Friday, April 21, 2006

Horse with no name

I made it to Austin, safe and sound. My first day was great. Dropped a friend off at the airport, finished packing and then had breakfast with Andre. Giddy - pure giddy. The stars seemed to have come into alignment.

Until I couldn't get in touch with Nick. I was supposed to crash with him, but he was having some adventure with a chick in NYC and they were having problems getting back to Phoenix. So I skipped it all and landed at a roadside motel on the southside of Tucson. The best thing I did was figure out how to get my iPod to be an alarm clock.

Big thanks to Greg and Sal for pumping up the iPod. I am still discovering songs... and I've been driving for three days.

My stay in Tucson was short... but I did have a brief incident. I tried to find a Starbucks East on the 10 from Tucson. I stopped in a Safeway to get some water bottles (rather pay $7 for 12 than $2 per bottle) and asked the clerk. I got a look like I was from the moon. Am I really that much of a city girl??

Anyway, from Tucson I shot over to New Mexico. Stopped for a 4.5 mile hike in the sand at the White Sands National Park. I asked at the visitor center if it was OK for me to go alone and was assured it was not problem. What an experience. When I signed out I saw that the last person had come back from the hike 2 hours prior. I was on my own. No one but me, some lizards and an ant or two million. Up and down 20 foot doons - much sand in my shoes. I know how that bothers some people, but I loved it. I strapped Rocco to the back of my small backpack. Rocco is my new Monkey. When I lost Alphonse with the split, Kate and Shane gave me Rocco. He's small and very soft. I think he liked being tied to the back of my pack, but it is hard to tell with inanimate objects.

My big discovery: there are few things like deslation and solitude to help the mind clarify itself. That and tears dry funny when exposed to such arid heat. Heat purifies and releases.

Got to El Paso last night. Had some good rest. I needed it, as I was stuck in the car for a million hours getting to Austin. Did stop at a winery in the hill country outside of Austin. The Cabernet was sharp and Republican - I bought a bottle just the same.

Adam and Rose are doing well. In a bit of a flurry with their wedding. I'm excited to participate next weekend. Tonight was a tour of 6th Street in Downtown. Bars and music and too many college kids. Night and day from the interchangable aspiring starlets of Los Angeles.

Tomorrow - er, today at this rate - is another day. Good night.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Getting Crazy

Tomorrow morning I head out for the first leg of the trip. I've been trying to prepare, but got distracted by a visitor or two along with a quick trip out to Palm Springs. I know, silly of me to recharge my batteries in the same desert I'm about to hang out in for the next 3 days - so be it.

Today, however, has been a challenge. I dropped my friend off at the airport first thing and took care of filling a prescription and picking up my suitcase (it had zipper problems) and then got up online for the first time in days. Now, I had kindly been loaned a laptop for this trip, but last night when I attempted to install a wireless NIC so that I could take advantage of T-Mobile's wireless hotspots along the route, I got the blue screen of death. So, the laptop is down, the desktop is down and I'm wondering if I have some electro-magnetic field around me short circuiting things.

Friday I found that my digital camera's flash was no longer working. That will cost me $160 to fix, no thanks - I'll take a new camera. So, I'm back to old school film for this trip (sorry, no photos for the blog) and my grand ideas of a travel log are as gone as a bag of chips on superbowl Sunday.

Maybe in China next month I can find myself a cheap laptop, PDA and camera. Till then, it will be film, a calendar and my journal.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

What is in a name?

I knew a guy in middle and high school who changed names several times. From Dee Dee to Max and then on after that. I never understood it very well. But it sounded like the usual for him and his family.

Growing up a Jennifer, I have struggled not to blend in. In my 6th grade class of 35 kids, we had 6 Jennifers - two Jenny G's to be extra confusing. Yet I didn't have many alternatives. I could be Jen, Jenny or Jennifer. My mother gave me a family middle name that she felt I could use if I wanted to be taken in a more serious light - Mercy. Needless to say, I have never gone by Mercy.

Briefly in college I took on the nickname Penelope. I was the head of a dormitory (at Smith College we called them houses) and since we had 5 Jennifers, I decided to take on a different name. The entire house knew me as Penelope and some didn't realize I had a different name. If felt a bit like a persona and I enjoyed not sharing a name with 1/2 the other women out there.

Getting married, we flipped a coin to determine our last name. I felt strongly that I wanted us to be a unit - a family that shared a name. But we couldn't find a compelling reason for either one of us to take the other's name. We flipped and I became Mattis. It took about a year before I could say "Jennifer Mattis" without giggling or feeling like I was fibbing.

