HOLLYWOOD 5

The Hollywoods live outside of the OOGCP!

As I was walking through the parking lot of the Walgreen's, I noticed a maroon car parked at an odd angle in the handicapped space by the door. Looking up, I saw Mr. and Mrs. Hollywood, Mrs. H in her Pucci-print jumpsuit and short some-kind-of-animal-fur jacket gallantly being escorted into the passenger side door by Mr.H. The passenger side mirror still dangled limply by wires, hanging on for dear life it seems through the months.

As I walk past the car, I look up and over to Mr. Hollywood, natty with a sharp new haircut, and I smile at him. He smiles back warmly, and I go into the Walgreen's, still smiling.

I think he recognized me!

COLLABORATOR

In general, I am a bit of a lone moose. You would not think it to see me, as I am terribly friendly and have a large smile. But I have that independence, a stubborn need to do things the way I want to do them, or at least the things that matter to me. Scrubbing toilets? No, have at it man, I am not going to assert all over your feces wand there, go for it. But in general, I am a little like Mr. Know-It-All from the Bullwinkle and Rocky cartoons, expounding my way to fame and disaster. I can speak confidently on hundreds of topics, and in most cases really have no idea what I am talking about. I can slap together a paper or proposal or idea and one way or another it usually works. I can figure out how to do most things, but I absolutely hate being taught anything. I can't even really stand to watch a YouTube video on how to use Garage Band. To my peril, heh.

I have been sitting a lot of years as Lone Moose. Well, maybe that isn't quite right, I don't really think moose sit down. I have been ambling around a lot of years, then. Moose do amble. Anyway, something I have learned, because not only am I Mr. Know-It-All but also Miss Insightful-N-Shit, is that if you want to improve yourself in a substantial way, stretch out the character, open the mind, be better and stronger, is sometimes you have to go straight towards the thing you are not, or that makes you uncomfortable somehow. You have to figure out why you are avoiding that thing, whatever it is. It is part of trying to learn what is True and Real and Really You, even if it is very difficult to accept and dig into at times. You just are never going to get anywhere other than Rutland if you don't hack away at this.

I am dead comfy being Lone Moose. All comfy and confident and used to thinking and working on my own. SO...what I maybe should be doing more of is PLAYING NICELY WITH OTHERS. Hmm. The idea both intrigues me and makes me nervous. The nervous is a sign that I have in fact hit my own nerve there, which means that I should examine WHY. God, I am such a nerd.

But I think there is something to this. I have worked in groups, worked on projects that were not my own design, and done well. But I either sort of mashed it around to be more or less my deal, or was left with this feeling oh if only I could've had more input it would've been better, blah blah. That is not really seeing or appreciating what you can get out of a true collaborative effort. Everyone has something valuable to bring, and I need to be more open to that, and I think I am ready and willing to try.

I get really overly excited and happy to see the great things people are doing out there, outside of ME WORLD. There are so many wonderful, creative, bright, funny, thoughtful, unique people doing W, C, B, F, T, and U things. Sometimes I think they are often like me, Lone Moose Ambling. Just a bunch of single moose, in fenced-off hilly pastures, sometimes looking up and over at Pasture #489 and winking at that clever moose over there. Pasture Moose #489 is pretty awesome.

Anyone who knows what it is like to be in a band where all the musical parts and pieces just seem to fall into place magically, or work on a piece of writing that just gets funnier and better as you keep bouncing ideas off the other people, or assemble just the best specialist people you know to build something from the ground up that you never could have done yourself, you know the value and wonder of what a genuine collaboration is. For some people, this is the only way they can work, or want to work; they fall apart without the others. Maybe the combination of Lone Moose and Genuine Collaborator is what to shoot for. Yes.

Writer Amy Krause Rosenthal is already the Combo Girl. She is currently working on a film, "The Beckoning Of Lovely," which will be made up of the creative efforts and artistic endeavors of people all over the world:



How I love this idea! It is quite a project, and she is enlisting the help of many to help her shape the project into reality. My dear friend Dena (at linkadelica.com) is on one of the panels that will sort through all the submissions for the film. I was a dumbass, a big Moosey Dumbass, and just missed the submission date because I am fail at email and life. Sigh. But no matter. Ms. Rosenthal will have zillions of truly wonderful things for her film, and I will be most excited to see it come to life.

I have so many ideas, and I am so thrilled by others' work. I think I will look for a way to begin working with people, a Collaborative Moose, breaking down a few pasture fences along the way.

NO 3

I feel completely comfortable asking this question.

If you already have six children, all under the age of 7, what in the HOLY HELL are you doing having fertility treatments and THEN having OCTUPLETS???????

http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/01/30/mother.octuplets/index.html

Dad is a contract worker who is due to go back to Iraq. The babies had to be born so early that they are STILL DEVELOPING INTESTINES. Two nurses are assigned round-the-clock to each infant. Who will be paying for this staggering medical bill? Who will pay to house, feed, and educate these children, also extremely likely to be special needs kids with issues, issues, issues? You know who.

This was a CHOICE these parents and their doctor made. It wasn't an accident.

I also feel completely comfortable saying that this is deliberate abuse of our medical and social system, and far, far worse, compromises the lives and health and futures of 14 children.

It is not the children's fault, of course, and they deserve to be taken care of as fully and as well as any others. But I am furious with the parents, and the doctor who agreed to treat the mother. It is so grossly irresponsible, in every way imaginable.

This pisses me off. This is no "miraculous experience." This is a shameful mess.

Good luck, kids. You are gonna need it.

GO

I had found a good parking spot for my shiny red car, a secret sort of place in a small alleyway close to the Performing Arts Complex that was often blocked off for use by the people who were working there. But it was open and barely in use, just a couple of other cars, a few dumpsters, a truck parked in the shadowy back end of it. I felt pleased. My son smoothed his hands over his pants as he got out of the car; I locked it, and the lights flashed with two satisfying little beeps.

We made our way inside, a mammoth, winding conglomerate of connecting buildings, always busy with people and different events and classes and performances, very popular. As we walked quickly down a long bright hallway, carrying our respective laptop bags, we passed a biker-looking guy with two middle-aged women, a teenager carrying a cello, groups of people chattering excitedly, all on their way to something, some happening.

We arrived at a nearly-empty bowl shaped auditorium, quite early, with time to kill. My son said he was going to grab some lunch, and I told him that was a good idea, and I would see him later. I found myself a seat, pulled out a sandwich I had brought from home and my laptop, planning to eat and write while waiting. As I did, a door burst open across from me and two young policemen in brown uniforms, guns drawn, ran fast against the wall. One yelled out, never looking over, "There's a bomb in the building! Get out!" and kept going.

In these days, you don't even question or wonder. You go.

My first thought was just that, turn, go, get out, get out now. I allowed myself a second of sickening realization that I didn't know where my son was now, and could not begin to try to find him, and then let it go, within this tiny fraction of time, to believe he would make his way out. He would, he had to. And then I did what they say you should never do. I hesitated, thought, and clumsily grabbed up my computer and the bag, clutching it to me, not even putting the laptop in the bag. I hoped my few seconds of greediness wouldn't kill me. Go.

There were no screams, people were not running, but there was the same panicked look in everyone's eyes, trying to find a way out of the place that wasn't already jammed. Winding through hallways and stairways, packs of people going in every possible direction, some following others who seemed to know where to go, what to do. I found myself in the bowels of the building, in a women's locker room, along with other people standing, trying to move, looking for a door or a window. There were women, half-dressed, some with only towels and wet hair, not caring who saw them, pushing past me, past the green toilet stalls. Get out. Go. I searched the faces, when I could bear to focus on anything but how to get out. Nothing. Over some shower stalls, two heads popped up. It was a friend of mine, someone I hadn't seen for many, many years, and my son.

"Marianne! I have him, I got his stuff. He's OK." My friend smiled, my son nodded, and they disappeared back into the crowd, unreachable. My chest warmed in relief, grateful, trusting, as much as one could.

No one was getting anywhere.

I had a feeling of something falling on my hair, both light and something heavier. I reached up with my right hand, the one not stupidly still holding the bag and computer. It was chunks of plaster and plaster dust from the ceiling. Oh, god. Something had happened. The bomb must've gone off. I looked around at everyone else feeling their hair, brushing it off, standing like stunned sheep. That's it. No more. I am getting out of here, NOW. I am not going to stand here and have this goddamn building collapse on me, while I stand in some locker room with a bunch of strangers. Not me.

I pushed my way out of the crowd, went the opposite way, towards some light, along with a few others. We found a bank of windows, triple-paned glass reinforced with criss-crossing thin wire. One window opened vent-style, but not far, not big enough to get through. Further down, there was a door with the same glass. Someone said it was locked, hopeless. I went up to it, pounded and clawed at the glass uselessly, pushed on the door, leaned on it, eyes manically searching for some weak spot, some way to get it open. Outside was RIGHT THERE, a concrete plaza, looking no different than usual with some trees, birds, trash, benches, the tall city buildings surrounding it.

I tried the door handle. It opened perfectly. I didn't say a thing, didn't think. I pushed it open and ran and kept running and not once looked back. Go.

I ran across the wide plaza. Nothing seemed different. Where were all the people, cops, fire trucks, newspeople? Was no one getting out? Didn't anyone know?

