Friday, May 11, 2012

I'm Alive!

Hi there y'all on cyberspace!

The last week I got 5 emails from people wondering if I was still alive. Just to let you know... I'm still alive. I'm doing O-K. I don't want to think too much about it, but at least I'm not panicking at this moment.

Thanks for caring. You wonder sometimes.... I miss you all, and I hope one day I can come out of a curled ball.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

This Consumptive Life, Testing

Friday, August 26, 2011

546. Biologically Incorrect REVAMPING!

Dear Family and Friends and Acquaintances and Kind Strangers who are so gracious to lend an ear to such an eccentric Homo sapiens as myself:::

As you can see, I have not posted anything since the beginning of 2011.... There are many reasons why: (1) I went on leave of absence (2) due to mental and physical health issues and (3) I'm trying to regain traction into self awareness and self-inquiry of my potential place and relationship with this universe (which may or may not exist, and all may be a construction in my mind) (4) while simultaneously meditating on how to drastically revamp and re-organize and tremendously improve this website (5) while imagining how I will be designing a Biologically Incorrect webcomic environmental media project--in which comics, a combination of the visual language and written word, can be used to explore socio-ecological systems (humans and their environments... and all the problems that humans love to create in relations to their environments)... (6) all in the attempts to try to lead a very present and diverse, yet quiet, off-line life, such that I can have a solid game plan when I return to being plugged into the on-line World's Wild Web and hopefully the University Universe itself, (7) but I am still having problems with anxiety and panic attacks, (8) but I have learned I don't deserve to suffer like this, so... (9) if you give me a paper and a pencil and tell me to draw a cartoon, you generally tend to put my mind in a happy place... (10) so the best possible thing I can do right now is just stay in this happy place until I'm ready to face the cold, harsh wilderness that's just a hairline underneath my nose. Scary, huh?

So, I hope you all out there can be patient and I hope one day to be able to create something that you all may be proud of and excited about, and especially to think that I have made one person in this universe laugh (ha!)--perhaps you may even more proud of than myself :-). Thanks everyone in my life for supporting me... emotionally, mentally, and viscerally. It really sucks to turn 20 10; life's re-assessment is not so hot.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

543. Uh-oh, Vic's Brain Dumping::: Philosophisizing on My Return to Blogging, Autonomous and On Leave of Absence

I cannot believe that I have reached this point. This blog is the first blog I have written in ... perhaps 7 months. It is frightening (and traumatizing) to think about what has happened these past 7 months, but I can say that... this is the first blog I am writing on "leave of absence" from the Bren School at UCSB, so perhaps I may be writing with some new layers of consciousness, or maybe with some new sense of freedom--I am writing, and this is my voice, in absence of the 800 pound gorilla of academia clenching to my back. I am temporarily on break from the school that studies the "environ-mental" and now I have to engage in self-medicating my "mental."

It is also funny though, in these last few months of leave of absence, I have been approached by five or so people in my social sphere, and they were all wondering how I was because I was no longer writing any blogs. They encouraged me to continue writing, and they very much enjoyed my entries (strange! I know I am Victoria Anonymous, someone out in the world of 7 billion people wanting to read my blog! Ha ha ha). Perhaps my writing blogs is being enjoyed by friends and family who equally enjoy my *live* company--oh, there's that girl who endlessly rambles on about funny things, all the way from photographic composition to fisheries adventures to the California state budget to school committee drama to her dental work to the strange dream she had last night to the next cartoon she wants to draw. One way or another, I feel thankful that these individuals approached me and stated that they appreciated my blogs, and hope that I resume my "streams of consciousness." (I just learned a few days ago that "stream of consciousness" types of writing are actually acceptable in the literary world--consider Ulysses and The Invisible Man and even kind of All the Pretty Horses [at least the setting descriptions)]. I suppose this whole return to blogging is a re-focusing process, as well as a confidence problem... or also an artistic dilemma.

The more and more I have learned about the cartoon world and comics industry, the more I have come to realize that the sole expression of the Self through words placed in a linear-line-by-line format on a page, page after page after page... is very limited. Everyone uses words all the time, and so the combination of words placed line by line on a page now apppears to me to be equally cliche. I am starting to no longer view language, solely written stories, as art forms, but merely text messages or emails that anyone can write to anyone else (I told my advisor Oran that in this world where everyone text messages, from 5-year-olds to 80-year-olds, anyone on the street thinks they can become the next great writer... so I myself have given up on the idea of being a "writer" or one morally and financially supported by society, because practically everyone now is in the "competition pool" for this position (and the competition pool is so fierce that even people PAY literary agents to read their writing or pitch a story for merely a few minutes! And how could a literary agent have any sense of authority or command of such a spectrum of fields related to the environment?! I am in serious doubt of the sense of authority and expertism that literary agents portray, given their position of power in determining who becomes the "next great writer" and who doesn't), and plus when someone says they are a "writer" I laugh and say, "You just told me that you let your mind breathe; I would be disturbed if you didn't write otherwise").

I am starting to realize that the more combinatory the story becomes--e.g. combining words with pictures with music, etc, in which these elements occur in simultaneity, the more original, the more unique the artistic piece can become. And also, increasing combinations in complex simultaneity can eliminate a vast majority of the "writers" and now the pool of "talented multi-media storytellers" is actually, very small. So now, I no longer consider my written language as an attempt toward art, but merely a form of self-therapy, behavioral therapy, so that I can help understand myself, my thoughts... so that I can engage in stream of consciouness... and perhaps I can communicate a few ideas to a known group of trusted people out in the world. But writing now is psychological therapy toward self understanding. My most favoritist creative writing professor, Barry Spacks, would disagree with me--he tends to perceive writing as an art form, and so he will always perceive my work as art form though I perceive it as therapy. The reason why I am on leave of absence right now is that I had been perceiving my writing as an attempt toward art and scholarly-scientific work rather than treating it as therapy form. Now? I'm paying the price with my health. Yet if I layer my stories anymore, perhaps I can say I am attempting to hybridize self-therapy with a valiant reach toward creating art that can be appreciated beyond my family and friends. But, right now, I have given up on creating "art" all together. Everything I do for the next few months... up to a year (whether writing or visual or musical forms or motions)... are strictly for self-understanding, self-organization, and self-therapy.

Man, I have become repetitious, and yes, I have become a selfish bastard with my work (or is it "bastardette"?), but I have to: it's a matter of mental health and survival. It's a matter of desperation. Dr. Steve Ino at UCSB told me last quarter at UCSB's Counseling Center: whatever you do with your writing and drawings, never consider it to be selfish--it's called "self-care." So, I'm learning. One time I told Sarah, a science journalist in Riverside, the first time I write or create anything, the first audience is only myself, and then through rounds of advice and editing, the audience expands otherwise--to the appropriate individuals or groups the story is intended for. Sarah said that this mentality of interacting with a perceived audience is very healthy. So, first round, it's a one-man band (errr, one lady show), but then again, I consider my single mind to be an ecosystem of motivations, desires, voices, organisms with unique characteristics and behavioral traits. So even though it may seem like the first round of my "talking" to myself may be a one-person audience, I feel like I'm speaking simultaneously to an internal disjunct chorus that is trying to coordinate itself. I was trying to make a cartoon for my friend Julie R. last quarter: "Grad School: Ecosystem-Based Mental Management!"

Enough said. Much more to explore on this issue. Maybe I should leave these thoughts for the shrinks. But then again, my most wonderfulest of my friends and family are my "shrinks;" they're just not all that "official."

I can also say the last 7 months, I have learned a lot about several political issues in the marine and terrestrial world, not only the politics of the environmental issues themselves, not just the endless politics of academia (which I sincerely need a break from::: UNPLUG ME!), but even the politics of "generating stories" about these environmental issues, or any issue in particular. The politics of how literary folks, cartoonists, journalists, academics, film crews function, so-to-speak, in which the more I know, the more I realize that I want to work with a very small group of people with whatever stories I tell. Minimizing bureaucracy entails more self-responsibility and labor, but also constructs more self-control and overall efficiency. I would rather work much harder on a project knowing that I had more control rather than someone controlling me. As I have said a bazillion times to myself:
"I'd rather be a slave to my own ideas than the slave of others."

So, I'm continuing to learn about myself. The more I learn about political issues (that affect people that I personally know), the more I feel a bit scared to talk or write about what I know, or the more I doubt what is appropriate to include or not included in a blog. Which is probably one major reason I have not been blogging lately--I suppose I had to confront this issue myself. I think this self-censorship process has been happening since my initial participation in the south coast Marine Life Protection Act Initiative (MLPAI) process. I will just say that the whole arena of stakeholders involved in marine environmental issues is much more connected and incestuous than I thought--and perhaps a little bit in a disturbing way (when a single funding source pours in money into the entire spectrum of professions--from scientific research to education/entertainment to policy and politics, in order to better choreograph these often-time disjunct, autonomous universes, I would become a little bit worried). Well, it's not that I'm being "censored" by anyone in particular, but whatever I say, I have to be VERY careful and very ARTICULATE about what I say. But would that be necessary? Would it be necessary to have a "Fisheries WikiLeaks" because many things going on in the marine world is so "under-the-radar" to the public? Even under the radar among pertinent stakeholders who are directly affected?

