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September 10 1998, Thursday


here was yet another Schnauzer dog running around this morning as I was waking up. His name is Ziggy and his master, one of Rita's friends, drops him off every weekday morning so he can play with Suzette and not be alone by himself all day, bored to doggy tears. He's a good dog with a wise face and a gentle disposition.


n the morning Rita was telling us the story of how she had a daughter when she was 23 years old back in 1959. The father was a loser and Rita didn't want the baby. She would have had an abortion, but abortions weren't easy to get in those days in still-very-Catholic French Quebec. So Rita put the baby up for adoption. Years later she met her daughter. The girl is sort of a fuck-up, having spent years with loser boyfriends and addicted to various hard drugs, even though she was raised by a wealthy family. Rita thinks her daughter needs some form of education, if only to have interesting things to say when she talks.

More than by the story itself, I was struck by the frankness with which it was told. Nothing was finessed or revised; not Rita's intentions, not her daughter's present condition, nothing. It was very refreshing to hear a story told this way, especially by a woman this age. Having had the experience of the superficiality of Kim's maternal relatives, I'd almost given up on ever again hearing a frank life's story.


in had it in her mind to go exploring San Diego, especially the area around Pacific Beach and La Jolla. First though we explored the immediate neighborhoods of Kensington and University Heights. In San Diego, each neighborhood is denoted with huge signs strung across the streets, which helps somewhat in figuring out where exactly you are. Rita also loaned us a book full of street maps. But San Diego is such a tangle of neighborhoods, each with streets oriented in their own special way, that looking at the maps only made me feel more lost than I already felt.

In Kensington, Kim was most pro-active in jumpstarting our social life in our new city. She walked into the Kensington Club, which consists of a room with a bar and a room with a stage. The bar at this time of day was well stocked with elderly customers, all of them male except one haggard old bar fly. Kim quizzed a guy in the stage room about the sorts of shows they have and what not. "You guys would fit right in," he assured us. I was wearing the bright Hawaiian shirt given to me by Farrell and I hoped he was wrong.

In University Heights, we bought a couple subs at a sub shop being manned by a young hispanic dude. When we said we'd come from Michigan and asked if he'd ever been in the East, he said "Nah." It was odd to think of someone who was born on this coast and had never left it. In my naivete it all seemed too new to have old-timers.

We crossed Adams Avenue to a small park featuring children's slides among the palms. Beyond the park was a cliff down into a valley to the north ("Mission Valley," I learned later). After I ate my sub, I climbed a fence to have a look down the cliff and maybe take some pictures. But it wasn't really a cliff; it was a steep, narrow valley, seemingly completely untouched by civilization. I beautiful Royal Palm was growing wild down in there. I later learned from Rita that these little wilderness areas are called "canyons" and that occasionally they catch on fire and threaten the communities above them, including the one I now live in.

A Royal Palm growing in one of the "canyons" below University Heights, San Diego.

In the town of Ocean Beach just northwest of San Diego's downtown, we somehow got lost in the spaghetti of ramps and bridges, but when we finally gave up on surface streets and entered the freeway (Kim was driving and the prospect of freeway had been freaking her out), we decided to only go as far north as Pacific Beach.


was the whitest person on the beach. Most of the people there were young and tanned, and a large fraction appeared to be singles cruising for love. Out in the Pacific Ocean were the biggest waves I've ever seen, which were regarded with indifference by the sun bathers as they crashed among the surfers and boogie boarders. I was most interested in the adorable little unfamiliar shore birds which foraged for yummy critters in the freshly wave-stirred sand.

Kim in the Pacific Ocean

Me in the Pacific Ocean. I finally made it across America.


e headed back to our home in Normal Heights via the freeway. Freeways in San Diego are not anything like the interstate system in the East. None of the exits have numbers and there's not very much warning when an exit is coming. And some exits that are possible between large roads don't actually exist. Most exits are not one lane but two and they suddenly split halfway down to go in various non-intuitive directions. It's a mess of concrete spaghetti all seemingly unplanned. Indeed, it may not have really been planned. This city has grown so quickly that the original infrastructure is in no way suitable to the current situation, and has been gradually expanded where necessary. Exits are added where necessary within the constraints of topography and politics. And to top all that, most of the people driving on the freeway have nasty driving habits. They drive fast, they tailgate, they slam on their brakes unpredictably and they occasionally express road rage. They all seem to know where they're going in this maze, and frankly it's alienating. Kim was unnerved by the experience of driving in this crazy environment. She definitely doesn't want to drive on freeways when she commutes to her Eastern methods massage classes, which are all about relaxation.

At 4:00 pm at our new home Kim had a scheduled meeting with Mirial, the woman who co-ordinates the student hosting system that brought Rita and Kim together. We were late in getting back, but Mirial was even later. San Diego time is happily not quite the same as Pacific Daylight Time.

The Schnauzers enthusiastically greet Kim and me when we return from our San Diego excursion today. From left: Suzette, Ziggy and Sophie.


irial is another fun French Canadian, though her job is to be the tough-guy middleman in the relationship between Rita and Kim. She promotes both our interests to one another, sets the price and collects the money. Things that complicate our particular situation include Sophie the Schnauzer and me, the boyfriend. Kim's extraneous beings have forced Mirial to set the rent higher than it had been originally, to $550/month, and Mirial will not allow Kim to have the spare room inside Rita's house. It all sounds odd for Mirial to be dictating the nature of our relationship with Rita, though, as she points out, it's best that way; it keeps tensions from forming between host and student. And, as I said, it works both ways. For example, Mirial was not at all pleased to see that our cabana is not yet ready for us and that we've been sleeping in Rita's living room.

Via email I learned today that Matt Rogers had successfully sold my Dodge Dart for $280, $80 more than what I originally paid. I'll be getting half of that and Matt will get the other half. He's going to need it; he says his drunk driving charge is actually going to cost a lot of money. If I were him I might just say "fuck it!" and split town with a bottle of Night Train in my backpack.


n the evening, Rita, Kim and I had a dinner together of barbecued vegetables. They were all members of the nightshade family; a macrobiotic would have been horrified. The conversation was at times fascinating; we talked about the effects of nature versus nurture (as related to Kim and her aunts and Rita and her prodigal daughter). Then Rita and I discussed our experiences with pirating utilities. She knows how to do her own wiring and everything; what a remarkable woman!

one year ago
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