August 2007

You don’t want to turn 5o around HERE, man.

Today is a court reporter’s 50th birthday. Everyone knew it was her birthday, but she didn’t know that we knew it was the big 5-0. A few of us waited around after hours yesterday until she went home. And then we busted out some decorations and got busy.

I would say we “trashed” her desk, but it’s so much more FESTIVE than trash. The clerk of that courtroom said that when the reporter came in this morning and walked into the courtroom, she screamed for about 10 minutes.
over-the-hill extra large playing cards
Aside from the obvious large decorations of the black desk covering, balloons, signs and streamers, there are also AARP magazines on the top of her desk, 3 cans of not just Ensure, but LIGHT Ensure, stacked at the front edge of her desk, a diaper, Tiger Balm medicine pad, and “Over the Hill” sparkly confetti sprinkled everywhere. I even put some in her desk drawers and cubbyholes. She’ll be finding sparklies for weeks. Some more details:

Even as I was having the best time doing this yesterday, I was secretly glad that these people with the crazy decorations will be retired when *I* turn 50. Whew!
And yes, the judge took the bench and went into session with all the decorations in place, conducting business as usual. The litigants were delighted at the decor, I heard. Who says Family Law isn’t light-hearted?

You can just barely see the top of the court reporter’s hair over the top of the cards on her desk.
(I don’t know if this happens on your computer, but for some reason on these photos, about 15% is cut off on the right margins when I view them on the site, so all the photos look off-balance. In the full photo, you can actually see a litigant’s arms on the counsel table in the last shot. Roll mouse over each photo for caption, as always.)

Life improved after I got into work this morning. Mr. W’s coworker was trying to unload two concert tickets for next Wednesday and she’s having trouble finding a buyer. Mr. W told me of her woes sympathetically, and I asked, just making conversation, whose concert it was.
“Boyz II Men and, um, Brian McKnight or something?”
I almost fell out of my chair. “Really???”
“Yeah,” he seemed surprised. “Why, you wanna go?”
The venue is an outdoors concert hall in a city right next to the city that I work in. It’s perfect for a Wednesday night concert!
“But aren’t they has-beens?” Mr. W asked. “They’re not BOYZ anymore, they’re more like MEN now, aren’t they? ha ha.”
Ha, ha. Boyz II Men andBrian McKnight defined my generation’s high school R&B music. I bought every music single by Boyz II Men as they were released, rather than wait for the entire album to be released. I played Brian McKnight’s “One Last Cry” so often that rather than playing then rewinding then playing then rewinding the cassette tape single every 5 minutes, I recorded it back-to-back on a second cassette tape many times over so that I could pop the 2nd tape in, press “play”, and have that song played back for 45 minutes straight. I have a letter on which my (male) friend quoted a segment of Boyz II Men’s “I’ll Make Love to You” on the top margin. My girlfriends and I cried to “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye (to Yesterday)” at the Class of 93’s graduation. My friend Lily gave the single “End of the Road” to a boy she liked in high school who was about to move away. My friend Vicky had a card written to her by some boy who quoted his own variation of “Down on Bended Knee”. A friend who was asking me to stop being mad at him on the phone one night quoted the speaking part of a Boyz II Men song, “Baby, I’m sorry. Please forgive me for all the wrong I’ve done…” in exactly the same deep baritone voice and inflections as in the song, and made me laugh and get over whatever I was upset about. I blasted Brian McKnight’s “You Should Be Mine” indignantly in my car when I was getting over some guy, and crooned to his “Back at One” when I dreamt of my future perfect boyfriend. I could go on, but this post is already getting long.

I’M GONNA GO SEE BOYZ II MEN AND BRIAN MCKNIGHT IN CONCERT NEXT WEDNESDAY!!! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKK!!!!!!!!! It’s gonna be my first pop music concert EVER! (I’ve only been to Jim Brickman before this, and it was an excellent, funny, and very entertaining concert, but it was piano music with the occasional saxophone.)

