Friday, July 31, 2009

Goin Shopping

Once in a while I go a little crazy while shopping for clothes. It doesn't happen very often--not often enough to call these cyclic binges or anything. But every now and then (every few years perhaps) the mood strikes me, fortuitously or unfortunately in tandem with the zeitgeist of shopping bargains, and I buy big bags of clothes and shoes.
It is perhaps understandable that I buy shoes whenever they are available. This opportunity may not after all arise again for years, given my small feet, which are delicate and sensitive. The shoes must not only be the right size but the right configuration to be wearable with my corns.
But truthfully, I have closets full of clothes and probably no real need for new ones. Yet I do buy them, mostly at charity consignment stores. The items at some of these places are unique, and are not generally the sorts of things I would ever be able to afford or would even see in the places I generally shop, so I indulge myself, for charity, spending very small amounts for individual items, but it adds up. I feel sometimes like a collector of art, though the things I collect are hardly art. Yet adorning the body is something I take to as naturally as a primeval warrior applying war paint or feathers. It is a way of celebrating the body and the spirit.
I do not read or pay attention to fashion magazines, but I gleefully indulge in color and style of my own choosing, for the same reason that I enjoy variety in food and the rest of my life. It's part of being myself, of being alive.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Another Youngun

A student had to drop today because his parents made him, he said. He must be very young. I knew he was under 18, but maybe he is very very young, like that other person who was in my class. He wouldn't say why, but asked if he could stay anyway because he was interested in the class. I said no because I didn't think that was quite kosher. He had officially dropped, after all, and I know auditing is not allowed, even though he has already paid the tuition. I tell any parents who ask me to permit their very young students to add that it is not advisable, that this is an adult class, and I mean it. I suppose they have found that out when they see the material we are working with.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Not on the home market right now after all...

R. has decided that since the U has cut employee's salaries 8% for the foreseeable future, we should not buy a house. I know he was nervous about it anyhow.
I suppose the worst that could happen in this department is that the price of homes and/or interest rates will shoot back up, and we will be priced out of the market again. That will mean that we will not be able to stay here after he retires. If I am forced to leave the area, I won't like that. I have finally found a place where I am comfortable, and I'd like to keep living here. However, it is possible I might like other places as well, as long as I could work, go to yoga, and find a suitable synagogue. Seems like a tall order.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Incredible Shrinking Class

As I expected, after giving out grade reports and the graded first paper set yesterday, two more students dropped the class. One of them was failing. The other one had simply missed too much and was not devoting much work to the class; therefore, he was not seeing grades he found to be acceptable. He no doubt wants to try it again another time, perhaps in the regular semester.
The classroom, one I dislike anyway because it is so overstuffed with furniture that it is hard to make your way from the door to the front of the room, looks like a mouth missing too many teeth. There are big gaps between students, and the students huddle in small and consistent groups. This group never really cohered. It is odd that one can teach the same material several weeks apart to different groups and have entirely different results. I do not like the way this class is going. I do see improvements in their writing, but I often feel as if I am not communicating well with them, for some reason. It's almost impossible to get them to answer questions or to engage in discussion. I guess that's the way it is sometimes.
I suppose I'm glad that this will be a short semester, and I will be on to two other groups and a completely different class. I wouldn't be surprised if some of these guys and the ones from the previous session end up in one of those classes though. Combined into a different group, the chemistry will be different anyhow.

Monday, July 27, 2009


One of my students just dropped today. That's not surprising, given the time in the semester it is--more than half way through a 6 week semester in which some people, too many really, aren't doing very well or working at all hard. But what is surprising is that I'm told she was 13 years old! Usually people have to ask permission to put a 13 year old in my class, but I guess for some reason this parent didn't. Perhaps she knew someone, was friends with a dean or something, or perhaps she is considered to be a genius. I thought she was quite bright, but incapable, all the same of understanding the things we were discussing. No wonder! How could a 13 year old be capable of making sage assertions about relationships or about life? 18 is bad enough. Genius or not, she is a child. It must be difficult to be a child genius. You don't fit in anywhere. In math or science, age doesn't matter. That's why so many discoveries in those fields are made by extremely young people. But in writing and literature, 13 is pretty young... too young to hold your own in a class full of adults, no matter how smart you are. The subject matter is just beyond a 13 year old. But parents never believe me when I tell them that.

New Picture

The picture I've placed above is my family. In the tall background is Richard and my cousin Andy. Then there's dad with the walker, me, my cousin Mignon, and mom.

Difficult Class

Today the class gets its first paper back. That is never a pleasant day because these students are often so clueless that they don't realize that even though they have not done much of the work and haven't done that well on what they have done, they are going to get failing grades. That's not all of them of course, but way too many, and unnecessarily in many cases in this class. They just don't take a hint. But today they get grade reports, in addition to their first papers. It is often a big shock. I don't give papers back until the end of the class, or the grade reports either, and I have a rule that I don't discuss grades with anyone for 24 hours after they get them. That takes care of most irate students.
In addition to grades, this class does not discuss things well. Probably they are not prepared to. With a couple of exceptions, it is clear they are not watching the film again. It isn't really possible to discuss it without watching it again. I show bits and pieces, of course, but that isn't sufficient to do the writing and discussion. I am hoping that they get the point and do the work, those who still have some hope of passing.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Visit with Family

