Monday, March 31, 2003

Yuck! Nasty Smogless Air!

So our little trip to Bass Lake was very nice. We rented a cute little Mitsubishi Lancer from Enterprise, and drove up on a beautiful Friday morning. Actually, we got started around eleven, so by noon we were still technically in the Bay Area, and then we didn't really enjoy the scenery until we got out of the dreary Central Valley and started the mountainward climb from Merced. Once into the foothills, we enjoyed it immensely, and even stopped at a particularly romantic-looking place with a rickety barn and a blasted tree:

Actually, we stopped quite a bit on the way up... first in Modesto where we had lunch at the In-n-Out (the only reason I can think of to stop in Modesto is to eat... and even then one would have to be terribly hungry, as I was), and then at the abovementioned grazery, then at Mariposa where we did a bit of antiquing and Caroline bought a new dress, and then again at Oakhurst so I could stop at the bank to get some cash and then wander into the local Gottschalks for the sales (I bought an Izod bathrobe, a t-shirt, and a gold mesh handbag for just under $40).

Well, it was getting on towards dusk, so we stopped stopping and finally arrived at The Pines Resort, and were shown to our lovely suite:

I pose baronially by the fireplace...

...while Caroline fills out the breakfast room-service order.

Our sunset view... what you don't see is the rather shocking number of ducks wandering around and pooping everywhere.

After changing and refreshing ourselves, we went over to Ducey's, the restaurant in the Resort, the home of the fabled rack of lamb that Caroline has been obsessing over and fantasizing about since she was there two years and uncountable boyfriends ago. When the food came, she had the waitress take a picture of her with it. I didn't bring my camera to the restaurant, so I don't have a copy of that one yet. As I predicted, the lamb failed to live up to the ambrosial ecstasy promised by Caroline's fantasy obsession, but it was pretty damned good nonetheless. I had the prime rib of pork, which was immense and slathered in the most yumiriffic baked apple chutney. I even ate the rest of Caroline's lamb (she was saving room for dessert), which was exquisitely delicious.

After dinner we went for a walk around the resort, but it was rather dark and not terribly interesting, so as soon as we felt our dinners had settled we went back to the room. Caroline repaired immediately to the gigantic Jacuzzi tub, which was the other thing she'd been obsessing about. She was in that tub for about four hours, and ended up using just about every towel in the room. Though I'd brought books and magazines to read, there were actually entertaining shows on cable, so I busied myself with the television instead before falling asleep around midnight.

I didn't sleep very well, though. I seldom do, in strange beds, and I really do find clean air rather irritating and harsh. And then, I was in the same bed with Caroline and was very conscious of having to share the covers... I normally sleep with my blankets sort of wrapped around me like a cocoon so I can spin and turn in any old direction my body feels like, but being conscious of the covers meant that every time I turned over I had to wake up. But it wasn't too bad... I managed enough sleep that I wasn't a total zombie or anything.

Morning eventually came, and our lucullan breakfast tray showed up; although the breakfast-tray lady had to explain to Caroline that there were actually limits to the number of object she could place on the complimentary trays... Caroline had ordered enough food to feed a fairly large family, checking off four or five of everything on the menu. But even under these limitations, the breakfast was quite a spread:

It took a while for me to wake up, and then we had to check out at 11. After that we went around taking pictures of stuff around the hotel:

... I won't use up more load-time with more pictures, but here are links to the rest of them.

Then we went shopping in The Pines Village, a string of little shops along the main drag. After making a dent in the antiques shop and the souvenir shop, we headed back downhill, lunched in Oakhurst, and finally got sick of the whole "rural thing" and headed straight back for civilization, not even slowing down anywhere along the way. I was supposed to be in San Francisco at 7 for a production-number rehearsal, but I wrote down 6 in my calendar, so we were driving hell-for-leather to get to the City on time and ended up arriving an hour early and interrupting our rehearsal-hosts' dinner.

Then the others arrived and we got to work... and I started exerting myself quietly, taking a very simple and elegant production number and making it endlessly complicated with each "tiny little suggestion." I'm sure the other girls are ready to kill me, but I just can't abide standing still on a stage.

After we broke up from that, Caroline and I went moseying around the Castro, since it was such a lovely warm night and we were still reluctant to get back into the car after our lengthy drive. But eventually our feet started hurting and we were getting terribly tired, so home we went. The next day I had to go back out to the City for my Musical rehearsal, which for some reason was rather more exhausting than usual, on top of my exhaustion from the production-number rehearsal and the long driving and the poor sleep.

Come Sunday afternoon I was a mess, and I continue messy unto this very moment (you wouldn't believe how long it's taken me to write this post). But at least I enjoyed myself the entire time. The only thing worse than being tired is being tired from doing something tedious or boring. But being tired after doing something fun and entertaining is rather satisfying, all told. Still, I'd rather not be tired at all, and so I need to scale back on the activities for a while until I recover my equilibrium.

So off I go home, to fix my toilet (still haven't gotten around to that), maybe do some laundry, and then watch the second part of Daniel Deronda on PBS (Hugh Dancy is such a hottie!) And I can't do any of these things if I'm sitting here in my office, typing.


Thursday, March 27, 2003

Ah, That's Better

I feel so accomplished today! I did all these little internet-type things that I've been meaning to get to for quite some time. First I had to get a new ISP, since I've been using an unauthorized dial-in from the District and they've finally done a system audit and blocked my IP address. So I did a quick Google search at work today (since I couldn't access from home at all) and found ISP West, which had all the services I wanted at a rather low price. They also had a truly beautiful site-design, which had a great deal more to do with my purchase than the owners of the other, less prettily-designed ISP providers might think.

Then I went and renewed all of my domain services at EasySpace (my main draw there? It has an elephant for a logo, and it's an English company... England and elephants are two of my favorite things). And finally I downloaded a new free FTP manager from Internet-Soft. I had been using CuteFTP, and bought a site-license on my work computer, but I didn't think it was worth paying another $40 for a second site-license on my home computer. If the freebie FTP Commander doesn't work out, I will of course go back to the product I know and shell out the ducats.

On top of these, it has been a very busy day. Lots to do around the office, in particular a flyer and newsletter that had to go out to all the campuses, which made for a 2000-sheet print job and a lot of running around... difficult enough by itself, but after printing all the flyers and delivering some of them, I discovered that I had gotten the dates wrong on the flyers and had to reprint the entire thing and retrieve and redeliver the flyers I'd already taken out. Most exasperating! And then the phone was ringing off the hook, and everyone was in the office today, and each of them had a member come in to talk to them at one point or another. It was quite the little whirlwind.

What made it more pleasant was that this busy day has been surprisingly full of cute guys. When I went this morning to the office-supply store (we use Arvey-Xpedx, an account that was set up before I got there so I don't know why it was chosen) to stock up on paper and file-folders and pens and what-have you, the check-out clerk was a major cutie... tall and nicely proportioned, dark hair and pale blue eyes, very Irish-looking with a square face and straight, slightly delicate features, freckles and a tan at once; his name-tag read "Daniel" (one of my fave names) and he wore a silver thumb-ring and several silver chain bracelets. His hands were a trifle small for my taste, but his laughing eyes and devastating smile more than made up for them. He was also very new and still in training, and his inexperience was very charming... I am always drawn to vulnerability.

Later still, a sales representative came to discuss a new photocopier with me, the president, and the bookkeeper. Another hottie, this one in a suit (I love young men in suits). Not so tall, but blond this time, with vacant-blue eyes the color of the sky and beautiful gold-and-peach skin. His name is David and I look forward to seeing more of him. Of course, I find myself wondering if David is cute because he comes attached to a digital photocopier with four paper sizes, duplex capabilities, a built-in folding machine, and ten times the sorting capacity of my current machine... or if he's really cute by himself. When I was drinking, I used to wonder if the bartenders were actually attractive or if it was their proximity to the Divine Elixir that made them attractive; nowadays I wonder if the counter-men at Sweet Inspirations are really cute, or if it is the exquisite pastry they give me that lends an extra aura of tastiness.

Later still, at Safeway, I was walking out of the canned foods aisle and almost walked right into the hottest Highway Patrolman I've ever seen. He had an oval face so pretty as to be almost girlish, with dense bronzed skin overlaid with a faint apricot blush, amber-streaked brown eyes and dark gold hair, on top of a really tight body in the skin-tight tan uniform, and those shockingly sexy boots they wear. From a distance he was drool-inducing, but taken in at collision-close quarters, he was so hot I choked on my own spit. How come I never get pulled over by CHiPs like that? It's not like I don't speed.

