Tuesday morning. I sit in my proper black sweater dress and stare out the window. The window is glazed in such a way as to make it look old, and though I can clearly see sun on the trees through the glass, it looks as though rain is running down the panes. The red brick is far too red, far too new to be representational of a Northeastern church. The Hollywood version, really.
Years ago, during this season, I would look up from the backlot as I walked from this office to that office or just to get out of my own office, and I would see the sun glittering off headstones on the gently rolling hills here. It was oddly pretty, and intensely incongruous. But extremely memorable.
Tuesday was such a day: warm, even by the standards of December in California, and the light scattered and broke all around us, glittering in that odd way it does sometimes during the autumn, when everything is clear and clean. I was clear and calm, too, except for the one moment when the spouse's uncle tried to cajole me into having my photo taken, and I'd barked at him, really laid into him for behaving so badly as he always does. My patience stretched to point of the breaking, my strength in the face of adversity deserted me.
My brain went elsewhere and I thought of other things as the service droned on. I thought about his likely response to the New Age-y minister who meant well, clearly, but would not have been his style. He would have tried to sound...positive, but his words would have carried a faint condemnation.
"This is why I will never have a funeral," the daughter told me later, clearly shaken. I understand the point, and it was all nicely put together, but horrific just the same.
At the close of the proceedings, the director announced that committal would be private, and that was the cue for the audience to head on to the reception, while the family went to the crypt. We drove, and I was grateful that everything was being done on the grounds of the cemetery. I remember the procession from the church to Arlington with my grandmother, and how it was faintly embarrassing that the police held up traffic on the Beltway so that the funeral procession had priority.
As we followed the casket to it final resting place, my mother-in-law clutched my hand like a child, holding it so tightly. I guided her carefully, and warned her not to catch her shoe in the grooves of the pavement. We repeated again and again what a beautiful day it was. I passed out Kleenex from the enormous handful I'd stashed in my handbag before leaving the house.
En route to the reception, I told the spouse that one of his colleagues, a long, long time friend of ours, had shown up and I'd given him directions to the reception at the country club, encouraging him to attend the reception. The spouse sighed with relief that someone was there for him, someone he could talk to without being always on guard.
As a family--and by that, I mean my own little immediate family--we are quite private. We don't care for pomp and circumstance, or show. I steeled myself for the onslaught of people; at the service, I'd already seen many people I'd not seen in years, accepted sympathies, performed the rituals. Funerals are not so different from weddings, and as hard as I tried to merge into the background, I knew was a representative and had to act accordingly.
As soon as I set foot inside, I signaled a waiter and requested a stiff Bloody Mary. Liquid courage, a dose of steel for my spine. And I accepted the kisses and hugs, said the correct words, did the necessary duties on behalf of our lost family member.
For now, my grief takes the form of small services, of ensuring that those around me have what they need to move forward. As I do, I will eventually take stock and say goodbye in my own heart, though even now his loss hits me from every corner, in small memories and funny stories.
It's possible that a life can be quantified by the void it leaves when it ends, in much the way a wave leaves a void as it recedes into the ocean.
For reasons we never understood, when my grandmother died, my aunt ordered at least a dozen absolutely hideous funeral arrangements to be ranged around her casket. Gladioli in chartreuse and a hideous orange and lime green (I may be making that last one up in my head, but that's what I remember). Arrangements that fanned out like the tail of some gruesome bird.
I hate gladioli.
For a stunned moment, whilst on the phone this morning, I thought, I should order flowers, and just as suddenly, shied away from the thought.
Not my job.
But I had a job today, and that job was telling people. First, I had to the tell the spouse, and that moment was beyond awful. And then I had to tell my children, and that moment was worse. It was my job to answer the phone. To help with writing notes. To handle practicalities and offer gentle reminders.
The spouse recognizes that I, too, am grieving. But I have the capacity to put that aside for the most part and do triage. Periodically, I probe the pain gingerly, like a sore tooth, but quickly shy away as the moment of impact approaches, as I come close to acknowledging that someone is gone from our lives.
Time enough, later, for that.
Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40. For CHS, 1928-2014. I wish I'd had a better photo.
