29 September 2005

Short people may cause skin cancer

It was a clear fall day yesterday, so we decided to go over and check out The Big E, a multi-state fair with vendors from all over New England. The last time I was there, I was probably 12 and never left the games and rides at the Midway, so I wasn't sure if I'd enjoy it.

Within five minutes of entering the site, I accepted the fact that I was not going to see everything. As I scanned the layout of buildings on the posted map, there was no regular pattern to it; it was a place you could get lost in. Cool.

"I want to see bears," I stated, pointing to a display fifty feet away. Having dispensed with the idea of choosing a route, we walked over, paid our dollars, and saw bears. Up close. Cute, fuzzy bear cubs: 1 playing with a toy and 2 zonked out; and a nine foot tall, 1400 lb. Kodiak named Jimmy gnawing on a treat in a separate compartment. I was glad to see the cages and bears were well kept.

After that we wandered through a huge building full of vendors of all kinds: Cutco knives, massagers, miracle mops, food containers, hammocks, whirl pools. There was no organization to the layout of types of products, so it was hard to process everything we breezed by. Outside more distributors and food vendors lined the walkways.

We rounded a corner and saw a stage surrounded by people. Someone was addressing the crowd, but we were behind the speakers so it was hard to make out and the side of the stage blocked our view. As we got closer, I realized the voice was difficult to understand in part due to its thick Spanish accent. In a truly surreal moment, the voice turned out to be Charo's.

After she finished her comedic banter, she introduced some salsa dancers and bounded off stage. The sun was in our eyes so we walked behind the stage to the other side to watch. Charo returned in a different very short sparkly dress and performed with her dancers. Even though this side was in shade, there were lots of picnic tables with their umbrellas up, so it was still hard to see. I walked around to the front and tried to get in the shade of the sound tent with no luck. It wasn't super crowded, but a bunch of short people were lined up in the shade of the tent. Standing in front of any of them would completely block that person's view. My straw hat was hanging on my back to be polite to the people behind me, so I was getting the full brunt of the sun on my right side. I started to expect a Roy Neary burn after another number.

I have to give Charo credit: she was really shaking her moneymaker. She's energetic, plays to the whole crowd, funny, and a talented classical guitarist. She also has a good sense of humor about herself. As she put it, "Cuchi-cuchi showed me the way to the bank."

During another dance interlude, Charo changed into a sparkly pink and white pantsuit so she could sit and play guitar. A group of young (and short) teenage girls were now standing in front of me. None of the short people in the shade had moved. There were a few spots one might have been able to crouch in front of them, but my knees are too shot to be comfortable doing that.

It suddenly dawned on me, I'm going to end up with skin cancer because I don't want to be a jerk. I glanced through the scaffolding behind me and decided if I was blocking anyone's view there was plenty of room for them to move. I put my hat back on angling it to block as much sun as possible. I started scoping the shady areas ahead, but still didn't have it in me to stand directly in front of any of the abundant short people. Just when I thought I couldn't take any more sun, the show was over, and the crowd disbursed after a standing ovation.

From there, we checked out the petting zoo: several goats, a llama, some zebu, ring-tailed lemurs, and a pony. I could've ridden an elephant or a camel, but they looked sad and it just didn't seem right.

Another building was full of farm animals: chicks and chickens, adorable piglets with their mama, more goats, rabbits, and another llama. The Clydesdales were more impressively large in person than they are on tv.

I took a stroll through the Midway for old time's sake. The prizes looked a little better, but the games are as difficult to win as ever. They had all the same rides plus a few bigger scarier ones.

We walked through the Connecticut and Vermont buildings, and saw a couple marching bands perform. It was dinner time and we decided to head out to a sit-down restaurant. As we neared the exit, I stopped.

"Is that the first building we went in?" I asked.


"I'll be back." We'd passed the machine that analyzes your personality from your signature earlier, and I'd decided to skip it, but now we were about to leave, I changed my mind. I knew somewhere at home, I still had the results from the same machine from when I was a kid. It seemed fitting to see if anything had changed. The multiple file cabinet sized computer with flashing lights also looked too much like EMERAC to pass up.

I knew it was by an entrance of the building, but didn't know which one of the six it was. Of course, I picked the longest possible way to get there because my feet were killing me. I wrote Claire, but it looked all wrong, so I grabbed another sheet, shook out my hands, and wrote my full name in one fluid motion. One of the three large women behind the counter fed the card into the machine and waited as it printed out the results on a dot matrix printer.

Televac says I'm "Always ready for a good time." Right on. If I can track down my young teen results, I'll put up the full results up for comparison.

Days when the brain's wired differently

There was a big weather shift overnight. Yesterday it was autumn warm, sunny, and clear; today it's overcast, windy, and pouring. The power has flickered a couple times, and it seems my brain has done the same.

Today is one of those days when people keep asking you stupid questions when you've already stated everything you knew very clearly (which makes the redundant follow-ups all the more annoying). Unfortunately those people were my parents at lunch.

I was telling my Dad the latest news from the movers. Two days ago, she'd emailed that my stuff was actually being picked up yesterday (as opposed to last Friday as she'd previously said) and tentatively, it would be delivered tomorrow. The update today said it'll be delivered out of an office closer to here on the last day of the delivery spread next week. They'll call the day before to confirm. It was a brief email, and I'd conveyed all there was to convey, but Dad asked something that I'd just explained.

Mom told me not to be "testy" after I snapped at him. Strangely, being told not to be testy never has a calming effect on me. I looked out the window at the rain and remembered another day a weather shift had disturbed my interactions.

I was shooting a film at a grass airstrip in Panacea, Florida. There had been a few minor hiccups the first few days of production, but the shoot soon fell into a pleasant groove. The director and I were friends with an easy shorthand communication until one morning there was nothing we agreed on. Even when we were trying to convey the same idea, we'd do it so differently we'd misunderstand each other and get further frustrated. The whole crew was tolerating us well but starting to get grumpy. Everything felt wrong about the place.

And then the wind changed. It's not the type of thing I'd generally notice, but after several days on a small airstrip watching the windsocks, I'd become attuned to it.

"Did you feel that?" the director asked.

For the first time all day, I knew just what he was talking about. "Yeah, the wind changed," I replied.

"Yeah. That was weird."

The spell was broken and though we didn't understand it, we felt free of it. We were ourselves again, our shorthand restored, and our crew in good spirits.

As I watched the rain, I conceded to myself that I had been testy to my Dad, so I took a deep breath, and then answered his question evenly, and explained that I had no further information on the topic.

Less than five minutes elapsed before I was annoyed again and further getting on Mom's nerves. I made a comment about not wanting to live amidst ignorant hicks which had a specific context in my mind relating to conversations from yesterday that was clearly missed. Her response was palpable; I felt her energy shift even though I wasn't looking at her directly and knew exactly what she was about to say.

"That'd be better than living by a bunch of snobby bitches," she snapped.

She meant that I was a snobby bitch, but because I'd anticipated her retort, I was completely unmoved by it. What did move me was another stupid misunderstanding two minutes later.

"I'm sorry," Mom said forcefully as she picked up her bowl and left the table. She wasn't apologizing to me, she was apologizing for the fact she couldn't put up with me anymore. I didn't mind. This response was vastly preferable to unintentionally making her cry; if her brain had been in a different place today, that could easily have been the result. I finished the conversation with Dad; he's got a pretty thick skin and isn't fazed by much. Recognizing some mischief in the weather, I felt reassured: it will change and the spell will be broken.

