16 candles

Yesterday, drove the old Volvo down to Brother Dan’s, left it parked outside his place, and gave him the keys.  Hard to believe I have had that car since 2001; I got it for 800 bucks, and I think it a pretty amazing car.  It’s got 170000 miles on it, but you turn the key and it starts.  I suspect, with minimal maintenance, it will go another 50000 at least.  Not that it doesn’t have flaws; it’s an ’86 sedan.  The paint is flaking off; the fabric on the ceiling is almost gone because at one time somebody left the sun roof open during a rain.  The leather seats are split; one of the windows doesn’t go up and down anymore; the radio antenna got broken off, and when you lift up the trunk it won’t stay up, so I put a golf club back there to hold it up.  Also it smells pretty bad.

But I drove it down to Brother Dan to see if maybe Nephew Dylan would be interested in registering it and getting a license and learning how to drive.  It’s hard to know what interests Nephew Dylan these days or as was once said “floats his boat.”  He’s 16.  Carol and I have met a number of people who say the most awful things about their 16 year olds, male and female.  Things like, I can’t stand to be in the same room with him.  Or, she has made my life into a living hell.

I was buying a tomato at the farmer’s marker and the young tomato girl launched into a rant about 16 year olds being the worst because they think they know everything and it’s impossible to talk to them. She looked about 18, so I guess she knows whereof she speaks. And she has a younger sister who is 16.

What happened to sweet 16:

Sixteen candles make a lovely light

But not half as bright

As your eyes tonight

That’s a song I heard when I was about 16.  Let’s see, that would have been 1961 or so, and come to think of it I had a pretty hard year.  I almost got kicked out of English because of the stuff I wrote about the teacher in my book reports.  Also the coach almost kicked me off the basketball team because he said my attitude was lousy, though I didn’t know what he was talking about, and years later Joan said they had thought of sending me to see somebody because I refused to talk the whole year.  Honestly, I don’t remember not talking.

At sixteen, the damn adulthood thing starts looming over your head; the idea that you can stay kid forever seems increasingly remote.  Of course, at 16 you don’t know that this is bumming you out completely….

And getting that first car is one of the symbols of the adult world that awaits…like the jaws of a bear trap.

Pile Driver

Well, I got it wrong.  Carol’s mom remained frozen not because the cremation place was shut down by the fires, but because, the very day its scheduled yearly maintenance the cremation thing broke down.  How ironic?  Or perhaps merely coincidental?  So they had not only to do maintenance, they had actually to fix it.  Unless there’s more to a cremation apparatus than I think I have to wonder what the hell could have broken.  Isn’t it like a fiery oven?  There’s not much to that.  Maybe the pilot light went out.

I lie down to take a nap but can’t because of this banging sound.  It’s coming from a ways off but still pretty damn loud because it starts and stops.  The sound is coming from a pile driver I can see out the condo window.  It’s less than a mile away but I can’t figure out where exactly it’s located so I can’t figure out what the hell it is doing or why it’s there banging away.


So yesterday, when we were taking a plant to Carol’s office, we turned off on a road we thought might take us next to the pile driver.  It didn’t but we did get a closer view.  It was banging away at the very edge of the gold course where a concrete wall was constructed with an opening through which water could flow to keep the golf course from being flooded.  When it  rains a lot—and it has been a bit since it has done that—the golf course gets flooded like a shallow lake and has on one occasion, when we had the El Nino, come awful close to our back fence.


Away it looks as if they are doing something to the drainage ditch from the golf course that runs off into a slough that is a bird refuge.  At one end of the slough is the golf course and at the other a small inlet that allows ocean water to lap into the slough at high tides.  And usually there are birds hanging out there.  In fact, Santa Barbara has a considerable diversity of birds because there are both sea birds and land birds.  Sometime birdwatchers from foreign countries come to SB to look at the birds.  Once, when I could still bike, I crossed a little bridge lined on both sides by Germans with binoculars.



