31 December 2007

earth rat.

Happy Holidays to all, and Happy New Year too ;)



tree = christmas spirit.

I love coming back to MN for the holidays because it actually feels like Christmas here, unlike the surreality of the holiday season in CA, or tropical areas. It's usually pretty cold and blustery and this year, finally, there was a decent amount of snow on the ground and regularly falling throughout the days.


christmas snow.

I'm back to SB in a few days. I finished classes 13 December, and graduated on the 14th. I'm feeling a bit of anxiety at having finished and now being on the threshold of the next big thing. Excited to be free, but also uncertain, scared and a bit overwhelmed. But I shall leave those feelings for another entry.

I'm off to relaxedly celebrate the coming of a new year with good company (dad & kathe), a good movie (there's something about Mary), and a few good beverages (Tom & Jerrys, yum!).

Happy 2008 to all ;)

12 December 2007

the most wonderful time of the year.

I'm exhausted. I've also had just about enough of myself complaining (even though it still feels sort of necessary, in that way that habits have of working their way back to you, babe.). I find myself happily, blissfully near the end of my training at MDT, but am also feeling that familiar twinge of nervosity at the prosepect of what might be next, and the bittersweetness of leaving my stinky boys.

I have only one more day of class. Tomorrow is the marathon bell/sat run. Yesterday was inspection (A for final grade), today was seamanship in the afternoon (B for a final grade), burning in the morning (final grade as yet undetermined), and my LAST DIVE at the marine tech program!

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Here's a picture of me on standby, waiting to enter the water for my final dive off the stinky, nasty, dirty, foul Stearns Wharf:


12 December 2007

03 December 2007

destination.

Have you ever had one of those times in your life where you think of something you think might be a good thing to do, or have happen, and all of a sudden you're on track for that something to happen, without even being sure you want to do that thing, or have that thing happen, but suddenly the way is opening up before you? Do you have any idea what I'm rambling about? Actually, I'm not even sure of what I'm saying today.

About a month ago (maybe longer), I started toying with the idea of going to work for one of the diving companies in the Gulf of Mexico, after having sworn off becoming a diver for the preceeding 10 months I've been in dive school. And suddenly, all around me, everywhere I look, all I can see is evidence backing up that notion. And I'm still not totally sure I want to do it.

I'll outline a few things I've been thinking about:

1. One of the companies does contractual work for NASA in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, which is a simulated underwater space station, in Houston. For some reason, this has always sounded really interesting to me. I've been thinking tons about working with underwater equipment topside, like sonar and ROVs, but diving is the most basic component of the industry, which leads me to question...

2. My motivation for going/not going to work in the Gulf. I was having a conversation with one of my partners in crime (ie classmate), Andy, who raised this question. I think I was planning not to go because it's scary and not really the sort of conditions I really want to submit to, but then I wonder, when has that stopped me before? I've done TONS of things I've not totally liked, or hated even, but without which I wouldn't be the shiny, happy, sunshine-and rose-petals-out-me-arsehole type of lady I've ended up to be. So why should this be any different? I mean, this is what I've been training to do, and if I didn't at least go try it out, and then walk away having consciously made the decision not to do it, I really wouldn't respect myself much in the morning, now would I? I have a morbid curiosity to see how bad it really is. And there's money in the deal, which is reason enough for...

3. Leaving Santa Barbara. I've griped about it for the past 1.5 years: SB is goddamn expensive, and it is harder than hell to live in an expensive city, and go to school, and work a shit-ton of jobs, and maintain one's sanity (clearly I've not accomplished this last throughout my stay here). There's also not much by way of industry here, save tourism, which means that one's income potential varies by year, by season, by week. I also learned today that someone is taking over my spot as Divemaster on the boat beginning in January, which means I'll be down to working at the restaurant, which means I can really leave as soon as I get my belongings packed and stored.

So, crapsticks. The decision is sort of made, has sort of just become made. I mean, I still have to see who's hiring, and get a job. In the end, technicalities really. The decision's the main thing, no?

26 November 2007

lullaby.

Yes, I said no posts. Gone til December, I said, or something along those lines. But I'm procrastinating, so I'm extra contemplative.

Good, relaxing Thanksgiving. I chose to celebrate the day by myself, talking briefly with fam by phone, eating lots of food I made, watching a Hitchcock marathon on AMC. It was awesome and restful and fantastic. Just the sort of day I'd wanted, to unwind. As we've neared the end of the semester and the training, I find myself more harried, stressed and a bit snappier/bitchier. I'm back to school tomorrow, but for the weekend I pretended it didn't exist, that there were no major decisions to make, no job search to perform, no moving preparations to be made, no bills to be paid. Like make-believe, like I was up to speed on everything, that life was unfolding exactly as it should be, which I suppose, despite what my neurotic woman-mindedness would lead me to believe, it actually is.

Worked on the boat all weekend. As with any leisure activity, people tend to cut out diving this time of year, in pursuit of more time/money to spend on Christmas gifts and related, so the boat was only about half full (less work for me!). Yesterday, on the way back from the islands, we came across a pod of dolphins. It was just after my shower, but before my afternoon snooze, so I stood on the bow and watched them frolic for a while (if you're not familiar, dolphins like to ride the surge the boat creates as it moves forward in the water, and can often be found at the bow, jumping, swerving and diving). When they appeared to have all gone away, I headed below decks to the crew quarters and my bunky-wunky, located just below the waterline, also at the bow.

Flat Stanley with Dolphin, on the bow of the Spectre.

There's a sort of unwritten rule in the crew quarters. When the captain's in his bunk, we don't disturb him unless it's necessary, the equivilent of the boss's office with the door shut. No chit chat, no questions, no small talk, no shop talk. And the captain always reciprocates. When I lay down yesterday though, the captain asked a question.

There are lots of sounds on a boat, especially when your bunk is right below the wheelhouse. The creaks of the steering, the crashing of the waves on the hull, the discussions of divers in the forward lounge. There's another I've probably heard before, but never registered. Yesterday the captain asked me if I could hear the dolphins outside the boat, as they play in the water, just a few feet away from where I lay. Instead to taking out my ipod, I fell asleep to the clicks and whistles of the dolphins outside.

19 November 2007

tap.

I like this. How cool is it that he *recently learned to tap dance*???

75-year-old tap-dancer shimmies his way across Golden Gate Bridge

Michael Grbich wore some snazzy, if worn, red and white tap shoes on his trek across the Golden Gate Bridge. He just recently learned to tap dance.

Michael Grbich enjoyed his 1.7-mile dance across the Golden Gate Bridge, even bringing his own music and jump rope. The Oakland resident celebrated his 75th birthday Sunday, Nov. 18, 2007, by tap dancing across the Golden Gate Bridge and was joined by relatives and friends as he danced across the foggy span.



Near the end of Michael Grbich's dance and the south end of the bridge, family members and friends threw confetti to celebrate his feat -- or was that his feet?

17 November 2007

richter.

School and work and homework have caught up with me again, so rather than feeling guilty about not fitting writing into my schedule, I'm just going to 'fess up: I don't plan to write again until school is over. I'd really love to keep you all abreast of all that's happening, but I can't make the time right now to do it well. Check back periodically, because of course one always finds time after one has decided against being able to find it. You know how it goes.

A quick note before I go. I've lived here about 15 months now, and have yet to experience a verifiable earthquake (I once woke up in the yellow room to my bed shaking, and I'm pretty sure it was an eq, but I've never found proof, so can't say for certain, and leave it off as a phantom earthquake). Apparently, unfortunately, earthquakes are not readily felt whilst driving in a car, because an earthquake happened tonight, but it took place in the mere moments between my departure from Trader Joe's and my arrival home, and I felt nothing. (boo.)

30 October 2007

recap: italia!

Before I forget all detail, and am left only with the pure shiny beautiful-ness that was my trip to Italy, I'm going to try to do the trip justice by jotting down some of the good and not-so-good moments. I'll try to be succinct ;) and if you don't care so much for words, but just want to see pics, Venice pics are up on my flickr account (soon to be labeled)- working to get more up soon.

