Day 38 of Project 365: Choice paralysis.

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2016-02-07 23.10.11

I thought I had prepared myself for possible points of reverse culture shock. Then I wandered into the candy aisle of our local Walgreens, pictured bottom-right in today’s photo. All I wanted was a pack of mints. There were so many different mints to choose from, and they were right next to a million candy bars, some of which I hadn’t even heard of before. We’ve only been gone for four years! How can so much candy innovation occur in such a short period of time?

The other two photos are from Whole Foods, one from the yogurt case and the other from the nuts aisle. I wasn’t able to capture the scale of either section of the store. There were more things to choose from than I was capable of comprehending of eating, and I really enjoy eating.

Many times while living abroad I pondered what it would be like to walk into a supermarket and be able to choose from different types of food that I wanted to eat as opposed to just different types of food that I could eat. (There were plenty of gluten-free crackers and biscuits in Scotland, but I’ve never enjoyed eating either very much.) Back in America, I’ve been bombarded by so many options that I’ve quickly become overwhelmed. I’m sure it will even out soon, and when it does I hope that I’m able to retain some of this awe over just how many options there are for me here.

Writing from: a room with kale chips in it. Two different flavors, even. Listening to: Zen’s chainsaw purrs. (She likes kale chips almost as much as I do.)

Day 26 of Project 365: Soft landing.

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Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

First things first: Zen is safely with us.

When I posted yesterday’s photo, I was pretty worked up about Zen being stranded in Newark, but I knew that I wouldn’t be of any use if I didn’t try to get some sleep until the morning. I had barely drifted off when the landline rang. FunkyPlaid jumped up to answer it. The caller was someone asking if we were going to pick up our kennel (their word) or if they should send it via the delivery service.

In my half-awake state, two things ran through my head:

  1. Someone at the Newark airport seems to think we’re local enough to pick Zen up or to send her via ground transportation. Huh?
  2. Something has happened to Zen and all the airlines now has is her empty travel kennel. Which they now want me to pick up. We’re not even going there.

I mumbled something about not understanding what they were talking about and asking where they were calling from. The person identified themselves as a cargo attendant for the airline at SFO and repeated the query about the kennel, adding the fact that Zen had been there since just after eleven the night before and they usually only keep kennels for four hours.

I was so confused that I asked the person if there was a cat inside the kennel.

“Yep, a big one,” the cargo attendant said. (Hey. She’s not that big.)

I said we’d be right there. The cargo attendant confirmed that they had given Zen a bit of water so she wouldn’t get dehydrated, a small detail that buoyed me. At least someone in that whole transport process was thinking of Zen as a living being and not just some stray bit of cargo.

We quickly got dressed, set up Zen’s litter box, and drove to SFO. Sure enough, Zen was there, in fine fettle and waiting for us. There was some issue with the paperwork — what a surprise — but the excellent folks at the airline cargo place got us sorted quickly and we were on our way home.

When we got here, Zen ate all of the food we gave her, drank a lot of the water, and happily received all the snuggles we could give her.

UPDATE! Zen is safe and sound with us in California. Now all the sleeps.

A photo posted by Halsted M. Bernard (@cygnoir) on

As she dozed off I wrote yet another strongly-worded letter to the pet transport company. I still have not heard back.

After a few hours of relieved sleep, our first official act was to pick up our new car. During this process I decided that taking a selfie behind the wheel was an awesome idea or maybe just an idea and in my jet-lagged state ideas are in short supply. I didn’t intend for it to be today’s photo but I failed at that so it wins by default.

My one request of the day was a smoothie from Jamba Juice, an indulgence I have dearly missed, so we went there next … via P.F. Chang’s where I ate all of their gluten-free Mongolian beef with quinoa instead of rice. There is so much right in that sentence.

On the way home, we picked up some basic supplies for Zen. And that brings me to the five-hour nap and the present moment.

After an initial bit of turbulence, today has been a soft landing.

