Friday, November 29, 2013

Your Christmas movie, at last

I always knew where my parents hid the Christmas presents, usually months before December. They hid them, always, in the usual place -- in their closet, on the upper shelves. I'd get a chair and rummage about, because I knew the toys or  music stand or books were up there, somewhere. And I knew a few other things, as well; I knew I wouldn't get my horse, or my piano. About that, I was quite sure. But not absolutely certain, and thought I might, just might, find an envelope that said -- well, I don't know what it would have said, because I never found the envelope, so it didn't say.

Still, I didn't like suspense then. I don't like suspense now. To know the end, from the beginning --  if I could have that, I would promise to walk all the steps in between.

That's why I like books. Books let me read as I wish I could live. If the first few pages capture my imagination, then I skip to the end. And the middle, well, the middle -- it's pudding. All the irony, humor, tragedy, joy would be lost on me, if I didn't know how it all held together.

When I was introduced to The Dead, by James Joyce, I read the first, the finish, and then the middle. And that's the way I read it to this day.

The story is much better, knowing the end from the start. That Gabriel will find a state of grace. A gently sad grace. Without knowing that, from the beginning, by the end, you have to start all over again. Which, on second thought, is a gift, after all.

The movie is true and faithful to the text, and lovely in its own right. It was John Huston's last. If you haven't seen it, then let's open with the final scene. I do think they're among the most beautiful words ever strung together in the English language.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Autumn Harvest

They say that the essence of futility is to keep doing the same thing thing over and over while expecting a different result. So after two years of crop failures, I'm through with vegetables -- the weepy lettuce, stumpy carrots, and preemie zukes.

Now I'm planting puppies.

As an experiment, I tried a Labrador seed in March, before the last of our spring rains. Just tossed it in the raised bed, not expecting much, one way or the other. It languished during the hot summer months, looked more dead than alive, so I kind of thought, well -- that's that. Then all of a sudden, come November, I've got this. Rather thrilling, what?

Advantages of puppy seeds -- they till their own soil, dig their own holes, and self-fertilize.

I thumped this one on the head early this morning, and it sounds practically hollow, so I reckon it'll be ready for harvest in another week or so. Then I'll take it to our local backyard produce exchange. Maybe I'll get a melon or two in trade. Or even just a turnip, that'd be ok, given it's my first try.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

who am I?

I had a pretty good handle on this. We won't go into details, but I was me, for most of my life. So I thought.

Now it turns out someone or things have been dipping into a me that includes credit card numbers and such. Kudos to the credit card company that caught this, early. But now I have to look into all sorts of stuff, of a monetary nature. The bank started an official police inquiry, but I suppose, after googling some info, I should also contact my local constable.

I always thought if the universe got all up in my face, confronted me with major questions, those questions would regard being and nothingness, my place and purpose on this earth, something metaphorical, rather than financial.

I'll let you know how this works out. No, I won't bore you daily. But I will provide some info to keep in your back pocket, should this ever happen to you. Steps to take, and so forth. Because, really. These guys, these guys -- they went trolling through rich waters of unprotected identities and the best they could find was this little fish?

And just to end with a mild rant -- when they caution not to give out your social security number (something I never do, out of habit) -- but please, are we fucking stupid? Everyone has access to our ssn -- it's on our school records, rental agreements, mortgages, tax forms, bank accounts, utilities -- might as well be on a billboard; anyone can grab it; doesn't take a Snowden or that pale guy, because it's everywhere.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Parents wish; children are

They wanted me to be a dentist.

When I graduated college with a major in English Lit, I returned home for a weekend, and my parents looked concerned. English Lit? How would I make my way through this all-too real and sometimes cruel world, knowing nothing but the difference between a metaphor and a simile, an aphorism and an axiom, an allegory and a parable.

Where are the bicuspids? they asked. Show us the teeth in this plan.

"Oh, don't worry," I said, and patted their furrowed, worried brows. "Yes, yes, it's only an English Lit degree, but I've backed it up with a minor in Italian Cinema.

"And if that's not enough to impress you, next year, I'll go for my Masters in Philosophy -- emphasis on French Structuralism. I'll be studying whether Foucault, a known positivist, may not be an ordinary positivist at all. I know! You look amazed! We are all amazed! Because, paradoxically, he uses the tools of science to criticize science.

"Of course, structuralism is less popular today than other approaches, such as post-structuralism and deconstruction, and the emphasis on ambiguity, i.e., the ethics of ambiguity. If I can recall the words of Cornelius Castoriadis, when he criticized the practice of symbiotic meditation, and yes, it is at the tip of my tongue... "

My dad dropped off first, my mom followed soon after. We all slept well that night.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

They say tomatoes, I say Hahamongna

"The Devil's Gate Reservoir Sediment Removal and Management Project [will host] an estimated maximum of 425 truck round trips per day." [six days a week, for five years.]

Let me preface this by saying, that which the County is now calling Devil's Gate Reservoir is actually, mostly, for all of us who hike, bike, gallop, run, jog, stroll, and admire the acreage, that which the County calls Devil's Gate Reservoir, is in reality, primarily, Hahamongna Natural Watershed Park.

I got nervous, the moment I saw they were morphing the name.

As to the sediment abatement plan, you know, if we can put a man on the moon, and we did; if we can put a robot on Mars, and we have; then why can't we address a silt-removal problem at a local dam with a certain amount of sophistication?

Moving dirt in trucks, four hundred-plus trucks per day? Apparently, were it not for the internal combustion engine, we'd be hitching up the mule train and grabbing our shovels. Is this the best our brilliant County, and their highly-paid scientists, engineers, consultants and more consultants, can imagine, configure?

