And We’re Back

…to a life of taking care of everyone else first. These lines sit silent; hours to get to work, a full-time job, hours to get home, my second full-time job there.
Weekends, just the one job, housekeeping.
Just taking one day at a time. I get frustrated not being able to craft on a page, but I guess someone has to man the safety net.

Shortcuts

In my junior year of college, when I was double-majoring in literature and history, I was accused of plagiarism by one of my history professors. I was a year into learning the hard way that writing for literature and writing for history on the academic level were polar opposite approaches–literature is written in active voice and history is written in passive–and because I loved literature first I focused on literature more.

The history class was an English history class, and the paper was about a poverty-stricken travelogue of Orwell’s of a title that escapes me now. In a fit of tired I wrote my paper on it as a literature student would, not a history student would. My professor, who didn’t like anyone much, thought my historical writing had “improved too quickly” and that I was “too good,” and therefore must have stolen it. I remember laughing for two reasons: that he would think the paper was good (since he thought awful writing was good), and that he thought I had improved. My mistake, of course, was laughing.

“Oh, you’re serious,” I said.

Then came going to the department head, who thought the paper was the same crap I had been turning in and didn’t like Orwell anyway, and telling my literature advisor about it, who read the paper and said, “Well, he’s half right–it’s really good, but it’s definitely yours.” Literature professors liked me, which means I always had to work twice as hard at history. Eventually, it became a minor, no longer a double-major.

University life is exhausting, even without the fraternity or sorority social life. I had no social life in college, but I was fine with that–I loved my subjects. I worked full time as a corporate instructor and took a full course load. I only watched television between semesters, and most of those were awful movies like the “Lethal Weapon” series, just to flush out my system. I was extremely strapped for time. And yet I never robbed another writer of their words, and I would not have been able to think of a scenario where it was acceptable.

When someone like Rand Paul or that college guy featured in the Jezebel.com blog post state that they plagiarize because it saves time, I’m reminded of other crimes: single riders who get in the commuter lane on the double-lines because they have to go faster and they have to go faster at a risk to someone who is already justifiably in that lane, or folks who can’t be bothered with a hands-free connection because it takes longer to talk that way. Lawlessness starts out as a shortcut, lacking in shame because we’re supposed to wish we could do that and get away with it.

I don’t ever want to get away with plagiarism, even if I were to be haunted by Bradley Cooper for it.

I’ve been plagiarized: a couple of times in high school, and at my current workplace. (A testimony to the maturity of where I work, I’m sure.) Both times I was a mixture of flattered, annoyed, and saddened.

Can’t be bothered to create with words? “I pity the fool.” (Mr. T)

Settling

Optimal: Win lottery. Move to San Francisco and sit with other writers only for at least a year. Speak little, scribble much.

Desirable: Get a job in San Francisco that pays enough to live simply, with a relocation package. Work and write on the side.

Acceptable: A better job that allows me to work remotely from anywhere. Write when the mood strikes.

Deal-breaker: This same situation, next year.

Comfort Food

My definition of comfort food is a food that not only soothes my soul but soothes it because I can’t create it myself. For others, this definition is mostly shared because someone they loved used to make the dish: mother, grandmother, aunt, father.

My mother was the only one to cook in our family, and I can make most of her dishes. She was an ambitious cook but not a very participatory one–usually halfway through a dish her husband wanted her to be a captive audience to something he wanted to convince her of, or her kids needed her–dicing, cubing, slicing all turned into the same-sized chunk of cut item. I have very little personal time myself, so I can empathize, but when people boss me around when I’m cooking they usually get a cold stare and a cold shoulder until I’m finished. So to crave my mother’s dishes long after she’s been gone for eleven years is not to miss how she cooked food, but to improve on her and silently beg her pardon in the process.

My comfort foods are not of the people I love, but of the places I love that I can’t get to. I miss tres leches cake, which seemed to be a fad in San Francisco around the time I came into exile down here. I miss Indian food, Vietnamese food, Dungeness crab, sesame chicken…some tastes exotic, some pseudo-exotic, and some just associated with a place. I miss straight Guittard chocolate, but I’ll pick up Ghirardelli at the local Rite Aid just to get close.

Cold-bred wines.

Sourdough bread.

I can’t make that stuff, and, apparently, neither can anyone south of Orange County.

Whistle

Magic moment, when you experience your first foray into someone else’s bad ethics.

