“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”
--- Douglas Adams

Monday, March 30, 2020

Bigfoot and Big Eyes - a dream

Sheltering in place is not all it's cracked up to be. I'm getting a little stir-crazy, as to be expected I guess. I want to leave the house, but the moment I do, even if it's just to walk down to the beach and back, having no contact with anyone save for the smile or shaka to a passing stranger, I want to go back home. We're being responsible, we're trying to stay sane, but dang it if it isn't really freaking boring sometimes.

Anyhoozle, it's no surprise we've been watching a lot of TV. Of course I've been dabbling with Tiger King, but it isn't a series for all of the eyes and ears in my house, and by the time everyone goes to bed, I figure I'll go to bed as well and so the perfect time to watch the show is wasted in favor of my beauty rest. This week we've been going back and forth between Master Chef and Finding Bigfoot. I was never into Master Chef until recently, so I've been getting caught up. I'm on season 4 now. Finding Bigfoot, on the other hand, was appointment television. We watched it all the time when it was first run. Now that it's on Amazon, The Boy has been watching it nonstop.

To that end, I had a dream . . . . . .

I was at a Bigfoot street fair on Oak St. just east of the Panhandle. It was the last day and people were packing up and heading back to the woods. The Finding Bigfoot people were there. I ran into Rene as she was packing up her stuff so I went up to her to say goodbye. She had the sweetest tour bus, trailer-bus type contraption. It was three car lengths. The third car was a tiny airstream no bigger than a tiny u-haul trailer. The middle car was a platform with a jeep on it, like a cross between Lorelai Gilmore's car and the kind you see on  the TV show M*A*S*H, and the first car was a self-driving wood paneled square bus with  bright, crystal clear picture windows all around. Inside was wood paneling kind of like an old F-train. There were shag area rugs and beanbag chairs on the floor and pictures of Big Eye Kids on the interior walls. There were bench seats along the sides, but no seatbelts. We went for a drive down Oak St towards the old freeway entrance, because in my dream it still existed. We had to take a super sharp turn. the middle car with the Jeep and the airstream u-haul hit the side rail and made sparks as we took the turn. She looked at me and said "happens all the time."

Stay safe everybody. Make sure to connect with your friends and family over the phone; skype, duo, zoom, facetime, all that stuff. When you encounter someone, maintain a safe distance, smile and give them a shaka. Shaka spreads only love and aloha, not coronavirus.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Responsibility vs. Karma

Image result for airpot coffeeYou know that sound, the air filled, coffee misted gurgle/hiss of the last bits of coffee in an airpot.

Last week at work I heard the sound.  I heard it because it was me who caused it. I took the last bit of coffee from the pot. Man, all I wanted was one long pull? push? draw? (let's call it draw) one last draw on the airpot. It fills about 2/3 of the coffee cup; the perfect amount of coffee for the amount of cream I like. Dang. Responsibility rings (or gurgles and hisses). My only option was to make a new pot. There was no other next step. Make coffee.

It is your responsibility to make coffee. The next person is depending on it and often times, you are the next person.

There's only one exception to making another pot of coffee. What time is it?
If it were 11:30am and I had just taken the last bit of coffee, I probably wouldn't make another pot. By that time, people are all coffee'd up. They most likely won't have another cup until the afternoon, or if you're like me, you've long switched over to diet coke or black tea. I wouldn't make a new pot at 11:30 am so it could sit around until 2pm. The 2pm people deserve to have fresh coffee just as much as the 9am coffee drinkers.

This morning I carefully avoided the responsibility of having to make a new pot and karma bit me in the ass. My coffee mug was about 1/2 filled and I heard the slight beginnings of a gurgle. I "decided" I had enough coffee in my cup, even though I knew I didn't, poured in some cream and went to my desk. But wouldn't you know it, that 1/2 cup of coffee didn't take and I found myself needing more. I went back to the coffee to get myself a proper cup, figuring surely someone else had made a new pot by now. I was totally wrong. When I pushed down on the pump to draw out the coffee, all I got was luke warm coffee spatter. Dang it.

I told myself "I told you so" and made a fresh pot.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Laughing Without Smiling

I lost a friend just before Christmas.  His name was Ian and I'm going to miss him. I spoke at his memorial yesterday. I felt honored that I was able to speak about my friend. And I was humbled that the group who came to say goodbye listened to what I had to say.

Ian and I became friends in 1991 when he and I, along with two other friends moved into a flat in the Richmond. We lived together in a mostly imperfect harmony for about 5 years. We called ourselves The Bubble Family. It was at that flat where we learned to live together, how to be adults, and how to navigate our new lives in a new city.  Getting to know our new city, and each other, we used to drive to a part of The City we had never been to, park, and then walk around until we couldn’t remember how to get back to his carWe would walk around seemingly aimlessly, getting to know each other, searching for his car. We’d finally find the car, and on our drive home, swear we’d never do that again, and then do it all over again a few days later. I always suspected he knew where we were the whole time and it was me who was the lost one, and Ohmagosh, he had the scariest car. It didn't have a 2nd gear; San Francisco hills, no second gear.
My friend was the most kind-hearted and an unabashedly genuine force. My children loved him. I feel so blessed that he was a presence in their lives.  My little ones loved when he would come to our home to babysit. With Ian, my kids knew they would be allowed to stay up as late as they wanted, eat whatever they wanted, and play video games and watch movies together. I was completely at ease with this, because also with Ian, I knew my kids would be safe, warm, and happy. 
Ian infuriated me just as much as he made me love him and come to think of him as one of my closest friends. He held opinions like no other. Sometimes he would make up an opinion on the spot to argue, just to stay sharp; it wouldn’t matter if he believed it or not.  To that end, Ian and I had a lot of conversations, discussions, arguments, disagreements.  Most of the time these discussions and arguments had to do with Star Trek, comic books, and other nerdy stuff we enjoyed. Sometimes they were of more substance; books we’d read, local news stories, moral concepts.  
One of the things we often talked and argued about was God.  We held a number of opposing viewpoints on the subject. Does He exist? Does He have a purpose? What was that purpose? Where God Went Wrong, Some More of God’s Greatest Mistakes and Who is this God Person Anyway?   (yes, I stole from Douglas Adams there)
But through it all, and despite the disagreements, I always believed Ian was a man of great faith; a kind of faith that science would approve of.  He knew (if I may steal from and paraphrase Richard Feynman) that there are two piles in life, a large pile of unknown and a much smaller pile of known. As life’s mysteries are solved, questions answered, we take from the unknown pile and add it to the known pile. Just as people before us chipped away at that big pile, and just as we ourselves chip away at it today, long after we’ve left earth, that pile of unknown will continue to shrink, someone else will continue the work. We don’t and won’t know everything, but Ian had faith that people would still keep searching. He had faith that this unraveling of facts before us would be continued after his departure. He had faith that that pile would continue to shrink. 
Ian loved Science Fiction and Fantasy. Perhaps he loved it because it is the praxis of this faith, a faith that in spite of the negative things we see around us, there is always someone trying to make things better, there is always something to aspire to. There is always hope for a future that was better than what we have today. 