Travel day(s) to Milan:
up at 3am in Santa Barbara to catch 7am flight from LAX. Upgraded to roomy bulkhead seating next to sweet rancher from Wyoming. About -4 hours to Milan, begin fantasizing about change of clothes and fresh face application. Arrive at Milan to find my luggage stayed back at JFK, apparently to visit friends and take in the nightlife before joining me 3 days later at the villa. Later, at train station, I buy a ticket for Lucca, and call family to let them know ETA.

I wander around for a while, buy a caffe, wander back inside. Fortunate! as the train is about to leave. I get on, wandering until I find my seat, which is occupied by an adolescent with a nordic accent. His father looks at my ticket and points out that my ticket is for Florence, but the train I'm on is bound for Venice (in my defense, in Italian Venice=Venezia, Florence=Firenze. I think I saw that telltale Z on the platform placard and assumed I was in the right place...). At this EXACT moment, the platform wranglers have wrangled all the stragglers onto the train, as it's leaving within seconds. I see my window of last-minute opportunity, and I go for it- pushing people out of my way, felling small children with my overstuffed backpack. I make it back to the doorway LITERALLY as the it's sliding shut. By some grace of god, there's a gaggle of train station employees just outside that particular door. Wild-eyed and crazy as only a clueless Americana can be, I beat on the window to attract someone's attention. A man looks at me (and really, I must have looked cartoonish at this point!) asks what's wrong. I yell that I'm on the wrong train! He shrugs his shoulders in mock pity, and at that moment, the train pulls away from the platform. Do you believe that the cosmos have a sense of humor? I kinda do ;) I have to laugh and marvel at this little experience, simply because it couldn't have been timed any better had it been scripted.

A few more mishaps, and I arrive in Lucca, 12 hours after arriving in Milan (a normal, coherent person could have done it in 5 or so).

I think I'll leave off here. Charlie Brown and the Great Punkin Patch is on, and my roommates have pumpkin cheesecake.

sweetness & light.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it here in this particular space (though I'm sure it's come out in conversations with some), but one of my favorite and most regularly visited websites is the daily puppy. It's like crack for people who love dogs, as evidenced here, here, and here, and... here. The pictures are good for a daily dosage of pure cuteness, but I also love the narrative for each dog, and the comments people leave about the pictures. Pure love. Pure puppy love.


It's been a long week. Coming back from such an amazing vacay is tough work (and, not surprisingly, almost no one gives any kind of sympathy for this complaint). Plus, all new classes started up on Tuesday (which I somehow made it to, despite total jet lag combined with lack of sleep). It's also the last module of my training, and I'm feeling that old familiar feeling: SENIORITIS! (in a manner of speaking.) All the symptoms are there: lack of interest, little enthusiasm, no drive to complete tasks/assignments on time, overwhelming desire to skate through remaining portion of class time without actually exerting any effort. I'm fighting it though. Unlike the last time I was marinating in the jowls of this particular ailment, I'm fighting it by actually trying to get my work done, rather than by rousing my Bennie sistren to join me for *every day in May, Middy stylee. 7 more weeks until I hold the cert card of all cert cards in my hand:

23 October 2007

au retour.

It always seems so quiet when I get home after a trip. Maybe it's the contrast between the din of an airplane cabin and the rattles of my car, but somehow entering my own room always feels so quiet and serene upon return.

Home from the trip, back to school tomorrow. Everything in Italy was amazing- Lucca, Pisa, Florence, Venice, and Cinque Terre (my favorite day of the trip!). Traveling to and from was kind of a nightmare logistically (lost luggage, demolished luggage, missed connections, late flights, wrong trains), but it really had no bearing on the trip itself, apart from mild frustration. It was sort of like eating a good hard salami, with a nice stinky cheese, but then stuffing it between 2 pieces of Wonder bread. Yeah, kind of like that.

There was lots of walking, and wandering, and churches, and museums, and eating, and gelato, nice shoes, euro fashions, people watching, and on-the-fly translation.

Molto bene, as the Italians would say (I think).

12 October 2007

ciao.

I know you can't see me, but I'm doing that backward wave thing, so commonly attributed to the Italians. Some of the things I'm saying goodbye to for the week:


Desks and textbooks and manuals and timekeeping devices, computers, phones and work. To the devil with you (for the next 8 days)!

In the upper right you'll see a few photos, something I've been using like a visualization, to help make the trip seem more real. If you look closely you'll see me with Jeannie, Red Fuzz, and Mee-gan Kelly at the Colosseum; above that, with my arm raised in mock Euro food approval gesture with Amy in a cafe in a small town somewheres, eating pasta, drinking table wine; and standing with Mic above a canal in a very cold Venice of winter '96/'97.

Can you believe I'm going back?? I'm so excited I could pee my pants.

10 October 2007

t minus.

2 tests down, 1 to go.

Today I finished my Surface Supplied Ocean Diving final, and my welding final. 1 more day of class/lab, 1 quiz, and my mixed gas diving final and I'm finished with the first half of my (hopefully) last semester at Marine Tech. I cannot believe it's already half over. There's a part of me that's so excited, and ready for a change, so hungry to earn a living again, but also a part of me that's in simple disbelief. I was pondering this today, that in a few months, I'll actually be a licensed and certified commercial diver. Wicked. But also really bizarre. I mean, I knew that's what I was going for when I started the program, but I didn't really think, just one short year ago, that I'd actually be preparing to move to the Gulf of Mexico to actually do this work.

After my exams today, I allowed myself the luxury of doing a wee bit of shopping. I'm not sure what it is about travel, but I always get the urge to buy just one or two new things, some comfy walking shoes perhaps, a sweater for those chilly Venetian nights...

09 October 2007

hot tamale.

I'm taking all my finals this week, a week early. I'm really, really agitated, stressed, a little scared, preoccupied, plus many other adverbs (are they adverbs? i think they're adverbs) which describe my present mental state. Outwardly I think I seem ok, but on the inside it's like... it's like if you took a chihuahua, and fed it some caffeine-coated jumping beans, washed it down with a red bull+espresso concoction. Here's a glimpse:



May the heavens see me through til I board my flight Saturday morning ;)

06 October 2007

just so.

Today is a day off. It wasn't meant to be, but circumstances have colluded so that here I sit, with no plans, and no work to go to until much, much later. I slept 11 hours last night, waking up this morning just shy of 11am. I know studies have shown you can't make up for lost sleep, but I think I disagree with them. I was pretty damn tired last night, and it felt really good not to set my alarm, to just languish in bed this morning. Mostly I plan to hang out and do homework today, drink coffee, maybe call computer support and inquire where my desktop items might have scampered off to yesterday afternoon. I do sort of wish I had a manservant, a valet at my beck and call, who I could send out for soy milk and condensed milk for a delicious coffee concoction, but instead I guess I'll have to leave the apartment for 15 minutes.

The seasons don't change much here, but it's definitely beginning to feel like autumn. The sun is beginning to hang lower in the sky, and yesterday we even turned the heat on at the restaurant, and shut the door. But of course, this isn't typical of Santa Barbara autumn. September and October are generally pretty warm and sunny, with many outdoor festivals. I think the current conditions (chilly & windy) are something of an anomaly. I kind of like it though, wearing my sweater around during the day, bundling up at night, shutting all the windows. I might even wear a hat when I go out for milk.

05 October 2007

10 years gone.

My favorite possession is my passport, which I relinquished to the man a few months ago, in order to be issued a new one. One of the things I'm proudest of in my whole life was a day a few years back, coming back into Kuala Lumpur with my beau of the moment after a splendiferously lovely and tumultuous (my relationship with this particular beau seemed to thrive on arguing and alienation, tempered by the eventual makeup) diving excursion to the Perhentian Islands, off the east coast of Malaysia (or it may have been after our visit to Borneo, which sounds cooler and more exotic, but I can't be certain which). It was upon this visit to that great city that I was finally forced to make my way to the American Embassy to have supplemental visa pages sewn into my passport:


I had received some chiding and abuse at border crossings by officials searching for room to stamp my passport, but this was during the whole SARS thing and not long after 9/11, plus there'd been some shenanigans (bombings) in various parts of Asia, and the US had just invaded Iraq, so border crossings, in general, were not extremely pleasant.

The process of applying for the added pages was simple, no drama involved, no ceremony, it was important, momentous only to me. Basically I walked into the embassy office, located in a remote industrial-type area, filled out some paperwork, and waited, just like any other bureaucratic undertaking.

