Sunday, November 1, 2015

The guy that lives in my yard

It's a good thing I suppose. I've been feeling better but still a bit woozy and my leg muscles are getting weak. So the need for help continues. The universe and me have a nice rapport, it puts opportunities in my path that are unexpected sometimes.

Knowing I need financial, help one person I know sent me a person that needed a place to live. As it happens I have a spare room. I have it set up to do massage but the massage I have done lately has been on-site with my mobile table. It was a nerve-wracking decision but I offered it to him for whatever rent he could afford. Turns out he can do the cleanup and hauling away of debris that my place sorely needs. He has an old pickup and does that kind of thing all the time.

He is also an ol guy like me, not used to sharing living space with others. I was thinking it would be best if I got used to having people around. Turns out I like people quite a lot. I let him figure out what he wanted to do. He decided to start by cleaning my back yard. He cut up old branches and excess brush. Hauled away a couple of loads. Then started to assemble sections of chain link fence to form a kennel for his 3 dogs. He also masked it with those blue tarps so they can’t see strangers on the street to bark at. Also so my 2 little dogs won’t get as upset.

This is a generic picture but similar to what is planned.
Then he said he wanted to put up a tent next to the kennel. I was not sure about this, my spare room is pretty nice as far as rooms go. Nice paint and wainscoting. Built in book and TV shelves. He went ahead and bought a big tent. 8x18 I think. Big enough to have a 7 foot ceiling. I also have a detached garage with it’s own toilet. He could have moved in there but it is filling up with his work tools.

Yesterday he started moving his other stuff over. The tent now has his bed, TV and other stuff. It’s after dark and there’s not much for him to do but watch TV or sleep. At this moment I can hear him out there yelling at the neighborhood dogs to shut up and talking loud to himself or to someone on the phone. He is under considerable stress. He was supposed to be moved out of his old place by today and there is still stuff there. I know this has been stressful on me and my little dogs too. They have never had strangers in their territory before. They stick by my side or go on barking tangents at the slightest sound.

What the deal is with his dogs, and come to find out 2 cats also, is yet to be seen. He already told a neighbor lady about the dogs and his living situation. Kind of stupid of him. Our combined number of dogs have to be more than allowed by the county. Camping in a yard is a harmless thing but they have bonehead laws aginst a lot of harmless things.

So far it looks like a win. He gets a place to stay for a while to reconnoiter and save up for a new place of his own. I get my yard cleaned up and stuff hauled away. He could come up with a few dollars but we’ll have to see on that.  We both get to live our own private existences.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Eat like a American on $6 a day.

You can eat well enough on the government stipend for food they call SNAP. If you know how to avoid prepared food and expensive stuff like beef. I love beans and that is a help. Knowing how to cook from scratch can make all the difference. Why every parent and/or every school doesn't teach this is a real mystery. Cookery is every bit as rewarding and enjoyable as eating is.

It was time to try the crock pot mac and cheese. You can find on my facebook timeline or on my Pinterest. I am accustomed to glutenfree exchanges in recipes. Still, $3 for the gluten free version of the same pound of wheat flour macaroni that costs 30¢ in the latin food aisle is hard to accept. Rice and wheat by the bushel cost the same. I have gotten out of the habit of going to Walmart because of their labor practices. Hard times make for compromises. GF elbows $1.49.
It is going to be fairly high in fat or why bother? You gotta do what you can in other areas. To lower the carbs I cut back on noodles and replace some with sliced and diced cauliflower.
This can be the main course for over a dozen meals so inclusion 6-8 ozs of a cheese like Edam or Asiago to offset and complement the all that cheddar, is an acceptable extravagance. I needed cream cheese too.

My first stop is always the 99¢ store, I also went to Food for less, Foodsco, Albertsons and Walmart. All in my neighborhood. One of those 8 oz blocks of cream cheese go from $1.29 to $3. By law it is all the same stuff. It is not really cheese in the common meaning. It is more like yogurt, cultured milk. In a factory it can’t cost more than 10¢ to make and the packaging is very simple. I rarely go to Albertson's for a different reason. Each item in the store is priced a dollar or more higher than elsewhere some things are double. The store is nicer inside, but fuck that, I don’t go for the store I go for the stuff. This time however they were cheaper on creme cheese.

