Month: October 2011

Waterbaby

My son Santino took this picture at a gas station we had stopped at through the trees...Mendocino County, 06/2009

     I was born at the end of February, so I am a Pisces.  A water sign. I think if I had been born a Taurus, I would still love the ocean as I do. I was born in Texas and am told I was introduced to the Gulf coast.  Padre Island.  My dad was in the Navy and stationed in Corpus Christie, but I was too young to remember.  Later when my dad was transferred to Norfolk, Virginia, my family moved to a place across the street from the beach.  It was here I had my first encounter with a jelly fish. I have vague recollections…vinegar and sand.  

     We moved back to Texas before kindergarten, but it was our move to California a year later, that I was introduced to the Pacific Ocean by way of San Diego. My dad was stationed on a carrier and we would take him to Fleet Landing on the harbor.  There he would catch a small boat with other sailors that would take them across the harbor to the ships.   I remember when we would go to North Island to pick him up, after a deployment. Back in those days before the Coronado Bridge was built, there were two ways to get to North Island or Coronado. By ferry from the city,  or by going south to Imperial Beach and taking the strand over to Coronado. Similar to the Outer Banks, but at that time, I had nothing to compare it with. I just remember it took forever and my brother and I would rather ride the ferry.

   When I was growing up, our favorite family beach was Torrey Pines. It was not the tourist attraction that Coronado Beach, Del Mar or even Mission Beach were,  although it was the closest to La Jolla Shores, which was a another draw for tourists. Torrey Pines was rugged looking, beginning with the cliffs that bluffed out over the strips of beach below. My mom did not like to be in the sun a lot, so most outings, we would go Torrey Pines late in the day and my brother and I would swim while our parents watched the sun go down and the surfers ride the last waves of the day.

      I had never seen waters so clear as when snorkeling in the Philippines, where my Dad was stationed in the 1960’s. Base beaches were netted off to keep out sharks, but I seemed destined to attract jelly fish, and this time I remembered being stung. My fondest memories of this Pacific island’s waters, was when we went deep-sea fishing. I was able to sit on the bow with a view of the sea stretching all around us, the sparsely populated shores with grass roofed huts on stilts in the distance, the jungle rising with the hills beyond the shores. Wild and exotic are words that do not seem to contain the appropriate descriptive value of these scenes from my young eyes, so many years ago.  

The Lighthouse at Point Arenas 2009

    Two summers ago my grandchildren and their parents took me to Ft. Bragg, California for a weekend. I had been there years before on a road trip that took me from the upper San Joaquin Valley to the California-Oregon border, west to the coast and back down to the Valley through Ft. Bragg.  The trip two years ago, I named on my picture album, the “Mind, Body and Soul Trip” because of a sign I happened to read on the side of a narrow road we were on to get to Point Arena Lighthouse.  I had not been back to the Pacific for nine years. The last trip I made to Southern California to visit my parents before they moved to Florida was in 2000 and I have this memory of the setting sun at Tamarack Beach in Carlsbad, California, the beach of my children’s’ memories. I, not only had not seen the ocean since 2000, I had not smelled the ocean since then. The smell of the sea is defining to me.  It was a disappointment to me living near the Outer Banks, to be driving for a couple of hours from Evansridge and not be able to smell the sea as we neared it.  My former employer, whose family fished off the coast of the Outer Banks, told me it was the seaweed that made ocean smell. Could be, I don’t know, all I know, is that you should smell the ocean before you see it.

Mendocino County
Ocean Breeze - Point Arena 2009
The view from the trail at Jug Handle Beach, 2009

     On the “Mind, Body and Soul” trip, we were coming down from the ridge of what I can only reminded me of a logging road, when I caught a whiff of the ocean in the air.  I don’t know what it is, memories of growing up, various trips to seaside towns, I can’t articulate it.  All I know, is I could not wait to get out of the truck to take a look and a deeper breath of the ocean air near Point Arena. It was a repeat of similar moments all my life…on the cliff above Black’s Beach,  leaning against the railing at La Jolla Shores, on a bench in Laguna Niguel, on the wet sand of Coronado Beach,  walking the trail under the runway at Cubi Point, on the pier at Oceanside Beach, on the side of the road at Half Moon Bay, looking down the bluff at Coos Bay, leaning against the car at Pacifica, watching my granddaughters play at Casper Beach (again this summer in Ft. Bragg), watching dolphins ride the waves at Carlsbad Beach, a lone otter doing lazy dives in the quiet waters of Moro Bay, six months pregnant on Christmas Day at Torrey Pines…my love affair with the ocean is unending.


