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!"

Monday, August 16, 2010

541. Annals of the Bad Day Syndrome ::: Broken, Unreliable Cars or "Autoshop Education on Unexpected Days"

Clips that I wrote along with the images.

>>Annals of the Bad Day Syndrome::: Broken Cars. I only seem to learn about the composition and operations of the beastly machine with wheels that I house and transport myself in so frequently... only when it breaks... always at immensely inconvenient times. Writing about auto-break-downs is probably the only possible way to transform negatives into positive, humorous reflections. Good luck to ME!

>> My poor wittle green, 225,000-mile Toyota Tercel resting in front of Bob's Auto Service, at the intersection of Magnolia and Jurupa. George has been the "doctor" for this car since my ownership (back in 1999 I received the car as a high school graduation present, at 70,000 miles). I want to drive this car until it dies, but now it has electrical problems (and it won't start!)!

>> I waited at Bob's Auto Service for a half-hour today, until my father (knight-daddy-in-shining-armor) came to rescue me in Ray's being Toyota Camry. The parking lot is a bleak landscape, it symbolizes my mind's state of depression. Life keeps happening, and I wish it would stop happening, so I could sit down and reflect.

>> I am learning all about my Toyota Tercel every time something breaks. This time the car doesn't start and it makes a clicking noise. Jules and Wes said it could either be (1) the fuse box (above), (2) the little switch behind the clutch, like a light switch, (3) something in the key-ignition area, or (4) bad starter. George says if I'm hearing a clicking noise, it looks like I have a bad starter. I am developing a lack of trust in my once very reliable Toyota Tercel. It's mortifying that such a tiny little issue is preventing the car from turning on and driving! (I had to replace a couple of fuses in the past, not too many times).

>> Jules and Wes were messing around with this little "light switch" or sensor behind the clutch. Jules even took it out and messed around with it. Apparently that's not an issue. George said he started the car, no problem. Both my father and I are pissed that we wasted our morning towing my car and my body around. I used one of my "4 times" for AAA auto club tow. The tow-truck guy was a very nice, jovial person at least!

541. Annals of the Bad Day Syndrome ::: Broken, Unreliable Cars or "Autoshop Education on Unexpected Days." The most beautiful and most sacred aspect of writing (and storytelling all together) is the ability to transform a very negative event into a positive, humorous reflection. And that nothing that happens in life is a "wasteful experience." And such is the case with today... another day to go down in the books of "Annals of the Bad Day Syndrome."

The other benefit of broken-down cars is that is when I am forced to learn about cars. Basically, I feel cheated by my education system. I was explaining to Larry (in San Diego) the other day that my high school system rewarded students for taking courses like physics and chemistry and higher math, but the the bureacracy penalized students who decided to take more practical, real-world courses like "auto-shop." So, instead of taking a year-long course learning all about the mechanics of cars (and receiving maximum B+ for all my efforts), I ended up taking physics and all these other geek courses that I still feel like my mind is not intimately connecting to my daily life. But cars... cars, especially old cars that break down frequently... IS everyday life. Jules even says that I can get away with not knowing anything about cars (not even knowing how to exactly change my oil, as my housematie Kyle was trying to teach me) because "I'm a gurrrl." Jules says that all I have to do is just smile and act like an idiot female and the guys will take sympathy and fix up my car... ya and jip me and jip me even more for my ignorance, until I feel like today I would have $1000 in the bank if I knew more about cars and did not allow auto mechanics to take advantage of my "feminine ignorance." I feel like a lot of people are earning a lot of money because "certain people don't know certain things that if they had a little extra time and brain space, they could easily learn and save a lot more money." In other words, people earn money because they know certain things that their "customers" don't know. So much for economic rationality.

Well, I'm tired of the "I'm-a-girl" excuse and I'm just going to have to learn slowly, in my own bizarre, painfully experiential ways... how cars work. Ideally, I would love to build a car from scrap, and understand how to build all these energy and electric feedback loops... I would love to start with the Conceptual, treating the Car like a Biological Organism, with organs-parts and flows of energy and fluids (energy, water, and air) (I had a music video vision of overlaying an aerial view of car mechanics repairing a car with an aerial view of doctors performing a surgery on the human heart, one day I will write a poem about this... maybe I already did... is it called "Nonlinear"?)... then the Conceptual can be mapped onto the detailed Practical Nuts-and-Bolts but how I am learning as of present is "something-broke-so-how-do-I-fix-it." Kind of like how doctors learn about how human bodies work. So, right now my car knowledge is limited and fragmented, and "tuition" is expensive, but at least you get a two-for-one "education plus a car repair from a mechanic who might just not jip you and appreciate the customer's inquisitiveness, and take the time to satisfy her inquiries."

