Full of Complex Carbohydrates and MicroNutrients

I am a novelty to many (and I'm fine with that).
I have a very silly sense of humor usually riddled with malapropisms (and I'm fine with that, too).
I ask too many questions of Life and I expect all the answers.
I trust people too easily when I shouldn't; however, I respect everyone regardless…unless they do something to make me think twice.
I don't cheat. I am tactful yet will give the truth up front (and never mean to hurt anyone's feelings with it).
I like to help the people who have helped me, and even those who have not.
I never forget... but sometimes I misplace things.
I never lose hope.
I am awesomely blessed for the people who have come into my life, and I am blessed for the people who have left because I realize I didn't need them anyway.
I honestly feel that laughter is the best medicine you can have.
I believe in being strong when everything else seems to be going wrong.
I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles. In other words, I'm human, and definitely not perfect.
But tomorrow is another day, and there's so much cheese to be had...
(thank you to Ranae S. for this bit of inspiration!)

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Everyone, get up and dance now!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Happy New Year... Great Old Tahoe Memories... and Continuous Hauntings!

Snowed in we are (yet again), up here on the hill in the woods. Castle GreenFuzz (as I have dubbed our home) is comfy and warm and quiet inside, thankfully so, as the atrocious weather last evening dumped another three or so icy inches outside. I have only ventured outdoors in the brisk 8 degree air to let the dog go pee pee and to refill the bird feeders, then scuttled quickly back inside to shake off the chill.

Chills, you say? Chills abound, indeedy! Let's talk about that for a minute now. I happened upon a few vintage photos of the famous (or, infamous, if you prefer) Cal-Neva Lodge and Casino at Lake Tahoe. The lodge is located on the scenic north shore in Crystal Bay, straddling both the California and Nevada statelines (hence the name), and boasts a truly interesting history. In its heyday, it was a hangout for Mafioso gangsters and the likes of entertainment dignitaries such as the Rat Pack (Frank Sinatra himself once owned the establishment, and used the lodge's subterranean tunnels to scurry about without being noticed), Jack and Bobby Kennedy, and, of course, Marilyn Monroe, who stayed there at her small bungalow the week before her mysterious death. And, yes, there have been accounts of spectral Monroe sightings at or around the bungalow in recent years.  
Early photo of the Lodge, before the addition and tower were added
Everything about the Cal-Neva Lodge invokes chills in so many ways. Local lore claims it's built on ancient Indian sacred land and that restless spirits abound. 
The Front Room, where spirit mists like the one above have been reported
It does have a very unusual feel to it, to be sure, as there is some sort of vibe that seemingly emanates from the old wood paneling and stone architecture. The last time I was there in the late summer of 2006, I felt that deeply in a variety of ways. 

My photo of the Front Room (note orbs near ceiling)
But that remains to be told here; I'm getting ahead of the story....

Refurbished entrance and tower in rear, where we performed the deed!
A lot of my old memories have become liked aged tabloid photos: drained of their critical color, their elements are now rendered nearly black and white, or at best, sepia-toned. Yet that is not so for the Cal-Neva (nor any of Lake Tahoe for that matter). Those images remain pristine and crystal-clear like the otherworldly-blue waters of the mile-high lake itself, which some claim is bottomless (highly impossible - the deepest section that has been mapped by bathysphere is certainly quite deep: 1,645 feet). I can vividly recall the abundant A-frame Swiss chalet and log cabin homes dotting the lake shore, the brilliant high-altitude sunshine, and lovely, conifer-covered granite mountains laden with a thick carpet of pine needles that crunched as I tread upon it, releasing their heavenly-fresh aroma in my nose. Or maybe it's the three large pine trees we have here in our front yard I'm smelling... regardless, Tahoe beckons to me often, and I seem to reverberate on its cerulean blue frequency. Perhaps it's the Celt in me... or some specks of old ancestral Nordic blood I must retain from pillages past. 

Either way, it's my favorite terrain, and I get all verklempt as I reminisce of it.
No such thing as a bad view anywhere

Better put, Tahoe haunts me...
Lake Tahoe's Emerald Bay section, showing Fannette island

You've never seen such shades of blue!
We spent nearly every summer there when I was growing up as a kid in the smoggy, stiflingly-hot San Fernando Valley in the '60s and '70s ("But it's a DRY HEAT," I was plentifully reminded by my east coast parents who knew what humidity was like).

