‘we’re going to die in this stairwell’

Mid-morning yesterday, the emergency alarm sounded at work. Unlike our last building, this one’s alarm comes with a voice that says, “There is an emergency in the building. Exit the building immediately,” along with a piercing alarm sound that continues repeatedly.

I work on the 6th floor of an 11-story building. In the last building, I was on floor 3 of a 6-story building. I made my way to one of two stairwells along with everyone else on my floor. We merged into the mass of people heading down from the floors above. It was slow-moving, and then we stopped.

We all assumed it was a drill (which it was). But as we were stopped, literally not making any progress to exiting the building, several people joked how we were going to die in the stairwell.

I was surrounded by people I didn’t know. I could see some of my co-workers above and below me, but no one I knew was immediately next to me. Even though the majority of my heart and mind understood that this exercise was a drill, and that the people saying these things around me were joking, there was a small part of me that went to the other extreme. What if this wasn’t a drill? I mean, it’s not unheard of in the times we’re living in, that there could be an actual situation somewhere in the building that other people wouldn’t know about. My mind flipped through scenarios — a gunman in the building, a bomb threat — my thoughts even registered that a fire might not even be as bad as those things. I thought of the stories I’ve read about people who were in the stairwells of the World Trade Center, then I was back where I was, in the stairwell of my building, not moving an inch, surrounded by all these bodies, people who didn’t comprehend or consider that we actually might be in danger, and I came within moments of a panic attack.

Thankfully, I was able to calm myself before I fell off the edge of rational thought, and also it was around that time that we slowly continued our descent. I still am not sure why things got so backed up. Once outside, I made my way over to the 6th floor safe zone and talked with a couple people and waited until the all clear.

When the all clear call came, I knew that the line for the elevators would be crazy. There are 5 elevators for all floors and 1 elevator (express) that goes to the top three floors only (meeting rooms, executive offices). Instead of waiting in line, I decided to use the rest room and try to collect myself further away from the mass of humanity that would be in the lobby.

Even after I used the bathroom, I could tell from the din coming from the lobby that it was still crowded, so I decided to use the stairs to go back to my office. My friend Mike often asks if I want to take the stairs up after we get coffee in the morning. I always say no. And now I know that my answer is justified. I wouldn’t want to be huffing and puffing next to him. I had to take breaks as I walked up to the 6th floor. My legs buckled on the last couple flights. I get why the stair climber is such a popular exercise apparatus. It’s a great workout. But when you’re dressed for work (even though yesterday was College Student Friday so we could dress down), it’s not cool to be sweaty when you return to your desk.

Ironic isn’t it that people said we were going to die in the stairwell on the way down, and me thinking of the way I might describe how I felt as I was on the way up.

hello, Spring

It was a good day. I won the NCAA pool at work (could there be a Google Home in my future?)

After work, I went to Jerome’s and bought a couch! Thanks for the dough to be able to get it, Mom & Dad! It will be delivered in Friday. I chose that day mostly because it would give me some time to think about it, haha. 

When I got home, I changed quickly and went out for a walk. It was slightly chilly but the sun was still up & it felt good to get out & into the neighborhood. It’s supposed to rain later this week, so I’m glad I put off the relaxing time to pump up my heart rate a bit. 

After my walk, I made a simple dinner of pasta in butter & garlic. 

There is something to be said for these small joys. 

# 14 – goodbye Barcelona (memories of Barcelona a year later – a series)

Sorry for the delay. Life got in the way a bit. Here’s the last installment.

27 September 15

I was ready to be home, simply for the fact that there was no more time to do anything.

We tried to find something to eat but it was so early, there weren’t many places open.

Sonia & Eric drove us to the airport and came in with us, which initially annoyed me. (This will be a running theme for the day).

Barcelona is an amazing city, but the airport leaves a lot to be desired. It is chaotic and a bit of a nightmare. However, we finally found where we needed to check in. We didn’t quite want to say goodbye, but there wasn’t really anywhere to hang out. So we said our tearful goodbyes to Sonia & Eric and got in line for security. I was no longer annoyed that they had come in with us.