So, all-in-all it's been a very nice day. I've even managed to get some laundry done since I've been home. I've finished a white load of underwear, socks, and t-shirts, and have started a load of pants in various shades of cement, khaki, and tan. If I can shove through a load of reds or blues (the main color-themes of my tops), I'll be set for a while.

Tomorrow I am going with Caroline to some resort (whose name escapes me at the moment, or I'd provide a link) up near Yosemite for a little overnight R&R. I'm very much looking forward to it... not only a day off work, but Caroline has been singing the praises of this resort and its restaurant ever since she went there about a year ago with some boyfriend or another. She pretty much already ordered her dinner, having called the restaurant serveral times to make absolutely sure that they have rack of lamb on the menu for tomorrow night. I've never known anyone so obsessed with lamb. I'm pretty fond of pork, of course, but I don't spend my time thinking about it... I just love eating it. Perhaps they'll have venison on the menu... I never get to eat venison, very few restaurants in my price-range carry it, and it's absolu delish.

Aside from the lamb, Caroline has been obsessing over the luxury of the in-room Jacuzzi. She loves hot-tubs the way I love jewelry. One would think that she'd just buy one (the portable kind that you can set up in your kitchen or wherever), or join a gym that has one, the way she schemes and works to get access to a hot tub (she once dated a guy for weeks just because he had a hot-tub in his condo complex). I enjoy a nice soak in a hot bath, and the bubbles are certainly nice, but I think I can pretty much take it or leave it alone. I'll be sure to bring a book and some magazines with me (I just finished The Pursuit of Love and am part-way into Love in a Cold Climate, and the newest issues of Town & Country and Vogue just came today), to amuse myself while she parboils herself for the duration of the evening.

Well, my darlings, I have to get up early (eight!) to shower and shave and pack and what-not before Caroline picks me up at 10:30 for our little trip, so I guess I'd better skedaddle off to bed. I hope your Friday is Fabulous!

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Moments of Clarity

This evening at my home-group meeting, the topic of discussion was "moments of clarity": those little things that happened to us in our drinking or using or even recovery where we realized that the jig was up, that we were alcoholics or addicts and had to stop. For many of us it is a blinding flash of self-realization. For me it was a series of epiphanies that eventually added up to a Moment of Clarity, and was followed by a few more little epiphanies. And while I did get a chance to share about my Moment of Clarity, I edited out (for the sake of narrative integrity) all the little epiphanies that led up to it. These stories are rattling around in my head right now, and so I am staying up way past my bedtime to jot them down.

I should preface these epiphanies with an understanding that I knew all about Recovery long before I ever had my Moment or attended my first meeting, even before I ever took my first drink. My mother had often attended court-ordered AA meetings, and often dragged my sister and me along with her. Since my mother wasn't intent on actually stopping drinking or drugs, she always chose the most dismal possible meetings to fulfill her legal obligation, meetings filled with embittered old failures, miserable dry-drunks like herself who were there because they had to be, or people who simply reveled in misery (it's a personality type I just don't get, but there it is). On other occasions my sister and I would sit in on an Al-aTeen meeting or an Al-Anon session, but again these tended to be the hardcore misery-monger meetings where people didn't seem like the sort of people one would wish to know, unhappy and very damaged people who were struggling daily with their disease. My father also exposed me to Recovery on occasion, when he was drying out in a VA facility and we went to visit and sat in on a family therapy session or two.

And so, while my first view of AA was not a favorable one, I did manage to absorb a great deal of Program just by sitting and listening and reading the posters and placards on the walls. I knew the 12 Steps, the 44 Questions, and a lot of sayings and aphorisms and whatnot. I knew how to tell when a person is an alcoholic, and I knew what lies alcoholics tell themselves when they are in denial.

But I thought I was better than that. Like many a teenager and young-adult, I was infected with an "It Won't Happen to Me" mentality. And so even with the knowledge of how many children of alcoholics become alcoholics themselves, I started drinking, believing with all my heart that I was better and smarter than my parents, and I wouldn't end up like them.

So anyway, I started drinking, and I handled it pretty well for a while, and then I started losing control... very slowly, by degrees, so I could justify and rationalize and deny the progress of the disease.

When I was 23 and into 24, I lived with my sister, her husband, her son, and after a little while her new baby. Shortly after I turned 24, our father moved in with us. He was at that time at the very bottom of his own using and drinking. He lived with us because he had lost his home, his job, his car, his wife, almost everything he had. While he lived with us, he smoked crack and drank entire cases of gin at a time. I looked at him with disgust, superior to him in every way because I drank like a gentleman, socially and with a certain amount of style.

Eventually he reached a point where he had no money and no way of getting more money, and was at a dead end. Grandmother asked me to help by taking Daddy to an AA meeting. She came over to the house to drive us to the meeting. While there, she looked around at the mess we all lived in, and pointed to the overflowing recycling bin: "Did Bob drink all that?" she asked incredulously, pointing at about fifteen wine-bottles and seven or eight empty liquor bottles. "No," I don't remember if I said it out loud or not, but those bottles weren't his. His bottles were still in the box they came in, he had simply drunk each bottle like a pint of Evian and put it back. All those bottles in the bin were mine. Some of the liquor bottles, the rum and the bourbon, were my sister's and brother-in-law's, but the rest were my vodka empties, and all the wine-bottles were mine.

When I took Daddy to the meeting, I listened to the very glamorous speaker who told a really great story, and I realized that I could stop drinking if I wanted to, that all these people had stopped drinking and they weren't miserable old sods like the people at Mother's dreary court-ordered AA meetings. I announced myself as an alcoholic at that meeting, and was given a copy of Living Sober, the introductory text that eases one into the program. I read it as soon as I got home, and decided to quit drinking. I would save money, I would earn Grandmother's respect, and I could be healthy and happy.

About two weeks later I was drinking again. First it was a glass of wine, just to relax before a show, and in a few days I was cocktailing again, and later on I was drinking at home again. I didn't really care, either. I don't count that as a relapse, because I never really entered the program properly in the first place; though I had made up my mind to stop drinking, I failed to take the First Step: I did not admit that I was powerless over alcohol and that my life had become unmanageable. It was still manageable, and I thought I could take power over the alcohol. I was wrong, but I didn't realize it at the time... I just chalked it up to a temporary enthusiasm and forgot about it.

Three more years went by. I got worse. I moved in with Grandmother shortly after the abovementioned period, when my sister's marriage broke up and Daddy went into rehab; I therefore didn't have the opportunity to drink openly or at home. So I became a binge drinker... I would stop at the bar after classes, but I couldn't do it all the time so I kept it down to once or twice a week. About once a month, when I got my paycheck from my little student-aide job, I would go on a big daylong cocktailing binge. Grandmother knew I drank, but as a classic codependent she did very little to stop me except to disapprove of my drinking and nag me about it (not that anybody can stop a drunk from drinking... but she believed she could by nagging, which is why I call her a codependent, the definition of which is "someone who believes that they will learn to control and enjoy their drinker").

Things fell apart pretty fast then. I got where I would pass out quite frequently; I did it fairly gracefully most of the time, and was able to tell myself that I was just tired from my studies and the mad social whirl and had simply fallen asleep. Embarrassing, but not too bad. My hangovers got increasingly painful, too; I threw up a lot, often in public on my way home from the bar. Sometimes I even blacked out. But I often went days, weeks even, without drinking, so I was able to convince myself that I was okay.

I knew, then, that I was an alcoholic, that I had to have alcohol to be happy. But instead of admitting it, I called myself a Lush instead, tried to make a personality out of it. I was well-known as a booze-hound; most of my friends treated it like a cute little eccentricity when I would bring one bottle as a house-gift and one bottle for myself, and when I eventually passed out on their sofas halfway through a party. I was a happy drunk, I never got into fights or became unpleasant to talk to. People usually enjoyed watching me deteriorate from the prim little queen to the silly little drunk. Only those closest to me could see me falling apart at high speed, and they weren't the kind of people who could make me see or admit what I was doing.

I figured I could ride that reputation for a long time, and then die when I got too bad. But one day I was sitting in a bar, a dive on Grand Avenue where I had popped in to get out of the rain, and had a couple of vodka-tonics while waiting for the next bus to come along. As I sat there, an older woman came in and sat at the end of the bar. She wasn't exactly a "bum," but she certainly looked poverty-stricken to the furthest extreme before reaching bum status. She ordered as single shot of scotch; she paid for it in nickels and dimes; she sat staring into it and taking tiny little sips for just the longest time. Her whole life was in that little glass, and she focused on it with the intensity of desperate prayer. She was quite the most miserable looking person I'd ever seen indoors, a bleak and desolate creature of pain and disappointment.

