Getting to know the neighborhood

Happy Halloween!

Just posting some pictures from my immediate neighborhood in Long Beach. It is an historic district, so some homes have been nicely preserved.

This is the corner store behind my apartment.

Where I do my laundry. Can you get a flavor for the dominant ethnic group in my community?;)

One example of the historic homes in the neighborhood. This is where Long Beach began in the 1880s.


Music Influences

At this point in my life, I can enjoy any kind of music if there's talent and respect in it. I owe this to my sister. She was the first musical influence in my life. My parents didn't listen to too much music. Maybe they had some classical music on reel to reel tapes, but we never listened to background music at home. When Jen started to listen to folk music, I caught on. John Denver, James Taylor, and Janis Joplin were some of Jen's early favorites. In high school it was the Indigo Girls.

At the moment "Violets" by Push Down and Turn is playing on my iTunes. They're a very obscure rock band from the West Lafayette area of Indiana. My sister went to Purdue for three years and started liking the band. Being two years apart, I started going to Principia college when Jen was in her Junior year at Purdue. That was a hard year for both of us because our mom had passed away that summer. I remember some late night calls with Jen very sad about how things were going at her sorority, Sigma Kappa, and she didn't have her regular support network of mom to talk to. So she talked to me and I tried to be as encouraging as I could.

Later that year, 1995, Jen came to Principia for a visit. Push Down and Turn was "on tour" to a club in St. Louis. Jen and I went to their concert. I was finally "on par" with my sister in the music scene for a moment. Since then, our music tastes haven't converged too much. Actually, I don't know where my sister's went post-college but that's probably because we stopped living in the same town and growing into our own persons. But I'll never forget that my sister first planted that musical seed in my heart.

There's probably some study out there about why music is tied to memory. We all have stories about what we think of when a particular song comes on the radio. What song are you listening to now? What does it make you remember?


Celebrating 100 Posts!

For some bloggers, 100 posts happens in about 3 weeks of 5 posts a day. For me - thoughtful, reflective, and innovating new features on my blog from cool ideas seen on other blogs - it takes about two years. Do you remember my first post? It seems like such a short time, but the way technologies are accelerating these days on the Internet, 2 years can be the life and demise of many dot coms.

My 100th post comes at a difficult time in my life. I left a high-paying job in Japan to teach in the urban school district of Long Beach as a part-time substitute. Shortly after I returned to the States, my sister passed on. I have been overwhelmed with support from family members and friends who knew and loved my sister. At times like these, I find myself the receiver of comfort and not much of a giver of prose. It is almost as if writing out my feelings make them more real; it probably does. When I just want my sister back, that's the last thing that I want to do. But I've also been encouraged to feel my feelings so I can let them go, otherwise they'll come up again in less than recognizable ways that may be harder to deal with. So I write. Painfully. Slowly. But I write.

I have always been conscious that I have an audience for this blog, albeit a very small one. I don't want to bore you or burden you with my thoughts at this difficult time. If you want an exploration of death or grief, pick up Tuesdays with Morrie or something. But that doesn't mean that what I DO write here won't be genuine. Just that it is what I am comfortable sharing.

During this time I have had to break the news of my sister's passing to many people who were very surprised at the news. When I have to tell strangers or those whom I don't know very well, I really appreciate it whenever they responds with, "what was her name?" instead of, "what did she die from?" To me, it puts the emphasis on my sister as a person instead of the death or tragedy. Emphasizing life, not death. William Wallace in Braveheart said, "every man dies, but not every man truly lives". We all have a choice of what we're going to focus on.

I think what is going to help me at this time is to write down stories of my sister that I remember. We're two years apart. My brother is 3 years younger. So there was 3 years when it was just Jen and I. But, child development being what it is, I don't remember any of those years as "just the two of us". So my first memory that I can think of was when Jen jumped off the top bunk at the apartment in Caracas. For some reason we were cooped up in the bedroom and Jen decided to jump from the top bunk, not onto the floor, but onto the wood table. Crunch! went part of the table and I think part of Jen. She's such a daredevil. She got quite a scolding from Mom about that one.

I think that sense of daring carried over to sports too. Title IX gave women more opportunity in school and community sports. But in the early 80s, there were only boys teams. My sister wanted to play, so she had to join the boys' team. And she hustled with the best of them. By fourth grade, there were enough girls to make a soccer team league. And dad was her coach. I think Jen told me one time that Dad was her best coach. Gentle with the girls while pushing them to do their best. Jen made the basketball team in 7th grade. They were ranked 8th in the city tournament but sank a buzzer beating three-point shot to make it into the finals. They won the city championship. Jen was always so proud to tell visitors to Jefferson Junior High School in Naperville, IL that her picture was still on the wall to the gym.

Well, there's a few memories for now. Plenty more to come. I'd like to thank Mary, Danielle, Geoffrey Philp, and Nicole for their encouragement to write. They didn't say anything directly about doing it, but it is the caring of people whom I have met via blogging that gave me the courage to start writing again. Thanks.

Countries I have visited

Where I've been in the USA