The Life of Johnston

As the Sparks Fly Upward

8 December 2017

Dear Max,

At the hearing a few days ago, during one of the breaks, the lawyer on the other side was checking the news on his phone. His office building in Sherman Oaks had been evacuated. And even though the catastrophe was affecting him pretty directly, he still joined in the pleasant, excited talk about how awful it all was.

On the way home, from the airplane, I saw fire. It looked like it was all the way to the coast, north of Malibu. Then the plane turned east and we flew up the Central Valley. It was a clear day, and the sun was going down. I could see the shape of the coastline—the long arc of Monterey Bay, then San Francisco Bay stretching south to Palo Alto and mostly East toward Stockton and Sacramento. The setting sun gleamed on the water all across the delta. Lights were starting to come on. And you could see that all those people weren’t living on dry land at all. It was all happening on a big sponge. And it looked so fragile.

I remembered that part in The Drowned and the Saved where Primo Levi answered readers’ questions, that is, the questions that he heard again and again over the years. And one of them was: why didn’t you flee Europe while you still could? I don’t remember his answer exactly, and I can’t find the book. But I think it amounted to: besides the many, many legal and practical barriers, our minds don’t work that way. Why, he said, do people still live in major cities, which are sure targets in a nuclear war? Why don’t they flee from there? While they still can?

Looking down at the delta, it seemed perfectly obvious that everyone who lives at sea level should be heading for the hills. But we’re not made to think like that, and it’s good that we’re not—it would be misery to no purpose.

I don’t usually think about things like fire and flood and the human condish. Usually I think about things like—toast. Or where to walk the dogs. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s the way to be. Sufficient unto the day, you know?

But I’d been travelling for work, and I was lonely and homesick. And I’d been reading The Unwomanly Face of War, Svetlana Alexievich’s collection of interviews with the Soviet women who fought in World War II. I felt the astounding luck of living a life with hardly any fear or suffering, and also felt how quickly luck can turn.

But the plane landed and routine kicked in, comforting and familiar. Take a pee, get your suitcase, order a Lyft. The driver and I got to talking, and he told me that he can’t swim, and when he was a teenager he almost drowned, but as he was drowning, he thought about how embarrassing it would be to die like that, in front of all his friends, and so he saved himself. We laughed about that. And then I was home. The dogs at the door, Pete in front, Colin behind, squinting in the wind from Pete’s waving tail. And then Enzo jumped out of Colin’s crate with a roar.

And everything went back to normal.


Fiction Convictions

5 December 2017

Dear Max,

This Diary of Record would be incomplete if I failed to mention the pimple on the very tippity-tip of my nose. It’s wonderfully bright—I can practically read by it—and Teresa keeps making Rudolph allusions, humming the carol, inquiring about all the other reindeer and so on. Of course I have a hearing today on a must-win case. Maybe my pimple will distract opposing counsel.

I’m in San Diego for the hearing, and I travel here often enough that the layout of the Best Western hotel room feels comfortingly familiar, and I know where to get good coffee two blocks from the hotel at six o’clock. So that part is good. But I have a shitty cold and this pimple and at least one witness who won’t return my phone calls and probably won’t show up for the hearing. So, on the whole, F-word.


Last week I finished the second draft of that book I can’t let go of. That is, I came to the end again, so I guess that’s finished. But the last fifty pages or so need another go-over. I know it, and I’m putting off what I know I need to do—subject myself and my poor pages to the excruciating test of reading them aloud, all together. I need to hear what’s going on. Maybe none of my witnesses will show up, and I’ll be stuck in San Diego with nothing to do. I brought the pages with me, just in case.

Since I spent pretty much the last year writing fiction, I’ll make some remarks about it.

  1. When I write fiction, I’m afraid of being boring, so I make a lot of  jokes that just end up interrupting the story. Then I take them out, murder them. But they’re such nice jokes
  2. I have to make the whole world? Are you fucking kidding me?
  3. I’m not willing to read fiction anymore unless it’s by some miracle-worker, and I know I’m no miracle-worker. The only fiction writers I’ve actually read in in the last decade are Trollope, Jane Austen, Patrick O’Brian and Elena Ferrante. I would like to put Lawrence on the list to make myself look good, but I haven’t even read The Rainbow in about twenty years. (Maybe it’s time to read The Rainbow.) So you see that my standards are absurdly high. I only read fiction that’s effortless to read, freakishly smart, totally entertaining, and full of people so real that—I can’t think of what to put on the other end of that that. And at least a few of the people have to be lovable. Reading fiction, I feel like either it’s a miracle or a picture of nothing (or of not much). The one thing I can say in favor of writing fiction that I would never read is that it’s by me. I’m making it as good as I can, and you can’t say fairer than that.


