Wednesday, May 31, 2006
My friend is used to living in places like Dallas and Providence and working in places like NYC, Boston and San Francisco, all with their arty/hipster areas and arty/hipster people where one can feel oh-so-arty-and-hipster if one so chooses and is, further, accepted. Bloomington, however, is filled with, as she says, fat, white, pasty people with dull looks on their faces who do nothing but watch TV and wave their American flags. I'm hoping to get lots of photographs over the next couple of weeks of fat, white, pasty Americans and big, waving flags. Maybe I can capture images of fat, white, pasty people standing in front of or waving American flags. I told my friend I would title the photo exhibition "Americana." Her idea for a title is "Wonder Bread."
I'm looking forward to hanging out with my friend and creating mischief and mayhem in her small town. I haven't thought of any ways to shock and awe Bloomington residents yet, but I'm sure it won't be hard if the place - and its people - are, indeed, anything like she describes.
It won't be all small towns and flat, treeless skylines and uncultured, god-fearing people for us, though. We have tentative plans to go to Chicago, Madison and Minneapolis as well. I'm not sure which of these destinations we'll actually make it to, but we are dreaming big. On second and third thought, I am thinking a midwest extravaganza might not have been the best idea for a relatively lengthy vacation. I'll be glad to be out of Florida, though. And I'm dying to try a slice of Chicago-style pizza.
Who knows? Maybe I'll even run through a corn field. Maybe I'll even enjoy it.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
After my route one day, I pulled into the station where trips are logged, which just so happened to be this huge mansion. I went inside and watched the festivities. There were parties. There were executives working. There were people in costumes. During part of my time inside the mansion, it was my responsibility to sell this sheet decorated like a Christmas tree for $3.99. I found a woman who was really tall to drape the sheet over and walk throughout this big party room asking people if they wanted to buy the sheet to benefit some kind of children's charity. It didn't sell.
After that, I decided to go up to the 10th floor of the house and snoop around. The 10th floor was fancy with a formal dining hall and ornate chandeliers. Someone called my name out. I didn't recognize him, but he said he had met me on the 1st floor where I had previously been. I went to the 9th floor. The 8th floor was closed off to visitors. I woke up on the 7th floor. I don't remember what was there.
Throughout the dream, I heard really cool music, the CDs of which appeared in my hand as I heard it. I wish the albums were real and that I remembered the names of the bands because it was great music, a kind of music I have never heard before.
Even though I laid under this umbrella, my back got fried.
It's hard to take a good, anonymous photo of yourself.
Here's an action shot of Michael brushing off his blanket made sandy by Miko.
Miko protected us from a helicopter flying overhead.
Jakari will undoubtedly become President of the United States one day.
Denise and Jakari emerging from the surf:
A friendly game of catch:
Monday, May 29, 2006
Dreams. Recurring dreams. Vivid dreams. Nightmares. Night terrors. Dreams are the key to my mental wellness. If I'm having them and remembering them, all is not well. If they are spooky, all is really not well. If I wake up screaming, it's time for a hard look at what's going on.
I've been raped by a large squirrel. I've been molested by strange, naked men. I've watched friends being burned alive, trapped by their killers in an abandoned car. I've been sitting in a clearing in the woods with the sun going down and I am alone, alone, alone and I can't find my shoes. I want to flee, to call for help on the red telephone that is miraculously by my side. But I keep dialling the wrong number. Over and over and over. The wrong number. I can't get it right. I can't even find my shoes. I am trapped, and it's getting dark. I've been shot in the head and have died, my spirit coming out to face - and forgive - my assailant. Recurringly, I've been doomed to complete another year of college because I haven't gone to this one class all semester or I haven't done the work or taken the tests and there's no way I can catch up now. Or I've roamed the halls of my high school over and over, forever searching for my locker. Panic, panic, panic. The bell is about to ring. I need a different book. My blue folder for the next class. I finally find my locker. It's always in C or D wing after all. But then another problem. I'm forever stymied by the combination to the lock. Turning the dial over and over and over and over and over and over and over - and never getting anywhere.
I am dreaming again. Vividly. But it's not so bad this time. Lately, I've been dreaming about moving to some other city. A bigger city. I like these dreams. Last night, there were several new cities, new people, new experiences. Not all of them good. But different, at least.
I must have dreamt all night or the dreams flashed in seconds but seemed like an eternity each one. In one of them, I had moved to some big city and rented an apartment that was large and run down, one I was afraid I wouldn't be able to pay for on a regular basis if I lived there alone. I had ordered some kind of mechanical device for the apartment at some kind of mall - a garage door opener? There was no garage - and I picked it up from the store and was excited about getting home to install it. I never made it home again, though. I flipped into a new dream.
Another dream: I am in a subway station (Grand Central?) and learning how to navigate the hallways to catch the trains I needed to catch to get to certain destinations. I made wrong turns. Went through the wrong doors. Was confused. But I always found my way in the end. This dream was interspersed throughout the others. Walking, searching, trying this door and that. Escalators, hallways, running. But it was fun. I like an adventure.
Another dream: I am with someone else, another girl - coworker? - in said new city. We have just come off the train and are on the street and on the way to the bus stop to catch the bus home. On the way, we stop off at this clothing boutique and look at all the fancy and beautiful dresses. I marvel at my new access to unusual things.
Another dream: I am wearing a beautiful and unusual dress and there is some kind of clothing contest. I win the top award for my category. Someone is there to tell me he doesn't think I should have won. He is very critical of my dress. I think it's beautiful anyway, but inside I don't feel as happy as I was before about the garment. The man is very critical. Very negative. I try to blow him off.
Another dream: We are watching a movie in class. In one part in the film, a dead body has been vivisected, and school children are removing the organs and naming them. The organs are hard and come out together cleanly as if frozen. One child is digging his hands in the body and scooping out what's inside and then grabs a sandwich with the same hands and takes a bite. My classmates recoil at the image. Either in my head or out loud I vocalize that the body is probably more sanitary than most other things. I am not grossed out by the scene.
Another dream: We are watching another movie in class. It is about these guys who go off on some adventure. The details are unclear to me now, but I know it involved a murder or death and some kind of journey to a motorcycle race. The men didn't have motorcycles, so they took apart cars and other mechanical objects and pieced them together to look like strange motorcycles. They were on the way to the race when I woke up.
From the Amida Trust Web site:
Just As You Are
Those who are spiritually awakened accept and love others just as they are. Unconditionality is the mark of enlightenment. Ordinary people do not love in this way. Our attitude to one another is always coloured by conditions of many kinds. Some of these conditions are current and some only exist in memory. Even those skilled in understanding these conditions can never exhaust them nor free themselves of them completely.
This difference between the awakened and the ordinary is the basis of our understanding of spirituality. The first thing to understand about Amidism, therefore, is that the awakened love each of us just as we are.
This love is a grace or gift. It is not dependent upon our being male or female, rich or poor, old or young, or even good or bad. The Awakened loves the wicked in exactly the same way as the virtuous. He or she does not demand anything in return or as precondition. For this reason, we say that Amidism is a religion of absolute grace.
Whatever one does, it should contribute to the greatest good. One should have a long-term perspective and persevere in goodness irrespective of whatever obstacles stand in the way. Furthermore, the immediate means used should also be honourable and true and the example they provide should be both consistent with the ends, proximate and ultimate, that are intended, and should inspire faith and goodness in others.
As Amidists, we should be particularly adept since we have awakened at least a little and we hear the Name and know that we have a strength that transcends ordinary comprehension always beside us. And, furthermore, we have the irreproachable precepts of all the Awakened Ones of all the religions of the world to guide us.
Alas! We have received much, given little and done much harm along the way, often ignorantly. Surveying all this, let our hearts soften toward all those caught up in misdeeds. Let us resolve to live our lives in peace and tenderness together.
No Judgment Save Our Own
Good and evil are not independent forces roaming in the world. They are judgments we pass in our own heart. We cause pain and pleasure, harmony and strife, beauty and spoilation. In the existential world, there are no acts that are not two-sided. Even the good act does some harm. The person who feeds the sick harms the plant. This world is full of natural irony. Thus the Awakened have half a smile.
