Saturday, July 31, 2004

So Mad I Could Spit

I'm so angry right now — not jumping-up-and-down pissed off, but deeply and quietly angry — that I don't quite know how to deal with it. And the worse part is that this anger requires a confrontation; I can't just get over it and forget about it, as I usually do when I'm angry... this time I have to do something about it.

Regular readers will remember my kvetching about the Two Small Children that plagued our lives earlier in the summer; these are my cousin Kellie's children, Jessie and Alex, and it seems that these two are about to descend upon us again for the next two weeks. Why? For the second week, because Kellie is going on vacation to San Diego with her friends, and the first week because Kellie did not sign up the children for the Y day camp for that week... I still don't know why she didn't do it, but I will find that out later.

Regular readers will also remember that The Grandmother has just spent three weeks in bed with a bum knee and a cold, followed by this last week of being able to hobble around somewhat (but not much). And this is what is mostly angering me: when Grandmother asked Kellie to make other arrangements for the children next week, so that she'd have more time to recover from her disability, Kellie nagged and pressured her into taking them for the whole two weeks instead of the one week she'd already agreed to. I was in the kitchen and listening to Grandmother's end of the conversation, and it took every ounce of good manners I possess to keep from launching across the kitchen, snatching the phone out of Grandmother's hand, and giving Kellie a piece of my mind right then and there.

In the end, Kellie said she'd try and find a baby-sitter for the week; but when she called Grandmother this morning she said she'd only been able to find a sitter for Alex, not for Jessie. Grandmother, quite predictably (and since I wasn't there), said that she'd take them both for the week, in that case, since there was no point in taking one of them for one week and then having to drive down to San Jose next week to get the other one (the other part of this story was that if Grandmother didn't take both children back with her from her own birthday party this afternoon, that we'd have to go to San Jose next week to pick up the children... Kellie can manage to go to San Diego with her friends, but she can't come to Oakland to drop off her children).

So this situation, where Grandmother is being pressured into taking care of two children, at a time when she can barely take care of herself, is angering enough. But this is just one more episode in a long-running series of Kellie abusing Grandmother's hospitality in this manner. I think she doesn't try very hard to find sitters for her children because she knows Grandmother will do it , with overnights, for weeks at a time, and for free... not only does Kellie contribute nothing for the upkeep of her children, she doesn't even cough up for a nice thank-you gift. She claims poverty as her reason, but she still has money to go on vacation to San Diego and to go out with her friends. She claims that her car can't drive more than ten miles at a time without breaking down (which I don't believe for a minute), and she claims that she can't find a babysitter in the middle of summer (another difficult-to-believe fairy-tale).

I find it extremely difficult to not resent Kellie's abuse of Grandmother; but if Grandmother is willing to allow this abuse, that's her problem and not mine. However, since Grandmother can barely take care of herself nowadays, that means that I am the one taking care of the children... and in many cases taking care of Grandmother and the children. And nobody asked if this was OK with me.

And another thing: Kellie isn't doing her children any good, foisting them off on relatives for prolonged periods like this. Last time the children were here, they became so deeply neurotic at the end of their visit that Jessie was eating surreptitiously all day and wetting the bed every night, and Alex fashioned a surrogate mother doll out of a two-liter soda-bottle and written-on paper-towels held on with rubber bands, which he slept with every night and carried around with him all day. All so that Kellie could run around like a single-girl and enjoy a childless lifestyle... sure she'll say she missed them, and maybe she did: but let's not forget that, although she called the children every day on the phone, she did not come visit them on her days off (because of her half-assed car, ostensibly, but I think otherwise).

Having been raised by a largely disinterested mother, myself, I find myself resenting Kellie on her children's behalf. She's no more fit to raise children than a parakeet... from what I can see, she completely ignores them most of the time. I have never seen her play with her children, or include them in a conversation, or focus solely on them for more time than it takes to scold them for whatever mischief they were doing to get her attention. I'm not around her when she's alone with them, obviously, but what I do see burns my ass.

And finally, the thing that's really grilling my ass is that I don't get to go away for vacation this year... I don't have the money, for one thing, but more importantly I can't leave Grandmother alone right now; instead, I get to help Grandmother take care of Kellie's children so she can go on vacation, and I don't even get a say in it. I have next week off from work, and while I certainly intend to make time to visit friends and to do some research for my book, I am going to be at home with children, not gallivanting off to San Diego with friends. That pisses me off like you wouldn't believe.

What I'm left with, though, is that I have to confront Kellie about this without creating so much conflict around us that it colors our family life; this will be made difficult by the fact that Kellie is a drama-queen of the first water. I have to weigh every word out of my mouth, and keep a lot of things to myself, because while you can say all sorts of things to people with whom you no longer intend to consort, with a family member you have to live with them after the confrontation... and that rather draws one's claws as far as what can be said. So I have to focus my remarks on Grandmother's inability to take care of children any longer, and try to convince Kellie that this is no longer a resource she can use.

Well, I was going to go on about this at some more length, but I have to get dressed now and take Grandmother to her birthday party in San Ramon. Wish me luck in my dealings with my cousin; I'll keep you updated on the outcome. I hope your day is lovely!

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

People Are Talking

I'm not much of one for current events... I almost never watch the news, unless I happen to wander into the same room as the Grandmother and something catches my eye, and I don't read any part of the newspaper except the comics and advice columns, and I wouldn't be caught dead reading a newsmagazine. I don't even have headlines on my Yahoo! Frontpage. I read the articles on Queer Day almost daily, but I really only skim the newsy bits in search of the entertaining bits.

But information filters in, nevertheless... in fact, I feel that I can gauge the importance of any event or phenomenon by how many people are talking about it in my little newsless world — how many bloggers write about it, how many of my friends or family mention it in conversation, and how much of it spills over onto the fluff channels on my television.

So, according to this principle, here is What is Going On in the World Today:

The Democratic National Convention: I haven't watched it, of course, and have no intention of watching it. I don't even understand what it's all about. Why bother having a convention if there's no debate, no voting, no candidates? (yes, I know there are other candidates, Kucinich and Sharpton and all them, but they really don't matter) I do understand the unified front, the engineered unanimity needed to combat the right-leaning tone still rampant in the nation: the Democratic Party needs to show as much confidence in Kerry & Edwards as the GOP shows in Dumb & Evil.

However, I find that I still harbor a certain distaste for the Democratic Party, its seeming inability to stand for anything, its craven snivelling after swing votes, its rather lame platform of "we're not Bush." But I will vote Democrat in the coming election. (most likely absentee so I don't have to worry about rigged voting machines — though, really, didn't we learn in the last presidential "election" that paper votes are just as easy to rig as electronic ones?) I'll vote Kerry for no other reason than because I hate Bush with a seething, burning, glittering hatred. I just wish I could like Kerry as much as I hate Bush, I wish Kerry hadn't been in the vaguely sinister and patently elitist Skull & Bones at Yale two years before Dubya was, I wish Kerry's wife weren't a rich foreigner (I like rich forgeigners, but I know how most Americans feel about them), I wish that I could believe in any of it. That would make the whole thing a lot easier.

Interestingly enough, the Grandmother (who is still registered as Democrat but hasn't voted Democrat since Jimmy Carter) has been watching the Convention in its entirety; when I came into her room yestere'en to discuss dinner, I got an eyeful of Teresa Heinz Kerry in a red suit that did absolutely nothing for her (did she think the patriotic red would distract from her foreign accent? Perhaps she should have worn blue instead, or at least had some white around the neckline to combat the sallowness that particularly virulent red brought out in her skin), nattering on about something or other. I didn't care for her rather heavy-sounding rhetoric, but then I didn't stick around long enough to find out what she was talking about. During dinner, though, Grandmother expounded a bit on Mrs. Heinz Kerry's speech:

"She's supposed to be very smart," Grandmother sniffed, "she speaks five languages or something, but her speech was very dull. Some people just aren't good at speaking, no matter how smart they're supposed to be. She seems to think that the most important thing for America is Women's Rights. I can't think of any rights women don't have, so maybe I missed something."

Translation: "She's a contemptible and unwomanly smart-ass." If Grandmother had been an adult in 1920 (but she was only 2), she would probably have been against the passage of the 19th Amendment. I think that deep down inside, Grandmother doesn't believe that women should have any rights other than those granted by their fathers or husbands... she buys into the partriarchy paradigm wholeheartedly. She therefore has the most extraordinary contempt for feminists and women who are "supposed to be smart."

Still, when I read some articles and transcripts of Mrs. Heinz Kerry's speech, I see that Grandmother had got hold of the wrong end of the stick: it wasn't women's rights that were being discussed, it was women's voices. I'm not sure, though, what Mrs. Heinz Kerry means by "women's voices"... because if she were listening to the voices of many women I know (like Grandmother), she'd be listening to a regurgitation of patriarchal Rush-Limbaugh-and-Bill-O'Reilley-influenced hooey; the rest of the women I know say pretty much the same things as the men I know. It seems to me that there's no real difference between a woman's and a man's way of looking at things... there is only the difference between ignorance and intelligence — and let's face it, Womankind has some monumental dummies in its ranks: Ann Coulter is a woman, too, you know; so're The Two Mrs. Bushes, Condoleeza and Laura ... not all women's voices are voices of wisdom.

