This is a Truth: Most problems I have with people could be solved by my use of an airhorn and/or a paintball gun.


Guest Blogger: Bill from Chicago

Hey all y'all. I didn't even know my hostess blogged so I don't know what confections y'all are used to. I do know that there's a ping pong sized knot in my gut where common sense used to be.

We pulled into The Kiltie for dinner, a vintage Oconomowoc drive-in diner. My daughter ordered the fish filet (rhymes with "kill it") and I had the Pizza Steak, a chocolate malt AND a mollyfloggin Mellow Mint (soft serve sundae with fudge, mint and marshmallow).
All I can say by way of justification is "FAILBOATS fat man."

We drove up to Wisconsin this morning to reunite with your lovely blogstress after six years separation. It's the weekend of Harley Fest so the road was filled with bikers. My vivacious wife (pork tenderloin and a lime shake with custard topping) kept clicking photos of cycles with leather fringe and 'coon tails.

She got a shot of the daughter with a canvas bag over her head in the back seat. She took a picture of an enormous cheesecake and some ugly condos. Somehow she failed to notice the six foot transvestite with acne and razor burn standing in line behind us at the Mars Cheese Castle. That would have been a holiday memory.

Happy Labor Day one and all. Solidarity. Worker's Power. Smash the State. Thanks to the people who gave us the Weekend.

We now return control to your regularly scheduled blogger.

(Unless you'd rather start you're Chanuka shopping early. Check out a Guitar Hebrew t-shirt at )


More Harley Fest shenanigans today, once again to see BRMC. The day's timing was befouled and I ended up running late, driven by my niece into Milwaukee. The traffic started clogging badly as we got closer to the lakefront, motorcycles everywhere. One of my "things" is that I HATE being late for anything. HATE IT. Especially movies and rock shows. The car clock was ticking away, 15 minutes to showtime, and we are dead stopped. To add to the fun, the car was nearly out of gas and kept telling us so. EEEEEEEEEEEEE.

Tick tick tick, finally get within a few hundred feet of where she was going to drop me off. Big sign: "NO PEDESTRIAN DROP OFF." CRAP! The cops were out in full force too, waving people to keep moving towards to parking lots. We devise a plan; there is no time for parking, and the car must find petrol or the day gets substantially worse for my niece. Once we pass the cops, we pull ahead, get a tiny bit of distance between us and the car behind and my niece says, "GO GO GO!" I jump out of the still-moving car, slam the door behind me without a look back, and start running to the entry gate. I jog past a security worker, and he goes "LOOKING GOOD, SWEETHEART!" and I wave, not stopping to determine if he was serious or sarcastic. I do not care. I HAVE ROCK TO SEE!

It's hot, I have to pee, and I have really no idea where I am going, but I find the main gate, show my elaborate ticket, zip into the women's bathroom, zip out, run run run. The stages seem to be in a row. First one, no. Second one, yes, yes I think that is it. I round the corner, see a bunch of biker folks sitting on flat silver bleachers, look up, and there is Peter Hayes of the band soundchecking. Two minutes to showtime, I walk to an empty spot in the front row, and smile. I made it. The girl next to me smiles and asks if I was at the show the night before, and the extremely-skinny and rocked out teen on my other side wonders if I will be able to see OK. I was, and I can. The show begins, and I am grateful and happy to see them again, even though it was just a few hours ago from the last show.

The bikers seem appreciative of the music, I get lots of good photos, and smile to myself, because I will see them again in Seattle in a few days. I really love music. I drank two bottles of water, tossed a terrible iced latte, ate a decent brat, and called it a day. Go me.


Can’t see the stars for the clouds
Can’t see the road for the rocks
Can’t seem to open the door
Don’t have the keys to the locks

Can’t see the sky for the leaves
Can’t see the forest for the trees
Can’t seem to make my way through
Don’t know how to get off my knees

Can’t make it happen, can’t make it happen
Can’t will it away, can’t wish it to be
Can’t see a way out, can’t see a way in
Can’t make it, can’t take it, can’t do it, can’t see

Can’t see where it all ends
Can’t see where the road bends
Can’t seem to look too far down
Don’t know what message to send

Can’t make it happen, can’t make it happen
Can’t will it away, can’t wish it to be
Can’t see a way out, can’t see a way in
Can’t make it, can’t take it, can’t do it, can’t see


