California farewell

(It’s worth noting that Chris and I had just spent two nights in a hot pink Bavarian hotel. The first night we slept in a turquoise room under the placid gaze of a swarm of golden cherubs and their electric candelabra. The second night we slept in a cave, complete with waterfalls and stained glass windows depicting a cartoonish blond woman from the 50s transported to the caveman era. It was magically, shamelessly gaudy. Oma would love it here! I thought. Alas, the hotel doesn’t allow pets, and Oma won’t be parted from Andy—her fat, old, co-dependent dachshund.)

I could barely keep my eyes open the entire four-hour drive back from San Luis Obispo to the San Francisco airport. My face felt swollen, like I had just wept for hours or was having an allergic reaction. I’m usually good for a car trip, especially if there’s an audiobook on, but now I was zombie-like, nauseated and cranky. Chris patiently blasted freezing air into my face and, when that wasn’t enough, pulled off the highway to let me take deep breaths in an abandoned parking lot.

I felt myself pulling back together as we rolled into the Payless Rental Car parking lot. This was a relief, because I had been dreading imminent plane sickness, the only thing worse than car sickness. I smiled extra-earnestly and kissed Chris on the cheek as we stood waiting for the shuttle to arrive and take us the final ten minutes to the airport. I wanted to make it up to him for carrying our combined existential weight for much of the day. He grinned back indulgently.

“I’m sorry I haven’t been my best self,” I murmured.

“That’s OK. Sometimes you aren’t your best self. I love you anyway,” Chris said, magnificently.

I nuzzled my forehead gratefully into his deltoid, and at the same time, I was stricken by a thought: I hope I’m my best self often enough. There’s an acceptable ratio of best-self : not-best-self, and I don’t know what that ratio is, but everything depends upon it.

At first, I mistook the shuttle driver for another passenger. He wore a black and navy-blue suit, a matching fedora, and large, faux-diamond studs in his ears. His nails were clean and filed. He did not resemble the driver who, days before, had driven us the opposite way between the airport and car lot wearing a polo shirt with the Payless Rental Car logo.

“Hurry up! Hurry up! There’s only one of me!” he shouted as he waved Chris and I and a small group of stragglers into the shuttle van. As soon he started the engine, the radio blasted the commentary of a basketball game. He pressed the gas pedal, wriggled joyfully in his chair, and turned the volume up another notch.

Someone scored. The driver laughed. We stopped at a red light and he clapped his hands over his head. “Kill him! Kill him! Kill him! He’s not the king today!” I think he was talking about Lebron James?

The light changed and the driver hit the gas again. We swerved left through an intersection, and I heard a suitcase tumble in the back. Someone scored. The driver laughed again and pumped his fists in the air as we caught another red light.

A white convertible pulled up next to us. Without a moment’s hesitation, our driver rolled down his window and shouted, “Hey, playboy! Looking good, baby!” Green light. Gas.

Chris and I caught each other’s eyes. Chris was grinning, and his wide eyes and raised eyebrows seemed to say, “Why not? Weeee!”

I thought that was how I felt, too, until I caught a glimpse of myself in the side mirror. My expression was really a weird, manic grimace of incredulity and glee, like a little kid on the teacup ride who is caught between having the time of their life and throwing up.

We arrived. The driver flung himself out of the van and opened up the back doors. He swung our luggage out onto the curb in a heap. Suitcases toppled over. Some passengers frantically snatched up their luggage and scurried away.

“Man! Nobody tips anymore! Nobody tips anymore!” he huffed. Chris handed him some loose ones—not for the new dent in my luggage casing, but for the unexpected, whirlwind California farewell.

Published by the West Seattle Herald 06/12/2017.

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29 Responses to California farewell

  1. Amanda you write beautifully. I watched your storey last night with my husband, and I am thrilled to read that you, at least appear, to be back to a normal life. Whatever normal is. I understand all too well the difficulties that you have experienced. My husband Jeff Gilham was wrongly convicted in Australia in 2008 and sentenced to life in prison. Times two for murderng his parents. He was acquitted in 2011.

    It’s such a shame (to say the least) that forensic science is so poorly regulated, it seems in many, if not most, countries. Well done for being strong, and surviving such an ordeal with dignity.

  2. Gilbert Baumgartner says:

    About travelling a timely recommendation: I’ve learned on 21st August there will be a total solar eclipse in the US, beginning in Oregon. You should repeat a journey to the south at least into the umbral shadow. I remember very well the total eclipse here in 1999 as a short, but nevertheless very impressive experience, then witnessing it in Styria (sic! An occasion to pass my greetings to Oma!).
    PS: I just saw your Westside-speech on youtube, superb.