Though we cannot see the ultimate end of things, we can have the faith that enables the Spirit to work in us. We can call upon Ametros when we are lost and there draw the strength to act in an innocent way, doing whatever seems kind or good to the best of our ability, while yet not knowing.
Whether we create heaven or hell or other realms is not always a matter of personal choice. We are the taught, not the teachers. The knives of hell are made by one's own mind for those who see the ultimate see that therein no judgment is to be found, but only boundless love.
Sunday, May 28, 2006
The party was populated by similar-minded folks. Smart, funny, tolerant and just plain nice. My friend encouraged me to go to the party after I finished crying on the phone with her for over an hour about the debacle involving my now ex-friend, someone she also knows in a limited capacity. I wasn't sure if I wanted to go to a party, but she encouraged me to - even if I spent the evening just sitting in a corner, she said, drinking and not talking to anyone. She wanted to get me out of the house, and I'm glad she did because I ended up talking to some very cool people including this one guy in particular who seems to have been sent to me by some outside force.
I have seen this guy around Tallahassee for years and have talked to him on only a couple of occasions. A man in his 50s from Croatia who is always dressed in all black and consumed with some mysterious project and typing away madly on his laptop computer, he has always seemed incredibly intelligent if somewhat arrogant and most entirely unapproachable. Well, we ended up talking briefly when I first arrived. Later, he was drawn to me as I sat by myself content observing the others.
He asked me all kinds of questions that might have frightened other people or might have made other people completely uncomfortable. I welcomed these questions, however, and ended up telling him many things about myself and my experiences in this world. He asked me who I am. What my purpose is in the world. These are things I have thought about for years and actually have answers for. We talked about people who do bad things and contribute mostly negativity and pain to the world - people he assured me are just as necessary in the grand scheme of things as the positive and loving people. We talked about my friend situation, about my family, my dreams for the future. I mentioned that I wanted to become a civil rights lawyer. When I said that, he could barely contain himself. He wants me to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve that goal, and I think I will.
I have to be me and fulfill my destiny just like other people have to be who they are and fulfill their destinies. But negative, violent, uncaring, opportunistic people beware. My destiny is diametrically opposed to yours, and I am a formidable opponent.
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Now, about the infidels. I have always told myself that I make a great friend but an even better enemy. Vengeance has always been my middle name. I've wasted too big a part of my life, though, consumed with anger toward those who have hurt me. Do you think that all this energy I have expended has ever caused any of them to pause? No! So.....
In an effort to learn from past mistakes, I am letting this go. My exboyfriend, though he introduced me to New York and Portland and an entirely different way of thinking, has been an overwhelmingly negative influence in my life, anyway. Since I have known him, he has been extremely depressive, angry and negative, and I used to refer to him as the "dark cloud of doom." After our breakup four years ago, we remained friends off and on. He visited me in Tallahassee several times, and we would talk on the phone. He was forever trying to pressure me into having sex with him and to rekindle some kind of romantic relationship, though. I always told him "no."
A little over a month ago, he told me that he loves me and that he wants me to marry him and have his children and that if I didn't want that, too, then I could fuck off. Since that didn't sound very loving to me, I declined his offer, though there were many additional reasons for my negative response. In many ways, it is a relief that he has been taken off my hands, so to speak.
As for "sis": I don't hate you. I want the best for you, and I hope you get your shit straight one day. I love your kids, too, and I want nothing but the best for them. You have a lot to learn as far as being a friend, though - and your bedside manner is atrocious. I truly think you care about noone but yourself - and not even that. You hurt me, but I'll get over it. Hang on...I just did.
After all, a great many people simply don't deserve...anything. Including that law school prick who wanted all the dick jokes and fuckhead K**** who is now trying to weasel his way back into my life with "I know it looked like I was just using you and I didn't mean for it to look that way and I'm sorry and, hey, let's get together sometime *wink* *wink*. Oh. You're not interested in sex with me anymore? (crestfallen) Well, we can TRY that for a while and, you know I've always enjoyed your company...blah blah blah blah blah."
I laugh. I, maarmie. I stand...and I laugh.
I handled it well, for the most part. My first reply, though, was: I knew this would happen. You love to stab me in the back.
She sat there silent, periodically telling me "because I like him" and other inane things - as if there aren't millions of other men in the area in which she lives. As if I never told her that I wouldn't want them to date. As if she'd never told me not to "fuck" her exboyfriend when she moved out of town. As if I never so much as even called him after she left. As if I never avoided her ex ex like the plague so I wouldn't betray my friend by conversing with the "enemy." As if I don't love her two daughters like they were my own. As if I didn't help her move and listen to her for years ramble incessantly about this boyfriend and that. As if I haven't been there through Thanksgivings and Christmases and child birthdays and going-aways. As if she never told me she loves me like family. As if we never cried and told each other how happy we were to be friends.
She dumped her current boyfriend (the now exfriend of her ex ex) to date my ex. Last night, I called her now-ex to commiserate. I think he was drunk. He was rambling. He was nasty. He asked me if I wanted to make out. He hung up on me twice. I couldn't sleep. I cried. Not for my ex. I don't have those kinds of feelings for him anymore. But for my friend, my sister, who I thought would never hurt me. And she did it so easily. So cleanly. Without ever saying she was sorry.
The worst part is that I knew she would - if given even half a chance.
Friday, May 26, 2006
I need people to send me penis jokes or I may lose my one friend and then both my feelings will be hurt
I'm really quite sad now. You see, he's my only friend. Not only did he threaten our friendship, but he threatened to tell my boss about my blog if I don't make a funny ha-ha. I offered him a knock-knock joke, but he wouldn't hear of it. Penis jokes, he said, are what he wants. I'm out of luck, dear readers (if I have any left) because I don't know any penis jokes. Now I am at your mercy.
Someone, anyone who has a penis joke, please e-mail me it/them or send it/them in a comment. My job and my friendship are depending on it. Plus, I was planning on asking said friend to marry me when he graduates from law school. I have a feeling he'll reject my proposal if I don't offer him at least 10 penis jokes. I feel like such a hostage.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Each charge carries a sentence of 5 to 10 years in federal prison, but I've heard that in white collar cases, sentencing guidelines aren't stringent. That means they could still walk away with the proverbial slap on the wrist. I hope they are held up as examples and severely flogged by the justice system and by the employees whose lives they ruined because of their all-consuming greed.
The talk of the town is that Skilling, at least, will likely be screwed when appeal time comes because, by being found guilty of only 19 of the 28 charges against him, it appears the jurors really thought about the evidence and the charges and didn't just vote guilty across the board. Is it just me or do the legal analysis people on CNN seem to be smiling a little too broadly and too often when speaking of the verdict?
I'm guessing Skilling will spend the rest of his life in prison and that Lay will get between 25 and 40 years. Of course Fastow, who was the guiltiest of the bunch by far, will get a much lighter sentence for cooperating with the government. Say it with me, folks. C is for cooperation.
I guess kindergarten DOES teach people some things that are useful for life - and to avoid life behind bars.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Normally, holistic health care practices turn me off, but I think there are merits to scraping out a clogged colon. Besides, I can't think of anything better to do on a lazy summer afternoon than lie on a table with a tube shoved up my butt, warm and cold water blasting through my colon to loosen and carry out caked-on waste that is supposedly poisoning my body, according to Dr. Ayala.
Are you sluggish? Depressed? Constipated? Do you have diarrhea? Insomnia? Indigestion? Headaches? Do you fart a lot? Have bad breath? High blood pressure? Low blood pressure? Plagued by obesity? These could be symptoms of a colon packed to the rectum with dead cells, chemicals, air and water pollutants, hormones, pesticides, additives, waxes, dyes, preservatives, coloring, irradiation and acid residues.
To do this, I'll need to shell out $95 for an "intake session," which includes a chat with the "doctor" to figure out what my problems are and what treatment plan to follow. Each colonic session lasts about an hour and costs, on average, $85. Of course, eight or more treatments are recommended as are other treatments including one that supposedly improves hearing and vision called "ear candling."
Can't wait to find out what that's all about.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
One article caught my eye, however. A story about the New Orleans refugees who are criminals and how their exodus has affected other cities, what the rate of violent crime has been like in New Orleans since criminals have evacuated and how the crime rate has fluctuated since criminals have started moving back in. Why is the rate of violent crime in New Orleans so high compared to any other city in the country, including New York and Los Angeles? The answer is simple. New Orleans, says the article, is soft on criminals.
According to the article, "What Happened to the Gangs of New Orleans" by Amanda Ripley, New Orleans murderers and drug dealers know they can commit their crimes without the threat of pesky investigations and jail sentences. People don't trust the police there, the article says. That means potential witnesses refuse to cooperate. No witnesses, no prosecution. No prosecution, no jail sentence. No jail sentence equals a green light for criminals to be more brazen the next time and the next time and the next time knowing the chances of punishment are near zilch.
Used to this system, criminals who fled New Orleans are setting up shop in other cities. In Houston, where a large number of refugees have landed, the murder rate has gone up drastically, more drugs are being sold and other refugees are being preyed on for their FEMA checks, the article says. The one difference? Suspects are being held in jail when they refuse to talk as opposed to being set free, the New Orleans way. The longer they sit, says the article, the more they talk.
The article paints a grim picture of the future of New Orlenans by predicting that, in time, criminals will once again take over their old haunts and continue doing what they do best.
Is New Orleans forever destined to be a poor and violent city?
I have been to New Orleans twice. The first time, I was 15 and on vacation with my parents. Fun. They went out at night to drink Hurricanes and watch the mayhem, and I got to stay in my Bourbon Street hotel room all night and watch TV - which was OK with me because at least I was on my own.
The second time I visited, I went with a boyfriend and his friend from Germany. At the time, we were destitute college students, so we had no choice but to stay at a seedy hotel outside the French Quarter in a part of town populated by drunks and bums and dealers and alive with the sound of sirens. Because I am an idiot, I decided I wanted to hang out on the sidewalk outside the hotel while the bf and his friend lounged in the uber-cooled room watching some kind of bad kung-fu movie. I brought my camera with me to photograph the overpass, the trash on the ground, ramshackle buildings and homeless people during the time of the day where the sun almost touches the horizon.
I was outside for not even five minutes before what looked like a homeless man approached me and started talking to me. I suppose he throught I was either a prostitute (I used to dress rather skimpily in those days) or that I was looking for drugs. He was friendly, but I got nervous when his eyes hit my camera and stayed there. I tried to hold my camera tighter without appearing as if I was holding my camera tighter. I didn't want to offend the poor guy if his intentions were harmless.
About 10 minutes into the conversation, he tried to sell me crack. I told him no and that I hoped he didn't sell drugs to kids. He got all offended and said he would never, ever in a million years sell drugs to kids. I made him promise he never would. He promised, but how can a desperate man ever be believed? My bf came looking for me then. I went back to my room for the night and watched TV, the dialogue of the show punctured by the incessant wail of sirens.
Monday, May 22, 2006
In Hawaii, Paul will start and run the Hawaiian center for the Amida Trust, an order of Buddhists who live what they believe by reaching out in the world to people and places in need. I have had multiple invites to join the order and live in one of its centers in several countries and am seriously considering it. My family, no doubt, would treat it like I was running away with the circus.
The only reason I'd ever consider this move is because I'm drawn to this type of Buddhism. The members aren't cloistered away from the world and focused only on themselves. They focus on their teachings so they can focus on what's going on in the world - politics, social issues - and do whatever they can to raise the awareness of problems and assist where assistance is needed.
Dharmavidya Brazier is the monk who runs the whole show. I met he and his wife, a Buddhist nun, when they were in Tallahassee at Paul's invitation. I went for a dinner with Paul and the Braziers, and, without even knowing much about me, the Dharmavidya gave me his card and invited me to join.
I jokingly refer to the Braziers as cult leaders and laughingly hint that I think they're trying to brainwash me but that I think I'd look good in a red robe with a shaved head. Being a Buddhist monk, and one from England at that, I'm not sure he appreciates the humor, but you'd never know it because he seems to be, indeed, a real Buddhist. By that I mean that his face conveys nothing but calmness and peace, and his piercing blue eyes radiate only wisdom and concern. The fact that he has a Ph.D. and is knowledgeable about everything having to do with foreign and domestic affairs and exudes this calm kind of passion only makes him all the more interesting.
I just got back from dinner with Paul and Judi, and they keep bugging me to move to Hawaii. The only things I've committed to so far are thinking about their proposition and visiting them when I am able. Working for the order would provide me with food, shelter, clothing and medical care, but it would not provide me with money. I would get to see and do amazing things, though, and possibly make a huge difference in the lives of many people while becoming a more centered person through Buddhist teachings. I can think of worse things to do with my life.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
I had the pleasure of whizzing around at 12 miles to the gallon in this primo machino Friday afternoon to get to and from Art School Confidential, a film that truly had the potential to be half as great as this car but missed it by a few thousand points.
Though Michael is spoiled by a sweet medium-grey Jaguar and two Lexuses (Lexusi?), this is, by far, his favorite vehicle in the fleet. I get hot just catching a tiny whiff of its immense and awesome stench.
Michael on the phone with the woman who keeps him in cool cars
One-point-something thousand pounds of metallic bliss
This five-speed can punch it. I am forever encouraging Michael to speed to my heart's content
Two symbols of opulence - the Porsche crest and the optional bronze faux-rust applique
The lap of luxury
It just needs to be detailed...
...or perhaps just a good dusting?
Why would anyone even want to keep an eye on the losers pulling up the rear?
You can tell old money paid for these wheels
Friday, May 19, 2006
It's hot. It's stunningly sunny. It's muggy. I like the sun but only from the protection of dense shade. I like warm weather but only if it's followed by 10 months of cool and cold. I like humidity but only if I'm sitting in a sauna.
Give me the desert. Give me Alaska or Montana or Denver. But don't give me a steamy, summer Florida day off work wandering out in the sun in search of magazines, new books and music, an alternate CD filing system and a power cord for my scanner.
It's been a long day already, and it's only 2 p.m. I took today off work to get my life in order without blowing my entire weekend. Though I thought I would end up shrugging off my chores in favor of a movie I want to see (Art School Confidential), that hasn't happened. I've actually been pretty productive. You might even stay I stayed the course, but, for some reason, I have an aversion to that particular word order and combination.
Out of bed at 7, scrubbing the kitchen floor to the musical stylings of Mazzy Star by 7:30. The kitchen floor is clean enough to have surgery on now, and all the dishes, counters and other surfaces are nice and clean (I need a synonym for clean, people!). I also dusted and swept the carpet, filed the paid bills, took out the garbage, stacked the books, cleared off most surfaces.
Things here really HAVE gotten out of control lately. Believe it or not, I'm totally a Type A organization freak. I can tolerate a certain amount of messiness but not really clutter. And if it gets too bad, I start to freak because it feels like the walls are caving in and the piles of old mail and newspaper and books will cave in, topple on my head and suffocate me and the dirt will seep through my skin and into my nostrils and ears and various other orifices and worms will think it's cozy and will move in with their little t(T?)upperwares full of whatever it is they eat and I will be infested and have to go to the doctor for some kind of pills or shot or suppository to get rid of the infestation and the medicine or procedure will get rid of most of the critters but one or two might be too strong to kill and they will multiply and haunt me for the rest of my days which are numbered because, well, remember the suffocation?
I still need to clean the bathroom, do my laundry and get a new organization system for my CDs. I have too many to keep in their cases, so I file them away in those little organizers and stow the liner notes in a plastic, lidded bin in my closet. I want the liner notes to be joined with their counterparts once again, though, and I have run out of room in my current CD case. Plus, Type A here, I need my CDs to be in alphabetical order or I don't feel complete. This overflow just isn't working for me.