This is the part that was curious and perplexed me. The kinds of cheese in the store I went to were cheddar, swiss, jack, colby. One place had havarti. They all had a parmesan or two. That was it. I don’t know what it is, but processed cheese food is barely food and not cheese. Maybe it’s my part of town. The town where I live is known for lack of culture, bookstores or much in the way of fine dining. My part of that town doesn't even have a place with live music on the weekends. I don’t know if the demographics are different from other parts of town but Mexican culture is strongest in this part. There might be a place that has mariachi or ranchero on the weekends. That reminds me; they all had mexican cheeses too but that is not what I was looking for.

Dangit. Trader Joe’s is on the other side of town. $4 in gas away. sigh. I haven’t been to the new store called Sprouts. Not my favorite part of town either. Fancy new stores and buildings. Form over substance, Soulless. $5 in gas away. I have limited amount of time I can spend sitting each day. The pain builds up then lingers if I over do it. What the hell, I have cabin fever.
When you first step into Sprouts you are hit with the same odd smell you get walking into Lassen or a health food store, when those existed. Weird not really pleasant. Produce or deli counter should be next to the door. Herbs and supplements are the biggest mark up items in the store. Having them there and that weird smell to announce them probably helps sales or why would both stores do it? A lot of the same stuff that Lassen offers plus more regular food and more of everything. It’s fairly large. Prices are not as bad as I expected but this is where the cream cheese was $3. Even here the selection of cheese was pitiful. They had a few I was not familiar with at $14.95/lb and up. Good old gouda only $7.99/lb. The half sphere I picked up was $5.76. The store brand of gouda was $7.49 for 8ozs. and looked like it was made in a factory by machines and not by a cheesemaker. I was already over budget so took my cheese and went home.

I was not a big believer but bought a cuisinart food processor a few years ago. The author Bee Wilson of the most interesting book Consider the Fork wrote nothing but good words about them so I had to give in. For years Costco had this 13 cup bruiser on sale for $99. Between the food processor and my favorite blender of all time There was very little hand work to getting everything ready for the crock pot.
The main reason for not using the food processor earlier in my life is the cleaning. It may be fast but a knife is quick to clean and cheaper. If I’m going to have to wash all the parts anyway might as well get some more use out of it. I had 6 apples they were too soft to really enjoy out of hand so in they went. The diced up apples with a little bit of sugar, cinnamon and bacon crumbles after some time in the microwave is good to have in the fridge to add to many things. Or just to eat.

After an hour I gave everything in the crockpot a gentle stir. Gluten Free pasta takes extra long to cook properly and I was concerned the ones on top would under cook and be tough. after about 3 hours it looked pretty good and was filling the house with some nice smells. It was especially creamy. I added a couple of eggs. Spooning up a bowl I noticed something was missing. My mom never baked mac n cheese this way but after I started making my own I really got to liking some crunchies on top. I've used crumbled crackers with butter, crunched up potato chips even corn flakes. What I had a hand tonight were what my pals call "Porky Puffs" (fried pork rinds). A couple crumbled over the top was just the thing.
Crockpot Mac n Cheese -w/ cauliflower & gluten free mac.

After eating some I ended up with 12 more servings to freeze and a bowl of the extra brown part the was next to one wall of the crock to have for breakfast. Win.

This is the side project of micro~baked apple with cinnamon and bacon.
This can be served many ways. With ice cream is one way. Then I remembered that I have one of those countertop ice cream makers that I haven't used in years. Mmmm. I need to figure out a way to get the bucket part in the freezer. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Earth my Valentine

These days I like to blame the cognitive uniqueness I've had since childhood (ADD). In truth, I don't know what it is about me and having a love life. The whole topic seems like a thousand missed connections.

