Monday, December 17, 2012

The Sounds of Sirens

In between writing drafted stories and waiting until they are ripened to perfection, I forget to jot down streams of conciousness blogs because it seems that, well, that is what Facebook and Twitter are for.  But then this blog feels neglected lately.

I woke up this morning to a perhaps, "2 alarm fire", across the street from my apartment building.  When I first heard the sirens around 7:30am, I just thought they were the sounds of Oakland that I have grown accustomed to.  Speaking of, I keep meaning to pen down that parody about Oakland to the tune of Simon and Garfunkel's "Sounds of Silence".

The Sounds of Sirens- An Ode to Oakland

Hello loudness my old friend-
Did I just hear from you again-
An onward buzzing and HORNS blaring-
Woke me from my sleep I WAS needing-

to be continued.

Anyway, the familar sounds of sirens didn't faze me until they creeped up onto my street and two firetrucks landed right outside my window.  At first I thought maybe someone had a heart attack or stroke and I was looking for a stretcher.  But then, I saw a hose that was laying flat on the street.  I looked up and noticed red flames shooting out of the second story rear side window of the pink apartment building across the street from me.  I grabbed my rinky dink smart phone camera and missed my shot because my camera sucks. By the time I powered off and turned back on my phone, I only got a picture of black smoke:

View from my window

I would like to say that my first impulse was to pray, but I would say it was a tie between praying and getting my camera to work. And then praying my camera would work.  It's my personal battle of priorities between being a Christian and being a citizen journalist always looking for a story.  But I did pray for everyone's safety and in the end, no one was hurt.  At one point I saw the house next door voluntarily evacuate an elderly man and their black cat.  No animals were harmed in making this blog.

I had my eyes glued across the street for awhile.  A few hours later, after the fire department had left, I saw a man go into the half charcoaled building and salvage his Christmas tree.  To be displaced right before the holidays- wow.  There was no going back to sleep now, which kind of sucked because I woke up yesterday morning with a very sore throat and I woke up this morning with a full-on cold.  My Christmas cold came early.  Here's to hoping I get it done and overwith before December 25th arrives.  I should be okay- I got the stuff to knock it out:

It's the most wonderful time of the year:

But how can any of us really complain about colds and property damage when we have our lives?  And for all the sirens I have heard in Oakland through the years, I have never witnessed a mass shooting anywhere around here.  It's crazy to think that I was safer in Oakland this past Friday, than a group of kindergartners were in Connecticut.  You just never know.

Alright, the point of this blog was to pause and reflect and hopefully unblock the writer's block that plagues me.  

Until next time....

Sunday, December 09, 2012

The Alarmist

IT WAS MY THIRD NIGHT IN A ROW BATTLING WITH INSOMNIA.  I woke up around 4:00am to the cold morning air, shivering inside my studio apartment with all my blankets kicked off my bed -again. What started out as a warm Indian Summer October evening had quickly transformed into a brisk early Autumn morning. I quickly sat up in bed, with my eyes still closed, and shut the window. As I scrambled for those abandoned blankets that were halfway to the floor, I noticed my eyes felt glued shut. I must not have properly removed all of my eye make up before going to sleep and my allergies were setting in. Going to bed with mascara on my lids would cause me to look like I had pink eye the next morning, which was the last thing I needed at this moment, not to ignore the fact that I also needed to go to the bathroom- again. Why oh why was it so much colder at 4:00am than at midnight and why were these late night trips to the toilet more frequent these days? Hadn’t I just been there two hours ago? I felt around my bed with my eyes still closed, searching for the abandoned thick tube socks that fit like slippers, compliments of an ex boyfriend. I slipped them back on my feet, attempted to open my eyes, and got up to relieve myself. It seemed that my bladder had become my new alarm clock these days, and as for my actual alarm clock that sat on the nightstand to the right of my bed? Well, it had taken on the role of something else.

I finished quickly and curled back into bed, this time with three blankets covering every inch of my bodily frame. As I began to get cozy again with hopes of drifting off into a deep slumber, I heard the sound of a car speeding down my street and then I heard it stop and slowly back up. I sat up in bed and perched out the window to my left in time to see a newspaper come flying out of an old white Toyota Celica, hit the front steps of my apartment building, and then dash away. Not many folks around here received good old fashioned newspaper subscriptions anymore.

I laid there in bed fully awake and stared at the ceiling while listening to wind chimes whistle from the apartment building next door . I looked over at the alarm clock--4:45am. And then the refrigerator in my kitchen, a mere 12 feet away from my bed, started to run.

Hoping those buzzing noises that came from that oversize appliance I made little use of, (except to house old Starbucks coffee cups and Chinese take-out) would lull me back into a deep sleep, I closed my eyes again.

“If you fall back asleep now, you should still be rested enough for work,” I assured myself.

Conversations of the day before, the week before, came tumbling up towards the surface of my mind. Then thoughts about the last minute email I read at 11:30pm before going to bed began to emerge. It was that last minute inconsequential email that would get my mind going at this God forsaken hour.  Why was this the time my mind chose to process things? I began to notice the subtle pain in my lower right back letting me know that the Tylenol PM had already worn off.

“Should I take another one? Half of one? Do I have the sniffles? Should I take a little Nyquil? Just a little maybe….”

In the faint background I could began to hear the sounds of early commuters whizzing in their cars on the freeway overpass about a quarter mile away. Was it that time already? What is it that they do for a living anyway? Were they stockbrokers? Were they club bouncers or waitresses just getting off a late shift? What is this- Vegas? Why weren’t they all in bed like me? That way, it would all be quiet.

It was now 5:00am. I grabbed my smart phone off the bedside table and checked my Facebook home page, but even my fellow Facebookers were not up yet as an outdated expired newsfeed from the night before sat there- dormant. People hadn’t posted for hours. Boring. And then I decided to catch up on my Words With Friends games, which only occupied me for another 15 minutes.

I noticed the sounds of increasing cars on the freeway almost sounded like ocean waves. “Yes, those aren’t actually cars,” I told myself, “but high tide instead, and hey, maybe those waves will lull me back to sleep”. Then I noticed a train’s horn in the distance. Society was up, but I refused to participate.

Then I heard the sounds of a person shuffling around outside. Knowing about a recent increase of burglary in my neighborhood, I quickly sat up and looked out the bedroom window again, only to see a professionally dressed businesswoman sporting a blazer and a hair bun, turn off her car alarm, climb into her Audi and drive away. Freak. I laid back in bed. I am NOT GETTING UP THIS EARLY. What time is it anyway? I shifted my head towards my alarm clock again- 5:30am.

"It’s not too late to fall back asleep," I assured myself, knowing that my alarm clock was set for 7:10am. I started thinking about the work meeting I had scheduled later on that morning. Was this the real reason I wasn't able to fall back sleep? Because I knew I couldn't afford to oversleep? I never had thought about work outside the office before- what was happening to me? I tossed and turned.

"Should I just get up now before my alarm goes off?" I wrestled before another voice quickly protested, "NO! You will feel worse. Just lay in bed with your eyes closed. When your alarm goes off, at least you gave your eyes a chance to rest." I acquiesced with the second voice. One sheep, two sheep, three sheep…

My alarm finally went off to the tune of many voices of talk radio and I didn't hit the snooze button. I found the banter comforting. Stories of traffic accidents and weather reports filled me with vivid dreams. In the calamity of it all, I fell back asleep....