It turns out it was a good thing we’d gotten in line because it was for passport control and was super long, and by the time we got through it, it was almost time to board.

Mom was wearing sunglasses as we waited, which annoyed me (I told you). But then we realized that she was crying, and I felt terrible. While I was just eager to start the long journey back, my mom was leaving her homeland, and she was sad. I calmed the ‘f’ down, and we finally boarded to head to Atlanta.

We had 3 seats together in the middle aisle. Between the two flights, I watched 6 movies, but I only remember 4 of them (Inside Out, Get Hard, The Wedding Ringer, and Into the Woods). I was trying to stay awake because when we got to LA, it would be 7 pm.

When we got to Atlanta, we had to go through security again. That’s when we discovered that Mom had put the oro de Toledo letter opener in her carry-on bag. I had to rush back to a counter to have it checked. I told Mom & Sandy to go on and that I’d catch up with them. Atlanta has a huge airport, but I made it just in time. We were the last ones on the plane (again).

Mom & I had aisle seats, and Sandy was next to me at the window. I don’t remember much from that flight. I probably watched some of those movies I mentioned.

When we got to LAX, we got our luggage and found a taxi to take us to La Mirada. Mary & Dewey were there with Dad. It was good to see him. We were tired, but we chatted with them a bit. It was difficult to encompass two incredible weeks to chit-chat. We went to bed around 9 pm.

The next day (Monday, 9/28/15), we caught up with Dad. He had had to go to the ER once. Mary ended up taking care of him better than the nurses who came by. We told him stories and showed him the album that Sonia had made for us. Suddenly it was nearly time to leave to take Sandy to the airport and for me to drive back to San Diego. There were teary goodbyes all around. And the vacation was over.


hello, beautiful

I got a card in the mail from my sister yesterday, and that’s what it said on the front. It was perfect.

I got that card in the mailbox of my new place. The last couple months were full of house-hunting, packing, and just getting myself ready. I looked at several places in the neighborhoods that were my targets. Nothing was right. Nothing felt right. And then, one day, I had a crazy idea. What if I expanded my targets, particularly downtown. It was not something I’d ever thought about before. But then, the more I thought about it, the more the idea intrigued me. I mean, it would be a complete departure. Something totally out of my comfort zone. It felt right.

So I added that to my search. And one day, while I was up at my parents’ house (I think it was over 4th of July?), I saw a listing. It seemed almost perfect, nearly too good to be true. It was smaller than I had originally wanted, and it was also at the tip-top of my budget. But I reached out. And I got a response very quickly.

Things went very well from there. I went down to take a look. I met the owner, who is incredibly nice (what a shift!) She and her husband bought the apartment as an investment and have no immediate plans to move there. The location is spectacular. In the heart of East Village between the beautiful downtown library and Petco Park. In fact, before she took me to see the apartment, she took me to the roof of the building, where I saw this:


I was nearly sold just with that. But I saw the apartment anyway 🙂 Her current tenant was still living there, stuff in boxes everywhere, but I got a sense of it. Later, after she showed me the gym  and the small theater room in the building, I decided to leap and hope the net would appear. I told her I’d like to move forward. So we did!

After a week or 10 days, maybe less, of paperwork and her calling references (read: former landlords – surprise surprise Clairemont douchebag never responded), she gave me the green light! Oh my god, I was going to move downtown! And that’s what I did.

I lived in an apartment after I graduated from college, a small 1 bedroom place in Hillcrest. From there, it was always houses. Once I’d lived in a Craftsman, I wanted nothing else. But then came Clairemont, and then Rolando, neither Craftsman and neither in awesome, walkable neighborhoods. My mom & I were talking about it, and she mentioned that and that I didn’t seem like the apartment type, but then I mentioned how in Spain, it was great, and I really think that our trip there last year really had a lasting impact. Especially seeing my cousin Sonia’s adorable little place in Santa Cristina. I remember my sister saying that she could see me in a place like that. I could, too. Of course, at that point, the relationship was still on, but the thought remained.

