Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Moving by the Numbers

I'm fully expecting to get a call next week saying an apartment is open, and I need to get the move process in gear.  This is kind of a "me processing" post, where it's really more personal... just trying to figure out my options and how I'm going to manage this. Even if I don't get the call until the beginning of March, I won't have made a whole lot of financial progress.

I'd previously determined to get a trailer hitch put on my car and tow a small trailer one way to Petaluma.  I actually installed the hitch (and found out the drop and ball would be extra, which I haven't purchased yet, assuming I'd get it the day I picked up the trailer.) Then the car problems became pretty bad, and I had that whole crisis over new car/ no car/ fix the car... where I really didn't have enough money to do any of that.  All I knew at that point was that I'd sunk a lot of money in the car, but even more upsetting was the idea that I'd put the trailer hitch on... So when the options were narrowed down to no car/ fix the car (LONG story, with loads of family drama, history, disappointment, dangling carrots and the eventual slap of the stick) I fixed the car.

I knew the amounts I had to come up with at that point:  $700 base security deposit, $500 pet deposit, about $150 for the trailer and ball, $35 apartment application fee, two trips to Santa Rosa to meet with the Sonoma Housing Authority and to submit my application at the complex (estimated at $500-$600 for gas and one night hotel each trip)  and gas for the move at $100,  Total:  $2085

As of Friday, I'll have $1100 of that. Then I have 60 days it'll take to actually process the move after that before I move.

 The down side of that plan is that I can't take my dresser (because I can't move it myself) and I don't have room for everything in the tiny trailer, so I thought to leave my entire bedroom behind (since I can sleep on the futon until I get a bed, and the futon packs small.) If I sold the bed, dresser, and side table, I could probably get about $250- $300... which only leaves me about $600 short.

So as of 6am this morning, that was pretty much the plan.  That and hope for a tax return for my summer job that would fill the gap (I'm filing electronically tomorrow, so I'll have a number)

Then I went out to move the car for street sweeping today, and the groaning and grinding was really painful to hear. My immediate thought was, I really can't keep driving like this, I need to get the car to the garage.  Followed by I might as well have it towed for scrap now, but how am I going to get to Petaluma three times?

(continued/ updated)

So plan B:  drive the car to the application and to Housing as is, hoping it'll make the trip, but don't try to tow with it.

That means renting a truck instead of  a trailer.  Since I'm moving alone, I'd want the smallest one with a ramp, which three days and 516 miles is $487.  (that's about $337 more than the trailer, and about twice the space) That means I don't have to lose furniture (except the dresser, which I can't move alone) IF I can keep the car until then, it's going to be about $2300 for the entire move, which really, in the grand scheme of things, isn't that much more, and it solves the problem of trying to back a trailer to the end of a dead end street where I live while cars are parked on either side.

Plan C: it occurs to me that it may well be that the car isn't going to make it to Petaluma at all.  I'd have to either repair it, which would eat up all my savings toward the move, or scrap it, and hope to pick up $100 or so from the junkyard.

In that case, I'll still have to rent the truck, but the $600 for two car trips to Petaluma before the move will have to be changed.  So the acutal move (security, trailer, application) will be $1722  then I have to figure out the additional price to get to Santa Rosa once and Petaluma once. So if I take MegaBus, it's going to be about $50 round trip each trip I'd have to take a bus and train into LA, then take two or three buses from Oakland.  Total travel time is 12 hours and 49 minutes each way. Amtrak offers tickets for $68 each way, but I'd still need to bus it to the station at both points, adding a buck or two, which brings it back up around $140 for each 10-11 hour trip... ASSUMING I sleep on the train or bus.  Not sure how well that's going to work for me.

So:  Megabus, total cost for move and pre-move appointments:   $1822
       Train,    ""           ""                             ""                              :   $2002

Of course, if I'm not driving at all, I'm also saving money on gas between now and then, about $50- $80/ month, which can go to pay for putting gas in the truck, and I'll also save on insurance for the car, which will also have to go for paying for insurance on the truck, since it doesn't seem to be included in U-Haul's estimates.

Now, I've also looked at the price of fixing the car (about $1200) then selling it after the first two trips, but while retail value would give me a profit (retail sale of this car is estimated at $2370 by Carfax) the private sale value, according to Carfax  (at $820), would be less than the cost of repair and my Kelly Blue Book is just at $1200, meaning I'm very likely to take a terrible loss on this option.

