31 December 2005

Books - 2005

These are the books I read during 2005 in chronological order. The rating system started as a simple -, /, +, but when I realized I didn't plan to finish anything I'd rate a -, I expanded it to give it more range.

Ratings (predominantly subjective)
- Not worth reading or finishing
/ Fair: didn't seem like a waste of time to read once
/+ Between / and +, a little more enjoyable than fair
+ Good: enjoyed reading it once
++ Very Good: would read it more than once, found it objectively good, or might want to own a copy
+++ Excellent: as good as it gets

1. "The Elements of Style" -third edition William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White (+)

2. "A Superior Death" Nevada Barr (/+) Her mysteries are set at various National Parks in the U.S., and her sleuth is a female park ranger with a knack for finding trouble. Click the author's name for more info on any of her titles as well as info on her actual life in the park system.

3. "Sons Come & Go, Mothers Hang In Forever" William Saroyan (+)

4. "Ill Wind" Nevada Barr (+)

5. "Seventeenth Summer" Maureen Daly (+)

6. "Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation" Lynne Truss (++)

7. "Firestorm" Nevada Barr (++)

8. "Just a Geek: unflinchingly honest tales of the search for life, love, and fulfillment beyond the Starship Enterprise" Wil Wheaton (++)

9. "The Well-Tempered Sentence: A Punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed" Karen Elizabeth Gordon (++)

10. "The Transitive Vampire: A Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed" Karen Elizabeth Gordon (++)

11. "The O. Henry Prize Stories 2003" (fave stories: "Burn Your Maps" Robyn Joy Leff, "Lush" Bradford Morrow, "Election Eve" Evan S. Connell, "Irish Girl" Tim Johnston) Series editor: Laura Furman (+)

12. "The Serpent on the Crown" Elizabeth Peters (+++) Start reading the Amelia Peabody series from the beginning: "The Crocodile on the Sandbank."

13. "The Best American Short Stories 2000" (fave stories: "The Story" Amy Bloom, "The Ordinary Son" Ron Carlson, "The Third and Final Continent" Jhumpa Lahiri) editor: E.L. Doctorow, series editor: Katrina Kenison (/, faves +)

14. "Stone" Andy Goldsworthy (++)

15. "The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous, & Broke" Suze Orman (++)

16. "Yoga for People Who Can't Be Bothered to Do It" Geoff Dyer (+++)

17. "The Arabian Nights" editors: Kate Douglas Wiggin and Nora A. Smith; illustrator: Maxfield Parrish (+)

18. "Endangered Species" Nevada Barr (++)

19. "Franny and Zooey" J.D. Salinger (++)

20. "The Two Towers" (The Lord of the Rings, part 2) J.R.R. Tolkien (++)

21. "Wall" Andy Goldsworthy (++) I saw this wall in person earlier this year and fell in love with it.

22. "The Return of the King" (The Lord of the Rings, part 3) J.R.R. Tolkien (++)

23. "Between the Acts" Virginia Woolf (/+)

24. "The Treehouse: Eccentric Wisdom From My Father on How to Live, Love, and See" Naomi Wolf (++)

25. "The More than Complete Hitchhiker's Guide: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (#25-29) Douglas Adams (/)

26. "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe" Douglas Adams (+)

27. "Life, the Universe, and Everything" Douglas Adams (/+)

28. "So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish" Douglas Adams (+)

29. "Young Zaphod Plays It Safe" Douglas Adams (/)

30. "Blind Descent" Nevada Barr (+)

31. "Liberty Falling" Nevada Barr (+)

32. "Blink: the power of thinking without thinking" Malcolm Gladwell (++)

33. "What Should I Do With My Life?" Po Bronson (++)

34. "Exterminate all the Brutes" Sven Lindqvist, translated from the Swedish by Joan Tate (++) Students should have to read this along side Conrad's "Heart of Darkness."

35. "Telling Lies: Clues to deceit in the marketplace, politics, and marriage" Paul Ekman (+)

36. "On Bullshit" Harry G. Frankfurt (/)

37. "Deep South" Nevada Barr (/)

38. "Blood Lure" Nevada Barr (/)

39. "The Art of War" Sun Tzu (/)

40. "The Last Picture Show" Larry McMurtry (++)

41. "The Diamond Lane" Karen Karbo (+)

42. "The Bean Trees" Barbara Kingsolver (+)

43. "Double Life" Miklos Rozsa (/)

44. "A Man Without a Country" Kurt Vonnegut (++)

45. "Bon Voyage, Mr. President and Other Stories" Gabriel Garcia Marquez (+)

46. "Still Life With Woodpecker" Tom Robbins (/)

47. "Little Girl Lost" Drew Barrymore with Todd Gold (+)

48. "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" J.K. Rowling (+) I read this and the next book after seeing the Goblet of Fire movie to clarify some things and characters. These were the first I'd read of the series, and I enjoyed them more because of the characters and world I know from the films than for the writing.

49. "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" J.K. Rowling (/) I agreed with all the cuts, adds, and rearranging made to the story for the film. The plot problems that exist in the film mostly stem from problems pre-existing in the book. Maybe things pay off in later books, but I don't plan to read ahead.

50. "Magic Worlds of Fantasy" David Douglas Duncan (++)

Page-a-day's end

I have found my page-a-day "Wild words from wild women" mostly irritating this year. It's both the stacks of paper squares that accumulate that I should just recycle and the fact that I didn't care for most of the quotes. Still, it became part of my daily routine. Wake up, tear page, scoff, and then put it back on my bedside table without knocking over my glass of water. I may actually miss it (for a couple days).

30 December 2005

Latest fortune

Not really a fortune, but I find it amusing since it does reflect my approach to things. Of course, I think of time as that thing during which I'm incapable of making decisions, but I suppose that's just semantics.

29 December 2005

Sometimes it's not helpful to know what you want

From the moment I opened the box and mom said, "I know that's not what you wanted," the whole enterprise was doomed. She figured I would have to return any ring I got to get the proper size, so she picked out a ring she thought was cool that was nothing like what I'd described.

I was frustrated because I'd gone to a lot of trouble this year to avoid having to return anything. I'd made discrete lists so family members that can't be bothered to email each other wouldn't double-buy things for a change. Sigh.

The ring she picked was cool, modern and silver, but it was large, spanning my knuckle to the joint and also tall. It fit my forefinger but really wasn't suited for a thumb ring (which was what I wanted) even if I'd gotten it in another size. Since the shop where they bought it was an hour away, mom consulted the weather channel and asked me when I wanted to go over inferring a two-day weather window of Tuesday or Wednesday. We went yesterday.

The jewelry store was housed in what looked like an old bank. There were two open rectangles of long glass counters and display cases all along the walls. I knew I wanted a different ring, so I started browsing. Mom herded me towards a case on the wall with silver bands. I looked them over, saw nothing I wanted, and started perusing the jewelry at the counter.

To my great dismay, I heard my mom pointing me out to a sales clerk. She was under the impression I'd made a decision when all I wanted to do was browse the whole store uninterrupted before getting helped.

Fortunately the saleswoman was very nice as she lead me around to cases all over the store where I didn't see anything I wanted. She sized me up by my cargo pants and corduroy jacket, pointing out rings that weren't too "girly." This assumption of hers might have bothered me except that I didn't feel anything negative about it coming from her. She was just trying to help me find something I'd like.

Though the store had "silver" in its name, it really didn't have many silver rings to choose from. I do not care for gold (aside from white gold) and never have. I wondered where I'd gone wrong. Since last summer, I'd been describing the thumb ring I have in mind. It's not one unique design I'm looking for; I thought I'd been clear on the parameters: wide, flat, silver, with a bit of design interest, size 8 1/2.

My dad knew this buy a ring she can exchange approach wasn't a good idea, but then I hadn't spent time pointing out elements of rings I liked or disliked to him. It was like my mom hadn't listened to me at all.

By this time, 3 salesclerks were looking for rings for me, and my options were slimming. A direct return was never suggested. Store credit or exchange were what was left to me. The thought of coming back every couple of months to see if they had something new I'd like made my soul shudder, so I shifted to plan B.

We'd exchange the ring my Mom had picked out to a size she could wear and leave it at that. She had wandered down the street after she sicced the saleswoman on me, so Dad and I left the store to find her.

As expected, she gave me that slightly exasperated look when I told her the plan. She made me feel worse for not finding something even though she knew from the start it would have to be exchanged.

Am I really that picky? To some degree, yes. I think a lot of it stems from wanting less stuff in my life: for the most part, I only want to keep things I really want, the rest just takes up space or feels like a waste of money.

27 December 2005

Thank yew

If you missed The Closer this summer, now's your chance to get caught up before the new season starts.

The first episode airs tonight at 10 PM on TNT.

26 December 2005

Outdated help

I hate it when tech help goes to the trouble of writing out detailed steps, but then some basic menu or link doesn't exist for you to use, so you can't actually follow the steps.
If you can't find the song or album you're looking for, it may not be available for sale. Click the Requests & Feedback button on the home page of the iTunes Music Store to request a song or album that you can't find. Then visit the iTunes Music Store at a later date to see if the song or album is available.
There is no "Requests & Feedback button" and "Support" takes you back to the internet help.

I'm not so naive as to think my request would actually result in Pink's "Feel Good Time" appearing in my lifetime, but it would at least give me some hope. I get the feeling that when the Requests & Feedback button existed (assuming it ever did), they got more requests and feedback than they wanted to deal with.

24 December 2005

Santa tracker

For the highest tech Santa tracking available, visit NORAD's Santa tracker. Their volunteers provide an awesome service. If you want a live update, you can call the NORAD Santa Tracking Operations Center toll free at 1-877-Hi-NORAD or 1-719-474-2111.

Enjoy!

23 December 2005

An actual fortune

Someone you care about seeks reconciliation.
I was intrigued considering my thoughts of late. If anyone is seeking to reconcile with me, they're being quiet about it, or maybe it's yet to happen. Still, it's just a strip of paper pulled out of a folded cookie; more often than not, the strips reveal proverbs, aphorisms, or short statements that make no sense at all or mean everything at once.