I have had two "psychologically destroyed" days--today (Monday) and last Friday--due to a novel electrical problem with my Toyota Tercel car. On Friday, I was innocently pulling up to a USA Gas Station in Lemon Grove, San Diego, and when I finished pumping gas, I tried to turn on my car, but my car wouldn't start. Thankfully I was nearby Jules' house, and he came to rescue me in about ten minutes... and with his magic touch, he was able to get the car started one more time, as we were able to get the car back to his house from the gas station. Then Jules took a break from his work making buoys for his lobster traps and helped me tremendously trying to figure out what was wrong with my car... either being the electric sensor behind the clutch, the fuse box, the ignition, or the starter. I was extremely stressed out and he asked me to wait inside while he messed with my car. We waited for Wes the auto expert to come home, and after an hour or so, Wes came home and he started the car without doing ANYTHING! Jules and I raise our hands, clueless and stunned, and then I was off on my way to Riverside for a hike to Mount Baldy the next day! So, my car worked fine throughout the entire weekend... Saturday a little bit... Sunday all day... and then Monday morning, the car became moody in front of the Rite Aid at the Canyon Crest Towne Center in Riverside (where I met the Great Raguzi, magician!). I discussed with my father and mother on what to do, as I spent my half hour messing with the little electric sensor box behind the clutch and all the fuse boxes, but nothing started!

A very friendly tow-trucker came by Rite Aid very fast after my phone call to AAA Auto Club. He unfortunately had a broken hand from an on-job accident three weeks ago! I ran out of the Rite Aid (trying to buy Werthers and trash bags to consolidate the crxp in my car; I just abandoned the purchase all together!) and before I knew it, the tow trucker and I were on our way to Bob's Auto Service, where I proceeded to clean and patch up the car's front seats a little bit, so George could work without trash being in his face (our family has much respect for George at Bob's Auto Service; he has repaired my car ever since I came to own it back in 1999; I think I knew George since I was 10 years old). My father was frazzled and pissed that his morning was disrupted, as he had to come save me as Bubsy-Knight-in-Shining-Honor.

I waited in the parking lot of Bob's Auto Service, feeling quite depressed and down and empty-headed. My mind craved some serious stimulation and work out, and it unfortunately was not getting any (the previous day was very hard for me, because I spent the entire day patching up meeting notes for the Cal Sea Urchin Commission, I had no mental ownership of my own brain). After a half-hour of gross sweating, my father picked me up, and we pareused over to the Starbucks for coffee (at least to cheer Bubsy up and calm him down!) and then I attempted to drop off my father in front of his office by the UC Riverside Geology Building, but all these bulldozers were destroying the entire geology loading dock behind the building. We wasted another 15 minutes trying to find parking by the botanical gardens or at the visitor's lot by the Science Library, but no, you can ONLY park for two hours, that's it! Where's the lot for whole-day parking? There were no full day visitor passes?! Finally, I dropped my father off, and decided to head toward the University Starbucks to work for a little while, at least (to let you know, that's ANOTHER SYMPTOM of the BAD DAY SYNDROME, when MORE THAN ONE HOUR PER DAY OF YOUR LIFE IS DEVOTED TOWARD FINDING A PARKING SPOT, ESPECIALLY BY A UNIVERSITY, ATTEMPTING NOT TO GET A TICKET). By that time, I was considering suicide and how my life was falling apart... and then... I ventured into the Starbucks, and started writing, venting, writing.... Here I am trying to draw cartoons of highly conceptual issues, and I need to massively catch up with myself at the level of writing. I feel the bubble of ideas inside me.... I most certainly need some streamline writing exercises.... just to sort out my mind and untangle an overwhelming accumulation of un-accounted for experiences.


And then again, people have the right to be emotional when they have car problems. I thought flat tires and worn clutches, being stuck in the middle of the 101 freeway on the Camarillo Grade were "anti-climactic," but when your goshdanged car doesn't even start, with some put-put clicking noise in the background, it's so pathetic, you feel your car is dead, and that you're dead and gone. And I'd rather have a flat tire on the 405 freeway than have my car not start in some calm parking lot. I don't want my car to die! I don't want the flame to go out!

Okay, ya, so here I am at Starbucks, writing about writing, as what writers do, tend to write about themselves writing about their friends writing about writing, because they're writers and they are paid for their "writing labors" (well, at least I'm writing about my car!). I'm just trying to convince you that writing is no longer a valuable skill, because anyone can write nowadays! Earlier I rapped up a blog, updating about my mother's bizarre eating habits... and now I feel a little bad for saying all that I did say because I just got off the phone, and my mother was willing to pitch in $100 toward the repair of my car starter...

Aha! The Car Starter? So, while I was writing away this afternoon, George called and told me "I started your car without doing anything." And I was like, "What?!! That's not possible!" And I told my father over the phone and he was pissed. And I told George, this is bizarre; this is exactly what happened last time... on Friday. George said he was suspicious that the problem could be traced to the starter, but he wasn't willing to do anything unless if the car wouldn't start. He wasn't exactly interested in fixing a car that actually worked. So, I made arrangements to pick up the car this evening, and then, after my blogging about my bizarre mother's eating habits, I start to look up information on the internet on the costs of a car starter (with solenoid), and it seemed like the average cost ranges from $83-$100 for re-manufactured starters. Then what was really cool was that I found some instructions on how to replace a car starter on, and even COOLER was I found some instructional videos on how to diagnose and replace your car starter, which I watched, and it seemed pretty straight forward, but every car is different, and one may have to move around some other parts to get to the starter. And then what was SUPER COOL, no, no, SUPER MONDO COOL, was that I accidentally found some websites that specifically and directly addressed the exact same symptoms my Toyota Tercel was experiencing (Tercels, 1995-1999 models). And these 5 or 6 websites all pointed exactly toward the same diagnosis: if there's not too much corrosion on your battery, and your car battery is very secure, AND your lights come on (electric's fine), but your car is clicking, and not starting... then it's the bad connection between the solenoid and the starter, and so it's best to get the starter complex repaired. Routine symptoms, routine diagnosis, routine treatment. And I became very excited because I was unsettled taking back a car that could just stop working in the middle of nowhere in particular, and finally... something could be done!