When R and I moved out west, we knew that we were leaving most of our families behind us. In fact, that was kind of the idea. We wanted to strike out on our own, and getting away from the stifling atmosphere of the Kellmans was a big part of that for me. Not that I don't love my cousins and of course my parents, but I needed to find out what my life would look like if I shaped it, rather than letting it be molded into the shape others before me had occupied. I suppose that's why people have been coming to California and other points west for as long as these places have been part of the U.S. , and perhaps longer.
On the other hand, I have always felt differently about my mother's side of the family. The Horvitches/Lee Wardens/Lynns are a different lot from the Kellmans. This South African/British/Canadian branch of the family are, I like to think, more like me in their embrace of culture, the arts, and the beautiful rather than the merely practical. My mom had 4 siblings. Her sister Edna lived in South Africa on the same beautiful stretch of beach where they had all grown up in Cape Town. Her daughter, Mignon, now lives in Australia, where she is a singer/songwriter, who plays women's festivals all over the world. Once in a very great while, she visits the U.S. .
Yesterday my parents, R., and I had lunch with her and my cousin Andy Horvitch, who works in the film industry and lives in L.A. . I haven't seen him in a very very long time, probably before Jeremy was born, despite his proximity. His father, Ike, was an architect and sculptor who was jailed with Mandela in the 50s for his work with the ANC and could not return to S.Africa until Mandela took power.
When I see Mignon, although this is very infrequent, we feel like sisters because there is something essentially similar about us, I think. Yesterday was no different. But Andy and Mignon came mostly to see mom, who is their last living link to their parents.
Before their arrival, my mom didn't remember at all who either of them were, couldn't even remember her sister, Edna. But when she saw them, she immediately knew who they were somehow, saw their parents in them. She didn't think they were their parents though, as people with dementia often do. Somehow she remembered at the sight of my cousins who they were. There were tears and embraces.
My dad, on the other hand, though he had met Mignon several times before and knew all of my mom's siblings well, was silent and rather sad. He couldn't remember them, and had to be told continually who they were. Dad's 93rd birthday is approaching (next Friday), and it is sad to see him declining in this way.
But he did justice to the bowl of fajita salad at El Torito Grill, and ate any number of warm tortillas with salsa! At least he kept up on that front! I have to confess that I helped him out.
I'm hoping that Mignon will grace this site with the pictures she took. I promise to figure out how to post them if she does.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Fullmoon Hikes, Redux

Remember the Wilderness Workshops I went on a few months back? The person who led those, Thea Gavin, will be doing two more one-time deals, one on the 6th of August at 6 PM and one on the 4th of Sept. at 6 PM. I signed up for both, and would love if you'd join me! But do it right away. Contact the Irvine Land Conservancy. There are 8 spaces left in the August hike, and probably more in the other.

Hard Yogaless Week

This has been a tough week, not only because I got papers on Tuesday, but because one yoga teacher is out of town and the other is in India. When she comes back, she will have surgery. The Yoga Works subs have sometimes been less than inspirational, shall we say.There is at least one of them I do not trust with my body at all. Tuesday I didn't go to yoga because of hours at the writing center in the morning and Torah group in the evening. Weds. I didn't go because of that sub. Thursday I had to take my mom to the psychiatrist. This morning I didn't go because that same sub who was on Weds. was there again. But I plan to go tonight, when a very good teacher is on at 6:00 in Costa Mesa. Even though it's a level 1, and I am beyond that, she's such a good teacher it won't be a waste of time, and I can ask her to give me different postures to challenge me.
I've been doing yoga at home, but I don't do an hour and a half, and I don't usually hold the poses as long as I do in class. Today I tried to do that, and I felt 100% better than yesterday!
It's important that I learn to do my own practice, outside of class. It would be nice if I had the room to do it. But it's now definite that without substantial yoga practice at least 6 days per week, I'm a wreck.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Life Stories

It must be my face that makes people spill their guts, telling someone they have never seen before their life stories. Today it happened again to me on campus, when after class, I called someone from media services in to fix my misbehaving projector, which after several scenes we watched from the movie, balked and refused to project anything but a blank screen, no matter which buttons I pushed.
The business was dispensed with in a trice. It seems that I pushed the wrong buttons or in the wrong order or something of that nature, and I probably won't do it again. But when the guy finished helping out with this problem, he began to tell me all about his life, practically from the very beginning.
It was interesting. I felt like a therapist because of the kinds of things the guy told me. And kind of like a therapist, I nodded sagely and let him go on. It was interesting and intense, the kind of discussion I like to have, generally, but all the while I was thinking about papers I needed to grade, the dinner that I needed to make... I wanted to go home. I spent an hour there with that guy because you can't just cut off a person's life story. That would be cruel and cold.
I always used to meet people this way when I rode the bus, before I could drive. I would seldom know their names, or even ask them, but would talk with them everytime I got on that bus at that time. Like a regular appointment... . I knew so much about those people, they felt like close friends, although they were at the same time somewhat anonymous. I think I just like stories, wherever they come from.
Reading people's blogs is kind of like that too, but surprisingly, I have not intruded into the blogs of people I do not know. Probably one day I will do it, and will be hooked, like someone viewing people through a one-way mirror, one way unless I comment, of course. But the one time I wrote on the blog of someone I didn't know, asking a question I wanted to know the answer to, that person didn't respond. I think I have responded to every person's comments on this blog, except when I accidentally erase them or some technical glitch makes my response impossible.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Today is movie day in my class again. Back to Vertigo for a couple of weeks! I spent this morning making kettle corn (before you get really impressed, it was microwave stuff) for my class. That encourages students to show up for the movie since they have to watch it a number of times in order to write about it.
I so recently discussed it with my previous class that I don't feel the need to do a lot of preparation for that. But with this group, small though it now is, I might have to cook up new ways of getting them to interact with me and to pay attention to the text's details.
I love teaching movies, especially complex ones like this, which really reward close attention to detail. As an undergraduate, I took film classes repeatedly, but all of them were in the English department, not in the film studies department, so my knowledge of technical detail is somewhat spotty. I have gleaned some from reading.
Jeremy is trying to sign up for fall classes, but the system won't let him. He is being told he can't sign up till Aug. 4. I think that's because he took assessment classes but not the orientation. He probably has to do that first. I hope he doesn't have to wait much longer because already the class I wanted him to sign up for is full. He will call today and see what he can do. Plus, he doesn't have a transcript to show the school that he has passed Wr. 201 at SCC. Richard took it to his office! So we have to wait till he can bring it back. I've ordered an official transcript, but it will take 10 days to get here.
If Lou or Reb have recommendations for his math teacher, please let me know. He is not the easiest student to work with. He needs a hands on teacher because of his learning disabilities.

