Friday, October 29, 2004

film strip

Reading a post last night about a woman traveling down a long highway to go 'home' for a visit and some of her initial experiences upon arriving there really touched a chord in me. I wrote a comment about what it feels like when I journey homeward. How once the dinner plates have been cleared, we linger at the dining room table and my father begins to tell his stories, yet again. Family history, family lore, family mythology. And I realized in the moment of writing that comment how awkward I feel at those times--as if I'm trying to squeeze myself back into the frame of my family's highlight reel. When truth be known, I'm not really that person...I just play her on TV.

Family is such a confounding label. And I'm not even talking about extended, mixed, by-marriage relations--I'm talking about blood relations. Sometimes I look at my brother and wonder how we could possibly have sprung from the same seed. We could not be more different in terms of lifestyle, political beliefs, social network, hobbies, etc....and yet... And yet in some primal emotional ways, we're very much alike. It's such a remarkable thing to be linked to a group of people simply because of birth or marriage. To go through life with the knowledge that even if you don't like them, they're yours. You're stuck with them, and they with you. Greek drama had nothin' on family drama. It's theatre of the first order...and casting is everything.

So I play my role, dutifully. Yet how would I describe 'her'? Because she's not a neat stereotype. I play the oldest child. She's very smart. She looks 'normal' (i.e., traditional) but has never led a traditional lifestyle. She lives tenuously, financially, yet is viewed as much more 'together' than her prosperous, wild, crazy-adventurer brother. Flaky lifestyle, but reliable in a pinch. Will perform her daughterly duties, but might show up for duty wearing odd clothes.

So when the family movies get played out verbally in my father's wine-soaked words, I sit and listen and offer the occasional half-smile. It's the best I can do when many of the 'highlights' he's recounting contain hidden pain for me. But I'm nothing if not a trooper. After all, the show must go on.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

How (not) to succeed...

Inspired by the list created by the magnificent Kat...

How to Not Be Happy Living on a Tropical Island - Part I:

1) Allow your boyfriend to convince you that moving 4,000 miles away from everyone and everything you know is a GOOD thing.

2) Try not to become alarmed when you ask him for the street address of your new home and he says, "It doesn't work that way here..."

3) Land at an open-air airport on a tiny island at 10:00 at night with one large suitcase and a TV/VCR combo in a box and think, "This is my new life? Where the hell is he?"

4) Crumple into tears over lunch one week into your new life over the fact that the humidity feels oppressive, the mosquitos have used your flesh as their new favorite breeding ground, you're car-less, you live up the steepest concrete (and therefore very slippery when wet) driveway you've ever seen and public buses consider your neighborhood "the country."

5) Try to adjust to a communal lifestyle which includes your next-door neighbors feeling free to enter your home late at night when you're home alone (locked inside the master suite) to use the washer and dryer.

6) Try not to be depressed over the fact that the highlight of your day is packing your man's lunch in the morning.

7) Learn to welcome the braying of the neighborhood donkey. On some days, find yourself thinking, "I know just how you feel, pal."

8) Try to adjust to being dependent on rainfall for your household water supply. Learn to take the quickest showers imaginable. And get used to the fact that you can't flush the toilet when the power goes out, which it does...a lot. Catch yourself peeing in the yard outside your hilltop home with its million dollar view and wonder, "What's wrong with this picture?"

9) Learn to live with a night-time soundtrack of gunshots from the neighborhood at the foot of the hill.

10) Try to be calm when the phone company tells you for many months that they can't hook up your phone...until someone in the neighborhood moves and frees up a line.

11) Begin to comprehend that in this tourist-driven economy, "customer service" usually means someone giving you the evil eye and sucking her teeth with disgust and annoyance at having to wait on you.

12) Finally get your phone week before you move. Have the phone company misplace the move order...twice.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Finally, a name for it!

And I agree with Caterina--blogging IS a great avoidance tool. :)

Men at the Door

I saw a panel on BookTV today that included Thai Jones talking about his new book. His parents were leaders in the Weather Underground. He related a story of being at his parents' house in upstate N.Y. a year ago. His parents were out and he was watching a basketball game, when there was a knock at the door. When he answered it, he saw a short red-haired man with a fairly friendly look on his face and a taller dark-haired man wearing a rather mean look. He said he knew exactly who they were before they even showed their ID, since his family has a history of being harrassed (and pursued) by the FBI. Hearing that story suddenly threw me back to 1975...

I was living in an apartment in a rambling old house that had been divided into three apartments, two on the main floor and one on the lower level. It was in Northern California in a town that's now an over-developed Bay Area suburb, but at the time it was still rather bucolic. Hell, we even had a chicken coop in the front yard that was tended by my roommate, J. We lived in the apartment at the front of the house. It had large bay windows in the living room and a porch with a sweeping view. The road curved in front of the house, so we were on a corner. There was a large, common mailbox on a post that sat on the road facing the side of the house.

The other roommate, R., and I had previously lived in the apartment at the back of the house. When we lived in the back apartment, the front apartment had been occupied by two women and a man. The young (teens) dark-haired woman was a couple with the guy. She told us she used to work with a circus. The strawberry blonde with the wrist tattoo had done time--for bouncing checks, she said. None of them worked (as far as we could tell) during the time they lived there. But it was a different time. Hell, I barely worked. (Does making macrame plant holders and Maxfield Parrish prints Mod-Podged onto particle board to sell at the San Jose flea market count?) They were friendly neighbors and pleasant toward us, and I have fond memories of sitting on the porch with the blonde--hanging out, drinking tea and shootin' the shit.

