Saturday, July 25, 2009

Having a little is still better than not having at all

O how nice it is too have a home to return to each day, to have a private place where you can close yourselves off from the rest of the world without the fear of being shooed away or being looked down on by passerby. Privacy is a right only to those with a room to go home to. How nice it is to be able to shower and do your restroom business in assured privacy... to know that the toilet and the sink are clean, that your bottom won’t be assaulted by the cold stainless steel of the bowl (as it would be at public restrooms at the parks around the San Diego waterfront), that no one will walk in to find you in that compromised position. To be able to wash your soiled clothes and have a place to hang them to dry... It is a luxury!

How nice it is to be able to sit on a cushioned chair and really relax, knowing that you can stay there for as long as you would like to. How nice it is to be able to lay stretch on a relatively soft bed in a fairly well insulated room at night knowing that you won’t make anyone uncomfortable by your presence (like you would cramped onto the benches at the park as joggers and walkers try not to disturb you while feeling, at the same time, rightfully annoyed by you and your obvious homelessness (and the smell that likely accompanies you everywhere... and will likely even be left behind on the benches once you’ve left).
How nice it is to lay down on that bed without bracing against being awakened in a few hours (if you are lucky) uncontrollably shaking from the cold (it’s warm enough at first, but try sitting immobile at the waterfront here at night for 10 minutes and you’ll find the temperature has dropped tremendously... every little breeze penetrates your bones).

There is no escaping... The benches that are shielded from the wind by trees or brushes are also liable to get sprinkled on in the wee hours of the morning by the timed park sprinklers... Even
the public restrooms are drafty (and usually stinky). You end up spending much of the night walking around just to keep warm. How nice it is to have access to cold and clean drinking water whenever you want it, to be able to eat your food without the unease of being watched by others or of having your napkins and utensils blown away by the wind.
O, and the stereo or even a television that is yours to manipulate... You can watch or listen to what you like rather than what the café owner wants... Able to listen to news and keep up with current events (if you can still manage to care about it) without having to hunt for used newspaper or to find a library that has current papers for its patrons. I take all the above for granted all the time, but they are something the many homeless folks haven’t got access to.

Sometimes it really takes losing everything for one to realize the value of what one had. It is a struggle for them to just be comfortable... Not too hot and not too cold. Walking around downtown it is easy to be annoyed at reeking homeless folks sleeping on the sidewalks or on lawns... But what is minor annoyance to you is really endless hardship for them. I tried once and was on the verge of losing my mind by the 2nd evening. It is so uncomfortable!

Sleep is hard to come by during the cold nights (even in the summer months the night is cold enough to require warm clothes around the waterfront here). And during the day it is hard to find a place to crash without getting in the way of homed others... even in the park, the precious shades keep shifting with the sun.
I don’t know how many homeless folks manage to stay sane for so long under their living conditions... After 2 experimental nights on the streets I was silently begging to be euthanized.

There has got to be a solution for the problem... Many of the migrants would like to work for changes and/or food, but the minimum wage and other employment laws are very effective at discouraging business owners from extending their hand. Sometimes the very laws that are designed to protect the smallest guys end up hurting them the most. I don't know the solution... though I sure don't want to ever end up on the streets in this country!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


For a long while after arriving here in San Diego, California, I thought that all I could see while roaming around town were chatty sparrows, pecking pigeons, a few crows, and a bunch of honking sea gulls. And if you only roam around the streets here, those are likely all the birds you'll ever see! (click on the photos for bigger view)

Many who have lost their lunch to the fly-by California gulls would tell you that we have way too many of them around... But I wouldn't have in another way. These winged bandits are so onorous that they're worth getting robbed at beak point by!

Luckily I've been able to spend more time in the 'parks' around town, though... and occasionally venturing to La Jolla and Point Loma where more varieties of bird hang out at. It's eye opening realizing how many of these feathered flying species there are in the area, hiding in plain sight! I don't know what the fella above is... He was perched on the gift shop sign at William Heath Davis' house in the Gaslamp Quarter part of downtown San Diego.