Britney Spears: And speaking of unwise women... I don't know why she's been popping up in my world so much lately, but there she is. For one, Toby posted some really funny pictures in which it appears Britney is going down on her fiance on a balcony (don't celebrities know better than to go out on balconies? Did they learn nothing from Brad Pitt?), and then I keep seeing paparazzi pix of her in fashion and entertainment magazines walking around with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth, and then Caroline and I caught parts of her Miami concert on MTV and really enjoyed it (I can't find a link that doesn't cascade pop-ups all over the place, so you'll just have to take my word for it).

I like Britney, she's so pretty and has the most delightul voice and manner, but I wish she was being discussed because her show is great or her music is fun, not because she keeps getting married to people, is publically dieting on Red Bull and cigarettes, and is generally presenting a most shocking role-model to her legions of teeny-bopper fans. I don't know where these celebrities get the idea that they don't have a responsibility to act as role-models for their young fans, particularly when they purposely courted those young fans in the first place... if Britney were marketed to adults and was of little interest to a huge Tween-girl fanbase, it wouldn't matter so much what she did... but she's not, so it does.

Still, though she isn't a great singing talent, and I don't think she does anything about her own music, she is one hell of a performer (you'll never find a drag-queen faulting a performer for not doing her own singing)... the stagecraft of the concert was gorgeous, although I do have a bone to pick with the camera editing: when there's a hot guy in tiny tighty-whiteys grinding away into a mattress during a song about masturbation, you do not pan out to the audience at that moment. Bastard! Still, the presentation of "Oops I Did It Again" as a swing number was totally neat, and her sex-kitten-lingerie costumes were to die. I loved the dancing, the dancers (that blond boy, and the one with the mohawk, woof), the lights, the colors, the complete disposability of the music in favor of the choreography and stage-design... style over substance is one of my favorite flavors!

Jessica Simpson: And speaking of Pop Princesses, the enviably beautiful Mrs. Lachey has been popping up in conversations a lot lately... most notably when my co-worker BB asked me who she is (her stepdaughter mentioned the name, and BB was dismayed to find herself so out-of-the-loop, so I had to explain). Then Graham Norton did a riff on her alleged intelligence ("her mother claims that Jessica has an IQ of 160... but I think she meant 160 jelly-beans"... and I have to point out that an IQ score of 160 is supergenius, less than one in a hundred million people will score that high); and then she was featured in a tasty layout in this month's Vanity Fair.

I don't watch Newlyweds all that often, but when I do catch part of an episode, I enjoy it immensely, especially if Jessica is letting loose one of her patented Dumb Blonde Moments; I often find myself debating whether or not she is anywhere near as stupid as she seems... the much-publicized question about whether tuna was a bird or a fish was pretty believable, and Nick seemed just as baffled as the rest of us; but I once watched her struggling with a washing-machine, where she apparently couldn't figure out how to turn it on or which of the bottles in the cupboard was the detergent... yet she knew to put the fabric softener in the little ball. Fabric softener is pretty advanced laundry-magic, and the instructions for turning the machine on are printed in big white letters under the lid. It was all very suspicious, but at the same time amusing (style over substance, again).

The War: Actually, people aren't really talking about the War that much anymore. I suppose we've gotten bored with it. But it's on my mind, nevertheless: you see, my nephew Matthew flew this morning to North Carolina for Army boot camp, and is probably at this minute getting his head shaved or being yelled at by a drill-sergeant; though it's not certain that he'll be sent to Iraq upon graduating in October (if he has the Manners Luck, which sent my father to Germany instead of Vietnam during his Army tour from 1964-68, he might not be), the current survival rate of US troops these days is a little too shaky for my comfort.

Being a pacifist, I of course am not fully on-board with Matthew's decision to enter the Army as a career, and as his uncle I am worried sick about him going into the Army in the middle of a particularly life-wasting war. But I support his decisions, and even understand them fairly well, so I just sucked up my disapproval and fear and gave him a hearty hug and told him to have fun and not get shot. These are not the words of profound avuncular wisdom I would have liked to bestow, but it's the best I could do. I forgot to caution him to not get blown up or run over, either, but I assume he'll know not to do those anyway... he's a pretty smart kid, tested in the 99th percentile on his placement exams, and is going to be trained for Army Intelligence... I try to think of the lives he'll save with proper intelligence instead of his chances of getting killed.

The problem with a war like this one is that there's no way of knowing when it's over. I mean, even if when we get Bush out of office, the war is still going to be there, and it will not be easy to disengage from Iraq now that we've been planted down there for the last year or so. A precipitate retreat of US armed forces will leave behind a situation much worse than what prevailed before we came in search of those mythological WMDs. We remember (don't we) what happened when US troops pulled out of Vietnam without so much as wiping their cocks off on the sheets first... it was very messy.


So that's what's been travelling across my brain-pan today. All terribly, terribly interesting, I know. I'll let you stew on all of that, while I get back to my work. I need to write some more meeting minutes, and a realtor is stopping by to discuss new office space for us... I am hoping he's as cute as he sounded over the phone, but people so seldom are. Here's hoping your day is full of cute guys (or gals, as you prefer), and don't take any wooden nickels.

Monday, July 26, 2004

The Endless Huh? of French Films

It seems that every time I see a French film, I find myself wondering, at the end, what the hell just happened. This is not a language problem, because I have not always had this same sense of bewilderment after an Italian or Spanish or German film, and I speak more French than I do Italian or Spanish or German... it's something about the French, they like to fuck with your mind and leave you wondering.

Last night I watched The Swimming Pool... and I still don't know what the ending was all about. It all made perfect sense right up to the end, and then pow... complete confusion. With a handful of oddly juxtaposed images and one piece of unexpected information, the well-laid (if slightly bizarre) plot was completely unraveled, leaving an open question of whether or not any of the preceding had actually happened (in the world of the film), or if only parts had happened, or if it had all happened, or what. After all that perfectly understandable and interesting plot, it was just mean to tack on that ending and pull the whole movie apart like that. Mean!

I don't know why, in that case, I keep watching French films. They so often do this to me, leave me wondering at the end. I get so angry at having the conceptual rug pulled out from under me at the last minute that I usually swear to never watch another French film as long as I live... but then time passes and I forget and somebody tells me about this great movie, and they don't tell me it's French, and I rent it (or more likely buy it for $4.99, which is cheaper than renting because I always forget to return rentals and have to pay late fees), and the rug gets pulled again and I get all pissed off again. It's an ugly circle.

But now, as I look at the website I just linked above, two other French films I've seen that made very little sense — 8 Women, which I really did like (Deneuve and Ardant, what's not to like?), was fabulously surreal but at least had a cogent plot; and Sitcom, which was also generally sensible, though certainly bizarre, but which ended in a way so unexpected and nonsensical that I had to watch the movie again in hopes that there was some explanation I'd missed (there was not, but the scene with Stéphane Rideau tittie-fucking the governess was well worth the second run-through, even if it was a prosthetic) — are by the same director, François Ouzon.

On the other hand, the rest of the French films that left me speechless with baffled fury at the end were not by François Ouzon... the almost unbearably freaky The City of Lost Children (practically gave me nightmares, especially Ron Perlman speaking French) and Wild Reeds (charming, but completely pointless and more than a little confusing) come immediately to mind, and then there was The Adventures of Felix (again charming and pointless though somewhat more cogent) and Artemisia (one shot of a hot naked man was not worth all the shots of an ugly naked man that followed, and it turned the life of an amazing and groundbreaking artist into a tedious codependent affair).

Let's not forget the historical things that I was forced to watch in college, like The Return of Martin Guerre (Gerard Depardieu should be banned) or Indochine (even the divine Catherine Deneuve couldn't make that turkey fly, though I do have the movie poster, and it's hot) — dare I mention that horrible short film that I suppose every child of my generation was forced to watch in elementary school, The Red Balloon? (the very memory makes me cringe and weep).

I suppose you could blame the insipidity and irrationality of La Cage Aux Folles II & III on the fact that they were sequels, but the original wasn't all that hot, either (though it was interesting that Mike Nichols practically remade it frame by frame for The Birdcage, but one must note that he also managed to inject a few drips of rationale into the script while he was at it). And let's not talk about the legions of French films that I wouldn't watch if you put a gun to my head, like Amelie or Babette's Feast (actually, I did see part of that one, but I got bored and wandered away).

On the other hand, there are a lot of French films that haven't left me in a state of baffled fury at the end... the excellent Brotherhood of the Wolf, for one, and Ridicule for another, each with well-made plots and fully explained, entirely understandable actions and motives. What about the wonderful Ma Vie en Rose? And I have to admit, there are piles upon piles of French films I haven't seen and know very little about; conversely, there are also piles and piles of films from America, Britain, and Asia that I have seen and which left me even more baffled and enraged than The Red Balloon could.

