Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Gratuitous New Year's Eve Post

So it's the last day of 2002 (unless there's some mathematical crapola about how it's not really the last day of the year because the Romans started the year in March and the Hebrews in September and so on and so forth... after the whole 'False Millenium' arguments, I just don't trust the calendar anymore)... and many of my daily reads have indulged in end-of-year wrap-ups. Well, I've already done that, when this here blog ended its first year and when I ended my own 35th year (or fifth Seventh Year, whichever way you want to look at it). I have been summing up the year all month long.

But I have noticed one thing which wasn't written in any of the previous reminiscences (largely because I hadn't noticed it until yesterday): this was The Year of Red. Unbeknownst to me, red has become my favorite color. I bought seven red sweaters this year, a red scarf, three red evening gowns, a red CD player, red sneakers, so on and so forth and et cetera, and wrote about it in a red-backgrounded blog. Unless something drastic happens soon, I think that Red will be my first official favorite color (I'd never been able to make up my mind before, always torn between certain shades of blue, some shades of green, all shades of purple).

So since I am not reminiscing on New Year's Eve, I should perhaps be looking forward. I don't ordinarily make New Year's Resolutions, since they involve expectations — and I shun, eschew, and otherwise abominate Expectations as much and as often as I can. Expectations are the death of beauty... you can etch that one on my tombstone (if I have a tombstone, which I do not expect I shall).

However, there is a fine line between Expectations and Dreams... and it is perhaps time for me to discover that line. I realized at one point in this last year that, along with my Expectations, I have jettisoned my Dreams. I am dreamless! There is nothing that I am working towards, nothing that I close my eyes and fantasize about when sitting in my car or staring at the ceiling. I have no crushes, no aspirations, no windmills to tilt at or castles in the air. I mean, I would like to find a really nice pair of dress-shoes that go with all of my suits and are comfortable as well; I desire to learn how to write short, impactive, and deliciously economic prose; I sometimes consider learning to tap-dance; I want to become Miss Gay Marin. But none of these really qualifies as A Dream, because I don't really, deeply, gut-wrenchingly care about these things (well, maybe the Miss Gay Marin part, though that's more an obsession than an aspiration).

So that's my New Year's Resolution: I shall dream.

While I'm at it, I will see to the following list of Twelve Goals which I would like (but do not expect) to reach this year:

    1) Do something about my sexual hang-ups... therapy, dating, bath-house, whatever. I don't have to get laid this year, I just need to be proactive about becoming a sexual being with other sexual beings.

    2) Finish my formal 12 Steps. I am currently waiting for my life to quiet down a little so I can do the rather contemplative 8th Step, but I know I will resist the foot-work 9th Step. But I want to finish this year. I really, really do (that reminds me, being on vacation I forgot what day of the week is currently up, and that I forgot to call my sponsor yesterday).

    3) Learn to write short, economic sentences. I always say that you can't break the rules until you've learned them, and while I have no intention of actually abandoning my beloved purple prose, I would like to have a better feeling for other styles informing my style of choice.

    4) Learn something physical... maybe tap-dancing, maybe aerobics, maybe horseback riding. But teach my body to do something unaccustomed.

    5) Win the Miss Gay Marin Pageant, no matter who I have to kill. I WILL HAVE THAT TIARA!

    6) Fall in love with someone.

    7) Buy more earrings (I have so many bracelets, but almost no good earrings).

    8) Find a new job.

    9) Start (and maybe even finish) my novel about Danny Vandervere and how he becomes friends with Baron Valerien de Seguemont and falls in love with Marque Willard-Wilkes while simultaneously extricating himself from a circumstantially-evidenced accusation of murder. I can't be a novelist until I finish at least a first draft of one novel.

    10) Get rid of this damned gut, by hook or by crook. I am not entirely averse to liposuction, though I don't think I'll be able to afford it... and I don't want a six-pack or anything like that, I just want to regain an uninterrupted view of my own cock.

    11) Clean my room at least once.

    12) Be nicer to Grandmother.

So having committed this list to the infinities of cyberspace, I will now completely ignore it until this time next year, when I will check on my progress.

Now I have to go and shower and shave and dress and try to make some order and sense of my day. I need to figure out how to do certain things in San Francisco and certain things in Oakland without driving across the bridge and looking for parking too many times. I need to decide if I'm really queen enough to wear that sequined necklace-shirt I bought on my birthday. I must remember to call Grandmother at midnight. And Jhames is on his way over right now! Must resist the urge to clean first! And must remember to finally ask him where he got the H.

See you in 2003!

Monday, December 30, 2002

Red Shoe Diary

(v. 2 - proofread and commented upon several hours later)
I'm wearing red shoes right now, along with blue jeans and a celadon/charcoal/periwinkle/white horizontal-striped thermal pullover, as well as the usual assortment of boxer-briefs and crew socks. I am going to have to put on a different shirt or something to tie into the shoes... can't just wear red shoes with any old thing. Or can you? (In point of fact, I remembered that the fleece scarf I bought at the Gap the other day is quite red and, with my new brown fleece jacket, pulled the whole outfit together).

I spent most of high-school wearing red shoes. In sophomore year, I had red jazz oxfords, in junior year, I had red Topsiders, and in senior year, I had red Vans (as well as the topsiders, the jazz oxfords, and a few other pairs of non-red shoes that I don't really remember - and why should I? - my feet reached their current size and stopped growing when I was fifteen). I also had a red book-bag, or rather a succession of red gym-bags in which I toted my books, which tied the shoes into whatever else I was wearing. I seem to remember that I usually wore tight jeans or pale neutral baggy double-pleated twill pants, a vintage blazer (grey or green tweed or blue or grey serge) with the cuffs rolled halfway up my forearm, a bright-color or pale-striped dress-shirt or polo-shirt with the collar turned up, and a vintage tie knotted an inch or so below the clavicle. By senior year I had added several brooches and amusingly witty buttons to the lapels of the jackets, and a multiplicity of jellie-bracelets to each wrist. My hair was similar to how it is now, except that there was a good deal more of it, it was thicker and all one color, and it evolved into an asymmetrical bob by the time I graduated (if I had my scanner here at home, I'd show you my Senior Portrait... it's a caution).

It was the 80s. I was young. Jon Cryer as "Duckie" in Pretty in Pink gave me a total boner. In retrospect, though I was wildly outré for the urban middle-class environment I occupied, I think I did a pretty good job of dressing myself on a tight budget.

Anyway, I have no idea why red shoes give one such a lift... and further, I don't know why I waited so long (seventeen years) to get another pair of red shoes. But I did get them, on impulse when I was shopping for something else, at the Bass Outlet in the Great Mall (it's really big, but not so great) in Milpitas. And then I didn't wear them until Christmas day, since Bass shoes have to be broken in and I wasn't sure I wanted to wear them at all. But now I am wearing them every day, and I might just wear them until they fall apart like the jazz-oxfords and the Topsiders did, way back when. I'll put on my red shoes and dance the blues with my little China doll, dancing in the street because it's modern love (Bowie was my other big crush in the 80s, along with Nick Rhodes).

Well, back to reality, I have to run and take the Grandmother down to San Jose and visit with cousins and whatnots. She's spending the night and can't quite get herself pulled together just now, so I have to help her pack her overnighter. She's doing fairly well, by the way... finding more bruises from where she fell, but they don't hurt, and though she has a black eye that would make a boxer proud, and her knees and elbows still ache a little, she feels pretty much usual. (I was joking to my cousin that now I'll never get Grandmother on a diet... she realized today just how much of her fall was muffled by her fat when she found a number of bruises on her more pronounced physical features. The way she fell, her knees took the most impact, and by the time her head reached the bathtub there was very little force in her momentum. The cut on her head was not from the tub, it was from her glasses, which were pushed into her face when she covered them with her hands. But any way you look at it, if it weren't for her extra avoirdupois, she could have broken a hip, some ribs, or every bone in her body when she fell. So God bless fried foods.)

So I have to dash, and won't be able to do my usual compulsive editing until later tonight... please forgive my typos and errors (though rereading I discover very few typos at all, and only one or two syntactical errors... maybe I should write in a big-ass hurry more often). Look at this instead (and by the way, read about the later part of my evening at other people's sites... I got to meet Jhames, Aaron, and Robbie when we convened at Max's Opera Cafe with Min Jung, Ernie, Michael, and Vince; it's always interesting to meet someone who you know rather intimately from their journals but have never spoken to or seen in person... people are often so unexpected, their spoken voices so different from their written voices, the details of hands and feet and napes just not what you were expecting from random webcam shots; I'm going to have to make more of a point of meeting other bloggers in person! It's fun!) :

Saturday, December 28, 2002

Thoughts on Thirty-fiveness

Hello, friends, and thanks for the Happy Birthday wishes! My birthday was indeed fairly festive, especially the shopping part. I bought myself five new evening gowns (an aqua-blue sheath with silvery shimmers that makes me think of a water-sprite, a red princess-satin sheath the color of sins and Christmas ribbons, a really interesting sheath of gold-spattered white net over a gold fused-sequin slip with gold beading around the bustline, an abbreviated ballgown of graphite taffeta with a very 50s split and draped circle-skirt that has to be seen to be believed, and a green velvet long-sleeved gown of fabulous and versatile simplicity) from the Jessica McClintock outlet; two turtleneck sweaters (one red, one heather-brown), a red fleece scarf, a pair of tan flannel pants, and three pairs of socks from the Gap; a sequined long-sleeve black t-shirt with a baroque diamond necklace silk-screened at the neck from All-American Boy (I saw it in the window and had to have it at any price... fortunately it was on sale and fairly affordable for high-rent boutique apparel); and four books (an Oscar Wilde compendium so I would have something to read at a salon to which I was invited later in the day, Edward Gorey's deliciously and Edwardianly absurd The Unstrung Harp, Patrick Dennis' Little Me with its hysterical photographs and high-camp tongue-in-cheek text, and David Sedaris' Me Talk Pretty One Day from which I did in fact read at the salon).

