Posts Tagged ‘SoCal’

Welcome to Southern California. Contrary to popular belief, we DO have four seasons here: earthquake, fire, flood, and riot. Presently it is heading into fire season, otherwise known as summer to the rest of the northern hemisphere. Though, like with all seasonal transitions, earthquake still has a few last kicks to it, giving us a M3.2 burp as I write this, only a few miles from my house. At least, according to the news it happened. Anything less than books flopping off shelves I tend to not notice. The jaded laissez-faire reality of living here most of my life.

This transitional period is affectionately called shake and bake by us locals. All the heat without the flavor. Instead of getting mouth-watering pork chops, you just run outside because your house is collapsing, and get fried by the giant bug zapper in the sky. The end.



Do you want fries with that?


It’s not that I’m unafraid of such things. I’ve been through several significant temblors in my time, including Ferndale (Cape Mendocino) in 1992, and Whittier Narrows in 1987, the latter of which caught me driving into downtown L.A. on the Hollywood Freeway. You’ve not lived until you’ve seen a skyscraper ripple. But there’s not a lot you can do about earthquakes except ride them out and be prepared for afterwards. They offer almost no warning and cover huge swaths of geography, making them almost impossible to avoid. And the bulk of the shifting is done in a matter of seconds. It may take days, months, or even years to clean up and rebuild, but the sheer terror is over pretty quickly, allowing us to shake our fists at the government for their lack of instantaneous and perfect response all the quicker.

Wildfires, on the other hand, scare the fuck out of me. Part of that, I’m sure, is the primal lizard brain and its programming to fear fire just ‘cause. But the majority is because I’ve seen what they do. Wild, often unpredictable, they can mosey along at ground level keeping down the underbrush while a herd of elk graze nearby. Or they can blast flaming tornadoes a hundred feet tall, incinerating just about everything in the way in seconds.

We’ve been lucky in that we’ve never been directly affected by wildfires. Fires have teased the borders of where we live, leaving the air thick with smoke. But we haven’t had it any worse. Unfortunately, we do know many people who have. From being evacuated as a precaution and then returning to a house largely unscathed, to mad-dashing to the car with child/animal/laptop in hand as the raging inferno engulfs everything they ever owned mere seconds behind them. It may be fascinating to watch on the news, until you recognize the house of your friend going up in smoke. And then it is just heartbreaking.



Off the chart takes on a whole new meaning.


According to the National Interagency Fire Center, there are thirty large wildfires active in the US right now. The majority of them are in western states. Arizona leads the way with seven. Right behind them is California, with four. And these numbers are considered light for this time of year. After the wet winter we had, which encouraged all sorts of wild flora to spring up just about everywhere, the dry summer will cook it all to crispy tinder just waiting for something to spark off the flames until flood season returns and mudslides put out the fires still not fully contained after days – and even weeks – of effort.

A study by the University of Colorado, Boulder’s Earth Lab revealed over 80% of wildfires during the period 1992 to 2012 were caused by humans. Over one-fifth were directly attributed to arsonists. Because, like Alfred said in The Dark Knight, some men just like to watch the world burn. And the study also found that more fires were started on the 4th of July than on any other day of the year. Maybe it’s not such a good idea to have a holiday at the height of summer feature fireworks and alcohol.



Or maybe just stay inside and have ice cream.


With climate change bringing about longer and warmer springs and summers, as well as increasing the range and duration of drought, fire season will only grow longer and more dangerous. We as stewards to this fine little blue marble need to take better care of her. The danger isn’t that the planet will be destroyed if we don’t’, it’s that WE will be destroyed. Short of being blown completely apart, Earth will be around long after we’ve led ourselves to oblivion. Just maybe not in a form we would recognize.

So, in the long term, doing something about pollution and renewable energy will serve to give us a nice place to keep living. We have the technology to have our toys and live WITH the planet at the same time. It’s just a matter of will. We need to put the planet and its people before profits. Which means getting the politicians out of the mix and handing things back to the scientists before it’s too late.

