Leopard Shark Snorkeling Tour

In about an hour, I’ll be heading up to La Jolla Cove for a leopard shark snorkeling tour which was rescheduled from Saturday due to poor visibility. These sharks are entirely harmless unless provoked, so I’m not even a little bit nervous about them. What I am nervous about, as one might surmise from two posts ago, are Other Sharks, most notably Great Whites.

Thankfully (and very deliberately,) I will be in a group – I don’t know how many will be in it, but I won’t be alone – which reassures me. Safety in numbers, and so on.

In addition to The Shark Issue, I also want to make sure I have basic snorkeling instruction before I go leaping into unknown waters alone: Reading things on the internet can only get one so far. I’m very keen on more snorkeling but have so much to learn. While La Jolla is the hotspot around here for this activity, it is also home to caves and currents and swell and surge and sometimes enormous surf.

There are many huge rocks on the shore into which the surf could gleefully pound a soft mammalian body. This guy below was diving off the rocks into the surf and didn’t get pummeled, but he sure did make me nervous. Look at the action of the water around him:

I’d like to learn where is safer and where to absolutely avoid (other than the caves – nofuckingway am I going into a damn cave in the ocean.  Nope! That’s reeeeeeally way up on my List of Things Which Terrify Me. I watched some videos yesterday of people snorkeling, kayaking, and just swimming in the caves up there, and it made me insanely uneasy – who knows what could be in there? What if a crazy tide/swell/surge comes up? What if I brush up against some horribly poisonous/sharp/spiky cave creature thing? <shudder> All the Nope. For now, at least, and probably for considerable time in the future.


And we’re back! Shark-wise, the tour was a little light (we saw only 5 or 6, and briefly,) but I learned a lot about La Jolla and about snorkeling in general. Benji, our tour guide, met me at Kellogg Park which is right next to the beach. He explained the other two members of the group were running a bit late, so we stood around and talked for awhile. I had brought all of my own gear, so he said, “You’ve obviously got a lot of experience, right?” Ha! I told him it was my first time other than 20 minutes in Mission Bay. and that I’d love all the advice he can give me.

He’s been diving here for about 13 years, and in all that time he has apparently never seen any dangerous sharks at all. Phew. He used to have a huge fear of Great Whites, too, but that has faded over time.

Our companions arrived about 20 minutes late, and Benji said he would extend our time in the water to compensate – very nice guy. They were a very sweet, absolutely beautiful Muslim couple, and the woman had not thought about how to keep her headscarf on in the water. We eventually got things sorted, though, and off into the water we went.

I couldn’t get my wetsuit zipped up for some reason, so I asked Benji to help just as a wave knocked me off-balance in my flippers and down I went. “Pride goeth before a fall, eh?” he chuckled.

As we were wading in, a medium-sized leopard shark cruised slowly by. Strangely, it’s much easier to see them from above the water than below – they appear to be really dark from above the waterline, and not nearly as dark below.

The other woman was having a terrible time with her fins, so Benji and I spent a lot of time on our own while we waited for the other two to catch up or do their own things. Benji was great at spotting wildlife, and asked “Did you see that huge sea bass?” “Did you see that big spiny lobster?” “Did you see that $THING?” and my answer was almost uniformly “…no…”

Turns out the mask I bought isn’t great – it fogs up very quickly and just doesn’t seem to have great optics. Benji switched with me, and from there on out it was a much better, clearer experience.

Visibility didn’t seem fantastic to me, but he said it was actually really good for the area. I think it was disappointing because when I think of snorkeling, I think of the videos I’ve seen of crystal-clear tropical waters, rather than this silty stuff.

As I practiced diving down, I realized my chubby body coupled with a neoprene suit is actually an excellent floatation device – I can’t stay down at all without continuously kicking, and those big leg muscles, of course, burn a lot of oxygen. When I get into better shape, that will be less of a problem for several reasons, but for now, I’ll probably pick up some weights to help keep me down. And a better damn mask. >.<

Right now, sitting still, I can hold my breath for just over a minute before I start getting uncomfortable – that’s not a very long time, and when I’m moving I’m sure it will be cut about in half. I’ve been watching some freediving YouTube videos and am starting to do some breath hold exercises.

My main goal with this tour was learning basic snorkel/ocean safety tidbits – the wildlife was just a nice extra bonus. I did manage to see Garibaldi fish, some kind of small, sandy-colored ray (probably a Round Ray, maybe a Thornback,) sea bass, opal eyes, and other things I didn’t recognize. Benji said there were a bunch of vermillion fish right by me he couldn’t believe I missed. I also didn’t see a small seal that was apparently cruising nearby. Cursed.  I will be going back and I will see these things!

There were enough people on the water to make me feel fairly safe from predators, and the passing thought of dangerous sharks only popped into my head a couple of times. Had I been alone, I’m certain it would have been more paralyzing.

This was the only shark I managed to capture on video. She was almost as long as I was, and was a bit skittish. Still, it was a neat experience, and I’ll definitely go back soon to try my luck again.

Settling In

[I started writing this post quite some time ago and never finished.]

It has been one week and three days since I first arrived in San Diego.

Those of you following along on Facebook know the journey has not been without its trials, but on the whole… I am so happy.

To catch the non-FB’ers up:

I had a very nice going-away party the Saturday prior to departure, and greatly enjoyed the company of my friends who were able to come. I was especially touched by people I hadn’t seen in some time who went out of their way. There was a lot of booze:

What people didn’t drink was given away. I took only one photo, and wish I’d taken more, but enjoying the moment was more important:

The movers arrived three days early, with three days’ advance notice of that fact. I figured what the heck – the earlier they picked up my stuff, the better the chances they’d get there sooner rather than later. Right? Ha. Read on.

Within ten minutes of their arrival the guy in charge of loading the truck hit me up for some weed. That raised an eyebrow, but ok. I had contracted through Colonial Van Lines, but they sub-contracted me out to Allied. Ok, fine. They loaded me up, and gave me a revised estimate of twice the weight I’d thought. I was unconvinced – yes, there were things I hadn’t weighed, but twice the amount? Seems unlikely.

They had taken the weight right before the pickup, and were supposed to drive immediately to the nearest scale to get a fresh weight, thereby giving the total weight of my belongings. This did not happen. More on that later.

I left my tiny house empty:

The day before I left, I got in touch with the still-absent motorcycle hauler to see why he hadn’t picked up the bike yet. He was going to be delayed, and hadn’t thought to let me know. I let him know I was unhappy in fairly diplomatic terms, and he outright canceled on me. FUCK. I found another hauler that night, but now my step-mom has to deal with them when they arrive for the loading up.

The drive out was quite lovely. It was great to spend time with my dad – I hadn’t spent that many hours with him since I left for college in 1988. He is truly a warm, wonderful, outgoing, and loving person, and I’m proud he’s my dad.

Whether it was leaving the oppression of Michigan, the weariness from the road, or some other factor, I started falling asleep early and waking up with the sun. At first, it was 530am, now it’s between 6 – 7am — without an alarm. You guys – that’s not me. I don’t simply “wake up in the morning” like a normal person. Only once have I slept until the alarm went off at 7, and holy wow did I feel like I’d wasted the day. If I’m not in bed by 11pm, oh shit – I’m up past my bedtime.

We drove about 700 miles per day, a very comfortable pace, and had some unexpectedly wonderful encounters along the way, including a period-correct, stupendously wonderful hotel on Route 66, complete with vintage magazines, and (fresh) Moon Pies in the rooms:

The astonishingly good-looking, and astonishingly kind young man at the front desk recommended a restaurant just a few blocks down for dinner. It, too, was remarkable. Just the right amount of kitsch, amazingly food, huge drinks, good prices, even better service. The waiter earned a 50% tip.

Breakfast across the street matched the impressiveness of the night before on all levels – kitsch, service, food, prices.

Should I ever pass through Tucumcari, New Mexico again, I will revisit each of these places.

We saw beautiful clouds and scenery once West of the Mississippi, some of which I tried to catch at 75 mph when I wasn’t driving:

We passed through a perfect parting between rain storms:

We spent a lot of time like this in various construction zones near cities – Tulsa, in this case:

The Mighty Maxima had nary a free inch of room inside the cabin or in the trunk. We squeezed water bottles into every available nook and cranny, leaving only room to see out the rear-view mirror:

As we neared what was to become home, the scenery became more dramatic:

Yuma was literally on fire as we passed through, but no photos of that.

We passed through a section of the country I can only describe as “god’s cat’s litterbox:” Giant mounds of huge rocks and gravel:

And then, suddenly… we were here. Nancy, the wonderful leasing agent, was on vacation, so Dan the Imposter showed me around my new home. The view is better than I could have hoped:

Even the walk from the elevator to my door is lovely:

The courtyard is very pretty, and its centerpiece, an enormous fountain, is relaxing and beautiful:

There is, however, a train stop literally right outside my bedroom window:

While this makes accessing the public transit system incredibly convenient, there is a near-constant stream of electric trolleys going by 24 hours a day. Before departing the station, the driver must signal his or her intentions by beeping an electronic horn. Some of them are quite polite and brief; others, however, must be having bad days, because they can lay on the horn for several seconds.

For the most part, this is just another aspect of the experience of living here, much like being in an apartment rather than a house. There are people everywhere all the time, but mostly I don’t hear them. The walls and floors are quite solid, and only very infrequently do I hear a neighbor, and then only briefly.

There is very little I cannot find within a mile of my apartment. There’s a Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt 3 minutes away – my green hair makes me stand out a bit, and they already recognize me. Uh-oh. YES, IT IS THE GREEN HAIR AND NOT THE FACT THAT I HAVE BEEN THERE ABOUT 5 TIMES SINCE MOVING IN, SHUT UP.