I kept going until I thought I was a pretty safe distance away from the complex, and made my way into the commons area of the University, where I could see some people were gathering. In the back on a sofa were my son and his girlfriend and a few others, safe. She was draped across his lap, didn't look up. My son smiled and me and I smiled at him, something communicated like well, of course we made it. Of course. Everyone was settling in here for the duration, it seemed, a good place to be while this disaster unfolded. There would be food and shelter and warmth until all of this, whatever "this" was, had passed. A girl sitting on the floor next to the sofa typing away on her laptop pointed out an electrical outlet to me. "You should take that one now. It's going to get really busy." Right, I thought, looking down at my frozen left arm smashing my white Macbook to my stomach, still.

After I plugged in, I got out my cell phone and called home, hoping that my husband could somehow find a way to get us. I would never be allowed to get my car now, if in fact it wasn't now gone, smashed. I wasn't going to go back there now to look, or to see anything. I didn't want to see, and didn't want to know.

But he was angry with me, it was my fault that I had gone down there, never should have gone, never taken our son. Stunned and angry, I argued with him, like I could've known there would be a BOMBING today?? How could he act this way? We were alive! We had made it out alive! As the bitterness went back and forth on the phone, I began to notice something outside the big commons window facing the street. Things were beginning to fall off the tall mirrored glass building across the street. First, some ornamental pieces of the facade, one, two, three pieces, random. Then more, coming down like big slabs of rock. And then the windows began to fold inwards, imploding, collapsing, melting. It was coming down. Go.

My son and his girlfriend and friends were gone again. I whipped my head around. Where had everyone gone? This time, I didn't grab the computer.

Run, run, run, run, run keep running until there were no more tall buildings around. I need to get out of here. Making it almost to the Capitol building by the park, I reached in my jacket pocket where I had jammed my cell phone, and called home again. He picked up, and said nothing. "Can't you see what is going on here?" I said. "Can't you see it on TV? This is a major disaster! Why aren't you helping? Why are you doing this?"

He paused, and said, "Well, you wanted to take our daughter there. How do you think that would have been?"

I hung up, jammed the phone back in my pocket. Nothing seemed different. No sirens, no cries, buses rolling past, newspaper blowing down the street, tumbling in the wind.

A large black women slowly walked up the stairs of the subway, carrying a screaming toddler in a pink-and-green winter hooded jacket in a football hold. She looked up and me and grinned, saying to me, "It's always something, isn't it?" laughing as she passed by.

I would have miles to walk. I wondered who would make it back home first, me or my son. Go.




I woke, and walked downstairs, and wrote this down.

28

Sometimes you are reminded about how different things are for others, even though they may seem so similar to yourself.

When I was around 12 I was friendly with a family of three kids in my teeny town, a girl of 14, a girl of 11, and a boy around 9. I hung out most with the 14-year-old because she was a Bad Girl, a real Bad Girl who smoked and drank and did drugs and skipped lots of school and did very dodgy things with boys...and men. She dressed like a Bad Girl, in too-tight jeans and nasty boots and low cut shirts and a dirty jean jacket. But when she wasn't out and about nastying, we would hang out at her house and play records and talk, and she had a surprising desert-dry wit and intelligence. Sometimes it seemed to me like she was caught between two very, very different worlds; to be like her younger siblings, who were bookish, a little shy and nerdy but funny and kind, or the direction she seemed to be headed, the outcome I could not really fully see.

The parents were nice if not very talkative. They seemed like good folks who worked hard, probably very hard, to provide for the family. The dad had black hair and a sparkle to his eyes, liked to laugh, but seemed to be fairly strict, not someone you'd want to cross, a plumber. The mom was tiny, maybe a hundred pounds, with red red hair and sarcastic look on her face nearly all the time. I often wondered if they knew what their oldest daughter was up to, and part of me wished they did, and would do something about it.

One night after dinner, I popped over to their house, just a couple minute's walk from my house. I was welcomed at the door by my friend, and I saw a cake on the kitchen table, candles already lit and blown out, slices cut.

"Do you want some cake? It's my mom's birthday."

"Um, sure!" Like any kid is going to turn down cake. My friend went to the table and got me a piece, and we went into the dining room, where the rest of the family was. "Happy birthday, Mrs. K.," I said politely, because I am polite. She thanked me, and as I looked at her, I wondered how old she was. I knew she was younger than my mom, but just about every mom was -- my mom was already close to 50. When I could without being overheard because it was an impolite question, I asked my friend how old her mom was that day.

"She's 28."

I thought I misheard. Surely, I misheard. "28???"

"Yeah. Mom, tell her you are 28!"

I looked over at her, and she smiled that crooked sarcastic smile of her, and nodded yes. I am sure I looked just stunned, having done the math there. 28 - 14 = 14. Mrs. K had my friend when she was FOURTEEN. Holy shit! MY MOTHER COULD BE MRS. K'S MOTHER.

I kept looking at her, the reality of that seeping in for the first time. She really was young, and I just didn't see it before. She was so pretty. I thought about what on earth that would be like, to have a baby that young, rolling that around in my brain for the first time. It was overwhelming. I felt so terribly sorry for her. But here she was, she was still married, the kids were all healthy, they had a house and a car, and...

She lit a cigarette and I watched as the smoke tendrils spiraled up to the dining room chandelier. The shame and disapproval that was no doubt heaped on her back then when she became pregnant would have been tremendous. A Bad, Bad Girl, she would have been called.

After awhile, I got tired of being used by my friend to help her cover her tracks, and I stopped hanging out at their house. I would see the younger ones at school, and we were friendly. The girl a year younger than I once wrote in my yearbook that I was "an inspiration and true friend," and there was something about that that made me want to cry. But I didn't.

Within the year, the older girl had run off to Florida with a married man in his 30s. The man was arrested for transporting a minor across state lines, drug charges as well, went to jail. His wife killed herself over it, leaving their young son without a mother, his father incarcerated.

My friend disappeared from the juvenile detention center she was placed in, and I never heard of her again, and never asked her brother and sister, who had the saddest eyes.

I think now of the birthday party, and the way Mrs K held her cigarette as she looked up to the ceiling, and how little of the cake she had eaten, ashes on the plate.

POP

Which one on my desk will stop making noise first: a bowl of Rice Crispies or an open can of Diet Coke Plus?

SCIENCE!

HAGGIS

Do you know what haggis is?

I didn't used to, when I was a kid. Not completely. I just knew that it was a Scottish dish, and that maybe once or twice a year my dad would ask my mom to make it and DAMN WAS IT GOOD.

Eventually, though, through my various readings and such I became aware of more than I ever wanted to know about haggis. Let me and Wikipedia help you now, if you need it:

Haggis is a traditional Scottish dish.

There are many recipes, most of which have in common the following ingredients: sheep's 'pluck' (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally boiled in the animal's stomach for approximately three hours.

Haggis somewhat resembles stuffed intestines (pig intestines otherwise known as chitterlings or the kokoretsi of traditional Balkan cuisine), sausages and savoury puddings of which it is among the largest types. As the 2001 English edition of the Larousse Gastronomique puts it, "Although its description is not immediately appealing, haggis has an excellent nutty texture and delicious savoury flavour."


Sigh.

I never asked my mother just how seriously she took her haggis ingredients or preparation, and I think I never shall. I will prefer to remember that it was delicious, and that also it is probably served in Hell by creepy whiskey-sodden Scottish farmers, followed by tiny fire-breathing black lambs.

CHANGE 3

It is bright and sunny today, and as I went to lean into my bathroom mirror to put some kind of face crap on my face, a slice of late-afternoon light crossed my eyes, making them seem translucent and otherworldly, sort of like very thin sea glass. It looked striking and pretty, I will say, as my eyes are a nice feature to me, light green with lots of little spikes of yellow. I have not nice features too, such as saddlebags that could carry the mail of at least ten Western States. But the eyes, they are good.

My eyes were not always green with yellow spikes. They were blue, up until sometime when I was a teenager. Not blue-green or green-blue, straight blue. I had no idea that something like that could change so profoundly in what I thought were pretty set things.

As I spent a few seconds looking at the sunshine on my eyes, I wondered if other seemingly-permanent things in you can change so radically, temperament or personality or intelligence, something like blue eyes, that you are born with. Do you know it if something changes, or not? Can others see it in you, as clearly as blue to green-with-yellow-spikes? Can you cause these kinds of things to happen yourself? Was it pre-determined in my DNA? Is everything?

I know my eyes will fade in time. The green will become gray-green, muted, watery like a muddy tidepool on a cloudy day, unremarkable, old. Will that happen to any of the rest of what is, me?

TICK

I am currently slightly weaving in my chair in a saturnine dizzy unpleasant fog, the result of a particularly broken up and useless sleep period. I am used to coping pretty well on little rest and yummy coffee, but this morning is just a blurry unfocused piece of crap. I kept waking up all night, every few minutes in some stupid cycle of konked out depths and total HELLO I AM FULLY AWAKE AND LOOKING AROUND IN THE DARK NOW. There was no particular reason for this; no looming international flight to take, no morning meeting with Bill Gates, not even multiple car crashes in my neighborhood. Each time I would wake, I would go AH CRAP in my mind, and look over to the clock next to my head, its chartreuse-green digital bastard numbers telling me what was what.

