First job (and no, it wasn’t the Army)

I’m starting the New Year with what my first job was.  And no, it wasn’t the military.  I enlisted at 25, so I already had some jobs behind me.

But my first job was stuffing the Sunday newspapers for the Los Angeles Times, which is called a newspaper inserter.  I helped out a woman named Mrs. Fisher to prepare the Sunday papers.

Mrs. Fisher was probably in her late fifties or sixties (hard to tell now; people looked older then).  She was a victim of the Flying Tiger disaster in 1962.  A plane crashed on a street (and was depicted in an episode of Emergency, with a plane crashing into an apartment complex).  She had just grounded her son and sent him to his room, but he sneaked out.  Turned out to be good timing because the plane’s engine came down his room!

Mrs. Fisher picked me up at school every Friday and took me to a building a building on Ventura Boulevard that went for $1,000 a month (in the 1970s!).  It was a grungy building, always caked with paper dust and smelling of ink.  The bathroom was grubby from all the dust, too.

One wall had a bench that ran along the length of it, and that was where we stuffed the newspapers.  The Sunday came disassembled, the print run of each part in a bundle.  So it was the front page, entertainment, sports, and the ad package.

We’d go down that line and pick up each section and then stuff inside the front page. The constant contact with the newspaper left my hands nearly black with the ink, and we’d sometimes find pinch bugs crawling around the papers.

The completed newspaper was stacked up against the wall on the benches, to the ceiling, where it would be picked up Saturday morning.

The problem came with that ad section.  We dreaded spaghetti day.  There was a company that periodically included a sample of instant spaghetti mix.  That made the newspapers lopsided.  Remember, we were stacking to the ceiling, and during spaghetti day, the stacks would sometimes tip over.

It made getting the newspapers done twice as hard, and those were often the late nights when I got out at 11:00!

Mrs. Fisher usually took me home, but 11:00 was the cut-off.  If we were running late, my father came to pick me up.  He was astounded one night to find a traffic jam at that time nearby…johns picking up hookers.

I don’t actually remember the job formally ending like others.  This seemed to be one that just evolved away.  Now the want ads advertise for inserters.  A very different time.

What was your first job?

The city or the country? Which would you pick?

Between the city and the country, I’ll always pick…

A beach, with the city mixed in.

This was a question from Facebook, and I thought it would be a lot of fun to put it here.  I grew up in big cities, and visited small towns.  I’ve never really been in the country.  Not even sure how it would be defined.

Maybe farmland?  If so, I have been to Kingston, Indiana, where I saw corn growing taller than me at the side of the road, waving in the wind.  But it was so far to go anywhere, and not much when I got there.

I grew up in Southern California, right on the doorstep of Hollywood.  Friendly palm trees stretching into the blue (or sometimes yellow-gray) sky…lots of sunshine.

And the beaches.  We didn’t go much to the local beaches.  Malibu was always packed with people out sunbathing.  But we would drive North, along the 101 and later the 5 to Central California.  The area has a lot of mountains that bump right down to the beaches.  The freeways cut through the mountains, so on the right was the rocky hills covered by scrubby grass and chaparral.  Always brown and dried out.

On the left was the ocean stretching out as far as I could see, deep blue against the line of the sky and darkening where it got deep.  The water was both foreboding and inviting.

The waves curled up high, then crashed down on the beach, spreading out across the sand, foaming and bubbling.  High tide would leave a line of kelp on the sand, smelling of sea and decay.  I’d go out to the kelp and stomp on the air bladders that kept it afloat, then hunt for the shells embedded in the sand.

I could always find broken shells, especially mussels, which weren’t very pretty shells.  Other common ones were Chinese hats–limpets; butterflies, which were two shells connected together; and sand dollars, flat disks that were nearly always broken.

Then it was off to check out the rocks.  The beaches always had black, jagged rocks poking up out of the sand.  Inside were pockets containing tide pools.  I always found sea “enemies” with their flower-like tentacles twitching in the water as they fed.  Clusters of barnacles clung to the rocks, sticking their tongues out at me.

At Morro Bay, which was always our destination, the sounds of the sea lions having a big party carried across the water.  Sea otters popped up to the surface and rolled over to float.  The sea gulls barely designed to look at the humans approaching.  Get out of the way?  Not important to them.

The wind was always a bit brisk and cold, but I could spend all day looking at everything and never seeing the same thing.

Beach.  Definitely.

