Mr. Sandman's Sandbox

The musings of a Deaf Californian on life, politics, religion, sex, and other unmentionables. This blog is not guaranteed to lead to bon mots appropriate for dinner-table conversation; make of it what you will.

Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Nuptial Hiatus

My brother-in-law, for whatever reasons, chose to have a wedding in Florida in July, and on the beach, too. As good siblings, my wife and I are headed off for the Sunshine State, hoping that it won't rain on my brother-in-law's parade, and that no tropical storms/hurricanes develop. Right now, Tropical Storm Beryl is off the coast of the Carolinas-- it's predicted to remain a tropical storm, which I hope is the case. Obviously my absence means I won't be posting, nor will I be participating in other blogs elsewhere while gone.

In addition, I'm sick. Been sleeping off and on all day, and hoping against hope I won't be totally wasted when I board the plane. Really wish this had happened AFTER I got back.

Finally, there's been a power outage at the Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control Center, which is screwing with flights in and out of LAX, and has the potential to disrupt air traffic elsewhere. What fun.

So between tropical storms/hurricanes, my body rebelling, and the power outage, it looks like a perfect storm. Wish me luck.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Driving Commandments

I am not a patient driver- this my wife knows. This isn't to say I'm a terrible driver, but I do not possess the grace and patience that others have. Part of it is that I get really pissed off with other drivers. I'm sure the rudeness, lack of skills, speeding, and all that present-day driving entails are not recent phenomenons. As long as there have been drivers, there have been self-centered, inept motorists, and there will continue to be as long as automobiles last (given the immediacy of Peak Oil, that could be sometime soon).

In the interests of reducing the chaos around me (and hopefully my tendency to approach heart attack-level stress), I offer these Driving Commandments:

1) I am your peer, your co-worker, your neighbor, the driver, who shares the vagaries of the roads with you in slavery to the Almighty Automobile. Thou shalt respect me, as I respect you.

2) Thou shalt use thy turn signal when you change lanes (note: that plastic stick on the side of the steering column isn't there for decoration; it has a function-- learn about and use it).

3) Thou shalt not run a red light.

4) Thou shalt not do 70 in a 25-mph-zone.

5) When two lanes merge into one, thou shalt not drive as far as you can, then demand to cut in (you wonder why there's always a long line in places like this? It's because people like you slow everyone else down by insisting you go first).

6) When driving on a highway or freeway, thou shalt not cut across three lanes simultaneously, at high speed.

7) Thou shalt not tailgate, nor expect me to speed up past the posted limit (you're five minutes late, and don't want the boss chewing you out? So? Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part).

8) Thou shalt not make a U-Turn in front of me, especially when it's not permitted.

9) Should you be stuck in traffic, thou shalt make space at an intersection or entrance; for thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's driveway, or thy neighbor's route home, or thy neighbor's right-of-way, or thy neighbor's wife in her brand-new Versace outfit driving her sporty Ferrari (I'm just saying, you know).

10) Thou shalt hang up and drive; for the Lord my Governor hath commanded it (I am not a fan of Schwarzenegger, as you may know, but I definitely agree with him on this one).

Thursday, July 13, 2006

SoCal's Culinary Contributions

L.A. is kind of a strange town when it comes to food. Unlike other places I've lived, here everyone eats out, and often. When I was growing up, we didn't have a lot of money, and both of my parents were (and still are!) good cooks, so we didn't eat out all that frequently. Maybe we'd get a pizza every so often, or a meal when we were out doing errands or shopping for the day. Usually we'd eat out a lot on vacation (that's a given, don't you think?), and especially when we moved; right before, during, and immediately after. In the town where I grew up, there were quite a few restaurants, but not that many of the fast-food type. There was a KFC (then known by its full title), a Dairy Queen which had been there forever, and a local drive-in joint. An old A&W stand was shuttered around the time we moved to the area, but that was about it. I clearly remember when the first McDonald's arrived-- it got front-page mention in the local paper, and was a Big Deal. The same was true of Taco Bell. Keep in mind this was the mid-to-late 1970s.

Visiting my Southern California relatives was a surefire way to go out for meals. My grandparents would never have been in the running for any Julia Child cooking awards, and my uncles were all part of the SoCal dining tradition-- work hard, long hours, then head off to a restaurant.

Fast-forward to today: the rural area and burg in which I grew up in is now a continually expanding city of nearly 80,000, complete with every chain which you've ever heard of: KFC, Burger King, Wendy's, Del Taco, Jack in the Box, and sit down restaurants and coffee shops like Applebee's, IHOP, and Denny's.

Back in the day, a road trip would take you past all kinds of local and individual restaurants-- (one that was nearby my old stomping grounds was the Milk Farm) some of these places still exist, especially on secondary, or "blue" highways. One road trip I took allowed me the opportunity to eat at the Snow Cap Drive-In in Seligman, Arizona, on old Route 66. This fun place was owned and operated by Juan Delgadillo (who has since died-- my road-trip buddy and I were fortunate to meet him), who kept it pretty much the same since 66 was the main route through the Southwest. You don't really find places like that anymore.

Part of the culprit is SoCal's culinary contribution to the world-- the fast-food restaurant. While I have yet to read Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser or view Morgan Spurlock's "Super Size Me," I'm quite aware of the ubiquitousness of the fast-food joint in modern America. Our interstates, our superhighways, and the countless interchanges and off-ramps with the same restaurants over and over breed not only familiarity, but a constant sameness, an interchangeable identity that obscures the individuality of American towns and cities. Many of these chains, such as McDonald's, Taco Bell, Del Taco, and Bob's Big Boy, all started in Southern California. The founder of Burger King visited McDonald's original stand here in California before he went back home and started one of McDonald's rivals. Even with companies like Pizza Hut and Wendy's that started elsewhere, these types of restaurants owe much to Southern California, including the drive-through, which caught on like wildfire in this area's car-based society.

Fortunately, L.A. has far more than just fast food-- there are so many restaurants, it'd be impossible to eat at them all. There's also so much ethnic diversity, different kinds of foods I'd be hard pressed to find elsewhere (in one rural town near where I grew up, the classiest restaurant in town is a roadhouse famed for its steak-- the walls are adorned with hunting trophies of all kinds. This is pretty typical of a lot of smaller towns all across this country). Yet even in a town full of places like Spago, hole-in-the-walls with Peruvian food, Oaxacan cuisine, spicy Thai delights, and the like, there are still fast food restaurants on every other corner.