One of the first things Dad and I did was to run across the street to a furniture store to gather up a chair for him to sit in, a desk so I could work, and a nightstand to store stuff in. I had not realized the extent to which Mid-Century Modern had come back into vogue – it was either that, or 1970’s Country. I opted for the MCM look, as I don’t have any particularly strong feelings about it either way, and it might be fun in the long run.

The Flexsteel recliner is super comfortable. Turns out, the color of the chair quite nicely matches a quilt top I made years ago, and recently had finished. Dad broke it in with a nice nap:

The nightstand I bought was on clearance and, as such, could not be delivered – despite the fact they were delivering the other stuff. It would not fit in my car. Thus, I borrowed a dolly and walked it home – fortunately, it was only about a quarter of a mile.

It was on the way back home when things began to go awry with The Movers. My account manager, Alecia, called to say that, despite picking my stuff up several days early, they were going to be late. She also did not have a final weight for me, but promised a.) to have the weight by the end of the day (false) and b.) to have a final arrival date by Friday (also false.) Fine, fine – I have the essentials. I can make it work. I bought a coffee maker, though, because fuck no coffee for a week.

Thursday night, I got to introduce Dad to some of my favorite people: George, Sam, Kevin, Chuck, and Lorraine:

The new motorcycle hauler had given me a window of “before 8/14” to pick up the bike. On the 12th, I called to see how that was going to work out. It wasn’t. Delayed by a week. Great! New arrival window is “sometime before 9/10.” I’m totally not itching for my motorcycle at all, nope. Not with this perfect weather and gorgeous, perfect roads. This is fine. (fuck)

Rolling with the MCM theme, I bought some additional seating: Two counter stools, and one regular one:

I have a roommate. She is approximately the size of a Volkswagon:

So far, she stays in her corner, and I stay in mine, and it’s working out alright.

Every night, about a million crows pass overhead on their way to wherever they roost at night, which is really cool to watch. Dad stayed until Saturday morning, when I saw him off at the Surfliner train. He went up to Fullerton to visit one of my step-sisters and her kidlet, and then went on to Sacramento to visit the other.

Most mornings, it’s slightly to moderately overcast when I wake up, but it burns off by ten or eleven. Then, one day, the craziest thing happened:

Rumor has it, it has happened before. It is likely to happen again.  God help us all.

—–

And then Charlottesville happened, and everything darkened. Holy shit, how is this our world, our country, right now?

Yesterday, I spent a few hours at La Jolla Cove, which reminded me on a very primal, profound level how much I love the Pacific coast. This is where I belong – everything in me knows it, feels it. I posted this:

I had an appointment at 5pm out near La Jolla, and to hide from the rush-hour traffic on the return home, I, along with everyone else in the state of California, decided to hit to the beach. 

There is no better drug, no better cure for depression or anxiety, no deeper, more peaceful feeling for me than when I am near the pounding surf of the Pacific. My soul calmed, my mind quieted, and my body relaxed. I melted.
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It did’t matter there were a hundred other people around – everyone was happy, and playing in the spray, taking photos, and enjoying the overwhelming beauty. I could have fallen asleep on the sun-baked sandstone, listening to the surf, for the rest of my life.

While I’m really impressed with the camera phone on the Pixel XL, I can’t wait until my actual camera arrives. These would be well-served by running them through a quick post-processing, but it’s getting late, and my brain doesn’t want to computer anymore.

One of the things I love about life in the West is there is precious little in the way of protections against killing yourself doing something stupid, either knowingly or unknowingly. This ocean and many things in it will kill you. The rails to the edge are easily climbed over or under, though, and most people do. One slip, and into the churning waves you go, likely getting knocked unconscious by the rocks and quickly drowning. I love it. One day, that may kill me, too.

How many pictures of waves and people and sea lions can you stand? Enjoy a little bit of paradise with me.

I took over 500 photos – rest easy, I’ll just link to the album:

A few hours of bliss. Photos straight from the Pixel XL for FB, post-proc on some for Flickr later..Videos in the next album; these are just stills.

Posted by Erin Darling on Thursday, August 17, 2017

I’m not sure what language that is there at the bottom, but it’s pretty.

Those hours reaffirmed everything about this move.  I plan to spend many more there.

Now that I’ve been here a week, it should feel more real. Still, when a beautiful, friendly barista over on Mission Beach asked if I was on vacation, I still reflexively said, “yes,” followed by, “wait, no – I just moved here, it just doesn’t feel real yet.”

I feel like it all could be taken away at any second for any reason. It’s a little terrifying, but I know whatever is going to happen is going to happen, and I’ll be ok regardless.

I thrive on change – almost immediately upon arrival, my creative urges came stampeding back: I want to paint, I want to quilt, I want to write. I started reading a book for the first time in about three years (no, I’m not kidding; I wish I were.)  I’m learning Spanish. I’m dying to get a new camera to spend hours shooting, but that will have to wait until my finances recover, because… oh yes, we haven’t gotten back to The Movers, have we. Yes, yes.

You see, I have been jerked back and forth by these asshats for over a week now. We’ll be late. We won’t be late. Your final weight wasn’t taken until 21 hours later. Can I see the fuel receipts to make sure some of that unexpected weight isn’t diesel? No. Also, we’re going to be late again.

Long story short, I’m probably going to owe about $2,000 more than expected. So much for almost having paid off my credit cards! I will be SUPER fucked financially for awhile here. I had over $10,000 in the bank when I left Michigan. After the travel expenses, move-in check to the apartments, groceries, and basic furniture essentials, I now have $2,500, plus almost $2,500 more in credit card charges.

Movers finally called with my final weight, which is more than twice the estimate. I asked when the truck was weighed after they loaded me – 21 hours later. They were supposed to go to the nearest certified scale, and I have a difficult time believing there wasn’t one closer, because they weighed the truck shortly before it arrived at my house.
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“What assurances do I have nothing else was loaded in that time?”
“Well, that would be illegal.”
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I did not mention the guy who loaded me asked me if I could hook him up with some pot 10 minutes after arriving.
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“I was told they would weigh the truck at the closest scale. In fact, you just told me that less than 5 minutes ago – the closest scale.”
“Technically, they have up to 24 hours to get that final weigh-in.”
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Remaining balance: $3600.
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I am One Unhappy eDar right now, very thoroughly researching my options.

That really is the only stress factor right now – money. There are other niggling things – I’m still sleeping on an air mattress and wake up sore every morning, and I’m working at my desk from a camp chair, so my back is just miserable all the time. I can’t vacuum. My internet is only 120Mbps at its best. On several nights, there have been some loud people near or at the trolley stop when I’m trying to go to sleep. It gets dark at 8pm. All of that is laughably minor compared to the overall exuberance – I’ll pay this tax.

Flashback to Day One in California:
We went shopping at Ralph’s, the Kroger of California. Gathered up a full cart of STUFF, proceeded to self-checkout…

Me: “Oh shit, where are the bags?”
Dad: “There are no bags.”
Me: “…what?”
Dad: “They’re illegal here.”
Me: “*BAGS* are illegal?!”
Dad: “Plastic bags are, yeah.”
Me: “Oh – that’s actually kind of cool, but… I sort of need them.”
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I ended up buying 6 or 8 very nice reusable ones, but My Face When. 
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Good on ya, CA – nicely done.

 

Welp. I just walked face-first through my patio screen door. A not-insignificant amount of skin scraped off the tip of my nose, and an even larger bruise to my ego, as the door is probably toast and I’ll have to get a replacement. Derp.

Met with my first truly unhinged trolley rider just now. He got on, ranting and raving about self-defense, trying to teach “the class” a thing or two about defense. Naturally, nobody was interested. I stopped reading and started paying attention to where this was going. He didn’t initially single anyone out, and no one seemed particularly upset, but the driver opened his cab door, asked him to calm down or depart.

The guy, of course, did neither, and the trolley continued on. There were some timid tourists who looked uncomfortable, but he left them mostly alone.

He moved right next to a young jock, who took umbrage at the yelling guy’s proximity, and then escalated things quite a bit. He yelled back, swore at the guy, threatened him, and finally began to shove him. The driver hollered that security was on their way at the next stop. One of the shoves just about landed the homeless guy in my lap. I sighed, and readjusted to free up my hands.

I caught the jock’s eye and said, “it’s not worth it, man. Just take a step back and breathe.” He ranted about how personal space, being tired of losers, and kept at it. “Dude, this isn’t helping, just chill. It’s not worth getting arrested over.” The three of us went back and forth a bit, then he puffed up his chest, but moved away, and got off at our next stop. The homeless guy went back to bothering the car at large. Yay, small victories.

However, he next fixated on a younger guy who pretty clearly had some developmental issues. He towered over the kid, tapping his hand over his head, asking him intrusive questions, and making the kid uncomfortable. The kid didn’t want to make eye contact with anyone and tried really hard to ignore the guy, who just redoubled his efforts.

Enough. I asked the ranting guy to come talk to me. He didn’t initially want to, he was more interested in harassing the kid, and pretty much told me as much flat-out. I kept at it – not with much skill, mind you, but I was determined.

“He doesn’t want to talk to you, but I do. I’ll listen.” I motioned him toward me.

“Nah, fuck that, I don’t want to talk to you, I want to know what’s going on with him.”

“Come over here and teach me about self-defense.” That got him. He switched from towering over the kid to towering over me. Hanging from the overhead railing with both hands. Those armpits, though.

“Well the first thing about self-defense is not talking to people you don’t know.” He put his face fairly close to mine, but I didn’t change my relaxed posture or expression. I was, however, glad to be wearing dark sunglasses, lest my eyes give away my unease. I nodded – “good idea.”

“NEVER FUCKING TALK TO PEOPLE YOU DON’T KNOW!!”

“I see, ok. So I’m curious what you were doing when you got on the train and started talking to everyone you didn’t know?”

<pause> “PRACTICING. But now you all know me, right? So it’s fine.”

“Ok, right on. Tell me how to…”

“You’re just a woman, you’re just a woman who don’t know nothing about shit, your whole job is just to be a woman and annoy the shit out of everyone you meet. What do you think about that?”