And then it hit me: the strip doesn't say the person I care about is seeking reconciliation with me, just that she or he is seeking reconciliation. Even reconciliation need not mean what I assumed; someone could just be trying to balance a checkbook. That seems pretty probable.

Show more leg?

I'm amused by the fact I keep getting image search hits for this bit of my leg. A few are searching for cutoffs (which those aren't), but mostly it's unclear what the searchers are hoping for from sitemeter's stats.

Hmm.

Note to self

That whole gather the paper up around the gift, scrunch the top, and tie a bow around it doesn't actually make for easier wrapping. Next time, use the flexible paper that doesn't crease well (and is conversely hard to wrap normally with) for that enterprise.

Bah. I stuck that one towards the back of the tree. This is what happens when your sister-in-law says, "Oh hey, I'm having some things sent directly, and they didn't offer gift-wrapping. Could you snag them and wrap them? Thanks."

21 December 2005

Oddity

As I was driving home after a mad dash to the bank this afternoon, a teenager in an oncoming car stood up through the sunroof, yelled, and pumped her fist at me. For a moment, I wondered what I'd done to spur such an action but then decided it had nothing to do with me specifically.

It was 2:10. High school let out at 2:15 when I was there. I'm not impressed. Besides, she looked really cold.

To the readers, lurkers (hey!), and passersby

Happy Saturnalia from Claire

20 December 2005

Non-binding estimate

They are still a bunch of fucking cocksuckers, but my dad rocks.

Dinner took an ill-tempered cast last night when I expressed my moving company outrage. Knowing I had no evidence to back up any dispute of their additional charges, I felt absolutely defeated despite my parents' encouragement to call and raise hell, and I said as much. My dad offered to call them for me, but I shook off the offer knowing I wouldn't feel better about it unless I resolved it myself.

After dinner, I looked through the paperwork again noting various discrepancies and things to ask. Nothing on the new bill said it was the final bill, the listed delivery date was wrong, and the fuel surcharge had been increased among other things. I didn't want to get screwed over again in another two months. I set it aside and tried to salvage my evening by distracting myself.

A while later, Dad sat down and asked to look at the invoices. I had just started to feel better, and his questions were annoying me. I didn't want to go back to that angry, resigned head space. He offered again to call them for me.

No, I can handle it, I thought to myself. And then it sunk in: I could handle it. I was prepared to put on my cold, calm game face when I called the next day to get answers. "That'd be great," I told my dad, accepting his offer.

I could do it, but in the moment I realized that, I knew I didn't have to anymore to feel better about the situation. My dad's voice is strong, very capable of sounding authoritatively pissed, and I knew he was willing to dispute things I had already conceded. He might get better results.

Beyond all that, however, was the thought that my dad won't always be around, won't always be capable of interceding on my behalf. If I don't accept his help now, I'm squandering a chance to do so when opportunities will only get slimmer the more time passes.

19 December 2005

Detach

The xmas card I didn't want to receive came in the mail today (really not a good day for mail). The written note was minimal which suits me well, but it doesn't simplify the rest.

How do I excise someone from my life who was once such a significant part of it? I'm not ready to write all the details. Mostly it was a long time ago, but expectations have survived years of occasional correspondence and phone calls that have only become more infrequent with time. I would gladly think we'd eventually drift into some permanent separation, but I know better as the one so long taken for granted.

The excision will not occur any time near unless I make it explicit because the wedding is next year. It would be better not to be invited than to have to say no.

Any why do I feel propelled to act now right before the holidays? Wanting to start the new year with a clean slate probably accounts for part of it, but it feels too impolite to completely ignore the card.

I hope there's something decent on tv tonight to distract me. I'm between books and just finished an LOTR dvd marathon over the past few nights.

$482.55

Goddamn cocksuckers. First, I was forced into having my items in storage delivered. Now, over two months after its delivery, after paying COD for it, after they called to see how my experience was, now, they send me a revised bill for an additional $482.55.

After some time staring at the invoice (because there was no letter of explanation included), I can see that they are charging for 660 lbs. more "actual weight" than the initial invoice had. I've unpacked, re-stored, and donated chunks of it, so there's no way I can reasonably dispute their measure, no way to check it for myself.

As much as anything, I'm pissed that it took them over two months to send me this revised invoice. And now that I compare it to the old one, I can see they increased the fuel surcharge which accounts for almost $50. Well, that I'm gonna fucking dispute. I fear I will get blown off by some simple excuse though, like the weight change corresponds to a fuel surcharge change. It's a bad sign that it makes sense to me. If your stuff takes up more space on the truck, you should pay a larger proportion of the fuel. But percentages take care of that.

Fuck. I just don't have my game on for arguing with these people. I got rid of all their paperwork weeks ago thinking I was in the clear. At least I still have a copy of the original invoice in email. You'd think they'd make a point of mentioning that their estimate could and likely would change (drastically) even after you'd paid it, they'd accepted it, and your goods were delivered.

the anticlimax (plus tips)

To anyone who's been following along, this will no doubt seem obvious. All my internet research and store wanderings on the hunt for a digital camera have only served to highlight all the things about them that irritate me. Ultimately, all I really want is a decent ultra-compact digital camera that will hold up to the wear and tear of carrying it everywhere in my pocket. There are decent, small digital cameras out there, but their prices are too high for me for something that may break easily or requires ginger care. So... I will wait for the prices to drop and to see what they develop next.

8 megapixel camera phones are about a year away, so there will be new stuff to see.

In the meantime, if you're on the hunt, I did find some great sites with up-to-date reviews. Consumer Reports and PC World were helpful starting points, but they frequently didn't have reviews or ratings for models released in the past 4 months.

Imaging resource has detailed reviews including pictures, all the features and settings offered, and all the test results I would ever want (which is a pretty extensive list). Their gift guide provides a good starting point with review summaries of cameras in different price ranges that performed well.

Digital Camera Resource also provides detailed reviews that also include screenshots and commentary on the included software. Their reviews also provide info on how the camera compares to other brands and models with similar features and design. Their sample photos give a decent feel for how the camera performs at different ISO settings, i.e., how clear the pictures are under different settings and conditions. (n.b.: it's always better to look at actual prints, but who wants to waste ink on someone else's sample shots?). This site seemed to have less models reviewed than some of the the others.

ZD Net ranks the cameras on a scale of 1 to 10 which is very helpful when comparing different models and brands. Reviews are broken into sections, so you can just read the intro summary or click for more details on features, design, performance, and image quality. The info is helpful, though not as comprehensive as the previous two sites. Some models include short video reviews by a staff member. I like these because they comment on the cameras from a user's perspective and sometimes mention things they like or dislike that don't come across in the written reviews.

Amazon has tech specs for most models and is a good place to check out consumer reviews. I usually skim past the 4 and 5 star, love-it reviews to see what problems people encountered after owning the camera for a while. If a lot of people had the same problem, e.g., the lcd cracked and wasn't covered by the warranty, that's very helpful to know.

If that's not enough to drive you crazy, there's Consumer Search which rates and reviews sites which review digital cameras.

18 December 2005

Higher altitude

As we crested the hill, reaching a long plateau, the barren deciduous treetops sparkled all the way to the horizon. The sky was clear, a substantial blue, and the sunshine made the uppermost ice-encrusted limbs glisten. We marveled at the display while it lasted; as we descended into mountain shadow, the trees were once again ice-free and dull.

17 December 2005

16 December 2005

Yesterday's matinee

I detest spoilers, particularly in reviews, so I will keep my commentary brief and plot-free.

Tilda Swinton was an inspired bit of casting for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I've seen her in an eclectic array of films over the years, and I've always been impressed with her work.

14 December 2005

Night disturbances

SMACK.

It sounded like someone slammed something hard into the back of the house. Thieves, I thought to myself. More optimistically, I considered that maybe my parents had dropped something. Or it's loud, inept thieves. I walked down the hall to my parents' room where they were both under the covers reading.

"Did you hear that?"

"Yes, it sounded like something hit the house," my mom said.

"So, it wasn't something in here?"

"No," mom confirmed.

"I thought it sounded like someone trying to break in," I continued.

"It's the nails," my dad offered authoritatively.

"What?" I asked, my left eyebrow raised skeptically.

"You know, the nails that come up from the deck..."

I'd hammered many of them back in over the years. "Yeah...?"

"That's the sound of them popping up," he concluded.

"What? They don't 'pop up.' That's not the sound a nail makes when you pull it out of wood," I countered.

"The pressure of the wood pops them out because of the low temperature," he explained.

"It's below zero," mom offered, adding, "I'm not going out to check it."

"Well, neither am I," I said, "but if we get murdered in our sleep, you can't say I didn't warn you."

13 December 2005

The truth I can't deny

I hate setting focus by halfway depressing the shutter release.
I like gears and dials and mechanical things.
If money weren't an issue, I would shoot film nearly all the time.

The only times I wouldn't would be for shots taken solely for edification purposes: look at this thing I saw while I was out or that I'm writing about which has no aesthetic value. I wouldn't want a print of it, but I'd still want to share it by email or on my blog.

The truth is if having a digital camera rekindles my desire to shoot as the hunt alone has to some extent, then what it will rekindle is a desire to shoot film. Maybe I'll wait for a cheaper point and shoot digital camera and consider a better film camera instead, one that could share lenses with a digital SLR body down the line perhaps.

12 December 2005

Some progress

I haven't been feeling very festive of late, but spending money on things for other people did give me a mood boost this afternoon.

Unfortunately, some ground was lost when I stopped in Staples to peruse digital cameras. You can read specs up the wazoo (as I have), but you still need to see the thing, hold it, try the controls, and decide if you like it or not. I understand that theft protection measures are important, but their bulky design makes it impossible to get the feel for holding the camera. Is it comfortable? Can I hold this steady? Will I drop this? These are important questions.

At this particular store, an alarm chirps every few seconds around the camera display, presumably so you'll feel like someone's watching you or that the alarm system is high tech. I just find it annoying.