12:07AM. 12:49AM 1:21AM. 2:50AM. 3:19AM. 4:01AM. 4:43AM 5:07AM. 5:55AM. Tick tick tick.

The alarm went off at 6AM, and as usual I listened to the extremely annoying sounds of the SOFT LITE RADIO assholes talking like ninnies about nothing and playing bad oboe music. I leave that station on my alarm because it makes me reach over in my haze and turn it off is disgust instead of lying there and listening. It is the first step in getting up, always a lousy thing for me to do. Tick tick tick, GET UP.

Oh, just fuck you, Time. Fuck you. You you you. Fuck fuck fuck. How I hate that there seems to be no way of getting around measuring time, having time run and rule and ruin everything. I think about time being a construct of Man, but that is really not the case. Even a fucking CELL knows about time. Example:

Bacteria Unicell 1: Oh hey, ‘sup.
Bacteria Unicell 2: Oh hey man, good to see you.
BU1: Yeah, I’m just chillin’. Hangin’ loose. You know.
BU2: Yeah man, I hear ya. It’s all good.
BU1: Yeah.
BU2: Mmm hmm.
BU1: Hey?
BU2: Wut?
BU1: I’m kind of feeling something here.
BU2: Oh yeah dude? What’s goin’ on?
BU1: I dunno man, like something is going to happen.
BU2: Oh wow man, really? You think?
BU1: Yeah, I am kind of feeling this pressure. I think…
BU2: What, man? What is it??
BU1: Dude! I just looked at my messenger RNA watch! It’s mitosis time!
BU2: Whoa! Dude! Awesome!
BU1: Well, I’ll see ya. Time to split. Some bitch needs more Botox.
BU2: Alright! Peace out, Clostridium Botulinum!

Tick tick tick. Like a bomb, ready to blow you up good? Like a blood-sucking pest, slowly taking away what you need to live? Like tic with no k, this building of pressure, involuntary yet certain, resulting in some kind of change of movement, cyclic, impossible to control? Sometimes I feel like I was born with one of those awful “countdown to your death” estimator clocks right in my brain. It runs, like a galloping SMPTE code, all the fractions of all the seconds going and going and going, gone gone gone. You can’t make more. As far back as I can remember, Time was never my friend. It only felt like loss.

Ah, well. No matta. I will take a nap later on and hopefully have a couple hours to readjust my sullen deprived body, while all kinds of things change and move and happen, unknown to me.

The Chambers Brothers -- "Time Has Come Today"

RUN 2

Going OUT used to be the best thing err. Or at least when I was a teenager. Oh god, OUT was so much better than in. OUT in this case was going the seven miles from my town of 300 people to the town of 8000 people, where I went to school. HOT DAMN, GOIN' INTA TOWN! One makes the most of what one has.

Two events that would get me a ride into town would be either a school dance or football game. These were only flimsy excuses to get OUT with my friends, ditch the event, and get drunk, maybe drive around with some other idiot kid with a car, run around town in some giddy screeching pack, and smoke someone else's cigarettes. These were usually on Friday nights, and I would take the schoolbus home with my friend Linda, having had to get a permission note to do so. God. What the fuck did anyone care what bus I got on? Anyway,we would get all excited and try on a bunch of clothes, put on jeans so tight you had to lie down to zip them up, do each other's hair and makeup (including the yummy Bonne Bell Dr. Pepper Lipsmacker), tell each other we looked great, then sprayed ourselves liberally with Love's Musky Jasmine perfume. We'd hide a pack of smokes in someone's sock, and if feeling really bold and had the pants room, would steal a bottle of Linda's folks' homemade wine from the basement and stick it in the back waistband of the pants with a fluffy down coat over to hide it. It is not easy to sit in a parent's car with a bottle of wine in your back; it takes some practice and pain tolerance.

The only important thing to have to know was the name of the band who played at the dance or the final score of the football game. Then when you were picked up later, mushy mouthed wasted and tired, you could answer the questions: "The Dave Gunderson Band's Tribute To The Eagles" or "Watertown, 35 - 12."

Being OUT and drunk and hyped up in a pack of other ninnies at age thirteen is not often a recipe for good things. One of these nights, after ditching the dance, we walked "downtown" to go to the Burger King and just be generally obnoxious. I think now when I see kids that age smoking, how ridiculous they look. Of course, I thought I looked incredibly cool. It was fairly busy that night on the main drag, and yes it was called Main Street. We had just went to the Sentry supermarket to get someone a new Bic lighter, ready to go nom at BK. No one felt like walking to the traffic light. There was a slight break in the traffic and someone said GO! and the pack started running across the road in front of a line of cars. I didn't think there was enough time to make it, and I hesitated maybe a second or two behind them. It was a 4-lane road but it felt like a superhighway as I ran across. As the others made it to the curb, the lights of the cars got so yellowy-white bright and it seemed like I was on a stage with this glowing light all around me. I heard the long, held-down blaring blast of a car horn and the screech of many tires, and I looked to my right. There, I kid you not, no more than two inches from my hip, was a car, desperately trying to stop.

Ever seen one of those Road Runner cartoons where the bird all of a sudden just goes PLPLPLPL ZZZIP! and disappears in a white cloud of fast? I have never ever ever in my life before or since poured on the COAL like that. This incredible burst of fear speed came into my legs as I watched in that millisecond the incredible closeness of the car, glanced up to see the angry and scared faces of the driver and his passenger, an older couple, and then to the lights of the Burger King just a few feet away. I ran, barely avoiding the hit, made it to the curb and just kept running. I was afraid I was going to get in trouble. I ran and ran and ran, blocks into the dark of the residential area, until I couldn't run anymore and collapsed on the front lawn of the Catholic church. One of my friends had run after me, caught up, and we started nervously laughing, getting more and more hysterical, watching to see if that car was hunting for me.

My friend handed me a cigarette, which I couldn't light because my hands then entire body had started shaking so badly that I looked like an end-stage Parkinson's patient. He laughed at me, lit it for me, handed it back, and I smoked and laughed, having not been hit by a car that night. One makes the most of what one has.

The Pretty Things -- "Roadrunner"

IRRITANTS

I am an internet professional. Not in that I can tell you jack shit about code or site marketing or how someone comes up with the name "Arianna Huffington" in life. Well, OK, yes, I can tell you about that. She was born in Greece and had a Greek name and then married an oil dude named Huffington. There's no way anyone in the world could have the last name of Huffington and be poor, come on. Anyway, I know my way around the ol' interhoot a bit, enough to call myself A Pro, because Arianna is not here to claim otherwise.

Today I am feeling both extremely irritable and magnanimous. Try having that day sometime. How I am going to make the most of this peculiar combination is to help you to irritate other people on the internet. The thought of this heightens my feelings of magnanimity and decreases my personal irritation, so I am going with it.

Often, in the impersonal land of text, whether it is via email, AIM, a message board, that fucking weird nuisance Twitter, Facebook or whatever, you find it difficult for words alone to completely express how you feel. There are many idiots on the internet, and if you are here, you have to deal with them. Small iconic representations of emotions ("emoticons" or "smilies") sometimes don't have the impact you wish to impart. This is where I let an annoying YouTube video speak for me. If something is too absurd, stupid, ponderous, or annoying for words, I just haul out some of my favorite videos, and I feel so much better knowing that the idiot out there in the great vast communications dumpster clicked on it, and was irritated, baffled, annoyed or otherwise bothered. It is a small win, but still good. Let us begin.

Internet Situation #1: You find yourself on a message board in a pages-long argument about which Star Wars character was the most powerful, and people are getting so heated up about it that they are throwing curses on the lives of peoples' pets and grandmothers and such. Post this, the height of DEHHHHHHHHHHHHH:



Internet Situation #2: A co-worker keeps emailing you about the horrible soul-destroying boredom that is her life, causing you to fall behind in your work and get a sore finger from clicking "DELETE EMAIL" so many times. Write a final email including this video, and say "This really expresses how I feel about all that you have been going through. Please turn the sound up on your computer when you play it, because I really want you to hear every bit. Thanks!":



Internet Situation #3: A guy trolling your Knitting For Moms website keeps sending you pictures of himself. Again, a note saying thanks so so much, and here is how I feel when I see another one of your photos, followed by this:



Internet Situation #4: Someone from high school keeps wanting you to add him on Facebook. You hate the guy and/or have no idea who he is. Send this video with the note ADD THIS:



Internet Situation #5: Someone posts a long frothy comment on your blog about how George W. Bush was a good president and is just misunderstand by Socialist Weirdos like yourself. Reply:



If I were rich and had a name like Blatherton or Snootiwell or Wealthyman, I could pass these suggestion on to Arianna Huffington, and she would use them, I bet. But I am not a Blatherton or Snootiwell or Wealthyman, so she is just going to have to find this by accident by Googling "diarrhea irritation pants" like everyone else.

SONG

I have bewrotted and bedone a song. Please to enjoy! Press the little HQ button on the bottom right of the YuuToop! TY WN FOR ALL HEP!

