Thursday, February 27, 2003

Sunny Day, Everything's A-OK

But is it? Is it? I lost my sunglass-clips weeks ago, so all this bright light, unfiltered by the rain-washed air, is hurting my eyes. And at least the druidic gloom and half-hearted rain of the last few days suited my cold-ridden mood... it's kind of insulting to have a beautiful day when you're feeling like shit-on-a-stick. And then I'm hearing about these deaths that make me sad.

Like Mr. Rogers dying. I'm not so much sad he's dead, because everybody dies and he'd accomplished much with his allotted time; and I'm not so sad that he won't be around anymore, because he retired absolute ages ago and I outgrew him some time before that. But I am reminded of how much a part he played in my life, and I am sad for the child I used to be who was so comforted by this man, with his quiet voice and slow movements and patient explanations. In a world dominated by confusion, anger, impatience, loud noises, strident voices, and generalized ugliness, Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood was such a haven for me when I was little. I miss that child's ability to be so transported to a world of contentment and comfort by merely watching a man singing a quiet little song while changing into a sweater and sneakers. I miss that childhood feeling of being held, even if only by an image and sound on a television. "I like you, just because you're you."

I also heard yesterday that a man I know has passed away. He wasn't someone I knew terribly well, but I knew him from a long time back, I counted him as a friend, and I will miss his sweet boyish smile and laughing eyes. I had known he was sick, but I didn't realize it was as bad as all that. He was fairly young, one always assumes that young people will bounce back after surgery and therapy. I hope he managed to get everything done in this life he needed to do. That's the thing that always worries me when younger people die... that they didn't get a chance to learn and accomplish all that they wanted or needed to, that they leave unfinished business.

If nothing else, though, it serves to remind the rest of us that this life isn't forever... if you're planning on getting something important done you might want to get started on it sooner rather than later.

In general, though, I believe very strongly in an Afterlife (though I don't even pretend to know what it will consist of), so Death isn't so tragic to me... it's not an ending, merely a transition. Death is no more sad than someone moving away to another city, or more exactly, no more sad than breaking up with a lover or a friend and not talking to him/her again for a long time. John exists still, and Mr. Rogers exists still, and I might meet them again in the next life, I just can't call them up and have a chat or run into them at a mutual friend's house in this life (not that I ever had phone chats or mutual friendships with Mr. Rogers, but you know what I mean).

So anyway, I am working terribly hard on a newsletter, the first we've put out under the new administration. It's a lot harder to fill out than it used to be... I used to get ten pages of text from Boss Lady and have to squeeze it down to four, usually by deleting all the repetitions and meandering asides. But now I'm getting rather short pieces with really long attachments... with the attachments on, there is no way I could fit it in, but with the attachments off there is just far too much blank space. So we're trying to fill in the blanks while putting the attachments on other pages to be distributed separately. It's all very confusing.

But at least I don't have to view bad porn all day, like poor Jhames. I swear, that's one of the funniest things I've ever read. But it makes my newsletter look like a walk in the park hand-in-hand with the one you love. It still has to be done, though, and so I had better wrap this up and get to it. Hope your day is all sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows everywhere.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

No Comment

I seem to have either come down with another cold, or else the cold/flu I had before has chosen a new suite of symptoms in which to dress itself. I am leaning towards the New Cold theory, as it makes more sense. If being on cortisone lowered my immune system enough that The Flu That Everyone Else Had was able to sneak past, but I am no longer on cortisone and the symptoms are different, it can easily be assumed that my immune system and my physical strength haven't quite fully recovered from the flu, and therefore I am more likely to be suffering the result of any number of cold germs that I might have picked up in the last few days. I have been indulging in classic cold-catching behaviors lately, doing too much, around too many people, in the cold and/or at night, without proper nutritious meals in my tummy.

Getting sick is bad enough, but getting sick when you're also depressed is just plain mean. That feeling of overwhelming inadequacy that so often comes along with the depression is accentuated rather more than necessary by the fact that I am physically and mentally not up to most of the tasks I am undertaking. And with a new boss in the office, one doesn't like to be inept... I feel like I am being measured and found wanting, and that makes me feel sad and scared. Not scared of losing my job, per se (because who cares? I plan to leave anyway in May), but rather scared of losing my prestige as the Can-Do Fabulous Secretary. No matter how much I tell myself that I cannot control nor care about what other people think of me, I still want the world to love me... or at least those portions of the world with whom I come into daily contact.

I was talking to Caroline the other day about Instant Karma... it seems that, in this life, my wrongdoings tend to bite me in the ass almost immediately, with none of that mysterious lag-time that leaves one wondering which sins one's misfortunes are meant to recompense.

For example, when I was in high-school I made a little hobby of shoplifting — mostly costume jewelry, mostly from Emporium Capwell (the biggest of several department stores in Oakland back then... and now all we have is Sears). I stopped when I got caught, lifting a snakeskin handbag from right beneath the security windows (though I had memorized all the plainclothes guards and knew where all the cameras were, I was not aware that the security office was located just above the Accessories counter, and had little mirrored windows overlooking it), and have in the ensuing years become so scrupulous that I won't even take samples and freebies willingly.

But over the next few years after that, all of the jewelry I stole was either lost or stolen in turn by somebody else... not only that, but almost every piece of jewelry I valued, either bought legitimately or received as a gift, including some beautiful and sentimentally priceless things from my deceased grandfather, over the ensuing five or six years was also lost or stolen, or at the very least it fell apart. I paid for my sins in kind, immediately after having committed them.

So, with that in mind, whenever I feel that the Cosmos is treating me badly, I must try to think of what I did to piss the Cosmos off, and how I can put it right. One of these things, these little punitive-feeling phenomena, is the complete lack of comments on this here blog... nobody seems to have anything to say about anything that I've said in weeks and weeks and weeks. Although I do hear from people I meet in person who read my diary, and the feedback I get is positive, it isn't specific. And I'm not even going to claim that I am not begging for comments, I will fess up right now: I am trying to guilt-trip you into leaving a comment of some sort. I wouldn't have brought it up otherwise.

However, I have to get down off the cross and ask myself what I've done to the Cosmos to spark this apparent indifference. Is it that my posts aren't interesting? Perhaps so, but that never stopped anybody from commenting before. Is it that I have left inappropriate comments on other people's blogs? I can think of a couple of places where I left comments that were more like criticisms than support (and one in which I was mistaken in what I said, anyway). So that might be the problem. I should apologize to those people for my criticism, implied or blatant.

Since that time I posted a mistaken criticism (for which I must apologize), I haven't posted a comment on any blogs or diaries anywhere else. And that, I think, is why the Cosmos is pointing out to me, in the form of a month-long dearth of commentary, my wrongdoing. I have not been supportive, I have not left comments, I have not sent emails to the writers upon whose words and ideas I glut myself daily. I have been gorging at the buffet without complimenting the chefs. I consume without giving back. And that is a Karmic no-no.

So I am going to be making more of an effort to communicate with people, here in the blogiverse and among my personal email addresses. The whole point of life is to connect, as EM Forster tells us. You can't connect with people if you are simply observing them, sucking on their lives like a virtual vampire. You have to give back, react and reply and return what you receive.

But not right this minute. Right this minute I'm going to go home and rest. I'm so flippin' tired! I so hate being sick. You'd think I'd be good at it by now, but each cold is like the first time. Perhaps it's because each cold is in fact a new virus or germ, you never get the same cold twice. I'm sure there's a deep philosophical metaphor in there, but I'm too sick to look for it.

Nighty-night! (Yes, I know it's only afternoon... leave me alone, I'm sick)

Oh, yeah... leave a comment!!! PUH-LEEEEEZE!!!! Even if it's just an LOL or an emoticon or something. I need the love!

Monday, February 24, 2003

Do I Have to Have a Title?

I'm so bloody tired. I had pretty much the same weekend I had last weekend, drag fabulousness and wearying rehearsals and shopping with Grandmother and people getting in my way, but in a different order all on the same day and without the neice or the rain or the filthy stinking hippies. On Friday, I pretty much did nothing, except that I took some cool pictures of trees and things on my walk after posting the previous item. On Saturday I tried cleaning my room (and succeeded in a small way, clearing a good path between my bed and my door, getting all my dirty clothes into the hamper and clean clothes into the drawers).

On Sunday, I did far too much: I went grocery shopping with the Grandmother, and every other slow and oblivious elderly person within a ten-mile radius (most frustrating, because you can't get mad at old people, it's not their faults they're slow and oblivious); then I went to rehearsals, where we sat on the floor for two hours reading through the script (I have a whole line! Way at the end, so I'll have plenty of time to rehearse! I'm "Marla" the drag queen! I'm thrilled and terrified!) and another hour and some-odd minutes of dancing again (I felt a little more adept this time, especially since I was careful to stand amid people who hadn't been at rehearsal last week); then I got back to Oakland so I could shave and paint and change for a show at the White Horse, hosted by Mz Rumors Angelique DeVil and Mz White Horse Lady Cranberry under the ægis of the Grand Ducal Council of Alameda County, in benefit of the Berkeley Free Clinic; then I got to the show, with Caroline and Miss Daisy, and had a lovely time altogether, chatting with Princess Johnson and Candie Swallows and Romy Michelle and Grace Fully and Terra Cotta of the Galaxy, though these last three were not "in face" for the evening, as well as a number of other fun and fabulous folks (though I brought my camera with me, I neglected to take any pictures). Then afterward, Caroline and I went to Merritt for hamburgers. Then I went home, getting there at about midnight, having been up and pretty much continuously in motion since 10 a.m.

