Welcome to Californio!

It’s here and ready to be read!

I’m proud to finally be able to say: You can order a paperback of Californio through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or pre-order the e-book (available August 2nd) for Kindle or Nook.

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If you live in the Santa Barbara area, or you’re planning to visit Santa Barbara’s Old Spanish Days Fiesta (August 2 – 6), Californio is the perfect book to enrich your Fiesta experience.  You can find Californio at Chaucer’s Bookstore on Upper State Street, the Book Den, and Santa Barbara Presidio’s Gift Shop.

If you have a favorite bookstore in your own town you want to support, just give them the title, Californio by Darlene Craviotto, and ask them to order you a copy.

If you’re a member of a book club and would love to use Californio as one of your books, please contact me here at my blog for special wholesale pricing, and a guide for discussing the novel and California’s First Pioneers.

Thank you to all of you who have come to this blog, read my posts, and given me the confidence and courage to always write what my heart wants me to write. I would never have written this novel if not for the feedback, the kind words, and the connection that I’ve found here at this blog. I hope you enjoy Californio because I felt while I was writing it that we were all taking this journey together.  A writer always works in solitude, but is never really alone.  Our readers are always at our side, peeking over our shoulders and guiding us along. 

Thanks for always being there.  

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Everyday People Doing Good Every Day

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(This is part of a series I’m starting here on the blog and I’m calling it, “Everyday People Doing Good Every Day.” There are a lot of folks feeling many different feelings right now.  This isn’t an easy time for many of us. But every now and then someone sends me something special or tells me a story that makes me feel good again. It helps me remember how much goodness there is around us, and when I see this goodness I’ll post it here to share with everyone. Hopefully, it’ll inspire us to do good things ourselves in whatever ways we can to enrich our world.)

Daniel F. Craviotto Jr. is an orthopedic surgeon.

He’s also my cousin and a very good man.

I don’t just say that because he’s my cousin. You can ask anyone in Santa Barbara who knows him and I’m sure you’ll hear the same.

I don’t get emails at midnight from my cousin Dan. So last night when my phone “dinged” at a little after 12, and I saw there was an email from him, I figured it was important. The guy has been getting up at 4 each morning to handle extra patients, and I hoped everything was okay.  Here is Dan’s email…

“He’s 95 now and still has that smile. I’ve known him for 20 years.  Operated on him twice. And always the same question: How’s Charlie?  You see he’s forgotten that my Uncle Charlie passed away quite a few years ago, but he still remembers him. They played basketball together in the 1930s and 1940s at the Rec Center on Carrillo Street.  It is when he asks how Charlie’s doing when I remember that my Uncle shared the story of how his good friend was sent away to a Japanese Internment Camp during WW II.  Uncle Charlie said he was a helluva nice guy and even at 95, even now I can see that.  Humble, soft spoken and always smiling.  My uncle, who served in WW II, took a flesh wound and saw his platoon decimated in the Battle of the Bulge, always said, “It’s the shits what they did to our Japanese Americans, putting them in internment camps.” So my uncle’s friend – in spite of all the memories that he’s lost because of age – still remembers Charlie.  And for the first time today I tell him, “You know my uncle shared these stories with me about you.  About your family and the internment and how it wasn’t fair.  How you were such a good friend to him and how they carted you off.”And this man, with tears rolling down his eyes, but still with a smile on his face, just looked at me and said, “What were we to do?”  He reached his hand out and shook mine, told me he missed Charlie and my father, Danny, and he thanked me for taking care of him. What a sweet man.  Dignified. Full of grace. Always a kind word. I love that guy.”

Dad always felt badly that he couldn’t do anything to help his friend or his family.  “They lost everything,” Dad told us. “Their business, their house, their friendships.” In fact, Dad was the only friend who went to the train station to say goodbye to the whole family as they were being transported to the camps. No one else wanted anything to do with the family – a family that had lived in Santa Barbara for many years.

When Dad showed up at the train station, it meant the world to his friend. He gave him a gift, something he’d made at school:  a set of black ceramic coffee mugs. They were a parting gift of thanks to a good friend.

