Friday, October 31, 2003

I AM The HallowQueen!

I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won! I won!

The show was fabulous, the audience was fabulous, I was fabulous... the competition was fierce, some great performances were seen on that stage, but I won! It was worth every penny, too, for that feeling of standing on the stage while the entire theatre went nuts (especially Caroline in the front row going off at forty decibels like a car alarm), screaming their dear little heads off in support of me during the applause-voting. I've never felt so perfectly happy. Well, maybe I have. But it was very special nevertheless, a peak experience of my life.

The Castro afterward was a bit of a trial. Perhaps if I had coordinated with various people better, I wouldn't have had to schlepp my suitcases around to my car from the theatre and then wander through the milling throngs towards the Mint, where some friends had gone after the show (I never made it, I turned back at the immense crowd on Noe and Market), all while wearing gorgeous but extemely painful four-inch-heeled, pointy-toed boots.

And now I had better get to bed, I have to be up at six in the morning to head up to Calistoga for the CNCA Fall Assembly. I'll post pictures of my retrogothic fabulousness as soon as I have them.

I love you all!

Holler, Wein

I'm trying not to get my panties in a bunch about today... first, by not wearing any panties (I'm still in my bathrobe), second by trying to pretend that this is all going to be terribly easy and terribly fun. But I'm not convinced... there are too many details, too many places where things can go terribly terribly wrong, and I've already invested far too much in this evening to be able to handle details and things going wrong.

And it's not just an emotional investment, either. So far, this little HallowQueen exercise has cost me a really unconscionable sum of money:

Black fox muff.... $ 20

Black skunk stole that was supposed to be fox.... $115

Black fox boa that I ordered three weeks ago to wear instead of the skunk stole and hasn't shown up yet.... $ 75

Black-and-white fox stole that I may or may not use.... $ 45

Black jersey gown from Saks Off Fifth for entrance gown.... $ 55

Three yards of black cutout velvet with tassels and trims for performance gown.... $ 85

Black damask Dream Corset from Frederick's.... $ 70

Intensely fabulous black satin lace-up boots from same.... $ 80

Black square-toe boots from Payless that are too modern-looking but which I will probably never return.... $ 35

Various pieces of black jet jewelry.... $ 50

Lipstick, nail polish, and eyeshadow in matching bruise color.... $ 55

Black China-doll wig.... $ 30

Several bridge-crossings and gas for rehearsals.... $ 25

Getting my car towed while I was at rehearsal....$250

Incidentals that I have to buy today, estimated.... $ 75


And all that for a pageant without cash or prizes. I'm even lending the tiara. Sometimes I worry about myself.

On the other hand, I am going to be fabulous... so long as the gown that I "sewed" together last night doesn't fall apart (it's mostly held together with safety pins that will hide under the corset, which I'm wearing as a bodice), and so long as my car doesn't get towed again, so long as I have plenty of time to do all the things I need to do today, so long as I don't fall off the stage or fracture a limb or break out in hives.

But anyway, darlings, if you have a spare moment around six-ish to nine-ish and happen to find yourself at a loose end in the Castro, stop by and contribute your 25 ducats to the worthy cause of finishing a documentary about Carol Queen and her very nice brother, John (both of whom I met Wednesday, while my car was being towed... no, I'm not bitter... and they are both lovely people), as well as to see me in one of the most expensive performances of my career (I spent twice as much when I ran for Miss Gay Marin 2002). There will be food and bevo, fun and games, and a really fabulous drag pageant, all for one low (and most likely tax-deductible) price.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Still Alive

Sorry for the silence, my darlings, but I've been done in by trying to share too much with you... I had a super busy weekend, and then spent all my free time yesterday telling you about it, but I didn't even get halfway through the tale since I had to actually work and stuff... oh, the indignity! I have all this stuff to tell you about, but I can't finish in the same fashion in which I started... so consider the following to be like the Unfinished Symphony. I may give you a rapid précis at the end, but I may not. We'll see...

• • • • • • • •

So, I had this wonderfully busy weekend. On Thursday (which isn't really the weekend, but it counts sometimes) I went with my Grandmother to get our nails done... she needed a pedicure, and I needed an acrylic fill, so we went down to the place she usually gets her hooves serviced. I have been neglecting my regular manicurist, who is a true artiste and who is so good at shaping and filling that she's built up an extensive and devoted clientele and so I have to make appointments at least a week in advance... but I never remember to make an appointment a week in advance, or even at all, and so I let my nails get into a disgraceful state and then just wander into any of the hundreds of nail salons that now infest every shopping district in Oakland.

The salon Grandmother began frequenting when she finally decided that she couldn't reach her feet for hygienic purposes anymore was recommended by our next-door neighbor, and differs from the hundred other salons not one whit, except that they do offer somewhat better service than some of the places I've been into. There are several big pedicure chairs, with vibrating black leather seats and elaborate white mini-spas at the foot, some manicure tables with surprisingly uncomfortable old office-chairs with "lace" slipcovers over the tops, and a platoon of recently-immigrated Asian women who call themselves "Jennifer" but whose cosmetology licenses are all made out to "Tran," who look enough alike to be terribly confusing (one assumes they're related to each other) and whose grasp of the English language is pretty shaky; there is usually, also, one man wandering aimlessly about who might be the husband or brother or son of one of the women, a small child of some description playing in the corner, stacks of such useless publications as Parenting and Woman's Day interspersed with fascinating but indecipherable glossies printed in Korean and/or Vietnamese, and a cruddy television with really dreadful reception tuned to some dreary local channel.

Anyway, Grandmother got her little piggies trimmed and massaged and pumiced and painted, and got her fingernails buffed and polished as well, while I had my acrylic fill performed with a good deal of craftsmanship. Not quite as good as my regular and more-expensive Montclair manicurist would have done, but pretty damned close.