IF I WERE ZOOEY DESCHANEL -- Marianne

Well
Well

If I were Zooey Deschanel
You’d bid your excuses a hasty farewell
No “but-but-but-but,” you’d be under my spell
No “I-I-I-I,” no “maybe, someday” as well

She’s younger and prettier and she sings alright
She’s richer and famous but not quite as bright
She’s quirky and cool and not at all snooty
Cause she’s marrying that guy from Death Cab For Cutie

If I were she I bet I would see
Your face at my door with flowers for me
You’d quit your six-figure job to camp out on my street
You’d say goodbye to your pal and put your dog to sleep

She’s younger and prettier and she sings alright
She’s richer and famous but not quite as bright
She’s quirky and cool and not at all snooty
Cause she’s marrying that guy from Death Cab For Cutie

Well
Well

You’d dash to me fast as a lightening bolt
Like a Frankenstein jammed with 5 million volts
You’d stare at me like a drool-dribbling dolt
You’d stick by my side like a teat-suckling colt

She’s younger and prettier and she sings alright
She’s richer and famous but not quite as bright
She’s quirky and cool and not at all snooty
Cause she’s marrying that guy from Death Cab For Cutie

Well
Well

If I were Zooey Deschanel
There’d be a special place for you in hell
If I were Zooey Deschanel
If I were Zooey Deschanel
If I were Zooey Deschanel
If I were Zoeey Deschanel.

Well
Well
Well.

MP3 link: http://rapidshare.com/files/188014008/If_I_Were_Zooey_Deschanel.mp3

AMERICA

Do you want to know what I like about America? I assume you do, if you are still reading this second sentence. You could've bailed right out, but you are hanging in there. Look how you've made it to the fourth sentence in this paragraph. You must really want to know what I have to say. It's heartening, really. To think that I have said absolutely nothing whatsoever here and you are still around. I am, in fact, touched, and I will now reward your interest and patience with quite a small opinion piece.

What I like best about America is that is it all about the individual. I too am all about the individual, so this seems like a fortuitous match, that I was born here. I would just be hopeless in a country like Korea or such where the good of the group is always paramount. I think they would kick me right out or at least shun me. Maybe you haven't lived until you've had a good shunning. I wonder if the shunned get discounts or stores or anything. I bet not.

No, what I love love love about people is their delicious individuality. It is the individual we think of when we ponder over the great achievements and ideas of the world, what a single person was able to bring, make, do, think of, implement, create, etc. I think it is nothing less that grand to imagine that there are people yet to be born who will come up with music I will love, or a thoughtful little girl who will grow up to figure out how to stop the cancer scourge, or even someone who will dress in such a way as to make me go WELL, THAT'S SOMETHING I HAVE NEVER SEEN. WHOA.

America lives and breathes on this idea, the entrepreneur, the idea-man, the go-getter, and yes, the kook. If there is a way to profit from from someone's novelty, America will find it. More more more. Big bigger biggest. New newer newest. It keeps things fresh. There is no ceiling here. In other countries, if someone rises a bit too high, there's a backlash. Can't have the one thinking he's better than the others, eh? Gotta take him down a peg, set him right. I am looking at you, England. Don't deny it. You get all excited about something, then you have to kick its legs out. Shame on you, England. The class system blows. Everyone should be considered an infinitely valuable resource, no matter where they started from.

I hate restraints, authority, limits. How can you ever know what is possible? Now I do understand that we all must function as a group at times, and that authority and limits are really good and important especially in seasonal times of looting and/or riots. And you can get a whole lot of good solid work done in groups, provided people know how to function in them, know their roles. But I don't know that it will ever more the world forward in some wonderful way.

Ah, but America is a cold, cold place too. Highest highs, lowest lows. You can have prillionaires living a mile away from people who aren't doing much better than some poor beggar in Calcutta. There is not much sympathy for people who aren't busting their asses to achieve, and not much sympathy for those who are and are still not getting success. Las Vegas is such a metaphorical place, isn't it? All is possible, a very few get it, some get something, and most get nothing. A few lose it all.

But still. I celebrate a place where at your birth the possibility exists for you to be YOU, whatever that is, and fly however high you want to fly. This is a tough place in a lot of ways, but it can bring out a lot of good. The idea that you can think what you want, do what you want to do as long as you aren't messing up someone else and their doings, seems somehow very compassionate to me. It celebrates each person, lets them know that they were important enough to form a great country around, that they mattered. America should always strive to remember to protect the individual, and to remember that some kind of greatness lies in us all, if allowed to be nurtured and set free. It is a tremendously complex endeavor, but of the highest honor and worth.

I appreciate you hanging in there to this, the last paragraph of this blog entry written on a chilly evening in winter, from the Pacific Northwest, by me, an American woman, all free and shit.

CALIFORNIA 2

MissSix: Was I born in California?

Me: No. You were born in Colorado.

MissSix: Have I ever been to California?

Me: Nope.

MissSix: How would you know?

Me: (huge exasperated sigh)

MissSix: You don’t know everything.

Me: I know you’ve never been to California.

MissSix: You’ve been to California.

Me: Yes, several times.

MissSix: You were there before I was born.

Me: Yes.

MissSix: So I was in your tummy.

Me: Well, no.

MissSix: Yes I was. I was an egg then.

Me; (pause) Well, yes, part of you was an egg that would’ve been inside me when I was in California at some point.

MissSix: You should apologize to me.

Me: For what??

MissSix: You lying about me never being to California.

Me: (massive world-shattering epic sigh)

MissSix: I’m hungry.

LEADER

The peaceful transfer of power in the world's mightiest nation occurred today. Now, truly, that is quite a notion. Think of what that power really is, what is really means, the vastness of it. If you strove most of your life to obtain that level of power, attention, interest, influence, it must be damn hard to walk away, and damn hard to figure out what to do to fill your time, fill that need. George W. Bush didn't look too happy today, did he? "Let's get this over with" was written all over his face. Leaving office as unpopular and unloved as he is, seeing the crowd's reactions to Barack Obama, seeing their hope and need for the world to get better, well, that can't be too pleasant to take in. But I suspect he will reorganize it all in his mind to seem like a triumphant exit. That is what the Bush family does. This was not a family of great leaders, of people with exceptional character and intelligence and diplomacy, just some folks who decided that they WANTED IT and knew how to play the game to win. Sometimes that is all America seems to require: someone who looks like they can win.

It seems like this is so often all it takes to become a leader. Just stand up, look people in the eye, and say something like this: "I project a calm confidence, without being arrogant or maniacal. I look like I am sincere in everything I say. The content of what I say is not all that important, but it does need to contain the appropriate buzzwords to make people think I am well-informed and of somewhat-superior intelligence. I seem to have some kind of plan or focus. I don't need to ever detail that, but I seem like I would know intimately what those plans would be. I appear trustworthy, clean, honest, and someone you could leave your children with for at least an hour or so. I am presentable, reasonably fashionable, and attractive in some way. I know exactly the correct amount and kinds of facial expressions and hand gestures to use to underline my believability and humanity. I do not smell offensive. I seem like I would be a hard worker, but smart enough to spend most my time telling other people what to do. I have good teeth and a pleasant tone to my voice. I am charming in some way, and my tempered assurance and enthusiasm will cause you to think I am special, and put me in a position of power and prominence. Thank you."

I think if you pair that with a top hat, well, world's your oyster and such.

One out, one in. One side happy and hopeful, the other saying hell in a handbasket. Every four years, 'round and 'round.

Bob Dylan -- "Subterranean Homesick Blues"

EMELKAY

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and the day before Barack Obama is sworn into Presidential office. I spent the day with the kids, took the two little ones to lunch at the fake '50s diner, then bought them shoes at Payless. How is that for an epic moment in United States history? I would've read them a nice story about MLK, but they were bickering too much and I decided to put on my headphones instead. I feel this was American parenting at its finest.

Starbucks had a sign: "JOIN US FOR THE INAUGURATION -- 7 to 11AM TOMORROW!" I had a flash to John Kennedy wearing a top hat at his inauguration. I wish they made all the Presidents wear that, because top hats are awesome. I wish they had to wear them ALL THE TIME, like the hat meant, "HEY BITCHES, SEE THIS TALL ASS CHAPEAU? MEANS I AM IN CHARGE! OH YES!" Of course, it's a bit of a target, too.

It was around my birthday time when Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot dead. It seemed so strange, that someone could and would do that to anyone. I could not figure what he had done to make someone so angry with him. My impressions of him were mainly of him marching, endlessly marching and waving, always with so many people around him. I didn't understand at all why anyone had to struggle for civil rights, because I didn't understand at all about discrimination or that apparently some people were more equal than others. Kids just don't think that way. People are people to children, until they are taught otherwise.

The only thing I remember my parents saying about MLK is that he fooled around with women that were not his wife, and they thought he was a hypocrite for it. My first thought when he died was that some jealous husband shot him. What a thing to tell a little kid, huh? When I think of these things, I am always reminded how children can pick up on things, and how they can stick. One wonders if he had lived, if my parents would have changed their minds about him, a man of peace and hope and courage, despite his human failings. It is hard to say.

Part of me is afraid to watch the inauguration tomorrow. Anyone who grew up in the '60s knows what I mean. Maybe I will just watch the news clips when it is done, and talk to my kids about why it was an important day,and be glad it is over. I may even break out my own top hat, because OH YES I HAVE ONE, and be all in charge over the dog or something.