But even here, there are bits and pieces of history. In the Valley is one of the oldest Bob's Big Boy's still around, in Toluca Lake. Here's a great pic of the Big Boy himself. These reminders of an era long gone are what I appreciate best about fast food places-- the origins of our culinary traditions, such as the hamburger, the hot dog, ice cream cones, and other uniquely American foods. Big Boy was one of those fun kind of mascots-- when I visited the restaurant as a child, I was always given a Big Boy comic book. Sometimes I think the mascots were more fun than the food itself! In the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, I don't remember the food at the Doggie Diner all that well, but I certainly remember with fondness its daschund mascot.

Several weeks ago, I spoke about vanishing bits of Americana such as the Philip's 76 ball, and I mentioned a nearby Taco Bell still having the old sign. A commenter asked if I ever took pictures of it, if I could share. Well, today I passed by that Taco Bell, and a Shakey's just down the street (Shakey's is a pizza chain that started in Sacramento-- not a great one, but one of the early chains nevertheless. While the original Shakey's restaurant has faded into history, there are still many Shakey's around the L.A. area. The one I speak of has an old sign still on top of the restaurant, with the Shakey's chef).

Here's the pics I took. Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

UC Stands for Unnecessary Compensation

The cost of living (and inflation) goes up in many aspects of our lives: food, transportation, goods, services. Some of it is unavoidable, while in other areas, it's herd mentality-- x company raises prices, others eventually follow. You see this a lot with the airlines. United raises fares, no one complains, Delta, Northwest, American jump on board. At that point, you aren't going to see the fares decline markedly again.

Of course, this is somewhat of an oversimplification, as I'm sure the economists among my readers will no doubt let me know. But you get the point, yes?

In some arenas, though, some of the rise in prices and affordability is pure greed. We've seen it to some extent in the housing market. I remember a few years back my parents' neighbors tried selling their house for something like $50,000 above the going rate for that particular neighborhood, simply because they thought they could get it. Their asking price was more than double what they had paid for the home, just a few years earlier. It wasn't even a particularly nice home, to begin with-- small, on a concrete slab, with a horrible layout. A prefab post-WWII home in the suburbs, a starter home of the type a returning veteran would have bought with help from the GI Bill. But because the market was way out of whack, they tried angling for the most money they could get-- probably because they were moving to a McMansion in a newer area of town.

Eventually they had to lower their price substantially, as their house sat on the market way too long, considering it was during the time when the market was superheated. But their reasoning wasn't based on the rising cost of goods, services, fuels-- it was based on desire and greed.

One particular arena where pricing has gotten way out of hand is the cost of a college education. What makes it even more galling here in California is that historically, attending the University of California at any of its branches was tuition-free. You paid for your books, room, and board, and that was it. Getting in wasn't as easy, and never has been, but historically, a college education here in California was not priced out of reach.

That is, until the 1960s. Beginning in that turbulent decade, there still was no "tuition," but the UC Board of Regents started tacking on "fees." Eventually these "fees" reached the point where they became the equivalent of tuition.

Now, you might say, fair enough-- and I'd be the first to agree. It'd be nice if a college education was free, but it doesn't work that way. But I have always felt that a nation as rich as ours could definitely funnel more funding towards education, rather than, oh, say, missle defense systems, $700 toilet seats, and the like. But the last few years, UC "fees" have spiraled out of control, as the state gummint has insisted on balancing the state budget on the backs of the students, in a desperate attempt to avoid raising taxes. For four consecutive years, student fees went up, and up, and up... The state's portion for UC funding (and California State University (CSU)) has declined, from 50% during the early 80s to about 27% now.

Take for example my wife's "fees" for law school. The first year she entered, the "fees" for the school year was $11,000. Ok, it's law school-- we can deal with that and assume loans. It's a long-term investment in our future, right?

Well, by the time she graduated, just three years later, the cost ballooned to $24,000 per year. That's more than double the fees we started out with. Yes, it's the cost borne by professional students, so you probably don't have much sympathy, eh? Well it wasn't just the graduate and professional students (my own fees as a grad student skyrocketed as well), it was also the undergrads who were being asked to pay more.

Where was all this money going, you might ask? Well, according to the excellent series of articles published by the San Francisco Chronicle, the UC system has been making sure its top brass are swimming in the bucks. Take today's article, for instance: "Low-rate loans for UC's elite on homes." While it's one thing to financially aid a fledgling professor, a junior staff member, or someone else that needs help, I don't think it's appropriate that a dean gets a $200,000+ loan at 1.28% a year. Considering the number of articles exposing UC's financial shenanigans lately, I'm surprised the top UC brass aren't more forthcoming. While I don't think the University needs to justify everything they do with their funds, they are a public university drawing their funds from state monies, which come from taxpayers-- which means they have a moral, ethical, and fiduciary responsibility to be as transparent as possible when it comes to public funds. It's also outrageous that student money is helping to fund someone's loans at 1.28%.

Lest you think this is the UC administration's only transgression, they've also failed to give the regents required reports, handed out tons of perks that weren't approved (especially in the President's Office-- a secretary made more than a newly hired professor), and massive severance checks. This last one really galls me-- it's one thing to make sure someone who's fired or laid off has enough money to keep them afloat, but a six-figure check?? UC has complained that they are "forced" to raise student funds, but then they're able to hand out money for moving expenses, six-months rent, and the like to top executives? Somehow I don't think this is welcome news to students, staff, and the average working stiff in the UC system.

Part of the problem is, of course, the massive sense of entitlement we have in our society. When corporate executives earn 400 times what the average worker makes, it instills a sense of desire in other forums for top brass to say, "me too." Of course, once you raise salaries across the board, no one wants to go back down again. But then it becomes a vicious cycle, to the point where compensation gets totally out of whack. It isn't just in the corporate world either-- when a race-car driver makes $80 million a year, or A-Rod gets a 10-year, $252 million deal, something's seriously wrong. I'd love to see a public school teacher get a 10-year, $252 million deal-- now THAT would be worth it.

