Sunday, December 30, 2007

LOST addiction issues

Scene: Giant statue on LOST island viewed from the sailboat by Jin, Sun and Sayid. Olaina and Justin on couch. Justin makes noise.

Olaina: What are you jealous?

Sayid: "I don't know what is more disquieting: The fact that the rest of the statue is missing or that it has four toes."

We laughed so much that we had to pause the DVD and start it again.

Diana and Kevin hit us with this ridiculous, severe addiction. All these smart people--watching LOST with the same sort of intensity with which we watch political speeches, the returns of elections and world news.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Female Pakistani Former Priminister Benazir Bhutto Killed in Suicide Attack

I cruised down the channels of Basic Cable, looking for news--checking on the world today. Truth be told, I was thinking about the weather and the traffic for today because my parents are driving down from Huntington Beach to visit us for a belated Christmas celebration. When I finally got past the cartoons, sitcoms and commercials I hit C-SPAN and saw the "Western White House, Crawford Texas" emblem with President GW Bush walking away from the press conference podium. Then they flashed her beautiful photo and 1953-2007.

I sucked the air out of the room, wondering how this world will change again, wondering if there can be any hope of peace anywhere with violence erupting everywhere.

Please God, do not let President Bush believe that another invasion of another country is a solution to anything. Time cannot tick quickly enough toward the end of his miserable tenure as our embarrassing national and (sadly) world leader.

Here are some reports from The Times of India: news of the assassination

I will not rest till terror is rooted out of Pak: Musharraf
27 Dec 2007, 2206 hrs IST,AP
Declaring a three-day state mourning over the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto, Musharraf called it a "terror attack" and appealed for calm.

Bush tells Mush to stay on path to democracy
Bush said that Benazir knew her life was at risk when she went back to Pakistan, thus absolving his administration which is credited with engineering her return from exile.

Bhutto aide blames military-security establishment

I don't understand fighting for peace or prosperity or leadership with violence. I do not understand the need for violence.

Admittedly, I have not fully researched the Pakistani-Indian region conflicts, but add it to my list of worries, my doubts of any glimmer of possibility of peace--world peace, country peace, state peace, three generations of one family killed on Christmas Eve near Seattle... a little girl was killed in our city... I'm sure it was an accident of random violence. I can't bear to think of these families killing families.

So, the birth of Jesus and the promise of Grace and Peace that He brings continues to be a Promise in waiting.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Where'd She Go?

I have been practicing fierce independence.

"Fiercely independent." I remember my first female boss using that phrase when we were in her office and I was filing papers while discussing marriage with this unhappily married mother of an infant. "It's hard to be married, especially if you're fiercely independent."

I am happily married. Marriage does not equate with discarding freedom, it just means sharing the decision making process with an equal shareholder in the life of two.

Two for one. And two.

But this winter is "interview season," so the other partners of fourth year medical students and I spend a lot of time in intermittently long distance relationships.

Gone three days, four nights. Two days, three nights. Home three of the next 14 nights.


Somewhere. Check the chart.

I set up my art booth alone three times. (Three trips per show; Sentra with the seats down still doesn't have room for canvases and walls.)Found a buyer for some prints. Lost my purse. My cell phone. Found them. Slept on both sides of the bed, diagonally, the couch when I forgot to move. Rented movies with females stars and tears and laughter and real life, and no one said a single word while I fell into their world and let it be. I remembered the canvas bags and bought wine and cheese, yogurt, granola, mascara, juice, fruit, two gallons of water and carried it all back myself. "You know that'll be heavy?" the checker said. Yeah, I don't have far to go. The mascara wasn't in the bag. Still have to do something about that.

I have a plan for cleaning the house, but doing all the laundry takes all the day. Then there's work. They pay me, so the house remains the same. I need bigger things, like an SUV but I'll wait for the hybrid and the paying jobs, a studio but I'll wait for the news, a puppy but I'll wait...

March 20.

Match day.

The day the silent partner buys out our equal shareholder and we all decide how to do what's next.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


I was sad when we left Chicago. Not sad like crying-sad, but wistful sad. As we took off I said to Justin, "Well, that's either the last time we go to Chicago or we'll be moving here in June."

He said we'd go back for conferences and the like. He's very non-committal about the residency thing.

Then, as we flew into San Diego, I said, "Hey, you know I could leave here right? I mean, I like it and everything, but we don't have to stay here."

He is convinced that I don't want to leave San Diego. Maybe it's because I burst into tears on the sidewalk after we left the hotel on the way to meet our ride to the party at the hospital. But that was after he liked his interviews, and before I met all the people at that party. Even then I told him it was a big idea to adjust to, and that he knows I'm always bad with change before it happens, but once it does I usually settle into it.

Today we wandered around three more Chicago neighborhoods, looking for places we might like to live. There are a couple of areas where we feel comfortable.

Later, as our feet became painfully cold because the temperature dropped even as the snow melted into dirty yuck car-exhaust-brown and dog-pee-yellow, I said, "What about your foot?"

It hurts his foot to walk so much in the cold weather and he slips and slides a lot. It's also really difficult for him to walk up and down hills because his left foot doesn't bend with the prosthetic in the shoe and he doesn't have toes for pushing off to go up or gripping to go down. (Come to think of it, I'm not sure how he gets around at all. Super Justin!)

San Francisco has hills everywhere, 365 days a year. Chicago has no hills, and is only cold... not all year.

I guess home is just where Justin is. The rest is just a costume change.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Two Faces of Chicago

We flew out here because we thought a county program would be right up his alley. It's "community medicine" and serves underprivileged populations. It is also the larges ER facility in the United States and serves three times as many patients as other hospitals such as UCSF, UCSD and Northwestern.


There's also that thing that people have on first dates--that chemistry that sparks or doesn't.

On one of my first dates with someone, they guy kept shocking me with comments that implied a lack of respect for other people and a self-centered attitude I feared might create a relationship wherein he treated me poorly.

Meanwhile, the so-called Ivory Tower emanates warmth and sincerity that drew both of us into its fold...

I have to stop trying to plan the future, over which I have little to no control. Meanwhile, tomorrow we will check out neighborhoods we might want to live in if we come here for Justin's residency.

Meanwhile, I keep checking myself and pushing Justin's buttons, just to see/prove that I'm not just some girl following a guy and his dreams instead of staying focused and developed on mine. I know that marriage implies this kind of loyalty and support, and I know that Justin supports me in so many different ways, but it just feels so "stand by your man" to move to another state or city because of his career.

I do like it here though. It would be such an adventure to leave San Diego and renew my life-license in some other town.

One other funny thing--all the Ivory Tower residents say you can live in Chicago without a car, whereas all the county kids say there's no way to live here without one. County is a bit outside the deepest downtown center of the city, "cabs don't come to this hospital" one resident said, because it is a slightly scary section of town. But it's interesting to see the personality contrast between people at a hospital that touts itself as a service hospital, versus a hospital that is private, but where the caregivers seem to really care for the patients and the world and want to make it a better place. I am sure the county people care, but I know from experience that a ridiculous and unrealistic client load leads to severe burnout and inability to serve people to the capacity one might have hoped to reach.

It looks like the underdog is winning the race...

go figure.

The Snowy Night and Morning

He had to let me meet the people

Now I love it too.

The people at Northwestern were instantly lovable. While conversation floated into the application process and the program at the dinner we attended last night, it also held its own in the realm of the real world.

People were charming without trying to be.

I have a pretty good radar for character and it was beaming last night. The girl that drove us to the house where the "Rosen Night" (named after an academic who's funny yet important in the ER field and therefore his work is studied extensively) was a lot like me, except maybe a little more glamour oriented. (She had painted nails. Is that even allowed for doctors?) Nevertheless, she graduated from Columbia in 1997, then lived in LA for six years before returning to Medical School at Wash U in Minneapolis and the starting her residency at Northwestern (which is located in the heart of Chicago--the hospital,not the undergrad campus). So we chatted about the lifestyle adjustment and also the difference between a County and a private hospital. It seems the key lies in the resources--obviously Northwestern, which is referred to as the Ivory Tower and the first hospital I have ever entered where I haven't felt certain I was going to become instantly ill, is flush with money whereas County is "more work than ER, more drama, less pay." (It's the setting for the fictional TV drama of Thursday nights.)

Rosen night turns out to be less of a book club and more of a dinner party than one outside the medical field might expect. (I've already spent nearly four years with medical students and know they are some of the most serious partiers I've ever met. What with the need to stay up all hours and work constantly... when they let loose or need a boost they really go for it.)

