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Christmas 2004, and Staying at The W Hotel in Westwood [26 Dec 2004|04:19am]
Well, Hey Everyone, Merry Christmas, Ho, Ho, Ho! I hope those of you who celebrate Christmas, or any version of it, had a wonderful holiday!

We're staying here at The W Hotel in Westwood for the night, which is kind of fun and a nice treat. I think W stands for Wonderland because it's written on little slogans and cards around the place. Update; Nope, it turns out that it doesn't stand for anything and the hotels just have fun making up slogans that begin with W like Whatever Whenever and Welcome to Wonderland -- sweet. Scott is sleeping in the bedroom. I'm here in the office which is super luxe for an office, and we also have a big living room. We originally had just a one bedroom suite with some kind of cute and friendly name, (the Wonderful Suite), but they upgraded us to a Cyber-Suite without my even asking -- probably because I'm a member of this hotel group -- a Starwood member. I joined a few years ago when I went for my advanced scuba certification in Maui, blew out my ears, and was grounded for six weeks. That got me a few points, and a hell of a lot of glossy brochures and magazines that tortured my travel deprived heart for a good while there.


This is what our living room looks like.

I'm having a late night dinner because I couldn't eat anything at the restaurant tonight, it was all so ridiculously weird, fun and different, but just too unusual, awkward and unappetizing like asparagus salad with vinagrette dressing, walnuts, onions and a poached egg on top. Then there was the fact that my Mom had to have two martinis, "Right now, just bring them both right out, both of them, I don't want to have to wait for the second one." Nope, no drinking problems here, none of that obsessive-compulsive-I-love-booze-shopping-and-food-way-too-much addictive behavior going on in this family here, perish the thought.

I'm drinking a nice cup of hot black Chinese tea, yeay caffeine, and having a small piece of this mini marguerita pizza with truffles. Oh man, I love truffles. If you haven't had them they're amazing. They have a kind of nutty garlicky taste and they really grow on you. The taste is so rich and pungent I crave it. It's weird because I don't normally like things that taste this strong -- have this much bite.


Here's the entrance to the hotel but you can't really see the color of the stairs or the water darn it.

This hotel is very cool, very celebrity driven. Julia Roberts once called me by mistake from here thinking she was leaving a message for her hair stylist. Everything is very modern with a kind of 60's 70's retro throwback feel. To get to the entrance you walk up glass stairs that are underlit in neon blue and have water cascading beneath them. When you enter the lobby there is, of course, super cool music, and everything is dark and artfully lit. There are places to lounge and hang all over, and there are interesting arty video installations being projected on the walls. The lights are always super low at night with colored spots here and there -- the elevators kind of alternate glowing blue and red, and they have cameras that take pictures of you, break them up into a couple dozen smaller frames and play you back to you on a little monitor mounted in the wall that says funny little things like, "Show us your mirror face," and "Ooh la la, pretty." There are great big black and white photographs all over the place as well and the people who work here are super attractive, they all look very New York in LA, in their all black understated elegance.


Here's just a part of the lobby, but it's usually much more colorful and darker than this.

Cindy Crawford's husband Randy Gerber has his bar/clubs here at these hotels, Whisky Blue. I wish I could go downstairs and check out the lounge scene but I don't want to go by myself, and by the sound of the snoring coming from my exhausted and holiday-burnt-out pal in the next room, it looks as if we won't be visiting the little, secret, outdoor room at the top of the hotel that I've known about for years and very few other people do. I asked the maintenance man, who came to fix the TV and stayed for a bit to gossip about famous clientele, if it was still there and he said that it was and that we can still visit it, darn it. It would have been so great to show to Scott after all of these years. You can see all of Westwood from up there and it's so pretty, especially at night. Plus the moon is supposed to be full and amazing tonight. Oh but I forgot Scott has a fear of heights and to get to it you have to sneak up some stairs then walk all around the ventilation ducts and various electrical things on the roof, then turn a corner, go up some more steep metal stairs, and you end up in this strange open concrete room with a railing.


Our bedroom where Scott is snoring right now.

I love finding secret places like this -- I love exploring. I also love hanging out with and meeting new people. It would have been so wonderful to bond with a few new people on Christmas, but there weren't too many people hanging out in the lobby on the couches playing games and congregating like there usually are, or like there were in New York. The bar/club would have been a different scene though, there were plenty of people in there last night, but they did look pretty exhausted. Normally by this time, after everything I've done for everyone else, I would be passed out in bed at home with a pile of cats pinning me down, and George Nouri or Art Bell keeping me company on the radio, but I wanted to do something special and different this year and since Mom had originally been planning on staying here, and Scott can't sleep covered in cats, I just decided to keep the reservation and come here with him for the night. Beau is with his Father, bleh, sadness for me, but happiness for Beau that he gets to see his Dad and the family that used to be mine as well.

