Wednesday, July 31, 2002

I don't feel good...

...and that's really all I have to say today. Bleah.

Monday, July 29, 2002

Anxious, Discontent, and Distracted

I can't tell the difference between an anxiety attack and a cigarette craving. My chest feels tight, as if my lungs are shrinking, and I feel like I'm not getting enough air, I'm not breathing, I feel fidgety and inattentive, I feel like squirming and groaning and crying. I haven't had a cigarette in four years, but I often want one very badly...the smoke, the nicotine, the oral gratification, oh yeah! But I have to wonder whether this craving is physical or mental... is the desire for a cigarette really a craving for nicotine, or is it a desire to medicate some particular feeling, such as anxiety? And is this feeling something that predates my smoking history, or is it an after-effect of the smoking?

See, with alcohol, I didn't crave the alcohol as much as I craved the oblivion, the emotionlessness, the thoughtlessness that alcohol gave me. I did in fact crave alcohol, I would continue drinking long after achieving the desired oblivion, so it's not like I wasn't addicted to the substance itself... but the mental disease is a stronger and more baffling component of alcoholism than the physical disease. So in quitting drinking, I was able to address those feelings and thoughts I was trying to get away from with alcohol, work through them or simply sit there and feel them. And these were all feelings that came to me before I took my first drink. After I quit drinking, I was very quickly relieved of the physical craving for alcohol, leaving only the mental craving for oblivion to deal with.

With the cigarettes, though, the physical craving remains, tied up in the mental craving... I've never separated the two. And of course nicotine is a more severely addictive substance than alcohol, so it stands to reason that the physical craving will linger longer (say it with me, friends: linger... longer...). In fact, before I even quit, my aunts (who had both quit successfully some years before) told me that the craving would probably last the rest of my life, and that I would have to simply tell myself that I wasn't going to give in to it... like the desire to kill people who get in your way, or the desire to kill yourself when you're in a lot of pain, or even the desire to bite really cute guys... one somehow manages to not act on those desires. It's the same with a cigarette... if you don't want the consequences of the smoke, you have to not light the cigarette.

Anyway, it occurred to me today that this sensation that I think is a cigarette craving might instead be a mild anxiety attack. It feels a lot like how some people have described free-floating anxiety. So I wonder if that's something I have to address along with the nicotine craving? Something to think about.

So the Depression is going okay. I had a nice weekend, pretty much. On Sunday, I drove out to San Ramon because Grandmother forgot to bring her suit... the suit that she had planned to wear to the party she was attending with my cousin and her husband, the suit that I had laboriously pressed after she had even more laboriously re-hemmed it... and so I got up early on Sunday, drove out to San Ramon (about 30 miles) and brought it out to her, then drove back home (I was going to stop at the Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek, but nothing opened until after 11 and I didn't want to wait).

When I got back, I sat and watched the second half of Speedway Junky, which I had started the night before but I had to go to sleep before it was over. It was a fairly good movie, the actors were very engaging and the writing didn't make me cringe at all... but it has occurred to me that all stories about hustlers (City of Night, My Own Private Idaho, and Johns come immediately to mind, but there must be more) are pretty much the same. There is this strange glamor in the life of the hustler, a sort of immediacy that results from futurelessness, the titillation of sexual outlawdom heightened by the danger and futility of life on the fringes.

But in the films and books I've experienced, there is always the new young hustler who meets up with some more experienced hustler, then there are several other hustlers who are all of different types, and there's usually some older person who acts as a mentor of sorts, and then one of the hustlers gets killed and the other one gives up hustling and either goes home or goes legit. It's kind of irritating. And there's so seldom any insight into why or how these boys got started hustling, why they continue to do it, or what they would be capable of doing in the future. So when Speedway Junky turned out so true to formula, I was a bit disappointed.

So after I watched that, Caroline came over and we went out to coffee and shopping in the Rockridge district. I bought a pair of Eddie Bauer chinos and two silk scarves at a favorite second-hand shop, Rockridge Rags, then a purse and belt at Crossroads, and coffee and French toast at The Crepe Vine.

Then the rest of the day, I watched television... various Disney channel offerings (I love Kim Possible), a couple of movies (Real Genius and Drive Me Crazy), a few agglomerated hours of pure channel-surfing (yes, I watch commercials on purpose sometimes), and the newest (really fabulous) episode of Sex and the City. Then I went to bed at 11 and watched a little bit of Wild Reeds (nothing prettier than a bunch of French boys, and Stephane Rideau makes me quiver), and actually got to sleep a little after 12.

So I got a good night's sleep, I got up at 9, did my prayer and meditation and a little bit of aerobics before showering and dressing and heading down to the office. But it wasn't all sunshine and lollipops... I left my glasses on the dining room table, since I already had my sunglasses on (I usually leave them in the car), right next to the yogurt I wanted to eat for breakfast once I got to the office and the CD and data disk for my Sims game. But it hasn't been too bad. Aside from this chest-clutching feeling of anxiety/craving, it's been a lovely day, today.

Ooooh, that lovely cigarette!...the boy's cute, too.

Saturday, July 27, 2002

Simulated Shame

I'm a little ashamed of my late obsessive behavior with The Sims. I went even nuttier after the last time I posted. I've been downloading new skins and objects for my Sims. I have been creating new Sims, building them new houses, and then destroying everything in disgust because they're not perfect. I built a Sim tower that was unbelievably expensive (in Sim money, anyway) and yet in which no furniture would fit, then exited without saving. I discovered that Sims can die...if you take away their free will and then ignore them, or if you wall them up. It takes them a long time to die, they suffer terribly, but they are transmuted directly into an urn without lying around as a corpse and decomposing.

But is that really why I haven't been blogging? No. It's just what I've been doing instead of blogging. Or talking to my friends. Or cleaning my house, or walking around the lake, or shopping for books, or doing anything I normally do or enjoy. It's the symptom, not the problem.

As Daisy pointed out a few days ago, there is a pattern repeating...I seem to be broke, porn doesn't interest me, I don't want to go anywhere or do anything or see anyone, and all I can deal with is some obsessive form of nonreality like Goldeneye or Zelda or Perfect Dark or Mission: Impossible on N64, or Ancient Empires or Ceasar II or Harry Potter or The Sims on the PC, or just watching television for hours and hours at a time. I waver between petulant complacency and weepy boredom. I am sleepy all the time, and yet when I go to bed I don't sleep very well.

Guess what, kids? I'm depressed again. O Joy, O Rapture.

It's arrived a little early this year. Or perhaps I'm just aware of it earlier. Whichever the case, I expect that my awareness will prevent the depression from getting too bad before I do something about it. I only wish I knew what to do about it. So far I have just been taking it easy, letting myself play with my obsessive toys and making sure I don't get too hungry or angry or lonely or tired. I am allowing myself to be depressed but not allowing myself to indulge in self-destructive behaviors.

Like today, I loafed a certain amount of the time, but I managed to get quite a lot done anyway. I dusted and vacuumed the living and dining room, gave fashion advice to Caroline, ironed my Grandmother's tan linen pantsuit for her, and attended a friend's birthday party. I have some movies rented, and of course all of my games to play if I get bored. I have you, my beloved reader, to talk with. And I feel pretty good today. Tomorrow, who knows? But we'll worry about tomorrow when it gets here...and most importantly I will not criticize myself for pampering myself a little bit, letting things go that aren't important, and just being depressed if that's what the day has in store for me.

So anyway. I got some new Sim skins yesterday, which I might install on the game or not. I got The Adventures of Felix at the video store, which I watched last night (it was cute, although it was French); I also got Speedway Junky and The Damned, which I might watch tonight or tomorrow. Or perhaps I might do a little writing tomorrow. My Novel-in-Progress hasn't been added to in quite some time (have you read any of it? I'd love it if you did, and would appreciate any and all feedback). We shall see.

Well, darlings, I'm going to go see if there's anything worthwhile on television. My shoulders are feeling a bit achey, I don't think I want to sit in front of the computer anymore (I have got to get a more ergonomic setup here at my home computer), and I don't feel like reading TV it shall be.


Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Simulated God Complex

You don't know how tedious it is to be in complete control of someone until you play The Sims. At first you think, oh what fun to have complete control over a bunch of people! A control-queen's dream! You get to play God! Or Goddess, as the case may be.

But these little people are so damned stupid! You have to do everything for them! They're like little children. If you don't tell them to go to the bathroom, they'll wet themselves. If you don't tell them to call up their friends, they get lonely, and then yell at you as if it's your fault! You have to tell them to have fun, to eat dinner, to go to work, to water their plants, to feed their fish, to kiss their boyfriends. And then if they get depressed, they won't even do what you tell them, they'll just yell at you in pictograms and complain about how unhappy they are.