It's funny... when I'm busy like this, I can never think of anything terribly interesting to write about. I just don't have the brain-space left over for deep or analytical thought, so all I can do is chronicle my many doings. And then I get bored with merely chroncling, so I start abbreviating my stories into a précis format that allows for little in the way of humor or style or interest. And no matter how bored I am with my own writing, I do not want to get out of the habit of writing at least every other day (not counting weekends).

To turn to the usual blog format, there are some articles and things I've read lately online that have caught my interest. For example, Ashley linked to an article by Senator Robert Byrd that I found satsifyingly well-written (it's such a relief to discover that there are some people in Washington who are not idiots or the toadies of idiots... for who is the greater fool, the fool who leads or the fool who follows him?) Jhames has started a project that has garnered a lot of "press" and praise, Autoerotica; I haven't been able to get too much into it, as it deals in a level of reality that I simply am not in the correct frame of mind to enjoy just now... I need my fourth wall. So you go visit and tell me what you think. And finally, here is an entertaining intelligence test (I got a 9, having fallen for two trick questions), and an Australian swimwear vendor with only two products in various colors but filling their site with some very nice galleries.

So I think I'll go do some work or something now. Or maybe have lunch. Or something. I don't know. Toodles!

Friday, February 21, 2003

Five Digits

I just noticed today that I've passed ten thousand hits on my site-meter! I just love these little milestones! Whatever shall I buy for myself in celebration? Oh, that's right, I already bought this... perhaps it will have to do.

But somehow I feel like doing something special to commemorate this milestone. Perhaps it's time for a redesign, after all. Everybody's doing it lately, which is probably my main reason for resisting... that, and the fact that I haven't the tiniest little idea where to start on a redesign. Perhaps I ought to get a book or something on the topic; but O how I hate reading nonfiction! Maybe I should just browse around and look for designs to steal inspire me.

Whatever I do, rest assured that I will not part with my pictures (though I think I'll put up some new ones... I'm getting a little tired of that smirk on my face), my readably-sized serif font (though I'm thinking of changing to Bookman or Garamond, Times Roman is so tired), or my color-scheme (though maybe I ought to lose some of the jpeg backgrounds). I would like for the whole thing to load faster, and have a more spacious look, but my Baroque mind fears blank space, and my alcoholic mind fears change.

So in other parts of my life, things are going reasonably well, considering. I read a book that was so badly written that I felt a little embarrassed to be reading it... and yet, I did read it, all the way to the end. The book was A Man of Taste by Clayton R. Graham, under the extremely variable-quality Knights Press imprint (I've read a number of poorly written books from that publisher, and quite a few really nice books as well... I think it's defunct, though; now that I think of it, I usually buy such books used).

The story was about Reginald Marne, a wealthy young man (though one isn't told his age until the third-to-last chapter, as if his being 27 was meant to be some sort of mystery) who is preoccupied with matters of taste and with trying to become the Poet Laureate of Colorado, and who, for reasons not explained until the third-to-last page, adopts a sixteen-year-old fundamentalist Christian boy named William who had first been adopted by Reginald's dead wife's sister. Complicating the plot are: Reginald's butler Winston, a fat and effeminate queen who collects dolls; Reginald's psychiatrist Dee, who is trying to get into his pants; Reginald's in-laws and William's adoptive parents Fordyce and Ardyce Vanis; Reginald's twin chauffeurs, Cal and Barry Uhm; and a variety of nonsensical walk-ons with stupid names and difficult-to-place rationales.

The first thing that got my goat in this novel was the author's use of capital spelling to indicate that the person speaking has raised his or her voice (extremely childish). The second thing was the recurrent and wildly irritating misuse of certain words, such as "insouciant" (when he meant "insensitive") and "spritz" (I never did understand what was meant when I was told that Winston waved his arms and spritzed). There were a lot of running gags based on names and misunderstood words, which required an Olympic-level suspension of disbelief, as well as a lot of slapstick, none of which was described very well. At one point, Reginald's jacket changed color from one paragraph to the next, and in that same paragraph he gained a hat that not only wasn't with him in the previous paragraph but would not have been worn with such an outfit in the first place.

What really got me was that this so-called "Man of Taste" actually had no taste whatsoever... he was an obsessive-compulsive label-whore with an etiquette fetish and a lot of money (though we don't discover where that money comes from until quite late in the narrative... in fact, one reads most of the book without any basic information about the characters, where they come from or why they're there or what they're up to).

I wondered on a number of occasions whether or not he was meant to have no real taste, if the author was giving us a tongue-in-cheek portrait of a man who thinks that labels and fastidiousness equal taste... Reginald spent a lot of time worrying about taste while absolutely flouting it, and his habit of sniffing wine-corks in an unpleasantly strenuous manner indicated the uneducated pseudo-connoisseur. There were all these little clues that Reginald was a classless twit who tried terribly hard to believe that he was suave and elegant.

But then there was a scene involving a wine-tasting where the author showed himself to be under the impression that Château Lafite-Rothschild is a champagne! Any idiot with the meagerest access to a public library or a reputable wine-shop would know that Château Lafite-Rothschild is a red wine, of the Bordeaux variety!

I don't know... on the one hand, these little flurries of fury on my part were rather enjoyable, giving me a sense of superiority and confidence; on the other hand, it's worrisome that so much ignorance would be published. I know there are a lot of little publishers out there who will print just about anything, sometimes with the author contributing to the expense. But I'm bothered that an author would write a whole book without researching his own details, and that nobody, from the publishers to the proof-readers to type-setters, would have noticed and corrected such blatant errors. It's bad enough that someone is walking around this world under the impression that Château Lafite-Rothschild is a champagne, but it's simply terrifying that nobody stopped him from writing such a false impression in a printed book!

I feel quite inspired now, in the knowledge that I'm able to write a much better book than that... and also inspired to make sure I research all of my details quite thoroughly. I remember once writing a scene in which the narrator was walking through the Park-facing rooms of a Fifth Avenue apartment, with the sun streaming through the windows at seven in the morning... I was enchanted by the word-picture I'd painted, but suddenly realized that Fifth Avenue faces West over Central Park, and the sun would only stream through the windows in the late afternoon. Another time I had to rearrange the description of a garden when Shiloh pointed out to me that none of the plants I had named would have been blooming at the time of year I'd stated. In that same story, I mistakenly had two characters watching a football game in the middle of June (just about the only time of year that you can't see football somewhere in this country).

Well, anyway... with the completion of A Man of Taste, I am out of books again. I'm working through my collection of Dorothy Parker short stories, but they're all so short. I want something long and meaty to sink my teeth into (and people wonder why I don't have a boyfriend... always with the teeth). Maybe I should take another stab at The Lord of the Rings or Remembrance of Things Past, the two abandoned epics that are sitting beside my bed, begging to be picked up again. Or maybe I'll just go shopping again for something new, let Tolkein and Proust gather a little more dust while I waste another few hours on something light and frivolous.

In the meantime, I suppose I ought to get some work done here at the office. I need to send off some bills and fax a correction to the attorney. Or maybe I'll go take a nice long lunch and walk somewhere... it's a beautiful day out, and I happen to have a tube of 50-spf sunscreen in my desk drawer. Yes, that's exactly what I will do... the bills can wait until I get back, and the fax can wait until Monday. I'm going to go outside and not soak up any sun.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Deposed African Tyrants Need Love, Too

Is anybody else as amused as I am by this new form of spam/scam email, in which the offspring or widow of some deposed African governor or military dictator asks for your personal banking information so they can smuggle several million dollars out of their countries? They claim they'll pay you a hefty commission on those millions, which range in size from eleven to two hundred and fifty. They have these wonderful hard-luck stories about how they've been left virtually penniless after the latest political coup, and on top of the loss of their husband or father, the loss of their millions is too heartwrenching to be believed. They are even written with African-sounding speech patterns, for that touch of verisimilitude.

Today I got one on my domain email from a man who has been separated from his family's millions because he is gay and out. His father, a diplomat of some reknown, left a hazy Will behind that was not clear about the disposition of his wealth as concerned his gay son; after the father died and the government changed, the confusion was intensified, and he can't get his hands on any of the money. If I would just send him my full legal name, social security number, and the routing number of my checking account, he will deposit eighteen million dollars to my name, and I get to keep ten percent... and help out a fellow homosexual who has been deprived of his family's love and money because of his sexuality. I should have saved the email for later perusal and amusement, but I tend to be a little trigger-happy with the delete button on my domain email, where all of my porn newsgroups and retail newsletters are routed.