I had a very weird Christmas. I'm grateful for everything, don't get me wrong -- I know I'm very lucky to be relatively healthy and to have a healthy son, lucky to have a home when so many other people don't, lucky that my Mother is still alive, that I have a loving partner, and so many other blessings, but compared to other Christmases, this one kind of fell flat. I just never got that warm Christmas soulful feeling -- you know what I mean, that feeling that kind of seizes you by the heart and makes your nose tingle and your eyes water, the one that makes you want to be more loving, be a better person, that feeling that Oprah must be feeling 24/7. The closest I came was when I was celebrating Hanukkah, of all things, and snuck around giving presents to my neighbors for seven days, or last night when I was watching our very feeble and elderly Pope perk up whenever he saw children. I'm not a big fan of the Holy Father, not that I don't like him, I don't feel anything but love and respect for the man, it's just that I am a wee bit suspect of my own religion and it's history, the wipe-other-religions-and-cultural-histories-off-the-face-of-the-planet-by-murdering-and-plundering, hey-let's-burn-all-of-their-books-and-women, oh-and-by-the-way-birth-control, especially-in-third-world-contries, except-by-the-universally-recognized-as-totally-unreliable-rythm-method, is-bad, and-nuns-and-priests-should-deny-their-natural-God-given-sexual-inclinations-and-wind-up-having-to-act-them-out-in-weird-and-dangerous-ways-because-they-have-been-forced-to-remain-celibate part that I don't dig. Nevertheless, and probably because of my having attended a good twelve years of private Catholic school, I maintain this childlike reverence for it's traditions and seeing this sweet, deeply-devoted, Godly man doing his best to stay awake, blessing children, was rich and meaningful in some way that I can't quite put words to.

I think maybe I was just too obsessed with the gift giving part of Christmas without remembering to embrace the reason behind all of the gift giving. Although I did give lots and lots of great gifts, and I got great gifts too -- Scott gave me a diamond and gold pendant necklace, the first time any man has ever given me a diamond anything, my neighbors across the street gave me a beautiful gold heart on a chain, and Atra's mother gave me a heavy gold chain with a big J charm on it that she had made for me especially in Iran. I gave and received lots of wonderful things but other than giving out presents and tips and donations to anyone who was within reach, and passing out a few bowls of chicken soup to some down-on-their-luck folks in Santa Monica, I never got to that deeper richer place that I might have found if I hadn't been spending so much time obsessing on gifts and making my collage cards. And everyone has been so totally PC about the whole Christmas thing that it's kind of blown the candles out of it. I can appreciate how left out of it people must feel when they aren't Christian and everything is decorated in green and red, and someone comes up to you and just assumes you want to hear Merry Christmas. I can sort of see this and I have tried to be sensitive to it, but like my friend Jen said, I really wouldn't mind at all if I lived in a world of blue and white and everyone was wishing me a Happy Hanukkah, in fact I actually do, but why can't we all wish each other a Happy Hanukkah at Hanukkah and Kwanzaa at Kwanzaa and Christmas at Christmas? What is really so wrong with wishing someone a Merry Christmas if you're saying it from your heart?

Why do I have to feel guilty for smiling at someone and saying, "Merry Christmas if you celebrate it." At least I'm adding the, "If you celebrate it part". On the phone at this hotel tonight I wished someone a Merry Christmas -- I mean come on, it was the operator for God's sake, and it's not like I was saying Fuck You -- but there was this long frosty silence that chided me for my horrible misdeed in spreading some CHRISTian love on Christmas, and I'm someone who doesn't even go to church, whose favorite Christmas gift was a gold Buddha charm, and who sleeps with a Jew. It's not like I don't care because I really do, I want to honor, respect and include everyone. It's just that I think as long as we welcome and include all holidays then we ought not feel the need to totally obliterate the one holiday that had for so long dominated all of the others just to get even with it. "Take that Christmas, with your jolly old Saint Nick, your reindeer and those damned trees, we won't wish anyone a Merry or even a Happy Christmas any more. There, now what do you think of that you freaky Jesus lovers?" You know I hate to point this out for fear of alienating half of my reading audience here but umm Jesus was a Jew so why isn't cool to celebrate his birthday? I mean we can all agree that he was a good and loving man, right, and that if he wasn't the only son of God, he was at least a fairly decent prophet of some kind, a cool dude who worked some miracles, right? Well, then while you're waiting for the real messiah to come along and save all of us, can't we at least celebrate this guy's birthday? I swear that I will be up for celebrating everyone else good and holy's birthday's too, Buddha, Krishna, Mr. Rogers, whoever, as long as there are presents I'm up for it. Merry Ghandi Day, whatever, I'm up for it. Okay I'm off of it, I promise.

