A Change of Season, A Turn of Events

September 23rd, 2015 Chris Kim A Posted in Kith & Kin | No Comments »

As Summer now submits to Autumn, I’m catching myself feeling both melancholy and anxious in the midst of the year of the “firsts” without Dad. Undoubtedly, it will be on the minds of all the family, increasingly, through its conclusion after the holidays.

Me and Dad

Me and Dad, October 2012

Summer was always Dad’s favorite season, regardless how hot, muggy and buggy it might get in Missouri. As far as he was concerned, bring on the longer days and shorter nights, the early sunrises and the late sun that was still up when they went to bed.

If ever there was a rare spare moment in their busy post-retirement schedule, you could usually find him in the yard or garden: mowing, cutting, chopping, digging, raking, pulling, trimming, harvesting…and sometimes, napping inside the shade of the barn, both doors open to encourage the heavy breezes lumbering by, laden with the intoxicating aroma of freshly-cut grass from his or a neighboring farm, serenaded by the Killdeer, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Martins, Mockingbirds, grasshoppers, crickets, frogs, locusts and cicadas (et al) engaged in the cacophony of their sizzling Summer Symphony.

And so it was, in so many ways, quite fitting (in retrospect), that it was around the last days of his favorite season last year that he would unexpectedly learn that it would likely be his last Summer. After several weeks of experiencing an increasing discomfort while eating, his doctors would determine that he was at Stage IV of a fast-growing cancer that had begun in his esophagus and was advancing. The doctor speculated that left untreated, he might have 4 months; with treatment, possibly a year, maybe a little more.

He and Ann (his wife of 45 years), having voluntarily served as caretakers to dying family and friends over the years, and Dad knowing his own strong dislike of prolonged discomfort and hospital stays chose to let it take its course, going more for quality rather than quantity of remaining days. They struggled for a couple of days to find the right words and the right time and the right way to inform the immediate family (all 5 of us). For we two sons (aka “the boys”), it came in the form of a brief, matter-of-fact note — Bill’s was left for him on their kitchen counter one afternoon he came by to help with some chore, and mine came via an email with the subject, “A Turn of Events” (a phrase that became the shorthand for referring to his imminent circumstance).

Dad had survived two heart attacks, quadruple bypass surgery, vertebrae fusion and heat stroke (among other things) over the preceding 30-or-so years (not to mention two sons for over 50 years). Except for the scoliosis and bone deterioration making it difficult (and painful) for him to be as active outside as he would have liked, he would never be heard to complain nor ever withdraw from any family or social activity or obligation despite whatever physical discomfort he might experience. Not surprisingly, this “turn of events” wouldn’t change his attitude, good-naturedness, positive demeanor, or even his sense of humor, either.

“Well, everybody dies,” he would say. “In a way, it’s a relief knowing that it’s coming.”

The Summer of 2014 had gotten off to a really great start: I was in Missouri for an extended visit that included Fathers Day, Independence Day and Bill’s birthday — all very special occasions in their own right — but extra-special in that it was the first (and now only) time since moving to California (in 1981) that I had been with Dad for Fathers Day. The 4th of July was extra-special in that all seven of us were together for the traditional pork steak BBQ and homemade ice cream, the latter of which Dad proclaimed to be the absolute best homemade 4th of July ice cream he’d ever had in all his 80 years. Bill’s birthday was extra-special because it was his big 5-0 (whoa, he’s my younger brother) half-century day. Now, of course, everything we got to do together last year is extra-extra-special.

As the year moves to a close, the new memories we all made together last year draw themselves forth. I feel compelled to write about them — already it seems to have helped ease some of “the process” — recounting them is not out of sadness, but as a continuation of the joyful celebration of and gratitude for our Dad, who taught with his example to be in awe, fascination and wonder of the world all around us.

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[g+] Breakfast with the Bees

April 11th, 2014 Chris Kim A Posted in Misc, Stimulati | No Comments »

This started out as a test to see how embedding a Google+ post might look, but I think I’ll leave it up, at least for a while. I really should’ve posted it here to begin with. Although I have come full circle (pun intended) considering using Google+ as my primary “blog” (and have reasoned not to), I still find myself using it as my go-to place for posts that are really more blog-and-share-worthy. Oh well. I’ll keep working on it.

