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Posts Tagged ‘California’

The inner hippie emerges!

In behavior, cities, culture, life, travel, US on April 11, 2012 at 12:11 am
The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA.

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have you ever found yourself in a landscape that transforms you?

I recently returned from one amazing day spent driving through Marin County, which is across the Golden Gate bridge, north of San Francisco. I went with a friend and her tiny daughter, who turns 3 in June. It was so lovely I’m counting the minutes until I can get back on the plane for the six hour ride from my home in New York.

Marin is bathed in golden light, its velvety hills a mix of Ireland, Scotland and Vermont, dotted with black cows and brown horses. Thick groves of redwoods. A winding road that led us through Dogtown, pop. 30. (The official sign later hand-lettered, amended to 31, 32, 33…)

I felt like a chorus in a Joni Mitchell song.

We stopped in Point Reyes and bought ice cream. Four men asked me to take their photo outside the Western Saloon, which looks exactly as it sounds.

I posed them in the narrow doorway of the saloon. “You look like a rock band,” I told them, and they laughed. Until they looked at the photo on their Iphone.

“We do! Great photo!” one said, delighted.

Thick afternoon light coated the red bricks and the emerald-green California I highway sign.

The last place that had so profound an effect on me was Taos, New Mexico. Like Marin, it’s a favorite of some big name celebrities — Julia Roberts lives there, at least part-time. Taos is tiny and filled with eccentric details. (Yet, like many of these idyllic rural areas, almost a quarter of its 4,700 residents live in poverty.)

Here’s a recent essay about Taos from The New York Times:

I had come to this far-flung desert town to write a memoir about searching for traces of one of the heroes of my English adolescence, D. H. Lawrence. Taos was the only place where Lawrence had ever actually owned a house, and I suppose, as a visitor, I was hoping some of the inspiration he had drawn from the land and people might rub off on me. I had imagined the landscape would all be bare desert and mountains. The last thing I had expected was to find it reminding me of England.

But all around town there were grassy fields, tussocky, mostly flat, with patches of shorter grass where horses and cattle had grazed. They were no different from the fields back home where I had grown up, playing soccer with friends, walking the dogs, rambling, sleeping out in summer. This one near my apartment was no exception.

An unexpected sense of intense familiarity with a foreign place has been felt by other travelers in other lands, but I was surprised by how completely at home I felt in this field: the long grass, the faint scent of hay, the trees hissing softly in gusts of breeze. Of all strange things, this meadow in Taos had exactly the same rough grass stalks, feathery at their tips, as the field next door to my childhood home in the Cherwell Valley north of Oxford. And the path, beaten smooth as hide, was just like the path that ran through that field, too. And the tremendous ribbed trunks of the cottonwoods that ringed it were like the boles of old English willows.

The day we arrived in Taos I ran out and bought a tie-dyed tank top, astonishing Jose, then my boyfriend of only three months, (now my husband, 12 years later.) In New York, he’d been dating a woman who appeared buttoned-up and conservative, a WASP — me — who showed up on dates wearing turtlenecks.

Who, suddenly, was this hippie chick?

Blame it on coming of age in the 1970s, but I’m often deeply happiest in a place where I can ride horses, pick up fossils from ancient riverbeds and let my eyes roam across empty miles. Where the air smells of dry earth, old stone and sagebrush and eucalyptus. Where the light is so exquisite I’m torn between my camera, sketchbook — and simply letting it soak into memory.

I found the same qualities of Taos and Marin — of light, rugged landscape and timelessness — in Corsica. I wept when I left, in June 1996, and dream of returning to explore it much more.

How about you?

Have you been somewhere that so moves and touches you?

Broke and Pregnant In The Recession: Another Caitlin’s New Memoir

In behavior, blogging, books, children, domestic life, family, journalism, life, love, Media, Money, parenting, travel, women on March 22, 2011 at 9:52 am
Bar Harbor Maine, located on Mount Desert Island

Bar Harbor, Maine, the author's birthplace. Image via Wikipedia

Caitlin Shetterly, in her mid-30s, was a freelance writer and NPR contributor who decided — just before the recession bit so hard — it was a good time to realize a lifelong dream and move from her native Maine to California with her new husband, Dan, a freelance photographer.

Within weeks of moving to L.A., though, she found herself unexpectedly pregnant and so violently ill with morning sickness she could barely stand up, let alone earn a living.

Desperate and scared, she and Dan and baby Matthew finally called her Mom, living in a cabin in rural Maine, to ask for refuge. They then drove all the way back across the country and moved in with her for a few months while they got back on their feet.

“Made for You and Me” is the result, a recession memoir.