I'm beginning to think that God didn't expel Adam & Eve from the Garden because they disobeyed...He was just tired of seeing to all their little wants all day every day.

But still, it's so addictive. It's why I haven't been blogging the last few days. On Saturday I was sitting in front of the computer at home, I couldn't think of anything to write about, and there wasn't much of interest to read. Here on the desk was the CD ROM for the Sims game, right on top of the Maria Callas CD, where it's been sitting since I got tired of playing with the game several months ago. I didn't have anything more interesting to do, so I put the game in and started playing.

I discovered almost immediately that the thing I had been doing wrong in the past, why I had not enjoyed the game after a very short time, was that I was trying to do too much at once. I had only played with couples and trios in each family, afraid that my sims would get lonely and bored if they lived alone. Yet my sims were always unsuccessful, I couldn't do anything with them, they would become unhappy almost immediately, they never got along with each other, and it was a lot of work seeing to their multitudinous little needs.

So what I did this time was to create a sim who lived alone, and made sure that the rest of the neighborhood was stocked with plenty of people for him to interact with. I also discovered that words you write into the "Bio" window of the Create-a-Sim applet will actually apply to the Sim you create...if you say that the Sim likes to read, likes classical music, and likes dancing, those three things will increase his Fun levels when you let him do them.

The Sim me, enjoying his new know it's not reality by how great I look in a Speedo.

The single sim, named of course after myself and sporting dark hair and glasses with a preppy wardrobe, was so much easier to take care of alone. He had more money, he was able to get to the potty easier, and he seemed fairly happy. His neighbors dropped by at intervals, and he interacted with them, and eventually got himself a boyfriend from a neighboring house (another thing I hadn't known...sims are inherently bisexual, and if they only interact with men they become gay... very much like Kinsey's concept of Institutional Homosexuality).

Gay sims...who'd a thunk?

I had a hard time with this homemade sim, because I had difficulty balancing his social life with his professional life, and he didn't like his jobs so he kept missing work... plus, my home computer is kind of slow on the uptake (plenty of running space but the input devices aren't well-driven), and I couldn't react as quickly as I should have in certain situations.

So when I got to the office on Monday, I brought the disk with me and recreated the Sim Robert Manners in a more controlled environment... I stocked the rest of the neighborhood with people I thought he might like, all male to ensure his homosexuality (I want him to be like me, don't I?), and kept his house spacious and simple so that there was plenty of room, with a good balance between privacy and not-too-many-walls.

Robert Manners's house at 9 Sim Lane

Cutaway view of same, showing interior layout.

Closeup showing luxurious appointments.

So, aside from the unusually high but satisfyingly doable levels of work that have crossed my desk in the last three days, I have kept almost exclusively to The Sims and my tiny simulated Robert Manners' life. He's currently working as a campaign manager, he is an accomplished painter and knows how to fix household appliances, he has a good friend named Duc Phillipe de Guermantes (the patriarch of the Proust-inspired Guermantes Family at 5 Sim Lane, the Victorian house with cemetery adjacent), and he even has a boyfriend named Boy Mulcaster Darling (from the Darling family of 10 Sim Lane, all of whom are named for characters in one of my favorite novels, Brideshead Revisited...his brothers are Sebastian Flyte Darling and Charles Ryder Darling).

Robert and Boy smooching in the bathroom.

The whole thing has been highly entertaining. And one does feel more satisfaction exercising one's control issues when one is actually successful. I am going to keep on playing with the Sim Robert Manners until he eventually disappoints me (as all of our controlling codependent relationships always eventually disappoint us), just to see how far in life he can go.

But I feel bad that I neglected you, by beloved reader, while micromanaging the simulated Robert's life. Unfortunately, the best I can do at the moment is to babble on about my sims, so perhaps you were better off. In closing, here's a nice picture for your delectation which is not about Sims (though they could be made into sims, if I had the right expansion pack).

Friday, July 19, 2002

Further Florilegia

I seem to have developed a habit of writing lists and outlines for posts instead of my usual straight-forward essay-style post. I'm in the midst of a life-change, apparently, and this is one of the indicators. I don't know what it means. Bear with me.

1) Knowledge is Power. For those who didn't bother to look up the word "florilegium" when I used it on Wednesday, it is a fancy word for an anthology or miscellany of stories or legends, meaning, in literal Latin, "gathering of flowers." I think it's a pretty and useful word for this "new" writing style (well, it's new to me)...just a list of completely unrelated observations or experiences. Maybe I'll turn it into a meme.

2) All babies are cute, but not all babies are pretty. The Boss-Lady brought her little foster-baby into the office again today, along with her husband (who happens to be our bookkeeper, but since he was Mr. Boss-Lady before he was Bookkeeper Guy, I don't count him as staff...I count him as the Boss-Lady's husband and therefore a Them rather than an Us). The baby is a fairly ugly creature...too small, wrinkly, kind of a bony face, not a very good color, and possessed of a disturbingly hairy forehead, as if his eyebrows and hairline are all of a piece with only a little thinning in between; and yet, when you look at him, you can't help but want to pick him up and take care of him, to coo over him and rebuild your life around his wants.

This phenomenon is one of those biological tricks that people mistake for higher emotion. Baby animals are always cute, not in and of themselves, but rather because Dame Nature in her infinite practicality has invested animals with a biological mechanism that makes babies inspire protectiveness and concern in their adult counterparts. This protective inspiration is generally labeled as "cuteness," as if the feeling inspired was an aesthetic rather than an instinctive one.

This phenomenon is by necessity stronger in the parents of the baby than in casual passersby...parents will have a greater visceral reaction to their own offspring than to other people's offspring...but no rational person with his or her instincts intact can ignore a crying baby. We are wired by nature to cherish and protect babies. Of course, not all of us are rational or have our instincts intact. There's always an exception to every rule. But in general, all babies are attractive to all people.

But to return to my original statement, just because a baby is cute as an object does not necessarily mean that it is cute as a baby. Within the strata of babyhood, there are pretty babies and there are ugly babies. Most people don't realize when their own babies are baby-ugly, since most people confuse their instinct-inspired feelings for aesthetics-inspired emotions (just look how people confuse sex and love). And when you suggest to a new parent that his or her baby is fairly low on the baby-prettiness-scale, they become fractious. So here's my advice: always say that the ugly baby is cute, adorable, cuddly, precious, whatever euphemism you can come up with without actually lying. I speak from experience when I tell you that observing the ugliness of ugly babies to their parents is a sure way to lose friends and get blackened eyes.

3) Look Around: Sharp-eyed visitors may have noticed already that I've made a few small additions and adjustments to this page. The "Favorites" link now goes to my Favorites page, which is so chock-full of informative links that I suggest you bookmark it for later study. I've added a couple of blogs that I've become addicted to lately (by the way, in case you were wondering, the Daily Visit Blogs appear in the order I like to visit them, not by their 'quality' or the order in which I discovered them or whatever). I've put all the weekly survey memes together in one cluster for easy access. I will be tweaking the pictures in the Cast column soon, too. But it's not a "redesign." I really like the design I have, I don't intend to change it any time soon. But if I do, I'm going to ask Amanda to do it for me. She's talented, that one! And she's redesigned her blog four or five times in the few months I've been reading it.

4) Is Violence in Media Bad For You? The last few days I've seen a couple of movies that sort of fascinate, but in which the sudden and sometimes overly graphic violence have left me feeling a trifle disturbed. I watched parts of Damien - The Omen II and Omen III - Final Conflict last night and this morning on AMC (I would like to watch them all the way through, but I didn't know they were on together until more than halfway through last night, and this morning I had to go to work), and some of the images are stuck in my mind...particularly the demise of some woman in a regrettably red coat (one should never wear bright colors when trying to fight evil) whose eyes were plucked out by a raven and then she was run over by a truck. The guys who were killed by their own horse and dogs when they tried to trap Damien (oy, but Sam Niell was a hottie!) on a bridge during a fox hunt died rather grotesquely. Then there was the woman who killed her baby and her husband by bashing them with a hot iron. Nasty!

Also, last night, I watched the fascinating thriller Along Came A Spider with Morgan Freeman. This one was rather more thoughtful than gory, but a lot of people got shot quite suddenly and unceremoniously. Usually right in the head. The amazing disregard for life — the villains' abrupt termination of complex and perhaps fascinating lives because they were in the way — left me feeling a little queasy. And then, at the end, Morgan Freeman kills the last, and perhaps main, villain with a shot in the heart. A shot in the gun-arm would have been just as effective, he was standing close enough to do it, he had time to do it, and the villain would have lived to stand trial and face Justice. But he just pulled the trigger, blood spurted and poured out, and that was that.

