Memorial Day 2003

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My mom’s side of the family is OVERWHELMING… Large, Irish Clan that has way too much energy and is always in everyone else’s business. Athletic and Nosey, a bad combo. My dad’s side of the family is laid back and non-nosey to the point of non-existence. My dad’s family is happy to get together once every decade or so, a phone call a year suffices. Mom’s fam is just the opposite.
Memorial Day 2001, my dad and I visited his mother’s grave for the first time since 1978, all total this was 2nd time we had visited since Grandma had died in 1968 when I was 3 months old. Both times, my dad had to call someone else to find out where the cemetery was. Me, I google it. I have visited each Memorial Day since 2001, and still can’t remember were the cemetery is other than in a track of houses adjacent to Lincoln and State College.
Last Monday, I bought gerba daisies, drove over to the cemetery, and put a flower on Grandma Marlyce’s grave, Great Aunt Vernice’s grave, and Great Grandma Evelyn’s grave.
From there, I met Erika in Huntington Beach and we went for a long walk around the Bolsa Chica wetlands reserve. The smell of firepits and bbq drifted over Pacific Coast Hwy from the Bolsa Chica State Beach to us as we walked through the wetlands and around the Mesa. Plenty of wildflowers and birds – egrets, herons, terns, savanna sparrows, etc. A wonderful way to finish the afternoon.
Click on the following thumbnails for my pictures of the columbine flowers I planeted at my brother’s house 3 years ago (row 1), and Bolsa Chica wetlands walk (row 2 & 3).

OC Scottish Games 2003 Pics

Pipe and Drum Competition Grounds

Here are my pictures from this last weekend’s Scottish Games at the OC Fairgrounds. I spent the better part of both Sat. & Sun. watching the Pipe & Drum band competition. The best part of this, besides lots of men in kilts, is that the Pipe & Drum band competition is always held in this lovely willow shaded area between two quonsen huts. This year, a black phoebe was nesting in the area, and I was able to get photos of both mom and baby!
Besides the Pipe & Drum bands, I have also included a few pics of the athletic games and other funny random sights that caught my eye, such as the Tartan Midgets and a man wearing a t-shirt that so nicely captured the proper spirit of the battle between SoCal and NoCal.
Click on the thumbnails for the larger pictures.

Men in Kilts!

Matt from the Real McKenzies - April 27, 2002

Today is Thursday, for most folks in the US, they are eagerly anticipating their first big weekend of the Summer, Memorial Day weekend. My brother took off yesterday for the River and won’t be back until next wednesday. But for me, I stay in Orange County, ignore BBQ invites and other attempts to lure me away from my 3rd biggest social weekend of the year….
#1 most anticpated and fun social event on Jen’s annual Calendar: DIY Bowling
#2 most anticipated and fun social event of the year: SXSW
#3 most anticipated event: Scottish Games at the OC Fairgrounds
Yes, I have a personal fetish for men wearing kilts, with my biggest preferrence in punk men in kilts. Thus the annual pilgrimmage down the 55 freeway to Costa Mesa on Saturday and Sunday of Memorial Day weekend.
Pipe and Drum band competitions, large men in sports kilts tossing things, cute sheep dogs attempting to round up sheep, small children dancing, big exhibition halls filled with booths, bad British food and lots of beer for those who drink it, and the spectacle of it all.
Yep, that is the best part. The spectacle of it all. Men of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities (don’t have to be Scottish), and ages, all wearing kilts. God bless ’em.

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For years attendees of the Games could bring their dogs, then last year the fairgrounds attempted to clamp down and say no dogs after a certain number, but I was able to sneak in my mom’s dog, Freckles. This year all of the documentation tells you to leave your dog at home. This is sad, as bringing a dog, even a rented one like mom’s, is a great way to meet the small children of men in kilts… ;o)
Top photo of the Real McKenzies by Jen; photo at 2002 Scottish Games by Erika.

Villanelle Update

File under the category of “Ooops”….
In class last night, I learned that I got the rhyme scheme in the villanelle wrong. Oops.
The teacher diagrammed a Villanelle for us like this:
A1
b
A2
a
b
A1
etc.
Now I, being a poetry newbie, interpreted the “A1” and “A2” as the refrains that had NO relation to the “a” of the rhyming scheme in the non-refrain lines. In my brain, the capital As with numbers where separate entities unto themselves.
Bad brain, bad brain on too much computer work….
It dawned on me slowly last night, while we were work shopping another classmate’s villanelle that the capital “A1” and “A2” of the refrain were to rhyme with the little “a”s of the main part of the poem. Oops.
The dawning of the realization that I had missed out on 50% of the villanelle’s form was rather like the time I was talking to my brother and he was telling me a long story about his friend “Jane” who was a dancer. Given that the story was mostly about her teenage kids, everytime my brother mentioned her dance career I envisioned that she ran a ballet studio for children. Over the course of the conversation, the realization that she was a dancer of another sort, the type who takes her clothes off in the course of dancing, came slowing over my consciousness rather like the sun creeping over the horizon slowing and then all the sudden SUN everywhere.
Last night was just like the conversation with my brother, after I realized that Jane was a stripper and that the Villanelle had a LOT more “a” rhyme than I put in it, I felt slow, naive, and rather embarrassed. At break I rushed over to the instructor, quickly explained my plight, and she appeared to have a moment herself. She didn’t realize that I, the student, did not already know that the captial A of the refrain and the minor a of the rhyme were not related.
My only defense of myself is that my education focused more on math classes where big As and little a’s had no numerical relational but were symbols for different ideas, and that sleeping through most of the required english classes as a teenager and college student has resulted in minor adult embarrassment. Oops.
Maybe not embarassment, but feeling silly in the midst of a paradigm shift that I assumed to be one way and folks who know poetry assume to be another way.

