Saturday, February 28, 2009

Thoughts From Thoreau

It's so easy to get caught up in the daily hustle and bustle, which is, I think, why we often forget about the world around us—that there even is a world around us. This passage from Thoreau's "Walden Pond" reminds me of that:

"Sometimes, in a summer morning...I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a revery, amidst the pines and hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while the birds sang around or flitted noiseless through the house, until by the sun falling in at my west window, or the noise of some traveller's wagon on the distant highway, I was reminded of the lapse of time. I grew in those seasons like corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allowance....As the sparrow had its trill, sitting on the hickory before my door, so had I my chuckle or suppressed warble which he might hear out of my nest. My days were not days of the week, bearing the stamp of any heathen deity, nor were they minced into hours and fretted by the ticking of a clock..."

Thoreau's little house in Concord, Mass., or his "nest" as he refers to it, was a place that allowed him to live by nature's standards which aren't confined to days, weeks and years, but rather go on in one continuous moment. I can see myself getting lost in this too if it were possible to forget about all the burdens of the "civilized" world. I'm pretty sure Thoreau would be spinning in his grave at the way we live today. He thought his world was fast-paced and disconnected...I wish I could send him a text message saying it has only gotten worse.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Can I Get Some Quiet Around Here?

I just read an article in my AAA magazine (American Automobile Association—not to be confused with AA magazine) about finding peace and quiet in Southern California. As the author describes, this is no easy feat.

One place the magazine recommends for seeking solitude is the Torrey Pines Gliderport, but not the actual Gliderport, which happens to be filled with people; it's the sky above the Gliderport that provides some relief from the constant drone below it.
My Dad and I talked about taking tandem flights off the La Jolla ocean cliffs the first time we saw the Gliderport after moving here. And on Father's Day in 2007 that's what he wanted to do. A co-worker told me her Dad asked her to go to church with him—my Dad wanted to jump off a cliff—I'm not sure what that says about my Dad's outlook on his family life, but it sounded fun to me.
It's kind of sad that to get some sense of silence in Southern California, you have to launch yourself off a cliff with a parachute. But I do agree there is nothing more peaceful and breathtaking than floating around in the air without an engine roaring around you. I'm scared of a lot of things, but heights isn't one of them and I've been able to take advantage of parasailing, hot air ballooning and paragliding now, and I highly recommend them all for anyone who seeks a natural sense of quiet (you'll hear the wind, the waves and probably your own heartbeat), but also gain a different perspective on the vast and beautiful world below you.

Monday, February 23, 2009

My Own Worst Enemy

I have always loved writing. Though ever since college, every time I sit down to write I feel like I need to always be producing something of great importance and quality. I miss the days when I could sit in my room and fill a whole journal with poems and stories and didn't care whether or not they were any "good." Writing was purely cathartic. But then I started writing for grades in school and it became more I do it professionally and it's definitely serious. I have trouble sitting down and writing for fun. It's not that I don't want to. Sometimes I feel like I have a story, poem or idea just bursting inside of me and I sit down full of energy to write it but become easily deflated because I keep revising it before I'm even finished with the first sentence. I attended a short writing class recently where someone talked about how tricky it is to do real "stream of consciousness" writing because you are literally trying to out-write the inner editor inside of you. I'm a perfectionist by nature and an editor by profession so that's not easy. Blogging has helped me a bit because I feel like my thoughts don't have to be perfect, but that doesn't mean I can't hear the inner critic inside me...I just ignore her a little more. I yearn to write more freely just to keep my creativity going. I just have to figure out a way to write faster than I can think.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ode To The Cable Car

San Francisco has the last operational cable cars in the world. It's amazing to think that every other city got rid of these classic forms of public transit. Tommie and I bought three-day "Muni" passes so that we could hop on and off the cars at our leisure and we got to experience it all...squeezed inside the cabin, holding onto the outside rails (which was more like a ride on the downhill), and even getting pushed up the hill by a tow truck (the lube on the tracks was too slick in the rain so the tow truck drove into the back of the car to get it up the hill).
After failing miserably at buying BART tickets to and from the city itself, I realized that I am not cut out for any form modern transit. First of all, there are no people to be found. Machines can't tell me when I'm buying the wrong ticket...which I, of course, did. And machines don't give refunds when you're an idiot. Machines also try to trick you on purpose...the BART machine tries to automatically get you to purchase $20 worth when you only need $4, and figuring out how to subtract your money is a true test. On the way home I had to put cash in the machine because it wouldn't read my card. This meant I needed change which came spilling out the mouth of the machine in the form of quarters and sounded like I was a jackpot winner at a Vegas casino...great in Vegas...bad in a subway station crawling with homeless people who appeared at my side faster than you could say, "winner!"