Fortunately for the students, some concerned individuals didn't just moan and groan during late night bull sessions, or write a letter to the school paper, and then move on. A group filed suit, and won this past March in court. The decision isn't final, of course, because these things always get appealed. I'm hopeful though that at some point, we'll receive a "refund"-- I say "refund" because whatever we eventually get back will go straight to paying off our loans.

Some campuses have jokes about their university acronyms/abbreviations-- at UC Davis, for example, the joke is that UCD stands for "Under Construction Daily." I have a better one for the UC system right now-- UC stands for Unnecessary Compensation.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

P.O.W.s or Criminals-- It's That Simple

In an about-face, Smirk has decided that the Geneva Conventions do apply after all to the Guantanamo detainees (and other military detainees currently in U.S. custody as well). This decision came in the wake of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, which reached the Supreme Court, whose decision was handed down and publicized at the end of June.

Personally, I think it's about time. You want the world to follow how the U.S. does things, you want to model "your" democracy for others to emulate? Then you need to be a shining example. Holding people indefinitely without charges goes against our long-established legal precendents and the strictures of our system. Not all of the Guantanamo detainees needed to be held-- and those of them that are definitely terrorists did not get their day in court.

Why coddle "terrorists," you say? There's no need to coddle them. Either they are prisoners-of-war under the Geneva conventions and long-standing international military tradition or they are terrorists. If they are terrorists, they are criminals-- at least that's how I see it. What do you do with criminals? You try them, you convict them, you sentence them. You don't hold them for months and years at a time without charging them. What do you do with prisoners-of-war? You treat them according to Geneva, and you deport/repatriate them as soon as you can.

I'm glad this has happened-- the decision in Hamdan demonstrates that the President and the gummint is never completely above the law. Additionally, I really wouldn't want this to come back and bite us in the ass someday-- some future point in time when some other country decides that because we've ignored the Geneva Conventions, it's okay for them to do the same. It could very well be that American soldiers are the ones at that point who are held for years without rights, without being charged.

The next big question is, how will Congress deal with how to process detainees, and try those that need to answer for whatever crimes they may have committed? I'm not sure, but Salim Hamdan's lawyer, Neal Katyal, wrote an article for the online journal Slate, in which he argues that military courts-martial would work just fine. I'm not 100% versed in military law, and it could be that Congress will come up with something else that works just fine, but as Katyal points out, why re-invent the wheel?

Regardless, it looks like the Guantanamo folks are finally heading towards having their day in court.

* * *

I'd like to take a moment here to reflect upon and honor the Indian victims of the bombings in Mumbai (Bombay). Regardless of who ultimately is found responsible for this, and regardless of the origins of the conflict(s) that precipitated such acts of violence, it is always a tragedy when innocents die. My heart is with the people of India, and with the people of Mumbai.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Yet Another Meme

My loving housemate spotted this meme, and checked it off. I was intrigued enough by it that I decided to export it here, and see what I've done so far in this journey called life. It's kind of an interesting list-- a little bit of everything. I've put what I've done in blue, and left the "not-yets" in black. What have YOU done? :)

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink.
02. Swam with wild dolphins.
03. Climbed a mountain.
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive.
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid.
06. Held a tarantula.
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone.
08. Said "I love you' and meant it.
09. Hugged a tree.
10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris.
12. Watched a lightening storm at sea.
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise.
14. Seen the Northern Lights.
15. Gone to a huge sports game.
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa.
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables.
18. Touched an iceberg.
19. Slept under the stars.
20. Changed a baby's diaper.
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon.
22. Watched a meteor shower.
23. Gotten drunk on champagne.
24. Given more than you can afford to charity.
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope.
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment.
27. Had a food fight.
28. Bet on a winning horse.
29. Asked out a stranger.
30. Had a snowball fight.
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can.
32. Held a lamb.
33. Seen a total eclipse.
34. Ridden a roller coaster.
35. Hit a home run.
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking.
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day.
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment.
39. Had two hard drives for your computer.
40. Visited all 50 states. (Not yet-- very, very close for this one!)
41. Taken care of someone who was drunk.
42. Had amazing friends.
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country.
44. Watched wild whales.
45. Stolen a sign.
46. Backpacked in Europe.
47. Taken a road-trip.
48. Gone rock climbing.
49. Midnight walk on the beach.
50. Gone sky diving.
51. Visited Ireland.
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love.
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger's table and had a meal with them.
54. Visited Japan.
55. Milked a cow.
56. Alphabetized your cds.
57. Pretended to be a superhero.
58. Sung karaoke.
59. Lounged around in bed all day.
60. Posed nude in front of strangers.
61. Gone scuba diving.
62. Kissed in the rain.
63. Played in the mud.
64. Played in the rain.
65. Gone to a drive-in theater. (this one is soon going to be a divider between age groups-- drive-ins are definitely fading into history!)
66. Visited the Great wall of China.
67. Started a business.
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken.
69. Toured ancient sites.
70. Taken a martial arts class.
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight.
72. Gotten married.
73. Been in a movie.
74. Crashed a party.
75. Gotten divorced.
76. Gone without food for 5 days.
77. Made cookies from scratch.
78. Won first prize in a costume contest.
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice.
80. Gotten a tattoo.
81. Rafted the Snake River.
82. Been on a television news program as an "expert."
83. Got flowers for no reason.
84. Performed on stage.
85. Been to Las Vegas.
86. Recorded music.
87. Eaten shark.
88. Had a one-night stand.
89. Gone to Thailand.
90. Bought a house.
91. Been in a combat zone.
92. Buried one of your parents.
93. Been on a cruise ship.
94. Spoke more than one language fluently.
95. Performed in Rocky Horror.
96. Raised children.
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour.
98. Created and named your own constellation of stars.
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country.
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over.
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge.
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn't stop when you knew someone was looking.
103. Had plastic surgery.
104. Survived an illness that you shouldn't have survived.
105. Wrote articles for a large publication.
106. Lost over 100 pounds.
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback.
108. Piloted an airplane.
109. Petted a stingray.
110. Broken someone's heart.
111. Helped an animal give birth.
112. Won money on a T.V. game show.
113. Broken a bone.
114. Gone on an African photo safari.
115. Had a body part of yours below the neck pierced.
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol.
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild.
118. Ridden a horse.
119. Had major surgery.
120. Had a snake as a pet.
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours. (Why do you think I'm Mr. Sandman?)
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
124. Visited all 7 continents.
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days.
126. Eaten kangaroo meat.
127. Eaten sushi.
128. Had your picture in the newspaper.
129. Changed someone's mind about something you care deeply about.
130. Gone back to school. (Too many times...)
131. Parasailed.
132. Petted a cockroach. (Before lovingly smashing it? Maybe one of these days...)
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes. (Mm... miss Mama's fried green tomatoes!)
134. Read The Iliad and The Odyssey.
135. Selected one "important" author who you missed in shcool, and read.
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating.
137. Skipped all of your school reunions.
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language.
139. Been elected to public office.
140. Written your own computer language.
141. Thought to yourself that you're living your dream.
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care.
143. Bult your own PC from parts.
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn't know you.
145. Had a booth at a street fair.
146. Dyed your hair.
147. Been a DJ.
148. Shaved your head.
149. Caused a car accident.
150. Saved someone's life.