I seem to have simply fallen into the poor mental habit of hating the French... it's so trendy these days. And of the movies I've cited above, most weren't as bad as my confused emotions at the time made me think... as I look over the list, there were some entertaining (if baffling) moments involved in many of those films.

The thing is, though, that I had been an uneducated francophile practically from birth, automatically assuming that the French were culturally and intellectually superior to Americans, that their films and their clothes and their food and their art were better than everyone else's; but then when I actually started seeing French films (and studying French art and eating French food), I found that they aren't superior, they're just different. Like English-language directors, French filmmakers are in many cases complete poseurs — or even worse, are simple morons who have been deified by poseur Americans who think that, if it's completely incomprehensible and unaccessible, it must be brilliant. And when we find that our gods have feet of clay, we tend to become angrier than we were at the people whom we didn't think were gods... it's easier to forget about a stupid American film because you weren't expecting as much as you were from the stupid French film.

Well anyway... this is all very interesting, I'm sure. If any of my readers have seen The Swimming Pool, and actually understood it, please let me know. Actually, any insights into French cinema would be appreciated. In the meantime, I am going to go watch some fully-expected-to-be-stupid American television.

Á bientôt!


Saturday, July 24, 2004

Well, Hello, Dolly!

It's so nice to have you back where you belong! Having gone a whole week without posting, I feel a little like a stranger in my own family: What do I say? Where do I start? How do I apologize for my neglect? Perhaps I should just pick up where I left off in the last post.

Ducal Ball went really well last weekend... well, mostly really well. There were a few dramas (more specifically, I got sucked into two or three dramas not of my own making, and experienced one of my making, most of which had to do with timing and getting things ready and doing them right), but everything worked out in the end. And I ended up with something really unexpected, something I cherish dearly and which I feel very honored to have received: a lifetime title. I am now Royal Crown Countess for Life to the Twelfth Reign.

Which means that, even if I never receive another title from another monarch, I will nevertheless always have a title in protocol, I will always be able to walk at Coronations, and I will always be able to wear my tiara whenever and wherever I want... I will always be a part of the Royal Grand Ducal Council of Alameda County, part of the royal family even, no matter how long I go away or how far off I move (lifetime-title-holders vote in RGDC elections no matter in what county they reside). It also means that my Grand Duchess and good friend Angelique loves me, and honors my contribution to her reign, enough to bestow the one lifetime title in her gift on little old me.

Receiving the lifetime title came as a complete surprise to me, and I fear that I didn't accept the plaque and the honor with as much grace as I would have liked... I tend to do that when I am surprised. If I had been apprised even a few minutes in advance of the honor, I would have been able to move a little more slowly, display a comely variety of emotions (Miss America Tears, I call it), and make more of an elegant scene out of the whole thing; as it was, I just flew up to the stage, kissed Angelique, said "thank you," bobbed off a pretty good curtsey, and was off stage again in less time than it took Caroline to get her camera turned on, though it felt like an eternity at the time (she said I acted like the Hamburglar, as if I were stealing the plaque).

I've often worried about my inability to display an emotion without rehearsing it a bit first. But then, I count that as part of my triple-WASP heritage, inadvertently passed down to me by my emotional rollercoaster of a mother. It is a truism that, if you consciously eschew your own cultural heritage, your children may embrace it even more profoundly: the children of social rebels are often more conservative than their grandparents, carrying the weight of two generations' worth of heritage. My mother, in trying to free herself of her no-emotions-please WASP upbringing, created a child who rebelled in the opposite direction and took on all of her WASP traits as well as the WASP traits that she shrugged off in her youth... not to mention the WASP traits that my sister failed to pick up. So because my mother and sister walk around with all of their emotions on the surface, with every thought that crosses their minds coming directly out of their mouths, I am saddled with the WASPiness of three people, my own as well as theirs.

I could be wrong, of course (I might very well be full of shit, even); perhaps it's just temperament. Either way, I get very uncomfortable when my and others' emotions are high, and if I'm not nailed down in some way, I tend to scurry off to experience my emotions in private... where no one can see that I don't cry, or exult, or do anything to visibly portray my intense emotional state, whatever it is.

For example, when I was inwardly kvelling over having won the Hallowqueen Pageant last year, I was unable to get off the stage and hug my emotions to me... I was stuck there, getting congratulated and hearing the applause and receiving the flowers... while my heart was bursting in my chest though my eyes remained dry and my demeanor unruffled. It's a good thing, then, that the character I created especially for that pageant (the Baroness Griselda von Beitte-Meihasse, you'll remember) would necessarily be rather emotionless, a stoic Anglo-German whip-kitten who would express great ecstasy with only the merest and smuggest curl to her lip (which was about all I could manage in the way of emotional transparency at the time).

So anyway, back to Ducal Ball: both of the production numbers went much better than I'd even hoped, much less expected. The opening number was extremely well-received, despite the last-minute-seat-of-the-pants nature of the rehearsals. For example, I learned during the sole two-walk-through rehearsal that not only would I have to lipsynch an entire chorus of voices, but that my part of the number had suddenly been extended to include the next verse of the song, in which the chorus does not sing in unison. I managed to brazen it out and turn in a fairly good performance, but I was nevertheless acutely embarrassed by the whole thing. Caroline mucked things up a bit with her props, but one must remember that she is quite new to performance and has not learned how difficult props are to manage; Norm's and Mama Portugal's numbers had been unexpectedly extended, too; and since we actually started right on time (an extreme rarity in the Drag Courts), we performed to a half-empty house. But despite all this weirdness and offness, the whole number worked surprisingly well.

The closing number went even better. My problem with the champagne-satin costumes solved itself by the fact that Candie Swallows and I, the two largest people in the group (and honesty forces me to admit that I'm a little bit bigger than she), could not fit into either the male jumpsuits or the female leotards, though we'd been given the largest available sizes of each... in fact, we just barely fit into the jackets. These costumes had been made for dancers, and dancers are very seldom as large as Candie and I.

So we ended up abandoning the jumpsuits and leotards, and all six of us just wore the satin jacket over a black base — leotards and tights for the "ladies" (queen-sized for Candie and I, normal-sized for Caroline) and pants-&-tees for the boys (Cookie Dough's boyself Eddie, our hunky choreographer Chel, and multitalented Knight-of-the-Court Michael Kaye). It looked better with the black-and-gold hats we ended up with, as well as Angelique's black-and-gold gown, not to mention being much more figure-flattering than the odd Douglas Morrison Theatre costumes had been.

So anyway, the number went off really well. Some of us missed a step or two, and Angelique accidentally knocked my hat out of my hand at the end of the number, but the rare novelty of a big and well-rehearsed production number in a Grand Duchess's Final Walk was so exciting that the audience didn't even notice our little flaws. I only wish I'd been able to find my digital camera so I could have taken pictures of it all to share with you. Caroline took pictures, of course, but I have to get those scanned and uploaded once she gives me copies from her "olde-fashionedy" film camera.

After all that was over with, we were all exhausted and went home instead of continuing to the after-parties. The next day was Victory Brunch, and Caroline and Madasin and I went to that since the Grandmother was still in bed with her knee and didn't need me to take her to church. It was a lot of fun seeing everyone out of drag, especially the out-of-towners whom I'd only ever seen at Coronations and the like. The food was good, too.

Afterward, we were taking Madasin home to Pinole when I suddenly had the urge to visit the Flea Market at Laney College (in the parking lot across the street from my office); so we stopped and went through that and had a lot of fun together. Caroline has become Madasin's Drag Dad (as I am her Drag Mother), so we had lots of fun little jokes about Family Outings and all. Once we were done there, we drove all the way up San Pablo Avenue, stopping here and there for ice-cream and to look at shops, instead of trying to deal with the freeway.

Caroline and I were supposed to go to another party after dropping off Madasin, but were too tired-out by our fun to stop at Paul & Jimmy's Post-Ball Luau (not to mention that Caroline's stomach was rebelling at the huge brunch she'd forced on it, followed by a long dehydrating walk in the sun, followed by rather more than a pint of Coldstone Creamery cheesecake ice-cream), so we just went our separate ways home. I fell on the couch and stayed there the rest of the evening until it was time to go to bed.

This last week at work has been a bit of a trial... though my cold is over with, and my allergies and depression seem to have abated, my workload rose to meet my new energy-levels. We have a new member of staff in the office, who is replacing a departing member who has not yet departed (one likes a bit of overlap for training purposes), so there have been a lot of meetings and discussions to get him up to date (rendered more confusing by the fact that his name is also Robert, though we call him Bob); and then I have actually been working on all the minutes and meeting notes that I've been pretending to work on for the last couple of weeks; and then there were all these changes to the website to make, and the changes kept changing, and I've been adding updates every day all week; and then we've been trying to find a new office space because that crazy bitch upstairs managed to find a City Planning Commission inspector who agreed with her that we are not zoned for commercial use, and even if we were zoned for commercial use we aren't ADA-compliant for commercial use... it's all very confusing, and very upsetting — on top of the indignity that the crazy bitch upstairs finally got one over on us, then thee's the fact that we're going to have to move (nobody likes that kind of upheaval), and that it's impossible to hope that we're going to find the amount of space we currently have for the amount of money we're currently spending, and that there's absolutely nothing we can do about it.