Just got back from seeing Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at Milwaukee's Harley Fest. Now, if you don't know anything about me, the band, or what a Harley Fest is, you might think this was a peculiar evening. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club is a band. They are not black, not seemingly all that anarchically rebellious, they do not ever appear to ride motorcycles, and are a Club only in that they are a Band. I am but a humble fan of theirs, and definitely not a Harley person. But, boy, there are a damn lot of Harley-Davidson people in town for this 105th anniversary bash. For the last few days, but especially today you hear the brash burble of their engines, buh buh buh buh buh, in packs of two or three or more, headed to the lakefront. Driving in, there were many people standing on the highway overpasses, looking and waving. I was going to wave at them, but I was driving in a Lincoln, which is not a Harley.

I was having a very sad and crabby day prior to the concert, for various reasons, and I was definitely stressing over the logistics of getting to the concert tonight. Tens of thousands of motorcycle folks flooding into Milwaukee is daunting. But to my relief, by 7PM the highway was flowing well, it didn't take too long to find the Milwaukee Street, which had been blocked off for this little part of the Fest, and - hurray!- parking was a breeze in a nearly-empty garage. YAY! The rain that threatened never came, the streets were not polluted with Hell's Angels drunkards, and people were smiling.

After a quick sushi snack, I made my way to the front of the stage, next to a couple in their early 20s. I could tell they were fans, not bikers, nor the rare biker/fan. A guy next to me asked me when Blind Melon was going to be on and I had to tell him, man, I just don't know. I thought that dude died of an OD anyway. The band came onstage with appreciated punctuality and proceeded to ROCK ROCK ROCK! Wisely, I think, they played a good 90 minutes of their hardest rocking stuff, saving the acoustic songs for perhaps a different crowd. My sadness melted into the music, all these songs I love, and I smiled and danced and connected right in, plugged into the collective.

That is what it is all about, Charlie Brown. Connection. Finding those things that are so powerful, that resonate in your little core, that just make you happy. For me, tonight, it was BRMC. For you, it might be flying a model plane against a peaceful, cloudless sky, or playing roll-the-ball with a toddler you made, reading a novel that seems to pull all your own words right from your heart, or walking with your best friend, talking about everything and nothing. Whatever it is, you will know it. The Harley folks know it. I know it. Plug in.


Family temperament testing, according to reactions on riding a Jetski this afternoon on the lake:
  • Husband: Started off riding, ended up driving. One ride.
  • 10-Year-Old Boy: Multiple rides, but asked the driver to go fairly slow the whole time.
  • 16-Year-Old Boy: Did not go.
  • 5-Year-Old Girl: Most rides of all, asked driver to go as fast as possible, grinned like demon.
  • Me: One ride, held on fairly tightly, secretly loved it when driver opened it up.
Make of this what you will.


Well, I have to say, going to Target today to help my 81-year-old mother find a bra was a new deposit in my personal discomfort bank. I'm sorry, for as laid-back as I can be, hearing my mother talk about her breasts in public, their shape, her needs in a bra because of their shape, and how underwires are the devil, just made me cringe a bit.

She wanted to go to Target because stupid-ass Oprah said the best bra was there. OK, I love Target, let's go. We get there, get over to lingerie, and I ask her so, which bra is it? She didn't know. Um. Well. There are a lot of bras at Target. Any idea? Any?


OK. Well, let's just assume Oprah loves them all. Mom, what size do you need? No clue. Oh, hell. This means I have to visually size up my mother's breasts. Ah, jeez. OK, Mom I think you should try a 34B, k? She begins to poke and prod at all, and I mean ALL, the bras on sale at Target. She has to feel them all and tell me about what she thinks about each and every one.


"This one is nice, BUT IT'S TOO FULL IN THE CUP FOR ME."


Fighting the strong urge to run down the I-94 freeway, I methodically go through the bras looking for any non-underwire 34B bras. I find three. My mom keeps looking, and poking, and commenting, even though I have found the only three she will want to try on. I tell her she is going to need to try them on, and she asks me if she can just put them on right here in the aisle over her shirt, and I hesitate about .000000000000001 of a second before saying, "NO! Let's go to the fitting rooms. OVER THERE!" I am SO not going in there with her; that is simply too much to ask. She happily finds her room, and I look at t-shirts with ironic 80s slogans.