Stray observations:

  • Everything is so big and so shiny and so new that it’s no wonder when Americans go abroad the first adjective we trot out is “quaint”. America is short on “quaint”.
  • I was stymied by the number of choices of cat food. Grain-free cat food with salmon flakes is a thing that exists.
  • I almost cried when the P.F. Chang’s server had a non-food-related conversation with us. I know more about him than I did about the people in the building we lived in for the past two years.
  • Not sleeping before a long international flight seems like a great idea until jet-lag happens. Now I’m wide awake at midnight PST, which makes total sense in GMT where it is eight in the morning. d’oh.

Writing from: a guest bedroom in balmy Marin. Listening to: Zen’s purrs.

On villains and vengeance.

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Earlier today, I had this half-formed thought that I shared on Twitter: “The danger of basing national pride on the vanquishing of enemies is that it requires an endless supply of enemies to maintain.”

“Enemies” is a word I used to make a point. We allow politicians and media to use this word to categorize people — individuals and whole groups — as caricatures that, once extinguished, remove some of the evil from our perilous world.

I just started this post and yet I am written out on the topic. I have said it all before. Nothing and everything has changed. We killed one man, and we gave up a hundred freedoms. And it’s not over. The war isn’t over; which war are we on now? The tiny humiliations, the groping and the radiation, the three-ounce bottles, these little things we have been told are so small and worth our safety now, but who is deciding this worth?

We are still bleeding our fear over the whole world, and I don’t want it to be over. I want it never to have happened.

Some links about the potential U.S. government shutdown.

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As I was doing some research this morning, I found some links about the potential U.S. government shutdown that you might find useful.

eight years ago

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In remembrance of 9/11, I am sharing these excerpts from my written reactions eight years ago.

From 11 September 2001, “the act itself”:

On the way to work I heard a cor­re­spon­dent on the radio say some­thing about how the act itself was shock­ing, but the fact that it hap­pened was not. This is the scari­est thing I’ve ever heard.

From 12 September 2001, “the aftermath”:

I do not want vengeance. I do not want more vio­lence, and I espe­cially do not want more civil­ians — inno­cent peo­ple, regard­less of nation­al­ity — to die. I real­ize how seri­ous this act was, and is, and I real­ize that our gov­ern­ment will exact pun­ish­ment on those it thinks are respon­si­ble. I also real­ize we may be wrong. If we ever thought our­selves invin­ci­ble, that delu­sion no longer exists. The loss of life, of way of life, has been more than I expected. But it was only a mat­ter of time, as the say­ing goes.

From 13 September 2001, “the current situation”:

Instead of dis­cussing ret­ri­bu­tion, why don’t we con­sider how we got to this point? Can we see our­selves as oth­ers see us? Can we at least try? I’m dis­ap­pointed and dis­mayed about what has hap­pened, but I can­not spon­sor the short-sightedness of an imme­di­ate cam­paign for more vio­lence and destruc­tion. If what mat­ters most to you is a brief period of “got you back!” then clearly you should not be read­ing this ‘blog. I care far more about how this affects us as human beings than I do about what sort of tac­tics and pol­i­tics make for good retaliation.

Also from 13 September 2001, “survivor”:

“After the crash, and amid the scream­ing, he started to pray out loud. ‘I said, “Jesus save me and these two guys with me.” Nei­ther one of them complained.’”

From 16 September 2001, “the ignorant child”:

I am sad­dened to note that no one has come into our library and asked for any infor­ma­tion on the sit­u­a­tion in the Mid­dle East, or U.S. for­eign pol­icy. But they have all been to Tar­get to stock up on their Amer­i­can flags. The lit­tle plas­tic sou­venirs are wav­ing from many car anten­nae, flap­ping wildly as the wind hits them, as we drive fast and faster to war.

From 18 September 2001, “stop, look, and listen”:

And after you under­stand what we did in Afghanistan, per­haps you can con­sider that I am as proud to be Amer­i­can as any of you are, but I am unwill­ing to pre­tend that “Amer­i­can” can be equated with “good” or “right”. Just like human beings are imper­fect, so are the coun­tries they pop­u­late and run. We have made mis­takes, and although I have shed many tears for the attacks on the World Trade Cen­ter and the Pen­ta­gon, we must bring away from this not a sense of vengeance but a sense of under­stand­ing … or we have lost all those lives for naught.

You may wish to contribute your own story to Make History, a project curated by the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.