I suppose the first step is to just go in and have the car looked at, which I'm afraid is going to cost me more money than I want to spend if I just end up junking it.  I've been putting it off, because I had a previous estimate on the steering, but the last garage thought it was OK.  Now it DEFINITELY isn't OK, which will probably make it easier to troubleshoot.  The problem is I'm hesitant to break into my savings for the move to do this. It's way too tight as it is.

So after sitting here agonizing for hours and coming to some peace with the idea of NOT having the car, I decided I had little to lose by taking it in and having it LOOKED at. I figured if it was going to cost me about $60 to have some leak testing done, at least I'd know, and, considering that I'm still so short on what I need to move, $60 isn't going to be a major disaster. 

The long and short of it is that things look and sound worse than they are.  The coolant leak can be fixed with original parts for $288.  I think we should be able to do the work cheaper than that if they just used heater hose and clamps instead of those stupid GM quick release hose couplings (which are the problem) This is actually a re-emergence of the same leak I had a couple years back, only now adding a little Stop Leak to the radiator isn't going to fix it.  The leak is still pretty slow, however, and I can keep refilling it for now, at least.

The steering is also leaking, and I'd have to replace the whole unit to get it to stop, and that is about a $1200 repair.  That's something I simply can't tackle right now. The mechanic says it's more "seeping" than "leaking" and it shouldn't be too difficult to stay ahead of it by periodically adding fluid, and added that my car has some years in it yet.

So no car repairs in the near future unless things get much worse, a little investment in fluids, and back to Plan A for the move. 

Sunday, January 28, 2018


So it's that crazy time of year for me, just before I go into my Lenten existential crisis, which this year is going to be heavily tangled with the move to Petaluma, or preparing to move to Petaluma, or the disappointment it's taking so long to move to Petaluma, or the stress over how I'm going to move to Petaluma.  I've got a few weeks before that starts getting emotionally involving.

The added kicker right now is that I've been referred to a surgeon and am waiting for insurance to authorize a number of medical tests before the doctor decides what he thinks is the best course of action to take for my hypoglycemia and gastric issues.  These tests are pretty difficult for me, and while I'm looking forward to moving forward, I'm dreading having to deal with the after-effects of having these tests done.

But for right now I'm doing two things:  Trying to find my footing (and meaning in life) without the whale watch (which I quit to save gas money to put toward the move to Petaluma) and getting through all the obnoxious piles of paperwork and photocopying I need to do at this time of year for taxes, for housing recertification, and again in a couple weeks for medicare and food stamps.

I have to admit, this year I'm nowhere near as stressed about all the paperwork, mostly because it's all gone so smoothly getting all the information together, but although I've gathered my required proofs, I haven't filled out a single form yet.  I suppose I'm just waiting to get my taxes done (free and electronically)  and put the final copies in the housing folder before I start filling out stuff.  I keep telling myself I am NOT procrastinating.

Right now I'm struggling with a very strong urge to paint.  I have an idea for a painting I've been wanting to do: painting La Placita of El Rancho de las Golondrinas from the outside.  I've got a number of photos of the buildings from my time volunteering there. It's so beautiful...  and while I was thinking of a working title, the title that came to me is "Home".   That was one of those light bulbs coming on over the head moments for me.  I know I can't afford healthcare in Santa Fe, but I think I left a great big chunk of  my heart there.

Oh... the struggling part...

Well, I don't have the paints to do the piece just yet.  I have a few tubes of primaries, but they aren't EXACT primaries, so blending them can get a bit muddy.  I don't want this picture muddy.  The struggle comes in with deciding whether to take my Micheal's coupons and go get a small set of Golden Opens (which I wanted to use for some plein air miniatures some time in the future anyway) which would be difficult with my very tight budget, or waiting until after I move (when I move, some time, at least two months from now, maybe longer...)

In the mean while, I'm trying to keep busy with other volunteer work that doesn't require me driving around a lot.  Yesterday morning, for example, I worked the food pantry at the 7th St. Church, and in the afternoon, the service auction at my own church.

photos from my Instagram feed:
left: the service auction at my church.
right: the food pantry at 7th St Church

Well, maybe yesterday was over-doing a bit.  Today I'm exhausted, sore, and my head has been pounding.

Tomorrow, however, I have another volunteer assignment, so I plan on getting a good night's sleep tonight!

