Sunday, November 30, 2008

To the Max...

...whose owner thinks she should be a movie star...

Of my neighbor's three cats, she is the least friendly -- at least to me. But she does know how to pose prettily for the camera.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Playing host...

...yes, I had my first guest tonight!

It was "Girl," the black-and-white cat seen looking through my screen in this photo from yesterday*...

My neighbor went out this evening without closing her cats' access hatch and, while enjoying her freedom, Girl wandered up to my door and sauntered in, bold as, well, a cat. She checked the place out, jumped up on my bed for a quick snooze, came over for a chin-rub, then went back out.

Maybe she would have stayed longer if I offered her some leftover turkey....

It's the story of my life with females, Jim: they stop by, look cute and purr for a while, then split.

* The other cat in the photo is called "Honey." Her daughter, also seen here before (and no doubt to be pictured again), is "Max."

Friday, November 28, 2008

Now that Thanksgiving's over...

...the Christmas displays are starting to pop up here and there. Especially here, where a neighbor actually put up the lights a few days ago, but forbore to turn 'em on until tonight...

Yes, That's an angelic trumpeter -- call it St Satchmo -- standing above the rest. I thought for a moment of digging out some vintage Louis and blasting it through concealed speakers, but decided that might not be the ticket for the season.

As this is the start of getting-Mr-S-through-the-holidays-with-sanity-intact time, I'll be looking for other lights in the nabe and posting pics. Might even go out hunting for the big street displays, too.

Can't put up any of my own. Not enough space.

I thought about tacking a sprig of mistletoe in some strategic spot, but it would be a cruel joke on me to do that....

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A turkey of a day...

...even though it's sunny and shirt-sleeve warm with an almost cloudless sky overhead.

Hard to believe it was like this just a few hours ago...

Holidays depress the hell out of me. They really do.

I've been trying to work on getting the last of my crap necessities stashed in their proper places, but can't work up any enthusiasm for the task. The place doesn't look too bad except for the big pile in the middle of the floor. Maybe by the end of the day I'll have it dispensed with.

And maybe I won't.

It's a consolation to know that those I care most about -- and those who are friends -- are enjoying the "family & friends" bit with their nearests and dearests.... Me? I got a call from a guy who bought a car -- more or less in pieces -- from me something like 15 years ago. He managed to track me down, and wanted me to know it is almost done. He thinks it'll be road-worthy next year.

Do you know how difficult it is to work up enthusiasm to listen to that?

Ah, memories.

That wasn't the call I hoped to get. Hell, it wasn't any one of the several calls I hoped to get. I'm shy about dialing up people who may just be settling down to their Thanksgiving feast, or who might (make that should) be celebrating in some way.

I should go do some laundry. No, the Happy Hindu market is open. Maybe I'll walk over and buy a package of turkey slices so I can join in the holiday spirit.

Thanksgiving Day...

...which is essentially another day here, minus mail delivery and open stores. I have no plans (except to pare down the list of chores yet to be done) and no invitations. Maybe if the Chinese takeaway has turkey chow mein on the menu tonight, I'll indulge....

It was a beautiful morning here. Some rain must have fallen in the night, but the clouds, which look so menacing at first glance, are heading East fairly quickly; the stragglers are being evaporated by the sun's heat. It will end up being a warm day, and probably muggy as well.

Still, the clouds made quite a show at 7:30 a.m....

Hope everyone has a relaxing and enjoyable day.

UPDATE, 9:12 a.m.: Now it's raining...and coming down pretty briskly (for this area), too....

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Imperfect Storm...

...blew into town today. "Areas burned last week being evacuated due to mudslide danger!" "Heaviest rain since last February!" (as if that's a big deal) blared the newsreaders on radio and TV. We were warned to be prepared for rainfall of Biblical proportions.

So much for that. I haven't been around the region, but I have been in places where more rain fell in five minutes that we got Where The Ghetto Meets The Sea from this storm in roughly 20 hours. Still, it was a beautiful day...

There is more rain. I could see bands of it out over the ocean a few minutes ago. It will probably sweep past us, as it always does, keeping our little spit of land drier than surrounding areas.

I hope we get more. We need it, and I like it.

I also realized today that I haven't posted a cat picture for a while. I saw this kitty-under-glass when I was out walking this morning. There are scads of black-and-white cats around here; this one lives about a block from me...

