Tuesday, October 30

Capital Punishment

The landlady appeared today with 2 grandchildren and 2 Mexicans she hires to do her odd jobs. One speaks no English, the other does pretty well. Mrs. Li speaks Chineseglish, so it makes for an interesting effort. Their communication is very physical with A LOT of gesturing and repeated orders at high volume followed by "O.K.?" at least a million times.

The nasty Ju-jubee trees were finally feeling a machete and chainsaw trim. After knocking on my window 4 separate times (face pressed against the glass peering in calling "Scene-deee!" demanding my attention to one thing after another), her final announcement was that we must cut down all the young trees growing in the yard.

Each of them had spontaneously sprung up over the past 2 years, along with about 8 nice flowering shrubs that - after a snail-paced start, were finally big and blossoming. I told her they were going to be beautiful shade trees...she objected loudly with her hands fluttering in front of my face: "No good! No good! They grow big and ruin wall! Wall fall down!" Facing north, I'm looking at a two-tone, bare, ancient block wall that already has so many gutted and precariously leaning sections it could pass for a temple ruin on Mars hill. Mrs. Li was highly motivated by my unusual exhibition of non-compliance.

"All trees gone! All that by wall!" "But in front of the the little trees are flowering shrubs. Why wouldn't you want those? Besides, all the citrus is dying..." my voice rising above the chainsaw on the dead grapefruit tree stump, "don't you want some shade trees back here?" She agreed we could keep the one by the storage shed, but the ax must fall on everything else.

After they left, I inspected the crime scene along the West wall. Hacked to bits and dragged away was every last inch of each of my carefully protected young trees, a beautiful purple flowering vine and - 2 of my biggest flowered shrubs. They were about 10 feet or more AWAY from any block wall. I had dug little berms around them to water them extra and had mowed the lawn around them quite obviously nurturing their welcome existence. Now in the center of my planting bed is only the exposed trunk. For all she knew I could have planted those shrubs! She didn't even ask.

I felt far more defeated than a grown woman should.

Sunday, October 28

Stolen Victory

The bulk pick-up by the city is coming next week. I am jazzed. This service is probably THE most amazing civic opportunity next to the right to vote! When we moved from the Earll house to this one almost 4 years ago, we out-did ourselves by heaping up the mega pile of all junk piles. It was as long as our property and half as tall as the house. It was a work of art.

Somehow just knowing the little Bobcat tractor with her crew of 2 is coming makes me crazy to dump out drawers, organize closets and sift aggressively through dusty, disgusting stuff we have totally forgotten about in the "outter darkness" of our garage. I am brave - able to sweep roof rat doodies like a man. I am ruthless - tossing aside pitiful arm loads of stuff I was saving for no good reason, and giving the boot to things that are O.K. but never used. I am generous - cramming about a dozen bags and boxes with donations to Deseret Industries; yardage of cute fabric I never did anything with, a collection of perfectly good lace trim, lots of clothes, shoes and books that someone else might enjoy. I am fearless - stuffing the trunk and back seat of the car with linens and games and pillows for the African Immigrants who were burned out of their apartment after arriving in America only a few months ago. I picked some of the nicest quality twin sheet sets that still had their matching pillow cases. I am optimistic - STILL waiting for the "Welcome to America" truck to come and pick up our furniture donations that are waiting on the front porch.

I am in shock - someone in the night took the entire jumbo-sized box full of CRAP. The next night they took the decapitated office chair. Neither item enjoyed a full 24 hours on display at the street. My plans for creating a great pile of rubbish are foiled! How dare these night-grabbers rob me of my glorious pile? Now that I have a blog I was going to take a picture of it, once it had attained its full grandeur and I had pronounced the work "done".

I am strategical: I will horde my garbage in the back yard until the last possible moment, and then rush it out to the street on the day our area begins pick up. I am the Queen of all trash I survey. None shall deny me my pile.

