Ashes to ashes to ashes: The Villaj Idiut

I always thought I’d want to be cremated when I die.

It was sort of a romantic notion, really, the idea of a part of me lying in the sand at Carmel listening to beach music permanently, or floating around the Chesapeake Bay and reliving my childhood when I worked on crab boats on the crests of waves around Thomas Point Lighthouse.

A Piece of My Mind: Could local lucre grease our wheels?

I am a big fan of public transit, taking the train regularly to Sacramento and San Francisco to visit family, taking BART to the symphony or to museums in San Francisco and riding light rail and Muni in San Jose and San Francisco. But I am somewhat reluctant to recommend these services to some of my more fastidious friends, because Caltrain and BART in particular are more than a little grungy.

In the past 20 years, I have traveled on public transit systems similar to BART, and I have seen cars and stations in Taipei, Atlanta and Washington, D.C., receive upgrade after upgrade. In the same period of time, nothing has happened to BART, except that the 40-year-old cars have gotten dirtier, smellier and more worn. The windows have become so scratched that it is nearly impossible to read the signage at each station (especially because very few of the station signs are illuminated), and there has never been any interior electronic signage to tell where you are. The rails have become noisier and noisier, to the point where going around a bend in a tunnel is now acutely painful to the ears. The noise is so intense that any onboard announcements are completely indecipherable. When I take BART to San Francisco, I wear earplugs.

The Villaj Idiut: Terrifying pragmatism

I was planning on writing a humor column this month, but it seems like anathema to the mood of the country right now to be cracking jokes.


I’ll disclose this straightaway: I voted for Hillary Clinton. Not necessarily because I liked her, but more because, after evaluating both candidates, I thought she was more qualified to run a country than Donald Trump.

Best of Broadway: No Shoes, Please

For my birthday this year, my husband and I are planning to visit our daughter in New York City and see a Broadway show. The other day, in reaction to a discussion my husband and daughter were having over the phone regarding ticket purchases, I shouted, “How about ‘The Humans’? I think it might be a little depressing, but I’d like to see it.”

A Piece of My Mind: To green or not to green?

After four years of drought, our lawn was a patchy mélange of sparse grass, tough weeds, exposed tree roots and bare dirt. We have a corner lot, and even with the rose garden, clothesline and veggie garden along one side, the lawn area still wraps around three sides of our house – a lot of space to replant or reimagine.

In recent months, I had comforted myself that our yard was not yet the ugliest and most neglected-looking on the street, but it was sinking quickly into contention for that title as one-by-one the other practitioners of benign neglect were relandscaping.

Take the wheel: Haugh About That?

“To get a better understanding of your portfolio,” my financial adviser began, “I want you to write down everything you spend monthly on your current home and your cabin in Tahoe. Then, we’ll dig deeper into your personal affairs.”

“OK, so just what I spend on my houses?” I asked. “You don’t care about hair, manicures, facials and massages for now, right?”

Roman holiday: No Shoes, Please

I was in Rome at Christmastime, which included a Wednesday morning during which Pope Francis held his weekly papal audience. Normally, he would be addressing the faithful in St. Peter’s Square, but during the winter months, he conducts himself on stage in a large Vatican auditorium.

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