Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The view from afar

I can’t believe how bad the Santa Clara Valley (Silicon Valley to you younguns) looks these days. Driving down from Northern CA, taking the freeway that is now called 680 into San Jose, looking ahead into the thick haze that now virtually obscures the foothills surrounding the valley. If you didn’t know they were there, you might not know you were in a costal interior valley that was maybe 15-20 miles wide, surrounded by what was once oak covered round hills. Along the stretch of freeway that turns into 17, the tall conifers are still there, lining the freeway, but they look so damaged now, like chemo survivors. The branches that were once so deeply green are hanging on, but rusty, with bare spots, straggly and sparser than in years past. Living along the freeway has no doubt taken its toll, but the air in that fetid depression has been their undoing, I can tell. They look fried. This valley was once orchards and strawberries and big open fields. I know it had its “peak” of high tech expansion and crazy money – that’s about when I bailed, in the early eighties, knowing the little suburban postage-stamp lots with their ordinary little ranch houses and million dollar price tags would remain stratospherically out of my reach. What makes me sad, driving along a freeway that every exit has a memory attached to it, is how it looks now. Burgeoned beyond its capacity, then allowed to go a little fallow, this valley now has the look of someone you used to run around with, but haven’t seen in a while, and their hard living ways haven’t slowed down, and now it shows on their face and body in unmistakable ways. I try to discern the ridgeline of the foothills that once were so unmistakable, and I can barely see them.
I had some good times here, in this Pit that I never wanted to move to in the first place. It was the scene of our undoing, the Valley, though it wasn’t its fault. I was too much a child of the redwoods, the cool shady forested hills, the little creeks and the smell of inches of rotting leaves and ferns. I never fit in, and I got away from it as soon as I could, though that ended up taking close to 20 years.
Lately I’ve been remembering some moments that had their part in defining me. I shouldn’t have been so hard on me then. I would be nicer to that girl who worked so hard and flailed around so bad trying to find something that made sense. That girl had hootspa, and she shouldn’t have been so alone in a sea of people.
I’m glad that girl moved to Colorado and found her way. I’m glad she’s going back.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Coastal respite

Ahhhh. Fresh ocean breezes. Lovely. This morning I left behind (I kid you not) 107 degree heat and drove 3 hours Southwest to Capitola!
The past few days have been a little harrowing. My little girl got sick just as I was trying to wrap up my job and my class, and if I thought I was sleep deprived before…! She’s got a really awful cold, basically, and her typical way of fighting anything is to spike fevers off and on until she gets past whatever crud has found her. When she was really little it used to scare me, and I’d rush her to the pediatrician, only to be told I was already doing everything there was to do. I’ve been through it now enough times to know the routine. What did people do before children’s Motrin? As soon as we got here she got in the bed and was OUT.
Still, I am just so glad to see the end of that class. And the job’s last day came and went, so now I’m just sitting here in my hotel room, tapping away on my keyboard, listening to M snore, and cursing the fact that I left behind the wine key. This is the same hotel we’ve stayed in before, and I’m so glad to be here! The room is comfy, it is close to everything, we have a little fridge and microwave, and Internet! There’s a small swimming pool, and the continental breakfast here is pretty decent. I want to hit the grocery this evening and pick up a few things, but we are okay for now. M hasn’t been hungry much, I’m thrilled if I hit on something she will eat right now, and that isn’t her usual style. She couldn’t eat anything at my “celebration dinner” at Red Lobster, and it was her idea to go there! She loves crab legs!
For tonight, I’m so beat that I’m just looking forward to some food, a bath, and sleep! Then we’ll get to all the FUN later.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My Going Away Lunch

My last day at work is Friday, and today a bunch of us were going to go to one of the great restaurants near work for one last lunch. 3 of the 7 people invited ended up not coming, so I was a little bummed, but it was still a nice lunch.

I am the one in the pink. After lunch my boss (one of the people that couldn’t make it) and Beckey (the gal to my right) had a “turnover” meeting to discuss my projects’ status and go over any problems they should know about. Those two have been so great to work with that I will really miss them. Not the work, so much, but the dynamic of our personalities. The way we hash out problems and have similar energy levels and a way of meeting of the minds that is very productive. I haven’t always been so fortunate at jobs to have a boss that gets me and trusts me, and I haven’t always had someone as generous with her time and appreciative of my contribution as Beckey. *sigh* I believe they are truly sad to see me go (not always the case!).

I took pictures of my cubicle, too. It’s a little neater than usual, because I’ve wrapped up my projects and taken some stuff home, but it is generally pretty neat. My wall of pictures of my daughter is something I look at when I need to cheer myself up, or remind myself of what really matters.

