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Almásy: …And then there is the... the harmattan, a red wind, which mariners call the sea of darkness. And red sand from this wind has flown as far as the south coast of England, apparently producing... showers so dense that they were mistaken for blood.
Katharine: Fiction! We have a house on that coast and it has never, never rained blood.
Almásy: No, it's all true. Herodotus, your friend. He writes about it. And he writes about... a, a wind, the simoon, which a nation thought was so evil they declared war on it and marched out against it. In full battle dress. Their swords raised.”
-from The English Patient

Naturally Herodotus never wrote about the Santa Ana winds and yet I can’t help but think of this movie exchange every year at this time when the Santa Anas blow. I don’t know about showers of blood or waging war on them, but the Santa Anas sure do seem to make a lot of folks crazy, myself included. There is just this...well...crazy, for lack of a better word, energy in the air when they blow, and the sound is somehow different from other wind. It’s just the tiniest bit unsettling back in the animal part of the brain that remains superstitious and deeply suspicious of the dark, no matter how well logic and sense govern the rest of your brain.

Legend supposedly has it - or at least so I’ve heard in movies, books and from people quoting both, but nowhere else – that when the Santa Anas blow anything is possible. Well I'll tell you what they never make possible for me, sleep. I am doomed to insomnia whenever the Santa Anas blow. Insomnia and migraines – neither an uncommon Santa Anas complaint I’ve noticed and that’s all there is to that…but I usually do get a bit of a creative boost and some of the words flow a little more freely, so I’ve got that going for me, I suppose. Not truly an ill wind after all then, but one I’m nevertheless thrilled to be rid of each year when they finally stop blowing.


I appreciate a good curmudgeon.  Sarcasm. A sharp tongued wit. A cynical world view usually born from age and experience. And a calm, far from easily impressed, practicality. When mixed with a certain grumpy charm, it’s a personality type I tend to click with more or less instantly. All for the best, really, as I have been working for and with a series of mostly delightful curmudgeons for the last several years.

The thing about curmudgeons though is that they’re not so much with the overt praise. Oh, you can still tell when they’re pleased with your work, they’re just sparing in the words department. You’ll know you’ve pleased your curmudgeonly boss when they start to count on you for projects of greater importance and make it clear to coworkers that you are reliable and just the person they should consult with regarding blah blah blah. They will start to green light your ideas without the hassle and doubt they give other folks. They will start to demonstrably value your opinion in increasingly obvious ways. But they will not, except on very rare occasion, actually say ‘good job.’

And, you know what? I’m okay with that. More than okay. I feel that in this case the actions of the curmudgeon speak far louder than many people’s words of praise. Not that there’s anything wrong with, ‘Thank you,’ ‘Well done,’ or even ‘That looks amazing!’ I just realize I’ve grown unaccustomed to hearing them to the point that I almost don’t know what to do with an overt compliment any more, and that’s going to have to change…

My delightful (truly!) curmudgeon of a boss retired last week and the company executed a long planned mini re-org around his departure in which I switched to another department, a good move for me really. All of the people in my new department at the polar opposite of your typical curmudgeon in terms of praise. Genuine compliments are lavished with great frequency and thank yous abound. And this shows no sign of tapering off now that I’m actually in the department rather than simply on longer term loan to them. It’s a little strange to me. I’m still not entirely sure what to do with so much praise. But I can tell you this much, getting used to such behavior may take some time, but I am absolutely going to enjoy it!

Art Between a Rock and a Hard Place

One of the many things I admire and enjoy about the Central Coast and parts inland is how creativity and artistic personalities just seem to thrive there. I realize that not everyone is an artisan - that would be impossible. But strolling through farmer’s markets, tasting and barrel rooms, galleries, mom and pop stores and events, it certainly begins to seem that way. Be the chosen medium food, wine, paintings, sculpture, photography, music, clothing, or anything else you can think of, artistry abounds.

When it comes to traditional artists, their work is everywhere we go. Frequently different pieces move me, grab me, make me want to look at them again and again, occasionally so much so that I want to own them. Very rarely the stars of pricing, pocketbook and timing align sufficiently for me to do so, but this was one of those times.

Talbott Rock and Hard Place w Flash - online

(Neither photo really does it justice but above, with the flash, you see the vibrant colors and below, without the flash, you can see a hint of the collage behind it.)

Talbott Rock and Hard Place no Flash - online

Mortgaged and I saw Josh Talbott painting during a winery event. He does a combination of whimsical acrylics of Legos and other toys in odd situations and paintings over hand done collages of  documents meaningful to the piece - articles, pages from books, sheet music, you name it. We were both instantly taken with one of his ocean paintings. As it turned out, that piece sold between the time we first saw it and trip where we came to by, but Talbott had painted a few new ocean pieces knowing we were coming. The painting above, the one we bought, struck me even more than the first one I was taken with.