When size matters...

...which is not when some of you are thinking!

One thing I've learned in relocating: most of the stuff I have or had is simply too big for my new economy-sized quarters.

Cases in point: My kitchen wastebin needs to go, and so does my desk, which is a foot wider than it needs to be; I could (given the space and tools) shave at least a half-inch out of the depth of each of my bookcases, and only two books would protrude past their respective shelf spaces; I'd be just as happy -- happier, even -- if there was a size of bed roughly six inches narrower (and, let it be said, up to a foot longer) than my standard queen-size unit.

I know none of those things sound especially significant. They would add up, believe me. It is the visual equivalent of a comment once made by (I think) Henry Kissinger, when asked about excesses in government spending: "A billion here, a billion there...pretty soon you're talking about real money!"

But I'm not here to rant about politics or government spending. Not today.

Similarly, the dresser I considered too small at the old place (thus relegating it to towels-and-sheets-holding duties) is the perfect size here. Its matching bookshelf, with a slight aesthetic modification, holds the linens.

This whole miniaturization thing is new to me. When I first moved out on my own, I had nothing: a couch rescued from a dumpster, a dining table (crappy) and a bed (used, donated). And that was it. I added, from thrift stores and friends, as I went along. Things were pretty easy back then....

My two efforts to do serious upgrading over the years ended in failure: once when my ex-wife copped a bunch of nice stuff we acquired on her way out, again when a cohabitational girlfriend did the same. The latter was more painful: I/we had accumulated some nice (and useful) antique and modern furniture that actually looked good.

I'm now feeling similar urges, but they are based as much on available space as setting up a snazzy pad. With the resources, I could build new furniture to my own designs. I've done that -- in fact, the last two pieces of my "craft" were jettisoned during this last move -- and wouldn't mind doing it again.

The reason is not so much ego as making best use of the minimal space available. I still have a pile of stuff on the floor; all of it will be in assigned nooks and crannies by tomorrow, but said spaces aren't ideal. As I did before, I'd craft spaces around those essential things I have.

I'm neither complaining nor mourning the current situation. Even a largish person like me can get along pretty happily in a minimal space. However, I daresay it could feel a bit less minimal with a little clever design work. Absent a chance to do it myself, I guess I'll place my faith in IKEA over the next few months.

And yeah, a coating of pizzaz over the whole thing would not go amiss, just in case anyone is ever brave enough to accept my hinted invitations and drop by for a visit....

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


The big green-and-yellow Western Waste truck just went down the alley by my building and emptied the two big dumpsters at the former residence.

What a relief!

I threw out a frightening amount of stuff. Old press materials, magazines I never read, knicknacks, "mementoes," things I thought I'd one day need and never did.

A whole lot of memories are on their way to the landfill. But if I'm honest, would I have ever tested anyone's patience by making them look at old name badges from events I attended, passes from long-ago races, faded photos of faded friendships?

I think not.

It wasn't so difficult once I started. I just needed a long time -- and more than a few deep breaths -- before I consigned the first such item to the bin. After that, I let it all out, and was pretty ruthless about what got dumped and what was saved.

I still have far too much stuff. In a few months, I can start pruning the boxes in storage.

PARENTHETICAL ONE-MAN'S-JUNK-IS-ANOTHER'S-TREASURE-NOTE: There's a young geek (I'm certain he works with computers) in the old building. He jumped at the chance to take my ratty old couch and a dining-room set I was planning to dump. Even gave me $10. I would have left 'em for the cleaning crew to dispense with. I couldn't shift them on my own.

In a way, I feel a little sad about it all. Those things were, after all, part of me and whatever life I've had. Some represented events that won't be repeated.

But when you get right down to it, no one else gives a happy damn about that stuff. And, given the choices I've had to make lately, neither do I.

Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Still depresses me just a little....

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Alpine adventure... I took yesterday off from all my various woes to fly South for a day with my friend Juan.

Of course there are lots of people named "Juan" who live not too many miles from him. I had directions (though I didn't need to look at them; I've been there once before) so wasn't concerned about confusing one Juan with the other Juans.

I knew I was on the right route as soon as I got off the freeway: there was a guy walking along the roadside with a chainsaw slung over his shoulder. I don't think it was running.

