so I'm going to try to catch up a bit on the backlog before I write about birthday-related activities.

So, spring happened. I wrote about the garden tour already, but I haven't yet gotten around to posting this picture Barry took of me in his back yard in early May.

me in Barry's back yard, May 2018

In addition to all the plant reproduction that tends to happen in spring, there also tends to be quite a bit of feline reproduction in the spring. Accordingly, Barry has lately taken in a long succession of foster kittens. The first one, in June, was a grey/brown tabby who needed to be "socialized" because he was terrified of everyone. I named him Bolt, after the brown tabby in Neko Atsume, and also because, at first, he wanted to bolt away from us at every opportunity. But we successfully socialized him in no time. Here I am with Bolt.

me with Bolt, June 2018

me with Bolt, June 2018

The next one was a gray-and-white kitten whom I named Rascal, after the similarly colored kitten in Neko Atsume. Barry took in Rascal in late June and returned him to the shelter in early July. Rascal was also on the shy side at first, but not quite as shy as Bolt. He didn't initially act like a rascal, but he kind of grew into his name during his two weeks at Barry's house.

me with Rascal, July 2018

me with Rascal, July 2018

The next two were littermates, two brothers whom Barry fostered together. These two were probably in the most desperate need of "socializing," because whereas Bolt and Rascal had initially just cowered from us, the first time I tried to pick up one of these two, I got my hand sliced up by the claws of a very panicked kitten. One of these two was a long-haired, mostly white kitten with a line of striped brown patches down his back and an eye infection that Barry needed to keep medicating. I named this one Garland, because the line of brown patches down his back reminded me of a garland. We also joked about calling him Merrick, for should-have-been Supreme Court Justice Merrick Garland, but by the end of his stay with us, I had decided instead that his full name was Sir Garland Floofkitten.

Barry named Garland's littermate Kefka, because apparently Garland and Kefka were two villains in the Final Fantasy video game series. Kefka was the more powerful villain, and this seemed appropriate to me, since Kefka was the kitten who had sliced up my hand when we first met. Kefka was mostly a brown tabby, but with white paws and a white front/underside. Kefka's tabby bits had an unusual pattern; he was a ticked tabby rather than the more common mackerel tabby.

They were both adorable, and of all the kittens Barry has fostered, these two were the ones I've been most tempted to adopt. Alas, there are no open slots for more cats in our lives, since Barry already has three cats and I have one who is already upset enough about sharing me with Barry's three.

Here are Kefka (left) and Garland (right).

Kefka and Garland, July 2018

Garland on my lap.

me with Garland, July 2018

Kefka on my lap.

me with Kefka, July 2018

Speaking of Barry's cats, here are a couple of pictures of Barry's oldest cat, Jazz, on my lap.

me with Jazz, July 2018

me with Jazz, July 2018

And just so my own cat doesn't feel neglected . . . here is Stardust.

Stardust (age 12)

We also did various other stuff during the spring. We went to a friend's college graduation party; she acquired a degree in statistics from the University of California at Davis. We went to various board-game parties and to a friend's birthday party that was held in a board-game store. My mom had a birthday too, and Barry and I walked down to a creek in my parents' neighborhood with my family. We celebrated Mothers' Day and Fathers' Day and my brother's birthday. Barry cooked a bunch of meals for my family on those occasions.

And then there was my birthday. For this occasion, Barry not only cooked dinner (a Japanese dish called oyakodon, meaning "chicken-and-egg rice bowl," which went over quite well with my family of generally rather unadventurous eaters) and supplied birthday cake; he also brought a ladder and level to my parents' house and installed lights and a longer pull-chain on one of my parents' ceiling fans, used the level to straighten a tapestry that has been hanging crookedly on my parents' wall for years, and took measurements to laser-cut a decorative windowshade for the hemicircular window in my parents' bedroom, where my mom has for years been trying to block out the light with an ugly and irregularly cut piece of cardboard because she couldn't find anything for sale in the necessary half-circle shape.