After several years, she comes out, holding a pink lace bra I did not pick out for her. She tells me the other ones didn't fit, but this one sitting in the fitting room did. HURRAY! I say, throw a wicked black 36C in the cart for me without trying it on, and that is that.


If you are native to this area, that's how you pronounce Milwaukee. I was born there, in a Catholic hospital from a Lutheran mother. She shared a room with another woman, who heard in the maternity ward what she thought would be a beautiful and unusual-sounding name for her own newborn daughter. Fortunately for the child, the nurses convinced her that "Placenta" was not a good name, not at all. I wonder what ever happened to my birthmate, Not Placenta.

Today we drove down to Milwaukee's Eastside, the hip part of town for as long as I can recall. Driving from the farm/lake land quickly changes to big box stores and strip malls and generic developments. I cannot place where I am along the way any more; there is too much new, all my old landmarks are gone. Getting into the outskirts of the city, then I see the familiar brick or limestone 6-plex apartment buildings that go on for miles, one after another, unique in my memory to here. They range from neat and tidy to, when looking closely, tattered and dumpy, with some kind of misery living within. The people on the street go from white, to black, to white again. No mix.

Milwaukee reminds me of my maternal grandmother, the "other" one, whom I had no contact with after the age of nine. She lived here, in the exotic city, on her own for much of her adult life, in-between various husbands. She was what people called a "handsome" woman; strong-featured with a wide smile and squinty eyes, sturdy German stock, with thick beautiful auburn hair. The tiny bit of red in my natural hair color, and in my daughter's hair, comes from her, and also likely my bold-ish temperament, also passed to my daughter. Grandma Milwaukee just had no problems whatsoever telling anyone what she thought at any time, and I remember her as critical, generous, and definitely a my-way-or-the-highway kind of woman. Truthfully, I didn't like her because I thought she was mean, and she could turn on a dime. I didn't trust her. She seemed hard. I think of, as we drive further into the city, the few times I went to visit her here. It was the first time I rode on a city bus, and the first time I saw anyone any other color than white. It was the first time anyone ever made me make a bed military-style, and the last time too, for that matter. I can't say that I missed her as I finished growing up. I just felt bad for my nice mom that she didn't get a nice mom.

Our destination, Urban Outfitters, is at hand. I go with my college-age niece, and she goes wild picking out stuff which is a delight to see because she is so cute and sweet. I get a dark gray skirt and a print v-neck shirt, some stuff for the teen, and the second volume of the great creative nonfiction collection that I got at Urban in April, so that makes my day right there. Walking out and down the street, I see the theater where I saw Elvis Costello in 1979, one of the best shows I have ever been to, and the park were there used to be free concerts, raided frequently by the erstwhile Milwaukee police. It is nice to see something I remember. I also see the sub shop where I consumed a vinegar-laden sandwich that had me puking for days. I stick my tongue out at the shop with vigor.

Drive home, white to black to white. The sun sparkles on the lake, my niece shows off her pretty clothes, and I greet my mother, waiting for me with a smile.


A lovely day at the lake house today -- blue skies, nice breeze, pleasant and warm. The only thing missing was coffee, so I went in search of a Venti Iced Latte before I got a caffeine headache. I guess I should never go to Borneo or Malawi or other such destinations without Starbucks, huh. Although for all I know they are littered with them.

I sit outside, and the young guy who takes my order comes outside to clean off a table, and strikes up a conversation. He is tall, good-looking, walking the line between goofball teen and assured young man. He talks about Badger football, season tickets, how he is going to Madison in the fall as a freshman, hopes to get into the business school. I ask him where he is from, and he tells me he was raised in the same small town I was. I tell him that my dad used to be mayor there, and we talk about his neighborhood, which is behind a park I spent many hours at when I was little. There are many years separating us and our experiences of living in the same town. When I was there, it had maybe 3000 people, had one main road through town, defined by the lakes and farms, small businesses, churches, quiet. Now it has 7000 people -- not a huge increase but hey, and the character of the town is completely different. It's now an upscale bedroom-community, 45 minutes by highway to Milwaukee, dominated by the Lang Companies, a paper goods/calendar/gift company. Mr. Lang pretty much bought up the town and put up pretty red brick buildings, where there are now busy restaurants, groovy coffeehouses, specialty food stores...even the gas station looks fancy.