HOTDOGMAN

Every family creates their own little stories, has their own in-jokes, traditions, legends, and such. For the last few years, we all have been fascinated with HOT DOG MAN. Hot Dog Man is a guy who stands on a local busy corner near the highway interchange in a large hot dog costume, with a sign that points toward the hot dog restaurant. No matter what the weather is, he is out there waving at passing cars and shuffling his feet to someone unknown beat. In the pouring rain he holds an umbrella, his happy Hot Dog Face always smiling despite the miserable damp, with trucks no doubt splashing him with filthy oily road water as he attempts to convince their drivers to stop for a bite to eat.

As we all saw him for the first time, the question arose: how does one get to be Hot Dog Man? How do you get to the place where you are dressed in a dirty decrepit sweaty representation of a dubious meat product to earn a living? Were you a dropout from Crackton High? Didn't make the cut at Disneyland? Have incredibly limited communication skills, the apex being the ability to stand upright and move your limbs? Oh, Hot Dog Man, Hot Dog Man. What is your story? We agreed, as we passed by him as he soaked up great qualities of rain and perceived fail, that it would be a good thing to try to work hard in life to avoid his fate. To be fair, I did mention that it was a good thing that he was working, for working as Hot Dog Man is infinitely better than sponging off the state, your grandmother, your girlfriend, or just laying around watching Maury give Paternity Results #30004. Hot Dog Man certainly earned his minimum wage. That is honorable and good. But I kind of guessed this wasn't tops on his 1st Grade list of "What I Want To Be When I Grow Up."

So today, on a sunny and mild winter day, we passed by him on the way to, yes, the Hot Dog Restaurant. His costume, we remarked excitedly, was new! Gone was the sad and faded Hot Dog and in its place a jaunty new costume with a rich brown bun, deep vibrant red ketchup, and a mini hot dog for a nose. Sadly, the food at the Hot Dog Restaurant is not very good; it is no better than you would get from a steam cart or, worse and more accurate perhaps, a school cafeteria. I ordered a bratwurst, which came with a mound of bland chilled sauerkraut plopped on top, which made the whole thing cold and under-tasty. I ordered a side of baked beans, which actually tasted like the metal of the can they were poured out of. The meal excelled at only one thing: it contributed to my Daily Caloric Intake so that I was able to live yet another day. I knew before I went that it wasn't going to be good, but you know how that goes, sometimes you just eat at crappy places and go oh yeah that was crappy again, yeah.

As we were finishing up the unsatisfying beef and/or pork tubes, my daughter spotted with some amount of awe and pointing, HOT DOG MAN coming into the restaurant. OH!! This was quite a moment. Would we finally see who was the man inside the dog? The woman behind the counter said, "HI, WIENER!" in a jaunty greeting, and my daughter pounced on that immediately: "Did she just call him WIENER???" Wanting to avoid her endless giggling over grade-school penis jokes, I distracted her with a potato chip.

Hot Dog Man shuffled his way back behind the counter and to the tiny kitchen. Not wanting to make him more uncomfortable than he must've been already, I kept my glances furtive and low-key. But I wanted to KNOW. WHO ARE YOU, SIR?

My question was answered a couple of minutes later. He walked out from the kitchen to use the bathroom, minus the costume save for the matching brown Hot Dog Pants, with a white thermal shirt on. Hot Dog Man was Hot Dog Boy! He was just a teenage kid, with a mess of black shaggy hair, and didn't even look as old as my 17-year-old son. Ahhh. Just a kid on the weekend earning some extra bucks.

I should not have judged Hot Dog Man, Boy or not. I just wished he waved people over for better food. Damn, that place sucks.

JAPAN

I postulate that Japan is the weirdest place on earth. Don't you even argue with me.









BEATLES 3

It was like it was all fated, somehow.

In the April of The Year of Beatlemania, three things aligned in my life:

1. I became able to read well. I cannot remember how. It just was.
2. I was given a small transistor radio for my birthday.
3. I “acquired” my first record, “She Loves You” by the Beatles.

I don’t know how quite to state the importance of these things. I don’t know if I was changed, or just set free.

My parents went on a two-week trip to England that April, leaving me and my older brother in the care of my grandmother. It is a legendary family story that as my parents were leaving for the airport, I became so agitated at their departure that I massively vomited all over my mother as she held me in the doorway. My attempt at literally befouling the trip was only temporarily successful. My mother handed me off, hysterical and clingy, to my grandmother, who ran a bath for me with water that was uncomfortably hot, as I recall. My mother changed her clothes, and then she and my dad slipped out the door to General Billy Mitchell Field to take the flights from Milwaukee to New York to London to Manchester. I put on footie pajamas and cried myself to sleep for about a week.

But at least I had my new toy, the radio. It didn’t take me too long to figure it out, how to turn it on and off, the importance of not leaving it on because the 9-volt battery would go dead, and how to use the little red dial to change the stations. I liked the public radio station because in the morning sometimes someone would read children’s chapter books over the air, and of course I loved the pop stations. At this point, the Beatles had the Top Five songs in the charts. Think about that! Everyone was going Beatle crazy, and you would hear a Beatles song every five or ten minutes or so. There were Beatle stories everyday in the paper, in all the magazines, they were all over the TV, Beatles Beatles Beatles Beatles.

When my parents returned, they brought some things back for us, like Pastilles and funny cookies and chocolate, elaborate pop-up books with wonderful illustrations, a doll for me, and a record for my brother. Yes, the record was “She Loves You” backed with “I’ll Get You” on the black Parlophone label with silver writing. This was a curious thing, as my brother had no interest in music whatsoever. I think that my dad, the musician, was trying to make some kind of a musical connection with him, but it was just not there.

I could not believe that my brother got the record and not me. I WANT! So, after a bit, one day I just TOOK IT and it became mine. I stared at it like it was magic. A real Beatles record! Oh, the abuse that poor thing took. I punched out the center hole so I could play it on the Close n’ Play, I left it in the sun and it warped, and one day walked on it and it cracked. Babies should not have records. But before it became unplayable, I played it and played it and played it and played it until someone would beg me to stop. Flip flip flip flip, listening to each song. I loved it. It was so full of energy and fun and joy, and it made me feel like little sparks were going off in my heart. Whatever that magic was they had, hit me full on. They were like Konrad Lorenz, and I was a little pixie-cut-haired duckling, following with love and utter devotion.

Of course, I still have the record. How could I ever get rid of that.

The Beatles -- "She Loves You"


THIEF

The bodies of the rest were already hanging, mostly Indians, another bad pack of them to be rid of. There were two others, Irish that had made their way west looking for quick money, now dead as well. The men of the town, and even towns surrounding, had been quick to round them all up once the news had spread about the Coleman horses and the boy. There would be no trial. This is the way things had to be done here, the Sheriff knew, and there would be no stopping the vigilantes anyway. Not this time. He walked towards the row of dead, still and lifeless from the grayed wooden eaves of the building porches, the ropes making twisting, crackling sounds. No one in the crowd spoke, and the air was still, save for the footsteps of the Sheriff and a few others who had come from the house with him, flanking him silently.

The Coleman family was well-known for their horses; in fact, many of the U.S. Calvary elite, those fanciers who could afford them, and even the President owned horses that the Colemans raised. They had moved to Colorado from the Carolinas, and were deeply respected as hard-working, God-fearing people who never let their good fortune set them apart.

There had been so much thievery in the past few years. Mr. Coleman had come into town one day to speak with the Sheriff and the Sheriff's nephew, an up-and-coming young Cavalryman named Matthew Jeffers, about how best to protect the animals and his business. The Indians as well as career criminals from everywhere else were relentless, Matthew confirmed, and the Coleman’s horses were a certainly a prime target, the finest and most lucrative to steal. So that day the three men formed a plan. The Colemans would take 30 of their best horses up to a remote location, deep into their land. It was a treacherous path to get there, up a steep piney rocky ridge to the plateau, where the horses could spend the summer and early fall. It had been decided to tell no one about this change, and no one knew of it, save for the Sheriff and Jeffers, who both had helped the Colemans move the horses over a long and difficult day. The summer passed, and save for a few drunken brawls and a hailstorm that broke out the windows of half the buildings in town, things were reasonably quiet.

Late on an early September day, as the sky was turning pink and purple and orange as the sun began to rest, the Sheriff saw a rider bursting into town, a young man urging a clearly exhausted horse to keep going. As he came closer, dust kicking into the air, the Sheriff could see the face of William, the Coleman’s 19-year-old son. His hair and eyes were wild, sweat pouring from him and the horse, flecks of foam falling from the horse’s open mouth. His hands and clothes were covered in dried rusty blood. William flung himself off the horse, unsteady.

“The doctor! I need – I – the – please!! Help me!” He grabbed the reins of his horse, buried his face in the animal’s neck as the horse heaved heavily in and out, and let out a horrible cry, broken, desperate. Already people were coming out of their homes and businesses. A girl of about 13 brought a glass of water; someone led the horse away to be taken care of.