Then I went to my first "salon," a gathering of a group of friends who sit around and recite from favorite literature and read out segments of plays together. I knew most everyone there, so it was quite a comfortable environment for reading aloud. I had planned, however, to read one of my favorite pieces from The Collected Works of Saki (HH Munro), a scathingly queeny monologue called "Reginald on Christmas Presents" (which contains the immortal sentence: "And then there's always the aunt in the country who thinks 'a tie is always useful' and subsequently sends you a spotted horror that can only be worn in secret or the Tottenham Court Road.") But of course, in the usual Manners manner, I couldn't find my cherished hardbound copy of The Collected Works of Saki (HH Munro), neither in my room nor in any of the bookstores I visited yesterday in quest of that tome or anything like it. Saki is, in my opinion, the most undeservedly obscure short-storyist of the early 20th Century.

Instead I read the title story from Sedaris' genius work of humor, in which he details his first experiences trying to learn French while living in France. I was unprepared to read aloud, having not read that book since two summers ago when it came out, and had quite forgotten that much of that story relies on textual tricks for it's humor, words that the narrator couldn't undertand represented by a series of random letters that weren't pronounceable. But I muddled through and quite enjoyed it. I also joined in at the point where we were reading from Claire Booth Luce's The Women, reading the part of Mrs. Moorehead with (if I do say so myself) admirable aplomb. Everyone read something, and it was terribly fun... though much of the texts presented were rather more avant-garde than I would enjoy plowing through on my own, I did pick up a couple of titles that I'd like to look into someday (most memorably Geek Love and Chicken Poop for the Soul).

Since it was also (founding salon member) John's birthday, a cake was presented and the usual song sung. Most people at the gathering had known in advance that it was John's birthday, but few had known it was mine, so my birthday was treated as something of a fascinating surprise, as if I had contrived to have my birthday on this day as some sort of an artistic statement. I felt a little uncomfortable with the attention... I always feel a little awkward when people congratulate me or make much of something with which I had little to do. I mean, being born was not my idea. It simply happened to me, when my mother went off the pill in order to trap my father into marrying her. And while I can take some of the credit for having survived to the unremarkable age of 35, I don't see that as much of an accomplishment... and not nearly as much an accomplishment as buying five stunning evening gowns for less that two hundred dollars.

The night was still fairly young when I got in the car to head back across the Bay... my plan was to try and get hold of Jhames, who is visiting our fair shores and had asked me (or rather my voice-mail, I hadn't heard the phone ring when I was shopping in the Gap, the music was so loud... loud enough to drown out that Little Voice that tells you that you don't really need another Guamanian-sweatshop-produced turtleneck) to join him in having dinner in Oakland with Ernie and a few other bloggers. It struck me as typical of my life that Jhames, who I long to meet, would be in my home town the one day I was out in San Francisco and had plans! But I figured that, if they were having dinner at the Ethiopian restaurant on Shattuck and Alcatraz, that they might afterward repair to the nearby White Horse for dancing and local-perusing... so I was headed thither to see if I was right.

It was not to be, however. Just as I was rounding the corner to get on the freeway, Grandmother called my cell-phone and asked me to come home as soon as possible. She had caught her slipper-sock on a loose nail in the hall carpet and had spilled ass-over-teakettle into the bathroom, banging not only her knees and her elbows on the tile floor but also banging her head on the bathtub and cutting her brow with her glasses. She was calling from a supine position on her bedroom floor, whither she had painfully slithered and rolled (her knees hurt too much to even crawl, and it was impossible for her to get up) to reach the phone. My uncle was on his way, too, but I would be needed anyway and was well advised to make haste homeward.

When I arrived, my Uncle J was already there and had already gotten Grandmother into an upright position and was helping her put on warmer clothes for a trip to the emergency room while she clutched a bag of frozen peas to her bloodied browbone (Grandmother takes Plavix, a very strong blood-thinner, to prevent strokes and so was bleeding like a stuck pig). Her injuries were not obviously serious, but she was well-shaken... and when you bump your head on a bathtub with two hundred or so pounds of force behind you, you always go see a doctor. And so off we trundled to Kaiser Emergency, where we spent much of the rest of the night.

First we had to check in, which took almost an hour, then we had to go wait in a secondary waiting room (why I can't imagine, though we were grateful for the quiet and privacy), where we sat for another hour and a half before being ushered through the warren of cluttered white rooms to the Minor Injury Clinic. Once there (stationed next to the urine-smelling bathroom... I was not impressed with the cleanliness of the place), we waited for another hour or so before the rather sexy doctor (a young man of Indian extraction with one of those impossible-to-remember multisyllabic names and hot black eyes with silky black hair and warm nut-brown skin) came along and gave Grandmother some neurological tests and ordered a CT scan and a tetanus shot. Uncle J went home about then, confident that his mother was going to be OK and needing to get some sleep before having to work the next day. Then the orderly (a dead ringer for Taye Diggs) came and gave the shot, irrigated the wound, and talked a lot without actually saying anything. The Doctor came back and applied a glue bandage to Grandmother's cut and then disappeared again. Then Grandmother was hauled off to the CT scan, but they didn't let me come so I just sat in the cubicle and read some more David Sedaris. Then she was brought back and we waited another hour for the results. Then a new doctor or nurse (who can tell them apart?), a southern-type woman with far too much cheer and ebullience to be allowed around sick people, came along and discharged us since there was no evidence of concussion on the scan.

And so we got home at about 3:30 a.m., tired to the bone. But I wasn't too tired to try on my new dresses! They all fit perfectly, which one can never be too sure about in the stores (I never try things on in the stores, since I don't like to travel around in boy-garb with the necessary female foundation garments that one needs to make sure the dresses fit correctly — and I especially never try-on in women's-clothing-only stores that don't have men's dressing rooms, as women tend to get a little shirty when there's a man of any description, no matter how obviously gay, in their dressing room. Probably afraid I'd criticize their taste). And so into bed, where I stayed asleep for about ten hours. I just got up about half an hour ago and am currently enjoying my second cup of coffee of the "morning."

And as I sit, I try and think about what it means to be 35. It's such a grown-up-sounding number. I'm not so sure I can live up to it.

Still, I do feel a little more grown-up than once I did. This Christmas, and the year that preceded it, has given me more of a feeling of responsibility in my life. I don't feel, now, like a superannuated child mooching off his Grandmother so that he can frivolously spend all of his pennies on jewels and gowns. I feel, instead, like a grown man who has made a conscious decision to make a certain number of sacrifices and take advantage of a certain number of luxuries in order to take care of his Grandmother. I feel like a man in charge of his own destiny, rather than a boy who has been blown hither and thither by fickle Fate. I feel the weight of my own decisions, I feel the power of my own momentum through life. I feel that I make a difference in the world, and that the difference I make is more good than otherwise.

If that's what it feels like to be grown-up, then perhaps it isn't as bad as I'd thought it would be.

I was planning to start lying about my age this year. Rather than be 35, I was planning to become "thirtyish" and to stay there as long as I could get away with it. Of course, I have been planning to lie about my age ever since I turned 25, but I never seem to do it. Lying is always such a chore. But this time, I think I might actually like being the age that I am. Thirty-five. It has a sort of a ring of authority to it. Thirty-five. Hmmm. Thirty-five. Rolls off the tongue. Thirty-five. Thirty-five. Thirty-five. Thirty-five. Thirty-five. Thirty-five. Thirty-five. Thirty-five. Thirty-five. Thirty-five. Thirty-five.

Well, on to the next portion of my day. See if I can get hold of Jhames and make some plans. Write some more Holiday cards. Eat something. Maybe do something organizational with my room, which looks rather like Alladin's Cave (if Alladin had collected sweaters and books rather than gold and jewels). And drink some more coffee!


Thursday, December 26, 2002


Oh, my God, I can't believe I managed to pull it off. I'm worn to a nub, but I did it!

Imagine, if you will (and you will have to imagine, because Santa didn't bring me that digital camera I wanted), the living and dining rooms shown in the post below, but with boxes and magazines and newspapers and dust and crumbs and crap covering every horizontal surface. Imagine a bedroom full of thirty-two presents, all yet to be wrapped. Imagine an 83½-year-old arthritic woman whose bosom is so large she can no longer stand up straight, with a brand-new convection oven of such intimidating space-age elegance that she's actually afraid of it, and a menu of yams, cornbread stuffing, and four kinds of pie to make. Imagine that you have less than twenty-four hours (or rather sixteen waking hours) to alter all of the above to present a finished menu, clean and festively decorated house, and wrapped presents to a family that you aren't entirely sure you like enough to go through all of that effort.

That is what I had before me on Tuesday afternoon. It was daunting, but I decided that I would just do one thing and then the next thing until I was done, and not worry about doing it right or doing it on time or whether or not anyone appreciates it or even deserves it.

In fact, I had a bit of a psychological breakthrough while I was doing it. See, I've always had this seething resentment towards my family about Christmas... there are all these traditions that I don't care about one way or another; but they care about them, rather passionately; but I am the one that has to do all the work; and then they sometimes have the gall to criticize my falling short of tradition. I wrestle with this every Christmas, and I get very angry.

