Sunday, September 29, 2002

Porn Thoughts

I was reading Jhames today, as I do pretty much every day (and thanks for the shout-out, sweetie!) and finding myself only-ever-so-slightly jealous of his current job task of viewing porn. It's one of the cosmos' better jokes that a man who doesn't really enjoy porn should be surrounded by it on his job where I, who love porn and have been fascinated by it since I was five, have to actually pay for the stuff.

Of course, Jhames (poor soul) doesn't get to choose which porn he has to watch, and I cannot envy him having to search through what sounds like mountains of tedious WeHo gym-bunny porn, directed by frustrated Hollywood directors and written by frustrated Hollywood screenwriters and starring frustrated Hollywood actors. Those films always have the flavor of disappointed dreams about them... a sort of "well, I couldn't make it as a legitimate actor/writer/director, so I guess I'll just do porn to pay for my apartment and my crystal meth." Though that particular brand of porn has its charms (drop-dead beautiful men are always worth looking at, even if they palpably wish to be somewhere else), I always watch it with the sound off and one finger of the fast-forward button... that's a tip, honey, straight from the drag-queen's mouth: the mute button was invented for watching porn videos. Pop a little Mahler in your CD player, turn off the idiotic noises made by the actors, and enjoy the flesh ballet.

Another job-vs-porn moment came a couple of months ago... I was angry at my job for some reason (who can remember... I get mad at my boss, my job, and/or my whole life at least once a month), so I logged into Craigslist to see what other jobs were out there. I mean, with the Dot-Com Bust, admin jobs aren't as easy to come by as they once were (when corporate admin assistants everywhere were abandoning their cushy high-rise jobs for maybe-millionaire startups in the SOMA), and it doesn't do to storm out of the job you have, hateful and tedious as it might be, only to end up with something worse and poorer-paying. Anyway, one of the jobs I saw listed was for an office-manager/travel-secretary for Falcon Studios.

I instantly slipped into fantasy mode... there I am in the middle of this room full of porn stars and porn-star-wannabes, watching porn all day and reading porn all day and maybe even getting trade discounts on escort services. My head swam... Oh! The perfect job for me! Unfortunately for my fantasy, though fortunately for my self, my good old Capricorn practicality kicked in and a more realistic picture of the job presented itself to me: there I'd be stuck all by myself in some cramped little office in one of the smellier neighborhoods of San Francisco, trying to get fifty achingly-beautiful-but-not-too-terribly-bright porn stars from here to Florida, and instead sending them all to Florence or Flanders by mistake. I mean, I've never in my life made my own travel arrangements, much less anybody else's. And if I thought teachers, counselors and librarians were difficult to work with, I can just imagine typing and filing for a bunch of porn producers who probably didn't even go to college and who think that "Oh, yeah, suck that big dick, faggot" is stimulating prose. Shudder!

So anyway, I've often wondered where my fascination for porn comes from. I mean, I really have been into porn since I first found a Playboy behind the couch when I was five or six. Even though the female form didn't excite me much, there was something about the prurient nature, the sly drollery, and the air of excitement that came out of that magazine that really turned me on, and continued to fascinate me all the way up to puberty (when I discovered the delights of the male form, my own and others'... yowza!) It was sex, but it wasn't messy or threatening or intimate or painful or smelly. I guess maybe that's it... porn is very removed from reality. There's this degree of distance between one's self and the porn object, and that degree of distance guarantees safety. And to someone for whom the road of relationships and intimacy never ran smooth (even before sex, the intimate relationships of family and friends were a trial and a bane to me), that distance is very comforting.

Today, porn makes up the entirety of my sex life. As I've shared before in this space, I haven't had sex with another person in years and years, and I've found I'm mostly happier that way. Even when I was sexually active, I really preferred porn for getting off. In fact, I more or less needed it... my imagination was not enough for me, and the memories of sex I'd had were certainly not very stimulating, so the pictures in the magazine (and more recently on the VCR) became necessary to me.

I wonder sometimes if all the porn warped me against "regular" sex. I mean, the things I don't like about sex with people — the smells, the vulnerability, the physical effort — don't exist in a "voyeuristic autoerotic lifestyle." The people in the magazines and videos are more beautiful than the men to whom I have access with my medium looks and mediocre physique, medium personality and minimalist income. You can't catch a disease from a movie, you can't be betrayed by a magazine, and you never have a fight with your own left hand.

And yet, you can't fall in love with them, either. They can't love you back.

Deep waters.. let's pull back just a trifle. One of the things I find interesting about porn is how different people's tastes are, and how many different styles of porn have been launched to meet those tastes. My own preference is for a certain kind of twink porn... those George Duroy Bel Ami films really get to me, as do the works of JD Cadinot. And then the beefcake porn of the early Eighties (the Matt Sterling oeuvre in particular) is a lot of fun, and then there's the great 70s stuff that comes up now and again. I love pretty slender boys more than anything, and yet I also have a fetish for really large penises... the kind that take up so much room on the person that all you can do is gasp and gape at them. Every once in a while, though terribly rarely, the two fetishes meet. But I have never found a film that pairs a really big man and a slender boy. For some reason, most porn is very much about twos-of-a-kind. Two twinks, two gym-bunnies, two horse-hung daddies, always two (or more) of whatever type the director likes best. I think contrasts are a better pastime... pairing unlikely people into unnatural acts. Yum.

Well, anyway, I wonder whether or not I would enjoy doing something about producing porn... consultation or office-work or what-have-you. But I doubt it. It would probably ruin porn for me to have to do anything about it professionally. And then what would I do? Have sex with real people? Dommage!

I have to run, darlings... I have a drag show to get ready for, and time's a-wastin'! Kisses!

Friday, September 27, 2002

Tanya Tucker on 8-Track

I went record-shopping last night, the first time I've allowed myself in a record-store since the Great Shopping Fast was instituted in June, and I went just a little wild. I was seeking three very specific CDs, and ended up buying two out of three specific CDs, one nearly-what-I-wanted-but-not-quite CD, six unexpected-but-desirable-and-on-sale CDs (four of which were in a criminally low-priced box set), six videos (three used, three clearance-priced), four pornographic magazines, and an ice-cream-cone. I kept it all under $200, but that's still rather more than I had intended... I mean, all I wanted was three CDs so I could perform in the Galaxy Girls' "That 70s Show" this weekend.

See, I can never do the easy thing... and in a 70s show, the Easy Thing is disco. And yet, occasional lapses of dignity aside, Miss Marlénè just isn't the rock-n-roll type. And then, I have to avoid truly recognizeable and idiosyncratic performers, great 70s divas like Liza and Barbra and Bette, because they are Gay Icons and you really have to come up with an impersonation as well as a lip-synch... a task of which I am incapable. So that left me with a very narrow field of music.

I eventually decided on at least one Showtune, and then tried to remember what my favorite song in the 70s was. The Showtune was, as one might expect, "What I Did for Love" from A Chorus Line, and the only Favorite Song I could think of, which hadn't already been claimed by someone else in the show, was "Delta Dawn." As any queen worth her salt knows, the stage version of "What I Did for Love" starts a solo but ends as a production number; the film version, however, is pure solo... though not as good. And then, with "Delta Dawn," though I was mostly familiar with the Tanya Tucker version, I discovered that it had also been recorded in the 70s by both Helen Reddy and Bette Midler.

So what I was after, when I went shopping last night, was the film soundtrack to A Chorus Line and one each of Helen Reddy and Tanya Tucker singing "Delta Dawn." And I did find Helen and Tanya, but only the Broadway cast of A Chorus Line... I think the film soundtrack is out of print. Once I got home and wrestled the CDs out of their wrappers (why, oh why are CDs wrapped so damned tight?) and listened to all the tracks, I decided that I could carry off the extra voices in "What I Did for Love" after all, and also decided that neither version of "Delta Dawn" was even remotely playable... fortunately, the Helen Reddy album was chock-a-block with dated and performable tunes, and I'm leaning toward "I Don't Know How to Love Him" from Jesus Christ, Superstar (depsite my ambivalence about that musical in particular and Andrew Lloyd-Weber in general, the song is sung by the character of Mary Magdalene... and the name "Marlénè," as you may or may not know, is a Frenchified contraction of the Italian "Maria-Magdalena," or Mary Madgalene).