5 Fun Facts You Don’t Know About Me

  1. During a science fiction convention, two women and I ate lunch in the hotel restaurant with actor David Hedison (James Bond) and watched two cats play outside the window.
  2. I went to my first science fiction convention in 1976 costumed as Lieutenant Uhura and got trapped in a parking garage.
  3.  I’m a cat magnet.  When I visited my grandparents, I went outside and saw this beautiful white cat.  Started petting the cat, who acted like no one ever paid attention to.  Suddenly I was surrounded by cats!  And my grandfather hated cats.
  4. I’ve ridden in a pace car for a race.  It was just after the first Persian Gulf War ended, and a local race track in Washington State was looking for soldiers to ride in the pace car.  I went in my class A’s, and one of the guys was grabbed to join me.  I sat in the front seat and watched that speedometer.  We hit 100!
  5. The first computer I wrote a story on was a Heathkit H-89. Heathkit was known then as having kits of electronics you could put together in your house.  My father built the computer.  It was all one piece and booted off a 5 1/4 disk.  It’s hard to believe now that my tablet has more computing power than that big computer!


Massive Landslide in California

When I was growing up, we would drive from Los Angeles to Morro Bay, which is a coastal town in Central California, stay a day, and then head onto San Francisco.  My grandparents lived in San Francisco at the time, but later moved to Morro Bay. Our trip took us on Highway 101, which had beautiful views of the ocean.

But it had a big problem, too.  The road cut through these huge sloping mountains.  Always brown from the dryness, and some years, black, because brush fires had burned away the grass.  Nothing to anchor down the dirt when it rained.

One year, it was pouring rain and we were headed back to Los Angeles.  A state trooper stopped us, dressed up in his yellow slicker, and told us the road was closed.  We had to turn back and wait a day for it to be cleared.

A landslide happened this week in the same general area and closed a quarter mile of the freeway. Check out the video in the link.

Boot Sisters

Having started to go stir crazy, I went out to Panera today for lunch.  There was a family of four there, husband, wife, two girls.  The wife had a boot on her foot like me, but was getting around on a cane.  Clearly a little more advanced in recovery than me.

Soon …

Anyway, her boot was different than mine.  So I’m ordering from the kiosk and I feel this touch on my boot.  It was one of the little girls. She kept circling back around to check out my boot!

Crutches are Evil Things

I broke my foot last Saturday while I was in the Everglades and have been on crutches, no weight bearing, and with a boot.

I’ve been on them before, when I was in the military, and they don’t get any easier with time.  In fact, one of the things I learned with this round was that I get up and move around a lot.  I didn’t realize how much until I wasn’t able to do as much.

The first day I think I managed to spill something on the floor about three times, then fell in the middle of the night trying to get to the bathroom.  There’s a sharp turn from the bedroom door into a much narrower bathroom door.  Balance checks all over the place.  Yup, I’m pretty dangerous.


I’m keeping up on my exercise, though no lower body exercises and no lower body cardio.  I’m revisiting my Jack La Lanne videos, since he was all about doing the exercise at home.  Most of them can be done with a chair, standing, or the floor, and I can substitute something else where feet are required (i.e. running in place might become swimming).

The worst places

  1. Kitchen. Hands down, it’s a horror story.  Everything that is conveniently located normally is hard to get on crutches.
  2. Did I mention I have stairs and hills? If I go outside, it’s down a flight of stairs, down another flight of stairs, down a hill, turn the corner, and down another hill.  We have a hill of doom out front that eats buses and tractor trailers and cars when it snows.

Things I’m doing

  1. Peapod for groceries. The deliveryman came last night and brought it in and set it on the kitchen counter for me. Thank you!  I was trying to figure out how to ferry the groceries to the kitchen from the door.  I was figuring I’d move the items that required refrigeration and leave the rest where they were.
  2. Next time I order groceries, I’m going to head for precut vegetables. More expensive, but I’m not trying to juggle a knife, cutting board, and crutches.
  3. Drinking water is hard! I put a glass in the bathroom and one in the kitchen so I can easily access the water.

Breakfast is smoothies, lunch is a salad, and I’m still working out what I need to do for dinner.


That’s been a little challenging.  I’m not getting as much done—think it’s just because, until I get used to the crutches, they’re very tiring.  More important that the writing is to take care of me.


Loose Change

When I was growing up, I was always used to seeing loose change everywhere.  It fell out of my father’s pockets and was  abandoned on the floor.  My mother picked it up and deposited into a shoe box in a drawer.  Eventually the shoe box bulged from the weight of all the coins.

I think she never did anything with the coins because it was too difficult to cash it in.  We didn’t have coin machines in those days; we would have to get coin rolls from the bank and laboriously put each one into it.  The bank had us write the account number on the side, too, in case we shorted them.

Now, when I have enough coins to cash in, I use the coin machine and the grocery store so I can spend it on food.  Oddly, I always end up with more change to put in my pocket.

I pick up pennies too.  I know some people say that pennies aren’t worth it.  Every time I go to the coin machine, the pennies add up.

But I have my father’s problem when I get the change.  Somehow, loose coins turn up all over the place still.  I empty my pockets into a mason jar, but somehow coins manage to escape from their fate, to end up on the carpet.   Then I’m vacuuming, and I hear the crackle, bang, bang, as a penny gets sucked up.

