20 January 2006: Harper's lead takes a shit
I'd never watched anyone die before that moment.

For all the times I've heard about others dying, or relatives dying, of my childhood dog, Sam, dying, or watching shows about death on television, there simply was no way for me to understand.

The other night, I knelt before someone who had been my companion for exactly half of my lifetime. I knelt, my head on the floor, gazing intimately and intensely at the crystal blue-green eyes that had been as familiar as my own fiery hazel irises. In her final minute, I watched her pupils constrict tightly, then release.

For a moment, she continued to look at me, even after she completed her last breath. Then, after I spoke to her -- tenderly, gently, impassioned, devotedly -- her pupils dilated to an extent which I'd never before seen. I found myself locked deeply in an inky blackness which couldn't have responded to me, because there was no longer anyone there.

At 3:07am, on Saturday morning, the 21st of May 2005, I carefully cupped Smug's gentle head in my left hand and held her paws in my right as she died. She was 15 years, 11 months and 26 days old. In feline years, she lived to be 79.

Not a quick read. Take your time. )


Nov. 21st, 2004 06:22 pm
accozzaglia: (eye-to-eye)
Meg sat propped up on pillows in the old brass bed in the attic and tried to read, because thinking hurt too much, was not even thinking but projection into a fearful future. And Calvin was not beside her, to share, to strengthen . . . She let the book drop; it was one of her old volumes of fairy tales. She looked around the room, seeking comfort in familiar things. Her hair was down for the night and fell softly about her shoulders. She glanced at herself in the old, ripply mirror over the chest of drawers and despite her anxiety was pleased at the reflection. She looked like a child again, but a far lovelier child than she actually had been.


Nov. 2nd, 2004 12:14 am
accozzaglia: (i'm gonna ride that bull.)
I am sooooo not voting today. In fact, you couldn't get me to vote today if you held a gun to my head.
Do any of you use blog software outside of LiveJournal -- either to syndicate your LJ content elsewhere, or to have a journal containing completely separate content for an alternate purpose? Amongst you, I think that [livejournal.com profile] wixlet and [livejournal.com profile] alibee might have them (I haven't recently given a look-see, so memory will have to serve here).

If so, then I'd relish your input on the following:

1. Upon which blog software solution did you ultimately decide for your needs?

2. How steep was your own personal learning curve while setting up, stylizing, and maintaining your blog?

3. Which features about your blog software solution do you particularly dig?

4. What particularly peeves you about those features (or lack thereof) which you'd like to see refinements -- without having to switch to another solution?

5. Anything else I should know or ask about pertaining to this?

Presently, it seems that b2Evolution, Nucleus and WordPress are strong hopefuls on my list, but I've made no hard and fast commitments by any stretch.

It seems that I'm going to try out this blogging thing myself for no other reason than to tinker and discover what I haven't known all this time. At one point in the past, I used to find myself more or less on the forefront, if not well in check, with minor memetic evolutions such as this.

It's no mystery to me how and why I dropped the ball on this one. In short, it's been a wild and woolly seven years over yonder in my neck of the woods -- fraught with the unbelievable, incredible, and unspeakable. [livejournal.com profile] svairini perhaps could attest to this as witness better than anyone else on the planet, having seen so much of it up close and intimately personal.

But now, I'm excited by this prospect present scenario of amassing even greater interia behind the momentum that my summertime holiday infused. And what a kick in the arse it was indeed! For me, this means embracing an eagerness to learn, to be challenged in productive and exciting ways, to learn from good teachers who are willing to share their knowledge (and anyone can be my teacher without even realising it!), and to err on the side of optimism whenever I'm in doubt.

Possibilities, thy name is Pollyanna. :)


Aug. 29th, 2004 01:14 am
Gino Vannelli's "Living Inside Myself" and Anita Baker's "Sweet Love" are two halves of the same song. Also, they're both 4m25s long.