I looked around a little today, but I still haven't found what I'm looking for. That goes double for a power cord for my scanner (Microtek ScanMaker X6 EL) that is apparently only sold in Indonesia these days. Just my two cents, but I like my legal-size scanner much better than those phone/fax/scanner things they sell now. Guess I'm old school.
At Borders after meeting with my Guardian ad Litem case coordinator (took a new case today), I discovered a boss new band: Cloud Cult/Advice from the Happy Hippopotamus.
While I was there, I also picked up the most recent issues of Time and Adbusters. The cover story in Time this week is, of course, about CIA bastard Michael Hayden and how he's got his filthy hands all over our phone conversations. There's also a story in there about Bush and his big, ole problem with Iran. I won't enjoy all the bad news, but it always pays to know thine enemy.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
...which, by the way, has the uncanny ability to make me feel like a cross between Napolean Dynamite and Wonder Woman while I'm wearing it.
My "HERO" T-shirt has been mine since the year I earned it by convincing some coworkers and my boss to pony up cash for my first-time-ever foray into volunteer work: a 10-mile trek throughout the streets of Manhattan with 9,999 others to benefit the March of Dimes in WalkAmerica 2000. For obvious reasons, this shirt was safely tucked away from the world for years, but, a year ago, I starting digging it out for trips to the gym. That helps to explain the white ring: salt.
Now that I'm not busy at work anymore, I go to the gym five times a week alternating two pairs of shorts and two shirts as workout gear. I do laundry once every few weeks. It doesn't take much punching of buttons on a calculator to deduce that my workout clothes get pretty grungy as it gets closer and closer to laundry day, usually the third Sunday of every month if, and only if, all the following conditions have first been met: if a full moon has been spotted in the night sky by 10:15 p.m. within the previous three evenings, if Venus is on the rise and rests within 2.5 million miles of Neptune and if I possess enough quarters to overflow the English Channel.
I just sniffed at this shirt, and it doesn't yet seem quite ripe enough for scrubbing. It just needs a good scratching, and it will be as good as new.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Do you think people want to read about your crappy childhood? You're bringing people down. Focus on the positive.
Happy as a Lark
Elgin, Scotland, UK
Dear HAL (Coincidence? I think not!),
I'm not sure if people want to read about my crappy childhood or not. If they do, that's fine. If not, that's fine, too.
The post in question was inspired by actual events and my own troubled head, to be sure, but it was also inspired by something more positive - the notion of integrity, as written about by Erica Jong in her new book Seducing the Demon: Writing for My Life.
Right now (as of 8:54 a.m. EST Wednesday), I am on page 195 of said book after having yesterday read the part where the famous poet/novelist talks about integrity as it relates to writing and, among other things, Arthur Miller. She has this to say about the late playwright and a memorial service for him she attended at the Majestic Theater in New York:
I remembered that Inge (Morath) had once told me that when Arthur first asked her out, she was reluctant to go because he seemed to be in so much trouble. She believed in the maxim Never fuck anyone with more troubles than yourself. He was living at the Chelsea Hotel, post Marilyn Monroe, and was so depressed that Inge worried. She dated him against her better judgment and fell in love with "the integrity of his mind." It was easy to fall in love with. He was what he seemed. His writing and his self were not divided. Arthur's integrity was everywhere represented in his memorial service - and his friendships. Fame had not turned him into an asshole.
Some great writers are bastards. Some are towers of narcissism. Arthur had a gift for friendship that was born out of his fierce modesty. He was a carpenter as well as a playwright, and the two informed the other. Rebecca Miller read a poem of her father's that was both about playwriting and about carpentry. Arthur speaks of the wood he is fashioning into a useful object: "I endure even as I disappear" is the last line.
Tony Kushner pointed out that Arthur believed "when you speak, God is listening." Edward Albee remembered that Arthur thought writing was only worth pursuing if it had "relevance to human survival."
Memorial services are important to the living rather than the dead because they make us ask ourselves, Have we done everything we're supposed to do? Time is running out. We're next.
"I am sick and tired of old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in," George McGovern remembered Arthur saying. He said it while Vietnam raged, but it's even more relevant now. "Attention must be paid," as Arthur wrote in Death of a Salesman. For writers as well as other people, "integrity of mind" is the most important attribute.
We live in a time when the most exalted lie most blatantly and nobody seems to care. Integrity has become an old-fashioned word. Integrity of mind is not even sought by most writers. As William Sloane Coffin said of Arthur Miller, "his absence is everywhere present."
Poet Honor Moore quoted Arthur as saying, "When life disappointed me, I always had my writing."
I am no Arthur Miller, to be sure. But all of Jong's talk of integrity in people and in writing struck a chord and caused me to write my what-I-love-about-myself-and-how-it-relates-to-my-life-including-last-Friday-night post.
It would be great to see a public discourse on integrity here. What does "integrity" mean to you? What is it good for? What's it worth? And what kind of influence, if any, does it have on what you write and how you write it? What you read?
Any and all comments/criticisms are welcome.
Update (8:28 a.m. EST Thursday): I am sorry to see that no one wants to talk about integrity as it relates to the written word. Aren't we all here because we like to write? Doesn't anyone want to explore what, if anything, guides his/her writing?
I'm still on my diet, so I wouldn't have felt good about buying REGULAR (gasp!) ice cream yesterday when I went shopping for...regular ice cream. I wanted a pint of Ben & Jerry's vanilla with brownie chunks and a red, fruity swirl. 100 percent fat. 100 percent fun. Instead, I settled for a reduced-fat Haagen-Dazs to satisfy my lust for sweets and my drive toward weight loss. I'm not going to the gym every day for nothing, dammit!
This is the first time I have tried light ice cream. It doesn't taste half bad. What I mean is that, at HALF the fat, it only tastes HALF bad. Kidding. It's actually pretty good, and I'm probably a convert for life.
It's taking a lot for me to admit that reduced-fat ice cream is anything but unacceptable. In the past, I didn't really see the point in anything but regular ice cream. If you're fat and worried about it, why eat ice cream to begin with? That's not the point. I see that now. Fat people, BY DEFINITION, will likely want to eat ice cream - and lots of it. Offering a reduced-fat version is a win-win for overweight people and Haagen-Dazs alike. This way, overweight people can stuff their faces with sweets and not feel the hot slap of full-force guilt, and Haagen-Dazs gets the extra bucks.
OR THIS THEORY...
Reduced-fat ice cream = Ice cream for obese Jews
Now I'm going to hear it from overweight people AND god's chosen people. Don't get mad. In real life, I'm a Jew hag! I own a menorah, for Ruach Elohim's sake, and I'm not even Jewish! I carry a laminated card in my wallet that says I'm allowed to make Jew jokes, pinky swear! I earned the right after years of putting up with Jewish boyfriends and their annoying fucking families.
Kidding! Kind of.
Clarification: I am not anti-Semitic, and I do not dislike overweight people. My irreverence has left me feeling bad.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
1. Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.
2. The state of being unimpaired; soundness.
3. The quality or condition of being whole or undivided; completeness.
My brother and I got into this nasty argument on the phone Friday night, a fight that caused me to cry harder than I have in years. Maybe even harder than the day I clung to the phone - me in New York, my dad in Florida - begging him to love me. Finally far enough away physically that I didn't think the emotional could overwhelm me. Begging. Begging. Begging my father to love me.
"You must love the abuse because you keep coming back for more," was his exact reply.
I hyperventilated Friday night, and my eyes teared up off and on for almost 48 hours afterward. I didn't leave my house the entire weekend. I barely got out of bed. Though my brother apologized, the argument, among other things, is responsible for my ill mood as of late. Schmutzie's talk of the ugliness this world serves up isn't helping.
I won't bore readers with the particulars of the ordeal. I will say that it has to do with family problems that have caused me grief for as long as I can remember. I come from a family of bullies, chauvenists, sadists, racists and molestors. As a child, I was sexually and emotionally abused. Ignored. Rejected. From the outside, there's everything wrong with how I grew up. I have seen that for years now even if I didn't know enough to see it when I was a child. From the inside, everything seemed fine or at least was as it should have been because that's just how things were, and I didn't know any different.
My brother says he remembers my grandma egging my dad on to mock me when I was small. That he remembers my stepmom's vile temper always pointed squarely at me. My stepmom drove a wedge between my father and I through her nastiness and rivalry. My brother was forever getting me in trouble, breaking my things, joining the rest of the family in hurting my feelings and making me feel insignificant - even while I was busy keeping his secrets, defending him and needing to look up to him as both the father and mentor I never had.
Then I started growing up. I started being able to decide for myself what was wrong and what was right. What felt good and what didn't. I began to rebel against my treatment and the attitudes that run rampant in my fucked up family. First tears, then tantrums, then silence. I started objecting - and found that I was the only one - and I quickly learned what real misery and rejection were all about. As long as you are one of them, you fit in - even if you are mistreated. When you step outside the lines, you are banished.
Until a year or so ago, I believed that I got the brunt of the abuse - picked on instead of nurtured, made fun of instead of encouraged, yelled at and punished instead of instructed - because I was the youngest, therefore the weakest. Now, I think it's because I never hid the fact that I disliked the dynamics my family had (has) to offer. I see that, in a way, I never hid my contempt, my disagreement, my disgust. I was the only one with integrity, and I was never afraid to turn left when the rest of the herd turned right.
I believe that has been my saving grace - this innate integrity - and is something my brother now says he admires about me. But as different as he tries to convince himself that he is when the rest of the family isn't around, he turns into a carbon copy of every last one of them when he is in their presence. He turned into one of them on the phone Friday night. On my birthday. Saying awful things to me. Things I couldn't handle. Not again.
People can only slam their bodies against heavy walls for so long, and I gave up a couple of years ago. I hung in there for 30-plus years or so thinking that I would say something magical to my grandma, my dad, my stepmom, my brother, something that would elicit some kind of apology, some kind of acceptance. It hasn't worked out too well for me. I just get told that I'm a loser. That I'm a freak. That I'll never get married. That no one could ever stand me for that long. That they gave up on me long ago. That I'll never make it.
For years, my friends have been telling me to disown all of them. To forget about them. To form my family out of people who care about me, who love me. I didn't listen, because I always had hope. Hope is gone now, and so am I.
As of now, I surrender my family to its own stupidity and blindness. They can make fun of me all they want to now. I won't be there anymore to try and make them stop - or to cry when they don't.
Monday, May 15, 2006
This book, a surprisingly informative page-turner considering its subject matter, would not have been written but for Cohen's disinheritance from the family fortune. Cohen alone was not disinherited. His mother and her "issue" (Cohen and two siblings) were. Still, that left him free to write a book his family might not have wanted written without fearing repercussions or feeling much guilt. Perhaps it's because Cohen is a journalist, but he tended to stick to the facts and to use direct quotes to outline the story of his family and largely shied away from interjecting his own opinion which lends a heapin' helpin' of credibility to the tale.
The history of the sugar substitute that comes in an innocent-looking pink packet could not be told, it seems, absent the telling of the history of Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Jews in New York, Cohen's parents, his parents' parents, his parents' parents' parents, dieting, diet foods, health clubs, the Food and Drug Administration, sugar, artificial sweeteners and the dynamics that made and make his family what it is.
The story unfolds in New York City in the days when squirrels were kept on leashes as pets and Manhattan was filled with deer, fox, black bears, wolves, weasels, ducks, geese, bobcats, mountain lions, wild turkey and mink. Explorers came, then trappers and traders, and, finally, merchants who set up shop, sent for their families and thrived in the spot that has remained economically sustainable ever since, in part, because of the finest port around.
The way he tells it, Cohen's male family members helped build the city one steel girder at a time and made their home in Brooklyn, the borough Dutch settlers claimed in 1634. Life for his family back then, he wrote, began and ended in Brooklyn, a place they considered the end of the world just as it was the end of the subway line.
Cohen's maternal grandfather, Ben Eisenstadt, may have eventually invented Sweet'N Low, but he grew up as faceless as an orphan. Ben's father died when Ben was a child, and his mother didn't make enough to care for three kids. Ben was sent to live with uncles on ratty couches and floors in one apartment or another and almost didn't graduate from high school over some kind of credit mishap. Lacking a car or money for train fare, Ben walked to Albany from Brooklyn, so the story goes, to set the record straight and used his degree to get into law school. He graduated valedictorian of his class and hung the sign for his law office on Broadway just in time for the Great Depression to take away his dreams.
A lack of clients led Ben to start a diner (and to become the only behind-the-counter worker to dispense law advice) which crumbled years later and morphed into a tea bagging company which morphed into a packaging company for sugar which morphed, finally, into a packaging company for Eisenstadt's own product, Sweet'N Low. The company nearly folded several times because of mismanagement and scandal - but endures.
Unfortunately for Rich's mother, Ellen, Ben was married to a bitter shrew who, it appears, enjoyed spreading the gloom, fucking people over and taking names and went to the grave reviled by more than one family member. Because Ellen, one of three children born to Ben and the evil one, never worked in the family business and was the one to suggest the hospital where Ben eventually died, she and her spawn were left emptyhanded when her mommy dearest died, her will doing the damage with one simple sentence:
"I hereby record that I have made no provision under this will for my daughter Ellen and any of Ellen's issue for reasons I deem sufficient."
Ellen didn't contest the will when her father died, but started contesting when her mother passed. She didn't go through with it, though, and, instead, Ellen and her "issue" fell away from the rest of the family. Typical crappy tale.
A few interesting things I learned about dieting:
1. The history of dieting can be traced back to Sylvester Graham, a Presbyterian minister who invented the Graham cracker. His followers weighed their meals and were called Grahamites. Graham preached against gluttony in the 1820s when sugar consumption was on the rise.
2. Modern diet books began appearing in the 1890s.
3. The first modern health club - called a "reducing salon" - opened in 1914 in Chicago.
4. Calories became a unit of measurement in 1906 just after World War II.
5. The first diet drink was produced in 1952 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, by Hyman Kirsch, a Russian immigrant. First came Kirsch's no-cal ginger ale followed by no-cal orange and lime. Though the drinks were marketed to diabetics, those who were diet conscious bought the drinks by the case.
6. Sweet'N Low rode this diet-crazed wave and was the leader of substitute sweeteners for decades but now falls in line in third place behind Equal and Splenda.
The most important things I learned from the book:
1. A successful business hinges on hard work, timing, ingenuity and the right connections.
2. It's impossible to ever get along with some people - even and especially if they are members of your family.
3. Some people want to make other people's lives miserable just because they are unhappy.
4. Never be unconditionally trusting.
5. If you dine with cannibals, you'll get eaten.
6. "To be disinherited is to be set free."
Saturday, May 13, 2006
I am at rest two feet under my desk. Friday at midnight I was relieved, and now my belly is full of salad and original flavor Skittles. I am satisfied and at peace. Each worker has a bowl or plate full for the day; and, what is more, there is a double ration of chocolate on the front counter and pastries in the kitchen. That puts each worker in fine trim. We have not had such luck as this for at least three months. The receptionist with her meaty head is begging to eat; she beckons with her greasy pork chop and bag of pork rinds to every one that passes, and spoons herself out a great portion. She does not see how she can empty her plate in time for greasy bacon and hocakes. Flip* and Flop* have produced two decks of cards and had them shuffled and waiting on the conference room table. In Flip this is voracity; in Flop it is foresight. Where Flip got the cards is a mystery, for she is and always will be as broke as shit.
What's more important still is the issue of a double ration of candy. Ten bags of M&Ms, twenty packs of Skittles, and two dollars of Twix per worker; now that is decent. I have exchanged my M&Ms with Flap* for his Skittles, which means I have forty packs altogether. That's enough for a day.
It is true we have no right to this windfall. The powers that be are not so generous. We have only duplicity to thank for it.
Fourteen days ago we had to go down and relieve the front line. It was very quiet in our office so the supervisor who remained there had requisitioned the usual amount of busy work and provided it for the full office of 20 or so men and women. But on the last day an astonishing number of political heavies opened up on us with high-explosive temper tantrums, drumming ceaselessly on our eardrums, so that we suffered severely and required earplugs.
