November 27, 2001

I haven't been posting to the site as much as I'd like lately. There are a couple of reasons for this.

Three weekends ago, when we had a rainstorm, my office flooded. The back room's carpet was saturated with water. The building manager cleaned it up but did a bad job of it and the carpet was still not completely dry by Friday. By Friday I could barely breathe from the mold. I'm allergic. I'm allergic to lots of common things, mold, dust, cats, dogs...and something common where I come from, Iowa--corn pollen.

I also have asthma, due to the allergies, and am deathly afraid of asthma attacks. I get them rarely. But Thursday I felt some shortness of breath and when I put it all together, the nasty smell of mold, my congestion, I realized what was going on. I got the hell out of there. I haven't been back to my office since Friday afternoon, a week and a half ago.

I was swapped with a co-worker at our ofther office so I'm back at work but I'm working at a site where I'm not used to the way things are done. It's stressful and I feel awkward trying to do everything right and inevitably failing, but at least I can breathe. I'm amazed at how slowly the clean-up is going at the flood site. I'm eager to go back to my comparatively spacious office where I listen to music, drink my tea, know where everything is. It is kind of interesting, though, being where I am. It's like an exchange program. I'm learning what it's like in another world...but I'm still homesick.

The other thing that's been keeping me busy is my friend Nate. He came to stay with me for a week this Sunday. Prior to his arrival, I was devotedly cleaning, unpacking, trying to make my apartment the home I'd been wanting to make it but hadn't had the energy to get done. In the most stunning act of self-delusion in the history of mankind, one night I even convinced myself that I like to clean. We have to play these little tricks on ourselves.

It's been nice having Nate here. He lives in London and I don't see or speak with him very much. Mostly we email, which is fine, but not the same. I thought it might be hard, having him here when I'm used to living by myself. So far it's just been nice, sitting up talking, going to dinner. I took tonight off, let him have dinner with another friend without me tagging along, though he insisted I was more than welcome. I figure if we don't spend every night together, we won't hate each other by the end of the week. Besides, they were doing Indian food and I have some issues...but that's a story for another time.

I had my last singing class this week, too, last night. Nate came and watched. I did pretty well with our little recital. I always feel a bit like a kid with these recitals, but it is fun despite the fear. I'll be taking the class again in January. I'm addicted. All in all, not as expensive a habit as say heroin. And it's still a good rush.

Posted by Alyssa at 09:29 PM
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November 22, 2001

I'm watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I haven't watched the parade in years, choosing instead to sleep in on my extra day off. But I purposely got up this morning to watch it, though also getting up so that I could work on my apartment. I've got a houseguest coming this weekend and it's made me push myself to get my apartment sorted out.

When I was a kid, we always went to my grandparents' house for Thanksgiving. My Great Aunt Peg would fly in from Missouri and stay with us for a night, then we would drive to my grandparents' the next morning. I'd always get to watch about half the parade as I waited for everyone to get ready to go. Aunt Peg would usually be ready to go early, too, and would sit with me in her wool coat, ready to leave at any moment, and watch the parade.

I feel a bit like a kid today, watching the parade. It could almost be the same parade I watched when I was 8, all the familiar things--floats, balloons, bands, songs...

I've really enjoyed watching the performances from Broadway shows. I even liked the Rockettes. I remember from my youth being bored with the school marching bands. That feeling continues...

The floats themselves remind me of being a kid. Watching the hula girls on the Hawaii float. The crocodile on the Animal Planet float. The Alice in Wonderland float. I used to love those things. They seemed so special to me. I always wanted to go to New York for the Parade.

The people on the floats are funny. When the first one came in, the Statue of Liberty float, Betty Buckley was singing America the Beautiful. I watched her, trying to figure out if she was singing or lipsynching. When she pulled the microphone away from her mouth at the end of the song, two seconds or so before her voice ended, it became clear to me. Since then it's seemed rather cheesy watching all these singers mouth the words. Billy Ray Cyrus mouthed the wrong words at one point. My favorite was the Animal Planet guy on the Animal Planet float trying to clap enthusiastically while Boyz 2 Men "performed". I kept imagining him thinking, "who are these yabbos on my float?"