We never used those cups growing up; they were always hidden away. I think they were a reminder to my father of something terrible, something beyond understanding, a time that made him feel helpless.

One of those cups sits prominently on my desk.

I keep it there to honor the man who made it. And the friend who didn’t follow the crowd, but who still remained a friend.

Maybe my father couldn’t have done more.

But at least he did something.

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Hello? Can You All Still Hear Me…?

It’s been three years since I’ve regularly posted here.

I’ll be honest with you — I’m not sure I remember how to do this.

I just finished writing 99,000 words, locked in the 1700s with characters who speak another language, live in another culture, and who are traveling on horses and mules 1500 miles to the promise land of California. I’ve just lived this amazing adventure, and I’m not sure how to come back here to my blog.

I’m having a hard time returning to the 21st Century.

But do you blame me?

This 21st Century isn’t easy to live in. There’s lead in the drinking water in Michigan. People are getting shot every day. There are hurricanes and Zika-bearing mosquitos in Florida, wild fires and earthquake warnings in California, 24 hour coverage of the nastiest political race that I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime…and when I try to look away, to seek some solace in the words of my fellow 21st Century travelers on Facebook, Twitter, and in the blogs, I find sarcasm, snark, and insults. Sometimes even threats. It’s hard to stay positive with everything going on in the modern world around us. Harder still for a recovering agoraphobic to want to step out there into the middle of it all.

Some days I ask myself: Why aren’t there more agoraphobics in this 21st Century? After all, there’s nothing you can’t order online and have it delivered to your home. There’s no reason to go to the grocery store, the mall, the movie theater, or anywhere you need to purchase goods or content as long as you have the internet to do your shopping for you. There’s telecommuting for work, online courses for school and college, religious services, and dating. What’s the reason to ever step outside of our homes? To go out in the middle of such heartache and angst? Shouldn’t we all be hiding underneath our covers, cowering with fear and disgust? What pushes us out there every day? What gives us the faith to keep looking for the good in our world?

While writing this, I asked myself those questions. What makes me go out my front door every day, when I could stay warm and protected inside my house, with my imagination keeping me company, and without risking some unknown danger lurking outside?

The answer came easily – I didn’t have to look far.

Brown eyes.

These brown eyes…

stokely-headshot

This is my grandson, Stokely.

He was born in April, at the same hospital where my own son was born. It wasn’t planned that way – it was just one of those sweet quirks of Fate that make you smile and say, “Awwwww.”

If I stay hidden in my world, I will never have the chance to experience Stokely’s world. What I see when I look into those deep brown eyes are what make me forget about all the bad things that go bump in the night. This crazy-at-times 21st Century is his century too. Together, we have to navigate it. He knows no other century, no other world, and this crazy-by-my-terms 21st century is where he will be the most comfortable. Where I hope we can always make him feel comfortable. And above everything else—safe.

I’m working on that.

And that’s what gets me out the front door. Every. single. day.

What gets you out of your front door?

After Three Long Years…!

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Name:  Californio

Born: August 30, 2016

Weight: 99,000 words

Height: 8 1/2″ x 11″

Length of Labor:  Three years

The baby needs to be cleaned up, bathed, swaddled and nursed before he can go out into the world. But when he’s ready, you will be the first to meet him.

—The proud Momma

Today Was Kind Of Special For Us

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Today was the day the Craviotto family walked through our 100 year old Shop to look at all of the tools, scrolls, machinery, and memorabilia, deciding what items to keep and what to sell.

It’s time to say good-bye to Craviotto Brothers Ironworks.

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The business has been a part of the Santa Barbara landscape for almost 100 years, but now it’s time for its corrugated iron doors to close forever. A “Going Out of Business” sale will take place April 25 at what our family has lovingly called “The Shop” ever since three generations have worked there.

It was started by this man, Erasmo John Craviotto.

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E.J. Craviotto bought the land in 1914, but when WWI called his name and he went off to Europe to fight, he left the Shop in the capable hands of his brother, Fred Craviotto.

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That’s when the Shop was named Craviotto Brothers.

When E.J. came back from war, his brother moved on, and E.J. ran the business until 1958 when his two sons, Charlie and Danny Craviotto, took over.