But suddenly it occurred to me that this anger, this sensetivity to criticism comes from within myself... that there must be some reason that comes from me which makes me so angry. I finally realized that I feel inadequate in these situations, I feel that I don't do enough, and that what I do do is insufficient... I mean, Grandmother used to do all this crap by herself! I feel that people sometimes treat me as if I'm mooching off of Grandmother because I sometimes feel I'm mooching off of Grandmother, not doing enough for her in exchange for all the care she takes of me (did I mention that Grandmother paid my dentist bill for Christmas, on top of the Geoffrey Beene wallet she bought me when we were out shopping in November and the very nice gift she had my sister pick up so I'd have something to open at Presents Time?)

And nobody really seriously criticizes me... in fact they usually pay me compliments. But my own inferiority complex makes me only remember the implied criticisms that things aren't always like they used to be, or imagined slights and made-up sneers... because that way I can resent them for undervaluing me instead of addressing myself for undervaluing me. Just call me Hector Projector (and pardon my rare Will & Grace-ism).

This realization lifted a great load from my shoulders. I felt that it didn't matter anymore whether or not I did it right, or if I did it wrong. Just doing it at all is my voluntary contribution to the celebration of the Manners Family Christmas. It added a bit of pep to my step when I decided to treat my work as a gift to my family instead of a chore performed on their behalf.

So back to the stuffing and Christmas Eve... cornbread stuffing is unbelievably complicated. First you have to bake a lot of cornbread, which had to be done before the new oven was installed, so I ended up doing it at my office. While I was there, I finally got my paycheck replaced, and went to the bank and cashed it; I also ran out to the grocery and drug stores to buy some last-minute dinner items and gifts. At first I went to my usual spot, Rockridge Center, where there is a Safeway and a Long's... but the place was so crowded that one had to endlessly circle the parking-lot waiting for someone to pull out just ahead of you so you could get a parking-space. Like that was going to happen. So I headed back towards the office and went through the tunnel into Alameda, where one finds Marina Square Village, with an Albertson's and another Long's... and a whole lot of parking spaces and plenty of elbow room in the stores. I got two more presents while I was out, too... and wrote the previous blog entry when I returned to the office to pick up the bread.

When I got home with the baked and cooled cornbread (et cetera), we broke it up into pieces with slices of white bread that had been sitting out all night, and let them dry a little more. Then I started dicing... a half-dozen boiled eggs, half a bunch of celery, an apple, a can of waterchestnuts, two yellow onions, and a few stalks of green onions. All of it has to be done by hand, because the food processor chops them too small and makes it sort of liquidy, which in turn makes the stuffing too smooth, like a cake. Then you get out the spices... sage, salt, pepper, garlic... and mix it all up lightly. Then you start pouring in the chicken-broth and shmooshing it with your (meticulously washed) hands, one can at a time until you get the right consistency. Then you taste, and add whatever is needed to make it super-special-yummy. Then you add several raw eggs to bind it, then dump it all (about two gallons) into the big cast-iron oval roasting pan, and shove it in the brand-new oven that had been installed during my absence.

This, incidentally, is a slightly modernized version of the cornbread stuffing that Grandmother's mother Jessie used to make (and one assumes was learned from her mother, Mamie). While we were mixing and tasting, Grandmother told me about watching her mother make it, and asking questions about what each ingredient was for, and how good it always tasted, and how amazing it was that her mother could cook such things without any machinery at all on a wood-burning stove.

Next, we had to figure out how our oven works... I find it interesting that the fewer buttons and knobs there are on an appliance, the more complicated it usually is. With our old oven, you turned the dial to the temperature, turned the buzzer to the time you want, and then turned the knob to "bake"... easy-breezy. With the new one, you have to push the Bake or the Convection Bake button (and these aren't real buttons, but rather circles drawn on the black-glass surface with pressure-sensors underneath), then push the up- and down-arrow buttons to adjust the temperature (five degrees at a time), then push the Timer button and then the up-arrow key to set the alarm (five seconds at a time... who the hell bakes anything for fifteen or twenty seconds?). And it sounds simpler than it really was, since we had no idea what we were doing, the instruction book was maddeningly vague, and we pretty much had to guess our way through it... with Grandmother perched on her walker, myself perched on the kitchen stool, staring at our reflections in the shiny new oven and reading the "instructions" while vainly trying to wipe our fingerprints off the "buttons" without actually pushing them.

Next came the deviled eggs, which I didn't have much input on... I just peeled the eggs and helped spoon the deviled yolks back in after Grandmother had done all the seasoning and whatever she does to make deviled eggs that taste so good.

Once that was finished, we worked on the yams... which are a lot easier, it's just a matter of boiling them and then cutting them and seasoning them and baking them. The hard part (for which I had to be present) is transferring the gigantic ten-gallon pot from the sink to the stove and back again... and since I was already there, I repeated my Thanksgiving Yam Magic with the ginger and orange-peel. Then we baked the apple pies, which Grandmother had made up several days ago and froze, along with the other pie-crusts. Then we went into the living room and started watching The Rat Race... I had only turned the TV on to give us something to look at besides the mess in the living room, but the movie turned out to be so funny that we watched the whole thing, thereby losing an hour and a half of possible work. I'd thought it would be stupid, a tired old premise filled with poor slapstick and Mr. Bean. But it had some truly delicious moments (and Breckin Meyer's gorgeous smile), and no swear-words or sex, so we both enjoyed it a lot.

Then I started hauling... the Christmas decoration boxes up to the attic, the boxes and bags of stuff we don't need (and the tools and utility-whatnots that Uncle J left behind when he installed the oven) down to the basement and garage. I put all of my books and magazines from the dining room into a box (okay, two boxes) and put them in my room, then put all of Grandmother's papers and clippings and junk into a box that I shoved under her desk.

By then it was after twelve, legally Christmas, and we had a decision to make: stay up and finish some more work, then be dog-tired all day tomorrow; or go to bed now, get up early, and work like donkeys to get everything done before people were expected to arrive at 3. We chose the latter, and went to bed.

So, come the morning we were up and caffeinating at 8 am, then we made pies. The crusts, which I consider the hardest part (I never can roll pie dough properly), had already been made and frozen, so all we had to do was brown them for the cream pies. Then we set to work making two separate but simultaneous custard bases, one for the chocolate pies and one for the banana pie and coconut pie. As usual, we got confused in the doubling of the recipe, and the bases seemed a little soupy... but hope springs eternal, and we were low on eggs and cornstarch, so we just braved it out.

Separating eggs is always a lot of fun, but the eggs we'd bought weren't quite right... the shells were membraneous and difficult to open, but the yolks were incredibly delicate and kept breaking. Once you've gotten yolk into the whites, it's fairly well useless for meringue, and without the full number of yolks, the custard wouldn't set properly... so each egg was treated as a precious commodity. Of course, we screwed up several and ended up wasting almost a half dozen.

Well, we got the pies into the shells eventually, and the meringue on top of them. The custard was soupy, the meringue was flat, and the crusts got a little overdone. But they tasted unbelievably fabulous, so it didn't really matter... it all ends up in the same place eventually, anyway.

Once that was done (it took almost two hours), I started speed-cleaning. First I picked up all the stray objects that littered the tables and chairs, then I dusted all the wooden surfaces, then I vaccuumed all the carpets and fabrics... first the living room, then the foyer, and then the dining room. It was like chasing a mess through the house, finally ending when I chucked whatever objects were left over into a bedroom or the basement. Once done with that, the clean rooms looked unnecessarily Spartan, so I finished decorating with the few ribbons and garlands that I'd left out from the decorations boxes for just such a purpose, laying tinsel garlands on various parts of the living room, putting up a tableau of white fairy-lights and electrified angels in the foyer, creating a sort of swoopy-curtain-effect on the big tile-mirror (which takes up a third of the wall not seen in the picture below), and then doing an arrangement of Christmas lights on the French windows. There went another four hours... but it all looked pretty amazing.

Next came the table-setting (which I started at about the time people were supposed to have already been there... but my family are always late to gatherings, so I was neither surprised nor upset... in fact I was kind of grateful that I'd have time to finish things before any people got in my way). Setting the table has been my job since I was twelve; for a few years I started resenting it because I always did it... but after once or twice allowing other people to set the table, and then having to reset it because the forks and knives were on the wrong sides and the glasses dropped down any old whichaway, I took the job back and started taking real pride in the task.

First I extended the table with three extra leaves, then sat down to figure out the math of how many places on each side and the ends (we had fifteen for dinner this year, twelve at the table and three children in the hall), and then the math to arrange the two sets-of-eight silver patterns and eight placemats symmetrically (I am a slave to symmetry). Then the centerpiece and the runner, trying to be elegant without taking up too much space either horizontally (we need that room for food) or vertically (so we can see each-other clearly, though why we'd want to...). Then the plates, our traditional blue floral platinum-rimmed Haviland that's always brought out for special occasions (and which we bought on installments from the supermarket many years ago), then my own lovely new matching gold-rimmed glasses (the location of which I'd forgotten since I bought them this last summer, and so spent a good deal of time searching the basement for them).

As soon as I'd completed that, my Aunt T and her daughter, Cousin K, and K's two little ones J and A, arrived with all of their gifts and the vegetables and green salad (I'm using initials just in case any of my relatives have discovered vanity Google-searches and might stumble across my blog while searching for mentions of their own names... in which case I would no longer be able to talk smack about them). Aunt T was quite irritated to find that she was the first one here, having been apparently an hour and a half late on purpose. I suspect that she doesn't actually like being en famille for too long before dinner is served; Grandmother, ever more generous in her theories, feels that T has always had to keep to a strict schedule to balance her career and home lives, and likes things to go like clockwork (in this she takes after her father, who was so very organized that he kept messy-minded Grandmother organized, in spite of herself, for forty-seven years).