I called George back and he said... "Sure, no problem, I can replace the starter, but you can't get your car back today." I'm cool with that. I asked for a quote, which was $290 parts and labor. *Gulp!* Then I called my mother, and I will be paying $100, my $100 birthday money will go to the car, and my mother will pitch in $100 more. My mom told me not to tell my sister Jenny because she always compares and such, and plus my parents helped my sister a lot during her schooling (but my parents did and DO help me a lot too, and I will need lots of help this upcoming year). But my mom always says that "don't tell your sister," maybe she is trying to make me feel special. And honestly, it's nice sometimes that people try to make you feel special, even though in the broader scheme, you're just an object, a body count, a number in the system.

I called Jules and he was pleased with the situation. He's going rock cod fishing tomorrow. In a certain way, this day was a total waste, but in another way, I learned something about cars... in an unexpected manner.... Bad day turned good. I didn't control my ocean today, but I had to ride unexpected, and unruly waves.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

540. Public Session Hosted by "MPA Monitoring Enterprise," Associated with the MLPA (Marine Life Protection Act) Process

Oh yes, another typical hotel meeting room, this time at the Merigot, in Santa Monica, California. Another typical meeting, as on the surface, seems very boring, but the issues discussed, and the minds involved... are very exciting... So, my own mind occupied this hotel room for 5 minutes, and otherwise occupied the conceptual designs and monitoring of south coast marine protected areas!
Same image, black, white, and gray.
As so the recipe goes, core discussion and swaying always seems to happen over lunch, dinner, and at the bar. Never really in the formal meeting process. Wine and cheese schmoozing throughout the entire MLPA BRTF initiative process (first BRTF meeting I thought that all the stakeholder were engaged in some kind of amicable Thanksgiving Feast!). More conversation over lunch in the sheltered ambiance of the Merigot.
Same image, black, white, and gray.
Well, well, where do we start? My brain is extremely anxious because of Comic-con, and despite the start of the conference drastically approaching, Bob Bertelli convinced me to attend and (god forbid) participate in this public workshop designed for discussion on how to set up monitoring for south coast marine protected areas (MPAs). I started stuttering over the phone, "Bob, I've been a keen observer all this time, a bystander, since fall of 2008. Someone intensely watching, recording with camera and film and audio and notes. Now you want me to PARTICIPATE? I'm 28 years old and I have no sea tenure (I barely know how to scuba dive and I've only caught two real fish, with the help of someone else) and my being an academic, I'm an educated idiot!" Bob convinced me that I should have more confidence and I'll have something to contribute, and so I decided to attend... without so much personal pressure to visually document with photography and film.... Which is nice for a change, not to hide behind a camera for once....
I slept in Riverside (my folks house), woke up 5am, hopped in the car at 5:10am, drove for an hour and fifteen minutes to Santa Monica (no traffic!) got to a rather quiet, deserted "Santa Monica ghost town" around 6:30, ran some errands at the closest open grocery store, found a FREE GOLDEN PARKING SPOT one block away from the Third Street Promenade (and a Starbucks Coffeeshop), and by the time I found this parking spot, I couldn't help thinking how I was bound to have a good day, because most of my spare time in Santa Monica in the past was often revolving around traffice and parking... but somehow today, I'm managing to bypass both of these arduous tasks. I ended up taking a long jog at the Santa Monica Beach near by both of Cousin Mike's previous apartments, imagining how Dr. Kennedy was explaining to me the sedimentological history of Santa Monica Beach back in 2006 (I wished I remembered more, I couldn't help thinking how much sand there was!). I also saw a dude who looked like Richard Dawkins (but he was jogging!) and I couldn't help thinking that probably almost everyone I lay my eyes on has a high likelihood of having some form of Hollywood status of "fame" or "nobility producer position." So, whatever. Me and my raggedy jogging clothes. Yay! I'm just a passerby. Bob called me toward the end of my jog, and I rushed back to the car to get all my stuff together, like change clothes while I was driving my car three blocks over to the Merigot. By the time I entered the hotel, I swear I was intrinsically ashamed, because here's my ghetto green Toyota Tercel entering some elitist hotel with lexuses and mercedez benzes wherever you looked. I told the Valet dudes (three of them), "I'm sorry." And the man said, "Ma'am, do not worry whatsoever. The only people who will see your car is us." I was frazzled, as I accumulated all my items, and some door man opened the door as I entered some Microcosmic Hotel where I swear across the street you could see 15 bums and five run-down buildings. Santa Monica is such a bizarre landscape of extreme "wealth and lavishness" in a backdrop of run-down buildings and homeless tweakers and crack addicts and such. I felt guilty for stepping into some kind of manicured Hotel Utopia right next to... normal society.... I don't know how all these MLPA operations can afford having meetings in such well-to-do places. Some other man in suit and tie guided me to the location of the meeting, and then finally I felt better because I spotted Bob and Josh Fisher and a few other familiar faces from the south coast MLPA Regional Stakeholder Group. *Whew.* And a lot of new characters, like a high school teacher from Team Marine, a professor from Occidental College, and a few Chumash representatives, wow, so cool! There was also this really cool dude named Ken Kerns? who is a representative of the Statewide Interest Group and made a few comments ensuring the smoothness of the process. He's a spunky person! And a few faces from way back... like Tom Ford, someone I scubadove with at Malibu, five years ago, when I was at UCLA! Amazing! Tom... is simply... hilarious! A free living, walking, breathing comedy show. Great to be around. So, the world becomes smaller and smaller and smaller, eh?
