Sunday, July 31, 2005

Back from the Mutha Land...

I've returned from New Jersey, land of my birth. I came home to discover that the Ethernet card in my desktop has died, and I need to go up to Comcast tomorrow morning to retrieve a new, USB modem from them. (I'd just buy one right now, but the timing bites.)

I'm dead tired, my four-hour drive home became a nearly seven hour ordeal, thanks to killer weekend traffic (and my error that almost landed me in Manhattan - don't ask), and I just need to crash out for the night. Pictures & stories to come.

Not anymore, he's not...

Readers Digest condensed version: I'm really glad I drove up for the wedding. My nephew and his bride both looked awesome, the wedding was cool, my right leg was gnawed on by mosquitos, and I had too much coffee and rich food in a short period of time.

My migraine and I are going to bed now...

G'night, kids.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Family Wedding This Weekend

New Jersey Italian Catholic Cop Wedding.

Pray for me.

Stories (and evidence courtesy of the Nikon) to come...

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Much to do

I didn't get to sleep until 4:15 this morning. I have no idea why. I can tell you everything that's on Adult Swim between the hours of midnight and 4:30, though. (Too much anime, frankly. And I was pretty surprised to hear the words "blow job" on SeaLab 2021 just before some "underwater hot tub action" took place, my, my, my. I guess I now understand the true meaning of "Adult Swim"...)

I will be in bed by 11 tonight, and I will take an Ambien. I've only taken five now since my my doctor gave me the Rx back in February. I know it can be addictive, and I see why. If you do take one and go to bed at a normal time, wham bang - you will zonk out almost immediately and you will get precisely eight hours of beautiful sleep. But I have no intention of becoming too friendly with that prescription, thanks. I prefer it when holier-than-thou farts like Rush Limbaugh get addicted. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy down to my toes.

Last night was just ridiculous, though. Even with the a/c running full blast, the furnace-like heat seeped inside the apartment, and I felt like I was going to melt. I was answering e-mail at 3:30 this morning, just wishing I was knocked out in bed. Also, my apartment reeked of cigarettes. Some jerk stood outside my apartment door smoking yesterday and kicked their ashes under my door, into my entryway. Nice, huh? At least the stink is gone, as I ammonia-mopped the kitchen floor before bed last night. Let me tell you, no matter how much lemon crap they put in ammonia floor cleaner, it still smells like ammonia. Strong, lung-sucking ammonia. But, hey, kids - no more cigarette smell!

Oy vey.

I have so much on my mind right now, and I'm still angst-y about going to this family wedding. I took a long drive last night after leaving the coffee shop, just to try to think things out. I ended up in Germantown, where I discovered that Pep Boys was running an awesome tire deal (sorry, Sasquatch, even better than the negotiated deal at Goodyear, believe it or not - with rebates and everything), so I have it marked down to go in for new tires at 8 a.m. tomorrow. I also stopped at Wal-Mart (aka, the sub-basement of hell) very briefly. Do you know they sell a freaking enormous beverage "travel mug" they call the "Bubba Keg"? It has to be nearly two liters. It actually has a handle and a place for your straw, for those days when ONE LITER just won't do. I think they should just call it the "Kidney Fucker" and be done with it.

Anyhoo... to cheer myself up, I visited my favorite vending machine in the store (Make Your Own Engraved ID Tags!) and got a silly engraved hot pink cat collar tag to hang on my $7 clearance lavender leather purse from Target. Sorry the picture's a little fuzzy. The tag is teeny weeny. It's cat-sized, after all:

Pay no attention to the odd colors. The purse is lavender and my tag is hot pink.
Usually the Nikon is better than this with colors. Not sure what the deal is...


Sometimes, spending four bucks at a vending machine can be therapeutic. I periodically buy these for my nieces to hang on their purses and backpacks, with silly messages on the heart and bone-shaped tags. Then, I break off pieces from my old metal ID lanyards to make cool hang tags for them. Kids dig this stuff. (So do I. Simple minds. Simple pleasures.)

I still have to go to the coin store today and buy my brother's state quarters and proof dollars (he lives in Germany & collects U.S. coins) and pick up a few more things. Then, after the tires tomorrow, I still have to run to Salvation Army and drop off all the crap in the back of the car, clean it out and wash it before I pick up the Sasquatch in the evening.

I found a few more jobs to apply for, and a friend sent me some wonderful links today. (Bless you!) Here's hoping, eh?

Hope.

Hope.

Red: Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.

Andy: Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.

Get the references, and I'll buy ya a diet Coke, if yer ever in DC...

Monday, July 25, 2005

The Book Guys

Despite the current 106 degree misery (fucking humidity), I couldn't stay at home any more. I'm at the coffee shop. (I found that I had enough credit on my customer loyalty card for a couple of drinks yet.) There are these two really handsome guys (handsome to my geek-lovin' eyes) sitting at a nearby table. One, it turns out, is a publisher, and the other one is a designer, and they're putting a book together. While I haven't been actively trying to eavesdrop, they're having such an animated conversation, I can't help but overhear. They're so excited about this book, discussing the binding, the cover, the paper, debating an image on the title page. I know it's just something small, repeated all over the world every day, but it's so neat to watch a creative process unfold.

It's why I'm envious of people like the Sasquatch and the Atomic Editor and Manda and many others, who create and edit and shape things that then fill and stimulate the brains of other people. What a really, really neat thing. I know I've just oversimplified everything to the Nth degree, but I still think it's utterly cool.

Except the two book guys are now discussing how "totally hot" the author of the book is. They're checking out her pictures online.

So much for the purity of the creative process...

Oppressive. Most oppressive.

From Capital Weather:

"A Heat Advisory is in Effect through 8pm Tuesday.

The record setting, deadly heat wave that had Vegas and Phoenix simmering, scorched Denver and baked Chicago arrives here today. Temperatures Monday through Wednesday should range from 94-102 with high humidity and heat indices from 100-115."

115? Pack me in ice and call me Walt Disney. I don't want to move for the next couple of days, let alone go outside. Let the collective shuddering and sweating begin...

The Western Desert may live and breathe in 45 degrees, but Washington just turns into a steaming, stinky sweatsock.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Oh fudge.

Except, as the narrator says in A Christmas Story, "I didn't really say 'fudge'"...

Smart girl that I occasionally am, I've figured out that it likely was Michael Penn himself visiting my blog very early this morning. The entries about his music aren't exactly my finest writing. You kinda wish that, if someone really creative visits your blog, he'll hit some of the better writing. (And that he's not checking for copyright infringement.)

I'm so bummed. Fudge, indeed.

I'm definitely not going to be going up and asking for an autograph after the Birchmere show now. "Hi, I'm the one who posted a link to your video on my blog after I found it on another blog, and really pissed you off!" Oh yippee. (insert look of dismay here...)

Grrr.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

New Michael Penn Video - NOT

Sorry, guys. I just found out that the blog link I found to the Michael Penn "Walter Reed" video was NOT supposed to be posted and available to the general public. As a law-abiding member of the general public - and someone who doesn't want to offend the talented Mr. Penn - I've deleted the entry where I raved about it and gave you the link to it that I found on Technorati. Apparently, if I've read the message on the Michael Penn Yahoo list correctly, Michael Penn was definitely unhappy about this development (not about me finding it, as far as I know, but with the fact that one of the filmmakers had posted the link on his blog, releasing the video early.)

I'm personally a little freaked out now as, before I had a chance to read this message and pull my link down, there was an unfamiliar visitor to my blog from California who, according to StatCounter, searched Technorati for my blog references to Michael Penn. I certainly hope it wasn't Michael or any of his management people. I would feel terrible - and a little terrified, now that I know that the video link wasn't supposed to be out on the Internet anyway.

Dang it.

And now, the wait begins (again)

I tried to read "The Half-Blood Prince" slowly. Really, I did. But after nibbling a few chapters here and there, I sucked the rest of it down in one great gulp today. It was good. It was rich. And Harry is becoming one dark, obsessed dude. Were he a real child, I would see years of therapy in his future. And I have this strong feeling that all our teenage friends ain't gonna survive the final volume.

Gary Oldman - the scariest freak in Azkaban.
(I loved this moving image. Brilliant.)


Crap. Now I've got - what - 2 more years to wait until the next and last book? Crap, crap, crappity crap.

Good kid lit is hard to find. J.K. Rowling deserves that huge pile o' pound notes she's sitting on. Good for you, honey. Make the last one simply kick ass, okay?

Waiting, waiting...

Bomb, schmomb (or, Metro doesn't really give a damn if you get blowed up real good.)

