Friday, June 30, 2006

Chapter the Last: In which we bid farewell and good riddance, and the author makes a desperate plea for attention...

I am home.

The bags are unpacked, the shoes are off, the blog enters its final entry.

Raises the question, folks. Here we are at the end of the atlonderoad. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the blogging, and I love carrying my camera around. If this were to continue in some other format, would there still be an audience? I guess what I’m asking is, am I still interesting without all the exotic travel?

I hate to be so explicitly needy, but this blogspot site gives me no information about page views so I have no idea who’s reading, if anyone. It would be pretty sad if I threw a blog, and nobody came.

So post something. Suggestions, support, bile. Or, if you want your comments to only reach me, I'm at

Either way, thanks for reading.

Monterey Day 3/4: A waltz, in which I disappear completely, before a triumphant return to the stage, then a dark descent into madness…with chanting!

Wednesday was a half-day, and I put my time off to good use. I took an 18 hour nap.
Look how excited we all are. This part of the workshop involved watching 12 Angry Men (the movie, we didn't go to a bar and find a dozen cranky gents or anything) and analyzing the group behaviors that each of the characters show. Kinda interesting, if only because that's such a great movie. It's the only Henry Fonda movie I like (ok, yes, Micah, I love On Golden Pond too, you old poop. But I'm talking about the young Fonda. OK, fine, Jessica, The Lady Eve is one of the all-time greats, but in general. Young Mr. Lincoln? More like Glum Mr. Stinkin'. The Wrong Man? To entertain me, that is. Fort Apache? More like Awful Crappy.).Thursday I tried to pay a little more attention, but was thwarted when the sun came out! It’s like a completely different place when the sky is blue! We even had class outside in the afternoon.
This is Angela, she’s from the Glendale Community College union and she’s roleplaying a national union head.
Somebody got word that some hotel workers at a Travelodge in Seaside have been treated pretty shabbily by the owner (union busting, no contract, $8.84/hr) and that the workers were trying to organize. Also, the greedy owner was going to be there today.
So what’s normally a 15-20 person picket (they’ve been marching every week for two years) all of a sudden becomes 100 strong when the AFT cavalry comes pouring over the hill.
Some of the students (and union leaders) here at ULI had never walked a line before. You learn so much about organizing by doing it. It was a positive experience all around.

Pictured to the L (in profile) is Seaside Mayor Ralph Rubio who came out to lend support. Big ups.
Later that day, there was an outdoor barbecue back at Asilomar and I think these hats were fashioned from our napkins in an attempt to beat the heat.
Like I said, just beautiful when the sun came out. I’m starting to think I’ve been bringing LA sunshine with me on my travels.
These pictures won’t do the sunset justice.
Then it was up to the main hall for karaoke and dancing.
It’s a brand new audience for me, so I went to the classics, opening with Love Me, then Bust a Move (to get the people dancing) and then Sweet Caroline (for the singalong). I had more planned, of course, but after I got the ball rolling, I didn’t really get to get back up there too much. When someone was doing my songs (Stand by your Man, Lean on Me) I would push my way on to the mike, but KJ’s first priority is to the party, I get that.
Can you tell what these slightly tipsy teachers are doing?
That’s right, the Electric Slide.

The “party” shut down at 10:30 but those of us who had planned ahead and had our own booze took it to the beach. It was nice out there, and the motley collection of liquors and mixers probably explains the 15 pictures of total darkness on my camera this morning. I won’t make you sift through them, but…
Here’s a couple timer tripod shots I took around 2:30. Boy, when those union folks get to talking you hear some stories! This guy on the left, I forgot his name, (Tim? Tom?) but he’s telling us about this time he took mushrooms and went for a motorcycle ride.

“It was pretty rough country, you know, and I was off the road for a lot of it, you know? And I'm dodgin' trees and runnin' through brush, right? But then I feel some wetness and before I know it I’ve driven right into a lake. Luckily I was going so fast and I knew how to kinda maneuver it, like as long as I didn't turn so much, and I was kinda understandin' the movement of the water, so I just kept on going until the other side. I kept on ridin’ and a little later I’m looking to my left and there’s all this wind and rain. I look to my right, same thing, all this wind and rain. Turns out I rode right through a tornado! A little while later it clears up and it was just a beautiful night and I still had some mushrooms left so …”

I’m paraphrasing.