I’m using the WP Plugin Metronet Embed Google Plus. No muss, no fuss, just paste the link to the post and it does the heavy lifting so you don’t have to fiddle with embed codes and such.

Decided to close the comments on this blog post to encourage commenting on the original Google+ post. Having to sign in to Google can’t be any more annoying than signing in to Disqus to comment.

I wonder what impact adding a +1 to an embedded Google+ post has?

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Passing (on the) Gas

March 4th, 2014 Chris Kim A Posted in Domicile, Misc | No Comments »

Wow, what a difference not using the stupid wall heater makes!


Dramatic difference since last year!

As you can see by the usage graph from my recent gas bill, even with using the stove a lot more for cooking and coffee-making (as you may recall, my Braun died and I’ve been going old-school stovetop Melita for the last few months), not using the wall heater has significantly reduced my fossil fuel usage at home and is saving me tens of dollars a month (through the cool-weather months).

While it never really gets that cold in Los Angeles, along the coast and particularly here in Venice, it can be downright (relatively) chilly.

After my extended holiday trip back to the middle-of-the-middle and enduring what real cold can be, I decided to see how uncomfortable I would be not using the (shockingly inefficient in a poorly-insulated apartment) wall heater this winter. For the last several years, I’ve been playing a game with myself leaving it off until Thanksgiving.

This year, I decided to just leave it off as long as I could stand. Between its inefficient function and location in this small 1-bedroom apartment, it really only heats the dining / kitchen area (which doesn’t need it) and does nothing to heat the bedroom or the rest of the place. Pretty sure most of the heat is going up the chimney vent anyway in that setup. Pretty lame.

So…so far, so good, with the help of layering my wardrobe during the day (which is pretty much status quo for westsiders) and an electric blanket at night (it does get down into the 40s and sometimes lower occasionally). I also have a small ceramic heater that I have turned on 3 or 4 times for an hour or so, but I’m also trying to keep my electric usage down, too.

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Capulus Factorem Mortuus Est 2002-2013

July 1st, 2013 Chris Kim A Posted in Coffee, Meandering | No Comments »

After over 10 years of flawless daily service, my Braun Aromaster made its last pot of coffee this morning. The light comes on, but no heat. That’s usually how it happens, but I think this is the longest I’ve had a machine last. RIP, faithful companion!

Its predecessors only lasted 3-4 years each before the burner/heating loop would give up. I had held on to them in hopes of Frankensteining them together into a working machine…except they all had the same problem with the heating unit burning out.


The 30-something-year-old Melita steps back into service.

This one had been a gift from an old girlfriend, and I’d been babying it along by making sure to turn the burner/heater off after the first hour or so. Either I was lucky to get an extra-durable unit, or that practice really did help, or some combination of the two (most likely).

Fortunately, I kept my original Melita stovetop “manual” drip maker, as well as a couple of French presses, an electric Krups and a Bialetti espresso machine, so I’m covered.

However, in a fit of compulsive panic, I headed out late tonight on the bike to check the local 24-hour grocers and drug stores (two of each) to see what they might have to offer, but they had nothing that I was interested in paying for, even at the reasonable $24.99 price for the basic Mr. Coffee 12-cup machine.

What I really want is another Braun Aromaster, but it looks like you can’t buy them anymore. At least not in the US. Or so it seems. I’ll have to do some old-school letting my fingers do the walking and call around to Bed, Bath and Beyond, Frye’s and Target to see if the stores might have something that the web searching has not revealed. Meh. I wish I didn’t have a good idea that it will take nearly as much time to get the info over the phone as it would to drive to each location.

So…just made a fresh pot in the Melita —yum! I’d almost forgotten how good it makes the coffee taste! Okay, so it’s notably less convenient, but I may just hang with it for a while until I can suss out the Aromaster situation.