In the aftermath of the London bombings, as we are all told to keep up our guard - and as Metro Police discuss random bag checks - let me share with you a heartwarming story of Metro's incredible incompetence. Yesterday, several riders on a Blue Line train were more than a bit distressed to see an abandoned, nondescript backpack in their rail car. At least two passengers brought this to the driver's attention, via the intercom. However, the driver simply continued her route, stopping at two more stations - including McPherson Square, just a couple of blocks from the White House. It was only after a passenger hopped out and alerted Metro Police on a platform that the train was stopped.

People were terrified. Some people were panicking and pounding on windows. Here is a classic quote from passenger Elaine Donnelly, who was on the affected train:

"A man called the driver on the intercom, and I could hear the driver insisting we had to clear the doors, to move the backpack because she was having trouble closing the doors."

Yeah. Cuz that's what you want to do when you potentially have a bomb on your train. Shut the friggin' doors with a car full of people and ask the passengers to MOVE THE BOMB. How utterly incompetent can you be?!?

All the talk about safety and security? It's total crap.

Incidents like this, that, had this actually been a bomb, would have cost many lives and limbs, greatly diminishes Metro's credibility and demonstrates not only a complete lack of training and professionalism, but also a tremendous lack of respect for the lives and safety of Metro's ridership. Is it any wonder I like to stay above ground in my Crapmobile rather than entrust my hide to Metro's boobery? I live on the Red Line, home to many track cracks, failed escalators, and the classic "mating trains" incident (that NTSB had warned Metro could happen) that ended in a spectacular crash at the Woodley Park station.

Metro should be ashamed of itself for the handling of yesterday's alert from its aware and concerned passengers. If a train is destroyed and lives lost because staff ignores passengers' pleas for help, there'll be more than shame to face.

Read the full Washington Post article here.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Hot morning ramble.

Welcome to Gravelly Point.

this is an audio post - click to play


Gravelly Point, the Wayne's World version.

(In the end, I went to see "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" in Georgetown. Only six other people in the theater. It was blissfully quiet. And Johnny Depp is a magnificent freak. I do love that boy...)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Last of the Comanche Code Talkers

Charles Chibitty, the last of the Comanche code talkers, has died. Our direct connection to WWII fades every single day, guys. Every veteran's death diminishes our grasp on the reality of that time.

It's up to all of us to remember.

Random searches

If the DC government gets it way, we'll be seeing random searches of bags on the Metro. Get ready for an even longer commute, folks! (As if waiting for the screwed up Red Line trains wasn't enough of a pain in the ass.)

You might want to get yourself one of these now and stay ahead of the curve...

Any savvy techies out here? Need help!

Back when I had my Gateway Nightmare (that's a long, long story, worthy of its own entry), I ended up with a $75 credit from them for my troubles (along with a new computer.) I would have gladly purchased an iPod, had they sold them. Sadly they didn't. However, they did sell little Creative MuVo mp3 players. People over on epinions.com seemed to like them, and, since I had few options, I snarfed one.

The MuVo arrived at my office shortly before The Incident which ended my fabulous government contracting career. I had just started using it as a radio at that point. After all the ugliness, I never even installed it in my computer to download music files. Finally, here I am, ready to do this thing, and I think I left the damn installation disk at my old stinkin' office. Crap, crap, crappity crap.

Creative doesn't have the drivers for this critter online, and my e-mails to them have been ignored so far. Anybody have any suggestions as to where I can find the installation info for this baby? It was basically free and I'm basically broke, so, if I end up just having to use it as a radio, so be it, but it sure would be nice to be able to drop some music into it. This is it:

The Creative MuVo N200.

Thanks to anyone who has any leads. Help a broke chiquita out. I feel like a geek crack addict. Man, I need the software. Don't you get it. I just need installation stuff, man. That's all. I promise. C'mon man!

Thanks for any help anyone can offer. (And thanks a whole heap, Creative, for blowing off my e-mail. I know it's just a cheapie mp3 player, but, still...)

Pretense and the Pen

I really don't like pretentious people. I'd say it was a Midwestern thing, but I've met plenty of pretentious Midwesterners. Perhaps it's a lifetime of humiliations, small and large. (This summer is a prime example - try being a plain-looking fat woman without an advanced degree trying to find work in Washington, DC - that's an exercise in humility right there.) Pretense is garish, pompous, unpleasant, sickly egotistical and makes one want to push the practitioners of this dark art down long staircases.

Recently, I witnessed a blogospheric explosion of pretense from a man who apparently believes that having a bachelor of fine arts in writing means that he has the right - and the duty - to call other bloggers on the carpet and tell them how much they suck if they don't blog to his high and mighty level. He railed on three fun, talented, interesting guys for writing bits and bobs about their lives - just like non-commercial bloggers the world over. He felt himself to be in a position to say that high-volume bloggers have a duty to their nation to do better.

I swear to god. National duty to be better bloggers.

How this guy got so puffed up, I'll never know. Apparently, no one has pointed out to him that liberal arts degrees are as valuable and scarce as rolls of Charmin at Costco, and, that having a writing degree means jack shit if you don't have talent. Wait. Having a writing degree means jack shit regardless. (Just like my Russian history degree.)

This is just my opinion, but here goes... Really good writing can't be taught. The mechanics of writing can be taught, of course - and that's something I know I need. But to write something truly interesting, something that grips and consumes and entertains? I don't personally believe the core of that can be taught. It can be mentored and encouraged, but taught? Naaaah. It's something innate. Something you just have or you don't. Talent. A gift. If you don't have that, all you have is mechanical writing - likely better organized, and with better structure and grammar, true - but still, a cold process, not an adventure.

And, with the exception of a handful of writers who revel as much in pretense and ego-puffery as they do 6-figure speaking fees, most good writers aren't going to talk to you about "honing their craft" or "perfecting their tools" while they self-publish drivel no one else wants to read. Most good writers tell you things like, "appreciate a good editor" and "write in your own voice" and "have fun." I highly recommend Stephen King's On Writing for both a great read and some damn good advice. He doesn't talk down to his reader - nor does he talk about obligation.

This is something that this week's blogfoon ranted about -the obligation of popular bloggers to their audience. Sorry, Charlie. Last time I checked, unless you're charging admission, a blog's a blog's blog. A personal journal that anyone on the planet and stop and read and consider. Or ignore. If you're charging a subscription fee to read the funfest or intellectual rambling, then, sure, you have a duty to provide content to your customers. But, in the world of free access, it's anybody's game. And a gazillion new blogs pop up every day.

It's the Blogosphere, not the friggin' Algonquin Round Table...

I cringed at the number of blogs that exploded on Blogspot after Rosie O'Donnell's blog became common knowledge. Suddenly, hundreds - if not thousands - of people (mostly women) established blogs, most with only one or two posts, even to this day, just in the hopes that Rosie might visit them and bestow some sort of gift upon them. Some of these folks desperately wanted money or medical help, but many just wanted and needed Rosie to visit, comment, and validate their existence. I found that kinda sad.

But then I thought, well, what makes me any better than Rosie's unexpected sycophantic army? Nothing. I'm no better. I like to see how many people have hit my blog. It's fun to see when someone from some incredibly distant place stops by (usually for zero seconds, courtesy of the "next blog" feature) and I enjoy the small handful of comments I get. It's just fun. It's a nice distraction. And, while I do enjoy the writing exercise this offers me, I don't expect to be discovered by a publisher dying for the next great "fat chick lit" voice (if such a thing existed.) I'm not "honing my craft." I'm having a good time and venting and getting cranky and getting silly. Like most people out here.

Maybe I'm just a Luddite. Maybe the world of blogs will eventually surpass other forms of media for thoughtful discourse, but not its current lawless Wild West form. Right now, it's a free-for-all, and you never know when you hit "next blog" whether you're going to get a treatise on anti-Semitism in Europe, a picture of a baby drooling birthday cake, or just boobs. (Statistically speaking, you're probably going to be taking a trip to Hooterville...)

To those who just blog for fun, enjoy it. To those who see it as a serious endeavor, bully for you. Most of us fall in the middle, anyway. But we all have our own personal guidelines, so don't think that everyone has to conform to your set o' rules. No way, baby.

And for those who think bloggers have an "duty to their nation" just because a lot of folks hit their pages, I invite you to wave that freak flag high. It's a lonely little road you're taking, but I guess that gives plenty of space for your ego.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Second of the Gang to Die...

James Doohan died. :-(

Mr. Scott has beamed up one last time. Perhaps he's sitting with DeForrest Kelley right now, discussing how much they loathed Shatner and his hairpieces.

Lord, I hated these uniforms. Ugh.

Star Trek was a huge part of my childhood. My mom was a bad-ass science fiction fan (emphasis on the science, there) and she loved Star Trek, and we both loved Mr. Scott. We watched re-runs together all the time. I even recall a "debate" between my parents one Sunday over who got the big color TV in the living room - it was the Star Trek marathon vs. the John Wayne marathon. John Wayne ended up with the little black & white TV in the bedroom. Kirk & Co. got living color and the comfy chairs. (I think it was that next weekend when my father went out shopping and came home with a big color TV for the master bedroom...)

Old school Scotty. The model I grew up with.

I saw James Doohan once at an eeny-weeny Star Trek convention in Northern Virginia. He was charming and sweet and obviously loved the fans. He was utterly at home with them. He wandered the crowd at his presentation, taking questions and riffing on old stories. A little girl said, "Mr. Doohan, is it true you really, really don't like William Shatner?" And, without missing a beat, Doohan replied, "Oh, yes, honey. It is absolutely true." There were lots of evil chuckles from the crowd.

It's sad and terrible and rotten when anyone dies from Alzheimer's and its complications. When a sharp mind is reduced to dust and fear and disorganization, it's angering. I feel for his family. I hope there is some peace now that the end has come. Doohan came to embrace Scotty, and he lived pretty well by embracing that persona. We should all do so well. I know some actors fight typecasting so hard, but, for some, it can bring a lifetime of prosperity and the affection of generations. So long, Scotty. I hope you get a send-off worthy of Starfleet. I would make snarky comments about black lozenge caskets and bagpipers, but I don't feel like it. I'll miss Scotty.

I'll save my inappropriate comments for the passing of this man:
Gerry Thomas, the man who invented the TV dinner in Omaha, Nebraska in 1954.

Mr. Thomas will be lovingly placed in a shallow disposable tray, nestled in a bed of corn and mashed potatoes, and gently covered with aluminum foil. He will lie in state on a cloth napkin-draped, oversized oak TV tray before his foil lid is vented with a large silver fork and he is cremated in a pre-heated oven, on the middle rack.

(I'm going to hell for that, aren't I?)

Rest in peace, Swanson TV Dinner guy. Bachelors and couch potatoes across America owe you so much.


Found my keys.

Not saying where or how. Just too embarrassing.

To myself, I simply say: dumbass.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Observation

I briefly escaped the apartment tonight. I had a quick errand to run and realized I had virtually no cash on my person. I drove a few miles up Rockville Pike to make a quick ATM stop. There is one fairly close to my place on the Pike, but it's poorly lit, set back from the road, and shrouded in shrubbery. Not a great choice, especially one night after a kid met up with drug dealers on the Pike and ended up with a bullet in his brain and his life draining away on a quiet Bethesda side street.

No, I opted for the horribly well-lit ATM next door to Hooters. Not exactly my stomping grounds, but I figure that, if anyone tries to snatch your money at this ATM, all you need to do is yell and ten guys, all wing-greasy and ready to roll with a couple of pitchers of courage filtering through their kidneys (and bloodstream), will come and beat the crap out of your assailant. Tonight, I'm not so sure that would have happened, though. Some nights, you can look over from the ATM and see a passel of average joes hangin' out, avoiding a return home to wife & kids (or an empty bachelor pad), chatting up the Hooteriffic ladies. But, on other nights, there seems something more sinister and seedy about the crowd out at the picnic tables - like tonight. The customers all looked like headshots from America's Most Wanted - overly wide foreheads, tiny eyes, and a sea of wifebeater T's. I started to wonder which one owned the van with the body in the back... Glad I didn't need to rely on the kindness of strangers this evening.

Leaving the lot, I saw the moon. It's full tonight and just radiating with a pale yellow glow. I stopped the car and just looked at it for a couple of minutes. It hung mid-sky, with a hazy halo crowning its amazing clarity. It was gorgeous. I'm a fairly simple person, in truth, and I get a kick out of a full moon or shooting stars. It reminds me of being a kid back in Illinois. I wondered if any of the scary dudes at Hooters had stopped to look at the moon tonight. Probably not. But, then again, who am I to say?

Driving home, I passed the protected wildflower meadow that sits in the middle of the Rockville stripmalls. It's so incongruous with its surroundings - the lights from CVS and the Silver Diner and the massive, fire-prone high-rise next to the Jewish Community Center. There's absolutely no breeze tonight, but I could still smell the strong earthy scent from the meadow, where stalks now stand a good four feet tall. The colors of the flowers are pale and weak this year. Last year, it was a stunning blanket of reds and blues and yellows. I wanted to sneak in once and have a friend take my picture there, with only my head showing among the towering flowers. But I never did it - I felt it was oddly vain to want someone to take my picture there, there's no place to park nearby, you're not supposed to set foot in it, and I was afraid of getting bitten by/stepping on something angry living in the brush. Ah well. "Wisdom" of age overtakes foolishness of youth...

YOUR FACE HERE: 212-555-BLOG.

In the darkness tonight, it just looked like a thicket of weeds. The crickets within were chirping so loudly, I wondered if they could be heard from the top levels of the apartment tower. But then, an Escalade pulled up next to me, rims spinning, doors thumping with some bass-heavy tuneage, and the crickets were drowned out.

I got down to yet another strip mall, and my cell phone rang. I pulled in at 7-11 to answer - there was a sea of humanity pouring in and out of the store like a giant ant hill.

It was my niece calling from New Jersey, wanting to know if I was still planning on coming to my nephew's wedding next weekend. I've been hemming and hawing for some time now about attending. I've disowned one of my nephews for shameful behavior. (He refused to come visit his mother when doctors said she was likely not going to survive a septic infection - he said, "If someone calls and says she's definitely dying, I'll come down, I guess." I went utterly broke visiting my mom when she was sick. It's not optional.) That nephew is theoretically flying in for the wedding - he's the brother of the groom. I don't want to deal with him.

Additionally, my oldest sister's second husband likes to make rude fat comments and jokes in my presence. I've warned people I'm at the "I will throw punches" stage if he pulls that crap this time. Despite being the last of nine children, I was primarily raised alone, due to age differences, and I don't play well with large groups of my family members. I get stressed out.

I've had phone calls and e-mails from siblings telling me I need to come. I'm broke. It's a 4+ hour drive. I don't want to owe people money for gas or food. I don't want any drama. Ugh. But my niece says she has space for me in her home. She wants me to come up. I give her a half-hearted commitment before I hang up. And then, I just sit and watch the people come in and go out.

The devil drives a crappy Ford Escort.
And she is watching you. And taking notes.


Black people. White people. Asians. Latinos. A Metro train driver, still in uniform, picking up milk and bread. A cop stopping to get lottery tickets. Girls in tight jeans and girls in flowy peasant skirts, all wearing flip-flops. Guys with do-rags and basketball t's picking up cigarettes and Slurpees. A couple of weightlifters grabbing Gatorade. A homeless man with a large, enthusiastic dog on a leash that appears to be fashioned from plastic grocery bags. A homeless woman, one pant leg torn off her filthy sweats, swears and paces at the edge of the building, arguing with some unseen demon.

I bought a lottery ticket and a bottle of water. Time to go home.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Bethesda, Maryland. CVS Parking Lot. 9:47 p.m.

A van with handicapped plates hovers, looking for parking. There is none. The two handicapped spots are filled. One by another van with handicapped plates. The other, by a Lexus with no handicapped plates, sticker or tag. An older woman with tragic amounts of plastic surgery sits behind the wheel, running the engine, listening to the radio so loud, it's painful. I shrug at the van driver, who smiles and shrugs back. He points at the Lexus and shakes his head.

A 40-something woman, maybe a size 0, wobbles out of CVS on spiky slides. She has an artificial tan almost as terrifying as her platinum extensions and massively fake hooters, held in place by a glittery pink halter top. She is adjusting her denim miniskirt as she approaches the passenger side of the Lexus. Taking in the gesture exchange between the van driver and me, she stops.

Boob-job: "What? What? WHAT? You got a problem?"

Me: "Well, yeah. The van driver needs a handicapped space for his car. And your vehicle has no handicapped designation."

Boob-job: "Oh screw you! My mother is handicapped! Can't you see! She just had a face lift and she can barely see!"

Me: "Omigod. Then why is SHE driving?!?"

Boob-job, with venom: "Oh fuck you. We're leaving."

Boob-job then angles herself into the car - a drawn-out, hilarious effort thanks to the tightness of the skirt and the height of the shoes (which the van driver and I watch with amusement.) Boobette gives me the finger from behind tinted glass, and then Blind Lemon Facelift takes off, putting the car into drive, directly up onto the sidewalk, smacking her car into the large handicapped parking sign. I look back - the van driver is laughing so hard, he must be nearly peeing himself.

And, with a flourish (and about 7 or 8 turns) the fine women of Bethesda were off, leaving a slime trail of class and finesse behind them.

The van driver was still laughing when I pulled away.

Bet she drives a Lexus...


Gotta love stupid people. They certainly make the world more interesting...

Grumbling about photo stamps

A while back, the USPS decided to try a great experiment - let people design their own postage with their own photographs. It sounded like a good idea - a fun, albeit expensive, way for people to celebrate family events, milestones, or just be incredibly, incredibly vain. A sheet of 20 first class $.37 stamps was $16.99. Yikes! It was damn pricey. But, for a special event, you've gotta admit, it was kinda cool.

But then, the fine people of The Smoking Gun decided to try their own bold, tongue-in-cheek experiment. Could they get the USPS to actually print stamps featuring a number of questionable events and people, like Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Slobodan Milosevic, and Monica Lewinsky's DNA-stained dress? Oh yes, they most certainly could.

The embarrassing scandal that followed The Smoking Gun's revelations (and postage) brought about the scrapping of the Stamps.com experiment. Full stop. I was actually in the middle of planning a stamp order with the head of a co-worker prominently displayed on first class postage when the service was shut down - it was to be a birthday surprise. (In retrospect, I guess, considering how things worked out for me at that place of former employment, I'm glad I didn't have the chance to waste my money!) It actually was kind of disappointing. I thought it was a fun idea.

Apparently, I wasn't the only one. Stamps.com has reopened the vanity postage press, but now, with some pretty severe limitations. Here are the new rules, straight from the Stamps.com website:

Content Restrictions

You agree not to use the PhotoStamps website or service:

A. To upload, order for print, or otherwise transmit or communicate any material for any unlawful purpose or that is obscene, offensive, blasphemous, pornographic, sexually suggestive, deceptive, threatening, menacing, abusive, harmful, an invasion of privacy, supportive of unlawful action, defamatory, libelous, vulgar, violent, or otherwise objectionable;


B. To upload, order for print, or otherwise transmit or communicate any material that depicts celebrities or celebrity likenesses, regional, national or international leaders or politicians, current or former world leaders, convicted criminals, or newsworthy, notorious or infamous images and individuals;


C. To upload, order for print, or otherwise transmit or communicate any material that you do not have a right to transmit or communicate under any contractual or fiduciary relationship or which infringes any copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property right or any moral right of any party;


D. To upload or otherwise transmit any material which is likely to cause harm to the PhotoStamps service or anyone else's computer systems, including but not limited to that which contains any virus, code, worm, data or other files or programs designed to damage or allow unauthorized access to the PhotoStamps service or which may cause any defect, error, malfunction or corruption to the service; and


E. To upload, order for print, or otherwise transmit or communicate any material that emulates any form of valid indicia or payment for postage.


You agree that if Stamps.com, in its sole discretion, determines that any material you upload may not meet these content requirements, Stamps.com may reject your order without explanation. Stamps.com reserves the right to charge a processing fee of $10.00 for each image, graphic or photograph that you submit as an order in the PhotoStamps service which violates our content restrictions.

In addition, in the event you violate these Content Restrictions and you intentionally publicize such violation, you acknowledge that Stamps.com will suffer substantial damage to its reputation and goodwill and that you can be liable for causing such substantial damage.

Whew. Got all that?

While the guys at The Smoking Gun laid bare the limitations and problems of vanity stamps, their experiment also put a halt to more innocent fun. I went to Stamps.com today to see how a picture of my mom in her flight gear would look on a stamp.

Wouldn't you totally dig a stamp like this? I think it would rock.

You can test drive an image before you buy - it's pretty cool, actually. I thought that , if I'm employed come Christmas and have any moolah at all, it would be neat to have Mom stamps for my family Christmas cards. But, alas, it is not to be. One of the results of the 'Gun silliness is this: the PhotoStamps service is "unable to accept images that may be construed as business advertising or notices, or any vintage or older images..."

What a total bummer that is! Crap, crap, crap. I don't hold it against The Smoking Gun - it's a great website. I just wish that the non-devious among us hadn't got trapped in their big tuna net.

C'est la vie. It'll be Santa or the Virgin getting postmarked on my cards again this year. I'll survive.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Oh crap!

ALL of my bookmarks just vanished! All of them! All the blogs I read. All the neat tools I use. Everything. WTF?!?

I went to click on the cool timer device I found (so I can talk through a piece of commentary I've written) and boom - it's gone. Along with everything else.

Dammit.

They were all there yesterday.

Grrr.

Four months

Monday morning marks four months of unemployment.

Is it time to climb a bell tower (or a bridge) yet?

I think this is easily the darkest time I've had since my mom died in 2001. And yet, in the darkness, there are little rays of light. And there are people I should be thanking for all sorts of things:

To the Sasquatch, the Atomic Editor, MEB, Paul, and the rest of my dear, dear friends - thanks for your support, your job leads, and for just being incredibly cool. If I didn't have you guys around, I'd have thrown in the towel and started living on Dewey Beach by now, begging for picnic basket scraps.

To April Winchell for giving me some really good professional advice that I've actually had a chance to use - and hope to use again soon. April is a sweetheart and a very decent person.

To Shane Nickerson for sending me a new printer. I may have been helping you clean out your garage, dude, but you saved me from having to expend more credit to buy a new one. That's a lifesaver right now. Really.

To the 5.5 people who read this blog and have left thoughtful, friendly, and supportive messages. I really appreciate it, and I'm grateful to you for actually hanging around and reading my self-indulgent rants. If I had all your addresses, I'd send you each a nice hand-stamped card for putting up with me, my bad grammar, and awful spelling.

Muchas gracias, y'all. Hopefully, this time next month, I'll have a job to tell you about. Otherwise, you may find me on the beach, talking to myself...

Have you seen my car keys?

And my house keys?

I picked them up at the front door last night, thinking it was my car alarm going off in the thunderstorm outside, clicked my car a couple of times, and, somewhere between my kitchen and my computer, I lost them. I swear to god, it's as if they vanished into another dimension.

Dammit.

This is going to drive me nuts.

Gathering tales...

Having found that old zip disk last week, I'm quite surprised by the number of travel stories I've written - stuff about Thailand, Russia, Central Asia, Mexico, Egypt, London... It's very tempting to try to brush them up, see if they'd work well together and find out if there's any interest in folks reading about a fat chick's travels around the planet.

I don't know, though, if the world needs another book for the $3.99 remainders table at Barnes & Noble...

I really want to attend the upcoming non-fiction writing conference up at Goucher College. I think it could be really beneficial, but it's awfully expensive. Short of turning "specialty tricks" down at 14th & K, I really don't know how to get the moolah together for this. (Hey, I've seen transvestites in chainmail bikinis down at 14th & K doin' business. I'm sure there's a market for fat women looking for conference fees, right? Wait. Actually, I don't want to know that...)

I have spent a lot of time online lately trying to find grants/awards/scholarships to allow folks like me (that is, penniless and groveling) to attend professional conferences, but, alas, it is to no avail. If anyone reading this blog has any leads on funding opportunities for things like this, please let me know. (My efforts to establish a celebrity "Adopt a Regular Joe" program failed, I regret to say.) I'm very good at identifying $$ sources for other people, but I'm coming up dry on this. If only there was a "Fund for Unemployed Writer Chicks."

Then, the world would be a better place for one shining moment...

But, it's highly unlikely to happen.

Sigh.

I think I need to listen to "Birdhouse In Your Soul" before I go to bed. If ever you're feeling blue, just bend your ear to They Might Be Giant's 1990 release "Flood." It's brilliant, and I defy you to listen to "Birdhouse" - one of the bestest ever TMBG tracks ever - and remain sad. You just can't.

Leave the nightlight on inside the birdhouse in your soul...

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Shrieking Lust Monkeys

Oh man. I finally sit down to do some writing - some "serious" writing, and it's just as the next door neighbor and his girlfriend decide to go at it, big time. A little Saturday "afternoon delight" I guess.

God, I wish the walls were thicker in this building. And I wish he wasn't a moaner. She's not the loud one. And I wish they would put a quilt around their headboard. God.

Headphones. God, where did I leave the noise-filtering headphones?!?!?

I think I'd better give up for now. Maybe this is a good time to watch the first three episodes of Season 5 of "OZ." I think prison violence wins out over "summer lovin'" next door. Shudder.

Friday, July 15, 2005

People who should just go away

...and never come back:

1. Karl "Pompous Ass" Rove
2. Robert "Pompous Ass, the Sequel" Novak
3. This stupid, stupid guy.
4. This dumb broad.
5. Bobby Brown.
6. The people who felt the world needed a Dukes of Hazzard movie.
7. Rick "Santorum" Santorum. (Creep.)
8. The jerk who left a personalized Herbalife flyer under my windshield wiper (go to hell, please.)
9. Dell. The whole damn company.

and, of course,

10. Tom Cruise.

I'm having a really, truly crappy day. A hideous, rotten day.

I need a margarita. Bad.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Holy crap! Madness is releasing a new cd!!

Holy moley, kidlets!!! The boys are back together, currently touring the UK, and their first NEW cd in a gazillion years is due out next month. OH YEAH!!!!

Coming in August...

This is major. Seriously huge. I am having a bad-ass '80's flashback right now, and it feels goooood.

Matthew Lesko is following me!!!

Okay, quite probably not, but, as it appears he lives in the same 'hood as me, I sure do see him an awful lot. I see him at my coffee shop, in parking garages, on the street.

And he's always wearing one of Those Suits. Those hideous, hideous suits.

You don't know who Matthew Lesko is? Oh, sure you do.

Ever see one of those basic cable commercials with the guy in a suit covered in question marks, ranting about FREE GOVERNMENT MONEY? (PAY YOUR RENT! GO TO COLLEGE! START A BUSINESS!) That's Matthew Lesko. His small business collects information about all the government funding programs out there and compiles it into a variety of books for consumers who don't know where to start or that such funds even exist - and for those people to lazy to do the research themselves. (I imagine most buyers of his books fall into that last category. In my previous life, I wrote and researched grants for years and years, and, let me tell ya, if you have a computer and can type "GOOGLE", you're set.)

And, apparently, Matthew Lesko and I circle the same territory.

He has a bright yellow Mini Cooper covered in black question marks. He has a scooter (green, I think - it was dark) covered in question marks, and he has The Suits. Each time I see him, Lesko is dressed in a different suit... covered in question marks. The first time I saw him at Mayorga Coffee up in Rockville, he was in a lime green suit festooned with purple question marks. He had matching lime green eyeglasses and lime green running shoes. He looked like the Riddler on acid. He was quietly tapping away on his laptop, and people entering the shop would surreptitiously look and quickly turn away, as if their retinas were burned by the sun. Two businessmen, seated on the leather couch across the way, kept stopping to look over. I heard one finally say, "Well, that's really freakish."

Matthew Lesko - not exactly dressed to stalk anyone.

But, you've got to admire his brand management. You see him once, you know exactly who the hell he is. I'm sure that, in the course of living in suburban Maryland, I've seen some of the same people many times over, but they're not recognizable as return visits to my brain, by virtue of their societally-accepted fashion sense. Lesko, on the other hand, stands out like a Marvel comics character in a grey scale world.

Last week, on one of my free-wifi-Internet-job-hunt-grovel-grovel trips to Mayorga, I spotted Lesko again. This day's ensemble featured a grey suit with orange question marks, matching orange running shoes, and colorless plastic eyeglasses. I took a seat at the back of the cafe, with a direct sightline to the man in the grey freaky suit. I called the Sasquatch, and, in half-assed German, told him that, once again, I'd crossed paths with The Lesko. (Why German? Hell if I know. I guess I figured that, if you're going to speak about someone in a coffee shop on your cell phone, why not take a chance that he doesn't understand German. Stupid thing to do, frankly, in overeducated DC. I hear people trying to get away with being rude in Russian all the time. It amuses me to walk past them and offer a friendly greeting po russkiy and watch their faces fall. Bad Merujo. Bad, bad Merujo.) So, finally, I tell the Sasquatch that I'm going to go up and ask Lesko how many of those suits he has. Why the hell not?

I stroll to the front of the cafe and order an iced coffee and, once procured, head over to get some Pink Death (aka Sweet 'n' Low), on the table next to the Riddler of Rockville. And, finally, I interact. I apologize for disturbing him, but I've seen him there a zillion times and I had to ask, "Just how many of those suits do you have???"

Matthew Lesko, it turns out, is rather charming and polite. He stands up, shakes my hand, and laughs. Clearly this isn't the first time he'd been asked about the suits. He has "about 12" according to his count. I tell him that I've seen him so many times that I'm going to start a "Lesko Watch" on my blog. Again he laughs, thanks me, and wishes me well.

The guy even made a point of dropping by my table to say goodbye before he left. A little odd, but, the guy's got a good sense of humor.

Last night, leaving the parking garage down in the Yupster Central portion of Bethesda (Bethesda Avenue, where the affluent go to pretend they're European!) I ran into Lesko again. I was leaving the garage elevator, and he was getting on. This time, he was wearing a white suit with royal blue question marks and wild, multi-colored Harold Lloyd specs sat on his nose. "We meet again," I said, doing the best noir-ish voice one can channel in a parking garage elevator. Lesko laughed and patted me on the shoulder. "Good to see you again!" And, just like that, he was gone. Like a really tall, thin, strangely dressed gorilla in the mist.

At least someone in downtown Bethesda isn't taking himself seriously - and it looks like he's making decent money doing it. And good for him, say I.

(Most of this town could use a pitcher of frozen margaritas and an attitude adjustment. Honestly.)


Poster's remorse

You know, I'm going to feel awful now if anything actually happens to Rehnquist. As for Brad Pitt, poor bastard had viral meningitis. Jeez.

I'm a tuckered puppy. I didn't do much today, frankly. Talked to someone who's willing to interview me, but likely doesn't have any work for me. Hobbled around with Mr. Angry Toe. Had dinner with the Sasquatch at Austin Grill (my treat for a change) and then drooled over books at Barnes & Noble. On the uber-discount table, we discovered a pile of copies of this once-pricey tome:

Law & Order: Crime Scenes

Four bucks and change for this big freaky coffee table book full of b&w photos of the fake crime scenes from L&O. Mr. Sasquatch bought a copy for me - and one for him. It's got a great design concept. Pretty awesome. I intend to dig into it now with a handful of Bing cherries and some ice cold seltzer water. It's the little things, isn't it? Crime scenes, fresh fruit and bubbly ice water. Ah yes, life is good.

Thankya, Barnes & Noble. And thankya, Sasquatch. Thankya big big!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Rehnquist hospitalized with high fever

Sez: "Damn Brad Pitt. That's the last time I share a can of Coke with that a-hole."


Pitt replies: "Cough. Hack. Cough."

What book are you?

Apparently, I am The Guns of August. Who knew?

Thanks to Mellawyrden, from whom I have snarfed this Internet quizlet.




You're The Guns of August!

by Barbara Tuchman

Though you're interested in war, what you really want to know is what causes war. You're out to expose imperialism, militarism, and nationalism for what they really are. Nevertheless, you're always living in the past and have a hard time dealing with what's going on today. You're also far more focused on Europe than anywhere else in the world. A fitting motto for you might be "Guns do kill, but so can diplomats."


Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Somebody buy Matt Drudge a life, please

Blaring headline on the Drudge Report today:

"SEN. MCCAIN STARS IN BOOB RAUNCH FEST!"

Here's my headline:

"MATT DRUDGE NEEDS AN ENEMA!"


Here's the scoop: John McCain has a bit part in the new Vince Vaugh-Owen Wilson comedy about guys who crash weddings to get laid. The fairly conventional story has Wilson the Cad end up falling in love with a woman from one of these crashed affairs. (Like you couldn't see that script conceit coming...)

You would think from the 20-some-odd-point bold font on Drudge's front page, that McCain is naked and swingin' in the trees for a large hunk of this film. However, that's simply not the case. Bit part. Teeny weenie. Just like cameos politicians have been doing for years. (Personally, I like the ones in "Dave" - including media whore-chik Ben Stein.)

This typographical hissy fit is just a hook for people to click on Drudge's lame-ass swipe at McCain for being a hypocrite. McCain, you see, previously made some fatherly comments about R-rated flicks in a senate hearing on Hollywood and its stench of moral decay.

Disingenuous on the part of the senator to then appear in an R-rated movie? Maybe, yeah. But not as disingenuous as screaming that the senator "stars" in said R-rated movie. I really hate it when Drudge engages in yellow journalism that reeks so bad, you have to assume it was crafted (and tinted) in a trench latrine.

Jeez, Matt. Are ya hurting for readers? Not enough lobotomized folks reading the smaller print on your page? You had to go for the Reader's Digest "Big Print" edition? Will you soon start doing your radio show in "Special English"??? Why not just slap a bunch of Fox logos and Hillary Clinton's head up as icons for all your stories? That should pretty much take care of it.

Grrr.

Dork.

Sorry. Let's try that again.

"DORK!"

Harry Potter

I love these books. Good kid lit that can suck an adult into its world is priceless. I am really looking forward to Saturday. I plan to consume this new book with a voraciousness usually only associated with Andean planewreck survivors.

I saw today that the Pope disapproves of Harry Potter. Well, golly gosh. Too bad, bubba. You're missing out on some good entertainment. As a theoretically Catholic child, I used to enjoy reading the list of Church-condemned movies in The Catholic Post and noting how many of them I'd seen. (See, I wasn't a good Catholic even as a kidlet.) Half-heartedly, my mother would remind me not to gloat - it was unseemly to be so pleased at dissing the Church's movie-viewing guidelines. Not that she cared - she was the one who took me to see the Cinema of Satan...

I just got e-mail from The Dolby. He and his kids will be lined up at midnight Friday, waiting to get their copies. Last time I saw The Dolby, we talked about good kid lit, and I recommended Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising series. (Also likely candidates for a Papal snub.) I dig the books about English children, magic, and myth. It all works well together. It just wouldn't be the same thing if Harry Potter lived in Santa Monica, dude. No way.

There's even a Harry Potter connection to the Dark Tower, but I'm going to refrain from geeking out that much. For now, at least.

The salt water foot soak calls me. Gawd, I live such an exciting life.

If ever you're feeling low...

Go listen to the "Arlo Song" and all will be better in your world. Just click and start the video. It's a hoot.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

NASA - WTF?!?

Shuttle Discovery is still good to go, despite a window covering falling off and damaging tiles.

Excuse me, but how does a cockpit window covering FALL OFF the shuttle the day before launch? It's JUST SITTING ON THE TARMAC!!!! If stuff is going to fall off the shuttle when it's NOT MOVING... well...

WTF, people?!?!?

I'm starting to think that NASA stands for "Next, Another Shuttle Accident." Uncharitable, perhaps, but, jeeeezus. I wouldn't want to go up on the damn thing when parts of the windows are falling off. Did I mention it WASN'T MOVING at the time?!?!

Great googly moogly.


"Hey, uh, guys? Uh, Mission Control? I think I'll just stay in the van, if that's cool by you..."

I want to see the space program succeed. I want to see it thrive and grow and send us amazing places. But, guys, when shit's falling off the shuttle a day before lift off, my faith is less than secure. NASA, get thy act together.

And may tomorrow's flight crew have a safe and pleasant journey.

Still Life with Angry Toe

Ugh. I had to have minor toe surgery today. My podiatrist, Johnny Rotten, told me I really, really would want to take a Tylenol before the anesthetic wore off. Man, he was right. While he tortured my poor toe (and I pretended to read my copy of the Washington Post so I didn't have to see what he was doing), we talked about the rather unfortunate demise of the wife of a local syndicated radio host here in DC. She was out at the beach on Sunday, and she was hit head-on by a young man in an SUV who swerved to miss a 10-car pile-up, crossed the median and turned her Lexus sedan into twisted wreckage.

This lead to a conversation about car accidents in general (and I told him about all the people I'd seen ejected from cars back in Russia - no seat belts + erratic driving = bodies on road more often that you'd like to imagine. Damn, I saw a lot of dead people in Russia. A lot.) This then lead to a conversation about being held at gunpoint, which is another super-fun memory of Russia.

Weird conversations for foot surgery.


Foot (with monkey bones), bandaged toe, and messy computer area.

No treadmill for a week. No exercise bike for three days. Man, I really, really wish I'd taken the damn Tylenol when he told me to... cuz this sucker is throbbing. Dang it.

Back to the sofa. I can still catch the last 20 minutes of an old Charmed episode on TNT, land o' reruns. Oh, and Javier - if it's the one where you put facial hair on Shannen Doherty and turned her into a man - you're paying for my therapy.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Oh, it is to laugh (and cry):
the book signing edition

I wasn't going to post this, but, after considering it today, I figured, what the hell. In for a penny, in for a pound. Welcome to the ugly side of my world...

Last night, I went to a book reading/signing by best-selling author (and lovely rotund woman) Jennifer Weiner. Although advertised as a book reading, Weiner instead told some hilarious stories, including how her mother came out of the closet to her grandmother during a visit to “Nana’s” stomping grounds in the predominantly Jewish old-age conclave of Century Village in Ft. Lauderdale. (She marvelously referred to the event as “The Spillage in Century Village.”) She also generously and cheerfully took some questions from the audience, which filled the café area in the Bethesda Barnes & Noble to beyond capacity.

One questioner asked Weiner to recount “the Springsteen story” wherein fate plants her and her new boyfriend in seats at a Springsteen concert in Madison Square Garden directly next to her ex-boyfriend (who dumped her) and his new girlfriend (whom Weiner dubbed “Bitchface.”) It was a great story of karmic good ‘n’ evil, and it made me laugh my ass off.


Some Botero tootsies.

After talking for forty minutes, Weiner sat down to sign books. As I was at the back of the café area, I just waited for the line to snake my direction. There were some blue-haired ladies in pastel suits, with faces so tightly pulled, you could bounce quarters off them. I heard some of them talking about how they simply collected autographed books. Fair ‘nuff. Harmless hobby. There were plenty of just plain normal folks – virtually all women - who were eager to say a few words to Weiner and get her signature. (Side note – there was one woman who I think was transgendered, but still looking very manly. Either that, or it was just a butchy crossdresser. Whichever, she/he was wearing a blouse I own. A blouse I almost wore last night. A blouse that’s going to Salvation Army on Saturday. I just realized how awful it looked on her/him, and I knew I must look like hell in it, myself.)

And then, there was the unholy quartet directly in front of me. They were Bethesda “yippy dog” young yuppie women. Had to all be around thirty-ish, huge rocks on their hands, already with enough collagen, boob implants, and botox in ‘em to fill an entire season of Nip/Tuck. They were tiny women, all very neat, decked in understated faded designer summerwear, and all talking in what my linguist’s ear discerned to be a very outdated dialect of Valley Girl.


Bethesda ladies: pampered doggy style.

And, my, they did talk too much.

Except, that is, for the one who kept one ear to her cell phone the entire time, but nodded like a mindless bobblehead doll at every word her friends puked forth and simply said “Oh yeah!” every few seconds.

I’m going to leave out some of the comments. I’ll get too angry about it. Here are the highlights before I lost my cool.

"Oh… my… god… Her first book. It so could have been my life! I mean, okay, so I’ve never been over a size 3 in my life, and no one has ever dumped me – I mean, like, no one would ever dump me! But oh… my… god… I mean, she's Jewish. I'm Jewish! This so could have been my life!”


Yippy, dippy dogs - but don't they look faaaaabulous???

There is a chirping of accord among the Bethes-twits. And another picks up the unfortunate thread, clearly not noticing the extremely large woman (me) directly behind them.

“Oh my god. I so know what you mean. It's so real, isn't it? Except the fat part. I mean, I’ve never been over a size 7 - and that was so difficult for me. I mean, have you seen her?” This last in a conspiratorial pseudo-whisper hissed loud enough to abuse my ears, as she cocks her head toward Jennifer Weiner. “I mean, she’s so big. She must be a very brave person. I mean, I would rather die that be seen in public in a double digit size! She’s clearly a very brave woman. I mean, who would want to have sex with someone that size?!?! Can you imagine getting naked? You would have to be brave to face the humiliation.”


Figure 26/28: Woman bravely facing life's humiliations. Apparently.

At this point, I know my blood pressure is rising ungodly fast. I outweigh the lovely Ms. Weiner by more than a handful of pounds.

“Oh,” says birdbrain #3, “totally! I think suicide would be the only option at that point. Don’t you agree?” All four dumb bunnies are nodding in unison now.

This was the point when I finally snapped.

“Jesus Christ!” I said, loudly enough for people at two table at the back to hear me, too. “Are you listening to yourselves?!? What is wrong with you? Are you really that vacuous?!?” I just wanted to smack these creatures. They actually believed that women my size should kill themselves? What the fuck, people?!?!

Long story short – turns out none of these ladies had ever read any of Jennifer Weiner’s books. (I asked.) Even the one who said that Weiner’s first book “could have been (her) life!” Ye gods. Two of them seemed very embarrassed when I expressed my anger. One quietly said, “Sorry.” One said nothing and looked at the floor.

And I decided to leave. I felt that I couldn’t stay in line for another 10 or 15 minutes (or any minutes) behind these vapid losers. I would like to have spoken with Jennifer Weiner. I wanted to thank her for the advice for writers on her website. I found it very useful and made me feel better about not having an MFA or other street cred as a wanna-be writer. I wanted to tell her in person how much I appreciated seeing a joyful, successful, creative large woman out there, just having a hell of a good time and getting lots of credit for being so talented.