Monday, July 20, 2009


Though I have lived in Southern California since 1980, I have not spent much time in Los Angeles. That is partly because I do not drive on freeways and because those I know who do do not relish the experience of spending hours on freeways unless there is a very good reason for doing so. R. especially hates to go to LA because of how hard it is to get around that city.
I would otherwise spend lots of time in the museums and other cultural destinations up there, being a city girl at heart. But taking the train and wandering around LA by bus doesn't seem to be such a good idea.
So I jumped at the chance to go with R and M to Saturday's concert downtown, even though I know nothing about Cuban music and don't dance, ever. The band, fronted by a female singer, Albita, I think her name was, in a slinky white dress, was very impressive, and lucky for us, loud, because we couldn't get seats close by, and had to go up to the second level of shops to cadge part of a bench.
But most interesting part for me was the location. I really had not been downtown in Los Angeles in recent years, so seeing Disney Hall and the other interesting architecture down there was fun. It seemed to me that downtown L.A. has been sanitized quite a bit since the last look of it I've had, when it reminded me of downtown Philadelphia.
The cathedral and the odd, excessive new high school that has been built down there were curious enough, and if I had a way of getting there, I would sometime like to get a better look at them. But until then, I will live without L.A., as I have for so long.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Farmer's Market

This week, I was on my way, just starting, to yoga class in Costa Mesa, and my engine light flickered. With an older car like mine, with high mileage, I know that when that happens, I have to drop everything and drive straight to the garage. Good thing I did too because it was empty of oil, and I could have ruined my engine. The car eats oil, so I knew that I couldn't take a chance and go on to yoga class.
After I had the oil put in(it took 3 quarts!), I decided to go take my parents to the Farmer's Market near the University, which they love and don't get to go to very often. It was a hot day, though my mother was ready to bundle up, as usual. I got her to go in capri pants and a short sleeve shirt, though she trucked a jacket along just in case.
Parking was easy because it was early, and we checked out the tomatoes, basil, lemons, and numerous stone fruits. Had to sample all of them, of course! Then we stopped for an Italian Ice (just like Philadelphia!) and went to the raffle. We won on all three tickets, but traded off to other winners with each one. My mom was thirsty, so we traded a chocolate chip scone for a cold apple juice (wonderful!) and traded the ceviche we won for a weird looking orange and yellow spotted Japanese cucumber that looked like a melon or squash. Then we won a third item, some baklava. It was fun.
Tonight I will go to LA with R and M to see a free concert. I haven't been there in years! Sometimes I feel like I'm missing something, but not enough to try driving on the freeways.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Revised story

I've revised "The Tell." Have a look at it.

Draft Day

It's peer review day in class for the draft of the first paper. Only about 12-14 students are still attending at this point, but the others have not dropped. I have written to those who haven't missed many classes, asking them to come see me to discuss the paper, so I can help them. Otherwise, if the class drops below its current 17, and if the others do not return, I fear I will be offered the dreaded "pro-rating," being paid only for those who are left, which is hardly worth my time, given that the 6 week class is so very hard to teach, especially when the students refuse to say anything and sit there waiting to be spoonfed. It is one of those groups, with one or two ringers who nonetheless either say nothing, but just look aware, or who have so many things going on in their lives that they miss a lot of class.
There is one guy who obviously is quite well-versed in literature, a man who is a professional photographer, a student of humanities, who is running a discussion panel on Flannery O'Conner, and is being ordained in the clergy! He is interesting and extremely intelligent, but he has missed 3 classes now. I told him that even though he has so much going on in his life, I need him back in class today.
Another student submitted an extremely interesting reading of "The July Ghost" that interprets the three characters as an allegory of Freud's Id, Super Ego, and Ego. It works rather well, and I showed it in class to give the others ideas, but I don't know if it had any effect at all. It is hard to tell with this group.
Some classes have an odd chemistry; this is one of them.
POSTSCRIPT: The peer review went rather well. A couple of people I haven't seen in a while showed up, including someone who hasn't been in class since the first day. She left before the peer review though, and I subsequently dropped her. The drafts look pretty good, and I have hopes after all that I can perhaps turn this class around, once I get rid of the deadwood.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dad's Old Self

My dad isn't the easiest person to deal with sometimes. He's better, easier than he used to be, of course, since he's been treated for bipolar disorder (among other things), but he still can be stubborn, delusional, manipulative, and just plain difficult. Lately he has many complaints about the place where he lives. I think that some are completely legitimate. The food isn't as good as it was. And there is less of it. I have complained to the owner about that, with little result. Another thing, they are finding it hard to get qualified people. When the regular caregiver, Susie, goes on a day off or sometimes a vacation, they put doubtful people in her place. Lately, they have have a rather sullen and threatening person who is very large and silent and obviously dislikes all of us because we make demands of him. I don't trust him with my frail parents, and want him gone, but at the same time, I know they find it hard to get people to work for the wages they want to pay. Mostly they find other members of their own community who are desperate for a place to stay. Quite often they are not qualified or even unable to carry out the duties the job entails. It after all requires enormous strength (sometimes physical, always mental), patience, and compassion. It is hard not to get angry sometimes at the unreasonable nature of the behavior one must regularly confront, but they must not lose their tempers or react harshly.
At the same time, I know that for what we can afford to pay, we could do much worse. And also if we leave, we are trading a known quantity for an unknown one. If we could conceivably afford the Jewish assisted living, I would not hesitate, but I believe that once all the extra charges for care were tacked on, it would be way way beyond anything we could pay. My parents cannot wash or dress themselves anymore. Mom needs diapers, and both are labor intensive, although they feed themselves. I would like them to stay where they are, if this man who is there now leaves. If he doesn't, I may be forced to look for another place. That is not something I am looking forward to. It is tremendously difficult and time-consuming.
I only know I cannot live with my parents and be their 24-hours-per day caregiver myself. I would not be able to keep their medications straight. I would go insane. I would be very very unhappy. It wouldn't be a good idea, even though this would solve the problem of a downpayment for a house. It is not something I want to undertake.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Disappointing Class

This semester, the class I have is for the most part very disappointing. They mostly do not read carefully, and are reluctant to discuss the text. They also tend to be absent a lot and to walk in and out of class constantly, or disappear halfway through, or show up late. The class is already very small, and I fear will get smaller when the grades for the first paper come in. On top of it, I am so tired... I need a rest!

