Monday, September 28, 2009

Dinner

A short story

They sat across from each other.  Neither said a word.  The restaurant was busy, conversations filled the room.  From their table, nothing.  They glanced around, looking everywhere but at each other.  The table was wide; it seemed appropriate.

He was tired, sat slouched over, leaning on his arm.  There were a few times when she thought of something to say, questions she wanted to ask.  But she knew it would only be fruitless small talk, and so she said nothing.  They both ordered soup.  It was a cold, blustery night, outside the restaurant and inside their hearts.

She wondered what had happened.  How had her life become this so quickly?  A strange hollowness, nothing but empty repetitions.  Who knows if he thought anything as he sat there.  He seemed to be able to sit for hours without thinking.

The restaurant began to empty, conversations leaving with the customers.  Their table remained silent.  Only the occasional clinking of silverware against the ceramic bowls, the slight slurping of soup.  She ate all the broth from around the fillings, leaving piles of vegetables on the bottom of the bowl.  He ate all the fillings from within the broth, leaving the bowl almost full of silky brown broth.  Opposites, as usual.

The bill came.  They both looked at it, neither at each other.  There was no discussion.  No questioning of whether one should pay or the other.  It was handled and they left.  Through the door and into the cold, windy night.  Both wishing they could go their own ways.  Neither having the ability to do so.  Lost.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Spelunking!

I’m probably the only person who could think it a good idea to tour a cave in 5” stilettos.  First there’s the uneven floor, then there’s the drippy rain water and puddles, and of course, the low ceilings.  I thought about the floor, maybe the puddles a little bit.  I forgot about the ceilings.  But it wouldn’t have mattered if I had because you see….

This past week I spent a few days at a conference in French Lick, Indiana.  We finished about noon on Friday and I had plans to meet up with a friend in Indianapolis when he finished work about 5:30.  I was roughly two hours south of Indy, so I needed to find something to do for a bit.  I figured maybe I could bum around in Indy for awhile or whatever.

So here I was, driving along, and then I saw it.  Marengo waterfallA big sign for Marengo Cave.  Marengo Cave was in our first year Property text book.  The case was about who owned the cave: did it belong to the person who had the entrance, or did it belong to the several people who owned the land above the cave?  The court decided it was the later and the owner who had plenty of the cave under his property, but not the entrance, put up a big chain link fence across the inside of the cave.

As soon as I saw the sign, I thought, “ooh!  I’m going there!”  Daddy used to take us to lots of caves on vacations and I usually enjoyed them.  Quick right turn and I was on my way, over rolling hills, past farms and woods and off to the cave.

When I arrived, I checked with the lady at the counter about the ground inside the cave.  She assured me it was concrete.  I bought a ticket and wandered around the gift store and nearby area until the tour was ready to start.  I also went out to my car to change my shoes.  walking shoe at caveYou see, since I had packed for the conference and not for spelunking, I only had 5” stilettos with me.  Four pairs of them.  Luckily, one of those four pairs was my favorite walking shoes.  Besides being super comfy, they’re also ok for puddles.  They’re vinyl, so they won’t get hurt by water.  And the little bit of a platform in the front keeps my toesies out of any water.

The cave was beautiful!  It was quite large and had a lot of really neat formations.  great wall of china formationThere were only 6 of us on the tour, and that’s if you count the toddler, so it was like a private tour.  Most of the others were experienced cave goers, touring the area specifically for the caves or part of some type of cave clubs.  They knew what kind of rocks they were looking at, what the different formations were and how things were formed.  I just knew what I was looking at was pretty and that I shouldn’t touch it. stalegtites and mites 

I wished Alfred was there.  Even though she might not know how things were formed or what they were called, she’d be able to tell me about the rocks and how the rocks themselves were formed.

The tour guide also told us about earthquakes.  I had no idea Southern Indiana had earthquakes, but to the guide and the others from the area, they seemed to be a pretty big deal.  Apparently, a cave is the safest place you can be in an earthquake because of the way the cave is formed.  It’s layers of rocks, so when the earth shakes, the layers just sort of slide on each other.  Like how San Francisco City Hall is built so that the whole building just sort of slides across the foundation when there’s an earthquake.  Pretty neat.

