©Yuet-Sim Darrell Chiang, 2015

©Yuet-Sim Darrell Chiang, 2015

A telephone call from my pal Caryl — and that’s how it began. I know she was surprised when I finally agreed to take a free flight from Oakland to Shasta City to visit Lake Shastina with the prospect of buying a lot for a weekend home.

“But, Caryl,” I said skeptically twiddling with the telephone cord, “that’s far north. Why would I, a short-time condo owner, want to buy property far from my teaching job and friends?

“Just look at it as an adventure,” she assured.

An adventure. Caryl, my long-time buddy from Stanford Daily days, had added many adventures to my life: glass collecting, which led to our becoming editors of the Glass Art Society Journal; watching professional ice skating, which led to a week at the World Ice Skating 2001 Championship at Vancouver, Canada.

Our Southwest airplane was filled with mostly middle-aged women and a few couples But handsome single men in buckskin jackets with lots of fringe and polished cowboy boots were plentiful. They were the company’s escorts on this silly trip. “We’re happy to have you with us this morning,” the most gorgeous of the escorts enunciated. Wonderful if the property will be as handsome as he, I sighed.

The hour’s trip gave plenty of time to imagine the adventure of living in the shadow of Mt. Shasta,14,179 ft., the second highest peak in the Cascades and the fifth highest in California. Another baritone guide entertained us with stories about early days of tourism among the Shasta, Modoc, and Klamath Indians. Soon the stories made my eyes close, and I was happy when the pilot indicated we were about to land.

After a hasty cup of coffee, that hardly took away the chill, our escorts led us to two dozen waiting enclosed green jeeps for visiting the unpopulated land. “Let’s pick this jeep, “ I called to Caryl, who was finishing her Pepsi.

But the decision as to our jeep and traveling mates had already been made, and Caryl waved goodbye, as she was whisked away by her escort.

Soon I was alone with Randy, a gorgeous bearded dark-haired fellow. He had a million-dollar smile. His right arm caressed the back of my seat as we bounded across the mountainous property surrounding Lake Shasta. Unfortunately, without Randy turning a dial, the radio sounded: a treacle-voiced woman announced: “Property #230 has been sold; #235 has two competitive bidders. #256 is available,” she advised.

Wow, I thought quietly, these lots must really be bargains. But I know nothing about building a home; and one almost 300 miles from Oakland. Without my Cousin Joe’s help, I would never have understood how to purchase my condominium. I wished I could telephone Joe as the sales announcements continued.

Randy pushed the gears into second, and we were off! No talking; it felt as if we were outlaws plagued by rangers rather than leisurely Sunday drivers. Finally we reached #256, but alas Lady Treacle pronounced, “Sorry, #256 sold. You have another half hour before airplane boarding begins. Try #478.” I didn’t dare ask for the nearest rest room, as we zoomed away, passing more lots. Randy, unsmiling now and obviously in a hurry, assured me that #478 would be proper for a two-bedroom week-end retreat.

But I wasn’t convinced, even though the radio lady announced that the lot bordered the Robert Trent Jones golf course. Golf! That brought back horrid memories of my Stanford golf teacher shouting , “Replace your divots, Ruby.”

Soon we returned to a small office next to the makeshift landing field. I could see Caryl mounting the plane’s steps, and Randy indeed looked as if I had wasted his time. I sat at a desk, contract and pen in hand, but still vacillating plenty; if only I could phone Caryl: I wonder if she had purchased a lot: $500 down; $4500 to pay within the next three months.

“If you sign with us today,” Randy said, “ by California law you have three days to reconsider the purchase.”

Sweat ran down my forehead as I picked up the pen and signed.

“What! You are buying a lot?” Caryl exclaimed, as I sat very close to her, whispering what I had done. I didn’t bother to say, “…but you said…..”

Back home in Oakland it didn’t take me a minute to make a very important phone call: to my lawyer in Saratoga.“Sure, Rube,” he laughed I’ll take care of this on Monday.”

©Ruby Bernstein, 2015

Ruby Bernstein, BAWP ’74, continues to live in Oakland where she serves on the Oakland Library Commission.


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