I appreciate that Staples supplies power to their cameras so you can turn them on and check out the features. However, I find it frustrating that the power supply is a large rectangular block, larger than the base of every camera I looked at, that is screwed into the camera's base. It was also inconvenient that the a/c adapter cord plugged in right on the side of the grip (I concede that is not Staples fault). The power supply/security base is then attached to the display by a self-retracting cord with a great deal of resistance. It's impossible to assess the feel of a camera under these conditions.

After a few minutes, a guy who worked there came up and asked if I had any questions.

"Yes. Is it possible to look at this unattached?"

"No, that's a security feature. The insurance company would frown on that. We can't just let someone look at a camera without the security measure attached. I know you're trying to see how heavy it is... We have a fourteen day return policy, so you can bring it back if you don't like it," he concluded, helpfully I'm sure he thought.

I jumped in and said, "Ok," and he walked away without offering to answer any other questions. I didn't have any and wouldn't have asked him if I had, but still, that's bad form.

It could've just been my imagination, or the effect of hours hunting for gifts, but his speech seemed rather snarky to me. A straightforward "No, I'm sorry" would've sufficed, but my feet were tired, so even his comment about trying to determine the camera's weight seemed mildly offensive. I didn't expect him to leave me unattended with it, but I don't think standing around while I looked at it ever even occurred to him. That would've involved problem-solving skills. Or maybe he just thought it was too cold outside to chase me if I decided to make a run for it.

I made a few notes in my square-ruled moleskine and left, pondering the display problem.

A much smaller security base would work. The same design that prevents a customer from simply unscrewing it now could be adapted to a smaller version. The a/c pack could be attached to the display. Then borrow some technology from laptop security devices, so that if the cord was cut or broken, an alarm would sound (assuming it doesn't already). If they would just do that, my life would be easier.

10 December 2005

A bit of business from last year...

I'm pretty sure I read a lot more non-fiction last year as opposed to this year, but you'll be able to compare for yourselves in a few weeks when I put up the 2005 list.

Don't ask me why the list is in reverse chronological order: it must've made sense to me at the time.

The 51 Books I read in 2004
51. "Track of the Cat" by Nevada Barr
50. "For My Own Amusement" by R.F. Delderfield
49. "The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt" edited by Ian Shaw
48. "Madeleine (et nunc manet in te)" by Andre Gide
47. "I Knew A Phoenix" by May Sarton
46. "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury
45. "The Words" par Jean-Paul Sartre
44. "Chance Meetings" by William Saroyan
43. "Nietzsche as critic, philosopher, poet and prophet: choice selections from his works" by F.W. Nietzsche, compiled by Thomas Common
42. "All I did was ask: Conversations with writers, actors, musicians, and artists" by Terry Gross
41. "Self-Consciousness" by John Updike
40. "Goodness had nothing to do with it" by Mae West
39. "But Beautiful: a book about jazz" by Geoff Dyer
38. "Out of sheer rage: wrestling with D.H. Lawrence" by Geoff Dyer
37. "The Fellowship of the Ring" J.R.R. Tolkien
36. "The goddesses and gods of Old Europe" by Marija Gimbutas
35. “Yoga for people who can't be bothered to do it" by Geoff Dyer
34. "The language of the goddess" by Marija Gimbutas
33. "Rivers in the desert: William Mulholland and the Inventing of Los Angeles" by Margaret Leslie Davis
32. "As you like it" by W.Shakespeare
31. "When your body gets the blues" by Marie-Annette Brown and Jo Robinson
30. "Feynman's Rainbow" by Leonard Mlodinow
29. "Fat girls and lawn chairs" by Cheryl Peck
28. "Ask me again tomorrow: a life in progress" by Olympia Dukakis
27. "You'll never eat lunch in this town again" by Julia Phillips.
26. "The Broke Diaries" by Angela Nissel
25. "I'm the one that I want" by Margaret Cho.
24. "Roman Mythology" by Stewart Perowne.
23. "A House Somewhere" collection of essays by several authors
22. "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown
21. "The Heidi Chronicles" by Wendy Wasserstein
20. "Isn't It Romantic" by Wendy Wasserstein
19. "Uncommon Women and Others" by Wendy Wasserstein, a play
18. "Original Story By: a memoir of Broadway and Hollywood" by Arthur Laurents.
17. "A geography of time: the temporal misadventures of a social psychologist (or how every culture keeps time just a little bit differently" by Robert Levine
16. "The Right Brain and the Unconscious: Discovering the Stranger Within" by Dr. Rhawn Joseph
15. "Eureka! What Archimedes really meant and 80 other key ideas explained" by Michael Macrone
14. "Guardian of the Horizon" by Elizabeth Peters
13. "Talking pictures: people speak about the photographs that speak to them" by Marvin Heiferman and Carole Kismaric.
12. "Complete guide to pilates, yoga, meditation and stress relief" no author given.
11. "The Optimist's Daughter" by Eudora Welty
10. "Black White and Jewish autobiography of a shifting self" by Rebecca Walker
9. "Blindness" by Jose Saramago
8. "Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov
7. "The Hours" by Michael Cunningham [reread]
6. "Just Checking: scenes from the life of an obsessive-compulsive" by Emily Colas.
5. "The Opposite of Fate" by Amy Tan.
4. "Amelia Peabody's Egypt: a Compendium" by Elizabeth Peters and others
3. "Sex and the city" by Candace Bushnell
2. "Conversations with Wilder" by Cameron Crowe
1. "Out on Leash" by Shirley MacLaine

09 December 2005

The internal war

Last night I spent 2.5 hours on the web researching digital cameras. The wealth of options made my brain numb. Initially, all I wanted was a slim little number that would fit in a pocket. I had previsouly perused all the models in stores, picking them up for feel and thought I'd found it. But then as I read tons of reviews, many people had had problems with the LCD cracking and stores refusing to honor the warranty, so...

I went back to square one and found my photograph self taking the lead. I would want manual focus and exposure options. And better performance in low light. Customizable white balance. More megapixels. A broader zoom. By midnight, I was looking at cameras that more resembled my film SLR than the slim rectangular boxes I'd started with.

Here's the catch: I don't like my film camera anymore. No, that's not true. My film camera is sadly too busted to be worth repairing after more than a decade of heavy, and somewhat vigorous use. The hand-me-down that took its place a couple years ago has features and absences that annoy me. These days I'm also fairly broke, so I just haven't much felt like shooting with it and incurring print and development costs.

All I wanted was something that would enable me to put more pictures on my blog (without stealing them from other sources), but I find it near impossible to separate out the shooter in me. If I took a great photo on my digital, I would surely want to print it. If the camera was good enough, I wouldn't bother to lug my film camera on trips. However, if the digital camera is nearly as large as the film version, I probably wouldn't carry it around as much which was the initial point of getting a slim model. The struggle continues unabated.

Anybody have any camera suggestions or ones to avoid?


On an unrelated note, yesterday I found a ladybug on my chair's arm. It's hanging out on the window today with a heavily snow-covered world beyond. Winter seems to have skipped its dreary prelude this year.

08 December 2005

Beauty Parlor Nostalgia (part 3)

(Part 1, Part 2)

A couple of months passed after my nun-shop cut; I hadn't been back, but I hadn't gotten my hair cut anywhere else either. I'd been thinking about growing it long, but it was in a middle stage where it looked really shaggy and annoyed me a great deal.

I decided to tackle the yellow pages. Beauty salons covered several pages of fine print even in the smaller community yellow pages for my part of LA. I scanned through the addresses determined to find somewhere close to home other than the nun shop.

It leapt out at me: The Best Little Hairhouse in Atwater. I laughed. With a name like that, I figured the owner would have to have a sense of humor. I knew the shop was nearby because I favored the Atwater post office: it was never as busy as the one in Los Feliz, and the staff was nicer. All that remained was the price. A quick call confirmed that it was $10-15 depending on how complex the cut was, and no appointment was necessary.

What I found when I walked up to the door was a seedy little storefront I never would've considered on sight alone, but I was determined to get my hair cut, so I entered. An ancient man named Jerome relayed my desire to get a haircut to the back of the shop.

"It'll just be a few minutes," someone called out.

I sat on an old sofa looking at the wood paneling, not some fake veneer but a red wood that was very rough with lots of holes and knots and splinters waiting to happen. Aretha's "Respect" floated down from speakers above the door. The shop had a glass front with its name and a barber pole painted on it. On the wall above the door, there was a simplistic rendition of a city skyline. Above the wood paneling, the white and perforated wall surface met a high dropped ceiling of homosote.

A short Latin woman approached speaking with a Texan or New Mexican accent, "Hi, I'm Martha."

"Hi."

Pause.

Sometimes my social skills just fail me. I knew I was supposed to respond with my name, but I just didn't.

"What's your name?" Martha asked directly.

"Claire."

"Well, Claire, have a seat. What are we going to do today?"

In my usual confounding manner, I tried to explain, "I just want a trim of about an inch with the goal of growing it all to the same length, which is to say, though I said to trim it an inch, some parts could be left longer."

Usually giving convoluted directions makes me anxious, but this time I felt hesitant because Martha was wearing her hair pulled back under a baseball cap. My mom had said more than once that hairdressers always pay as much attention to their own hair as they do to their customers since it all reflects on them.

Oh well. I just wanted a haircut. Martha asked if I'd like it washed, and I said sure thinking I'd indulge myself. What I hadn't accounted for was a temperamental water heater. Scalding hot or freezing cold, there was no warm or cool inbetween. I tried to remain calm as Martha clanked at pipes below changing the temperature. Jerome stopped by to help, but it didn't make much difference. I settled for a near freezing wash in lieu of a potential scalding. Martha apologized and delved into typical salon chatter asking me what I did for a living and if I went to school.

Not in the mood for chitchat as always, I answered briefly, "I freelance in film and graduated last year."

Towards the front of the shop, a first grade teacher who seemed to be a regular told a Clinton joke, and everybody laughed. As we headed back to one of the barber chairs, Martha asked if I wanted some water.

I said, "No, thanks."

She stepped away for a moment and came back with two small styrofoam cups filled with water. She handed me one, so I said, "Thanks," and drank some. It tasted like chlorine-treated pool water. As I pondered what chemicals I was ingesting, I noticed there were no Barbasol cylinders on the counters. Do they not sanitize their tools between customers here? I became a little more disconcerted, but that far into the process, I just wanted to get my cut. At least I could see Martha's framed California state beauty parlor certificate hanging on the wall.