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When most people think of Craviotto Brothers nowadays they think of these two brothers. You almost never saw one without the other. They used to finish each other’s sentences, and sometimes they didn’t even need to finish them to understand what the other one was saying. They went everywhere together, did everything together – work, play, and vacations. You could see them at lunch time, sitting in the open doorway of the Shop, eating their sack lunches, watching the girls walk by, and commenting on the world for thirty minutes a day at noon. Some of us called them the unofficial mayors of Anacapa Street. Danny used to say, “I couldn’t have picked a better brother, a better friend or a better business partner.” Charlie never said the same thing because he didn’t have to – his brother said it for him. They were as close as any two brothers could ever be except for twins.

YoungCharlie&Danny

Danny, on the left, and Charlie, on the right.

Two Brothers

Charlie, on the left, and Danny, on the right.

Charlie passed away in 2004 and Danny followed after him in 2011.

But the Shop still remained.

Craviotto Brothers

Now, it’s time for the Shop to go.

Today, Danny’s widow, Carmen, and the children and grandchildren of Charlie and Danny, walked through the shop and had to do an impossible task – We had to choose the artifacts of 100 years of hard work that our individual families will keep, while allowing the rest to be sold to the public.

While we did this, two pigeons (two, not one, or three, or any other inappropriate number) flew into the Shop and perched in the rafters high overhead, watching us as we worked. And there sat those two pigeons for the whole day, just watching us pick through all the artifacts from a business that was started in 1914, passed off from the father of those two boys, who groomed and grew the family business into a Santa Barbara tradition, a tradition that saw three generations of workers trained there, learning not only how to be iron workers, but also how to be Craviotto men. And here’s the thing: It was two pigeons, not two sparrows, or two Jay birds, or two hummingbirds. Two pigeons.

Danny Craviotto used to raise and race homing pigeons, with his pigeon coop in the backyard of his ma and pa’s house over on San Andres Street.

Uncle Danny with Pigeon

That’s Uncle Danny and me with one of his pigeons. He really loved those birds, and he especially loved that he could take them anywhere, release them, and let them fly high into the sky, flying far away.

But they always came home.

I never see a pigeon without thinking of my uncle, and it always gives me a sense of comfort to know that a pigeon will always recognize his home and know how to get back there when he’s ready.

Today, we looked up at those two pigeons sitting high up in the rafters of the Shop and we smiled at them.  We also shed a few tears just seeing them there. Here’s a photo my cousin, Dan, took with his phone.

2 pigeons

We were all in agreement that Charlie, the big brother, was on the left – looking puffed up and wanting to take on the world, while Danny, the younger, was on the right, still at his side, always the loyal brother.

Sometimes life just makes you shake your head and say, “Wow!”

Viva La, Y’all!

(It’s that time of year again, and if you didn’t read this before, here’s what all the Viva Las!!! are all about…)

It’s Fiesta again in Santa Barbara, and if you don’t know about our fair city’s yearly celebration, let me fill you in:  It’s a five-day-all-you-can-drink non-stop party with sombreros.  There’s a parade (filled with horses), lots of alcohol (mostly tequila and cervesa (beer), but hey, in a pinch even Baily’s Irish Cream will do) and so much Spanish-style dancing in colorful costumes you’ll think you wandered on to the set of “Zorro.”

Today’s Fiesta, also called “Old Spanish Days,” was originally started by the local Poole-Verhelle Dancers in 1922.  Dancing for personal enjoyment and community entertainment eventually evolved into big tourist business known as La Fiesta.  Here’s a photo of that original group:

Fiesta-1923

My grandfather is supposed to be somewhere in that photo.  But for the life of me, I don’t see him anywhere – maybe he was behind the camera taking the picture.  You can see him (and my grandmother) in this photo below, all dressed up in their finest.

Bobbie & nanie Fiesta

And going back one more generation – before Fiesta became commercialized and was simply a helluva great fandango – here’s my great-grandfather.

