My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy
The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Small black cat trembles,
Lying on the monitor.
Her fear plucks my heart.
Sunday we walked a few miles before dinner. He'd ridden his bike and I'd walked my "real" walk, but it was beautifully 77 degrees and sunny - we just wanted to be outside. He brought the camera I asked him to carry, in case we saw anything interesting to show in a post about Limes' walk. We didn't but that may be because we were so engaged in talking that we didn't see anything around us. He wore shorts and I wore short sleeves and it was a pleasant afternoon.
I walk in the dark before dawn every morning, returning home for coffee and a shower before work. I flip on a morning newscast I thoroughly enjoy, mainly because of the meteorologist - Sherry - a beautiful, fun, humorous, environmentally responsible woman of 50 who openly says she's 50 and I kind of like that. I buzz around home getting dressed, grabbing food for lunch, checking the DayPlanner to see if I have anything to do, and listening to what Sherry has to say because weather affects my walk, camping, and our business.
She said a strong front was rolling in. We'd get hideous winds on both ends of it and a tremendous drop in temperature. The wind was promised by lunch time Tuesday. A quick dawn e-mail: "You'd better ride in the morning today, Badger, because the afternoon should be pretty horrid!" It roared in when he was 5 miles into the ride. Around 10:00 a.m., it began to suck the huge glass and steel doors of the office open and closed, open and closed. When it threatened to snap the opened doors off their hinges, I finally locked myself in.
My little black cat, Virginia Woolf, is terrified of the howling wind. That makes us two of a kind. Dylan pussyfoots around our home, seemingly oblivious to it, but VW shakes and her small face looks worried. She sticks close to me as I move through our rooms. No humane person could fail to notice this little morsel suffering as the blast screams through the breezeways (great word!) of our community. Although I have double-paned windows, the blinds clatter in the window frames.
This morning the BlackBerry woke me as it is supposed to do. I could hear the tempest snapping the Summerlin banners in the streets, so I dressed accordingly and set out on one of my older walking routes. I began to spin the local park 6 years ago. It's no longer my only route and it's not even my favorite or most exciting, but it is familiar and comfortable. This walk is efficient because it requires a half-mile walk to and from the park, and the circle around is very close to one mile exactly. It requires no thought, few glances at the Garmin (at least to measure distance). There is a decent grade, sharp enough to pull at the abs when I walk uphill. I enjoy a variation of uphill, downhill, and when the wind blows, a variation of into the gale, away from the blast. Except for today.
I wore more clothing for the walk than I have since last spring. I needed it against 40 degree temperatures and wind chill factor in the 30s. It made me feel clunky and constricted. I hit top speed pretty quickly and made it to the park in really good time. The cold didn't bother me as much as I'd feared, although I forgot gloves and needed them. I saw none of the familiar early morning park walkers - they were probably all smart enough to stay in. And I started the circles.
I have enough IQ points to understand the finer points of both randomness and odds. But I struggle to comprehend how and why the wind blew straight into my face on the uphills and either broadsided me or blew straight into my face on the downhills 100% of the time. I would love to have watched that wind direction screen on Sherry's broadcast! It must have looked like activity in a Waring blender. My eyes streamed, my nose streamed, my ears froze (note to self: get out the hat), my hair was nearly torn from my skull, and I had to mouth-breathe. For hours. The thought I struggle to quash each time it arises came visiting: "Why do I do this? I am not required by anyone to do this!" But I am. I require it of myself.
Arriving home, first cup of coffee in hand, I remoted Sherry onto my TV screen. She was reporting all the numbers that tell the story - temperatures in different neighborhoods, wind speed and chill factor. She reminded us to watch out for cars in lanes next to us because cars can be moved by the winds. She told us that it is colder today than any time since last March and to be sure to grab a coat this morning . . . . . no shit, Sherry. An hour later, I took up my charcoal gray pea coat that is like a new gift every year when I wear it for the first time. I think the gift of a coat is lovely - the spirit of wrapping the recipient in warmth - and mine was a gift.
This post was not meant to be a weather report, but rather a commentary on change. Seasons change and we adapt, of necessity. Sometimes changes come abruptly and the necessary adjustments seem harsh. Only a couple of days ago, I walked in the sun. It was faded, autumnal sun, not summer blaze, and I liked it. Now it seems wintry. The Badger has a phrase for the time of year we're stepping into - the heart of darkness. But not every day will be as extreme as the past two. Sometimes the conditions will be tolerable. Spring wiill come again. And a camping date has been set. We have several potential destinations, and the final choice will be made based upon weather. We will select a location where the chinook won't tear us to pieces and so it goes . . . .
In my ears right now: Shrieking wind. Wailing wind.
Something that charmed me: I found my black leather gloves tucked into the pockets of my pea coat, right where they were left last spring, waiting to be employed again this winter. It made me feel sturdy. Ready for whatever comes my way. Things change. I can be prepared and deal with change.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Ours is no different from any other flock of seagulls. Natural pairings and groupings occur for different reasons. Some of us have an affinity for others that probably can't be explained. I probably have some magnetism for being both oldest and the only female. David commented long ago that the only way he learns anything about one of the homes is through me. That man seeks me out for company and discussion regularly, whereas some of the others seek out David. There is no strain about who goes to whom. These are simply observations about people connecting with others.
It happens that Matt seeks out both David and I - frequently. He talks and asks about everything in the world. He is 22 years old and you've already read my words about how intelligent and artistic he is. But I've never stated outright that Matt is a hard case. When he is having fun, the entire neighborhood can hear him bellow like a bull moose in the lot between the vans. When he is messing up and is called to task, the din from behind closed doors is frightening.
