One girl disappears in a frigid forest in West Germany. Another girl grows up in California, wondering what happened.
info_outline What I Saw in California Episode 05: Two Walks 11/29/2010
What I Saw in California Episode 05: Two Walks Summer 2003: I walk past the Balboa park BART station, here in the south-central outskirts of San Francisco. This place is not on the maps of the city that you see in the Travel pages or in guidebooks; usually it gets cut off just below the Mission. This is the las stop before Daly City. It is a place eviscerated by freeways, BART tracks, MUNI lines—bypassed, razor-wired, forgotten. But people live here, and on the side streets you can see sherbet-colored stucco bungalows built before World War II. The place is like a jigsaw puzzle made up of mismatched pieces from different boxes. You can’t put it together.
info_outline What I Saw in California Episode 04: Atascadero 10/30/2010
What I Saw in California Episode 04: Atascadero My instinct, mid-stream in the molasses flow of late-afternoon San Francisco traffic, was to just keep moving. This was getting us nowhere. Mom sat beside me listlessly looking out the car window while I steered us around and around, trying to make out the logic of this neighborhood: a tangle of pockmarked city streets, overpasses, skyways, and gracelessly aging industrial buildings that housed sweatshops and auto mechanics. Here and there an artist had carved out a space in all the late-industrial jumble, but SoMa, that amalgam of material desire and millennial longing, hadn't been invented yet. It was still just South of Market.
info_outline What I Saw in California Episode 03: Thunderbird 10/15/2010
What I Saw in California Episode 03: Thunderbird I measure the imported rice, squeeze the plum tomatoes and chop them, chop the flat-leaf parsley and rosemary from the garden, the garlic, the onion. I grate the cheese and dice the celery, drizzle olive oil into a heavy casserole, eyeballing the measure. In go the garlic and celery. Dinner will be tomato parmesan risotto and rabbit with white wine sauce. The rabbit pieces are soaking in cold water in a clear glass bowl in the deep stainless sink. I lift each piece out and let it drip, then put it on paper towels I have spread on the granite counter. When all of the bits of the small body are arranged on the towels, like words in a poem, it makes me feel faintly ill to look at them. But I pat them dry as the recipe directs, then add them to the olive oil, garlic, and celery waiting in the casserole dish. I put the lid on (it makes a muffled ringing sound as it slides into place) and turn on the gas. It lights in a blue-and-orange burst and settles into two concentric blue rings. I turn it as low as it will go.
info_outline What I Saw in California Episode 02: Domestic Water 08/21/2010
What I Saw in California Episode 02: Domestic Water Up at Pulgas Ridge Megadog and I walk the Cordilleras Trail past the multiple-addiction rehab center tucked at the edge of San Francisco Water Department land. This open space, reserved for hikers and their dogs, is flanked by the rehab on one side and the county mental health services on the other. Sometimes we see guys playing basketball out in back of the rehab building, its tile roof and pale stucco walls aging with Katherine Hepburn style under California live oaks. Sometimes we see them tending their garden, where tomatoes still ripen on the vine on into the fall. Occasionally, they are out playing cards in the morning heat, or washing cars to raise funds for the center. Today, no one.
info_outline What I Saw in California Episode 01: Sweet Marie 08/07/2010
What I Saw in California Episode 01: Sweet Marie It doesn’t help that I have PMS on the day my chicken dies. I find her in the backyard coop, one wing drooping out of the nest, her head lolling. I have always told myself that if illness struck my tiny flock of two I would face it with the pragmatic detachment of a farmer, letting nature take its course or, in the interest of humane treatment, helping nature along by whatever means I had at my disposal (but not owning an axe, I’m not sure what I expected I would do: twist the necks of birds I had named “Visions of Johanna” and “Absolutely Sweet Marie”?)