Wednesday, October 24

Heated Fears

My home territory is on fire...or at least everything surrounding it. I was born and raised in Northridge, in the San Fernando Valley (home to Burbank, the Encino of 'Encino Man' and Ventura Highyway in that song by America, and lesser known Tarzana from the old black and white Tarzan film days). My Aunt and Uncle live in Van Nuys, and numerous cousins live in Canoga Park and other valley areas, as well as hot-spot Simi Valley just up over the pass towards Magic Mountain.

My Uncle Pat lives in Ramona; up in the hills outside of San Diego. My grandma and Uncle Pat's first wife are buried there. It is - or was - a classically beautiful, idyllic, oak-studded Southern California jewel.

We didn't hear from my Uncle until his wife sent this message:

Subject: re: fires
Date: Tue, 23 Oct 2007
we are right in the middle of this situation. We may not have a home to go home to and we had no time to get anything out but a few clothes, laptop, dogs and 2 cars. They notified us that there was a complete, forced evacuation of the entire town of Ramona---36,000 people. They turned all lanes of all roads as downhill out-of-town lanes. I understand they are arresting anyone trying to get back in. We went to Heather's and then a fire broke out near there and the smoke was so thick that Pat couldn't breathe, so we left one car there and I managed to get to 78 before they closed it. Then I went a short ways over to the ocean and we got out of the car and sat for a while until Pat felt better. Then I got back on 5 and headed north. I went off the freewway at San Clemente and lucked out getting one of the last rooms available AND they let us take the dogs inside. That night a bunch of fires started not too far from here. This is like being in the twilight z one. T here's nowhere to go and no way to get there if there were. The wind gusts down here right now are enough to take your car off the road. We have no way to know when we can go back to Ramona to find out if our house has burnt tothe grouund along with all our belongings...everything...the truck, all our furniture, our cats...the 100 yr. old oak trees. Supposedly, this all started will a downed power lone...up here, they feel it might be arson. Oh well..."that which does not kill you will only make you stronger: and we are still alive...LaRaine

Wednesday, October 17

It's Only Money

It was a discussion on economics; prices are on the rise in the Valley of the Sun. The neighborhood woman being interviewed was explaining how she could tell the cost of living in Phoenix was escalating by her grocery bill. She said, "We have a fairly small family... and our monthly grocery expense is around $1,500-" gasping at the thought and before I could finish wondering what her definition of a 'small' family was, the cat was out of the bag. "My 15 year old son is an only child, but - (ahh, the golden addendum) he's on the swim team and can put away a lot of food! Being an only child, naturally he also has his friends from the team over all the time so it's like having a family of 5 to feed!" http://kjzz.org/news/arizona/archives/200710/hereandnow-costofliving

O.K., ignoring the obvious reference to only children being friend-magnets, I (being only a radio listener) was stunned to think somebody could shop at a "central Phoenix Basha's" and still have that kind of crazy grocery bill. How about Food City? Walmart? Is this woman a food snob? Or is she playing the doting little hostess for a bunch of athletic young swimboys that won't leave? (Now this could be a sensitive supposition, but really, you were thinking that too). Were they serving up prime rib twice a week or what?

What was in her pantry that costs so dang much? Some chips & salsa go a long way, even with non-swimmers. You could throw in a lot of twinkies and chocolate milk on a regular basis and still not begin to approach the $1,500.

This was a stupid story. Correction. This lady was an absurd representation of how average urbanites are coping with the rising cost of living. If I were the reporter, this interview would have concluded in the first 20 seconds by my burst of laughter. ~ Dude!

Wednesday, October 10

Collapsing Common Sense

It was terrible news at the Grand Canyon; just before noon yesterday a 4 year old girl fell four hundred feet to her death near Mather's Point. Witnesses said her mother was yelling for her not to move seconds before she slipped over the edge.

Now we hear park officials and media bites urgently reminding us to be careful around the canyon rim, and for parents to keep young children "in sight" or "within arm's reach". ~ Duh.

Accidents happen. I feel sorry for this family vacation come to a tragic end. But seriously, are you kidding? This incident reflects a generalized lack of parental common sense. Anyone who has ever approached the rim of the Grand Canyon can see it is big, it is deep, it is hazardous.