The tour was lots of fun.  My shoes came out fine, my pants a bit muddy on the bottom and my head only a little sore from knocking it on the cavern ceiling a couple of times.  What a great detour!

Home is Where Everything Makes You Smile

Whew, it has been an amazing week back in the land of real America.  Milk at every meal, cheese on every plate, green grass and open roads.  Beautiful.  Two days of driving through the Midwest did my soul an amazing amount of good.  A conference I attended for work was incredibly educational and fun.  The reunion was far better than I could have imagined.  And on top of that, I’ve gotten to spend time with my family.  Hopefully, more stories to follow…

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Afraid of What the Past Might Bring

Tonight is my high school reunion.  Ten years.  It doesn’t seem that long.  I wasn’t really sure I wanted to go.  Heck, I’m still not sure I want to go, but here I am, all ready.For the most part, I’ve kept in good contact with the people that mattered most to me back then.  There’s a few exceptions, but I’m not sure they’ll be there tonight.
I’m excited to see these friends, the ones I’m still close with.  We live all over the place and don’t get the opportunity to get together as often as we might like.
I’m not really sure what to expect.  Do these things even have a point now that we all have Facebook?  We already know who’s married and has kids and all the sort of stuff.  Oh well.  We’ll see what happens.
But first, a trip to Leon’s for some frozen custard. :)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Exploring My Closet

About a month or so ago, I embarked on a new adventure. I call it “exploring my closet.” I started at one end, luckily at the white end before Labor Day – my closet’s in rainbow order (“of course it is,” says Mommy) – and I am working my way down to the other end. If I can’t make an outfit out of an item, out it goes, into the Goodwill pile. I have a full brown paper bag already. Some stuff’s too small, some stuff’s stained (clothes that get donated and can’t be sold get shipped to Africa or turned into rags) and some of it just isn’t right for me.

It’s been a lot of fun so far, getting to play with my clothes. It’s like playing dress-up every day! Sometimes I wind up with pretty boring outfits, like today. There’s only so much you can do with a v-neck sleeveless top decked out in bling. Mainly, wear it with some pants. And most of this week I wound up in suits because I had a lot of tank tops in a row. But sometimes, I get to have lots of fun.

Like when I get to channel my little munchkinhead (minus the pink, of course).

channeling munchkinhead sidechanneling munchkinhead front The fishnets look darker in the picture than they did in real life. Part of the reason is because there’s black fishnets over the hot pink tights.the fishnets

And I’ve discovered my black, baby-doll Death Magnetic Tour, Metallica tee works great with lots of outfits. Who’d of thunk it?

But by far, my favorite day was the one where I discovered I’d accidentally dressed to match the bathroom at work!

DSCI0002 torso me hiding in the bathroom

Can you see me?

This was my grandmother’s vest sometime in the 60s or 70s. The vest was not the piece of the day for the outfit. - I’m still not up to the green part of the closet,which means this vest will come out again. – The body suit I have on underneath it was the day’s piece, from the light pink section of my closet. It was one of my aunt’s, probably from the same era as the vest. True vintage articles here.

body suit fabricIt’s a neat little body suit. Pink, tan and that shade of green, in a sort of mesh material. I’ve always liked it, but always had trouble finding things to go with it. It has to go under something, because of that meshy-ness. I was a bit worried as I got closer to it in my closet, I really didn’t want to part with it. But it was safe. Hooray! Saved by the vest!

The closet game will continue for a few more months I expect. I’m only in the middle of the reds.

Friday, September 18, 2009

New Shoes, New Shoes

New sho-oo-oes. Yesterday, I had a special meeting where I had to get fancied up, but not too serious. This is the Bay after all, wearing the black suit and pearls so earnestly required at Vandy will quickly get you ostracized out here. So I went nice, professional, and a little fun. Cute black pinstripe suit where the skirt has a little ruffle hem that makes it cute and fun. A red camisole. Beige fishnets. And then, my new red shoes!

Aren’t they fabulous?

new red shoes

I normally don’t do red shoes. (My Jessica Rabbit costume would be an exception.) I’ve always been kind of afraid of them. The people who wear them, at least on tv and such, are rather vampires. And red is such an attention getting color. Yes, 5” heels can also get attention, but you have to actually notice them first, and then do a bit of a double take. Red, especially when paired with black, is so got ya! And red plus 5” heels, that’s all kind of better-not-trip-and-fall-on-my-vampire trouble.