I once had to deal with his unruly behavior. I asked one home dude to come in as a witness to the words I was about to deliver. When we started the proceedings, another home dude came to stand beside me out of concern Matt might attack me. He didn't. It was an event that gave rise to a legend - Limes. My bodyguard later went to David to say, "You don't need to worry about who will prevail in an altercation. She is something." One might think this would make Matt run from my presence. He doesn't. We are drawn to one another, maybe because of that dust-up. And once in awhile when we're joking around, I'll hear Matt say, "If you don't watch out, I'll let Limes off of her leash." He talks openly about the time I tore into him. I think he respects me for it.
Matt knows I'm blogging about him today because I told him. I thought to do so after he showed me something that caused me to sit back in my chair and ponder how complex humans are. Layers upon layers of stuff forming a person. Time and experience shaping the raw material. I will now ride the razor's edge attempting not to violate Matt's privacy, but to clearly show the many facets of the young man.
I am slightly older than Matt's parents who seem to be very nice people. They own a small business, reared two sons, enjoy spending time in their RV. It is clear there is a closeness because they come to Matt's aid when he asks for that and Matt is attentive to their needs as his father has muscular dystrophy and sometimes needs assistance. He frequently takes a company van to go to their home to clean carpet as well as tile and grout. His older brother spent some time in the Navy and now has a job, a fiancee and a dog. Cesar says the parents' home is decorated with photos of the boys as they were growing up. Pretty regular folk, it would seem.
Matt says he has Attention Deficit Disorder and was medicated for it. Maybe that's when his education began to derail. For, as bright as he is, by middle school he was attending special programs and he did not graduate from high school. He found the gangs at an age far too young, and went into that life up to the neck. He's experienced incarceration, being shot, seeing a fellow gang member shot dead in front of his eyes. He learned how to make a lot of money illegally at a very tender age, so the notion of "work" at a "job" is newer to Matt. He had a girlfriend for seven years and since she left him, he has not tried to find another. He is incredbily, unbelievably tough and yet we have seen him weep many times. He is full of emotion and angst. Matt and David meeting in a room when Matt is in a spin can be a loud, upsetting event.
Since we have known him, Matt has roomed with his brother, roomed with Cesar, rented a suite at a residence inn, slept in his car for nights on end, and David has offered to let him bunk in the office which has a shower and kitchen facilities. None of this has worked out well. He moves around constantly, all his possessions in his small car. I heard David chewing him out one morning, "Do something about all the *%&# in your car out in that parking lot. If Limes walked past it, it would scare her."
He has lost both grandfathers since coming to work for us. Each time, he flew to the east to attend funerals. Once, he only had enough money for one night in a motel, so he walked around Cleveland for two days and nights. His parents were in a motel in the same city. He did not ask them to help him. They would have.
Months later came the news that one grandfather had left a nice sum of cash to Matt and his brother. This amount would not set up a 22-year-old for life, but it was sizable. He lost his check the day it arrived. Soon enough it was replaced and David pulled him in for a long, serious talk about getting himself together, not gambling the whole sum, not talking about the money in front of everyone who might be quick to ask for a loan. He continued in his usual patterns for weeks, acquiring a pit bull puppy and a pellet gun along the way. Said Limes, quietly, "If ever there was a young man who does not need a puppy and a pellet gun . . . "
And then he asked to take a morning off. He toured apartments. He was approved for one and paid several months rent. He was so excited, he brought me his "new resident packet" to admire. He offered me the coupon it contained for a free smoothie and pointed out the Halloween pumpkin pasted to the cover of the packet. He moved in his few belongings, including his puppy and her gate. He knew to gate her in the rooms with vinyl flooring when he goes to work each day. Soon he was regaling me with stories of the household products and supplies he located at a 99-Cent Emporium. "One of my favorite places, Matt!" The next day he sang about the $25 lamp he found at Target and put together himself. I shared a similar lamp tale I'd experienced. He bought pots, pans and Tupperware. I've offered a set of dishes and drinking glasses for four that Mother Badger sent me when she got new ones. He located a futon (serves the purpose of both sofa and bed) and got a gaming chair. But the best . . . oh, the best . . .
Matt discovered Bed, Bath & Beyond. He likes blue, so he purchased a shower curtain, bath mat, waste basket, drinking glass, toothbrush holder - the same things everyone would buy to start a household. I was a little hard pressed to contain myself when he told me he'd bought a little basket and in it placed small rolled up fingertip towels, "You know, Limes, not for people to use, but just to look nice." "Sure, Matt, that's a nice touch." Justin walked in just as Matt was showing me a picture on his BlackBerry. Justin started to hoot and jump around. "Limes, Limes, wait until you see this!" I looked at the photo, a poor quality BlackBerry shot. It seemed to be his new bathroom and it did look nice. Justin pointed to the top of the toilet tank. "Look, look at that!" I couldn't really tell what it was. Said Matt, "It's a set of bath salts, lotion and shower gel in case any females ever come over, they'll know I'm civilized."
In my ears right now: Laughter remembered. David appears to have the H1N1 flu, which concerns us very much. I chaired staff meeting and told the men about it on Thursday. It cast a little pall on the meeting. I needed to ease the gloom. I announced I had something for Matt, and I did ~ a 20% off any one item coupon from Bed, Bath & Beyond. They all started to roar, but Matt tucked it away in his clipboard very seriously.
Something that charmed me: This whole story. The reminder that no person is one-dimensional, that we're each such a rich tapestry.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
October is a month I like. All kinds of special dates fall during those 31 days, from birthdays to simply dates on which something happened that I love to recall. When it was time for me to plan my wedding, I purposely planted it in October, even though Ex would have preferred to do it sooner. This October has loomed large for some months now. In October, 2002, when I contacted the Badger for the first time in more than 30 years, I remembered his October birthday. And this year is a landmark birthday.
For the Badger is turning an age today, entering a decade, which no one would consider young any longer and most wouldn't call middle-aged, either. I asked him if it bothered him. Although he grinned at me, he was truthful: "Yes." The grin didn't hide his little bewilderment about where it had all gone. At least not to me. I know him well. We sat dining in the restaurant that always sends him the good coupon at his birthday ~ "Hey, Limes, it's here. Do you want to go?" Well, yeah. (I ate lunch for four days from my take-out box, too.) And I searched for words that would make him feel not bothered.