I saw myself in her. I knew that I wouldn't die when the alcohol made my life unmanageable. I would live a long and miserable life like my parents and like that lady, outliving my usefulness, outliving my joy, outliving my strength to end it all. I would descend by slow degrees to that place of desolation and would be too tired and defeated to kill myself. It was an epiphany, a vision of what my life would become if I continued to drink.

But I did not stop. As a matter of fact, I got quite a bit drunker that day. And for the next few months I got as drunk as I could as often as I could, and with an increasing sense of fatality. Eventually people noticed that I was deteriorating and began to comment. My arguments with Grandmother became more ferocious, my discussions of life and love with friends became more pointedly focused on drinking, and on that last immemorial night of my drinking career, even the owner of my favorite bar asked me if I had considered that I may have a drinking problem. You know you've reached the end when bar-owners think you've gotten messy. Epiphany.

The next day, after having passed out on my own front porch in broad daylight (it was late May, the day after I graduated from Laney College with three associate degrees with high honors), I woke up with a most unspeakable hangover. Grandmother was so angry at me: not only had I passed out on the porch where people could see me, but my behavior came right after a night where she had been so proud of me. Her disappointment was so much more profound after having been so elated. She screamed at me in a most piercing tone for about two and a half hours. I wept and held my head and agreed with her just to shut her up. Eventually she wrapped up her comments with an ultimatum: I would stop drinking or I would move out of her house.

Afterward I sat on our back deck, smoking and drinking coffee and juice for my hangover, justifying and rationalizing and denying to beat the band. It was like fretting with a tangled string of Christmas lights, all my denials and justifications looped around each-other and obscuring a truth that I knew existed but couldn't see. I considered moving out, thought about where I'd go and what I'd do, what depths of ugliness I could live in on my income while I was a student and couldn't work much. I considered pretending to quit drinking, just to get Grandmother off my back: I could become a secret drinker, give up the bar and keep bottles in my room to drink every night before I went to bed.

Suddenly, as often happens when you're fretting with a tangle of Christmas lights, the whole thing came loose all at once and rolled out in front of me and I could see. I suddenly saw that I was an alcoholic and my life had become unmanageable: I was about to lose my home and the respect and protection of the one person who had always taken care of me, and that's pretty fucking unmanageable, as lives go; I was about to start hiding bottles of liquor around my house and pretending to be sober while remaining drunk, and that sounded a whole hell of a lot like an alcoholic.

That was my Moment of Clarity. Memory has endowed the moment with a beam of celestial light and angelic choirs from above; in reality it was early afternoon on a beautiful spring day in a garden full of blooms, and my mind was suddenly clear. I saw my path, I knew what I had to do: even if I was going to be miserable for the rest of my life, I had to quit drinking or I would end up in a place so low that misery would be a prayed-for luxury. I knew enough about recovery to know that I couldn't quit just for Grandmother and I couldn't do it alone; and so I knew then and there that I had to want to quit drinking for me and that I had to go to AA immediately.

And so I did. It took a couple more weeks of arguing with myself and almost falling back into the old thinking, but I eventually found a home group, found a sponsor, worked the steps, and got better. I thank God for that Moment, and for the little epiphanies that prepared me for it. Sometimes when I think about it, like now, I get all choked up with amazement and gratitude that I was able to see clearly while I was still young and had so much before me, that I didn't have to lose my home and my Grandmother and my friends before I could see, that I didn't have to become exactly like my parents before I could see, that I didn't have to become like that tragic old woman in Smitty's with her nickels and dimes and scotch and despair before I could see.

Well, anyway, I just had to get that out of my system. I'm kvelling all over the place now, and it's so late and I have to get up in the morning, and so I had better wrap this up and go to bed. Thanks for listening, and I hope that there was something of use or at least of amusement in there for you. Hugs and kisses! You're the best!

Monday, March 24, 2003

Oscar® Yawn

Maybe it was just me... I was tired, after all, and a little distracted... but that was the most boring Oscars® show I've ever seen.

Perhaps if I'd seen more of the nominated movies, I might have become more involved; perhaps if there weren't a war going on there would have been less sententiousness in the speeches; perhaps if I'd not lost track of time and missed the first hour of the show, I would have caught the better parts; perhaps if I'd had people over to watch with me, it would have been more fun. But I hadn't, there is, I did, and I didn't.

At any rate, I missed the Red Carpet Parade, which is the most important part of the show, so I've had to go hunting about online for pictures. Here's the best and most complete set (click on the Red Carpet Gallery for a slide-show pop-up).

So I was rooting for Chicago in pretty much every category simply because I have seen it and loved it. I thought, though, they must be stretching to nominate acting performances from this... it was a musical, not a drama, and one doesn't really think of singing and dancing, no matter how well-done, as Oscar®-worthy acting. I also rooted for Far From Heaven when it came up, because I saw and loved that one, too. I did not root for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers because it was up for technical awards which I don't understand or much appreciate, so I didn't care; besides, I didn't enjoy it very much... exciting and interesting, of course, and the Gollum thing was totally cool, but it was too violent and unhappy. The only other movie I saw that was nominated was Y Tu Mamá También, which I rather enjoyed, but I couldn't tell whether or not it was well-written as a screenplay because I didn't understand it.

As far as who won and who didn't win, I find these things are no longer relevant. When Julia Roberts walked off with an Oscar® in 2001 for her not-very-challenging portrayal of Erin Brockovitch, when she was up against Ellen Burstyn acting circles around her in Requiem for a Dream, I finally understood that it's not about acting anymore... it's about roles. Julia's push-up-bra paralegal was simply a more loveable character, with her wisecracks and caring gestures (which were courtesy of the writers, not the actress), than Ellen's pill-addicted granny, who was difficult to look at but utterly compelling, wiping up the thespian floor with Julia even in the few clips I did see (I never saw the movie itself).

On a side-note, why did so many people bring their children as escorts? It was kind of cute, but so many of them did it that I wondered if it meant something. Most peculiar.

Another side-note: why do people think that it's okay to come to the Oscars® completely unprepared to accept an Oscar®? These people are, for the most part, actors... you'd think they could rehearse a reaction and memorize a few lines. And a director or producer should know enough to have a professional actor stand in and accept for one instead of getting onstage and making an ass of onesself. I suppose that they spend so much of their time being prepared and creating artifice that they think a spontaneous reaction will be better than a rehearsed speech. But as professionals, couldn't they prepare a spontaneous reaction? No matter what, there's a 20% chance that you're going to have to give a short speech; why not prepare something for the eventuality?

Think about it, people. You're artists. Create art. Waving your hands in front of your face and turning in circles and hyperventilating is not art.

The gowns, which are the main reason I watch the Oscars®, were too too dull. Perhaps the situation in Iraq inspired a more somber approach; or perhaps Joan Rivers' jibes are starting to make the ladies nervous, and they're all trying terribly hard to not draw too much attention to themselves.

Of all the gowns I saw, I think I liked Diane Lane's best. But I don't know who she is, so it doesn't matter so much. I also loved Cloris Leachman's festival of chinoiserie, though is struck me as inappropriately loud for sitting quietly on the stage with a bunch of antiques. I also loved Renée Zellweger's lovely red Carolina Herrera, though she didn't wear it very well, and I do wish she'd powder down those cheeks of hers and stop squinting (Grandmother thinks that Renée should wear glasses).

Halle Berry's gown was divoon, but a mere patch on the gowns she's worn in the past (perhaps after that jaw-dropping number she wore to accept the Oscar® for Monster's Ball last year, she felt that anything else would be anticlimactic, so why bother?). Susan Sarandon's gown made me drool, all that black jersey trailing around all over the place, but it was certainly subdued and lacked her famous cleavage (I'm not much of a tit-man myself, but Susan Sarandon without cleavage is like a monument without pigeons: it just isn't right). I liked Meryl Streep's gown, but I was forced to wonder what it would look like if that sleeve-wrap thing had been finished and sewn on properly.

One also must bow with awe (or, in modern parlance, give mad props) to The Big Gals, Queen Latifah and Kathy Bates and Catherine Zeta-Jones (though her large largesse is merely gestatory and therefore temporary) for the feats of couture engineering that erected their massive bosoms so proudly. I really regret missing Latifah and Catherine performing "I Move On"... all that bust moving around might turn a boy straight. Hopefully somebody taped it. And I really really loved Queen Latifah's gown. It's so nice to see her all girled up in a dress.

But in general, there weren't any bad gowns, which are always more fun than the fabulous gowns. A fabulous get-up will inspire awe and admiration, but a fashion disaster gives you something to talk about for weeks. But even Sally Kirkland, who can always be counted on to do something unspeakably tacky, showed up in a boring pink nothing that looked like she'd stolen it from Debbie Reynolds' closet.

