Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Malibu morning picture of the day - Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Dear family, friends, and gentle readers,

Here's your pic for today:

Usually my phone-camera does not like to show me the canyon road that leads down to my employer. It makes it all black to compensate for the brightness of the sun, but today it let the colors and shadows come out.

What strikes you (at least me) is how the eye can fill in what had been the continuation of the hill and how much earth had to be moved for the road-cut to make that gentle incline up the hill. It's like that all the way through the canyon. Seeing that, it's easily understood why whenever we have three consecutive days of moderate rain, there will be mudslides and that road will close. We've kind of forgotten this since we haven't had much rain for a few years now.

Supposedly California is remnant piece of an old continent crashing into the North American Plate. Which is why we have the San Andreas Fault and the Sierras rising up--and gold. All of the California gold coalesced deep underground and was pushed up into the Sierras where erosion gathered it all into placer deposits where greedy people like my gold-digging ancestors could come and pick it up as nuggets.

So if anyone ever tells you that California doesn't seem like it belongs to America, they are speaking a geological truth.

See you tomorrow.


Monday, September 29, 2014

Malibu morning picture of the day - Monday, September 29, 2014

Dear family, friends, and gentle readers,

A new week is starting and here's what it looks like out here:

If I told you these were indigenous deer-like mammals
on some South Pacific hillside, you could almost believe me, couldn't you?
I got here a little earlier than usual so the shadows are longer. I don't know about you and where you're at, but I notice that at this time of year, as we get with a few weeks of the time change, traffic is heavier in the mornings. I have to leave 30 minutes earlier to stay even. When rise-and-shine time moves one hour later, the early morning streets will clear back up, but the night time drive will turn into a crawl.

McClure Tunnel: A narrow, blind, pitch-dark turn onto PCH
Potentially the most deadly 10 seconds of your life
as we all barrel in at the usual 60 MPH.
Hold down your horn as your final scream.
Emerging out into the sun is like a baptism experience. 
It doesn't help that there are two major construction projects along my normal route. The City of Santa Monica is on a plateau-palisade in relation to the Pacific Ocean, so when you drive up the coast, you must descend along any of four paths to reach the Pacific Coast Highway. 1) The freeway ramps down and goes into a tunnel (the McClure Tunnel), 2) there is the switchback road called Moomat Ahiko (closed), 3) there is the California Incline, and there is the road down Santa Monica Canyon that merges with Chatauqua.

If you're coming to Malibu by way of Santa Monica, my advice is just stay on the 10 and suck up the time as you squeeze by a storm drain project near the California Incline. If you try to beat it by hitting the side streets trying to go to the Incline or SM Canyon, you'll find those all backed up by the locals, the regular commuters like me, and searchers like you. These days I just drive in and out of the Bu through the canyon and the SF Valley.

I went downtown to check out a used-book bookstore called The Last Bookstore. You will find great bargains, but they're priced competitively. Things that nobody wants, like a book I picked up on Zen koans, went for $3. Things that people DO want, like a copy of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, went for $12. So they're savvy business people. Hope they survive.

(RE: Mitchell--I was reading an article about Mitchell and some of the things he said, especially his approach to storytelling seemed very resonant with some of my takes on the process. Seems like he writes in a linear but patchwork way like me. I've decided to check him out. I hope he's good and NOT a best-selling author for the usual reason (shallow and easy to like--rather like Tschaikowsky's music). I'm going to cheat and watch the film Cloud Atlas before I read the book, but I've heard it's laborious at more than 3 hours long... )

It's a hipster-cool kind of place. In fact, all of Spring Street is. I haven't seen that many (non-Latino) people on a Sunday in that part of town in decades. The store is dimly lit for an old man like myself (that's why I miss Borders bookstores, they were so bright), but for all the 20-somethings with good eyes, I'm sure it was fine (but they were checking out each other mostly). SO MANY of those young people were very well dressed. It gives me great hope for the "Millennials" who take seem to take pride in appearances and personal presentation, as opposed to the people my age who all look like slobs to me in public.