The balloons have been cute. This year is the 75th year of the parade and they've reproduced some of the original balloons. The original balloons were simpler and rounder. There was a toy soldier at the beginning. There was a certain irony in the reproduction Happy the Hippo being sponsored by Yahoo. They've been showing pictures of the original balloons and floats as well. It was odd going from seeing a balloon of the original "Steamboat Mickey" era Mickey Mouse then switching to Pikachu flying through the air. I'm glad to see, though, that the announcers continue the old tradition of exclaiming about how large the balloons are. It's always nice to know that the snout of the dog carrying the Rugrats is the length of two city cabs.

I wonder what you have to pay to get a seat in the stands at Herald Square.

The celebrities have been amusing, too. The ones on the floats are people like Charles Nelson Reilly, who's known for what...being Charles Nelson Reilly? Or soap stars whom I've never heard of. Famous teen-idol bands whom I've never heard of. Florence Henderson. Willard Scott. Al Rocher interviewed teen stars from a saturday morning show. John Leguizamo managed to be cool despite being interviewed by Al at a parade. And you gotta love Tim Curry. I love the idea of him playing Scrooge.

The NYPD marching band (who knew they had a band?) marched through to the music of New York New York. The crowd was applauding so loudly I could barely hear the music. I felt a little choked up. Rudy Giuliani got almost as loud a reaction from the crowd as New York State of Mind played. A fireman sang The Star Spangled Banner to a hushed crowd.

I suddenly remembered that I'm not 8 and it's a different world from the last time I watched the parade. I guess part of me hoped that the parade would be like escapism. But I guess they'll never let us escape completely. I guess we're supposed to always remember. No matter how much I want it to just be Thanksgiving.

Posted by Alyssa at 12:32 PM
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November 14, 2001

I went to a protest today. I've been to protests before. I protested the Gulf War for instance. I camped out all night, painted a sheet to say "No War" and chanted. Actually, I did that a couple of times.

This time the protest was against the place I work for put on by my union.

I heard about unions when I was very young. My mom was a big supporter of unions. I remember watching Norma Rae with my mom when I was just barely old enough to sort of understand what it was about. My mom looked a little like Sally Field.

I never worked anywhere that had a union before now. I used to joke that my co-workers at Java City or Peet's Coffee should get together and form a union. See if we could stop having to come in at 5:30 in the morning or get vacation time or more free coffee.

When I started working at UCSF I found that money came out of every paycheck, whether I liked it or not, to pay for union dues. I liked the idea of being part of a union, it made me think of Norma Rae, but I didn't really care for the money coming out of my paycheck.

Then last year I started getting emails from the union. They said UCSF was offering us a 2.8% pay increase as opposed to the 12% or so we were asking. Even if we got that 12% we still wouldn't be making the same wage as people in the private sector doing our same job.

I went to a protest then. I marched with other administrative staff, chanting various rhyming sentences, waving a sign. I wore a black band around my arm for the rest of the day. I felt like I was part of something, no matter how small, part of my own destiny, part of my own paycheck.

Ultimately we got a better raise than what was originally offered though not as much as we were asking for, or as much as newspaper carriers in Oakland got at roughly the same time that year. But hell, all we do is deal with patients at a hospital, they're delivering the news.

So now this year I find it happening again. The emails have begun to arrive saying UCSF is offering us a 1% raise. My co-worker John Paul pointed out that rents in SF under rent control go up 2.8% (more or less) every year. So this company I work for isn't even trying to keep our heads above water. Yesterday I got an email saying that top administrators at UCSF were likely to get a 25% raise this year. I screamed and told my co-worker Teresa that we were going to go to the protest rally today.

John Paul, Teresa, and I went to the rally. We held up signs. We did a little skit. We chanted for the news camera that was there. We walked in a circle in front of the cafeteria where the regents of UC were supposedly eating lunch. Some people wore fake long noses in protest of the lies we're supposedly being told by UC.

It was fun, actually. And I felt like I was doing something. If nothing else, I was shouting. I was saying that we deserve better. I was speaking up for myself. Sometimes I forget how good that feels. Sometimes it's easy to let my voice go unused.