  3. Tom Zupancic says:

    Couldn’t help but think of that old Beatles song, Birthday

    “They say it’s your birthday
    It’s my birthday too, yeah
    They say it’s your birthday
    We’re gonna have a good time
    I’m glad it’s your birthday
    Happy birthday to you”

    Anyway, happy birthday Amanda.

    It was your birthday and you turned 30. Back in my day turning 30 was synonymous with ‘going over the hill’. The hill??? What happens when one goes over a hill?

    It made me think about growing… and exploring. That iconic image of American pioneers crossing the prairie. What is over that next hill? Like a Louis L’Amour novel? Well, kind of, perhaps.

    Louis L’Amour once wrote, “One day I was speeding along at the typewriter, and my daughter – who was a child at the time – asked me, “Daddy, why are you writing so fast?” And I replied, “Because I want to see how the story turns out!”

    That sounds a lot like how it seems to work.

  4. Albert R. Calleros says:

    Te deseo lo mejor en todos tus esfuerzos futuros. (I wish you the best in all your future endeavors.)

    Albert (R. Calleros)
    Anaheim, CA, USA

  5. Stephane G says:

    I just realized today is your 30th birthday. So happy birthday Amanda and I look forward to reading more from you all along the next decade. I whish you ten years of happiness and fulfilled hopes.

  6. Sue Newman says:

    Just wishing Amanda a very Happy Birthday today! Hoping each year brings more happiness and content as you are
    deserving of every minute of this…. (Enjoy reading your blog and life’s adventures) Let them take you wherever you desire!

  7. just-a-guy-out-for-a-walk says:

    ** Gorgonzola Potato Salad v2.1 **
    These proportions are appropriate for about two dozens guests at a pot-luck bbq.

    * Baby creamer potatoes**(mixed varieties)**5 Lb**randomly and oddly sliced to about ½ inch thicknesses.
    * Black Olives**6 Oz**(1-standard can)**thinly sliced.
    * Mild Pico De Gallo**(a.k.a. salsa fresco)**10 Oz.
    * Gorgonzola Cheese**12 Oz**crumpled.
    * Chives, (lots of chives!)**1/2 Oz or more freeze dried**(or about 6 bunches fresh)**chopped to 1/4 (normal) chive serving length.
    * Celery hearts **2** heads and bases well trimmed out**sliced as thinly as humanly possible.
    * Gorgonzola Salad Dressing**26 Fl Oz**(2 typical bottles). Blue or Roquefort Cheese Dressing can be substituted to increased tangy-ness at the expense of sacrificing creaminess.
    * Ground green pepper. (just a pinch.)
    * Garlic, mild fresh varietal very finely chopped or freeze dried** (just a pinch or two.)

    Wash and slice potatoes into random 1/2 inch thick chunks and slices carefully inspecting for any perceptible flaws. Boil potatoes in water with no salt added using caution not to overcook. (Adding salt is ill-advised since it is plentiful in the cheese and the other ingredients.) Check bigger chunks occasionally with a fork and test for consistency. Erring to stiffer is better because a little residual cooking will occur after draining.

    When potatoes are done, drain without rinsing to preserve the starchiness. Allow potatoes to cool and then combine all ingredients except for the dressing evenly divided into mixing bowls of choice. The garlic amount should be in such a sparingly small amount that the taste can only be subliminal.

    Very gently fold in the dressing. Use just enough to coat everything well by many repeated mixings. Use caution to avoid adding too much to prevent any identifiable soupy-ness. Transfer to covered serving container and chill. Your not done yet though.

    Make a blue cheese warning sign for the inevitable guest that can’t tolerate the flavor or aroma of blue cheese. Serve and post warning sign. Now you have done your thoughtful contribution as a guest to a pot luck bbq.

    • Klaus, Germany, Stuttgart area says:

      Frankly spoken I have some difficulties to relate a Gorgonzola Potato Salad V2.1 recipe for 24 persons to Amanda’s short story or some previous comments. Granted, sometimes comments are just there to relate to an important event outside the respective story to comment on. To my mind came todays/tomorrows Amanda’s 30th birthday which I hope will be a joyful one with lots of lovely friends around for the celebration and -who knows – if you were really convincing to her perhaps some of your Gorgonzola Potato Salad V2.1.
      For the next year I wish Amanda all the best, wisdom, no black-and-white thinking, curiosity,
      continued openness, not being satisfied with superficial answers and to have someone around her she could always entirely trust….