I will miss Ian. I missed him yesterday. After the memorial we went to our friend's house, ate some food, told some stories, and I'm told, after I left, sang some karaoke. I wish he could have been there He would have really like that. 

Friday, January 10, 2020

Lychees - A True Yet Pointless Story

Image result for lychee

I saw this article yesterday that there are now seedless lychees. I would like to give them a try. I have a feeling though, that they are going to be just as yummy as a seedless watermelon, in that they will still be good, but something will be missing. Although the seeds do get in the way, they seem to encourage the production of better flavor within the fruit, a necessary evil perhaps.

Anyhooozle, when I think of Lychees I think of this woman I used to work with many moons ago at a company that specialized in selling 6' tall wooden giraffes and had a wall of sample sized foreign snacks. She grew up in China. She said she and her brother would pick bags and bags full of lychees and then their mom would throw them in the freezer and they would have lychees all year round. She had lychees every day. Lychees eaten plain. Frozen lychees. Lychees fresh from the tree. Lychees thawed out. Lychee in bread. Lychee in stir fry. Lychee in dessert. Lychee sherbet. Lychee jello (now *that* sounds really freaking refreshing). OOOH! Lychee Agua Fresca sounds delicious.

If given the opportunity to taste a seedless lychee, I totally would. Until that time comes, however, I will stick to the regular kind with little to no complaint.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

My Friend's Potatoes

There are plenty of foods I don't like. (I'm looking at you, Dolmas) That said, I'm pretty adventurous when it comes to eating and will try most anything. I may not like what I'm tasting, but I'm willing to give new things a try. There's a lot of food out there. I'll never get to taste all, so when something new is offered, I'm usually game. I'm a big fan of trying foreign candy and cookies. Today I tried a Matcha Kit Kat from Japan. It was yucky, but I tried it, without hesitation. Now I know that I'm not fond of Matcha Kit Kat and I will politely pass next time it comes around. Another time I tried wasabi Kit Kat. It was foul as well, but still, I tried it.
There was a time, however when my eating habits took a rather snooty turn and I would only eat homemade, nothing from a mix or a box, nothing unnatural, nothing conventional, only organic, and I would try to convince everyone to eat like me, but I admit, in a kind of condescending way. That got old.
Looking back, I could tell my family had it "up to here" with my pinkies-out self. I liken my behavior to how people who follow Paleo, Keto or GFV diets, or Atheists and Cross-fit enthusiasts who always work their eating habits, beliefs and physical activities into every single conversation, even before asked, usually within the first 5 minutes. (I admit, I could count myself among these folks in days past. For that, I apologize.)
Once I was able recognize the eye-rolling I was receiving, and once my pocketbook started taking a hit, I relaxed my pinky and started eating and grocery shopping like a normal person.  I still love my fancy food made with expensive ingredients, but I've mellowed out a bit. Don't get me wrong, I'll eat a brick of fancy pate with overpriced crackers and tiny pickles any day of the week, but I have come to enjoy and appreciate food for what it is, nutrition for my body, enjoyment for my palate and most importantly, the opportunity to sit with a group of people and share a meal with them. I've expanded my palate too, and much to my happiness and betterment. While I draw the line at hot pockets, I make cake from a box, use frozen fruit, serve my kids pop-tarts, buy Costco catering platters, use pasta sauce from a jar and serve it with frozen ravioli and let my kids eat Maruchan Instant Lunch and chicken nuggets. Sometimes I even go to Walgreens to buy a 4 pack of Sutter Home Cab. Needless to say, my eating habits and my view of food has evolved into something everyone can enjoy not hearing about.

That said, I tried something new on Christmas and it was so delicious, I had to make it at home. Captain Awesome and I joined a few friends at another friend's house to celebrate and share a meal. While we all contributed to the delicious menu (brussels sprouts, fancy cheese, sparkling wine, etc.), there was one clear star of the show -- The Potatoes.

They were super simple, really. Red potatoes chopped up into 2-bite pieces, tossed with olive oil and a packet of Instant Ranch Powder, thrown in the oven until someone says "I think I smell something" or "Weren't we making potatoes?" Take them out of the oven and set on the stove to cool.
Serve and enjoy.