Even as I wrote this last paragraph, the rain stopped and the sun started to break through; I'm feeling better already.

28 September 2005

Geek slip

I was standing in front of a baffling array of toothbrushes in Target this evening, and when I tried to say it was "mind boggling," what came out was "mind blogging."

There's much more to relate from today's excursion (as you may sense above), but I'm too beat to do any of it justice now. Until tomorrow then...

27 September 2005

When ordering goes horribly awry

My parents were each separately surprised when I suggested Friendly's for dinner. Life in absolutes is easier to make sense of: I understand that, but sometimes I'm up for restaurants I don't always feel like eating at. Friendly's is nearby, but the service is hit or miss, and it's the eatery I feel most likely to run into people from high school at. I don't always feel up for that, but today a turkey club supermelt with the bacon burnt sounded pretty good.

As we sat in the narrow booth, I noticed the big Reese's Pieces Sundae promotional photo on the near side of the triangular cardboard display on the table. It's been over two decades, but I remember the last time I had one.

I was between 5 and 7. My parents, brother, best friend, and I had been out hiking all afternoon. Crowded into a single booth, we eagerly poured over the dessert menu. I remember asking what the difference was between a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup and a Reese's Pieces; I was having trouble deciding. In those days (and for years to come) I hated ordering for myself, but since I hadn't decided yet when the waitress returned, I was on my own.

"What would you like, Claire?" my Mom prompted.

"A Reese's penis sundae." Everyone in earshot started to laugh. With a heavy blush consuming my cheeks, I quickly and carefully corrected myself, "Pieces. Reese's PIECES Sundae."

As if that weren't bad enough, I soon discovered that Reese's Pieces were not that good, certainly not as much like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups as my Dad had lead me to believe.

2 on, 2 off, 1 on

I did some walking on Friday and Saturday, but then it was cold and pouring the next two days, so I reverted to my half-assed incorporate some stretches into the day approach. I'm proud of myself because today with the sun shining, the sky incredibly blue with some puffy white clouds, I got my ass back out there. The wet leaves haven't mildewed yet, so it smells like fall.

Last week, I felt conspicuous walking a few laps up and down my short dead-end incline, but no longer. We all live off the same popular road with no sidewalk or breakdown lane; people always drive fast on it, and many parts force you to walk in the road. Sure there's lots of places I could drive to and then walk, but until my stuff arrives from storage, I'm homebound; besides, I'm less likely to go walking if I have to drive somewhere to do it.

I did three laps today plus three up-downs on a flight of stairs. As I was about to get some OJ, Dad called down for me to move my car. I'd already pulled it out of the garage so he could clear some space to store the window A/Cs, but now that he was ready to take his out of the window, he was afraid of dropping it on my car. I walked back downstairs, moved my car, walked upstairs, got some watered-down OJ, and then walked upstairs another flight to help him. In the process of taking two window A/Cs to the garage, I added four more down-ups of flights of stairs. Rraahh!

26 September 2005

Delivery spread- does that come with crackers?

Well, this is almost worse than the typical UPS it'll-be-delivered-between-8 AM-and-9 PM spiel. Now that I'm in the delivery spread, my stuff from Florida may arrive any time during the next 10 days. OK yeah, that is worse than UPS. Last week the coordinator had emailed that she'd have a delivery date for me by end of business day Friday- meaning last Friday. When I emailed today she still didn't have it. In theory she'll get info from the driver via dispatch so she can tell me a specific day. In theory the driver has to call me 24 hours in advance. I'm not counting on either.

Suddenly I feel unprepared for all this stuff to arrive. I keep remembering more of what's coming: a chest of drawers with clothes still in it, 4 large wood crates, my disassembled desk, and a bed that's not even mine. My hope had been to weed a great deal of it out to the trash or Salvation Army, but I'm starting to realize there's still going to be a lot of stuff left.

tip of the week

Thought I'd share some musical awesomeness for this week's tip. Check out This Business of Art by Tegan and Sara.

25 September 2005

Supporting Slacker

Given enough time and exposure, I think most of us (in places overrun with media) are likely to see moments from our lives on film. For me, it started with some uncannily familiar bits in Sixteen Candles. In 2001, a movie (I don't at present care to name) came out that portrayed the rise and fall of a relationship I'd had more closely than anything else I'd ever seen. And then came Wonderfalls.

With a log line too similar to Joan of Arcadia and shifting time slots, it was doomed to cancellation after 4 episodes in the spring of 2004. I thought it was hilarious and kicked myself for not taping it because the lead felt like a piece of myself; a disaffected, overeducated underachiever. Happily, the DVD boom has given me another chance.
What about friends?

You want to choose people who aren't much more motivated than you are. But don't surround yourself with total narcissists, otherwise things start to be about something other than you.

("Karma Chameleon," ep. 3 of Wonderfalls)

I laughed when I first heard this a year and a half ago, and again when I saw it two nights ago. Today, it feels like a perfect explanation for why some of my friends drive me crazy sometimes. They aren't total narcissists, but they are much more motivated, and things are often not about me. The deplorable word "Sidekick" clunked down in tall letters in my head. I like to think of myself as a lead role, but how could that possibly be so with the hermit lifestyle I've adopted? (Excluding the lead role of Cast Away.)

Some time ago my friend Cathy pointed out that though I may not be the center of the universe, I'm the center of my universe. That counts for something.

I thought of supporting actors, big deals in their own rights come award nights, and found myself less bothered by the idea. "Supporting" is a more apt title for me anyway. Then for a time likely to be short, my place in the world became clear to me. I offer my friends whatever I can to help them achieve their dreams even if it's only supreme confidence in their abilities and talents, while I remain submerged in as stress-free an environment as I can maintain. I am a supporting slacker.

24 September 2005

Scenes from the afternoon

This weekend is my town's annual fall fair. Usually I shun such events for fear of running into old schoolmates, but today I felt up to any possible encounters. We parked near the house I grew up in and walked into town. A bit cool in the shade, but still plenty warm enough for shorts; it makes me believe in global warming.

Much was the same: caramel apples, card tables with crafts, local merchants with doors invitingly open. Also live music, school teams raising money, and old men on the sidewalk with their elbows out like turnstiles.

We passed my 6th grade social studies teacher and said hello as we walked into the academy building to look at a display of town artifacts. I always sat in the back of her class because I was allergic to the heavy perfume she wore. I didn't notice it today though, so perhaps she's cut back.

A group of girls in leotards and tutus performed selections of ballet along the edge of a park. The bordering sidewalk was fairly densely lined with spectators. At the end of each selection, there was applause and barks from a little dog who was politely quiet during the performances.

Two other little dogs were wheeled around in comfort: they propped their paws on the edge of a pet carrier and stuck their heads out to get a knee-high view of the world.

I miss my old house.

23 September 2005

Mental Snapshot

Each evening after dinner, I hold a teacup in my right hand and rest my face against the warm cup. My left arm rests on the table, my right elbow on the table supporting my teacup lean. The warmth is pleasant, varying on how much tea I've drunk, almost too warm if I’ve just gotten a refill. This tired self is an image I enjoy though I only see it in blurred form if the curtains for the sliding glass door are open. At times it’s a mournful picture of resolute exhaustion, at others it’s just post-dinner calm, some warmth on my cheek.

It’s a photo I always think of taking, a moment I’d like to capture, but the light is too dark. My mental snap is surely more flattering and clear than the underexposed reenactment I could shoot. Leaping around the table to sit and get ready before a timer clicked off would not be restful but full of adrenaline: a twitchy fabrication.

