Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Furniture shopping - island style

Twice a year the town's refuse company, Seagull Sanitation, does a free large item pickup. On that date residents can put anything big - couches, chairs, tables, dressers, ovens, beds, etc. - out on the the curb and during the day a truck comes by and takes it away for free.  This is a very good thing.  Considering that it usually costs money to dispose of anything at the town dump, plus the hassle and/or expense of just getting it to the I said, a good thing.

For me, this is a chance to work on clearing out the decades worth of old, broken furniture stuffed into the storage and crawlspace area under the house.  Sometimes it's also a way for me to dispose of furniture left behind by vacating tenants.  This happens more frequently than you'd believe. Seriously. That's what happened two years ago and it looked like this:

Yes, that is a sleeper sofa, a desk, a table, chairs, a dresser, a small mattress, and a wardrobe. Sheesh!  All of it carried out to the curb by a couple of strong young lads from a local construction company.  They barely broke a sweat and walked away with a little extra cash in their pockets.

What I put out last night for today's large item pickup was a much smaller haul.  But the fun in putting it out the night before is in seeing what's actually still there in the morning.  Or if one happens to be up early in the morning, one could (theoretically) observe islanders cruising the streets, "shopping" the piles of discarded furniture.  I'm not saying I mind this - in fact, it makes me very happy to see that my trash could be someone else's treasure!  It's a far better result than just adding to the already overflowing city dump. And since many of us zip around town in golf carts - it's kinda fun to see how much or how large an item can be transported!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

When your cookie is empty

You should take that as a sign. Seriously, all in one day - my summer job offer was rescinded, my vehicle broke down, and most notably - I went to lunch with friends at the local chinese restaurant and at the end of the meal when we broke open our fortune cookies - mine was empty. Yup, that's right - no fortune in my cookie.  Based on how that day went for me, should you experience this particular phenomenon I suggest that you take it as a strong hint from the gods and go home, go to bed, and pull the covers over your head. 

Things did get better though.  I have my cart back and it's running, at least for now.  Tomorrow I have a go-see for another summer job, hopefully this one will pan out better than the last.  And over the weekend I had a chance to go out in the hills with a couple of friends. We had lunch at the airport cafe, saw lots of buffalo, and so much more!

I have many more photos than this, but I'm saving them for future posts. Trust me - you'll be glad I did!

Monday, April 27, 2009

C is for Church

Church of Christ Scientist, in Avalon, California

Or at least it was.

The building, and the property it sits on, just barely borders where I live at one corner.  And they were very pleasant neighbors but as I understand it, the congregation has dwindled over the years, and now the building is up for sale.

Built in 1928-29 by architect Hans Wallner, the design is supposed to be based on an etching of the Franciscan church of Santa Croce in Florence, Italy. One of Wallner's clients here on Catalina Island in the 1920's was Philip K. Wrigley. A close friend told me once that Wrigley's wife Helen was active in the church's original congregation at the time.

I've never been inside the building, but I am very curious! Don't you wonder what it looks like beyond the gate and up those stairs?

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Last Thursday I went overtown to take the exam for Foundations of Gerontology and I passed it with a B. I'm fine with that grade, especially considering I never finished the actual course materials!  If I had I'm sure I would have recieved an A, but that's not important.  It was more important for me to hurry up and finish, so I'd have my schedule free and clear to start the training for a new job working for the U.S. Census.

I applied for the job in March, took a little test, got fingerprinted and completed the paperwork for a background check.  It cleared of course, and on April 7 a representative from the local field office of the US Census called and offered me a job, which I accepted.  I agreed to all the terms of the job without hesitation - pay rate, hours per week required, length of overall employment, etc. - and was given the dates that the training would run, along with the name of the training instructor who would be contacting me with more specific details of the time and location of the training sessions.  Over the next few weeks, as I hadn't heard from the instructor as expected, I made two follow-up calls to the person who originally offered me the position.  Both times I was assured that everything was on track, and that the delay in passing along the final details was just due to government agency approval processes, but that was expected any moment, and that everything was fine. Then on Friday, April 24, the last business day before the training was scheduled to begin,  I finally received a call from the instructor.