In the mean time, we do our part in our own little neck of the world. And we stay prepared. Because no matter where you are, so is Mother Nature. And she’ll get you sooner or later…






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It is Tuesday afternoon. The sinus headache searing behind my left eye has been with me since Sunday afternoon. Molten-lava-hot needles of pain swirl from one side of my head to the other with the slightest movement. Lights are too bright, sounds are too loud, smells are too strong, stupid is as stupid does. Thinking is a chore. Motivation is totally gone. Not surprising, given how little I had to start with.

Annoyance is high.

Annoyance threat level a

Sunday was a day spent in hiding, hoping to get rid of the damn headache. I accomplished nothing. Didn’t even get out of the pajamas. Not that I do that much anymore, either.

Monday was a busy day. More issues with the truck. That meant getting up at the butt-crack of dawn to drive the husband to work. Hit the grocery store on the way back. 7:30 on a Monday morning is a nice time to do shopping. No crowds, no screaming kids, no villages and their idiots blocking aisles trying to figure out the difference between the fifty-eight cent house brand and the exact same stuff packaged under the Name Brand for twice that. And everything all nicely stocked and neat, not looking like it had just been looted like it usually does on the weekends.

Got home and put the groceries away. Had a nice breakfast with the pain pills and watched the latest episode of Once. Set up the crock-pot for dinner with a nice roast and potatoes and carrots. All done just in time to take the truck to its appointment at the repair shop. Another code with the transmission. We’d just spent our tax refund rebuilding it less than two months ago. But the warranty from that visit will take care of this one. All I have to do is wait in the lobby for about an hour while they do the work. Thankfully I brought stuff to read, and the lobby is clean and brightly lit. Not-so-thankfully, the chairs are tiny plastic things that I suspect have been stolen from the nearest elementary school. My butt goes numb after about fifteen minutes.

And, of course, the job takes four times longer than initially estimated. By then I’d given up reading because of the headache. I also can’t find my feet. Could have sworn they were attached when I got up this morning. It takes me ten minutes to bring them back online, and only after I unwedged myself from that damned tiny chair. I leave the shop just in time to fetch the husband from work.

Traffic is more terrible than usual. It’s overcast and there are scattered rain showers around the area. I like rain. But not when I have to drive in SoCal. These people have no idea how to drive in anything but full daylight – yeah, okay, maybe not even then. I learned their ways when I lived in L.A. And I have a BAT (big-ass truck). A little assertiveness and 9,000lbs of steel gives me the right-of-way. We still don’t get home until after 7:00pm.

Oh, and who had opened the windows for the first time in months because it was actually cool and nice out? Yeah, this idiot. The weather app didn’t say anything about rain. So of course the skies opened up just as we were getting off the freeway. The master bedroom was a little damp by the time I got the window closed. Thankfully not the bed, though by that point I likely wouldn’t have cared.

By bedtime, my head is screaming, my hips are on fire, and my mind can barely focus on brushing my teeth. For once maybe I’ll get a decent night’s rest.

I must have cussed the husband out when his alarm went off, because he came back to bed long enough to apologize for waking me. The next thing I know I’m packing a mesh bag with essentials, which for some reason include embroidery supplies and cassette tapes (but no player) and bells, as I decide not to wear the rainbow-striped hippie-hoody because it’s too noticeable, and leave a collage of clothes, shells, string, paper, and whatever as a clue to those who might be wondering where I’m going since I can’t wait because the aliens are about to find me and all I have to defend myself with is an old stick and my cats. And that’s when my alarm went off.

Yes, I’m trying to be a responsible adult. No, it’s not working out that well. It took me two-and-a-half hours to get downstairs, and all I’d managed to do in that time was take my morning meds. I have a crap-ton of stuff I should be doing, but instead I’m hiding in video games and streaming media. Every night I chastise myself for my lack of effort and make a list of what I’m going to accomplish the next day, and every morning I’m hiding in bed trying to convince myself I really should at least get up. Every morning dread. Every evening frustration. Every day disappointed at myself.