I have a lot of work left for my class that will be over on Saturday. This class has been so tedious and boring that it’s been hard to concentrate on getting the work done. I’m sooooo looking forward to being finished!
In three more days it is time for vacation and FUN! Yay!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Petit tempete

A little tempest has blown in this morning. My father has one sibling, a younger brother. This brother as always been unstable, irresponsible, and undependable. When I was a kid, we went backpacking in Yosemite pretty regularly. It was always a core group, with peripheral characters that changed out frequently, depending on circumstances. The core group was my dad, his brother, my half brother, and me. Being the youngest and the only girl did not grant me any special treatment. My uncle was constantly doing things to annoy me. He has always thought I was a bitch because I didn’t think he was funny, charming, or particularly smart. He thinks the rest of the world sees him this way. He’s wrong.

When I was around eleven, we went on one trip that was one of the more memorable ones. This time we had a larger group than usual, because several people that didn’t normally go were joining us, and these folks were not seasoned backpackers. Our routine when we arrived at the trailhead was to evenly distribute the food weight among the people that could carry a pack. I was one of those. My uncle that time had brought along a glass gallon jug of white wine. He handed it to me, expecting me to carry it in my hands to the camp. I told him to pound sand. An argument ensued. I won. He was pissed at me the whole trip.

That was the tone of our relationship. He has a past littered with failed marriages, abandoned projects, grand schemes, alienated relatives, and broken promises. The last time our paths crossed, he did something so heinous that I refuse to see or speak to him again.

This morning I overheard my father talking to someone on the phone about his brother. I could tell from his voice that it was serious. I know my dad’s “crisis voice.” Apparently, his brother had just been discharged from the VA hospital, was talking to my dad on his cell, and telling him how bad his blood pressure was and how bad he felt. Then the call ended abruptly and my dad couldn’t call him back. He was searching through the numerous little pieces of paper on his desk with scribbled notes in his spectacularly bad handwriting, trying to find the one with his brother’s phone number on it.

My uncle can’t see very well anymore. He’s never taken care of himself and has been diabetic, like his father and his son, most of his life. Long ago he lost all of his teeth, he doesn’t take his meds regularly, he doesn’t eat right or do any of the other things that he needs to do, and consequently, time and kharma have caught up with him and now he is REALLY falling apart.
He’d recently gotten a new phone, and read the number incorrectly off of it to my dad. He hadn’t given anyone else, including his only son, the number. He lives hours from anyone (this includes my dad) who still gives a shit about him.

My dad was starting to panic because he couldn’t call his brother back. I interrupted him to show him that his cell phone had the number in it; he just needed to access his “recent calls” and hit “send”. This was a revelation to my dad, but by the time he called him back with the right number, his brother wasn’t answering. So, I helped my dad Google the San Jose Police department so he could ask someone to do a welfare check on my uncle. This was accomplished, and information was exchanged, and surprisingly fast, he got a call back from my uncle’s apartment manager saying the paramedics had taken him to the local hospital. We Googled that too, and got their number for Admitting.

Due to the state of the emergency room at that hospital (excuse me; Medical Center), he’s not yet “in the computer,” and so my dad hasn’t been able to find out yet how his brother is doing. But at least he isn’t still imagining him collapsed on the floor of his seedy by-the-week apartment, all alone.
Technology can help you or hinder you. But only people can make a difference.

Update: My uncle was taken to Palo Alto, not Santa Clara, and subsequently discharged (again). My cousin told my dad that the last time he talked to him, he was waiting for a taxi to take him back to San Jose. My uncle still hasn't called my dad.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

This, too, is part of the process

A week and a half to go at work, and I can NOT climb out of this pit of despair! god, what a drama queen I sound like – but between the lack of sleep, the extra add-ons they keep giving me at work, the really terrible class I’m taking, and my special little girl morphing into Devil Child, I’m done. Put a fork in me.

I’ve always had vivid, detailed, intense dreams. Thank you, fucked up childhood! When stressed, my dreams are like ghosts rising out of their graves. All of the characters from my past come pay me a visit. I really could do without some of them. Last night, I woke up in the middle of the night and got out of bed and walked around a little, restless. The moon is at half full right now and cast light through the windows. I was in one of those places where I really wanted to have a good cry, but I held back because:
I’m not a pretty crier. I get all puffy and blotchy.
It freaks out M and that isn’t fair to her
Then I’d really not get any sleep
Living with my parents. Weird enough already, thanks.