Last night we went to my Mother's house to have dinner with her and exchange gifts but it usually feels pretty forced and artificial with her, sadly, because she just can't do anything like she used to, poor thing, and I wind up having to do it all, which I really wouldn't mind doing, if she weren't such a controlling bossy cow of a girl-woman. I mean she can't allow me to finish completing one task she has sent me off on before she's obsessing over and chattering about the next one. "Jacqui go to the kitchen and show 'the girl' how to heat the bread," "Bring me some scissors," "I need a trash bag for the wrapping papers," "Put on some Christmassy music," "No, wait, show Scott how to make my Vodka," "Did you get the salads on the table?" "What about the bread?" "Are we going to open the presents or not?" "I want you to open a present. I want someone else to get a present. I shouldn't be getting so many. This is embarrassing, oh you've given me too much," "Did you check the bread? Don't burn the bread! Where are the scissors?" EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Beau just kind of went off into his own usual selfish, moody, fourteen-year-old, hormonally-challenged-boy-becoming-a-man-before-he-is-really-ready-to-face-the-big-scary-world world, and hunkered down in the corner with his new bass guitar. He plugged it into the amp he brought with him and played the same damned riffs over and over again to our left while Scott sat between us looking miserable, sweaty, and glum, and Mom yakked away anxiously and obsessively to the right of me, while the occasional decent Frank Sinatra tune played in between bad, barely-audible holiday music coming from our crappy old speakers to the right of my Mom. Semi-loud, (semi because Scott had to keep asking him to turn it down), thrash, electric, bass guitar music, and horrible elevator holiday music just don't go too well together and did nothing for my frayed, overworked, undernourished holiday spirit. To say nothing of my usual assigned roll as Santa-the-gift-giver with the spasming back muscles who has to get up and down passing out stuff while EVERYONE else sits down and watches me do the work.

Nevertheless I was truly grateful and constantly reminded myself to make the best of things and count my many blessings. I was happy to be with my little family, as limited or challenged as we may all be, and given that we were all exhausted and hurting, (even Beau who was having the usual growth pains and muscle tightness that a few of our handy dandy Hyland's muscle cramp pills put a quick end to), I think everyone did the best they could. Everyone except for the tiny and super weird troll lady with three teeth who Rosa hired to take her place for the night. And even though we were all kind, and I of course brought a couple of gifts for her (She was after all giving up her Christmas to help my Mom), she drove me up a fucking wall and I can't stand her.

It didn't help that Mother chattered away happily over dinner tonight about how glad she was to have found someone who will sleep on the floor next to her bed so she can help her get up when she needs to. She even used the word slave and had this mischievous childlike look on her face when she said it, "Why, she's just like a slave," oh Lord save me, for so many reasons. Leaving aside the offensive idea of my Mother's wanting someone to be her slave for a minute, (oh shudder), there is the simple fact that this woman is a totally unqualified, negative, stubborn, opinionated, and not too damned bright. Sorry but it just had to be said. The minute I saw her I thought, "Oh man this gal is special, and not in a good way." It seemed to me that Rosa went and got someone who is mentally challenged to sub for her because she is soooo worried that anyone who stands in for her will try to steal her job. Despite this I tried to lay my instincts aside and keep an open mind but every time I went in to the kitchen to help her, and every time I needed to ask for her help, she balked in some way. Either she complained about something, criticized me in some way, or made some negative comment. I couldn't make myself understood about the most basic things, "Please put the serving spoon on the platter," turned into a fight/discussion about why I needed a third spoon when my bossy mother was clearly demanding that she be allowed to have this extra spoon. It didn't matter if it made sense to her, just please put the Fucking spoon on the Fucking platter. Of course I never said that but to have to stop and discuss every little thing that my mother wanted with this strange new person was so frustrating, so frustrating that I finally reverted to taking her hands in mine and looking her straight in the eyes and telling her what to do very, very slowly and firmly so that she would get that I meant what I said and wouldn't discuss the reasons why any further. And I am someone who is polite and empathic to a fault, it was never far from my mind that she was sacrificing her own Christmas to help us, salary or not, I appreciated the sacrifice.