Han moved out on Saturday, July 30. D moved out around then, too. I moved on Monday, August 1, just over a week ago. A couple days ago, I finished putting everything in its place. I had pared down quite a bit, but somehow, everything I’d moved with me fit quite nicely, even storage-wise (which the apartment doesn’t have much of).

I have described it to people that it feels like I’m on vacation. The rooftop deck is beyond ridiculous. When there has been a game, I’ve gone up to check it out. The Becky came for a visit on Sunday, and we went up there to chat for a while. It’s just simply great. I have taken to it quickly and happily. And I eagerly await my first staying-over guest, my sister, at the end of this month!

As for other things (read: the relationship), I processed that change a while ago, prior to and around the time we had ‘the talk.’ Many of the details of my processing are not for public consumption, but I wish him and D great things.

And for other things (read: work), it continues quite stressfully. I lost one employee at the end of June who moved back to Las Vegas to support his wife who had taken a can’t-turn-it-down job. So in addition to dealing with a break-up and preparing for an upcoming move, I have been trying to hire someone while taking on the work that still needs to be done, on top of the HUGE project we’re working on. Whew. It’s no wonder that on Tuesday, the day after the move (which I had already taken off thinking I would unpack everything), I went to a movie then took a long nap. I was super tired!

But otherwise, I have been trying to take advantage of my new location, so I’ll give you a rundown of some places I’ve had the pleasure of checking out. The very first night I lived there, some friends were going to the baseball game, so I met them at a bar called Bub’s for a beer and appetizers before they came over to check out the place. I made sure to try Lolita’s, the Mexican joint nearby for some rolled tacos 🙂 I’ve also had meatballs and fried ravioli from Salvucci’s, an iced mocha & chocolate croissant from Copa Vida, and an iced mocha and cinnamon croissant roll from Bean Bar. I walked to all of those. That’s just in a week, and there are so many more to try!

I’ll leave you with another shot from the rooftop. Here’s to many great adventures with beautiful sunsets!


Dear Janis,

I watched a movie about you today. Actually a documentary. You died before I was born, but when I discovered you – your voice, your energy, your insecurity – I felt as if I’d known you. This film only cemented that.

I read your sister’s book, Love, Janis, in college and wrote an extensive paper about you for a class using many of your own words to tell your story. This film did much of the same thing. Chan Marshall (aka Cat Power) narrated and read some of your letters that you’d sent to your parents.

There was stuff I didn’t know, or didn’t remember. Like that when you were in Austin, you were nominated and won the ugliest man contest. How awful and cruel. It’s a big reason you lit out for San Francisco. But you weren’t able to make it that first time. Your friends put you on a bus back to Port Arthur to get straight. You went to see a show with a friend and ended up back in San Francisco where you auditioned for Big Brother and the Holding Company. And that’s when your rocket started to launch.

You loved being on stage. You were smart. And man, could you sing. The film had interviews with former bandmates, friends, managers, lovers. They talked about your drinking and using. They talked about your charm. Your magic. Unspoken (for the most part) was that you probably got laid a lot, but the truth was that there wasn’t love. The soulmate kind of love. You loved everybody. You wanted everybody to have a good time. And you all did. But you were often by yourself when the party was over. And those were the toughest times – the down hours. Nothing could replace the high you felt when you were on stage. God, it was electrifying to even see the footage. I know people who saw you live, and they tell me it was incredible.

Here are some videos:

I have written several poem inspired by you. In one of them, “Kings & Pearls,” I wrote:

\ The way I AM Janis
walking down an L.A. street in October
after “Buried Alive” and Barney’s Beanery,
“I will not die tonight,
sidewalk’s dirty but my feet don’t care
my lips are cold from beer…”

then there’s that void
between the cigarette machine
& the hotel room where they found her.

It is a void darker than desert midnight.
No one knows
but me.