Yes, I KNOW it is almost over. I KNOW this isn’t that big of a deal. But y’know what? Sometimes I feel like I’ve been enduring things my whole life. I know that what I need is to get away from this house, this town, and this job, and let the dust settle, regroup, and spend some time not crazed with whatIhavetodonext, I know that.
But if I have another night like last night, it’s really going to suck.

M was too little to remember Colorado, and only knows what she’s been told. She knows she was born there, she has been there for visits, but – and this is completely normal – she is vacillating between being excited about the move and being freaked out about it. One of the labs I used to have would know immediately if I were going anywhere for any length of time. She was psychic that way (the other one was completely oblivious. It was hilarious) This dog would find the first opportunity to bolt out the front door and go sit in the car. It didn’t matter if I was an hour from leaving, she’d sit in the car, so clearly saying “look, you are taking me with you, so don’t even try to talk me out of it.” M is doing a lot of that too, coupled with her innate aversion to waking up in the morning, and her discomfort with the disruption of her routine to see boxes piling up in our room. She’s been throwing temper tantrums almost daily. She’s not that kid, so it is rough. I get it, I really do, so I try to be calm, understanding, and underreact. But damn, Mommy’s tired and out of sorts, too, and I really, really don’t like being yelled at.

I want to stamp my foot and plop myself down on the floor in a huff too, and say “I don’t WANT to! This is STUPID!” And cross my arms across my chest and make my best mad face.

I won’t do it, but I’m doing it in my head.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Fun Creative Writing Exercise

I was challenged to do a writing exercise that a bunch of talented people have already completed. Basically, we are supposed to write something incorporating 15 random things that were suggested to the original author. http://raisingstink.blogspot.com/2009/06/1.html This is my attempt. (As usual, it is bloody long.) (Yes, I suck at linking)

A Dish Served Cold

Joan glanced over at her traveling companion as their old Plymouth ate up the miles on the interstate. The blackberries they’d picked that morning by the side of the creek were almost gone. She’d been nervous while they crashed through the brambles, filling the bucket, surprised the bears had left so many for them to take.
Now they were out on the open road again, and Rick had his feet stuck out the window and his eyes were closed, tunelessly humming along to the Stones, one of the toothpicks they’d used to remove the seeds from their teeth still between his lips.

This trip had been a spontaneous impulse, but it seemed to be working a spell on Rick, making the stress of the last few months melt away. His diagnosis had been such a shock. She’d tried to concentrate when the doctors began their grim verdict, but after she heard “Radioactive isotopes,” she pretty much zoned out. It still didn’t seem real. He couldn’t be dying. Rick was the top distance runner on the Track team, the picture of vibrant health, working on his thesis on East African micro-lending and Ugandan coffee plantations. Then one day he just couldn’t keep down anything he ate, and the world started to condense, like a tunnel, getting darker and farther away from anything she recognized. Her dreams seemed to dissipate like morning fog. She didn’t even hesitate when he asked her to leave with him, despite that it meant letting her sister finally get her chance to edge her out of the family business. She couldn’t keep up the fight anymore, anyway. She scarcely knew why she’d worked so hard anyway at trying to keep hold of something that seemed to mean something only to her. All her sister saw was dollar signs at the prospect of selling out.