I feel asleep looking at the bright full moon shining through the slats in the wooden shutters on the French door by my bed last night. Beau said that the moon looks, "All crystally and pretty tonight." I woke up super early this morning and there was none of that, "Ooooh it's Christmas, yeay, I'm so excited," feeling at all. It was all, "Oh man I have to make sure I do this and this and this..." I got up, checked the puppy who had shat the floor and then tracked it all over the bathroom, took a bath with her in my tub, then finished wrapping Esther's presents and made out her card, took everything downstairs, tried to wake up Beau, assembled the little cat catnip teddy bear treats, visited the big dogs who live outside, gave them toys and treats, and by then Esther finally arrived.

Beau woke up and then we opened gifts with Esther while eating some of the amazing and pretty Yule log that we hadn't eaten from the night before, it was a little too sweet for breakfast, yeee, but it was enough to fill my stomach so I could take my morning pills. I enjoyed giving Esther and her kids Eduardo and Andrea their presents, and watching Beau get his. I really liked the green Gap sweater that Eduardo gave me. I haven't worn something that came from anywhere other than a fat girl's store in so long so it was a special treat for me, I'm wearing it right now. Esther gave me some cotton floral appliqued blouses that she bought on Olivera Street in Downtown LA because she knows I like them, but they didn't fit, and a cool Frida Kahlo print that had been pressed into bark.

Scott came a little before one and had hurt himself by tripping on one of the many seed pod balls that fall from our sugar maple trees all year. He tripped on one and then landed hard on another causing him to get a big round bloody wound on his knee with little holes all around it that came from the prickly spikes on what we call the spiky balls. I took him upstairs and cleaned it with Hydrogen Peroxide and Neosporin and then put a Band-Aid on it. It was nice to be able to help him with something health related because he normally has to act tough all the time when it comes to his health and I feel hurt and left out when wanting to be brave and masculine he pushes me away.

Afterwards we opened all of our presents, all of which were wonderful but I am now so tired I just can't go into much more detail here. Then Robby came to get Beau and made me laugh and reminded me of how much I miss his friendship and our shared sense of humour. They left and then Scott and I went to see Sideways in Santa Monica, then we picked up Mom and came here for our weird, trying-way-too-hard-to-be-cool ridiculously expensive dinner. Mom chatted away happily telling us the usual stories about her life while I took notes with a pad of paper and a pen that I had borrowed from the starved thin hostesses. Dinner took two long excruciatingly slow hours and then we were able to leave to take Mom home. At the car she handed me a five for the $4.50 valet parking fee and reminded me loudly to, "Get the fifty cents back," which just embarrassed the hell out of me, as usual, so I got her damned fifty cents because if I'd let him keep it she never would have let me hear the end of it, and then I gave the guy an extra five bucks when she wasn't looking. On Christmas five dollars is a nothing tip, I wouldn't have been able to live with myself if I had to get the fifty cents back and wasn't able to give him anything at all.

Tuatha, if you're reading this, in answer to your question, our new dog is a mostly white, scruffy-coated, Jack Russell Terrier. She has two light-tan spots around her eyes and Beau wants to call her Scrappers or Scrappy, which I think is a pretty shitty name for a sweet, girly, puppy dog, seeing as Scrappy is just one letter away from Crappy. I saw her yesterday, or the day before, (I don't know, everything is starting to blend into one big fuzzy sleep deprived reality ball for me here), fell in love instantly and just had to bring her home for Christmas. I am smacking myself on the forehead here.

We always used to bring home two dogs for Christmas, then we'd find homes for them and start over again the next year, at least that's what I hoped we'd do, but we kind of got stuck with Jack the wolfy-shepherd-mix because he's a big old runaway humper and people just don't go for the whole pointy-pink-dick-rubbing-against-their-legs kind of thing when they're looking to adopt a dog, and Puppy, (who we never named because we were certain we were going to place her with some brave energetic person), is a Pit Bull Dalmatian mix so I probably don't need to say much more than that to explain why we haven't been able to find her a better home than the one we're giving her. Also Puppy is a cat killer, not exactly a good fit for someone like me, eh?

I don't talk about the dogs as much as the cats because I feel more protective of them and threatened by the legal limits as to how many you can have. With dogs there are licensing laws and the animal control people take them much more seriously than with cats. Ever since the incident where Anna just let the Animal Control Dude in to our house, after having been warned not to, I have been scared, scared, scared, so I kind of keep the animal thang as low key as I can manage while still being unable to keep myself from letting my pet love/joy leak out now and then. I'm still not a thousand percent certain the person who turned us in wasn't someone here on Live Journal because it was just days after I posted pictures of a big bunch o' kitties on my bed, that the guy showed up. So there you have it, I'll still put some pictures together for you and post them, if I can hold the thought long enough to remember to do it, argh.