I was terribly disappointed in Julianne Moore with those sloppy limp ruffles up her ass. That gown was a mess, but not enough of a mess to cackle over. It was simply disappointing. Her hair wasn't quite right, either. Sigh.

And I would have thought Nicole Kidman of all people would know better than to wear a dress with unsecured shoulder-straps; it must have been a last-minute replacement of a more festive gown. Someone as studied as she is could be assumed to try things on and walk around in them before wearing them in front of the entire world. But then, I would also think she'd be able to control her forehead better in moments of emotional exaltation — it looked like there were two small lizards under her skin trying to escape.

And I wish Barbra Streisand would drop this kittenish attitude she's been sporting lately — when she came out to present Best Original Song, taking baby-steps and holding up her train in that little-girl manner, I wanted to strike her.

Then there were the men: when did neckties become acceptable for black-tie? I didn't get that memo. I don't really like it, either. I thought Adrien Brody looked like a mortician. A totally hot mortician, but still. And silly old Sean Connery didn't get the memo, either. Or maybe he lost a bet. He seems to be stuck back in 2000 when frock coats and band-collars were all the vogue and many of the men looked like dress-extras from Gone With the Wind. But otherwise, the gentlemen seem to have accepted the fact that black-tie is boring, but not wearing black-tie makes you look a fool.

Then there was the music. I can't believe Eminem won an Oscar®. Now he's going to be totally insufferable, with the support of the film community as well as the slavish devotion of the music industry to his hateful antics. I do think he's a good musician, and I'm sure his song was very nice, but there is a fine line between artistic radicalism and disguising hatred as an artistic vision... but on the other hand, the other Original Songs were insipid as hell. I mean, "I Move On," though a fun and lovely tune, was a low-point of Chicago, and it only played in the credits; that messy whatnot from Frida was just awful, though one wonders if it would have sounded better with different singers; that bullshit socio-political screechfest of U2s was entirely unpleasant and completely unnecessary (I actually had to change channels when Bono started ululating, with veins standing out on his forehead but unfortunately not bursting); and really, The Wild Thornberrys? Are they serious?

Finally, the show production simply sucked. Steve Martin was so savorless it was embarrassing to watch him, and he was wearing too much powder and not enough rouge. The band was horrible, and their choices of songs to use for introducing people were questionable at best. The arrangement for "All That Jazz" they played every time Chicago won something sounded like a high-school marching-band (and not from an affluent high-school, either). The set was boring, the podia were hideous, and the silent Oscar®-toting robot-women were so stumpy and badly-dressed that one wonders if they were hired from a model agency or just culled from the Price-Waterhouse steno pool.

I also have to question the practice of dragging out every extant acting-Oscar®-winner to sit on the stage. Poor Louise Rainer should be let to moulder away with dignity in private. Watching Olivia deHaviland, one of the most beautiful actresses of all time and definitely the most elegant octogenarian I can think of, stumbling across the stage in exactly the same way my grandmother rushes for the bathroom when we've been out shopping all day, was most disturbing.

On the other hand, I thought Peter O'Toole did the best job of accepting an honorary Oscar® that I've ever seen. Though far into his doddering dotage, he carried himself well and stuck to his script and his time-allotment. I was terribly impressed.

Well, at any rate, it's all over with for another year. Honestly, the older I get, the less enthused I am by the High Holy Days of the Gay Calendar. I'm so tired of Halloween I could cry, and I'm about to lose interest in the Oscars®. Next thing you know, I'll be sitting home during Pride and skipping Fashion Week.

Still, you gotta love the gold man.

Saturday, March 22, 2003

Retail Therapy

Spring is officially here, and my Depression is over — just in time for me to feel everything I'm feeling about the war in Iraq. It's a difference between simply feeling down, weepy and sorry for myself and tired, and feeling so many things all at once, fear and anger and frustration and sorrow and more anger and a skosh more fear, that I cannot process it. Either way I feel emotionally awful, but now there is an intensity.

There's a funny old t-shirt saying that has always stood me in good stead: When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Go Shopping. Actually, I always thought "tough" should be "squirrely." The going is pretty squirrely right now, and I'm feeling pretty squirrely. So I went shopping. At lunchtime yesterday, I had to go to the bank to make a deposit for the office, and I had a package to send to the attorney; since the bank and attorney are two blocks apart from each other, and since I could fit City Center and Kaiser Center into the route, and since it was a beautiful sunny warm day, I decided to walk it and shop.

It's twelve blocks from my office to City Center; I stopped first at the Goodwill Store and fondled a lot of sad leavings, but found that rarest of treasures: a flannel shirt that is not plaid. It has been my lifelong quest to find flannel shirts that are not plaid. Love flannel, hate plaid. So far in this lifetime I've found three nonplaid flannel shirts (none of which fit me now, due to the shirt shrinking or my growth). But in the Goodwill Store I came across a length of flannel, white with sunny yellow stripes, fashioned into a size XXL long-sleeved button-down-collared shirt. Joy!

Then I shuffled up the block and across the street to The Gap. It was one of those unfortunate times when there aren't any really great sales going on, but I was desperate to buy, and so I spent a fairly long time there finding things I really wanted that were worth the price printed on the tag. Also Caroline called and I joined the ranks of those hateful people who talk on their cell-phones while going about the day-to-day business of life. Not that anyone could be disturbed by me talking, as I was consistently drowned out by the edgy indie music that was blaring down from the ceiling. I eventually ended up leaving with two trimmed t-shirts (mustard piped with navy and dark slate piped with black), a brick-red rugby shirt with white collar and navy chest-stripe, and a pair of cement-color Classic Khakis in my new (but temporary!) waist-size.

Then I did my work-business and made my way back to the office by a different route than I'd come, craving ice-cream but not passing an ice-cream shop, so I ended up getting a Häagen-Dazs ice-cream bar along with a turkey sandwich at my usual lunch-place around the corner before I finally made it back to my desk. Once there I still couldn't really concentrate on doing any work, so I just did a bare minimum of maintenance-effort, faxing a couple of documents as requested and answering the phones and leaving a check for the cleaning-lady. Then I left, and hit a favorite consignment shop on Piedmont Ave as I made my way home.

At Sophisticated Lady I decided to buy a beaded-and-pailleted black and silver tunic that I'd seen there before but had considered too frumpy, a waistless asymmetrical number that is a little too reminiscent of Liza Minelli. But it does sparkle and flash a good deal (it also rattles), and I'm sure I'll find some way of looking good in it. Besides, it's always good to have a fat-dress in reserve in case I put on a bunch more weight. I also bought an absolutely dreamy silver-beaded azure-blue cocktail dress that is two sizes too small for me but will fit and look fabulous on a certain someone I know; so she will be getting a pretty new dress for her birthday unless I manage to come down with mononucleosis and drop forty pounds in the next month.

Once I got home, I met Caroline who helped me get the dead mouse out of my garage (enjoying the operation with rather more relish than one expects from a girl) before we went out to dinner at Señor Nero's, a lovely new Mexican restaurant on Grand Avenue (actually, the restaurant was in its previous Montclair location for eons, so I guess it's not really a new restaurant so much as an old restaurant in a new location... but then, the location is a converted pre-WWI house, so you couldn't really call the location new, either... so it's an old restaurant in an old location that is different from it's previous location).

And to add the final fillip of satisfaction to my day of retail therapy, we stopped at Walden Pond Books, my favorite source for used literature (their new literature is too avant-garde for my taste, or rather it's a little to untested to spend full cover price). There I picked up The Nancy Mitford Omnibus (containing four complete serial novels including my long-time favorite Love In A Cold Climate), Michael Chabon's much-praised The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, hardcover first editions of Quentin Crisp's The Naked Civil Servant and How to Become a Virgin, Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin (mostly because of the cover-art), and an obscure gay comic novel by Bob Herron called Moritz!, as well as two copies of a large paperback art-book on costume jewelry (one for myself and one for fellow-collector and coworker JB).

I considered taking pictures of everything I bought, but I don't have time right now. I have to do some housework, then go to a rehearsal, and then if I have time drop by Jhames' new digs and say "Hi" with a mango mousse cake. But if I do find the time, I'll take and upload pictures later, so check back.

When I got home, the war was still raging; when I flip channels I still see media representations that make my blood freeze and boil by turns — but at least I have nice books to read and some new outfits to wear. I didn't solve any of the world's problems, but I feel a little better. And that's all I can ask of $300 worth of stuff.

