Illustrating Absurdity

17 11 2010


Illustrating Absurdity

Chicken crossing by Peter Griffin/

Can we get any more absurd than complaining about a TV-show being fixed?  When did Dancing with the Stars become purist high art?  Seriously, give Bristol Palin credit for trying to do something with her life instead of immediately getting on the government dole.  I don’t watch the show, and don’t care to watch the show, but if I hear one more blogger or avid show watcher belly-aching about Bristol Palin winning for another week, I may just call in and vote for her!  Obviously there is something about her the American people love, kind of like Fantasia Barino–so deal with it and truly, truly get over it, or change the channel.  Blogosphere in a tizzy over Bristol Palin’s advance to the finals.

Climbing off the soapbox now and on to real matters of import.  This TSA/Airport Security Body Scanner/Invasive Groping mess.  Jon Tyner‘s phrase “You touch my junk, and I’ll have you arrested” has entered the hallowed lexicons of our language, right up there with “Don’t Tase me, Bro!”

But the Associated Press offers up their anemic response to what is fast becoming a national crisis.  Airport body scans, pat-downs draw more complaints.  AP boils all this brouhaha down to 1) blame the passenger, and 2) we haven’t made any real sacrifices for national security.  So terrorizing a three-year-old is just a minor bit of inconvenience?

The lefty-heavy Los Angeles Times in their article, “Shut up and be scanned”, offers this bit of sunny advice:

“There’s no bright line to indicate where our quest for security becomes intolerably invasive of our privacy, but we’re still pretty sure the TSA hasn’t yet crossed it. Although the pat-downs are seriously embarrassing, they’re also usually voluntary — to avoid them, you just have to go through the scanner. And fears about the scanners have been overblown.”

Bite me.  Michael Graham at Boston Herald gives more reasoned (and sensible) advice.  We take this now, imagine what we’ll have to put up with later? Airport security is one big scan.  And Jennifer Abel at the Guardian UK gets even more caustic.  Get your hands off me, TSA!

I will watch with relish next week to see how passengers and TSA fare on the biggest travel Holiday of the year.   Thanks to John Tyner, I’m sure many will come armed with a camera phone that also includes their lawyer’s number. So glad I’m staying in town!



Hello, yeah… it’s been a while

11 09 2009

Walking Shoes--Avon Walk Blog (9-2009)I have had quite a busy two months.  In mid-July, me, Lynn, Panda my sister Joan, and my niece Nyoki took a road trip up the California Coast.  The first leg of the trip was in memoriam.  We spread our sister June’s ashes at Andrew Molera State Park in Big Sur. It was a good point of closure for all of us, especially for Joan, June’s twin.  Big Sur is still as glorious as ever, and the drive up presented the breathtaking views of cliffs and sea spray that I remembered from previous trips this way.  Even though Lynn was born and raised in California, he had never driven the Highway 1 Route, so it was a treat for him, too.  We all bonded with each other and got reacquainted, as we experienced beauty and fun at a casual pace–it was a much needed vacation for us all!

From Big Sur, we headed into Carmel to have a few days of R and R.  We played tourist in Monterey, then moved on to San Francisco, and finally, Napa, to visit my dear friends Shawna and Nasha.  Shawna played tour guide, driving us through the Redwood forest and Bodega Bay, location shoot for Alfred Hitchcock‘s The Birds.  We took the less than scenic route home, along Interstate 5, then it was back to Los Angeles and “real life.”

For me, that was writing more articles for, and setting up more interviews.  I also had two opportunities to speak: at a job clinic, and at our church–I didn’t realize how much of my time this would entail.  It was a blessing, but aside from my birthday and anniversary celebrations in early August, the month simply whooshed by without a break; before I knew it, September was here…

Real life also meant more intensive training!  Each week, I tacked on two miles of increase to my Griffith Park walk, and a week ago I completed 20 miles!  This, amidst record L.A. heat (107 some days) and smoke and ash from the Station fire in the San Gabriel Mountains.  I’m a crazy type of committed person–once I determine to do something, I find a way, no matter what the circumstances.  Or maybe that’s just what commitment is supposed to be, and we’ve moved far away from it in our society.  But that’s a topic for another day…

So here we are, at September 11, 2009, eight years after the horrific terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and The Pentagon.  Normally I am watching all the remembrances, and trying in my own way to identify with those who truly lost.  Lynn and I prayed this morning for our country, and for the families who are still dealing with grief like an open sore.  But aside from lifting today to the ultimate source, I will not turn on the television or the radio.  You see, today is also the eve of the AVON Walk, so I must prepare to head off to Long Beach, get registered, and then tomorrow, I WALK.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed funds, prayers, encouragement, and clothing!  To see people be so generous, especially in these scary and tough economic times, blesses me to no end.  Americans truly are a charitable people, and that generous spirit is exhibited and felt in so many ways.  I am glad I pursued this walk, not only to slow down and get reacquainted with the world around me, but to get reacquainted with how kind and magnanimous people can be.