Yep, it's me, your worn out, burnt out, pal.

My eyes keep closing, and the rate at which I am making up sentences and typing them has slowed to a crawl. There is a siren in the distance, the sound of my fingers clacking away on my computer keys, Scott's heavy breathing in the bedroom, and I am longing for sleep. I know Scott will pop out of bed super early and then pace around doing his I-have-got-to-treat-myself-to-the-perfect-breakfast-and-read-the-paper morning routine so I'd better get some sleep before I lose the chance to.

I love you guys and am looking forward to moving beyond all of my obsessing over all of this and being able to relax and read a few journals finally.

Big Hugs from your weary worn out pal,
Jacqui
XOXOXOXO


A rare glimpse of your exhausted friend.
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Sleepy, Swearing, Bat Guano, Things That Start With the Letter W, and Bad Porn [26 Dec 2004|08:47am]
Oh man I am so tired -- staying up 'till four something to update my journal -- yeah that'll show me, show me what? Something, I don't know what. Maybe that I need someone to put me in a crib, turn the lights off, wind up a musical dolly or something and then force me to go to bed at a reasonable time.

Scott just beat it out of here as soon as I set him free and there I was feeling guilty, thinking he'd be wanting to stay, wanting to order a leisurely breakfast and a movie, make love, explore the hotel, and I was depriving him of fun and company by being too tired to play with him. I'm so crazy, what was I thinking? Even if he had been up for it, so to speak, I sure wouldn't have, literally, (is literally the right word here, and can you use a question mark inside a parenthetical mark in the middle of a sentence, and is this even called a parenthetical mark?) as soon as I have my dark chocolate croissant and Valrhona hot chocolate, (Man, no one is ever going to wonder how or why I gained weight, if I keep eating things like this and then writing about it, "I just ate the best butter cream frosted Christmas cake, and oh whoops I just gained a pound"), I'm heading back to bed. I asked them for the latest check out possible, which gives me until five to try to catch up on lost sleep. I'm like a baby vampire bat sleeping upside down in a tree somewhere, better a tree than a cave because I'm not too crazy about the whole guano thing.

I found out what the W stands for; nothing and everything that begins with the letter W. It's Wonderland in Winter and Welcome to Wonderful, and a whole lot of other things that start with W, even the valet parking has a W name, Wheels I think. I love how cute and fun that makes this styley place, that could be colder but for this, seem.

At the back of the hotel guest information book there's a list of DVDs you can order, and at the back of that list there's a page of porn with titles like Spank Me Daddy, and The World's Biggest Gang Bang 2. I'm sorry but I just couldn't resist, I had to call the front desk and order Sweet Black Cherries just for the fun of it, then I burst out laughing because the poor young girl at the front desk kind of stuttered to a friendly halt for a minute there. she was so shocked she almost ran out of friendly words that begin with a W, I guess the rock stars who stay here bring their own porn or order it off the TV instead of calling down to the front desk. It took her a while to get that I was just kidding, but it was fun while it lasted.

I was just remembering how funny Robby was yesterday when he came to pick up Beau. We see him so rarely and he knows so little about our lives that we were telling him Chippy is Beau's favorite cat. Chippy has been Beau's best friend from the day he was born. Everyone knows this about Beau. He is so attached to Chippy that I worry about what will happen to Beau if anything ever happens to Chippy -- they're like twin souls or something. All Beau has to do is say, "Chip, Chipper, Chippy," or "Chips," and he'll come running from wherever he's been making trouble.

When they were both much smaller they used to take turns chasing each other around the stairs and through the kitchen, over and over in circles, every once in a while reversing directions. It was so much fun to watch from the top of the stairs, the little boy human chasing the cat and then the cat chasing the boy, round and round.

Anyway, we were telling Robby this, saying, "This is Chippy, Beau's favorite cat," and Robby instantly said, "Oh, well, we won't he eat him then," and when he left he asked me if I could wrap up ten cats to go. He also made me laugh when he was picking on the bad carpentry work of crazy Cowboy, my friends Kitty and Sunday's sometime man, who put in the doors to the kitchen for me. After having found fault with just about every aspect of these two doors Robby walked away saying, 'Would you like me to nitpick that door a little more for you, because I could do that," but I think this is probably one of those things where you would have had to be there to get how funny it was.

