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Archive for February, 2011

To Live or Die on Highway 189 in the San Bernardino Mountains

22 Feb

On Highway 189 where at least two young church goers might have just lost their lives, I, too, have quickly become religious, making the sign of the cross as my car slid down an icy turn.  Spirituality is usually a selfish act on my part, spurred on by an uncontrollable situation I find myself in.  And this time was no different.  I remember how stunned the man driving towards me in the oncoming lane was to see I’d left my wheel, however briefly, in the hands of a higher power.  Ironically, I watched him mouth the words “Oh my god.”  I’ve lived up here long enough to know that hitting the brakes would only make things worse and that no matter how illogical  it sounds, it’s far less destructive to continue on in the pathway of the slide instead of fight it.   As it turned out the driver and I passed one another within mere inches, a grateful nod shared between us that we avoided the headache of a head on collision.

This area of the 189 is treacherous because it is a place where the sun rarely strikes.  It is where I have suddenly become late for work because a bus full of the elderly just jack-knifed shutting the route down altogether.  It is where I once spotted a pair of taillights flashing in the brush and called in what I saw to the Sheriff’s station.  Later I found out that there had been a person trapped inside and that the jaws of life had to be brought in. The woman working the desk said I might have saved a life.  But I felt more guilty than heroic because a part of me hadn’t wanted to pull over and bother hunting for bars to appear on my phone.  A part of me had nearly kept on driving.

Yesterday afternoon having come back up the mountain after visiting with a friend, I encountered two CHP squad cars obstructing the entrance to the 189.  The graphic scene of the bus accident that killed two and airlifted several others to nearby hospitals with shattered bones and internal trauma wasn’t what drew my fingers to my chest again in a real effort of prayer.  The wreckage was hidden down in a ravine.  It was the eight gleaming news vans with their extended antennas parked all around, which signaled the accident  was catastrophic.  The last time TV reporters gathered in such force it was to cover the death of a young boy who had been swept right off a picnic table, right in front of his family’s eyes, by a mudslide that buried within minutes an entire Christian camp not so far from here.

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The Starbucks Stalker…and His Grande Drip

04 Feb

With Valentine’s Day so close, I wasn’t that surprised to find that I have a secret admirer who has been buying my daily grande coffee.  This is at the Starbucks on the campus where I teach.  It’s not that I think so highly of myself, not by a long or a double shot.  It’s just that over the years of dating, of relationships and marriage, I’ve become keenly aware that nut cases love me.  Maybe it’s my stubborn streak born from being raised by a tough Greek defense lawyer who never backed down, not even when a gun was pointed in his face.  Maybe it’s my girlish voice that might  mistakenly sound to the deeply disturbed like some form of vulnerability.

The girl working behind the counter seems disappointed at my non reaction when she tells me my drinks have been bought for the past two weeks by a tall man with graying hair.  She makes a funny face.  “How come you haven’t noticed?” she asks.  Granted, this is a valid question.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been occasionally buying a pound of coffee along with my order and just assumed I was getting the larger size for free.  “It’s a tall you get for free,” she shoots back, handing me my bag of freshly ground Pike Place.  Or maybe it’s because my mind is on teaching my classes.  Maybe even it’s because I’m already married.  At this news, she frowns.  “I don’t think he knows that.”

Will this rather pertinent news stop him, I wonder?  Where was he right then is what I wanted to know next.  Hiding behind a pillar?  Has he been following me from my classes, from the office I share with my husband?  Does he know the make and color of my car?  Whatever happened to the time when a man found a woman interesting and simply introduced himself?

My cautiousness goes back to my years of dating and even before.  In my late teens I was at a sporting event with a friend when a nice smelling man in leather loafers dropped a plastic beer cup beside me in a crowd, stomped on it and shouted, “Hey, Baby, you hear that?  That’s the sound of my heart breaking ’cause you won’t talk to me.”  To lose him, I hid out in the ladies restroom for, it seemed, nearly half an hour.  Finally, he gave up and stumbled off since I was being such a buzz kill.  I never did see his face.  Years later an enraged guy I’d broken up with a month earlier relentlessly called me all night long until I finally took the phone off the hook and slept at my best friend’s house for safe measure.  The next morning when I returned to my place, I spotted him dangerously close, ducking down in his hatchback from across the street.  Only after I locked myself inside my place and a squad car pulled up did the crazy ex drive away.  Why didn’t I understand, he would later explain to me through a barely coherent letter, that he simply missed me.

There is at least one other more recent example of invasive harassment I could bring up, but here’s hoping that man is taking the recommended dosage of anti-psychotic meds as prescribed by his physician.  So when does a seemingly flattering gesture become creepy?  Maybe when the person behind it refuses to actually show his face.

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