Not too bad... A handy list for the future. Not a Purity Test, sure, but I think this is far more interesting than what's on a purity test, anyway. *grin*

Sunday, July 09, 2006


Today we went to a birthday party for a friend. While the temps weren't great (the Valley in summertime feels like the Central Valley, and not what one normally thinks of L.A. summertime temps as being), the hostess was gracious, the food was terrific, and the company was outstanding. In the midst of making new friends, the conversation shifted several times, and at one point, we began talking about labels.

Not clothing, mind you-- but labels. Anyone who's been in a group of deaf people knows eventually the conversation will turn to whether we're deaf, hard-of-hearing, late deafened, etc. We talked about various experiences, discovering our identity, and other areas of shared commonalities. We talked about how the media and hearing people try to be so PC about the term "deaf." All of us agreed we hated "hearing-impaired."

One participant observed that it would be like a black person calling themselves "white-impaired." We had a chuckle about that. But it stayed in the back of my mind. Who in their right mind would label themselves "impaired"? We don't call blind people "sight-impaired." We don't call the orthopedically handicapped "mobility-impaired." So why do we allow the media and hearing people to get away with calling us "hearing-impaired?"

Granted, it's not an earthshaking issue compared with, say, under- and unemployment, or denied access to a multitude of services-- lack of interpreting, captioning, etc. But it definitely is an issue that we as a community need to chip away at, bit by bit. It'd be lovely if we could have local deaf folks visit J-schools that are in their community, and give a short presentation on how to interview with, interact with, and describe deaf and hard-of-hearing people, and maybe pass out a primer on what terms not to use. At the top of the list? "Hearing-impaired."

Saturday, July 08, 2006

A View From Above

Anytime you see a movie about Los Angeles that features at least one sweeping view of the L.A. skyline, you'll see one of the most recognizable buildings in town: The Westin Bonaventure. It's that snazzy building that looks like a pile of silver poker chips reaching towards the sky: four cylindrical towers surrounding a taller, fifth tower, all with floor-to-ceiling glass. There are elevators in each of the four towers, each color coded. There's a huge atrium complete with a bar, fountains, a lagoon of sorts, trendy (read: expensive) shops, and rather high-priced rooms. Swanky and overdone in a way. But the real star is upstairs, on the 35th floor.

When I was young and visiting my relatives in Los Angeles, I'd ride with my grandparents or my parents downtown to visit my great-grandmother, and my uncles would tell me about the bar and restaurant on the top of the Bonaventure, which is right by the 110 downtown. "You can see all of Los Angeles from up there," they'd say. "It's a really nice place, and it revolves 360 degrees. You can have a drink and view the whole town."

Of course, when you're ten, this sounds really adult, very adventurous, suave, trendy, and all that being a carefree (yeah, right!) adult implies. I always told myself someday I'd have the money to just waltz in and stay there, or at least go up to the top.

Well, I'm unemployed, poor, and most definitely an adult, but today was the day I finally went to the top of the Bonaventure. A group of us gathered after an interpreted play ("Without Walls," starring Lawrence Fishburne, at the Taper Forum) for drinks downstairs from the Taper, then decided to head over to the Bonaventure to meet a friend who was in town for a conference. We went over to the Bonaventure, and entered the lobby. Wow, I'm here.

The four elevators go all the way up, but only the Red elevator went to the restaurant. It's this same elevator that was used in the movie, "True Lies," starring Herr Gropenfuhrer. We got on the lift, and up we went. It's a glass elevator (no Charlie or Willy Wonka, sorry), so as we wooshed up and felt the pressure in our ears, we could see the streets of Los Angeles unfold before us. Once we reached the 35th floor, we disembarked, and entered BonaVista, the revolving bar atop the Bonaventure.

It's a comfortable, somewhat upscale bar. Nothing to write home about in terms of the seats, the carpeting, or the decor. But the views were what we came for, and views were what we got. Yep, it definitely revolves, and it was a rather clear day-- while the ocean wasn't completely in sight, we could see all of downtown, out towards the Baldwin Hills, west towards Century City, northeast to Griffith Park and Hollywood... One newfound friend and I wondered how long it would take for the floor to make a complete revolution. "About an hour," he opined. Roughly an hour later, the floor had returned to its original spot at the time of that remark, so he was right.

The cost of the drinks are about par (or a little bit more) with some of the bars I've been to recently. They're pretty good, but again, it's the view-- the view from above.

I may never be rich, I certainly am not carefree, but I've been to the Bonaventure. Touch finish!

Friday, July 07, 2006

To Market, To Market, To Buy a Fat Pig...

Usually every Thursday finds me at the local farmer's market, shopping list in one hand and precious cash in the other, ready to make sure our kitchen counters and refrigerator bulges with fresh fruits and vegetables. In an era of supermarkets, superwarehouses, chains, and increasing globalization, it's nice to be able to have the option to buy directly from farmers and other growers directly, ensuring that the produce is as fresh as possible short of growing it ourselves.

This was my Thursday routine until March. Mid-March I went to our local market as usual, only to discover that our local market was being shut down almost immediately (just two week's time) due to construction right next door. This project was a controversial one, opposed by a local homeowner's association, and engendered quite a bit of controversy. Regardless, the project was approved and construction began last year.