He informed me that the decision had been made to send over and utilize already trained census employees from the mainland, instead of hiring and training locals.  I was stunned. To put it mildly.  He made it clear that the decision had been made above him, and that he had been given the task of contacting those people affected by this decision.  I asked him if he understood that this was not a job offer in the negotiation process, but one that had been offered and accepted, and he said that yes, he was.  I also asked if he had considered the possibility of people turning down other jobs in favor of accepting the Census job, only to find that they no longer had that either, and he didn't have much to say in response.  I finally wound up saying that it didn't appear that there was anything further I could say or do, and he responded by suggesting that I "stay in the hiring pool". Oh reeeeeaaalllyyy???? To that, I informed him in no uncertain terms that were I to entertain any future job offers from the US Census, they would have to be made in writing, and certainly from someone higher up than the local district office, since that is where it seemed the decisions were being made. I ended the call calmly and professionally.

I spent the rest of Friday drifting in and out of a state of shock, relating the whole situation to friends and family, and because this town is so freaking small, occasionally running into some of the other locals who received the same call and exchanging our thoughts and feelings on this mess. After a day of venting, and a day to think it over to myself, I've come to a decision.

I've always believed you should choose your battles wisely, and be sure that something is worth fighting for before you take up arms.  There are times in life when it is just easier and cleaner to simply walk away, and no one should pass judgement on that choice.  I've been there myself. But this is not one of those times.

What the US Census did here, and plans to do here, is wrong. If from the start, they had refused to hire locals and insisted on bringing people over from the mainland, that would have raised eyebrows and more than just a few questions. In this economy - you think that would get any town to roll out the welcome mat? Yeah, not so much.  But to go through a charade of hiring a group of locals, string them along for a few weeks, and then rescind the job offer at the last minute? That raises a different set of questions. And when you starting questioning the ethics of an organization's actions in one set of circumstances, you open the door to doubting their ability to act ethically in other situations.

When an individual does something wrong, there are consequences. When a government agency does something wrong, that's news. And as since I will not be starting a new job on Monday, I seem to find myself with free time. And a telephone. And an internet connection. 

Simply put - we got burned. And now something inside of me is burning.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Hammer Time!

I don't get too many opportunities for social knitting, most of the time I'm a solo act.  But this past Saturday I had the fun of going on a field trip to meet up with a group of knitters at the Hammer Museum.

The trip was organized by Ellen Bloom who came up with fabulous idea of getting a group of knitters together to meet with Lisa Anne Auerbach and view her participation in the Hammer's exhbition, "Nine Lives...Visionary Artists from L.A."

We gathered in the courtyard around noon and spent an hour chatting, knitting, and munching before heading upstairs to the gallery.  Our group of about 15-20 wandered through the exhibit, checking out the other eight artists, and ending with Lisa's portion. Her knitted art is displayed on torsos that hang from the ceiling so you walk through and around the individual pieces in the collection as you view it. This one is my favorite:

It was wonderful to meet Lisa and learn more about her work! I'm actually very interested in the graphic design element but when you add in translating the image into knit stitches? Wow, just wow.

I really enjoyed the day and I think that's why I didn't take very many pictures, and none at all while we were in the courtyard.  So for more pics, check out Ellen's post on our field trip!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I feel shabby

*I feel shabby
Oh so shabby
I feel shabby and dingy and frayed.
And I'm crabby,
'Cause my clothes need a serious upgrade.

(*sung to the tune of I Feel Pretty from West Side Story)

After the relief of receiving the census job offer and the initial thrill at the prospect of actually having some kind of income again wore off, I realized that this also meant I might need to make myself presentable for as much as five consecutive days. And that could be a bit of a challenge. Spending so many months on end in the company of my laptop, a stack of textbooks, and my cats really didn't do anything for my wardrobe!

In general, island life is much more casual than on the mainland. For example -  you're not likely to see a guy in a suit and tie unless he's being married or buried, and even then he's going to be the only one so dressed at that event, the guests certainly won't be. People do dress down here but still, I  suspect that my usual outfit of scuffed clogs, threadbare jeans, and a tee shirt with a few kitty claw holes just isn't going to cut it.