I know somewhere inside I’m the one setting this trap. The self-doubts and lack of self worth are a constant contrast to the dreams and desires, an endless Mobius loop of internal turmoil that ends up in a stalemate. And I’m the only one that can get rid of the trap. Reprogramming the internal monologue of depression is one of the hardest things anyone can do. You’re probably wondering how hard is it to just think positive thoughts? Immensely hard. Amazingly, astoundingly, excruciatingly hard. Because the depressive’s brain is hard-wired for the black hole that is depression. It is automatic and unbidden and pervasive. It is at the instinctual level of the lizard brain, where everything hides and is so deeply imbedded even metaphorical dynamite won’t dislodge it.

So you pick just one thing to work on, and go after it with a dentist’s pick and the patience of an archeologist on a dig. It will be slow going. Some days won’t see any progress at all. That’s normal. Other days will be a veritable flurry of activity. That’s normal, too. Piece by piece, grain by grain, eventually, that one thing will be rooted out. There will be a crack of light in the darkness.

Pick the next one thing to work on. Repeat as necessary. Don’t give up. Let people/medication/pets help. Celebrate your victories. Ignore everything else.

Did I get everything done today that I wanted to? No. And I’m making myself not care. Because today I got out of bed. Today I played with my cats. Today I wrote a blog.


Yeah, one more crack in the dark. It’s a long, hard fight, but it is SOOOooo worth it.


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Sleep. Oh, you elusive vixen, you.

It’s inevitable, it seems. Those days when I try to be a responsible adult are the ones that blow up in my face. We were informed of a recall with our truck for the driver-side air bag. Nice of them to let us know – over three years after it failed to deploy in a freeway tangle with an eighteen-wheeler (I ranted about that in “Hope”). So we figured what the hell, we’ll get a couple other things checked out while it’s at the dealership, including why the check engine light came on a couple weeks ago. Appointment is scheduled, plans are made. I even went to bed at a “reasonable” (read: too damn early for me) time. I was actually tired, having spent most of the day killing goblins and hoarding treasure in one of my computer games. (Hey, YOU try keeping a target on those little bastards when your eyes don’t want to cooperate.)

Anyhoo, I drift off to sleep, cat purring in my ear and husband sounding like Darth Vader with a bad head cold (his face mask for the sleep apnea machine wasn’t properly sealed), and looking forward to breakfast at one of my favorite places while waiting for the truck.

A little over two hours later I’m ordered to the little room down the hall. Most nights I can sleep all the way through. Not this one. Of course. I take care of business. I get back to bed. I wrestle the cat for my spot. How the hell does one thirteen-pound feline entirely fill the space meant for a six-foot tall human? I get under the covers. I throw off the covers. I roll onto my left side. My left hip hurts. I roll onto my right side. My right shoulder hurts. I lay on my back. I have heartburn. I get up and retrieve some Tums. I go through the ritual with the cat again. I play Solitaire on my iPhone. The cat is annoyed I’m not petting him. I finally get us both sort-of comfortable. I’m drifting back to sleep…

Fun fact: my feet move when I’m sleeping. Nothing major, just a little back-and-forth of the toes, similar to a kitten kneading when it’s content. Been doing it as long as I can remember, and it’s not something I have conscious control over. It’s also nothing any of my previous animals have bothered to notice. At least, not to the level that I noticed they noticed. But, for the first time in decades, I have cats that were strays. Cats that had to hunt to survive. Cats that think something wiggling under the blanket must be pounced upon.

I’m jolted back to full wakefulness with two sets of claws embedded in my big toe. Roan is looking mighty pleased with himself, and continues a relentless pursuit across the foot of the bed as I try to extricate my feet from his attention. It’s zero-fucking-dark-thirty and the cats are rarin’ for playtime.

Thankfully, our activity garners the rapt interest of Pip. She’s not sleeping on the bed with us yet, but she’s usually not far, and her sudden appearance merits a celebratory chase around the house. Off the two of them go, the Flying Wallendas crossed with WrestleMania.

I try to get back to sleep, but now I’m having a power surge and sweating despite the fan. More flippity-floppity. More aches and pains. More sweating. And then my husband’s alarm goes off.

I’ve managed to get a whole two hours of sleep. On a day when I need to be driving SoCal freeways, dealing with auto service guys, running errands, buying groceries, retrieving the husband-unit from work, cooking dinner, and cleaning cat boxes. There was a time when I could to that for days on end with no ill affects. But now – firmly in my middle years – the world will be lucky if I don’t leave the husband at the auto shop, drive the groceries to work, and cook the cat boxes.