This morning, I discovered that on the 3 remaining wooden garage doors in our project, there was a long printed notice or advertisement stapled (yes, STAPLED, as with a staple gun, permanently affixed metal pieces) to the front of the garage doors. Mine was one of those doors. It was from The Mesa Companies, that stupid garage door replacement company. The note reads:

PLEASE CALL [phone #] EXT 2203
[the same phone #]
REPRESENTATIVE: _____________________
DATE: __________________
TIME: __________________

Are they freaking kidding me? They’re gonna staple up notices as if it’s OUR negligence that’s keeping our doors from being changed, and they even highlighted the first line, as if yelling at us to call them to cooperate with them, when it’s THEM who’ve failed time and time again to follow through on THEIR jobs? The other laughably ridiculous thing is, the phone number which they printed TWICE on this notice, is the very same number that always rings and then goes to a voice mail that nobody ever returns. No one in my association had been able to reach a live person on that number, nor have had their/our messages left on that number returned. You can’t GET to extension 2203, because no one ever picks up to transfer you there! Plus, I already GOT my appointments for premeasurement and installation made, the dates have come and gone, and it was Mesa’s stupid incompetence that caused my door to not be changed! That reminds me. They have 3 phone numbers to reach me, and they never called when they “supposedly” couldn’t get a hold of me to install the door on Monday, and they never called me back when I called them Monday after seeing that they didn’t change my door. I had to call THEM to find out THEIR mistake. And nice job on not filling in the representative name, date or time on the notice. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for or affiliated with such idiocy, either.

I’m so calling Better Business Bureau as soon as I get my door installed.

Saturday was a beautiful day for riding to (or for Mr. W and myself, driving to) San Onofre Beach. We went to Costco for some supplies, had an organic healthy lunch at Mother’s Market, then drove down south to the campsite. We were the second party to get there; my jujitsu pal Gloria and her husband had already set up their tent. The four of us hung out and set up our tent until the biking crew arrived. It was a lot of fun, and sunny without being too warm as we were just over the deep blue ocean. I’d brought along a bunch of Milton Bradley Get-Together games, but never pulled them out as everyone was enjoy hanging out so much. We burned lots of wood in the firepit, made turkey burgers for dinner, smores for dessert, laughed and joked and listened to music. Mr. W rallied everyone into agreeing to go with us to the nude beach the next day, and altho they all agreed to include a visit to fleshville as part of the next day’s beach festivities, no one was going to join Mr. W as part of the 80%. Together, we were gonna make non-nudist participants of the nude beach 21%, darn it. Even the night was beautiful. The weather was cool and we needed nothing more than a light blanket over us in the tent to be perfectly comfortable.

The night was great, I mean, except for some crazy guy in the tent next to ours, not part of our group, who thought it was a good idea to make sex sounds in between snores every 5 minutes through the night. He was by himself. “OOH!” he’d groan. “OH, yeah, BABY!” “OHHHH!” There were little KIDS with their parents at the campgrounds, for gosh sakes!! He would actually startle me awake every time I started to doze. I think I finally fell asleep after some angry parents threw his tent, him included, over the fence into the water. Or maybe that was just wishful dreaming.

The next morning, we got up at 7a, made campside breakfast of pancakes, fire-toasted French rolls, scrambled eggs, and coffee, packed away all our tents and camping gear, just in time time to watch lightning strike the water in some dense dark clouds approximately 30 miles away. We’d heard about Florida’s Hurricane Dean bringing showers to Southern California, and looks like it was happening. Nevertheless, because it was still a nice morning out, we headed over to the beach, Mr. W barely able to contain his excitement at the prospect of his upcoming public stripping. That’s when it started to pour. We could barely see the road ahead of us through the splashes and mist, and after parking at the beach area, we exited the car in our bathing suits and proceeded to get drenched. It was a cold rain, and altho everyone was trying to be a good sport trudging their goose-pimpled flesh to the cliff’s edge, the amount of water and mud and made our descent down the hill onto the beach, in our flip flop shoes, impossible. From behind us, someone mumbled about having a lot of stuff yet to do this weekend. Another person agreed, saying something about laundry and unpacking, and then another voice about catching up on work before Monday. To Mr. W’s utter disappointment, we disbanded. Only three remained to surf, having the luxury of their own boards, wetsuits and water shoes. Oh, and the instructor who was supposed to bring extra boards and teach us to surf never showed, anyway.

