Thursday, November 30, 2017

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

no... not Christmas.

Cautious Optimism

When I saw this image in FB, it really struck home.  These days I'm spending more time trying to manifest the positive.  Now mind you, I don't believe in "the Secret" or "Abundance" or any of that stuff that has you calling on the universe to provide, but I HAVE focused on providing more for ME NOW.

I've been restricting a lot of what I do with my apartment and with my life in general based on the idea that I'm moving somewhere better, and that I probably shouldn't invest too heavily (either emotionally or financially) in where I am now, because that'll all be gone 'soon'. 

Well, 'soon' is getting to be a lot farther off in the future than I'd hoped, and in the mean while, I've let things stay pretty miserable where I am.

Until these last couple weeks.

The Northern California wildfires were a wake-up call for me. I don't know if the huge number of people burned out of their homes in Sonoma County is going to change the wait lists at the apartments I've been longing to move into, but I do know it's changed my expectation.  While I have this huge desire to move and part of me doesn't want someone else to bump me down the wait list, I also am acutely aware that someone else has just lost everything they had to a fire, and needs a roof over their head.

So today I'm sitting in my apartment, cold,a bit damp, sick to my stomach, and bemoaning my 18 inches of counter space, but realizing my car is running, I have a roof over my head and food in the fridge, and I've been able to afford some small things for the kids for Christmas.

In the last couple weeks, I've decided to make my apartment as nice as possible. It's still a work in progress, but it's likely I'll be here a year or longer.  I've gotten a nice slipcover for my chair, a small rug near the door (so I'm not tramping water over the faux hardwood) and I've got to get some sort of small bedside table since I need to set up my cpap (which arrived yesterday).  I'm planning a rug (runner) for the main room area, one of those tension poles with shelves for the bath, and curtains for the front window as well... and I'm going to TRY to make the kitchen floor look halfway decent (because they smeared the glue laying down the tiles, it looks perpetually filthy)

I always say I'm not a bloom where you're planted type gal. And I'm not.  But I'm not going to wither up and die because I can't find a little plot of sunshine right now, either.  I can catch some rays where I can, and I can dig a little deeper and hold on here until I find a better opportunity.

Monday, November 27, 2017

It looks different from the sidewalk

Perspective is everything.

I post a lot about how Long Beach has two sides (the tourist side and total abject poverty) and how uncomfortable it is for me to live here.  It's no secret that I've seen a creeping rot seeping down the coast from the river toward the OC border, but that there are places in Long Beach that I absolutely adore:  Naples, Belmont, Upper Belmont, Los Altos, Bixby Knolls and even Rose Park top the list.  And it's no secret that following the three murders that occurred in quick succession shortly after I moved here, that I've been calling this area "the kill zone".

Now this IS a hotly contested area.  Is it part of Cambodia town or Zapheria?  And more recently has it become a boundary or battleground between the Rollin 20 Crips and the East Side Longos?

On the other hand, in the immediate area, many of the older homeowners are dying or leaving (not due to murder) and young, sometimes quirky and a bit hipster, professionals are moving in.  I'm not sure if that will in any way change the gang dynamic, but it may change some of the other neighborhood dynamics.

But, yes, I have my concerns living here, and generally I walk no farther than the park (a block away)  and once to the thrift store (3 blocks) Other than that, I've stayed safely isolated in my car, except for the time I had to walk home from the ER at 6am (I was terrified).  But yesterday I decided I needed a few things from the grocery store, and my car was still at the garage being repaired.

The closest grocery to my apartment (besides the corner stores, which are very expensive) is Food 4 Less, which is a little less than a mile away... down Anaheim, which I pretty much view as mainstreet of hell.   I decided to chance it.

Things look different from the sidewalk.

Yes, I started out seeing the homeless in the park, the boarded up industrial complex, which I immediately thought the city should buy and build a low income housing apartment, since it's only a couple blocks from the school, a half block to the bus, and right across 14th (a small, lightly traveled street on that block) from the park and the community center.  It would be a great location for families.  Once I got onto Anaheim itself, I was pretty surprised. 

Aniheim is small businesses on both sides for miles.  Most of those businesses are pretty well covered by security gates, and appear to be closed most of the time.  From the sidewalk I noticed that there were open doors, and that the businesses were open.  I stopped into Fabric Barn.  Where I'd expect an empty store, instead I found customers.  In fact, looking into the other shops and restaurants along the way, I found that they all had a surprising number of people shopping or dining.  Each of these smaller privately owned businesses had a niche in the community.