I thought the potatoes were so yummy I bought the ingredients to make it this week. I chopped up my potatoes into bite sized pieces, tossed with some Instant Ranch Powder and olive oil. I realized my ratio of Instant Ranch and Olive Oil Slurry to bite-sized potato pieces seemed to be on the overly-seasoned side, so I quartered some mushrooms and tossed them in. Once the slurry to vegetable ratio looked good to me, I threw them on a cookie sheet and in the oven at 400F and let them roast for an hour, taking a moment about 1/2 way through to give them a good turn.

I served it with some tomato soup (my kids LOVE tomato soup, and if I make it from scratch, I can ensure it has lots of veggies in it, because I can't get them to eat veggies save for salad most of the time, so I serve it a few times a week). I also made some really yummy chicken legs, marinated in a slurry (sure, let's keep using that word) of olive oil, garlic, tomato paste, oregano, cumin, lime juice, and threw them in the oven for about 30 minutes.

Oh my gosh, they were so good.

But wait, there's more.

The next day I had about a serving of potatoes left over. I took that, plus the meat from the leftover chicken legs and tossed in a pan until it was all hot and yummy, then fried an egg to put on top, and let the yolk get all oozy over the potatoes. So super yummy.

A quick search of "ranch dressing potatoes" comes up with a whole host of Ranch dressing themed recipes. In my 19 second search for the perfect recipe, I found this one. You should try it.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Who's your Quaaltagh?

For as long as I can remember I've been really conscious about what the first words are that come out of my mouth each day. I don't know when or how it started, but I remember doing it when I was a kid and I continue it today. I want my first words to be positive. It could be really simple like "this is a perfectly steeped cuppa tea" or loving like saying good morning to my kids. I just want it to be positive. It just sort of puts me in the right frame of mind; a best foot forward start to my day. This morning my first words were "hi kitty" followed by a little scratch to Pauly's chin as I walked from the bedroom and into the bathroom.

I learned a new word. Quaaltagh. I'm not certain if I'm pronouncing it properly, though. "QUALLtag" is what I hear when I looked it up on youtube. I've never heard the word used in polite conversation though. I could be wrong. It's a good word, nonetheless, and it's a great complement to my practice of making my first words of the day positive ones.

It's got a Manx and Celtic origin. It was first coined to mean the first person you meet / come across on New Year's Day. It sort of morphed later to the first person you meet / come across on a particularly important day such as Christmas, your birthday, your anniversary, Talk Like a Pirate Day, even Flag day. Now, in everyday usage, the word has evolved to mean the first person you meet on any given day when you leave the house. Now, I don't know if there is a significance to the first person one comes across each day. Does this person set the tone for the day? If my quaaltagh sets the tone for the day, how am I setting the tone for those to whom I am their quaaltagh? That's a bit of pressure. Or does this person solely represent a chance occurrence that has no side effects? Or if they do have side effects, is it all just made up in my head?

This morning my quaaltagh was annoying. Dude wanted my parking spot and was totally guarding it like he was on 14th and Shotwell and the street sweeper was just about to go by. Kind of annoying because we were way out in the Avenues, where parking is pretty darn plentiful, and dude was hanging out in a parking spot while waiting for my spot. My office quaaltagh this morning was a better example of a good quaaltagh. I was greeted with a smile and a good morning, no excessive small talk and no extra work given to me. I know I'm breaking the rules and I can't pick and choose my quaaltagh, but I can choose who or what I'm going to focus my energy on. Today I'm choosing my office quaaltagh.

Starting each day off on a positive note and letting chance dictate what happens once I step outside. Every morning I am presented with potential; intentional practice paired with a random encounter each day.  Lucky me.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Monkey Boxes - All In My Head

Image result for monkey in a box

When I was in the first and second grades, I went to a babysitter in the morning and afternoon.
I would walk to and from school with a group of kids, mostly the same age as myself. There was this kid, the same kid whose spanking I had to listen to in the first grade. He taught us a a more elevated game of "step on a crack, break your mother's back."

He taught us Monkey Boxes.

Along our route to school in the squares of concrete that made up the sidewalk, a good number of them had a "+" sign in the corner. This kid called them Monkey Boxes. Upon coming upon a monkey box, the only way to pass it, was to jump over it. You couldn't walk around it, you had to jump over it. You could, however, if there was a tree root breaking the cement, jump upon the root to get across, but only with one foot, it was only a stepping stone (stepping root?) to aid you in your passage; it was not a spot to linger.  There was no real penalty to not being able to jump the entire box. You tried your best to jump over and every day tried a little harder to get across; to play the game, you just had to try. Once you did get across, however, you were met with cheers, and hearty slaps on the back.

I grew up thinking (nay, knowing) that monkey boxes were a thing, a real thing. They're all over Long Beach and easy to spot once you set your mind to it.  I also grew up thinking that the knowledge of Monkey Boxes was just as universal in childhood experiences as putting black olives on one's fingers at Thanksgiving. As I got older, however, I realized that Monkey Boxes were a small, localized game that only a handful of kids played, and nobody but me remembers it anymore.

I taught my kids about finding Monkey Boxes. They know where all the best ones are in our neighborhood. We've even found a few Monkey Curbs down by the playground. 

Monday, September 16, 2019

48.50? - A True Yet Pointless Story

Some weeks are so unexpectedly busy. Last week I went to Back-to-School night at Pua's school. I always like Back-to-School night. I love sitting in my kids' desks, leaving them a little note in their desk (You rock! I'm proud of you!). I liked listening to the teacher present the curriculum and watch their style and demeanor. It gives me a bit of insight into the person who is spending a good part of their day with my kid. I like Pua's teacher this year. In fact, I've liked all her teachers thus far.  School events I absolutely dread are General Parent Meetings. At my kids' old school they were mandatory. They were long. They were amusingly boring. I usually sat in the back and listened to music.