Afterward we went to dinner at Emil Villa's Hick'ry Pit, one of the three restaurants in Oakland that we can patronize with any regularity, since they all have adjacent parking-lots (Merritt Bakery & Restaurant and The Buttercup Kitchen are the other two). It's sort of depressing that in a city with so many dining venues we are limited to these three quite nice but rather limited places just because they're the only ones we know with handicapped parking near the front door. That's the one real advantage, in my eyes, of suburbs over cities... you can usually park your car within spitting distance of your destination.

After that we went to Long's Drugs for a few necessaries and a whole lot of unnecessaries. I went in there to get an anti-fungal substance for my fingernails (I'm always getting mildew under my acrylics) and some Tucks for my tuchus (I'm enjoying my first case of hæmorrhoids); I came out with the abovementioned articles as well as two tubes of Max Factor Pan-Stik in the hard-to-find "Fair" color, a new pressed-powder compact (I keep losing or breaking mine), a birthday card for my coworker JB, some dental floss, and the latest issue of Vogue. Grandmother, who was just along for the ride, ended up with a sack of Miracle-Gro potting soil for African violets, two bathmats and a new shower curtain, another mat of ersatz Persian design for the front door, a jar of peanuts, some educational coloring-books for the great-grandchildren who would be visiting this weekend, some Metamucil in a new tablet form, a hamper for my nephew's room, a box of cookies, and a packet of nail-files. A good time was had by all.

So then came Friday. Friday at work was supposed to be very quiet and rather boring... I'm trying to get caught up on all my meeting notes, turning the six separate sets of yellow-papered handwriting into transcripts or minutes, as the case may be. It's something that takes a lot of dedicated time, you can't just do it and three other things at the same time. Unfortunately, when I came into work I got a message from my boss... the man who has been hounding me on a daily basis for the last two weeks to get these damned meeting notes done now turns around and tells me to forget about the notes and work on a flyer that needs to be in all the campus mailboxes no later than Monday.

Fortunately, I was feeling fairly lucid and was able to get the editing done on the flyer in record time and then get started on the printing... and while the printer was going, I even managed to get some meeting notes transcribed. I got everything related to the flyer finished by 4:30, and am a little worried that those involved in the flyer will expect me to always be able to do things so quickly. I think I have my boss pretty well trained to keep his expecations low, so that these lucid moments come as a pleasant surprise, but I just don't have the time to beat down the rest of the people in this organization.

Of course, part of my speed was motivated by having someone to meet at 4:30. I got together with my dear old friend Kevin, about whom I have written in this space before on a couple of occasions. The letter over which I agonized in the latter post ended up being mailed three weeks later... though I had written it with the intent of communicating its contents, there was also a vague hope that I'd never have to send it, that my sponsor would tell me to re-write or that I'd never get Kevin's address. But I talked to my sponsor about it, and she not only wanted me to send it but suggested that I submit it to The Grapevine for publication as a model ninth-step letter; and in one of those special blogiverse moments, our mutual friend Mary read the entry I wrote right after writing the letter (which I hadn't really thought she'd do, as most of my friends have a peculiar reluctance to read my blog) and emailed me Kevin's address the very next day.

And so, after some delays around finding a stamp and getting the letter signed and into an envelope without letting myself re-edit, I got it into the mail. Kevin called and emailed a couple of days later, and we made a date to get together and hash it all out and catch up on lost time.

• • • • • • • •

And that's as far as I've been able to get in the last two days (I started it at 11 a.m. on Monday). To wrap the rest of it up, Kevin and I had a super time, we learned alot about our relationship and got all caught up on our doings in the last four years. It was as if we'd never been apart, except that perhaps we appreciated each other more. I also got a lot of book-shopping done, and now have plenty to read, starting with Around the World with Auntie Mame.

Then on Saturday I had to take the Grandmother down to Merritt Bakery & Restaurant to have lunch with my cousin Michael (Grandmother's daughter's son) and various other members of the family; much to my surprise (though why such things still have the power to surprise me is something of a mystery), we ended up taking my cousin Kellie's (Michael's sister, same provenance) children home with us. And it was so hot, a dry nasty heat that dehydrated my sinuses and sapped my will, so I went right back to bed and stayed there reading. Then Caroline came over and we went shopping for computer games (I bought Sims Superstar but can't get it to install) and for groceries, then came home and made dinner for everyone, and hung out. Then I took Caroline home, and for some idiotic reason she ran out to the store afterward and then locked herself out of her house. Since only her landlord has the duplicate key, and he lives in San Francisco and had no intention of coming across the bridge at 11:30 at night, she came back to my place and slept on the couch.

Come Sunday we were all up bright and early to go to church (I purposely put off setting the clocks back so we'd have an extra hour in the morning), and since we had the little ones with us I couldn't easily pull a disappearing maneouver so had to sit through the sermon. Then to Andy's for brunch, then back home (it was still awfully hot). Immediately upon arrival at the house, I started preparing for two different drag shows... the Royal Grand Ducal Council's International Dinner and Show in Hayward at 5, and Candie Swallows' Halloween Spooktacular at the Black Cat in Penngrove at 8. I got almost everything ready in plenty of time but got hung up searching for my Lena Horne CD, and so was a half hour late to the RGDC show at the Rainbow Room, and so I was the last to perform in the show. I got off stage at 7:25, and Angelique and I were out of the Rainbow Room and onto the freeway at 7:40. I let loose all of my driving agression, and we arrived in Penngrove (approximately sixty miles) in forty minutes, only a little bit late for the show. We performed and had a great time, then afterward had dinner at Denny's and drove home (at a rather more sedate pace, since I could barely keep my eyes open).

And that's pretty much it. Thank you for your attention, and please join us later this week while I agonize about the HallowQueen Pageant and whether or not the integral part of my costume (a black fox boa) will arrive from Quebec in time. Smooches!

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Sick and Tired

Actually, I am neither right now — because yesterday I finally gave up and just stayed in bed all day. The cold worked its way out of my system, awash with herbal tea and beef broth and soda crackers, while my energies were able to devote themselves to healing the tissues instead of moving me from pointless Point A to pointless Point B.

