fishing for light still


Jocelyn, Santa Barbara, 1985

This photo was either taken on your birthday or shortly thereafter – it was another Santa Barbara day in December and something like 70 degrees.  We took the Pentax K1000 all over town and photographed each other in rose bushes, beside trees, under the wharf on the beach. We had just bought the VW van and were still planning our escape back up to the Bay Area.

It was at the start of it all, and so long ago in 1985, the year we met. We were just babies in our early 20s. All I knew was Los Angeles and punk rock and Catholic school.  You were, to me, this beacon of possibility, expanding my musical horizons, teaching me how to drive a stick shift, showing me that yes, vegetables are tasty and can make a complete meal.

We hadn’t even become anything that we were to be.  You were a baker; not a produce buyer, not a pizza dough thrower, let alone a radio DJ & station manager. I was a drop out, still programming silly things like the TI99/4A as a hobby and interning at a North Hollywood recording studio (“Obsession” by Animotion, anyone?), not yet a truck driver, nor a produce manager, nor a network ops geek, let alone a grad student. Most of the people outside of our families who would be so important to our lives we had not even met yet. Colorado? Not even in any plan, whatsoever.

I was walking around Old Colorado City tonight checking out the local art scene and having some Christmas cheer with the artists.  One exceptional photographer asked what brought me out to Colorado.  The story of your death ran through my mind and I dismissed it to give my usual cover story about living the good life.  It wasn’t until I was walking home and looked up at the moon that I realized: it’s your birthday.

That is, if you still get to have birthdays. And 26 years flashed by me, lickety split. Cheers, babycakes, 51 years since you came into this world. Almost 10 now, since you’ve gone. And I’m still fishing for fallen light with patience.

reflections of the way life used to be

Jocelyn B Sandberg

We met in 1985.  I had left LA (finally) with a friend who knew her from Ventura.  We drove up and crashed in her Oakland house.  I was still asleep on the floor in a sleeping bag when she came home from her job at a bakery that morning – “hey, want some breakfast?”  I moved back in a few months later and we lived together for the next 3 years.  

We aspired to travel and paying the rent.  I had been studying to be an engineer in a recording studio in LA, still flying down there every so often to record tracks for uninspired 80s pop wannabees.  Got a certificate in the field, then we put everything into storage and went for a hitchhiking trip that was supposed to last months to get us to the Michigan Women’s Music Festival.  We stayed on the road all of a month, up to Oregon, then bussed it down to Santa Barbara, where we stayed with a friend of mine from high school instead for months.  Bought a 60s VW bus (6 volt, split screen windshield), fixed her up, lived in her (and got hassled often by the sheriff) then eventually drove her back to Oakland.  Finally settled in San Francisco, where I stayed for the next decade or so.

In SF, we got a dog and worked in produce.  I trucked, she bought.  We threw massive Thanksgiving parties (though she was vegetarian, we still made a mean bird) and invited all our leather wearing friends over for music and food.  There were frequent travels up the coast to Arcata and out to various farms.  The dog caught one of the farmer’s chickens once, but he gave it back when the chicken made a fuss.  There were too many nights in too many bars that no longer exist in The City.  I went back to school.  There was butternut squash and purple lilies and lots and lots of music.  I became jealous of Joan Armatrading.  It went south at some point – young 20 years old, we were, and I called home one morning from the road, picking up pallets of lettuce and oranges, to find that she was moving out and moving in with a friend of ours.

We still hung out, though.  We shared a dog. She was up in Marin and I stayed in the City for a spell, until I moved up there to be closer to her.  Then they made the big move to Colorado.  I was in a bad relationship and she offered for me to come out to Colorado.  That first visit, I recall not at all getting why anyone would live in such a conservative mall-strewn place.  Now I won’t call anywhere else home.  I visited often, meeting her circle, visiting her at the old KRCC studio, hiking.  Having hippy dinners with her friends in the mountains.  Going up the Incline when there were actually cars to take you to the top.  A Sky Sox game.  Pizza and a movie at a locally owned business in a very deserted downtown. I still didn’t get the Springs – still had too many more days of the City left for me to live through.  At some point in the 90s, we lost connection.  Things got bad for me, then they got much, much better and I finally found stability and a career track in IT.

