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Entries in cooking (8)

Saturday
Mar032012

Accidental Growth Opportunity +10

Just over ten years ago Kelli and I started on the kind of relationship we have now. There was a quite generous post about that not long ago so I won't retrace those steps. But just ten years ago this day, something a lot less joyful happened that rewrote our histories in its own way. It's one of those things I can't say I'd do all over again (and Kelli sure as hell would not, and some years ago when I mentioned this realization, she bristled at the thought), but the lessons are such that maybe they were that important. Sometimes it takes some terrible news to make breakthroughs and to grow.

This was in that odd time when we sort of pretended to not be a couple even though we were joined at the pelvis. Were we a couple? Weren't we? I don't even know if we knew, so we refrained from openly saying so. At church, where we both had long histories already, and where we had met over eleven years before, we carried on like we weren't an item.

Kelli was living farther east than I was back in 2002, and it was clearly advantageous to stay at my house in Clairemont so we could get to church on Sundays. On this March 3rd, she and I came from our separate residences instead. She was coming from a funky trailer she lived in for several months not long after college graduation. From there, she'd be coming west on the I-8 and then north on the I-5. I was already at church. Worship started. I had only started back there just two months before and usually we sat together. More and more of the service was passing and Kelli wasn't there. This was years before we got cell phones. Where was she? This got uncomfortable. What's taking so long?

Then I saw her through the glass, making her way around the round balcony. She's hunched over, hobbling feebly and her face was wincing, obviously in great pain. She could barely open the door and make her way in to the couple pews, and fortunately, Deb, the pastor's wife, saw her and helped. But as soon as Kelli was in, she had to go out. She needed to get to the hospital. So much for church that day.

As this played out, I found out through her shaken voice that she and her Volkswagen Fox was rear-ended by some guy just one exit before she'd leave the I-5. Apparently there was some slowing and she slowed down some but was hit by an uninsured driver who didn't get the message, and was probably going over 50-55 on impact. She pulled aside and as she was trying to find herself again, refused an ambulance, thinking herself better than she turned out. Eventually she got to church after the accident scene sorted itself out. But then it was time to get up to Scripps in La Jolla. That's how the rest of our day went, until dark.

This was a heck of a way to start a relationship. We were friends, but this romantic stuff was new and still not really anything that had sunk in yet. I had no idea where this was going to lead, and of course, the natural response is to feel helpless in the face of it. Kelli had been in another car accident before, and her mom in two accidents that had been pretty damaging to her back, requiring surgery. Oh, no... not a "like mother, like daughter" thing?! (Unfortunately, a lot of my personal history from 2002 got wiped out due to early computer experiences while also losing touch with paper calendars, so I don't have the best record of what that time was like and what I might have been thinking.) I was aware that it was only a bit over a year away from the experience when I failed my grandmother when she fell and was on the floor overnight, sitting in her unfinished business in the bathroom for probably eight hours or more, all the while crying for help. That was on my mind as the thought occurred to me that Kelli would be needing me now. I was scared. Not just for the fear of what Kelli was experiencing, but also that I could be a pretty slothful fellow.

After finding that the X-rays miraculously indicated nothing broken, there was small comfort. But her muscles and tendons and nerves were rattled a great deal. There was no need for surgery or any casts, so later that day she was sent home with the usual treatments for pain: ice and vicodin or something like it. Everything was painful for her since her low back and hips were hurt the worst. I became her de facto caregiver. It wasn't because I was qualified. She stayed at my house a lot then. Her trailer was quite cramped and hard to turn around in, and the steps alone were an obstacle. Since the house had the bathroom and kitchen, it was harder to just use those facilities. Not too long after the accident, she moved out of there and into a house in Poway with our church friend Cindy (Phil's ex-wife). That afforded her a place just miles from work, some decent space, a flat floor plan, and a sympathetic housemate, even if it was 21 miles from me. I'm not sure I was a very generous boyfriend then, at least when it came to driving. I wasn't working much and she was, so more times than not, she drove to see me.

The ongoing need to care for her and be far more patient than I expected I'd need to be was able to draw something out of me that I don't think I'd called upon for years, if at all. She was still mobile, but short on energy and flexibility. And the more rest she could get, the better. I found myself getting us dinner more. To say that I was cooking is too lofty. We make our jokes about how "cooking" for me was preparing the DiGiorno frozen pizzas and opening a pre-made salad mix with a two liter of Coke. Sometimes we turned my big room into our cafe for two. There were some times that were really lovely, being brought down to a new reality as we were. It kind of put the brakes on some of our, um, youthful enthusiasm for each other. Or, at least, let's say it forced us to adapt some. For a while it slowed down some of our exterior activity, but eventually things came back into the schedule. I think it afforded us even more chance to address a deeper life than maybe we might have done if we had our full mobility and carefree attitudes.

As the years since have borne out, that one momentary lapse of alertness damaged Kelli in a way that had the effect of aging her probably 20-30 years. The shock to her skeleton and muscles was pretty great, and to this day she's got after effects. She was only 25 then, and in some ways, her body was put into the condition of someone twice that age. It isn't exactly hyperbole; she now goes to the YMCA pool and one class she takes is an arthritis class that is pretty gentle, and most of the folks are 50-80.

Not too long after the accident, we had to go to the insurance adjuster's office where the other party's company would interrogate Kelli and squeeze every tidbit of information in such a way as to minimize their guy's guilt. We momentarily got our hopes up that we might get a sympathetic ear when we got to the office on stormy day and found the adjuster was none other than Jennifer, the daughter of our former youth pastor! And, interestingly, Jennifer and I had our first car accident with each other back in 1990, just weeks after we both got our licenses at the age of 16! But, it was not meant to be. Jennifer had to recuse herself due to a conflict of interest, so we were fed to the sharks after all. At least the decision was made to total the car and help make the way clear to get a newer one, a Saturn—a car that turned out to be rather crappy as time passed.

The two realities that collided for me were that for exactly five years prior to our first "date" at the start of January, I had been with no partner and was rather depressed during much of that time. I felt like a lost soul. All the strife seemed to pile up during those years. Kelli's arrival on the scene was a slow development, but after January started off, it was a clearly different period we were in. We had just two months of "normal" early relationship excitement before this accident changed things. It isn't that I turned into any great, compassionate saintly guy after it, but this accident started that process. It hit close enough to home for me that I had to start to see things another way. She wasn't totally helpless, but she needed help. I didn't do a very good job of helping anyone before her. I'm not even sure I did a great job of helping Kelli, either, but this experience was the right one for the time. It came at the time when I was ready for change because doing things my way was not working out. Even in the first six months of our relationship, I realized there was something new afoot; I had told my young roommate Zach that I thought there was marriage potential with Kelli.