So, instead of schlepping my way down to the office to sit stupefied and useless at my desk, I propped myself up in the bed and re-read parts of David Sedaris' Me Talk Pretty One Day (which I adore), watched The Crow (which was exciting but dumb), Carrington (which was thoughtful but dull), and Queen of the Damned (which is unbearably gorgeous in sight and sound but so badly written, with holes in the plot and characters that you could drive a hearse through, it makes you want to weep), and finally started re-reading Stephen Fry's The Hippopotamus (I just re-read his The Liar and want to compare them side-by-side).

And now I feel all better!

For those just joining us, I should preface my next vignette by explaining that when I post, I seldom do it all at once... I start writing at home or at the office and am interrupted by going to work or work itself or a myriad other distractions, and the diary post covers huge chunks of time... and in these chunks there are gaps, and sometimes something will happen which needs to be written down in the interrupted post.

This morning, after I wrote the first three paragraphs and paused to look up links, I was called away from the computer first by a trip to the local eatery for lunch, then some phone calls, and then, finally, by a strange (and time-consuming) emergency.

I can now officially add to my resume the unexpected rôle of Pigeon-Saver. I was in the kitchen getting a cup of coffee, and I looked out the window to see a pigeon outside. This is a normal sight for most urban offices, I expect... but my office is in the basement of a Victorian house, my kitchen window is at ground level facing an enclosed alleyway, and I've never before seen any living thing out there, not even the upstairs tenants. The pigeon was dragging itself along the cement by its wings, trying to take shelter under the back-alley stairs. There were no drops of blood, no tufts of feathers, no markings of any kind to suggest what had happened to the creature, just a pigeon dragging itself along by its wings with a piteous look in its tiny orange eyes.

Despite my fondness for furs, for meat, for foie gras, and for vituperating against deluded animal-rights activists, I cannot stand to see an animal suffering... and I'm far too squeamish to deliver the coup de grâce and end the suffering myself.

So there's this pigeon outside my window, suffering most likely, and I didn't quite know what to do. My coworker didn't know what to do, either, and is even more undone by suffering animals than I am. We called the landlord (who lives upstairs) and told him about the situation, but he only knew what to do about dead pigeons, not injured ones. During the course of conversation, though, he mentioned the Lindsay Wildlife Museum, which is known to take in injured wild animals, but which is unfortunately way out in Walnut Creek and may not take something so prosaic and mundane as a common city pigeon.

But that set me thinking, and I remembered that Oakland has its own bird sanctuary and might at least have some advice as to what to do with the poor wingèd rat. So I called up the Rotary Nature Center (after finding out, in the most indirect possible way, that this was the correct name for the bird sanctuary), and the lady there told me to bring the pigeon in and she would look after it for two days, either mend its broken part or else euthanize it painlessly if it was irremediable. Either way, it would be warm and fed, not suffering on the cold ground, vulnerable to torture by cats and children, directly outside my window.

And so, with only a modicum of difficulty, I scooped Mister Pigeon (I always assume pigeons are male, but the nice lady at the sanctuary confirmed my assumption) into an empty #10-envelope-box (which reminds me, I have to order more #10 envelopes, we're almost out), carried him gently to my car (talking quietly to him, as if a human idiot talking quietly would soothe a wild pigeon... didn't even occur to me to put something edible in the box), drove the half-mile around Lake Merritt to the Nature Center (I remember visiting the place as a child, and though they've gotten rid of most of the taxidermied birds in favor of abstract and childishly colorful displays about nature and ecology, they still have the glassed-in beehive that always fascinated me in my youth), and handed the creature over to the Naturalist on duty.

She was very nice and set my mind at ease... I was worried that he might have died from the stress of being scooped into an envelope box and driven around town listening to Steven Sondheim tunes. But he was okay, or at least no worse off than he had been, he even seemed to be calmed by the enclosed darkness, and the Naturalist hustled him away to the veterinary room (where I unfortunately couldn't follow). I still wonder how the bird got injured, and how he found his way into our alley, but these are all mysteries that will have to remain unsolved.

So to return to the original topic of my post... actually, I never stated my original topic, did I? I was thinking about family responsibilities, social commitments, and the difficulty of balancing the two in my life; and that I'm sick and tired of having to do so (hence the title).

I oftentimes find myself envying my friends who do not have overwhelming family commitments... and I don't mean those who have no families or whose families have been carried off by death or who have cut themselves off because of "the whole gay thing." I mean people who go about ordering their lives in such a way that they get to do what they want more often than what other people want. People who choose with whom they will spend Christmas, people who can go out after work without having to call a third person to let them know they won't be home for dinner, people who can accept invitations without having to consult someone else's calendar or having to reschedule when something beyond their control is scheduled for the same time.

This weekend was one in which my Family and my Friends collided with conflicting events. On Saturday, for example, I promised Angelique that I would attend the San Jose Emperor's Ball with her... and later discovered that it was the same day as my cousin Jamie's birthday, on which the family would gather for a meal. The meal, though, turned out to be lunch, rather than dinner, so I could do both with only minor inconvenience... the inconvenience of driving first to Danville, then to San Ramon, then back home to Oakland, then to Berkeley to pick up Angelique and another friend, then down to Cupertino. As a result of the minor inconvenience, I would not attend in drag, as I should in my rôle of Royal Crown Countess, but no big deal (to make matters worse, even though we were a half hour late arriving at the event, things didn't get started until two hours after we arrived, which had I known would have given me plenty o' time to put on my face).

Sunday, though, I was invited to two different social functions, a brunch and a sobriety celebration, each hosted by good friends. Both of these were functions I dearly wanted to attend; I had even formally accepted the brunch invitation. Then about a week later, Grandmother tells me that my sister has scheduled her daughter's birthday for that selfsame day. So I had to decline the sobriety celebration invite and cancel the brunch invite.

People will ask me why I would do such a thing, especially since I really feel that reneging on an accepted invitation is extremely rude. In this case, it was a struggle. But my niece turned a landmark 12 and would most likely be hurt if neither I nor Grandmother came to her birthday party; and while I might have gotten my sister to reschedule, it would most likely have been on condition that I give the party myself. I might perhaps have managed to do a little bit of everything, except that the parties were in San Francisco and my sister is in Concord, as is the church I take Grandmother and Daddy to in the morning (the topic of an entirely different spiel), and there's no way to get from one spot to the other with any kind of speed, and besides which I was too sick to do all that work. So I sent my regrets to both parties, and bored myself stupid at my sister's house all afternoon.

