Sunday, December 21, 2008

Out of the Norm

Saturday morning I went with my friend & housemate, Ruth Ann to her yoga class. She has been telling me about how great it is ever since I moved in. I wasn't so sure, but the opportunity arose and I found myself safely tucked in her Volvo on the way to Berkeley at 7:30 AM.

The studio is in the trendy cluster of shops near where University Avenue meets highway 80. The train tracks pass there and the morning Amtrak train tooted as it headed north. The weather has been trending cold lately, so we pulled our jackets closer as we walked from the car to the studio.

Less than 10 people were there when we arrived. It took 10 seconds to see that I was going to be the youngest woman in there. Most of the class had hit menopause 10-20 years ago. Being the intellectual Berkeley earthy types, they dutifully accepted the extra roll around their middles and the wire gray hairs that crowded out their youthful color. Something about their educated morals prevented them from hiding the gray, I suspected.

While I was thinking, "would it kill you to use some hair product?" I could feel their scorn as the looked at me in my bright pink tank top that proudly declared, "Freakishly Strong". This was far from my fiercely athletic San Francisco yoga classes.

Now, I have to say, I tried to block it all out once we started. My goal was to have an hour focused on my breathing - no thoughts of past, future or contemplation. Simply calm breathing. But it kept creeping in. Things like, "Wow, I didn't think they'd be able to hold warrior 2 for so long."

After quite a bit of internal judging - judging them for judging me and judging myself for being so judgmental - I realized how great it was that I was doing a different practice of yoga. When in my regular class, I'm working so hard it is easy to keep my focus narrow. In this class, I had to push myself in a different way. Instead of fighting for my breath, I had to fight for a calm mind. I wish I could say that realization made it all easy, but no. I still struggled but felt better about the whole experience.

Recently I read an article about how to become lucky. The ideas continue to echo in my head. It encourages doing things to keep the mind open to the world. Go home on a different route. Focus on what is there, not on what one wants to be there. Doing this yoga class helped me stay open - drop my drive to get the crazy yoga workout and open up to what was actually happening. I shall continue the struggle to keep my mind more alert to what is happeneing.

Holiday Season Walk

Yesterday Tsunami and I took a nice long walk about town. We started out from the 6th & Brannan loft, went up & over to 9th, crossed Market and went West on Hayes. There were many people out, sales signs in the windows next to wreathes and holiday details.

We continued on Hayes, leaving the bo-ho artsy section, passing the projects and up the hill to Filmore. A right turn on Filmore and down the hill to the lively jazz area. We got some comments and I just smiled. The black street culture is so much more interactive than the land of the bo-ho.

We passed by Japantown, through yuppie Filmore, where I had to put Tsunami in her bag, lest she get trampled by the well shod feet going by. Again, shoppers, sale signs and Christmas cheer. The shops turned to mansions as we reached the apex of the hill. Over the crest and a view of the bay opened up. The few clouds stayed high in the sky, letting a painter's view hang. I saw the bridge, the Marin hills, Mt. Tam, the blue water, the houses tucked in the green, like ornaments on a well decorated tree. Outstanding view.

Down the hill we went, passing Union, then Chestnut and the beautiful people. Strange how my outfit does not change, yet how I feel wearing it changes by the neighborhood. I felt fuddy-dud and style free in Hayes Valley, overly athletic in SOMA, typically white going through the Filmore Jazz-land, perfectly normal in the Marina & Cow Hollow and then invisible while trekking by Fisherman's Wharf & Pier 39. Strange how being adjacent to mid-western tourists relieves me of any insecurity of what I'm wearing.

At almost the end of Filmore, we made a left on Cervantes that took us to the west edge of the Marina Green. The weather was quite cool and without significant breeze, so most boats were in their slips. We picked up the pace as we headed towards Fort Mason. Up that hill and we ran into another wiener dog, Winston. Very nice guy - totally mellow and a wirehair that was suspiciously non-wiry. His coat shone with a silver-gray which looked much like a grandfather's beard. A very sweet dog and I was happy for Tsui to see that she wasn't alone as the only silky wirehair in this world.