Whether or not these hard-luck stories are true, I find myself wondering where and how the deposed gentlemen managed to amass such mind-boggling fortunes? This is the Third World we're talking about, and many of these little countries have a GNP lower than the sums I'm being asked to smuggle out. How does a diplomat, of any reknown whatsoever, amass that much cash in American dollars?

Anyway, I find it amusing. I like to imagine that it is true. There's a romance in the pleas of deposed rich people after a revolution. Being at heart a Royalist, I can't imagine myself helping out the deposed military dictators of tiny third-world nations; but I like to think of them struggling in their new-found poverty, finding at last a certain nobility in their losses, adapting to a new way of life and being at last vindicated when the government changes again and they are recalled to their former positions of glory with a newfound respect for the poor. It's very literary.

I am not, however, going to send anybody the routing number to my checking account. That's just stupid. I wonder how many people do exactly that? I like to think about those people, too, blinded by greed into handing over enough information to drain their checking accounts and leave themselves as poor as the people they think they're helping. There's a lovely symmetry in such a scam.

Anyway, I'd better be running along. Much to do today.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Oh, I Wish I Were An Oscar Meyer Weiner!

I believe The Depression is upon me. There is no other possible explanation: I'm tired, and I feel like nobody loves me. See, I know for a fact that certain people do love me, like my Grandmother and Caroline and my other family and friends. But sometimes I get in this weepy "poor-me" mood and start dwelling on the fact that nobody is or ever has been in love with me.

Most of the time, that doesn't bother me. It's just one of those funny little things that are part of the Cosmic poker-hand I drew, like becoming an alcoholic or being born to poor people or having hairy toes. But when I'm Depressed, this little factoid causes me pain. I sit here wondering what's so defective about me, why am I unable to find some man to love who'll love me back, what am I doing wrong, and how do I do it right?

And from Echo came there answer none. I take some comfort in knowing that I am not alone in my loneliness, that thousands of online and offline matchmaking agencies, magazine articles galore, support groups and media exposés exist for and because of the legions of people like me, that the need to be loved is universal and the inability to find love is pandemic. But that comfort is definitely of the cold variety. I've never been of the belief that misery loves company... in fact, my misery likes to be left alone.

I don't know why I even bring this up right now, except that I felt the need to write, and this was the first topic that popped into my mind. I don't have anywhere to go with it, it's just one of those blurt-and-run kinds of things.

In other news, the whole world is going to Hell. But then, you probably already knew that.

Sometimes I consider ending a sentence with yo, but I always think better of it. However, I will often use the word scrilla for "money." In fact, it is almost always fun to use hip-hop slang words and phrases, especially if you speak them with a lugubrious academic intonation, savoring each consonant, with just a touch of Vincent Price Anglicism around the edges: "You would do well to refrain from getting all up in my grille, you skanky whore," or "Why are you stepping in my pudding without knowing the flavor?" or "I know you aren't talking smack about my baby-daddy...because, therefore, you realize I'd have to pimp-slap you upside your big ugly melon."

I just got the biggest rhinestone necklace in the world in today's mail. It's not really my usual style, but I fell in love with it when I saw it on eBay, and the price was right. It's my prize for not saying "Valentine's Day" even once during Valentine's Day. I'm thinking about wearing it to work tomorrow. But then, tomorrow is when my new boss comes in, and perhaps I should refrain from outlandishness until he's a little more accustomed to me. Besides, it's going to take me all day to make up and write down my job-duties for our first staff-meeting, so perhaps I should scale back on the distractions.

One of these days, I'm going to clean my room, get a haircut, lose weight, and get in the habit of praying, meditating, and drinking eight glasses of water a day. But not today. I'm too busy wallowing in self-pity and eating 50/50 bars today. Besides, it's getting late and I ought to be in bed, I have a big work-heavy day tomorrow and will be needing my rest. I hope your tomorrow is just one big long twenty-four-hour grin!

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

The Blue Dog Barks at Midnight

I feel very dull-witted, for some reason... everything I start to write here sounds idiotic, and so I delete it; then I can't think of something else to write instead so I walk away. I start, I delete, I stop, I repeat... and I've been doing this off and on since Sunday evening. It's most unsatisfying. But I'll try to make my weekend sound interesting for you... it was interesting in many ways, yet I'm having difficulty finding the words.


So after I last wrote on Friday, I bundled the Grandmother and her wheelchair and my 11-year-old niece Ariel (who spent the weekend with us) into the car, and we set out for Southland Mall. Actually, a couple of hours elapsed first, we didn't actually leave the house until just after 4pm, so that we got right into the Rush Hour Traffic that I had been hoping to avoid. But it was no big deal. The mall wasn't as crowded as I had expected, either, though it was more crowded than I found comfortable.

We were there for just over four and a half hours; about halfway through, my niece started getting tired and grumpy and unpleasant to be around. We therefore stopped and ate various barely-healthy things at the food court (Ariel had the healthiest thing, an Icee and a club sandwich from Subway, though all she had on it was meat, cheese, pickles, and olives; Grandmother had some pretty good corned beef from the Hofbrau with mashed potatoes and boiled cabbage; and I indulged one of my most shameful passions, Hotdog-on-a-Stick, with three corndogs and fries and a limeade), then resumed our shopping.

About an hour later, with little improvement in Ariel's behavior, Grandmother and I started sniping at each other in JC Penney (she wanted to see and touch every item of little-boy's clothing, but I was trying to simplify things by only bringing her what she said she'd wanted so I wouldn't have to push her wheelchair among the crowded racks; eventually I started snapping that the shirts on this side of the rack are exactly like the shirts on that side of the rack, except that they were yellow instead of red), and so we decided to wrap up the purchases and go home before we made a scene.

It took a while to get through the checkout, as there was a very unpleasant young woman on the other side of the checkout center making a scene much worse than we could have dreamt of making, demanding to return (for cash) a bathing suit with no tags on that had obviously already been worn in a pool and not washed afterward and for which she didn't even have a receipt, and when her wishes were not immediately granted she accused everyone behind the counter of racism, classism, sexism, and generalized assholism. Aside from the unpleasant young woman across from us, there was also a very strange older man standing nearby who was apparently flirting with our checkout girl, distracting her with his very odd oddness and making Grandmother very uneasy (although my niece thought he was really funny and engaged him in conversation, much to Grandmother's horror).

Then Grandmother decided that she really had to have something from See's Candies. On Valentine's Day. She of course kept forgetting that it was Valentine's Day, especially since I was trying to win a bet with myself that I could go the whole day without saying That Word (I won the bet, too... my prize was a jewelry purchase at eBay). The line didn't look all that long from a distance, so I let Ariel take Grandmother and the wheelchair and go stand in that line while I took our rather cumbersome purchases to the car.

On the way back in, I stopped at KayBee Toys, having realized that I'd not bought anything for my cousin's children, whose birthdays we were celebrating on Saturday. I didn't find anything, because I have completely forgotten what it was like to be a child and could therefore not even begin to guess what these children might enjoy. When I got back to See's, fifteen minutes after leaving them there, Grandmother and Ariel were still in line. I joined them, and we stood there for another twenty minutes. During that twenty minutes, the line moved twice. Apparently there were only two people behind the counter, and for most of my time there they were busy with an old man who could just barely read the labels on the chocolates and who was putting together a half-pound box one chocolate at at time, and a young woman who wanted nutritional information on each chocolate before she consented to purchase it. It was wildly infuriating. Once the ancient man and the persnickety woman were dispatched, the line moved rather quickly, but we were still there in that #@%&*! store for over forty-five minutes. Grandmother was completely unrepentant... she wanted See's chocolate, and she was going to get See's chocolate, Valentine's Day be damned.

Well, we got home eventually and removed ourselves to separate rooms in order to cool off. In retrospect, I think it was Ariel that was setting us on edge... she doesn't "mind" the way Grandmother likes children to do, and I don't really care whether she minds or not so long as she's quiet, which she never is. So we both get riled, but idiotically take it out on each other instead of on Ariel. It never occurs to us to just not let Ariel come over, especially when we have shopping to do... but then, we'd hate for any child to feel unwanted for any reason, even if we don't want them.


So anyway, the next day was Saturday, as one might have guessed. We were due at my cousin Kellie's place at 2 pm, and I wanted to leave from there no later than 4:30 (Grandmother would be catching a ride home with Aunt Judy). Since I was on a fairly tight schedule, Grandmother of course had to be as obstructive and slow as possible, backtracking thoughout the house incessantly and concerning herself with shockingly irrelevant and time-consuming busy-work. Then we had to stop at Walgreen's in order to buy wrapping paper and gift bags, since we didn't have enough for the gifts we'd bought the night before (though I did also managed to snag gifts for the children). Then there had to be traffic on the freeways. Then it had to start raining. Did I mention that my windshield wipers have stopped working for no apparent reason?

