January 29, 2013

Some Questions Are Better Left Unasked


you ask a question
and you may know the answer
or you may know the possible answers
and you may know you may not like the answer

but you ask it anyway.

And when the question is answered
and the words are heard
and the letters are read
your heart drops with the finality of the feedback

because it's not what you wanted to hear at all.
And you wonder why you ever asked at all.
Because you never really wanted to know at all.
And you wish it weren't true, but you know that it is.

Do you love me?
Is there someone else?
Will you stay?

This is why some people never weigh themselves.
This is why some people never seek medical attention.
This is why some people never look in the mirror.
This is why some people never audition, interview, inquire, explore.

You always have a choice over which questions to ask
but you can't always choose which answers are to be given.

And, for me, it's impossible to stop asking.
So perhaps I should only ask the questions over whose answers I have some control.

Every time I arrive at a trailhead, a question is posed.
Every time I put on the gear, a question is posed.
Every time I chart a course, a question is posed.
Every time I turn a key, a question is posed.

Can I do this?
What lies ahead?
Will I return?

In the end, it's all up to me.
And perhaps if I don't like the answers I give unto myself, I have some ability to change them.

Related Posts:
Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid
Some Things Aren't Better Left Unsaid

To Like Avoiding Regret on Facebook, click here.

A Tear's Worth

Today at work, I held a crying woman in my arms.

She works for me, and is one of our best sales girls. But, being fiercely competitive, she'd gotten into a fight the day before with another sales associate, who is even more territorial than she is, and somewhat mean-spirited about it.

"I am not that strong..." she sobbed.

"What we make per hour is not worth your tears," I urged her, as I pleaded with her to stop crying. "A five dollar commission is not worth crying over. This just not worth getting this upset over!"

I remember former bosses at my former jobs telling me the same thing, when I burst into tears over the mundanities of the music industry, which seemed to me at the time to be earth-shattering. I've learned to pace myself at work now. I've learned to weigh what matters against how hard I am working, how exhausted I am getting, and how much I am upsetting.

This is true not only at work but also in life. I used to cry all the time. I was a non-stop bawler as a baby, and a terrible tantrum-thrower as a toddler. For my entire childhood, I cried myself to sleep every single night, often after having cried nearly all day long at the hands of my mother.

In New York City, I sobbed on the subway. I let tears stream down my face as I perched at any number of bars, not even bothering to wipe them or their tracks away. I wailed as I walked home from the train or the bus, in the dark, alone and cold, defeated. I bawled in bed on Sunday afternoons instead of living, breathing, basking.

I don't cry so much anymore. I often feel like crying, but the tears don't come. My eyes hoard them selfishly, suspiciously, drying my ducts despite my bitter, deep desire to open the floodgates for old time's sake.

Did I wise up? Have I learned to value the currency of my tears, and not shed them foolishly for fools? Or have I just given up so much that I can't even succumb to my own emotions anymore?

I rather miss my outbursts.

Are my tears really so precious to keep inside my head?

On New Year's Eve (a frequently tear-soaked holiday in my past), I made Michelle promise she wouldn't get all upset over a guy, but shortly after the clock struck, so did the tears. Her face winced. And I, like the terrible, heartless friend that I am, yelled at her for breaking her promise and not being happy to just spend New Year's with her best friend.

Few guys are worth crying over. Most of them are the equivalent of a minimum wage job at the mall. But we seem to always justify crying over all of them.

So who is worth crying over? What is worth crying over?

What is a tear's worth?

Related Post:
The Best I'll Ever Have?

To Like Avoiding Regret on Facebook, click here.

January 28, 2013

Photo Essay: Palomar Mountain & Observatory

About a year and a half ago, I decided to spend my first 4th of July weekend as a California resident in San Diego County.

I camped for the first time - in 115 degree heat, commandeered by bees the next morning - and then meandered across San Diego's North County region before visiting the San Diego County Fair and then the Bay for fireworks.

I was sleep deprived from the heat, and the wind storm that hit us overnight, but I took the long way across the county, detouring up Palomar Mountain so I could visit the observatory.

