Experience in the Civil Science of Sharks

It’s been months since I’ve written at raw.bio. For shame. I have been working on the house more-or-less, threw a great Halloween party despite the disarray. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that stuff has happened but now it’s time. Time to write a post.

I went shark fishing for the first time last week. My brother-in-law is super into it as well as my sister. They even have started their own little business, Spartan Tackle, selling the stuff that’s used to preform this activity (note the words and logos on the shirt I’m wearing – yes, my siblings, this is your plug). They have been doing this since before their first child was born and now that little girl is a heck of a beach baby. In addition to shark fishing, her, my sister, and I collected seashells. It was great.

The process of “shark fishing” is a leap from quite boring (aside from enjoying the view and the seashells… and, if it hadn’t been 40 degree F and windy, the swimming and whatnot). Until it’s abruptly not boring. Then it is ridiculously exciting. There is so much to do all at once and it takes multiple people to do it.

Capturing a shark like this is a team effort. Someone must prepare and pack the camp (no small thing). Someone must prep and kayak the bate and hooks out hundreds of meters. Someone must reel the fish in (and in my case, first timer and all, I had help with that job too); meanwhile, as it gets closer to shore, someone lassos it to bring it closer on the shore. Someone must make sure it stays put, but also isn’t at risk of suffocation. Someone must tag the fish and then there is the release.

Seeing one off was moving.

Last Friday, I reeled in a 10ft dusky shark (that’s big). Beautiful and graceful, she brought me perspective on an animal we rarely see. The dusky shark is among the overfished and is at 15-20% the population they had in the ’70’s. Our group tagged her for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) so that the continued conservation of dusky sharks can be watched and populations preserved. Without it, this apex predator is not likely to survive. The tag can be seen on the viewer’s side of the front dorsal fin. These sharks live around 38 years. I hope this one lives long.

Reeling in a 10ft shark takes time. One of the veterans on the team though it took about 45minutes, which is a quick speed (go team! woo!). My right arm was working pretty much that whole time. And sometimes, all the effort I could give was not enough. The pole would bend over as the shark fought and it was a toggle of reel in and release until it could be reeled all the way in.

This shark was not exactly thrilled to be caught as I doubt any animal would be. But I was surprised at its calmness once in. She gave my brother-in-law a harsh slap to the face with that wicked tail, but he barely bat an eye and kept at it.

At the end of it all, I nearly wept with amazement.

To reiterate… this species and others have been diminished in population directly because of human work. Issues such as overfishing, bycatch, and shark finning all contribute to a threat to the stability of our environment.

Species ebb and flow and come into existence and go extinct. But, I think it’s important to keep in mind that the world we came into and can live in is the one with dusky sharks and other creatures in the cycle that supports our existence. It is in our interest not to fuck it up, lest we go extinct.

Being the flavor of transhumanist that I am, I am looking for a way out of this type of survival, but that does not mean I want to rush our species into harm’s way or risk other species’ lives either. It’s a delicate balance and humanity knows how to push it and push it hard. It doesn’t hurt to inform yourself and pay attention to potential repercussions of our actions. And perhaps even try to do the right thing.

 

 

The Bike Trailer (and getting rid of a TV)

As if Drew and I haven’t convinced you yet, here is another example of how we’re a pretty hardcore duo. (You can be one too!)

The other day, we built a bike trailer to help us haul stuff. We’re not talking kids (though they can haul some weight). We’re talking several 5 gallon plants, soil, wood, bricks, even appliances. And sure, groceries, but only if we’re doing a mega-epic Costco style grocery shop!

But most currently, we have a huge TV that was abandoned at the house when we bought it that has just gotta go.

We wanted something like this, having been inspired by this (Drew was perhaps more inspired at first as my legs didn’t feel that strong; but, after having built the thing and felt how light it is, I feel better about it – still don’t know if I’ll be the one hauling appliances).

But one cannot drop a grand willy nilly, at least not if you’re us. BostonBiker came to the rescue. Following these instructions, we built one by ourselves.

I won’t go through the how-to as you can find it on BostonBiker’s website, but I do hope to inspire you to understand that you’re capable of not only taking your bike commute to another level (seriously, who really needs a car, especially if you live in a city – not to say cars can’t be convenient and handy – but we’re talking about understanding the basic principle of “You can do it anyway!”), but doing so while slashing hundreds of dollars off the initial cost. That initial cost can still be tough for some (but if you’re giving up the car, the savings will pay for it fast), but it is more feasible for many.

So, anyway, if you haven’t clicked on any links, you are probably wondering what the heck we built looks like. This:

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The finished product. Yes, showing you that first.

This was our process in photos:

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Heh, car trailer, we will convert you! Setting this up was simply a matter of attaching parts with nuts and bolts. Screwdriver needed.

It wouldn’t be right without being silly with Bikes at Work replacement parts.

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Turning those spare parts into parts ready to go on a bike trailer.

Must take measurements (background is laundry air drying on the line and the mess from the bedroom)!

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Must drill in the things (this alteration is to make the trailer axle replace the car hitch).

Drew can do these things with his eyes closed (he is attaching the axle).

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Drew epitomizing manly manliness with his safety gear and Dremel (having to make slots for the bike hitch bars).
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Hitch install.
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Trailer attached, heavy ass TV loaded.

And away he goes to bring that cursed TV we were stuck with to the recycling center! Within an hour, he successfully returned.

A House Worth Blogging About

It’s time to admit it to myself. This house is worth blogging about.

Overview:

I recently moved into a house. My first house. If the story is correct, it’s over 100 years old, built in honor of our nation’s 100th birthday. It was moved by barge from Philadelphia to Harrisburg. It has an arch through the middle. It straddles a road into a cemetery. It has a major intersection in front of it and quiet neighbors behind. On each side of the house/street, there are yards. One side of the house has been built into an efficiency and the rest of the house, including basement, attic, and second floor is the other living space.