When we got to Kellie's place, I was spinning with road-rage and Ariel-angst and Grandmother-grief, and we were an hour and a half late. Then I went back into Kellie's bedroom and wrapped or bagged the presents. Then I ate hot dogs. Then I ate ice-cream cake. Then I watched the kids open their birthday presents. Then I watched their mother Kellie open her birthday presents. Then I watched her mother, my Aunt Terry, open her birthday presents, though she was reluctant to do so since her birthday isn't until Thursday, while the others' birthdays had just passed. Then I opened two birthday presents left from December (a very nice black ribbed mock-turtleneck from my Aunt Judy and a very cute origami kit from my Cousin Jamie, Terry's other daughter). Then I flew out of there as fast as I could, an hour behind schedule. Forty-five miles in the driving rain, without windshield wipers, in the dark.

When I got home I ran down to my drag-room in the basement in order to throw together a couple of outfits for the Galaxy Photo-Shoot Party hosted by Ivy & Nick. I pretty much knew what my first outfit would be, my not-yet-worn ostrich-trimmed black silk cardigan over my full-length black jersey gown, with plenty of clear and silver jewelry. For the second outfit (I always travel with at least two outfits), I had no ideas except that I wanted something that would look good with my fox furs. I eventually pulled out my brand-new green velvet long-sleeved open-shouldered dress, which I would wear with the Boys and colored and gold jewelry.

Then I wasted a half-hour trying and failing to find my black foundation garments before simply packing my white foundation garments with a grey Lycra slip so the white wouldn't show through the dark materials. Then I showered and shaved and put on a facial, which dried while I hurriedly packed my jewelry and re-packed my makeup from its former case, the clasp of which broke last time I used it, to my even older makeup case that is rather larger and waterproof. Then I schlepped all the bags out to the car in the driving rain and drove to San Francisco in the driving rain and looked for parking near 16th and Guererro in the driving rain. Without windshield wipers.

I finally found a really quite nice parking space, less than two blocks away, which looked like a gated driveway from a distance but which turned out to have been welded shut, with stacks and stacks of debris on the other side of it (which I would never have seen if one of my headlights weren't cockeyed). The party wasn't quite in full swing yet, though there were many people there. I grabbed a soda and commandeered a corner of the bedroom and started putting my makeup on as fast as I could... with a rapt audience of women gaping, fascinated, at my every stroke and blend. I hadn't ever had so much fun putting on makeup before! But then, normally I put on my makeup alone in a bathroom or the corner of a backstage dressing room, rather than in the midst of a swirling clamoring party.

Once fully painted and clothed and jeweled, I sat for my first ever drag photo-shoot. It was an interesting experience, to say the least. Nick did the pictures, and several people watched from the sidelines, and there were two stylists hovering just off-screen and darting forward to adjust this or fluff that or pull a stray hair out of my wig or move my knee an inch to the left. Part of me enjoyed the attention, and part of me was slightly annoyed by the fussing over my details. Mostly I enjoyed it, though. And though I haven't seen the formal pictures yet, here are a couple of candids that will give you an idea:

Photo by Min Jung

Photo by Miles

You can see more pix from the party here and here.

After the photo-shoot I was able to stop changing clothes and/or sitting still for photos, so I had the opportunity to sit and visit with people. It was a lovely party, with lovely people, and I had a lovely time with my lovely hosts (Ivy and Nick are quite possibly the nicest people I know... and I know a lot of really nice people). I did not have a very lovely time getting home, however, in the driving rain with no windshield wipers. I kept hitting these enormous puddles and hydroplaning across them. I never lost control of my car, but each time I felt my tires leave the road surface, every muscle in my body tensed up... an extremely tiring experience.


So then Sunday rolls along, and Grandmother gets up in time to go to church. I was hoping she'd skip this week, since we had Ariel (who tends to misbehave in church) and since I was so tired and had a rehearsal in the afternoon. Fortunately, it was a straightforward service, with a deadly boring sermon that I was able to tune out on. The point of the sermon was the stories of Sarah and Abraham, Sarai and Abram, and some other couple who pretended to be brother and sister for some reason that I might have grasped if I had listened to the whole sermon... the minister felt that since this theme was repeated three times, it must be important; however, most biblical scholars would surmise that at least two of these stories are different versions of the same tale... stupid people make me so tired. In fact, I had a nice little snooze for part of it, not quite falling asleep but definitely resting my eyes and letting my thoughts wander.

After church I had to jet out to the City for my Living Sober Musical rehearsal. I had decided to take BART since I imagined that the traffic would be pretty nasty with the Peace March, and that parking would be a nightmare. I hadn't taken into account, however, the probability of hordes of filthy stinking hippies. O, how I loathe Filthy Stinking Hippies.

Before anybody starts lambasting me for this loathing, let me point out that hippies, in and of themselves, while wildly exasperating, are not the object of my loathing. It is the "filthy stinking" part that bothers me. It's extremely unpleasant to stand on a crowded subterranean transport while surrounded by people who quite obviously and palpably believe that shampoo and combs and laundry detergent and razors are the Tools of the Oppressor. Poor hygiene, especially when practiced as a political statement, is the very height of antisocial behavior, and it makes me want to drive around with a tanker-truck of Suave and a fire-hose.

Fortunately, I ran into Zach, Shiloh's mister, on his way out to meet Shiloh after the Rally. We had a wonderful time talking smack about the Filthy Stinking Hippies and the Peace Rallies and Republicans and Iraqis and Mormons and other various and sundry topics until we both got off at Civic Center. I would have liked to stay and chat with Shiloh as well, whom I haven't seen in weeks, but I was already half an hour late for rehearsals so I had to run along to the International Order of Odd Fellows Hall, on the fifth floor of which are dance studios where we have our rehearsals.

The rehearsal was enjoyable but strenuous. We started of with a spot of yoga to stretch our muscles, but I'd missed most of it and wasn't entirely warmed up for the more advanced stretches (though at least I was dressed properly this time in a black long-sleeved tee that disguised my tummy and comfortably baggy chinos). We practiced several steps and combinations for quite some time before we started dealing with music, and started putting the odd and seemingly inexplicable combinations together into a coherent whole. But again, since we don't have the score yet and the choreography is far from complete, we basically went over the same two numbers over and over again... "I Hope I Get It" from A Chorus Line (which is going to be turned into a song about doing the Twelve Steps), for which we practiced about four bars'-worth of choreography, and "Momma I'm A Big Girl Now" from Hairspray the Musical, which is going to be turned into a song about tensions between sponsors and sponsees, and for which we only did another four or five bars.

I felt a little silly doing this. The second combination for the first song required us to do a 360-degree turn on two counts, followed by a high speed arms-up/arms-back/left-snap/right-snap on four counts, which my body flatly refused to do. I just couldn't spin. Then on the second song, we were supposed to be miming, snapping into poses that somehow illustrate the words "Stop," "Don't," "No," and "Please." Not only could I not think of a pose that exemplified such words, I couldn't stop myself from giggling at the poses that people did use, all of which struck me as immensely silly. I'll probably, hopefully, end up with some kind of directed choreography for that bit... I would rather look silly than just stand there like a plank.

Anyway, the rehearsal went on and on, and I was all worn out when Chel (who is super-cute and a pleasure to watch) finally let us go after three and a half hours of step-step-snap-snap and so-on and so-forth. Since I hate wasting a trip into San Francisco, and consider the trip a waste if I don't do more than two things while I'm there, I headed down towards Union Square to do some shopping and get some coffee. I thought the Rally was over with, and therefore people would either be gathered at the end-point of the Rally or would have gone home. No such luck... there were people everywhere, a large majority of whom were Filthy Stinking Hippies, carrying large and badly-lettered poorly-worded picket-signs and taking up far too much room.

The last straw came when I was getting close to Virgin Megastore, where I had planned to pick up some new music and maybe a book and/or a video, which I would then take to the café on the third floor where I would have a nice capuccino and observe the FSHs' movements from a comfortable odor-free distance. Just as I was getting ready to cross the street, I discovered that a large group of Anarchists were staging an unofficial demonstration that apparently originated in Union Square and worked its illegal way down across Market, blocking both Market Street traffic and my progress to the Virgin Megastore.

I was incensed by this, and yet I didn't think it would be wise to try and fight my way upstream to Macy's and Saks, which were on this side of the Demonstration but nevertheless right next to the Anarchists, who appeared to be burning something... and I didn't want to be stuck in Macy's if looting happened. Still, I had my heart set on CD-shopping, so I went down through the BART station and came up on the other side of the Anarchists into Virgin (all but one of whose doors were locked... they were probably prepared for looters, too).

The café was of course closed, in keeping with the theme of my afternoon, and so was the bathroom, and there weren't any books or videos I wanted. I bought a couple of CDs, though (Ella Fitzgerald's Get Happy, which replaces the CD that was in my player when it was stolen last March, and a duet album from two women I've never heard of but which looked promising and was on sale). I was tired, I had to go to the bathroom, I was in a foul mood, and the Anarchists were still blocking the way to Union Square, so I abandoned my shopping trip and just went on home. Of course the BART train was crowded again with yet more FSHs, but I ignored them as best I could. Then I drove to the house and hit the couch at a run, and didn't move anything but my thumb on the remote for the rest of the evening, except to eat dinner (vegetable soup and cornbread).