Without anything else to say, Martha referred back to the first grade teacher's joke, "That was funny, wasn't it?"

"Yeah."

The inevitable talk of role-models and presidents and such came up. When Jerome's grandson walked in, I was glad for the reprieve. He was in his twenties and sat in the chair beside mine.

"You better not cut my buzzcut too long. It better be 3/4 of an inch," he cautioned Jerome.

"No respect, goddammit," Martha said under her breath. I found it awkward maneuvering my cup of water to prevent hair clippings from falling into it, so I set my water down on the counter in front of me.

With the razor cut done, Jerome checked his work with a ruler.

"Is that okay?" Jerome asked his grandson.

"Good enough, I'll see ya later, pops," he replied and then walked out the back door.

My cut was finally done, so I rose to bid The Best Little Hairhouse in Atwater farewell. Martha pushed my cup towards me. "Don't cha want to finish your water?"

Though my body wanted to shout, "No!" I thanked her and walked out with the cup. Heat waves rose from the pavement, and despite knowing better, I took another swig of water and then promptly spit it out on the sidewalk. Maybe it's time to go back to the nun shop.

I must admit

I have no patience for decorating Christmas trees. Left to my own devices, I would likely string some colored lights inside and out, and then leave them up all year.

Don't get me wrong: I'm quite fond of all my Star Trek ornaments and even a slew of others that don't blink or have Spock wishing me happy holidays. It's the mom-induced precision that wears on me. Mirrored ornaments go inside by the trunk, large ornaments on the bottom, with progressively smaller ones up to the top. Gaps are not allowed even on the side facing the wall. Icicles, if we're using those tremendously irritating shiny metallic strips, must be separated out to 2 or 3 strips max per twig: no clumps allowed.

I am a perfectionist in many things, but this has never been one of them. The tree always looks great, and I appreciate that, but I have to psych myself up to stand around hanging things. Even as a kid, I wasn't that into it. By the time my brother and I were teenagers, we had ornament quotas or hanging times to fulfill. Now I impose them on myself to be polite.

06 December 2005

Beauty Parlor Nostalgia (part 2)

(Part 1)

I'd been eyeing Elida's Beauty Box, diagonally across the street from my apartment, for some time. It was a small shop with a simple pink awning with the store's name scrawled across it in cursive type. A large window occupied most of the front wall. It wasn't a terribly trendy looking place, but if the price was right, it would certainly be convenient.

A quick phone call revealed that I could get a haircut for ten bucks the following morning. Looking forward to my trim but also a bit nervous, I dredged out the picture I'd brought to Supercuts when I'd first switched to this cut at the beginning of the summer.

The woman in the picture still looked elegant, her short hair wisping and curling in all the right places. My hair had never really done that, but I assured myself it was only my lack of effort. I went to bed praising the moment my hair would no longer be in my eyes.

The next morning, a three minutes walk got me to Elida's right on time. I reckon I expected the interior to have that glossy beauty parlor look, so I was a bit startled when I entered. The room was narrow and rectangular and made me feel as though I'd entered a tribute to the 1950's. The wall opposite me had one long, horizontal mirror with a shelf above it containing flea market knickknacks. There were four barber's chairs bolted to the floor next to those familiar counters which flip up to reveal sinks. I started to lose my nerve.

Seated on a stool to my right was a grey-haired woman I assumed was Elida. She asked me something I didn't quite catch, so I nodded hoping that would be an appropriate response. Apparently it was since Elida said, "She'll be right with you," without further comment. I shifted my gaze to the other short wall with the hairdryers, the kind that hinge down over your head when you're getting a perm. Seated there was the only other customer, her hair all in rollers, a woman probably eighty years old. A nun. Next to her stood a brunette in her forties that I assumed was Elida's daughter. She escorted the nun to a chair to remove the curlers.

I had made an appointment at a little old ladies' hair shop. A nun's hair shop.

Not sure what to do, I sat down on the bench along the window wall and crossed my fingers. I clutched at the picture in my pocket.

"Sister, do you need me to call for someone to pick you up?" Elida asked.

The nun replied, "Yes," and fumbled through her purse producing two dimes.

"Oh, you don't have to do that," Elida said as she walked toward the phone. That's when I noticed that the only phone in the joint was the pay phone bolted to the wall behind the counter with the cash register.

Dimes outstretched, the nun persisted, "If you do that for everyone you won't have any money left."

"We don't do it for everyone, Sister," Elida's daughter explained.

Apparently resigned, the nun resituated her dimes in her purse.

"Hello? I'm calling for Sister Helen. ... Sister Helen. She's down at the beauty parlor and needs a ride. ... Uh-huh ..."

Elida's daughter was nearly done removing the curlers. I began to wonder if she'd ever cut hair for someone under fifty years old.

"Who answered the phone?" Sister Helen inquired. Elida was still holding the receiver to her ear.

"I think it was Sister Theresa."

"Oh dear. Her hearing's not so good. The last time she answered when I called she wandered off to look for Sister Josephine and just left the phone off the hook."

"Maybe I should hang up and try again." Elida clicked the switch hook and produced another twenty cents. "Hello? Is Sister Josephine there? ... Oh she did? ... O.K. Thank you." Replacing the receiver she shared the news, "Sister Theresa said Sister Josephine is already on her way to pick you up."

"She should be here any minute then," the nun offered.

Now that her hair was done, Sister Helen got out of the chair and exchanged seats with me. My moment of dread had arrived: Elida's daughter asked me what I wanted done with my hair. Producing my picture, I waited hopefully. After considering it for about two seconds, she said, "So you just want a trim."

Startled by her tone, I stammered, "Yes." It was as though she had found my picture patronizing.

She looked at the picture again, then at me, and said, "You don't wear it like that, do you?" My confidence completely shot, I answered, "No." She returned the picture, and I squashed it into my pocket.

"I wonder what's taking her so long," Sister Helen commented. "When I was younger I could've walked back from here. I hope she's really on her way, and Sister Theresa understood correctly."

Where is this convent so close to my house? I wondered. I'd never seen any signs for it. As they continued to talk, it became apparent that almost all of the nuns go to Elida's to get their dos done.

A car pulled up and the nun rose.

"That's her. Thanks again."

"Thank you, Sister."

"See you next week."

As the door drifted shut behind her I silently wished that I would not be ushered into the conversation. For a few minutes the only sound was the snipping of scissors.

"Do young people lie?" Elida asked.

I froze. Being the youngest person in the room, I assumed the question was addressed to me, and I had no idea how to respond. When her daughter piped in, I exhaled in relief.

"Well if they say they don't, they're lying."

That wasn't exactly the response I'd had in mind, but the women chuckled in good humor. I smiled briefly and remained quiet.

They continued discussing other people's children whose parents were liars while I stared at their reflections averting my eyes when they looked at me. Inch long locks of my dark hair were sliding down the plastic cape to the floor. Finally, she was done. After a brief examination in the mirror I had her take another half inch off the back and called it good enough. It was a serviceable cut but not inspired like Judy's always were. I paid for the cut, and they encouraged me to return...

Last Part

05 December 2005

Beauty Parlor Nostalgia (part 1)

In every person's life there comes that dreaded moment when he or she must find a new hair dresser. A few months ago, I finally disposed of my status quo bob exchanging it for a shorter short cut. For the first time in my life, I went to one of those haircut joints boasting ten dollar cuts without appointments.

I had felt guilty abandoning Miriam. I'd followed her across town when she started work at a new salon, but truthfully, I'd only done so because the new salon was closer to where I'd recently moved. In that nearby beauty parlor, Miriam had her own room with a counter that lifted to reveal a sink and a panel of different colored locks for women choosing hair color. Something about the room just felt wrong.

All the beauty parlors my mom had ever taken me to had had an open room full of hair dressers gossiping and chatting as they worked. That environment made me feel less silent as I listened to their ongoing gripes, vacations, and wedding plans. Even Supercuts retained some of that social atmosphere. Maybe I just didn't like Miriam with her sycophantic interest in my filmmaking, or maybe she just didn't give a great cut and I was worried about giving her more responsibility than a trim.

Whenever I'm stressed out about my hair, I reminisce about Judy. Judy was the best hairdresser I've ever had. When I stuttered uncertain "uhs" and "ums" at her in response to how I wanted my hair cut, she'd simply say, "Ah, I'm just going to do what I want to do." And she would. And somehow it'd be exactly what I had imagined. She had a knack for that. She was one of those rare hairdressers that really understood how to adjust a haircut to make it look good on a particular individual.

I went to Judy throughout high school and later I waited until I was home on breaks from Vassar to see her. She would admonish me for not using conditioner, and then she'd move on to the latest gossip, repairing what damage she could. Unlike my dentist, Judy never made me feel obliged to promise I would take better care of my hair. Her only goal was to make her customers look as good as possible when they left the shop. She sent me back to the world believing that I could make my hair look as good as she did if I wanted to.

Her genuine exuberance made her only failing more bearable. I don't think I can remember a time that she wasn't running late when I arrived. Once she gobbled down a few cookies while I sat in the chair since she hadn't had time for lunch. I told her to take her time figuring a starving hair dresser was not what my hair needed. My patience eventually paid off. When I decided last minute to go to the prom, she squeezed me into her schedule to style my hair. She made me look great, and I've always appreciated that.

Sometime during my undergraduate years she decided to become an accountant. Though I was devastated, I could only wish her the best of luck. She assured me that if I ever needed a hair stylist for a movie, she'd be happy to do it. For whatever reason, the offer didn't bother me the way it had when it had come from Miriam.

So off I went to Supercuts, carefully folded page torn from Great Hairstyles For Women firmly in hand. For all their boasting of no appointments, I still had to wait 40 minutes. To pass the time, I ignored everyone around me focusing my concentration on the price listing against the opposite wall. How much for women's hair, men's hair, long hair, children's hair, perms, hair coloring, a wash and cut, styling, etc. I'd never seen the business of haircutting so itemized until I moved to Tallahassee.