Naps aren’t just for toddlers anymore.

Scientists have long known about the detriments of sleep-deprivation. Problems can include mood and cognitive issues, depressed immune system, hallucinations, as well as heart attack and stroke (The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on the Body). Additionally, sleep apnea and insomnia are more common as we age, with men suffering more from the former and women more from the latter. It’s no wonder old people are cranky and forgetful – they’re laying awake worrying about all the stuff that’s going to kill them because they can’t sleep!

And the visit to auto service only gave us more fun news. Recall done – that’s okay, and no charge, thank you, ma’am. But, oh by the way, that check engine code says your transmission is about to crap out. You want it fixed, it’ll cost you $3,000. At least.

There goes the trip to Arizona we had planned, because – even though we’ve noticed no issues with the transmission – my luck just wouldn’t allow us to drive it 300 miles while fully-loaded and not have a problem. And, no, we didn’t leave it at the dealership. I may have boobs, but I’m certainly not one, and the husband is a serious motor head from childhood. We got a second opinion (yes, there is a problem, but not $3K’s worth of a problem), and we’re without wheels for a couple days while it’s taken care of. There went THAT tax refund.

So all the other stuff we were hoping to do (like have a cushion for emergencies) is out the window. Again. And here we are back to living by the penny. I guess I should be used to it by now, since it’s been that way my whole life. But it pisses me off.

And maybe that’s why I’m having trouble sleeping. An angry writer is never a good thing. They lie awake at night and plot your demise…

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I have returned. From Eureka, that is. Actually, I’ve been back just over a week, but it’s taken me this long to recover from nearly three weeks of sleeping on a cot in my mother’s living room, and two 16 hour trips on buses and trains. I’m still dealing with a wonky equilibrium. But maybe that part’s because of the renewed sinus and ear BS going on.

The whole time I was up there, I had no sinus issues. I could breathe freely, didn’t have a dripping nose, didn’t have that crap sliding down the back of my throat, didn’t have constant itching ears because of fluid build up. I spent the entire visit breathing cool, ocean breezes laced with the scent of roses, redwoods and eucalyptus. I was able to sit outside on the porch in the afternoon and not feel like I was cooking in a microwave. For all the drama that was going on otherwise (the reason I was there), it was nice to just sit and enjoy the day.

Then, about halfway through my trip back, the sinuses reminded me of their hatred of SoCal, and I’ve had some level of a headache ever since. Plus it’s been hovering around 100°F outside, with a “monsoonal” offshore system that is pumping the humidity up to Gawd-Awful (at least for this part of the country). The house AC is working its little condenser off, as evidenced by the latest whopping electric bill (and we have the thermostat set much higher than we’d prefer), but the truck AC decided to die. My hubby has to deal with that heat all day, his only relief when he manages to stumble through the door in the evening. Have I mentioned that I hate Southern California?

The other piece of crap news is that Jasper the Wonder Mutant decided to take his walk across the rainbow bridge while I was gone. Hubby had to deal with that all by himself, and I didn’t get to say a proper good bye. We’re all out of animals now and the house feels weird. Except for a couple years in college when I lived in the dorm, there have been animals underfoot my entire life. Mostly cats and dogs, some fish, lizards and turtles, a few parakeets, and even a dark chocolate colored mouse I named Templeton Kern. Working from home meant having many deep conversations with whatever animal was nearest. Now there is nothing but empty house and the occasional flit out of the corner of my eye of some shadow sneaking out of my subconscious. I’m not liking it.

I’m not liking a lot that’s happened lately. The situation in Eureka is far from over. Nobody died or is terminally ill, but in some sad way that might almost have been better, because then we’d have a resolution and/or a definitive course of action. As it stands, we just have lots of family angst, bewilderment at the amazingly inept authorities involved, and anger at a system that still considers mental illness “all in your head” and leaves those that suffer hanging out to dry. I feel sick about it all, and find myself crying at the slightest, most unexpected things. I have a problem with injustice and stupidity. Combine those two with my inability to really do anything to change any of it, and you get Cheri’s Most Miserable trifecta.