An example of "under the radar." About a week ago I spoke over the phone with my Cousin Mike, who wanted to know all about the MLPA process I have been in tune with (as if I had a fetish following a particular athletic team, except it's a political process, not sports, what's the difference?); and after explaining to him the nuts and bolts of this public-private partnership, the stakeholders involved, the outcomes, and the current state of the process, Mike was appalled that he did not know that any of this was happening. He also didn't know that public-private partnerships could exist and be held unaccountable to the public vote. That California Citizens did not vote for this political process to occur, or be okay with. Mike was thinking about maybe he could invent some new cool gadget like an iRobot or iPhone5 or something and then he could earn gobs of money and then he had nothing else to do than meddle with the California State Government and re-wire the bureaucracy as to however he saw fit, as long as he was a private individual dumped a bunch of money on the state, demanding its reform. And no, my cousin Mike has no ties whatsoever to environmentalism. He's just a wickedly smart dude who keeps me on my toes, and I'm extremely proud to admit we are related (family acquisition through a marriage!).

But then again, what should I be scared of talking about? First amendment rights, right? Maybe I should just call things out "as they are." Tell the "truth," like what a scientist is supposed to do. Observes the world, and states his/her findings. Except I have found out there are frequently multiple versions of "truths" or "truthy-isms" and it's better that I just consider stories as merely stories (whether scientific or not) and not observable realities held by nearly all citizens, and just say okay,
"Here's my story, dot, dot, dot. And it's just another of 101 stories on the same topic, so why in the hxll would anyone listen to me anyway?" There is so much information transmission in the world today that whatever stories I tell will be drowned out by information overload anyway.

I do say it's quite funny. The other day I had a discussion with my quasi-religious mother (religion, fate, spirituality, what's the difference?!), and she questioned me about a particular "end of the world" issue as a "scientist," and I told my mother flat out, in a very instinctive, impulsive way, as if I went through a very long, quasi-subconscious internal discussion with myself the last few months that rendered an autonomic response, "I am NOT a scientist." I can practice some scientific forms of thinking (left-brain linearities), and I have been raised by my scientist Dr. Bubsy (ha ha, my dad), but given arbitrarily constructed cultural and bureaucratic definitions, restrictions, boundaries of what a "typical" scientist is, and that my right brain gravitates toward reflexive, multi-layered, visual, synthetic, contextual thinking rather than strictly rational, computative, linear reasoning that denies the presence of self-perception and socioecological context that can influence anyone's research agenda, hence I am NOT a scientist. I do not think that "scientists" would survive to well in the world outside academia, which requires a sense of multi-dimensional, intuitive thinking that goes far beyond gaining knowledge by reading the bottomless pit or accumulated coral reef of "scholarly literature" and being a tweaker with a particular, specialized research project. So, as you can see, I am so bitter, I really need a leave of absence. I can't even call myself a "scientist" anymore, even though I know all about scientists and know how they think, and I interact with them a lot. And sometimes they drive me nuts.

Well, I'm beyond that box. It's funny to even say that "scientific thinking" is actually a very restrictive form of thinking, even though supposedly science is to "expand knowledge," only very limited forms of knowledge. Even my fisherman friend Bob stated that if scientists continue to perceive environmental problems strictly as "scientific problems" and not "human/social/perception" problems--err, multiple problems in simultaneity--then scientists won't get anywhere with their goals and agendas. They will continue to hit intellectual walls and roadblocks, and their audiences will not be all-inclusive.

So, then, if I'm not a scientist, then what am I? What should I call myself? Besides, "Victoria Anonymous" and "Victoria, Fud. The more you become an expert at one particular thing, the more and more you become an idiot with everything else." Yes, yes, besides that, let's just say I'm a "multi-media storyteller" who has academic strings attached, trying to bring out the best of academia in my stories and really get to see what theories actually do map out onto a physical reality we can all agree upon. Though we all know that much of the narratives in the university seem to be abstract, esoteric blobs that cannot take concrete shape or function when letting them run loose outside the academisphere. But I have discovered many jewels in the haystack....

Oh, I know it's horrible for me to "talk about myself,"--I am having a moment of self-consciousness here--but that is partially why I am on leave of absence. I have the CRICs disease: the Chronically shifting Relativistic Identity Crisis, and part of the goal for the leave of absence is to better understand this disease I have, and the shrinks say it's for "self-care." Identity exploration, like what humanities people seem to do. Except in this case, the notion of identity relative to the "environment." I should be okay. Since all my writing has a basis for psychological therapy, I should be open and willing and accepting that my own Self is a part of the picture of all the things I write. It's a necessity for me to plug in and stay tuned to myself. *Sigh*

I guess so far in this post, I have discovered two new Laws of Lacunacea (and of course, every new rules has exceptions). (1) The more I know about political issues that directly affect people I personally know, the less willing I am to be open and express the ideal form of freedom of speech. Maybe it just reflects that my own social sphere and social consciousness is changing. And the second law I have picked up by observing and dealing with harsh encounters within the abrasive perimeters of Hollywood (why do I feel the film industry is like some form of intellectual war zone? Well, perhaps it's the only landscape on this planet where ideas can be valued at millions of dollars, and everywhere else, each new idea we have is worth close to zero). So, the second law is: (2) The more money you get paid, the more you lose your freedom of speech. This is a general truth, unless someone provides funding to an independent individual (not an individual embedded within any corporate bureaucracy) that is completely "no strings attached" or "We give you money because we love you for who you are, and we want you to continue being who you are."

I guess the final question here in this blog is: What does it mean to go on leave of absence? (And to shamefully state, for the THIRD time, once from UCLA, once from UCR, and once from UCSB). First of all, a problem is a problem when you perceive it to be a problem. What I perceive to be a "problem" is not necessarily what other people perceive to be a "problem." Many problems in the world exist as "distant chatterboxing characters on televisions or computers" to most people, but I have faced four "systems" of problems that were either by birthrite, partially acquired, or took a level of sophistication to perceive: (1) my birthrite, inherited problem of wildfire ecology, in relation to my father's (the scientist's) research (2) my quasi-acquired, quasi-biological problem of anorexia and attempting to understand the relationships between mental disorder and "environ-"mental disorder, (3) the somewhat problem of understanding the university as a "landscape," in which every one of us was promised that the university would teach us about the "universe" and our place in it, but when any particular student attempts to go "department hopping," each specialized discipline is perceived more so as a historical accumulation of intellectual trash largely dictated by power structures, that renders no coherent, composite picture of the world we live in and try to interact with, and how was I going to sort through all this intellectual trash to find the necessary tools in order to find a way to contain, define, and solve any particular "environmental problem" in the world, first with my own health, second with my father, and third with California fisheries... (and now the state's broke, who really knows if anyone is getting their money's worth at the university?) and (4) my "matured state" problem in which I had to develop a level of perceptual accuity to see and comprehend, is all things related to California fisheries, evolution of ecosystems and social systems through time, particularly the Marine Life Protection Act process. Four massive suites of problems in my life that may be perceived as "distant" issues in most people's lives but have come to occupy intimate, personal spaces in my mind.

I guess the whole goal here is the individual and collective pursuit of exploring and manufacturing the "truth" (though we all know even truth changes all the time, because systems change). Truth being some form of universal perception of understanding of our contextual existence. So, first I started with science. I thought that scientists were the smart dudes and babes who were to discover the "truth." But I soon discovered, scientists--among many other intellectuals, such as Malcolm Gladwell (his disclosure statement here) and Vladimir Nabokov (Lectures on Literature) and The Gonzo Scientist series--worried about the notion of "objectivity:" that potentially it was possible to explore the system of study for what it truly was, independent of human perception of the system, or independent of human value and motivation, and independent of the context of the system. The only "legal" mode of objective thinking was complete left-brain, linear "logicality," and through this venue was the discovery of "truth." And then, I started to realize this goal of "truth" was a total joke (only rendering a limited, partial truth) as I started to feel mentally restricted, trapped, essentially--all these layers and spheres started to form around me, the humanly perceiver of any particular system of study, and the actual inter-related context of the system of study in space and time. I didn't know it at the time, but my mind was trying to find an alternative view (or views) of exploring "the truth"--and alternatively more complicated--and instead of blocking out all the layers and spheres and variables--as all these modern scientists do nowadays--that the more inclusive that I tried to perceive myself and my relationship to a particular system of study, the closer I was toward achieving a level of truth, though this truth is now much more personalized, it is an acknowledgment of personalization embedded in an a mapping exercise of the universal/collectivism. These layers and spheres and "acquired lenses or points of view" evolved more coherently through my continued education of science, social science, and humanities courses, trying to find a conceptual configuration--trying to find internal conceptual places for every thought that came from every possible discipline I encountered. Truth in my mind led to INCLUSIVITY, REFLEXIVITY ("Gonzo science"), CONTEXTUALIZATION, NARRATIVE, QUALITATIVE MATRIX VIEWS, BRIDGING KNOWLEDGE AND ACTION, and SYNTHESIS rather than EXCLUSIVITY, EXTERNALITY, REDUCTIONISM, NARROWING, SPECIALIZATION, QUANTIFICATION, LINEARITY, etc. One of my first cartoons has Terra screaming, "Don't shove me in a box! I'll create my own box!" or even with cartoons: "Don't shove ideas in a fixed-sized box. Let the ideas define and shape and size the box." Because all science was doing to her was trying to narrow her into a subset of a subset of a subset of a subset of a subset of a subset of a system. Oh, what other lovely words I could place here? I'm asking the same simple questions here: What do people know? How and why do they know it? And how does this knowledge influence their actions? All related to human-environmental relationships. And supposedly these simple questions mean that I'm epistemologizing and that I worry about ethics. Ecopistemologist, to be corrected. I'm the first one, because I invented the word anyway, and I am very proud of that. And besides my suffering a sense of constant information overload, being overwhelmed with chronic change, not having the ability to freeze or slow down time, breeding a sense of panic, stress, paranoia, sleep deprivation, poor eating, teeth pain, etc--physical manifestationS of psychological distress--and besides all this, I came to realize, that given today--that the pursuit of science is embedded in a massive bureaucratic context (whether in the university or industry), where my dad told me, "Science is 50% people, 50% politics, and something you do in your spare time," I was wondering whether any scientist or any individual drowning in some massive bureaucracy would really have a sense of autonomy, individuality, and develop a sense of truth, independent of the "invisible academic 800 pound gorilla" that lives on every researcher's back, exists in every professor's mind?"