“I think I know a lot of people who would probably agree with you.” The guy in the next row tried and failed to hide a smile.

He carried on about the same topic, and I nodded, said “sure,” and kept asking him questions while the kid he’d been harassing moved to the other end of the car.

“You women just want to tell people how to live their lives and give your opinions and make everyone around you miserable. What do you think about *that*?!”

“I think you’ve had some bad experiences with women.”

By that point, we’d reached the next stop, and security got on the train. The security guard watched us for a moment, and then escorted the dude off the train. He had to get one parting shot in, though, so he stuck his head back through the doors, and shouted, “JUST A WOMAN!!” before vanishing.

An older gentleman seated across from the kid who’d been the target gave me a quick thanks, and that was the end of it. I have a feeling that won’t be the last time, though. Safety pin: Gotta be one. That’s a promise.

It’s been over two months since I wrote the above, and a great deal has happened since that time. The movers arrived with “most” of my stuff, but a lot was missing and even more destroyed. Still trying to get that sorted out.

Plenty of other things to talk about, too, but I’ll save that for another time.

The Stuff of Fucking Nightmares

Literally.

I grew up on NOVA and Jacques Cousteau and Cosmos and other wonderful PBS documentaries, so even at a very young age, I understood shark encounters are rare; however, ever since I first saw “Jaws” at a tender elementary school age, I have been terrified and fascinated with sharks, particularly Great Whites.  While I knew it couldn’t possibly be, I was still convinced there were sharks in our inland Michigan lakes, especially on overcast days. I was absolutely certain a dorsal fin would erupt from the bubbles in my bath. And, naturally, huge White sharks patrolled the house at night, mostly circling around my bed in the hopes I would dangle a limb over the edge of the mattress. Relentless shark nightmares haunted me into college, though thankfully I haven’t had one in decades. Cue tonight’s dream agenda, probably. NEVERTHELESS.

Decades of Jacques Cousteau, other documentaries, and countless books, magazines, and scientific journals educated me well about sharks and our best understanding of why they do what they do, but none of this has quite reached my primal, lizard brain, which is content to believe the following: As soon as I set foot into water above my knee, I will be attacked. It is certain. My lizard brain is a stubborn, stubbon asshole.

An irrational fear of sharks was all fine and well when living in Michigan, a place utterly bereft of not only sharks but oceans entirely. Not really a problem. I enjoyed fantasies of “someday” diving with White sharks. In a sturdy cage. No, I have not seen “47 Meters Down,” nor do I plan to until I get more comfortable in the sea. My imagination is too good at inventing horrible things and requires no further fodder.

Here, in San Diego, this fear has become a bit more pressing. Last week, I went up to La Jolla and swam in waters about up to my shoulders. Briefly. Mostly, I stuck to knee-depth shallows. When I was deeper than that, I was very acutely aware of how fragile the human body is, but forced myself to laugh off any thoughts of actually seeing, let alone being nibbled upon by, a shark.

La Jolla is home to a large colony of sea lions and another of harbor seals, so there is sufficient reason for larger Whites to prowl, I suppose. But shallow water is safe water, right? One of my favorite assholes people in the world insists otherwise:

Later, at home and quite safe in my fourth-floor, five-miles-from-the-sea-and-therefore-probably-shark-proof apartment, I did some research. Oh holy fucking shit, you guys. Big, stupid, brain-weasel-feeding mistake. Now, I knew Southern California was a Great White nursery – there are sharks here and lots of them. I assumed, however, they were a goodly ways offshore. AND THEN I SAW THIS:

One sure-fire way to turn my intestines to liquid:

“Attention in the water: This is the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.… You are paddleboarding next to approximately 15 great white sharks.”

Yes, they were pups and juveniles. Yes, juveniles eat fish, not mammals. But seriously – 15 fucking great white sharks at the bloody surf line. That got the ol’ nightmare juices flowing.  Undeterred, I plowed ahead and found this from earlier this year:

A 16-foot great white shark feeds on scarlet, a whale that recently died off the coast of Southern California.

That was a sixteen-footer. At Data Point. Jinkies.

The litany of sightings is enormous, the list of attacks or mistaken identities vastly shorter. The odds of getting bitten, let alone killed, by a shark are infinitesimal. HOWEVER. You want to talk about High Stakes, kidlets? Should that one-off situation happen… well. Nightmare fuel.

I did find this hilarious image taken during a non-hilarious event – fortunately, the surfer was unharmed. Be honest now – if the red circle weren’t there, could you possibly find the shark in this photo?

Given the prevalence of Whites off the coast of South Africa – the big, breaching ones – I can’t imagine anyone ever surfing there. Watch the full video in the link – it’s amazing, and also quite moving as literally everyone on the water immediately came to his rescue, despite the danger to themselves.

The story which is lingering the most in mind is this, which I found just now on a page by the Shark Research Committee:

“On Wednesday, 4 December 1991, commercial urchin diver David Abernathy, age 25, was attacked by a White Shark at Shelter Cove, between Eureka and Fort Bragg in northwestern California (40°01.7’N; 124°05.0’W). Abernathy, accompanied by boat owner Joe Lara and tender Gerald Vickers, had been diving for about six hours. He was dressed in a black wetsuit, hood, boots, swim fins, mask, and weight belt. The diver was attached to a hookah airline and carried an urchin rake. Under a sunny sky, the sea surface was calm with 1-to-2-meter groundswells rolling rhythmically over the sandy ocean floor. Air and water temperatures were estimated at 15ºC and 10ºC, respectively. The water was 8 fathoms deep with visibility of 5 meters.

“Abernathy started his dive day collecting urchins off a reef at the Point Arena Buoy. Picking was consistent, but not as good as other spots in the area, so he decided to try at Black Sands Beach and work his way south. At 1500 hours, he entered the water 100 meters off Abalone Point, near the airport in Shelter Cove. Abernathy and his fellow crew members saw a “single clump of kelp” in open water and maneuvered the boat alongside. Abernathy entered the water. As he started his descent, about 4 meters below the surface, he noted the kelp stipe was attached to the top of a pinnacle that was 5 to 7 meters in width and at least 10 meters in breadth. While slowly descending to the bottom, the diver reported observing “a couple of tons of urchins on this pinnacle.” Upon reaching the bottom, he scouted the area for urchins, then slowly began his ascent. Abernathy had been in the water about six minutes.

“Upon surfacing above the pinnacle, Abernathy spat out his regulator and turned to tell his companions on board the boat to drop anchor. The diver recounted, “When I looked at the guys on the boat their eyes were huge and their mouths wide open.” Lara and Vickers watched in disbelief as a large White Shark surfaced directly behind Abernathy and charged very quickly. The shark struck the diver in the middle of his back and simultaneously bit down, pushing him 2 to 3 meters across the surface of the water.

“Abernathy recalled, “When the shark hit my back, shoving me across the surface, I was spun around. I felt my diving hose become caught in the shark’s mouth as it began pulling me across the surface. I ended up against the shark’s side and could see its gills and enormous gray body. I started thrashing wildly before realizing my legs were not in its mouth. I went limp as the shark continued to pull me across the surface by my hose. My companions later told me that the shark would look me up and down and then lunge at me, bending its head almost back to its tail. Each time it would lunge I was thrown up onto its back. I realized the boat was getting farther and farther away. I started yelling, ‘Come and get me, I’m alive,’ but they were in shock and unable to respond. During the surface struggle, the shark would, from time to time, look over toward my friends on the boat. Finally, after yelling Lara’s name, he snapped out of it and started the boat’s engine. As they headed toward me the shark dived, pulling me five to 10 feet [about 2 to 3 meters] below the surface before my hose was severed. When I surfaced I found the shark had pulled me 75 to 100 feet [about 25 to 30 meters] away from my boat. I started screaming ‘Hurry, hurry!'”

“While Lara and Vickers sped toward Abernathy, they saw the shark surface 20 to 30 meters behind him, then quickly charge. They maneuvered the boat past the diver to cut off the shark’s approach path. In response, the shark sounded and swam under the boat and past the diver. The shark then surfaced, turned and charged Abernathy again. The diver’s perspective, from the water, was no less dramatic.

“He recalled, “Joey [Lara] sped up and they went past me by about 15 feet [5 meters], then reversed abruptly. I thought they were trying to get closer to me until they started screaming, ‘Come on! Come on!’ When I reached the rail of the boat I was unable to pull myself on board. They started yelling, ‘It’s turning around. Hurry!’ as they ran toward me to pull me into the boat. No sooner had I been pulled aboard than a large swirl and splash erupted next to the boat.” Once on board, the three badly shaken men sat down and took stock of Abernathy. As he sat in the bow of the boat, Abernathy told his companions, “I’m whole, I’m whole, I’m whole.” Abernathy and his companions thought the White Shark was 6 to 7 meters in length. The diver’s right swim fin had several slices to its upper surface. David Abernathy was most fortunate to have escaped his White Shark attack with only shattered nerves and several bruises.”

I have been given to understand most shark “attacks” are cases of mistaken identity or are “merely” curiousity, something akin to us touching something unfamiliar to get more information about it. Of course, given our fragility and their strengthy and pointy-toothedness, that’ll cause some damage. Witness:

When dealing with something of this size, which can move so quickly and cause so much damage.. how does one prepare? One uses a cage, preferably, but it’s difficult to surf in a cage. Check this footage of Deep Blue, the largest White caught on film to date  – “We realized immediately that she was very big.” Indeed, behold:

One remarkable shark researcher, Mike Rutzen, actually free-dives with Whites outside a cage, because he has learned their body language. Wow – talk about balls. I’m so awed by this man on all the levels. “Don’t try this yourself,” the video admonishes – NO PROBLEM.

I watched his full documentary about body posture and behavior and was absolutely captivated. If you’re interested in learning how he “puts sharks to sleep,” look up “tonic immobility.”

