Sunday, June 30, 2013

Reflections on Bakersfield

     I first became aware of Bakersfield, CA when I was a sophomore in high school. My dad got a job for the Kern County Department of Airports and his new office was in Bakersfield. I don't remember much about the first couple of weeks I was in Bakersfield, except that it was hot and I spent much of my time around the pool in our apartment complex. I had been there about 6 weeks when I met Doug (my husband of 38 years.)
     Doug and I were married 3 years later and we set up housekeeping in Bakersfield for 2 years. We then moved to the Central Coast, where we currently live. We returned to Bakersfield many times in the following years to visit his parents and mine, until his dad died and his mom moved to Visalia, CA and shortly thereafter my dad moved to the Central Coast also. So, we no longer have family, per se, in Bakersfield, but my best friend lives there now so, I continue to make the 2 1/2 hour trek to see her. You know it's a good friendship when you will go into 110* heat to see a friend!
     Anyway...I was on such a visiting trip earlier this week. There are a couple of really strange things I noticed about Bakersfield. And yes, it was hot!
     As the city of Bakersfield has grown it has been necessary for new roads and major highways to be built. It used to take me 15 minutes by freeway to get from Oildale (which is in the very northern section of Bakersfield) to the Valley Plaza on Ming Avenue (which was almost the south end of town) to go to work. Now I don't think you could accomplish that task in under 30 minutes (too much traffic) and there are scores of neighborhoods build west and south of those areas now.
     In the expansion of the city the highway department has laid out the roads tying them into existing older roads but trying to accommodate the larger population. So, what they have come up with are major roadways that go from 2 lanes, to 3 lanes, back to 1 lane, returning to 2 lanes with a turn lane, and intersections that when you cross them you have to turn almost a 45* angle to stay in the lane you started in. It is all very confusing. They also have wide roads with large V-shaped areas with one lane on one side and another lane veering off to another side. Man, if you don't watch where you are going, you could really end up in a mess!
     Another thing I noticed this week while Nancy and I were driving around (yes, we actually go out in the just can't sit at home all day, every day. Thank goodness most of the stores and business are nicely cooled, so if you can survive the hot car and the trip outdoors between stores you're o.k.) is that a lot of people, I'm talking A LOT of people, have fountains in their front yards and businesses have fountains and waterfalls in front of their offices. Well, you think, that's nice. Running, splashing water at least gives the impression of coolness, even in 110* heat. But here's the funny thing: none of the fountains and waterfalls are working. No splashing water. No sun through the water droplets forming rainbows, no relaxing streams of cool water flowing over dark, wet rocks. Nope. None.
     Is there a water shortage? Fountains and waterfalls recirculate their water. You do get some evaporation but I would think that would be a small price to pay for the enjoyment they would bring in the hot weather. Is the electricity to run them too much to add to an already over-burdened power bill in the summer? I know my dad's electric bill was well over $300 every month, every summer, and he didn't have a fountain or waterfall.
     So it begs the question...why do people in Bakersfield HAVE these fountains? If there's not enough water and they cost too much to run, what's the point of putting them in? It is a nice concept to have all these oases of cool water running water, but if the water really never flows it becomes more of an oddity. So, all you people in Bakersfield, or other hot towns and cities: turn on your fountains. Let them splash and shimmer! Give the eye a cool place to rest in the summer heat because fountains and waterfall features that are not running look, in my opinion, just a little sad.