That night we kept our silence and settled into our swivel chairs to get a little peace for once: Flap is right when he says it would not be such a bad stretch at work if only one could get a little more sleep. In this office, we have had next to none, and hours of listening to the posturing of men is a long time at one stretch.
It was noon before I crawled out from under my desk. Half an hour later I had peed and bought a fresh Diet Coke and we gathered in the conference room which smelled musty from underuse. At the head of the table shuffling the cards of course was the one who had the most influence-big Flup Flork*, the quickest thinker among us and therefore head of all workers and usually winner of all games of Hearts and Backgammon.
* All names have changed to protect the innocent and guilty alike.
Friday, May 12, 2006
maarmie: Um. Would you mind if I take a photograph of you? It's for my blog, just so you know.
Markos Moulitsas Zuniga: Absolutely. I mean, not absolutely I mind, but absolutely...
maarmie: Yeah. Ha, ha. Absolutely I can take the photo or absolutely you mind me taking the photo? Ha, ha.
Kos: I mean absolutely you can take my photo. (insert charming smile here) That's absolutely fine. (insert charming smile here)
maarmie (with a trembly voice): It's for my blog. I don't want a photo of us together, though. I'm anonymous on my blog.
Kos: Oh, yeah? (insert feigned interest here)
maarmie: Yeah. (excited) I'm a monkey!
Kos: Oh? (insert furrowed brow here)
I'm guessing that part of the conversation should have been shorter by about two or three sentences. Really, I'm so totally smooth. I'M A MONKEY!? My god! I mean, here's this cute, smart, politically savvy writer/blogster (albeit a married one) standing in front of me posing for a photograph and signing my copy of a book he co-wrote, and what am I doing? I'm blathering on about my pathetic little blog and rather proudly proclaiming that I'm a...a monkey? I'm telling you, a red-letter day for my self-esteem today was not.
In case you're wondering, Markos (Daily Kos) was in Tallahassee today to push his book Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics and to speak to law school students at Florida State University. In between gigs, he had time to preach to the choir at the Tallahassee Progressive Center where copies of his book were sold at $25 a pop to benefit the center that, like all other progressive causes and endeavors, will likely soon tank due to lack of funds and/and any semblance of organization.
Markos (Mr. Zuniga?) was smart and serious but he was also funny and completely approachable as he talked about the state of affairs in this country and a change that needs to be made to turn it all around. Democrats (I'm assuming he was including anyone to the left of zero in this category, though most people who frequent the Progressive Center start at Green and go lefter) need to band together and form a movement to one day overtake Republicans for control, he said, and new media is a communication tool that can help bring about such a movement and such change. He also blasted Democrats for turning their backs on liberal candidates whose every belief doesn't exactly match their own and talked about Stephen Colbert's antics at the little soiree where elite members of the press rub elbows (and private parts) with the president, how Colbert's remarks weren't disseminated right away because the mainstream press has been bought by the current administration and how that's not such a disastrous thing now that people don't rely on one or two sources to get the facts because the masses have access to information like never before thanks to blogs and other sites on the internet.
The power of mass communication, said Markos, has been handed over to the people. Hm. Maybe to some extent, but, as the days go by, the video of the Colbert speech has gotten harder and harder to find. Something about copyright infringement. Blah, blah, blah. Glad I've already seen it.
Markos signing my copy of his book:
Markos talked about more than what I've already mentioned and answered questions afterward, but I don't remember what he said or at least don't feel like recounting it right now because that was at 2 p.m. and it's now 1:25 a.m. and, in the interim, I've had a surprise visit from a very-serious-ex-journalist-soon-to-be-law-student who took me out for a steak dinner and left me with a whole bottle of Jack Daniel's which I will undoubtedly drink later today in its entirety before throwing up and/and passing out in my bed after crying myself into oblivion. Happy birthday to me.
Very-serious-ex-journalist-soon-to-be-law-student before partaking of the aforementioned steak dinner:
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
nurse: You called earlier with a question about some lab results?
maarmie: Yes. I was looking over the results last night and I'm sure you're tired of hearing this but I was on Yahoo! Health trying to figure out what my results mean and I'm a little concerned about my red blood cell...
nurse (terse): Uh...what did (the woman who initially called you about the results) tell you about them?
maarmie: She told me the results "came back fine," but I was on Yahoo! Health and my red blood cells...
nurse (more terse): I'm going to have to get with the doctor and tell her you have questions about your lab results because you were reading Yahoo! Health.
maarmie (unsure): Uh, ok. Bye.
Three months ago, a woman in white with an awful chairside disposition (she wouldn't give me candy for being a big girl!) robbed me of a few vials of blood so my cholesterol, blood sugar level, red and white blood cells and about 400 million other things could be tested. My body appears to be nearly indestructible when the results are weighed against my near total inactivity and the avalanche of fat, sugar and carbohydrates I have wallowed in in recent years. Blood sugar level: stellar. Sodium, potassium, chloride, carbon dioxide, calcium, protein and albumin levels: also stellar. Bad cholesterol: I've got it in a super death grip! However...
Four categories are marked with a little "H" for "high": MCH and RDW (scores of 34.4 and 18.8 when "normal" is 27-34 and 11.7-15.0, respectively), bilirubin (a score of 1.7 when "normal" is 0.1-1.2) and ALT (a score of 42 when "normal" is 0-40), and my HDLs (good cholesterol) are 35, below the "normal" range of 40-59.
After reading Yahoo! Health for about three hours last night, I am convinced I'm standing on the edge of some sort of dirt cliff overlooking the Grand Canyon and that it's raining hard and the dirt is turning into mud, slippery mud, and that I'm sliding toward the edge of the cliff and that there's noone out there who can help me and I'm sliding, sliding, sliding and wearing some kind of high heel with no traction and there's not a tree, not a bush, not even a fucking flower to grab onto.
I just know my body is turning against itself with some wild, as-of-yet-diagnosable or treatable strain of hepatitis or possibly anemia, major liver failure or, worse yet, polycythemia vera. I'm practically just sitting here waiting for my large and many red blood cells to plot against me and clot a major and important artery or vein or whatever and cause a heart attack or stroke.
Yahoo! Health is a godsend for borderline hypochondriacs like myself. That site is so understandable and user friendly that, for years, I have had the advantage of click click clicking my way to terminal illness instead of bugging an actual doctor every other week or so. It really cuts down on my copayment budget when I can diagnose myself and translates into money saved for important things like CDs or candy.
When I lived in New York, I developed tremors in my arms and legs and enjoyed numbness and tingling in my hands and feet. For more than a year, I waited for the tremors and numbness to come back after they left me and for them to worsen and began mentally preparing myself for the eventual bumps into stationary objects and falls as multiple sclerosis overtook my body and slowly, yet deliberately, rendered me helpless and confined to a wheelchair.
Turns out, it was just stress. Cleared right up when I moved to Portland. I may have been wrong, but at least I had the benefit of beginning to prepare for the worst. I would have made a kick ass Girl Scout.
Update: 3:59 p.m. - I talked to the nurse who talked to the doctor who read my lab results in their entirety...again. Nurse assures me that doctor assures me that about 10 percent of people with "normal" results test "abnormal" in one area. According to doctor, I was only "one point" above the upper limit for "normal" in all the categories (in fact, I believe I was two points above "normal" in the ALT category) and that I am supposedly OK. Whatever. They just don't want to face the facts or deliver the bad news. I gotcha. I'll just die of liver failure or hepatitis so they don't have to be in the uncomfortable position of telling someone as young as myself that I will be dead before my next birthday. Which is on Friday. No biggie. I'll just start digging the hole.
That means I have lost all my links to other blogs. If you have a blog that was previously mentioned in my sidebar, please e-mail me or leave a message and give me the name and URL of the blog. Fuck!!!!
Blogger needs to let people know to copy and paste sidebar info when changing templates! Argh!
Update: 2:36 a.m. - I think I remembered most of my links. Now to start work repairing other things deleted from my sidebar. I think I need to get a life...
