Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Sickmas

Yay, I came down with a loverly cold just in time for Christmas! It is in fact the cold that the Grandmother just got over, so at least she's all sympathetic since she remembers the symptoms... the overwhelming fatigue being the the most dramatic. I also have diarrhea, nausea, and random aches. She had a lot of phlegm as well, which I've managed to avoid so far, with only a slight post-nasal drip and a trifling congestion in my chest and sinuses, easily cleared with a swig of Alka-Seltzer Cold.

Speaking of which, I am amazed that they've finally come out with a form of Alka-Seltzer that actually tastes good... I got the Orange Zest flavor, and it's quite delicious (also a very pretty color).

So anyway, there's all this work to do around the house, and I feel too crappy to do it, yet it needs to be done nonetheless. So I am going to have to push myself just a bit. I have to get the boxes back into the attic, for one, and dust the living room and dining room, then get to work on the dressing and yams, and the kitchen and bathroom need mopping. Oh, and I have to wrap all those presents I bought.

Well, I guess it could be worse. But I won't mention ways in which in could be worse, in case one of those nasty-minded Fates is listening in.

Have a Happy Holiday!

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Ghosts of Christmas Presents

Well, after giving it some thought, I broke down and decided to buy Christmas presents for my family. I had intended not to, due to my straitened finances, but I did a little jotting on the notepad and figured I could spare $150 without dying, and if I kept the gifts under $10 I could manage. And you know, Ross is right around the corner from the job I've been working this week, and there were a few other places I could get nice prezzies cheap, so that's what I did.

Actually, I started at a place called Tuesday Morning, so named because that's when they get new shipments of discounted housewares, decorative items, and other sundries. I didn't see much that inspired me, but in the very last aisle I found this odd thing that appealed to me so strongly that I had to have it... it was a miniature pitcher and saucer, like for a washstand, Dresden-style, done in gold and cobalt and bright yellow. Gorgeous, and $5.99.

Well, I couldn't buy just one thing, so I scoured the shelves again and came across some things that would do for various of my relatives... windchimes, facial scrubber machines, crystal candy-dishes, golf-themed desk-sets, stuff like that.

And then yesterday I went to Ross and finished up. And I found so many good bargains (sweaters, kitchen-canisters, etc.) that I was able to stick a few gifts for myself (a video and a back-support belt) into the mix while staying within my budget.

Though it was immensely tiring (especially since I have to park three-quarters of a mile from work, which is in downtown Berkeley and therefore a parking nightmare, and walk back weighed down with presents in the freezing rain), I feel a lot better about Christmas now that I can weigh in with some material posessions come Christmas day.

Our family has this big rather barbaric ritual, where we pass out all the gifts and then we all open them all at once, shouting thanks across the room in a deafening pandemonium that usually lasts about half an hour. Then we eat pie.

But the point is, we all shop for each other, rather than drawing names like civilized folks, and we open our presents in front of everyone and can see who gave what to whom. So of course, if you give a gift, you want it to be nice enough to bear scrutiny.

We're not really competitive about it, but I am competitive, and would feel bad giving someone a crappy gift, even worse than I feel not giving a gift at all. But now I have gifts, and I won't feel guilty receiving gifts.

All is right with the world.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Labor Pain

Sometimes I just hate Christmas. Well, no, I don't hate Christmas, I just hate the hoop-de-do. What I wouldn't give to spend a nice quiet Christmas all alone, or with one other person, no tree, no ginormous family dinner, no presents, no stress. But that's not the life I drew... mine is a life of family, and my family has traditions, and those traditions are labor-intensive.

But what I really hate is how the Grandmother gets on my back about getting the house ready, as if I haven't been doing it (and rather well if I say so myself) every year for the last twenty-five years. And it's not like it's difficult: schlepping the boxes out of the attic, moving the living-room furniture around, decorating the tree, decorating the house, schlepping the boxes back into the attic, cleaning everything, setting the table, and baking yams and stuffing... what could be simpler? Time-consuming, certainly (I estimated approximately thirty hours of labor last year), and a lot of physical labor, but not complicated or anything.

I sort of wish I weren't working this week, that would make it a lot simpler. But my sister is hanging out at the house this week helping out, so all the cleaning bits will get done well and quickly (my sister is very good at cleaning other people's houses). The trick is to keep the Grandmother placated. At least her shopping is already done, and we decided to cheat on the pie-crusts and buy Pillsbury. All we have to do is keep her calm.

Well, gotta go... my uncle just brought the tree, I'd better go help put it in the base. Toodles!

Friday, December 1, 2006

My Feelings Got Hurt

So I got to the new jobsite, dressed all snazzy and every hair in place, and I loved it from the first minute. Beautiful office, fabulous view across the Bay, bleached pine woodwork and black leather upholstery (a favorite combination of mine), all the amenities.

The office wasn't as big as I'd been led to believe, and the duties of the admin-assistant not as heavy, and of course the dress-code was a lot more casual than I was dressed for (my agency is always doing that to me). But otherwise, it left nothing to be desired, except for the cute guys, of which there were none. In fact, there was only one other male in the entire office, definitely not cute, and he was in the field most of the day.

Anyway, I was being trained by the incumbent, who was moving to New York to take a job there. I didn't ask her why she was leaving, I didn't want to appear too nosey. And a number of people were out of the office, so I didn't meet everyone. I can't say that I was particularly bubbly or effusive, mostly because I'd been terrified by my agent all week about how pernickety they were and was afraid to put a foot wrong.

I spent most of the day working on a filing project, in which all the Accounts Payable paperwork is attached to the property-site files for which they were paid, first in order of site-number and then in order of check-number, which was pretty complicated; I found it a challenge and rather pleasant, better than plain old first-name-last-name filing that I'd been doing at my last filing job. And I was told that one only does this filing twice a month, when the AP goes out.

The day came to a close, and I'd done rather a load of work and was pretty tired, and headed back to my car and thought about going to the store on the way home. And while I was sitting there looking for a pen so I could call the Grandmother and get a shopping list, my temp agent called... a call I was expecting, since they always call to check on you after the first day of a new assignment.

But the news she gave me was a shock: the client didn't want me to come back. No reason, nothing I did or didn't do or did wrong, it was just a matter of my not being a "personality fit." Which is employerese for "We don't like you."

Not like me? How can anyone not like me? And how can they not like me after one day's acquaintance? And especially after I had gone through so much stress and preparation to make sure they'd like me? Granted, I wasn't a big ball of sunshine, nervous as I was about making a good first impression, but I was by no means offensive! What's not to like?

So there I sat with the rug pulled out from under me one more time (yes, try as I might to avoid it, I got my hopes up again), the disappointment surmounted by the bewildering knowledge that they just didn't like me.

They made me cry.

Well, I was driving, so I didn't let myself cry. But when I got home, I had a good old wail. I haven't cried like that (without watching a movie) for ages. It was kind of cathartic, but also kind of unpleasant. I mean, it's embarrassing to be reduced to tears by something so childish as hurt feelings.

And still, there's a pain in my chest, after a long night of poor sleep. My ego just can't take crap like this. Neither can my bank account... I was really counting on a long-term assignment, I really need a regular paycheck and I need it right now.

Besides, it's just so bewildering to not know exactly what they didn't like about me. I mean, if there had been some criticism, I could file it away under "well maybe they're right" and try to correct it or else under "they're morons" and dismiss it... but not knowing is truly upsetting me, there's nothing to do with the information but turn it over in my mind and cry over it.

Oh, well... as they say, whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger. Unless of course it weakens us so that the next thing that comes along does kill us. I think I'm going to take an extra Prozac this morning in the hopes that it will boost me out of this extra depression. I know I'm not supposed to take psych meds "as needed" but I've been forgetting to take them fairly frequently this last couple of weeks, so maybe that's why I'm getting so inordinately depressed... I've been thinking about suicide ever since I got home last night.

In the meantime, I think I will do some housework, keep my mind occupied for the day. I have some shelves I can put up in my room, and some laundry I can be doing. I shall endeavor to not let this day be a complete waste.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Don't Stress Me Out!

Okay, so I have this new assignment starting tomorrow, and from everything they've told me, it sounds dreamy... admin-assisting and front-office management with lots of word-processing at a big property-management firm in a highrise downtown, neckties and shiny shoes, more pay per hour, a six-month assignment that has a good chance of turning temp-to-hire. Jazzy, no?

Well, I didn't want to get too excited about it, or get my hopes up too high... because whenever I do, something terrible happens to yank the rug out from under me. So I just said to myself "take it one day at a time and don't let any expectations (or hopes, which are worse) grow."

I was doing OK at it, but my temp agent has called me every day this week to give me some new instruction or remind me not to do some frowned-upon thing that I've done at other assignments in the past.

And as a result, she's stressed me out to the point that I'm actually nervous about going in tomorrow. I don't like being nervous, especially when it causes me to lose sleep, thereby making it even more likely that I will make some terrible mistake that will bring the whole thing crashing down around my ears.