A disgraceful but common utterance of our age rightfully refers to a north/south divide. Unfortunately, this sad state of affairs also applies to today's so-called music makers, a ragged bunch of scoundrels and vagabonds who abuse and willfully neglect the true essence of and purpose of music. Thankfully, there are those who, in the face of such barbarity, apply even more determination, purpose and dignity to their work, who strengthen their resolve even more to enter people's lives with genuine moods, purest motives and undeniable beauty. Needless to say, you now hold a shining example of this in your hands, and are therefore asked to act accordingly.
i've just learned that Minnesota rocks the house over the supposed apple kingpin of the U.S.: Washington. Minnesota is known to originate no fewer than 20 different varieties of apple, including the famously delicious Haralsons, Honeycrisp and Firesides.

of course, i'm really craving some fresh Haralsons at this very moment, but i can't have none (double-negative, yeah, yeah, so sue me). so, like, Minnesota-grown Honeycrisp would rawk, too, but again, i'm soooo SOL.

but check this: Washington promotes, grows and sells only NINE apple varieties, and only one was native to this area: the Cameo®, which was found in a Red Disgusting -- i mean, Delicious, sorry about the Freudian slip -- orchard by accident as a chance seedling (as they say in the biz). the Granny Smith, for example, was discovered on an orchard in New South Wales, Australia, in 1868 by Maria Anne Smith. and the tasty and recent Pinklady variety? Western Australia, folks. Braeburn and Gala? New Zealand.

Washington makes 70 percent of all the apples consumed by and exported from the United States. their number one-selling apples -- and also considered a favourite by Americans, apparently (and how this is is completely beyond me, but feh, Americans brought the world Oscar Mayer and cardboard tomatoes, so hey) is the Red Disgus . . . licious.

um. no. that's just plain bad-wrong.

and yanno what? Red Delicious apples, Washington's trademark, didn't even originate in Washington! can we say IOWA, while the Golden Delicious originated in WEST VIRGINIA? i knew you could. you spake it well!

anyhow, this is kinda like how Wisconsin is cheese central, even though most of the good cheese* i run into, time and again, is from either Oregon/California, Vermont/New York State or Ontario. quantity and notoriety do not equate to quality in the slightest. sorry.

say, uh, does anyone know if there's an ingredient in apples that the body craves, such as potassium in bananas or tryptophan in milk? i'm really wondering this, cos i can't explain my serious jonesing for a legit apple. damn.

and supposedly, Red Granny Smith apples, [livejournal.com profile] svairini? they're rumoured to grow in both Connecticut and California, but i've seen no proof of either. i think we have a real serious conspiracy at work here.

anyhow, for your edification, varieties of apples in specific locales:


http://www.fruitfromwashington.com/Varieties/winterbanana.htm (Winter Banana heirloom apple)

New York:




Western Australia:
http://www.batlowapples.com.au/barrel/body.asp (note how Red Disgusting actually looks better here)

British Columbia:

New Zealand:
http://www.enzafoods.co.nz/apple_story/various_varieties/ (again, note how the Red Disgusting looks positively more like a Haralson)



New Jersey REPRESENT!:

and this post is totally dedicated to [livejournal.com profile] wohali. thank you. :)

* i said "good cheese". i meant, yanno, good cheese. but body-quivering cheese, of course, happens mostly away from the States in spades -- and we all know that, folks. riiiiiight?
[Poll #182081]

the grim reaper: 5
the good people: nil
the evil incarnate people: 1

Johnny Cash, 71 [11th September 2003, diabetes complications]
John Ritter, 54 [11th September 2003, sudden heart failure]
Anna Lindt, 46 [11th September 2003, stabbed to death]
Warren Zevon, 56 [7th September 2003, lung cancer]
Marie Foster, 85 [6th September 2003, natural causes]

Ronald Reagan, 92 ["All-Time Worst American Figure" still lives and breathes]
why do propeller airplanes lack mufflers?

i mean, if you're on the aircraft, wouldn't that make the in-cabin flight quieter? and if an engine dies in midair, wouldn't that be less stressful if it wasn't nearly as dramatic a sound?

and do propeller airplanes use catalytic converters?
it's not exactly new, though.

The Adventures' "Feel The Raindrops" from 1985 is most certainly one-hit material and is produced in that "big '85" way. it sounds a little like a companion to comparable Lotus Eaters material from the same era.

but it's tasty. and evidently, an extended version exists, too.

and to think that i've had this song in my possession for years, and i've never heard it before. sheesh.


