Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Sam Means and Michael Fleischhauer both wrote on ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE Chapter 5, “The Molly Moochers.” Don’t worry, we’ll get to Mike’s elegant Chapter 5 post (with cool photos!) in a couple of days. But what about sad, neglected Chapter 4, and even Chapter 3, rather glossed over in our thread? What about those worthy Kingsolverian efforts? Well, the old professor just can’t let two significant chapters slide by without appropriate attention. Hence, with Chapter 3 as our first subject, fellow tribe members, get ready for a little . . .

Pop Quiz

1. T.S. Eliot wrote that “April is the cruelest month.” What point is Kingsolver trying to make by opening Chapter 3 with this quote?

2. If you want reliable, year-in-year-out, plant ‘em once and forget about ‘em, early spring “Surprises” leaping forth from the earth to delight you, what could you plant?

3. What are the benefits of planting heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables?

4. Why are hybrid seeds more profitable than heirloom seeds?

5. What is a terminator gene? (lots of pun and wise crack possibilities with this one, huh?)

6. What are the four major “breeding” goals of industrially-created supermarket vegetables and fruits?

7. T or F Modern U.S, consumers get to taste less than 1% of the vegetable varieties that were grown here a century ago.

8. T or F In Peru, the original home of potatoes, Andean farmers once grew some four thousand varieties of potatoes.

9. T or F Now, even in the areas of Peru least affected by the modern market, only a few dozen varieties of potatoes are grown.

10. T or F Three quarters of all human food now comes from just eight species, with the field quickly narrowing down to genetically modified corn, soy, and canola.

11. T or F In 1981 about 5,000 varieties of vegetables were available in seed catalogues. In 1998, the number was down to 600.

12. Six companies—Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont, Mitsui, Aventis, and Dow—now control 98% of the world’s ________________________. (fill in the blank)

13. Why did Monsanto sue (and win!) Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser?

14. The most common genetic modifications in U.S. corn, soy, cotton, and canola do one of two things. What are they?

15. Monsanto allocates $10 million dollars a year to hunt down and prosecute what kind of notorious North American criminal?

16. Our national food addiction to two crops have made us the fattest people who have ever lived. What are those two crops?

17. T or F The diversity of food crops is again on the rise in the United States.

18. What is the goal of Slow Food International?

19. Why are multivitamins and food supplements not a long term substitute for eating a variety of fresh foods?

20. Which of Camille Kingsolver’s recipes, Eggs in a Nest or Spinach Lasagna, are you going to cook first this Spring? You must, of course, render a full report to the tribe.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010



You are invited to join Bob Jenkins and Maggie Hollinbeck on Saturday April 10th to visit the ghost of our departed friend at his secret clearing in Grass Valley, California.

After Robert died, four of us found a place in the Empire Mines State Park and planted a tree in Rob’s memory. We called the tree, Rob’s Redbud. We also planted Weird Tokens of Dire Portent and goofed around. The following year, bears tore up the tree. From his bachelor pad in the afterlife, Rob must have guffawed at that. The Weird Tokens are still there, somewhere, and the clearing still carries a Prentice vibe, I kid you not. At least once a month, I visit that place, share a wise crack with Rob, and take a pee. Here’s the cool part: a fresh, young incense cedar is now growing where we planted that first tree.

The four original goofballs were Maggie Hollinbeck, Stacy Stafford, Andrew Kerr, and Bob Jenkins.

The schedule will be something like this, and you can join us at any point during the day.

12:00 Eating Locally (a short class taught by Bob at the Century 21 office)
1:00 Eating Locally (a repeat of the same class--about 15 minutes long)
2:30 Depart for the Secret Clearing
3:00 Celebration with Rob
3:30 Hike or run at Empire Mines, Grass Valley
6:00 Dinner
8:00 “Snow Falling on Cedars” at the Nevada Theatre in Nevada City

“Snow Falling on Cedars” by David Guterson features original goofball and SJSU Theatre Alum ANDREW KERR who promises he will know his lines by April 10. It is, after all, closing night. Tickets cost $20 in advance and $25 at the door. I have reserved 6 tickets. Maggie, her Friend, CJ and I will take four of them, so there are two more available at $20 for the first Friends of Rob who get in touch with me. There are still other tickets available, and you can reserve them yourself at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/ or get in touch with me through a Facebook message and I’ll help you out.

