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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Little things mean a lot...

Yesterday, someone hacked into my computer. Well, not exactly hacked. They were sitting at my desk, keeping it warm until I got back from lunch and someone wanted an answer that was in my computer. A big shot executive vice president. Well, my lunch relief turned into a blithering idiot instead of someone who's grown up enough to hold a damn JOB and tore my reference books apart until she found an old password I had written down because I needed a temp and I, unlike the rest of the universe (or the universe at THIS company) am forced to hand over my password because setting up a benign profile under the name of, or, I dunno, how's "TEMP" sound, is beyond the capabilities of the MIS department here.

We spend hours in security classes where the mantra "NEVER give ANYONE your password" is drummed into us, ad nauseum. We sign papers indicating we understand this. We sign papers indicating that we understand that going into someone else's computer is a firing offense, no warnings, no nothing, just "don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out" firing. We sign papers saying that no one, never, ever, in this company will ever, ever go into your computer for information because that makes your email accessible and that's a HUGE corporate no-no. Unless the company is being sued and you're specifically named in the suit and the suit alleges you sent something via the e-mail. Unless, of course, you work in MY department where security is important to everyone unless you're dealing with me, in which case, what's the big deal?

So she finds an old password, figures out it's probably a pattern and after one or two tried she got in to my signed out desktop so the steamroller executive could have the information she refused to wait FIVE MINUTES for. The idiot who couldn't say "sorry, I don't have her password and I can be fired for signing on to her computer without her permission, she's due back in five minutes, hang on" found the outdated password on the aforementioned copy of a note I had left the temp...a note which, by the way, had BOTH my HOME NUMBER and my CELL NUMBER on it. MUCH better to just surmise a password and fire up someone else's computer than pick up the damn PHONE, no?

THEN came the teary eyed "Oh, I'm SO sorry, I didn't know what to do, she's entitled to do that" explanation. Um, BULLSHIT lady. MICKEY MOUSE isn't allowed to hack into Disney computers.
 No, I don't work for Disney but the point is valid.

Not wanting to get the moron fired, I place a couple of well intentioned complaints to be told "oh gee, that's too bad, have I told you about my sister in law?" which translates to "Uh, lady, don't complain to me, you aren't  entitled to the same courtesy the rest of us give each other so shut the hell up." I went home, made a drink and a batch of cookies and figured it would dissipate by morning. It hasn't.

I am becoming more and more aware of how important respect for others is, and how the smallest thing can destroy trust. I always liked the girl. I'm having trouble being civil to her. SHE knew better. BUT...since is was just ME, she had no qualms getting into my desktop...NOR did the executive who wanted her to do it. Because I'm not worthy of the courtesy the give one another. I'm the bottom of the food chain and have been for almost five years. I have a degree, a certificate and a functioning brain but I'm labeled by my title. Yesterday's small event served to really drive that point home. I know full well that incident would never have happened to anyone but me. I'm the one who doesn't matter.

This morning the hubster got up and went in to work. No, it's not the big bonanza. He was asked by a former employer if he could come in and help with an annual project. This morning, he was up early, showered, shaved, dressed and headed out the door before I did. He stood a little straighter, his hair was a little neater, his whole demeanor a little brighter. It was good to see.

My older son, who I saw at lunchtime was also a little taller. Instead of sitting home all day waiting for something to happen while he watches game shows and listens to the radio, he took it upon himself to accomplish things. I'm getting the occasional call from him..."I'm taking that stack of mail on the table to the post office now" and "I'm going to the store, we're out of milk." Now yes, I fret, he has some health issues and I'm a bit nervous when he's home alone. But he's a young man, of legal age and a couple of years past that, and this little thing, this day with both mom and dad at work, has made him just a bit better, a bit brighter.

Everyone needs a purpose, even if it's just a temp job or going for milk without having someone telling you to. It's like going for a walk. I don't mind going for a walk if I'm going somewhere (and I'm not wearing those gold flats that pinch). We need a destination. When we get there, we need a reason to come home. It's not that much to ask when it comes right down to it. Give me somewhere to go, and give me a reason to look forward to coming home.

It's the smallest things that make the biggest difference. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

On the fifteenth of May, in the jungle of Nool...

Earlier this year we were negotiating with the I.R.S. I was attempting to make payment arrangements for our 2009 tax bill. I hadn't done this before and, to give the devil his due, the I.R.S. was being very accommodating, I venture to say even nice about it. Didn't want us to overextend ourselves, offering to make our payments VERY small, much smaller than I expected.

We hit an unknown snag which resulted in the I.R.S. sending a certified letter saying we had to contact them in person. This is never good news. So the hubster took a deep breath, girded his loins and hied himself down to the closest office of the Internal Revenue Service which, btw, does not make appointments for summons like this.

He got there right as the office was re-opening after lunch. He stood in line outside the building for 20 minutes while everyone snaked through the metal detectors and emptied their pockets and had their bags x-rayed and then made his way to the office and got in line at the window. He was number 52.

