New Year’s Observations

It’s 2015 and the last year is now just in the history books. It’s the time of year that people make their resolutions and start dieting, running, giving up smoking/drinking/wearing a purple monkey suit to work. Well, I don’t make resolutions, but I think I’d like to make some observations.

We moved from Northern Virginia to Eureka CA one year and two months ago. More than enough time to get settled in, find our land legs (so to speak) and get an idea of what we had gotten ourselves into with that cross-county change of address. There’s only so much you can learn from Internet research and there’s a lot of things that never make it to “meme” level.

The cold hard facts: Eureka is located 5 hours north of San Francisco, 7 hours south of Portland, nestled with its twin city, Arcata, along the shores of Humboldt Bay. With the mountains to the east and the ocean to the left, Eureka enjoys a moderate climate, referred to as “cool-summer Mediterranean”. It has a population of about 30,000 which swells to 45,000 during the business day. It is the only deep water harbor between SF and Coos Bay, WA. And apparently everybody within 3-4 hours comes here for July 4th.

And now, for your reading pleasure, observations I have made in this 14 month period, in no particular order:

In our first week here, we saw a man in a finely tailored green silk suit (steampunk style). He was wearing a matching hat, also made of green silk; a top hat with an exaggerated brim, not unlike the Mad Hatter’s. It was at least 3 feet tall and at least that wide.

The fireworks on July 4th would put any major city to shame: over 20 minutes long, lots of incredible bursts–and all hand fired. I also got to see Captain America doing the walk of shame the morning of July 5th. I’ve seen a man walking his turkey. I’ve seen enough dreadlocks and tie-dye to wonder if this is really 1967. I’ve seen more than one dog sitting quite happily in the trailer on his master’s bike as they roll down the road. I’ve seen our local grocery store clerk, wearing his steampunk top hat to work (regular size), with trimmings to coordinate with the holidays. I’ve seen parts of the kinetic sculpture parade.

I have also seen the ocean as often as we can get out to the beach. Each time is the same–but different. When we got here, there was a little spit at our part of the beach. Nine months and countless tides later, it’s moved about 300 feet north. And at the beach, we see (and watch AND watch for): pelicans, seagulls of all kind; various other unidentified sea birds–and a pair of ravens who have staked out this stretch of sand for their own. We have seen seals, but no whales. Yet. We’ve seen people surfing and people trying to surf. Crazy children in the water (cold water!!), and lots and lots of dogs.

As my Beloved would tell you, on the East Coast, when you go to the beach there is a billboard of “Thou Shalt Nots”–no glass, no animals, no tents, no no no no. And the beaches are still wall to wall of oiled bodies…but here? There are three rules: Beware of the riptide (and you can see the difference in water color where it is); don’t turn your back on the ocean and if you feel an earthquake, think tsunami and go to high ground. Oh, and no parking from 10 pm to 6 am. (To discourage people from sleeping there.)

So on our beach there are dogs, happy happy dogs, running, fetching, splashing, then running up on the blanket to shake off on everyone. I’ve seen dogs from “Are you sure that’s a dog? Looks more like a rat.” up to “Are you sure that’s a dog? Looks more like a horse.” and every size in between. Just so you know: dog poop on the beach dries out (probably makes a great fire starter) and looks like brown rocks. Be careful in your stone collecting.

We’ve seen horses and their riders, trotting happily on the sand–or just like you see it in the movies, in the front edge of the water, running fast enough to make the ocean spray rise up as they move along. And of course the steel horses: ATVs, SUVs and Jeeps all passing by. I’ve watched kites flying in the ever-present wind (really never gets below about 4 mph). Children of all sizes and colors, gender irrelevant in the joy of being at the beach. Playing in the water, running shrieking as the waves come rolling in, making sand castles and digging out moats.

The beach is a happy place for us even though we can’t get very far down the beach. (It’s not the walk *down*, it’s have to come back *up* the hill, exacerbated by the fact that it’s not a nice solid stone hill, but a sand dune. In the “winter”, when it’s too chilly, we sit in the van and watch from that warmth. In the summer, when it’s cool but the sun warms you up…we drag out folding chairs out a few feet from the front of the van, set up and watch. We might bring some donuts (the best I’ve ever had, made by Asians…who knew?), or a sandwich. We’ve been known to bring beer–and so do other people.