Time to pay the rent, my sweeties. Have a great start to the week.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Three Loves Seven, Chapter 18, "Special Delivery, No Signature Necessary"

Dear Gentle Readers,

It's time for turning point, don't you think? What, you thought the last scene was a turning point? Can't we have two? Or more?

Anyway, you should have all been expecting this one to happen. I've been giving you hints all along. Yeah, Clete starts to think this trip is about something more than college nostalgia and trying to recapture a lost experience. It's very big but very small. It was just a matter of when and who was going to be the witness to describe this event in their recollection.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy.


Entry Into the Annals

U.S. Time:          Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Island Time:        Dragon, Month 6, Day 28

Yesterday, after cram school finished up, Dr. Wong asked Ba, Yi, and myself to stay after for a few minutes. He was informing us that he was hiring our services the next day and to report to his lab first thing. We did as we were asked and after we arrived, he led us to a high point near the lab.

     “Ba, Yi. Did your mothers and Mu leave for North Island already?”

They said that they saw all three of them leave together through the pass road leading by the pens. The Professor then climbed a tree to see if he could catch a glimpse of them using his field glasses. He called out that he could see them moving away, disappearing into the trees that surround the Shrine, and then he climbed back down.

     “The Southwest Sector is clear then,” he said to himself. “Which of you are good at running quickly, and moving without detection?”
     “That would be Yi,” I said.
     “You’ve got the job then,” he said. “Follow them. All nine of them are supposed to be assisting in some harvest process in North Island.  When all nine Firsts have arrived, come on back. Got that?”
     “I’m going!” said Yi, stepping off into a quick run.
     “What is this about?” asked Ba.
     “I’ll tell you later. I’m running a procedure that will be quite noisy and I want to make sure I don’t bother any of your elders, because I’m trying to avoid being a nuisance to them.”

I did not like the Professor’s attitude. He was acting different than he usually did. Very deliberate. Almost harsh. He seemed very alert and almost nervous. We waited in silence until we heard the padding of Yi’s swift feet.

     “All Firsts are there.
     “Thank you dear. Follow me, then.”

We left the Water Domain and entered Wood. He took out his phone, called someone, and spoke to them in some kind of code. He said something like, “Alpha is neutralized. Omega is on the move.”

     “Uh, Professor? Did you see that we left Water Domain? Aren’t you only supposed to be in the Chi Lin Domain this week?”
     “Don’t worry about it. I’ve got my clearances taken care of.”
We followed him out of Wood, through Earth and Metal, and then he took us on the path the led to Souls Landing.
     “Um, Dr. Wong?” Yi started. “Are you sure you’re OK to come on this beach? WE’RE not even allowed to be here without a good reason.”
     “Tut tut, my dear,” said the Professor, “my intuition is telling me that a very important visitor is coming and we need to be here to welcome that visitor. We are all going to sit here on the beach and just wait for something to happen. I take complete responsibility.”

At about 0940 he made a phone call. Right after that he got his binoculars and started scanning the sky in a specific direction.

     “I think I saw some poles around when I was here Eight? Would you mind fetching one for me? Please?” he said.

Ba did exactly that. He took off his shirt and tied it to the pole. He made another phone call and this time he stayed on the line continuously. We heard a high-pitched buzzing sound which gradually started to get louder and louder.

     “Got the audio cue. Damn that’s loud and I can’t even see the mother-fuckin’ craft yet. No, that’s not a problem … I hope. No, NO. Under no circumstances ditch. We are taking this all the way through. Ah, just got a visual on you. I am waving a shirt attached to a pole Ted. Do you see it? Wet beach is solid pack, nice and sturdy. Your target range is pretty tight from side to side, maybe only 15-20 yards, but nice and long.”

It was some kind of small airplane. The Professor was landing an airplane on the beach. The scream from its motor was like a loud wail of an animal in pain. The aircraft veered to our right and oriented itself to land on our beach. He got out in front of it.

     “Descending angle good, but too close to the dry sand. Pull up, circle and try approach again.”