Or, as I open the door to the laundry, and hear the thunk, thunk, thunk of a coin in the dryer.  That’s after I went through the pockets before I washed everything.  Still managed to miss one.  Today, it was four.  Those coins are sneaky.

The coins come out of the dryer hot.  I bounce them from hand to hand, like a hot potato, until they’re cool enough to hide in a pocket again.

And back to finding a way onto the floor.

The Mad Rush of the Holidays

I ended up dropping off the face of the earth for my novel project for about a week.  With the holiday ramping up, work got really crazy because everyone was trying to get everything done before they went off on leave.  Of course, the culture now seems to be everyone waiting until the last minute, then screaming, “Help!  It’s an emergency!” By then it is, but it’s pretty bad to have to prioritize the emergencies to which is more urgent.

So when I got home, brain wasn’t functioning much (remember Buffy: “Tree pretty.  Fire bad.”). Yeah, it took me a few days to recover, and I’m going to take advantage of the four day holiday.

Word count total: 3600

Total words: 14300


My family has some origins in Thanksgiving, including one that I found out this week.  My great-great…grandfather John Adams (no relation to the president) was on the second ship that arrived at the Plymouth site.  It was funny reading a book that described the men there as “lusty young men.”

One does not think of their grandfather as a “lusty young” man!

He married my grandmother there, then died during an illness that swept through the colony.

The thing I found out this week is that Mayflower was owned by the Vassall family, who is also related to us.  William Vassall came over to the colony on one of the later ships, though he later had a spat over religion and left for Barbados.  His daughter married John’s son, James.

And, while I think the news sat on this story for timing, archaeologists think they discovered the site where the Pilgrims lived.

Military Stuff

The Army is the only service without a museum.  But they’re building one in Virginia.  The ELC (they don’t define it, at least not that I could find) looks interesting: It’ll be virtual training exercises so anyone can get the soldier’s experience.  That’ll be pretty fun.  When I was at Fort Lewis, one of the coolest training exercises was a computer simulation of calling down artillery fire.  We map it out and see the results on the screen.  Since that was a good 25 years ago, these are sure to be much better than that.

This and that for last week of September

This week …

Lots of rain for Washington, DC.  Alexandria’s King Street flooded, as usual.  The street ends right at the Potomac.  In the 1700’s, it was a big, important port for shipping of tobacco.  The city built out then, so the street goes in a deep slope at that point, down to the river.  It also floods every time it rains heavily.  The first picture in the link is deceptive, because you can see the pavement.   The river is on the other side of the fence.

Pantsing turned up twice this week.  I suppose as we’re approaching Nano in November, people are starting to think about process.  One of the writers, who was a pantser, said she’d been told that the only way to write was to outline.  That’s what following the “rules” imposed by other people gets you.  The only wrong way to write is the one that doesn’t work for you.

The one thing I don’t like when any of the discussion comes up is that it tends to be an outliner who’s heard about pantsers.  They try to define it, but it’s obvious they’re scratching their heads and checking the rule book, and can’t make sense of it.  And this is what most of the pantsers see!

There are exactly three books on writing without using outlines.  Most of the other books start out with the definition of a pantser and an outliner, and then give outliner advice, which tends to mean they’re written by outliners.  It’s very hard to advise someone how to write a certain way if you haven’t done it!

So I define my selection as books being specifically about writing without outlines.

Story Trumps Structure: This is a more generic book, typical of the craft books you will find, though it assumes you’re not outlining.

Writing into the Dark:  This one gives actual tips that you can use.  Interestingly, nearly all the tips are the ones outliners say not to do.

Pantser’s Guide for Writers: You Are Not Alone.  This one’s mine.  I never thought I would do a writing book because I feel like I never know enough.  But I was tired of seeing books that treated the way I write like I didn’t know what I was doing, just because the writer didn’t understand how I did it.

And here’s one website, The Extreme Pantser’s Guide, by Kate Paulk.  She’s been on panels at conferences I’ve attended.  In fact, I’d found this site a few weeks before a con, and she was on panel, and I’m looking at her name and going, “Wait a minute…” We chatted for a few minutes after the panel.

This morning …

Early this morning at about 4:36 I woke up to a woman screaming from somewhere outside.  Close.

I tried to see if I could spot her anywhere from my window, which has a pretty good view of the corner, but she was not in view.  I called 911, and the operator said that other people had called in, too.  Hopefully if she was in danger, the police arrived in time.  They have a fast response here, but even two minutes is a very long time when anything is happening.

Hot Time in DC

We’ve had a bad heat wave in the Washington, DC area these last few days.  With our heat comes humidity, especially this time of the year.  The humidity is up around 71%, so our 96 degrees heads up to around 110 degrees.

So I thought I’d hit the pool instead of normal exercise—it’s hard doing anything even in air conditioning. 

The pool is outdoors, unheated.  Usually on the cold side.

It was like being in a warm bath.

No fair!