For all the time since that dubious day, I've sort of been haunted by Kelli's car "luck." It didn't exactly make me happy to hear that just a week ago she called me to say she had been rear ended. This time though it was a parking lot incident with a truck that backed into her trunk at almost no speed. Okay fine, but before she came home, I was getting worried. I hate to risk it, but with such a record of car accidents, I don't always like the idea of riding along. It used to be a greater cause for worry, unvoiced as it was. Some families just don't have good mojo, you know? I want to stay clear of all that.

Obviously one can't test this out scientifically. Would I have developed a compassion for Kelli just the same? No one's going back to test the theory. In the spiritual journey, all sorts of things take on meaning, even the sad moments and the tragic upsets. Who knows how things would play out if this hadn't happened? Would Kelli be willing to embrace her role as an advocate for people who have disabilities? Was her childhood struggle enough to lead her there? Even as late as about two years ago, she was only deciding to come out as a person who had both a birth disability and an acquired disability. Obviously one does not sign up for opportunities for growth like this, but one applies meaning to experiences and eventually the twisting path toward self shows some sign of making sense.

Tuesday
Nov222011

Pre-Thanksgiving Party

I'm pretty tired right now. I spent all day prepping for Thanksgiving dinner. And then serving it. And then enjoying the company. And then kissing my sweet wife after all the commotion settled down. And then doing the dishes after she went to bed, no doubt exhausted from a day of her full time job, a two hour conference call for UCC related matters, and then straight into our gathering. Now, after 1:30 in the morning, the time seems right to reflect

Why was my Thanksgiving dinner on Monday? We're going out to Death Valley once again for the weekend, with a prelude of a day spent driving in Sequoia forest which I think is something we've never done before, but for a cursory pass through the valley where CA-178 cuts along the Kern River, again, done last year. The dinner is also put on for the benefit (mostly) of the Young Adults group at church, timed to try to get people together before scattering for the "real" holiday.

1999

All day long the thought was with me how big a day this was in my life. It was nearly unimaginable in 1999 and some years before that. That year on Thanksgiving, while everyone else was having their family gatherings, I was not. I was in the midst of a dark spell in life, taking consolation—like Silas Marner who counted his gold daily because it was his whole life—in studio recording. Though on that day in 1999, there wasn't much consolation because I was throwing drumsticks at the sheetrock after so many frustrated attempts to play drums to a first draft of Zehdihm's Flight (a track that took two more drafts to get right, one featuring Mike Keneally on it). At the same time, my grandmother Virginia was taken next door to be with the large and warm family of evangelical Christians who took care of her so well. They were probably trying to "save" me so I was suspicious of all their conversations and gestures, but in retrospect, the daughter, Connie, was always good to me. She left me a plate of food to eat so I'd be a part of their dinner, even in my small way. I got to it about 10pm or so, long after the festivities came to a close. I really hated it all. I was so so lost.

In between that one holiday and Thanksgiving in 2000, I don't know how many times I was so depressed and contemplating suicide. It was kind of a dull ache like these things are; too painful to live, too frightening to die. Too strong a feeling of failure in life; too likely I could fail at suicide too. This was long before the current "FAIL!" meme, and for me, even before memes! I just felt that way, less as a recording artist, but certainly as a human being. Yeah, I don't really know how many times I just wished things were done. At least it wouldn't all hurt like it did. No one would miss me, would they?

2000

And by way of a string of transformative events and compulsions to try to make amends in life, the very next year was what to that point was perhaps the best, most rich feeling Thanksgiving. Which is interesting because it set the stage for years of challenges. It was, of course, in 2000 when I had just started a new period of relationship with my mom and her side of the family. But it had a cloud over it that fortunately did not show itself for a few days or weeks. Not only was my reunion on the exact day of my grandmother Sofia's memorial (mom's mom, memorial on Tuesday before the holiday), but that choice in my life—part of my dull ache being the brokenness I felt with regard to estrangement with so much family—was something that I paid for with more of the same, though met with transformed consciousness.

The story has been told here before. I love to tell it. So much drama, so much intrigue. It keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. But let's keep on the Thanksgiving memory from 2000.

Being raised apart from my mom, there has always been a feeling that I was never at home with her. Few are the times when I felt as deeply connected as my memory of T-giving 2000 suggests. During my visits as a young teen, her two bedroom apartment was filled with her, my younger brother and sister, our older sister and her two kids. Six people as a baseline population, and seven when I was there. More still if we got any guests. It was rather close, and with so many kids, the place was a perpetual mess. In 1994 it was a lot lighter, either that she had just Steve and Nikki and a nearly new condo in a gated community in Las Vegas (that she moved from weeks after I was there), or that when she did settle in Long Beach for a few years, it was in a large apartment with Nikki only. Steve was off in the Marines. By the time I got to her new house (that she owned) in Long Beach in 2000, it seemed she had something going, even though Steve and Nikki were again living there. Nikki with her daughter Katie. She was not quite four years old.

Katie was a cute kid. It might not seem much for me to say that now, but in 2000, when I was somehow seen through, reached through in some mysterious way, my heart gripped by the first girl of the new generation. Ask anyone (even now) and you'll probably not hear anything about me complimenting kids. I don't connect with kids. I don't want kids. But somehow, like God does with people like me, the unlikely, the impossible, the wrong is used in just such a way as to thwart expectations. Katie just went to my heart somehow. Oh, I had nephews but they were rough and tumble fellows, and one was already able to drink me under the table at the age of 16. But Katie...she was beautiful. Innocent. Not obviously damaged by the kinds of chaos I'd known to be the reality of life in that family. I'd barely met her two days before when I was up there at the memorial for my grandmother. Nikki and I had gone to her grandfolks' place in Huntington Beach, talking like we were in a desert oasis, taking in all the water we could, catching up on what life has been in the nearly six years since we saw each other last. She had Katie at the age of 19—in keeping with the generation gap that generally defines that family, and dare I say, a bit on the late side. She and Katie's dad were already a historical entity; I think that was the case before Katie was born. But she had some seemingly nice and decent grandparents, even if her dad was off in his own world. (I still say this is what you can expect of a pair of 19 year olds who otherwise aren't attached.)

At mom's house on Thanksgiving, it was festive with Mom, Steve, Nikki & Katie, Chris and her husband Gary and the three boys, and Uncle Steve and probably Aunt Lisa. And maybe more still since there are usually friends along. It was big. It was so anti-1999! It was lively and boisterous. I watched (of all flippin' things) a Disney movie with Katie in Nikki's room. (Later on, when I got to have my house to myself after Virginia left and then ultimately died, I painted the walls the same color as Nikki's room and used some of the same brushed metal touches as she had.) Katie and I took a walk around the block, and I was clear then that something was happening. The thawing of my heart had set in. 