At some point, life in the City got to me.  The traffic, the people, the expense.  It was all so amazing and bright when I first met her there.  I had my first latte with her (well before Starbucks was ubiquitous) , saw my first movie in an old theatre with a balcony with her, went to my first hot tub with her, ate at my first diner with her (hey, I grew up in the ‘burbs).   There was color and light and lots and lots of music when we were together there, and there are very few streets in Oakland or SF that don’t remind me of her.  She taught me how to ride a motorcycle when we lived on upper Market Street, and I dropped that damn heavy bike of hers a few times trying to keep it up at the top of hilly streets.  Candlestick Park was where she finally taught me how to get it under control… and years later I actually rode my bike the 1300 miles across the western states to visit her.  She helped me fix up the chain on a dirt street she lived on in Manitou.  But by 2001, the City got to me – it was gray and cold and money went out faster than it came in.  I had a chance to move out to Massachusetts and jumped on it.

Which was weird, because even though years had passed, as I was at the I80-I25 interchange in Cheyenne, Wy, a city we named our dog after, I almost took that right turn to drive the 22′ truck and the load and the new dog and the car in tow down to KRCC’s new studio to see if anyone knew where she was.  Little did I know that she was now the station manager for them and living just a few blocks away, near the local college campus.  I stayed on I80 and got a job doing IT security for an insurance company in the Berkshires.

A few months later, she called after finding me online.  Wow.  A rush of gold, I thought, a rush of gold.  She was looking for a place to crash for the SF Lavender film festival, to preview films she wanted to bring to the Springs for the festival here.  I laughed and said I was in MA.  She laughed and said a friend of hers was going to check out schools there, and we should meet up.  We spent hours on the phone, and then more calls and then we agreed I should come out for a visit that summer.  I felt happy – happier talking to her than I’d been in a long time.

Then came the night my car was munched by a farmer backing up without looking in his mirror.  And so many calls from 719 that night that I ignored because I was too pissed about the car to want to deal with anything.  The full moon that night was large and orange and refused to leave the window.  The next morning, over eggs and toast, the phone – persistent – rang again.  OK, what?  What is so fucking important?  

There is a a disbelief that turns into a shock that turns into a catalyst for uprooting everything you thought you knew about your life that comes when you’ve just been informed that someone you shared a depth and intimacy with has been senselessly slaughtered by an unknown assailant under a ridiculous set of circumstances on a cold April morning, left to bleed out alone, on the sidewalk near a small tree on a college campus.  Numb barely describes it, but manically depressed does.  I caught a flight in time to attend the memorial service and police conference, meet all her friends, and spent hours and days going through stacks of her stuff – photos I hadn’t seen in years, music, non-stop music, journals.  Memories.  Now, everything I had with or of her was only a memory.  I was pissed at myself for the absent years, pissed at whoever did this to her – to all of us – and so entirely grateful for a life she shared with me, even to the end of hers, magically, and for the friends of hers that welcomed me into their fold.  So, I moved here.

9 years to the day, now, since she’s gone and little of what happened that morning makes any sense, still, and peace rises and subsides to depression when I spent the time to ponder it. And peace returns a little bit when I think back to lattes and purple lilies and motorcycle rides.  When I returned to SF a couple of years ago for a fabulous job, one of our friends asked if it was weird to be back there, where all my memories of her were.  It was. I visited all the places we once hung out… and that sort of numb shock was all I could find because the shattered ruminations still can push me over a cliff, all these years later.  Although, there was also a fond sort of calm there, and definitely most of those memories come with a heap of laughter when I remember some crazy stunt we pulled at this corner or that place.  This now my first spring back in the Springs after the woohoo job laid me off.. and I can’t quite piece together what this day means or doesn’t mean. So, I’ll go take some lilies to CC and the radio station.  It’s all I can think to do, because there is no map for what to do or how to be in these circumstances.  And I want to talk all day about it and I don’t want to talk at all about it, too.

But I do miss her smiling face.  I bring it with me into my yard every morning when I wear her boots or her plaid shirt (now almost too tattered to wear).   I have her hand-me-downs – friends, place, music, politics, clothes – and some sense of her in my life.  Still staying strong and living as large as I possibly can.  

Cheers, JBS, for these are the days.

