Monday, November 26, 2018

Monday Musings - Memoir

Number 812 Cannery Row in Monterey, California, had existed in many forms on the southern end of the row for decades. In 1970, 812 Cannery Row became an art house cinema, and I worked there in 1977 and 78. In those years, the old fishing village was in serious decline, with most of the empty buildings providing places for kids to play and explore. Old drums that once held sardines and fish oil still stood, 2 or 3 stories tall. In Steinbeck’s novel entitled Cannery Row, he relates the story of one character that actually moved in to one of these drums and made his home there. Ed Rickets (“Doc”) had his lab in the building next door. I was in college at Monterey Peninsula Junior College when I was hired to work there, having been introduced to the founders and owners by a mutual friend. This little cinema held but 56 people, and if your work there didn't involve operating the film projectors, you did every other task that a movie theater requires. The 812 was one of the hippest venues on the Peninsula, home to long running films such as Fellini’s 8 ½ and Amacord; modern movies such as Carey, The Song Remains the Same, Harold and Maude, and the infamous Rocky Horror Picture Show. While most theaters in those days ran a film for a week or two, the 812 ran them for weeks or even months on end. Consequently, I know the movies’ dialogue very well. The theater boasted a unique seating arrangement: hand-sewn tie-dyed pillows on a generously padded deep pile shag carpet. As a concession to those who could not abide watching films while propped up on pillows, there were two rows of standard theater seating at the rear. Patrons who arrived too late for the pillows mostly used these seats. It was a let down -- everyone wanted the pillows. As the sole ticket taker, candy and popcorn seller, bathroom monitor/janitor, I was kept busy during the evening. When the film had gotten underway and folks well settled in, I would climb the narrow stairs to the office (next door to the projection room) and sort the money from ticket and candy sales. I had to make it quick in order to get back downstairs to staff the front counter, which consisted of a stool, and a rudimentary “display case” made of old wine barrels standing in a row. On top of these barrels we arranged candy and drinks. The theater attracted a lot of pot smokers who knew they could smoke freely while watching movies, and because marijuana gives one “the munchies” (an uncontrollable desire to snack) we sold a lot of treats each night. Why the place didn’t burn to the ground I’ll never know, but it was the 1970s and illegal pot was plentiful in our counter culture world, and no one thought twice about lighting up in this decidedly hippie venue. The employees were not instructed to stop any pot smoking, so that was encouragement enough for many. When the evening ended and with everyone was out of the building, the projectionist went home and I locked up. Then began the evening ritual of vacuuming and cleaning the entire joint (no pun intended). This involved stacking all the pillows (three stacked for each patron) and vacuuming the thick pile carpet with a grotesquely inadequate old machine that very often became jammed or overheated. The owners weren’t terribly concerned with the nuts and bolts of janitorial work and just insisted we ‘make do.’ The pillows were realigned, re-stacked and plumped. Next came the carpeted lobby, and finally the worst task of all, the bathrooms. I was a hot sweaty mess at the end of the night. I’d often get out of the theater around 1:00 a.m. and make my way home on my used Peugot ten-speed bike. I lived about a mile away so it was not a hardship, and I had no car at the tender age of twenty, so it was either the bike or walking. Walking was out of the question, as the neighborhood was pretty sketchy and I wanted to be able to make a quick getaway if need be. I did have a couple of close calls and I’m sure being on a bike saved me from harm. Our end of the row had almost no streetlights, and the Greek restaurant across the street had closed a couple of hours before. It was high-adrenaline time when I ventured out and climbed onto my bike. I assured myself I was a tough gal and could handle any creep that crossed my path – but yes, I was quaking in my Birkenstocks most of the time.

Fans protesting the closure
The theater closed in 1980, just a couple of years after I worked there. It started with a dispute with the landlord, and things went downhill from there. The theater was a Peninsula favorite, and there continues to be a 812 Cinema fan club on social media, where people share their fond memories of nights spent on the pillows, watching films, smoking pot and eating Tiger Bars and popcorn. When I mention that I worked there, I get “oohs” and “aahs” as if I were a movie star or a person of great renown. It took me decades to appreciate that I was part of this larger than life enterprise. I was young and poor, and the bosses didn’t really give a damn about the ‘girl ticket taker’. I worked very hard for my money and took great risks just getting home in the wee hours of the morning. But time and the nostalgia that the passing years conjure up have made me look back fondly on this landmark address on Cannery Row. The old row is gone, and while many locals complain about the reinvented row with its tourist traps and giant aquarium, I think the city of Monterey did a good thing with a blighted area of their fair city. I remember the decay, the unsafe empty buildings that were easily broken in to, and the smelly drums of decades old sardine oil. Farewell and good riddance to that mess.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgivikng

I watched a story on the PBS News Hour the other night about US school teachers being educated on the true origins of our Thanksgiving Day holiday.   I feel confused and amazed that I, along with most other non-Indian Americans, have a very skewed idea about Thanksgiving, and that the misinformation continues to this day in public elementary schools.