Next week we have some really low tides during the mid-afternoon (corresponding to the "Blood Supermoon" on the 31st) so I'm thinking that Tuesday (my only free day!) I'll head on down to San Pedro with my camera and have some time doing something to nourish  my spirit...

and I do love tide-pooling...


I was flipping through my Instagram feed.  Mind you, haven't done Instagram too long, and I don't do it terribly often.

Here are some of my favorite posts:

A post shared by Kate Kosman (@katekosman) on

A post shared by Kate Kosman (@katekosman) on

A post shared by Kate Kosman (@katekosman) on

A post shared by Kate Kosman (@katekosman) on

Saturday, January 20, 2018

2018 Women's March: Los Angeles

I've been on smaller marches, but not one where the count was close to a quarter of a million people an hour and a half before the actual march started.

Yes, there were pink pussy cat hats (there were actually people giving them out for free at bus stops and along the route) but there were also trans flags, rainbow flags, Black Lives Matters banners, signs relating to immigration,  and signs supporting science.  And that all felt good, because in the beginning, getting on the train at Long Beach in the cold wind, I almost felt a little guilty putting on the pink pussy cat hat someone handed me, because I did NOT want to become part of the sea of pink that many people saw in the last protest.  Intersectionality is important to me, and we had it there in plenty.

I was impressed by the people who were on roofs looking down at the march, as well as those in windows of high rise buildings with signs.  The whole environment was one of support and resolve. It was wonderful.

So the idea of having a blog with some 7 or 8 dozen photos was problematic, so I made a video, showing some of the highlights of the trip into Los Angeles, the grandstand area before hand, the march itself, and the walk back after the march.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Goodbye, Cabrillo Whale Watch

I've loved my time as a Cabrillo Whale Watch Naturalist.  I cried a bit Tuesday night when I left the meeting (early, because I knew I was going to cry) and again yesterday afternoon when I got off the Tradition, my last boat as a naturalist.

Unfortunately, moving to Petaluma this spring is going to be expensive, and I'm not sure I'm going to get any kind of support to complete the move, that means drastic cuts.  My food budget is now $25/ week, and I'm cutting my gas use in half.  I've had to cut my hours volunteering at the aquarium to once a week, and I can no longer drive up the coast to do whale watches (or pay for parking if I'm at Redondo Beach). Hopefully I'll have enough saved up when it's time to move to pay for the moving expenses, security deposit, and the travel up before the move to sign paperwork with housing and the apartment complex.  It's going to be an ugly few months.

The good thing about my last whale watch was that I did get to see a juvenile Pacific Gray Whale.  It was snorkeling (swimming just under the surface and just rising enough to get it's blow hole out of the water) so it was in full stealth mode most of the time, but it did fluke once, to the delight of the passengers.  Unfortunately, I'd put my camera away just before the fluke, and was talking to a group of kids about the whale's behavior when it started it's dive, then I was narrating the dive and forgot about my camera until the flukes had disappeared beneath the water.

So, the only photo I got of this whale was a pretty blurry shot of a low blow (since being near the surface and snorkeling, the blows aren't as powerful)

So, as far as photography goes, the trip was a bust, but as far as talking to people goes, it was pretty great.  Kids ride the Tradition free, and even though it's a shorter trip than some of the whale watches, it's in a great location to see whales and other marine mammals, so it's fun for me to work that boat, because the kids get so excited to see all the animals.

And this was a pretty great trip all in all, because we also saw Pacific White Sided Dolphin, Common Dolphin, and a Coastal Bottlenose, as well as the usual sea lions and several species of birds.

I did get an OK photo of some of the commons swimming in our wake:

and a pretty typical bunch of photos of sea lions on the navigation buoys.

I kinda like this one because it looks like one of the big males is telling the females and pups "no more room on this buoy for you!"

I do have one more whale watch trip planned, not as a naturalist, but as a guest on Harbor Breeze, which I took a Groupon out for a couple months ago, with the idea of seeing the orca around New Year's Day, but the orca haven't come down yet.

This year the Gray migration is also slow and late. We've mostly been seeing a few scattered juveniles coming down. With 21,000 whales on the migration route, we should see more than that!   It's possible that the majority of the whales are taking the outer migration route past the channel islands, or perhaps they've stayed up in the feeding grounds later this year because of the warmer weather. 

Last year the migration was early and very dense, so we were all surprised at this year's numbers so far.  It also looks like a lot of babies are being born on the way down,  4 newborns were sighted at the Gray Whale Census count at Point Vicente. 