Then suddenly, they were gone. No warning, no goodbyes or anything. We thought that was a little strange given that we'd been friendly with them. But R. and I cared more about grabbing the better apartment. The landlord gave us the front apartment and J. moved in with us (and brought her chickens with her).

One day J., R. and I all happened to be home when there was a knock at the door. We all ambled toward the front door and when we opened it, we saw two men standing there, both wearing navy windbreakers with FBI emblazoned in huge yellow letters on the back. They flashed ID and asked if they could ask us a few questions. We looked at each other rather quizzically and then hesitantly said, "Sure." We had NO idea what they wanted.

Patty Hearst had recently been apprehended. (If you're too young to know who that is, check your '70's history.) When they found her, she had among her possessions a fake ID that had been obtained by requesting the birth certificate for an infant who had died shortly after birth. The birth certificate had been obtained from Marin County and had been mailed to...our address. (Remember the common mailbox?) We were stunned. We explained that yes, like everyone else who watched the news, we knew who Patty Hearst was. But that, no, we didn't know her personally, nor did we know anyone who did. And then we remembered the previous tenants...

We never learned what, if any, connection they had to the Patty Hearst case. But it cast the "histories" they'd given us in a whole new light, not to mention their sudden disappearance.

So there you go--that's my brush with a piece of 70's history.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

The islands suck.

The power just came back on, after being out since 7:30. So I'm just now seeing the game for the first time. It's a good thing it's back on, because I had just launched into a sneezing attack from having to smell the fumes from the neighborhood generators running for hours. (We have our sliders constantly open.) There isn't a breath of wind tonight, and it's WARM! (I know, I know, stop yer whinin', you pampered Tropical Princess.)

I'm so tired of these random power outages. Last Sunday night, the power went out and came back on at exactly 9:00. I thought, "Oh, goodie, I can watch 'Desperate Housewives." I turned on the TV...only to discover the cable was out.
UPDATE - Sunday, 3:45 p.m.: The power just went off, but came right back on. But now the cable's out. Damn! And I was so enjoying BookTV. What is it with these damn outages this weekend? And why is it only happening once boyfriend's gone off to a gig and I have no one to talk to?! Why?! WHY?!

Boyfriend say...

This was taken this afternoon (he didn't see me with the camera). We were waiting (and waiting and waiting and waiting) for another band to finish sound check so that the group he was playing with could play the opening set...and we could go home. It's not that we don't like this beach (we do), but it was shaping up to be an unpleasant experience. There was no one at the show. Well, not literally no one, but very few. It's not an event he's played before, but in the past it's been at a different resort and they've had 'real' headliners. The headliner for today's blues show was a Toronto guitarist who now lives in Nashville. Nothing against either city, but they're not exactly hotbeds of the blues. And trust me, I heard the guy's sound check. I joked with the guitarist the boyfriend was playing with by saying, "I think the promoters may have been a little mixed up--they should be opening for you." But the only way boyfriend could play the gig today is because it was the opening set. We left the venue as soon as he was done and had just enough time to grab a bite to eat and dash home so he could change and head off to his next gig.

As I was ironing his clothes (aren't I nice?) and he was giving himself a haircut, he suddenly laughed and said, "Sometimes C. (the bass player) just stops playing. You can't just stop playing! It's like that Tom Hanks movie: There's no crying in baseball! If all else fails, just groove. Everybody knows that--that's the oldest rule in the book. If you screw up, just groove. And if you make a mistake, make it loud and proud!"

So the next time you're feeling a little unsure of yourself, keep that in mind. If all else fails, just groove...and do it loud and proud. Posted by Hello

Friday, October 22, 2004


Tonya at Adventure Journalist is hosting the Great Blogger Debate 2004 on Tuesday, October 26th, from 6-9 pm (Mountain Time). Pre-registration is required. Readers are encouraged to submit questions (even if you don't plan to participate in the debate).

Want to debate the topics in an intelligent, fair-minded fashion with your fellow bloggers? Here's your chance!

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Rat Patrol

After work today, we noticed a sudden invasion of huge flies near the large bathroom windows, one of which is permanently open (with a screen). (It appears they were entering through a tiny gap between the screen and the window.) We also noticed a...(ahem)...smell. So we knew "the creature" had expired. It reached its demise in a drainage hole that runs from the (empty) planter next to the tub to...? We weren't sure where that drainage hole went, but Monday after work (Rat Day!) boyfriend went down the trail to the area below the condo and got a large rock to block it.

Boyfriend knew, of course, that he was going to have to deal with carcass removal, since there was NO WAY I was going near it. He said he'd take care of it tomorrow while I'm at work. But then he decided it would be too unpleasant to have to endure the smell until tomorrow afternoon, so he prepared for battle. He put a bandana over his mouth (dabbing it with some of the amber oil he bought me) and his sunglasses (psychological protective eyewear) and armed himself with the long tongs he uses to stoke the barbecue coals and a paper bag. HE'S MY HERO!!! :) Then he hosed out the area and discovered that the drainage hole doesn't really go anywhere. So we don't think the rat even got to the poison we placed out for him, but rather that he left Monday via the drainage hole and died there of either asphyixiation and/or starvation. Here's the creepy part: We're shocked we didn't see "the creature" scamper from where he'd been digging through the drywall under the bathroom sink up and over the edge of the tub to climb into the drainage hole, since that's when we were looking around. We must have just missed him. (Thank god!!!) But we can rest easy knowing he won't be back.