Bob saved a spot for me right by him and Josh, and I couldn't help to notice the arrangement of the room. A long U-shape assemblage of tables where all the "public participants" sat, with a slide projector, screen to the front, and podium to the side. Another table was placed on the other side, where individuals from "MPA Monitoring Enterprise" sat. I do think that's a scary name for such an operation. "Enterprise" has connotations of entrpreneurship, corporate business operation, though it is a non-profit group consisting of a team of scientists who are contracted by California Fish and Game Commission to set up and establish monitoring protocols without the baggage of stating any management recommendations... except to manage the monitoring.... I wished a better word were chosen beyond "Enterprise," but who am I? An educated idiot grad student, so I have no say in such a matter.
The meeting went from 9am to 5pm, and can be broken down into four sections. First, the meeting organizers provided their schpeal about an overview of MPA monitoring, and how to approach monitoring in the south coast, from an overarching perspective. Secondly, was lunch. Mexican food, fajitas! Yum, yum! And chocolate chip cookies and peanut butter and oatmeal... for snacks! Why don't they ever serve fish at these operations?! Just to be politically correct?! Thirdly, was a breakout session to discuss components of the "ecosystem" in which public members valued and desired to be monitored. We reconvened afterwards. Fourthly, was a breakout session that discussed "designer ecosystem questions," which placed the fishermen in shock because it was the first time we were ever asked to wear the hats of the Science Advisory Team, and ask fundamental questions relating to whether MPAs worked or not. The Regional Stakeholder Group was SOOO used to being "bullied around" by "moving goalposts" of the Science Advisory Team for the past year, and that suddenly we were asked questions such that if we had criteria and parameters for designing and re-evaluating MPAs, what would we do, what questions would we ask, which then, my rambunxious Group 1 asked a string of questions that probably entailed 10-15 potential Ph.D. dissertations.... Now, that was fun! And after these two breakout sessions, we re-convened, and MPA Monitoring Enterprise told everyone they would have another public meeting sometime in October where these meeting notes would be processed and shown to us for further evaluation, and then I said adios to Bob and Josh (who chose to drive out in the 5pm traffic, nutso!) while I zoomed out of that Utopia Hotel and recommuned with the hobos and other regular people on the street. I found another ideal parking spot near by the Third Street Promenade, where I came to enjoy some works of two street performers, and confined myself to the back of a Starbucks, where the line to using the restroom was longer than the line for purchasing coffee (I think that's a good joke for a comedy routine, sad but true). While I was walking along braindead, my mind started to craft a song, "I don't see anyone, going anywhere, anytime soon // so I'm just chilling out, hanging out, making up a silly tune // cuz these silly songs, are th' only means to sanity in the traffic of Hollywood // cuz these silly songs are the silly means to makin' money in the Hole of Hollywood."
As I'm reviewing my notes, I decided to write here some takehome messages of the day from this meeting, as well as ideas for cartoons, concept toys, film clips, and other forms of media. Coming to think of it, this is the first blog I have written about the MLPA process in a year. It's been a while. I think this whole process stresses me out because it's so overwhelmingly huge and that I think I can grasp it, but then again I feel like a little sediment gushing down some river where I feel that the question of control has just gone down to the physical elements and that a single human agent has no... agency.... So? I'll enjoy the ride of process, though I have a purpose, though the purpose is so insignificant, that it has been crushed to process. I'm a meeting body count. Yay (I'm already used to that). Well heck, at LEAST I got to hang out with Bob and Josh and get a free lunch!
**MPA Monitoring Enterprise stated from the beginning that they were taking an "ecosystem-based management" (EBM) approach, including humans, so more of a nested-scale hierarchy, umbrella of monitoring programs. Old news to me... that's the whole UCSB cult... ecosystem-based management, generally, several marine scientists are EBMers now. But but but! This is a misnomer, ecosystem-based management. If the MLPA process were EBM, (1) it would not be housed largely under the Department of Fish and Game (it would be under some new inter-agency umbrella organization) (2) it would have not only restricted fishing, but would have made more effort in waste-sewage issues rather than just "avoidance behavior" of sewage outfalls, aka prescription would have involved simultaneous regulation of ocean inputs and outputs and (3) so? Dangit. I forgot my third point... give me some Time To Think (T3) here....