But I understand where she's coming from... this client isn't just their client, but also their landlord. And the agent I've been working with this week is new in her job, so she's probably feeling really nervous, too. I just wish she wouldn't take it out on me.

So tonight I am going to lay out my clothes and make sure they all match and look snazzy (charcoal slacks with a dull blue pinstripe, dull blue shirt, black v-neck sweater, black dress shoes, and a black blazer), then wash down some Advil PM with a cup of Sleepy-Time Extra herb tea to help make sure I get to sleep early enough, and shall slather my mug with the best moisturizer I have; and tomorrow I'm getting up early to groom and prepare to look and act my very best. I think I'll even do some sit-ups or something.

I have to take the bus in the morning, too, since there is absolutely nowhere to park downtown, so that will keep me from being tardy (one hopes).

So I'm kind of excited, and I'm terribly nervous. I mean, I really need this job right now. I'm so broke it's not funny (though being broke never is funny), I just overdrew my account yet again and have to borrow money from the Grandmother to pay the bank another packet of fees. Besides, a poverty-struck Christmas is not a happy place to be.

Either way, I'll let you know how it turns out.


Later addition - 10:28 PM:

Well, I got my outfit together, finally, then showed it to the Grandmother, who made a face. And I had to agree with her, the black sweater with the charcoal pants looked wrong... the taupe-ish cast of the charcoal assorted ill with the bluish cast of the sweater.

Then of course came the humiliation of wanting to wear a jacket, and almost all of my suit-jackets are too small for me now. The black one in particular made me look perfectly horrid. So no blazer or jacket of any kind, I'll just have to wear my suede jacket to keep warm and just wear the sweater to the office... not as professional as one would like, but I don't have time to run down to the mall to buy a new blazer.

So if the charcoal pants are out, what about black pants? Well, the black pants and a black sweater was a little too too, if you know what I mean. So how about a plum sweater with the black pants to lighten it up? Even too-tooer. How about the plum sweater with the charcoal slacks? Now I look like an utter fairy. Okay, how about the light grey glen-plaid slacks with the black sweater and a sage shirt and tie? OK, now we're getting somewhere. It looks very nice.

Of course, the sweater was wrinkled all to hell, and my black dress shoes were a mess. It took me forever to find the sweater (which was crumpled up under a pile of other sweaters), and another forever to find the black shoe-polish. Then I had to steam the sweater and slacks and then iron them, then polish the shoes.

After all that, I realized I had to clean Claudius's bowl, which he never likes, because I wouldn't have time in the morning. And now here I am all ready to go to bed, an hour later than I planned to be in bed. Oy gevalt!

After all this to-do, this job had better be spectacular. I mean cute guys in every office and a view from my desk. If they turn out to be a bunch of whackos and the job itself impossible, I'll be pissed.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Turtle Tragedy

First, some background: about a month or so ago, Caroline and I were out and about on one of our Saturday loafing-trips; we'd gone to Chinatown for lunch at King-Wah, and on the way back to the car we encountered this little old Chinese lady with a face like an apple-doll and a little red wagon, from which she was selling an assortment of wares. Among these wares were fresh figs and live turtles. Caroline bought some figs, and on a complete impulse I forked out $15 for a little plastic box with two tiny turtles in it and two bags of turtle-food. And I mean tiny, their shells weren't even an inch long.

When we got to the car, I stared at them, one brighter turtle who was trying desperately to get out of the box, and a slightly duller turtle who was just sitting there very calmy; after a few moments, names occurred to me (that's how I name objects, I stare at them until a name floats up out of my subconscious), Claudius and Agrippa. Though both are technically male names, and I had no way of knowing what sex either turtle was, but I decided that the duller turtle Agrippa was a female and the brighter turtle Claudius a male, in accordance with natural law.

I tried to find something for them to live in when I got home, assuming (correctly) that the little plastic box was much too little to accomodate them. I came across an old serenity fountain that looked big enough, so I set them up in the dining room (the only place with sufficient space) and put some rocks and stuff in there with them. Unfortunately, the fountain was too shallow, they kept getting out... and one time Claudius got all the way out of the fountain and it took me an hour to find him tucked behind one of the pictures on the table.

So the next weekend, Caroline and I stopped at PetCo, and on the advice of the clerk there I bought some proper turtle food, some water conditioner, a couple of water plants, a rock, a basking lamp, and a ten-gallon tank. I also found out, after describing the turtles to the clerk, that they are called Red-Eared Sliders, it's illegal to sell them when they're as small as these two were, and that aquatic turtles often carry salmonella and so I should always carefully wash my hands after touching them, and wash any surface they happen to crawl on.

Turtles aren't very cuddly pets, but I soon got very attached to these two tiny creatures. I noticed after a couple of days, though, that Agrippa was blind, her eyes were filmed over with some opaque material that didn't look very healthy. I probably should have taken her to a vet, but I'd already spent nearly seventy dollars on the habitat, I wasn't going to plunk down another hundred to have her eyes checked.

So fast forward three or four weeks: I was cleaning out Claudius's and Agrippa's tank as I do every week... though I was supposed to do it on Saturday, not Sunday... and all sorts of terrible things happened. For example, when I was washing the tank, I cracked one of the sides! Ack! Now I have to go buy a new tank, and I've only had this one for a few weeks.

So I went on cleaning the rocks and the bathtub and getting everything neatened up, then went to look for something in which to house the turtles until I get a new tank. After a fairly thorough search through my basement and garage and kitchen, I ended up with an old glass mixing bowl. So I put a couple of rocks and a plant in it, figured out a way to rig the basking lamp so they wouldn't freeze, and set it back up in my room.

But when I started to move the turtles back, I discovered that Agrippa had died.

She was always kind of lethargic, not a go-getter of a turtle by any means, but she would always at least move a paw or shake her head when I was moving her from one body of water to another. But I got no response this time. I stroked her shell, prodded her limbs, held her in my hand to warm her blood, tempted her with krill turtle-treats... all to no avail.

It's possible that she's just sleeping rather than dead, so I put her in the travelling-tank (the little plastic box in which they came when I bought them) with some food and placed her under the basking lamp next to Claudius's bowl. But I am not optimistic. She just looks dead.

She also hasn't grown at all, which makes me think maybe she just starved. I thought since the food was disappearing, that they were both eating... but I never saw them doing it (they're very private, all I have to do is look at them for them to freeze up completely or scurry under the rock), I was just assuming. But once I had both of them out of the tank and sitting side-by-side in the sink, I could see that Claudius had grown quite a bit in the last two weeks, while Agrippa doesn't appear to have grown at all.

Actually, right now I'm watching Claudius eat... because of the curve of the bowl, he can't see me looking at him while he's underwater, and he just ate four pellets all by himself. So he'll probably survive.

If Agrippa doesn't wake up by tomorrow, I'm going to call Caroline over (she's become quite attached to the little critters, too) and we'll give her a decent burial in a jewelry box among the calla lilies under the birdbath in the back yard.

Poor little doomed thing.

That's Agrippa on the right, doing what she always does: lying perfectly still.

UPDATE 11/21/07: Yup, she's definitely dead. She started floating during the night, and they're not supposed to float. Caroline and I buried her last night. Much to my surprise, I actually cried a little.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

What with One Thing and Another...

Yes, I've been kind of busy, but mostly I've been kind of out-of-it: tired a lot of the time, getting depressed sometimes, and not feeling very creative or communicative. My temp assignments have been spotty, boring, and far too underpaid... very catch-as-catch-can and unpredictable and disastrous to my already disordered finances, which is where a lot of the bleah feeling is coming from; I think the time has come to get serious about a full-time permanent job now.

Also, I think I've simply lost the knack of blogging. I write a hell of a lot on JUB these days, but I think it's because there's interaction... I'm always responding to something. It's so much easier than just shouting into space. And though I love hearing comments from you, Will and Luis and everyone, it's always after the fact. So I've been reduced to memes. The following was lifted from Dan Renzi.


Explain what ended your last relationship? He didn't love me "that way." Which is to say he wasn't into me. They never are. And I'm having to use "relationship" in a rather loose manner, since were never officially together. It was all in my head.

When was the last time you shaved? Wednesday? Yeah, Wednesday morning. I hate shaving.

What were you doing this morning at 8 a.m.? Sleeping, sort of. The guys started working next door, sawing and hammering and playing salsa on the radio. I dreamed odd dreams.

What were you doing 15 minutes ago? with Miss Madasin, who just got a new computer. I hardly ever I.M., but I was signed in and these things happen.

Are you any good at math? Relatively good at it, I think. I can do long division and simple algebra without much effort. But I'm not so good that I can figure out tips in my head.

Your prom night, what do you remember about it? Junior prom: I remember getting a bad haircut and a touch of sunburn, looking a little like a marshmallow in a white tailcoat, and ordering our evening wrong so that we missed most of the dance and then had an unfashionably late dinner. The food was good, though. Caroline and I had a good time anyway.