Another Story

The Tell
The Boulevard was a dangerous street, dangerous for anyone, not just a 13 year old trying to cross its 9 lanes, all going 80 MPH in every direction at once. It’s supposed to have the highest rate of traffic accidents too, and that’s no surprise. But the public swimming pool on the other side of that street had a reputation for being a wild place, full of gangs who wouldn’t welcome kids from my side of the street. They were from the projects and the Catholic school, and they hated us, the Jewish kids from middle class row houses who got new shoes whenever we needed them and didn’t have to wear hand me down coats so ragged that the lining hung out at the bottom by the time they got to us.
The way things are where I live, in Northeast Philadelphia, is that there is a race war or a religious conflict or class warfare waiting to break out around every corner. You have to know what corners to turn if you want to stay in one piece, and what neighborhoods to stay out of. The Boulevard was probably one of those places.
But it had so many things that a kid like me craved. There was a really great miniature golf course, where the greens were kind of seedy and ripped, it’s true, but that was part of the fun. You had to get the ball into the mouth of a giraffe on one of them, hard enough to do. If you were that lucky, there were still three ways it could go: one would take the battered ball down this spiral shoot and put it way on the other side of a back passage, behind a pole, where you could never get it out. The second would put it to the left of the hole. But the third, the middle way, would end up PLOP—right where you wanted it, and earn you a free game. And all the holes were like this, oversized and imaginative. Sometimes you couldn’t even find the ball. Or it would end up entirely outside the concrete boundaries, and you had to ask what the rules said you could legally do about it, unless you just picked it up and chucked it onto the green, not caring what the rules said.
This course was part of a small but funky amusement park with a rollercoaster even I liked, though I was notorious for getting dizzy or nauseated in high places. All the rides were kind of miniature. There was a really fast caterpillar ride that went round and round faster and faster until your stomach almost flew out past your tongue, if you were dumb enough to open your mouth. And a Ferris wheel that looked out over the pool and the lanes and lanes of traffic and made you feel like God or something way up in the air, looking down.
And then there was the pool. We had our own pool of course, on the other side of the Boulevard. It was newer, and the dressing rooms were cleaner. The bathrooms worked too, unlike the ones over there. Those kids put cherry bombs in the toilets so often that the walls were plastered with traces of old turds, and a layer of green water puddled in the corners. But ours didn’t have the atmosphere this place did, with its turquoise, white, and gold mosaic designs on the sides, like something out of the Arabian Nights. And this pool was bigger. Plus, there were the boys, who were tall and blonde and dangerous looking, wearing tight jeans and tee shirts with packets of Marlboros tucked under the sleeve, not like the nebbishy boys from our side of the street, who wore braces, silver ID bracelets from Fleets menswear, button down shirts, and penny loafers.
It was Terri who introduced me to all the forbidden glories of the Boulevard. Only she, of all the kids I knew in my neighborhood, could guide me to this place and teach me its secrets. So when she said, “Let’s go to the Boulevard,” one boring Friday evening when I was spending the night at her house, my heart started to race because I knew that it was the one place I wasn’t allowed to go, and she knew that too.
Even though I really wanted to go to the pool, it took Terri a while to talk me into it. I don’t like lying to anyone, especially not to my parents. Lying makes my stomach feel funny, kind of tight. But in the end, I gave in. Terri could be pretty convincing. And plus she was bigger than me, and wouldn’t hesitate to lean on me, hard, if I gave her any trouble. I was more than a little afraid of her, too afraid to walk away.
So I repeated the words she mouthed as I told my parents I would be going swimming the next day, and would be home for supper tomorrow. My mother told me to come home now and pack, and pushed $2.00 and a bunch of change into my hand.
“Don’t forget to thank Terri’s mother for putting you up. And don’t give her any trouble!”
I could barely look at her. My stomach was getting that feeling, and I was afraid she would see right through me, tell me to stay home. In fact, I sort of wish she would have. I would have been grateful.
But she just turned back right away to putting away towels or cleaning out the fridge or whatever she was doing. My dad didn’t even look up when I said goodbye, just went on watching the television, a bleary old black and white with a screen shaped like a hot water bottle. At the same time as he watched the ballgame, he held a tiny transistor radio with an antenna twice as long as the radio itself to his ear. The ballgame boomed out there, right into his ear.
I used to ask him why he had to watch the game and listen to it at the same time. He looked at me like I didn’t know much, which in fact, I didn’t. “I don’t want to miss anything,” he said, and went back to the game.
I didn’t like spending the night at Terri’s much. It wasn’t her house or her family. She lived in the same kind of row home I did, but her house was much fancier than mine. The living room looked like a furniture showroom, with its heavy carved wooden chairs and plush recliners. The TV set had a dark wooden cabinet that took up half the room, and behind it stood a bookcase, full of encyclopedias and Reader’s Digest collections. The rest of the books really weren’t books at all, just pieces of cardboard made to look like books.
Terri’s bedroom was much bigger than mine, and so was her bed. The room was all color coordinated, and her shoes hung neatly on racks inside her closet door. Even her phone was the same blue of the curtains and the patterned coverlet on her bed. But all the same, being there made me uncomfortable, mostly because of the way Terri acted.
Sometimes she would wake me up in the middle of the night, at 1:00 or 2:00 AM, when the house felt as empty as the moon, and hand me the phone. “Call someone,” she said.
“What?” I would say. “Now? Who should I call anyhow?” “It doesn’t matter,” she said, her face like a mask in the half-light. “Just watch me; I’ll show you.” And she would dial a number and start talking. As I listened to one end of this conversation, Terri would confidently take on the tone of a teacher or police officer, and say, “Miss, I must inform you that a relative of yours has been in an accident,” or something of the sort. Sometimes she knew the people’s names, I never asked how. There were long silences. At times I could hear a person speak sharply, “WHO IS THIS?” or “STOP CALLING ME, YOU!” And sometimes she would just hang up. On some tries though, she would have the person on the other end of the phone crying, hysterical, believing everything she said. I watched her the way someone might watch an accident in the street, repelled, but frozen to the spot somehow, fascinated, like a mouse watching the snake that was about to swallow it.
Of course, she could never get me to make these kinds of calls. Sometimes though, I would make the kind of innocent but obnoxious phony phone calls every kid makes, asking the sleepy person on the other end of the line if his refrigerator was running, and then telling him to go and catch it, or just sitting silent on the other end of the line while the person yelled at me.
Somehow, I got back to sleep after this, and at 9 the next morning, we set out for the pool. Since we weren’t supposed to be going to the Boulevard, but to the regular pool, which was only a few blocks away, we had to walk, and it was a long way on a hot morning. Our shorts stuck to the back of our legs like the old wallpaper peeling off the wall in the spare room, and sweat rolled down our faces. By the time we got there to the pool, we’d be wet already. People sat out on their front stoops and stared at us as we walked by, but luckily, we didn’t know any of them, and they didn’t know us either. So when we walked right past our pool, and kept on going, there was nobody to tell us to go home where we belonged or even to know we were leaving our own territory, crossing the border to another world.
It was still pretty early, and there weren’t as many cars as I expected on the road. It gave us some time to rest on the traffic barriers in between lanes, with their patchy crabgrass and dog poop. The Fords and Buicks still whizzed by, though there were intervals between them that wouldn’t be there later, people with their windows down, with tinted glass, with every kind of music booming out as if it were some kind of war of sound.