I wonder what my dad would've thought of it all. He wanted the town to modernize, improve, grow responsibly. I just don't know if he would've dug the single-vision thing though. He was an individualist, my dad, and somehow I think he would've liked to have seen some of the funky old family shops remain, the crusty bars, the swampy green fishing spot in the middle of town where people sat with bamboo poles waiting for a bite, rather than a paved-over glossy "riverwalk."

As the young Starbucks dude goes back into the store, I wish him good luck at Madison, and he seems genuine in his thanks to me. I had forgotten there are people like that, just nice. He will do well in school, ace the business school, grab a decent job in Chicago or Minneapolis, and someday revisit our small town with his wife and children, and think about how it was and how it changed.


Off today to the airport, airplane, airborne. It is so absurd, the idea of all these people willingly flinging themselves into space, or at least thin air, in a thin metal tube, piloted by regular human people types. FLING! It really takes a lot of trust, or ignorance, or ignorant trust. Yes yes I know, flight safety is better than cars blah blah blah. It’s still a crazy thing to do.

My fellow flingers today are a pretty damn quiet bunch, or it could be that the incredibly loud engine by my seat at 26C is just masking the horrors of screaming infants and nattering elders. SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH, goes the engine, like the loudest seashell ever. The seashell would have to be like, skyscraper big, but that is the kind of noise it is.

The flight always feels longer when you have young children along because I am hyper-vigilant that my kids are not little Plane Shits. No kicking the seat in front you, no loud voices, no flinging food, or any other such obnoxious crap. The teen and the pre-teen are fine, absorbed in an ipod and Nintendo DS respectively, although the pre-teen has an early moment with a chewing gum issue. I turned back to look at him, and his face and DS stylus were covered in orange globs and stringy strands of gum. His older brother laughed and laughed, and I sent Gum Boy to the lav to attempt to clean up. I didn’t ask how the gum got on the stylus.

The challenge passenger is the five-year-old. Well, I can so far say that at least she has not had a screaming meltdown, which is new for this year, and did not dump an entire apple juice can on the airplane floor. Progress! She is a hyper thing by nature and even when belted in squirms and wiggles and goes from one thing to the next: draws, reads, talks, raises the window shade up and down and up and down, almost kicks the seat, asks for food, asks for water, asks to change seats with her brother, puts shoes on wrong feet, plays with all the zippers on her new backpack, takes a ribbon off the backpack and attempts to tie it on the tray table, sticks stickers on me, knocks her head against my shoulder repeatedly, starts singing, sticks hand back to poke at teen brother, grabs food off my tray, tries to nap and fails, REPEAT ALL AD INFINITUM. And we have another hour and some to go yet. She is now eating a chocolate chip cookie, whose melty goodness is spreading over her face and hands. The flight attendant walks by and hands me another napkin. Tick tock tick tock.

Somewhere over western Minnesoter now, flat brown and green squares below us, cruising at a fun-lovin’ 35,000 feet. With any luck, we will land smoothly after another 393 miles, have five unmolested bags waiting for us at baggage claim, have a non-felonious Super Shuttle driver, and see an icy cold beer waiting in the fridge at the final destination point.


Back once again to the hair salon. For a Friday, it seems quiet, but I am not complaining. My stylist is pleased with my grow-out. We agree to keep the chemical formulation the same -- dark chocolate with insanity stripes. She goes to the back room to mix up my hair goop, and I shuffle through the magazines for something to read.

I end up picking More magazine, named, I guess, because if you read this you have MORE FUCKING YEARS ON YOU. It's targeted to women who are 40+ and wealthy enough to give a shit about endless Botox debates rather than deciding whether to serve their kids ramen or air that night. For whatever the reason, as I read, I get more depressed and pissed, although by my neutral exterior you would never know this.

It all seems so desperate in the end, although the magazine wants to be the antithesis of this. Every women in there, they give her age in big bright numbers: Marva, 51!, Kate, 43!, Julia, 63!, Anne, 41! They don't do this in Vogue: "Ashley, 15, Supermodel Who Will Be Relegated To Online Catalog Work By 20!" All the More articles seem to focus on accepting yourself as fabulous in midlife or how someone has created this fabulous existence after some crash-and-burn life event...everything just screams, "YES, YOU ARE GOING DOWNHILL, BUT IF YOU BUY THIS MAGAZINE WE'LL TRY TO MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER ABOUT IT!" Ugh.