Senior prom: all I remember is being dressed wrong. I'd rented a classic black-and-white dinner suit, white jacket and shirt with black everything else; but the stupid rental place gave me white pants and shoes with the white jacket, as well as a black tie and cummberbund . I looked like Mr. Rourke's understudy in a high-school production of Fantasy Island.

The rest is mercifully a blank.

Do you have any famous ancestors? My great-grandfather was a pioneer in the canning industry. And I'm laterally descended from the Mayflower, William Bradford to be exact (via his third daughter Clara, if I remember correctly). That's all I know about.

Have you had to take a loan out for school? Well, I didn't have to... I had grants to cover my tuition and books and most of my transportation, and I had a little part-time job for mad-money; but I didn't want to have to work more than six hours a week, so I took out the loans they offered for spending money and clothes and entertainment and other necessaries... it added up to $25k over three years, and I'll be coughing up $150 a month for the next decade.

Last thing received in the mail? A "friendly reminder" from the bank to pay my credit-card bill. But I already had, so I was able to snap my fingers at it (figuratively, of course... a letter doesn't notice if you snap at it, which rather defeats the purpose of such a gesture).

How many different beverages have you had today? Two? Three? It depends how you count... I've had several cups of coffee, a few glasses of water, and a glass of grapefruit juice. That's three by my reckoning, but I'm not sure if you'd count the water, or if the individual cups of coffee and water were separate beverages. I leave it to you.

Do you ever leave messages on people’s answering machine? Of course! What am I, some kind of savage?

Who did you lose your CONCERT virginity to? Oh, this is embarrassing: the Osmonds. Donny and Marie and their multitudinous siblings (not counting the deaf ones) at the Oakland Coliseum in 1978. I didn't want to go, but my step-sister for whom the ticket had been bought had the chicken-pox and couldn't go, and my parents weren't about to waste ten bucks on an empty seat.

Oh, and by the way, it's "To whom did you lose your concert virginity?"

Do you draw your name in the sand when you go to the beach? God, when was I even at a beach last? But no, no name-writing. I once drew a really big picture of a naked man in the sand, about twenty feet long, with seashell eyes and seaweed pubes, who could only be viewed from the cliff. It was fun.

What’s the most painful dental procedure you’ve had? Molar extraction. Seven shots of novocaine before he resorted to lidocaine, and it turned out the roots of the molar were fused to the jawbone. Hurt like a motherfucker, especially when the tooth, which was cracked, broke apart under the pliers. I was on Vicodin for two weeks afterward.

What is out your back door? The alleyway between our house and the house next door, separated by a short fence and the railing of our back steps.

Any plans for Friday night? Friday was yesterday, and next Friday is too far away to plan for. But I'll hazard a guess and say No, nothing going on Friday. Except for leftover turkey and pie.

Do you like what the ocean does to your hair? No, I do not! I don't like what it does to any part of me. I don't like the ocean at all. Except in Hawaii, and even then I'm always shocked that the water is salty; so clear and blue, it looks like it should taste like Evian.

Have you ever received one of those big tins of 3 different popcorns? No. Other people have received them and shared, but never was one given directly to me. I don't much like popcorn, anyway.

Have you ever been to a planetarium? Yes indeed! The one in the Museum of Natural History in San Francisco. I loved it! Twice!

Do you re-use towels after you shower? I use the same towels until either they smell (which takes a couple of weeks) or until Grandmother changes them (which happens rather more frequently). I've never understood about changing your towels every day, since I only use them to dab clean water off my clean person. It's the dampness that makes them smell, and if your bathroom is ventilated properly, it should take a while for the damp to take root.

Some things you are excited about? I haven't been excited about anything in weeks. I got very excited about my Halloween costume, which was a great success, and before that I was excited about a job prospect that didn't pan out and was a great disappointment. I don't get excited much, and can't think of a single thing to be excited about right now.

What is your favorite flavor of JELL-O? Raspberry.

Describe your keychain(s)? "Boring" just about covers it. Two keys to the house, a big fat black-handled key to the car, a black car-remote fob, and a little blue rubber tag from the car dealership.

Where do you keep your change? I put it in my pocket, then when I get home, I leave it in my pocket, where it either falls out on the floor or comes out in the wash. Sometimes, if I remember, I put it in the ashtray of the car for use at parking meters. Sometimes if I have a lot of change, I'll put it in this green bowl I have near the door in my room. And when I clean, I pick up all the coins that have fallen out of my pockets and put it in a coffee-can. Last time I emptied the coffee can, I made $173 at the Coinstar.

When was the last time you spoke in front of a large group of people? How large is "large"? I speak at AA meetings all the time (or rather, I used to, when I went to meetings regularly, a habit I have woefully fallen out of), and that's usually about twenty guys or more. A couple of years ago, I read the Promises at the Living Sober Conference, which was just over a thousand people, but I was reading rather than speaking. I can't think of much else.

What kind of winter coat do you own? I have a few, for different kinds of winter. For real winter weather, the serious cold-and-wet-and-windy, I have a big blue parka, hip-length treated cotton with a quilted flannel lining and attached hood; for less severe or specific kinds of weather, I also have a flannel-lined camel microfiber trenchcoat, a green GoreTex raincoat, and a brown suede motorcycle jacket.

What was the weather like on your graduation day? From high school? Sunny and warm. From University? Partly cloudy and cool.

Do you sleep with the door to your room open or closed? Closed. I like my privacy when I'm nude, and I usually sleep nude.


So there you go, another set of completely useless information about me. I feel better! Don't you?

Now for something we'll all enjoy (I found this picture last week and fell in love with it, I even use it as my message-board avatar):

Sunday, October 29, 2006


As promised, pictures of little me in my pirate drag:

And Caroline in her Polynesian dancing costume.

More pictures were taken; anything better than the above will be shared.

We were both big hits at the party (which was fabulous, by the bye), and I felt dead sexy the whole time. Definitely worth all the energy and cash I invested. I want to wear it some more now! I will probably wear it Halloween night, but since I'm going to be sitting home doling out sweets to undeserving children, I probably won't feel quite so special. I'll have to brush up on my pirate jargon to amuse the kiddies, though. Shiver me timbers!

So anyway, Happy Halloween to you!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Untitled Entry

Hey, kids! Sorry to have been out of touch for so long, but life has been... well, not exactly hectic so much as surprisingly time-consuming. I've been feeling tired a lot lately, largely I think due to the fact that my work (which was so exciting and busy as of our last printing) quickly devolved into an utter drudgery of daily filing after we moved back to our regular office: there's simply nothing more wearying than daily boredom. I've also continued putting on weight (I'm up to 255 lbs. now), and I think it's contributing to my tiredness, too... it's no picnic schlepping all this extraneous avoirdupois around with me.

So anyway, I get home from work too tired to do much of anything. I participate a little on the message boards, I eat dinner, I watch a little TV, I go to bed at nine. Not very exciting. Nothing to write home about, nor to write anywhere else. Hence no writing.

Well, my stint at OUSD finally came to an end last week, and I was immediately reassigned to Coca-Cola, doing reception and switchboard at the Oakland corporate office. It was kind of fun, I got to wear neckties, and the work was incredibly easy. It was a little boring, especially since they didn't give me computer access, but they let me do whatever I wanted behind the desk otherwise... I read a lot of magazines, and some fiction, and even took up sketching to fill in the blank hours... I haven't sketched in years, I forgot how to do a lot of it, but was surprised how good I was after so many years of not doing it at all.

Unfortunately, just as I was getting used to the pace and improving my sketching and getting some letters written and even writing a couple of vignettes for the book (by hand, can you imagine?), my assignment there came to a sudden end: the regular receptionist's jury duty let out earlier than expected, so they didn't need me anymore. And now here I am with an unexpected day off, maybe an unexpected several days.

Aside from doing some laundry and some living-room-cleaning, I'm going to try and catch up on some writing. I haven't touched Worst Luck in ages, and I really have got the fire in my belly right now to do some fiction.

On the other hand, right now I'd rather have the paycheck than the opportunity to exercise the muse. I splurged quite a bit on my Halloween costume, investing nearly three hundred dollars into an outfit for one night (not counting the staggering fees I got slapped with when I overdrew my bank account last week due to this folly). Fortunately, I am going to look so damned fabulous come Halloween that it might all be worth it... I'll post pictures as soon as I have them.

But at any rate, unemployment is not as comfortable as it might have been if I'd kept it in my pants (the money, I mean). Oh, well, we take what we're given... I really did need an opportunity to get this laundry done, I haven't got a damned thing to wear. I hope your day is going better than you expected! Love and hugs!

Sunday, September 3, 2006

A Bookish Meme

Well, my friends, shortly after writing the previous post, all Hell done broke loose at my work. For the whole following week we were so busy that we had to hire more temps, and all of us worked an hour and a half of overtime every day. No only did I not have the time or energy to write, I frequently skipped my breaks because I couldn't leave so many people needing to be helped.