On the other hand, the two video games I most enjoy playing require me to walk around and kill everyone who crosses my path. I take great joy in doing it, too! I will often put my Goldeneye game on my Game Shark so that I can walk through the levels like an invincible angel of death, murdering Russian soldiers and scientists and civilians with impunity, delighting in their death-rattle grunts and satisfying ballets of demise as they die slowly or quickly, clutching their throats or their bellies or flying through the air with the force of fatal explosions. Or for more fun, I'll play Perfect Dark and delight in the screams and invectives hurled by the dying soldiers and guards..."I don't wanna die!"..."You bitch!"..."Aaaaaugh!"..."She got me!"...I just love it!

So I guess the question I'm asking myself is: do representations of violence in the media deaden our sensetivity to violence, or do they increase it? Or is there no effect at all? I mean, I still get queasy about death and violence in movies, especially if it's terribly graphic, but I love it in video games. Would I react with the same horror to a real death as an imaginary one, or more horror, or less? I don't know. But it seems worth thinking about. So I'll think about it and get back to you...and in the meantime, let me know what you think!


Well that's all I can think of for today. Join me again when I will have slightly similar or entirely different topics to discuss. Oh, but before I sign off for the day with my usual Beefcake Punctuation, how about I take part in the Friday Five?

The Friday Five for July 19th

1. Where were you born? Fort Ord, California. Daddy was in the US Army when I came along.

2. If you still live there, where would you rather move to? If you don't live there, do you want to move back? Why or why not? I don't live there, I wouldn't move back...and I couldn't even if I wanted to, because it's no longer there. Fort Ord was decommissioned years ago and is being converted for civilian use.

3. Where in the world do you feel the safest? In my car, oddly enough. But if you mean what part of the world, I would have to say in my own neighborhood, the Crocker Highlands district of Oakland CA. It's low on crime, high on scenery, and entirely familiar.

4. Do you feel you are well-traveled? Not really. I have been around California, but not farther south than Orange County, I've been to Tahoe and Yosemite once each, I've been up and down the Coast, and around and about in the middle. The first time I left the state of California was when I was 22, when I went to Hawaii. I have left this state only seven times since then...I've driven through or landed on slivers of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Nevada, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. I've stayed several days on Maui and Kauai and Oahu, Hawaii; in Issaquah and Oak Harbor, Washington; Bridger, Montana (near Billings); Hereford, Lubbock, and Longview, Texas; Manassas, Virginia; and Avalon, New Jersey. The only time I've left the country was to visit Victoria, British Columbia. I don't call that well-traveled.

5. Where is the most interesting place you've been? Hmmm...there are so many places that are interesting. I think I found Victoria the most interesting, but perhaps that's just because I didn't get to see as much of it as I wanted. I would love to go back and explore the museum, tour the Dunsmuir mansions, check out the little Chinatown, have High Tea at the Empress Hotel, and play around with Canadian money. I would like to go back and see more of Washington, DC...when I was there before, all I saw were the (terribly fascinating) Mall and the "Fruit Loop"...I'd love to check out the Smithsonian, the National Gallery, the White House and the Capitol and so on and so forth. Seattle was really interesting, and I'd love to stay there for a few days and see more of it. Parts of Hawaii were pretty interesting, too, especially the big park on Kauai that culminates in the Fern Grotto. But, really, I think that almost any really large or really old city will have something interesting in it.

Something like this?

Probably. I hope so. Guh.

Thursday, July 18, 2002

Little Hungry, Little Hungry?

In my neverending quest to enlighten the world as to my history and dreams, likes and dislikes, and anything else the world might never want to know about me, I keep a blog.

It has come to my attention (see the comment in the post directly below this one) that even my dearest friends are largely unaware of my dietary procedures and preferences. Now, I can understand that my Grandmother can't get it through her hard Texan head that I don't like most of the food she likes, because she has difficulty understanding anything that doesn't agree with her own experiences and opinions. But for my best friend to not know my rule about trying new dishes...well, that is a serious omission of information on my part. So to clear up any possible confusion, here are my rules and likes and dislikes about food:

Hard-and-Fast Rules:

1) Try everything once; if you're not sure you like it or not, try it twice; if you like it, eat it until you get sick of it; if you never get sick of it, add it to your "Favorites" column. I always try new foods, just because I've never tried them before (so long as someone else will cook it and it doesn't run athwart any of my other rules, see below). Because if you've never tried it, how will you know whether or not you like it?

2) I will not eat anything "lifelike"...I can't eat anything with eyes or a head or any limbs be specific, a meat dish of any kind should not bear any resemblance whatsoever to the life form that it once was (with the exception of bivalves). A plateful of dead animals just freaks me out.

3) If it doesn't taste good, don't eat it, no matter how healthy or beneficial it is supposed to be. The one exception is if you are a guest in someone's home, and you can choke down the food, and keep it down, you say "mmmmm" and thank them very nicely afterward.

4) There is no substitute for any food. Fat-reduced cheese or chocolate or oil are abominations against nature...if you can't have fat, you can't eat cheese or chocolate or oil...but there are plenty of other substances you can eat. Mayonnaise without egg in it is no longer mayonnaise... if you can't eat eggs, you can't eat mayonnaise...but there are plenty of other sauces in which you can indulge. I have no problem with tofu (it's not my favorite substance, but I can eat it); but if you braise a piece of tofu in vegetable stock and black bean sauce, then serve it as "vegetarian beef," I will not eat it...if you don't want to eat meat, then don't eat meat...but don't sully the name of Hamburger by squirelling up some soybeans and black-eyed peas and calling it a "garden burger." That's just tacky. Call it a bean patty or a veggie sandwich, but for God's sake, if it doesn't have ground beef, it's not a burger!

Casual Rules:

1) If a dish is low in fat or vegetarian, please don't tell me. I have this weird aversion to lo-cal and vegetarian foods that has nothing to do with my love of fats and meats. It's simply that all of the people I've known in the past who were dieters or vocal about their vegetarianism tend to be dour, pleasureless people who delight in mortifying the flesh, and their culinary talents reflect this dementia. I have eaten some of the most ghastly meals at the hands of dieting and vegetarian hosts. Furthermore, "diet" foods are so often designed to be completely unappetizing...there's this odd wisdom that the best way to stop overeating is to only eat things that have no flavor, and in the entire course of human history nobody has ever gorged themselves on nude celery and boiled lentils.

So if you tell me that my meal is completely meat-free, or totally non-fat, my taste-buds will curl up and hide. It's terribly prejudicial of me, I know, but that's how I am. If it's low-fat or vegetarian, or if there's anything in there that has eyeballs, just don't tell me until after I've eaten it. Thank you.

2) Presentation is Everything. Sometimes, eating macaroni and cheese out of the pot with a wooden spoon feels good. Sometimes eating pizza with a knife and fork is fun. The presentation of the food, the way it sits on the plate and the methods by which you convey it to your mouth, has a distinct effect on the food. I always pay attention to how the food looks...there are lots of things I can think of that are so unappetising in their looks (eggplant comes immediately to mind) that I just can't make myself eat them. It's a shame to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but ugly food is simply inedible.

Please Don't Feed The Queen:

1) I cannot eat spicy foods; I often like the taste of spicy foods, but my nasal and oral membranes are just too sensitive and I start burning and crying and suffering...and as you may know, I never suffer alone — or quietly. A little black pepper, some garlic, a dash of Tabasco, these I can handle...anything hotter than that and I'll start screaming.

2) I hate avocadoes, I simply cannot eat them; there's something about the flavor and texture and color...I don't know what, because I can eat guacamole, so long as it's well-processed and has no chunks in it.

3) I don't like celery, unless it is chopped really tiny and well-hidden inside of something else, or it's slathered in smoked salmon mousse (peanut butter or cream cheese aren't strong enough to disguise the celeryness).

4) I am allergic to crab and lobster (and probably crawfish, though I haven't tested it); if I eat them (and I do love to eat them), I get terrible diarrhea, usually in the middle of the night.

5) I find most kinds of squash completely's got this weird bitter aftertaste that I just can't handle.

6) I do not like the way most people (including my Grandmother) cook leafy greens or cornbread, though I am still willing to try someone else's despite many disappointments.

7) Endive gives me hiccups.

8) Innards of any kind are peasant food — "meat" consists only of the muscle of an animal; any other part of the animal is a throw-away. I will of course try new things if you want to cook them for me, and certain preparations of liver can be pleasant (I love pork, goose, and duck pâtés), but I usually find the innards of most animals wildly unappetizing; if you want to serve me sweetbreads or brains or tongues, they should be disguised, and I shouldn't be told what they are until after I've eaten them.