      • just-a-guy-out-for-a-walk says:

        And I would like to increase that wish to every year. Although I don’t think that she’s as much of a black and white thinker as might be suggested. She attempts to communicate to a general audience so to be able to relate…

        But about that having people around her that she can trust thing. Yeah, sure, if she’s into that kind of thing. What ever floats your boat is what I say. I’m personally not against nor have malice for people with that orientation.

  8. Stefan C. Limbrunner says:

    First of all: A nice, somewhat pittoresque article with a zest for the grotesque, that I enjoyed to read. Being German I also loved that you used the German term “oma” to refer to your grandma. I , however, did not enjoy so much reading some of the comments. Mrs. Connie T is probably a really nice person trying to be kind, but I find her advice has a kind of passive patronizing to it, and quite frankly I cannot begin to describe what’s wrong with a sentence like “I know you might have a contract with your publisher to market this book for a time, but I hope you will reach the point in your life where you no longer let this tragedy define you, at least publicly. “ Especially with “at least publicly”. Well, in my humble opinion, if there is one person in the world who decidedly never let the tragedy that happened to her define her in any way, than, Mrs. Knox, it’s you. And publicity for a book never had anything to do with it. Others tried to define you and still try, but you never did. You fought, persisted, survived and redefined yourself to turn a disaster into positive energy for a very important cause and for your life. I may be oversensitive here, and the picture that Mrs. T could glimpse of you might have been just simply too narrow. But I do not see you as the victim behind bars anymore, although you once were, you are the person who stepped out of the earlier Amanda’s shadow to become a highly talented writer, an advocate, a girlfriend, a woman grown strong, who loves live (and little red riding hood) and has the cutest cat apart from my own. It’s your decision what to do with your life, not Mrs. T’s, anybody else’s and certainly not mine.

  9. Tom Mininger says:

    Hey. I like your new Speaking page here.

  10. Tom Zupancic says:


    A blog post about a get way to SoCal goes sideways (ironic? … check out the iconic 2004 movie ‘Sideways’).

    What else would one expect? Okay, you are way too young to be thinking about the sideways concept here (ie. aging properly). Understood. But is there some unanticipated relationship here?

    Okay, let me come clean Amanda. From the time that you first made your blog post I was thinking about the movie Sideways (partly since the older guy element was something I related to), but mostly because it reminded me so much about going to that part of SoCal.

    ‘Sideways”? Is that where this blog post discussion ought to go?

  11. William says:

    Kentucky Bar Association? How could you stand it, Amanda, being around all those law-yahs? ooo-eee-ooo. Were they criminal lawyers? I know, that’s redundant.


    One hot summer day Bill walked into a bar in Austin, Texas and ordered a cold beer. Bob, seated next to him, began to talk and complain to Bill. Finally Bob said, “You know Bill, all lawyers are assholes.”

    “Now hold on there Bob,” Bill shot back after a long gulp of beer. “I resent that?”

    “Why, Bill? Are you a lawyer?”

    “Hell no, I’m an asshole.”


    A few months later, Bill showed up in St. Augustine, Florida in August, peak hurricane season. As it was hot due to Al Gore’s global warming, Bill found a bar that had both front and back doors open for ventilation. Out the back door Bill saw a horse staked and eating grass. Beside the horse was a large bucket full of paper dollars. Bill sidled up to the bar and ordered a tall beer. After looking at the horse and the bucket of money for a few minutes, Bill’s curiosity got the best of him.

    “What’s the meaning of that horse and the money in the bucket?” Bill asked the bar-keep.

    “Oh, that’s a bet,” the bar-keep explained. “Go out and pitch ten dollars in the bucket and talk to the horse. If you can make him laugh, you get all the money in the bucket.”

    “I’ll try.” Bill finished his beer, walked out and whispered into the horse’s ear. The horse promptly began to laugh, he put his hooves to his eyes, rolled over, kicked and laughed so hard he almost died.

    Bill picked up the bucket of money and left.

    Bill returned the next day and the horse was staked outside, the money bucket beside him.

    “What’s up with the horse again, bar keep?” Bill asked.

    “The game has changed, now to win the bucket of money you have to make the horse cry.” The bar-keep explained.

    “Okay.” Bill said and after some thought, he walked out to the horse. Suddenly the horse lowered his head and began to cry, big tears ran down his eyes, he whined and pawed at the ground. Bill picked up the bucket of money and left.