And yet…there is no trash, no broken glass. The only detritus is the ashes of a fire pit (yes, you can have FIRE on the beach–and in fact, there’s a guy who drops off old pallets, just stacks them on the beach for anyone to use)–and the aforementioned “brown rocks”. The day after 4th of July, there was a lot of firework waste…and a young man, with his lady friend, were walking along the beach, picking it up. They filled their car with trash and beer cases. They didn’t belong to the city’s sanitation department, they had no connection to the county waste program. Just two citizens, doing their part to keep things clean.

And that’s something I could not find on the Internet. People take personal responsibility for keeping things neat and cleaned up. There are trash cans–and recycling cans–all over town. And people use them! Even the children know which kind of trash goes where. And the citizenry is HOT on recycling. Most of the people I see at the grocery store have brought their own (reusable) bags–and not just because the store gives a nickel’s credit for each bag. The UU fellowship we attend has two buckets to scrape potluck leftovers into–one for compost, the other is meat and other non-compost-able items.

I know what the statistics say about Eureka, unemployment and homeless population. Yes, there is a much more visible homeless population than we had in NoVA. I think because there, the problem is swept out of sight. We don’t want to acknowledge that there are people who don’t have a place to sleep at night…so we turn away and don’t see them. It’s hard to do that here since it is not this city’s goal to hide the problem. Oh, they occasionally get told to “move along”, but by and large, as long as they’re not hassling anyone, fighting or breaking the law (in the same manner that you or I might, NOT “breaking the law” by being poor and homeless), the police leave them alone. They sleep in the cover of the bushes or move up into the hills for warm weather. They have backpacks or shopping bags, or some even have discarded baby strollers. No baby, just their stuff–or, maybe their dog.

A lot of our homeless have a dog. And while the man may look thin and undernourished, the dog never does. The most common breed? The American Staffordshire Terrier (or as we all call them, “pit bulls”). And they are friendly, well behaved and utterly devoted to their human. Remember, this is the breed that used to be known as the “nanny dog” because they look out for their people. I have never seen two dogs get nasty with each other when they’re passing…like the people, they are kind and polite to each other as well as to the humans. (Lots of opportunity for a major dog fight out on the beach quite often. It’s never happened.)

And I’ve seen enough homeless people to know that this is the opening wave of what may very well be a lot more homeless people if the world (and our economy) continues to ignore the fact that if you kill off all the “not rich” people, there is no one to do the work or buy your products. So I’ve seen men and women, adults only–haven’t seen any children who are obviously homeless, but they must exist. I’ve seen young and old, veterans and civilians; black and white and red and yellow; in wheelchairs or scooters. They know when they should congregate out back of the Department of Health and Human Services for the guy who brings a truck with hot coffee (and food).

The homeless in Eureka make “stone soup” every night. Each person brings what they have and they share with each other. There is a food pantry in town where they can get a box of food for the month–something from each of the types of food: protein, vegetables, fruit, grains, dairy. It may not be the best of things, but it’s food. I know, we get our box once a month, too. Never thought I’d be doing that, but when there’s no income for me and we’re living off of Beloved’s SSDI…you take what you can get.

And here’s another funny thing about the homeless people here: they are polite, friendly and do NOT scream profanity at you if you don’t have any money. Oh, and they just ask for “spare change”. If you can’t, then they say, “No worries, thanks man.” And they go on with their day.

It must be something in the water, or perhaps it comes from the ocean air. All of the people here are polite and kind. They are patient, happily waiting until you can clear the register, no one in a hurry and getting irate. If you ask a question and they don’t know the answer, they will find someone who does–or stand there, talking to you, to work it out. The grocery store clerks will very happily pack and then take your bags out to the car–and put them into the car. Without holding their hand out and there’s no sign posted about”No tipping” (like Wegman’s in NoVA).

This extends to their driving. Rush hour here is a joke, compared to the soul-searing hell of rush hour everywhere in NoVA. In Virginia, we measured distance in time: how long will it take you to get there. Problem with that is if you live 20 miles from work and can travel on roads that are 55 mph, you can get there in as little as 30-35 minutes (depending on the lights) BUT it can also take a couple of hours without an apparent reason for that. And you never know, until you’re on the road, which kind of a day it is: half an hour or 2 hours.