And then there were the presents! Barry and I stopped by the Marysville Peach Festival on our way out of town, and Barry bought me a bottle of peach-infused honey and a bag of orange-zest-dipped cashew nuts there. At my parents' house, I received the following:

  • the YA novel Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (from my parents)
  • the novel Noonday by Pat Barker (from Barry)
  • the novel Sweet and Sour Milk by Nuruddin Farah (from my parents)
  • the play The Rez Sisters by Tomson Highway (from my brother)
  • the novel Bel-Ami by Guy de Maupassant (from my parents)
  • the short-story collection How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer (from my parents)
  • the graphic novel My Boyfriend Is a Bear by Pamela Ribon and Cat Faris (from Barry)
  • the essay collection Imperial America: Reflections on the United States of Amnesia by Gore Vidal (from my parents)
  • the memoir Educated by Tara Westover (from my parents)
  • one pair of red and white running socks (from my parents)
  • one pair of yellow and black running socks (from my parents)
  • one purple, grey, and pink water bottle with attached running belt (from my parents)
  • six pairs of blue and green gardening gloves (from my parents)
  • the wide-brimmed blue sun hat you'll see in photographs below (from my parents)
  • eight stretchy silicone airtight lids for pots, pans, and jars (from Barry)
  • a valve handle for my outdoor faucet that has been missing the knob to turn the water on with ever since I bought my house six years ago (from Barry)
  • a Roomba (from Barry)

So far, I've finished reading the YA novel and the graphic novel, started reading the play, drank from the water bottle, wore the hat, started up the Roomba, and eaten some of the cashews and honey. Good progress!

I scheduled a four-day weekend to celebrate my birthday. We spent Friday at the Peach Festival and my parents' house. On Saturday we packed lunches and drove to a swimming hole on Rock Creek, near the town of Storrie. This trip did not go as well as I had hoped. I had learned about the swimming hole in a book I own, which included a rock-climbing icon next to the entry for Rock Creek, but which did not say anything in the text about the swimming hole requiring difficult or dangerous climbing to get to. When we arrived, however, I was immediately intimidated. Usually I find that the easiest way to get to a swimming hole in a creek without any terribly difficult climbing is to get in upstream or downstream and wade through the creek to get to the spot I want. As long as I stay in the water, there's never any great height for me to risk falling from. But in this case, the entire width of the creek was blocked off by huge boulders, with no gaps for me to wedge between them. So the only way to cross was high up in the air. My sense of balance has never been great (I've never even learned to ride a bicycle!), and I did not have great confidence in the traction of the water shoes I was wearing.

There were three routes to choose from. The first one was a slanting rock ledge, maybe thirty feet above the ground, with some cables attached to a portion of it, and a rickety, angled wooden ladder leading down from the cables. We saw that route first. Barry looked it over and said he could probably make it but I wouldn't want to. I didn't even bother looking at that route from up very closely, but from what I saw of it, I'm pretty sure I would have felt a need for cables much sooner than the cables actually started.

A second route consisted of climbing over various boulders. Barry started to lead me along that route, but when we got to a substantial gap between boulders high over the water, he asked if I wanted to turn back, and I said yes. Again, he thought he could make it himself, but he correctly guessed that I would be more intimidated.

 The third route was another slanting, slippery rock precipice, but shorter and lower down, and without any cables. This one was about ten feet above the water, and it seemed be the favored route for six-year-olds, whose parents stood at either end or halfway along, reaching out to help them along. However much help they got, however, Barry and I both thought it was crazy to put small children at this much risk of terrible falls. And unfortunately I, being an adult, would have been much harder to catch than the six-year-olds if I fell.

Barry decided to take the cable route and see how things looked on the other side. In the meantime, I decided to stand around looking intimidated and asking people which route was the easiest. There was general agreement that the cable route was the hardest and that all of the routes were very hard. There was not much consensus about which route was the least hard.

Here is a picture Barry took while standing above the ladder on the cable route. This shows the cables he had just finished crossing, and me standing below (in the blue hat). The lower ridge that the small children were crossing was directly below the cable route, blocked from view by the cliff. The children's route involved edging over a narrow, slanting, slippery precipice the length of that bit of water you can see here, from the crowd where I am standing to the group of three people on the other side.

cables at Rock Creek, July 2018

A closer view shows a substantial number of children of various ages (and me in the blue hat).

me in the crowd at Rock Creek, July 2018

Feeling that all three routes were too dangerous for me, I opted to try to create a fourth route. I waded across the bit of water you can see above, to skip the slanting, slippery precipice. However, that left me at the bottom of the opposite end of the slanting precipice, with my way forward blocked by boulders. If I could have just gotten up the slant at that one spot I'd have been at the swimming hole. And there were things there for other people to hold onto, so they wouldn't be precariously balanced anymore, so I thought they would be able to help me up. But even when someone did reach down to try to help me up, it was just too steep for me to get up out of the water. So I gave up. I told the man trying to help me that I was giving up, and I asked him to pass on a message to Barry on the other side, asking Barry to come back for me. Barry received the message and became convinced I had suffered broken bones. He returned via the second route, climbing over the boulders, and was relieved to find out that I had merely chickened out and not injured myself.