One of the faculty members holds 90% of the monthly events in her home--the other 10% are held in other places. She has a gorgeous dog named Chealsey and a beautiful little girl. She also cooks for the entire event (except the desserts). We're talking baked brie, chicken encrusted with almond slices, stew, cheese asparagus casserole for the vegetarians, bottles and bottles of red and white wine and then a jeopardy game of the topic du jour (last night was psychiatry so I actually could participate) to make it medically kosher.

I told Emily, the hostess, she has an incredible skill set--she's not a "wife of" like me, she IS a physician and Assistant Professor in the ED.

When we first got their I met a lovely woman named Jamie who seemed quite down to earth and also around my age. Justin and I were chatting with her about the program, the weather, our lives thus far, when I finally asked her what she does. "I'm the Director of the Residency Program," she said.

My face must have flashed a look of "oh! and hear I am talking to you like you're just another new friend!" So she said, "Kind of intimidating, huh?"

"Actually, not really," I replied making a face that indicated I was considering whether I should be intimidated. I'd already decided I liked her before I knew I had to at least act like I liked her, so I couldn't figure out why a 33 year old woman who has been a director of programs but doesn't have an MD should be intimidated by another woman of significant caliber. Perhaps that's what sets me apart from the 23 year old applicants and their significant others.

Then we spent quite some time chatting with the Professor and Chair of the ED. With him, a man who served medically in the Air Force, I launched into a commentary on the war in Iraq, our lives in a military town and how it affects our perspective of the war as compared to most Americans who do not live in military towns. He pursued and instigated the conversation, knowing many of his students and colleagues who were deployed to Iraq several times despite their National Guard status. We know how the families are being affected, we know the toll, we know the end is not in sight any more than the Korean War is over as we guard the demilitarized zone and negotiate a tenuous peace in a place where government doesn't work in the healthy fashion in which government needs to work. I tossed in a, "so much for not talking about politics at dinner parties," but he waved it away in an apparent desire to continue having an intelligent conversation about our government and our wars.

So I liked him.

Then there was Mike, an Associate Director of the Residency program. He told me he liked Justin, which I seconded with, "Me too, I am going to keep him forever." He successfully sold me on the weather and the charm of Chicago, though I know first snows are always charming--it's four or five months into this freeze that people become miserable.

He was a very likable, honest, punchy guy who seems to have bought me and Justin as a package deal. He insisted that I have all the power and that I was the one they needed to win over.

I know that I don't have all the power, just a substantial maybe even equal vote in this two voter process of ranking the order of where we would like to spend our next three or four years.

And as for the program itself--it is different, it is interesting, it has some qualities that the other programs do not, like the three "schools" (academic, research, administrative) and the time spent in the ICU and not so many wards, plus the organized time of classroom didactics.

Justin really likes it.

They're good people, which helps me feel like I could make friends and survive this town better than yesterday, when I didn't know anyone.

Plus, we'd experience seasons together for the first time in our lives for four years running. We would really know what we were looking for in our life--like we tried the UCSD UTC area, the suburbs and then the city in San Diego. We like city life.

One more grand adventure with this man could be a very enriching experience. More enriching than four more years leading into 60 more years in San Diego, which we already know and love.

Plus we can move back.

Maybe we need this giant leap to help us realize where we really want to land together.

Plus, one of the faculty members shared her story of adopting a Vietnamese child and still working on adopting a brother or sister for him. It was such a real conversation that she initiated and that we rolled carefully along with as she drove us back to our hotel on her way to their city home. (They also live in the suburbs, but in the snow she wasn't going to do the drive at night and in the morning, even if her husband and baby were going to be away from her for the night. Seems like a good decision given the separation time a car accident would cause, not to mention hours on the road instead of sleeping...)

It's just been such a human experience.

Thus far, at UCSD it's been more of an exploration and an experiment in sociology for me. Here, I feel like I could make some real connections, whereas there I have felt more tenuously tied by the "old foggies club" and "the happy-marrieds" status. The spouses have been the extra elective.

Maybe in Chicago I could create a new life for myself again.

Maybe this time I'd be creating a life as myself, instead of some impression of myself, some inward need to project the person I am "supposed" to be according to the definition of success in the realms I have inhabited as Indian daughter, honors high school student band member, college academic star and journalist, teaching machine and journalism factory of award-winning students, writer or artist or photographer.

Maybe here I could invent myself from my inside out because no one would know "what Olaina is supposed to be."

Maybe here I could surprise myself with my Self.

And maybe my Self would enchant people (or not) and I would be OK with the responses of others as long I as felt like I was being honestly Me.

Maybe in Chicago I would grow more whole and fully re-cog-nized.

Maybe Chicago would not shape me, but I would shape myself.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

He likes it here.

I'm going to have to kill him now.

Who lives in a place because it's cold? Who lives here after San Diego?

We might.

We might not.

I've been trying to get over the shock.

Meanwhile, Justin has been dizzy since Saturday or Sunday but hasn't gone to a doctor. (Despite being surrounded by them for so very long.)

I'd miss him if I killed him, but at least I'd get to live in a warm place.

I suppose depending on where I did it.

Anyway, here's some pictures from today:

(they're lost?)

Chicago Photos

Three Hours Remaining

I'm told I have three hours until the snow warning takes affect. I should go out and eat some lunch and stock up on supplies before I have to batten down the hatches.

Justin just called me--he said the program looks like it's a pretty good place. The connection was terrible, so I thought he said, "This doesn't look like it's the place." My heart lept as I said, "So why don't you come home?"

I mean after all, why hang out and interview when you can play in Chicago with your wife?

He said he still had interviews and that the dinner is at 6 p.m.

"But we're not going to that, right!?!"

"No, we are!"


That's when I figured it out and also he told me that he would text me instead of trying to talk through the static.

So we might end up living here.

I'd better go outside and practice being cold.

My kind of town?

Chicago is?

Chicago is a gorgeous city. I knew that before I arrived here for the second time. Last time, I had the advantage of beautiful weather--San-Diego-like weather of sunshine and warmth and a simple breeze. Even when we arrived Sunday, Justin was shocked and vociferously cold while I marched along with bravado: 'It's not that cold, it's fine, I would have bought you a scarf to go with your beanie, but you said you weren't a scarf person.'

But yesterday, as the hours passed in the blasts of icy wind hit us in the 30 degree Fahrenheit weather (-1C !!!), my tolerance waned. First we bought gloves for me and a scarf for him. We had to continue in the quest for gloves for him because the ones at the GAP and Eddie Bauer did not fit well. Finally, at Macy's (formerly Marshall Field's) he got gloves that are made to be able to use your cell phone and MP3 player with ease. There are little buttons on the thumb and forefingers!

Still, by 5 p.m. we were both painfully cold. We had walked the Magnificent Mile from the Tribune building to Macy's and back to Millennium Park while I shot photos and he waited patiently and also guarded me (he said it was my day--since today and tomorrow he's out interviewing all day) while I knelt and stopped in the middle of the street if I saw a good view. We finally retreated to our hotel and decided to eat at Shula's--one of the best steakhouses in the United States--so that we didn't have to suffer the chilling blasts on the walk to Ditka's (another sports worshippers' steakhouse.)

Now, the question is how does a girl like me spend a day like this?

I could go to the museums or just trudge around taking more photos of the architecture and holiday decorations. But it's below freezing out there. A snow advisory is starting this afternoon, but until it does we've got the wind that is blowing the "weather system" toward us. I don't want to go out into the wind to get to anything. I want to go back to sleep. It's two hours earlier in my real world. After some rest I can work on some preparations for my art shows.

We shall see. I will post photos as soon as I upload them.

The good news, Justin would have to see an extraordinary program here to be persuaded to move to Chicago.

It is at least 40 degrees warmer at home.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Time Travel and Love

One of my favorite commentators, the old guy, from Romania who now lives in New Orleans, did a piece about jet lag and trying to figure out what day and time it is, but it becoming irrelevant. (I'll add a link later. He's smart and has a great voice.)

Neil, my amazing 31 year old brother, did the Iron Man Race in Australia yesterday--December 2, 2007.

Justin and I are flying to Chicago today, December 2, 2007.

We thought we'd miss tracking Neil's race on-line because we'd be in transit, but instead we missed it because I was at work and Justin was in Los Angeles visiting his step-dad.

And now it's 5:30 a.m. and I'm supposed to have gotten a whole lot more done by now, but waking up at 4 a.m. is hard to do.