In case you were wondering, the other CDs I got were: The Peggy Lee Story, a boxed set of four CDs with a book, which seems to contain every piece of music she recorded between 1945 and 1955 (and cost only $19.98); Judy Garland, The Best of the Capitol Years, a two-CDs-in-one-case compilation extracted from the larger 6-album set of all of Judy's Capitol recordings; and the soundtrack to the film Charlie's Angels (which has great music... in fact, I quite enjoyed the film as well). The films I bought were: The Queen of the Damned (about which I once wrote a long and fascinating blog post, which then deleted itself when I hit the wrong button, depriving posterity of my riveting thoughts on this visually and acoustically exquisite but textually deplorable film), Murder by Death (another Maggie Smith triumph and one of my favorite films), and The Age of Innocence, all used; new, but priced at $4.95 each, I got Wigstock, The Movie (which I haven't seen yet, bad queen!), Europa, Europa (which I've also not seen, but I know it will be terribly depressing... yet it stars an incredibly cute boy), and A Chorus Line (of course I can find the video but not the soundtrack). The porn magazines were the current issues of Freshmen, Blueboy, and In Touch, as well as the Adam Male special edition The Films of George Duroy. The ice-cream cone was mango.

But none of that is the point of this blog... it's all just detail. Wearysome detail, some might say.

The point was that the Tanya Tucker CD was the exact same album that we found on 8-track in the glove compartment of the beige 1974 Chevy Nova that my mother bought used for some ridiculously low sum of money. My sister and I would always pop the cartridge in and sing along to the songs whenever we went anywhere in Mother's car (which was named Blondie — another weird tick I inherited from her, the naming of cars)... and yet I haven't heard most of those songs in the last twenty-five years. Listening to that CD brought back those few happy times that I remember (and in my childhood, the sparsity of really happy times makes each one that much more poignant). I've always loved road trips, and that album brought it all back to me... being a kid, having no idea what a dreadful driver our mother was and how much our lives were in danger as we sat on the broad bench-like front seat (no seatbelts, of course), Slurpees in hand, with the windows open and the road unfurling before us, singing along to "Delta Dawn," "What's Your Mama's Name," "I Believe the South Will Rise Again," and "Will You Lay With Me (in a Field of Stone)." I'm not a real big one for nostalgia, but I tell you the feeling I got when listening to that album last night was very nice. Sort of warm and mushy and happy.

"Marlénè Manners getting all mushy over a second-rate country album? Dommage! Is that a pig I just saw flying by, and whatever is that icy breeze coming from under the ground?"

So anyway, I'm dragging out this blog because I have yet another tedious repetitive task ahead of me, and I am avoiding it. It's another envelope-stuffing, but this time it's an election, which is rather complicated. First you have to stamp the office's address in the return-address area of seven hundred #10 envelopes; then you have to stamp that same address in the mailing address area of seven hundred #9 envelopes (self-inking stamps don't take much strength, but the task results almost immediately in repetitive stress fatigue); then you have to print two sets of address labels for the entire membership, one for mailing, one for return mail with a signature line on it; then you have to make seven hundred copies of Ballot Instructions and run them through the antique folding machine (and which most of the members — teachers and librarians, mind you — will totally ignore) and 240 copies of the Ballot itself which have to be separated on the tiny paper-cutter (three ballots to a page, with extras); then you have to place all the labels on all of the prestamped envelopes, carefully keeping each set in alphabetical order; then you have to place the #9 envelopes into their corresponding #10 envelopes along with a copy of the Ballot, a copy of the Ballot Instructions (which they will mostly ignore), and a #6 envelope in which to place the ballot (to ensure secrecy), then seal the #10 envelopes. Then you have to run all seven hundred pieces through the postage meter, which will probably jam at least twice and run out of ribbon once. Then you have to schlepp all the metered pieces to the mailbox. Then wait for the ten-percent voter response for an uncontested election of a single seat on the Executive Council to come trickling in over the next two weeks, and wish you were dead.

Today, the guy who is running uncontested for this single seat on the Executive Council (someone who is already on the Executive Council, but in a less influential seat... which means that after this election, I get to run an election for the seat he is abandoning... which, along with my general dislike of this man, makes him the current #1-with-a-bullet on the Marlénè Manners Shitlist), called me up to find out where we are on the election. I told him that we'd been unusually busy this week and are terribly understaffed, and that I hoped to get the ballot out on Monday afternoon. "I'll expect it then," he replied, evenly and conversationally, "and if it's not out by then, I'll bring it up at the Executive Council meeting." Another line rang, so I ended the first call to answer the second, and then went about my usual morning business of reading blogs and drinking coffee while Outlook Express downloaded my daily dose of cartoon porn from my erotic-art-&-porn-cartoons Yahoo Group. About an hour later, it hit me...

Wait a minute... did he just threaten me? Did he just threaten to complain about my job performance to the Executive Council if I didn't finish this idiotic task by Monday? Oh, I don't think so!

So if I was avoiding the task out of dread of boredom before, I now have an even better reason... I want to hear him bring this up at the Executive Council Meeting and see how he carries himself. He'll probably bring up the guidelines in our Constitution about running elections. The Boss-Lady, who is president of the Council, will point out to him that we are egregiously understaffed and that he is more than welcome to volunteer his time to envelope-stuffing in the office if he wants things done in a timely manner; he will reply that this is what we pay the Staff for in the first place, and then this man and the President (who hate each other) will get into a glorious dogfight without anybody getting anywhere.

But I'm going to be better than that. I'll be the bigger man (which won't be difficult, since he's Napoleon-sized in both ego and stature) and do my own job. I'll do it in my own time, despite his threats and without indulging my desire to spite him... as soon as possible but without any undue haste.

Threaten me? The nerve of some people!

Well, anyway, I'd better get along to the next part of the day... it's time to eat lunch, and I'm just famished! Then maybe I'll stuff some envelopes. Or just listen to Helen Reddy and Tanya Tucker and reminisce about the 70s. Whichever.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows Everywhere...

Now how did that song get in my head? My brain is like a jackdaw's nest: I can't remember simple basic thing... this week alone I forgot to give someone a phone number she specifically asked for, forgot about sending out announcements for a meeting until the day before said meeting, and forgot my keys in the office until after I shut the self-locking door behind me; but I remember things that most people wouldn't care to know in the first place... the events and characters in the life of Alexander the Great, the mating habits of snails, the meaning of words like repoussé and devant-de-corsage, the laws of British Heraldry, the combination to my locker in high school, and the lyrics to hundreds and hundreds of perfectly idiotic songs... all of which will pop into my head, unexpected and unwanted, without any provocation whatever.

And you know what? I'm sick of living in a world where you have to remember stupid day-to-day trivia like keys and phone numbers and tasks, a world where you're supposed to be organized and tidy... instead of a world where obscure knowledge and unrelated and useless facts are prized above all things. I'm sick of living in a world dominated by morning-people. I'm sick of a world in which competition is the order of the day, where effort and achievement are prized above calm and contentment, where people routinely climb over the bodies of those who stand in their way, where doing someone down in order to promote one's own selfish aims is considered an admirable pastime.

On the other hand, this silly old world of ours does have it's recompenses. Krispy Kreme donuts, for an example. Beefcake photography. Sunsets. Birds. Sparkly things. Fine porcelain. Porn. So I don't wish to leave this world just yet.

But then, since my only other option for gaining freedom is to gather together a vast cadre of like-minded individuals and wrest control of the world from the dominant paradigm of neatness, competition, and mornings — which would cost a great deal of effort and probably entail my getting up early in the morning and becoming rather more organized (which would make me just like Them and defeat the purpose of quashing Them in the first place) — I guess I'll just let all those tidy little fascists, all those competitive little tyrants, all those damned blasted morning people have control of the world... I'll just live in my own little part of it, and thwart and subvert Them whenever it's easy and convenient to do so.

So saith the queen... so let it be done.

Monday, September 23, 2002

Smells Like Fish

Yesterday was lots of fun... here's a summary: Caroline and Vince and I went to Monterey, had lunch, went window-shopping, went to the Aquarium, had dinner, and drove home along the Coast Highway in the fog. It was ever such a blast!