Somewhere in Santa Ana
Santa Ana, California
14 November 2014
We did something different for the daughter's senior portrait and hired a photographer to do a session with her. She wanted professional headshots in addition to her senior portrait and for a kid who really doesn't ask for much, it seemed like a nice thing.
A makeup artist came in and did her hair and make up. Then, because we are a bunch who spend a lot of time in the great out of doors, the photographer decided that we would head outside for the shoot. The daughter enjoyed the experience more than she thought, and the spouse and I trailed along, enjoying a place we'd never seen before. I spent a lot of the time kicking myself for not bringing my good camera.
The photographer showed us some of the shots she'd gotten, and the daughter looked gorgeous. She is, of course, though she has no clue. Which is fine.
She is stressing over classes and college applications. Two applications in and 5 to go.
But she got her first acceptance today, which is a huge relief to her.
It wasn't a runaway train--that would be my life--but we were standing too damn close to it.
The daughter had to film an introductory video for one of her college applications and we spent that day filming trains, riding trains, and watching trains. Her video starts with a freight engine bearing down on the viewer.
Santa Ana, California
7 October 2014 or thereabouts
Time has assumed a certain fluidity. It's tough to track, squirms away from my grasp like a fish in a river.
A contractor was here to give me an estimate this week.
"We'll honor that price through the end of the month," he told me, a look of satisfaction on his face.
I squinted at him for a moment, trying to remember what month he might be speaking of.
The spouse was out of town most of the week, so I had the morning and evening commute, never good. Seconds ticked off until the next task to be accomplished, seconds that became minutes, minutes turned to hours and another day.
Death like birth has a time of its own. We wait.
He sleeps alot, eats little. I saw him turning inward weeks ago, caught those first signs of internal retreat, knew what I was seeing.
And my inclination was still to fight. For his sake.
But increasingly, I am seeing the futility of the battle. I am coming to acceptance, trying to be the fish instead of the grasping hands, looking for ways to comfort rather than control, seeking the flow.
I am not one to give up. I solve problems. It is what people hire me to do. Fix things. And I'm so good at it.
It is when I confront the unfixable that I am no good at all.
I am no stranger to death. Its workings aren't unknown to me. I've seen the process and the end result. I understand time frames and probability. I know, only too well, what a terminal diagnosis is.
And yet, yesterday, I was told that we are there. Two to eight weeks.
And yet, my brain continues on in some sort of denial. I know he's dying. I knew he was dying 11 months ago. I told my children to expect that last year was likely the last time we'd spend the holidays together. But, I hear two to eight weeks, and I try to process that idea. It's like he's leaving on a trip, I tell myself, but he's never coming back.
Unreasonably, I envision him in his prime, standing in the doorway of airplane, waving goodbye.
I can't explain why the concept puzzles me. I test the hypothesis but it makes no rational sense.
He is not helping the process, of course. Yesterday, I took freshly made meatloaf and mashed potatoes, which he picked at. I knew he would--he has no appetite--so was unoffended. I was grateful that he'd made the effort. He made the effort, too, to joke with us, telling us that his soft drink was too cold and he'd have to "sneak up on it."
"Don't let it see you're coming," I warned with a smile.
"You are so right," he responded with gently mocking gravity.
At the end of the afternoon, he thanked me for making a meal, and pressed my hands to his face. He told us that he appreciated our help and with our help, he was going to get better.
Going. To. Get. Better.
At first I was stunned by what seemed blatant denial of the situation. He is so thin and his skin is parchment-colored, almost waxy. His hands were like ice. My brain--oh my treacherous brain--parsed his words. "Better" meaning he would be dead and in a better place?
Was he actually, in his head, taking the parental role to its ultimate place and trying to reassure us?
I have no answers.
And as someone who generally has a game plan, this time, I don't even know what to do.
Blanton Art Museum
20 September 2014
Consider a plane. A skeleton covered in butterflies. Flight. Change. Transition.
I dreamed of my childhood home last night, and my aunts and mother were there, like the three witches from The Scottish Play.
Double double, toil and trouble.
One of those aunts is dead, has been for many years, and it was to her that I was speaking in the dream. She was preoccupied, but there was a frantic energy to her, not unlike when she was alive.
I woke feeling deeply lonely and terribly sad.
Over the weekend, texts. Entreaties. I had to take calls and answer questions while spending time with my daughter and my dearest D. I felt so rude, but I understood this person's despair and frustration.