Maggie and Friend will be staying over on Saturday night at my house. You are welcome to crash with us at Lake of the Pines if we have some advance notice. There might be extra beds available or sofas or sleeping bags on the floor. Just let me know. We’ll get up on Sunday morning and cook a big communal breakfast.




(These notes and the commentaries that follow are a Facebook project based on Barbara Kingsolver's book "ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE A Year of Food Life." Each week a project member writes a response based on one chapter of the book. Together we read and talk our way through a year in the life of Kingsolver and her family. This response was authored by Sam Means and is prompted by Chapter Five, "Molly Mooching.")

Hello all!

As a man who strives to respect Nature as much as I can, it is refreshing to read a book that champions communion with the land and environment. This communion is a reality that can be accomplished by any of us. We see how the big farming corporations have put the farmer on a "pedestal," so through our low-attention-span apathy, it seems an unattainable realty. Yet, with each page, we see that not only is it an attainable goal, but that through the journey, one's soul grows and flourishes along side the life one grows and fosters.

I think that it is our disconnection with the land, and with the Circle of Life, that has withered our souls and personalities, like the plants that line the highway, choking in car fumes. Around me, I constantly see people running around with deep self-encompassed concern painted on their face. No smile, or even eye contact, passes between us, as if even the slightest token of energy may send their fragile reality into a tailspin. It is as if their inner being is a dry, sun-starved vine, scraping to the sky for a drop of loving sunlight, without care or notice of the symbiotic life all around them.

I theorize that it's this examination of our connection to Nature that is the basis behind the ideal of "Southern hospitality." The southern United States was (I can't say much about today) predominantly farmers and people that lived and worked directly with the land and growing life. This symbiotic connection, and gratitude, for the environment that fosters this communion truly influenced us as humans--much as we say we can influence plants by singing or talking to them. It's not a long leap to see that communion reflected in the way humans treated each other, not just in simple pleasantries, but in truly caring and helping each other through the sharing resources and fruits of labor.

Connection with the land also bleeds into the food we eat. As examined in "Like Water for Chocolate", love, but more importantly, energy is exchanged into the food we prepare, which has proven to enrich us more and even taste significantly better. This connection is lost in our manufactured foods and genetically engineered food sources.

Having said that, I'll focus on Part 5 of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: Molly Moochers.

We see a wonderful connection to the land in how every spot on the Kingslover Farm was named by some aspect of connection, connection that had been passed down through generations, thereby strengthening the bonds between these generations. When it fell upon the Kingslovers, who were not the original land owners, to assume the stewardship of the farm, these traditions were so alive, that the Kingsolvers too adopted the generations-old area names for the various nooks and crannies of their new land. Through this intimate relationship, they became "in-tune" enough to gather the delicious secrets of their land, especially the mushrooms, that if not correctly identified, could kill a person. Through these connections, they became in tune with their own balance in relation to their land, and began to understand the intricate schedule of when to plant and harvest, a knowledge lost to many of us who can go to the grocery store and consume anything from any harvest period or any environment. Hell, some of us are so disconnected that some call fish or chicken a vegetable.

I know that living the ideal lifestyle of the Kingslovers is a stretch, but I think if there's anything we can take from this book, it is to re-connect ourselves more consciously to the food we consume. Even if we are too poor to purchase organic or free range meals at most times, we should make an effort to research and purchase the types of foods that are indigenous to the land around us in their proper season. We should make an extra effort to cook our food and give it attention in preparation, instead of falling into microwaveable alternatives. It takes a little longer, but any worthwhile relationship does.

I propose that even in these seemingly small efforts, we will make strides in re-establishing the connection we have with Mother Nature, which will reflect in out behavior towards each other! Thank you so much for letting me be a part of this experiment with you all!



Saturday, March 20, 2010



Riverhill Farm

Getting ready to teach a couple of classes called “Eating Locally.” It would be a fine idea to drop in on my farmers and see if I could pick up a few ideas, and maybe a free vegetable. Alan Haight and Jo McProud are the owners of Riverhill Farm, the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) where I have been a member/shareholder for the past three years. They invited me to sit around their kitchen table for conversation and a cup of tea sweetened with honey from the hives behind the bunkhouse. These hives are actually owned by Randy Oliver. Alan and Joe provide him with a location for his apiary, and he gives them fresh wild honey. Symbiosis. Yum.

I told Allen and Jo the points I was going to make in my class.