So, besides pure stress and panic and physical pain experienced through and induced by my desperate, primordial, reptilian brain , I actually have a philosophical underpinning for leave of absence: the attempt to see a truth merely through the politics of my own mind, independent of an 800 pound academic gorilla on my back. And I have up to a year to figure this out. I was thinking, perhaps I was doing the "Thoreau-Into-the-Woods" thing, like what Michael Pollan was trying to do, which is kind of difficult when you were born and raised and currently live in southern California (but northern California is ONLY a few hundred miles away, so I have no excuse to go chum up with black bears in the Sierra Nevada), so the closest I can be to becoming an enlightened hunter and gatherer around this part of the planet is to be something like a gypsy freeganist type, and continue hanging out with fishermen! The goal this year is to experience my mind and my life and my environment by maximally unplugging myself from the system, from "The Matrix" of information and resources (except I'm not doing any bullshxt daredevil "Into the Wild" or "127 Hours" or "Deadliest Catch" crxp, which I think is totally sensationalizingly dumb, my being a female and conservative adventurist and acknowledging it is very important to venture into humanly unpopulated landscapes with at least a buddy system, whether scuba diving or boat-riding or mountain hiking. And I still feel entitled to being jacked up by Starbucks coffee, my staple luxury that is only financially affordable given that every cup of coffee I purchase must be accompanied with at least tw0 50-cent refills. But 85% of all my clothes are old, full of holes, and came from Goodwill or the Old Navy end-of-the-year sale where everything was around 75% off original price, making brand new clothes equal in monetary value to that of used Goodwill clothes. Funny how those things work out.

I have come to realize it's better to explore the truth through the mere politics of my brain--explore personal truths--an investigation not highly accepted in Objective Academia where the Personal and the Self don't have much of a Place, especially in the realm of science. Just me and my mental ecosystem. Woohoo! Now I need to re-configure my inner wirings with the outer world.

Last week I had a talk with my advisor Oran about the leave of absence. I told him that when I was in high school, I thought I was stupid because I would be very slow in finishing my homework and completing my exams and writing my essays, and I'm still a bit slow to this day. It took me about five years after high school to start realizing that I wasn't "stupid" or "dumb" or "slow," but I was processing the world differently. I wasn't trying to memorize or computationally, linear process information. I was trying to visualize the world, visualize knowledge, all this time. I was trying to grow a virtual "tree" in my head. That knowledge did not exist in mere words and numbers, but knowledge had a sense of place, relativistic location. That there was a place, a space and a time for every thought. And here I am now. I have been overtaken the last few years, blasted with information--frantically foraging across several disciplines--and not everything is processed the way how I need it to be processed: visually, cognitive maps. Not only visually, but also through written words, through sounds, through the generation of personal stories. I need time, time to slow down, so I can slowly, deliberately process all this information to let it have conceptual meaning within me. It sounds strange, but visualizing the world is my healing process. It transforms intellectual trash into landscapes of meaning. So, it's funny, my road of environmental media, though I'm fighting for it to be an academic discipline, and I will fight a long road ahead of me, that multi-media production also needs to be welcomed as an academic endeavor, perhaps even with a "peer review" process--not a Hollywood industry or journalistic endeavor--though I'm fighting this road as an academic discipline, this road has psychological roots, to my being right brained, toward my core mannerisms of processing information, toward my personal routes of coping and healing and self-therapy. I walk a dangerous road, where the personal and academic are severely intertwined--and it's more so dangerous for me because, here I am again, turmoiled, in pain mentally and physically, and again... on leave of absence. *Sigh* I wonder how I will ever be able to function "normally" in the world. I have to work so gxdxmn hard to channel my positive energy into the positive, desirable places. It's been so hard to find these spaces, but it has been worth the fight. I don't have much else of a choice.

My friend Hector tried to console me yesterday. He explained to me that "Back in the day, like in the 1960s, when the University of California wasn't in a financial pinch... or slump... students used to go on 'leaves of absence' all the time, either for breaks or for saving money while trying to get their degrees. But now the university has added intense layers of bureaucracy to make it difficult to go on leave of absence." I said, "Ya, like I had to have evidence that I am partly a nutcase in order to go on leave--I REALLY need to go on leave though. If I were back in the 1960s, I would have been on leave of absence since April of 2010!" Hector agreed that a leave was necessary because I couldn't function otherwise, if I had stayed. But nevertheless, he consoled me, but I still don't feel so hot about myself right now. Like yesterday, I was trying to write a simple blog, and I ended up barfing out 20 pages single spaced on how I got into this whole "marine, fishing" thing in the first place. I couldn't believe I never had a personal discussion with myself about this... until now... on leave... where I finally sense my own autonomy and independence of thinking from university bureaucracy (I was just thinking that science funding sources give researchers money for testing hypotheses, not asking questions, meaning you have to have an existing agenda before asking for money, rather than leaving the process an open-ended inquiry. I come to trust Dr. William Cronon's viewpoints more and more every single day). I feel like now I can think and talk about things that probably are not good to talk about while being in the U--now I can be free and uncensored like the main character is the "Turko Files" of KUSI News in San Diego, who calls out bullshxt when he sees it: "That ain't right! You can't do that! That's not fair!" Turko is very good at getting people involved in solving multiple problems around the city of San Diego.

And now that my cartoon characters Terra and Buz of Biologically Incorrect feel my sense of freedom from being on leave of absence, they both have the license to cite Cartman from Southpark: "I say what I wanh! I say what I wanh! I say what I wanh! What-evah! What-evah!" and "Myanh, myanh. Myanh. Myannhh. Screw you guys, I'm going home!" "What-evah!" Happy ending to ending my blog hiatus. Happy endings to new beginnings of mental barfing on blogs! Woohoo hoo hooo! :-)

Key Words: blogging, storytelling, limits to writing, leave of absence, stream of consciousness, writing as therapy, censorship, Fisheries Wikileaks, information overload, science versus storyteller, define science, CRICs disease, identity exploration, exploring truth, truthy-ism, 800 pound invisible gorilla, 101-legged squid, environmental media as an academic pursuit

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

542. Annals of the Bad Day Syndrome ::: Good Riddance of the Subaru Station Wagon, Six-Year-Self-Fragmentation (and Police Officer Drama)

New Universal Theory of the Bad Day Syndrome =

Bad Days Make Great Stories. Period.

An Official Bad Day of Thanksgiving 2009 (Bad Day, but Many Heroic Actions) ~ On July 27, 2010, I engaged in some unpersonal interactions with a man who works for a towing company in Santa Paula, and was contracted to pick up my car--a beige Subaru Legacy 1993--from our rental house on Hillview Dr, Goleta. I didn't feel much sentiment or state of reflection (just dulled, suppressed, internal panic) when he started to move and tow the car. I rescued the car seats as my last desperate move, because I'm sure they could be valuable for my Toyota Tercel (1995), in which the current $3-from-a-yard-sale car seats are falling apart after five years of wear and tear (speaking of which, I need to duct tape my car seats, to its entirety!). Colleen, my next door neighbor, and her three young, rambunxious sons, came out to see what all the hub-bub was about, and I explained to her the pros and cons of having a second car and getting rid of a second car. I purchased the Subaru Legacy in 2006 for $2000 from an African-American man in Isla Vista (with the help of Talei; his name was Vern Hunt, and the previous owner was Scott Barrett, a drum-player, and before that, the car was sitting in Scott's grandmother's driveway for several years, Scott apparently moved to Arizona).

The reason for buying a new car, this Subaru in the first place? I just spent a year learning about geology and that I thought that I deserved a car of optimal size, which is getting the most for the least: a car in which I could carry surf boards, giant rocks, and I could sleep in. I cannot exactly sleep in my Toyota Tercel... I get quite scrunched up and my body complains after a night of crampedness. From a more abstract, idealistic perspective, I think that since the Subaru embodied the notion of "freedom," or "freedom from being stuck in Riverside, Black Hole, California." I was also trying to seek freedom from myself.... I was really "mentally stuck" at that point in my life. So, freedom from myself, escaping across external landscapes because I was struggling to venture into "internal landscapes" is then otherwise called "escapism." Poor me... was I in denial? Or was I mentally stuck? I don't think I was in denial, I was trying to unstuck my mind in space and time. And that required lots of internal and external "soul-searching" and resolution.