 

A Couple of My Favorite Movies…

     The Godfather is my favorite movie of all time. I read the book in high school and could not wait to see it when it came out. I remember my date and I standing in the first line I have ever stood in to see a movie, and how the screenplay, that was so close to the book, set the standard for so many other movies. How true to the author did the director stay? How well did the director interpret what the author had written? To this day, I remember when the nurse came up on Michael at the hospital where his father was being treated, everyone in the theatre jumped out of their seats, including me. Then there was Santino. James Caan character’s name was so unlike any I had ever heard, I made a commitment to name my son, if I ever had a son, I would name him Santino, and I did.

     To Kill a Mockingbird was a movie we saw as a family when I was in grade school. I did not understand prejudice at the time, but the right from wrong message was so strong, you could not mistake it. I remember being scared of the house where Bo lived, and thought Scout was so brave in her convictions. I think I fell in love with courtroom drama because of that movie.

     Apocalypse Now. This movie impacted me like no other. I lived in the Philippines during the Viet Nam war when I was in 6th grade, into 7th grade. I have vivid memories of the people, the landscape, the traditions. My dad was a manager of a softball team of active duty personnel that played against teams off and on base and I remember seeing guys that were in transit from Viet Nam to home that hung out at the ball field. I remember talking briefly with one guy who was with a buddy watching the game. He spoke about the opposition team being better than my Dad’s team and I knew he was joking. It was the look in his eyes, like he was in another place, or seeing something other than the game, other than my mom and I, that I have never forgotten. It was the same look I saw in Martin Sheen’s eyes. This movie made me want to understand our country’s involvement in the Viet Nam War more and started a personal research project that extends to this day.

     Out of Africa. Stunning cinematography. Breathtaking. I know it’s wrong to think that if I were to visit Africa, the Africa of this movie is what I would see, but it’s what is in my head. The story is compelling on its face, but the movie burned forever in my memory because of the voice of Karen Blixen brought to life by Meryl Streep. When she defied convention and begged for help in a public gathering of her peers, it did not reduce her status, it magnified it.

     These are just a few of my all time favorites. I could go on and on about Fried Green Tomatoes, A Field of Dreams, Boys of the Hood, The Color Purple, Gotti, American President, The Big Chill, Tombstone and so many more.

The DC4 – Part I

     It was the end of 2009, almost the end of President Obama’s first year when I suggested to three of my co-workers that we should do a weekend in Washington, D.C. after our firm’s Christmas Party in Chesapeake.  I looked into a hotel near the Capital and the price of a trolley tour and gave my co-workers the bottom line for each of them.  Everyone was in.  None of us had been to Washington, D.C.  I,  for one, had lived in North Carolina for ten years and had been as far as the Trader Joes in Arlington, but never went the five minutes up the road to put eyes on the Capital.  

November 2007 - North Carolina Central University

     It was significant for all of us, each in our own way.  We had all been supporters of Obama.  Shelia and I started in 2007 by joining a MeetUp group, Triangle for Obama, and saw him during the campaign season at North Carolina Central University.   Halima, who worked with us, was a registered Republican, at the time of the campaign.  I don’t remember when she changed parties, but we take credit for her becoming a Democrat, although, I think it was her crush on Joe Biden that did it.  She and Alex, her son, actually went and saw the Vice President during the campaign at Meredith College.   Dana worked in our corporate office.  She and I had struck up a conversation one day and began sharing news reports, articles and opinions on a regular basis.  When Obama won the election, I invited her to stay at Evansridge for the Inaugural.  It was during this time that we found we had not only politics in common, but a love of book and sports.  

     We left our Christmas Party to drop off Dana’s car back at the firm’s parking lot before heading to D.C.  We got turned around  once, but once we got on the right freeway, I will never forget entering the Capitol at night.  At night and before Christmas.  The whole town was lit up for the holidays, but it seemed to be lit up just for us.

The Capital at Christmas

     I had booked rooms at the Holiday Inn Express in downtown, D.C.  It was perfectly placed, near the museums and the Capital.  For me, the best part was that the hotel was connected to a Starbucks.  We paid for a parking pass and that turned about to be good move, so we could secure Halima’s vehicle and walk if we wanted.  

