Friday, December 19, 2003

The Tell-Tale Stench

We went to California in October for a relative's wedding. In the days before departure, I was dashing all over the place trying to get my ducks in a row and thus I ate a lot of fast food and threw the bags on the floor of my truck. I meant to dispose properly before leaving town, but I never got around to it. About two hours into the drive to California my husband said "your truck is gonna smell like a french fry when we get home." I confidently retorted "naaaah, I don't even order french fries when I get fast food."

For the entire trip, I didn't drive a single time, and I spent endless butt-numbing hours riding around in the suburban. Oh, we saw wonders--Yosemite, Sequoia National park, The Golden Gate, IKEA --but no seat is that comfortable for that long. I was thrilled when we returned home and I could drive my own little jalopy again.

The first morning home, the air had that crisp clean bright-blueness that is ideal fall weather, and my feet felt positively bouncy as I strode up to my truckie and opened the door, only to be flattened by a hideous odor. I was baffled--this eye-watering stink was not french fry in origin--this emanation was clearly animalian in origin, dead in condition. WTF??? I drove across the parking lot to the dumpster and disgorged the cab of the bags, one by one, wary of any wet sludgy bits I suspected were lurking. To my dismay, at the bottom of the pile was a container from KFC with partially devoured chicken carcass within. Not just bones, but lots of meat, too, rotting its little anaerobic brains out. Nice. The bottom of the container was plastic, but that seemed to matter not at all to the carpet, which greedily sucked up the olfactory aspects of the festering ooze. Two months later and my truck still stinks. Occasionally I will douse the carpet in Febreze and for a few days it will smell all detergent-perfumey, but then the miracle of modern chemicals loses the battle and the odor extends its putrid tentacle to announce its presence. "Yoohoo? I'm still here." Where is Edgar Allan Poe when you need him?

Friday, December 05, 2003

Two people of my acquaintance died Tuesday. Both were under 40. Their wakes and funerals are at the same time, which seems an appropriately sad conflict. Today grief feels like my head wants to split open to liberate the tears my eyes refuse to cry.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

One of the marks of a certain type of bad man is that he cannot give up a thing himself without wanting every one else to give it up. That is not the Christian way. An individual Christian may see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reasons--marriage, or meat, or beer, or the cinema; but the moment he starts saying the things are bad in themselves, or looking down his nose at other people who do use them, he has taken the wrong turning. C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity
I'm still in this silversmithing class, right? I went in Saturday for some extra time in the lab, hopefully without the "benefit" of the nattering nabob who always disrupts class during the regular times. I think I'll offer to pay her tuition if she takes something else next semester!!! OK. So. The lab is located two blocks from Dealey plaza, which is where JFK bought the farm 40 years ago that very day. I drove around the block once and got lucky and found an available parking meter, miraculously. Most people seemed to have it together, but there were others who looked like they were showing up for a booger-eating moron convention. I saw the strangest looking human ever, I think. He looked like he just took his first drink in 20 years, and he was tall with an unusually long neck, but his shoulders sloped down into average-length arms, which hung limp at his side as he walked, not swinging. His gait was that of a chicken. I wanted to stop and gawk, he was so interesting looking, and I felt tremendously sad for him, too. He sashayed across the middle of a street in front of me, so I had an excuse to look at him for that moment, then I tore away my gaze and drove on. I was traveling down Elm, a four-lane one-way street which traverses downtown, and in the middle of a block a couple with a baby carriage walked out into the street and never looked in the direction of oncoming traffic. They stopped in the middle of the street presumably to discuss where to go from there, and they ambled on at an oblique to the other side of the road. I'm guessing they drove in from the farm in Kansas and are unaccustomed to our newfangled city ways-- twenty-first century shit like crosswalks and jay-walking which we just invented in Dallas last week.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