So I did some research, and I learned some new information.  I'll let you do your own research if you want to, because the information is vast and it is out there, and I encourage you to see it for yourself.

The Thanksgiving Story is the story of the victor, as are most history stories.  It makes us all feel good about our origins -- unless you are a member of an Indigenous Tribe.  For them, it is a day of mourning.  It was the beginning of the end for our original inhabitants.  An end that began with English traders in the early 1600s kidnapping indigenous people and taking them to Europe to sell as slaves.  The first slaves in "America."  Before we even were America.

I'm not sorry if this bursts your myth bubble about this national holiday.  I'm not saying don't gather with your family and friends and have 'the feast.'  I'm saying, give a moment to the injured in this story, to the enslaved, to the murdered.  Understand how our country really operated to seize control of land that wasn't theirs.  It's okay.  As descendents, we are blameless in the original sin, but we do have an opportunity to see it, acknowledge it, and pay respect to the First Peoples of this land.

Now go eat your turkey and be thankful for all that you have in this life.  And have a heart for your native brothers and sisters. 

Friday, November 16, 2018


I'm irritable and angry. Perhaps the hazardous air outside is partly to blame.  We're mostly staying indoors, though yesterday we did venture out a bit with our N95 respirator masks.  The hubs couldn't bear wearing his so he removed it.  With my asthma, wearing it was/is essential.

This photo was taken by my sis, who works on the 23rd floor of a Sacramento office building.  Taken earlier in the week.  The other photo was taken by hubs as we were traveling west on Interstate 80, heading home after his eye appointment.

Though 'sheltering in place' can be a drag, we at least live in a self-contained little village of a building, with access to a library, gym, indoor pool, convenience store and numerous lobby areas and nooks to hang out in and watch the world go by.  Such areas come in handy when I must flee the apartment for awhile.

As bad as the air quality is here (marked hazardous) it is twice as bad in the town of Chico where my nephew and his family live.  Why they don't leave is beyond me.  I hope they are keeping the little ones inside. 

I had my groceries delivered yesterday.  I pay a small fee for that, but it is totally worth it.  Much better than ending up on steroids or in the hospital with breathing problems.

The Camp Fire is about 50 percent contained as of today, but over 600 people are missing, and 60 or so confirmed dead at this point.  It is the worst fire disaster in state history.  Evacuees are camping out in a Walmart parking lot in the neighboring town of Chico.  I watched a tv news broadcast, and none of the people pictured were wearing face masks.  None.  That is insane.  And it was reported that no federal help had shown up as of yesterday.  How can this be?  Where is FEMA with trailers for people to move into it?  Authorities will be clearing the parking lot on Sunday because it may rain soon (please please) and the living conditions will become even more hazardous than they currently are.  There is also next to no places for these people to go.  Occupancy rates are high on local home rentals, and even if there were abundant homes to rent, who has money at this point?

I've made donations to the North Valley Foundation Relief fund, and to a couple of GoFundMe accounts for artists who were burned out of their homes in the town of Paradise, which is for all purposes, wiped off the map.  At this point, I can do no more.  It is a hopeless and helpless feeling.  I cry at the thought of what these people must be going through.  This life is terribly unfair and painful at times.  No wonder I am irritable.  I am shaking my proverbial fist at the heavens.

Time to find some uplifting entertainment on Netflix or Amazon.

Hope you are well, dear Reader, and will have a lovely weekend.

“Whenever you find yourself doubting how far you can go, just remember how far you have come. Remember everything you have faced, all the battles you have won, and all the fears you have overcome.” Unknown

Monday, November 12, 2018

Monday Musings

I hate that he takes up so much of our public space -- the airwaves, social media, print journalism.  But he does.  Someone on Facebook told me to not let him get into my head.  But he is in my head.  He's in the nation's head.

I wish the Press Corp would walk out of White House press briefings if he continues to behave like a buffoon.  A cruel, heartless joke of man.

And what he tweeted about the California wildfires last week -- shameful.  He couldn't shut his mouth if his life depended upon it.  I hope, beyond hope, that the Mueller investigation wraps up soon and that there is some evidence of crimes by the POTUS that he can be prosecuted for.  I long to see this orange menace physically dragged out of the people's house, kicking and screaming and crying for Roy Cohn, who famously said "My scare value is high. My arena is controversy. My tough front is my biggest asset."  Sound like anyone you know?

Right-minded people came out in huge numbers last week.  A repudiation of this fake reality show president.  If we continue to persevere in 2020 perhaps we can change the Senate and vote this pig out of office.  But we've got to turn up the heat and turn out the vote.

I read a lot, and know there are good men and women out there who are, through the courts and through journalism, and through logical persuasion, pushing back against this White House.  Even Fox "News" has pushed back on the POTUS a couple of times lately.  If everyone would just stop fearing the dolt, maybe we could change the direction of the idiot and his idiot followers.