Caitlin’s story was broadcast in a series of audio diaries on NPR, prompting offers of money, jobs and a place to stay from some listeners — and opprobrium from others who felt her choices quixotic at best, misguided at worst.

Here’s an excerpt from the book.

I went into Manhattan a few weeks ago to hear her read and meet her for the first time; we agreed to blog about one another’s new books, both of which offer a personal window into this recession.

Q: Tell us a bit about your husband.

His name is Daniel E. Davis. He’s in graduate school getting an MFA in Photography. He hopes to teach.

Q: What made you want to write this book (beyond economic need?)
Writing this book was a natural outgrowth of my blog, Passage West, which I began when Dan and I first went west to California. Then, when my series of audio diaries aired on NPR it was every evident that there was a hunger for an honest story about how the recession was really affecting regular Americans.

Q: Give us a bit of your education and background
I was born in Bar Harbor, Maine. I was raised in Gouldsboro, Maine on sixty acres in the woods–my parents were part of the back-to-the-land movement. We moved to a small town down the coast from Gouldsboro when I was 7. I went to high school in Blue Hill, Maine and to Brown, where I majored in English and American Literature.

Q: Did you always plan/hope to be an author/actress/journalist?
I came from a creative family, so I don’t know that I really knew how to do anything else other than create. I published my first essay when I was twelve — writing for me was always an outlet, one that I needed. And, while at Brown, I fulfilled a second major (undeclared) in painting. In a way, I just followed what fed me emotionally and artistically, and I went with those.

Q: As you headed west to California, what did you expect to find or create there? Individually and as a couple?
Well, I had already been told by NPR that they needed me out there reporting on theatre. I’d already filed one theatre piece from L.A. and they had loved it. I had been filing on theatre for a while and they needed someone like me out west. Dan had already set up some work in L.A.
But I think in many ways we went west with all the bravado of the Pioneers; this is an iconic journey, one that one makes not only to work, but also to find themselves and, even more, to find themselves as Americans. And we fulfilled that.

Q: When you became pregnant (at what age?) did you never consider an abortion? Not even once discuss it? You do not mention this in the book. It was, as everyone knows, a very tough time to add another mouth to feed.
No, I would never have considered such a thing. First of all, when I became pregnant in the late winter/ spring of 2008, the U.S. had not yet entered the depths of the recession. We were just beginning something we did not yet know was going to really rock our foundations. But no matter what, I would have kept my child. Becoming a mother is the most important, most deep, most beautiful thing that ever happened in my life. The timing may not have been convenient, but I was always thrilled at the prospect of having my son.

Q: As you began your NPR audio diaries, how did that feel for you and your husband?
It was hard. Putting our lives out there was hard. But there were gifts because Americans all across the country reached out to us and that made us know, in our bodies, the goodness of people, the goodness of Americans.

Q: What surprised you most about the public reaction to your diaries and plight?
I was surprised by the men who wrote to me suggesting that my husband was a wimp or I never should have married him. I believe this recession has been called a “Mancession” by some people, and it really has been. More men have lost their jobs than women. So, to suggest that my husband was less of a man, was bizarre. I think it gets to something mean that can happen when people are down, there’s always someone who wants to kick them.

Q: What was the toughest single moment (if you can pick one) of this experience?
The days before we left California to drive back across America to move in with my mother in Maine, were the hardest.

Q: The best?
The whole experience was also the best thing in my life. I got a beautiful son out of it. I have a husband I love, and we went through this really important, hard time together, I came home to my family. There was so much beauty in hard times.

Q: How has this changed you?
I’m a nicer person. I smile at strangers –this is something I decided to do when our lives were going to hell in a hand basket. I started smiling at gardeners and people in cars next to me, at people on the street. I still do this. Our marriage is stronger and more honest. We really know each other now and we got through a hard time by talking to each other.

This Is Obscene

In business, Health, politics on February 10, 2010 at 10:20 am
A surgical team from Wilford Hall Medical Cent...

Only if you can afford it...Image via Wikipedia

How about an overnight 39 percent rise in your rent? Car payments?

No, just your health insurance:

Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, sharply criticized Anthem Blue Cross of California on Tuesday over its plans to raise health insurance premiums by as much as 39 percent, and she said that the move provided a vivid example of why major health care legislation is needed.

“It is unconscionable that Anthem Blue Cross would consider increasing health insurance premiums for Californians by as much as 39 percent, especially at a time when so many people are experiencing economic hardship,” Ms. Feinstein said in a statement. “I can think of no better example of why we need health insurance reform, and this kind of behavior is a stark reminder of why any reform plan should establish a rate authority to keep insurance rates affordable.”

Full New York Times story here.