Over Fort Mason and down to the Wharf where again I had to toss Tsui into the bad. But this time, I wasn't worried about some Prada heels crushing a hole in her paw, it was death by Adidas that frightened me. We did poke our heads into some tourist shops, as it was suggested that someone in England would like a San Francisco snow globe. I couldn't buy one. They were all heinous. Like garish mockeries of my beautiful city, wrapped in hard plastic with cheap bits in the water. Some things I just cannot do...

We were off again and happy to find the crowds thinning as soon as we passed Pier 39. Tsunami was back on the ground and the sun was tucking herself in behind the hills. We strided down the Embarcadero as dusk fell and the holiday lights detailed the sky scrappers much as the holiday flourishes detailed the goods in the store windows. By the time we got to the Ferry building, the transamerica pyramid star was glowing. At the bow & arrow, there were other stars in the sky to match the one atop the pyramid. So lovely.

Every year the city spiffs itself up for Christmas. I do realize much of it is meant to encourage us to share our wealth with the local merchants, yet I so appreciate the beauty of it all. Time, energy and thought all going into making things prettier, better. I so appreciate it. I get warm and fuzzy as I walk around the city, hearing the big band holiday songs pour out from the ice rink at Justin Herman Plaza. I love it. I cannot understand people for whom this time of year brings out such negativity; and the bravado of wearing their grinch like a badge of honor. Lighten up I say!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Furry Hearts

I brought little Tsunami on my first date with Marc. It helped that he was cooking me dinner and that Chez Marc allowed four legged friends in the restaurant. His two boxers were a bit wary of little Tsui , then again they still are(very funny, as the boxers weigh 10x Tsui and she can push Austin off his food). I'm not sure if it is a breed thing or if we doggie parents haven't quite gotten past the "step-siblings" phase.

Marc's dogs, Zoe & Austin, are beautiful, elegant boxers. They have big mugs that are often wet & slimy. So far they've covered me is drool, hair and scratches - Austin needs to keep his toes trimmer. Zoe speaks like Chewbacca when she wants attention. Austin growls when he's being over cuddled. Marc and his exwife got Zoe first and then Austin 2 years later. The pooches grew up together. They have a tight bond that has yet to extend to Tsunami.

When Marc and I first started dating, I knew I wanted the doggie love. I have special doggie love from Brendan's dog Maggie. Last time I visited, she got so excited that she peed on the floor THREE times! Not that I want the boxers wetting themselves when they see me, mind you, but I do want some acknowledgement that I'm a little special to them. This morning I feel like I got it a bit.

As usual, I got out of bed bright & early. Tsunami was doing her small doggie jig - the happy bounce-run-walk-spin that I was awake. Zoe and Austin got up with me this morning. They came downstairs with me and stayed. Usually they return to be back near the sleeping Marc. However this morning, even after they realized I wasn't going to feed them, they stayed with me. They are now dozing about the den where I'm working. They both approached me for love - which I didn't really expect them to do. Austin is arms' length away - I think I'm making the most headway with him.

I will keep feeding, walking & loving them. I know I'll totally win them over. It only took the cat 2 weeks... she already is coming to me for love and hissing at Marc's ex. Can't say that made me sad.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Uneducated Auto Bail Out Opinion

So I was just reading this:

Bush May Tap Wall St. Bailout Fund For Automakers

When I first read the headline, I thought hallelujah! Bush is calling for the Market to Fix itself. For our Capitalist giants to be required to bend to the laws of supply & demand - specifically, if you supply crappy product, you will find that the demand is equally as crappy. But no. Our Lame-duck President is trying to give away our string-free tax dollar allocation to the auto industry. This president's affection for lack of regulation is really working well for us, isn't it?

Now, I understand that idea of "too big to fail" and that there are ripple effects to letting these badly managed antiquated behemoths flounder. And I do think that we need to step in to help the situation. We do not want to see so many laborers & the economies that are based on the auto industry jobs crumble.

I believe we should give them money and I want a web of strings attached. I want ALL vehicles gas powered vehicles to have 50 MGP or higher. I want 50% of their fleet to be zero emmisions/electric/hydrogen - or get powered some other way than oil - and when I say Zero Emissions, I'm not talking about Bush's EPA's Zero-emmission. I want REAL zero emmissions - we can talk to the Europeans about this, as they seem to have a better grip on it. I want them to develop & nearly give out engine modifications to existing models to increase fuel efficiency and/or swap out internal combustion engines with a new, better, cleaner solution. It is not impossible. They just don't want to do it.

