Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Amazing Day

Today I found out what freedom from work can be like. I miss teaching a lot, but days like this one could make me forget that. First I went on a long walk in San Clemente, by the beach. Liz told me about this walk before, but it was more beautiful than I imagined, if a tad hot. A friendly person pulling out of the lot gave us her spot, and told us it only costs $1.00 to park all day if you get there before 9 AM! I'll remember that.
Then we went to see a movie, Mozart's Sister, a French production. It was lovely, and made me want to learn much more about the period in general and French royalty in particular.
Then $1.00 Taco Tuesday! What fun!

More Excitement

I am beginning to enjoy my leisure time, going to the library, having lunch with friends, taking walks, adventuring. Soon I will be able to write some more poems and other things, I am sure. Priming the pump! I will also investigate volunteer opportunities so I can spread myself around to those who might be able to make use of me.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dinner at Dat Thanh

Back in October, I had a birthday dinner at a tiny restaurant in Little Saigon. There are only about 6 tables in this tiny family restaurant, but they are usually full because of the growing reputation of this little place, specializing in rice roll spring rolls filled with home made shrimp sausage or pork sausage and salad greens. Everything in the place is meticulously made, with a masterful touch, each taste and texture carefully balanced to produce the greatest effect, and for a tiny price.
I also ordered bbq chicken and shrimp on broken rice, which was wonderful.
As if this weren't enough, the owner remembered us from the last time we were there, remembered everything we ate and who was there and where we sat, where we came from. We were thoroughly impressed by the food and all of it.

News of the World

I went to Facebook, where I viewed the destruction wrought by this storm on the site of a friend who lives in Western Mass, near where I used to live years ago. The place is terribly flooded, and in the hills, things are devastated. Those places are already poor. This won't help, especially now, when people are doubtless out of work at a high rate. They were out of work when I lived there too; in fact, I was as well for some time.
This storm may not be the huge one that was predicted, but it's bad enough, apparently. Hope things get back in shape for you Marly! I'm going to call R's parents. I'm worried.

Summer Evening Concert

Two days in a row I have had quintessential summer experiences, at the tail end of summer. Last night R and I took in a concert. It was the Pacific Symphony playing Gershwin, Bernstein, and, in collaboration with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, the Duke.
I seldom go to concerts because I never had time before, but now I don't have the money, now that I have the time, R decided to go to this one, and it was wonderful.
Before we could enjoy the music though, we had to make it to our seats, and I was shocked at the mile long trek through the parking lot and up the hill with the picnic basketed hordes. Even elderly people with double canes and walkers shlepped up steep stairs that I, an able bodied person who exercises daily, found daunting, and they did it with a smile. There were few opportunities to buy refreshments, since those in the know brought their own. We didn't, since we don't as a rule like to carry more than we have to and had already had supper.
It was my first time driving into a situation like this parking lot. R seldom drives anymore because his car is close to finished, and he wants me to drive everywhere. I found it daunting negotiating this lawless parking lot, particularly on the way out, where cars zoomed, heedless, across the lot, squeezing into a single lane as we entered the road. Not at my best in night driving anyhow, I found myself having to turn left rather than right and missed two streets that might have allowed me to get home easily. We had to go way out of the way, but finally reached home.
The concert itself was a nice experience though. The well-tuned crickets accompanied soloists as they played the mostly very familiar music. The Ellington orchestra was happy to be here, escaping the brunt of the storm back in New York, and they played their hearts out for us. Families all around us raised flutes of wine and juice and consumed snacks as we sat in the blessedly cool evening air after a hot day, another hot one to come. I am glad we did this.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

By the Sea

Last night was the annual Shabbat service at the beach, when the assembled multitudes, or at least a portion of the congregation, troop down to North Laguna at a small seaside park, consuming a picnic supper and enjoying a short service in sight of the ocean. Pelicans flew over as we ate and chatted, and the thundering surf boomed in the background, providing a fit accompaniment for our otherwise a capello prayers and songs.
The Rabbi and cantor brought their now full grown sheepdog to the service, tying her up on a short leash that was not, as you may imagine, at all popular with the large dog, anxious to race around and roll on the grass. Some handy children were appointed to take the dog for a long walk, and indeed disappeared so thoroughly that when the service ended, it was hard to find them so the dog and her owners could go home. As for me, I took my flashlight and found my way back to the car, parked on Robin's street. I stopped in for a short visit, then drove the long way home, marveling at the large amount of traffic still on the road.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Writing Workshop For November