The funny thing to me about my new passport is that I've received it under just about the same duress at the age of 31 as I did at the age of 20. I leave to travel internationally in 8 days, and just received my passport today. When I applied for my first passport 10 years ago, I also just barely received it in time for my departure.

the more we change, the more we stay the same.

I like looking at this old passport though. All my international travel was done during my 20s. Before I studied in France, I'd never left the country, save for the occasional border crossing at Thunder Bay. The last time I left the country, for the Flanagan wedding in Mexico, was 2 months shy of my 30th birthday. I suppose more than anything, I look back at this sweet, chubby little face, and think about who I was then, such a different person from who I am today.

I'm pretty excited about my new passport. The design is different, with lots of stuff to look at, and quotes to read. It's shiny and new, and simply screaming to be used and abused in typical ang fashion.

03 October 2007

woman's work.

Back from my weekend excursion on the boat. A few pics from the weekend:

"D" dock.


Night dive.


sunrise.


work attire.


view from the swim step (kind of like my office).

The trip was fun, and pretty grueling. The itinerary/my work schedule shaped up to look something like:

Fri. 9pm, underway to Anacapa Is.
Sat. 12am, divers diving @ Anacapa
2am, underway to Santa Cruz Is.
3am, divers diving @ Santa Cruz Is.
4:30am, to to bed, underway to San Nicolas Is. (about 5 hours voyage)
10am-6pm, divers diving
8pm, night dive
11pm, to bed
Sun. 7am-12pm, divers diving
1-5pm, underway to the VC
5-6pm, adieuing divers, cleaning boat.

Hectic and grueling. Fun, amazing divers. Beautiful islands and elephant seals! in native habitat at San Nick. Definitely hard work though.

One of the definite benefits of having roommates about is the sharing of meals together, and the conversations that arise over wine and tequila on a Tuesday evening.

I came home from school today and, having accomplished so much in the morning/afternoon, decided to take the night for myself, cook up a little butternut squash soup, do a little reading, turn in early. I sometimes have these ideas, and most of the time the ideas get upended by other plans that come flitting into my consciousness. Mostly, though, I end up chatting with my roommate, Claudia, about life in general. Our conversation about life in general began this evening around 5pm, continued up to, and after a viewing of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and finally concluded around 11:30pm, after a few bottles of vino and some tequila sippin. We are like minded of many, many topics, and have a hard time stopping the talking once underway.

27 September 2007

side bar.

Quick updates today.

I'm feeling much better this week. The love of family & friends helped tons (thank you! much, much love to all of you- even anonymous love...), but also, as often happens, sometimes a good ol' utter and complete breakdown is necessary to clear out the emotional cobwebs to get everything back to normal. And actually, as also often happens, normal this side of breakdown feels much clearer and easier than the other side.

Anyhoo. My weeks are crazy busy of late. I'm seriously home only to sleep, and not much else. Other than that, I'm at school to study, then for class, then for work, then back to studying, or off to another job. It's madness! But I'm feeling good. I'm finding hidden moments for myself, and because I'm so busy, I'm appreciating them a ton. Today is a great example: I completed the study-class-work combo, and came home for a 15-minute snooze before heading to the restaurant (shower be damned! Neoprene funk on skin is easily covered with lotions and perfume... Welcome to the restaurant, fine diners!). After rushing around for 15 minutes getting ready, I realized I was a whole hour early! Which leaves a nice chunk of minutes for me to pack for my weekend excursion.

What weekend excursion, you ask? Saturday at midnight is lobster opener and this year I'm working on the boat all weekend long. We go out for a day trip tomorrow, return to harbor, fuel up, then head out again at 9pm to be at Anacapa for a midnight dive. Rumor has it we also do a 2am dive, so it's going to be a crazy night. I'm not sure how the rest of the weekend will go, I'm not sure how crazy it's going to be to be on the boat all weekend, but I'm prepared for an adventure ;)

School updates: Today in mixed gas class we cut 8" pipe underwater with a Wachs hydraulic saw. Because I helped prepare the hydraulics part of the equation, Instructor Geoff let me be the first to use the saw underwater. I'll post a pic of the saw later, but will say this: it was pretty rad.

I'm definitely becoming a fan of boys toys.

20 September 2007

if.

If your life was a movie, what kind of movie would it be?

I was walking away from work tonight, at the restaurant, passing by the patio at Don's neighborhood dive bar, and a song was playing. I don't know what the song was, but it was something classic rock-y, sort of drifting out across the parking lot. As I was walking, I watched a woman leaned over her car trunk, fishing for something way in the back, so that all I could really make out of her person was her ass and legs, in faded jeans. From behind me, at the restaurant, dishwasher Eddie called his goodbye, "Be careful, mi reina."

I'm not sure why, but the whole scene struck me like something out of a movie. Maybe because it had a sense of desolation that sort of matched my mood- the dark alley, the music, the christmas lights strung up around Don's fake plastic trees, the dim light from the car trunk, the random people on the periphery.

How long does it take to change a mind? To beat it into submission, to knock free all those crusty old ideas that don't work anymore? A woman read my palm once and told me that sometime around now, I'd experience some kind of illness, or trauma. For the most part, I'm a pretty damn healthy individual, so I've always been a bit wary of this prediction, but could that miniscule interruption in my lifeline indicate instead a sort of spiritual trauma? Because that feels accurate, if you believe in that sort of thing.

A last note, a request for a little love. I know you read this- I can see you fackers that check this site regularly, but never leave any comment, or make any mention of visiting. And I'm baffled. Some of you I can figure out, based on web addresses and locales, but others... I've tried time and time again to figure out who the hell I know at GMAC residential funding- because you visit several times a week. Are you interested in perhaps moving to Santa Barbara, and want to know more about the city? Or do you like to read about flange fittings and Kirby Morgan dive hats? Or are you simply coveting my bike? I know you're sending some incognito love vibes, but I don't know how you are, and for a crazy neurotic like me, it's discombobulating.

So send a little love, because I'm needy and fragile this week.

14 September 2007

roger that, topside.

Mixed gas diving today. First dive on helium.

The focus of 90% of MDT classes is on the diving, but, and here I'll relay to you by far the favorite quote of instructors in the MDT facility:

"The title of Diver is not a panacea for the skills or knowledge you
lack. It merely entitles you to a unique form of transportation."
This quote finds its way into everything. It can be seen on walls, various plaques throughout the building, syllabi, quizzes, etched into the toe reinforcements of the instructors' socks. They love this quote, because almost everyone in the building is there, initially, because they love to dive. But commercial diving isn't about diving, so much as it's about the work you do underwater. Hence, the quote. We learn to dive as a formality. The real training is in the work we learn to do while underwater.

So, getting back to today's class, mixed gas diving. My day actually started last night, cramming the completion of a mixed gas diving manifold schematic into an already very busy day, and then continuing into the wee hours of the morning, reviewing gas laws and equations for a quiz this morning. I slept a few hours, woke up early to continue studying for a few more hours before class and lab from 9am-2pm. Thursday is my Friday, though, and despite the busy-ness of the day, I had fun- I love being at the facility early, plus I kicked arse on the quiz. It was also our first day of diving for this class. Last week we pumped and analyzed our breathing mixes, today we got to re-analyze and dive the gas mix. Easy, right?

Our instructors like us to be task loaded. Maybe all diving instructors like to do this- it's the only real way you can test a diver's mettle underwater- by weighing them down with things to do, to see how they'll do, and what they'll do, and also if they'll freak out doing it. So today, in addition to diving the 77/23 HeO2 mix, we also worked on a flange disassembly/re-fit-up project in the tank. Easy, right?

In addition to task loading, our instructors like to make conditions as realistic as possible for us. So, in addition to diving helium, and working on the flange fit-up, sometimes we work cooperatively with another diver (and keep in mind that divers can communicate with topside individually, but cannot communicate directly to one another. Divers instead give messages to topside who then, in turn, relays the message to the other diver... very complicated.).

Another reality of working in the field is little to no visibility. Which means that sometimes, increasingly, the duct tape comes out and a few slices are taped to the hat viewer, leaving us... on helium, working with heavy equipment, with another diver, sightless as a newborn chihua.