    Bill returned the next day to the bar and the horse was gone.

    “You won fair and square, how did you do it?” The bar-keep wanted to know.

    “Well,” Bill said. “The first day, I whispered in his ear that my dick was bigger than his. The following day I just showed him.”


    A lawyer was out in the Gulf of Mexico fishing. He fell out of the boat and before he could climb back in, a great white shark came along very near the lawyer. The shark didn’t bite, but turned, and swam off. Why?…. Professional courtesy.


    Since you were in the Bluegrass State for a while, Amanda, I hope you listened to a lot of bluegrass music, went to a barn dance, clogged, and by chance sampled some good ole mountain dew, ‘…them that refuse it are few…” Well, let a couple of pretty girls tell you.

    • Tom Zupancic says:

      Just a short note. Since the topic of Bluegrass music came up… I used to live down the road a piece from Bean Blossom Indiana, the home of Bill Monroe (he invented Bluegrass… in Indiana). I had the privilege of hearing Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys perform live on stage… in Indiana at the Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival… a long time ago.

      Actually, there was this guy from the Folklore Department at Indiana who called himself ‘the old radio ranger’ (coming at you) who came on the IU radio station each week playing the most obscure recordings that described the origins of contemporary American music. The old radio ranger explained Bluegrass and a lot, lot more. It was fascinating.

      Coming from a distinct and different background myself, I never had a problem appreciating that everyone’s experience was their own. I found it interesting to learn where other people came from.

      So, while it is unclear what Bluegrass music possibly has to do with this blog post, I am curious to learn.

      • William says:

        “So, while it is unclear what Bluegrass music possibly has to do with this blog post, I am curious to learn.”

        I didn’t realize you assigned yourself the enforcer and keeper of proper posting punctilio (PPP). Connie T. posted a very gracious comment to Amanda and brought up the Kentucky Bar Association attendance in her remarks.

        Amanda owns this blog and she decides what to accept and reject. There is a link, however, between my post and her travails she recounts about dysfunctional San Fran-Sicko.

        Bluegrass is some of the more difficult music to play and Bill Monroe was one of the best. Bluegrass and Folk had a strong influence on what came to be known as Hippie Music of the 1960s. Gresham’s law applies, hence we have Rap.

  12. Tom Zupancic says:

    I was thinking about elaborating on Pinot Noir wines (something I know nothing about, except they make then down where Chris and you went, and that they are kind of special). And then I logged in tonight and read the new posts.

    Plans shattered.

    I get that you are used to this. Whatever ‘it’ is supposed to be, it will turn into something else. That much you can be sure of. A blog about the California coast… posts about… ‘injustice’. Kind of like you should have the answer… to everything.

    I would offer that few of your posters have ever even been to San Luis Obispo… So, go figure.

  13. Connie T. says:

    I recently saw you speak at the Kentucky Bar Association convention. As a mother of young adult children my heart broke for you. I did not understand just how bizarre the prosecutor was until I came home and watched the documentary on Netflix about your case. (Saying he was like “Sherlock Holmes”, having an instinct for clues etc. The man is obviously delusional and is the best evidence that your situation was a gross injustice. ) Perhaps it is not my place but I felt the need to impart some motherly advice to you. I know you might have a contract with your publisher to market this book for a time, but I hope you will reach the point in your life where you no longer let this tragedy define you, at least publicly. Perhaps you’ll always want to help those who’ve been wrongly convicted, but it made me so sad to see such a beautiful, obviously talented and articulate women still swept up in all of this when you have so many other dimensions to your life, and such a long life ahead. You are obviously a gifted writer. Perhaps the fame you reluctantly earned due to all of this might open some doors for you, but I hope you will try some doors that do not involve simply focusing on this one horrific event. Perhaps you could write fiction unrelated to your situation, but using the knowledge you gained by all this. But what I most for you is to someday be able to walk in a room and have no one know who you are…for you to have a private, lovely life unrelated to all this. It would be the best thing for the future children I hope you have one day. And for you I think. Those who are close to you will always know, of course. God bless you. I cannot imagine one of my children having gone through this in their tender years.

    • just a parent says:

      “I hope you will try some doors that do not involve simply focusing on this one horrific event” conveys what seems to me just about the kindest and wisest sentiment I’ve read in this whole miserable imbroglio. Amen, Mom.

    • William says:

      Connie, you are a very compassionate woman. No one will ever call you cold or uncaring. Very touching sentiment you expressed.

