19 August 2016


It turns out to be ridiculously, impossibly hard to buy a car. I know what car I want. I know how much I'm wiling to pay for it. And you know what I get, after extensive research, when I tell a car dealership that? 

Last night, one of them told me that I am wrong. 

Let that sink in for a moment: this guy claims to want my business. He tells me that he can get the car I want. He called me, so he apparently does want my business. And when I told him, based on my research, that one aspect of his pricing (a delivery charge) was more than I wanted to spend, he didn't say, "Let me see what I can do," he said, "No, you are wrong." 

Then he proceeded to mansplain to me 1. why buying a used car is a bad idea (he also sells used cars), 2. why Mazdas are just as good as Hondas and Toyotas (which is nonsense and unnecessary, since I told him I wanted to buy a Mazda for the manual transmission EVEN THOUGH they aren't as reliable as Hondas and Toyotas), 3. why he doesn't pressure people into anything because he wants people to send other people to buy from him (while continually telling me that I had no choice but to pay his delivery fee or end up with a lemon). 

I really don't understand how car dealerships do any business. So far, I have had the following experiences:

  1. A car dealership that won't come down to reasonable prices. Should a used car really cost the same as a new one?
  2. A car dealership that added all sorts of hidden costs and turned out not to have the title anyway. They also wanted me to sign a paper with my offer on it. I get the psychology that they think it makes me more committed, but it just made me irritated that they thought I was that easily manipulated.
  3. A car dealership that claims to be able to get the car I want, but insists on telling me that I am wrong about everything. This bullying does not make for a happy customer. 
  4. A car dealership that does not, despite confirming in writing, actually have the car I asked to see. They tried to sell me on some other cars until I flatly told them not to contact me again unless they had a manual transmission in stock. 
How is it that every other business at least attempts to offer what people want at a price people will pay except this one? 

If I were a man, I would have my car by now. 

14 August 2016


I walked down to the waterfront tonight. I haven't done that in a while. Last year, when I was unemployed, I walked down there often, because I had to get out of the house somehow, and I didn't have money to spend. I watched a lot of sunsets over downtown.

As I walked along the esplanade tonight, there was a cloud of smoke in front of me. It didn't smell like anything by the time I got up there, though, so I didn't think much of it. I assumed someone had done something involving smoke and then walked away.

Soon thereafter, I stopped at a railing at a good turnaround point. There was a firefighter peering over the railing (just in a t-shirt, not in gear), and I realized that he was looking for the source of the smoke. 

I started walking back, partly following the guy out of curiosity. The smoke was more clearly a column now. Looking over the edge when I got there, I saw something smoldering in the brush. The firefighter was climbing down around the end of the railing. 

Another firefighter passed me as I turned to go. "Garbage," he said. "Smells bad, doesn't it?"

I smiled at him, but what I was really thinking is how familiar it smelled. We burned our garbage in Liberia and in Rwanda. I know that smell, and it feels like home.

(Side story that I may have told before: I was at a music festival during my college years. It was very hot, and things sometimes got thrown on the ground and trampled. At one point I sniffed the air and said, "Ah. Smells like rotting garbage in the hot sun. I remember that smell from Liberia. It smells like home." One of the people I was with said, "Don't you think it's a little messed up if a smell like that makes you feel at home?" But I do not, in fact, think that is messed up. I never have.)

Walking back along the water, I thought of a conversation I had with my mom last summer, while I was unemployed, about how things could change at any time but it's really hard to enjoy all the free time of unemployment when you don't know when it will change. 

But change it did, and it's all so different now. I have a job that I love, I just agreed to buy a car that won't make me feel like a bug about to get squashed on the highway, and a cute boy brings me turron from Spain. If I could tell the me of a year ago how it turned out, she never would have believed it could be this good. 

17 July 2016

motorized things

The other morning, I could not get the AC to turn on in my car. It was quite annoying, because I need the AC to work in order for my windshield to stay free of fog when it rains.

I had my oil changed over the weekend, and when they finished up, one of my headlights wasn't working. They had joggled it loose somehow (they fixed it). So I suspected them of also doing something to the AC. What, I didn't know, but something.

I tried many times, turning it off and on, and then I gave up. Ugh. A car problem. 

On the drive home, I noticed that the fan wasn't on. Turns out that the AC only works when you have the fan on.

So there's that.


The motorcycle repair garage across the street was extra loud one night this week.

I was getting up at 5:30 am last week, working 10 hour days, so I needed my sleep. I was not particularly pleased when they started revving one of the loudest of the engines over and over and over for a good half an hour, starting around 10:30 pm. 

The thing about a noise like that is the unpredictability. I can sleep through a constant noise. I can sleep through a noise that occurs at regular intervals. I can't sleep through a noise that stops and starts unexpectedly.

I was too tired to do anything about it, but the next day I went over into the garage full of metal and rubber and said, "So, I live across the street, with the window facing this way, and..."

I didn't even get to complete my sentence before one of the guys was apologizing. He knew exactly what the problem was, and how late it had been. They were getting ready for a big trip this weekend, it seems, and that bike was having trouble. 


