Friday, October 3, 2014

Sad Sack Times

Social Security sent me notification of 2 doctor’s appointments. One for a Medical evaluation and one for a Psych evaluation. My sister was impressed that they came only 4 months after filing my application for disability. She has worked for Fresno Human Services for 20 something years and knows the process to be much slower. So did it come faster because they want it off their books or because the follow up questions I sent back in July painted a bleak picture. My research indicates that they decline 65% of first requests for disability. Most don’t get a medical review until your initial application is denied and you ask for an internal review. Makes me think I came off as needing help. In my favor is that the system is set up so people over 55 get a little easier process. The idea is that younger people even damaged ones have an easier time finding and adapting to new employment. 
If you follow this blog at all you know I have battled a number of illnesses and side  effects for the last 10-15 years and worked most of that time. Often feeling like the walking wounded many of those years. On my SSD application form I listed 10 or 12 medical issues. Most of which like the cataracts in my right eye are little more than an annoyance at this time. They do have a cumulative effect. Details in the post script.
So any one or two of these would be work-around-able maybe. There are intermittent problems too. I have been taking improv classes every week for a year. I credit this with keeping my mind working and being in the here and now. I had been losing touch with the outside world spending all my time driving and having an opposite schedule. The management of CIA improv has only put me in one show. I did well but have not been cast again. This has a little or a lot to do with me on my bad days going blank in scenes. It isn't often especially if I arrange my day around when improv happens. When it does happen most of the time it a light brain fog. Other times I just can’t wrap my mind around what is going on in front of me. This is also why I don’t need to be spending a lot of time behind the wheel. 
My medical evaluation was brief. Rather than investigate my complaints and ask more than one question about each he was more interested in the knobby things on my elbows and ankles. Possibly related to gout. I don't have much hope that his report will help my case. 

My psych evaluation was more to the point. The Dr invested too much of our 20 minute interview with double talk designed to ferret out what I really meant than was practical.  It was supposed to be 30 minutes but was cut short because he got there late. Nice. 4 times in that 20 minutes he made it a point to point out that he just files a report and has no control over if my disability is approved. That can’t be good. 
His report will be filed by Monday 10/22, he said, so within 2 or 3 weeks I should get a decision. Odds are against me but I haven't lost hope. The next step is to request an internal review of my case. Keep in mind I have not been interviewed by an actual SS employee yet. I said 8 words to one on the phone once. It’s all been online or through the mail. 
Brass tacks; I ran out of money the end of July. My last ditch effort to get a hypnosis clientele going was a complete bust. That was done on credit cards. 
Andy Simrin’s stepmother Sonia was very ill with cancer. Just 3 weeks ago he said she needs a caretaker 24/7 because of some kind of drain tube that gets clogged. He asked me if I wanted to do it. I probably could have done it. She was a friend of mine and she was my boss at the Sandwich Express when I was 18. I didn't want to watch her die.
My dear friend Laura has suggested virtual call center work you do from home. She even provided a couple of links. I have a PC rigged to use on my back it is old and not doing that well but works. I also have an iMac for standing use. I am concerned about the brain fog coming while trying to learn the product or while on the phone with a client. All they can do is fire me, right? Lying here feeling useless is not helpful. 
I may have a lead on getting my hypnosis business going. Like with improv it is fine if I plan my day around appointments. Even then then the sessions are scripted in advance. "Office Space" is one of my favorite movies but like all the others don't show what hypnosis really is. If the suggestions stop, like in the movie, or get weird in any way you come safely out of trance. With Christmas coming I should be able to scrounge up gigs for the Comedy Hypnosis show. Before I gave in to the idea of being disabled I some shows in the brain fog that were funny but not my best. Now I know to plan. 
There is always crowdfunding to get me through the next few months. I found one that doesn't even charge a fee. 
Fat old guy asking for money to pay for utilities next to a kid with cancer. Hmm.
Anyway my Monthlies are around $1200 or so but I got food stamps so $1000. I got help with the September mortgage. Much Thanks! old friend. I missed the Sept car payment they are already calling wanting 2 payments right F-ing now. Just letting the car go I still need mortgage of $600 plus utilities etc.  
If you can help me get through these next few months or just the next month. I would be most appreciative. 
Brian Parks

Appendix - A rundown of the 4 things that won't leave me alone and that cause me not to be able to work. 

  1. I described it as a dizzy feeling that starts everyday when I get up and last for 4-6 hours, sometimes all day lately. It is worse if I eat or even take my morning pills. I try to ignore it or work around it but end up lying down so the world stops spinning. Kind of like when you drink too much. I was informed that this is called vertigo. I have been telling Drs about it since 2003. Tests and shoulder shrugs is all I’ve gotten. This wasn’t as much of a problem when I went to work 10 hours after I got up. Not sure what work could accommodate this now. 
  2. Sleep Apnea - This sneaky bastard has been dragging me down for 30 years and is at the root of many of these problems. I was not diagnosed until 2003. In 2012 I went from a simple air pressure machine CPAP to what is called a biPAP machine with higher pressures that puff air into you via sophisticated technology. The problem with both of these machines is that while asleep I pull them off. The problem with untreated sleep apnea is risk of stroke, heart attack, chronic oxygen and sleep deprivation and the one I live with every day; no REM sleep = scrambled brains. 
  3. Childhood ADD (or similar) that I do not know if I was diagnosed with then, was diagnosed in 2007 as an adult. This explains alot. Not debilitating as such it is why I didn’t finish college and have a dozen unfinished projects around the house. Adult ADD/HD as they call it along with sleep apnea means short term focus comes and goes. Long term focus is just as spotty. If I can plan my days around when I will be with people I have 3-4 hours of fog free time. The next day is ify. Again not really good for having a job. 
  4. This damned thing with my butt. My gluteal muscles seem to be wasting away. Slowly. This has gotten even less attention from my medical staff than the vertigo thing. All I know for sure is that when I sit, depending on how hard the surface is, within 5-10 minutes the little bit of tissue between my skin and those ischial bones gets squeezed and starts to hurt. An hour of sitting in my limit. They did send me to physical therapy but whatever it is is not in their handbook. Exercise was a little helpful strengthening the surrounding muscles. If I could get them to let me sit on the moist hot packs for 10 minutes was better. 

