The fishpond in Balboa Park

The fishpond in Balboa Park

Friday, September 19, 2014

waiting around again

Not much time for posting these past few days.
Where I do have time for writing is here at the airport. Lots of time - my flight is delayed an hour and a half. Normally, I would think, fuck (see what happens when I'm in a bad mood? civilisation just takes a rain check), going to miss my connection. But no! Connection cancelled!
Yeah. My favorite airline is on strike, once again.
So the check-in kiosk put me through to Amsterdam and stranded me there. I could either go there and discover sort of ad-lib what the airline has in mind to get me where I'm going. Or I can wait in the Air France line with a lot of other perturbed passengers and find out here. 
I have hours and hours so why not spend some of it in this nice line?
And when I get up to talk to somebody who knows something, there is indeed a later AMS-CDG flight that is still running, and a CDG-Clermont connection from there. Without even changing airports. I just have to spend 6 hours in Amsterdam, then three in Paris, and finally get to Clermont just in time to miss the last bus into town. I should just barely have cash for a taxi. So I left Linda's at around 8am and will get home to the cats at around 10pm tomorrow... that's 1pm here... a meer 29 hours of travel. That's if, of course, Air France keeps those planes running. One or both could get the axe at any moment. Will find out when I get there. Spending the night in Amsterdam would actually be fine.
I will have Sunday to recover (and possibly complete my travel).
I will have Sunday with Sienne meowing at me and Natalie constantly on my lap any time I sit down for five seconds and the Frumious Bandersnatch just being her fluffy self.

So how was it? How am I? Did this trip do me any good?
I definitely have a tan. I regained all that lost weight (dang). I saw friends I haven't seen in years, and they did me a lot of good. Every minute I spent with somebody I was ok. All the catching up and the rediscovering and the old places and the old foods and the love they wrap me in. It helps.
But it's like this finger. Somebody took my finger and replaced it with a piece of plastic and it really will be a year at least to regain proper function there. Today it is as stiff and useless as the day I took the splint off for the last time. And every time I went for a long walk for coffee or spent the day lazing around waiting for people to finish work and come home, there I was again with my thoughts and there he was on our vacation with her. There he was not being in love with me. One day I will not care, but it isn't yet.

Next stop, Los Angeles

 No, we are not back to sweetness and light yet.
 Those items have been struck from the list of possibilities.
There are plenty of nice things to see from the Surfliner as it makes its way up the coast on a sunny late summer morning. The Pacific Ocean with its patient surfers and its lagoons and its beaches and waterbirds. The tide licks at the ballast along the tracks in San Clemente. The goldgrey hills to the east.
 You can actually see the blue-on-blue horizon today.
 Nah. All that is for memory. For my unsteady and nauseous heart. Be still. Look at the blue.
 Get the camera out in Fullerton.
 East LA, the sky becomes thicker.
 Then there it is, though we have been in Los Angeles for some time now.
The train will go on to Santa Barbara, but I will stop here. I am expected. Loved. Steady on. Look at the blue.

Monday, September 15, 2014

what, this is vacation?

Thursday, discovered that my credit card was missing. Only have the one. Likely left it in the cash machine. Momentary panic, but you do get some benefits with the gold card, and they promised to send me an emergency cash card to the address of my choice, so I get that on its way to San Diego. 
Then at UCLA I need to order an official copy of my doctorate degree. You know, the pretty kind that most people hang on the wall. Next time I will indeed hang it on the wall, so I know where it is.
The campus is in pre-term mode, nearly deserted except for orientation groups being taken around. Murphy Hall is open but only partially functional. Just my luck, for today only the office I need is closed. Great. I can pop by any time and get this done. Yes, I could do this on line, but they only take checks (in dollars, natch) or student accounts for payment. WTF??? No credit cards? That's why I am here in person, and they're closed.
Lunch is nice, and then it's time to get me downtown for my train. M-hmm. Even if I had my ticket, which I don't because I don't have a @#% credit card, the 4pm leaves without me. Love that LA traffic. I do have a phone to call Wendy with, so that's good.
Arriving at Old Town Station, I stand up. And discover that I really, really hate being 50. My period has become completely unreliable, and I have just ruined the only pair of shorts I brought with me. Remember that mortification at 15? Have another round. Then wrap your knee-length wrap around you & go have margaritas anyway.
I have a dress to wear on Friday, and thus starts the quest for a new pair of shorts. How difficult can this be? It's San Diego. People wear shorts all year here.
Wear them, yes. But you cannot buy them in September unless you want the super-short kind for people who are not 50. So I will be sporting these nifty black spandex yoga shorts for the next couple days.
Saturday they are supposed to deliver my card to Dan's place, and either he or I can sign for it. Nobody else, those are the instructions. Before 10, they promise. At noon, no card so I spend yet another half hour on the phone to Visa getting it straightened out. Visa confirms that somebody named Knight signed for it hours ago. Uh, who? The visa lady puts me on hold while she contacts UPS so Dan & I go around to the neighbors. Nobody named Knight anywhere. Turns out UPS had the wrong address, and they don't care who signs for the package. Great. So I will get a new new card on Monday. Promise!
Wendy and Don are wonderful. Dan and Liz and company are wonderful. The sun is wonderful. The ocean is wonderful. But my life is not wonderful. I rant and cry on shoulders and have some more wine and wish I could sleep. I need a whole vacation of just sleep.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