     Suddenly I'm awake.
     I lay with my eyes closed, waiting for the sound to come again. What was it I heard? Must have been an unusual noise to bring me out of a dream in the middle of the night.
     Fan noise. Air conditioning unit humming.
     If I ignore the feeling and don't open my eyes, I may be able to go back to sleep, maybe to the same dream I was having, although at this point I can't recall what it was about.
     I turn my head to the other side and rearrange my arms. There. Nice and comfy.
     No noises. Nothing.
     But there is a feeling of ... something.
     I crack my one eye closest to the pillow open just enough to focus. (I learned this trick when my daughter went away to Chico State and left her two cats habituating with us. Eyes open and they pounced, ready to start their day; never leaving opportunity to return to sleep.)
     Now my sleep-foggy brain understands. Scuddles.
     Scuddles, my best friend's cat, is sitting very prim and proper with his face about two inches from my face. "MAUW!"
     "I'm sorry, Scuddles, if you want to complain about the visiting dog, you're going to have to wake up your dad."
     "Really? Are you serious?" I turn in bed to check the time on my phone. 4:11 a.m. "Do you know what time it is?" Of course he doesn't. Cats are not slaves to time like we are. Oh, yeah, maybe we like to think they do adapt themselves to our schedule but all bets are off if the routine gets interrupted by a visiting dog in the house.
     I close my eyes, thinking from my perspective the issue is over. How long have I known cats? How many have I lived with? They all had different personalities but one thing is always the same... nothing is that easy with a cat.
     I closed my eyes, and begin to reason with the cat. "Go away." "Carmen [the dog] is in her kennel, sleeping, like you should be. It's not like this is your first experience with her in the house. She's been here before. Go away! I can't help you."
     Then begins the hiking of the body. Starting at my head on the pillow, down my back down one leg, up the other, up the back to sit right behind my head. "MAUW!"
     I whisper, "I am NOT getting up, go away!"
     In what world did I really believe that was going to be the end of the encounter?
     The next thing I hear is a thud of a cat jumping down from the bed. And the next thing I hear is the indescribably distinct sound of a cat throwing up on the carpet.
     Obviously "Go away" wasn't Scuddles' required response.
     Sigh...I'm up now.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


     I woke up this morning to the sound of an electric sander. Someone, close by in the neighborhood, was obviously sanding something. Several men around the block have workshops where they do little projects and tinker. Good Lord, I thought, "What time is it?" It was light out. Yeah, I'm that observant in the morning. But waking up in lightness is something I have to get used to all over again every summer, as I normally get up at 5:30 every school day. Even on weekends, I am usually up early as I have been trained by the cat to feed him in the morning. The alarm going off is not a wake up call, after all, it is a "Feed me " notice and is accompanied by the walking of the prone body (mine, trying to ignore him) and loud assertions that yes, that was the alarm going off. He wouldn't want mom to mess up the schedule. That's what alarms are for, aren't they? So now, since I refuse to set an alarm for the morning, because it is summer and all, the cat sometimes lets me sleep an extra hour or so before demanding his morning repast of 1/2 can of cat food; on a salad plate, next to the water bowl, please, thank you. This morning I did get up at 6:30 to feed him and thought to myself how nice it would be to climb back into bed and see if I could sleep another hour or so.
     I was surprised to find out that the clock in the front room was chiming (a polite word as actually it bongs more than chimes) 10:00. That was almost at the same instant the sander went off. Good timing on the person's part I must admit. But the whole point of this conversation is that I wouldn't have known what time it was (other than day time) unless the clock had not chimed. The cat had been fed and was happily sleeping between my knees; none of the surrounding neighborhood noises bothering him, no sir. (I must say that the ability to sleep totally undisturbed is one of the cat's more enviable talents.)
     Several days before the end of the school year, my little travel alarm I have had for years, finally decided to not work. Well, let me back up a little here. It did work. It went off in the middle of the night. It went off when the alarm was turned off. Sometimes it even went off at 5:30 p.m. instead of, or in one case, in addition to, 5:30 a.m. As you can probably tell, this was not going to work for me. It was a little high tech thing my husband had gotten me after my last little alarm died about 6 years ago. High tech being the problematic word here. It had two alarm settings on it so that you wouldn't have to change your regular alarm if you wanted to get up at a different time, say on the weekend or something. Well, that's all very well and fine but every time you wanted to change the alarm or set up the other alarm or, heaven forbid, change the time, you had to get out the instruction booklet and follow about 8 steps that included pressing buttons twice rapidly and holding them down and going through the day and date and time zone. It made me tired. I put up with all this for all the years I owned the stupid thing. So, finally when it started acting up I took advantage of it and tossed it to the Goodwill pile. And it rang there the next morning which was a royal pain in the butt to have to get out of bed at 5:30 in the morning, on a Saturday, and dig for the stupid thing to turn it off, which, by the way, I had already done twice the day before. The last couple of days of the school year, I used my cell phone's alarm which is a much more pleasant noise anyway.
      When school finally ended, I decided to just go without an alarm, or even a clock by my bed, for the summer. If I had to get up for anything important, which I tend not to schedule anything too early, I could use my cell phone again. All this means that, at some time this summer, I am going to have to search for another alarm clock to put beside my bed. You ask why I just don't use my cell phone. Cell phones, even though you turn all the ringers and sounds off, still flash lights and such during the middle of the night. There doesn't seem to be a way to turn off the lights, or if there is, I haven't found it. And I don't particularly want to spend the time to do it. So, I will return to the conventional alarm clock by the side of the bed. But I am going to do the buying this time. I have been looking in every store and every catalog I get, which is a lot of places; trust me. No fancy stuff. No high tech instructions. Something simple. Just give me the time. Just give me an alarm that works that has a pleasant sound. Something in shabby chic green. With a pretty face and nice numerals.
     Yeah, I hear you laughing and thinking "good luck"...  