I think I mentioned there’s some classified employees here, right? Not that they’re top secret, but they’re like tradespeople. Anyways so this one (the one who wants to be Larry the Cable Guy) has been entertaining me all week (Oh-ho-ho! Look at the bumpkin! Ha ha ha) and last night around 3 someone asks him a question, and as if possessed by a textbook, he starts busting out with this Norse mythology. He’s telling me about Ragnarok and Odin and showing me his intricate tattoos of Valkyries and Nordic runes and Thor’s true hammer. You just never know, you know? Next thing I know he and some other closet Scandinavian are talking ludafisk. Got me.

Stumbled in around 3:30, somehow got up four hours later to pack and made breakfast. Class was pretty subdued, and then it was the shuttle to the airport. Argentina eliminated, Ukraine skunked, and they’re calling my flight!
Does he need to wear the bike helmet to search the bag? Is he afraid something might leap up out of the bag, somehow circle behind him and plop him on the head?
And am I the only one who finds this a little bit dirty?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Monterey Day Two: In which I try not to learn, commune with nature and retreat to the doodleverse...

So I’m not proud of it (my mother always told me bored people are boring) but I started to get a little bored today. The only cute girl in my class I’m pretty sure is gay (just a feeling, I don’t know if it’s the nosering, the fact that she’s a militant activist from San Francisco, or the “qrz” tattoo on her shoulder) and I’m positive she could kick my ass, and she's only 5'3".
I thought we might have some excitement when I saw this, but no luck yet.
We spent some four hours exploring group dynamics today, so I thought it appropriate to disengage and doodle.
The jellyfish were inspired by a series of meeting notes doodles by my friend Irene.
As you can see, eventually I moved into a whole undersea theme…
The pigs were also inspired by Irene, or perhaps by fellow doodlenaut murnkay (sp?), although I'm not quite happy with them yet. I may work on them tomorrow.

As frustration grew, this unpleasant scene somehow evolved…
I ate my lunch quickly so I could get outside and take some pictures (also, there’s only so much table talk you can take at these things. Not that it’s not interesting. I met a firefighter from Guam (territory, not a commonwealth. They have a legislature and a governor, and they elect a non-voting Congressperson. It’s in the Pacific.), a union head who is responsible for the transient native population of the entire SW 25% of Alaska, and a paint and drywall guy from Seatlle who considers Larry the Cable Guy his idol) and I came across this doe and her fawn.
After I scared her away (maternal instinct my ass), I was able to have a few moments with this guy. Here's the best one I got:
So what else? Tomorrow's a half-day, I thought about going into Monterey but you know, once you've been to the aquarium and had your sourdough bowl of clam chowder, there's just not that much going on. I heard that Thursday night after the BBQ there's a karaoke jam, so you know I'm gonna own that scene.

In the meantime, I'm just enjoying the relaxed pace, natural beauty, and political comfort.

Interlude: Atlantupdate the Second

So at long last Lori's lovely photos are available online:

Also, she recommends this link:

You really should scroll down and see all the pictures, there's some doozies.
(Look for James where he shouldn't be.)

Morgan? Laura?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Monterey Day One: In which I am led to water, but do not drink, and my wild life contains more wildlife...

Last night we had a "social" where we all dutifully enjoyed our drink ticket to buy our choice of Bud , Bud Light, Miller, or Raspberry Smirnoff Ice. I think you know what I chose.
This guy was the entertainment. He sang union anthems and political parodies. Sort of a folksier, liberal Mark Russell. But check out his guitar! See how the tuners are all on the base? And it's made from fallen redwood and some other environmentally friendly wood. Like no trees were harmed in the making of this instrument, dig?
Have I explained just what the hell I'm doing here? The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is the national school employees union I belong to. Some of you may also know that I'm the chapter chair (essentially a shop steward/site rep) for UTLA (our local) at Hoover Street Elementary. Anyways, last year I saw an ad in the newsletter for a paid trip to Monterey to learn about Union Leadership. So I took advantage, and I'm back again this year. I go back to school with a brand new crop of fifth-graders on the 5th, so it's nice to get this retreat-like break before the madness starts up again.

I'm staying in the Pirate's Den. See, this whole place (Asilomar Retreat and Conference Center) used to be a YWCA camp. During that time (the turn of the century), the male employees all lived in this building.
They would always sneak into the dining halls after meals and steal uneaten food off the plates. So they earned the nickname, "Pie Rats." When they heard this, they changed it to pirates, and now there's all these old group photos from the 20s showing the Pirates. How delightfully droll.A happy little bird.

