Saturday, November 29, 2003

Essence of Time

I wish I had more time to write. I've just finished reading this book, a book that languished on my Amazon Wish List ever since I started the Wish List with it, which I finally bought because I was tired of looking at it on the tail-end of my Wish List, and which is entitled Someone is Killing the Gay Boys of Verona. It isn't very good, I'm afraid, though it's also not exactly bad, either.

The story involves a series of killings of gay teens in a small Indiana town, hate crimes that don’t seem to leave sufficient trace for the police to follow, and is narrated by a boy who lives in an imperfectly preserved haunted mansion, whose best friend was the first victim, and who of course was a potential victim himself. There are ghosts involved, a hateful religious sect, vague ties between the past and the present, and a surprising number of comings-out of gay male youth for such a tiny town (apparently there were no lesbians in Verona). It's sort of a gay gothic romance with a gay murder mystery entangled in it.

I found it all a little difficult to believe as a story: the bit with the coroner not noticing that a so-called "suicide" had somehow managed to shoot himself in the back of the head with a .45 Magnum (which even I know is impossible, and I'm not a county coroner) was pretty hard to get behind; the descriptions of the mansion were a little hard to swallow, too, though perhaps someone less well-versed in American architecture would have had less trouble; and the fact that the narrator/hero spent all of his time trying to contact ghosts and figure the whole thing out in his head, Nero Wolfe-like, instead of talking to the police or the victims' families, was simply ridiculous (even Wolfe had actual information and evidence gathered up for him).

The author, who I assume is a grown-up-type person, captures the narrative tone of a seventeen-year-old boy so well that I feel that I'm reading something written by a seventeen-year-old boy (I will generously assume that was done on purpose, rather than that the author himself suffers a tenth-grade reading level). That's kind of a cool trick, but then seventeen-year-old boys aren't well known for telling a good story with any amount of subtext or elegance of language. They spend so much time trying to explain themselves, as well as repeating themselves, and trying to "figure things out," that they don't get around to doing much else. This one also kept using "that" instead of "who" or "which," a grammatical tic that got on my nerves after a while.

There is also an editorial slant towards coupledom that I occasionally encounter in gay fiction, especially the gothic variety, and which always irritates me just a trifle. It took me a long time to discover that not everyone in the world needs to be part of a couple; I did think that when I was seventeen but have since grown out of it. Coupling is certainly very nice, it is the peak of some people's experience, but it's not one of life's essentials for happiness and it's not for everyone. But in this book, everybody has to couple up in order to be happy, everyone... even the dead. It sort of pissed me off, but just a little; I guess I really am turning into a confirmed bachelor, though I hope I'm not becoming a bitter old maid.

There was also, finally, a rather irritating prudishness to the language, boyfriends instead of lovers, one's heart racing with terror instead of pissing one's pants in terror, and an almost fanatical avoidance of discussing any body-part that might be located below the belt. The author seemed to feel that "dirty parts" didn't need to be discussed, that "dirty words" were inessential, and that being "good" required a certain divorce from one's physical nature. At least he didn't pretend that teenage boys are absolute angels of sexual chastity; but I also worry vaguely about authors who never send their characters to the bathroom. While I suppose that's okay in children's literature (I've noticed that the people in Harry Potter's world only shower after games and only use the toilets to plot stratagems and talk to lachrymose ghosts), it's a little odd in a murder mystery supposedly intended for an adult audience.

Anyway, I didn't start out to write a book review (though now I've started I rather enjoy it). Like I said, though, it wasn't really a bad novel, it just wasn't written for me. What it did do for me, though, was turn up the flame on that smoldering and not-very-warm fire I try to keep lit under my keister about writing my own stories. Every time I read a book that irritates me, just as every time I read a book that I enjoy, I try to dissect what it was in the book that irritated or elated me, try to see where in my own stories such elements could be found, and try to figure out how to decrease or increase the occurrences of such things. With a book I love, though, I usually feel pretty satisfied with the experience and file it away for future reference... it's the books that irritate me, on the other hand, that inspire me to write my own, something better.

But when do I have the time? (As we gracelessly return to the title topic) I know I could be writing fiction instead of reading, or I could be writing fiction instead of these journal entries, and I could certainly be writing fiction instead of downloading new furniture and building new houses for my Sims. But writing fiction has always been more time-consuming... I have to be uninterrupted for whole days just to get started on it. And I haven't really done much work on fiction since I quit smoking, or since I discovered the internet: the smoking was part of my writing pattern, I would write-write-write and then get up and smoke a cigarette while thinking about what came next, then I'd write-write-write again, and after I quit smoking I would write-write-write and then just walk around the house three or four times, which just wasn't the same; and after I found the internet, I never get quite bored enough to have to entertain myself with writing, there's always something else to do.

Writing fiction was never something I could do for a little while and then go do something else, it required hours of revving up beforehand, hours of decompression after, and uninterrupted peace without Grandmothers or telephone calls or errands however small during the process, so the busier and more full my life becomes, the less time I can devote to writing fiction. But I know perfectly well that I can't alter my life in order to give myself more time; instead, I have to alter the way I write in order to fit it in to the life I have. I need to learn how to just sit down for an hour or two in the evenings and write some fiction, even to continue writing when Grandmother comes and stands in the door and nags me.

Nevertheless, I do wish I had more time in my life. It seems that I'm always somewhere, at work or in the car or at a meeting or in a show or something. Yesterday and today, and the sick day I took a couple of weeks ago, are the first days I've spent in a really long time where I haven't had to leave the house. Add all this to my age-diminished capacity to do things without getting tired, and it looks as if I've painted myself into a life that allows far too little productive leisure time.

And I don't really know what to do about it. The things I'd like to let go of, my responsibilities and the less pleasurable tasks of my life, can't be let go of; the things I could theoretically let go of, my shows and social life and so on, I don't want to let go of.

Talk about your "luxury problems." I am grateful to have so full a life... it is not so for everyone. My Daddy, for example, has so little in his life right now that everything that comes up automatically becomes an obsession. He can't get out on his own, and he can't hear very well when he is out and so can't take as much part in conversation as he used to, and he doesn't have the vastness of inner resources to keep himself satisfactorily occupied on his own. He is pretty much occupied with The Food Network and downloading free games from the internet, and pestering me to buy things for him from the internet and then pestering my nephew to install them for him. I know he reads a good deal, and since I pretty much only see him on Sundays and holidays I don't really know what the rest of his week is like, but from my conversations with him I often get the idea that he's more than a little bored.

Then there are others for whom a day of minimal boredom is an undreamt-of luxury, people who have to work forty or more hours a week and commute two or more hours a day and have to deal with children or spouses or houses or lovers or dating, on top of all of the other things a person might do. I hear about other people's schedules and absolutely shudder at the mad scurry of it all.

Ah, well. We all have our own rows to hoe. I would like to discover some simple way of hoeing my row more efficiently, some simple way that wouldn't require a personality transplant or vitamins or a revolutionary alteration of my worldview and personal outlook or whatever. On the other hand, I find that I do always have time for the things I need to be doing, so perhaps writing fiction is not what I need to be doing right now.