The drive down was lovely. Vince works at the same place as Caroline, and though Caroline and he are attraced to each other, Vince is in a committed relationship with a girl he loves, so Caroline is exploring the idea of being platonic friends with a cute straight guy... something new for her (she's more usually platonic friends with gay guys or "friends-with-benefits" with straight guys). And Vince is certainly a hell of a guy. He's cute, he's intelligent, he has a lovely, soothing speaking voice, he likes Jazz (he even sings it), and he's simply a pleasure to be around.

Those of you who read this blog and have retentive memories will remember that I was born in Fort Ord, so I always get a little thrill driving past the turnoff for that site. Then there's the C&H refinery, which is rather a sinister-looking pile (it looks like poisons and acids are made there, rather than sweet, sweet sugar). There are the fields of artichokes, which always spark the discussion topic: "Who was the first person so desperately hungry that he decided to try and eat such an evil, alien-looking object?" Then there's the great sweep of Monterey Bay, dotted with sailboats and what-have-you. Unfortunately, it was rather dim and overcast on Sunday, so the views weren't quite as thrilling as they might be. But then, parked on Lighthouse Road, not far from Cannery Row, you step out of the car and get a whiff of that peculiar and exciting aroma of Monterey, the blended scents of salt breezes and dying sea-life overpowered and rendered romantic by the resinous tang of Monterey cypress.

We had lunch at a place called Clawdaddy's, a sort of New-Orleans-style seafood joint where every day is Mardi Gras (or so the decor suggests, and the waitress backed up that suggestion with a handful of carnival beads... all of which Caroline hogged for herself, claiming Birthday-Girl Privelege). Vince had the Gumbo, and Caroline the Fisherman's Platter (fried squid, clams, shrimp, etc), but weren't very impressed with the food (the fried clams were just nasty)... but I had the Pasta Special, which was utterly delicious (fettucine with salmon, shrimp, yellowfin tuna). Plus I started the meal off with a treat that I haven't had in quite some time, a half-dozen oysters on the half-shell. Oh! Yummy! Yummyummyummmy! Oh how I love good fresh dainty little raw oysters, chilled and quivering, sprinkled with lemon juice and dabbed ever-so-slightly with horseradish and cocktail sauce.

So then we wandered through some shops on Cannery Row, but didn't see much that was interesting or impressive. We eventually realized that window-shopping was a waste of time, and that our time would be better spent at the Aquarium... so thither we hied.

As I stated earlier, I'd never been to the Monterey Bay Aquarium before, but I was very interested in seeing it. I have always loved the Steinhart Aquarium, and I'd been told that the Monterey was much nicer, newer and more interesting, focussed more on conservation and habitat than display and variety... plus it didn't have that mildewy smell. Everything was terribly interesting and beautiful, though the Mysteries of the Deep exhibit was a trifle unsettling... there's something especially savage and gruesome about sea life in the far-deep chasms of the ocean. The Jellyfish exhibit was quite interestingly laid out, with some quite lovely and exotic jelly specimens interspersed with interactive and interpretive art exhibits... very well-conceived and arranged, I thought. But again, there was something not quite right about jellies. I don't know what, but every once in a while I'd get this little frisson of horror when watching them. Another memorable moment was discovering just how large yellowfin tuna are! I mean, they're immense! And they're rather vicious-looking. It's difficult to imagine such a large object being shoved into a can of Starkist... and also difficult to imagine that I'd just had (a small part of) one of them for lunch.

We spent about four hours there at the Aquarium, but the hours flew by like mere moments. I will definitely have to go back there some time and take it more slowly. And maybe re-read Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea beforehand. And not eat something for lunch before viewing it's large and angry-looking cousin at close quarters.

After that, we poked around in some shops for a little while, but the whole Cannery Row area starts shutting down when the Aquarium closes at 6, so there wasn't much to do. We stopped at the Ghirardelli shop for a refresher and some down-time, and Vince told me an interesting and entertaining story about how his Great-Grandfather was too proud to change his family's Marinara sauce recipe for mass-production and missed out on being on the Franco-American logo and blessing his descendents with the wealth ultimately enjoyed by Chef Boyardee ( "Bogliardi").

Then we went out to Pacific Grove for dinner at a lovely restaurant called Fandango. The food was excellent (expensive, but worth it... the kind of place where the Wine List comes out in a heavy leather-padded three-ring binder, and Château Lafitte-Rothschild is actually available), the service efficient and dignified but a trifle cold, the atmosphere was the tiniest bit stuffy, and the intensely unattractive lampshade was too close to my head. Caroline was dismayed to discover that her vast fried lunch and her tea-time root-beer float had rendered her unappetitive, so she sufficed herself with a Caesar salad and bites of our entrees; Vince had the cassoulet, which was a gorgeous concoction of sausage and chicken and some sort of white beans in a savory stew; I had the duckling à l'orange, which was utterly to die, and started with an uttely amazing tomato soup (so amazing that Caroline ended up ordering a plate for herself)... and since I'd only had a cup of coffee at Ghirardelli's (and no compunction about stuffing myself when the feeding is good), I finished off with an exquisite chocolate mousse and an espresso... during which Vince explained to Caroline and me the famous Monty Python sketch about the "wafer thin mint" (Vince is quite a good storyteller... or raconteur, if you prefer).

On the way home, I decided that it would be more fun to drive up the Coast instead of cutting inland at Watsonville or wherever, but I didn't realize that it was going to be so gothically foggy! I like driving on challenging roads, though, so I guess it was more fun that way... it was definitely a challenge. I'll have to do that drive again some day when I can see what's beyond my cockeyed headlights.

So, anyway, we made it home... fatter and poorer and terribly tired, but all the better for a happy day-trip. Today I had Caroline over again to help me with that hateful envelope-stuffing (she actually enjoys repetitive tasks... her favorite hobby is beading), and so I took her to lunch as a thank-you. It was just sandwiches, so I won't go into great detail here.

And that's about it. When I got home, I helped my niece (who is spending the night for some reason... with my family, I've found it's much easier to just not ask) to build a house in my Sim suburb. I was a little alarmed at the idea of introducing a straight couple into my all-male enclave, but I figured if they make any trouble I'll just delete them. Would that it were that easy in the real world. But unfortunately, if it were that easy, somebody would have deleted me years ago.

Guess what I've done!? The Sims game comes with this cute little feature where it creates family web-pages for all your Sims... and it suddenly occurred to me that it would be fun to upload those pages so I can share my Sims with you! If you're interested in that sort of thing, please take a moment and Visit My Sims! Or come back later and do it... I'm adding this link to the bottom of the Cast column to your left. Please enjoy the fruits of my obsession!

Well, I'm off to beddie-byes. In the meantime, let's return to the sea-side and enjoy my favorite seafood... the Lifeguard:

Sunday, September 22, 2002

Sybaritic Satsun

I remember, long ago but not too long ago, when I was working in food service... I almost always worked on Saturdays and Sundays, and my "weekend" was usually Monday and Tuesday, or Tuesday and Wednesday, or else I didn't get two days in a row at all. I therefore had to come up with a word with which to reference Saturday and Sunday collectively, those two days that the rest of the world, the office-workers and school-folk, call a "weekend." And so, phonetic wordsmith that I am, I came up with the phrase "Satsun," which sounds like a certain brand of stereo components.

And so here I am blogging just after midnight, halfway between a Saturday and Sunday that have little resemblance to those days of sybaritic rest and recreation that the word "weekend" promises. And that made me think of the old hard-working "weekends" when I was in the service industry, making sandwiches and lattes for people who worked 9-5/M-F... like I now do (oh, OK... I actually work 11-5, or 12-6, depending on when I get into the office).

Now that I am part of the Monday-through-Friday World (or "Mitwitef," as I sometimes call it... sounding out abbreviations to coin a new word is a terrible habit, and hard to break), I feel that I have earned the right to sleep in on Saturdays and Sundays, to do as I wish and to Hell with what other people want. This is of course a fantasy. In real life, tasks get saved up for the weekend, things that you didn't get to do while you were at work or which you couldn't do because you were at work, etc.