The last time I was here I took a course entitled Union 1o1, where I learned the basics. Now I'm in Leadership. Today was all about some arbitrary Styles of Leadership survey. No, Micah, not the Myers-Briggs. I WISH it was the Myers-Briggs. That makes sense to me. First of all, before we all took the thing, they made a big deal about how there's no wrong answers and all but there totally WAS a right answer! According to the results (and, as we all know, the only really true and accurate way to measure something is through the use of a standardized test) my leadership style is one of supportive leadership. As in, actually getting things done takes a secondary priority to making people feel comfortable and valued. So sue me.

What's so surprising is that I can't stand people. How could I put their dinky needs in front of the collective good? This whole thing must be a load of crap. It's called Teleometrics, which totally sounds like one of those pseudo-sciences like "phrenology" and "dianetics" and "psychology".
It's nice up here, you know?
A little of the local flora and fauna. It's Orliss country up here. You can almost see them gamboling around the underbrush, Micah wrestling with a mountain lion while Maret watches from a tree, cuddling with a squirrel, composing a sonnet to his bravery.
Hey there, little fella!
So after dinner I took this little mini-course on improving my Public Speaking. I have this problem where I don't ever end a sentence so it's like I just keep on talking long after I've already made my point and so I keep belaboring it when really I should just shut up and not be afraid of a pause. It's an issue.
More later...

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Interlude: In which I travel from the UK to LA, then I find my way to San Jose, and on up to Monterey Bay...

"When you look like your passport photo, it's time to go home."
-Erma Bombeck

You be the judge.

After closing up the flat (seriously, it's like initiating a shuttle launch) I hopped on my final tube ride out to Heathrow. Surprisingly, I cut it a little close! I finally cleared security and found myself in a HUGE duty-free shop. I started sprinting, and made it just as they were calling my section.

I sat next to the conductor for the Phresno Philharmonic, no wait, I mean the Fresno Filharmonhic, no wait...anyways he's Czech. He was heading to LA to conduct the L.A. Phil at the Walt Disney Hall, a local landmark I'm ashamed to say I've never been to (another is Watts Towers). Shostakovich, I believe, though I spotted some Dvorak in there too. He cracked me up, especially when he kept ordering more and more wine and then arguing with the flight attendant (Andy) over tiny misunderstandings. Delightful.

Having downed the last of my Vicodin (it's not that I have a problem, it's just that I didn't need it for my maxillofacial surgery in January and I DO need it for a 10 hour flight) I decided to watch The Pink Panther. I know, I know. It was pretty stupid, but I gotta say, pretty funny! Also good was The Matador, with Greg Kinnear and Pierce Brosnan.

Miraculously, I cleared customs, and then it was back on the Flyaway to the Red Line to the apartment. I had some blogging and packing to do, and when Micah and Rosemary finally showed up (they had been at some party I wasn't invited to. My one night in LA in weeks, and nowhere to go...*sigh*) I thought I'd go straight to bed. But around 1 am PDT, I had been up for 24 hours and my circadian rhythm clicked over. All of a sudden I wasn't sleepy. Around 2:30 I decided I would just lay down and see if....(snore).

Somehow I made it to the airport on time (god bless LAX) and got on the Greyhound of the Skies, Southwest Airlines. The flight to San Jose is over before you know it.

SJC lacks the architectural majesty of say, Eero Sarinen's JFK terminal or Frank Gehry's new Venice airport, but it sure is easy!
So now I'm all checked in and settled at Asilomar Conference Grounds. My room is in The Pirate's Den! Yaaargh.

The internet is free and easy here, and I brought my tripod, so I'm gonna try and get you guys some nice nature shots. Because something's gonna have to break up the monotony of my endless rants. I gotta warn you, up here with all these union brothers and sisters, this narrative could get a little political in tone. I'll be sure to pepper it with nuggets of self-deprecating humor. I know what you sickos like.

LondonTown Day Four: In which I run out of time, money, energy, and patience…

Thought you might like to see the flat. There are two bedrooms, a kitchen, a dining area and living room, a bathroom AND a loo (what?). It’s just the right size for me, though if all the sleeping spaces were being used it would be a very tight fit.