I had mixed feelings, because while I felt that the market should be allowed to continue (it had a street permit closure until June 2007 for its-then-current spot, which was pulled by the area's city councilman, Jack Weiss), I also agreed that the market's managers knew that they would need to relocate, and had known for quite some time. I felt Weiss and the developers were pulling the rug out too fast, but I also felt the market managers needed to be more proactive in planning the future of the market and its location. The construction project hadn't yet really reached street level (the basement level of the future buildings were being dug out and a foundation laid, beams erected, etc., etc.), and I didn't see a real need to close the market just yet.

One of the explanations ostensibly offered for the need to close the market was the looming presence of "large trucks" and construction equipment. Well, the market closed two weeks later, on the last week of March. It's now early July, and I have driven through and around that area often since, and there are no "large trucks" whatsoever. The street where the market was located hasn't been closed at all as of last week. I still think the market's managers had a fair amount of time with which to explore options, but I am unhappy with Weiss' decision to push the market out, given that one of the key claims for moving the market turned out to be untrue.

Without a local market, I explored other area markets, such as Beverly Hills, which we had previously frequented, the West L.A. Market (which turned out to be hugely disappointing), and the famed Santa Monica Farmer's Market (Champ! But a five-mile drive, plus searching for parking in popular Santa Monica? Ummm...). We haven't yet been to the Brentwood Farmer's Market, but plan to do so. I returned to the Century City Farmer's Market, which I had previously bypassed in favor of Westwood's, and found that I liked it. So a new routine on Thursdays began: off to Century City for fruits and veggies...

Well, it was announced earlier this week in the back of the L.A. Times' Food section that the market would be re-opening at a different location, and West L.A. Online also had a similar announcement. I checked the Westwood Farmer's Market website for additional details; originally it had had lots of information on the closure of the market, who to contact to protest closure, etc., but now there is nothing on there except this sentence: "Thank you Market Supporters!"

I decided to hedge my bets: I'd shop at Century City, then go to Westwood afterwards to check it out. I found the new Westwood site to have some advantages over the old-- parking was better, and was free (parking is in the Getty Museum overflow lot); there was space for the same number of stalls and vendors, if not more; the food area was separate, and had more seating available than previously; and finally, last but not least, the new location is at the Vet's Garden at the VA site, just off of Sepulveda and Constitution. One of the stalls belonged to the Vet's Garden, which offered plums, among other items. Flowers were also offered for sale by the veterans as well.

The disadvantage is that previously, UCLA students, doctors, med students, and residents from UCLA Medical Center, and others who don't drive or have easy access to cars could walk from campus or nearby apartments and public transportation to the market. I highly doubt they're going to go to the new location. Another problem is the market was previously highly visible, and now it is hidden, and only a few wooden handpainted signs direct shoppers to the new locale. A more serious problem is the lack of publicity. While the L.A. Times' mention was great, it was buried in the back of the Food section, which not everyone reads. Additionally, the market's website has seemingly been abandoned, and needs serious updating. Another drawback is four months have passed-- a lot of people, including me, have adjusted to new shopping patterns, and may not be easily lured back to the Westwood market.

There were a couple of familiar booths/vendors, while a few new ones had joined as well. It's still the first week, so I'm going to give the new location a chance for a month or so, before I decide whether to make it my primary farmer's market. In the meantime, I'll continue at Century City, supplemented by occasional visits to Beverly Hills and Santa Monica. Gotta get those cherries before they disappear...

Thursday, July 06, 2006

NAD: Personal Reflections III

*whew* Who would have thought a three-day jaunt to the wilderness (and at times it feels like the deaf community is spending 40 years there!) would have generated so much bloggable material? I have a little more I want to bare in the way of personal opinions about my experiences at NAD; as always, these are my personal experiences, my opinions, and my conclusions. You may have been there at the same time, the same day, maybe even sitting next to, behind, in front of, under, or above me at the exact same moment, but you'll have come away with a different perspective-- and that's how it should be.

Saturday night heralded a different event: the College Bowl. This biennial entertainment is something I appreciate, as a long-time Jeopardy! fan, but also as a Bowl alumni. Quite a few people were in attendance who had participated in College Bowl, and it was great to see them again, and catch up on where we were in our lives. One of the judges and several of the committee members had also participated in years past. I looked online at NAD's website, and scanned the names of past participants. To my surprise, ever since College Bowl started nearly twenty years ago, I have known or have since met (and gotten to know) at least one person from one of the teams from each Bowl. The Tenth College Bowl at Palm Desert would be the first time I didn't know anyone from any of the three teams (and for those of you who were keeping track with me earlier, no-- my wife doesn't know any of the twelve either, so I have absolutely no association with any of them!). In any event, I was looking forward to the evening.

After making my way as far forward as possible, with my pom-pom ready, I vicariously participated in the competition. This time, I was on the other side of the fence, and I'm glad of it. Let me tell you, the competition is nerve-wracking enough without the heat (and accompanying sweat!) of the klieg lights above, shining down on the stage. There were a few changes, but much of it was similar to when I participated. The cups were new to me, and I greatly enjoyed RJ Kidd's constant ritual of standing or half-standing, pivoting his head from left to right, then solemnly placing the cup down in challenge.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed in the quality of the questions-- some seemed way too easy to me, while others precipitated controversy. Regardless of the merits of a disputed question, if there is a problem with a question, then it probably wasn't well-written to begin with. As someone who knows Ty Giordano, I thought the Gally team were fools for wasting time and potential points challenging the (in)formal use of his name (for what it's worth, I talked about it with Ty afterward, and he found it hilarious) as the answer to the question about him. While the question regarding semantics was somewhat picky, I was bemused: I wish all those people, professionals, well-meaning teachers, officials, parents, and others who assert that deaf people aren't capable of mastering English had been there to witness that particular moment. We may never be disc jockeys or air traffic controllers, but our minds, capabilities, and intellectual accomplishments are equal to any hearing person.