Jun. 30th, 2002 02:35 pm
our owner-friend at our fave south Indian joint is named Raja. he's such a sweetheart.

i told him my name, then told him my easy-to-remember desi nickname, to which he completely lit up. i reminded him of my best friend's name, [livejournal.com profile] svairini, so that he wouldn't forget. but i wouldn't have actually said svairini, lest he have a conniption.
accozzaglia: (eye-to-eye)
if only he had stuck around a little bit longer.

i'll never forget e.t.
i'm beginning to learn.

just like starting over.
It only makes sense to keep your subject line theme intact, albeit modified to my little run-in with death yesterday.

It was extremely stormy in Minnesota all day. There was rain, lightning, hail, and tornadoes, to say the very least. At about three p.m., after having slummed all day in my flat (which I have been guilty of doing for the past few days...I've been let down and snubbed since I last wrote you, which explains why), I'd been listening to the storm warnings on public radio. They had announced severe t-storm warnings throughout my area, and a tornado warning in SW Minnesota. So, being the strom-chaser that I am, but this time with a camera to arm myself with, I jumped into my car in a downpour and headed south-southwest towards the assumed trajectory of the tornadic cells.

It took me a while to get out of the metro area, as I was chasing other possibilities of funnel clouds in the area, but to no avail. They were only cloud-duds, I guess you could say. So, I headed down US169, a divided four-lane highway, to a small city called Mankato. US169 runs aside the Minnesota River, and what I've learned about Minnesota river (river intentionally not capitalised, because I include the St. Croix and Missisippi) valleys is that the elevations are really weird and sudden, which you may not expect in the stereotypical flatness of the midwest.

Anyway, as I headed that way, the National Weather Service was issuing new tornado warnings in counties progressively northeastward, relatively toward my direction. The reports said that while funnel clouds had been spotted by authorities, there was no sign or report of one touching down. Going onward, I went past a town about 55km north of Mankato called Le Sueur, home of the Jolly Green Giant, by the way. As I went through, the cloud gradations became very strange. To my east, overlooking a dropoff, I could see thunderheads in the distance, through a break in nearby clouds, illuminated by the sun. You could see all the way to the top of the distant cumulonimbus. To my west, and obscured by a ledge, I could make out some VERY dark skies. Very dark. Intensely dark grey. Then, it began to hail. Even though several cars continued, I stopped on the side, exclaiming OW! every time I'd hear a serious bombardment of pea and Whopper-candy-sized hail come crashing down upon Josephine. I rolled down my window to take a couple of pictures of the beautiful cloud formations out east, looked up at the green clouds directly above me (ALWAYS a bad sign, in my experience), and I changed from my telephoto to a regular lens...then I got back onto the road, at which point, the Mankanto public radio mirror went off the air. So, I switched back to the Twin Cities mirror. About 20km south of Le Sueur is a small city of about 10,000 called St. Peter, which I'd been told was supposed to once be the home of Minnesota's state capital, before moving it to St. Paul.

As I approached the nothern limits of St. Peter, The ledge to my right dropped off to relatively level, which let me see what was occurring south and west of me. It was intensely black. It reminded me of a picture I once saw of Seattle in 1980, just after Mt. St. Helens erupted, ejecting ash cloud into the air and effectively blocking out the daylight. It was frighteningly close to that. On the nothern outskirts, I took a right, going west, down a two-lane highway called county road 5. To my left were newer townhouses, cheaply built within the last decade. Everything beyond that was pitch. I had to drive about two or three km west to reach above the rooflines of the townhomes in order to view the horizon unobstructed. It was here that I realised that something VERY BIG was happening.

I could see the low-lying black deck throughout, except for this area directly to my south where the black reached down to the ground. That area was, I'm guessing, 1 to 3km wide, and the edges were very diffuse. I couldn't be certain if the formation was a dense downburst of rain or a tornado and I couldn't tell its distance, but I was leaning 90% to the latter. I immediately u-turned, seeing that there was a car coming eastbound around this bend. I hightailed it east myself, pushing my car to 130km/h back to US 169.

