Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Santa's Workshop


My mom has always had a way with making things seem fantastic and better than they are. She created her own bedtime stories in addition to being reading to us out of our favorite books--Mine was The Forgotten Door. At bedtime my mom wove stories of riding into dreamland on the back of Night Mare a beautiful dapple grey with a long silky mane and tail. Once in dreamland we would visit our favorite places including the gumdrop tree (borrowed from poetry) and would always end our visits with cookies and milk at the Wise Old Owl's. Numerous time Richard and I would wake up certain that we brought goodies back from Dreamland.
When I was young, we lived in an old farm house. Oklahoma sunsets in the fall are vast painted canvases of reds, purples and oranges. The warm ethereal glow demands an explanation. My mother was at hand with a handy one that gave her some practical peace from 3 constantly bickering kids and added everlasting wonder to our lives. My mother told us one evening as we watched the horizon in wonder my mother explained that the beautiful array of colors was from the glow of Santa's workshop at the North Pole. He was making toys for all the good children around the world. Determined to be a child that got toys, I resolved again and again to be good.
Now as an adult, I look at red skies in the fall and remember fondly those incredible vast skyscapes that a farm in Oklahoma has to offer.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Omigod

That is what I uttered this morning when I decided to step on my bathroom scale which is located in the kitchen. Technically I guess it would be called a kitchen scale.
After over a week of potlucks, Reyes Family tamales, gift bags of candy, cookies, cakes and everything else left on break table and my own indulgences I have reached saturation point and now weigh more than I have literally ever weighted. So it is time to drag those resolutions out and put them into action.
I read an article in LA Yoga about resolutions that was kind of neat. It talked about re-solving and doing re-solutions. I never thought of it that way. If I had lost the extra 50 pounds this year, I wouldn't have to re-solve the bloody problem. If I had actually logged 25 miles a week, ditto. So obviously my past solutions weren't very effective. It is time for me to search for a new way of solving the old dilemmas of weight, exercise, diet, finances, etc.
What can I do differently this year? I haven't gotten it worked out completely but I think that the focus is going to be on reducing my stress and beating myself up constantly with should, could, would haves.
So here is the mantra I am going to live by this next year. It goes like this: Remember: Living a life of joy without undue stress is vital. In all I do focus on making myself a better me but also take time to enjoy being me. Find a time to move but also a time to still myself. Be happy in my skin by shedding bonds of stress and neagativity. Always live without regret and the past modals (should, could, would haves). How's that. I will let everyone know how this works out.
In the mean time good luck with finding your own re-solutions and re-solving.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Holiday Festivities

It has been a busy holiday season. First, there was the my library region's annual holiday breakfast where we have a white elephant to raise funds for our scholarship fund. I was one of the three organizers for the breakfast. I nominated myself for decorations and I was nominated to be the MC on the morning of. I love things like this. I enjoy decorating and seeing how a room is transformed. I also enjoy being the center of attention and my voice is loud enough to command attention. It is hard to believe that my first adult students in Japan told my boss that although they liked me that had a heard time hearing me. Talking through numerous throat infections--either from the pollution in Hiroshima or hanging out in smokey bars (I claim the former rather than the latter)--has given me a powerful resonating voice. But anyway back to the story. I had fun but was exhausted afterwards, I spent about an hour presenting gifts to the winning person. An hour of walking in my high heels albeit comfortable ones were about all I could take.
Tuesday was the Friends of the Library potluck and "gift" exchange. The gifts here were donated books that we picked up. We drew numbers and chose a nicely wrapped gift. We could steal something already opened or choose a package to open. I made fondue and ate way too much of all the other goodies that everyone brought.
On Thursday we had our library's potluck and gift exchange. I prepared stockings and other gifts that everyone could draw a number to choose or steal already opened presents. I got a pack of 5 scratchers and thought that would be the hot prize but no, the most wanted gifts were little stuffed lambs I got from Bath & Body. One employee was so disappointed that her lamb was stolen she complained about the next day. The good manager that I am, I went to Bath & Body yesterday to get another one so that she will feel better. For the potluck I made fondue again--that goodness for Sam's big blocks of cheese. One block was good for two fondues. I am so glad fondue is back in vogue again.
Yesterday & this morning, I went of to M's sister's house for the Reyes family Birthday and Christmas. The made tamales. Wow! were they ever good. I am usually just so-so about tamales although most of my tamale experience has been the Hormel canned variety. But the tamales were made with a spicy masa and the meat was nicely seasoned. I went back for seconds and then had another this morning when I arrived. It is nice to spend time with a big family. I miss that I am not with my own family but I am thankful that M is such a good friend that she has made me feel a part of her family.
So now with my apartment in a big mess, I still need to get my Christmas cards out. I will do that tonight or tomorrow. M has invited me back over to her sister's house for Christmas Eve dinner and I will probably spend Christmas with P. I am so glad he is back. It has been a good season. I am beginning to feel that California is my home and I am getting grounded. Now if only I could find a boyfriend things would be complete--well, I think that would also take getting a dog. Things are good, so I will be happy with what I have and not dwell on what I don't.
I hope everyone's season is as fullfilled as mine is. Merry Christmas, Happy Winter Solstice, and Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

There's a Reason Why I Don't Travel to Oklahoma...


in the winter. Yesterday, we had low temperatures, rain, snow and road closures in LA County. In Canyon Country it was just cold and rainy but up the Antelope Valley got several inches. The 14 Freeway was closed as were a number of highways in and around LA. M says the last time it snowed like it did yesterday was 23 years ago or slightly longer than a blue moon.
J's library was closed so he called me telling me I should call in sick--although I was already at work--and drive up past the winery on Sierra Hwy where it looked like the east coast with snow blowing around and swirling. About an hour later, they closed the Sierra Hwy. I presumed that J didn't get stuck because this afternoon he re-deployed to my library. His library was still closed today.
I don't like going back to Idabel in the winter because you just never know what is going to happen, it might be sunny and 50 degrees on moment and minus 12 the next. No joke, I have seen it happen. One year, little brother and I came home for Thanksgiving. On Saturday an ice storm hit. This meant that my dad had to drive us 250 miles on icy roads and then turn back around to drive back. I was a basket case by the time we got there. Another year, it was returning after Christmas holidays--I just happened to also have had a virus that was at first passed off as a nervous disposition. Three days later and still no stomach relief told another story. But it was a miserable ride back with me being sick in the back coupled with ice roads.
One year I had to go to OKC to fly to Houston get my visa, fly back to OKC to fly to Japan. Like all my trips to Japan, a very tight turn around. My friend Cathy was down on business and offered to drive me to OKC. We got to Shawnee when the ice storm hit. At first we thought we would press on but when the truck on the other side of the divided highway swept another car and itself in the ditch, Cathy looked at me and we both said "We're stopping for the night." The next morning it was 50 degrees and OKC was not a problem. I even had a couple of hours to spare to get to the airport and my plane.
I live in Southern California for a reason. And weather like yesterday is one of the reasons. If it visits once in every 25 or so years, I guess I can live with it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Freezing Your Eggs

Yep, I went and did it. I froze my eggs--6 of them. I was surprised to see what they look like when they are frozen. They looked all kind of cracked and not so pretty. I decided that once they were frozen they probably wouldn't be any good--so I threw them away. Chances are they weren't fertilized so it didn't really matter.
I can get more. This time I won't freeze them.
Here is the story. P came over for breakfast to grab the bag he left at my apartment in October. After coffee it was time for breakfast. P took his bag, my futon, Japanese blanket a couple of sweatshirts and towels out to his truck (Hawaii people are generally not prepared for cold weather)while I rummaged through the fridge for breakfast stuff. When he returned, I informed him that we had to go to McDonald's for breakfast. He looked at me questioningly so I had to explain that I wanted to make scrambled eggs. He said "I like scrambled eggs." "Yes," I agreed and continued with "But, when I couldn't find my eggs in the fridge I thought I would look in the freezer to see what was in there for breakfast. That was when I discovered the egg carton in the freezer with frozen eggs." P exclaimed "You froze your eggs?" Yes, I did and showed him the carton of cracked eggs. We both agreed that eggs probably didn't freeze very well and were no longer usable. At any rate it was clear that they would not thaw in the next few minutes so it was to McDonald's that we went for breakfast.
Ladies, I recommend leaving the eggs out of the freezer. Use them while they are still fresh and you won't go wrong. Trust me on this.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Worrisome