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Our neighbor, the President

May 8th, 2013 Chris Kim A Posted in Kith & Kin, Misc | 2 Comments »

Just so you know, I’ve been wishing Mr. Truman “Happy Birthday” for quite a long while now, but I’m just being neighborly.

The personal thank-you I received from President Truman.

The personal thank-you letter I received
from President Truman.

We moved to Independence in 1967, into a house that was in the neighborhood between Truman’s home and the Truman Library.

In the first few years, it wouldn’t be unusual to see Mr. Truman out for a walk in the neighborhood. And for several years, it wouldn’t be strange at all to run into Mrs. Truman, or their daughter, Margaret, at the local Kroger grocery store — on one occasion, I recall Margaret was having a time with one of her kids staying seated in the grocery cart.

Mr. Truman also went to the same chiropractor we did. One afternoon, as he was leaving the doctor’s office, he looked down at me and my brother playing on the waiting room floor.

“Are these boys for sale?” he asked our mom.

“Some days, Mr. President, they’re for free!” Mom blurted, her face immediately turning bright red, realizing what she had implied to the former President of the United States about her two little angels.

Meanwhile — I was very excited about the prospect of getting to live in the big Truman house and hanging out with Mr. Truman, and was sorely disappointed when Mom didn’t close the deal!

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Concert Series: Dan Hicks at McCabe’s 1998-02-20

February 20th, 2013 Chris Kim A Posted in Concert Series, Music | No Comments »

Fifteen years ago this evening, I got to catch Dan Hicks and The Acoustic Warriors performing at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, where I had seen (and would see) him perform several other times. In fact, he’ll be there in a couple of weeks on March 1st, back to being billed as “Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks” from the old days.

Dan Hicks & The Acoustic Warriors at McCabe's, 1998-02-20

Dan Hicks & The Acoustic Warriors
at McCabe’s, 1998-02-20

The “Acoustic Warriors” changed personnel slightly from time to time, but the music was always all Dan, and he was always his usual, consummately effervescent self. His performances were always very fun and entertaining, like his music—upbeat, quirky and clever—musically as well as lyrically.

How to categorize his ‘style’ of music? That’s always a tough call, since it simultaneously includes elements of several genres: folk, rock, country, jazz, pop, swing, jump…it’s just not that easy to describe or pigeonhole into a familiar ‘type’.

A few years before this show, I saw him at the cozy cabaret once known as the Cinegrill at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel (alas, it is no more). We got to the hotel about 45 minutes early, parked in the hotel parking and walked through the lobby toward the club. There wasn’t much activity in the lobby at all as we approached the lounge door, only a guy sitting on one of the padded benches reading a newspaper. The closer we got, I realized it was Dan, himself, relaxing with the paper for a few minutes before the show. As we passed, I said a quick, “Evenin’ Dan.” to which he replied, “Yup.”

Inside the club, I could see why he was spending some time in the empty lobby. That place is tiny without a bandstand, and with Dan (no small guy) and 3 other musicians, it was a bit tight. There wasn’t much of a crowd, either, for whatever reason. We’d gotten there early to get a good seat, which turned out to be almost anywhere. I’ve only seen him in small venues, but this was a very small, intimate setting. And, of course, a most excellent performance.

Back in the 90s, Dan kept a mailing list of his fans, and would (personally?) send out post cards when he would be appearing in your area. The front would almost always be some original artwork of Dan’s, usually something kind of crazy or silly. Hmm, I know I still have them, somewhere in the archive, but not handy enough at this writing to include here. They will be forthcoming in another post, once I run into them again, promise.


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Not today, little buddy. Well, not that I know of, at least.

February 8th, 2013 Chris Kim A Posted in Meandering, Misc | No Comments »

The used-up, former roll of packing tape was still in the dispenser, its replacement sitting right next to it, on the ready. Close by, another smaller, disposable tape/dispenser still had plenty left on it before needing to replace the roll in the larger unit.


©2013 Chris Kim A

Most of the (now) empty roll had been used up in the last move a few years ago.