I thought I would have a Subaru and then I could get rid of the Toyota Tercel. It turned out that I kept hold of both cars, because the Toyota never let me down (in unexpected ways) since high school (in 1999!), whereas the Subaru had water pump problems, radiator problems, oil leak problems, and plus it was a drain in terms of oil changes, gas mileage (20 miles per gallon is unacceptable to me), and having two cars for insurance and registration. Owning two cars had become cumbersome, like an extra tumor of maintenance, and the last year I even had to deal with major Toyota Tercel repairs (especially after the Roadtrip Nation trip), including clutch replacement, break pad replacements, battery replacements (Txriel, stranded in Isla Vista Fall 2008), car tire changes, radiator-fluid changes, and now car-starter changes. Plus, my Toyota survived several treks and close calls, including a minor accident-turned-into-major-because-the-car-in-front-of-me-was-a-massive-white-truck-with-huge-wheels-and-my-little-car-went-under-at-5-mph-and-the-truck-zoomed-away-without-a-care-though-it-scrumpled-up-my-hood-yet-it-was-my-fault-because-I-fell-asleep-on-the-road-for-split-second-as-I-parked-at-the-Vons-11pm-at-night the day before Thanksgiving in 2000 (off Rose Avenue, Oxnard), a treacherous dirt-road trip in the boonies of Nevada (geology field trip with Seth and Joe in November of 2004), a car tire blow up on the 405 freeway going south toward Orange County, and a minor fender-bender on the 405 going north around the UCLA area, where I was sandwiched because some Bxtch in an Infinity car rammed into me when the traffic drastically slowed down (my car slightly bumped this blue Nissan in front of me, which housed some young Idiot Asian Female, in which the Bxtch and I both pleaded to her "Please DO NOT call car insurance! It's cheaper to take care of damage ourselves!" (I ended up preferring to talk to the Infinity Bxtch than the Idiot Asian when it came to resolving the collision. We were hassled by several angry drivers around us, Road Rage Deluxe!).

George from Bob's Auto Service in Riverside stated that if the Toyota Tercel now has 200,000 miles, these types of major repairs should be expected.... So the question is, which car to invest in? I am so emotionally attached to my little Toyota Tercel (which is probably as fuel efficient as a Toyota Prius hybrid fuel-electric) that I decided I was going to ware this car down to its death (hopefully 20 years from now). The Toyota Tercel has been with me since high school in 1999 (graduation gift from parents).... When the Tercel dies, I will cry... just like I cry for the passing of my relatives, especially for my grandfather, even when I was upset that I lost my stuffed Bugsy, Sparky, and the Bean. So, when the anonymous man towed away my car in the name of Kars for Kids (which is a very LAME non-profit organization, because all the money goes to charities catered to strictly Jewish kids in between ages 8-16 who have supposed teenage and other crises... I thought it would be for cancer patients or starving African children... whatever, and the worst part is that the Kars for Kids website does not make this strict "Jewish Donation" an upfront statement, you have to scrounge through the website a bit before you realize you're NOT helping poor, needy, unhealthy kids in a generic sense; but believe me, I have NOTHING against Jews (no doubt, they went through a lot of disturbing history; I'm not sure why they have been picked on so much!); I'm just pissed that the donation is for JUST JEWS, and not other ethnic or religious or cultural groups; nevertheless I set up the time for towing, and since Kars4Kids is efficient with the towing process, I just told myself to "nevermindthis" and just get the towing process done, no more delaying, since I anticipated on getting rid of this car for the last 2 years).

My friend Kamal was fascinated by the life cycle of cars and the the end-product landscape of junk yards, and I'm sure he would be interested, as I thought it would be interesting to take photographs of such a dismantled car in a neglected landscape. Given my limited timeline and stresses of school, I donated the car, essentially for FREE. But if I had MORE TIME and thoughtfulness, I would have taken the car to Riverside and gotten $300 from a company called Pick-a-Part, or I would have successfully sold a car for $500 on Craigslist, upfront. But no, my father said, "Do me a favor. Get rid of the car and you will do me and the family a service. I'm tired of lying to your mother saying that this is 'Talei's car.'" I think aunt Jean and Uncle Chuck were tired of that little fib as well. I get rid of the car and my father stops "lying" and my aunt and uncle are no longer "holding a secret."

The option of getting rid of this car was on the plate of my entire "family" of housemates. Kyle, the Climate-Energy-Policy grad student (did he finish his Ph.D.?) had been pressuring me to eliminate this car for quite a while, but then he got married and moved out of the house and didn't care anymore. Jay had also been pressuring me to eliminate the car, but then he moved out and didn't care anymore. And then Gwaz, who most recently got a badxss job toward the Thousand Oaks area (internet advertising, I think), started to pressure me to eliminate the car from the driveway. He asked to me to place a deadline and notify everyone in the household, which I did. And then Gwaz moved out... and perhaps he doesn't care anymore, like all the other housemates. Teena said she didn't mind the car, but I was at a point in which it was an embarrassment to occupy the driveway with a dead car (bad alternator, couldn't start on its own, needed a jump start), and not paying any extra rent for occupying this extra space beyond my room.
So, out of generic guilt, despite the heightened sensitivity-followed-by-apathy of my former housemates who pressured me... I eliminated the car, though I do wish that I made an extra effort to get $200-$300 for the parts, or $500 sold on Craigslist for whole.

What made this circumstance different? Why did I get rid of the car this time? For one, it was summer, and I had time to deal with the issue. Secondly, cumulative build up of pressure from housemates. On a third level, out of all my housemates, I have much, much respect for Gwaz, and whatever he tells me, I listen, and it sinks down in me. We had a few lengthy "existential conversations" over the time he was at Hillview (since March 2009), and even though the quarter system mowed me over, and I did not have much time to reflect on all the cool ideas we batted toward each other, back and forth... I still have his thoughts, his ideas, his ambitions in my head. He's intelligence + experience + humbleness + enthusiasm, and someone with such diverse experience that I look up to him.
I am thankful for Gwaz' humbleness, because as I have learned, most "environmentalists, at least hard core ones," are judgmental, pretentious pricks... just as bad as religious people who are so willing to make judgments about your life (and supposed afterlife).

Gwaz provided great advice on some of my cartoons. In a certain way, I wish Gwaz weren't my housemate (which he isn't anymore), because you can tell that we are both very intense people with lots of ideas, and the house at Hillview is the only place for quiet, private space and time. And it's hard for two people with super intense thought processes to live right next to each other and try to maintain a sense of quiet privacy, when all we would engage in is very lengthy conversation. Gwaz would be a great person to go and visit, and I hope that one day I can follow through and visit him in Los Angeles. He's such an outpour of great ideas, I cannot stop not talking to him!

So, I was using the Subaru Legacy as storage space, practically for the last two years of graduate school at UCSB (for the bullshxt of academia kept piling into my brain! with no time to sort it out). In order to get rid of this car, I went through the pains of moving all these papers, these bags of trash, these memories, these times of intense informational input, eliminating a lot of paperwork back in early July, which essentially, placed my mind in an extreme panic:
that the last two years of my life had been an accumulation of trash, chaos. I was standing upon a pile of rubble, and I did not even know what was happening in my own life... like I am living and not knowing that I'm living... I was letting my life slip, hold no control....

I was panicking in mid-July but just set the panic aside, denied it, until it flared up in a $60/night Motel 6 in Escondido in late July (or Ex-con-dido or Mexican-dido)--in which I was alone, with a massive head ache, yes, I could classify it as a migraine--in which I was forced to delay my written exams. Jules reminded me that "I didn't have real problems." I had a discussion with Oran, and things are settled for early October. That's fine. It was the first time that I was forced to seriously look at the state of my life and realize that "If I'm in school and that my life is becoming more chaotic than orderly, then school is not performing its desired function, and therefore I need a break and get out of here... go catch fish or something for a few months." I refuse to stand on my own pile of rubble. If there is faith and loyalty to anything and anyone in this world... it will have to be to myself. And right now, mentally, emotionally, physically--if I stay in school--I will be in trouble. I can't do it anymore, for now....

Well, even though I stalled on eliminating the Subaru Legacy (which was threatened on being towed one time, last August of 2009; I had to hire a company to tow my car from Evergreen to Hector's driveway on Padova), which was about 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile away. The tow cost $50, I was stuck in San Diego, and was not interested in driving up from San Diego to Santa Barbara, just to move a dxmn car 1/2 of a mile. On its own, that was $50 of gas and 10 hours of driving life. Not fun! )... So, even though I was stalled on eliminating the Subaru Legacy (or should I call this car an "unnecessary tumor of responsibility" from my life (funny how my mind seems to meander in streamline form), I have one more heroic tale to tell about this car. And why I am glad that I kept this car just one more year after I should have gotten rid of it.

And just yesterday, when I was pressing hard down on the clutch to make it to the top of the Camarillo Grade on the 101, all the memories of this bizarre experience of Heroism of ancient technologies, kind roommates, and friendly strangers just flared up, and I realized that every time I passed by on the Camarillo Grade, this memory will keep flaring up, and that it's time that I should just write it down, pass it out of my Mental Space and onto Blogger space, so that my mind is freed up for more new memories. This "Annals of the Bad Day Syndrome" is a major symbol of how my mind had "runned over" by academic information overload from last year, with absolutely no time to myself, absolutely no time to reflect, no time to account for my existence and for my relational interactions with the context of my existence... until now... a random day in the late summer where I'm revolting and saying "F-You University!" I can't cater to your arbitrary bureaucratic needs when my own psychological needs need some tending to.