But they are so fun! I have to admit, I did feel rather powerful walking around in them. Stepping out of my car, striding down the street. And I got sooooo many compliments. :)

I picked ‘em up at the shoe store near our house. –the shoes, not the compliments- I absolutely loved them when I saw them. Especially that neat rainbow striped heel. At first, I wasn’t sure I could get them. The 10 was far too big and their weren’t any 9 1/2s. The 9 was a little snug, but not too bad and not painful. Plus, the 60% off sticker put them just at the top of my reasonable-for-heels price range, about $30. How could I refuse? Sucks that their Jessica Simpson, but whatever. The girl may not know the difference between chicken and tuna, but she can pick out a shoe.


Oh, and Mommy, they don't work, otherwise I'd have been at dinner last night.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tomorrow, Sadness

Tomorrow my little sister leaves.  I rather don’t expect her to come back.  At least not when she’s supposed to.  Her ideal dream man wears a kilt and drives a tractor.  She’s going to Scotland.

It’s a semester study abroad program so she’ll (theoretically) be back in no time. It’s only a few months, and it’s not like I get to see her that often anyway.  But, I’m still a little sad.  I like to call her randomly.  Especially after 8 o’clock in the evening because she’s one of the few people I know who still be awake back in the real United States.  Being a college student, she’s often awake past my bedtime in Cali!

Now, no calls, not until she’s back in Kentucky anyway.  But I’ll still get to text her!  She’s got my little Nokia travel phone and I’m sure a SIM card will be one of the first things she’ll buy.  Then we can both rack up our phone bills texting each other.  (Hmmm… maybe I’ll just email more often.)

Just my luck, she leaves tomorrow from Wisconsin and I leave in a week to Wisconsin.  However, while she’s off chasing skirts, err kilts, I’ll get my own fun.  Alfred will be in Wisconsin, having just returned from the UK!  I think Alfred and Munchkinhead will get to see each other there, but I’m not sure.  (Alfred’s going to present a paper, but don’t ask me on what cuz chances are I can’t pronounce half the words.)

So, while next week I have the fun of Alfred to look forward to, tomorrow I am saddened by the loss of my ability to (affordably) call my little munchkinhead.  Hey Munchkinhead, do you have Skype?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Time to Go Home

There’s a little in-home daycare that I pass everyday on my way from the bus stop to my apartment.  Usually there’s some contingent of small children running around on the sidewalk or yelling from inside the kitchen, which opens onto the street.  But yesterday, there was a different scene.  A father stood on the steps of the daycare, holding his young daughter in his arms, saying goodbye to the others inside the building.  It reminded me of when my daddy used to pick my sister and me up from day care.

Alfred and I went to the Teaching Center on Whitnall, back before Whitnall Square existed.  It was just Teaching Center (later named Children’s World), the Balley’s across the street and the Hardee’s on the corner.  The rest of that now-giant shopping plaza was all field.  The older children took field trips to catch butterflies out there, beyond the fences of our play area.  I longed to be a big kid and run after butterflies, hand wrapped tightly around the plastic handle, the long net streaming behind me as the grass brushed against my knees.  I never got to run after those butterflies.  By the time I was big enough, the plaza was under construction.

Anyway, as the evening wore on, Alfred and I would get anxious for Daddy’s arrival.  By late afternoon, the caregivers themselves were worn out and tired.  We’d have some fun play time in the big center area – I loved the mini one person trampoline – and then they’d turn on PBS for us.  If we saw Sesame Street come on, Daddy was late.

It wasn’t hard to spot Daddy when he came in.  Besides being one of only a few fathers picking up their children – it was the mid ‘80s after all – his tall, well-dressed person stood out starkly against the tiny rugrats and casually dressed staff.  Plus, there was that head of thick curly hair, then still mostly jet black, that made him seem even taller.