A breathtaking two and a half hours later he reached the window to be told that we could not make a payment arrangement because we hadn't filed our 2004 taxes. Hmmmmmm. This seemed odd.  In fact, when I called him I said "Gee, that sounds odd...." Okay, I said "Like HELL we didn't!" and, luckily, was able to find the tax file. I was fearful it was in a box in storage, so much of our stuff was thrown in boxes and locked behind the orange door of the local "You have way too much crap for any one person to keep, pay US and we'll let you use our garage" facility where you will have convenient access to it any time between the hours of 6am and 9pm, providing you remember to pay your bill because if you don't you will have liens up your ass.

You know those commercials? Where the happy people drop by storage four times a week, it's clean and organized and that's where you have your wedding dress fit? Yeah, that place. Well, it's been three years, I HAVE managed to extricate the Christmas stuff from it, most of my Desert Rose dishware came out broken and I'm still looking for my kitchen scale. Trust me, no one drops by their organized, brightly lit storage garage, chats with their neighbors and wheels the mountain bikes out for a day of fun.

It took a few minutes to find the right file, while they were in the apartment they weren't in any particular order. I found the 2005 taxes and saw I had declared our 2004 tax refund from the state so I KNEW I filed taxes.   The I.R.S. had obligingly provided the hubster with a printout of all our reported income for that year so we could reconstruct the taxes if necessary. Well, up popped the 2004 returns. The STATE returns. There they were, along with the copies of the W2s and some assorted 1099s. There was NO copy of the Federal return.

Well, shit. I had NO clue why the state was filed and the feds weren't. We had, apparently, filed an extension. Okay, works for me. After spending several days trying to figure out just what had happened I decided the federal return was lost in the mail or something, thought "Oh, what the hell..." and took what I had, and the printout from the I.R.S., and started reconstructing.

Now, to be honest, it was kind of cool to have the list from the I.R.S. because if there was some money we had made and I forgot about, well, the I.R.S. didn't know about it either. And we had a home back then, so there was mortgage interest and property taxes and insurance to deduct. And, lo and behold, there, on the bottom line...a REFUND! A refund that would have taken care of our outstanding tax bill and put some money in our pockets for things like groceries, gas, haircuts and some new jeans.

Because the return was so old I decided to find a licensed tax preparer...just in case? We made an appointment, went over everything and waited. She called just a few days later, everything was ready and yep, there was a refund, pretty much the same one I had come up with. We went in, signed, forked over $275 and left with the taxes and an addressed envelope in our hand. Which was when I started wondering. The I.R.S. had given us a specific address to send the taxes to, because of their age and the payment plan hinging on them. We gave the address to the tax preparer. She didn't use it. Oh well. Then I glanced over the taxes. The $700 the hubster had won in a contest was sitting there as self employment income and had generated a penalty because we hadn't filed as a company. I called and took them back whereupon she explained that, in tax preparer school, they were taught that any money won was self employment income.

This struck me odd -- as there's a freaking LINE on the tax form to declare money you WIN. She told us her boss said that, because of the amount of the winnings we could declare is as additional income. This woman was beginning to concern me. She redid the taxes and I picked them up. She said she felt bad and would offer us a $50 discount on this year's taxes because of the error. I remained unimpressed yet friendly and I think we both knew I wouldn't be back. I double-checked my returns once again. She had my name wrong. I got out the Liquid Paper.

Having waiting patiently for word from the I.R.S. we investigated. Yep, they had our returns, thank you very much and let's put you on a payment  plan. Um, why? The refund MORE than covers the taxes for 2009. "Your return is over three years old. We don't GIVE refunds." After going around and around and getting nowhere we said "Okay, well, what about using that money for the taxes we owe for last year?"

"Nope. You owe those too."

 EXCUSE ME? I PAID in too much money and you're just KEEPING IT?


Well, okay, why did you keep accepting our returns for the past SEVEN years and never, ever, not even ONCE did you sent us a letter saying "We haven't received your tax returns for 2004"?

"That's not our responsibility."

Have you ever heard of someone not filing their Income Taxes and the I.R.S. not bothering to come after them  for it? Me either.

Want to know why I had a refund in 2004 and a bill for almost two grand for both '09 and '10? Because the hubster's company folded and he's been grabbing whatever freelance he could and collecting his unemployment until it ran out. The Feds place a hefty tax on UNemployment. I make less than $30K annual and the taxes that are being withheld, at the highest rate possible mind you, from my paycheck still fall almost TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS A YEAR SHORT.

That's two thousand dollars more than Exxon-Mobil paid in taxes. 

That's two thousand dollars more than at least 1400 MILLIONAIRES paid.