      I thought, on the mean, the Italian system, the prosecutor, the police and others were quite fair and professional. The evidence in the case seemed to me, to stack up and damn both RS and AK. There was enough, at least, to sustain ‘accessory after the fact’ on RS and ‘involuntary homicide’ against AK, that is, a death caused but not intended, as for example, in a physical confrontation that gets out of hand. But, I wasn’t there at the trial and it would have done me no good anyway since I don’t speak Italy. I do rather well speaking Walmart, however.

      It makes no difference what I think anyway about the RS and AK trials and the outcomes. Whatever I think about the evidence for or against AK amounts to exactly zero. What matters is that the Supreme Court in Italy threw the case out so it’s finished and over. Given that, Amanda’s life is her own now and she’s free to live as she wishes. And, there is comfort in knowing that Rudy Guede was convicted and did serve time for the murder.

      You, Connie, encouraged Amanda to move on away from the crime. I’ve encouraged Amanda to leave Seattle, marry, and have kids. Her life would change so much for the better if she did. That responsibility would force her to focus on something other than the crime, and on something of the greatest importance, children. Since the Supreme Court ruling I’ve always wished Amanda the best in whatever she does. Although, I will say, her political beliefs are ass backwards.

      I keep in mind there is a victim here. That victim is Meredith Kercher, a pretty 21 year old, who had stunningly beautiful brown eyes. Before her was a great future and she would have made a great future for the kids she’d have.

      The tune below is dedicated to Meredith, lest we forget who she was.

      • Tom Mininger says:

        The Kercher, Sollecito and Knox families were not Prosecutor Mignini’s first victims. He also turned lone male actions into bizarre group crime conspiracies in the Monster of Florence and Dr. Narducci suicide cases, damaging the lives of over 20 innocent “suspects” and journalists and blocking closure for the victims’ families.

        • William says:

          Didn’t realize that Mignini victimized the Kercher family. He was trying to find justice for them, and, more importantly, for Meredith. Amanda is not served well by the likes of Douglas Preston.

          I tried to look only at the evidence. Some of that evidence I would have disregarded as a juror, the shaky eye witnesses for example and some of the forensics. Other evidence was compelling but fell short of justifying a life sentence they handed down.

          Had I been at the trial and heard all the testimony and seen the evidence, I might have voted guilty to a lesser charge if that was an option, or perhaps ‘not proven’ if a lesser charge was not an option. Eventually this is what the supreme court did, ruling insufficient evidence for a first degree murder conviction.

          One wonders why they didn’t send the case back to a lower court for consideration of a charge that fit the evidence. It may be that Italy felt caught up in the tractor’s nuts and wanted out of the whole mess. When it comes down to it, Italy was in a bind snared in a case involving two ancient enemies, the US and the UK, both of which are still powerful players on the world stage.

  14. Frederick Alexander Jones says:

    Your story is truly transporting. Indeed, it is wonderful, as I have been fighting my case for more than thirty years. Now, I do it from a small hole of a room, in a high-rise in Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan. I will be well compensated, neverthetheless, as an exoneree. I am a former new york city police officer and former new york city correction officer who has lived his 72 years alone. So visit me at the American Party Movement, Please, allow me to tell my story. I need your fax or e-mail.
    I am an African-American, and we both are aware of a Trump that is not demonized.
    Thank you.

  15. Stacyhs says:

    Ah, yes…the Madonna Inn! Funky place, for sure!

  16. Tom Zupancic says:

    California is a different kind of place. I only lived there for 8 years, in the Bay Area, but life was such that I moved up and down the left coast quite a bit. I don’t want to elaborate on the honeymoon suite in Encinitas that my Biotech buddy booked for me and my honey way back when, but ‘yeah, been there’. And I’ve been up and down the 101 to San Luis Obispo and beyond.

    California… California love… California knows how to party!!!

  17. Tom Mininger says:

    After a few lines, I suddenly bolted off through the rest of the article scanning for keywords like “ceremony”, “honeymoon”, “married”, and “man and wife”. False foreshadowing alarm I guess. Speculation is a drug that fuels tabloid empires. I was even interpreting nausea as morning sickness. I hope you and Chris had a wonderful trip no matter what the reason, and I hope you’re feeling better. You have me sitting here at my desk daydreaming about my next vacation.

    It’s cool when personal belongings build up memories to share, like the dents in your luggage casing.

    • Stephane G says:

      I confess I shared your speculations just for a second or two 😉 Anyway, I could easily picture the driver’s cool attitude and exuberant behavior, and that really was a funny read. Thank you Amanda.

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