We decided on the house because of a combination of price, location, DIY project opportunities, and appropriate level of eccentricity for our tastes.

The Story (so far):

In the fall of 2015, we were living at Drew‘s grandparents house, supposedly for the winter but that option seemed like it was becoming increasingly precarious and we wanted a place of our own regardless. We were tired of renting and living at the whims of others.

We had considered two other properties. The first was a 10 acre piece of land an hour north of Redding, CA. We’d be in the middle of nowhere and be able to develop the land. It would have been far away from everyone (including friends and family) but pose a fun challenge and insure plenty of privacy. This was voted out because it was too far away and the time investment would be overwhelming, in my opinion. The second was the house with no running water that we stayed in the summer of 2015. Despite the great amount of effort it would take to restore, it was relatively close to friends and family, gorgeous (old house, 5 acres of land, a creek running through it with an part of an island). It was eventually voted out because the initial cost would be high, then that number would be doubled because of the intense repairs that would be needed and we’d have to drive nearly everywhere. It was outside of budget and I worried I’d never see Drew again because of the amount of work it needed and he would want to do himself.

Then, Drew was reading news in the basement of his grandparents’ house. He read about the arch house for sale in Harrisburg. He leaned over and said, “Look at this.” I did. “Do you think we should buy it?” I said, “Yes, we should definitely buy it.” This meant, of course, that we should just go look at it. I had not shown this much enthusiasm about any of the other properties. This one was priced right so that we would still be free to move to Italy should the time come (should Drew’s citizenship go through – complicated story), it was close to friends and family for the time we still had in the USA, it had the potential to generate income should we turn the efficiency into a rental, and it still offered DIY projects, but not to an overwhelming extent like the others. It was an interesting house in a good location for us. And then we’d have a home we would own where Drew and I could have offices and we could focus on what we needed to do rather than be thrown around and in a constant state of instability and unexpected drama.

We saw it and it was as we hoped and we put in an initial offer. Then, the inspection happened and it was going to potentially need a bit more work than we anticipated. We put in an offer based on the inspection. We had decided that if it didn’t work out, we would move to Washington state to be closer to Dangerous Things‘ headquarters. They did not accept the offer. We walked. We moved to Washington.

About three months later, Drew received a text. They offered a much lower number. We negotiated. We would be moving back and buying the house.

On our trip back to PA to close, we had a surprise party for our friends at a mysterious location. Those that came were like, “wtf” and we told them we’d bought it and then they were like, “WTF!” and there was much joy. We also made it a surprise for Drew’s sister and that resulted in happy tears and many hugs.

After six months of living in Washington, we moved back. There have already been many a misadventure with this house to blog about!

I miss Washington. I miss the mountains and the Puget Sound and the short winters and mild summers and gorgeous everything. I miss Amal and Jodi and Gabriel. I wished I could pick up the house and all my friends and family here and just place them in Washington. But, hard choices must be made. Washington is expensive and far away and we want to retire early.

We opted for extreme winters and summer, small mountains and no ocean. But we have a house that is fun and we can afford. We have a ton of friends and family nearby. We have the hope of our wild life thousands of miles away should Italy work out. And, we have a better chance at an early retirement. But, perhaps most importantly, we have a home.

Cross-country Move (Again & Again)? Marriage? Kitchen-destroying Car Crash? Permaculture? Home?

My life has dramatically changed in the last 2 years. I’m not myself, in a way. In another way, I’m more myself than I’ve ever been.

Sorta “quick” overview of the past 2 years until today:

  1. 2 years ago, I traveled cross-country on my own in a mostly working Chevy Metro to Washington state. There, I fell and love with my obvious life partner who had been my best friend for about a year already, the one person I’ve ever met that really gets it. Although still polyamorous by philosophy, I opted for a monogamous state with this person. This person is 11.5 years younger than me. Not sure what that says about me, but it doesn’t really matter. A lot changed because I actually believed in someone and they believed in me. I leave the rest of the mushy story for another time. A lot also changed in my day-to-day life.
  2. My true goals clarified as I finally believed they were possible.
  3. I became a strong saver of money. For the most part (save a couple manic stages, one of way overspending and one of stretched spending), I’ve always been frugal, but it was more by necessity than choice. Because my path is more clear now, it’s obvious that saving money will enable early retirement and a life filled with joy and grand goals.
  4. Upon moving back from Washington to Pennsylvania, I lived in my boyfriend’s mom’s basement. Living with parents was not a thing I’d done in 13 years. Somehow, it didn’t quite taste like failure as I expected. A lot felt different.
  5. For a few months, I lived in a beautiful house in the woods with a creek running through it that didn’t have running water.
  6. I slowly relapsed into depression and got back on medication.
  7. I did yoga, worked on a farm, and took up a new obsession, pole dancing (best workout ever). I also made and sold jewelry and learned to crochet. I became and avid biker and bike activist. I studied math. A lot of math. Read about cryptography, biology, history, and neuroscience.
  8. I moved into the boyfriend’s grandparents who would be leaving for six months and us… renting? It was a confusing time that ended with us abruptly not having a place to live.
  9. I realized that not only did I like my boyfriend’s immediate family, I really love them and they’ve become my friends. Like, I really enjoy their company and I trust them.
  10. I moved into a tiny studio apartment for a month that I’d lived in before because I still had an awesome relationship with that landlady.
  11. We almost bought a house a few times in 2015 (this was my second attempt at house buying). We had to walk away from them all. The last one was the kicker. I was sensible about the others, but that last one was just sized right, logistically right, priced about right, and was just eccentric enough for us. I wanted that house. But, we’re tough negotiators and we had to walk away.
  12. We discovered that Drew can pursue Italian citizenship. We planned to move to Italy in a few years.
  13. We decided to move back to WA, but spent the second part of December and first part of January sorta homeless, visiting my parents and other family at Christmas, visiting Drew’s mom and sister in Philadelphia for New Years, then visiting Drew’s dad and family in NJ until we left. We shipped all our stuff via Amtrak. I’d planned another road trip with a friend to cross the country,  but the weather was treacherous, especially for a Metro. I left the car behind and flew.
  14. Drew and I eloped on New Year’s Eve.
  15. I moved into an insane basement apartment with an insane landlord and experienced insane things while there. Nonetheless, we planned on living there until we moved to Italy. We hosted many guests and went on many adventures.
  16. Drew got a text and negotiation re-opened on the house in Pennsylvania. We got a much more sensible price for us. We bought it and went back and forth but intended to settle fully in July.
  17. My Metro was sold by my now mother-in-law. I was car free again!
  18. Two weeks before that July date, the house got smashed into, destroying the front wall and kitchen. Insurance covered it, but we would go home to mad damages (that are still in repair).
  19. For the first time, I live in a house (albeit broken) that is mine.