Instead, I drove around for a while, trying to cool off, trying not to wonder how many people in Bethesda think I should just commit suicide because I’m fat. I’ve heard that from men before, but not women. Adolescent males, packs of 20-something males – more than once I’ve heard from them that I should die (usually followed with words like “fat bitch!”) But not from women. It’s a very ugly thing.

You can lose weight. You can alter your appearance. Absolutely.

Changing your soul – curing yourself of a spiritual ugliness and ignorance… well, that’s another thing altogether, my friends.

Decency should not be optional in civilized society. Decency IS NOT optional. Even if yippy dog women in Bethesda think it is. May god have mercy on their teeny tiny twisted little souls.


Figure woman: simply human.

I hope you all had a better evening than I did. Here's hoping for a vacuous-beast-free evening tonight...

One Million Poppies

On Sunday, thousands of people gathered in London for Commemoration Day, marking 60 years since the end of WWII. A Lancaster bomber dropped 1,000,000 poppies on the thousands gathered in the Mall.


"It does not surprise me that during the present difficult days for London, people turn to the example set by that generation, of resilience, humour, sustained courage, often under conditions of great deprivation. That example, and those memories, should be kept alive by younger generations as they in turn strive to keep the peace in our troubled world."
--Her Royal Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II

It's our job to never forget.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Required Reading


So many hopes and fears... Do you have a Post Secret?

Strange Things Afoot at the Circle K...

Recently, at the suggestion of the Sasquatch, I changed my hit counter to one from the fine folks at StatCounter.com. Now, I can see just where folks are coming from when they visit my blog. It's kinda fun to see how people end up on my doorstep. And sometimes, it's a little disturbing.

A lot of folks land here by virtue of Blogger's "next blog" feature. That explains the people who show up here via such delightful places as "hot-tub-babes.blogspot.com" and "wrongful-death-information.blogspot.com." My, my, my. There sure are a whole lot of really weird commercial sites out there. Most of the people who reach the Church of the Big Sky via "next blog" stay here a total of 0 seconds. Zero. And just like that, they're off to more pleasant lands and fertile imaginations.

There are also a lot of visitors from Portugal who stay for zero seconds. I didn't know that "Merujo" is a Portuguese name. (I do now.)

Through the wonders of StatCounter, I'm also able to find out how people find me while Googling odd phrases. Today, my favorite search engine entry is: "this chick" + "missing two fingers". Yes, these two phrases together brought up three entries on Google, and one of them was my blog. I just want to know why someone was Googling those two phrases together. (Does that person know my scary freshman year college roommate, too???)

Of course, when I Google, I find weird stuff, so nothing should surprise me. When I was looking for a picture of crustaceans to go along with my little poem recently, this image popped up, simply under the listing for "crabs":


Clearly, this crab is still stuck in the Gordon Gekko/"Greed is good"/Jay McInerney/"Bright Lights, Big City" 1980's. Somebody call Crockett and Tubbs!

(Rehab, dude. It's all about rehab now. I'm sure we can get you a room at Promises Malibu.)

Yeah, the World Wide Web is one messed up place. But I guess it's good to know there's space enough for me and the hot-tub-babes. God bless the Internet and all who sail on her.

Stuff I found on a old zip disk #2:
the Siegfried and Roy edition

A few years back, I went to Las Vegas with a delegation of Russki (and other Eurasia-ski) computer guys. We went to walk the exhibit halls at Comdex Fall - then the ultimate IT geek's wet dream trade show. A vapid, obnoxious colleague came with us, and she was dying to see Siegfried and Roy. On a what-the-hell whim, I went with her one evening. I wrote up a bit on our adventures in magic, which a few of y'all have seen before. The days of SARMOTI are now over, and, having found this on that old zip disk, I figured it was time to resurrect my tribute to the patron saints of Vegas. Keep in mind, this was written well before "the little tiger problem."

For those of you unfamiliar with my overpriced night at the Mirage, may I present...

A Little Reich Music

It’s 1:15 in the morning on the Vegas Strip. Do you know where your money is?

In my case, $101.50 is now in the hands of two chiseled Aryan fashion victims named Siegfried and Roy. I should have played blackjack. Maybe the drinks would have been less watered down.

Of course, it could be that I’m just horribly jaded. The majority of the audience packed into the well-chilled auditorium at the Mirage (“See Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden! Visit our fabulous rain forest!”) seemed genuinely captivated. My perky co-worker, the one who convinced me to plop down all my per diem on this ticket, was utterly thrilled. (Mind you, though, this is the same woman who, in the cab on the way over, read the marquee for the Maxim casino and said, “Oooh, look! Maxim! That’s a palindrome! I LOVE palindromes!”)

Maybe the $0.50 in the ticket price was for the red, glittery heart sticker attached to my face. It was placed there by the masked, black-robed Minion o’Roy (it just sounds right) who silently skulked through the audience, a dark, foreboding figure armed with rolls of cuddly tiger and warm heart stickers that seemed to have more in common with Smurfs on Ice than the dark magical arts. Perky co-worker and I were stickered upon arrival at our cabaret table, which was already filled with cranky Italian tourists who had already stolen our copies of the glossy souvenir programs from our seats.

Finally, one dour tourist snaked a hand into a large shopping bag and disdainfully offered us a program to share. Although I let Perky keep ours, I should have held on to it for the humor value. Along with hilarious philosophical statements from Siegfried, the booklet features pictures of the campy duo with an odd variety of celebrities, from Michael Jackson and other fashion-impairment support-group buddies like Bill Cosby and Robin Williams, to, rather perversely, the Pope.

The boys would like to think of themselves as heirs apparent to Liberace, but they fall short on all counts. Liberace had genuine presence. He had style – albeit the bizarrely flashy style of The Man Who Would Be Queen. He could carry off a hot pink feathered and diamond-encrusted cape like no other man (or woman, for that matter.) Liberace captivated audiences with his talent, and then charmed them with his self-deprecating humor and conspiratorial asides. (And, for god’s sake – how could he play so brilliantly with his hands weighed down with so much gold???)

Siegfried and Roy, on the other hand, rely on smoke and mirrors – literally – to make an impression. A public service announcement as the house lights dim informs the audience that the mist filling the room is harmless theatrical smoke. Harmless? Perhaps. But that doesn’t stop it from smelling like shit. I think I’m still coughing up the “harmless theatrical smoke.” I found myself sucking down my two complimentary cocktails – gin and tonics, where the gin was clearly added with an eyedropper – before the first dancer hit the stage.

No magic occurs for the first twenty minutes of the show (unless you count the empty spot in your wallet.) Instead you are treated with some of the lamest choreography this side of the all-paraplegic staging of Cats. There are butterflies, vaguely Turkic people, an evil queen (no, no - not Siegfried) and music that makes Yanni look like a fucking genius. You hear “Seeeeeeegfreeeeeed! Royeeeeeeee!” whispered through the music all evening, plus the odd word “SARMOTI” which is the acronym for Siegfried And Roy – Masters Of The Impossible. (Personally, I think of them as the Masters of the Craptastic, but that’s merely my opinion.) There’s a mechanical dragon, several women cut in two or three pieces (these guys really like table saws), and enough ass to keep the eyes of the straight men in the audience on the stage.

Das dynamische Duo have at least five or six costume changes in the course of two hours, with each ensemble more laughable than the last. Most of the outfits make them look like rejects from a Renaissance faire or extras from that awful ‘80’s film version of The Pirates of Penzance. There are capes and scepters and things best left in a big, locked closet. When Siegfried makes his awkward attempt at rapport with the audience, he’s dressed like a Hong Kong lounge singer, in a black silk karate robe, with a red, tasseled sash. All of Roy’s costumes feature gargantuan codpieces that suggest parts of his anatomy must drag on the ground when he’s naked.

Actually, all the male dancers have overstuffed codpieces, too. Perhaps Roy had that written into his contract. “Ja, all ze men MAHST have enormous packages or I vill not perform, ja?” Most of the male hoofers are buff and tall, with long, unkempt wigs and blue-grey body paint – they look like Pict-ish Klingon warriors in parachute pants, and they seem oddly matched with the petite women who resemble extras from Pat Benetar videos, circa 1984. There are a lot of jackboots in this show, including the red and gold numbers worn by the SARMOTI Creepy Roman Legion puppet dancers.

That’s the best description I can offer. Really.

Imagine five thong-wearing women, clad with chest plates, helmets and the boots of a Roman soldier, each shouldering a scaffolding of puppetry that multiplies her into a pyramid of ghost centurians. I suppose the effect was pretty cool, from a technical design perspective. I imagine for most of the guys in the audience, the thongs were the attention-grabbers, but I was more taken with the whole Roman Empire thing. It played well into some of Siegfried’s more disturbing chit-chat with the audience.