One Two Three

2 December 2017

Dear Max,

Here we are again, me and Pete in front of the fire in the early morning dark. I have some notes, but it’s too dark to read them, and I don’t want to turn on lights and find my glasses. I have coffee. That’s enough.

I woke up around two and remembered how furious I am about something that happened at work. I won’t say any more about that in this public (barely!) forum. But I noticed that, even though I’m annoyed by the work problem, I’m even more pissed about how much room the grievance is taking up in my mind. I would like to have bigger thoughts than this.

But, as Oprah advises, count your blessings, one, two, three, and if you include mixed blessings you can go on for a long time. So, my work blessings, enumerated:


My actual boss is pretty great. I was writing an Accusation and wondering whether I could use the word butt in a legal pleading. Perhaps the more formal buttocks would be better. Butt? Buttocks? Butt? Buttocks? I posed the question to my boss, in what I hoped was a funny way. We were literally passing each other, so that she didn’t have time to answer, but she turned and called back to me, “Ass.”


This is more a story than a blessing. But I think it counts. The security guard who works at the service entrance of my office building is a Ukrainian woman, probably in her mid-sixties. Her name is Valentina.

After Thanksgiving I asked her how Ukrainians celebrate the harvest. She said it’s very important. They’re farmers, and there’s no irrigation. So no rain, no harvest. Religious people celebrate the harvest in church. Most people celebrate by drinking a lot.

I said something about Ukraine’s history of famine—meaning to say that when famine is a real possibility, of course the harvest takes on more significance.

And she told me that when her mother was a little girl, three or four years old, the communists took away her family’s farm. And they wouldn’t let you keep any seeds. You had to turn your pockets inside out and show that you didn’t have any. The family was still living on the land that had once been theirs. They made a shelter out of corn stalks and sunflower stalks. That night the weather changed, and a hard frost came. Valentina’s mother was the youngest child, and she slept huddled up with the mom. In the morning she woke up and her mom woke up, but her father and all her brothers and sisters never woke up.

The little girl and her mother walked a long way to the mother’s family home. There was nothing to eat. The mom would take a pototo and cut a round slice and use some wild berries or leaves to give it color and then give it to the little girl, and that was called a cookie.

A few days after Valentina told me this story, I noticed that she had missed work. When she came back, I asked if everything was all right, and she said that her mother, now in her nineties, had fallen at home and was in the hospital with a broken hip. Valentina and her sister were taking turns staying with her.

Every day I’ve been asking Valentina about her mom, and every day she’s been a little bit better, getting physical therapy, learning how to walk again. But Valentina told me that her mom is pretty heavy, which makes walking harder, and the doctors want her to lose weight. But her mom has been through three starvations and she loves to eat, and she loves bread. I asked Valentina what sort of bread Ukrainians eat, and she said her mom loves bread with big holes.

So I made her some. That’s part of the reason I was up at four yesterday—to do the second rise on a loaf of Jim Lahey bread. I brought it to work in my bike bag, loosely wrapped in a kitchen towel and still warm. I gave it to Valentina, and she looked at it and smelled it and sort of hugged it. Tears stood in eyes. She said she would bring it to her mom on her lunch break.

It would be nice if thinking about this woman’s life–three starvations!–would put my little work problem into perspective, but it doesn’t. My troubles and hers coexist in my mind nicely, and neither lessens the other.  I contain multitudes. And I’m still pissed.



Baking Credit: Annie Anderson. Photo credit: Todd Anderson (Mine didn’t turn out quite this pretty, but you get the idea.)

All Grown Up

1 December 2017

Dear Max,

Today is Pete’s third birthday. Enzo said we should get him drunk—because he’s twenty-one in dog years. And recently Teresa told us that, taking a walk with dog friends, one of the humans said about Pete, “He’s so powerful.” And ever since, we’ve been telling him “Oh, Petey, you’re so powerful.” And commenting to each other on his powerful rippling muscles, his powerful mind.