This afternoon I went to Baja Fresh for lunch which I generally do about once a week or so. I usually walk but because it is raining, I drove over. I spotted a parking spot between Cold Stone and Baja Fresh which meant no worries about melting in the rain. As I was turning off my headlights (A California law says that if your wipers are on so must your headlights) I noticed that the shop next to Baja Fresh had a realtor's AVAILABLE sign on the window. What!? Quiznos used to be there--it was there last week--no it is gone.
Last week, I noticed that the Office Depot in Canyon Country is closed. As is the Starbucks across from Sam's Club. Down in Stevenson Ranch both a shoe store and Linen's and Things also closed or closing. Mervin's of course has a big yellow--store closing sign on it. Furniture shops have been closing for the past year, ever since the housing bubble burst.
The only good news in all this is that gas is lower than I have seen it since I returned to the United States 8 years ago. Otherwise, I am worried about the future. I hope that Obama can inspire America the way Kennedy did and can make clear and decisive decisions. He is already being built up to be the next Roosevelt. But as my mother pointed out it was really the war that got us out of the last depression. What will do it this time? Getting us out of the war that helped get us into it?
I remember the 70's, many of my earliest memories have to do with Watergate and the end of the Vietnam War. I remember gas prices rocketing from 25 cents a gallon to over $1. I remember eating a lot of beans and cornbread. These were not easy times. Then the 80's hit and everything seemed to get better--for a while--until the Savings and Loan scandal wreaked havoc and the bottom seemed to drop out again. By the time I was getting ready to finish college others were planning on Master's and PhD's--anything to keep from having to pay the mounting loans off with few job prospects. Advisers recommended that everyone be prepared for a 6-12 month job search. I chose to go to Japan where I had a job waiting for me. I bounced back and forth between the US, Japan, and Europe for the next 10 years. Clinton came in and the country was soaring. In the mean time, I lived through the bubble and bust of Japan's economy--a yen rate that got out of control, I saw approximately a 30% reduction of my salary using exchange rates. Clinton was in office, America was riding an economic tidal wave. I decided to come back.
So now, I am living through the bust of America's economy. It took years for Japan to grapple with their economy and I am still not sure that they have ever addressed some of the major problems with it. Korea got their's under control with a population that was willing to drag out their gold from family coffers and give it to the government. Is that what it will take for us? Would we be willing to make the sacrifice? I am still worried. But I remain hopeful.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Holiday Time of Year

Tis the season as they say. I have always enjoyed decorating for Christmas and took over decorating the house when I was about 12. My mom reminds me that I didn't take over taking down the decorations until I moved away from home and no longer had her to do it. I must have scratched my head in confusion that first year when the decorations didn't magically take themselves down.
I have a collection of ornaments that go back years. Each one has a special memory attached. "These were the ones Chip and I painted when I was 10" "I got this one when I was home for Christmas from Japan." "Karen made this one for me." "I had this on my tree in Japan." etc. Each year as I take the ornaments out, I revisit memories of the past. I have a Christmas stocking--white (kind of dingy now) with angels that I got my first Christmas and have hung up lovingly for over 40 years. Several years ago I discovered that the "Made in Japan" foil sticker had somehow survived on the back of the stocking. Perhaps it was destiny that my life would be wound so closely to Japan.
In Hawaii, C and I both loved to decorate the house. I had a tree and a number of clear, glass & crystal ornaments, she had brightly colored ornaments. Together we created a beautiful tree. The first Christmas after she had moved back to the mainland and thoughtlessly took her ornaments with her. I unsuspectingly put of the tree, stepped back, viewed my handiwork, only to discover that my tree looked very anemic with the plethora of clear ornaments. I never missed my dear friend more and even with the color balls I rushed out to buy, I have never felt the tree has looked exactly as it did with the mixture of mine and C's ornaments.
I also have a collection of nutcrackers. I have them setting on my dining room table as a center piece. I fell in love with the Nutcracker ballet and Baryshnikov when it aired on TV when I was eleven years old. I have collected them since, my collection would be considerably bigger if I hadn't lost an entire box of them.
I have discovered that what I enjoy most about Christmas is the decoration aspects of it. I have spent so much time away from my family during Christmas that I am sometimes melancholy on Christmas day. While in Japan, I discovered that if I engaged in normal American Christmas activities, like attending a Christmas chorus, I would like become distraught with homesickness. One negative experience made me wary for the future. Christmas Days that I have enjoyed were at the beach with Paul and sushi for dinner; setting my tiny Barbie sized kitchen on fire making chicken Kiev (OK not so much fun as memorable). As I was coming unglued in the kitchen, the men were wrapped up in Pulp Fiction in the living room. By the time, they registered my panicked cries, I had the fire out--flour burns on electric rings by the way!
This year, I don't know what I will do for Christmas. Paul is now in LA so maybe something with him. Perhaps not Sushi because I am still avoiding it since my poisoning. But whatever, I know that I have friends and family that will be thinking about me and that will be enough

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Addiction

We all probably have a few. I know I do so I am usually sympathetic to people who seem to have harmless ones. J self-admittedly has a weakness. He has an addiction that demands any spare cash he may have on him. And I have to admit I am often an enabler, funding his addition occasionally just to see him become completely involved--I am a good friend that way. Besides I often benefit from his tumbles into uncontrolled behavior. J is addicted to claw machines. Like sirens sing to him when he in their proximity. As in the presence of sirens you can visible see the will drain out of him as he changes his bills for a jingling pocket full of quarters. I would be worried about him, but he is actually pretty good at the game so I get a contact high from him. Personally, they sing nothing to me. The claw sirens definitely target men. The purse, jewelry and shoe sirens are generally heard by females leaving men to think we are crazy.
Last Friday, J and I went to Oggies to celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the End of Prohibition (December 5, 1933) with pizza and pitcher of beer. When the bill arrived, J threw down his half and then produced a tenner telling me he was going to win everything in the machine. I used the facilities next to the machines and found him completely engrossed. I asked how much he had spent. Like all addicts he lied. He said it was his first 50 cents but later felt guilty and amended it to his third try. The machine was pretty empty so it was clear to J that he was going to chase good money after bad so he asked "Do you want to go to Walmart?" As a good supporting friend agreed. We walked home with his pockets still somewhat jingling, put up the left over pizza and took his car to Walmart. Claw machines beckoned in the distance. He checked the machines out and decided that he would use the $1 machine--in my estimation the difference between crack and coke. He lost a few dollars on the imdomitable snowman from the Rudolf cartoon. Then he started to score, first with a stuffed box with a snowman head and feet. Then with a spunky green donkey and then he got it the snowman. As I was dragging the winning out of the bin, a group of teenagers walked by and "Awe is that sweet" my filled arms. J had 50 cents left, not enough for another try. Completely caught up in J's success, I dug a $5 out of my purse. He refused, I came up with a dollar bill, he agreed. So with my dollar he snagged an Elvis Elf--complete with sunglasses and a green satin cape. Elvis is now under my Christmas tree next to the snowman. Other winning that I scored from J's addiction are living in my car. I am cultivating a menagerie in the backseat until my car-pet Sam starts complaining about sharing his car.
I really want to go to Vegas with J, because if I have this much fun watching him win small prizes with his money and sometimes mine. I will have a blast watching him go saucer eyed at the craps table. Anyway watching other people blow their money is pretty cheap. So I think I will make out pretty well in Vegas with him there. He just has to join M and me for a 3 hour champagne brunch. Also a pretty cheap way to pass time in Vegas. My final words are Viva Las Vegas!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

From Luddite to Tech Trouble Shooter

How did this happen? I started college before Bill Gates made PC's a household name. I was at the cusp of the tech revolution. Some friends like K embraced the new technology. Me--I thought my electronic typewriter was nifty enough. I avoided the issue of technology by fleeing to Japan. I know how that sounds but as late as 2000 internet cost 10 yen (about 10 cents) a minute and not so many people had computers at home. One friend described Japan as a cross between the Flintstones and the Jetsons. Boy was she ever right. In 1998 another friend set up a Hotmail account for me and walked me through the steps of how to use it.
In 2000, I came back to the States and was contemplating a career in Library Information Sciences. I realized I had to get over my fear of computers. Also I had just been promoted to Managing Director of the little language school I worked at which required a few more tech skills than I had. I began to take some courses--Saturday workshops--at the local community college. Then Devon found a grant for small businesses that paid for us to attend classes. We both took a number of Office program courses and suddenly we were cranking out fliers, spreadsheets and other documents like pros.
So here I am in 2008 working for the County with public PC's. I still consider myself a novice by a long shot. However, that being said, I am constantly amazed when I am the most tech savvy person on staff. I have a couple of young part-time employees that know more than me, but otherwise I am the troubleshooter. I am the one that figure things out. And with the public, I am the pro that can solve most of their problems most of the time.
I no longer quake at the thought of learning some new application but neither am I overly thrilled at it either. I generally use technology at work and then go home to my quiet home without internet and cable TV. If I want to check my e-mail, post blog entries, I head off for Cuppy's coffee or wait for my lunch hour. I suspect that other people my age are either very tech savvy or just uses it on a needs to basis.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving Memories