Most of us aren’t so lucky. From another Shark Committee page:

“It was a pleasant Sunday morning, 20 August 1961. David Vogensen, age 16, decided to go for a swim, accompanied by several friends. They had swum out to a sandbar about 75 meters from the beach and were returning to shore. The young swimmers crossed over a channel to a location about 6 meters from the beach near Salmon Creek, Sonoma County, California (38°20.8’N; 123°04.5’W). It was about 0930 hours and the water was cold and very clear. Vogensen was wearing dark blue swimming trunks.

“He saw the shark swim over the sandbar and parallel the beach until about 10 meters from his location. The youth observed a large dark shape, a few feet below the surface, approaching him head-on. The shark circled Vogensen twice before grasping the lower groin and upper inner thighs of both legs. It held its victim for several seconds before it began mouthing his left leg down to the ankle. The youth was unaware of any sensation of pain, only a great deal of pressure, until his foot went numb. It was then that he knew a shark had bitten him. What he did not know was the extent of his injuries. Vogensen made his way up the beach, where he collapsed, clutching his bloody trunks. From this time until hours later in the hospital, events were unclear to the young man.

“The swimmer was taken by automobile to Palm Drive Hospital in Sebastopol for emergency trauma care. Following emergency treatment, he was transferred to Hillcrest Hospital in Petaluma. Vogensen had received numerous slash wounds to his groin, with secondary lacerations to his left leg and foot. Several tendons and nerves were traumatized, requiring several hours of surgery to repair. Vogensen’s physicians expected a complete recovery without any physical limitations. The shark’s description and measurements of the wounds are indicative of a 4-meter White Shark.”

First: THIRTEEN-FOOT WHITE SHARK SIX METERS FROM THE BEACH, PEOPLE. That’s less than twenty feet from shore! FUCK! A curious shark of that size, no thank you, please. Mistaken identity or no, I would move to the middle of the damn desert and never touch water again. I would probably sponge-bathe for life.

That Abernathy attack above, though? That, to me, speaks of something else. My imagination says ANGRY KILLER SHARK AFTER PEOPLE, but that’s unlikely. Still, I have to wonder what provoked the animal to continue its attack after realizing what he had was probably not a seal, after all. Maybe because he didn’t get his teeth into Abernathy’s flesh to realize, but one would think it wouldn’t go to that much trouble for a meal unless it was absolutely desperate or irretrievably stupid.

I cannot even fathom what it was like for all parties present, let alone the incredibly lucky survivor. How does one ever swim again? Sleep? Ha!

One would think this might keep me out of the water. Fuck all that. Naturally, what I have done is to sign up for a leopard shark snorkel tour and surfing lessons. I am going to be absolutely terrified the whole time, probably, but at least I won’t be alone.

Until I learn more about The Various Ways the Pacific and Everything In It Is Going to Try to Kill Me, Perhaps Accidentally, I’m sticking to insanely safe solo activities. Mostly. The main risk is my own inexperience/ignorance. For example, in my first swim at La Jolla mentioned above, I got absolutely drilled by the first large-ish wave I encountered because I sort of forgot waves are a bit powerful. This was the sort that hammered me off my feet, into the sand, and dragged me along for what felt like an eternity (but which was actually about 5 seconds.)

The one thing I remembered as I got swept under was to remain calm – I wasn’t going anywhere but back to the beach, after all. I was fairly convinced I’d lose my prescription sunglasses given the perceived violence of the thing, but they miraculously remained on my face.

My first leopard shark tour was supposed to be this past Saturday, but was canceled due to utterly crap visibility (1-2 feet max.) I would have seen nothing. Eager, however, to get into the water and test out the new snorkeling gear, I went to the rather safe Mission Point Beach area, which is heavily-trafficked by swimmers, paddlers, and boats, and is also completely sheltered from the surf by a nice spit of land.

I donned my gear, did the stingray shuffle into waist-deep water (one generally should not just walk across the sand, lest one be stung by a very perturbed ray in our path,) and pushed off. The wetsuit was glorious – I was so warm and barely felt the water at all. The snorkel, mask, and fins all worked exceptionally well. I could make out my hands in front of my face and that was about it. In the video below, it’s pretty impossible to hear me – mostly, just photographic evidence that I’m in waters of unknown depths without the ability to see anything lurking near me. 😀

Sharks absolutely did cross my mind, but they would have so many other targets to choose from before they got to me, I felt almost safe. Quick fun fact: Did you know Sleeper Sharks may live up to 700 years? Wow.

Given the nothing to see, I swam back to shore after 15 or 20 minutes, thoroughly unbitten. Yay. Baby steps, y’all.

Baby steps.

Thursday, I’ll reattempt the shark dive. Saturday, surfing lessons. I kind of love this local shark celebrity: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/communities/san-diego/sd-me-leopard-shark-20170716-story.html

I know Leopard Sharks are completely harmless unless provoked – but it’s not the leopards I’ll be watching anxiously for: Hammerheads; Makos; Great Whites; Seven-gills. While it would be freaking amazing to see one of those, I don’t think I’m quiiiiiiiite ready for that yet. I’m the person who needs to touch the stove to see if it’s hot, and no amount of “no really, they won’t bother you” will placate me until one does, indeed, leave me alone (and even then, I’ll probably assume it was a fluke and that the next one will grab me.)

Fuck you, brain weasels. And, in the incredibly unlikely event of some sort of shark-related mishap occurring, I hope I have the presence of mind to at least appreciate the irony before I either die of a heart attack or am consumed.

Luck of the eDar

June 15, 2017

I mentioned in a recent post how I have weird luck: Major things tend to go well, while the small things make me work for them.

Take today, for example.

I’ve been meaning to get a new passport  for years, as my old one expired decades ago and was lost to the sands of time. I’m terrible about Actually Going Places to Do Things: Post Office? The worst. Get copies made? Ha. Get my photo taken? FUCK OFF.

Yesterday, however, I Successfully Adulted. I went and got the odious passport photo taken, and I actually look human in it, despite my face being all nekkers without my glasses. I celebrated by getting frozen yogurt and accidentally telling a punk asshole kid to shut the fuck up whilst doing so.

Reading over the requirements carefully, I printed out everything I needed (or so I thought.) I read the requirements several times to be sure.

Today, I started looking for my birth certificate, knowing I’d seen it as I’d been sorting through all the things in my office. It took literally less than two minutes to find.

It’s like I know how things tend to go for myself. It is exceptionally hot and humid here today (87 degrees with 48% humidity as I was heading out,) but when I was preparing to leave, there was not a cloud in the sky. What the hell, I’ll ride the bike – it’ll be easier to zip around on. I have these super comfortable, totally waterproof, highly-protective Sidi motorcycling boots that are probably the best motorcycling boots I’ve ever owned. They’re amazing, but also loud as fuck. They squeak. And when I say “squeak,” this is not a cute little mouse-sized squeak: This is “everyone in the whole building can hear three squeaks per step” levels of noise. There is no sneaking up on anyone in these bitches, I can tell you. They attract significant attention.

They are also hot. Like, temperature-wise, not so much sexy-wise.

I needed to get copies made, so I did a quick “OK Google: Make copies near me.” Google directed to me a spot a couple of miles away. I geared up, saddled up, and headed over. As I arrived and told the woman at the counter what I needed (two copies each of my birth certificate and driver’s license,) she chuckled a little and told me they were a commercial print shop with much larger minimum order requirements.

Fortunately, there was a Staples two blocks away. Boom, headshot. Sauntered back out into the waves of heat and moisture, got my hands into my sweaty gloves, and hopped over to the Staples. No line, woo! Did my stuff for less than a buck, and left. Started saddling up, somehow remembered I’d left my driver’s license in the copy machine before getting to the passport agency office – whew! Lucky me.

Back on the bike to find a parking spot downtown.

Now I say I have crap lucky on the little things, but I also realize I often make poor choices. No, no – hear me out: While this assuredly comes as a complete shock to anyone who’s ever spent more than 10 minutes with me, it’s actually true. The only parking spot I could find wasn’t exactly… legal. It was an end cap spot that was huuuuge, but already occupied by a car. There was easily another car’s length of space behind it, however, so in I went, mumbling a silent prayer to the parking gods to be merciful.

Lansing’s parking enforcement officers are, shall we say, “vigilant.” They cruise around like contented sharks, waiting for an opportune moment to strike. In the past, if I blinked too slowly before inserting a coin, a ticket appeared on my windshield, and the only trace of the officer was a fading puff of a breeze. I had seen one drive past just as I was getting ready to park, so I had a few minutes. Surely, I could get in and out before anyone noticed.

Everyone in these buildings could hear me coming from a block away.

I walked the block and to the City Clerk’s office, announcing my squeaky presence to the entire State Capital grounds. The squeaks literally echoed off the buildings as I approached the door. Once inside, I was confronted with a security checkpoint, which I had not expected. I let everyone behind me go ahead, as I had 1000 things plus motorcycle gear to be inspected. The checkpoint ladies were very friendly and gave me little grief about the small whirlwind of chaos that whirled in with me.

Noticing me looking at the building directory, one asked where I was going, and directed me to the ninth floor. Yay, elevators! Squeak (echo squeak, echo squeak) and so on across the lobby.

I had worked up a bit of a sweat with the biking jacket, helmet, and gloves, and with the walking around in heavy boots. I could feel my face all shiny as I lumbered out of the elevator and let my boots announce my presence in the City Clerk’s office. A very kind woman came around and started to help me, offhandedly asking “you’ve got your cashier’s check or money order, right?” as she looked through my paperwork.

“A what? No, it says right here I can use credit cards…”

“Sorry, not here, you can’t. We have to staple the method of payment to the application, and I don’t suppose you want your card stapled?”

SON OF A BITCH.