In the heat of northern Florida's swampland, I enjoyed my clipped locks. Even the humidity was made more bearable by the fact that it enhanced my curls. Every four weeks I dutifully made my pilgrimage to the Walmart shopping complex to get my hair supertrimmed.

At the end of August, I got my hair trimmed shorter than usual in preparation for my cross country move. Two months later, I considered getting my first haircut in Los Angeles. Unbearably shaggy, there was not much I could do but bite the bullet and try somewhere...

Next Part

03 December 2005

Sitting on my desk for months

A card, on it a doctor pulls a rabbit out of his patient's knee. "Are you sure you want to fix your trick knee? This is pretty cool."

Inside:
You're not getting older-
you're getting more interesting
to the medical profession.

02 December 2005

Shameless plug? Um, yeah...

There's new stuff at the shop, so go buy something.

01 December 2005

This is a job for energy-conserving Claire!

I noticed a light on downstairs last night and went down to turn it off, but it was just a new blazing nightlight, the brightest nightlight ever.

30 November 2005

boy with brain

I got my hair cut this afternoon, and I have to say I'm giving tattoo guy the thumbs up. I think he's actually the first guy to ever have cut my hair; he was a welcomed change after my last cut.

As I explained how much I wanted cut off, he made suggestions based on looking at me while still being willing to take my instructions literally later if that's what I preferred. I always appreciate a hairdresser with the skill to look at someone and suggest what would work best for that individual. As soon as he'd done that, I knew I was in good hands.

His forearms were largely covered by tattoos, but his ink was diffused by his body hair. Hairy tattoos were not something I'd ever really considered. I wondered if he'd had to shave before he got them.

A few minutes of snips later, he said, "Perfect," and handed me a mirror so I could look at the back. He was right. It was short but with no sign of neck hair. Then he checked with me to make sure it was as short as I wanted, a step many discount stylists ignore. Bravo, tattoo guy, bravo.

29 November 2005

radio frontier

I'm loving this.

tip worth the time...

If you hate customer service lines with "Interactive Voice Response" (IVR) as much as I do, this cheat sheet is worth checking out. It lists quick steps for bypassing automated systems so you can talk to an actual person for many different companies.

Thanks to Mighty Girl for the link.

27 November 2005

10 Years Ago: Old Age and Permanent Ways

On our way to Virginia we stopped at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania- mushroom capitol of the world. As we walked through the gardens, Mom pointed out the overwhelming fragrance of boxwood. I recognized the smell immediately even though I hadn't been home in over two years: my parent's home, that is, or rather the town in which they both grew up. Boxwood exudes the scent surrounding the house my uncle and grandmother live in.

My uncle pulls his wheelchair out of the way as we enter. Dad and I shake hands with him, and Mom leans over the chair to give him a hug. Then we each loudly announce our presence to Grandma as we lean over the reclining easy chair. I squelch my instinct to cringe and flee as her bony fingers pull me closer to her milky eyes, so she can kiss me on the cheek.

"How you doin', Lisa?" my grandmother inquires.

"That's Claire, Mama," my Dad corrects. He needn't have bothered, I've gotten used to it.

"Oh that's right, how you doin', Clara?"

Not since I was born have my parents been able to convince her that my name is Claire. My mother's mother told my parents they could call me anything but Clara, so they altered it to Claire (for which I am truly grateful). However, my other grandmother never grasped this distinction, and never will, so I ignore it amicably.

"Fine," I holler hoping the inquiries will cease.

"You still in school?" she asks.

I sigh and turn back to her as I take my seat on the sofa. "I just graduated."

"You graduated?"

"Yes, Grandma."

"You gonna go to college?"

Looks like I've drawn the short stick on this occasion. I respond, "I just graduated from college."

"That's real good. What you gonna do now? Be a teacher?"

It's still early in the visit so I know there's no help yet to be had. For my uncle's benefit more than for Grandma's I try to explain. "No. I'm either going to graduate school. . ."

"What's that?" she asks tilting her ear toward me to hear better.

I'm not even sure she knows what graduate school is, but I try again louder and enunciating more. "I'm either going to graduate school, or I'm going to get a job."

"That's good I reckon."

Finally there is a pause, I relax and lean back trying to blend into the wall. But then she begins again, "Lisa, how's your Mama doin'?"

Dad explains, "She passed away, Mama."

"Oh that's right. I keep forgetting that. How's your Daddy doin'?"

"He's fine. He still gets around pretty good," my Mom offers.

"Clara, you still going to school?" Grandma asks.

Anticipating her next inquiry I respond, "I just graduated from college."

"What you gonna do now?"

"Either go to graduate school or get a job."

"What's that?"

I decide to try a simpler approach. "Make movies."

"That seems like a good thing to get into."

"Yeah, I like it."

"Yeah, I think you'd like it, too."

"I do like it."

"How's your Mama doin'?" Grandma asks me. I look over to Mom who is sitting in the chair next to Grandma.

"I'm fine." Mom interjects.

"Oh you're here, Lisa. My eyesight's not so good anymore. How's your Mama doin'?"

When I look at Mom I think she's almost gotten used to it, but her face betrays the hurt. If there was one thing I could make my grandmother remember it is that my other grandmother died two years ago. It'd be nice if she knew my name was Claire, but that would be pushing my luck.

"She died," my Mom states gently.

"Oh that's right. I keep forgetting that." Grandma responds oblivious to the discomfort she has caused.

"That just doesn't stick in your mind," Dad comments.

"Yeah, I don't know why," Grandma says. We all sit for a moment in silence. "You going to college, Clara?"

26 November 2005

No good for me, but...

I know at least a couple folks who happen by are in the DC area, so I thought I'd mention this blogger gathering next week in case you hadn't seen it. If you go, by all means post about it so I can enjoy it vicariously.

More haiku- it is addictive

I need more to read,
but it is still snowing here.
Please melt tomorrow.

24 November 2005

Thanksgiving haiku

Partake in some holiday inspired amusement at my friend Cathy's blog.

Feel free to submit
your own haiku if you wish
in Cathy's comments.

*****
Dad is shoveling
while Mom is throwing snowballs
up at my window.

In reply, I stuck
out my tongue and waved at her.
It looks cold outside.

You are, of course, welcome to leave Thanksgiving haiku here as well.

Breakfast of champions!

We just finished thanksgiving dinner a while ago. My family's traditional spread is still my favorite: mashed potatoes, brown gravy, stuffing and dressing, sweet gherkins, bread and butter pickles, olives, cranberry sauce, brown 'n' serve rolls, peas, turkey, curried fruit, pumpkin pie, and sweet potatoes. Other people seem to douse everything in garlic.

The leaf-barren trees are all outlined with snow, and the sky is reversed: muted pale blue clouds broken by white patches of sky.

If my niece were here, I'd bet we'd be playing in the snow right now.

23 November 2005

Chip, chip, chip

The single tone air raid siren sounded too early this morning only to be quelled by even louder intermittent gear grinding.

The tree men were back with their chipper.

22 November 2005

Slurge

this is an audio post - click to play
(run time 0:48)

21 November 2005

Envy

I would love to have the job these guys have.

3-D

Don't forget to pick up some 3-D glasses in today's TV guide if you're going to watch tonight's Medium.

Life with chainsaws

The tree men are back today, dare I say vengefully attacking the trees next door. Early this morning the loud buzz began with one saw cutting downed trunk sections into manageable rounds. Finishing up the job, I presumed. Then there were two saws relentlessly grinding and revving.

I just helped Dad move the picnic table into the shed for winter and was greatly dismayed to see three tree men next door. One was at the top of a tree, now free of branches, sawing a ten foot section of trunk off while the two guys on the ground pulled a rope to control the direction of the fall. There are two other trees in this interim stage of removal which means days more of chainsaws.

And now they seem to be gone for the day which means this will all get dragged out even further.

Well, that was interesting. There was a knock on the backdoor, which being an unusual thing I went down to investigate. I should really commit Larry's face to memory because I never immediately recognize him. He's the old dude from next door who's having all the damn trees cut down.

He needed to borrow the phone since he had his phone line taken down for some of the tree removal. The maintenance guy who took it down this morning said he would rehook it this afternoon, but now it may take until Wednesday. I'm not feeling too sympathetic except that I don't want to provide interim phone service for him. It turns out the tree guys left because the power company never showed up to lower their line today, so Larry had to call and make sure they weren't coming later.

The only good news is that he said the tree guys weren't coming back until later in the week, so maybe I won't wake up to chainsaws tomorrow. Rrrarrhhh.

20 November 2005

It wasn't in there

I liked Jitterbug Perfume which I read a few years ago, but Still Life With Woodpecker was off for me from nearly the beginning. Actually my opinion of it was doomed from even before I lifted it from the bottom shelf at the library because I was expecting a sequence of four words it didn't contain.


During my second year at grad school, I TA'd the first years' Cinematography II class. To help them prepare for their upcoming shoots, I had them set up their most difficult shots during class. Because the group was small and the point was to give them more experience, I was stuck acting out the scenes.

For this particular shot, another person was needed in front of the camera. It ended up being Jim because everyone else was engaged: operating the camera, pulling focus, pushing the dolly, or walking with a bounce card.

I reread the script page and shot notes. My character would sit in a chair facing forward as the camera pushed in to a medium close-up. Jim would lean his face into frame perpendicular to mine, I would turn to face him, and he would say, "Stay here with me." Except when we tried it, and I looked at him some few inches away, he couldn't get the words out.

"Cut!"

They set up the shot again. In film, timing is often everything. This time, he sputtered the words out but couldn't keep eye contact with me. I felt badly because I was obviously making Jim nervous. It wouldn't be the first time I found out I'd unintentionally intimidated someone.

The focus was off, and the bounce card had edged into the shot, so they set up again for another take. From behind the camera, Matt pointed out that we were supposed to kiss after Jim said the line.

I protested with the most obvious excuse that came to mind, "He's engaged."

With a big smirk, Matt replied, "Not anymore."

All of Jim's classmates watched me curiously. For a fleeting paranoid moment, I suspected they all knew something I didn't, but I was more concerned about getting out of the kiss. I didn't want to be beholden to kiss any and everyone if I gave in this time. Besides, Jim was looking even more traumatized.

"Look," I began, "There's only so much I'll do for the sake of a cinematography exercise. You'd have to rework that with the actual actors anyway."

We did another take sans kiss. Jim's "Stay here with me" was smoother, and he kept eye contact, but he was shaking. As the dolly withdrew for another take, I asked, "Is that position uncomfortable for you?"

"I'm fine," he replied.

"Are you sure? If it's hard to stay leaning over like that, maybe we should try something else."

"No, it's all right," he said and looked away.


The moment we were enacting was part of a scene pulled from Still Life With Woodpecker. The directing students were allowed to reset the scene as they wished, even to rewrite bits of dialogue. "Stay here with me" came from Jim's version of the scene.

19 November 2005

Mr. Rogers' moment

I stared at his feet while he tied his shoelaces. Then he picked up his docksiders, stood up, and said, "It's time to retire the slip-ons for winter," as he set them down in front of his closet.

18 November 2005

No big surprise

This evening it's official: my brother and his family are not coming up for Thanksgiving next week. Months ago they called saying they were going to make travel plans, but then my sister-in-law got a federal jury duty summons.

For my mom, this did not dispel the sense of impending arrival. The last several weeks have been like watching puppy torture as my mom threw things out, rearranged her room, and lamented that she never should've bothered changing it in the first place. Unfortunately the torture was self-inflicted, but that does not mean my dad and I were immune to her distress. Globs of teary nostalgia and anger at limited space erupted at irregular intervals. Less clutter gave her no joy, and still there was no word if they were coming or not.

My sister-in-law emailed me that she was having no luck convincing my brother to come visit with my niece regardless. She joked that he was afraid. Presumably of traveling for hours with a two year old, but one could also argue that he's afraid of spending time with his immediate family without his wife as a buffer. I can't remember when I last saw him alone, not for several years at any rate.

The courthouse was supposed to have information a week ago regarding her summons, but she didn't get word until today. The phone rang around 7:30, and I had a feeling it was them. A few minutes later, my dad poked his head into my room and said, "They're not coming."

At least there's no more waiting. Mom can stop anticipating their every possible need: car seat? baby bed? what do they eat? I'm sure she's found my father and I delinquent this whole time, unprepared with our wait-and-see outlooks, but now that can stop too. Unless they decide to come for Christmas.

17 November 2005

It's just my nature

AlwaysWrite wrote about attending a blogger happy hour yesterday. I find meeting new people really stressful, so I'm always impressed when people do such things willingly.

It sounded like they all had a good time, so I checked out the Meetup site she'd found the listing on. I admit I was relieved there were no blogger gatherings near me. In fact, the only group close to me is for witches. In elementary school, a girl from my class claimed her mom was a real witch, and I do watch Charmed, but that's it for my ice breakers.

Further away there's one for vampires. Vampires! They're listed right after "Moms" in the "Cultures & Community" category. If there were a Sheriff Hartwell to meet, I could see going, but even if there were, he'd be keeping a low profile, so it doesn't seem worth the effort.

Just wait five minutes

Seems like only yesterday it was a moist 64 degrees- oh right, it was. Now it's 31 and snowing.

(For the Celsius inclined, that's 18 C and -1 C, respectively.)

16 November 2005

It's pouring

I hope that means there will be no chainsaws next door tomorrow morning. I can't take it anymore. This morning it sounded like a tree was going to fall through my window.

15 November 2005

Tidbit

The classroom part of driver's ed was held after school at my high school. Our instructor was Mr. Ramirez. A big stoner from my class always called him Mr. Ramsey.

I heard that Mr. Ramirez lost his arm when he was a kid by sticking his arm out of a car window when a semi ripped past.

He usually leaned against the desk at the front of the classroom and held his prosthetic arm by the hook.

sleep-tussle?

A couple mornings ago, I felt a scratch on the back of my neck, diagonal and over two inches long. It's almost done healing, but I'm still baffled by its mysterious appearance. I hate injuries I can't explain.

14 November 2005

Sniffed

I was helping my dad carry some stuff out to his car when I smelled something I couldn't identify: unpleasant, burning, exhaust related.

My dad noticed it at the same time and simply commented, "Cigarette smoke."

How cool is it that my brain had actually forgotten the smell of cigarettes? Maybe it's just that I'm tired though, because the smokers are the same guys who've been cutting trees down with chainsaws next door all morning for the past two days.

Shatter

FYI, when your photo is stuck to broken frame glass, breaking the glass more does not actually help.

13 November 2005

All you have to do to sell it is commit

These guys are clearly having a good time. What makes this vlog brilliant to me is the third guy in the background.

For easy access to more music videos by the Back Dormitory Boys, click here.

12 November 2005

Why should I wait?

(Thanks for the inspiration, AJ)

A few weeks ago, I was out with my parents and we stopped to eat. After we ordered, I got up to use the restroom and wash up before dinner. The restrooms were in an alcove, the men's on the left and the women's on the right. The door to the women's restroom was closed and the men's was open. I scoped out the men's room: it was a single person facility. I glanced to the right, but the women's door was still shut. There might have been some rustling from within, but I wasn't certain and I didn't feel like harassing someone unnecessarily by knocking or trying the handle.

I stepped into the men's room and closed the door, sliding the simple but trustworthy bolt lock into place. The slightly distorted urine smell common to all men's rooms that I've encountered permeated the small space. Must be from the urinal, I thought to myself.

As I pulled off some toilet paper, the door handle started to jiggle. The bolt was secure, so the door couldn't open, but it could move a hair because it wasn't latched. I was pretty sure it was my dad, but I didn't feel like saying anything in case it wasn't. I figured the guy would hear the flush and figure out someone was inside. The door jiggled again. Geez, give it a rest.

I stretched out my leg and flushed the toilet with the sole of my shoe. I turned on the water, soaped up, scrubbed, and rinsed my hands. With my elbow I depressed the lever for the paper towel roll. I dried my hands and then got another piece of paper towel to shut off the faucet and open the door. When I stepped out, there was no one in the hall. The women's door was still closed, so I figured the guy had decided to use it instead of wait.

I walked back to our table and caught the end of a conversation my parents were having. "Do you see that guy at the end of the bar?" my mom asked.

Dad looked past me and said, "I didn't see him come in."

She continued, "Neither did I. He came out of nowhere. Maybe it was him."

My Dad got up and walked back towards the restrooms.

I could see where this was going. "What were you guys talking about?" I asked.

"Oh, we were just waiting to see if a man came out from the restroom."

"He could have been waiting a long time," I began. "I was in there."

Mom looked up at me and laughed.

"I heard him jiggle the handle. I figured he'd hear the water running and figure out someone was inside," I explained. "He didn't even wait."

"I know," Mom said shaking her head, "Your father just got all embarrassed because he felt like the door was stuck and he was doing something wrong," my mom explained.

"Didn't it occur to him that someone might be inside?"

"He's a man. He's not used to having to wait for the restroom."

I laughed and argued, "But by coming back to the table, someone else could get in next ahead of him. It's conceivable that the door could be closed each time he got up to check it all through dinner."

"I know," Mom sighed. "When your father's uncomfortable or embarrassed, he folds his arms and tries to fade into the background."

I knew what she said was true. When they'd visit my dorm room at college, Mom would sit on my bed and Dad would stand next to the door. His arms weren't always folded, but he rarely sat down and only would if it was in my desk chair.

Dad slid into the booth next to Mom.

"Guess who was in the men's room," Mom demanded with a smirk.

Dad looked at her and then me in confusion.

"It was Claire," she announced triumphantly.

"Oh?"

He was surprised and still a bit confused. Clearly, the why-wait-when-a-single-person-restroom-is-available? approach was one that never would have occurred to him.

11 November 2005

The Expedition

My alma mater sponsors trips for alums throughout the year to exotic and intriguing locales all over the world. I got on their mailing list a few years ago in a hopeful spirit, but the expense of the trips has always been well out of my reach. I should take my name off the list, but I enjoy the pictures and reading the itineraries: it's the prospect of adventure.

A few days ago, I received the latest brochure for a trip next summer. I keep staring at the photographs because I dreamt about this place last spring. I still can't afford it, but it feels like it means something.

10 November 2005

The Man of Mixed Signals

a beginning, a prequel, the sequel

I didn't see Ted again before I left town, but a few days after I got home, I received a padded envelope from him. He'd taped a photo from a magazine to the front and written my address on it. Inside were three CDs he'd made for me and a letter. One of the artists we'd talked about at the wedding.

I'd recently picked up PJ Harvey's Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea, but Ted had insisted that her earlier work was better. He sent me Dry and Rid of Me. He also included an album by Cat Power because he thought I'd like it.

His handwritten letter started, however, by saying that he was sorry we didn't get the chance to say a proper goodbye. Ted explained that he felt uncertain of how to act without the wedding reception backdrop the next day. He was afraid he'd act possessive or inappropriate in some way if we walked around campus with an audience of old friends. The letter meandered to some atmospheric moments in San Francisco, his struggle to become a professional writer, and ended with an assurance that when he'd said I was lovely, he'd meant not only in appearance, but also in spirit. Ted's writing was exquisite, and his explanation made sense to me when I read it, so I forgave him for standing me up.

I wrote back sharing some of my life's uncertainties and struggles, and our correspondence began. I suggested that he reply by email explaining that I liked the immediacy of it, but he replied that he preferred the tangibility of real letters and liked receiving them. The same things appealed to me as well, so I was easily swayed.

Every few weeks one or the other of us would fold a few pages into an envelope and mail it off. These were not love letters by any means, they were there's-something-here-between-us missives. I wanted to leave Tallahassee and hadn't decided where to move to, but San Francisco had growing appeal.

About seven months later, he wrote that he wasn't sure if it affected things at all, but felt he should tell me he'd gotten back together with his girlfriend from 6 months ago. I did the math, and I was pissed. He'd had a girlfriend when we'd hung out at the wedding and had never mentioned her though there had been many opportunities to do so. I wanted to kill Splice for encouraging me that night because she would've known that.