Talk to her...
I am carrying a secret, one I've shared with few people. It is more than a relative with terminal cancer. It is that his wife needs to be evaluated for dementia and depression. I don't want to say those words aloud and saying them here makes me feel traitorous, as though I've overstepped a boundary. It's not my job, reason says, but my heart knows that it will be my fate.
Tonight, my mind wandered down a forgotten path. Crystal and china, and choosing patterns for my wedding. "Kosta Boda," I heard her say in the accent she's never been able to shed, but her voice is caressing, the thought of such luxury making her happy.
It is in that moment that I feel the weight of loss, the stab of recognition of what none of us will ever have again.
(A joyous state, the state of moving forward. Cowardice, the state of running from.)
(Inevitable. Inviolable. Nothing stays the same, for better or worse.)
(A boulder weathers until it becomes the sand on the ocean floor. A tree dissolves into the hummus of the forest. Our bodies are born and age until they are carefully put away under a blanket of earth.)
The daughter wanted to go look at UT Austin, and so I made that happen.
Were it so easy.
We were supposed to leave Thursday afternoon. I'd worked it all out: the daughter was out of school early on Thursday and didn't have classes on Friday. So I found a flight out late in the afternoon, picked her up from school, raced home and my neighbor R. dropped us off at the airport.
All seemed to be well. Until 5 minutes before our flight was to board. And we were told that the Phoenix airport had been closed because a murder suspect was running loose inside.
(It actually turned out to be slightly less dramatic. Only the terminal where we were supposed to land was closed and it was robbery, shooty sorts of suspects running loose...in the parking lot apparently. I've never seen the same story reported twice, so I'm still not 100% sure what was going on in Phoenix that afternoon.)
Half an hour later, our flight was cancelled. And there was no way out that night.
The daughter and I caught a cab back home and I started working the phones and the computer. Finally, I unpicked all my arrangements and was able to find a 6:25am flight to Austin from LAX on Friday morning that would get us to UT in time for the daughter's tour (yup, this is one of the places that requires reservations for tours).
Neither of us could sleep at that point, so we watched Project Runway even though we had to be up at 3 am for a 4 am shuttle to LAX.
And 3 am came really early. Especially since I couldn't sleep anyway.
All Friday, I felt like I was on some surreal non-plane of existence. Or surreal plane of non-existence. Take your pick.
(The daughter liked UT overall. Texas, on the other hand...)
After the tour and our first meal in approaching 36 hours, the daughter and I wandered back to our hotel where we collapsed into damp and exhausted heaps. We were supposed to meet D. in the evening, but after following the whole sorry story by text and email, D. said: chill out; we've got Saturday. And the daughter and I promptly slept for about 10 hours.
(I'm also not saying much about the preceding week in which a student at the son's university died of bacterial meningitis, our air conditioning died an expensive death during an epic heatwave, and a family member was temporarily hospitalized. But it all took a toll.)
Next morning, bathed and breakfasted, we met up with D.
Who I hadn't seen in over a year. Which is way too long.
So there was an art museum. Internet cat videos as art installation. A true Texas pool hall. Shopping in wonderfully weird stores. Talking and laughing. And more laughing. (And taking pictures of that sculpture. I must have taken 40, all at different angles. It was the glowing eyes that did me in.)
Yesterday, when we were safely home, I got a text from D.:
"Oh, man, did I ever need that weekend. I feel saner now that I have some of my crazy back."
And as I told her, truer words were never spoken.
Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D7000. *Paraphrasing D. Because DAMN.
It is so easy to get lost in the toxic morass of bad. That's pretty much where I was all summer.
(I know. Technically, it's still summer, but Labor Day is over and finally, everyone is back in school. So really, Not Summer. And just as well.)
There was lots of bad. All kinds of bad. Bad in the world, bad in the state, bad here at home. Things sort of culminated with the death of a longtime friend and neighbor about 10 days ago. He'd been ill for years, but he had a knack for bouncing back every time. The hot firefighters would show up, cart him off and then he'd be home, more cheerful than ever. So when the hot firefighters showed up and carted him away, I didn't expect him to come home and die. But I should have seen the signs. And I feel incredibly awful that I didn't.