I’m clearly a woman who gets around. I mean… anyway, I’ve moved a lot. I’ve lived an interesting, and some would say crazy, life.  I’ve lived in Houston and DFW in TX, capital city in PA, near Chicago in IL, and little city north of Seattle, WA. I’ve also traveled a good bit in the United States (and a little beyond). I’ve been to every state but Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island (something I aim to change in the next year). I’ve crossed the country north and south on both sides, east and west with very different routes. As an adult, I’ve lived in about 25 buildings for a range of 2 months to 2 years. That puts me at nearly two buildings a year. I am not old (though that is a thing I may never believe I am), I’ve just lived many places. So, finding myself a homeowner (with Drew, of course) was both disorienting and glorious. Not to mention having other forms of stability.

In 2016, we purchased our home in the unlikely (yet also likely) city of Harrisburg, PA. It is a house that arcs over a road going through it to a cemetery. It’s a price that will beat rent in a short period of time, optimally located a short bike ride to downtown, by a grocery store, surrounded by parks, and by the Greenbelt. It offers DIY projects, but not to an overwhelming extent. It is interesting looking. Inside, there is a perfect amount of room so that both Drew and I get offices in which to work (we work remotely, so this is important), have a bedroom, a bathroom, a reasonably sized kitchen (I like to cook), a small living room that could also potentially house guests, and a basement for storage and laundry. On the other side of the house and under part of our living space, is a little efficiency in which we can also store guests or friends (comfortably and with the freedom to leave, of course). There is a downstairs porch, and a huge deck from which I am writing, overlooking the cemetery (yes, we will be throwing epic Halloween parties). Outside of each part, on each side of the street, is a yard – a thing I’ve dreamed about. EDIT: Sorry for the redundancy in a later blog.

Here are the happenings after the house was purchased:

2 weeks before we were going to fully settle, a car crashed into our house, destroying our front wall and kitchen (sorry for the redundancy if you read the overview). We got a call from a friend who was house-sitting to let us know. I was driving Drew, Drew’s sister, and myself home from a day trip to North Cascades National Park. It shook me up a bit.

This problem somehow lead to a spurt of Internet fame. We were going to get gigantic bollards to put in front of the house but wanted to make sure we did it right. Drew posted on reddit to get advice. The advice flowed. So did a number of wild comments and jokes about the strangeness of our house. The posted was number one on reddit and we made the local news.

The process of repair is a thing I’ll inevitably post about. As well as the side project that will be renovating the balcony and building the furniture for it out of pallets.

I had already decided that if I ever found myself a homeowner of a place with space to plant, I would pursue a permaculture landscape, most of which would be edible. I’d have a hippie’s dream yard- I’d grow a significant amount of my vegetarian diet, have bees, bats, and maybe chickens, it could qualify for NWF wildlife garden certification, etc. This is in progress. I will post about this too.

For all the madness, the resounding thought is, I have a home. I can’t use the kitchen yet, but I know I’ll be able to. The place is a mess, but it will be cleaned and furnished to my specifications (save Drew’s office; that is his sanctuary). I have a cool view and a nearby wilderness to roam, not to mention a yard, all mine, in which to grow wonderful things.

We still may move to Italy in a few years, but for now (and perhaps long into the future), this will be home. I never felt like home could be in one place (home is inside me, it travels with me, it’s with Drew, blah blah blah), but for now, it is.

 Photo: I made a map of my road trips. They aren’t exact. Stars are where I’ve lived. States not crossed by these trails, I’ve flown to, with the exception of a few New England states.

Cat Creating Crazy

Don’t get me wrong, I like cats. No, love cats! When I was 5, I thought I was one.

Be that as it may, I have recently encountered one that made me absolutely insane. Hear me out. This shit gets real.

Drew‘s sister, Avery, came to visit two weeks before we moved from Washington state. She brought with her her friend’s mother’s cat. We’ll call the mother Maria and the cat Stacy (I don’t know if they want their names revealed, so I’m playing it safe). Maria and her cat were moving in with Maria’s boyfriend in Washington. Maria wouldn’t be arriving for a few weeks and her boyfriend hadn’t moved to a place where he could have cats yet. We said we could catsit in the meantime. We technically couldn’t have cats either, but we were almost out of there. And I love cats. So, no big deal, right? She’d be a welcomed companion!

Ugh.

Stacy was sweet, soft, pretty, stealthy, and not at all food motivated.