The cable cars were more my style...there are very few of them, so less chance of hopping onto the wrong one; they have to follow a very set track so you always know exactly where they are headed; they are run by people who you can actually see and talk to while you are en route, and you can pay these people/give them your pass directly. I say bring back the cable car, or at the very least, bring back human patrons at the subway/train stations. Having one-sided arguments with machines is really getting embarrassing, but maybe that's just me.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Take Me Down To Chinatown

I knew I had to visit San Francisco’s Chinatown while we were there. I have always thought the Asian culture has some of the most simple, elegant and beautiful decorations in the world, and this beauty translates to everything from their clothes and architecture to their eating utensils. Also, I have a major weakness for paper lanterns. When I see a store filled with them, my eyes get really big (bigger than normal) and I have the urge to fill the entire ceiling of my little one-bedroom apartment with all different shapes and colors.
It was a gloomy evening when we got to Chinatown, making the lanterns look extra inviting. The only thing that stopped me from loading my arms with lanterns was that I would have crushed them in my suitcase on the way home. So, I settled for buying a new set of chopsticks and a pretty silk pillowcase. And the trip was not made in vain for Tommie either, who, while waiting for me to snap out of the "deer in headlights" trance I was in below the canopy of paper lanterns, found his favorite Asian candies (Kiwi gummies).

We spent the next rainy day at the Golden Gate Park visiting the de Young Museum, and during a break in the storm were able to scoot over to the Japanese Tea Garden where we took these pictures.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

"Vista Point"

Before we left for our excursion up the 101 to Highway 1, I did some online research to try to figure out where we should stop to see some of the best sights the Big Sur area had to offer. One description said there was a great lookout spot labeled with the sign "Vista Point." As we made our way up the coastline, I soon discovered there were about 100 signs marked "Vista Point" and several more "vista points" that weren't labeled by a sign at all...the point is there were a lot of beautiful scenic views along the way. Here are a few of my favorites:
Bixby Bridge
Point Sur Lightstation (there is a road up to it on the left-hand side of the hill). Families used to work and live up there, now it's automated and, I read, haunted.
Point Lobos State Reserve where I got to see a wild sea otter (the reason I wanted to go there).

I consider myself very lucky to have lived along both coasts (east and west). This was the furthest north I've traveled while in California and it was amazing to see how the landscape changed from eroded, desert-like cliff sides (in San Diego) to green rolling hills and jagged rock formations by the time we got to the Big Sur area.

We stayed the night at the Glen Oaks Motel, located in the Big Sur River Valley. It was perfect location-wise and was one of the best deals price-wise I could find (everything is really expensive up there). The room had a pretty gas fireplace and a heated bathroom floor...something I think every house in New England should have.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Big Sur-prise

Back from a long weekend road trip to Big Sur and San Francisco. Despite the rainy weather, I think Tommie and I managed to see and experience everything we were hoping to. The next few blog entries will highlight some things we saw along the way so that you can enjoy the sights we did...and maybe make the trip yourself someday.

First stop is the Elephant Seal Rookery along Highway 1. I knew I wanted to stop to see these guys when I saw it marked on the map. We have a harbor seal rookery in San Diego, but elephant seals make those little guys look like Labrador puppies. The elephant seals are huge (the males are the size of small whales) with bulbous snouts, and they make the most disgusting noises (burping noises that reverberate across the beach) and, of course, they smell. Basically, the female seals sprawl across the beach sunbathing and nursing the babies until a fat male seal drags himself out of the water and decides to flop himself on top of her. For obvious reasons she seems annoyed and burps/growls in his face...which only seems to make him like her pretty much sums up the male/female relationship for any species.

Because I love watching animals in their natural habitat and am oddly fascinated with ugly things, I enjoyed seeing (not so much smelling) this part of the California coastline.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Older Sibling Smirk

As an older sibling I'll admit I have listened many times to the little Devil on my shoulder who tells me ways to manipulate and embarrass my younger sister for my own amusement. It's not really my fault that Eva believed me when I told her Mom said she was going to drop her off on the side of the road and leave her there. And I merely suggested Eva should moon the paperboy when he came to the door. It's never easy going through life first; the way I see it, our younger counterparts owe us a few laughs at their expense, and laughing at them will probably never get old.

The picture below is of me and Eva on a recent trip to
Las Vegas. I'm not 100% mean...I did take her with me when I went there on business and she went on business to gamble and sing karaoke. When Eva took this photo my arm was going in for the classic "bunny ears" behind her head, but I didn't quite get there before she snapped the picture and caught a devilish smirk stretching across my face. I always knew I got some kind of sinister enjoyment out of even the simplest means of getting back at my sister, but I'd never actually seen evidence of it on my face like that. I like to think I hide it pretty well, but in that instant Eva caught the look of evil that I now realize has probably flashed across my face at least a million times before.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Never Leave Home Without It...

For the upcoming long weekend (President's Day), Tommie and I have a road trip planned to Big Sur and San Francisco. I have no idea what to pack for mid-February in northern California, but I already reminded Tommie: "Don't forget your bathing suit!"