Even Teena and I had a little discussion about this story with Gwaz a couple of nights ago. I'm tired of holding this Heroic Story in my Head. So, here's a brain fart, a brain dump... about 8 months since its passing (of course, it won't be so dramatic this time, because all the immediate emotions and details have passed out of my system, and now they are just memories of reminiscence, skeletal memories, though I have a few details stored in the papers of my massive pile of rubble).

I had always dreamt of missing one Thanksgiving in my life. I have had perfect attendance to Thanksgiving functions since my birth, which in part, I think is worrisome, because it's important to break habits once in a while in order to appreciate them. Heck, even my sister missed a Thanksgiving, potentially in 2004 or 2005, because she was charged to work with her autistic patients that day. She was crying on the phone all day because she was missing all the family. My sister is a living proof that "absence makes the heart grow fonder." It's important to go in absence of elements of your life that you have come to take for granted from mundane, ritualistic routine.

I had also become more appalled by the commercialized aspects of nearly all Holidays in America, long-traditioned holidays... now even more popularized occasions like Quinceneras.... The commercialized element is so meaningless, so plastificated, but when you're with family, then all the plastic crxp sold on advertisements and stores sheds, and you come to feel quite happy in being with your intellectual and genetic kin. That is how I felt at the Thanksgiving of 2008. Grandpa Ray didn't make it, but he almost did... he was off by two weeks or so. So close... so close.... I even showed up a little bit late to aunt Jean's house that year, but I didn't miss Thanksgiving all together.

I thought I was going to leave for Thanksgiving (in San Diego this year with Aunt Judy) on Wednesday evening (which I am sooo relieved that I didn't do that), and finally I let go of my pursuit of ideas and hit the road around 8 or 9 am Thanksgiving morning, hoping that I would arrive in San Diego around noon or one. So, here I was, driving the Toyota Tercel up the Camarillo Grade, and I found myself pushing the gas pedal very, very hard and then when I was about 3/4 up the grade I found myself pushing the gas pedal all the way down, and I started to silently panic as my car started to slow down from 60 mph-50mph-40mph; I was on one of the middle lanes and the closest "open area" I could go to (where there were no cars) was the the extra shoulder lane in the middle of the freeway next to a thin wall that divided the speedy cars on the left versus on the right side of the freeway. My car just slowed and slowed and slowed to a halt, and I'm like "Great. Oh shxt. Perfect location. Spending my Thanksgiving stalled, about one foot away from speedy cars going up and down the Camarillo Grade. What a PERFECT location." Funny in retrospect, but frightening in situ. It was such an appalling point of view, I regret that I did not take pictures from my camera phone about the whole ordeal! I mean, really, of all places I would not want to be in my life, stuck in the middle of the Camarillo grade during Thanksgiving?! Well, thankfully there were not too many cars on the road, which most certainly helps. I remember being extremely panicky, thinking about how all objects I am next to are volatile and could kill me in no time. I was in tears by the time I called AAA auto service. The lady kept me calm and asked me... then stated that she would also send out a police officer to help me out (besides a tow truck, of course). I was just sitting there and at that time my sister Jenny was pissed off at me, and so that delayed a lot of interaction between Mumsy, Bubsy, and me (plus my sister's cell phone was dying), and so I called several times, and the phone was not answered at first, but then once they arrived at Judy's house, I was able to talk to Bubsy several times, but that was way after my time of frightened panic and aloneness....

While the car was shaking and rattling every time that a car zoomed by a couple of feet away from me, I was surprised to find a police officer from Thousand Oaks come by my car (coming from the opposite side, going downhill on the 101). I remember him being very cheerful, helpful, and caring--which was surprising to me, because the last few time I have delt with cops, I have found them to be uncaring and apathetic.

A Series of Largely Unfortunate Interactions with Police Officers

(Trial 1: police officer doesn't care about my stolen i-pod shuffle, $129 at the FedEx Office in Ventura, labeled as "petty theft," though the African-American man in suit and tie was caught on tape at Fedex Office taking my ipod, and they even had his credit card transactions available from that day, the officer didn't do anything that day though he said he would, and Fedex was even willing to work with the officer... and then a month later I didn't hear anything from the police, so I asked for a report, which they made me pay $16 for, and then they told me afterwards that the officer didn't do anything about my "petty theft" because the officer was transferred to a different district (aka he "moved," and no one notified me, because no one at the police department in Ventura cared). Things slip... no one really cares in the end....

(Trial 2: police officer and detective did not care that some Bxtch Lady stole my $1450 for a used MacBookPro with several layers of installed software, February 2009, through a Craigslist ad and cell phone interactions; that's why I'm an idiot, I can't make good decisions in the middle of an academic quarter system, especially since I was desperate; the assistant manager at Bank of America didn't care either, even an hour after the transaction... I told him to void the transaction, but he said he couldn't do that, unless a police officer showed up, and the officer did not show up, as the lady gave me a fake FedEx shipping number, and canceled her Sprint phone account... apparently this lady had a track record of fake sales and poor transactions... the officer said that he could not place a "warrant" unless he knew that the warrant would lead to catching the thief, the detective said that this form of Craigslist theft is common and uncontrollable and too frequent for them to do anything... it could be a spammer from Nigeria creating fake accounts... what bullshxt... from this time I realized (1) there's a lot more theft and crime and violence than can be contained by police officers (2) the police choose what battles to fight and not fight and take care of or deal with, it's a random draw of the hat if you yourself receive any level of "justice" for any crime involved (3) true justice is not accomplished unless if you have a lot of money and can hire a bunch of "lawyers" and other "justice people" to do the work on the crime, otherwise... no one cares... (4) it's much easier to become a criminal than I thought (5) it's the law of mass numbers, collective action problems, the lack of containment of crime... (6) I might consider practicing "criminal thinking," like those mastermind characters in Ocean's 11. A crimininal takes chances in not being caught in his crime because (1) the police are under-staffed and under-funded (2) the police don't care and have other things to do (3) the law of mass numbers are on your side. Anonymity is an advantage)

Trial 3: Two "speeding tickets" within four months, with two rounds of traffic school on line (one school called Cheap Fast Fun, and the other driving school called Comedy Traffic School (with two free tickets to see an Improv comedy show!), because I was going 75-80 miles per hour. The two cop dudes didn't really care who I was. I cried the first time, I was too tired the second time. The first time I was sleepy on the road and didn't see the officer behind me in Carpinteria. That young, buff officer was fresh meat, like this was his first day on the job, and I was his first ever ticket. And he was all happy and cheerful about it. Well, what about me?! I wanted to challenge the police officer: why do you give me a ticket when I drive down in Orange County and San Diego, cars honk at me and flash at me when I'm going 75 miles per hour--I'm going too slow? This is bullshxt.

The second time I was driving from Oregon, back to aunt Jeri Lyn's house in the dark, around Yreka, Weed County, and I was the first car in a crop of cars going on the freeway, and this dxmn cop radar-gunned me from the front of the pack of cars and no one else, even though everyone else was going the same speed I was, and so the officer was so adamant about stopping ME, and no one else! I received a speeding ticket but was too tired to care. Jules gave me advice and told me, "Cops are hunters. It's lions and the gazelles. The best thing to do is stay obscure in the middle of the pack. Cops go after those in the front or the back. They're easier to pick out and pin down." I am convinced the officer gave me a speeding ticket because he needed to raise money for his county. Hxck, they can't even bust all the weed growers in the hills! I met a few of them just stopping at a gas station!

Trial 4: Two police officers who just finished their lunch in Isla Vista, decided, just for kicks and giggles, to stop me and give me a ticket for wearing these flimsy $5 dollar head phones listening to Bjork in order to calm myself down, when I was going to visit Oran in concern of my potential for attending graduate school this upcoming fall. I was so stressed out. I learned that police officers only stop you when they really truly have a SEARCH IMAGE, focusing on YOU (as if they're predators and you're ZOOMED-IN BAIT), and that they FEEL LIKE MAKING THE EFFORT to stop you. Otherwise, you can be as free and illegal as possible, and no one will give a shxt. For example, just in my parents neighborhood in Riverside, a house was busted for being a major weed farm.... It's probably been there for over ten years, and no one knew about it. Being illegal seems to be quite easy nowadays.

Trivial Trials With Cops: I had several cops stop me at night for several random, trivial reasons. In northern California, it seems that cops have nothing much to do than stop people for not much an apparent reason. One time I was driving in the town of Winters (15 miles from Davis, California) for about 2 seconds, and a cop stopped me because I didn't have my lights on right away when I was driving. He thought my driving as "suspicious." Bullshxt. And one time I was getting ice scream but the officer was upset that I was driving 2am in the morning (welcome to UC Davis, where cops have nothing better to do than stop little girls from getting ice scream at the 24-7 grocery store 2am in the morning). Another time, the bulbs illuminating my driver's license plate burnt out, and the officer in Irvine gave me a courtesy notice, recommending me to replace the bulbs. Well, I do admit, the police officer was a very young and HOT blond dude, I was actually on a high of hormones from that experience. Ya, cute cop stops me for a very trivial "burnt-out light bulb" scenario. In that case, he was kind to me.