There was something stunning about seeing Katie in the flesh and looking on the wall in mom's hallway where there hung a picture of herself at a little older than Katie's age, maybe four or five years old. They looked remarkably similar. My mom's picture was taken close to the time when her father killed himself. You gotta think that that was a major lifequake for her. Seeing this picture of mom from so far back, a rather solemn one at that, said that the hurt went back a long way. Looking over at Katie gave me cause to think more toward the future, to hope that maybe this time instead of the couple generations that preceded her (and a collective bunch of hardships including suicide, aggravated rape, molestation, divorces, custody battles, gang fights, unemployment, bankruptcy, and more), that maybe something different could happen. In some odd way, Katie gave me something to live for.

2001

And then the train went off the tracks a few weeks later. Nikki fell silent. A bit occupied. Closed off. And then began a spell of being about as cold as ice toward me. I still don't get it. With her being closed off, I've not seen Katie since 2001. And so sadly, the great patterns are there again, this time in an interesting reversal where they block me out after mom got blocked out by my old man long ago. (That they've adopted his technique does not seem to register.) Even by the early part of 2001, it was turning up this way. But nonetheless, I was thinking of Katie when I inquired about the plans for two pianos that Sofia left behind. I had hoped to buy one myself but also hoped the other might stay in the family just in case it could do some good, not to mention kids who get put on the piano early on seem to do well. Well, that all went down like pork chops at a bar mitzvah and contributed to more strife than it was worth.

During the course of 2001, things were passable, but by the end of the summer and around the holidays, things were getting worse. I expressed interest in coming to Thanksgiving dinner again if mom was going to do that. Nikki somehow laced into me about that one, saying I was inviting myself to dinner. Excuse me, is it wrong for a son to think he'd be at his mom's house for dinner on such a night? I did get to dinner there on Thanksgiving night but it was a far more reduced affair. Not festive at all. Heads down, it seemed. Coldness. I think it was Nikki, Steve, mom, and maybe Katie. Chris was out of the house at that time, embittered with mom and living at the house of her oldest sons' father's family in San Pedro (a Cuban family). After having dinner at mom's I drove down there and at least had a bit more fun, even among people I really didn't know. It was a little something to feel that the holiday was special, and worth the 110 mile drive up. But then barely three weeks later, the whole mom/Nikki thing crashed and burned in a miserable email flame war of name calling and accusations going both ways. I think it was the first real email flame war I was engaged in. Sad.

And, in a way, good. My response in mid-December was to call a friend of mine named Kelli Parrish. She and I could hang out, but I wanted to tell her about how things turned so disastrous as they did that week. And she was game for listening. Just about two weeks after that, we started our present relationship on the first of the year, 2002. In about a month, we're marking ten years together.

So here's where it gets interesting, and this is worth its own posting. I wrote earlier about my brother James passing away totally unbeknownst to me. A few days ago I got an email from his long time (common law) wife Trish. I had never ever spoken to her because they lived in Las Vegas and somehow despite some shared sense of loss from way back, we were never close. (Really, none of my brothers were in reach. I always had to go through Chris or mom.) Trish and I talked on the phone for an hour and more and have passed some emails. So far I've found her to be quite candid about things, and with a new take on my own family but also seen by an outsider who's also an insider. She hasn't spent much time with them, but over the 15 years with James, she's got perspective that I'd love to hear about. And pictures. She told me about the quite dreadful motorcycle accident he was in four years ago, being pretty traumatically injured, and then his fight with cancer and the stroke that finally got him. It sounded quite hard to take. I look forward to knowing more. James and his twin John have been rather mysterious figures for me. I've seen them both only a few times, at least consciously. I now have some contact info for my two surviving brothers.

And the thing to be found is just how much Chris' gatekeeper role is her own imagination, or if people are interested in being in touch with me, and being civil. A few posts back, I wrote a long letter to Chris, criticizing her for many things but one in particular is how she blocked several requests to get in touch with Trish, John, and others. But since Trish found me out on her own, that about undoes Chris's case, and exposes Chris for being the dysfunctional one she is. It's sad that she can't get past her own agenda even in the name of one brother trying to process the death of another.

Today

My family out there is a Humpty Dumpty affair, and that's an optimistic assessment. There's no getting it back into one piece. It never has been one piece. My own existence is as "one piece" as it gets. There are no real functioning day-to-day activities to take part in with any among them. My life is here. It's with Kelli. And church friends primarily, or others who can appreciate the journey I've lived. The three Thanksgiving holidays detailed above offer what a wild ride it has been. Still, those are some real formative times where I "suffered into truth" as Aeschylus says in The Oresteia. Those were the times that made me want something. The times that called me to life. And like coming into life the first time, it is simultaneously agonizing and beautiful.

Today, I cooked for my family, such as it is. The people who are willing to be in my movie, as I say it these days. Most of them were young adults from that group at MHUCC. One was from the old church at CCCPB. A coworker of Kelli's (and a seminarian/CPE buddy before that) was here with her partner. Lee and Juanita were here. It's right to say my mom gave me life, but she's not been too predictable in helping me to live, and to cherish life in the way that tonight's guests (and many others who could not make it) have done. A decade ago I was "inviting" myself to my mom's dinner. This time I was inviting my new family to my table, freely, lovingly, generously. I cooked a good portion of the meal and rather surprised myself at doing so—turkey; four types of potato dishes; vegan gravy; cookies, stuffing, cornbread, roasted veggies... a huge task that took me all day and part of last night. Peeling carrots and potatoes, cutting onions, dicing celery, basting a turkey—it was all a prayer. It was like that last year and the year before that when I did similar dinners (with Kelli's help) at our current house. It was like that as I gazed out the trailer's bay window while the wood stove raged, looking out over the windblown plains at Red Mesa in New Mexico, cooking for the guys most days I was there.

For me, it was like the Danish movie Babette's Feast where Babette, the exiled French master chef whose life was saved by a stodgy religious group on the Jute coast, pays back years and years of accomodation and a place to live in safety away from the war in her homeland. She won the lottery and after years making the worst food to the specs of her hosts, she asks to give a feast to coincide with the date of the deceased pastor's birthday. All her 10,000 francs went into the event, made in the same way as if she were at her old restaurant, with no cut corners, and best of all, the stodgy congregation thaws out over the sensuality of the meal's several courses and wines. It's a great movie about gratitude.