I am thankful for many things not the least of which is family, friends, health and a job that I actually enjoy. I am thankful that I have friends that will come over for non-traditional Thanksgiving fare. I don't eat turkey--I actually do try it most years to see if the judgement has changed--it hasn't yet. I don't eat ham. Well actually I spent many years eating both but the caveat is that I needed a full bottle of either ketchup or BBQ sauce to get them down. So now that I am an adult, I can choose not to eat them and there are plenty of Thanksgiving foodstuff that I actually love--a lot--pumpkin pie, pecan pie, sweet potato pie, just to name a few.
There are several memorable Thanksgivings and one that I would rather forget. The good stuff first. Thanksgivings after I left home and missed a few were always good. The best thing was that people finally became sensitive to my non-redneck taste buds and began preparing things like shrimp, roast beef, and venison--OK so deer is pretty redneck. I also spent several fantastic years in Hawaii with friends. Pound and Jojee hosted great gatherings with a myriad of food that always included lumpia and panset (Filipo specialities). OK so maybe I am into traditional food--just not American.
The bad Thanksgiving was spent in 2000. My mom called me the week before to tell me that I needed to fly home as soon as possible to say good-bye to my dad. Otherwise I might not have the chance. I spent a week with my dad in the hospital and we were able to bring him home for Thanksgiving, but what a homecoming this was. The house had recently flooded--a pipe had burst had time to run while my mother was at the hospital with my dad. The house was in serious disarray. My brain was in serious disarray with trying to deal with my father's frail mortality. Thanksgiving was hard that year. The ensuing year was hard with grief but I remember feeling a little light creep in next Thanksgiving signalling that grief was waning. C and M spent the day making a fantastic traditional Thanksgiving meal that involved C waking up at 4:00 in the morning. I believe that I am the only that actually woke up at 4:00--so I was pretty grumpy most of the day. So I ask forgiveness if I crumpled any good memories on their part because on my part I see it as the day light came back into my life after a season of darkness. And now I am able to cast Thanks toward the past for that rather bleak holiday I spent. I am thankful that I was able to say good-bye to my father because he had only 5 more weeks and an Idabel covered in ice prevented me from attending his funeral. I have much to be thankful for especially all the memories I have of family, friends and taken opportunities.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Losing 7 Pounds the Hard Way

At about midnight Thursday night, I woke up with a terrible feeling in my tummy. I felt poisoned so remembering my last bout 10 years ago with a toxic chinese steamed dumpling, I got up and tried to purge myself. I continued purging every 15 minutes for the next 4 hours. Between 4:00 and 5:15 when my alarm went off I was able to sleep. I stumbled out of bed, made a detour to the bathroom and searched for my car pool's number. No number. Crap. If it had been a normal day I would have just crawled back into bed or curled up next to the toilet but I had someone waiting for me and no way to contact her. I decided if, I was going to drag myself out of bed, go across town to meet my car pool, I might as well try to go to the training.
On the way to East LA, I called J to see if he was poisoned as well. No he felt OK. Crap, so it might have been the Albacore Crisp that did it to me--I had an extra one. Or my unusual ginger allergy may have gone on steroids. I didn't have a fever so I didn't feel it was viral. What ever it was, I was in it's clutches all freaking day.
I had a bagel, it came up. I had some Sprite, it came up. I had water, ditto. After a brief nap during lunch I felt good enough to eat some ice chips and then a bit later drink some sprite. All was well. I gained a bit more confindence and tried the dessert square--no problem. I was thirsty again, ice chips and sprite were gone so I tried some Coke. One drink and all the progress I made was laid to waste. The next three hours were a nightmare. But in the end, I felt there was nothing left disgrace myself with in the car. I didn't.
I made it home, was able to get down an English Muffin and a small glass of yoghurt. I was asleep before 8 o'clock and didn't wake up until eight the next morning feeling considerably better weighting 7 pounds less than the day before. I might not have minded the trauma the day before if it was a real 7 pounds but I drank a glass of water, drank a cup of coffee and discovered that 5 of the seven pound miracously reappeared. DRAT!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fire Watch

Last night, I called J and told me I didn't want to be alone with the fire on the hillside. He suggested we go for pizza. I agreed. After pizza Oggie's J grabbed his binoculars and I grabbed a couple bottles of beer. We headed up the hill to watch the spectacular fire storm on the hillside. We speculated the distance, me--worst case scenario girl--said it was about 5 miles, he, more accurately guessed 10 miles. Nevertheless, the conflagation awed up for upwards to three hours. We traded the binoculars like a joint back and forth. Most of the commentary consisted of OH. MY. GOD; Wow; Holy Mother of Jesus; You have to see this; Look to the right, left, middle of the ridge V; It's really flaring up. Through the evening the wind died down some and pushed the smoke over into the San Fernando Valley. We watched long enough for us to engage in a rather surreal but typically LA conversation. I paused in my fire watching to tell J that I am thinking about hair extenstions. I remarked that it took a couple of hours and a couple of hundred dollars. He became completely distracted from the flames jumping on the hillside to question my sanity. We continued to watch and we watched long enough for me to become comfortable with the idea that if I went to sleep, I would not wake up to loud speakers telling me to evacuate.
In the a.m., I woke up to call my worried mother who answered on the first ring. I explained I made it though the night and checked out the ridge line before reporting in. In the early dawn, the otherside of the ridge glowed. Later with coffee in hand, I ran into J on the hill. We watched a most amazing conflagaration flare up with flames that must have reached 30-40 feet high and was at least 40-50 long. Amazingly the air quality was still suprisingly good, only becuase the winds decided to spare the Santa Clarita Valley. We watched for a while, I went off to Valencia and J had an unexpected day off. LA is still burning, people are losing their homes right and left, but it seems for now, I am safe.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Santa Ana's Breathe Fire

Yesterday the Santa Ana's started blowing fiercely. At one point a gust caught my car and I almost went into the other lane. The humidity dropped considerably (as if there was much to drop)throughout the day. Perfect condition for a major fire were brewing. I had hopes that this time, we would get through the Santa Ana without worry or harm. Those hopes dissappaited when I spotted a purplish glow over the ridge as I walked back to my apartment about half midnight from playing Wii at J's. In the AM, I found out just how bad it actually is. Over 600 hundred mobile homes gone, now a crime scene--arson is suspected. Thousands being evacuated. My hope in humanity plunges. The big answer small question whyis unfathomable.
Power is threaten, so I may spend the evening in the dark with my trusty flashlight purchased after the Hawaii flood. Our big library is severly short staffed as most of the staff live in the Valley. All major access points out of our valley to LA have been closed. I look out at the ridge line and that one area is burning down but seems to have been put out as it is all smokey. No visible flames licking the undergrowth. Still too close for my personal sense of comfort. My friend's daughter is at working at Olive View Hospital which earlier today lost power and was ringed with fire. M. spent all last night worried about her child. I phoned across the country to try to allay the fears of my mother for her wandering child. Mother's bear a heavy burden that doesn't lessen significantly through the passing years.
Earlier today the wind shifted--the smoke was then coming our way, but it seems that it shifted back, I see mostly blue skies with billowing smoke drifting away. I am comforted but realize that my comfort is at the expense of thousands of others. Theirs would be at mine. Comfort today comes with a close companion of guilt.

Monday, October 27, 2008

It Hasn't Rained Until You Came Back


It seems that yesterday was the biggest rain Oahu has had in almost a year. Of Course, is all I have to say. The forecast said that it would be most sunny with scattered showers--in other words fairly typical Hawaii weather. However, I woke up yesterday to a gray low hanging sky--you know the kind that signals that it is hear to stay for a while. There was no wind to send it elsewhere so I went down to the ABC Store to buy an umbrella. I came back, reconsidered my shoes and decided that my slippers were the best bet, my feet were going to get wet anyhow, I might as well wear shoes that dried out quickly. I decided to walk down to Ala Moana--about 2 miles from Sand Villa where I am staying. I called S and later A, friends and former co-workers to arrange a meeting at Brew Moon in the afternoon.
I headed out, got past the Royal Hawaii Village which is all covered, and stepped out on to the sidewalk only to find a few minutes later, the sky had decided to open up and dump thousands of gallons of water on Waikiki. Of course! I quickly reconsidered my shoes again, my feet were sliding around in the slippers, I decided I might as well take them off until I got to Ala Moana. So I did and walked barefoot for the next 30 minutes. When I got to Ala Moana, once again under covered walk ways, the rain relented. Yes, that's right. Of Course.
I checked out the Ala Moana expansion, so that some shops have come and other have gone. Next, I walked over to the Ward Center and Ward Warehouse. Compadres, the Mexican restaurant I had my first meal in Hawaii in and drank a lot of wine with M on Sunday afternoons at is now gone. A said in the just the last several weeks. Runner's Room, where I went to see if I could buy a new pair of shoes also gone.
In the afternoon, A and her husband T, met me at Brew Moon. This is were I spent numerous Happy Hours with the free WiFi eating Happy Hour Kaulua Quesadilla's and drinking Happy Hour Beer while working on my Master's. I discovered the Quesadilla was no longer on the Happy Hour Menu--it was no longer the $4 I paid for it but was now $12.95.
A & T had just returned to Hawaii after several years in Japan and DC. It was fantastic to catch up with them again. We regaled each other with stories. Later S came with his family. His wife had to take the new little one home but 6 year old R stayed with him. She remembered me, so I was really happy. I was the first person other than Mom, Dad & hospital personnel to hold her after she was born. I was so nervous holding her. She had turned into a beautiful child. S and his wife C are fantastic parents.
We talked story until about 8:00 pm and then A & T dropped me off at my hotel. It is great to reconnect with friends. It felt like we hadn't ever been apart and the four years that they were gone & the two I was away dissipated without a trace.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Flooded with Memories




It was good to reconnect with former classmates at the conference. Yesterday at break time several was sitting around the table and Lori mentioned that several were there from the flood. The fourth anniversary was heavy on our minds, another 4 days. We talked about my miracle laptop and I told everyone that I had it with me on this trip. In fact it is the computer I am using to write this post. Yesterday's events have reconfirmed the status of my laptop. Here is the story.