While T and K wandered and kvetched, and J and A reacquainted themselves with the house, I quickly put out the cheese-and-crackers tray and the potato- and corn-chip and dips tray and the guacamole and tortilla chip tray. T ranted and raved for some time about how late everyone else was (and I suppose that it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect that, by 5 pm, the 3 pm dinner would be almost ready, or at least that the diners themselves might be in the building... but then, what family did she come from where such things ever happen?), and I slipped away to take a shower and shave, dress festively in white Levis and a bright red sweater with adorable never-worn red Bass sneakers, and get the presents wrapped.

It was at this juncture that I was amazed to discover that, with very few exceptions, all of the presents that Grandmother and I bought were really quite large. You don't notice these things until you have to wrap them... a good half of the gifts were too big for even the biggest gift-bag we had, so I was doing a lot of high-speed wrapping with big rolls of paper and a little tiny card-table and all these labels that I kept losing, and an ink-pen that kept smudging and which I kept losing, and tape that I kept losing (I used one whole roll and was in to the second before I was done) and scissors that I kept losing. In the meantime, my Sister S and her two kids M and A had arrived with my Daddy, and Cousin J and her husband S had also arrived.

I had about four presents left to do when my Nephew M came in and asked if the garbage disposal had been broken all day, or if he had broken it. I told him that I would come see when I was done wrapping... so I went into the kitchen where Aunt T was trying to assemble the salad (with rather more ingredients than the stuffing, all of which had to be peeled), and discovered that there was nothing wrong with the garbage disposal but rather that the sink was stopped up, beyond the u-bend and even beyond where we could reach with an unbent wire hanger. So the sink was completely out of commission for the duration, and all sink-jobs had to be carted off to the bathroom, where my eleven-year-old Niece A and ten-year-old 2nd-Cousin J had ensconced themselves, in the invariable manner of preteen girls.

Then Aunt and Uncle J (they're both Js... though my uncle's name is really R, he's always been called J; and in an interesting sidenote, J's sister T's first husband was also T, not just the same initial but the same unisex name, which was very confusing) arrived with the turkey and gravy, and dinner was soon underway. I was already completely exhausted by this time, not to mention starving (I'd eaten nothing but a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast and a few nibbles of cheese and candy during the day), so I sat down with a great deal of gratitude (especially grateful that I had been in the bathroom when the particularly sententious Grace was said by my Cousin-in-Law S in his usual rather Gothic "New Christian" phraseology).

Dinner was vast and entertaining. I sat between Aunt T and Nephew M (everyone wants to sit next to me because I'm the only one in the family who doesn't like avocado, so whoever is beside me gets mine when I pick it out of my salad), with Daddy and Sister S across from me. We talked of many subjects, ate everything (though somehow I missed the yams, and didn't realize it until later in the evening), and had a generally hilarious time.

The kids at the Kids' Table ate quickly and very little (being already fairly well stuffed already with chips and candy), and so I put on the ABT Nutcracker (with the delicious young Mikhail Baryshnikov in the title role) for them to enjoy while the girls played with J's new Bratz dolls and little boy A was stuck watching them, unincluded.

Eventually the girls asked me to turn off the tape, because the clockwork girl character creeped them out, as did Herr Drosselmeyer, and the music was disturbing their Bratz soap opera (how a ballerina doing a classical version of The Robot creeps them out, and those hideous big-headed noseless hooker-y Bratz dolls don't...); then I got down on the floor with little 2nd-Cousin A (he's six, and cute as a bug... and I don't ordinarily like children, but I like him... he's quiet) and helped him assemble the Harry Potter Lego mini-playset which contained the Mirror of Erised, the Sorcerer's Stone, and two-faced Professor Quirrel from the movie's climax. I of course got indigestion from lying on the floor with a full stomach, but he was so excited when we finished the tiny dungeon that it was totally worth it.

Next came presents. This is the part where things become just a little uncivilized... one or two people will distribute the presents, and then everybody opens presents at once, shouting thanks and appreciation to the giver of each gift across the room in a great noisy melée of flying paper. And we pretty much all give presents to everybody, so there are a lot of gifts involved (twelve adults gifting each-other makes for 144 gifts, not counting the fifteen or so gifts to each of the children).

Grandmother, to whom I gave a teakettle shaped like a rooster and a set of eyelet lace sheets, gave me a set of camel velvet carseat slipcovers (which she had my sister pick up for her); my Daddy, to whom I gave a pair of corduroy dress pants and a sweater, gave me a half-pound of See's chocolates; my Sister, to whom I gave a golden card-case/compact/address-book that by chance fit exactly in her tiny purse, gave me a lovely wall-mounting key-holder that she made herself; Aunt T, to whom I gave a rose-painted cookie-jar (she loves red roses), gave me a beautiful hand-made brush that is specially designed for dusting computers and components; Aunt and Uncle J, to whom I gave a "Limoges" egg and a miniature Zen garden (respectively), gave me a beautiful red-and-indigo hand-painted marbleized tie; Cousin J and her husband, to whom I gave a matched pair of breakfast-in-bed trays, gave me an unspeakably huge art-book entitled The Great Paintings of the Western World; Cousin M from Tucson (who wasn't there, but sent all his gifts via his mother T), to whom I sent a Harry & David Tower of Treats, gave me a blue golf-shirt with a bay leaf pattern; Cousin K, to whom I gave a little curio cabinet with tiny perfumes in it, gave me a pound box of See's (it was her first Christmas as a gifter); and my nephew M, to whom I gave a pair of PJs, gave me a computer version of Trivial Pursuit (it was also his first gift-giving Christmas).

Then it was time for Pie and Coffee. As predicted, nobody really cared that the cream pies came out soupy, since they tasted like absolute heaven despite their amateurish appearance. Then we all talked some more, played with the kids' new toys, compared our respective hauls, and generally revelled in each-others' company. I was so tired by this point that I could barely keep my eyes open, but then I had to drive my Daddy home to Concord (Nephew M was going to do it, but he has a provisional license and can't drive between midnight and 5 am, and never without an adult over 20...it occurs to me, rather late in the game, that using initials in my family is a waste of time, since there are five endlessly repeated letters in my family, all these Ms and Js and Rs... even Grandmother's real name is an M). We had a good talk, Daddy and I, about Christmas and the Sims (he got the Deluxe Edition for Christmas from my stepsister) and a bunch of other topics, though I had to keep rolling down the window to refresh myself with chilly air.

When I got back home it was almost 2, I had been up and working almost continuously for eighteen hours. I fell into bed and was asleep almost immediately. And then I woke up at 10 this morning... and the only reason I got up at all was because I had to pee. And once up, I decided I'd like some coffee. Then it was apple pie for breakfast, and then I came in here and started writing about it. I of course kept taking breaks to watch television and talk to Grandmother and show the plumber where everything was and to look at Lord of the Rings slash erotica and to take little naps. And so here we are.

I'm off to have dinner now and exchange presents with Caroline I can't face the stuffing again, or any other traditional American fare... so we're having Italian. Not this Italian, but something that one like this might eat (it's 6:30 now that I write this sentence, but the time stamp is from when I saved my work before ~ and it's now after 12, and technically my birthday, when I'm re-editing for what I hope will be the last time).

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Merry Xmas Eve!

It's crunch time here at the Manners Manse... due to being busy and not feeling too hot, a lot of things got put off until the last minute. Little things like cleaning the house, wrapping the presents, decorating the tree (the pictures above are from last year... but you know from a previous rant on the limitations of other people's traditions, it looks exactly the same this year... or at least it will when I've finished cleaning and decorating). Add on top of that some unexpected last-minute chores, like chasing down union officers to sign my replacement paycheck so I can have some money to buy those last three Christmas presents and have shopping-money on my birthday, or like installing our new convection oven so we can bake the Christmas pies and yams and all (we've had the oven for three days, and Uncle starts to install it, he finds another tool is needed that he doesn't have, and then he has to go to work, and then he comes back the next day and finds another problem that he doesn't have a tool for, and so on and so forth, while there's a giant hole in our wall and a giant metal box on a trolley in the middle of the kitchen floor). And then there are the usual planned last-minute chores, like making the stuffing and the yams and potatoes and anything else we think up, not to mention the labor-intensive pies, and the table-setting and hors-d'oeurve arranging (fortunately, for my family, hors-d'oeurves consist of chips and dips). Oy vei!

So, if I don't get a chance to log on again in the next two days, I hope you have a super happy Christmas and other joyous holidays!

All I want for Christmas...

Sunday, December 22, 2002

Get the @%*&^§# Out of My Way!

Where on my car is there a big lit-up sign that reads "Please jump in front of me"? I don't get it... I mean, if I saw a beat-to-shit grey Volvo coming toward me, I would step back rather than forward, stay in my lane rather than drift across three others, and basically gather up my skirts and wait for it to pass by like a herd of lemmings. I mean, Volvos are usually driven by crazy and inept people... do not get in front of them! Or idle beside them! Or park near them!

Let me tell you something, people... for more than thirty years, Volvo was the safest car on the roads. You can drive a Volvo into a cinderblock wall at 80 mph and walk away from it without so much as mussing your hair. And so it stands to reason that Volvos would be the automobile of choice for people who are most likely to drive into a cinderblock wall at 80 mph. If you're a bad driver, and you smashed up your last three cars, and you are terrified of getting sideswiped and/or rear-ended on the freeways, wouldn't you make an effort to buy the car that would practically guarantee your survival of such? That is, a Volvo (or nowadays a Volkswagen Jetta)? And so it would therefore also stand to reason that most of the Volvos you see on the road — especially the ones that already have dented bumpers and cracked grilles — will have at least a 75% chance of being driven by an utter maniac. I mean, it's one of the reasons I bought a Volvo... not because I am a bad driver (despite what my Grandmother thinks), but rather because they strike terror in the hearts of man... and on the roads, I would rather be feared than loved.