So this morning saw me awake, Saturdayness notwithstanding, sipping coffee and pulling my wits together at FIVE AM! My Aunt T got some great tickets to Tuscon, where her son Michael now lives — and since the fares were so cheap, she went ahead and bought two tickets, one for herself and one for the Grandmother (who, I'm sure you've figured out, is also Aunt T's mother). The departure flight left San Jose airport at 7:30 am, so rather than have T spend all the money on parking and time on dropping Grandmother off and going to a parking space and coming back to the terminal on a shuttle, I volunteered to bring Grandmother down to San Jose, spend the night, and drive them both to the airport. Aside from a brief half-nap earlier today, I've been awake since 5 am. And yet I don't feel remotely sleepy.

Tomorrow (or rather, later today) I have to get up early yet again, though not quite so disgustingly early. Caroline's birthday is coming up, and like most loveable egomaniacs, she makes a big deal of her birthdays. So she and I and her other friend Vince are driving down to Monterey to eat lunch, visit the Aquarium (where none of us have been before) and then have a nice dinner. In order to get to Monterey by lunchtime and have enough time to see the Aquarium before it closes for the day, I have to be ready to leave by 10 o'clock... meaning that I have to get up at around 8 so I can shower and shave and put myself together. And then I won't get home until after 12, I imagine, so Sunday is pretty much spent. And I really need to do some laundry... I can't afford to keep buying new clothes so I can have something clean to wear.

Have I ever mentioned how much I abhor repetitive tasks? I have this project that I have to get through, one that resembles other projects that I have to do about three or four times a year in my job... that pernicious and creeping horror of a repetitive task, Stuffing Envelopes. I have been putting this particular envelope-stuffing (about 500 twelve-page documents with 500 cover-letters stuffed into 500 9x12 brown envelopes) off for the last three days. I brought it home with me, even, so that I could do it while watching television and/or playing with my Sims... I even turned down two interesting invitations and flaked on a literary salon so that I would have the time to do this task today. Yet, while I have been watching television and playing with my Sims, the documents and their stamped manila sheathes remain in the trunk of my car, unwed and unstuffed and unsealed.

Nevertheless, television has been a very rewarding false-idol today. Every time I flipped past MTV, there was a hot nearly-nekkid boy on. Actually, there were lots and lots of really toothsome physiques on many different channels. There was some old movie on SciFi with Michael T. Weiss in his early twenties, sporting a feathered mullet and a tight trapezoid of tremulous torso (I think it was The Howling IV, there was some dim talk about lyncanthropes in the background... but who listens, when one's eyes are so busy with all that chest-hair?); then there was the boat/obstacle-race on Survivor 5 in which this built blond hottie was in and out of the water a great deal, with his wet white shorts hanging halfway down his hips (I didn't watch the whole episode, in fact I avoid Survivor on principle, and didn't quite understand the obstacles, but there are quite a lot of hunks on this season!); and then there was a lot of shirtlessness on the Season-12 premier of Real World (set this time in Las Vegas, of all bizarre places), where all three of the guys are built like brick shithouses... though Frank has by far the hottest bod in my opinion, and he spent less than 50% of the show with a shirt on; and then there was a certain baby-hunk in the Road Rules cast, on the same channel, who spent a fascinating few minutes onscreen in and out of the pool wearing nothing but water-sheered white boxer-briefs, all his juicy goodness bouncing about in plain view... and both shows aired twice today, so I got to see the hot bodies and wet panties twice, much to the edification and satisfaction of my filthy little voyeuristic mind.

So here I sit, all alone with my naked boys on TV and my beautifully housed Sims, no sleep last night and no sleep in the forecast, up to my eyeballs in dirty clothes and unstuffed envelopes, and I have really rather enjoyed myself today. And though I will be up all tomorrow night stuffing those damned envelopes after I get home from Monterey, and will be wearing dry-clean-onlies and second-string fashions (the closet bench-warmers, things that don't quite fit or which aren't quite in season yet) tomorrow and in the near future, I guess it's all been entirely worthwhile.

It's nice to enjoy being alone.

Thursday, September 19, 2002


It's so good to be back on the old warhorse, shopping! Though I can just barely afford it, having spent most of my paycheck at the endodontist's this week, I went to Ross yesterday and plunked down a healthy handful of ducats for three evening dresses (black full length jersey with empire waist and white rhinestone trim, a black velvet cocktail-length with scatter-beaded sheer bodice, and a rose-patterned silver-grey fused-sequined shift), a white organdy wrap-around evening blouse, a black velvet skirt, and a cream evening scarf with opalescent pailleted fringe... all absolutely gorgeous, of course (I'm not allowed to own ugly drag). Two of the dresses were specifically purchased for the upcoming 70s-themed Galaxy Girls show on September 29th (that's Sunday-after-this).

I don't remember much of the 70s, most of the music is unperformable (elegance and diction were not well-thought-of by the popular musicians of that decade... even the great Ella went all common with Beatles covers and twenty-minute-long scats), and aside from the tight pants and long hair on boys, I don't think much of the fashions of the day. I have no idea what numbers I'm going to perform, though I am toying with something from A Chorus Line and am trying to think of songs that I liked when I was a wee tot in ghastly vast collars and round-toed shoes. But it's quite a load off to have my gowns settled, at least.

I've neglected to mention the glad news of this week: my Depression appears to have left me. It's like a weight was removed from my heart, and replaced with a cheerful little song. Though life is not all peaches and roses yet (root canals, insomnia, and difficulties coping at work), I nevertheless feel light and airy and capable of dealing with the slings and arrows of outrageous Fortune. I'll be having my manic phase shortly, about halfway between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice, and then my next depression halfway between the Solstice and the Vernal Equinox (if I have the pattern figured out correctly, and I think I do). So, until then, a big smoochy "Thanks" to everyone who held my hand and refrained from beating me senseless during the dark days.

Another little thing I forgot to mention earlier is that I have fixed the link on my Wish List button so that it actually goes to my Amazon wishlist. Not that I'm dropping any hints that I want people to buy me any of the goodies therein (though I wouldn't mind if you did)... rather, I always like to see people's wish-lists so that I can comprehend a little more about them... what people read and listen to and want to buy gives one a good idea of what kind of person one is dealing with. It's kind of like a "favorites" list (I have one of those too... feel free to peruse it)... you get to know a little something about people when you know what their favorite ice creams are, what colors they prefer, what books were instrumental in their lives. And, as far as I'm concerned, the point of all this blogging is to further and better comprehend my fellow humans.

So anyway, that's all I have to say today. I am very hungry, I didn't get much sleep last night (last time I looked at the clock, it was a quarter to three; when I did get to sleep, I dreamed about not being able to sleep; and then I woke up just before my alarm went off at 8), and I am girding my loins in preparation for the Executive Council meeting this afternoon (where one generally loses faith in the teaching profession, democracy, and the human race). So I guess I'd better get cracking.

And speaking of cracks...

Tuesday, September 17, 2002


So, I just had a root canal. If the discussion of dental work makes you cringe (as it does me), then skip this paragraph, please. It was very quick, which was nice, but perhaps a little too quick... I felt the whole thing, since the novocaine did little but muffle the sensation in my teeth. The endodontist decided, I guess, that it was easier to just do it quickly and get it over, rather than go through all the trouble of numbing me up some more. It never ceases to amaze me, how much pain a person can experience and still live. But at least when I go back to him for the finalization of the operation, he will understand what I mean when I say I am resistant to novocaine... he made my next appointment an hour early so he can get me good and numb, in stages and with lidocaine standing by just in case, before he whittles my tooth away to make room for the crown.

Well, $715 and two hours later, I am back at the office because I do actually feel fine. I usually feel pretty groggy after seeing the dentist, probably because of the amounts of novocaine they have to use, but today I just feel fine. So I figured I'd come back to the computer and have a lovely chat with you-all.

I have found a lot of websites lately that are devoted to male models... and they're just jam-packed with yummy men! Some even have interviews with said men, wherein the twenty-year-old pretty-boys discourse on the nature of fame and beauty and tell us all about how they were discovered and what they eat for lunch. It's just riveting, I have to tell you.

You can ogle, too... here and here.

