Stories I enjoyed writing

The Pacific Northwest Inlander, Skating Summer Adventures:

The world is a soft purple blur, as my Sector 9 longboard carries me farther and farther up Fish Lake Trail — a picturesque 10-mile path that begins off Sunset Highway and Government Way, just minutes from Browne’s Addition. Rolling fields draped in velvety carpets of lilac-shaded lupines engulf both sides of the road. Evening’s late light washes a golden hue over the Palouse hill crests, and the air smells like summer camp: sweet, thick, and heavy with pine. Click here to read more.

508f2790925b1.preview-300The Gilroy Dispatch, Ghost tales, shadows of San Juan

Elizabeth Zanetta loves to play with her toys.

She also forgets to put them away sometimes, as children often do – but it’s not like Elizabeth can be put in time-out for being untidy. The 7-year-old has been dead for 139 years.

“When she died in that house, she stayed in that house – and she’s still there,” says self-described “ghost host with the most,” Leah Resendez.

A docent for the Plaza Association at the San Juan Bautista State Historic Park, Resendez regales intimate audiences with local lore during the town’s annual Ghost Walk, which took place Friday and Saturday under a starry October sky.

Holding a candle in one hand and directing attention to the 1868 Plaza Hall – a two-story ornate, Gothic/Victorian home painted peach pink and canary yellow – Resendez explained how Elizabeth’s ghost likes to visit her old nursery.

The daughter of a well-to-do San Juan hotelier/restaurateur named Angelo Zanetta, Elizabeth succumbed to smallpox in 1873 and now rests in the Zanetta family plot inside the San Juan Bautista Cemetery District, which sits on a hill along south Church Street overlooking Highway 156.

At night, however, “she takes her toys and she plays with them just as any child would play with their toys,” explained Resendez. “And when the state park staff gets back in the morning, they have to open all the alarmed and locked gates and go back in and rearrange everything. It’s become a nightly occurrence for them. It’s normal now. It’s a routine.”

“Routine” is an apropos characterization for how some San Juan locals acknowledge the presence of their otherworldly neighbors. When one lives or works in a town that looks like the set of “High Noon,” has been around since the late 1700s and boasts a secret network of musty underground tunnels, some would say that coexisting with specters of yore comes with the territory.

art18559wideaThe Pacific Northwest Inlander, Hollowed out

Carving pumpkins is sort of like eating pancakes: all exciting at first, and then you get sick of it halfway through.

Your hand starts to cramp up from gripping that little knife so hard. The cat silhouette you were attempting to carve looks more like an amoeba. Separating those delicious seeds from the slimy pumpkin pulp is a gross (but worthwhile) task. And your kitchen table ends up a sticky mess of stringy fruit entrails and damp newspapers.

Make no mistake — pumpkins are as essential to Halloween as candy corn and 24/7 reruns of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

But just what, exactly, are the origins of our pumpkin-centric fervor that make us so giddy to bundle up in scarves and frolic about Green Bluff with wheelbarrows and cameras? To whom do we owe the beloved custom of disemboweling a giant orange squash and putting fire inside of it?

A bunch of prankster kids, for starters. Read more.

The Pacific Northwest Inlander, College Guide 2010:

The allies you’ll need and the enemies that can end your college adventures with a splatter. Sometimes you’re the superhero at college. But other times you’re the damsel — or man-damsel (mamsel?) — in distress. Here are the true heroes of college, the allies you’ll need most to save you when you’re hanging from a burning rope over a pit of mutant alligators. Metaphorically (usually). Click here to read more.

The Pacific Northwest Inlander, College Guide Utility Belt: 

Clip this ‘round your waist before doing battle with scholastic evils. Every superhero has his lifesaver. This will be yours. Think your lit professor provides deadline elasticity for students who spill lattes all over their keyboards at 2 o’clock in the morning and fry their hard drives? Not likely. Never overestimate a laptop’s durability or lifespan. Shit happens. Be ready for it. Back. That. Assignment. Up. Are we coming across as paranoid? Try re-writing that 15-pager for Communication Ethics an hour before it’s due. Click here to read more.

The Pacific Northwest Inlander: Pop Culture Guide to Pagliacci

Let’s do some math: a century-old opera unhappy clowns a language other than English. Not your standard equation for indulgent time-wastage. But infidelity murder jealousy totally is, and Pagliacci has all three. It may be 118 years old, but Ruggero Leoncavallo’s play-within-a-play has enough Italian drama to rival MTV’s Jersey Shore. We’ll prove it. Click here to read more.

The Gilroy Dispatch: Lint rain everywhere

Lint is on the loose in Gilroy. Fluffy blue tufts of cotton candy-like lint balls are bespeckling driveways, collecting in corners of carports and amassing along sidewalk gutters at the Wagon Wheel Mobile Village at 8282 Murray Avenue. Click here to read more.

Sex and the spookyGilroy Dispatch, Sex and the spooky

Displays of flirty costumes inside local Halloween stores evoke a scene from the 2004 film “Mean Girls,” which glibly lampoons the nylon-thin line between “costume” and “lingerie.” “What are you?” queries a character named Gretchen Wieners, ogling at her scandalously dressed companion, Karen Smith.

Flaunting a risque, baby doll negligee that stops short of mid-thigh, a perturbed Smith rolls her eyes and cocks her hips. “I’m a mouse,” she huffs, pointing an index finger to a pair of fuzzy ears perched atop her head. “Duh.”

CowThe Gilroy Dispatch, How now, proud cow?

Glossy hides rippling with brindle stripes, handsome faces splashed with freckles, dramatic eyebrows to rival Elizabeth Taylor, eyelids draped in feathery lashes and highlighted by lines of color.

They’re beauty queens, all right. Bovine beauty queens. “To me, you can’t find six prettier cows than the ones you’re looking at right now,” says Ray Beadle. He waves his hand at an attractive group of cows, lounging in a 350-acre pasture in San Benito County. Unflinching, the lovely livestock stare back inquisitively like big, docile dogs. Beadle adds, “That is, if you’re into cows.” Reared in the concrete streetscapes of Los Angeles, the now 71-year-old Texas Longhorn breeder became smitten with Western nostalgia at a young age. Admiring his cowboy uncles from the Midwest, an adolescent Beadle practiced roping on fire hydrants. Now tending to 70 cows, 29 calves and four bulls, the white-haired rancher is an eclectic form of bovine enthusiast.

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