My guests though were not a stodgy bunch. It was all quite convivial. But my heart was still with the young man of a decade ago, at war with himself and others, only at the liminus (threshold zone) of starting to feel alive again, and then having that taken back for a year, and then meeting up with a splendid girl who dared to walk along the path for a decade now. Every reason to be thankful. I attached a bit of my own thoughts to Rev. Parrish Lucas' grace before dinner. I added that this moment is the culmination of so many things in this universe, this amazing place. With all the randomness, isn't it amazing that we're here, together, in this place, ready to eat this food, ready to be in community by a blend of grace and tenacity of will? How is that not a spiritual thing of the greatest magnitude? 

A bit over a decade ago when thoughts of suicide visited me periodically, such grand thoughts were not on my mind. I doubt the evangelical religion of Virginia's caretakers could get me there. Only the long twisted and bumpy road of disappointment did that. And, in the great paradoxical arena that is the spiritual life, I have to be thankful for the whole messy lot of it. A decade ago I could not have imagined it. Would not have imagined Kelli as my wife. Nor that I had a gay couple and a lesbian couple here. Nor that Lee Van Ham would be a father figure to me. Or that I'd have gone to and left my old church at PB, but would have one person who transcends that, working right beside me to get dinner ready, even though she only got invited a few hours before. Never really imagined that I'd be the facilitator of a young adults group, at church no less! Our guests were from a couple different circles of our lives. Intergenerational. Gay and straight. Married and unmarried. A motley crew that made my house as lively as the year I was at mom's place. I still lament that so many years have gone by with her and that family. Births and deaths and anniversaries clocking by. I don't want to be seen as excluding them, but after many years of trying, the evidence is that there is nothing I can do about it. So I put my peeler to the potato, the baster to the turkey, and carry on with my new family.

Sunday
Mar072010

Take A Leek

ed and pepper sutton at MHUCC souper bowl sunday soup cookoff. they won the silver spoon award for the take a leek soupEd and Pepper Sutton, the chefsMy church had a soup cookoff today, the "Souper Bowl Sunday" event to raise money for one of the local charitable organizations we support. I submitted the following recipe after about a year of dabbling at home and it was adopted by the commission I am on, the Christian Education commission. A few of us in CE went to my jobsite and got some veggies and then headed back to church last night to make a few gallons of soup by hand. It was one of six entrants in the event. People voted by "cash in a basket" for whichever soup or presentation they liked, but really the winner was the group getting the donations. (We had a giant likeness of a rustic outhouse to play up the "take a leek" idea. Many groups sold their recipes for a buck each.) Nonetheless, our smoky Leek and Potato and Spinach soup came in second place and got the "Silver Spoon." The tortilla soup people won the golden spoon. It was a nice rainy day, perfect weather to drive a bunch of people to eat their share of gallons and gallons of soup! The tally I heard was $1,570—for soup! Whodathunkit?

Take A Leek soup

Vegetarian. Omnivore friendly if you use chicken broth or bacon. Home recipe yields about 3-4 quarts.

  • 2-3 Russet potatoes, thinly sliced
  • 3-4 leeks, cleaned, whites only
  • Your choice of 1 yellow onion, 1 bunch of green onions, or 2 shallots
  • 1 lb cleaned spinach
  • 1 can Cream of Mushroom soup (or Half and Half, cream cheese, etc.)
  • 1 quart broth
  • 1 head garlic, cloves peeled and minced
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme and parsley, minced or left whole in a cheesecloth for easy removal
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • Dash of cayenne pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Butter

Optional:

  • For thinner texture add another quart of broth or more half and half. Thicker consistency makes more of a dip.
  • Bacon bits or ham if desired.
  • Experiment with herbs—dill, sage, etc.

Select leeks with lots of white, about 3"-4". Cut lengthwise into the core so you can peel apart and clean between the layers. Over a low flame, saute thinly sliced leeks, minced garlic and onions in butter and olive oil. Some browning adds additional character. Prepare potatoes by thinly slicing them and browning in a single layer in a wide oiled skillet over high flame. Combine leek/onion/garlic mix and potatoes into a large pot with broth. Add spinach and seasonings. Bring close to a boil then lower heat and let everything mingle for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, add the cream soup (or other cream) and blend well using immersion blender. If using a regular blender, use a slotted ladle to remove most chunks, leaving some behind for texture. Recombine blended and unblended parts. Season to taste with pepper(s) and salt.

Yields about 2-3 quarts depending on how many broths or creams are used. Can be frozen. Serve with hearty, nutty bread or in a bread bowl. Yummy!

Friday
Sep052008

Mmmm, Tastes Like Chicken

Chicken is a versatile meat that lends itself to many recipes. Here are some that I like, with names that seem to capture the flair well.

  • Steamed artichokes with mayo or butter and garlic, with lemon and oil marinated chicken with herbs. It evokes a Mediterranean vibe when served with warm pita bread. I call this one "Choked Chicken."
  • Or, tonight we had a salad with some chicken that was marinated and let to simmer in a delightful parmesan and shiitake mushroom sauce. I call it "Chicken Shiit Salad."
  • In an effort to eat less meat, we have sometimes experimented with some of the soy/tofu substitutes for common meat products. Trader Joe's has a pretty adequate chicken substitute made of tofu. I thought it was a tad dry but if it were let to simmer in a sauce of some sort, it would be even better. The name "meatless chicken" is so unfortunate when you could call it by a far more succinct and memorable name using the words tofu and chicken.: "tofucken." Caution must be exercised so it isn't confused with foot fetish sex or anything else that falls under the term "toe fucking."
Thursday
May012008

The Veggiemonger Fitness Program

I think that the job I now hold has been the most physically demanding that I have ever had. That is, as a sustained, full time deal that is mostly comprised of actually, well, moving shit. My audio background had longer days and more fucked up demands in terms of odd scheduling. That work also saw me moving components twice my weight in and out of vehicles. But most of it was just part of any given shift, and shows varied enough that I'd not be doing the same thing all the time. It rarely if ever seemed to be full time work, but sometimes it was grueling.

garden hoe in the truck bed helps keep from contorting and banged kneesI have a hoe in my bed, paid for on the company dime!But I find that over three months of slinging watermelons and potatoes has done something to tone me up. There is a lot of lifting and loading. Lots and lots of hand truck activity, balancing stuff as I navigate corridors and narrow passages, coolers, stairs and slick floors. The day goes on for eight hours or more (I don't take a lunch break and often work straight through the day with a half hour of automatic overtime each day) and its mostly go, go, go. For work, I drive an F-150 most of the time, and up till a few weeks ago, it was an uncovered bed, which meant that I could move stuff around freely from side and back. But recently there was a shell put on and now it is harder to load and unload since everything has to be done out the back end. This means there is a lot of climbing in with very little headspace, and more twisting to reach around in the cramped space.