I had even forgotten how funny he was, well, not completely, I think I just had to obliterate all good thoughts of him from the record of my memory, in order to survive the pain of separating from him. I remember when my therapist, who for a time became our therapist, talked about marriages and relationships becoming like two plants in a pot whose roots have intertwined -- that at some point people will grow too big for the original pot and that something has to change, there will be pain either way, whether you have to break the pot and plant yourselves in a bigger, better one that will be more suited to your changed selves, or tear your roots apart in separating from each other.

I couldn't agree more, at least as regards the way I handle the ending of relationships. I must be some kind of seriously deep rooted plant, some drought-tolerant, long-surviving plant that never wants to be uprooted and will tolerate the harshest conditions -- any amount of suffering just to be allowed to stay where I am planted, like a yucca or some other unusually hardy relationship cactus. Shhh, don't tell Scott he'll think he can get away with fucking bunnies or something and I'll never leave.

I used to wonder about these three day or three month celebrity marriage flame outs and wonder what must have gone wrong, "Oh man, he must have done something really awful to make her leave that fast. Like maybe he shit the bed or something." But then I realized that no, a guy doesn't literally have to shit on you to make you throw in the towel, other people just don't have the same desperate longing for couplehood-at-any-cost that I have.

I felt a little sorry for Scott yesterday because Rob and I immediately fell back into our old comedy routine banter with each other and he could easily see what I had seen in him -- what we had had together -- and might have felt a little left out. But it was good for all of us to be standing in a room together for the very first time since everything exploded and sent all of our relationships hurtling into oblivion. I have to hand it to Scott and Robby for being so brave and behaving so maturely when once we had all thought that if they ever met again in person it would be like atoms colliding.

I've noticed that I kind of tossed my let's-try-to-keep-this-relatively-PG-rated journaling style to the wind here in my last two posts, there sure are a lot of references to shitting and fucking, now what can this mean? Probably that I'm just too damned tired to censor myself and am enjoying ignoring the fact that nuns could be reading my journal, (you think I'm kidding, I'm not), and am allowing myself free reign here to be my authentic liberally filthy mouthed self. Fuck, Fuck, shitty, shit, shit, okay now go run away, see if I care. Okay, no, come back, I do care, and how come I capitalize the word Fuck but not shit? Explain that one.

Valrhona chocolate be damned, I have got to get some sleep. Good thing I didn't order the Vosges or you'd be stuck with a much longer entry, heh, heh, heh.

Love you gals, (just thought I'd change that one up on you a little bit there),
Jacqui
XOXOXOX

PS: I'm swearing and writing about sex while in the near distance church bells are peeling, there's something ironic in this somewhere, but I actually find the sound of these bells comforting.
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Tsunami Kills Thousands Off Southern Coast of Asia, and This Haunted Hotel [26 Dec 2004|09:32pm]
Oh God those poor people along the southern coast of Asia who were in the path of those horrible Tsunamis. Thailand, The Maldives, Phuket, all places I've dreamed of diving, and to think divers and tourists were snorkeling along the reefs totally unaware that these giant waves would drag them along the coral and wash their broken bodies ashore later or sweep them out to sea.

Tourists, sunbathers, children, families, all of those people, lives lost, people separated, businesses destroyed. It's just the worst case scenario, and the kind of thing Beau and I have nightmares about. You know we're just kidding ourselves when we travel to places where you just know the sea could gobble you up, thinking that there are Tsuanami beacons, satellite weather warning systems that will give people enough time to escape to higher ground. We've talked about this so many times because it's one of Beau's big fears, and mine too, I just never let him know this.

I have nightmares about enormous waves crashing down on me while I scramble up steep, wet, sandy banks. Tidle waves terrify me and this one came inland as far as twenty miles? We live here in LA, close enough to the shore to break off along with it if "The Big One" comes along and rips up our shoreline. I've been afraid of this ever sice seeing Super Man in high school where Ned Beatty and Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor, I think, talked about buying up what would become expensive beach front property in Abu Dabi. But I've always told Beau that we live far enough inland to never be in the path of a tidal wave, now I'm not so sure of this. Anyone know how many miles Brentwood is from the beach?

I said prayers for all of those poor people, especially this one woman I saw in a photograph, a Swedish tourist, who was sitting on the ground anxiously waiting for any word of her missing husband and children. And all of the dead bodies and wailing people, these kinds of things, the cruel ways of nature, just tear me up inside.