22 September 2005


For the young out there, I will begin by pointing out there was a time before most people had computers. Even the calculator in your backpack or desk drawer is a fairly recent novelty. Before those innovations became possible, engineers and other mathematical types used slide rules.

At dinner, my father mentioned that he was thinking about getting another cell phone, so he and my mom would each have one.

"Would you really carry one?" I asked. He never carries the one they have: along with water bottles, it's something he usually expects mom to stuff in her purse.

"Sure, I could get one of those cases and wear it on my belt," he replied.

"No," mom and I groaned in unison.

"Why not? It'd be like when I wore my sliderule."

"What did you do, stick it through your belt loops?" Sliderules are about a foot long, so I was having trouble picturing it.

"No, it had a case." He went on to explain that the case had a loop so you could hang it from your belt. "When I was in grad school, all the engineering students wore them."

"What a bunch of dorks."

"They thought it was cool because it was like wearing a gun holster," mom added.

"Oh yeah," Dad concurred. "When the professor was working a problem at the board and needed a calculation done, we'd see who could draw the fastest and get the answer."

"That's the dorkiest thing I've ever heard."

Is writer's block contagious?

I've read some posts about other bloggers' dry spells recently, and some of my regular reads have been much less prolific of late. It feels like a collective lull. I do not plan to give in though.

Any writing is better than no writing (well maybe not for you) because persistence will lead back to inspiration. I have faith.

18 September 2005

The day in-between

Friday night, I sketched out several designs for the cake I was going to bake on Saturday. I wanted it to be more than a cake, I wanted it to be special. What kept coming to mind was the decoration I wanted to have: a series of curvy red and yellow flames, but it was the wrong message on several levels. Too much like hell, so I dismissed the idea and focused on what I thought mom would like.

It was late afternoon when I started baking, so I took advantage of the pourable vanilla icing you can use before the cake is entirely cooled. Though I considered letting that layer of white setup before I started to decorate, I remembered that mom liked eating warm cake so I forged ahead. Though I can sketch many things with ease, drawing with icing is not the same. Still it turned out mostly as I'd planned. An open book across the middle of the cake with her age on the left page and a red flower on the right. I used a pronged tip for the icing on the side and bottom edges to give the book some depth. Above the book in small melting print, I wrote: HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM! (It would've been easier larger and in cursive.) In the top corners, I put clusters of curvy candles (red and yellow on one side, green and blue on the other) to represent each digit of her age. The white base icing was already sliding to the edges by the time I was done.

After she blew out the candles, the cake got turned around while she was cutting it. She said something that prompted me to say that the design was supposed to be an open book. For a moment it was like being 7 with the old disappointment of drawings not understood. My mom had that same blank Oh expression right before she said, "At least it doesn't say RIP on it."


She pointed out the curves of my open book which had made her think of a tombstone. Wonderful. Just the kind of special I was going for. The cake decoration felt like the most unimpressive failure. It didn't matter to her. The chocolate cake was good, I'd made an effort. I'd just wanted it to be better.

My brother is at strike one. I didn't email him a reminder this year (and why should I? He's been around longer than I have, so he should know the dates by now), and he didn't call or email mom yesterday. That he didn't send anything goes almost without saying, though if he had called he would've said something was in the mail which would then never arrive. So it's not really just strike one. Even the minors won't keep him anymore; he'd be lucky to coach Tee-ball for free. I'm ready to lay into him this year which bums me out more than anything else.

15 September 2005

The Selective Bookshelf

When I came across my old grad school copy of The Art of War, I remembered my distaste for it and wondered why I'd kept it. Then I remembered I was still an indiscriminate packrat in those days.

I was going to just put it in the weeded stack bound for library donation, but I wondered if I might view it differently now. The instructor who'd assigned the book oozed sleaze. He was (probably still is) a film producer, and his favorite film was the repugnant Bad Lieutenant. If I could've graduated without taking Producing I, I would have.

His business philosophy rose and set with The Art of War. I couldn't stomach it.

This time, I thought of Iraq and war, not business. Of extending one's army far from home for a long time. Of Hero and China's early struggles to become one land. Sun Tzu's advice is sound, but simplistic now for myriad reasons.

As for its business applications, I still don't see how this adversarial approach could play a significant role in any life I might want to lead, but I think I will hang on to the book.

The screw could've been worse

When the boss of the woman who'd given me an estimate earlier this week said she'd have to go over the numbers again with the specific address I'd given, I knew the price was going up even though the distance would be slightly shorter.

Karen called back today to say that Jennifer's estimate hadn't included the adjustment for the raise in gas prices. As if I didn't see that coming from miles away. The question then was how much would they gouge me?

She explained something about it going from 12% to 18% that I didn't really follow, though the gist was clear: she was raising. She just wasn't sure how much she could raise and still be called. Fortunately she sensed my weakness and went fairly low tacking only $41.50 more to the total. Call.

It's too bad I can't wait until January when gas prices are supposed to drop back to around $2.40. Oh well.

14 September 2005

It'd be nice...

...if my mail carrier actually tried to deliver registered letters instead of shoving the you-can-pick-it-up-tomorrow postcard into the mailbox. I was home, my car was even in the driveway, but apparently it was too much trouble to get out of the vehicle.

When I went to retrieve the letter today, there were two customers chatting endlessly with two tellers. Actually the postal workers were doing most of the blathering. One conversation centered on all permutations of holding mail or forwarding it for as long as a year. Clearly the old man was one of the annoying snowbirds that descends on the town as if he owns it each summer. At the other register, a postman was going on forever about construction and plumbing. His customer was a woman draped over the counter. I flicked my postcard against my thigh with escalating irritation.

It's small town post office, so there's no structure to the line. Sometimes people form lines for each register, sometimes they stand in the middle to catch whoever's free next. I was trying to do the latter, but was to the side some because of an old woman trying to fold a box together with little success.

Just as the old snowbird finally understood his options after hearing them repeated several times, a guy breezed in and stood behind him with a stack of certified letters to send. I couldn't quite bring myself to say, "Hey, I'm next," while cutting in front of the guy because it would have made me seem like one of the rude city tourists that invades during the summer. Instead I glowered at the plumber talking guy who refused to acknowledge my presence.

When I finally got my letter, it was precisely the same one I'd gotten two days earlier from my storage/moving company, except that this one was certified. Gggrrr.

13 September 2005

Reading my mind

I had just been thinking I wanted to listen to something epic, and iTunes went straight for some grand soundtrack pieces even though it was set to shuffle. Cool. Or disturbing if my computer is reading my mind. Nah, just cool.

12 September 2005

Robert Palmer Meets Bob Vila

Though nightmares don't disturb my sleep much anymore, thinking about them segued my thoughts to things which can keep me up all night. The following piece, in particular came to mind. I edited it a bit, but left most as it was the further along I read. I remember the frenzied rush I was in as I typed trying to expunge the week from my memory- the style reflects that.

November 27, 2001

Last week was, in a word, MISERABLE.

It all started a week ago Friday. I'd been groggy all week and was very much looking forward to some well-deserved extra Z's. Less than two hours after going to bed, I drifted into consciousness to the rustling of a plastic bag.

Oh my god, there's a burglar in my apartment.

I stopped breathing. I sat up enough to check my alarm. Red, still on. If a plastic bag woke me up, I would've heard someone jimmying a window, so that can't be it.