For as long as I can remember, my family—mainly the women in it—have had an obsession with water and finding some way to swim in it. I don't know if it was their influence, if I was born with this instinct, or if it has anything to do with growing up a few blocks away from the ocean, but I've learned to always be prepared for some kind of encounter with water. Family vacations were spent swimming across lakes; kayaking, canoeing or tubing down rivers; jumping into swimming holes filled with things that looked like leeches; even a small stream wasn't out of the question—if it was deep enough to sit in, we'd be there. And if natural water wasn't an option, there at least had to be a pool. It didn't matter where we were going or what time of year it never forgot to pack your bathing suit.

It's been rainy and pretty cold even for San Diego lately, so I don't imagine it will be better weather up north...but it doesn't matter. At the very least an indoor pool might be in the forecast. I always say if there are two things my family taught me growing up it's: "Always wear your seat belt" and "Always bring your bathing suit."

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Ask and You Will Receive

As if Mother Nature read my blog yesterday, she let San Diego have it for a good half hour during the day was an outright downpour. And I took some pictures to prove it. But, never fear, it's an hour or so later and the sun is beaming through the windows again. Nice try.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Dreaming of Rain

When it finally rains here, it happens like a dream. Heavy rain (when it falls about four times a year) usually happens in the middle of the night. It happens so rarely, the mere sound of it confuses me now…I wake up and think someone is watering their lawn at 3 a.m., then I remember “that sound is rain” and my mind wanders back home (to Massachusetts) and I forget where I am for a second. By the time we wake up in the morning, it’s as if the rain never happened at all; the sun is piercing through the bedroom windows and the only indication it happened at all is that there are a couple small puddles where neighbor's sprinkler systems don’t reach, and the cars look a little cleaner. Months ago, it rained at night and we woke up early to take the dog for a walk. There was something weird on our car windshields...and it was on the corners of people's rooftops looked like snow. It had hailed a very fine, white slush that looked like snow but the sun was already glaring down and melting it away faster than we could marvel at it. People would wake up a couple hours later and never even know it had been there at all. Sometimes I feel like there is some kind of magic shield above San Diego that doesn’t allow bad weather to exist as anything more than a fading dream.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Weirdo Magnet

My mom is a weirdo magnet. Whether she’s in a store, walking downtown or simply minding her own business, weird people start talking to her—and she happily talks back. Whenever I’m with her I can guarantee we’re going to meet the guy in Home Depot who claims he can see what color aura we possess or the man at the apartment complex who sings “My Girl” in the hot tub every morning. I always thought this happened to my mom because she was too friendly...a neighbor could stop by to borrower a can opener and leave 20 minutes later with our life story (it’s happened before). But as I grew up, I was horrified to learn that weirdoes didn’t just follow my mother...they followed me. And let’s make one thing clear—I actually make a concerted effort to be unfriendly 90 percent of the time. I try to blend in as much as possible wherever I am and give off the appearance of being completely disinterested in people, but it’s as if they can smell it on me. A man at the grocery store will start telling me about the time his car got stolen, the time someone tried to kill him, and the time his car got stolen...again. Meanwhile, slews of other people pick up their bread and milk and leave the store uninterrupted. This type of thing happens to my sister too.

We all know we inherit certain physical traits from our parents, but what about traits that are not visible to the eye or even apparent from a DNA test? Behavioral patterns or strange instincts that also seem to follow us down the family tree? I’ve been thinking about this because one of my favorite T.V. shows started up again last night: Medium. Patricia Arquette plays a woman plagued with dreams that give her clues about mysteries and things that may happen in the future. It’s been alluded to in a few episodes that her daughters have inherited her psychic gene. My mom might not be psychic but she certainly has a "six sense" when it comes to strange folks.

Some might inherit a knack for painting or an ear for classical music, others...well, we get some kind of pheromone that attracts weirdoes to us like mosquitoes to a bug light. It's a gift, really.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Silent Poetry Reading

I saw the following message posted on a fellow blogger's site and couldn't resist the invitation to post another poem on my own blog. Enjoy!


Fourth Annual!


A Bloggers (Silent) Poetry Reading


Anytime February 2, 2009


Your blog


Some poetry is warming. It cracks the ice in the heart of the Earth to remind her that spring is just around the corner. Or...if you live south of the equator, choose poetry to cool the heart of the Earth so as to remind her fall is coming.


Select a poem you—a favorite poet or one of your own—to post February 2nd.

What else?

Feel free to pass this invitation on to any and all bloggers.


I have chosen the following poem from Louise Gluck's collection: "The Wild Iris." I like how you can read this poem from the perspective of the flower...but also apply it to the viewpoint of a human being awakening from a long winter or other trying time.


By Louise Gluck

Do you know what I was, how I lived? You know

what despair is; then

winter should have meaning for you.

I did not expect to survive,

earth suppressing me. I didn't expect

to waken again, to feel

in damp earth my body

able to respond again, remembering

after so long how to open again

in the cold light

of earliest spring

afraid, yes, but among you again

crying yes risk joy

in the raw wind of the new world.