Nevertheless, despite Mr. W’s threats that we were going to go back there sometime very soon to camp out on our own and visit the nude beach THEN, I had a great time and secretly thanked the Lord for the providence. It was also nice that everyone saw me in my pyromanic state, burning pine cones, used paper plates and napkins, etc., and still loved me for it. Turned out there were other pyros in the mix who enjoyed watching random things burn as much as I did. Chewed gum is fascinating. It dissolves and the whole thing lights on fire. The blackbelt organizer of the trip even offered his experience that pine needles burned really well, and at one point, he brought back an armful, threw it into the fire, and said, “There you go, Cindy!” as the fire blazed upward in a hungry lurch. I vaguely remember cackling and dancing around the living flames. Other people started experimenting, too. I returned from the restroom once to see a large black charred blob stuck on the side of a piece of wood. “What’s that?” I asked. “It’s a marshmallow,” a brown belt revealed.

This is me having way too much fun watching a cup of coffee in the flames. Mr. W put it in there for me. The theory is that the cup wouldn’t burn because paper burns at 451 degrees Fahrenheit but that the liquid forced it to remain at 200-some degrees Fahrenheit. Indeed, it DIDN’T burn…until the coffee boiled dry and as soon as upper portions of the paper cup dried, that part of the cup burned off. Fascinating.

Oh, and it was also nice that these people are used to seeing me without makeup, as I used to attend jujitsu bare-faced, cuz man, I realize as I see this photos that I’m not fit to be seen without makeup on!

Since I’m now posting faces, here’s a photo of me looking like crap and my fiance looking like a model.

Guess he would’ve totally stolen the show at the nude beach, gay or straight audience, huh?

Ramon: *nodding at red fleece sweatshirt that comes down to my knees* That’s not YOURS, is it?
Me: Sure it is!
Ramon: Did you BUY that for yourself?
Me: Yup. It’s a 4X. I was looking for something bigger, but this is all they had.
Ramon: How long have you had that?
Me: Oh, about 6 years. And it’s really comfortable and warm, it’s like wearing a blanket with arms.
Ramon: *picturing how fat Cindy must’ve been 6 years ago*

I am thisclose to reporting Mesa garage doors to the Better Business Bureau. Not only do they rarely pick up their phone (I’ve called at 8a, 10a, 1p, 3p, 4p, 5p, 5:30p, it doesn’t make a difference), but when you leave a voice mail they don’t call you back. My neighbors have had the same problem. I finally called a different number my homeowner’s association secretary emailed me last week, and managed to reach a live woman at 8a, and she was very helpful. She said I didn’t need to take any time off of work for them to come by; I only needed to put my garage door on “manual” mode for them to measure things and check out my door opener motor (last Wednesday), and then place it on “manual” again for them to replace the actual garage door today. Then I could pay them the balance owed with a credit card through the phone once the work is done.