And though I would get home so tired that I could barely sit upright, I really enjoyed the work. The pace was so frenetic, yet the activity so neatly organized, that I simply didn't have time to think from eight a.m. to five-thirty. And as an escapist, I always enjoy an opportunity to not think.

But after school started, we had just one day of complete overwhelming activity (more than we'd had on any day the previous week), made up largely of parents who hadn't realized that they couldn't just show up at the school on the first day and drop their kids off. The line to register went out the door, down the hall, down a staircase, and halfway up the hall below... and these are pretty spacious halls, too, so that line was about a hundred yards long. Going over our sign-in sheets at the end of the day, we discovered that we had served more than five hundred families in that one day and registered or transfered nearly a thousand students.

After that, it petered down to a trickle much like the first weeks, mostly people who had just recently moved here, and those who had registered their children at one school but didn't care for it once it got started and wanted to try something else. We are expecting another rush on Tuesday, since the traditional starting time for schools is the day after Labor Day, but it's going to be small potatoes from here on out.

So maybe I'll get some more writing done. I have started an outline for the rest of the book, but I haven't quite made up my mind how to pace the second half, and am not entirely sure how to incorporate the different facets of the investigation into a final unveiling. I'm also a little unsure how to proceed with the developing romantic relationships, since romantic relationships aren't exactly something I know a lot about. I'll just have to keep slogging along and wait for inspiration to strike.

In the meantime, here's a nice little meme I snagged from Jeffrey, which I thought you might enjoy (and which gives me a chance to schill for Amazon... all of the following links go there):


One book that changed your life: Odd as it might sound, I got the most profoundly life-changing experience from reading Anne Rice's Memnoch the Devil. It gave me a very different way of looking at God and religion and evolution that completely altered the way I thought about these things, which in turn led me to a spiritual relationship with a Higher Power that has radically altered the quality of my life. It wasn't that Rice gave me a God I could believe in, rather she suggested a way of looking at God that was so different from what I was taught that I was able to finally divorce my mind from the God of my upbringing (who is an asshole).

One book you have read more than once: I always read books more than once, unless they're truly dreadful. But one that I've read so many times that my first paperback copy fell apart and I had to buy it again in hardback so I could read it a few more times is The Persian Boy by Mary Renault. It's about the conquests of Alexander the Great, told by his eunuch lover Bagoas. That book really speaks to me, and I never get tired of it.

One book on a desert island: The Oxford English Dictionary, the great big tiny-printed one with the magnifying glass. That could keep me fully entertained while I slowly went out of my mind from loneliness.

One book that made you laugh: Oh, so many books make me laugh... I love comic novels. The entire Jeeves & Wooster series by P.G. Wodehouse, for example, can always be relied upon for a good guffaw. And Jeffrey's recommendation for Blue Heaven is dead on (though I still think the follow-up novel, Putting on the Ritz is funnier). But for sheer side-splitting hilarity all in one volume, David Sedaris's Me Talk Pretty One Day is the absolute best.

One book that made you cry: Greg Herren's Murder in the Rue St Ann. The ending was so sad! It's the only time a book has ever made me cry. I generally only cry at movies, and in self-pity... books are too internal and slow-moving to evoke such emotions.

One book you wish you had written: Aside from the one I'm writing now? (Oh how I wish I could get to the past tense on that) I can't really think of anything... though there are times I've read an author and wished I could write like that. Alan Hollinghurst, for example, or Stephen Fry. But I can't think of a particular book. Well, I guess I might wish I'd written the Harry Potter series, I could totally use the money.

One book you wish had never been written: I can't think of a book whose existence I would wish to negate... not even the Bible or the Q'uran (I would wish to negate the existence of certain people who use those books as a justification for their own evil, but the books aren't evil themselves). I have read a few books that were so badly written that I wish they'd never been published... I just can't find the titles right now, I've either packed them away or sold them back to the store long since.

One book you are currently reading: I just finished Christian McLaughlin's Glamourpuss, and have just started rereading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (just because I found it when I was looking for something else on the floor near my bed). I'm eyeing Leon Uris' Trinity for my next attempt, I bought the book at a yard sale years ago and have never even looked inside it. I don't even know what it's about or whether or not it's supposed to be any good... I only noticed it today because I was wondering why there was this one green leaf on an otherwise quite dead plant that I haven't watered in six months at least, and the big blue book was right next to the plant.

One book you have been meaning to read: Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past (or In Search of Lost Time, whichever you prefer). I know that's not one book, it's eight or nine, but I think of them as this monolithic single object. I've always wanted to read The Lord of the Rings, but I don't think I ever will... I tried twice, and it bored me stupid. But everyone else has read it, and I feel left out.


I'm supposed to tag five others, but I don't think five people read this blog with any regularity anymore. So I'll just tag Dana Marie and leave the other spots as open invitation to anyone who reads me.

So now I'm going back to bed. It's Labor Day Weekend, and I've picked up a slight cold from the thousands upon thousands of people with whom I've had to share an enclosed space over the last ten days, so I'm trying to take it easy as much as I can for as long as I can. Hope you're having a fun holiday!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

In the Mornings, We Goldbrick

So here I am, back at the old post, literally. After six weeks of unemployment (temp assignments tend to become scarce in the summer, when larger companies can get their grunt work done by interns), my agency sent me right back to the school district, though fortunately to a different department. So now I'm part of a rather large team of temps up in the ballroom/auditorium at the top of the building (one of the ugliest and most poorly-proportioned rooms I've ever been in, though just what you'd expect at the top of one of the ugliest buildings I've ever seen), registering new and transferring K-8 students for the next few weeks.

I quite enjoy the work, one gets the sensation of actually helping people, and there is enough variety in the requests and issues that I don't have a chance to get bored, but not so much variety that I get overwhelmed. I do get rather drained, psychically, interacting with so many strangers during the course of a day, especially since a lot of them are angry or frustrated, which always rubs off on me and makes me anxious. Still, I'm liking the assignment.

The best part is that it's almost always incredibly slow in the mornings. And when it's slow, there isn't anything to do, so I've been able to do some writing. Quite a lot of writing, actually... I finished the rough draft of Chapter 7 at Worst Luck, with Part 2 (which I actually posted a couple of months ago) and Part 3 up and ready for your perusal. After almost a year of not publishing, it feels wonderful to have some movement here again. If only I knew what the next chapter was going to be like, I could get to work on it.

As always, feedback is encouraged and appreciated!

Well, there's not much else to report. And the morning is just about over, it's starting to hop in here, so I guess I'll close up and get to work. Mille bacci!

(UPDATE EDITION) PS: I just had an Odwalla Super Protein Matcha-Licious soy drink with green tea for lunch, and it was far and away the nastiest thing I have ever put in my mouth. Just thought I'd warn you. And now for a little something pretty to take the bad taste out, the babe-licious Marcus Schenkenberg (pre-Surreal Life, naturally):

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The OLOGY Meme

So here we are again. I don't have a hell of a lot to talk about, or at least nothing I feel like talking about, so I've done the usual: borrowed a meme from DM at GreenDuckies. Enjoy!


What is your salad dressing of choice? Honey Mustard.

What is your favorite fast food restaurant? Boston Market.

What is your favorite sit down restaurant? The Cheesecake Factory. It is almost ironic, though, that I don't like cheesecake. But their food is wonderful, the service is really good, and the other desserts are just fabulous.

On average, what size tip do you leave at a restaurant? I almost always leave 20%. If the service was merely perfunctory, I go to 15% (I've never had bad service); if someone in my party has made a nuisance of him- or herself, I'll bump it up to 25% to salve my embarrassment.

What food could you eat every day for two weeks and not get sick of? I don't really think there is one. I get sick of things so quickly. But for the sake of argument I'll say cheese and crackers with fruit.

Name three foods you detest above all others. Avocadoes, celery, and squash.

What is your favorite dish to order in a Chinese restaurant? Steamed salmon with asparagus in black-bean sauce. Or else orange chicken. Or maybe honey-walnut scallops. I love Chinese food.

What are your pizza toppings of choice? Linguica, artichoke hearts, and olives.

What do you like to put on your toast? Whatever it will hold... butter of course (it isn't toast without butter), and jelly or apple-butter or peanut-butter and bananas.

What is your favorite type of gum? I don't chew gum. It bores me.


Number of contacts in your cell phone? Hell if I know. I could go get my phone and count them, but I don't want to.

Number of contacts in your email address book? Again, I don't really know. I have three different email address books, I've added people rather indiscriminately over the years, and I've never cleaned any of them out.

What is your wallpaper on your computer? I use Webshots as my wallpaper program, which shuffles between hundreds upon hundreds of pictures, changing the wallpaper every four hours. My selections are of scenery I like, flowers, castles and other architecture, and of course hunky underclad men. Right this minute, though, I am displaying some decayed-looking Irish castle:

What is your screensaver on your computer? Same as the above, except when in screensaver mode it shuffles through the pictures every thirty seconds.

Are there naked pictures saved on your computer? Oh, not really, only about 2.5 gigabytes. The average picture is about 100k, so that's about, what, twenty-five thousand pictures? That's not a lot, is it?