This revelation wasn't much more reassuring than the burglar scenario. In fact, I continued to bemoan the lack of a baseball bat or other handy blunt objet. What was I gonna do if I saw one anyway?

It occurred to me then that I really didn't want to see one.

I turned on the light by my bed, grabbed my flashlight, and pulled out some shoes from under my bed. (That earthquake advice passed on to me prior to my LA days has never gone out of style. When isn't it handy to have a flashlight and shoes by your bed?) I aimed the beam into the living room and leaned around the door to flip the kitchen fluorescents on. Nothing.

I checked out all the plastic I had lying around, crunching it down to make sure it'd settled in for the night. I decided to pick up some traps the next day just to ease my mind. I went back to bed.

An hour later I woke up again to rustling. Exhausted, I couldn't tell if I'd only dreamed it, so I went back to sleep. Wasn't too long before I was awake again. This time as I aimed the beam of my flashlight along the wall; there was trash on the floor and it hadn't moved 5 feet all by itself.

Insert paranoia, panic, and adrenaline rush. This was only 2-3 feet from the foot of my bed after all. Lights on, shoes on, freak out intact. I was not alone and there was nothing I could do about it at 3 in the morning. I decided to leave the lights on in the kitchen and living room as a deterrent. But then I realized that left my room dark and perhaps more inviting. No good. No good at all.

So here's where I tried sleeping with my lights on while totally pumped and exhausted. Another no go. After a while I heard some gnawing that seemed to be coming from my kitchen. I chose to believe there was only one and shut myself in my room. Even with the lights off I still had a lot of trouble sleeping. Three more hours before sunrise.

By light, I was even more exhausted and stressed.

To further complicate matters, my FBI landlords had been in the process of selling the place for months. Last time I'd spoken to them they were days from closing, but I still didn't have any contact info for the new owner. After a couple phone messages, Allen called me back with the new guy's cell and presumed home number. Cell-no answer. Home-right family name on the machine, left a message. Waited.

Sprawled face down on my bed. Waited some more. And some more. Still just ringing on the cell. I couldn't take it, so I left for lunch and a matinee. While opening a bottle of water I actually managed to cut my palm. I thought of blood attracting the beast in my apartment. I saw Monsters, Inc. and realized early on that a tale of creatures appearing in your bedroom at night was perhaps not the best choice that day.

I stopped by home to check my machine: no landlord, but a message from my folks to give them a call for mouse wisdom. Landlord's cell still ringing. After hearing the fallout of poison and dead rodents decaying in walls, the standard trap seemed the best bet. I wasn't prepared to kill something stuck to a tray with a brick or by drowning. I didn't have a brick in any case. Dad insisted that the ones with the plastic triggers work better.

At the store, I laughed. The plastic trigger looks like Swiss cheese. Of course.

It was dark when I got home but I felt better having an arsenal even though I still had no word from the new landlord. Still I kept a lot of lights on. Finally I went to bed and took my chances with the lights off.

This time two rapid snaps from the kitchen woke me up. Yeah! I debated dealing then or in the morning. I opted for morning resting a bit easier with the thought my pests had gotten what they deserved.

With boots on, sun streaming, I clumped into the kitchen. Nothing dammit. Only one trap had been tripped and there wasn't so much as a hair on it. This was very discouraging. Paranoia was well intact though I was becoming rational enough to realize nothing was going to leap out of cabinet to attack me. Sunday was another day of no landlord contact.

While watching X-files, the same trap tripped, and, of course, it was just out of my range of view. I got up to check it out and still no damn mouse. Not fair. Murderous rage developed. Maybe I would get some glue traps along with a brick. I just wanted it done.

There was some rustling that night, but I didn't get up. Instead I banged on my chest of drawers and growled to discourage anything coming near me.

I was actually looking forward to work Monday morning as a distraction. So much that even the prospect of Thursday and Friday off no longer held any appeal. But even work sucked since I had tons of corrections to make on our students’ payroll paperwork and everyone was in a bad mood. Their reasons weren't as good, but I kept mine to myself.

Still no answer on that damn cell phone. He freakin' needs voice mail. Course he could be gone all week for the holiday for all I know.

On a suck scale of 1 to 10, it was only Tuesday. Still no rodent corpses, still no landlord yet, and I had a meeting with the library director to talk about the insulting rate I'd been offered for a job I've been doing for months that I'm way overqualified for. I'd sent her an articulate email a week prior and had to wait for her to return from various trips to meet. It was what I feared, bad timing for me for which they can do nothing. As I sat through the 12 minute explanation, I thought to myself, you couldn't have just emailed me "No" so we could keep this whole thing moving along?

I walked out with a verbal agreement to see what they could do in 6 months. Lot of good that does. I plan to be gone in 6 months. Besides, she could just as easily say they still can't do anything. Yeah, I still took the job and it does pay more than I get now but it was a hollow victory too long in coming and too short in the offing.

A busy signal! At last. I dialed every couple of minutes till I finally got through on the cell. “No one here by that name.”

No way.

My guts splattered via email to a friend. She gets kudos for her pep talk and rational advice. I left a message with the old FBI landlord I'd spoken to on Saturday to see if I had written it down wrong. Turns out his partner had transposed some numbers. 5566 instead of 6655.

I took a deep breath and gave it a shot. Ah, voice mail. I left the good ol' boy a message, and he got back to me in about 20 minutes. He was nice and relayed a tale of his own mouse history which made me feel better. I finally met him at 5 and took the D-Con though I had reservations about using the poison. Still it was tempting as I was tired of having no closure.

It also didn't help that I'd really lost my appetite since the mouse ordeal began. No appetite and no desire to cook with Thanksgiving rapidly approaching. Argh. And with all my neighbors gone, every creak and thump became teams of mice trying to harass me.

Still, by Thursday, I'd mellowed out some regarding my mouse cohabitants. A growl or two if I happened to wake up, but basically I was sleeping through the night.

It was a pretty quiet day. Caught the last 30 minutes of the Macy's day parade. Ol' Tony Bennett needs to give it up. Man was he flat! I did get to see one of my favorite balloons though. Clifford, the big red dog, the only balloon they've ever had that was life-size. Cool. Had some pumpkin pie with lots of whipped cream and watched lots of Buffy.

Late that night while doing some dishes, the next kink arrived. No hot water.

Dude, you're joking.
Didn't that just happen to you a little while back?

Cut to Friday morning calling that cell. Left a message. Nothing like having to harass your new landlord twice in one week. No response. Stayed home all day waiting for the phone to ring in the hopes maybe someone could fix it before the weekend. 5 o'clock, still nothing.

Called home, very discouraged. Ready to pack it in.

Saturday. Well Saturday was different. “Are you tough enough? Are you tough enough?” the chorus ran through my mind. Yes, dammit. Took a cold shower and was…fine. Yes, dammit, I'm tough enough. What'll it be next, hunh? My car? Go for it. Come on. Take your best shot.

Sometimes you have to lift fate by the throat three feet off the ground and crush to show you are not just mad north by northwest.

Sunday. Another crisp cold shower. Back to the hardware store to beef up the rodent arsenal. Electronic pest repellers. How did I miss these the first time around? Ultrasonic sounds, disturbed nervous systems but no permanent damage…I can dig that. Maybe just enough to get them to bother someone else in my building. Yeah, I know it's not nice. And if you're getting ready to tell me they don't work, do us both a favor and don't tell me.