I remember Alfred and I running up to him, “Daddy!” and throwing our arms around his knees and waist, respectively.  I don’t know if we really did that every time we saw him, but it sticks in my mind most vividly.  He’d smile, maybe politely chit chat with one of the staff for a bit, make sure we had all our belongs and then wisk us away in his grey Olds, home for the evening where he’d start cooking dinner.

Daddy would pick us up from Grandma and Grandpa’s, too, when Grandma watched us.  And it was much the same.  By the end of the day, Grandma would set us up in the kitchen with the small television (right) on PBS.  me and tv in grandma's kitchenIf Sesame Street came on, or if Grandpa came home, Daddy was late.  Even now, I can hear the distinctive tinkle of the bell on the back door, the sound of the inside door opening, the pwop of the weather stripping on the door separating from the doorway, shoes on the stone floor.  “Daddy!”  His knit hat sticking up on top of his head, battling with his poofey curls to stay put, and that long multi-colored knit scarf we called his Dr. Who scarf.

Some talk with his mom while we gathered up our coats, mittens, scarves and hats.  Then home to start cooking dinner and wait for Mommy to arrive so we could run and jump on her, “Mommy!” before she even had a chance to take her coat off or put her purse down.

If I remember correctly - which I might not, but that’s what Mommy’s for – we were more often at Children’s World in the Summer and at Grandma and Grandpa’s after school.  Though I know there were some times we went to Children’s World after school and some times we were at Grandma and Grandpa’s in the summer. 

I wish Daddy was coming to pick me up tonight to take me home.  Oh well, guess I better get ready to take myself to the bus stop so I can go home and cook my own dinner, without any giant hugs.

wendy and daddy at 794 house demolishingsDaddy and Alfred after picking us up one day (and taking us to see some houses being destroyed for the new 794 extension).

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Mmmm, Yummy White People Salad

By “white people,” I mean rich, froo-frooey white people.  And no, they are not the main ingredient.

Growing up, a salad was iceberg lettuce, carrots, tomato, celery and maybe some onion or other random vegetables left over from something else.  I drowned those salads in dressing, trying to give them some sort of taste.

Then I moved away, and I met froo-frooey white people and went to eat at their expensive fancy restaurants where a fist-sized meal comes on a giant plate with a sprig of something green on the side.  And I learned.  Salads can be yummy on their own.

So, embracing my glowing whiteness, I headed to the grocery store (just the regular grocery store, not the fancy organic one, I’m not that white. …and I’m certainly not that rich) and got myself some Yummy White People Salad ingredients.

I started with a bag of three hearts salad stuff.  It’s some mixture of lettuces that wasn’t all iceberg and didn’t have any of those sour weeds in it either.

Then, a sprinkling of dried cranberries.  Cranberries are a fruit I don’t like to eat regular.  I don’t like cranberry juice either.  But, mixed in with the salad, the dried cranberries help create yumminess.  (I also find cranberries good in cranberry cheddar cheese.)  Roasted and lightly salted sunflower kernels play nicely off the cranberries.

Of course I had to have some cheese.  Shredded Asiago and a little bit of shredded Applewood Smoked Swiss.  Too much of the swiss overpowers everything else, but just a little bit is good.  It’s also a good munching cheese for later. ;)

And then the best part – although the salad is already really good even without this part, this part’s like adding desert to the meal.  Sugar roasted pecans!

heating pecans I got the idea from some fancy-schmancy recipe online somewhere.  One tablespoon of sugar and one ounce of raw pecan halves in a saucepan.  Heat, swirl, etc.  Mmmmmm

 

 

I like adding the pecans on top of the salad while they’re still hot, melts the cheese a little bit.  But I suppose you could wait ‘til they’re cool, too.  And that’s it!  I had bought a dressing to put on top of the salad, but the salad was so yummy on its own I didn’t even add any dressing.

Doesn’t it look delicious?

 

my salad

Friday, September 4, 2009

Bye Bye Bay B.

Today was my last trip over the Bay Bridge.  Well, half of it anyway.  The half that didn’t fall down in the ‘89 earthquake.  The ugly half with the bolted metal that reminds me of the insides of battleships daddy took us to tour on vacation.