I had been so thorough, and even over-prepared by bringing multiple copies of everything. Alright, ok. There was a bank a few blocks away. Off I went, nearly careening into a woman as she came off the elevator, who laughed good-naturedly. Super cute lesbian, too. Alas, no time for flirting (like I know how to do that with girls, anyhow, amirite.)

Squawked my way back to the bike (which was, mercifully, ticket-free,) rode a few blocks down to the bank, grabbed cash out of the ATM, and went inside to get my cashier’s check.

Aaaand that’s a big negative, there, Rubber Ducky: My account at this particular credit union was closed yearrrrrs ago, and they won’t do anything for non-members. Of course. She referred me to the liquor store at the corner. I checked Google again, and discovered my bank had opened a branch right downtown. Score!

Putting my gloves on was becoming increasingly difficult the sweatier I got: My fingers fought every millimeter of leather as I wrestled them into my gloves. My face was no longer “shiny;” it was dripping. 

Rode five blocks to the bank, found a parking meter right out front with 16 minutes left – which was a good thing, because I had zero change on my person. The bank got me all squared away, and I had a decision to make: Walk the two blocks back to the City Clerk’s office and hope that the remaining 10 minutes would cover me (ha, not bloody likely,) or try to find a better, paid-for spot.

I opted for the latter, but found none. There was, thankfully, an open space right in front of the building, but it had no time on it. I scrounged through my tankbag for change – nope! As I was disembarking, the parking dude slowly cruised by me, eyes alert, dorsal fin upright.

If I hurried, maybe, juuuuust maybe, I’d be able to get back before he could complete his circuit!

Dashing (imagine how much louder these boots are whilst “dashing”) back into the lobby, much better prepared for the metal detector and wanding this time, I walked into the City Clerk’s office for the second time.

The City Clerk was there this time, and we chit-chatted about motorcycles, heat, and passports. One of his staff finally meandered back to her desk, and we began the incredibly slow process. There were more hitches: I only had one cashier’s check for the full amount, when I should have had two. This resulted in overpaying the US Government by $25. I gave zero fucks – they can have it. “Oh no, they’ll send it back to you – they just get a little cranky about it.”

Great – that shouldn’t delay things at all, right? Sure.

When all was said and done, I successfully applied for the damn thing. I hastily went back outside to see what parking fine awaited me, and not three steps out the door… it began to rain. WHAT?! Sure. Fine. Great! Maybe it’ll break the humidity, and maybe I’ll get home before the skies open.

[NOTE: I ran out of gumption to write at that point, and let this sit for over a month.]

I was only slightly damp by the time I reached home, and, happily, my passport arrived last week. It was followed the very next day by a $25.00 check from the US Treasury (no hostile note included,) and the day after that with the returned copy of my official birth certificate. Amazing!

Amusingly, I just checked the mail before I hit “Publish” on this post, and received the following. Today.

I’m “That Person” Now

When I was ages 18 through 21, my second home was The Nectarine Ballroom in Ann Arbor. I worked there for about a year, but mostly, I was wildly devoted to Industrial Nights on Monday.

Those people, that place… it was my life, and in some ways, I let it absolutely ruin my life and what it could have been. It was the Nec that moved me to decide to break up with Jon, the love of my life, a decision I would soon and eternally regret after that fateful, stupid night. I often uselessly wonder how my life would be different had I just … not done that one stupid, impulsive thing. Such ponderings are pointless, of course, and only lead to frustrations and sadness. The Nec was wonderful, and horrible, and all-consuming, and I was its minion.

REGARDLESS!

The Nec exerted a powerful pull, and the focal point for Mondays was John, the DJ. That guy spun the best tunes, and exposed me to bands that still rank as all-time favorites to this day. I spent many, many hours flailing around on that dance floor, looking up at the DJ booth, wondering what was coming next. My crush on John knew no bounds, man – all the lust and admiration an angsty younster could muster was laser-focused on him as he picked our musical fare for the night. I was just another random girl in the crowd, of course.

It was the Nec which destroyed a significant portion of my hearing, and which is responsible for the constant tinnitus I’ve had since age 19. The main factor was an astonishingly loud concert by Ministry – it was so loud, I couldn’t actually discern any music; it was just fucking noise. Al, the lead singer, was super drunk, didn’t give a fuck, and it was horrible. Did I leave? NOPE. Of course not. This was Ministry, a legend, one of my favorites, and they were right there in touching distance. I saw Patty Smith and other notables while there, as well. Ah, Nectarine – you were my jam.

It’s been more than 20 years since I was last at the Nec, which is now significantly smaller and has been renamed “Necto.” This past Monday night, John (aka DJ Cyberpunk, no less) made a return to Factory Monday (what Industrial Night is now called,) and played two sets: I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.

A chance to relive some of my long-lost youth? Hells yes, of course.

As I walked in the door and up the stairs, I was assaulted with both the familiar feel of the place as well as the new aspects. It was cleaner, better-maintained, and actually decorated. The kids working there looked much like the kids of my time. John’s first set had already begun, and we said our hellos after an eternity since we last saw each other. It wasn’t long before he played a tune from those old days, and I headed down to the dance floor, the only person out there.

In those earlier years, I would have rather died than be the only person dancing in a public place. My friends and I would either wait for other people to start, or we’d wait for “the right song.” Silliness. Life is short, dance like crazy whenever you want.

As I started dancing (badly, as I always do,) my brain took me vividly back in time. I remembered how, whenever unknown people came into “our” bar, we scrutinized them closely. I remembered specifically one older couple, probably in their 40’s, who came one night and danced to absolutely everything, no matter who was on the floor or what the tune was. They just had a great time, and gave no fucks about what anyone else thought of them. They were wearing normal adult-type clothing, whilst the rest of us were skulking around in our goth/industrial garb. I admired them a bit then, and I understand them much better now.

As the crowd started trickling in last week, it was so much fun seeing what the costumes of the current day were. I was surprised to see a lot of furries there, and there were also fire spinners with their glowing batons, people in masks, people dressed up as rogues, people wearing classic/vintage stuff from our day. We geezers reminisced, drank to absent friends, and danced. I danced far, far too much – It’s now 5 days later, and my blisters still haven’t fully healed, though my sore, aching muscles have mostly recovered. I discovered I still sweat a lot when I dance.

But holy shit, it was so much fun, you guys.

There were only a very few familiar faces: John, Steve, and Chris. I don’t know Chris, didn’t even actually know his name until Steve told me, but I surely recognized the way he danced from Back Then. Some things in this universe are constants.

The trio below were probably superhigh on something, but they were having a great time. The small girl called the moves, which alternated between Tai Chi and Randomness. I wish I could have gotten more footage of them, but my phone’s battery died mid-video here:

 

I hope there’s a dance club in San Diego I’ll like – life is too short not to dance, and I’d forgotten that. John lives in LA, just a train ride North from San Diego. I would absolutely make that trek to get in on this regularly.

This past year has been absolutely amazing in terms of waking up as a human, coming out of a decades-long depression, and other good things. The people around me are largely responsible for this shift, for which I am eternally grateful. How am I repaying them? By moving just about as far away from them as I can, while still staying in the U.S.

Sigh.

But an eDar’s gotta do what an eDar’s gotta do, and to preserve my sanity and joie de vivre, this must happen. Last Monday was a wonderfully good time, as well as a reminder of things that could have been. I never could have predicted where I’d end up more than 20 years hence – I would have hoped for better, but decisions have consequences. Regrouping at this late date is better than never regrouping at all.

A Sad Realization

I am very sad to discover I have a new automatic thought process.

Until fairly recently, reports that a Black person had been shot were often related to gang or domestic violence. Of course not always, but often – That’s what made the white-dominated news the most, which is a huge, obvious problem unto itself.

I realized yesterday that my first, instant thought now when I hear about a Black person being shot is, “what did a cop do now?”

Non-police shooters do not even enter my mind as a first likely cause anymore. It is an actual surprise if a cop is not involved. When I read a report yesterday, I literally said a surprised, “Huh!” out loud when I saw the shooting was related to a non-police shooter.

That. Is. Terrifying. And sad. And awful on so very many levels.

My naive, “why isn’t life more fair” self wonders how we are even in this place as a civilization. My pragmatic self knows the sad, tragic answer.

I am not someone who has a generalized hatred or wariness of the police (I am afforded some of that by being white and female, I realize,) and I fully recognize there are wonderful cops out there – I know a good number of them personally.

Wanting to stand up for the good cops who get lumped into the shitty stereotype too long overshadowed my willingness to call out “the police in general” on their behavior. I still understand they have a rough, dangerous job in many areas. I still understand many do want to protect and serve.

However. Those good cops have to get more active, more vocal, and demand accountability from their peers and from their departments. That is seldom a safe thing to do in terms of one’s career, but doing otherwise is no longer conscionable for any officer whose heart and ethics are in the right place.

Joan Allen had one of the most memorable quotes around the year 2000 in the movie, The Contender: “Principles only mean something when you stick to them when it’s inconvenient.”

That is difficult for some people to hear, and even more difficult to live. “But I have these wonderful beliefs! I’m a good person!” Do you stick to those beliefs when it’s inconvenient? For example: Queer allies – do you eat at Chik-Fil-A because that food tastes so delicious it’s worth supporting abject hate, even though you would never personally oppress anyone? Is that chicken tasty enough to deny me and every other queer-identifying person our civil and legal rights?

You good cops out there – stand the frick UP and stop tolerating the insane violence your colleagues mete out.

Every. Day.
Every. Day.
Every. Day.

Every DAY, our Black friends, family, and neighbors are being gunned down, and our judicial system doesn’t give a shit. Because the American public is part of that system via juries and elections, our entire COUNTRY doesn’t seem to give a shit. Most have been fed lies or misleading “facts” about the Black community and have swallowed them whole, never questioning why only certain stories make the news, why the Black population in our prisons is disproportionately high. I am so ashamed of the things I hear white people say, even today, but that’s not important when acting for change. My hurt feelings as a white person don’t come into play. White people – despite millennia of people in charge saying so, we’re not the center of the universe.

