Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Bad Sign

In case you missed this link over at Hooked on Houses, you've got to, got to, got to see
this slide show of ill-considered real estate signs.

Julia's listed some other good links at, but many won't tickle my juvenile funny bone as did this one.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Kitten and the Fern

Tiger stripes would have been handy.

The hunter in hiding.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tweety Bird

You may have noticed that I've been blogging a lot less lately.  For one thing, since the interior of the house is mostly done, I've not felt that inspired to keep up with the house blog.  For a bigger thing, since the interior of the house is mostly done, I now have the time (barely) and resources to pursue another avenue of interest.  I won't say what that is but the observant reader should be able to find the clues, like a blogging game of Where's Waldo.

Anyway, there are tidbits here and there that occur to me but that don't deserve a whole blog post.  More often there's a housing related story that I want to share but often don't get around to blogging about.  I guess that's what Twitter was created for - to make up for my laziness and time crunch.

The Twitter feed is to the right.  Just sayin'.  If you want to follow me, here I am.  If you tweet, I'll follow you too. 

More Tiny Living

Here's another story about someone who chooses to live in a super-tiny house. I posted on this trend once before.

I admire this decision. I really do.  I would miss entertaining though.  Given the chance to reconfigure our fixer-upper, we made decisions specifically keeping in mind flow and traffic patterns for a large number of guests.  These people throw zero parties.  The woman in the earlier post says she regrets not having space to have friends over.

Oh, and I would miss my husband, too.  I don't think two of us could live in a space under 90 sq. feet.  Under 1100 square feet is challenging.  The good thing is that we're not both home at the same time much.  That sounds more cynical than it really is.  But still, we really need all the space. we have.  For our collections.  And the books.  And the these things we've been dragging around with us for 27 years.  The tiny-house dwellers have nothing they don't use everyday.  They have no room for their past.  No room for mementos.  No room for anything other than the immediate. 

Perhaps that's how it should be.  Perhaps that forces them to live in a constant present.

And where are you expected to situate those houses?  That guy found a lot somewhere out in the wilderness.  That's not for everybody, certainly not for me.  I suppose I'd have to find a tiny vacant lot somewhere in the city - if I wanted a tiny house.  There aren't many vacant lots available in Los Angeles and if you do find one, it's likely vacant for a reason. 

These would make good vacation cottages though.  I could see that.  I'm trying to imagine what a tiny, tiny Palm Springs house would look like. 

Mmm.  No.  Can't do it. 300 square feet?  Maybe.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Picking Up Our Own Trash

If you’ve been reading this blog for the past few months, you know how I feel about the anti-immigrant hysteria gripping the country and you understand from where my position is generated.

I also understand the opposite side.

I was driving to work on Friday when ahead of me, I saw trash being dropped from a white van parked down the street. Not one to mind my own business, I rolled down my passenger window and stopped beside the van.

“Excuse me.” The young woman who was texting or something looked up. I continued, “You dropped trash on the street. You should pick it up.”

The young woman went back to her texting.

“Pick it up. The street is not your trashcan. The planet is not your trashcan. You shouldn’t be throwing trash on the ground.”

The young woman looked up again. “I will.”

Knowing full well that she wouldn’t, I pushed it more “Can you please pick it up now?”

“I will.”

Another woman on the other side of the van was loading stuff onto the front seat. I pulled up the car a bit to speak to her.

“You know you shouldn’t be throwing trash in the street.”

The other woman assured me that I had been heard the first time and been told that in fact, they would be picking up the trash.

I promised them that I would return to see that it was picked up.

I should have pretended to write down the license plate number.

I do these things from time to time, either out of an irrational desire to experience a gunshot wound or just out of bossy arrogance.

As I was driving away, I realized, in an esprit d'escalier moment, what I should have said. See, these women were Latin American immigrants. What I ought to have told them was that if ICE ever came for them or deported anyone they knew, that they would be partly to blame. I should have told them that part of the reason that Arizona and other states were adopting hateful anti-immigration policies was because of people like them. I should have told them that they could not expect to be welcomed in this country if they are going to casually throw trash in the streets and turn our neighborhoods into the same type of ghettos that they escaped.

We do have to be honest about this, don’t we? On the one hand, we should acknowledge that anti-immigrant fervor is fueled by divisive political opportunists exploiting economic insecurity. That so many state and local governments face bankruptcy makes the scapegoating of immigrants inevitable. It’s an old story.

On the other hand, if I notice people throwing trash in the streets of my neighborhood; if I notice tagging on walls and trees; if I notice my local park taken over by unlicensed vendors and if I notice that all the perpetrators seem to be of similar cultural identity, wouldn’t it be easy to convince me that maybe those people should be forced to leave my country before they turn it into a place like their country?

I’m not saying the haters are right. A lot of nice, law-abiding, tax-paying people will get hurt in the conflicts that lie ahead. And when I write “law-abiding” that’s what I mean. There are people who entered this country through legitimate channels who will . . . get . . . hurt. There are many more people who are law-abiding in every other way who will get hurt. There are American citizens who will get hurt.