She didn’t eat at first. She managed to get in the back of a dresser. We found her after searching and had to wiggle her out as she had no interest in moving or interacting with us. We found her wedged between the drawer under the stove and the side of the stove. Twice. This cat was a contortionist… or had shrinking powers. Again, she was disinterested in moving or interacting with us. It took us a while to get her out of there. Each time, we had to resort to grabbing her by the scruff to get her out. She would not be coaxed. We kept her in the bathroom for a day or so to see if she’d relax. She hid at first, then would walk around. When she jumped at trying to get out, we let her.

Finally, she decided to warm up to us and jumped on Drew and my bed at around 5AM the next morning. I loved this and petted her. Drew hated it because he had to work in the morning and eventually put her in the living room with Avery.

The next morning, we didn’t see her. I wasn’t worried at this point as I knew she just wasn’t terribly social and was probably hiding somewhere. By the afternoon, we looked. She appeared to be… nowhere.

We ransacked our home looking in every nook and cranny. We made the apartment a mess searching but we kept looking. Then, we decided to try to pack more so there were fewer things she could hide in or around. We checked cabinets and behind appliances. We checked for holes. We checked everything we could.

That morning, before all this, Avery and I had left the house. We hadn’t seen her and found it highly unlikely that she would have left (she’d never been outside), but we started to get scared. We searched around the apartment outside. We looked in bushes, under cars, in random places I’d seen other cats hide. Nothing.

We called it quits for the night and hoped that wherever she was hiding, she’d come out and jump on the bed again at night. I really thought she would. We agreed that we’d put her in the bathroom again where we could definitely find her. But, she didn’t jump on the bed.

She hadn’t eaten much while we’d seen her, now we wondered even more what she might eat and if she would find food or just… die. We started to panic a bit and kept searching. Eventually, we were at a point where we knew we needed to call Maria. We did. That sucked.

Stacy was going to be picked up the next day and we had been planning to leave for a long weekend to see one of the greatest monuments to nature, Olympic National Park. Stacy couldn’t be picked up as she was missing and that vacation was off. We had to find her. Other than packing, our days were mostly colored by searching for this fancy, ocicat (apparently she was made by breeding an ocelot with a Siamese cat, giving her that cute, quiet meow that would prove to be a pain) that probably cost a bigillion dollars and Maria was in love with. It was the first time I began to really resent a cat. But I worried too.

We printed signs. I submitted notifications to the human society and like organizations. We widened our search.

There were so many places to hide being that our landlord kept a graveyard for old cars. I scooted on my belly under each that I could and tried to figure out if she’d jumped up into one of them.

We kept searching more bushes and hiding spots and so forth. I was losing hope.

We bought expensive organic tuna and fancy treats. The strays nearby seemed to like it. What if one of them had hurt her?

Ugh.

After exhausting everywhere we could look in our apartment, we started leaving the window open, sure she must’ve gotten outside, hoping she’d come back in. We left food on the window sill.

At the end of day 4 (I think), we were reading Who Was…? books with Avery when we heard a rustle. Avery and I went out to look. The first two times, we saw nothing but the bag of food knocked over.

The third time, there was no doubt. A tiny body and ringed tail had jumped up into… somewhere. Then, a head peaked down. It was her.

We looked to where we’d seen her and there, up above the ceiling where the top of the window hid (we lived in a very confusing basement apartment), was a small hole that none of us had found. And by small, I mean we could fit our hand and a cell phone in there and that’s it. We tried to coax her with food and love and kind words. She would not come.

That’s when the arguments began, disrupting our domestic bliss.

I wanted to take the long road. I wanted to leave the food and we could stay on watch, going in shifts throughout the night, until she came back down, and then we’d get her and bring her to the bathroom where she could stay until someone came and got her. Avery and Drew wanted to get her RIGHTNOW.

We looked for her with our phones shining their light, using the video app so we could see since our fat, human heads couldn’t get close to fitting in order to see. She was way back in what seemed like a crawlspace? For cats or rodents? Certainly not humans. We tried a little more with the food and the love, but she wasn’t interested, despite obviously being hungry.

If we weren’t going to stay on watch, I wanted to take down the ceiling tiles. Drew did not. We lived in an apartment, we were not supposed to have a cat there in the first place, and we’d be compromising our deposit by damaging the unit. I argued that if we wanted to get her out RIGHTNOW then we needed to take down the tiles because we simply couldn’t reach her. And obviously, we agreed, we couldn’t put the deposit over the cat. Drew tried unscrewing an old heater vent to look in that way. It was a good idea, but it didn’t lead to her. We perhaps could have tried coaxing her out if we’d had a flexible stick (glow rods maybe?) or something long enough to reach in the small hole we’d seen her in, but we didn’t have that.

Finally, we did take the tiles down, but they were glued to wood panels that we could barely get our hands through. We broke some tiles (they were cheap, not-wood tiles; I said I could glue them back together and could paint them). But, despite the boards, I could reach her. She came over and sniffed my hands. I pet her for a while and tried to get her to come over by herself, but eventually I tried to grab her scruff to pull her down. There were too many things she could grab onto. I was so scared I was hurting her but I almost got her. Then, she got away.

Using part of a curtain rod, we coaxed her over to the opening where Drew was waiting. He reached in and the cat let him pet her. I guided him to get his hand positioned in case he needed to grab her. He pet her for a little while but she wouldn’t come down and he got her scruff and tried to bring her down. She would not relent. He tried, but she prized her freedom over her beautiful coat and Drew just ended up with nothing but some fur in his hand.

She had disappeared. Again. Into the blackness of the back of that space. We didn’t know where, but we couldn’t see her anymore even with the light of the phone. There was clearly another exit.

At this point, Drew was frustrated and angry and I was upset. I started to cry. I was so scared that we’d hurt her. And we hadn’t even gotten her to make her safe again.

We suspected she’d jumped into The Garage.

