Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Today's Whale Watch.

Today Cay and I drove down to Monterey Bay and boarded The Blackfin for a 4 hour whale watch.  Despite having a cheap point and shoot, I was able to get a few decent photos... a little under 100 of them.  It was a good day:  about 20 Humpback whales, 2 Blue whales, a Minke, about 1500 or so common dolphin, about a dozen harbor porpoises, a few harbor seals, a WHOLE LOT of California sea lions, a couple sea otters, and all sorts of birds, including a couple types of gulls, sooty shearwaters, brown pelicans, and cormorants.  A few birds I just couldn't ID at the time. Birds aren't my specialty (I may pick myself up a Sibley's Guide to Birds of Western North America for Christmas... or just get a better phone and upload the Cornell Labs bird ID ap)

Anyway, I couldn't POSSIBLY choose just a half dozen for the blog post, so I made a little slideshow/video.  That light streak under the water in one of them?  That's a Mola Mola.  Hard to photograph with what I had.  You'll also see some sea nettles in the photos.

At some point I'll likely post some blogs with individual pictures. There are several photos that can be used to ID the whales, a few unique features on some of the whales worth pointing out, and I'll probably also want to post about the importance of sea otters, as well as some posts about jellies. But that's all in the future. Monterey Bay is about 3-4 hours drive, which means we were up at 4 am this morning. The rest of the evening (what little there is) will be spent relaxing and dreaming of the next trip.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Casual Racism and Classist Hypocrisy of Progressive Liberals.

It's time to call out some of my own people.

I've recently moved to Northern California, a place with the reputation of being far left on the political spectrum.  At least the North Bay area has that reputation, where the far north is more red than blue, and has recently shifted from being pretty politically neglected to California's Grow (pot) industry leader.  Up there, the political "redness" is of the "stop taxing us" sort, rather than "tamp down the corruption and lawlessness" sort, and I suspect it'll shift blue now that pot is legal in this state.

But here in the North Bay, people pride themselves on being progressive, inclusive, and woke. Make no mistake, the people around here will rally at the drop of a hat, and will support most any proposition set forth by a Democrat, short of a massive tax increase, without thought of how it will harm those who they are out rallying for.

The most recent and obvious example of this is the newly passed bridge tolls.  You can drive INTO San Francisco from the north (except on the Golden Gate, which costs $6), but getting OUT of San Francisco going north will cost you $5. That means if you're working in one of San Francisco's many restaurants or tourist attractions (minimum wage in SF is $15/hour, still not a living wage around here!) you are (a) likely to be working part time and (b) unlikely to be living in the city because of high housing cost and low availability.  You are making $300/ week (for a half time job), being taxed about $53/ week out of that, and you now pay a bridge toll of $25/ week, making your take home about $220/week, or $990/month.  If you can secure a second job IN THE CITY (and don't have to go over the bridge with greater frequency) you might be able to bring home close to $2000/ month, still less than the average price for a one bedroom apartment.

So $25/ week, is a little over $100/ month in an average month, and that makes a BIG difference to a low income worker's budget.  And while it's terrific that the money is going to public transportation (which is WAY too expensive around here, compared to other cities) and road improvements, there may have been more fair ways to gain those funds with a lower impact on the poor.

The poor (and due to our racist American culture, that means large numbers of Black and Hispanic residents) are increasingly unable to live in these "liberal progressive" neighborhoods.  Those who do are often targeted by neighborhood watchdogs who call the police on people who "look like they don't belong there".  My Nextdoor.com feed is often peppered with these "alerts" by neighbors, who invariably describe people who look "suspicious" or "like they don't belong" as "Black".   The default for Black around here is apparently "suspicious".

Add to that the housing crisis, a crisis compounded by the financially well to do liberals who want to support public housing and getting the homeless off the street, but not in their neighborhoods, counties or cities.  Marin county is famously known for being the home of NIMBY (not in my back yard), restricting low income housing.  We're supposed to think that it's an accidental by-product that this keeps the county rich and white.

Petaluma, where I live, is the home of "zero growth".  The people who live here want to preserve the small town feel (understandably) but are stuck in a time warp.  Growth happens, and I recently tried to explain to a long time resident that even if no "outsiders" ever moved into the city, they'd still have to build housing for their children and their children's children, because zero growth in housing doesn't work well with a population that continues to grow.

Here in Petaluma, there are "help wanted" signs just about everywhere.  They're all part time, minimum wage jobs. They're the kind of jobs that you can't support yourself on here in Petaluma, even if there were apartment vacancies to move into.  But despite the "zero growth" innitiative, there are new apartments going in.

Here in Petaluma, the idea seems to be that anything Petalumans don't like or want, they put on "the West Side".  A lot of it is spread out industrial, but it's where more housing is being built (at least apartments) and is an area looked on with a great deal of scorn by the "East Side" It's quite literally the wrong side of the river (and the tracks) for many Petalumans.  Even the hotly debated and loathed public art piece is something residents are open to keeping, if it's put on the West Side.

Looking back at other places I've lived, places I've gone to because I felt that their liberal ideology was more in keeping with the life I wanted for myself and my kids, places I'd hoped to see inclusion, fairness, and equality, I see that this is an ongoing trend. I'm not surprised that Blue State Housing costs are, on average, higher than Red State Housing costs.  I am also not surprised that the disparity in income is greater in California than other states, and I'd guess that New York is not far behind.  I also find that these states are increasingly ghettoized, and that neighborhoods are nowhere near inclusive, and that even in areas where ethnic groups have gathered by choice to support their members and their culture, that those neighborhoods are more frequently poorer and at times less cared for by the cities. *

So what does all this say about a group of people who will rally, who will vote blue, and who are very public about espousing ideas of class and race equality, while preventing people of the "wrong" class and race out of their neighborhoods, cities, and yes, even counties by restricting housing opportunities?  I'm pretty sure it says that they're hypocrites.