Villanelle Hell

Ok, tonight is poetry class, my efforts are…. small grumbling noises.
This week is the Villanelle and a spontaneous poem ala Frank O’Hara.
Here is the villanelle:
Dreams of London
As spring warms to summer, I dream of London
As Los Angeles heats, I melt and yearn.
Cool rain dripping off London plane tree leaves.
At times, walking in Westwood, a flash of
Sensation, diesel fumes, bustling people adjourn.
As spring warms to summer, I dream of London.
Garden Court Hotel, green canopy above
Kensington Gardens Square, Bayswater return.
Cool rain dripping off London plane tree leaves.
Month of May, afternoons in LA heat up over
Eighty-five, smog hugging the foothills burns.
As spring warms to summer, I dream of London.
Fantasy ruined, global warming shoves
London temps in April to record heat, U-Turn.
Cool rain dripping off London plan tree leaves.
Nomadic, itchy feet, I desire to rove
Imagine a new hometown, escape left arm sunburn.
As spring warms to summer, I dream of London
Cool rain dripping off London plan tree leaves.

Surprise at the Birdfeeder!

The best view of the backyard birdfeeder is from the bathroom window, and the best way to watch without scaring the birds off. Imagine my surprise this morning to see a large black, orange, yellow and white bird at the feeder. I snuck out of the bathroom quietly to grab my digital camera, and came back stealthly. Here are the resulting photos:

May 15, 2003 Black Headed Grosbeak

The house finch of the left of both pictures is the average bird that comes to the feeder. Occasionally, a house sparrow will show up. And frequently, black phoebe or warbler will show up to watch the spectacle of infighting for perch space, but they will go about their insect eating ways.

May 15, 2003 Black Headed Grosbeak

My housemate Lauren told me that she recently saw a bright yellow bird at the feeder (goldfinch?), but today is my very first time of seeing a Grosbeak at the feeder. After consulting my bird guides, I determined that this fellow is a Black Headed Grosbeak.
Thank you, sir, for showing up and making my morning much brighter.

Miracle of God? … Maybe…

Yesterday I ate my first sandwich in a decade.
Yes, in a decade….
In early 1993, after 20 years of being throw up sick, having migraines, a seized back, I was diagnosed with a severe allergy to wheat, on top of my already known allergy to yeast (brewer’s and bakers). In the ten years since my diagnosis I have completely eliminated wheat from my diet and have had a complete relief from the symptoms.
No wheat = no bread, no crackers, no croutons, no breading or batter of any kind on fried food (thus no fried food); no bagels, no cake, no cookies, no thick soups, no beer, no vodka or any other liquor made with even a bit of wheat, etc etc etc. Most people that ask are surprised to find out that wheat = flour.
This also means no bread at communion unless I want to be sick for the rest of the day (wafers with wine at Catholic or Anglican services seem to be fine, are they made of potato starch??).
I very quickly evolved into a Rice-atarian. Rice pasta (Thank God for PastaRiso), lots of Asian food, rice crackers, homemade Irish soda bread made from rice and barley flours, and so forth.
Every so often, I wonder about all of the new “Wheat-Free” products I see at Whole Foods or Mother’s Markets. Given that I also get a bad reaction from rye, a mild reaction from barley and oats, I have been reluctant to try any product that adverstises “Wheat Free” but contains any of the above wheat botanical relatives or the new “spelt” an ancient precursor grain to wheat that is used in these products.
Two days ago, Tues. May 13th, in between my writing classes at UCLA I popped into the Westwood Whole Foods for a bit of a snack, when I spied a rack of bread products. If you go ten years without bread or sandwiches it is a bit tempting, in a good way, to at least go smell fresh bread.
On the far right side, down near the bottom of the bread rack was colorful little loaf of “Health Seed Wheat-Free Yeast-Free Bread“. Now one can find wheat-free, but not yeast free bread at most health stores or in the freezer section their is usually yeast free bread that is not wheat free. To have both in the same loaf?
I read the ingredients and spelt was the first thing listed. hmmm…. Yearn. Yearn. What would a turkey sandwich be like? Yearn. Yearn. Go to checkout counter. Buy little loaf for Health Seed.
Yesterday became Experiment Day. Following the rules for introducing a new food or previously allergic food into one’s diet, I made sure that everything that I had with the bread was a non-allergic or non-reactive food for me. I made two pieces of toast with Health Seed Bread in the morning with butter and fruit spread, and a turkey sandwich in the afternoon. Amazing! I was very excited.
The bread is very similiar to Orowheat’s Wheat Berry Bread, but thin and dense like European bread, slightly sour and with lots of seads in it (seasame, pumpkin, etc). In the morning, I had only a mild reaction to the bread, an inchy nose and mild tummy distress. After the afternoon, sandwich test phase, I had more reaction, mostly of the tummy variety. Then all night my tummy was unhappy, it is still unhappy now.
Conclusion, I will freeze the Health Seed bread in slices and maybe have one piece once a week. Maybe. Maybe as a sandwich the next time I am jealous that I can’t eat sandwiches. Obviously, while spelt does not give me as severe of a reaction as wheat & rye do, it is not as mild as barley or oats. Sad but true.
Thus ends the great Bread Experiment of 2003. I will go back to making loaves of rice flour whole oat soda bread.