The gas gauge was nearly on empty when she finally saw a sign in the distance and took the turnoff.
“I need coffee” she said aloud, but knew there was little hope of getting any. The tires churned up clouds of dust as she pulled up to the small, desolate looking station and turned off the engine.
It was so quiet out here. The gas station looked like it had been part of a set from an old movie, and the ageless character sitting on the chair out front looked like she’d always been there. Her lined face, the southwest blanket around her shoulders, the toothless grin she directed at Joan as she got out of the Plymouth and began to pump gas. Rick stayed where he was, apparently stuck like glue to the car seat, still humming along to whatever was playing in his head.
Joan walked up to the old woman and held out a twenty, trying not to react to the tarantula perched on the woman’s shoulder, or to the empty fifth of Jack Daniels at her feet. The old woman grinned, shook her head, and pointed toward the open door to her left, the interior dark and silent. Joan peered inside the doorway, but saw no one. She looked back at the old woman, who was slowly swaying back and forth. Joan gestured with the twenty and looked questioningly at the woman, but she just nodded and spoke one word, pointing at the doorway. “Torquemada.”
Not understanding much Spanish beyond her restaurant days, Joan stuck her head once more inside the darkened door and called “hello?”
A rustle and a clatter answered her, followed by a middle aged man in a purple tshirt, wiping his hands on a rag and smiling warmly, coming toward her from deep inside.
“Pardon me,” he said to her in a deep musical voice. He saw the bill in her hand and looked toward the woman on the porch who was laughing. He took the money and shook his head at the old woman. Joan turned back to the car and opened the door.
“Is there a hotel nearby?” she asked the man.
“Just up ahead, next exit. The Neptune.”
“Thanks,” she said as she closed the door.
“I need coffee,” she said again as she started the car.
The sun was going down as she pulled into the hotel’s parking lot. Rick roused himself and got their bags out of the trunk while Joan talked to the desk clerk in the tiny office. The room was small and spare but smelled clean, and her exhaustion hit her at last like an ocean wave, and Joan was barely able to lie down and kick off her shoes before she was asleep on the flowered bedspread. When she opened her eyes, light was coming in through the thin curtains, and Rick was not next to her. She got up and pulled on her jeans, and looked out the window. There was Rick, across the street in the vacant lot, talking to a little kid straddling a bike. As she opened the door and walked outside, Rick turned and saw her, and the kid rode off quickly. He smiled at her and she thought he looked better than he had in a long time, and worse, too.
“I need coffee,” she said to him as he came toward her.
“You need a 12 step program,” he teased.
“C’mon, I know where we can get some,” he said as he took her arm and led her down the street. A sign on the corner looked promising and within minutes Joan was sitting at a Formica counter listening to the sizzle of bacon frying while their waitress bustled about bringing them mugs and silverware.
“Coffee?” she asked.
Joan nodded. She looked down the counter and saw the kid who had been on the bike, now at the end of the row blowing bubbles.
She knew better than to ask Rick what was going on, but he seemed to sense her question, and pulled a square of folded paper out of his pocket and set it on the counter between them.
“Last week, just before we left,” he said, and smiled at her confused expression. “I cashed out my accounts; closed everything. This is for you.”
She stared at the cashier’s check he smoothed out and dumbly noticed the number of zeros.
“For when this is over. You’ll need it when you go back.”
She thought about what this would mean.
The waitress came back and offered them some pie. All at once, Joan was overcome with laughter, thinking about her grandmother’s love of quoting Hitchcock, especially “Revenge is sweet and not fattening.”
Tears streaming down her face, she could only nod and gasp. “Pie. Yes.”

Monday, June 8, 2009

Three Weeks

It is now 3 weeks until my planned last day on the job. After that, my daughter and I are going on a well-deserved and long awaited weeklong vacation to Capitola, California. She’s been there before and is really looking forward to it. I have a long history with Capitola and it has a special place in my heart. Since when I was a teenager and first started going to the beach without my parents, this is where I have gone to relax, have fun, and step away from whatever is going on in my life. Before the next phase of my life begins, I need a week of bliss with my little girl, playing in the water, on the sand, walking, eating icecream, and listening to the ocean. There are lots of little shops that we stroll through and poke around in. Last year, I bought myself a lovely sarong to tie around my waist over my swimsuit, and a big wide brimmed hat, and we walked around like ladies of leisure.

The area around it has much swankier (more expensive) surrounding towns like Monterey and Pacific Grove, and more well-known destinations like Santa Cruz, but I have always been attracted to the quaintness of Capitola and it’s unpretentious style. It took a hit in the 1989 earthquake, but aside from losing one of my favorite restaurants, it recovered nicely. I am looking forward to going to Zelda’s and drinking Bloody Marys and eating shrimp and calamari with M on their patio on the beach.
(ok, M doesn’t get a Bloody Mary, and we walk everywhere – no car!)

Can’t wait!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Fuck ‘em; I don’t care anymore

First of all, this is me and my sweet baby, last year, at the beach. I am not a hideous troll and I am tired of hiding out. Someone wants to bring me a grievance, well, let’s have it.

Next: Fuckity Fuck Fuck!
The wholesale slaughter that is going on in the state of California isn’t bad enough – now it has come to perch in my cubicle and throw things at me while I work.

I was told that I would need to “train” two of my coworkers on the system we work with and how to do my job. (yes, they know I am gone at the end of the month)

It took quite a while for me to learn this system AND
☺ I had previous experience and training in this field
☺ I had voluntarily agreed to learn this work
☺ There was no “date specific” drop-dead assessment attached to my learning what I needed to know

I have been told that I will have to let “them” know whether or not these people are going to be viable candidates for this position or not. All in the interest of “saving jobs”... yeah, whatever. We’ve been carrying so much deadwood for so long and now it has come down to this. I have a special place on my ass picked out just for them that they can kiss.

One of the two is one of my best friends. Let’s see... what matters more to me? A job that I have already voluntarily given up? Or a dear friend that I’ve known for four years and hope to know for the rest of my life?

Hmmm.... yep, that’s a hard one, I tell ya!