**MPA Monitoring Enterprise used the "doctor metaphor" for understanding the process. Though it's an imperfect analogy. So, let me try to elaborate (or unpack) this metaphor. The ocean can be considered an organism. The ocean has been diagnosed as "sick" (Jeremy Jackson in summary: "The ocean is going to hxll. We're taking too much out and dumping too much in.") and is "human-induced" (not non-human-induced, like El Ninos and Pacific Decadal Oscillation cycles) and therefore since we caused the problem, and a problem is a problem, if we humans perceive it to be a problem, and therefore the ocean is in a humanly undesirable state, and we humans are responsible, and we humans need a healthy habitat to live in, we need to "heal" and "cure" the ocean (prescription, medication, surgery, aka Designer Ecosystem). Medications and surgeries should curb "taking too much out" and "dumping too much in," which would be in the form of fisheries management, marine reserves, restoration-enhancement sites, and technological/sewage-waste treatment/human population management. The medication we have been focusing on is ONLY MARINE RESERVES, which is of course, non-coordinated with fisheries management and human population-waste management. It's like telling me that we're going to cure cancer but today we're only going to discuss and implement "radiation therapy" without the "chemotherapy" and "diet/habit/lifestyle changes." Ya, so whatever... human-enviromedicine is way behind. We're in stoneage ocean and earth therapy for our own individual and collective benefit, I guess you can say. When an MD imposes a medication, surgery, or therapy on a patient and asks "Does the treatment work?!" then we're in BAD shape... because MD's are supposed to proclaim with certainty "this treatment WORKS X percent of the time." We primordial earth ecosystem prescriptive scientists can't even say for certain "MPAs WORK." Shxt. Oh shxt. But what can I say? Just because you don't know doesn't mean you shouldn't do anything and let things going by. Doing something is doing better than nothing, that is for sure.
Another issue is that different doctors would diagnose the ocean with different levels and scales of sickness, and certain doctors wouldn't even say the ocean were sick, and that the severity of the sickness varies as well--is the ocean in a state of Stage 4 lung cancer or a mild case of bacteria in the ears? Or common cold? I'm sure it's somewhere in between. So, now we have a few thousand doctors trying to prescribe medicine for an ocean that is perceived with different varieties and scales and degrees of severity of sickness. And it's not just a sickness issue, it's a wardrobe aesthetic issue. It's about ocean fashion too. How the ocean looks like, how we crave for our "natural underwater parks" to look like as our Japanese Gardens, designer ecosystems. So, we also have to consider what wig or toupee we're going to put on our marine protected area after it lost all of its hair through radiation treatment. Image is everything, Agassi and Canon Rebel once said. Goes along with our MPAs too. **MPA Monitoring Enterprise also discussed how doctors take a few initial measurements (such as temperature, pressure, and pulse) to serve as diagnostics for human health. The question is, are there a few indicators or diagnostics for the ocean that would likely best represent overall ocean health? How do we take the pulse of the ocean, and how would we construct the notion of a "healthy pulse" or "healthy metabolism of the ocean"?
Expanding the doctor metaphor conversation with a phone call with my father: If environment-related scientists and scholars are to become and embody the doctor MD diagnosis-and-prescription metaphor, then I could clearly say that environmental doctors are in the stone age of medicine and surgery: (1) environmental doctors have no clear-cut hierarchy of diagnosis for a healthy or unhealthy ecosystem (e.g. taking pulse, temperature, and blood pressure, then going from there, there is no magic probe for measuring ecosystem health) (2) environmental doctors don't even know that their treatment will work, let alone have a percent chance of survival (e.g. "Do MPAs work?" is still a QUESTION, not a percent chance of success, like 90% chance of survival post cancer treatment) (3) environmental doctors do not engage in holistic treatment (e.g. control of inputs and outputs, like control of fish take and sewage dumping and landscape enhancement all under the same breath, e.g. right now they are focusing on radiation without the chemotherapy) (4) a wad of environmental doctors all on the same roam would have different diagnoses at different scales with different ecosystem-body components with various degrees of severity of the problem, due to the point of view effect, blind men feeling parts on an elephant, variations in value systems, degree of specialization of disciplines, etcetera, universals in diagnosis are less apparent and less confined contained than with human body medicine (5) environmental doctors do not prescribe treatment strictly for medical-environmental health purposes, collective survival purposes, superflous value systems are also included, such as aesthetic (shallow beauty, stimulating pleasure center, image is everything) and heritage (deep knowledge of a system, Kantian sublime blah blah bullshxt stuff). Which makes diagnosis not survival related but also diagnosis containing a level of aesthetic. Environmental management is like dentistry; certain forms of dentistry operations are for needed survival and functionality for chewing, but many dental decisions are made for image-based purposes, like the color coordination, size and shape of teeth, spacing teeth so that there's no embarrassing gap, etcetera.
**About a year ago, I had a fantastic discussion with Merit McCrea (who whenever I talk to, I feel like I'm talking to a professor and not a fellow grad student, because he knows SOO MUCH STUFF about the ocean, from a fishing AND academic perspective)... so Merit told me this analogy. If you placed a scientist in a black room that symbolizes the ocean, and you gave the scientist a flashlight, what the scientist would do is beam the light very brightly in one spot, with very high resolution. And then he would use some math model to connect the dots for a conceptual overview of how the rest of the black ocean works. Then Merit said, if you give a fisherman a flashlight in a dark room, the fisherman would illuminate the light everywhere such that the entire room lit up, though in one particular, specific area, the light would be grainy, diffuse, and in low resolution, the fisherman would have a rather large conceptual mental map of a region of the ocean, that was generated by experience, not by a math model. And of course, based on the problem and project at hand, they would focus on specific dots at the time, but the overarching "conditions" could never be lost in order to function out in the ocean.... They would know how all the dots connected, in a way that allowed their daily survival out in the ocean, and getting by to catch fish to feed oneself and earn for the family. So hence, we have two types of people learning new things about the ocean world in very different ways, and each has their advantages and disadvantages. MPA Monitoring Enterprises knows they are shining lights on a few very, narrow, bright spots, because that's how science does it, because that's how science has been done before, and scientists are just creatures of habit and historical convention sometimes, and science has not placed any value on those who have a mental map (cognitive map) that can illuminate the whole room, because it cannot be quantified, because science loves numbers. Who does this work of illuminating the whole room? Who tries to construct the narrative of human-environmental change? Historical ecologists and environmental historians--who are placed in humanities and social sciences (largely). But there were none of those at this MPA Monitoring Enterprise meeting. Science does not value holistic experience and narrative, because you can't numericize stories. Stories are stories, they are the spoken words, image, emotions, but of course, no place for that in science, no place for that in monitoring. No one discussed taking oral histories of fishermen as a line of data... I wished I had mentioned that. Oh well.
I thought Merit invented this metaphor of shining a flashlight in a dark room... I must ask him who invented this metaphor now that I have heard it twice, from two very different mouthes. I found out that the MPA Monitoring Enterprise received a dose of Merit McCrea up in Santa Barbara. Maybe they were inspired. :-) One way or another, I need to cite my sources, and since I heard it from Merit first, I'll cite him.
Bob said that fishermen have their high beamers on, scoping the conditions, and over time through trial and error, weed out the distractions and focus on what is pertinent for the project. Scientists on the other hand have no incentive to scope and are invited to dive into a narrow discipline for their entire lives without any justification except for an arbitrary liking of a subject and historical contingency of some specific discipline rather than using instrinsic caveman optimal foraging skills to focus on specific environmental elements. Fishermen think in hourglass mode, whereas scientists are specialized and narrowed into belljars, from my point of view.... Which ultimately explains why I myself like to and kind of need to be around fishermen because my mentality matches their mentality better than those of scientists. I can't make decisions based on historical contingency and arbitrary likings. I need to make decisions because somehow they touch upon the core essence of survival, like catching food for dinner.
**This dichotomized, controversial notion of "consumptive" versus "non-consumptive" uses of the ocean is becoming pervasive in the literature and protocols, as I had first encountered this labeling in a scholarly article by Ecotrust, continued by MPA Monitoring Enterprise. This labeling is (1) grossly oversimplified, dichotomized (2) discriminating and stereotyping, basically anyone who fishes and anyone who impacts the ocean through all other means other than fishing, which includes eating fish that the fisherman fished for that day. I asked an employee of the Department of Fish and Game about the "origins" of this dichotomy and he said he did not know, but though he agreed that there is a gradient of use of the ocean, from consumption to production and waste, there was some level of "utility in classification" such that scientists could collect their data appropriately. Well, that's still not fair, because this "labeling" frames the way how scientists gather whatever desired data in the first place! Argh! Bob Bertelli suggested using the terms "primary and secondary consumptives" rather than "consumptive" versus "non-consumptive." And besides, consumption is not the only way how humans USE the ocean. What about PRODUCTION? Of waste? So, who in the hoo-haa-hey is going to listen to this and overturn and re-organize an entire massive dataset? No one, of course. Do what you keep doing, label how you keep labeling, because it's convenient, and that's what it has been done before, and we need to match the data sets, it's not what is right or wrong or more accurately portrayed. I'm not dxmning any humans, but "Dxmn Incumbency," I do say.
So... in the monitoring section, I recommended that there should be a breakdown of "direct" versus "indirect" impacts of human uses. Ecotrust failed to look at multiplier effects of socioeconomics (analysis "stops at the dock" so they said) and I think that these multiplier effects need to be considered. I also reasoned that in terms of short term benefits and costs, fishermen are directly and negatively affected (but in the long run, may be positively affected), and that all those folks involved in education, tourism, recreation, valuations of natural and historical heritage tremendously benefit, short and long run. It's an easy call to make... a simple conclusion. I don't exactly need to measure or collect data this at the moment.