How many land line phones do you have in your house? Just one line, with two extensions... one in the kitchen and a portable that floats around the house.

How many televisions are in your house? Four... one in my room, one in the Grandmother's room, and two in the living room (one for watching and one for playing video games).

What kitchen appliance do you use the least? The bread machine? The Fry-Daddy? The electric skillet? The automatic rotisserie? We have lots of small appliances we never use. But of the large appliances, the one I use the least is the dishwasher. I hate doing dishes.

What is the format of the radio station you listen to the most? Classical music (KDFC 102.1). But I don't really listen to it much, it's mostly ambient noise.

How many sex toys do you own that require batteries? Just one. And none that don't. Actually, it doesn't require batteries, they just make it vibrate, which is more entertaining than utilitarian. If a sex-toy can, indeed, be considered utilitarian.


What do you consider to be your best physical attribute? My brain is by far the most useful and well-developed part of my body. Or, if we're limiting ourselves to external physical attributes, I'll say my skin: it's very soft and smooth.

Are you right-handed or left-handed? Some of each... I was born left-handed but taught to write and draw with my right hand. So my left side is stronger, I tend to pick things up with my left hand, and use my left hand for anything that requires strength or stamina; but my right side is more agile, I use my right hand for anything requiring delicacy or a steady touch.

Do you like your smile? Oh, God, no. I look like a rotting jack-o-lantern when I smile, all lopsided and a little bit scary.

Have you ever had anything removed from your body? In order: testicular duct cyst, age 18 months; two canine teeth growing upward in the roof of my mouth, age 9; lymph node under the chin which turned out to be infected with tuberculosis from a cat scratch, age 15; wisdom teeth, age 22; middle lower left molar, age 34 (the rest of my teeth are coming out within the next year or so).

Would you like to have anything removed from your body? I wouldn't mind having all this damned disgusting fat sucked out, and some of the extra skin tailored off. I have no qualms about liposuction, and if I could afford it, I'd be all tight skin and visible bones right now.

Do you prefer to read when you go to the bathroom? I keep a lot of magazines, Readers' Digest and Vogue and Vanity Fair in there... I don't do a lot of reading, though, just short bits and looking at pictures. I'm not there for all that long at a time.

Which of your five senses do you think is keenest? Smell. I can smell the subtlest differences in things, I can smell things from a great distance, and I can often tell the ingredients of my food by sniffing it.

When was the last time you had a cavity? I have one now, actually. It's very small, though; and since I'm having them all removed soon, anyway, I don't feel like getting it taken care of unless it starts to hurt. I haven't had a cavity filled for a couple of years.

What is the heaviest item you lift regularly? My great blubbery carcass? Hoisting myself out of a chair has become something of an olympic event. But if we mean inanimate objects, I'll say the Grandmother's mattress. She likes to change her sheets once a week, but she can't lift the corners of the bed anymore to get the fitted sheets on, so I always make the bed for her.

Have you ever been knocked unconscious? No. I've always wanted to, though.


If it were possible, would you want to know the day you were going to die? Nah, I'd prefer to be surprised.

If you could change your first name, what would you change it to? Richard. People call me that all the time, anyway, it might reduce confusion. Or else Charles, which is what I would have been named if Grandmother had gotten her way about naming my father.

How do you express your artistic side? I write, and I perform in drag.

What color do you think you look best in? Blue, I think. Maybe red. Actually, I look best in black, but people get all pantsy about whether or not black is a color. I say it is, but it's so controversial I try to avoid it.

How long do you think you could last in a medium security prison? I don't know... I'm fairly adaptable, but then I also don't deal well with tacky people. All I can say is that I don't intend to ever find out.

Have you ever swallowed a non-food item by mistake? Not by mistake, no. Oh, wait, I did once swallow a baby-tooth that fell out while I was eating a muffin, I guess that's technically non-food.

If we weren’t bound by society’s conventions, do you have a relative you would make a pass at? Hmmmm... my nephew's pretty cute. And I have a distant cousin I've long had the hots for. Of course, they're both straight, so it wouldn't matter, would it?

How often do you go to church? Just about every week. Although I'm not myself a Christian, I started driving Grandmother to church several years ago as an ongoing Ninth Step; and though at first it was a painful chore, I've since convinced Grandmother to change from the San Leandro congregation to the Walnut Creek congregation, and have gotten where I rather enjoy it... much nicer people, the sermons are always very interesting, and there's almost always one really cute boy to look at: my current church eye-candy is the boy on the right in this video (isn't he adorable? My attraction is completely non-sexual, though... he's pretty like flowers are pretty or vases are pretty... so I don't feel guilty gazing at him in church). And we always go to brunch afterward. It's kind of a nice family ritual we have.

Have you ever saved someone’s life? Not so far as I'm aware.

Has someone ever saved yours? My mother pulled me out of the Stanislaus River when my stepfather tried to teach me to swim, at the age of about seven or eight, by the Sink-or-Swim Method: flinging me off a rock into a very deep pool. I opted for Sink, mostly to spite him and also because it was very beautiful under the water. I'm pretty sure that's the closest to death I've ever been.

Would you walk naked for a half mile down a public street for $100,000? Do I get to wear shoes, or at least flip-flops? Is it warm enough out? Can I have sunscreen? If so, then I probably would.

Would you kiss a member of the same sex for $100? Uh, yeah? Hell, I'd pay him! But yeah, I'd kiss anybody for $100. Men, women, dogs, reptiles, whatever. Kissing isn't that big of a deal.

Would you have sex with a member of the same sex for $10,000? Darn tootin'! And a member of the opposite sex. I'd do both at once. I'd feel uncomfortable, and they definitely wouldn't be getting their money's worth, but I'd be willing to do it.

Would you allow one of your little fingers to be cut off for $200,000? No. Thank God, I do have limits! But I have a terrible fear of being dismembered, even on so small a scale. Maybe for two million, but still I don't know. The idea makes me very queasy.

Would you never blog again for $50,000? Hmmmm... yeah, I think so. It's not like I do this all the time anymore. And it's not like I have this big readership depending on me. And it's not like I don't have other things to do with my time and thoughts. So yeah, I definitely would.

Would you pose naked in a magazine for $250,000? Sho'nuff! Though I can't imagine why anybody'd want me to. And I'd hate every minute of it. But I don't worry about people seeing me naked, I just don't like being naked.

Would you drink an entire bottle of hot sauce for $1000? That sounds really painful; I doubt I'd be able to carry it off without hurling or passing out. But yeah, I'd certainly try.

Would you, without fear of punishment, take a human life for $1,000,000? No, I don't think so. Even the life of someone I felt was nothing but a canker in the eye of humanity. I just don't think I could bring myself to do it.

Would you shave your head and get your entire body waxed for $5,000? I've always wanted to get my whole body waxed... so I'd do that for free. And head-shaving? Sure, why not? I've long been curious what my skull looks like, I haven't seen it since I was five.

Would you give up watching television for a year for $25,000? Oh, fuck yeah! I don't watch that much television anyway. But I would keep it a secret... I dislike when people say they never watch television, like they're somehow better than everyone else.

But you know, all of the above is kind of sticky... with my finances the way they are, I'd do just about anything for large sums of money. To give you an idea of how strapped I am: I'd perform anilingus on Dick Cheney for enough money to get out of debt (about $35k). Any more than that is just gravy!

Okay, I added that one. But it was the easiest segue I could think of to the end of the post.

But before I go, I must admit something that slightly embarrasses me: I have fallen suddenly and very deelply in love with Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco. I don't really care about the music, it's cute and fluffy and the words don't make sense; but the videos have a very lush and vaguely gothic aesthetic, and all four of the boys are just ever-so-pretty-pretty.

But Brendon in particular (pix here, here, and here), I just want to put stuff in that boy's mouth... strawberries, chocolates, spoonfuls of pudding, whatever comes to hand. Here he is looking unspeakable in their latest video: But It's Better If You Do.

And now back to our regularly scheduled beefcake:

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Do They Make a Pill for This?

It will come as no surprise to you, my faithful longtime readers, that I occasionally go a little bit overboard with the eBay. But for those just joining us, I will summarize: I almost always have some eBay obsession going on at any given moment, and that obsession tends to get stronger in direct counterproportion to how much money I can afford to spend.

For the last few years, I have been almost solely interested in vintage costume jewelry, then Suzanne Somers jewelry, as well as other rhinestone or CZ jewelry, vintage furs with heads and tails intact, and beaded evening gowns... drag stuff, essentially. Then when I started this new phase in my life, I went nuts buying argyle sweater-vests and dress-shirts and cute loafers... my office-boy drag. But for the last little while, I have been obsessed with two new things.

I've been collecting elephants, rather casually, for years... I like elephants, I think they're cute, there's something about them that appeals to me (it has been suggested that the trunk is a phallic symbol, but I'm not so sure that's why). I chose my domain host because it has an elephant as a logo; I've loathed the Republicans for coopting the noble beasts; and I get really angry when people think I'm a Republican when they see a piece of my elephant collection.