I'm sure I must have decent clothes buried somewhere in the back of my closet, probably hiding behind the hoodies and pajama pants.  After all, I spent years showing up to work in an office environment and managed to look acceptable. It shouldn't be that freaking hard. I'll figure it out next week - more important stuff to focus on this weekend. Like a field trip!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

At least I get candy

Today's Saturday Sky:

I haven't done that in a while have I? I admit, that's not the only area of blog slippage - I think this blog used to have knitting content, and then there's the matter of that pesky little ABC-along.  I know I last posted a B for Buffalo, but in recent weeks my focus has been so limited that I'm afraid the best I could have come up with was C for Carpet, D for Drywall, E for Electrical and F for...well, after all that I think you know what F would stand for.  I'm sure I can do better than that though, and if you cut me a little more slack I'll get caught up soon.

Speaking of the F-word and other similar gems, tomorrow is Easter.  Yes, actually that is a perfectly reasonable transition.  As I explained last year, Avalon has a tradition that has led to Easter being one of my least favorite holidays.  Every time I think, "okay, that's it - next year I'll plan ahead and avoid this crap".  And then it rolls around again and here I am, the night before Easter, sitting on my couch and knowing exactly what tomorrow will bring.

At this point, Easter has but one thing to recommend itself as a holiday, and that would be of course...candy!  I was in the grocery store today and noticed that for once, they'd gotten a jump start on things so instead of waiting til Monday, I was able to purchase my half-price Easter candy today.  I searched the shelves for peanut butter eggs and was sadly disappointed.  I don't know for sure that there IS such a thing as peanut butter eggs, but shouldn't there be? 

But buried behind the traditional chocolate bunnies and jelly beans I found this:

(Hand inserted for scale. Please note "King Size" = palm size!) 

Okay, so if I can't have peanut butter, I'll settle for mallow.  That's acceptable. Perhaps having one of those with my morning coffee tomorrow will make things better.  Anyone wanna join me for marshmallow eggs at dawn?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Well, the exam I took over two weeks ago, my Spanish final, is still sitting on someone's desk at Louisiana State University waiting to be graded.  And since this week is their spring break - I'm not holding my breath.  It would have been nice if everyone had done the right thing and cleared their in-boxes before heading off to parties or parts unknown, but hey...that's just me and my crazy thinking, right?

But thanks to modern technology and the wonders of computer-based testing I already have my grade on the test I took last Monday for Theory & Practice of Ethics.  I aced it.  This surprises me greatly, based on how I did on the sample exam I thought I'd be lucky to pass and would have been quite pleased with a respectable "C".  Of course, I've had a fair amount of practice at taking tests in the past year and it's entirely possible that I just did some damn fine guessing. Either way, it's done and I can knock off another 3 upper level credits.

And in two more weeks I'm going to take another exam, Foundations of Gerontology.  That one will have the significance of being the last 3 upper level credits I need and after that, I can finish the remaining lower level credits needed with some CLEP or Dantes exams. This is a pretty nifty milestone. I wasn't planning on completing this last upper level credit until sometime in mid-May, but I found a good reason to move it up.

A jay-oh-bee. 

Yup - I was offered a job. Not a full-time, year-round job, just about 30 hours a week, but a job nonetheless. A few weeks ago the folks at the U.S. Census Bureau advertised that they were hiring people here to do some of the prep work for the 2010 census.  Back when the 2000 Census took place, I was working full-time in the payroll department of one of the major employers on the island, but I picked up a part-time evening and weekend job knocking on doors, asking nosy questions, and filling out forms - all at a higher hourly rate than I made in my day job.  Your tax dollars at work!

