Thursday, November 29, 2018

media update: November

(Posting this early for reasons that will become clear by the end of the bulleted list.)

Good lord, what a stressful fucking month.  In general chronological order, here's what happened in November:

  • I had to have some fillings replaced, and my (now ex-)dentist ripped a huge gouge in my face with the retractor.
  • I signed up for Covered California since I'll be losing my health coverage effective tomorrow (see the final item on this list o' shit) and COBRA costs almost $700/month, and that's without vision or dental.  There were several snags and I'm STILL trying to get this shit sorted out.  I wish I had just done COBRA; the extra cost might have been worth saving myself all this fucking tsuris.
  • I was turning left on a green arrow when someone ran a red light at high speed and I came within a red pubic hair of T-boning them.  I managed to drive the rest of the way home without incident and, upon getting out of my car, puked everywhere.
  • My doctor was concerned that I might be prediabetic and/or have thyroid issues.  Fortunately, blood work proved that neither one was the case; my fatigue and hair loss are most likely due to stress.  GEE WHAT COULD I POSSIBLY BE STRESSED ABOUT
  • The mass shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill happened less than three miles from home.  Obviously mass shootings are a goddamn nightmare and so rampant in the US that I've almost become numb to them, but having one literally so close to home and watching the live footage unfold and listening to helicopters and sirens all night, knowing what was happening, was really heartbreaking.
  • The very next night, G and I were evacuated due to the California wildfires.  (I already wrote an entry about this, so I won't repeat myself.)
  • Also due to the wildfires, my favorite library was closed for almost 3 weeks.  They didn't suffer any structural damage, but they were smoky and needed to be deodorized and cleaned.  As you can imagine, losing access to my library SUCKED.  I didn't even have any backup options as the OTHER two libraries I could have gone were closed for the same amount of time and for the same reason!  This, along with all the other garbage I had to deal with, plus Red Dead Redemption 2 marathons, is why this media update is considerably lighter than usual.  Next month's media update is probably going to be massive because...
  • ...tomorrow is my last day working for the Cube Farm after 19 years of faithful, albeit occasionally grudging, service.  We were told about five years ago that they would be closing most of their locations across the country, including ours.  It seemed like a long ways away until it wasn't.  Although it was far from my dream job, and it certainly gave me a lot of headaches, I was pretty well paid and the benefits were great.  I'm devastated at losing my job, but I am trying to remain hopeful that something better awaits me down the line.  

Anyway, because tomorrow is my last day and I'm going to be a complete fucking wreck, I'm posting this early.  Asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; double asterisks are reserved for the creme de la creme.  As always, your mileage may vary.


1. Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas:  This is the final volume in the Throne of Glass series, so I can't properly review it lest I spoil its predecessors.  I'll just say that if you thought Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King had about fifty million endings...

2. Elevation by Stephen King:  Scott Carey has a very strange problem: he's losing weight for no apparent reason, and the scale shows the same number whether he's completely naked or holding dumbbells.  Scott doesn't show any physical changes, and he feels fine, but when the weight keeps dropping, he has to make some hard choices.

Side note: this isn't even 200 pages, but the hardcover costs $20 and the ebook is $8, so I highly recommend getting it at your local library instead. 

3. Alice Isn't Dead by Joseph Fink:  When Keisha's wife Alice disappeared, she thought Alice was dead until she started to see Alice in the background of news reports from all across America.  Keisha takes a job as a cross-country trucker in hopes of finding Alice, but she finds something very sinister instead.

4. Girls on the Line by Jennie Liu:  After Luli ages out of the Chinese orphanage where she's spent most of her life, her old friend Yun offers to help her get a job.  But Yun gets pregnant by a man who kidnaps women and sells them to men desperate for wives, and Luli tries to help her.

5. Girls of Paper and Fire* by Natasha Ngan:  In a world populated by demons and half-animal, half-human creatures, Lei is of the Paper caste, or fully human.  She is taken from her home and given to the Demon King to serve in his harem.  She falls in love with Wren, a fellow concubine, and together they begin to plan a better life not just for themselves, but for their country.  Good world-building and some lovely descriptions, and I liked the fact that it has a lesbian (or bi/pansexual; Lei never defines herself so I ain't doing it for her) protagonist.

2018 TOTAL SO FAR:  104


1.  Heavy by Kiese Laymon:  In this memoir, the author talks about his complicated relationships with his mother, food, and growing up African-American in the US.

2. Maid by Stephanie Land:  A memoir of the author's struggle to survive as a single mother making less than $10/hour working as a housecleaner.

Side note: if this sounds interesting to you, you'll have to wait until next year to read it as it won't be published until January.  I found an advanced reader's copy on the donation table at the evacuation shelter.