My first elephant was a stylized crystal one that Grandmother gave me on my 12th birthday, which I still have. And when I told Caroline and JB that I like elephants, a couple of years ago, they both started giving me elephants as gifts... mostly little ones, the kinds of things you find in import shops and the like. I have some fertility elephants from Africa (carved in fretwork to show a miniature elephant inside), a couple of mirror-jeweled elephants from India, a somewhat crudely carved wooden elephant from Tepic, Mexico covered in bright-colored beads, an enameled keepsake box with a jeweled pink elephant on top (I have a particular fetish for pink elephants, by the way, because of the whole alcoholic thing), and several porcelain elephants of various vintages and provenances. I even have a Beanie Baby elephant and a marcasite elephant pendant and a couple of Ganesha idols littered around my room.

But lately, just in the last couple of months, I've been on an elephant binge. I keep finding them in unlikely places and am unable to resist buying them. I've probably doubled my collection since April. I now have Lenox salt-and-pepper elephants, elephant bookends, a giant stuffed fuzzy pink elephant meant for a baby's crib (and absolutely the most comfortable pillow on my bed), an elephant pedestal, a pair of porcelain elephant boxes, a painted stoneware elephant, a tin and wood miniature rocking-horse elephant, a cast-iron elephant pen-holder, et cetera.

But here's where the obsession part comes in: one day at work, where I do a lot of browsing around on eBay during the slow moments, I came across this little gem:

Isn't he the cutest thing you ever saw? And he has my initial right there on his ear! It's like he was made just for me! The opening bid was only $15, so I put it on my watch list with every intention of buying it, and I checked on it every few hours to enjoy the sight of him.

A few days later, a couple of hours before the auction ended, I was surprised that the bidding had already gone up to $37. For this little thing? It's only three and a half inches tall, for chrissakes. I had only been willing to go as high as $25 for it; what's so special about it to anybody besides me? So I looked up some of the words used in the title to see if it was a collectible I'd never heard of, and soon discovered that I was in way over my head: Wien Augarten porcelain is some of the finest in the world, and it commands very high prices, even on eBay.

"But I looooooooove him!" my inner shopping-addict wailed, "He's so cuuuuuuuuute!" After a quick conference with Caroline (always the wrong person to go to if you want to be talked out of buying something) and a short wrestling match between the inner shopping addict and the last vestiges of my prudent Capricorn nature, I decided that I would bid as high as $80. For a wee porcelain elephant, eminently collectable and unspeakably adorable but so very very small!

Well, after all my justification and bother, it didn't matter: I was outbid in the final thirty seconds of the auction; then that bidder was outbid in the final five seconds of the auction. The elephant finally went for $115. I was simply out of my league, a casual elephant collector with few resources up against rabid moneyed Augarten collectors.

Fortunately, eBay has this little mechanism whereby they present you with several other items that they think you might like, every time you lose an auction (which happens so infrequently that I'd forgotten they do that). And amongst all the way-out-of-my-league Augarten items in the conciliatory selection, there was this little guy, who isn't Augarten, but is from Vienna and is an elephant:

So maybe he isn't quite as adorable as the Augarten elephant, but he's still awfully cute! Jolly, even; and twice the size of the other. And I got him for $2, plus $5 shipping! I also got the Lenox salt-and-pepper shakers at the same time, which are gorgeous and only cost $10.

I decided after that close shave with the Augarten collectors, that maybe I ought to stay away from elephants on eBay. But I was still on eBay, as there aren't very many sites of much interest that I can access from work (we have these filters that block time-wasters and porn). So I poked around looking for things that I might like to look at but would be unlikely to buy... like furniture, or fine jewelry, or vintage automobiles (I do the same thing in real life... if I have no money to spend, I do my window-shopping in places like Sak's and Nieman's, Tiffany and Cartier, places where I can't afford anything at all).

And like most of my plans, it finally went astray.

Something you might not know about me is that I have for most of my life been fascinated by miniatures and dollhouses. In fact, I am fascinated by anything that's supposed to be big being small, and vice versa. Gulliver's Travels always caught my fancy, as did The Incredible Shrinking Man; I longed for giant novelty pencils or grains of rice with Bible verses written on them. I could play for hours just with Barbie's shoes.

Have you ever read The Borrowers? It was a series of books by Mary Norton (who also wrote Bedknobs & Broomsticks) about a clan of tiny people who lived under the floorboards and between the walls of an English country-house; their furnishings and utensils were mostly adapted from the sorts of small things one might lose around a house, wooden matches and matchboxes and toothpicks and hatpins and blotting paper and stamps and birthday candles... they sat on thread spools or ring-boxes, they slept in jewelry cases, they ate off of pennies and old bottle-caps and drank out of thimbles.

The whole thing entranced me; I read the entire series in the sixth grade, several times each, and spent the next two years creating my own Borrowers' House out of shoe-boxes and fabric samples and game-pieces and anything else I could lay my hands on. About the same time, I found a store called The Dollhouse Lady, near my mother's house where I spent every other weekend in accordance with the terms of the custody agreement, which sold dollhouses and miniature furniture. I went to that store every time I got a chance and just stared and stared at the beautiful little creations, complete with electric lights and working machinery and tiny perfectly-dressed dolls eating dainty plaster food from real china plates as thin as a contact lens.

The thing is, I was so fascinated by The Borrowers and The Dollhouse Lady that I completely forgot about my first experience with dollhouses... forgot it so completely that when I was trolling around on eBay and started looking at dollhouse miniatures without any intention of ever buying any, I was thunderstruck when the memory returned to me, full-blown and almost shocking in its perfection of detail.

When I was small, about five or so, there was a toy that I loved to play with when we visited my mother's parents up in Twain Harte... it was a lithographed tin dollhouse filled with single-cast thin plastic furniture, late-50s vintage, which had been my mother's when she was little. I loved that house so much, I enjoyed just looking at it after I'd arranged the furniture, I could fondle the pieces and gaze spellbound for hours.

Later on, my sister Suzie and I both received Fisher Price Play Family houses, she the suburban home and I the vacation A-frame, as Christmas presents (our cousins David and Billy got the schoolhouse and the barn, completing the set). These toys were considered much safer, I suppose, made of masonite and plastic with no sharp edges, the little people mere pegs of wood with spherical plastic heads and extremely minimalist features, the furniture clunky and unattractive with little holes in which to place the peg-people.

Nevertheless, I loved these toys... the little furniture, the decorations painted on the walls and floors, the closet under the moveable staircase where you could hide things (I'd quite forgotten about them until just now when I was looking up a link). We had another full set here at Grandmother's, but we had the airport and the houseboat instead of the barn and schoolhouse.

I played with these well into late childhood, and incorporated the pieces into later toys, such as Lego and Playmobil (which was a little more detailed and therefore a little more fascinating... I had Lego and Erector sets as well as the Playmobil King Arthur playset). When I graduated up to my Borrower fixation, bits of all those playsets were incorporated into the warrenlike cardboard palace that grew atop my dresser; that fixation lasted until we moved out of that house into another and the whole thing had to be taken apart... I had the parts and thought about putting it back together, but then I discovered masturbation at thirteen, which took up all my spare time.

With so many toys being replaced by and incorporated into newer toys, it's no wonder I forgot all about the tin dollhouse with the plastic furniture at mother's parents'. But come that fateful day, a few weeks ago, I was cursorily glancing through dollhouse miniatures and came across one just like the one we had in Twain Harte.

The brand name is Marx, by the way, and I was instantly sucked into the really huge selection of vintage Marx dollhouses and furniture that were available. Eventually I started to bid on things, and was having a hard time... apparently I'm not the only one who pines to recapture a bit of his childhood, Marx has its own eBay category. I was after a fully-furnished two-story colonial, and nothing else would do; and though such auctions usually started around $20, they usually ended well over $100. One such house, complete with all of its pieces and its original box, went for nearly $500.

There were also these other brand-names that would come up in lots with Marx pieces, Renwal and Plasco and Ideal... I had to do research to find out what made them different. I learned that Renwal pieces (which are much nicer than the Marx pieces, being cast from a harder thinner plastic, in assembled parts for more realism and greater detail) were on a larger scale than the Marx pieces I remembered; furthermore, there were different Marx lines, soft plastic and hard plastic and Little Hostess and Princess Petite, each on different scales themselves.

This was all very dizzying, but I tried to concentrate only on the Marx pieces that were not Little Hostess or Princess Petite... and though I was able to nail down a couple of loose box-lots containing the furniture I remembered, I couldn't get a house I wanted, being contantly outbid at the last minute every time I tried. Eventually, though, this one turned up:

It was about the right kind (though the one we had was lithographed with blue clapboard over a fieldstone first-floor) and it came with a lot of furniture and a few little extras; and though it was rather expensive at $165, it was a "Buy It Now" auction, so I could just get it and not have to worry about getting outbid again (which is just horribly frustrating). So after a little dithering (dare I spend so much on something so frivolous? Where will I put it? What will I tell Grandmother?) I went ahead and bought it.