For those who don’t know Pete, he’s a long, tall Yellow Lab/Shar Pei mix. His head is gigantic. His jowls astound. With his giant paws, he looks like a perpetual puppy, an older one, an adolescent. It’s hard to see the Char Pei in him, but if you scrunch together the skin on his face, which he tolerates without a murmur, it’s obvious.

He loves swimming and balls. He likes to eat. Once on a walk he managed to swallow an entire plastic grocery bag with some morsel of food inside. I was preoccupied with Colin. Then I saw that Pete was prying this flattened piece of trash off the street, and he managed to get it down before I could get it away from him. We didn’t identify it until he threw it up a few days later. And we marveled.

There is no more amusing sight in the world than Pete in a hurry. Colin is an athlete, a beautiful runner. Pete, on the other hand. Oh Pete. His mechanics are all awry. Last weekend, Enzo and I took him to the huge lot in our neighborhood that we call The Dunes. (It’s going to be a housing development and shopping center someday, but for now it’s just dirt and empty streets and litigation.) Enzo was on his bike, but he got off and took off his helmet. Then Enzo and Pete must have separated for a moment, and Pete saw some kids wearing bike helmets, far across the lot, maybe three hundred yards away. He must have thought one of them was Enzo. He took off at a full gallop, and he is powerful, wonderfully strong, but inefficient, a sort of galumphing mass moving across the dunes, radiating anxiety.

We called him. He figured it out. He came back.

It’s five thirty. Pete and I have been up since four. It’s pretty cold, and we’re both in front of the fire, and Pete’s curled into a nearly perfect circle, gazing at the flames. It feels like an ancient scene, an ancient association. Maybe instead of going to work today to finalize exhibits and book my flight and write a First Amended Accusation, I should just stay home and hunt and gather.

But I doubt Early Man gave Early Dog any birthday presents, and certainly nothing like the red plaid fleece-lined winter jacket with a mandarin collar that Teresa picked out for Pete. He’ll get fun presents too of course, squeaky balls and Nylabones and lots of treats.

Happy Birthday, Dear Petey!


29 May 2017

Dear Max,

On Sunday Teresa dropped me and Enzo off at Gibson Ranch. We baited up with small hooks and our own home-grown red wigglers, which are almost too thin to thread even onto the finest hook, but we managed it. Then we waited, bobbers bobbing on the small ripples.

Enzo’s bobber went under. “Fish on!” He landed the little beauty—a baby bluegill—and released him into our bucket for later observation. “First fish of the day!” There were three other fishing parties around the lake, all dads with small kids, and I think Enzo wanted them to hear.

More fishing. Some turtles swam by and checked us out. I saw a Kingfisher. Enzo baited up with a Welch’s Fruit Snack doused in Bass Dynasty Extra Sticky Formula Night Crawler Slime. He got some nibbles but didn’t catch anything with it. Back to worms. He caught another bluegill. “Second fish of the day!”

After a while we packed up our stuff and poured our bucket back into the lake. The two little fish flashed away into the murk. Then we walked across the sports fields toward the creek. Enzo thought it was called Cherry Creek. I thought it was called something else, but I couldn’t  remember what—something dangerous. (I just looked it up. It’s called Dry Creek. I think my mistake came from the fact that, when I first learned the name Dry Creek, the water was brown and rushing almost up the bridge, and I thought it should have been called Flood Creek.)

As we walked toward the creek across green mowed fields, we passed a gathering that was hard to identify. A wedding? A school band setting up for an outdoor concert? Then we made our way down the steep bank to the creek, the water clear now, yellow-brown pebbles along the bottom, oaks almost meeting overhead in places, blackberry brambles, little scrubby pink roses, and a tree that I don’t know the name of with big thin leaves and bunches of white flowers. There’s something bewitching about a stream bed. You want to follow it, see what’s around the next bend. We waded slowly upstream through the clear water.

Then it started—the band we had passed struck up and played songs I didn’t know, full and rich and resonant, lots of brass. A chorus began (or possibly a choir)—mostly men’s voices. The assembly, whatever it was, must have been a couple of hundred yards from the creek, but the sound was fully present, like a private concert or a movie soundtrack.

After a while the music stopped and a man started preaching. The language wasn’t English, and I couldn’t tell what it was, not even what kind of language it was. But still, you know a preacher-man when you hear one. The ups and downs and pauses reminded me of a black preacher, but the gathering wasn’t of black people.