That was good news #1. Good news #2 is that Stacy got fired on "The Apprentice" tonight. It's the only series we watch with regularity, and we're admittedly hooked. We were both happy to see her go.

And now we're watching the end of the baseball game. I'm sort of rooting for the Astros, because it would be too funny to have a World Series this year between teams from Texas and Massachusetts. But I've always liked the Cardinals, so I won't mind if they win.

It's been a good night. And, frankly, I could use it. :)

Monday, October 18, 2004

This has been one helluva day...

Shortly after the alarm went off this morning, we heard an odd sound. I thought it sounded like a tapping of some sort; boyfriend thought it was more like a scratching. He got up to investigate and paused by the bathroom sink. I thought maybe the pipes were making some weird rattling noise. Then he went out to the living room, came back to the bedroom where I was putzing around and calmly said, "I think we have a creature." Come again? "A creature?" Gekkos get into the house all the time, so I knew he didn't mean one of those. I feared the worst--a mouse. My heart sank...or maybe it was that my stomach flopped. "A mouse?" "No...a rat." I FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAKED. Seriously. Boyfriend learned this morning that a fear of rats is at the top of my phobia list. And as much as it freaked me out to learn that it is/was/had been inside the condo, I was equally upset at the thought of him leaving for work and leaving me inside with it (if in fact it was still inside--we do have a tiny place and there was no sign of it). I kept saying, "You can't leave me here with it!" He kept insisting, "But I have to go to work!" His workday starts at 6:30; mine starts at 7:30. I told him to wait just a minute--I'd drive him and go to work early. I may have set a new Guinness world record in the "How fast can a woman shower and dress?" category. When we went to leave, I saw the hole in our screen door that "the creature" had gnawed, so I knew he was right to assume it had been a rat.

They're all over the golf course. When friends lived a couple of doors down, the husband was sitting on the balcony one morning and one ran right in front of his feet. When boyfriend first worked at the golf course as a starter, he'd see dead rats precariously balanced on the rafters over the starter area and hope and pray that they wouldn't fall onto the customers. I did see one scoot across our darkened balcony a couple of nights last week (after boyfriend was in bed). There everywhere here, so I've been very fortunate that I haven't had to get up close and personal with one...unlike my boss's wife. When she first moved here, she was shopping in the supermarket one day and had one jump off a shelf onto her shoulder. But then she also had an iguana jump from a tree onto her head, too--so she does have a pattern of things leaping at her.

When boyfriend got home from work, he checked under the bathroom sink and discovered that the noise we'd heard this morning was from "the creature" trying to tear away the drywall next to the drainpipe. I stopped at Home Depot on the way home from work, and between the poison, spray foam and replacement screen material, we think we've covered our bases. Not to mention the traps. When I spoke to the boyfriend from the office he mentioned that he'd picked up a couple of "mouse traps" from his supervisor. I figured they might be better than nothing, but a little tiny mouse trap didn't seem like it would be very effective. But, no, these are some big-ass glue rat traps. He said his boss had them on hand because he's had a problem with them getting into his office. And then boyfriend kind of chuckled and said, "Yeah, he caught one last week that was this lon..." That's when I told him I could do without the details.

Boyfriend was scheduled to play a gospel gig downtown this evening. He really didn't feel like going, even though he loves gospel music. The guy who asked him to play was already going to have a drum machine there, so he had pretty much decided to skip the gig (and he would be volunteering his time). But the guy called to make sure he was coming, so he felt obligated. There was no way I was staying home on Rat Patrol (even though I doubt we'll see him again) so I went along. It was a "Thanksgiving and Praise" service. Basically one of the churches was having a celebration that we'd made it through hurricane season safely. A little premature perhaps, since hurricane season isn't over until November 30. But a nice thought nonetheless. The music was wonderful, there were a bunch of totally adorable kids there and I was actually enjoying myself...until late in the program. They had handed out programs with the song lyrics. When there were only a couple of songs left, the minister took over the soloing from the woman who'd sung all of the other songs. Just when I thought the program was drawing to a close, he said, "Please be seated." Uh-oh. Now, I mean no offense to any Christian readers. Boyfriend's a (okay, not really a practicing, but still) Christian and I was raised Catholic. But when ministers pull out the bible and start preaching, I sometimes lose interest. Sometimes I can glean some personal meaning from morsels of it, but not tonight. And I couldn't stop yawning. The car was only about ten yards away, just across the street from the gazebo where boyfriend was playing (and the preacher was preaching). It suddenly occured to me that instead of struggling to stop yawning while perched on a concrete bench, I did have another alterantive. I could climb into the passenger seat of the car where I could still hear the goings-on, recline the seat and possibly doze off behind the tinted windows. Of course, that wouldn't be very 'spiritual' of me. I'll let you guess what I did.

We arrived home to a message from my stepmother asking us to call. We figured they must have received the anniversary gift we sent them. Their 26th anniversary was last Friday, but their gift was late because we didn't have the right sized box to pack the framed photos we'd made them (photos of their big 25th anniversary bash last year.) And yes, they did receive the package and loved the photos. And then she said, "Getting your package was the bright spot in our day...because I'm afraid we have some bad news to tell you today." I thought, "Oh god, who died now?" And then she said, "The cyst they removed from your Dad's neck turned out to be cancer." And I felt stunned...because he'd had it biopsied a couple of months ago and the results were benign. In fact, the doctors encouraged him to NOT have it removed--they told him that benign cysts like that typically disappear on their own, and my stepmother agreed with the doctors. But my father insisted and thank god he did, because the cancer diagnosis caught his doctors by surprise.