Then, I made a critical mistake. I turned right, going southbound into the St. Peter city centre. I saw a reduced speed limit sign to slow to 35 mph (indicating the city limit) and an illuminated light sign for "Hardee's, two miles" to my right, beside a Dairy Queen sign. Then...I looked directly right of me, westward, and what I observed put the fear of unhuman power in me. The downpour/tornado was now just a few blocks to my direct west, moving at an inordinate rate. Everything around me became violently windy, and between me and this closing mass were trailer homes and the bright blue pops of power lines being severed, which I'd seen in a tornado before. At this point, my adrenalin levels went from maximum to an unearthly threshold that I've never felt before.

The adrenalin put me into a new sensation: a primal instinct to live. I took the very first u-turn crossover and gunned Josephine into second gear. And then third. By third gear, not paying attention to my speed, but clearly redlining the engine, I glanced ever-briefly to the left of my windshield to see the wind, rain, hail and debris that was pounding me. And then it was in front...and around me completely. The wind went from left to right, severely trying to push me off the road. I went to fourth gear. At this point I must have been going 120. It was also here that I suddenly noticed that I could no longer hear what the radio was saying, as this thunderous sound of wind was enveloping me. It's kinda like that sound you hear when you stick your head out of a car travelling at highway speeds, but far deeper and louder, and more forceful. I looked at my clock. It was 5:38.

Then, I began to hear my engine pushing up again, but my speed started to diminish down to 100. I upshifted back into 3rd and regained speed, but then this opaque rain began to fall, littered with more hail, limiting my visibility to about two metres max. I was too scared to look back into my rearview, and there was no way I could turn my head around to see behind me, lest I lose control of Josephine and anything in front of me. But I did once more look up to the left corner of my windshield to see this crescent of middle-level black clouds serrating the ever-higher lighter-grey upper-level flatness, moving at an unbelievable speed for such a high-level cloud. But you know, in hindsight, I think the depth of field of that arc was deceiving. I suggest to believe that it was dirt and debris, resembling a cloud (in reports this morning, people in the south suburbs in the Twin Cities, some 90 km away, found cheques from St. Peter in their yards).

Hardly in the clear, I put every bit of my focus directly ahead, trying to define anything in front of me, including the hazards of hydroplaning, large debris, stopped cars, even moving cars. I *did* see one car. It was some distance ahead of me, and I could only make it out when they hit their brakes. It turned out to be an Acura Legend. They were obviously aware of the chaos behind us, but since they had perhaps a km or two leeway, when I was still in St. Peter, I don't think they knew the full magnitude of the event. They must have been going around 130, even in the blinding rain. I deduced this, because I was going 150+ when I passed them. In *any* other event, I would never have dared to go faster than 90 in conditions like that, for fear of hydroplaning (which I happened to do just after seeing my first tornado in 1992, which, by the way, was so much smaller. With that one, the vortex was clearly defined and perhaps not much more than 75m across), but this was obviously an exception.

About 2km south of the Le Sueur exit, I got under an overpass. Southbound, there were four cars on the shoulder, waiting out the storm. Whether they knew or not was unclear. I got out, ran across the road, and waved my arms, saying, "DON'T GO! THERE'S A TORNADO IN ST. PETER. STAY HERE OR DRIVE NORTH!" And of course, with my luck, the first three cars must have either ignored or misunderstood me, because they proceeded to leave. Brilliant, I thought. However, the fourth driver, in a newer red Civic hatchback (the kind I hate) with Montana plates, rolled her window down and heeded my warning. It was at this point, two minutes after I stopped my car, that the Acura I passed just moments before, passed by me (if that's any indication of how fast I was going).