But there, on a clover named Wall Street, stand the Whos. Rather than remain still while we're all dropped into a vat of boiling beezelnut oil they came together and started chanting, in small unheard voices "We are here!" And soon they were gathering everywhere, in Los Angeles, in Tokyo, in Rome (yeah, that one turned into the end of a soccer match though), in Tai Pai, in London, in Paris, in Toronto...all standing politely, and all yelling as loud as they can "We are HERE!"

And, after three years of being "alone in the universe", after three years of being abused and pushed around and drained of every drop of blood I have and some I don't, I find myself, finally, with a voice. And I want to go to the highest point I can find anywhere and shout to the world, in a voice louder than any ever heard in history: "YOPP!"

A person IS a person, no matter how small. WE are the 99%. And we're too big to fail.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Saturday, Saturday, ever lovin' Saturday...

I have fleas.

It's Saturday, I look forward to Saturday all week. It's what drives me, keeps me breathing. I can get through any day because there's a Saturday coming. Well, a weekend, but Saturday morning is pretty much a necessity for that.

So I spend the week looking at the paper and "Sunset" magazine on the Internet because have you checked out the cover price on "Sunset"?  My head is full of all kinds of wonderful adventures, all requiring less than half a tank of gas. Especially this time of year, because there's a "Harvest Festival" on every coastline and sand dune between Pismo Beach and the Mexican border. How fun does that sound? Pumpkins and autumn leaves and football and that particular softness in the fall air...the cool breeze that punctuates the warm days of Indian Summer. The air in the fall has no promise in it, it's lazy and quiet as if the hemisphere is dozing, not quite ready to hibernate for winter but not as energetic as the breeziness of springtime.

Just what does this have to do with the fleas? Well, there's a fall day out there and, instead of being out at some festival looking for free parking and getting depressed because I can't afford a fifteen dollar slice of pumpkin pie I'm home, trying to figure out what to do with the damn fleas.

The hubster is wondering where they came from. Um...we have a cat? The cat doesn't go outside. Now. The cat used to go outside 17 times an hour until he decided to start going out and spending two days straight in the crawl space under the building. Besides, we're WAY too close to what passes for a foothill here in the urban village and we have coyotes. The cat is fairly smart, but -- well, let's just say I don't trust his speed.

However...unless the cat had never been outside in his eight years and counting, I think it's a fair bet as to where the fleas came from.  The weather got hot and the fleas woke up. My younger son and I are spending our spare time trying to find the skin between the bumps on our feet and calves. I have no idea WHY the damn things leave my older son and the hubster alone, I've Googled "Why do fleas bite me and not him?" and all I came up with was some doctor explaining the life cycle of fleas which was not only uninteresting but failed to address the question. Rather like my dentist.

So I'm spending today vacuuming and steam-cleaning the carpets. I would probably be okay with this except that I pretty much spend EVERY weekend doing laundry, vacuuming, dusting, cleaning the kitchen and never, ever going to Harvest Festivals.  It doesn't help much that I HATE carpeting with a passion and I especially hate THIS carpeting which my apartment manager deems to be the height of "loser renter" fashion. The carpet, however, is the same color as the dirt that gets tracked in, so it's practical if nothing else. And, believe me, it IS nothing else. We not allowed hardwood floors on the second floor because 1) the owner says that the carpet on the second floors is what stops the leaks into the first floor apartments and 2) the people in the first floor apartments will know there are people living above them if the people in the upper units have laminate with a soundproof underlay. As if the people in the first floor didn't KNOW there were people living upstairs and the paper-thin carpet with the bargain padding muffles the sound of my 6'9" son's footsteps.

I have to accomplish this soon though, it can't be put off and I'm going to a local theater tonight to see a play being stage managed by my son. It's a re-telling of "The Scarlet Letter" except with an even more depressing ending, I understand bludgeoning is involved. While I love watching my son's work, I'm not really looking forward to this. It's being put on by a highly lauded theater company in one of the myriad of small equity waiver theaters in this neck of the woods (meaning Los Angeles). Why can't these companies, as talented and acclaimed as they are, ever put on "Animal Crackers" or "My Sister, Eileen"?

Oh, as to the fleas, I've spent days online trying to figure out how to get rid of them without poisoning myself, or the cat. Apparently I can't. The best I can do is vacuum incessantly, steam-clean the carpets until the backing wears out and wait for them to starve, sometime in the next century.  Like Keith Richards and cockroaches, they will survive Armageddon.

Who knew?

Friday, October 14, 2011

"....failure to communicate."

Last night, or should I say very early this morning, I found myself up, watching something something lame on that "all weddings, all the time" channel and I was seriously considering ordering a pair of pajama jeans. Now, for some weird reason, after about 11:30 the wireless Internet connection loses about 40% of it's power and there's no way to bring it back up. I didn't want to CALL the number on my screen and talk to the helpful operator who would find me the right size based on my regular pant size because I didn't want to admit to a living, breathing person just what my regular pant size IS.  I decided to go on line and order them because I knew that the only person who would know how big my ass is would be the person who pulled my order and shoved it in the shipping bag and, while he or she may well have thought "Holy cow, does that woman have any clue how BIG her butt is?" at least I wouldn't have to know who it was.