I don’t know what his thoughts were when painting this particular one - a Rock and a Hard Place - but to me it feels like coming through the storm. This is a metaphor that that Mortgaged and I often apply to our living to tell the tale and grow healthy again after all of the hardships and just plain ick of the last few years – our job and economy related issues coupled with personal tragedy and the unanticipated painful consequences of the whole lot. To this end, I love the collage behind the painting as much as the painting itself, including and especially the article about nervous exhaustion.

I doubt we’ll ever be in a position to be frequent art buyers – and that’s okay. But I am very glad to be able to bring a beautiful and personally meaningful piece home every now and then.

Behold the Mortgaged's Family Cabin 2.0

I'm trying to get back into the habit of posting here every few days or so, so this is just a run by post as we return from vacation. I think there are still a few folks on LJ who visited the old Yosemite Cabin. Well, sadly it was killed off by nefarious falling tree, roof crushing action and ensuing rain damage and mold back in 2010. And here is Yosemite Cabin 2.0! It is roughly the same size, same number of bedrooms, plus an attic with more beds, just as before. But version 2.0 possesses an actual foundation, plumbing younger than Mortgaged's parents by several decades, and oh what a difference a little planning around the view can do:
20121028 Yosemite Cabin Great Room - online
With great vacation options comes great responsibility, so this trip was as much to meet the Sears repairmen (twice!) for the stove that blew up -- long story and I wasn't there -- as for strategic vacation purposes but, seriously, who could complain? Yes, I am aware that we are very, very lucky!

Mortgaged and I are staying at the Yosemite cabin this week. Walking through the park and taking in all of the beauty – for even the dryer, stony beauty of October is almost to gorgeous for words – always leads to an odd mélange of musings in my sometimes too busy brain.

20121025 Yosemite - Bridalveil Falls 1 - online

Walking up the beautiful trail to Bridalveil Falls - in the middle of its annual dwindling to a trickle down the rock wall before stopping altogether for the winter -  I could not help but feel a bit wistful as we passed one set of happy parents with an adorable toddler on the way up and another on the way down. Both families delighted in pointing out all of the new things to children who were already excited and babbling precociously about the huge rocks, sounds of water, squirrels, crows and host of other tantalizing oooo shiny-s. It’s one of the never had them, likely never will moments I am slowly healing away from mourning - bonding lovingly with one’s child over a moment of discovery during a family activity.

…Then again, I have it on excellent – read parental – authority that my sister and I were both absolute demon hellspawn when our parents took us to Yosemite at just either side of that age. Okay, so demon hellspawn were not my parents’ exact words - my words, but absolutely their sentiment.  So, there you go. While having children is no doubt always far more rewarding than not, the moment I was mourning was not a moment that even the having of children would have guaranteed. That thought prompted giggles, the end of the darker moment and, oh yes, a return to oooooo shiny-s of my own. Better.

There’s Our Sign

Running errands earlier this weekend, Mortgaged and I passed a newer Corner Bakery, one of the ones with the name on the building itself and a protruding sign that is almost entirely logo.

Me: I swear Corner Bakery’s logo looks like a Soviet propaganda poster from the 20’s and 30’s, like the baker should be moving coal instead of buns and modeling the workers’ paradise.

Mortgaged, laughing: You do know that you mind is one of the things that turns me on the most, right?

Me: Thank you *amidst blushings and flushings and general expressions of thoroughly in lurve derpyness*

In our own weird way, we’re perfect for each other. I love this man more than I can ever express.

The Cooking Channel has way too few commercials, such that they repeat them over and over, and over and over, and over and over, aaaaaaaaaand...you get the general idea. Look, I’m prone to making up snarky responses to things as it is but, with this, who could help themselves?

Anyway, an especial favorite is the commercial about the newlywed who doesn’t speak the same language as her in laws so they “communicated entirely by cooking” as she says with a sigh. Yes, it’s a beautiful thought. Yes, it sounds like a lovely relationship. No, I can’t help adding in my head, “Hey, Hon? Why does your mama make pasta puttanesca every time I come over? …and devil’s food cake?”

Hey, at no point does commercial lady specify that they communicated pleasantly.

Midnight, the Writing Hour...