Well, when it turned up (oh, yeah, the shipping was $70, since they sent the 38"x18"x12" object assembled in an appliance box, making my grand total for this particular folly $215), I was thrilled and elated and unpacked it and set up the card-table and started playing with it right away... but I was also just a tiny bit disappointed: you see, the house and furniture I bought were on a different, larger scale than the other Marx furniture I bought, the Marx furniture I remember from childhood.

So it turns out that the Louis Marx Company of New York NY had two nearly identical lines in different scales: the soft-plastic furniture in a lithographed tin house at 1/2" scale, and hard-plastic furniture in a lithographed tin house at 3/4" scale (which was the same scale as the Renwal and Ideal furniture of the same period), in addition to the Little Hostess and Princess Petite lines, which I now know to be 1" scale (the standard in dollhouse miniatures, wherein one inch equals one foot). The tin houses cannot be differentiated by sight, I had to learn the height differences in order to tell them apart.

So now two new avenues of obsession opened up for me: I could seek out more furniture for the house I have, taking advantage of the superior aesthetics of the Renwal line, as well as searching for a 1/2" scale house to fit the 1/2" scale furniture I bought to go with the house I wanted in the first place. Yay! More endless searching and imprudent buying!

Anyway, I ended up buying a couple of slightly beat-up Renwal lots from their late 40s "Jolly Twins" line, which was sold in complete rooms, including the walls and floor made of lithographed cardboard; I bought the living room and bedroom, but not the kitchen and bath (I was starting to redevelop some prudence, and these things eventually ended at $35 each). And then yesterday I found another "Buy It Now" house, this one with most of the original furniture in the correct 1/2" scale as well as the original family figures (though of later vintage, circa 1970, but it has working doors and windows), for $50. So now I have two dollhouses and two spare loose rooms and more furniture than I can shake a stick at.

And of course you know that, after browsing around in the real wood dollhouse miniatures listings on eBay, I'm going to have to get involved with them next time I have the time and money. There are dizzyingly grand house kits, there are brands of exquisite furniture, there are antiques and reproductions... it's a whole world of wee tiny miniscule magic!

I think what I need to do, though, is get the hell off eBay. This week I ordered a new evening gown custom made for Ducal Ball (which is coming up in July), and I bought an extravagant new wig to go with it, as well as a new necklace... there goes my state tax refund (my federal tax refund mostly went to the above insanity, though I did put a larger chunk of it into savings and my credit balance).

So maybe I should spend a little more time here, instead. But this isn't the easiest thing to do at work, it's so distracting. I can spend an hour or so without doing any work at all while I'm writing, though on eBay I can work for ten minutes and browse for two and go back to work and come back to browsing, switching back and forth without getting too mentally involved in either.

On the other hand, I have managed to get back to work on Worst Luck. I posted Chapter 7 Part 2 a few weeks ago, started my third rewrite of Part 3, and am thinking about the developing plotline more frequently. In fact, I'm even dreaming about the characters, something I only do when I'm really involved on a subconscious level with the story.

So if you have a mo', go check out the new post... it's not very long or very interesting, unless you're interested in the mechanical factors of a murder mystery. And hopefully I'll have Part 3 done within the next month or so. It will take some time to build up momentum again, but I think I have a lot of the blockages worked out that stopped me last year.

Well, back to work with me. Or maybe I'll take a quick snack break... there's ice cream in the freezer that I got at lunch, I think I'll go eat it (it's starting to get warm here). Cheers!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Kill Whitey

You may have noticed, if you've read through this website with any regularity or depth, that I have a lot of pet peeves. There are grammar peeves like misusing who and whom or ending sentences with prepositions, and there are domestic peeves like squeezing the toothpaste in the middle or folding towels in halves instead of thirds, and there are roadway peeves like going the speed limit in the left lane or coming to a complete stop before turning a corner.

But there's this one pet peeve that comes up every now and again to send me spinning with picayune rage... the use of the word "White" to describe an ethnicity. I don't know why this bugs me so much, but it gets right up my nose.

I mean, the whole point of such PC phrases as African-American or Asian-American is that they describe a person's cultural ethnicity rather than his or her skin-color. So why can't people pony up with European-American at the same time? It's no harder to say, and it's infinitely more descriptive.

But oftentimes I'll be filling out a form of some kind, and there are boxes for African-American, Asian, Hispanic, Native-American, Pacific Islander, etc., on and on and on in all sorts of different permutations, punctuated by the pithy catch-all "White"... which includes a lot of different ethnicities, Nordic to Semitic, from Europe and Asia and Africa and the Americas. And it pisses me off. So much so that I've gotten in the habit of checking the "Decline to State" box (which demographically counts as White, anyway, but at least I got my say in).

And "White" isn't the only gross generalization... those little boxes cover all sorts of vagueness. I mean, "Asian" means anyone from the continent of Asia, from Turkey or Iran or India or China, but in general usage it only means those of the Asiatic (or in old-fashioned parlance "Mongoloid") genotype, leaving the whole Western half of Asia without a continent to call its own. Furthermore, what about all those islands? Is a Japanese person a Pacific Islander or an Asian? For that matter, where does it leave the Britons, neither exactly European nor particularly Oceanian?

Would a person whose parents or grandparents emigrated from Ethiopia or the Sudan be the same ethnicity as a person whose great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents were hauled to America in slave ships? And how does "Hispanic" (which in Latin means Spanish) exactly describe people from every part of the Western Hemisphere south of the US border? Isn't there an ethnic difference between a Peruvian from an Andean jungle village and a Mexican from a Yucatan beachfront city? It's a sea of confusion, that's what it is.

But then, when you come right down to it, having to classify ethnicity at all is kind of an asshole thing to do. The fact that it still matters whether or not a person is black or white (or brown or yellow or red, or Latino or Oriental or Indian, or whatever un-PC word you want to use... and don't even get me fucking started on the insulting PC catchall "people of color") just irritates me. You can't stop racism by making a big to-do about race... but then you can't correct the effects of the last two or three centuries of American racism without making a big to-do about race, either.

I mean, there was a time not that long ago when White Men (and by "White Men" I mean "European-American Christian socionormative males whose ancestors had been in the States for more than three generations") ran everything in this country, subjugating and repressing everyone else as hard as they could for as long as they could.

But then people started wondering why White Men were in charge, what special talents they had which others lacked. And they realized there was no reason, it's just the way it was, the way things had turned out. Since there was no rationale for the status quo, it had to be changed: and so the Civil Rights Movement was born. And out of the Civil Rights Movement came a far-reaching and idealistic reparative policy designed to right the wrongs of the previous two centuries, a little bureaucratic nightmare called Affirmative Action.

Affirmative Action was one of those good intentions that proverbially pave the road to Hell. I mean, what could possibly be wrong with a workforce that reflects the ethnic and sexual diveristy of its surrounding community? If a city is made up of say 55% women and 45% men, and those men and women identify ethnically as roughly 60% white and 20% black and 15% Asian and 5% Hispanic, why shouldn't the businesses and institutions in that city contain approximately the same percentages?

Unfortunately, people don't work out that way, we have these miniscule but cataclysmic differentiations between cultural sets and socioeconomic sets and education sets and language sets, all these little idiosyncrasies that make people interesting but totally fuck up a tidy demographic system... and the only way to make that percentage come to pass is to set racial and gender quotas on hiring and admissions, which cannot be done while observing fair and equitable hiring and admissions practices.

What we end up with is an impossible situation, a sort of a catch-22: how can we be sure that businesses and institutions are observing equal-opportunity practices if we don't track the numbers of minorities and genders involved? And yet, how can we fight racist and sexist prejudices with racist and sexist hiring and admissions quotas? We find ourselves fighting the enemy by becoming the enemy, and what good does that do?

And even if it could be done, why should we stop at racial and gender equity? Why not keep track of religions and weight-classes and sexual orientations and hair-colors, while we're at it? Are we sure that enough ugly Catholics are being hired in large corporations, that enough gay red-heads are represented in the food service industry, that short chubby women are given a fair shake in the government?

I think the problem is that civil rights and equality, now that they have gotten rolling, need some time to actually reach a fair and equitable state; and Americans are not internationally known for having a lot of patience.

But one day (unless we manage to blow ourselves up first) we will live in a state where people are hired for jobs and admitted to universities on merit and qualifications, where people are judged by their actions and intentions rather than by their surfaces and accents, where people are allowed and encouraged to become their own individual selves instead of being forced to clump together under a banner or label.

We're obviously on our way there... African-Americans in leadership positions are not a bizarre rarity, women routinely work in every known profession, and homos can fuck eachother in the ass in every state of the Union!

But there's still a lot of work to do. Politicians can still wave a diversionary red flag about Mexican immigrants and get a lot of people het up about it, we still tell jokes about Oriental drivers and chiseling Jews and stupid Southerners, and the likelihood of a woman president is still (sorry Hillary) decades away.