There was a silent auction at the conference. I successfully bid for a nifty wine accessory set that includes wine glass markers, corks, & a corkscrew. After I picked up the set, I placed it in my backpack carry on that included the computer. When I was standing in line for security, I realized that the set had the corkscrew and that it might cause some problems but it was too late to do anything. I took off my shoes, took the computer out of the backpack, put my purse, backpack and everything else in the plastic bins. Sure enough, the corkscrew caused problems. The TSA guy asked to open my back, we discussed the corkscrew and I told him to remove it because it wasn't worth the $25 to check the backpack as an extra piece of luggage. He removed, it I collected my backpack, put on my shoes and went to my gate to wait for the plane. About 15 minutes before the flight they began to board the plane, I got up to the cabin door when I realized that my backpack was lighter than it should be. I hadn't collected my computer in the confusion over the corkscrew. I explained to the flight attendant, she told me me to go try to retrieve it. I ran out of the gate area, flagged down a security cop roving around on a modified three wheeled Segue, he wheeled over to the security area, and went down. By the time, I told the older guard what was happening and he explained that corkscrews can actually be taken on planes if they don't have a knife attached--go figure--my guard called me down to identify my computer. I ran downstairs, identified it, collected it, and ran back to the gangway as the guy announced that the gangway was closing. I settled into my seat clutching my computer. My supervisor looked at me, astonished that all this took less than 10 minutes.


I am not sure what made me realize at the last possible minute that my computer was missing, but I am convinced that my computer needs to stay with me through thick and thin. This is the second time. The first time, it was on the only table in the whole freaking library that floated.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Back in Hawaii


At 5:30 am Thursday morning we fled a burning LA for a few days of work in Paradise. Fortunately, I wasn't making it to the airport on my own because I would never have made it. The 405, the only freeway I know how to get to the airport on was closed down due to a fire near Bellaire--the neighborhood the Fresh Prince (Will Smith) made famous. We got to the airport about an hour before the flight by taking freeways I have never heard of. Fortunately, my supervisor's husband is an expert on the roads of LA.

The flight to paradise was very bumpy--like driving on unsealed roads in Oklahoma--needless to say I was keyed up for the 5 hours across the ocean. My main thought being that I hope I pass out before I die and become shark food in the event of water landing in the middle to the worlds largest pond. I am not particularly interested in having a friend called Wilson, I would rather my mom collect the insurance. I'm generous that way.

But of course we landed in Honolulu without incident and the flight to Maui was short and sweet. I excited the airport in Maui to a gentle island breeze with overcast skies. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed seeing grey skies, feeling a cooling trade wind and knowing that the wind was not likely to spawn a major fire.

We drove from Kahului to Wailea to check into our condo. Wow, what a nice condo. Fully appointed, great Hawaiian paintings painted by the owner and two bedrooms, two bathrooms with a lanai looking out onto the Pacific. Man, I miss Hawaii.

Yesterday I woke up and decided to go for a walk that turned into a run in the morning before coming back to enjoy coffee and sweet bread on the lanai before showering and getting ready for the conference.

I attended sessions until 9:30 pm and came back tired. The sessions were good. A few people might be interested in interviewing especially since the news that morning was that Hawaii is now slashing 10% from their library budget and now have a hiring freeze. Everyone asked how the LA is doing. It is a difficult question to answer because we don't know yet. It depends on the election and if people vote to keep taxing themselves. I certainly hope the measure is worded well and people decide it is a good thing to keep paying for enhanced library services. Also the next round of property taxes haven't been collected yet, so we are not sure how deeply the housing situation will effect the budget for the next fiscal year. But because the system is so large there are always openings some of them have to be filled, so maybe things will be OK. If the recession gets really ugly I may be packing up my car and doing a reverse dust bowl and heading back to my roots where everyone is broke, so one more broke former Californian won't make much of a difference.

But on a higher note, this evening we are off to Honolulu. I am going home and it will be nice to walk around my old haunts. My hotel is the Sand Villa which is next to P's old apartment where we started our weekly runs around Diamond Head. I have the chance to catch up with everyone and I am really happy.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Out & About


Last weekend, I celebrated by 42nd birthday (YIKES!). I am thinking that I should be more mature and together at this age that I actually feel. But alas, I am not. My friend M suggested that we spend the weekend in Solvang, a quaint Danish Village in Santa Barbara County aka wine country. M and her sisters got really great rates at a local hotel owned by the Chumash Casino. So M and I drove up on Sunday morning stopping for lunch in Santa Inez at The Vineyard. It was a lovely restaurant and we had a comfortable lunch. I was excited because there was a drop in temperature so I was able to wear shorts, sweatshirt, socks and my Birkenstocks--this is my favorite outfit and I really miss San Francisco which has the perfect weather for such clothes.
After lunch we meandered into Solvang and parked the car to walk around the town. Right away I stopped at a wine shop with a tasting menu. I had never done a tasting menu before, so I was a bit intimidated. The first shop, I didn't get much of a reception so I left without experiencing my first tasting. However, the next shop happily walked me through the process. I bought a couple of bottles of some really sweet wine--J said it was like drinking sweet fizzy soda.
I tried a couple of more shops and their tasting menus before we headed to the hotel to check in and wait for M's sisters to arrive. M and I sat out on the balcony enjoying the view and the fine weather.
Later after dinner we headed for the Chumash Casino. I didn't have much to spend in the slot machines so I played the penny slots. I wasted about $40 and then headed over to the slots at that M and her sister E were playing. E had already won the big jackpot on one of the machines--over $300. Since these were nickle slots, I decided to sit down and play the minimum bet-5 cents for one line. As M pointed out the idea is to try to get the added feature for a chance a the jackpot. I put my final $20 in the machine and am playing for a bit, winning, losing, not straying far from my twenty. The next thing I know, I win on my line. M says "Look you won $30." I say wow that is great. I continue to play for a bit, and then I thought, no this is a nickle machine--my $30 is really $150. I get nervous after that. M cashes my ticket out so I have my money in my pocket and won't get stupid with it. I leave the casino that night at 2:00 am with $120 in my wallet. A first for me--but it was my birthday after all.
The next day, we walked around town, I did a few more tastings, bought a few more bottles of wine--added to my free glass collection from the tastings--and then headed to the casino for the lunch buffet. I ended up winning a few more times and losing some but by the end of the day I left with $80 in my wallet so I didn't do so badly. I had a fantastic time, got several bottles of wine to add to my growing collection, bought some cheese and a few jars of olives. It was a great way to spend my birthday weekend and promises to be a good year.
This weekend P came down for a job interview tomorrow (Monday). He came up yesterday evening. It seems like we haven't lost three years. We are the same and it was great catching up with him. This morning we had breakfast at the Halfway House Cafe and then headed to Vasquez Rocks for a light hike.
In the middle of this week, Thursday, I will head to Hawaii for work and the opportunity to catch up with other friends and old haunts. I am going to stay at the Sand Villa which is the hotel next to P's old apartment. I look forward to starting out for a run around Diamond Head the way P, C, and I went. My friends will be with me on my run and I look forward to running with our ghosts of happy times.
I am optimistic that this year will be a good one, it is getting off to a good start which is a good sign.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