A friend of mine said something interesting yesterday, at work, when I told him we were going to Chicago and I was stressed out because I have so much work to do.

"Why are you going?"

"Because he asked me to go. He needed the support and that's what you do when you're married. You support each other emotionally, financially, physically."

"But when it affects your finances maybe you should say, 'no.'"

At the time I think I said something like, "Yeah, well..."

But now, when we are to leave our house in just a couple of hours, I am reconsidering these words. Both Justin and I, in our mere five and a half years of marriage have almost died. He got sick the first month of our marriage, and I got sick about four years into it. Never, during those hospital visits, did we want anything more than to be with each other for a lot more years.

I'm reading Tuesdays with Morrie right now--my brother recommended it and I dug it out of the recycle bin at the library across the street, a perfectly clean not even cracked hard back copy--and I'm getting ready to travel with my husband. While we are gone, I will miss out on making minimum wage for walking dogs and serving restaurant customers.

I don't imagine I will ever remember these days as an important time if I didn't spend them supporting my husband by actually being with him.

I don't imagine we'll miss the money more than we would miss each other if we couldn't be together.

I've been to Chicago once for a journalism convention and I can show him around, I also could rely on my memory to know it's a nice place where I wouldn't completely mind living--not like the South, which I've endured and which I forbade him to even consider applying to residency programs. But as Justin said, "You were there with kids in Chicago. You weren't there with your husband looking for a place to live."

In marriage, our lives are intertwined around presence, not money. This being together is what matters. Maybe I can get some work done there--maybe just taking photos, maybe some mounting of photographs while he interviews. I just have to remember that life has many opportunities and, the real question to ask is, "Am I being the person I want to be?"

Am I being the person I want to be?

Right now, perhaps more so than ever before in my life.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Holy Cow!

Justin and I have redefined hectic in our lives.

December used to be miserable because despite my desire to focus on holiday cheer I had to focus on getting grade-related crap done so that the kids could know how much fun they would be allowed to have during their break. Parents would actually call me about this baloney. They'd want me to know off the top of my head, "What's my kid's grade?"

"I don't know off the top of my head." What with 200+ students. "I'll have to look it up for you and add in the test he took, but that was today and I still have to grade it." What with him having taken it at 8 a.m., but the test having included an essay and short answers, and with having proctored three sessions of the test over the day and confiscated two cell phones, I haven't read his test just yet. Jesus.

Now, it's Justin spending 3 of the next 14 nights in our home because he's travelling for interviews so much. At least 4 of the nights we'll be together in Chicago, so that's just 50% of his nights in a strange bed and me taking up our whole bed. Ahhhhhhhhhh! (good and bad ah.)

I'll be nuts with missing him later on, but since it's intermittent, I occassionally like the space and silence.

As for me, I've got four art shows from today til Dec. 11. Which is just 12 days away. Today, at Sundance Elementary School I'm in the Holiday Arts and Crafts Boutique. This show involves driving to Rancho Penasquitos in the rain--praise God, Dorian took my shift at Mo's. At the last minute last night he overheard me asking others if they wanted it.

Then, after Chicago, there's the biggy. Balboa Park's December Nights, which is fabulous and fun and in which I am showing in for the first time. (God willing this is the rainy weekend and next weekend is the dry one.)

On Dec. 11 we Mo's have a show at Betty's, which will be totally fun. In the meantime, I'm doing a Bar Basic show by proxy on Tuesday Night to sell calendars. Godwilling that goes well.

Plus, I'm turning 11 for the 3rd time on Dec. 9 (it's Sunday, I'll be working the Mo's Brunch.) I'm calling the Dec. 10 Mo Christmas Party my birthday party--everyone I know will be there, and the alcohol and food will be flowing freely. Fun!

OK. I gotta jump on the work necessary for this crazy venture. Plus laundry and packing and the like. I'm going to buy the comfy weather-oriented boots in Chicago, because I don't have time to shop here and I also can't buy appropriate weather wear here.

*deep breath* Dive into the deep end!

Can you believe last year at this time I was still on disability and seriously mourning my life and the anniversary of my post-partum depression sans baby because of a miscarriage earlier?

This fun fun busy time is such an extraordinary victory for me.

Blessings on the journey. :)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Nightmare of Michael's

Michael's The Arts and Crafts Store has never been a place I have fully understood and always been a place where I have felt slightly overwhelmed.

Shopping there in the three o'clock hour the week after Thanksgiving was no exception.

Sometimes, since I have this flexible artist's schedule and a night job working at a restaurant, I cruise into Michael's in the morning on a whim or with a purpose. It's right by 24 Hour Fitness, so if I time it right I get there when it's just opening and the only people there are stocking the shelves plus a couple of part time school teachers picking up supplies or stay-at-home mom's pushing kids in baby-carriers through the scrapbooking aisle. It's quiet, though minor sensory overload sets in because of all the colors and various craft items on display, and I end up spending hours deciding which one container of three shelves full of glue containers holds the product I need. (Last time I came home with three different adhesives--just in case.)

Today I went there because I know they carry frames and pre-cut mats and I am still preparing for my art shows. I didn't think 3 p.m. would be such a busy time. Don't people have jobs and kids have homework and naps or soccer practice?


The place was overrun. Halloween leftovers were spilling off one wall, scrapbooking supplies have exploded into a six or seven aisle section, Christmas scented candles and wreathes were on SALE! and seemingly every Christmas item that played a carol was in demonstration mode. There were moms, sorority girls, moms with kids, moms talking to kids on their cell phones, kids talking in their outside voices even though we were inside, moms shouting for their kids, sorority girls shouting for their sisters, men looking lost and miserable or fascinated by wood carving tools, older women buying yarn, older daughters annoyed by even older mothers who were taking the framing counter guy's assistance as an opportunity to make a new friend, people who looked like they were coming from the office to pick up something for a holiday party and then go back or to a school function or a neighborhood potluck.

As I squeezed by the loud girl from the loud-and-crude family who told off-color jokes while looking at candles, frames and scrapbook stickers, I said, "Excuse me," and she said, "Sorry," but didn't really move and so we got jostled and I said, "Good."

There are low moments in life. At least for me, many of them happen in giant stores packed with kids and shoppers who aren't good parents.

It's great birth control.

I decided to just grab the frames that were similar to one's I already have in sizes I knew I needed and leave as quickly as possible. Forget the 40% off sale; I needed to escape.

I was going to go to Dick Blick Art Supplies for the mats, but my brain is melty and the Santa Ana wind weather is giving me a headache (plus I couldn't sleep last night), so a little nap is in order. Then work.

I have to have all the supplies I'm going to need for this season by noon tomorrow. After that, no stores until after Dec. 26.

I hate shopping.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Why I Love Sunday Nights

When I was a kid my dad always loved Sunday nights. Even though he wasn't religious, he always thought we should have a special meal together (pot roast, salmon, BBQ anything, Indian food....). I was always stressed because I had homework--which of course I left until the last minute. That habit did not change while I was in college or a teacher; it's nice to have time off and I would pretend I had no responsibilities for a little while. Saturday and Sunday morning would pass until panic forced me to get work done later on Sunday.

But now it's married time.

I switched from night to day shifts at Mo's, and we miss church but when I get home from working Justin lets me rest. He pours me a glass of wine and gives me time to have a warm bath and read a magazine. Luxury! Then we eat the dinner that he made while I was at work and I feel like a princess. I thank Justin, and he says, "You are a princess."

So, I love him. He loves me more than anyone ever has not for any particular reason, just because he does--and because I love him back.

He is my gift for ever.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

*breathe* San Francisco

He really likes it there.

UCSF is starting their first Emergency Department Residency Program with this class. That means Justin would be part of UCSF history--one of the first residents to graduate from UCSF in Emergency Medicine.

They've had residents before from Stanford and other schools, but this would be their own department. Accordingly, the attendings and the Director are very excited. She has started a residency program before--and UCSF certainly wouldn't pick just anyone to do such a thing.

But it's San Francisco.

Justin was cold with his regular jacket on, and had to wear the overcoat we bought for him (with his suit!) to stay warm. And it's only November.

And it's San Francisco. I really like San Francisco. But I really love living here and the new life I'm building here. On the other hand, how better to really reconstruct my life than by moving to a new city.

The Director teared up when she read his personal statement--who wouldn't. Justin's life has shaped him to be an ER doctor. Justin's life has been an extraordinary chain of ordinary, glorious and horrific events sprinkled with just enough love and joy to make him compassionate and lovable.