The buzz from the engine was deafening. The aircraft raised itself back up went farther down the beach and then came at the Professor for a second time.

     “Angle perfect. This looks like a winner. Take it in yourself.” He ran off the beach into the dry sand area.

The aircraft tilted its backside down, put its tail wheels onto the sand and then touched the fronts. It rolled forward, and then came to a halt. The engine was left running. There was no pilot. Clete went out to it and put some rocks to block the tires. The body of the craft was like a really long cylinder with wings, wheels, and a tail.  Clete went over, undid some latches and pulled out three large drums and then rolled them onto the dry sand. He shut the latches and got back on his phone.

     “Payload is affirmative. Repeat, payload is affirmative. Copy? Let’s see if we can get your little puppy back home now. Do you want me to manually turn it around? No? You want to try it remotely? OK. Standing by.” Clete pulled the blocks and then dashed out of the way. “Clear for taxi and takeoff.”

The aircraft turned itself around to take off into the prevailing breeze, accelerated, and then rose into the air and out into the distance.

     “OK. Call you in about an hour to follow up. Gotta get this stuff off the beach before anyone shows up pronto. Thanks a heap Ted. Went smooth as butter, but ya gotta do something about the decibel level—the NIMBYs will kill any project with birds that sounds like that. Just my 2 cents, top of mind. Yeah, I think your software was great on this test run. You sold me. I’m all in. We’ll talk when I get back.  This will scale up quite nicely I’m sure. Sally will wire the remainder soon as I ping her with an e-mail; it’ll be calendared today.”

The Professor opened the drum with a large #1 painted on it. He pulled out three large canvas bags with locking metal clasps.

     “OK girls, you’re the first ones.”

He got out two small, dark brown packets. He popped one open and inside were a pair of sunglasses, the kind that wrap all around your eyes. He put them on Ba, another set on Yi.

     “Double polarized. Wear them outside when you’re in the bright sun at all times. These will save your eyes so that you can see into your old age girls. … Now, Sally said she was going to put that one set in a hard-to-miss case. AH! Qin! I hope you like Batman.”

He pulled out a case with a masked cartoon face on it. He opened it up and showed me a pair of glasses.

     “Take off your old ones. Try these on. It’s the best I can do until I get you off this damn island and into an optometrist’s office.”

I could not get them on my face fast enough. That was the day my world became clear. I could see Dr. Wong distinctly, and Ba and Yi behind him.  And then it went blurry, but that was because I was crying. I grabbed him so hard. I never wanted him to go away.

     “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” was the only thing I could say.
     “It’s not a present. It’s part of your back pay. You earned them kid. With your own effort and your own money. OK, but now we gotta get out of here,” he said closing up the canvas bag. “Your job as porters is to get these three bags up to the lab without detection. Got that? In the meantime, I’m gonna push these other drums out of sight and I’ll get back and unload them later. You each grab a bag and I’ll meet you back at the lab.”

We took a bag and started back down the pass road. There was a figure standing at the pass entrance. Just watching. It was Auntie Lee. I later learned she had come driven to the granary to retrieve some tools and was attracted by the noise. We expected her to stop us and give us reprimands, but she did no such thing. She waved us by. She looked both very sad and very angry. As I passed her, she started to move forward, toward the Professor. That was not going to be a nice conversation. I needed to go back and protect him, but instead I could not think of anything to do but to just keep running.


The Professor was put under immediate house arrest in the guest cottage. My mother had been summoned to review all of the contraband that had been confiscated and stored in the Assembly Hall, as had all of the First Princesses.  They declared that everything regarding the incident was to be in executive session with only the Firsts. I protested of course, but I was silenced.

After her own review, mother headed for the Professor’s cottage. I followed. She waved me off, but I would not be denied and she resigned herself to my presence and said nothing else to me. As we walked I could see her become angrier and angrier. She walked into his cottage without knocking and shut the door to keep me out. All the windows were open of course, since Dr. Wong finds it so unbearably hot here, so I could look in and see and hear everything.

