Friday, May 24, 2013

part-time camping

Greetings from the gleaming local metropolis of Turlock, California! Apparently the second-largest city in Stanislaus County, after Modesto. The core Bay Area has mostly forgotten the Laci Peterson murder, so we're back to forgetting Stanislaus County exists, except perhaps in stories about almond orchards, or crystal meth.

Anna and J are sleeping at the campsite on the Tuolumne River; due to a sequence of commuication and logistical errors, I'm here at America's Best Value Inn and will make the 40-minute drive back and forth a few more times before we leave on Sunday. This ultimately ends in an unwillingness to experiment with sleeping without the CPAP machine; the CPAP needs electricity, which the campground doesn't have, and here I am, doing the kind of crazy thing that seems built in to parenthood. Last time I raced back home in an overheating car with a severely damaged radiator to retrieve a forgotten suitcase; now I'm commuting to a campsite from a motel 30 miles away. Some family experiences are easier than others.

I don't think I've been to this part of California's vast Central Valley before. Some differences are subtle, like the greater number of Spanish words on the storefronts: one building had "MUEBLER√ćA" painted right on the wall, Latin America-style, from which I suspect they're aiming at less-integrated Spanish-speaking customers who may not know the word "FURNITURE." Other things, like the frequency of shuttered storefronts and abandoned buildings, strike you more immediately. This is Republican political territory, a place where conservatives can live out and proud, not furtively closeted as they tend to be around San Francisco. (San Francisco and American conservatism have their own Cold War of long standing, just like the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., but without all the dialogue.) They can cheer on their U.S. Representative as he joins the quixotic votes to repeal Obamacare, and if their State Assemblycritters form part of a permanent legislative minority, that's okay: the structure of California's government means that a dedicated minority can still successfully destroy the system of public higher education. Because the Bible says lower taxes are more important than our children's education and opportunity to improve their lot in life!

Okay, I'm paraphrasing.

I had planned to visit the pool hall here in Turlock, Sharkey's Family Billiards & Pizza; I had not noticed or anticipated that it would be literally on the other side of the block from the motel. It's a good place, with decent equipment and a family vibe.

Tomorrow: another day on a beautiful river with the wife and kid, surrounded by the constant chatter of birds.

And then back to Turlock!

Two great tastes that make you wonder why anyone would combine them.

Friday, May 17, 2013

weird songs of the past few years

I don't listen to experimental music or anything: I've gone to see ensembles like Eighth Blackbird and Kronos Quartet and I do not like them. Even the world of pop music spits out some weird songs sometimes, though. I hear them on Radio Paradise, or KCMP, or SomaFM. Sometimes they make it big, sometimes not. I thought I would collect and share the ones that came to mind.

This one did get the chance to be overplayed on the radio.


This was also all over the radio, though it took quite a while for me to warm up to it. Listen to it carefully, though: it's layered and crafted, just with some beats in unexpected places.


I have no words to describe this one.


Is this the weirdest one? I don't really know



I'll leave you with the most recent one. I keep listening to it, but can never actually remember the melody otherwise. I love it because it's weird, and catchy, and the singer is a baritone. It's a sad song, about a failed marriage ending in divorce. But it's weird, and delicious! Who makes songs like this?


The end. =)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

leveling up

A few times lately, I've been asking J questions to guide him to acknowledging some contradiction in his view of the world: for example, one day he started watching what I was doing on the iPad, and said "Oh, you're just reading again. Reading is boring." He proceeded to walk away and become absorbed in a book.
"Wait, you're going away because I'm reading on the iPad?"
"Yes."
"And reading is boring?"
"Yes."
"So you're gonna go read instead?"
He enjoys this as much as anyone does, which is to say only grudgingly, if at all. I do it anyway, because hey, it's fun for me.

This week, though, we've moved into new territory, as I'm able to remind him of claims he made only a half hour previously.
"Are you sure? Because you just said X like a half hour ago."
"Chris, having you in the room is more annoying than... [trails off]"
"Aw, I love you too."
"Chris, that doesn't make any sense."
His teenage years are gonna be awesome.