Yada yada, I was alone as a child. Then I was late to the game in learning social skills. My clever scanning brain was able to fill in many blanks except specifically the part between finding a girl attractive and having a girl friend. I can't think of a day since I discovered girls that my heart's desire wasn't to have one to love and cherish. I've had 40 or so years to figure out a work around or two but that is where the story bogs down, gets complicated and boring to blog about. What with health issues and other minutia it's been ages since I've even been on a date. Fortunate but also makes solving the problem difficult, being with people is best but I am quite happy on my own 85-95% of the time.

Always on the look out for new solutions and workarounds; new people, new situations and leaving my comfort zone are key. But what to do? A day trip to Wind Wolves Preserve presented itself courtesy of Seeds of Inspiration Community Garden in Bakersfield. I had only heard of Wind Wolves once before. At 9AM on Valentine's Day we piled into a shuttle bus at the SeedsOfIn garden. I knew planting Oak trees was part of the plan and a nature hike. Other than that I didn't know what to expect.

There were actually a couple of attractive single women on the trip. After so many years the spark of hope survives but I no longer bother even looking for opportunities for romance. Then again with, as I said, health issues so no job and feeling the crush of looming financial disaster there's this phrase that has haunted me since the 8th grade about the almost magical effects of - the love of a good woman.

Half of the 25 or so people in our group were children under about 8 or 10. 3 were babes in baskets. Some of my favorite kind of people. It's been years since I've spent time with them. As it happens over a third of the group were off the hook beautiful moms. I try to make it a habit not to look at married ladies but, wow. I sat next to this stunning latina woman with the most beautiful art on her skin. Hey it was Valentines day, cut me some slack.

I could not believe we were in Kern County. 40 minutes from downtown then you are suddenly in a different world. Rolling landscape with tiny canyons and a small stream that cut it's way through the mountains bordering the south valley thousands of years ago.  Over 93 thousand acres. To me a nature experience involves tall trees or the ocean. Perhaps because it is earliest spring and so green with even a few wild flowers. I was immediately enchanted.

The staff lead us to a spot just a 100 yards from the main building. Ranger Matt explained the process of taking the seedlings to the designated pre-dug holes, adjusting the depth with dirt, watering, taking the 1 inch shoots from their 14 inch containers that included a root that often was peeking out the bottom. Placing it in the hole and filling in around with more dirt, then more water. Key to this process was having the children do as much of it as possible. As a crotchety infirm ol dude that just so happens is lazy; the plan was showing some promise for me.

Kids: am I right?

Before walking to the planting site I met a new friend. This little person named Gracie showed me her little brother all bundled and covered up in a stroller, he was 3 months old. She then insisted we throw some rocks.

When the planting began I thought to work with my new friend but drifted to a planting spot with a mom her girl, boy and one in a stroller. I want to say Deseere', Sam, Scarlet, and Molly in the wheeled basket. (I am so terrible with names.) Little Scarlet was on it. By the time the rest of us were there she had the containerized seedling in the hole and measuring for depth. Kids love digging in the dirt and filled with enthusiasm. proper depth achieved water was added. Kids love watering too. Mom got the tiny oak tree out of the container and kids helped eagerly scooping dirt in around with their hands. There were those small garden spades for them to use but that wasn't happening. My task was to use a full size shovel and keep a pile of loose dirt next to the hole to use for filling. Next to us was a very miniature Grand canyon with a stream at the bottom. About half way through the 2nd planting Sam was much more interested in throwing rocks into the canyon. By the 4th one it was mostly me and Deseere', the mom, doing the planting.
That tiny tiny sprig at the center is a Mighty Oak.
The next part of the process was placing these long tubes over the baby trees to protect them from critters and weeds. The tubes reminded me of the translucent ones in a golf bag that organizes the clubs. Only longer and 5 inches across instead of 1. They have air holes and zip ties to hold them to a wooden stake. That in turn is surrounded with chicken wire, or similar, held in place with 2 of those metal fence posts. Driving the metal posts into the ground and is actual work work. A swarthy black man on staff named Moses did those. From his accent I think he must be from Africa.