He had the cyst removed last Wednesday, but the area on his neck has grown more swollen and tender since then. The doctor left a message on their answering machine today, but they were unaware of it because they were in town taking care of some business. Dad insisted that they go by the doctor's office so the doctor could take a look at his neck since it didn't seem to be getting any better. When they walked into the doctor's office, the receptionist said, "Oh, he left you a message." Just then the doctor walked out and asked them to come into his office. Dad said he thought, "Well, this can't be very good." As soon as they were seated, the doctor told them that he and the other doctor had gotten some information they hadn't expected--that the cyst is cancerous. Dad said, "You see scenes like that on TV and you wonder how you would react (if someone told you that you have cancer). I didn't know how to react." He was back at the hospital for tests today, and he'll go back on Thursday to get the results of those tests and to have even more tests done (pricking and poking, as he puts it).

We've been dealing with my father's heart disease for 20 years. I guess I didn't see cancer anywhere on the horizon, since the heart stuff has seemed like enough to deal with. This has caught all of us off guard, since the fear and alarm we felt when the cyst first appeared on his neck was alleviated by the benign diagnosis as a result of the needle biopsy. Now we're back at the fear and alarm stage. If you'd be so kind, please hold a good thought.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Dear Reader

For the last few years, I've been a subscriber to Dear Reader, a free online book club. As a subscriber, each weekday morning I receive an email with a 5-minute excerpt from that week's featured selection. I subscribe to both the fiction and non-fiction clubs, but there are several other categories, too.

It's a wonderful way to be exposed to books that one might not otherwise come across. And if that week's selection doesn't appeal to you, all you have to do is hit delete.

But even when I choose not to read the week's book selection, I always read the daily "Dear Reader" essay which precedes each excerpt. The essays are written by Suzanne Beecher, the Florida woman who owns the email books clubs. It's a ritual for me to read her daily message with my morning coffee. She's a down-to-earth woman who really does read her own email. Drop her a line and you're sure to get a response, even though she has hundreds of thousands of readers all over the world.

And now she has a Dear Reader blog, featuring those daily essays. Check it out and check out the book clubs (the link is on the blog). They provide a wonderful daily 5-minute escape.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Internet Garage Sale!

Not me -- the amazing Tonya. The sale will be Sunday, October 17, from 8 am to 3 pm Mountain Time (she's in New Mexico).

She'll have the sale page link posted on her site by Saturday evening, but no purchases will be allowed until 8 am on Sunday.

Stop by, take a look, buy something if you feel like it. They just returned from a 12,000-mile, 6-week road trip around the U.S. and into Canada. If you're unfamiliar with Tonya's site, browse around, read about their trip and check out her VIVO link to view the photo albums.

Tonya, her boyfriend Shane and her kids Ryan and Sarah lead an interesting and stimulating life. I think you'll see why she's not just one of my favorite bloggers--she's one of my favorite people. :)

Thursday, October 14, 2004

I have officially died and gone to heaven.

Link courtesy of Ultratart.

(This one's for the Panhandler.)

Open mouth, insert foot. Repeat.

My boss mentioned something about Andover today. It's his, as well as George W. Bush's, alma mater. And because I was in my post-debate-mocking-Bush mode, I started making rude comments about Bush being a cheerleader at Andover. And just to let my boss know I think he (my boss....well, W., too) is a spoiled rich kid (still) at heart, I started saying things like: "What sport did he cheer for?" "Well, football, of course." "Andover had a football team? I thought boarding school boys were too wussy to play football." He laughed and said he wouldn't dignify that with a response. He reminded me that Bush had been a cheerleader before the school became coed, and that all the cheerleaders were male in those days. I began pleading with him to bring in his Andover yearbooks so I could have a few good yuks at Bush's expense.

Then he said, "Well, actually, when I started at Harvard it wasn't really coed yet. So all the rowing guys (of which he was one) were cheerleaders. So I was a cheerleader at Harvard." What??

In the spirit of full disclosure, I was a cheerleader. But I'm a GIRL. I know that's an incredibly sexist thing to say, and I adored the boy cheerleaders we cheered with. But you'd have to know my boss--it's just not easy to picture him as a the, what, 60's?? He's sure he has photos (and I don't doubt it--he saves everything), so hopefully he'll produce them as evidence and I can mock him some more. I'm sorry, but a HARVARD cheerleader?? (I've seen photos of my boss as a young man. "Give me an N! Give me an E! Give me an R!...)

That was my first faux pas of the day. I couldn't wait to share this cheerleader news with the boyfriend. When I walked into the house, the stereo was blasting some music that didn't sound familiar. I walked back to the bedroom, where boyfriend was dressing for a gig, and asked, "WHAT are you listening to?" He said, "One of the OffShore CD's." I sheepishly replied, "Oh. That's the Gypsies? Gee, I don't remember that song." When we first lived here, boyfriend managed the music at his friend's club and performed there (with lots of different musicans) five or six nights a week. The first band he put together recorded two live CD's. They called themselves the OffShore Gypsies. Faux pas #2--I mocked his taste in music, only to learn I was listening to HIM play. Oops. :)


Good god, that debate was boring. We've watched all of the debates on C-Span, 'cause we dig the split screen. I find it really irritating to watch Bush try to form a sentence. His mannerisms just push me right over the edge--the constant smirking, the up and down shifting of his shoulders, the beady little eyes, the way he leans over the lectern for emphasis when he's particularly pleased with a word or phrase that he's been able to remember. (He likes "comprehensive"--he used it twice in his first two answers.) Last night he seemed more child-like to me than ever before (and that's saying a lot). But some of the endings to his answers were so abrupt that he reminded me of a child who's been told to memorize something and then seems particularly pleased with himself when he thinks he's aced it.

