Monthly Archives: August 2015

Another Book Review: Metro Girl


I thought it would be fun to share another book review today. I wrote this review in September of 2014. The book being reviewed is Metro Girl by Janet Evanovich

Metro Girl (Alex Barnaby Series #1)
Why did I waste my time reading this book?

I picked it up from a free shelf in a laundromat, thinking I would give it away on BookMooch. Then I gave it to a friend I thought would enjoy reading it (she did), but she gave it back to me when she was done. So I started reading it, and even though I didn’t really like it, I had a really difficult time putting it down. There was no way I wasn’t going to find out what happened in the end. I guess in that sense, Janet Evanovich did her job well. An author must be a success if readers can’t put her book down.

The protagonist is a woman, which is cool, but she goes by a traditionally male name. (Why do female characters named Jennifer or Heather or Amy so rarely kick ass?) She also has the traditionally male skill of being mechanically inclined. On the one hand, it’s cool that Evanovich recognizes that it is possible for women to be mechanically inclined too, but in this book it feels like a gimmick, a plot device, as if she’s shoving down the reader’s  throat the fact that the main character is pretty, blond, feminine, and WOW, can repair an engine.

The reader gets a lot of information about what the protagonist looks like. Evanovich goes so far as to describe the character’s hairstyle. I didn’t find that information advanced the plot in any way. Nor did I need to know what the character was wearing or the length of her legs. I only needed to read one description to understand that the character is pretty and feminine and men want to fuck her.

And oh, how so very much does her romantic foil want to fuck her! He tells her over and over again, by innuendo and straight up proclamation. He kisses her uninvited and can’t keep his hands off her. She’s desirable. I get it! Of course, the protagonist doesn’t like this guy at first, but by the end of the book, after he saves her ass more than a couple of times, she is gaga over him and is ready and willing to put out. However, for all the flirting and innuendo and sexy talk, there’s no sex scene payoff. In the epilogue, it’s strongly hinted at (wink! wink!) that the deed has been done, but the reader doesn’t get the satisfaction of witnessing the event.

In reality, this book is as much a romance novel as a mystery. The reader is supposed to identify with the protagonist. I was supposed to want to be her. (Well, I would like to be more mechanically inclined, but as for everything else about this woman…give me a break!) As for how she looks, that’s so much fluff, filler to add some pages, to flesh out what in reality could be told in a couple hundred pages, instead of 374.

And I won’t even get started on the coincidences involved that make the plot possible. On more than one occasion, all I could think was, Really?

So I couldn’t stop reading this book, but when I finished it, I kind of felt dirty for having wasted my time and brain cells on this cotton candy of the mind.

And now the cover has separated from the book’s spine, so I can’t even give it away on BookMooch. I guess it will have to go back on the laundromat shelf.



At my jobs as a camp host and parking lot attendant, I am asked a lot of questions. After over three months, I’ve heard some questions so many times, they no longer surprise me.

Here’s a list of questions I am asked repeatedly (and my most common answers).

Where is the General Sherman tree? (In the Giant Forest in the Sequoia National Park)

What’s in that big tank on your campsite? (Water) Can I have some of it? (No)

Where are the rock slides? (I have no idea)

Is there a river or stream up here where we can get wet and cool off? (No)

How long is the trail? (About a mile and a quarter)

How long does it take to walk the trail? (That depends on how many trees you hug)

What’s the elevation here? (About 6400 feet)

How do I get to [L.A., San Francisco, the Sequoia National Park, Bakersfield, Las Vegas, Palm Springs]? (Answers vary)

Where is a water fountain/faucet/spigot where I can fill my water bottle/wash my hands/get water for my dog? (Not here)

Is there a place around here to go on a hike? (I have a map you can look at)

Do you take credit/debit cards? (No because there are no phone lines or internet access here)

Where’s the nearest ATM? (8 miles that way)

Where is Crystal Cave? (In the Sequoia National Park)

Can my dog go on the trail? (Yes, on a leash)

Where’s the closest place to get food? (11 miles that way, but it’s not very good and the people who work there aren’t very friendly)