For a moment it all felt alternately very hip and urban, and very homey.  I could see why people might think Long Beach was a hidden gem... and these little shops and a lifestyle that was very far from one I've been used to (or could even see heading down the road at 35mph).

I still don't see myself staying in Long Beach.  And nothing I've seen resolves the issues of violence and the pollution here, although I'm gaining a new appreciation for some of the neighborhoods I've judged more harshly.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Great American Desert

This morning, I read an article on the EcoWatch website titled Why These 8 States Could Soon Form the 'Great American Desert'

While this is important (people are taking water out of the aquifer quicker than it is replenished) it's also important to note that there are other policies driving the water issue. One is the damming of rivers to allow for homes to be built along them... to eliminate what some people call "unpredictable flooding". That "unpredictable flooding" is also what helps certain native plants grow along the rivers, including the cottonwood tree, which helps anchor the soil around rivers with roots.

Loss of these native species leads to soil erosion, which causes the rivers to become more shallow and contributes to fauna loss and eventually the loss of the river itself. A lot of the flora loss was (and is still) caused by ranchers grazing on the BLM land which often borders these rivers.
Rivers are, of course, the OTHER source of water. Dry up the river, and you're tapping the aquifer.
And lastly, there are a lot of interstate water agreements that cause issues. One is the agreement between New Mexico and Texas. Texas has plenty of water (again, mismanagement of the Trinity River is a BIG problem) but a large amount of Rio Grande water is granted to Texas through these agreements.
Some local agreements become necessary because of this: agreements on tribal water use, agreements on farm use... the old acequias are still in use and official permission is needed to open the gates and allow water to flow through any individual's land, for any purpose. (watch Robert Redford's movie, The Milagro Beanfield War, to get a better idea how this works)

This is a complex issue, and we're certainly not necessarily doomed. Better land and population management can turn this around fairly quickly.
While in New Mexico, I was part of an effort to restore native plants to the river beds. Thanks to groups like The Stream Team (part of Wild earth Gardians) water is flowing in parts of rivers and streams that were previously dry. Laws which state that improvements made by one tennant of BLM lands cannot be removed by another continue to protect these lands from the problems related to clear cutting for grazing, insuring a future for this rivers, so long as the government continues this protection of its land.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Photo Favs from my Desktop Photoshow Folder

Looking though some older photos (again)...

so how often do you get to photograph one that's actually awake?

One of my favorite Grand Canyon photos. I like the tree as much as the canyon.

Commemorating the Battle of Glorietta Pass at El Rancho de las Golondrinas.

Another fav from El Rancho de las Golondrinas: Chip and Champ pulling the plow.

when it really hit me that they weren't little girls any more...

Friday, November 24, 2017

Atheist Holidays

I've pretty much totally divorced the idea of "holiday" as "holy day".  The religious context that different groups want to put on different times of the year are less important to me than the byproducts of those celebrations.  Few Christians now-a'days would even want to argue that December 25th (or January 7th) is the birth date of Jesus. For me, having examined the evidence for a historical Jesus and finding nothing to compel me to believe, it's a moot point.

This time of year finds me at odds with a lot of religious and social issues, mostly resulting from those "purists" who want to promote the agendas that we're so fond of in way to fundamental America:  that Thanksgiving is a time we give thanks in memory of pilgrims and indigenous people coming together to celebrate the harvest, and that Christmas is the birth of our "Lord and Savior".

For me, the entire season is pretty much void of those concepts. After all, people were celebrating the harvest time and the mid-winter all over the world long before Christianity appropriated the celebrations. And my discussion of the relationship between the "pilgrims" and the indigenous people in North America would take another whole blog post... or two... or three...

Instead, Thanksgiving is, for me, the kickoff of a longer holiday season, a time for gratitude and family, and "little lent" (as it's called in the Eastern churches) or "advent" (in the west) is a time of excitement and anticipation for the mid-winter celebration, and it's what carries us through the darkening and increasingly colder days. It is, above all, a time for family and connection, for staying close to the hearth (in a more figurative sense) and for reforging and maintaining our relationships with each other. It's about traditional foods, it's about shared activities and traditions, and yes, on Midwinter's day, it's also about some presents.

So, like my Christian friends, I borrow what I love from the holidays and meld them into my own traditions, which have been carried on by my children.  I didn't notice how firmly they held to those traditions until last night, when I casually mentioned to my eldest that I was out of dish soap, and would have to go pick some up in the morning.  She was aghast at the thought.  Shop on Black Friday?  We traditionally stay home, refusing to take part in the Black Friday consumer frenzy.  "I think I just wouldn't wash dishes for the day,"  she told me.  The tradition is strong in that one.

