Sunday, February 12, 2006

The OC

Palm Trees
Originally uploaded by Martina.
As it turns out, I recently did have the opportunity to lay my head on a bed of California stars (or at least on a hotel bed with foam pillows and the ugliest synthetic seashell motif bedspread ever created in the history of man). This year my office was asked to assist with the coordination of our company's national training. As a result we were invited to attend meetings in Los Angeles to make sure everything ran smoothly. At least that is how they put it, my assessment of things is that we were sent there to act as meeting lackeys.

Nonetheless, as anyone who has been here knows, January in Oregon generally holds the promise of rain and more rain, only interrupted by intermittant bouts of rain, so when some coworkers and I learned we could fly down early at no extra cost, we jumped at the chance to leave on Saturday to visit the Orange County coastline and enjoy the sun. Despite some substantial differences in our interests, politics and approaches to travel, the weekend turned out to be fun.

I was even more glad that I went after a couple of them told me that they would never have gone, if I hadn't already known the area and hadn't agreed to come along to play tour guide. It makes me happy I was able to do that for them, because the area really is beautiful. Also, the idea of not going somewhere because it is unfamiliar is completely foreign to my way of thinking. I like the excitement and freshness of seeing a place for the first time. Besides, we are talking about the OC, not Baghdad.

Ultimately, it baffles me that I am apparently the adventurous one in my office. When all is said and done, I am pretty boring. Still, I think that everyone had fun, so I'm glad we went. I'll talk more specifically about the trip next time, but for now, I have to go.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

California Stars

Originally uploaded by Martina.
One song that always fills me with a sort of wistfulness for my younger years, is Wilco and Billy Bragg's setting of Woody Guthrie's California Stars lyrics to music. It's funny, when I first moved to California, I was convinced that I would not last there for six months. On my first night there, sleeping on the floor of my new apartment, I remember having a midnight epiphany that said "I will not linger here". In the end, I lingered for four years, and probably would have stayed a lot longer, had my father not passed away.

So, in my memory, California has come to symbolize those early days of freedom after getting out of college. The world was bursting with possibilities. The sun was shining, and I was finally an adult with an apartment, a job, two cats and my own newspaper subscription. I remember times coming off the freeway when I'd see a particular cluster of palm trees, with ocean in the distance and think, "Man, I live here! This is my home!"

Then, everything changed. My dad died, duty kicked in, and I found myself planning a move back to Oregon, because I didn't want my mom to be here all lone. Even though I enjoyed my California life, the thought of her mourning and alone filled me with such guilt that I ultimately decided it would be better to move back to my real home - Oregon. I've lived other places since then, but somehow I keep finding my way back here to where the air is clean(er).

Still, despite its abundance of smog, there is a party of me that sees my California days as a kind of idyll. If I were Al Bundy, I suppose California would be high school football. Rationally, I know that it would never be the same now. Like me, most of my old friends have moved away. Things have changed; I have changed. I like where I am now. It is in those nostalgic moments when I miss the relative simplicity of being young enough to believe that misfortunes are things that happen to other people that I find myself missing the sunshine there. In those moments reminiscing about that time becomes an escape, and I find myself harboring a wistful appreciation for Woody Guthrie's lyrics to California Stars. I suppose that is why I've always been fond of the song.

I'd like to rest my heavy head tonight
On a bed of California stars
I'd like to lay my weary bones tonight
On a bed of California stars
I'd love to feel your hand touching mine
And tell me why I must keep working on
Yes, I'd give my life to lay my head tonight
On a bed of California stars
I'd like to dream my troubles all away
On a bed of California stars
Jump up from my starbed and make another day
Underneath my California stars
They hang like grapes on vines that shine
And warm the lovers glass like friendly wine
So, I'd give this world
just to dream a dream with you
On our bed of California stars
- Woody Guthrie

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


Here we are over a month into 2006, which seems like a good time to reflect on how things are going. First, the good news. While I may have my eccentricities, I am clearly not as crazy as this guy, though I guess you have to the guy his due for creating a blog that is mentioned in The Bible. Even if the shout out is in a code only he understands, having a holy blog has to go a long way toward getting you the a-ok from Saint Peter. I wonder if my blog and I are mentioned, or does God give props on a paid advertising basis only?

Anyway, even if my blog isn't exactly holy, the first month of 2006 turned out to be a full one for Martinaland. So, to all (a.k.a both of you) who said "Update your blog", I say "Bitch, please. I've been busy!" Now that is out of the way, I can tell you that with the new year came a flurry of activity - a trip to California, job opportunities, cool new hair, a number of new projects, and a final(ish) plan for the roomening. If the month of January is any indication, the year to come will not be a boring one (though I make no promises for this post, which could quite easily become long and rambly, shambling on like a movie that goes on for a half an hour too long).

Perhaps the best discovery of late December/all of January was Kate Ross' Julian Kestrel series. I know I touched upon Cut to the Quick and the fact that I was developing a book crush in my year end reading wrap up, but that was before I had read the whole series. I can tell you now that I still have a book crush not seen since the 70's heyday of Aragorn, Joe Hardy and Jim Rockford (though Rockford is, of course, technically a t.v. crush). I don't know what possessed me to let Ross' books sit around on a shelf for over a year before getting around to reading them. Here love was right under my nose, and I didn't even notice it. I guess I was looking for love in all the wrong bookshelves.

As it turns out, the Kestrel series are perfect light reading of the sort that can be devoured in a weekend. But don't let "light" fool you, the stories are so good with all all their twists, turns, and detail about 19th century society. I have to think that the detail is inspired by Ross' own background as a lawyer. What I love so much about the books is that Ross managed to develope a real, believable personality for her gentleman dandy crime solver and the other characters in the series. Through the course of the series, not only the individual mysteries are revealed, but also Kestrel's life and background, through a series of teasing revelations in each story. Additionally, each book includes references to past mysteries he's solved, which makes reading each new volume like reminiscing over shared experiences with an old friend.

It is such a shame Kate Ross died after writing only four volumes. While there are those series that definitely go on for too long and then become progressively more ridiculous (Laurell K. Hamilton, I'm looking at you!), it is always sad to see a good, non-ridiculous one cut off, especially when it's because the author died too young.