2011 New Year, new things

Yes, yes, the ubiquitous New Year's Resolution post. With a slight twist: sharing my internet finds.

The first internet find, and one which I really want to encourage folks to use, is 101in365, which is developed by a former colleague, @jennjenn.  It's a way of committing to the things you want to do in the next 365 days.  Yes, you really have to think of 101 things, which really isn't that easy a task, and then lock them in and start doing them.  Its a pretty simple idea & very easy to use.  My list is here.  Some of it is mundane and some is ambitious, but none of it is unrealistic for the next year, which I think — for me at this juncture — is very good.  Some of it I've done before but that haven't done in a while (like bake a pie).  Some of it I've never done (like post a book to Blurb).  I'm very curious to see what happens in 2011 because of it and I'd love to see your lists there, too, since others can comment on your list items.  One of my items is to post at least 25 times to this blog, so here's the first post. Woo.

The second internet find is Mostly365.  It's taking the idea of a photo a day (there are many 365 groups on Flickr) and building a website around them.  The website is populated by images that are tweeted and hash tagged #mostly365, so it's pretty easy to use and it supports a number of service, including Flickr and Instagram.  At any rate, my rate of dropping out of 365 projects is pretty high, but I'm going to try to tweet a photo and that hashtag every day this year, because it's simple and I like their website. My first thought when I saw this site today was, "Wow, why didn't Flickr do this?"  Meaning, why didn't we ever leverage machine tags for site pages grouped to a theme?  Imagine an Explore >365 page, not unlike the Explore > Galleries or Explore > Analog pages.  I know. I hate the thumbnail display, too, on those pages, but it'd still be nifty.  Or gamed, probably.

I'm adjusting to moving to the next moment in my life sans Flickr, which hasn't been all that simple given how much of a power user I was of the site.  It was weird to go from being a member of a site I loved to working there… and now it's weirder to not work there but still use the site.  I don't feel comfortable engaging as much as I once did there, but that's allowed me to go out exploring on the 'net a wee bit over this holiday break.  So, other great finds I'm using daily now are Instapaper, Pinboard, and Quora.  It's so good to be a Netizen again after spending 18 months with my head jammed into the problem du jour at Flickr.  I had some fun, I had some not-fun, and now I'm having different fun.  I hope to remember to keep my online life diversified at whatever my next gig will be.

One last find, which I'm ashamed to admit I only heard of yesterday, is the concept of technical debt (or code debt).  Wow!  Really?  There is a name for this and that name is not "half implemented features"?  The concept really struck a nerve for me, probably since it's framed in terms of economics.  I'm working on getting out from under personal debt, so this rings my bell; here's the quote from Ward Cunningham that sums up the concept, 

Shipping first time code is like going into debt. A little debt speeds development so long as it is paid back promptly with a rewrite. Objects make the cost of this transaction tolerable. The danger occurs when the debt is not repaid. Every minute spent on not-quite-right code counts as interest on that debt. Entire engineering organizations can be brought to a stand-still under the debt load of an unconsolidated implementation, object- oriented or otherwise.

Or, as I might more simply state it, shipping a half-baked product is fine so long as you swing back around on a map to manage that code debt.  If it's not on a map, you're not taking it into consideration, and things can turn around and bite you hard in the ass if you let the debt pile-up (like my own bills).  I wish I had known that this was a concept that actually existed while at my last job, although those stories are for another day.  But I do know that if I work for someone else again, I'd like them to have this sort of debt on their radar and a plan of action to manage that debt.

Those are my internet finds for the day, the first day of this new wonderful 2011 year.

Stepping into 2011

A little early for a new year's post, eh? Nah, just have time on my hands and thoughts in my mind.

So, I went on a little adventure the past year and a half. Now, my last day with Flickr is here.  It's been a good ride, looking back, but there are always lessons to be learned.

The greatest carry-away for me is to assume less and prioritize more.   

