December 2006

Holiday greetings to everyone from our family! The biggest event of our year took place just a few weeks ago, when Waltís sister Alice married Joe, a first for her, a second for him. Theyíve been going together for about 12 years and the general sentiment of everyone was "what took you so long?"

It was a beautiful wedding, held at the historic Presidio Chapel in the historic part of Santa Barbara.

Relatives flew in from Ireland, from Denmark and all across this country and a wonderful time was had by all. We had a bit of a scare a few weeks before the wedding when Waltís 92 year old mother was hospitalized for pneumonia and then, reacting to medication, developed a "touch" of hospital-induced dementia. But after an interim stay at a convalescent hospital, she was able to make it to the wedding, and looked beautiful--and actually seemed to be energized by all the activity and all the people who came to visit her.

I spent the week prior to the wedding escorting the Irish cousins around California.  We took in a tour of Hearst Castle, stopped to see elephant seals along the beach, spent a night in Monterey, toured Carmel and San Francisco, spent a night with my mother, and then drove back to Santa Barbara in time for all the festivities.  (I wouldn't have missed getting my first pedicure with the group for anything!)

Closer to home, as you read this, please sit down because you may not believe it. As of January 4, Walt will be retired. He has worked for the Department of Agriculture since he graduated from college and had become the "old sage," like a Native American elder, who was the repository for all the memories of the tribe that the young ones need to know. I am writing this in late November and I donít have a clue what he is going to do on January 5 and for the rest of his life. If anybody has a hobby suggestion for someone who hates golf, let him know!

People have just assumed heíll retire and devote himself to making sets, but set-building has gone totally by the wayside with the death of the Davis Comic Opera Company this year. Now he just sits in the audience and appreciates the work of other set-builders. (Truth be told, he was ready to retire from set building anyway, but there was nobody willing to step in and take his place; the demise of DCOC saved him from having to make that announcement.)

We went to Los Angeles in February to see a broadcast of our favorite radio program, "Says You." It was so worth it! What a great time we had, so great that we have tickets for the broadcast again this coming February--we will be going on my birthday (this year we went on Waltís birthday).

In April, Walt and I, along with 6 other people from California (including my mother), snuck in to Boston to surprise Jeri on her 40th birthday. Fortunately, a love has surfaced in her life, Phil Sequeira, whom she has known since junior high school. Phil moved from Sacramento to Boston a few weeks before Jeriís birthday, so he did all the planning. She was, to say the least, flabbergasted.

(Her shirt says "Lordy, Lordy, Jeri's 40")

We spent several days in and around Boston (we spent a day touring Salem, for example) and had a great time. The highlight for my mother was visiting the JFK Library.

Later in the year, Jeri came out to California for another birthday party.  In our group of friends from our UC Berkeley years, each family gave birth to a child in 1966 and all five kids turned 40 this year, so we had a "Lordy, Lordy Everybody's 40" picnic to commemorate the event.

Joe, Jenny, Liam, Jeri, Steve

We had an unpleasant shock just before Jeri's birthday in April with the sudden death of one of our Pinata group, Bill Desmond, the father of Jeri's "god-sister," Colleen. Bill developed heart pains during dialysis, collapsed in the hospital and never regained consciousness. There is a decided hole in our group now, and we have all been reminded of our own mortality.  There have been health problems in the group over the years (and we have lost 3 of the kids, our two and Bill Jones, who died before David), but Bill is the first one of the "first generation" to die and it doesn't seem possible. Most of the "Pinata kids" were able to come to his memorial and it was a beautiful tribute to a man who was such a towering presence in their lives.

3 generations of "The Pinata Group"

I became a "vlogger" this year ó thatís someone who takes videos and posts them on the Internet. I learned an awful lot about editing video and, being me, posted far too many for people to keep up with. But I "met" a lot of nice people, some of whom helped make it financially possible for me to attend the First Annual "Vloggercon" in San Francisco, where I spent 2 days meeting people from all over the world who are active in this new little niche of the Internet.

In July, Walt and I flew to Los Angeles for a quick overnight to see our friend Jim Brochu in his show, "Zero Hour," a brilliant one-man show about Zero Mostel. Mark my words, this show is going to make a name for itself, but first Jim and Steve have taken their "The Big Voice, God or Merman?" which we have seen several times (the last time at a musical theater festival in New York), and opened it off Broadway. Weíre hoping that perhaps after all this time, itís finally "their turn."

Weíve had ups and downs with dogs this year. We continued to take in orphaned puppies and had a couple of very sad losses with puppies who were just too sick to survive. We also finally had Kimba, whom we had for 16 years, put to sleep in September. She had lost control of her bowels and was no long able to walk comfortably and it was just time to let her go.

This opened the door for us to adopt "Happy," who came as a foster and who I knew we were going to keep before the end of the first day. I first changed her name to "Rosie," and then, watching her leap constantly everywhere (have you seen that commercial of the Pomeranian leaping at a glass door?) she quickly became "Leaping Lizard," or "Lizzie," for short Sheís a real sweetheart, a 1Ĺ year old terrier mixture...Be sure to check out my "doggie cam" video that explains why she has her name!  (Part of the video was actually shown on the Ellen Degeneres Show!)

For most of November, we had four Brittany Spaniel puppies, part of a litter of 10.  I called them the "Rainbow Puppies," because they were identified by different colored threads around their neck.  We had Pinkie, Golde, Blue, and Panda (whose original color was white, but her ID thread fell off--and, well, she was black and white...) They arrived at age one week and it was so much fun watching them progress from lumps to active puppies. Kind of takes the sting out of the death of the puppies we lost earlier in the year.

We also still see tons of theater, since I'm still a theater critic. Itís reached the point where going to the theater is more "work" than fun some of the time.

Jeri continues to teach at Berklee College of Music and seems to be so much happier now that Phil is in her life. She also teaches music privately, works on lighting design for a local junior high, and plays in the pit orchestras of musicals produced in the Boston area.

Ned is the "Image Director" at "Jack-FM" (93.7 on your radio dial in Sacramento), a title he acquired when Howard Stern moved to Sirius Radio. He says he really likes his job--and itís delightful to hear him say that, after all these years. Martaís Jakarta Bodyworks is doing well and her reputation as a massage therapist grows. The two of them have been adding a room to their house and going through the hell of construction, but they finally have a roof on the room and the are feeling much better about that.

Tom and Laurel are doing their own reconstruction as well, a bit more major than Ned and Martaí fact, a whole new building, an apartment over the existing garage. Theyíve been working on it for over a year and it looked like itís nearing completion, when we were in Santa Barbara. Laurel was an invaluable assistance as wedding planner for Alice Nanís wedding and did a beautiful job.

All things considered, it's been a fairly good year, with more highs than lows--and can it get any better than that?  As we head into 2007, we are facing the unknown:  how will we both adjust to Walt's retirement?  But that is a topic for next year's letter!

We wish everyone the happiest holiday season, we hope for some semblance of peace in the world, and we pray that everyone stays healthy and reasonably happy in the coming year.

Much love to all of you.

The Sykes Family
Walt & Bev * Jeri & Phil * Ned & Marta * Tom & Laurel
Sheila & Lizzie
(and, in absentia, Paul and David)