The thing is, there should be no real difference between one's family and social commitments... they are choices one makes. I should have been able to say to my sister that I wasn't coming because she scheduled the birthday on a day I was busy. But I chose to put my niece's and my Grandmother's interests in front of my own.

But I guess what I beef at is that my family isn't as entertaining as my friends are. They are, for the most part, people I would never know socially. I like them okay, but I like my friends better... I chose my friends, but my family came pre-installed. Again with the choice.

Now, I could very easily choose to ignore my family, or simply put my own preferences in advance of theirs (I doubt they would mind, they put their interests in front of the rest of the family's), but then there's the Grandmother thrown into such equations: since I chose to live with her and deliver her to the places she wants or needs to go (in exchange for rather generous room and board), I have to put her preferences in front of my own, or at least give them equal weight.

So what I have is a dilemma. A complication. I hate those!

But whatever. Like I said before, it's about choice. I choose to live the life I live. If I want a life that does not put someone else's needs before my own, I have to make choices to get that kind of a life... I would have to let Grandmother take care of herself, let my family exist without my presence, let children live with the minor disappointment of not having a bored uncle taking up space at their birthday parties. I will then of course have to choose to get a different job that makes more money so I can afford my own apartment, and so on and so forth.

On the other hand, alongside of choice, there is also commitment. I have committed myself to being there for Grandmother... it does not matter why I made that choice, whether or not that was the best choice for me to make, whether it is fair to expect myself to make such a choice, it is nevertheless a choice I committed myself to. I cannot leave Grandmother unless she has no use for me... I mean, even if I did live in my own place, I'd be over at Grandmother's all the time, reaching things down from cupboards and taking her to doctors' appointments and hair appointments and shopping trips and family gatherings.

It's kind of like being married, in a way. Except that I didn't choose Grandmother, she was already there; and I don't get sex out of it (like a lot of married people, I imagine), nor passion, nor even mild romance; and we don't share many common interests, certainly no common social ground that would allow us to attend parties we wanted to go to together; and we are not in any way equals. But it is still a commitment that is important to me, that I stay with Grandmother until her death.

And if, in a marriage, one is somewhat dissatisfied, that sort of thing is fairly common. I imagine that a married man who was only slightly inconvenienced by his marriage... say, he didn't have someone else he wanted to marry or live with, and got along fairly well with the partner in question, and didn't particularly wish to give up the lifestyle to which he was accustomed... it is unlikely that he would break up the only-slightly-inconvenient marriage.

Well, now I'm just rambling on, thinking out loud. Like anyone would, I chafe at the limitations of my life. No matter how free we are, the neighbor's grass will always seem greener. I undervalue the thing that I have (i.e., a sense of belonging to something, having a family and responsibilities and support) because I already have it, and fantasize about the freedom that I don't have (which would probably make me feel lonely, anyway... I've never in my life really lived alone and am not sure I'd like it).

So I guess I'd better bring this mess to an untimely end. Seven hours of off-and-on writing later, I've used up most of my work time, all of the time I was going to spend at the gym, and am working into my dinner-hour. So off I must go to eat before my home-group meeting, having accomplished very little except to fill cyberspace with another kilobyte or two of useless rambling prose.

At least I have the satisfaction, however meaningless and brief, of having aided and comforted a pigeon.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Mean-Muggin' On Me

Caroline always keeps me abreast of the newest slang... or, if not the newest, then the funniest. The sorts of things that are said by the sorts of people I usually don't know, the flowers of hip-hop culture, as the slang has evolved over the last decade or two. One of my favorites of the past was "scrilla" for money, it's ever so much fun to say. Another favorite is "up in my grille." Not to mention the gales of laughter induced by referring to the police as "po-po" (which is even funnier to native Bay Areans of my generation, who might remember Popo the Clown who used to meet and greet and emcee at Children's Fairyland when I was a kid).

More recently, Caroline was telling me about an altercation between herself and a carload of young "straight up ghetto" women concerning a parking-space, and she described the three young women as "mean-muggin' on me all the way down the mall."

That's the best feature of hip-hop slang, you can generally visualize something from the phrase without ever having heard the phrase before... I could very easily see these three girls scowling at Caroline from within their late-model Toyota Celica, their eyes squinting and their mouths pursed, a trio of squash-faced Persian cats staring steadily as the car moved away. I could imagine them with elaborately unbecoming hairstyles and large swaying earrings, their heads gyrating on their necks as they denounced Caroline without using a single consonant.

Of course, some slang is meant to be obfuscative, a secret language among those using it. Yesterday as I was entering the Ross Dress for Less store on Shattuck in Berkeley, I overheard two young men talking; they appeared to be Berkeley High students, both tall and very slender African-American youths in voluminous track-suits. One of them asked the other where a third of their friends was today, to which the other replied "he's probably up at Skyline getting his salad tossed."

I'm still not sure what that means. I know what Skyline is, it's a high-school in the Oakland hills, which many of my friends attended. So if the absent third party was up at Skyline, perhaps it was to visit his girlfriend and the girlfriend was tossing his salad sexually; or perhaps he went up there to make trouble, in which case rival high-schoolers would be tossing his salad violently; or perhaps he was there under the auspices of intramural sports, and was getting his salad tossed on the playing field. He might have been taking his SATs or participating in a debate... or taking a cooking class, even. It could mean just about anything.

Nevertheless, the phrase has a certain poetry: he prolly up a' Skyline gettin' his salad tossed. I've been pondering it off and on ever since.

There's not much else taking up space in my brain today. The cold that was threatening all last week, when a cold would have been quite convenient, has decided to come to roost this week, when it is extremely inconvenient. This week is peculiarly packed with events, rehearsals and shopping and shows and birthday parties galore, and I have a sore throat and chills and stuffy head and congested chest. It's not pleasant.