So will we move to San Francisco?

It remains to be seen. In the mean time, I have a life here that I am tending with as much love as I can muster--which means developing photos, calling clients and preparing art shows. Also, maybe I'll get the house a little bit cleaner before my husband comes home tomorrow.

I want him to be happy.

I want to be happy.

I want us to be happy together. Anywhere, just together.

And I want my own studio space. He can have the living room and the office merged... then both spaces will be clean and organized and he won't have to deal with my art supplies all over the place. He'll like that.

San Francisco.

I would need new shoes.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Justin has left the building!

I love him dearly, but given that my "studio" is actually our living room and I have major shows coming up in the near future, I am so excited about having the apartment to myself for a few days. It's only been 3 hours since I dropped him off at the airport, and already I've gotten more done than I have in a few days... and I can leave it all spread out so as to return to my career after I go to my job--an important distinction, given that I will spend my day making sure people have the right amounts of syrup, butter or salsa to go with their breakfasts.

Meanwhile, our beloved SuperMD Justin is interviewing in San Francisco to become a resident there. Over breakfast we reminisced about meeting our "Happy Marrieds" friends at the White Coat ceremony nearly four years ago. He said he'd burn his short white coats, but after some discussion, he decided he's going to keep the one they gave him and pass the other two down to his Lil' Sib'.

So, wish him luck. It would be a nice ego boost to get into UCSF again, this time for residency instead of medical school, but as much as I am up for an adventure I'm pretty excited about my blossoming photo career and connections down here and hope we get to stay in my favorite little town with the borrow puppies and the gaybors. Not that in San Fransisco we'd have trouble finding gay'bors.

*cue the music* "It's independence day...!"

Friday, November 09, 2007

there should be a quota

But if there were, two doesn't seem like that many. But we could count Oakley's mom. That's three.

I remember in the literature I used to teach there were women who were paid to sit in funeral homes and grieve loudly. I think it was in The Stranger, when his mother died, and he was numb and didn't show great loss and sadness but instead had sex with a woman and went out with friends and shot an Arab on the beach and was at trial. They held it against him, a character defect, that he was cold because he didn't wail at his mother's death.

But we are numb and busy and have to take care of the work before we go tomorrow morning. I go to Mo's and smile while I carry the food out to people and drink three lemon drops and forget for a while and smile and sell calendars and chat with lonely strangers whom I love with my co-workers whom I love and my husband whom I love most of all and differently.

I've decided it's easiest to explain this relationship to the "funeral we have to go to" as a father-in-law--of a set of three. Like Justin's unofficial foster parents. I know his mom Toni was really there, but Sandi and Wayne and Jason and Brian were so THERE... right across the street. Whether or not the titles are legal, Wayne was the most present father figure in Justin's life if you only calculate the physical distance and years. Wayne has known Justin since Justin was 3-years-old. Wayne had the most dirt to tell me, the oldest stories with details. But Sandi, Sandi is the real story teller I will have to mine over the next few years. Olaina--the unofficial daughter-in-law of this woman who took that boy in and let me in too.

We're getting so much practice, I could join those women if that job is still available. The wailing women. But I'd have to live as a four-year-old and a faucet that turns off and on and in another country and probably another time.

I am not four-years-old.

I do not turn my emotions on and off very well--mostly they're always on, flowing out from a well without a bottom. No drought, just floods. Totally visible on my face.

Godwilling we've met our quota for dead parent....

al units for at least this year if not this decade. I'm so sad aboutthelosses I've married in to, I can't imagine the ones I was born into.


I think it's best that I realized that drinking my way out of this is ineffiecient while Iwas in SD, at Mo's, instead of testing it at the river... someone should be sane-ish there. I volunteer.

I see dead people everywhere.

And Lemon Drops are yummy. Especially when Munson makes them. It's like lemonade. With a shugary rim in afancy glass.

I'm leavin ghtem tyhping this way on puruse. ha!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I should buy the T-shirt::

I see dead people everywhere.

Jason's dad died.

That's Justin's best friend's dad. Justin grew up with them. He'd go hang out with Jason when his mom was busy--and especially when his mom was a single mom and working and in school or all that other stuff she did... Sandi, Jason's mom is "Second Mom."

Second Mom.

All the years I've known Justin we've visited Second Mom almost as much as his biological Mom and definitely more than his dad (he lives in Colorado).

So Wayne was the one who told me, while I watched those two boys singing karaoke in Wayne's bar at Havasu Landing, "That's just who they are. They're just having some fun. "

I must have looked so prissy and shocked and totally out of place there--an Honors English high school teacher who brought papers with her for the weekend to grade on the drive up and who didn't drink much at all and kept trying to get her boyfriend? fiance? when was it? to have some water. I was totally surrounded by rednecks--and they would not be offended by the description. They sing the song with gusto "red neck yacht club...." They are them.

And I am used to it now. I am prepared for it. I figured out how to fit in and how to sit it out if that felt better. If I had too much grading to do, I just stayed in the double/triple-wide's living room and worked while they rode around in the sand dunes and drank beer. Watery American beer. I learned to hang out with the girls and help in the kitchen (redneck and Asian girl similarities) and karaoke too.

And Wayne owned the bar. It's the only bar in Havasu landing. He owned the liquor store across the road from it too. As he got older and his diabetes and stuff got worse he sold that. Then the bar. Then they moved to Phoenix--the whole family in different houses in the same neighborhood. Sandi and Wayne. Jason's older sister and her family of four. Jason and Amanda--married this summer. Amanda-Jason's-niece going to college there.

I think the last time I saw Wayne was when he dropped us off after Jason's wedding. That's what he did in his way--took care of us. Made sure the girls got home safely from his bar. Made sure everyone had a drink--and that (most of the time) they bought them.

So, we'll go up to Havasu this weekend (of course, in good form, Justin has a final on Friday), and it'll be different... again.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

It's a Sign

For the past few days Justin has repeatedly declared, "We're getting cable tomorrow."

I respond that we are not. "No, we don't need cable. I don't even want to have a TV. We're better off without it. We'd watch too much Law and Order if we had cable again."

"I don't want to watch that stuff. I want to watch the games. We don't get any of the games." Also, those that we do get often are so fuzzy that it's hard to see the ball--especially if it's a baseball game. Sometimes even in basketball it was difficult to tell what was happening and whether the refs were right or not.

Then I tried to watch a video today. Thwarted in every direction--Justin has hijacked the Blockbuster queue and now all my chick-flicks at the top of the queue have been replaced with movies like Old School, Blades of Glory and The Fearless.

Subversively (and with his permission) I took one of those over to the Blockbuster across the street to rent a movie. Once I finally picked a movie about three generations of women in one family--something to help me understand family dynamics and a mother's love, if only through a fictional movie--I waited for the old man cashier to checkout the tattooed-guy's videos. Of course it took too long. Then, despite previous experience to teh contrary, he was unable to check a movie out to me because I did not have my card or picture ID. I have for the past few times we went there, but they kept saying they didn't need it, so I tossed in some laundry and just wandered over with the return-movie from the mail.

Maybe if he'd been polite I would have been calm. But there I was, facing this gray-bearded man wearing a black sports band on his right arm and a Blockbuster polo-shirt and telling him, as he turned the screen to show me he had to see my ID, "I believe you. You don't have to show me the screen. I just don't understand why all the other salespeople CAN do this for me."

"It's for your own protection. Otherwise anyone could come in here and rent a movie from you... Don't you have your ID with you?"

"No, I just live right across the street. I've always brought all that, but all I have is my keys," I held them up for proof. "OK. Fine, whatever. I'll just take that movie back and rent one later."

Then I called Justin to demand access to the Blockbuster account so I could print out our monthly free-movie coupon. I was home by the time we were pulling the conversation to a close and he said, "Where are you? I'm at home now."

"Oh, well then I'm yelling at you from the other side of the window."

Sheepishly I entered and we did our exchange of grouchiness and forgiveness, and I found The Crying Game (I've not yet seen it) waiting for me from the mail.

Then, I watched the opening credits and the TV screen turned to two giant black blocks with a thin colorful stripe cutting horizontally across the screen.

Once again, frustrated fuming.

Tragically, starting and restarting the video, washing the DVD and trying again, and then trying to just watch TV we figured out it IS the TV.

It is the TV.

The TV is dead.

I want to take it out back and bury it in the dumpster, then put something pretty and useful on the shelf place this monstrosity of a 15-year-old box fills.

Justin of course is visualizing something I would suppose involves a flat screen.