I have reached the minimum goal of $1,800, but still would like to reach my desired goal of $2,500.  It’s not too late to participate in a good cause–I know it’s made a difference in my world, and to someone else who is battling with Breast Cancer.

WALKING, in Service to the Cause…

My Avon Walk Page

, as well as a time of bonding.

The Road to Pahrump is paved with…

27 03 2009
The Road to Pahrump is paved with...

The Road to Pahrump is paved with...

A few weekends ago, Lynn and I made our annual trek to Pahrump, Nevada, to help man Stage 12 for the Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay. Baker to Vegas is a Relay race involving law enforcement officers and personnel, including judges, probation officers, district attorneys, US Attorneys and full-time civilian police personnel. According to its creators, it’s the most “positive” event offered to law enforcement officers today, because it gives them a reason to maintain a physical fitness program so they can better perform their duties.  I grew up in Chicago, town of Al Capone and the fat cop.  Their police officer’s MO is to shoot you in the hip, rather than chase you down.  So it’s refreshing to watch the physically fit law officers do their thing–if the participants can complete this relay, then they can chase down a perp, easy!

The Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay celebrated its 25th year, with close to 255 teams in attendance. So where did we come in? Well, since Lynn and I are amateur radio—Ham—operators (his call is KG6DNY, mine is KI6OIL), we assisted in radio communications between the stages. There are 20 stages that stretch from the 15/127 in Baker, California, all the way to Las Vegas, Nevada, so lots of Hams are needed.

This Relay race is particularly popular with the local Hams, although we come from all over. The race itself attracts law enforcement teams from Germany and the UK, so I’m sure the communications response is probably equally far flung! It’s a lot of fun, you get to meet some great people, and polish your radio communication skills. We did the event for the first time last year, and thoroughly enjoyed it. We were stationed at Stage 12, and Gene Sweich, WB9COY (call signs are literally your calling card in the Ham world) asked us to do the Early Warning (EW) station.  This station involves sitting in a car one mile from the stage, and using your radio, broadcast each runners’ Bib number and time back to the stage, so that the other team runner can be in place to take the baton and start running to the next stage. Pretty straightforward, and we made a good team doing it.  So we looked forward to repeating the role for this year.

We did the 300 or so mile drive from our North Hollywood home, up Interstate 15, through Las Vegas, to Highway 160 West for the last leg to Pahrump. Pahrump is a sleepy suburb, that’s only on the map because of this race (and they love it), and the housing boomlet that unfortunately, is now pretty much defunct. I’ll leave the subtext up to you, dear readers.

Like any good Ham (and my husband is a good one), we came equipped. Our main radio was what is called a 2-meter radio (a Radio Shack HTX212), and we brought our twin handy-talkies—similar to walkie-talkies, but with a bit more technology (Icom IC V8) and a hand-held 440 meter radio that Lynn brought in case we needed to broadcast on that band (Yaesu VX5). We left NoHo about 11:30 a.m. and after grabbing breakfast at Jack-in-the-Box (cause it was cheap), we hit the road, hopping on the 134 to the 210, and the taking the 210 to the 15, and then to Highway 160, until we reached our stage.

We arrived around 4:30 p.m., only to discover that Gene had thrown out his back, and wasn’t able to make the trip up from San Diego. What a bummer, as he and his wife had an RV and a slew of antennas that helped to enhance the communications. Joy Matlack, KD6FJV, is the race’s Communications Director, and has been for over 20 years, cause she’s just that good. She, of course, was already on it, and pulled the lead from Stage 11 to handle the action at Stage 12. There seemed to be a lot of that going around, as Lynn and I heard via our ARES Net the Monday after the race, that some of the Hams on the earlier stages ended up going to the later stages to assist. We introduced ourselves to the new Stage Lead (also named Gene), and told him where we had worked last year, and that we were willing to do it again. He was amenable to this, and gave us the paperwork, then let us know that the race was actually running early. He recommended we head out to the EW Mile spot by 5:45 p.m.

After grabbing a bite to eat, and Lynn a quick nap, we headed to the EW Mile marker, and sat, watching the road, and watching the sunset. It was quiet, and our buddy Steve Wardlaw (KN6Y), who was our point of contact at the stage, thought it was too quiet. He kept checking in on the radio to make sure we were okay and still able to reach the stage. This lasted till about 7:15 p.m., when the first runner was spotted in the distance. Each team has lead vehicles that follow the runner to ensure they’re okay, are equipped with water, or to transport an injured runner to get medical help. So when we spotted the flashing lights coming along Highway 160, we knew the first runner was headed our way.