I hadn't posted anything about it until now, but honestly, at the time, I'd been wanting to visit Palomar Observatory way before I'd even heard of Mt. Wilson Observatory. So it's no surprise that, despite my fatigue, I embarked on the steep and winding roads up the mountain to have a look.

The mountain itself consists largely of California state parkland, and the observatory facilities are owned and operated by Caltech.

It is most famous for housing the 200-Inch Hale Telescope...

...the largest effective telescope until 1993, a title it held for 45 years. By the 1930s, light pollution from LA made Mt. Wilson less of an ideal location to study the sky above, so scouting began for a new location for an observatory, in a darker sky community.

At night, the iconic Art Deco dome cranks open, and research of a variety of astronomical studies begin.

Hale's predecessors typically made the mirrors in their telescopes out of fused quartz, but mirror casters were unable to use the same material to manufacture a 200-inch mirror. Hale approached Corning Glass Works in Upstate New York to make one out of a relatively new material at the time: Pyrex.

It took Corning a couple of tries, but they managed to succeed in casting a mirror with the necessary purity and smoothness, and actually far less distortion than the previous 100-inch telescope.

In 1936, Corning sent the giant mirror off on a 16 day journey across the U.S. to Pasadena via train. This precious cargo captured the public's imagination - like our modern day Levitated Mass boulder transport, or the final mission of the Shuttle Endeavour - so much so that crowds lined up along the train tracks to watch the Pyrex passing by, never faster than 25 mph.

In Pasadena, Caltech's optics lab put the finishing touches on the mirror, polishing away nearly 10,000 pounds of glass to create the necessary concave shape. Unfortunately, it's a process that took over a decade to complete, as telescope construction - and the mirror polishing - came to a halt during World War II.

Before it was even fully operational, the Hale Telescope was finally dedicated in 1948, 14 years after the site atop Palomar Mountain was first selected. The next year, full-time studies commence at the observatory, 21 years after Hale first secured a grant for the facility from the Rockefeller Foundation.

And the exploration still continues today! Palomar is actually home to a total of three telescopes, which have been responsible not only for spotting the first brown dwarf star, but also the existence of dwarf planets, initiating the discussions which led to Pluto getting kicked out of the solar system.

Weather permitting, if you can make it up the mountain and through the roads, Palomar Observatory is open to the public for visits and tours. The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in San Diego's Balboa Park also hosts excursions up the mountain and occasional star parties, which I'd love to go back and do.

To Like Avoiding Regret on Facebook, click here.

January 27, 2013

Another Year, Another Anniversary

Two years ago today, I escaped being buried alive in a snowstorm and moved to LA. It was sunny and hot in Burbank when I landed, and as soon as I retrieved my rental car, I threw off my winter boots and coat, headed to Target, and bought a bikini.

Two years later, it's rainy and cold, but I'm still going to Target.

I don't think anyone remembers today's date but me. There was no celebration today. There was no ceremony. There was no commemoration.

Only brunch alone, shopping alone, dinner and a beer alone.  A big night in featuring two loads of wet, drying laundry hanging with me in my studio apartment where I reside alone, and a Dustbuster full of pine needles.

Sure, I've settled into some routines, some of which have changed over the last two years with my ever-changing employment status, but I do still feel new in town.

I still love LA. I would say we're still in the honeymoon phase, except I know that when I moved here, I did not marry LA, nor did LA marry me. We are not newlyweds. We are still just getting to know each other.

I might not be here forever, but I don't see myself leaving anytime soon. A friend recently asked me what it would take for me to move back to New York, and I responded flatly, "A marriage proposal from Ryan Gosling."

Though, I suppose, a marriage proposal from any number of people would also apply.

Do I have friends yet in LA? Not really. I'm trying, but I could probably try harder. I still feel very alone.

Do I have a boyfriend yet in LA? Not even close, but I keep trying. I've kissed a lot of frogs. Even the frogs aren't much interested in me.