Oh, I landed on all manner of trite statements. "But you're an accomplished racing cyclist doing your best showings ever!" He already knew that. He was there. "We camp and hike like people 40 years younger." He knows. "Your photography is fresh and exciting and has taken a new path!" That's his eye in the viewfinder. He knows what he's producing. "You're blogging and loving it - you always have written well!" He already had that information. "You're in the job situation of your lifetime. You're admired, respected, well paid and secure." He knows he's the big man on campus. He goes there every day. I was falling flat on my face. Finally I hit on the thing to say. "Badger, I'm sorry it bothers you. If it's happening to you it will happen to me soon. It will bother me, too." Said he, "Of course, the alternative isn't very attractive." Grins exchanged - sincere grins hiding no pain.
We were seated in a round booth, so he didn't see the waiter approaching with "the bomb". I saw that chocolate, gooey mountain of fat and calories with the candle burning on top. The Badger's jaw dropped when he saw it, for this had not been ordered or ever presented in prior years. He stuttered a little. The waiter wondered what had caused such consternation and I finally said, "He's a racing cyclist. Chocolate volcano is not what he does." He was very generous, immediately offering me some of the bomb. "No thanks, Badge." And then I watched that disciplined athlete do completely away with the chocolate mountain. He doesn't even like cake! He likes pumpkin pie.
Once after leading the Badger cheering section on my own blog, I was apparently criticized through some commentary made to him, not me. It stung a little. It made me feel a little less free in my own territory. It made me feel criticized for expressing myself in my way about a person in my life. I got over it.
Badger, I'm cheering you again. Right out loud. Happy, happy birthday and many happy returns of the day. I wish you the things that make you joyful. I wish you purpose, lots of squid and a good picture or two. I wish you the wind at your back and wings on your wheels. I am glad to have known you on your journey and mine. I'm glad to share the parts of life we share, no matter what definition we apply to ourselves on a given date. It's not really the business of anyone except you and I. Thanks for the gift of you and thanks to Mother Badger for doing such a grand job at only 23 years of age! She got it as right as it gets.
Anyone perusing the blog care to wish the Badger a happy birthday?
In my ears right now: Oh, come on. My followers know me too well to miss this one. The happy birthday song, of course.
Something that charmed me: On the last day of his 50s I asked him to tell me how he felt about this important change of age. He said something very similar to statements I've heard him apply to only a handful of events in his life: "I feel like I'm about to walk through a doorway and everything will change forever."
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
It is rare to camp in the Mojave without seeing some form of wildlife. However, it troubles me that in the seven years I have known that Preserve, the decline of many animal species has been swift and very apparent. From tiny lizards and tarantulas to tortoises and coyotes, from mice to burros to muledeer, I have enjoyed almost every living creature I have encountered there. But they are dwindling. One does not have to be an educated naturalist to see that our desert is in crisis. Except for 2005, the year of torrential rains that actually reshaped some of the Preserve topography due to flooding, there has been virtually no precipitation for years. Now when we step out of the car, the environment seems more monochromatic. All the plants are distressed and all are about as brown as the desert floor. No rain means no plants means no food for rabbits means no food for coyotes. And the impact is so serious, the Preserve looks a little more distressed each time one goes.
The Badger hikes in very upright form, surefooted. He is a veteran of many decades of camping and hiking. I've watched him misstep, do the ankle wobble and never miss a beat. He automatically corrects and moves on. He is the first to see anything up ahead or around the bend because his gaze is almost always forward. I am less certain of myself. I focus on the backs of his legs and the trail. This is not to say I am relegated to a following position. If I want to lead or hike alongside him, I am welcome and encouraged to do so. But if the trail is challenging, I prefer to have him lead. I am the first to spot the tarantulas and other items of interest on the ground because my gaze is almost always downward.
I do not love spiders or other insects. I admire and respect them, and fear them a little. I have no need to touch them. But a tarantula on the hoof is pretty interesting from a distance, provided it does not make sudden moves. We have seen them pale brown and moving very slow and sluggish in cool weather. We have seen them deep black and large enough to rumble the earth in the spring time. It is said that large groups of them migrate across the desert floor at certain times of year, but we've not witnessed that.
At Cow Cove, we stay in the same campsite every time. It is flat and smooth, convenient to the Jeep trail and offers some shade from Joshua trees. It is also exactly one mile from a bank of rock formations covered with petroglyphs and we enjoy walking there near sunset no matter how long and far we hiked during the day, no matter how hot or how cold. The path to the formation is relatively smooth and level, so it is easy to return to camp, even if the sun is completely down. We were making our way back from the 'glyphs, chatting about dinner and the great day we'd had. The Badger felt sure he'd got some pretty good photos. I walked pretty far behind him, as the tripod projected over his shoulder and I've been bopped in the head more than once. "Tarantula on the right, Badger, big enough for me to ride on!" We stopped to check the hairy thing out and learned he had some attitude. The Badger took up a little desert sand in his hand and sprinkled a few grains on the spider, like salting food. That bad boy reared up on his four hind legs, windmilling the four front legs in the air, as if to say, "Come on!"
Last fall we sat in camp quietly drinking coffee and reading after breakfast. I knew it would soon be time to hike when the Badger got up from his chair and starting rooting around. Suddenly, a noise I'd never heard him make, a kind of "Nnnnngggggghhhh!" brought me out of my chair. The noise was made not from fear, but from being startled, for as the Badger walked across the campsite, he nearly stepped on a huge tarantula lumbering along near our tent. I believe that spider may have caused him to take a spill, had he actually stepped on it. Quickly the cameras were brought out and we photographed our visitor. I e-mailed a picture to David who doesn't appreciate the finer points of tarantulas. On Monday he said, "Nice company you keep out there." "David, that bad boy was so big, he cast a mighty shadow."