When their grandfather took ill, I told the kids: take this time. There is no going back and once he's gone, it's done.
Would that I'd taken my own advice, or at least been a bit more aware of what was going on.
When a student at the daughter's school died last week, she and I had a long talk about life, death, the universe and everything. And we cried. A lot.
There's more. Much more. But some of the stories aren't mine to tell, no matter that they add to the spiritual quicksand that tugs insistently at my ankles. I know that I am fortunate in that I have the resources, internal and external, to eventually pull myself free. Not everyone does.
And now this is where I pick up myself up, dust myself off and move forward.
Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. The worst part was that it didn't look like I could move on until I'd put all that down, little as I wanted to share.
The daughter's school is in the midst of massive construction. So is everyone else in the area. Predictably, it's messed up everything. Probably, this will all shake itself out in a week or so, but for now, chaos.
And it's making me very grumpy.
Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. And people are making me grumpy, too.
The daughter started her senior year of high school today. On the one hand, my baby started her senior year of high school today. On the other hand, my baby started her senior year of high school today!
And of course, I looked at the school supplies in the stores with more than a little sadness.
They grow up so fast.
Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. Which I still haven't gotten rid of. Because who has the time?
The last time I saw the Angels play the Orioles, I was in Baltimore.
Which really has nothing to do with anything, other than the fact that I went to a baseball game. Two, actually.
When the kids were little, I had three ready answers for their requests: yes, no, maybe.
One day, when she was...five-ish, six-ish...the daughter announced, "You really mean 'no.'"
I queried as to her meaning.
"When you say 'maybe' you just mean 'no.'"
I told her that wasn't true, that they'd posed a request that wasn't an instant yes or no, and I had to think through the pros and cons of what they wanted. That perhaps it was a stalling tactic, that I probably wanted to say 'no,' but there might be a good reason to say 'yes.' So, 'maybe' until I'd made a judgment.
Her first video camera was a 'maybe.' And again, she told me I really meant 'no.' But I surprised her by saying 'yes.'
Look where we are. The kid made a film this past year that won her Best Director and Best Picture awards.
Then, there was the Memphis thing. (After which was the rhinovirus thing. Which really has nothing to do with anything, other than the fact that it kicked my butt for a good two weeks.)
And now, I'm writing a short story. A short story that is becoming a script as fast as I can write it. And is slated to become a film.
Which, in fact, means...maybe.
Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. Which I still haven't gotten rid of. Because who has the time? Once I finish the ghost story, I'm supposed to write a horror story.
(The quote is courtesy of a lovely person we met on this trip. We'd been kayaking in a fjord, a definite misadventure that ended well and made our group laugh. Today's misadventure did not end well, but I learned from it.)
The daughter was a part of the junior honor guard for graduation. This entailed no fewer than 4 trips to and from the venue today. I think we spent a total of 3 hours on the road to-ing and fro-ing.
Some 3,000 souls were in attendance tonight, and we came up with a plan to avoid the inevitable mayhem in the parking lots when the ceremony ended. At a bit before 8 pm, I was stationed at my lamp post, and I texted the daughter to say so.
"We are running really late," she responded.
The warm day was rapidly giving way to a chilly sunset, and a stiff breeze set up while I was standing there. I watched the moon rise in the east. Finally, I heard an almighty scream.
Kids and parents erupted from the doors, and more screaming ensued. Five minutes or so passed and the daughter came running up to me. We made haste for the car, which was parked about a block away.
"Just a year," sang out the daughter, cheerful and bubbly. "And that will be me."
I dream about this building and the one next to it. Like much of my early childhood, the dreams are mythic, sometimes portentous, and nothing is ever exactly as it should be.
As I wrote last August, I had a dream a year ago that I was looking out at a road, crying with the relief of knowing I only had one more year of driving the daughter to and from school. Then I woke up and almost did cry with the realization that it was in fact two years.
And today, finally, I can say that I have only one more year of driving the daughter to and from school. The knowledge barely makes a dent in my consciousness. So much happened this year. So much happened in the last month (including putting on a dinner for 200). So much yet to happen in the next year.
I'm far, far too tired to think about it, let alone cry about it.
Tech stuff: Taken with my soon-to-be-replaced iPhone4.