I got back into my car, drove north to the Le Sueur exit and parked in the underpass under US169. She followed me, and we stayed there for about forty-five minutes. It was so placid there, under that bridge. The skies eastward were still clear(ing), and in the west, the clouds were this moderate grey. Remarkably, there was no rain. We listened to the same station, giving out reports as they received them. About ten minutes later, they reported that St. Peter had been hit by a large tornado, causing extensive damage to the city centre. It was then that I realised how close I'd come to critical injury or my own fatality. Recounting the sequence over and over, whilst under that bridge, I deduced that had I taken the same path that I did, but delayed by ten or thirty seconds, that I'd either be dead or in critical shape. And had I'd stayed onward on county road 5, I might have missed the full wrath, making it behind the vortex to photograph the event. But timing and predicting the immediate trajectory of the cell were of the essence, and really nothing else mattered.

At 6:30, they dropped the warning, and the both of us headed back south. The state police had barricaded US169 far before where I had been, and this gave me the chills. I detoured on a little county road into a side vein of town, as many other people did. I never got down far enough to county road 5. What I did see, in the failing light, were canoes and rowboats strewn everywhere, in trees, on cars, on houses (those which stood), in mobile homes (I think trailer parks are tornado magnets), and I thought that they were from people's personal boats. It turns out that there was a small boat dealer in that area of town, some six blocks over. Several more canoes were massed in a corner of the fenced-in lot, and I saw one wrapped around a pole. Several houses had portions torn away entirely, and many more had buckled off their foundation, especially the wood-frame homes. Trees and power lines were felled everywhere, rendering the residential streets impassable. I saw places where one house stood with minor damage, while next door there were nothing more than a few remaining boards standing where another house had been.

By 7pm, it was getting dark, and more lightning was emanating from the southwest, which prompted me to get the fuck out of there. Driving home on US169, I saw this newer Ford conversion van that had clearly been mauled by the tornado. The large panorama windows had all been shattered, and the top of the boxiness of the van had been crushed in. I didn't look at the occupants when I passed them. I was just glad that there had been no reported fatalities. Later I passed an Integra, also slightly damaged by the storm, but much less so.

By 8:30, I reached my friend's house, unannounced. Sara hugged me and said, "are you okay?" I said, "I don't know." I told Sara, her friend, and her brother about the event, which left them gaggled with amazement. We went in to catch the 9pm news, just after the X-Files. The news team already had people on scene, interviewing some nineteen year-old named Justin, who had been picked up and thrown in his red Oldsmobile by the winds. He was unhurt, but the car, which was behind the reporter and him, looked like hell. There was a green road sign lodged in his back seat, having impaled the rear window. All the windows were shattered, the sheetmetal a twisted mass, and all Justin had to say, with a smirk was, "The only thing that works now is the radio."

Then, the reporter on scene announced that they had confirmed one fatality, a 6 year-old boy named Dustin, who had been pulled out of the broken window of a van, and was thrown 150 yards to his death. This put the severe chills in me and made me think of the crippled van I saw driving towards the Twin Cities. And it made me wonder.

But I never remembered seeing the Oldsmobile. Unless it was that car I passed, just after I U-turned 169, then I never saw it. I just want to know where the van and Oldsmobile were. Were they too on 169? No one I've spoken with, reporters included, seem to know.

I couldn't sleep very well last night. This morning, Minnesota Public Radio interviewed me and got the story I just told you. Apparently, they will be having a report this afternoon, encompassing the different first-hand accounts of the storm. I heard a couple of them this morning on MPR, and while their vantage points were different than mine, their accounts were so similar to what I saw: the 1-3km wall, the sounds (but they said the wind whistled, I heard thunder-roar), the sights. But I think, though, in hindsight, that I could not have been in a worse place, being in my car in the path. And it's a wonder that I survived. And that Josephine did too. She did sustain damage, however. The front "H" identity on the hood was torn off, the antenna was severely bent, and today, I counted about nine dimples associated with the hail and debris. It has become evident that, for several moments, I was actually *in* the tornado, in the outer perimeter. I would wager that this tornado was an F3 or stronger, and in storms of that magnitude or greater, there are two parts of the twister: the inner and outer regions. I was clearly in the swath of the outer. But I need to declare now that Josephine is the best car in the world. I don't think I could have done it with any other car I've driven or owned. She kicks ass.

I'm feeling terrible about the boy who died. Before I knew, I thought that the twister had killing potential, but after I heard the news, I realised that I easily could have been the second one. It was that close.

January 2011

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