February 2007 minutiae
- I was at the Berkeley Bowl in line behind a sullen white kid who looked
about seventeen. He placed several bags' worth of groceries, ranging from
leafy greens to packaged goods, on the conveyor belt. Then he laid down one
of those plastic bars to separate all of that food from his last item, which
he apparently didn't want to go on the same receipt. What was the contraband
he didn't want to have to justify? Gorditas.
- espn.com instructions on its "Send a story to a friend" page: Sean
multiple addresses with commas. What the hell is that? Prank? Regexp
mistake? Bizarre think-o?
- My memory is deteriorating. My memories from the 20th century are all
pretty much intact, but all too often I get into conversations like, "Wait,
how do you know about that?" "You told me!" "When?" "Last month!" "I did?"
Also, I used to be able to instantly absorb everything I learned in a class,
and now I go over my notes from last semester and remember like 25% of the
material. Also my frend the mowse dont run the amaze too good no more.
- I passed a restaurant that was advertising Brain Masala.
- I always think that I need 45 minutes to eat lunch and then am shocked
when it only takes fifteen. Similarly, I always think that I need to budget
half an hour to get showered and dressed and such, and then am pleasantly
surprised when I have eighteen minutes to spare or whatever.
- Is there an all-Oprah channel? It seems like no matter what day and no
matter what time I go to the laundromat, Oprah is on.
- I wonder whether I have an actual Internet addiction. One day my
connection went down for several hours and I became extremely irritable.
When it came back I surfed around various sites doing nothing important
and it felt inappropriately soothing.
- The parking meters in San Rafael say in big angry letters:
TWO HOURS MAXIMUM
$0.80 PER HOUR
ILLEGAL TO RE-FEED METER
Welcome to San Rafael
I guess that last part is just a stopgap until they can put in the new signs
that say "WELCOME TO THE S.R., BITCH!"
- Prices at a local supermarket for Tropicana Pure Premium No Pulp Orange
|64 fluid ounces
|96 fluid ounces
|128 fluid ounces
Unfortunately, there was no 179 fluid ounce size, because using this
supermarket's parabolic pricing, that'd be free!
- cnn.com: Shark attacks rarer than you may think. I love the
implications of this headline. No one thinks shark attacks are common
unless they've bought into the media hype about them from sources such
as cnn.com. This headline essentially boils down to We made you
- I took a trip to Orange County and photographed the schools I went
to when I lived there. The elementary schools looked pretty much
exactly the way they did 25 years ago, with one exception: there is
now a tight cage around each of them. I should probably explain to
the non-Californians out there that schools in California are not
single structures, but rather campuses of small buildings divided
up into classrooms. Classrooms open not out to a hallway but to the
great outdoors. When I was attending Anaheim Hills Elementary,
for instance, I could have walked in a straight line out of
Room 15, across the parking lot, into the street and up into
the hills. Now if I tried that same route I would walk out of the
classroom and four feet later crash into a metal fence ten feet
high. And these fences are so close to the buildings! I
have to think that even little kids have trouble squeezing past
- Troy High used to have six-foot gates with widely-spaced bars;
they were easy to hop over, as I proved many a time when I went there.
Now the entrances have two sets of arched gates twelve feet high, with
spiked ironwork you can barely see through. If the elementary schools
looked like cages, the high school looked like a magnificent 19th-century
prison. A few years earlier I'd handed out copies of Ready, Okay!
to the teachers and administrators there; I wondered whether that had
led to the gates.
- Since it was the weekend, the schools were closed. Yet despite
all the crazy gates and fences, at all four schools I was able to find a
way to walk right in.
- After photographing Troy High, I was walking out when, ahead of me,
I saw a crouching man aiming a rifle. I did a hasty 180 and beat it for
an alternate exit.
- I was about to leave, but conscience overcame me — if the
following day there were a Columbine-style incident, how would I justify
not having notified the police about this guy? So I drove around to the
faculty parking lot, just in time to see the guy leaving the school
grounds with his rifle — and a JROTC flag. Mystery solved!
- While in Southern California, I achieved one of my childhood dreams.
Behind my first elementary school, at the top of Nohl Ranch Road, is a
hill with a stone outcropping on top — the tallest hill in the
area. It's called Robbers' Peak, I later learned, because Joaquin Murietta
and his gang apparently used to hang out there. When I was very small I
used to worry that it was an active volcano. Then later I vowed that
someday I would climb to the top of it. I thought this would be a major
expedition. It turns out that there's a short trail and from the parking
lot of the elementary school you can get to the top in about fifteen
minutes. Still, it was more exhilarating to me than it would have been
- Another of my childhood dreams was to walk from one end of Nohl
Ranch Road to the other. I assumed this would take many months. It
turns out that the road is five miles long.
- At the table next to me at La Super-Rica in Santa Barbara was an
old man, about 75 or so, with a Southern accent; a woman who appeared to
be about 50, also with a Southern accent; and a man, also in his 50s,
with a California accent. I gathered that the latter two were the old
man's daughter and son-in-law. Here is what I overheard:
Old man: "No! Ah don' b'lieve in that cre-mation."
Son-in-law: "Then what do you want to happen to your body after you die?"
Old man: "Ah wan' it buried propally! How'm Ah s'posta git by in th'
afterlahf without mah bones?"
Son-in-law: "Ha ha ha!"
Old man: "Ah'm a Suthun Baptist! That's whut Ah b'lieve!"
Son-in-law: "You think your bones need to be intact to get into heaven?"
Old man: "Yes! Ah'm a Suthun Baptist!"
Son-in-law: "So you think God can give you a new body if your bones are
okay, but if you're just ashes then God's going to say, 'What, you expect
me to work with this? I'm not God, I'm just, y'know, God!'"
Old man: "Ah'm a Suthun Baptist! That's whut Ah b'lieve!"
Son-in-law: "Hmm, then maybe I should get myself taxidermied! You know,
just in case even the bones aren't enough! Man, I sure hope I don't
die in an accident!"
Old man: "AH'M A SUTHUN BAPTIST!"
- The Monterey Bay Aquarium was about a quarter the size I expected.
- I've seen a lot of billboards for cell phone companies promising "reliability"
and "fewer dropped calls." It's interesting how we've accepted a huge step
backward in phone service in exchange for portability. Back in the days of
land lines, if you had told me that people would not only accept phone service
that frequently crapped out on you, but would accept it for over ten years, I
wouldn't have believed you.
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