I've always thought it very strange that having inflamed sinuses or clogged nasal passages will make cognition difficult... just because they're near each other doesn't mean they necessarily should effect one another. I mean, my eyes don't hurt just because my ears do, so why should my brain cease to function correctly when my nose is acting up? It doesn't make any sense.

I suppose, though, that the decreased cognition has more to do with the blood system being too busy with fighting off the germs and microbodies to bother bringing a bounty of oxygen to my little grey cells. But then, that doesn't explain why my allergies make me stupid, too.

Oh, well, yet another little mystery of life.

Tonight I am attending the first rehearsal for the HallowQueen Pageant, in which I (or rather the Baroness Griselda von Beitte-Meihasse) will be competing on October 31. Tonight I hope to get a better idea of how many people are involved, and what the show will be like. I do know that we are opening with a fairly elaborate production number, that's what the rehearsals are for. But besides that, I'm a little at sea... like, how many costume changes? How many people are performing as finalists? Are there semifinals as well as finals, with poise question?

Mostly, though, I want to size up the competition. It doesn't do to get my hopes up for winning unless there's a pretty good chance. Though it would probably be better for all concerned if I didn't look at it as a competition at all, just as a show. When I get competitive, I'm not at my kindest nor most serene. So perhaps I should just tell myself right now that I'm not going to win, that I'm not even going to try to win, that I'm just performing in a show in which no winning is involved.

And of course I believe everything I tell myself.

Monday, October 13, 2003

The Wrong Shirt

Autumn is my favorite time of year, except for one thing: I have a hard time dressing myself correctly. It seems every shirt I have is either inadequate or excessive... today when I left the house it was sunny and cool so I put on a medium-weight sweatshirt, no t-shirt. And now it's too hot for this sweatshirt.

Ordinarily, during the Idunnowhat Season (when you just can't guess what the weather is going to be like... which, in Northern California, is pretty much all year long), I wear a t-shirt and a light sweater and carry a jacket, so that I can add or subtract a layer when the weather changes. Later, when it gets colder, I keep a parka in the car and wear heavier sweaters over t-shirts that can't be seen without a sweater.

But this summer was very warm, and fairly regular in its changes... a climate would last out most of the day, and you could guess by nine what the rest of the day was going to be like. And since it was so warm, I got out of the layering habit, simply switching back and forth between light sweaters, t-shirts, and jerseys, whatever the weather seemed to decree at nine, when I usually get dressed.

Well, it's all simply a matter of conversion... I just have to get back into the layering habit. Which means I have to wash all my dirty t-shirts to I'll have more of a selection on hand. That's the real problem getting dressed in the morning these days: things are such a mess that I can't quite find anything to wear at any given moment.

Speaking of messes, though, I have stopped the weird dreams. My guess was right, that it had to do with my bed. On Thursday, though I hadn't had a freaky dream that morning (the only thing I remembered was this one phrase that echoed in my head all day long: "My daddy taught me not to think of myself as attractive to earwigs"), I changed my sheets and cleared all the stuff off my bed and remade it with an extra blanket and a new pillow. Et voilà, no weird dreams. Now if I can get the rest of my room cleared up, things might be good after I wake up, too.

I also managed to get down to my drag-room, with Caroline's help, and got everything squared away. Aside from a great deal of open space, I got two big garbage-bags full of stuff to give to Goodwill, one smaller garbage bag of trash, four boxes of clothes I want to keep but probably won't need any time soon, two milk-crates of clothes I will need but which don't need to be hung up, and about a half a rack of gowns that have to be kept upright. It's all terribly tidy-looking.

The next thing we have to do down there is clean out the cabinets behind my drag-rack, which are full of all sorts of weird objects from fifty years worth of National Geographic to broken toys to bags of plastic flowers, because the cabinets will have to be moved when the earthquake-retrofitters come at some undisclosed and most likely undecided future date.

I am trying to talk Grandmother out of the retrofitting, which will cost her around $25 grand and will not do anything even remotely useful for us. Sure, it will increase the value of the house, but who cares? We're not selling the house, at least until Grandmother is dead... and after that, who knows how long we'll keep it around before it's sold?

What would really increase the value, would cost way less, and will do something for us that we can appreciate while we're all still alive, is having an irrigation system put into the front lawn. But my uncle Junior suggests the retrofitting, and Grandmother believes every word that comes out of his mouth, as if he were a prophet of God.

I grant that he is a reliable source, wise and well-informed. Though I feel differently about the danger of earthquakes (there is no evidence that any house in our neighborhood, which is built on a yellow clay deposit upon a granite hill, would slip off its foundations, unless the whole hill fell into the ocean first), I usually trust his judgement and will go to him for advice. But I find myself resenting his virtual apotheosis, since Grandmother will not believe one word I say... if I told her the sky was blue, she'd call up Junior to verify my facts.

My opinions on the likelihood of a 7.5 quake (which is what the estimators said it would take to knock our house off the foundation), which are essentially that if we had a quake of that magnitude the entire Bay Area would be under water and our house's foundations would be the least of our worries, fall upon deaf ears.

Also any information I share with her about nutrition and diet (such as the fact that previous USDA recommended allowances of certain foods were lobbied by the farmers and ranchers of our fine nation... nobody needs to drink eight glasses of milk in one day, as we were taught when I was a child, calves don't even drink that much, and Americans as a group eat way too much processed grain) is met with a suspicion that borders closely on scoffing.

If I challenge her politics, citing statistics and fact-based analyses, she tells me I am misinformed; if I challenge her on religion, citing her own scriptures as proof, she tells me that I am twisting the truth. Yet, if Junior called her up in the middle of the night and told her that her ass was on fire, she'd stop-drop-and-roll without even bothering to look behind her. It's very irritating.

Oh, well, I guess it's the privelege of the elderly to be infuriating. It's one's reward for living such a ridiculously long time. I expect that when I'm eighty-five, I'll be driving somebody crazy. If I can be bothered to make it that long. Honestly, sometimes just living through my thirties seems like an insurmountable task.