One day in LA

Ah, here we are, another sunny day in Los Angeles. 85 and sunny all week long. Just don't breathe.
My missions for the day are to renew my drivers licence, get a phone, and work out the plan for the rest of the trip. Linda is concerned that renewing my licence will not be so easy. It expired back in 2010, after all, plus I'm changing my address. So no simple click-zip-done online, but a visit to the DMV required. All I have for ID with me is my old licence and my passport. Social security card & birth certificate I left at home.
In the morning L goes off to work and I walk over to the DMV, a nice long book in my purse. Get there about 10 (after a detour for a coffee and an orange-cranberry muffin. Muffins are huge here! I eat just the top, frosted part, which is plenty. It's good, though, and I know if I stay in this country any length of time, eating a whole one would soon become a matter of course, and I will gain back all those pounds lost that are the only upside to being dumped), and stand in the preliminary line.
Fill out this form, please, then come back to the front of this line.
OK. Though if the forms were just available, I could have filled it out while doing all that waiting, rather than filling it out now, and then cutting back in line. Guess they otherwise have too many problems with people choosing the wrong form to fill out.
Here's your number, please have a seat and wait to be called.
It's 10:35. I have G091. They're up to G060, but it's hard to tell how long the wait is, because other peoples' numbers start with A or B or C or F or H. And some of those get called much more often than others because those are the people who have appointments. There are 206 chairs in the waiting area, about half of which are occupied plus a couple dozen people standing and who knows how many outside for a cigarette. So settle in. It could be a few hours. This seems like such a waste of time, to wait and wait, to eventually be asked for paperwork that I don't have and sent away. But I'm not doing anything else with my life today, so why not. The seats are not too bad, and it doesn't smell awful in here or anything. It's a decent book. I just hope I don't finish it, because I didn't bring my knitting.
At 11:45 my number is up. I have in hand my passport (which she doesn't look at) and old licence (which she does) and have luckily correctly remembered my SS number so that works for their computer. No questions apart from the vision test, just $33 please. Now go over there for your picture.
Over there for the test.
Here is your temporary licence. Have a nice day.
You, too, thanks.
(If you're wondering, I did miss one on the test, not having reviewed anything or even driven in the States for at least five years. Alcohol limit at 0.05, just in case that ever becomes relevant)
Hey, look: I can vote again.

Well, that was easy. And not even as time-consuming as expected.
Two Tito's Tacos with cheese for lunch, a handful of fresh tortilla chips, bad salsa, a diet pepsi. Yeah, yeah, Tito's makes the grossest tacos in LA. What is the meat in there? Need a DNA test to find out. But it is cooked to death, so whatever, it shouldn't be infectious. Have to go to Tito's for lunch because L will not set foot in the place (not that you need to; you can order at the outdoor windows & eat at the picnic tables). Good choice, Linda. I wouldn't myself if I had any sense. If I am poisoned here and die, well, that's just what happens.
For the second time today I stop to play on the swings at Tellefson Park. Oh, I am living dangerously today!

Mission number two: phone. In some ways, hanging out at the DMV was just a convenient way of delaying getting a phone. I dislike phones mostly because half the time I cannot understand what people are saying on them. I have had my hearing tested, and I am apparently rather good at hearing the faintest of tones in the midst of absolute silence. Listening for falling pins in a quiet room is not an activity I have much use for, however, and I do have real difficulty making out specific sounds in the midst of noise. So phone me outdoors, and the ambient noise, on my end or yours, is enough for everything to become a mess.
But anyway, I need a phone so I can call people up and they can ring me back and we can work out where to be when. They fix me up with a cheap pre-paid at Best Buy, even rig it all up for me so I walk out the store ready to phone my little heart out (what's left of it). I do resist until the quiet of L's apartment. And it works. Imagine that. I arrange lunch at UCLA on Thursday with a ride to the train station afterwards, then meeting Dan on Saturday (phone first - we tend to sleep in on the weekend. OK!). I'll get Wendy later, and leave a triumphant 'I have a phone!!!' message for L. Just to prove I did it.
Dinner tonight at a truck. A lobster truck. This I gotta eat.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Running away