China, Cannibals, and Stoned Savages


J. Maarten Troost, the author of the highly readable, laugh out loud book Sex Lives of Cannibals and the follow up companion Getting Stoned with Savages has recently released his new adventures in China called Lost on Planet China. I ask you how a book with a provocative title like Sex Lives of Cannibals not be good? Sex Lives is about Troost's years on a small island in the South Pacific. Anyone traveling and living in Eastern Europe, Asia and/or the Pacific will know that Troost has nailed all those little irky things that make life overseas an adventure. He talks about the time the island ran out of beer. I remember having orange juice my first week in Estonia only to find that it could be found no where in the capital city for the next two months. Then there was the three months in Slovakia that I had to wash my clothes in the bathtub because there were no laundromats in the country. McDonald's had made it the month before I arrived, yet you couldn't find a washing machine that didn't actually belong to you. You never know how long how long you can wear a pair of jeans until you have to do the "I Love Lucy Dance" in the bathtub. You know the episode where she was in the wine vat squashing grapes--I re-enacted this scene about once every two to three weeks in Bratislava. Yes, Mr. Troost knows his stuff.
I have just started Planet China. I was a bit nervous about picking it up. After all I was so extremely disappointed and outraged by Camilla's playboy son's Year of Eating Dangerously and his made up adventures in China--the worst book I have ever read! I haven't been to Kiribati, Vannatu, Fiji or any of the other places that Troost wrote about. Did I just like him because he writes about things that sound true but I have no directly knowledge of them? After all, I decided that Paul Theroux was a pompous ass after reading his Ride the Iron Rooster after I had just left China. I was worried my high esteem might slip down the drain along with the ripped pages of the book. Since the book belongs to the library, I would have some explaining to do.
However, any qualms I may have had were laid to rest with the Author's Note. Troost is in high form. I quickly sped through the first 50 pages and decided that I needed to pace myself or I might meet my carpool at 7:00 tomorrow with saucer eyes. I have a 4 hour training session to get through in the morning--saucer eyes would be a bad idea.
Troost talks about the trouble of being a pedestrian in Beijing. I can fully sympathize with him. It was bad--really bad--in 1995, just imagine 13 years of economic growth in the steroid economy that has become China. While I was in Beijing I decided to rent a bike to get around. Here was my reasoning. Getting killed riding a bike in Beijing is highly probable. Getting killed walking around in Beijing also highly probable. Since biking is faster than walking, I would actually be increasing my survival rates. Neither is for the faint hearted. Seeing what a chicken I am these days, I am not quite sure how I managed. But I think I was still being buoyed along with the knowledge that I did not die of travel sickness in Hong Kong and I survived my little float down the Li River in Southern China. I even survived the god awful boat down the Yangtze through the Three Gorges where there was an open sluice with feces running through it on deck that we had to step over to escape to the first class dubbed second class lounge (this was Communist China after all and there are no first classes). Tracy and I felt the need to spend long hours in the second class lounge after we witnessed our cabin mate hold her young son over the side of the bunk to pee through his split pants. As long as I had enough beer, China was a fantastically bizzaar place that I loved. Thankfully at approximately 5 liters of beer to the dollar there was always enough. A Japanese friend who had spent a long time travelling on almost nothing in India had told me that when travelling hard it is always better to drink beer than water because beer kills all the little germies running around. After my illuminating experience in Hong Kong from drinking the water at Pizza Hut (Pizza Hut! for heaven's sake) I was very careful to follow his advice to the letter.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I Really Want to Be an Optimist but...

They are really making it hard! In approximately 104 more days I will no longer have to listen to President Bush talking. I wonder how he feels knowing that he took a perfectly working country and in a mere 8 years he and his people have run it into the ground. He is going to leave the office with the lowest approval rating of any president. Even Hoover in the midst of the Depression had better ratings. Currently Bush has a 22% approval rating. That mean if you get five people together 4 of them are not happy with Bush. That is a lot of negativity floating around.
I woke up this morning thinking, I really should not be adding any more negativity out there in the world. I will only think happy thoughts. I took a nice long 15 minute hot shower filling my mind with relaxing positive thoughts. I never take 15 minutes showers, I don't have the patience. But this morning I did. I enjoyed my coffee and read my book. Then I got in my car to take take timesheets to our regional office. On the radio, the Dow is down and no one has seen anything like this since ever. I switch the radio to my University of Northridge radio station, but it was off the air--I'm thinking budget cuts here. I turned off the radio and found my happy place again. I went to the bank and Bush was on TV--happy place no where in sight. I left and realized it is stinking hot outside. Feels like the end of the world. So much for not adding negativity today.
But on the positive side, I still have a job. I am in love with my new doctor because she order the tests I want the first time I asked. And I just went through three really great days of training. After feeling like I went from front row student to back seat bad kid in trainings and meetings, it was fantastic to receive outstanding training. So focus on the positive and let the world sort it self out. I think long showers are going to have become de rigour.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sushi Tabemasho!

Several months ago I noticed a sushi shop called Aomori Sushi in Canyon Country not far from my apartment. Now, I know what Aormori means (blue forest--or perhaps green because Japanese has a bit of confusion over the two colors). The confusion is most evident when you should go on a blue light and stop at a red one in Japan. They have the same traffic signals we have--they just see it as blue. Also when we call someone Green as in inexperienced that say that you are in your blue years. Any I have digressed, my point here is that I know what Aomori means but I doubt that other people in the US actually would. The point being here that I deducted that this particular sushi shop might actually be owned and run by Japanese as opposed to all the other Japanese restaurants owned by Koreans. I find this a bit odd since the Koreans and Japanese don't particularly get along. However, the Koreans are fantastic business people so I am guessing that if Americans want Japanese food then that is what they will serve. It is a shame there aren't more Korean restaurants around because I really like Korean food as well.
I explained my theory to J several weeks ago. Last Sunday after our Sunday reference at Valencia he asked if I wanted to try the restaurant. I agreed and we met at the gate to walk over to the restaurant. I was right, the shop is run by what appears to be a Japanese family. The wife is from Yokohama. I don't know about the husband--yet. J and I ordered Chirashi Zushi. Chirashi Zushi is a bowl of sushi rice. Just to clarify matters here Sushi means vinegar rice--it has nothing to do with raw fish, seaweed or anything other than the fact that is it often but not always served with raw fish. Chirashi Zushi is a layer of sushi rice with a layer of other stuff. At this restaurant the sushi chef piled it on with maguro (ahi tuna), ikura (fish roe), squid, scallops, yellow fin, egg blocks, and a bunch of other stuff. J and I tucked in with much enthusiasm. Wow, fantastic. We ate until we were super stuffed. J had warm sake and I had a Kirin. This little hole in the wall sushi shop is really the best sushi I have had since I left Japan. How is it possible that a restaurant in Canyon Country can be so good.
Well, actually all the restaurants I have been in at Canyon Country have been above average. Within a reasonable walking distance from my apartment there is the Amori Sushi, 3 Italian restaurants, a Thai restaurant, a Panderia (Mexican Bakery), a Mexican Seafood restaurant and then some others. I started thinking about the Santa Clarita communities and Canyon Country is where all the locally owned restaurants are. If you want to go to Olive Garden, TGIFridays, BJ's, Chili's or any of the other big chains outside of Denny's and IHOP then you have to go to Valencia. I am pretty happy with my neighborhood and enjoying the local flavor.
On Thursday, I sent J an e-mail asking him if he wanted to do dinner at the Aomori's again. He agreed. We had both been thinking about the fantastic sushi all week. The second time did not disappoint either. It will become a regular place for me know, I think.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Crab Legs

Last night I had dreamed I was eating spindling crab legs. I looked up crab in a dream dictionary and it said that the meaning could be that I am tenacious or clingy or just plain ole crabby. Hmmm...I think I will go with tenacious.
But I woke up thinking about crab legs and my experiences with the crustaceans. I love crab legs but I think the first time I had tried them was when K and I went down to Lake Charles, LA to visit college friends. One evening at our friends house we had a big pile of crab legs, alligator and possibly even shrimp. I was sold.
Crab is some what easy to find in Japan, it is called Kani, so I had it occasionally there. One of the most amazing crabs I have ever had was one night I was invited over to a friend's friend's home for her birthday party. She owned a Hostess Bar and was well known for throwing pretty nice shindigs. She even entertained Bill Clinton once upon a time if the photo's were anything to go by. I walked into Shizue's apartment and into her living room only to be faced with the largest alien I have ever seen in my life. It was a Hokkaido King Crab and spanned the entire coffee table. Just sitting there, like a small Volkswagen. Someone offered me a joint--leg joint--that is. I took it and walked around feeling like Henry VIII with a turkey leg. One leg joint and I had enough crab to last me all evening. Amazing. I wonder sometimes if it was just a dream. But the next year, Shizue had another party. Economic times were a little rougher that year, instead of an entire crab brought in, she just had a box full of legs. Eight to ten legs were enough to feed the 20 or so people at the party. Man was that a big crab. I am very scared of going into the water. I wouldn't want to meet a vengeful cousin or anything down there.
My other fond crab memories involve Miss C, my roommate in Hawaii. We sometimes went to the Dixie Grill for the crab leg special. One of the most memorable times, was after the Marathon. I was tired and sore but boy did those crab legs make me feel so much better. What a way to replenish the 2600 calories lost during a marathon. Sometimes as well C or I would sup rise the other will crab legs. I must admit, I don't think I gained a real appreciation for the morsels until I saw how much C enjoyed them.
One time I had a pile of legs at the Stinky Rose in San Francisco. The legs were good, don't get me wrong but from C's influence I realized all too late that crab legs are best unadorned. With or without butter, but other spices tend to cover the gentle nuances that make crab such a delicate delight.
Maybe the real meaning behind my dream was that I haven't had crab legs in a long time and I really should have some. My subconscious is hungry. Thank goodness payday is around the corner. I might get some for Wednesday night dinner.