Then we drove a little way back downstream to a different parking area to find a spot where the water was easier to access. My book about swimming holes mentioned this place too, but it directed us to walk on a path that we ended up deciding not to attempt, for fear of more dangerous routes. Even in the spot where we ended up stopping, we still had to ask some passersby for help at one point, when I couldn't get up a certain rock and Barry's shoes didn't have enough traction on the slippery slope for him to pull me up by himself. And somewhere along the way, I ended up pulling a rib muscle and smashing one of my toenails (my toenail has been blue ever since and will probably fall off eventually; my pulled muscle hasn't healed yet either). Although Barry was more capable of handling the climb than I was, he also regarded the routes as unappealingly dangerous and would prefer to avoid such places in the future. In short, Rock Creek is not worth ever going back to!

Nevertheless, once we finally found a safe spot to hang out, we did have quite a nice little swim. We ate our lunches by the water and then stripped down to our swimsuits. I washed out my skirt and laid it out to dry on a rock, because it had been significantly muddied when I had to slide down a steep rock on my backside. Then I floated on my back, and Barry climbed down a small waterfall and back up again. The water was not as freezing as it had been at the swimming hole on Cherokee Creek where I took him last summer, and I was pleased that he was more willing to get in the water here because of that. He still has a significantly lower tolerance of cold water than me, but this may be related to the fact that he grew up in Phoenix. I advised him that he would adjust to the water temperature if he stayed in the water for sixty seconds, and he tried it and said this was accurate.

Here is my hot boyfriend in swim trunks and a T-shirt.

Barry at Rock Creek, July 2018

And here I am in a swimdress with a long skirt over it.

me at Rock Creek, July 2018

me at Rock Creek, July 2018

That was on Saturday. On Sunday we were sore. Especially I was sore, because of my pulled muscle in my right rib area and my smashed right second toe. But Barry said he had some mildly sore muscles also. We spent Sunday at my house. Barry looked at my broken outdoor lamp and said he will install a new one for me next time he's here. Then we played the "I Know What I Want" scenario in the board game Fog of Love. We flipped cards to determine each of our genders, but I ended up female, and Barry ended up male. I worked as a florist, until I quit that job halfway through the game and moved to another city to become a pilot. I was a daredevil yet also a worrywart. I was also a workaholic. I named myself Jill. Barry named himself Anton; he was a Russian chef and hated children. He even hated having children eat at his restaurant. We met at a childfree speed-dating service, which I attended because my devotion to my florist shop did not leave me any time for having children. But my aunt became convinced that his name meant he was a follower of Anton LaVey, and she started spreading rumors on Facebook that he was a satanist. I telephoned her and screamed at her, and this upset Anton, because he wanted to have a calm conversation with her about it.

The goal we both chose to strive for was to be equal partners in the relationship, but Barry won the game with this goal, whereas I did not have quite enough relationship satisfaction to win. I could have had enough relationship satisfaction if I had chosen to cheat on Anton, but then our relationship satisfaction would have been too unequal for us to succeed at being equal partners, so then neither of us would have won. Besides, I didn't want to cheat on him. Though it did turn out, at the end of the game, that Anton was being a bit dishonest with me; he had claimed to be older than he really was, because he thought I would like him better if he were older.

Anyway, then came Monday - the final day of my four-day birthday weekend. On Monday we drove to the small town of La Porte, California (population 26), to tour the Gold Rush-era ghost towns in the area. I had already taken this tour once before, in 2013, with Susan, while she was sneaking around behind my back to flirt with someone else. But it was my idea - I found the directions and suggested it - and I wanted to go back, this time with someone emotionally and morally functional. So we went! We took my car. It was nearly 20 miles of driving on rough dirt roads; it might have been worth taking Barry's pickup truck instead. But we managed in my car. The first stop was some old mine tailings.

mine tailings near La Porte

mine tailings near La Porte

mine tailings near La Porte

mine tailings near La Porte

This is Barry!

Barry among mine tailings, July 2018

Next, we stopped at the bridge over Slate Creek. We stripped down to swimsuits again and waded over to two short waterfalls. This place is amazing! The rocks are amazing swirls of color in amazingly billowy shapes.

The swirls of color are best seen in this direction.

Slate Creek bridge

The billowy shapes are best seen in this direction. As is Barry!

Barry at Slate Creek, July 2018

The water here was a nicely mild temperature. My hot desert-native boyfriend approved.