The First Night at the Hotel Lobby

Our Trolley Guide

      I had recommended we take the Trolley Tour only because my parents had taken me on one in St. Augustine and I enjoyed it tremendously.  Since we had only one full day to tour the city, I thought it better to take the trolley, find out which monuments or museums we wanted to see.  What we didn’t plan for, was how cold it was going to be. It was after all, the second weekend in December.  First order of business was breakfast, and I wanted to go to this historic restaurant, but once we found it, it didn’t open until almost noon, so we went back to the hotel and found that the hotel restaurant had a great breakfast.  Even I, who is fine with Starbucks coffee and a croissant was pleasantly surprised at the savory breakfast we had.

Waiting for our Trolley (in the wrong location)

     We headed out to the American Indian Museum to wait for the Trolley, only to find we had positioned ourselves in the wrong location.  Luckily, the driver  picked us up and advised that we wait in front of the Science and Space Museum in the future.  We did not care, we were on the Trolley and off on the grand tour of one of most historic and exciting cities in this Nation.

To be continued…

No Migrant Workers, No Tomatoes Harvested, You Pay More This Winter

 

Rice field off Interstate 5 in Williams, CA

I saw a headline with tomatoes on the vine.  No workers to pick crops, so crops are dying on vines.  This will translate to higher prices in our supermarkets, because there will be no product for the demand.   I don’t know all the politics of immigration.  I lived in California most of my life and every election year, immigration was an issue.  Now, because of the economy, the unchecked drug wars in Mexico and our border states, the backlash of a President of color, for whatever reason, the illegal migrant worker is targeted.

A cropduster dusting a rice field, no flaggers in sight!

 

I was a young woman when I married and moved to Northern California.  I was clueless about farming and how crops made it from the fields to our stores shelves.   One of my firsts jobs in agriculture was one in which I flagged in watermelon fields.  Flagging is when two people station themselves at opposite ends of the field with poles with flags on them and wave them when the corp duster buzzes the fields and drops fertilizer on the field.  Not the smartest thing I ever did to earn a buck, but thankfully it was short lived.  I eventually came to my senses and I worked in the offices of a rice, wheat and bean warehouses, working the scales when truckloads of crops came to the warehouses to be processed and stored.  

Wheat field across from the sunflower field, Colusa, CA

  A lot of agriculture work is seasonal.  Not just for the workers in the field, but the warehouse workers, the truck drivers, and processors in canning facilities.    Six to nine months out of the year, life in agriculture towns is pretty quiet.  But, the three or more months of harvest and processing, it is a twenty-four hour machine.  It was during one harvest season, after the birth of my son, that I found myself between seasonal jobs: weighing trucks for stored rice during the late spring and early summer, and waiting for my job weighing trucks during rice harvest in September, when I took a night job working in the tomato harvest.  

  I had always supported Caesar Chavez and the farm worker’s movement.  I boycotted lettuce sold at Safeway and to this day have never drank Gallo wine.  But, I had never worked in the fields.  Before harvesters, it was all done by hand, the hoeing of the weeds and the picking of tomatoes, but automation brought harvesters, with people riding them in the fields, while the tomatoes,vines, dirt, bugs, and the occasional snake came up on the conveyor belt while men and women on both sides of the belt, pulled out the tomatoes that were rotten were tossed back in the rows to be scavenged by birds and animals that night and into the next day.  I never worked a more dirty job.  I have done janitor work, waitress work and construction site cleanup in my lifetime, but working on a tomato harvester left me so filthy with dirt from the field and tomato juice and grime, that I had to undress in the confines of my screened in porch where I could readily put my cruddy clothes into the washer.

Sunflower field near my daughter's house.

  Most of my readers know my position on immigration because of my heritage and my paternal grandmother who was illegal until she was awarded citizenship by default.  All I know is we ship our best work overseas and no one wants to work like migrant workers do, or I even did, back then.  There has to be a better way to do this.  There has to be a more efficient way to have workers pick the crops so the farmers don’t lose money, so the average citizen that is counting every penny doesn’t lose more money.  We are better than this.