Friday, September 26, 2008

My New Pet Peeve

Ok, so I am not so happy unless I have something to bitch about. This one has been growing on me for a while. I absolutely hate being called Sweetie. It is like fingernails on a chalk board to me. My first thought is to say "I'm not sweet, I am mean and bristly." But why do people insist on calling perfect adult strangers Sweetie? In April when I moved out of my apartment the secretary called me Sweetie every time I had to call. Then in the new apartment building the employee that rubbed completely the wrong way called me the same said moniker. Is it just me? Do I look cute and cuddly to these people? Do I look like a Sweetie? I really don't think so because I am often accused by other people as appearing to be stuck up and aloof...but maybe in a very adorable sweet way.
On Wednesday, I went to California Pizza Kitchen for a late lunch. The waitress said, "Here's the menu Sweetie." Then "Oh, that is a good choice Sweetie." and "Can I get you anything else Sweetie?" and "Are you doing OK, Sweetie?" and finally, "Did you want to speak to manager Sweetie?" In fact I did. After the 3rd Sweetie, my tolerance had been pegged. I am a 42 year old woman and do not need to have my mean constantly interrupted with a diminutive that should be reserved for very small children and intimates. I spoke with the manager and explained that I felt insulted and that although the food was fine, I did not intend to leave a tip. Actually the tip had diminished from my standard 20% to zero with each sweetie. I felt I needed to explain that although some people may not mind being calling Sweetie very few middle age women truly appreciate it from unknown waitstaff.
Afterward, I had to define exactly who in my mind could actually call me Sweetie. My parents were never ones to use such endearments with me. My parents had their own nicknames for my brothers, each other and me. Sweetie never came up in our household, for anyone. Except perhaps my older brother's doll when he was a kid--I think she was called Sweetie, but that was her name, right. My hackles probably wouldn't get too raised if a customer decided to call me sweetie--if they happened to be an older man or woman. A similarly aged man or woman might get a raised eyebrow, but hey they are the customer and their tax dollars keep me fed, clothed, and otherwise off the street--I believe I am fairly tolerant. I haven't had any boyfriends call me Sweetie although one called me Sweet Pea quite a bit. When Tim called me that my heart sort of swelled and swooned--but then I had fallen much harder and faster for this guy that most of time I thought I was drugged when I was around him. I have had a couple of friends use Sweetie with me but mostly I felt that they were during appropriate situations--like when I was going through withdrawals from the aforementioned Tim, or my Dad passed away, or something equally awful and I was in serious need of consoling.
So essentially what I am saying is that Sweetie is fine as long as it is in the appropriate context from the appropriate people. I would never assume familiarity with a customer and use a diminutive with them so I expect the same treatment from other people. Is that really too much to ask?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

LA Hits a Little Too Close for Comfort

About 10 days ago, I notice graffiti on the side of my library. The library had been tagged. We wrote the reports, took the photos, the tagging was painted over. Then on Thursday after I returned to my very long meeting I saw the second installment on the front on the library. The reports and photos were duly logged. Yesterday, Friday, was a slow day for the most part. It picked up in the afternoon a bit. Off and on I was helping a guy on the computer. About 3:00 I went to the bank, came back and was creating a flying for the Teen Program. I finished and decided to go check the library. As I walked out into the lobby, these three young Hispanics came running past me. I ineffectively said, "No running in the library." Before I could get much further, the guy Assistant on loan from the library that is going to open soon, came from the stacks (the book shelf area) telling me that someone had been beat up back there. I instructed my assistant to call 911. I ask the guy Assistant to accompany the young Hispanic victim to the bathroom. He is bleeding pretty good from the head, blood is splotched on his shirt and short.
The guy that I had been helping all day, came and said he saw everything that happened. He said it had been going on for a while and he heard everything they had been saying. Why he didn't tell me what was going on while I helped him, is beyond me. I didn't hear anything, none of the other staff heard anything. Amazingly enough people often know to shut up around authority figures. Here is the story that I culled together from the guy who saw it all and a regular teen patron that knew the victim and let us know right away that what happened was a gang fight IN MY LIBRARY!! I am really pissed off!
Yesterday 16 year old P comes to the library to meet his tutor. He spots my regular teen R. Since both P and R know a young girl the start talking at the computers. R knows that P is in a gang. R assures me that gangs are a waste of time and he wasn't involved. Since he doesn't look like the regular toughs in a gang and is always well spoken and dressed I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Soon three toughs from a rival gang, one the size of a house, come into the library and tap P on the shoulder with "Hey, bitch let's take a walk." The translation is "Hey, dude come outside so we can pound on you." It seems that P does go out side but comes back into the library. He asked R for his cell phone because he wants call some reinforcements in. R gives him the phone, the call is made. P didn't want to go outside until his friends got there because he was afraid he was going to get jumped so he tried to hang around in the open areas monitored by staff. At some point P decided to go check the movies out. The Three follow him back into the stacks, determine that no one is watching and decide to break a mini bat on his head. I guess he gets away at this points and rounds the corner to the next row where they pound on him a bit, before the assistant who heard the ruckus goes to investigate. I pieced this together because in the music section I found some blood splatter on the carpet and bits of wooden splinters, then on the next row there was significantly more blood splattered on the carpet.
I get P's name and the number of people who attacked him. He says he doesn't speak English and his eyes light up light a deer in headlights when I tell him the police will be here soon to take a report. The police do come, no report is made because P knows nothing. He's never seen the guys before, doesn't know why they wanted to redecorate his head, and he doesn't want medical treatment. At 16 that wasn't his decision to make but the officers call his mom and his mom asks them to bring him home. Nothing else I can do. In the conversation, P says he knows a certain officer because he has been picked up before.
I told R that he has to let me know if there is gang stuff that he knows about happening in the library. I told him I don't want this stuff in my library and I want it to be a safe place for everyone--especially my staff. He asked "Are you going to cry." I responded, "No, why?" "Because your eyes are shiny." I said that is probably because I am very concerned about what happened. Maybe my eyes were shiny but I didn't feel like crying at all. So that is a bit bizarre.
Later last night at the Londoner pub, J encouraged me to look on the bright side. It was a gang fight of three against one. If P's friends had actually shown up, it could have been a lot worse. Yeah, real silver lining on this one.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

It's Stinking Hot

Again! Yesterday was 105 today more of the same only windy. Weather man lied--he said it was going to be in the nineties this week--he should be shot, the bastard. Days like this make miss Hawaii--a lot! I am so ready for a change of seasons. A little 80 degrees with chances of Mauka showers in the afternoon. But wait, I am going to Hawaii next month on a recruiting trip. So I guess I can't complain, too much. Yes, I know my life is just so difficult sometimes. It really is hard to be me.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Walk About Downtown

Friday was my day off. Since the weather broke a few days ago, I thought it would be nice to explore my city for the day. I took the Metrolink downtown and then hopped on the Metro to China Town. China Town's around the world are pretty much the same. Congested streets, mazes of small shops of kitchy goods and the wafting smells of fried food, soy sauce, and uncooked meat.
I had lunch at a noodle shop. My eyes were bigger than my stomach and was only able to finish most of my noodles and hardly any soup. Thus filled, I headed downtown to the main branch of LA Public. I like this library. It is what you imagine a library should look like. Stately, proud, and emitting a presence. People often confuse LAPL with the county system. It is easy to do. We don't have a main library rather we have a big box called Library Headquarters. Not very awe inspiring, but then the whole point of the county system is that we are a network of stand alone libraries that serve smaller cities and unincorporated areas. Nevertheless, I am a little envious.
After visiting the library, I hopped on the bus to Beverly Hills. I love to people watch, I haven't spotted anyone famous yet, but I did almost get run over by a group teens in a Range Rover--must be nice! After paying homage to Prada, I decided to walk from Rodeo & Santa Monica down to Hollywood and Vine where I would catch the subway back to Union Station and then the 9:00 train back to Santa Clarita.
It was such a nice day, a light breeze blowing. Since this is a 7 mile trek, I was pleased with the weather. Soon I arrived in West Hollywood. I looked around and the row of restaurants and thought it looked like a fun trendy area to be. I saw a couple of guys eating dinner outside. I thought "Oh, they are pretty good-looking" Then I added "Wait a minute, they are perhaps too good looking. I think they are on a date." Then at the next restaurant I noticed a group of too good looking guys, too. Before I could formulate any other opinions, I was distracted by the two guys dancing in underwear at either end of a bar. I looked up just in time before I plowed into another group of guys coming down the street. Yes, that is right, I had unwittingly stumbled upon the gay area of LA. And to prove the point, I spotted Old Glory flying next to a couple of rainbow flags. I looked around, thought everyone was having such a good time, I thought "I wish I were a gay guy." But I am not, and I didn't belong, so I moved on.
Eventually I ended up after sunset in Hollywood to the usual chaos. Since reading Joseph Wambaugh's Hollywood Crows which presents all the characters as crackheads, pick pockets and other nefarious types, I saw them with an all new light. Over on the sidewalk to my left almost in front of Virgin Records, there was some punked out dude passed out on the side walk. All though there were a couple of paramedics and security guards standing around him, no one seemed to be making a fuss. I thought perhaps he was dead, but then decided that there would have been more commotion if so. Note to self: Don't pass out in Hollywood.
At about 8:15 I took the Metro back to Union Station. The train was about an hour late so I didn't get home until 11:00. When I got in my car, I discovered the reason for the tardiness. A massive train collision on the Venture Line with a freight train. What a tragic accident, with over 25 dead and many more injured. Just goes to proved my dad was right: Messing with the three T's (trains, trucks and trees) will really mess you up.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Maslow Forgot Something Important

Maslow came up with the five basic levels of needs. The first level is the physiological which is basically, eating, drinking, sleeping, pooping & procreating. After that we think about safety, and then so forth and so one.