Update: 3:07 a.m. - Will fix the rest tomorrow (later today). If anyone out there is missing a link to his/her blog, please let me know.
Update: 4:03 a.m. - I was trying to get to sleep when I remembered a link I was missing, the link to a very funny site called Tremble. Now that I've fixed that, I'm just sitting here on the internet having fun. Cable internet will ruin me. I have to be up for work in less than three hours.
Matmos/Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast
An unexpected treat: Philip E. Karnats/Pleasesuite
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
I found some treasure, though, which made the trip worth it. I'm going back Saturday to ransack the entire store. I've never seen so much awesome junk in my life - for cheap!
These shoes are Nine West and will totally go with this skirt I have that is cream colored with purple flowers. $5.99
Shoe update: I wore my new shoes to work Tuesday. I walked to the library in them to pick up yet another book (Windswept: The Story of Wind and Weather by Marq de Villiers) and was completely ogled on the way. I know the shoes make my already-long legs look even longer. Nice.
Who doesn't need more T-shirts? And cool ones at that? At $1.99, this one is a steal. Not only do I get to pretend to be part of the Jackson family, but I get to pretend to be from Chattahoochee, a tiny, clannish city near here that boasts one stoplight and a funny farm. Seriously, there's a huge state-run mental asylum there.
While I'm wearing the shirt, I can pretend that my family prays together AND stays together and that I have brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins named Ida Mae, Dontarius, De'Onte, Khadesia, Jon'Quaja, Dai'Von, Kevonte, De'Quantaye, JanQuacy, Kamareen and Al.
Monday, May 08, 2006
Guys: You know that drunk moron at a bar who wants to impress his woman so he sidles up next to you and challenges you to a game of pool or darts? You know that jerk who loudly proclaims "I can beat any one of you!" and then makes awful "ha HA!" noises and spews "Eat that!" or "Beat that!" with every bullseye or ball knocked into a pocket?
I don't like to admit it, but sometimes I'm that guy.
I'm not trying to impress a woman (or man). I'm trying to impress myself. I'm not trying to say something bad about you. I'm trying to say something good about me - and doing it poorly. I admit it. I'm addicted to competition.
I love tests of math and logic, and I take IQ tests on the internet just for fun. I love completing tasks for a grade and comparing my grade to the grades of others as well as the number of hours we studied. I love playing all sorts of games against friends and strangers, and I keep a backgammon board in my trunk for impromptu sessions. I love racing anything and seeing who will win. When I was a reporter, I didn't have to write the most stories but I had to have the best stories faster and on the front page. When I worked in public relations, I had to have the most media hits on campaigns and come up with the best and brightest ideas. I had to be a better writer, a better thinker and a better schmoozer than all the others.
I'm the one who would cover her test paper so others couldn't cheat. I'm the one who wouldn't allow do-overs.
Faster, more, better, nicer, smarter, cleverer, meaner, stronger, braver, funnier. It's my curse, and I have been known to wear myself out in my quest for perfection.
Story #2 (Click here for story #1)
I was at a Borders book store one day cruising the political section and commenting - out loud and to myself - on new books. This weird-looking guy at a nearby table started commenting on my comments. That's how we met.
You know this guy. Everyone does. We've all seen him before. The type of guy who is in his late 40s or early 50s, has a big, round belly and is wearing a dress shirt that's half tucked, half untucked and brown wrinkled dress pants with dirty, white tennis shoes. His teeth are grimy, his head is dandruffy, his clothes are smeared with that day's lunch and he is bathed in an odor that slightly resembles rancid milk. He has several days of hair growth on his chin and cheeks and looks borderline homeless, but you know he's some kind of old science fiction geek who never had enough social skills to snare a mate and has lived his entire life, instead, all cozy at home with Mom. This specimen seemed particularly off, so I was naturally intrigued and sat down to find out if he was just plain weird or certifiably insane. I was hoping for insane.
After a relentless barrage of questions, I found out the guy worked in some office shredding sensitive documents and that he was an accountant before that. He had been in the store reading self-help books on how to get a date. Told ya! About 20 minutes later, I brought up the fact that he seemed really weird, and I asked him if he was a genius or if he was just crazy. That's when he said that he took a Mensa IQ test once and got a score in the 170s. That's also when things started to get ugly.
What?! A 170-something IQ? Huh!? Argh!!!! Yeah, the guy's a recluse who has probably had a really lonely life - just him and his books and dear, old ma. But, being the competitive asshole that I am, I couldn't STAND the thought that this guy might have an IQ of 170-something while I am stuck with a more average 140-something. So I had to prove that I was smarter than him in SOME WAY...but how? That's when I noticed his watch.
He had a nice one: a silver Seiko with a shiny, big face and cool numbering. I could tell from our conversations that he was completely gullible, so I decided to swindle him out of his watch thereby establishing myself as having more street smarts than Mr. I-have-such-a-huge-IQ-that-I-don't-even-feel-the-need-to-boast-about-it. So I took obvious notice of his watch and, turning into a sort of modern-day Scarlett O'Hara, began oohing and ahing about how gorgeous it was.
Oh, I doooo deeeclayah! Yoh watch is gaaawgeous, suh. But aym havin' the haaaadest time seein' it propah what with me havin' ta look at is upside down and awwwl.
He twisted his arm around so I could get a better look. Time to bat the eyelashes.
Oh, how beautiful! And whayah evah did you get it? Oh, you don't recall? Well how much did it cost, suh? I bet it cost a plenty. Oh, it's just so gaaawgeous! But I really do need a closah look. Can I wayah it, pretty please, suh?
He immediately took off his watch and handed it to me. I fastened it around my wrist and sat there for a few minutes before telling him that this was all a test of his gullibility and that he failed - miserably. He laughed the whole thing off in that slow, seemingly half-witted way of his before asking me out on a date. I said "no" and left after handing him back his beautiful new Seiko.
Friday, May 05, 2006
From CNN.com via the Associated Press:
Kansas House: No one under 15 can marry
Bill would severely restrict would-be spouses under 18
TOPEKA, Kansas (AP) -- Kansas may have seen the last of its child brides. After a pregnant 14-year-old from Nebraska drove to Kansas last year to marry her 22-year-old boyfriend, now serving time for having sex with the minor, Kansas lawmakers decided it was time the set a minimum marriage age.
On Thursday, the Kansas House vote 119-0 to approve a bill that would prohibit anyone under the age of 15 from marrying in Kansas and would set strict limits for would-be brides or grooms under the age of 18. The Senate approved it a day earlier, 36-4.
Under the legislation, requested by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a 15-year-old could marry only if a district court judge decided it was in that person's best interest.
Those who are 16 or 17 could marry if they met one of three conditions: permission from a parent or legal guardian and judicial consent; permission from both parents and any legal guardian; or permission from judge if the parents are dead and there is no legal guardian.
Currently, Kansas has no minimum age for marriage if the minor has parental or judicial approval.
In the case of the Nebraska girl -- a person must be at least 17 to marry in that state -- the girl's mother gave permission for the couple to get married in Kansas last spring after learning that her daughter was pregnant. The couple's daughter was born a few months later, in August.
The groom, Matthew Koso, was charged with sexual assault and sentenced in February to 18 to 30 months in prison for impregnating the girl.
Last month, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue set 16 as that state's minimum marriage age after a 37-year-old woman married a 15-year-old boy, a friend of her teenage son. Lisa Lynnette Clark pleaded guilty in March to statutory rape and was sentenced to nine months in prison.
As I watch you slowly destroy yourself, all I want to do is swoop down and kidnap you and take you somewhere where someone can fix you. I've had nightmares about you. I cry for you. I worry about you. I bought you those books in a pathetic effort to motivate you. But I am as helpless in this situation as you have allowed yourself to be.