The problem here is about working. Jobs that involve sitting, like the driving jobs I’ve had for the last 10 years are out. Standing job? Like what? Wal-Mart Greeter? I think they have one. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Full moon on the bluffs

I remember a few nights on the Wasco run when the full moon really brought out the oddness. Today’s midnight stroll along the bluffs brought me back to the idea of the full moon releasing the hounds of oddness. I take these walks ostensibly to keep my blood sugar down. A little weirdness is just a bonus.

For 10 years I left for work at midnight. Most days I’d turn left from River onto Panorama. I guess it was more than a year ago that the sheriff’s deputies would be there running off some cars doing a 5-O on others, all the doors open, red lights flashing, “suspects” sitting on the curb.  For a while a tow truck would be lurking nearby. Panorama Park closes at 10 P.M. goddamnit, and that’s the law they decided to enforce. Until lately it seems. Either the constabulary was struck with some human logic that allowing people a place to peacefully assemble for free after dark means they are less likely to resort to mischief. Or the rich folk that live on Panorama that complained enough to force the daily rout were over shouted by the rich folk that didn’t like the disruption. Whatever the case I park my car across the street next to the cemetery just in case they start towing cars again. I know, my house is only half a mile down from the bluffs but, sigh, that walk is boring. I’m only good for half a mile anyway.

This summer the park is busy. Almost all latino, mostly couples sitting on benches having pleasantness. I been there to walk as late/early as 3 A.M. and there are people there. Next to being on the banks of the Kern River far below it is the coolest spot in town.

Tonight was odd, as I have indicated. 3 or 4 clusters of young men were present. Teenagers I assume. One guy had a loud audio device but developed some respect and I didn’t hear it after a short time. There is a paved path from end to end of the park. At one place the distance from the road to the edge is only 20 feet or less. Flashlights are rare at the park anyway tonight the moon was bright so really not needed at all. Just as I pass the narrow spot three young guys suddenly appear coming up the bluff onto the path.  It wants to be a moment for glances and facial expressions but whole body language is all that is visible. The sounds they made were of exhilaration.

My attention is split between the latest discworld audiobook on the headphones, the sights and sounds of the park and people and an eye out for potholes. I approach the deepest point between gullies that used to have a parking lot where I took a girl or two back in the day. It is planted with beds of plants and trees now. The only flashlight of the night is darting all around a cluster of palms. Two big dogs are prancing around the flashlight man and the places his light is pointing. One has a green LED on his collar the other has orange. Pit bulls I assume from the general shape, and this is Bakersfield. Whatever he is searching for continues to one of the beds of clumpy plants. Then they are off in another direction. As the trail winds out near the edge of that biggest point I noticed that I am alone. The path leads back towards the road to accommodate another gully and back out again. I’m past by two more teen boys being boisterous. The kind a guy my age is suppose to fear but pfh.

I’m sweating a little. Time to turn back. At the point I thought was deserted moments before I see a person standing at the edge looking out. Another is near a big bush. I see fewer people on the rest of the way back.

Not that much oddness after all. Certainly more than usual though.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

27 times what might have been.

I was told in 2007 I had adult-ADD/ADHD. This picture would seem to indicate I had attention deficit with just a touch of hyperactivity at a much younger age. I have a vague memory of taking medicine.

In the 4th grade when it came time to recite times tables I could only do a few then stopped. It was too much. Like that whole thing where you have to ‘just know’ left and right, but multiplied. This is common for ADDers. I forced myself to memorize 6x7=42. From there I could add or subtract one 7 or three 6s or whatever as required to figure the other multiples. With 9s I started with 3x9=27. It’s not just an odd number, 27 is genuinely odd. Three 3s are 9. Three 9s are 27. 27 has no 3s in it but 3 from 30 is 27. 27 is otherwise useless. No one picks up 27 eggs at the store. No ball player scores 27 on purpose. There is just something not right with 27. It just seems three 9s should come up more often than it does. 24, 32, & 36 get all the attention in that neighborhood.

I have more of the times tables memorized now but it’s still not really my thing. We went to about 72 in the 4th grade. 8x9. Is that right? 9x9 is 81. 81 has a statuesque quality to it but like 27 is somehow not right. (3x3=9, 9x9=81, 8+1=9).