All of this takes more time than I thought. Still I wanted to do one more. The first mom +3 I helped had disappeared so I found a seedling in container and found a designated hole. In everyday life I don't do squatting, kneeling or sitting on the ground. Between the people and the process and mother nature I just let that go. Got on the ground, measured my Oak for depth. Scooped dirt in with my hands and added some water. I looked around, most of the children were off exploring, it was just adults. Holding the naked root with acorn and shoot and filling dirt around takes more than 2 hands. I asked for help and yet a different mom was there scooping dirt for the seedling.

Somehow 2 hours had past and it was lunch time. Amber the SeedsOfIn lady, beautiful mom in her own right, invited me to share a picnic table with she & her boys & friend. I bragged to her about my latest nutrition routine of starting my days with a green smoothie. Considering how beautiful this place is, open to the public and all, I was surprised at how few couples there were on Valentines Day.

This didn't leave much time for a nature hike but our intrepid guide and bus driver Jana drove up a little ways to the main trail head. There they were, the lovebirds. Dozens of cars parked along the road. One trail was 9 miles another 6 I think she said. Luckily she found one that was only 20 minutes long and flat enough for strollers. She told us a little of the history and and about some of the plant life. It was a Spanish land grant in 1842. The road is over 200 years old. Then she drove us back to Bakersfield.

200 year old road

As my health> ability to work> financial security have been draining away this year I have been going through stages. Anger, resentment, guilt, fear and their associates. Lately those suffering emotions have been coming in bursts, but less often. The lessons of meditation and 40 years as a seeker are taking their place. My seeking has been for those truths beyond words and forms. So the serenity and unity with all things that I have been feeling lately are hard to express in words. A knowing that what is in the current moment is all that is. The congruity of current moments works with the river allegory. You can point your boat in a specific direction but gravity and fluid dynamics have the final word. This is simple stuff, logical, the deeper understanding is the part that doesn't lend itself to outgoing expression.

Physical healthwise it wasn't that good of a day. My memory was all but off line and I was thinking as slow as a line at the DMV. My personal magnetism wasn't happening either. I don't spend much time with kids, as I said, but when I do they usually flock to me the way dogs and cats do. The serenity thing I guess. Not that day. Said I wasn't looking, lovely as some of my fellow adventurers were, spontaneous love making didn't break out either.

Flocks of sheep eat potential fire fuel

The 20 minute hike
None the less, the whole little day trip adventure had me smiling from deep inside. On the ride home I figured out that it was when I got down on the ground and put my hands in the earth. That was the turning point. Children are one of the most disarming parts of nature. The women all bright and beautiful were more or less oblivious to me so unguarded. Showing to their children that limitless caring and outpouring of love and affection that makes them the fountain of human life. The location of the preserve itself was chosen because it's terrain, vegetation, wildlife and scenery that exemplifies the nature of this part of the world much more than an empty lot or municipal park in Bakersfield could.

I had gone there to have an adventure and plant a few little Oak trees in the hopes that one might survive for 100 years or more. One's connection to and being part of everything is a constant. (If a star wants out of the sky where are you going to put it?) Feeling the connection, being and feeling part of nature and the life force that flows through it requires action and interaction. The very things that I have neglected inside my little house under the big tree in the city.

Without literally holding it in my arms I had embraced the natural world and the earth herself. She embraced me back.

Those people's kids.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

My old friend the Palm Springsian

I have a couple of facebook friends that I have known for 50 years or there abouts. Bill contacted me and said he was coming to town to visit and meet Rhonda for dinner. Figured he’d look me up too.

Briefly the back story: The grade school we went to was about four blocks from where we each lived. Bill was my best friend back then he lived here . Rhonda and her little sister lived on the corner of Bill’s street. . Our Jr High (now a middle school) was here . I recall 1971 as the year I graduated from there. I lived a few blocks away The old house looks great on Google maps. When we lived there it was all white with a white rock roof. What was the deal with those rock rooves? The A&W that my folks owned/operated and what brought us to Bakersfield in 1964 was here. . I was saying Pastrami King lived there now in the picture it’s Frosty King. For years after my folks sold it it was Alex T’s & W. Alex Theodor was patriarch of the greek family that owned it. I later worked with his daughter at the chiropractic office. Our nemesis was the fast food joint two doors down called Sno-White. hasn’t been sno-white for a couple of decades. Nemesis or not I always liked the roof.
But I digress.

