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Sunday 11 May 2003

Back from the South

So Thursday afternoon, Christi and I drove down to LA. We were down to visit my cousin, the 86-year-old nun. This time, we decided to get a hotel room instead of staying at the convent, which was good because we didn't get in until 11:00 and the convent locks up at 9:00. But the convent lodging is free and actually, the beds are more comfortable, which is not what one would expect. The hotel room had a gigantic king or perhaps emporer sized bed. It was bigger than Mitch's boat. Anyway, the convent does not offer beds that sleep six, but I'm digressing here.

On Friday morning, we found Catherine, my cousin. If you ever ask her what she wants to do, she says, "Walk." Her vision is very impaired, so she can't walk very quickly by herself, so she likes it when folks take her hand and take her jogging around. So we walked around the grounds of the Carondelet center and then took a lunch break. She then required a nap, so Christi and I talked to some of the other nuns in the convalescent wing of the convent. Christi was wearing a T-shirt that said "Oakland" on it, so one nun kept repeating that she loved Oakland and wished she was there now. This is actually a common theme among many of the women there. My cousin used to also frequently express a desire to be in Okaland rather than LA. Strangely, I feel the same way.

We took my cousin out to dinner at a place called Hamburger Hamlet. The food was better than the convent food and there were actually a lot of disabled people patronizing the place, so the waiter was cool. Catherine ate a ton of food and talked about how her last visitor took her to the beach and they rented a tandem bike. I can't quite picture it. And Catherine ordered a martini with dinner. As we went back to the convent, she instructed us to not let anyone catch on that she had this martini, so I shouldn't be telling you this (keep it quiet), but she was totally loopy. It was like sneaking into a college dorm. Actually, it's exactly like a college dorm, since the convent is attached to Mount St. Mary's College, which the nuns run (ran?). It seems like everyone at the convent now went to the Mount and my cousin tuaght there. Many of the sisters were her students. Catherine did research on disease carrying insects, mostly ticks but also misquitos. One of her former students reminisced about volunteering to let the skeeters bite her. Apparently, Catherine had asked for volunteers to feed them. Anther sister said she had taken logic from Catherine, which was not her normal subject. Catherine had told them that next she was going to teach the chior because her mother played the organ.

Anyway, she has a half a martini limit and it was 5:00 and she was going to bed.

Christi had picked up a copy of the LA Weekly and we looked for music listings. They were very very sparse. To read that paper, you would think there was no music in LA. I know that's not true, but I have no idea how to find out about music. We probably should have gone to a play or something, since that what's the region's forte, but instead, Christi proposed that we go to Amoeba music. This destination had the advantage of being on Sunset Blvd. We knoe how to find Sunset. We have no map of LA and for some reason are never going to acquire one, even though it seems like having one might be a good idea.

We drove all the way down Sunset from Brentwood to Hollywood. This takes one past Bel Air, UCLA, the Sunset Strip and a few other landmarks.

The Sunset Strip seems to be a part of Disney Land that escaped and decided to cater to grown ups. And how many valets work in the LA region? Why do LA folks love their cars so so so much when there's no room to park them and they have to hire other people to do it for them?

The Amoeba in Hollywood is extremely huge. The 20th Century Classical section, however, is smaller than the Berkeley store. There is a section dedicated to Daniel Lentz. To find Alvin Lucier, you have to look under the shelves in the back. So went back to our hotel.

The Denny's attached to our hotel had a C rating from the health department. the best thing about LA is that all the restaurants get grades from the health dept and then have to post them. I wish we had that around here.

Saturday morning, we went back to the convent and took Catherine to Santa Monica. We walked on the beach and rode the ferris wheel and then bought a giant box of jube jube candies. then we decided to go to an Indian place that Christi knew about, but alas it was closed. Catherine was disappointed. "I've only had indian food once before."
"Really?" I asked.
"Well, I had a lot of it in Kenya, but I've only had it once before in the US."
So I asked her about Kenya. She's been there twice. Mostly, it's best to let Catherine reminisce on her own rather than ask questions, because it's easier to follow when she's just telling a story. She's been to forty countries in Europe and Africa doing research. She discovered the existance of pheremones in ticks. When she was teaching in Prague, she had special dispensation nto to wear a habit, was not allowed to talk about God, belonged to the underground, and suffered a massive stroke, but didn't come home because she didn't want to abandon her students. One of the nuns is recording Catherine's stories and transcribing them. I've very glad to hear that.

We went to another restaurant and Catherine ate a mountain of food and then went back to the convent so she could nap. It was graduation day at the Mount, so there was a lot of extra traffic and protesters.

The Sanchez sisters, some local politicians, were giving the commencement address. A bunch of white protesters, many of them men, were holding pictures of white dead babies (not fetuses, they use real, murdered babies for those photos) and signs explaining that the Sanchez sisters were in favor of abortion and shouldn't be speaking at a Catholic school. I talked very briefly with a cmpus administrator and she said that the protesters felt like the school was hipocritical and insufficiently Catholic.

You could see the protesters from the convent, but not from the school. I don't know much about the Mount, aside from talking to many elderly alumnai and former teachers, but I have a hard time beliving it could be insufficiently Catholic. The nuns are intensely, completely spiritual. They pray constantly. Everything many of them do is thoughtful and prayerful. (There was note on the announcement board asking them to pray for the Lakers to win.) Anyway, while my cousin napped, Christi and I went to sit away from the graduation and the protesters in a little garden. One of the nuns, clearly stressed out from being picketted, came and told us to leave. She thought we were wayward protesters and apologized when we explained that we weren't, but we left anyway to go get coffee.

when we came back for dinner, most of the protesters had left, but one white guy in a suit was holding a sign that said that Kathy Ireland opposses abortion. I often get my moral direction from super models. Also my financial advice. How does she feel about my mutual fund?

The nuns were all abuzz about being protested. "I think it was a bunch of pro-lifers." one said. There is a big banner on the front of the convent (which you can't see from the road, where the picketers were gathered), which announces that the Sisters are for peace. I imagine that few of the "pro-lifers" were for peace. Real-live humans aren't as important as unborn ones, I guess. I strongly suspect that the majority of the nuns are pro-choice. Anyway, apparently the TV news was giving a lot of coverage to the protest. And we talked about mother's day. Prayers were offered for everyone's mother. I mentioned that mother's day used to be "Mother's Day for Peace," where pacafist women marched sayin that they weren't raising their children to be killed off in wars. I dig it a lot. So did they.

And then we left, to drive back in time from band practice today. My cousin is the happiest person I know.

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