It being a beautiful day, we sat on his back porch and talked. Our places are similar in size -- his is slightly larger -- but I have to give his maximum points for ambiance and view. It is a separate little cabin, while mine is in what used to be called an "apartment court." The actual view out any of my windows is no more than 50 feet; his stretches for miles....

After a while we made our way toward the ocean and spent the afternoon with his "family." They are the kind of people who make you feel genuinely welcome; it was relaxing and fun. Snack-laden, too.

Then it was back to Alpine, where we solved all the world's problems -- or could have, if only everyone else thought the way we do -- and generally babbled away at matters of lesser import.

It got dark fairly early, and the lights of bustling Alpine could be seen in the West...

That area meets one of my prime requisites (alas, I have never found it for myself) which is: isolation, yet a Big City is maybe 20 minutes away. The best of both worlds, say I.

Eventually, the howls of coyotes out in the brush reminded me I still had a long drive ahead and, fueled by strong coffee and facing roving packs of hungry chupacabras and other creatures worthy of calling into George Noory's radio show about, I hit the trail. I neither saw nor participated in any alien abductions, of either kind....

Juan is a good friend and good host. I -- and I hope we -- had a good time. There are rare people out there who, despite the few times you see them in person, simply fit into one's life like a long-time friend, and he's one of them.

The four hours spent dodging tour buses filled with Asians heading for the Indian gambling casinos nearby, Mexican truckers and the general run of dimwitted and drunk drivers (I didn't get home 'til 0200 this morning, by which time the bars were closed) were well worth it. The recent substantial drop in gas prices helped, too.

I need to get out more.

Monday, November 17, 2008

This hurts me more than it does you...

...I zapped my back again. Filled them pesky moving boxes too full and paid the price. Am paying the price, in fact. I'm guessing I strained a muscle, as the pain is in the far corner of my back and not, apparently, a direct hit on the spine.

Aspirin helps. A little.

Tomorrow I have to do more moving & trash-dumping, as well as completing a couple of interviews for an article due ASAP.

There are so many big things in the world to whine about right now, and I'm reduced to whining about me.

Boy, am I dull.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The kind of day it has been... a single word: terrible.

Everyone has probably heard about the fires that are devastating Southern California. None are anywhere close to me, and yet smoke and ash from the local fires have filled the sky, making breathing difficult. That's what winds blowing from the north can do when you live essentially south of the burning areas.

Hundreds of homes have been destroyed; more will be. None of the three (or four) fires in this region are close to being controlled, and all are in heavily built-up areas.

There was also a small fire roughly four miles from here, in an area ripe to go up in smoke. That one was put down quickly and did no damage.

PARENTHETICAL DODGING-A-BULLET THOUGHT: Two homes ago, I lived in what now may be the path of one of today's fires. I didn't like the area, and worried about brush fires throughout the two years I lived there....

The smoke made a pretty picture out on the ocean, as if that's any consolation...

And what did I, who should have been over at the old place boxing up -- and throwing out -- my crap, do today?


Strangely enough, as reports of burned-out homes, apartment buildings and house trailers came in, I found myself imagining, wistfully, that my former building had been in the line of one of the fires. Yeah, there are things I would miss...briefly. Some toys that have much sentimental (and a fair amount of monetary) value; copies of much of my published work during that past 22-plus years; some irreplaceable phonograph records...and if they were consumed by flames, I might force myself to shed a tear. Maybe two.

A change has come over me in the time -- less than a week -- that I've occupied my new digs. I have divorced myself from almost seven years of living in a fairly spacious pad, and have adjusted to my tiny cubicle.

In fact I've adjusted too quickly, in the way my cat Hobbes adjusted almost instantly from having outdoor access and a big yard to play in to being confined indoors when I moved into the previous place. I simply don't feel like going back over to finish up the clean-up and removal process. It's a part of my life that is now over.

Am I what is sometimes called "an institutional man?" Would I rather be confined? Or am I simply adjusting to a new -- and not entirely awful -- reality in which everything vital to me is enclosed in a 300 square-foot space?

Maybe tomorrow I can get back to what I need to do. I'd better.

Tonight, I will simply vegetate, sitting in my small rectangle and occasionally going out to see which way the smoke is blowing.

People with major catastrophes to deal with are, I fervently hope, being helped tonight.

