Category Archives: life

Unexpected people

Beggar's dog - Hoboken (LOC)
Library of Congress

I frequent a Starbucks down the street from my work, and so, when traffic traps me by work, I sometimes wait for it to calm down and become reasonable there. Because it’s relatively safe, and the baristas are nice.

But I also hang out there because once the day crowd of lawyers clear out, the most interesting people hang around. And since I don’t like talking to people I don’t know, I make up stories for them.

My favorite person to make up stories for is this older man. I usually pass him outside where he’s generally chatting with another guy over a cigarette. What’s remarkable about him is his appearance. Wiry, gray unruly hair stands out from under a well worn, dusty blue baseball cap. A matching beard of almost unreasonable length masks his chin. His t-shirt and jeans are clean and neat, but have obviously made the trek to Starbucks a time or two. And if you asked most people, I would be willing to bet that they would call him homeless. Because, outside the Starbucks, he matches almost every stereotype we have in the U.S. concerning the appearance of someone whose home lacks 4 walls and a roof.

But then he shuffles in through the door and generally bypasses the free water to take his seat. It’s usually at one of the tables close to the counter. If not, the view is clear. Because his coffee awaits where he’s marked his spot keeping his Dell laptop company. He sits behind the screen and appears to type, though he could be researching because the internet is free.

He’ll stay at the Starbucks for great lengths of time, wandering outside to chat, returning to sit behind his computer. I have no idea what he does, but I imagine he writes his thoughts about being discriminated against for looking poor. Or researching the topic of conversation happening out front, heading back when he’s learned a fact that makes his argument perfect. Or maybe he’s writing a novel about the evening crowd at the Starbucks.

Whatever he does, I’m glad he does it at the Starbucks. He manages to fulfill one stereotype while breaking another. In doing so, he makes the wait for traffic bearable.

2012 Kia Forte, or why I had to pick up a car payment

2012 Kia ForteYes, this is my new car. And yes, it’s pretty. It’s a 2012 Kia Forte. It’s as close to the base model as I could get from the dealer.

I like driving it, because the car has a pep to it and responds quickly. I also like that the important information is easily viewable from the drivers seat. But one of my favorite features (aside from the warranties) is the numerous controls located on the steering wheel. Now I can easily change the song on my ipod or switch to the radio or even call someone.

Friends and family who know how much I loath car shopping and then negotiating to actually buy it may wonder at this seemingly impulsive decision. It was a sudden, but necessary decision, because my old car was totaled in an accident. Continue reading 2012 Kia Forte, or why I had to pick up a car payment

Driving in Southern California

Driving during sunsetI drive forever to get to work. Ok, so that may be an exaggeration, but I definitely drive around 80 miles round-trip. Everyday. And because I work on location after school, I miss morning traffic completely and the worst of the afternoon rush. But still, it’s about 2 hours each day, unless the traffic gods are particularly spiteful or gracious.

The traffic becomes more erratic during the summer. I blame the tourists, since my route overlaps the fastest way to travel the 6 hour(ish) drive from Las Vegas, NV to the Pacific Ocean.

While traffic does steal a part of my soul, and there are more beautiful places to drive, I find the time peaceful. I cannot control the number of cars on the road, or the driving style/ability of others behind the wheel, so I decided to respond with patience to the road conditions. (Usually, though I have been known to yell at other drivers in my car to release my displeasure with their actions.) And driving in the summer always reminds me of the road/camping trips my family took when I was growing up. And though I don’t get to end up someplace beautiful like the Grand Canyon, or Zion, or Yellowstone, or Yosemite, or Sequoia, or Jackson Hole, I vicariously live through my imaginings of the adventures my fellow travelers are experiencing.  And I play the pastime of all road trips – the license plate game. Continue reading Driving in Southern California

In which entering Chipotle sends me into a Monty Python sketch

Random Chipotle BagSo I stop into the Chipotle (because I hadn’t actually eaten a real meal for a bit due to lazy indecisiveness) closest to my houseĀ  that’s hidden behind the closed Borders bookstore. Normally, the sound echoes off the nearly empty walls (I think because one has to already know it exists to find it. The first two times I tried, I gave up). This night, however, everyone in the town must have been in the seating area, including the local firemen. I half-expected to wait in a fairly long line, but when I walked in, the counter was empty. Even the workers had abandoned their side.

Except for this one girl. She was average height, dark brown hair of some length, and spoke with a slight accent. Not Spanish sounding, perhaps somewhere from India/Pakistan (which is a wild guess, since I don’t know her and did not inquire). When I approached the glass partition, she faced the back so that I surprised her a bit when she noticed me. After her standard welcome, I begin my order.

“Hi. I’d like a steak burrito.”

“Quesadilla?” Continue reading In which entering Chipotle sends me into a Monty Python sketch

On the death of Osama Bin Laden

I don’t write much about life in the U.S. after the terrorist attacks on 11 Sept. 2001. It has shaped my life and understanding of the world and my home country in many ways that I recognize and am blind to. I was 18 at the time, off at university, living in the dorms. I wasn’t that far from home, and California is a long way from New York and Washington, D.C.

What I knew at the time, better than anything else, was that my world had shifted to something other. The last (practically) ten years have revealed what shifted, and how those cracks continue to shift, in the world. And there’s much in this new world that I’m not excited about, and a some that terrifies me.

And tonight, I watched another world-changing presidential address to the nation as President Obama announced officially that Osama Bin Laden had been killed.

But tonight’s shift constitutes something wholly other. I know that my thoughts will not resolve quickly on this. It’s a moment in history. I’m watching the news and keeping my eyes on Twitter, sharing this moment with the rest of the country that’s still awake. There are college kids partying on the streets in front of the White House, and 30somethings coming to grips with the demise of the standard reason for all of the infringements on our rights.

