Friday, December 29, 2006

insincere apologies and really bad lies

I would apologize for not posting for the last 10 days (and for the 5 unposted days that preceded my previous entry) but I know my words would sound hollow, their meaninglessness just adding insult to imaginary injury. I especially can't apologize for my lack of activity since I know that I am about to embark on yet another internet-less journey which will last another 5 days. Yep, in less than 9 hours I will find myself in LAX, greeting my sister and my youngest niece and chauffeuring them to our ultimate destination - Disneyland.

Close friends and family members may recall that the last time I went to Disneyland was in 1998. The drive down was punctuated by a rather nasty mother-daughter fight which erupted into a full blown exclamation point shortly after our arrival at the hotel. It was during this fight (which involved my mother all-too-accurately assessing her children as worthless ingrates who were careless with their finances) that one of my favorite old tapes was born. My poor fool not-yet-husband meagerly attempted to speak up on my behalf and was told promptly to, "Shut up. You're brain washed." I would venture to say, in fact, that this is my all time favorite Mom quote. The runner up? Clearly that goes to her realization after watching The Crying Game that, "they must have just been doing blow jobs or something."

{This leads me to an aside... I've started collecting old tapes from the younger generation. My eldest niece, during my Christmas visit, added a gem to my menagerie. We were discussing an uncomfortable conversation she had with her grandma (my mother-in-law) after watching My Super Ex-Girlfriend - a conversation which began with the declaration from said sexagenarian that "There is more to love than just rough sex." - when the topic turned, naturally, to the subject of masturbation. It was here where her mother (my cancer-free best friend) assured her that masturbation did not result in hairy palms by proudly displaying the smooth surface of her hands. Had I been properly hydrated, I am sure I would have peed my pants. Anyway, this exchange resulted in my all time favorite niece old tape, "The only thing worse than imagining your parents having sex together is imagining them having it alone." Too true.}

Anyway, back to Disneyland. Ah, Disneyland. The so-called Happiest Place on Earth. Disneyland was such a perfect hell the last time I visited, a surreal prison I roamed with my brother and my boyfriend, moping, avoiding lines (this was pre-Fast Pass, folks), avoiding the parents (except for at lunch when we, not so ironically, needed their money). We ended up on the train, I recall, the three of us. We were soon disgusted by the behavior of a family of heathens we dubbed the Feet People who took to rubbing their stocking feet against the hand rails of the train. The memory still turns my stomach. In fact, their blazon disregard for cootie control in public was so appalling that my brother used it as his inspiration for his essay on his college application to Yale. Strangely, his hilarious literary flogging of this disgustoid family did not gain him entry into the ivy league. We are both still scarred and bitter.

This is not to say the trip was entirely without merit. The high point of our visit to Mickey's world came when I was approached by an altogether too enthusiastic Beast (as in Beauty and the...). The Beast accosted us when we were buying slurpees and cotton candy and I kindly requested that he go entertain others. He ignored me and continued his uncalled for attempt at cheer. I then informed him that I had recently learned on television that Disney characters are frequently assaulted by unpunished Disney guests. After this revelation, the Beast signalled silently that I should "bring it on." I punched that Beast, who was not my mother, with all my debt-ridden, cootie-covered might. His costumed collapsed and I swear I nearly made contact with the actual human inside. He then moved on, satisfied by our laughter, no matter what the price.

I don't expect I'll be assaulting any Disney workers this time around (though I haven't ruled it out), but I am prepared for a less than perfect time. Whatever the next 5 days bring, it will be worth it to see the world through the eyes of a three year old. Still, I will miss my husband and my home and my two kitties. I am such a pathetic homebody. Which brings me to my really bad lies.

Last Christmas I received as a gift from my now healthy sister-in-law and my eldest nieces a gift certificate for a one hour massage in the Bay Area. Those who are in the know know that I am a whore for a full body massage. I, who cannot physically buy gas that is 2 cents more expensive than the gas half way across town, will willingly fork over hundreds of dollars to have a complete stranger stroke my less than attractive naked body. This was an awesome gift, the perfect way to shed the stress of the cancer of the year before.