Enzo was walking ahead of me, trailing a fishing lure that looked like a little fish at the end of his pole. The lure’s movement, flashing through the water, was wonderfully realistic. I let him get far ahead. I wished he could come to places like this by himself.

Then Enzo saw them: Bass!

They were small, maybe four to six inches long, nearly invisible, suspended in the clear water, heads pointed upstream. We scrambled onto the bank, baited up again, one rod with a red wiggler, the other with plastic worm, crazy-rig.

(It’s occurring to me this moment—what if that was illegal? Of course I know you can’t keep a baby fish like that, but maybe you’re not even supposed to catch-and-release them. And maybe this diary could be used as evidence against us. It wouldn’t be the first time, for me.)

The baby bass seemed most interested in the plastic worm. They kept sort of nosing up to it, bumping it curiously, but the fake worm was almost as long as they were, and there was no way they could really bite it. There were four bass, I think, maybe five. We tried a flashing lure with a red feather that Enzo probably knows the name of. They were right there, so close. But we couldn’t catch them.

Teresa arrived to pick us up, and she came down the bank and fished with Enzo while I walked upstream. I could hear him saying to her, “I’m bumping them on the head with my bait!”

And then, “Fish on! Fish on!” Enzo reeled in the biggest of the little bass and netted him and held the net under the water while Teresa filled our five gallon bucket with cool creek water. We released the fish into the bucket and put it in the creek in the shade. The fish was brown and delicate-looking, about six inches long.

I just now asked Enzo what kind of bass it was. He said large-mouth or spotted, probably spotted. Anyway, it looked very pretty in the bottom of the bucket, this being from another world. We left soon after that, releasing the fish and promising to come back and catch him again when he gets bigger.

Mother’s Day

14 May 2017

Dear Max,

What if I forget how to write in my diary? No, no my dear diary, you shall not be forgotten.

I’ve been working instead (oh so slowly) on that long story about me as a hilarious, borderline incompetent criminal defense attorney and my friend Karol as a disbarred but brilliant lawyer who works as my investigator. My favorite parts are the courtroom scenes. There’s something appealing about the very narrow cast of characters and the limitations on what they can do and say. People have to be in their roles. They literally have to stay in their places, and it narrows the possibilities in a way that I find helpful. Another way to put it is that, writing other scenes, I feel like, “Fuck, I have to make the whole world?” But in courtroom scenes, the world is already there. (I see how hopeless all this sounds.)

But that other book isn’t what’s ruining my diary. It’s my poor stupid head. Do you know what I was thinking about just now? I stopped typing and words were going through my mind, vehement words, fresh, energetic and almost articulate. (All they needed was to be written down.) Good news, surely, for writing.

But you know what I was thinking about? Health Care Consumer Protection Act Written Directives section 90-042. I’m on a committee at work that has to take that and other sections like it, and use it as raw material for our boilerplate legal pleadings. But we can’t figure out what section 90-042 says. It’s a problem. I never used to think about work when I wasn’t there. Now I do, and it’s distracting.


For Mother’s Day we all walked to Pancake Circus (Enzo scootered) and between the three of us we ate twelve sausages. (I had five.) Then we went to Lake Natomas and paddled a canoe past the dam, then along the North shore, through a short tunnel and into a swampy area, very bijoux feeling with fallen logs in the murky water, scrubby oaks shading the shore, Spanish Moss hanging from their branches. Some parts of the water were clear and some were thick with floating algae that streamed down into the water. Yellow water irises stood together in patches. A great blue heron had to fly away from its concentrated hunt because we couldn’t steer the canoe well enough to avoid it.

And fish were jumping. Big ones, a flash of silvery, watery light and then a great fat splash. Enzo was sure he saw a salmon and kept wondering aloud how a salmon could get here, past Nimbus dam. But he was sure of the shape and the hooked jaw. Later he saw a small bass approach his glittery plastic worm (crazy rig) and try to bite it. He started to reel in a little, to sort of bounce the worm and make it interesting, but the handle of his reel fell off and into the water and sank instantly.

This was a about twenty minutes after my whole reel fell off the pole and into the water. I got the reel back because it was still attached to the line. But I had to unspool all the line from the reel in order to pull it up.

We ended up ditching the reels and tying about five feet of line to the end of each pole and trolling along that way, while Teresa paddled. We didn’t catch anything. But the fish were right there. We’re going back soon, probably next weekend.

On the way home, we stopped at Bass Pro and upgraded our equipment.