Is there a coffee shop around here? (The restaurant 11 miles away sells coffee…if you mean a Starbucks, no)

Are there picnic tables here? (Yes, there are five picnic tables in the day use area)

Can we have a barbeque here? (Only on a gas grill, if you have a permit)

Which tree here is the oldest/biggest/tallest? (I don’t know)

Where is the nearest campground? (200 yards that way)

Is there a gift shop here? (No)

Where can I buy gas? (25 miles that way, 40 miles that way, or 40 miles the other way)

Are there bears here? (Yes, but they are timid because they are hunted here…you’re more likely to see a rattlesnake here)

Where’s the restroom? (In the little building in the middle of the parking lot)

Some questions take me by surprise.

One day a young Asian woman with a fairly strong accent asked me if we had a resting room. I thought she meant restroom (toilet, WC, el baño), so I told her it was in the little building in the middle of the parking lot. She was clearly exasperated and said not a restroom, a resting room. I was perplexed and just looked at her. She explained she wanted to leave her mother, an elderly woman using a cane, in a resting room with chairs and shade. I guess she wanted a waiting room. I told her there was no resting room in the parking lot, and she clearly expressed additional exasperation. I didn’t even try to explain to her that the only rooms in the area are the two with the toilets and a tiny one for storage.

Another time, a family asked me how to get to the Big Chief. I knitted my brow and shook my head. (I do something with my mouth too, when I don’t know the answer, but I don’t know how to explain the expression.) I told them I’d never heard of it. They said it is the 7th largest giant sequoia, and it’s supposed to be in the area. I still had no information about its location to offer.

(According to, there is a Chief Sequoyah tree located in the Giant Forest Grove of the Sequoia National Park. It is listed as the 26th largest tree with a height of 228.2 feet (69.6 m), a circumference of 90.4 feet (27.6 m), and a diameter of 28.8 feet (8.8 m). There’s also Red Chief in Long Meadow Grove. Wikipedia lists it as the 41st largest tree with a height of 245.0 feet (74.7 m), a circumference of 80.6 feet (24.6 m), and a diameter of 25.7 feet (7.8 m). Maybe the family was looking for one of these trees.)

One Thursday was the day of weird questions.

It started when two young women and their two fluffy little dogs exited the trail. They walked right up to me, and one of the women asked, Can you suggest a good hike for dogs? I was momentarily at a loss, then said, I don’t really hike, and I don’t have a dog, so I don’t know a good hike for dogs. The woman thanked me, and they all walked away. (Perhaps I should have offered use of my map, and the women and dogs could have consulted it and discussed their options.)

Later that day, I did pull out my map for a family to look at. The man asked me about the Pinnacle Trail. I said I’d never heard of it. He allowed that he possibly had the name wrong. I offered the map to him. He found the trail for which he was looking (the name of which has two syllables and does not begin with the letter “P”). They had a bunch of questions about the trail. I told them I’d never hiked it and could only say what I’d heard about it from other people. They kept asking me questions, and I kept saying I don’t know. Finally the oldest kid said, Are there big trees on the hike? I said, I don’t know; I’ve never been there, and I was done with them. Sometimes people insist I answer their questions, even after I’ve told them I can’t.

That afternoon I was patrolling at the nearby campground, and two men flagged me down to ask about the yurts. After I answered their questions ($75 a night, sleeps five, no cooking inside, bring your own bedding), they wanted to know about the closest rivers. I told them about the two rivers in the vicinity, and one guy asked me if the fishing were good. I said, I don’t know. I don’t fish. It seems to me he should have first asked me if I’d fished either river recently.

The strangest (or at least most strangely phrased) question of the day happened back at my campground. I was checking in two young Asian men (brothers). I pointed out my van and told them to let me know if they had any questions or problems. The one doing the talking asked if I stayed in the campground, and I said yes. The he asked, If someone arrives late at night, will you be here to assist them? I told him I would be here if someone arrived late, but when people arrive after dark, I stay in my van and check them in the next morning. I wondered what kind of assistance he had in mind. There are definitely certain kinds of assistance I will not provide!