I want adult educaiton for their workers - they have a bloated workforce and they need to provide training for them to do other things. I want their Executive to Labor salary ration to be less than 200 to 1. I want the corporate jets to go - the executive bathrooms... they need to flatten out just like the rest of the companies out there.

I want my tax dollars to be used to maximum effect - if I'm going to bail out the auto-industry, I expect that it is going to re-invent, not only how we power our transportation, but revolutionize transportation. They should be required to re-education its workers so that they can do more for the company. How much untapped talent do we have?

These dollars should be tied to making America the World Leader in engine innovation. Do it better, faster, cheaper and cleaner. We can do it. I have faith in America.

I do not want one cent to be given to them if they have this idea that it will just let them be business as usual. The CEO's said they'd work for $1 - but they never said how much stock they were going to get. Is the company going to continue to pay for their cars? Can we get rid of their drivers too?

We need to help - we just can't allow our country, our auto-industry or our economy to keep on this wrong track.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Mess Bush is Leaving Behind

As the days with Bush wane, I'm struck by how much damage that man was able to do.
Our environment is much worse off. That is no surprise, after his term as governor he took Texas to the top of the list for most polluted states.
Our economy is in shambles. He inherited a surplus and left us with the worst economic crisis since the great depression - along with government needed take-overs of our banking & auto industries.
Our country is involved in two wars, one of which was caused by his lies and falsehoods.
Our educational system continues to lose ground, and I have yet to meet a teacher or parent who has anything positive to say about "No Child Left Behind".

It is totally an completely amazing the damage his administration has done - and continues to do with his despicable mid-night presidential edicts. It seems like it will never end. I hope that Obama, with his force for good will be able to reverse much of the Bush legacy.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Thanksgiving Trip Highlights

So, I'm a bit late posting this. I hope you'll pardon my tardiness.

Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Marc and I headed South. We skipped out on Visalia and took the backroads to Three Rivers. I had booked a motel online which isn't my standard road trip system. In the past, we have just found hotels/motels/inns, however it was Thanksgiving and we were near often visited National Parks and I just didn't want to have that stress. So we drive up to the first place I booked and their "cabins" were single-wides and I was apprehensive.

Marc was not phased - good man! We got our room and crashed in the slightly too firm bed. The next morning, Wednesday I made up sandwiches, Marc tended the cooler and we were off by about 7 AM. We had packed most of our food, as both a cost savings measure (we were interested in how cheap we could do this trip) and so that we didn't have to stop all the time for food.

So we drive into Sequoia National Park and it is just beautiful. Except that we didn't have too much in the way of views due to a low could cover. That, however, didn't hide the big bear we passed as we drove in. I've been visiting the Sierra Nevada mountains my entire life and have never seen a bear. Marc on his first trip - there is one posing for photo ops.

We drive in, take a hike through the "oh my god these trees are so big" forest to Moro Rock. We visited the Ranger/Nature Station, did the Congressional Walk and then headed to Grant's Village in Kings Canyon Park. Again, I had booked a room in advance... not wanting to take a chance. This time, we get the keys and were sent to the "cabins". Oh dear, we drive over in the light rain and the cabins were clearly built in the 30's. Not only that, but 1/2 the village had tarp over the roofs, and were definitely not in habitable condition. The cabin is a duplex and the room fits the two full beds, desk and 1 night stand quite well... there is no phone, no TV and the bathroom was added on in the 50's sometime. How's that for authentic.

Marc had a bit of altitude sickness and so took a nap. We had dinner at the restaurant in Grant's Village - I cannot believe I paid $17 for a bowl of lamb stew. $17! Crazy...

But we did visit the nature center and had our hike planned so that when we woke up on Thursday, we were ready to go. The hike was around the Redwood Grove. As we drove up to the dirt road that would take us to the train head, I realized there was a light dusting of snow on the ground. I couldn't recall the last time I was happily about to trek off into bear filled wilderness in weather that would allow for snow to stick... this would be fun. No bear sitings on the way in, but we weren't sure if the all-wheel drive VW would be able to take a steep, possibly ice covered dirt road. So we decide to walk the 2 miles down to the trail head.