Thursday, March 20, 2003


This war has me very saddened and angry and frustrated, yet this feeling is not new and I am by no means surprised that things have come to this pass. I have considered this war a foregone conclusion since I first heard tell of it, and the only delays observed by Bush have been the expected niceties of convincing the rest of the world that he is right. The Congress won't oppose him, and nobody else can stop him, so what else could possibly happen?

Am I overwhelmed? Underwhelmed? Perhaps I'm just whelmed. Grandmother is glued to the television now — while I can't bring myself to watch, she can't tear herself away. I don't expect I'll have much of a conversation with her for the next little while. Certainly not after the fervor of our argument this Tuesday over Bush and Iraq... having come to the conclusion, after an hour of impassioned debate, that one either believes in Bush or one does not, and that she does believe in him and I think she and the rest of the country are idiots to so do (but can't prove it), this will have to go into the ever-thickening file of Things We Don't Talk About.

In other news... nothing much is going on right now. After last weekend, I've needed some rest; and having got some (I took the day off yesterday to recover from my post-and-prep as well as my weekend), I need to do some around-the-house kind of crap that is entirely necessary — and therefore entirely boring.

For example, today I have to go to Home Depot and buy a new floaty-valvey-thingy for my toilet, then I have to go home and get all butch and everything to install it. I don't even own a plaid shirt, so I'll have to make do with my Eddie Bauer denim shirt. Once I've completed that task and scratched my balls a few times, I will turn my attention to my bedroom: I'm almost out of underwear, and completely out of t-shirts, so laundry seems to be in order again; also, the boxes and piles in my room are attempting to converge on the center, which turns every trip across the room into an adagio routine, so I suppose I ought to do something about that. Then there's the rest of the house: the carpets are an absolute sight; Grandmother needs me to find out how to return the EuroPro steam cleaner she bought from HSN but for which she has lost the packing labels and receipts, and simultaneously order the larger model (even though she hasn't even tried the first one, in fact probably never will have any use for one, and her only reason for exchanging it is because she wants one like her daughter's); and then, I don't think I've dusted since New Year's, and I have to do something about the mouse carcass in the garage, and perhaps wash a window or two.

So that's what my life is going to be like... I've gone from the Glamorous Queen-About-Town of last weekend to the Workaday Drudge-Boy this weekend. I had some great social invitations this weekend that I've turned down in interest of these petty domestic rituals, though, so I at least get the satisfaction of knowing that I won't be sitting at home dusting on a Saturday night because nobody invited me out... I will instead be foreswearing the glamour and lights of the beau monde in order to help my elderly granny keep a decent home.

It requires a certain amount of skill to make a virtue of necessity; it takes even more skill to create martyrdom from procrastination.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Still in Mourning

Even though I gave myself a good manicure and wore a pretty ring today, my poor right hand still looks maimed and horrid. And I can't stop looking at it! When your nails have been long for a while, your finger-ends become extremely sensitive, so even if I didn't look at my poor middle finger, I can still feel it's degraded state whenever I type or touch anything. It's too sad for words.

Nicholas Nickleby was wonderful. I laughed, I cried, I drooled! Charlie Hunnam is sooooo tasty! Christopher Plummer is sooooo sinister! Jamie Bell is sooooo sweet! Nathan Lane is sooooo funny! And Dame Edna was sooooo delightful (and even had a cameo as Barry Humphries)! The whole film was utterly lovely. This production, which left rather big holes in the plots and characterizations, in interest of time, did a fabulous job of balancing the comedy and the melodrama of the story. Other productions I've seen focussed on one or the other, this one had just enough of each, laughter and tears, hurrahs and hisses, joys and sorrows.

While researching some of the holes in the story (such as what, exactly, the Cheeryble Brothers did for business and how they employed young Nicholas) led me to this lovely searchable online version of the Dickens novel. I think I might just get around to reading this one. I've never really read Dickens before, not a whole novel certainly, I find him generally a little to rambling in style; but the bits and pieces I've read today, and the admirable casting I can now visualize when I read it (I mean, Charlie Hunnam is just dreamy!), I might just manage to wade through it.

I keep wondering though, after seeing the last two versions of the novel (the film and the A&E miniseries), just how much of the homoeroticism that I've spotted is actually in the text. I mean, little suggestive phrases like "Dotheboys Hall" and the rather passionate friendship of Nicholas and Smike, these set little bells ringing in my head. It's always easier to read something if you're keeping an eye peeled for homo-naughty bits.

So between mourning my nail and wallowing in the haunted memory of Charlie Hunnam, and between mourning the current state of affairs in regard to our fair nation and its relationship with the rest of the world and worrying about my much-dreaded dental appointment tomorrow, I somehow managed to have a fairly nice day. I've been in a quite lovely mood, except for when I accidentally got into an argument with my Grandmother about the war (she said something stupid about France and I launched into a tirade before I could stop myself... we both got all wound up and had nothing to show for it but a sense of ignorance and incomprehension of the other person's point of view); so long as I'm not thinking about things that make me sick to my stomach, I feel quite light-hearted and cheerful.

It's a very strange place to be in, terrified and amused at once. I don't know whether or not to like it. But at least I know I'm alive.

Well, off to bed with me... I have to get up at 6:30 in order to get myself and the Grandmother to the dentist's by 8 (they put our appointments adjacent so he could clean the Grandmother's teeth while taking breaks from whittling my top left rear molar to a post and taking molds for the crown and the temporary. It ought to be grand fun. Though I don't think it's really necessary to get a good night's sleep beforehand; afterward I am coming right back home to bed, having arranged for the day off work. Then I'm going to fix the toilet (though I can't even describe what's wrong with it, I think I may've figured out how to fix it... it's a matter of buying and installing a new Part, disregarding the fact that I haven't the slightest idea what that Part is called nor how to install it).

I hope your day is super! And if it isn't, I wish you someone wonderful to console with.

Monday, March 17, 2003

Girl, My Dogs Are Barkin'!

Oy, what a weekend! My beardline is all scaly and red, big flakes of mascara are still dropping from my eyes, I've got razor-bumps all across my chest and bruises on my ribs where the bustier cut into my flesh, I've got wig-hair for days (like hat-hair but much, much worse), my feet are swollen and painful, and pretty much every joint in my body is creaking.

But I think it was worth it. I am an insatiable sponge for approval, and I get so much love and admiration and applause when I'm in drag that the painful aftermath is but a minor consideration.

(Oh, God, I just ripped my middle right fingernail, way below the quick! AAAAUGH!!!! Just when I got my nails looking so nice! Goddamned reams of paper packed too tight in the goddamned box!!!! FUCK!!!! I'm going to go put on a bandage and cry for a few minutes... excuse me).

So back to my exciting and glamorous weekend... (oh my poor nail!)

Saturday, while telling you all about the Night With Dame Edna, Caroline turned up out of the blue bearing Pillsbury Orange Danish. Actually, it wasn't entirely out of the blue... when I'd told her about the shows I was doing over the weekend, she said she might come, but she was keeping the weekend open for this guy she's seeing. But then Friday evening he gave her the old "I don't want to get involved in a new relationship right now" speech (which begs the question of why he posted an online personal ad in the first place), citing his depression over job insecurity, and the likelihood of his moving to another part of the world for a job that he hasn't got yet, as his main reasons. Sounded pretty flimsy to me, but then breakup reasons always sound pretty flimsy... usually because they are heavily euphemized.

I guess it must be difficult to break off a casual dating relationship. You don't know the other person well enough to know how they'll react to the actual reason you want to cut it off, so you have to come up with some generic sort of reason that won't be hurtful to the other person and also won't make you look bad. I was faced with that problem once, when I met a guy online and he seemed nice but when I met him and got an eyeful of his horrible teeth and his rosacaeaed nose, and an earful of his dreary passionless slacker personality... in a word, ick. But I didn't think I could just come out and say "sorry, darling, but you're icky." So I took the coward's way and never called him back. But with Caroline, you can't just stop calling her... if you don't call, she'll stalk yer ass.

So anyway, Caroline came over and we had orange rolls and talked smack about the latest guy (who still clings to his high-school water-polo nickname, well into his thirties), then she busied herself online seeking a replacement while I started packing my things for the show. I had one of my last-minute crises of faith, where the skirt I had planned to wear didn't really go with the top I'd planned (though both were opalescent pale green and worked fine in my mind's eye, the skirt leaned toward grey and bronze while the top leaned towards white and silver, and once they were actually together in front of my actual eye, their differences outweighed their similarities), and while I had a skirt that did go with the top (cream chiffon, goes with just about anything), I also had a hundred or so other outfits that started clamoring for exposure as soon as I was unsure of myself for a moment. Eventually I had to drag Caroline down to my Drag Room to help me... and after fondling and considering every gown I own, I ended up packing the original top with the replacement skirt, thereby wasting about forty-five minutes of frenzied indecision for no good reason.