To hear you say on the phone that you know the situation is dire and that you know something needs to be done now before it is too late - before the damage is irreversible - but that you don't really feel a desire/willingness/ability/whatever to do what needs to be done, that you are considering allowing your body to break down, allowing yourself to die, terrifies me. You are the only family I have, and, even if you don't care about yourself - even if you don't care about me - I care about you more than I ever have.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
1 I've tried to read Infinite Jest and A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, really I have. But, for some reason, David Foster Wallace just didn't stick to me in the past. You know, stick? We didn't groove. Click. Jive. See eye to eye. Or maybe his arrogance was too much for me. He's way too practiced at it, using words like suppurate, polemical, interpolation and Hericlitean and phrases like "ab ovo usque ad mala" - and seeming to know what they actually mean. Trouble was (is), I was (am) arrogant but didn't (don't) have nearly as wide a vocabulary as he. That bothered (bothers) me. In book stores, I made (make) it a practice of scoffing at books in the "writing" section meant to boost word knowledge and made (make) a big show of flipping through them and laughing at the many words that should be in some junior high textbook somewhere, and likely are. Trouble was, I had no forum for my arrogance which made his arrogance somehow more believable, more credible. So, DFW has been, in a roundabout, I'm-a-paranoid-psycho kind of way, discrediting me all these years.
Now that I can publish my own damn self (not in as prestigious a forum as that of DFW - I am well aware of that, but still, just humor me), I have taken it upon myself to shrug that big, fat chip off my shoulder and pick up a copy of Consider the Lobster And Other Essays by the king of pomposity who, maybe for once or maybe for always and I'm just now noticing, finally got it right. Once I got over my initial shock and anger at his having actually had the balls to capitalize the word "and" in the title (smacks of the capital "t" in The New York Times, don't you think? And he's certainly not better than or even on par with those sharp pencils over at The Times. I don't know who he's trying to fool) I sat down, silenced the seething and read.
Winning stories in this collection include Big Red Son, Authority and American Usage, The View from Mrs. Thompson's, How Tracy Austin Broke my Heart and Up, Simba. I read the title essay, Consider the Lobster, and subsequently learned a little about the annual Maine Lobster Festival and a whole lot about the debate over whether lobsters cry or scream when tossed head-first into a pot of boiling water. But the story fell flat. I know he knows it. He must.
However boring, the story had some effect, though, it seems, because it prompted me to feel a shitload of remorse over the smoked chicken breast I ate for lunch that day and caused me to look up photos of slaughterhouse interiors on the internet. Those hooks and chains and knives and big, steel drums filled with blood and mucus were not a pretty sight. I won't be eating beef or pork or chicken anytime soon, I assure you.
Feel free to skim or skip Certainly the End of Something or Other, One Would Sort of Have to Think, Some Remarks on Kafka's Funniness from Which Probably Not Enough Has Been Removed, Joseph Frank's Dostoevsky and Host. These stories suck, and DFW knows it. He must.
Big Red Son starts out with numerical data involving self castration, a subject that always brings a smile to my face, and continues on about the porn industry and its version of the Academy Awards. The essay contains lots and lots and lots of funny-as-hell details about porn stars and porn movies and insider info and even touches on more serious tangential issues like STDs, body image and harm done or not done to women as a whole based on the porn industry's objectification of them. To wit:
"...it's occurred to Max that he wants to show your corresps. something from this week's filming that he thinks will sum up his particular porn genius better than any amount of exposition could...and then, reseated, he starts flipping through a notebook to find something.
" 'What it is is we got this one little girl back in the trailer, and after some face-fucking and reaming her asshole and, like, your standard depravities, we get her to stick a pen - no, a what-do-you-call...' "
"Crewman: 'Magic Marker.' "
"Max: '...Magic Marker, stick it up her asshole and write all this...this stuff,' holding up the notebook, opened to a page; again he has us pass it around:
I'm a little fuckhole
is thereon written in a hand that seems impressively legible, considering. Dick Filth makes a waggish inquiry about future film plans involving this girl and a typewriter, but Max doesn't laugh (we notice that Max never laughs at a joke he hasn't told), and so neither does anyone else."
Big Red Son is the story that instilled in me the knowledge that it is perfectly acceptable to relegate paragraphs and paragraphs of information as well as near-complete stories to the footnotes portion of a page. Authority and American Usage solidifies this new knowledge with more footnotes than non-footnotes and makes me laugh at DFW's genius use of arrogance in a making-fun-of-arrogant-people-by-appearing-foolishly-arrogant kind of way. Then I realize the character in that story (who is actually DFW as DFW only more DFWishly than DFW may or may not be) might be similar to myself standing in the "writing" section of a book store.
The View From Mrs. Thompson's is about Bloomington, Illinois, where DFW appears to have lived at some point - if this essay can be believed to be a true and accurate account of a day in DFW's life. It's not a remarkable story in any way other than that it has a few interesting sentences and descriptions and it gives me a pre-visit peek at the small, corn-growing city of Bloomington and its pasty, grumpy-in-the-wintertime, TV-loving, overweight, naiive and simple people. I am coincidentally going there next month to visit a friend who moved there a year ago from Providence. She has been bitching about the place since she moved there.
Tracy Austin broke DFW's heart when some crappy, ghostwritten memoir about her life was published. The story about this catastrophe is well written and seems to have both a soul and heart. Or not. Two thumbs up. But the most shining example of writing at its finest can be found in Up, Simba, the complete version of a shortened Rolling Stone piece he wrote about John McCain on the McCain campaign trail. DFW didn't lower himself to doing the same old boring piece about this press availability or that or the candidate's stand on "the issues." He captured, instead, with equal parts humor and gravity, a complete and complex overview of the campaign process from what life was like on the campaign trail to the myriad of people who covered it to McCain himself and what kind of candidate (and man) he really was and is - or wasn't and isn't - and why people should and do care about it all - or don't.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Grup (pronounced groop) is short for "grownup" and is apparently a term pulled from an ancient episode of Star Trek in which the crew lands on a planet inhabited entirely by people who, as children, lived through a virus that killed off all the adults leaving them to fend for themselves and create a world in which they want to live. They called the Starship Enterprise crew "Grups." In 2006, the word means hipsters with money they spend on expensive strollers and technology and $600 jeans. In Star Trek, the parentless ones, as adults, were simply Peter Pans, every single last one of them. And why shouldn't they have been?
Whose idea was it, anyway, to define "adult" as some cardboard-cutout creature who is married with children, who owns a sordid tangle of pleated shorts and penny loafers, who tucks shirts into jeans and uses corny braided belts to accessorize said jean/tucked-shirt combos, who carries purses, who sports a blushered face and polished nails, who loves the 9 to 5 and suits and high heels and ties and budget meetings and workplace facades and "playing the game," who keeps up with the Joneses and who lets a Lexus SUV, Celine Dion album and once-a-year cruise or trip to Vegas define oneself?
But enough about my parents, the models for my idea of "adult" as well. In many ways, I still feel like a kid. But does it really matter...
That I'd come to work in my pajamas if I could?
That most of the music composed by many of the bands I listen to is created using computers and not "real" instruments?
That I own and sometimes play video games including one titled "Redneck Rampage" where your character eats pork rinds and drinks beer for nourishment, urinates and slays people, farm animals and invading aliens with shotguns, axes and chainsaws?
That I would travel hours and hours to see a favorite band in concert - and have?
That I take spontaneous road trips ALL BY MYSELF despite the fact that I don't have every detail planned out and the supposed fact that a stranger is just DYING to murder and/or rape me?
That I still have convictions that don't include cleaning the entire house once a week and making sure my "slacks" and "blouses" are crisply ironed for work?
That I think it's cool when I see babies in combat boots?
That I think it's cool when I see myself in combat boots?
That my hair is frequently a luxurious shade of reddish purple?
That I collect postcards and kooky refrigerator magnets?
That I own tons of T-shirts? And WEAR them?
That I still read? Books? Entire books? Entire books written by people whose last names aren't Crichton, Steel, Cussler, Collins, Roberts, Koontz or Grisham?
That I don't subscribe to Golf Digest , Martha Stewart Living or O, The Oprah Magazine?
I have been supporting myself since I was 16. I pay my taxes. I hold down a (nontraditional) job. I put myself through college. I have credit cards. I pay my bills on time. I have an outstanding credit score. I eat well and exercise (now). I vote.
What makes one an "adult" these days? Do I really want to be one?