They closed the bridge at 8 o’clock tonight and it won’t be open again until Tuesday morning.  If you want to drive to the city, you either have to go north to the Richmond bridge, down through rich people land where my Uncle’s yacht club is and across the Golden Gate bridge, or east through the hills to the land of dry, brown hills and take the San Mateo bridge, and then drive back west to the City.  But BART’s running 24 hours for the weekend.  That’s nice!

It’s been really interesting watching them work on the new bridge since June.  Every day I look out the bus window on my way to work and try to see if I notice any changes.  I’m still not sure how everything will work out.  For most of the way, from Oakland to somewhere in the middle of the water, the new bridge is on the right.  It’s not two stories like the current bridge; it’s more like two separate bridges next to each other, one for each direction.  Then, suddenly, the new bridge is on the left, and it is two stories!

I have no idea how these two are going to meet, though I know there’s some talk about rotating a whole bunch of metal high up in the air.  What I’m really wondering is if the new bridge will actually be ready on Tuesday.  Part of the right hand side looks completed.  The direction towards Oakland even has a wide area separated from the roadway by white metal railings.  I think it’s for bikers and pedestrians.  It has little white metal benches every so often.  But the bridge just ends, in the middle of the Bay, with some sort of rods sticking out of the underside.

There’s a big span of water and then a frame.  Just a frame!  Just raw, rust-colored metal.  No concrete, nothing but metal!  And then one little tiny concrete post sticking up a bit after the metal, with rods sticking out of it like the end of the completed part.  How on earth is that going to be a full bridge in 4 days?  Let alone a full bridge that somehow turns from 1 story into two and connects to the piece on the other side of the existing bridge?!

I can’t wait for Tuesday, to see what it all looks like.  And to ride over the new, earthquake-proof (yeah, right) bridge.

 

P.s. if you’re interested in following the progress, the Bay Bridge is on Twitter, @BayBridge

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Welcome to the Public Health System

The warm sun beat down on me as I parked my beloved beat-up car in the gravely lot.  The lot wasn’t always gravel, but the pavement had started to wear away.  The white parking lines repainted over the crumbling asphalt.

I watched other people walking towards the large building and followed them in through the glass double doors.  And then I was lost.  Signs posted here in there in various different languages said to go this way or that way for one thing or the other, clinics, children’s programs.  I had a 9 am doctors appointment to meet my new primary care provider and there were no signs that said this way for that.

Instructions from a nice lady behind a sliding metal window led me upstairs to a large room.  A giant cube of workstations stood in the middle of the room.  To the right, a large waiting area of chairs arranged in a U-shaped, nearly full with all sorts of decrepit looking people.  People who hardly fit in the chairs, people who sat hunched over, they’re hair and clothes the same shade of rumpled.  No one smiled.  One wore a medical mask.  A couple of cast-off magazines law scattered on the remaining open chairs.  No one was occupied.  All were just sitting, waiting.

I gave my name at the check-in station and settled into a free chair with the book I’d brought along and waited for my name to be called.

It struck me how much this place, this whole scene reminded me of Africa.  I was pondering this, the peeling cream paint on the walls with the equally damaged dark blue covering the metal doors and doorframes, the signs taped to all the service windows explaining what to do or not do, the old-fashioned post office styled windows lining the walls, only one of them staffed, the large waiting room with its myriad of languages floating past my ears, only being able to understand bits and pieces...  And then, the power went out.  “*Sigh,* Africa,” I thought, feeling somewhat comforted at the thought.

Except, this wasn’t Africa.  No.  This was the county public health center.  My first visit.  And of course, in Africa, that 1960s tiled floor would have been smooth concrete, polished to shiny red.  And the police officer guards wandering around the building would have had AK-47s.

I couldn’t really complain, grateful to have any type of medical care.  The county plan was a godsend, thanks to my low income (which I only have thanks to Vanderbilt anyway.)  Yet I felt lost, this place was so different than the cozy, carpeted health center back at Vanderbilt, with its wood trim and shelves decked with informational pamphlets and leisure reading materials.  And unlike my visits to African clinics, I had no body with me who knew the ropes and could help me along.

