Wednesday, October 31, 2007
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 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
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
Gray and white!
I made Justin look.
"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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Monday, October 22, 2007
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.
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
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.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
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.]
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...
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
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.
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
Sunday, October 14, 2007
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?
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.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Additionally, the laundry is spinning away downstairs, hopefully to be finished before I have to leave for work in just over an hour.
Meanwhile and unfortunately, Justin was right: I am more sore from the doggies tripping-of-me yesterday. My butt actually hurts. Plus my back. And my neck. Dogs though, do not have long memories, so I could not continue to punish them today or even mention the incident (not that they would understand my words). But, they dug their own hole by barking at their little pug neighbor just two apartment complexes from where all three of them live. So, short leashes it was. These are well trained dogs--they walked by my legs one on each side, only straying when I let some of the leash free so that they could do their business. They seriously considered barking at two other big dogs later in the walk, but they didn't because I pulled against their harnesses and told them "No Barking," and then complimented them for being good dogs.
Now they know who's in charge.
Maybe I'm not as favorite an Auntie as I used to be, but you wouldn't know it based on the greeting I received--as vigorous and thrilled as ever. By Monday we'll all be in love again--if my tush doesn't hurt so much. Before leaving I told Justin, "Maybe they're mad at me because I took their mommy ice skating and she fell and bruised her knee. 'We'll show you for hurting our mommy!'" He replied with, "'Yeah. You're just the hired help, you know.'"
In other news AL GORE WON THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE! I think I have a little crush on him now. (You know me, always a soft spot for the underdog.) This Vice President, who was sadly ridiculed during his tenure for playing too quite a role in the shadow of President Bill Clinton, this Presidential candidate who was so pathetically muted during his campaign by his handlers that we didn't get to see his spectacular passion for the world has finally been recognized for his genius and his work with not only an Oscar for the movie An Inconvenient Truth, but also a Nobel Peace Prize awarded to him and the UN Panel of scientist working against global warming. That's right, scientists and a politician together won the Nobel Peace Prize because global warming is not just an environmental issue, but also an issue that is fast becoming a cause for both verbal and violent dissent among nations. With great foresight, Al Gore has done work to call attention to this problem and help people move forward toward saving the world--and people are finally recognizing his necessary existence in our world. Al Gore: a truth we almost missed, a voice he finally harnessed--inconveniently.
Can I really have a crush on Al Gore?
And will he ever run for President? I understand why he wouldn't--his momentum and attention to global warming is necessary and actually working. Why would he want to get caught up in all the other political fodder that rolls and rolls in the muck until it can't move at all? Would his time really be more effectively spent spreading his intellectual power and international political stature addressing national health care, gay marriage, the budget deficit we have built and the wars we have fumbled under the current President's tenure? Perhaps he is correct in choosing to focus on his passion instead of embroiling himself in what he already knows and has experienced as a spinning wheel. Perhaps his turn as Presidency is further in the offing.
But imagine a Gore-Obama ticket.
Imagine a better world.
Somehow it will improve. Gore will be a player in the game, it's just a question of what role he will play.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Dr. Jeffrey A. Claridge, chief of trauma surgery at Metro Health Medical Center, said the bullet pierced [teacher] Grassie's spleen and lodged in his back after missing his heart and spine by an inch. The bullet would not be removed, he said.
"You do not expect a teacher to get shot in the line of work," the surgeon said. "It's unacceptable. That's not in his job description."
They're not in the job description, but they are in the job, even if we never experience one live. We practice for them. We spend part of our pre-school opening time preparing for "intruders" on campus. We are given packages of supplies to use "in the event of such an emergency." There are color-coded cards to use as signals to the police regarding the status of the room, bandages, plastic bags for trashcan-to-toilet conversion. We do drills with the students--ducking and covering, evacuating. I carried my keys with me to the library and the textbook room, knowing that if the school did suddenly become a crime scene we wouldn't be able to fetch our belongings until the police re-opened the space.
The Columbine teachers went a long time without their wallets.
So when I heard about the Ohio school shooter yesterday, the college school shooters recently and all the aftermath I just said, "God, I'm glad I'm not a teacher anymore," and continued to work on my freelance photography project.
A teacher knows it's possible. A teacher has a plan. A teacher looks for signs of probability, possibility and degrees of despair in students. A teacher hopes to save a child in some ethereal way when she becomes an educator, and hopes a bullet will not get in the way of the job description.
Even the walk was simple enough from the beginning. We went up the hill for a change, had a few clashes with cats (one which went successfully because the cat left and hid before we got close by and I kept telling them "no barking," one which was less successful because the cat was hidden from sight but not doggie-scent and arched its back so barking ensued). Then we walked over to the Garden only to discover it won't be open until 11 a.m., which does no good for a girl who needs coffee and dogs who want treats.