My headlight has gone out again.

04 July 2016

bits, pieces

Apparently my commitment to avoiding ants in my chai just disappeared when I got up after 6 hours of sleep on Friday morning and found an ant in the day's chai. I don't even drink the chai until I get to work, 2 hours after I wake up, but it's a ritual, and I wanted it, especially after staying out late for J.'s birthday. So I fished out the ant and went on my way.

I have now resorted to making chai on the coffee table in the living room, since I found an ant on the bar stool. How is this possible? They are everywhere. 


I've become the sort of person who reads about climbs for fun. Hmmm, Class 4 but very exposed. Crumbly 5.0-5.3 approach. That sounds like something that requires a real climb leader, not just a bunch of us who have taken the initial class.

I also have plans for the intermediate class, starting a year from now. I have to get in three more summits, including two that involve rock climbing. I just have to find people to lead them, since I'm a little bit of a skerdy-cat when it comes to the anchors, etc. I like safety as much as I like getting to the top of a mountain.


I like fireworks a lot, but my tolerance for them on a Monday night is low, and they are going on in all directions around my house. The kind, you understand, that are illegal in some many states. 

There were some kids setting off a firework in the middle of the road, in the fancy neighborhood up the hill. I watched as one lit it and another tried to set a plastic take-out container upside-down over it. The container tipped, and the kid who lit it had to go back in and set it right. 

Fortunately it was just a smoke bomb, and all it did was color the take-out container green before the it tipped over again.

The only other adult visible, standing on the sidewalk I was on with a smaller kid, looked at me with the look that says, "We are supposed to be the grownups around here. What do we do?"

I just smiled at her. That is not a battle I'm going to attempt. I'm sure there were some parents somewhere, off on a porch. This is not the kind of city where kids roam free. 

It's a good thing I can sleep through a lot, because a lot is going on right now.

29 June 2016

ant revenge

The ants have taken over again.

J. was in my kitchen the other night and lost patience with them. He wiped them all off the counter into their deaths in the sponge. I found baby powder, which he sprinkled around the edge of their favorite counter to keep them away.

Tonight I lost patience with them and added a whole bunch more baby powder to other parts of the kitchen.

I have no idea why the baby powder stops them, but it seems to.

I had to make my chai on a stool today, because lately I've been finding ants in my chai. And I'm not that picky about finding ants in my drink, but I draw the line in two places:

  1. That time that I came back from Spain and Croatia and I had a chai in the fridge waiting for me and it turned out that an ant had been marinating in the tea for about 12 days. It was bloated.
  2. The ants that are in the cup when I pour in boiling water so that they are cooked in the cup. The last one I found was breaking apart into little ant bits. So much in the way of nope.

22 June 2016


The last few weekends have looked like this: 


J. got back from Spain on Saturday, jet-lagged. We spent Sunday shopping the sale at re!, buying very important things like a sleeping bag (me) and a cargo box for roof of a car (him). Rain came down in sheets, so we took refuge in a Thai restaurant, where we sat in a booth made out of a tuktuk and found out that J.'s final softball game was canceled. We ordered more Thai iced tea to wait out the storm. 


I took Friday off so that we could head off to the desert. We spent Friday morning packing J.'s Subi with way too much camping gear (a canopy is really vital, obviously) and about two weeks worth of food and water and a dog. For a weekend. I miiiiiiiight not have conveyed quite how far away the desert is, because when we got to Sunny Ski Town, J. thought we were almost there. We were, in fact, almost halfway there. 

We ate West African peanut soup and chilaquiles outside in the sunshine in Sunny Ski Town with the (borrowed) dog constantly begging next to us. 

By the time we got to the desert, it was dark, and the camp was not in the same place it had been last year. We ended up driving through the fog over the flat, cracked dirt. It was eery not being able to see very far in front of us. With the fog, we could have been in a forest, even though there was nothing to run into for miles. 

The camp was full of lights and music. People played music at all hours - one night there was a stage set up in the middle of the desert - and lounged in open sided tents during the day. "This is the Pleasure Pavilion," a woman I know from hiking said as we walked by one afternoon, from pillows in a screen tent. There was a geodesic dome with hammocks strung from the frame. 

J. and I mostly went for hikes and explored, though. We drove south to another mountain range one day, and across the desert to the bluff the next day. J. took the Subaru up past 100 mph on the open desert, and then he took his hands off the wheel. There was nothing to make the car deviate from its course. 

The dog turned out, at age 10, to have a bit of a mind of her own. When she got tired, she just plopped down and laid there. That was fine on the first hike, where we mostly followed a little stream. She could go frolic in the water until she had her energy back. One time she laid down and sat, panting, looking at us, while a lizard snuck up and jumped on her back. We laughed at how she turned her head and scared it off, but didn't startle enough to jump up. As soon as she looked away, the lizard came back and jumped on her back again. This time she grudgingly got up. The lizard scampered off for good.