And yet. I am seldom in the Bay Area. And when I am, I spend my time with my nieces. And I sleep on a cot or the floor. And I drive home, through traffic, late at night when I am tired. All of these things would destroy the efforts of even the most prolific masseuse. And so I never used my gift certificate until last week when I turned it into a gift certificate for my sister-in-law. I know, how lame? I regifted a gift I loved to the very person who gave it to me. I was told at the spa that I wasn't the first but still I felt dirty. I swore my second eldest niece to secrecy (she was in on the plan) but the swear was unnecessary. I cannot tell a lie. Ever. I confessed on Christmas morning when my sister-in-law figured the whole thing out. Am I that transparent? Apparently.

Of course, she has good reason to doubt me. The first lie I ever told her? We were driving through Berkeley (going South, crossing University Ave, my eldest niece growing in her womb) when she offered me half of an orange. I declined, insisting I had "just brushed my teeth." She looked at me, the person she had been hanging out with for hours, and she laughed. I am such a bad liar.

Though I am a horrible liar, I am a pretty good petty thief (especially of pens) and I tend to cheat at games (I am permanently banned from being Banker in Monopoly thanks to a series of interest free loans I once made to myself - loans which, I must say, I disclosed on my own when the game ended...).

So there you have it. An insincere apology and some really bad lies. Meet you back here in the new year, but give me until the third...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

i had the power

Most of my family lives in a state that experiences an actual winter. Rain, snow, sleet, black ice, fallen trees. As a result of their decision to live where houses are affordable, they have lived in various stages of electrical deprivation for four days of this past week. When I first heard of their predicament (by cell phone, as the land lines are down as well), I must admit I gloated. I thought immediately of He-man, hoisting his blazing sword, boasting of the power of Greyskull. I felt like He-man, summoning the power of PG&E. While my family faced cold showers, melted ice cream, and icy morning toes that never quite defrost, I thought to myself, "I have the POWER!"

And then I remembered the trip I had planned. I was leaving the next day to visit my eldest nieces and my now-healthy sister-in-law in Oakland - a trip I hadn't made since chemo ended in March. There I have always enjoyed electricity, running water, telephone service, and refrigerated food, so I knew I'd be better off than my folks. But a trip to the ghetto usually involves another sort of deprivation - some predictable, others completely random.

The house is small, so sleeping space is at a premium. Twice during the year of cancer I established (and lost) a personal oasis. Now that each niece is enjoying a bed of my design, I am reduced to using a cot and a sleeping bag. When I arrived this time I discovered that even my sleeping bag had been usurped. And the space for my cot was covered with an even more intimidating pile of clutter than the one that had existed when I left. Fortunately, I was able to barter for the return of my sleeping bag which I'm now using on the floor.

Chairs are another known scarcity. In fact, when asked which topics will come up in their inevitable psychotherapy sessions, both nieces agreed that "no chairs" would top the list. Mealtimes are okay, though - they're generally served buffet style. But TV time is torture, so I wisely set my Tivo to tape and store the shows that meant the most to me. I was pleasantly surprised to find the chair population had tripled since my last visit, though the TV room did not enjoy the benefit. Besides, nobody here watches Survivor. In fact, I learned that my nieces actually watch Project Runway and America's Next Top Model. This should not surprise me since they are teenage girls, but still...

I was worried about the bathroom situation. The bathroom was most often the source of unexpected unpleasantry. I am a tad obsessed with personal cleanliness and I tend to shower more than twice as often as the average Oakland family member. The fact that a duck lived in and around the bathtub during most of the year of cancer was admittedly difficult for me. Curry and I would engage in virtual death matches for access to his turf - fights that I was accused of starting and fights which I almost always lost. Who knew that a duck could actually draw blood? After the duck died - which was actually tragic and which only served to help me recognize what an evil person I was inside not to have shared in the love of a family pet - I was reluctantly relieved but the bathroom gremlins were not done with me. For while a tidy shower is a gem, a troubled toilet is torture. Happily I report the bathroom is better than ever complete with a brand new shower head that gets your entire body wet at the same time.

In contrast to the possibilities, the deprivation I have suffered for the last five days has been minor. Still, I'm certain that the loss of the internet in this house is a direct result of my aforementioned gloating. I'm not a web junkie so at first I wasn't altogether disturbed, but I felt immediately guilty about neglecting my blog. I didn't want to be one of those bloggers. Nothing bores me more than visiting a blog I've enjoyed and finding a rerun. And here I am, not even two months out, and I have become what I hate. An entire week without posting. Inexcusable.

I'm still not home yet (the internet only works on one computer and this is my first stolen moment alone with it) so I still don't know who won Survivor. And I've got another trip planned next week (with my youngest niece this time). So I can't promise consistency but I do know I owe.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

about yesterday

Eighty three years ago yesterday the world gained Bob Barker, while little Frankie Sinatra celebrated his eighth birthday. Six years ago yesterday my husband lost his favorite cousin and birthday buddy, Kate. Her lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis ended two short months after her name came to the top of the organ donor list. While I absolutely suck at remembering most dates (especially if they're in September), December 12th is burned into my brain.

And yet all day I was unable to blog about it. Only now, with the freedom of having another 364 days to go, do I find myself back at my keyboard, telling the story I should have told yesterday.

Kate was significantly younger than my husband and, though their affections ran deep, they seldom had a chance to relate to each other as adults. It was the occasion of her sister's wedding that brought the three of us together, bonding over a bottle of tequila. I could commiserate with Kate's position as sister of the bride, having been one just a few years before. Kate's bridesmaid dress was WAY cuter than mine. Mine was, I kid you not, compared to wallpaper by fellow shoppers who found its twin in a discount clothing store. But Kate never wore a dress in real life so hers was arguably more traumatic. Immediately after the wedding she pulled on a pair of jeans and the three of us sought out a quiet spot to toast the happy couple.

I knew early on I had no prayer of keeping pace with my husband and his hard drinking cousin. It is for this reason, perhaps, that I remember the night most clearly. Even so, it comes back to me in highlights:

Sitting on the steps being swarmed by strange Vegas bugs, surprised to learn that Kate has taken to smoking cigarettes with her relatively worthless lungs. Erik, ordinarily more of a pacifist, squashing the bugs vehemently with her shoe in return for his cousin's promise to stop smoking in the future.

Kate's head landing on the carpeted casino floor after Erik unsuccessfully tried to invert her tiny body. The two of them collapsing, laughing, at the persistence of gravity.

Secrets exchanged revealed a life well lived. Each professed a profound affection for the other.

Security shushing us (apparently even Vegas has its limits), ushering us away from the pool area.

Walking her to her room, Kate returning to the hallway, laughing, demanding to know what we were laughing about, insisting it was probably her. Kate, realizing as the door closed behind her that she was locked out, inspiring us to laugh at her. All of us laughing as she was forced to wake her already disturbed roommate.

The next morning, at the check out desk, Kate showing up fresh as a daisy to wish us farewell. Erik, his stomach contents curdling on the floor in the corners of our bathroom, marveled at his cousin's perkiness. Even having drank the least, I was somewhere in between, also awed by the wonders of youth.

Erik and Kate's family are fortunate to have a lifetime of other memories to cherish, even though some life times are too short. I am personally grateful to have this one grand evening in September (the 27th - I had to look it up) to remember. I love how Kate is still alive in her family, with them in their stories. And I'm amazed at how she shows up now and again in unexpected places - her father finding her handwriting on a bookmark pressed between the pages of an old book. I'm lucky to know little about loss and I'm luckier still to have known Kate.

Monday, December 11, 2006

about last night

Last night I was asked what kind of vegetarian I am. I had to tell the truth. The truth is I'm not a very good one.

Ordinarily I cheat only once or twice a year, celebrating my birthday and my anniversary with a juicy filet mignon. I just can't bring myself to order a plate of pasta at a steak house - which is invariably where my husband and I end up. Besides, my nearly anemic blood cells savor every morsel. I try to give them the iron they need through a daily vitamin, but apparently it's not enough to own the vitamins. You actually have to ingest them to extract their benefits.

This year, however, I feel I've crossed the line. I'm not exactly a full fledged carnivore but a vegetarian I am not. I am more a vegevore or a carnitarian. And, yes, I know the scientifically correct term is "omnivore" but that implies I eat everything and there are, believe me, plenty of things I do not eat, such as:

1. haggis (duh)

2. dog food (ok, maybe once, but it was more a dog treat than actual dog food and I'm pretty sure I didn't swallow it... [insert inappropriate eating-but-not-swallowing joke-that-I-can-no-longer-tell-now-that-my-parents-know-how-to-access-my-blog here...])

3. boogers (especially not since that poor boy who rode my bus in elementary school tragically acquired the nickname "snot box"...)

4. snails (snails are probably not tasty anyway, but I feel I owe them since I was tricked at the age of three to slaughter them, my loyal snail friends, after my mother insisted they "like salt". In case you don't believe me, I have provided actual photographic evidence of this event. I have no explanation for the suspiciously squished looking snails in the foreground, but as you can see I did offer each of them a jolly ride in my dump truck before death. And the empty case of Boone's Farm, well, that explains a lot, doesn't it?)

At any rate, this year I've had more than my fair share of celebrations. Apparently now any old barbecue ranks right up there with birthdays and anniversaries. I mean, really, every day is somebody's birthday, right?

But my beef with myself goes well beyond the beef in myself. After all, last night's delicious meal of murder was shared with the very same friend with whom I recently consumed the dreaded liquid death. He reported it was nearly a half gallon of vodka we put away that night. I'm not sure if I'm more disgusted, disappointed, or appalled? (Though my inner adolescent is just the teensiest bit proud...)

In so many ways, I'm really looking forward to the fresh new year ahead. I know new year's resolutions are generally not worth the internet they're written on, (and my new year will begin in Anaheim on my sister's terms) but I feel like I may be ready to let go of the yummy little flesh filets and the sour self pickling. If not forever, at least for good.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

hill top

I ran across this poem in a public journal, one of many in the waiting rooms of the UCSF cancer treatment center. It was obviously written by someone young, someone who shouldn't have to know about tumors and chemotherapy. Granted, everything seems more significant when your best friend is fighting cancer, but a year later I still find this poem makes me happy... and sad.

hill top
The hilltop is the bigest
hill on the Galexe it
is scary to climb but
also looks like a hot dog.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

how is a monkey like a fork?

My sister-in-law/best friend is not lucky enough to be a parasite. Instead, she earns the lion's share of the income for her family (which, come to think of it, is actually an appropriate cliche since female lions also do the majority of the hunting). Her current job sucks in all the classic ways - underpaid, understaffed, unclear or unreasonable goals, uninspiring product - as it has for many years. The last time she tried to escape its grasp, she was stricken by breast cancer and had to stay for the health benefits. She's healthy now and has more than an inch of real live normal looking hair (none of the patchy wiry grey that chemo leaves you with) and so she is once again putting herself out there and interviewing for jobs.

The other day she called to describe a particularly strange interview for a dot com company. The interviewer asked her only three questions:

1. You have no resources (phone, internet, books, paper), how do you calculate the number of seats on a 747?

2. How is a monkey like a fork?

3. You work for a cereal company and designed a cereal - Special K - and included in it three non-essential ingredients, one of which turns out to be super profitable and boosts sales 30% over 3 months. Your boss wants you to design a cereal - Special J - and boost its sales 60% in one month. What do you do?

I'm not sure how my sister-in-law answered (by her swift dismissal she figures she answered incorrectly), but she's certain she did okay on the monkey and fork question. I've had the unfair advantage of being able to contemplate these questions all night. And, of course, I am not wearing a fancy suit, I have not just driven somewhere strange, my palms are not sweating from nervousness, and I do not have to remember to maintain eye contact. Even so, I think you will find my answers similarly lacking:

1. You have no resources (phone, internet, books, paper), how do you calculate the number of seats on a 747?

First of all, I think this question might be a test to see if the interviewee has seen Snakes on a Plane (which I have not). Instead, I would have to rely on memory from plane trips past. It seems to me that planes have about 30 rows which usually seat either 6 or 7 across. Conservatively, I might go with 6 x 30 = 180 + 5 for the crew (two pilots, 3 sky waitresses) = 185 but that is lower than the death rates I recall from gruesome previous crashes. So I would try 7 X 30 = 210 + 5 for the crew = 215 which sounds about right. (Incidentally, the internet tells me I am so woefully wrong - the 747 is a double decker plane and can seat 416 - 524 passengers... and I am right, the snakes that were on a plane were on a 747.) Also, I am disappointed I did not think to figure in first class which is generally about 10 rows of 4 seats across so I'd want to reduce both guesses. So 185 - 20 = 165 and 215 - 30 = 185. Now they both sound wrong and I am sure I would be stammering and anxious to get on to the next question.

2. How is a monkey like a fork?

My first instinct is that they are both cleverly adapted to their purposes and they can both fling pooh. My husband adds that they can both pick things up, but that is implied in my answer so I might just leave it at that. It just dawned on me, though, that both are nouns that can be used as verbs - you can monkey around and fork things over. And both are used in children's stories - monkeys jumping on beds, forks running away with spoons. Both can be violent - monkeys kill and forks are used to poke elbows that are on the table. In fact, I assume they can both take your eye out. And you can, under the right circumstances, purchase both a monkey and a fork. Both are found at the zoo (assuming the zoo has a snack bar and doesn't use sporks) and in the road. Both have been around for a very long time. Still, I can't help but think I am missing some hipster connection between monkeys and forks. Again, blabbering, creativity dwindling, now dreading the next question.

3. You work for a cereal company and designed a cereal - Special K - which included in it three non-essential ingredients, one of which turns out to be super healthful which in turn boosts sales 30% over 3 months. Your boss wants you to design another cereal - Special J - and boost its sales 60% in one month. What do you do?

My friend wishes she had said that she would tell the boss to go f@ck himself for setting such an unreasonable goal. Now I can think of no other answer. My only other thought is that if Special J is a new cereal, then how can I boost sales that don't already exist? If the sales of Special J are currently $0, then putting it on the market automatically boosts sales, though it is impossible to say by what percentage since 60% of $0 is still $0. Also, I would have to ask if any part of our company's increased profits on Special K would have to go to pay the lawyers, assuming Kelloggs will be suing us for using their registered name. At this point I assume that both the interviewer and I are aggravated at having wasted time getting to know each other. We are both disappointed and relieved as I am politely pointed towards the door.

Before I became a parasite, I had the challenge of interviewing folks with the intention of hiring them. I supremely sucked at this part of my job (though I must have had beginner's luck for the first person I ever hired is a fricking super star...). I must confess I, too, threw in a couple of odd questions. Each of my potential employees had to name their favorite cartoon and tell me how they felt about chocolate. (In fact, the one person I did not ask about chocolate turned out to be a very bad hire who lasted less than 2 weeks. Turns out she was a vegan, which I wouldn't have held against her, but I can't help but think it might have given me some insight into her compatibility with the job.) I so wish I had heard of the monkey and fork question. It's a little cruel, sure, but I'm certain the answer would reveal more about a person than pathetic canned questions such as, "where do you see yourself in 5 years?"

In any case, I am once again grateful that I am neither asking nor answering questions at a job interview. Instead, I am sitting here enjoying a very precious, rare moment - both my kitties are inside and they are not trying to kill each other. Sure, I know they are only in because it is finally raining outside, and they are only peaceful because they are asleep. Still I savor the semblance of normalcy.

So how is a monkey like a fork? Good question.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

one more reason i love my husband

I consider myself infinitely (inexplicably) fortunate to have a husband who treasures me. I love everything about him - even the really dumb stuff like the way he always locks his keys in the car. (In fact, for the last five days he's been using a spare set of keys after having misplaced his normal set entirely...)

Today I love him just a little bit more because today when I went to the mailbox the dreaded doggie doo was gone. (This was most excellent timing for on this day my junk mail did indeed disassemble itself, sending my Rite Aid coupon book fluttering to the once soiled ground...) I thought for a moment the disappearing dung was a Christmas miracle, but when I expressed to my husband my utter elation, he confessed that he had disposed of the stool sample the night before.

Now handling dog feces has always been, in my opinion, penis work. In fact, the phrase "penis work" was coined while watching my future sister-in-law shovel dog shit from her yard. Since my husband has a penis, this small act of kindness shouldn't really rock my world the way it has. I think it is the anonymous nature of the turd that makes this act extraordinary. It's one thing to process the product of a beloved pet. It's altogether another thing to pick up after someone else's pooch. Or maybe it is just that my husband is working so much (to support my parasitic ways) that I am touched he would take one of his very few moments of spare time to free me from my coprophobia.