Apparently I Look Like a Psychic



Crystal ball in handsTourists say a lot of thing that aren’t very sensible. Sometimes it seems like when their bodies go on vacation, their brains decide to take a vacation of their own. Perhaps the people who seem like idiots to me are actually very competent in their daily lives and only seem clueless when our paths cross.

One variation of tourist cluelessness is associated with the way we came. People ask me Should we go back to way we came? or Is the way we came the best way to go back? Apparently I look like a psychic, because I’m supposed to know where they came from and the route they took.

Perhaps people don’t realize there are three ways to get to where I work, but they obviously think there is more than one route, since they are asking me about their travel options.

The first time a woman asked me if they should go back the way we came, I was trying to figure out how to answer the question when her (I presume) husband barked at her in my silence She doesn’t know how we got here! So true!

I really do try to be polite to people. When they ask questions involving the way we came without giving me any additional information, I try to keep it light and say with a small smile I don’t know. How did you get here? But inside I’m grimacing and shaking my head.

Image courtesy of

The Firefighter and the Dog


I don’t what official company policy is, but I don’t ask firefighters to pay to park their firetrucks in the parking lot. It seems wrong for me to hassle them for five bucks when they could be called away at any moment to risk their lives to protect people and trees.

On a Sunday afternoon when my shift was almost over, three Forest Service firetrucks pulled in, and I waved them through. Moments later, a county firetruck pulled in, and I thought What the hell, and waved it through too. I’m not going to play firefighter favoritism. Either all firetrucks get in for free or none do. That day it looked like I was going with all.

I’d seen this county firefighter before, but it had been weeks, maybe month, and I don’t think we’d done more than exchange hellos in the past.

I hadn’t even been thinking about the firefighter until a car exiting the parking lot stopped and the driver leaned his head out of the open window. He said, firefighter…something something…let dog out…something…dog ran away…firefighter chasing dog…something something…

I looked at the driver and wondered what in the hell he was talking about, but I just said ok. (I’m trying to learn not to jump up and volunteer to be part of other people’s dramas.)

Some minutes passed, when who should stroll up but the county firefighter with a medium-size dog on a long, green leash. He looped the leash over the iron ranger and told me Fido (not his real name, as far as I know) was going to stay right there. I protested that I’d be off work in thirty minutes and said Fido was not leaving with me. I told the firefighter I live in my van and cannot have a dog. I was a little bit panicked. I can barely take care of myself. No way can I be responsible for a dog.

The firefighter told me the dog’s people were on the trail, and he wouldn’t try to leave the dog with me. He said he wanted to move his firetruck into one of the spots my co-worker and I try to reserve for people with disabilities. I told him fine. Who am I to go against a firefighter in the midst of an official dog rescue?

As he was moving the firetruck, three little Latina girls came up to visit the dog. I told them I didn’t know the dog and didn’t know if it would bite. Really, this dog was super mellow. He seemed to have no plans or desire to bite anybody.

The word had already spread through the parking lot that the dog had been left in the truck by its people. The little girls thought it was really mean of the people to leave such a nice dog in the hot truck. When their dad walked up, the girls told him about Fido’s plight, and they all solemnly agreed they would never leave their dog alone in a hot car.

After the firefighter parked his truck, he filled me in on what had happened. He’d come along and some “concerned citizens” had alerted him to the dog left in the hot camper shell on the back of a pickup. He opened something (I didn’t exactly understand his gestures of explanation), and Fido jumped out and took off running. So the firefighter had to chase Fido down and get him on the leash. (I’m sorry I missed seeing that part of the show.)

The dumb thing about leaving the dog in the hot camper with no water—where he could have died—is that dogs on leashes are allowed on the trail. I don’t know if the long green leash was Fido’s or if it belonged to the firefighter. Maybe Fido’s people had left him behind because they didn’t have a leash for him. (I’ve seen a surprising number of people this summer who have a dog in their vehicle, but no leash for it.) Fido couldn’t have been left behind because he was a nuisance; during the half hour he sat with me, he did not bark once, and he never strained against the leash. Mostly he just lay quietly and looked around.