I noticed an anti-drug billboard this week which simply said marijuana wasn't harmless and that children should report their pothead parents to the number provided on the sign. This, to me, was absolutely chilling and redolent of the atmosphere of revolutionary China or Orwell's 1984 in which children are commanded to be good little citizens and report their naughty parents. Since 9-11, there seem to have been an increasing number of "public interest" campaigns in which people are encouraged to report their friends, relatives and neighbors for everything from insurance fraud to those who "aid the purpose of terrorism" by using drugs. I think it is ideal if a child's home does not contain liquor or drugs of any kind, and I do think it is abusive for parents to be out of control and drunk or high in front of their children, but I also believe there are not enough foster homes in the world to host every American child who grows up seeing their parents plastered. In an increasingly paranoid age, people are free to anonymously point fingers and set afoot damaging or even ruinous investigations into the lives of private citizens, and I wonder how this serves us as a society? I am horrified that a child might innocently call that number in the interest of helping a parent, and start a chain of events which would deprive them of parental contact temporarily or permanently. I believe there are foster parents out there with sinister motivations who slip through the cracks of an already over-burdened child protective services-- bad people who feel free to abuse a foster child in a manner they wouldn't dare do to their own children. I don't feel that we should adopt a "why bother?" attitude about casual drug usage by parents--there are in fact cases in which parents clearly can not handle the responsibility of child rearing--but nor do I believe drunk and high parents have cornered the market on bad parenting. Nearer than I would like to admit I can cite relatives who sit stupefied before the television, being spoon-fed a steady diet of mind-numbing crap, or plop their children down to be pacified themselves by that visual sinkhole. The ancient greek word for "amuse" literally meant not to think, and I think the real problem in Western nations is that we are amusing ourselves to death. I think it would be great if people who have slipped into daily use of pot and booze would ask themselves what they are trying to escape, and possibly have the epiphany that they would deal better with the stresses of life if they were more present-of-mind to cope with situations, rather than chemically bludgeoned into a state of apathy. We are in a rush to prove the money-grubbing entertainment industry right in their gamble that we are more addicted to amusement than anything. It would be a brilliant idea to have just one day a year when no one turns on the tv, like the Great American Smoke-Out. There is a major flaw with this idea, though: people wouldn't know about it because tv and radio broadcasters would not allow advertising for this event. Call me starry-eyed, but I think it would be much more socially responsible for the Ad Council or whoever is responsible for those public-service billboards to say "read a book with your child today" or "No money to take your kids to the ballpark or movies? Libraries are free." or simply "Volunteer." If the people who sponsor those billboards want a better society for everyone (and I don't believe they do), then is not that ideal better served by citizenry who progress from a state of passive to active? In the USA, there are households considered below poverty level with cars, indoor plumbing, and a television in every room, while worldwide people huddled in tar-paper shacks are are glad of what little they get to eat. The intellectual laziness that is engendered in our society is obscene when compared to the real struggle for life that takes place everywhere else in the world. Let's try to be honest about the drug issue and about what qualifies as a drug. In my lifetime, the media have been saturated with anti-drug campaigns. The media are complicit in the obfuscation of the issue of ills in our society, and to blame everything on drugs is one of the most brilliant diversionary tactics ever and a clear-cut case of the pot calling the kettle black. And we go like lambs to the slaughter.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

OK. I know I'm not the most faithful blogger -- at best you see entries from me about once a month -- but when my drips and drabs dribble out, I try to make it interesting for the reader. Eschewing mundanity, I can reasonably assure you you will not see blogs from me in future regarding the function of my gastro-intestinal tract, or the efficacy of toothpastes on the market. Perhaps you would like to hear more about the drama swirling about my apocalyptic-white-trash bunch of relatives? There's always something bizarre going on with them. Recent events include at least one pistol-whipping (the perp being presumably too broke to buy bullets and finsh off my cousin properly). I realized recently that I am the only female in my family beyond puberty to remain childless. Most of my cousins in fact, pound out infants like rapid gunfire, so they are doing their part and mine to replenish our species. Yes, I think you want to read more of this.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Reality dating show conversation:

She: Do you like Olive Garden?
He: No.
She: Oh--you don't like Italian food?

Saturday, October 04, 2003

You have been most self-indulgent. I can't get over it. You have less restraint rather than more as you grow older. Think it over and alter yourself, or we shan't have happy lives. E.M. Forster, Howard's End

My over-developed sense of irony is directly proportional to the violence with which my girlish enthusiasm for the world and its occupants was ripped asunder. I recall the way the little cockles of my heart were warmed when--working at the post office--I would see envelopes addressed in the unsteady hand of the elderly. "Ah, the old dear has written a letter to a friend or relative. How sweet," I thought naively as I double-checked zip codes to hasten the missive on its way, wary of mis-directing this precious cargo. I thought that living through the better part of a century imbued people with a certain graciousness and kindly spirit that made them worthy of respect and admiration. (This quaint worldview was unpolluted by ruminations about Pol Pot dying of old age or countless WW II Nazis living off the fat of the land in Argentina for half a century, going gently into that dark night, but I suppose my mind was on other things). This silly view was held by me well into adulthood, the end of which was hastened by my acquaintance in my late twenties with my husband's vile maternal grandmother. Madeline is 95 pounds of concentrated bile who has survived in the world by shellacking herself in a bullet-proof veneer of insanity, all the while poisoning every relationship she touches. If alien anthropoligists explore our planet in twenty thousand years, they'll find her perfectly encased like a bug in amber, and with their other-worldly tools they can probe the artifact and extract the DNA of pure evil. But that story is for another time. This rant is for Endora.

I have long harbored an intense and growing dislike for Endora, the mother of my dear friend Jane. Jane is a lovely person for whom I have tremendous admiration. If the apple falls near the tree, Jane must have been switched from her true mother at birth, or more likely she was stolen from her family by the reptile Endora. Earlier this year, Jane had a strep infection so severe she was under total sedation in the hospital as the doctors struggled to save her life by stabilizing her failing kidneys and liver. As she was coming out of sedation, all friends and family were encouraged by the doctors to chat about light subjects to her, but they admonished all to not talk about the hospital, her illness or topics which might induce a state of anxiety for the patient. The doctors said she was now conscious, though powerless to respond or speak. Mere moments later, the chaplain of the hospital dropped by the room to offer support and encouragement, and standing by Jane's bed, Endora announced officiously that the doctors said it might take Jane a long time to die from this. (!?) Clearly, the mileage of an octogenarian has not taught Endora graciousness or mellowed her spirit in the least. One day in hospital, Endora blathered on about the Antichrist George W. Bush and how evil the gulf wars were, and then turned around and preached to Jane that the doctors had said that she won't heal quickly until she stops being so negative. I actually believe that Endora is a Munchausen's sufferer because she seemed nearer to soiling herself with glee the grimmer the prognosis for Jane. The more ill her daughter was, the more alive Endora felt. Bitch. Add to that that she is a star-f***er and tripped over everyone in the room to suck up to a visitor who used to be a big gun in the Southland Corporation. I had to endure her recounting several times how this guy has a private jet, etc. I've never seen her be so polite or deferential before or since. Apparently his virtual celebrity and wealth made him worthy of actual courtesy from her, which is more than she seems able to muster for we plebeian folk.

Life offers scant few tasty moments when you see someone get their comeuppance, and it's never when you expect it. You must admit that when you pass a steaming pile of wreckage in the onlooker-slowdown, it would be a little less sad if the car compacted into a cube the size of a dishwasher was the one that took a layer of paint off your car as they passed you several miles back traveling more than 100mph and obviously drunk. Today Endora, giddy with her own inanity, embarrassed herself more completely than I ever could have brewed up in a work of fiction, and I can scarce believe I was there to see it. I ran into her and Jane as I entered a convention center in Dallas for a Gem show to buy supplies. We three began to walk about together, and we rounded a corner and I was somewhat surprised by the scene I took in. The largest booth at this show was quite nice, brilliantly lit, with dozens of photos of Loretta Swit of M.A.S.H. fame, as well as "Loretta Swit" printed in foot-high letters in several places in and on the booth. I thought "wow, Loretta must have made this jewelry, and she's doing great work," and then I realized the lovely and elegant woman behind the counter WAS Loretta Swit. She was signing an autograph for a middle-aged man. I thought that was sweet. We walked up to the nearest case and Endora announced "Look. It's Sally Kellerman." I turned to her and softly said "She is Loretta Swit." Loretta didn't seem happy to see our little party. I'd like to think that in between Endora's ignorant utterance and that universe-altering instant when I disabused her of her stupidity, she was imagining a different ending for the movie of her life. Stuck schlepping about with we common folk, Endora need only acknowlege fellow luminaries to be summoned into that milieu and out of her drab existence. Surely fellow fabulous person Sally Kellerman would have recognized Endora's star quality and yearned for earnest conversation with her. After that, Endora was strangely mute. Silence is golden.

Monday, September 29, 2003

I didn't mean to be maudlin on that last entry, but I was thinking about Robert Palmer - how he was basically a clean-living family man who didn't go in for all that rock-star shit like drugging and terminal self-indulgence, etc. Terribly shocking to lose him, and cretins with chemicals-for-blood like Keith Richards and Ozzy Osbourne seem to hang on in spite of the reckless abandon with which they have treated life, their bodies, and the people around them. I never bought a Robert Palmer cd, but I always liked him. So much of his music is classic. Even running out and buying his music now will not make him any more present in the world - I remember the chord changes and brilliant structure of his music without ever even needing to hear it again. And still, it's sad to lose him. Sad in the same way I felt so hollow when I discovered the music of Jeff Buckley, only to find he had died mere months before at the age of 30. Stevie Ray Vaughan's death meant I would not see him perform in this lifetime, and yet his music is so much a part of my life. Strange to think we are part of a universe which stretches infinitely in all directions, and maybe ours and all neighboring galaxies are merely a mote floating around in some god-beast's cocktail. The idea of loss of people is as inconceivable to me as the breadth of the universe. I sometimes feel so ill-equipped for this life.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

When I was a little girl I would chase the tendrils of smoke hanging heavy in the air of my grandfather's house. Sometimes I would try to grab the ash off the end of his cigarette, and he would pull his hand away quickly and we both would giggle. Once I won the little game, and I still have the scar on my finger. Other than my DNA, this scar is my only physical reminder of his existence. It's amazing how people weave in and out of our lives, new threads joining the weave and others fraying and trailing off into the unknown. We try to hold on to our lives and people, their memorial the wounds and blessings they inflicted and bestowed, and in the end, it's all just like clutching at smoke. Life runs out like a pocket full of change.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Overcast today. I got in my truck after buying a toolbox for my silverworking gear. In the road beyond the parking lot and waiting for the light to change was a seventies era oxblood hearse looking every inch the ride of choice for ganstas, slappers and ballin-out-of-control pimps crossing over to the other side. Mesmerizing. Then I noticed the driver. Young with close-cropped hair and mirror shades, all in black with twin dragon-jet plumes of smoke shooting downward from his nostrils then flourishing into heavenward tufts. If ya gotta go, go in style.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Recipe of the day: Fried banana slugs.

Take however many bananas you want to make. If you plan this dish as an hors d'oeuvre, 2 slugs per guest.
Slice them the long way to make two long pieces.
Coat them with flour.
Fry in butter (yes, real cholesterol-laden butter, but what the heck? We're eating slugs-let's gild the lily!) until brown and a bit crispy on both sides.
Remove to a plate.
Sprinkle with sugar.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Soundtrack for a rainy day: Spiritchaser by Dead Can Dance.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I love the silken turning of the steel mandrel, enjoy its weight as the molten glass winds onto its shaft. I am aware of the callous it has worn at the base of my left pinkie. Making my beads, I am utterly the Mistress of my own creation--no authority stands over my shoulder commenting on my breathing, or the way I chop a phrase into little sausage-like segments. I compete with no one in this endeavor. Someday, when I and all of my kind have ceased to exist, my scattered glass progeny may stand as a testament to my brief time here. I look at ancient beads and marvel at the uniformity that was achieved with primitive techniques (the first glass beads were literally created with a candle or oil lamp flame) but symmetry is not something I seek. If someone finds my work beautiful, that is wonderful--but I vastly prefer the compliment of "unusual" or "peculiar." It seems to me our world is saturated with the idea that worthwhile things must be mass produced, and that small-scale is not a blip on the radar. I think if people take a minute everyday and turn off the radio, television, computer and cell phone, they would realize that they need to seek their own unique talismans for their lives--not to wear a label or someone else's initials for validation as a worthwhile human being. This is what this creative process means to me. Sometimes a bead turns out like I envision, and sometimes the glass takes me to a place I never dreamt, and what a fool I would be if I didn't follow its wisdom.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

I was registering for my silversmithing class today, and waiting was abject tedium. The local college is like an unwieldy machine from another age, its movements and progress elephantine. I waited in one line twice, each time for about 45 minutes. There were about 15 people in front of me both times, with 3 desks processing that line. I felt like above them should have been a sign reading "dozens and dozens served." Hopefully this is no indication of what the semester holds in store.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

I read somewhere recently that certain great thinkers of our age believe humanity will bring about its own extinction. The thought process is that if we don't render the planet unliveable by virtue of nuclear war and its concomitant pollutions, then a hapless scientist will trigger some reaction or release a diabolical agent in a lab which will kill us all. I agree a reaction may occur that sets the very planet tilting asunder, killing all carbon-based life forms, but I don't think it will occur in a laboratory: I think the reaction will occur in a church in a suburb of Dallas. I have just come from that church, having narrowly escaped with my life. These agents of chaos doomed to make worlds collide are a pair of ladies. Lynn is a lady of a certain age with a bustline stretching clear to the next county replete with large pendulous necklace dangling from the precipice. Unfortunately, Lynn is a very huggy person in a grandmotherly sort of way, and after you've nearly drowned in her embrace, you will stink of her cheap and bountiful perfume until next you bathe and shower. The odor is eyewatering, hideous and strong. A hug from Lynn always makes me feel as if I'm carrying the essence of a thrift store about with me, cubic miles of worn, unwashed clothing, skin cells of countless humans clotting my olfactory. Anita is a lifetime chain-smoker with skin the color of foie gras. Think braunschweiger or vienna sausage i.e., not healthy. You know when you leave a vase of flowers sitting after it has lost its bloom, and you dump it out and a green foglike odor nearly flattens you? That's Anita's breath. Anita is in the autumn of her years and has hygiene issues. Why think of petty niceties such as a good personal washing when there are so many cigarettes yet to be smoked in this world? Bad enough to sit a mere 12 feet from Anita and smell her Eau de Dew Da Day, but the coughs were what got me--from that distance the odor of her diseased lungs made me gag. So, here is my theory - if Anita and Lynn should come in close proximity, the demons which conspire to outstink all others would engage in an Armageddon-like battle, in effect achieving cold fusion. The outraged ions, glancing off each other, would set afoot on the planet an odor so implacable as to extinguish life as we know it. So, if sometime in this lifetime everything ceases to exist, well, I'll know why.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

People have been telling me they've heard Terminator and Charlie's Angels were bad movies. Well, I've seen them both and I liked them. I don't go to the cinema to see a flick like that and measure it against "Withnail and I," "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" or "A Clockwork Orange." I base my judgement on whether the film seems a satisfying diversion or not. It's not that I don't have an opinion on flaws I too can see in these movies, just that I think the good outweighs the bad in many cases. I am honestly thrilled to bits when I can unequivocally recommend something like Finding Nemo, but for everyone to be so smug and superior seems a bit disingenuous. Righteous indignation from the public (we have higher standards, they seem to say) is fatuous indeed in the age of Reality television.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

OK. I finally saw the latest Star Wars installment, that clone war thingie,and I have some questions for someone more versed in Star Wars than myself. First of all, didn't that Dooku guy look like a Harry Potter wannabe on that airborne moped thingie near the end? When I saw that, I said "Ciao!" a la Eddie Izzard. Also, that Djago Fett (sorry, don't know the spelling on these names) had that 1950's japanese spaceman outfit with the jet pack--what's with all the retro stuff in this one??? I half expected someone to shout "Will! Penny! Get back in the ship! Danger, Will Robinson!" Uniblab could have blended nicely, or the maid from the Jetsons. Oh, and where'd they get the annakin actor? A soap opera? Ewan Macgregor seemed natural in his role, but it's too bad he couldn't have been the hot-blooded Annakin, oui, ladies? OK, I realize that Annakin and Amidala have been through a lot together, what with nearly getting executed and all, and we know from eps 4-6 that they are destined to, um, er, be together, but... OK. She IS a politician, and heck - if she had to break up with that 12 year old artist, don't you think she's going to resist the impulse to give up the bootie to a guy who slaughtered a Bantu village? ...and on that score, aren't we all just filled with dread of the scene in the next installment when Amidala lay dying in dramatic fashion and Annakin gets a chance to flex his thespian chops for real? I mean, the chest-heaving nightmare scene fills me with forboding of what's to come. THAT is why Anakin's voice morphs into James Earl Jones: he's ashamed of all the whining he did in his early years and will try to appear butch. And it's a sad statement that the only actor to totally kick out the jams was Yoda, an animated character. Ass kick did he. Anyway. All that is by way of saying I loved it. Can't wait to see it again.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