So that's what my week was like... simply too busy to blog, y'know?

On another note: I started, last week, taking a multivitamin in the morning... and the results have been amazing. I feel neither depressed nor manic, I'm sleeping better, and I've been much more cogent during the day. If this is the effect of taking a One-A-Day Active Formula (with ginseng and extra B-complex) every morning, imagine what a battery of Chinese herbs will do for me (once I get around to seeing the homeopath and learning about the herbs I need).

So now, here I am, kind of up-to-date with you all, kind of up-to-date with my work, and with my biggest commitments of the Summer behind me... I feel pretty damned good. Now maybe I'll have the time and energy to get caught up on my General Service commitments (I'm typing up the minutes and agenda for the next Meeting, and have to update my registrar database), and get back to work on the novel. Here's hoping, anyway.

Have a super day!

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Having a Ball

Having a Ball

Oh, shit, Blogger changed my interface again.  I don't know if I like it... although I do like that I'm looking at a serif font right now (looks like Garamond, but could be Bookman, I'm no expert) instead of the blocky sans-serif fonts they have used heretofore.  This is a more WSYWYG kind of thing (I've been waiting ages to use that acronym in a sentence), looking at the text without HTML tags, and oh I have a full-justify button now!  Yay!  And font-colors!  Well, we'll explore all of this later.

So I'm right in the middle of Ducal Ball weekend.  Last night was the In-Town/Out-of-Town Show and Roast at Club Rumor, and I'm told a good time was had by all.   I actually found it a little boring.  I was the hostess of the show, but somebody else was MC (Absolute Empress XXXIII of San Francsico Alexis Miranda, who did a wonderful job), and somebody else did the decorations (lots of balloons on the floor and a rainbow flag made of crepe-paper streamers), and somebody else took the music and organized the lineup.  Not that I'm complaining, mind you — all I had to do was introduce the emcee at the beginning of the show and thank her and everyone else at the end — but I felt more than a little superfluous. 


I suppose that hostess-duties required that I go about and chat with all the guests and see that everyone was having fun and encourage them to roast Frank and Angelique... but there's that whole Talking To Strangers thing that I have trouble with.  So I basically just stood around for the whole night (looking devastating in my new dress, soft black tulle with a ruched bodice and a handkerchief hem trimmed in baby-blue satin ribbon) talking with people I already know and slamming back glass after glass of tonic with lime (for my throat, which still hurts though the cold seems to have finally gone away).
Still, the evening went off fairly well (though nobody roasted the monarchs, I'm not sure if it's because nobody had anything to say about them or if it's because I didn't pressure anybody into it) without my having to do much of anything, which is good.  And I looked great, which is also good.  I got my nails done yesterday, and even had them painted the most amazing shade of candy-apple red with gold metallic effect; they're so long and lovely, I am going to be very reluctant to take the color off tomorrow and get them trimmed and French-tipped on Monday.  But even in as casual a work-environment as I have, inch-long candy-apple-red nails just aren't practical (not to mention what the Grandmother would say about them once she finally noticed them... she's a little slow on these things, it took her two weeks to notice when I started wearing acrylics, and it took her almost a month to notice when I got my ears pierced eighteen years ago).
And now today is Ducal Ball itself, so this morning Caroline and I are going down to Centennial Hall in Hayward to rehearse our parts in the opening and closing numbers of the evening.  We have to be there before noon, when we are going to rehearse our three choruses of "One" from A Chorus Line,  which will introduce Angelique into "Kiss Today Goodbye," her first step-down number (she's supposed to do three, I think).  It's going to be dazzling.  Then at one, we will rehearse the opening production number, in which we will all enter with "Seasons of Love" from Rent, and then Caroline will do a snippet of "I Enjoy Being a Girl" from Flower Drum Song and I will do a snippet of "Big Spender" from Sweet Charity (though the version is from Fosse); Grand Duke IX Norm Levesque will be doing a bit of "O, What a Beautiful Morning" from Oklahoma, and somebody will be doing the end of "There's No Business Like Show Business" from Annie Get Your Gun.  Ducal Ball is a Broadway theme this year, you see.

What worries me, though, is the gaps in between things: there is going to be three hours between the end of rehearsals and the time the doors open for Ducal Ball, in which time I will want to come home, pick up something for Grandmother to eat for dinner on the way, shower and shave, get back to Hayward, put my face on, and be ready at 5 p.m. prompt (I'm pretty sure I can do it, but if there's traffic or any kind of delay in my program, I'll be screwed); and then there's God-knows-how-long between our opening number and our closing number, time in which I will have nothing to do but sit around and be bored (though I shouldn't be bored, I'll have plenty of friends to talk with at the Ball, and then there are always new people to meet, if I can get Caroline to introduce me to them).
Well, speaking of time, I'd better get on the ball with mine.  Caroline will be here at 11 so we will be sure to get to Centennial Hall before 12, and I still have to put on some clothes and eat something and get my dresses organized and find my tiara and all that jazz. 
Chat at ya later!

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Just Don't Think About It

Just Don't Think About It

Hello, and welcome to the part of my day where I defraud my employer of all sorts of time, pretending to type meeting minutes when I am, in fact, blogging. If you, like me, are pretending to work while you surf the internet and do your own thing, then I extend an extra-warm welcome... there's nothing a sinner likes better than to have someone else sinning with him.

I would like to type the meeting minutes, really I would... but then I'd have to read my notes and remember what a bunch of fucking morons I work for, and what a bunch of fucking morons those fucking morons work for, and I get a headache. Plus, aside from the headache I already have, my nails are really too long right now for me to type with any efficiency — though they're efficient-enough to blog; the difference is that I don't have to think so hard about what I write here, I don't have to boil down a thirty-minute directionless dialogue into a single descriptive paragraph — that, on top of having to backspace and hit the Caps Lock key and replace all my Hs with Js because my nails keep hitting the wrong keys, well it's just not worth the aggravation.

So anyway... this weekend is Ducal Ball, and I feel wildly unprepared. I just went out to the Douglas Morrison Theatre in Hayward to pick up the A Chorus Line costumes we're supposed to wear for our little production number at the end, and they weren't quite what I had expected... I don't know why, but I thought they'd be black with gold accents. I planned to have on black foundation garments and wear black gowns for Ducal Ball, so everything would go together okay and make changes easy. But the costumes are champagne satin (I suppose they were gold satin when they were made a number of years ago, just like in the movie and stage productions, but now they've faded to champagne)... and now I have to completely rethink. I just hope I have plenty of time before we go on, so I can change my foundation garments as well as my shoes and my jewelry.

I also have to prepare somewhat for the production number at the beginning of the show, in which I am to do a solo turn with "Big Spender"... out of all the numerous recordings of that song, the one that was chosen (not by me) and already burned onto the master is the version from Fosse, which is sung by a chorus of about eighteen voices. I was utterly horrified when I heard it for the first time a couple of days ago (did I mention that nobody told me I was supposed to be in the opening production number until late last week?), but I suppose I can carry it off... they are singing in unison, after all. I'll just pretend that all of my personalities are singing together.

And then I have to prepare to host the In-Town/Out-of-Town Show on Friday, and I have no idea what to do. Someone else will be emceeing, so I don't have to worry about that... but I do have to worry about the lineup, and somebody just mentioned decorations, and then I expect there is supposed to be food and prizes, too. Plus there is supposed to be a roast of the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess, and apparently I am supposed to encourage and coordinate that as well... but I don't know how, exactly. I am just going to have to assume that, if there was anything important I was supposed to be doing, somebody would have told me.

On the other hand, I know what happens when I assume. DISASTER!

Well, fiddle-dee-dee, I won't think about that today. I'll think about it tomorrow, or the next day. Or the day it happens. Or after it's over. Or not at all, ever. Thinking about things never got anybody anywhere.

I'm still sick, a veritable fountain of phlegm with a sore throat and muscle-aches, I haven't been sleeping at all well, Grandmother's still stuck in bed with her bum knee (I'm taking her to the orthopedist tomorrow), the house is filthy and falling apart (I loaded the dishwasher and took out garbage this morning, but still), and life generally sucks major steaming donkeyshit.

It could be worse, though, and it's not likely that it would be better even if it could, so I'll just enjoy whatever blessings come my way today: the lovely weather, "Carousel Waltz" on the stereo, the very yummy mocha I just drank, the fact that my raging bed-head actually looks good, like some stylist did it on purpose, and my skin strangely enough looks great... and my boss just gave me an ice-cold can of Lipton Brisk Lemon Ice Tea for no reason at all. Better than a rap on the head with a sharp stone.

Have a nice day, and remember to stick it to The Man (so long as The Man is dumb enough to give you an internet connection)!

Sunday, July 11, 2004

If You Can't Say Something Nice...

If You Can't Say Something Nice...

Then shut your whiney ass up and quit yer bitchin'. I am still here, still feeling shitty, but I will survive; and I have nothing really to say, I just wanted to post something because I am sitting here downloading the entire album of La Cage Aux Folles (the musical) on iTunes over my antediluvian dial-up connection, and I haven't got anything better to do for the next hour or two... besides cleaning, or getting ready for my show tonight (Cookie After Dark, Martuni's at Market and Valencia, 7 p.m., I have no idea what I'm going to wear), or taking a nap, or anything useful.

Let's see if we can think of anything positive to say while we wait.

Caroline and I saw Charlie's Angels Full Throttle on Friday evening, and enjoyed the hell out of it. Aside from the thrilling action, the joke-inside-of-a-joke writing, and the really fabulous soundtrack, this film was a fashion orgasm. When Demi Moore was wandering around her dimly lit penthouse wearing a cocoa satin bra and panties with a full-length bias-cut sable coat, masturbating her big golden gun and making evil plans on her cell-phone, I almost turned hetero. And that whole burlesque-show sequence got me all steamed up, too... the tits and ass were nice, all firm and boyish the way I like, but the lace and leather and ribbon and PVC accessories were what really had me going. And there were quite a few male eye-candies, too, like that surfer-assassin who didn't have any lines and got killed too early on (Rodrigo Santoro, woof). Of course, the whole Thin Man thing was terribly confusing (what was that all about), and there was a suspension of disbelief required that might sprain one's mind if one thought too much about it. But basically it's a very entertaining all-around movie, well worth the $4.99 I paid for it.

We also took in The Graham Norton Effect on Comedy Central after the movie, and enjoyed that a lot as well. I saw Graham in his one-man-show last year and loved his style, his humor and energy, but I'm not sure about the talk-show format. He seems better at amusing the audience than actually interviewing a celebrity... with him, the celebrity has to do all the work and serves little purpose in the show except to play straight-man to Graham. But then, I've only seen the one episode so far. I'll be keeping an eye on it in the future.

You know, the Upper Haight isn't nearly as trashy as it used to be. Caroline and Angelique and I were there yesterday, hunting for gold-glittered top-hats for the A Chorus Line production number we're doing for Ducal Ball (next weekend, God help me), and I found so many stores I have to go back to as soon as I have money again; plus we ate at this amazing little restaurant called Citrus, it's an Asian noodle-house but with a California gourmet tone. There were lots of little hippie kids still, but they were a lot prettier than the hippie-kids that hung out there when I was young myself... more than once did I want to grab one of those four-inch-wide waifs with the gorgeous shoulder-length hair and ass-riding jeans, and take him home for a meal and a good scrubbing (etc.). The parking situation sucked, though... next time I'll have to go on a weekday when it's raining or something.

That's all I can think of now. Actually, I think I will go have that nap... I slept very poorly, had weird dreams (but nothing with a narrative, just jumbled-up sexy anxious weirdness), tossed and turned and woke up a lot; though I couldn't stay asleep past nine, I'm teribly tired. Then I'll get ready for the show; I think I'll wear some of my waistless glittery things, my blue beaded shift gown for one, and some other comfy standby TBD for the other.

In the meantime, here is something pleasant for your eye:

Friday, July 9, 2004

L'humeur merdante

L'humeur merdante

Yes, friends, that's French for the shitty mood... wherein we find ourselves enmired today. I woke up with weird and unpleasant dreams, my tummy hurts, I argued with the Grandmother, I'm tired, I'm horny, and I generally feel like driving my car at high speed into a tall grandstand full of small children and seniors. My cold lingers, my depression lurks, and I just don't like my life enough. I feel like crying, yelling, hitting things, and yet at the same time I feel like curling up in a ball and laying perfectly still until my body atrophies and a layer of silent dust forms over my life.

I'd really like to entertain you right now, but I haven't got it in me. Instead, I'll just tell you what's going on in my head. It's not very organized, and it's only funny in an absurdist way, but at least it's honest (or as honest as I can make it, anyway).


So in this dream, I was out with Daddy and Grandmother in the car late at night, hunting for a Long's Drugs that was still open. I don't remember why, but we needed something of a medical nature for one of them. For some reason the only one open was at Eastmont Mall, perhaps the scariest mall in America and definitely in one of the scariest neighborhoods of Oakland. In the dream, Eastmont didn't have the acres and acres of unused parking-lot that it possesses in real life, and the nearest parking space I could find was in a residential area across the street.

So we're walking around in this drugstore, but I get separated from my family... and all of a sudden I'm in the liquor aisle. I pluck a bottle of peach brandy off the shelf, a big brown-glass bottle with one of those big black security caps on it (the most memorable part of the dream... when I close my eyes I can still see it, feel it in my hand), and I head for the front of the store.

The scene cuts, as scenes sometimes do in my dreams, to the next day; I wake up in an institutional-type bed with a blue blanket over me. I know what has happened, but I don't actually remember any of it... I awake with the mere knowledge (but not the physical memory) that I abandoned Grandmother and Daddy in Eastmont Mall at night, that I drank that whole bottle of peach brandy all at once and blacked out, that I drove home drunk, changed into the drag outfit that I wore at the Living Sober Conference, went out to the bars and drank some more, then in the morning checked in to a rehab center (which was located next to the Oakland Police Officers' Association Building on Fifth Street beside the freeway... I just now remembered that detail).

So there I am in rehab, trying to figure out why I drank a bottle of peach brandy. I never even liked peach brandy. I'm in this narrow yellowy room with two twin beds, laminated plywood wardrobes and bed-stands, and a rather unattractive roommate who resembled this guy I met on PlanetOut Personals a few years ago who looked very much like an albino rat who's been drinking in the sun.

The only reason I could come up with for the drinking binge was that I wanted to start my program over from scratch... I felt like I hadn't been working my program right these last nine years, so I had to begin again from step zero; this is what I told my roommate and my rehab counselor, who was played by Hal Linden (circa 1978, the Barney Miller model).

During the rest of the day (in which I was not even remotely hung-over), I stayed in bed (because I had no clothes on) and chatted about recovery with the ratlike roommate and the other people who wandered through the room... I don't remember any of those conversations, just a feeling of discomfort being stuck naked in a bed with all these strangers coming and going.

Eventually my sister came by and I got dressed in some sweats she'd brought me; we talked a while and I decided I wanted to go home. She took me home, where I discovered that my Grandmother, incensed by being abandoned in Eastmont Mall at night, had burned all of my drag. All I had left was the tux and white corset in the closet at the rehab center. I was so upset by this that I decided to leave Grandmother altogether, forever, immediately. I had nowhere to go, of course, so I just returned to the rehab center on foot.

On my way there, I figured I had to have another drink before I went back (because you can't show up sober to rehab, what will they think?), so I stopped and begged one off of a bum on the way; he gave me a styrofoam cup filled one-third of the way with liquor of some sort (maybe it was peach brandy... it looked like it, anyway). I carried this styrofoam cup into the cafeteria of the rehab and filled it the rest of the way with coffee from an urn. I didn't get a chance to drink it, Hal Linden was suddenly beside me and showing me a gay-porn calendar produced by the rehab center as a fundraiser, featuring models who'd lived in the center over the last year... all of whom were kind of trashy-looking and hung like donkeys. Then I woke up.

I didn't just shoot up in bed, wide awake, though. Instead I opened my eyes just enough to end the dream and had to struggle to remember the dream itself... it had felt important, so I kept repeating the details to myself to prevent myself from going back to sleep and forgetting the lesson I'd learned. I dozed several times, and had a rather pleasant dream in which I was somebody's sex slave, but I kept interrupting the dream and trying to wake up so that I'd not forget the lesson.

I don't remember the lesson, of course. There was something about revitalizing my program without going to the extreme of having a slip and starting over from the beginning... but I already feel that way, so what's the use of my dreams telling me about it? Maybe it was a warning that if I don't do something to breathe life into my program, I will have a slip and will have to start over again? Or maybe I just wished I was hung like a donkey and would be put in a porn calendar by Hal Linden?


Whatever it was, I was feeling yucky when I woke up, groggy and heavy and grouchy. I had a hard time coaxing myself out of the bed, and once out I had a hard time coaxing myself into the shower and then into a set of clothes. It was half-past eleven by the time I was dressed and coffee'd up sufficiently to actually do anything useful, and then I spent another hour doing those useful things (rinsing out the ice-chest from the 4th of July and setting it out in the sun, watering Grandmother's tomato plants while I was out there, rinsing the rotting egg off a skillet I used several days ago and forgot about but which was stinking up the kitchen, taking out the garbage, eating breakfast, bringing in the mail and papers, etc).

Then Grandmother started to nag me about watering the front lawn. Actually, she wasn't "nagging" me per se... she just asked if I would please water the lawn every day so it would become green again, since she can't do it herself anymore. I said I'd try, but that I doubted I'd remember to do it every day. She pointed out that it wouldn't be hard, that I could just set the sprinkler on one part of the lawn in the morning and turn it off when I left for the office. I told her it would be nearly impossible because I am not at my best in the morning and can barely manage to accomplish things I want to do, much less things I don't care about. Then we got into our usual argument: I don't give a rat's ass about the yard, and she shouldn't give a rat's ass either because it doesn't fucking well matter; and then she pouts and says it matters to her and what will the neighbors think and it upsets her that I don't care.

What in the above exchange gave me the right to be as pissed off as I was when I finally left the house? I mean, I was literally seething with anger, like a pressure-cooker that hasn't been screwed on tight enough, as I drove to the office. I don't know what it is about lawns that piss me off so.

Actually, I hate all plant life... I like them fine to look at, I even enjoy them in parks and gardens, and nothing beats plants for pumping oxygen into the air; but caring for them in any way, watering or trimming or potting them, even shopping for them, sets off the most amazing barrage of hatred and resentment in my heart. Watering a lawn makes me even angrier than washing a sink-full of dishes... and I have no idea why either activity makes me so unbelievably angry.

And so when Grandmother asks me why won't I do this one little favor for her and water the lawn every day, I don't have an answer. All I can say is that watering the lawn (especially when it's sunny out) makes me horribly angry, and I don't want to be horribly angry, so I will naturally avoid watering the lawn... but I can't say why I get so angry, so she thinks I'm just being a lazy willful bastard (which makes me even angrier, of course, since I require that everyone in the world think the very best of me without question).


Perhaps the reason I'm feeling so resentful and angry about Grandmother and the house is because my body and soul want something (SEX) and my mind won't let them have it. I am unhappy with my life as I currently live it because I'm not getting everything I want.

I've made choices and set priorities that exclude the possibility of certain kinds of relationships (i.e., live-in lover, or even a sleepover boyfriend), and I have no talent for the kinds of relationships I know I can get within my current lifestyle (casual or anonymous sex, etc.), so I tell myself that I can't have any sexual relationships at all.

On the other hand, how much of the previous paragraph is a total lie? Am I telling myself I can't have the relationship I want because I live with Grandmother simply so that I won't have to look for that relationship... and risk not getting it? I sometimes think I am; and sometimes I think I am not. It all depends on how I feel on a given day.


But lately, I have noticed more and more resentment about doing what other people want to do instead of what I want to do. Although I had a good time at my aunt Terry's on the Fourth, I would rather have gone to the third day of the Living Sober Conference, and then to Barry's party in Pinole... but I couldn't because then neither Daddy nor Grandmother could have gone to the family gathering as they wished, nor would I have been able to return the Small Children to their mother. I quite often would prefer to do things other than what I have to do for Grandmother or Daddy or some other family member.

So, what are my choices? I can remove myself from the role of escort/chauffeur to my Grandmother, move into my own place and live my own life with whomever I choose to invite in (provided that such persons choose to come... no guarantee they will); in which case Grandmother will be alone in the house, unable to go anywhere at all or do very many things... and so I will still have to take her to the places she has to go, and come over to do all the things I do now, but will have to drive over there and pay for my rent and my food.

Another choice is to start looking at my relationship with Grandmother as a paid job rather than as a codependent symbiosis. I have to consider how much I do in exchange for room and board, how many hours of work pays for how many toiletries and utilities, to think of these tasks as duties instead of as favors. Perhaps if I was able to think of tasks as professional work, I could remove the personal element and thereby remove the resentment. I mean, I don't resent my job for making me come in on days I have things I'd rather do (though that doesn't really happen, I always get time off when I want it), I don't resent my boss for making me do things I hate (like filing, though I do resent the files themselves), I don't resent having to work for the money I love spending (well, I do, but not as much as I resent having to tiptoe around Grandmother's stupid little prejudices in exchange for a place to live).

Well, there are two possibilities, one of action, one of perception. I won't do either of them, of course. Too logical, too sane, too simple and yet with too much effort involved. It's always so much easier to sit and stew in one's resentments. Especially when you're in a pissy little mood, as I am in today.

Just as it's easier to sit around being horny and dissatisfied with life than it is to do all the work that would have to go into getting laid... I mean, I want to have sex, but not in this body. When I fantasize about sex, I'm always in my other body, the one without a belly, or breasts, or braidable body-hair. And while nothing could be simpler than to diet, exercise, and get a quick trim, there is a lot of labor involved. And so I just masturbate and eat Oreos (not at the same time, but I might try it now I've thought of it) instead of making myself presentable enough to snag a cute man and feel comfortable revealing my body to him.


So having analyzed what's wrong with me, come up with a number of solutions, and discarded them all, now what do I do? Maybe I'll just go home and water the lawn. Maybe while I'm at that, I can use the time to pray to God for guidance and inspiration... I could totally use some. And maybe I'll try to remember that much of this dissatisfaction is chemical, and that I will be treating it soon (I'm going to set aside money out of the next paycheck for some nice Asian homeopathy), and not to depend too much on my shitty mood when I am making decisions about my life.

Well, for now I'll just start with watering the stupid lawn.

Tuesday, July 6, 2004

With Whom We Wander

With Whom We Wander

Do you see that drag queen over there at stage right, the one trying to hold very still so her rhinestones (corsucating wildly under the brilliant, hot, multispectrum stage-lights like a thousand disco-balls) don't distract from the person speaking at the podium? Do you see her muttering to herself? Pursing her vermillion-glossed lips and frowning as if something were hurting her (besides the corset that she bought a size too small)? What do you suppose she's muttering?

"It's with whom I went, not who I went with, you benighted booby..."

Yes, I am one of those people, the legion of tortured souls who knows the difference of when to use who or whom in a sentence; once you know such a thing, it is almost impossible to resist correcting people who do not know the difference — and, in most cases, couldn't care less. It's a terrible curse. But for the record (or to spread the misery, whichever), the simple rule of thumb is this: if you can answer the question with "him" "or "them," then you use "whom"; if you answer the question with "he" or "they," you use "who." For example: "With whom did you go to the opera?" — "I went with him to the opera"; "Who is taking you to the opera?" — "He is taking me to the opera." Simple, no?

Of course, I really do believe that, in order to make language more accessible to the masses (and accessibility is the hallmark of good language, since its aim is to communicate one's thoughts as widely as possible), such idiotic rules should be abandoned... and as we speak, the literati of this nation are already throwing out the Victorian claptrap of who-vs.-whom. Many English teachers don't even bother with it anymore (I got all the way to college before I was tainted with the knowledge... hey, that rhymes, I should write a song about it).

I once tried to curb myself of the habit of correcting people's grammar and syntax when they were speaking; but it proved too much, and I eventually crumbled under the weight of all those dangling participles and sentence-ending prepositions as they piled up uncorrected in my consciousness. It's simply part of who I am... I cannot change my nature. But I can be gentle about it, and I do try my very best to present my corrections in the most supportive possible tone, or else to just mutter them under my breath.

So anyway, how was your weekend? I had one of those weekends where I was so busy having fun that I didn't quite manage to enjoy myself as much as I'd like.

It started on Friday, as long weekends are wont to do. I took the day off (I even gave my boss the illusion that I was asking permission to take the day off, which I thought was very nice of me), and my plan was to get my nails done, pay my gym membership, pick up Madasin (my protegé) in Pinole, pick up a white Dream Corset in size 38 at Frederick's of Hollywood in Richmond's Hilltop Mall (where I had already telephoned to confirm that they had one), and BART over to the City for the first day of the Living Sober Western Roundup 2004 Conference. It was my plan to start early and be to the Conference around one or two p.m.

And as with all of my plans, I failed miserably. First, I woke up an hour later than I had intended (I forgot to reset my alarm to 8 instead of 9); then, the quick note I started to jot off here at Mannersism turned into a multi-paragraph spew on how stressed out I was (though I'm glad I did spew it all out, I had no idea why I was so stressed until I wrote it all down); then the girl who took my check at the gym didn't actually know how to process the transaction (she was new, but so was my friend Zach who just started working there, so I had someone to talk to, and eye-candy coming in the door every five minutes, while I waited for the clerk to figure out how to apply a payment to an account); then my manicure took for-fucking-ever (I had a guy do my nails for the first time, and it was a little unsettling... but he did a pretty good job, though the French tips I requested were too narrow); and then having futzed away the morning and gotten on the I-80 after noon, I was immediately ensnarled in bumper-to-bumper traffic as everyone and their mothers fled the Cities of the Plain Bay for the weekend.