After he got Fido’s people’s license plate number, the firefighter stood around to see if Fido’s people would show. He said no way was animal control going to come all the way out there, and he said he couldn’t give the people a ticket for leaving Fido in the heat. (I guess writing animal cruelty tickets is out of his jurisdiction.) He did say he was going to ask the sheriff to send the people a ticket through the mail. He also said he wasn’t one to yell, but he was getting more upset at Fido’s people the longer they were gone.

Then the firefighter said he and Fido were going to walk the trail and try to find the dog’s people. Soon after they left, my shift ended. As I was packing my chair and my backpack, a big, blue pickup truck with a camper on the back stopped near where I was standing and the driver (who was firmly middle-age and old enough to know better than to leave an animal in an enclosed space on a hot day) said he’d heard a fireman had his dog. I told the man that the firefighter was looking for him and had walked off with the dog in hopes of finding him.

The man in the blue truck drove off, but was back when I returned from putting my co-worker’s bucket in the storage room. He said he’d gone to the campground next door, but the firefighter and the dog weren’t there. I pointed to the firetruck and told Fido’s man that the firefighter would be back eventually.

Eventually? he asked, as if he just couldn’t believe how he was being inconvenienced.

The man was pacing at the front of the parking lot. I got in my van and made the loop to exit. As I pulled out onto the highway, I saw Fido and the firefighter walking toward Fido’s man.

Now I have a little crush on the firefighter. I don’t much about him other than his name, his profession, and that he likes dogs, but I keep making up little stores about him in my mind. (Hmmmmm, I think little stories like that are called “fantasies.”)

I’d never realized rescuing a dog could make a man so seem sexy.

Feces on the Floor


The day started like a normal Wednesday.

I’d slept really well, after hardly sleeping Sunday and Monday nights. I woke up around 6:15. Even after two days off, I wasn’t raring to go, but I rolled out of bed and put on my uniform. After sweeping the restrooms, I cooked and ate my breakfast. Then it was time to get the company truck and go on patrol.

On Wednesdays, the hosts at the two other campgrounds on the mountain have the day off. I have to drive to both campgrounds, make sure the garbage cans aren’t overflowing, check-in any campers who have recently arrived, and put toilet paper in the restrooms if necessary. I also have to drive through the group campground to make sure no one is squatting there. And, because my co-worker at the parking lot also has the day off on Wednesdays, I have to clean the two restrooms there.

On this particular Wednesday, I first went to the closer campground, planning to go to the farther one late in the afternoon, after I’d put in my time at the parking lot. After picking up the trash and talking to some campers, I got in the company truck (a Ford Ranger, which is like driving a sports car to me after lumbering along in my van) and did my rounds through the (empty) group campground. Then I headed to the parking lot to pick up the trash and clean the restrooms.

Both trash cans in front of the restrooms were full, so I pulled out the bags and replaced them with new ones. Then I psyched myself up to clean the restrooms.

The restrooms in the parking lot get a lot of use. My co-worker jokes that if the trees are the most popular attraction, the restrooms are the second most popular attraction. Because the restrooms get so much use, they tend to be dirty and smell terrible. Also, people throw a lot of toilet paper on the floor. I’m grossed out when I have to pick up toilet paper, and I don’t know where all it’s been. (I might feel more grossed out if I knew exactly where the toilet paper has been.)

I opened the door of the restroom on the left and was greeted by the sight of a pile of feces on the floor eight inches from the toilet. Who does such a thing?

I can only imagine two scenarios. The first is a human being walked into the restroom, closed and locked the door, pulled down his/her pants, and shat on the floor. The second is a person allowed his/her dog to enter the restroom and defecate on the floor.

Who does that?!?!?

I’ve tried to think of a reason why it might seem acceptable to shit (or allow one’s dog to shit) on the floor of a public restroom. I’ve got nothing.