Decades ago, I adopted a quirky motto. Call me crazy, but I swear it's served me well. Ready? Here it is. Never trust anyone with thin lips. I'm just sayin'...

But as irritating as I find Bush to watch when he's trying to form a sentence, he's equally as entertaining when he's listening. Kerry often seems to be (at least looking like he's) taking notes while Bush is speaking, whereas Bush almost always looks at Kerry at some point while Kerry's speaking. It seems as if Bush has to watch Kerry form the words to comprehend their meaning. And then there's 'the look.' Boyfriend waited for it last night, and he wasn't disappointed. The look that's a mixture of "He's pissin' me off!" with "Oh, shit, I thought I nailed him with that one." Waiting for that look? That's some good sport there.

But for my taste, there were way too many figures being bandied about by both sides last night. It seems to me that that only serves to confuse voters, because both candidates contradicted the other's statistics. So then it becomes a matter of: which one's lying?

Boyfriend got particularly peeved when Bush did his bit about No Child Left Behind...creating jobs? I missed it, because about halfway through the bore-fest I moved to the laptop to see if I could find some live-blogging. There were only a few posts at Kos and Josh Marshall wasn't blogging during the debate, but I knew Wonkette would be. She was good, and she had a link to Mr. Sun, a blog I'd never read. I was reading excerpts from both Wonkette and Mr. Sun to the boyfriend and we were having a few good laughs, but I lost it when I got to Mr. Sun's Rain Man bit. I'd simply never thought of Bush within the Rain Man reference, but it suddenly made perfectly hilarious sense. And please, know that I mean no disrespect when I say that--I have the utmost regard for savants.

Monday, October 11, 2004


As autumn descends on Portland, the usual barbs are flung from one tree to the next. The black walnut trees accuse the elms of flip-flopping from red to yellow and back. The Douglas firs, meanwhile, cling to their needles and insist that the beeches' new colors are utterly unexceptional. Many squirrels polled remain undecided. -- newsletter, October 5, 2004

Sunday, October 10, 2004

A Sampler

My 3-day weekend has included rifling through a big stack of magazines. Some tidbits:

"Babies aren't born with inner critics. Can you imagine? Tiny newborns, running themselves down from the get-go: 'Get it together and breast-feed! All the other babies are naturals at this. What is your problem?'" -- "Silence your Inner Critic" by Sheila Heen, Real Simple, August 2004

"If you were given the news that you had only six months to live, what writing project would you finish first?" -- "Writing Prompts," Writer's Digest, December 2003

"Often you think men aren't listening. But actually they're just not paying attention." -- "Men are from Mars. Period." by W. Bruce Cameron, O, September 2004

"Sometimes you'll swear you don't see in yourself the loathsome qualities you notice in others. You spot it, but you ain't got it. Look again. See if you are implicitly condoning someone else's vileness by failing to oppose it--which puts your actions on the side of the trait you hate. -- "You Spot It, You've Got It" by Martha Beck, O, July 2004

"Yes, the manual for your DVD player is in the house somewhere. No, you cannot find it. Luckily, has links to about 30 munfacturers' sites with on-line versions of appliance manuals." -- Real Simple, March 2004

“She challenged herself with her father’s three-question mantra: ‘Who am I? Where am I? And what must I do to be me?’” -- profile of Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy, “The Rescue Squad,” O, July 2004

“If you can’t find reasonably priced plane fares (or seats specifically allocated for mileage redemption), check the airlines just after midnight, when reservations that haven’t been confirmed are often released and become available.” -- Real Simple, June/July 2004

“Before you hit the road, visit, the brainchild of architect Bill Stank, who became frustrated with trying to tune in good radio when on the road. His website allows you to print out maps and station listings by state…Listings include music format and the strength of each station’s signal--so you’ll know approximately how long you’ll be able to listen before the music fades.” -- Sunset, January 2004 (NOTE: Site relaunches in mid-November.)

“Discover a museum you never knew about. Log on to and you can search for museums of all kinds in all 50 states (and almost 200 countries). -- Real Simple, February 2004

“I participate in a local program called Conversation Café. We meet in a cozy public space and discuss various issues. It attracts a variety of people with diverse opinions and is a great way to remember that there is more than one way to view the world.” -- Angela Motta, Boise, Idaho, in answer to “Which activities keep you connected to friends, neighbors and the world?”, Real Simple, May 2003

“Cash in on clutter…Visit for organizing tips…” -- Real Simple, June/July 2003

“Hide not your talents, they for use were made. What’s a sun-dial in the shade!” -- Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanac, as quoted in Real Simple, May 2004

“Always wanted to sell your stuff on eBay but couldn’t deal with the hassle of uploading photos, processing payments and shipping? Let an eBay drop-off center do it for you. Bring your unwanted belongings to the nearest drop ( lists more than 3,000 locations), and the service will try to sell your things on eBay, taking 20 to 38 percent of the selling price for doing the legwork.” -- Real Simple, September 2004


Last night the boyfriend and I did something we'd never done in our 4-1/2 years in the islands. We went to a concert--a concert that didn't involve him performing. In our years together, it's always been hard for us to catch shows together because he's either been on the road (when we lived in the States) or playing a gig himself. I went to countless concerts by myself in Portland. Just because he wasn't available didn't mean I was going to miss them!