In the earlier camping times, rabbits were everywhere. Pretty little bunnies and big flop-eared jack rabbits. While hiking, we'd invariably startle one or a pair and they'd bunny-hop off across the desert. Our favorite rabbit show would take place on the Friday night drive in the dark to the campsites we named Garden of the Gods I, II and III. As soon as we pulled off the highway onto the dirt road, they'd begin hopping in front of the XTerra. Lots and lots of rabbits. Now rabbits are not brilliant. Whereas they could have easily hopped to the side of the road and into the desert, they chose to hop in a parade running ahead of us, every single time. The Badger had to roll very slowly and carefully to avoid hitting any. He never did, as closely as we can tell.
Thinking of rabbits makes one think of coyotes. Their presence is everywhere, for the floor of the Mojave is heavily littered with coyote droppings. I learned quickly that the chalk white ones were old and sunbaked while the blackest ones with fur visible were fresh. It was a rare early trip that we did not waken to their howling in the dawn no matter which campsite we'd chosen, and once we watched a pack of them feeding in the rain - they were half a mile off and the words "feeding frenzy" comes to mind. They have no table manners and they snarl and yap while dining. Now, however, some of their prey has died off. I can't imagine where they find water to drink. And it's been a long time since I heard a coyote howl.
I've been fortunate to see two desert tortoises in the wild. This thrilled me, as I love them and once investigated fostering a pair of rescued tortoises if I could first landscape the back yard in the required configuration (burrows, etc.). The first we saw was in the Jeep trail as we headed home from Coyote Springs. [Sidebar: many animal species live in the Jeep trails and hiking paths as if they prefer those areas to undisturbed land. The trails are also often host to flowers and plants in unexpectedly large numbers.] Although we were in a reliable 4-wheel drive vehicle, the roadbanks were too high for us to circle around the creature. He wasn't moving at all and even if he started to move immediately, they're not known for speed. The Badger got out to investigate. Mr. Torty was alive and alert, just not interested in moseying anywhere. Finally the Badger decided he'd need to move the animal. He was large and heavy! The Badger knew that if he scared the tortoise badly enough to make it urinate, it could die. They take on so little water that a startled draining can remove their needed body fluids. He talked quietly to the animal for awhile, touched its carapace, and finally picked it up. The tortoise made no objection, no legs paddling in panic, and it did not urinate. The Badger set it in a soft, sandy spot in the desert and we rolled on home. We trusted, we prayed . . . that he or she moved on in life, assisted, not harmed by our presence.
I've not even scratched the surface of encounters with wildlife, but these seem a good start. I am open to constructive criticism, as I am not perfect. However, I feel it is fair to say that I do nothing in the desert without considering the effect on the place that I love. I work hard to "leave no trace" as the posters and banners say.
In my ears right now: America - A Horse with No Name. " . . . in the desert, you can remember your name . . ."
Something that charmed me: Camping discussion. Finally. It's been too long. I haven't gone yet, but it's coming, and soon.
Some photo credits: J. D. Morehouse
Thursday, October 15, 2009
The Museum is in the Fremont Street Experience and is designed to attract visitors and tourists to a walking tour. The signs there have been completely restored any they can be observed with the neon glowing as they would have appeared in "the day".
I prefer to view the signs at the Boneyard where many are in pieces and some wits have artfully placed all or parts of certain signs in tableaux that make one think or laugh out loud. At the Boneyard, the signs have not been restored and one may not see the neon glowing. The paintwork is generally bad, with bare spots, scrapes and fading apparent. Some of the signs are not truly neon, but electric. Most of them have bulbs missing, supporting structures bent or broken. The signs are perched on hardscrabble, rocky, desert hardpack - no kid glove handling here. They bake in the summer and freeze in the winter, exposed to the elements. They look very forlorn when heaped with snow. And they are surrounded by miles of chain link fence.
One might wonder what is the attraction of piles of broken old metal and glass signs announcing places that may or may not exist any longer or that may presently be in their latest Las Vegas reincarnation. For me, it's simply a magnetic draw to old, charming, quirky, nostalgic things in a style no longer seen. A look at a 1950s-looking object causes me to envision ladies with pincurled hair, pumps with thick clunky heels, a fur stole and pearls. The "Cocktails, Steak, Chicken" sign above puts me in mind of art deco, which puts me in mind of the 20s. Las Vegas would have been very young then. That sign would surely have resided in the old area of downtown.
In the predawn of the Bicentennial Day, a young man and woman aged 22 and 23, drove into Las Vegas in their 1972 VW Beetle. They were moving to Las Vegas to live that day. They had driven through the Mojave from Los Angeles during the night as that VW had no air conditioning and it was July in the desert. They had four tiny kittens and all their worldly possessions contained in that small car. She was a bit sentimental and suggested they pull into the city with a drive along the Strip ~ their entrance into this fascinating new place. As they progressed, they/he/she/I saw many of the signs shown in this post glowing in the desert darkness. For the Algiers Motel and the Silver Slipper were booming then. The goliath Aladdin on top of The Aladdin really did hold that magic lamp in his hands.
I've already written much about how I don't care much for Las Vegas. I might as well live in Nebraska for all the Las Vegas-y things I do. But I do care, a lot, for my history and what's gone before and what's left to come. I remember that ride into the city. I was young and had my whole life ahead of me. I was a dreamer and I thought I knew how it would play out. I was mistaken. I remember the warm air coming in through the windows of that car and I remember all the sights that dazzled me. So you see, by their place in my past, the signs have become venerable things.
I allowed to Kirk as how I'd happily go up and over that chain link fence to mingle with the signs, and I'd like to convince a marvelous photographer to go with me. Oh, yes, I can and have, in recent years, managed to overcome a chain link fence barrier between me and a destination. But I would be concerned about getting camera, tripod and two adults up and over without harm or attracting attention, so it is a scheme unlikely to be played out. Still, I would like to visit the signs in privacy. Not with the infrequent tours in the company of the general public. As one would go to an actual cemetery to pay one's respects.