I believe that some were between Levels One and Two fall the need for the Purse, bag, sack or what have you. Before you need a home you need a bag. All of human society basically falls back on if you have a bag or not. I believe that men subjugated women because we had the bags and they needed one.
Let me develop this thought a big further and I am certain that you will agree with me. I came up with these nuggets of wisdom while I was trying to justify why I needed one more purse. I have a load of them, all shapes and sizes but I didn't have THAT ONE. It has to be the best purse ever, but then again, I think I have said that several hundred times in my life already--usually as the justification to add one more to my collection. So I had to come up with another reason and I think that "Being conditioned by thousand upon thousands of years of human experience" is a perfectly logical explanation. Unfortunately the bag in question that I resisted yesterday was not on sale today so I could no longer justify my purchase. My philosophy is actually only worth $35 and not $70.
Bags are the most important personal belonging a human could ever possibly have. Think about it, we need bags to carry our belongs, If we don't have a home, then you have to keep everything with you in a bag. If you travel, what do you use--a bag. Shopping needs bags. Women being the smarter of the sexes, have always carried bags with us. Men, I believe attach them to women primarily because we carry bags. Men, go to great pains with their bag issues and they are not very imaginative. Men bags mostly consist of brief cases, gym bags, messenger satchels, & back packs. I believe there is probably a correlation between the rise of backpack carrying men and the number of women who choose to marry later in life if at all. Let's face it. Although a brief case looks pretty spiffy on the commuter train, it looks less so at the beach or at the gym or at the coffeeshop on Sunday afternoon. Men try to make out that they can get by with only their wallet in their back pocket and change,keys, & cellphones weighing them down in the front. But any women who has dated or married a man knows that they would prefer to make use of the much more efficient feminine solution--the purse. My mom carried my dad's gun in her purse for years when he was off duty and would have looked silly wearing his gun belt with jeans and a T-shirt. I have carried cameras, wallets, phones, keys and other belongings of men I have known. I don't blame men for foisting their personal effects on us. Like George Castanza threw his back out for carrying a full wallet, I can imagine many male back problems could be attributed to uneven sitting. I decided men should actually be attracted to the women with the biggest bags. Maybe I should stop carrying small bags around and go for a big tote. Maybe I would score a date! Sadly, it is true, I am getting desperate!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Random Thoughts

Labor Day is a memory now. The end of summer is upon us. I had a rare two days off in a row. Due to computer upgrades I didn't work my usual overtime on Sunday, instead I went up to Lancaster to help the twins move their new furniture. They fed me their most excellent tortilla casserole--of which I had two helpings. Yum Yum. I am easy to bribe.
On Monday J and I to the last beach bus of the season to Santa Monica. We walked down to Venice, had a relaxing lunch listening to the street performers playing drums. Later we walked down to Muscle Beach to have a looksy. We got back to the bus about two minutes before it left, thankful we put in a two minute run on the boardwalk and made it in plenty of time.
Last Thursday I drove up to Palmdale and had a horrible doctor's visit. My appointment was at 9:30. At about 10:15 they put in the little room. At about 10:45 with no magazines or books to read, I was about to go stir crazy. News Flash: Claustrophobic girl does not hand small confined spaces very well without reading materials to distract. So needless to say when the doctor finally saw me, I was about to come unwound. Then we had the thyroid argument which put me in a worse state. I wanted more blood tests, the doctor said no--she didn't need them. But I do! Then I went out and waited another thirty minutes for them to take my blood. Oh, yeah, I hadn't had anything to eat since the night before, so I was cranky from low blood sugar as well. UGH!
I got copies of my lab results and it shows that my kidney's may not be functioning optimally. This scares me as I have a family history of diabetes and kidney failure. I am not clear why the doctor failed to inform me of these results. Perhaps it is all due to the thyroid, if so I think that explanations should have been put in order. When I got home, I called to change doctors--one closer to home and with any luck one that will listen to me.
All said and done, I am feeling better. The scale has not budged in months, though. I guess the bright side of that is that it hasn't moved the other way either. I am walking a lot and running some. I am glad that at least I feel like I want to do these things. For longer than I can really remember it was such struggle that I usually lost with me licking my wounds with a Little Caesar's Pizza. That hasn't happened in at least a few weeks. Progress. I guess that is all I can ask for.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Connections

For the past several months, I have been thinking about P. He has been off on adventures since before I left Hawaii and now I didn't have a way to update him on my change of phone numbers. In fact on Saturday I wrote in my journal, I need to find P. Yesterday, Monday, P called me at work, finding me through Google. Not only is he back stateside but also in California--the northern part though. But it was good to hear his voice and reconnect.
I first met P in Hawaii. He moved into the house in the jungle to help the roommate with his start up business--the garage was converted into a massive tech room. After the gate wars, I decided to move into the luv shack in Aiea with J, C, & later M. For a few months P & I lost touch. He had moved out of the jungle as well. One evening I ran into him at the Thai restaurant in Waikiki. Since then we have stayed pretty much in contact. And in the way that islands work we realized that the Assistant Director of my school was his downstairs neighbor and eventually a teacher, S, worked with P at another job. Interwoven connections, six degrees of separation.
There was a fairly long period when P & I would meet on Mondays to go running around Diamond Head. This was a bright point in my time in Hawaii. Lots of fond memories generated through pounding feet & conversation. We were the constant with C and sometimes S joining us. With P, I could and still can talk about anything, but it is not the same as talking with other people about anything--I can do that with a few other people, too. But what makes talking to P different is that I only need to bring a topic up. I don't have to negotiate my meaning, P knows what I mean. He has pondered the same idea at some point. We just take off throwing thoughts that crash and meld to form something more substantial because we both think the same way. We are not alone in this world.
I am glad P is back. In 3 years I want him to walk the El Camino de Santiago Compestella with me. I have been seriously thinking about taking the walk for about a year. When I told P, he said of course he would go because in the past year he has encountered people talking about it around 20 times. Connections are fascinating.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Santa Monica Redux

Another Saturday at Santa Monica Beach. This time I decided to head in the opposite direction of Venice Beach. I ended up at the end of Will Rogers beach about 3 or 4 miles away from the pier. The walk was very refreshing. The day started out overcast and cool--a perfect day for a long walk. Santa Monica and Venice have about a gazillion people but once away from the main parking towards Pacific Palisades the beach mostly empties to small pockets of people. The beach becomes very short so it was nice to hear the waves crashing, but Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) is also near. But it was easy to ignore the cars and focus on the beach, bikers and joggers. For most of the way I was on the South Bay Bike Trail, since I wasn't the only pedestrian I didn't feel too guilty--just a little guilty. I didn't realize the trail was so long, but I ran into mile markers 19 and 20. I now want to get a bike and bike the trail.
As I walked along, enjoying the soft air, and refreshing breeze, I had time to contemplate how much I really want to win the lottery and move back to the coast. I can't even fathom the prices but I can tell you two weeks ago a very dodgy looking studio for rent right off the parking area for $900 a week--yes that is right a $900 a week for what looks like 300 square feet of rat infestation. Yesterday, the sign was gone and the occupant had the door open, the interior pretty much matched the exterior. I really need to start buying those lottery tickets if I want to get out of the hot arid valley. But then if I look on the bright side I have upgraded my lot in the last 6 months from the windy desert to the up and coming Santa Clarita Valley.
The solitaire beach walk took me back to Hamada and the Kaihin Koen (Seaside Park). I loved taking my scooter through the back roads to watch the sunset at Honda Point, past the lotus ponds to Tamami Gaura where an earthquake brought a crosshatch of seafloor to surface and then around to Kainin Koen with its 2 miles of sandy beach, wave breaks, cabins, and clear blue water. During the summer between Golden Week (May) and Obon(mid-August) the beach was hopping with people fleeing the polluted humidity of Hiroshima. But after 5 o'clock the beach emptied out--all the tattoo-ed yakuza (Mafiosos), girls in stockings & heels, and surfers, and beach bunnies headed back to the big city across the mountains. There was always the end of the season atmosphere in the evenings but for me it was the best part of the day. The sun drifting down the horizon bringing relief from the heat and humidity of the day. One by one the squid boats lit up the darkening evening like a ethereal coming to life on the waves. Soon, I would hop on my scooter and head back through the back roads to my tiny apartment passing the rice polishing vending machine on the corner.
Just over an hour after I had started out, the path ended and I headed back. I walked up 157 steps--I counted them--to from the bike path up to Colorado Street where I headed onto the promenade to have lunch at Buddha's Belly. I had a lovely coconut curry with just enough spice and about 60 oz of water. After lunch, I walked to Venice and turned back. The sun decided to put in an appearance. I was glad I had sun blocked myself and donned a hat in the morning. There was no one interesting swinging on the rings so I didn't stop there.
At 2:45 I got back on the bus and headed back to the dry heat of Canyon Country. Really, memo to self, buy lottery tickets every week!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Twenty percenters