Do I have a job yet in LA? I had one when I moved here, but it wasn't the right one. Panicked, I took another job and stayed there for a year, but it wasn't the right one either. Bankrupt, I took a job back in retail and have worked as many hours as I could get, bearing cuts and callouses on my hands, blisters on my feet, and bags under my eyes. I've been dressed to the nines but feeling less than a 10.

What have I done with my two years here, if not having settled in?

And what will the next two years bring? What will my time in LA mean?

I think it's impossible for me to know any of this now, while it's happening. But hopefully I'll figure it out, and be able to discuss it intelligently, with insight and wisdom and perspective, one day.

Related Post:
My God, What Have I Done?
Upon Starting a New Year
A Year in LA

To Like Avoiding Regret on Facebook, click here.

January 26, 2013

Two Kinds of Shop Girls

There are two kinds of shop girls:

those that put something on hold
until a mutually agreed time,
and staunchly guard it to make sure no one else buys it
until their customer can come back and get it...

...and those that sell that item to anyone who ponies up the cash right then and there.

I am the former shop girl,
because promises mean something to me,
and because I know that sometimes the bird in the bush is the one
that will return to the hand, over and over again.

I go for longevity.

I've never been much for immediate gratification.

I seek meaningful connections.

But sometimes, I make a promise, and I hold onto something, for longer than I promised, and no one ever comes back for it.

That is the risk I take.

Related Post:
Two Kinds of Customers

To Like Avoiding Regret on Facebook, click here.

January 23, 2013

Photo Essay: Mt. Wilson & Observatory

[Ed: Minor edits made and photo added 7/29/17 5:01 PM PT]

My recent tour of Griffith Observatory made me recall a couple of the other local observatories I'd visited but hadn't posted about: Mt. Wilson and Mt. Palomar. I'd gone out of my way to see both of them (and, in the case of Mt. Wilson, twice) but, at the time, didn't feel like I had much to say about them.

In retrospect, gazing up at the stars—and chasing the moon —has strongly characterized my time in Southern California, with enough dark sky communities to spot meteor showers and hike in the moonlight.

With all of these mountains bringing us to higher elevations, it's no wonder our gazes turn upwards.

Unlike the public Griffith Observatory, Mt. Wilson Observatory has a long history as a research facility, and it's still operated by the Mount Wilson Institute under an agreement with the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

circa 2017

Three solar towers—a 60 foot, a 150 foot, and a snow solar telescope—were built to study the magnetic pull of the sun...

...but Mt. Wilson is known better for its 60-inch and 100-inch telescopes (the latter of which was the largest telescope in the world from 1917 to 1948).

Built by George Ellery Hale and John D. Hooker respectively, these telescopes provided a way for man to try to understand the starry blanket that tucked them in every night, and facilitated amazing discoveries in the sky above and in the Universe as a whole.

And at just under 6000 feet above sea level, Mt. Wilson also provides a way of understanding the world below, as you teeter off the edge of it...

...hiking along the Sturtevant Trail to Echo Rock...

...and rounding the rim back through a maze of passages through the telescopes.

Can you look both up above and down below at the same time?

Are we bound only by where the cloud line lies?

Two Kinds of Customers

*Originally titled "Two Kinds of People"

There are those who bring two shirts into a dressing room, and despite all of the other options and accessories you give to them and suggest, only buy those two shirts...

...and those who bring a sweater and a skirt into a dressing room, and buy everything else placed in there with them except that which they selected for themselves.

Knowing what you want is good.

But I prefer to be open to possibilities.

Related Post:
Shop Girl

To Like Avoiding Regret on Facebook, click here.

January 22, 2013

Photo Essay: Griffith Park's Hidden Royce Canyon

Sometimes, once I'm on a kick, I can't let something go. I've inherited my mother's addictive personality. And I allow myself to obsess over certain things at certain times.

Case in point: Griffith Park, and specifically, Griffith Observatory, which I visited three times in one week last week.

For my third visit, I got up at the crack of dawn - despite having to close the store later that day - to hike to the little-known Royce's Canyon in Griffith Park with Los Angeles City Park Ranger Ernie, and a bunch of other intrepid hikers who love Griffith Park has much as I do.