A lady in a truck was driving out of Henry's and asked if it was just me and the two of them and I talked about how it's more than twice the fun and they keep each other company and she said her one ten-month old puppy was too much for her.
Then we walked down the street and Yaz was convinced we were going to stop by our apartment to say hello to Justin, so I had to explain to her that he was not home and we had to keep going.
Then, in front of our new evil stupid neighbor's cottage all hell broke loss. She is a woman who yells when a car alarm goes off, "I'll pay someone $20 to steal that car." (so much logic in that!) She is the woman who yells for her dog to come inside, no matter what time of night it is, yells as if he might be in her acres of pastures instead of her tiny back yard right below our bedroom window. Her dog is this ancient hound dog looking thing that moves so slowly even when he scratches it looks like a movie being played in slow motion.
We were walking by this cottage of doom when the barking started. Yaz and Stan lunged for the door and somehow the leash must have been behind my legs because my feet flew out from under me and I landed on my rump. Given my bony butt, I suppose I should count myself lucky that I didn't break my tail bone, but I had an instant headache, body ache and my finger hurt. Must have been wrapped up in the leash and taken some pressure when I fell and they lunged.
The aftermath involved yelling to get the dogs away from the door and righting myself while we walked away from the scene of the crime. Disappointingly, the dogs seemed least concerned that I had taken a fall. No coming over to check on me, no licking comfort kisses anywhere (a blessing, really given the Scooby-snack Yaz mouth), no need to even slow down a bit. So we walked home, one glum girl and two oblivious self-centered dogs.
I left them to suffer the NPR membership drive for the day, no extra loving in my departure and they didn't even care.
"Bye Olaina. Your work here is done."
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Reminder: I hate USC because I love the UC system and UCLA sports. One of my all time favorite honors English students was not only a smart, creative and articulate thinker, but also a really nice guy to his classmates and a kicker at TPHS and then at Stanford.
My logic in picking teams is probably the only thing that saves me from true sports fanatic status.
Friday, October 05, 2007
When I got to their house we had the usual morning lovefest. Stan had the green-chair hug, Yaz trotted about. Then Stan remembered that a tennis ball had been lost under the couch, so he started to dig through the couch to get it. I helped, to his great joy, with a green hook thing that I wouldn't be surprised was purchased for this purpose alone, but which looks like it could be a piece of exercise equipment.
Stan went to his doggie bed and blissfully gnawed and tossed his head about with the ball in his mouth. Occasionally it rolled away, and with Yaz now on my lap we both stared at it and he decided to fetch it for himself.
Then it rolled close enough to my feet for me to reach it.
So I caught it between the two and lifted my legs so that they were straight out from the chair; Yaz still relaxing as though a princess.
Stan was totally mystified. He looked all over the floor, checked under the couch and the chair and then returned to the general area where the ball had stopped. He noticed the bridge of my legs and then my tennis shoes, which I'm sure threw him off the scent with their Mo's remains of the night (beer, BBQ sauce, bleach, cigarette ashes). Finally he noticed the bright green orb between the shoes. He stared for a moment, planning his strategy. Then he took the plunge and grabbed the ball without even snagging his teeth in my shoes.
Victory for Stan!
A few cuddles and pets later, I asked Yaz if she was ready for breakfast and she jumped down and walked to the kitchen in response.
Nursing a Mo's gift-shots and then five hours of sleep headache, we walked to the Garden for my mocha and a bagel.
The puppies were very excited for their snacks, which they once again failed to catch in the air after Jeremy's softball throw. Then the gust of wind from today's almost blustery day (a real blustery day wouldn't allow me to be blogging in a tank top and jeans now) shot through the flowy awning of the Garden's patio cover. Stan immediately fell into his fear and trepidation mode--tail down, cringing and looking around to see why the sky was falling and where it would fall. Yaz was oblivious, still looking for more snacks on the floor. The third gust though, that got them both and we had to move to a table and allow Justin to bring me my breakfast.
Stan cowered at my legs, except when he was trying to back up and hide behind the couch, while Yaz tried to eat crumbs from my bagel off my shirt.
When we got back to their condo Stan kept close to my legs (also during the very awkward trippy walk home), so I'm hanging out here with their comforting sounds of NPR in the background. For a while Yaz rested next to me with her head on my feet. Stan seems calmer now too, so I think I can make the great escape.
I can only imagine (oh no! super loud BANG! crash!) what thunder and lightning will bring. All three of us jumped just now. Stan is on the couch now with me--vigilant and frightened at once.