All the Kings of Europe

13 March 2017

Dear Max,

Yesterday was a great day for Enzo, a historical one. He caught two sturgeon, one baby and one keeper, and—to make it more delicious—he was the only one on the boat to catch any sturgeon, so he won the glory and the jackpot—eighty-five dollars. He would want me to include the statistics: 45 inches from nose to tail fork (Fish & Game measures that way) and 52 inches to the end of the tail (we measure that way) so it was almost as long as he is tall, and such a distinguished fish. We killed it, nevertheless, and tonight we’ll start eating it.

It was a warm, clear, nearly windless day. Green hills all around San Pablo Bay. But I don’t want to write about the fishing or the boat. It’s my diary, and I still don’t care about fish, so there. Besides, Enzo has been writing away like sixty in his red notebook that says Fishing Quest on the cover. It’s his subject.

My feeling was not so much victory as relief. When I booked the trip, the captain warned me that this might not be a very good trip for a kid. Sturgeon fishing is slow. You often don’t catch anything. But Enzo has been obsessed with sturgeon for years. Long before he started to read himself, he had us reading to him about all fish, but especially sturgeon, all the different kinds, the giants of the Columbia River, the record-catch for each species. (He’s bothered by the fact that the records coming out of the former Soviet Union probably aren’t reliable.) And now that he reads himself, he’s the same, obsessive, but in a good way. (Most obsessions are good, I think.)

After he caught the baby sturgeon and a diaper striper, the men on the boat were shaking their heads, “Kid’s got the lucky pole.” And then the big one hit. I was inside the cabin when it happened. I heard shouts. The deck hand called to the the captain, “It’s gonna be a keeper,” and the captain got the big net from the front of the boat. Enzo reeled and reeled. The fish made a run, and line whizzed out, then it swam around the boat, and the men held their poles up high and Enzo ducked under their lines, following the fish and reeling and tipping back and reeling some more. The men clustered around shouting advice. One kept touching his pole, and I had to back him off.

And then the fish was by the boat, and the captain got it into the giant net and brought it aboard. It flopped around the deck and then lay still, gills straining. The deck hand measured it, just to be sure, then gave it three or four hard blows on the head with a little wooden club. The fish was still. Everyone was excited. The boat hummed with happy anticipation. Men clapped Enzo on the shoulder and high-fived him. The captain took this picture.


Next Day:

On Monday morning, I told Enzo not to boast too much at school. Then I went to work and boasted to every single person I saw and made them look at pictures on my phone. When I got home, I told Enzo and Teresa about my boasting and asked Enzo how he did in that department. He said, “First, I asked them what they did on the weekend, and after that, it wasn’t really even boasting at all.”

I cooked some of the sturgeon, breaded in crushed Saltines a la Grandma Maxine. It was fantastic, pure and white and clean. Enzo said, “All the Kings of Europe ate this fish.”

I said that it bothered me a little how the deck hand killed the fish. As he clubbed it, he said, “Bad! Bad! Fish!” One word per blow. I said it seemed disrespectful and that our attitude should be more thankful.

Thankful? It’s not like it wanted to die.”

So I folded up my fine feelings and put them in my pocket and passed the tartar sauce.



25 November 2016

Dear Max,

I couldn’t take Colin on my Thanksgiving picnic because it turned out to be a bike trip. (The buses don’t run on Thanksgiving, so Enzo and Teresa needed the car.) But other than no Colin, it was perfect: brilliantly sunny day, cold, fall color, new green grass coming up through brown leaves, and the river glinting here and there where the bike path gets close to it.

In this Diary of Record, I must include the food:

First course: grandma’s stuffed celery, Cambozola on a warm crusty end-piece of bread (I brought the whole loaf because it was still too hot to slice when I left the house), mango-flavored sparkling water, plus more cheese on those tiny chi-chi crackers from Trader Joe’s—pomegranate and pistachio crisps, I think they’re called.

Second course. Champagne (pink but not sweet), turkey sandwich (dark meat only, done in the slow cooker, much diminished by Pete’s counter-surfing predations), homemade cranberry sauce (indistinguishable from canned but still good), mayonnaise (natch) potato chips.

Dessert: Remove from picnic blanket to hammock, black coffee, macarons (apricot, salted caramel, coconut).

And the whole way through, Desolation Island from the sinking of the Waalkzaamheid all the way to the right true end, the escape of Louisa Wogan on the American whaler. When I closed the book, I felt like cheering.