Soon we were stepping out onto the other side of the Boulevard. The row houses were different here, sitting up much higher, staring us down like the people we’d seen on the way. No one sat on the stoops. While our houses were made of solid red brick and stone, these were clapboard and aluminum siding, painted a pale blue and white. Even though it was Saturday, lots of those people were probably at work at the Nabisco plant, where the air wafted out, smelling like Vanilla Wafers. Most of their kids had paper routes or stayed inside doing chores on the weekend, until they were released to run wild the rest of the day and evening. No ice cream trucks cruised the streets.
There was the tiny Ferris wheel and the roller coaster, the huge papier mache heads of the giraffe and clown at the miniature golf course, and then we stood at the entrance of the pool. I could still back out, go back across the street and go home, but the temptation drew me in, and
besides, I was afraid to walk home by myself.
We paid our .50, and I thought the gum-cracking clerk at the desk might have smirked a little at us, seeing we were not the usual types the pool attracted, in our modest summer sundresses, carrying brand new beach bags and towels.
The dressing rooms smelled awful, and I was afraid to put down my bag. The idea of getting undressed in here made me squirm. In the shower, big lazy flies buzzed around a pile of shit curled like a Mr. Softie frozen custard. But I tried to ignore it all and keep going, wiggling into my bright green bikini, with tiny tucks and buttons on the top. I liked the way it made my legs, short and stubby though they were, look long and lean.
Then the pool itself stood before us, the color of a summer sky, empty and waiting. I don’t know how to swim, though I’ve had swimming lessons. I just don’t like when water covers my head, and I panic, forgetting everything I know about how to float, how to paddle, how to kick.
Terri urged me on, splashing the cold water on my back and legs till I shrieked and laughed. There was no one else in the pool, but a few people were starting to come in on the other side, by the diving board. I paddled in the turquoise water, enjoying the cool. Soon Terri got tired of sitting by the edge and went off to the deep end. I knew there were boys there, and that she would probably bring them back where I was, but I just sat on the stairs at the side of the pool like a little kid, singing to myself, along with the mothers and small children, in their ballooning diapers, who were starting to step out slowly into the cool water, and hoped she would forget about me.
But she didn’t. Soon, two boys, one tall with dark curly hair and a torn pair of plaid trunks, the other short and with a white-blonde forelock that almost covered his bright green eyes, stood by me, trying to urge me out into the deeper water. I forgot where I was, and let them pull me out above my head. When I tried to touch the bottom with my toes, I felt a familiar sense of panic. Then they had me, trying to pull off my bathing suit bottom. The big one held me by the arm, at times pushing me under, while the smaller one dived down under me and crammed his whole hand inside my suit. I screamed and struggled, swallowing water. Terri just laughed and let them do it. In a haze of tears, I tried to remember the right way to float, to kick, to get away from their groping hands and fingers. I tried to scream for help, but nothing but inarticulate sounds would come out of my mouth.
Then the lifeguard was at the side of the pool, yelling at me and the others to cut it out and leave the pool, as if it was my idea of a good time. I kept quiet, too afraid and full of panic to tell him that these guys were trying to rape me. And then they were gone, on to other girls, who seemed to be enjoying their attentions.
“You baby!” Terri said in an exasperated voice. “I thought you wanted to meet boys!”
“I want to go home.” I said in a flat voice, not looking at her, walking fast toward the dressing room.
“You go yourself then,” she said. “I’m having a good time.” But she kept walking with me, probably afraid herself to be left alone.
As I walked out past the refreshment stand, I bought a paper cone of lemon Italian ice, and sat down in the sun for a few minutes to eat it, hoping my heart would slow a little, letting her think about whether she wanted to come home with me. When it was done, I changed my clothes and walked out the gate, hoping those boys wouldn’t follow. Terri did though, staying a few paces behind me.
We didn’t talk the whole way home, though it seemed to take forever. I didn’t notice the heat, just kept my eyes forward, moving fast. My face burned, though I hadn’t been out in the sun that long. Eventually, we reached my street. Standing outside the library at the other end of the block, I saw that my end of the street was blocked with half a dozen police cars, their lights flashing. Everyone stood out on the steps. As we came closer, they turned to look at us, their faces full of surprise and anticipation.
I felt again as if I were out in the deep water, my feet out of reach of the bottom. The police had stopped at MY house. It was MY mother standing there, crying, reaching out for me. The cops looked angry and serious.
“Where have you been, young lady?” one officer glowered at me and held my arm, reminding me of the boy in the pool.
“I went sw-swimming,” I stuttered, pointing back at Terri, “with her.”
I turned to my mother. “What happened, mom?”
She was still crying, but managed to tell me the story of how that morning, about the time we had set out for the pool from Terri’s house, the phone rang. My dad was not home. He was out taking the dog for a walk or something, so he couldn’t help her.
The man on the phone sounded official, like a police officer or the principal. She vaguely recognized something about his voice, though she couldn’t quite place it. He asked, “Do you know where your daughter is?”
She countered, “Of course. Well… not at this exact moment, I suppose. She went to the pool with her friend, but she may be on her way back home by now.” She looked at the clock’s abstract golden starburst, its rays extended toward the kitchen, the window, the living room.
There was an audible sneer at the other end of the line. “Are you so sure?” the voice asked. “I know where she is this moment because I have her and I’m going to kill her if you don’t do exactly what I say.”
My mother thought she must have heard wrong. “Wh…a…t?” she groaned, but the man on the other end of the line only laughed again, a rumbling and very unpleasant laugh, like a dentist’s drill.
“Yeah, you heard me.” And he went on to describe the clothes I had packed the day before, the yellow sun dress, the white sandals, the blue and white beach bag and matching towel.
All the time my mother was telling this story, Terri had stood silently, saying nothing, with no expression at all on her face. At some point, she had left, gone home probably, without even saying a word.
I felt like I had committed a murder. All of this from one lie.
“What happened next, mom?” I swallowed hard. On one hand, I didn’t really want to know. It was too hard not to burst out with the truth, and apologize a million times for what my mother had just gone through because of me. But the idea that some sick guy knew what I was wearing, knew that my mother wouldn’t know exactly where I was scared me even more.
My mother dabbed at her nose with a tissue. “So of course I asked him what he wanted me to do, so he would let you go. He said that I should close all the curtains and take all my clothes off, even my underwear, and stand in front of the window. I didn’t even think. I did what he said, told the man I had done it, as he went on saying horrible, filthy things into the phone, and then he hung up. I was afraid to call the police for about 10 minutes after that, but then your father came in, and asked me why I was standing naked in the dining room, why I was crying, and he called the police.”
I never did apologize, never told her where I really was. But I thought a lot about that telephone call, and how much it reminded me of the kind of calls Terri made. And I decided not to talk to Terri anymore, and didn’t, for a few months or maybe a year after that. I didn’t know exactly how she and the man on the telephone were connected, but I knew for sure that they were. But that wasn’t the end of Terri or of the Boulevard for me, though it should have been. I would keep going back till I got my fill, till I figured this all out, or till I died trying.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Dealing With Mom