The Sheriff thought of that day as he walked through the crowd now, how the face of William Coleman would never leave his mind. William had become worried as the afternoon began to end. Very early in the morning, their lead ranch hand Miles, a half-breed known for his great skill with horses and his kind, quiet, and patient manner, had left with Nathaniel Coleman, the chatty, busy 10-year-old son of the Colemans, to check in on the horses up at the plateau. Mr. and Mrs. Coleman were traveling back East, and William had been left in charge of ranch in their absence, and took on the responsibility gratefully and soberly. He would ride out himself to see why Miles and Nathaniel had not arrived back yet.

After William had choked out the story, the Sheriff and practically the entire town made their way up to the plateau, urgent and angry. It was as William said. The horses, all of them, were gone. The bodies of Miles and Nathaniel, both shot in the back of the head, lay silent on the scrubby ground, in two pools of dark red, the body of the man lying over the boy’s thin frame. The Sheriff had thought then, out of nowhere, that Nathaniel had the brightest blond hair of any he had seen, almost white from being in the sun over the long summer. His chest boiled in rage and sickness and sadness, as the furious vengeful cries of the group started to drown out his thoughts.

The last man to be hanged waited, silently. The Sheriff turned to face him, the first time since the townsmen had dragged the thief from his home and strung him here, and stood him on a chair like the others. The face of the young man reddened immediately and his eyes shone with tears, brightest blue against his blue uniform, and looked back at the stony, slit-eyed glare of the Sheriff.

“…My family…”

The young man stopped himself. There were no excuses, and it wasn’t honorable to offer any. The Sheriff turned away.

As he did, he heard the sound of Matthew Jeffers kicking away the chair, the sounds of death. With no warning, unexpected and complete, Sheriff John Jeffers' legs buckled and gave way. A friend crouched next to him, and put an arm around the Sheriff’s shoulders, as the Sheriff’s grief for his nephew and all of what had happened washed over him, fallen to his knees in shaking silence. The crowd, in respect for Sheriff Jeffers, a good man, quietly dispersed.

TEENAGERS 4

Today I got a call to go out to lunch from a devastatingly cute young man. I giggled and agreed, and met him downtown.

Yes, of course it was my son, off early on Wednesdays from high school.

I suspect he wanted less my scintillating company and more my VISA card to pay for his meal, but no matter. We usually have a decent conversation, somehow less confrontational and naggy in a restaurant rather than over my kitchen counter with some errant gym sock of his catching my eye and irritating me. I usually get some insight on how he is feeling or what he is up to, which is nice. Usually. Today’s insight was a new addition to my aging process.

He wanted us to go to a Mexican place that he had been to before with his girlfriend, so I agreed. Our waitress, a woman about my age or older with long curly dark hair, a spray tan, and lots of clangy clattery jewelry, chattered to us about the specials and gave us a minute to figure out our order. My son grinned a sly slow grin, leaned over to me and said, “She wants me.”

I looked back at him, rolled my eyes, frowned, pursed my lips in disbelief, and shook my head: the Four Signs Of The OH, RIGHT. “Please. Give me a break.”

“No, really! She was flirting with me hard the last two times I was here! You wait!”

“OH, RIGHT. Yer outta yer mind, kid.”

To torture me, my son brought out his best charming manners with her, his deep voice, and shiny expensive smile as he ordered his chimichanga. I saw nothing from her more that the usual friendly waitress banter. Ha. No way. Come on now. Our food arrived after a bit and it was quite tasty, but neither he nor I could finish it all, and we wanted to take it home to eat later. The waitress came back, looked at MY CHILD and asked him if he needed A BOX, smiling. He smiled back and nodded, and she said, “Oh, honey, I’ll give you a box all right,” and TOUCHED HIS HAND AS SHE TOOK HIS PLATE AWAY.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

She left to go to the kitchen, my son looked at my horror-stricken face, and started howling with laughter. “SEE?” he said, “SEE? I told you!”

“Could she NOT SEE THAT YOU WERE WITH YOUR MOTHER???????” My son just kept laughing at me and my outrage, and then of course I also had to laugh. Oh, what the hell is going on in this world.

Curly McCougar came back with the STYROFOAM CONTAINERS, and I gave her a shitty tip. HA!

GHOST

Michael Cole
Social Constructs and Systems
Ms. Henry
February 19, 2065

Assignment #4 – Family History

I started this project several weeks ago with the help of my mother and aunt, who helped me research a mystery in our family’s past that I was interested in. I have come to believe that my great-grandmother, Susan Roberts Burrows, was a ghost. I will tell you why in this paper.

There are no photographs of Susan Burrows. I have spent hours researching in every database available to me, and I have spoken with every relative I can find who might have known something about her. I can find the information of her birth, where she attended school, when she married, when she had her children, and when she died. But there are no photographs of her, and I was unable to either speak to or read about anyone who could verify that they had seen either a photograph or other representational image of her, or could even describe what Susan Burrows looked like.

This would not be unusual had she lived in times prior to the invention of the camera. Many people lived and died with no record of their looks then. But Susan lived in a time when cameras were inexpensive and popular, and used in great frequency by families and institutions. In fact, there are many photographs of Susan’s husband, Tom Burrows, and their children, Ashley, Nate, and Maya, at holidays and vacations and family get-togethers. I could not find a single one of Susan over her lifespan of 87 years. Not any from her birth or childhood, her wedding or anything. Her high school yearbook has her name, but only a blank gray box where her face should have been.

I have in front of me spread on a table 108 photographs of Susan’s mother, father, two brothers, aunt and uncles and cousins, her husband and children, their children, and their children. I will as best I am able, fashion an image of Susan from this, how I think she looked from those she was related to.

Susan Burrows was a woman of average height and weight, about 5’5” tall and 145 pounds. She had light brown hair that would become wavy if cut short. She had blue eyes that tilted up at the outer corners, and a long straight nose. She had an oval face with cheeks that would become bright pink in the sun or the cold. She had freckles on her arms and face. She had a full mouth and slightly crooked teeth. She had dark brown eyebrows that had a slight arch. She had a round chin, somewhat pointy ears, and may have worn glasses.

Nothing exists to tell me why there are no pictures of her, or why the only information I can find on her are basic statistics, common to all people. There are no family stories about her, no links to her hobbies or interests or work. Was she very shy, unaccomplished, ugly? Was she too busy to stop to have her picture taken? Did she not ever travel, drive, have an identification card? Did no one want to freeze time and keep any of her?

Susan Roberts Burrows is a ghost, known now to no one.

BUBBLES

(12/9/93)


hot
bubble tar
sticks to
my bare
feet
bubble bubble
melting sun
turns me pink
as bubblegum
it's a
heat wave.

bubble
bubble
boyfriends
and trouble
school's out
for summer
school's out
forever...
this day
any
way.

bubble
warm water
sand in my
swimsuit
go jump in
the lake
in that moment
in the air
I am freed
(bubble)
(bubble)
(bubble).

INSPIRE 3

I am always so very amazed by what makes up a person, what in the brain and the world sticks and what is cast aside, and why. The relative unpredictability of this is what makes people interesting to me. Otherwise we are all pretty much bones and skin and messy biological functions. You never know what will end up making an impact.

For many years as I was growing up, my mom was a serious purveyor of garage sales. It fit into her Depression-era nature to find bargains, and it was actually a lot of fun. I went with her on many Saturdays, and we'd usually come home with a Windsor chair that she would want to refinish, glassware, old linens, records for me, and often big cardboard boxes filled with books. My entire family loved to read, and I would read whatever it was that filled up that box for a dollar or two -- books on public speaking, lawn mower manuals, Readers Digest compilations, Happy Household Hints by Heloise, anything.

Sometimes the books would be very old, from the estates of the farm folks who had died. I remember one about the Titanic that was published only a year after the disaster. I found this so fascinating, to hold a book that old and try to imagine who had it first, what life was like then. One book I read was a collection of short stories by French 19th Century author Guy de Maupassant. I was probably around nine or ten years old at the time. The book was very old, with almost Olde English type print, with delicate thin pages edged in gold, a burgundy-red leather cover crumbling at the edges. I would sit down in the basement and read, where it was cool and quiet, and I could be alone to become lost in the stories.

I remember feeling the swift, heart-stopping ache in many of his stories, told so engagingly, so elegantly. He was so able to find the drama in the everyday, the choices that people make that change everything, the beauty in human frailty and grace. The short story format leaves no room for wandering or tangents. Everything is economy; focused on this one thing to say, to quickly engage your reader and be able to change how they see and feel in a few pages then let them go again, hoping that they take away something, even a small something, that felt real and true.

I hadn't read de Maupassant since then, although I loved that crumbly old book. I suppose there were more garage sales to attend, more boxes of books to read, not to mention the whole growing up thing and relentless adulthood and all that. But last night I found a website and re-read several of the stories I had admired all those years ago. With some shock and amazement and a bit of delight, as I read I realized: this writer may have influenced my writing the most of anyone. I saw similarities in content and pacing and flow and dialogue and flavor, and it made me smile. This is not at all to say that I think I am anywhere near as fine a writer, not at all. He is far more formal and educated a writer, from a far different time and place, more eloquent and polished. But I see me in there, a whole lot of me and how I think and what I can do. It just stuns me a bit to think that as I sat there as a child reading those then-100-year-old stories, that they stayed in me so much, and years and years later, I just make that connection now.