You can follow the migration count at the American Cetacean Society of LA County's Gray Whale Census and Behavior Project web page.

Goodbye, Ports O' Call.

Well, it's started.  Everyone is being evicted.  Shops are boarded up.  Ships will have to be relocated.  Only the San Pedro Fish Market will remain as the City of San Pedro starts demolition to make way for a new waterfront construction: The San Pedro Public Market.  The plans came out a couple years ago, one in a long series of plans.  The city isn't the greatest at moving forward, and is much better at evicting businesses and clearing the land than actually doing the building, and this isn't the first project locals have been skeptical of.

The idea here is to replace the old mid-century "faux-New England" style small and colorful shops with industrial modern warehouse designed buildings.  

Ports O'Call has always been packed since I've been here.  During the summer, getting in and getting parking is a nightmare.  With that much traffic (and business) WHY would you want to fix something that isn't broken?

Sure, the new buildings are beautiful.  Could they build them across the street?  Even Long Beach kept their "fisherman's village" when the waterfront and the Pike were developed.  THAT'S what tourists come down to the waterfront to see:  all those lovely little kitschy shops that sell ocean themed gifts, unique dining, and around here, the whale watches and harbor tours.  They don't need to go to the waterfront to buy socks.

Yesterday I took a tour around one end of Ports O'Call. I didn't have time (before my boat left) to do the other end, where the Pan Pacific restaurant is, and some of the other eateries that are operating for a few more months. 

I won't be here when the new Market opens... if they ever do get it open.  Right now I'm keenly feeling the loss of a place so many people value in San Pedro.

While I was there taking photos, there were a number of other people there doing the same.  Some were residents who'd lived their lives in San Pedro.  Some had visited and came back one last time.  All were sad. All spoke about the end of something they'd held lovingly in memory.  Soon, the memory will be all that's left.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Oh, Petaluma! (finally!)

It's no secret I've been struggling with where my life has lead me, and where I was trying to lead my life.  And then I got a phone call.  It was a mistake, they took my name from the wrong list, but that means my name is at the top of the RIGHT list.  What they could tell me was that in the next month or so, I'll be getting my call for the apartment I've been waiting for in Petaluma.

These last few months I've focused on making my life bearable here, and while there's nothing here I won't take with me, I also might have been more financially conservative if I'd thought the move would come so close on the heels of the new year.

It's not immediate. When I get the call, it'll be another 60 days to transfer my housing voucher, complete my application and move in.  So 3-4 months.  And in that time, I need to finish saving up my security deposit and have money to travel up there to do the paperwork once, maybe twice, before the actual move.

On my meager Social Security check, it's not an easy feat. 

So I've had to give up some stuff.  I'm planning on cutting in half the amount I spend on gas in a month, which means that I'll be leaving the Whale Watch program.  I want to take The Spirit out one last time, and I have The Indian on Monday, and that'll be it.  Tuesday will be my last meeting. 

Going out on The Spirit is important to me, because I also want to photograph Ports O'Call, since it's being demolished to make way for the new public market.  It's a project that will completely change the face of the waterfront in San Pedro, and one I have a love/hate relationship with.  It's a beautiful project, I just hate to see all the small businesses, including the whale watching boats, be kicked out.

For me this also means I'll have a pretty non-existent "farewell tour" of LA county.  I'd really wanted to see the zoo.  I do have a ticket for Harbor Breezes I bought myself before the holidays, and I'll be using that to do a whale watch out of Long Beach sometime in the next few weeks (it expires the end of February)

There had been some progress with some of my medical stuff, including looking at one of the surgeries that may reduce my hypoglycemia and other gastric and endocrine issues, and now that's all going to have to wait again until I'm up in Petaluma.  But I'm OK with that as well, because the hospital in Petaluma is very highly rated and I've lived with this for a long time, it can wait a bit longer.

So there's a little more dues to pay: no Whale Watch, and I may have to limit my time at the Cabrillo Aquarium somewhat.  Food?  Well, I'm going to have to cut back and be more creative with what I can get.  Entertainment?  Well, I haven't done too much of that anyway, and I guess I'll be waiting for Star Wars to be available on DVD or streaming.  As for the rest, well, I've never done Starbucks (but have moved to cheap decaf bulk tea), and won't be getting my hair cut any time soon.  And I haven't had my nails done since the 80's.  So yeah, things are going to get tight, and I just keep hoping the car holds together long enough to get me there.