I'm being dramatic though, dragging it all out like this. It's actually just sort of par for the course at this point. I think Geoff, the instructor, derives a tremendous sadistic joy from torturing both himself and us with this stuff. Mostly we have fun. We yell and get frustrated, but then we laugh about it afterwards and discuss what went wrong, what can go better the next time.

Like today, my dive with Zeke was pretty miserable. My gas mix was switched from air to HeO2 almost immediately upon descent. In situations like this one, communication is crucial, a point that Geoff had mentioned several times during our morning briefing. Unfortunately, I'm near-indecipherable whilst on HeO2. I tried talking slowly, enunciating, everything I could think of, but still no one could understand what I was saying, and communication suffered. After about 10 minutes, Geoff crumbled and let us take the tape off the face plates. We fit the flange back together, but it was off by one or two bolts. I have no idea how we would have ever gotten it back together blindfolded.

13 September 2007

of a wednesday.

My second day of welding wasn't as awe-inspiring as my first- but still fun.

School's starting to kick in. I'm busy, stressed, a bit frazzled. I like the idea of graduating at the end of this semester for a few reasons, primarily because I'm so tired of being stressed about money. Somehow this place is like a vortex of financial stress. I don't know what it is, it's as though I'm creating my own personal hell in Santa Barbara. The stress and frustration seems to dissipate when I'm away from here, but it descends like a plague when I cross over from the VC into Santa Barbara County. I know it's a mindset, and as such, is completely under my control, I just haven't found a way to overcome this... Yet. (god knows I've tried... there must be a way!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). Argh.

Can't put too much stock in my low-ish mood of today. It seems the week or so after a visit to Minne is a bit challenging, maybe a wee bit lonely. But being able to hang out with my family for a while, to chase my niece around, snuggle with my fave bully, hug my dad, break it down with my mom... These things make a short, wee dip in my mood very, very worthwhile ;)

06 September 2007

what a feeling.

If you can ever, possibly believe it to be true, I had the coolest day ever at school today.

I might have mentioned I was not extremely excited to begin a certain class this year, a certain class known as Underwater Welding. Some of the primary causes for my lack of excitement about this class included that 1. welding underwater seems foolish and ill-advised, and 2. I'm not the world's most amazing welder. I mean, I'm no Alex Owens (see below), if that's what you're thinking, neither above nor below the water line, but I didn't suck today, and I actually did a half-decent job at welding underwater, which, understandably, came as something of a surprise.

03 September 2007

cliche.

Some good cliche statements are running through my head at the moment: this hurts me more than it hurts you, and breaking up is hard to do. Both true for me at present.

I broke up with someone a few weeks ago. Someone I'd been dating for the better part of 5 months, which is a decent run for me. We got along really well. In some ways. In other ways, we couldn't have been further apart. I liked him a lot, I cared about him a lot, though I'm not sure he'll ever believe I did. We had fun when we were together, shared good conversation, regularly enjoyed Sunday breakfast over the Times.

But I questioned why we were together sometimes. We had so many different opinions on so, so many fundamental topics: money, work, relationships, the meaning of key relationship concepts like selfishness, and sacrifice. We also had a few fights, and after the first of these I decided to take a little break. And then, slowly, we worked our way back to being together. And again I found myself wondering why we were together.

Our second big fight came right before I left for my visit to Minnesota at the end of July, and I guess that one freaked me out more than the first. The concept of violence in eastern cultures extends from the external to the internal, so that a person's emotions can be considered violent, but may not be expressed externally, in an outwardly violent manner. I never felt physically threatened by him, but I did feel somehow emotionally threatened. And I know he never meant to seem threatening, but a few times, while arguing, I felt really uncomfortable, in a way I knew wasn't quite in line with someone I should be so close to.

So, when I returned from MN, I had hoped we could mend the fence, continue on as before. But I think sometimes when emotions are truly exposed, lines are crossed, and you can't ever really go back. I think that happened with us. I came back to SB, and I really wanted things to be the same, and they were, actually, but without any substance underneath. I remember this when I was young, and my parents would fight- maybe someone would come over, and they'd sort of have to act normally, until they were really acting normally, and then everything would be ok again. A sort of marital fake-it-til-you-make-it routine. We were doing that, the two of us, right when I got back. And it sort of worked, except that there was all this shit, this unsaid emotion and anger and blame underneath, but not so far underneath.

And it was too much. And I ended it. And I felt really shitty about it. And I still do.

I guess that's the surprising part. It's not that I don't want to feel bad about it, because obviously there's an emotional investment there, and a mourning period is normal and required. But I keep finding myself crying briefly, at odd moments, and sort of sending him telepathic apologies. I'm sure by this point he's over it, focused on other things, but I'm still doing it, still feeling really shitty about it. Which maybe says more about me than him, or us, or the relationship. But it certainly makes those cliches feel pretty true to life.

01 September 2007

ode to a fisherwoman.

Awesome news (engagements!) in the past few weeks for a few awesome ladies I know: new roommate Claudia, old high school friend Jan, and, most recently, ballsy Bennie roomie, Meghan. But one of these things is not like the other (as in, not the traditional mode of becoming affianced), as made obvious in the email poem I received from her yesterday entitled, "fishing for the big one."

So one day a boy and girl set out in a little green canoe
they paddled and fished
their way through a lovely summer day on the Kawish

After a fresh shore lunch and a laze in the sun
the dark clouds rolled in
So homebound they turned

But the girl stopped them short
in a beautiful bay
and insisted they fish more, despite the now-stormy day

You see, This mischevious girl
had a trick up her sleeve
the lure she pulled out, the boy could not believe!

"This will catch the big one" she smiled
handing him the rod
which he readily grabbed, giving her a nod

Because he saw the lure was huge----
sure to catch a big fish
but "wait, what's that?", he looked tilting his hat

On the lure were markings
which seemed out of place
so he yanked it out, right up close to his face

"Will you be my catch for life?"
The lure blatantly asked
And with a curious smile, the boy replied yes!

Congrats to my girlies- and the lucky boys who snagged em (or got reeled in by them!) ;)

30 August 2007

ugh.

I'd forgotten how hard it is to spend all day, 3 days in a row, with all boys. All, all, all boys.

Time for a snooze.

28 August 2007

vacillate.

The oaths of a woman I inscribe on water.
~Sophocles

It's funny lately, someone will make some little statement, the most minor suggestion, which I'll initially reject, only shortly later to find myself doing that exact thing. Por ejemplo, a few weeks ago, Deckhand Aaron suggested I should sneak in a day of diving before heading back to school, which I countered with the most obvious reason to say no, that I needed to work. Fortunately, I was still within spitting distance of the end of my vacay in Minne, and could still see that play is sometimes, oftentimes, as important as work, and shortly thereafter resolved to play hooky at the restaurant to go out diving. another example, while meeting with an instructor early last week, he questioned my decision to drag out for 2 semesters what could be completed in 1- namely, putting off 3 classes until next semester when they could be completed this semester, adding only one more day of class to my schedule. Originally, the rationale for the decision was not wanting to alter my work schedule, to continue working on the dive boat on Wednesdays. I had also wanted to delay taking 3 classes I'm not at all excited about: Underwater Welding, Advanced Underwater Cutting and Burning (or some similar title, basically another permutation of burning things underwater), and Seamanship.

I thought the plan to put off the Wednesday torture was really what I wanted, but some strange urge struck me today when I walked into the facility: a great, overwhelming urge to be finished with the program after this semester.

I don't know what it is. I mean, I definitely have a love/hate relationship with Santa Barbara. It's amazing here, and beautiful, and I feel totally blessed to be living in such an idyllic locale. On the other hand, it's damn small, it feels a million times smaller than Minneapolis, and that's too small for me. I remember after studying in France, talking to friends who'd made their way to Monte Carlo. Sometimes I think Santa Barbara must be a bit like Monte Carlo- perfect to look at, almost too perfect to be real. It also feels really isolated sometimes, and it has helped for me to work the driving job, and in neighboring Ventura (approx. 30 miles away), because driving away from here is sometimes exactly what I need. I don't know if it's the feeling of being wedged into a very small parcel of land between the mountains and the sea (not a bad place to be wedged into, mind you ;) ), or the simple lack of neighboring towns (nothing to the north for miles, only 2 small beach communities immediately to the south, then nothing for 20 miles), or how small the town is, or how perfect, or how expensive. There's just something about living here that lends to a feeling of claustrophobia.