Last Wednesday after work, I returned home after they supposedly measured the door and examined the area, but I couldn’t tell if they were there. They didn’t leave a note or call me. On faith, I again followed their instructions to set my garage door on “manual” this morning. I excitedly drove home after work…and found NO CHANGE. There was no note, no explanation, no phone call. They had all my work numbers, too. I went inside and called Mesa. When a female picked up, I explained my problem and asked her to verify whether they were out at my house today or even last week. She put me on hold, then forwarded me to the same voice mail that I always got before when I’d call and would never get a callback. ARGH! I hung up, called her back, and figuring she was a receptionist, asked for the specific extension of the service department. She transferred my call there, and it kept replaying a message about how important my call is to them, and how they’d be right with me. Then, another message saying I can keep holding, or push 2 to leave a message and they’d get back to me within 1 hour. I kept holding. Soon, the message changed and added to its rotation, that my anticipated wait time is less than 5 minutes. I waited, listening to these same 3 or 4 messages over and over, for over 10 minutes. Finally, I pushed 2 to leave a message. Pressing that option led me to be automatically transferred to yet another voice mail, where the recorded message said that I am calling after their regular business hours and if I left a message, I would get a callback tomorrow. I checked the time. 5:32p.

WTF!! Did these people let me sit on hold on purpose until it came time for them to go home, and then they just simply left me on hold, even tho I was supposedly the “next caller” just “hold[ing] for the next available operator”, all of whom were no longer in the office?! I left a voice mail and hung up, pissed.

I hate that I’ve already paid $600 toward this garage door. I probably could’ve worked out a better deal on my own, with more reliable people.

Tomorrow at this time I’ll be camping out with the jujitsu clan plus Mr. W at San Onofre beach near San Diego. The trip was meant to be a 40-mile bike ride from Angel Stadium in Anaheim down to the beach campsite, a nice leisurely roll along Pacific Coast Highway, but Mr. W was convinced our delicate untrained heinies wouldn’t withstand the soreness of being on a bike seat for that long. Besides, all the both of us have are mountain bikes, and not distance cruisers. Maybe I’ll invest in a cruising bike for the future. I would really love to get into riding.

So instead, Mr. W and I will drive down to the two reserved campsites and set up tents and stuff, and wait for the bikers to get there. So far I believe there are 6 or so riders and the rest of us are driving. Everyone will camp there overnight, tell campfire tales, play games, hang out, then play on the beach all the next day. One jujitsu instructor, a Santa Ana police officer, is bringing extra boards and providing surf lessons! I may get to cross one more thing off The List, albeit very belatedly! I am VERY excited. Maybe I’ll know enough about surfing to do some more of it when I’m at the Big Island of Hawaii next month for Wilco (Mike) and Christi’s wedding! (Yeah, there’s a lot of stuff going on. haha.)

One thing I’m not particularly excited about, is that I may have to go to a nude beach while we’re at San Onofre this weekend. Mr. W found out there’s a nude beach in San Onofre, and despite the organizer of the event’s insistence that the nude beach is nowhere near where we’re gonna be, Mr. W considers it “close enough” to hunt out and participate in the threadbare activities of. I’ve been told by more than a few people that the participants in this flesh fest are nothing to look at; they’re typically saggy, wrinkled and aged mostly male, mostly hairy body parts. Online information forwarded to me by Mr. W provides statistics that 80% of the nude beach attendees actually go nude, so I’m going to be part of the 20%. I compromised with Mr. W by saying that if he absolutely HAD to go (which appears to be the case), then fine, I’ll go along but I’m not participating. He’s okay with that, since he claims the only reason he wants to go, is not to gawk at the dongstorm, but simply to be nekkid outdoors without being arrested. I’m sure knowing that he’ll be the hottest nude guy there helps make the situation more enticing for him. As for my entertainment, I plan to mitigate the fact that I have to be there, by searching out Navy Seal trainees doing their training exercises nearby. Thanks, Navy Girl Vanessa, for alerting me to their existence there. I packed binoculars.

Yesterday while I was lounging on my living room couch, eating and playing on my laptop (and trying to recover from the shock of my doctor’s visit), I heard a faint rattling sound to my left. I looked over, looked out the window behind me, but didn’t see anything amiss. I listened again, and it was still there, a faint on-and-off rattle, lasting about a second and a half, with an equal pause, and then another rattle for a second and a half. I finally crawled over the couch and peered over the left arm, down at the triangle of space formed by the side of the couch, the side of the La-Z-Boy recliner, and the side of the end table. There was a black and white and pink ball on the ground in the triangle, and it was snoring.