Friday, June 7, 2013

End of School Smile

a little rant...

     I don't know about anyone else, but I shop a lot on-line and from catalogs. We live in a somewhat rural area which is devoid of good shopping, especially for a plus size woman like myself. The stores that are here are way too predictable in their selection. Ho Hum. So, I find myself shopping from a catalog to find some unusual clothes, or here's a concept, ones that actually fit me correctly. I was surprised and pleased to recently find some wide leg jeans (I carry a good portion of my weight in my hips and thighs; is what it is) in a catalog and sat down at my computer and ordered them. I have never, Never, NEVER (you get the idea) had jeans that fit me so nicely before in my life! Right length, right color, right weight, right waist position etc... all those things that are so aggravating to shop for in a jean.
     O.K. here's the issue.
     When did it become o.k. to charge an extra $5 for a larger size? Who started this? Why is this being allowed to continue? It kind of ticks me off, big time! :( This is pure, unadulterated prejudice. Now, I know, if you are reading this blog and you are not a plus size, you are probably thinking that it takes more fabric to make the larger size clothing. And therefore it takes more money to ship the raw materials and it takes longer to sew them because there is more fabric. Come on, Really? So, if we follow that rational, why are children's clothes so expensive? Why don't they give a discount if you are a petite, size 4? Nope, it's the regular price for everybody but oh, have a couple of extra pounds on you and suddenly you're charged more. (Oh, and except for a couple of nice companies, you also have to pay shipping which is based on THE PURCHASE PRICE! THIS IS DISCRIMINATION!)
     You say, "Don't pay it." "Don't shop from a catalog and don't buy anything on-line." Well, I suppose that is an answer, but it's not a good answer. Why should a plus size person be penalized for wanting to buy something that #1 they feel good in, and #2 is not the same thing as everybody else is wearing, and #3 actually fits? And even if you don't buy on-line, some regular stores that sell multiple sizes actually do this. Walmart comes to mind. They charge $2-$3 extra for a man's Big & Tall item, like T-shirts, and/or a Woman's plus size piece of clothing, like a night gown, if the item is also sold in regular sizes.
     I am on the mailing list of well over 2 dozen catalogs (they are easy reading with pretty pictures after a day of brain-numbing essay grading.) The other day, I think it was Monday, I got a new catalog in the mail. As I was looking through the rather nice selection of clothes, I found a gorgeous sweater in the softest teal blue. And then I looked at the price. It was a little pricey ~ $59, for a sweater to wear to work. And then I saw the price for plus sizes (starting at XL no less) was a full $10 more. WHAT? Did they think that just because they charged $5 for so long that now the market will bear $10? Are they crazy? I buy fabric all the time. I have been making clothes to fit myself since I was in junior high. I know the difference in how much it takes to make a garment one size bigger. Not anywhere near $5 and certainly not $10!!!
     I threw the catalog away in disgust.