Mom has this shoe thing, you know. I've told you about it enough. Now she has a thing about pants too. She claims they are too tight (this is most of the dozen or so pairs she has in her closet). She claims that even though two weeks ago I bought her the most recent pair of size 10s, and she said they fit fine. And today she tried on another pair and said they were just fine too. In fact, the size 12 pants I bought her the last time she tried this trick of refusing to wear most of her pants she has said are too big. So what to do? She dumps all of them on the floor of the closet and refuses to wear them. It might be that the place is washing them in hot water, and they are shrinking. That is a possibility. But it isn't possible for me to buy her a half dozen pairs of size 12 pants at regular price. She's just going to have to cope. And I know that if I do that, she will say that they are too big anyhow.
It's not as though she were gaining weight. In fact, she is going through another not-eating phase. Next week, when I take her to the psychiatrist, I'll let him have a crack at her, but it's impossible to have a conversation with her because of her deafness anyhow.


R and I went to the movies last night. I seldom know what the movies at the indie theaters are, unless I've by chance seen a review in the paper or heard one on the radio. I did hear that the movie Moon won some awards at film festivals, so not knowing what it was, I decided to go see it anyhow. I was only able to glean from the internet that it was a science fiction movie about a man working at a moon station and his computer, a la 2001.
I won't spoil it for you, except to say that it did what good science fiction ought to do: bring up current issues in the society in a thoughtful sort of way. It wasn't innovative, rather, it played off our ideas about computers (2001) and intelligent, not fully human lifeforms (Blade Runner), in an interesting way. It's worth seeing.

Friday, July 10, 2009

R's Birthday

Richard will be 60 Sunday, but he doesn't want to hear about it. He hates birthdays, parties, and gifts, and always has. I have many times informed him that I'll humor him, but he better not assume that everyone feels the same way he does about this! Especially ME! Jeremy seems to have inherited though, and he seems to have gotten it from R's family, who are very puritanical about such things.
For me, being a year older, while it comes with its aggravations and regrets (I STILL haven't finished a book, bought a house, traveled the world, gotten a real job, etc.), is a cause for real celebration. I'm still here, after all. I get surprised when others do not feel that way about their own birthdays as well.
My dad is going to be 93 at the end of this month, and I KNOW he wants to whoop it up big time. Truthfully, I don't know what to get him as a gift, but I will take him out and give him a party at the restaurant of his choice, and I'll invite lots of people to celebrate with him.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

More about worms

My dad wants his own miniature food processor to chop up waste matter so it will be easier for the worms to eat. The house has a food processor, and he was told he could use it, but he is waiting for Susie to do it. She doesn't have time, and probably doesn't want garbage mucking it up, so it doesn't get done. I am a bit afraid he will hurt himself, but I am thinking of getting him one at Target. They have one that takes 3 cups of stuff for $20.00. I will go and check it out.
I haven't talked to him since earlier this week. I've been feeling so stressed out and overloaded, I've just been avoiding him. I think I'm ready to deal with him again.
My class has slimmed way down. Almost all the people who got APC codes from me have been sent down to Wr. 201. They didn't qualify to stay in the class. One of these I tagged as an ESL student, but he turns out to be one of the brightest students in the class. He is Russian, and I don't think he could pass this class in 6 weeks, but during the regular semester, with an ESL grammar class, I think he might pull it off. I hate to lose him because I have lost the best student. She was an amazingly good writer, but never said anything. I'm down to 18 students, as I was last semester. But one of those never comes to class, so I will probably drop him, if he doesn't show on Monday.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Hint Fiction

Take a hint, or give one. Send in your 25 word or less stories to W.W. Norton, for their new anthology. You will find the link below. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to offer an email address!
If you see one that I missed, let me know.

Golden Calf

Last night we had another Torah session. The section continues to outline the specifics of the sanctuary God wants Moses to build. But meanwhile, down the mountain, Aaron is apparently being terrorized by the impatient people, who have given up on Moses coming back down from the mountain. Moses spends an extra day with God, and the people decide he isn't coming back. They need a concrete emblem of the deity to worship. The thing is, if they could have waited one more day, that's exactly what God was hammering out with Moses in the form of the Tent of Meeting.
A member of the group commented that God seems so surprised that the people could do this. Yet God is supposed to be all-knowing; plus, God made these people in God's own image. Shouldn't this be old news? We discussed the conundrum of free will, which is always interesting to think about, and the way that Moses so deftly keeps God from snuffing the people out by appealing to God's desire to maintain a good image among other nations. How would it look if God were to save these people, only to wipe them all out down the road? God doesn't put up an argument. Yet instead of God wrecking havoc among the Israelites, it turns out that Moses does it.
First Moses "hurls" the tablets that God had written out. Some commentators, we were told, claim that he doesn't so much throw them in anger as drop them because God's words have flown back to their source, leaving the sheer weight of the matter that encased them so heavy that Moses can't carry it anymore. But in any case, Moses has to hew out new tablets himself for the second, more complete edition of the Torah. The shards of the old are encased in the Ark of the Covenant.
Then, feeling the same threat Aaron had felt from the mob he meets below, Moses sics the Levites on them, and they engage in a killing spree, murdering thousands of their own kinsmen; meanwhile, Moses melts down the calf, making the people drink the resulting brew. The passage that follows is interesting for its ambiguity. The Levites now either will be rewarded or will have to atone for their action. In any case, it isn't enough to prevent a plague that God sends down to punish the rowdy group for their misdeeds.
We noted that Moses and God often seem to be twins, or at least alter egos. They both can be cruel and capricious in similar ways.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


I have written more in the past year than perhaps any before it. And part of that is that I am thinking about books I want to publish, and even coming up with titles for them. The problem is that it will take a long time to get enough to actually make a book. The autobiographical fiction/nonfiction collection I want to call Among Others. The poetry I want to call The End of a Line. I figure I need about 25 short pieces at least for the first collection, and maybe the same amount for the poetry.
I don't know where I would send them... probably I'd start with mainstream university presses, and then try the really small places. But I need to do the rest of the work first.