I think that since benefits and costs of MPAs are highly dependent on the point of view (ie "what is perceived as good or bad is arbitrary, non-Biblically determined, and is highly dependent upon the point of view rather than clear-cut universals" e.g. sea urchin barrens as "good" or "bad"?), that there should be a few separate, independent groups of researchers to evaluate the same data such as to enable some level of control for the point of view effect (hmmm... I think I just had a good idea!). Because, of course, scientists will be a little more eager to show net benefits of MPAs in terms of numbers and sizes of fishies, and of course, fishermen will be a little more eager to show negative socioeconomic impacts of MPAs, it's human nature to have a point of view, and that a few separate agencies should do their own unique analyses such as to enable how data can be intepreted differently based on the point of view. (Expanded conversation with my father: the Point of View POV effect is also similar to the Shifting Baseline Syndrome SBS effect, in which people have evolved different baselines of understanding, focusing on scales in space and time, the POV effect overlaps with SBS, but primarily focuses on how that particular individual relates to and interacts with that particular system, in this case, the ocean. For example, a fisheries scientist funded by NOAA will have a certain special interest on fish, revolving around the agenda of the funding source, and a marine ecologist funded by the Packard Foundation may have a certain special interest on larvae, and a fisherman may have a certain special interest on socioeconomics. Science is not unbiased to POV and special interest. As long as their are specialized disciplines, there is special interest, PERIOD. Science IS politics, PERIOD).
**Concept Toy: Empty cube fish tank and get a bunch of plastic figurines of all the players or "agents" of a California kelp forest / sandy bottom ecosystem. I need to go to some nature store and buy some plastic California ocean toys.... I wonder where I can get this cool stuff? Like Design your own MPA kit?
**Cartoon of the Day: Five years, waiting in line at the University-Mart (Uni-Mart), Fisherman brings in a broken, half-open box that says MPA written on it. Fisherman gives scientist receipt for dozens of thousands of dollars. Fisherman says, "I want to return this product, because still after the five year warrantee, it doesn't work." A fisherman asked at the meeting today, "If MPAs don't work five years from now, can fishermen get their money back?"
**Cartoon of the Day: Ph.D. Question for Fisherman: "How does my blood pressure change when DFG closes off Laguna as a marine reserve?" Ha! Correlating human health with human-environmental / political change
**NEW WORD: Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD), southern California concept, Bob Osborn mentioned, "You gotta have some nature in order to interact with nature." Bob O. is kind of funny. He sounds like Mr. Mackey from Southpark, "Nnh-kay?"
**Another Cartoon of the Day (and NEW T-SHIRT!): Dr. Randy Olson worked with some non-profits to design some campaign slogan for MPAs, specifically during the south coast MLPA process. A bold statement was printed on hundreds (thousands?) of shirts: "MPAs WORK." Alternatively, the beginning of this monitoring session today showed the slide with a big question: "DO MPAs WORK?" And to make it work, Ken Kerns (?) stands up and asks the questions: "Do MPAs work? Do MPAs NOT work? Do non-MPAs work? Do non-MPAs NOT work?" "What defines a successful MPA? Or a failed MPA?" ACCKKK!!! And I was kind of shocked to see this question because here we are, the last year or so, a whole bunch of scientists and stakeholders, with imperfect information and "best available science" trying to make firm decisions on setting the goal posts and designing MPAs, and here are all these monitoring folks who are just taking this entire game of portraying a false illusion of certainty, suddenly transformed into doubt and uncertainty all over again... Intellectually, I felt derailed, as if we were starting from scrap all over again. Starting with a blank slate. Complete creative artistic freedom to redesign the whole universe of marine reserves! *Sigh.* It's was philosophically and artistically... overwhelming, and I think it's a new direction I should take some of the film interview questions. MPA Monitoring Enterprise encouraged the group to consider these questions because once the five-year review is up in terms of monitoring, the data may be telling a very different story than what the scientists and stakeholders originally portrayed during the MLPA initiative process. Blank slate rocks!
**I felt that this monitoring workshop partly failed because (1) this team of scientists who have gone through several iterations of setting up monitoring schematics for several marine reserve systems around the world, failed to educate and inform us ignorant public citizens of what they have learned in their past experiences. This knowledge would have been very interesting to know. For example, they mentioned how goals of marine reserve designation has shifted over time, from specific species conservation to aesthetic landscape more to ecosystem functionality... they must have many other insights beyond this simple, yet profound statement on shifts in marine reserve goals through time (2) this team of scientists failed to provide a holistic "map" of the south coast region in terms of pre-existing agencies-programs either in research, monitoring, management, restoration, communication outreach, etcetera (e.g. SCWIRP, Algalita, Seagrant, Surfrider, non-profit projects, university programming, etc, etc, etc). I see this MPA Monitoring Enterprise doing EXACTLY the SAME exercise that my Ph.D. group from an Interdisciplinary Research Course at Bren (UCSB) was doing when we were trying to set up a collaborative research experiment on how to best restore Chesapeake Bay Oysters. All five of us had to figure out all the pre-existing literature and pre-existing monitoring and management programs in order to effectively make umbrella, hierarchized recommendations (rather than "re-invent the wheel"). We as a group of public citizens would have benefited to know this "map of existing agencies and programs" of southern California that this enterprise was utilizing and plugging into in order for us to make more effective recommendations and considerations in terms of what agencies and groups and programs they were missing out. In other worse, the MPA Monitoring Enterprise did not provide us with a "Regime Profile." I bet my advisor Oran would be pissed they didn't do that either. It's funny though, because when our group finished this Chesapeake Bay project, we all felt like, "What's the point of proposing this research, because so many people are already doing so many things?" Sometimes kinda wonder what's the point of doing a Ph.D, eh? Reminds me of that Nick Drake song, where people say it's not worth singing because everything's already been done and everything's already been said. Well, no one should worry about me, because my Ph.D. encompasses the notion that scientists and scholars have become language-and-number-oriented, and the quesiton is, how would the structure and order of knowledge of human-environmental relationships be re-sorted if one included visualization, acoustic interpretation, and emotion into the slush piles of the ways of storytelling? So, I don't wonder about the "what's the point" because I know my Ph.D. will be interesting, one way or another.