We as individuals have to be the ones to make change happen and to hold our entire justice system accountable. We individuals have to find each other and band together to enact even greater change.

You know those local elections? Sometimes, those elections have judges on the ballot. Those are important votes – PAY ATTENTION. Engage. Research. Then VOTE for someone whose values are closest to yours.

Local elections matter – they impact our daily lives immensely.

To my fellow white people: Stand up, speak out, VOTE, be the safety pin. SPEAK to other white people and to our officials. LISTEN when Black people are speaking about these issues. Be selfless, be strong, be courageous. Most of us white people, especially those who are straight and/or cis, have very little idea what it’s actually like to live in fear for our lives in America, which can make it harder to get motivated. Read the reports, pay attention – standing idling by at this point is tacitly endorsing the violence in our society.

Every day, we’re losing Black (and trans, queer, and other non-white/straight/cis) friends under circumstances that are jaw-droppingly horrifying: HELP THEM. Put yourself in their shoes, and imagine what it’s like to be hated simply because of how you look, who you love.

This man below shot a young, unarmed, Black man because he was dating his daughter. Now you fathers of daughters out there might have had similar thoughts about any young man who dates your little girls, but would this asshole have shot a white boy? Probably not, because there would be Consequences for shooting a white person. We cannot say the same for shooting a Black person.

We have to find ways to help.

White Cop Shoots and Kills Daughter’s Unarmed Black Boyfriend

The snowflake status I posted on Facebook yesterday rings louder and louder in my mind as the hours pass:

So this gets picked up by the Googles, I’ll also type it out:

“A sweet friend of mine just posted this, and I love it desperately. #TeamSnowflake

snowflakes?
why yes, dainty, and unique alone……
but together……
you bitches ready to be shut down by a blizzard????”

He went on, after reading a draft of this article, to say:

we will have that blizzard I spoke of, you start very nice…..

drifting in……

asking, for accountability…….

they brush you off, no concern, you have already melted……..

two snowflakes come drifting in, also easy to brush off……they melt (after the purpose is done)……..

they ignore…….

we drift in……..

now they need a shovel……..

now they need to call an emergency, they are shut down, they can not move……frozen in place dare I say…….

frozen……

immobilized……

forced to deal with the snow on its own terms now…….

they no longer melt, they find strength by staying together……..

“Winter is coming” is a well-known phrase these days, and carries with it a stern warning. It is a phrase of which the wise take heed in the stories.

We special, precious, soft little snowflakes who want everyone to be treated with equality and respect are often mild-mannered, some of us even meek, and we are ready to understand both sides of an argument, and to see each point of view as inherently valid – even if we disagree.

More and more, our sensibilities are so fucking offended that we are beyond angry. We are beyond approaching some of these situations with “mutual respect” and diplomacy.

We are verging into rage as we see our brothers and sisters of color, of non-binary gender, of other minority status, shot, beaten, shunned, objectified, murdered, tortured, shamed, neglected, legislated against.

More and more of us are no longer sitting politely by, trying to rationally engage with our counterparts. I still feel that is important, but it’s not getting the fucking job done.

What happens when you piss off #TeamSnowflake? I’ll tell you, focusing on American history:

  • The American Revolutionary War
  • Women’s right to vote
  • The New Deal
  • The Civil Rights Movement
  • Labor Rights – Weekends, overtime, unions
  • The ACLU and the NAACP
  • The FDA and safe food
  • Planned Parenthood
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights for the United Nations

There is no need to agree with these outcomes to recognize the relentless perseverance behind them. If we are pushed enough, we will turn. We will somehow get our chaotic thoughts and lives together, and we will Get Shit Done.

Winter is fucking coming.

 

Anxiety Attacks

Pretty sure today has been one big, long anxiety attack – something I’ve never experienced before. Tachycardia, shortness of breath, inability to control thoughts – the symptoms are all there. Fun!

This song brought me back to earth, however:

Bassnectar remixes the Pixies “Where is My Mind?” About a minute in, it really starts showing off Bassnectar’s unique spin on the song:

What’s causing all the panic? SO MUCH STUFF, you guys.

Mostly, it’s uncertainty – I don’t have a solid date I’m leaving, let alone a solid date for the movers to come pick up stuff, let alone PICKING A MOVING COMPANY… there’s just so much. My house… my  house has been goddamn chaos for over a month now. This is the current state of affairs:

People have been seeing my house like this. People I don’t even know, because I’ve been giving away a fuckton of stuff for free lately. Now, housekeeping has never been my forte. At all. However, I DO NOT LIVE LIKE THIS. I am going insane.

The more people come and get, the better it becomes. Later tonight, the couch above will be gone, as well as a few other odds and ends. Tomorrow, the desk and the wooden cabinet in what is passing for my office goes, as well as the vintage dresser that’s served me for most of my life – and served my dad before that.

I bought four industrial-strength ratcheting tie-downs to see if I can compress my Luxi mattress into something that will fit into my car. This is unlikely, but it would be nice to have a bed when I get out there.

I did find a transporter to haul my motorcycle out there for $600.

No inquiries on the Harley yet, despite dropped the price by two grand. I’ll be dropping it again shortly.

Finances have me freaking out, as well. I got my credit card debt nicely under control as of last month, but this move is going to piss that all away again, since it’ll cost on the order of $5,000 probably. Trying to decide whether I should use my savings (all $4,000 of it, woo) or just put it all on the cards. If the damn Harley would sell, that would resolve the issue quite handily.

Most (at least I hope “most”) of what I’ll be taking is here:

Not pictured:

  • Large glass-top table
  • Bicycle
  • Bed
  • Sofa table
  • End table
  • A few boxes of kitchen stuff
  • Some clothes

More AudioShield Fun

It’s so much fun introducing people to this game. 🙂 We had a bunch of lock-ups for some reason last night, so this isn’t a full “Centipede,” but he was doing a good job.

Nicole rocked a bunch of Audioshield, too, and has a very nice artistic flair:

Luke was pretty  much born to play this game – I soooo sincerely wish I’d had recording set up properly for this. Instead, I just got a few minutes of off-center GoPro footage:

Audioshield works with pretty  much any music at all. Today, I tried some swing:

 

Audioshield Playthrough

This is an Audioshield VR playthrough of a few songs and styles of music.

The first video is of two of my favorite EDM-type songs, “Crackin” by Martin Garrix/Bassjackers, and “Centipede” by Knife Party. “Crackin” might just be the very best Audioshield song I’ve played yet – it was so much fun. Even with the fun, the first half is a little boring, but the second half gets more ridiculous with “Centipede,” starting around 5:30m.

What is Audioshield? I’m glad you asked! Audioshield is a VR game about getting sodomized by your favorite songs.

I may have taken a moderate amount of edibles before playing, but even without any substances, this game is SO MUCH FUN, you guys. I don’t even care how silly I look when I’m playing – I wanted to give you a sense of what it looks like inside the game and out.

These were on the second-hardest level, I think, and I’m older, so my reflexes just aren’t what they should be. Still… not entirely terrible on the whole, though “Centipede” kicked my ass in a few hot places. There were times when I just wanted to cower behind my shields.

I recorded myself via the GoPro Hero4, and recorded the game directly through the computer, then removed the audio track from the game footage due to a few hundredths of a second’s difference – Couldn’t get the sync between the two sources perfect, sadly, but it’s within tolerable specs.

YouTube ate the quality, but you’ll get the general idea.

Here’s one of “The Bog,” by Bigod 20. On the easy setting, it kicked my ass in several places. Embarrassing, because I know this song so well.

Next, “Only Happy When It Rains,” by Garbage. This was the first time I’d played this one, and am actually pretty happy with it. When I get into a good zone, I feel like a damn superhero in this game. 😀

 

Wanderlust Sated

…and various other ramblings

If you follow me on Facebook, you know things are happening very quickly for me right now, and man – I need to write this stuff out to get it all clear in my head. We’re going to cover a lot of material here, and I’m going to digress many times, so I won’t blame a soul if you get three paragraphs in and say “FUKKIT, TLDR.”

One of the roadways in the complex. This, to me, screams CALIFORNIA!

I have somehow managed to stumble through life riding this immense wave of luck on so many levels. When I step back and really look at where I have been, and what I have done… holy shit I have been incredibly fortunate. I am not saying this to brag in any way – I am saying it because I recognize I have not done anything to deserve it; it is LUCK. None of this happened because I earned anything. I have careened, headlong, into the most amazing people, places, and experiences. I am awed to my bones. I am grateful. I feel unworthy.

My day-to-day luck on the little things is often terrible – from the airline lying to me about carry-on sizes to almost losing my luggage to my Lyft driver getting lost several times an nearly getting me a parking ticket to computers loathing and despising me to a laughable first class “upgrade” to catching every red light… these are little things. These, I can handle.

The big stuff, though, and I realize I am tempting fate by saying this aloud, tends work out well. For this, I am thankful and humbled.

This is not a “humble brag,” nor is it fishing for reassurances or compliments –  you guys already take care of me on that front very well. This is honesty – I don’t feel like I deserve you, or some of the good things in my life, but holy wow am I ever glad you have, for reasons I may never comprehend, taken a liking to me. I hope I am able to give some of that back to you – I pour my love into you, I carry you with me in my heart every moment of every day, but I don’t know if that shines through. I surely don’t tell you enough. I let my hermity ways interfere with socializing too often.

The Next Adventure

Because I work from home now, I can live pretty much anywhere on the planet I want (well, anywhere I can afford, anyhow.) While I love the idea of going ex-pat eventually, for now, I’ll stay state-side.

Right now, I’m in San Diego, in this lovely AirBnB house, hosted by a wonderful woman named Jessica. That I got this house at all was pretty much a small miracle unto itself – she is constantly booked, but just happened to be available for the duration of my time here. She is friendly and chatty. Originally from Jalisco, she’s now an American citizen, though that journey unto itself is quite a tale. We bonded quickly, and yesterday, we spent three hours talking while she colored my hair (she runs a hair studio next door.)