Looks like my fuzzy wuzzy Dodo boy has found a new spot to hang that’s totally invisible except from the top and the back view.

Is there anything more comforting than hanging in your home on a day off and listening to the snoring of a snoozing cat? Awwww… Little joys of life.

I’m blogging from my living room. Today is the rare day off, given to me in exchange for taking me out of my courtroom for a week to help out another court. So like all overworked employees who get to enjoy an expected day off, I made myself a 9:10 a.m. annual physical appointment at Kaiser.

I believe this is the first time I’ve ever had a male examine me for my pap smear. Dr. Wu was thorough, friendly and took the time to answer my questions and check on my concerns, and when it came time for the pelvic examination, he got his female nurse in the room to assist as is policy. He explained everything he was about to do before he did it, and told me what to expect, from “I’m going to touch the skin now to examine the outer regions,” to “I’m going to use a lot of lubricant, but you’ll still feel pressure, and then you’ll hear clicking. The clicking is the speculum opening up, so don’t be alarmed.” As he was examining, he told me his visual assessment of each area he was checking on, “Cervix looks very normal, discharge is healthy, very pretty vagina…” Just kidding on the last one. Okay, it was inappropriate. Shame on me. My point is, nervous as I was that I was to be seen, poked and prodded “down there” by a guy I’d never met, and the only other guy since Mr. W, that it was the most gentle, painless and quick pap smear I’d ever received. I told him so, too, and he looked pleased. I said off-handedly that I think men are just more gentle about this than women, and the female nurse turned to me and made eye contact, nodding at me in emphatic agreement. I guess I wasn’t the only one who had to deal with rough cold metal stuff. (This one was disposable clear plastic.) We agreed that since I’m 2 years late on my annual physical, that I should be tested for everything, from liver function to STDs. A lot of tests can only be performed if you’ve been fasting for the day, so my never eating breakfast finally paid off. He ordered a battery of blood tests and off I went to the lab.

Now blood-drawing, that was a whole different experience. I walked into the lab and sat down at one of the counter booths. The big lady (nurse) on the other side told me to stick my arm out and make a fist, then she poked with her fingertip around my inner elbow. More poking. “Oh. You’re one of THOSE,” she said.
I said apologetically, “Yeah, I am. I was the last time I was here, too.” Small veins. Poke, poke. Turned my arm down. Poke, poke.
“Lemme see your other arm,” she said, and I extended my left arm. Made a fist. Poke, poke. Turned my arm. Poke, poke. Checked the back of my hand. Poke, poke. No, don’t take it THERE! I’d surely pass out! Needles already put me into shock as it is! “Nope, nothing here, either. Lemme go back to the first arm.” Poke, poke. Touched the back of my forearm. Poke, poke. “And you’d think he doesn’t have a sense of humor.” Eh? I looked over at the other nurse, thinking my nurse was talking to her about a doctor or someone who played a trick on my nurse sending her a patient with no veins, but the other nurse didn’t respond. My nurse continued, “I have terrible veins, too. And I bet He thinks that’s really funny.” Oh, she was talking about God.
“Well, they’re just gonna have to find a better way to test for things,” I started blubbering, as I felt her needle poke my forearm, pull out, poke again, pull out, poke again.
“Pssh, they already think they’re geniuses coming up with THIS. I’m not getting anything here. Lemme try another place.” She taped a cotton ball over the offending area and went an inch and a half higher. The repeated poking went again as I concentrated on not hyperventillating, going into shock, or passing out. She may have said some stuff. I may have replied some stuff. It’s all a blur from there. And then, “I’m gonna have my coworker try with you. I’m not having any luck. Sorry. Hey Jan, when you get a chance? I already stuck her twice.” A second cottonball got straddled to my arm.
The second nurse came by, poked my non-holey arm, and asked if I’d drank much water today. I told her no, just half a cup in the morning. She said that sometimes when people don’t drink enough water, the veins get hard to find. She didn’t seem stressed, however, as she ripped another needle out of its plastic packaging and attached it to a new test tube. “Look over there,” she had me turn away. I did, and I felt a prick, then a deeper pain. “There we go,” she said.
“What did you do differently?” I asked, although I already knew. The needle went clear through my arm.
“Oh, some people are just different,” she said hesitantly. Probably didn’t want me to go into shock right there in front of her and pass out. The four tubes were collected relatively quickly as I tried not to feel the pain, tingling in my fingertips or the beginnings of nausea, and she taped my third cottonball on my body, told me to put my finger there for a few minutes, and I left. Walking out into the waiting room again, I felt like a pincushion in my black tanktop and all the white fluffy cottonballs protruding very visibly from my arms. People probably thought I got tested for everything under the sun.
I staggered to the warmth of my car and decided, hell. I WAS gonna go work out but now I’m just gonna go fill up my car, get postage stamps, then go home and eat.