Perhaps right now I need to be eating pie and watching television. So I guess I'd better get to it.


Thursday, November 27, 2003

Gratitude, Schmatitude—Where's My Pie?

So here we are on the day when we are commanded by our nation to be thankful for shit. I don't know if the Congressional order came down with dining suggestions, if perhaps there was a turkey-growers' lobby involved, but I know our family has a menu written in stone. There is of course turkey, because my family is nothing if not predictable. There will also be mashed potatoes, turkey gravy, two vegetables (invariably peas and corn), cornbread stuffing (ancient family recipe), candied yams (sans marshmallows... we aren't that white), bread, black olives, jellied cranberry sauce retaining the shape of the can if came from (because we're still pretty damned white), and of course pie. Lots and lots of pie.

Remember the olden days when pretty much the only time you could get turkey was during the Holidays? Then the health-nuts got ahold of it, and now you can get turkey anytime, anywhere, all year round. It's taken the specialness out of turkey. Now, don't get me wrong... I love turkey, especially turkey that is spit-roasted by somebody other than my "No-Bacterium-Survives-My-Incinerating-Kitchen" Grandmother (it wasn't until my aunt Judy took over the turkey-cooking in this family that I discovered I actually liked turkey, that it was supposed to be moist and flavorful and not pure white and absorbent... furthermore, I was a fully-functioning adult with his own taste in restaurants when I discovered that pork chops aren't supposed to taste like cardboard). Turkey sandwiches are my favorite lunch, and turkey and gravy my favorite TV dinner. But that somehow pulls the punch of the Holiday Turkey.

So my focus has turned instead to the pie (I could have turned to the stuffing, which is only made at Christmas and Thanksgiving from a special family recipe that nobody else in the world uses, but I don't care that much for stuffing). Grandmother has been busting a hump the last two days to make six pies — two apple, two chocolate cream, one banana cream, one coconut cream. She skipped the pumpkin this year, I don't know why (I bought one at the store, though, just to be safe).

Grandmother's cream pies are a little different from the kind you get at the bakery. She doesn't use whipped cream on top, she uses meringue; and there is no cream in the filling, either, it's custard. So the cream pies are technically custard meringue pies, and unlike the apple and pumpkin pies these are very family-specific. You can't just walk into a store and order a chocolate custard meringue pie, you know. And very few bakeries can compare to her pie-crusts. Heaven!

I think what makes Grandmother's pies so special and different is that they're not very sweet. I mean, the custard filling is sweet, and the meringue is kind of sweet, but not terribly sweet, and the crust is almost savory (like really good toast). You can therefore eat a whole hell of a lot of it without getting that cloying "I just ate too much sugar" feeling. We're all about quantity here at the Manners Manse... because that's what sets a feast apart from a meal: Quantity.

And so off we go, over the river and through the woods (or rather through the Caldecott and over the Sunol Grade) to consume mass quantities at aunt Terry's house. Grandmother brings the pies, I bring the yams, Daddy brings the bread, and we all bring an appetite. Hopefully after dinner we'll play board games, which we usually do when we gather at Terry's house. My Daddy and I are the reigning Pictionary Champion Team, and I always kick ass at Trivial Pursuit... but not Trivial Pursuit Baby Boomer Edition, which I always lose.

But just so's you don't think I'm ungrateful, I will post a gratitude list here later on (I have to leave right now... coming, Grandmother!) when I've had a chance to think about it. I mean, anyone can be grateful for health and family and friends, I want to think of something unusual and interesting to be grateful for.

In the meantime, I am definitely grateful for the existence of the Abercrombie & Fitch catalog, and infinitely grateful that there are so many beautiful young men in the world to look at.

Happy Turkey Pie Day, my darlings!

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Just a Little Boring...

I just now started wondering what etymological roots are shared by the verb bore, to cause yawning and ennui, and the other verb bore, to drill a hole. The pendulum seems to have swung a little too far the other way, when I start dismantling the words that describe how I feel... and am still bored by the question.

I'm not really bored, though. I'm just decompressing still after being so totally overwhelmed, somewhat fearful of taking on too much, perhaps giving myself a little too much license in the matter of rest, and faintly disturbed by the unfamiliar feeling of not only not doing anything but also not thinking about that which I am not doing. There's this feeling of emptiness that I welcome but which is nevertheless strange.

This weekend I did my best to take it easy. I got a lot of sleep, especially on Saturday (went to sleep shortly after midnight and slept soundly until 11 a.m.), did a good deal of laundry but didn't push myself at it, and quietly plotted the systems that are going to make my room work (such as trading my dressing table, which I love but which is fairly useless now that I don't spend time on my hair, for the matching chest-of-drawers that I took out of my room two years ago, thereby increasing my storage space and decreasing my clutter-space).

I spent a lot of quality time alone, not doing anything in particular, just reading and watching movies and building ever-more-spectacular mansions for my Sims. But I also spent quality time with friends doing things that didn't require a great deal of effort on my part. At Dalton's party I got to talk to a lot of people, but I didn't have to dress up and entertain them. It was most relaxing. It was also insightful... two different people said things to me which struck profound resonances; in fact, I started writing about one of them yesterday but got sidetracked.

On my return to work yesterday, the boss was most accomodating about my desire to not take on too much this week (I guess I sounded a little more frazzled when I called in sick on Friday than I thought... he treated me with kid gloves, or more appropriately like a bomb that might or might not go off at any minute), and my only project for the day was a print-and-distribute of three flyers. I usually find that task rather tedious, but this time I enjoyed it for the time alone it afforded me.

Soon, though, I am going to have to take up the reins of life again. I can't exist in this princess-and-the-pea feather-pillowed stasis for very long. As much as I enjoy time alone, and as much as I enjoy resting, I am a social creature with social commitments. Work is going to gear up, too, as we near the end of the semester. And then there are all of one's family responsibilities that become rather more labor-intensive around the holidays.

What I am going to try to do is stay on top of the wave of activity and responsibility instead of getting plowed under by it. And I think I can do it if I take one thing at a time and not think about the things I'm not doing at the moment. It's more of a challenge to practice serenity when one is busy than when one is coccooned in one's room designing Anglo-Dutch Victorian country houses in a Maxis-created virtual neighborhood, but it can be done.

Friday, November 21, 2003

“Sick” Day

Things that I have been putting off and need to get done before I can even think about getting on with my life:

    Get oil changed done! Hopefully I can get it changed again before I drive another nine thousand miles.

    Get hair cut done! And it looks real cute, too; I accidentally found this really nice lady, Kathleen at the Lakeshore Beauty Center, and she did a beautiful job.

    Get nails fixed done! Tried a new place, also on Lakeshore (where I also got my oil changed... one-stop shopping), and got a lovely fill-and-file for five bucks less than usual.