Then after showering and shaving and whatnot, we went down to my office so I could get ready. As I was way behind schedule, I unfortunately rushed a little bit, so my makeup didn't come out quite as well as I like. And then the MapQuest directions I downloaded for the Rainbow Room were wrong... either I put in the wrong street-number on Mission Boulevard or there was a glitch in the system, but the directions dumped me way the hell out past Tennyson Road, when in fact the club was five miles away, a couple of blocks from A Street, in the downtown area.

When we finally got to the Rainbow Room, which is charmingly located in a tiny strip mall next to a Korean barbecue and across from a Korean cleaners, we were over an hour late and the show had already started. Of course, with the first-come-first-serve setup of Court shows, my tardiness gave me the second-to-last slot in the show, which is I think the best place to be. I was able to drink a soda-pop and calm down and acclimate myself before I changed into my show dress, chatting with some old friends I haven't seen in ages (hi, Paul!), and watching the performers while Caroline made herself sick on the chicken wings at the buffet.

Then I popped into the ladies' room and changed clothes and added some more jewelry to the mix, and came back with plenty of time to sit still and hydrate myself before I hit the stage to perform "Sing Happy" from Flora, The Red Menace, one of my favorite songs. Afterward I got out my camera and snapped a few of pix myself, Caroline, and my dear friend Miss Angelique deVil:

The dress looks good in this one, but not the face.

...and vice-versa.

Miss Caroline looked fairly glam in a double-agent sort of way... a small phial of poison in a diamond pendant or a microdot containing state secrets under her pinkie-nail, and she'd be all set.

Miss Angelique is such a sweetie, so pretty and talented and thin... sometimes I just want to punch her.

After the show (which was sponsored by the Royal Grand Ducal Council of Alameda County in benefit of the In Memory Foundation... though I neglected to discover what, exactly, the In Memory Foundation does), we all trundled around to the Turf Club and Rumors, the other two gay bars in Hayward, conveniently located across Main Street from each other, which makes bar-hopping so much easier. There had been an Imperial Star Empire event at Rumors that evening, so there was a great commingling of the two Courts, and I ran into a number of faces from the old days who I haven't seen in lo these many years (hi, Raven!)

After a while I started getting a bit weary, though... and that lovely top ceased quite suddenly to be at all comfortable. First of all, it's made of knit wool, and after about an hour it started itching; second, those lovely clear opalescent paillettes are square, and they were cutting into the skin under my arms like you wouldn't believe... besides, it was starting to get chilly out, and that sweet little organza wrap was no protection at all. So we bade our farewells to all and sundry and got back to the office so I could get into boyclothes.

Afterward we went to Merritt for a nice snack (I'm always teaching Caroline to like new things... first I convinced her that her tuna melt would taste good so long as her mouth wasn't expecting the capers that she habitually uses in tuna salad, and that grits actually are good with butter and sugar instead of dripping and salt and pepper), and then I got home at around eleven-thirty and pretty much went right to bed.

So then on Sunday, my prayers were answered and Grandmother kept to her bed all morning with Fox News' reports on the UN Summit, and didn't make me take her to church. So I was able to take the morning fairly easy and slowly get ready for the next show and prepare for rehearsals. But of course I got a little behind schedule — I just had to have another change of mind about costuming... I was so enamored of the green-and-cream ensemble that I abandoned the black beaded evening coat over a black velvet sheath with pearls that I had intended for the Sunday show; and having introduced color for the first act, my planned second-act number, the grey beaded chiffon two-piece, had to be changed, too... I ended up with the blue dress I'd bought on my birthday with a scarf that happened to match it, and a change of jewelry, all of which took up a great deal of time, putting me way behind schedule, making me quite late for my rehearsals. And then I forgot about the latest Peace rally in the City and so had a hell of a time finding parking, and was therefore even later.

The upshot, aside from arriving late (which I find terribly embarrassing), was that I got to go through voice rehearsals without having warmed up my voice first, and then I simply went to the far end of the horseshoe line so I was standing with the tenors instead of the basses and therefore sounded totally off key the whole time. I really hate our opening number, which is adapted from "I Hope I Get It," the opening number of A Chorus Line, and which is very staccato and in a minor key and in the top of the register, sort of hysterical-sounding and filled with notes that I simply cannot find (even when I'm standing with the other basses). Thank God we have four months to actually learn all this stuff. And hopefully by then I will have properly demonstrated that my character need not be involved in the opening number via the hopeless inadaptibility of my voice to the song. Or maybe I'll simply learn it. One or the other.

So anyway, I left rehearsals early, and unfortunately missed the dance portion (which I enjoy more than singing sometimes, especially since our choreographer is such a joy to the eyes), in order to get to Martuni's in time to shave (again... ouchouchouchouch!), change, and make up before the 6 p.m. curtain of the maiden voyage of Cookie After Dark. I got there rather earlier than I even intended, though, and so I was completely made up (and very nicely, if I do say so, though I'm going to have to find some way of counteracting that tendency to pebble around the pouch of my left eye) and dressed and ready to go before the other performers showed up. This was probably a good thing, as the "dressing room" was actually comprised of a small storage area, the manager's tiny office, and the rather claustrophobic staff toilet. But even so, it was bigger and better-lit than many places I've gotten ready for even more crowded shows.

The show went extraordinarily well. The venue, though small, is very elegant and has good juju... I felt instantly at ease, not in the least bit anxious (as I often am before a performance), even in the tiny dressing area we were quite comfortable and happy, and there was this wonderful tone of joy and indulgence in the air. It was a small show, only six performers, and lasted just two hours with a little break in the middle. We had some trouble with the CD player, and the lighting beyond the little suitcase-sized "stage" Cookie made and brought was a little dim, and of course there were more people than there were chairs so people weren't quite as comfortable as they might have been... but it was altogether a wonderful evening, a great performance, and a lovely experience all in all. We've been invited back to Martuni's for more episodes of Cookie After Dark.

Of course, much of the fun and joy was the presence of good friends in the show and the audience. With Cookie and Lorraine and Ruby and Linda and Ivy and Nick backstage, you can't help but have fun... and then Shiloh and Zach were there, as was Dakota (taking pictures, as usual, I'll post some here when I get copies), and Chaz and Forrest and Monica and Paul and Cubby and everybody from the Musical (including David, who I think it too cute for words), and just whole sheaves of other wonderful people whose names are escaping me at the moment, not to mention some of our die-hard Galaxy fans and Lorraine's coworkers and even Cookie's dad!

I performed two of my favorite songs, chosen mostly for their shortness (Cookie had been very worried about us fitting into the two hours we were allotted): Ella Fitzgerald's "You Make Me Feel So Young" (in the springlike green-and-cream) and Keely Smith's "Stardust" (in the long iridescent aqua-blue sheath I got from Jessica McClintock on my birthday, with a scarf that almost exactly matches it that I bought years ago at Ross). Even though I made my first-act CD skip when I touched the piano that the CD player rested on, and though I felt a little hemmed-in by the narrow stage-light, I think I did a very good job of both performances, even if I do say so myself. I felt on, if you know what I mean.

So after the show finally came to its rapturous close, and we all re-packed our goods and chattels and wended off on our merry ways, I met up with Shiloh and Zach and a whole mess of AA folk after the Sunday meeting on Diamond, and we all went to eat at the Firewood on 18th. That was great fun, too... I was still all gussied up in my blue dress with my silver duster (it was a bit chilly) and all my jewels, so I was rather, shall we say, sightly in the warm-lit earthtones of the trattoria. And I had a wonderful time drawing attention to myself and chatting with everyone nearest me (hi, Joe! hi, Apollo! hi Greg! hi Tony!) and wolfing down my House Tortellini with a side order of dolmas (I love dolmas... and I was utterly ravenous, having eaten nothing all day but a bowl of cereal for breakfast and two granola bars while I was dressing).

All good things must come to an end, though, and my wig started itching so it was time to call it a day. On the way back to the car I got some pix of Shiloh and Zach, as well as a little snap of Pretty Me in my silver-and-aqua glory:

Shiloh, whom you no doubt recognize from the Cast...

... and Zach, looking all manly.

God, I love these colors! My new favorite outfit.

Well, that pretty much wraps up my weekend. It was thrilling and fun and exciting and different... and exhausting and painful and trying! So today I have declared a No Work day. My boss came in unexpectedly, but he's seen more than enough of Robert the Busy Great Worker, it's time he met Robert the Surly Starer-Into-Space. He got an earful just a bit ago when I tore my nail, and I think he may be afraid to come out of his office with a screaming crying drag-queen rampaging around... at any rate, he hasn't made a peep since then, leaving me to my own devices (like writing this) and not giving me any extra work.