Marc kept saying, "Yes, it's fine" to my questions about "are you sure you want to do this?". I wanted to do this, and was amazed that he did too! But he did. We got to the train head, did the 7 mile loop and trekked back up. His little toe was angry... but he grimaced through it. The hike itself as so nice. We were totally alone. Aside from a truck passing us on the way down to the trail head (Ok, so the VW would have made it....) we were totally alone. It was really neat. The weather was still low clouds/fog. We found trees that, when toppled, would have fit 2 of our cabins within.

Eventually we made it back to the car, ate the sandwiches we were afraid to eat in the woods (the bear might smell and come & find us) and were off Northward to Oakhurst, a town not far outside Yosemite. We got there and some speed junkies at the front door checked us in. We showered and enjoyed our cheese & cracker Thanksgiving feast. There was so much to be thankful for.

Friday we were up a little late. We added up the mileage - we had done nearly 18 miles above 5000 ft elevation. We were a little tired. So we went out to breakfast at the local joint and pondered what it was about rural folk that gives them a special vapid expression that we never see on the urban or suburban dumb. We didn't find an answer.

But we got on the road late, but the sun was out, the clouds were gone and there was a long line of cars trying to get into Yosemite. The drive into the valley was filled with photo Ops and we took many of them. Marc did his fun, daily, morning update video. We had to do it twice, as he was too deadpan the first time. Our hike was short, we figured we'd give our bodies a little rest. We went East, to see Mirror Lake. And found another bear.

When asked how big the bear was, "Much bigger than us!" was our frightened conclusion. It crossed the path, not much more than 20 feet in front of us. We paused, and slowly inched forward up the train. Only to find that it had doubled back and was heading back to the trail. We then backed up the trail a bit until a nice man & his dog came along. He held his dog and we all went forward together. The bear had split by then. But we were on edge. About 1/2 a mile farther up, we passed a couple heading back in and they reported that they saw another bear - adding fear to anxiety. It was a tense walk. Thankfully, we were not alone for long. There were so many people on the trail.

When we reached Lake Mirror, we enjoyed the view, the company of 100 of our best friends - who for some reason were all Indian? And then took the main, busy road back to the Village. Marc's toe was really acting up by the end of it and we called it quits, heading to the Cedar Lodge in El Portal for our lodging.

Checking into the Cedar Lodge was amusing - I asked for a room upgrade and we were happily surprised when we got it. It had a kings size, comfortable, 4 poster bed. But better than that was the bathtub that was so big, we could sit in it side-by-side. And we did! So relaxing after the long hikes. Even though it was a short day, we did about 5 miles... taking the three day total to 23 miles.

Saturday, our last day on the trip. we woke fairly early and headed back to Yosemite. The night before we enjoyed dinner at the bar and our bar man suggested we do the upper Yosemite Falls hike - and I made sure that this was Marc's choice, as I had picked the 10 mile hike and didn't want to be torturing him. There was a little confusion and Marc realized, at about mile 2, that the hike was not to the base of Upper Yosemite Falls, but to the source. We did 2600 ft elevation gain in 3.5 miles. It was a world of switchbacks. I loved it - total exercise high. Marc loved the top - he had never done anything like that before and the way down. 7 miles and unbelievable views. What a way to cap our trip! I'll never see picture of the falls again and not think of my trek to the top.

Another neat thing - there was a 7 month pregnant woman we passed on the trail. Makes me think that I could do fun things while pregnant... not that I want to sit on the couch and eat bon-bons for 9 months (that would be my own personal hell).

The drive home was through rural California, more beautiful views and the longest twilight I have seen in a while. We crashed at home and then I looked up the questions I had noted down. While hiking Marc and I would occasionally come up with questions that neither of us had answers too... so at home I learned about the anatomy of trees, that Smokey National Park is the most visited National Park, followed by the Grand Canyon and then Yosemite. That the Grizzly bear is a subspecies of brown bears and one more interesting fact that I have already forgotten. Damn.