By 7:45 p.m., runners were trickling in at a steady pace, and by 8:00 p.m., we were nonstop, with me looking for Bibs and writing down times, and Lynn calling them in to the stage. This lasted a good hour and forty-five minutes, to the point that we had to just relay only the Bib numbers in order to keep up. Once we got another lull, which wasn’t until about 10:00 p.m., we relayed the rest of the information to Stage 12, to ensure all the records were accurate.

It was a dark, moonless night, and we had to use our headlights in order to see the runners. Some of the lead vehicles that followed the runners didn’t appreciate it, but what could we do? Between that, and the non-stop communications for close to two hours, our car battery died, so Steve drove up from the Stage to give us a jump. We also had some technical troubles in the form of another Ham (not part of the B2V Event) on a nearby frequency who was using too much power, which disrupted our communications to Stage 12. A bit frustrating, but we worked around it.

At 2:30 a.m. (yes, AM—we’re crazy that way), the last runner trickled past our EW spot, and Dave Greenhut, N6HD (he relieved Steve after working an earlier stage), radioed that we were free to return to the Stage, and so we did: feeling exhausted, but that our mission had been accomplished.

I love being a Ham, not only because you get to play with cool electronic toys and gadgets, but you’re a part of a supportive community that’s commited to service and excellence.  Whether it’s on a Net—an organized communication forum to practice your programming and radio skills—or during a communication event, everyone is always helpful, clear and encouraging.

It’s the type of positive reinforcement that I need these days!

An Accident, A Road Trip to Vegas, A Wedding… and a New Car!

13 12 2006

No, I didn’t play The Price is Right. This title is a short rendition of my life for the past two months.

It all started with my car being broadsided. A young girl in a Honda Civic was coming off of the 134 Freeway near Griffith Park, and failed to see me. Neither of us sustained any injuries, but the driver’s side of my car was beat up pretty badly. This being the second accident I’d had this year, I was feeling none too happy about the prospects of claims, body shops and rental cars. But, I recited the mantra that accidents happen (especially in L.A.), and this is why I pay an insurance premium.

That next week, I took my car into my insurance company’s assessment center, and was given news I didn’t expect to hear. To repair the damage would be more than the car was worth, so the adjuster was going to recommend to the company that the car be deemed a total loss. For me, it was equivalent to being told a close friend had just died.

Those who know me know how attached I was to my little Nissan Sentra. It was a fulfillment of mobility after a long, ten-year drought of riding public transportation and begging for rides from others. In Southern California, that is no easy feat, but I managed until I could get the car I wanted, and thankfully, I did. So I was rather bonded to Silvie (the name I gave the car), and had a ten-year plan to keep it running before attempting to purchase a new one. The decision to total my car shot all those plans to hell, and threw me into emotional and financial chaos. Lynn and I also had plans to drive Silvie to Las Vegas for my friend Carol’s wedding—now that was up in the air!

The insurance company would pay for a rental car for two weeks only. Two weeks! As if that’s enough time to get things together in order to purchase a car. But, at least one dilemma was resolved—we could take the rental car to Vegas—after all, there was no way I was going to miss this wedding.

I’ve known Dr. Carol Amici Matthews for over fifteen years, when she was just “Carol,” and before she attained the lofty Ph.D. Throughout our friendship, we talked about the man-thing a lot, particularly as we entered our 40s. Both of us have more than our share of brains, and we could empathize with each other over our the struggle to find that spiritual, physical and psychic connection with the opposite sex. Now she had finally found Robert, and they were boldly going where other couples had gone before—the covenant of marriage. Of course, Robert was a Trekkie, so it had to be a wedding like no other. None of that traditional crap for them—they were not only getting married in Vegas, but on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise! They booked the Star Trek Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton, with a reception at Quark’s Bar—a wedding only a Star Trek fan could fully appreciate!

I so needed to get the heck outta Dodge, so along with Lynn, I gladly burned rubber in the rental Grand Am and headed North. We left Friday afternoon of October 27 and headed toward St. George, Utah (about an hour and a half outside of Vegas), in order to squeeze in a visit with Lynn’s Aunt Lucia (a real sweetheart) her partner Hildegard (a stellar woman), and my friends, Glenn and Barbara Kirkpatrick (they’re peaches). We arrived in St. George, Utah before 6:00 pm that evening and met up with Aunt Lucia, who took us to dinner and even booked a hotel room for us! I do love the way Lynn’s family is so supportive of him, and welcoming to me—every member has embraced me with open arms. After a tight night’s sleep (we were in a double bed), we arose early Saturday and headed to Kirk and Barbara’s house for breakfast. It was a treat seeing these old friends who escaped L.A. for the serenity of Utah. It was equally a treat introducing them to the person who has been the fulfillment of their prayers for me. They had a commitment at church that day, but they carved out time that morning just for us; so, it was very special. After breakfast with the Kirkpatrick’s we paid one more visit to Aunt Lucia and Hildegard, before heading back to Vegas for THE WEDDING. The ceremony was on Sunday the 29th, so we had all of Saturday evening to explore. We arrived at our hotel, checked in, took a little nap (on a king-sized bed—now we’re talkin’!) and then hit the Strip!