Much more recently, after visiting Shannon in Oceanside, apparently I made a u-turn in an area in which I wasn't supposed to (I was trying to find the local community college in the area, without much success). A police officer saw me do this, and then he followed me, flaring his lights. I was trying to find a safe place to pull over, and at that time, I was such a nervous wreck because I was pissed off about my Roadtrip Nation experience, being reminded by being in Oceanside, and then Comic-con was coming, and I was very lost in the new town I did not know at all. I finally pulled over at a Home Depot parking lot, and the police officer was an older man, and surprisingly he was very kind to me. He asked to see my license... but at that point I was sooo upset, I burst into tears... because I just went through two other occasions of unnecessarily venturing through traffic school because of speeding tickets (Milton Love said that I should expect a speeding ticket about once every five years, it's more so a phenomenon of the lottery than your actual wrong-doing), and I couldn't deal with this drama of being stopped by a cop ONCE AGAIN!, also just because I went through a Microsoft Office 2010 computer fiasco at a FedEx Office in Oceanside just this morning, that psychologically destroyed me to pieces (I was talking to a dude in India and this guy made me do things to my computer I didn't know about, I am seriously doubting the services and products of Microsoft after this experience!), and as the officer saw me as a nervous wreck, in tears, he felt a level of sympathy. He asked me what I was up to in general--that I was a graduate student at UC Santa Barbara, and that I had paint on my car because my friend and I were making a film about careers at the intersection of science and art, and the officer was impressed because most paint on cars was very negative graffiti. In the end, the officer gave me a courtesy notice and was very fatherly, guiding me to the community college, for directions, and said that he didn't want to add anymore drama to my bad day of being lost and frazzled about life in general.

So, presently I have a mixed relationship with police officers, mostly bad interactions, but a few good ones. Experience is largely contingent upon the individual properties of each officer.

By the time, this young police officer approached my fragile vulnerable car and soul on the Camarillo Grade on a Thanksgiving, I was just sooo relieved and elated to see him. The scenario was so dangerous and absurd that the officer didn't even bother to check my driver's license. The officer was there within five minutes and we were discussing what to do next before the Tow Truck Dude from AAA would come and tow my car. I was trying to take my unused, ivy-overgrown blue bike (from Sportsmart) down to San Diego, but it turned out that the police officer wanted to push my car from the middle of the freeway to the right side, where no doubt, I would be much safter. As soon as we took the bike off my trunk-strapped fold-out-metal-bike-holder, the tow truck came. I don't remember what exact procedures were performed, but the tow truck dude quickly latched my car up to his truck, and the bike was thrown in the back of the tow truck. The police officer soon left as soon as he knew that I was safe with the tow trucker, in which he and I discussed what to do with the car. At that point, I made some internal decision to upgrade to AAA plus (so that I could have had my car towed back to Santa Barbara, not to this stupid 76 gas station, repair shop off of Moorpark in Thousand Oaks where they would have charged me $800 to replace the clutch!).

The Indian man at the gas station let me keep the car there over the Thanksgiving weekend, as I gave him my car key. I was trying to figure out how to get myself back to Santa Barbara with the utmost reduced cost (Santa Barbara is about 70 miles away), and at first I called Hector and Katia to see if they could give me a ride, but it turned out that they were in a rush to get to Los Angeles for their family's Thanksgiving celebration, and they could not provide a ride. It was tragic I did not have anyone else I could call. I tried calling Oscar, but he did not respond till 3 or 4 hours later. My housemate Gwaz was gone with his family, Jay was gone... I even tried calling Jay, but I received a "wrong number" from him. Teena just recently lost her cell phone, so she was not accessible, and I didn't have the 207 Hillview house number on me. I did call a taxi cab service, but was doubting that I was going to use it, because I was expecting a $200 cost to get back to Santa Barbara.

Oh ya, so WHY GO BACK TO SANTA BARBARA?! Well, I had this idea that I could use my spare dud Subaru Legacy to get me to San Diego instead. I started walking down the street, attempting to call my parents again, when a taxi cab pulled up right by me. Inside was a rather young guy, with blondish brown hair, who asked me if I needed a ride. He was wearing one of those trendy taxi driver caps. His car was quite clean and new-looking. I said ya, but I'm a student, and I don't think I could afford getting back to Santa Barbara. He then asked, "Well, how much CAN you afford?!" I said, "How much would it cost to get there? He ballparked around $120 with no traffic or unexpected stalls. I said, "I am a student, I can only afford maximum $80"... and then he said he would do it. Wow! What goodwill on a Thanksgiving Day! So, I hopped in, and it turned out that the taxi driver was a very spunky guy who had a horrible driving record in the past, but found this taxi job on Craigslist, and has $1,000,000 insurance on the car and the people in it, through the taxi company, and that it's a sweet job because he drives everywhere in this car.... And over time he accumulated clients over time who are basically "rich people who some how fxcked up with driving but still need to get from Point A to Point B, which is usually Santa Barbara to San Francisco." He gets sweet gigs on the side transporting wealthy people around, and so monetarily it has been working well for him. I think it must also be stimulating in a certain way if you actually get interesting customers... after all the car is a wonderful place to really get to know another human being very well in a short amount of time, it's a small enclosed space, so a lot of intense, focused conversation can occur in a short amount of time.

Which is what happened between me and this guy. It turns out that he is very interested in zombie horror fiction and was thinking about writing a book/story about zombies, with the whole story set in San Francisco. I gave him some writing advice that I could provide. I mostly was probing him about the structure of the story: basic themes, motives, plot, setting, characters, to see how well developed his thoughts were. I think he was elated to have me ask these questions, because it challenged him and forced him to critically think about his story. Along the way home, in which I was a nervous wreck (and I was depressed too, impatient, feeling stuck), there was a slow-down on the 101, around the 15 mile scenic stretch in between Ventura and Carpinteria. It was a severe slowdown, and by the time we passed by the La Conchita landslide area, the taxi cab charge box read some hideous numbers, like $140 dollars, and so the cab driver was kind enough to turn off the box and turn on his good will. He was looking up his i-phone to figure out why there was such bad traffic for about a half-hour, and there was some stupid report on the internet saying there were "two dead dogs on the freeway," but it turned out to be regular tourist traffic. People simply slow down in the area simply, simply, simply to admire the ocean. Possibly the best possible reason for a traffic jam--no accidents, no deaths, just beautiful landscapes to stare at since most people have been largely deprived of these landscapes.

Toward the end, I very much felt like that this guy did half-service, did half-something as a friend. I wished I remembered his name... but I bet I can retrieve it once I look through my pile of rubble in the garage in Santa Barbara. I wished I gave him this bizarre book in our house, which is a compilation of existential quotes from taxi cab drivers in New York (published by Chronicle Books), and Teena said I should have given this book to him, out of gratitude... but I didn't know whether that was appropriate at the time... give away my housemate's book to a generous stranger. In the end, since this guy gave me a half-off discount on the taxi ride and went out of his way on Thanksgiving to help him, I was willing to give him $100 instead of $80. We parted by exchanging emails... one day I might find him on facebook, or he may be writing the next best-seller zombie book, sooo... I'll just see him give a speech at some prestigious writer's conference! I could say this taxi driver is a half-hero; he was a humanitarian today... but I still lost $100.

By the time I returned to Santa Barbara, I startled my housemate Teena, who was working diligently toward making 3 or 4 pumpkin pies from scrap in the kitchen! She was alone at the moment, but was preparing for a feast in the afternoon! I was glad to see her and rambled about what happened to me. I rushed out to try to start the Subaru Legacy, but as I feared the car did not start... and even my car salesman neighbor (Colleen's hubby, why do I not know his name, who ended up working with Teena at a car sales place in Goleta) said that my car probably has a bad alternator. Teena went out of her way to rush to her friend's house to get a pair of spark plug charger wire thing-a-ma-jigs and she spend a half-hour helping me trying to start my car. She hooked up her nice white Dodge to my dusty beige Subaru, and we got the car working. We left the car running Teena said she was sad she couldn't help me get back from Thousand Oaks. Teena was also concerned about the long-term running of the Subaru... that it may stall... so she accompanied me to the 7-11 Citgo gas station off of Calle Real off of Storke Road, as I filled up the tank and was able to miraculously re-start the car without the need of any spark plugs. We both then ventured back to Hillview Drive, and I thanked Teena so much. What kindness! She has been so kind to help me, I told her that I would write a blog about all these acts of heroism and kindness to help me make it through a disasterous day on Thanksgiving and make an attempt to still see my family on this day, though it was probably around 12:30 pm by the time I left Santa Barbara for the second time! And it's so sad... it has taken me about a year to finally account for this unfatefully fateful day, to feel that humans have the ability to reach out and help out someone in troubled need on a random, spur of the moment. I am truly grateful for such humanity... and one day, when circumstances of space and time align, I can help to do the same.

(Interruption, just left Starbucks, went to pick up Bubsy, we went to the house, I discovered my driver's license picture, I looked good though my cheeks looked burnt, placed mail on bed, left the house, went to B of A, deposited check, took out cash for George, went to Bob's Auto Service, picked up car, George also replaced the air filter, cool, paid cash, got 1 dollar back, Bubsy took the Tercel, I drove the Camry, felt less repressed driving the Camry, less baggage, will take to Monterey, deposited one more check at B of A, chewed on my nails, went home, talked with Mumsy and Bubsy about Monterey, dropped off Bubsy, picked up suppplies, went back to Starbucks, here I am, talk about a mundane to-do list!)

By that time I remember driving down to San Diego being extremely depressed and having suicidal thoughts comforting me all the way down. It is a 4.5 hour drive after all (given no traffic, but it was probably more so like 6 hours). I could have stopped for a jog in Lake Forest before venturing down. The sun was setting quite early. My mind was blank... I remember though passing by the Camarillo Grade the second time. I was nervous and started sweating, hoping that my Subaru would not jinx the Toyota Tercel, and low and behold, it made it past this steep grade. I bet my brain was fried from the quarter system process, so I didn't think much of anything.

I made it to San Diego just after dark, and I had to frantically call aunt Judy about 3-4 times, let alone change my clothes in the dark by a gas station, my other clothes were soaked with stink and sweat! Judy forced me to take the 8 freeway and pass by Cal State San Diego. It was quite a trek to reach Judy's place from this route. But I found out afterwards that she lived only 1-2 miles away from Jules' house, which is in Lemon Grove. And I wondered why Judy did not guide us to her house through the 94 freeway? Maybe because of the negative stigmas of the 94 freeway? Or Lemon Grove, and that whole area? Who knows. I reached Judy's place around 6, it was dark, and everyone already split. I was very glad to see her--at least one person in the family for Thanksgiving!--We ended up talking frantically and quickly catching up as much as we could--as now I remember talking with Jean and Chuck over the phone, and I was adamant that we MUST have a Christmas get-together, now that I missed out on 99% of the Thanksgiving event!!! Both Judy and Jean retired this year, but Judy was off to romp around the world again, I think for Peace Corps? Or one of the Corps, for a year or two to China? Or some country in Europe to teach English, or do some foreign language education elsewhere. Judy was very excited and told me that I could come by her place anytime whenever I'm in San Diego. The question is, why haven't I? Well, I need to reflect and write ideas down before I am able to alter my thought process and my behavior! Maybe I'll try to visit Judy, or Andy or Robin, next time I'm down in San Diego!

Judy encouraged me to take some stuffing, some caramel popcorn (which I'm sure made me gain five pounds, it's so sugary and buttery, Jenny took the other half), and some chocolate fudge, which was so richly sweet, that I couldn't eat any of it, nor Jules. I threw away an entire tray of sugar and fat and chocolate. By the time I greeted Jules, he was stuffed from very good food at Grandma Viola's house. I stopped by quickly at their festivities, and everyone was about done with the feast of food, working on deserts. I met about 10 people in less than 10 minutes, so I don't really remember anyone I met. I do remember some nice cupcakes!

I updated Jules with the whole car clutch fiasco (I kept him out of the loop in the morning, he doesn't need anymore drama, he himself had a peaceful day out in the ocean catching lobsters). The next day I had to plan out what to do in order to orchestrate both cars' return to Santa Barbara. I called the 76 gas station, and the Arabic mechanic who worked there said it would cost $800 to replace the clutch. I panicked and said to myself, "Well, I have gotten cheap auto body repair in Oxnard before, so let me see if there's an auto mechanic in Oxnard to replace my clutch for less than $800?" I called George as well, and he said the average cost of clutch replacement would be $400-$500.

The first place I found on Google Maps was Tierra del Sol auto mechanic. I called in, and the guy on the phone said in broken English that he would be willing to replace the clutch for $300. I asked him if I could bring him the car on Monday, and he said, "Yes! We're ready!" Now the issue is, how to get my car from the 76 station in Woodland Hills to down-the-Camarillo-grade-Oxnard?! I called "Bob's Towing" from a random hit on Google, and by chance, I happened to talk to the owner of the operation. He said he was willing to do the tow for $60. Man, what a deal! I thought it would be $150-$200 to get the tow done! The owner asked me to call in early Monday morning, mention that we talked, and I would get my deal rate.

So all of this anticipated car-maneuvering drama was at first mentally and orally orchestrated from San Diego, the safety of Jules' house, and then had to be executed on Monday, in which I left San Diego early, early, early Monday morning such that I could dodge Los Angeles traffic. I think I left around 4am, actually! Jules woke up around that time to prep for work as well, or so I think. I managed to have a smooth drive all the way through Los Angeles, and actually arrived early to Moorpark Road, Thousand Oaks area. I think that morning I was waiting around a little bit, and went exploring, in which I jogged by the hills, and when I stopped to take a number two in the bushes off the side of a road that was very nicely landscaped (actually), I ended up finding my first ever plant fossil! Amazing! I still have to show Dr. Bruce Tiffney my fossil find! I have come to realize that fertilizing bushes does have its incidental benefits. Coming to think of it, who in the hxll knows what I did on Saturday and Sunday... Probably in disillusionment of automechanic chaos either working hard or having fun with Jules.

I managed to snap some photographs of the tow-trucker helping move my car from the 76 station down to Oxnard. Locked by metal and chains, placing two metal-attached lights on top of my caravan I caravanned behind him, and I was guided to Tierra del Sol, which happened to be way off the 1 freeway, Oxnard Blvd., at the end of this obscure Citrus street that seemed to have come from a fictional tale of a movie: A run down complex sprawled with tools, functional cars, scrap metal, of open-spaced buildings that were divded into small teams of independent auto-mechanic teams, who each specialized in certain forms of repair (e.g. oil change, general mechanics, auto body, electric, etcetera), but all coordinated and collaborated, such that as a whole, if you had any problem with your car, you could go down this street, and one of the teams would be able to help you with your car problem. In essence, it was an "organically constructed" "Costco" of auto-repair, except in a much more rudimentary, beat-up form, more similar to shops in Tijuana, than America.

No complaints though, the two guys who helped me repair my car did a great job (my clutch is in great shape), and also ended up giving me a bunch of business cards to pass out to my friends at UCSB (coming to think, it's ironic that if someone needed to perform major car repair, it would be cheaper for a student to tow her is her car to Oxnard than it is to do repair down the street in Santa Barbara; goes to show how upscale the town is in general).

When I was waiting for my car to be repaired, I was driving around Oxnard, and happened to find a FedEx Office and a Starbucks near by, a couple of blocks away, but I had to drive, and I had a police officer follow me on a vacant road. I was so nervous, because I was pissed off to drive this dxmn Subaru--I had not renewed the license because the car had to pass smog (which is a whole other fiasco I engaged in during Christmas break, ending in a general failure). Thankfully, the officer did not stop me because of my out of date blue-colored 2009 sticker on my registration. Amen!

Hector was sooo kind to drive me out in the dark to pick up my finished Tercel, as we caravanned back to Santa Barbara. I ended up buying Hector a giant frappucino (and me, a cheapo tea, cut costs) for all of his efforts! I'm quite thankful for the help! And by that time, I believe all has stabilized, and my already shattered lifestyle had consolidated back into one shattered piece. Car drama with the clutch had temporarily settled. This whole ordeal was sooo mind-numbing, I remember talking to Hector about Nothingness of Nothingness. Nothing in my head was processing into any meaning, everything in my head was empty and shallow. Technically, I had suicidal thoughts, but being around people prevented me from dwelling too deeply. I had to find a way to make my brain operate as if I were pacified by psychiatric pills. This whole ordeal would have been a lot more meaningful if I actually learned about car repair and I learned how to replace my clutch and solve my problems, but no, I paid someone else to do it, and chattered my mind away with other meaningless work. Jules knows a lot about car repair, simply because he's forced several times to repair his boat.

During my Christmas Break of 2009 (or early January 2010), I went through another Subaru Massive Fiasco. Despite my expired Registration Sticker, I took the Subaru down to San Diego, because Jules' brother might be able to buy the car from me for $500, and then he refurbishes it to sell for $1000 or more. One day, as a "minor errand," I took the Subaru to some Xsshole Asian at the "end" of Broadway, underneath the intersection of the 94 freeway and the 125, by Lemon Grove. The Asian Bastard took $50 of my dollars when my car didn't pass smog. Most smog-test-only places actually don't charge any money if the car doesn't pass! It's not that the Subaru was a polluter, it was just that there was a "functional" problem: I had this "engine light sensor" chronically in the "on" position, stating that there was something wrong.... I remember wasting practically an entire stretch of four days attempting to contact someone, anybody, who could get this light sensor to switch off for once! Jules helped me tremendously by driving me around and caravanning, and even at one point, I called George to see what he had to say; he had turned off the light sensor one time, four or five years ago, and he said that he himself would have to check out the situation; it's hard to say over the phone.
One dude that the tire shop off of Broadway knew said that he would most likely be able to turn off the sensor and get me to pass smog, but I would have to wait till Monday... but I had to return to school at UCSB. Jules said that I have to stop making investments in this car, and just get rid of it... it's already costing too much time and money and unnecessary drama.

Even though my car was still not "legal" to drive, I drove it over to Carmax on a half-cloudy, half-sunny, half-rainy Sunday afternoon. I was extremely nervous driving in these circumstances, superparanoid about the presence of cops. The Carmax was up on the 805 freeway I believe, near by the Fry's Electronics. I could say that the employees of Carmax were very kind and professional, but I felt a sense of uneasiness, as soon as I entered this place. Maybe because I have some pre-conceived notion that auto sales places are all about trying to maximize personal gain, ripping off the customers. Everyone working there was very smiling and professional, almost too a fault--such that it reminded me that I was surrounded by a bunch of very "loyal, perfect, Christians" who were trying to live through Jesus' word, but surrounding this limited lens of existence, they were boiling in chaos... like they all were holding dirty little secrets of sin and shame. Phony, happy people... used cars? I also think they reminded me of real estate agents: image is everything, but there's lots of dirt hiding all around them, you just have to dig... just a little bit.

So some Happy Dude Used Car Quote Guy talked with me about my car, and some other tall Happy Perfect Dude Inspector drove the car around with me and talked with me about the general conditions of the car. The rain and the wet streets and the setting sun amidst the clouds made me more and more anxious about this "test drive." Soon enough, the Happy Perfect Dude and I returned and with much anticipation, I was hoping that the car value may be at least $500, but Carmax valued the car at $200, in which I was pissed, but then I learned later that this car has no value except for its parts, not as a whole entity (by the way, that is Jules' philosophy of females, they don't have to be a "perfect" package deal, but if you have certain key parts that are super-extra-special, like Jules said he likes my eyes, because they are very eager and open and hungry). Maybe I could have gotten $300 from Pick-a-Part in Riverside, but that's the most. Besides, the oil leak is such a horrendous repair on its own! Who would want to do that? If I could, I would have gotten rid of the car on the spot, but I had too much junk in the Subaru that needed to be cleared out, and how would I be able to get back to Santa Barbara anyway?

I found out retroactively that I could have gone to the DMV and received a waiver stating that I could operate the vehicle, even though the engine light sensor would not go off.... If something is not very easily repairable, the DMV offers waivers. And of course, the Asian Bastard who smogged my car would never tell me that, because he, of course wants my $45 without any consideration of the customer's needs and conditions.

So, I drove the car back to Santa Barbara, and let it sit in the Hillview driveway, for at at least 7 months, without even touching that dxmn car that has constructed such unnecessary grief. The Subaru has acquired faded stickers all over it, three of them being posts of potentially selling the car for $2500, in which the penned font all faded from black to a very light red-orange. An abnoxious orange "threaten-to-tow-away-sticker" was coated with my sloppy layer of black duct tape, because the sticker couldn't even entirely peel off the car. A handful of spiders moved into the car space, such that cobwebs were unavoidable to destroy every time I stuck my hand in any space within the car. It transformed into quasi-mobile storage, where papers accumulated from two years of a trashed life that was going just a bit too fast for my own good.

So here, I have paid homage to the 1993 beige Subaru Legacy, which has backed up my xss one more time on the fateful day of Thanksgiving 2009, in a time of clutch catastrophe with the Toyota Tercel. I admit that though this car has transformed into an "annoying tumor" that symbolized my own escapism from myself, my own sense of fragmentation of pursuits, disconnect from myself and my surroundings, my desire for freedom though I felt mentally stuck, in chains... I am glad that I kept that car long enough, just so it could allow my to transport from Santa Barbara to San Diego, such that I could be with my family during a holiday.... Otherwise, I would have cried in grave depression, for the entire weekend.

It's funny, I don't really have many distinct memories of experience with the Subaru Legacy, just a symbol of a fragmented, torn-up phase in my life. I vaguely remembering my escaping Riverside heat, camping and sleeping in the car in various spots near by UC Irvine, with the various unsorted tumors in my mind, even in Ventura and Santa Barbara. I remember transporting a mattress at one point, I think it was to Momma's house in Orange County. I also suppose that the Subaru Legacy not only represents an escapism from myself, but also an escape and detachment from my friends, especially Talei (who I deeply miss, I don't know how to get a hold of her!). I also remembering Talei and I trying to plot how to escape Riverside--move to Irvine? or Santa Barbara? We were both feeling frustrated in the stuffy, black hole Riverside ambiance. Talei tremendously helped me purchase this Subaru Legacy in the first place. In the summer of 2006, I was hunting down a used station wagon on Craigslist, and ironically I found no station wagons in the Riverside or Orange County or Los Angeles area. Though, there were 3 or 4 station wagons advertised in the Santa Barbara region. I found out later on that there was a Subaru manufacturer/showroom in the Thousand Oaks area, so there was a much higher frequency of station wagons in that region.

My budget was $2000 and I happened to come across a Craiglist Advertisement for a beige Subaru Legacy for $2200. I contacted a man named Vern Hunt, and then I made a huge effort to meet this guy and check out the car in Santa Barbara. We started off discussion at the USA gas station off of Carrillo. First off, I made sure that I could fit and sleep in the back. Vern explained to me that recently there was a case of vandalism, and that the two switches for the lights and wind-shield wipers were damaged (both of them broke entirely later), so he showed me how to operate those switches in a damaged mode. I was willing to deal with the vandalism.

We had a long discussion about the car and cars in general and life, and he drove me around. I learned that Vern had some difficulties in his life--a lady he was with that seemed like a tormenting relationship, and an unexpected, young child--and he was strapped for cash--and that was why he was selling the car. Not that the car had any particular problems... supposedly.... At one point I even think I met the child! Vern lived in Isla Vista, and I think he did a lot of house maintenance jobs, based on looking at his massive, dark-blue van full of supplies. We both went to the DMV in order to figure out the process of exchanging ownership of the vehicle.

Vern asked for $2000 in cash. So, within a few days, I went to the bank to get $2000 in cash, and I convinced Talei to come with me so that we could pick up the car, and I would pay for her gas and buy her dinner. I remember having a crazy, fun time, driving frantically through the streets to get all these errands done such as to change ownership. I even remember a smog check done near by Carrillo, and the man who checked the car passed the smog, but he warned me, "Your car is leaking some oil." So, premonition, somehow I was denying the premonitions for later larger problems... like for example... my car making a horrible clicking noise on the 405 freeway by Irvine late at night, and the oil leak had become so severe that it had to be repaired... by a very nice Persian man near by Momma's house in Mission Viejo (A-something Auto Service). I also learned something key: when transferring ownership, state that the car was a "gift" because otherwise you have to pay taxes on the car to the DMV. I had to pay an extra $200 as a result, because Vern reported that I was paying him $2000. Dxmmit. I also remember having Chuck and Jean check out my car: Chuck checked out the generic mechanics of the Subaru while Jean was excited to do a massive "detailing" of the car. One would mistake Jean as a "field biologist" for her epic ability to diagnose stains inside cars. "And this stain is child barf, and that stain was child poo, and this stain was an oil stain, and this stain was spilled food, and this area is generic foot traffic...." And I asked Jean in awe, "How do you know this stuff?!" and she responded, "Plenty of experience." Whoa... Both Jean and Chuck found it amusing to keep a secret from my mom, and tell the story about "Talei's Car." I also faintly remember my parents being pissed off that I kept the Subaru in Riverside for a while. They asked me to transport the car up to Santa Barbara, which started the whole pestering of "get rid of my car" by my housemates. My parents said that a street-cleaning guy placed a notice on my Subaru stating that it will be towed if I don't move it sooner than later.

If there was ONE positive result from this whole Subaru Legacy car purchase in 2006, I ended up convincing my entire family to switch to AAA Auto Club for car insurance. Both of my cars were insured for around $500 a year (killer deal!), and my mother was appalled that I was paying so little, and she and Bubsy were paying so much for their two Toyotas... and my sister's car! So, my mother went to see the same lady, Wendy, at AAA Auto Club in Riverside, and they switched auto insurance, saving over $1000 per year!!! My Gxdzeeks! So, I may have paid extra up front for this tumorous Subaru Legacy, but it resulted a collective auto insurance benefit for my entire family. No complaints there. Lack of knowledge in one dimension, gained knowledge in another dimension. Thanks AAA! (Actually, right after I had the Subaru towed away, I ventured to the AAA in Santa Barbara and notified them that I donated the car to Kars for Kids, and my insurance only went down by $100... sigh).

Cars... *sigh* modern existential drama that's not real drama. This blog is the final indicator telling me that I do need to take a month off of my life and take autoshop. My fragmented consumer experiences of repairing cars is just appallingly embarrassing. I just went to Comic-con and met a bunch of New Yorkers. If any New Yorker took their time to read this blog about Californian Car Drama, I bet they would be laughing right now. Praise public transportation systems! Bless the subways! Except, subways are nice places for terrorists to place bombs... uh-huh, I see.

I announced to Jules that I towed away my car, and that I was not too emotional about it. I was consciously blank as the tow truck dragged the car out of the driveway, placed it on the truck, made me scribble my signature on a few forms, and then off the car was to a auto junk yard in Santa Paula (about an hour away). It's funny to say to Jules, "The car just represents how fragmented my mind and my life has been for the last five years. And somehow you are helping me put myself back together again. I've eliminated the Subaru, and now I have you!" And of course Jules misread that, "Oh, so you traded in a car for me?" I said, "NO! I didn't mean that! I just mean that piece-by-piece, my mind is coming together, through your friendship, and that I don't need any extra items in my life to remind me that I'm free (or at least my mind is). You remind me of that, all the time!" And then he said, "Of Course! I knew that!"