  • Talk to farmers
  • Join a CSA
  • Buy as many groceries as you can from nearby farmers markets and food co-ops
  • Shop at grocery stores that buy local produce and that advertise where their food comes from
  • Plant your own garden, even if it’s one tomato plant in a barrel
  • When you dine out, favor restaurants that buy local produce
  • Join local food organizations so you can keep track of the food production and opportunities in your area
  • Stand tall and protect your local farmers when their enemies threaten them

As you probably suspect, they agreed with these points and helped me refine my ideas with their hard-earned wisdom. I asked them two questions that I thought might come up in my class:

“Eating locally sounds like a good idea, but isn’t it more expensive than shopping at Safeway?”

Jo responded with these remarks:

“We’re not trying to save the world. We’re business people making a living in a competitive market. Our weekly food boxes cost our members $27 compared to the same food in the same amount from a grocery store that cost $35. Last year we were selling vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes for $1.25 per pound compared to the same product in the stores at $4.99 per pound. Even though we know we are growing something really special, we have to face the economic realities of a free market. Have you tasted the difference between what we grow and what you buy from t the big chain stores?"

Indeed I have.

Riverhill Farm intern and Jo McProud

I asked my second question, “Farmers markets and CSAs make sense during the growing season, but what do your customers eat from November to June? What do they do after the last Riverhill Farm box is gone?”

Alan’s reply:

“They go back to the grocery store. As the winter and spring eating drags on, they start looking forward to the next season of fresh local produce. That makes it really special.”

Alan Haight

Our talk covered a lot of ground. I know a bit about eating locally in south Nevada County, but they are the real deal, the foundation of our local food production. It’s an honor for me to know them and to have the privilege of supporting their important work.
Farmers like Allen and Jo influence people’s lives and the quality of community life in many ways that most of us don’t realize. They provide free food to the local food bank and low-cost food to low-income families. They bring school children out to the farm to learn about the origin and value of food. They provide the very best stewardship of the land.

Through your farmers you come to identify with your community, your home town, as a place that grows your food, a place that is capable of supporting you.

Talk to your farmers.

(Oh yes, I did get the free vegetable, a bag of winter carrots right out of the ground. Gonna stop now and get dinner ready: fresh asparagus, sweet potatoes, local cheese, Truckee bread, California strawberries in cream, and the CARROTS! Wish you were all here to share it.)




Thursday, March 18, 2010



Spenceville Dogs

Spenceville Wildlife Refuge is a divine expanse of golden-haired hills where ancient oaks erupt like massive mushrooms. The Refuge is adjacent to Beale Air Force Base in the lower Sierra foothills. I like to run there, but only when I’m nearby on business, because the Refuge takes some getting to, and I feel guilty spending so much gasoline driving all the way out Waldo Road, my jump off point. Not guilty enough, however, to prevent me from enjoying, a few times each year, its grace and beauty.

If you want to run the Spenceville trails, you have to know when to go. At dangerous times of the year, the Refuge is intensely hunted. Deer, turkey, water fowl, and pigs. During the Fall it sounds like Omaha Beach on D Day. Better you should go running there when it calms down in the Spring. The paintball crowd also likes to stage their own brand of mayhem out among the oaks. They’re kind of lazy, and kind of drunk, so they mostly stay within a mile of their vehicles. I am through their war zone in less than 10 minutes. They hide their smirks from me, and I don’t let them see how I roll my eyes at them. Then, paintballers eat my dust, the Refuge is all mine.

Well, it’s mine and the cows. There are a gazillion free-range, pasture grazed, grass-fed cows wandering around everywhere. I think the local ranchers traded trail easements for grazing rights throughout the preserve. It seems to work. The cows ignore me even when I say nice things to them.

Today I parked out at the end of Waldo Road, by the old bridge, and began my run about four o’clock. It had been one of those irksome, arrhythmic work days, and, baby, I wanted some time alone. Solitude, quietude, and anonymity; three of the attributes I need for a contented life.

Solitude, quietude, and anonymity.

There were two other cars parked near the bridge, but I soon intercepted both parties on their way back in. The second group, a young couple, were chaperoned by a dignified short-haired pointer. We were happy to make each other’s acquaintance, me and the dog, I mean. Very polite he was. Maybe I should get a short-haired pointer? Just a thought. Leaving the dog and his people behind, I turned on the afterburner and began to feel the buzz that rises in me when I know I am finally running alone and in the wilderness. The Refuge belonged to me, to me alone. Oh yes, and the cows. Lots and lots of cows.