I had a phone call with Bob today and I was wondering why so much information was withheld from the public group meeting. The MPA Monitoring Enterprise wanted to know what we knew and what we valued, but I feel that they didn't do a good job about informing us what THEY knew. And honestly, for me, that's not fair. We learned a lot about the monitoring enterprise team in terms of personality, but I felt like I learned a lot about how much information they were not willing to initially tell us. I'm sure all this monitoring information is going to have to be public... but why not sooner, when stakeholder and public input window is now open... and later... closed?
**Factors to Be Considered with Monitoring... A Suite of Elements of the Ocean Environment are already being monitored, the question is how to organize this monitoring such that it caters toward the MLPA political mandate and revolves around the question "Do MPAs work?" So, does placing a no-take box in the ocean work? And for whom and why? "MPA-CENTRIC MONITORING" so it's called, which has overlap with several other existing monitoring programs. Monitoring needs to be ideal, but also feasible, practical, cost-effective.
**Do ocean factors change or stay the same?
**Human versus Non-human changes in the ocean (el nino cycles, warm-cold water cycles) (abiotic changes--oceanography, climatology, geology, biotic changes--ecological, evolutionary shifts, artificial selection and MPAs, habitat variation, species variation, composition, structure)
**Changes in the ocean associated with human prescription, management versus marine reserves or synergisms with management and marine reserves; changes in size-shape-spacing of reserves
**Human changes (perception and value shifts, behavioral shifts, institutional shifts, bureaucratic shifts, technological shifts)
**How is "conservation" and "consumption" compromised, or are they being effectively compromised by the presence of MPAs?
**Lifestyle shifts of fishermen due to MPAs, e.g. driving costs, port infrastructure shifts, fishing the line, compaction and displacement concerns, benefits of "spillover" effects?
**Individual and public perception / sentiments of the ocean, increase or decrease in ocean awareness
**Levels of impact on education, tourism, degree of recreational use of the ocean
**Effectiveness of enforcement, designnation of SMRs and SMCAs, levels of protection, levels of poaching
**Success of MLPA implementation based on degree of co-management of bureaucracy with local stakeholders (e.g. fishermen, Chumash, other community members)
**How do lawsuits affect the MLPA process (ha ha ha!) someone asked this question!
**Scientists told the stakeholders to avoid oil and gas rigs though Dr. Milton Love's research demonstrates that oil rigs serve as even more effective reefs than neighboring kelp forests. Maybe this SAT guideline based on the "best available science" should be reconsidered.
**Well, Bob? I guess this is the first time I "participated" in an MPA-related activity. And to my surprise, I felt a little bit knowledgable and useful. Bob has somehow over time become my "agent" in which he had freely stepped in and introduced me to nearly everybody in the broader MLPA process (yes, I do have my times when I'm shy and Bob? He has no people fear!). And yesterday, I could say I was Bob's agent at least once. Yay, I'm recriprocating! It was toward the end of the day, and Bob was tired and rambling about something related cold and warm-water cycles (man, a lot of people in this group of public citizens ramble a lot! I have been trained to sell my soul in less than five seconds and tell my life story in less than a minute, haven't people met literary agents or Hollywood Casting Directors before? People have got to learn to say the most with the least!) and then I politely stepped in to tell the MPA Monitoring folks, "In other words, what Bob meant was this--" and one short sentence followed. One of the meeting coordinators told me a little later, "You must have lots of experience with these types of meetings!" And I said, "No, I just know Bob very well :-)." (And I didn't mention anything about the literary agent Hollywood casting director hot seat, oh well). In all honesty though, everyone has a right to ramble when they're tired and it's the end of the day. Period. No one's fault there. I ramble to Bob several times and he puts up with me! Anyway, rambling is a disease (or superhero quality) both Bob and I have, and speaking of rambling... look how LONG this blog is!
**Just to state, the MPA Monitoring Enterprise stated that this workshop does not affect the MLPA planning process whatsoever, but they are just doing a head start, just in case a set of MPAs are drafted by the Commission toward the end of this year, then they will have to kick into drafting a monitoring plan ASAP. I also thought that MPA Monitoring Enterprise introduced themselves in self-deprecation "Pointy-headed staff with Ph.D.s" which I think in a certain way is humbling their acknowledgment of pointy-headedness. I'm even worse: an educated idiot! Ha! The monitoring plan required a public input and public interest component, not just scientific parameters, which of course there is overlap.... The staff also mentioned a $4-million budget from the OPC as a start-up, which can be coupled with other forms of funding from private and public sources.
**Someone made an interesting statement: nothing in the MLPA law states that the six goals have to be fulfilled through marine protected areas, or marine reserves. Wow, that's a CRAZY thought! I am going to have to re-read the goals!