Barry at Slate Creek, July 2018

I also approved. Of the whole place! Everything! And of my hot boyfriend.

me at Slate Creek, July 2018

We stripped down to swimsuits and waded over to the two short waterfalls on the left and right of the picture below. They were each about five or six feet tall. I stood at the base of one of them and let the water fall onto me. I raved to Barry about the beauty of it all. Barry stood under the waterfall too.

Slate Creek waterfalls

Then we sat on the rock next to the big, poofy sedge and the umbrella plant (Darmera peltata) while I continued raving.

Slate Creek

Then we saw some ruins of old ghost towns!

This is the remains of the Wells Fargo building in Port Wine. One half of the double door is still standing.

ruins of the Wells Fargo building in Port Wine

The other half has fallen.

ruins of the Wells Fargo building in Port Wine

Barry and I looked at the Wells Fargo. We could not find an ATM.

Barry at the ruins of the Wells Fargo building in Port Wine

Next, we stopped at a sign about Port Wine. The sign says, "Port Wine had its beginnings in early 1850. By 1851 surface mining had declined, but hydraulic mining instilled new life into the area. Port Wine was described as a religious and sober town in 1863. There was a post office and Wells Fargo Express building in town. Port Wine had an active ski or "snow shoe" racing club, and competed against other mining towns in the area. Please help protect your American Heritage."

Port Wine sign

We ate lunch at the Port Wine cemetery. We saw some huge native ants here. I accidentally brought one of them back to my house. This is the grave of the Davis family. This cemetery is mostly Gold Rush-era graves, but this grave had been opened up much more recently than the others, to have a final person buried here in 1990.

Davis grave in Port Wine cemetery

It appeared to be a mother, Myrtle (1884-1947), and her two sons, Fred F. (1906-1990) and Durward M. (1909-1942). Fred F. lost his younger brother during World War II and his mother five years later, but he lived for more than 40 years beyond either of them. And if he married, it wasn't apparently important to him to be buried with his wife. You can see that when he had the stone carved, he added himself to it but didn't leave any space for his own death date. I imagine him coming here regularly, over miles of dirt roads, to visit his mom and his brother, always planning to be buried with them someday.

Davis gravestone in Port Wine cemetery

Our last stop on the dirt roads was at Cedar Creek Ravine. Here we ran into an older couple who turned out to live in my area, in Yuba City. They were camping at one of the nearby campgrounds and had come to Cedar Creek Ravine to pan for gold. They had a pickup truck, and they warned us that the road ahead had been torn up by logging trucks and was too rough for my car. We didn't have much left we were planning to see anyway, so we took their advice and returned the same way we had come. First, though, we went swimming!

We waded upstream a little to get to the best swimming hole. This is the view back toward the car from the edge of the swimming hole.

Cedar Grove Ravine

This is the swimming hole. With me in it! Behind me and slightly to the left is a small waterfall.

me at Cedar Grove Ravine, July 2018

I climbed up into the waterfall.

me at Cedar Grove Ravine, July 2018

I tried to keep my balance on sloped boulders.

me at Cedar Grove Ravine, July 2018

I stood up high!

me at Cedar Grove Ravine, July 2018

I tried to slide down the rocks. It didn't work very well.

me at Cedar Grove Ravine, July 2018

Barry also got into this swimming hole. Of all the places we swam, he had the most fun here.

Barry at Cedar Grove Ravine, July 2018

We even climbed into the waterfall together. It was a good time. My hot boyfriend enjoyed himself!

Barry at Cedar Grove Ravine, July 2018

And I enjoyed myself too!

me at Cedar Grove Ravine, July 2018

There was only one thing on our Monday trip that didn't go quite perfectly, and that was my car. Just as we were almost out of the dirt roads, my car started having problems. I'd had to keep it in first gear on all the dirt roads, to get traction on unpaved hills. When we were about two miles short of returning to pavement, I found that I was having to absolutely floor the gas pedal to keep the car moving forward. And the "Check Engine Soon" warning light on my dashboard started intermittently lighting up and then shutting off again. The car kept moving, albeit slowly, but eventually the "Check Engine Soon" warning light stayed steadily lit. This worried us enough that we returned to Marysville a little sooner than we otherwise might have, opting not to explore the nearby Little Grass Valley Reservoir. We did stop for a delicious lunch on the way home though, at a cafe called One-Eyed Jack's, in the town of Clipper Mills. Barry stayed the night at my house, and when I dropped my car off for repair on Tuesday morning, he drove me back to my house in his truck. My car was diagnosed with a misfiring #3 sparkplug and repaired for $150, and then all was well again.

Whew! It's been a great birthday adventure. I have the best boyfriend! He makes my time with him amazing.

Tags: #3, barry, gifts, photographs
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