I was going to write about my massage and the sweet and gifted massage therapist I was lucky to meet tonight, her nice friend, and how we had fun talking about spooky things like ghosts and paranormal phenomena. There's a room that she won't work in because the vibe there is so disturbing, and apparently two entire floors of this hotel are haunted, so much so that some housekeepers refuse to work them, but that's nothing new to me. I've never met a hotel that wasn't haunted, and this one used to be a UCLA student dorm, and after that it was a rest home, plenty of opportunities for psychic dusturbance, but this all just kind of pales and seems like silly gossip in light of these tragic events.

I can't help but see bodies floating in the water, it's grim, but it's what my mind is seeing, not the great big manta rays I've always wanted to dive with, but people, lost and floating, tangled up in debris.
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AP Report On Asian Tsunami Tragedy [26 Dec 2004|10:09pm]
Signs of the carnage were everywhere: Dozens of bodies still clad in swimming trunks lined beaches in Thailand. Villagers in Indonesia picked through the debris of destroyed houses amid the smell of rotting corpses. Hundreds of prisoners escaped a coastal jail in Sri Lanka.

More than one million people were driven from their homes in Indonesia alone, and rescuers there on Monday combed seaside villages for survivors. The Indian air force used helicopters to rush food and medicine to stricken seashore areas.

Another million were driven from their homes in Sri Lanka where some 25,000 soldiers and 10 air force helicopters were deployed in relief and rescue efforts, authorities said.

At Thailand's beach resorts, packed with Europeans fleeing the winter cold at the peak of the holiday season, families and friends had tearful reunions Monday after a day of fear that their loved ones had been swept away.

Katri Seppanen, 27, of Helsinki, Finland, walked around barefoot, in her salt water-stained T-shirt and skirt, at the Patong Hospital waiting room where she spent the night with her mother and sister. She had a bandaged cut on her leg.

"The water went back, back, back, so far away, and everyone wondered what it was - a full moon or what? Then we saw the wave come, and we ran," said a tearful Seppanen, who was on the popular Patong beach with her family. The wave washed over their heads and separated them.

Fifty-eight half-naked and swimming suit-clad corpses lay in rows outside the Patong Hospital emergency room. Three babies under the age of one were among the victims. A photo of one baby was posted on the wall of victims, the little corpse in a nearby refrigerator.

The earthquake hit at 6:58 a.m.; the tsunami came as much as 2 1/2 hours later, without warning, on a morning of crystal blue skies. Sunbathers and snorkelers, cars and cottages, fishing boats and even a lighthouse were swept away.

Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India each reported thousands dead. Deaths were also reported in Malaysia, Maldives and Bangladesh.

"It's an extraordinary calamity of such colossal proportions that the damage has been unprecedented," said Chief Minister Jayaram Jayalalithaa of India's Tamil Nadu, a southern state which reported 1,705 dead, many of them strewn along beaches, virtual open-air mortuaries.

"It all seems to have happened in the space of 20 minutes. A massive tidal wave of extreme ferocity ... smashed everything in sight to smithereens," she said.

At least three Americans were among the dead - two in Sri Lanka and one in Thailand, according to State Department spokesman Noel Clay. He said a number of other Americans were injured, but he had no details.

"We're working on ways to help. The United States will be very responsive," Clay said.

John Krueger, 34, of Winter Park, Colorado, described being inside his bungalow Sunday on Khao Luk Beach, north of Phuket, with his wife, Romina Canton, 26, of Rosario, Argentina, when the water filled it and blew it apart.

"The water rushed under the bungalow, brought our floor up and raised us to the ceiling. The water blew out our doors, our windows and the back concrete wall. My wife was swept away with the wall, and I had to bust my way through the roof," Krueger said while waiting to talk to a U.S. Embassy official at Phuket City Hall. "It was like being in a washing machine."

Canton was dragged into the ocean for more than an hour until a wave brought her back to land again, with a broken nose and foot scratches all over her body, Krueger said.

The quake was centered 155 miles south-southeast of Banda Aceh, the capital of Indonesia's Aceh province on Sumatra, and six miles under the Indian Ocean's seabed. The temblor leveled dozens of buildings on Sumatra - and was followed Sunday by at least a half-dozen powerful aftershocks, ranging in magnitude from almost 6 to 7.3, and one aftershock Monday that hit India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The waves that followed the first massive jolt were far more lethal.

An Associated Press reporter in Aceh province saw bodies wedged in trees as the waters receded. More bodies littered the beaches. Authorities said at least 4,448 were dead in Indonesia; the full impact of the disaster was not known, as communications were cut to the towns most affected.

The waves barreled across the Bay of Bengal, pummeling Sri Lanka, where more than 4,500 were reported killed - at least 3,000 in areas controlled by the government and about 1,500 in regions controlled by rebels, who listed the death toll on their Web site. There was an unconfirmed report of 500 more deaths on another Web site that provided no details. Some 170 children were feared lost in an orphanage. More than a million people were displaced from wrecked villages.