Today was that day for me. The common assumption of someone with “planning” in their title would be that person as a planner, but for the last ten months I’ve been documenting the world I work in. I spend an hour on Tuesday afternoons creating next week’s schedule (which over the following week will be either ignored or requested to be altered so that it no longer serves the business need), and that’s the most forward-thinking I do.

Most of the time I “adjust” and then report on those adjustments. If someone forgot to submit their adjustments, then I may be asked to make them look good after the system will no longer let me make them look good.

Today was one of those requests. The sad fact? I know it will surface again, even after top people said no. And there’s this feeling that I just want to go home scrub with a Brillo pad and then maybe put a gun to my head.

The catharsis?

I still have MY ethics. I can still look in a mirror. That seems to be a smaller and smaller club with jackets that can say that.

Tomorrow’s writing? Hopefully about comfort food.

Exhibition In Verse

What was the thought process?

Add a descriptor to an event?

Assemble the pieces in various rooms of staggered doors and dimensions?

“African American.” “Jewish.” “Women.”

Plus

“In industry.” “In the Beats.” “In Cooking.”

Isn’t this the same solution to show ideas for Jerry Springer?  But no…

That’s more food on a dare than trying something we knew was there, but never had seen for ourselves.

The Right Stuff

As I write this, my brother is in the living room watching “Platoon.”  I’m not a big Oliver Stone fan (there are two directors that I would re-watch only one movie apiece from–Stone, for “The Joy Luck Club,” and Tarantino, for “Inglorious Bastards.”  The rest of their stuff I can do without), and I while I’ve been told what seems like two hundred times that this is a “classic,” it does nothing for me.

I’ve been told nearly that many times how great San Diego is, but most of the telling has been from the point of view of people who hate cold, or hate the relief of rain.  Most of the people who tell me are also not known for being the big nerd that I am–a woman with a love of good literature, good Gewürztraminer, and Bruce Springsteen music.  It’s no longer a matter of San Diego being lesser for me–we just don’t have the same tastes, and the same curiosity.  

Yesterday I turned my curiosity loose in Balboa Park.  I love Balboa Park but don’t get there nearly enough–if there aren’t slot machines or remote desert trails, I usually don’t make it to a place.  But yesterday I awoke at 6 am, walked to the train station, rode the train in the sunrise to Santa Fe station in San Diego (an old-fashioned station like one might find in foreign films or 40’s movies), and then took the trolley to City College Station.  San Diego reminds me of San Jose in its populated loneliness, a crowd of loners and hermits, no one making eye contact.  I was on the Orange Line to El Cajon, a car full of Saturday workers, it seemed.  They did not seem happy it was a Saturday.  I had to contain my wonder, wipe it off my face like a mask.

I could have boarded a bus at the station to get to Balboa Park, but, like my first forays into San Francisco, I don’t know the bus lines that well and wanted to read them from the street.  The days are getting cooler here, anyway; by cooler I mean that a t-shirt and shorts are now comfortable after the sun’s up, instead of avoiding travel in mid-day.  I walked from City College Station to the San Diego Museum of Art, a small gem about the size of my Legion of Honor.

I walked in and nearly wept.

Art is art, anywhere.  In San Francisco I went to the deYoung once a month at the least, but here I haven’t seen art museum art since my last visit to San Francisco.  Most of the art in Carlsbad has been sea-based:  weathered wood with half a layer of paint, shells, nets, sea-glass, etc.  This is beautiful stuff, but limited.  When I walked into the San Diego Museum of Art I see stuff not just of the desert or ocean, even though there are influences.  Diego Rivera had multiple paintings on the walls, but I couldn’t find Frida.  Georgia O’Keefe and Salvador Dali were in the modern art room (wing?  hard to say), and an exhibit on women and industry and war captivated me beyond measure.  Sure, yes, Rosie the Riveter, but have you seen the aviator war photos of the strong Margaret Bourke-White or the needlework of Nava Lubelski on stained canvas?  Have you seen An-My Le’s photos of 29 Palms that could be mistaken for Afghanistan?

Like the deYoung, the San Diego Museum of Art has a sculpture garden, and there is where I had lunch.  Over happy hour (between 11 am and noon on Saturday:  a glass of pinot noir, black bean soup, Moroccan shrimp, all half-price) I heard the clarion bells play “Roll Out the Barrell” and “Oh What a Beautiful Morning,” odd tunes for such a heady park and for the hour that drifts away from morning like stale flowers.  It was San Diego, though, and not San Francisco.  I kept hoping for more, more authenticity…but then it came time to get back on the trolley and see San Diego trying to prove metropolitan-ness.  I wish it wouldn’t.