Today it’s off to the Tower with me!
I took quite a lot of pictures here, but I’ll try to limit them to those of aesthetic or general interest. The Tower of London is probably the most visited tourist site in The City. It’s certainly the most expensive. I didn’t get to the ticket booth until an hour and a half before they were closing, and the clerk was discouraging people from buying the ticket. But in typical Zarou fashion, “Pssht, we can make it.”
What’s so galling about these tourist traps is that after you’ve traveled thousands of miles, figured out the Metro, found the entrance, and paid the $30 bucks to get in (plus $4-6 for the audio tour (I know, but I like to learn!)), you still have to listen to jack-ass Americans saying stupid things the whole time! “Why do these stairs have to be so narrow?” “Where’s the real tower, the one where King Arthur lived?” “That Roman city wall would never stop a bunkerbuster.” If I wanted to hear what morons think, I’d have stayed at home and put on Fox News.
But at least I don’t have it as bad as this guy. He has to hear it every day.
Poor little tosser. Can’t be more than seventeen.This is a detail of a tapestry showing Emperor Maximilian and Henry VIII joining forces to defeat the French. Tally-ho! And I thought all my namesake was famous for was getting shot in Mexico!These two fellows are named Gin and Beer. It is believed they guarded William the Conqueror’s liquor cabinet.Oooooh….spooooooky…..
Oh, so I have to tell you this one. Some king (who cares which one? Let's say, Wat VII), he commissions this crown for his coronation. It was the first time the jewels were set in an open setting. Girls? Am I saying that right? Before that there was a little cup you put the jewels in. Here you can see it’s just the outline, so more light bounces around and the whole thing gets more sparkly. And as we all remember from our British History, Sparkliness is power. Anyways so you can see how many holes there are in it. It held something like 200 diamonds. The people were bedazzled. After the coronation, the king couldn’t afford to pay the jewelers, so the diamonds were repo’d. All the monarchy has left is the settings.
On the right and left are two piles of diamonds donated by DeBeers. This is how many diamonds it would have taken.

So in the square, where they executed Anne Boleyn and Charles II, and all kinds of famous people, they're building a new memorial. It won't be a gallows or a chopping block, but rather a glass sculpture of a pillow, with a slight indentation as if someone had been resting their head.

Now that's what I'm talking about. Gestures of repentance, rather than gruesome monuments to violence. Move forward, people.
I caught this Yeoman Warder giving bad directions to the Tower Bridge.

On the audio tour, I learned that the name derives from the Medieval practice of shouting out, “Yo, Man! Whar der ya think yer goin’?” Truthfully, I just made that up. Sorry. It’s just that I’m back in my apartment!!! I don’t want to blog out of sequence but I’m writing this Day 5 at the end of Day 6, which is the travel day. I have been up many hours. I’m just waiting for the laundry to be done and I will sleep for a couple hours and then back to the airport.

But back to the bridge!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m too big for Europe. My elbows are all bruised, my head’s as lumpy as a scotch egg gone bad, and I’ve only been able to shower from the neck down.

It's a pretty little town, isn't it?

As the chill came on and the fog rolled in (not really, actually, it's kinda freakin' me out how long the days are here. I feel like Al Pacino in Insomnia. It doesn't even get dark until like 9:30. But imagine the mood...) it was time to gather for this evening's tour of the macabre spots around this part of London what were haunted, by one Jack the Rippah!
But as I mentioned, in the afternoon (7:30!) not that scary.
Not that our guide, Simon, didn't do his best to entertain and educate. Here he is describing the removal of a uterus in full detail. During the rules portion at the beginning of the tour, Simon mentioned that if any one starts harassing us from passing cars or the other side of the street, we should not encourage them, and just ignore them. I thought it was odd that he had to say anything, but sure enough, Friday night and the pubs were jolly. Every group of well-dressed younger men we passed hooted and hollered like houligans.
Don't worry, Micah, I'm sure it's just an archaic spelling. I believe this was the rings and necklaces district.
Mooooo. Not so much the Autumn of Terror as the Crowded Sidewalk Evening.

And then it was home to the blogs. Incidentally, I discovered on my very last night in London that there was a strip club on the same mews as the flat. Kitty-corner, if you will. The Director's Lodge. But I'm glad I didn't know that earlier. Besides, once you've seen Blondie at the Clermont Lounge, you're kinda ruined for strippers forever.

Hey, does anybody remember that the main Fraggle, whatever his name was, had an uncle who would travel around the world of humans and report back on their strange behaviors? Traveling Uncle Matt, I think. Blogger.

And on the plane over to London what I watched was this movie Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story which is a sort of post-modern Being-John-Malkovich-esque movie about the adaptation of this British novel, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, which is in many ways a post-modern novel (the narrator breaks character and addresses the reader, the biography ends before the protagonist is born, etc.) except that it was written in the 18th century. So then this actor is making a movie about it, only some of the movie IS the movie, and, well, you can see why it appealed to me and the blogging.

Would you please stop saying blog?