And it's certainly not that I don't love the program, and the people there. I do love them, dearly! But there's something about being there too, a sort of time limit. Walking back in today I was reminded of all the things I listen to on a daily basis there, things no woman should ever really know about men, like what they talk about, or how they function as a group, the ridiculous competitions that arise, the incessant need for validation. The summer was like blissful ignorance. I'd blocked out the stinky boys and had only a few boys to deal with, bosses, co-workers, friends, boy more-than-friend, most with a
healthy understanding of appropriate social behavior.

So, I'll be done with MDT after this semester. I think I'll probably still stick around for a bit longer in SB, take some classes, brush up on my math skills, maybe take a real estate class, some pilates or tennis perhaps, enjoy my new digs and the view from my balcony for a while longer.

Unless I change my mind ;)

27 August 2007

as is.

School starts again tomorrow. I've been scurrying around, attempting to get everything done in time. Of course, everything always gets done on time, even if it's not the timeline I'd envisioned.

I've registered for classes, I've even been declared a resident of the great state of California in the eyes of Santa Barbara City College, a distinction that carries with it a significant reduction in the year's cost of tuition. Today I completed my physical for the program, and later I'll gather my gear for the classes that start tomorrow: Surface-Supplied Ocean Diving (in which we dive from Stearn's Wharf in downtown Santa Barbara), and Emergency Medical Technician (in which we learn all manner of gnarly ailments). In general, I'm feeling pretty good about starting classes again. I think the biggest challenge I've encountered since arriving here was not the actual arriving here, which would seem the most reasonable answer, but, rather, the end of the school year. Arriving was obviously a big feat, and there was a ton of adjusting to do, but I had tons to do, and I stayed pretty busy with classes and trying to learn about Santa Barbara. So, the end of the school year was the opposite: with classes over, my whole raison d'etre in Santa Barbara was temporarily gone, most of the friends I'd made during the school year moved away shortly after finishing classes, I was only marginally employed, and the weather was grey and gloomy. It was a strange feeling of... aimlessness, and it sort of persisted throughout the summer, even though I found more work, and new people to hang out with. It seems to have passed out of my daily existence when I headed back to Minne at the end of July, so that now, just as I'm going back to class, I've finally made peace with just living and working in Santa Barbara.

But of course, comfort and ease seem not to agree with me for any length of time, so I suppose, just as I'm getting comfortable, it's time to recharge with some newness and momentary dis-ease, just to keep me on my toes. Who knows? Maybe there will be another girl at the facility this year, or even some interesting new stinky boys. I'm definitely excited about my classes. In addition to the ones above, I'm taking Mixed Gas Diving (yes, we will be diving HELIUM, or at least a gas mixture partially composed of helium), and during the second half of the semester, Bell/Saturation Diving, and Ocean Structures, and one other not-so interesting one that I can't think of right now. It will also feel pretty good to be starting the advanced courses, if only to entertain the illusion of understanding what I seem to have completely forgotten over the summer.

21 August 2007

fitting.

19 August 2007

sea legs.

Today is the day: 1 year ago today, after 2500+ miles and 4 days on the road, I drove into Santa Barbara with a carload of my most important belongings. I drove around (having forgotten to mapquest its location in advance, of course) until I found my new abode, getting plenty lost and frustrated in the process. I'm reliving it now... the late afternoon sun shining, inching down the street as the house numbers grew larger, larger, until I spot a big old Victorian with the Eagle's Nest bar just opposite... walking to the door, finding my key, going upstairs, opening the door to the yellow room for the first time...


920 Bath St.


The Yellow Room

It's funny to think back on. I can't really imagine how I was feeling then, or what I was thinking. Or maybe it's more that I don't want to, like it's more than enough to have gone through it the first time around. I remember feeling so excited and hopeful, and scared and lonely and uncertain. I so desperately wanted it to work out, but would it? It all seemed really crazy and illogical, as though there was no way it could possibly work, as though around every corner there was someone waiting to tell how foolish I'd been in thinking I could succeed.

Here on the other side of this first California year, I'm pretty pleased with how things have turned out. There have been some major adjustments, but I think that here, going into a new year, I'm beginning to feel really comfortable with where I am, and finally feel like I'm beginning to settle into jobs, community, friendships, school, but still feel like there's tons to learn and experience and do. Today, for example, on the boat, we anchored at Santa Cruz Island, rather than Anacapa, as we usually do. It was a full boat, which usually makes for a crazy busy day, but rather than pulling anchor after the first dive, we stayed in the same spot, which allowed me enough time for a bit of snorkeling. The visibility was amazing, the water beautiful and blue. At the surface, the sun was shining, the breeze minimal at our sheltered mooring.

18 August 2007

flight of the bumble bee.

If you listen closely, you might hear a sigh of relief, coming from way down, deep inside of my person.

Tonight is the first night I've had to myself since I returned to Santa Barbara. I read something somewhere about how salespeople, upon returning from vacation, should overbook themselves, as a way to get their selling mojo back to operational. It made sense to me somehow, and so I intentionally set it up so that, upon my return to SB, I would be immediately back to work for a few days in a row, allowing for slim to middlin' time for wallowing and/or being sad. I'm happy to say the strategy has proven to be a magnificent success. I've been so busy for the past 4 days that my short term memory has all but disappeared, and I seem to be operating on auto-pilot. I don't really even have the presence of mind to decide what one has to do with the other at the moment.

I do know that life has been pretty amazing since I've been back. My time in MN was the perfect distance and perspective I was in need of, and has allowed for a renewed appreciation for where I am. My new place is amazing. I love having roommates, the best part being that I can be at home in my room, alone when I want to be, or out in the apartment, hanging out with my roommates. It's really, really good. I also love being back to work. I love going out on the boat. I'm having a great time at the restaurant. I'm also really looking forward to getting back to school, learning new things, getting back into the routine of being at the MDT facility, finding out what all my stinky boys have been up to this summer.

So that's it. That's my update for now. Because I want to get to bed, because I also have all of tomorrow morning to myself, even into the afternooon, so I'm off to read a bit before bed. May you all be having as relaxing and blissfully inactive a night as I am. May you all have a little something to be joyful about ;)

14 August 2007

flyaway.

Back at LAX now, waiting for the bus to take me back to Santa Barbara. The weeks in Minnesota were too busy to reflect much on coming back, and even now, knowing I have so, so much to do in the next few weeks, I still don't have much time to think much about how I'm feeling or what I'm thinking. Increasingly, I think this is the best way for me- enough time to relax a bit, but I think I'm always in a happier place when I'm busy and active, without too much time for introspection. I think of others I know who are happy, and this seems to be a key, not too much down time, but lots of activity.

My early morning started with loads of good things: I woke up on time (in part because I don't sleep very deeply on mornings pre-flight), we arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare, the flight was only 3/4 full, and so my whole row (and a super roomy exit row, at that!) was empty but for me, and I caught some snoozes during the flight. The happiest coincidence though, was back at the Humphrey terminal, an example of how, sometimes, chance & circumstance totally knock me off my feet.

Consider the variables: choosing this particular day, 14 August, to fly back to SB; arriving at the airport, making it through check-in and security; stopping into the ladies, picking up my summer's last cup of DBC; choosing to walk down that particular aisle, at that exact moment when...

I ran into a guy I worked with in Minneapolis, a crush, way too young, but a crush nonetheless. He was leaving from gate H3, and as I walked between the rows of chairs, looking for a place to sit, he had just arisen from his own seat to board his plane. Another coincidence: he was moving, in a somewhat impromtu manner, to NYC. He'd made the decision in June, booked his flight, and was still waiting for the gravity, the reality of it all to sink in. The last coincidence being, of course, that today is the same date I drove away from Minneapolis last year.

And as always in situations of serendipity vs. chance, I have the internal debate: does it mean anything? My realistic mind leans toward the negative, but the hopeful, non-reasoning side of me always insists that it does, in fact, mean something, if only a reminder. And again today, as always, she walks away the victor.

13 August 2007

electric.

Here's an old song to think about: "It never rains in California," by Albert Hammond. You may not recognize the artist, but my guess is that you could probably sing along to the chorus, because those words, combined with a simple poppy-folksy hook, will stay firmly planted in your mind for hours after hearing, or even thinking about the song.