My biggest beef was the question about Deaf Smith. As a trained historian and amateur Deaf historian, I knew that Deaf Smith hadn't died at the Alamo; San Jacinto sounded plausible, but I vaguely remembered in the recesses of my mind that he'd been present at the surrender of Santa Anna -- that hardly sounded like he'd died on the battlefield. As soon as the answer was revealed, I knew immediately that it was wrong. I used a few precious moments checking on my Sidekick (hurrah for portable technology!), and confirmed what I suspected: Erastus "Deaf " Smith, a hero of the war for Texas' independence, died peacefully at a friend's house in 1837. Armed with this knowledge, I approached the judges' bench, and presented my information to them. They listened politely, and took my correction under advisement. Thankfully, Gallaudet pulled so far ahead that publicly acknowledging the error and adjusting the score wasn't neccessary. But I do hope in the future the NAD considers handing the question-writing chores to someone else. For a full run-down on the Bowl, check out Jared Evans' summary of the competition.

In the wake of the Bowl and the College Bowl reception, I meandered downstairs to the area around Starbucks and witnessed what a friend termed "the meat market"-- the mostly single deaf attendees in their 20s and 30s, mingling earnestly, most with a drink in hand. Being an old married fella, I decided to head on back upstairs and grab some much needed sleep.

We had planned to leave on Sunday, but decided to attend one more workshop: JAC's take on think tanks, titled "Deaf Think Tank Is the Now Thing!" While I was already slightly familiar with the concept, since I knew of JAC's group in the San Francisco Bay Area (BADTT), I wanted to hear more.

Think tanks aren't new, and as Roger Kraft pointed out during the Q&A session, think tanks' functions have been conducted informally among deaf people for decades. But formalizing a group that will then discuss, analyze, and implement ideas and solutions to community issues and challenges is a new concept in our community. It is also an idea that could facilitate the concept of Deafhood from the personal and abstract to the applicable; by using think tanks on the local level to engage local communities, we can build up connections across the aisle to various constituencies, groups, and individuals, whether they be other deaf-oriented groups such as SHHH (now known as the Hearing Loss Association of America), local politicians, governing boards, business associations, or influential community individuals. Think tanks in a sense have already existed: chapters of state associations for the deaf could be considered think tanks of a sort (maybe not these days, but definitely in past years!), and university alumni associations have long had the potential for such formal intellectual discussions.

I'm not sure how effective think tanks will be outside of the Bay Area, or how long-lasting they will be, but this workshop and others attest to Eberwein's comment regarding the "politics of the possible;" for too long, as JAC pointed out, we react to situations, we assess and contain the aftermath of events. It's time for us, as individuals and as a group, to take the bull by the horns and shape our own destinies and the destiny of our community, rather than letting others define it for us. In political parlance, we need to frame the debate, not be framed.

While the workshops I attended were fantastic, and others that I heard of were interesting or went smoothly and stretched people's minds, I'm disappointed that some of the more mundane bread-and-butter issues of the community weren't presented, such as un/underemployment. Often we have diverse workshops, novel issues, or breakout sessions on various technological or cultural advancements, but there are still fundamental challenges that I think NAD and the community need to take on.

Originally we planned to leave Sunday afternoon, but my walking partner wanted to attend another workshop, and we both were curious about the relatively impromptu FSSA rally in the late afternoon, outside the exhibit hall. The rally was a curious undertaking; in itself, it was nothing more than a "feel-good" moment, replete with chants, brief speeches, and ASL poetry. For those of us who were unable to attend the FSSA workshop, whether due to arriving afterwards (plenty of attendees in the LA area and other regions of Southern California had to work Friday, and arrived late Friday eve or early Saturday morning), or attending the Deafhood session (again, poor planning on the scheduler's part!), or other reasons, all we got was essentially a pep rally.

The real flashpoint were the circles of concerned individuals who huddled afterwards, discussing the protest and its current state of affairs in depth, bringing each other up to date, conversing about who did what and who said what when, and comparing different ideas for how to proceed. I missed Friday morning's session, but for me, this was the high point of any FSSA/Gallaudet-related gathering or discussion. From time to time, people gathered here and there, commenting on the appearance of Jane Fernandes, or I. King Jordan, the recent Gallaudet communiques, various personalities (especially the number of bloggers present at the conference and their involvement or lack thereof thus far). I participated in my fair share of conversations on the subject, but the overall spirit I felt was one of a community trying to move beyond the controversy, trying to separate the divisions at Gallaudet from the future of the community. This is a process that can and must happen. Regardless of what happens later this summer or in the fall, we must move on.

How successful the message of Deafhood, and the various ideas and concepts presented in Palm Desert are will be determined in the year to come, and the year after that. By 2008, when we gather once again in New Orleans, it will be interesting to see whether this conference marked a sea change, or if it was just another step in the ongoing growth and development in our community.

NAD: Personal Reflections II

For those of you joining me via the NAD's link, welcome. I know my cover's blown, but c'est la vie. Enjoy, anyway.

Let's see... I left off my thoughts at the Friday evening entertainment, hosted by JAC and CJ. That night I perused the program book to see what workshops or events I wanted to go to the next day. I know conference planning is never exact, but I regret that I had no way of knowing which workshops were going to be held when, and that I (along with tons of others, I'm sure!) was forced to schedule my trip far in advance. As a veteran of several history conferences, among other gatherings, I'm used to having a program book or schedule sent to me along with registration. It's too bad this didn't happen with NAD. Fortunately, I was able to attend the second half of the Deafhood workshops.

A caveat before I continue: I haven't yet read Paddy Ladd's Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood. Because of this, I've largely avoided the discussions of Deafhood in various venues, and confined my comments to fairly broad opinions based on my own personal experiences. I now have the book, and I'm in the process of reading it. I may change my opinion as I go along, and I certainly will be better able to understand and discuss the concept when I'm done.

That said, I was impressed by Genie Gertz's presentation. Genie's main message was that linguistic, cultural, and audiological differences can and should be stripped away-- that underneath, we are all deaf. The differences that we have are dimensions of our experience as deaf people, but at heart, we share the common experience of being deaf. She explained that Deafhood was a process, and one that repeated itself as a cycle throughout our lives. This is true for all parts of our lives, really-- we all go through different types of cycles in our lives, as we learn, grow, mature, and start all over again. For someone who is born deaf or someone who has recently become deaf, they will experience their deafness individually, and often collectively, but there will always be examples of new experiences, new challenges, new coping mechanisms, new reactions and proactive behaviors. Nothing is ever the same.