In my 61 years, I have never seen a more perilous story play out in the halls of power.  This is how it starts, and our great land is not immune to a fascist take-over.  Comedian Bill Maher calls it "A slow moving coup."  I used to think this was hyperbole.  Not so much any more.

Carry on, brothers and sisters.  I know it's a tall order, but try to have a good week.

Washington State, not Alabama.
“Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.” 
~Swedish proverb

Friday, November 9, 2018


Latest visit to cardiologist peels away yet more layers...trying new oral meds to calm down electrical activity. I can return to exercise. Doc will be consulting with colleagues at UCLA and perhaps I may be making a visit down there. There are dual things going on, each with their own treatment options and all interconnected of course. It's such a complex system and my condition is so rare that there is not a lot of data on 'the fix.'

Steve continues to be my researcher, searching the conditions on the Internet for LVNP and PVCs (look THAT up). He communicates well with the docs, being a retired doc himself. I'm so glad he's got my back.   He's just sent me some additional information that I will get to later today.

Face to face with your own mortality.  People confront this every day.  Victims of war, terrorism, crime, and all the ways in which the body can fail.  I'm trying not to project negative outcomes into the future.  Mostly I'm doing well with this.

I've lost friends and family to breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, esophageal cancer, pneumonia, stomach cancer, heart failure and yes, murder.  We all die, that is for certain.  I'm not afraid of the actual dying part, I just get freaked out that I will not be on earth to watch my grandchildren grow, or see my daughter have her own grandchildren.  If. Only if.  I may be around for decades yet.  Hopefully.

I don't want my loved ones to be sad, but of course they will.  I hope they know I've had an -- interesting -- life.  A fun life.  A love-filled life.  A creative existence full of music and visual art.  So much to be thankful for -- and I am.

When the cardiologist first told me about the new wrinkle in my heart disease, I got really really scared.  I think I felt my marrow vibrate.  I was so glad my husband was there with me.  He's been a rock.  And positive.  He says I'm going do just fine.  I have hope that I am.  But there are mountains to climb before I get there.  More medications to try, very possibly more invasive procedures.

I looked back on my calendar only to realize that this has been going on since May 29 this year.  I'm tired.  But then, I've had a good day today.  And a good day yesterday.  When I can, I go out and have fun with friends.  I'm making cards of my photographs to sell and get a nice meditative flow when I am working on them.  I've sold two photographs to people who've seen the photo exhibit.  The asking price is more than I would have dared to ask before, because, dammit, I'm worth it.

Have a good weekend.  Live your life with gusto if you possibly can.  It's so cliche, but it really is true that it goes by in an instant.

Friday, November 2, 2018


What a productive week I've had.  How about you?  Do you gauge you week based on the things you got done?  By the walks you took or the photographs you made?  Or the poems or prose you cranked out?

My week included:

  • mourning like shit over my heart news
  • getting over mourning like shit over my heart news
  • setting up bookshelves in my office/guest bedroom
  • finally getting to soak in my deep tub (wounds healed from procedure last week)
  • grocery shopping on line at Safeway (what a great service if you don't mind paying a $10 fee)
  • watching a couple of funny stand-up comedians whose focus was IMMIGRANTS
  • making greeting cards with my photos
  • watching the Davis Klezmer Orchestra.
And then, on Thursday, I finally got my transferred slides back from Costco.  Some weeks ago I came across 8, count 'em 8, sides from the mid 1970s to the mid 1980s.  In the earliest, I am 18 and look about 12.  These slides document setting off on a camping trip with some friends.

Packing up with Chris.

In the back with Paula.

Truck broke down before leaving the Monterey Peninsula
My friends and I went camping on my grandfather's land near Placerville, CA.  We did it the summer of our Junior year in high school, and the summer after our senior year.  It was a great way to spend some time during break, and we were pretty much left to our own devices even though, for our Junior year trip, our parents demanded that we have a chaperone or two.  So we did, but they were totally cool with us doing whatever, so long as no one got killed.  The trip from our homes in Carmel took about 5 hours, and I believe Paula and rode in the back of the truck the whole way.  No sunscreen, no windbreakers.  We were young and stupid.  Things were pretty laid back in the mid 1970s -- including adults allowing older teenagers to have some fun without interference.

Trips included a lot of beer, marijuana, and for some of us, LSD.  The property had a good sized river running through it, a great big swimming hole, and two well maintained campsites, and plenty of hiking areas.  I had spent my childhood winters on this land, helping out with the Christmas tree farm my family owned.  Much of the land was still wild, and that's where we camped.  We'd go into the tiny town for provisions, all 10 or so of us hippie types.  The town was pretty conservative and we got some strange looks, but generally were not molested in any way.  And, of course, we would make the pilgrimage to Grandpa's house to thank him for allowing us to camp.  We were great campers, and left the land cleaner than we found it.

What wild teenage exploits have you got to share?  I want to know!

Have a wonderful weekend.

You Can Go Home Again

 I took a vacation in the first week of May.  I went back to my high school and college stomping grounds, still populated by many friends of...