To put it delicately, as opposed to situations where I’ve discovered feces on the toilet seat and on the restroom wall, it did not appear that the person who shat on the floor had experienced an emergency situation. This floor shitting appeared to be a deliberate act.

And if a person somehow thought it was ok to let his/her dog defecate on the restroom floor, the human should have picked it up.

The reason why didn’t really matter, as I had to clean it up regardless of the circumstances that put it there. I rolled up my sleeves, took off my ring, and steeled myself to do what had to be done. I grabbed a thick wad of toilet paper and removed the fecal matter from the floor. The good news was that it had been sitting there a while and was firm–and to be a bit graphic here–crusty. More good news was that I didn’t notice any smell.

After I picked up the feces, I sprayed everything down with a chemical cleaner we use called TNT. It’s supposed to kill germs, so I sprayed it all over the floor and all over the inside and outside of the toilet. Then I used water from the tank in the back of the truck to give everything a thorough rinse. There was some fecal crust adhered to the floor, so I had to grab a stiff bristle brush from the truck and use it to scrub away the crust. I was grateful for the brush’s long handle.

Finally my work there was done, and picking up the toilet paper from the floor of the second restroom didn’t seem so gross.

I’ve had many shit jobs in my time, but this job (that I actually like) has required me to deal with the most literal shit.

The Quietude of Nature

noun: quietude
  1. a state of stillness, calmness, and quiet in a person or place.

It had been another busy Saturday in the parking lot. Not only had there been many people parking their cars with us, half of the people were cranky, and it seemed like the rest were needy. Either someone was trying to pick a fight or s/he had a million questions and practically wanted us to hold his/her hand through the entire parking process. It was exhausting. The weather wasn’t helping either. The sky was overcast, and we could feel the expectation of rain in the air, as if nature were holding her breath, letting the tension mount before releasing the wet. Maybe it was barometric pressure or negative ions, but the tourists had been acting weird (and annoying!) all afternoon.

My workday was drawing to a close, and I was seeing the light (in the form of dinner and peace) at the end of the tunnel, when I heard the constant mechanical buzz of a small engine coming from the road behind me and to my left. I turned around and saw a grown man and two teenage boys with a remote-controlled toy vehicle rolling at their feet. I didn’t notice which one of them had the controller and was “driving” the thing, but I noticed it was pretty big for a toy and had fat wheels.

I looked at the adult and said incredulously Are you bringing that on the trail?

He answered in a voice I’d expect to hear from a cartoon buffoon: not very bright. Uhhhhh, yeah.

Isn’t that kind of obnoxious? I asked.

He looked at me blankly. He had no idea why people walking in nature and looking at trees might find his noisy toy  obnoxious.

What about the quietude of nature? I pleaded.

The blank look never left his face. It’s battery powered, he said. There’s no gas.

Apparently he thought “quietude” was somehow related to pollution. Apparently he’d never considered pollution of the noise variety.

I can’t stop you from bringing it on the trail, I told him, but I think it’s obnoxious.

Well I think it’s pretty cool, he said in the same tone as schoolchildren say I’m rubber and you’re glue…

As the toy vehicle rolled and hummed across the street to the trail, I imagined it bumping someone’s abuela (grandmother) in the ankle; scaring dogs and making them bark; getting tangled in a Boy Scout leader’s feet; and startling birds and squirrels and causing them to leave the area, all the while destroying the quietude of nature with its irritating buzzing noise.

Eliphante Part 2



The artist Michael Kahn spent 30 years of his life creating, while painting and residing at, the three acres known as Eliphante. The buildings and structures at Eliphante, while expressions of creativity and artistry, were also Michael’s solutions to the practical needs for work space, studio’s [sic], shelter and housing for himself and his wife Leda. Michael lived there until his death in 2007. Leda remained there until 2009, and now lives in Cottonwood AZ. (from

This post is Part 2 of the story of the afternoon I spent at Eliphante.

As I walked the grounds of Eliphante, an old delivery truck that had been turned into a storage shed caught my attention.


Old delivery truck turned into a storage shed. Notice the signature Michael Kahn bright color paint job on the truck’s side and hood.