But for me, at least, traditions have to be functional.  They need to fit with our lifestyles and our values.  So I will be going out today, breaking my own tradition, because I value clean dishes more than I value a tradition, especially since I don't think that buying a bottle of dish soap equates to the kind of rampant consumerism I was protesting when starting my "Stay Home Black Friday" tradition.

Surprisingly, it's my youngest two who are most staunch about following traditions, right down to the foods.  I recall a few years ago wanting to switch up the Thanksgiving menu a bit, by changing the kind of green bean casserole to a cheesy green bean casserole recipe I'd found and thought looked pretty good.  You'd think I'd suggested hot dogs and fries for dinner, they were so opposed to the change.  And this year, two years after my leaving (and cooking my last Thanksgiving meal with them) they posted the VERY SAME FOODS we'd eaten before:  roast turkey, corn, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, and warm rolls.  No changes.

Yesterday we all watched the parade in our respective time zones.  All decorate our trees.  All listened to Christmas music, and all made contact through Skype.  Because SEEING each other and sharing our traditions is important to us.  Family is one thing we DO believe in.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Macy's, The Parade, and Forgetting the Past

I'm watching the livestream of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Comment after comment is flashing along the screen:  "Why Christmas?"  "Why are there so many Christmas songs?"  "This seems like an opening for Christmas, not Thanksgiving".



It is.

I have to keep remembering I'm a lot older than the average person watching the parade via livestream, and that I'm probably a lot older than the commentators on the stream, but even so, it was the generation before me that started the tradition, a tradition that DOES have it's foundation in being the "opening event" for the Christmas season.

The parade has gotten larger and larger over the years, and the roots of Macy's grand advertising event, promoting the arrival of Santa Claus at their store and the beginning of the Christmas shopping season, has been lost in the flash and grandeur of the parade itself.

My family and I have adopted the Macy's tradition into our own.  On Thanksgiving morning, we watch the parade together (or together via the web, as we do this year) and, once Santa makes his appearance at the parade, we turn off the TV, turn on the Christmas music, and decorate our home(s).

For us, at least, this parade still kicks off the season, although not, perhaps, the shopping portion of it.

We have our own Black Friday tradition as well:  Staying home, watching movies, and NOT shopping.

Monday, November 20, 2017

A few pictures from Saturday's whale watch:

Yes, we saw dolphin.  There were loads of commons, and one Pacific white-sided.  No really great photos of the dolphins, but some really nice photos of other things on the late afternoon trip.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Urban Blues

As the holidays approach, I find myself more and more often thinking of Santa Fe.   I loved living in New Mexico, and now the minor health issues (dry skin, nose bleeds in winter) seem minor.  It was always the health insurance that brought me here, and I do have great health insurance and healthcare.

It's also no secret that Long Beach was not my first choice, especially after my last experience here a decade ago. I knew coming in that I wouldn't be able to afford to live in the kind of neighborhood that makes people love Long Beach, and my early experience here with homelessness and seeing the dreadful offerings for individuals with a housing grant only reinforced that.  The day I signed my lease on my tiny apartment almost 18 months ago, there was a huge media coverage of an event involving an officer shooting, a dead police dog, and a suspect that had terrorized the neighborhood.  The parking lot of my little 18 unit apartment was taped off with crime scene tape.

Shortly after that we had two murders of residents, one on the sidewalk of "Trolley Garden Way" and one in the parking lot (the body was apparently used to hold the gate open) We often have police helicopter circling, and now we're having more gang issues again, with a couple different groups painting their signs and some messages on the sidewalk of Trolley Garden Way as if it were some sort of border.  Gang names and ethnicities are often cited, ongoing issues where I live.

Yesterday on the boat I was talking to a woman from Long Beach.  She lived on the border of Upper Belmont, and was saying what a "hidden treasure" Long Beach is.  I always wonder how my perception of the entire city might be different if I'd lived in that neighborhood, or if I'd come from an even rougher neighborhood to the neighborhood I'm in now.

But most recently, I've come from Santa Fe. 

Yesterday on the boat, watching the smog roll out to sea to the south of us, out from Los Angeles, and even heavier out from the port and the refineries in Long Beach, I absolutely longed for some clean high desert air.

Of course none of that was the focus of my day, just random things that passed through my mind, but apparently took deep root in my sub-conscious, because last night I dreamed pretty intensely.