Anyhow, when Back-to-School night was over, Pua very sweetly convinced me to spend a bit of time at the nearby playground. Half hour later we were driving home. We had hit that point in my head where I decided it was too late, I didn't have time to make dinner; I'd have to buy it.
Teeling Small Batch Irish WhiskeyWe stopped at Lucky on the way home I picked up some fried chicken from the deli counter and a bag of salad. I also took a stroll through the whiskey aisle. I saw that my favorite hooch was on sale, and on close-out. I grabbed a bottle (should have grabbed 2, it was a great price). I had my fried chicken, I had my bag of salad, and I had my deli ham for the kids' sandwiches today (sorry I forgot to mention the ham before).

Checker scans my stuff. Scans the whiskey and it doesn't register.
Checker: It isn't scanning, do you know how much this was?
Me: $28.98
Checker nods and starts pressing buttons. No dice. Checker presses more buttons, shrugs and grunts.
Checker (to himself): $48.50, that sounds about right.
Me: Um, no, it was $28.98
Checker: ugh, OK. $28.50

I bought my fried chicken, bag of salad, whiskey (for $28.50), my deli ham, an oh yeah, a box of store-brand pop-tarts and went home.

We didn't get home until after our regular dinner time, We ate our chicken and salad. I had a glass of whiskey, and I didn't accomplish anything I had planned to do.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

School Lines and Traffic and (Cal) Bears - OH MY

The new school year has finally started for my kids, and with this school year, life changes just a little bit, making it a bit easier in some parts and harder in others; that's life, I guess.

Image result for pink jordache jeansThe first day of school is exciting. As a kid it was exciting because it was full of hope; you were coming into a new year with a new teacher, and maybe a new student or two. And new school clothes; I remember rocking a sweet-ass pair of pink Jordache Jeans on the first day of 7th grade. As an adult I always enjoyed the first day, seeing how the kids have grown over the summer, being able to take a breath because for the next few months the schedule will be mostly predictable.

My little one is a big bad First Grader now. It's so exciting watching her learn, and seeing her talents. She is great at math, wants to join the chess club and loves painting. We're on a squishy toy-crafting kick right now thanks to her favorite you-tuber Moriah Elizabeth.
My first grade teacher was named Mrs. Koontz. I remember she handed out a lot of candy and was married to the school custodian. I remember the first two friends I made in 1st grade; Rita and Michelle. Michelle liked to hold hands and Rita liked to eat chicken noodle soup on hot days. One time in first grade, they made us listen to a kid getting spanked in the hallway as a deterrent from being bad. It was a really awful thing to make a 6 year old listen to. I always felt bad for that kid. I can still hear him sniffling and that awful evil voice of the principal, Mr. Scott asking him if he'd had enough yet.

My middle one just started 6th grade. Where we live, 6th grade is Middle School which is weird to me because although I went to a K-9th school, the public Junior Highs (started in 7th grade). He's at a brand new school this year, learning a whole new routine. I'm excited to report that he picked up the Baritone Horn. Last night he told me his teacher thinks he has the lungs for it.
My 6th grade teacher was Mr. Anderson. Aside from the 1 day I had a male substitute in the 2nd grade, I had never had a male teacher before. I don't know why I was so freaked out about it. He turned out to be a really nice guy. I was mortified when my dad told me he told my teacher that I was apprehensive about having a male teacher. Gawd Dad. All is forgiven, though.

My big one just started her junior year at UC Berkeley. I'm so proud of her, going to such an amazing university. People say "Good Job Mom" when I tell them where she's going, but I have to say, she did this all on her own. Whatever my contribution was, her own driving force was the leader of this endeavor. Although I'm sure she'll encounter plenty of obstacles, as we all do, she will meet them and conquer them with her own grace and style.
Like her, I transferred from a community college to university (SFSU) my junior year. I took a longer route to get my degree, however, and unlike I was, she is motivated to knock out her undergrad swiftly. My favorite professor my junior year (and senior year) was Dr. Heather. He taught political theory and politics in literature. I learned a lot from him. I also enjoyed Dr. Feldman. She and my friend Pasu became friends IRL and addressed each other as Comrade when they took smoke breaks together.

Every school year, every new grade, every new adventure, I think back to my own years and the experiences I had. Times are different now, but a lot of the things I looked forward to (and dreaded) seem to remain constant in modern times.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Tower of Song - Thank You to the Teacher Whose Name I Forgot.

Have you ever had a teacher who influenced your life when you were a kid in such a positive and impactful way that you are facebook friends with them today; y'know, the kind of teacher whose name you use when answering security questions like what's your mother's maiden name, who was your favorite teacher, and what was the name of your first pet? Conversely, have you ever had a teacher who so totally had it in for you and who was a complete and total jerkface to you right to your face; a teacher who smacks you in the face and tells you you are being a smartass when you ask what it was you did to get in trouble because you truly didn't know, but you had to stay inside for recess and pick up trash without even being told what your supposed crime was?

We've all had those. But what about the teacher who taught you something that you'll always remember, but you don't really remember much about that teacher or the class otherwise? This post is for him, whatever his name was.

Image result for leonard cohenI had a political science class of some sort at CCSF. The teacher had hair like Ted Danson (Ted Danson today, Smirnoff / The Good Place Ted Danson, not Ted Danson of yesteryear, Cheers / Made in America Ted Danson.) One day the teacher came into class with the verve of Agent Cooper after having a damn fine cup of coffee saying he'd been up all night listening to Leonard Cohen, and he'd seen the future and it was murder. I had no idea what he meant. I was 21. I still thought ordering a pina colada or Chardonnay was the proper thing to order at a dive bar. I had never heard of Leonard Cohen. I stopped at Tower Records on Market and Castro (I don't think it's there anymore, is that where the Pottery Barn went or am I thinking of something else?) and bought Leonard Cohen's Greatest Hits.