Devinda R. Subasinghe, the Sri Lanka ambassador to the United States, said the extensive damage will make the rescue effort more difficult. "It's going to take time to figure out access to these areas that have been impacted," Subasinghe said Monday in an interview on CNN. Up to 70 percent of the island's coastline was damaged, he said.

There was sporadic, small-scale looting in the towns of Galle and Matara, and authorities said about 200 inmates escaped from a prison, taking advantage of the chaos after guards panicked and fled when water entered the building.

About 2,300 were reported dead along the southern coasts of India. The private Aaj Tak television channel put the death toll there at up to 3,300, but the report could not be confirmed. At least 431 in Thailand, 48 in Malaysia and 32 in the Maldives, a string of coral islands off the southwestern coast of India. At least two died in Bangladesh - children who drowned as a boat with about 15 tourists capsized in high waves.

In India's Andhra Pradesh state, at least 32 Hindu devotees were drowned when they went into the sea for a religious ceremony to mark the full moon. Among them were 15 children. On Monday, bodies of women and children lay strewn on the sand.

"I was shocked to see innumerable fishing boats flying on the shoulder of the waves, going back and forth into the sea, as if made of paper," said P. Ramanamurthy, 40, of that state.

In Cuddalore, in the worst-hit Tamil Nadu state, survivors huddled Monday in a marriage hall turned makeshift shelter, as fire engine sirens whined outside. Broken boats law on the shore near smashed huts with only frail bamboo frames jutting out of the ground.

The earthquake that caused the tsunami was the largest since a 9.2 temblor hit Prince William Sound in Alaska in 1964, according to geophysicist Julie Martinez of the U.S. Geological Survey.

"All the planet is vibrating" from the quake, said Enzo Boschi, the head of Italy's National Geophysics Institute. Speaking on SKY TG24 TV, Boschi said the quake even disturbed the Earth's rotation.

The quake occurred at a place where several huge geological plates push against each other with massive force. The survey said a 620-mile section along the boundary of the plates shifted, motion that triggered the sudden displacement of a huge volume of water.

Scientists said the death toll might have been reduced if India and Sri Lanka had been part of an international warning system designed to advise coastal communities that a potentially killer wave was approaching. Although Thailand is part of the system, the west coast of its southern peninsula does not have the system's wave sensors mounted on ocean buoys.

As it was, there was no warning. Gemunu Amarasinghe, an AP photographer in Sri Lanka, said he saw young boys rushing to catch fish that had been scattered on the beach by the first wave.

"But soon afterward, the devastating second series of waves came," he said. He climbed onto the roof of his car, but "In a few minutes my jeep was under water. The roof collapsed.

"I joined masses of people in escaping to high land. Some carried their dead and injured loved ones. Some of the dead were eventually placed at roadside, and covered with sarongs. Others walked past dazed, asking if anyone had seen their family members."

Michael Dobbs, a reporter for The Washington Post, was swimming around a tiny island off a Sri Lankan beach at about 9:15 a.m. when his brother called out that something strange was happening with the sea.

Then, within minutes, "the beach and the area behind it had become an inland sea, rushing over the road and pouring into the flimsy houses on the other side. The speed with which it all happened seemed like a scene from the Bible - a natural phenomenon unlike anything I had experienced before," he wrote on the Post's Web site.

Dobbs weathered the wave, but then found himself struggling to keep from being swept away when the floodwaters receded.

The international airport was closed in the Maldives after a tidal wave that left 51 people missing in addition to the 32 dead.

Indonesia, a country of 17,000 islands, is prone to seismic upheaval because of its location on the margins of tectonic plates that make up the so-called the "Ring of Fire" around the Pacific Ocean basin.

The Indonesian quake struck just three days after an 8.1 quake along the ocean floor between Australia and Antarctica caused buildings to shake hundreds of miles away. The earlier temblor caused no serious damage or injury.

Quakes reaching a magnitude 8 are very rare. A quake registering magnitude 8 rocked Japan's northern island of Hokkaido on Sept. 25, 2003, injuring nearly 600 people. An 8.4 magnitude tremor that struck off Peru on June 23, 2001, killed 74.

(Associated Press reporters Gemunu Amarasinghe in Colombo, Sri Lanka, K.N. Arun in Madras, India, and Sutin Wannabovorn in Phuket, Thailand, contributed to this report.)


AP-NY-12-26-04 2350EST
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