(Last night during the tucking-in I told him, "I love you no matter what you do, even if you think I'm annoying." He said, "I didn't really mean that you're annoying." I know what he meant.)

Friday, May 10, 2013

house and home

I visited the doctor this week for a followup, and with the CPAP machine, my body has largely stopped freaking out: my blood pressure and resting heart rate have returned to normal-for-me. I don't bother talking to doctors about what's normal for me: they are uninterested in a blood pressure of 140/90, even if it's been 120/75 for a couple decades now. They won't bat an eyelash if my heart rate is 76, even though my entire adult life, it's been 62-67 at most, when I'm not heavily exercising. Most people don't actually listen: throughout the past couple years, when I have known down to my core that something has been wrong, my favorite response was "Well, you are getting older." Thanks, genius. Not only do I know I'm getting older, but I've been paying attention as it's happened. I know my body well.

Anyway. I try to avoid going deeper than "I've been dealing with some health issues," and I'm a lot happier that way.

It's hard to believe we haven't even been living in the house for a month yet. It's such an incredibly pleasant space to be in, and there's so much of it. We get to where we think it should end, and wait, there's another room! And a giant garage! And a shady back patio! And a driveway the size of Texas! We're adjusting to not being able to locate everyone by sight or sound at all times.

It's fun to putter around. The nice thing about a fixer house is that no matter my level of energy or interest, there's always something that needs cleaning, demolishing, re-arranging, or re-attaching. Last weekend I got the well running again, just because I have a well, and why not? We haven't quite decided if it's worth bringing it up to code; if the water tests clean enough for irrigation, we probably will.

Anna has covered the most important windows with blinds and curtains. She likes fixing things, and her repairs are much, much better-looking than mine, so she does most of the interior work, as I have shown myself repeatedly unable to hang anything level on the wall. (Yes, I've used a level. Yes, I screwed it up anyway.)

We're slowly developing plans to nuke the yard and turn it into something we actually like. We're getting to know our many trees, which now mostly surprise us when they're not fruit trees. Cherry plum, fig, orange, lemon (not fruiting, for some reason), peach, and apparently an apple tree, and then something in back that's starting to fruit, but we still haven't identified it. It's quite a nice large orange tree, but we won't get more fruit until next year, since either the tenants or the sellers completely stripped it before we took possession.

Not all of these trees are nice, or in appealing places, or pruned in sane ways; but we'll see what we can do.

I had set aside the idea of getting a pool table, but then this one turned up. I wasn't considering a bar table, but it rang all my memory bells and I'm pretty certain this the model we had in the basement when I was growing up. Newer, and in quite better shape, but I very much remember the design of the pockets, and that weird slot for storing cues. It's a robust table, able to to survive life in my garage and use by a grade-schooler with erratic motor skills. Also, cheap: bar tables are definitely on the "please get it out of my garage" end of the price spectrum.

Friday, May 3, 2013

not quitting my day job

Life continues, I think without any tremendous upsets. Though if there were, I don't know that I'd remember just now, the same way I sometimes forget to tell doctors I had my gall bladder removed. It's done now, so who cares? Evidently I didn't need it anyway.

In the Department Of Useless Skills I'd Rather Not Have Time To Develop, I am becoming a fairly skilled pool player. The other night, after endless missed shots, I found this article, and noticed that the expert player at the next table was in fact letting his cue slide loose several inches in his hands after it hit the cue ball. It made an immediate difference, and last night I was consistently sinking all the shots where I know where the ball is supposed to go. In other words, my ability to place the ball is catching up to my understanding of where it needs to go. Tonight I stopped by Otto's, a Latino deli that happens to have a pair of pool tables, and won against a comparable player twice in a row.

Hurray for enjoyable unwanted hobbies, I guess. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy pool a lot, and it's been fun to really study and understand the game. It's especially fun to really develop skill at something I've known since childhood, but it turned out I've been playing in the most amateurish way all these decades (which is also true of backgammon). Yet, this all comes about because I have to keep myself awake for 90-120 minutes after I want to go to bed, and I'd much rather be able to go to bed.