I hated it. But, just as I hated coffee when I was little and enjoy it now, maybe my musical palate wasn't ready for LC yet. Then one day I was watching PBS, maybe 10 years after the future-modern day Ted Danson was my teacher, and a Leonard Cohen concert came on. I watched it and loved it.

I've been listening to a lot of LC lately. I'm enjoying it like Dale Cooper loves Cherry Pie.

Thanks teacher whose name I don't remember or what class you taught.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Candy for Gordon - A Dream

If someone I know is traveling abroad I ask them to bring me back one of two things; their extra coins or candy. 
I have tons of coins. My favorite coins are Yuan from China that have a hole in the middle. I also really love the 20p piece from England. I'm sorely lacking in Francs, Lira, Lats, Kroon, Marks, Escudo and Peseta but have a large amount of Drachma, Guilder, British Pounds and Kwacha and Euros.  I'm not really interested in paper money. I think non-US money is very interesting and colorful, but I'd rather have the kind that jingles, rather than the kind that folds.

For candy, just as I don't want the more valuable paper money, I don't want the fancy candy. If I get fancy candy, I'll most likely appreciate the box more than the candy inside. I want to try the mass market Hershey, Nestle, Cadbury, Mars type candy. I don't want fancy.  I want the kind that kids want to eat, the kind they buy themselves at the corner market. I want Flake Bars, Aero Bars, Violet Crumble, Crunchy Bars, Caramello Koalas, Cherry Ripe.

I had a dream.

I was at Sunset Super, which is a grocery store in my neighborhood that serves the Chinese community.  I was showing Gordon Ramsay around the store, We spent a little bit of time looking at  the giant tank of geoduck clams next to a giant ice bed of whole fish with bright shiny eyes. As we were walking around the store, we happened by the candy aisle. I walked him through every single candy, and made him try everything. He was amused but a bit annoyed at my persistence and insistence that he try everything. Candy wasn't really his thing, but he was a good sport.

Friday, April 5, 2019

On Friendship - The Super and the Superficial

Cliff and Norm were the best of bar buddies. All day long Cliff kept his community connected while Norm crunched their numbers. All day long they looked forward to spending the last few hours of daylight in an underground bar with people who were just as like-minded. They looked forward to watching whatever was playing on the muted TV,  and hoping someone else used their quarters wisely in the jukebox. They look forward to sharing a beer, and maybe a few shots with people who were just as beaten as they were. But were they friends on the outside? I'm not so sure. Sam, Coach and Woody weren't really your friends. Carla may have been sweet on a few of her regulars, but once she clocked out and counted her tips, all she cared about were her kids, and Nick or Eddie; probably both. Diane and Rebecca didn't care about you even when they were working, let alone when they clocked out. Nobody cared what Harry the Hat did to get "two to ten, with time off for good behavior." They were just happy he was there to entertain them and watch him cheat other people out of their money.

There is a bar I go to. There are people I really enjoy seeing. There are a few dogs I whose jowls I love to scratch. There are a few bartenders I really enjoy talking to. There are a few people I get to nerd-out about Star Trek with. There are a few people I get to talk about music with. There are a few people I get to talk about the neighborhood with. There are people I get to watch close-captioned Family Feud and Cash Cab with. The conversation is never very deep, and it is very seldom, if ever, personal. I know very little about the personal lives of my fellow locals and regulars, and I'm OK with that. My fellow regulars do for me what Cliff and Norm did for each other; they helped wash the day away. They are there to share a kind word, a funny story, neighborhood news. We all come from different walks of life, different religions and philosophies; different incomes, different stages in our lives. When we enter the bar, we are all equals. But our friendship doesn't often extend beyond the backside of the 21 and Over sign and into the street. That's not to say that any of these folks can't be my friends outside of the bar, however; a few of them are friends outside of the bar, but it's OK that not all of them need to be.

On the other end of the spectrum, I have an amazing group of close friends. We make up an incredible village. The strength of this village has been tested a few times, and I take great comfort in knowing that we can depend on each other and weather our storms together.   It's made us stronger, both individually as well as a group. We all played a role in helping each other through life's displeasures. I am thankful for my village and proud to be a part of it.

I write all this because I saw a video on the FB that someone posted the other day about friendship. I've been chewing on it because it made me kind of mad and thought, perhaps, that I had missed the point. I don't think I did.  On the surface, it sounded, well, sound, but then it didn't.  The speaker on the video said you will know who your closest friends are by the way they stick by you when you face adversity. While I do believe that is true, the person on the video went on to say that all friends who don't stick closer than a brother need to be cut out of your life, they are toxic. I don't believe that. I don't believe that every one of my friends bears the same responsibility or serves the same purpose.  I don't believe I have the right to discount a friendship because I don't feel comfortable divulging my deepest secrets to them. A friendship is a friendship. Sure, dump those who are dicks, but not everyone is a dick.

From the super close to the superficial, there are many other levels of friendships in between. Work friends, school friends, bar friends, neighborhood friends; they all lend different levels of support, different kinds of comfort. In the Venn diagram of my friendships, there are certainly overlapping categories and similarities. All friends enrich my life, but not every friend needs to know you at your worst. Sometimes the best friendship one can give you is consistency; knowing which friend to call for the comfort you are seeking. Having different types of friends is great. Sometimes all you need is someone to share a beer with and watch bad TV on mute with while rock 'n' roll plays in the background. Sometimes you need someone to help you out with your cell phone bill for the month. Sometimes you need a hug. Sometimes you need someone to hold your hair when you puke. Sometimes you need someone to housesit. Sometimes you need someone who really understands you to help you work through a problem. Sometimes you need someone to discuss the latest episode of The Orville with. Sometimes you need guidance from someone with a shared history. Sometimes you need to use your old best jokes on someone who has never heard them before. Not any one person needs to serve all those needs. It's not fair to your friends to expect them to give you everything you need.