I, with only a small catastrophe affecting my world, will just have to muddle through. Alone, as usual.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Getting to know the neighbors... least the non-human ones. This is Max, more accurately Maxine...

I already knew the human denizens before I moved in. And, for that matter, the cats. The various living beings make this a nice place.

It's still tiny, of course.

Work is on my mind tonight. I'm already beginning to feel a small sense of relief that the monthly nut has lowered considerably. What I was having to come up for in rent now covers everything -- the place, storage unit, utilities, food -- with a few coins left over.

Trash is on my mind, too. As in all the stuff coming out of the old pad. More of it will go straight in the dumpster, as I am already finding I can do what I do without it.

It's strange that we invest even small, insignificant items with a value well beyond their actual worth, simply because we got them under special circumstances or in interesting places. They rest in boxes or in the back of drawers, and contribute nothing to life except on those rare occasions when they come out (usually inadvertently) into the light.

And yet I hate to give them all up. My legacy for all these years is slim enough; taking away the trinkets seems to diminish me a little more.

Never mind. A lot of that is probably loneliness talking. I feel the lack of companionship acutely tonight.

At least this place is bustling with life. And strange new sounds, most of which have already become background noise.

Raccoons have returned to the neighborhood. So have opossums. They all seem to get along with the cats. And with the people.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The 'net's back on...

...after ten freekin' days, most of which featured at least two -- and more often three or more -- increasingly angry phone calls from me to AT&T. And to think my irritation began when someone from New Delhi (or Mumbai, or wherever in India) informed me that no, I could not transfer my phone and internet service to the new digs simultaneously, and would have to wait as long as five days after the phone service was moved to get DSL service.

Silly me.

Today, however, calm has been temporarily restored, at least on that score. My new modem arrived, I hooked it up, and lo and behold! things worked. After 378 emails (and 115 or so spam messages) had been read and dealt with, I was good to go.

This is the courtyard of the new place...

I don't have the nerve to show the inside. Maybe later. But then, maybe not, as it's jam-packed with bookcases, bed and desk. I don't feel bad about that, but it doesn't look so swell. Could be when the boxes and general litter are dealt with, it'll feel a little better.

Still moving stuff from the old place to either storage or the dumpster. It will probably take another four days or so, part-time. I just don't have the will (or pain-free back) necessary to do it all in one frenzied rush.

Anyway, I'm here, in case anyone cares. It could be worse....

Things have gotten to a state where it seems totally pointless to think they could be better.

In time, maybe.

Don't really feel like getting into all that right now.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I voted early today...

...and I'm glad I did.

But this is not a political rant: not much later, I banged the bejeebers out of my hand moving furniture, and right now it hurts so much that I'd have trouble gripping the little dot-maker gadget in the voting machine.

It'll heal, of course.

One thing that can make you feel really lonely is trying to move a big, heavy bookcase down a flight of stairs and then on to a new place all by yourself. Only four more of them -- they'll all fit -- and boxes of what goes in 'em left to do.

Thanks to AT&T, I now have no phone service at either place. Some time tomorrow, I have to move desk and computer, and will be internet-free until Thursday. Not the way I wanted it, but what is?

I will have to talk to the new manager about the bathtub there. It is really scungy; I tried cleaning it with my favorite Toxic Avenger Bathroom-destroying Fluid, to no avail. I don't much enjoy a grimy shower....

At any rate things are beginning to fall into place. Slowly, too slowly, but they progress.

I only wish someone was here to bandage my hand, coo sympathetically, and drag me kicking and screaming out of my dark mood.

I'm a wimp. I admit it.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Break time...

...from working on The Move.

So far, it's gone about as things go around here these days. The landlord and manager at the new place were a little late handing me the keys. No biggy.

Then, I had to spend two-plus hours on the phone with AT&T (mostly on hold, of course) getting my phone and ISP services changed. It turns out I had one with the "old AT&T," the other with the "new" version, which meant I couldn't change them both with one phone call.

After a long discussion with India, I was in a rage. "Oh, no, sir, we cannot change your service until your new phone line is activated." I understood that, but the fact that I'd have to wait until then to even place an order -- and then wait three to five days to get the change made -- led me to ask "Tom" to connect me with his supervisor, which he refused to do, saying it would make no difference.

