Sunday, May 13, 2012

Objects in mirror are closer then they appear

As I look ahead on the road of life I see final exams in the distance, just in front of the horizon line and waiting for my approach. Looming large in the rear and side view mirrors is my midterms…one midterm back with a 94 (yes!) and I am still awaiting my grade on the other (fingers crossed). I’ve plotted out my educational trajectory and by 2015 I should be eligible for graduation, and while that date seems very sciency fictiony and far off, it will be here before we know it. I also think I am personally experiencing some kind of personal temporal distortion field, I honestly think I perceive the earth’s rotation at a faster than actual rate, or rather as I get older time seems to pass by much more quickly. The same relative moment just whizzes on by now, however I have memories of being 15 and gouging my eyes out in algebra class because I felt as if I was sitting there forever.

I can think of a few instances in my earlier life when time moved as slow as molasses in a January snowstorm. One time in particular comes to mind when I was 19—I had a factory job that was so boring each eight-hour shift seemed like its own eternity. Looking back, that factory job was definitely one of those defining moments in my life when I really took in what was going on around me. There’s something to be said for epiphanies that come from observations. Towards the end of my tenure at that factory, I took a good look around and made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t end up doing something like that later in life.

I’ve worked at a couple of factories in my life and each experience shared a common theme of being a brief and demoralizing experience. The factory job that stands out the most was in Florida; it was a plastic mold-injection manufacturer. And I worked the graveyard shift, which made it an extra weird experience. On one hand, the night shift was good for cooler temperatures. The machines generated their own special heat and also this facility was not climate controlled, it was a giant metal warehouse that baked under the hot Florida sun. So you can imagine the respite that came with darkness and quiet. On the other hand, some of the graveyard shift cons were related to just being up when the world is sleeping, feeling tired and missing your bed, or worse, closing your eyes for a second and dozing off, screwing up the manufacturing process. Looking back I’d have to say it was fairly obvious that the cons outweigh the pros, I’m not sure why I endured this experience.

The machines ran 24-7 in a continuous process of plastic pellets getting fed into a machine that boils the stuff down, adds coloring, pours into molds, speed solidifies the plastic and spits out some sort of widget. These widgets were things like plastic medicine cups, fasteners or plastic clips that go to other crappy things, gaskets, plugs, and all sorts of overlooked innate things. Working in that capacity has influenced the rest of my life with regard to noticing the kind of plastic bullshit we made there. Everywhere I look, all the goddamn time I see pieces of plastic stuff on the floor, or maybe buy and IKEA something that inevitably has the bag of plastic fasteners and parts to hang or build whatever it was that I bought. It’s really out of control and has really permeated our human existence. It’s amazing how overlooked this gigantic industry is, it’s a world not really thought about too much because it functions as a secondary or tertiary global process. Not that we need more plastic bullshit in our lives. It’s really weird if you step back for a moment and think about it. Or maybe not, what the fuck do I know? I really wish someone would figure out a way to clean up and recycle the plastic garbage gyres. That’s definitely one of those things people don’t see or really think about but if it were dumped in our community there would be a mobilization of efforts that would be over the top.

This is where your candy wrapper went.
I know I’m part of the problem—of course we all are, with our purchases and habits and employment either directly or indirectly contributing to the plastic problem. It’s so big that there would need to be some serious major planning to completely eliminate it. When I worked at that plastic factory, I was kind of indifferent about plastic and more concerned with the paycheck. I mean, the smell made me sick and I knew that couldn’t be good, but I didn’t truly understand the detrimental effects of working, breathing and eating in that environment for 8 hours a day. You should have seen the morning shift that came in, these women that had a certain look, long timers who undoubtedly eat lunch without washing their hands, ingesting plastic, breathing plastic, bringing it home, reproducing, cancer anyone? I took a look at the people who came in to wok the day shift and couldn’t imagine myself doing that kind of work for 20 years without committing suicide.

And with regard to my part in this process—

I, being one of many humans at the end of this process, had to open a hot door every 26 seconds and pull out the plastic pieces: finish them off (which basically meant removing the plastic doohickeys where the liquid channels of the mold were), inspect for quality control and throw into a box to be weighed or counted or something.  I must have moved tens of thousands of plastic bullshit parts through the process. Which isn’t even a dent in the whole picture! The environment was really toxic too; the machines that produced the widgets were very loud, even with earplugs and protection on. The chemical stench in the air was sickening and heavy; it literally felt like a slow poisoning.  The supervisors there wouldn’t let me listen to my Walkman and I felt like for my entire shift I was having my soul slowly sucked out of me. To pass the time and because it was so loud I would sing every song I knew at the top of my lungs. But this didn’t last long (thankfully); I think I might have only worked there for 2 months, maybe 2 and a half. It was just long enough to look closely at the people who came in for the next shift and know that I did not want to share that fate.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Dog Mountain

On Monday we went on an awesome hike to the top of Dog Mountain in the Columbia Gorge. I took about 50 pictures and added them to my Dog Mountain Flickr set! If you live in Northwestern Oregon or Southwest Washington, this is a great day hike. It only took about 2 hours to get to the top, some of it was very strenuous but slow and steady wins the race, and the rewards are awesome views all up and down the Columbia Gorge, views of Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Hood, and beautiful wildflowers. 