I am starting to put together my 8 week creative writing workshop for the synagogue. I don't know whether anyone will sign up. It is not free, so that will probably limit the people who will sign up. Also, it's yet another evening responsibility for busy people. I may get some retired folks though.
I feel a bit odd teaching fiction when I do not write the stuff myself, but I know that in a general workshop, I must spend at least half the class doing that. I wouldn't start with poetry; I will make that the second half. I could do a little fiction, then non-fiction, then poetry.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Today at yoga I ran into a fellow yoga student who is also a student in college, new to this area. She was complaining that she had to write a large research paper, and needed some help with organization and grammar. Naturally, I volunteered myself, and handed her a card. If she actually calls, that will be nice. It would be nice if she told her friends too.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Once in a Blue Whale

After my wonderful experience this past year on the whale watch, I went again, with Liz. We saw several very large and close blue whales, leaping and frisking in the waves. And lots and lots of dolphins, who came right in for a close look with their young ones. It was a lovely day!
The thing about whale watches is that, like the rest of life, it depends largely on chance and the grace of creatures with their own lives to live and their own agendas whether you see anything other than a few sea birds and the shifting sea. Today, the whales just happened to be in the neighborhood, scoring some krill. We were told that their hearts are the size of volkswagon beetles; their tongues could easily hold six six foot men, though I don't know whether these men would be standing up or lying down, or, in any case, what they would be doing hanging out on a whale's tongue anyhow. Playing Jonah, I guess.

Try it Again

Today Liz and I will go down to the Peninsula and try to go on that whale watch Linda and I were supposed to go on last Friday. The whale watch place said we could delay it, so I did, a couple of times. Originally, we were supposed to go (Linda and I) on Monday, but at 10 PM Sunday night, as I think I said, she called and said she had to leave the next morning, and she did. So Liz and I are going to try it today. It is her birthday coming up, so it's a great time!
Last night I returned to torah group, and everyone seemed very happy to see me. Unfortunately, some of my good friends from the group weren't there. Some will return, but apparently, some stopped attending because of other responsibilities. I hope they come back some time. It was great anyhow to be back, and I jumped right back in with two feet.
Last night we discussed the book of Bo, in Exodus, in which the last few plagues God inflicted on the Egyptians were discussed and the Hebrews finally got booted from Egypt. I was thinking that Mel Brooks would sum up the import of this book by translating its title, which means "go," as "So go already!" By the end, the Egyptians had had more than enough of Moses and his lot. They just wanted these troublesome Hebrews OUT. And out they went.
A member of the group who always has an entirely perspective from my own instituted a discussion on whether God's actions of killing the Egyptians' first born children could ever under any circumstances be considered moral. He said he couldn't read the Bible the way some people did as a primer of moral behavior. I countered that for me, this was not at all what the Bible or Torah were. In fact, at times it seems like a book of what NOT to do in order to live a moral life. It is often a very wise and psychologically sophisticated picture of human behavior at its worst, even in its presentation of the deity. At any rate, I and others in the group said that we did not read the Torah to get this kind of instruction, but out of a desire to understand the historical context of Judaism. Even though the Egyptian captivity apparently never happened, and there probably never was such a person as Moses at all, this "master narrative" speaks volumes about who we as a people and civilization are, just as the Odyssey and Iliad tell us about ancient Greece and what it aspired to and what it viewed as heroic. And because the period at which some of the Torah was compiled corresponds with the one in which the other works were produced or compiled, there are similarities there as well.
Abraham, for instance, has things in common with Odysseus, the tricky man, not above lying for his own benefit or protection, and he is in fact lauded for this quality; he is a man with quick wits, who knows how to hang on in tenuous circumstances by the tips of his fingers. But both do things we now consider pretty dicey, and are considered heroes not merely despite but because of these actions, such as the wholesale slaughter of the suitors hanging around the manor, waiting for Penelope to marry again in the Odyssey.
So we agreed to disagree, and that's why I like to attend this group. There is always more to say about these rich books.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Back to Torah Group