Monday, July 6, 2009

First day of the semester

Today was the first day of the semester. It really was. But I, for some darn reason, didn't know it for a long time. I thought the semester started on Tuesday, tomorrow. So I changed my syllabus last week, and I emailed my students to tell them to pick up the syllabus on Blackboard and I'd see them Tuesday. Only one wrote back and said "Huh?" and I still thought it started Tuesday. This morning about 7, I sent another emergency email telling them "Nevermind." But the student who asked didn't check her email till late. She got to class just as the students were starting to write their diagnostics, and she joined them.
After all that, after I got someone to take my dad to UCIMC for his MRI and chest X-ray, they didn't give him the X-ray, and I'll have to take him back. ANd now he is complaining that they are acting strange and not feeding him well and he wants to go somewhere else.
When on earth am I going to go looking for somewhere else for them to live, just when the money is getting slim anyhow? I don't know how I am going to do this.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


It was old home day yesterday at James' and Anne Grey's. Just as we had for years and years, we got together for a holiday party and fireworks in the evening, a day of eating too much, sitting in the sun, and laughing with old friends. For many years since our arrival in 1980, we have spent the 4th that same way.
When we first arrived in August of 1980, a couple of months before I was to begin the MFA program at UC Irvine, we knew no one here. We had used up all our money getting here, and our car was about to die.
All the way out from VA, it was overheating, and no real surprise either because it was in the middle of a huge heat wave. Our car was laden down with every kind of crazy stuff, including parts of a wire storage unit we had used in our most recent place, which had been short on storage. We felt like the Joads, shlepping across the country in our old white Datsun. On top of everything, we were camping out in a tent. If you know me well, you know I'm not exactly the camping type... ditto for Richard, although he was born and bred in the country and had been a boy scout as a kid. I was so green at camping, I thought I could cook falafal at the campfire. Don't ask! What a disaster. We ended up accidentally packing up in the middle of the night out in the desert because my watch has no numbers. I thought 12:30 AM was 6:00 AM. But it worked out because it helped us escape the heat of the day and to drive in the cool darkness for a few hours.
When we got to CA, we didn't know anything about where we would stay or which neighborhoods it might be a good idea to avoid. We didn't know how to recognize a SoCal hood. Everything was so landscaped and green, it all looked expensive to me. And it was expensive, as far as rents were concerned, compared to places we had lived. We weren't sure how we would manage to pay first month's rent, but after staying on the couch of someone in the English department for a month or so, we finally found a place in Costa Mesa on 19th St., just down from the DMV.
It turned out to be a pretty bad place, with gangs and drug deals going down outside our window. But it took a while to notice that. Meanwhile, I liked the taco joint down the street, and the bus was handy.
Richard had to find a job. We were so desperate, he thought about cleaning out nuclear power plants. To keep him from doing that, I scouted around on campus for jobs, and found one listed at Learning Skills. Helen Romera was the director. I made Richard's vita, and went to the interview myself; he was working a temporary job that day. She hired him sight unseen.
He still works there to this day, though Helen and her sister Betty, who had been the administrator, have long since retired. She and Betty were there yesterday, and we were laughing about other holidays we had spent around the same swimming pool, and the many and varied characters that had passed through the Skills.
People still made their same dishes. Susan brought the wings, as usual, though she had run out of tabasco, so they were a tad sweeter than in the past. The same chips and guac graced the table, and the grill was fired up and turning out Italian smoked sausage. Ann Grey still disappeared into the kitchen to organize and to gather folks from across the way to share in the food and the company. She's the best organizer I know, the only one who manages to resist the temptation to sit down and enjoy with everyone else. Her years in the restaurant business are evident at parties, and her generosity extends to her yoga students and the cats she rescues. There was a new one there yesterday, who had offered himself at her door. He knew a good thing when he saw it.
We decided to get together for R's 6oth birthday, which is this week. He hates parties and gifts, but he agreed to go out for breakfast next weekend, if the old crowd would come too. More on that another day.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Farmer's Market Friday

Today was the wonderful farmer's market at Laguna Hills Mall. After a fabulous yoga class, I met Liz at the market and bought summer fruit for a fruit crisp I want to make for tomorrow's party. Coincidentally, Liz was thinking about making the same thing for her party! Actually, with the gloriousness of those gorgeous summer stone fruits, it's a no-brainer, isn't it? The peaches were the color of sunsets one might only dream about, and today, for the first time, I was introduced to a new fruit, the red apricot. It was glorious.
I should say that I love fruit, and used to spend whole summer days sampling it, till my gums were full of ulcers from their acidic juices. That's heaven, to me, so I loved the market today, with its unlimited samples of red pluots, yellow cherries, and yielding nectarines. Yum.
I also bought some charr, a first for me. It looks rather like salmon, but tastes very different. I pan fried it with pine nuts, butter, shallots, and dill, with a little squirt of lemon.
Then I came home and graded all the rest of the exams, and now I am quite done with first summer session! YAY!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Growing Up Me

Apropos of a call for submissions (an essay contest at a popular magazine) on the topic of when and how I reached maturity, I wrote the following:

I stood at the peeling green door, the color of waxed cucumbers, and pushed at it tentatively with one finger. Here I was standing again, despite every impulse in my body, in front of my childhood home, on a seedy side street in Northeast Philadelphia, wishing I were somewhere else.

I was only here because I had to be. My dad, 88 years old, had just had a stroke, and he and my mother were in a rehab center, where they would stay until my dad was ready to be transported out to California, where I live with my family, having fled as far as I could go, to the other end of the continent, in a vain effort to escape my past.

