March 31, 2011
“It happens to the best of us.
We forget things.
YOU KNOW—NAMES, FACES, PANTS.”
But the $10 “How Could I Forget Kit,” from a company incomprehensibly called Yes to Carrots, available on board Virgin American Flight 744 San Francisco to Seattle, can provide you with “everything you need to look and smell fabulous.” But when the top story tonight is Japan’s devastating earthquakes and tsunamis, you are more apt to be conscious of everything you need to be alive and safe.
”I’M NOT WORRIED
about being sued,” says a man behind me waiting to board. “I’ve been a honorable person…”
“Phew,” I whisper to the fellow ahead of me. “I’m glad I’m not having that conversation.” We chuckle in common relief at our relative luck and freedom from litigation, our good fortune at being someone other than the honorable guy behind us, or anyone in the wrong place at the wrong time in ravaged Japan.
ALL FORTUNE, PERHAPS, IS RELATIVE.
I live in San Francisco, an odds-on favorite for impending doom. A frequently used forecast for the likelihood of California quakes, both Northern and Southern, is “not if but when.” According to the USGS,
OFTEN, IN MOMENTS OF QUIET CONTENT,
perhaps with Brahms on the Bose, a book in one hand, the other stroking the purring cat on my chest, I announce to myself, “I’m the happiest person on earth.” This happens in my third-floor garret, which several times a month is subject to subtle tremblors my fellow tenants claim not to have felt. The bed shakes as if a cat is busy scratching itself; however, every loose or hanging object in the vicinity is also quivering—plants, lampshades, the rustic bell I bought in Tuscany, its bracket attached to old plaster by a loose nail—the event lasting ten seconds or less. A CNN reporter noted that quakes of 5.0 or less are hardly even considered newsworthy.
THE REALITY OF LIFE
on this volatile planet with its compromised ecologies and economies is that whatever external circumstance—a comfortable home, a loving family, a seemingly secure job—brings you happiness, can be gone with little-to-no notice. An earthquake, a car crash, a stock market crash, and it’s start-all-over-again. There have been, today alone, March 31st as I write, for instance, over three dozen quakes in the CA-NV region, ranging from 1.0 to 4.4. Whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on.
AND IN THE MEANTIME
whole lotta life keeps goin’ on. Though she can no longer afford or, rather, justify the indulgent, extravagant trips of last year, Auntie Alexandra has flown to Seattle courtesy of Virgin VISA card-accumulated air miles, for $5 in taxes, to meet her new nephew, adopted rather suddenly (as these things sometimes play out) by friends last December. A two-year waiting process becomes a “here comes your son” reality. Between him and his five-year-old sister, these two attention-seeking, energy-abundant young beings present a challenge for their aunt so used to holing up and not speaking for days. In this case, it’s a refreshing change, a taste of happy (though sometimes frazzled) family life.
CHILDREN REQUIRE, PERHAPS TEACH YOU,
to be absolutely present, responsive and patient—a combination of happy traits I most consistently demonstrate in the presence of cats, not so much people. It’s a quiet, rainy Seattle weekend, perfect for creature comforts—lounging, slow food, movies. The weather, we deem, is too soggy for our casually planned pilgrimage to the graves of Bruce and Brandon Lee, but we are granted a couple of dry spells sufficient for brunch, shopping, strolling, photo snapping.
“DO YOU LIKE OUR BULLDOG?”
asks our waitress at King’s Hardware in Ballard, who spotted me taking a picture of their logo on the door.
Hell, the author IS a bulldog.
I tell her about this website, the “sf,” I explain, standing for San Francisco. A variety of t-shirts and hoodies display their motto…
Actually, the author doesn’t WANT to…
But there is too great a preponderance of Bulldog paraphernalia for this formerly compulsive collector to tackle; I acquire a black Bulldog beanie for h brown and call it a day. Bill has the hot wings and I, the pineapple-teriyaki Kahuna burger with sweet potato fries, an obsession of mine since I had some New Orleans-style, sprinkled with cinnamon, at Poor House Bistro in San Jose. I explain to the waitress, whose name neither Bill nor I remember but whom I herewith christen Esmerelda Villa-Lobos because of the Pulp Fiction/Kahuna association (she was Bruce Willis’s cab driver after he didn’t throw the fight he was supposed to throw and, as added bonus, killed his opponent in the ring).
“This picture I just took,” I tell Esmerelda, asking the age-old question,
“will appear in my next column.” Esmerelda can’t answer the question, as she is unfamiliar with Atlas Shrugged, and I wonder if her curiosity might be sparked by this iconic character whose name appears on her workplace wall. Ayn Rand can be a life-changer. Not for me, but for some folks. Or a life-validator, perhaps. I don’t abhor her like some do; I find her an interesting read. She wrote, “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” I, for one, will not allow the answer to be “myself.”
WE HEAD OUT
onto the streets of Ballard to explore. I paid only $5 for my round-trip flight, but the “souvenir phase” of the trip could be killer. I pray I don’t lose control and overdo it, as is my nature.
DON’T KNOW HOW I COULD FORGET MINE,
so I am on the lookout for second-hand boots because There Will be Mud, and Bill turns me on to this neon-orange pair with groovy black accents, which will brighten up any dreary Pacific Northwest or Bay Area day. I must say, they are pretty damn cool “slush” boots, as I called bad-weather boots in my Philly days, and I rip off the $30 price tag and declare them “Mine!” I then discover, posting this picture, which has garnered more than 450 views in its brief tenure on flickr, that rubber boots are a hot commodity among rubber and/or boot-loving photo-sharing communities. I’ve shuffled through a good sampling of them not yet seen a pair I’d rather wear. I congratulate myself on keeping my feet stylin’ dry and berate myself for same when across the globe people are without food, water, housing. I go so far as to now own two pairs of orange boots (one rubber, one leather) without finding myself overly ridiculous.
An embarrassment of orange boots
I’M NOT MOTHER TERESA
said Oprah Winfrey, a terrifically generous woman (perhaps psychotically so), of her limitations. She’s not able to devote her life to the suffering of the world. But she sure does spread the wealth. Not many of us are Mother Teresa or Oprah Winfrey, and plenty of us have more than we need and still complain about what we don’t have. A panhandler asked me, “Can you help me, without hurting yourself?” Plenty of us could do a lot more helping without hurting ourselves. But Japan reminds me, much of what I “have” right now is on loan, I myself am on borrowed time. So I remind you, as Warren Zevon did, to “enjoy every sandwich.” And if I die before I wake, do me a favor. Bury me in my rubber orange boots. And then put on the other pair, and dance on my grave in them.
Rubber Boot Showdown on the Granola Streets of Frisco.
When I wear my orange boots
Hey, Jack Kerouac called it that.
copyright Alexandra Jones 2011