And now the day has come to a close, my aches are just as achey but there's a smile on my face (except when I look at my poor torn nail! Sob!), and JB and I are going to go to the Elmwood Theater and see Nicholas Nickleby. I'm very excited to see this, it's one of those star-laden period epics that has pretty much everybody in it, and the lead boy is so cute I just want to eat him up with a spoon! So until I next find myself with something to talk about, I bid you a very pleasant day and a wonderful tomorrow!

Saturday, March 15, 2003

The Night Dame Edna Made Me Cry

So Wednesday, after work, I got all gussied up and trundled over to the Curran Theatre with my dear friend and co-worker JB, where we picked up our will-call tickets for A Night With Dame Edna: The Show That Cares. Then we went to Max's-on-Union-Square (which is two blocks away from Union Square, the lying bastards) for dinner, where we drew a waiter addicted to a stupid cartoonish put-on voice and dined on the most utterly divine pork chops (actually, I had utterly divine pork chops while JB had the Mediterranean Chicken... she doesn't eat red meat, and refuses to believe that pork is the Other White Meat).

Then we made our way back to the Curran, began the alpine journey up to the front balcony, stopped to take advantage of the medieval toilet facilities, resumed our strenuous upward trek, and settled in to our second-row seats to await the advent of Dame Edna while enjoying our surroundings as much as possible.

We were warned that photographs weren't allowed, so I couldn't use the flash.

Then the curtain went up and a video screen came down, displaying Edna Through the Ages from her first appearances on Australian television in the 50s to her delicious but tragically short-lived talk-show in the early 90s. Then a great setup of Dame Edna boarding her helicopter and being waved off to her international tour by all the leaders of the world as she buzzed past their palaces and official residences on her way to our fair city. Finally, the video screen disappeared and Dame Edna herself came sailing out onstage in a coat that almost defies description: three-quarter-length, made of silver vinyl with horizontal stripes of brilliant pink marabou, with a big standup pink marabou collar and a little round pink marabou handbag. The pink of the coat clashed with yet somehow complemented the lavender of her immense wig, and her jewels were utterly blinding.

For the next two and a half hours, with a fifteen minute break in the middle (no mere intermission, we were granted a 'pause for reflection'), I laughed so hard that tears streamed from my eyes and I got about a hundred and fifty sit-ups' worth of abdominal contractions. That show was funny!

And it wasn't just a matter of humorous jokes and wry observations (though there were a lot of those). Dame Edna set up an atmosphere in which one forgot that this was a man in a dress and started to believe in Dame Edna's reality. She didn't just entertain the audience, she subjugated us into the hierarchy of her own perfectly realized universe and made us grateful for it.

Her sense of timing was amazing, as was her ability to bring back the beginning of a joke set up several minutes beforehand and give it a punchline that you'd never expect. And her mastery of forced audience participation was something to behold. Working so heavily with an audience can be very dangerous... you never know what you're going to get when you ask an audience-member a question. But her patter was so perfectly developed that it didn't really matter what they said, she had a comeback for every possible variation and would bring back the audience-members' own words to haunt them later in the show.

The costumes, though few, were integral and fascinating. After finishing her opening musical number, into which she wove a surprising number of geographical references, she shed the fuzzy coat to reveal a blinding pink satin cocktail dress with a straight bodice striped with rhinestones, which fed into a hip-band of art deco pink-and-purple rainbows, which in turn fed into three tiers of rhinestone-trimmed pink satin ruffles. In the second act she wore a remarkably vulgar American Flag dress of red-white-and-blue sequins to just below the hips with a soft-pleated red chiffon skirt going the rest of the way to the floor. Along with her silver Queen Mum one-inch heels and society-matron slouch, the overall look was amazing... a sort of glamorized frumpiness, a tawdry elegance.

What I found most amazing was that I could see the underpinnings of the act, as easily as I could see the song cues written out on the floor in chalk (or the topical crib-notes taped to the front of the photograph of her son Kenny, which she holds to her bosom for the song "Friends of Kenny"); I could discern the mechanism behind the illusion... but it didn't in any way diminish my reaction. No suspension of disbelief was required, yet it inspired healthy and honest laughter. If I had drawn a seat on the aisle, I would have been rolling in it.

There was no edge of cruelty in her jibes, when she called us in the balcony "Mizzies" (from les misérables, a "nicer and more upscale word for ‘paupers’") because of the poverty implied by our cheaper tickets, we loved it; when she talked about Seniors as if everyone over the age of seventy were a senile old beast, and gave advice on how to dupe a senior into believing he had been on an expensive cruise, the elderly audience-members laughed as loud as the rest of us. She seemed just as amused by her created reality as we were; she was a part of the audience, just as we were a part of her act, and it was shown to be a cooperative effort without loss of prestige or honor on either side.

Here's what sparked my greatest admiration: the Chronicle's review of the show gave away a lot of the one-liners and the order of the show, and yet when she used those same lines in almost the exact same context of audience-participation (showing her mastery of the mechanism), the jokes were no less funny for having already been told.

Well, there's not much point in recommending that you see the show... it closes tomorrow, and that ends the tour. But if you should feel compelled to burn with jealousy that I got to see it and you didn't... well, feel free.

So anyway, after leaving the theatre, JB and I went to the nearby Lori's Diner and had dessert and decaf before BARTing back to the office and my car. We had a wonderful time together. JB thinks it's a shame that, wonderful companion that I am, I am still single. She encouraged me to start dating so as to share the wealth of my wonderfulness with the world at large... and to give myself more opportunities to wear my rather dashing Burt Pulitzer suit. She acknowledged that dating is an emotionally risky pastime, but reminded me that "nothing ventured, nothing gained." I told her I'd have to get my hair cut first. And meet someone I wanted to date who wasn't repelled by me in some way. And get over some deep-seated neuroses. But once I'd gotten all that out of the way, I will definitely take her advice.

Then the next day I sat down to tell you all about it, but I was kept hopping at work. Then on Friday I was kept hopping again (inspiring a certain amount of resentment... it occurs to me that I am being given more and more responsibility and not more and more money).

And now I have to start hopping yet again pretty soon... I have to put together some music and an outfit for the In Memory Foundation benefit in which I am performing this evening... practically afternoon (I'm to be at The Rainbow Room in Hayward at p.m.)... and I haven't done a thing to prepare yet. I have to get packed, showered, and shaved (a whole lot of shaved... I'm planning to wear this lovely pale green sequined halter with a chiffon skirt, so I have to shave my arms and pits), so as to leave here at 3:30 so I can put my face on and find my way to a club that I've never been to or even seen before. When I get home I have to unpack and repack again for tomorrow — when I have to be prepared to go to church (pray to God the Grandmother sleeps badly tonight so she won't want to go), then to go Musical rehearsals, then go to Martuni's and get back in face for another show, Cookie After Dark, at 6 pm.

So I guess I'd better get cracking! And speaking of crack...

Friday, March 14, 2003

Ever So Slightly Disgruntled

All day yesterday I kept trying to get back here to tell you all about my Night With Dame Edna, while it was still fresh in my mind. But those bastards at work actually kept me busy all day with real work!

The noive!

Actually, I was bemired in a project that I should have been doing all along, and kept putting off, so it's really my own fault. I've been writing meeting minutes for the last five meetings, which I should do as soon after the meeting as possible and before the next meeting. But again with the Busy, I haven't had a chance. Writing minutes is no walk in the park, let me tell you. It's difficult and time-consuming. It requires me to look over my notes and anyone-else-who-was-there's notes, try to remember exactly what went on, discern the gists of fifteen different people's (often completely unrelated) statements, encapsulate those gists and organize them, then write it all out... without mentioning names, if possible. Boiling two hours of rambling discussions and disorganized debate down to three pages of formal paragraphs in outline form is not easy... even for a literary genius.

Not that I consider myself a literary genius. I'm just saying. No hubris here, dear three Misses Fate. Go ahead and put away those lighting bolts, m'kay? Or chuck them at John Ashcroft.

Then on top of trying to write these minutes, and wanting to tell you all about Dame Edna and my night therewith, Mr Boss-Guy kept asking me for letters and whatnot, and the phone was ringing off the hook, and people kept asking me questions, and I actually got landed with yet more responsibilities while I was sitting there minding my own business, and my To Do list is just piling up in every direction. There's a fine line between challenging me and overworking me, and that line is coming up fast.