It's a rather simple concept, and in a sense, not even new, but it's a new paradigm, a new way of thinking, that I think is important to each of us. Most, if not all, of us have accepted that we are deaf-- whether this happened almost innately due to being deaf from birth, or as part of a longer, more difficult adjustment as children, teens, or adults, we have come to terms with our deafness. There have been quite a few books published on this, from David Wright's Deafness to Henry Kisor's What's That Pig Outdoors?: A Memoir of Deafness, to treatises on deaf identity such as Leo Jacobs' A Deaf Adult Speaks Out. Most books that discuss deaf education, deaf identity, and just plain being deaf are and were written by medical and audiological professionals, parents of or children of deaf children/adults, and others who are directly or peripherally involved with deafness. There have been quite a few memoirs, but their focus has been on unusual journeys or aspects of people's lives; for example, Frances Parsons' I Didn't Hear the Dragon Roar, which focuses primarily on her travels through China and with less emphasis on the development of her identity as a deaf woman. While essentially a biography, John Man's The Survival of Jan Little is far more memorable for its tale of a harrowing experience homesteading in the Amazon than it is a reflection of being deaf-blind. We're starting to see books and first-person narratives about the deaf experience that explore identity from an overall perspective. I especially enjoyed Mark Drolsbaugh's Deaf Again -- his experiences encompass a wide range of the deaf experience, and speaks of common experiences that we've all had, regardless of our educational bona fides and choice/use of language.

With external audiences writing about and defining deaf people as deaf, it's difficult sometimes to find common grounds. It's even more difficult when you have such variety within the entire deaf and hard-of-hearing population. Even with the many people who came up during the Q&A sessions after Gertz's presentation, and later, during David Eberwein's session on the politics of Deafhood, and outed themselves as products of mainstreaming, the audience at NAD by and large were largely white, middle-class, fairly well-educated, and for the most part, could afford to travel in the summer to a conference in a man-made oasis in the middle of the desert. The audience also used ASL or other signed languages. Despite NAD's inclusive offering of captions, I doubt that there were that many people there who really needed it (and if they did, woe to them-- "deaf" came out as "teaf;" Eberwein's discussion of the parallels with AIDS and acceptance within the larger community was captioned as oralism until the interpreter finally corrected the mistake; and heterodoxy came out as HeteroDo XY-- yes, I'm aware heteros do stuff that contributes to the mating of X and Y, but somehow I think the speaker wasn't exactly examining sexual practices). (For a somewhat more detailed summary of Eberwein's presentation, see Jared Evans' account that he wrote for the NAD.)

So while I thought Gertz did a wonderful job, and Eberwein's pronouncement that we need to think in terms of "politics of the possible," that at this point, the discussion is geared both to those already in the know, so to speak, and towards those of us of a certain class and educational background. What *is* important is that everyone, hopefully, will return home and continue the discussion with their friends, neighbors, and co-workers who couldn't attend, and that this conversation (and it needs to be a conversation!) filters down, out, and across. As I and others have noted elsewhere, we each need to shoulder the responsibility for examining our own identity, and then helping the community to find its identity-- an identity that needs to be open and welcoming, whether dealing with class, race, sex, or other variables. Eventually we need to reach out to other populations (and they need to reach out to us!) on issues and aspects in common: our childhoods (regardless of whether you used sign, cuing, voice, etc., there are experiences we share-- feelings of being left out, of not fully understanding conversations or situations, of having to struggle to make ourselves heard, etc.), our adult lives, our needs, our desire for equal access, and areas where we can and need to fight together.

I'm not just talking about captioning advocacy, either. I've done plenty of that, and that's a common and obvious area for cooperation. I'm talking about employment issues, access to education, telecommunications, and tons of other aspects of our daily lives. NAD is already working with other groups on these issues, but these group efforts need to be better publicized. Regardless of whether we consider ourselves culturally deaf or not, we need to support efforts to reach across the aisle.

This doesn't mean, of course, that we will have a kumbaya moment, that all deaf people will be as one. There are still sharp differences, especially where education is concerned. But even within such broad gulfs, there are and can be points of overlapping, of likeminded goals. For example, pushing for a mandate that all infants be given hearing tests. Not all states require this at this point, and I can't see where anyone would disagree on asking that this be implemented.

It's also going to be hard work; no one has said the process is going to happen overnight. But it is important for us to let go of the grudges we bear from the past; it's important for us to reinforce a sense of open-mindedness and acceptance in our youth. It's important to remember that for most of us, we didn't have a choice as to where we were educated or how we were brought up.

This last point is very important, and I think the success of this nascent movement is how it will be viewed, discussed, and disseminated a year from now, not just this past week and the next few weeks. It will be quite important this fall, as Gallaudet welcomes students for the fall semester, and the FSSA movement either strengthens or falters, wins or loses its battle. While Gallaudet is a key part of our community, it is not by itself the culturally deaf community. It is not the end-all and be-all of who we are. For most of us, it is a pleasant four- or five-year interlude (for others, slightly longer, but I digress); our lives as deaf adults continue long after graduation or departure from campus. The key to welcoming everyone to our community and recognizing them as deaf is to remember that while we may have been forced to go to an oral program or be mainstreamed by ourselves, no one forces students to attend college. Most people make that decision themselves. Regardless of the high numbers of mainstreamed and oral students enrolling at Gallaudet, they are attending Gallaudet. They are attending NTID. They are choosing large mainstreamed programs like CSUN.

When the average person has guests come to their home, they open the door, and they welcome that person in-- whether for the first time or the thousandth. We do not bolt the door and refuse entry. We need to view the deaf community the same way-- we open the gates, and welcome each person in as a deaf person-- whether they are well into the process of Deafhood, or just beginning the journey. We don't call them "borgs," or insist that they stop using their voice (and this is the community's dirty little secret-- there's far more of us that have the ability to use our voices than we care to admit-- it's not the only thing about us, it's not the only thing that defines us; it's simply a part of who we are, not the whole); we accept them for who they are, and in turn, they will accept us for who we are.