Given that we can watch videos on our laptops and listen to NPR and read the news and even watch some reruns on our laptops too, I think I have pretty good ammunition for living in a TV-free household.

He argued for surround sound and sporting events, but I said, "Surround sound? Yeah, right!" And swept my arm around the room in-manner--of-Vanna-White displaying five speakers surrounding our living room. "We've lived here for more than a year and you still haven't hooked the wires up to those speakers!"

On the upside, he gave me a pity hug for the no-TV-afternoon I am experiencing, despite my lazy desires. On my own upside, I am still feeling pretty driven to get stuff done and the distraction of the TV is dead.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

What separates him from a kindergarten teacher...

Upon returning to our apartment after walking the dogs, I saw our landlord outside sweeping the sidewalk and picking up the debris of the palm trees that had been trimmed during my one hour absence.

"Hey there!" I greeted him.

"That's not your car is it?" he pointed to a beige sedan parked under the trees and next to the no parking--tow away signs.

"No, I'm over there," pointing down the street to my safely parked car.

"Do you know whose car this is?"


"I'd like to have them thrown out. I'd like to kick their butt. They're lucky they didn't have it towed."

And thus the rampage of the no-dogs-allowed-not-even-to-visit, immaculate-gardener, holiday-decorator-extraordinaire presents its morning greeting. Happy to be cleaning, but don't you dare cross him, don't you dare break a rule.

Former Marine.

So we like living here--it's clean and quiet and the rules aren't that hard to follow. Also, living under the fear of breaking the household rules is relatively familiar to us both, so it's not that hard to do.

That eerie orange glow....

From Oct. 21 to about Oct. 27 we looked for it in person or on TV--the signal that fire was getting too near.

The smoke this year I think kept even our consummate gardener and groundskeeper apartment manager from spending too much time outdoors--even his morning routine of sweeping and weeding and tending the plants was interrupted. I wondered whether Halloween might actually pass us by without decorations this year. If whether from exhaustion or respect he would choose not to cheerfully inundate our yard with holiday symbols.

But yesterday morning he did it--he covered each of our porch light with little lunch-sack size orange bags with white markings that make them look like carved pumpkins.

Apparently he has gotten over the worry that they might be a fire hazard.

Unfortunately, they emit that orange glow we have grown to fear.

So there it is--our apartment building marching forward instead of stagnating in the past of even just yesterday.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

"Tell [them] what planet you've been on"

KPBS is doing a great story on These Days right now that is about how we're dealing with the fires now that they are mostly contained.

The flames and the smoke may be contained, but we are not.

Like I wrote earlier, we all had a unique experience of the main event.

One of the callers said she looks back on the week and remembers coming unravelled and yelling at someone she normally would treat kindly.

Justin and I talked about that--we all did. Like they said on the radio, we had some of our most generous and conversely most unkind moments last week.

We kept neighbors company, we went to Qualcomm with 10 new pillows, boxes of crayons and children's books, copies of Chicken Soup for the Soul that I've had stashed in a box, school supplies, perfectly good clothes that I knew I could share with someone else. Then we fought with each other over nothing. We don't remember the subjects, we really don't, but we remember feeling annoyed with each other, feeling cabin fever in our closed-windowed two-bedroom apartment that held me glued to the TV news, KPBS radio and my laptop while Justin had lectures cancelled because doctors were either being evacuated or called to other duties. Family called from other counties alternately finding sweet children taking comfort in their virtual presence or lashing out at their ignorance of our experience of these fires.

What can people expect of people, though? What right do people have to expect anything? If anything has been learned in my 32 years it is that expectations most commonly lead to disappointment. So let it go.

My planet has been smoky and scary and fed by the constant images of KNBC San Diego--supplemented with reporters from out of state who had to quickly learn the history of San Diego fires and how to say the names of streets named in Spanish so that our local reporters could evacuate their homes and rest their voices while they ran 24 hour coverage of the fires and the constantly evolving list of evacuees. We've been eating out because cooking in a house warmed by Santa Ana winds and 90 degree temperatures with closed windows and doors is a special kind of discomfort. We've just been waiting and watching, knowing nothing was happening while the worst was happening to someone else.

It hasn't been a good week.

It shouldn't count.

The Calendar: Neighborhoods of San Diego

There will be a limited edition of calendars for sale by the Business Improvement District (BID) Council, most of which are expected to sell at Balboa Park December Nights (Friday and Saturday, Dec. 7 & 8). However, I can take orders via e-mail if anyone wants to purchase one. If I do say so myself, the calendar is beautiful. It is an 18-month calendar, featuring the 18 BIDs of San Diego. Each page shows one dominant image across the top and then two vertical and one horizontal image below the largest image.

The parts of the calendar with the dates leaves enough room for people to use the calendar as a planner.

All this for the low low price of $12.00!

The BID Council wants everyone to see the beautiful and unique neighborhoods of San Diego. Having shot all of the photographs, I ventured into parts of San Diego I had never seen. The BIDs include Adams Avenue, City Heights, the College Area, Diamond, Downtown, El Cajon Boulevard, Gaslamp Quarter, Hillcrest, La Jolla, Little Italy, Mission Hills, North Park, Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach, San Ysidro and the calendar rounds out its 18 months with the two neighborhoods grants were given to: Bird Rock and South Park.

Can you imagine? It's like a little preview to a grand tour of San Diego! Each page gives a sense of the neighborhood's qualities. Each neighborhood is beautiful.

So here is a sample of the calendar:

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"Life's a dance you learn as you go,

sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow..."

Sometimes you'd rather just stay in bed, pull the covers over your head and wait it out.

Usually, however, the latter is not an option. Not even during Fire Week, when we all had to keep getting up to see if it was our turn to evacuate, or if we could open the windows again, or if we had to go to work that day.

Since my windows are open again and The Calendar is at the printer, I finally have the time and capacity to do a little blog update. These are the subjects that have been bouncing around in my head like little cells on a plate of glass under a microscope: people with babies, people who do not live in the fire zone, people and reality, residency programs.

1) I've talked about this subject with my other friends who do NOT have babies. The reason I have spoken with this particular category of friend is I can't seem to find any of my friends who DO have babies. It really does seem that the edge of the Earth is in fact parallel to the edge of the chute that babies come through--once the kid crosses that line its adults take that last step on Earth and crossover into Babyland. My friends who have had friends with babies for longer than I have, tell me that the Disappeared Adults are common and that I had better get used to it. I once heard a child-free couple say that they purposely stopped being friends with people who have babies because all those people ever talk about is their babies. I thought they were joking or just mean, but I think perhaps they were using a defense mechanism by saying it was their choice.

I am a woman who would be apt to be the kind of child-free friend of a friend-with-child who would help the other woman. I would change diapers. I would feed bottles and baby food. I would probably even get a car seat so I could truck around the children of my various friends-with-children and the friend could do whatever it is friends do when they need their child to be separated from them for a time.

I have done these things for some women for some time.

But now it seems, I have officially entered the formerly-known-as zone.

I live in the world of The Unknown now.

Why don't I know?

Because of the Edge.

Up here, where the child-free adults live, we ask each other about the Formerly Known and all of us have to conjecture. We try to give our friends-with-children the benefit of the doubt; we tell each other that it is because children take so much time, so much energy, so many resources and are so strict about their bedtime and their presence in, let's say, bookstores, coffee shops, bars and restaurants or classes or non-child-proof houses that our Formerly Knowns have simply been sucked into what we see as a void of child-ed-ness. Others, those who are parents of children so old that the parents have climbed back over the edge say that the Disappeared aren't suddenly angry with us, but their lives have taken a turn that cannot involve us the way we used to be involved in their lives.

That line of reasoning sounds all well and good and logical, but it still sucks and we child-free types ask why the Formerly Known do not want us even as helpers. Why we who used to help ourselves to food and beverage from each other's kitchens are suddenly thought of as guests instead of an extra pair of hands. Why friendship suddenly has to mean more than presence--simple parallel play, even.

The child-free behold the adult lives that we have and miss our Formerly Knowns while we also feverishly embrace what we have up here where the children do not live with us (we have nieces, nephews and the occasional borrow-baby) . Sometimes we seem to get it--life just turned around and there it is: those other people are gone--but sometimes we do not. Sometimes we look around and say, "Wait a moment. Where'd she go?"

2) This morning Diana prepared the sliding glass door to the balcony to stay open so the doggies could go outside to drink their water. (Since they have beards and drink with their tongues, they make a big mess on the floor if the bowl is left in the kitchen.)