One positive result of not working for the moment is that I may go back to Torah group, which I gave up last year when I began to teach late in the afternoon at CSU. Now, jobless, I can easily manage regular attendance again!
I will report our discussion of the parashah, Bo, Exodus 10:1-13:16, a rich text that treats the Egyptian plagues, tomorrow.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Visit Over, Back to Life

My friend left today. She had thought she was to stay one more day, and we planned activities--the whale watch we missed on Friday when we got lost on the freeway, dinner with the synagogue choir, listening in to our rehearsal. But she had to leave this morning, and besides that, was quite ill with probable food poisoning from the fast food she had insisted on trying (Southern California fast food being quite different from the Philly kind!). Good thing I didn't go along.
I got some stuff done today, applying for a teaching job that was advertised, mailing the stuff I had hanging around for nearly all last week. So it was a satisfying day, pleasantly quiet after the hubbub and intensity of Linda's visit. She is having a difficult time, and coming here didn't ease that; it followed her, the cellphone setting up a racket in the air-conditioned car. I couldn't talk her into opening the window to dilute it and to ease the freezing breezes rushing out of the vents. She insisted that it was hot, though I know for a fact that after the humidity of Philadelphia, this was not hot at all. She must have carried the heat internally within her.
We never made it to the beach, though the stunning blue of Laguna's ocean views might really have given her a moment's rest, surprising the pain out of her. Instead, she shopped, buying at least three pairs of shoes, only one of which turned out to be wearable. The only vacation-like thing we did was go to the San Diego Zoo... the rest was shopping. I didn't object. This was her vacation. I live here, and can do those vacation things at any time I want to. I can't help thinking though that it was too bad that she didn't get what she expected, a picture of idyllic beach life, which was so close, but so far away. Oh well.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

RE: baby sloths

Baby sloths seem to be popular on the Internet. Check out this video of such sloths at a rescue facility. Despite the redundant title, I think they'd put a smile on anyone's face.

Zoo News

I belong to the San Diego Zoo because I love going there as many times a year as I can. Nothing quells anxiety or sadness or even the blahs like a visit to the creatures I have come to love at the Zoo. Frank the baby gorilla and the various unnamed beasts I encounter there make me feel immediately that all is well with the world. They put things into perspective for me like nothing else.
Yesterday I went with my online buddy, Linda, from Philadelphia, to the Zoo. She drove, as the train has become prohibitively expensive. It was a long haul, though the traffic was not bad since it was still early when we set off from my house.
The Zoo was relatively deserted when we got there. There were no lines at the panda enclosure or the gorillas, and we were lucky to see the koalas being shifted about by the keepers and fed some of their daily quotient of bamboo. They were happily munching and climbing about, not just curled into their customary balls of fur, fast asleep. That was fun.
We heard from a zoo volunteer in the aviary about an infant sloth who was being kept in an enclosure at the children's zoo. Though the children's zoo itself has evidently not been given much TLC lately (empty cages, peeling paint, etc), we did eventually find the mother sloth and spied the tiny baby clinging to her torso, looking around with wide eyes at the world from his tenuous perch as she munched on leaves. In fact, this sloth moved around far more than any other I have ever seen. Usually, these beasts more than earn their reputation of slowest and laziest beasts around, growing algae on their backs so they resemble nothing so much as a clump of Spanish Moss hanging from a tree.
We watched a tiny black marmoset lunch on banana and enjoyed the antics of Frank the toddler gorilla as he showed off for the crowd, beating his tiny chest and turning flips for the cameras.
Dinner from Wholesome Choice and a good movie on the DVD put the cap to a lovely day. This morning I am fresh and raring to go! I hope Linda is well-rested and ready for the beach later today.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Those Freeways