Well, anyway, I'll tell you all about Dame Edna tomorrow, or later today, or whenever I get the opportunity. In the meantime, enjoy this little puddle of pulchritude from my collection:

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Nebenhöhlenentzündung und Stirnhöhlenvereiterung

God, I love German... they have a great terrifying long word for everything. Nebenhöhlenentzündung means "sinusitis." For those who wish to be more descriptive and precise (Germans love precision), Stirnhöhlenvereiterung means "suppurative frontal sinusitis." Today I am suffering from Stirnhöhlenvereiterung. Actually, I am done suffering from Stirnhöhlenvereiterung, I am now busy suffering from the fluff-headed stupidity that is the usual side-effect of pseudephedrin and ibuprofen combined to reduce the effect of the Stirnhöhlenvereiterung.

Stirn-höh-len-ver-eit-er-ung. I love it! It makes allergy season just so much more entertaining.

That's really all I have to say today. I'll talk to you tomorrow when I am filled with the wonder and awe of Dame Edna Everage. Until then, ungestüme Umarmungen!

Monday, March 10, 2003

Instead of Aerobics

After writing the previous post, and jetting off the San Francisco, I spent a little time thinking about this lack of introspection, this inability to think of something to write about that is interesting and deeper than a mere recount of my activities. It occurred to me that it has nothing to do with my inability to think of something to write about... it has to do with lacking the time to mine the words out.

I was considering Luiz's suggestion of laying out my family history when I was stuck for a topic, relating the story of how my great-grandparents came over from China or suchlike. And while that's a great idea, and I have in the past started such posts, they're difficult to write. I mean, it's hard enough to make my stories interesting, and I was there. It's even harder to make a bit of history that I only know from hearsay come to life.

I also considered, yesterday, writing about my relationship with my father... something that was on my mind and would probably be of value. But to do so would have taken considerably more time than the thirty or so minutes I had at my disposal (especially since my father kept interrupting me while I was writing... he called me four times yesterday morning and kept me busy on eBay looking for computer software). It's hard enough to babble glancingly about movies and restaurants under such conditions, and quite impossible to walk onesself through all the emotions and garbled memories of a paternal relationship.

So it seems to me that the problem is not so much my lack of introspection... it's my lack of idle time. Or, rather, a lack of idle time in which I have enough energy, both mental and physical, to sit in front of a computer and think and type at the same time. It takes me several hours of application to get one good long post written out. I type fast, but the devil is in the editing; and I'm always thinking of something else and having to go back and add it in, or I am interrupted and have to go back and start reading from the beginning to catch up my thread, or I make typos that aren't obvious in the Helvetica font of the edit window but jump right out in the Times Roman font of the webpage destination, so I don't see them until after I've published. And then, the harder the topic, the longer it will take for me to organize and express it, to differentiate between exposition and exhibitionism, and to create orderly prose out of the chaos of my psyche.

The last week or two I haven't had that kind of time. My life suddenly seems to be action-packed, even if the action can best be described as Resting. I have chosen to blame it on my new Boss-Guy, his relentless project-giving on top of all the extra work attendant on a change of administration in a small office (the ongoing drama of the bank signatures has generated about a week's-worth of work all by itself). Because such things are never my fault, you know.

It would of course have nothing to do with me not giving my writing a place of priority in my daily life. It would have nothing to do with me sitting in front of the television for hours instead of writing. Granted, my mind has been very difficult to manage lately, work is using up more mental energy than it usually does and I have less mental energy than I usually do... but when I look at the last few posts here, I see that I am always writing just before I have to do something else, like go to work or rehearsals or whatever, and not in the evenings when I have nothing better to do than flip through the channels and watch nothing.

Well, anyway... as has become usual, I am writing in the morning (which is when my mind seems most blank, and therefore most orderly), and I now have to get up and go take a shower and eat something and get myself off to the office. I was going to start my aerobics regimen today, but I decided to write instead. I guess that's the key to making myself prioritize things... give myself something to avoid, some work harder than writing. I wrote my best fiction when I was avoiding a college paper, and I've done some of my best journaling when I had an envelope-stuffing project at work. Something in that... but I'll have to find something harder than aerobics to avoid doing or I'll never get into the aerobics themselves (I looked into the Pilates thing, BTW, and didn't like the cost-quotient, or the fact that Madonna is one of the arbiters of the movement... I tend to avoid doing anything Madonna does).

So off I go! Much to do! Have a lovely day!

Sunday, March 9, 2003

Again with the Nothing to Say

I seem to be in a mental space that lacks introspection. I'm not having insights into my own behavior, or the behavior of others. Or at least I'm not remembering them when I have time to sit and write. It's rather dissatisfying.

On Friday I went out with Caroline to Bay Street, where we saw Chicago. God, that's a great movie! It was just as good the second time as the first! The choreography and camera-work involved in the musical numbers just kill me. Especially that bit when the lights flash on at the beginning of "Hot Honey Rag," I swear I just about pee my pants. Afterward Caroline was so jazzed up (pun intended) that we absolutely had to go to Tower and get her a copy of the soundtrack. While there I hit the Used CD bins and replaced my lost copy of the Charlie's Angels soundtrack and picked up the soundtracks to The Producers and Topsy Turvy. I also picked up VHS copies of The Thin Man and Brotherhood of the Wolf. Caroline and I then went back to my house and watched the latter video, rather enjoying it though we didn't always understand what was going on (it's French, you know, and the French always find it necessary to confuse people). We both now wish we had black lace fans with razor-sharp knives protruding from the tops of the staves.

Isn't that terribly fascinating? Don't you wish you were me?

Yesterday I woke up early (9 am) and got up and did my email and reading ritual; but by the time I checked in on Jhames, I noticed my leg jogging up and down again. I decided that what I really needed to do was force myself to have some quiet time... if I let this manic energy run my life, it will run me right into exhaustion. So I got back in bed with a selection of films — The Thin Man, of course, along with Murder By Death, Gosford Park, and Plunkett & MacLeane. That lasted me until about five, when I got up and dressed myself and went out to Concord to have dinner with my Daddy.

I had intended to go to Tahoe Joe's, a place my aunts rave about. I'd eaten there once and was rather impressed by the food, though somewhat put off by the heinous decor and the atmosphere of Drunken Frat Party, a place where they encourage the imbibing of cocktails that have coyly suggestive names and more than ten ingredients and which, even at the height of my drinking days, I wouldn't have condescended to spit into. But I figured Daddy would enjoy it, and I couldn't think of anything else out in his neck of the woods (my knowledge of Concord's eateries being quite limited).

Of course, when we got there, at 7 on a Saturday night, there was a bit of a crowd... and a 60 to 75 minute wait for a table for two. Daddy was starving to death, since he usually eats dinner at 5, and I was pretty hungry too, having subsisted all day on one piece of toast and a hunk of cheese, so we decided to try our luck elsewhere. All the other elsewheres we thought of also had huge crowds, though. We drove about pointlessly for almost 20 minutes before Daddy expressed a desire for prime rib... and that word suggested the Hungry Hunter, which I had seen out of the corner of my eye as we drove down Willow Pass Road.

The great irony was that, with about a half-hour wait at Hungry Hunter, and the twenty or so minutes that we spent driving around looking for a restaurant, we only saved about ten minutes off the waiting-time from Tahoe Joe's. But at least we were spending time in the car or in a nice quiet lobby instead of amongst crowds and crowds of people. Daddy's a little bit deaf, and babbling crowds make it difficult for him to hear anything.

So anyway, he had a pound of prime rib, and I had the lamb chops, with salad and soup and all that sort of thing. The meat was yum, the soup was quite nice, and the salad okay. The desserts, when presented, were unconscionable (they all had either a grotesque combination of chocolates and caramels, or were made of sweet liqueurs), so we just had coffee and talked for a while. We had a very nice time altogether, eating and talking and whatnot. I seldom get a chance to spend much time alone with my father, and often when we are alone we're both tired and quiet, so this was a very pleasant bonding experience between us. After dinner, we went back to his place and I helped him restore some old programs that he'd lost when he bought a new hard-drive, and I taught him how to play Free Cell.

So now here we are on Sunday, and I'm typing, and getting ready to go over to San Francisco for my Musical rehearsal, then I need to grocery-shop and then vacuum the living-room, and that's about all that's going on in my mind. I've started reading Gide's Lafcadio's Adventures and am rather enjoying it; perhaps later I will have some observations to make on that text. Next week I'm going to see Dame Edna Everidge at the Curran, and that will no doubt give me something to talk about. Next weekend I have two drag shows in a row. The following Wednesday I have a dentist appointment. And it is with these inanities that I occupy my brain today.

Oh well, I can't be brilliant every day, can I?