Great-grandfather fiesta

If you’re a certain type of local, however, Fiesta time in Santa Barbara is when you abandon the town to the tourists and take off to Hawaii.  My dad and uncle always took ten days off on the dates when Fiesta would fall.  They had their own business – an ironworks/welding shop – and they’d hurry like hell to finish up their jobs, sometimes working right up to the night before Fiesta Pequena at the Mission kicked off that year’s big party.  How they managed to get all of their work done in time for their getaway was always a Fiesta miracle, and involved long hours of work, much yelling, swearing, and both brothers threatening each other with martyrdom: “I’m not going on vacation!!!” “NO, I’m not going!!!” Although their parents’ generation had started Fiesta, the two brothers hated that time of the year in their hometown. Maybe this photo had something to do with it:

Dad Fiesta

That must have been the one and only time the brothers dressed up in costumes.  Too bad because they were awfully cute hombrecitos.

In spite of the dislike the two brothers had for Old Spanish Days craziness, the love for Fiesta still beats strongly in the younger generation.  My kids always stop their own lives to return like spawning salmon to their hometown, and the sweet sounds of mariachis, and cascarones crunching against people’s heads.  If you don’t know what a cascarone is, come to Santa Barbara this weekend and we’ll show you.

Not me, of course.

I’m getting the hell out of here before the tourists take over.

(If you enjoyed reading this post and you’d like to read more by Darlene Craviotto…) 

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(Available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iTunes iBooks Store)

Lost & Found in Monterey

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(This is the last post in the CALIFORNIO series.  You can read the four earlier posts by clicking on each title: Californio,  Facebook Friends & Cousins,  Searching for the Garcias,  and Following Felipe.)

I’ve come to Monterey to find a grave.

Two graves, to be precise – the graves belonging to my fifth great-grandparents.  Felipe Santiago Garcia and Maria Petra Lugo Garcia are both buried at Mission San Carlos cemetery at the Royal Presidio Chapel. They are two of only 119 people who are buried there, at a church that was founded by Father Junipero Serra in 1770, on the shores of Monterey Bay.  It was supposed to be the cornerstone of Serra’s first California Mission,  but a year later Mission San Carlos was relocated to Carmel, a site where more indigenous tribes lived, making it easier for Serra to convert them to Christianity. The small church left behind in Monterey remained as a Royal Chapel for the soldiers guarding the new Spanish Presidio of Monterey.

San Carlos Cathedral Presidio

Felipe was one of those soldiers.

Monterey was where Felipe was first stationed as un soldado de cuera, and where Petra set up their first home as man and wife.  They would eventually travel to many other missions and presidios when Felipe would be re-assigned by his commanding officers to new posts.  Missions were being built up and down the coast of California, from San Diego  to San Francisco.  Felipe was sent wherever soldiers were needed, for whatever reason they were needed at that location.  But when he was finally ready to retire, Felipe came back to Monterey – the place he looked at as his one true home.

After a lifetime of service for his country, as a retired soldier, Felipe was given land.  He became a farmer.  He had his own home, and acres that belonged only to him and his family.  Several of his nine sons remained in Monterey to help him.  But  still, there was much work to be done. When his 6th son, Jose Antonio died, his 8th son, Inocente, petitioned the Governor so he could be released from the military to go home to his family in Monterey “…in order to take care of what little property they had.”  When Petra got ill and eventually died in 1817, it was only natural that she be buried at the Royal Presidio church that her husband had protected as a soldier, and where they had worshipped as a family.  And when it was Felipe’s time to pass on, as a retired soldier of that Presidio, there was no other final resting place (or greater honor) than burial at the small church he had helped to build, and guard.  It was Spain’s payback to him for dedicating his life to his country.  In 1822, Felipe Santiago Garcia died and was buried at the Royal Presidio Cathedral.

And now, in 2013, I can’t find him.

I can’t find Petra either.  I know this for a fact because I’ve travelled four hours, 241 miles (at $4.39 a gallon for gas), from Goleta to Monterey, and I not only can’t find the graves of the Garcias, but I don’t see a cemetery at all.  There isn’t one headstone in sight.  Not one.

We Spend The Day Searching. 

Arriving at the Presidio Chapel in the middle of noon mass, we find every office and the Heritage Center locked up and currently unavailable to the public until mass is over.  Not the best timing.  But after a quick search on our iPhone we discover the main Catholic cemetery is just a few blocks away, and head over there to find out some answers.