It's not true, of course. It does rain in California. Just not very much. In the year that I've lived there, because it's also been something of a drought there, I've seen no more rainy days than I have fingers on one hand. 5 rainy days, at the absolute outside. A few of these happened to coincide with travel plans, most notably a drive north from SB to meet a friend in Big Sur. The inclimate conditions impeded our plans to hike and/or meander along the beach, but the drive up the PCH was beyond description. The water was pale aqua, beautifully contrasting a slate-gray sky. But I digress.

One of the things I love about Minnesota is all the totally insane and extreme weather here, especially during the summer, and specifically, thunderstorms. I remember living in the old house on Nortonia, watching storms roll in over the city through the huge picture glass window, the midday sky darkening to the color of steel, blinding flashes of lightning, rolling thunder rocking the foundations of the house, the humidity stifling, the uncertainty exhilerating. And despite all the drills in school, I was never really sure what to do with myself during those storms (turn off the TV? don't use the phone? open the windows slightly? tornado drills and thunderstorm procedures often mixed together, creating a sometimes contradictory, always hesitant precautionary mind-stew.). I was pretty sure that standing in front of a 4' x 6' piece of glass was not the most intelligent of my options, but I loved the storms, was transfixed by the storms, and so I stayed at the window.

In all the time I've been preparing to come back for a visit (and over the course of this harsh summer, my mind has wandered home repeatedly), I've been hoping for at least one good storm. At least one power-outting, tree-whipping, rain-slinging, pupil-aerobics-inducing, ground-rattling storm. I dreamt of one last week, early in the morning, after a midnight trip to the bathroom, but I can't really remember it, and so am not entirely sure it really happened. I got a hint of another a few days ago, coming from the St. Croix River after an afternoon with my big bro and niece, and Brendan and Regan. But the timing wasn't quite right, and I out-drove it within 15 minutes. Tonight though, tonight I got the right storm. It was big, and loud, the lights went out, leaving me to scrounge for a flashlight and candles.

And even though I knew this time what to do (head for the basement with weather radio and supplies, staying away from windows), still, I stood on the patio and watched, and listened, and felt.

16 July 2007

med marvels, pt. deux.

Goodness bless antibiotics, and vicodin, and whatever else the doc gave whilst in tears at the clinic. Friday night was as blissful as I've felt in forever, and for sure about a gazillion times better than I'd felt all week, what with a tonsil the size of Delaware bearing down on my throat at all hours and impeding my ability to swallow saliva, let alone food or bev. A bit more detail on last weeks condition (only because I'm mildly astonished by the sheer bizarreness of it all):

  • The mouth and throat may show a swollen area of inflammation—typically on one side.
  • The uvula (the small finger of tissue that hangs down in the middle of the throat) may be shoved away from the swollen side of the mouth.
  • Lymph glands in the neck may be enlarged and tender.
  • Severe sore throat that becomes isolated to one side
  • Painful swallowing
  • Fever and chills
  • Muscle spasm in the muscles of the jaw (trismus) and neck (torticollis)
  • Ear pain on the same side as the abscess
  • A muffled voice, often described as a "hot potato" voice (sounds as if you have a mouthful of hot potato when you talk)
  • Difficulty swallowing saliva
I think the "hot potato voice" is my favorite symptom. I really cannot describe the strange quality of my voice during this week-long illness, and hot potato voice wouldn't be my first choice in phrasing, but it's better than I can do, so I'll let it be. I'll go a bit further than I need to and tell you that, after the doc had given me pills and prescription and momentarily quelled my fears of imminent death by choking on my own inflamed body parts, he suggested that, if the swelling didn't diminish, that the abscess could be lanced and drained. Fortunately for me (and for you, as I apparently can't help but over share, though it would have been really interesting to experience), the swelling went down, and all is well.

Tonight I watched Victoria Beckham: Coming to America. Am I acclimating so much to living so close to LA that I don't even flinch at wanting to watch this? I don't even feel ashamed. I sort of like her primarily because she's a little insane, but I also think this is adorable:

13 July 2007

medical marvels.

I have an abscess on my left tonsil. I have no idea how it got there, but I can tell you that it is a mightily painful thing to have on one's tonsil. It makes swallowing exceptionally uncomfortable and painful. Fortunately today, day 5 of the tonsil abscess's foreign and unwelcome presence in my throat, I finally went to the doctor, who gave me drugs which promise to seek and destroy. The doctor wrote me a prescrition for antibiotics; he also wrote me a prescription for vicodin. I nearly didn't have it filled, but this sh*t, a plague on the soil of my throat for nigh on 5 days now, is really painful, and I think I could do with a good, long, painless, utterly relaxed sleep tonight, beginning perhaps around 8pm.


Somehow, despite the abscess, I had an amazing day. Today was my first day as divemaster on the Spectre, the sun was shining, the boat was only half full, and my favorite MDT instructor, Don Barthelmess, was diving from the boat. It feels good to be a Divemaster again. I kind of like having that power ;)

09 July 2007

overview.

Lots of change lately. Not necessarily changes on the physical plane, but tons of ideas and thoughts and feelings running through my mind. I think this is actually the biggest deterrent to getting any writing done, simply the fact that I keep changing my mind and my outlook, to the extent that I don't really have a handle on what I'm thinking or feeling (except that right now I have a strong urge for grilled asparagus), and so I can't very well write anything down, because there's no real guarantee that I'll arrive at a concrete conclusion, but will instead ramble on without really saying very much. Not unlike what I've just subjected you to here.

As an infrequent reader of my own blog, I'm not even certain what all I've shared with my extensive reading public, so to quickly outline the summer's happenings, I was briefly and voluntarily unemployed, then started working at the driving service. To date, the most interesting people I've driven have included Kenny Loggins, Jean-Michel Cousteau (Jacques Cousteau's son!), and the chairman/CEO of Haworth Marketing & Media (they do Target's marketing, so he lives in Montecito, keeps a condo in Mpls, and flies on a private jet back and forth. Pretty sweet lifestyle, me thinks.). I also realized that I truly missed waitressing, and found a job serving at a small bistro, serving Pacific-rim fusion cuisine. The hours are good, the money is good, and I really enjoy the people who both work at, and frequent the restaurant. I almost became an assistant to a Real Estate agent, where I think I would have learned a great deal, but instead accepted a position working on the Spectre, a dive boat operating out of Ventura harbor. I'll be working as a divemaster again, which feels like a really, really good fit.

Personal relationships have changed a lot in the past months, too. Friends have moved away or are about to move away, which has made for lots of time for reading and introspection. It's been really nice, actually. My inner hermit has been greatly appeased during the past few months. Now, however, I think she's retreated to her cave, and I'm ready to resume my social life. I've started back up with the guy I was dating up til a few weeks back, and have decided to ditch my *studio apartment for a room in the abode of a friend. While my current *apartment has been a lovely place to call home, I have more than outgrown this teeny tiny space, and will be SO pleased to live where the kitchen is a WHOLE SEPARATE room all by itself, with adult-sized appliances, like a stove and a refrigerator! Oh, the beauty of it all, I can barely stand it.

14 June 2007

fritters & rice.

Times have been a bit lean in the past months, one of those periods where I really start to believe the statement "Santa Barbara is such an expensive place to live." Granted, it's true for the most part, but there are certainly ways of getting around the pricey ticket items, and keeping life simple and maintainable, modeling my behavior and spending habits after SB's working class. I've been eating a lot of *survival food, and there's something sort of satisfying about that. Survival food is basically what's cheap, filling, long-lasting, and somewhat nutritional. Beans, rice, crunchy natural peanut butter. Bananas, canned goods, tofu, coffee (some room must still be maintained for comforting daily routine...). I know it's not forever, which helps make it easier to deal with. It also allows for elevated levels of appreciation/satisfaction when offered shift meals at work, for free samples of delicious peaches at the farmer's market, and for when there's a bit left over for little treats.

I mentioned in a previous post that my dating stint had come to a halt. I'm realizing in the aftermath that part of my attraction to him was that, rather than the 1 room *studio I inhabit, Chris actually had an apartment. Still technically a studio apartment, but his was a real studio apartment, the kind with a private bathroom, and a kitchen. He even had a small fenced-in patio at the front, with a BBQ and room for outdoor dining.