In my ears right now: Still REM, but I'm a little tender today, so it's "Everybody Hurts". I should probably stop playing it soon and look for something more lively.
Something that charmed me: Another job booked on another strangely named street in our city ~ Lavender Lion Street. I guess home dudes won't be gored or devoured on that job, either.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Matt led the parade up the stairs, giving the blow-by-blow, hour-by-hour details. He pointed, gestured, imitated, pantomimed and acted out everything he had taken in so deeply from the deck Monday. The others listened, once in awhile asking, "Is that right, Limes? Is that how it went down?" I replied, without variation, "Matt has it, homes. He watched it all very carefully, informing me of what was going on as it happened." We crowded into that little space on the deck between building and barn, peering that short distance north, shoulder to shoulder, packed in close, coffee cups steaming.
When we went inside for our sales huddle, Cesar had a story to tell. Cesar graciously volunteered on Monday to take a day off because we were slow at work. He visited a friend and at some point in the day, decided to go to Arby's for a meal. After placing his order at the drive-thru microphone, he pulled up behind a car. Soon a car pulled in behind him, and his life became a surreal sandwich.
Although the Arby's worker had his food bag extended through the pick-up window, the driver in front of Cesar would not move forward to collect his meal. When a few minutes passed, all the drivers in the long line began to get twitchy. Horns were honked and citizens stuck their heads out their windows to holler words of encouragement to the driver in the front car.
Soon enough, Cesar decided he'd never wanted an Arby's sandwich badly enough to wait as long as this was taking, but he couldn't move his car forward or backward. He decided to step out of the car and have words with the driver ahead of him. As he approached the door of the car, he got a little hinky. The man was slumped toward the door, his head resting on the window, eyes closed. What? Another dead body in an unexpected place? Not that Cesar has ever experienced that line of thinking before, but just the same morning . . . . perhaps the man was sick or injured, and Cesar is a good human being. He opened the car door and the man's body slumped out toward him. Cesar's heart kind of sank and he noticed other drivers beginning to step out of their cars to come and see what was happening.
The man's body gave a mighty shake. "Oh, man! I fell asleep. I just worked a double shift and I'm beat. I fell asleep right here in my car." He put his car into drive and roared off, not even collecting his Arby's meal he'd paid for. Cesar picked up his own and the other man's lunch and drove off, thinking, "I can't wait to tell this tomorrow."
In my ears right now: Lucinda Williams - the dark, the hip-hop, the sentimental, the passionate love ones and the suicidal. I don't believe I'd care to sleep on a bed of nails. Someone got me going on her music again. I'd forgotten how much I am drawn to her even when the particular song might be repelling.
Something that charmed me: The Las Vegas skies as I came to work this morning. Usually we have solid, light blue with nothing for visual relief or solid, dark gray with nothing for visual relief. But the California storms have sent us a skyfull of widely scattered stratus clouds. At sunrise, there were colors ranging from peach to fiery orange, from blue to black. Some areas where completely dark and cloudy, but up in Red Rock, the sun shone on Turtlehead Peak where I nearly expired on a hike one time and on the caramel and brick colored faces of the rock formations. And the wind howled on.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Our phones aren't ringing. I get wrapped up in knots about this, while David gets quiet and philosophical. He has a wise business plan, we've cut expenses to the bone, we've not cut quality service in any way and we can survive some number of months even if we lose money. Some number of months. While the economy recovers. Uh-huh.
I like the gathering of our flock of seagulls on the deck in the morning - some of us are sleepyheads, I've already walked miles in the morning, some are quiet, others are already laughing. My little birds start to chirp as the office comes to life and there is usually some good-natured dishing back and forth. This morning was no different. Until I cleared voicemail and began to count up the cancellations. Cesar and Justin each volunteered good naturedly to "take a day". Matt had a pretty iffy job and we later added a nice one for him. We sat in my large office and the guys regaled me with tales of their "going to the fights" at the M Resort on Saturday evening. I remember being young and able to roar all night long . . . .
When the two were ready to go home for the day, they all strolled out for cigarettes and goodbyes. I saw four or five disappear down the stairs slowly. Then I saw four or five race back up the stairs with odd looks on their faces. I know them well. Something was up. They all rushed to the deck railing in the narrow area between my front doors and our little barn. "What the heezy?" I thought. Finally one of them stuck his head in my door and said - no fun in the voice - "Limes, there's a dead body out here." "What?" "In the staircase on the building next door. Metro is out here in force." "Can you see the person?" "Barely. They are sitting in the stairway. We can see the top of the head." "Maybe they're only injured." "No, Limes."
I stepped out on the deck and walked toward the railing which hits me at chest level. I looked down into the parking lot and toward the building next door, just across the block wall, 100 feet from where I was standing. "Want a boost up the railing, Limes?" "No. I don't. I don't see anything, homes. I mean I don't see a person anywhere. I do see all the officers and the yellow tape and the workers being blocked from coming into their offices." So they helped me to focus on the dark spot that was a person's head and on the blood on the stucco building. They pointed out the orange cones being placed near what seemed to be bullet casings and called my attention to the fact that the officers were gathering cigarette butts from the ground with gloved hands. The helicopter came, and not for me this time.
We all handled it differently. Those who were not going to work for the day eventually drifted off. Matt hung over the railing for hours, fascinated. We were close enough to this activity that we could hear the discussions quite clearly, and the officers didn't ask us to back away. When the scene had been secured to the satisfaction of seemingly everyone, some officers proceeded up the stairs, guns drawn. We saw them come back with the man's backpack and duffel bag. We saw them nod the coroner's assistant up the stairs. We watched as they opened the backpack and duffel bag which contained guns, an enormous sword, and what appeared to be a tremendous amount of pot. Crime scene technicians swarmed, just like on CSI. Matt commented about the photographer, "Look, Limes, she's a small, older lady. Could you do that for a job?" "No, I don't think so, Matt."
