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small yellow square The leaves here are changing, in that subtle, drab California way - hardly any color, very understated, nothing too bright.

small red square Have you noticed how we're suddenly awash in Russians? Everywhere I turn around now, it seems I'm hearing their language spoken in public. In the supermarket, a hefty babushka was behind me in line, along with Ena, her young charge - daughter or some close relation. On the conveyor belt behind my carrots, cookies and kiwi she placed several quarts of cultured buttermilk, some thick chicken sausages, a quart of non-Clorox house-brand bleach (whose label she was scrutinizing very carefully), and four tubs of beef liver - the name alone was triggering my gag reflex. <1> What in the world was to be concocted with these ingredients? I tried to ignore them, instead observing Ena as she handled all the possible candy choices. Nothing was satisfactory so she went to another aisle, searching elsewhere for the good stuff, just as it was my turn to pay.

small purple square Depressing - at work today, thinking it'll probably be my last weekend time alone in the covered plywood hallways of our village of trailers. In several ways it's the best at-work environment I've ever had. While going through some stuff in preparation for our move to new quarters I came across an organization chart dated 1980, the oldest one in a file of my org charts. It's a souvenir now, of zero value, but I keep a few snapshots from my career - anyway, it got me thinking - what happened then? Gone now utterly, like it never existed, but this was a whole year of my life - what'd I do? In 1980 I...

  • Drove with T up to the summer cottages on his Ontario island, in his mother's Pinto - as we sat around the fireplace the news came over the radio that
    1. Richard Pryor had immolated himself while freebasing cocaine, and
    2. Marshall Tito had died, which would eventually change the face of Yugoslavia.
    I rode the Greyhound from there to Chicago (where I stayed at the lakeshore Hilton) - the only time I've ever toured that city - then flew back on the new, cheap Midway Airlines via Midway Airport, with a ticket I bought from L's sister, during the brief interval she was a travel agent. That was the trip where I didn't take a suitcase - instead, to avoid looking like a tourist, I operated out of brown grocery bag, which disintegrated during the final walk home from my sweating in the hot sun.
  • Moved out of that awful "new Greenbelt" apartment, across from GSFC, when the ceiling collapsed in an August rainstorm. I broke the lease and had to pay some nominal fee but it was worth it. A month later I was on the tenth floor of a highrise - a step up in class, though it was smaller - a studio rather than the one bedroom.
  • Began the year in New York City with all L's family, in Times Square. Many in the packed crowd around us were tooting little tin horns, and a fat black woman kept hollering "Happy New Year!" into my ear, mashed up against my side. The year ended with a girl named Ursula kissing me, as she circulated throughout the suburban party I attended way out in the Bowie "boonies". The day before I'd bought my first car, a used '71 VW Beetle, and in the light snow that had begun falling that evening, I was forced to stop too suddenly on the way home and I skidded both into the late 70's land barge ahead of me (no damage to him but my headlight smashed & fender dented) and sideways into the adjacent curb, bending my front axle which cost a bundle to fix. Ouch! (But that was technically in 1981, so it doesn't count.)
  • Joined my company team in the GSFC soccer league at work, and found out how well foreigners could play and how out of shape I really was, even though I had no car and therefore bicycled several miles daily.
  • Went through a GI series in an attempt to determine why I had pains on either side of my lower abdomen - no diagnosis came of this and they eventually went away. During that period I saw "Xanadu" with K (my sister) and my Dad, and "Raise The Titanic" with my brother N (enjoying both films).
  • Also saw "Chushinguru" with U and "High School Confidential!" with D & G.
  • Was talked into buying a television by my co-worker Eddie - I got an enormous Zenith "portable" (though its screen was only 13 inches) instead of the superior and more expensive Sony: a patriotic gesture. Memorable shows I watched: "Prisoner: Cell Block H" (known merely as "Prisoner" in its native Australia), "Flo" starring Polly Holliday <2> (not for her, but despite her - I liked everyone else on the program), "Galactica 1980", and the premier screening of the mini-series "Shogun". I sold this appliance to an acquaintance from a previous job the next year.
  • Experienced "A Chorus Line", and it was wonderful. Also saw a production of "Guys And Dolls" at a dinner theater.
  • Returned to New York, driving up with U and L to attend E's wedding - the one time I've been to a Jewish one, and they went all out, the full deal.

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small white square But enough of these reflections on the past - I must look to the future! To paraphrase Joyce Carol Oates in American Appetites:

One must live in the present tense: the next five minutes are the great challenge.
...and maximizing the opportunities available therein, I'd say.

babushka - older woman
GI - Gastro-Intestinal
GSFC - Goddard Space Flight Center - the NASA base outside Washington, DC
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<1> Chicken livers I can handle, in very limited quantities; and pork liver products are great, but beef liver is vile and unfit for human consumption. My Dad likes it, though.

<2>Years later in LA I once drove next to her on the freeway for a while - the license plate frame on her gold and yellow Lincoln said "Kiss My Grits".