And don’t bother to guilt me into feeling better by pointing out how terrible people are having it in Syria, or Iraq or Gaza or West Africa. Knowing that kind of ugliness exists in our world, when we supposedly have the intelligence and technology to do so much better, doesn’t help. It only makes me all the more depressed. I can’t do anything about those issues, either. I am powerless, and that is the one feeling I just simply can’t stand to have.

Each of us has our own set of bullshit to deal with. Whether it is fighting an Ebola breakout, jihadi militants, iron-fisted tyrants, or the Spirit of Christmas Past, we each are trapped in the world around us. There is very little we can do to change what is happening. We can voice our outrage, or write our congressman, or dance a jig on the graves of our enemies, but none of that does little more than let some steam off. The path is already set. There are no do-overs here. At least, not in this particular time line. Depending on one’s theological leanings, maybe there’s a next time, maybe you can decide what you need to learn or maybe the gods roll the dice for you. But here and now is all you know for this life. The only thing you have control over is you: how you react and how you feel. Right now I’m reacting very badly because I feel like crap.

The last three years have been a constant beating. Yeah, compared to the lives of others maybe it’s not so horrible. But that’s my reality. I shouldn’t have to defend feeling crappy and depressed by that beating because children are being bombed in the Middle East. Those are two separate issues. I have a right to my feelings. That doesn’t mean I’m unsympathetic. It just means I only have enough energy to worry about one thing at a time for a while, and right now I choose me.


© 2014   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

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Finally managed to drag my husband from the desert of SoCal to my home regions in NorCal. It is, ostensibly, to witness the graduation of my middle niece, but my master plan is to get him to see what a beautiful place it is and convinced moving will be good for us. Whenever it comes. Which will not be nearly as soon as I want it to be.

From our house we made our way to Interstate 5 North and drove through miles and miles and miles that looked like this:


For those not in the know, California’s Central Valley is vital farming grounds not just to California, but to the US in general¹. Unfortunately, there’s been a long simmering battle over water rights, with politicians diverting large amounts² south to LA/Orange County for the hordes of walking dead there, and to rivers and marshlands with various threatened and endangered species in residence. Now, I do think we need to do a MUCH better job of living WITH the planet instead of ON the planet, but I have a problem when our efforts to preserve some mostly unknown species of fish or frog or gnat limited to a small, select area threatens a large swath of our food supply. And don’t get me started on what I think of the great unwashed masses.

These were once fruit trees:


And we saw way too many fields just like this.

Sometimes we seem to value just about anything over human livelihood (says she who saw the fishing and logging industries in her home town decimated by poorly thought out and unbalanced regulations). Untold numbers of species have become extinct over the millennia of our planet’s existence, and untold more will follow in their wake long after humans have met the same fate. We can’t save them all. Neither should we crush them into the dirt willy-nilly just ‘cause. But we have to find the balance. Right now I think it’s tilted the wrong way in this particular case.

We saw signs like the one below all along our route:


And this one, probably the most potent and telling of the situation, was also very common:


I don’t know about you, but eating real food is pretty damned expensive already. And not only will this make our grocery bills even more ridiculous, but all those farmers (most of which, contrary to popular opinion, are family businesses) will be toasted, too. It’s a downward spiral that can only end in our demise as a country, or even as a species.

With the American Southwest suffering through a record-setting period of drought, and weather patterns changing all across the world, we need to get more aggressive with technological solutions. California has 840 miles of coastland³. We need to build desalination plants by the bucketful if we have any hope of meeting the increasing demands for water. That means re-evaluating our coastal regulations and finding some sort of medium ground where we can meet the needs of our farmers and populace, while also protecting as much of those threatened species as possible. Easy? Hell no. But it’s sure as shit necessary.

© 2014 Cheri K. Endsley All Rights Reserved.

¹ “Everyone Eats There” by Mark Bittman for the New York Times.

² “Drought: Feds cut water to Central Valley farmers to zero” by Kurtis Alexander for SFGate

³ “List of U.S. states by coastline” on Wikipedia.