After a mile along the service road that winds through the hills, I turned through a cattle gate and entered an area of sun-lit, cattle-daubed pastures. Another mile, and I followed the path as it broke left and wandered upward into scrub forest and rock outcroppings. Before too long, I could hear the distant roar of the Falls. On maps they are usually labeled “Feather Falls,” but the old timers still call them “Fairy Falls,” and they are referring to the little forest spirit fairies, not some other kind. The Falls, by any name, are one of the secret treasures of the Sierra Foothills. They ain’t Moseoatunya, the Smoke That Thunders, but they’re still dramatic enough to catch you by surprise.

Fairy Falls is one of my favorite places on this earth.

At the bottom of the Falls is a gorgeous deep pool, just the right size for cooling off in the summer. Both Falls and pool are fenced, so you really oughtn’t climb the fence, but if you should happen to climb the fence, and I’m not suggesting this, you would then face a rather dicey climb down the rocks, and you probably oughtn’t try that either, but if you did, just saying, if you did, and it was a hot day in July, you might find some weathered old runner down there skinny dipping. You have been warned.

Continuing along the path above the Falls, you will come to a place where you can cross the creek. You’ll recognize the crossing by the remnants of steel cables that still swoop from one embankment to another. Now, you have to make a decision. You can turn around and go back the same way you came, a round trip run of about six and a half miles, mostly down hill on the return, or you can take your shoes off, sling them around your neck and wade across the creek. When the water is high and fast in the Spring, try not to slip. If you do reach the other side, put your shoes back on, take a breath and attack the forty-five degree upslope right in front of you. Yes, it does look like something out of a movie. Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima, perhaps. If you do make it to the top, you can run around for a while until you get hopelessly lost. So, unless you take me along to show you the twists and turns to loop back to the bridge, you could be in for a long, thirsty afternoon. Maybe you should exercise the first option, and just return the way you came. Capiche?

That’s what I did today, chickened out, turned around, and headed back the way I came. Oh, don’t give me any attitude. That section of trail across the creek is tough. Someday I’ll take you out there, and we’ll see just what happens to your attitude.

When I ran down and out of the scrub and rocks, I discovered that the cows had deserted the pastures. I could hear them for a while, faintly in the distance, giving udderance to their sundown moos. (Udderance, c’mon wake up!) Now, it became profoundly silent. Even my footfall on the soft dirt trail was muted. Glorious, late sunshine still warmed the open pastures, crisscrossed with indigo gullies that foreshadowed the evening’s arrival.

There! There in a patch of sunlight, I saw him watching me.

Old Man Coyote.

About a hundred feet away, he stood, getting along in years, but still fell and fearless. Handsome old devil. He turned his back on me and trotted off, but just a few steps. He had a thought. You could almost see that thought as he stopped and cocked his head. He turned around, facing me, and sat down on his haunches, watching. This was his place, and he wasn’t planning to skedaddle for the like of me.

I kept running, watching him, watching me. The curve of my path took me closer to him, but I didn’t stop.

“Buenos Dias, Senor Coyote.”

He didn’t move, not a blink.

I was now as close to him as my path was going to take me, passing right in front of him.

“Ey, Ese! Que paso!”


For some reason still unknown to me, I began to play the idiot. I jumped and bounced my way down the path, yipping and barking in my best Coyotese.


I tried a few howls.

“I am your brother the WOOOOOOOOLLLLLF!”

That got me one twitch, of one ear. Only one. Other than that twitch, he was frozen, watching me make a fool of myself. I was laughing now, laughing aloud. The distance between us slowly increased, the path reached a clump of brush, I turned a corner, and then, he was gone from sight, never having moved. He had held his ground.

I loved him for that. Loved him beyond expression in words.

A few more minutes of delirious running and I was back to the truck. Running into that coyote was the coolest thing that happened to me all week. Probably it doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, just two old dogs sniffing each other, out in the Spenceville Wildlife Refuge.


Friday, March 12, 2010



(These notes and the commentaries that follow are a Facebook project based on Barbara Kingsolver's book "ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE A Year of Food Life." Each week a project member writes a response based on one chapter of the book. Together we read and talk our way through a year in the life of Kingsolver and her family. This response was authored by Lezlie Antoncich and is prompted by Chapter Three, "Spring Forward.")

Chapter 3--Hierloom Seeds

Ahhhh, Spring!

