Wednesday, July 05, 2006

California, rest in peace, simultaneous release


The view from where we sit on the beach.


Caitrin hanging out in the water.

**Brownie points to whoever knows where the title of this post comes from.**

Hello everyone.

We have terrible WiFi Internet here on the island of Catalina. I've been trying to get on for days and each time, our connection slowly fades to nothing as I attempt to do business or answer any email. I gave up even thinking about posting to this blog.

Today, the connection bars look happy so I'm hurrying to make a quick entry.

So far, I've gotten to jog along the coast of the island each morning (listening to U2 via the miracle of iPod), I've swum in the ocean twice a day (I love kelp!), seen and chatted with more relatives than I knew I should know (lots of step family here) and we've had Mexican food every day at lunch (the real kind with cabbage on the tacos).

We had a big family square dance and BBQ that included 93 relations and friends of relations! Un-friggin'-believable.

My kids are having the best time with their cousins. Lots of giggles and hugs. Last night at the fireworks over the harbor, little kids were paired on big kid laps. So darling. There must be about 20.

We have some hard news to deal with. My step-sister's husband (Gene) was suddenly taken to the hospital in Long Beach because of agressive leukemia the day before we arrived. He started chemo last night. He has three adorable little boys. We are all reeling from that completely unexpected news. Gene is in his mid-thirties.

Aside from the undercurrent of concern for my step-sister's family, the hardest part of the trip for me so far is missing my time alone, writing, thinking and interacting online. I get a bit frantic when my days have this much in-person interaction without the kind of depth and private thinking that I'm used to. I'm also conscious of how family can get under your skin - in both good ways (I miss my sister's family and wish we lived closer) and in tricky ways (calling up painful memories, or that barb or comment that throws you back and you didn't know it still could).

I'm also keenly aware that I'm in the land of white money. How that skews a worldview...

Sometimes I find myself overcome with how impossible it seems to be for most people to think outside their own tribes, to think beyond their personal security and well-being, what seems reasonable to them, to imagine life from another place. Many of us are convinced that how we see is right... for everyone.

Noah and I got into a discussion about rap with my dad and brother. Let's just say they don't understand rap at all but feel quite confident of their judgments about it. It was one of those moments for me where I saw my past, present and future in a flash. An underlying thread of my adult years has been learning how to empathize or to see from a different place than mine. I even said to Noah as he expressed frustration that his relatives would speak from ignorance with such authority... even that place of confident judgment is worth trying to understand, to imagine. What causes someone to make a sweeping statement about what they don't know and won't learn? What shapes their fear, why are they willing to override your more knowledgeable position? When conversation becomes a battleground of ideas, that's the time to move into empathy mode - ask questions that help you understand why those with whom you disagree see things so starkly and with such conviction.

I'm pretty tired of everyone having such defined opinions about every topic under the sun.

California is a place where diversity is prized on the surface but not in reality. I'm seeing that now. It's a place apart... there is a fundamental sense of privilege and "we're right" that goes with the territory. I'd say that one of the features of my childhood and identity as a Californian has been that we are naturally superior to others. Living in the midwest is helping to curb that sense.

So that's my warm and fuzzy report from the island.

I'm glad to be here, but I'm also exhausted.

Miss you all and hope that you've got cool breezes where you are. :)

Julie

P.S. Just gotta ask - when did every middle-aged Californian male decide he was an ex-surfer? They all wear surfer glasses, haricuts and brands. Cracks me up. Ahhh... the power of marketing.

4 comments:

Dave said...

The title is from the Red Hot Chili Peppers "Dani California", their current hit single.

Put those brownie points in my account, Julie!

Dave said...

You wrote:

California is a place where diversity is prized on the surface but not in reality. I'm seeing that now. It's a place apart... there is a fundamental sense of privilege and "we're right" that goes with the territory. I'd say that one of the features of my childhood and identity as a Californian has been that we are naturally superior to others. Living in the midwest is helping to curb that sense.

I'm sitting here in the Midwest, imagining all you Californians crashing into each other because you miss touch so much and need to feel something...

;o)

Matt said...

Sounds like you're having a great time, Julie (although the illness is tough, and my prayers go out to the family member who's ill). I agree completely about missing the internet exchange -- Dave and I are biding our time talking politics and book shopping until your return. Look forward to having you back and seeing more pics from Cali!

I wouldn't have gotten the Red Hot Chili Peppers reference -- more of a Zeppelin man myself.

Off to Chincoteague tomorrow with the wife, daughter, and in-laws for three days with good seafood and wild ponies. The only ponying my father-in-law says he's doing is going to be up to the bar. Right there with him!!

julieunplugged said...

Dave, that is an official pass into the pop culture cult. :) Good job.

Matt and Dave, thanks for the comments. I have to get to bed but it was nice to see your friendly comments.

Went snorkeling today. Wonderful! Hope to see you more next week.

Julie