When I confronted Splice, she said that Ted and Liz had been together for a year but had been on and off a couple months before the wedding. She thought they were off at the time and just wanted me to have a good time. Splice's advice had been given in a haze of drunken elation, so I really couldn't stay mad at her. My anger turned back to Ted.

He began by writing that I'd never asked if he was seeing someone during the wedding weekend. No denial in that, just an attempt to make his dishonesty my fault. I wrote back explicitly asking if he'd omitted anything else I might want to know. He said no, but being called on his bullshit seemed to hurt his feelings. We stopped writing.

A few months later, I started my cross country drive in search of the perfect place to live. I ended up back in California and spent the holidays with friends in LA. Splice and her husband had moved down from San Francisco that fall. She invited me to their New Year's Eve party and forewarned me that Ted and Liz would be there amidst a bunch of other people. Liz was cool, and I liked her right off, but Ted seemed a little nervous when he saw us talking together.

Later, Ted and I had a friendly conversation. He told me several of the people at the party were planning to go to the Getty on Thursday and asked if I'd like to go. I'd been a couple of times before and enjoyed it, so I said yes. He was staying with other friends in town, so he took my phone number so we'd be able to coordinate. (The museum was still pretty new, so you needed to have parking reservations and this venture would require carpooling.)

Tuesday passed, no call. Wednesday passed, no call. Goddamnsonofabitch. I could've called Splice to see if she had the number where Ted was staying, but I was too embarrassed. I couldn't believe I'd fallen for this a second time. I was upset, angry, and felt foolish which made me even more angry. About a week later, I couldn't take it anymore and sent him a simple, immature email: You suck.

In his reply, he was pissed off beyond all measure because he had no idea why I was upset. I calmly explained and reminded him that though it might seem like a small thing, it felt very personal because he'd done this to me before (perhaps I'd not so much forgiven him for standing me up the first time, I'd certainly not forgotten it). His excuses started with losing my number and ended with an elaborate story involving an ER trip for the boyfriend of the woman he was staying with to explain why he'd forgotten. Whether they were true or not didn't really matter, all that mattered to me was that he couldn't say that he was sorry that he hadn't called. His word didn't mean anything under a variety of circumstances at a time when my word always counted.

09 November 2005

Mind soothing

So often of late when I see trailers that interest me, I have not followed through: I put it off and then the movie is gone and it no longer matters. This afternoon was overcast and cold; I was having the usual second thoughts: there was literal stuff I needed to deal with, but I knew I needed to go. I just needed it.

I went to see Good night, and good luck., and despite the sizable, murmuring retirement crowd, I enjoyed it.

Later, when my parents got home, my mom called up to tell me they had my book. Just this afternoon, I'd mentioned that I'd given up hope that one of my requests would ever show up at the library. I'd intended to re-request this evening, but there was no need.

In fact, I've already finished it: A Man without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut. He discusses many things regarding the current status of the U.S. in relation to itself and the planet which all depress me, and yet I find it very reassuring to see it in print. I loved the book. It was just what I needed today.

08 November 2005

sequel to the prequel

a beginning, a prequel

It was after 1 AM when I went upstairs, but Marc keeps late hours, so he was still up. Like excited schoolgirls (although Marc came off, of course, as a most manly schoolgirl), I confessed that I'd just made out with a boy downstairs. After recounting my day's details and catching up on his activities, my excitement dissipated; it was after 2, and I needed to crash because there was a brunch to attend in the morning.

The alarm went off at 9:30, and I begrudgingly got out of bed. The brunch was from 9 to noon, but I figured other people who'd been out late would probably show up around 10. I took a shower and walked over to the Alumnae House enjoying the unusually pleasant November weather.

When I walked in, it looked like everyone was already there. I'd failed to take into account that many of the guests were staying at the Alumnae House. The brunch was buffet style, so I picked up a plate and scanned the room. Ted topped his plate with a croissant and walked over to say hello. The seats at his table were all full, but he told me he had plans to walk around campus with a couple people later and invited me to join them.

I filled my plate and sat at a table with friends of the groom that I'd briefly met the day before. The guys were friendly, but one insisted I should move to San Francisco and had all sorts of career advice for me. After my second plate full, I wasn't in the mood to hear it anymore, so when I got up to get some more fruit, I looked for a new table. The crowd was thinning out as people had flights and trains to catch. I saw Ted making the rounds of goodbyes, so I caught up with him to see when and where we should meet to walk around campus.

"I just need to go upstairs and pack, so I can check out. We're going to see if they'll let us leave our luggage in the lobby until we need to leave for the train later," he explained. "I'll stop back in when we're ready to go."

"Ok. If you can't leave your stuff here, I'm sure you could leave it at my friend's house if you need to," I suggested.

"I'm sure it'll be fine. I'll see you in a bit."

"All right."

He walked upstairs with his traveling companions, and I returned to the brunch. A seat was open next to Splice, so I walked over and sat down. We chatted a bit, but mostly we sat in companionable silence because we were both exhausted. Periodically she would get up to say some goodbyes, and then she'd return. I felt a little guilty for monopolizing the seat next to the bride, but another friend of hers told me not to worry about it. "I bet she's glad for the reprieve from all these people."

A half hour had passed so I started watching the door more, still no Ted. When an hour had gone by, I felt like a heel for hanging around near Splice and the line of people she was saying goodbye to, but I didn't know anyone else there anymore. I kept expecting to see Ted walk in at any moment, but he didn't.

I was reluctant to ask, but when an hour and a half had passed and he still hadn't returned, I made myself do it. "Have you seen Ted?"

"He left about an hour ago," Splice said simply. He'd probably said a straightforward goodbye to her before he went up to pack, but it didn't seem worth explaining. He wasn't coming. I said my goodbyes and thank yous and left.

As I walked down the hill breathing in the leaf-tinted air, it occurred to me that I'd been stood up. I had never been stood up before: rescheduled, cancelled, left waiting for people egregiously late, sure, but no one had ever made plans with me and then not shown up at all, not even called*. I felt like an idiot and didn't understand what had happened.

Maybe he just forgot. I wondered if I'd run into them if I walked around campus, and if I did, if I wanted to...


*Neither of us had cell phones in 2001.

07 November 2005

Distraction

I was going to work more on my Ted story, but my parents have been hauling things out of the attic for the past couple of hours, and a number of boxes seem to have my stuff in them.

I never put anything up there, so I'm dismayed by this turn of events as the boxes are crushed, damp, or otherwise not in good shape. Dealing with more boxes is not what I wanted to do this afternoon; heck, I didn't want to know I had more mystery boxes. My concentration is blown for now, so I may as well go sort through some junk.

tip of the week

If you hate walking into spider webs as much as I do, you might want to carry a stick or walk behind someone taller than you if you decide to go for a walk in the woods.

If it's getting too cold to go hiking where you live, it's probably time to put down your storm windows.

05 November 2005

prequel to the sequel?

(the beginning)

I'm sure this is not at all what you had in mind, Sarooo, but it is for you just the same.


Our meeting had all the earmarks of a great story we'd tell at our wedding, and for that I should've known it was doomed. We spent 4 years at the same college but didn't meet until our graduation rehearsal when our surnames put Ted and I side by side. There wouldn't have been much to say, if not for two things: we discovered Splice was a mutual friend, and I pulled out a 1974 yearbook I'd recently received that was full of hippies, nudity, glamour, and old pictures of a few professors still at the college.

Six years later, Splice got married on campus, and the seating chart for the reception put Ted and I next to each other again. By the end of the night, Splice was telling me to go smooch him.

A friend of mine from grad school happened to be teaching at the college that year, so I was staying with him for the weekend. It was after midnight, so Ted offered to walk me back to Marc's place. When we reached the small front porch, I was relieved to see that the door was slightly ajar. Marc lived in a house with a few apartments, but his bell for the front door wasn't working which meant you had to bang or yell until he noticed.

I stood on the step above Ted which made me a little taller than him as we said goodnight.

NEXT>>>

The tipping point

I was annoyed because I had other things on my agenda yesterday when mom was gungho about pulling the tall black chest out of my room.

I had assumed it was completely full of her stuff, but some drawers were actually empty because of a kerosene smell emanating from them. Like much old furniture, the drawers were shallow, so I'd never been interested in using it anyway. Having it gone though opened up the room immensely. For the first time since I came home, the room feels like it has more stuff that's mine in it than isn't.

Oddly this served as a reminder that I need to get my act together and move out. One of these days...

04 November 2005

3 on 3

Eight years ago on a pleasant day much like this one, I met up with some friends at a park off Tujunga Ave. in North Hollywood to play a friendly game of touch football. The six of us knew each other from grad school: three of us had just graduated a couple months before, and the other three had graduated a year ahead of us.

James, Elaine, and I formed one team, and Gil, Dennis, and Tom made up the other. With teams of three, everyone was really involved in the game. My throws didn't have much spiral, but my aim was good, and the ball didn't flop end over end, so I ended up as the quarterback. It didn't take long for me to see that Gil was taking the game much more seriously than the rest of us. As soon as his mississippi count was done, he was charging at me hard every single play.

Touch football's flaw has always been that to block, you still really have to block. In his case though, his aggressive competitiveness felt personal. We'd dated for a while in grad school a year and a half earlier, but I'd withdrawn by throwing myself into my classes over the summer semester before he graduated. Maybe he's just a jerk when it comes to sports, I thought to myself.

After each "hike," I got rid of the ball as fast as I could and braced myself for Gil's lunging block. He didn't tackle me, but I knew I'd be sore the next day; it was intimidating and pissed me off.

The others must have sensed the moment that I was fed up enough to quit, because Tom suggested we switch up the teams and everyone readily agreed. Gil and James switched places, and the game became much easier.

Possession of the ball went back and forth a couple times until it was back to James, Dennis, and Tom's team. When their quarterback threw the ball, Gil intercepted it. In that moment, my desire to win overcame my common sense, and I ran to block James. Though he's tall and slender, his body is all muscle and bone. Had he seen me, he would've slowed down or altered course. But he didn't.

His shoulder clobbered me full force on the side of my neck and across my shoulder. The ground was cool and hard. As I lay there unmoving, I wondered if I was seriously injured. I thought my way through my body trying to figure out if I could move. From the cheering further down the field, I could tell we'd scored, but I no longer cared.