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

a Le update

It's been a while since I talked about my neighbor Le. She has had a lot happen in the past year or so that definitely warrants an update. If you want some background on Le, you can read about her birthday in 2008 and some more info and general observations about her changing health.

So the update beings last year, about a year ago to be exact. Earlier that year, Le was living around the corner from me, seemingly independent with the exception of a caregiver stopping by for a few hours a week to help with some of the housework and laundry. I am not sure who was sent to help her but it must of gotten to a point where Le's need exceeded what the caregiver was able to provide. I'm not sure how those evaluations work and it seemed that over the year her health declined considerably. The person coming by weekly wasn't enough help to sufficiently meet her needs. She was having increased memory issues and starting to do some strange things. Her apartment was in an increasingly unorganized state, and she seemed to be having periods of forgetfulness more and more. I was coming by more frequently and spending a lot of time cleaning random messes. I also noticed that she was eating very poorly--Snickers bars and Haribo Gummy Bears, ice cream, canned cling peaches, ground beef...just really random things that didn't add up to good nutrition, especially for someone with diabetes.

This situation continued to build and all came to a head on Memorial Day of 2011. I'm still not clear on what happened, but the end result was an ambulance taking her away from her apartment to never return. One of our mutual neighbors Vicki said earlier that day Le came by and was really unsteady and ashy/gray. Vicki noticed something was wrong and helped her back to her place. From there Le felt she had to call 911. Apparently she was brought to the hospital and treated, evaluated then transferred to a short term care facility. I came by and visited her a lot while they were sorting out who her case manager was, trying to get in touch with family--the only people involved were her sexist brother who also had a disability and her overbearing ill-tempered sister in-law. Over the next 6 months this continued until it finally got to a point where most of the legwork was over and Le was settling into her long-term care facility. I'll spare you all the drama of family, liquidation of assets, evaluating your life, facing mortality and managing cognitive issues. Fast-forward to today, this long term care facility is probably the best thing that could have happened to her!

Nothing to worry about here folks, there's always an ambulance parked out front of The Terrace. 
Le lives about 5 minutes from the area where her old and my current apartment is in a place called "The Terrace." It's like a large apartment building/community center for seniors with the added support of people who prepare meals, provide intense healthcare services, and provide regular programming to keep their minds active. It's a pretty nice place, nicely decorated, secure, friendly staff and really clean. She's settled in comfortably and has a clique of neighbors she eats her meals with and gossips to me about. Overall Le seems like she is still decompensating but staying at The Terrace has helped significantly slow the clock.

Le's front door.
Le's room is like a large studio apartment. She has enough space for her knickknacks, pictures and big screen TV, but also has a door wide enough to get a wheelchair or walker through. She has a large oxygen generator in her room and a tube so long she can wear it and walk all over her room. She has sturdy grab bars in the bathroom and a small kitchenette in addition to having meal service in the main dining room.

She has a lot of stuff!

Her studio's kitchenette. Note the slippers to the right!

Looking down the hall at one of the dining areas from her room.
The dining areas are funny, I think this is where it all goes down. Le tells me that I wouldn't believe some of the things the women talk about! I asked her for an example. She looked around, leaned in and hoarsely whispered to me, "The talk about oral sex!" I asked for an elaboration but she didn't have any more to add. I was curious about who was servicing who and how that all went down.

Looking down the other hall
Le's room is positioned in a good area, she is close to a nurses station, not far from the dining room and her window overlooks a nice courtyard complete with flowering trees and rosebushes.

Boy I'm really hungry for some Chinese Food
The last time I saw Le was in February, she wanted to go to Target and also wanted to get some Chinese Food. We went up to this place on Hawthorne and had the lunch special. She was in heaven!

Hot and Sour soup! Or maybe Egg Drop soup. I can't remember, they both look the same.

Le really enjoys shopping at Target and one of the things that makes her experience even better is the power chair carts she can use to get around. She buzzes all over the store in that thing! She can put her oxygen in the basket and really enjoy her visit. I think we go up and down every single aisle in that store. The only thing Le can't do is get items off of high shelves but she has me to help with that.

Crusin' around Target.

Le has a lot of her daily and food needs covered at The Terrace but she still likes to get a few special items for herself. She always has some interesting mission to fulfill--this time it was to get a new lampshade. Other times it is to exchange a throw pillow or find a matching decorative linen set.

Independent shopper! 

She's really filled her basket. 

I can't believe I last saw her in February. I'll have to contact her soon and see if she's up for some lunch.