My 5th grade teacher had each equation of the times tables up on the walls. I had learned the joys of being a smart ass and getting laughs in the 4th grade. My 5th grade teacher also had 16 classroom rules up on the wall (our school had very high ceilings). Each rule and equation was on what they call ‘Sentence Strips’ about 6 inches high and 24 inches long, strps of paper printed to look like a giant version of 2 lines of that grade school lined paper. Each was cleanly written out with magic marker. Breaking a rule the first time meant writing it Bart Simpson style over and over on the chalkboard. Subsequent breakage resulted in writing it on paper 50 then 100 then 200 times as home work.

My crime was mostly breaking the rule about not speaking unless you were called on. I tried to keep up but my smart mouth and breaking other rules, . . it got to be too much for me to do every night. This got me the precursor to what was later called a “time out”. Instead of having fun and playing at recess I sat with the other bad kids by the fence. My debt of unwritten sentences grew to the point every recess for the rest of the year was accounted for. Then lunch periods were included. His eyes then fell on the company of my evil fencemates being too fun. I also suspect that the principal expressed reservations about the lack of exercise I was getting. The next escalation of punishment was making me walk around the track instead of sitting by the fence with the merely disobedient kids. Besides losing a crucial year of learning socialization skills I never did learn my times tables. Forever locked alongside conflicted memories, up on a wall somewhere. Like in old westerns when they ‘break’ a horse, I was broken. I had the same teacher in the 6th grade. Like a broken horse I followed him around like he was my alpha desparate to please him, I never broke a rule that year. Probably why I am drawn to rule makers and highly judgemental people but at the same time have always felt like a lone wolf never an alpha or a beta. If this hadn’t happened I might be in prison today or a big time stand-up comedian, most certainly I’d have a different life.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

My Theatre Gnome years

When I was in the 10th grade I started into a stretch of years when I was in a lot of plays. Drama class changed my life. I have never understood sports; football, basketball and such. Nothing against them really, I just never knew why anyone cared. None the less, it was the thing to do. So in the 9th grade I went out for the wrestling team. Only one other guy was over 210 pounds. For month and months, it seemed, I spent my time afterschool rolling around on gym mats with a mouth breathing kid named John Blea. Sad life for a fat kid with the name Blea. It was supposed to be pronounced Blay-yah, teammates of course him Bleah. The coach kept the wrestling room at 90 degrees all the time so Bleah’s personal hygiene didn’t really help my situation. This unpleasantness and not knowing the point to it all, I didn’t do that well. 

The next year I went out for football. By the time they got to me all that was left was an old leather helmet. Pads and jersey were from that era as well. I was on the JV squad. I remember running laps and crashing into those dummy sled things. Then came the day that coach took us way out (ironically) past left field. He told us about the little stickers we were expected to earn to put on our helmets. Little round stickers about the size of a quarter with a drawing of a little hatchet. We earned a hatchet and the right to affix it to our helmet for each bone we broke on that week’s opposing team. Coach pointed out a couple of the guys who already had stickers. 

It just so happened that the drama teacher, Ms. Archibald, was holding auditions for Edgar Lee Master's Spoon River Anthology. The next day I went to the auditions instead of football practice.  I knew from drama class that being goofy was acceptable behaviour, hazing and giving each other demeaning nicknames was not usual and there would also be girls in attendance. Being in a play had the added advantage of not requiring that I inflict pain and/or physical damage to other youths or risk that happening to me. These factors and finally having a peer group to call my own altered the course of world history. From my perspective at least.

The first play I ever saw was in 1965 at the Bakersfield Community Theater (BCT), 2400 South Chester Avenue. Just down the street from the A&W my family owned at 2525 South Chester Avenue. It was a production of the hit Broadway play by Teichmann and Kaufman “The Solid Gold Cadillac”. It featured the local favorite version of Rosalind Russell and Ethel Merman, Hazel Foxx and a guy in the last scene in a solid gold outfit even gold make-up.  A year or two later the same people did a big time production of “Gypsy” with fancy costumes and there may have been a live orchestra too.  They did it on the stage at Bakersfield College. At that time the stage on So. Chester had been condemned 4 or 5 times and revived. The BC stage was new and state of the art. It even has an orchestra pit. I spent my own money to see it a second time. Live theatre at this point had me hooked. "Let Me Entertain You" or should have been "There's No Business Like Show Business" ringing in my head. (they did “Annie Get Your Gun” on the outdoor stage later) 

Spoon river is not a standard play.  It doesn't have scenes as such, it is a collection of epitaphs performed as vignettes. This really didn’t matter to us. My high school was new and didn’t have a theatre until my senior year. We just had an open space of about 3000 sq ft a few portable platforms, lights on poles and some chairs.  Ms. Archibald was free to configure the space to suit her needs. We did Spoon River as a square theatre-in-th-round. In one show I was the grand Inquisitor prosecuting Joan of Arc in “The Lark”. That time the audience was in a “V” configuration making the stage a kind of triangular thrust stage.  When I was Oscar Madison in “The Odd Couple” the stage was more of a regular thrust shape. Ms Susan Archibald signed her name SArch so overtime that is what we called her. Sarch must have really liked that style because we also did one called Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas. It was similar to Spoon River in that it was a collection of vignettes. I can’t remember how the stage was configured that time. 