The Garage was so called by us because it was a creepy place and it was not a place we were supposed to be. The fact that we had the combination to the lock was only because the landlord had asked us to switch the breakers at some point and the breaker boxes were in a room within The Garage. Fortunately, we had it typed into some notes. Drew did not like going in there one bit. I didn’t either, but what were we to do?

We went in. There was one light which we flipped on. We had our cell phone lights. Everything was filthy. There was an old Volkswagen bug parked there, rusty and broken tools, boards, and other unidentified crap. Overhanging the car was a ledge and two feet protruded. They were not people’s feet (praise goodness!). They were more like shoes connected to bars, presumably so that someone could help themselves walk. We searched around, mewing, and finding nothing. I climbed onto the car to see up between the joists. I did not find her, but I found 3 inch fish hooks and spider webs dangling between.

Drew really wanted to leave, scared we would get shot or arrested and I was doing something dangerous, climbing all over the place (he worries; he loves me). Because I was overwhelmed with all the places she could be, I went back to the apartment with Drew and Avery. Poor Avery: she kept mostly quiet and calm and looked where she could without really compromising her safety or getting in the way. She’s quite perceptive.

We sat in the bedroom. I thought we should go back in and keep searching. Drew did not. He did not want to go in The Garage at all. I asked how we were supposed to find her. Drew wanted another way. So, in a state of mental and emotional agony, we thought.

Light. Obviously.

If she got through the hole, light would too. I announced that I was going back into The Garage and Drew could shine his cell phone light through the original hole we’d seen her head pop out of. Then, I’d be able to tell where the hole was and get a better idea of where we could search.

In The Garage, I saw a light flashing. It wasn’t exactly in The Garage… it was in this other room connected to The Garage. I wasn’t sure how to get there, but if there was hope, it would be by going through the room with the breaker boxes. I went exploring, Avery following, but not wanting to go into another creepy room. In the back of the breaker room and as I hoped, there was a door. I hoped against hope that we could go through that door. We had to get this cat. She just didn’t seem the kind of cat that could survive in the wild. And we were so close.

The door had an odd mechanism for opening it, but it was not locked. I went inside.

In this other room, there we haphazardly thrown about, aged medical equipment including a rusted wheel chair, crutches, and a large hospital bed mattress draping over what could have once been a walkway. There was no path into the room. Beyond the medical stuff, there was a ton of furniture stacked everywhere. This was clearly the room of a hoarder who could levitate.

Avery had followed and I told her to go tell Drew. Drew could hear me. The hole was pretty big. Way bigger than the one from our apartment. But this other room was also big. And completely full of stuff a cat could hide in. I began to climb to get toward the hole she would have jumped through. Over the mattress, onto a few feet of floor, then onto the unsteady furniture, until I was high enough that I could see through the hole and put my eyes on Drew’s cell phone. He could see me as well through the video app. The fact that we’d been able to hear each other was concerning. What other tenants could hear us?

There was no going back now. I explained the situation to Drew. I had to look. There was just… so… much. I had Avery’s cell phone light. I started by climbing down from the furniture and looking around. There was this Sweeny Todd-like oven thing. Rusty, bulbous, and intimidating. Under it’s base was open around the lower piping and I felt around, terrified of getting bitten by something as I couldn’t see all the way into it. I felt nothing. I was partly disappointed and partly relieved.

She was not visible on that side. I announced that I was going to climb back up and search on the other side of the furniture wall. So I did, shining the light between cabinets and coffee tables and chairs and night stands.

“Did you find her?” “There is so much here; I’m still looking.” “Be careful.” “I’m trying.”

I decided to climb further down on that side. Just as I was going to, I took a moment and looked around to see if there was a clue.

There, on top of the great drum of the Sweeny Todd oven, in the center, was a cat, sitting up straight like she’d always been queen of this crumbling abyss, presiding over her Helldom with claw and tooth.

I froze. “I see her. I’m looking right at her.”

I slowly reached out one hand. She sniffed it. For all that this cat was antisocial, she seemed to have a weird, inconsistent sort of trust for people anyway (maybe she smelled tuna on my hand from earlier). Or perhaps, as she seemed to be mistress of this territory, she felt safe somehow. Maybe she knew how to turn on that old metal beast she sat upon?

Whatever the case, I let her sniff me and then she let me pet her. I stood there, balanced on a partially standing set of drawers, just petting her for a long time. Then, I set the phone down and picked her up gently. At first, she seemed fine, but then quickly showed displeasure. I got some nice crimson slashes out of that. But I refused to let go. She was coming back with me and she was going home to her mom as soon as Maria made it to Washington and that was simply how it was going to be.

Climbing down with a thrashing cat, a phone, on unstable furniture was not a thing that would be easy. I held on tight and asked for Avery. I told her I knew that it was bad but that she wouldn’t get hurt and I really needed her to climb over the mattress and get close enough to me to take Stacy so I could climb down and then I’d take her again.

Avery gathered her bravery and did it without question. I handed down the little creature who’d been such trouble, climbed down, and took her back, claws stabbing into my chest.

I whispered to her that it would be OK, that this was almost over, that she would be safe.

We made it back to the apartment and I immediately put her into her cat carrier. We gave her food and water, but that’s where we agreed she would live until Maria’s boyfriend could come pick her up the next day. I asked that we put the carrier on the floor next to me as I laid on the bed. I really wanted to keep seeing her and know that she was there.

I would be on that bed for quite a while. She wasn’t happy about being in her carrier or in this situation, but I kept whispering to her that it’d be OK and she’d be so happy once she saw her mom again. That I was sorry she’d been through all this but it’d be fine.

Someone carried her away at some point, Drew called Maria to let her know we’d found Stacy and that she was fine. I don’t know at what point I fell asleep. The three of us might have talked longer, or I may have vacillated in and out of consciousness. At some point, I was asleep.