    Get some laundry done Three loads done! Three to go. Nowhere to put the clean laundry, but hey! Progress, not perfection.

    Buy birthday present for Dalton done! But I can't tell you what I got because he reads this blog. (You're gonna love it, honey!)
And all because I decided today that I was taking a sick day. I have so much sick leave saved up (about three full weeks) that I can afford to be sick one day a week for the rest of the fiscal year. And I figured I wasn't going to get anything done at the office today, with all these little maintenance chores on my mind; and the chores needed to get done more than I needed to go sit in the office doing nothing.

Actually, there's more to it than that. To tell the absolute truth, when I got home from the office yesterday, I started crying and couldn't stop. I cried — and by "crying" I mean hysterical full-on pillow-biting racked-with-sobbing ululating, with snot and tears pouring out of every orifice — for a full twenty-five minutes, so long that I started wondering if I was actually having a nervous breakdown. And after that, I was dreading going back to the office and inviting another episode of that sort.

The thing is, as behind as I am on my personal life, I'm twice as far behind at the office... and completely overwhelmed. I mean, I haven't updated the membership database in months, I haven't checked off the incorrectly-placed deductions from the payroll registers all semester, and I haven't sent on any new members to the national affiliate in over a year; then there's the stationery and the files and the other maintenance work, on top of all the things that come up day to day, and then there's work I do that isn't even my job, and work that I'd like to do but haven't got time.

And then at the board meeting yesterday afternoon people kept making veiled comments about work I haven't been doing (“We usually get mailers to remind us about these meetings, don't we?”) and then making “suggestions” of additional work I “ought” to be doing. I ought to switch our email account so I could get more emails out at once without tripping AOL's fascist and completely useless anti-spamming measures, I ought to nag the members to keep us updated of new addresses and phone numbers in every newsletter we send out, and we ought to be sending more newsletters out, and of course updating the website more often, and so on and so forth ad infinitum. I felt like a toad under a harrow, I felt like I was being unfairly criticized, I felt like I was being attacked.

Of course, I wasn't really being attacked, most of the board never remembers anything they say from one minute to the next, they just like thinking out loud. But being overwhelmed and having people try to add more to the pile, it was more than I could bear.

Hopefully after a nice restful weekend, and getting some of my personal chores off my mind, I'll have a little more strength to deal with things at the office. Also telling people that they're simply going to have to wait for their new projects to be addressed but feel free to do it yourself if you want it done so damned bad. And I have to simply take everything one-thing-at-a-time until I get caught up. It's all a matter of not getting flustered. And of taking care of myself. And not taking things so damned seriously. And maybe crying more often so that when it happens I don't start wondering if it's time for me to start taking antidepressants (maybe it is, but I can't afford them right now and that's all there is to it).

So today I got a lot of chores done, but I took them slowly and rested in between episodes. And now I'm going to read a book or else watch a movie, or maybe play The Sims Superstar for a little while. I hope you're having a nice time with whatever you're doing today!

Thursday, November 20, 2003


God, how I hate writing minutes. Boiling down all this jaw-jacking rigamarole into an organized exchange of ideas, trying to remember from my scattershot notes what was actually said, wishing I'd tape-recorded the damned thing, trying to find ways of indicating what was said without saying who said it. It's TEDIOUS.

But it's interesting how having a side-project to write makes the minutes so much easier to handle. Yesterday I was working on that set of meeting minutes that I have been chipping away at for a week — I'd write a few lines, become utterly disgusted with the entire thing, and then start playing The Sims or Rummy or surfing the net — when my coworker asked me to flesh out a newsletter article I had suggested a couple of weeks ago. It started off as a tirade about our members who are such patsies as to do the administration's work for them and then cry and moan because they weren't sainted or congratulated or even paid for their efforts, entitled "Don't be a Patsy" (other titles thought up in development were "Don't be a Schmuck" and "Get Off the Cross, Mary"), but then it developed into something much better, an article that managed to praise those idiot patsies while gently explaining to them that they're not doing anybody any good by doing their work for them, entitled "Don't be a Martyr." It was brilliant (I'm more than half tempted to post it here). And I was so high on the successful writing of the article that I breezed through the rest of those damned meeting-minutes in record time. I also managed to jot off a few letters while I was at it.

And now I have one more set of minutes to wade through, and this afternoon will be another meeting that I will have to write minutes for. It's a never-ending chore. Hopefully, though, I'll be caught up soon, and it won't seem such a weighty task. Getting behindhand on things is so very discouraging, and the farther behind you get the more discouraged you are, and the more discouraged you are the harder it is to catch up. It's a vicious cycle.

Then there are the other little chores I'm behindhand with, like setting up a new email system from our domain (so that I can put our new email address on the new stationery), ordering the new stationery (a simple operation but it requires me to haul myself out to the warehouse district of Berkeley with a sample and all the information, and I keep forgetting), getting our DSL account out of AOL and into SBC so we can proceed with putting the office on a wireless network (I believe it's called an "intranet"?), and getting my filing cabinets in order (a gargantuan undertaking).

Then there are the little chores in my life that I am terribly behindhand on: I need to get my oil changed, I need to have my brakes checked, I need to get my hair cut, I need to get my acrylics filled, I need to clean my room and finish my laundry.

It's all so boring and repetitive. I feel this terrible urge to fake my own death just so I won't have to face all this personal and professional maintenance anymore. I just want to retreat into a room, with bathroom en suite, complete with a television and cable and a well-filled computer and internet connection and books and magazines, with just enough warmth and fresh air that I won't have to wear clothes, where someone pushes a meal under my door at various intervals and comes in to clean while I'm sleeping or something. My nails could go all to hell, I'd only shave when my face itched, my hair could grow any which way it wanted, I'd have no need of a car or a job or insurance or bills or anything at all.

I would of course become bored unto insanity within a few days, but it would have been a nice little vacation.

What I really want in life is servants to do all of the boring work for me, accountants and lawyers to see that the money keeps flowing in and to make sure the servants get paid, a secretary to write my thank-you notes and wrap gifts and keep my calendar, live-in hairdressers and manicurists and mechanics. That's the whole allure of wealth, to me, aside from the ability to shop untrammeled by credit-card interest and overdrawn checking accounts: the ability to pay people to do all the boring tedious crap for you. Somone to handle the minutiæ of everyday life.

I want to be taken care of, without the messy emotional and physical entaglement of life-partnership.

But there we are back at the first and most resonating mistake of my life, having been born to the wrong family. If I had somehow managed to direct that stork up the hill into a nice Piedmont family, or one of those lovely third-world royalties, instead of into the crib of an ambitionless auto-mechanic and a trailer-trash parvenue, everything would have been much different. But the main difference would be that I'd have all of these things and still desire for more. It's human nature, after all.

Well, having babbled on pointlessly through another segment of my rapidly passing and hugely mismanaged life, I had better get back to the everyday boring crap that occupies my time, to return to working on minutes and agendas and other preparations for this afternoon's meeting.