But apparently they don't strike quite enough terror. In the last two days, seventeen people have stepped suddenly into the path of my car. Several of those people were small children being jaywalked across the street by oblivious parents in dark clothing. An uncountable number of cars have wandered right across my path, no turn-signals or anything, just floating across the lanes (most notably a gorgeous mint 1985 Rolls Royce Silver Spirit, which would not only bankrupt my insurance company but would utterly crush my Anglophile feelings).

And I just don't understand it. I'm only glad that I am as alert as I am... if I had glanced down to change my radio station when I was crossing Ashby on Shattuck, I would have plowed right over two little girls and their mother, who are luckier than shit that I have good tires, quick reflexes, and brakes that actually work. If I hadn't had my eyes on all three mirrors and my blind-spot at the same time (it's one of the two points I missed on my driver's test, so I'm sensitive about it) when I was pulling out of my parking space on Piedmont Avenue, I would never have seen that red sportscar pull a U-turn right behind me and lurk right in my obvious path.

Scary. People are scary. And they get in my way! I hate that more than anything... no matter how much I pray and how much I meditate and how much I remind myself that the river flows around the rocks, anything or anybody getting in my way just flips a toggle-switch of fury in my head. It's a reflex reaction.

Oh, well. The river does run around the rocks (though it also wears them away, little by little), and I do have the quick reflexes and good tires needed to stave off disaster, so I guess it's all right. On to more amusing topics...

This morning I attended my first Catholic baptism. Are Catholics the only ones who baptize infants? My Grandmother seems to think so, and that this and the consecrated priesthood are their greatest go-straight-to-Hell errors (and also has a lot to say on the topic of sprinkling versus immersion), and I don't know differently. At any rate, this morning at the Church of Saint Joseph the Worker, my coworker BB and her husband Chuy had their new baby Kate baptized. It was an interesting ceremony, though I kept losing the gist in the bilingual rituals... it would start making sense for a moment, and then the priest would switch back to Spanish and I'd drop the thread.

Still, the church was very pretty (though it smelled strangely like my dentist's office), with some really quite gorgeous stained-glass windows and an alterpiece of rather exceptional elegance, and the priest was amusingly good-natured. But I and BB's two college friends who were sitting in front of me and the elderly journalist and middle-aged housekeeper behind me were the only non-Catholics in the somewhat populated church, so I felt kind of silly, sitting in this little pod of silent ignorance, not knowing what to say in the Responsive Reading (which was done in Spanish, since all the non-Catholics and non-Spanish-speakers were the same people), and wondering why certain people crossed themselves in different manners, and why the doors into the vestry and other backstage areas were so short, and what was in the intriguing-looking bronze box to the left of the Font (in the corner of what I believe is the East transept, near the shrine of what I think is The Immaculate Heart).

I've always been utterly fascinated by Catholic ritual. It's so interesting and complicated and antique, so much more glamorous than the stern and colorless Reform church I grew up with. There are all these pictures and statues and buildings and beads, confession and Mass and prayers for certain occasions and endless opportunities for pious accessorization. Of course, one would have to put up with the rather specious dogmas of the Church, not to mention the idiotic bad politics of the modern Vatican. When I can't believe in the divinity of the Bible, I think I would have rather more trouble believing in the infallibility of that poor old Pope or the sanctity of a priesthood that seems to be corrupted on a rather grand scale. I believe that the Catholic Church does a lot of good, but it has a lot of evil to make up for... and I think the balance is still in the red.

After the ceremony, we repaired to the reception, which also had its share of odd rituals... most notably where the godfather throws coins in the air for the children to scramble after. Also there was the biggest flan I've ever seen (I mean, it was at least two feet across). And Latin music on the stereo (which I like, though the bass lines tend to be all the same) and thirty people speaking Spanish compared to five speaking English... and BB, whose Spanish I can understand quite clearly because she speaks Standard American High-School Spanish and anyone who watched Sesame Street as a kid could figure it out. It wasn't a culture-clash, because the cultures self-segregated to their separate corners.

The English-speakers were plenty of fun, anyway. The elderly journalist in particular was an absolute caution. Journalists are amusing most of the time (except when they're writing those graceless short sentences), they see so much of the stupidity and evil of mankind that they develop a most refreshingly wry worldview... and when they get to A Certain Age (around seventy or eighty), that amusement intensifies. BB's two college friends are intelligent and interesting and manage to fit quite a lot of conversation into very few exchanges. The housekeeper was interesting, but rather more mysterious. I did my usual incognito routine that I adopt around straights, where I said almost nothing about myself but rather appeared to listen attentively and flatteringly to everything being said.

I left before the dancing and drinking got underway, and got home just in time to meet Shiloh on my doorstep. He and his Zach have finally figured out that certain things cannot be done together... that if the two of them had to put up with each-other on just one more shopping trip, blood would be spilled. Shiloh is not the easiest person to shop with, and apparently Zach isn't, either, so the two of them at it were sneaking up on nuclear meltdown. But then I have no difficulty shopping with Shiloh, so long as we aren't looking for anything in particular (in which cases one is often tempted to brain him with any Baccarat elephants or Kirk-Steiff soup tureens that happen to be lying at hand), and I just love caressing retail objects whenever I get the chance, so we went scooting around in the Elmwood District and poking our noses in the shops.

The best part was to be in the shops without having to buy anything in particular... though I still have my uncle and my cousin and her two kids to buy for, I didn't really care if I got their gifts while I was out. So instead of gift-hunting, I could people-watch, which is simply the more interesting pastime. I even got to display my knowledge of English tradition when two shopgirls in a favorite jewelry boutique were trying to figure out what Boxing Day is. I almost bought a pair of pink jeans that had been marked down to $2, but I didn't think I was quite queen enough to carry them off (they were strawberry ice-cream pink, and rather thin material). I even bought a really quite lovely silver ring with a ruby-red garnet as well as a couple of gorgeous Christmas ornaments while we were out (I know, I know, more autogifting... but they were on a great sale), and Shiloh got a glycerin soap with a logic puzzle imbedded inside for his step-father, and a stone etched with the words "Nothing is etched in stone" for his mom.

So then Shiloh went home (Zach was done shopping and had apparently moved on to panicking about what to pack for their trip back East for Christmas with Shiloh's family), and I went home (someday before Christmas I am actually going to manage to get some more ornaments on my tree), and then Grandmother and I went out to do our big Christmas Grocery Shop. First we stopped at Emil Villa's for dinner (always eat a big meal before you grocery-shop, or else you'll come back with loads of good-looking junk), where we have eaten four times already this month, always before a shopping expedition to either Safeway or Longs (which are all in the same Rockridge Shopping Center). I'd had such a vast lunch that the only thing I could manage was a bowl of soup and some rolls, followed by an utterly dreamy custard pie with whipped cream (as if I hadn't had enough flan). Then we got our groceries.

Okay, my other theme today is that I am way hornier than I think is necessary. When I was out and about during the day, I saw so many boys whom I just wanted to jump on and start humping their legs. Looking at them actually made my heart beat faster and my breath catch... and aren't I a little too old for that? Next thing you know I'm going to be popping boners in public. There was this one boy in Safeway that I actually made efforts to follow around... he had the cutest hair and sharply elegant features, and when he looked down to read a label, his neck would arch in this amazingly sculptural way that made me want to latch onto him like a limpet. Earlier, on College Avenue, the pretty blond clerk in the shop where Shiloh bought the puzzle-soap (one of those effeminate hetero types I love) got my motor running to such an extent that I had to remark to Shiloh on leaving the counter that "I want to spank that cute little flip right out of his hair, and then lick it back in again."

I don't know what's wrong with me. But I kind of like it. I hope my heart can take it.

Well after getting all done at Safeway ($195 on Christmas groceries, it boggles the mind), I trundled on home and unloaded the bags and put some of them away (and made Grandmother put the rest away) and then came in here and sat down to check my blogs and then write all about my day for you, my adoring and adorable reader. And now I am going to go to bed and think about blond boys with flippy hair, with those skinny hips and sassy lips and baggy cords and hot eyes. Grrrrr!

Thursday, December 19, 2002


I'm having another scattered-brain day, please bear with me. Blame it on the rain. Blame it on Rio, for all I care, just don't make me take any responsibility.

Miss Ella Neous

I wonder sometimes how many punned drag-names there really are, out there in the big world. I've known quite a few, and it often turns out that there's another one with the same name. Back when I was doing my time in the Courts (the drag courts, sweeties, not the law courts), there were a few great names like SoHorny Beaver and Raven Madd, and farther but more elegant reaches for puns like Courtney St. James and Honey Hush (though most of us just had first-names-only, which meant something to us individually). And nowadays, in my travels, I come across other good puns... such as Rula Planet, Ivy Drip, Grace Fully, Cookie Dough, and Daisy Wynan-Roses of the Galaxy Girls. Miss Daisy's name evolved at a Halloween party, where a particularly talented punster was in attendance... also born that night were the lovely names Stella DeKnight and Miss Concepciòn. A few more favorites I've met or heard are Olive Asudden, Hedda Lettuce, and Iona Chrysler.

What's funny, though, is that ever so many gay men will do drag on Halloween and will light upon one of the oldest, creakiest dinosaur chestnuts of a punned drag-name, and think that they were the first to think of it... I don't know how many proud new dragsters have graced themselves with such "original" monikers as Patty O'Furniture, Anita Mann, Sharon Needles, Em Ergency, Polly Esther, Ann Orexic, and so on and so forth, little wotting that drag queens have been around for eons and eons and that all of these names are venerable antiques. Puns are, after all, the lowest form of humor. But one likes to encourage drag in the gay community (and in the straight, or anywhere else I get to see a boy in a dress...grrrr), so one refrains from bursting their little bubbles.