In any case, today I celebrate my remarkable marriage and my feces free path to postage.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

had a little fun monday

Waking up at 5:30 in the morning is never fun. Realizing at 7 that 5:30 might not have been early enough - also not fun. Waiting in line with feet numb from the morning cold - painfully not fun. Learning 4 hours later that the very last guaranteed seats went to the group in front of mine - agonizingly not fun. Waiting 7 more suspenseful hours (3 of them in line again) to learn my fate - the epitome of not fun.

Being in the actual audience for one of Ellen's 12 days of Christmas shows - okay, that was fun.

My experience in Burbank convinces me again that the fates that rule my life appreciate irony. They proved it during my trip to TPIR - where I wished only to be called as a contestant, arrogantly assuming that I'd make it on stage. For Ellen I boldly hoped to be first in line (a seemingly reasonable goal since my sister and I had been first a year before when we arrived at 8). And indeed I was first in line - for the Tom Hanks Riff Raff Room.

The fates were not satisfied with 11 hours of torture (7 of them sick with disappointment and regret). The irony became richer as the giveaway was revealed - a designer purse, aviator sunglasses, a designer fragrance, a ton of make up, a cashmere sweater. All of these things I should not be allowed to have. I do not wear make up - I used enough of it in my adolescence to last my whole life. I do not own cashmere - if it can't go in the washing machine it can't go in my closet. I don't have designer anything - unless you consider Doc Marten a designer. And yet, the total package value was the best I've seen so far - $2,000. The local girls were going wild; I was trying to figure out when Whitney Houston's husband started making cosmetics.

At least I could use my consolation prizes from TPIR - eggs, wallpaper, and a telephone, followed up by hair care products and breath mints upon rerun. I find myself confounded by my recent windfall. It seems I may finally need to figure out how to become an eBay merchant.

My fates enjoy repeating themes as well. The first time I saw Ellen, I had to share a bed with another woman. Then it was my sister I reluctantly snuggled after she had booked a hotel room with just one bed (another reason I am skeptical of my sister's schemes). This time I had to share a bed with my skinny seal friend's daughter. My friend would have happily done the honors, but (after arranging the entire trip) she had to miss the show to attend a funeral. Instead, I surrendered my solo bed to her replacement, the seal friend I often refer to as my future self. (At least I know in the future I will get to sleep alone...) Of course, I am pretty much a professional sleeper so I wasn't bothered by my loss of real estate, just amused at the fates' consistency.

Perplexed as I am by my recent winnings, I am also immensely grateful to have successfully survived the experience and to be chosen to be in the audience at all. Beggars can't be choosers and they really shouldn't be whiners.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

the sounds of cars

I'm up early and in a hurry so today I offer you a poem my brother wrote in the 2nd grade. (reprinted entirely without permission, of course)

The Sounds of Cars

The Sounds of cars are:

Saturday, December 02, 2006

the one that got away

Today I checked on an animal in Cayucos that I was really hoping would be a fat old elephant seal. What they say about real estate is also true of seal rescues - location, location, location - and this was not my favorite location. From the cliff above my hopes were dashed. My elephant seal was so obviously a sea lion. He looked suspiciously lethargic and definitely skinny. As I scrambled down (mostly on my butt) to get a better look, I knew I didn't have much chance of a successful rescue. Descending the cliff was difficult enough, getting back up the same way (with equipment) would be impossible. My sea lion was alert (perhaps it was my less than graceful approach?) and right next to the water. I barely arrived on the beach before he took off, his fishing line necklace looking as uncomfortable as barbed wire. My subsequent hike out confirmed my initial assessment - this cove was less than accessible - but I've seen stranger things happen. I would have happily traded a twisted ankle for a chance to get the entanglement off that sea lion.

The sun just set so I know I won't get him today. I remind myself that entangled animals are difficult to catch even in the best locations but it's little consolation. Instead I share this picture of the only other entangled sea lion I've caught - Homer Ray. He was smaller, much more approachable, but in at least as bad a spot. I had to hike out on to and around Morro Rock to find him sitting on a slanted rock, his butt inches from deep ocean. I don't even think I can take credit for catching him as I had my husband throw the net. I told him it was because of his reach advantage but we both knew I was afraid of falling in. Or missing. Or missing and falling in.

So today I was not a hero but I did enjoy a pleasant walk on a gorgeous day. That's something.