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I haven’t had a bath in years.  In certain times in our history, and in certain cultures of the world today, that wouldn’t be such an odd thing.  But you say that in the good ol’ US of A, and people look at you like you’ve just declared underwater basket weaving to be the greatest sport ever conceived.

So let me clarify:  we take showers at our house.  Ease of use is the big reason – just hop in, lather up, rinse off and out you go.  No waiting for the tub to fill up, no fighting off the cat who just has to play with the bubbles and inevitably falls in, and no temptation to lean back and fall asleep, to emerge a gigantic prune an hour later.  Another reason is that the bath tubs provided in tract-built SoCal homes are barely big enough to be foot baths for the likes of my husband and me.  We’ve come to the conclusion that what contractors and manufacturers determine to be “normal” sized has actually been measured against the Oompa-Loompas from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

The downstairs bathroom has the usual shower/tub combo.  The tub is the “standard” size for a residential home.  That being, about 4.5 feet long by about 1.5 feet wide by about a foot deep.  Go check out your own tub, and you’ll probably come close to this.  Now, find a NFL linebacker and put him in your tub.  Add water.  If you manage to get more than three cups of water in without it overflowing, than your linebacker is too small and probably needs to be traded.  Otherwise, you now have a pretty good idea what it’s like for me and my husband to try and take a bath in something considered “normal” sized.  We look longingly at four-person hot tubs, thinking “Wow. I might actually be able to stretch out in that.”  Note the singular, by the way.

And upstairs in the master bath, they thought they’d get all fancy and we have a shower stall separate from the tub.  Now, mind you, the shower stall is barely three feet square, so putting the likes of one of us in it becomes an exercise in contortionism, but we’ve been in far smaller (or no stall at all) while camping, so it’s not that big of a deal.  The tub, however, makes me wonder if somewhere someone shrunk the blueprints and never told the builder.  It’s supposed to be one of those nice little soaker tubs, a lovely oval with plenty of surround for all the candles and bath salts you’ll be using.  It’s four feet long, two feet wide at the widest point, and ten inches deep.  Yup, ten inches deep.  If I could lay flat on my back in the thing, my nose would stick up past the rim.  At least we know I wouldn’t drown.

I actually tried taking a bath in the upstairs tub shortly after we moved into the house, thinking that it would be a nice, relaxing thing to do after the three hour one-way commute from the West LA job I had at the time.  Putting aside the fact I could only get half my body wet at a time, I also hadn’t had my knee replacements yet, so getting up and down was a bit of a challenge.  When it came time to get out of the tub, I couldn’t.  The whole thing was so low to the floor, and I was so slippery from being bubble-bathed, I couldn’t get any leverage to get up, and there was no panic bar.  I toyed with the idea of just rolling over the edge and onto my hands and knees, but there would have been a tidal wave of water and suds onto the upstairs vinyl floor and I just didn’t want to deal with that mess.  So I called for my big, burly husband.  The man who can hold up an engine block with one hand while changing the transmission with the other.  The man who moves 248lb. blacksmith’s anvils around the garage like they’re child-sized.

The man who contemplated getting his engine hoist when he couldn’t get me out of the tub.

To be fair, the problem was largely one of extreme slippery surfaces combined with lack of sufficient leverage.  We ended up draining the tub and using towels for rescue ropes to get me out.  Needless to say, I’ve never done that again, and the tub now largely serves the cats as an ambush site, when one is lying in wait for the other to go to the litter box.  Much more entertaining than taking a bath.

And the sad truth is, even once we lose the weight we want and get back to our fighting form, as it were, we’ll still be far too large for those puny little tubs.  We’re both descended from those giants of the European north, those Germanic rabble rousers who refused to bow to Rome’s demands and made Charlemagne decide doing his nails was more important than crossing that last border.  We are not Oompa-Loompas.

As a child, we all want to be “normal,” to fit in and have friends and just cruise through the world unnoticed and without hassle.  Well, that wasn’t the childhood I had, and it certainly isn’t the adulthood that’s followed.  My current challenge is to accept that, since I’ve never been “normal” before, it’s okay to not be “normal” now.  Or ever, for that matter.

Now to just figure out how to fit a four-person hot tub in the upstairs bathroom…



©  2010  Cheri K. Endsley.  All Rights Reserved.




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