It was off to Seminar Day today. The spouse, the son and daughter and I picked up Grandad and headed down to Pasadena for donuts and science.
It was a stab at normalcy. We've gone together to Seminar Day for more than 25 years, first just the spouse and I, then with the son in tow when he turned 9, and finally the daughter joined in.
We know about how those projections in time work. Six months to a year. Three good months. Whatever. Doctors really don't know anything. I did the math 6 months ago when we learned the news. Fifteen months was average. Still, life and death happen in their own time. More or less.
Make it count.
I'd gotten the text from my brother-in-law just after my plane touched down at National two weeks ago. Additional metastasis. It wasn't a surprise at all, but it was a disappointment. And I was furious. I knew when I saw the pathology report in November. But in this case, I operate from a position of powerlessness.
Today, what mattered was that Grandad wanted to go to Seminar Day. And so we did.
He ate a donut. He went to a lecture about DNA. We stopped into the seismo lab. Then we went home.
Six months to a year. Three good months. Whatever. He is a fighter, and he will stay as long as he is able. But today was probably the last time we will eat donuts under the jacarandas and wisteria together.
Barbara Kruger: Belief+Doubt
6 May 2014
I am a writer. Naturally, words are art.
I spent last week in the District. It is that glorious time of year when the son finishes his spring semester and needs help packing up during finals, with the added fillip that this year he is planning to stick around for summer session.
Except for the next three weeks when he's going to be in California.
I didn't think he'd need my help this go round, as he did last year, but when I asked, he immediately requested that I come out to help him with packing and sorting. I asked about timing, and he told me to be out on Monday. Of course, this turned out to be about 3 days too long.
As it was, both the spouse and the daughter had small commissions for me, which were to do some research at the National Archives because they both needed some media that we knew was available there.
California to the other coast is all-day travel. I left Monday morning and arrived at National near 9 pm.
(D., I waved at you as I flew by, quietly cursing the Rangers for beating the Angels 14-3 the night before, at home. Not that Arte doesn't deserve it.)
Tuesday morning, I breakfasted early with the son, and then I set out for the Mall.
(No, not a mall. The Mall.)
It was a pretty day after the previous night's torrential rain storm, so I thought that I'd walk down to Foggy Bottom (a bit more than a mile from Georgetown), pick up the Blue Line and go from there. Of course, it turned out that the Foggy Bottom Metro station had been very well hidden, so it took me several extra minutes to find it.
Eventually, I reemerged at L'Enfant Plaza, across the street from the Archives.
We will draw a discreet veil over the doings at the Archives. Suffice to say that it became wildly apparent that the stress under which we've all labored for the last several months has taken a toll, and I really need to slow down and think about what I'm doing rather than REACT REACT REACT. Also it turned out that the what I needed to look at happens to be in a different Archives building in Maryland, and while I could have gotten there via a shuttle, it was late in the day at that point, and I was unlikely to accomplish much before closing time.
Also, I needed to take a breath.
I walked from Archives to the Mall, and found some lunch at the National Gallery's café. I read over my paperwork from Archives, decided to shelve that project for the day, and proceeded to the Hirshhorn.
I love the Hirshhorn. For many years, it and American History have vied for the title of "my favorite museum" (American History has fallen to second place because I hate the remodel), and this is odd only because I don't have a tremendous appreciation for Art.
(And you can thank the preeminent art historian who taught my freshman art seminar for that. She was ghastly. The kindly man who taught studio art the next semester actually did teach me something.)
But I love the Hirshhorn. Every time I go there--and I've been visiting it since I was 17--something there speaks to me on a visceral level.
This time it was Damage Control, an exhibition that will be closing May 26.
As I walked through the galleries, over and over, some facet of the show struck a nerve. Elegant photos of car wrecks, a candy-colored assortment of glass grenades, video of the 1994 riot in Vancouver: it all struck home.
I spend my middle-school years in a city ringed by Titan missiles, waiting to be hit by a Soviet salvo of the same. I bore witness to the 1992 Los Angeles riot. The Vietnam War took on a life of its own in our childhood games.
And what I saw, over and over, was artists trying to control that which is uncontrollable. Disturbing and powerful (and occasionally, a bit funny. I remember when that hapless tourist tripped over his shoe lace and destroyed 3 irreplaceable vases).