I don’t know the status of the women I chided. I know they weren’t born here. Maybe they’re here legally. Maybe they’re not. But I know they know people who are not here legally. Everyone does. Those women do not make their situations any better. They do not make a case for themselves. They make it harder for everyone.

It’s like when a certain nation is surrounded by enemy states and then oppresses a certain group of people within its own state; committing human rights violations and launching military offensives while at the same time expecting support and sympathy from the rest of the world community. Not without enemies enough, that state acts as its own worst enemy.

So, in any circumstance, while we can sympathize with a certain group we should also recognize that even the smallest of our actions have consequences and can inflame those who oppose us.

Let’s not be our own worst enemies.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

On Our Nation's Birthday

a brief history of the founding of our country, brought to you by one of my favorite philosophers, George Carlin.

WARNING: Not safe for work, your kiddies or my parents -

"You give us a color, we'll wipe it out." He cracks me up with his truth.

Happy 4th!

My Trip - Part Seven, We Take Our Leave

The next day was our last morning at the ranch. We said our goodbyes to my uncle and aunt and to Jorge and his wife and children. They asked when we would visit again and I said it would be soon. The truth is, it’s unlikely we’ll be back. Just being realistic. It’s a tough trip for both of us and my mom always worries that our visits are an imposition on my aunt and uncle.

I recall, however, that upon our departure five years ago I thought the same thing, that we would not be back, so who knows what the future will bring?

The plan was for Hector to drive us in his truck back to Oaxaca City but first we would drop off my aunt and uncle in the town of Jaltepec where they could pick up their government checks – what I suppose is their Social Security. I was told that they would first have to listen to speeches by local leaders about all the great things the party was doing for them. It seemed like a time-share trap.

On the way into town we met with a car-full of cousins. They were coming to say good-bye. I guess we left a little earlier than planned. I’m glad the timing worked out and we met on the road.

These goodbyes were more tearful than the last. My cousin Raquel, in particular, was very emotional. She begged us to return soon. How could I not make that promise?

Again, we were on our way.

It strikes me how attached they seemed to be to us or to me at least. My mom is one of them; she is from that life; has their references; speaks their language, so it’s not surprising, their affection for her. I am a different animal – not fluent, not at all familiar with that life or culture, so far removed in my everyday life from anything they imagine – yet, they are tearful at my departure.

Is that what real families are like? Do they love you whether they know you or not? Do they love you whether they “get” you or not? If they saw me in my natural habitat – screaming at traffic, having a conniption because I can’t have my office painted just the right shade of blue, slipping on gloves for every household activity lest I break or chip a precious fingernail – would they still love me?

During the two-hour trip back to Oaxaca City, I don’t attempt to keep up with the conversation from the front seats. I passively watch the desert scenery pass by. A goat stands at the side of the freeway. I hope for his safety.

Back in the City

We unload our bags at the hotel and then walk to the zocalo for lunch.  The zocalo is the town square that, for this city, is the main area for tourists.  It's safe.  It's clean.  It would be easy to believe the rest of the city is like this.  It is not. 

There are restaurants on three sides of the square.  A government building anchors the fourth.  Most of the dining is outdoors to take advantage of the festive atmosphere.  Peddlers hawk kitschy souvenirs of all kinds, from jewelery to hand-carved letter openers.  Beggars are not uncommon.

I was aware of this as we chose a table at our restaurant.  But still, our table was near the edge of the cafe's enclosure, near enough that we were targets for peddlers and beggars. 

And what are you going to do?  You can't buy from everyone.  You can't give anyone enough to really make a difference.  Ancient women with wrinkled skin and black, squinting eyes extend their gnarled hands and what do you do?  Some of the women carried babies and, as always, I wondered - why do the poor have babies?

Again, The Fever came to mind:
". . . a voice says - why not all of it? Why not give her all that you have?

"Be careful, that's a question that could poison your life . . . "

"If you hear that question, it means you're sick. You're mentally sick. You've had a breakdown . . . "

"But there's a reason why
I'm the one who has the money in the first place, and that's why I'm not going to give it all away. In other words . . . I worked for that money. I worked. I worked hard to make that money and it's my money, because I made it."

"You say
you work. But why does your work bring you so much money, while their work brings practically nothing? You say you "make" money. What a wonderful expression. But how can you "make" so much of it in such a short time, while in the same amount of time they "make" so little?"

After our lunch of too generous proportions, we took our leave of Hector, shopped again for souvenirs and returned to our room for siesta (and, in my case, my first contact with email in a week.)

Late in the day, we rose for another meal.  Again, as with our first night here, we dine at our favorite restaurant El Asador Vasco, perched at the edge of the balcony, viewing the evening activity but distanced from harsh reality.  Again, there are margaritas. 

And my mother tells me of when she was much younger, and looked up at the privileged diners at the tables at this very restaurant and felt the envy and never imagined that she might dine at one of these tables one day.

And here we are.  But it's not enough.  It's never enough.

"There's never enough solace, never enough consolation."

The next day we fly, uneventfully, back to California, she to her home in the northern half and I to my home in the southern half.

Our journey has come to an end.  We are home once again in the Land of Opportunity, where more than enough is never quite enough.