In the meantime I shall fantasize about my life with servants.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003


Insomnia is an evil thing. It happens to me so seldom these days, thank God, but when it does it simply wrecks me. You just lie there thinking that you should have had a melatonin and a nice wank at eleven, but it's too late now, if you take the melatonin now you'll be groggy all next day... and then an hour later you're wishing you had done the melatonin-and-wank the hour previous, now it really is too late... then another hour passes and you start wondering what it was that you did wrong today, what it was that banished the accustomed sleep. Perhaps I should have had a hot herb tea instead of that glass of fat-free "holiday nog" (Caroline brought it over because it didn't heat up well and so was unsuitable in tea or oatmeal, though the very thought of putting eggnog in tea or oatmeal makes my teeth shiver; the eggless nog was strangely translucent, and I imagine it makes up for its lack of fat by being utterly packed with sugar) before I went to bed, or that perhaps I should have eaten vegetables at dinner instead of just meat, or perhaps I shouldn't have used the elliptical machine at the gym and stuck to my exercycle-and-treadmill routine.

It's the second-guessing yourself that makes insomnia so unpleasant. I mean, lying awake isn't so bad, but when all you can think of is how early you have to get up and how stupid you are to let yourself still be awake at three a.m. when you have to be up at eight, and all the work you haven't been doing at the office that you really need to catch up on and all the shelves and Christmas presents you need to buy with no money and whether or not Schwarzenegger is going to do something really ghastly to the state, there's no joy in it.

I finished reading Anne Rice's latest, Blood Canticle, while I was sitting here owl-eyed in my bed unable to doze off. I'm afraid I didn't care much for it. I liked the ending, I think... I mean, I found the plot-points touching rather than satisfying; and the last few pages of writing, though as jumpy and difficult as it had been all through the book, had a lovely poetry to it. I liked the tying-up-of-loose-ends in the plot, and I enjoyed some of the characters. But I didn't care for the scattershot approach to narrative, the long-winded exclamatory passages that didn't really say anything, the jolting fingers-napping poetry-jamming rapid-fire glissandoes of slang and Creole idiom shoved in there for no apparent reason except to demonstrate a familiarity with the slang and Creole idiom.

I think this was perhaps the most self-indulgent of Mrs. Rice's novels... I felt that the desire to please an audience was firmly set aside in order to give her scope to achieve something she's wanted to do for some time. It had more personal merit for her, I think, than literary merit. And good for her! You know you've arrived when you can pour out some private needs and desires into a lovely Knopf-published hardbound book, and people buy it... and even if they don't buy it you don't really care because you're richer than God and you have a core following of millions of readers who, like me, order your books the minute they're published, before they're reviewed or even publicized. And I think the book stands as a literary milestone, because it gives us the most insight into Rice's own character. She even signs it with her own name at the end, instead of with the name of her narrator.

The novel is dedicated to her late husband, Stan... I think that must be the genesis of the heavy interspersions of poetry in the novel, a tribute to her poet husband. Just as the proliferation of homosexual apologia in her last few novels is, I think, in tribute to her son Christopher. The house of the Mayfairs is her own house, the city they live in is her city, the places they go are the places she's been. It's all very personal, and as such it is more interesting as a portrait of the mental state of Anne Rice than it is a portrait of a set of fictional characters in a fictional plot.

Nevertheless, it wasn't an entertaining or even fascinating book. The writing wasn't beautiful to me, and I didn't find the plot very gripping. That doesn't mean that I am going to take her off my Amazon Alerts list, it doesn't mean that I won't buy her next book the very second I hear it's been published. I like my serial authors... Anne Rice, J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry, all these lovely authors who are still alive. Since most of my favorite authors and singers are dead, and the only new things you get out of them are the "undiscovered" works (usually undiscovered for a reason), living authors and singers are very exciting, they leave you with the tantalizing knowledge that the book you just read and the CD you just heard isn't the last ever, that there will be changes, developments, novelty. It's incomplete, unfinished, anticipatory. Like children, I guess.

Can you tell that I got four and a half hours of sleep? I think what kept me awake last night was a backlog of thinking that I haven't been doing in the daytime lately. My inability to concentrate is still with me, my dust-allergies are still with me, and I have been absorbed in The Sims pretty much every time I sit in front of the computer... largely because they are a lovely escape from having to think about the disorganization of my life and how far behind I am on my work, my laundry, my oil-changes and hair-and-nail maintenance and credit-card payments.

I'm trying to avoid my worries, is what I'm trying to say, and worries don't like to be avoided. They just build up and wait for you to become vulnerable, wait for you think you're tired enough to not need a melatonin-and-wank, then pounce and keep you awake until three-thirty in the morning.

Well, Grandmother just asked me to go run my laundry that's sitting in the machines so she can do a couple of loads today. And I'm supposed to be at work in half an hour, I need to eat some breakfast, and the responsibilities of the day are calling to me. I hope you have a lovely day, and I'll do my best to have a lovely day also. Although I'd much rather have a nap instead.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Duh? Or is it Doy? Perhaps Duh-hoy-hoy...

When I go so long without cleaning my room, I forget what it is, what hatred or fear prevails, that prevents me from starting such projects... but after starting up again, I am not long in remembering — and if I do take too long to remember why I hate cleaning my room, my sinuses are quick to remind me: it's the dust. I am allergic to dust, and I can never remember that fact until after I have dislodged a great deal of it and sent it up my nose.

Now, the neatniks in the audience will wonder why, in that case, I don't make more of an effort to dust my room, so that it doesn't build up and attack me. But frequent dusting is not really viable for my personality and lifestyle, so the dust builds up all over, and I find it best not to do anything at all about it. See, if I don't do anything to disturb the dust, it just sits there benignly, like mines at the bottom of a harbor. Of course, that means that the very second that I do disturb it, there's so much of it that it just about kills me. It's all about letting sleeping dogs lie... but sometimes the dog just has to wake up and scratch itself.

Still, despite my painful metaphors and the pain in my face, I am somewhat pleased with my progress in the Quest. I haven't actually done any cleaning of the room, yet, all I've managed is to gather up my laundry and expel it thence; the hunt for socks and handkerchiefs in the nooks and crannies is what disturbed the dust. There's still plenty more dust where that came from, too. Nevertheless, with the laundry out of the room, I can see what needs to be done.

My first observation, while studying the mess, was that one of my messiest behaviors comes from my inability to dress myself under pressure. When picking up and sorting the laundry, I made a pile of clothes that I hadn't actually worn but had merely tried on, rejected, and discarded in a hurry. The pile of clean-but-unfolded clothes was fairly large when I finished... and it occurs to me that perhaps I should get rid of those clothes. I mean, if they don't look good on me, or even if they don't look good with everything else I have, the clothes that were actually dirty because I actually wore them, why should I keep them?