I could go on and on (and I think I have!), but this is what I took away from me from the workshops. In that sense alone, this edition of the NAD conference has left me with much to think about.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

NAD: Personal Reflections I

Normally, I don't have the money or ability to attend the NAD convention; I had only been once, in 1994 at Knoxville, and only then because I was a direct participant. I did consider the possibility of Portland in 1996, but being a poor, unemployed student at the time, I decided to take a pass. In 2002, we chose to spend our time and hard-earned cash on Deaf Way II; considering half the Deaf-World was at Deaf Way, I doubt we missed a lot-- as it is, I have very fond memories of Deaf Way II (for all you wild-eyed conspiracy theorists out there, consider this: I. King Jordan helped with and was President of Gallaudet during both Deaf Way events... Make of that what you will). This time, we're poor and unemployed, but hell-- Palm Desert is just over a couple hours away. So out came our checkbook, and away we went.

First of all, spending my time in 110+ heat is not my idea of fun. But then again, sitting in a puddle in humid, sweaty New Orleans at the height of summer wouldn't have been on the top of my to-do list either. Luckily, I spent 99.9% of my time inside, with the rare exception being those moments I stepped outside to quickly ensure my Sidekick would sputter back to life, enabling me to keep in touch with everyone else inside.

The first thing we did after checking into Le Resort was hit the exhibit room. I regret that I didn't pay attention to every booth, because later I was told that I could find X services there, or Y product at that table. My wife raved over the Ubi Duo-- if you're curious about this, check this blog by frequent commenter McConnell out-- there's tons here about it. While I don't think the Ubi Duo is going to be the be-all and end-all that McConnell thinks it is, it does sound like another excellent tool in the never-ending search for communication between deaf and hearing people.

I did run into a couple of old friends-- one was a 1994 Knoxville companion, and I finally got to meet his wife, in addition to catching up on our lives. Another was a former housemate, and unfortunately we had all of five minutes to talk-- never saw him again during the conference. Walking up and down the halls brought yet another familiar face, followed by another... I bet you regardless of all the hoopla regarding NAD, and especially this year's edition replete with the Gallaudet saga, that at heart this is what it all comes down to-- we deaf pay to socialize. *grin*

The TDI booth afforded me the opportunity to be handed some papers on emergency measures regarding communications equipment-- some of it is quite useful to know. Other booths had the usual information on colleges, social services, and telecommunications. Despite knowing that T-Mobile had just released the SKIII, I somehow never arrived at their booth to ask if I could test it out.

One unique booth was Clerc Tea, run by MSSD alumni and current Gallaudet student Branic Keltz. This company, founded within the past year, sells three different kinds of tea and tea accessories. The web page is a bit sparse, and could use some work (perhaps a job that could be contracted out to deaf-owned and operated companies such as TaylerInfomedia). But since my dishwashing partner LOVES tea, I'm definitely keeping the website bookmarked. It's opportunities to learn about new ventures like this that are great about such gatherings/conferences/events.

One thing that struck me as different from past conferences and conventions was the message board near the information booth. In years past, it would have been covered with messages, notes, and the like (I remember Knoxville-- there was absolutely no room left on the board by the end of the first afternoon!). During this past week, I noticed a grand total of 4-5 messages over the three days I passed it, and most of what was posted there were job announcements. As a community, we've progressed into the information age and modern telecommunications with no problems, but age-old issues such as un- and underemployment and job networking remain with us...

The workshops I attended were great, although given the prevalence of Deafhood throughout the blogosphere the last few months, you'd think the workshop coordinators would have done two things:

1) found a much larger space for all four Deafhood workshops (to their credit, they checked with the hotel management after the first two workshops resulted in people on the floor, along the wall, at the door, and out in the hallway; but unfortunately, there was no switch to a larger venue); a friend ventured that it was not only a problem for people who wanted to see the presenters, but it raised concerns of fire safety issues.

2) we need a mea culpa from whomever scheduled the FSSA workshop and the first Deafhood presentation at the exact same time. Given the recent fireworks at Gallaudet, it was a given the FSSA workshop was going to be heavily attended. The same was true for the Deafhood series (I attended the last two, and the room was *packed* both times). A lot of people I know wanted to attend both, and had to be forced to choose. Let's hope the next conference brings a more evenly distributed schedule. Naturally, there will always be workshops that are scheduled at the same time-- you can't avoid that-- but the top two issues of the month/year/decade at the same time? Come on...

One thing I thought could be improved for those of us in the audience is the seating placement. At many conferences I've gone to for history associations and the like, the typical seating is in rows. But I think such seating (which was provided at NAD) isn't as deaf friendly as it could be. I know hotel staff set up and broke down the seating/tables, but perhaps next time it could be arranged to have the rows set up diagonally, so that on the left side, the row could start at top left and slope downward to the right, and on the right side, from top right and ending sloped to the left? This would prevent us from having a permanent crick in our neck as we twist our necks to the left or right to view the speaker.

I greatly enjoyed the "Tribute to ASL and Deaf Culture" entertainment on Friday night. While some of it clearly was Deaf-World in-jokes and humor (witness Vikee Waltrip's hilarious take on a SEE teacher's instructions to her class on how to sign/say the Pledge of Allegiance), some of it was magical, such as TOYS, which some of us saw at previous events/gatherings (Deaf Way II, for example). All of us in the room witnessed parity with the hearing community when Sam Costner and Todd Behanna presented a commercial disguised as a classic comedy routine for the edification of the audience; like most commercials, I could have done without it. I suggest that next year, a different company allow its employees to stage a scene from "A Streetcar Named Desire," or appropriate a Burns and Allen routine-- lord knows we need some classic material in our commercials...

But for me, two highlights were Bernard Bragg and Mark Morales. Bragg was hardly in the sunset of his career as he reminded us that we are all "just deaf." I felt this set a great tone for the unity that the community has claimed is present, but that seemed woefully lacking in the wake of the Gallaudet protests in May. Morales completely stunned me with his brilliant rendering of the historical encounter between the Spanish conquistadors and the Aztecs, narrated as an ABC story, starting from A to Z, then 1 through 10, then backwards through the numbers and alphabet. I ran into Morales the next day, and we discovered a mutual love of Latin American history. I'm hoping he'll continue to create such brilliant syntheses of ASL and history and other subjects.

This is getting a wee bit long. I'll continue this later, but before I quit, I just want to say that those of you who I haven't seen for ages, those of you who shared your mealtimes with me, sat and caught up with me... I greatly enjoyed the time we had, wished we had more, and value your friendship. As for the half-European, I'm gonna see if I can book in advance some time with you for the next time you're in the States, whether it's a year from now or five. *grin*