There was no water on our walk the second day, back between the bluffs out of the desert, and so when she refused to move we just turned around and started back. We saw a snake that startled us, but it didn't have a rattle, so we weren't too worried. (It was probably a Pacific gopher snake.)

The drive back to Gone West was just as long, except interrupted by lunch at a Lebanese place in Sunny Ski Town.


J. was in San Diego for work, so I drove his car out over the mountains after work to the cabin of one of my climbing friends. A bunch of them were gathered there. I made guacamole and we all laid out our climbing gear in the living room, asking people's opinions. 

"Do I need a puffy?" S. asked. 

"I don't think so," I said. "It's going to be almost 100 degrees this weekend, and even if it is 40 degrees on the mountain, I was okay in the desert with only a fleece and this other light jacket."

After dark, I drove out to the nearest airport to pick J. up. He had changed his flight to join us for the climb, so that we didn't have to drive three hours from Gone West in the dark.  

The next morning, we all packed our packs and met our climb leader at the trailhead. We hiked through a large burn, our leader telling us stories about the time he got caught in that fire and had to hike out the other side, without a trail. We hiked through snow, until we were right at the bottom of the glacier, and there we made camp. 

Around 3:50 am, 30 minutes into trudging up the snow, the only thing I wanted was to turn around and go back to my warm sleeping bag. The only thing in the world. 

But then the sun came up, over the east ridge of the mountain to the north, and the world was all aglow, and my muscles loosened up, and then it was just one step and another, all the way up the snow to the top of the mountain. 


J. and some friends ran a half marathon up on the mountain. There were ten adults and one 2 year old in two condos. (Our condo got the two year old.) 

The morning of the race, J. and R. went off with one of the other runners in her car. I followed an hour or so later, driving mostly blindly since I didn't have network on my phone. It was like the old days: I had to watch for the sign.

Driving semi-aimlessly, I finally found a spot where the runners were passing. I didn't know how many had passed, so I watched for a while and then worried that I might have missed J. Also I had parked J.'s car in a place with many signs demanding that one pay for the park entry and put the proof of payment in the car window, and I had not, mostly because I had no cash. 

I should have waited, though, because I beat the fastest runners to the finish line, and it was confusing who had run the marathon and who the half, and it took almost an hour before J. and one of the other runners made it to the finish line.

Fortunately, there was a hot tub and ridiculous amounts of nachos and some crazy 80s kids game that involved fitting shapes into the correct spot while a timer ticked, and if you didn't get them all in time to stop it, the whole thing got upset.


J. went to Spain, so I had a weekend to rest and do nothing. 

Of course I volunteered to spend Saturday assisting with the summer climbing class. Which meant getting up at 4:35 am. 

I have no explanation for myself. 

I didn't do much climbing, but the wind picked up and the guy in charge of the chimney decided to shut it down, so I climbed last, with my pack. There's a little lip at the top that I struggled to get over last time even without a pack and without the wind. I might have panicked a little. The poor guy had to pull hard on the rope to keep it without any slack, and even then I panicked about falling. 

I didn't fall (not that I would have gone anywhere if I did). 

21 May 2016

traveling again

On the overnight flight from Gone West to Amsterdam, hours and hours in which the light never quite went away because the plane flew up over the Arctic Circle, I couldn't sleep. I don't know if it was for excitement or because the flight left Gone West at 1:30 pm. Who can sleep then?

As the flight tracker showed us beginning to descend over southern England, down over the English Channel toward Schipol Airport, I started counting to myself how many times I've flown into Amsterdam since 2000, when I first went back to Europe and Africa. 

How many times have I watched that flight tracker cross the English Channel? 9 or 10, I think. The 10th flight over the Atlantic might have been to Brussels instead, and the 11th to London, unless those were numbers 11 and 12. 

Schipol was the same shiny, bright place it's always been, with the yellow signs overhead. I had just enough time to go through immigration into the EU and back through security and to find a bathroom that didn't have a line all the way down the hall, and then I had to board my next plane. 

On that flight, I slept. 

There were no seat-back screens on this flight. Nothing to tell me where we were or when we would arrive, so I leaned against the window and dozed my way across Europe.

When I walked out of the "Nothing to Declare" door in Barcelona, J. was waiting with a sign that had my name, a picture of Barcelona, and the word "Bienvenidos" on it. (For any one who happens to be totally Spanish-less, that means welcome.)

Jet lag is a strange thing. I managed to stay awake until 11 pm Barcelona time, which was 2 pm in Gone West. By then I'd been awake for 32 hours, not counting the naps on the planes. We'd walked all across Barcelona, through the warren of narrow little streets full of tourists, past the markets and boulevards that everyone sees, and down along the waterfront, where we found a restaurant to sit protected by glass and eat thick-cut papas bravas next to the sand.

"I'm fine as long as it's light," I said at one point, "but even when we go into a street that doesn't have sunlight, I can feel myself fading." 

"You're a little loopy," J. said, as it got dark, as I blindly followed him across intersections and through alleys. 

I was quite loopy.

But I slept for 11 hours, and when I woke up, the air was warm and the sun was bright over Barcelona, and I was traveling again.