Though I live in Southern California, the place most in love with cars and driving, I do not love driving. I especially do not love driving on freeways. Though I love going places and there are lots of places I'd like to get to, driving to them on the freeways is not on my agenda. This has made life relatively difficult for me. Next up: learn to do this thing I dread. That will be difficult, but necessary.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A New Year

I know it's close to high holidays when practice starts in choir! Tonight is the first choir practice of the season, and I am looking forward to it. I'd like to go to dinner with my buddies, but I shouldn't. My friend Linda is coming on Thursday, and I'll be eating out lots of meals and spending money on frivolous stuff. There will be other weeks to eat with the choir. I'll wait a while. Maybe I will invite them back here for a Labor Day picnic?

Sunday, August 14, 2011


It's J's 21st birthday today. Like his dad, he isn't interested in celebrating such things. I would love to make him a beautiful dinner, bake him a cake, or just go get one at the bakery, but he has asked us not to, and we will respect that. He just wanted money to buy himself some clothes, so I obliged.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Jews go Latin

Last night was a Shabbat Alive night at synagogue, which means we had a musical evening, this time of prayers arranged to famous Latin tunes, such as "Girl From Ipanema," "Cielito Lindo," and the like. It was so much fun! The Torah march was a conga line, or something like one. Too bad I refuse to dance. Even I felt like doing it last night!
Then there was an amazing math-magician, a professor from Harvey Mudd college who performs mathematical magic tricks. Though I have an aversion to math so intense that it gives me a headache just to think about it, it was an incredible performance. The first trick featured an imaginary deck of cards. He told a kid from the audience to pick an imaginary card from the deck and decide what it was. Then he took a real pack of cards from his pocket and told the kid to pick out the one card that was face down. What do you know! It was the 8 of diamonds the kid had imagined!
There were lots of other tricks with enormous squares of random numbers and a baffling "magical squares" trick done with a young girl's birthdate. It ALMOST made me want to try to learn some math... not quite.

Friday, August 12, 2011

New Publication

Here's a link to Inlandia, where you may read both my poem (with my name misspelled) and Richard's.
Unfortunately, Marly's suggestion of Pirenesi's Fountain, another journal, has not panned out for me. They didn't take either poem I sent them. Didn't seem to like one at all, another only glancingly.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Almost Done

I have only two more papers to grade, then I can turn in the final grades for the class. While I might as well do them and be done with it, I think I'm going to wait. The feeling of having them completely done makes me feel sort of panicky because I'm a workaholic and I am going to have withdrawal pangs once there are no more papers to grade and no classes to prepare for the foreseeable future. Some of my students have already said they want me to tutor them, and I told them if they refer others to me, they can have $10. off per hour! Marketing already. We'll see whether they actually follow through. I could also advertise my services, but I'm not sure where.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Possessed Lights

Last night I went to bed early, having had a stupendous nightmare in the wee hours of Monday morning that did not permit me to get back to sleep. I fell asleep readily enough last night, but at about 1:30 or so, the fan and lights in both the bedroom and the study began to blink on and off like some sort of demented light show. I got up a couple of times and turned them off and finally went back to bed.

Monday, August 8, 2011

More Publications!

A couple of months back, my friend Lavina Blossom (wonderful name for a wonderful poet, who also paints and is working on a novel as well as being an old yoga buddy of mine) contacted me and said she was the poetry editor on a literary magazine online, Inlandia, which I had seen but didn't submit to because the webpage said it only published stuff by people who lived in the Inland Empire of Southern CA (Riverside, San Bernadino and the like). She wanted some of my poems and some of Richard's too. I gave her "Harvest," the poem I wrote for my dad, which has been revised quite a bit since any of you last saw it, unless you were at the memorial for my parents in June.
A week or so ago, she wrote to me and said that the editor had decided she couldn't publish the poems because we don't live or work in the Inland Empire, but she liked them so much, she apparently changed her mind and decided to publish them after all.
They have one of my non-fiction pieces too, the one about the toll road. I haven't heard whether they want that one too. It would be nice if they took it, since it is harder to publish those than the poems.
So that's good news.
On the school front, tomorrow is the last day of school. I will collect the papers and leave, as the students do not want to have a party. That makes me a wee bit sad.
They have been a good class, and I have enjoyed teaching them.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Wilderness Workshop Redux

Just signed up for another full moon writing hike in the Irvine back country. I haven't done one since last year, and I am really excited! It's the right way to start off this writing sabbatical.
I hope I make a regular thing out of hikes and nature walks in the conservation area. I want to.