I woke up and remembered. She was there with us, safe. Tremendous relief flooded me again. Maria’s boyfriend came and got her and she was no longer our responsibility. I would get a wave of relief every morning and at random times in the day for several days more.

I repeated, “I’m so glad we found her.”

Avery would say, “I know.”

Drew

Drew is someone I frequently reference in my posts. To make this easier for readers and allow me to use his name without confusion, I decided to write a post about him so he’s not some elusive stranger to which I refer.

He is my partner in every sense of the word. We work together, we search for truth together, we take care of life’s logistics together, and we’re in love with each other. I never imagined I find a person with whom I’m so compatible. /mush

He is a software developer for work and for fun. Most of his current projects have to do with cryptography. He is also strong in app development and well, most things. He’s the type to figure things out so if he doesn’t know at first, he’ll find out how to do it. His milk tongue is Ruby but he is proficient in all currently relevant languages.

Here is his github.

In addition to being an expert in code, he also has a fondness for science, biohacking, and has been involved in citizen science projects and learns as much as he can. He is especially interested in consciousness and will likely move into computational neuroscience in the next few years. He is also an expert whistler.

We’re best friends- we hike and bike together. We have a fondness for eccentric things. In our ideal universe, we’ll live forever. For fun and curiosity.

Moral: Don’t Let Yourself On the Train

This isn’t really a post about the title. It’s about a day-trip to Vancouver, BC (my first time in Canada!). But it starts with a lesson learned.

We were late. Looking at the time I said, “I don’t think we’re going to make it.” Not wanting to not make it, we ran for it. Ran up the gravel road, down the bridge, across roads, the horn and ding of the train sounded not-far-off. We shot under the the crossing gates and came up. That’s when I saw the buttons at the first door, and a step up. One button was green. It said “open”. Logical me, knowing we were trying to get on the train, pressed it.

“Wait, Drew!” I motion him over and hop on, climbing over a bike. We were in. We walked back, thinking we were in business class due to the cushy looking seats (turns out Cascade Amtrak trains are just cushy). We made it to the meal car and just sat down, uncertain.

Some guy passed talking on his radio about two passengers that let themselves on. He went up to some colleagues and they shrugged at each other. I got up and asked if I heard them correctly about looking for two passengers. They said “yes”, looking kinda astonished.

“That’s us,” I said motioning to Drew and myself, honestly thinking I’d done nothing wrong and that they were just wanting to check our tickets. Silly me.

They looked confused and just said “OK” and told us we could just sit there. One of them talked into their radio. Then he came over to us.

“Why’d you let yourself on the train?”

“We thought we were late?”

He was pushing buttons on his machine; my heart began to race as I was worried we were getting ticketed.

“Why’d you think you were late?”

“Because we left late. So we ran here.”

“Do you have your tickets.” Drew pulled up our ticket on his cell phone and I felt relief since I knew then what he was doing with his little machine with the buttons.

“OK. Well, you’re not supposed to let yourself on the train.”

“Oh, OK,” I said dumbly, looking altogether confused, I suspect.

“Alright.” And he got up and left. I overheard some guy ask about it and the guy that talked to us say he talked to us about it. That was about it.

So, there is the moral: don’t let yourself on the train.

The rest of our trip was swell. It was a one day deal, about 5 hours. I had no idea we were going to get the view we did. It was mesmerizing. Grey mountains in the distance over wavelets rushing toward us. They almost don’t seem real. I don’t know where the ocean is, but the water we past was Puget Sound water and I know it leads to the ocean.

We entered Canada. There were eagles.

Previous to this, I had seen exactly 2 eagles that I’m aware of. Well, two bald eagles and I’m talking about bald eagles. Both of those eagles were flying high over I-5. I thought that was amazing.

There were eagles everywhere. Beautiful, huge, deadly birds. There were some eaglets too, their feathers not yet white with maturity. They were just so cool. I feel like an idiot writing about them but… they were just so cool.

One of the Amtrak employees nearby commented to one of the others how this was nothing. Only maybe 20 eagles, but at low tide on a sunny day, you’d see dozens.

See, I am not from the Northwest, although I’ve wanted to be since my early 20’s. Now, I live there (albeit for not long) and I’m full of wonder.

The trip the rest of the way was scenic in all the right ways.

We pulled in and had an easy time through customs. Wandered around to the science museum, and admired the geodesic sphere that encompassed the top, appreciating all the free installations on the outside. My favorites were the water management systems and the pipes turned musical instruments.

We passed by where a kayak race was beginning. We climbed on this awesome rope tower that we suspected wouldn’t fly in the US due to liability risks (but it was so fun!). We walked up the Chinatown and under the gate. I got to introduce Drew to boba milk tea. I got him taro flavor, which is a classic and a favorite of mine (we’ll work our way up to red bean;). It was high quality and he loved it. I enjoyed the sips I got too.

Then to Gastown and I got to see the steam clock. Generic tourist stuff, I know, but hey, it was one day and I wanted to see me a steam clock. It was another beautiful thing on this bright, sunny, beautiful day. I loved the steam whistle and watching the weights. I have a fascination with these simple, shiny mechanisms highlighting a delightful interpretation of physics.

Then, Crab Park where we hopped down on the rocks, got our feet went, sat on a big rock in the water and were all in love and stuff. On our way out, I grabbed some seaweed to taste. It was pretty good. Salty. Saltier than I suspected as I thought we’d be in brackish waters.

We began making our way down Main Street back toward the train station and discovered, not too many blocks from where we’d been in glamorous Gastown, a rather less glamorous part of town. Litter and homeless people all along the streets. Walking around someone so not to invade their space, I hopped off the curb into an area full of needles (a dozen or so syringes with needles, just hanging out in the street). We turned a corner to get back to where we wanted to be to grab some coffee. Blocks of people on on the sidewalks, sitting against buildings.