Besides the 2 or 3 times a year we did big plays that our families could come to see at night we also did shorter and one act plays. We performed these 4 or 5 times in a row all on the same day. Each period the English classes would be shuffled in to watch. Usually by the last time we did it we were really “In the Zone” (am I qualified to use sports metaphors?). The ones I remember were:
“The Long Christmas Dinner” by Thornton Wilder. - I came in as a youngster and as time passed I moved around the table until I was at the head carving the turkey. Most of my lines were “Another piece of dark meat dear?” 
The one I remember the most was called The Apollo of Bellac by French dramatist Jean Giraudoux translated into English by Maurice Valency. The way we did it was a little different than the way Wikipedia describes it. I really was Apollo the god of beauty (typecasting) posing as a statue of Apollo. Agnes the young woman was played by Gatha Bowen. Gatha was a beautiful girl that had an older boyfriend so she didn’t mingle with us children. As you might expect an onstage kiss got the other high schoolers hooting laughing and making noise. This was also the first time I ever kissed a girl. What is, I assume, normally just a nerve wracking right of passage was etched into my being as fantastical on multiple levels.  Then again for the 3rd period classes then 4th period etc. 

I also had a way with stage lighting and sound. The first show I was involved with at BCT was a musical called “The Boyfriend” I ran the lights from a primitive light booth located off stage left about 5 feet up on the wall. As it is today the box office was in an adjacent building. During the show one night the matriarch of the place Hazel Foxx called me on the intercom. Someone was robbing the box office and would I please tell someone so the police could be called. I guess at that time the only phone was not in the box office and the only place the intercom went was the booth. The one song still haunts me to this day “We scream to have, we dream to have that certain thing called a boyfriend.” Zuh Dunt, ... Dunt Da Da.

Just in time for my senior year the theater building at Highland High opened. It was designed to be multi purpose so they called it the Lecture Center. It was kind of cool. It had these giant moving walls that cost as much as my parent’s house. This way it could be made into 3 lecture halls on a moment’s notice. It didn’t have the electrics or any of the hardware for proper stage lighting or sound. A man named Mr. Patterson was the theater mechanicals guy for the whole high school district. He spent most of his time that year putting in a light bar out over the audience and running cables. Since I was also a whiz kid at the technical side of doing theatre too, I spent many days helping him install the lighting system. I wasn’t paid but learned allot. We used the same pair of portable Davis Dimmers we had used the years before, place just off stage right. The next year I am told is when the modern fancy kind of remote dimmer switches were installed in the light booth at the back of the audience.

It was necessary for Sarch to do up the first show in the new space right and use more standard fare. We did Detective Story by Sidney Kingsley as the first show in the new theatre. I was Detective Lou Brody the William Bendix character in the movie. What? 2nd banana? I must have been slipping.  The next show was really big as it was a musical and required cooperation with the choir and band. Brigadoon by Lerner and Loewe.  New stage and the first musical performed at Highland High (unfortunately not the Highland High from Beavis and Butt-head this one is in Bakersfield California). I was duly honored that Ms Archibald assigned me to not only run the lights but draw the design, hang and focus the lights as well as work out the ques. I was especially proud of the special effect I came up with for the scenes where they are supposed to be deep in the beautiful forest of Brigadoon under dappled sunlight. 

Next stop was Bakersfield College still big for a Jr college, in the 1970s it was the only place in the county for upper level Theatre Arts. This was back during the heyday before Prop 13 made budget cuts to Arts programs. Also before the Cal State Bakersfield had it’s own Theatre.  Even before it was a university. BC had quite a staff at the time Dr. Bob (Doc) Chapman was department chair. Can’t-remember-his-name was the other theater teacher he may have had a PHD also. I never took a class from him but he wrote his own version of Dracula (eye roll) that I worked as a tech on. Debbie was the full time costume mistress. All the guys were in love with Mary Ann she was very attractive and had a soft sexy voice. She was, I want to say, the artistic director. Not sure if that is the right title. She designed the sets and lights and costumes. Hank Webb was the tech director taking care of the sets and props and that kind of thing. David Hicks was in charge of the theatre as a whole in terms of the physical theatre plant. He also did most of the building of sets. Hank Webb was promoted to Drama instructor and was replaced by Mike Miller. Mike had lots of practical experience as a roadie for Eddie Money. 

I had major parts in The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie and the Commedia dell'arte farce The Three Cuckolds. Since I was no longer teacher’s pet like in high school, there was much more competition for parts and conventional wisdom (what is the opposite of wisdom?) says that fat = unattractive, the parts I was offered kept getting smaller and less interesting.  I was good at tech stuff but at BC at that time running the lights was as interesting as that was getting to be. I was involved with a number of great productions there. I have a trove of stories and friendships that have lasted through the years. The theatre itself was the best equipped and most complete I have ever worked in. By this time however I had enough experience and knowledge to know why I did not like the traditional proscenium stage. As easy as it is for staging and getting the technical stuff done it lacks the human connection that sets live theatre apart from film and TV. For me as a theatre goer I still see this dynamic in play at every show I see. 

After five years out of my young life as a theatre gnome it was time to live in the real world for a time. I was also spinning my wheels at school and had no goals there. I quit school at the end of the fall 76 term. I did make it back to theatre a couple of years later. This seems like a good place to stop part 1. Each decade changed my relationship to theatre and the people in it. Probably not right away, but when the spirit moves me, look for continuations of my time in theatre. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

I remember Mama. Never called her that. We called her mom.