Monday I stayed in bed as long as I could, though I had intended to clean my room and help Grandmother figure out her new home steam cleaner. I was just too tired to do anything, and too brain-weary to care. So I lay in bed reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire until Caroline came over around five; then we chatted and she showed me pictures of the latest guy she's dating from her online dating service (who is SO my type, witty and attractive and tall, an English major and a film-buff... except that he's a little too good-looking to be in my echelon... and, of course, he's straight). Then we got dinner from Boston Market, then went for a walk, then she went home and I went back to bed.

Which brings us completely up-to-the-minute. Work was boring today, which gave me plenty of time to write all about my fascinating weekend (valiantly resisting the urge to delete everything, because if I keep deleting I'll never publish, and there will be no updated content on my site, and people will get bored and stop visiting me). I'm going to now jet on home and have a quick bite to eat before going to my regular AA meeting. Then I'm going back to bed. I hope I'm not coming down with a cold or anything... I'm just so tired! And now my throat is hurting a little bit. I don't need this.

I hope your weekend was fabulous, and that you're feeling well and doing fine. Kisses!

Friday, February 14, 2003

Day Off

Today my office, and the community college district we harrass, are closed in observance of Abraham Lincoln's birthday (which was Wednesday, for those who don't remember). Here are some terribly interesting and educational links about The Great Emancipator (incidentally my Grandmother's favorite president, beating out FDR by a hair's-breadth, mostly because Grandmother visited his house in Springfield, Illinois, and now feels personally acquainted with him). I also get Monday off, in celebration of President's Day. It seems a shame to lump all the Presidents together, to give up Washington's Birthday and Lincoln's Birthday and seemingly put their achievements on the same level as Chester A. Arthur and Benjamin Harrison. But then, we can't just keep having National Holidays all over the place (the Lincoln's Birthday holiday is not a National Holiday, it's just our District... we also take Malcom X's birthday), so it's more fair to lump them together rather than choose one or two great presidents over all the other great presidents like Franklin Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson and so on.

I wonder sometimes what it must have been like to live in a time when great men were President of this country. In my lifetime we've had Lyndon Johnson (who?), Nixon (sneaktheif), Ford (klutz), Carter (peanut farmer), Reagan (bad actor and adjunct of the scariest dragon-lady of the 20th Century), Bush (whiney little bastard), Clinton (sleazy lying fuck), and another Bush (beady-eyed bellicose little shit). A sorry assortment, if you ask me. Not a hero in the bunch, with Carter and Ford carrying the uninspiring banner of simply not being totally reprehensible.

But then that's the great thing about our Government... you can put the wolves in charge of the flock, and we still somehow manage to muddle along and have a pretty good time. The country's going to hell in a handbasket, but it's a very comfortable handbasket and the inflight entertainment can't be beat. I just wish our current Asshole in Chief were more entertaining, like his predecessor. Bush jokes are simply not very funny. He's not very funny, if you come down to it. Like a practical joke in such bad taste that one is actually rather depressed and disturbed that somebody thought of it.

What I find disturbs me most is how badly people want to believe in the President. There are people who want so badly to believe in Bush that they simply do not look at the facts, they only hear what they want to hear, they only see that which aligns with their desire to believe. There were those who wanted so badly to believe in Clinton that they simply chuckled and tut-tutted at every piece of evidence that he was shady and crooked, and then came all over surprised when Congress had the temerity to prove it. People will make the most incredible mistakes in judgement when they want to believe in anything, just so they can believe in something.

Perhaps that is the danger of great presidents... people like my Grandmother who remember life under Roosevelt, and my parents' generation who remember life under Kennedy, the days when Presidents were larger than life, charismatic, shrewd and imaginitive, men with faults and weaknesses certainly, but who were nevertheless great leaders... it is these people who have idolized Bush without any reason to so do.

They just want so badly to believe in the President, and along comes this imbecile who fortunately comes from a political family and hasn't got any particularly loud skeletons in his closet, and the country goes apeshit for him... not because he is a great man, not because he inspires confidence or is capable of great things, but simply because he happened to be President when the nation entered a time of extreme emotional crisis and we need somebody to believe in.

It strikes me as terribly dangerous to idolize people like that, to take a political personality (or an actor or an athlete or a singer, for that matter) and put them up on a pedestal. Nobody can live up to that kind of hero-worship, and so you either set yourself up for a disappointment when the idol turns out to have feet of clay, or you end up being endlessly deceived when the idol's feet of clay are never brought out into the public notice.

It is laudable and good to honor people for their achievements, to set aside a day to reflect upon the great things that they did... but to expect a standard of godlike behavior from a human being is folly. I'm sure if we looked long and hard enough, we would find that Abraham Lincoln kicked puppies or that Roosevelt masturbated over books of Greek statuary or some other terribly human behavior. But they were President during extremely dramatic periods of history and they acquitted their tasks very well. Much like George Washington, and Roosevelt and Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. None of them were without fault, but they all did the right thing at the right time and made the world a better place before they left it.

Perhaps that's all we can really ask of anyone... to do one's best, to acquit one's tasks well, and to leave the world a better place. Now if only we could begin to agree on what constitutes a better world...

Well, either way, I'm glad to have the day off — although it's starting to look like more work is coming my way here at home than would have come at the office. I had planned to take this day to get some rest and then maybe tidy my room a little bit, perhaps get my clothes put away and get things off the floor long enough to push a vacuum around. But in typical fashion, as soon as my day becomes free my family starts filling it up for me. Grandmother wants to go to the mall to buy birthday presents for my aunt and cousins; then tomorrow we are going down to San Jose to celebrate said birthdays (my aunt Terry and her daughter Kellie and both of Kellie's children have birthdays in January and February, so they're consolidating parties), and then rushing back home as soon as possible so I can get into drag and go to a Galaxy photo-shoot and party. On Sunday I have Musical rehearsals, but that's the only event on that day so I might be able to get some stuff done here... and then with Monday free I hope I can get the rest of the house put together.

In the meantime, I've gotten quite close to the end of my Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets game, having entered the passages to the Chamber itself. I was a little disappointed to get there so soon. I'm trying to decide if I want to start the game over again, so that I can do the challenges better (I missed a lot of secret rooms and possible points), before tackling the Chamber, or else just go ahead and try out the Chamber so I'll be better prepared when I play the game a second time. We shall see.

So I guess I'd better be off. I want to get to and from the Mall before too late, I would hate to get stuck there with a lot of terrified men just getting off work but not daring to go home without a gift. The lines outside See's will probably be epic, and it's situated at a particularly narrow portion of the concourse, and then there will be great oceans of people clamoring around the jewelry and perfume counters of the department stores, which are always right next to the entrances so that a crowd will block our progress. Oh well. At least I don't have to buy any gifts myself. I will reciprocate the gifts I've received (a bottle of carnation essence perfume and a little white teddy bear in a big heart-and-lip-blazoned latte mug from my coworkers) next week, in honor of President's Day. A set of Lincoln Logs and a basket of cherries, perhaps. And tomorrow is all about half-priced chocolate, you know?

Hey, I got through the whole post without mentioning That Word once. Yay!

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Unutterably Banal

I really don't have anything to say today, but I don't like not saying anything for too long. There is this nonblogging epidemic afoot, where people aren't posting very regularly or are taking blog-breaks or are discontinuing their blogs altogether. A substantial chunk of the links in my Daily Reads column are dead or dormant. And I, like my mother and much of the rest of my family, feel compelled to fill in the silence with inane babbling.

Actually, I am working out something that I did want to talk about, but I'm having too much difficulty arranging my thoughts... one of the nice features of Blogger Pro is that you can mark something as a draft and store it away for future use. So I can jot down my thoughts now, and then when I have the afflatus to actually finish the article, it will be available to me no matter where I am. One of the difficulties of working from two different computers is that one doesn't always have all the same files on each one. I'll often email things to myself so that I can get to them from either computer, and every once in a while will copy all of my newer files onto disks and take them from one to the other, but in general it's difficult to keep track.

So while I'm waiting for my brain to kick in on the draft topic, I will take up space with a lot of drivelling frivoling nonsense.

I am so in love with Travis Fimmel right now. Just thought I'd let you know.

I am also quite in love with my new computer game, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It is so cool! I was up late last night playing it, and was late to work this morning because I was playing it (searching the greenhouse and gardens complex for a sheaf of boomslang skin... I finished that level about half an hour after I was supposed to be at work, and I wasn't even dressed yet). The environments are so beautifully rendered, I could just spend the whole time wandering around the halls of Hogwarts Castle; the challenges are really challenging, but not difficult at all... you have to think, but you don't have to act fast (and since I am great at puzzles but my hand-eye coordination sucks, this is good); and in this game, unlike its predecessor or any other RPG computer games I've played, the characters' faces move, their eyebrows go up and down and their mouths open and close and their eyes blink. It's a little disturbing at first, as they look like ventriloquist's dummies (one of my many phobias), but it's really pretty cool once you get used to it.