Somewhat later, as I walked back toward Georgetown, I passed the White House, as one does, and police motorcycles were whipping around, stopping traffic for a motorcade. As I walked up 17th, hoping to flag a cab, I heard more sirens and chaos behind me. Only later did I learn that a civilian vehicle managed to successfully follow the motorcade into the closed off area surrounding the White House.
No damage. The police arrested the driver and had him in control pretty quickly. The story is he got lost.
Historic Jamestown (not the other one)
3 April 2014
So Jamestown was *cough* sort of boring. I feel rather traitorous saying that, given how much all of us enjoy history, but the three or so hours we spent touring ruins and the bazillion bits of things that have been dug up just... Well, the muskrat was interesting and so were the snapping turtles. I don't know. Sometimes I get a sense of history just standing at a place like this (think Ypres), but there was something so sterile about this area. But also very peaceful.
(I know. Skeletons. Skeletons don't offend or frighten me. I prefer that they be treated respectfully as the former repositories of fellow beings, as they were here, but I think the stories some of them have to tell are important. And yes, the concept of cannibalism is very disturbing, but it wasn't treated too salaciously here, though the cynical side of me suspects they made the young woman look as pretty and innocent as possible to underscore the nastiness of the whole idea.)
(Maybe Pocahontas spoiled it all for me.)
I don't remember when we got back from this trip. Early April.
(Of course, I turn around and go back in a couple of weeks.)
It's been run, run, run.
Actually, it's been that way pretty much forever.
The daughter wrote a script. Her classmates and teacher loved it. The classmates fought over who would get to direct it. Last weekend, they spent two nights here filming scenes. It was semi-organized chaos, in part because they spent the days filming out in the wilderness. They were tired. They were sunburned. They were jubilant.
The dailies look amazing. This could be a phenomenal student project.
(If you know where I am on Facebook, you can check out the one-sheet they've done.)
This weekend, the daughter is directing the filming of the other script written for the class. I try to stay far, far away from all this stuff (except when I end up holding the boom mike for hours), which means I've been cast as a teacher.
(Only three lines. Thank god it's only three lines).
Cherry blossoms have their own time frame, and the District has had a rather brutal winter (and spring. We got snowed on last Sunday. One thing you can say about spring in D.C.: you never know what you're going to get). My grandmother died in late March years ago, and when we buried her at Arlington, the cherry blossoms were already finished. It had been a warm winter. This year, they were only getting started at the end of this last week.
I rarely do the tourist thing when I'm in Washington. It never occurs to me with the exception of seeing an exhibition that interests me at one of the museums. But the spouse and daughter have spent far less time there, so I try to accommodate the odd amusement when they are along. This year, I booked a cherry blossom cruise.
California people associate the wind with warm. My kids grew up with Santa Anas. The cold, cutting wind off the Potomac just doesn't register, despite me saying repeatedly, "Take a coat." They decided to sit with me on the open deck, even though I told them, "You will probably want to stay below."
So the daughter huddled against me while I tried to take photos. Not that there was much to take photos of, just the faintest frosting of white and pink on the trees. Later in the afternoon, the daughter and I made the hike from Georgetown to the Tidal Basin, where a few trees were giving it their best shot.
It's supposed to rain this week. Those poor flowers do not have a chance.
Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D7000. Yes, the camera finally made it out of the box! I did say March, didn't I? And read the manual? No. Boy, does it show.
I visited this place when I was 14, and on Tuesday, walked unerringly back to this spot, a place that has haunted me since I was there all those years ago. That I remembered the precise location and how I arrived there astonished me.
The county and every city for miles has opted to tear up all the roads (again. This is an ongoing theme in my life). Helpfully, a water main near the daughter's school ruptured last night, and the result was traffic backed up for miles. No one saw fit to tell us about this until 3:30 this afternoon, at which point, I was already sitting in the for miles back up.
The spouse and daughter had already endured the 45 minute version early this morning.
In the morning, the drive is enlivened by every child for miles heading off to school, and we see 100 or so wandering up the road, singly and in packs. This morning, one small girl took advantage of a captive audience and spent her walk up the thoroughfare waving to all the cars. Naturally, she was largely ignored. But the daughter, being the daughter, waved cheerfully back to the small girl, which caused the girl to stop in her tracks.