So, anyway, that's what's going on in my head today. I'm going to go to the gym now, do some cardio, go home and eat dinner, and maybe wash a load of t-shirts and light sweaters. It's all about wearing the right shirt... once you get that right, everything else just falls into place.

Wednesday, October 8, 2003

The Elephant in the Living Room

Today is the fifth anniversary of my starting my job. On this day, five years ago, I started out by writing thank-you letters for my new boss to the other people who interviewed for the job, and was aghast to discover that I was the only person with any kind of credentials at all to apply for it; last year, I was planning to resign... and here I am still. I guess there's a lot to be said for chickening out (or being talked out of something) at the last minute. If I was wandering loose in the job market when the economy went down the toilet, things might be very different today... I might not have a new car and a jacked-up credit card to complain about, but abject poverty and uselessness instead.

At any rate, we had a staff lunch today, at Ristorante Milano, and a good time was had by all. No raises or bonuses were distributed, however... a pizza Bolognese and continuing employment will have to suffice.

Earlier this week, I celebrated another anniversary... twenty years ago last week (we can't remember the date, only that it was the first week of October), Caroline and I met in the Student Common of Oakland High School, and a week later we started sharing a locker. Though our relationship has not been constant at its current level since then, we were best friends at the time and are best friends now, twenty years later. She is a constant source of joy to me.

This evening I will be attending the cinema with my friend and coworker JB, where we will be viewing another double feature from the Film Noir Festival at the Grand Lake. Last week we saw On Dangerous Ground and In a Lonely Place, neither of which struck me as particularly good films; the first was a pot-boiler, rather muddled and meandering, starring Ida Lupino, and the second was a little more believable but still a trifle muddy in its plotting and pacing, and starred Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame. Tonight we will be viewing The Big Heat (again with the lovely Miss Grahame, along with handsome Glenn Ford) and The Sniper (with super-suave Adolphe Menjou).

Though this week's selection is more "classic" than last week's more obscure offerings, I don't hold out a great deal of hope for these films. Noir isn't my big thing, I much prefer the big-budget things with fashions and musical numbers and comedy and whatever. But JB loves it, and has all sorts of interesting backgound information to share, and it is all certainly entertaining. I'd rather have a William Wyler Festival, but I'll settle for being educated on an unfamiliar genre.

I had another freaky dream this morning, I don't know if it's a change in the weather or some kind of allergy or what. I don't really remember much but the last few minutes of it: I shot a man six times in the chest, and then made love to him as he lay dying, in a large Chinese-red room full of fresh popcorn. Afterward I went to take a shower and encountered Lawrence Fishburne in the bathroom, and then I woke up. The erotic sensation of kissing a dying man on the nipples and mouth still lingers in my mind, hours later.

And I'd rather think about that, and anything else for that matter, than reflect on the foolishness of my fellow Californians, or at least that 47% of those fellow Californians who voted yesterday. I still can't quite believe it happened, and that we're going to have to live with it.

But fiddle-dee-dee, I'll think about that tomorrow. Or next year. Today I am taking a page out of my Grandmother's book and refusing to believe something that I know perfectly well is true but would prefer not be true. I think I look pretty good in ostrich feathers.

Monday, October 6, 2003

It's About Time

"The time has come," the Walrus said, "for Miss Marlénè to come down with a cold."

Okay, so that's not what the Walrus said... but I do seem to be coming down with a cold. My throat hurts, I feel very tired, kind of chilly, achey, and super-sensitive to light and noise. There are no obvious visible symptoms yet, no hacking cough or serial sneezes or swollen dripping eyes, so I'm having to moan and cry a little to get any sympathy. Not that I require sympathy, mind you... I just like people to know I'm sick so that they're forewarned to stay away from me and to expect shoddy work from me.

Well, if I have to be sick, now is the most convenient time for it... I have no shows coming up, no big family gatherings to prepare for, no major work projects to wade through. I'd prefer not to be sick at all, but this is better than what I'm used to, always getting sick when it's really inconvenient and I have to live on Sudafed and Robitussin just so I can drag my tired carcass through its appointed rounds.

Mmmmmm... Robitussin.

In other news, there was an amusing sequel to the dream detailed below (and thanks, Will and Susan and Luiz, for the feedback... very helpful and thought-provoking): my sister called on Sunday and requested to join Grandmother and Daddy and I for brunch after church; she wanted to visit with family, but of course didn't want to go to church. She suggested the restaurant, too, and her suggestion was met with enthusiasm.

So I'm sitting at the International House of Pancakes, a dedicated pancake restaurant, waiting for my sister, and my eyes fall on the menu-entry for pecan pancakes, and I suddenly realize that my dream is actually happening... cue creepy soundtrack, zoom camera on my panicked eyes.

My Grandmother is a big fan of pecans, so I told her not to order the pecan pancakes... when she wondered why, I told her and Daddy (and Suzie and Ariel who came in during the story) all about the dream. Everyone thought it was pretty funny. Of course, I tend to tell stories so that they're funny, finding the humor in things that scared or upset me when they happened. It's one of my little habits.

Actually, I think it's one of my talents. The gift of humor is, according to Mark Twain, "the great thing, the saving thing, after all. The minute it crops up, all our hardnesses yield, all our irritations and resentments flit away, and a sunny spirit takes their place." Twain also pointed out (probably on a different occasion) that "The secret source of humor itself is not joy, but sorrow."

My University professors would be flabbergasted to see me using quotations in a written piece, something I almost never did in my school papers, where one is supposed to use quotations to support one's statements.

But it raises some interesting points. I have always tried to find the humor in situations, for two reasons: first, because I am an entertainer so I love to make people laugh, and since I never can remember set jokes I have to turn my own life into a funny story in order to do it; and second, perhaps more importantly, finding the humor in any situation makes it so much easier to bear. No matter what happens to you, if you can make a joke about it, if you can laugh about it somehow, you will survive it.