When push comes to shove, these True Blue progressives wind up with the same talking points that their hated right leaning enemies do: that they're trying to keep their neighborhoods "clean and drug-free" and keeping out "undesirable criminal elements", forgetting that it's EXACTLY the lack of opportunity that creates these "undesirable elements" out of other human beings.

*I'd say that the ONE exception to this rule that I'm aware of, and a city that's gone out of it's way to foster inclusion and support ethnic communities within the city, is Long Beach, and I attribute that a great deal to the mayor of Long Beach, Robert Garcia. Long Beach is building (up not out) a good number of lower income apartment units, as well as units for vets and the elderly.  At the same time, it's a city bordering on the OC, and with many far right elements, and our church in Long Beach had it's Black Lives Matter banner ripped down more than once, and windows broken out. Long Beach has a way to go before it reaches it's goal of inclusion and sufficient housing.

Monday, August 20, 2018

5 months

sail boat in morning fog off the Palos Verdes Penninsula during a whale watch

Benjamin Franklin once said: "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

He meant something much MUCH bigger than my personal life, but the quote is echoing in my head today, because five months ago I gave up a life of purpose and freedom for a little temporary safety... for the peace and quiet of Petaluma.

Now most people agree with my rose-colored glasses assessment that this was a good move.  Certainly the air is cleaner, the apartment is much nicer, I'm able to live more affordably, and there IS a hospital across the street.

I can walk to the grocery store and the drug store.  There is plentiful public transportation, and the community and nearby communities have all sorts of cultural events.  Sounds like paradise.

I think one of the problems here is that I didn't "plug in" right away once I got here.  I have to wait months for docent training, and I didn't contact the ACS until recently, assuming I'd never be able to get to local meetings.  And I really kinda assumed that there would be opportunities similar to the ones I'd had in Santa Fe and in Long Beach, that I'd be more active with my church, that all the STUFF I researched online before hand would be exactly as I expected it to be, and of course, it isn't.  It's not worse, not better, just different, and I have to evaluate everything over again to see if it's what I really want.

Back when I moved to Long Beach I often repeated my daughter's chorus, "I want what I had".  I wanted to be back in my apartment in Santa Fe, with my own washer and dryer in unit, surrounded by my friends, and spending time at El Rancho de las Golondrinas and Santa Fe Community College.  It didn't take too long (until fall) before I was "plugged in" at the aquarium in the docent program, and THAT became a lot of what I lived for.  I loved my work at the aquarium, also loved being a whale watch naturalist with Cabrillo Whale Watch, and I loved my church.

Of course, it wasn't always lolly-pops and rainbows. Some staff retired at the aquarium, and there are still changes going on there.  We lost a couple boats with the whale watch program when the city of San Pedro decided to strip out Ports o'Call in order to build some sort of destination shopping center, and there was some drama at the church, surrounding some individuals who were abusive/disturbed/violent, and yes, I was unhappy with that, but it wasn't the sum total of the experience.

Recently a lot of my choices have been motivated by fear.  With my health the way it is, I feared I'd pass out and not be found until it's too late.  Having one of my younger daughters here in a live-in aid capacity has helped a lot when it comes to that fear, and with the physical issues I've experienced, especially following my iron infusions.  If it comes down to chemo, I'm convinced her presence here would be invaluable.  On the other hand, because she also works, I've given her my car.  That means I'm pretty well restricted to places I can either walk to or travel via public transportation to, both of which are subject to my health on any given day as well as my finances.

One thing I've found out is that public transportation here is darn expensive, and in many cases it's just cheaper to drive.  I went up to Rohnert Park to meet my daughter the day of the Greek Festival via bus, not only did I need to walk a mile and a half to catch the bus, but the regular bus fair for the 15 minute trip  was $4.  With my Medicare discount it was still $2.  Fares to Santa Rosa or into the city are prohibitive.  So rather than being a place I could live without a car, I found if I want to have any kind of life at all (do volunteer work, watch whales, go to festivals not in downtown Petaluma) I need a vehicle.

The other thing I've found out about here is that I end up seeing doctors pretty darn far away, now including San Francisco, which  means that any time I see a specialist, my daughter needs to take the day off work so I have the car.  (the buses don't run when she needs to be at work:  6am many days!) I've found myself MORE limited, not less, even though there is a hospital, three labs, a cancer clinic, a medical imaging company, and several dentists within a block of where I live... another case of the online research and my previous planning not meeting up with the practical reality.

For the last 5 months I've gone to some fun events, woke up every morning and watched hummingbirds and house finches, as well as the occasional wild turkey, seen deer during some every day sort of drives, and saved a lot of money on heating and cooling in the more moderate environment.  No place is perfect, because I've also missed the heat, the aquarium, the whales, and my old church.

Part of me believes that in another year this will be the place I'm plugged into.  That my volunteer work at Bodega Head, my involvement in the local American Cetacean Society, being a docent at Petaluma Adobe, and plugging into either the church in Santa Rosa or the church here in Petaluma will be my new, fulfilling life, and I won't even think about shopping at Aldi's or the Savers in Fountain Valley or my "happy place" at Cabrillo Aquarium nearly as much as I do now.  Another part of me is looking at apartments in San Pedro and areas nearby.

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