9) To wrap up this list, I do not like pecan pie, mincemeat pie, or anything with alcohol flavors in it.

Gimme Gimme Gimme:

There are certain foods that I cannot be trusted with, things that if I get a whiff of them I will turn into a ravening beast.

1) Foremost among these is chocolate. I love dark chocolate more than milk chocolate, and I like pies and candies and puddings and sauces more than cakes and cookies...but in general, All Chocolate Is Good. I tend not to care for those "death by chocolate" kinds of desserts, though, usually because they are inexpertly made. When putting more than two kinds of chocolate together, you have to be very, very careful that each separate flavor complements each other flavor. And since any one kind of chocolate will have more than 200 separate flavors in it, this is harder to do than mixing plaids. It's more dangerous than nuclear fission, and seldom successful.

2) Canteloupe is the food of the gods. I also love honeydew. I'm pretty fond of all melons, in almost exact proportion to how much I hate its nearest cousin, squash.

3) Pudding and pie. With the exception of pistachio for the former and mincemeat and pecan for the latter, I LOVE all kinds of pudding and pie!

4) Pork. The only pork product I've ever met that I didn't like was chitterlings. I love bacon, prosciutto, pancetta, pâté de campagne, pork sausage, pork chops, pork loin, spare ribs, ground pork...I just love pork! I like beef, too, but pork just has something more, extra...perhaps because pigs are omnivorous and have more flavors in their meat.

5) Say Cheese! I just love cheese! But not all cheeses, unfortunately...I don't care for blue cheeses or terribly ripe cream cheeses, and I'm not wild about hard cheeses...but in general, cheese is one of my favorite foods.

6) And all the rest of the favorites: steak, roast beef, duck, lamb, oysters, salmon, broccoli, asparagus, artichokes, romaine lettuce, peas, pears, peaches, mango, grapes, strawberries, almonds, pistachios (and yet I don't like pistachio pudding...hmmm), macadamias, rice, potato pancakes and chips, sweets of almost any description (especially mint nonpareils and jelly beans and gumdrops), ice cream of any flavor (especially Rocky Road and Godiva dark chocolate and raspberry), milk, iced tea, and COFFEE!
Well, now...don't you feel enlightened? You are now the proud possessor of vital information that the crowned heads of Europe, NASA and the FBI, the international scientific community, and my Grandmother do not possess. I'll bet you're wondering right now how you've managed to get so far in your life without knowing these riveting facts!

Self-involved? Me?

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Ana, Olio, Florilegium and Miscellany...

1) I just ate ostrich. I don't recommend it. For those just joining us, I work in a small union office with two older female coworkers (JB and BB) and one older female boss (KB). I am the bottom of the totem-pole, support staff, the only male (though, admittedly, just barely), the only one who is not a teacher, the only one who is not married, and the only one whose last name does not begin with "B". JB is one of my best friends, my Surrogate Mom, and a geography professor, whose home in Mill Valley is currently being re-shingled and her kitchen remodeled; BB is a hoot, she's only six years older than me, a poetess and creative-writing teacher, who is expecting her first (and definitely last) baby in September; KB is a nutcase, a nurse and an attorney as well as a nursing instructor and union president, and this week she got her first-ever foster baby, a six-pound nine-day-old boy with a hairy forehead whose mother is in jail.

That's all background to the upcoming recount of the Ostrich Burger Incident. KB (to whom I generally refer in this blog as "The Boss Lady," and to whom my coworkers refer as "Fearless Leader" and "La Jefe" takes the fun out of one's supervisors to call them by their actual names) is out of the office today, tending to her tiny foster-baby, so JB and BB and I went to lunch at Quinn's Lighthouse as a special treat. BB was feeling a bit queasy, so she had the shrimp cocktail with the sauce on the side, with an order of rice pilaf; JB had the lunch special, a butter-braised red snapper sandwich on focaccia with capers; and I was feeling kind of adventurous, so I ordered one of their "game burgers," a double-decker hamburger of ground ostrich meat with fried onions and all the usual fixins.

The burger came in due course, one of those impossible towering piles of bread and meat and salad with no condiments on it, which had to be disassembled and reassembled and squashed in such a way that an average adult male's mouth might fit around it. Once this operation was complete, and after I had sliced off a couple of chunks of the burger so JB and BB could taste ostrich, I wrapped my mouth around the burger and started eating. Just as the menu claimed, ostrich does not taste anything like was a little like deer, and a little like soy beef-substitute. The meat was dry, largely flavorless, and kind of tough. There was a strangely fishy, gamey, oily flavor somewhere in the sandwich, which I wasn't sure was the ostrich or perhaps the fried onions, if the flavor was inherent to the burger or if it had been cooked too near the fish on the grill.

Afterward, though, there was a distinct gamey aftertaste in my mouth, a flavor that has lingered through two cups of coffee and four Altoids. I'm now slugging a Stewart's grape soda. If this doesn't work, I'll go brush my teeth. Bleah!

I'll give ostrich another shot someday, but not in burger form...I mean, it might be the preparation that was iffy, rather than the meat. And next time we go to Quinn's, I'll probably try the buffalo hamburger. I do love to try new foods...and the price you pay for that is the occasional nastiness when you try something new that isn't quite to your liking. But it's better to have tried and gagged than never to have tried at all.

2) Philo is my Blogwhore favorite! I'm not sure how this game works, but Philo's been a great pal to me, online and off, so I am going to give him some love here.

Okay, that's pretty pathetic. But making things in not my forte...I'm really only good at accessorizing and describing. But still, I love Philo, I love his blog, and I hope he wins!

3) I'm tired of online porn! I finally hit complete saturation point when it comes to internet porn. I am just no longer titillated enough by it to continue searching. I have thousands of images stored on my hard drive, and I never find anything new anymore, so there's no reason left to pornsurf. It's so sad! That was my favorite (and cheapest) hobby! SOB!

4) I am utterly and completely broke! Speaking of sobs...I checked into my online banking service and discovered that my checking account is at $0 and my savings account is at $0. Ooops! In an unusual twist of fate and schedule, my last paycheck had to cover both of my major billing dates, the 3rd (when my cable and car insurance are automatically deducted from my checking account) and the 14th (when my student loan payment is electronically abstracted from that same account). I ran fairly low on funds last month, due to this and that peculiar expense, and then this pay period I went rather overboard on things as well...and both bill-pays happening in the same pay-period, paired with my usual spendthrifty ways, caught me unawares.

Fortunately, tomorrow is payday and I have enough cash in my pocket to eat and put gas in the car if I have to. But O! how I hate not having money in the bank...especially as the bank charges me for not having any money. A comedian (I forget which one) once quipped, "How stupid is that? They're charging me money that they already know I don't have, just because I don't have any money."

So, that's what's going on with me today. Fortunately, my disenchantment with online porn does not affect my fondness for beefcake pictures (for which I continue to search), so there's nothing to stop me from posting this:

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Practically Perfect in Every Way

I've discovered something of infinite value: high self-esteem can be attained through monumental self-delusion! That's really the only explanation I can come up with for people who conduct themselves with the utmost confidence, when in fact their appearance, personality, and general attractiveness are more suited to hiding in a darkened room than to public displays of one's self. Now, I'm not talking about aesthetically less-than-lovely people who have other redeeming qualities on which to build their self-confidence... I am talking about wildly flawed persons who walk through life as if their flaws were in fact sexually attractive to others.

For example, some days my friend Caroline will come by the office when things are slow, and check her email from one of our computers... Caroline is very into dating boys, and so has posted personal ads in various online communities. It is always entertaining to listen to her as she sifts through the responses to her ads, especially the responses from "ugly old men." Now these men aren't always as ugly as Caroline thinks they are, since her tastes run towards pubescent boy-band types, but sometimes they really are. And what really affronts Caroline is that she specifically states in her ads that she is looking for an attractive young man, i.e., girlishly-pretty and under 25, and that gentlemen not suitable for inclusion in the pages of Tiger Beat or Seventeen need not apply. And despite these tacit strictures, men in their thirties and forties, with potbellies and fancy cars and combovers, who couldn't even make the final cut for a JC Penney work-clothes catalog much less model Dolce & Gabbana swimwear, insist on contacting her in hopes of a date.

The only excuse I can think of for such behavior is that these men aren't aware that there are women in the world who will not find them attractive. And that kind of self-delusion must be awfully comforting. Wouldn't it be nice to walk around in bicycle shorts, believing wholeheartedly that one was Hot Stuff, despite the crying children and retching queens passing one on the street? It must be delicious to go blissfully through life thinking that a red sportscar actually disguises your three chins. What joy to be convinced that porn stars, fashion models, and random hotties on the street will fall in love with you if only you say the right pick-up line!

I, on the other hand, am so immersed in the belief that I am unattractive and unlovable that I would prefer to set myself on fire, then roll in rock salt, then go swimming in alpha-hydroxy solution rather than ask someone on a date.

It seems to me that there is a happy medium, somewhere in there. There must be some way of being blind enough to your flaws that you can go comfortably through life, to consider yourself practically perfect in every way, but not so blind that you make a fool of not become smug in your practical (or virtual) perfection that you cease to make improvements when you can, or that you continuously waste your time on the unattainable.

So anyway, those are my thoughts for today. Here are some thoughts based on somebody else's thoughts:

The Tuesday Too

1.) What is the most important thing going on in your life this week?

Hmmm...I can't really say that much of what I do is, in general, important in and of itself. If I do something, or fail to do something, it is unlikely that more than one other person in the world will even notice.

But in my own personal priority list, the most important thing this week is making a habit of morning prayer and meditation. The need for creating some order and stability in my quietly chaotic, halfheartedly haphazard life is reasserting itself, so I am going to set my alarm for 8 am every day; before 9 am I will be sitting up in bed reading my Daily Reflections, then I will pray and meditate on the Reflection for the day.

Also on the To Do list is to take Caroline to her doctor's appointment this afternoon, go to the grocery store afterward, go to my AA meeting this evening; during the week I have to go buy a new distributor cap and fusebox chimer for my Volvo, and then get my sister to install them; and then this weekend I need to clean up my room a bit (it's starting to smell) and start cleaning the basement and garage so that Grandmother can have people come in to give us an estimate on earthquake retrofitting. Oh, yes, and I have to go to work each day.

Riveting, isn't it?

2.) Tell us about your quintessential faux pas.

I can't really think of one really essential faux pas, something I've done which really illustrates a major character flaw. My main social ineptitude comes from forgetting things: names mostly, and birthdays, locations of objects, actions I've promised to take, etc. Most of the really big, embarrassing gaffes I've made have come from either forgetting something or mis-hearing something. The rest come from falling down in public.

Actually, I've probably made several quintessential boo-boos in my life, but my psyche is blessedly supressing the memories. Now if only I could get that kind of supression working on my conscious mind as well as my memory banks...then I could believe I was practically perfect in every way!

3.) Why would you most likely be nominated to speak your mind, and what is it you're going to say?

Interesting question... since nobody really has asked me for my opinion... which is why I have a blog, so I can disseminate my opinions without having to be asked.

I'm not an expert on any one thing...the old Jack of All Trades, Master of None sort of mentality. I know a lot of things, I even know a lot about certain things, but mostly I know a little bit about many topics and nothing at all about many more. But then, I can always be counted on to have an opinion. Even if I don't know what someone is talking about, I can usually formulate an opinion of some kind.

But if someone were to ask me to stand and preach about just one topic that I feel is really super-duper important, I would get up on my soap-box and talk about Education. It is my firm belief that the most important thing a person can possess is a thorough liberal arts education, with a focus on reasoning and critical faculties, and more than a dash of literature and science. Now, I know that not everyone has a mind to reason, not everyone has a mind for science or literature, not everyone has a mind for the arts. But everyone should have to at least be exposed to these things enough that they can understand their importance.

I feel that one of the main problems in education in America today is that education itself has been subjected to quantification... there is this idea that education can be measured and evaluated by numerical or monetary standards. Standardized test scores and per-student spending and so-called "life-skills" are strangling our public educational systems. The focus of pedagogy has been to get children to repeat facts and figures, in one way or another, rather than to make them think. New education systems are tried out, and then judged not on their own merits but on the ability of individual teachers to inculcate these systems in individual children. By focusing on what is easiest to learn, the educator fails to train thinking people. By clinging pointlessly to the belief that all children can be taught the same way, the unending diversity of the human mind is ignored; and by turning to the opposite direction, that all children should learn in whichever way they find most helpful, the educator is stymied by the sheer numbers of different learning methods.

There is also this weird idea that education should prepare a person for a particular role in life, and that this role must be chosen in childhood. Children are still learning to do mathematical equations that any machine can do, rather than shifting the focus of mathematics from practice to theory at a younger age. Yes, children should be able to add and multiply and what-have-you, just in case they find themselves having to figure a tip in the middle of a desert and they've left their calculator at home... but what is more important to know than one's times-tables is how and why numbers work together. History is taught in this bizarre simplified manner that plants what is essentially false information into a child's mind, and so half of one's higher education is spent unlearning or enlarging upon the half-truths one learned in grade-school. And then, if one does not indulge in higher education, one spends one's life believing that Christopher Columbus discovered America, that George Washington could not tell a lie, and that the Civil War was fought to free the slaves.

I'm not an educator, and I have not studied educational methods to any great extent, but there are a few things I have learned from my own public educational experience: the first and most important thing I've learned is that intelligence cannot always be demonstrated with a letter grade; the second is that student performance is not an accurate method of gauging student retention; the third is that PE should never be required.

I never excelled in school until I got into college... and I think that there is a clue in that: if I had been taught in the method of university instruction, lectures and reading and lab-work culminating in creative demonstrations of learning, I would have done a lot better in school. So much of my time was wasted in repetitive busy-work, trying to get me to memorize such trivial tasks as dividing triple-digit numbers and naming the fifty states and their capitals: time which, in my case, could have been better utilized in teaching me how to reason quanitatively and to understand the scale and scope of geography. If I had learned Critical Thinking principles when I was ten instead of when I was twenty-five, my early life would have gone a lot better and I wouldn't have made quite so many indelible mistakes. If I had been allowed to take dance lessons instead of doing idiotic callisthenics, I might have been healthier as a child, and would have picked up a useful skill in the meantime.

I could go on and on and on...I guess my point is this: education is more important than any other social program in this country. It is more important than any other governmental program. If you stint on education, you stint on your nation's future: public education should therefore receive the lion's share of public funds. Teachers should be paid more than administrators, and certainly should be paid more than mail-sorters, more than garbage-collectors, more than government clerks. Furthermore, individual and adaptable instruction should be used instead of grandiose educational theories and pedagogical vogues. If you teach only conformity, you raise a generation of reactionary lunatics; if you teach only individuality, you raise a generation of people who cannot live in community; if you keep tying yourself into knots trying to make every child just as intelligent as every other child, you rob the children on opposite ends of the curve of their fullest potential. Education is not an economic commodity: it is the enrichment of the mind and spirit, a necessity of progressing civilization, and the only thing really worth having.


Well, doesn't that sound nice and pompous? The result of a good university education should be an ability to think and to formulate opinions, and more importantly the ability to hear and understand other people's differing opinions. And if you did really well in university, you have lots of words and ideas at your disposal, with which to baffle those who are not similarly educated (and some who are). This is the one place where my self-delusion works pretty well: intellectually, (I think) I am practically perfect in every way!

Still, I need to go do something frivolous for a while to recover from all that seriousness.

Monday, July 15, 2002

Dumb Discourse...

I believe I am becoming stupider as time goes by. More lowbrow, perhaps. I can't remember the last time I sat down and read a piece of great literature. Or the last time I said something profound. Or the last time I came to understand something arcane, unusual, or obscure.

I was reading Bill's recollections and ruminations about Shakespeare commentaries, and I felt downright lost! Oxford Shakespeare, Arden Shakespeare, annotations and scholarly essays...oh my!

Right now the only thing I can remember about Shakespeare was my English professor for the Eng-Lit required Shakespeare class, Randy Nakayama, who I enjoyed so much that I enrolled in his Revenge Tragedy genre class (Blood & Tears: the Revenge Tragedy in English Renaissance Drama). Aside from the strange bandages he often wore on his fingertips (I think he must have been learning a stringed instrument), each semester he had a "catchphrase," a little squib he used so often that when I got bored I would keep track of how many times he said it. In the Shakespeare Representative Plays class (as opposed to Historical Plays), he used the phrase vis-a-vis at least twice in each lecture; in the Revenge Tragedy class it was ways in which, and his record was 28 times in an hour and a half.

So here's the outcome of my expensive State education: I remember the fingers and rhetorical oddities of the professor, but can't recall a single discussion of the works we read. Not one.

I would even be hard-pressed to remember which plays we read (and which you can read, too, online at of pop-ups). I know we had to have read Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Tempest in the Representative Shakespeare class, because I wrote papers about them. In the Revenge Tragedy class, I don't remember which plays I wrote my midterm on, though I distinctly remember the titles The Spanish Tragedy (Thomas Kyd), The Jew of Malta (Christopher Marlowe), and The Revenger's Tragedy (Cyril Tourneur)...we read The Tempest in that class, too, and I wrote yet another paper on it for my final (of an entirely different theme, of the first Tempest paper, I was writing generally about film adaptations of Shakespeare, concentrating on Peter Greenaway's Prospero's Book; the second was on Shakespeare's use of themes in The Tempest as a reaction against the Revenge Tragedy genre).

Okay, so those of you scratching your heads about all of the above, don't feel bad. I don't understand half of what I say, either. Little tidbits of information will come floating out in reference to something else, but there is no cohesive lore stored in my head anymore, no unbroken threads of analysis, no solid structures of understanding in history, literature, or language. I'm not so brilliant as I used to think I was.

But now that I think about it and concentrate on remembering things about Shakespeare and the works I've read, more comes filtering back...I now remember reading A Midsummer Night's Dream, and of course Romeo & Juliet, not to mention The Merchant of Venice (the first courtroom drama, with the Pound of Flesh Defense) and A Winter's Tale (containing Shakespeare's funniest stage direction: "exit, pursued by a bear") and Hamlet (which I have seen performed so many times in so many ways that I don't remember which is which). I know I read Richard III somewhere, because of all the fun I had trying to keep all the Edwards and Richards separated, but I can't remember why (being an historical play rather than representative, and not a revenge tragedy either...).

I keep much of these fresh in my mind via my obsession with film adapations and representations of Shakespeare plays...I have the Kenneth Branagh Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing (with Keanu Reeves murdering the text), the Ian McKellan Richard III (a rare non-Amazon link), the recent hottie-bestrewn Midsummer Night's Dream (O how I love Christian Bale), and Julie Taymor's amazing Titus (Andronicus); then there are the looser adaptations, such as Ten Things I Hate About You (based on The Taming of the Shrew), Get Over It (constructed around a high-school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream), and of course the fabulous Shakespeare in Love (fictionalizing the creation of Romeo & Juliet); and I'm on the hunt for the Greenaway Prospero's Book and the Zeffirelli Romeo & Juliet and Taming of the Shrew.

But to return to what I was saying earlier, I feel like I'm not nourishing my brain enough, and as a result it's turning stupid. I've been watching Shakespearean movies instead of reading Shakespeare's own works. I think I have been watching too much television instead of reading, in general. And in my reading, I've been dog-paddling in the realms of literature, reading that which seems amusing rather than that which seems edifying. I still haven't made any headway into the two-volume Proust Remembrance of Things Past I bought three years ago, I haven't read the Walter Pater Imaginary Portraits I bought four years ago, my Complete Oxford Shakespeare sits heavily on the shelf collecting dust alongside my complete Edgar Allen Poe and my complete Mark Twain, my Story of Civilization is only referred to when I'm trying to gather some bit of trivia for a crossword puzzle, and representative works from Edith Wharton and Henry James languish unopened in their Barnes & Noble bags.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste, they say. A good book is also a terrible thing to waste. But then it's so hard to find a good book that doesn't also put me to sleep. I'm currently reading David Leavitt's Equal Affections and rather enjoying it, though it's a little heavy around the and death and relationships, not exactly a tiptoe through the tulips...still, the language is beautiful, Leavitt has a real lyric sense that I always enjoy in an author. Next in the bag is Edmund White's The Farewell Symphony. I read White's Caracole and Nocturnes for the King of Naples ages and ages ago, and I found them beautiful but quite senseless, a sort of cleaned-up and elegant revision of William Burroughs' style; his more straightforward autobiographic fictions, such as A Boy's Own Story, of which I have read excerpts, are a little more approachable and at the same time a little more dull. So we shall see what happens.

Anyway, I guess I'd better be moseying along. Lots to learn, lots to do, dinner to eat, sponsor to talk to, crowded drive to get there, etc.


Thursday, July 11, 2002

Ah, Memories!

Miss Romy Michele just sent me a trio of pictures from the Pride Parade and one from the Miss Gay Marin Pageant (enclosed in an adorable Andy Warhol card); and the first thing upon receipt, I turned on the scanner and ran them through so I could share them with you, my beloved reader!

You of course know to click on the images to see them full-sized...

Here I am just before we started off. The bosomy gent to the right is Kelly from Arkansas (kind of makes you want to visit, don't it). In fact, I do believe his tits are bigger than mine. Bitch.

I don't remember names very well, but I do believe this one is called Michael. He was my favorite, the shyest and the gentlest. I wanted to take him home and cuddle him and dress him in dollie-clothes and feed him with a spoon.

This one is, I believe, Danny. He was the naughtiest of the go-go boys. He kept dropping his Scooby-Doo panties in a rather coquettish manner, revealing the prettiest smooth little buns to the crowd; later on in the route he started pouring bottled water all over himself. And those wiry little abs just make me weak!

Here I am with Romy, our own First Lady of Song. She's so talented and classy, and has such a great wit! She usually sings (with her own lovely voice, yet) her own versions of the favorite standards. She was (and still is, note the tiara) the first ever Miss Gay Marin (1997).


Oh, the lovely memories! This is why I love looking at photographs: you can see the nice pictures and remember the nice circumstances, divorced from the other less-than-nice elements. For example, in the Pride pix above, you can't tell how hot and uncomfortable I am, how much my feet hurt, how much the sun was getting in my eyes. In the Pageant picture, I can remember how much fun I was having, removed from the noise and confusion and elation and dissapointment and hullabaloo that clouded the moment in my visceral memory. Of course, it helps that these were well-taken photographs, made with a good camera in the hand of someone who knows what she's doing. I mean compare the glamorous images above with something less-fabulous taken this last winter at my Daddy's birthday party:

I mean, a lot of difference is in the hair and makeup and wardrobe (cuz face it, I won't dress up for a family birthday as I would for a Parade or a Pageant), but you can see the difference in picture quality and clarity. Romy's simply a good photographer, on top of all her other talents!

I often think about taking up photography as a hobby. Photographs are so enjoyable, and I'd really love to run around recording things which I find beautiful. Leave for posterity some version of my own aesthetic vision of the world. To preserve the beauty I see around me every day for my later edification and to share with others the joy I find in the visual plane.

Plus, it's a great excuse to walk up to hotties on the street: "Say, have you ever considered modeling? Would you like some pictures of yourself? Wouldn't you be more comfortable without your pants?" And like that. Something to think about. It's on my list of Things To Do, right in between taking a creative writing workshop and learning to tap-dance.

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Just Kill Me

I feel fat. I feel sleepy. I feel vaguely discontented with the world and all its charms. I want to eat an entire lemon chiffon pie with a glass of iced tea and fill up a wading pool and get in and go to sleep. I want to be thinner and more energetic and better looking. I want my hair to behave and the weather to straighten up. I want world peace and population control and a government of uncorrupted politicians. I want a pedicure and a facial and full-body electrolysis. I want a Jaguar convertible and a DVD player and a rocket-launcher.

Here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to get an elastic and pull my hair up off my neck; I am going to go and make some iced coffee; I'm going to stop eating sweets and carbs all day every day, but I'm not going to call it a "diet," I'm just going to stop doing it; I'm going to stop dwelling on what I lack in possessions and possess in waistline, and start thinking about what I can do to make somebody else's day brighter. I am going to buy stamps and corn on the way home (because Grandmother asked me to) and tomorrow I am going to call the Volvo parts store and order a new distributor cap and ding-ding-ding device for the fuse-box that shorted out five weeks ago (and disabled my stereo and overhead lights), so that Miss Marjorie can run right, too. I am going to start reading Daily Reflections in bed in the morning instead of fashion magazines. I am going to quit bitching and take control of my life!

I've said that before, haven't I. Well, maybe this time I mean it. Maybe I don't. But I had to write about something, and that's what's on my mind today. Thanks for listening!

Tuesday, July 9, 2002

Tuesday Too # 20

1.) Yes, conflicting theories abound; what do you think dreams (nightly adventures) mean, or do you subscribe to a particular theorist and why?

I unfortunately tend not to remember my dreams, though I do know that I usually enjoy them (and when I was using 'the patch' to quit smoking, I really enjoyed them...that's a bonus of the treatment). And I am leery of ascribing too much "meaning" to dreams...just as I am leery of attaching too much meaning to anything, especially something vague and sub rosa like dreams, or astrology, or numerology or what-have-you. And of course, since I don't ascribe too much meaning to dreams, I have never bothered to study it enough to subscribe to any one theory over another.

But I do think that the mind will use dreams to bring things to your attention. I have always related to the concept of the conscious and unconscious minds...the conscious with its rationale and order, and the unconscious with its psychic and intuitive abilities...and that the best mental health results from those two portions being in good communication with each other...and that in our dream state we occupy our unconscious mind. Often one supresses something that begins to fester in the psyche, or intuitive information becomes important to one's well-being, so the unconscious relates the pain of the supression or the intuitive information to the conscious through dreams. So when something occurs in a dream that seems to nag at my waking mind, I pay attention to it.

For example, once I had this dream that got stuck in my head for days, I found it so disturbing: I dropped something on my foot, and my big toenail broke apart; underneath the nail was another toe, like a baby's toe. In the manner of dreams, all of my nails then crumbled away, revealing baby fingers and toes under each nail bed. Now, such a dream can have numerous interpretations, but I find it interesting, and somewhat suggestive, that I had that dream the same night after my sister found out she was pregnant, and a week before she told me about it. I have also had text-book dreams about repression of anger, in which there is a ravening beast of some sort that is chewing on me because I won't let it off its leash, or dreams relating to and working through situational fears, or things like that (the classic being-at-school-in-your-underwear is an old favorite).

But again, I don't really think there is anything the dreams can tell you that you can't come to understand through your own meditations, and that dreams are very specific to one's own the interpretation of other people's dreams would by necessity be a terrifically inexact science. Still, I did find this interesting website about dream interpretation today. Kind of entertaining, gives you a wide overview of dream analysis.

2.) When you are confronted by a homeless person asking for change, how do you respond? How does it make you feel? If you've never been in this situation, imagine it, and calculate your response.

I live in a major metropolitan area, so panhandling is a daily nuisance. I usually don't notice it too much, though I do try to make eye contact with them and say, "Sorry, no," rather than just ignoring them...they are human beings after all, and deserve at least that much recognition. But I never give them money. I don't believe in giving away money (or anything else, really) to strangers.

Sometimes I get angry at being harrassed for money by all these "unfortunates." Some days, some neighborhoods, you can't go two blocks without getting panhandled seven times. It becomes irritating. And then some of these people have irksome attitudes, as if I owed them money simply because I have a job and a home and food in the kitchen and clean clothes when they do not.

One day I was going to the post office and this woman who pretty much lives under a tree there accosted me on my way into the building and asked for fifteen cents (the ones who ask for specific amounts always amaze do they arrive at those specific amounts? do you wake up in the morning and say "this is a fifteen-cent kind of day?"); then she asked me again on my way out, and I laughed a little...I mean, nothing could have happened in between my entering the post office and exiting it two minutes later that would have changed my pecuniary status...she merely asked any and every object that passed her on the steps. She saw my laugh and became irate, and yelled at me: "Don't laugh, it could happen to you!"

I thought about that for a while as I walked around the lake during my lunch hour, and finally came to the conclusion that, no, "it" couldn't happen to me. I simply don't believe that one can't save oneself from a situation like become homeless may be a matter of circumstance, but to live on the streets and beg money from passing strangers is a choice. I could not make that choice. I would quite literally and seriously prefer to die. Even when I was drinking, sunk in my own addictions, my life was not so precious to me that I couldn't end it if it became unbearable. It still isn't.

Now many of the homeless, particularly in large cities, are made up of people who are simply not sane, not responsible for themselves. When the state mental hospitals were closed down in the 70s, all of the patients were pretty much just set loose, and the only mechanism for their care was disability checks...which you can't recieve if you have nowhere to live. Many more of the people on the streets are drug addicts who have lost everything to their addictions, including their humanity and dignity. And many people are on the streets because they cannot bring themselves to live in human society by society's rules...they can't hold jobs, can't maintain relationships, can't support themselves because they feel for some reason that they shouldn't have to. There are even a few people who live on the streets because circumstances have arranged against them and they find themselves suddenly without resource.

But all of these people, with the exception of the mentally ill, arrived where they are by a series of choices. The woman who takes up the crack-pipe had a choice. The man with a wife and four children who lost his job had a choice before he married and reproduced and sunk his family into debt by living beyond his means. And for some people there comes a time where there's no turning back from the choices you made...and a sentient individual has to be responsible for the choices he or she makes.

Now, there comes a time when you need someone's help to get you out of the mess you made with your own choices. In my case, I had my Grandmother to help me. Not everyone has a grandmother, or friends or family who have the means and willingness to help them. But I made a choice to change my life when the opportunity to do so was presented: if I had not taken advantage of that opportunity, I might have ended up there on the streets. But it was, by necessity, me who took responsibility for my actions and made those corrective choices. There are opportunities for all of these other people as well...the Salvation Army for one, Goodwill for another. These are organizations I will support (but usually by shopping at and donating to their stores, where I get something I want in return...I don't give to those irritating quasi-panhandling folk with the Christmas bells). And since those opportunities exist, difficult to live with or access as they may be (living with my Grandmother isn't always a walk in the park, I assure you), the individual homeless person can take advantage...and is responsible to do so.

And so it makes me angry sometimes that these people take the attitude that individual members of society should be made to support them, little by little, so that they can continue to live the way that they do. Their choices are their responsibilities, and I don't feel that it is society's responsibility to take care of those who will not take care of themselves.

I try to be patient, anyway, because it's best to always show some patience and compassion to people, no matter what. The poor are always with us, so you might as well treat them with some dignity and respect. But I won't give them money.

3.) Do you feel you have been short changed in any way by destiny/fate/god? If so, how?

While my higher self says No, that I have what I need to have and what I am meant to have...I do sometimes feel that, yes, Fate could have been somewhat kinder to me. It often just pisses me off that I was not born beautiful and rich. On the other hand, I kind of believe (very casually) in reincarnation...and if that is so, I imagine that I have something to learn from the hand I've been dealt as regards my looks and my socioeconomic status.

And then, I think about the things I was given other than wealth and looks (which are not unalloyed blessings, by any means)...I have intelligence, an analytic mind, fairly good health, etc. I can further consider that, this trip around, I am not in a worse situation...a peasant in a war-torn South American nation, a sweat-shop worker in Asia, a lunatic on the streets of a big city incapable of rational thought, et cetera. Though I think it's a little too much in the way of schadenfreude to feel gratitude that I am not more unfortunate, it does seem a bit tacky to be ungrateful for that which I do have, when compared to the idea that I might not have drawn this good of a hand.

But still there are days where I just wish I had been born to wealthy and indulgent parents, and looked like this:

I'm Almost Famous!

Philo over at East/West cast me in his all-blogger redux of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory...I get to be "Henrietta Salt," mother to the ghastly Veruca and wife of the odious nut-magnate Henry Salt. Hurray! I won't let you down, Philo...I know I only have one scene and two lines, but I will out-bitch the bitchiest bitch you know! Now for wardrobe...should I wear sables or chinchilla? Pearls or coral or the newly trendy turquoise (with diamond clasps, of course)? The distant and forbidding mother-figure in me is leaning towards sables and pearls, while the vicious society gorgon in me tends toward chinchilla and turqoise. What to do, what to do? I'll just have to somehow inveigle myself into more than one scene.

On the other hand, after I thought about it a while, I realized that my character would be required to loathe my odious nut-magnate husband, who in this case is played by Bill at Mermaniac, one of my all-time favorite people. This is why I can never manage ensemble acting...while I am always perfectly willing to portray that which I am not, I find it impossible to believe that people I know are something they are not, and to be able to react convincingly...I have so little suspension of disbelief once I've met someone. Oh well...maybe if Bill managed to act in an odious enough manner, I could come to loathe him for a little while? So much of one's success on the boards relies on one's co-stars. If nothing else, I can reflect that he has way more lines than me...

Oh, here's another brush with fame: as I was looking over snapshots from SF Pride over at PlanetOut, I found a photo of our contingent! Only, it was one of the go-go boys (I can't keep their names straight in my head, but I always think of this one as "RJ"), the other contingent monitor (Kelly from Arkansas), and some other guy I don't recognize, along with the tail of our Merlot-colored Chrysler Sebring and the corner of Miss Candie's blue rump-pillow. Once again, not quite fabulous enough for publication! SOB! Oh, well, I'll just console myself with the picture (by Soren Wolf, probably copyrighted to PlanetOut):

Why am I still awake? It's like 12:40 at night here. I have to go to work tomorrow. I need to get in bed. I need to go to sleep. I need a cookie first. Then brush my teeth.

And since I now have so many images uploaded into my domain space, I can give you a second photo for this post, something a trifle more professional...but also notable for its lack of Marlénè.

Buona notte, darlings!

Monday, July 8, 2002

Monday Mondaine

Oh, my children, that was the longest, funnest, tiringest weekend in memory! I'm rather amazed I survived. Too much stimulation. Too little time for reflection and repose.