It went on for hours. I needed to work as David had asked Troy to run our company today so I could complete some projects for his new business venture. I had to tell Matt he couldn't delay leaving for his job any longer. I worked hard and efficiently. My mind drifted a little, however. I was outraged by the indignity of being killed outside, having one's body seated in a concrete stairway for hours, strangers poking, prodding, photographing the body one lived in . . . one's person becoming an object of public curiosity. I was unsettled and unnerved.
It happened that I needed to walk next door on the deck to David's other office. The clouds had rolled in from the storms in California and the wind screamed. Because I am a woman who looks at the trainwreck when she drives past, I walked to the railing and looked over again to see . . . . no sign that anything out of the ordinary had occurred there. Metro was meticulous about taking down every shred of yellow tape. Only the blood spatter on the stucco suggested something different had happened here today. That outraged me, too. Business as usual. Move on. An hour later a crew dressed in biohazard suits were scrubbing at the blood and now there really is no sign that anything unusual occurred.
Our office is in a good area. The building next door where the shooting occurred houses medical and dental offices. Why this act of violence occurred, I do not know. But it has bothered me. Last Thursday at staff meeting, we had "the talk". The talk about how in the dark months (they've already started), I will be in an office alone on the back side of our commercial plaza that everyone deserts an hour before I leave. No one on any street (we're on an intersection) can see me or hear me. We talked about the tinted windows preventing me from being able to see who walks toward me across the deck unless I turn out the office lights. We talked about how un-funny it would be to come in from a late job and try to scare the bejesus out of Limes, because she may just have a heart attack. Or at least a panic attack. But I feel panicky now. A little hinky.
I do not carry a backpack and a duffel bag full of guns and a sword and lots of pot. I zoom down the stairs at the end of my day with my purse and my totebag on my arm, through the bright security lights and sprint to my car. Sometimes there are people in the parking lot visiting Nevada Youth Soccer Organization or Angel Blessings Wellness Spa. I know the shooting must have involved personal business between the dead man and whomever was angry enough to murder him. But I feel less secure. I feel less sure of myself. I feel less strong.
David mostly stayed out of the line of fire today. He is busy. He does not like drama. He likes serenity. At one point he came to my desk. I think he was checking to see how I was doing with it. He quietly said, "Well, I'm glad we didn't come and find a dead man on our stairs this morning." Well, yes, there's always that.
Friday, October 9, 2009
I feel connected to John Lennon. Intensely connected. He is an idol, one might say. Today would have been his 69th birthday, except he was murdered in 1980. On paper, it may seem an odd connection. I was 11 and he was 23 when he glowed into my presence for the first time in shades of gray from the black and white TV. It was a February Sunday in 1964. He wasn't the cutest of the four. As the world learned more about him than he wanted us to know, I felt more connection. Of course I never met him. So his cigarette smoke didn't offend me and his snarling treatment (reportedly) of some people didn't affect me. He seems to have been a remarkably poor husband and father in his first marriage, but he wasn't my husband or father. What affected me was the music, the poetry, the sharp wit, the way that he spoke out loud about the things he was for and against. What affected me was the incredible pain he suffered as a young man. He was extremely sensitive and had few coping skills for enduring that pain. He was strong enough to scream out about his pain through his art for his entire life. I understand that. I can relate to that. There is the connection.
I am intensely connected to the Badger who rides the last race of the season in 25 minutes. As he ate his shitty, free Sugar Frosted Flakes, the e-mails were flying back and forth. "Butterflies, Badger? I don't sense them." He replied that there were no butterflies this time and he had a sound strategy. To some, he may simply seem an old guy with a passion for the bike. Not so remarkable. Others might think he is a mighty cycling warrior who happens to turn 60 in a couple of weeks. But I know the obstacles he has had to overcome to live his dream. I know what the voices (those of other people, and the ones in his head) said to hold him back. I know the reasons he sometimes threw his hands in the air and said "Screw it." I know the emotional muscles he had to develop to allow himself to go after what he wanted so desperately. And isn't that a most beautiful human story? Who could not want to cheer out loud for such a man? A man who kicked down obstacles, saying "I will go for this. I will approach it both logically and emotionally. At this, I will succeed." And he has. And he continues. I understand that. I can relate to that. I applaud that. There is the connection.
In my ears right now: John Lennon singing "Watching the Wheels". We didn't hear it until after his death. Double Fantasy came out posthumously. It contains some of his best and truest work. I'll be playing John all day, I am sure. I'm wearing the T-shirt today, too.
Something that charmed me: A customer booked a job online and I heard the e-mail land. Another goofy Las Vegas street name has shown itself. Tomorrow home dudes will be cleaning carpet on Timid Tiger Street. I guess they won't need to worry about being gored!
Something else that charmed me: The e-mail from the starting line. "Ready to go. They're starting us all together - ages 50 through 69." Go take your First Place, Badger. You've worked hard for it. May John Lennon ride on your shoulder like a guardian angel. Your fervent fan, LimesNow.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
I had a badly infected toe. "What do you think, Limes, should we maybe just stay in this weekend?" "No! I can't hike, but you can. I can read and wear sandals and hobble around in camp. A bad day in the desert is better than the best day in Las Vegas!" And so it was decided. We determined we would try a location we had not yet visited in the Preserve - The Cow Hole Mountains. I wasn't thrilled that he'd take the first hike there alone, but a bad day in the desert . . . .
Little Cow Hole Mountain isn't actually so little. It stands alone in a low, flat dry lake bed. There aren't any other formations nearby. We set up camp in the dark on Friday night on the side farthest from the highway in the distance. Saturday was warm, not hot. We had coffee, breakfast, read quietly in our camp chairs - the normal routine. Finally, he decided he'd take his hike. "You good, Limes?" "I'm good. Go hike. When you get back you can tell me all about it and I'll get to hike it the next time." He gathered his water, camera, camera bag, tripod, Clif bars, and the Garmin GPS device. He checked his watch, patted the pocket of his shirt to feel for his pens, for the Badger carries fine fountain pens wherever he goes. He patted the gun on his hip, made certain the location of his Swiss Army knife and binoculars. He set off. "See you in 2-3 hours!" I did in-camp housekeeping, read awhile, took a short nap in the tent, did some drawing with the colored pencils, wrote in my journal.