Rachel Maddow reported that being in the crowd in front of the White House felt like the U.S. had done something. Brian Williams likened the video images from the major cities to the images from the end of WWII. And author Matt Wallace tweeted that today wasn’t great or sad but necessary.

The television is attempting to make sense of and determine what this historical moment means for the U.S. now. Twitter is sharing the thoughts of the TV. The general consensus settles to uncertainty.

My lack of prescience places me in the camp of uncertainty. I hope that the removal of this symbol of our current threat will add to the talk-down from the constant state of terror we have lived under, and I hope that we as a country will regain some of our calm.

The Obama administration had already begun raising a voice for reasonableness (in not nearly large enough ways), and vocal social voices (like Jon Stewart and Anderson Cooper in some instances) started much earlier. If I were still that college Freshman, I might believe that the world would revert back to the former way it functioned.

But I’ve paid attention to the historical moments, and I know that the change will always remain. I hope that this new shift will create adjustments that assist in the mitigation of the dire (and often destructive) fluctuations. If this act results in nothing else, I hope that it eases the constant fear people my age and younger have lived with. Perhaps with a little less fear, we will regain our ability to actually listen to one another and enter into dialogue. If we lose our fear, perhaps we will see and acknowledge the humanity of those we disagree with and learn to understand their position.

Optimism may lead to the path of dashed hopes, but tonight, in acknowledgment of the sacrifices today, I will hope that tomorrow will retain the relief of this moment and lead to a world with a little less fear and a little more conversation.

Car fire in the parking structure

Seriously, is there a better way to end a Thursday at work than with an extra hour wait for the fire department to put out a car fire in the structure that contains your car? I submit that there isn’t. Especially if that Thursday lands in the same week as the University of California application deadline, and you are tasked to read what eventually blurs into feeling like eleventy billion personal statements.

Continue reading Car fire in the parking structure

Foot of the Undead: 2

Voodoo DollThe zombie foot is returning from the realms of the undead, but not without a fight. Sure it’s no longer attempting to trip me with my own toes in an effort to kill me, but the sensory nerves in my lower back and right leg are hyper-sensitive. To the point that sold water feels like my leg is burning, and my efforts to scratch the random itching on my back result in me feeling as though my skin is peeling off under my nails.

But it’s not all bad. Because my foot was part of the undead, I got to experience a MRI and discover 2 very important facts about myself for life. 1.) I am not claustrophobic, though I prefer to have escape routes. 2.) I’m not allergic to the contrast they use to highlight nerves in MRIs, though as it is injected, I still bruise severely for a long time.

So all of me may, in fact, have to endure the final zombie apocalypse. Later in the week I visit the neurologist who will interpret the images the magnets picked up. That doctor will be the one to let me know how to finish reviving my undead foot. I’m just happy that, at least for now, my foot seems to have been made a zombie in the very traditional way – through Voodoo. I shall try to avoid Voodoo Doughnuts the next time I’m in Portland, OR, so as to avoid a relapse of zombie foot.

Foot of the Undead: 1

This story is a true story. Smart readers will be immediately suspicious, but occasionally that’s the way it plays.

It started suddenly. One morning I woke up and had a hard time getting my knee to cooperate. I fought with it all day, dealing with the sidelong looks about how early it was to be that drunk. A lifetime of uncoordination made my buckling knee a nuisance, but bearable.

The next morning I woke up and stumbled to the bathroom. My knee worked with me, but my foot had begun rebelling. Making the most of the long toes at its disposal, my foot kept my toes perpendicular to the ground while the rest of me was moving parallel to it.

It was the constant attempt on my life through the potential for me falling that made me call the doctor early in the day. Faltering while I walk, I can easily adjust to. Constantly trying not to fall on my face, that’s a sign of serious wrong-doing. Of course, as my foot would have it, the doctor’s office was busy until the afternoon.

During the delay, my foot continue its attempts on my life. But it developed new symptoms. As the day continued, the less I could feel my foot. My toes moved from difficult to control to completely unresponsive. By the time I could see my doctor, my foot had also become cool to the touch. And then I knew for sure.

My foot had become a member of the undead.

It was quite shocking, realizing that my foot would, in a sense, outlive me. And potentially attack me for my brain.

According to my doctor, I have a condition – Drop Foot. I may or may not have a pinched nerve in my back that’s preventing my foot from getting the messages my brain is sending.

But I know that problem is that my foot has moved to the realms of the undead. I’ll still get the MRI and talk to the neurologist. And we’ll see what happens next.

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Originally uploaded by 3nglishN3rd

The other week the seniors that I work with graduated from high school. So I went to their ceremony, because when you work with a high school student on their homework and college essays and scholarship essays, you feel vested in their success.

It was a graduation ceremony, filled with awkward moments, speeches that no one listened to, and deafening cheers as the students received their diplomas.

Part of what makes these communal rites important comes from their basis in shared experience. Many people graduate from something, making the ceremony an experience shared across time and space. Watching the students, I remembered my own graduation almost 10 years ago in an entirely different city. But this graduation was much more exciting and happy, marked only by the general bittersweet aura of finishing something you’ve spent a significant portion of your life working toward.

And that’s the thing about shared experiences. As similar as the overall experience is, each instance is unique.

Often, the unique aspect of communal experiences gets overlooked or minimized, diminishing the value of the shared experience. Your graduation may have been like mine, marked by the recent death of a classmate, or it could have been like this one, marked only by the small sorrow of moving on to the next life stage. Or maybe your graduation experience was marked by something else entirely. Or maybe you’re looking forward to a graduation, and you don’t yet know what will mark it. But you probably have an experience with graduation, your story to share when the topic comes up.

And the sharing of your story makes the shared experiences important.

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