I think of humor as a sort of equalizing element to life... when you have joy, you laugh; and when you have sorrow you can use humor to turn it back into laughter and joy, the way plants turn carbon dioxide back into oxygen. And humor does not make us laugh because it is joyful... if you think about it, funny stories and jokes and humor are always about something unpleasant or embarrassing or potentially painful, but it gives us joy anyway... and I think that joy is the natural state of humankind, the place we always want to be.

So, what else is there to talk about? Oh, I watched the new WB show, Tarzan, starring the delectable Travis Fimmel. It was really stupid, disjointed and poorly written and not-very-convincingly acted... and Travis spent far too much of his time wearing clothes. Not much point in having a body like that if you're just going to cover it up in baggy sweaters and shapeless pants. Something tells me that tonight's planned viewing, The Mrs Bradley Mysteries, will be much better, though most likely lacking in hunky long-haired Australian underwear models.

Oh, well, such is the untidiness of the world we live in. I hope you're enjoying the hell out of your day. XOXO!

Friday, October 3, 2003


I had a freaky dream this morning. It was a nightmare, really, and I don't really know how long I was in this dream, but I had a hell of a time waking up this morning and I still feel a little groggy.

So the earliest part of the dream I remember is this: I was having some difficulty with my car and my sister, like I was borrowing her car and she borrowed mine but I was having difficulty parking her car, which was a vast white truck. This was carried over from previous parts of the dream, which had to do with shopping, the post office, Kentucky Fried Chicken, my gym, and three or four other elements to be found near the intersection of MacArthur and Lakeshore that escape me now. There was anxiety and stress involved in this part, but it gets worse (as situations with my sister and cars tend to do).

We went to this restaurant that had all-you-can-eat pecan pancakes. I don't particularly care for pancakes (nor, really, for pecans), I was just going along on the assumption that they were bound to have bacon-and-eggs on the menu. The restaurant was sort of Caribbean in decor, orange stucco walls and rustic shutters and what-have-you, but the booths were on a conveyor-belt or tracks or something that twisted around the room and out into a tunnel, like a roller-coaster. Each booth had two incredibly fat people in it, chowing down on the pecan pancakes in a most hoggish manner, some of them even disdaining to use forks and knives, or even their hands. The diners disappeared through the tunnel, and empty booths came out of another tunnel to be filled with those waiting in line.

I did not stay in line, but wandered off somewhere, perhaps to the john, or perhaps to find out if there was indeed anything on the menu besides pecan pancakes. I found myself suddenly being herded along a tunnel with a lot of Midwestern-type touristy-looking people, apparently the pancake-fattened diners. The tunnel was like those used at Disneyland, where the lines for the rides often snake through themed "environments" that go along with the ride itself, open above and with mysterious doors here and there.

I don't know how I found out, but I discovered as I went along with the mildly-panicked but still-docile tourists that we were being led to slaughter like sheep, to be converted to meat. Of course, I was having none of that, so I and a few like-minded others tried to escape. We could not go backward, we were being herded by humanoid aliens or something who, when attacked, turned out to be animated privet shrubs painted to resemble humans.

When one managed to find an exit-door that was not locked, it was also guarded by a shrub-person. One could set the guards on fire, but of course I had no lighter since I no longer smoke; one could also cut them up with garden-implements, or rip them apart with your hands, but they usually kept moving or would combine with the remnants of another defeated shrub. All the while we were still being forced along the tunnels toward the slaughterhouse.

This went on for quite some time, a film-length dream. The tunnel became almost a village or a mall, with shops and things where people were stopping to eat and buy souvenirs on their way to slaughter. It was very much like an action-movie, or a video-game, what with contained environments, fighting the shrub-people, trying to find a way out, meeting other people who were trying to escape or who were philosophically submitting to the slaughter. My attempts to escape eventually attracted the attention of the leader of the shrub-people, a formidable Frenchwoman who was sort of a cross between Coco Chanel and Lady Tremaine (from Disney's Cinderella).

Eventually I managed to get through one of the exit-doors and defeated the guard there. I went up several flights of stairs and found myself inside the restaurant above the slaughterhouse, a crumbling old New Orleans-style mansion converted into a fashionable eatery where the human meat was served at five-star prices to crowds of trendy people. The owner and hostess of the restaurant was the scary French-shrub-woman, who knew exactly who I was and where I lived (apparently I'd lost my wallet along the way, and she had my driver's license), and had all of her henchmen as well as the restaurant's chefs hunting for me through the warren-like house.

I eventually made it out into the precincts of the restaurant itself and thence to an adjacent park, where I met my friend Barry on a park-bench. He gave me his yellow hoodie-sweatshirt, and I put it on and curled up on the bench pretending to be asleep with the hood over my face. The shrub-people came out looking for me, got right up and looked right at me on the bench, but failed to recognize me... they were then directed to look for me at home.

Well, of course I had to get home and warn my family to escape before the shrub-people got there and took them to the slaughterhouse. The restaurant turned out to be all the way downtown, but I managed to get home on foot by taking a series of running jumps that got me a block or two at a time, and even over Lake Merritt in one fairly satisfying leap (often in my dreams I can fly if I jump really hard and swim in the air, but I never quite soar).

My father and my nephew and Grandmother were there at the house... Grandmother was unable to run away, but I convinced her to lock herself into the bathroom and stay there while Daddy and Matthew and I ran up the street to get my uncle to help us (my uncle really lives in Alameda, but in the dream he lived a block away).

This is where the dream ceased to be a scary adventure and became a full-on nightmare... see, my uncle (whom we call Junior) is a cop, and also the most dependable and trustworthy person in our family... he's sort of the default patriarch, despite not being the oldest, or even a father. And so, in the dream, the relief I felt when I discovered that Junior was right up the street was amazing.

However, when we got to Junior's house, he was really angry that I had managed to get into this five-star restaurant where he had been trying to get reservations for weeks. He knew all about the place, even knew that they were serving human meat, that's what made the place so fabulously glamorous. He intimated that he would happily turn all of us over to the French-shrub-woman in exchange for a good table for four reserved in his name this Saturday night.