Behind us, someone said to one of the men sitting on the street, leaning against the wall, “Well come on, let’s go.” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the man start to get up. “Don’t worry, you’ll get fed.”

I have no idea what that interaction was about, but we kept walking. One block more, the cobblestone starts, there is no more litter, girls in skirts are about. Just another block and the cafes and restaurants appear.

“This is how it is,” I thought to myself. “So geographically close, yet so polarized.”

We walked into one coffee shop, then saw the prices and walked out. We went down another street and found one with the same selection type, but a dollar less per drink. I got a lavender latte. It was not syrupy sugar, just essence of lavender. I was pleased. We savored our drinks, had some water, and prepped for our walk back to the train station. It was an easy walk.

Customs was harder to get back into the United States. It was weird. Canada was way more appealing a place to live, I thought. So why are the ones in the States so grumpy and controlling. Probably because we’re kinda a douchy country.

Before we left Canada though and the border guards came through for inspection, confiscating one Canadian lady’s onion, and then passing through with the dog, I got another treat. Even more eagles!!! Closer, many of them chilling on rocks rather than soaring at a distance. It was great.

Exhausted, we arrived home, walked back (my knee was all bleeding anew from a wipe out I had on my bike the day before). I made some pasta.
That was our trip to Vancouver, B.C. I hope you learned something.

Sometimes Things (or people) Just Kinda Happen

Life is fun. That’s probably why I want to do it forever. I mean, it’s not always fun. Sometimes it sucks foul, rotten meatguts. But with the right attitude, usually, it’s super fun.

Today was one such day. Started out with the weekly grocery shop and cleaning (whatever), then moved to research (<3), then a meander to the park with Drew to have a little cookout and release some stress. I’d collected sticks during breaks in the day and got our veggie patties and s’mores stuff ready to go.

We met up and made our way to the park, finding the least populated grill there. But, least populated ended up meaning that we had one very interesting and unexpected companion.

His preferred name was Jesus Cristál. Jesus pronounce Heh-soos. He was upper middle years with grey hair to his shoulders. He unpacked a bike trailer (attached to a bike; he was legit) and set out all his stuff at a nearby table. He had fit quite a lot into that bike trailer. Haphazard though he looked, he must have had some semblance of efficiency to make that work.

We chatted a little bit. Despite having some social anxiety, it was the kind of evening where I just felt like accepting what was happening. He was tough to understand but was a pleasant fellow. He asked if we were cooking out as I built our little stick teepee with dryer lint as a fire starter. We affirmed this and he said he had a burger and we told him he was welcome to cook it over the fire. We watched his stuff as he went to the bathroom.

He gave me a cute, knitted hat and a belt (presumably, that he’d found on his journeys) and Drew a t-shirt sporting a revealing Betty Paige. It’s awkward to accept gifts from strangers, but it was clear he meant no harm and asked for nothing but to share our fire (and he didn’t even ask, we’d just offered). He continued to mumble things we half heard and sometimes nodded to, hoping it was the right response. I asked his name and he said a name I didn’t understand and went on to say that the next day he was going to the courthouse to have his named changed to Jesus Cristál. I caught that clearly and said, “Well, as far as I can tell, you’re Jesoos Cristál to me then!” He seemed to like that and went on about Jesus stuff and how he’d do anything for people. He seemed like a genuinely generous guy, despite being obviously homeless and perhaps not fully with it.

He talked about his tent and said we could camp too if we wanted. We declined. He also offered to take us for a ride in his bike trailer. We awkwardly declined. Part of me wanted to though. He clearly wanted to have us.

We made our burgers and one of our friends came over with his daughter. They made s’mores with us but were eager to leave as Jesus Cristál continued to hang out. I think he’d fully settle there for the night. I suspected that it would be a beautiful night. Our friend left; I don’t think he has quite the sense of community we have. 😉

Anyway, Jesus Cristál put his burger meat on the grill once we were done and let it sit for a while. We watched his things as he went about, as we did before.

He came back and asked us about drugs. Not asking us for drugs, just if we did them, like he wanted to know what we thought on the subject. We had an interesting little discussion. Thankfully, it was easier than when he brought up religion (which I was unclear about – he either believed in Jesus, or he thought he was about to be Jesus). We tried to explain that, although weed is great, smoke, in general, is bad for you – even from the fire. I don’t think he quite got it, but he listened. We told him what we’ve tried and he told us he’d tried everything, but doesn’t do heroin. We said that we thought that was a good idea.

He talked about his distaste for violence against women. We also agreed on this.

It was time to leave as both Drew and I had work to do that evening. As we said our farewell, Jesus Cristál asked again if we wanted to take a ride in the bike trailer. This time, timidly, we agreed, our backpacks coming with us. Drew sat down with me on his lap, my legs up on the rear rack. Jesus Cristál showed some insane leg strength and carted us around the park.

Again, he asked for nothing, just seemed cheerful to have done it. I think he liked showing off his bike trailer. I wondered if he’d acquired it recently.

We thanked him, we also left him some of our graham crackers, some chocolate, marshmallows, and an orange. I hope he liked it.

We waved goodbye and I said, “It was good to meet you. See you around, Jesoos Cristál.”

Sometimes there are unexpected ways to appreciate life and enjoy what it brings.

Art Scares Me

“Fine Art”

This is my toughest art form because there is no deadline as it’s mostly just for me. I have a hard time taking it seriously. So, it’s a little terrifying to talk about. That’s why I’m writing about it.