I am finding myself rather disturbed, for some reason, by accounts of a murder case in Florida that caught my attention. I was logging in to AOL one morning (as I do every morning when I come into the office) and saw a thumbnail picture of an absolutely gorgeous little boy... wondering what it was all about, I clicked on the little picture and waited an interminable amount of time (AOL on a dial-up line runs slower than anything I've ever seen), and read the account. Then this morning, as I was flipping through the current issue of People magazine, I encountered the same picture of the same beautiful little boy and a longer article describing the whole thing, accompanied by pictures of the other people involved.

You can read about it here, here, and here.

I'm not sure why I find it so disturbing... partly amazed that such unattractive parents could manage to sire two children of such startling beauty; partly dismayed that these two beautiful creatures will be spending the rest of their youths, and probably a goodly portion of their adulthoods, in prison; partly frightened that such apparently remorseless violence lurks behind such pretty facades; disturbed to feel such sympathy with the boys, as well as with the pedophile who abused them. The whole thing leaves a bitter taste in my mouth and a sour feeling in my stomach. This is why I avoid the news.

And, to round myself out, I have discovered that you can buy old Abercrombie & Fitch catalogs at eBay. I swear, someday I'm going to want something that eBay doesn't have, and the world as I know it will come to an end. But in the meantime, I found this A&F Models website which is helping me decide which catalogs I want to bid on first. God bless the queen who decided to take the dullest of ancient WASP clothiers and turn them into a sex-symbol factory for the new millenium! And God bless Bruce Weber for knowing how. And God bless God for making so many beautiful people for me to ogle. Like this one:

Sunday, September 15, 2002

The Friend Ship

Here's another one of those things that pops into my head when I've been depressed: the Nature of Friendship. Partly it is because of the muffling of positive emotions that is a part of depression (contrasted with the amplification of positive emotions that occurs during the manic phases and I am giddily happy and absolutely love everyone); partly it is because a symptom of depression is a tendency to isolate oneself away from one's friends; and partly because with this isolation and filtering of positive emotions, I intellectualize everything, and then spend a lot of time alone thinking about it.

In the present case, it was the advent of a very old and long-distant friend, overlaid with interactions with other friends, which brought up a lot of questions in my mind about the nature of friendship in general and the nature of my particular relationships with my own friends.

As I posted here before, I've known Fred a very long time, about the same amount of time as I've known Caroline, and we were very close during those years between high-school and college, when he moved away first to Monterey (a mere two-hour drive, but as neither of us had cars, it might as well have been on the dark side of the Moon) and then to Washington DC and Manassas VA (all the way across the country). We had a lot of history together, a plethora of code-words and in-jokes and common experience, certain tastes in common and certain preferences we could learn about from each other.

But then, I don't remember my own history very clearly anymore. I drank a lot, and that tends to blur one's memories a bit... and I have lately managed to overcome my natural alcoholic's habit of counting over my regrets at night, reliving moments that I might have done differently, planning out how I would or should have done them differently, thinking about how my life would now be so much different and better if I had done them differently... and when one stops obsessing about the past, one tends to not remember it so clearly — just as one seldom remembers telephone numbers that one seldom calls, and seldom remembers routes to places one seldom visits.

So when I found myself encountering Fred the Person after several years of living with Fred the (increasingly nebulous) Memory, sitting in the same room with him and having that "I-don't-know-what-do-you-want-to-do" conversation, instead of catching up on personal trivia over long-distance telephone calls, I found myself at something of a loss... as I often do with family members, I found myself wondering if I would want to know Fred socially, if I had just met him.

For one thing, Fred is the only really close male friend I've ever had to whom I was not sexually attracted (and I should set the definition before I go any further: I have a great many Acquaintances, people I know slightly, mostly just a name and a few pieces of trivia; a fair number of Friends, people I like a lot and with whom I have spent a certain amount of quality time, people I would talk to on the phone or email or have over for dinner or take to the movies, etc.; and a small handful of Close Friends, people who know a lot about me and with whom I spend a great deal of time, and generally whose phone numbers I have memorized). All of my other close male friendships were born of a crush on my part that was not reciprocated or which didn't go anywhere... and though the romantic intentions usually die off after a while, there is still a physical attraction that doesn't need to be questioned — one simply likes to be around people one finds attractive.

And then, there are simple differences of politics... though we are both more-or-less Liberal, he is very pro-Military and I am a rabid Pacifist, and he tends toward a brand of Patriotism that I prefer to call Nationalist Bigotry (so he and Grandmother had some lovely long conversations while he was staying with us, conversations that sometimes caused me to leave the room).

On a more personal level, Fred is also one of the only people I know who still smokes, and he drinks as well... not alcoholically, mind you (at least not around me), but after seven years of a mostly-AA social life, it's a little jarring to smell beer on someone's breath. He tends to be very negative, finding fault in things instead of looking for the good; he has no compunction about causing a scene if he feels he has been slighted by a stranger (I remember him once throwing an empty Calistoga bottle at a car that hadn't stopped for him in the crosswalk); he has strange little physical habits that I find slightly irksome, ways of holding his hands or his head that strike me as slightly insectile and bizarre; and he has a tendency to make things more complicated than they need be, ignoring obvious solutions and apparently relishing the drama of failure.

On the other hand... well, right this minute I can't think why I like him; and just reading the above, he doesn't seem a very nice person. And yet he is a nice person, and I do like him. And he seems to like me, which is usually a pretty good basis for friendship. It's weird and I can't put my finger on it... with most of my friends, I can come up with a list, be it ever so short or convincingly long, emotionally complex or simply superficial, of good qualities with which I can account for our friendship. But with Fred, I can't put my finger on one. I partially attribute this inability to my depression (perhaps if he had visited during a manic period, this post would be a panegyric to his wonders and glories), but mostly attribute it to the fact that we do not spend very much time together anymore, and have been separated with only occasional visits and phone-calls and emails over the last ten years... but this strange distance I feel has bugged me nonetheless during his visit.

And when something bugs me, I blog about it. It always helps, even if only to get something off my chest. It's funny, I was never able to keep a journal or diary of any kind unless I had an implied audience... thought-process-journals or project diaries for classes and the like... and the act of journaling is wonderfully useful in working through one's mental knots.

So anyway, I was going to go on about some other friends about whom I am harboring a certain concern or worry or what-have-you, but I've suddenly decided to not do so. I'm feeling all lovely and purged now, so I think I'll take that feeling and use it to get some laundry done.

Friday, September 13, 2002

Why I Don't Remember the Past:

Yes, this is what a Queen looks like when she's just a little Princess. I find the top center picture particularly cringe-inducing... I had this notion that I wanted to part my hair in the middle, even though it naturally parts at the side... it was a fetish that I would indulge every few years until my hair started thinning on top. It took a lot of hair-spray to make that dreadful coif (these were the days before gel and mousse, y'know). The lower right is rather terrifying as well... Portrait of the Serial Killer as a Young Boy. And don't get me started on those vast and God-awful collars! No wonder I hate shirts with collars now... I was traumatized by 70s fashion!

My sister, bless her little black heart, sent me this thumbnail of my old school pictures yesterday, and I have been looking at them intermittently since then, shuddering with terror and amusement. She's sending a larger and clearer scan later, which I will of course post in my Gallery Page. Much as I complain about my old goofiness, I find these pictures rather enchanting. It's such a thrill to have proof that I did, once upon a time, have really pretty skin.

Suzie also sent me, by the bye, a picture of herself and her children... I didn't put her in the Cast to the left because I don't have a good single picture of her. But to rectify the matter somewhat, here we go:

That is of course Suzie in the center, with my nephew Matthew on the left and my niece Ariel on the right. This was taken a couple of years ago, I think... the kids are now 16 and almost-12, respectively.

So, what do you think... do I look like my sister? Does she look like me? When we were little, we looked almost exactly alike (a phenomenon heightened by Mother's dressing us alike and pretending we were twins). But somewhere in our teens, we began to resemble our parents more... Suzie looked a lot like Daddy, where I picked up more of Mother's features. And our surface personalities are so different that most people who know the both of us never ever guessed we were related. But as I get older, we are beginning to resemble each-other more... or, rather, I am more closely resembling my father, who Suzie also resembles. People who know us both separately are often surprised to discover that we are related (we are very different, still, in mannerisms and speech and style, the things most people notice first), but are quick to note the resemblances once we are seen together. Then we get to shock them with the news that I am eighteen months older than she is. There's something about being a mother of two that makes you seem older, somehow, than a drag-queen with a tray full of moisturizers and alpha-hydroxy products on her dressing table.