Here are a couple of good links for finding a tired old dragname for yourself!

Yo Momma's a Grammarian

I found myself doing a Google search yesterday because I couldn't remember what, exactly, a dangling participle is. So I found this lovely and really quite useful online style guide, and discovered that I was quite wrong as to what I thought a dangling participle was. In fact, the two sentences I just wrote (and the clause I am writing now) contain what I thought a dangling participle was... i.e., ending a sentence with an inactive verb, which I have always considered to be in bad taste, leaving that poor defenseless irregular verb just hanging there with all those terrible ill-placed prepositions. It simply doesn't look right, and it kills the flow. But a dangling participle is, in fact, when your verb subject and your sentence subject do not agree. Huh.

Those who have suffered the lash of my grammatical correctness will be surprised to learn that I always failed the grammar sections of English classes in junior high and high school. I couldn't remember what dangling participles were, how to differentiate between the direct and indirect objects, and in which instances one modifies a transitive as opposed to an intransitive verb. It was all very confusing. Yet I nevertheless have always managed to understand and produce grammatically correct sentence structures. When challenged on my knowledge, I would always reply "Well, because it sounds right." I grew up around educated people, or people raised by educated people, and have always been an avid reader of the professionally printed word... and so I have, in effect, learned grammar by osmosis.

The problem with something "sounding right" is that people in America speak all sorts of different dialects, come from all sorts of different social classes, and have access to all sorts of different levels of information and entertainment. Therefore, not everyone's ear will be offended by a preposition or inactive verb at the end of the sentence, as mine sometimes is (but not always, obviously). Not everyone gives a rat's cunt about who versus whom. And then, those who are more familiar with the spoken word than with the written word will have no idea how to differentiate soundless notations, such as where apostrophes and commas and semicolons belong... not to mention the spelling frights.

Those who follow educational brouhahas (or would it be brouhahae?) might remember a laughable little movement that came out of my hometown Oakland a few years ago, that staple of comedy shows called "Ebonics." This is another example of where a really good movement is pulled down by the stupidity of its heralds. The whole point of the Ebonics movement, back when it got started among a number of linguists and educators in the Bay Area, was that pedagogical method should not undervalue or villainize the spoken word when teaching writing skills. Linguists showed that the so-called "bad grammar" used by African-American people is actually a distinct dialect with history and rules and phonemes and regional subdialects; and that by treating this dialect as a corruption or a lazy misusage of "correct" English, educators were discouraging people from learning to write, sparking a rebellious nature in the students by telling them that their own language was wrong.

The old wisdom that "ain't" isn't a word has had the effect of disenchanting people with education in many ways... it devalues a person's cultural awareness when that person is told that the way he or she speaks, which is the way his or her parents and grandparents and friends and neighbors speak, is incorrect. People do not learn when they are told they are stupid. And so studies were conducted in order to find ways of bringing writing skills to the people who use the African-American dialect... because any linguist worth his or her salt will know that the written form of a language is always different from its spoken forms.

Though one can replicate speech (with its regional accents and colloquial usages) in the notations and symbols of writing, there are rules for writing that have nothing to do with the spoken word... they are constructs of notation that have become a separate form of communication. All you have to do is compare the script of a stage-play with a copy of a famous novel on which it was based, and you will see that the forms are different... not just because fiction must describe actions that would otherwise be seen on the stage, but because writing is an entirely different medium than speaking. And as such, it becomes the lingua franca (that is, a foreign language held as a common communications tool for people of diverse languages in trade with each other) within its given language... people who speak many different forms of English can still read a proper sentence. And so formal written English, with all its rules and weirdness, functions as the "common language" of communication between English-speaking people.

But by forcing the rules of written English onto the users of spoken English makes it more difficult to learn the written forms... unless you happen to come from a family or neighborhood or subculture where everyone happened to have gone to college and learned to speak in this fashion, back in the olden days when language was a mark of class and people all wanted to be in the same class. The whole point of communication is to make yourself completely understood by the largest possible number of people; unless you are an actor or a politician or a news anchor, the number of people to whom you would ordinarily speak is limited to the people immediately around you... but the written word goes everywhere.

So go ahead and say "ain't" until your tongue falls out, say "this is what I'm here for" until the end of time, say "who do I give this to" all you want; but please keep track of your participles, prepositions, your whos and whoms, and most importantly your spelling, whenever you write anything in business or academia (I was going to say "anywhere in public," but I would never suggest that ignorance of written structures should stop someone from communicating). If you aren't sure of something, make an effort to read style guides so you'll know... everything in this world is learnable. And if you're going to start a modern educational linguistics movement, don't call it something stupid like "Ebonics" and don't let people with physical speech impediments take it to the media. That's just suicide.

O Tannenbaum (or tan-your-bum)

I'm almost done with my Christmas shopping... I have to go to Piedmont Avenue and pick up this gift for my coworker BB, which I thought I'd bought but I didn't; I have to get a baptism present for BB's baby, too, who is getting sprinkled this Saturday (I have no idea what kind of gift is appropriate for such a thing); I have to get something for my impossible-to-buy-for Uncle, who needs nothing and has no known hobbies and no visible interests outside of his job and running errands; I have to get something for my cousin Kellie and her two children, who are flying to and fro so the gifts should be small enough to be transported in a suitcase. Then I'll be all done! Yay!

I have to stop spending so much money on myself. On every shopping trip for Christmas gifts, I have come back with at least one gift for myself. Yesterday I went to Tower Records to find a CD that I'd heard at one of my favorite bookstores and wanted to procure for Shiloh & Zach (Patricia Petibon, wow! One of the most poignant and evocative voices I've ever heard), as well as the Baryshnikov Nutcracker on video for the kids (yeah, right, for the kids), but also ended up buying three more CDs and a video for myself. If I keep this up, I won't have any money to spend on my birthday!

But at least the Christmas shopping is almost done, it's one of my biggest headaches (I love shopping, but it's always so hard to do find things for other people). Now I get to concentrate on getting the house clean (there's a big brightly-lit tree in my living room, but all the ornaments are still in the boxes that are littered all over the room... and the dining room is an utter sty), wrap all of my presents and all of Grandmother's presents (resorting to no-effort gift bags whenever possible), do some baking and a lot of grocery-shopping, go to a baptism, perform in a drag show, close up the office, and try very hard to not go insane. Then it will be Christmas, and then Jhames is coming to visit (I'm so excited!), and then I will turn 35 (about which I am somewhat less excited), and then it's New Year's, and then... and then... and then... Oh, hell, I don't need to think about it. Live for today, aim at Christmas, and the rest will take care of itself.

Maybe I could hire one of these to do my cleaning and wrapping for me... if only I hadn't spent all my money on the presents.

PS: as I was editing the above at around 6 p.m. (that's how long it takes me to edit a post after I've finished writing it), a pair of Jehovah's Witnesses came to the office door to spread the Word to any Chinese-speaking people in the building. I didn't know they were still around, I haven't seen Jehovah's Witnesses in forever!

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Smell Me, I'm One!

One year ago today, I wrote the following entry:

Wilkommen! Bienvenue! Welcome!

My first very own blog entry. Here I go, ready to crack a bottle of Veuve Clicquot over my prow. Crash! Tinkle! The brass band strikes up a rousing march, "Ritorna vincitor" from Aïda. A multitude of ribanded dignitaries shake my hand as I make my way to the plank. A hunky Greek in a tight, starched, very brief white uniform manhandles me on board. I wave from the deck, blowing kisses and strewing Leonidas roses. Then the ship hits an iceberg, and we all go down. Of course, the iceberg is only about an inch square, the bay is the depth of a 12-ounce glass, and "going down" means different things to different people (especially hunky Greeks).

Well, that wasn't so hard, was it?! I promise it will get better as I figure out what I am doing. All I know is that I love to blog, and I had to have my own blog spot, and so here we all are. Enjoy!

I think I've become a much better writer since I jotted out that rather inane dribble in order to see my own words published in my first blue-templated blog. That's only natural... the process of becoming a good writer involves a great deal of writing, and nobody ever became a worse writer for having done a great deal of writing. Practice makes perfect and all that. But what surprises me, one year later, is how much of a better person I've become.

My regular readers (all eight of you, bless your little hearts) will remember that I have been looking for a Seventh Year Change this year. Every seven years, my life has undergone a vast alteration of some sort during the course of the year... at 0-1, I was born, and I learned to talk, to walk, and to pee in the pot; at 6-7 my custody changed from my crazy mother and psychotic stepfather to my vague father and misguided stepmother; at 13-14, I hit puberty (or, rather, it hit me... like a Mack truck) and discovered the joys of masturbation and naked men; at 20-21, I moved away from home (all of a mile and a half away), lived with and broke up with my first and only long-term boyfriend (four months being the longest term to date) and started drinking heavily; 27-28, I quit drinking, transferred to SFSU, and started taking myself seriously as a writer. So now, in my 34-35 slot, I have been keeping my eyes open for the Next Big Change.

Much to my surprise, nothing seemed to change at all. I kept looking for Change, hoping for Change, waiting for Change, even on rare occasions trying to effect Change... but my life today is, on the surface, exactly like it was last year at this time. I have the same job at the same pay, I live in the same place with the same person, I am still single, I am still unpublished, I am still slightly overweight. I have not managed to institute daily meditation rituals, a clean room, an exercise regimen, or a healthier diet. My hair is a little greyer, is all.