Long Days Full of Possibility

The semester ends Tuesday. I will get a set of papers (a very small set, about 14 at the most). Then I will be free to pursue whatever. I have some things I want to take on immediately, neatening up the business of my life, doing a syllabus for the creative writing workshop I am scheduled to teach at the synagogue starting in November, attending a lot of yoga classes at times and places I normally was not able to, advertising myself as a tutor, beginning to research and read for the book on Butler. But soon I will have a great deal of discretion of how I am going to spend my time for a while. I hope I use it wisely and well.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Old Shoe

I went to synagogue last night and felt so comfortable, as if I were wearing the proverbial old shoe. I could have stayed up all last night talking. I saw choirmate Harriet, who looked so thin, it was alarming. She had had some ups and down after losing her leg some months back. While I was going through my own difficulties, she was suffering. But she was there, in her wheelchair, with her son. I plan to keep closer tabs now that I will be out of work as of Tuesday.
Soon the Jewish year will start again, in late Sept. Things go on.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Thoughts about Life Changing Decisions

Richard is trying to convince me that if I do not get this class at the community college (something I'll find out today), it is the best thing that could have happened to me. He believes that I'll manage on unemployment, and get so much writing done that by the time I run out of unemployment, I will have made a name for myself.
This is a possibility. I have completed so much work since my parents passed away and have burgeoned so fast as a writer that it seems possible I could complete the projects I have been imagining, without the burden of comp classes getting in my way.
Or, if I get one class, I could get paid for that class and get a fair amount of work done without the worry of having to survive on a small amount of money. The amount I get for one class will probably be two times or more the amount I'd get for unemployment. So I can't lose. Then why do I feel so afraid right now?

Falling into the Season

I read with a shade of envy the descriptions from places where the seasons take hold in far more noticeable ways than here how summer is shading into fall there, the fat season of full summer slowly turning into autumn. Growing up in Philadelphia, fall was always my most favorite time of year, with its beautiful rich colors and sharp edge of chill on some days, lazy heat retained by others.
In this place, the seasons are far more subtle, to the point where there is almost no fall that is distinct from winter at all. While spring smells different from winter and the many greens and blooms that eventually appear around February or March, as well as the burgeoning strawberries in the few remaining agricultural fields, tell me something is up, autumn is almost unrecognizable except that the hills and shrubs become unremittingly dry and brown, the seedcases rattle, the tumbleweeds hang like bales of barbed wire in fences. Before I know it, the air has turned cooler, so that I slip without thinking about it into long sleeves and jackets. Nothing obvious or flaming, as in the east, but all the same a change.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


I decided to do a crazy thing and apply for a year long writer's fellowship at Princeton University. After all, I have enough ideas of projects I could be writing that perhaps someone would be impressed that I intend, given the time and money, to do them all, and would consider me for this, despite my age and the fact that I have not had a book published yet.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


We are very spoiled in this part of the country, as I'm sure you who live elsewhere will agree. All winter long we enjoy relatively balmy weather, and in the summer, sunshine without humidity, a light ocean breeze sweetening the air. Most of the year, that's quite true, but in August, often, we get some days of misery, humid and hot. We even get thunderstorms sometimes, quite unusual the rest of the year.
It has been like this the past couple of days. Today especially is miserable and humid. We have no air conditioning and at night, it can get quite miserable. The ceiling fans help a bit, but it's 83 downstairs, ceiling fan or no. I guess we can go sit in the pool. Eat an ice? I suppose that puts us in the same position as the rest of you, except that here, a lightning strike can start a forest fire that could burn down the whole place! Rain would be nice though.