She wasn’t done. /

Watching the film, knowing that you were doing the “Pearl” sessions, knowing that Paul Rothchild was working with you, knowing that you didn’t really know how to be alone, how to come down without using, I believe it more and more. You weren’t ready. You weren’t trying to die. you just didn’t know how to put off using that night.

I’ve never been into drugs. They scare the shit out of me. Your Big Brother bandmates said that early on you hated drugs. You didn’t want to be around it, but I guess the party took you to it. It was part of the fun. It was rarely an escape, just more fun to be had.

It’s amazing to think that your career, your stardom, lasted only three years. The Monterey Pop Festival was in June, 1967. You were gone in October, 1970. What a ride.

The interviews with the people who knew you, who made it out of the 60s alive, they are all, obviously, older. If you saw them in the street, you might not recognize them. But one thing I thought about when I was leaving, having sobbed through the last part of the movie at how sad it was that you had died, was that it is quite a gift to be able to age. You would have been 72 right now, going on 73 in January. What would you be doing now if you had managed to stay clean? Would you have had the same success with “Pearl” if you had been alive? I think you would have. It’s a great fucking album. Would you still be hanging out with Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead (as an aside, I am two degrees away from you: Han knows Bob and Bob knew you. Amazing.)? Or would you hole up in your house in Marin, taking in rescues and painting or some other quiet pastime?

There’s never been anyone like you in all these years (45!) since you died. You made it possible for lots of women to pursue rock ‘n’ roll, to pursue whatever the fuck they wanted, to have confidence.

When I see you on film or read something you said, but mostly when I hear your music, I feel so connected to you. Not that I want to be like you, but that I just know you. I know, in my own way, that feeling of being on stage and just killing it. That euphoria. And the post-show letdown. I know the girl who really just wants to know she is loved, even if her decisions may not be what others thought was best. I know the joy of the gathering of tribes, like-minded souls who just want to feel good, feel loved, and they do and all feels right with the world. I know the loneliness when the tribe is gone or moved on.

I will say, though, that I feel that I’ve almost always been okay being by myself. I’ve lived with Han now since 2006, but when he’s on the road or even just at gigs, I’m on my own. You would like Han.

Thank you. For who you were and for your music. For your unabashed joy on stage. For your imperfect skin. For your intelligence and your laugh. For being a muse.

with love,


cold house

Last day of NaBloPoMo! With the exception of last Wednesday, I wrote every day this month (I made up for it with 2 posts on Thanksgiving). It’s been fun. I will make no promises as to future writing! I’ve learned my lesson there.

It’s San Diego, so it does not get super cold here, like say it does in Salt Lake City or Sweden. But it’s all relative, right? We haven’t turned on the heater here, mainly because it’s a new (to us) place, and I’d rather have SDG&E come out to look at it first. So the last few nights it’s been getting cold here (in the 40s), and the house just cools right off. I’ve taken to wearing my jacket while I’m here in the evenings. Yes, yes, we’ll call SDG&E or at least get a couple space heaters 🙂

Han got home today, and I picked him up at the rental car place. We had Chinese food for dinner and watched the first episode of Twin Peaks. Remember that show? I never watched it when it was on. It’s odd, but I will say I’m a bit intrigued. By the way, I finished Parenthood on Netflix, but I was so bummed out because it only went through season 5, but there were 6 seasons! I didn’t recall exactly how many there had been so I figured there were only 5. Then when I got to the last episode and knew there was more to the story (from having watched it when it was on in prime time), and it wasn’t there, I was sad! But then, I just looked it up and season 6 will be added in late December! How convenient!

Tomorrow I’m taking the day off for all kinds of medical stuff. I’m going to therapy. I have to get lab tests done. I have to take in my pee samples that I’ve had to do the last two mornings (one more tomorrow, and BTW, I’ve had to keep them in the fridge. Yuck.) I have to pick up a prescription. And I’m going to have an ultrasound on my kidneys. Hopefully, it’ll all be done by early afternoon. My mystery pain seems to be better today, still kind of there, but not as bad as it was yesterday morning.

Until the next time!