Right where we were standing to look at the pile driver was a sign that said the slough was a bird refuge and that the slough was in danger because of contaminated run off and that steps were being taken to save the slough.  The sign also said that before 1960 the slough had gone clear into where the golf course is now.  So if our condo had been standing in 1960, it would have been standing in the slough or right at the edge of it, by my calculations.


In the Middle of the Mess

I was disturbed to hear from Carol yesterday that she had found out that her mother’s corpse is still in refrigeration and not yet cremated. She got the paper work off in time I think but then the fires down there intervened and somehow the cremation place did not get all the information they needed for the death certificate.


I don’t know what the big deal is with that damn death certificate.  But they can’t get rid of a body legally I guess until it is somehow fully confirmed that the body belongs to the person people say it belongs to.  So as of yesterday Carol’s mom’s corpse had been hanging out in the refrigeration unit for two weeks.

Can that be? That Carol’s mom died two weeks ago.  It feels longer ago than that what with the leak in the roof, the dehumidifiers, five days in a motel to get away from the dehumidifiers, people coming and going with dehumidifiers and hanging new dry wall where holes were cut in the walls, and finishing the dry wall, and now it seems the whole chore will not be completed, as I may have previously said, until this coming Friday.  So more people will be coming and going all next week.


The big chore will be the carpet cleaning people.  I need to get as much stuff off the floor as possible so they can get to as much carpet as possible.

And since last Monday, in the middle of all this mess, I have been trying to respond to fifty student papers.  I say “respond” since I don’t like to say “grade.”  But actually I am grading, and my response gets all warped by the need to grade.  In fact, my response becomes mostly a justification for the grade.  I mean true I am also trying to explain how the student might improve his or her writing, but even that explanation feels more like a justification of the grade than anything else.


Sometime I really wish I were teaching math.  Then I would not have to write any justification.  I could just add up the number right or wrong; and that number would justify the grade.  Some teachers do try to run a numbers thing; like 20% for organization; and 20% for unity; and 20% for sentence formation; and 20% for something else.  So that it all adds up to a 100%; and then they can add up all the percentages and come out with say, 85%, a solid B and hope the student will not complain because they are used to numbers with grades and know that 85% is a solid B.

But I have never been able to do that because I am no good at numbers and also because giving 20% for organization, for example, means that I have to be able to define what organization is and how that might be different from “unity” and both different from “sentence formation.”  And frankly I can’t do that.  I guess I am too philosophical or something.  But I really don’t know what organization is or how to distinguish good organization in a student paper, from what the students have been taught is good organization: an introduction, followed by three points, followed by conclusion.  The five paragraph essay. 

I don’t know but grading student papers is a lot harder than a person might think it would be. It’s tough work and always wears me out.  But thank god, I am almost done with this “batch.”


A couple of days ago the sea and sky looked really strange from the dust in the air and possibly also dust on the ocean.  While these are actually pictures–or representations of real things–the sea and the sky–they strike me as looking quite a bit like abstract art I have seen over the years.  I think maybe I will monkey around with these pics to see if I can produce a piece of abstract art to hang on my wall.  Maybe I could take images over to Kinkos and see how large an image they could produce…maybe… 

 Video clip test

Fire and Halloween

Yesterday—Thursday—Brother Steve wrote:

The evacuation was lifted at 10 this morning, and they started letting people drive up the grade around 12, and I got in the line around 12:30….it was a long line….you had to have an I.D. that said "Escondido"….if it said Valley Center or anything else, they turned you around.  But everything is fine here, and I’ll go back to work tomarrow….what a week!

The grade to which he refers is a steep grade that runs up to Valley Center.  Apparently they were checking ID for two reasons: to keep out looters (if you can believe) and also to make sure people were going into areas that had been cleared for re-habitation.  Apparently there were concerns about fallen power lines and exposed gas lines….

Today—Friday—Brother Steve writes:

The evacuation is lifted, but the roads are closed again….if you go down into town, you can’t get back….there are boulders in the road, and they have to inspect any bridges….so it looks like another vacation day for me….I’m not going to go down to work this afternoon if they won’t let me come back home at night….some people have been using the Jeep trails, but they are more familiar with them than I am….no smoke here, clear, calm, and cool right now….but Paradise Mt. is still closed, it’s still burning somewhere between Hellhole and Mesa Grande….