I had never actually stayed in Vegas, and Lynn had never been to Utah, so we both had fresh experiences to share with each other. Lynn got to see the Southern Arizona landscape and enjoy the varying colors of the desert, and how these colors looked different for each state. The sage green and browns of the California desert changed to the tawny beige and misty reds of the Nevada desert, then moved to the dusty blues, grays and greens of the Arizona desert. He also got to see the beautiful Virgin River Gorge, which connects Arizona to Utah. We drove through just as the sun was setting, and the shadows and twilight on the rocks was simply breathtaking!

I enjoyed my Vegas experience, and got to finally see what all the “whoop” was about. I have found that people either love the place, or hate it, feeling it is the best entertainment bastion around, or the best example of our debauched culture. I would say it’s a little bit of both.

Detractors and gambling addicts notwithstanding, I actually liked Vegas, and feel it serves a purpose in our culture. Not all of it is debauched, and much of it has become family friendly. I especially enjoyed the few museums and exhibits we were able to hit over the two days—if your town hosts Bodies, the Exhibition (, go see it—it’s a tremendously educational and jaw-dropping experience!

Another plus in the Vegas column is that it doesn’t contribute to our nation’s (or the state’s for that matter) unemployment rate. There’s a place for everyone and everyone has a place. The frenetic, fast 24-7 pace is not an environment I would want to live or work in—but for others, it offers them a source of provision, as well as a source of community. Despite the negatives about Vegas, the positive aspects far outweighed them, so I can’t condemn the place outright. Which is good, because we both plan to visit again. There is always something to do and see there, so that’s another plus in the column.

Sunday afternoon arrived and we headed to the Hilton in order to be a part of the Matthews-Shelton nuptials and partake of the Star Trek Experience. One of the things I loved about the wedding (besides its uniqueness) was that both Carol and Robert were all giggles and smiles. I’m all for weepy weddings, but the laughter and merriment was more apropos for them because Carol and Robert have both had a pretty shitty year. Carol’s dad died, then her aunt died, then her favorite cat Dusty died! Robert had some difficulty with his board examination (he’s a psychologist, just like Carol), and then learned that his job was coming to an end due to a shortage of funding. So they were both due for some life and joy, and it was good to see these reflected all over their faces as they said their vows. The reception was great fun, and we received Tribbles as the reception favor! They had extras, so I was able to take two home: a baby brown one, and a bigger tan one. I’ve remembered not to feed them.

We stayed another night in Vegas, so that we wouldn’t have to crawl back to L.A. on the I-15 with the rest of the weekend revelers. We left the next morning in order to hit the road and get a head start in order to beat L.A. rush hour.

But I was still left with the dilemma of how to acquire new wheels. The rental car company was quick to remind me that my insurance company would only pay for the car for another week, and despite the payout on my car (about $5,000) my bank account and current financial status reflected no indication that I could pull this off. But more often than we expect, God works miracles, and he worked several for me.

My credit union works with a car-buying service called Autoland, and I decided to give them a try to see what they could do in finding me a car that I not only could live with, but that would be the tremendous blessing and provision my last one was. I also went the traditional route of a regular dealership, but that turned out to be as demoralizing and counterproductive as I knew it would be—lesson learned. On to the blessing.

To bring an end to this long tome, Aaron Bridges, the consultant at Autoland, located a silver 2006 Nissan X-Terra S-series (the model above the base), and with the payout from the Sentra, a loan from my credit union and a little help from my friend and love Lynn, I was in a car that next week, and the exact same day that I needed to return the rental!

I learned much through this experience. “You have not, because you ask not,” would be the biggest one. That’s old King James-speak, but the New Living Translation puts it just as succinctly, “the reason you don’t have what you want is that you don’t ask God for it.”

So, despite what I felt my state was, I asked—of God, my credit union, and other people—and I received more than I imagined I would get! I also relearned a lesson that I used to have posted on my wall: “Don’t Postpone Joy.” Crisis should not define my life and shut me down, and I’m thankful that I didn’t allow this crisis to do that. Otherwise, I would have missed out on precious time with my love, family, and friends and the blessing it brought to them to have us there. But more importantly, I would have missed out on the freedom of the open road and new destinations. My chosen car company’s best ad slogan was “Enjoy the Ride,” and for the first time in a long time, I did.

And now, I have a shiny new Nissan X-terra in order to continue to do just that! Thanks God, you rock!

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