2018 TOTAL SO FAR:  27


1. Yokai Rental Shop vol. 4 (final volume) by Shin Mashiba

2018 TOTAL SO FAR:  43 volumes of manga and 15 graphic novels


1. A Star Is Born*:  An alcoholic musician (Bradley Cooper) falls in love with a young singer (Lady Gaga), but her skyrocketing fame sends him into a spiral.  Terrific music and excellent performances.

Side note: I saw this in a mostly empty theater (it was a Thursday afternoon and it had been out for over a month by then) and, when I saw that my assigned seat was directly in front of someone else, I gave him a smile and then moved one seat over so I wouldn't block his view, figuring I'd take my own seat back if I needed to.  So how does this fucker repay my courtesy?  BY LETTING HIS GODDAMN CELL PHONE RING EVERY HALF-HOUR, INCLUDING DURING THE FINALE.  EAT A DONG, JERK.

2. Instant Family:  Pete and Ellie (Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne) decide to take in three foster children, but it turns out to be far more challenging than they expected.

Look, this is not the kind of movie I would have ever chosen to watch on my own, but Paramount Pictures generously moved their premiere to the Red Cross shelter where G and I were staying during the wildfires, and you know what?  I enjoyed it!  It was predictable and certainly not a must-see, but it had some really funny/touching moments and it took our minds off things for 2 hours.

3. Skyscraper:  Security expert Will Sawyer (Dwayne Johnson) must rescue his family from the world's tallest building.  Dumb and predictable, but entertaining.

4. Crazy Rich Asians*:  Rachel's boyfriend Nick invites her to his best friend's wedding in Singapore, but he's been hiding something from her: his family is insanely rich, and she'll have to win over his chilly mother.  Very cute, and Henry Golding (as Nick) is unbelievably charming.

5. Ant-Man and the Wasp*:  Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is on house arrest after the events of Captain America: Civil War, but when he's asked to help Hope Van Dyne (aka The Wasp) track down her missing mother, he puts on his Ant-Man suit and gets to work.  Lots of fun.

2018 TOTAL SO FAR:  97

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

how I spent my evacuation

At 2AM, three sharp beeps interrupted our sleep.  I grabbed my phone and squinted at the display.


G and I leaped out of bed and frantically got dressed.  I swept an armful of clothes into a suitcase and tossed my travel kit and a bottle of my prescription medication in as well.  I threw in my mom's engagement ring, my passport, the new tags for my car, a book, my Kindle Fire, my phone charger, and (inexplicably) a Netflix DVD I had meant to return.

Clothes on.  Shoes on.  One last glance over my shoulder and out the door.  It had been less than 5 minutes since the warning.

Neighbors were racing to their cars, peeling out, and honking as they left, hoping to alert others who might not have heard their phones.  We made our way to the 101 with no real idea of where the hell we were going.  The sky was red and the hills only a mile or so from home were ablaze.

"Oh my god, oh my god!" I wailed, and G's hands tightened on the steering wheel.

Traffic on the freeway was not as bad as we had been anticipating.  We decided to get about 20 miles south and try to get a hotel room.  We tried several different places and everywhere was booked.  At the seventh or eighth place we tried, the weary clerk (who unlocked the lobby bathroom for me; may all the gods old and new bless him forever) told me that he'd been calling around for people and everyone was booked all the way to LAX and beyond.  G and I thanked him and went back out to the car.

"What the hell do we do now?" I asked.

We did some research on my phone and saw that a Red Cross evacuation center had been set up at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, so we punched the address into the GPS and headed there.  We were so goddamn tired that when we reached the parking lot, we just reclined our seats and slept for a fitful hour.  When we woke up around 6AM, we grabbed our suitcases and started down the hill to the gym, which was packed wall to wall with cots.  A volunteer said, "We're close to full in this gym, but we're waiting to hear if they'll let us use the other one too.  In the meantime, please fill out this form and then help yourselves to some breakfast."  We signed in, grabbed a donut and a cup of orange juice, and sat down to wait.  Fortunately, the college agreed to open the other gym for the evacuees, so we headed down there and were told to choose an empty cot.  We found two together and covered them with scratchy Red Cross blankets.  There were no pillows, so we folded up extra blankets, and exhausted, we laid down to rest.  I burst into tears, and G took my hand and rubbed it gently until I drifted off.

When we woke up, we decided to move to the other side of the gym because the people next to us were listening to music on their phones and just generally being rude as hell.  At the cot across from us, a chihuahua-pug mix stared from his crate at us, whining piteously.  "I know that feel, bro," G said, and I laughed darkly. 

At lunch, we walked next door to a classroom that had been converted into the food room.  Tables were loaded with pretty much every snack you could imagine: bags of chips, cookies, candy bars, granola bars, you name it.  A volunteer handed us Subway sandwiches and told us that they were going to open up the supply room shortly, so if we needed toiletries or clothes or anything else, to check it out after we ate.  We took our sandwiches and bottled water back to our cots and ate before heading to the supply room. I took a small bottle of lotion and a packet of wet wipes.