It's just as OK and necessary to have casual friends as it is necessary to have close friends.

Friday, December 21, 2018

The Snoopy Wallet - A true yet pointless story about a Christmas Gift

I was probably about 10 years old. My mom took me to the Hallmark store at what was once Los Altos shopping Center in Long Beach. She stayed outside the store while I went inside and looked around. I found the perfect gift for my mom. It was a yellow Snoopy wallet. I remember overhearing how she needed a new wallet and for some reason I had it in my head that she really loved Peanuts. I ran outside the store very excited about the wallet, told my mom how much her Christmas present would cost. She gave me the money and I went inside and paid for it.

Later when I was at home I showed my sister the wallet. I was so proud of myself for getting my mom such a fantastic gift. How could she love the gift? It was a bright yellow wallet with Snoopy on it. My sister and her friend laughed and told me it was a kid's wallet an my mom would never like it. My excitement suddenly turned went all pear shaped.

On Christmas morning I woke up dreading when my mom would open her present. Sure, I was excited to open presents and such, but I was really concerned my mom wasn't going to like the gift. I hid it under the Christmas Tree skirt, then when there were no more gifts to open save for the boxes of candy my mom would get from her patients and clients at work, that she would never ever open because she knew what was inside, so they just sat there, wrapped, uneaten until after Christmas, I took the wallet, unwrapped it and showed it to my mom. She saw it and said "That's cute, who gave you that?" I burst into tears and told her that I bought it for her, but my sister and her friend (who my dad always called Samantha, but it wasn't her real name) told me she wouldn't like it. My mom hugged me, told me she liked it and then used the wallet until the wallet died, which was probably only a few months; it was really small and made of plastic.

Still, she used it until it could no longer be used.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Chaos Watcher

Image result for parallel parking

How well can you parallel park?

I would say that I've got some pretty mad parallel parking skills; it doesn't hurt that I have a small-ish car and am able to get in and out of spaces easily. I mean, I don't drive a Smart car or another sort of those 2-seater type cars, I drive a 4-door car, but it really isn't that big and not hard to park. I don't like parking on hills, and will avoid it when I can, but I can do it if I'm left with no other option.

Anyhow, I started a new job recently. One of the things I have to deal with in this job is street parking. I look for parking every morning. Sometimes I find it right away, sometimes I follow the street sweeper and park in its wake, sometimes I drive around for 20 minutes before I find parking. At my last job I parked in a garage in the same building as my office. The parking lot was usually pretty empty and I got to park in the same spot just about every day. I didn't have to walk outside to get from car to office; I could just take the elevator or walk up 2 flights of stairs. It was a nice luxury and just about the only thing I miss about my last company.

This morning I found parking about a block away from the office; not too shabby. I had to parallel park to get into the spot. There was a contractor's truck double parked about 1/2 a car length into the spot I would normally occupy as my starting position to back into the parking spot. I had to do some free-form fandango fancy moves to get into the spot, but I did it successfully and efficiently.

The man in the truck approached me and told me that he had been double parked for a while and was enjoying watching people try to park in my space, but then giving up because they couldn't negotiate the man's truck. He was highly amused at watching people's failed attempt at parallel parking in a tight spot.

After he gleefully told me about the person in the pick up truck who swore and shook his fist, or the person in the minivan who just couldn't get her turns right and was on the verge of tears before she tore away, he told me that he had been working in this neighborhood for the last 40 years, even with the gentrification of the neighborhood, new buildings, new businesses, new apartments, he didn't see much difference in the level of crime.  He then lifted up his sleeve and attached to his wrist was a pepper spray canister, locked and loaded and ready to be deployed "Spiderman style" should anyone get in his way. I took that as my cue to get out of his way, wished him a good day and walked the block to my office.

I mentioned my strange encounter to a coworker. Her first response was thinking the man probably wasn't very happy and needed to watch someone else in despair to make himself feel better. I mentioned it to Captain Awesome. He likened this man's behavior to someone who would see a baby bird fall from a tree and enjoy watching the little fellow try to navigate its way to safety whilst predators encircled. Both observations seem like the same side of the coin for me, one being an explanation, another being an example. Both I thought were accurate.

I've been around those types before; someone who needs to break others down in order to feel better about himself. Those who can't find value in themselves so they look to devalue others. Those who always find fault first, and always at a constant threat of never finding fortune. Those who enjoy creating discord because they are too afraid of risking creating good. I've worked with those types before. I've been married to those types before. I have been friends with those types before. They have an undercurrent of unhappiness running through them, yet always looking for ways to be the hero of every story, building themselves up at the expense of others, never being happy when other people shine.

Or maybe he was just a grumpy old man. Either way, that's no way to be.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Sock Matching

I’ve don’t have a washer and dryer at home. I mean, I do, but the washer is old and icky and the dryer is broken. I don't use them. I go to the laundromat.

In times of both plenty or panic, but not with reliable frequency, I have been known to send the laundry out. It’s so nice. The clothes come back folded and sorted by size. All the underwear is packaged together, and all the socks, (ohmagosh, the best part), all the socks come. back. matched. Do you know how many socks three kids have collectively? Sending out my laundry is a luxury. If I could do it every week, I would. For the sock-matching service alone, I would send out my laundry if I had the means.
These days my pennies are pinched a little tighter and I can no longer pay someone to do my laundry for me. I must go to the laundromat. It’s not so bad. All within about a block of the laundromat there’s a bakery, a taqueria, a burger joint, a sandwich shop, a market, two liquor stores and a bar. (There is also a pizza place, but the last time I was there, someone changed the total on my receipt, turning a 55 into a 65, thus turning a 20% tip into a, into a … I don’t want to do the math. Whoever changed it, upped my tip by $10. I was super pissed about it. The tip was on a take-out order, not table service. I ordered a pizza and salad to go and sat at the bar and drank a beer while I waited for my food to be ready.  A 20% tip on a beer and a take-out order is a good tip. I noticed the modification, changed it back and took a picture of it. In the end, I was only charged my original tip amount. I don’t know if the offender was the guy sitting next to me or the counter person, but I haven’t been back since.)
Image result for ross and rachel laundryWhen I do my laundry in the daytime, during the wash cycle, I usually have myself a cuppa joe and some kind of sweet treat at the bakery, then during the dry cycle, I go to the bar. When I do my laundry at night, I am usually with my partner, Captain Awesome; we usually just hit the bar for both the wash and dry cycles – sort of Ross and Rachel-ish but way more fun, instead of being pushed around in a laundry cart and kiss, we drink whiskey and kiss.