Lately, though, I have noticed that I have been, this year, coming to many realizations about myself. I have started to understand how much Fear has controlled me. I have come to understand that I am not as put-together as I like people to think, and yet am not as screwed up as I privately believed. I have admitted to God, Myself, and Another Human Being (in fact, several) the exact nature of my wrongs, my shortcomings, my defects of character... as well as my hopes, my dreams, my history, my ideas, my prejudices, my peeves, my moments of self-hatred.

It was just last week, when I was skimming through my archives looking for a reference to a name that I have forgotten (does anyone remember the name I gave my enameled gold grasshopper with the rhinestone collar and pearl eyes?), I noticed that the first date of my archive was the week of December 16th, and therefore my one-year anniversary on the web was imminent. And it suddenly occurred to me that this, this "Mannersism," was my Seventh Year Change.

I have never been able to keep a diary or journal before this. I could get off to a rousing start, usually in a new book bought or received as a Christmas present, generally relating my New Year's Resolutions and the goings-on of any revels or entertainments I had enjoyed. I might even make entries as late as February or March, usually relating how my New Year's Resolutions had fallen by the wayside. But that would be as far as it ever got. I also kept free-writing- or thought-process-journals for college classes, when such were required, but these would by their very nature be limited to the topics explored in the classroom (though my personal life tended to creep into them, anyway). And as soon as the class was over, the journal would end.

But the classroom journals always outlived the personal diaries... because they had an audience. My whole trouble with writing had, in the past, been a lack of an audience (along with the lack of accessibility and accountability).

See, I have no discipline of any kind within myself, I only have urges; all of the disciplines I have ever followed were instituted from outside, and my routines are the compromise between those outside disciplines and my inner urges.

I sleep at night, rather than any other time that I happen to become sleepy, because I have to go to work during certain hours in the daytime; I eat distinct and timely meals, rather than snacking whenever I'm hungry, because my Grandmother eats meals and insists on my participation in this ritual; I go to my AA meeting every Tuesday because the meeting is there every Tuesday, and it's easier for me to adjust my life around Tuesdays than to find AA meetings when I have time to go to them... which is the same reason I call my sponsor on Mondays at 5, because if I left it to talk to her at some day or time to be determined by my own need to talk, I wouldn't do it at all.

If not for these institutions, this schedule of events in which I participate, my life would be a formless, shapeless progression of urges satisfied or unsatisfied. I would sleep for ten hours after being awake for eighteen hours; I would eat when I was hungry; I would write when I had something important to say. And I wouldn't ever get anything done at all. I have to have some pre-existent structure that I can plug in to, or things merely happen to me.

And since I lacked the discipline to write on my own recognizance, I had to find some pre-existent writing structure that I could simply plug into... some structure where I would feel compelled to write every day (or at least every other day, or three times a week), some place to which I had access in my daily life, in some format that allowed for freedom of expression as well as a certain audience.

Enter the Blog. In September 2001, Rula Planet launched the Galaxy Girls' website. She (or rather, her male counterpart Philo) had been blogging for some time, and felt that this forum would be an interesting outlet for the many ideas and talents of our little drag troupe... and in the meantime would work as a running advertisement of our shows and a public reminder of our existence.

I was hooked immediately. I am, after all, a performer... and the Galaxy Girls Blog was the first time I had ever been able to turn my writing into performance art. Like writing for professors or writing to or for my few friends, blogging gave me an opportunity to assemble sentences, tell stories, and express my personality and ideas to other people through the written word... and better than all of those past audiences, this audience was HUGE. Rather than one professor or one friend reveling in my written words, there were hundreds and hundreds of people visiting our website. And though most website hits don't result in a person actually reading the entire thing, I got enough feedback from enough people to really get a feeling for the scope of readership... it's the difference between a pat on the back and a standing ovation - not a difference in sincerity or support, but a difference in scale.

Eventually, though, I found the format of a group blog slightly restrictive — keeping within my drag persona when I wrote, keeping things light and entertaining, waiting for another of the group to post before I posted again so that I wasn't the dominant blogger in the group... so I decided to have my own blog.

I named it Mannersism in the tradition of Malapropism and Spoonerism, tacking an -ism onto my name so that my words would be a unique expression, not only of my own personality but of similar personalities as well as universal truths for eons to come. It didn't occur to me until later that most people would read it as "mannerisms," which is a real word (in fact, when you do a Google search for Mannersism, you will get a number of completely unrelated articles in which "mannerisms" was misspelled).

In the year since I took that step, I have redesigned this webpage twice, added comments from two different providers, attempted to move it to my own domain (the next logical step) but failed, altered my publishing tag once and instituted the tradition of punctuating with a piece of beefcake or fashion photography (interspersed with occasional drips of the finer arts).

And, since that day, I have grown as a person. I have learned to time my depressions, I have seen patterns in my behaviors, I have plumbed the depths of my own history, and in the process discovered a great deal about myself that had hitherto gone unnoticed or unexamined. I have made my secrets known, to others and to myself. And I have heard back from you, my readers... met people in person and in print, forged acquaintances and friendships that I hope will continue to grow and flourish. I have received positive feedback that bolstered my confidence and invaluable advice on the solutions to my problems. And in the process, I have become smarter, stronger, more expressive, more serene, and all in all simply happier.

So here's to another year of me and my Mannersism, another year of personal growth, of increased writing skills, of new friendships and strengthened ties, and of beefcake. Thank you for taking part in my web existence!

Monday, December 16, 2002

Shots Rang Out, As Shots Are Wont To Do

I'm having this stream-of-consciousness kind of day, where my mind is not grabbing on to things as I think it should... it's just meandering through the woods, babbling over the stones, gurgling around the inlets, shot through with tiny golden fish, littered with leaves and dead bugs.

Ontological Brunch

I feel so European just now... I'm eating double-cream Champignon for breakfast (it's like brie, but with mushrooms; apparently when you infuse brie with something else, such as champignons, it becomes transmogrified into that other thing). Of course, I'm eating breakfast well after lunchtime, and I am eating my brie on Pepperidge Farm's English Water crackers instead of a nice crusty baguette, but you get the idea.

I have often wondered whether or not I am the only person in the world who counts meals by which order they are eaten, rather than by which objects are eaten or at what time of day they are presented. Many people would consider cheese and crackers in the afternoon to be lunch, or at least a snack. But since it's the first food I've eaten today, I consider myself perfectly justified in calling it breakfast. I often love having scrambled eggs and bacon for dinner, too, sometimes as late as midnight (which would, techincally, make it "supper"). And yesterday, not only did I have my breakfast at 1 pm (after church, and I had French toast with sausage), but I ate my lunch (capered chicken salad left over from Friday's visit to Tahoe Joe's where my eyes had been considerably bigger than my stomach, but not nearly as big as the mouths of the people at the next table) at around 9 p.m. I therefore didn't eat dinner at all, which I'm sure counts as "dieting."

On the other hand, there are exceptions... for example, a sandwich is always lunch, no matter when or in what order you eat it. If I had gone around the corner to the sandwich shop and ordered my usual turkey on dark rye with everything, even if I had not touched a drop of food in the last twenty-four hours and certainly not since I last woke up, I would consider that "lunch." If I had a grilled cheese with tomato soup before going to bed at midnight, it would be "lunch." I don't know why that is. Pizza for breakfast, pancakes for dinner, I don't care... but a sandwich at 3 a.m. or 6 p.m. or the 12th of Never can only be lunch. Also, anything you eat between three and five, whether it's a burger or a petit-four or a strychnine tablet, is "tea."

It's my ontology... it doesn't have to make sense.

Pinkies Extended

I wonder why drinking coffee out of a cup-and-saucer feels so much daintier and classier than drinking it out of a mug? I further wonder why I don't drink coffee out of a cup-and-saucer more often, considering how much I enjoy it.

Gramminer Goin' a Coggo

Grandmother claims that, when I was little, I pronounced her name as "Gramminer." I'm not sure I believe her. She also claims that I pronounced Chicago as "Coggo," but I can't even imagine knowing what Chicago was at that age, nor therefore why I would discuss it at all. Apparently, my cousin Michael and I would play with Matchbox and Hotwheel cars on the borders of the living room carpet (when I was little, the carpet was a geometric and maplike Turkish pattern, instead of the floral Persian we have today), and that when we left the carpet we were "Goin' a Coggo." I think my cousin Michael told me that this Coggo was the farthest away one could go (it was certainly the furthest he had been at that age). But I maintain that I was given corrupt information, not that I myself corrupted the pronunciation. Another one that Grandmother often recalls is my pronunciation of "heckticopter" for helicopter... and I do believe that one, because I still think it's a more ringing word, with the quite descriptive word "hectic" contained within, and just that touch of onomatopoeia to give it authority.

I suspect sometimes that Grandmother is so enchanted by infantile behavior that she projects it where it doesn't belong. I am quite sure that enunciation has always been a priority to me... I have a distinct memory of teaching my sister the proper pronunciation of "spaghetti" (to this day, children saying "busketty" drives me insane). I also have a memory of demanding someone explain to me why the city of San Jose (where my aunt lives) was pronounced "Sanozay" when that was not how it was spelled (and after receiving the explanation, that it was a Spanish name, I have always carefully pronounced the Hispanic "J" with all of its aspiration and elegance).

But then, this is the mythology I accept about myself. I don't believe Grandmother's enchanted tales of my childhood garbles... but I am more than willing to believe my Mother's much-more-likely-to-be-fictional accounts of my first year of life. According to Mother, I never babbled, that my first words were a complete sentence. She also claims that I potty-trained myself and taught myself to walk, and all of this before I was one year old. I accept these assertions without question, because they fit with the image I have of myself... even knowing that my mother's relationship with the truth is tenuous at best. I mean, I have no memory of my childhood before about three years of age (the first time I saw my father without a beard, and about the time my parents divorced, though I don't know which came first or if they were related phenomena), so this could all be an elaborate fiction.