Monday morning, back to that cell. He actually answered which threw me off. He'd been out of town but was at the house next door working as we spoke. Offered to come by at 5 to take a look at it. That'd be good, not exactly what I had in mind though. Plumber was the word I was looking for. I forged ahead. “So I flipped the breaker…” and then gave him the whole history of heating elements and the like from last time. “Oh, maybe I should just try to get a plumber.” Now we're talking. Said he'd call me back.

Didn't hear from him all day, but he was there when I got home. Couldn't get a plumber so he was going to take a crack at it. Ok. Just as well I'd paid attention the last time it got fixed. It's oh so conveniently placed under the counter behind my wheel-less fridge.

He shut the water off and hooked up his hose to drain it. With a final twist, the knob came completely off. He gently screwed it back in. I wasn't sure I wanted to watch. From my landing, we saw a pitiful trickle emerge. “At this rate, we'll be here all night,” he said. I asked him how the house next door was coming along (he's refinishing the whole thing), and he offered to give me a tour. As good a way as any to pass the time, we wandered over.

The tank wasn't even half empty by the time we got back though the valve had broken and was now leaking. I distinctly recall thinking, “Well at least he did it, not me.” He ended up sitting on the floor holding it together for a LONG time. Eventually it stopped leaking and he let go. He still needed to go to the store to buy new elements but was afraid to leave the broken valve. I offered to keep an eye on it hoping to expedite things.

When he left, I promptly changed from my current work clothes to those from my set days. Scuzzies, my dad would say. Boots, jeans, Twin Peaks sheriff department t-shirt. Ready to rock. I crouched down to get a better look, and there it was. A damn mouse hole straight out of Tom and Jerry. With pieces of scrap wood lying by the water heater, I jerry-rigged a barricade. A piece of ply I broke to fit with a brace. Won't hold 'em off forever I know but sure doesn't make it any easier for them.

The water finished draining and finally Joe returned. I wrapped his hose while he switched out the elements. (I can wrap cable with the best of 'em baby.) With all the pieces back together, it would still take about an hour to get hot water assuming it was fixed. Both of us ready to call it a night, Joe said to give him a call in the morning if it was still broken.

Lo and behold, an hour later, two hours later, three… no hot water. Argh.

Called him this morning with the bad news and gave him the go ahead to take a stab at it this afternoon without me. He called a while later to give me the thumbs up. Seems he'd just missed hitting a reset switch last night.

At last. 5 days is a long haul. First thing I did when I got home was take a nice long shower. Oh yeah.

Y'know, I started thinking this in my head on Saturday but refused to write it. Of all the things that have and will happen to me, I'd just as soon forget last week. But there it was, again and again, and inspiration is not to be ignored. Who could pass up the image of me waking up just enough to growl at the darkness before fading back into sleep?

tip of the week

Get your stuff out of storage before gas prices skyrocket, but seeing as it's too late for that... dude, I'm screwed.

Instead, if you're in Los Angeles, go have a pink cloud for me at The Juice Fountain. They have the best smoothies I've ever had anywhere.

Then, go have some stuffed french toast at Doughboys, but be prepared to wait for a table if you go for brunch on the weekend.

What was I just saying?

So a couple days ago, I was talking about how my clothes are still in piles on various flat surfaces in my room because there's not really anywhere to put them. Even though it's been a year, I'm still treating it like a transitional space, and I'm not inclined to change that.

Today, I got a letter from my moving/storage company in Florida, and they're closing their Tallahassee branch. Goddammit. Technically it's already closed; they're just keeping the warehouse open for another month so people can make arrangements to have their stuff delivered. Or...they'll deliver it to another storage company in town. The latter is simple enough, a return to the status quo, but I like the company I chose and know nothing about their successor.

Unfortunately there's nowhere to put any of it here if I have it delivered, so that means putting it in storage locally. I've spent nearly three years saying, "I have one of those...it's just in Florida." With the heat and humidity there, I'm not sure how most of it will have fared. My argument for not moving it up here before was that I'd have to pay to move it a second time when I move into a place of my own. It was a sound argument, but now... Of course if I choose to move it up now, I may end up regretting that I hadn't done it last year. Oh well, that's not worth dwelling on.

My fortune from Friday's cookie seems right:
Change is happening in your life, so go with the flow!

I suppose it's more advice than fortune, but at the time I hadn't been able to see much change.

11 September 2005

Three Breaks: Part 6

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5
And now the conclusion, Part 6:

"Did you see who did it?" the police woman asked.


"There are two ways you can report this: by phone or at the nearest police station."

I guess they won't be coming to look at my car. At least that means I don’t have to feel so bad about messing up the evidence. She transferred me to the phone option and after holding several minutes, I decided to try my luck at the police station.

A man with a cast on his arm stood in front of the thick plastic window. About 15 feet beyond it, two uniformed cops worked at their desks. One was talking to a woman seated across from him, and the other was on the phone. The man with the cast moved aside so I could step up to the window. A vending machine crowded in from the right. I tried to make eye contact with the cops, but neither looked up; several minutes passed. Maybe I should've stuck with the phone option. I turned to the man in the cast and said, "It'd be nice if they at least acknowledged that we're here."

The officer with the woman looked up as if he'd heard me, but I doubted it. He escorted her out and then asked what he could do for me. As soon as I mentioned the break-in, he gave me a form to start; clearly across the top, it read: This is not an official police report. Oh, you’ve gotta be kidding me. I sat down on a low bench and carefully printed the particulars. Once it was complete, the officer invited me back, and I took the seat the woman had occupied. He read the form and proceeded, "Do you know how they got in?"

"The passenger door was unlocked."

"Could you have left it open or was there damage to it?"

"I'm really careful about checking to see if it's locked, but since there's no damage, I guess it's possible."

"They have other ways of getting in. They might've used a slim jim, which is a long strip of metal, to get it open." He said it to make me feel better, which it did in the sense that it may not have been my negligence that caused the crime, but didn't since my car was broken into anyway. He flipped the sheet over for the list of losses.

"They didn't get much," I offered.

"Did they try to take the stereo?"

"It's just a tape deck."

"That's good." He smiled genuinely.

I guess it is.

"Any damage?" he continued.

"Not that I noticed." I hadn't thought to look for any.

He glanced at the form again. "Toyota," he murmured knowingly, "They like Toyotas. The woman before you, they took her whole car."

"I had The Club on my wheel."

"It worked!" he enthused. "That probably saved your car." To think I almost hadn't locked it that time. He handed me a receipt and sent me off with, "Keep using your Club,” and no sense that the perpetrator would be found or even looked for.

Back at home, my dad and several friends shared commiserating tales by phone and email; the experience, from break-in to police inaction, was a common one. “You probably locked it. Slimjims are easy to make and use,” a friend reassured, but instead it exacerbated my insecurities. I can be more careful about locking my doors, but there's nothing I can do about slimjims. What’s to stop them from trying again?

The next day, I picked up my book, sunglasses, and cell phone as I prepared to go to the carwash. Just like I had the day before. I hesitated, fearing my whole car would be gone.

To prepare myself for the worst, I visualized the scenario: I would turn the corner, and there would be nothing where my car had been. Scratch that, parking turnover is practically instantaneous here. I would turn the corner, and someone else’s car would be parked where mine had been. To make sure I wasn’t mistaken, I would frantically pace all the blocks on which I’d ever parked. Out of breath, I would call the police, answer questions, and fill out reports. Then I would repeat the process with my insurance agent. Once I received reimbursement, I would face another car salesman, but this time I would be more assertive and get a car in a color I liked. I can do this.