In our years here, we've seen exactly three shows with mainland artists that I've enjoyed: David Sanborn (we watched that one from the wings because boyfriend had been in the opening band), Joe Louis Walker and Pinetop Perkins. (The last two are blues artists if you're not familiar with them.) And I watched the shows performed by the last two separate from the boyfriend because he was backing both of them. So it's a rare treat for us to go out on a Saturday night to see a concert together.

We went to see El Gran Combo, grandaddies of Puerto Rican salsa. The group's been in existence for over 40 years. Obviously they've seen a lot of personnel changes in that time, but the founders of the group are still going at it. It was at the amphitheater on the University campus. It's a lovely venue and it was a warm, still night. The show was great. There were three vocalists who switched off and they had highly-choreographed moves. Imagine three adorable middle-aged Puerto Rican men moving like the salsa version of the Temptations.

Boyfriend adores salsa and one of the real treats of living here has been the ability to hop in the car and hear salsa on the radio (broadcast from Puerto Rico) 24/7. (It's harder to pick up inside our concrete condo.) He said after the show that percussion-wise he learned a lot. When we lived in Portland, he sometimes played in his Puerto Rican friend's Latin jazz band. (The man's son is also a drummer and it's typically his gig.) I always enjoyed hearing him play with that band, but they do play Latin jazz rather than straight-up salsa.

The salsa last night was kickin'! There were three percussionists, but no drum kit. They had timbales, congas and bongos and the guy playing bongos doubled on cowbell. The bongos player took a solo with drumsticks late in the show that was fabulous. The timbales guy got his solo during the encore.

I find it nearly impossible to listen to good salsa and not want to move. It's such upbeat music. Many couples last night got up and danced in front of the stage and in the aisles. I'd like to say that we were one of them, but I still don't know how to do salsa dancing (although I'd love to learn.) For me, there is no sexier dance. BET can have all the in-your-face booty shakin' they want--give me salsa dancing any day. That is some sexy shit.

So we had a great time at the show...until we got in the car to leave...

...and discovered that our sometimes funky clutch wasn't working. The same thing had happened to the boyfriend after a big band rehearsal last Monday night (ironically, also at the University). He's had three experiences where the clutch won't work at all and he's unable to get the car into any gear. But oddly it's never happened to me. (My theory is that it's the way he uses the clutch, because I think his driving style exacerbates the existing problem. But try telling him that.) When I drive, the clutch occasionally sticks a bit, but after driving for awhile it tends to loosen up.

I love my man, but here's the part where I have to say: WHY ARE MEN SO FUCKING STUBBORN?!?! First of all, we were leaving a concert, where the traffic was backed up and moving at a snail's pace. It was about 15 minutes before he was able to get the car into any gear, which turned out to be third. (Fortunately he had backed into the parking space, so we didn't have to try to get it in reverse.) Personally, I would have waited until all the traffic had emptied out so I'd have smooth sailing. But he chose to try to snake out with the last batch of traffic...driving in third. When I tried to offer a suggestion, he snapped at me to leave him alone and told me to not talk to him right now. I felt like saying, "Hey, pal, I was driving a stick shift for eight years before you ever got behind the wheel of a car." But men and cars? My experience has been that they think a woman can't tell them shit. I kept pleading with him to please just leave it in second gear (once he got it in second gear), because anyone with a lick of common sense would know that (although it's less than desirable) one can at least start up again from a dead stop in second, whereas it's very hard to do that in third. And we have to go up some steep hills between the University and our place. Driving in second might mean we'd have to go slower on the downhill portions, but at least we could make it up the hills. But no, once he got it in second he had to try to shift it into third (to go faster, of course). But he couldn't get it into third and then couldn't get it back into second, which resulted in us stalling with traffic backed up in front of and behind us. He finally got it into second gear, drove maybe ten yards and then TRIED TO SHIFT IT BACK INTO THIRD!! What was WRONG with him?! Why would you try to shift into third gear when there's a stoplight about 50 yards ahead of you? What is it with men's impatience to just go fast? We had no reason to rush home. When we reached the stoplight, I looked over and could see he was torn as to which route to take home. It didn't seem like rocket science to conclude that the longer, no traffic way would be a better choice than the backed up, countless stoplights way. I quietly pointed to the left and said, "Go this way." He muttered, "Yeah, that's what I was thinking." Then as we began to climb the hill, I pleaded once again, "just leave it in second" and he snapped at me to please not talk to him because what he was doing was difficult enough. (See how nice I am? Another woman might have punched him at that point.) We crested the hill and were winding our way along the northside, encountering very little traffic...and then he PUT IT BACK INTO THIRD. And he seemed to be pumping the brakes really hard as he rounded some of the curves. I asked (quietly...although now he was worrying me), "Are the brakes not working either?" (He was slamming the brake pedal hard enough that I was being thrown forward--thankfully I was wearing my seat belt.) He said that the brakes were fine, but since he was in THIRD he was trying to prevent the car from stalling when he slowed...and then told me that driving in third (under these circumstances) wasn't easy. I couldn't help myself. I muttered, "That's why I asked you to leave it in second."