So while the fire danger is abating, things down in San Diego are quite a mess.  I have had a couple of students not show for my classes this week; I expect they were down in SD when the bad fires hit and got stuck there.  I know for a fact that one student was heading down that way Friday a week ago.


The air here, while much, much clearer, is still not completely clear from dust from the windstorm and smoke from the inland blaze that is now I believe contained.  More than the usual numbers of students were hacking up a storm.  Also they were pretty de-energized, especially my three o’clock class, making it a pretty hard row to hoe yesterday.


This weekend the big Halloween bash occurs in the student ghetto of Isla Vista.  A decade or so ago, this bash was nationally famous; people actually drove from out of state to participate in rampant drunkenness and drink sodden casual sex.  Over 60,000 people were in IV one year; fights broke out, along with other rampant rowdiness.


The next year they clamped down.  I happened to be in IV the Friday before the start of “festivities” and saw this most amazing line of cop cars pulling into the area, along with police on horseback and riot vehicles.  Man, it was sort of scary.


This year, in addition to the massive police buildup, they are outlawing parking on the residential streets within walking distance of IV.  I don’t think this is legal frankly; but they are doing it anyway.  As one drives towards campus, there stands one of those mobile flashing signs reading:  OBEY ALL LAWS! MAXIMUM ENFORCEMENT!


Next week will be impossible; 80% of the students will still be wasted from hangovers on Tuesday. Many students will also contract veneral diseases and be arrested for such things as public drunkenness and urinating in public. Some of the students sitting in my class will be fresh out of jail.


1. dusty red sundown from dirt and smoke

2. sundown on sand

3. sundown with nearly invisible dophin fin

4. tiny sundown

5. moonrise over golf course 

Cool Down

The temp has dropped.  Yesterday, it hit 88 here in SB; pretty darn high for this time of year.  But the Santa Ana winds will do that; I remember a Christmas where the temp was over 80.  The winds too have dropped.

Brother Dave wrote saying he and Sister in Law Teresa were just fine, that Brother Steve was OK and had tried to get back to the Resort but had to turn around and go back to Brother Dave’s what with the traffic being completely impossible.

Brother Dave had a cancerous cell removed from his cheek.  It was a squamous cell; it takes a long time for them to metastasize and they caught his plenty early.  Still to make sure it doesn’t come back they cut out a good deal of flesh skin around the cancer.  Dave says he has a lot of stitches.

I had one of those on my lip years ago.  I don’t think we were meant to be out in the sun a lot, genetically speaking.

The condo is still a mess.  The new dry wall has been hung but now it has to be finished and the work on every thing will not be completed till next week. Meanwhile all surfaces are covered with a thin layer of dust and grime from the fire and the dust storm.  I guess we will leave this stuff there till the repairs get done.

I remember reading JP Sartre, years and years ago, and he said something like, “There is no such thing as a natural disaster.”  That blew my mind back then.  What is the idiot talking about?  Then I saw his point was really simple.  No law says people have to build their homes right on a fault line or in the middle of dry brush.  He is right.  Sure the winds were tremendously high, but people have foresight, or prudence, and they could have exercised it by not building in the middle of a flood plain or something, but that would run contrary to the California way of life which is to build, build, build with minimal or no zoning.

If a natural disaster is something inevitable, this wasn’t or at least the degree of the destruction wasn’t.  I do believe Sartre would accept (though he is now dead—death being truly an inevitable natural disaster) having the world destroyed by a meteor might count as a natural disaster.  But then there would be nobody around to think about natural disasters.  So who cares?

Fire Again

I want to say, crisis averted.  But that’s not the case really.  Brother Stephen did have to evacuate and last night he emailed saying fires had kicked up again in the area where he lives.  So his home may still be in danger.  But Sister in Law Teresa said she would be sure to call us if they had to evacuate from another fire that was burning in their area.  She hasn’t called so far, so maybe they are OK.