In my younger days I picked co-op veggies and then canned tomatoes with a baby in my backpack and my two-year old son coloring at the kitchen table. Overseas we took all 5 kids out to glean apples and almonds left from the harvest--for free. I had no way of preserving them, so Eat Lots/Eat fast and share-share-share!

Lezlie Antoncich and her brood gleaning almonds near Tiberias, Israel

Lezlie with her Isreali "sabra look" thinking about apple fritters, apple pancakes, apple pie, apple butter, applethauthe.

By the time we returned from Israel and #6 was born, I had fallen captive to "convenience & discount packaging." We had been warned about the "spirit of busy-ness" that had engulfed America. Now we were held hostage to it. Help . . .

For a moment, let's focus on the "Indestructable Fruits & Veggies." What a sad breed! In our pampered life styles, we have unknowingly asked for it's creation. Mega-businesses have herded us like animals to slaughter thru the blinders and gates of "Time-Saving." They successfully control how we grow and what we eat. Sadly, the menu is un-fulfilling and grossly lacking in all attributes. Today's dog and cat food have more flavor and nutritional value than most processed foods for people. In our lack of taking the time "because we are too busy with life" we have surrendered our heritage of farming and gardening to the Agribusiness Monster, who is all too happy to take over. We spend more time carting our kids to events than teaching them the arts of cooking. I am guilty as well.

But there is a break in the clouds . . . Spring thaw is here . . . Wake up Time . . . a movement is underfoot and rising! People are tired of few choices and cardboard flavors. Seed Saver's Exchange and others like you, people with real food to share, and the knowledge of that real food. . . . We Welcome You! A global interest is picking up speed.

Precious seeds are handed down thru generations, like folklore, protected from corporate genocide. A new breed of dealers is trading these precious commodities worth more than gold - in pursuit of survival. A black market for a green world?

For our own good we need to slow down and take back the rewards that come with fresh chemically-free, locally grown food wherever and whenever we can. We are 21st century creatures with a global palate, living in overgrown cities. Change isn't easy, and guilt isn't necessary. This is no longer the Garden of Eden, but there's plenty we can do to change the sad ending . . .
one seed at a time.

Sunday, March 7, 2010



(These notes and the commentaries that follow are a Facebook project based on Barbara Kingsolver's book "ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE A Year of Food Life." Each week a project member writes a response based on one chapter of the book. Together we read and talk our way through a year in the life of Kingsolver and her family. This response is authored by Alys Milner and is prompted by Chapter Two, "Waiting for Asparagus.")

Waiting for Alys: Confessions of a Procrastinator

Loving the idea of this project and among the first to jump on board, I wanted to get it right. That said, it still took some time to get my hands on this book. No drama: just the day-to-day life of a busy, Facebook-loving mom.

Alys's Mac

Fascinated by the concept and in love with the writing style and author’s turn of phrase, I was delighted with my assignment of "Waiting for Asparagus." My earliest years and meals were in Ontario, Canada with the requisite long cold winters and the culinary influences of a British father and Nova Scotia-raised Mom.


Never heard of it. I was a young adult before it first crossed my plate, and I wasn’t the least bit impressed. Luckily for me I gave it a second chance.

I love the discovery in this book: both mine and the Kingsolver Clan. Learning the cultivation ritual of a vegetable I’ve come to enjoy seems a mini-miracle in the making. I’ve embarked on my own personal food journey this year, so this book is synchronistic with my own health-improving goals. Changing our long-held behaviors around food is among the more challenging because they are so deeply seated in our youth.

The line that Lily would “already be lobbying the loopholes” resonated to my core. I know what I should do, but the inner give-it-to-me-now frequently won sway. Hershey’s with almonds are a good source of protein, right?

My earliest food foundation was a solid one. Our father was a horticulturist. He worked on a tea plantation in Darjeeling India before the war, later moving to Canada where my parents owned a pair of flower shops. He lovingly cultivated an amazing garden in our own back yard, short growing season and all, and filled it with cherry tomatoes that moved from garden to dinner plate in short order. What a delight it was to be sent out back by our mom to gather food for our meal. I inherited my own green thumb and love of gardening from those early days.