So we ran, me and my father and my nephew. We got as far as the alleyway that connects our street with the street the bus runs on, but it was blocked by fences... not fenced in, mind you, but actually littered with huge sections of redwood fences set like hurdles along the way. Daddy and Matthew couldn't follow until I had cleared away all the fences along the alley, and so they were stuck at the mouth of the alley, whence the shrub-people were coming at any moment, their danger mounting with every passing minute... and I was mired in all these big fences, getting on top of them to knock them down and getting my feet caught in their lattices and getting splinters in my hands and getting nowhere fast.

And that's when I finally managed to jerk myself awake. It was a little after six in the morning. I eventually went back to sleep, because I didn't have to pee (as I usually do when I've had a nightmare) and because I was still too groggy and tired to fully wake up, but though my dreams were vivid and in some places anxious, they weren't scary and I don't remember them.

But for the rest of the morning I was haunted by the images and sensations of that dream. Of course, the poetry of a meat-eating fur-wearing disrespector-of-animal-life such as myself being herded like cattle to slaughter is not lost on me. The preponderance of Disney references and images is also suggestive (as I think of it, both of the restaurants and several other elements are actually in Disneyland). But it was the feeling of someone I unquestioningly trust turning on me at the last minute that still echoes in my mind. That was a scary, scary feeling.

So anyway, that's two nights in a row I've had odd dreams. I think it's time to change something about my bed. I think I'll change the sheets and clear all the books and things off, and add another blanket or two (when I woke up from my nightmare, my butt was out of the blankets and I was really cold). If that doesn't work, I'll try something else... though bad dreams are usually caused by some physical discomfort during sleep (being cold, needing to pee), remembering nightmares with this sort of clarity is a signal that things aren't as they should be in the mind, that my subconscious is trying to communicate with my conscious about something that's bothering me under the cognitive surface.

Or maybe I just ate too much fruit yesterday. Who knows?

Thursday, October 2, 2003

Somebody Stop Me

I am having trouble with money lately: I can't seem to live my current lifestyle with my current salary.

When I decided, some months ago, that I could afford to buy a new car, I was fooling myself. Even though my payments are only $260, and my insurance is only $20 more than it was for the Volvo, it is the endless repetition of that added expense, without respite, that is getting me down.

When I owned elderly cars, huge things would go wrong with them, incurring huge expenses... but this only happened once or twice a year. Now, though nothing ever goes wrong with Miss Jane (aside from that little accident, and the expense of constantly duct-taping the side-view mirror back on), the expense hits the bank account every month, right on schedule, over and over and over again. On top of that is the down-payment that is still sitting on my credit-card, a card that is going to start charging interest in a few months.

The thing is, with the old cars I would get hit with an expense and would therefore have to quit shopping for a month or two. But with this endlessly repeated expense, I find myself in a difficulty... for the last three pay cycles I have overdrawn my checking account within a week of having my paycheck deposited (I get paid every two weeks). I've put nothing in savings and have been only making minimal payments on my credit card. Twice I've had to borrow money from Grandmother, and once took a cash advance on my credit card (which isn't getting paid down) in order to keep my checking account afloat... so not only am I not saving, I'm actually sinking farther into debt by about $300.

I've tried budgeting myself, but I have yet to be able to stay within my budget... and then when I go on these shopping binges, the budget goes right out the window. Like the recent binge in which I spent over a hundred dollars on a single fur piece on which I was only willing to spend sixty. A hundred dollars that I just today had to borrow from Grandmother so that when my car-insurance autopayment hits the bank account on Monday it won't bounce. Just because I had to have a black fur for my Griselda von Beitte-Meihasse outfit, at any cost, right now, and some stupid cunts on eBay kept outbidding each other (but I swooped in and snatched it at the last minute, which makes me a cunt, too).

So it's the shopping that is causing my trouble. Or rather, the shopping in concert with the new car. I'm used to shopping in binges, it's what I've always done. I'm not used to having monthly car payments and credit-card payments. I'm also used to getting fairly regular raises, often with retroactive lump-sums, which I'm not getting this year. I'm not used to being a responsible adult who moderates his pleasures to suit his income.

I don't know why I'm babbling on about this, except that it's worrying me, and I find writing about these things has a cathartic effect. Doesn't solve the problem, but it does lance the feelings caused by the problem.

In other news, I am also unable to quite rid my mind of the dream I had early this morning and am remembering with bizarre and unwonted clarity. For some reason, in this dream, I was being interviewed for the BBC by British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Somehow or other, I had become a member of the Royal family, but I did not find out what, exactly, had happened to Elizabeth, Charles, William, or the hundreds of other people currently in line to the Throne of Great Britain and Ireland. Maybe I was Harry (who's looking quite yummy these days, even if The National Inquirer is questioning his paternity with side-by-side photographs of the young prince compared to the late Princess of Wales' personal bodyguard), or one of the lesser Windsor, Ogilvy, or Lascalle boys, which would have explained things nicely.

The interview was taking place in a really quite grand room of black-oak panelling and free-standing bookcases, with Palladian archways and screens and windows, and a barrel-vaulted Adam ceiling. It's a real room that I've seen in books but I'm not sure which room it was. Tony Blair had brought in these two bright-blue leather wing-chairs, the shade of blue used in bluescreen filming, and they assorted ill with the elegant gallery-like room... and I teased Tony for bringing those clashing chairs into "one of the most beautiful rooms in England."

There were no mirrors in the room, but I felt my face and discovered that I hadn't shaved in some time... and since I wanted to be taken seriously as a writer rather than just as some dilettante royal (and in fact I said so to Mr. Blair, it was the reason for submitting to the interview along with a number of other well-known celebrity writers who were there in the room, queueing up for their turn in the blue chair), I felt I ought to shave. So I happened to have a straight-razor in my pocket (maybe that's what happened to the other royals), and started shaving with a paper cup of tea-water and no mirror, feeling my way as I stood in line behind James Earl Jones. Then I woke up.

I'm not sure why I shared that with you, and I have absolutely no clue what any of it means. Any dream-analysts in the audience? Feel free to leave a comment... PLEASE leave a comment! Hardly anyone ever comments anymore.