On the other hand, I've lost some weight since I tried on some of those clothes (yes, it's been a really long time since I last cleaned my room completely), so I think I'd better try-on again before discarding them. One of the discard sweaters always made me look fat, but I'm wearing it right now and it doesn't make me look fat at all. Still, this clue gives us a start. Getting rid of clothes I can't wear or shouldn't wear doesn't threaten my need for Stuff, and so it will be pretty easy to jettison a lot of it... not to mention the absolute pleasure of jettisoning the fat-pants I bought last winter when I finally spilled over into the thirty-six waist.

I've also been giving more thought to the idea of lining my room with shelves. I currently have two sets of wall-mounted shelves, the kind with planks laying on brackets attached to rods that are screwed to the studs of the wall; and the cool thing about those is that they're expandable. So I'm thinking that I will get longer planks and an extra set of rods and brackets for the shelves above my headboard and above my desk, expanding them as far as they'll go before they meet the next nearest obstruction; then I will take the shorter shelves and mount them on the remaining blank-spaces, such as the space behind the door next to the dressing-table, and the space adjacent to the desk. I can also get small sets of narrower shelves to hang in the dead space over the heater-vent and on either side of the window... spaces I had once intended for posters and smaller artwork, but which are simply blank now.

That way, all the books and magazines can occupy shallow wall-shelves, and the deeper standing shelves can be turned over to file-boxes and sock-baskets and stacks of rolled sweaters and folded jeans. It will be like living in the bastard child of a public library and a Gap outlet! What fun!

The main thing is to set up an easy-to-maintain storage system within the room, for clothes, books, and important papers. It's the latter category that is giving me the most trouble right now... as I get older and obtain more of the trappings of adulthood in my life, there is more and more paper raining down upon me. The car, its payments, its registration, and its insurance all have paperwork involved, and then there are the credit card statements and the cable statements and the bank statements and the magazine subscription statements, all these things have to be kept somewhere I can find them when I need them, and it has to be some sort of a system where I can just drop the papers into a box or something when they come in, and then sort them and file them correctly when I have the time and inclination.

I'm sure this must all be terribly fascinating for you. In fact, I can't imagine why you would have read quite this far. One of the odd tensions in keeping an online diary is the problem of knowing when your inner-thought ramblings might or might not be interesting to other people, a problem of balancing the mundane against the entertaining, the journaler against the editor, in order to both keep it all honest and make it a pleasurable read.

That's what makes this blog such a tool for learning the writer's craft... often one sets out to entertain but only succeeds in being facile; sometimes one just rambles on to fill up space and accidentally ends up saying something of profound interest. Sometimes you can purge your soul of some dark and shameful secret which will do nothing but induce yawns in the reader, and sometimes you can prattle on about something you consider completely unimportant and both shock and challenge a reader. And you don't really know, when you're writing, which outcome is going to happen.

You can't second-guess the reader... you can only tell the truth the best way you know how, and let the chips fall as they may. But you can deduce from the posts that get the most responses, and from studying the phrases that people respond to, what works and what doesn't when trying to entertain and tell the truth.

I've been thinking about this lately as more and more of my daily reads have stopped writing... nobody has actually quit blogging, but there are a lot of bloggers from my Daily Reads column on hiatus right now. These are, for the most part, people who might be described as "A-list Bloggers," people with hundreds of daily readers, known and loved all around the web. They have captured the style of sublime mundanity that characterizes a great blog, that balance of brevity and ramble, of gripping and accessible yet structurally informal language. Their silence, paired with the number of mainstream celebrities and news-people who now have blogs, makes me wonder if perhaps this whole blogging thing has run its course as a trend.

I've also been thinking about this as I read Stephen Fry's early-life autobiography, Moab Is My Washpot. In it, Fry discusses a number of his early literary influences, and how his love of words led to his love of literature. I, too, had a love of words at an early age, born from a desire to be seen as "smart" and to learn something that other people didn't know (so as to have a weapon against Them), but which grew into a passion for the obscure and the opulent in words... and later, as I gained education, in literature.

I share with Fry a love of the baroque sentence, the joy in a pointless pleonast construction of beautiful words and advanced punctuation that conveys only a minimum of utilitarian information, like those glorious overblown Victorian window-treatments that required eighty yards of velvet and tassel and fringe and gilt rods and crystal knobs and sheer panels and carved valances just to cover a three-by-eight window.

However, the modern audience's patience with all this pleonasm and baroquery is rather limited, so the indulgence in the 157-word sentence (my record so far) is a self-indulgence, and will not be tolerated by most readers. The truth is that elegant language has to be counterbalanced by a concision of thought and phrasing. Fry has learned to do this, and has written three gorgeous novels all full of beautiful language and concise thought (actually, he's written four, not including his autobiography... I've only read three, though the fourth is at my bedside, waiting). He uses the baroque not for its own sake but to further the understanding of the character or to entertain the reader over a slow spot in the narrative.

I know that my opulence is made somewhat more palatable by a sense of lyricism that makes it seem to flow nicely, but it is still weighed down by an unnecessary meandering that turns a lot of readers away. I invariably take twenty words to say something that could just as easily, and more accessibly, be said in ten. The whole thing about writing is accessibility, despite what the Victorians thought... if you can't get your point out to as many people as possible, then you're pretty much hollering in an empty room.

Whoah, wait a minute, how did I get on this subject? As I look back at the title I gave this post, I must have intended to go somewhere else with it, but damned if I can remember what that was.

The problem today is that I'm doing too many things at once, and too many things are happening around me, so I can't focus. So I guess maybe I'd better let go of one or two activities... and since I'm at work, in all fairness to the people who pay me, I should let go of the non-work activities and focus instead on my work. I'm still writing minutes, and I guess that's what got me on the topic of pleonasm and baroquery: at the last meeting, I received direction from the Executive board (in the most supportive and painstakingly non-insulting way) to simplify the minutes to a mere relating of motions and supporting discussion; and as you, my regular reader, can guess, I'm having a hell of a hard time with the simplifying. And it doesn't help that I can't focus on it because I'm too busy boring you with an account of my messy dusty allergenic bedroom and thoughts on pleonasm and Victorian curtains (and answering the fucking phone, which has been ringing off the fucking hook all fucking goddamned piss-shit day).

So I'll go an focus on the minutes, and you can focus on this:

Monday, November 10, 2003

Office Manager, Organize Thyself

Well, I feel that I've gotten over my post-pageant tristesse, and in my usual all-of-a-sudden-waking-up-with-a-different-attitude manner, I feel pretty good about life in general. I mean, I literally woke up this morning feeling different, better, calmer, more alert.

The weekend was fairly pleasant. I got up at the crack of dawn on Saturday (actually, it may have been a trifle before dawn, 6 a.m.) and drove with the Grandmother up to Dixon ... which is the next town along I-80 after Vacaville, where the Nut Tree used to be; I think the Nut Tree was once the World's Largest Rest-Stop, larger even than the Casa de Fruta and Andersen's Split Pea complexes along California's major roads, and though the Nut Tree is gone, the rest of the rest-stop town with its other "tree"-named restaurants is still there, the Black Oak, the Coffee Tree, etc... there's also a medical prison and a huge factory outlet mall.