So when I saw the ad - I jumped at it.  I took yet another freakin' test, completed an application, got fingerprinted, and then just about went nuts waiting for the offer.  (Note - to the peeps at the local Census office, when someone calls to follow up on their application that is a good thing, it shows the person wants the job, be nice. Sheesh!) But they finally called me and from what I've been told so far - they've modernized things a tad bit, and instead of marking in little boxes with a #2 pencil, I'll get a handheld computer with some sort of GPS.  The training starts in late April, with the actual work to start right after, and lasting 10-12 weeks.  The pay?  Again, more than I could make at any other part time job in this town. When they made the offer, the census representative went through a series of questions asking me if I was willing to interview people personally, if I was willing to work evenings and/or weekends, if I was willing and able to climb stairs and hills, had and could use my own vehicle if needed, etc., etc.  And all I kept saying was - yes, yes, yes, yes, yes....

Because truly, for that rate of pay - what can he ask that I'm going to refuse?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

It's not the waking up

It's the getting up that I find challenging.

Once I'm actually up and moving forward through the morning routine - coffee, feed cat, shower, get dressed, etc. - I'm fine.  Well, that is to say, I'm fine if did the waking up part AND the getting up part at the correct time.  Otherwise - I am not so fine, instead I am lurching half awake and cursing between the bedroom and the bathroom, with a quick dash to the kitchen before slamming out the door, stumbling down the stairs into my vehicle, and careening madly across town. That's kind of how it went on my last trip overtown.

I'd like to do better tomorrow. And with that in mind, despite the fact that I told someone I would do a certain task "this weekend" and have procrastinated for two days, I am not going to stay up and do it tonight.  Nor will I do it tomorrow, because - oh hai, I will be overtown all day! Taking an exam! Yayy me! (/sarcasm)

Yes, it actually does take me a whole day to go over and take a test. Between the boat schedule, the traffic (over there, not here of course) and the available appointments at the testing center, I'm doomed to always go over on the 8am boat and return on the 5:45pm.  No surprise that I can live with the return time, but it's that morning boat over I could do without.

Wish me good fortune  - I could use it!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Now that's a first.

I was in the bank yesterday and experienced something absolutely amazing.

Now before I go any further, I have to explain that while our bank here on the island is part of a fairly large bank, the actual branch here is quite small, about what you'd expect for the size of the town.  I'm also going to add that one of my first full-time jobs after high school was in a bank just like this one, a small office of a larger bank in an equally small town, and I am familiar with the challenges faced by such a business.

Our bank has a reputation of sorts.  Simply put, no matter what time of day you walk in the door, you will be facing a substantial wait in line.  Those who know and expect this plan ahead, bringing a cup of coffee to sip on, a magazine to read, or in my case - a sock to knit on.  I occasionally get a little sideways smile from someone else in line, but you and I know they are just jealous that I'm making such productive use of my time.  The cashier at my former place of employment had to make daily trips to the "bee ayy ehn kay" as she referred to it and kept a paperback book in her bank bag specifically for reading during those visits. But knitting works just fine for me.

We have other locations in this town that can offer quality time in queue - the grocery store, the post office, even the gas station.  But all of these can be managed by scheduling your errand during non-peak hours or are dealt with by the businesses themselves. (How much do we love that Express lane at Vons? Or during the holiday season when the post office opens that extra window just for package pickups? Oh yesssss....) But the bank?  That one is special.

I was in the bank yesterday specifically to deposit rent checks to someone's account, which I do once a month, and have been doing for over five years.  And along with these monthly deposits, in the over ten years I have lived here I have had a few employers that did not have direct deposit, made weekly deposits for a local non-profit, and occasionally receive rebate or payment checks that needed to be cashed.  So one could say I have done my time in line.

Back to yesterday - I walked in the door, headed immediately to the end of the line, and began to pull a sock in progress out of my bag. And that's when it happened.

The branch manager, who is relatively new to the island, approached the head of the line and started asking customers if anyone had a simple, no-cash-back, deposit that she could process for them.  She very quickly worked her way down the line, helping what customers she could, ensuring that the others had their slips properly filled out, and finally arrived at me.  I was still somewhat speechless, but managed to stammer out that yes, I had a straight deposit, and before I knew it I was staggering out the door clutching a receipt.

Based on how the prior days and today went - I'm considering that the highlight of my week! 

So what was yours?