The loud, distinctive sound of the adhesive side ripping free from its wrapped self-restraint isn’t a particularly pleasant sound, anyway, but it appeared to be an extremely unpleasant one for my cat, Spot. Quite likely, it was the combination of the sharp, daggar-like noise of that sound along with my heightened emotional state hustling to get things packed for an unplanned relocation that had as much to do with his reaction—but clearly, it was a much-less-than-pleasant experience for him, overall.

That subsequently presented a bit of a problem every other time I would use the dispenser. He would put his ears back, gazing at me, wide-eyed, with a bit of panic slightly coloring his furry countenance. Since circumstance had required he be an indoor cat from the time I’d gotten him as a kitten, I always tried to at least give him the most consistent best experience that being stuck living with me could offer as often as I could.

So, keeping in mind that he likely associated that sound with a complete upheaval of his confined reality, I tried to at least give him some assurances every other time that wasn’t the case:

“It’s okay, Spotty, we’re not moving. Not today, little buddy. Well, not that I know of, at least.”

When we moved into this place, I promised him that I wouldn’t put him through it again. In all fairness, though, in the eighteen years he and I were together, I only put him through that reality upheaval twice (quite thankfully for both of us).

It’s been nearly two years since his passing, and this old, used up tape roll core has been sitting on the corner of my drawing table, waiting for the recycle bin—much like the bit melancholia that I’ve left adhered to it. The process of grieving the loss of my mom a few months before his became intertwined with grieving his loss along the way.

Understanding that it is a process, however, has been surprisingly useful in practice, as it turns out.

Being patient with it (the process, the loss, and myself), while trying to be sternly earnest about doing what I can muster to move myself forward beyond it has been an understandable challenge over these last couple of years. It feels as though I have much more patience for others in this way, than I do with myself. Having the tremendous blessing of loving family and friends’ love and support has been a great facilitator in maintaining the useful perspective that it is just a part of my experience, and is not the sum total of it.

Now that I’ve encapsulated it in this documentation, perhaps I can move on to up-cycle it in a project, or at least send it along for recycling. Either way, it’s on its way up, along with my attitude (and maybe even my outlook), which has been due for a major overhaul/up-cycle quite long enough.

And, ironically, I’m at another major point where circumstance and opportunity may be conspiring for me to relocate once again—and very likely all the way back home to Missouri (finally, just as had been the plan when I moved to spend a year in L.A.). The difference being that this time, it will be my idea, and as much on my terms as I’ve left possible. It will also be more than 30 years or so later than I thought it would be.

Huh. Maybe I’m more patient with myself than I thought.

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Concert Series Kick-Off: X at UCSB 1984-02-25

February 25th, 2012 Chris Kim A Posted in Concert Series, Music | No Comments »

In this series, I’ll be recollecting and reminiscing about the various music (and maybe other) shows I’ve gotten to see over the years, accompanied by a scan of the ticket(s) for the show from my personal archives.

To get things rolling, I thought it serendipitous to start off with a show from 28 years ago this very day: L.A.-local heroes “X” performing on campus at UC Santa Barbara.

X at UCSB, Feb 1984

Back in those days, it was easy enough to catch them around Los Angeles, but I was dating a girl who was going to school there at the time, and there weren’t always a lot of big date things going on around Goleta and Isla Vista, so this was quite a bit of a treat. Funny, I can’t recall who opened — either The Dream Syndicate or it might even have been Dave Alvin (or even both). That I retrospectively place Alvin there may just be a mind-mash of concurrent events, since he would replace X-founding-member Billy Zoom a year or so later.

What I absolutely do remember quite distinctly, however, is that by about halfway through X’s set, we’d been moshed out of our great stage-side spots to about halfway back in the auditorium. I saw a dark shadowy something fluttering over the heads of the crowd from in the front of the stage, and it wasn’t until I felt a hard thud on my chest and heard the glass tinkling on the ground that I realized 1) it’s coming toward me! and 2) Crap! it’s a beer bottle! As much as we were having a great time, it seemed like maybe it was time to call it a night before the chairs started flying next.