Although maybe I should worry that I see stylistic similarities between myself and a dude who eventually suffered from syphilis-induced depression and dementia. Heh heh. Well, beats the hell out of Heloise in any case, I say.

Guy de Maupassant -- "Useless Beauty"


http://www.online-literature.com/maupassant/293/

JEANS 4

Another jeans hunt to Marshall's late on this dark rainy afternoon today. Successful it was: a soft dark blue angora sweater, some underwearings, some warm jammies, and Levi's Too Superlow 524 bootcut jeans. I think Nonna has left the Marshall's, sadly. At the fitting room today were two headscarfed women who said nothing but nodded and handed me my clothes count card with the wrong number. A mother and her young teen daughter were in the fitting room as well:

Mother: DAMN! I knew I had put on weight but not this much! I can't even get these past my knees!
Teen: Try the other one.
Mother: No! I'm gonna wait. This is no good!
Teen: Can I get the white t-shirt too!
Mother: No! Jeans or the shirt! Not both.
Teen: (whispers) Shit.

Another woman was having a very very loud cell phone conversation with her father, and we all got to hear about how Janet was having problems again with Bobby, but didn't really want to talk about it now, that Pat was never going to pass the drug test, and Aunt Fran's surgery could only get about 30% of the cancer. THANKS FOR SHARING, MA'AM.

The only other remarkable thing to my trip was the incredible noise put out by a screeching infant the entire time I was there. He was so loud, for so long, that at one point I started laughing really loud to myself. HAHAHAHAHAHAH I went, as I wound my cart through the racks of DKNY discount sweaters, that baby sounds like the slow murdering of a flamingo!

I tried really hard to come up with that sort of approximated sound for you, so you could appreciate my shopping trip more fully, but nothing was quite right. However, this video is pretty damn close, and certainly has the annoyance level down perfectly. Have a pleasant day.

INSPIRE 2

I set out on the venerable treadmill today, with fairly low expectations. I have been so tired, and have been battling a persistent sharp pain in my stupid right hip, so I thought, right, just get on and do 30 minutes of whatever. Whatever is better than nothing, always. This is a major recent revelation to me.

I ended up doing my full hour. Three-quarters of a mile less than I normally do, but far past what I thought I could do. I was very happy.

My complete thanks goes to the inspired iPod shuffling of the Yardbirds, the Dandy Warhols, Elastica, Blitzen Trapper, Crystal Stilts, the Kinks, the Saints, the Romantics, Stereolab, Colourmusic, Those Dancing Days, Marvin Gaye, Beck, Cold War Kids, the Vivian Girls, Gore Gore Girls, The Stooges, Led Zeppelin, Locksley, Queens of the Stone Age, the Rolling Stones, Spoon, and Vampire Weekend. This is why it was easy. Music makes my feet fly, and my heart sing, and my face smile.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Here's my friend Mike Long, an inspiration as well, dancing to The Ventures "Walk, Don't Run."

BLAND

Today, I was driven out of a store because of extreme blandness. It is true; I could not take it a second longer and I just bolted.

I went looking for a pair of small fuzzy boots for my daughter, as she has pretty much demolished the old small fuzzy boots and they now look like filthy marmots on her feet. So I went to one of these local superstores which has everything -- shoes, clothes, tools, dishes, rugs, books, a giant grocery selection -- theoretically your one-stop shopping palace. But everything sucked. It was apparently a theme to the place: REVEL IN OUR COMPREHENSIVE MEDIOCRITY!

The shoes were all knock-offs of more-expensive cheap brands, and all looked like they would fall apart within a week. All the clothes -- ALL -- seemed pre-washed in scalding hot water, with all colors in one load, so you ended up with things that had no discernible color at all, sort of a dulled grey/blue/tan. Even the reds were not really red, they were a sad red. There wasn't a thing to pull the eye, not color or design or shape or remarkable function. Worse was that they charged full retail; this stuff was all fairly expensive, or at least in my bargain-hunting opinion. I ask you, who shops here?

My answer: everyone who was there, pushing their giant supersized grey carts like pilled-sweater, baggy pant consumer zombies. It was like they should all be given party hats on entry to the store that say I JUST DON'T CARE ANYMORE, THIS WILL DO. Give me garbage, and make me pay for it, too. Even the food looked bad, and the meat in particular looked highly dubious, like it was probably goat and cat and jerkied coyote. All this, combined with horrifying mellow 80s ballads through the PA system, eroded my sense of well-being and I just HAD TO GO.

I don't know why blandness irritates me so severely, but it always has. It offends me, and used to offend me even more than it does now. I can remember looking into my mom's closet sometime in the 70s and yelling "MOM? DO YOU REALIZE EVERY SINGLE PIECE OF CLOTHING YOU OWN IS BEIGE POLYESTER??? WHY? WHY? WHY???" She didn't believe me until I made her look. She answered, well, it's very practical and goes with everything. YES MOM, BEIGE GOES WITH BEIGE. I studied that closet for a bit. Those were clothes of someone who just wanted to disappear into the woodwork, not rock the boat, who stopped feeling the joy of the color of the world. She used to be an artist. This could not continue. So for her birthdays and Christmas and Mother's Day, I started buying her clothes with a bit more spark, although I was kind and didn't go right for the hot pink or anything. She was always so happy to get them, and she slowly left Land Of The Bland on her own again, for herself.

Stores like the one I was in exist because people have been fed crap for so long, in so many ways, that they just don't even know the difference anymore. It is not a money issue either; you can find better-quality, better-designed, better-LOOKING things if you just take the time. Or care to take the time. Or care at all. But maybe you like Coyote Jerky. That is possible too. Target is a great example of a large discount store that has made a real point of providing decent things at decent prices. I kid you not; the clothes come from the same places that design and manufacture much more expensive stuff for famous upscale stores. Shh. It's true, though.

My daughter's boots will have to continue to look like dirty rodents for a bit longer. I'm done shopping for today.

CALIFORNIA

I’m going to California
I’m going to make a new start
With flowers in my eyes
A mountain of dreams in my heart.

I’ll be too scared to drive
I will sit inside and dream
Tryin’ to find a road that’s never, never, never busy
Telling myself its not as hard, hard, hard as it seems.

And when the wildfires come
And the sky is red
I’ll walk into the big grey sea
With my cell phone and my bed.

And after come the rains
The mountains start to tremble and shake
Everything I had is lost
To the sliding mud and quake.

Throw me a line if I reach it in time
I think I might be sinking
On such a winter's day
I’m California thinking.

I’m leaving California
With an aching in my heart
Everybody’s a dreamer
And nobody a star.

BAGEL

It's late, I am hungry, so I am eating a bagel with peanut butter and a little honey drizzled on top.

FAST FACTS:

-- I never had the opportunity to purchase or eat a bagel until I was an adult.

-- All peanut butter used to come in glass jars and it all had the oil on top.

-- We used to get our honey from a farm down the road.

-- Toasted bagels always rule over cold bagels.

-- Bagels are a high glycemic index food, and I don't eat them often.

-- My favorite thing on a bagel is lox, cream cheese, tomato, and onion.

-- Peanut butter is American.

-- Peanut butter is high calorie, but a good protein.

-- I hate bees.

-- I used to make honey and butter sandwiches.

-- One of my children does not like peanut butter.

-- I've watched bagels being made from scratch.

-- This is one of the lazier blogs I have ever done.

Nite nite.

MEAT

Back at the Safeway today. It was gloriously quiet. Apparently, everyone is still sated from the excesses of the holidays or still quietly sitting in their crashed cars, spun out from the snowy roads, wondering how to explain it to the insurance companies and/or spouses. No matter -- it makes the store aisles nice and clear for ME and MY shopping vision.

Produce section first for grapes and apples and onions and potatoes and juice and bananas,and then I walk over to the meat department and...EEWWWW. MEAT SMELL. Not good meat smell, like a grilling steak or a slow cooking roast, but uncooked OFF SMELLING MEAT. Bleah. God, how I hate that smell. In a word, it smells like death, because, well, IT IS. Slabs of formerly-living creatures all sliced up and decaying in a well-lit public consumption arena. Sigh.

I eat meat, but I am disappointed that I do, sometimes.

I was a vegetarian for 12 years. When I mention that, people are often mildly surprised, as if I had casually mentioned I once had a an extra toe or something. They also ask me why I am no longer a vegetarian. The answer is both dull and complex, perfect for blogging.

Two things contributed to my becoming a vegetarian in the first place. I was struggling with food in general, with some allergies as well as an increasing number of foods that didn't "settle well," one of those being meat. It started to feel too heavy, too greasy, too hard to digest, too much. I also was in that quaint newish-adult phase of figuring out what I stood for, what I was passionate about. I joined PETA, animal-lover that I was and am, read about the miseries of factory farming and such, and decided I just wanted no part of it all. First to go was red meat, then poultry, then fish. I could never be a great vegetarian, which would mean being a vegan. My Wisconsin heart could never think of giving up cheese, and soy cheese AIN'T CHEESE.