"Oh!" she cried, looking at the daughter. "You're pretty!"
And that pretty much made the daughter's day, despite nearly being late for school.
The world needs more small girls who wave at cars, and older girls who wave back at them.
First of all, yes, the out-of-focus iPhone apparently is a function of helpful Apple's iOS7. I knew there was a reason why it took me months to downgrade update my phone. I haven't even checked my iPad. It's just too depressing.
(No, I'm not going to 7.1 anytime soon. And I'm so annoyed, I'll likely just get an Android for my next phone.)
Second, back when I was in college, we spent all of our time trying to throw people with food and drinks out of the library. Okay, my alma mater did have one of those disgusting 70s coffee machines in the basement--you know, the giant things that drop a cup and then squirt some simulacrum of coffee into it, if it doesn't miss altogether--and I sadly drank more of that stuff than you can shake a stick at (where did that turn of phrase come from? ). But still. Today, I sat in a Starbucks in a library waiting for the daughter to finish the research she was doing for a project.
Not unwelcome under the circumstances. But very strange.
Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. Yes, thank you, I know I have a new camera I haven't even used yet. But I got the iPhone in part so I wouldn't have to carry a point and shoot. So much for that.
On the drive home tonight, the son asked that we stop at our alma mater. So we drove down into Los Angeles, parked and commenced a brief trip down memory lane.
The spouse and I didn't really know each other well when we were in college, but we bumped into one another because of mutual friends. He is older than I am, so graduated before me, and I lived off campus most of my academic career, so was less involved in campus life and happily, didn't ever visit the dining hall after freshman year. Nonetheless, we met again a few years after I'd graduated, and eventually, we married in the campus chapel.
I worked in the library, and the spouse spent most of his college life in the building that housed the science labs, but for us both, every corner of campus carries a remembrance of things past. We peeked in windows and laughed about shows we'd seen in the college theater. Reminisced about seeing Patrick Stewart in the audience when we went to see a Gilbert & Sullivan production in the outdoor amphitheater. I pointed out the building where I was got stuck in an elevator, and we went to the place where I fell down a flight of stairs. The stairs are gone now, weirdly, erased from the hillside, though they are marked indelibly on my spine.
We took the kids past various residence halls in which we'd resided, and told stories. And we laughed.
For the most part, I enjoyed my college years. They weren't easy by any stretch. I came from a poor family, so I worked many hours while taking a full class load, which didn't particularly bother me. On the contrary, I was really proud of what I accomplished. But when college was done, I was ready to move on.
Even while we walked around campus, and I remembered the moments when I was flooded with that curious sense of "You Are Here," I felt a strange disconnect and the certainty that I really had moved on, decades ago. It's a recognizable piece of my past, a place that motivated me tremendously, but it is, quite firmly, in the past.
It flooded about two minutes into this downpour. The rain was coming down so hard, harder than I've seen in years.
I was happy.
Granted, we could have used a slightly less violent version of this (seriously, I emptied four inches of water out of one of my garbage cans about an hour later), and I'm sure the people in the burn areas would have been content with four inches over the course of four days.
This isn't without precedent. When we were living in La Canada in the mid-1990s, we essentially got an entire season's worth of rain in four days one lovely March. That won't happen with this storm system, but I certainly hope we get a few more storms as spring approaches.
Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. Seasonal rainfall is about 12 inches--10 on the low end of the spectrum and 15 on the higher end, and every few years, we get about 45 inches. No really, that's an actual figure. I'm sure it doesn't sound like much in some places, but here in the desert, that's a lot.
Santa Ana, California
15 February 2014
The daughter belongs to a Spanish language honor society (as did, rather bizarrely, I in high school). Of the various annual requirements of the chapter, she must attend two field trips annually that in some way reflect the culture.
So, off they went to Olvera Street in Los Angeles. It was going to be an adventure. First, Olvera Street! Second, they were taking the train.
I said I would go. I did not offer to chaperone. But no sooner had I set foot on the sidewalk in front of the station than I was required to start buying tickets for minors. Amtrak, as it turns out will not sell tickets to those under the age of 18.
(I said I would go because Olvera Street has some stalls with very good taquitos. The spouse and his family have been dragging me off to get taquitos for decades. Totally worth it. The buying tickets for minors? Agh.)