The pelicans are easiest to find along the Pacific coast (Sunset Cliffs, La Jolla, etc), but some do come to visit the east side of the San Diego Bay sometimes. This flock was hanging out in the bay under a restaurant in Seaport Village.

Above is a spotted godwit, patrolling Torrey Pines State Beach where the Los Penaquitos lagoon drains into the ocean. I couldn't see what he was feasting on, but he was having a much more productive time catching his preys than the couple of fishermen casting their rods nearby!

This (above) is a black skimmer at work, flying low above the water and skimming its top with its beak. This particular one was working the rather still water between Shelter Island and the Playa area of Pt. Loma one morning.

Ah, and I did catch sight of the endangered blue heron one night while walking by the boat launch at Shelter Island. He was having a rather loud get-together with a bunch of California gulls and a least tern (he had flew off before my camera would shoot... the quick-winged beast!). I'm afraid the zoom wasn't working well in the dark and I couldn't get closer... They kept inching away from me as was!

And this is just a California gull.. He spotted me sitting down on a bench in Spanish Landing park one night and started squawking while flying around me in a circle... 5 consecutive times. Being rather slow on the uptake when it comes to deciphering gullese, though, I couldn't make out what he wanted. I guess he aborted his 6th attempt to communicate out of sheer frustration...

Anyhow... Discovering these guys sort of reminds me of that Beatles turned CSN song...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Just day dreaming...

Tchaikovsky's operatic version of Alexander Pushkin's Queen of Spade isn't one of my favorite operas... Though I can be persuaded to sit through the whole darkly creepy work just to catch the couple of minutes that this little Act II duettino between Lisa and Pauline charms the stage.

Especially when Lisa is sung by one Edita Gruberova and Pauline one Vesselina Kasarova! Gosh... I hope they get together for another run of joint recitals before Gruberova retires in 2012! One is a very high soprano (known for her high G's in the alt while singing things like Zerbinetta or Lucia di Lammermoor or Gilda in Rigoletto or Donizetti's 3 Tudor queens), and the other is a true mezzo-soprano with lustrously dark chest notes... and yet both their voices and personalities blend so well it's almost like hearing the same soul in a tuneful conversation with itself.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


My intracranial stereo is an odd one... It mixes music from different eras on its spontaneous play-list in a way that will likely bug many people. It is a maddening piece of imaginary gadget... Sometimes the same piece of music would get stuck in it for hours, long outlasting its attractiveness. And then there are some days that the IS is afflicted with a serious case of acute attention deficit disorder and keeps modulating from piece to piece. Usually, though, it is pretty responsive of the view I'm enjoying.
Last evening, Independence Day holiday here, I went up the Harbor Tower at the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel where the Top of the Hyatt lounge is. A lot of people showed up there just before 9 PM, too, looking for a good vantage point to watch the fireworks over the bay. The line for the elevators was pretty hideous.

The nice and mostly tranquil view of the bay was worth hassling for, though... In coastal San Diego, the sun sets twice in succession every evening thanks to low lying 'marine layer', the thick layer of cloud that is likes to sit very low above the ground. Nothing very notable happens when the departing sun dips below the marine layer... but when it emerges and is caught between the thickest part of the fog and the ground (in this case, Pt. Loma peninsula), that's when you get to see some really spectacular color display.

The fireworks was pretty nice... Though the smaller blasts were sort of blocked by the Seaport Tower. O well, even the biggest fireworks were no competition for the setting sun and the rising moon anyhow.

Not that I wasn't compelled to use up my camera's batteries shooting photos of both... Then I figured I'd use the music that popped up in my head during the few hours I spent watching all those things in the clips... Just to spread the insanity around a bit (a little madness is supposed to be good for you... and your psychiatrist's purse).