This morning – early, early, early this morning – I glanced at my Twitter timeline and saw that several of the college students I tweet with were busily agonizing over late night paper writing, due dates at a more traditionally morning hour later that morning, and the need for more ramen…Taco Bell…pizza…fill in your college-y late night study food guilty pleasure of choice here…mmmmm Leo's!...before they wrote even one more page. Awwww, I thought fondly. I remember those days…

…hey, wait a minute. It’s two in the morning and I’m still up writing a paper…er…article…er...articles actually…for the employee newsletter. Ack, those days are now. Those days are still. *cue Nelson’s distinctive derisive laugh here*

*snerk* Okay, so here I am, *mumble, mumble* years out of college and I’m still staying up until the wee hours of the morning on a fairly regular basis writing to meet a deadline. Usually for work. Hey, who says you have to grow up to be responsible? Hmmm...that and I wonder if Leo's Taco truck still parks in the same spot on Eagle Rock Blvd. after midnight... ;)

Random Musings on the Olympics

The Olympics always put a smile on my face. I no longer have the time to watch most of it – do any of us once we’re out of school and no longer have summers free? – but I watch a fair bit in the evenings. And, of course, I love the gymnastics and the swimming. The track events. All the bigs. I could watch the athletic prowess of the likes of Michael Phelps and Gabby Douglas and her teammates forever. Usain Bolt makes running that fast look like gliding and I find him amazing to watch. And, of course there are others.

Missy Franklin was a revelation for me. She makes me smile every time she competes. She is so insanely good, but so very gracious, fun loving and full of sportsmanship. She is refreshingly, adorably 16 in her reactions to her successes and the whole experience, yet clearly approaches her sport with an adult’s toughness and devotion. Clearly this young woman, her parents and her coaches did it right.

Among the other stories that particularly moved me in the London games two stand out. Tahmina Kohistani, a sprinter, is the only woman competing for Afghanistan. Her Olympic experience was brief. She finished last in her initial heat, though not to an embarrassing degree as can happen at the games. But it’s not her time that impresses me, it’s that she competed at all. I can’t imagine how much more she had to go through to train and prepare for the games than the typical athlete. She is truly an inspiration, for Afghan women of course, but also for women everywhere.

Then there is Zoe Smith, a member of the British Women’s Weightlifting team. Shortly before the games a Twitter bully attacked her muscular figure, making cruel comments about her appearance and abilities. But rather than crumpling under the criticism, the articulate 18-year old fired back with a withering barrage putting the bully in his place and then waxed eloquently on her personal blog about the situation:

"We don't lift weights in order to look hot, especially for the likes of men like that. What makes them think that we even want them to find us attractive? If you do, thanks very much, we're flattered. But if you don't, why do you really need to voice this opinion in the first place?”

In an era where female athletes are still frequently judged harshly and unfairly for their appearance, I cannot tell you how much hope Smith’s response gives me for the future!

Things they don't tell you about different nuances and effects of identity theft - ugh! A while back there were five families including us, who shared our extremely common last name all living in the same 180 unit condo complex. This is not surprising. Like I said, it's a common last name. So common in fact, that I there is usually another person with this same last name in my department or one I work closely with at any given job. At one job, a man with the same last name as our's was my department's Admin Assistant so, because I use both my maiden name and my married name together, when my boss went out of town and left the out of office message asking folks to contact one of the two of us in his absence, it souded like he had a married couple working for him. So, like I said, commoon last name.

Any way, two of of the same names families in our complex started claiming they lived at our house, less I suspect to actually steal lines of credit than to shift their collection calls and such over to someone else. Getting their collection calls, collection mail and the like to stop took forever. When we found out that in the middle of it one of these folks, an elderly lady named Virginia, was actually claiming to be married to Mortgaged, we realized it wasn't just an accident and called the cops. Being able to refer the errant collections callers to a police report number helped stop them, but it took a long time. Moving helped as well, though this was not the reason we moved. No harm was ever actually done to our credit - thank god! - but we continue to watch it like a hawk just in case.

The one lasting effect is not damaging but is still obnoxious. We've stopped receiving mail for Mr. & Mrs. Mortgaged and Virginia ExtremelyCommonLastName, but somehow we can't shake the impression that the various spam ad companies have that Mortgaged is 80 and disabled like Virginia. So we get spam mail and spam calls for hearing aids, walkers, carts, elder care bathtubs with doors, cheap heart meds and the like and for every one I convince that a) Mortgaged is not my father, he is my husband and b) he's in his 30s not his 80s there are 10 more waiting in the wings...and the annoying part is that being on the DNC registry doesn't help because until I inform them otherwise, as far as these companies know, they are all affiliates of companies who regularly do business with my "elderly" husband's wife, Virginia. The kid I just got off the phone with - a very policite young man maketing the aforementioned elder care tubs, was shocked and, to his credit not that this is any fault of his, beyond apologetic, when I said, 'Look, good luck with your calls, but Mortgaged and I are in our 30s. Take us off your list.'


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