She called her mother Mama in a way none of us ever called her Mom. Grandma was old when I met her (go figure). Probably the age I am now, so not that old. My guess is that she was a charming and dynamic leader of her crew. Quite the prankster as I recall. But not to be questioned. 7 girls. Mom was 2 of 7. 1 of 7 was assigned the household tasks; cooking, cleaning etc. Mom was assigned to herding the rest of the . . . well the herd.
Once her sister was big
enough to lead her that is.

Since Mom was all but blind, till she was seven years old when they could afford glasses, 3 of 7 was her guide. By the time my sisters and me came along she had had enough of child care. She knew the process and her duty.

Mom was a person with a lot of presence. Charming as could be in social situations. She doted on us in her own way. No charm in the way she ruled the roost at home. A very judgmental person. Sharp and concise. Not in the passive aggressive conditional love kind of way either. Just straight up judgmental. Barked orders calmly or like a drill Sergeant. Orders that were to be obeyed. She never did that with Dad but he loved her unreservedly and did whatever she wanted anyway. Mostly. I was her favorite so I could leverage her with wheedling. Older (10 yrs older) sister feared and respected her. Before Dad was in the picture Mom and sis were pioneers of single parenthood together. It just wasn't done in 1950. Younger sister (6 yrs younger), by the time she was ten and onward got the worst of it. Alcoholism. Mom was a mean drunk. Never used profanity or violence. Still her resonant voice and acid tongue could cut through steel. Younger sis will not be forgiving her anytime soon.

Mom died in February of 96 a day or two before her 67th birthday.

Mother’s day (today) is much like Valentines Day. It has a different origin but for the most part has been co opted by commercialism. It is a sweet sentiment that I share freely with all the mothers out there.

As for myself it makes me wonder why I never think of dear old Mom. No sweet emotional remembrances. No remembrances of specific bad events either. Nothing really except the wondering. Despite her authoritarian persona when doling out instructions she was never a cold person. The whole judgmental thing was kinda cold. Free with hugs and kisses in short bursts. Never intentionally cruel except when drunk. Kind and generous to me. Like I said I was the favorite. I know somehow in this mix of things she is responsible for my awkwardness in getting close to people. I tend to think that has more to do with AD/HD*. Probably a combination. I’m old enough to have grown out of whatever happened as a kid. It’s on me to have solved any problems in my upbringing by this time. I’m 3 times 18+.

I’ll have to settle for a static list in my mind of many lists of what I have to thank you for Mom. Just nothing that sweet or sentimental. I take that back. I still have a couple of the clothes you made for me with your sewing machine. Very dear to me until the day they wear out and I throw them away. Who am I kidding? The worn out ones are still in the closet. Tangible, artifacts of your love generosity and affection.

Happy mother’s day Mom.

*or whatever clinical name there is for my cognitive uniqueness.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A hot and muddy last day.

Part 5 of a 5 part travelogue.
Almost 5000 words and only now am I to the part where I am actually vacationing. I have gotten to be a wordy mother fucker in my old age. To be honest, as stressful and weird as all the low fuel and wrong turns were, it was also somehow exhilarating. Somehow all part of blowing out the pipes and kicking off the new chapter of my life. 

Once I was settled in my room I thought; the gluten free pizza was ok but perhaps something more to hold me over till the free breakfast they serve at the El Bonita Motel would be a good thing.
[As you can tell I have little respect for the details of english language usage. Even famous english guys agree with me that “Whatever works, works”. But what the hell? “El” is masculine and “Bonita” is feminine in Spanish. “The pretty motel” would be “El motel bonito”. Doesn't matter but it gave me OCD every time I thought about it.]

Like I was saying, the desk clerk pointed me to the nearest market. I got back in the car and went forth into the night. This little local market had more cool specialty food than Trader Joes ever thought about. I brought GF bread from home but wanted something to put on it. There was ham & cheese in the cooler but I’m on vacation damnit. The deli case had the exotic Italian salami and prosciutto you’d expect. Except the cheapest one was $17 a pound. Up to $65 a pound. It looked expensive too. I didn't go crazy but I did get half a pound of this one that was the color of pepperoni but instead of round it was rectangular. The slices were the shape of dollar bills ironically enough. It was very spicy and delicious. I combined it with the ham & cheese to make 3 or 4 sandwiches. One delightful thing was the counter lady. Middle aged blond with kindly blue eyes. She was so friendly. Lots of eye contact and lots of “is there anything else I can do for you”s. At first I thought “nice people here in the northern countryside”. And it’s true, but then I remembered, I’m a regular looking guy here. The prices tell me they have lots of high rollers but most everyone else are old hippies like me. Ladies over 40 don’t look at me with suspicion like back home. Here I’m catnip. Crap. I was never good at picking up women at 26, Thirty years later. Most of that time out of the loop. sigh. Something else to work on. Still, very cool to be admired.

Before going to sleep I updated my facebook and checked my email. One email was from my pal that I hear from every few months from the band of misfit partiers. My old friend sent me a couple of youtube links as people do. The last time I heard, my old friend was living in the mountains of North Dakota, Or was it Maine? I eMailed back mentioning that I had stopped by the S.F. place and was going to Calistoga in the morning. I got this back “Where are you?  Call me now goof.  I can meet you...I'm not far!!! Call me...”