Assumptions can lead to crazy spin-making, and I'm thinking of all the doom and naysayers out there who live by drama, feed off rumor, and care little about anything besides their own narcissism.   I've now seen the other side of a coin and will be assuming a lot lot lot less about others' motivations in the future.  It's tough to really care passionately about a something, because you can start to makey-uppy things in your mind, things which lead you to wrong conclusions.  I see it all on the time on various internet forums.  People have a story that they tell themselves.  People feed off of any tangential info that supports their story, even if their story is wrong.  Then, people gravitate towards others who believe what they believe and they each reiterate what the other assumes.  Even if the assumptions are shown to be wrong.  Especially if they are humor-challenged. Definitely if they pick up bait tossed at them.  So, if you don't have the whole story and you bite at any bait out there, you're probably wrong.  At the least, you're throwing good energy away.

But this take-away is for really for me.

I've disagreed with others who I thought didn't have a clue ("yur doin' it wrong!").  But there's that underlying assumption there: that they don't know what they are doing. And they might know what they are doing.  I might not have all the information of their story. Or I might be right and they are clueless, but it really doesn't matter.  And it's OK to put down the passion and to pick up a little trust.  Seems odd to have that take-away at this moment, but it's actually head clearing.  Today, I set down an entire bag of stuff — good stuff, bad stuff — and walked away feeling better than I suspected I would.

Actually, being able to close the door and take the elevator down to the first floor, walk out the door and walk into a new life, leads me to the second take-away of the day: prioritize more.  My greatest shortcoming is that I am a fixer.  Which assumes that something needs fixing, and maybe it does. If it does, I'm your gal – I'm great at what I do.  I care.  On my way out, someone at the office said that caring made people excel at what they do.  OK, my ego is big enough to like hearing that, sure, but caring has to be prioritized.  Because — trite phrase ahead — if I'm not taking care of me first, taking care of anything else can't really happen.  I knew I was in trouble yesterday when my new doctor asked me what I liked to do for fun.  I realized then that I hadn't been doing much of it.  

When I look back in my life, the best opportunities came my way when having fun, so as a reminder to my future self, here are two examples.  I find politics to be fun.  By that, I mean political discourse and (no surprise here) being in an arena where a strong opinion is valued. And I have strong opinions!  One day, in a city new to me, I joined a mailing list for a local protest group because it sounded fun to make signs for a rally.  A year later, I was on my way to Boston as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention – which was a blast.  We had great times there (and I'm that sort of person that thinks that stuff is fun)… and it was a stellar opportunity for me.  

Another great opportunity was getting a job at Flickr… and that happened because of the fun I had participating in discussion groups on that website after taking a break from graduate school.  It's been a fabulous opportunity to use my technical skills at website I truly loved.  I learned a lot (both techy and the things I've written about here) and tried to impart a lot…
   … which is going to be a sweet pick-up for whatever's ahead in 2011.

So, cheers and on to the new year.

Been 5 years, and still I find….

Pam & Jeanne’s Headstone, by me


This morning, a good friend sent me a text message about life and love and keeping on.  It’s the 5th anniversary (is that a good term for it?) of our friends’ deaths in a firey car accident on Interstate 80 in the middle of Nebraska.  The photos I have of them are on a disc somewhere, so what I have today for my blog is their headstone, which is over a 1000 miles from me at the moment.


I’m glad my friend could be as grateful for the day as she sounded (it was a very positive text, acknowledging the loss and the fact that we’re still here to keep on keeping on).  I still think back to the night I learned of this tragedy and how devastating the loss felt.  Feels.  I dunno, I’m so removed from feelings lately that I’m a bit removed emotionally… although I can sense it in all the tentative ways that I don’t let people in much anymore.


That said, I have let people in, and it is all of those living people that I’m thinking about right now, wishing we were all just a little more in touch but knowing it’s the endless struggle to do so.


So, anyway, back to Pam & Jeanne.  They sure were good role models for me.  They really approached the world in a non-nonsense and kind way.  They gave a lot; an awful lot.  They were gifted, and warm, and kind, and helped build an incredible community of people.  The last time I saw them, we were all at a peace rally together, and they were both wearing all white, it seemed.  Maybe they both just had white t-shirts on.  And I keep thinking of the song, Little Wings, which I had etched onto the back of my iPod.



Now I don’t want to be a jet airliner, I just want to be a little bird
I don’t want to rip the skies wide open, I just want my song to be heard
And I don’t want to be state of the art, I don’t want to get there overnight
I just want to be part of all this beauty, want to be part of all this flight on little wings
- Kris Delmhorst