info_outline Nobody's Property Episode 14: Stupid 07/09/2010
Nobody's Property Episode 14: Stupid The sound of pistons pumping, a lawn-mower pulse and wheeze, comes up behind her, and she looks over her shoulder to see the VW coming up fast: black and chrome, some of the shine worn off and anyway looking duller in this flat November light. She keeps her thumbs hooked under the leather of her backpack straps, walks backward and keeps her gaze straight and sober toward the driver of the car. It pulls over a few paces ahead and stops at an angle on the gravel margin. Under her boots the gray gravel rasps and she doesn't slow down or speed up but keeps up her trudge toward the car. In one version of the story she opens the passenger door herself; in another, the driver pushes the door open and it swings out in front of her like a gate, so that if she had wanted to keep going she couldn't; but she doesn't want to keep going.
info_outline Nobody's Property Episode 12: What I Know 06/11/2010
Nobody's Property Episode 12: What I Know Terminal burrowing can be identified in reports of hypothermia deaths, but has only recently been given a name. It is a behavior pattern observed in the last stages of hypothermia whereby the afflicted will enter small, enclosed spaces, such as wardrobes, cupboards, and closets.
info_outline Sequoiacast Episode 03: Senseless 05/28/2010
Sequoiacast Episode 03: Senseless She's six years oldAll she sees are dirty walls around her Men coming in and out the front door She wants to run cry and yell But there is nobody there to help She sees many different faces Touching them in all the wrong places Hearing the door open and close She follows him because she is the one he chose
info_outline Sequoiacast Episode 02: Free 05/28/2010
Sequoiacast Episode 02: Free According to the nonprofit California Against Slavery, seventy percent of slaves worldwide are now women; fifty percent are children. Human trafficking is now tied with weapons sales, and second only to the drug trade, in terms of profitability in the illicit global marketplace. What surprised me most when I met with Eduardo, Javier, Daena, Gaby, Laura, and Blanca was to learn that San Francisco is now a bustling center of trade in humans. Our conversation took place on Thursday, May 20, 2010.
info_outline Sequoiacast Episode 01: Papers 05/26/2010
Sequoiacast Episode 01: Papers On Wednesday, May 19, 2010, I sat down with Marcela, Donaciano, Anet, Rocio, and Maria to discuss Arizona Senate Bill 1070, the widely protested new law requiring proof of citizenship or resident status on demand from peace officers or other government agents in that state. What emerged was a coversation about identity, aspiration, and the economic cycles that regularly make restrictive and discriminatory immigration policy the order of the day. Our talk inspired me to read the actual text of the law and think about the tricky language it uses to skirt the charge of racism. It also reminded me, once again, that when we talk about 'immigrants' or 'aliens' we are talking about people.
info_outline Nobody's Property Episode 11: Tourist Information 05/22/2010
Nobody's Property Episode 11: Tourist Information In Tübingen the houses sit along the River Neckar like nineteenth-century ladies on lounge chairs with flowing skirts and big hats: they look comfortable and bourgeois and unassailable. Like most of Germany. From the bridge over the river you can see a tower, painted yellow now, where the poet Hölderlin went crazy for 36 years: a long, slow burn that might, in other circumstances, be called life. This is where he wrote these words, which I found quoted by Paul Auster in The Invention of Solitude:
info_outline Nobody's Property Episode 10: Rasthaus Schwarz 05/15/2010
Nobody's Property Episode 10: Rasthaus Schwarz Charles had given us maps and a police report when we visited him in Oklahoma City. He pulled out one map, of Hardheim and its surroundings, and pointed. “This is where Jennifer was…uh…murdered,” he told us. At the time, I wondered if his hesitancy over the word indicated uncertainty. But later I found that I, too, was reluctant to say it: murder. Not an easy word.
info_outline Nobody's Property Episode 09: Free Drinks 05/07/2010
Nobody's Property Episode 09: Free Drinks We had our money out to pay the Lufthansa flight attendant for our drinks—my no-name red wine and Dad’s Glenlivet—and when she moved on without even looking at the fold of bills in Dad’s hand we were practically giddy. Free drinks! It made being stuck in a metal and plastic capsule for eleven hours seem worth it.