Something else that came to mind thinking back on this show — up until that weekend, I had been taking the Greyhound Bus up on Fridays from Santa Monica to spend the weekend with her a couple times a month, and take the return bus Sunday night. What dawned on me when I scanned the ticket stub for this show was that this would also have been the first weekend I would have driven my brand-new Isuzu I-Mark (the “ChrIsuzu” I still drive today) up to show off to the girl and her girlfriends.

(As a token tangentially-related factoid, it may also interest you to note that singer Katy Perry was born in Santa Barbara exactly 8 months after the day of this show.)

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The End of a Year of Firsts

January 16th, 2012 Chris Kim A Posted in Ack, Kith & Kin | 2 Comments »

At the very end of today, it will have been a full year since Mom quietly and peacefully passed away, or “was called to Glory” as she frequently liked to say.

“It’s the Glory shining down” was how she had described the beautifully majestic, natural atmospheric optical effect known as ‘crepuscular rays’ to us when we were kids, explaining that that was how her mother and grandmother had described it to her as a child. It is no wonder, and perhaps now very fitting, that I always think of her when I see this wonderful effect of nature. Heaven opens a bit to shine down its Glory, and it will forever more remind me that she is smiling down on us, safe in the arms of her Savior, singing praises in the Choir Fantastic.

Her unrelenting faith — no, trust — in God and absolute assurance that she was moving on to a better existence were her daily testimony and witness to all with whom she had contact. Not through pious, evangelical speeches, but through simple, everyday loving acts of thoughtfulness and kindess that she extended to the world around her. This was her story, and this was her song: praising her Savior all the day long — to borrow appropriately from the old standard hymn. Being a channel and example of the Love of Christ was something she did as easily and automatically as breathing.

Bringing joy to people, through conversation, laughter, song, a meal, a card or a phone call was how she devoted her time and energy. Of course, there were those with whom she did not agree, and she secretly suffered idiots to the best of her genteel nature, but she loved nearly everyone from her seemingly limitless heart. Those she couldn’t like on her own, well, she prayed to love them as Jesus already did. She still might tell you what was on her mind, but in her heart, it was always love, and that was never in doubt. This lifelong example and practice is the legacy which she left us, and the manner of living in which she tacitly, but earnestly, instructed us.

As much as the preceding 5 years since her initial diagnosis of 6 months had had my brother and me holding our breaths and awaiting the inevitable, neither of us had any idea what to expect for the year following our loss, either as brothers, or as individual sons. Through this year of the “firsts” without her (first Valentines Day, first Easter, first Mother’s Day, etc.), the anxiety of expecting her passing moved to the anticipation of a surprise attack emotional meltdown, but it has been thankfully peaceful over all.

Without question, I miss her daily, and quite often deeply. There have been several ‘sneak attacks’ of sadness, and there are bound to be many more, I’m sure, but I remain convinced that she is always with me, with all of us, whose lives were blessed with her presence, persistence and steadfastness.

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Holding Mom’s Hand

January 14th, 2011 Chris Kim A Posted in Ack, Kith & Kin | No Comments »

Mom, Christmas 2010

Sitting with Mom as she appears to peacefully and comfortably sleep, it is very difficult to articulate the intensity and diversity of thoughts, emotions — all very disjointed and incomprehensible. The decline of her health has been rapid and irreversible, and it seems impossible that she’s not just resting and recuperating and that everything will just go back to normal.

The truth I so earnestly am trying to keep hold of is that her body has truly lost the ability to recover, that the Mom I can’t let go of has already moved on, that this part of the process of living, while inevitable for everyone, never really gets any easier to walk through — nor should it, when it involves a parent.

I know I will move both through and past this portion of the journey, never completely alone, but with the courage and strength of God the Father, the presence of my brother & our family, the deeply heartfelt thoughts and prayers of friends.

It is my privilege and my choice to stay with her earthly body until it is no longer useful to God or to her. I know she will always be with me, and I with her, and in the next part of the journey, the next dimension of experience, we all are already together.

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