"Oh, are you putting that outside again?" I asked.

"Yeah. I pulled it in here because of the fires, but that's sooooo last week," she said.

Of course, we both know that it's only "last week" for those of us who returned to our offices and classrooms today, and those who never left their homes, are back in their homes or whose homes are standing but smoke damaged.

Meanwhile, it is difficult to understand the way life just kept happening outside San Diego while we sat around watching the county burn down.

Today is October 30. Almost Halloween. Reformation Sunday has come and gone. The tenth month is nearly over. Bills are still due, pay day is still to come, and TV programs continue with their storyline despite our all-news-all-the-time missing episodes.

I talked to someone who called me to check our fire status last week. Right at the beginning of the conversation I told him, "I can't talk for long, we're not supposed to use our cell phones."

"Who's not supposed to use their cell phones?" he asked.

"People in San Diego. We need to leave the lines open so that the people working on the fires can use them--everyone's using them so much that sometimes we're getting messages that calls can't go through."

This normally uber-socially-conscious person said, "Oh," got more info about my safety-status and then started telling me about the project he and his friends were working on in the garage.


Didn't I just say we couldn't talk for long?

And thus, my analysis of people and reality.

3) The idea probably is not a break-through: every person has a unique reality.

Even those of us who live in the fire zone all have a different reality of the fires because our experience is different. Even four people in one family living in a three-bedroom home have unique realities because they have unique experiences and perspectives of the very same moments. Einstein would argue that even time flows differently for each of the four people, so perhaps the moments are not even the same.

So, how can I expect someone to understand my feelings when he lives in a place where A) he can work in his garage because the air is clean, B) he can be with friends and doing something other than volunteering or worrying because none of them might be evacuated soon, C) he cannot even smell the fire and D) if he were listening to the radio or watching TV, his programming would remain uninterrupted?

What I have come to know is that no one can ever fully understand someone else's reality. We can try, but we cannot actually know what they know.

Maybe what we have to settle for is the attempt and acceptance. "I will try to understand your reality, but I need you to help me by giving me as much information as you can so I can work toward my understanding of you. I hope you will accept me for who I am and what I know and feel."

Maybe none of it will ever make any more sense than none at all.

Friday, October 26, 2007

huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh! *loud sucking in of surprised air*

I opened my bedroom window today and saw thick grayish white material blocking my view of even the Henry's Marketplace sign that usual glows its bright green from across the street and their parking lot.

Gray and white!

I made Justin look.

"It's fog."

"I know, but still--look! Fog!"

There is humidity in the San Diego air. The soupish fog we are supposed to feel prickling our skin when we exit our homes in the morning has returned. The famous marine layer that arrives commonly in a store-bought-thinned-out-spider-web look and then settles into more of a cotton-fake-Christmas-snow fashion before reversing itself to sunny-and-75-degrees for the rest of the day has returned for the day.

That means the wind (for the most part; here) is blowing from the ocean-wet-west, instead of the mountain-desert-dry-East.

As good as that prickly coolness feels though, it's carrying all those particles of toxicly burned houses and cars and dishwashers and Barbies back over our houses.

Given our experience with the Cedar Fires we know that the fireplace/ashtray/clear scents will not just settle down. That year, when we got into our cars to drive north for Thanksgiving the wind had shifted again--the Santa Anas don't just happen once a season--and there was the filthy layer, coloring our lives gray.

So people are asking: why do they live there when they know the fires or earthquakes or landslides might happen any time? It's not tornadoes or hurricanes--it's not annual destruction. It is sunny and 75 degrees, 95% of of the time.

Plus there's this little tiny problem of over-population of the world. I suppose we all do our part in all things.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Not so unimportant

Yesterday, my first day working at Mo's since the fires started on Sunday, I realized that having the restaurants open and offering people drinks was not really so pointless, heartless or ignorant/careless.

One of the tables we served was from Ramona. They were waiting for their food and at some point told the server that their home was burning down as they spoke; that they just wanted to get back to their hotel and sleep.

Another server listened to a story from a regular whose house stood, but who saw houses on all the other blocks burned to the ground.

San Diego outside the evacuation sites filled with newly or temporarily homeless people is not just a bunch of adults on a sudden reprise of spring break.

We weren't wasting our time serving food and drink.

In a different way than teaching, and just like teaching, we were part of the recovery effort.

Part of normal.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


The I-5 is closed?!?!

Camp Pendleton--once the marvel-worthy no-fire Marine base--is of course burning. Right by the I-5. So our most obvious thoroughfare out of San Diego is now closed.

My fingers just froze on the keyboard.

The 5 is closed.

But never fear, it's not like we're actually trapped in San Diego--not like when the 101 closed and I got stuck in Santa Barbara. Now there is a circuitous route around the Camp Pendleton closure to get back to the 5.

The odor, the news people said--I don't know yet because we closed everything back up for the night--has switched from BBQ/campfire to chemically-ash tray.

OH hey--the 5 may be re-opening in an hour. For now small groups are being escorted through the area.

Funny--the wall between the US and Mexico was in danger of fire. Imagine that.

I love that the Spanish-speaking broadcaster just said in Spanish that "this is not the moment" to try to cross the border "in the form illegal" because the fire is too dangerous.

A few illegal immigrants have been injured--and apprehended.

Oy vey.

I should just turn the news off.


Also, it's a little funny that my surrealism entry got messed up with some strange copy paste cut incident that probably happened when my hand brushed over the mouse square.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A map

the places of San Diego Firestorm 2007

We live where there is just smoke--and not so much that we're not willing to sacrifice ourselves to the eye-burning v. the uncomfortable heat. We're just hot. Plus our eyes and throat are already soreand itchy and burning, so why not at least be cooler.

And all weekend while I worked I bragged about how these days off work would incorporate lying at the pool at the Lafayette. I'd have to want to get sooty. Dusty. Take up one of the lawn chairs of a displaced person.

Miserable and comfortable, annoyed and grateful at once.


Taught the subject for years, but this situation is it.

Justin's biological father just called him--they're talking now. The fire started Sunday or so. He's checking on us.

We spoke with the rest of the family (parentally) earlier.

We pick fights with each other, it seems like the easiest way to relieve tension, though we have realized it does not serve us well. You'd think given our intellect we'd know not to bother with something that does not serve us well, but we are sucked into the tiniest most miserable form of control we can muster--and that seems to be fighting with each other.

"You care too much, you're too emotional. You can't control it; you want to help too much."

"You really don't care? I don't understand? How can you not care that much? How does it not bother you more?"

And so it goes.

We live in the bizarre bubble I described earlier--no even windy though the winds fan fire north, east and south of us. Justin jabbers with his dad with great release in his voice. Meanwhile, I chug along listening to re-entering and evacuations equalize each other as we sit in our apartment, finally deciding that our need for flowing air outweighs our need for ash-free air. We opened the door and windows.

The winds are apparently dying down, which should be good, given that we are a bankrupt city that can hardly afford a natural disaster.

So we just got home from the sister bar of Urban Mo's. So, I feel (as Ken Kramer notes) that more than 250,ooo San Diegans have been evacuated from their homes. Two thousand people have been left homeless for now, at least, but the poor Ranch Santa Fe residents staying in the very expensive rooms in the downtown hotels are whining that they were dismissed from the hotel rooms because of a long-time confirmed convention. The city argues that we need the money that pays for the services that are fighting the fires, but the whiny citizens argue that the city should take care of its own.

You decide.

We ourselves went eating and drinking at Baja Betty's.

We walked in the door, and I was shocked by the crowd. Taco Tuesday? Really? Just because of tacos and margaritas?

But then the bartenders explained--this crowded all day, and I realized, "of course--no one can go to work." We're drowning our sorrows. Drinking ourselves into disbelief and denial. One TV with the news--the rest with sports and other distractions.

And so we're poor and broken and pulling together and rich for being alive.

His biological father called. Mercy, let it be nothing less than relief.

Justin's dad has been trying to get through for four hours, but they haven't been able to get back to him, since the fires have caused all the homeless San Diego residents and emergency personnel to clog the cell phone lines.

We are here.

Trapped together forever.

In Hillcrest, where there is a fine layer of ash and virtually no wind (the Santa Ana's winds to blame for the fires' power), the bars are full, the restaurants are "not staffed for this"--the people are suffering drunken forgetfulness and forgiveness.

Se la vie.


Here's the morning update (from me at 6 a.m., posted by the San Diego Union Tribune just after 2 a.m.)