Now, going back to the clan name is a bit of a relief. At the same time, I have adjusted to Mattis. I called an old friend with whom I had lost touch during my married years and said, "Hi! It's Jennifer Mattis, oops, DeLano - or whoever I am..." I don't think it will take as long to revert... less time than the divorce paperwork. I'm happy to be returning to the DeLano family - we're an odd bunch.

Moving and Shaking

It is my last day here and I'm counting the minutes. Who doesn't when all is done. I've got the 1:30 pm exit interview and I think that might be it. Was waiting to see if the department guys might want to do lunch, but I'm not hearing any noise on that front.

Between here and the initial departure date I've got a totally packed schedule. Got the teeth cleaned this morning, will get the health check-ups Monday and Tuesday. Will need to get the Visa in line for China as well as paperwork to become a free woman again. Seems daunting... But I do have some treats, like getting my hair done (and nails - I'm dying for a mani-pedi) and a trip to Miss Kitty's in the coming days. I hope to get in a bike ride to Santa Monica or possibly a quick trip out to Palm Springs. We'll see.

Closing this chapter is hard. My dentist's office overlooks my former apartment. Needless to say I was a bit sad at seeing my old stomping grounds. Growing up in the shadow of San Francisco I was raised to believe that Los Angeles was evil, especially the Dodgers. But having had time here, it wasn't easy or perfect, but I can see good in this city. I guess even Satan has a good side?

More later, got to work on changing my primary domain to reflect the return to my clan name.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Women's Work

Since completing my project at work and being 18 work hours away from leaving my job, I've got a little extra time on my hands. I took a gander at Arts and Letters daily and found an interesting article on the cost to society of having women in the work force.

What I found striking in this article was its focus on what society lost by, in some sense, allowing women to go into the work force. A breakdown in the existing order... That society depends on women being the glue, running the charities, doling out the compassion in addition to having the next generation of children. The big whole I find in this argument is that it seems to assume that women should be the glue. Why is that? Why are men exempt? Why must we provide the free labor at the expense of the pursuit of our interests?

Women entering the work force has fundamentally changed society, no doubt about it. However, I think that the problems created by that change should be addressed so that women still have the options available to them. State sponsored childcare would promote working women to have children. Value, not just lip-service, on education would also be beneficial. A larger tax credit for children would be good too.

Telling women that society's ills are our fault and to get back in the kitchen is old.

Friday, April 07, 2006

American Life circa 1950

I have been fortunate enough to come into contact with Charles Phoenix on a couple of occasions out here on Los Angeles. He's got a remarkable collection of photos from America in the 1950's combined with a wicked wit.
Check him out:
And do go to one of his shows, they are very amusing.

What is making me laugh this week

While driving on the 10 heading east I pass a white delivery truck. Now, I'm sure long time Los Angelinos have seen these and I'm showing my newbie status. Anyway, The Culver City Meat Company is very proud of their product. They boldly declare that, "You Can't Beat Our Meat" on the side of their trucks. Well, next time I'm looking to beat meat, I'll be thinking of them.

Updates and Posting

Sorry for the vanishing act. We went live on the new software product. No problems. Smooth as silk. Like butter. Shooting fish in a barrel... You get the picture.

I was stationed at El Monte this week. Which was a bit farther of a drive. They have a great staff there, really nice women. One of the lower volume clinics, however the staff adjusts and the days are long. I very much admire the staff's interest in learning the new computer system, even when they are very, very week on computers. I taught them all CTRL+C to cut and CTRL+V to paste. They were thrilled. My most trying moment came yesterday, I instructed the nice woman to press enter. She presses the Tab key. I say, "Press Enter". She presses the tab key again. I had to physically indicate to which key I was referring. hmm.

Back at Central today. I've got 3.5 days of work left, but who is counting? Andre is coming out for lunch with me and my poetry writing buddy sent me this:

Lock up the desk it's
Closing time
Hand in your passkey
Change all the passwords
Throw out the papers
The memos the crosswords
Half-solved while
Waiting on the phone
Shut down the systems
Pull all the plugs
Flip over the "in" stack
And tonight when you get home
It's time for tonic
With a twist of lime
It's closing time
No reason to ever look back.

If only everything were that easy! But I got 2 guide books for China that I will try to review today: Fodor's China and Loney Planet. Also got two William Gibson novels. See, has that gold box thing and it knows I'm a sucker for cheap versions of books by authors I enjoy. I think they will be good evening companions for my road trip.