The company lets us take produce home and I've availed myself of some goodies. For a couple months now I've pretty much started the day off with a very berry smoothie with added protein. Usually it has blueberry, raspberry, strawberry, banana, cottage cheese, milk, and protein powder. Other fruits are added as I dare to experiment. At night, I've had the chance to eat a lot more veggies than I ever have, with far more balanced (usually home cooked) meals than ever.

I've biked to work a couple times a week since I wrote about that a few weeks ago. That has been good too, despite my hindquarter complaining that the saddle is crap. My knees so far are the only parts that take umbrage at this added task, but they have been bitching about any such activity since at least my early days working on stages in 1995-6 or so. But they pretty much forget about any added biking related soreness once work gets started off. The ride warms me up nicely for the day. There is the given matter of starting "cold" on any given day at any job, but at my job, it really is cold—about 37º in the cooler. Most days now though, I am in T shirt and shorts, given that most of my shift is still outside the actual cooler. I weened myself off the three layer program on the first week it got hot in February.

All in all, from eating better food and moving as much as I do, I've undone at least some of the damage done over the last several years of computer desk time. My arms and legs are a lot tighter in particular. The thing that drives me mad is all the finger and hand strength that is called upon, leaving me with sore hands in the morning after they have had a chance to rest without much movement overnight. I first got that sensation a couple years ago at AV Concepts when after one particularly hurried show strike, one finger felt this way. Then a few weeks later, another. Now its most of both hands that get that way. It is sort of what one gets for not using fingers for much more than typing on computer keyboards and only intermittent manual labor. It has sort of killed my interest in guitar playing since by late evening, the hands are tight again. Drumming with a little band I've been with these same few months has been bearable, but sitting at the drum chair has made my knee complain, particularly the right one which has forgotten what it was to use a bass drum pedal!

Far from a health food nut and fitness guru, I can at least say that I've done a lot less to poison myself as of late than any other time, and the physicality has been considerably more than since maybe 1993 when I last rode my bike for much. I do straight eight hour days (if not more) then sometimes come home to cook for the girls, and a couple nights race off to a bible study class or band practice. I keep pretty busy, and I aint doing it on the old diet of burgers and pizza and that shit. (I had an In-N-Out burger a few weeks back and it just looked gross to me, with its wilted lettuce and tomatoes. I retain the right to consume a tasty protein charged lunch burrito from one of my favorite taco vending establishments, and the recent $5 footlong special at Subway has reminded me of the good old days when I used to wreak havok at those shops.) But there is a lot more "real" food happening around here.

Oh, and I also managed to pay off my student loan from seven years ago. I'm glad to have that monkey off my back. Now I have no debt. Just bills. My wife though is accumulating debt like its going out of style, what with her schooling.

Monday
Aug282006

Being The Better Man

It would have been unimaginable a year ago. Or ten years ago. At both those times, my world was torn asunder by my father ushering me out of a house he owned. Spaced by nearly exactly nine years, the experiences of moving from my childhood home in two hours and my adulthood home in two months were some of the most traumatic of all for me. In 1996 on his birthday on August 26, I found myself having to break into my own house of 23 years while he was at work, and to have to collect everything I could cram into two cars—two drumsets, mattress, books, personal records and recordings, CDs, clothing, and whatever else. That summer was basically the real beginning of the total collapse of my family. A year ago, when ushered from my dear house and studio, I was beside myself with rage at the injustice of it. But I had little choice, and after a while, it became clear that nothing would change any decision about booting me, and that my energy was better spent elsewhere.

Most of the last year has been either extremely troubled or just distant. This summer had that to stew over but also the mark of ten years since the first experience moving from a place I knew as home. Clearly, I am not the same person as in 1996, but last year opened that whole wound up again. I for one don't believe a harder life with less security while struggling to make ends meet makes for better character. I'm sure it can happen. I don't thrive under it. Last year right before I was evicted, I was working hard on my EONSNOW presentation, just starting to figure out how I could matter to the world by conveying something meaningful. Then in a day, most of that was put aside for a couple months. To me, my meaningful work was terribly disrupted, and I was pressed into doing meaningless work that proved to be just that when I held to the character and sense of self I had formed while doing my more meaningful work. As for my father, I just stayed clear of him as best I could, if that was all our relationship was to offer—division, and imbalance of wealth, no cooperation, etc.

Kelli and I are on both a shared quest and personal quests to make sense of the world. Her professional path toward being a minister has drawn me into wanting to know more about her field, so I'd read some things of hers, talk to her about her studies, and we'd both go to Bible study at our church, meet and talk with people who have interesting things to impart on the matter of religion, ethics, faith, justice, and all that stuff. For her, it is both a professional pursuit, but one that necessarily takes over the personal life too. For me, I found it important to learn some things to keep in touch with her, but also to find a way to relate to people in a deeper way. Some of my activism comes straight out of a worldview that can be framed with the biblical language and the related fields of philosophy and ethics.

It is easy to learn things by rote, or by just reducing things to an intellectual exercise. But it is another thing entirely to see if there is a way to actually employ things in real life situations, when they either matter or make one into a total hypocrite. Everyone can rattle off righteous sounding language, but its always harder to live it. In my pursuits, I've kept that in mind. Kelli, as a professional minister, must try to harmonize word and deed, else people won't take her for serious.

The hardest thing that is expected of Christians is to forgive—not to forget—just to forgive. To turn the other cheek. To absorb negative energy so that it is drained of its harmful effects, and to do so willingly and lovingly. It is hard because everything in the world expects us to do differently—to return a blow with an equal or greater blow. Not so, said the Master. In fact, not so, says most every respectable religious and ethical code out there. There is a distinction between being a doormat-victim, and being a person who retains dignity and self worth even in the most challenging conditions of humiliation, while not trying to return such ill will. I guess I always knew that my task was to try to be a Christian while still relating to my father who had done some real humiliating and hurtful things over the years. That to me is the challenge I face. I reckon I can't not deal with him, but do I have to be the doormat-victim or can I do better to hold my own? As a regular churchgoer now (and have been since Kelli and I paired up in early 2002), I run the risk of loading up on empty, self righteous rhetoric as I increasingly see myself as in a certain group. But I don't like the disasters that result from us/them thinking, so I wrestle with how to put a pretty amazingly noble teaching into some form in my life. Hence the many months that I had no contact with my father except to invite him to see Kelli do her first three sermons at church this summer.

Birthday. Second wedding anniversary. Anniversary of moving house, twice (once on his birthday), starting another semester of school for Kelli. There was a growing symbolism in it for me to use the end of August as a time to make something of my abstract idea to transcend years of hurt and see if something else could happen. So on the 25th, I dropped in on his house and we ended up talking for about two hours and managed to stay pretty civil. But more than that, he was surprised to see me, and somehow it seemed that we reached past the obvious dead ends of our usual house and finances discussions. We didn't even mention it at all, though we did have an odd discussion on energy and how to move forward from oil. There was no overt and dividing tension that I would ordinarily expect, and I'd say we met on more levels than we had in the last several years. I offered to have a dinner for his birthday, but had not talked to Kelli about it yet, though she knew I was going to make some offer. Rare is the time when I hug my father, but on this day, there was this powerfully present hug. It was the hug of the old days when things weren't so complicated. It was the hug of the guy I knew who could lift amazingly heavy things and deliver harsh blows to steel in his workshop. It was the hug of a man who I offered as my protection when confronted with the bullies of my youth: "my dad can beat your dad up!!!" But it was also the hug of a man who is physically smaller than me now, and whose age ratio to mine grows smaller all the time, and now it is less than 2:1.

Kelli didn't believe much of what I had to say about that experience, and we got rather, er, excited at the next part I introduced. For Kelli who had no way of relating to him except by seeing how he affected me, and some rather disappointing and hurtful things last summer that she took very personally, she was not inclined to let me get away with this new gimmick.

Following my compulsion to rise above a good decade and more of strife, and to symbolically put some of that to rest, I suggested that we invite him over to our place for dinner. The idea of course was that that was the turning of the other cheek. Once, storming out of a house he lived in or owned, hurt and rage filled, now the table is willingly turned so that he is our guest at our place on precisely the anniversary date of one of the lowest times of my life. I did even better—we could have just gone out to Chili's or Outback or something like that, but I spent the afternoon cooking up food all by meself. Some of it was from the back yard garden, making it even more of a close-to-home thing. He went out to La Mesa to pick up my step mom/his ex-wife Eda. Kelli and I had the dog, the garden, and Suzanne here to keep it grounded in this house, and we had my parents here on a day and weekend rife with symbolic associations. We actually had a good time on the whole. Kelli's impression of him was given a lot of new things to work with, none as hostile as she had come to expect. Our freewheeling conversation ranged a few topics, from Kelli's education to politics, the relative merits of digital or film photos, to the history of our church (which, you see my father was close to because his mother was a founder), and many other things. By the end of the evening, there was laughter and joking around, and cameras coming out to take some candids and some sort of posed shots. It was really a worthwhile time, and to me, put to rest a number of things about how to relate again after months. And then, on the Sunday following, Kelli and I went to his house and had some dessert upstairs at his patio deck on the back of his studio apartment at my childhood house. This was the first of its kind with the three of us since a year and more before, the same setting that Kelli came to despise. But it went off well, and for Kelli and me at least, some sighs of relief were had. I was joking about it with her that this semester she can tell everyone the exact opposite of what happened last year when she started at CST: this year we have a house, dog, garden, smooth running marriage, and even my dad has been all different!

I guess all I can do now is hope that the momentum keeps this going. If nothing else, there was this one weekend when I/we realized that this relationship could be different than 1996 or 2005 led me to believe. Maybe it has to do with the lack of entanglements now—no shared bickering over the house. I don't know. But this is not the time to analyze and dissect. I'm just content that for at least one major instance, I was able to transcend my usual nature, and things turned out the better for it.

Sunday
Jun112006

If You Had Asked Me 15 Years Ago

ed in 1990 with his chrome premeier snare drum, posing for the senior portraitsPretty handsome if you excuse the glassesIf you had asked me 15 years ago what I would be doing in 15 years, I would not have answered that I would be helping to lay down organic soil, chicken manure, and worm castings in a backyard garden. Nor would I have said that I would be making dinner (tri-tip steak, "broccis with garlickys," and mash-taters) for my wife and friends. I wouldn't have thought that I'd be ignoring my precious drums in the garage. No, would not have said any of that. But really, back 15 years ago when I was standing out on the football stadium lawn at James Madison High School for the last official time, I didn't really know what I'd be doing at the end of the summer! It's been fifteen years now since I graduated. Damn. Tuesday, June 11, 1991 was a million years ago. It's hard to process it. There are the very tangible things I've done, and I don't know how much of it measures up against my peers, but then again, I hardly ever cared. Some of them probably wish they could live up to my experience.