In frustration, I made a second call to the "new" AT&T. A woman only 100 miles away helped me change my service, and signed me up for their ISP, which will save me $20.00 per month. I'll have everything up and running Thursday. Still a bit awkward -- there will be communications lapses in the meantime -- but better than waiting until next week.

And I keep my current phone number, too. All that changes is my email address. No big deal; the new one is easier to remember.

PARENTHETICAL PENNY-PINCHING POINT: I only have to pay water and electricity at the new place; gas is paid. Another $25 or so saved every month. This is looking good....

So now, it's on to dragging stuff over there. Two days, maybe three, will see that done. The rest goes to storage or the landfill. It'll take longer than most moves I've made, because I'm not sure how much I can cram into the space available. So it's a one-piece-at-a-time deal until I look around, say "too much stuff!" and quit.

At least it now seems I can have one more bookcase than originally thought. I might be able to include a few of my books that aren't for work! Maybe a toy or two from my collection? Naaah, that's too much to ask....

And the pad has a nicely finished hardwood floor. Damn, I hate carpet! Of course that means a different cleaning mode -- the manager suggested I talk to my friend H. about that: she lives there, too, and keeps the cleanest place in the building, if not in the whole freekin' neighborhood.

Oh, well. Tomorrow will be busy: lugging stuff from here to there, cleaning (everything gets cleaned before I take it over to the new space), shopping (minimum of a new shower curtain and a soap dish for the tub) and dealing with whatever comes up.

And, yes, voting. For John McCain. My hope is that you who have fallen under Barack Obama's spell will do some research and learn -- as I believe is inevitable unless you buy the slanted (and untruthful) crap that's being peddled by the media these days -- that Obama, despite whatever cred he has racially, is totally unfit to be a member of a small-town city council, much less President.

But you'll do what you do. After I vote, it's back to lugging boxes and small furniture items the short distance to Casa Nueva.

I so want this over....

PARENTHETICAL WANTING-TO-TELL-IT-ALL NOTE: Time permitting, I'll have one more entry tonight, before I disappear temporarily from internet-land. I actually had a fun and interesting weekend carved out of what should have been preparation for the move....


I'll be in new digs sometime within the next few days.

I've known for several weeks that this move was necessary, and have known where I thought I'd go for a while, but only was able to pay my deposit and get keys today. Until that happened, I neither wanted to say anything nor make any real efforts toward moving.

Maybe that shows how much I have come to distrust people. I don't know. But it means a hectic period begins now, one in which I have to move stuff to the new pad and take a lot of things to a storage unit.

Storage? Yep. The new place is tiny. As in itty-bitty. As in bed, desk, chair and a few bookcases tiny. There's ample closet space, though.

I will do just fine there, after a period of readjustment during which I'll feel like a tiger penned in a small cage.

And it's a nice place, attractive, in excellent condition. Owner and manager are both good people. Excellent neighbors there, as well.

Mainly, I'm doing this for the obvious reason: money. Even with the added cost of a storage unit, I'll be paying some $500 less per month in rent. I'm betting utilities will go down, too.

It's not far. Hell, it's in the same zip code. Still Where The Ghetto Meets The Sea. In fact, I can look out my window and see it right now.

Forgive me for not being particularly Pollyanna-ish about the move. For one thing, it appears I'll have to lug all the crap out of here on my own. A couple of people said they'd help, but the chances don't seem good they'll come through. Likewise, the two local people on whom I can count for many things have bad backs, and I wouldn't accept their help with this if they offered.

And I am not dealing well with the prospect of putting a lot of things out of sight, or of sending things I might otherwise keep to the dumpster, or giving them away. That's not entirely rational, but it's how I feel.

Still, when you come right down to it, a part of me thinks this is a positive move. In some ways that's very clear -- such as the financial bit -- and perhaps, once I've socked enough loot away to buy some furnishings appropriate in size to the new cubicle, it will feel more home-like. That'd be very good; this place never reached that level of physical or mental comfort.

A few weeks from now, maybe a month at most, I'll be certain this is a move I needed, both to help my bank balance and my mental health.

For now, it means I'll probably be out of touch with all y'all for a while. A few days almost certainly; depending on how well things go, could be longer.

I'll be whining and complaining a lot, but you won't know that.