Anyway, the whole thing wasn't very well organized, though I will say that the girl who tried to organize it tried very hard. Given that she's in high school, hats off to her, truly. It just would have helped if an adult had done a reality check on the whole thing because there was actually an easier way to go about it all. So it goes, live and learn, etc.
The trip up was nice, and our conductor was very sweet. Obviously used to the whole thing because he didn't bat an eyelash when I pointed out the five people on my ticket.
And let's face it, it beats hell out of trying to drive up there. More to the point, it beats hell out of trying to park up there.
Olvera Street was Olvera Street. The leather goods have a very particular smell that hearken back to childhood trips to Nogales. I don't know how the stuff can smell exactly the same 40 years later but it does. Even the little tooled leather purses look exactly the same with their blue and red flowers, the same ones I wanted so badly as a kid. Velvet sombreros. Seriously evil marionettes.
(My brother and I did have a pair of those. I actually got quite good at wielding the rolling pin mine was holding.)
Taquitos, of course, and on to the candy kiosk. The daughter and spouse nibbled jamoncillo while I searched out tamarind balls.
"Sweet or spicy?" the vendor asked me when I found them.
"Spicy!" I replied.
"Ooooh," she chortled. "Spicy lady!"
We visited a gallery, museums and artwork. Watched the dancers; listened to a musician.
The daughter bought an accordion. Allegedly because I will not buy her a drum kit.
(When, I ask, would she have time to learn how to play it?)
But I did buy her a little ring with a devil on it. She's worn it every day.
Hollywood, California (and then some)
11 February 2014
Yesterday, I ended up going to Hollywood, which when all was said and done, was good and bad.
Sadly, the media was out in force on Hollywood Boulevard, covering the death of Shirley Temple Black. A memorial wreath stood on the corner of Hollywood and Vine.
I hiked up into the hills a bit. The air wasn't clear, but it cleared my head.
Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. Of course, I ended the day with an epic migraine, probably a result of the hiking. I really don't understand why it is that my body must take such exception to my desire to stay fit.
I suppose complaining about the dry weather wasn't a bad thing. We got a little (very little) rain this afternoon, and as I waited for the daughter, the next front was moving in. By the time she arrived at the car, clouds covered the sky.
Last night, I had to start up the daughter's old Windows 7 laptop so that she could run a simulation for her AP Bio class. I won't let Java run on any of my computers, so I had to install that, too.
It was fairly late by the time she'd finished her other homework, and I was babysitting the laptop and reading the newspaper. There was a story about George Clooney, with the highly amusing note that you could buy what was essentially a raffle ticket (benefitting a charity) for $10 and spend an evening (sort of) with Mr. Clooney. And I laughed and read it to the daughter because we have a long-standing joke about George revolving around the central conceit that when the daughter receives her first Academy Award nomination, I get to sit next to him at the show.
(We have MANY long-standing jokes about George, actually, and don't worry, they are all nice.)
We are fond of Mr. Clooney around here, and not for the reason you might think. Yes, he is a handsome man, suave and debonair and all that good stuff, but more importantly, he is interesting. And he makes interesting choices in the projects he pursues. And he works with interesting people. That interests me. So the daughter and I were discussing all the things we might ask him.
(And anyway, he bears a little too close a resemblance to one of my brothers-in-law, so crushing on Clooney would just be weird. Also, I only have one celebrity crush, and I gave my heart away on that one decades ago, and I'm nothing if not faithful, even in fantasy.)
While we both acknowledge that it would never happen (though in my life weirder things have), the daughter said, "Wouldn't it just be crazy?'
And it certainly would.
Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. So maybe next academic year, I will do nothing but publish photos from where I'm sitting on the street in Santa Ana, waiting. And the word you're searching for? LAZY. Okay, not really. Busy, very busy. Also, lazy.
Well, that's sort of tragically out of focus (damn phone camera. Damn operator error).
So probably this isn't the place to announce that I've entered my first photo competition in a really, really, really (like decades) long time.
No, it isn't.
We'll just concentrate on how wonderful it is that the light lasts longer in the afternoon these days.
Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. And no, I didn't not submit iPhone photos. And the last time I entered a photo contest, I actually won a ribbon. I do not expect to win anything this time. The act of entering was what counted.