In my dream I was apartment shopping, but the whole west side of California looked like a cross between what LA and San Francisco are really like, and the original Blade Runner movie cities.  There was one high rise that I'd wanted to get into in this dream, and an apartment was available.  First they made a mistake, showing me a beautiful two bedroom, which I was in competition for with a friend (but I don't qualify, so she got it) and then they told me there was a one bedroom available, which they showed me in the basement, through the old tunnels for the steam pipes and water pipes, behind a janitorial closet.  It was small and windowless, but I figured I'd take it because I was that desperate. 

The dream continues with me going back to the apartment before signing the lease to take a second look, and find it to be not the same as the one I looked at. It was even tinier, and there was an old woman living there, at least for the time being.  Her daughter and a nurse were there as well.  The nurse explained to me that I'd still be able to move in at the end of the month, because the old woman would be dead by then, and if I wanted to come in now and measure for furniture, I could.

The whole dream felt like I didn't have choices, that I was being confined into smaller and smaller spaces. A great deal of the end of the dream had someone driving me in a car as far as we could go, seeing nothing but buildings and billboards and concrete no matter how long we drove, and me sobbing uncontrollably in the front passenger seat because I missed seeing open spaces.

It doesn't take any kind of training to interpret a dream like that.  My mind is pretty straight forward.

Ultimately I DO feel trapped.  Oh, I love the whale watches and I love the Cabrillo Aquarium, but it's not enough.  I was reminded yesterday in the cold afternoon how painful it is for me to be that cold and damp. I realized I'd also complained about the cold and dry in Santa Fe, and that no place is perfect for weather. 

I stay here for the health insurance, and I want to move up to Petaluma to be somewhere I want to age.  I worry about aging and the possibility of a nursing home in Santa Fe.  I've got some years before I need to worry (I hope), but I am also tired of bouncing all over the country.  I'd thought to end up in Sunrise in Petaluma if that all happens, but there's also a Sunrise in Albuquerque. Right now I'm in a holding pattern, waiting, who knows how long, for the apartment in Petaluma, where I hope being in a senior apartment will give me everything I loved about my home in Santa Fe with all the benefits of being in California.

I'm also in a situation where I've pushed for some tests which will give me a more definitive answer about some of my health issues, including my Lupus diagnosis, which I've had increasing doubts about over the last several years.  If I don't, in fact, have Lupus, and all these health issues are discrete, manageable issues, I may find myself in the same place I was over a decade ago here in Long Beach:  with an optimistic outlook on my health and future, and the desire to go live somewhere I want to live.

After being here over a year, waiting for an opportunity to go to Petaluma, I'm still not 100% sure of whether that's Petaluma or Santa Fe.  All I do know is right now I'm wishing for farolitos and luminaria and some really great biscochitos with hot chocolate.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

a quick check-in...

Back to back whale watches today, a whale watch last night, and last week packed with school and medical stuff.  Looks like I won't be finishing uploading photos until Monday.

Tomorrow I'm double booked again, but not with whale watch boats.  We'll see what I end up doing!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Back to Back Whale Watches.

Today I went out on the Matt Walsh out of Marina del Rey for back to back whale watches.  No big whales today, but common dolphin on both trips, and a single coastal bottlenose on the afternoon trip as we were coming back.

I don't expect to see a lot of whales these days.  The big whales are still up north feeding, although we're starting to see a few drifting south, mostly humpback and fin.  No sign of blues heading south yet.

There have also been a couple sightings of early migrating grays, juveniles, who sometimes don't follow the normal migration schedule as closely, but head down to Mexico early, and sometimes head back late.

Regardless, I did get a couple decent photos, and some photos of other things from the boat:

common dolphin under the water, swimming near the boat

not the greatest photo of a mom and calf with a couple other commons jumping in the background
an entirely predictable dolphin photo
yes, you can see the Hollywood sign from the ocean
Fishermen's Village (seems there's one in EVERY beach town)
pelicans in flight over Marina del Rey

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Excavating the Digital Vault

These days I've been going through all three of my PhotoBucket accounts trying to recover images.  They no longer allow you to link images from there (the reason I got the accounts in the first place) which is bad enough, but any image that's linked now isn't viewable in PhotoBucket, either, so I'm having to go through and move all the files to break the links to see what's in them then download the photos one by one.

Literally 10s of thousands of photos.

So, a major pain in the butt.  I should be able to download whole albums, but that hasn't worked for me yet, and anything in my "bucket" has to be gone through anyway, since I don't need to save old site graphics.

I've found a few gems in there.  And the whole process has reminded me that the internet is NOT forever.

Here's some of my favorites from the last dig: