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Entries in senior center (3)


Dangerous Vu

ed and eda on a sunny day in the back yardStepmom Eda and me on the day before the massive fires in October 2003Well damn. I'm gonna have to stop seeing my stepmom in the last part of October. This is the second time I've done this on a nice bright sunny day, only to wake up to news the next day that my whole damned county is on fire! No shit! It happened in 2003, and here we go again. So far today the sky is not as filled with ash as it was four years ago. I also happen to be just a few miles away from there, and at this point, maybe that helps. But we shall see how long that lasts because in 2003 the whole place was overtaken for days. Grrr. At this point, I don't have any fear of the closest fire, which is still about 25 miles out. In 2003, the fires got to about five to seven miles out and that actually got a little scary considering how fast they spread and how they jumped freeways and seemed to be able to work across the vast Miramar air base. I actually began to make ready.

One man who I work for lives about a mile or two from the Rancho Bernardo fire. I hope he is okay. In 2003 Kelli lived up in that area in Poway and she had to evacuate down to my house in Clairemont but had to go north to go west to go south because the logical 15 freeway was in the firestorm. The fire back then came within about a mile from her apartment. Our friend Cindy has a house on the outer reaches of the developed part of Poway. Kelli used to live with her shortly before the fires. In 2003, Cindy also was in the process of becoming a grandmother just as the fires ripped through, and while Cindy was at the hospital with daughter Trinity and new granddaughter Natasha, Kelli and another friend-roommate clandestinely (sort of—the area was closed and she needed to show some evidence she lived there—an envelope with her name and the address did the trick) went and rescued the dogs and gathered pictures for Cindy. Welcome to this world, Natasha.

same yard, different sky---filled with soot and ash and the sun is filtered to an unearthly colorThe sky on the very next day, shot in the exact same position in the yard, facing 90 degrees leftAnd again, here is an illustration of the folly of the way we build across the landscape. Rancho Bernardo and Rancho Penasquitos are giant exurbs that are low density, and sit on the edges of canyons and other wild areas. It was exactly the same in 2003; Poway and Scripps Ranch are neighboring communities. I actually used to deliver meals to seniors up there in all those communities, and the whole exurban build-out was an eyesore and a pain to navigate as a driver. Each of these areas to greater or lesser extent has some faux-forested areas where the houses are meant to seem deployed in the wilds. As Scripps Ranch found out, that was its biggest fault, with explosive eucalyptus trees surrounding houses with wooden roofing. The place had large areas that were decimated. A debate followed about all that and codes were changed so that wooden roofed houses would need to be re-roofed with tile or other fire resistant material.

What else can San Diego expect if we have these exurban tracts which flirt with disaster by design? Maybe people will come to their senses with this second firestorm. But I don't think so. All around, invariably there is a chorus of "We'll just rebuild. We aint going anywhere!" Have it your way, people. It is a recipe for disaster. Do these people need their "space" more than the city needs to be safe? The low density development and twisty roads terminating in cul-de-sacs make it harder to navigate emergency vehicles, and the sheer sprawl of places makes it harder to get control over such fires. Our local canyons and hills make it hard to fight fires when the fire begins to shape the weather itself. Exurban houses are just in the way and are shown no mercy except in seemingly random instances where there will be an occasional house standing among other lots with nothing but destruction.

This is our Katrina; what will we do in the face of it? You think maybe Mother Nature is tapping us on the shoulder a bit more in all these recent disasters? Is Al Gore just making this stuff up? What do we have to gain by repeating the same patterns of building where we should never build?


Utterly Wretched

The worst thing happens to me at noon till about 12:20 or so every weekday. While I am at the lunch center with the old folks, the local Clear Channel "hits from the greatest generation" station called KPOP has a fucking hour of Frank Sinatra. No, it's not like a career retrospective with all sorts of juicy goodies turning up for the devoted listener. No, I swear, they must have about 10-12 songs they play in a slightly different order every fuggin' day. Same few songs—New York, Love and Marriage, [something about] Paris, High Hopes (?), Fly Me to the Moon, Lady is a Tramp, and a few others. It is so agonizing to hear. And the DJ (or "on air personality") has got to be the worst. Jerry G. Bishop has been a media celeb here in town for ages. I doubt he was ever exciting, but man oh man does he suck now. Clear Channel sucks as it is, but damn Jerry is bad. It sounds so patronizing and condescending, albeit in some innocent way. The jokes (made to appeal to 70 year olds) are just the most lame and conservative things you ever heard. The ads are for male enhancing snake oil, financial and estate planning assistance, golf courses, and anything else that might go with the senior scene. Anyhow, this has got to be one of the worst pieces of shit you can hear on the radio. I listen to it, and think, man this is just an insult to these old people who want to hear a few tunes from their younger years. It's all sap now. Clear Channel runs ads about 20-24 minutes an hour. You don't need many Frank songs to fill the rest of the hour. And there certainly aren't many coming out of KPOP.

Now, Sinatra rubs me the wrong way as it is. I think his singing is boring, uninspired, mechanical, tedious, soulless. Shall I go on? Well, then the music that I hear on this station has got to be the worst of it all. The tunes just sound silly to me. The melodies, while a whole lot more lush than anything now, just seem so damned corny. I guess it helps if the Mafia helps make you a big star. Then, as if the corny melodies and plaintive voice weren't enough, the lyrics are just repugnant to me. You gotta understand, I am marrying a woman who is a feminist. Not a radical militant lesbian feminist, just not one who will let shit get past her without a fight. Having had to police myself a little over the years, I now utterly cringe when I hear Luck Be A Lady or Lady Is A Tramp. Jesus, there is a little range for traditional male/female roles in music, and a little room for some sexist stuff, but criminy... this was pop music in the 40s and 50s? Lady is a TRAMP??? Broads? Dames??? You might forget your manners??? A lady doesn't leave her escort/ it isn't fair, it isn't nice/ a lady doesn't wander all over the room/ blowing on some other guy's dice???

Even I find these lyrics embarassingly chauvenistic. It's disgusting. I guess I never lived in an era when I could own a woman. Mebbe I missed something. I must be missing something, but then again, I have chosen to forego the cigars and martinis too. I am listening to LBALT and it just sounds like he is some slave owner or something. I have seen that Mel Gibson movie What Women Want where Mel decided he wanted to be a total pig of a male, and the only music to provide the soundtrack was Sinatra. I guess that was what helped me make the connection. Compared to today's misogynistic rap, Sinatra is just tame, sort of twee, really. But remember, he has been deified, and these songs are canonized into pop music. I guess that means there will be some gangsta rap songs that will be included eventually.

No wonder I totally missed the boat as a musician. I wasn't sexist enough.


Old People

Today I got news that one of my clients from the Poway Senior Center died. I had delivered food to him for over a year. Wednesday the 22nd was my last day at the Poway center. Oscar died on the 23rd, making me one of the last people to see him alive. I believe he had just turned 89 or 90 in the last month or so. I always liked to see him, and we always made some jokes to each other. He was sort of a surrogate grandfather to me, and as often as I could, I would have him tell me some stories about the old days. He was a Hungarian that grew up on a farm in Louisiana. May he rest in peace. May his flowers get the water they need.

I just got a new job doing the same thing as my old job. The gig at Poway came to an end and even before that completely expired, I had a new job lined up in a similar center right here in my own neighborhood of Clairemont. I’d been at Poway for over a year, driving meals to about 10-18 seniors on my rather lengthy route. Oscar was one of the most steady, week after week for the whole time. I got to know a lot of my people pretty well. I don’t even like to call them clients. They really got to be friends in the time I spent with them. Funny, the job itself is one I neither sought nor was particularly interested in when I started. It came to me as a hand-me-down from my girlfriend Kelli who worked there (now working at another senior center herself, as director of activities). Last summer, when funds were tight, she told me about the spot to do another driving job at Poway, and I jumped on it because it was some quick money for two weeks. But then that segued into the home delivered meals job when another old timer at the center wanted to retire. So I got into this by some really odd fluke. I never really applied or was drafted in by the usual path, but I did it for a year and I absolutely kid you not, it changed my life initially because I used to GO TO bed at 6 AM, but this gig had me GETTING UP at 7:45! Needless to say, that changed things for me. I also was doing a straggler’s amount of work in the audio world, which seems so far away from where I am now. I haven’t done any of that for almost half a year now, and it is nice.

Somewhere in the last year, I began to discover that I could live on the pittance I did—only about $90 a week most of the time, with some music and freelance work thrown in, and some nice people helping out now and then, as well as getting some food from the center for lunch, etc. Anyhow, it was a real lean and modest year there. There was some change going on inside me. The work itself was nothing to speak of, and a far cry from the heavy duty industrial grade sound equipment I was accustomed to working with. The thing that took me over was the sense I had that I was doing something important, which I pretty much never felt at any other job. The music work and its surroundings were always bad for me, and made me really bitter for years. But this very modest job I didn’t even apply for or even want just took me over and made me feel like for once I was doing something right. Really, the pay was less than any other job I’d had in years, but for the most part, I have a lot of really fond memories from doing it and that just really eclipsed the matter of money. There were some little things I didn’t dig, the 20 mile commute being central in that regard. I drove 20 miles one way to do a 35 mile route and then return, and this at such a weak paycheck. Sort of odd. A rational mind would think I was a fool. Even I have to wonder about it. But some things just make sense in odd ways.

I began my new job in Clairemont yesterday, on the strength of the prior experience, and the line on my resume about really liking to serve these people. It's the first job I ever used a resume for (made on a printer I bought a week before after a disastrous relationship with printers in the past). On the first day, I was welcomed just about with open arms. It was odd, let’s say, considering my past work history that I am less and less proud of as time passes. Also, the driver that I was going with was a delight to work with, showing me all the ropes and generally making it a hell of a first few days on the job. It's too bad I am replacing her! I have a route that on paper is about two or three times the service load as the Poway center, but it's all more tightly packed, and damn, I go within two blocks of my house in one instance! I get over twice as many hours, better pay and a whole lot shorter commute. I’ll certainly miss my Poway folks, and Oscar’s passing sort of put that square in front of me in a very real way.

I worked pretty damned hard on a speech for class this last few weeks. It was about volunteerism as a social and ethical necessity. I spoke about Meredith (my fellow staff driver at Poway who left a career in law to do this same job as I on opposite days). The importance of volunteer work can’t be underestimated. Nor can its power to make people do things that the rational mind wouldn’t do. I struggled along for my year, and Meredith left a really good line of work to serve people. While we weren’t technically volunteers, we certainly weren’t getting rich off the work. But volunteer or no, we were doing the same work as our volunteers were doing, and more of it, day in and day out. I guess it's a matter of nuance. The thing I just was not prepared for was how the act of serving people I barely knew would change my life. It went hand in hand with some other parts of life, like going to church after a 10 year self imposed layoff, and trying to distance myself from a world in music that left me alienated more and more. I just was needing something profoundly different from life, and I think I found it, at least in the present. I had my terrible spell there for a while when I lost any sense of meaning and was counting down to 30 with the idea that it would all come to an end for me. Somehow it didn’t and somehow I awoke to realize that maybe it's my time to serve people, and keep doing it. Getting the Clairemont job was easy, I suppose maybe because I had already decided to be committed to it before I even got it.

Another thing I can’t really deny is that I didn’t really have the relationships I wish I had had with my grandparents, even though they really did a lot for me. They’re all gone now and there is no going back to talk to them and see that their needs are met, so this is one of the ways to sort of satisfy that latent urge of mine. Delivering in my own community now where I grew up, and within a few blocks of my own place now is something that is just seeming to make immense amounts of sense and is so appealing to me now. The people here live differently than in Poway. It's not so much a matter of overall need, but in some cases, it's frighteningly apparent how important it is to do this work. A line in my speech for class mentioned that we must make our seniors feel valued all the way out to the end of life, and not just put them out to pasture arbitrarily, and sad as it is to say, I see that happening, and it reminds me of some bad decisions I made in the relationships with my grandparents as a younger and more foolish person. Now I have that on my conscience and the desire to put some of that to rest burning in me, and the urge to be a worthy member of the community and not just be one who lives off of it.