Sometimes as I write in this blog, I am seized by this dreadful feeling that I am being dull. I am feeling that right now, in fact... I worry that I am boring you. It happened yesterday, so I turned my original and rather dull post into a surrealist panegyric to Charlene and geography. Today, though, I will simply shut up. So here's your Daily Beefcake.

Now go read somebody more interesting... I recommend any of the lovely folks in the right-hand column.

Thursday, September 12, 2002

Have You Ever Been to Me?

I know I've never been there. I haven't been to Maine, either (which, according to the US Post Office, is ME). I've been to HI and WA and BC and TX and MT and NJ and DC and Disneyland, but that's about it. I haven't been to any of the glamorous places Charlene sings about in her bizarre little One-Hit-Wonder ballad that was brought back to life in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert... I've never been to Nice, nor the isles of Greece (or even the mainland, for that matter), nor have I sipped champagne on a yacht; not to put too fine a point on it, I've never even moved like Harlow in Monte Carlo, nor shown them what I've got. Well, she does sing about having been to California (not to mention Georgia, how glamorous is that?) ... but since I was born and raised and have always lived in California, I can't really be said to have been there. "Been" implies the opposite end of a round trip... been there and back. I am still being in California, and can therefore only leave or return.

"What has that got to do with anything, much less the price of tea in China?" you may be asking yourself. I know I am. What has this got to do with anything?

Nothing. Nothing at all. I reserve the right to be perfectly insensible and bizarre whenever I so choose. And today I choose to be insensible... though I have not yet taken entire advantage of the 'bizarre' clause of my contract. That will come later on, when I dress myself like a Berber rug-merchant's wife and dance the Watusi in the Embarcadero fountain on my way home.

Really, I'm just very tired, so I don't have much to say... yet I hate to go too long without saying anything. My flu is ended, but the malady lingers on; my teeth still hurt and must remain hurtful until next Tuesday when I visit the endodontist, at which point the pain will be transferred to my gums and whichever bones manage to get bruised during the inevitable novocaine/lidocaine mining operation; I'm feeling massively depressed, weepy and frustrated to the point where opening a vein in my throat sounds like a pleasant and amusing pastime (but so messy, so I don't think I shall); and my shirt is too warm for today's weather, which started off frigid but turned warm later on. But on the other hand, I got a really cute pair of pants and two shirts on sale at the GAP, and I just ordered another lovely Suzanne Somers necklace from eBay (my ordained Payday Luxury), and I can leave the office now... so things are getting better.

In the meantime, what color veil do you think a Berber rug-merchant's wife would wear for Summer? And I wonder how deep the water around the Embarcadero fountain really is?

Monday, September 9, 2002

What a Weekend!

As I often point out to anyone who will listen, one of the many bizarre elements in my life is the phenomenon of having to go to work in order to get any rest. My weekends and vacations are often overpacked with incident and activity, to such an extent that it is a sort of relief to come into the office for a little peace and quiet and head-space. This last weekend was one such... I am utterly exhausted and ever-so-grateful for a day in the office to cool my heels!

On Friday, my good and long-time friend, Fred, arrived from Virginia for a week's visit. Here is a rather elderly photograph of the two of us together, Christmastime 1989 (I think... my memory for dates is less than exact).

Fred looks almost exactly the same — a little more manly, with a Marine's buzz-cut and a little more cheekbone (as if he needs it). I look entirely different, of course, older and fatter and better-accessorized.

So anyway, I was scheduled to have dinner with Caroline at her new place, and since Caroline and Fred are also old friends, we turned it into a threesome and had a lovely time, first chatting and catching up over Costco lasagne in Caroline's tiny but adorable new apartment, then later over coffee and dessert and a leisurely walk in the Rockridge District. Fred kept pointing out what used to be in various places along the way, businesses and buildings that we'd not really thought about in a long time... but Fred hasn't been here in eight years, and hasn't lived here in ten, so his mental map was frozen in time where my and Caroline's maps have evolved slowly over the years. Fred missed restaurants and stores that Caroline and I had completely forgotten about, and remarked with surprise upon places and things that had been around long enough for us to just take them for granted.

So we got finished around midnight, and I went home while Fred stayed the night with Caroline for a bit of a slumber-party. But tired as I was, I spent a couple or three hours playing with my Sims... Vince told me about this great cheat code where you can give your Sim families unlimited monetary resource, and it has added a great deal of enjoyment to the game for me — there's nothing like money's-no-object spending, even in simulated cyberreality, to bring a great big smile to my face.

After such fun and excitement, I slept poorly, but had fabulously vivid dreams instead. One of the last dreams concerned the unexpected arrival of another old friend, Jason... a concerned/anxious kind of dream, brought on no doubt by last night's late-Eighties/early-Nineties reminiscenses. But to make the whole thing very odd, Grandmother woke me up to tell me that Jason was on the phone... and was that ever a shocker! But it was a different Jason altogether, so no ESP proof for me.

So after I dragged myself out of bed and played some more with my suddenly affluent Sims, Fred and Caroline came by and we went out for a brunch/coffee kind of thing on Piedmont Avenue before Caroline had to go to work. Then, afterward, Fred and I hung out for a while and then met his Mom (Nabuko) after work in Berkeley. I haven't seen Fred's mom in ages and ages, and of course she looked exactly the same as I remembered, too. Just like old times, with Nabuko talking to Fred in Japanese and Fred answering in English and me feeling like I missed the subtitles.

We went to dinner at this little tiny Japanese restaurant at the bottom of Solano Avenue, right next to the Albany Theatre. Nabuko is a regular customer there, so we had great service and ringside sushi-watching seats — also on view was the television, which couldn't be seen from anywhere else in the restaurant and which was tuned in to the World Open tennis tournament's Women's Final, starring Venus and Serena Williams (not to mention the ceremonial opening production number featuring HRH the Queen of Soul, Miss Aretha Franklin). I don't understand tennis very well, but the match was rather exciting to watch... especially those replay shots seen from the perspective of the ball. I will forever have this terrifying image of Serena Williams coming at me like some awesome African Valkyrie.

Afterward, we met up with Shiloh and Zack, who had just washed up from a busy day of painting their apartment (I didn't care for the color, a sort of medium goldenrod, but then I don't have to live there). We went out to the Castro for dessert and a general look-around, considered going to the Stud for Sugar but were dissuaded by the cover-charge and late hours, then came back across the Bay and went to the White Horse. The music was great, there were plenty of people to ogle at, and I even ran into quite a few people I know... and I really enjoyed the dancing, though I didn't actually get up and dance myself (I seldom ever do... it's so much work, and I know there's some evil queen just like me, sitting on the sidelines and criticizing every false move).

So anyway, once I got home (with Fred, this time... he's staying with us for the rest of the week), the Call of the Sims came to me again, and so I didn't get in bed until after 3am. Then I got up at 11 on Sunday, and Caroline came over, and we had donuts and coffee and another afternoon of chitchat and whatnot. Then Fred and I went out shopping, in search of some Indian sauce-packet that he used to always get here but hasn't been able to find back East. We didn't find it, but we had a good time looking. Then we got some fried chicken and pie from Merritt, and came home to suck down grease while watching movies until late in the night.

And so now here I am at the office, working on two projects at once while answering the phones, but at the same time rolling in silence, resting my feet — and, yes, playing with my Sims. Fred is out in the City exploring and catching up with a couple of other old friends, and so I figure I'll probably go out there myself this evening. We shall see. Fred's playing everything by ear, he has things he wants to do but no itenerary... and since I'm not much of a planner, that's fine with me.

Though being with Fred has brought up a lot of ideas and concepts, deep thoughts about my past and the nature of friendship, I don't really have an analysis of the feelings and observations garnered over the weekend — that will probably come later when Fred's gone home and I have some bored-time in which to think. But at any rate I'm having a great time. It's such fun seeing old friends!

Thursday, September 5, 2002


This topic has come up in several different ways in the last week, so I guess that means I really have to write about it, to explore my feelings and the indications of what God/Fate might be trying to tell me by placing this particular theme in my path on so many occasions.