By the time I got to Madasin's, I was two hours behind schedule and just a trifle frazzled. When we stopped at Hilltop Mall, of course I couldn't just walk straight from the car to Frederick's and buy my corset and get out... I had to make my way through a surprisingly crowded mall, hunt the racks for a corset and a full-coverage white lace bra in the correct size, and then try to decide whether to buy a 36 or a 40 when it turned out that they did not, after all, have a white Dream Corset in a size 38, and then find a bathroom and then find my way out. Then I got back on the freeway and was ensnarled in traffic again, then parked at El Cerrito del Norte and got on a slow train to San Francisco (actually, I got on a slow train to Fremont by accident and then had to transfer at MacArthur).

So anyway, by the time we got to the Conference at the Bill Graham Civic Center Auditorium, it was after four and too late to go to any workshops... in fact, once we got registered and chatted with a few friends, it was time to go to dinner. So off we went to Mel's, which was a lot farther away from Civic Center than I remembered, where I ate a rather bland pair of pork chops and Madasin had a cheeseburger. When we got back to the Conference, there were a lot more people, and much hugging and air-kissing ensued as I met up with all of the people I knew.

The opening meeting that night was great, I got to sit next to my sponsor, and the speakers were wonderful. Madasin got a little depressed towards the end of the evening, but I was manic so I guess it evened out. We stayed after the meeting for an hour or so talking with friends, and then got back on the train to return to our proper side of the Bay. Naturally the train was packed with drunks who'd been swilling beer at Pac-Bell SBC Park all day long during the ball-game (I really can't be bothered to care which one... all I know is that the Giants lost, so all the drunks were angry and weepy); and as soon as the drunks in the seat behind us got off the train at Ashby station, they were immediately replaced by a delirious little boy with a bad cold who spoke in tongues in between hacking up one of his lungs (without covering his mouth, naturally).

So then Saturday gets started, and again I had a plan: get up early, pack my drag-bag, pick up Madasin (I should have just kept her overnight, but that didn't occur to me until later), drive over to the Conference and get there at ten or eleven; I even set my alarm correctly for seven so I'd be sure to wake up in time. But the best-laid plans can go awry, and my plans are never laid all that well to begin with. First I couldn't get myself out of the bed without hitting the snooze button four times, and then I couldn't find my other boot for my drag outfit, and then Grandmother got into the bathroom just when I needed to take a shower. But traffic wasn't too bad (though there was a terrible backup at the Bay Bridge toll plaza because the rates had just gone up a dollar and nobody had remembered), and I got to the Conference just in time to take up my post at the raffle booth for my twelve-o'clock service commitment.

After selling a few tickets (and flirting with THE CUTEST BOY EVER... tall and slim, beautiful white skin with spanked-pink cheeks, shiny black hair, the most innocent-looking navy-blue eyes, a delicate red mouth that you just want to put things into, and an ass that you could set up camp on... his name is Troy, and I was more than half-tempted to take his number off his raffle-tickets and stalk him later; but then I saw on his name-tag that he lives in Fresno, and that's too far to stalk), I went to the one and only workshop I managed to attend all weekend, Depression in Recovery. The room was too small and crowded and hot, and the people who spoke tended to be more psychotic than depressive; but I did manage to pick up a few shreds of advice on how to work my Program around my depression, and to appreciate the mildness of my depression over the quite extreme cases in that room.

Then we went to see the Living Sober Musical, which was really wonderful in parts and kind of silly in parts but all-in-all a lovely experience; I laughed, I wept, I groaned, I applauded. It was a sort of a sequel to last year's production, in which I made my singing and dancing debut, and had many of the same characters; the music was lifted from all sorts of places, mostly from Sweet Charity, and worked extremely well for the theme (last year's was lifted mostly from Hairspray).

Next it was time to get something to eat, retrieve our drag-bags from the car, and then go get dressed for the Great Drag Invasion. My plans to get dressed early were thwarted (as one might expect) by the existence of only one key for the dressing room, and the fact that the one key was held by an actor in the musical who was taking part in the Decompression (a post-performance meeting where everyone shares their feelings from the last six months of musical rehearsals, eats pizza, and cries for an hour... after doing all that work and then culminating in only two performances, you need to decompress or else you'll just blow up).

While we waited, Madasin and I sat in the hallway with all our goods and chattels around us, eating Greek takeout and discussing life, love, and sobriety, while she touched up her wig and I touched up my French tips. We finally got into the dressing room and I was able to shave and smack my face on in pretty short order; my costume gave me a little trouble, though, since the corset was really far too small (I barely got into it when it was completely unlaced, and when I did get it laced there was a good four inches of bare skin at the back)... I guess I should have bought the 40 after all. Nevertheless, I looked unspeakably fierce in my white satin corset and bra with black pants, spectator pumps, and a black tailcoat — not to mention seven pounds of jewelry, my severe red pageboy (the lesbians love that hair for some reason, so I wore it for them), and my newly-touched-up French manicure.

Madasin had even more difficulty, as we discovered four minutes before we were to make our Grand Entrance that the dress she'd brought (her sister's unworn wedding-gown) didn't fit after all... she'd been so caught up in wheedling it out of her sister that she didn't think to try it on first. But a wonderfully wise friend helped her out by "borrowing" some silk flags from another of our friends and fashioning them and a white bustier into a reasonable facsimile of a very nice dress. She wasn't able to make her grand entrance with us, but she looked divine nonetheless.

After the Grand Entrance, I took my place at stage right with other drag-queen friends, all in different types of wedding-dresses, who would be reading the various literature with which we AAs (and Al-Anons) punctuate our meetings. I read the Twelve Steps; I would say who read the other bits, but this is a program of anonymity after all, and I feel like I shouldn't use names (Madasin doesn't count... I've already told her that part of being my protegé is that your anonymity gets blown).

But while I sat on the stage during the first speaker, I felt horribly conscious of how glittery I was... I mean, if I was standing up at a podium telling my Story to fourteen hundred people, I wouldn't want some disco-balled drag-queen behind me drawing attention away from my words of wisdom. The second speaker was a little easier to sit behind, because her story had a lot of laughs in it so I was able to shift positions more often without interrupting anything important.

Either way, it was hotter than Hell up on that stage under full lights and in drag, it was like wearing a fur coat on a tanning bed; and the Countdown (which, as my neighbor pointed out at the beginning, was really a Count-up since they started at twenty-four hours and worked their way from there) took absolutely forever, hitting every day up to thirty, then every year up to fifty-five; and we applauded wildly at each number, so it was like doing callisthenics in a fur coat on a tanning bed... I couldn't feel the palms of my hands for hours afterward, and my lats and triceps are still sore.

Still, it was a great honor to sit on the stage in full view during the whole meeting, and the Countdown (or Up) was as inspiring as always, celebrating the sobriety we've all compiled, one day at a time, over the years... there's a gentleman who always comes to this conference, probably the Oldest Living Gay Alcoholic in the World (he has fifty-three years of sobriety), and he always comes up to present a Big Book to the person who has the least amount of time in sobriety (someone who is usually still a bit hung-over); before returning to his seat, he always steps up to the podium to reveal the secret of his success: don't drink, and don't die. Words to live by.

So anyway, after all that, I'd hoped to be able to relax and hang out and gather accolades for my fabulousness... but the one guy with the one key to the dressing room was leaving, so we had to get our stuff out or else it would be locked in until the next morning. I decided that I couldn't pack up my stuff while I was still wearing it, so I got out of drag as fast as I could and had everything but my makeup and bracelets back where it goes in a matter of minutes. I later decided to take my makeup off, too, after we'd schlepped everything back to the car; but I left my bracelets on (so people would recognize me) as we returned to the Conference to get our relaxing and hanging-out done... there was a dance going on, but I wasn't quite up to it, so we just sat around in the halls and talked with friends and ate hot-dogs.

Though I had missed most of the workshops, and didn't spend very much time in my fierce drag, I had to consider the conference a good time... I just wished I'd had more time to enjoy everything instead of having to rush hither and thither trying to get from one place to the next at a certain hour. I think next year I might take a hotel-room nearby for the weekend instead of trying to commute. And maybe by next year I won't be so damnably broke.

The next day was, of course, the Fourth of July, a day my family holds sacred for reasons that have always escaped me. Grandmother, despite her bum knee and the uselessness of Small Children, insisted on making homemade ice-cream as she traditionally does; I'm not sure why that sparked such a resentment in me, but I was so angry when I got home at almost two o'clock in the morning and found her just getting herself and the children into bed after spending hours on her feet making the custard base. And of course we only got to sleep for a couple of hours, since she planned for us to go to church in the morning as well... we didn't go to church, in fact, since it took us so long to pull ourselves together and for me to get everything loaded into the car (the ice-chest with the ice-cream base and other ingredients in it, the two ice-cream machines, the various accessories that go with the ice-cream-making, the children's badly-packed luggage, and my own changes of clothes).

I didn't stop being angry until we got to Concord, when I got to vent to my father about why I was so angry... and was able to realize that none of the things I was angry about really had anything to do with me. It just bugs the hell out of me that she puts herself to such pain and trouble over things that really don't matter. And I felt guilty that I hadn't helped her, even though I told her several days in advance that I was going to be gone all weekend and she should abandon the ice-cream issue. Feeling guilty always pisses me off, especially when I take steps to remove the guilt beforehand.