It's all so fake, so demographically-crass. Hmm, magazine sales are way down, what's a good target audience? OH! Self-absorbed baby-boomer women who need endless shoring up! THERE WE GO! Pardon me if I am crabby. I understand, someone there might have the intent of trying to show that older women are great, or greater in some ways than the youthful things that get most of the attention and press. They mean for the magazine to be inspiring, sure. But it's like, the more attention you give to it, the more you set it apart, make it obvious that there is a PROBLEM that you should BE AWARE OF. There are real problems and issues with all ages; there is no one time in life where everything is perfect, and every person is different. I hate anyone being reduced to a cliche.

Know what I am going to do? I am going to be a NICHE-FILLER. That's right! I am going to start my own magazine, targeted to the 60+ folks. I will call it RATBAG. It will be a no-holds-barred effort, no-kidney-stone-left-unturned kind of thing. You want some honesty? Let's have some articles entitled, "Whoa! Gray Pubes!" and "I Can't Stand My Snotty Grandchildren And I Ain't Leaving Them Shit" and "The Skin Over My Knees Now Covers My Kneecaps, Kiss Me!" and "I'd Say Hello To You In The Grocery Store But I Can't Remember Your Fucking Name." My models would all come from hospices, and would be giving the finger.

Don't you dare me, 'cause I will DO IT.


It was a dark and stormy night…

It was, and it remains to be a cold, cloudy, chilly day, with a nasty brisk wind more suited to winter than the middle of August. As I drove the kids to day camp, I saw fallen small branches at the side of the road and a large fluffy white cat, also fallen at the side of the road. Nothing like shitty weather and a dead pet to start your day.

But now I sit here, in the Other Other Good Coffee Place, warmed by a latte and their pleasant lighting scheme, fully illuminating the shop because it is SO DAMN DARK outside. I nom on a piece of banana/chocolate chip bread and an actual banana as well and feel my potassium levels are pretty set for the day. I have already heard The Dandy Warhols, Silversun Pickups, Ra Ra Riot, Vampire Weekend, and Radiohead since I walked in the door, which brings some tiny smiles to my lips. As I look out the window, the small trees in the parking lot bend and sway, only me watching their dance.

Who's peekin' out from under a stairway
Calling a name that's lighter than air
Who's bending down to give me a rainbow
Everyone knows it's Windy

What an annoying song. I liked it, of course, when I was a kid, but it also confused me. I didn’t know any girls called Windy, just a Wendy. She sounded kind of hyper, Windy, and I wasn’t really sure if she had superpowers or if lyrical metaphor was in effect:

And Windy has stor-my eyes
That flash at the sound of lies
And Windy has wings to fly
Above the clouds (above the clouds)
Above the clouds (above the clouds)

She sounded like a weirdo, really. Come to think of it, so did her song-sister, Stormy:

Yesterday's love was like a warm summer breeze
But, like the weather ya changed
Now things are dreary, baby
And it's windy and cold
And I stand alone in the rain
Callin' your name
Oh Stormy, oh Stormy
Bring back that sunny day

I sure as hell didn’t know anyone named Stormy, either. AND FOR THAT MATTER, I didn’t know anyone named Sunny:

Sunny, yesterday my life was filled with rain
Sunny, you smiled at me and really eased the pain
The dark days are done
The bright days are here
My sunny one shines so sincere
Sunny one so true
Sunny one so true
Sunny one so true
I love you

Windy, Stormy, Sunny, Latte, Bananabread, whatever.

A black Mini Cooper drives past, and I remember riding in one in London with a very reckless rock star driver, his 10-year-old child on my lap. It was windy and chilly that day, in the spring.

Three firefighters now have pulled up in their shiny red fire truck. No emergency, just a coffee run. They are superhuman, unlike that damn nit Windy, and I think I might ask them if they can do something about getting rid of this obscene weather pattern, and if they can pick up the dead cat so I don’t cry on the way back to pick up the kids.