We met Ernie at the Observatory, hours before it opened, and trekked along a paved fire road down into the canyon...

...along Mount Hollywood Drive, peeking at views of the city below...

...past the haunted picnic table...

...reminding me that it's hard to get totally lost in the park if you visit it enough. I'd hiked past there before, only from the other direction.

Although the trail was briefly familiar...

...soon Ernie would take us into completely unfamiliar territory, deep into the interior of Griffith Park...

...past his favorite tree, the pepper tree (as in peppercorns)... Royce's Canyon.

This tranquil, hidden little area of LA's giant urban park was named after Royce Neuschatz, a former city parks and rec commissioner and advocate for urban open space (who also happened to reside on the board of the Los Angeles Conservancy).


The trail past brightly-colored berries is barely visible...

...under new green growth...

...across a broken bridge...

...and under perilous trees.

At the end of our trail, we reached a pocket in the exposed stone...

...though it was only the turnaround point for our hike. One could hike into the cave, and past it, deeper into the park.

We, however, turned out, and climbed back through the bramble...

...scratching legs and ducking heads...

As we climbed out of Royce's Canyon...

...we climbed back through familiar territory to Toyon Canyon...

...the earth-capped LA landfill which famously was planned to expand into the area that was to be called Toyon II...

...until Royce Neuschatz banded with a group of hikers and fellow activists to save and preserve it.

After departing Toyon, on our way back to the Observatory we took a steep shortcut up near Amir's Garden to see one more cave: this one a fossil of a beached whale. You can still spot its eye...

...and the striated lines of its rib cage.

Not a bad place to stop and rest for all of eternity.

We all should be so lucky.

To Like Avoiding Regret on Facebook, click here.

January 21, 2013

Photo Essay: A Return to Griffith Observatory

Although I'm always apt to try new hikes, taste new foods, and visit new places, I do find myself frequenting certain places in LA over and over again, most notably Griffith Park.

In fact, last week alone, I went to the Griffith Observatory three times: for the Huell Howser tribute, for a hike to Royce Canyon (post forthcoming), and for a tour of the Observatory, courtesy of the Los Angeles Historical Society and Councilman Tom LaBonge (whose police-escorted bike rides last summer were such fun).

Sure, I'd been to the Observatory before. I hiked up to it with Edith during one of my scouting missions to LA before moving here. I watched the solar eclipse after hiking The Big Parade last spring. I watched the planetarium show after taking a tour of Historic Fern Dell last summer.

But somehow, I had never been up to the roof deck...

...the highest point of access that looks down over the sprawling metropolis below...

...which also houses a telescope...

...used for public access and education rather than, say, research (like Mount Palomar or Mt. Wilson, both of which I've visited but about which I have not posted).

Beyond the stunning Art Deco architecture visible from the Observatory's stark white exterior - which is visible from many of the hiking trails around Griffith Park as well as from various vantage points around Old Hollywoodland - the interior is also quite lovely....

...with intricate murals across the vaulted ceiling above the main entrance rotunda, depicting classical celestial mythology with somewhat of an Art Deco aesthetic...

...above the entrancing Foucault Pendulum, whose swaying back and forth remains constant (thanks to magnets) while the Earth turns beneath it, causing the pendulum to knock down a series of pins every few minutes.

Among the other scientific instruments at the Observatory for public perusal is the Tesla Coil, whose high voltage, lightning bolt-like display is demonstrated hourly, spectacularly, and loudly.

As the sign held by Councilman LaBonge said, "Enjoy and Love Los Angeles." And to me, that means taking more than just a cursory look at its attractions and surroundings. Sometimes, you have to get to know a place - or a person - slowly, over time, with repeated exposures, under different lightning conditions, through different seasons, in different mindsets.

But the place - or the person - must be worth returning to. And that is a decision you have to make sooner rather than later.

Update 1/8/21 1:24 PM PT—RIP Tom LaBonge.