And even if the California Tingles were spared relatively speaking, many people were not.  One report says nearly a million people have been displaced.  The roads must be a terrible mess, and from what David and Teresa said yesterday, we got the feeling that the entire SD area was closing down. People were not or just couldn’t get into work.

We got an email from his son saying that Carol’s former step father is OK and had a good night’s sleep at Charger Stadium.  Possibly he will be moved back to his home today, though who knows.  The winds are still high and not expected to go away completely until tomorrow.

Carol and I finally got back into our condo yesterday.  The place is a complete mess.  Junk everywhere and dust from the winds and dirt from the repairs.  Damn!  The touch up guy will not be able to get here till tomorrow or Friday, so we will have people coming and going, in and out, for at least two more days. 

The condo association people have decided to take temporary steps to curb the leaking problems in our building of 8 units while they continue to consider ways—all very expensive—to tackle the larger plumbing problem for all of the units.


Things are going not so well for the California Branch of the Tingle Clan.  Brother Steve had to evacuate because of the fires yesterday to Brother Dave.  This Tuesday morning Brother Steve reports that Mt. Miguel burned (a mountain nearby) and south Spring Valley (where we CA Tingles first lived) is being evacuated as of now.  This means that Brother Dave, Brother Steve, and Sister-in-Law Teresa may all have to evacuate.  Thankfully, they have their motor home, but who knows what the traffic will be like.

They say 300,000 between LA and San Diego have had to evacuate.

The home where Carol’s mom died had to be evacuated.  This means Carol’s former step-father, Morty Berk, who is 95 years old had to moved down to the football stadium where the Chargers play.

Santa Barbara is in no danger at the moment; also the winds here have dropped though the skies remain thick with dust.

In some terrible way, we can’t help but be relieved that Mrs. Press passed away two Saturdays ago.  The thought of her alone, displaced, and being kept in the bowels of a football stadium would have just driven Carol crazy.

We are going to move back into our condo today no matter what, after five days of camping in a motel.

More later—as it eventuates…..

Fit to be Tied: Part 4–Fire!

 Brother Steve was forced to evacuate his home near Rancho Bernardo near where Joan and WB previously lived, and also Carol’s mother.  At the moment, Brother Steve is safe with Brother Dave far from the flames.  Thousands, perhaps tens of thousands were forced to flee their homes…and last night fires were popping up all up and down the coast.  In Santa Barbara, for the time being, there are no fires, except in the back country.  The winds also that brought the dust storm described below have died down in our immediate area.

Meanwhile Carol and I remained displaced in a motel while the drying out of our condo continues. 


Adding to the strangeness of our displaced status—I was at a stop sign on the way back to the pet friendly room in the motel when I looked up and noticed what I thought was smoke kicking up from the backside of the mountains.  The winds were high and I thought “fire,” though that didn’t make much sense since that whole area was burned to the dirt with the zaca fire.  So then I thought dust which made more sense.




Sure enough.  Winds of 20 to 30 mph were blowing back there and gusting to 60 mph.  The result was an ever expanding dust cloud that by late afternoon had spread over the entire area.  Really sort of miserable.


That was yesterday.  Saturday.  Today, Sunday, we woke to find a fine dust all over everything.  And predictions are the wind will continue to kick up through Monday.




Fit to be Tied: Part 3

I go into the closet office to take stuff out and am in there about ten minutes and start sweating profusely because it’s got to be over a 100 degrees with those two dehumidifiers pouring out heat.  And then the whole condo starts heating up—the downstairs has three dehumidifiers going full blast, and so the kitchen area and our living area are intolerably hot unless we open all the windows to cool the place down which seems to defeat the purpose of the dehumidifiers which is to heat up the place to dry it out.  Plus that, there’s the noise from those things.


Carol and I decide the place is uninhabitable and probably a health hazard which we tell the people of the condo association so they will know how much we have been put out by this leak and all the other leaks which we want them to know because it is their job to make sure these leaks don’t happen.  Maybe they will get scared and do something because otherwise we might sue them.  Which we won’t because we know they are trying to do something because the plumbing in all of the 80 or so units is starting to go because this particular condo complex was built in 1973 and the problem is bad enough now that the insurance company that insures the whole complex says something must be done or they will no longer insure us…because of all of the leaks and the costly repair that follows.

