Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Stars Seem To Splatter In The Sky

We live very near a park in the valley where there are no city lights. On a clear night, a short walk will give us the kind of sight one would get in a planetarium.

Stars fall down in buckets like rain till there ain't no standing room.

Since we are 41 degrees south latitude, all the constellations are strange and new. Our "Big Dipper" is the Southern Cross.

The moon illuminates us. It appears upside down from the one we grew up with in North America. After a while things we've never seen seem familiar.

Even sitting at night in our own yard affords us quite a stellar view.

A few nights ago, we had one of those phenomena in the sky called a Moon Ring, or Moon Dog. It looks like there is a big white cricle around the moon. Scientists will tell you it has to do with the shape of ice crystals and atmospheric temperature.
Who cares, it just looks cool.
This is the second one we have seen here in a year.
Legend says that if you count the stars inside the circle, the total will be the number of days before bad weather.

There were 2 stars in the circle and 2 days later, we started getting rain.
Go figure.

We have passed through the autumn equinox and the leaves are beginning to turn red and gold and the sun is lower on the horizon. Temperatures are cooling and darkness comes early.
Summer is over. Summer is over.

For the last 40 years, we have lived in eternal sunshine. The weather was always the same...bright and warm. Sky was always blue. Rain was rare.
Never owned a scarf or gloves.
Never turned on the heater.

Now we have seasons and they come right on schedule. The whole circle makes more sense to me now.

Everything is always changing.

It is clear that we are changing too.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Like To Do Just Like The Rest, I Like My Sugar Sweet

One thing that amazes me about Kimberly is her ability to make a commitment.


When she decides to do something or become something, it will be done, no matter what. I am much more willing to change my mind when the going gets tough.

I like to keep my options open, step back and reassess my decisions.

Actually, I am a quitter.

Help me out here people, aren't most of us like that?

For example, I like golf...a lot. At this stage of my existence, I can play all I want. But there have been times when I am standing on the first tee and the wind kicks up a little too much. I simply leave and go home. I will play another time when it is not windy. There is golf to watch on TV, after all.

Kimberly has been committed to yoga for 12 years. 5+ times a week the last 6 years. Rain or shine. Sickness or health. Calm or wind.

She is at yoga now, while you are reading this, in case you are interested.

I reckon this Commitment thing is probably a slight form of mental illness, but try explaining that to her.

She is the same when it comes to vendors like dentists or hairdressers. In California, she remained with same tooth guy for 20 years, even though his office was far away and he overcharged. My Doc was closer and less expensive. Maybe it was because Dr. Rosen was Jewish and Dr. Chalk was a Mormon.

I might have that Rosen was doing a a little more than dentistry, if you know what I mean, except he looked like Art Garfunkel's ugly brother.

Don't get me started.....What's the deal here girls? You go to a person to get some excess hair removed from the head. Why should it cost a full day's pay for a simple service like this? What goes on in there? I believe it is a cut and color, no? But then there is the glass of wine, the intimate talk as if these people were some sort of psychiatrist. Is all that primping and pampering really worth 200 bucks?

I am always informed that the extra cost was due to "products".
Products, my ass!
Are all women playing this products game with their partners? Well, wise up, girls. We are on to you. The men are planning to have a meeting about this very soon. And we intend to do something about it too. Your days are numbered. And while we are on the subject, the abundance of bottles and cotton balls in the bathroom will also be on the agenda. A bathroom which we were all thrown out of right in the beginning, I might add.

I am very happy to walk into the nearest barber shop when I feel the need for a trim and some newsy conversation. The combs are in a jar of blue water. The chair is uncomfortable. I get a powdering of talcum at the end. For $10 I am out the door in 15 minutes and looking sharp. A barber could not sell you products if you begged him. But barbers don't like beggars. They will cut their throats during the shave. The rotting body will be sold to Clairol and made into "products".

'Nuff said.

Back to Kimberly's commitment issues. She recently read a book that was not very memorable. It is called "Eat Cake". The best part is that there are 10 marvelous recipes in the back.

Kimberly committed to bake them all.

I joined her in this promise. I agreed to let her bake 10 cakes. This would require additional pans and trays and ingredients. No problemo.

The first on was a pineapple/coconut layer cake. It took her 4 hours to prepare. Very moist and sweet. Almost too rich for me.

I said..Almost

After it was half eaten, I remembered to take a picture.

The second on was a Chocolate Espresso that weighed about 5 kilos. Unfuckingbelievable. It did not last long. I had it for breakfast, morning tea, noon tea, late afternoon tea, dinner, supper and evening tea and dessert.

Yesterday, she made a lemon layer cake. I love lemon. Kimberly was a little disappointed the way it turned out. Apparently, the lemon frosting was a little too much like custard rather than solid and rigid.

OH NO!!! The lemon topping is much like pudding.

Mrs. Emeril thought this was sort of unacceptable.

Well stand back, give me a liter of trim milk, pass me a fork, (in my right hand), and don't let the flying crumbs hit you in the face.

I can solve this problem with total commitment.

Afterwards, I intend to take a vigorous stroll to town to replenish the milk supply.

Maybe I'll drive.
I have to save energy so I can eat 7 more cakes.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Crazy Fingers

I would give my right hand to be ambidextrous.

Throughout my life, I have had the worst ability to use my hands for small motor skills. Can't thread a needle, repair a watch, use a tweezers, pick up little stuff off the floor. Often I will suddenly drop something that I am holding. Usually it is a glass item filled with hot liquid in the area of my pants.

I have individual fingers on both hands that have their personal and separate problems. The wedding ring finger got bent playing basketball about 45 years ago. I remember yanking it straight and going on with the game. That was probably a mistake. Most likely, that foolish maneuver kept me from a career in the NBA.

The right hand ring finger sometimes locks up and refuses to bend properly. People usually have to avert their gaze in horror because it looks kind of freaky.

The "up yours" right hand one has a long scar from the time from when I nearly cut it off by doing something stupid as a teenager. That is another story altogether. But be assured it involved blood and fainting and a visit to the hospital.

Also a bit of arthritis seeping into all of them which is only a little pain and numbness. Not worthy of complaints yet.

My mother wanted me to be an orthodontist when I got my first set of braces. She thought it was clean work for a Jewish boy and based on what we were paying, figured I could make a lot of money.
It would have ended up being one long string of lawsuits from me cutting palates and tongues and gums with sharp instruments. Trust me, you don't want a clumsy guy like me getting near your mouth with a pointy pliers.

There can be serious trouble when I get near my own mouth. I have tried flossing and wound up punching myself in the nose so hard that I woke up on the bathroom floor in a puddle of blood.

Eating can be a real problem. Hamburgers are easy, finger foods are tougher. Popcorn..usually all over the floor and lap.

Using the left hand for anything involving food will result in starvation.

When we go to a Chinese place where they have chopsticks...I always ask for modern utensils.

Why the hell did they still use those things after the fork was invented? Think about it; did you ever see a fat Chinaman? They burn more calories during the meal than they take in.

In addition, cold has been affecting my finger work of late. If I grab for some ice cubes from the freezer, I will likely drop them all over the kitchen floor and then be unable to pick them up until they liquefy. Then I use a towel and drag my foot over the water. I can use my feet better than my hands. But not my left foot.

This is sad, but I have managed to get through life rather unnoticed regarding my hands and fingers.

Until just recently... and this is where Kimberly comes in.

Here's the latest situation:

In New Zealand, she has noticed that people eat "European Style".

They hold both the knife and fork at the same time, knife in the right hand and fork in the left. They do not move the fork from hand to hand after cutting food, like Americans. This means they bring food to the mouth with the left. The fork is also in an upside down position and always stays like that.

I never noticed any of this. But when she pointed it out, of course, I saw that everyone eats like that here with no problem.

You can spot an American just by the way they eat. For some reason or other, We ex-pats are trying to disguise ourselves and hide our past in every way possible.

Kimberly, as is her style, has decided to change the manner in which she cuts food and puts it into her mouth.

She has been practicing and practicing and can now even do pasta, salad, and eggs lefty style with extreme perfection.

She is a true pioneer.

This is even done if she is eating alone at home when no one is looking at her passport or anything.

Far be it from me to be left behind. So I have tried it too.

You can only imagine how this is not working well for me. I can hold the fork upside down and cut with the knife. But the meal better include only very solid items which can be stabbed with the prongs and quickly shoveled down. I haven't had rice in weeks and I like rice..dammit!

You try eating rice with the curved end of an upside down fork while using a shaky useless left hand.

A lot more time is now spent cleaning up the area around the outside of my dinner plate.

The only saving grace is that I think I have lost 5 pounds from lack of nourishment.
But I really have a special finger that will tell you how I feel about "European Style Dining".. Just this once, I will let this guy below speak for me.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Come On Pretty Mama Let's Get On the Road Again

In California, when you have a car, there are some hoops you need to jump through to operate it. The vehicle needs to pass an emissions test. The guy shoves a metal rod up your exhaust pipe gives you a certificate. This takes about 5 minutes. Then he shoves the metal pipe up your ass when he charges you $50.

You take the certificate to the DMV, wait in line with 200 other characters for about 2 hours, show your paperwork, take the pipe up the ass again for a couple hundred dollars, and are given a little sticker for you plate.

It does not work that way here, sir.

We need to get our car inspected also. They have something called a Warrant of Fitness. (Remember my telling you they are all about "fitness" here?).
We take the car to a W.O.F. station, of which there are many. (3500 in NZ). The exam takes 10 minutes and 3 different guys go
over the car like Arizona border patrol guards looking for hidden stash. They check the depth of tire tread (minimum of 1.5 mm). They check to see if all the doors open, exhaust fumes, brakes, axles, lights, seat belts, wipers. They make sure your radio is tuned to Fresh FM.
This all costs about $30NZ. They then put the sticker on your windshield (upper right).

To get a car registered, there is no DMV. no lines, no long wait, no nothing. All paperwork is handled at the postal center and takes 2 minutes. No pipes up the ass. Cost is based on the vehicle. You can even do it on the Internet with a Visa card. Sticker goes on the car windshield (lower left).
So we have been driving all over using our California licenses. But they have a rule that says if we live here, we need NZ licenses. This requires a little written test.

In California, the written test goes like this: Long wait, long line behind illegal aliens. They give you a test and you go stand somewhere packed near the aliens who are all cheating in Spanish. I think the test is even written in Spanish. You can likely refer to the manual which can be in your pocket. Most everyone passes. Silly eye test. New long line. Photo. Licensed driver.

It doesn't work that way here, sir.
We were told the test was difficult and EXPENSIVE! Also lots of people don't pass the first time and it costs to take it again.

So we decided to actually study like it was the Harvard law exam. Kimberly thought we should get the manual, but it cost $25 dollars. She got it from the library for nothing. I also found it on the Internet. We decided to study in our own way and then quiz each other in 30 days.

Now, Kimberly is one of those plodders when it comes to study. Very deliberate and thorough. I am more of a scanner and always figure, "How hard could it be anyway?"

We tested each other after 30 days and felt like we were ready.

The exam is given at this place where lots or operations are done: Car insurance, AAA coverage, Travel agent and driver testing. There was no line. We walked up to the desk and needed to show California license, passport, proof of residency. Somehow, they had me down for getting a speeding ticket last year!? Damn computers. Luclily I paid it when at first I thought about blowing it off.
Then we had to fill out a form and pass a tough eye test. In fact Kimberly failed and needed to go to her eye doctor to get a note. I passed, thanks to laser surgery. To go on to the test, we had to pay a total of $175NZ. They also got a little pipe up our ass for AAA coverage. Total - $285NZ.

To "sit" for the written exam, they take your belongs away so you can't cheat. You go to a little testing booth and are given a very fancy colourful test with 33 questions. To answer, you scratch the choice like you would a Lotto card, so you need a coin, no pencil. If you scratch the right answer, a checkmark is there. Wrong answers show an "X". So you always know how you are doing as you take the exam. You can get 3 wrong and still pass.

After about 10 minutes, I was struggling, a lot. #6 was about where to put your front tires at a stop sign. I missed it - Damn! Ok, that's just one wrong, but at this rate, I would miss five of them. Gotta concentrate and relax.

#7 - showed a sign with a choo-choo train. What kind of sign is that? I have never seen a train since we got here... missed that also - SHIT! That's 2 in a row..SHIT!!

I was sitting and sweating, heart beating way too fast. I already knew I was going to fail. Then from Kimberly's cubicle I heard her say, "Yessss! 100%!"


I managed to get through with right answers, but I held back on five questions that I did not know. By clever guessing I got 3 of them correct. As a teacher, I sort of know how to spot a correct answer on a multiple choice exam.. generally, two answers are just dumb, so you've usually got a 50-50 chance.

There were 2 to go and I knew I would miss them both and fail at the very last.

I missed this one for my 3rd strike.

What do these road markings mean?

Turning vehicles should enter turning lane at arrows and avoid striped area.
Turning vehicles should avoid all road markings and use the left-hand lane.
All vehicles can make a U-turn at these road markings.
Turning vehicles drive straight over all road markings and wait to turn right.

One more to go that I had no idea about. It had to do with the length in meters that a load on the roof of your car could overhang in front. ????? I took my coin and scratched a total guess of 3 meters.

It showed a checkmark! Yessss...91%

This was the toughest day so far in New Zealand, unless maybe that tramping deal, but we both staggered away with driving licenses. Actually, I staggered, Kimberly had much more spring to her step.

It's sort of funny because, this time, we were the aliens.

Monday, March 05, 2007

It doesn't Matter What You Wear, Just As Long As You Are There

When Kimberly and I still lived in California, my brothers and we would gather around the time of the Winter Solstice to discuss the events of the year. It was always a fun and funny meeting. Quite a few years ago, we arrived at the conclusion that everybody has 3 different sets of clothes.
They were given very simple names: First Ways, Second Ways, and Third Ways.

Your First Ways are those that you have to wear to go to work. The suit and tie, the dress and proper shoes, socks, stockings. Kimberly's 1st ways are Yoga gear.

The Second Ways are those that you wear when not working. These are your choice. You wear these to the movies, shopping, walking the dog, going to parties. Second Ways are more casual and could include all sorts of sportswear for those athletes out there.
I know Dan Duffey can't wait to get out of those salesman clothes and put on a baseball shirt and cleats.

But best of all are the Third Ways. Those are what you wear when you are home for the day or night and ain't going anywhere. And nobody is coming for a visit. Third Ways are the loose, baggy sweats and t-shirt. The warm socks or slippers.

It's a Sunday afternoon, it's raining, there's a great movie on the DVD player, you've got all your snacks and wines or whatever...that's the perfect time for the Third Ways.

You all know what I am talking about. Here is a guy who long ago understood that the 3rd way was the best way.

Here is Richard Nixon and Fidel Castro. These guys never figured this out and always wore the same thing
So if you're not Castro or the Dalai Lama, you most likely look foreword to slipping into your comfy clothes at the end of the day. OK, I realize that in some Asian countries, pajamas are considered 1st ways and if you are really depressed, you go around all day in sweats with the hood up, but we're talking "normal" first world country behavior.

My problem is that I no longer have use for first way clothes. Until we go to a wedding or a Halloween party, I will not wear a suit. When I get up, I slip into my 3rd ways and only maybe put on shoes to check the mail

Does that put me in the same league with Hef?