From Truthout:

In a statement Monday, Anthem Blue Cross said the planned rate hike was due to the “weak economy” and called on lawmakers to “go back to the beginning and get health care reform done right.”

“… As medical costs increase across our member population, premium increases to the entire membership pool result. Unfortunately, in the weak economy many people who do not have health conditions are foregoing buying insurance. This leaves fewer people, often with significantly greater medical needs, in the insured pool. We regret the impact this has on our members. It highlights, why we need sustainable health care reform to manage the steadily rising costs of hospitals, drugs and doctors.”

So people are really sick and desperate will pay more for their health insurance — with, of course, a concomitant 39 percent increase in their paychecks or maybe a 39 percent rate reduction from their car insurance or rent — and the rest of the poor suckers who can’t even afford to buy insurance anymore will simply go without.

Why Women Need The Gift Of Fear. Yale Student Dead – Who's Next?

In Crime, women on September 15, 2009 at 10:12 am
A photo of murdered Yale graduate student Annie Le that was released by the FBI

A photo of murdered Yale graduate student Annie Le that was released by the FBI

While suburban parents are freaking out about whether or not to allow their kids to walk to school, the big news story now on this coast, and making national news, is the discovery of the body of Annie Le, a 24-year-old Yale grad student who was to have been married this past weekend — but was instead found dead, her body stuffed inside a wall of the lab. A fellow grad student told The New York Times it  requires three levels of security to get into the basement of the lab building, including two swipes of a security card.

The prime suspect is a lab technician who had an unrequited crush on her, according to the New Haven Independent, someone who had access to the lab but who is not a fellow student. While the standard narrative now unfolds of  a “promising life cut short”, her $160,000 in scholarships and her academic dedication, a young woman’s murder, at Yale or anywhere, raises larger questions for every woman and the women, of all ages, she cares about.

How, where and when — if? — can a woman protect herself from harm? It’s an issue we don’t talk about much, in a serious way, because it’s deeply frightening and can make you feel powerless and overwhelmed. Danger feels random, when for more than 90 percent of women, it’s not. They are usually killed by someone they know, and usually a man with whom they have or have had a relationship. When some men can’t have the woman they want, they claim the ultimate prize instead — her life.

I learned a lot about violence against women, hearing things I wish I hadn’t, and hadn’t known men can do, when I spoke to women around the country for my book on women and guns. One woman was shot point-blank in her own suburban California driveway, her husband shot dead beside her because he only had $8 in his wallet, not enough to satisfy the criminal who followed them home. Today, a trained counselor, she helps other women cope with trauma. Hers was a random attack, but it’s usually a man who decides he owns you — no matter how the woman feels about this — and is going to have you, or else.

Here’s my wish for every woman, of any age. Don’t trust appearances. You need three security cards to get into the basement lab which makes you feel safe and secure. Right? Who’s in there with you? Are you alone? How quickly and easily can you get out? I don’t advocate paranoia; none of us can live like that all the time. But I do advocate thinking and acting like a member of the Secret Service, men and women exquisitely trained to observe their surroundings in detail, to watch faces and body language, to anticipate danger before it happens and figure out how they can, or will, avoid it.

I say this from personal, brutal, terrifying experience. A convicted felon came into my life 10 years ago. I was lonely, broke, struggling, low on confidence. Vulnerable. He had — I would only discover after four months’ dating him and hiring a private detective, a former NYPD cop — served time in Illinois, made the front page of all the Chicago papers for his crimes there, even appeared on American Journal, an early reality TV show.  After I realized what he was and bought the tape of his television appearance and showed it to my Dad, he had one immediate reaction: “He’s so little!” The criminal was; maybe 5’6″, with hands and teeth almost childishly small.  His most powerful weapon? He didn’t look threatening.

He opened my mail, stole a credit card, used it, forging my signature….a total of six felonies by the time he was done with me. The local police and the DA refused to take my case. No one was going to gallop to my rescue. No one. All those years of believing in authority and their right and ability to help me. Gone. I changed my locks and phone numbers and all my bank accounts. I did not date for four months. I did not let a man I did not know very well cross the threshold of my front door for 12 months. I was terrified to answer the phone for months, slept at a friend’s house for a week or two, learned how to drive while looking to see if someone was following me.

This will sound unreal, but the felon gave me a present. It’s a book called The Gift of Fear which contains  an entire page listing male behaviors that, to many women, look social, friendly, even flirtatious or kind. They are also time-tested and highly efficient ways to win a woman’s trust, then commit a crime against her. It’s written by a security expert and I think every woman of every age should read it. It would have saved me an enormous amount of time, money, heartache and terror. It would have, the felon knew, saved me from him.

Maybe it could have saved Annie Le.

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