The first time it popped up was when I was reading other blogs and things, in which people have mentioned various dreams and ambitions that they harbor, realistic or otherwise. In many of the 100 Things about 100 Bloggers lists, I encountered several statements of "I want to..." or "I dream of someday..." or "I one day hope to..." — and there were no such statements in my list. It occurred to me that perhaps one of the things that is wrong with me right now is that I have no dreams: there is nothing that I specifically want to do in the future, nothing particular at which to aim. I began to wonder if that is the genesis of this listless, floaty feeling I've had for the last year... it seems that not only do I seldom think about the future, I am in a deeper sense completely futureless.

Earlier this week, when I was talking to Fred on the phone, I was laughing about a mutual acquaintance of ours (whom we did not like) who had once puffed himself up with big plans to be a great computer programmer and software mogul... the laugh stemming from the fact that he appears to still live in his mother's house (which is why I still see him every now and again, since his mother lives near my Grandmother) and that the world is filled with poor computer programmers. From there we talked about all the high-falutin' dreams that people had when we were all young together, and how drearily those dreams failed to come to pass. There was a boy who was going to be a great couture fashion designer, and when last heard from he worked for Levi Strauss, fine-tuning and reinventing Dockers. There was one who intended to be a great stage actress, and who is now a mother of two and runs an unlicensed daycare center out of her home. And there was Fred himself (though I didn't mention this during the conversation), who had intended to become a multilingual interpreter, visiting countries all over the world and living a generally glamorous life... and he works for a cell-phone company in Manassas VA.

But I didn't really have those rich-and-famous glamorous dreams, myself... my only desire was to be comfortable and free... and I've already pretty much achieved that (though I could certainly do with more money, and rather more independence). I had some pipe-dream fantasies in my youth, but I never really tried to do anything about them. It all seemed to be so much work. I guess that was my only real ambition: to be a dilettante and not have to work very hard.

Then this theme came again when I was watching a movie on TV, which was set in college and had a few interesting discussions of Future Plans and Career Ambitions; one of the characters was a Latin major, and people were always asking her "and what do you plan to do with that?" She didn't really have an answer, and that was one of the things that was bothering her... eventually she was talking to an older woman who asked her that question, and when the girl replied that she didn't know, the woman told her not to worry about it... she herself had taken a degree in Victorian Feminist Literature, but now owned her own advertising agency (or some such). I thought that was rather funny, both the repetition of that painful and almost pointless question of "what are you going to do with that (apparently useless) degree?" and the answer that your college major seldom has anything to do with what you end up doing in your later life.

Then, this morning, Grandmother tackled me on the subject of furthering my education... I was talking about how I had run around to all the campuses delivering flyers yesterday morning, and how much nicer it is to be on campus in the morning when there are students all over the place, rather than in the afternoons when I usually deliver fliers and the campuses are fairly dead. She used that to tie into my former enjoyment of being a student; then she pulled in my fascination with houses and architecture and decoration, and combined the topics to ask me to think about what it is that I want to do with my life — and to suggest Architecture or Real Estate as possible careers for me. In her usual manner, she launched this very sticky frame of conversation just as I was leaving the house, so I had to cut her off in the middle and head to the office, but I have been thinking about it ever since.

So I've been thinking about it, and trying to figure out how I see myself in ten years, or what talents and fascinations I have that might be translated into a career, and I come up pretty blank. I mean, more than one person has mentioned that my love of domestic architecture and my ability to find hidden charms in abused homes would certainly suggest a career in real estate, but there's something about "sales" that makes me shudder... much in the way an 18th-century aristocrat might shudder at the suggestion that he involve himself in one of the trades. Architecture is simply out of the question, it's far too nuts-and-bolts to hold my attention for very long... the amount of math involved would, all by itself, unsuit me for such a career.

Then of course, there is my writing, but I don't really see how I could use that to much advantage as a career... I mean, there are millions of people with good writing skills. As a novelist I am too non-mainstream to make a career of it, I am too floridly verbose and disinterested in facts to do anything with journalism, and I have no idea how to go about finding work with a magazine or whatever where I could write articles or criticize things. And then there're my drag skills, but I know I haven't the energy or the drive to make a career of that. I have a certain talent for interior design, but there again one needs a lot of drive and a lot of luck, not to mention a mind for nuts-and-bolts detail which I lack; I also have a certain talent with clothes, but the same shortcomings apply there, too... not to mention the shortage of dressing/designing/personal-shopping jobs in Northern California. I really don't see what I could do, much less what I want to do.

And it's not entirely true that I had no ambitions in my youth... rather, I relinquished my dreams at the first sign of resistance. I wanted to be a fashion designer, I also wanted to be an interior decorator. So I took classes to learn about these things, pattern drafting and dressmaking and color-theory and what-have-you, and discovered pretty quickly that I was a mere dabbler with no practical talent... I was fond of clothes and of decoration, but I only had taste and no technical ability, and I didn't want to do the things required to attain those upper brackets — the education, the risks, the competition, the push and drive, the plain old hard work — and so I simply didn't dream those dreams anymore.

When I started back to school, it was not with any particular goal in mind, it was just something to better myself and make myself more suited to live in the world. The process of Learning came very easily to me, and I really did enjoy being a student. While I was there, I developed my love of Academia, and so decided on a career therein... and that, no matter which way you slice it, means Teaching. So, inspired by my interest in literature and the English language, encouraged by enjoyable and sometimes successful remedial English tutoring, and with a desire to make up my mind about a career of some sort, I focused on English Literature as a major and planned to become a college English instructor, most likely in a Community College, though I might consider high-school or four-year colleges as well.

Well, unfortunately, I burned out on Education by the time I managed my Bachelor's degree, and so I had to take a break before tackling my Masters and Doctorate. I got a job at a teacher's union, and that cured me forever of the desire to teach as a career.

Aside from the generally shoddy treatment that teachers receive from their employers and their students, and aside from the sheer level of competition and over-population of people who want to teach, there were certain facets of teaching that had never occurred to me until I started hanging around with a lot of teachers: aside from the Public Speaking aspect and the Relating to Young People problem, the foremost turn-off for me was the difficulty of Repetition. I hate repeating myself, and teaching classes involves a great deal of that particular phenomenon... not only do you have to teach pretty much the same thing over and over every semester, year after year, but you have to answer the same stupid questions and read all the similarly poorly-written papers and make the same comments in the same margins over and over again. I don't think I could take much of that. And so I relinquished that dream as well... though teaching wasn't really a dream so much as an "intention for lack of anything more obvious" at which one might aim.

So here I am with a job that I rather like, but Admin Assistant isn't generally considered as a "career" with much future, and certainly isn't one of the glamorous "professions." I would like to have a better job, something that paid more and had more diversity of tasks, something in a company that had more opportunities of advancement. But really, I would still rather not have to work at all.

So here's the question I ask myself: if money were not an issue, if I didn't have to work, what would I do with myself? What passion do I think would motivate me to get up in the morning, what would I do with my time to make my life worthwhile? And nothing comes to me. I know I would continue to read, to write, to watch films, to spend time with friends and family and to find places to donate my time where I think it would do the most good to my fellow man. But none of those things transfer into a paying career. Nobody is going to pay me to read books or watch television or write a blog or self-indulgent novels or lay around in my jammies and entertain my friends.

The way I see it, I can make a career of Admin Assistance... not at my current job, certainly, but there are lots of other places. Sure it's not a glamorous high-powered kind of deal, and it doesn't pay the big bucks — but it's something I'm good at, it's steady work, and it doesn't require me to give up much of my life outside of my regular working hours. I don't really need a lot of money, just enough to pay for my little entertainments and a place to live and food to eat and a car to drive. And it gives me plenty of time to indulge in my favorite activities: thinking, reading, writing, staring into space, and shopping. It doesn't require much ambition, which is something I really don't have.

But that taken care of, there still remains the question of Passion. I don't have a thing that gets me up in the morning, I don't have a dream to carry me through my trials, I don't have a thing that makes me light up inside. And that lack strikes me as a serious handicap in this pursuit of becoming a Complete Human Being. A dilettante's mentality towards the arts and professions is all well and good, but there must be a uniting Passion that makes all the dabblings worthwhile. And I can't think of anything I feel that strongly about, anything I especially and vehemently want to do with my life, no particular achievement or object that beckons to me from tomorrow.