Come to think of it, the clothes I wore in the 70s were even worse than what I wore in the 80s:
  • a polyester pants set, with pictures of different kinds of candy bars all over the pants, and a matching orange top with a blue and white polka dotted tie. WTF????
  • a purple, white, and hot pink flowered macrame vest
  • mom-sewed dark blue cords covered in tiny felt strawberries
  • mom-sewed black cords with some kind of huge floral pattern that looked like an old lady couch
  • fake Frye boots and fake CAT work boots made of plastic from the Farm 'N Fleet, because we didn't have the money to buy real leather ones
  • white wide legged jeans that said "ARIES" on them in orange embroidery, and a blue embroidered ram on the ass pocket
  • fake denim platform shoes with silver studs all the way around the bottom
  • a Harvey Wallbanger t-shirt
  • a Keep On Truckin' t-shirt
  • painter pants in white, off-white, orange, red, and purple
  • painter-pant overalls in off-white, denim, and red
  • a plaid shirt with gold threads running through it
  • a burgundy Danskin outfit, complete with leotard, wrap skirt, and tights
  • extremely low-rise red velvet jeans that laced all the way up the sides, handed down to me from the slutty neighbor woman; I was only allowed to wear them in the house
  • tweed knickers with a matching rust colored cowl neck sweater, and a tan wool tunic over that; I wore that first day back to school in 8th grade and sweat to death
  • tube tops in red, pink, and dark blue
  • assorted insane-print baby doll tops that covered my pudgy pre-teen stomach
  • CREEM t-shirt
  • white suit with black and white prison striped shirt
  • red parka with bright orange lining which I wore until it ripped to pieces
  • a Soul-Train type overall outfit with elephant bell bottoms that went gradient color from lightest to darkest blue, covered in silver star studs up the sides, which I wore with the studded shoes, a denim cabbie hat, and gradient prescription sunglasses


Now that she got her nails done, my daughter had to find something else to bug for, which was a haircut. “Mom, my bangs are TOTALLY LONG! It’s so annoying!” Awright, awright. I take her to the local rock and roll cheap haircut joint. The walls are covered with handbills from Seattle punk clubs, the music is hard and loud, the stylists usually pretty alternative-looking, yet they are unfailingly nice, very competent, take walk-ins, and like kids. Moreover, they are directly across from the Starbucks and mere steps away from the Other Other Good Coffee Place, the sushi carousel joint, the gringo Mexican restaurant, and the dog wash place, where my dog got bathed today. Now my sweet mild-tempered dog smells like a man wearing Drakkar. It’s kind of disturbing. But better than dog smell, I guess.

So my kid and I wait until it is her turn. We look at a copy of In Style magazine, and rate the dresses we see on the pages. We often agree that we like none of them. I laugh when she tells me how she doesn’t like a particular strapless purple dress, pointing at the girl’s cleavage , saying “you can see her bra crack, and that’s inappropriate.” As it turns out, her stylist today is a great big metalhead dude with shoulder-length black hair, lots of tats, chains, heavy black boots, and a nice smile. She is not fazed in the least that he outweighs her by about 200 lbs. and she about stands as high as his silver-studded belt. She clambers up onto the chair, tells him her bangs are annoying, and he tells her, “Cool. We’ll fix that right up for you, doll.” He looks back at me and smiles, and I smile back, and go back to reading In Style.

When she is done, I tell her she did a good job holding still, she thanks the metalhead dude, and he gets her a cherry Blowpop. We walk over to the fountain by the OOG Coffee Shop, because she wants to make some wishes. I fish out a nickel and a penny for her to toss into the water. I see her grin widely, then plop plop, the two coins go in. Before I can tell her not to tell me what she wished for, she comes over and grabs my hand and says, “I wished for a real tattoo.” I immediately find the last coin at the bottom of my bag, a dime, throw it in the fountain, and make my own wish.


I didn’t really have a lot of experience with the concept of “rivalry” when I was a kid. I had an older brother but frankly, he was no rival other than he ate more of whatever decent food we had in the house. I spent so much of my time alone, at home or at school, lost in the world of books or listening to music, that competition just didn’t come up that much. Other than my fear of losing at birthday party games, I was pretty confident. I didn’t give anyone any grief, but I wasn’t particularly patient either. Keep up, or get out of the way. I say this now in bittersweet hindsight, as we all know the bigger they are, well, you can finish the cliché. No one is best for long.

It wasn’t until 5th grade that I found, to my irritation, that I had a rival. Her name was Charlotte. We had moved to this awful little town of 300 inbred Wisconsin Germans the year before; at my new school I had been moved up to Unit C, the highest, while she stayed in Unit B with the rest of the kids our age, so I didn’t know her until she made it into Unit C. LOL “open concept schools.” I didn’t do shit there. Anyway, Charlotte was a round-faced pink-cheeked farm girl, with short wavy blonde hair, sort of pre-teen pudgy. She smiled an awful lot, and was perky. Her perkiness was the first thing I noticed about her, and the first thing about her that irritated me. Behind the smiles and the perk and the willingness to help the teacher and clean things, I saw something in her eyes: a steeliness, an intelligence, and resentment. I had never seen the latter trait directed my way before, and I was both curious and defensive. Hmm. Hmmmmmm.