I cringe every time I see young mothers walking 10 feet in front or behind their toddler who is wandering absent-mindedly only inches from 45mph city traffic. People are not holding hands with children at street corners or other public places. One aspect of this problem appears to be cultural - too many young Hispanic mothers are not using a stroller for infants - they carry babes in arms and leave the other little children exposed to trouble en route.

A thrift store umbrella stroller is all of $5.00. A firm hand-hold costs nothing but the forethought to execute it. My mom used to have a tandem harness for my little brothers with a long leash attached! At the very least, parents can teach children to hold onto them if mom's hands are occupied. My kids can remember holding onto my skirt with a killer-grip. They righteously feared consequences if they let go even for a second.

Asia pointed out to me this weekend a happy come-back of the kid leash concept which for 30 years was much too offensive for White, upwardly mobile parents to consider ~ here is one example how to reign in your child while looking cute and fashionable:

While we do not know how many children were with the family in question, I am guessing they did not have more than what they could hold on to (including older siblings assigned to younger ones) especially if one was in a stroller.

We all wish this trip had a happy ending. A little common sense and safety instincts go a very long way.

Tuesday, October 9

Call of the Sea

We are feeling the generation gap, big time. Although David and I grew up in two totally different family environments, many things were constants. If our Dad said, "Let's go, kids!" none of us ever asked, "Where? Why? How long will we be gone? Do I HAVE to go?"

In my case, I remember leaving our S. CA home at 3:30AM with heavy canvas water bags tied to the grill of our Chevy Impala station wagon. Still in our pajamas, we kids slept through the pre-dawn trek across the Mojave Desert on our way to a family reunion in Mesa, Arizona. We were bothered by pesky little brothers, battles for what static radio reception could be had, struggles for a turn at a window seat and threatened repeatedly with mortal damage should we continue to kick the driver's seat or actually throw-up inside the car. We also sang with feeling such standards as "I've Been Workin' on the Railroad", "Clementine" or "Home on the Range. It was all enormously fun.

Last week we announced a surprise family road trip to the girls. They were not impressed.

Even the destination (San Diego) did not set them on fire. I wondered what planet they were from as I watched them reluctantly pack their sacred ipods & other relics of non-human interaction.

Here is the kind of view that thrilled my childhood heart; our first glimpse of the ocean (!) after several twists and turns through Topanga Canyon or some other quick route down from San Fernando Valley to Santa Monica, Malibu, or Zuma Beach. Friday evening at Cardiff-by-the-Sea I felt the same emotional rush as I watched the western horizon for that beautiful silver sliver of ocean meeting sky. The cool air was thick with sea and living things.

The freeway landscape is jungle-lush. Brilliant flowering trees and shrubs and plantings spoke to my soul. "LOOK!" I cried too loudly, wiping tears from my eyes pointing to the suddenly revealed ocean, "there it is!" No response. A slight grunt from Asia's corner as she shifted away from the bright sun, and Ray only stared passively from her open window. "I'm hungry," she mumbled.

A very fancy dinner, seated at the edge of a giant glass wall facing the glowing surf after sundown was definitely beginning to work its magic on our reluctant travelers. Finally fed, they were more willing to tolerate sight-seeing. David headed for the light be-jeweled pier at Oceanside.

Asia noticed the multitude of signs regulating parking, loitering, sound ordinances, campfires, dog-walking, life-guard duty times, used fishing line and hooks, recycling and practically every other rule or warning necessary to sustain life without a fine.

She was irritated.

Apparently the large type 'PLEASE' did not soften the regulatory message.
Mom's advice to bring a good sweater proved timely if not brilliant. Hugs help warm night time beachcombers. Asia wanted to play beach volleyball with a group next to the pier.

Check out this biker on our way to the Wild Animal Park; you can see his face reflected in each of his mirrors. Cool!

Here we are comforting some poor, dying deer in the petting area. They could barely lift their heads. We wanted to alert park officials about their appalling condition, but none could be found. Oh well.

Is this classic California, or what?
Growing up here, I never surfed - except for body surfing.