It's beautiful, flying into Schiphol on a sunny day. At first, the giant greenhouses tile the ground in eighty shades and patterns of silver. But then you leave them behind and come to the smaller fields, open to the sun. Long, narrow plots of brilliant yellow and somber red-brown sprinkled in between the myriad ideas of green. All straight and perfect. Then here's a town along a road for a kilometer or two, one house deep. Behind, the carefully sinuous canal. Then ruler-straight fields of flowers and vegetables again. A layer further away, and the fields are dotted with cows, or sheep, then open, then cows, then open. Approaching the city the roads get bigger, the trains more frequent, and the flowers again hidden away in their metal and glass cages. Acres and acres of glittering greenhouses. Sorting sheds with trucks all along the edge like ears of corn.
It's almost enough to make me happy for a moment that I am here, seeing this, and not elsewhere, with him.

What a difference flying into Los Angeles. Oh, my. I'd forgotten the thick, grey-brown air they have here, the way it's the same color as the ground and the freeways and you can't see where the sky meets the ground - just lost in the haze. Is that the ocean out there? Did I mention I never have liked LA? You can eat here, any kind of food you want - and we have some plans for that - but other than that, the place is just nasty. In my experience of cities, only Lima was worse.

My arrival is ill-timed. In fact, it was not timed, it's just what was available on two weeks notice. So coming in on a Monday pretty much out of the blue, my friend and generous host Linda naturally has to work. No problem; I will just hang out with a beverage somewhere until she is ready. Linda's place on the west side is not so far from the airport, and in fact you can get there on public transportation with a minimum of luggage-schlepping.
I land at 2:40. Checking my passport at the kiosk shortly after 3 (man, they know everything about you! after all that, why still have a line to see a person, just to stamp the receipt?). Baggage off the carusel at 3:40. The bus, how to catch the bus...? The guys in the orange jackets directing traffic know. They take the bus all the time, and they're happy to see you're not above taking it too. Shuttle to Lot C, and it's the last stop. Green number 6 toward UCLA, get off at Sepulveda & Venice. There's another bus I could transfer to that would get me closer, but I didn't take the time to find out how to do that, and there aren't many maps around (a bus system for those who take it every day: if you're just passing through, good luck). Plus, if you want a transfer, it costs a quarter and you have to ask for it when you get on, and I don't have any change.
But it's only a few blocks. Yeah, a few southern-California blocks, and not quite so few as I recalled (but I was just 30 then, and life has moved on). 84°F and sticky under the dull sun. What is with this humidity? I forgot to dig up the shoulder strap for my luggage, reasoning I wouldn't need it because the thing has wheels. Yes, wheels, but the luggage people have succeeded in damaging the tubes that let the handle slide out to a proper luggage-wheeling length. So I can wheel it only if I play hunchback. Sigh. A bit of this, a bit of that, and I arrive at Linda's apartment building. It's about 5.
Linda was going to see with her friend and neighbor Juanita if J would be home at a reasonable time and would let me in. If this became a plan or not, I don't know. I have not been on line to check anything, and at the moment I'm cellphoneless (plans to fix that tomorrow). With only an hour to change in Amsterdam, I didn't have time to find one of the internet kiosks before needing to go through the gate-side security (thank goodness the Americans have not yet thought of this, at least as far as I know). Then in LA I know there's plenty of stuff to get you online when you're waiting for an outbound flight, but arrivals? there's nothing. Nada. Niente. Not even a fricking information desk to ask where to catch the city bus. So I arrive. And I've forgotten Juanita's last name, if indeed I ever knew it. Fortunately, there's a J. Somebody in an apartment two numbers up from Linda's, where most people don't list their initials. Interphone: Yes, you have reached Jaunita (yes!), she is not in (aw!), please leave a message. It seems pointless to do so, but I do. After all, she may have just gone for a pee, and if I sit here on the steps a while, good things will happen.
Two good things happen. First, I take a load off. Second, a young woman with a stroller comes out, and happens upon another young woman with a stroller going in. They live in the same building, and this is the first time they've met. They compare nights, and teething, and in two minutes they're old friends. Me, I schlepp on down to the Overland Café for that now overdue beverage and to await my savior.

My computer says it's 3:30 in the morning. The diners around me think it's dinnertime. Awfully early, isn't it? 6:30? Restaurants in France wouldn't even be open yet.