It started almost immediately that fall. Whatever I did, Charlotte would try to best. Didn’t matter what it was – reading, math, sports – she’d try to copy me. Her frustration grew, palpably, over the months because despite what seemed to be a very serious effort from her against my indifferent execution of almost everything, I still did better. After awhile, she became so obviously agitated that I started to quietly enjoy her displays, as evil as that might’ve been. If I had known or had such language at that age, I would’ve said, “CHARLOTTE! Get off my DICK already!!” Ah, that would’ve been worth detention.

When she got a “A” on her speech in Debate Club, she took her paper with the big pretty grade and brought it by my desk, glowing, gloating, sure that she had finally done it, sure that I would now be humbled. The teacher, a jolly rotund guy named Bud who was a Toastmaster or something, called my name with a big smile. I walked up and took the paper from him, saying “Thank you,” before looking at the grade. I sat at my desk and unfolded the paper as Charlotte hung over my shoulder, ready to burst with her win.

“A+. Brilliant. You are a talent. Enjoyed having you in class!”

Charlotte’s pink cheeks turned scarlet red, then almost sort of a purple-ish color. I said nothing, I did nothing, not even a smirk. I just left the paper sitting, open. After a few seconds, she stalked away, went back to her desk and sat down with a furious flourish. I wondered why she cared so much. Maybe it was because I took her place as the “smart kid” in this lame minuscule farm school? Ah, well.

Fifth grade was also the time when you were allowed to join the school band. The band people made their instrument pitches at an assembly for the 5th graders, telling us a bit about each one. I decided to take clarinet, solely because the band people said it was easy and didn’t take much breath. What a lazy ass I am. My dad was pleased, and rented a smooth new black clarinet for me at the local music store. When I came to school with it for first band practice, guess who also was carrying the identical clarinet, in the identical orange case? Oh, yes she did. Charlotte was the most determined thing I had ever seen.

Well, the band people were right. Clarinet was easy, and I was assigned first chair. Charlotte was second chair. There was only one problem. I absolutely hated it. I hated the sound of it, the horrid squawk and bray and squeak. It so was not my thing, but I dutifully kept at it for the year, Charlotte next to me also squawking away, carefully turning her pages on her music stand, glaring and smiling coldly at me.

Sixth grade came, and I decided I needed to have a talk with the band director. I told her I didn’t want to play clarinet anymore, and she was upset with me. She didn’t understand; I was first chair, I was doing well! I told her, well, what I really want to play is…

The drums.

So, the end of this story is that I switched over to the drum section, the first female in the school district to ever play them. I wasn’t all that good, but I was happy. Charlotte was moved up to first chair clarinet, she was happy, and the rivalry ended.


Back to the Marshall's today. UPDATE!
  • DKNY shorts: another size down and TEN BUCKS!
  • Hot pink tissue-thin t-shirt: SEVEN BUCKS!
  • Pumpkin-orange Max Studio sweater: FIFTEEN BUCKS!
  • Guess Starlet Skinny Leg jeans, a size down: FORTY BUCKS!
My only disappointment was that Nonna was not working the fitting room. That would've made the trip perfect.


For weeks, my five-year-old daughter has been begging me every day to go back to the salon and get her teeny nails polished again. I told her that if she could go a few days without INCIDENT REPORTS at school or severe obnoxiousism at home, we could go. It took awhile, 'cause she is wild, but today I took her over there. She was very excited and decided that she wanted us to "match," so she went and changed into a black t-shirt and jeans like me. When she came downstairs to show me, she was all beaming and proud.

"Mama? We look just alike now. We have the same hair, and the same eyes, and the same clothes, and the same shoes. We are the same!"

I smile, and tell her yes, yes we are, because that makes her happy. In a few years, she will be horrified to be anything like me, but for now, she wants to feel that connection, that idea that she is of me. It is lovely and heartbreaking at the same time, knowing that these days end so soon, that they have to.