Then it was time to go home, which now seemed very far away (in fact, about fifteen miles), and somehow all the stuff I’d brought had expanded, even though I’d eaten a lot of it. But I got it all packed up on the bike, and at least my route home was downstream this time, that is, a very slight down-hill grade most of the way.

A few times during the day, I tried to think thankful thoughts, but it didn’t take. I felt pious and affected. (Any time you decide what to think, aren’t you just being ridiculous?) My attempted-thankful thoughts always turned into something like: thank God I’m right about everything and here’s why, which was at least sincere.


19 November 2016

Dear Max,

Enzo and I went on an overnight school field trip. It wasn’t that bad this time—hardly hellish at all and often fun.

On the second day, the class went on a long walk and eventually got strung out over some distance, so the feeling of being in a big group went away, and I ended up walking mostly with Dahlia and Amelia.

They were so conversable—easy, good talk, funny, surprising. And we’re interested in the same things: writing, reading, food. We talked about day dreams and night dreams. I felt as if I could say anything in the world except a lie, and they’d understand it from top to bottom and all the feeling behind it.

I didn’t have any means of taking notes, and, as usual, I remember a lot of what I said and very little of what anybody else said.

I told them that the night before, when I couldn’t sleep, I’d had a long daydream (that is, a night time daydream) about Enzo, Pete and me coming back to Fort Ross to go camping, and at night we were attacked by a bad guy, and I told Enzo, “I am the mother. You must do as I say. Take Pete and run and get help. I will stay and fight.” And I fought the bad guy while Pete and Enzo stayed together, scrambling through brush and bushes in the dark. They made it to the road and got help, but it was too late, I was dead, and everyone was really sad and really impressed.

Amelia said, “I didn’t know grownups had day dreams like that.” I felt the glow of being understood and approved. She said she has daydreams about saving her little brothers, but she always lives and then she’s famous.

We talked about how daydreams and night dreams can be funny stories afterward, but they’re serious while you’re inside them. Like Amelia dreamed that some of the characters from Frozen were in her bathroom, and they were zombies, and even though it was ridiculous to describe, it was one of the scariest dreams she ever had. (Frozen, for those lucky few who’ve escaped this information, is the Disney animated movie that set in motion a tidal wave of princess power rah-rah insanity that is still breaking, years after the movie came out.)

We talked about writing. Amelia said that she can write a whole story in her head, but when she puts it down on paper it doesn’t come out right at all. We talked about different projects she’s working on. At one point she said, “I don’t know if you knew that I was a writer.”

“I think I’d heard that that was kind of your thing.”

“It isn’t kind of my thing. It is my thing.” (Those words I remember exactly.)


Reading this over, I see how partial and unsatisfactory it is. I can’t remember anything that Dahlia said, but she was fully part of everything we talked about. What Amelia said about the story in your head and how it comes out on paper—that’s true of non-fiction too.

I do remember Dahlia’s ideal sandwich: white bread, Brie, black figs.


I told Enzo I was writing in my diary about the field trip and asked if there were any details I should include. He thought for longer than I expected and then told me the number of canons, the direction each was aimed, the names of some of the buildings and his estimate of their dimensions.

Maybe the word details was a mistake.

Alone Together

20 November 2016

Dear Max,

We’re not going anywhere or seeing any family this Thanksgiving. That’s not unusual for us. But we’ve decided to take the concept one step further and not see each other either.

It all started with our three very different Ideal Thanksgivings.

Teresa: Watch football all day long without stopping. Eat great snacks.

Enzo: Go to Marie Calendars for turkey and ham and all the trimmings. Spend the rest of the day hanging out with the dogs and getting extra Minecraft time. (I took him to Marie Calendars for pie one day, and he picked up their Thanksgiving brochure, which he’s been studying.)

Me: Make the greatest picnic in history, bring a fresh New Yorker, Desolation Island, Frantumaglia and somehow get my hands on an L.A. Times. Go to Sailor’s Bar on the American River and read and eat for hours. No fishing.

So we’ve decided to do all three. Teresa and Enzo will have to combine their plans because we can’t just send him to Marie Calendars on his own. I’ll take Colin to the river.

I’m excited about it. I think I’ll be lonely, but happy.

I’m not sure what to put in my picnic, but I do know that there will be courses, there will be chips, and coffee at the end.

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