     “Clete! I told you drop it. And what do you go and do and drag me into this. Why do you do things like this?”
     “What are you talking about? I haven’t the slightest idea? What have I dragged you into?”
     “Do not play the idiot. Do you hear me? Just DON’T. Is this what Lee has to constantly put up with? NO WONDER she’s turned into such a horribly cranky and nasty person of late! It wasn’t enough for you that everybody turned a blind eye to the magnifying glass so-called ‘loans’?”
     “Oh. You must be talking about my reading glasses. Come on, they’re just a bunch of dimestore reading glasses I asked my secretary to send me. Relax.”
     “RELAX!? Relax he says. You go through and find a specially packaged set and then hand them to her. And this pair of generic DIMESTORE glasses just happens to have the left eye prescription stronger than the right? And the curve of these lenses is different than the rest? And These correct nearsightedness while the other are all for old-age magnification? If I notice this kind of thing who else is going to? Hell! They even go dark when you wear them outside in the sun. You’re REALLY terrible at hiding this kind of thing. You make for a terrible outlaw!”
     “So it was maybe a factory error?”
     “A factory error that just happened to get close to what Qin Qin needs? I swear, Clete. We’re isolated here on this Island, but we’re NOT STUPID. YOU’RE THE STUPID ONE. You’d think a guy with ‘Dr.’ in front of his name could do a lot better.”
     “That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.”
     “Why Clete? WHY?”
     “Well, the next scheduled delivery for you guys is about month after I leave, and I wanted her to do some close work for me, so I thought I’d just be helpful and hire a delivery contractor. . .”
     “Hire a delivery contractor! Do you realize what kind of a position this puts me in? Did you think about that? The Guardian of Fire, Keeper of Wisdom, the advisor to the Security Council on matters of ethics, is a direct beneficiary of a breach of national sovereignty?”
     “When you think about it, it’s basically a bag of groceries and sundries.”
     “To top it all off, there is a gift wrapped box WITH MY NAME ON IT filled with cartons of Marlboros, Camels, Shermans, and an assortment of both dry-cured Brazilian and hand-rolled Cuban cigars?”
     “Gift wrapped? Uh, well, that was probably Sally’s idea. Did she use red and gold paper?”
     “You’ve inferred me into a case of bribery! I have no choice but to join as a plaintiff with Lee against you, just to save my face, to avoid the presumption that I colluded with you.”
     “Does Qin Qin get to keep the glasses?”
     “YES! Damn you! She’ll wear them. We’re not that dogmatic here.”
     “Do what you have to do. I did. It’s your own fault for not accepting a trip to Hawaii when I offered it to you.”
     “What’s that? It’s MY fault now? I can’t believe you! We cannot have further contact until this is adjudicated. God Clete. Come here. God! Stand right here in front of me so I can hit you and hit you hard!”

She grabbed the front of his shirt and then pounded his chest with everything she could muster. I’m sure he was still hurting from his injuries from falling into The Outside because I could see him flinch and grimace. But he just took it. Then she grabbed his shirt again and pulled him close and kissed him, long and hard. Then she hugged him. And then she pushed him away violently. He almost fell.

     “I’m SO ANGRY at you. Now as the Island’s chief prosecutor I have to petition that you be deported from the Island immediately. I HAVE TO.” She was crying. “I just hope,” heavy shudder, “that your stupid luck holds out and that’s ALL that will happen. You don’t know our laws. Things are vicious here. NOW GET OUT before I KILL YOU.”
     “I can’t.”
     “Uh, you’re in my place? I’m under house arrest?”
     “Oh. I’m sorry.” Mother’s voice became tiny. “And thank you … Qin Qin loves and adores you. So do I … Dr. Wong. You’re the best thing to happen to her, to us, in a long, long time.”

Professor! Please, please. Now is the time if at all, I said to myself. I think he heard my thoughts. It was his turn to hold her close and kiss her. I guess Mommy did have a chance with him after all. I don’t know what else happened, it didn’t seem right to watch, so I just sat by the door until Mother came out a bit later.

© Copyright 2012 by Vincent Way, all rights reserved.