Mom in the Mirror

“Mom in the Mirror”

My mom is from Pleasanton, Texas, a small town south of San Antonio, Texas.  She is one of five sisters and four brothers.  I remember as a child, when we would visit my grandparents, I would go out to the chicken coop with my grandma and get eggs.  The roads leading from the main drag in Pleasanton to their house were dirt for the longest time and my grandparents did not have indoor plumbing until I was a teenager.   My brother and I still talk about that outhouse and how we didn’t want to go out there in the evening, but didn’t want our cousins teasing us that we were afraid to go out there. Another vivid memory, was in the late sixties when we returned from the Philippines, where my Dad was stationed, my mom’s family butchered a pig in the backyard of my grandparents house.  I don’t know why this didn’t seem out of the ordinary…it just wasn’t, it was the way of our family.  

My mom had been a Navy wife during the 50’s when women’s lib had not even hit the news.  But, even as she was a traditional wife, at home mom and homemaker, she took on the responsibility of paying all the bills and handling the household, the car and my brother and I, while my dad was at sea for 10 months at a time.  She drove us from San Diego to my aunt’s apartment in San Francisco in the early sixties so we could visit and go to Candlestick Park to see the Giants play.  My Tia Jane worked for the front office back in those days and we were a baseball family.  My memory of this visit was driving at night through China Town and visiting the Golden Gate Park…not the revered Candlestick Park.

My mom gained confidence from these responsibilities and experiences when my Dad was on deployment and it translated to me.  As a young wife and later, a single mom, I had to rely on this confidence to thrive in a workforce that was not tolerant of single moms.  I always thought I was so unlike her, she is petite, cool and collected…I am plus sized, emotional and demonstrative…but as I got older and had kids, I learned we had more in common than I realized…she instilled in me the value of education, whether formal or self-taught; to pay attention to the world around you, appreciate sports and politics and find a faith that speaks to you.  She dresses, to this day, impeccably, and only said to me, “always look your best, because you never who you are going to run into…” and that echoes in my ear when I have looked less than my best when running into one of the kid’s teachers or the principal of their school.  Now, my kids tease me because I am always “overdressed”…but I am old school and make no apologies…it is what it is.

Bottom line is that my mom is my mom, and she is my also my best friend.  She has been through a lot this year worried about me being laid off, about my brother working too hard, her struggle with her own health issues and tragically, losing her younger brother, my Tio Johnny.  Through it all, she has dealt with it as best anyone can…but my mom is strong and will not let you see her sweat.  My mom’s living legacy to me, my children and their children, is that family is everything…through the good, the bad and the ugly, family first…

Realman

My husband is taking serious some advice he received from a friend of his and is walking every morning. I am joining him for my own health and to stay motivated.
What has surprised me, is our early morning walk has become out time to talk out something that has happened, our fund raiser project, his thoughts about his group sessions, and similar subjects.

Yesterday, he made a comment about one of his young veterans in the group my husband volunteers in. The young man was confrontational. My husband recounted how he addressed the young veteran in his “real man” voice, rather than his “politically correct” voice. Because my husband has PTSD, he can get agitated by some behavior and has to talk himself into not being blunt in responding.

What I took away from this conversation, was how adept has become in critiquing himself, and more measured in his response, no matter what “mode” he uses. What I am also taking away from this conversation, is “Real Man”. That is his new “tag” in my posts, because it not only fits him to a “T”, it is distinct in origin…via the Real Man!

Salsa

Hijole Salsa

I made salsa for the first time this weekend and I am afraid it didn’t turn out.  I went to Walmart and purchased the little half pint jars I found.  I roasted the jalapenos that my husband’s cousin had brought me.  I roasted the Roma tomatoes, as well, getting charred skins on both.  I chopped some onion and cilantro and threw it all in the blender.  I prepared to cook the salsa, the requisite thirty minutes, while warming the jars and lids. But, the final ingredient was either cider vinegar or bottled lemon juice.  I used what I had, organic apple cider vinegar and immediately realized I may have ruined my signature roasted chile salsa.  It didn’t have quite the right smell or taste.  Granted, it was spicy hot, just like we like it, but it had a …more than a… whiff of vinegar and a bit of a sweet taste. So, as attractive as my little jars look, I am afraid my salsa is going to taste a little like apple cider…just a very spicy, hot apple cider! I was crushed.  But not so crushed, that I am not planning a trip to the Farmer’s Market for more Romas and jalapenos.  Did I mention, I would be stopping at the grocery store and getting bottled lemon juice?