"Oh my god, I'm so sorry. I didn't see you. Are you all right?" James asked as he knelt beside me.

I pushed myself up on my elbows and looked around. "I think so." He helped me up, and we joined the others in the end zone. My throat was sore and talking aggravated the strain.

"I think I'm going to call it a day," I announced. There was talk of getting food, but I opted to go home instead.

Later, it occurred to me that James could've crushed my windpipe if his shoulder had hit me just an inch or two over. As my shoulder started throbbing, I swore I'd never play football again.


(NB: names changed)

02 November 2005

At the bar after the wedding reception

In my last post, I mentioned a guy that I was interested in after meeting him at a wedding. We'd actually met once before; Ted and I sat next to each other for the rehearsal and graduation from college. Six years later, we were back on campus at our mutual friend's wedding.

We hung out for hours. After we closed out the reception venue, all of the young adults spent a few more hours at the Dutch Cabin, a Mexican restaurant/bar, that many of us had frequented years before.

With a big grin, Splice reached across the table, placing her hand behind my neck and pulled me diagonally across. Cheek to cheek, she spoke into my right ear, “So, are you and Ted hitting it off?”

My cheeks started to burn. She could probably feel it: if not by actual warmth, certainly by body language. She continued, “Because you're two of my closest friends, and I love you dearly. So go smooch.” She planted a kiss on my cheek and let me go.

I straightened up still looking at her. I didn't speak, but there was no need. I stepped back, put on my jacket and waited for Ted as he made his rounds of good-byes for the night. Splice pulled him close too, and I'd guess they had much the same conversation.

Apparently I'd left my mind open to read. Or maybe my heart. Considering it was her wedding day, she wasn't supposed to have time to notice; if she did, then the whole end of her table probably knew that I liked Ted. A few years earlier, I probably would've been mortified into hiding my feelings just to prove her wrong. Instead, beautifully, any embarrassment I felt at being read so easily made me grin and laugh.

NEXT>>>

NB: names changed

Phase 1

Considering the various eruptions of frustration I've experienced today, I'm pretty happy with the new look for the blog. I don't consider it done, but I can't stare at hexadecimal color codes any longer today. Let me know if you have any trouble viewing it, e.g., formatting issues with other browsers.

Thanks, Rarity, for your help.

01 November 2005

Eye Contact (intermezzo)

The break between spring and summer semesters arrived and the library was nearly empty again, the staff greatly outnumbering the patrons. As usual, the makeshift computer lab (not even run by library staff) was the busiest spot in the building. Students wandered in to finish papers, projects, and to play games on the lab’s decked out computers. For my part, this was the first downtime I’d had at the media center in months so once the daily paperwork was out of the way, I popped a movie into the media cart to "familiarize myself with the collection" as I told anyone who inquired, particularly the bunch of slackers upset by my good fortune. I had earned it and my supervisor concurred.

During breaks, the building was open fewer hours so only library staff were let in early to start computers and set up before patrons were allowed in. The computer lab staff had been arriving a few minutes after the building was officially open.

A short student approached my counter so I sat up, ready to help. "Is the computer lab open today?"

"Yes, it should be." I looked across the tables and media alcoves and saw that the lab monitor hadn’t arrived yet. "They’re sometimes a few minutes late since they can’t get into the building before it’s open to the public."

“Oh.”

“They should be in shortly.”

The student looked confused as if she’d wanted a better reassurance from me, but after a moment, she turned and walked towards the lab without saying anything else. The lab staff arrived at the entrance just before her so I focused on my morning paperwork satisfied that the matter was resolved.

Three hours later, she returned striding across the long expanse purposefully. I lifted the VCR remote, paused the film I was watching, and turned to give her my full attention. From fifteen feet away, she hailed, “Working hard or hardly working?”

Original, I thought sarcastically to myself. Pleasantly, I replied, “I’m familiarizing myself with the collection so I can better help people.”

She smirked and rested her hands on the tall counter. “What are you doing tonight?”

Hunh? Is she asking me out? “Why?” I ventured cautiously.

“Because I haven’t been able to get what you said out of my head since I went into the lab.” That was three hours ago. I tried to remember what I’d said. She continued, slightly misquoting me, “’They should be here shortly,’ ‘Sometimes, they’re a few minutes late since they can’t get into the building.’ I’ve been hearing these over and over in my head. I can’t get the way you talk out of my head.” She looked away bashfully.

“Oh.” She sounded a little crazy to me.

“What?” she asked.

“I just said, ‘oh.’”

“So what are you doing tonight?”

She definitely is asking me out. It was Thursday, and I was thrilled to have a real excuse as I don’t often lie and only in the most extreme circumstances to a direct question. “A friend of mine is going to call so we can catch up.”

“Excuse me?” She looked away again and I noticed a clear plastic hearing aid protruding from one ear. Since I knew from experience that even unconscious lipreading improves comprehension, I repeated my answer addressing her directly.

Clearly, she thought it was a lie or at best, very flimsy. “Who’s your friend?”

“You wouldn’t know her,” I explained realizing that was the lamest thing I could’ve said. “She’s lives in LA.”

“Can’t you call her another night?” she persisted.

“She has a really hectic schedule and we arranged for her to call tonight. I haven’t talked to her in ages and am looking forward to catching up with her.”

She wasn’t buying it. “Really?”

Tired of being disbelieved, I stated firmly, “I don’t lie.”

“Neither do I. That’s so refreshing. How about tomorrow night?”

Oh brother. This was going to be a problem because I had no Friday night plans yet. “Uh...” My mind raced through ways to say I wasn’t interested without actually saying it. I wasn’t, right? I looked across at her: she was decent looking, but standing, she was only as tall as my seated height. No, not interested. Besides it’s weird being approached based on a 3 minute exchange; that means the attraction is based overwhelmingly on my looks. That’s it! “I don’t even know you.”

“That’s the point of going out.”

I glanced at the staff elevator and the open doors leading to the Documents department: no one was nearby. “I’m not a student and I look a lot younger than I am,” I stated carefully for emphasis. “I’m 28.”

“I’m 22 and I think maturity is a state of mind,” she countered. “I was married to an older woman for three years up until a few months ago.”

Multiple red flags popped up in my head: she’s on the rebound, she’s in to older women, and she equates marrying young with maturity even though her marriage didn’t work out. I wondered if they’d actually had a ceremony or if she just committed easily and quickly describing their relationship as marriage for effect. Distancing my argument from her personally, I rebutted, “Young couples have shotgun weddings all the time but that doesn’t mean they’re mature.” Though I continued looking at her when I spoke, she kept breaking eye contact, looking right, left, and coyly down which gave our conversation a stuttering comedy routine feel as I repeated fragments of what I’d just said. Clearly, my gaze was too intense to be met for long, but as she still had some difficulty understanding me, desisting (and thereby reducing the amount she understood) seemed impolite. Though it grated against my ingrained manners, I glanced away while she was talking to make her less self-conscious.

“It wasn’t like that at all. I met her at a club, we hung out all night, and I knew I wanted to be with her,” she expounded, “She was seeing other people at the time but I showed up every night and after three months, I moved in with her and we were married.”

My stalker red flag wagged violently at me. The more she tried to prove her maturity, the crazier she sounded. “Ok,” I conceded to keep her calm. “I’m just really anti-social.”

“That’s ok.”

WHAT? I clarified, “I don’t like people. My life’s motto is: People suck.”

“I’m an introvert too,” she said.

Aside from some nervous behavior, nothing about her announced: introvert. I wondered what else she would say to ingratiate herself. “I’m sorry, I’m just not interested.”

“Why not?”

In no particular order the following came to mind: you’re short, intimidated by my eye contact which I’m only doing to help you understand me, stalker crazy, and I can’t stand the name Brenda. She was watching me carefully as I replied, “There’s someone else I’m interested in.”

“Oh yeah? Who?”

Not again. “I met him at a wedding a few months ago.”

“Where does he live?” she said, emphasizing the male pronoun. Simply saying I was straight would put a quick end to this while preserving her feelings, but I couldn’t bring myself to lie after proclaiming my honesty.

Barney came to mind. We’d worked together on a terrible low budget movie in LA a couple of years before. As I was the gaffer (head of the electric department) and he was a 2nd 2nd assistant director (glorified production assistant), it would be more accurate to say we both worked on the same film as opposed to worked together. Many friends of mine were also on the production, and they laughed mercilessly as Barney relentlessly hit on me 6 days a week. I told him I wasn’t interested, but he persisted anyway. He was friendly and kind, but his constant advances annoyed me and precluded any interest I might’ve developed. During our third week of shooting, he hedged around waiting for me to reveal my sexual preference. I told him if he had something to ask, he should just ask. (It’s my opinion that if a person can’t ask you if you’re gay to your face, they’re not ready to hear the answer.) He explained that he’d previously been attracted to another strong woman who shared many of my qualities, but she wasn’t interested in him because she was gay. “Is that the case with you?”

I could’ve said yes and spared his feelings, but I had no compulsion to lie with all the times he’d unwelcomely hit on me. “No, I’m bi.”

Across the media counter, Brenda rephrased her question, “Are you really interested in someone else?”

“Yes, he lives in San Francisco.”

“San Francisco? How often do you see him?"

“Not since the wedding, but we’ve exchanged some great letters.”

“So are you dating long-distance?”

She was trying to sniff out a lie, but it was true: talking to her had clarified my feelings for Ted. “No, but he’s the one I want to be with. That’s just how I feel, and it wouldn’t be fair to string someone else along,” I concluded. Feelings you can’t control were something she understood.

“I never should’ve come over here.” She looked crushed, as if this one experience would discolor everything to follow.

I tried to lessen the importance of my rejection, “It took a lot of courage to approach someone you don’t know. I admire that. Don’t let my reaction discourage you. I’m sure there’s someone else out there who’ll be a great match for you.”

“I could’ve been the best thing that ever happened to you, but you wouldn’t give me a chance, so you’ll have to live with that.” She hoisted her backpack on her shoulder and walked away.

I shrugged and said, “Yup.” She was going to be fine. And I was going to be stalker-free.


(NB: names changed.)