In short: The President declared the fires a National Emergency, so come on in FEMA. People are dead (one, officially, but those missing (unknown number) of course will increase the final figure, not to mention those in the burn unit who don't make it), the fire has spread into the same places the Cedar Fire ravaged (and just a week ago we dared to comment on the pretty regrowth and the fading scars visible from the freeway) and might even make it to the coast.

If it makes it to the coast, there isn't a place in San Diego I can think of where it does that without taking a lot of buildings down in its path, except for the lagoon (worse!?!?! protected habitat!), or through Camp Pendleton, which as of last night was not burning at all, but which was being used by Fallbrook residents as an escape route to Orange County--with Marine escorts of course--via Ammunition Road to the I5. I can't imagine the name isn't totally apt, given the general creativity of the military.

Holy shit.

Monday, October 22, 2007

liar, liar, city on fire....

4500 people are signed in to live at Qualcomm stadium for the night, at least.

Del Mar is being evacuated.

All County schools are closed tomorrow.

Fairbank Ranch is burning--in parts--the most expensive homes in San Diego.

Rancho Santa Fe.

All, all, where my students and former co-workers live.

Justin and I live in a bubble of ash specks, in some careful ways trapped in San Diego proper.

The space south and north of us is evacuated.

Our town is near the Qualcomm Stadium evacuation site. Three miles away. We could walk there--more than three miles, but we could. We dropped off ten new pillows, toys and Winnie the Pooh books we just bought and some clothes and bags. We bought a lot of water, but there seems to be enough donated now, so we are saving it. We know how this hell works--the weather gets better, the fire dies down (a month or two before they are completely out), years before people's homes are re-built and people stop donating water in a couple of weeks.

The Chargers have relocated their practice to Phoenix, AZ, which I am sure is charity--Qualcomm Stadium, which they can't wait to give up anyway--and part self-preservation. Breathing is different in this land where ashes fall like dust particles and snowflakes, depending on where you are and when.

It isn't even windy when I go outside. There is no worry over whether a skirt would blow up Marilyn-Monroe style. If I had long hair it might be straight, it would not be blowing in the wind. We suffer no wind.

East of here, 50 to 75 miles per hour.

While we were at Qualcomm Stadium I flashed into a soft understanding of the disastrous disorganization and treachery of the Katrina evacuations and their stadium shelter. One of the volunteers asked a policeman who was standing guard, "I just have a question, 'Why is everyone being told to drop stuff off here, and then we're carrying it by hand two gates down?'"

I didn't hear the answer, but we guessed that it had something to do with sorting. Qualcomm is the only evacuation center in San Diego that is accepting donations, so pillows, blankets, food, toys and clothes are being loaded into trucks or piled into the Stadium.

Teachers were just asked to donate time at Qualcomm Stadium tomorrow. At least two hours. There are going to be so many kids there, and the people want to find a way to entertain them. I had been hoping to read to kids today, but I ended up just leaving the books and crayons there.

We're OK. I have to finish the Neighborhoods of San Diego calendar, Justin has to go to radiology tomorrow (the UCSD Hospital is closed to all but burn victims, since they are the only burn unit in the county).

Our lives continue with our windows shut, our skin dry, our lips chapping, our Terminator governor not really doing anything terminating other than declaring a state of emergency and shaking hands.

You're dong a heck of a job, Arnie.

San Diego is still not an offical Federal Disaster Area, but FEMA is supposed to swing by tomorrow any way.


It's jumped the freeways and gone into Rancho Bernardo and Poway. These are places were a lot of teachers live--the "starter home" place" Rancho Penasquitos. The older houses, the older people, those whose planned to escape to the suburbs.

Yet another reason to live in the city.

Qualcomm Stadium is open now as an evacuation center.

That is where I will be taking clothes and everything we do not need that someone else might.

"This home is a complete loss."

Of necessity I am going to take photographs of Balboa Park now--I need a few because it's mentioned throughout the calendar as a location of perspective.

San Diego is burning again.

TPHS is closed.

Mo's will be open. Last time, they got masks and stayed open and people drank through the masks that they wore and the straw that broke through the mask that covered their drinks.

Thank God I don't work until Wednesday night.

The mayor has asked all non-essential workers to stay home today so that the freeways are not overloaded with anyone but people fleeing the places they once fled to.

I'm going to take photographs and walk dogs and finish editing the calendar.

"We think of the Cedar Fire, and as devatating as that was, it looks like this one could be much worse." NBC 739.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Time and Distance

Total Est. Time: 43 minutes Total Est. Distance: 35.04 miles

That's how far away I am from one of the places that a newscaster stood to interview people who refuse to evacuate their homes in Ramona.

Given the mayor, fire chief and police chief's information, I should feel confident that our home is a perfectly safe place to stay. I know that we are in the city. I know that the city does not burn (San Francisco post-earth quake, early 20th century excepted). I know that we are safe.

But the press conference they just held was to announce that the fire is moving faster than expected from the Eastern and Northern parts of San Diego County, and instead of crossing City Limits around 5 a.m. will be arriving early--around 1 a.m.

Only one hour away.

"Wind gusts 70 mph... Hurricane force winds.... Hauntingly reminiscent of the Cedar Fires of four years ago."

Four years ago Justin and I were driving to San Francisco for his interview there. While he explored his medical school options there, I called my friend Jen to enter our home and gather our wedding albums. I could not think of anything else important to keep. To ask a new mother to carry her child over and add to her carload of belongings, ready to evacuate.

Then, we lived closer to the fire land--3 miles from the burn.

Now I don't think I really understand where I am within these flames.

Poway Unified School District is closed tomorrow.

I turned down a job offer there in 1998. I have friends who teach there, students who competed there...

I should just go to sleep. But I remember four years ago. People went to sleep because they didn't know the fire was so fast, they hadn't been told to evacuate, they talked to some officials and were told they should wait to see.

Smoke choked them awake and then choked their cars to a halt and choked some people to death.

The Cedar Fire.

Witch Fire.

Harris Fire.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Boys are Mean and I am Young

Not Justin, really, but:

Conversation with Justin when he just woke up and I finished e-whining about my nose:

O: Look at my face. Do I have a black eye? Look at my eye.

J: [eyes are not quite open, squinting into the sun and the opening of day]

O: Really!?!! Look again. Is it swollen?

J: A little bit.

O: Where is it black?

J: Just right there. A little bit. [He pointed to the inner bridge of my nose, where my glasses would rest if they didn't hurt to wear.]

O: Really?!?!

Later, when his eyes are more open and we are in the lighting of the bathroom mirror.

O: Look again. Is my eye lid black? I'm trying to see it, but I can't?

J: How can you see your own eye lid? 'Oh, when my eyes are closed it's black!'

O: No, I go like this: [I squinted one eye with my head raised so I could see myself in the medicine cabinet mirror, then I switched eyes]. Look again.

J: [looks--getting exhasperated. Hardy Marine.] You don't have a black eye. It's just dark circles.

My eyes were closed and he leaned in for a kiss but got the splatter of a shocked woman who would have spat her martini in his eye if she had been drinking one.

I will grow old gracefully. I do not have a black eye. I am not banged up. I have no bruises. I am tough and graceful and full of vitality.

Dark circles. Hmph. People sometimes think I am in my early 20s. Ten years younger than my age! I will not dye my hair or lift my face or boobs or neck. I'll do yoga and run and be old and beautiful and strong. But first I have to go to the orthodontist now, to have my teeth adjusted, which I would have done as a teenager if I could afford it. It's better now in my thirties though--I brush obsessively. (Which I probably would have done in my teens too... I've always been obsessed with brushing my teeth. It's a very comforting activity.)

...when I'm 64...

So, My Nose

Thus far, it seems I have been spared the experience of sporting a black eye. In fact, everything that hurts to touch is still relatively the same color as the rest of my skin. Maybe this means I don't bruise so easily any more, maybe this means my bones are bruised underneath, maybe I'm just a wimp. I am sure the answer is two of the above or all of the above, definitely including the last choice.

But let's talk about my nose.

It's not my American feature. In fact, I am sure it plays a big role in allowing Indians to identify me as One of Them.

The nose Americans, the nose that garners admiration is a button nose, or a straight, petite nose, or a nose with a little upturn at the tip. Jennifer Aniston bought one of these noses. The girl that played Kelly on 90210 has one of these noses.

I have my dad's nose.

My dad is 100% Indian.