A very disturbed person I know (one who can't say "thank you" for huge favors but instead offers the old saw "Kum by yah") quotes someone named Dr. Phil with annoying frequency. I assume Dr. Phil is in some way affiliated with either Survivor, The Bachelor, or Oprah! since those sorts of shows are the constant companion of said offensive person. I do not begrudge the public access to armchair psychology, and I do believe there must be a great deal of good that comes of people talking of their woes and sharing their stories of extracting themselves from said painful situations. However, when one's main source of fodder for conversation with live human beings is to recount psychobabble gleaned from these tv programs, I feel some reflection is required. Much has been made of the term "co-dependency" which is an annoying notion in and of itself. On my planet, people depend on each other, and not always to meet psychologically unhealthy needs. It's called having relationships, and while things may not always be a perfect balance in the give/take department, nothing and no one is ever perfect, and somehow people manage to be happy together in spite of the flaws and imbalance. In a recent chat with the Dr. Phil acolyte (I'll call her "Jane") I happened to mention that my husband utterly forgot my birthday a couple of years ago. She said 'Your husband forgot your birthday because you gave him permission to forget your birthday.' Excuse me? People are being led to believe that they are responsible for the actions or inactions of another person? Allow me to say that before we were married (key phrase, that, as everything changes) my husband's first birthday gift to me was a food processor and a $1000 handbag, which set a standard I expected to be kept for future such events. At no time did I say, imply, or think "Honey, my standards have dropped and I give you permission to forget my birthday and special events in the future." Is it no longer common knowlege that some people are just inconsiderate jerks who act in ways abusive of all who are misfortunate to be in their inner circle? Is it not possible that a person who is generous and kind in general could have been momentarily thoughtless? We have passed the politically correct buck to the point that the offender is no longer responsible for their actions in any situation, and the victims are to be blamed in every situation. All this great advice and myriad tips for better living notwithstanding, Jane is one of the more miserable people I ever have met. If she asked me, I would say "You have allowed the television to make you miserable. You have given the tv permission to ruin your life. Try something different and go out and HAVE a life!" Occasionally I complain that I don't seem to have enough time to accomplish all I need to on a daily basis. I could blame the computer (my personal idiot box), but the fact is that I am the sentient adult in this situation. Rather than sit around whining and dreading all I have to do today, I am going to practice what I preach, and right now, I'm walking away from my tormentor.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

I saw Guy Ritchie's remake of "Swept Away" starring Madonna. Not as crappy as I expected after the pic was so soundly lambasted by critics--it was funny in what seemed intentional ways. Madonna looks a bit rough a lot of the time, and once she is on her back on the beach and you could count her ribs. She looks like a bin liner full of plastic hangers. If she were a piece of chicken, she would be the last one left in the bucket, all dry and stringy. I think the criticism of her acting in general has been off the mark--for 20 years she's acted well enough to persuade millions she's a good singer.

Sunday, January 26, 2003

Visiting the Pacific Northwest, I have come to the conclusion that I wear more makeup and hair product than every woman I have seen in the past 7 days combined. I suppose to them I look like the whore of Babylon. That's ok. In this case, I don't mind being the negative example: someone has to step up to the plate and inspire these women to look scrawny and dull. I wear that mantel with pride. Someone pass me a doughnut.

Monday, January 20, 2003

"You couldn't get a clue during the clue mating season in a field full of horny clues if you smeared your body with clue musk and did the clue mating dance!"

--Edward Flaherty