I am sure you have heard about the 80/20 law. For example 80% of your effort nets a 20% result and vice versa. I think that this rule applies people to in that you spend 80% of your time working with 20% of the people. Most customers transactions are fairly straightforward and time little time to net a satisfying result. Then there are the twenty percenters. These are the habitual in-needs or have complicated requests. I have come to realize that I place a value on a persons information needs. If a customer comes to my desk looking for a stapler, needing me to search the Internet for something, etc. I generally don't mind and I will often go out of my way to find the best information possible. Sometimes it is a real challenge and I am up for that. But on the other hand if a customer comes to my desk multiple times a day with the same requests, I have do not value their needs as highly as other customers and I find that I grudgenly look up yet one more google image search for the millionth time, I help them out with the same problem on the computer, etc. I try to helpful but I would personally be embarrassed if I had to ask someone for the same things a gazillion times. I actually value other people's time in the same way that I value my own. But since working with the variety of public, I have learned that some people really have to believe that my time should be spent working on their problems. All libraries have them and I am assuming most businesses do.
On the other hand, there are some customers that are a pleasure to see week after week. And some of these customers are daily users as well but they are generally not needy or at least their needs vary. And I have one customer that when he does come in shows us a card trick and leaves us all with a smile. I remember my favorite priest telling me that sometimes he couldn't give people what they wanted but the one thing he was always certain he could give was a smile. And I never left a conversation with him without one. These might be the twenty percenters as well. Perhaps 80% of the people you will ever meet will make a very low impact on you but 20% will make a huge impact, positive or negative. I personally hope that I make a positive impact, but I realize there are times when I make a negative impact as well. So maybe I need to think a little bit more on how I want my 20% impact to spin.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Santa Monica's Farmer's Market

Yesterday, I took the beach bus down to Santa Monica. As I mentioned before, I love the beach bus, you get 5 hours at Santa Monica for $4 without worrying about traffic and parking--which would have cost $8 alone. Once off the bus, I headed up to the Promenade to the Farmer's Market. I never seem to have enough cash in my pockets for everything I want to buy. But I did get a variety of tomatoes including some Cherokee Reds, Zebra Stripe, Lemon Yellow, Celebrities and some others that I don't quite remember the name of. I love the Farmer's Market as you get to taste all kinds of things--I never even knew there were so many kinds of tomatoes with so much flavor. Yum! I also picked up some fresh herbs, lemon cucumbers and fresh garlic cheddar. This morning before I came to work, I put together the tomatoes, cucumbers & basil, added pine nuts (at mom's suggestion) and some cave aged Gruyere cheese I picked up at Whole Foods. I of course had to taste a little as I was making it all and let me tell you I can't wait until I get home for dinner tonight. I only need some crusty bread to go with my salad and I think I will be a very happy person.
After shopping at the market, I went down to the beach and enjoyed watching the yoga people doing stunts, the men swinging on the rings and the totally buffed shirtless guy wearing jeans and a dew rag teaching these other two guys how to jump over the wall in one slick motion. So entertaining that I didn't notice that I forgot to sun-block one thin strip of skin on my shoulders. So I am sporting a bright red whelp that is a little touchy.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A Matter of Faith

Yesterday a patron commented that she was glad that the library was being run by a Good Christian. I was momentarily confused and then I remembered that I was wearing my crucifix. I smiled in response because there was little more I could say without getting into a conversation I would rather not have. I have had a crucifix since I became Catholic in college and sometimes I feel like wearing it. Sometimes I don't. On Sunday I did and I haven't taken it off.
Here's the thing, I am Catholic and mostly happy being so (molesting priests aside), although I sporadically practice and I have certain beliefs that would probably get me burned or at least a nice long stretch on the rack if the Inquisition returns. Maybe I shouldn't wear the crucifix but I feel that there is enough latitude in Christianity that I can still do so with a fairly good conscience. I don't wear it to proclaim any beliefs, I wear it to remind myself of where I have been and where I can go. And to tell the truth, I wouldn't have any qualms about wearing a Buddha either for the same reasons although I have never been Buddhist.
But what does it mean to be a Good Christian, if I remember my literature right Elmer Gantry was also a Good Christian--I hope I am not like him. Nor would I care to be like some other Good Christians on the order of Tammy Faye & Jim Baker, and Jerry Fallwell. I also have no interest being aMega-Christian like Elmer Gan...uh oh I mean... Joel Osteen. So in my opinion being a Good Christian can mean anything from saving millions like Mother Theresa or robbing same said millions like Oral Roberts or have sex with them like Ted Haggard. I guess I can easily fall somewhere in the middle and can take that moniker if I please when it's offered.
Here's the thing about religion for me. It is a personal synthesis of your cultural background, world view, experiences, and soul. Personally, I don't have a hard time reconciling reincarnation, karma, purgatory, creation, evolution and some other Big Concepts. I feel the universe and the creator are far too mysterious for me to exclude any of these. I am not inclined to limit what I cannot possibly understand. Culturally, I am inclined to monotheism and spiritually the rituals of the high church resonnate--ergo I am Catholic but not one looking forward to the return of the Inquisition--I don't need to add any inches to my stature. Really.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Running

I started running a long time ago when things were going south with A. I had so much emotional energy to expend that running seemed like a good outlet. I was really surprised that I enjoyed running so much. And I over the course of the years used running to help me cope with relationship difficulties to extent that one student said that "When you have a boyfriend you are fat and when you are single you are skinny." Somehow, much to my chagrin I haven't been able to tap those emotional reserves that send me chasing the mile markers with sweat during the last two break ups. I blame graduate school and taxing full-time jobs on part of it. I in some ways miss the edgy feeling that all that emotional energy breeds but at the same time, I am glad that if I put on my shoes for a run it is because I am not trying to cope with a bad relationship. There is a glass half full here somewhere.
Last night, I decided to walk at least one hour to make up not running in the morning because I had a few New Castles at The Londoner with J the previous night and in time to get myself organized for my eye appointment. By the way, I am one step away from bi-focals--I can't be old enough for those, can I!?! So, with no intentions to run at all, I started up Soledad and then crossed over to the bike path. Once on the bike path, I thought "What if I just shuffle along for a bit? Not really running, but faster than walking." Since I wasn't dressed in running togs and since I had my old old shoes (would be hash shoes in Hawaii or Japan), I really didn't want to really run. I wasn't dressed for it. So I shuffle along for a while and realize I wasn't having any of my I'm-dying-here-you're-killing-me feelings that I usually have for the first 5-10 minutes of a real run, probably because I was going so slow. In the end, I decided to shuffle along for 30 minutes before walking back home. I felt so good, heart rate up, mind clear, feel good chemicals kicked in--this is why I love running and really and truly want to do the Santa Clarita Marathon in the fall. Can I do it? That is the challenge! Wish me luck!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

I Need a Beer!

Two building evacuations in one week! First the earthquake and then about 12:30 this afternoon a kid walked in and said "It's like a waterfall outside." I walked out and saw this cascade of water coming down. At first I couldn't tell where it was coming from, I thought maybe a pipe had burst on roof but then someone pointed to where the fire hydrant used to be. Apparently someone backed over it. I have since learned that fire hydrants are made to snap off because they don't want the underground piping to be damaged. Wow! What a display!
I then noticed that water was flowing pretty heavy and was likely to enter the building through the front doors and was probably already entering through the meeting room door. As I flashed back to my last experience of water entering a building--the University of Hawaii flood of 2004--I decided I needed to evacuate the library. I called our Regional office and got the OK. The next 30 minutes until the water was shut off was spent coordinating with the firemen (cute by the way) trying to minimize the potential damage. The rugs in the meeting room were already getting wet so we used one to block the meeting room door and one more to block the patio door where water was coming into the children's area onto the carpet. We then unplugged the computers and taped the cords to the table to keep them from getting wet. I then asked another librarian to locate the breaker box to shut off the breakers for the computers. I asked the Library Assistant to take photos to document the damage. And I called the Regional office about a gazillion times to get everything coordinated.
Oh, by the way there was a program today. I reopened the library and then began another evacuation as new information about the a/c & sprinkler system filtered through and just as I started the second evacuation, updates came that both were back in working order. Evacuation aborted. In the mean time I had the children's librarian cancel the program, then let the performer know that maybe we would have it and another call that we would be having it after all. With areas properly taped off, the meeting room closed and the children's area cleared out for the program all went well.
I filed all my reports, sent photos off to people who might need them. I have a great team that worked well together that made the situation better than could be expected. Yet, I am drained and called J to see if he will go have a beer with me tonight. Bless him, he said yes.
But, I have to say that I am now qualified to say which kind of problem I would prefer to deal with--water or an earthquake and I definitely prefer the water. Kind of strange seeing as I am an aquaphobe.