I like the way it looks as if the truck may be turning to stone…or maybe the stones are turning into a truck.

One can walk out of the driver’s side of the truck and enter another storage area with a roof over it.

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At Eliphante, even the containers holding fasteners looked like art to me.

As I was taking photos in this storage area, I ran into the other guy I’d met at NeoTribal The Gathering. He looked to me like a young Timothy Olyphant ( and made my heart beat faster. Although he seemed glad to see me, we only spoke briefly before he drifted off to do other things. Ah well, he was too young for me anyway.

In many buildings on the grounds, bits of colored glass and whole glass bottles were used to allow light into rooms, but still afford privacy. Here are some examples of such use of glass:


As sunlight shines through the glass, colors play upon the opposite wall.

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The above photos show an inside and outside view of colored glass and bottles used as tiny windows that allow light into the room. I think the wall is made of cob or some other type of dried mud and straw construction material.


Corner wall made from cob (or similar building material) and glass bottles.


Unfortunately, the solar bath house was not open for bathing.

Pipedreams, “the labyrinthine art gallery” ( was amazing. It is composed of several rooms leading into another, each room filled with color and art.

Mosaics of glass, tile, stone, and mirrors covered some of the interior walls of Pipedreams .


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In some places light passed through colored glass set in the ceiling or walls, adding moving bits of color to the floor or opposite walls.

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I sat on the floor a long time and watched the infinitesimal changes in the patterns of colored light. The light shimmered and moved, and the entire vibe was incredibly psychedelic. As I moved through the space, I wondered how much LSD (or other hallucinogens) Michael Kahn had taken in his lifetime, or if he were just one of those people who naturally experiences life as one continual psychedelic trip.


This keyboard was tucked in an alcove in Pipedreams. Notice the Michael Kahn signature cacophony of colors on the wall all around it. (How could anyone NOT notice those colors?)

The main room of Pipedreams reminded me of a chapel somehow. It was filled with wood (driftwood? branches?) that curved and flowed. I imagined ceremonies being held here.


The main room in what felt like the center of Pipedreams. The other rooms flowed in and out of this one.


This photo shows an alcove in Pipedreams which houses a large piece of art. Notice the vaginal qualities of the portal.

There were art installations in many places on the grounds of Eliphante. Some were functional (like the glass bottles imbedded in walls and the very buildings themselves), but many pieces were art for art’s sake. One of my favorites was this assemblage of wood, stones, and mirrors.


I particularly like the shape of this creation and the juxtaposition of the natural and human-made elements.

The last major building on the property was the one that gave the whole place its name. According to, this building is called Eliphante because of its “long, trunklike entrance made of rock and an irregularly mounded roof. ‘Aaah, Ella-fahn-tay,’ a friend joked soon after it was built, giving it a playful faux-French pronunciation.”

Unfortunately, Eliphante was closed for restoration during my visit, and I couldn’t venture inside.


Well, yes, I can see how this building could look like an elephant (especially if viewed through a psychedelic lens).

I was able to take some photos of the exterior of Eliphante.

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The two photos above are views of some of Eliphante’s “stained glass.”


Another view of the Eliphante trunk.


This is probably my favorite installation at Eliphante. I like that it’s functional and can actually help a person get where she wants to go. I also like that it’s making use of old, rusted saws that look cool but aren’t being used for their original purpose. I’m impressed by the person who looked at a bunch of rusty saws and had the idea to turn them into signs.


Hmmmm….Someone saw a rock on the trail and decided to paint it to look like an Amanita muscaria mushroom…

I exited Eliphante through this passageway to the trail to the parking area.


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Eliphante is my kind of place. I really dig so many of the aspects that make it magical: bright colors, collages and mosaics, assemblages, functional art, art not just as a lifestyle but as a way of life. I love the way art is integrated in nearly every aspect of life at Eliphante. I feel really blessed to have found this place (and the kind people who care for and maintain it) and to have been able to spend an afternoon exploring it. Of course, I am now a life member of the Eliphante community, and I plan to visit again.

I took all the photos included in this post.