At first I hated the idea of going to the laundromat. But after a few months I started almost enjoying the time; not the actual doing of the laundry, but the time it affords me to have a moment to myself, accomplishing a chore, yes, but also having a few hours of (almost) free time. While I would rather pay someone to pick up my clothes from my house, wash my clothes, fold my clothes, match my socks and then bring it all back to me at the end of the day, I'm not complaining.

Trickle Down Economics - A Pointless Rant about Water Walter

I have never been the kind of mom who enjoys going to playgrounds. I don't really like going to the playground. Now that my kids are older and I don't need to be with them the whole time, and I can sit on a bench and read, the playground is OK, but for the most part, the playground has never been my jam. One of the things that bother me at playgrounds is the other adults; not all of them, just some of them. Like the ones who think it's OK to sit on the play structures and play on their phones, blocking the kids' path and thwarting every single game of "the sand is lava."

One thing I do like about the playgrounds in my neighborhood is the unspoken rule of sand-toy sharing. If a kid leaves their toys in the sand and then say, goes to play on the swings, their toys are fair game for other kids to play with so long as they don't take the toys out of the sandbox and they stop playing with the toys when it's time to pack them up and go home. I don't know if this is common in other neighborhoods, but it is in mine. It is a good practice.

Anywhoozle, I had me an incident a few weeks ago.

Pua and I were at the playground. There were a lot of kids there that day and a good number of them were playing in the sand, making trips to and from the water fountain filling their buckets and cups in the dispenser for water bottles.

Pua started playing with some boys, 2nd or 3rd grade looking. She going back and forth to the fountain and sandbox filling their bucket. Pua was happy to stand in line with all the other kids at the fountain waiting to fill her bucket. On one particular trip to the fountain, she and a grown-up, a grown ass man, were walking to the fountain. He beat her to the fountain with his gallon sized bucket and started filling his, before letting her fill her pint sized bucket. I walked over to them. I asked him why he didn't let her go first. Her pint sized bucket would take only 30 seconds to fill, his gallon sized bucket was going to take a 4 minutes (I know, I did the math). He said "we're working together." I looked at what he thought "working together" was. Her bucket was at the bottom of the fountain picking up all of the water that came out of the leaky pipes. I looked at the man and said "Ah, Trickle Down Economics, nice." The man got a weird look on his face, then gave me a really dirty look; (Ok so to him 10 out of 10 getting the reference, but negative several million points for actually thinking that method is fair.)

With her trickles from the leaky water dispenser, Pua and I then walked back to the sandbox. He followed me and asked me if I was upset with him. I told him that he should have let her go first since her bucket was so tiny and he was a grown-ass man with a gallon-sized bucket, 8 times bigger than her little bucket. He said he was filling water for his daughters sandbox. I told him that's all well and good, but they were the only two at the fountain at the time, and the decent and grown up thing to do would have been to let the little girl take 30 seconds to fill her bucket and not make her wait 4 minutes for him to fill his.

He got in my face and with weird bits of spit in the corners of his mouth, asked me loudly if I was accusing him of depriving my daughter of water. I told him I wasn't accusing him of depriving her of water, I was accusing him of establishing dominance over her and making her pick up his scraps by telling her to collect the water from the leaky pipes. He stared at me in disbelief. I stared at him until he broke the gaze, then I got up and walked over to another seat at the other side of the sandbox.

Turns out the boys Pua was playing with were his sons. They scolded him for not letting her go first and then followed it up with "Dad, just let it go. We're playing nicely," they said.
For the rest of our time at the playground we sat at opposite ends of the sandbox, glaring at each other and watching our respective kids play together nicely.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

On Voting and Taking Cuts in the 9444 Precinct

I hate people taking cuts almost as much as I hate being late. Cutters suck. They share one thing in common with those who are late; lack of respect for their fellow humans. With their desire to be next in line, and ahead of you, they are telling you that they are better. They deserve to be next, not you. Cutters piss me off. I've posted about it before here and here.

All that being said, I cut in front of someone today. At the polls. I might suck.

The polls opened at 7am, but when I got to my polling place, the good folks at 9444 were having trouble setting up their counting machine. There was one person standing and waiting. She was standing about 5 feet away from the table where you check in and get your ballot. I asked her if she was in line. She said she was all checked in and she was done.  I didn't quite know what that meant so I asked her again, are you in line. She said no, she was done. I proceeded to walk over to the table to check in. The guy running check-in was having trouble setting up the counter box so I had to wait a bit to get my ballot. Finally, about 15 minutes after the polls officially opened, the man came over and started looking for my name in his book. The woman who was standing 5 feet away from the table; the woman who told me she was done told me that she was waiting in line and I had taken cuts, but whatever, it was fine with her. I told her that I had asked her if she was in line and she said she was done. She said "well, if I was done, why would I still be here." I offered to let her go ahead of me. She declined, then told me again how she was first. I told her again about what she said, and then told her it wasn't my fault she didn't know how to answer a question properly, as I asked her point blank "are you in line?" and she said "no, I'm done."