To briefly bring you all up to speed, here's a very terse little diary of my life since last I blogged:

Wednesday, July 3: So much to do in the office! I was here all frigging day, answering phones, finishing things up, all by myself. Then I got to go grocery shopping. When I got home, I watched TV for a while, then helped the Grandmother make custard base for homemade ice cream. Got to bed kind of late (after 1)

Thursday, July 4: Got up good and early (7 am... where's the Freedom, I ask you), showered and shaved and got dressed, helped the Grandmother pack up all the things we would need to make ice cream into the ice-chest, and headed out before 11... picked up my Daddy in Concord, after driving through not-too-bad traffic and just-bearable heat (Miss Marjorie lacks air-conditioning), then drive down through more not-too-bad traffic to San Jose to Aunt Terry's house... arrive there at 1-ish, it's really hot, fighting and yelling with Grandmother while trying to get the ice-cream machines working in the garage (where' it's really hot!)... eating a huge meal of hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, fruit salad, etc... swimming in the amniotic-fluid-warm swimming pool, eating some more, visiting with family... head home around 5, drive back through Concord, get home at 7, shower again and fix my hair again and head out to Barry's in El Sobrante... arrive there, eat some more, chat with many friends, watch the fireworks displays in the distance, chat some more with friends, head home around 12, get in bed and go to sleep around 1.

Friday, July 5: Living Sober Conference, Day 1... I let myself sleep in til 9 am (too tired, too tired), got over to the City on BART, went to a 7th-step workshop, ate some (wildly overpriced and undermayonnaised) lunch, then spent four hours dancing around and selling raffle tickets at the Fundraising Booth (win one of these lovely fabulous prizes, the more you buy the better your chances, all proceeds benefit the Conference, you can't win if you don't play, etc. etc. etc., all the while bopping around to the happy come-hither disco playing on the stereo that was one of the prizes)... cute sober boys everywhere you looked (ranging from the kind you fantasize about screwing to the kind you fantasize about introducing to your parents)... then went out to dinner at a lovely tacqueria many blocks away (did I mention I'd been selling raffle tickets while standing? on my still-sore-from-last-weekend-feet?), then came back and attended the Meeting (laughing, crying...somehow managed to get all of my emotions to the surface), then the Musical (fabulous, just fabulous!), then schlepped back home and got back in bed around 1 (I see a pattern forming here).

Saturday, July 6: Conference, Day 2... up at 7 again, packed a drag bag including the new shoes and things I bought after the last time I posted here (black and white spectator pumps, black hat with a black and white flower which I ended up not wearing after all, black purse with white polka-dotted flap, a new wig styled in a WASPish little Dutchboy, etc), as well as anything else I might need, and drove up to Dalton's to pick up him and his drag-bags... get across to the City and start in at the conference at 11... though I am not scheduled to work in Fundraising on Saturday, I noted a shortfall of staffing and sold tickets some more, until I went across the hallway to the Information Booth, where I WAS scheduled to work on Saturday, incidentally and unintentionally spending another four hours on my feet, dancing and selling tickets and doling out info... then walk to Union Square in order to procure shopping bags, discovering along the way that Union Square is rather farther away from the Civic Center than I thought, and that the intervening neighborhood is rather more unsightly than I expected... spent two and a half hours traipsing through the major stores of Union Square, enjoying myself immensely while buying a little something in each to get a shopping bag, Saks and Macy's and Nieman's and Sephora (I was too intimidated by the doorman at Gucci to go in there, the staff at Louis Vuitton was too busy selling several-hundred-dollar wallets to Japanese tourists to help me procure a nailpolish duette, Bullock & Jones was gone, Victoria's Secret was too inundated by tacky people and signature perfume to be countenanced, FAO Schwartz was inundated by children, and I already had a Tiffany bag)... returned to the conference and ate a hot dog and some dolmas, then joined my pal and Fundraising Chairperson, Danny R, in a search for the key to the dressing room... then laboriously put myself into drag with all my girlfriends clustered around in a large well-lighted dressing room (funny how six drag queens can totally dominate a space designed for eighteen chorus girls), recreating Marlénè Manners as "Miss Union Square," a fierce and formidable young matron in polka-dots and pearls with six pricey shopping-bags on each arm... joining Miss Daisy as "Miss Folsom Street" in a leatherette sheath with cap and whip, Miss Cookie Dough (in the uncanny guise of Nurse Diesel) as "Miss Laguna Honda Hospital," and Miss Lorraine Dubonnet in hostessy beaded gown and tiara as "Miss Pacific Heights," not to mention other folks unknown to me, such as Miss Buena Vista Park (tulle and ivy and kneepads) and Miss Cow Palace (beat-up rocker chick), and many others I don't have the energy to mention... we all gathered together, about twelve of us as neighborhoods, landmarks, and streets of San Francisco, and made a grand presentation at the beginning of the main speaker meeting... during the meeting I couldn't quite sit still (I had too many bags to wrestle with, and frankly the speakers didn't interest me), so I was up and down and in and out of the dressing room... and in the intermission I somehow found myself selling yet more raffle tickets... then after the meeting, we sold tickets for another fifteen minutes, then went and had the raffle drawing (which was very exciting: a bald man won a free haircut, a black man won five sessions at a tanning salon, and a dyke won a male nude lithograph)... then spent the rest of the evening talking and dancing with friends... then got out of drag (which for some reason takes longer than getting into it) and went out to midnight breakfast with Danny and Dalton and another friend Tom and his two out-of-town houseguests at the Baghdad Cafe... then finally made it home at 3 am... and fell into a dead sleep.

Sunday, July 7: Wow, I'm still alive! Slept until 11, laid in bed until 1, dragged myself painfully out of bed and drank coffee and watched TV... sooooo tired... Shiloh came over and we had a visit, then Caroline came over and we all three visited, then went out and had a bit of lunch/dinner... then my sister Suzie (who I will put in the Cast as soon as I find a decent picture of her) came over and we visited some more... went to bed at 11, having been awake just over twelve hours, and went right back to sleep.

And now here it is Monday. Lots to do at the office, and as soon as I'm finished here I have to write a couple of letters and file a grievance form and do some other tedious and mind-numbing tasks. But I'm sitting down for God's sake, and that's all I ask of a day.

And now, for the usual Monday entertainments:

The Monday Memory

The Pamplona Running of the Bulls is on at the moment. People have already been hurt. Can you remember the first time you heard about bullfighting, and what you thought about it?

I've always thought the Running of the Bulls was one of the stupidest things I've ever seen. To put yourself in all that danger for no reward, just for the fun of it and to say you've done it, is peculiar in the extreme. But it's not my culture, so I try to be open about it. I do have a funny memory about that, though...when I was watching this really long miniseries, The Winds of War, there was a scene of running the bulls in Pamplona, and it was supposed to be set in the Thirties or Forties, of course...and one of the extras fell down in the scene, and one could clearly see that he was wearing Nikes. I always thought that was hysterically funny for some reason.

I first learned about bull-fighting in my favorite childhood book, The Story of Ferdinand. I didn't think much of the sport itself, and in fact I have never understood sports at all. But I loved the idea of Ferdinand...who, though he was capable of being strong and fierce, declined to bestir himself on behalf of pointless sports and instead led a pacific existence in the shade of a cork tree. He was a very gay animal, I think...he appealed to the foppish aesthete that was budding inside me with his love of flowers and quietude. The drawings in that book were quite attractive, too, I remember. Grandmother read that one to me quite often. I think I still have the book, too.

There were also a lot of cartoon bullfights that I thought were very funny, Bugs Bunny and like that. And oh, those outfits are sexy! I just love the tight pants with all the embroidery and those girly lace shirts and the smart little jackets and the tight little shoes. It's such a very dramatic look, so taut and whiplike and powerful, yet ornate and rather effeminate at the same time.

But I was well into adulthood before I discovered what exactly a bullfight entailed...from Ferdinand I had understood that the bull was poked and prodded by the bandellerinos and the piccadores and the torero...I didn't realize until I read a later novel in adulthood that the former two groups were intended to wound and enrage the beast while the latter flamboyantly slaughters it. That struck me as rather uncivilized, like bear-baiting or cock-fighting or fox-hunting (another one that doesn't make sense--people riding horses following dogs chasing a fox, and then watching from horseback as the dogs tear the fox apart--but which looks just gorgeous, the costumes and the traditions and what-have-you).

But then, I try not to condemn that which I don't understand. I don't see much difference, as far as cruelty goes, between bull-fighting and chicken-farming. And as far as sport goes, I don't understand that at all. So I guess I don't have an opinion on blood-sports in general.

But still, I just love those outfits!

Click here and here and here to see more Matadors!