I don't know all the possible options, not by a long shot. But sluicing seemed worth pursuing. As to that option, the consultants hired another consultant who printed some xxx-page report to say that sluicing wouldn't work. Well, maybe not. Who is this gentleman, I asked? Oh, the best in class, they answered, an expert from San Diego State Uni.

Fair enough. But we're talking big budget here. So, I ask the County, you went to San Diego and, what, the mule wouldn't move? Like, you couldn't afford to call the Netherlands, for instance? Japan? Denmark? Just one consultant, for a multi-million dollar project?

So the County position at the meeting today -- trucking dirt. Four hundred truck trips a day, six months a year, for five years -- worst-case scenario. (When officials start positing a worst-case scenario, they're talking as good as it gets.)

If this plan goes through, I say, follow the money. Look closely, very closely, at the dump truck, bulldozer, and crane contracts. That'll be a helluva scoop.

Anyway, I found this clip. If the County proceeds, here's our wildlife, here's our Hahamongna Natural Watershed Park. Dig it.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Saving Hahamongna

Hahamongna Natural Watershed Park is an acquired taste, like Roquefort cheese or truffles. To appreciate the Haha, you must welcome the extraordinary; you need a sense of adventure.

I like parks. I like an expanse of green green lawn in the middle of a desert -- a clipped hedge, appointed paths, acres of St Augustine, a fake pond. I also like liquefied American cheese on nachos. You know, when they melt that baby down and the chips get all soggy. Even though I realize, fully realize, I’m eating something akin to motor oil with salt and it’s not food at all. But yeah, I like parks and I like nachos.

Hahamongna does not present itself in pre-sliced, sodium infused packets. Hahamongna is strong, barely tamed. The visitors who love it are explorers. They have a taste for adventure; a call of the wild. Because the Haha is raggedy and unkempt, with unhemmed skirts and pillow-hair. Filled with newts and toads, good dreams, bad dreams, a Native American burial ground. The Haha is an open invitation to share quality time with ducks and herons, hawks, owls, coyotes, and mountain lions.

You’ll never find an image of Hahamongna on a candybox or in a Kincaide --but if you bring your own sensibilities to the picture, the Haha will embrace you. You’ll find a landscape for the dark and light moments of the soul.

So, when the City of Pasadena lost their bid to gentrify the Haha, seems our wily County of LA found a backdoor. A sediment removal project which will host more than 400 dump trucks six days a week. The plan is to rip out riparian areas that have been self-healing since the rock quarry years of the last century. And this project will continue for five years. That is more than fifteen hundred days of dust, dirt, destruction, noise, and death.

The County couldn’t more effectively obliterate the heart and life of this area if they tried. But then, I think they are. Trying, I mean. No conspiracy theorist here, but the City of Pasadena and now the County of LA, they’ve always hated Hahamongna. Partly because most of those on whatever panel have never even visited, let alone seen, Hahamongna, and partly because we’ve loved it so much.

If the County has its way, well, here’s the riddle: how many souls can fit in a dump truck? Before you answer, County, scoot over. No, further, give a girl some room. (You always hog the floor, 30-seconds for public comment? You won’t get away with that, you really won’t.) Ok, the answer is, zero.

The souls I know opposing this plan -- you have no idea what sort of tenacity, intelligence, and creativity you’re up against. These souls are in it for the long haul and have been at it for decades. Their roots grow long and deep, into a welcoming earth.

Catch a meeting.
Thursday, November 14, 2013

6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Jackson Elementary School Auditorium, 593 West Woodbury Road

Saturday, November 16
2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m., Community Center, 4469 Chevy Chase Drive, La Canada Flintridge
La CaƱada Flintridge, CA 91011

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

You dog, you

Rob Ford Pledges, 'I Will Not Resign.'
Ending six months of often vehement denial, Rob Ford, the mayor of Toronto, admitted on Tuesday that he had smoked crack cocaine while in office. “Have I smoked crack cocaine. ... Yes, probably, in one of my drunken stupors ...God Bless the people of Toronto." NY Times

Oh, so brilliant -- the two phrases that could have saved me a lifetime of lame explanations and regret.

Forgot to do my homework? "Yes, Mr. Fletcher, but you'll understand when I say, last night I was in a drunken stupor. God Bless."

Missed curfew; arrested for under-aged driving; caught with contraband? "Sorry Dad, but I was in a drunken stupor. God bless."

Flunked out of college, late with rent, forgot a birthday, stood up a boyfriend, lost a power point presentation, divorced, bungled a work budget? DS and GB.

Of course, as all great orators will, Rob Ford takes it to the next level -- ratchets it up. "I know that admitting my mistake was the right thing to do and I feel like a thousand pounds have been lifted off of my shoulders...This was so difficult ... I hope, I hope, that nobody but nobody has to go through what I have gone through. We must advance; we must get back to work immediately."

Someone has taken a leaf from his book.

"Oh, I'm so glad you're home. I need a thousand pounds lifted off my shoulders, ASAP."

"I am a Bad Dog, a very bad dog, indeed. And admitting it is the right thing to do."

"That said, can we just turn the page on this unfortunate incident? Or are you going to obsess over it? Because if you let bygones be bygones, I have a gift for you..."

"I am your dog forever; I will not resign. God Bless!"

Friday, November 1, 2013

Breeders Cup, Friday, Gary Stevens

Brilliant ride, by one of the best jockeys, ever. Minimize this pup, it's just a soundtrack. If you click on the pictures, you can follow the race.