Zoë Stagg

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Frankie had her first pony ride almost a year to the day of her first steps. At this rate, she’ll get her driver’s license next spring. Or a gift certificate for a ride on a steam engine? I forget my history of transportation.

(Related: Oregon in October is movingly beautiful.)

Keepsakes…

Along with the project of making a new life from scratch, is a trip to the past with a how-you-doin’s through the boxes I packed up four years ago. Some treasures, some trips to Goodwill, and a whole giant box marked “Precious Memories.” I haven’t delved into it yet, but I seem to recall it’s mostly race bibs and the VHS tape of the “music video” my friends and I made at the State Fair in 1991.

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I mean, don’t get me wrong — that’s TOTALLY precious, box label stands.

But my stuff isn’t the extent of the revisit, and it makes you think about stuff and the passage of time. There’s a different between artifact and memento. Frank absolutely has artifacts. Year books of deployments and photographs that don’t just commemorate his life, but military history. I’ve marveled at this before, but all of that in paper form is only HERE. It’s not searchable, it’s not archived, it’s not shared.

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And there’s a lot of it that needs to be digitized, to make sure at the very least, it’s protected.

But some of it is also just interesting mementos of every-day life. Their ration cards for coffee and the like are above. I have a modern day ration card in my wallet right now. It’s just a little fold-up thing that looks about like a “10 stamps for a free sandwich” loyalty dealy. Not really interesting…or at least, it sure doesn’t look like it NOW. But who knows what kind of alchemy time holds?

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And what will “keepsakes” even look like 50 years from now? How much of it is already going to be digitized — or how much will we assume we can rely on that? Like if we don’t keep article clippings because we figure we can find them online, what are we leaving behind? Sure, the physical storage space is easier, but is it really any more secure than a box of photographs?

I don’t know what the answer is, I just know that I’m glad that I still have a record player to fire up this “GIs in Germany” LP, because THAT’S a keeper for sure.

Fresh…

How do you know if you’re in Pop or Soda or Coke country?

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You could do an academic study of regional dialect variations..

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Or you could just relax, and wait for a sign.

(I would argue based on this data, that the Pacific Northwest is nowhere near as pinkish as this map thinks. I mean, the preference is on permanent placards.)

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It’s also a good excuse to pop in for an update.

Setting up a new life is slow going. We picked a house the very first weekend in country, and though there haven’t been any hiccups so far KNOCK ON LAMINATE, we still don’t have keys, or any of the things that come with a settled existence, like a full-size tube of toothpaste.

Stuff aside, it’s a lot quality time with Google and Yelp, trying to find doctors and gyms and preschools — here’s your free startup idea: a binder with all of those decisions made and contact info and maps, left in the bedside table of the new house.

Everything is new except my phone number. I got the number I left four years ago back, so at least on some people’s message history, I’m in the same place, with a small gap. Weird. And though I’m itching to do everything all at once, paint AND update my location on all the dot coms and update all of my backgrounds to make it look more California-y, you can only do half a thing at a time.

But, it will all happen eventually. I will still be here three or four times a week, (and might actually update my tagline to reflect 2014 instead of 2007.)

Or not — maybe ONE thing needs to stay the same…

The Great Pumpkin (Patch)…

The High-Quinoa nature foods store we’re staying next to down south has all of their unconventional decorative gourds advertised as “Fairy Tale Pumpkins” for Rumpelstiltskin prices.

That’s some fantasy “nature.”

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Yesterday we found some real, legit, non-fiction pumpkins — albeit in a pretty fantastic setting. Like sometimes you think Gilmore Girls was a million miles from reality, and then you come across a seasonal celebration that would have fit right in by the Stars Hollow gazebo.

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We spent the morning at the Airlie Hills Harvest Festival & Pumpkin Patch.

Corn mazes (long, short); straw bale mazes (dark, big, short-people sized); hay slides; tractor tricycles; wheat for digging in and a hay ride to take you to find a pumpkin you could REALLY see turning into a coach — they’ve got it all.

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And some made-right-there kettle corn.

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After some testing of her strong-man limits to see which pumpkin would come home, Frankie ended up with a tiny one that miiight hold a tealight, with some clever carving.

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And even though “fall” might be an urban legend at the other end of the west coast, we got enough for a happy Halloween ending, right here.

Try Club: Team USA…

The overthrow was coming, it was inevitable — and today I surrendered the crown. I’m no longer the Swarmsquare Mayor of the gym in Germany. Bonne chance to my noble successor.

It just means I have to set up a new empire here in exile — after all, I think there’s now a very lovely triathlon where Napoleon went, so there’s precedent. My tri season is officially over for the year, but I’m gunning for a couple of old-school one-sporters to finish out 2014. I’m registered for a gettin’ to know you local race, the Mission Inn Run 10k in November, and I’m excited to see town from the race course.

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Overall, I have to curtail my racing to key events, because yowza. 10ks are 50$! That’s not whim pricing in my economy.

And for one last hurrah, a distance I haven’t raced in five years — a half marathon in December.

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Running a la cart makes the most sense right now, it’s portable, I can do it on either end of I-5, and I don’t need to juggle extra equipment and learn new routes and pools. I’m hoping a year end focus on mileage will put me in a good position for Try Club 2015.