It was a reasonably nice drive, I was able to turn on the cruise-control and just drive 65 the whole way without having to really think about passing or patterns or whatever. I dropped Grandmother off at the Dixon Church of Christ where her niece (and therefore my second-cousin) Joann was speaking at a Women's Day Conference, then popped back down to Vacaville to experience the Factory Outlets.

Though I had vowed to myself that I would do no more shopping until Christmas-time, in order to allow my bank account to recover somewhat from recent pageant-maddened ravages, the outlet-mall was too great a temptation. And really, darlings, there is absolutely nothing else to do there in that part of the world. I mean, my other option was to just sit in the car with a book for three or four hours.

I had a lovely time poking about in one half of the mall, which I discovered after later exploration was the "cheap half" — the Vacaville Factory Outlets is actually two adjacent shopping-centers, vast open-air arrangements with lots of parking and landscaping, and I found out that the higher-end stores were on one side and the regular-folk stores mostly on the other. It wasn't completely segregated, there was a Lenox Outlet next to the Levi's Outlet, a Dress Barn next to a Jones New York. But the really expensive things tended to be on one side and the really inexpensive things on the other.

And it's a good thing for me that I started on the cheap half, a very good thing that I spent all the money I could afford at an average of twenty-five dollars each in four stores (a shirt and sweater from the Gap Outlet, a pair of corduroys from the Geoffrey Beene Outlet, a pair of Isotoner gloves and new sunglasses at the Totes Outlet, four novels from the Book Warehouse, and the most amazingly gorgeous red leather travel jewelry-case from the Bombay Company Outlet) — making it impossible once I got to the tonier side of the mall to spend eighty bucks for one pair of gloves at the Coach Outlet (which were of such wondrously supple leather and of such elegant fit that I probably would have used them for masturbatory tools rather than to keep my hands warm) or the whole hundred for a beautiful striped-vee tennis sweater from the Ralph Lauren Outlet or a charming beaded burnout-velvet evening gown from the Georgiou Outlet. Let's not even think about how tempted I was to spend three hundred dollars for an utterly, unspeakably fabulous sport-jacket at the Burberry Outlet, and how grateful I am to my nearly-maxed-out Visa that it was an actual impossibility.

So after spending all of my spending money that I should have been saving, I went back to Dixon to pick up the Grandmother and visit for a little while with Joann. Grandmother had enjoyed the conference immensely, the camaraderie and meeting new people as well as people who know people she knows (the Churches of Christ are very well interconnected), and I was happy that I'd been able to bring her. I had expected to spend the day there in Dixon, but Joann was headed straight back home to Redding, so we headed straight home ourselves.

And that was a good thing, too... I was able to take a nap and pull myself together a bit in time to attend Eddie's fabulous fortieth birthday party, with it's White Trash theme. Though it was pouring down rain, and though I hadn't thought to pick up a prezzie when I was out spending money on myself (because I am a selfish little bitch), I was able to stop at the store and pick up one of my mother's favorite desserts, which I call "Trailer Park Shortcake" — Sara Lee pound cake, frozen strawberries, and Cool Whip.

The party was great, though I ate far too much sugar and salt and fat as I revisited my own shameful gustatory past with such culinary delites (because with food that high in chemical content, you can't use a real word) as Instant Pudding with sliced bananas and 'Nilla Wafers, Twinkies, Zingers, Trumpets, a sheet of green Jell-O frosted with a thick layer of Cool Whip, a bucket of extra-crispy Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Vienna sausages glued to saltines with Cheez-Wiz. Then we watched Polyester, with the famous Odorama scratch-and-sniff cards from Eddie's own vast collection of bizarre memorabilia (they were reproductions he got from Peaches Christ, who in turn got them from the Independent Film Channel, but they're nevertheless out of print and somewhat rare, so it was quite a treat). It was a wonderful evening, quality time spent with good friends.

Sunday morning was church, of course. I am giving up the struggle to avoid actually going into the church, but have staged my small rebellion by no longer trying to dress up for it... I wore my puffy white Converse sneakers because all I had handy were white socks, which I wore with tan khakis and a different-shade-of-tan turtleneck. But then the boy sitting down the pew from me was wearing a hoodie, jeans, and flip-flops (and had exquisitely beautiful feet, too, but that's a different topic). Church has become a rather strangely casual affair, and my showing up unshaven in sneakers or jeans isn't much of a protest against the patriarchal blood-and-repression folderol I so abominate, but it certainly saves me a lot of time and aggravation in the mornings.

When we got home from brunch I had to turn around and get ready for a Court show, the Stars and Stripes Show in honor of Veterans' Day. I already had a song picked out, then all during the sermon at church I had been mentally going through my wardrobe trying to think of an outfit that would fit the theme, and I had already packed my jewelry in my brand-new travel case, so the preparations went lickety-split. But then there was difficulty getting the bathroom free (one bathroom shared by three people is always problematic, especially when they are either a long-shower-taker like Matthew, a long-crap-taker like Grandmother, or a meticulous-shaver-and-facialist like moi), and then my wallet had fallen out of my pocket somewhere in the laundry-sty of my room so I had to search for it, and then there was difficulty finding my other silver shoe (which I never did find, I had to wear my gold ones instead), so I ended up being an hour late anyway.

The show itself was kind of fun, but also kind of boring. Caroline didn't come, and Angelique wasn't there (she had to attend the San Francisco Grand Ducal Investitures the same day), so I didn't have my usual coterie to hang with. It's always strange going places alone... even when you know lots of people there, it's just oddly awkward to arrive alone and leave alone and have nobody to go out to eat with after getting out of face. There was also only one other drag queen present, so I felt a little sightly in my very cute but very sparkly and very-nearly-outrageous outfit. And then, there were so few performers that we all went on twice, though I had only prepared one number (Blossom Dearie's "Rhode Island is Famous for You"... I wasn't clear on the theme, I thought it was about America, not about the military)... the second number (Anita O'Day's "An Occasional Man," which did fit the theme) I hadn't even rehearsed, I'd only listened to it a few times and wasn't sure I knew the words, but I managed to pull it off (just barely).

And, too, the show was over at seven-thirty, and since I had nobody else to go out with (and since my dress was cutting into my arms), I just went and got out of face and headed home, so I was in my jammies and playing The Sims before nine. Early to bed and all that. Well, either way, I looked really cute in my impromptu red-white-and-blue outfit:

(Since I don't own any one thing that is red, white, and blue...which I think is tacky as hell... I pieced together different things of each color, and now I have a good head-shot if I ever decide to run for president or something).

Well, anyway, that was my weekend.

• • • • •

During the course of the weekend, true to my new focus, I pondered ways in which I could organize my life. I didn't actually do anything to organize myself, mind you, not one load of laundry did I wash nor one load of papers did I sort... I didn't even buy any Rubbermaid sorting baskets or cute wallpapered file-boxes. But I did focus on developing systems based on my actual activities... it strikes me that it would be more efficient to develop a system that takes into account my own nature rather than to try and force myself into new and inherently unnatural (for me) behaviors.