I've recorded a few CDs. I've gotten married. I've been to Europe twice. I've traveled to Hawaii, Alaska, and toured the states for a few weeks at a time. I've been clinically depressed. I've been unemployed. I've worked too hard for one day, several days in a row. I've constructed fictitious relationships and watched them fall. I've owned two vehicles. I've lost grandparents. I've sort of lost parents too. I've gained a few parent figures in the process. I reconnected with my step mom. I've lusted for music and recording gear to fill massive voids in my life. I've patched up the voids in places and sold the gear. I've ignored the world. I've wanted to change the world. I've lived in six places now. I've had no love and then had conflicted love, then no love again, then great love. I've hated men and machines, and sometimes women too. I've kissed and made up. I've played drums under bridges and freeways, and in the middle of the night. I have no degree but I haven't let my lack of education get in the way of my intelligence which is at an all time high and climbing. I've killed my TV (maybe that's why I am smarter now?) I've killed a drum set. I have been on both sides of the law. I've worked shitty jobs for lots of money, but usually shitty jobs for not enough money. I've done great work that I demand to remain unpaid for. I've taken advantage of people. I've lied. I've stolen. I've used long words strung together in long paragraphs yet succeeded in saying nothing of use. I've bent notes. I've broken chords. I've raged. I've forgotten how to sign my name. I've been a trustee at my church. I've learned web design enough to hate it. I've had roommates enough to hate it. I've had more bass guitars than fingers on my hands. I've had a guitar I never paid for except to remodel it so extensively it's not the same as when I got it. I bought a green set of drums. I have lost some hearing because of it. I have used many different digital recording formats, being most productive and artistic on one of the most limited ones. I've smashed furniture. I've shoveled doggie lawn sausages. I've delivered pizza. I delivered tape stock. I've delivered meals for seniors. I've delivered impromptu speeches. I've moved furniture. I've lost my house. I've done almost three years of solo counseling, and that much couples' work too. I bought a suit for a gig and wore it about two times. I got fat. I've receded and gotten a little gray. I've never purchased a Grateful Dead record. I use soap instead. I've migrated politically from "yeah whatever" to something else that is hopefully more relevant. I smashed a cell phone on the street once. I've used porn. I've been "lucky" enough to be born in an age of madness-as-civilizational-progress. I've overseen the fall of Argentina. I've lost money in the stock market. I've endured one Bush presidency, and two Bush fascist regimes. I've smashed all my plastic models that once brought me great joy and adolescent fame. Drums and guitars are next. I've ridden my bike naked down the street. I've lost gigabytes after gigabytes of recording and computer data. I was briefly "father" for about five weeks but at least it was during the presidency of Bill Clinton. I have eaten a few cows worth of meat, but even more cows worth of cookies. I've worn both boxers and briefs, but not at the same time, and sometimes neither at the same time (!) I've thrown drumsticks at the wall in disgust and utter existential angst. I've smashed printers in disgust and existential angst. I hate Macromedia Flash. I have never smoked, but I do like my craft beers, or the old standby, Karl Strauss. I have mooched much alcohol in days of poverty. I have had "artistic differences" with heroes. I've bought some Jethro Tull, King Crimson, Rush, or Yes recordings three or more times. I've had long conversations. I've eaten sushi. I've worn the pants in the family (but prefer shorts if I must wear anything at all). I've lost friends to misplaced nationalistic comments which even I didn't really believe in. I've trolled on online forums. I've had under-the-gum deep scaling done and found it preferable to regular dentistry which still uses medieval tools of torture. I've worked on the sabbath. (But maybe it's okay since some weeks go by when I don't work at all.) I've lost God. I've found Kelli. (She led me back to the former.) I've smashed a bike onto the concrete. I've lived in sin. I once dressed as a woman to freak out my girlfriend at her high school band practice when I came to pick her up. You shoulda seen my tits! I ignored my grandmother when she fell. I've been greedy but never gambled. I've shaven my head a few times. I was reviewed in a couple music papers. I've pirated music and software and soft drinks. I've been a bad businessman. I've never recouped my investment on gear, and now just want to heave it off a cliff into the ocean but refrain because that might be environmentally unfriendly. I've had friends die of cancer and drug deal murders. I've had family members sacrifice me for monetary gain or write me off as dead. I've blown inheritances but did some better than others. I've listened to more than one side of some stories but will probably never "get it" because I was born a white Christian male in America, ca. late 20th century. Robert Fripp once tapped me on the shoulder and whispered sweet nothings in my ear. I've collected pigs. I've said really ignorant things about people who carry on like pigs. I've damaged vehicles due to carelessness. I've worked at Subway on two occasions, and have been robbed at gunpoint a few times. I took "a couple years off from school" that turned into ten years away. I've painted lots of rooms in my house, a few times. I did a telemarketing job for two days. I have cried. I have lost myself in utter joy. I get verklempt. I like movies about nuclear war. I love The Deer Hunter, Babe, American Beauty, To Kill a Mockingbird, Office Space, Forrest Gump, and Shawshank Redemption. I rip off Robert Fripp in an act called a "Frippoff." I don't believe in the virgin birth but I believe it was the most magnificent thing ever. I was investigated by police once for approximating the physical description of a streaker who shocked some womenfolk at my apartment complex. I've had food fights. I've watched more Rockola, Steve Vai, and top-40/dance band shows than is healthy. I've written songs about the meat processing industry, suburban failure, abortion, anachronistic disco lovers, and one about "when pigs spoke rhyme." I've moved house in two hours, under extreme stress. I've played guitar, drums, bass, keyboards, percussion, vocals, electronic gizmotchies of all sorts, and most of all, COWBELL! I've worked for charity. I've used eBay, but never bought anything off Amazon. I've stayed up all night. Or all day. Or all day and night. I've written page after page of tortured artist journals, and would like to burn them, but the EPA would get on my case for it. I've eaten many a burrito, sometimes two in one day. Burrito consumption might be rivaled by burger consumption. Now it's leveling off with broccoli consumption. I've taken the bus, bike, and have walked, but mostly I stay home now. I've worked for the man, but have also worked for the woman, and found that she wasn't much better. I walked off three jobs in eight months. I've smashed my finger in a car door. Then I painted my nails for the rest of the summer. I never drink coffee. I never use drugs. I've boycotted McDonalds since 1989, Wal Mart since 1996, and other places get my "treatment" too. I have consistently raised my GPA since starting high school. I watched Pink Floyd's The Wall just yesterday, for the first time.

I'm sure there is more, but I wouldn't want to bore you. Nor do I want to provoke the fascists. All this I've done since I graduated fifteen years ago. I don't know if I learned all this in high school. Some of it I did. Some I learned in kindergarten (like how to be mean to people, and to expect my way). I certainly didn't learn to eat my broccoli in kindergarten. A lot of this they don't teach in school. I won't badmouth the school experience like some, though I can understand the sentiments in things like The Wall. Oh, I've been damaged by the system too, but whenever I can, I stay clear of it. I'm finding my way out of debt (school debt—the consumer stuff was nuked earlier), and I am trying to stay minimally employed so I can retain the rightful use of my soul for more productive purposes. Maybe I relate to Forrest Gump because my life has sort of been like the feather on the breeze, but somehow, it's got some purpose. I've come to find the purpose of life is just to live it. Rises, falls—it's all part of the pageant. Pain is a reminder that I'm alive. It happens. Today, (chicken) shit happened. So did peeling potatoes and cooking my broccoli. So did missing my alarm before church. So did sitting at a boring ass church trustee meeting. But then so did talking to Tara at church for an hour in the parking lot. Arguments happen. But so does love, if you let it. I guess I fell out of love with forcing myself to be something I can't be. I think about it—the same question gets posed to me now as then when I graduated. So, what do you want to be when you grow up?

After I get done crossing off the list of things I've tried to do but never really did well—web designer, multi-instrumental musician/composer, pizza delivery man, sound man, sandwich jock, etc. —I sort of have to settle with my simple answer: "Me. I want to be me." They don't teach that in any classroom. Only facets of that can be learned.

My moniker is The Artist Presently Known As Ed. I've used it for ten years now, this summer. It came about while I was wearing my musician hat. I sort of kept it along while I turned to visual computer based art and websites. Now, it seems a little misplaced being that I don't really do much of either now, if at all. But life itself is art, and I gotta make my composition, my collage somehow. What else could I possibly be if not for me? I guess I could carry on being a Dilbert, but why? Why did I find my bliss in making 25 wheelbarrow trips of dirt from front yard to back yesterday when the day before I was ready to throw not one but two computers off the cliff? Is it any wonder? Some things draw the life out of a person. Some put it back in. Right now, situated where I am, how I am, I don't wonder about money and "stuff" except to wonder how I can finally get rid of my albatross. In fact, it's corrupting influence in my life is not welcome now. Been there, done that. Alienation. Not cool anymore. The world will not work that way any longer. That isn't to say it ever really did. But now that I have watched my family collapse in a fit of zero-sum greed and loathing, and all sorts of dysfunction, I want something different. If I don't do that, I may as well curl up and die. Been there, done that too.