Thankfully, my sedan was where I’d left it and continued to be during each daily check. Walking up steep blocks on windy, wet days, however, soon became tiresome and fell from my habit: my car would either be fine or not. It is, in the end, just another vehicle I'll replace when the need arises.

10 September 2005

Life in Piles

It's strange what you can become accustomed to. For nearly three years, I haven't slept on a real bed unless I was traveling. This past year it's been a futon which has never resumed its sofa alter ego; the year before, an air mattress on the floor; and the year before that, mostly sofas, sofabeds, and futons when I was exploring the country.

The closet in my room has sliding doors and is laid out backwards regarding where the shelves and rods go as far as I'm concerned, so I don't have much in it. A couple of large duffels are full of towels, sweaters, and clothing dressier enough than what I usually wear that they've remained mostly packed and untouched. A clothes basket resting on an upended one forms a makeshift dresser for underclothes and socks. A pile of pajamas and paperwork sit on an ottoman against the wall. Instead of hanging, my t-shirts are folded and stacked on the box my printer came in. A column of DIY metal cubes holds shorts, long sleeve tees, and hooded sweatshirts. None of this felt strange until I had to significantly rearrange my piles to accommodate some furniture shifting. I'm still living here like I don't live here.

I miss the few big closets I was lucky enough to ever have. I want one of those room-sized walk-ins they're always showing on CRiBs. I'm not a clothes horse, but I like to hang everything so I can see it and never have to iron.

Three Breaks: Part 5

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
Part 5:

Soon after the purchase, I was in San Francisco, my latest car divested of everything except my usual trinkets, sundry film gear, maps, and auto accessories. My apartment straddled the boundary of touristy Chinatown and posh Nob Hill, arguably the most difficult area in the city to find parking. Maybe I should've postponed buying a car. I drove less frequently, and days would pass when I wouldn't see my sedan at all, parked as it often was many uphill blocks away.

From the sidewalk in front of my place, I could see the bay, but the sardined buildings overwhelmed the distant nature. Filth collected in the gutters. Street sweepers were ineffective as most people risked getting parking tickets instead of moving their cars. A fine black grit covered everything and thickened with the lack of rain.

My car needed a bath. I found a coin-operated carwash in the phone book and was delighted that MapQuest routed me through the Presidio and Golden Gate park. Sunny, low 70s, some wispy clouds across the blue, it was a beautiful day for cruising to the latest dance hits.

The Corolla was nearby for once, just around the corner, halfway up the block. The Club was wedged down to the seat because of the rotation required to curb the tires. I squeezed in, jiggled the key for a few moments, and dislodged it. It'd been such a hassle to get locked, I almost hadn't bothered, figuring the appearance of using the antitheft device would be good enough. I tossed it into the adjacent footwell.

The glove compartment was open, and the envelope I keep my registration and insurance card in was sitting on the passenger seat. That's odd. I put it back and closed it. The ashtray was out, and the small storage space above it was unfastened. I park on steep hills all the time and none of these have ever come loose before. Maybe someone hit my car while parking and that popped them open. I closed and opened the compartments to check their action and they seemed fine.

A man in a pickup truck, stretched across the driveway ahead of me, was waiting for me to leave so he could back into the legitimate space. I pulled out, noticed the open door light was on and the lid of my trunk was rising.

Someone broke into my car! I pulled into a 10-minute-only space just past the intersection. With the motor still running, I exploded out the door and dug through my trunk. My spare tire, jumper cables, and jack were still there. So was a bag of gels and diffusion, the piece of bounce card, two AAA guides to California, and a plastic bag. I slammed it shut.

I tore through the items under the seats: an ice scraper, my LA Thomas Guide, and an atlas of the US I'd gotten for my birthday in '02. My big red MagLite was gone.

The front passenger door was unlocked and unlatched. Could I have left it unlocked? Considering my obsessive-compulsive tendencies, it didn't seem likely, yet there was no apparent damage to the door. I tried visualizing the last time I'd parked, surveying the locks as I always do. Maybe not always?

In the footwell, my case of cassettes remained, but 3 tapes were missing. I tried to recollect which ones they were...mix tapes, I decided. That'd be odd unless they looked through the songs and liked them? Since the case had been shut when I picked it up, it seemed more likely the tapes were at home somewhere. Slightly relieved, I resumed my survey.

My purple bandanna and the spare change that lived beneath it were gone. “I'm such an idiot! I've been touching everything, moved my car from the crime scene. You'd think I'd never watched any CSI,” I exclaimed. My ten parking minutes were up, so I relocated my car and then walked home to call the police...

Final Part

09 September 2005

Three Breaks: Part 4

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
Part 4:

For my second automobile, my parents graciously gave me my mom’s old car because she was due for a new one. Smelling faintly of True Blue 100s, maroon instead of red, it was another 4-door sedan: no tape deck. Within a couple of months, open windows and fast-food overcame the odor of cigarettes; I positioned a new Vassar sticker on the back windshield, and I fell in love with the variable-speed windshield wipers. The car started to feel like it was mine.

That fall, I quit my job and set out to explore the country, to find the optimal place to live. As much as I could fit was densely packed throughout the trunk, footwells, back seat, and front passenger seat. The car became my closet, pantry, and sanctuary; it was the only space that was truly mine.

After several months on the road, nowhere felt perfect, but I was ready to call somewhere home. I was back in California, enjoying my last day in LA before moving to San Francisco. Rush hour had just begun as I slowly made my way back to Los Feliz to spend the night at a friend's apartment.

A stoplight turned green, so I pulled forward. In my peripheral vision, I saw a white car running the red, and I hit the brakes. Seemingly in slow-motion, the oncoming car started to veer around me. Wow, that was close. Then it slammed into me, pushing me into an SUV in the next lane.

Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt. My sedan, however, was “a complete loss” according to my insurance adjuster. It had only lasted a year, and this time, with no hand-me-down car to inherit, I was on my own to find a replacement. San Francisco would have to wait unless I followed the advice of some friends to try living there without a car. The last time I had visited the city, it had taken me an hour to park, so I knew the suggestion had merit. However, I couldn’t get past the idea that giving up personal transportation would mean giving up freedom.

The car hunt was on. Having no confidence in my ability to assess the reliability of a used car from a private seller, I chose to go to a dealership to find something with a warranty. I never should have gone inside after the test drive; I should've walked away. Naively, I gave the salesman my credit card as he went to check something, and then he held it hostage all afternoon. When I asked for my Visa back, he consented, but returned instead with a printout of the blue book value for the car.

While I kept trying to leave, he kept reducing the price. Elements of his own pitch formed my best retort to his guilt tactics: “If this type of car is so hard to keep on the lot, you should have no problem selling it to someone else.”

In the end, I paid $3000 below the special Memorial Day weekend sticker price and got him to fill up the tank since it was about to run out of gas. My metallic beige, certified used Toyota Corolla seemed like a decent purchase. It had a little wear on the trunk lining, but it also had new tires and, finally, a tape deck.

Next Part

Three Breaks: Part 3

Part 1, Part 2
Part 3:

Monday afternoon, my mechanic mumbled deeply, “Your transmission's totally messed up. Differential's all tore up,” and concluded, “Two grand to rebuild it or $1200 to put in a used one.” The whole car, if it was running, wouldn’t sell for more than $2700.

Red's been the most reliable daily presence in my life for the past seven years. Together, we've been across the country more than once and we’ve driven home at all times of day and night, but it's time for practicality: to invest in a newer vehicle before the cost of repairing Red exceeds its monetary value.