The lady at station D called my name.  Except I couldn’t understand what name or what letter she said.  I told her this once I sat down at the little window.  “You’ll have to get used to that,” she said.  We filled out paper work since the computers were down thanks to the lack of power.  “What’s your mother’s maiden name?”  I told her.  She looked up, her eyes wide, she seemed unsure what to do next.  Fumbling around on her desk for awhile, she pulled out a post-it note pad and handed it to me.  “Why don’t you write that down for me.”  I wrote it out big and clearly, all 11 letters, and handed it back to her.  She didn’t copy it onto the form, she just stuck the whole post-it note right on top.  Maybe the form didn’t have enough blanks.  (My mother’s side of the family is Polish.)

Without power, there wasn’t much else to do but wait some more.  This was one difference from Africa, I thought.  The exam rooms here had no natural light.  There was no back-up system for the computers being down.  In sum, the center was not prepared to work with just its generators.  Oh well.  I went outside to read my book in the gloriously warm weather.

Mr. Trizzle came over to visit, he works in the court house next to the medical center.  The court house didn’t have power either.  In fact, at least half the city was out.  The lady who couldn’t handle a Polish name came out to find me, to send me home.  No power, no idea when it’d be back, the power company was saying at least 2 hours…  I said goodbye to Mr. Trizzle and headed home, not realizing I’d see him again so soon.

Beep Beep.  My phone zzz’d as I walked in the door to my apartment.  It was Mr. Trizzle.  The power was back on.  I quickly checked my work email for anything important and headed back to the health center.  On my way, I noticed most of the previously out street lights were working again, but not all of them.

The health center was just as I expected it.  Practically empty.  They had sent everyone home.  Well, I didn’t have too long to wait before I was called back to the window, given all my paper work and directed to another room, through some blue metal doors, at the end of a dingy hallway.

I sat and waited for awhile before I realized I was supposed to put my paperwork in a plastic basket near the door.  At Vanderbilt, the nurses and receptionist handled all that.  I sat on those hard wooden chairs, staring at a divider with the same peeling cream paint as the walls, attempting to read signs in languages that were not my own.  It was half an hour before it was my turn to be seen.  A lady had come in without paperwork just before my entrance, demanding to be seen.  And she was seen.  I waited.

Employees bustled in and out and around the different sides of the dividers.  “Look at that birthday party invitation with Elmo.”  “Hey I brought some cookies.”  “What are you doing this weekend?”  I wondered if their seeming to not had any work was because the patients at all been sent home, or if this was normal.  There was one doctor in the room and about a dozen of them.

The exam room was very small.  About the size of a bathroom.  An old computer sat perched on a metal arm extending from the wall.  It appeared to be running some pre-XP version of Windows.  The exam bed was shoved in a corner, the back raised up so it looked like a giant chair.  There was a small sink.  No table of cotton swabs or tongue depressors, or cabinet of drawers for tools.

The doctor was very nice and very helpful, though talking a bit fast and leaving me rather dazed and confused as she left the room.  At Vanderbilt, the doctors gave you a checkout form, or even went with you to give you drugs from the little store room and set your new appointment.  Here, after asking what to do, I was directed simply to go back to those wooden chairs and wait, to stare at the peeling paint on the divider again.

It seemed like a long time before someone finally came around the corner with my papers.  “What pharmacy would you like me to call your prescription in to?’  Uhhh… what prescription?  Where’s a pharmacy?   “There’s a Walgreen’s down…”   “Yes, that’s ….”  Then she told me to go back to the main room and visit the lab window. 

I got a number, 42.  A young woman called my number and then disappeared behind a door that said “restricted access,” the door closing behind her.  I stood there confused.  Was she coming back?  Was I supposed to follow her?  The lady behind the window who had given me my 42 told me to go through the restricted door.  They took my number, took my blood and said nothing.  “Is that it?”  “Yes.”  I left. 

I stood for a moment back in the big waiting room, unsure what to do.   A bit confused, not sure what drugs I was going to get, how or if I’d get results on my blood or if I hadn’t done something I was supposed to do.  Herding cattle seems to work better when the cattle know what’s going on.  I looked around, no one seemed to expect my attention.  I had no paperwork left in my hand, only my new red clinic card, a rectangular piece of plastic emblazoned with my information like a monochromatic credit card.  I shrugged and headed to the door.

It happened to be noon.  Nice, lunch time!  And lunch time for Mr. Trizzle, too. ;)