What a stressful day off.

I had a productive evening today. By “today,” I mean yesterday, as I realize it is now past 2am.

It started wee early in the morning when I got to work at 8a. With some time to spare before court opened up, I called the company that’s doing all our association’s garage doors, and for the first time in 6-7 unanswered phone calls and unreturned voice mails, I actually reached a live person! Turned out I don’t even need to be home for the workers to come measure my door and then replace it, I only have to place the door on “manual” mode, so I made the measurement appointment for tomorrow (er, later today) and the replacement appointment for next Monday. I’m finally getting a metal roll-up door instead of that stupid old wooden door that gets waterlogged when it rains! Yay!

After work I drove directly to a hair salon across from my neighborhood to get a trim. My March short cut with the layers had grown out, and looks horrible in that in-between shapeless phase. They were able to work me in right away without an appointment, and the lady retrimmed my layers, gave me some long bangs, took a half-inch trim off the bottom, and I look MUCH less shaggy now. Totally worth the $16. Haha. I’m so not about the hair.

I’d planned to go to the gym, having not worked out since Friday, but fell asleep at home while waiting for the gym crowd to die down. After a restless sleep in which it was so hot that I flopped from one end of the leather couch to the other several times, left and went to a different couch by the open back patio door and returned to the first couch, I woke up a little before midnight and started some chores. I cleaned out, rinsed and changed the litter box, swept the cat area and kitchen, swept the garage floor, took out the trash, did some dishes. And now I have insomnia. I hope I don’t forget to put the garage door on “manual” in the morning. Eep!

One thing about being in a heavy multi-defendant gang-related shooting murder case, is that we get big-time attorneys with great stories.

This morning, one of the defense attorneys told me about a recent case in which he had to defend a man who was drunk driving. And it’s not just that it’s a DUI, it’s that he was so drunk that he plowed right into another car. And it’s not just that he caused an accident, it’s that whom he hit, was a 19 year old Marine who’s a month away from deployment. And his 18-year old wife. Pregnant. And it’s not that he injured these young people full of promise for the future, it’s that he killed them. And it’s not a freak accident, it’s his third DUI.

This defendant is apparently just beside himself, and is accepting of whatever maximum punishment the law sees fit. He keeps replaying the accident over and over in his head, and how absolutely preventable it was. If he’d just stayed home. If he’d just not gotten that drunk. If he’d just had a friend drive him home. If he’d simply left later, when he’d sobered up. But everything’s different now, so many lives have vanished and changed because of one decision in which he really did know better. The first two DUIs were warnings to him; he was charged, convicted and punished, but he’d never injured anyone else. If you ignore the early warnings and chances fate gives you, sometimes the road you walk down has irreversable, irrepairable effects.

That’s my public service announcement today. Be careful out there, especially now that Mr. W’s two kids are baby drivers on the road. Nothing had better happen to them.

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