And some of the best ideas came from talking to Grandmother about various things we might do around the house that would make it easier for her to keep up with the housework. Now, a considerate and good grandson would be thinking of ways to do the housework for her... but I'm not that guy. Instead, I discussed with her some of the things that she, and the rest of us, could do to make the housework itself easier, things that are based on our natural inclinations rather than on some outside ideal.

Like the whole thing with coupons. Grandmother saves coupons... and not just coupons cut out of the paper, which at least have the virtue of smallness, but the whole section of newspaper itself. She makes shopping lists compiled from the Sunday and Wednesday grocery circulars to encompass the innumerable coupons therein, and saves the circulars for later. Almost incidentally, we never use coupons when we shop, and so all those circulars and sections just pile up on the dining-room table until we have company and everything is shoved into bags or boxes and carted off to storage, where it will never be gone through. We also seldom ever use the circular-inspired lists, which always become lost in the morass of circulars... and when we do use them, we end up spending way more at the grocery store because we bought things we ordinarily wouldn't have bought unless we had a coupon.

She also saves sections of newspaper with recipes she'll never use and gardening advice she'll never be able to carry out. Sections with single news articles that she thinks might be of interest to somebody else, though she never remembers to give those articles to anybody. Sections with obituaries bearing familiar-sounding names. She saves the sections with puzzles she hasn't gotten to yet. Not to mention catalogs that she might (but most likely will not) order from, envelopes full of greeting cards and mailing labels from charities hoping to elicit a donation, and receipts that she will never verify or even look at again, all mixed in with her bills and address books and calendars. As a result, her end of the dining-room table is absolutely awash with paper all the time, and is messier than my desk at work.

So I suggested to Grandmother that, since she knows she's not ever going to use the coupons, why doesn't she just stop saving them? She of course argued that she should use the coupons, but I pointed out to her that whether or not she should, she in fact doesn't, and that it would make more sense to cease the messy behavior of saving the coupons than to force herself to use all the coupons she saves. Using coupons, I explained, is useless anyway... retailers don't offer coupons out of the kindness of their hearts to save you money, they do it to con you into spending more money — and that is exactly what happens when we actually do end up using the coupons, spending three to eight dollars each buying objects we ordinarily would never use, in order to save twenty or thirty cents on each of those objects... which we wouldn't ordinarily use anyway, so where's the savings?

Anyway, Grandmother digested that for a while, and I started thinking about how I could apply that same methodology to my own life. For example, I know now for a fact that two of the behaviors that I know will lead to an organized bedroom (the reduction of possessions and/or storage out of sight of said possessions) are impossible for me. I not only absolutely have to keep all of my stuff, but I absolutely have to keep it where I can see it. Perhaps someday I will grow out of this neurotic need for the visible accumulation of stuff, a need born from early poverty and insecurity, but for now I have to accept and incorporate into my system the inescapable fact that I have to have a lot of stuff and I have to have it where I can see it.

And since I know that I cannot store or give away my stuff (just as Grandmother knows she will never use her coupons), I have to think of some other solution to the higgledy-piggledy arrangement of my stuff. I think, for example, that I should line all of my walls with shelves. This will make the room look smaller and may activate my claustrophobia, but if I had more shelves than I had stuff to put on them, I would be able to put the stuff I get new onto shelves ready-made to receive it. In the past I have always arranged new shelves and then immediately filled them with the stuff that I already have, leaving no room for new stuff. Having more shelves than stuff would be a revolutionary approach.

I have already seen this approach work with my jewelry. As my jewelry collection has grown over the last three years, I have bought or received as gifts more and larger jewelry boxes to house the overflowing collection. However, each time I got a new box, I filled it up completely with what I already had. But now, since Mother sent me that enormous jewelry-wardrobe a few months ago, I have empty-jewelry-box-space left to fill in. So not only has all of my jewelry been absorbed into an organizable system, but there is still room left in the system to absorb the incoming jewels that I will no doubt resume buying as soon as my finances recover.

So I'm developing a plan, very slowly and very intellectually (rather than quickly and materially), and in a not-very-surprising twist I am developing the cure for my own disheveled state by trying to cure others of their dishevelment. I just have to remember, when I am doling out advice, that I am living very much in a glass house and have to avoid throwing stones at other people. I also have to remember that, just because I'm working out a revolutionary system, I can't let the old system go completely by the wayside. I have to actually pick up all of my stuff and either wash it or put it where it currently goes.

And to be perfectly honest, I'd much rather think about a clean room than actually pick up the debris. But then, who wouldn't?

Until next time, my darlings...

Thursday, November 6, 2003

Just a Little Bit Anticlimactic...

After coming down off the euphoria of winning the HallowQueen Pageant, after recuperating somewhat from the physical strains of the Pageant and the ensuing weekend, and after becoming accustomed to the view of my wreckage-strewn life, I find myself feeling just a trifle deflated. Getting through my work this week has been an absolute trial... just staying awake has been a trial. But when I'm at home, I don't want to sleep or clean, I just want to vegetate in front of my computer.

But while I was vegetating, I got some pictures scanned... pictures that Caroline gave me from Halloween night. I forgot to get copies of some of the other pictures, I'll have to remember to ask her about them, but the pictures I did get have been duly scanned and uploaded to a new HallowQueen directory in my domain.

In the meantime, here are a handful of pictures from that directory:

Looking just far too fierce as the crowd cheers wildly...

Kneeling to accept the crown from Carol Queen...

Caroline insisted that I put this one up, and it's too funny for words. I'm not sure if that sign is irony or absurdity.

Here're all of us'n... the Baroness with her gigantic bouquet, Caroline in her typical corruption of the standard bevel pose, Mistress of Ceremonies Pretty in her amazing butterfly gown, Caroline's beau Glen dashing in his Zorro garb, and Glen's friend T3 doing drag for his first time (straight boys in drag are so cute, aren't they?)

If you want to see more, and I really do insist you see more (but I didn't want to slow my page down forever while the rest of the photos load), go visit the HallowQueen directory and catch a glimpse of Linda Lear as Laura Palmer with megahunk en suite, not to mention cameo appearances from luminaries like Cookie Dough, Angelique deVille, Princess Johnson, Mistress Tatiana, Dazzlina, and so much more! And be sure to take a gander at my closest rival, the amazing Syphillis Diller who almost stole the crown in her polka-dot baby-doll, on the right in this picture (which I scanned large, it will take a while to load). I love her dearly, but if she'd won for her first ever drag performance, after I had been working my padded tits off for years to get a title, I may have had to hurt her.

But now it's all over, and now I have nothing left to look forward to... ahem, nothing to which I can look forward (grammar be fun, ain't it) but a new lifestyle of organization, responsibility, and being ever-so-good all the time.