After about 20 minutes of trying in vain to get a connection I gave up and went to bed, having decided that I would go to the "As Seen on TV" store in the mall this week-end because what I REALLY wanted was a set of those plastic slats that go under your sofa cushions and prop up the couch so that the next time Sumo wrestlers drop in they can sit down without sinking into the flea infested sleeper sofa frame. I also decided I wanted one of those meat loaf pans that keep the meat loaf up above the bottom of the pan...the one that comes with the knife that has the movable guide on the side so I can slice my meatloaf, and bread in perfectly even slices because the Orowheat Bakery doesn't do a good enough job slicing bread.

I was up late for a number of reasons. First, I went to bed then got up for a drink of water. I told myself it was for a drink of water knowing full well it was probably going to be for another slice of the chocolate cake that was in the fridge. Also, the cat was on a tear which meant he was hungry and wouldn't stop climbing the drapes until he wasn't, he had already knocked the phone off of the table and it was shrieking that awful "I'm off the hook" sound it makes just before it goes dead. The hubster sleeps through all this. He sleeps through earthquakes and will probably miss the Second Coming if it occurs between the hours of midnight and 7am.

I had finished the dishes a little before 8pm, although they were still in the dish drainer. The kitchen had been wiped down and both sides of the sink showed nothing but stainless steel, a surface I hate for sinks, btw, but beggars can't be choosers. I flipped on the kitchen light, grabbed a can of cat food and turned to the dish drainer for a spoon.

Both sides of the sink were full. There were no fewer than a DOZEN glasses, two mugs, two plates, a lot of silverware and a cereal bowl full of the telltale orange powder that denotes someone got into the Cheetos. I put away the dinner dishes and started on the ones in the sink, all the while wondering why the HELL can't ANYONE use ONE glass for TWO drinks? There are FOUR of us. But every time someone wants a drink of water they get a new glass. Not only that, they then, considerately, put it in the sink so I don't have to pick it up off the floor by the chair. Do they WASH it? I think we all know that answer...

I went back to bed and played solitaire on the television, without the pajama jeans. I was at the dentist bright and early for my crown only to discover that a) the office had neglected to tell me that my insurance was maxed out for the year and my co-pay was going to be EIGHT HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS and b) MY dentist still wasn't back and I was going to see Ms. "I work on people's teeth when I had a contagious cold"  and c) they weren't going to put a crown on the tooth that recently had a root canal, they were going to put it on the broken, but otherwise healthy tooth because they had already billed the insurance for that...and been paid for it. I should wait until JANUARY for the second crown since I told them I didn't have almost a thousand bucks to spare right now, and just remember not to use that side of my mouth so the temp doesn't come off.

Well, I said, not mean but matter of fact..."fine, put the crown on the one that just had the root canal and we do the OTHER one in January."

They told me that I had been clear in telling them I didn't care about the tooth with the decay the size of a baseball and the root canal, I WANTED the broken tooth fixed first. I pointed out that my priority was the PAIN, not the cosmetic esthetics's. She knew this because that's what the fresh faced just out of dental school girl had written on my chart. After a discussion about how long today's unnecessary crown was going to take, I ripped off the bib and left. Yeah, I know, again. I'm turning into such a GIRL about this stuff, I know. I'm sure that by now these people think I'm a lunatic. Actually, I'm okay with that.

I got back to work and called my Dental insurance, so see if there was SOME way to change horses in mid-stream. My insurance company was very interested in the fact that they had paid my dentist's office for work that hadn't bee done yet and offered to call the dentist FOR me.

Ten minutes later, my dentist had agreed to refund the money back to the insurance company. As soon as it's received and posted, I will have enough on my annual left to go to another dentist and have a crown put on the root canal, which the insurance company agreed should take priority, in spite of the dentist's office assertion that the broken tooth was more important because it would develop decay and require a root canal sometime within the next 78 days. Which is when it hit me.

There are 71 days left until Christmas.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

" roads are so rough as those that have just been mended"

I have come to the conclusion that being an outsider sucks. I sit here, never really knowing what's going on around me, never being in anyone's "loop" and pretending like I either am, or don't want to be. Yeah, I know, it's my JOB to be outside. But human nature isn't solitary. We crave company. Not every second of the day, but every now and then one comes up against the harsh realization that they've been left out...and it's not just this once, either.

Yesterday we got a check from a settlement that was made on our behalf...and the behalf of millions of other people who had been defrauded by a major bank when they wrote our mortgages (koffkoffWachoviakoffkoff). I should be happy, it's enough to get that new curling iron with the hi-lo switch I've been wanting. Seriously, it's about .000001 of the amount they screwed us out of and that doesn't even count the damage they did to us emotionally. But I took the check because, I felt, it vindicated us. Because all those sons of bitches who told us everything was OUR fault because we were greedy asshats who knowingly took on a fraudulent loan in order to live in a house we weren't entitled to can go screw themselves because LOOK! I have a LEGAL ORDER that says I WAS A VICTIM OF FRAUD.