It should be noted that we don't camp without investigating the weather conditions expected, the topography, reviewing maps, measuring distances from other locations where we have stayed. We monitor weather for days ahead of time, sometimes the weather of a few different spots in the vicinity. We are keen observers of our surroundings. We probably plan and pack for our outings with more attention to detail than most. Before we go to some destination the first time, he plots out hikes and can tell me to prepare for a hilly 6 miles with a 7% uphill grade and an elevation gain of 1,500 feet on the way out and a pleasant downhill hike back into camp. This trip was no different. He'd plotted and re-plotted the distance around Little Cow Hole Mountain. We knew from research and now could see with our own eyes that he'd be hiking on low flat hardpack. It would be a pretty long hike, but he couldn't get lost or go astray - just circle the mountain.
He knew something was awry long before I did. For he'd walked and walked and walked, but seemed to make no progress at circling that mountain. By the time I was already expecting him back, he hadn't half circled Little Cow Hole. To his amazement, his cell phone rang. Folks, we don't camp any place where one gets a signal, but out there on the flats, it rang. His Ex called a lot in those days. Usually at inopportune times. This time when she said, "Hi, what are you doing?" he replied, "Hiking in a remote desert location." He used the time to let her chat, vent, or whatever it was she needed on the phone that usually drained him, but now simply didn't matter. When they ended their call, he decided to see if I, too, had cell phone signal.
I nearly leapt from my camp chair when my phone rang. I looked at the display - the Badger? What the heezy? "Hi, what the hell?" "I know, I'm surprised, too. Ex just called and talked for 3 miles. I decided to try you. Limes, this isn't going well. I'm not half way around the mountain." "What do you mean?" "It's obviously a lot longer distance than I calculated. I'm not halfway around. Every time I angle around a little more I think I'll have rounded the bend and be comin' 'round the mountain, but there are deceiving little outcroppings and inlets. I way miscalculated." "Badger, it won't be long before the sun will start to drop. What do you think you should do?" He had already given some thought to reversing his route, using the Garmin to retrace his steps, like Hansel & Gretel following the bread crumbs. But he landed on "Keep moving forward. It's just a circle. Keep going and you'll land at camp eventually." "OK, Badger. Keep letting me know your progress."
The sun set soon and quickly. I lit the lanterns. He called me. "There won't be enough light to see much longer. If the moon comes up quickly, I'll be able to see the mountain's curvature." "Do you have any water? A Clif bar?" "Yes. I'm good. I sense that I still have a long way to go." "Badger, I'm going to build a big fire. Give it 15 minutes. See if you can see the fire across the desert floor." The visibility was likely more than 10 miles under clear skies. "OK. I'll call you." He couldn't see my conflagration 15 minutes later, even though it was a mighty fire. I was scared for him. I had everything I needed and more. We didn't know what he was up against.
He called again with a grand idea. "Limes, turn on the headlights - high beam - and blow the car's horn. I can try to get both sight and sound." I did both. The XTerra's horn nearly blew the hair off of my head. But he couldn't hear it. He couldn't see the high beams or my huge fire. I began to think about getting into the XTerra and driving toward him. I had keys. The flat hardpack required no specialized, skilled driving, although one doesn't want to drive off of the roads and trails. And what if I simply, completely missed him? Or what if I landed in an unexpected sandy wash right up to the axles? I decided I needed to stay right in place until he said differently.
I am a cryer. I have often stated that this is a good thing, for without the release that crying brings, I would have exploded decades ago. Everyone who knows me has seen me cry for one reason or another. I have cried in the desert many, many times because I was sentimental or because I was looking at such beauty my eyes were about to burn out of their sockets. I have cried in the desert a handful of times from fear or freezing. This was one of those five times. I began to pace that campsite and I began to cry. From fear. Not for myself. For him. He needed an assist, and I had no way to help him. That hurt me. I cried and I paced, sore toe and all.
The phone rang again. "I can see your fire, Limes! It's still a long way off, but I can see it. I'll aim toward it and pay close attention to the ground I'm hiking on." Drying my eyes and working on chirpy presentation, "Good, Badger! I'll light the stove and start dinner. Call me when you're closer. I'll shake a cocktail and have it waiting for you." "OK!" I ran to turn on the XTerra's high beams for a few minutes. I wanted to guide this ship into port with all the technology I had at hand! When he called again, he said , "I'm fairly close. Your fire looks a lot bigger." I turned the headlights on again, shining out into the vast expanse of desert in his direction.
Despite the lights, I heard him before I saw him. I heard his tired, slow footsteps on the hardpack. Heard the crisp desert floor crackle as he walked. I started to walk, then jog, then run toward the sound of him coming into camp. "Oh, Badger, give me the camera, the tripod, the camera bag! Come on, I've got a drink ready to pour for you. Come and sit down." "Limes, I am pretty beat! It is damned good to see you!" "Come on, Badger, I've got Bear Creek Damn Good Chili and a Mercedes-Benz margarita ready. Want to play some cards after dinner?" He did! We did!
I don't recall how many miles he actually walked, or how much farther it was than he thought it should be. I don't know exactly why his good , usual mapping skills went south. Maybe it was just some of that Mojave Magic, like the place we camped that had mountains that disappeared and reappeared. Perhaps if he comments to this post, he'll tell us what ailed him. And yes, I call that a fun camping trip!
In my ears right now: REM - one of many favorites. Losing My Religion is one of the best tunes on my personal hit parade.