Our breakup became official when I returned to the auto shop to retrieve my stuff from the car. I waved at a mechanic across the lot and walked over to Red. Somehow I'd thought one plastic grocery bag plus an armful would be enough to get everything. A bit to my embarrassment, I soon wished I had a large trash bag for all those items which seem useful to keep around but not worth hauling anywhere. I considered asking the mechanic for one but decided to keep the moment private.

It was hot, Matthew Broderick-Biloxi Blues-Africa hot, particularly in my planet-covered, black synthetic shirt. Sweat kept streaming down my face, and Red kept dinging because the door was open with a key in the ignition.

From the door's pocket, I pulled a wad of napkins and a beaten, waterlogged AAA TripTik showing the way from LA to Tallahassee via Austin. Just behind the emergency break, a purple bandanna rested; a depression in front of it held a little gas mileage notebook I'd stopped filling out a month ago, a black pen, and five paper squares with directions to places in Tallahassee, three to the same place.

In the slot above the ashtray but below the radio, where tape decks live in other cars, rested the white handkerchief my brother gave me for my grandfather's funeral a year and a half before. I tossed it into the bag with the rest.

The glove compartment housed all the usual paperwork, a heat-bloated bottle of Purell, a “Women's Guide to Household Emergencies” from 1973 that my grandfather gave me along with his toolbox many years ago, and a small plastic box containing multi-colored plastic pieces with pairs of flat protruding metal, numbered at their ends: fuses, perhaps?

I picked up The Club which I hadn't used since I returned to Florida and put it in the bag; the plastic started to give so I took it out and placed it on the ground. Hibernating under the seats were a 1998 Thomas Guide of Los Angeles County, a blue windshield scraper, and a red, three D-cell MagLite. The trunk yielded a small, folded bounce card, used to reflect light; the two traffic triangles that blew over but not away on the Georgia highway; and a length of plastic twine. I stacked the items on the roof and closed the trunk, frowning at the “Y20” some jerk had scratched into the paint while I lived in LA; I still didn't know what it meant.

The scowl dissolved as my gaze rose. There on the rear windshield, still proudly displayed, was my Vassar College sticker. I'd always liked the fact that it read correctly when viewed in the rearview mirror as well as from outside. I'll have to get another one.

I slid into the driver's seat for the last time. Palms flat on the searing dash, I endured the pain briefly and then moved them to shaded and slightly cooler positions. “Red, you've been good to me.” A stream of sweat rolled past my eye and down my cheek; I didn't bother to wipe it off. Empty, the car seemed less mine, with less character. I noted the odometer reading in case the salvage yard wanted it. 111,876 miles. I put the key back in the ignition and left the door unlocked, as it had been when I arrived, and hauled the final load to my rental.

Next Part

08 September 2005

Three Breaks: Part 2

Part 1

Part 2:

A kid's face was plastered to the front passenger window, and from the open sliding side door, an old woman called out, “Would you like a lift?”

I surveyed the interior: two old people and two young kids, grandparents and grandchildren probably. None were the threat I’d envisioned, so I got in. The Whitmans explained that they have a daughter and wouldn't want her to be walking alone on the highway. Having just considered my lackluster options from that position, I could truly appreciate the sentiment.

Within the next five minutes, it started pouring. I had really lucked out. They even offered to take me all the way back to Tallahassee, but I said the next gas station would be fine. It was a few miles down the road, so the grandmother peppered me with questions for the duration.

“In school?”

“No, graduated.”

“What did you study?”



“What?” asked the grandfather, driving.

Louder, “Film.”

His wife contributed, “Movies, the-a-ter, acting.” Since it wasn’t worth the trouble to explain that my degree was for behind-the-camera efforts, I sat quietly, trying to take up as little space as possible. The interrogation resumed, “Have you got a young man in your life?”

Warily, I replied, “Um...no.”

“My nephew’s an insurance agent over in Drifton. You should give him a call if you ever need any help.”

“Hmm,” I murmured noncommittally. Fortunately, the gas station came into view. “Thank you very much for the lift.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to ride back to Tallahassee with us?”

“No, that’s ok. I need to take care of my car. Thank you, though.”

“Wilbur, go on in with her and make sure she can get some help,” Mrs. Whitman finished. It wasn't until we got out of the minivan that I noticed Mr. Whitman was missing an arm, his shirt sleeve neatly pinned up.

He held the mini-mart door open for me, and I smiled a little upon seeing the Georgia peach lottery symbol in the window: I would have my chance at the $220 million Big Game after all. Though most of the cashiers were crazed with lottery customers, the guy babysitting the Subway within the store wasn't, and he kindly offered me their phone. Once I'd called Triple A, I thanked Mr. Whitman again. I would've shaken his hand but his right was the one missing; he didn't offer his left, so I just let him leave.

The nearest service station was 20 miles north in Cairo (Kay-ro), Georgia. I bought ten tickets and waited. The storm dissipated leaving thick, warm droplets glistening in the sunlight. As promised, within 40 minutes, a large flatbed tow truck arrived from Royce's in Cairo. High off the ground, it took two large steps to reach the cab and though I kept looking for a handhold at the top, there wasn't one. The driver secured my faded red sedan to the flatbed and took us both back to Florida...

Next Part

07 September 2005

Three Breaks: Part 1

About 20 minutes from the outskirts of Tallahassee, my seat belt grabbed me as my car suddenly ground to a halt amidst an empty rural highway. I had been on my way to buy tickets for a huge multi-state lottery, one which did not include Florida but did include Georgia. At first, I thought a tire had blown, but the steering didn't pull as my sedan hiccuped to the side of the road. Upon inspection, all the tires were fine. Nothing seemed awry under the hood, but that didn't necessarily mean much. One of these days, I really am going to take a class in auto repair.

The divided highway stretched to the horizon with nothing in sight; it had been many miles since I'd passed anything. Somewhere ahead was the gas station where I'd planned to buy tickets, but I had no idea how much further it was.

I restarted my car and drove a few feet, but I could tell from the aggravated sputtering that driving was making Red worse. I parked and set out the orange traffic triangles I'd gotten for Christmas, assuming they'd blow away, put a sign on my dash, grabbed my water and sunglasses, and started walking north.

The sky darkened and the wind picked up. Rain had been forecast for the past several days but none had fallen yet. Cars and trucks whizzed past without pause. Even if someone did stop, I had no plans to hop in some stranger's car.

Lush green weeds and grasses tickled my calves as I walked along the pavement's edge. There were still no structures within view: not a single house, billboard, fence, nor road sign. On the southbound side of the highway, a tan minivan reduced speed as it drove past. I looked over my shoulder and saw it traverse a dirt path crossing the grass divider: the minivan would soon be upon me.

If an abduction was imminent, I could only hope to outrun my assailant. The fields by the highway were broad with deep grasses, and trees lined the far edges. Assuming I could reach the wood, it would only provide cover. On the road, other motorists might see me and try to help.

There was no time left to strategize: the minivan was rolling slowly beside me...

Next Part


A fortune cookie sat on the dinner table, abandoned the night before by its comrades who were eaten.

Hmm, I'm not feeling this direction. Anyway, today's leftover fortune cookie actually contained a fortune:
A chance meeting opens new doors to success and friendship.
I could use me some of that.

06 September 2005

The Wedge

With most of the dinners at Bugaboo Creek Steak House, you get a choice of salad: garden, Caesar, or the Bugaboo wedge salad which had a specialty mark next to it on the menu.