Finding one's self is sort of like sculpting from rock. Somehow, Michaelangelo had to know or believe there was a David in the rock. Similarly, I guess I have to know there is an Ed in the rock which I was dealt, and piece by piece, chiselstroke by chiselstroke, I will find that Ed. I just hope that when I find that Ed, I don't find that that Ed is made of rock. If that was the case, I would really have found my father instead. And that would be unacceptable. But maybe that big rock contains an Ed with some soft nougaty core.

Sometimes I lament the lack of a degree because to the outside world, I have not played the game, but often I do allow myself to marvel at how I have dodged some of the terrors of my time—getting locked into an endless cycle of working to consume, working to be in debt, working to destroy one's life while calling it progress. I get drawn into it sometimes, but more times than not, I can cite my short term jobs and declare that most of them never really made me a career slave to the system. There are pitfalls for not playing the game, but because somehow I never bought into the whole bourgeois American Dream of house and cars, I don't need to push myself through all that shit. And it is shit, but not fertile shit. It's my hope that while some of my peers are clamoring to get ahead and using others as ladder rungs, but facing divorce and other life disasters, I might be quietly making my marriage better, and perhaps learning things I would never take the time to learn if all I had to do was work then take my work home with me. Marriage to me is the cornerstone of my world view now. It's not an adjunct that is added onto my career. It's the proving ground for bigger and better things. It's the place where growth can take place. It's the place where healing can take place. (Fixing dinner tonight for wife and friends and working on a shared garden is a far cry from Thanksgiving 1999 when me and my family met total collapse.)

So what do I want to be when I grow up? A human. A real life human with feelings, a conscience, and consciousness of things around me. In some ways, that makes me different. And that's not all so bad. I guess I want to be different like all the other different people out there. But I'm not so hip to being dysfunctional. That I could do without. Been there. Done that.

Sunday
Feb052006

Home. Work.

In the past few weeks, I have worked in one capacity or another for all 24 hours of the day. Let's survey what I've been up to and the varied hats I have worn since this time last month:

  • Recorded some music at the house here while Adam was still here.
  • Moved assloads of furniture and boxes more than once.
  • Cleaned the apartment to a shine on the way out.
  • Yard work here before properly moving in.
  • Function the in house IT guy for three computers now.
  • Regularly update my church web site.
  • Regularly record the services there too, and edit the recordings and archive them.
  • Function as secretary at the church board of trustees.
  • Helped Suzanne roommate move in to this house even before we are fully moved in.
  • Helped our other roommate Mark move some things too.
  • Did lots of laundry.
  • Started a compost bin.
  • Repaired various things as they appear.
  • Repaired broken wooden furniture that didn't fare well in the moves or storage.
  • Returned to work at the AV company and they put me to work primarily driving a 16' truck for 30 hours in three days, and three trips to Orange county in as many days.
  • Cooked dinner sometimes.
  • Hosted dinners with Kelli.
  • Attended some dinners next door.
  • Function as driver for street banner hanging work that has come my way (and saved my month of January).
  • Moved some furniture overflow to and from this house, and dumped some on my buddy Glenn who needed it more than we did.
  • Started to configure my studio again, slowly but surely constructing my Ikea Erector Set of a desk and moving junk in the garage way too much from one corner and back. Climbing ladders to the topmost rung (where you aint s'post to climb) so I can fabricate a simple bit of control over my lights in there.

Kelli has been beaming on and on about how I cleaned the apartment before she had a chance to. It's like she could never have expected such a thing. For me, there wasn't anything else that could be done. Hell, moving sucks, particularly the way it scatters your life. Getting back to normalcy is a priority. So I just worked around the clock till life seemed normal again. And the project continues! I've been licking my chops about playing music again and having stuff ready to record, but I keep circling that project like a dog matting its bed down by walking in circles. The studio has to be just perfect. Odd, considering it's a dumpy garage with hardly anything of sound dampening material. It makes my old studio look like Hog Heaven! Actually, it does make the old place look classy and refined, but you know, the "studio" is not the material, it's the environment. And I haven't played anything like music for over seven months.

The AV company I work for finally called me up for a few days last week. It seems they got busy beyond belief and needed a driver. While "driver" is part of my job title, ordinarily it is not the only thing I do. However, I far prefer to be out of the shop where the wind can blow and there is no concrete floor punishing my feet and legs. I will primarily have to balance the AV Concepts gig with Greg and his banner hanging work since both are vying for my time the most, but in one of those cruel ironies, on Wednesday this week, I had accepted work with the AVC for the following day and had to turn down Greg who had the first part of two nights of that 3:30 am shit. About the time of turning down the wicked early banner work, my old contact Mitch called and offered me a gig on Thursday—in LA! Shit. Three offers for one day and I could only take one! Oh well, the following day, I woke at 1:15 am to prep for the 5 am load in in Anaheim, then drove back and was near my house at 8 am, and continued to work straight through with no break till 1:15 pm. I came home and slept from 2 pm till about 7 or so, spent some time with Kelli and her visiting friends for dinner, then went to bed to catch a few winks for three hours before running off to do the 3:30 banner hanging gig on Saturday morning. He uh, made it worth my while to get up at 2:45. I at least got home before the sun crested the hills, and got to sleep till noon like good old times.

Later on, Kelli and her friend Ashley made dinner for whoever would show up, and that ended up being the three of us, incoming roommate Suzanne, Phil and Nancy next door, and Glenn. We all had good fun. For us, its nice to open our house up and get our little community together. In fact, we all ended up telling stories about how Okua the dog has left a mark on our lives with her escapes, food stealing and other canine antics. Glenn could tell how she left him with so much fur that he still finds some in his clothing. Kelli and I could tell about how she yanked the Foreman grill to the floor when she heisted all the sausages she could get from it and the plate nearby. Phil and Nancy could tell about her jumping out windows and over fences (so could we—really). Suzanne marveled at it all and still retained her wish that Okua would be a good buddy and would cuddle on her bed... hah. Okua will move in and won't leave!!! This is her house more than any of ours except for Phil's, you see.

Ah, another sleepy January is gone. Except this January was not sleepy in the "real" sense. I don't know that I slept much. Sure, I pretty much didn't have a job but damn, it was work work work all month long! And that doesn't even include the various things I turned down or just couldn't get to. Somehow, people came out of the wood work asking if I knew how to fix this or install that. One guy wanted some electronics fixed. One lady wanted a faucet installed.

But one thing is for sure. I don't do Windows. I do Apple.