Something that charmed me: In Las Vegas, we have some of the funniest and most unusal street names. I book jobs all over the valley and I use a "Directions Book" to locate addresses. I see a lot of street names. I sent the Badger an e-mail to say, "Hey, I just booked one on Copious Cactus Court!" He popped back with, "I'd like to live there if the name is truly descriptive!" "I wouldn't count on it, Badger. The job I booked earlier was on Ocean Breeze Way, and we know that's not right."
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
The phones are not ringing as much as we'd like. No ringing phones, no jobs being booked. Maybe the general public is as moony about the change of season as I am. There is some evidence to support the claim that a big dose of nasty has been tossed into our municipal water supply. We are suffering a large number of truly nasty encounters. Customers forget they called us, so we're knocking on doors where no one is home. I am in my "lose no job" mode.
He called Monday afternoon. I took an immediate dislike to him and felt my eyebrow furrow - the right one with a gorge so deep I could store a pencil in it. "Don't blow this, Limes. Get the job." He is a "type" I struggle to work with well. They are invariably male. They clearly resent the amout of time it takes to book the job. They can't or won't give clear information about the carpet's condition. They need to tell me how to run our business. They take pains to tell me that carpet cleaners are con men who purposely run up the bill by recommending unnecessary extra services. Friend Terry gives me a bad time about having a problem dealing with whole classes of people. I always say, "No, Ter, I'd be crabby about anyone who behaved that way. It's not who or what they are. It's the way they behave." So, it went something like this.
Limes: "What are the rooms that need to be cleaned?Customer: Three bedrooms and a hall. OK, 3 bedrooms and a hall." "AND the family room." "OK, 3 bedrooms, a hall and a family room. Can you tell me the last time the carpet was professionally cleaned?" "It's only a month and-a-half old, but we have to clean it between tenants." "OK, so first professional cleaning. Are there any spots, stains or heavy soil?" "Well, um, hem, haw, I don't know what you'd call heavily soiled. I'm colorblind." "Oh, colorblind. OK, but you can see darker areas from lighter areas, right?" "Well, I'm going to say no spots or stains or heavy soil. It's 6-week-old carpet." "This is my quote, sir, based on your description of the carpet."
Hanging up the phone, I said out loud, "That man is a snarfle." Snarfle is not actually the word I used. I used a plain, well known word that is a body part. It is never meant as a compliment when used to describe a human being. I will not put it in my blog.
I needed to be judicious about which technician I would send on this job. When he came in from his route, I said, "Cesar, I need you to work with me. I need you to start your day early and I'm sending you out to an utter snarfle. Maybe you'll do better with him than I did. Maybe he works better with other men. But to me, he is a snarfle." Cesar's eyes got pretty big. I'm not known to use the word snarfle right out loud to home dudes. He knew I was riled. I related the phone call exchange with Scott and Cesar said, "I'm on it, Limes." As I pulled into the parking lot early this morning, I saw him pulling out in the van to go do the early job for the snarfle.
Cesar called the man to tell him he was on the way. The phone rang a long time, but Scott did answer. Cesar reminded him, "Sir, I need you to be available, at least by telephone, once I arrive. I will need to get your OK to start services." It was agreed. Cesar arrived at the home, managed that Rubik's Cube of a bolting key pad on the front door in a nanosecond, inspected and called. No answer. No voicemail. He tried again. After an hour, he radioed me. "Limes, I don't want to lose the job. My house is about a mile away. How about if I go home and wait to see if he calls me before I have to go to my next job?" "Ten-four, Cesar, thank you for working it so hard." "Ten-four, Limes. Limes? You had it right again. He's a snarfle."
Scott called Cesar about an hour later. Cesar told him the carpet wasn't terrible for being a rental and the only extra services he recommended were two rooms of preconditioning at $15 a room. He explained that by preconditioning, he could get the carpet to 95% of its original condition. Scott then proved what a big bouncing snarfle he actually was. "YOU CAN'T GET THE CARPET CLEAN FOR WHAT SHE QUOTED ME? WHAT AM I WASTING MY TIME FOR? I HAVE TO SHOW THIS HOUSE THIS AFTERNOON . . ." and he slammed down the phone. Cesar radioed in, "Complete waste of our time, fuel and good nature, Limes. Snarfle. I'm moving on to my next job." Damn it. A lost job. A lost terrible job, but I'm just sayin'.
The morning rolled on. I always have more than enough to do. Finally the phone rang and I sat down to try to book one. The man wasn't very pleasant. I tried to be very pleasant. I did neck stretches and tried not to squeeze my pen so hard. I purposely kept my voice light and I sprinkled every sentence with "sir". It was a hard job to book. It did flit through my head a time or two: "How many really nasty aggressive men are there waiting to land on me while I try to land them?" His last shot was, "Are you sure you can get them clean? You're not going to get out here and charge me more are you? Send somebody out to give me a quote first!" A little light came on. "All right, sir, and what is your name, please?" "I'm Scott with ABC Property Management."
Well. I put my pen down and sat back in my chair. I took my voice to its softest tone. "Scott, we won't be coming out to see you today. It's apparent you don't even remember which carpet cleaning company you called yesterday or you wouldn't be calling me again this morning. You hung up on my technician this morning, and I'm hanging up on you now . . . ." I didn't slam the receiver down, either. I wouldn't want to break our office equipment.
David laughed out loud when I told it. I couldn't wait to chirp Cesar and say, "That snarfle!" Cesar chirped Justin who high-fived me so hard when he came in that it nearly knocked me off my feet. "Damn, Limes, you sure know how to call them!"
In my ears right now: One of the Badger's custom mixes. I like what he cobbles together. We share a number of musical preferences. It doesn't matter which of his mixes, I'm probably going to like it. Crescent City, Someday Soon . . . .
Something that charmed me: I needed to find illustrations for this post. I couldn't put up a picture of an actual snarfle. So I searched on keywords that were much lighter in tone that what I actually called that man. I searched "ugly worm". And that's what you see above, no matter what vile, putrid, nasty thing you may have thought was depicted. Just worms.