The people at the San Carlos Catholic Cemetery office very graciously search their computer records for Felipe and Petra Garcia’s names.  Although the cemetery certainly has its share of old (and fascinating) graves, there’s nothing as ancient as 1817 or 1822.  Felipe and Petra aren’t listed in the computer.

“They would have been buried up at the Presidio Chapel,” they inform us.

Gravestone Monterey

Murder in Monterey,  1855

They send us back to the Presidio Chapel, where now it’s lunchtime; offices and the Heritage Center are still locked up.  The only person who seems to be working is the janitor, and we follow him as he carries mop and pail into the vestibule of the church.  When we ask him about the Presidio cemetery and where the graves might be located, he tries to send us back over to the Catholic cemetery we just visited.

“They’re supposed to be here,” I tell the janitor.  “They told us at the Catholic cemetery to come back to the Chapel,” I explain, trying not to sound too exasperated.

“Well, they might be under the floor,” the janitor suggests, and leads us all the way to the back of the church where a large wooden information booth is tucked into a corner.  We help him push the booth out of the way, and magically an old square of marble with hard-to-read letters carved on it appears.  The janitor is right – there are people buried under the church floor.

“But those are Pachecos,” he informs us, just as I was getting optimistic.  “You can’t hardly read the names, but the Pachecos have people buried here.  Are you a Pacheco?”

Nope. Garcia.

He sends us back to the Heritage Center, and when I try the locked door again, I notice the operating hours are only for a couple of days a week because of cutbacks.  Unfortunately, this isn’t one of those days, and we’re scheduled to leave Monterey tomorrow.   Oh well, at least I tried. Giving up, I turn away and we start to head back to the car.   But then, I notice a woman exiting from the office.

“Excuse me!  Can I ask you something?”

She stops to listen.  And (poor woman) I proceed to tell her my long story about the search for the Garcias.  Maybe she thinks I’m crazy or just takes pity on me, but she offers me a glimmer of hope by saying, “If your Felipe was an early soldier in Monterey, then by all means, he would be buried here.” Even though the museum is officially closed, she asks me to come inside as she starts to look up information.

Her name is Fay and she is the kindest and most patient woman I’ve ever met.  I try to limit my questions but I have a lot.  

“You need to speak to our archivist,” she tells me.  And she hands me a card with Father Carl Faria’s name on it.  “He’ll have your answers,” she says with a smile.

A Priest With All The Answers

It’s a week before I can connect with Father Faria because he’s on a cruise.  But when I reach him and tell him I’m looking for Felipe Santiago Garcia’s grave, he hesitates.

“…Do you know a David Gonzalez from Florida?” he asks me.

I tell him no and ask him why.

“He was just this moment in my office looking for Felipe Santiago Garcia’s grave.”

Excuse me?

“Felipe was his fifth great-grandfather too.”

What are the odds?  Am I the only one who thinks this is little strange? Two cousins who don’t know each other on opposite ends of the country looking for the same ancestor at exactly the same moment?

“What did you tell him?” I ask the good Father.

He explains to me everything he just told my Gonzalez cousin:  Yes, it’s true that both Felipe and his wife, Petra, were buried at the Presidio Cathedral.  He gives me their burial numbers that were written in the church book that Father Serra first started.  It’s a record of all baptisms, marriages, and deaths, and Petra is #2225 in the book; Felipe is #2428.  Father Faria tells me that the book itself has recently been sent to the  Huntington Library for an exhibit commemorating Father Serra’s 300th birthday.

“You can go there and see where it’s written – the names of your fifth great-grandparents.”

But what about their graves?

“We’re not exactly sure where they are,” he admits, sheepishly.

They’re lost?

“They were buried here, at the Presidio Chapel, but we can only guess at the location.  Somewhere on the church grounds,” he explains. There’s a Catholic school that has been built on the land, a road that was expanded, and even part of a small strip mall, and all are on land owned by the Church.  “They could be anywhere in those areas,” he tells me. “They expanded the road just behind the church in 1940, and they found quite a lot of bones.  There were no markers so they were buried, all of them together, in a common grave at the Catholic cemetery,” he explains.

But why weren’t there any headstones on the original graves?

“The grave markers were all wooden – made from the bark of trees,” he tells me.  “By the time the Americans came, most had broken apart and crumpled, like dust into the ground.”

We come from the dirt, we go back to the dirt.  

I can’t help but think of my father, and our family saying.

Losing One Thing, Finding Another

I don’t know what I would have done had I found Felipe and Petra’s graves.  Would I have brought flowers to leave there?  Or knelt and said a quick “Hail Mary?” Maybe I just would’ve sat a moment in silence, reflecting on this amazing couple that traveled over 1400 miles, on horseback and mule, across desert, through scorching heat and relentless rainstorms, with no permanent shelter – risking their lives to the elements, bears and mountains lions, and sometimes, hostile indigenous tribes – the first of our bloodlines to come here to California.  It somehow seems wrong that when people die their graves just disappear, and there aren’t any words to acknowledge they were here, that they lived, they contributed; and their families, thousands of descendants (both sharing their name or not) are scattered around the country, from Florida to California.  And maybe a lot of those descendants know nothing about the people who came before them, who struggled and survived, and worked so hard to make a new land their home.

Even though I wasn’t able to find Felipe and Petra, I found something else there in Monterey. With every one of my footsteps following after them, I started to see Felipe and Petra in my imagination. What they looked like, how they sounded, and what dreams they must have had. They were newlyweds going into the unknown, and not sure they would even survive the journey. And as I saw them, I also started to see their son, Carlos, and their grandson, Hilarion, and what their lives might have been like as California grew and changed along with each generation of Garcias.  But mostly, it is Rosa, whose voice I can hear the strongest – a tiny old woman who used to sit at her kitchen table, counting out beans into five stacks – one stack for each one of her children.  The beans represented the money she had saved for them.  Money in five banks that once a week she would visit – taking along with her the young grandson who would translate because even in the 1920s Rosa still didn’t speak English.  She didn’t write and she didn’t read and on her own will she marked an “X” because she didn’t know how to write her name. But she managed to save and to give to the next generation – money, and more importantly, land.  Land to build their own homes where they would raise the next generation, and the one after that.

A family’s history is like a palimpsest – a parchment that is written on over and over again, with some of the earlier writing still visible, even after it’s been erased.  Although one generation’s story has been written, that next generation writes its own story, layered over the last, whether they are aware of it or not.  There are times when the generations intersect, in what they desire, or what they believe.  What one generation strives for, and perhaps never accomplishes might be passed along to the next generation, and perhaps in that particular layer, and in that unique time, dreams – the ones that may have started long ago – might now be realized.

There’s a story about the Garcia family that I’d like to write.  But I have to go inward now – into my imagination – to find that story.  It parallels the tale of early California which is rich, multi-cultural, and hasn’t been told in many books at all.  I know this because I’ve been looking for those books as I’ve been writing these Californio posts.  Although there are non-fiction and academic works, I want to delve deeper, and sometimes the only way to do that is through fiction.  Who were the Californios?  And how did they evolve from their identities as Espanioles, Mexicans, Anglos, and Indigenous tribes, into the people who would become known as Californios?  I can research these questions, and learn the knowledge, or I can experience it with my heart and soul.  I’d rather do the latter.

Toni Morrison once wrote, “Write the books you want to read.”  Californio is a book I really want to read.  But since it’s not written, I guess that means I have to try to write it.

When I take a screenplay assignment in Hollywood, I always do it with the proviso that I will only work on one project at a time.  Writing, for me, is like being pregnant, and my creative womb can only accommodate one pregnancy at a time.  So while I’m writing the book, this blog will have to be silent for awhile.  I’ll take breaks every now and then, and when I do I’ll post a little something here.  Maybe to share how Californio is going, or maybe just to change the topic completely. But I’ll always be reachable.  If any of you have questions about anything we’ve talked about here, you can always leave me a comment on the blog.  I’ll read it and write back to you.

But it might take me a little while.

I’m off to Californio.

ROSALOGO