info_outline Nobody's Property Episode 07: The Plot 04/24/2010
Nobody's Property Episode 07: The Plot Do you think you are free to live your life? We try to tell ourselves that the worst won’t happen, that we can leave the doors of our lives unlocked and the crazies won’t come through them, or if they do we can talk them down. We search the papers for the reasons behind the senseless murder—the plot. How can we still be doing this?
info_outline Nobody's Property Episode 05: Living on the Remains 04/09/2010
Nobody's Property Episode 05: Living on the Remains A few years ago, my father told me the story of how my Aunt Jenny's remains were shipped back to be put into different ground. Dad called me from Oklahoma to describe how my grandmother Edith stood by while workers dug up the urn from under the small brass marker that barely wrinkled the surface of the grass in Oak Park Cemetery. They opened the urn; Edith looked inside. I could see her standing there, in a tasteful suit and stockings and pumps, her light hair neatly and stiffly styled, bowing her head to see. “There were actually quite large bone fragments mixed with the ashes," Dad said. The urn was too heavy for Edith to take on the plane from California to Oklahoma. So she shipped it U.P.S. Ground.
info_outline Nobody's Property Episode 04: Base Line 04/03/2010
Nobody's Property Episode 04: Base Line After my father stopped living with Mom and me, he spent his nights in his woodshop, in the lemon packing house that my grandfather Charles owned. The remains of the citrus groves still grew all around us in Claremont, and an old guy sold wooden crates of local lemons off the loading dock of the packing house: the sole survivor. When I visited my dad's shop there, I was afraid to go to the bathroom, because it was all the way on the other side of the packing house, and the big, scarred wood floor seemed huge, while the hollow building seemed to whisper to me as I crossed it. The packing house sat on the old Santa Fe line, and freight trains would rumble past at random intervals during the day and night. Eucalyptus trees marched straight down the railroad right-of-way, and stony, stubbly fields and a few scattered industrial buildings stretched on either side of them. One night, somebody wandered in from the tracks and, while my dad slept nearby, robbed his jeans.
info_outline Nobody's Property Episode 03: My Mother's Egg 03/26/2010
Nobody's Property Episode 03: My Mother's Egg For a few years while I was growing up, a book called How to Do Your Own Divorce sat undisturbed on a bookshelf by our living-room fireplace. It just sat there, its paper spine facing out, between Passages and Last Things. This was in Southern California, on an alluvial fan of the San Gabriels, in a little falling-down house on Twelfth Street in Claremont. We moved there when I was five years old. My father’s parents, Charles and Edith, had fronted him the down payment for the house and planned to hand over the title when Dad came up with the roughly three thousand dollars to pay them back.
info_outline Nobody's Property Episode 02: Chaparral 03/20/2010
Nobody's Property Episode 02: Chaparral When I was two years old, my parents and I lived for a while in a cottage up Laurel Canyon. There is a picture of me from this time: I'm wearing toddler-sized cowgirl buckskins, my red hair is in high pigtails poking out each side of my head, I'm smiling, and I'm holding a toothbrush. Remember, this was less than two years after the Manson Family came down from the Ranch and murdered Sharon Tate and her guests up on Cielo Drive. The crazed women tasted blood and used it to scrawl PIG on the door. They crashed more than a party; they crashed a culture. And across the continent and the ocean, people were looking for my Aunt Jenny.
info_outline Nobody's Property Episode 01: Tiny Dancer 03/12/2010
Nobody's Property Episode 01: Tiny Dancer I’m on the middle road from San Francisco to L.A., the 101, doing seventy behind a Chevy Chevelle past open-bed trucks hauling vegetables and buses hauling field workers, twin port-a-potties towed behind them. I noticed the Chevelle pulling out from the center divider outside Salinas—the gray dust it kicked up matched the primer that coated its aging body. Now every bus and truck it passes I blow by moments later, easing back into the right lane once I see both headlights in the rearview. I’ve had the feeling before of being in sync with another driver on this long curving road, traveling together with a stranger: the feeling that I'll make it to where I'm going.