So how, you may wonder, did I drop and roll so far from the tree? Our family moved to the US in 1966, and by 1969 my father was dead, victim to the cancerous crop known as tobacco. My mother went to work full time, with three young girls at home to fend for themselves. It was around the same time when “TV dinners” had come into fashion. Mom was impressed with the idea that her daughters could have a hot meal in her absence, but with limited cooking or use of the hot stove and her fear of one of us getting burned; convenience food at its finest. Strapped for funds she scraped together the cash for our Friday night treat: a can of coke from Safeway and a bag of chips or nuts shared among the four of us. Both rituals were loving ones: gathering fresh garden tomatoes from our vast garden and slurping high fructose corn syrup from a can in our ratty little two bedroom apartment.

"Waiting for Asparagus" is a bit of a metaphor in my own personal journey. I wonder what all gentle readers of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle are discovering along the way?

Mac's Carrots


Thursday, March 4, 2010




Before we settle in with Barbara, Steven, Camille, and Lily on their Virginia farm, I wanted to highlight a couple of threads in Chapter One “Called Home.” To streamline this and future discussions, I’ll call them the “Kingsolvers” or the Kingsolver Clan. Giving a deep bow of respect to hubby, Steven Hopp, it’s Barbara Kingsolver who is the principal voice (and force) of this story.

Nervous rats, the Kingsolvers scurried down the ropes of their (literally) sinking ship, Tucson, Arizona, and fled toward the green hills of Appalachia. Like the other great desert cities of America (Salt lake, Vegas, Santa Fe, Albuquerque and so on), Tucson was (and is) surviving on “borrowed” water and food trucked in from far away. The billions of gallons of water used by these “urban space stations” can never be replenished by a few inches of annual rainfall.

Are these cities viable, or perhaps the question could be asked, how long can these cities remain viable, sucking up a nearly exhausted aquifer with one straw and foreign fossil fuels with another? And that question leads to a deeper question, a question so terrible that no one wants to look at it straight in the face. For how long will any of our major metropolitan centers be sustainable?

Sustainability, a most complex and slippery topic, wafts its way through our book. “Localism” and “seasonality” are difficult constructs, but they are much safer to approach than “sustainability” with its highly charged political and social currents. You can get zapped telling people that their city and lifestyle, plans, dreams, and hopes are not sustainable.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is about good food and good family. It’s about poking a stick in the eye of the megalithic, corporate food marketers. It’s about growing your own, and loving your neighbors, and learning how to live close to the land and the food that grows on it. And it poses, ultimately, this provocative question: can sustainability itself be sustained? Maybe we’ll come back to this at the end of the book.

If food production studies, agricultural awareness, commodity subsidies and other downer topics like these are unfamiliar to you, Chapter One provides a quick orientation, but don’t fret, “Coming Home” is also full of hope, courage, and Kingsolver’s drop-dead funny imagery.

“The tall, dehydrated saguaros stood around all teetery and sucked-in like prickly supermodels.”

OK. I’ve stalled long enough. By now all you tribal players, you rowdy rogues and fallen women, should have your book. Be ready for the next “prompt,” Chapter Two, “Waiting for Asparagus” to be written by . . .


Monday, March 1, 2010



Old-timey yellow school bus bumps to a halt ahead of me, flashing red lights, stop sign swinging out. Shit! Stuck behind this thing all the way up Lakeshore. How many stops is that? Four? Double shit! Door opens. Driver gets out with her red hand-held sign, taking her time. Doesn’t she know I’m in a HURRY?

Deep breath.

Little girl with big pink backpack is the first to climb down. Wearing a tiara of some kind, Fairy Queen Day at Cottage Hill Elementary? Giggling and chirping with the other fairies. More small fry get off the bus. There’s the obligatory red-headed twerp with a zillion freckles, every neighborhood has to have one of those kids. Probably a hellion.

Young moms are clustered at the corner, chatting and waiting. Damn, they are all so pretty. One of the moms has brought a puppy. Kid sees puppy, puppy sees kid, puppy licks kid. Everyone is laughing. Momma bears hugging their cubs.

The driver, standing in the middle of the street with her sign, gives stern looks to those of us in our idling machines. When she catches my gaze, I wink. She ignores me. With every loose kidlet safely across, the driver swings back into her rattletrap conveyance. The flashing lights are extinguished, the red stop sign creaks back to its resting place on the side of the bus. Good job, sign, mission accomplished.

I realize I am grinning, wall to wall. I’ve relaxed, breathing easier now.

How many bus stops on Lakeshore before my turn off? At least four. Is that all? Well, if I have to wait at these aggravating stops, I plan to enjoy every one of them.