Weekends in Orange County, or, Why the Hell is it so Hot?

This is one of those posts you hope the authorities don’t read.

So, I am the king of all dorks…degree in biochemistry, going for a master’s in linguistics. Pretty dorky, pretty intellectually curious in just about every arena I encounter. I inherited this characteristic from my dad. As much as I try to divorce myself from his newfound Christofascism, and family-abandoning-ism, I have to admit I have a lot in common with him…culinary skill, intellectual curiousity, love of hot sauce and hot spicy food, perhaps a healthy dose of haughtiness. But I digress away from the curiousity. There are few things I like more than being/having something that is/working with things that are unique. I worked on semi-scary bioweapons defense research cause it was something not a lot of people ever get the opportunity to do; I make my own fireworks cause, hey, The Man won’t let me buy any cool ones in California. So, I enjoy things the average citizen can’t get his hands on.

Apparently I inherited this idiosyncrasy from my dad. He used to work at [major bioengineering concern in Orange County], and would bring home things like little slivers of sodium to throw on the pool to watch it hiss around and flame. When [said bioengneering concern] was throwing out a bunch of chemicals, he brought home a whole lot of chemicals that are, in and of themselves quite cool, but in a home environment, not things you want to have around socially or legally. And of course, when he left, he didn’t bother to take his nitroglycerin, potassium cyanide, or mercury with him. So ma has had these things (and others) in her garage for ages (like fine wines….), and they’ve always been something of a doomsday threat in our minds. Specifically, ma has nightmares about the garage catching fire, the nitroglycerin exploding, sending the KCN (typing potassium cyanide is getting tiresome) into the air where it would be exposed to acid rain/pollution and liberate hydrogen cyanide gas (of death penalty fame), all the while the mercury (we’re talking kilograms and kilograms of the stuff) gets spread out over a large area, contaminating groundwater and basically rendering Los Angeles County uninhabitable for the foreseeable future (yeah, there’s that much mercury).

Los Angeles County periodically does hazardous waste roundups where you drive up and people in Tyvek suits offload your uglies. In the past, we’d pondered taking our stash of illegal chemicals to one of these, along with the thousands of shotgun shells (mostly ruined) that we for some reason also posses. But then we saw on the news that some lady tried to bring shotgun shells to the hazmat collection and there ended up being helicopters and real biohazard suits and charges filed against the lady. So if this lady caused that much of a panic, we were sure that bringing our hazardous wastes would result in military action and me sharing a cell with some poor Afghani in Guantánamo Bay.

On Saturday, the County had another collection and once again Judy came to the rescue and convinced us to bring the KCN to the collection, since she was bringing lots of ceramic glazes and glass working chemicals. The theory was that the KCN would blend right in and by the time they discovered it, we would be long gone, and in the end, the cyanide would be disposed of by the proper people.

So we loaded up Judy’s truck (which isn’t good for anonymity…she has one of maybe four Volkswagen Double Cab trucks in the United States [imported semi-legally from Canada]). And rather than slipping the KCN in with the glazes, ma wraps it up in two plastic bags and a paper bag. Anonymous and innocuous-looking we aren’t. I load in my dead computer monitors and off we go. So we roll up to the collection. It’s all full-service: the people take the stuff out of your car for you; you’re not permitted to leave the car. So they pick up the boxes, no sweat right? Then they go to close Judy’s tailgate, which has a liner that doesn’t quite fit and requires an adjustment to make the gate close, which we couldn’t tell the guy, and we certainly couldn’t get out, so he’s fumbling and fumbling. Meanwhile, his compatriot begins rooting through our boxes and of course hits on the KCN. Ma’s beginning to have a full-on panic attack and even normally unflappable Judy is developing a bead of sweat on her brow. Finally, thank God, the guy got the gate closed just as his friend decided the last bag wasn’t worth opening. We crept out as slowly as we dared until we were clear of the site’s visual range, then floored it as fast as we could out of there cackling with glee since, lo! We can get rid of our toxins! And not have armageddon come if a stray bottle rocket sets ma’s garage aflame. A frabjous day! The only problem will be the mercury, since the littlest bottle we have weighs like 10 pounds (and is about the size of a small dimetapp bottle), which will definitely arouse suspicion. Oh well. We’ve also decided to take handfuls of shotgun shells with us on our walks on trash nights and throw a few in each trash can until finally (in about 2016) they are all gone. And maybe we can threaten anyone who would dare assault any of us on a walk with 20 year old, waterlogged, inoperable shotgun shells.

So that was the high drama of the weekend. My cousin’s baby had a blessing on Sunday which we all dutifully attended. The cermony was nice, although it was a bit spiritually vacuous megachurch in feeling. Pastor Someone came from the local Christofascist megachurch (because the baby couldn’t be baptized in the Catholic Church since my cousin and her baby daddy aren’t married) came and anointed the kid with oil, which brought back horrid memories of Dad anointing the cabin when he was living there to seal out evil spirits and protect the cabin against the Satanists who worship in the forests. I’m not making this shit up, Dad actually believes this. Perhaps I’m a bit of a high church Anglican, but I’m all about baptizin’ the babies in full drag and with good old distilled water. Kylee wore a white dress from Hilo Hatties (the Hawai’ian kitsch store). So high church this wasn’t. But, I’m glad the baby has turned out healthy (there was a scare toward the end of the pregnancy) and that we have such a large and close-knit family to be together in happy times like this. I just wish there was less of the OC-veneer of fake smiles and expensive jewelry to hang over it all.

Amusingly, though, there has been drama as to Kylee’s name. You see, I already have a cousin named Kyle, and his mom (my aunt) was none too pleased about this baby usurping her son’s name (she still occasionally calls him Kylie; thank God she stopped calling me Chrissy). She got over it, but it’s a running joke in the family and probably will be for a while. So Kylee slept through most of the party, but when she woke up, my other cousin says, “Oh, is Missy up now?” And Missy was the name of my beloved, now-deceased Jack Russell Terrier. So my aunt breaks out with “Geeze, first you name her after my son and now you call her by Chris’ dog’s name?” And everyone kinda went, ‘oh shit,’ to themselves. Later, said cousin was holding Kylee and says “Yes, you’re a little Missy aren’t you?” And I couldn’t stand it anymore and said, “Oh, for Christ’s sake, make up your own damn names!” which got a laugh from the blood family but caused the OC-gentrified folk to clutch at their pearls. Oh well.

I’m increasingly becoming the black sheep in the extended family. But my family’s famous for its black sheep. My 9-greats grandfather was beheaded by the English Crown for being a Quaker; his kids moved to North Carolina and established one of the first Quaker churches there; they ran a stop on the underground railroad until they were ran out of NC by the shrieking bigots. My 3-greats-grandfather moved to California in the 1840s when it was still the Australia of the New World: where you sent your bad folks. My great aunt is a gadfly extraordinaire, having mostly singlehandedly wrenched a movement to help the homeless in my town out of nothing, carrying on the legacy of her mother, my great-grandmother, who was instrumental in starting the first soup kitchen in the city. So if being a pinko socialist who eschews OC-conformity and likes boys, prays the Lord’s Prayer in Attic Greek, and thinks family names are not suited for repetition within 15 years of each instance makes me an outcast, so be it; I’ll be in good company.

Oh, I went to see King Tutankhamun at LACMA today. It was awesome, although not particularly Tut-centric. More about it later, but suffice it to say that if you are or ever were an ancient Egypt nut (I once described how they removed the brain through the nose for my 2nd grade class, prompting one girl and two boys to throw up…wahahahaha), it’s totally a good time.


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