The check we got was on a national level, the bank was in error and was ordered to make restitution to us, and millions of others as well. There's also a State settlement which finds in our favor as well, that check, we're promised, will be a bit bigger, which means I might be able to upgrade to a flatiron AND get a haircut. Same thing. Vindication! The people who insulted and demeaned us, the relatives, the so-called friends and the millions of strangers, some of them in Congress, well...take THAT. YOU DEREGULATED THE MORTGAGE BANKS, not ME and I got screwed. So THERE!

But you know what? The triumph I should feel isn't there. The judgement and the new curling iron leave me emptier then I was before. Did I win? Sure. I can now insist that my abysmal credit report be altered to reflect that the foreclosure was deemed illegal and unwarranted and I have the papers to prove it. I actually thought it would help. Nope. Made it worse.

I understand some people actually got their homes back...because the bank couldn't sell them. The new owners of mine were waiting in the driveway as we left, a tribute, I suppose, to my good taste in dilapidated English Tudors. I'm not sure I would want to move in again, although the thought of going back into my house with NOTHING in the attic or garage or laundry room is enticing...there was a LOT of baggage left there, literally and figuratively. The house was my mother's, I had never really LOVED it but after many, many years of struggling (serves me right for marrying an artist) I had a house of my own. And THAT'S what they can't give back to me.

They took my back door. My own washer and dryer. My lawn and my windows. They took my sunny little breakfast room and my hallway and my linen closet. They took the big wood door with the rounded top that I could lock and keep people out with. They took the holiday meals and the marks on the wall that showed how tall my kids were. They took my garage and my piano and, on a day like today, I keenly miss my central air. They took my pretty little bathroom with the Mickey Mouse sink and they took my dining room that I could put eight people in.

They took away my autumn days planting yellow and gold asters in the little flower bed by the front door. They took the brilliant line of red roses in the summer. They took the sound of rain on my rooftop. They took my grill and my fireplace and my dog. They took the Christmas tree in the front window. They took my driveway.

They took my self-esteem and my sense of security. I find myself increasingly unable to make a decision, never sure it's the right one, the smallest thing suddenly signals to me that I've done something wrong. Again.

My head knows that this wasn't entirely my fault and it also knows that I could have done things differently and, perhaps, a different outcome would have resulted. I thought what I did was right and I thought what I did would work out. But now I sit here, with a check that probably cost more to issue and mail than it's worth and a moral victory of sorts. It won't change the minds of the people who said the mortgage banking meltdown was MY fault because I was a selfish pig who didn't deserve what I had or the people who said we should have been able to predict the hubster's company folding and throwing him out of work and not tried to raise the kids in a two bedroom house in a decent school district because people like us weren't entitled to a life like that.

My head knows that, if the President of the United States put me on the dais with him and announced that "This woman and her family were defrauded, lied to, were victims of forged documents and stolen mortgage payments and we want you to know this. We're giving her her house back and all her belongings and we're putting $100 million in her 401K" they would still think it was my fault. My head knows that yes, eventually I'll recover and my sons will flourish and I won't starve, which is more than many people who had the same thing happen to them can say. My head knows that I survived and my head knows that I won.

My head knows that the people who made my life richer -- and then walked away from me -- weren't worth being in my life anyway. They were fakers and phonies and they tricked me into believing they wanted me in their lives as well. My head knows that I'm better off now. 

Now...if my heart would get on board, I'd be all set.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"...all made out of ticky tacky"

I spent last Sunday running an errand I had been putting off. I didn't mind the errand but I had to go through Corona, California to do it and you have no idea how much I dislike Corona. It's made up of slightly more than 150,000 white people who have sprawled over about 2 million square miles of Riverside county in a wasted attempt to make themselves look like some sort of burgeoning urban metropolis, an oasis in the Inland Empire and a safe haven from all the undesirable folk who populate the city of Riverside, California, which, btw, is nowhere near a river.

The fine folks in Corona think that their (insert noun of your choice here) doesn't stink because they were smart enough to stay away from places like San Bernardino and Riverside which have areas populated by people who live in neighborhoods that look like neighborhoods and not Monopoly boards. I'll admit the people of Corona, and planned communities like it, think they're smarter than the rest of the denizens of the county and they may have something there. Because one really has to be alert at all times in order to distinguish one's own home from the 40 other homes on the block, all of which look JUST like yours right down to the Navajo White exteriors and the annuals planted in the matching flower beds nestled underneath the identical oversized picture windows in the cathedral-ceilinged formal living rooms. These powers of observation must take some skill. Sure, one can continually read the address and find one's home that way, but, after awhile, I would imagine one's neighbors would start laughing as one slows to a crawl and peers nearsightedly at the identical address plates looking for the ONE digit that makes your home stand out from all the others.

I was in a house like that know, Plan B in the "Master Community"? The owner had attempted to inject some of her own personality to the interior, the only place she was able to decorate without getting a variance from the community board. She spent a lot of money (I imagine, I didn't check the bill) painting her rooms a sort of dusty green. Except for the walls she accented with a greyish purple. I think it was stylish at the time but I couldn't help thinking, every time I was alone in the guest bathroom (the one with the cat litter box in it) that the place resembled a bruise. Oh well, there's no accounting for taste, as my granny always said.

A corona, in case you didn't know, is the gaseous stuff that surrounds the sun, and stars. It's also a cigar, and yes, a beer. The people in Corona like the sun and stars analogy and ignore, en masse, any reference to the gaseous part, which, as far as I can tell, is pretty much what defines them. But I don't have to live there, more power to them. There's a Lowe's and several Applebee's and absolutely no charm anywhere and that is why I don't like having to do business in Corona. I'll take Riverside, thank you, even through there are a few neighborhoods you don't walk in at night. At least they LOOK like something. They have the Mission Inn and a lot of wonderful old California buildings that have been there since the late 1800s and they LOOK like Old California. I'll take San Bernardino, with its amazing train station and gravel roads. Of course, those places are populated by people whose native language was NOT English...and thus, the existence of Corona.

Well, I finished quickly and we stopped at the National Cemetery in Riverside and inspected my FIL's headstone (or grave marker, as he was cremated and how does one call it a "head" stone?) and left with mixed feelings. While his burial was handled better than my MILs was (she was cremated, my SIL held no services of any kind and then took the urn with the ashes and dumped my MIL off the side of a party boat on the Colorado River. You think I'm kidding? I'm not even exaggerating!) my FIL did have the aforementioned Memorial Mass and was then unceremoniously shipped to the VA cemetery where he was interred with no further thought. He rests in a newly excavated section (although I know grass WILL show up when it's full) under a standard G.I. marker. It bears no cross, which, I assume, would have cost, as opposed to the government freebie. Now, my FIL may not have been the most honest or ethical guy you ever met...but he was very Italian and very Catholic and his Italian immigrant parents are spinning like lathes at the lack of any religious notations. It's not like the government doesn't allow it, almost all of the stones there have a simple cross in a few styles, or Star of David, sometimes a crescent or the Masonic emblem (what is that? It's a tool, a carpenters level?) and every now and then, something that, while I can't quite describe it, is obviously the Angel Moroni. religious mark. And no tag line. You know "Beloved husband and father,"  "Have another drink," that kind of thing? Every time anyone asked him how he was he always answered "Never better" which would have been a very cool thing to put. I've got a hunch that would have cost extra too. In fact, I'm not sure anyone even specified what should have been on the marker, I don't think they gave it that much thought.

We made a stop at the Indian Casino and then headed for home. We decided to conserve precious money and just go straight home and eat late. And THIS is where my day got better. We made a stop for cat food and milk and I grabbed stuff for spaghetti and meatballs, which would cook up quickly.

No, there was no gourmet grinding of the Kobe beef meatballs, I did NOT make fresh pasta nor did I start roasting heirloom tomatoes with the fresh chervil I hadn't picked up at the Farmer's Market I hadn't bothered to go to because I was sitting on my sofa drinking a Sam Adams and watching the Notre Dame-Air Force game. We carried the bags up the back stairs directly into the kitchen. My sons started unpacking the few things. One grabbed the pasta pot and was filling it with water, the other one flipped on the oven to preheat and was dealing the frozen garlic bread slices on a cookie sheet like a poker dealer, someone passed the cat's dish over and I filled it. The three of us worked in a line in my tiny kitchen, grabbing, warming and in 15 minutes we sat down to fettuccine with pre-cooked turkey meatballs simmered in sauce from a jar served with pre-grated Parmesan, a Caesar salad from a kit and the garlic toast from the freezer section. It was hot, we were starving, we were all together, if only in the living room with our feet up, our plates in our laps while we watched a re-run of "Big Bang Theory" and waited for "Pan Am" to come on.  It was wonderful.

I didn't ask anyone to help. My sons, both old enough to drink, did as they have done for years, they simply pitched in. They know their way around a kitchen and a grocery store. The fact that I wasn't alone in the kitchen, the fact that it never occurred to them to go in and open their laptops while I made what was a very simple supper but stayed to help suddenly made the entire day worth while. I realized with absolute certainty, that I had actually done SOMETHING right. 

It's the small victories that mean the most.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

"Explore. Dream. Discover."

In front of 1 Infinite Loop (coolest address for a computer company - EVER) there are a bunch of flowers, candles - and apples. Some of them with bites taken out. It's the same in front of every Apple store in the world...literally the world, including Beijing which, btw, I managed to call Beijing and not Peking and that's not easy.  It's still Peking Duck. Anyway, here's what I'm thinking.

The last few days there's been a lot about Steve Jobs, it pretty much eclipsed every other news story except my tension headache which is hardly news and will continue until it bloody well decides to stop anyway. Steve Jobs is being mourned for, well, I'm not sure why, Not that he's being mourned, (most of us hope to be mourned, in spite of the hubster's family and their penchant for throwing their loved one's remains off the side of party boats)  but why are we all mourning him? Apple will continue, in spite of that lackluster Tim Cook at the helm, and we'll upgrade our iPhones to the damn 4-S because so many of us have the 3 and Apple doesn't support it anymore because, well, hell, it's OLD. We all made fun of the iPad (next model? The Max-iPad...) and yet, within six months I saw them everywhere and I watched my company's sales force grab iPads and carry bulky presentations around in their pockets. Okay, they were BIG pockets and no, they're not going to make it into a phone but wow...the iPad is pretty much stabbing Power Point in the heart and good on it, I HATE Power Point. It's a slide show.  The iPad can pretty much do the rumba. If only they could do something about Outlook...

Now, except for my iPod (which, btw, is a PINK MINI, how many years have I had THAT?) I don't use Apple products, mostly because, while they're hella cool, the data plans AT & T gouges you for to operate them are way beyond my financial capabilities at the moment. I mean, how do you call your landlord and tell him your rent is going to be late, again, when he can plainly see you're calling from your iPhone, which cost you $200 (face it,  no one in their right minds pays the $649 ticket on that phone, or any other phone for that matter, this is why God invented the "TIME TO UPGRADE" email) and is costing you at least 70 bucks a month to maintain? So I stick to more modest means of communication.

Doesn't mean I'm not going to sit up and check up the iCloud though, which, apparently will allow me to store my pictures in Kathmandu or something. It'll be expensive and probably require a data plan but hell, it's totally the future and, when the next earthquake hits and the walls and starting to crumble, maybe I won't be running around looking for my shoe box full of pictures because I won't need 'em anymore...I'll have everything on an iCloud. With any luck, there will be some sort of cool, Apple cyber scrapbook which will make scrapbooking obsolete and all of those God awful Creative Memories consultants with them. We can hope.

Frankly, if Steve did nothing in his life but put Creative Memories out of business I'd send flowers to his grave twice a year, but I digress...besides, no one has found it yet (nicely done, Jobs Family), including the idiots who call themselves the Westboro Baptists and really ought to change their names to the "Phelps Family Church and Asylum" because, frankly, those idiots have only formed a church for the tax breaks - they're all lunatics, and stupid ones at that. This combination, btw, makes them dangerous. Just saying...

So, back to the apple. While there's a portion of my extended world who are mourning the loss of the guy who invested in Pixar (I didn't say I hang with them any more, I realized I'm getting too old to waste my time on tunnel-visioned idiots) I think those of us whose brains are still firing mourned Steve because he was pretty much the embodiment of what we all want to be, self-effacing and able to spend his life in jeans, turtlenecks and New Balance sneakers and look good doing it. BUT...he also was one of the most imaginative sons of bitches who ever lived. My 3000+ record collection in my POCKET? Get outta here. A computer and phone, all in one in my PURSE? Dude...that's not a purse, that'll be a steamer trunk. And yet, here they are. Not to mention the seriously coolest thing about the Mac, which is that grab and drop onto your desktop thing. Damn, I do LOVE that, I mean, I'm okay with copy and paste but I'm nothing if not technologically lazy.

So here's the question. People are coming in droves to honor the most imaginative inventor of this, or the last century and how to the honor him? By leaving apples. Apples, apples, apples. Somewhere, Steve is looking at all those bitten apples, rolling his eyes and saying:

"Apples? That's the best they could do? Y'know what I would have done? ..."  

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I'd rather have a root canal...

I sometimes get to the point where there is way too much and not enough, all at the same time. It's an information glut, most of it not at all important, at least not to anyone except myself. In the last few weeks the hubster's unemployment has run out, I had a root canal, Wall Street has begin to resemble Tahrir Square (with some images that evoke some unnerving memories of the late 60s) and Steve Jobs died, possibly pushed over the edge by the October 4th announcement of Apple's long awaited, completely ordinary iPhone 4s, the "S" standing for "so what?"

The unemployment speaks for itself. We're of an age that makes us too old to hire (as if there were that many jobs to be had in California) and too young to retire. I've got two sons still at home. One would think that, as one approaches the big 60 next year that one would be in a position where begging and borrowing are signs of a callow, misspent youth. One would be wrong. I find myself working all week to find my paycheck (which is on the convenient auto deposit plan) hasn't even covered the negative balance in the account because the only way to pay the bills to to write checks that the bank will pay and charge us for the privilege. But the gas and lights are on, at least. I fear for the rent payment this month but that's for another day.

The root canal was interesting...being in pain for several weeks I finally broke down and called the dentist. I had a dentist I liked, she seemed very pleasant and had televisions in all the little rooms so I could watch TCM while she drilled, which I liked. Apparently, however, SHE was also watching TCM instead of my teeth. The "little crack we can get to later"  turned into a root canal and a crown three years ago and, after a satisfactory trip to someone I got from 1-800-Dentist I promptly stopped going all together. The 800 dentist was nice but verbal on his politics and, as I was in the process of moving out of my bank seized home and he was voting for McCain, well, I sort of drifted out of dentistry.

As I had developed a VERY sensitive tooth and it wasn't going away I spend two weeks trying to figure out what to do about it and who to go to and, in the long run, I called the Republican. I got in the next day, which struck me as odd and fortunate as he always seemed to be booked up before. When I got there I discovered why...Dr. "I voted for McCain" was out on medical leave and someone I'd never heard of was taking over until he got back. I wasn't real pleased, seemed to me they should have told me that when I called for the appointment and not when I walked into the waiting room. The dentist was a young women, fresh out of dental school, who cleaned, took x-rays, found the noticeable source of my discomfort and told me about how I would have to have my gum cut away and part of my jawbone removed after a root canal but I should come back in two weeks and she would see if she could just drill and fill.

I thought of running to the next guy on the list but at this point it had become an insurance issue and I sort of had no choice but to go back. She shot me full of whatever they use instead of Novocaine nowadays and set to work. I'll spare you the details of how my teeth smelled as she drilled the hell out of them. Also my emotional distress at her grinding down and prepping a broken tooth for a crown, THAT tooth was perfectly healthy and COULD have waited but not now and, um, lady? Did you freaking ever stop to ASK me if I could AFFORD THE CO-PAY on this crown that, while necessary, wasn't an immediate concern? It's not like the tooth was smashed or broken in half, it was, for all intents and purposes, chipped and had been for several years.

Well, she gaily sent me off for the root canal. Sent me to my dentist's other office deep in the valley...the one next to the Ralph's. I arranged a day off, took a deep breath and went.

Have you ever had to take a dog to the vet's? You know how the dog stops moving and you have to coax and plead and the eventually drag him across the vinyl floor of the waiting room while he trembles and barks? Well, that was me. The receptionist handed me a consent form and, after I got to item 11 which said that my tooth could turn brown and I might never be able to taste anything ever again I literally ran screaming from the storefront and cried my way home. The hubster, btw, was NOT especially sympathetic. My unofficial boss and several of my friends were, however. After a week I called the dentist back and got permission to go to the endodontist I had been to the first time. They thought it would be a good idea as this guy has nitrous oxide and sedatives and such.  The root canal was done on Tuesday morning, the endodontist looked at the mangled mess that was passing for my tooth and said "straight up root canal, no more, no less, want to get started?" and, 75 minutes later, with nothing more than a LOT of Novocaine I was in the parking lot and ready for the crown. I have a prescription for Vicodin which I filled and never used as I had virtually no pain except for the ache where the needles had gone in.

I debated going back to a different dentist but again, there are insurance issues as well as the nasty inability to meet my co-pay and I decided that Miss Just Graduated From Dental School and look what I can do couldn't do any more damage at this point. Oh, did I mention, she gave me a cold? While she was drilling she was telling me about her sore throat and cold symptoms. I mumbled something about her staying home but she seemed to think it was fine. I thought, well, she IS wearing a mask and gloves. Didn't help, four days later I had her damn cold, but I digress...

Anyway, I called the dentist a few hours after the root canal was done to schedule the appointment for the crowns. The first available time is a week from this coming Friday, which tells me that Dr. Right Wing is back. I'll take him.

I have spent the last several minutes meandering around my root canal on my PC. No, I don't use a Mac, although most of my family does, I'm a Windows girl, it suits me fine. But even those of us on PCs owe it all to Steve Jobs. Computers existed when I was a girl. They required entire rooms to house. Steve Jobs took that Univac and put it on our desktops. He took that desktop, folded it up and stuck it in our backpacks and briefcases. He put it in a portable phone and, for the last three years, we've held all the information in the world literally in the palm of our hand. It matters not what operating platform you use, every time you fire up your iPod, power up your laptop or pick up your email from your smart phone you owe it all to the imagination, the enthusiasm and the vision of Steve Jobs.  It didn't matter that you didn't use a Mac,  you still sat up and took note because, when the man in the mock turtleneck and jeans stood on the stage in Cupertino, the WORLD wanted to know what Steve was going to show us now.

Steve Jobs was a combination of Thomas Edison, the Wright brothers and P.T. Barnum, except, unlike Barnum, he wasn't selling us baloney.  He was showing us the future. A future we didn't have to wait for. Steve never said "This is what we CAN do." Steve always said "This is what we've DONE."

Even though we all saw this coming, the entire world, from ages 8 to 108 stopped dead for a split second yesterday. Our lives won't noticeably change because Steve Jobs died. But, like the long awaited announcement of the next iPhone last Tuesday, they will be a little less interesting.