Yes there is... I want to write a novel. Or two or three or seventy. And I don't give that enough of my time, and so I am beginning to worry that it's not really an ambition anymore, it's just one of those pipe-dreams that has shattered against the wall of Reality. And performing on stage makes me light up inside (or is it just the applause?) Maybe it is Performance that requires my focus, a theme around which I can build my life... not necessarily as a paying gig, but as a Thing That I Do. Writing, is, after all, a form of performance art. Jewelry makes me light up inside, can my calling be as a Collector? Or maybe photography is my true talent, something that I haven't even explored yet, though I love pictures of things.

Anyway, something to think about. What do you think?

Tuesday, September 3, 2002

Memory, all alone in the High School...

J'ai la Malaise, mes chers! I feel too utterly crappy today. I think I may have some bizarre low-grade flu... as usual, I'm not sick enough to stay in bed and recover, but only enough to make everyday life a trial and burden to me. I've been feeling fatigued for the last few days, and then there have been mild bouts of indigestion and headaches and nausea... now I have slight dizziness, serious nausea, late-night diarrhea, and my sinuses are playing holy hell with me... all this on top of and intensifying the fatigue, not to mention my August depression. Yuck.

But enough about my troubles...

My old friend Fred is coming out for a visit next week, and I'm very excited about it! Fred was my best friend just after high school (though we knew each other in high school, we didn't really become close until he came back from his AFS Junior year in Germany, by which time I was in a different school), and we were constant companions until he moved to Monterey for college... I guess that was about ten years ago. Then immediately after college, he moved first to France and then to DC, and now lives in Virginia. We've kept in touch, of course, and I visited him in Manassas when I went to the East Coast with Shiloh two summers ago. But he hasn't been out here in ages and ages, and I'm looking forward to seeing him again.

One of the things that often comes up when I talk to Fred is our mutual past, and the people and circumstances therein. Or, rather, what comes up more specifically is my own complete and utter inablility to recall much less dwell upon the past. I simply don't remember high school all that much, and I don't very clearly remember those few years afterward before I started back to college. They were important years, packed with incident and emotion and drama, but I don't remember them vividly anymore. For some reason, I've lost the ability to recall past events with any real clarity.

For example, one time Fred and I were talking about the old days at Oakland High and he mentioned a class that we had together... I was taken aback, having no memory of ever being in a class with him, yet he avers that he was in Mrs. Casey's Advanced English class with me Junior year. I remember Mrs. Casey's class, I remember where I sat, and I remember Andy Johnson who sat next to me (and who I thought was awfully cute) and Melvira Marthos and Alison Packer and a couple of other people who were in the class, but I have absolutely no recollection of Fred having been there. It was most strange. And actually, now that I think of it, wasn't Fred in Germany Junior year? Or maybe that was Senior year? I don't recall now... though now I think about it, I remember Mrs. Casey transferred to Skyline High, because some younger friends of mine who went there took her class (funny how one year's difference in age is so much more noticeable in high-school).

So I often hear people reminiscing about high school, and I wonder: what's there to reminsice about? I do distinctly remember not enjoying high school. High school was a place I went, merely because I had to, but I did not socialize there very much, and I certainly didn't take it at all seriously. I remember being one of forty-five European-descent people in a school of 3,300 students... in our yearbook there was a breakdown of the ethnic 'diversity' of the student body: 48% African-American, 48% Asian and Pacific-Islander, 2% Hispanic, 1% White and 1% Middle-Eastern (note that only "White" remained as a color, rather than a geographic ethnicity, something which I've always found offensive)... and I remember how outrageously other I felt being there.

I can scarcely recall any of my classes... I remember the ancient frump Ms. Mlinaric whose American History class I always cut because it was first thing in the morning and she was so intensely dull; I remember Madame Mahabir for French, just because her name was so un-French and she looked so typically Dutch, like a Rembrandt scullery-maid; I remember Mr. Garske in "Social Studies," a skinny middle-aged fashion disaster who I enjoyed challenging when he misread a basic fact in mythology or history that I happened to know; there was a Mr. Smith who looked like a greased orangutan and who taught a section of biology that I flunked because I refused to touch a dead earthworm for purposes of dissection, although I gleefully tore into the frog and the cow's eye (there was something about that worm that made my stomach quiver); I remember Mr. van Laningham because he made me read out Romeo in the tomb scene on my first day in his class, and because he taught the same subject to my father twenty-odd years previously and I was amazed that such a fossil could survive so long; and of course I remember Mrs. Casey because she dressed terribly well and wore heels, and because she had such an acerbic way of dealing with my snotty precociousness (when I turned in a book-report on Ethan Frome that lambasted Wharton's novel on the grounds that it was so ineffably dreary that I couldn't stay awake long enough to actually read it, she returned my paper with a C, writing in the margin "an excellent book review, but I distinctly asked for a report, not a critique").

I remember the gym teachers with whom I worked in the gym office (in lieu of actually participating in physical education)... I don't remember their names, but they were stupid and strangely endearing, particularly one who looked exactly like Barney Rubble and who always asked if his toupee was on straight before he went out to his class. I must have had several other teachers, in a year and a half at Oakland High, but I can't for the life of me remember any of them... oh, Mr. Bornstein just popped into my head, he taught pre-Algebra (which I of course flunked) and I only remember him because there were these two especially unattractive Ukrainian refugee girls (this was long before Glasnost) in the class with whom he would speak Russian... and Mr. Therence who was not actually one of my teachers, he taught drama and was an unsubtly lecherous pederast who insisted on shaking hands with all the white boys (all seven of us), and his handshakes were limp and lingering and somehow nasty.

And of course, there were many students who I knew, sort of, but I don't really recall many of them. I remember Ricky Reyes, who was unspeakably beautiful and who wore skin-tight parachute pants (which were jeans made of very thin shiny nylon, not to be confused with the vast parachute-like pantaloons later popularized by MC Hammer). I saw him last summer, he's dating a girl I used to know well and whose sister I knew a little later... he's still kind of cute, but no longer devastating. I remember Tom Lipping who had white-blond hair and an overbite, who was the first attractive young male I'd ever seen naked in person (he was on the football team, and I was in the gym office afternoons and so got to watch the showers occasionally...and he was rather well-hung, too, but a total asshole as one might expect from a second-string quarterback). I remember David Silverstein, who also worked in the gym office because of some medical excuse, who always made a big deal of his Jewishness and his name (it's pronounced Silver-styne, like Franken-styne, not Silver-steeeeen...I didn't have the heart to tell him, à la Gene Wilder, that Franken-styne is an anglicization of the German name, which would have been pronounced Frahnken-shteen) and who was a terrible snob about classical music ("You can't like Strauss and Mozart at the same time," he pontificated), and who intended to go to an Ivy League university, stating vehemently that he wouldn't be caught dead attending UC Berkeley... and really the only reason I remember him so clearly is because I saw him on the campus of UC Berkeley a couple of years later and laughed my ass off.

Of course I remember Caroline and Fred and Mary Jane being there. They were my only friends on campus, as most of my friends from Junior High had gone to either Skyline or Bishop O'Dowd. And there were a number of friendly acquaintances, friends-of-friends like Carl and Vera and Tyrone, and classmates or lab partners like Andy and Corby and Melvira, and then people I simply knew to wave at, none of whom I really can remember now. And then I transferred schools in the middle of Junior year, moving to an arts-oriented magnet school that was considerably more to my taste, socially, though the academic program sucked hardcore (if, indeed, the now-defunct Renaissance Arts School could be said to have had an academic program). My memory of my social and family life in those years is rather clearer than my memory of school, but not by much. It was all so terribly long ago.

Well, I see that I remember more than I thought I would before I started down this little Memory Lane. And I suppose that's the key to memory... you have to think about the past more often to be able to recall it. And for the last couple of years, I've spent very little time thinking about the past... I'm too busy thinking about the present. Maybe someday I'll learn how to think about both. Or, just for a change, I might even think about the future! Could this be the new me? Something with an ambition? Dommage!

So anyway... here's a little something that reminds me of what the High School Shower should have looked like, in my opinion... at least on the days I was on locker duty: