23 August 2009

The Heat is on: An I.E. Retrospective

Yes, we turned on the heater today. In August. It all started when we moved to Berkeley 2 weeks ago for K to attend more school. By noon it was 66 degrees in our small apartment in Family Student Housing, and we turned on the heater. It has been so weird trying to get used to living on the coast after years of living in the stinking desert.

So, let me now post pictures and thoughts about the Inland Empire, or as we remember it: The 909.

This is Highway 18 approaching the turn off to Crestline.  You can see the smog that rolls in daily from L.A.  We drove down into that 5 days a week to go to school to gets smarter and stuff.  Some mornings K and I would look down at that from our mile elevation and he would note: "They could all be dead down there."  Still, we drove on.

The San Bernardino valley:

Here is were K and I met in 1998:
This had to be both the best job I ever had, and the worst.  It was great, because crazy people worked there.  I've never worked with such a group of characters before or since.  I was hesitant to leave San Diego and move to San Bernardino County for a job that I figured early on likely would not work out.  But I found that Redlands was actually a nice town, and I really liked all those I worked with at the SBCM.  Where else can one spend time with people like Jim and Star, or Steve, or Seth, or Julie, and of course Barbara ("Stupid man!")?  I even learned some stuff.  I found a bobbin lace group there on Wendesdays and learned about all sorts of hobbies I didn't know I needed.  Even when the work stopped K and I ended up back in the IE so I could go to grad school.  We spent 9 months in San Diego before moving back. 

Here is Mr. J's Donuts:
Home of the frosting-filled donut [!], my husband mistook this for food for many, many years.  Ahhh, youth.
The Blues:
K found this an acceptable place from where to procure jeans to wear to work.  He alledges that one day before work, the ass blew out of a pair he was wearing.  He likely finished his cheese fries, and then claimed to walk in there in his assless jeans and calmly buy another pair.  He further alledges the staff was nonpulssed.  
A pizza place with acceptable beer:
I like this picture because we spotted an SUV with a "NOTW" sticker on the back.  What are the odds of that!?!  
OK, now one that matters to me:
I first had Cuca's at the Museum.  I was working in the lab, and it was a rainy day.  Quintin offered to go and pick up food for everyone.  When asked what I wanted I told them I didn't really care for Mexican food.  True at the time, they gasped.  Seriously.  In unison.  Barbara told me that I was eating their food, and I would like it.  I protested, and finally Tina and Barbara simply paid for my food and ordered me a BRC (Bean, Rice and Cheese burrito).  Green sauce on the side.  "I don't like that either," I told Barbara.  Again, she forced the issue.  I capitualted, and my life was changed on that day.  In all seriousness, and I type this with as much love for Cuca's as embaressment at my life choices, I chose the grad school I did in large part because it was close to Cuca's.  Don't even tell me there are other considerations when choosing a Ph.D. program, cause' that's not true.  I miss this place so much.  Don't get me wrong.  Berkeley has great food.  In fact, today we went to a great place with a hard-to-remember name (behind the Peet's on 4th? Anyone?), but it was no Cucu's.  It was healthy, and gourmet, and really good.  But, Cuca's!  Here's how it works.  I go up to order my BRC and iced tea.  I pay (in 1999) 1.83.  They call my number, and I ask for green sauce.  First, Maria with the barely-there eyebrows tells me that I should have ordered the green burito.  I appoligize profussely, and ask for green sauce.  She informs me they are out.  I can see it on the shelf behind her.  I ask her to fill some containers with the sauce right behind her.  She rolls her eyes, and gives me green sauce and an iced tea with a fly in it.  Oh fuck, I love this place!  Even the worst Cuca's burrito and the occasionally horrid service still pale in comparison to the sweet ambrosia they roll into a tortilla.  I fricken' went to Cuca's on my wedding day!  I have for years now just called in my order as I'm on the way, and K kindly goes and pays and dishes out beat-down for the green.  I had my last Cuca's burrito over 2 weeks ago now, and as I held the last bite in my hand I sighed.  Finishing that food signaled that things were about the change.

Joe Greensleeves:
We had dinner there the night we were married.  A bit less than a year ago K and I spent several evenings going through a big jar of change and rolled it.  We had well over 100 bucks.  We went to JG and had a great meal and paid for it with our decade of change.  It was like eating for free.  
Before I lived a small BART ride from Britex, this place supplied me with much of my fabric diet.  One day I went there with Star to look at potential 1880s dress fabric.  At one point, he was feeling a particular fabric, and told me, "I just love the cottons in this store."  Again, I ask, when am I ever going to work with such crazy people???