But still, I'm fairly sure I never called Grandmother "Gramminer." That just doesn't fit in. I believe, in fact, that it was the necessity of saying something as polysyllabic and fricative as Gran-d-moth-er at an early age (when most children are allowed to fudge with a Granny or Gramma or, shudder, Nana) that assisted me in being so well-spoken as a child. That, and the fact that I was the prissiest little queen of a child you ever saw, and would therefore have to overenunciate everything.

O, Sodom!

At church yesterday, the sermon centered on the Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Early on, the minister stated that the sin of Sodom was, indeed, homosexuality and other sexual immorality, and that homosexuality was a sin. I spent the entire sermon with my arms crossed and my lips clenched in a thin and dangerous line. Grandmother didn't dare to so much as steal a glance at me to see how I was taking it, and spent the whole time looking straight forward, frozen, not at all unlike Lot's Wife. I considered leaving... in fact, I considered standing up (all six-foot-three of me), slinging my fawn Nautica trenchcoat over my shoulders, and stalking out, making as big a Margot Channing moment of it as I could in order to embarrass Grandmother and announce to the congragation that I was having none of this crap. But it wasn't Grandmother's fault, the congregation probably wouldn't have noticed me, and if they did they would smirk knowingly to themselves that the Damned cannot hear the Word of God... and I was, on a certain level, curious to see where the sermon went.

It was actually kind of interesting. And the minister did take time out of his piety to note (with his usual hammering and repetitive sincerity) that the sin of homosexuality does not excuse the sins of hatred, anger, violence, or murder in Christian hearts... that the sins of heterosexual adultery and fornication, of theft, of idolatry, of covetousness are just as heinous, and therefore homosexuality should not be treated any differently; and further that Christian men and women are not empowered to punish such sinners (that is God's prerogative) and not allowed by God to hate anyone. He took and advocated the Love the Sinner stance, and even left off the usual Hate the Sin tagline.

But the bottom line was that God's justice is not Man's justice, and even when we wish something weren't a sin, no matter how much we want God to not damn our friends and family for the sin of homosexuality, the Law is the Law. And that by compromising with sin, by living among sinners and accepting their sin as "cultural differences" or "progress", one commits Lot's error in living in Sodom... that by living among and accepting sinners, you cannot be untouched by sin, and may (like Lot's Wife) become so enamored of the sins and the sinners that you become damned along with them.

I think that got Grandmother pondering on her relationship with me. I mean, she's practically living in Downtown Sodom with me in the house... in many ways our current mutually beneficial relationship would not be possible if I weren't homosexual. Would a straight man be able to help her style her hair, help her shop for clothes and accessories, help her choose feminine hygiene products at the drugstore? Would a straight man feel perfectly comfortable waiting with her as she has a mammogram? (Okay, not perfectly comfortable... I have a sort of phobia about boobs) Would a straight man feel quite so complacent hanging out with an old woman all of the time? I somehow don't think so.

So to put her mind at ease on this topic, I challenged her belief system over brunch/breakfast/whatever at the Buttercup Kitchen, whither we had repaired after church and before plunging into the housewares department of K-mart to find a three-quart Revere double-boiler on sale. We discussed many topics of interpretation, such as the current hot-button issue in her congregation of women's participation in the church services.

See, recently there was a big study-and-discussion-and-interpretation movement to include women in more of the church's services... and the first fruit of that movement is women serving communion with the men. Grandmother is so scandalized by this that she doesn't know where to look when the Communion Prayers are said and the trays are passed around.

This is one of my main talking-points with her, because she knows exactly where in the bible it says that women should sit down and shut up during church services (I Corinthians 14:34 - "As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says." ) On this I point out that the context is regarding Speaking in Tongues... which her church does not do nor even believe. On top of this, just three chapters earlier, it quite clearly states that women must cover their heads when praying, or else shave their heads. Since Grandmother feels she looks silly in a hat, but would look much sillier bald, this is especially persuasive.

I explained to her that there are hundreds and hundreds of passages in the bible that have been glossed over by changing times. The silence of women, in Roman Greece where women were not educated and had no rights whatever, would be recommended... for these Greek women (Corinth was a Greek city, dedicated to Aphrodite and famous for its licentiousness) and Hebrew women might envy the freedoms of their more liberated Roman counterparts, and wish to ignorantly take part in the public Church.

The next obvious step in my spiel was going back to Leviticus where the Bible points out in no uncertain terms that homosexuality is an abomination in the eyes of God (Leviticus 18:21-23); however, there are lots and lots of other things which are also abominations... and these are things that are completely ignored by modern-day Christians and the more liberal Jews as well. Leaving an animal sacrifice uneaten for more than three days (that is, storing the food for later use) is an abomination. Any foods that do not qualify for the kosher diet are abominations. Mildew in your house, running sores of any kind, and other such are also abominations and will make you ritually unclean.

Furthermore, Christ himself supposedly said (according to Paul, whom I suspect greatly and who never even met Christ) that He was the New Covenant, and that the old covenant was therefore null (if possibly advisory, which is why the Old Testament is included). This passage is used to excuse us from circumcision, kosher foods, and animal sacrifice... but why just those things? Should it not also excuse us from all of the other Old Testament strictures?

Grandmother didn't have an answer for all of that. But then, neither do I. I don't even believe in the Bible, especially the Epistles, I think Paul set out to turn a small cult into a world religion for whatever reason, and that subsequent leaders arranged the books of the New Testament to support the creation of the Catholic Church. I'm not even sure what I think about Jesus Christ, whether he was anything other than a guru; I don't wish to committ myself against the possibility, and I do believe in many of His teachings (as related in the Gospels). But the Old Testament and the Epistles I definitely do not believe.

I personally think that the whole concept of Hebrew Laws were meant to preserve a nomadic race in an inhospitable environment. Most kosher food strictures outlaw foods that are really quite dangerous to eat, especially in a hot climate and desert ecosystems. In an environment like that, mildew could turn deadly, and running sores are contagious. Furthermore, during the Egyptian and Babylonian captivities, the Jews were living cheek-by-jowl with people whose cultures were wildly different from their own... for the Nation of Israel to survive such contact, they must keep themselves separate. Some other food strictures (such as boiling a kid in its dam's milk, the genesis of the meat-must-not-touch-dairy kosher rule) are direct references to Egyptian and Babylonian delicacies.

And the laws regarding sexual behaviors would be absolutely essential in countries whose sexual practices and religious practices were so closely intertwined. I mean, what about the stricture of a man dressing in the garments of a woman? If you look at historical evidence, the difference between male Hebrew garb and female was slight if any, pretty much a layered look with full-length tunics and cloaks. However, both Egypt and Babylon had transvestite temple prostitutes all over the place. And then, sexual behavior that does not result in children (remember the sin of Onan, who pulled out of his wife at the crucial moment and spilled his seed on the ground, and was struck dead without so much as a how-do-you-do) would certainly be a taboo - when so few children survived infancy, it would be a cultural imperative to keep having as many children as possible to keep the raw numbers high.

In sum, as far as I can see, the Abominations were all about survival of the race and the culture, and have nothing to do with modern life or Christian theology. This was all over Grandmother's head, and she was pretty sure I was incorrect in some key text... but having introduced a doubt of why she believes what she believes, I gave Grandmother a headache and she no longer worried whether or not she was committing Lot's Error by having a drag queen in her house. My work here is done.

Monsoon Shopping

I don't understand why so many people are out on the roads in this weather. I went out on Saturday to do some Christmas shopping, and God's Own Fury was lashing out all over the Bay Area... yet every road was crowded, every store was jammed, every restaurant had waiting lists out the door. Why don't people just fucking stay at home? I mean, I wouldn't be out driving in all that chaos if I could avoid it at all. Of course, perhaps they wouldn't, either... and are just as anxious as I to get the shopping done sooner rather than later, for who knows if the weather will get worse by Christmas?

At any rate, rain or no rain I managed to get most of my shopping done on Saturday. Caroline and I went to Costco, and I found all sorts of interesting things there at really good prices, and so got prezzies for my father, my nephew, my cousin Jamie and her husband, my aunt Terry, and the outgoing bookkeeper here at work. I even got a nice black sweater for myself. Then after taking Caroline to work, I went shopping up and down Piedmont Avenue, where I snagged gifts for my aunt Judy, my sister, my niece, my sponsor, Miss Daisy, and again something for myself (four blown-glass peacock tree ornaments with real peacock-feather tails).

Then yesterday, after the K-mart Terror (we found the pot Grandmother wanted as well as a couple of other things, then waited in line for half an hour or more, then got home and discovered that the pan was malformed and the lid didn't fit, so I have to take it back sometime), I got on the computer and sent gifts to my far-away family (my mother and her brood as well as the abovementioned cousin Michael) from Harry & David. Online shopping is so much more civilized... but tends to be rather more expensive.

Now I have to get something for my cousin Kellie, her two children, my coworker, Shiloh, and Grandmother (I know what I'm getting for her, a tea-kettle shaped like a rooster, but I have to actually go and get it). Also a little something for my coworker's baby, who is being baptised this weekend, and a few little something for the Galaxy Girls, and then boxes of candy for my box-stuffers and the cleaning lady and the landlord here at the office. And then I'll be done!

But will the weather be done? I hope so. Winter isn't supposed to come this early, here. It's supposed to be sunny on Christmas Day. But then, the only thing you can predict about the weather in the Bay Area is that you can't predict it.

Anyway, Happy Monday to you all! Here's a little something, a nice Magus and Mount from the Abercrombie & Fitch Creche Set (available at an overpriced suburban mall near you):