I called back and we talked. Turns out my old friend was living well . . within driving distance. Specific location not divulged. We planned to meet the next day.

Ahh morning, fresh air and free breakfast. 4 kinds of cereal. Milk and sweet rolls. All gluten and lactose full. I had coffee, OJ and a banana. I had saved the Gf croissant from the day before and had it heated with my ham and cheese in the room’s microwave. Good enough. I went on to Calistoga for the main event. 

If you looked at the slide show in the post above you saw the road to Calistoga. I got so involved having the experience I forgot to take more pictures till the next day. A nice drive. A bit of drizzle. The trees got thicker. Calistoga, like many places in Northern California, preserves the look of the gold rush era. Old timey things like rail cars are made into shops and restaurants. I had set the Maps App to find the Calistoga Spa Hot Springs. It was 9 miles from El Bonita and one right turn so that part was easy. I got there so early that there was a line of other pilgrims outside waiting for the place to open. It was a standard motel with 2 floors. Looked to be 30 or 40 years old. 
Behind was an array of pools. Behind that a new building with the mud baths and other spa facilities.   After it opened and I got checked in I realized that I had left my swim suit at the motel. The mud bath and massage also includes use of the mineral pools for the rest of the day. Dang it. Like I said I was way early so went back to fetch it. Once I got back, stowed my gear in the locker provided it was time for my mud bath. 
My attendant Leo was a stocky Hispanic guy about 25 or so. He showed me to the room with the baths. As you can see in the photos each bath is a tiled box about 3 feet wide and 7 feet long. I'm not sure how deep. Leo gestured to get in. I swung my feet over the mud, sat and sank in. The geothermal heat is uniform and the mud smooth. As I sank in he indicated to pull the mud up over myself. When I had gone before, the attendants were more helpful, pushing the mud around and offering a hand. No big deal. I was covered and never did feel the bottom. I was suspended by the water and volcanic ash. It is difficult to describe the sensation. The heat penetrates right to the bone. Your muscles and nerves have no choice but to let it all go. You start to sweat. Just then Leo came offering a cool wet cloth for my forehead. I settled even further into the mud. The warmth softening my bones. I quickly lost track of time. I don’t know how long this part was supposed to last. In my alternative health and spiritual practices we talk about “Grounding”. Not unlike grounding an electrical circuit or lightning rod by making an unbroken attachment to the earth. In those practices it can be symbolic or a process facilitating the grounding. The is the real thing at it’s most elemental. Every bit of you is in physical contact with mother earth in an unbroken circuit. All of your residual energy psychic or otherwise is drained away. You, or at least I, could feel myself getting in sync with the natural hum of the earth. As good all of this is, the heat starts to get annoying. Once again Leo reappears, this time to say it’s time to get out. I sit up and start to scrape the mud off. Then stand. Huh, guess it was only a couple of feet deep. 

The room is kind of big. There are 5 other mud baths and 6 personal sized jacuzzis all permanent fixtures in the room. The center of the room has a divider wall with showers on one side and a steam room in one corner. First I shower off the mud then slowly I move over to the jacuzzi and get in. When I was a teen my friends and I used to go to a natural hot springs in the Kern Canyon called dahlonega. The story I was told was that It had been built by the Chinese workers that built the railroad through the canyon. the problem with that story was that there was no railroad tracks. There was a toll road to the county seat in Havilah and a couple of early power plants so there were probably Chinese workers. The place we went to was probably the remnants of the "Dahlonega Health Resort" there were 2 others in the canyon as well. It was so sulpher that it promoted miraculous healings. One time my buddy sliced his hand badly on a beer bottle. Being drunk and stoned as we generally were when we were there he didn't bother dressing the wound. Just stumbled back into the concrete tub for more soaking. It had completely scabbed over by the time we left. I could smell the sulphur in the mineral water in Calistoga but is was not nearly as strong. Just like in the mud bath in the jacuzzi I got a cool cloth on my forehead. When I was ready it was time to get out.

From there I went into the steam room. Guess I didn't mention this. I was the only guest taking the mud at that time. The other people I had lined up with were women and had their own mudroom. There were a few families but they appeared to be there just for the mineral pools. When I go to the gym the steamroom is my favorite thing. This time I had had enough heat treatments and threw in the towel, as it were, before Leo came to get me. 

Next comes the nap. The best nap you ever had. Along with all of my stress and pain went my energy in a most relaxing way. I was lead to a curtained off little cubby with a soft bunk lined with warm blankets. The lights were low, I was bundled up like a baby and there was that soft new age music. I guess I drifted off. I don’t remember. It was a most blissful meditative state. After about half an hour or so it was time to get a massage.

My monday appointment was with a man therapist. My reschedule to today was with a woman. I kept telling them that it didn't matter to me. I was there for a massage not the therapist. They must get people with a real definite preference. The first 6 or 8 of the 10 years I made my living doing massage I was pretty much the only game in town. The only people I dealt with who had a preference were the lonely truck drivers who would call me from a phone booth. At that time we were at the tail end of the sexual revolution that started with the introduction of “The Pill” in the 60s. After AIDS and the reign of Ronald Reagan in the 80s society took a turn towards the uptight. I started seeing this preference thing shift around 1990. 

Typical massage room, Just big enough. This one had a skylight I seem to recall. Details get fuzzy here. I was so relaxed already. I can’t remember her name but she had many years of experiance and was good at her task, I was quiet at first but was so relaxed and hadn’t had a conversation with anyone except Stacey in a week so started talking. I/we talked all about the massage industry. I talked about my involvement with the California Coalition on Somatic Practices. CCSP had many round tables and did statewide surveys to determine the future of the massage industry. I was already out of the biz at that time and served as a kind of representative of the client side. After I left, CCSP morphed into the group that got the state massage licensing law through Sacramento. 

I went to the locker room and put on my swim suit. I went out to the hot spring pool area. They have an olympic size with warmish water, a mid sized one that was 3 or 4 feet deep that was a little hotter. One that was kind of an octagon with a shade over it that was warmer still. I tried this one first. Then the big one to do a couple of easy laps. There was a shallow one for kids with a couple of family groups. There were people from all over but 2 or 3 family groups were from Ukraine. I thought this was interesting because Ukraine has been in the news and most months over half the visitors to this page come from there. Web-bots I assume. Then a regular spa sized one that I figured was the real hot one. I didn't bother with those 2. I went for the middle sized one. It was just right. On a different day I would have stayed there longer but I had my fill already. The wrist band would let me back in all day if I needed more hot spring water time.  

The angst and frazzled feeling I had before I left Bakersfield was silenced. The drizzle was kind of neato when I was in the hot pools. Cool rain drops on my warm face. By the time I got dressed the clouds had parted and there was some sunshine. It was turning into a beautiful day. Time to forage for food. This was what I posted on my facebook page: That is just what I needed.
Baked in mud then soaked in mineral water and steamed. Followed by a quiet nap wrapped in blankets. Then a massage that went on and on.
After that I was free to use the hot mineral pools. And did. The town has many delightful restaurants. The rain and mist had cleared and it was a beautiful day so I decided it get deli food and eat outside.  

I sat in my new car with the windows rolled down and ate. Even food tastes better when you shake off the excess blah. Man I felt good. 

Didn’t want to leave. I had wanted to go a fair time. Napa County holds their fair in Calistoga. I drove around a little to find the fair grounds. It is also an RV park with not too bad rates. That done I drove back to St Helena and El Bonito. As soon as I got there I fell asleep. 

The meeting with my pal from the band of misfit partiers was at 7. I didn't want to eat much because I figured we’d end up at a restaurant. I did have a snack and watched local TV. I cut my cable 4-5 years ago and have a very low tolerance for commercials. Since I did bring my laptop along and there was free WiFi I watched a show on Hulu with the laptop sitting on my chest. I’m on vacation damnit why can’t I lie down?

We had agreed to meet at a grocery store in a nearby town. I programmed it into the Map App and it lead me there easily. A pleasant drive really. I got there first and waited outside. It happened again. I was standing outside the place minding my own business and twice middle aged women greeted me with more than the usual friendliness and eye contact. Alright my imagination. Country folk are just open and friendly that way. Sure. 

My old friend drove up. I got in and was warmly greeted. Bear hugs all around. So much to say. So much missing time to fill in. My description of this person is vague on purpose. His/her life and specific details, what little I know even after this meeting, have been withheld by request. Guess they didn't get the memo that personal details don’t have any real significance in the age of social networking. I should be flattered that someone thinks anyone actually sees this blog.  

While my old friend is probably more intelligent than I am (don’t say I said that) one reason we have always gotten along is that we share a similar cognitive uniqueness. ADD is a narrow and often inaccurate description for an array of cognitive characteristics. Cognitive Disorder NOS (not otherwise specified) is one description. While a difficulty at times I have never liked the word disorder in either title. Open minded investigations indicate these characteristics are rooted in successful hunter gatherer behaviour. A combination of pattern recognition and a predilection to scanning the environment. Great for hunting and gathering. Not so good, at least in my case, for focusing on tasks like scientific experiments and reading books. One difference between us is old friend is one of the most remarkable guitarists I have ever met. That takes hours of concentration everyday. 

First my old friend just drove us around. We investigated the area till we spotted a place in the woods where we could park and talk. My old friend had developed a taste for cigars and we stepped out to smoke one. Old friend must have thought I was a maniac with all the talking. I never stopped. Relaxed from the spa and glad to see my old friend the nicotine buzz let the dogs out. I went on and on. Old friend is such an interesting person and withheld. We tried to piece together news of the others we knew back then.

This lead to a recollection of the time we organized a big party where the band at the time could play. We went to the store and got a variety of colorful vitamins, mixed them up with hard candies and put them into a pinata. Besides the band, this was a high point of the party. When the pinata broke some people were mad that we would give out “Drugs”. Others were mad that they were fake. We on the other hand were delighted. 

We finished smoking the cigars. I am a hypnotist and understand the power of the stories we tell ourselves, or believe in, to curate our perceptions. Early humans had no clothing. There are the accounts of feral children walking barefoot in the snow unaware that they are supposed to be cold. I long ago let go of having a set temperature for being cold or hot. At the change of seasons it takes a while to readjust but in general I have a wide comfort zone when it comes to temperature. That said, it was getting freaking cold. Time to look for food. It was already 9 and 

I didn't hold out much hope that anything was open. We did find one. We talked there for another hour or two till the staff had finished cleaning and wanted to go home. I am truly jazzed about my new plans for focusing on the development of imagination as key to making hypnosis work and the changes and improvements people want. I talked about that quite allot. Hope my old friend didn't get bored. It’s all so grown up and potentially useful. Not like our hedonistic days of long ago. 
Dropped me at my car and I went back to the motel all happy with life. 

 Time to go back home. For about 6 months I have been taking an improv workshop on wednesday nights at 6:30. Offered to me for free in the hopes that I can get good enough to be on a team of players that can perform at a new venue that is opening in Bakersfield. For a number of reasons this has been the high point of my week. The effects of no days off and my other types of dysphoria have limited my progress but with those things going away, and/or being managed, I am getting up to speed. This is no time to lose momentum. Besides it is just really really fun to do. 

The trip home was going to be one big jump. According to Map App it was going to take about 6 hours. I had filled up with fuel on Monday but wanted to avoid repeating the stress of that day. I have an app on my phone called Gasbuddy that is usually good at finding the cheapest gas. It was not co operating so I looked for a Costco with gas on the homeward side of San Francisco. A little drizzly but otherwise another great day. It occurred to me that I was so enamored with my iPad that I didn't even think of the phone’s Google Maps App. I had used it once before with great results. I used it to set my course and told Scotty to engage. (is it a mixed metaphone to have an original Star Trek and Next generation reference together?). 
Not to scale
Anyway even in the country it I was just in time for the commuter traffic. The App on the phone also has a voice that told me when a turn was coming up. This took the stress out of the traffic and I put myself into ‘follow the car ahead, but not too close’ mode. With only a couple of exceptions it even knew which way my car was going and gave me correct right/left directions. My guess is that since cell phones have GPS built in and the connection is more direct than my iPad has, it was able to keep up with me. I can’t complain, the Freedompop 3G data puck (MiFi) only costs $20 a month. Built in AT&T would have made the iPad cost more to buy and the monthly would have been over $50.

The drizzle turned into sometimes heavy but mostly that rain that has you adjusting the wipers all the time. As soon as I got to Kern County skies were clear. Finding the Costco with gas took me off the interstate into the wilds of Livermore for a time. I took the time to grab a few things not sold at the Costco where I live. At Santa Nella I stopped in for a quart of Pea Soup Andersen's pea soup to take home. 

One thing that I have complained about on earlier posts is this thing where my gluteus muscles are wasting away. Exercise pisses them off but helps a little, sometimes. Not driving the Wasco route and the spa treatment gave some relief. About 3 hours in; the pain was all I could think about. Shifting from one cheek to the other and stopping to walk around the car made it tolerable. This was the other reason for taking the trip up in 2 parts. 

Once back home my 2 small dogs were joyous beyond understanding to have me back. We layed down and took a nap together. My fellow improvisers; a nice bunch of people. All younger than me, most have known each other for many years. I don’t play video games, card games or other games except improv games. Darts is kind of a sport or game but they don't play. I admire comic books and graphic novels but only really engage in the movie versions. Not in a geeky way. They can go for hours with the most arcane (geeky) details. I heard a few of them talking about drinking maybe even smoking pot. I have kind of lost interest in that stuff the last decade or so. Guess I need to take up poker. 

So I sat quietly through class with flashes of my big out of town adventure distracting me in a delightful way. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Calistoga Vacation 2014

Part 4 of a 5 part travelogue.
This should be fun
I made special Google map of the trip so far. On it you can click the icons to zoom in and look at street view. Some places have lots of extra photos too.

Story is, that if you click on these words
you will be whisked off to a cool interactive map.

Below pictures I took on the trip. 
If you click one you will get a bigger version as a slide show. 
But not my occasionally clever captions.
The post below this one has the actual vacation part of the vacation.
For some reason the 5th part of this travelogue is on the next page.
At the bottom of this page click where it says Older Posts.
How I'll always remember ye Modesto
The tunnel to the Bay Bridge
On the bay Bridge. No line for the toll booth.
Suspension bridge but not the Golden Gate
This bridge is dbl decker. The deck below goes east
There it is San Francisco
Looking back from whence I came.
Now time to cross 6 lanes in the middle 2 are light rail.
Where did this come from? in the embarcadero?
Inside the Ferry Building - Shrooms!
It's like a mall but with stalls kind of like in the 3rd world except everyone smells nice.
Grow your own mushroom kit
Big display too.
Wait what's this next door? Baked goods?
Gluten free bakery?! neato!
In search of my friend's old digs - wrong end.
Here is the way in.
It this where the 103 year old lady's house was?
Or was it here.?
Wait now the other place was . . here?
Not here. 
The Golden Gate being eaten by fog.
I can see the other tower.
Damn those things are big.
My old sleeping place.
Looking back at San Fran from Sausalito side.
This was the view I woke up to.
And Horseshoe Bay also
Alcatraz - You can tell it isn't Alka-Seltzer because it isn't fizzing. 

Also the vista point
The unknown seaman.
San Fran has lots of unknown seamen.

Looking back the other way GG bridge.
Road from St Helena to Calistoga
Almost there. I can smell the sulphur now.
I would never have thought to do this.
Put a painting behind the headboard.
My room & new car.
Nice pool & spa at El Bonita Motel
Even a fountain. Loved this place.