But I was quite happy being a lacto-ovo veg, obviously. I liked learning how to make new meals, although sometimes they did not work out so well. The first Thanksgiving I had as a vegetarian in my own home I decided to make an entree out of the PETA newsletter recipe section, which was a sunflower seed loaf. It all sounded pretty tasty, pretty easy, and I went about making and baking it, along with most of the rest of the tasty traditional side dishes. I served it up proudly to my husband, who took one bite, made a funny face, and then proceeded to laugh his ass off for about a day. I had neglected to SHELL the sunflower seeds, making the loaf just A LITTLE INEDIBLE. I got all upset at my Loaf Fail and the continued hooting, but it was really funny.

Baby Boy #1 and Baby Boy #2 were raised vegetarian, despite the frowns and concern on occasion from friends and relatives. As the boys grew, healthy and strong, it was clear that their diet was perfectly adequate and I made everything they ate count -- fruit and/or veg with every meal, a grain, calcium, and a protein. They ate better than I did, as it turned out. As life got busier, I became ALL-CARB VEG, eating big plates of pasta and pizza and bread, and it showed. I ended up looking and moving like a big giant bag of socks, lumpy and slow. I didn't feel so great anymore like I did when I first went off of meat, and I just didn't really have the energy to do better.

When Baby Girl #1 started up, my decision was made for me. After lying on the living room couch for about 18 weeks with hideous morning sickness like, well, a big giant bag of socks with a baby in the middle of it, I started to feel better and then immediately developed gestational diabetes. OH YAY! Oh man, I cannot tell you how ANGRY I was the day my midwife sent me over to the diabetes clinic at the hospital. I wanted to smash something. Surely this was a joke, some kind of stupid overreacting mistake. Well, it wasn't. I was overweight, just turned 40. Old + fat + body stress = THERE YOU GO, IDIOT. The nurse there informed me that I would have to test my blood four times a day, and follow a strictly-timed diet, eating every three to four hours, and in order to get enough protein and calories for the baby, MEAT was required. I looked at the damn meal booklet. MEAT MEAT MEAT MEAT MEAT. Aw, shit. I asked if I could do this and that and substitute this or that, and she shook her head, no, not really, not this time.

I left there full of rage and tears, mad at this very serious thing that I now had to deal with, that was in part my fault. I wasn't going to fight them. My job was to make sure that baby was healthy. So I poked my fingers and logged the results, saw that orange juice was RIGHT OUT, saw that the diet worked to keep things in control, and I never needed to use insulin. My daughter was born, and the diabetes went away immediately. But both she and I are now at a lifetime risk for Type 2 diabetes, and my blood sugar is sometimes right on the border, and it worries me.

So we all switched back to meat, except for Baby Boy #1, who was old enough to make his own choice and wanted to remain a vegetarian, which he still is. My daughter rhapsodizes about how she loves link sausage and bacon. She is just a little bug, skinny, and healthy too. She asks questions sometimes about why her eldest brother doesn't eat meat, and why the family used to be like that. I make her a hot dog and sigh and explain.

So here I am. I weigh less than I did 20 years ago, eat a varied diet, probably the healthiest I have ever eaten. I run and lift some weights. I think I finally understand what works for me, and I will stick with it. I never eat a pile of meat, as it still tastes too rich to me, but I eat it. I haven't forgotten the cost of that, and it does make me sad. I guess I am a lame vegetarian and a lame carnivore.

I go through the meat department,breathing though my mouth so I don't have to keep smelling the icky meat smell, can't find anything but some chicken breasts and Italian sausage today that I can tolerate buying. I move towards the paper products, and can think about napkins and paper towels and toilet paper instead. For now.

LOVE

If you weren't quite sure, EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE now lets us know:

LOVE IS REAL.

http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/01/04/true.love.found/index.html

Story Highlights

-- Scientists have discovered that people can have a love that lasts a lifetime
-- About 10 percent of couples appear to feel young love's first blush permanently
-- Research has suggested first stages of romantic love fade within 15 months


Well, thank you, Science. This is both wonderful and horrible news. It is also not news to me.

I could've told you that this kind of love was real. But, no matter. I am just another one of the millions of folks over the years who have sat down to tell you this, who felt the need to make the case for it, or express the longing for it, knowing that it was "out there." I appreciate that Science is on-board, because I am super down with Science, and like everything to do with brains and stuff. Theys got machines now that kin measure thangs, like pupil dilation, heart rate increases, brain chemical changes, hormonal and adrenal changes. People in love are, in a word, wacky, and it is fun to hook them up to wires and electrodes and sweatometers and drool measurers and whatnot.

These early physical and chemical responses to love are quite similar to those people with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or an amphetamine habit, which is why Science, and its pal Psychology, have often split love into phases: Lust/Romance/Attraction and Companionate/Reasoned/Affectionate. It seems to make sense. No one can sustain the mental and physical explosions and changes that love brings forever, right? It would be like running flat-out; after awhile you have to slow down or you will just burn up from effort and exhaust all your resources. You then either settle into the latter phase of Love, or break up and perhaps search again for that romantic high, that person who sparks you up. If your break up was significantly traumatic, you might decide that Love was a BIG FAKE MEANIE and not try to find it ever again. Love, that Big Love that all the songs and poems and stories and movies and paintings and sculptures have been made to celebrate or mourn, is transitory. Sometimes found, but impossible to keep at that first amazing moment when the two hearts seem to beat together, effortlessly in tandem, and all of life's little moments seem richer for it.

Right? Right?

No. And yes. But no!

Sometimes, and I think it is for far, far less people than the ten percent this study estimates to be the case, you win THE LOVE LOTTERY. Which means, you get it ALL: love, lust, friendship, attraction, emotional, intellectual, and physical intimacy, romance, ease, comfort, acceptance. All of that, always. Do not confuse this with perfection; there is no such thing when it comes to people, especially when you put two of them together in a room for a long time, or even a couple of days. Love Lottery winners have the same hard times, the arguments and disagreements, the frustrations and disappointments as anyone. BUT, and I made that a capitalized BIG BUT, the difference is that there is a connection there so strong, deep, and mutual, a respect and a trust understood and valued, that the Lottery winners will do what it takes, willingly and gladly, to keep communication open, to keep this very special thing going, to take this piece of magic and make it work. Put simply, they just kind of adore each other, and keep just enough of the OCD love-crazy silly in them, while being able to accept each other and grow as individuals, whatever may come to them.

This is how every so often you see some incredibly ancient couple slowly walking, the more-able one matching the pace of the one with the cane, holding hands and chattering like they just met. Or another couple with three little crazy kids under the age of five running around who can still steal a glance and smile with a wink. Or another pair who sit quietly at a coffee shop reading their separate books or papers, and every so often will connect with a small touch, a shift toward each other, an almost-imperceptible mirroring of their bodies.

I guess if you do the math, you understand why this is also horrible news.

Just like Powerball, yes, this is real and yes, you can win it, but your chances are not so good. So much goes into being able to get it in the first place. Love Lottery is not just fate or chance, although that is also a huge part of it. Sometimes you just run out of time or opportunity to meet the other ticket holder. But more often, it is because you can't see it or accept it because of Issues. In order to feel that, have that, and keep that magic, you have to have some experience in real, unconditional love. Someone in your past must have given you this, and you must have been able to feel it and believe it, whether it was from a parent or another family member, a loyal friend, a teacher who believed in you, or even a damn dog who would not leave your side when you were sick with the flu. You also have to think enough of yourself to think you deserve to be loved, and to give love. Life messes up people pretty hard, and it is really hard to be fully open and giving to any other human being if you can't find the good in yourself to offer, or you just cannot bear the idea of giving it, and it going away someday.

Not to mention not only do you have to have that all aligned, but your SPECIAL PAL has to as well. "Mutual" is so the key word here, where there is a more even balance to the give and take of the relationship, where you both are pulling in the same direction for the same reasons, and pulling as hard as you can. And finally, you both have to WANT IT. Not everyone does, and that is not always a bad thing at all. There are people that are perfectly sound and healthy who simply do not care for the intensity and work that a Lottery Love requires. They are able to have excellent and full lives with different kind of relationships, and do not feel cheated or let down by life in the least. They find satisfaction in other things.

My worry is for those who want the Lottery, and fear they shall never have it, and always wonder and feel a lack. I worry for those that think they have the Lottery in other person, but don't see that the other person doesn't really agree, and they think you can make the Lottery happen if you just love someone enough or long enough. I worry for those already in relationships, and they pretty well know they are not in the 10%, and are sad or bored or confused. Some of them will get divorced, some of them will hang on and either live with the sadness or attempt to see if there is something in them or their partner preventing the Prize Patrol from knocking on the door. It is all so complex, and there aren't really any stock answers other than to be honest with yourself, and to work on that Issues deal. Nothing is ever hopeless, and it ain't over until it's over.

A simple physiological measurement of long-term couples' responses to photographs is nothing to base your world upon. But just look around you. So much of the good, the beautiful, the powerful, the astounding, the heart-wrenching, the most meaningful and lasting things in life have been created through, by, and for love. It is there, it is real,is worth it all. I will defend it and protect it and believe in it to my last breath, like a nutty tin-foil hat wearing superhero, holding a box of melted Brach's Valentine candy, L-O-V-E emblazoned on my hot-pink flowing cape, able to leap over a dozen roses in a single bound.

I wish you all good luck and peace through all the times of your lives, and loves.

Johnny Cash -- "In My Life"