So Carol gets us a room at a nearby motel that we have checked out some other time for some reason because we know it has “pet friendly” rooms, by which they mean rooms that you can have pets in and that will cost you a lot more, plus you have to sign a document saying you will pay extra if the pet poops or something.  So we throw some stuff in some luggage and go to the motel and check in, so now we are officially displaced persons.  And because we are displaced I start thinking about Hurricane Katrina and how all those people were truly and totally displaced and I start getting all bummed out by that again and so on top of all the other cursing I am doing about the leak I am now also cursing the government also…and getting more depressed and frustrated by the second.

But we don’t take the kitty-cat even though we have a pet friendly room because, as it turns out, the one habitable room in the condo is the bedroom.  If you close the doors and open the windows the room is not half bad and that’s the room where the kitty-cat spends three fourths of her day anyway.  So we leave her food and water and her pooper thing and the next day when we come back to open up the place for the clean up people she seems perfectly happy because she is like 12 years old and mostly just sleeps, though she seemed happy to see us when we entered her room.
This is a good and sweet natured little kitty-cat though somewhat stupid.

So we decide just to leave her in the room for while she might miss us some we think she would probably be more upset if we took her out of her familiar room and off to some damn pet-friendly motel room.  So we are displaced but the kitty-cat is not.




1. hole in closet office that will have to be fixed and will require forever to do so.

2. view from the tiny patio of our pet-friendly motel room unit. 

Fit to be Tied: Part 2

So what with a plumber banging around in the ceiling, I couldn’t call it a night’s sleep and in the morning some guys come who do water damage clean up and, aside from having the condo swept away by a flood it’s about as bad as it can get.  The main guy, Danny, goes around with this little meter he sticks in the wall that tells him how wet the wall is and this thing is going off—beep, beep, beep—like it has discovered uranium or something.  The little pantry wall is saturated, as is the carpet on the floor.  Also water ran out from the little pantry onto our new white carpet in the living area and it too is saturated…and as for my office…it’s a damn mess.


They start bringing in these damn machines they call “dehumidifiers” which are like air conditioners that give off heat—I mean they blow out hot air and they make a significant low grade, but irritating noise.  So I start moving stuff—that I have just put in—my little office and they bring in the machines…and then, I can’t believe, Danny says those machines—four of them, by this time, will have to be on for five days.  And probably, given the way the damn little beeper is going off, he is going also to have to take out one wall in my little closet office so he can get to the insulation behind the wall that he believes is completely saturated.


I am like totally and completely fit to be tied.  I am pretty pissed off too because this is the third time, three years in a row, that we have had major water leak problems.  Two summers ago was the slab leak right in the middle of the kitchen area—so for like weeks and weeks we have people coming and going and a big hole, and then dirt, and finally concrete (that can’t be covered because it has to “cure” properly) in the middle of the kitchen.  And last summer when we get back from SC we start smelling a smell in the little pantry that alerts us to the fact that the wall has been saturated from a bad leak, while we were gone, in the utility closet, and the repair of that drags on for over a month….And now this…



What a freaking mess—we were finally starting to get things back in a little order and now this.  Chaos again.  Junk everywhere.  A place for nothing and nothing in its place.  And I have got to go teach. 


Poor Carol, in the middle of all this, gets a call from the people who are cremating her mother’s remains saying they have not received some signed documents from Carol which they haven’t because they faxed the documents to Carol’s work place and nobody told her they had arrived, so she has to rush right over there and get the documents and sign them immediately because if she doesn’t, well, her mother will have to be frozen for eight days like a popsicle because the cremation place is about to close down for 8 days for its yearly cremation cleanup.  But she gets the documents in on time and as far as we know her mother was cremated right on scheduled and is not sitting in some freezer frozen like a Popsicle.

We get a good laugh out of that—Bertha, the Popsicle, I say—because, what the hell, it is too grotesque not to laugh.


1.  damn dehumidifier in closet office.

2.  kitty-cat in chaos

3.  downstairs chaos

4   chaos continued