A view from the Valley up to where we lived:
From Loma Linda looking right up to our hood.
Our favorite Indian food:
We had dinner there with Barbara for our last meal there.  Where the waiters have beautiful eyebrows, and they have 2 televisions either playing Indian music videos, or When Animals Attack (seriously).  I will miss them.  

Lake Arrowhead:
The local and mostly acceptable Mexican place which K always called "Papa-gay-ooos."  One waitress told K he looks like a priest in South America somewhere who was kicked out of the church for having multiple wives.  

Here is the view from my house in the fall:
I will also miss the dogwoods.

A view toward the front of my house:
Early this summer a mama bear and her cub came to spread trash all over our parking deck.  Seth and Julie were minutes away from arriving for dinner.  The two bears found stuff to eat, and hurried up the hill right before S and J arrived.  
What I will not miss:

Rivercyde on a pretty day:

Here's the thing about the 909, and the thing is: It's hard to live there.  The place is hostile in myriad ways.  Many of the residents are Jebus-loving asshats.  Many of the SUV-driving war hawks that shared my commute on the 18 really, really, REALLY, didn't know how to drive on a curvey mountain road, and typically went 10-30 miles under the speed limit on the 18.  Once on a residential street where the speed limit was 15, they went 30.  What manly men.  They are generally racist and hostile toward all the brown people, and often attempt to link the migrant workers (whom they hire) to terrorists.  Seriously.  It's smoggy.  It's hot all the time.  When K and I lived in Rivercyde I walked to school from the above parking lot on 23 December 2002.  I called him and asked him to come an pick me up because it was so hot I didn't want to walk back without water.  It was, I learned that day, 100 degrees.  What kind of X-mas is that?!?  Racist, hot, smoggy, and really conservative.  And, that's why I'm glad I lived there.  It was so awful that it made me a better person.  Every day was such a challenge that I realized early on that I was either going to die, or deal.  I think I died a little, but mostly I learned that I can live any where, and even learn to appreciate it.  I actually miss it.  I have no desire to live there again, but I will always have some place in my heart for the 909.

There is something about a place this hostile that somehow shapes people into interesting and even neat people, like those at the Museum.  People like that can't live in Berkeley.  It's easy to go on here without trying much.  It was probably not even 70 degrees, and it's beautiful, and everything tastes good, and the people are nice.  What kind of character building can come from this?  But the 909, well.  People used to shout at us, or try to ram us with their large American cars if we attempted to back out of a parking space after picking up our mail.  Stop for a pedestrian?  Only if you hate America, by god.  Bike?  Please.  That's for sissies.  The 909, where they picked up our trash on MLK Day even though it's a holiday.  Where they stole my trashcan and BBQ.  Either you give in and turn into to one of them, or you rise above it and become the kind of person everyone wants to spend time with.  The 909 made me into a person who now realizes that friendship can form the better part of a coping strategy.  I value that, and I valued my time there.  Once culture is sucked out of a place, as it is there, individuals create it for themselves.  My most creative years so far were spent there.

And there are good people there too.  I realized in the winter of 07/08 when I went for a walk up my snow covered street that it's not as white there as it feels.  I have brown neighbors.  I have mixed-race lesbian neighbors!  How cool is that?  My hope for the 909 is that when the loonies start to argue that the migrants are smuggling dirty bombs, my neighbors speak up and say No, they are people just like all of us.


Blogger Weeping Sore said...

Nice! You seem to have taken from the IE what you could, and left behind some good friends, some good food, and, maybe, even Jebus.

10:40 PM  
Blogger Martha in Michigan said...

You made me recall leaving our first real home in the RPI in 1976. We'd lived half a dozen other places already, but briefly, and we did not get so attached. In the PI, we lived for three years in the same house, and I had the same mixed feelings about the people and the area. I had been in a foreign culture long enough for the bloom to be off the rose; I was tired of their un-American touchiness and Asian sense of "face." It can be a strain for an individualistic, free-talking American to guard her tongue most of the time so as not to offend, although they were still the friendly and sweet people who had so enchanted me at first.

So, as we were leaving, I surprised myself with tears. We had lived a significant part of our young lives in that place, and I would miss it—and its people. We'd lost our first, unexpected child while living there, and conceived the second. G had come into his own as a competent and respected professional. I'd had the first job that I really loved and gone from student teacher to acting administrator in less than two years at that quirky little school. We knew we'd never live there, or even visit, ever again. Talk about a door closing....

We really are built from our experiences, and especially from the trying ones. It's easy to see how identical twins will diverge inevitably, or how the siblings in my large birth family can be so different in late middle age. We were all honed by different strops, and that has made all the difference.

5:34 PM  
Blogger Miss Carousel said...

a perfect retrospective!

i forgot about caca's in redlands until you mentioned it. SO good. you introduced me to it, no??? i miss good mexican food....

8:54 AM  

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