It's going to be a long day for the babies. He wants to lie down, but he's scared. Every sound causes him to lift his head with concern.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Monday was Justin's mom's birthday. Sunday I spent the day working as a photographer in the sunrise morning, sleeping again, watching baseball and football with Justin in a local bar conveniently located next to Lefty's Chicago Pizzeria. Then I worked as a hostess and he hung out there for a while being my cup holder. Somewhere in there we made the birthday celebration plan and alternately felt the "wow, that's so weird that she's not here" hole burn a little further through the fabric of our lives.
Justin was supposed to go to the hospital to work on his anesthesia rotation yesterday, but we ended up spending his mom's birthday together. He picked me up from work around midnight, so we had a little leftover lamb stew picnic and talked for a while. I noted his scribbly approach to life that day (and a couple of days before, when everything was just bad and wrong by Justin-standards--to a point where listening to him talk was amusing) and asked if it "was because tomorrow is your mom's birthday?"
Riptide took him out.
So we spent our October 1 together. He slept in while I walked the dogs, and then he played SuperHusband and we whirlwind cleaned the apartment because our apartment manager was coming inside to check the fire and carbon-monoxide alarms in accordance with the law. In good form, he continued to take care of me by mapping out the places in San Ysidro and Diamond that I had to photograph but had trouble navigating, driving and shooting all at once on Sunday. Bless his heart, he acted like he liked it the whole time--he said he was happy and that we were on an adventure. We were--we were both in places we hadn't been before, we were exploring and we were together. We like together.
We tried to eat somewhere interesting, but the place called Magnolia's that has Southern Style food in Diamond was not open, so we ended up in a mall eating at Applebee's because he said, "it's like Chili's" which is a place where he and Toni used to eat together. Then, we shopped at the Gap Outlet in San Ysidro because he "needs some hip clothes to go out in" now that he's "rolling in these circles" of medical education. Of course, I can't go into the Gap Outlet without buying articles of clothing that I know fit, are comfy and cost less than $20 each (mostly single digits, actually). Justin insisted. Plus he was involved in shopping. Plus he didn't mind all my photography. Plus I got to show him what I do.
By the end of the day he was spent. So was I. I was thrilled to show him that photography is actually a lot of work; that the creative thinking, the constant movement and searching and the physical contorting it requires is at once invigorating and exhausting.
Still though, we went to watch the baseball game--innings 1-9--at Oggi's and then because we were so sleepy we listened to the rest on the radio on the way home. We were so sleepy. The game went beyond the tenth inning. We love the Padre's, so we listened on the bedroom clock radio because we have a sort of vintage home. One or the other of us kept nodding off and then waking the other up with our exuberant celebration of hits and runs or dismay at lost opportunities. They lost in the 13th inning--with Trevor Hoffman Hell's Bells at the mound!
A very disappointing San Diego sports week indeed.
Still, tomorrow there's major baseball to be watched. The Angel's are playing Boston and there's two other games too. I need some Angel-wear because they are my first baseball love. Then, if things go badly for them or Boston I can wear the Red Sox cap Diana gave me. Til then, go Packer's! (I know, football, Farve, different sport.... and yippee Chargers....) sleepy kid... check out the time stamp!
San Diego faithful stunned by 13th-inning collapse
The idea was to gather at the ball yard, united as Friar fanatics, and somehow – through a collective act of sheer will – pull their beloved Padres into the postseason from 800 miles away.
K.C. ALFRED / Union-Tribune
A dejected Trevor Hoffman walked off the mound after the Colorado Rockies rallied to defeat the Padres in the 13th inning of last night's one-game tiebreaker at Coors Field in Denver.
A few hundred Padres fans gathered last night at the Park at the Park to watch the do-or-die playoff with the Colorado Rockies on the giant TV screen beyond center field at Petco Park. The game had a season's worth of heart-stopping moments before all hope was finally dashed.
The fans groaned together when the Padres fell behind early and joyously slapped palms when a grand slam put San Diego ahead. They chewed their fingernails well into cuticle country as the teams traded one tense scoring chance after another, like heavyweights battling beyond exhaustion.
Then San Diego seemed to have it won in the top of the 13th, when a home run by late-season sub Scott Hairston followed a walk to Brian Giles and bedlam broke loose with 400 fans doing their best to sound like 40,000.
An interminable 6-6 tie had turned into a two-run Padres advantage.
Moments later, the big screen featured the familiar fiery footage, and “Hells Bells” blared from the sound system. But master closer Trevor Hoffman didn't have it; he surrendered three runs and the season ended in a typically tense and frustrating fashion.
SEAN M. HAFFEY / Union-Tribune
The Padres' loss in 13 innings reduced San Diego fans to tears last night at Petco Park's Park at the Park.
But for most, the unexpected festival was worth it.