Posted by Alyssa at 09:52 PM
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November 05, 2001

I fell today. Sigh. I fall a lot. I tend to be just walking down the street and suddenly I'm falling. It's not something I like to admit nor is it something I like people to know about me. My ex used to tease me about being so clumsy.

I like to think it's just that my mind wanders a lot and I think you have to concentrate at least a little to walk. Even though you stop really thinking about it after the age of 2 or so, I think there's a part of your consciousness that is always acutely aware of the mechanics of walking when you're doing it. Left, right, heel, toe, watch the curb. I sometimes get thinking so intensely about something, a story I'm working on, the guys playing roller hockey in the school yard, the future, or today it was my song for singing class; that I think even that tiny little scrap of consciousness that's supposed to be watching my feet gets caught up and down I go.

Anyway, I pretend it doesn't bother me but of course every time I scrape my knee I curse myself for being the 8 year-old girl I used to be with scabs on knees and elbows, messy hair, dirty face and hands, barefoot running rampant across my acres-wide yard. And that's not really who I am anymore. I'd rather not be reminded. Plus it hurts.

Falling today and scraping my knee made me think about all my scars. I used to love listening to the song by Poi Dog Pondering, U Li La Lu. I loved the line, "You should wear with pride the scars on your skin, They're a map of the adventures and the places you've been." I think that's true; each of my scars tells a story. I'm glad I don't have more but the ones I have I don't try to hide.

The scar on my right knee is from falling too many times. Sigh. There's a matching one on my left knee, only worse.

The scar on my left inner ankle is from walking around barefoot in Iowa as a kid. I think it was a cut from an old tire or an old swingset. I used to play on such things, despite warnings from my parents. They tried to get me to wear shoes, too.

The scar on my right thigh is the one I torment my sister with. We were fencing with branches and she cut me. It was long and deep and bled a lot. She begged me not to tell Mom and Dad as I ran home to do just that. Mom put on bandaids while lecturing her. That's what little sisters are for.

The scar on my left arm is from cooking. In my old apartment, before "the divorce", I was cooking dinner and taking out a large heavy glass pan. Our oven door didn't stay open and I needed both hands to take out the pan. The pan was coming out, the door came up, and rather than drop dinner I burned the hell out of my arm. Actually both arms, there's a smaller version on the right. I think that may have been when I realized I wasn't cut out to be a housewife.

The scar on my right index finger is the one I wear with the most pride. My first year of college, I was washing wineglasses in a sink full of soapy water and one of the glasses broke. I didn't realize it until I sliced open my finger. It took 4 stitches and the nurse told me it looked like I'd tried to cut my finger off. First and last time I'd gotten stitches. It got me out of writing Hiragana in my Japanese class for about a week.

Sure, I don't have any knife wounds or gunshot scars or gashes from saving drowning children. But my scars do tell a little story about me. I look at them and they remind me. The continuing scars on my knees remind me of my singing class, my stories, the roller hockey guys...

And the only finger I don't wear a ring on is the one with the scar. It's already decorated.

Posted by Alyssa at 11:40 PM
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November 01, 2001

I went to the Castro last night for Halloween. I go every year so even though I'm still sick, I had to go. It was cold this year, though, and unfortunately my costume was not exactly warm. I went from being a gold fairy to being Fairy Without a Cause in my pleather jacket. I was planning to go with my friend Kelly but he had to wait for his neice to get off work at 10 in the East Bay so I headed out without him. My sister wanted to go so I planned to meet her. It was the first time my sister had gone in years, as she's usually in France. I met her at our friend Tracy's house, just down the street from the core party.

From Tracy's house we wandered over to Castro. Great costumes everywhere and the usual sea of bodies. Chris and I tried not to get our wings mangled. I'll let them speak for themselves.

But I saved the best for last. Kelly finally arrived on Castro around 1 a.m. I was on the verge of going home when I finally saw him. I don't think I'm prejudiced when I say he had the best costume on Castro.

Posted by Alyssa at 10:31 PM
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