So to the lady who told me she was done, and not in line and standing 5 feet away from where any reasonable person would think a line should start, I'm sorry I took cuts. If you had told me you were in line, and if you had actually been standing in line, I wouldn't have taken cuts in front of you. I admit I was a bit of a dick to you and I'm sorry for that part. Nobody should have anyone be a dick to them, especially at 7:15am.

The upside is that she and I both voted.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Just Keep Saying "Hey"

A few years ago I was at Embarcadero Station waiting for my train. It was mid-day. There weren't very many people on the platform. There was this guy walking around; saggy pants, ribbed tank top, super stoney, baseball cap with shiny sticker on the brim, shoulder-length dreadlocks. He smelled like Noxema. He sidled up to me and said "Hey." I said "Hey" back. He said "Do you like rap music?" I said "It's OK." He said "Do you want to go out?" I said "No." He shrugged and walked away. A moment later I saw him walk over to another woman on the platform and say "Hey." I chuckled. Just as the my train was pulling away, I saw him approach another woman. "Hey." I chuckled again.Then I thought y'know, that approach is going to work on someone someday,  eventually. There's a girl out there for him and he just has to keep saying "Hey."

I recently found myself without a job. The last time I was jobless I endured 2 years of temp jobs, unemployment checks and food stamps. Except for the food stamps (which saved my life, by the way) it sucked ass. By the end of the two years I had the worst worst worst job hunting fatigue.

Image result for job hunting cartoon

I hate job hunting. I really really do. Losing my job this time around, I was filled with dread. Ugh, I have to start job hunting again. You have to be "on" all the time. You have to answer every single phone call, even when you don't recognize the number. You have to wear make up. You have to wear a suit. You can't swear. You have to check your email constantly. You have to answer the same questions over and over and over again. You have to be on your best "meeting the in-laws" behavior all the time. You have to take skills assessments for the programs you told them you know how to do. You have to tune, and re-tune your resume to fit the job description. You have to fill out tiny bubbles in the forms from EDD; did you look for work, did you turn down any work, were you too sick to work, did you get paid anything? Looking for a job full time is like the worst job ever.

But you know what? I do it. I do it because I need a job. I do it because I have a family to feed. I do it because I have bills to pay. I do it, because that's what you have to do when you look for a job. I do it because finding the right job and the right fit is crucial to being successful in your job and being happy in your life. You just have to keep at it. The right fit and the right job is there. You just have to keep at it.

You just have to keep saying "Hey."

And so get this:  It turns out I said "Hey" just the right amount of times. I start a new job on Monday. Yay me! I'm pretty happy about it. I knew from the initial phone call that I would like this place. I'm glad they said "Hey" back.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Pua Style!

I try my hardest to be the kind of mom who lets my kids wear what they want, so long as it's appropriate to the occasion (example, no flip-flops when they have to endure brunch at the Olympic Club). My opinion creeps in once in a while, but want them to be able to express themselves and present themselves in a way that makes them feel strong and confident.

Enter Pua.

I love her style. I love her attitude. I love her.

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Birthday Party - A Dream in Base 13

DNA and Me in 1998. I'm pretty sure I was pregnant with my oldest here, but I didn't know it yet.
But I did have stitches in my hand (not shown) from butchering a giant salmon.

My favorite author is Douglas Adams. I first discovered Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy at the El Dorado Libary in Long Beach. It sounded interesting. I read it. I loved it. It was a fun outer-space SciFi story with quirky characters and really great one-liners. I've read all 5 books in the trilogy. (I've read, but don't count And Another Thing, the 6th book in the trilogy, however. It wasn't written by DNA and I felt that Eoin Colfer, the author, was trying too hard). However, if I am being honest, more than H2G2, I liked the Dirk Gently series.

More still than H2G2 and Dirk Gently being a great reads, Douglas Adams helped me on my path of being comfortable with and embrace my weird; from him, I learned to accept myself. It was sort of my nerdy version of "it gets better."

Douglas Adams died in 2001. It made me sad.

Last night I had a dream about him. I woke up happy.

In my dream, Douglas Adams was still alive and he had a daughter around the same age as my youngest child.
I went to a birthday party at Douglas Adams' house. The inside of the house was white and had lots of flowy white fabric acting as walls creating rooms in the house's open floor plan. The back wall of the house was a giant window / sliding glass door that opened up to a big backyard with rolling green hills. As soon as we entered, my kids took off and went to the backyard to play. I looked around the room to find some interesting parents to speak with. All the parents were sitting still. Nobody was talking. They all looked really uncomfortable. Sitting in the middle of a long Kings Table was a dad from my oldest kid's class. He had an ax through his head; not a real ax, a fun one. Think of Steve Martin with the arrow in his head, that kind of ax. He looked like he wanted to be really whimsical and fun but ended up regretting his decision.

I walked around the living area a bit, noticed a great buffet table filled with delicious food. People were standing around it, but nobody was eating. I decided that going outside where all the action was would be more enjoyable. I went outside. The kids were having a super fun blast. There we life-size creatures characters from The NeverEnding Story milling about, a giant waterslide-dunktank-archery ride, lots of streamers, a maypole. 

While watching my kids play and run around off in the distance, the dad of my oldest kid with the ax in his head approached me. I asked him where DNA was. He said he spoke with him earlier but that he hated parties and was most likely hiding from all the hubbub as much as he could.


Welcome now my friends to the show that never ends

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Nice Pictures - Where'd you steal them from?

Some of the pictures in my blog were taken by a photographer called Julie Michele. Some of the pictures were either taken by me or someone I know. Some of the pictures were ripped right from the internet, mostly from google image searches from photographers to whom I may or may not give credit.

Rest assured I make no money from any of it.