So anyway, there we were, tired and angry and whatever, driving out to Concord to pick up my Daddy, then venting and feeling better, then taking a weird "shortcut" through the mountains to get from 680 to 880... instead of using the usual connections (which would have been crowded with holiday traffic), we got off at I-82, which winds through an extremely picturesque canyon and decants into the historic little town of Niles, where Charlie Chaplin once had a film studio; there the road turns into Alvarado Niles Boulevard, which leads in its turn to the Union Landing shopping center beside 880 in Union City, wherein is located the only Krispy Kreme drive-through in the Bay Area (that I know about) — Krispy Kreme doughnuts were the sole reason we had taken the detour in the first place.

The sugar-rush from three filled Krispy Kremes and a cup of coffee (and the pleasurable fact that Krispy Kreme spells its product correctly as doughnuts instead of donuts) altered my mood significantly, and by the time we got to my aunt Terry's house in San Jose I was quite cheerful; I was able to get the ice-cream made without too much drama (fortunately Grandmother's knee was so painful by then that she couldn't come micromanage me, so I guess her staying up late worked out in the end), and then enjoyed a huge repast of hot-dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, fruit salad, and chips. After that I took a long nap, played with my aunt Judy's new dog, Patty (the cutest little black Scottie/Shih-tzu puppy you ever saw), went swimming with my aunts and cousins (Terry's is the only pool to which I have access where I can swim exclusively with people who are older and/or fatter than myself), then we had cake and ice-cream (my cousin Michael's birthday is on the 6th, but we have always celebrated it on the 4th), and then we sat around and dished for a few hours until it got dark.

Driving back to Concord in the twilight, enjoying the slowly cooling air and the occasional fireworks shooting up alongside the freeway from the various arenas, parks, malls, and backyards along the way, I only regretted that I hadn't been able to go to Barry's party in Pinole as I had intended... other than that one fly in the ointment (and the morning of anger following on too little sleep), it was a pretty nice day. But again, it would have been better if I hadn't had to drive all over Hell and half of China to get where I was going. I guess I'm getting into one of my no-driving moods... these happen every once in a while, when I overdo the driving and stop enjoying it for a time.

I had Monday off from work, and as I said in the last post, I intended to do some laundry and work on my novel. But of course it was not to be... if I plan something, apparently it automatically becomes doomed to failure. Aside from being even more tired than I thought I'd be after sleeping for ten hours, Caroline came over less than an hour after I got up, and so I couldn't really spend the time writing. I could have done some laundry, of course, but I didn't. Instead, we watched a DVD I bought last week but hadn't watched yet, Girls Will Be Girls starring Jack Plotnick (whom you would recognize as the nelly clerical type he has played in countless movies and TV shows), Clinton Leupp (better known as Miss Coco Peru), and Jeffery Roberson (alias Varla Jean Merman).

If you haven't seen this film yet, I strongly suggest you run (don't walk) to your nearest video outlet and get a copy ASAP. It has to be the funniest movie I've seen in years... so funny that we had to keep pausing the disk so that we could finish laughing before the next joke, gag, or one-liner shot out at us... such as:
    Evie: "So that's your big secret? You had an abortion?" (rolls her eyes in disbelief)

    Coco: (indignant) "Have you ever had one?"

    Evie: "One? I've had more children pulled out of me than a burning orphanage!"

    (pause while we laugh so hard we have to go to the bathroom immediately or else pee on the rug)
After that, we watched another Coco Peru vehicle, Trick (her role was brief, but unbearably memorable, she stole the whole movie with that one line: "You ever get cum in your eye, Gabriel? It buuuuuuuuurns!")

Caroline took off to do some shopping after that... she was feeling antsy and wanted to go out and do something, but I was feeling particularly sluggish and didn't intend to leave the house at all. But shortly after she left, I noticed that my throat hurt rather more than could be explained by all the laughing I'd just done, and my muscles ached more than seemed likely even after my weekend's exertions, and I started feeling a little dizzier than watching TV for several hours would normally make me feel. It occurred to me after a while that I must have come down with a cold... suddenly I remembered the little Plague Boy coughing behind me on the BART train Friday night: I cursed him, his ancestors, and his descendants in perpetuity. Babbling little heathen.

Of course I could have gotten the cold anywhere, from any of the fourteen hundred people at the Conference or the fifteen people at my aunt's or from Caroline herself (who picked up a rather similar cold last week at Pride); I mean, any time I lose sleep and eat sketchily and expose myself to the multitudes, I take a fifty-fifty risk of coming down with a cold. But I prefer to blame Plague Boy — he's so much more picturesque.

And so here I am at home, on the fifth day of my three-day Holiday weekend, snuffling and aching and coughing and sneezing and hurting and telling you all about it. At rather some length, I see. This has taken me almost four hours to write, my Tylenol Cold is wearing off, and it's now time to take a lil' nap.

I hope your weekend was super fun and that you didn't get sick from it. Toodles!

Friday, July 2, 2004

Can't Talk, Spinning...

Can't Talk, Spinning...

It's getting worse, whatever it is that's making it impossible for me to string four thoughts together and then write them down. Is it the heat/depression/allergies? Is it the fact that when I go home, I have to wade through the mindless chatter of two Small Children and the huh-what-did-you-say futility of talking to That Deaf Woman (formerly known as the Grandmother)? Is it because, with Grandmother on one TV and the Small Children on the other, I can't get near a television connected to the cable for which I personally pay the exhorbitant sum of $48 a month?

Is it because Grandmother's knee went out on Sunday and she is pretty much chair-bound/bedridden, and the whole house (complete with two Small Children) is falling apart at the seams? Is it because I have been solely responsible for scavenging our dinners all week, having to either make a meal myself or else decide if tonight is a Boston Market night or a KFC night or a Taco Bell night? Or because I've had to wash dishes twice, an activity that inexplicably enrages me to the point that I want to break every dish in the house and then slash my wrists and neck with the shards?

Could it be because I have no clean clothes, that I've been wearing bathing-suits and boxer-shorts and jock-straps all week and truffling around on the floor every morning trying to find a shirt that doesn't smell bad? Or because every time I go out to the kitchen to do some laundry, I encounter piles of other people's laundry and bedding because one of the Small Children is a bed-wetter? And then by the time I push a load of wet sheets through the system I've forgotten about my own underwear and t-shirts? Rinse and repeat on a daily basis?

Is it because after I paid my inescapable bills for this period (car, insurance, cable, gym membership, and one credit-card), I will have $85 left to see me through the next two weeks, and with that $85 I have to go to a two-day conference in the City this weekend and the three-day Ducal Ball events next weekend, and both my credit-cards are charged to the max and I only have two hundred in savings to fall back on? Is it because I've been losing sleep running around helping a friend, and work has been oddly busy, and I have headaches all the damn time?

Or, perhaps, could it possibly be all of the above?

Actually, this is the first time I've vented all of the above this week. I didn't realize I was under so much pressure. Granted, it's the kind of pressure young parents face all the time, with people to take care of and money short and too many demands on one's energies. But I'm not a young parent, by choice as well as by inclination; I am instead a self-sufficient and self-involved drag-queen with very little energy and a well-developed need for lots of down-time.

Oh, well. I'm not dead, and I haven't killed anybody... sometimes that's the best you can say of a week, but it's something.

So today I am off to get my nails done (there goes $20, but I must), pick up a white satin corset at Frederick's (it'll fit on the credit card I just paid), and then pick up my sponsee to go with me to the Living Sober Conference in San Francisco. I'm looking forward to this conference, I have been for weeks, it's always such a grand time and I always get so much serenity and sobriety out of it. So what if I have to eat dinner at Burger King instead of some charming Hayes Valley bistro?

Then tomorrow is more conference, with the Living Sober Musical in the middle of the day and the Great Drag Invasion at the big count-down meeting (our theme this year is "Gay Wedding Party"... I am going as a drag groom, hence the need for the white corset to go with my tuxedo), and then the big dance in one room and Drag Bingo in another. It'll be a toot!

On Sunday I have to take the Grandmother and the Daddy and the Small Children down to San Jose for the 4th of July; after swimming and eating too much and schmoozing with la famiglia, I get to do the trip again in reverse (sans the Small Children, thank the goddess) and hopefully get back in time to attend my friend Barry's party in Pinole.

And after all that, I have Monday off so perhaps I'll finally be able to wash a couple of loads of panties as well as squeeze out the end of the first chapter of Worst Luck, which I've been working on in draft format for the last four days. I got hung up the other day trying to plot Danny's route to the gym without actually driving all the way to the City to check that it's possible (which I'll certainly do this weekend while I'm over there), and then I got hung up yesterday trying to make up a good Brazilian name for Danny's Pilates instructor. I'm always getting hung up in details, but it's the details that I love most when I'm reading so I have to pay attention to them when I'm writing.

Until then, have a super Fourth!