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

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.

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.