I've lived in this room now for almost 11 months, and, clearly, I'm ready for a change. It's actually been a few more years than this that I've been without access to a yard. And these seemingly inconsequential details will be the reason I plan to move when my lease finishes in August. I'd like to think that I could stay for the remainder of my time in SB, but my love affair with Chris's apartment has shown that I love having a kitchen! And a private bathroom! And on days like today, when the sun is shining, and it's warm and sunny, I fantasize about lying around in a big old hammock in the yard!

I had a funny experience recently, while watching a movie. In the movie (Stranger than Fiction), the female love interest is a baker of modest means, and over the course of several scenes, a good chunk of her house is cameo'd. My reaction to this, rather than thinking what a lovely old Victorian it was, or how cute and boho the furnishings, was the question "Wait, she can afford to live in that house, all by herself? Nor was I the only one thinking this, the friend I was watching with expressed the same incredulity. So, I've become a Californian, in that I've become accustomed to the limited extent of one's housing dollar.

And here I'll close this entry. I'd like to re-read, and edit, and come to a great conclusion about all the world's problems, but at the moment, my concentration is waning. The reason my concentration is waning is because at this moment, in the shared bathroom on the other side of the hall from where I'm sitting right this moment, is the incessantly chatty 22-year old who lives down the hall, in the bathroom, for some reason, with a friend. They've been there for about 20 minutes, talking. And bless their hearts for it, because I was 22 once, too, and I know it's a different place from where I am now. It's just that I don't really want to hear about it anymore, especially since I'm waiting for them to exit so I can use the toilet.

13 June 2007

self, fulfilled, pt. II: marine mammals.

The rest of my weekend was amazing, and relatively uneventful. I had a magnificently bad town car run, that I won't bother to outline, for lack of interest in perpetuating the horror of its memory. Strangely, Monday was the day life took a grandiose turn for the awesome. I got called by Sam (the Marine Mammal Vet and the organization's co-founder with wife, Ruth) of CIMWI to help with a rescue. Seeing as I was free for the day, I LEAPT at the opportunity. During my time volunteering for the organization I've cleaned up after and fed lots of sea lions, and recently joined other volunteers for a release from one of the local whale-watching boats. I've also helped with the bodies of those who haven't fared as well. Soon I'll also have the chance to sit in on a necropsy (just like an autopsy, but for animals) to learn more about the anatomy of the animals we spend so much time with. But I've never been along for a rescue, and I was pretty stoked to be able to go.

There were 2 reports of stranded sea lions yesterday: the first, a yearling, exhausted and stationary on the beach, approximately 2.5 feet in length; the other, a juvenile, mobile, around 4-5 feet in length. The first animal was clearly no problem to handle. He was conscious, but essentially unresponsive. So, wearing specially designed protective gloves (ie ginormous leather welding gloves), I firmly cradled my hands around the base of the pup's skull, lifted, and placed him into the kennel we use for rescues. Sea lions are pretty strong, and densely muscular, but the major concern when dealing with them is to keep your soft warm flesh away from their sharp bitey teeth: their saliva can cause a nasty infection in us humanoids. Lifting in this way is the same as any wild mama would do with her young: grab onto the nape of the neck and get em where you want em to be.

Checking on the second sea lion in the day's dossier, we found a confused pregnant female who'd been booted from the shores of the island (there's a whole pecking order I'm working to understand: as with any group of animals that gathers in droves, there are powerful instinctual behaviors that aren't always favorable to all individuals.). We observed her for a while, as Sam gave us a play-by-play of her behavior, but despite her not-ideal location, all was as it should have been for her, and so we let her be. We brought the first patient back to the treatment facility for assessment (all indications, very sadly, point to domoic acid poisoning), attempted to feed the other wee devil that was already there, and gave a few injections to keep everyone healthy, if not happy. Today was another day at the facility, my regularly scheduled day to be there, to feed and clean, medicate and log.

I love my work there. I love spending time with Sam and Ruth. The work is challenging, and sometimes really sad, but it feels like we're doing something really good, really trying to help, and that's love. And it's an amazing thing to be a part of. Sam said something a few weeks back to one of the vet students who'd asked how he'd started doing this work (FYI marine mammal vets are few and far between. There are few, if any, vet schools that offer specialization in marine mammals, so the bulk of Sam's training has been post vet school, on-location, figuring it out as he's gone along.). Sam's response to the question was that he'd decided he was going to work with marine mammals, and he didn't let anyone stop him from making it happen. CIMWI is a side project he's been dreaming of for years, but he makes his living by flying all over the country, throughout Mexico and the Caribbean, caring for marine mammals at places like Sea World, and Dolphin Encounters, among others.

I can feel myself getting further and further away from being able to work the way I've been doing, to be working jobs I'm not passionate about, working hours not always determined by me. I'm constantly surrounded by people who are self-made, with businesses centered on what they love, on sharing what they love with the people. There's a whole different vibe involved in this, a sense of freedom, a sense of determination, a passion for one's work, a sense of control over the outcome of one's life. It's just a matter of time now, and a matter of figuring out the hows. I may not have had the drive that Sam had from an early age, but I know it's in there somewhere!

12 June 2007

self, fulfilled, pt. I: marine technology.

Funny how sometimes, when you say something, that very thing, very shortly thereafter, can come true.

One of the last statements of my last entry was "Actually, I'm pretty sure something amazing is on its way!" which I basically included as an effort to lift my spirits, and to get myself back to seeing things in a positive light. Happily, it was most effective. Shortly after publishing that entry, my endlessly considerate phone alerted me to a call from friend Carlo, calling to invite me to the Longboard bar, where he and others were imbibing.

Over the course of the year the MDT Building, owing to its equipment and amenities, plays host to several professional development classes, which are related to diving, but not affiliated with the school or program. Simply put, the facility is contracted to outside organizations. To give a few examples, the city dock workers spent a good deal of time at the facility this spring, becoming familiar with the helmets and manifold systems. Yet another class is held annually, just after the end of the school year, a training/certification course for Sonar equipment produced by Kongsberg Simrad Mesotech Ltd. The course is classroom based, with a good portion devoted to hands-on time with the sonar equipment, both in the tanks at the facility, and off Stearn's Wharf downtown. For this particular class, a handful of MDT students are selected each year by the program director to assist with the underwater portion of the class. This year's assistants included friends Carlo, Rob, Josh, and Simon. When Carlo called from the Longboard last week, he was out marking the end of the course with a handful of class participants, plus the instructors, plus MDT's own Program Director, Mr. Dan Vasey.

Having expressed an interest in learning more about sonar at an earlier date, Dan suggested I find time to chat with the instructors of the class while they were in town. Thursday night at the Longboard was my chance to do just that. After chatting for a few hours with Mark and Brian, they invited me down to the facility the next morning to review some of the course materials, to look at some sonar imaging project reports, and to listen to a quick & dirty overview of sonar applications. They were knowledgeable and, better yet!, enthusiastic about what they were doing and the limitless future possibilities. The challenges associated with sonar use are enough to pique my interest and guide my steps in that direction. But in addition, there were specific buzz words mentioned with regard to working with sonar, the most critical of these (to me) being: travel. When working with sonar, one tends to travel pretty regularly. Later that day, I also got to play with an ROV (remotely operated vehicle) at the facility. ROVs are another area that interest me. Slowly but surely, a path emerges...

07 June 2007

like a rolling stone.

I was having a conversation with someone recently, during which I made mention of my age-old supposition that eventually, after living in a place for a while, I'd freak out and run away as quickly as possible. My friend offered a different perspective, that perhaps I'm just in need of change every so often (which, as you might have gathered, may be a bit more often than the average Jane.). It's not mind-numbingly insightful, but it is insightful enough to give me a new way of looking at a very old pattern. The pattern was obviously most noticeable whilst living in (or fleeing) Minnesota, but it presents itself other places too, like here in Santa Barbara.

I've been here just under a year, friends. I arrived... let me confer with my calendar... Saturday, 19 August 2006, which means I'm all of a 10.5-month California resident. My time here has been amazing- the diving program, the phenomenal friends I've made, the sheer beauty of this coastline- like nothing I've experienced before. But life feels strange and different now that school's out for summer (who can resist inserting those lyrics where applicable? Certainly not me!). I'm not sure what to do with myself, not sure what I want to do with myself.