While the union grunts set up a big cat tableau beyond a black drape, Siegfried whips a microphone out from one billowing pantleg and addresses the audience just like Bill Murray’s old SNL lounge singer. “Vere you from? Visconsin, ja? Oh, zats very nice. Und you? New York, ja? Dats a great place! Ja ja ja…” Finally, Siegfried settles on an obvious audience plant, supposedly a timid middle-aged woman from Omaha named Betty. He invites her up on stage for a ridiculous old-school rope trick, where she focuses so much on the rope, she misses the tiger sitting behind her on a platform. The audience howls, and Siegfried beams. “Betty” is baffled. He finishes up by presenting Betty with a rose and stuffed tiger and toasts her with a glass of champagne.

With a flourish, Siegfried turns to the audience. “Are zere any Germans here tonight?” he asks, scanning the crowd. Scattered applause and some hoots elicit a smile on Siggi’s tight-skinned face. “Ja?” He says, raising his glass. “Ein Prosit zum deutschen Heimat!” A toast to the German homeland! “Ja,” Siegfried smiles. “Ve Germans are everyvere. Ve are taking over ze vorld again!” It’s amazing how empty a large room seems when there is only the sound of random uncomfortable laughter to fill it. Recognizing a potential public relations faux pas, Siegfried quickly says, “Well, ha ha, on vith ze show!” and skedaddles backstage. I kept expecting the next trick to be accompanied by the strains of an electronic version of “Tomorrow Belongs To Me.”

Rumor has long had it that one of the boys sleeps with the tigers. Clearly, that’s Roy. He seems to have a special rapport with them. He does all the big cat tricks, all of which basically boil down to “box is empty/has scantily clad woman in it/has badly dressed German in it – then poof! – box has bored-looking white tiger in it.” Then Roy runs off the stage with a leashed tiger, to the sound of wild applause. Roy also rides on stage on the back of a 40-ton elephant at one point. This particular evening, the elephant chose to drip urine across the stage as he ran past us. All I could think was, “If one of the dancers slips in elephant pee, is that covered by workman’s comp?”

Of course, with the torrent of cash flowing through the box office, one would hope the dancers have decent benefits. I did the mental math on this. The specially-built theater seats 1,504 people. The boys do 500 shows a year @ $101.50 a head… that’s an annual income of $76,328,000 for Siegfried, Roy, and the Love Is A Battlefield Dancers. That’s a fuckload of Tiger Chow. Hell, I’d wear pirate shirts and spandex for a piece of that. Tell me where to sign away my eternal soul.

When the lights come up, the theater is filled with the sounds of Michael Jackson, singing a song he wrote especially for the boys. Yeah, that’s a surprise. I wonder how many times Michael has asked to “adopt” one of the white tigers. Grudgingly, I have to admit, the illusions were good. I couldn’t figure them out and I was a mere five feet from some of them. I appreciate the boys’ work for wildlife preservation (and I admire their own skin preservation – I have to find out what moisturizer they use!) And Roy does have an engaging smile under his double-processed Flock of Seagulls haircut – it’s strangely fun to watch a 56-year-old German guy in designer tights swing around on rope above the audience like some aging EuroFag Peter Pan. But at a mere 7 or 8 tricks in a two-hour gig, that comes out to about $15 a trick. If I measure the show, though, in unintentional humor, I got more than my money’s worth. And it’s hard to hide belly laughs from the people sitting with you.

In virtually every hotel, gas station, and convenience store in Vegas there are free booklets advertising all the shows in town. I took one to the airport, just to entertain me while I waited to board the cattlecar to DC. Flipping through, I found an old picture of Siegfried and Roy, clad in silver jumpsuits, as they looked when they first hit Vegas in 1983. Siegfried looked shark-ish even then, but Roy looked like Doug Henning’s evil European twin, sporting a ‘fro and a Village People mustache. I have to admit, today’s Ren Faire gear is an improvement over the Far Out Space Nuts look. According to the blurb with the picture, Siegfried and Roy have just signed a lifetime contract at the Mirage, where they will continue pocketing the cash of the gullible and easily-amused for decades to come. More power to them, I guess. They really grabbed the American dream. They’re rich enough to ignore the people who laugh at them (including me.) They only work 4 hours a day, 250 days a year. And nobody fucks with men who sleep with tigers.


Siegfried and Roy: the before time.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Spanish Arm, Irish Arm

My arms are two distinctly different colors. My left arm features a permanent fingertip-to-elbow farmer's tan, courtesy of my first few summers in DC, driving a car with no A/C. My right arm remains a fish-belly pale that makes Conan O'Brien look downright swarthy in comparison.

I like to call the left arm my "Spanish arm" and the right, my "Irish arm." Just paying homage to at least a chunk of my muttley genetic heritage.

I'm a genuine Heinz 57 mess o' ethnicities - Irish, Scottish, English, German, French, Spanish, Native American, Prussian Jewish... you name it. My father's side of the family is primarily Irish and Scottish. The family name was MacSuirtain (Mac ZHURdan) until fairly recently. No matter - it means "Son of Jordan" and is one of those "Crusader who probably never got to the Holy Land" names. There are some interesting stories of how my Irish ancestors ended up on this continent. Most of them have to do with horse thievery.

My mother's side of the family is a richer mix - Hessian deserters of the Revolutionary War, Prussian Jews escaping pogroms, French peasants... and Cornish folk with a distinctly olive skin tone, thanks to a Spaniard who, as the story goes, jumped ship from the Spanish Armada and made his way to the Cornish coast. The family name on that branch is Castor, changed from its original Castro. One of my great grandfathers was named Francisco D'oro Castor. He insisted on being called Frank W. Why? Got me! I think Francisco D'oro is a pretty fantastic name. (He's the one who, as the story goes, decided to light up a cigarette next to a pony that was being "vented" of gases after eating too much grass, with disastrous, explosive consequences. All at once, I wish I had been there to see that, and, again, I'm really glad I wasn't.)

So, here I am. An American mongrel. Some of my siblings are more pale, others a bit darker. My sister, Nurse Rachet, and I carried the darker olive tones we assume are part of our Mediterranean heritage. In fact, when Nurse Rachet was expecting her kidlets, she ended up with "mask of pregnancy" - a skin discoloration that looks somewhat like a raccoon mask and is most commonly seen in Hispanic populations.

I laugh about my Spanish and Irish arms, and, tonight at the gym, I met a Cuban woman who commented on my odd 50/50 limbs. We were showing each other scars in some sort of twisted ladies' sports club replay of the great "scar battle" in "Jaws." ("Mary Ellen Moffatt - She broke my heart!") My fellow gym rat looked at my arms, laughed and said, "Whoa! You are a mutt, aren't you?!?"

Yep. That I am. A good old-fashioned American mutt, born out of the immigrant stew that brought Eastern European Jews and quiet Quaker-like Christians together to cross the Oregon trail as a family. The same mix that brought the children of Irish horsethieves and English sailors together in the Minnesota wilderness.

In the end, when the dust of a few generations settled, their children would meet on an airbase in Florida in World War II, and, 20 years later, another goofy-looking mongrel child entered the world only to eventually torture you with bad prose on the Internet. It's an utterly American story that's played out over and over again in families across the continent, where ethnicities and religions and tribes bubble and blend together into something new and unique, yet strangely identifiable as just another one of our common stories.

I may not be pretty. You may not be able to figure out just where my people come from. But I sure am an American. With one Spanish arm. And one Irish one.

Through the airwaves

I am very glad that iTunes Radio features stations from the UK. Late last night, I tuned into the stream for Virgin Radio via iTunes, listening to hear how Londoners were handling the first morning commute after yesterday's foul attacks. And Londoners were, as I expected them to, carrying on with life.

It was only later today, when I saw a photograph of a lone commuter standing on a Tube station platform, that it came back to me how horrific the day had to be for my favorite city. I've heard that there are still bodies deep underground, buried in the shredded remains of Tube train cars, and people are still looking for lost loved ones. I read of one woman looking for her boyfriend. His mobile phone was found near one of the blast sites, still working, ringing with her calls, but he is nowhere to be found.

I remember how much I cried when I saw scared, desperate people, looking for loved ones in New York back in 2001, telling stories and giving descriptions in between sobs. And it just plays out over and over again, doesn't it? I've often wondered how people in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and other bomb-ridden cities handle it? How many people walk around in a state of post-traumatic shock 24/7? Are there shrinks and meds enough to keep the entire population from freaking out?

Sigh.

I want to go to the gym and pound the treadmill, but now I'm paranoid about hurting my weird monkey feet. What's a girl with weird monkey feet to do?