The only drawback is that the rendering is a little much for my computer, so it takes a long time to load scenes and cut-screens and what-have-you. That, and the fact that it's so involving and interesting that I have a hard time stepping away from the game. But I'll finish it and/or get bored with it soon enough. I mean, I haven't touched my Sims in ages, and there was a time when I used to rush home from the office or kaffee-klatsches just so I could play (looking up links just now, I am reminded that both of these games are from the same company, Electronic Arts... hmmmm).

My other Great Love of the Moment is the Chicago soundtrack. I bought it a few weeks ago, on a lark, and rather enjoyed it. It seemed so much better-produced than the most recent B'way version I have (starring Bebe Neuwirth), more tuneful and lush. But then on Monday I went and saw the film, which was so unspeakably fabulous that I could barely believe it. I plan to see it again while it's still in the theatres and will be rooting for it at the Oscars. I've been listening to the soundtrack over and over since then, especially my favorite piece, "Roxie"... I liked the song to begin with, but when I saw it done on screen I was floored. That bit with the mirrors, and the walking on the chorus-boys' hands... WOW!

It's interesting how having a fabulous visual to imagine somehow makes the music seem richer and more interesting. I was terribly impressed with the film, and now every time I listen to the soundtrack I can relive that exciting camera-work and fabulous choreography in my mind's eye.

I was also amused, at the end of the film, to see avowals in the credits that the three principles, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere and Renée Zellweger, did all their own singing and dancing... "Miss Zellweger's songs and dances performed by Renée Zellweger" and so on and so forth. As if we were actually sitting there reading the credits (so few people do that, myself being one of them) worried that someone had dubbed them and body-doubled them... I would have expected much better performances if they'd been dubbed and body-doubled, you know? Still, they all did fairly good jobs of the vocals and dancing, considering that none of them are known for their musical talents. Certainly better than I could have done.

Well, I guess I've yammered on long enough. I'm going to go back to that odd Italian website and browse for a while (I can't quite figure out what the purpose of the site is... there're lots of pictures, but my Italian isn't quite sophisticated enough to make much sense of the text)... or maybe I'll just go home (the office is eerily silent, the phone hasn't rung in hours) and play Harry Potter some more.

In parting, here is my favorite picture gleaned from the Travis Fimmel page of the Italian website... I'm not really into bondage, but there's something ever so compelling about a hot man incapactitated into submission:

Monday, February 10, 2003

Weekend Update

Well, this has been a very interesting weekend. Every thing I did took way longer than I thought it would.

On Friday, after writing the rather uninspiring bit of drivel directly beneath this one, I was so sleepy that I actually lay down on the floor of my office with my head resting on a ream of paper... and went to sleep! I was so surprised... I almost never fall asleep unless I'm in my PJs (or birthdaysuit equivalent) in a bed or sofa, with blankets and pillows, and otherwise quite comfortable. But I guess that last bit of flu was on its way out of my system, and so the system shut down for the purge. I slept for about an hour, woke up with a carpet-nap pattern pressed into my face and arms, and went about the rest of my day with a nice clear head.

The task at hand for the day was to send out ballots so that I can get a new boss... actually, there were several ballots involved, for the president, the treasurer, and the delegates (who probably won't be) attending the statewide convention. All of these things have to be done by secret mail ballot, using a double-envelope system. I hate doing these things, but I do them all the time anyway. I should only have to do them once a year for the convention, and once every two years for the executive body... but there are always resignations and retirements and what-nots to deal with, so I end up doing three or four elections every year, much to my eternal chagrin.

So I started the task by reconciling my membership database with the District payroll registers (something I hadn't done in quite some time, though I ought to do it at the beginning of every semester), deactivating all the people who had retired or died or simply stopped working in this District. First, I check the name on the database screen, then confirm that it also appears on the paper register; if not, I see if the name appears on one of the five other registers, to which the name might have been moved; if not there, I check and see that it didn't appear on any of last month's six registers, either; and if not there, deactivate the name. That took about six hours, to deactivate eighty out of seven hundred and sixty-odd members... and it was so boring that I wanted to slit my throat.

And then I started printing the envelopes. I thought I was being sooooo clever, figuring out how to print all the envelopes with my printer instead of printing labels and applying them one at a time. Unfortunately, I neglected to think about how long it takes to print each envelope with the envelope-feeder, which turns out to be an average of thirty-seven seconds (barring misfeeds) each. And each envelope had to be fed through individually, so one couldn't leave the printer to its own devices and go do something else, one has to sit beside it and feed a new envelope every thirty-seven seconds... six hundred and forty-two envelopes at thirty-seven seconds each (plus misfeeds); I was in the office until almost two in the morning.

Not that I was just sitting here the whole time, mind you... as always when I have an envelope-stuffing job to do, Caroline was with me. She actually enjoys doing this sort of thing, freak that she is, so all I have to do is provide a nice meal and she brings her invaluable obsessive-compulsive skills to the task, as well as simply keeping me company. So while I was printing the ballots and the ballot instructions on the photocopier, and wrestling with the paper-cutter and the paper-folder, she fed the envelopes into the printer. Then we went for dinner at our new favorite restaurant, California Pizza Kitchen, at our new favorite mall, Bay Street. Then we came back here and Caroline surfed the internet and kept me abreast of her online dating while I sat and fed one envelope after another through the printer and did a bit of surfing of my own.

And this was all just for the inside envelopes... we then needed another full set for the outside envelopes, which have to match the inside envelopes name-for-name. I of course abandoned the envelope-feeding thing for the outside envelopes, having no intention whatever of spending another five or six hours hovering over this damned printer, so I just printed the usual labels and called it a day.

Saturday, Caroline came over again and we started stuffing the envelopes. It took a while to start, because it took a long time to set up my living room with enough card-tables and TV trays so we could production-line the envelopes and still see the television. And then Caroline was so fascinated by the documentary on TV (E! True Hollywood Stories: The Cosby Kids) that she wasn't paying attention to the names on the inside and outside envelopes, and so we had to redo twenty or so of them.

Since our minds just weren't on the job, we went shopping instead, as Caroline needed to get some things at Costco. I always love going to Costco, since I don't have my own membership and so have not had the opportunity to become bored with it. It's just so amusing to go to a store that carries furniture and video games and dishes and vitamins and salmon and books and tents and clothes and tomatoes and ice cream and plastic-wrap and crackers and everything else the human heart could desire, all in gigantic sizes and super-duper cheap. There are so many people wandering around, too, some dazed and confused, some really hot, some tragically dressed, some just funny... it's a great people-watching venue. But again, we spent almost three hours there and at Target (Grandmother needed Rubbermaid storage bins, and they were on sale), when we had only meant to pop out for an hour or so to rest our minds.

Once back in harness with our ballots and envelopes and stickers, we watched four hours of VH1's I Love the 80s (even though I do not, in fact, love the Eighties... I barely even remember them), from '85 through '88. It was all very silly, and in fact I never would have watched such a show on my own recognizance; but this is the kind of thing Caroline loves, and since I wasn't paying her in coin I paid in remote-control. But it was fairly entertaining anyway, and it kept my mind occupied enough to be able to stuff the envelopes without trying to slice open my jugular with the edge of a ballot (though I of course managed to garner quite a crop of paper-cuts on my hands).

We stuffed the last envelope at about 12:30, which meant that I had missed another day of postage (I was supposed to get these things out before midnight on Friday)... since the postage meter stamps the date, but not the hour, there was no reason to rush and finish the job until Sunday night. So I put off going back to the office and run the stuffed envelopes through the meter and put on the return-address labels.

Sunday comes around, just as one might expect, and Grandmother woke up early enough to get dressed in time for church... meaning that of course I have to get up and go to church as well. Church was another one of those incredibly boring and yet wildly irritating Special Programs... they're starting these little "Small Groups" in order to give people something to do on a Sunday evening, and that was pretty much all they talked about (and, interestingly enough, managed to convey ZERO information while maundering on endlessly about "Small Groups"); and they also did a big whoop-de-doo about Communion, letting the crackbrained Music Minister (who I think would be happier in a Pentecostal church) babble and sing and dance and have his own way for an hour and a half. It was quite tiresome, and we had to leave before it was even over with.

As soon as I got the Grandmother home and changed my clothes, I had to jet right back out again to make it to my Living Sober Musical rehearsal in San Francisco. Now that was an interesting experience... talk about making oneself feel rather less than perfect. First we tried out a song all together so that the new music director (who prefaced his work by stating that he had never worked with musical theatre before, having been entirely devoted to classical music and church choirs) could hear our voices and get an idea of how to proceed. Since the score for the show hasn't been written out or copied yet (most of the music is to be lifted from Hairspray the Musical, with "original" lyrics), all we had to work with was "I Hope I Get It," the opening number from A Chorus Line, which is a surprisingly difficult song to perform cold.

