The Valley

I live in California’s San Joaquin Valley. If you’re from anywhere else in the world, I need to tell you that this area isn’t the California you think you know. No beaches here (we’re a couple hours inland). A few famous people came from this area–George Lucas, Jeremy Renner, James Marsters, and Timothy Olyphant all grew up around here–but none of them stuck around here. The politics in this area tend to be pretty far to the right of my own. We have lots of dairy farms; almond ranches; vineyards; and fields with corn, beans, and melons.

There are some good points about living here. It’s affordable by California standards. We have access to lots of fresh produce and excellent Mexican food. With a two hour drive we can be at the beach, in San Francisco, or in the mountains. Traffic isn’t usually too awful.

But there are downsides. Our summers are beastly hot. And yes, it’s a dry heat, but that’s not much solace when temps can top 100F for days or weeks on end. Our air quality is awful, partly due to pollution from local agriculture and partly because pollution from the Bay Area and smoke from wildfires get trapped here in the valley. And then there are the allergens.

I took this photo this morning, about three blocks from my house. Almond trees. They’re lovely in bloom, aren’t they? And I can smell them as soon as I step outside; they have a very pleasant aroma. Unfortunately, they make me cough and sneeze and give me headaches.

So excuse me while I go grab a new package of tissues.

Stress relief

This last week was a rough one. It was the first week of classes, which is always a little crazy anyway. But two years of pandemic has been incredibly stressful to everyone in education (and elsewhere!), resulting in excessive amounts of… difficulty. Not so much from the students this week as from administrators and faculty. Patience is a virtue I need to work on anyway, and I had plenty of practice doing that last week.

So I’ve been dealing with the frustration and anxiety in my usual ways. Okay, I may have added in some bonus chocolate and tequila, but I’m doing two of my favorite things: writing and dreaming about travel.

Writing-wise, I’m nearly finished with book 9 in the Bureau series. I love writing in that world. This one takes place in the 1970s, mostly in California’s Sierra Mountains. Ralph Crespo plays a small part in this one, but the main focus is on two new guys. One of whom is not entirely human. 🙂

As for travel, it’s hard to get too emotionally invested after two years of cancelations. But if all goes well, this year I may be looking at a cruise to Mexico (to make up for last month’s canceled Caribbean cruise), plus trips to Paris, Lisbon, Portland, Port Townsend, and Austin. At the moment, the cruise is sounding the most appealing because I’m picturing myself sipping margaritas and working on a novel while overlooking the Sea of Cortez.

Here’s a fun memory from my last trip to Paris, in 2019: me looking dorky as I hold one of my books, which I found for sale at Les Mots a la Bouche, a great bookstore in Le Marais.