“We came down here tonight to be with the real fans,” said Teresa Gersch. She and her husband, Conrad Grayson of Spring Valley, huddled in a blanket against the night chill as one relief pitcher after another – for both teams – shut down hitter after hitter.
“Win or lose, we just wanted to be out here for the party,” she said.
The game went on longer than many anticipated. It was an extra ballgame, so why shouldn't it go into extra innings?
Elisabeth and Joseph Dilella rode their bicycles to the ballpark from their home in Point Loma.
At times Joseph, a native San Diegan who's been a Padres devotee since the team entered the big leagues in 1969, paced with his head down, unable to watch the high drama on the big screen.
“Sure, we could have watched it at home, but we'd rather be out here,” he said. “It's just a lot more fun being out with the crowd.”
Elisabeth said her husband had already bought tickets for Padres games right through the World Series. And until the bottom of the 13th, he truly believed he was going to get a chance to use them all.
SEAN M. HAFFEY / Union-Tribune
Fans at Petco Park's Park at the Park cheered early after Padres first baseman Andrian Gonzales hit a grand slam in the third inning yesterday against the Rockies. Unfortunately, Colorado rallied to win the NL wild card.
“Boy, did it ever get quiet all of a sudden here,” Elisabeth said.
Things seemed so promising at game time, when the late-afternoon sun kindled anticipation among everyone, from retirees lounging on the grass to kids running around the park's sandlot field.
“We were coming out here for Rally Monday anyway, figuring the Padres would have already clinched (a postseason berth),” said Ellis Whitcomb of La Mesa. “So it was pretty easy to shift into game mode.”
Whitcomb and his sister, Sheryl Whitcomb, went to all 81 Padres home games. No way were they going to miss the planned party to usher in the postseason. Having a game to watch made it all the better.
“It's been a good season,” Ellis said, his voice heavy with the realization that this was the end. “They certainly proved they are one of the best teams in baseball, and we had a lot of fun watching them.”
For some fans, it was a last chance to spend $8.50 for a beer and $4.25 for a soda – no discounts for televised action instead of the real thing.
But most simply were glued to what was transpiring on the screen, oblivious to the sea of empty blue seats beyond. When a Padres fielder made a nice play or was taken out for a substitute, the viewers applauded as if it were happening on the field before them.
When the Rockies pushed across the winning run on an excruciatingly close play at home in the bottom of the 13th, they hung their heads, collected their things and shuffled off slowly into the night.
The wait for next year had suddenly begun.
“Aw, geez,” said Joseph Dilella when the end arrived. “Well, so much for a playoff run. This was our playoff game, and it was really a pretty good one.”
His wife was similarly sanguine.
“At least,” she said, “we got a good bike ride out of it.”
Monday, October 01, 2007
Justin wanted to throw her a big birthday party to mark the occasion. Apparently her 40th birthday celebration didn't go so well, but her reaching 60 with all her medical challenges would have been a great accomplishment. On the other hand, perhaps she would have been depressed over the 60 that she wasn't--not retiring or near retiring from an engineering career, not planning great travels or exploring yummy restaurants, not moving to Arizona and living in their desert property and doing whatever it is people do in the desert somewhere between Vegas and Lake Havasu.
Not excitedly awaiting her son's Match Day to discover where his next portion of the emergency medicine adventure would take us. Not preparing to celebrate his extraordinary graduation from Medical School.
I suppose she could have done those last two, on the days that she understood it. On the lucid days.
Maybe she woudl have liked the party. Maybe she would have resented it. Maybe she would have been happy to see her friends or maybe they would have continued their awkward distance, afraid of their own mortality and uncomfortable with what she had become, preferring to pretend she had disappeared and allowing themselves to blindly hold on to the memories of what she had been with them so many years ago.
I want to resent them for that behavior and their absence that pained her--especially her parents, but for the friends I think I pity them in a different way than I pitied Toni and pity her family.
No one knows how to deal with these situations, no one is well equipped, no one is trained--at least not until afterward and for the next one. But still, each person has their own desires and expectations in these matters.
I thought I'd take Justin to a nice dinner tonight to celebrate Toni's birthday in memoriam, but today the Padre's play in what might be their final chance to make it to the playoffs or the actual last part of the baseball season. So, in good form, we will go to a sports bar instead "my mom appreciated a good beer" and love each other and the memory of her. Me and my favorite gift from Toni--my Justin who loves, cherishes and cares for me. My Justin who makes it so that I can wake up to a Crockpot cooking lamb stew and a house that is clean and stocked with everything that he doesn't want to run out of. Justin who does the dishes and checks on the cars and makes sure we get home safely from where ever we go. Justin, the simply nice guy, to whom I married well.