Saturday, December 30, 2006

Can U Get Away? by Kali James--review

(I posted this review at my other blog, but decided to post it here also--sorry if this is a repeat for some of you! *grin*)

Well, girls and boys, do I have a treat for you! I have discovered a BRAND NEW AUTHOR, and she is well-worth keeping an eye on. Her name is Kali James, and she has written a book called "Can U Get Away?". Ms. James has written a wonderful story that is sharp and insightful, with in-your-face dialog that is straight from the streets of inner-city Oakland, CA.

Tess is a young mother of son who is trying to make ends meet on the streets of Oakland. She meets a man known as "Blue", who immediately sees something he wants in Tess and her son--an instant family--and he makes sure that he gets what he wants. Tess falls in love with him, even though he is a drug dealer with bad rep, and that's when things start to get exciting. She may live with Blue, but when the chips are down and she needs rescuing, it's Tony Carter who always seems to be there with a broad shoulder to cry on. When Tess finds out that Blue has been cheating on her all along, she realizes that she has to make a decision. Does she stay with a man whom she loves but doesn't trust, or trust her heart and go to the man who seems to know how to be there for her no matter what? Either way, someone is going to probably die, and Tess is torn between following the "code" or following her heart.

This is a powerfully written novel. The language is straight street slang, but that just makes the words more powerful. Ms. James characters are so true-to-life that they seem to leap off the page and into the room with the reader. The dialog between the characters is free flowing with the natural cadence of the spoken language. I became quite involved with the characters and felt frustrated several times with some of the situations that Tess got herself in to, but that is real also--I have a friend who is a lot like her! Anyone who reads this book will probably relate to many of the characters, because they are the kind of people most of us have had in our lives at one time or another.

I really enjoyed this book. I have never read urban lit before, but I thoroughly enjoyed my first venture into this fairly new genre. Ms. James is hard at work on her second book, which will continue with a cousin of Tess' and we will get to see how the story continues to play out.
I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for an exciting and interesting read. You can purchase Ms. James book directly from her, or I believe Amazon may still have a few copies left. Ms. James website is Check her out!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Wall....

As you well know, if you have been reading my blogs for the past year or so, I drive a commuter bus over the Altamont to Dublin every day. I've been doing it, off and on, for about 6-7 years now. I drove it for the first time in the afternoons, and did so for about two and a half years, then I took a break, and now I drive the morning route.

Anyway. When I first began driving the bus, CalTrans was in the middle of improving highway 205, a stretch of road that runs from I-5 and connects up with the 580 at the edge of Alameda county. It is two lanes both ways and runs right through the city of Tracy and is an absolute bottleneck during commute hours. The decision was made to expand it to three lanes, and so CalTrans installed one of those white concrete walls down the left side of the freeway. It was a couple of miles long, and I absolutely HATED it! It bordered the fast lane, and I was scared to take my huge bus into the lane, because it just looked too small for my vehicle to fit safely between the lines. My instructor, who rode with me to the Bay and then drove the bus back with the people in it every day for a week, told me that it was merely a psychological barrier. If I looked at it logically, the wall existed on the other side of the yellow line, which meant that there was plenty of room for my bus. I didn't care--I swore I would NEVER drive in that lane!

And then the day came when I had some geezer in front of me driving about 40 mph. I muttered and cursed to myself, then finally I decided that I would have to do it--I would have to drive in the lane with The Wall. Taking a deep breath, I carefully moved my bus in to the fast lane, white-knuckled fingers in a death grip on the steering wheel, until I was safely in my lane and past the other vehicle. And I realized that my instructor had been right all along. It was a freeing moment for me, and I drove on my way with renewed confidence.

That was the past. For some reason CalTrans never finished the roadway--they made one lane and never connected it up through the bridges and it has sat there, unused, for about five years or so. Until now. Work has once again began on 205. Two weeks ago a wall appeared at the beginning of the freeway where it connects to the I-5. It was rather unexpected and caused some alarm and much hard-braking as the unsuspecting commuter traffic came to the turnoff and were confronted with The Wall. I had to do some scrambling myself to get over into the slow lane because this part of the road curves and I don't think my bus will be able to negotiate the curve safely.

Since then the road crews have been steadily adding to the length of The Wall. It now stretches about 3-4 miles and I am a nervous wreck every morning as I have to confront this monster. I cannot stay in the slow lane--the trucks often only travel at 40 mph and I have to get past them to keep on schedule. It is frustrating and nerve-wracking to have to putt along behind the big rigs until I hit the straight-away and can make my move. Even now, some five years later and many thousands of miles of commuting experience behind me, The Wall still manages to scare the piss out of me! One false move and I could be playing pin ball with The Wall and several cars around me as I bounce off of it's unforgiving concrete sides and go careening across the freeway into the fields on the other side. It is a sobering and rather daunting thought, and believe me, it crosses my mind EVERY morning that I have to run this gauntlet of terror! I have found that by taking a deep breath and keeping my eyes straight ahead, I can keep my bus moving in a straight line until I reach the end of The Wall. What horrifies me is that I think they are going to place The Wall all the way to the end of the corridor--every day they have added partitions and lengthened it by several hundred feet and every day my stress rises as I realize that I must travel further and further to reach the end and escape my personal hell.

Of course, it doesn't help that I got sideswiped the other morning while on the 580 going through Livermore. And the idiot didn't even stop! Thankfully there were no injuries on my bus and the damage was extremely minimal, but it scared me pretty badly--I shook like a leaf for about half an hour while sitting on the side of the freeway waiting for the CHP to make a report. All I could think is that if that had happened on the 205 I may not have gotten off so easily.... Scary stuff,this driving thing.

I guess the way I look at it is this: Either I will conquer my fear and continue to drive this particular route, or I won't and I will have to give it up and take something that stays closer to home until they finish road construction. Of course, knowing the state of California, those guys could be out there for the next 5 years, so I am pretty sure that I will have to go with option A and conquer my fear of The Wall. It's only a psychological barrier. Yeah, right! A psycholgical barrier that can have some serious consequences if I veer off the beaten path even slightly! Wish me luck!