I’m here in San Diego (henceforth SDO because Lazy) because I wanted to scout it out as a potential place to move when my current lease is up. I must get out of Michigan. There is no other option. I am so miserable there in that environment – my people have made it fun and wonderful when I’m with them, but the every day of living there is just an ordeal, even with my beautiful friends backing me up. I resent it, because I know there are far better places out there. I have seen them. I’ve lived in some of them.

Riding around with my friend George today, I mentioned I’ve been on anti-depressants for years, but how only recently have I begun to feel Not Depressed.  “Oh, they took years to start working?” he asked. I talked about how the drugs were doing their job just fine, but I wasn’t doing mine – I was just… coasting. I wasn’t doing the things that would make me happy. Increasing my serotonin uptake can’t make me happy in a city where I am miserable, or erase decades of self-doubt and self-loathing: That took a team effort.

This Job, Though

I am so fortunate Justin found me on LinkedIn. I almost didn’t answer him, because who ever gets legit, interesting offers there? I bumbled my way through the technical evaluation and my first few months. I am still not great, but he’s happy with me, and that’s what matters.

This man has my undying loyalty. He is a wonderful person, a generous and kind person, a laid-back and flexible person. He is not perfect, but he is in the top three people for whom I have ever worked.  I will do whatever it takes to keep him happy with me…even if it means… learning Python. <shudder>

This job has, literally, changed my whole life.

Breathing

I’ve noticed over the last few months it’s not just that I don’t feel depressed anymore – I think I’m happy. The weight of financial stresses, the enormous pressure from my last job, the fears of not succeeding at the new job… all of these things have sort of melted away, leaving me able to breathe for the first time in a long time.

George and I have wrestled with many similar issues, but have taken very different paths as a result. I still feel a deep kinship with him, though, as our mental states have a great deal in common. It was really nice talking with someone who understands what it’s like to be chronically troubled in some of the same ways I am.

Over the course of my life, I have met the most amazing people through completely random happenstance.

Motorcycles

I met my Iron Butt friends on a total fluke – I was on a Honda 4-cylinder, single overhead cam motorcycle list, and heard of this “crazy guy” doing a record-breaking long-distance ride visiting all 48 contiguous states on his motorcycle in a ridiculously short period of time. He had a huge network of friends helping him with parts and logistics, but the ride itself was incredible.

My first reaction was, “wow, what a colossally stupid, dangerous thing to do!!” Then I read more. And more. And I joined an email list.

Less than two months later, I rode my first 1000 miles in 24 hours with my friend Troy, going from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Plano, Texas. There, I met icons of the motorcycling world – too many to name. They were warm, welcoming, and immediately adopted me as one of their own. I’ve known these folks for almost 20 years now, and they’re no less wonderful, though living in Michigan has kept me apart from them for a decade.

Two icons of the endurance riding world raising hell in Gerlach.

Thanks to them, the country opened up to me – I never would have considered pushing myself that hard, but once it’s possible to ride 1623 miles in 24 hours (my personal best,) travel becomes Different. I rode to some of the coolest places in the nation, and saw amazing things, thanks to extremely clever (and devious) rallymasters.

Planes

Similarly, in 2004, I walked into the Olympic Air Museum on a whim for a tour, and, on another whim, asked if they needed volunteers. They eagerly said yes, and I was accepted. I gave tours, washed the planes, marshaled air shows, and just generally helped out. Once again, the group took me under their literal and figurative wings, and I ended up not only spending time with, but being tossed around the sky by some of my childhood heroes in the most amazing planes. It boggles me to this day how incredible that summer was.

I was able to arrange a flight in a WWII plane for my dad, an even bigger plane nut than I am, and I will never forget the look on his face when he landed:

Dad Post-Yak Flight

Catalyst

I got to do that for him! One of the things that makes me happiest is being the catalyst for someone else to experience an amazing thing. Whether it’s my dad in a Yak-11, or George piloting a sailboat, or getting Jim a tour of Fifi, or taking Heather on an unscheduled boat ride in the Gulf of Mexico, or getting Wes to finally tear down his garage or giving Adam the bike that Wes gave me… I love making things happen for people. I think I may enjoy that even more than experiencing these things myself.

Historically, when I am not out there being the enzyme, being the catalyst, and I am alone – I shut down. My attention turns inward, and the brain weasels come out to play. Like many people, my childhood scarred me, and left me with baggage I carry to this day, though I am slowly shedding much of it.

Therapy Failures

Some of you have heard the story of my last encounter with therapy. My counselor was a very nice woman, who was very good at what she did. However, I wasn’t ready for our fifth or so session, when she made me look into a mirror while she said nice things about me.

I never went back. I made excuses and cowardly exited the whole process. Like many people, I crave compliments and positive feedback, but when I receive them, I become deeply uncomfortable – self-esteem issues, of course. I have so many narcissistic traits, yet I am completely at war with myself. Thanks, Mom! Thanks, Society! Thanks, people who dragged me down a a young person!

Lately, though? I don’t eat myself alive and tear myself to shreds.

My Saviors

“eDar, you are my favorite planet.”

My amazing group of friends gently, but persistently, pulled me out of that dark place over the course of two years. My friends at Liquid Web and elsewhere really did save me from myself. They filled me so full of love and faith that I had no choice but to accept that maybe… just maybe… I am a person worthy of those sentiments. This has made a huge difference in not only my mindset, but also in how I comport myself. I owe all of you an enormous debt of gratitude.

Unexpected Opportunities

I am a sucker for Stories. I so truly love hearing about peoples’ lives and experiences, things I’ll never see or hear or experience myself. I’ve gotten slightly better at telling stories myself, but I really lack the knack. Toward the end of Jessica doing my hair, she mentioned she belongs to an anti-human-trafficking organization, and asked if I wanted to come with her to a meeting Right Then. Surely!

She told me most of the ladies were older, and so I took about 45 seconds to cast off my Dr. Whisky t-shirt and ratty jeans in favor of a vintage pin-up dress, stockings with ribbons at the heels, and incredibly awesome vintage dancing shoes, hoping to offset the crazy teal-colored hair and tattoos with nice clothes and a kind smile. Jessica has taken some kind of crazy shine to me, calling me “so cute!” and giggling when she introduces me to her friends as her sweet friend “Erin, who wears these clothes and I did her hair and she rides motorcycles!”

When she spoke of this organization, she was surprised I wanted to come to the meeting, because it was “kind of dangerous to be involved.” Her brother-in-law was killed, apparently, for helping some of these women. That just made it all the more appealing to me, in truth – you know me, eDar the Adventurous.

As I drove us to the meeting down the street, I envisioned this kind of cloak-and-dagger scenario, meeting in a dim room off a dark alley, speaking in hushed voices, pulling up case files of the woman who had most recently called the rescue hotline, organizing plans for extracting them from their entrapment… you know, that kind of thing.

Expectations Dashed

I pulled up to the Lemon Grove library, which they had publicly reserved.

We walked in the door, and there were about 20 women present, as well as a snack table in the brightly-lit community room. The average age, myself included, was about 60. I was initially regarded with some strange looks, and some people looked outright hostile about my presence.

Rather than planning emergency escapes, they were planning… a chili cook-off. To raise funds.

They held a drama-fraught election for their Treasurer – “fraught” because there were tense words between the two candidates. The responsibility of their tiny budget was too much to treat any less seriously. I wasn’t supposed to be there for that, which was quite embarrassing for both Jessica and me, but everyone eventually decided this top-secret process was ok for a guest to witness.

They organized organizing their storage unit.

They wrote things down by hand. On paper.

Well, this was certainly not what I expected. This was most definitely not The Front Lines of the Fight in any way, shape, or form. This was a tiny, local, volunteer fund-raising thing. Le sigh. But ok, I’ll roll with it.

One of the things I strive for in life is to be a good ambassador of the things I “represent:” Motorcyclists, tattoo-bearing people, people with crazy hair colors, white people, you name it, I’m going to try to make a good impression and let people know I’m nice to shatter some of the stereotypes. It gives me such pleasure to win someone over who previously regarded me with judgment, and to perhaps help open someone’s eyes that even the “odd” people like me are just folks. This has long been a life mission.

One woman solicited toiletry donations, and I told her I would send her some homemade soaps if she could use them. A few eyebrows raised at my offer – maybe I wasn’t some random punk-rock interloper. Incidentally, I never thought of myself as “punk” at all – but that’s how Jessica has labeled me because of my hair color. She’s so tickled at the color she gave me – “it’s my first punk hair!!”

A short time later, they began discussing their online presence – or rather, their lack thereof – and I offered to host their website for free, to help with tech things, and so forth. People started actually meeting my eyes and smiling.

After the meeting was adjourned, most came up to me to compliment me – not on my offers to help, but rather on my dress, stockings, and hair. They were quite friendly after the meeting was over. The sternest women kept their distance, but by everything holy, I will win them over.

At any rate, this is one example of how things are coming together nicely for this big shift in my life. I want to give back, and an opportunity came at me when I least expected it. Whether it’s the right fit remains to be seen, but it’s a beginning. One of many.

“I will fight and I will love and I will give”

I wrote all of the above last night, and tonight, I saw the film Wonder Woman. I had tears streaming down my face for most of it – it was powerful on so many levels. I have’t stopped being weepy since I left the theater, as I replayed scenes in my head. The line that keeps resonating in my head is the one above: I WILL FIGHT AND I WILL LOVE AND I WILL GIVE.

That is what I try to do, what I want to do: Fight for justice and equality, love unconditionally, give unceasingly, pour myself out into the world. I will keep trying.

Surrendering

For the last six or so months, I have been riding a surging tide of strong emotions. I cry when I least expect it, I love more deeply than I ever have, I am humbled almost to the point of collapsing to my knees at times. Music moves me more than it ever has in every way. I sing.