This group of surfer boys definitely interested the girls. I think they heckled several of them. Their little six-pack abs and stylish wet suits under curly, shoulder length manes prompted Asia to sing a couple bars of a Beach Boys tune for us. Although, we realize there are no stereotypes in our society.

This was a little cove surrounded by rust and caramel colored cliffs just south of Del Mar. High Tide was coming in, and we were entertained by several flocks of sea birds feasting on something near the water line. They were so cute with their little stick legs running gracefully back and forth as the water approached or receded. Being curious, I decided to investigate their sandy meal. It was too late in the season for sand crabs ~ GROSS! They were eating juicy white MAGGOTS! Thousands and sickening thousands of them, wriggling up out of the sand with the water and trying to burrow back in again before it left them stranded. Rachel worried they could get up into her skin. Asia told her yes, and one was on its way to her brain in her blood stream at that very moment. After we got home a little web search gave us the official answer to our nature question: Sea Weed Fly maggots. Yum.

Balboa Park is THE Most American spot I think; Garden of Eden landscaping, people, couples and families of all sizes, colors and creeds with their equally diversified doggy companions all coming together for a lovely, glorious experience in totally beautiful weather and stately old museums adorned with intricate sculptured facades. It was breath-taking and heart-warming.
We tipped this student violin/cello duet. They were performing Bach with a flair for the passionless.
This Black Mime was actually a very Angry Black Non-Mime. We would have taken a picture of his artful posing while balancing one legged on top of his suitcase, really, it was beautiful - but he almost assaulted an Asian tourist for taking too many pictures of his performance. He said, "If you take one more picture of me I'll..." none of us caught exactly what he was going to do because it was so shocking to see him launch himself away from a group of little girls waiting for their balloon creation and get in the Japanese guy's face. A large man with a camera seated on a bench next to ours yelled back, "You can't limit picture taking in a public place! It's my profession," raising his own camera and clicking a shot at the threatening Mime. "Thank you, Fat Man -" he yelled back, "looks like your profession should be a DIET!" Asia laughed out loud uncontrollably. The young father in the photo didn't change his expression at all, and all the little children except for his daughter ran away as quickly as possible once he finished their pretty balloon daisy bracelets.

Rachel wanted to know if Daddy could beat up that Mime if he needed to. Asia was trying to get him to walk right up to his face and start taking pictures just to see what would happen. We quickly finished our hot dogs and walked away, missing whatever artistic confrontation might have been ours.

Just a day at the park. A good time was had by all.

Thursday, October 4

Colorful Opportunist

The familiar was briefly interrupted yesterday. Driving home with Rachel after picking her up from Melanie's house just before dusk, my brain couldn't register for a split-second what I was seeing in front of me in the road. Toddling towards the middle of 10th Street was a tiny little boy.

Instantly I could see there were no cars in front of us, but the intersection at Maryland could offer an on-coming vehicle any moment. I didn't know if anyone was behind me - I was honking my horn repeatedly hoping to alert his mother. I was pulling over and keeping my eye on the tiny little figure who was out in the street all alone. We didn't see anyone else. I had Rachel jump out while the car was still in motion to run and grab the boy by the hand.

He was so little he couldn't talk yet. I parked abruptly at an odd angle to the corner and hopped out to knock loudly on the first available door. No one answered. Two houses away I saw two young men come out to do something with the car in the driveway. Following behind them was a young woman chatting on the phone. She stepped out onto her front porch unaware of our approach. As we walked toward her with the child in tow, I glanced back at my unlocked car; a young black man in a uniform style work shirt had suddenly appeared and was walking toward my car.

I turned back to the young woman who had finished her phone call and was looking at us. I said, "Hello," she responded, "Hi!" - still seeming not to notice the little boy at Rachel's side - "Is this your little boy?" I asked. Her face was awash in shock. As she answered "No," she was reaching for him. "Do you know where he belongs? He was just out in the middle of the street." She scooped him up, the tears beginning and her answer muffled by the boy's curly black hair close to her face, "He belongs here. Thank you! Oh, thank you so much!"