Do not be fooled. The Bugaboo wedge salad is a quarter of a head of iceberg lettuce with bacon bits and diced tomato. No wonder it's not pictured on the menu. Our waiter made choosing the salad dressing for it sound real special and was undaunted by my you've-got-to-be-kidding eyebrow raise. I got the garden salad.

Overall, a good meal, but I prefer dining with less dead or fake-dead things on the walls (particularly ones that talk). The Canadian Cheese Spinach Dip was excellent though.

05 September 2005

A year and some days

"I think you're hiding out here... and I don't think you should."

My cheeks started to burn, suddenly and uncontrollably. She's going to pressure me to find somewhere else to live, I thought to myself apprehensively. The next few things she said put me at ease; she asked me a question somewhere in there as well, but I was unable to answer. To speak would break my concentration on the pork fried rice and let untempered emotion usurp my calm facade.

We'd been talking about generational expectations. In her time, women got education as a contingency plan, in case their husbands got injured and were unable to work. In my time, a great deal more is possible and we are expected to take advantage of it all. The broader notion "Success" has overtaken home life and family raising.

Yes, I do feel the weight of that notion even though I'm not much interested in achieving that sort of success. I expect more from myself because it seems possible. Many things are possible, I'm just unwilling to compromise or settle for most of it.

A year has gone by and nothing significant has changed for me except that I've spent a year somewhere else. Always somewhere else. The next place is where I'll figure things out.

In this place, I have at least learned to identify the following in recent months: vinca, osteospermum, Grandpa Ott (morning glory), Bela Lugosi (daylily), trillium, primrose, hosta, bee balm, coreopsis, violet, petunia, coxcomb, verbena, impatien, polka dot, and sweet potato vine. Of course, I might not recognize them all in other settings. That's the real trick.

And still, I hide out. From myself mostly. But it doesn't feel like hiding because there's not much I want.


Last night, I was actually looking forward to working out today. I was going to get back on the bike, watch Ellen start the new season; it was going to feel good to put the body in motion even if I didn't push it too hard. But now with tennis and Jerry Lewis, Ellen isn't airing today, and I feel the cold hand of the kibosh on my motivation. I should find something else to watch on this tv marathon-laden Labor Day and do it anyway, but I'm just not feeling it. I hadn't anticipated how much watching Ellen was going to factor as my reward for the effort. Tomorrow then.

As for today, perhaps a meander outside.

I did go for a short walk and during it the source of my previous anticipation became clear: I had sense-memoried an endorphin rush. Now if I can just remind myself that reliving one as the fruits of actual exercise would be better for me than just imagining one...

tip of the week- matching donations

If you haven't donated yet but are planning to, here's a couple ways to double your donation's value:

Warner Bros. will match your donation to the Red Cross if you start at this link on The Ellen DeGeneres Show webpage. From the site: "Warner Bros. Entertainment is donating $500,000 and will match your contributions up to another $500,000."

Wil Wheaton is hosting poker tournaments at PokerStars to raise money for hurricane relief. PokerStars will match the buy-ins 100% and donate the proceeds to the American Red Cross. For more info on prizes, dates, and times, check with Wil's blog and PokerStars. (I think you need to sign in to get the detailed registration and donation info at PokerStars.)

If you've already donated what you can monetarily, you can still provide support by clicking once a day at The Hunger Site. Corporate sponsors donate based on clicks received. One free click from you provides 1.1 cups of food. The site is up year-round, but currently the food is going to help victims of Hurricane Katrina. [Note: the site only registers one click per day from each computer/ISP.]

03 September 2005

Trivial in comparison

With everything going on, I know this is trivial, but I am sick at heart because I believe my negatives have been lost in the mail. I sent two strips to have two 12"x18" enlargements made to a place whose work I trust. They always promptly email when they receive something and then email again when the order is being shipped. No word on receipt and it's long overdue.

Yes, I have the 4"x6" prints and even low-res scans of the photos, but it's not the same; besides, I'd need a much better scanner to get a print that looked good enlarged that much. Also, it's not just two photos, but the negatives for 8 that are lost to me. Worse yet, it feels like some cruel sign. I've had 8"x10"s made now and then, but I wanted to see if something Large would inspire some direction in me.

Though I've had various jobs in my life and am currently unemployed, I'm searching... searching for something more than office work to commit my talents to. Despite the weight of my career indecision, I know that my writing and my photography are the closest manifestion of a life's work that I have. To lose any part of it is a gut punch and spit in the eye from the Universe.

Nagging at me all the more is that I was hesitant to mail them. I packed them well, handed them directly to someone at the post office, and yet my intuition repeatedly told me it was a bad idea from the beginning. I can't say I didn't listen to it, I did. I weighed the options and decided to take the risk. It just appears that my luck has taken a sour turn. I just hope my negatives find their way back to me eventually.

*UPDATE* 9/13/05 Well my negatives did finally reach their destination in Seattle. Hopefully it won't take another 3 weeks for them to return to me. In any case, I'm relieved and will be much more so when they're back in my hands.

After the flood came fire

Pleas for aid, disaster coverage, and criticism of response efforts have been dominating news and blogs alike for days now. I am not indifferent to it. My outrage and anger is giving way to despair today, particularly as I read the international coverage. We should've done better.

Something my mom said yesterday keeps resurfacing though. The logistics would be difficult and would require the dedication of resources, personnel, money, as well as that of the survivors left with nothing; in short, it has all the characteristics of a Big Idea. It could be an opportunity to eliminate (greatly reduce) poverty in that area. Provide job training for the residents who've lost everything and don't have the skills or education to make a decent living. Actually, do that whether they lost their homes or not. This disaster could be the clean slate that emboldens poverty stricken people to take challenging strides forward if they're given the opportunity and help to do so.

For it to work, there have to be jobs available after the training. There's also the question of what to train them for. I would not want to see the government use this opportunity to promise job training and college tuition only by way of joining the military, so businesses would have to step up. Construction, engineering, medical training all seem relevant choices.

I don't know who owns most of the land in New Orleans, but it seems unlikely they will rebuild the housing of the poorest sections so the poor can just move back in.

Maybe this is terribly naive considering evacuation and supplying shelter, food and water is still proving difficult (and obviously most important right now), but I felt compelled to put it out there. Maybe you're smarter than I am, or have connections, or resources, or know someone who does... if you're not actively working on the immediate problems of that region, give what comes next some thought. I think we would all benefit from more Big Ideas.

02 September 2005

Progress and non-progress

Well, since I mentioned my intent to drink 24 oz. of milk a day, I've managed a grand total of about 30 oz. over three weeks, so that's been a total bust. A tall glass of milk as a chocolate chaser used to be just the thing, but no more. With cereal it's ok, but on its own, it just seems funky now.

The same thing happened when I came home from college on my first break. I didn't know what type of milk my Mom bought, so I started drinking 2% at school. After a few months of that, the full-fat milk my Mom stocked tasted rank. Maybe all these years of drinking water has biased my palette... or maybe I just need to eat richer chocolate.

On the progress front, the snake desensitization is going well. I still fully expect to yelp like a little girl and sprint away if I see one in the yard, but I'm not having strong physical stress reactions if I see one on tv. Though this is significant progress, I can't help but think I'm just adding more snake imagery to my phobia library when I don't look away. I suppose the point is to give that library another name, but I'm just not ready to throw snakes in with the rest of nature.

01 September 2005

The fog is all internal

The wind keeps blowing today, but it does not dispel my drowsiness. Yesterday I noticed the leaves are already starting to turn.