People look at our family of four and think that my brother and dad look alike because they have darker skin, while my mom and I fall more into the olive skin-tone range. But look, people. Look!

The resemblance is in the facial features. Neil is darker than Mom, but he's got her bone structure--actually, her dad's bone structure. The eyebrow arch, the longer, thinner nose and face than mine.

If in any way I am a smaller version of my father, it is unquestionably my nose. From my forehead to the tip it follows the dip at the brow, then the bump up and the flat slope to the end that is his--that is India's. At once relatively large and flat--close to the face, the cheeks, but to so flat as to be "an Asian nose."

Not Kelly's nose.

And now, on the right side, swollen.

If I lay my finger alongside the left of my nose it occupies the space that is now raised on the right side of my face.

The right side of my face is attempting to look Asian.

Probably no one will notice, but now that I've written about it... No, I will not post a photograph.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Park fun with the Parents!

Mom and Dad met my borrow-puppies today, even though it was raining. They were real troopers, though Mom was constantly worried about how wet I was getting. I explained that I had a rainproof jacket on and that my hair was curly like the puppies and that I could change my jeans later. Also that I was 32 so I'd worry about my rain issues and they could worry about theirs (while borrowing our giant umbrellas).

So here's some cute pics of us all. Yaz was especially playful because there was a giant yellow bouncy ball to chase, and I let her bark as much as she wanted to since there were no other doggie-families there to get confused between "scary" bark and "silly" bark. She was such a tease and a runner that she was all tuckered out on the drive home; she might even have napped. Not Stan though, Stan was astute the whole way home, with his head out the window and his body pressed up against mine as the three of us kids shared the back seat and Mom and Dad took the front.

When old people fall down....

it hurts so much more than when we were younger and closer to the ground.

I managed to take photographs from La Jolla to San Ysidro without getting hurt. To capture all those images I lay down on the sidewalk, I leaned over the fence of a pier, I stood on utility boxes and in traffic--either in the street or the center divide. I even touched a spiderweb. Yes, a spider had to be moved because it was in the way of allowing a sculpture to be beautiful as possible.

Today, I ran ahead of my camera-shy parents to capture them and Justin on film as they walked downtown San Diego and as I turned on the rain-slicked sidewalk I fell face down on the concrete. Yes, I managed to protect my camera. In fact, the hand that was holding it is merely bruised along the pinky-finger side and back. Additionally, I managed to make my right elbow bleed (despite the jean jacket and black sweater that did not even tear) and bruised most of that area plus my right hip. Meanwhile, for some reason my left shoulder and neck hurt when I move and a little when I don't. Same with that wrist.

I might even get my first black eye.

My protected camera did hit the ground and quickly turn upward even as my face went downward. So, my right eye orbit and side of the bridge of my nose is swollen. It was throbbing, but now it just hurts if I do serious things to it, like put on my sunglasses or turn my head quickly. Or slowly. Or in the wrong direction.

I know it won't turn colors. But I am curious to see...

Justin P. Anderson, MS IV, checked me out and noted that my wrists and ankles (all owwies) bend properly, my face doesn't hurt if it's touched in certain spots, and I can still see--so I'm OK, technically. And then he noted that I did have a nasty bruise on my left side.

"That's weird. I didn't fall on that side there." I turned to look. "Oh, that's leftover from when Stan and Yaz knocked me down last week."

Of course, when I fell down (right in front of the restaurant where we were going to have brunch), I rolled over and got up as fast as I could. My parents and Justin were all concerned about my body, while I was concerned about my camera and totally embarrassed about having frightened the patio diners who were audibly startled.

I feel like a five-year-old trying to act like a 32-year-old and a 32-year-old acting like a five-year-old.

Waaaaaah! I fell down! I have an owwie! Ouch! That hurts! Mooooooooommmmmmmmmmy!

Of course she continued to insist that I ice myself (in the restaurant) until I finally responded, "OK. If I put ice on my elbow will you stop talking about ice?" So now my bleeding elbow is the one part that isn't throbbing. But what was I supposed to do? Go lie in there walk-in freezer?

I have to stop whining though, or the Marine I married, the one with half a left foot who had a little procedure done to a small infection on his right foot yesterday, is going to get really tired of my "precious" [his word, when he's not aggravated with his own painful owwies] ways.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Man, I feel like a woman

I woke up this morning at just before 6 a.m. and I felt thrillingly rested. It feels extraordinary. I feel like I can conquer the week with energy and vigor. I do not have that typical fog that working on Saturday and Sunday nights had plagued me with on Monday mornings. The never really restored feeling that my body has suffered for weeks will subside this week. I will get rest this week. I will turn from the path to damning sleeplessness to the path of well-rested competency.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


I'm starting to be less and more surprised at once at the map of life--or perhaps with the fact that there is not really a clear path to follow, focused and determined and settled without doubt on the final destination.

The more I learn about my Buddhist friend, I think that her map of good-karma-making-projects is to lead her to a better future life.

Lacking the exact traditions of her culture--50 days since her mother's death, 100 days of her mother's death, her deceased mother's birthday--I wander through memories and come upon road marks and make it up as I go along. We do have All Saints' Day, but since my church life has been sucked away by absences caused by death, work and exhaustion I am missing that routine of the liturgical calendar.

I do miss it, but the necessity of income seems to trump the desire for communion and that community.

Also, there are few to no signs that we are deeply missed. It's easier to leave something that does not call you back.

So now, in the second October of my non-teaching life I look around and wonder about the design of my life.

Clearly I have found new and old loves. Exercises and events that had been sequestered for years while I devoted myself to a decorated classroom, hundreds of other people's paths, and a gathering of accolades for work performed with deep and drowning devotion.

Now, now. Now. Now?


Graphic design.
Borrow puppies.
Husband and wife.
Waiting to see about the residency.

In no particular order.

But I like to think and need to believe and really have learned from the aimless other-people pleasing of the past and I know at this point where I am ready enough to begin being flooded with work I need to decide which work is going to feed me literally, intellectually and spiritually. I need to decide what is going to make me whole and eat more of that, and turn down the offers of that which fills the calendar and perhaps the coffers but not the soul.

So photography. I love it. I love the beauty of the art, the captured image of my eye's view of life and love and breath-halting surprises of the extraordinary picture of the ordinary. Photography nourishes my life completely.

Graphic design makes me happy. I know how to capture the attention of viewers with just the right placement of elements that matter. It's not as innately exciting as the shuttering of the camera lens, but in combination with a meaningful product or my own photography it satisfies intellectual and financial needs.

Painting--strictly for feeding my soul, this art I have only been practicing for a year of my 32 years; painting feeds my soul and should only be relied upon for that purpose. When it becomes something I tie to the finances of my life it becomes emotionally damaging, and I want it only to be emotionally filling.

Writing, editing, journalism. My first loves. My first art. My degree in literature with a concentration on writing and experience in journalism. A skill finely honed that has been used broadly. A skill I need to guard against people's tendency to perform the easy exploitation of something that people cannot do themselves but think they can ask me to do because I do it quickly and meticulously. Writing could easily become something I despise if I force myself to accept jobs I do not believe in or feel passionately about. Writing, my first love, should be protected. I should give it away if the giving leaves no resentment, I should use it for financial gain if the gain outweighs the shackles of the time writing demands and pulls away from my new loves---photography, painting modeling. If I protect writing, I protect my soul.

Reading. Pleasure. News, fiction, memoirs, words in any order pulling me into their pleasure. To be protected like writing, to be enjoyed and not exploited in some combination of the demands of others.

Work. I work in the restaurant industry because I like the interaction with people, the simple doing of the work, the way I leave the building and do not bring homework with me. It's fun and fills the financial coffers as well as my need for socialization. I need to keep work in its box because the box supports the passionate pursuit of my photographic and artistic hybrid career. When those at work who recognize my other skills, I need to protect those skills so that these parts of me do not meld into anything that makes co-workers frustrated or me feel exploited. Hostessing is one job. Editing, photographing, writing are entirely different jobs to be respectfully compensated on entirely different levels. The skills and the training required of the two are so vastly disparate I have to respect myself enough to command the respect of others.

Borrow puppies. Exuberant love and silly ecstatic fun without too much responsibility. Definitely soul feeding and coffer supplementing, I need them like a fish needs water.

Husband and wife waiting to see about the residency. This relationship is where my life really lies. My marriage is what everything else is for and sustained by. The love exchanged here, the loyalty, the friendship, the future all wrapped in a partnership that propels us forward together. Nothing too much given or lost, the balance of our lives: Justin and Olaina.