For dinner, the college opened up their cafeteria to us at no cost.  I had a burger, fries, and a Coke Zero from the soda fountain that provided me with some much-needed caffeine; G had chicken, rice, and beans that he said was excellent.  After dinner, we went back to our little corner of the shelter to read until lights out at 9:30.

...or should I say "lights out", because the lights in the gym stayed on.  I pulled my thin blanket over my head and shivered. A chorus of snores rose around us, including one that sounded for all the world like a fucking kazoo.  I pulled a couple of Benadryl out of my purse and swallowed them dry, hoping they would knock me out for at least a few hours.

In the morning, we were awakened around 6:30AM by people starting to talk on their cell phones.  We grabbed some things from our suitcases and shuffled off to our respective bathrooms.  A volunteer told me that the locker room was closed, but they were trying to get the college to allow us access to their showers.  I opened my pack of wet wipes and did the best I could, and then changed clothes in a stall.  I met back up with G, we had breakfast, and then we checked the supply room again, where the donations had tripled overnight.

"Is there anything you need that we don't have?" a volunteer asked.  "We're keeping a list and making regular Target runs."  We requested earplugs. Back in our "room", I noticed that a table had been loaded up with board games, toys, and books, including (for some reason) several Dungeons & Dragons strategy guides.  We sat on our cots and read until our spaghetti lunch, after which we were told the shower rooms had been opened up.  I took my first shower in two days and felt semi-human again.  We went outside for a briefing from the sheriff's department and then stopped by the Verizon charging tent, where the guy told us he could bring a router into our gym to provide free wi-fi, which was an unbelievable blessing.  As I sat in a chair playing Hidden City, a volunteer asked me if I wanted a bag of peanut M&Ms, which: yes please.  Later on, a different volunteer walked around and handed out the earplugs we'd requested.  She also mentioned that a huge supply of blankets had just come in, so G and I went to the supply room, which at this point looked like the Room of Requirement from Harry Potter.  I grabbed a thick leopard print blanket that looked like something Khal Drogo would have in his tent, a pair of socks because the ones I was wearing were covered in ash and dirt from our trek down the hill, a pillow, and an extra-large men's t-shirt to serve as a pillowcase.  On the way back, I noticed that someone had put a 12-pack of Coke Zero on the drinks table, so I happily grabbed a can.  We spent the rest of the evening poking around on our respective electronic devices.  I was getting pissed off that my Kindle was acting up until I remembered I was sitting on a cot in a Red Cross shelter, which sure put some shit in perspective.

On Sunday morning, we checked the news.  Although the evacuation order had been lifted for our area, we saw some "hot spots" a little too uncomfortably close to home and big sections of the 101N were still closed.  After discussing it, we decided to stay one more night as we didn't want to risk the fire flaring up and potentially having to evacuate again.  People were still checking in all the time, and if we had to come back, we might not be able to get back in.  As much as we wanted the comforts of home, and to make sure we even still HAD a home, we were surprisingly well fed, warm, and had access to water, medical care, showers, and toilets.  We didn't want to risk our spot.

In the afternoon, we found out that Paramount Pictures was going to move the premiere of their newest movie to the college as a special treat for the evacuees and volunteers, and they were also donating the food they would have served at the event.  I said to G, "I can't wait to hit the red carpet in somebody else's socks.  Talk about glamorous!"

That evening, we walked over to the cafeteria, where a representative for Paramount Pictures and several stars from the movie Instant Family, including Octavia Spencer, Tig Notaro, and a gigantic Saint Bernard named Meatball were waiting for us.  Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne weren't there, because fuck us, I guess.  (I'm just joking; who knows what was going on in their own lives.)  I didn't get anywhere near Octavia Spencer, but I got to pet Meatball and, as I passed Tig Notaro, I blurted out "I loooooooooove you!"  She was very gracious but I still wanted to hide in the bathroom for being such an embarrassing fangirl.  Instead, I loaded up my plate with chicken, mac and cheese, and mini-cupcakes and returned to our table to eat.  (They also had spinach quiche and steak tartare, but I have the palate of a really fussy 5-year-old.)

The movie was not anything I would have ordinarily watched, and it was very predictable, but it had some cute and funny moments and it took our minds off things for two hours, which is what entertainment is really all about.

The next morning, G and I checked pretty much every website you can think of, and it looked like we were safe to go home.  We didn't know if our home was okay, but we wanted to find out, and we wanted to free up our spots for someone else, since people were still checking in all the time.  We put our donated blankets in the designated pile for washing, dismantled our cots, checked out, and effusively thanked every volunteer we passed on the way to the car.

Our home was safe, and for the first time in days, despite the smoke in the air, I was able to breathe again.