I've been focusing for the past few weeks on de-cluttering, which has been wonderfully fruitful and cleansing. I've cleared out tons, and have been attempting to feng shui-ize my living quarters. Obviously an engaging and rewarding endeavor: the chi is flowing smoothly, symbolism abounds, and my space is more organized than it's been in forever! I'm also looking for new forms of employment, and doing a lot of talking and networking, when possible. At present, I'm driving limos and town cars on the weekends, and I'm volunteering weekly at CIMWI, helping to care for injured sea lions. I'm loving ALL of this, but I'm feeling a definite lack of purpose without classes to attend and homework to attend to.

This also feels like one of those door closing/window opening-type periods. With school over for a bit, and having quit the jobs I'd been doing for so long, and having ended my 2-month (a pretty decent attempt, considering my history) dating stint, I'm ready for something new to come into my life... But what? And how? I have a tendency to overexert myself, and try to force my way into new possibilities, when the best options always seem to come in quietly, unexpectedly. So I'm also trying to relax and enjoy this time, to appreciate the serenity of days without phone calls or boring and obligatory work obligations. Actually, I'm pretty sure something amazing is on its way!

In the meantime, maybe I'll try to write more, meet more people, explore more. There must be tons left to be discovered outside that window...

21 May 2007

these are days.

I've been super laze about writing of late. Actually, strike that. I've not been super laze. I've been thinking about writing, and have been meaning to write, and more than all this, I've actually been wanting to write. The past few months have been somewhat antithetical to this, though, and so while there has been sufficiently interesting happenings to report, my mental state has not been such that I've actually wanted to write. And so I haven't. But I'm feeling better now.

It's a sunny morning in Santa Barbara, and that's a rare thing of late. These days seem to dawn consistently gray and overcast, and yesterday even ended that way, with a misty shroud hanging about the hilltops. Everything is in bloom now, more flowering trees than I've seen at once in my whole life, in all colors and shapes, which helps to brighten even the dreariest of May Gray days. This area, very unfortunately, lacks my springtime favorite though, so abundant in my homeland of MN this time of year:

oh, lovely common lilac, I can almost smell your heady fragrance.

but the jasmine bushes are well represented, and that almost (but, not quite) makes up for the lack of lilac. The house that I grew up in in St. Paul had 2 lilac bushes in the yard until sometime in high school when Daddio decided they had to go, reducing me to stealthily stealing bunches from unsuspecting neighboring yards. I'd do it when I lived in Minneapolis, too, walk around late at night with a good pair of scissors, searching for a lilac bush near enough to the sidewalk so as not to be trespassing while I stole the lilacs.

School finished last week. The stinky boys I started the program with are now certified commercial divers. Of about 30 that I started my classes with, 6 graduated (plus 3 stragglers from other semesters):

MDT Class of Spring 2007.

From the top, my left to right: Casey, student x, Simon (conveniently, these first 3 are the aforementioned stragglers) Josh, Evan, Nick, Nate, Carlo, Rob. Bottom row: our esteemed instructors Ed, Don (my favorite), Geoff, Dan (the WI native). The ceremony was bittersweet, I'm excited for the grads to be on their way, but will certainly miss their presence in school and in Santa Barbara. The ending of the school year itself was bittersweet. I'm glad to be done with classes, but the scattering to the winds of all my classmates, those who I've spent long hours and days with over the past months, feels a bit like being untethered. But I also feel pretty free, and that's a pretty decent feeling, too.

12 April 2007

down in the valley.

I have a friend whose birthday is in January. Maybe it's residual frustration from having a birthday so near to the winter holidays, and hence, having her birthday folded in with the likes of New Year's and Christmas, rather than the separate entity most people experience. Maybe now that she's an adult, she's making up for all those lost and forgotten birthdays. Whatever the reason, January, to all her close distant friendly acquaintances, has become Januar-ME, wherein every weekend celebrates her with her own chosen activity. It tends to be a bit over the top, but it's amusing nonetheless.

With my 31st just around the corner, I'm having a similar sort of month, a sort of I-pril.

I suppose it started right around St. Patty's Day, that wonderful day of indulgence and debauchery. Maybe there was something in the air, something that told it was time to make a change that would make me feel a ton better: I gave my 2 week's notice at the restaurant. My rationale was that 1.) I'd started to really dread going there, and 2.) if I quit that very night, my last night would coincide with the beginning of spring break, allowing for a full 5 days of freedom. So I gave my notice, and immediately felt a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. It felt like the best decision I'd made in forever. I struggled through my remaining shifts for the next 2 weeks, and then I was free!

My original plan for spring break was to head to Baja for some camping, but confusion over current border-crossing requirements left me uncertain and, not wanting to arrive at the border (6ish hours drive from here) only to be turned away, I chose to head further inland instead, toward cold and snow and mountains and forest. I decided to head to Yosemite.

There were several reasons I wanted to leave the restaurant, the largest of these was the feeling of being overwhelmed. I'm somewhere between introvert and extrovert. Obviously, time spent at the restaurant is extrovert time, and my time away from the restaurant didn't feel like enough introvert time to recharge for the extrovert time, basically creating an unpleasant vortex in my life. So I left the restaurant, largely, to find more time for myself. Strangely, this hasn't really been the case.

When I left for Yosemite, I was entertaining ideas of a quiet campground, an isolated site near a melodic brook, lots of time for reflection, peaceful nights fireside. Yosemite wasn't quite the place for this. Much of the park is still closed due to residual snow, so visitors are confined to the Valley for sightseeing and camping. Because they fill up most nights, reservations are necessary in the campgrounds. The point of utmost ridiculousness was on the morning I planned to leave. The first night I stayed in the park, my neighbors, Joe and Ted from Pittsburgh, PA came over to introduce themselves.

Ted, me, Joe near Lower Yosemite Falls.
I ended up spending my evenings at their campfire, and a day hiking with them. The last morning I woke up to find my keys locked in my car. Everyone I'd met stepped in to help, and at one point I stepped back to soak it all in: Joe and Ted; my other neighbors Karen and Dora, plus pooch Taylor; and the fantastically boisterous couple in the dually truck and fifth wheel camper, plus toddler, plus pooch, who'd reserved my site that night, all gathered in my campsite, around my car, trying to break in. A park ranger joined us for a few minutes, and later the tow truck driver (who actually did break in). I had to find some humor in it, because really, it doesn't get much more ridiculous than going out to find some solitude and ending up with 7-9 random near strangers in your campsite on a sunny Wednesday morn in Yosemite. I drove out of the park and actually did find some solitude that day, both on the road and later, in a quiet little campground near Paso Robles.

Now that I'm home and not working, I do feel I've got more time, but I've also started dating someone, and that also takes up a bit of time. It does balance out for the most part, now that I don't have to go to the restaurant. And obviously dating someone is a bit more enjoyable than going to work. It's nice to have time to focus on what I want to do, rather than rushing around. I'm making an effort to ride my bike more often, and reading more, taking more naps, enjoying myself. The feeling of guilt sneaks in periodically, like I should be working, but I figure there's more than enough time for that. Once I-pril's done.

no knut is good knut.

Did anyone ever watch the Great Space Coaster?



There was a segment on the program called "The Gary Gnu Show," the opening line of which was always "No g-news is good g-news." I seem to remember watching this show most mornings during my years-long daily captivity at this or that home-based childcare provider, though I can't remember the name of the specific provider (Bev, Arlene? It's hard to determine so many years later.). The memory of the show popped into my head yesterday when I realized the name (Knut) of the adorable baby polar bear I've been enamored of for the past 18 hours is actually pronounced ka-newt, rather than the silent-k pronunciation I'd assumed correct.



I'm not sure why the Dallas theme song opens the video (really, none of the songs seem to fit), but hold out for the unbelievably adorable shot of baby bear yawning at the beginning of the second song ("He's so fine" by the Chiffons.).

And just because I love Steven Colbert, I had to include his thoughts on the matter:



So the Gary Gnu reference is actually kind of fitting, in the eyes of the activists. And while zoos tend to bother me a bit, especially when you see something so imposing and restless as a polar bear stuck in one, there is some good that comes of it (ie awareness, education). And plus, seriously, this is the cutest damn thing I've seen in forever. Looking at pictures of Knut are like taking happy pills.

And everyone could use a happy pill every now and then.