Well, maybe not all the time. My experience with wielding the Baroness' riding crop (actually it's Cookie's riding crop, I just borrowed it for the Baroness) has planted a little seed in my psychosexual makeup... I'm thinking about exploring the possibilities of the drag dominatrix. I just have this terrible urge to put on really uncomfortable boots and foundation garments, and then take out that discomfort with a nice stiff riding-crop on the exposed quivering buttocks of some bound and kneeling man.

Pardon me while I retire to my chambers and ponder the possibilities...

Tuesday, November 4, 2003

Coming Down

This morning I began to regain feeling in the second toe of my right foot... it's been numb since Friday night. I was so scattered by the HallowQueen pageant that I failed to follow my own number-one Rule of Drag: always carry a pair of slippers with you. After schlepping up and down hill, and in and out of dense crowds of rabble and hoi-polloi, for hours on end, while wearing incredibly fabulous pointy-toed boots with four-inch heels, my feet took a while to forgive me.

PS... here's the first pic I've got back from that night, in my "reception gown," courtesy of Cookie Dough:

PPS: Another great shot taken as I schlepped up Market towards the Mint, viewable on page 4 of this album from, I'll be ordering prints of DSC09354.JPG after payday, but that shouldn't stop
you from ordering one or two for your personal use... Can-Can Caroline and her Zorro beau are visible in the background.

I also just yesterday managed to catch up on my sleep. After jotting out the last entry (which I actually wrote at 1:45 Saturday morning, but changed the post-time to suit my sense of appropriateness), I fell into bed and was allowed to sleep for very nearly four hours before I had to drag my poor carcass out of the arms of Morpheus and into the arms of Triton (via the shower), so that I'd be ready for pick-up at 7 a.m. My friends and fellow-GSRs Ed and Gene took me to Calistoga for my first ever Area Assembly, which was quite an experience.

I rather enjoyed it, the ride, the company, the food, the bizarre trends of discussion that can only happen in General Service and AA, the weather, etc. Although I didn't have to do anything terribly strenuous, or even have to think all that hard, in my state of exhaustion it was a hell of a trial staying awake and alert for eight hours of Assembly and the nearly two hours of riding to and from Calistoga. Some days, just sitting upright is a monumental undertaking.

When I got home, I was too tired to sleep, so I spent some time installing The Sims Superstar. I loaded it, uninstalled, deleted, and reloaded it three times, only to discover from the Sims website (when I finally admitted defeat and looked up their FAQ page) that the problem had nothing to do with my installation or with previous versions on my hard-drive, but rather because of my DirectX settings. Though I'm still not sure what DirectX is or why its creators gave it a name that sounds like a pay-per-view porn site, all I had to do was check a little box to disable DirectX Image Acceleration, and that was that. I wish I'd known that before I deleted all of my families. Anyway, I got to sleep around eleven-ish, despite the fact that I thought I was going to fall asleep at any minute.

Then Sunday morning Grandmother woke me up again at eight... which would have been enough sleep, if I hadn't been so exhausted already. We went to church, then to brunch, then I went over to my Daddy's house to help him staple a piece of cardboard over his swamp-cooler ventilator for the winter, and then I went over to my sister's to help her clean her house in preparation for a Section-Eight instpection later in the week. I wasn't much help there, I was so tired; plus, my sister is so disorganized she makes me look like a neatnik, and I simply couldn't follow her around as she flitted, apparently aimlessly, from task to task and room to room. So after helping fill one box of clothes from her bedroom and otherwise accomplishing nothing but taking up space and converting oxygen into carbon dioxide, I went home and played Sims Superstar for the rest of the evening.

The next morning I finally got my sleep out, though I hadn't really intended to sleep until ten on a workday... I just forgot (whether subconciously or accidentally) to set my alarm. But you know your life is out of hand when you have to use up your sick leave just to catch up on your sleep.

When I did get to work, the first thing to happen was the arrival of the mailman with my long-awaited black fox boa. It was kind of cheesy-looking, too, not nearly as thick or soft as I had expected it to be; so perhaps it's just as well it didn't arrive earlier, or I would have spent even more time and money trying to find a nicer black fox piece. One does try to keep one's expectations low, especially when buying things online, but between the poor quality and the ridiculously long delivery time, I was very disappointed.

As I sat here yesterday with my fox boa around my neck (it was cold yesterday), hard at work typing up meeting notes and answering the phone, and thinking about things at the same time, I gained a certain amount of mental distance from my life that I have not been able to manage in quite a while. They say that the unexamined life is not worth living (actually, Socrates said it, and They merely repeat it), but it's difficult to examine one's life when one is just barely keeping up with the work of living it.

And now as I examine my life, as if from a slight distance, I cannot escape the observation that things have gotten quite messy. My finances are all at sixes and sevens, with a late car payment on my mind due to having the car towed last week (note that I blame my empty checking account on the accident of having my car towed, not on the known behaviors of obsessive-compulsive shopping in which I've indulged the last two months), not to mention the empty savings account and the credit-card that isn't getting paid down as the interest start-date looms ever closer; I haven't made the tiniest effort at following up my insurance claim or getting any part of my car fixed, and I still haven't gotten the oil changed although I have driven over six thousand miles, nor have I even washed the poor thing and changed the duct-tape on the mirror in ages; my room is so untidy that I have to climb over piles of boxes and clothes to get from my bed to the snooze-button, and I can't find my coworker's birthday present that I bought two months ago, and I can't find the clean underwear and socks that I know I have because I just washed them quite recently and can't have worn them all by now; I owe a number of emails, letters, thank-you notes, and phone calls to pretty much everyone I know; I have only been going to the gym on an average of once a week for the last two months, and though I haven't been gaining the weight back, my diet has been shot all to hell; and I haven't made one jot of effort at my next Step (#10, "continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it")... though I suppose you could say that the above paragraph is an inventory of sorts, belated but no less thorough.

It seems, then, that the only thing for me to do now is to make a damned good effort to get my shit together. Now that I have finally, after all this time and trouble, won a title of my very own (however insignificant and nebulous it may turn out to have been the very first HallowQueen), I think I might be able to turn my energies over to doing something about making my life run a little more smoothly: get my room not only tidied up but organized so that it's easier to keep tidy; get my car at least clean and maintained, if not actually fixed; get my money in order, save up for Christmas and get that damned credit-card payed down; spend some time and thought responding to the cards and letters and gifts and emails I've received over the last couple of months... and in general pick up all the pieces I've dropped since I got involved in the HallowQueen Pageant, and before that in the Living Sober Musical, and before that in preparations for the Miss Gay Marin Pageant that never happened, and before that in... oh, hell, who can remember? Basically, I have to reprioritize, pick up all the pieces, and make my quotidian life a joy rather than a burden to me.

I'll let you know how that works out. In the meantime I'll most likely be sitting over there with my head firmly buried in the sand (or rather, in Sims Superstar, which isn't all that exciting but is at least fairly tidy... and the Rosebud cheat is so satisfying, just pressing a button and jacking up your Simoleans in a single operation).

Wish me luck!