My Brooklyn-born folks loved the place - Daddy in particular, as he was an avid gambler and going there for our summer vay-cays afforded him the opportunity to temporarily leave his dull TV/electronics repairman job and get some high-altitude thrills. For Mom, well, the Cal-Neva once being owned by her idol was more than enough reason to go! 

During the days, we'd go kayaking or simply float serenely in the lake, bake in the sun on the clean sandy beaches, go sight-seeing, catch crawdads in the lake or trout in the nearby Truckee River. At night, we'd slather cream on our sunburns, dress up, and venture out to eat. Always, we went to Bacci's Inn, a rustic, Old World Italian restaurant that had the best food outside of Little Italy. Our yearly pilgrimage to Bacci's was something we looked forward to with great excitement and much salivation. (The minestrone soup alone is to die for!)
Salivating outside the much-loved Bacci's Inn 
After our feast, the oldsters would try their luck on the one-armed bandits or at the crap tables back at the sparkly Cal-Neva casino. Of course, us under-age minors got shuffled off to the kiddies' arcade with our pockets full of quarters, where some of us sure played a mean pinball. We had soft-serve ice cream cones for dessert and would walk around barefoot at twilight on the shore, reveling in the last vestiges of warmth left in the sand before the moon rose over the horizon and stole it away for the night.
Well-fed, thanks to Bacci's

I love and miss Tahoe greatly, mourning its remoteness like a lover in a long-distance relationship. When Daddy and I discussed his last wishes, he said that he wanted to have his ashes scattered there. After his death in September 2005, Mark and I arranged to fly out the following year on the first anniversary and do just this. It was a crackling-hot day (but very dry, remember) as we drove around the 75 or so lakeshore miles in our rental car (a sofa-on-wheels/Pimp Daddy-style Lincoln Continental) to find just the *right* spot to carry out our task.
Granite, pine, and heavenly blue skies
Emerald Bay is a small finger that juts out on the lower west end of the lake's California side, and as we happened upon it, I knew in my heart that this was the perfect place. This section of the lake is most well-known for both Fannette Island, where almost hundred years ago an eccentric woman built a stone house that she rowed out to each day in order to have afternoon tea; and, directly across from it on the shore, Vikingsholm Castle: a breathtaking marvel of Nordic architecture, complete with wooden beams carved into the shape of dragon heads and a living sod roof (I want a sod roof! I want a sod roof! Wait, I'm an eccentric woman, too, and I want a Viking castle!).

We hiked several miles down the Rubicon Trail's winding hilly path in the bright sunshine (me, clutching the urn of ashes in a discrete cardboard box) to the shore where I searched for a private area to say a prayer and release Daddy's earthly remains. 

Suddenly, there it was at the water's edge: an ancient tree stump, its wood bent over in a surreal way, forming a virtual archway to the lake. I have never seen a tree in this shape in my entire life. It was astonishing, and almost unsettling in a way, to see something as magical as this. 
Daddy's Archway
Never mind that such an act in a state park may have been against the law, likely carrying heavy fines, but dammit, this was beyond the mere laws of ordinary mortals - I had an important job to do! And it was here that most of Daddy's ashes were scattered over the lake and to the wind. 

I say 'most,' because I knew where to scatter the rest... Cal-Neva Lodge!!!

That evening, Mark and I snuck into the Tower section of the lodge - no easy feat, as security is tight and there are cameras everywhere. You need to be a guest and have a room key to access the elevator (neither of which we were or had!). We craftily made our way to the top floor, walked to the front of the hallway and casually opened up the door to the balcony overlooking the front of the hotel... and sent a billowing cloud of Daddy flying out over the rooftop into the night! Across the famous hangout for mobsters, starlets, politicians, to mingle with the spirits of Native peoples.... POOF!

Just after the deed was done... hee hee hee!
Holy crap, if someone had looked up and seen us, they may have feared we were dumping gawdknowswhat and called the cops! Obviously we didn't want to push our luck, and cheesed it ASAP, cackling to ourselves as we blithely strode out the front door and into the cool night.

I'd held so much emotions inside myself during the past year after his passing, and now found it being finally released, crying with a mixture of grief and utter hilarity at our stunt, and knew in my heart that Daddy was having himself a big laugh, too. I mean, what balls I must have had to attempt this. Was it worth risking getting arrested for? Shit, yeah! And I'd do it again in a heartbeat!

Please take note, as I, too, am planning to have my earthly remains dispersed in such a way... but first, I insist that everyone parties first, hearty and long. The Irish in me demands it!

PART 2 of Cal-Neva and Lake Tahoe adventures to come. Stay tuned!