But we made it home and he was eventually able to downshift to second (once we were on our property). When he parked the car, I leaned over and kissed him on the cheek (because he looked pretty stressed out at that point) and said, "Good job." And thought to myself, "But I could have done better." :)

Friday, October 08, 2004

Dawn of the Dead

A couple of days ago I did something I almost never do--I overslept. And I don't rarely oversleep because I don't like to sleep. Believe me, I love to sleep, but I have weird sleep patterns. I typically wake between 2 and 5 am feeling wide awake. (And no, I don't consume caffeine--this is a life-long pattern.) I used to just lie there and hope to fall back asleep at some point, but a couple of years ago I started getting up and writing during that time and I found I really liked those quiet hours. I used to go back to bed, maybe an hour before the alarm was set to go off, and go back to sleep. This, of course, left me feeling like a zombie when it was time to really get up. I did that for YEARS. But about a year ago, I started just staying up. So I don't oversleep because I'm already up when the alarm goes off.

A few nights ago I'd been dealing with a family issue that had me quite upset. I woke around 1:30 or 2:00 and got up to finish writing a letter to someone. And because I was up so early (and because all of the obsessing over the issue had me worn out), I went back to bed and eventually went back to sleep.

The next thing I knew I was waking to the boyfriend standing next to the bed and practically yelling at me to "WAKE UP!" while clapping his hands. I was enjoying a truly deep sleep, so I felt really disoriented to be awakened that way. I rolled over and looked at him standing there in his work clothes, with a rather distressed look on his face, and said, "Wha....???" He said, "Wake up! It's 8:00!" (I'm due at work at 7:30.) Then he proceeded to sputter that he'd been yelling at me and calling my name and had rung the doorbell 30 or 40 times. And all I could think was, "Why??" Why didn't he just gently shake me to wake me up? He said, "I thought you were awake when I left (for work)." Um, clearly not, since I don't even remember you getting up, let alone leaving.

So I stumbled out of bed and walked to the phone to call my employer to tell him I'd be late. I knew it would be no big deal. Then I got ready for work and was delighted to find that there's no traffic at that time of the morning. What a treat!

Because of the way I'd been jolted awake, I felt sort of half-asleep and out of it for a couple of hours after I was at work. It really started my day off wrong, to say the least. And I began to wonder why the boyfriend had even been at home at 8 am. The crew guys report to work at 6:30 and get a break at 9:00, so he's typically not home until then.

It wasn't until I was ready to retire that night that I thought to ask him why the hell he'd been yelling and clapping to wake me up. He said he'd driven by in his (golf) cart and saw the car was still here. He briefly wondered if maybe I'd been unable to start it for some reason and had taken a taxi to work. So he walked up the trail to the condo--leaving his keys in the cart--and rang the doorbell...30 or 40 times. This was after he'd yelled my name a few times from the cart path below. He figured I was probably at work, but felt compelled to check just in case. So he walked back down the trail to retrieve his keys from the cart. When he walked inside, he saw my bag was still sitting where I always leave it, so then he became concerned. He walked down the hallway, calling my name the entire way, only to find me in bed with..."that look." I asked, "What look? Like I was knocked out hard?" He said, "No, like you were...dead." I said, "Let me get this straight. You became alarmed because you thought something might be wrong with me, so you yelled at me rather than just shaking me to try to wake me?" He said, "You scared me. You had...that look." Two things struck me about this: 1) It must be so rare for my poor insomnia-ridden body to be in that deep of a sleep that he simply doesn't know what I look like when I'm sleeping that soundly, and 2) it's nice to know that if something ever did happen to me that rather than rushing to my aid, he'd probably be found standing over me poking me with a stick.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004


Thank you for your kind comments re my beach photo below. My journey in the last couple of years has been about finding my way myself. I know this is going to sound strange--and maybe being a native of the West I just crave vast amounts of space--but I swear living on this tiny little rock has made me feel smaller, in every way. Of course a large part of that feeling is due to the hideous day job. I can't even say that it sucks the soul out of me, because I leave my soul at home when I go there. Hey, that's what it is--it's zombie job! :) But talking about making one's self small...I practically disappear when I go there.

I'm going to share a secret with all of you. This is something that almost no one knows about me. Here goes. Some think my 'problem' is that I have low self-esteem or lack self-confidence. But here's the truth: I've always known what I'm capable of--I just thought no one else thought I was capable of any of it. And that confused the hell out of me, because I have a lot going for me. So I'd think: Can't they see who I am? Or: Who the hell do they see when they look at me? Because whoever it is, it isn't me. I could never understand how people around me could look at me and think: she should set the bar really low. Until one day (insert wavy image and spooky music) I realized that it wasn't even ABOUT me--it was about them projecting their fears onto me...and me absorbing them. I was like a walking drive-in movie. I'll just stand here and reflect back what you think you want to me to be.

We've all known people who have extremely high opinions of themselves which appear to be, in our estimation, unfounded. Ha! I'd often wonder why others would look at those people and think they were "all that"...and then look at me and think: You should just settle for something really small. I could never figure out what it was about my personality that made others want to 'cut me down to size.' Because I'm the last person to go around flaunting her shit in other people's faces. If anything, I'm all about diminishing myself so others can shine. And still, that didn't seem to satisfy 'em.

So from a very young age, I kept all of my dreams secret and instead tried to do what others envisioned should be my path in life. (Can you say people-pleaser, boys and girls?) And as (the dreaded) Dr. Phil would say, "How's that workin' for ya?" :)

I knew what I was doing--and that it was the absolutely wrong path for me--but damn, it's hard to forge a new road when one is running up against some serious resistance from those around you. (It's the old adage: "With friends like these...") And what is it that makes so-called 'friends' want to keep you down? Or even odder, want to have what you desire...but not want you to have it? I have an old pal who likens it to crabs in a barrel--that if a crab starts to scramble for the top of the barrel to climb out, the others will grab onto him and pull him back in. (He's a performer and says he's often felt that sensation interacting with his peers.)