As I sat in the darkened, comfortable theater tonight, surrounded by three friends and several dozen strangers, I was in tears within the first few moments. In the past, I would have fought them – bitten my cheek, looked away from the screen, thought about hockey, whatever it took to keep my lip from trembling and the tears from spilling over. I never wanted to cry in front of anyone – it was “weak,” and I am not a “pretty crier,” and it would make me “too vulnerable.

I stuffed and squashed and hid all of that as much as humanly possible – until recently. Tonight, I let the tears flow openly to the point of dampening my sweater. My lower lip did what it does when I am profoundly moved. The film stirred and challenged and validated and gratified and comforted. It was immense.

As I drove home to Lemon Grove, my heart was full of something I cannot describe – it was powerful, an enormity, and I had an epiphany: I cannot fight and love and give if I do not also forgive. And so, I sent three lines to my last boyfriend, with whom things did not end well at all. I have carried around bitterness and hurt and anger and resentment and a bizarre sense of gratitude that we had what we did, however short-lived it was:

i forgive you.
despite the lies you told to me and about me, i forgive you.
i release it all, and wish you peace.

It was this person whom I felt rescued me from my dark, imaginary, soul prison. But it wasn’t – it was me. He was, perhaps, the catalyst, but he didn’t rescue me, and no one else could have, either. I rescued myself. He may have provided what I felt was a safe space into which I could emerge, and for that… I am grateful. I am happy to know I can love that deeply, to trust so completely, to make room in my heart, my home, and my life on that level. It is sad that things did not work out – but they so often do not.

I bought this shirt awhile back, and will treasure it always.

I spent decades in that cage, and can only imagine this is what it feels like to be free, what many people must feel like all the time, and it is wonderful.

Things happening quickly

A series of things happened over the last several days:

  • I mentioned to George I was struggling with the logistics of moving my belongings, a car, and two motorcycles to SDO. He offered to drive my car for me, for the price of an airline ticket. Problem solved: I can tow the motorcycles behind the truck.
  • My current lease expires at the end of September, so I planned to move sometime that month. I found a perfect apartment, available August 7th, which they would either a.) hold for me until September, or b.) use my deposit if another, top-floor unit became available before my move. Perfect.
  • When I put my deposit down, I really didn’t know what part of town I was in, relative to anything else; I thought I was quite far out to the northeast – nope. It’s 10 minutes from everything. Five in light traffic. There is a trolley stop at the complex which runs downtown, if I don’t feel like driving. The location is perfect.
  • My adorable, planet-loving friend Luke asked me if he could maybe take over my lease, as his is up in August. Hm. Interesting.
  • This morning, I got a text from my landlady saying they were thinking of selling the house I’m living in, and did I have any plans for staying or leaving? I told her I would be happy to leave in August if she would let me, and also that I had someone interested in taking over my lease and/or renting it next term. She is considering these things.
  • Barring crazy, unforeseen circumstances, SDO will be my home in either two or three months – tops.

My new home

The apartment I will be renting, to me, borders on the absurd. It is so nice, so beautiful, so big… so expensive. It is at the upper limit of my budget…but within my budget. When I first walked into the leasing office, and was looking at the floor plans, I first looked at the smaller two bedrooms as the likely targets. When I saw this one, I said, “wow, I wonder what it must be like to be able to afford that.

Nancy, the agent, and I bonded instantly – that is her job, of course, but you know when someone is being genuine. I was wearing my dia de los muertos skull sweater, she liked it and commented on it, and she was so warm and friendly, she immediately put me at ease. This is a girl I’d like to get to know.

Nancy’s the kind of girl who can get along with anyone, but I like to think maybe we bonded a bit more than the usual agent/client relationship. When I went back for a second viewing, she gave me a big hug, and we chatted about all kinds of things. I just adore her.

The first time we spoke, I didn’t even mention to her that their largest unit was something I would consider – surely there was no way I could afford it. Then she asked what my budget was, and I told her “less than $2800, hopefully.”

Girl,” she began, “why are you not looking at this one?! It is perfect for you.” And she was right – it is.

It is bigger than my house by at least 50%. It is also almost four times more expensive. But this is where I will live and work. It needs to be someplace I love. And I do. The windows and the community and the perks are just… well, better than I should probably have. Photo album here: No Facebook account required.

The unit I’m holding is a third-floor apartment, which doesn’t have the topmost windows in the master bedroom, as it has a slightly lower ceiling. However, Nancy is on the lookout for me if a fourth-floor unit becomes available. My hold can be applied to anything in the complex, thankfully, even something smaller if need be.

There are three fourth-floor units available right now, but those are likely to move before I do.

I put down a deposit to hold the unit. And then I had a minor freak-out about money.

Finances

I know talking about money can make some people uncomfortable, so skip this next section until the bold if you don’t want to see specifics about my finances – trust me, they are not impressive.

I am bad at money – this is no secret. Just when I got myself into a stable financial state, with a credit score over 700 for the first time in over a decade and money in my savings account for the first time ever, I went batshit crazy, turned into a girl, and came damn close to maxing out my credit cards buying clothes, shoes, jewelry, make-up, and toys. I went from a few hundred bucks on my credit cards to over $11,000 in the course of a year.

Since getting this new job in March, however, I have been aggressively paying that down, knowing I needed to move, and soon. Currently, I have less than $5,000 on my cards. I took out a loan at a lower interest than my high-rate retail cards and paid them all off. My remaining bank cards are at 10%, I have about $1,000 six months interest-free on PayPal credit, and less than a grand on Home Depot interest-free until next April. I owe about $850 on one motorcycle.

I’ll have most of that taken care of by the time I move, whether it’s August or September, so I feel like I’ll be ok on that front, and that my credit score will get back to where it should be over the next year or two (it fell to 680 when I opened several new accounts.)

I’m going to meet with a financial consultant to talk about my state of affairs, including my abysmal retirement outlook – at present there is about $50k in my various funds, and I am 46. Not good.

You might say, as George has about a dozen times, “but edar – get a smaller apartment and save more money! Jesus!” And you’d be right… but life is for the living, and I am all about The Moment. Future edar may well fucking hate me for this, but it will be ok. I’ll work until I die, and that will be fine.

SDO in General

When I first saw Seattle, it reached into my soul, gathered me up into its arms, and welcomed me home before I knew I would move there. It was an immediate, intense, passionate connection, and I was a part of it instantly.

SDO did not do that: I initially found it “nice.” I love lush, green things, and jagged mountains, and flowing waters and lakes. SDO doesn’t really have those things (though they’re not terribly far away north.)

However, it does have its own beauty, especially as one moves out into the desert. The mountains aren’t the young, rough, sharp peaks I’m accustomed to: They are old, worn down, eroded, exposed. They are a visual reminder of the immensity of history. They are living evidence of the passage of time.

More important than the landscape, though, are the other things here. Sam and kphelps are 10 minutes away in Lemon Grove. George is two hours north in LA. Chuck is 30 minutes east in Poway. Various other friends I haven’t seen in a small eternity are near or nearish.

Gerlach, and pretty much everything west of the Rockies is a day’s ride away.

The roads are spectacular and perfect for motorcycles, and I can ride year-round. The weather is paradise. The ocean is less than 10 minutes from my apartment, and Kevin has a sailboat harbored there.

And yet…

Remember how my people saved me? Being in SDO means I am not with them, that I will seldom see them. Sure, sure, there is Facebook and Slack and email and whatnot, but I can’t grab Smuj, Cait, and Lilith and go to Jumbeaux for lunch on a whim. I won’t see Han and Forty whenever we like. They will be physically out of reach most of the time.

I won’t hear Nat’s giggle, or see Kev’s eyes, or listen to Jack rail against the evils of customer support, or hear Gary’s genuinely tickled laugh, or hang out with Sarah, or listen to my little spaceman’s fork-bomb stories, or hear tkillian call me “kiddo,” or have Sewell come to me in person for advice or to fix whatever most recent computer plague ails me.

No after-work drinks with Brueggy, or seeing Nicole’s newly-found confident smiles, or having Byerly regale me with tales of his hilarious love life, or getting hugs and dinner with Lexy, or going drinking with Russ and Jordan, or watching ckelly’s man bun mature as he does, or helping out when Jenn gets her lungs, or seeing Stephanie at Jumbeaux, or hearing mattador’s crazy sneezes, or watching Josh L get stupid drunk and silly, or witnessing the many moods of Siena, or calling Jerry a giant Asian man, or standing by and admiring Ani be the powerful being she intensely is.

No seeing dpock’s dancing eyes, or talking politics with Calvin, or having Wineland fix something in 18 seconds flat, or catching up with gamborg, or getting to know John B better, or going riding with Jim and Mary and Brandon and mtodd and Sam and Steven, or watching McBride shuffle around in his sandals in the middle of winter, or tasting Lucia’s cooking, or hearing Tommie’s soothing amazing voice, or hearing Jaspers laugh, or watching Misty tear out her hair at the latest work shenanigans,

No more getting hugs from Alex K, or going riding with Alex O, or going dancing with Deakin, or seeing Cal’s “dammit, edar” face, or watching in amusement as Luke bounds up to me like a giant puppy with his latest ideas in tow, or seeing Shooltz’s smirk, or hearing Bianca agonize over some thing she rrreeeeallly wants, or watching Zack blossom into an amazing adult, or watching mrjung’s face light up when he talks about his passions, or, or, or.

I am leaving so much. But I am also moving toward many things.

Ok. Enough now.

ALL OF THIS CAN BE SUMMED UP THUSLY: BE BOLD, MY FRIENDS – BE BOLD.

Fight, Love, Give.

Do the things. Live it. I can’t say this strongly and loudly enough – BE WHO YOU WANT TO BE. Fuck everything that stands in your way: Find a way around or through it, find a way to be yourself within it, make peace and move on – just do it.