For a few yeasrs, I managed to pretend it all never happened, my time growing up in the neighborhood where my parents, and by extension, I , were regarded as such oddities. It is true that we were all odd enough. My dad came in only two speeds: on one hand, he had always been prone to fits of rage so violent that I feared he would explode. His face would swell with anger, his veins bulging, blue as balloons. And he acted on this anger too, unpredictably. Sometimes I would be beaten for particular errors, such as getting a bad grade in math, and at others, I would be given ice cream instead. I felt like a hapless rat in some experiment somewhere, purposely being conditioned to produce an anxious and fearful response. Yet at time, she was as full of energy and joy as a kid. One time, I recall, he lined up all the children in the neighborhood and electrocuted hotdogs for them. It was a home made device, constructed out of some wire and an on-off switch, and the hot dogs swelled and sputtered. The children giggled and lined up again for seconds.
On the other hand, my mother was, by all appearances, a fairly average mother, except that she was from South Africa, and consequently, had an accent the other children loved to mock. Even I was fairly good at mocking it. However, it turned out to be she who was truly responsible for the problem I most dreaded. A lifelong hoarder and compusive shopper, my mother scoured the ads for sales, and would buy multiples of whatever was cheap. The spare room waxed as I grew with unneeded shavers, toothbrushes, pen refills that would fill the drawers and counters, collecting dust, and eventually piling up into dizzily leaning stacks of bags and boxes that drastically reduced the space in the room into a claustrophobic square composed mostly of the bed. There were carbon copies in lots of 20 of old letters written in the 60s to manufacturers of forgotten products or long defunct insurance companies, and try as I might, I couldn't get her to throw even one of these away.
Even I, I suppose, was a bit of a specimen myself. I practically lived at the library across the street, reading everything in it by the time I was about 12. I was short and scrwny with knees like a chicken's, had a math disability that made it impossible for me to do the problems my teachers asked me to write on the board, wrote a backwards left-handed scrawl, unintelligible to most, and collected insects. So this made me a bit different in a neighborhood where the other girls seemed to be cookie cutter versions of one another.
It wasn't just my parents I wanted to escape, but the experience of being the neighborhood freak, mocked and worse at school and at the playground. And yet here I was again, back in this same old place, the place I had tried to deny and to outgrow.
It was just that I had no choice. Everyone in my extended family agreed that as the only child, I was the one to come back to my parents' three-story home and clean it out, preparing it for sale. For years, the place had been an eyesore, filthy, infested with vermin. Swollen can goods lined the shelves, stored since I was in elementary school. One day I was sure some would explode, sending a can up into the ceiling like a bottle rocket, the way the pressure cooker full of split pea soup once exploded in that very kitchen when I was small. For years, I could see the stain on the ceiling like a green askerisk.
I couldn't talk my dad into giving the place up. To him, it represented his independence. None of the brochures of palm trees and beaches could lure him to Claifornia, where he could spend more time with me and with his grandson. Short of having him declared mentally incompetent, there was nothing I could do, despite the fact that my mother's dementia was growing worse daily, and my father was showing himself entirely incapable of caring for her and for the house. If he had only agreed to move willingly, he could have disposed of his things as he wished, but now, he had left it all to me, with only three days between semesters between semesters at the community college where I taught, to clean out the house and get rid of everything. Now, the day I had dreaded had come, and the whole thing was up to me.
The door swang open, unlocked, as my ather had feared it would be. When he had his stroke, he yelled that my mother was not to call 911 because the paramedics would steal his money, that is the money he had buried in envelopes all over the house, all $11,000. of it. Yet it was actually all still there, under all the junk, as in some nightmare scenario I had concocted in my worst of dreams.
I smelled the place before I saw it. There were two fridges full of rotting food in that house, and nowhere to dispose of it. My cousins, friends, and I tied bandanas around our faces and tried not to gag, burning sage as we tried to dispel the miasma. Rats ran out of boxes and roaches the size of mice skittered across the floor.
Somewhere underneath all that clutter and junk were the layers of our lives, distributed like the strata of the geological record. Like a paleontologist or a spelunker, I excavated these deptths, uncovering my mother's old passport from 50 years before, my kindgergarten drawings, my first poems and stories, the diaries I had scrawled, then abandoned, in my teenage years. And I discarded much of this. No room for sentiment all this sediment.
Two days later, my friends, cousins, and I had filled a dozen boxes with indispensible clothing, records, and valuables (those we could find). In the depths of her dementia, my mother had taken to burying things she thought of as valuables, though they were in actuality an assorted lot. Gone was her Social Security card (it would take another 2 years to get another) and her mother's diamonds. But I found some of her stash, a melange of meaningless crud. I brought some of what seemed most essential to my parents, gave some to relatives and friends for storage, and sent some stuff home by mail. It was to take 5 years to sort it all out for good.
The irony of all this was not lost on me. Here I had gone thousands of miles to avoid or deny my past, my family's uncomfortable peccadilloes and genetic ailments, but there was no way to escape them: in the end, I was forced to pick through the remnants myself and to deal with them, piece by piece, facing up to and acknowledging them as part of who I am.
Although at the moment, stunned as I was by the enormity of the task, I was not really able to take it all in, in the months and years that followed, I realized that this had been my moment of reckoning, the instant that I became an adult. Multiple graduations, the age of consent, marriage, childbirth had all come and gone, and they did not really make me an adult, but those three days of standing in judgment before that accumulated mass of three lifetimes had made me one, forcing on me decisions that would affect all of us for the rest of our lives. I stood alone, and charted the way.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Last day of class

Well it's over, all but the exam. Tomorrow is the last day of the semester. I will miss my very fine writer and several other extremely extremely bright students. All who stuck with it have improved, some a lot.
When I came home, ready to prepare the final for tomorrow and grade and comment on last minute homework, I was greeted by hysterical cats, frantic to be fed, my cellphone, home charging on the counter, beeping in its annoying way, full of urgent messages, and my son, starving, asking what was for dinner. Then my dad called, telling me that the pain the nurses at the Center had apparently been calling me all day about was not so bad after all. They even called the secretary in the English Department and my husband at work. None of them got hold of me, so when I came home, it all unloaded on me at once.
The nurse at the Center apparently told my dad that she suspected he might have fractured a rib when he fell in the bathroom a few days ago. But I don't think so. He isn't having trouble breathing, and he often complains (sometimes a lot) when I drive over bumps. That's what started this whole thing, the access bus driving over bumps. Add to this the fact that the nurse at the Center sometimes has given my dad dubious medical information in the past.
All the same, I called the doctor's office and asked what I should do. They're going to call me back tomorrow and tell me whether they think I should take him in to the ER for an x-ray.