In the meantime, I am going to continue gnashing my teeth whenever I see or hear entire diverse ethnic communities lumped together under the dull and useless "white" or the inflammatory and useless "black." I am a European-American, thankyouverymuch.

Of course, I'm a lot of other things, as well... even some things that can't be mentioned in polite society.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Merry Month of May

So here we are halfway through a month and I haven't posted yet! Bad blogger! But I get the feeling, every time I sit down to write something, that I've already said it. So little is going on in my life, and so little going on in my brain, that I feel like anything I make up to write will be boring... basically a dreary catalog of my mental health.

I did, on that topic, decide to start taking the Depakote, just to see what might happen. For the first couple of days I felt dreadful, groggy and sleepy and kind of, I don't know, vertigo-y? Like I'd look at something and it would seem to move farther away? I'm not sure what you call that. I wished I'd decided to start taking it on the weekend instead of in the middle of the week. Then on the third day I felt great, energetic and happy. Until about five-thirty, that is, when I completely and utterly crashed.

Since then I've felt pretty good... I'm sleeping a lot better, at any rate. I feel a little dizzy once in a while, which I don't care for, and I get really sleepy in the afternoons, enough that I'm able to take a nap... but I'm in a generally good mood. I'll see how I feel after I've been on the full dose for a month, and if I don't like it I'll talk to Dr. Shrinkimadink again and discuss something else.

So let's see, what else? I'm still at the same job, I'm bored out of my mind by the work, but the people are a lot of fun and the dress-code is very easy to live with (what I'd call College Caj). Still, I wish the agency would assign me to something that used my talents more. I mean, I'm a brilliant word-processor, a great writer, and pretty damned good at a lot of other things; but most of my assignments so far have been these low-end, go-nowhere, a-trained-monkey-could-do-it drudgery jobs. Plus, it's always at the bottom of the pay-scale, so I'm still just barely squeaking by financially. It's very frustrating.

Well, that's all I can think of today. Tra-la! It's May! The Merry Month of May!

Oh, wait, before I go, I have to share this unbearably brilliant YouTube video I just found after I finished the post: SHOES! (not entirely SFW, due to adult language)

Thursday, April 27, 2006

There's Got To Be a Morning After

So after running manic for several days, it was inevitable that I would plunge into a depression, even though I'm back on my meds and taking them faithfully every day. At least the Prozac is keeping me from the weepy despairing kind of depression... instead, I am just a little droopy-feeling, I'm tired all the time yet don't sleep very well, and the occasional suicidal ideation pops into my head. No big deal.

Still, it's making me wonder what to do next. I mean, the not-sleeping thing has been going on for a while now, and it's wearing me out. I'm strongly considering the Depakote that my doctor prescribed for me along with the Prozac. It was only in case the Prozac made me manic, which it didn't at first; does not sleeping qualify as manic enough to start taking the Depakote? The first thing it's supposed to do is knock me out at night; but what if it also makes my moods flatline into blah grey dullness? I'm leery about starting it.

Especially the side-effects. If I start taking the Depakote, I have to go have a liver screening after the first three weeks to make sure it's not poisoning me. And then there're the threats of weight-gain, hair-loss, and sexual dysfunction. I've already gained twenty pounds since I've been on Prozac, and am counting my blessings that the sexual side-effects have been negligible; might I gain another twenty pounds, and might the Depakote wilt my bone where the Prozac failed? And then to have to deal with hair-loss on top of twenty pounds and a limp dick? I don't know if I'm down with that.

But one way or another, the sleep issue has to be addressed. I'm considering going the prescription route and looking into Lunesta or one of those things to ensure my sleep. I've been taking Tylenol PM for the last month or so, and it works fairly well, though I worry about the addiction factor. I don't take it every night, only on "schoolnights" when it's absolutely essential that I get my eight hours; but on the nights I don't take it, I don't go to sleep for hours and hours after I get in bed. Melatonin is no longer enough, it helps me get to sleep but doesn't help me stay asleep... I always wake up three or four time in the night. And no sleep-aids at all has simply become a torture.

Last night is a good example: I ran out of Tylenol PM last week, and since I keep forgetting to get more until it's time to go to bed, I have had to do without it; so now I'm averaging about five or six hours of sleep a night, none of which are terribly deep; by last night I was so sleepy I could barely eat my dinner, so sleepy I couldn't even watch television; I went to bed before nine, and was so sleepy I couldn't even focus on the words in a book; so I turned off the light, lay on my side, and stared into the darkness... for three and a half hours, my mind running around in circles (though very slowly), my limbs aching whenever I lay in one position for more than a few minutes, and my teeth clenching up and biting my tongue.

As you can imagine, five or six hours of sleep, three or four nights in a row, is not quite enough for me to bring my "best" to work with me... I've been sitting here the last couple of days hardly doing anything at all, my workload cut down to a level that actually embarrasses me, as I simply stare off into space for minutes at a time. It's very sad, and rather irritating too.

Especially now that the job is starting to get a trifle boring. I mean, you can only do so much data entry before the little names and numbers start swimming together. You can only look at so many manila folders before you develop a serious aversion to the color and texture of them and want to start shredding them and setting them on fire.

Ah, well... like I always say, it could be worse. It has been worse. Just read down a ways and you'll see.


So, let's see, what else have I been up to? I did a drag show this past weekend, and rather enjoyed it. Actually, I did two drag shows, about a block apart from each-other. But though I enjoyed performing again, and though I really relished the positive feedback I got while I was in drag (Oh, Marlene, we love you... you're my favorite performer... etc.), it was a lot more effort than I had expected.

I mean, first of all was trying to find dresses that would fit. I mean, I've gained almost twenty pounds since the last time I was in drag, last September, and most of that is on my torso. I had a few undefined things, what I always called my "fat dresses," things I could throw on easily without cinching my corset too tight; there were enough that I was able to put together three outfits in a black and silver color range; and so I picked out some music, packed up my bags, and was ready to go.

But come the show, all sorts of unexpected problems turned up. For example, though I knew I wouldn't be able to get into my smallest corset anymore and was glad that I had a larger one at hand that I'd bought by mistake last year, it never occurred to me that I wouldn't be able to get into any of my bras anymore. I simply no longer wear a 38, and cannot get into a 38 anymore, not even with a crowbar. Fortunately the corset I did have was high enough that I could attach my boob-pads to it instead of wearing the bra, but I was quite taken aback by the oversight.

It also took me over an hour to put my face on, when it used to only take me twenty or thirty minutes... I had sort of forgotten how to do everything; though it's like riding a bike and you never really forget, you still get rusty, and I had to go very slowly to make sure I did it right. And then I used the wrong rouge for contouring and had to do a hell of a lot of blending to make it look more natural.

Then of course there were people everywhere. I was kind of braced for it, I kept myself calm and didn't let myself get worked up by the energy around me; but I still got a little (what's the word) demophobic every now and then and had to close my eyes and take deep breaths.

Still, despite the discomfort and strangeness, I did enjoy myself immensely, getting to spend time with friends I haven't seen in months and months, and getting out into the public eye again. Of course, that was just the first show, the Living Sober Spring Fling... as you'll no doubt remember, I had committed to two shows that night. So after packing up my goods and chattels, I schlepped on down to Harvey's for Cookie Dough's Monster Show.

Though the show was a great one, I simply did not enjoy myself. I was able to see friends I haven't seen in a long time, but I wasn't able to spend time with Cookie because she was busy with the show, and I couldn't spend time with anyone else because I simply could not stay inside that bar... it was hot and airless, but most importantly it was jam-packed with people, many of whom were noisy and a bit rowdy with drink. I spent almost the entire time there sitting at the door with the doorman; and though I could see the show from where I was, and could judge its high quality, I was too distracted by sucking in fresh air and wishing I could go home.

Feeling a bit ashamed of myself, I left the minute my performance was over... I got out of drag as fast as I could, very rudely left the bar without saying goodbye to anyone, and went back to my car as fast as my tired old legs would carry me. I felt horribly guilty for bailing like that, but there was nothing else I could do... the phobia had got under my skin and I had to be alone.

Well, I wasn't entirely alone. I went out and got some food with Shiloh after putting my luggage in the car and reparking in a more convenient spot, and happily got all caught up with him on our various doings. But I still would have rather been alone, or better yet alone with Shiloh and no restaurant full of people. They were all getting on my nerves something fierce... so much that I did something I almost never do, I faced the wall when we sat down so I didn't have to see the people.

I wonder how much of this demophobia is new, and how much of it I had simply talked myself out of in the past. Is it a side-effect of the Prozac, or is it something that just gets stronger with age? I don't know, but I'm getting where I just can't be around very many people for very long at a time. If this doesn't let up, I am going to have to start planning my outings more carefully so I have some downtime in which to recover in between populous events.

And I'd really rather not... planning is not my forte, you know.


So anyway, that's what's going on in my life these days. How's with you?