When I turned away, there was the young black man standing exactly next to our passenger door, his eyes in an expressionless face locking onto mine. I noticed both his hands were in front of him, possibly on the door handle. With only the width of the street between us, I stared right back at him. My purse was on the floor of the passenger side. I had jumped out less than 60 seconds earlier leaving the car unlocked. Now this guy was brazenly staring me down. I was angry. There was no way he couldn't have noticed what we were doing, saving a little boy, yet here he was, being incredibly obvious about what his intentions were and foiled by our quick return.

I quickened my pace. He (much too slowly) finally began to walk away from our car, keeping his eyes on mine the whole time. He slowly put his hands into his pockets as he made sort of a semi-circle around to the back of our car, and then, meandered past our car towards the street. He glanced back at me while I opened my door. I stared right back at him. What a jerk.

I'm not talking racial profiling or bigotry or negative urban stereotypes. This is no noose-referenced Jena conflict or O.J. guilt poll split down racial lines. This is my neighborhood. That was my car. That was not my little boy I was ready to block traffic with my car to save. Of course I recognized race, but I think every woman is very aware of any man in her vicinity. He could have been whatever color staring me down.

There are only two things really bugging me right now; why didn't I just raise my key and click it locked right in his face? - and it was precisely his color that prevented me from doing anything. My very first flash-thought was, "I don't want him to think I'm biased".

I'm such a jerk.

Monday, October 1

The Enquirer

The Arboretum at Flagstaff is a beautiful spot to learn a thing or two about plants and animals of the Colorado Plateau. We learned quite a bit about Raptors. This is a juvenile Harris Hawk or a Peregrine - I can't remember. I also can't remember all the stats the handlers rattled off to us, impressive as they were. I wish I could. Something about their eyesight being telescopic and 3D - which was illustrated to us by explaining how a hiker might look down from a hilltop on his speck of a campsite far below; while his little falcon friend could tell him what was cooking on the camp stove and how many bugs were on the tent. They can tuck in their wings and dive from so high up we can't even see them to bullet in at 200mph to clock a songbird in flight and eat him for lunch.

The AZ Game & Fish website says that they have 10 times the eyesite we do, but I'm pretty sure the people at the Arboretum put it at some higher much more fantastic number. I know because they also pointed out how the bird's ability to recognize moving images is like 60 + images per second compared to our lousy 20 images per second. (T.V. is at around 22 images per second) This remarkable bird brain feat explains why Accipiters - (those that hunt in the forest rather than an open field) can rocket after prey without smashing into a tree.

Even more amazing, certain birds can actually detect the natural florescence of mouse urine and tell how fresh it is to pin-point Mickey's most recent burrow and hover there until he unwittingly makes his fatal appearance.

Sadly, we also learned that up to 70 - 80% of all raptor juveniles never survive their first year. It seems that honing their multiple survival skills takes more than instinct. I noted the part about how bird parenting is officially terminated in 4 to 6 weeks. Kids have to figure everything out on their own. Osprey (the raptors that hunt fish exclusively) often drown as young birds because they snag a fish too large to wing away, and in their panic they forget how to disengage their talons from the prey.

I figure God had a good reason to give animals so many marvelous physical skills. He might have even told us, but of course, we have forgotten. But that's not what has me musing the issue~ I am much more interested to know how in the heck does anyone figure out that a certain type of falcon's eye can detect florescence? And not just any old florescence, but degrees of specific rodent florescence. Like, who was observing an open field all day and connecting the mouse pee on the ground with the hunting strategy of the bird in the air? I mean, how does one identify what is going on, and what proof can be offered to support their conclusion? How do we know that a bird doesn't occasionally confuse Grizzly pee for mouse pee - and then, doesn't Mr. Red Tail feel foolish! (Although, we were repeatedly assured that animals do not assume human personality traits or responses).

At least the asymmetrical positioning of an owl's ears can logically present the answer of how they can pin-point sounds so precisely; it's like listening in 3D. I assume you can poke around and find the ears and see for yourself how they are positioned on the owl's skull - but how do
you even begin to explore the pee-theory?

There must be an awful lot of information in the world that is problematic to verify with 100% certainty. This is one instance where inquiring minds want to know.