So I'm trying to destroy (because this calls for force!) the old patterns and the most effective way for me to do that is to go back and recall what it was I once dreamed of doing. Because my experience (in my life and in others' lives) has shown me that dreams often stay with us for decades or a lifetime. They may morph over time, but the kernel of the dream is often with us from a young age.

I have to say it's an odd sensation to be traveling backward in order to move forward. But I don't know how else to do it--this journey of mine to get back to my 'real' self. And what joy I've gotten from the time travel. And maybe this process I've undertaken is simply a function of aging for some of us. Maybe we simply reach a point where we become so intolerant of the bullshit that we don't want to waste any more time on it. It's time to get real.

Some days I'm feelin' it, some days I'm not. Some days I feel like I've slipped and fallen and I'm mired in the muck. But some days I revel in remembering. I remember and in doing so I'm able to re-member myself. Because it really is a process of re-engineering. And not just rewiring myself mentally and emotionally, but physically, too. I re-member my limbs, sometimes through the most basic methods...wiggling my toes in the sand, walking in the surf, feeling my weightlessness in the bay. Sometimes I take the physical route to get to where I need to be mentally and emotionally, because the body seems to hold lots of secret info if we'll just pay attention to it.

So my wish for you is this: For even a few moments today, remember who you really are...and revel in it. And know this: You inspire me with your words and photos and wits and slices of your lives that you share with me on- and off-line. And for that, I'm truly grateful.

(For 'the real me'--childhood version--see below.)


This is my favorite childhood photo of myself. I'm four. My maternal grandmother refused to call me by my given name for the first few years of my life. Kind of ironic that she wouldn't call me Marilyn, since she named her daughter Carolyn. (Although my mother has spent most of her life going by her middle name.) Instead, Nana called me Lynnie. All of my birthday and Xmas cards for the first few years of my life were addressed that way. But here's what no one knew until recently--even when Nana gave up calling me Lynnie, I took it as my secret name for myself. I never uttered it out loud, but I knew that inside I was Lynnie. "Marilyn" was who other people saw when they looked at me. She was that girl they expected to be perfect. But I knew I was really Lynnie--the one with the tangled hair and the undershirt poking out of her shirt. Lynnie didn't have to be perfect. Lynnie was sweet and fun...and open. Marilyn wasn't open, she couldn't be--she had all that armor to carry around.

A couple of years ago, I dug out this photo and put it in a frame and set it on my bedside table. She reminds me on a daily basis of who I really am.

The boyfriend likes this photo. He laughs and says that I still do that with my hair. :) Posted by Hello

Saturday, October 02, 2004

I love this photo.

Boyfriend and I have been taking a trip down memory lane as we've been going through a box of photos. This was taken in downtown L.A. in the mid-to-late 80's by a friend of the boyfriend's who's an actor and director. Said friend is probably best known for writing and directing this film and playing the pianist in Stanley Kubrick's last film. Posted by Hello

Here's the below...

Pebble Beach in my hometown in the northwest corner of California -- Seal Rock, behind me, is home to countless sea lions and you can hear them barking when you're on the beach. Posted by Hello

Friday, October 01, 2004


There's a photo I've been thinking about. It's not a great picture, but it carries loaded meaning for me. It's a picture of the boyfriend sitting on the front porch of my brother and sister-in-law's rented home when they lived in the country just outside a California 'burb. The house was just minutes away from all of the conveniences of suburbia, but it felt far removed. It was taken during a visit seven years ago. They haven't lived in that house for years. It was the year the boyfriend was touring with Joe Louis Walker, and we spent a few days visiting my brother and sister-in-law after boyfriend played a gig in the Bay Area.

I've been thinking about that photo because I've been visualizing the environment I'd like to have when we move to California. It might not be 'practical' to assume we could have a country-type place when we first arrive. But it sure would be nice to have a little breathing room at some point. After living in this setting the last few years, it's hard to imagine living in a place where we'd have to listen to noise and neighbors and traffic.

This morning before work I pulled out the airtight container that has most of our snapshots. There are stacks of photos in there, in no particular order. Once in a great while we'll be looking for something and we start rifling through them and getting them all mixed up as we pass them back and forth exclaiming, "Oh! Remember this?"

Boyfriend was already at work this morning when I was going through the photo box. I didn't have much time, but I was determined to find that photo. I wanted to pull it out to use it as a touchstone, a visualization aid. I started picking up stacks of snapshots and flipping through them...and watched a decade of our joined lives zip by. It was a really nice sensation, and it occurred to me that maybe I should use that box of photos more often for just that purpose--to escape into a quick trip through memory fantasyland. It was a nice way to start my day.

In the process I came across a picture of myself that I'd forgotten about. I hate to have my picture taken, so there are tons more photos of the boyfriend than of me, since I'm usually the one shooting (and there are loads of gig pictures). In this particular photo I'm standing on the beach in my hometown. Boyfriend and I have visited my family there many times, but it was taken maybe six or seven years ago. I'm wearing an oversized white cotton sweater that I had for years and black shorts. I've got my sunglasses on and I'm barefoot. My hair was still long and the wind has swept it across the left side of my face. My arms are thrust out and my (usually graceful) fingers are splayed. And my first thought when I saw it was: this is me. THIS. IS. ME. And I really, really needed that reminder this morning--right before heading off to a job that is the polar opposite of me. So much so that I tucked it into my bag and pulled it out a couple of times during the workday just to remind myself: this is me.