I used to want to do extravagant art and I’d come up with ideas, but I had two things holding me back: money for the supplies (which are much more expensive then for my “other” more craft-like art projects) and talent. My creativity has saved me from the worst and talent is developed with practice- which means that it’s really about a shortness of time or procrastination.

Here is what I’ve come to favor in the rare pieces I do make.

  • I love working with wood because the grains make for an interesting canvass. I generally paint over it and over it, blending colors until it’s just right to accent the dimension of the wood. That part is meditative. I often forget that art can be tremendously stress relieving and in these more tedious moments, two things happen: peace and vision.
  • I do have intent and planning when it comes to my pieces most of the time, but a lot of it is interactive with my piece of wood. Each slab of plywood is unique. And as I work the background, the details come out more and more and I have to adapt my original vision to fit the wood. On occasion, I have scrapped the original idea completely and those are some of my best creations, I think. They were unexpected, even to me, and took me to a place or an idea that I have yet to regret going.
  • After my background is complete and my vision is better formed, then one of two things happen. Additional paint goes on the board. Or, more often, the wood burner comes out, hot and eager to change things. It’s time for my voice at this point. The image is burned in, changing the landscape of the wood forever whether it moves with it or defies it all together, words are imprinted and are no longer kept in my head forever.

Then, touch ups, added paint or color changes. More touch ups. Then, I look at it for a long time. Sometimes with frustration because I know it’s wrong but can’t figure out why. Then, the answer comes and is implemented and the piece is complete. More often, the piece goes incomplete and I think about it, adding to it when I see something. Or, in some cases, I have to wait until I can get a hold of the right tools to complete the piece. Or, in the case of the piece I’m working on now, I realize that I don’t yet have the skill to implement the last part. Then, I must practice.

Here are some of the things I’ve completed:

Art 1Art 2Art 3Art 4

When One Finds Out How They Handle the Unexpected

Some random dude walked into my apartment the other night.

I was sitting in the living room messing with my phone, just having gotten home myself. Assuming it was Drew opening the door, I didn’t have a worry, though I thought he was getting home a little early.

I looked up and there was some stranger.

Surprised, but accepting that this is what was happening in my life right then, I said, “Hello, can I help you?”

He wavered there with the door still open and mumbled some stuff I didn’t really understand. But, he said my landlord’s name and I caught that. He didn’t seem like he was leaving and I stood up. I told him that John was my landlord and wasn’t here and doesn’t live here and that I did.

There was a pause and then he started walking toward my kitchen and I stepped in front of him and was like, “He’s not here. if you need his phone number, I can give that to you, but he’s not here.”

The guy backed up a bit and leaned on the open door and I thought that was gonna be it but then he said, “Whadabout mah truck?” pointing his thumb back at the half dozen antique cars my landlord has there.

“I don’t know anything about that and I can’t help you. You should probably get in touch with him. The only thing I can do is give you his number.”

He staggered there another moment but then started walking toward the bedroom. I moved quickly and slid in front of him and put up my hands to say “stop” and then firmly said,

“Woah. You do not live here. John Banneker does not live here. I live here. I do not know you. We are not friends. You need to leave.”

He wavered there a second in my living room then started to back up.*

He started to go out the door (and fumbled at the lock, locking the door behind him, which I thought was interesting), and I told him again that I’d be fine with giving him John’s phone number but there’s nothing I can do for him. And kept closing the space so that he’d keep heading outside. Then, he was out the door and I immediately engaged the dead bolt.

Then, I went back to doing what I was doing. Seriously, as if nothing weird had just happened. Just thought it’d been weird.

I heard a knock on my neighbor’s door and figured the guy was asking other people if our landlord was there (I decided at that point that I should probably text Drew, let him know I’d been a bad ass and protected our home and whatnot).

Then, I heard a “clunk” sound and decided I should call 911 instead of text Drew.

As I called, the guy was back at my door, kicking on it (weakly) and trying to open it again (apparently forgetting that he’d locked it). Then, he was up at my living room window and it sounded like he was tapping or trying to open it (or both). I told dispatch what had happened and what was happening, then looked out my kitchen window and saw him in between the vehicles rocking back an forth. I told them that too. They asked if I felt safe or if I wanted them to stay on the phone and I said I was fine for now.

I called Drew to let him know what was happening.

Then, the guy was at the door and windows again kicking and tapping. Then, there was sound like rocks sliding or something of to the side.

Eventually, I saw the cop lights but they didn’t come to the door right away.

Before they came, Drew and Amal got there. Amal left shortly after.

They knocked at my door. I told them everything and what not and wrote a statement and blah blah blah. The cop seemed surprised and kept saying that I’d handled everything perfectly and that I should consider being a cop. I told him I’d applied for a dispatch position once but it didn’t work because I was still in college at the time. He said, “Yeah, you should do dispatch. You’d be great at it.” and so on getting my ego stroked. It was nice.

As it turns out, the guy was sitting in the front seat of one of the trucks, broken glass from the window all over him. They found him there. He ran when they tried to get him out then resisted arrest, but they got him. The guy was drunk off his ass. They were taking him to jail. They weren’t sure exactly what he’d be charged with yet but could be trespassing, robbery, or something. Whatever the max was.

The cop gave me his card with the case number (I think if I wanted to get a job with the police service, I should shoot him a message and get a reference) and asked for my height and weight and thought it was funny, repeating that I should be a cop.

Then he left and I drank a big Thai iced-tea that Drew had brought home for me.

*Note: it did occur to me during all this to be afraid, my that thought was dismissed with, “Well, this is what’s happening and this is how I’m going to handle it so, Fear, don’t fuck it up, ok.”

 

Update (6-22-16): Our landlord, who’d previously acted as if he didn’t know the person, admitted that they guy who’d walked in was a former tenant. Makes me wonder a little more about that truck…