After an hour of singing badly, we broke from the piano and did Movement, which made me feel even stupider than the bad singing, all uncoordinated and heavy and stiff... I just can't dance in flats, you know? Besides, I was not dressed in a way that camouflages the weight I've suddenly put on in the last couple of weeks, and everywhere I looked there was a reflection of my pudgy tummy in an ill-chosen white t-shirt. Fortunately, most of us were similarly elephant-footed and bear-bellied, so at least I wasn't the only one. The only thing worse than looking like a chubby klutz in a big mirrored room is to look like the chubbiest klutziest person in the room.

After rehearsal, I went out with my co-star (in both the Musical and the Galaxy) Cookie Dough. She had discovered a little vintage shop, Verunica on Noe at 17th, that is moving to new premises in Hayes Valley and had everything on clearance for 75% off... aside from enjoying a great chat with Willow, the co-owner, I came away with the cutest 1950s gold lamé purse you ever saw (check out all three images... it's really cute), a black glass ring from the 40s, a gorgeous rhinestone necklace and brooch... and a real collector's item, an incredible 50s Hobé barrette with faux pearls and gold mesh and imitation faience. All in mint condition, and all together for just over a hundred dollars. Bargains like that are better than sex.

After our shopathon, we met up with Cookie's mister, Michael, and had a fun and lovely dinner at Pasta Pomodoro on Market... where we were waited on by the cutest boy I've seen in many a long day. When I close my eyes, I see Kenneth's angelic little smile, his laughing eyes, his coat-hanger shoulders, his tiny waist, his beautiful long hands, his cute little butt in baggy jeans. Mmmmmmm... and the gnocchi vitello was pretty good, too.

Then it was back to the office, where I sat and put labels on envelopes and ran them through the postage meter, while surfing for Suzanne Somers and other jewels at eBay (but not finding anything worth buying). Considering how much longer than expected it took to do everything involved in this particular ballot, I was quite surprised that it only took me three hours to finish the project and get the whole thing shoved into the boxes at the Post Office.

When I got home I sat down and played my new computer game, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (which I'd bought at Costco on Saturday). I have Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, too, and I enjoyed it a lot... though I still can't get past the Snitch-winged Key room and have abandoned the idea of ever completing that game. The sequel is far more complicated and beautifully rendered, and of course runs rather slower because of this. It's still very nice, visually satisfying with it's wonderfully architectural Castle and audially quite pleasing with it's voices and sound effects, and I'm enjoying the hell out of it.

So, that pretty much brings us up to date. I've been listening to the Hairspray the Musical soundtrack all day (in preparation for the Living Sober Musical, and also because it's got really great music... though Harvey Fierstein drags down the soundtrack with his raggedy laryngitic frog-voice; I love Harvey, but really honey... he sounds worse than Lucille Ball in Mame). This afternoon I'm going with my coworker JB to see Chicago, for which I also own the soundtrack and I am very much looking forward to seeing the film. Also today I have been enjoying the Abercrombie & Fitch website, and am looking to buy some things in order to get a copy of the new Catalog, which apparently crosses all the lines between fashion and porn. I kind of like their clothes (though I can't figure out their sizing charts... since I have a thirty-four inch waist and a thirty-four inch inseam, apparently I wear a 32L), and I love their catalogs, but it never before occurred to me to buy the one to get the other. Sometimes the simplest solution is always the most difficult to see.

And speaking of the new Abercrombie & Fitch catalog, this isn't difficult to see at all! Scrummy!

Friday, February 7, 2003

Yes, That's My Name, Too

Sometimes I hate having such a common name. Yesterday, a quite young and very nicely dressed man came to the office to help us set up our new payroll system; upon arrival, he stuck out his hand in the accepted corporate-sales manner and announced, with a tone almost of pride, "My name is Robert!" I was rather taken aback, and felt slightly silly explaining that my name is also Robert... and aside from the vague embarassment of having arrived second at the name, I also noted immediately that my reading was rather less enthusiastic than his. "That's a very nice name," he exclaimed, laughing charmingly. An altogether charming young man. It made me want to hit him.

Over the years I have come to feel that Robert is, indeed, a rather nice name. It's very strong, upstanding, warrior-sounding sort of name. I think of Lord Robert Dudley, or Robert the Bruce, or Robert Stack. It's all so very masculine and all, literally translating as "Red Beard," with all that ancient Anglo-Saxon/Viking/Scots resonance of horses and swords and kilts and blue face-paint.

I just don't think it fits me... which is, I think, the primary reason that so few people actually remember my name after having met me. I also deplore the diminutives that certain kinds of people are wont to adopt without permission... Bob being the most heinous of these. Bob is not a nice name (even if it is my father's name... I know I never call him that), and it drives me instantly insane when people address me as such. My family still call me Bobby, simply because they knew me when I couldn't speak to correct them, and long years of use have inured them to it. What makes it ever so much more confusing is that many of the family call my father Bobby as well; when I was a child, we were known as Big Bobby and Little Bobby, but now I am quite a bit bigger than my father so that has fallen out of use. I suppose they could use Bobby Senior and Bobby Junior instead, but that would take as much effort on their parts as simply calling me Robert as I asked them to do years ago, so it won't happen.

For some reason, the name Bobby (or Bob) just makes me ill. Though I am accustomed to hearing it and answering to it, I started having difficulty saying it myself when I was ten. Everybody in the world who was not related to me addressed me as Robert, and I got accustomed to introducing myself as Robert, and announcing myself as Robert... so when I greet a relative on the phone, having to say "this is Bobby" absolutely galls me.

I don't mind Rob or Robby so much, though for some reason very few people ever think of calling me by those. I've never met a Robert who went by Bert or Bertie, though I suppose one could go that route if one were English enough.

Then there is the commonness factor... there are a lot of people named Robert in this world. I don't know how many times I've had to say, "My name is also Robert." It's like showing up to a gala opera opening wearing the same dress as one of the ushers.

Of course, unless one gets saddled with a name that one's parents made up in a mushroom-and-pot haze of consciousness, that's pretty much bound to happen to anyone. I can't think of very many names that aren't shared by at least two people of my acquaintance. And those who do have unusual names must always end up sharing the name with something even more embarrassing than a payroll-service sales rep. For example, my friend Shiloh must share his name with a crackpot Baptist organization and an heroic Disney beagle; my step-sister Heidi must share her name not only with a disgustingly cheerful Shirley Temple character but also with a famous Hollywood Madam. It seems no name is completely safe.

I sometimes ponder how life might have been different if Grandmother had given my father the name she wanted... Charles. If Daddy had been a Charles or a Charlie or a Chuck, how might his life have changed? I know that I personally prefer the name Charles... but then knowing the perversity of the human spirit, if I had grown up with the name Charles, I would probably wish I'd been named Robert instead. But still, I think the name suits me better, and I like the way it sounds. So much less consonant and more musical. You can drag it out with a terribly affected accent or clip it short and sweet. Charlie or Chaz has so much more panache than Bobby or Rob.

On the other hand, it suddenly occurs to me that "Charles" simply does not go well with my last name (the real one, not the one I use here). That wouldn't do at all. But then, I dislike my last name even more than my first name (hence my eagerness to use a pen-name... in fact, I am reluctant to admit my last name in any context, even at work), so it's really neither here nor there. Don't even get me started on my middle-name, which I consider an affront to the ear (Eugene).

So, if not Charles, what names would I prefer to wander around the world with? I've always liked the name Daniel, and also Leo or Lionel. I like the name James, though it is more liable to diminution than my own. Richard is nice, a lot of people already think that is my name, but for some reason there's something decadent-sounding about it. And none of these names is particularly rare. There are also names that I like the sound of but don't think I could ever live up to, such as Alexander or Julian or Christopher. Frederick is very nice, I think, and Reginald.

The thing is that there are thousands and millions of very nice names in the world, and each person has at least one. Names of people are like the names of objects... the object seldom gets to name itself. Even our stage-names are suggested for us, and they fit or don't fit as the case may be.

Well, anyway... I'm starting to feel very sleepy for some reason, and I can no longer pursue this particular train of thought. Though my staying home on Wednesday certainly did me a world of good as far as my flu goes, I am still not entirely healthy. And then last night I didn't sleep at all well, due to these goddamned hateful windstorms. OH! How I hate windstorms! I'd rather have rain and cold than gale-force winds snapping the bushes against my windows and howling through the hallway all night. I don't know how people in the Plains states can stand it. Of course, I can't imagine why anybody would live in a Plains state at all, considering that the winds are the least of their problems.

So I'm going to go lay down on the floor for a few moments and try to collect myself. Today's big task is an envelope-stuffing, and you all know how much I love stuffing envelopes. Fortunately Caroline is coming over this evening to help me... she always makes the task fun and entertaining. But in the meantime I have to manipulate the database and get all the labels printed, and I can't do it if my head is nodding on the end of my neck. So until we meet again, à bientôt!