The next day, yesterday, I got a text to meet them at Black Angus. I was having one of my not so nice couple of days of feeling kind of awful where thoughts come slowly. Life is going on around me and my reactions are just basic. I kept wanting to feel anxious about trying to describe the sad nature of my existance of late I also kept wanting to sleep.

I got there to find the parking lot full and the place was packed. I was early so found a spot to plop down my seat cushion and sit watching the torsos of the other people waiting that didn’t find a seat in the lobby. It wasn't till then that It occurred to me that I didn't really know what they look like these days. The profile pictures on facebook are tiny. Okay so they turned out to be gray haired old timers that might be the grandparents of the kids I knew. Rhonda was there first, she was the one that made the reservation. We were shown to a table. I couple of minutes later Rhonda’s sister Sandy arrived. I had a vague memory of being the bratty little sister. Now she’s over 50 too. Bill came all the way from Palm Springs and arrived just after Sandy.

We ate a good dinner, Rhonda picked up the tab, and we talked for hours. I mostly listened. Partially because I wasn't feeling right but also because I spend so much time by myself it’s difficult to get out of my head and into the flow of a conversation. They would go on for a while and I would interject a small story. The three of them had some early twenties adventures in partying in and around San Pedro where Bill lived after his family moved away. I spent most of years 15 through 27 some version of drunk and/or stoned. I can usually pull up a story or 2 but was content to listen. I tried to follow the places and things they did. Picturing the young versions of them doing those things. The stories of how all three had corvettes was interesting. On the one hand it makes perfect sense. The natural progression from who I knew back then. Like a lot of people I have many car stories too. The Datsun, the Volvo, The Thing, the Ranchero, the Town car, the piece of shit Ford Ranger (3 steering pumps and 2 alternators, I got it new and only had it for 3 years) to name a few. It wasn't a sports car or a chick magnet but I figured the old Crown Vic Police Interceptor would fit in. Never felt the moment and didn't tell that story.

Kind of funny how every so often the conversation would come back around to the aches and pains and inconveniences of getting older.

Bill’s story from what I gather is that he has retired after 34 years with the postal service. Lives in a suburb or community near Palm Springs. He misses the people on his route. Some where rich and famous what with it being Palm Springs and all. That made sense too he is a story teller. Drinking adventures in Mexico and here and there. Possibly years past. More current were the stories of house parties and the thrift store cast-offs of the deceased Palm Springsians. Sounds like he has a nice home with a pool and a dog. No mention of wives or children. To be fair I didn't offer my details either. In the minds of some people this somehow translates to “He’s gay”. I guess it’s better than “He’s asexual”. Neither of which are true in my case. What with the stream of endorphins any aspect of womankind sends through whole being, lifting me off the ground, you’d think people’s gaydar would register hetero from miles away. Doesn't always happen that way. Once I figure out my own “it’s complicated” story perhaps we can trade stories. Just getting a girlfriend might be easier. Got close last month, I think.

As I recall Rhonda was a tomboy. There were several of us that did kid things together. She’s newly widowed after 25 or so years of marriage now. Sold the big family home that also contained the family business. Just moved into a very modest place near the center of town. Except for 4 bedrooms instead of 3 and not being on a slab her place is laid out similarly to mine. She’s fixing it up to suit her needs and looks like she’ll be quite cozy. I am drawing a blank about if she has children. If so they must live far away or something. Here sister has 2 kids just grown, lives in the north west of town and of the 4 of us, is the one with a job.

I’m listing off what I remember and some stream of consciousness like a kind of police procedural testimony. The whole brain too foggy to think thing happens less often lately but when it does I kind of panic. No telling how it limits me and interferes with my life having a happy next chapter. Thing is I have no way of knowing what I misremember or have already forgotten.

So anyway I wasn't a total zombie at dinner. I told some fun stories too. Finally living long enough to see these old friends as living history is terribly fascinating and engaging. The different paths taken and all that.