I’ve started thinking about events, and don’t think it will be a 70.3 year. I want to do some smart work on speeding up the distances I’ve done. I’m looking at:

Pasadena Triathlon, March 19. (Sprint)

Big Rock Tri, April 11. (Sprint)

San Diego Triathlon, September 12. (Olympic)

And for the lull in the middle of the season? I think my reach event this year might be a one-sporter too — a Century Ride in Tahoe in June. I see bike routes all over town, we’ll see if I can string enough together to make that kind of training fly.

In the meantime, I need to find a tri-club home here. Keys to a real house first, “hobby house a very close second…”

My Side of the Mountain…

It’s not jinxing, it’s following instructions. Our realtor said that while we were waiting out the inspections and escrow, we should check out the neighborhood at all times of day, and get an idea of important commutes.

I considered this to include, “How long will it take to get from the front door, up to the top of the mountain we can just make out from the backyard?”

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I’m sure that’s what he meant.

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I’d heard there were trails up and around, and given its martian appearance from afar, I figured the trails must require carabiners and/or a pack mule.

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I was totally wrong. Hidden between the boulders is a beautiful paved trail that winds up and up, and was scattered with hikers and runners. The only carabiners you need are the kind to strap your keys to your water bottle.

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It’s hot. Just after 9 a.m., and it’s almost too late to start-

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-especially if your desert training is out-of-date, and YOU’RE the one packing your snoozing friend. (Now that I know it’s stroller-safe with a downhill strap, next time..)

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Then around to the briefly shady backside, and suddenly we were right below the cross I’ve been using as a North Star of sorts. Apparently Riverside also shoots off the 4th of July fireworks from this spot, so we can add that info and potential view to the neighborhood recon WHICH IS NOT JINXING.

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It’s just under four miles round trip — and making it to the top without walking would be a pretty good goal someday for someone who lived in the place that somebody might live.

A route with a view.

Acclimating…

I’ve heard people talk about moving to America in their late tens and early teens, and their stories usually center pretty vibrantly on popular and consumer culture. Lots of recollections of being amazed at 17 aisles of cereal in the supermarket, and 700 channels on cable. (Kumail Nanjiani tells a good one on TV Guidance Counselor.)

It’s insufferable to compare coming back after four years to that, but hi, I must be a suffragette.

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Four years counts. You should see what comes home from the grocery store now. “OREO HAS CARAMEL APPLE FLAVOR LOOK THIS POPCORN IS PUMPKIN SPICE” and TV, seriously. It’s ridiculous to marvel at it, since I didn’t have cable for two years before I left, but now that it’s available? You guys, I’m a latch-key kid.

Do you know when all programming starting having a nude equivalent? I missed that genesis, but “Naked and Ice Road Duck Bargain Pawn Hunting” now has a season pass set. (Plus I’m totally caught up on 19 Kids, so maybe they’ll see fit to renew my stateside driver’s license after all — I’m expecting that to be a majority of the test.)

Culture aside, this climate is a doozy. Twelve percent humidity at 100 degrees will make you wake up wondering if it’s possible for your brain to actually resemble a Craisin, or just feel like one. It’s bizarre, this hot wind, cold pool, inferno-out/tundra-in place — I don’t know quite what to make of it.

While we figure it out (and wait for escrow to close), I’ll just keep refilling my BPA-free insulated water bottle, hoarding lip balm, and taking pictures of anything that looks like it might have been in a Columbo episode.

NAKED AND COLUMBO YOU GUYS. You can have that one for free.

Scenes in red, green, and blue from the Northern outpost, where the serving size of Juanita’s is “one entire bag per week,” and knock-off Crocs (Crock Offs?) allow for the quickest access to the best running fields.

Admittedly, the “Zindependence” zin was a Southern outpost find, but HOW COOL IS THAT?

I don’t know how much of a “fall” we’ll get in California, palm trees don’t make colorful leaf piles that I know of, and it’s supposed to 106 and windy this weekend. That seems seasonally appropriate if you were hoping to pinpoint the location of the Hellmouth. 

"You Are Here."

Store/Storage…

George Carlin has that bit about stuff. What you think you need in your house, what you think you need in your suitcase, and on down the matryoshka doll until you wind up with your wallet and keys. That’s all you really need when it comes to STUFF.

We’re kind of in a George Carlin right now. There’s stuff in a suitcase here. Stuff in the temporary condo in California. Stuff on in an air shipment. And SEVEN CRATES of stuff on a boat somewhere.

I hope its enjoying its cruise, because a lot of it has to go.

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Not this stuff. This stuff was what I “chose” for the “early shipment” of things you will need immediately. Very practically, I went with “decor.”


The house we’re waiting on, that will will neither be named nor jinxed, is full of character — and a little devoid of storage. A lot devoid. I’d be willing to bet the things we actually need to set up living, fit in ONE of those mystery crates, leaving the rest, boxes to open, and quickly shut again. Not to mention the boxes that exist from when I closed up house and left for the Army. Boxes I don’t remember packing, didn’t remember existed, and will probably find a few treasures in, but have clearly survived without for several years.


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It’s pretty gross, if you allow yourself to think about it. The collection of stuff happens without noticing, even if you fancy yourself someone who tries not to. Humans aren’t far from goldfish in that way; they expand to fill the size of their tank. But we’re also about as smart as a fish. At least I am. New fishbowl! Needs new fake divers and treasure chests that blow bubbles and a pretty fake coral center piece!

There has to be a good balance in there, somewhere. A place for some fancy new gravel AND a disciplined way to live in the new tank. A way that acknowledges you really only need your keys and wallet — to use on the new Schoolhouse Electric catalog.

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