Wednesday, February 5, 2003

Flu Baffle

God, I feel miserable... but I can't decide if I'm miserable enough to miss work. I mean, I'm not puking or crapping or shivering or dripping from the nose, I just feel achy and tired and queasy. I feel as if my head weighed twice it's usual heft, and I'm a little dizzy. The idea of putting on pants presents itself as a gargantuan undertaking, much less schlepping down to the car and wrestling through traffic to the office. What I'm trying to figure out, though, is whether or not I'm contagious, whether or not there's anything that I need to do today at the office, and whether or not staying in bed will be any help at all. No Yes No? Yes No Maybe? I can't quite make up my mind. And besides, I still have to put on pants and get in the car, regardless, because I'm out of ibuprofen. And if I skip work today, I'll have more work to do tomorrow, and I have no guarantee I'll feel better tomorrow, either.

Solution: call work (just did that and left a message) to say that I won't be in unless there's something they terribly terribly need for me to do. Go to the store and buy fluids, ibuprofen, and such, then come back here. Stay in bed and force fluids while watching movies and reading, wash this damned bug out of my system on a deluge of ruby grapefruit juice and herb tea while getting enough rest that my muscles can recover from whatever is making them shake. If that doesn't make me well by tomorrow, I will martyr myself with Robitussin and caffeine and go in anyway.

There, now I can just relax and stop worrying about whether or not to go in. I always feel terribly guilty when I take sick-leave, but then I feel even worse if I give my illnesses to others. And considering how little work I got done yesterday, when I felt rather better than I do now, I'm pretty sure it would be a waste of energy. But perhaps when I'm out at the store I can swing by the office and print out the database, and maybe do some of my database work here in bed. Or maybe not. We'll see.

I find myself pondering the strange dreams I had last night during those few hours I actually managed to sleep. We had windstorms last night, with the howling and the scratching against the windows and the drafts whistling through the house, so along with the flu there was a lot to wake me up, and when I am woken up in the night I tend to remember my dreams more clearly... and, when I'm ill or uneasy, those dreams tend to be rather more bizarre than usual. Like the dream involving Amy Sedaris stalking me, disguised as my mother (which doesn't take a great deal of disguising, they are very alike), at my maternal grandmother's former home in the mountains, where I shot her in the crotch with a BB gun to make her go away. Or the dream in which I am taking a yacht cruise with Ab Fab's Patsy and Edina, where Edina's ex-husband brings his new wife, an overweight geisha dressed in an incongrous black crepe de chine kimono and with a bust like Dolly Parton's. Or the dream in which I become embroiled in one of those closed-house reality TV shows, but in a Sims neighborhood populated by the entire casts of movies that I've seen in the last year, notably Polish Wedding with Clare Danes.

As fascinating as I'm sure all of this is, I have to stop writing now. I am intensely hungry, as I have been all week (I can tell from the mirror that I've put on at least five pounds in the last few days), but my instinct is to feed this flu to bursting-point. In closing, here's a little lump of masculine pulchritude, one of my favorite wallpaper images. Ain't he cute?

Tuesday, February 4, 2003

Everyone is Beautiful at the Ballet

Last night I was enraptured by a show on PBS Great Performances (KQED Channel 9, to be specific, I keep forgetting that with Cable I get all four PBS stations in the Bay Area)... a gorgeous little documentary from the Dance in America series, called Born to be Wild: The Leading Men of the American Ballet Theatre. It was amazingly fascinating to watch, to listen to these great dancers talk about learning to dance and visiting their hometowns and reminiscing about this and that stage of their careers. Interspersed with that was footage of the young men learning a beautifully casual pas de quatre created especially for them by Mark Morris — which was even more fascinating to watch, the document of a work of art in the making (especially as Morris is a great mover and shaker of Modern Dance, and so his choreography for a classical ballet was interesting in and of itself).

Aside from falling ass-over-teakettle in love with the gorgeous Madrileño dancer Angel Corella, I found myself not quite as jealous as I often feel when watching male ballet dancers. Though dancing was something I longed terribly to do when I was a child, and though I would still sell my soul (or at least let it out on a long lease) in order to magically be a great dancer, I have finally it seems come to accept the simple fact that it cannot be.

I mean, not only did I not have parents who understood what sort of sacrifice one has to make to be a dancer, I doubt very seriously if I possessed the physical stamina to undertake dance in the first place. The simple physical facts of my height, my large pelvis and head, and the weakness of my ankles and knees (they creak already, and I've never done anything to them to deserve such treatment) make dance impossible... even if I were able to conquer through vigorous training my inflexibility (I lost the ability to touch my toes when I was twelve) and my lack of physical aptitude (I am and have always been a klutz, for which I overcompensate by moving very slowly and gracefully), it remains inescapable that my head is too big and my torso much too long to dance classical ballet.

Talking to the families of these dedicated and god-touched dancers was something of a revelation to me. They were mostly middle-class people without a great deal of money or artistic aspiration of their own, but they were nevertheless able to make amazing amounts of sacrifice in order to get their sons going in a career that most people might think of as rather queer. I can imagine my stepmother being behind me all the way if I chose to play football or pursue karate, but ballet was something Strictly For Girls... and not a career anyway, just a sort of a hobby; my father would have supported me if I had shown enough initiative to contravene my stepmother, but still would have had to be guided; my mother would simply never have been able to garner the resources to get me to class of a morning, much less help me through training and all that. Grandmother did not get the opportunity, though I imagine she would have moved heaven and earth if it was something I really wanted.

And here's the thing: I am currently re-reading Dorothy L. Sayers Gaudy Night, which is set in Oxford; one of the underlying themes of this novel is the protagonist (Harriet Vane's) inability to give in to the love of her suitor, Lord Peter Wimsey, for a variety of reasons, interwoven with a dawning sense of regret when it comes to her choice of career (having gone into detective fiction instead of remaining in Academia); during a conversation with a fellow scholar about Life and Choices and Relationships, Harriett asks how one is supposed to know which things in one's life are of overmastering importance — to which her correspondent replies "You know when it has overmastered you."

I think I understand now, at this stage in my life, that dancing would not have overmastered me, and that therefore it was not for me to do. If it had been of overmastering importance, I would have pushed beyond my first disappointment that "ballet is for girls" and raised absolute holy hell until I was allowed to take lessons. Perhaps if I had taken the lessons, the spark would have struck... but as it was, I did learn everything my sister learned, as she would always show me what they did in class... which I remember was limited to second-position, pliés, and barre arabesques (it was not long before she and my step-sisters talked their way out of ballet in favor of softball, at which they all three excelled). If the barre arabesque had set a fire in my soul, perhaps it would have been different... but as it was, I couldn't do more than two pirouettes without getting dizzy and falling down, and was incapable of doing the arabesque after twelve anyway (mere physics... you can't lever something heavy at the long end of a plank, even with strength on the fulcrum; and since by twelve my torso was longer than my legs, and my head utterly enormous in scale, an arabesque simply wouldn't work).

But there is still that yearning, that strange envy of dancers and fashion models and that odd sadness of something that could not be. It's something I feel whenever I observe male beauty in motion, I guess. There's something about male beauty and motion that sets me all aglow. Especially when that motion is extreme, when a dancer contorts his body in ways that we mere groundlings can only dream, to express emotion and thought and music through the body. It's wonderful to watch. Strangely, female dancers don't have that effect on me. Perhaps I still resent them for getting to take ballet without stigma attached (though if you think about it, the sheer numbers of female dancers in the world makes their cross rather more difficult to bear than the few men who get into it).

Still, I am left with the question of what, exactly, is my Overmasteringly Important Thing? I suppose it's writing. Though I don't feel a fire when I write (certainly not like the fire when I perform), and I don't become passionate about that which I do write, it just seems very natural for me to write. I feel passionate about watching things, and about imagining things, about enjoying things... my passion is for beauty. And the only natural-feeling outlet for that is to write about it (rather than to draw, or design costumes and sets, which were once an outlet for me; or to sing or dance, which are physically improbable but echoed in my drag). I only wish I had a clearer feeling of what it is that I need to write.

I mean, I wrote here the other day that I can't really understand why I feel compelled to write a murder-mystery. But I am beginning to think that I am seeking a form, a scaffold, on which to practice that which I find important. I don't know what that is, perhaps I have to go ahead and write the damned thing and then figure out what it's all about. But I do think that using a genre format, such as murder-mystery or romantic comedy or what-have-you, gives structure that would otherwise be lacking. It's like writing poems in sonnet form... it's sometimes easier to say what it is you're trying to say if there is some intricate step or meter that you have to work it around, and the very act of making it rhyme forces one to weigh the importance of what each word means.

Well, one of the biggest differences between intellectual passions like writing and physical passions like dancing is the age of practice. Very few dancers can maintain greatness after thirty or so, for ballet is an art of the young and vigorous. But very few writers become great until well after their thirties... it takes longer for the brain to train itself than for the body; and some have posited that one has to live a great deal before one can write about life, that the vigors of youth must cease to exert their powerful fascinations so that one can look at those fascinations from the outside.

I have begun to consider this blog as my writer's training-ground. After all, a writer writes... it doesn't matter so much what he writes or where he writes, so long as he keeps on writing. And so I shall. But not right now... I have to go to work (actually, I should have been at work an hour ago, but the few people who'll be there today know perfectly well that I've been sick for days, so I'm sure they'll understand my tardiness).