Here in Eureka, rush hour means a little slow down, letting more people turn onto and off of the main road and dealing with the lights. When we first got here and were using the GPS to find our way around, we were coming down the road and the GPS bonged. Then the nice lady voice said, “Traffic congestion ahead, 2 miles. Time of delay: 2 minutes.” Beloved almost crashed the car because he was laughing at that so hard. I was too…traffic congestion in VA is like miles and miles of parking lot, with a delay of hours, not minutes. Better have your book and a bottle of water to pass the time.

The 4th of July weekend had about double the normal amount of traffic–and you could tell who was from out of town, because they drove like maniacs. Natives just go with the flow, letting people in and not sweating getting to their destination 5 minutes after they thought they would.


Okay, so I suck at coming back and finishing up a blog article. It’s now the 17th of February. But I am just going to add this to what I had started because it says what I wanted to say then and I wouldn’t change it now. I’ll just write some more about what’s going on now.

I’ve had my follow up appointment with my PCP (finally!). He’s still all hot for me to go see a neurosurgeon because of the issues with my spine–but I’m gonna kind of take it slow and try some other forms of treatment before going under the knife. It’s not just that I’d have to go to San Francisco to have the surgery, but that arrangements would have to be made for my convalescence. I cannot come up the stairs and then lay in the bed for a month or 6 weeks while things heal up. My Beloved cannot take care of me with all the things I’d need.

Part of my delay for getting cut open began today with my in-take evaluation at the physical therapy place here in town. (Called “Vector”, which is how I’ll refer to it from here on.) I’ll be doing water therapy in a pool that is kept at 84 degrees, in a room that is kept at 80 degrees. If I do nothing else, I can at least get gravity off my spine for a while. Pain relief is the main goal for me, so we shall see how it goes. I have already made the request for a TENS unit–a little box of Heaven which I look forward to with great anticipation.  Beloved also goes and so we’ve got a handful of simultaneous appointments “in the pool” for the next month.

I start with 7 visits: 1 in-take eval, 5 therapy sessions (in the pool!) and a 2nd eval to see if the therapy is having any results. It’s stupid because obviously, this therapy should be like my Vicodin: ongoing and maintenance levels. Not “take it for a week and then you shouldn’t need it any more”. But the therapist says that the VA will probably then allow 12 visits, so that’s another couple of months at once or twice a week. One small step at a time.

I have also gotten a change in my anti-depression medication. As you may remember, I have been taking Venlafexine (Efexor) and had come to realize that it’s just not doing as good a job as one could hope for. So we (the psychiatrist and me) are sliding me off the Venlafexine and slowing building me up on Welbutrin. We’ll see if that works. I hope so, otherwise I get to do this process again with another (different) medication. But I am willing to do whatever it takes to stop having suicidal thoughts.

We are eagerly anticipating a 10 day visit from Beloved’s parents. They will be staying in a motel, as we have absolutely no room to put them up in our apartment–and we’ll be introducing them to all the good places we’ve found to eat. I think they are more than ready to get out of NoVA and they want to live close to their children, so this visit is almost a house-hunting, get familiar with the town sort of a trip. His sister is in IL, and she would then just come here for holidays and rest trips, being able to see all of the family in one go instead of having to fly to the East Coast and the West Coast. I hope that Eureka meets their expectations–and then exceeds them, same as it did for us.

Nothing much else going on. Still waiting for the LTD insurance company to decide if they’re going to reinstate my benefits. They want an independent evaluation and that may mean a trip of up to 150 miles (one way) to see a doctor who will accept the job. Fortunately the company is willing to provide transportation and lodging. I need to ask if they will also be willing to give us some $$ for food. But this evaluation means that a decision about yes or no isn’t going to happen within the next month, maybe even two or three. The anxiety about money is a big one and it’s not getting any better until LTD comes through or, miracle of miracles, SSDI gets approved. I’m not holding my breath for either of them because I’d be long dead if I did.

So that’s about it for me now. It’s mostly SSDD, but I do like to check in with you all on a somewhat regular basis. I still have fibro, life is still pretty stressful, but I’m still hanging on and hoping for good things to come along. Peace out!

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One thought on “New Year’s Observations

  1. Love your blogs and your descriptive writing and love that you are happy in your lovely town…sounds so appealing. Hope the in laws love it as well and you will have family nearby. Take care and I’ll be praying for the SSDD to come through! Happiness to you and your beloved as always!

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