I let her pick out the nail polish at the salon; Flashbulb Fuchsia for her, Totally Tangerine for me. I am down with the orange color and grateful she didn't pick the hideous dark gray that is new for fall. "Why hello! Yes, my nail beds have festered and DIED, thank you!" Ugh. We sit in the big black leather chairs, and wait our turns.

The Vietnamese woman who does my daughter's nails has a nametag that reads "LIZ," but I kind of think that was not her actual name. Liz is kind, and asks her how old she is, and if she has brothers or sisters, and tries to make her comfortable. I look at my daughter in profile. That is my face, or was my face, my haircolor when I was her age, a sandy blondish brown. Her blue eyes are turning green, as one of her older brother's did, as mine did. I marvel that she sits still and quiet and patient, something she never does anywhere else. Liz paints tiny little white flowers on her tiny little thumbnails over the Flashbulb Fuchsia, and they both come over to show me with big smiles. Her hands are so tiny. Sometimes I forget, because she is so verbal and has such a huge personality and is so willful, she really is just a baby.

Fancy Pants Girl and I sit and wait for our sparkly nails to dry, and a grandma sitting by us asks my daughter, "So, are you a princess?" As I cringe a little, my daughter rolls her eyes at the woman and says, "No. I am too old to be a princess. I am in 1st Grade."

We leave soon after, and I see her do that splayed-finger don't-wreck-your-fresh-nail-polish thing like I do as she opens the door to get in the car.


Oh, Drunken Shirtless Tattooed Dude With No Shoes, what were you doing weaving and wobbling and wandering down the street at 4PM?


I am working on scanning and restoring photographs this week. My new scanner hums nicely away at my desk, and turns my old, faded, badly-beat-up negatives into lovely color digital representations. It seems quite magical to me. I frown at the negatives as I load them into the film holder. They have so many scratches and crap on them it's just sad. The scanner software can remove a decent amount of problems, but not all. The rest is left up to me, me and Photoshop.

My eyes are red and puffy from staring at the computer screen, scanning for minute imperfections. A pixel here, a pixel there, everywhere a pixel pixel. I am careful not to go crazy, past the level of my abilities, as that seems to cause me great grief when I have to dump out of a hour's correction work when it ends up looking like crap. I am improving them, but I can't perfect them. Someone else will have to do that if needed.

I enlarge the picture so much at times that is it just a fuzzy meld of colors, not a person or a guitar or a drum kit. It comes down to little dots of light, which I match as closely as I can. It is about an opposite an experience from taking the pictures as possible. Catching the images was seeing the big thing, moving all the time, intensely physical, keeping senses keen, instinct high. Making the pictures whole again, is patience and extreme detail, a solo job, quiet and methodical. My ass is sore from sitting, too. I actually wanted to take a break and load the dishes into the dishwasher, that should tell you something.

The hardest thing with taking the photos was so many times you would miss the moment, the great shot, and sometimes it never came again. You would see it, but for whatever reason -- bad light, too much movement, a moment's distraction -- it was gone and you had to look for the next. I would get so discouraged sometimes; some nights just didn't go my way, I didn't get crap to show for the effort, and I felt like I screwed up. But probably the next show would be better, or maybe it would be WOW, and that was glorious, a giddy high. I would nearly DIE waiting for the pictures to come back from Chicago's big Kodak lab, in the bright yellow/orange sleeve.

But here, now, it's all right in front of me, all that work and joy and fail, in glorious 4800dpi, which my eye cannot even interpret. These photographs, all so familiar to me, turn into something else as I examine every little corner of them. Since I never processed and printed them myself originally, now I can play with them, change every last thing about them if I like. They become a landscape of tone and texture and dots, abstract and unreal. If I mess something up, all I have to do is click on "undo" and all is well, until I make some other mess. I can undo all day long, and there is some good comfort in that. There's really nothing I can do that will wreck anything permanently, nothing I am going to lose forever. I am pleased when one of them turns out well, all the scratches are gone, faded color returned to healthy reality, when they look more like how I remember them through the viewfinder. But in breaking them down to the pixel, the pore, their grainy bits and pieces, maybe I see too much about them. They lose a little of their magic when I see all their problems, and that is too bad. It's like if you spend too much time looking in the mirror -- it's good to do a quick check, do a little fluff and adjust, but if you keep staring, you are just going to find more things to fix, and you will miss your damn bus trying to get some pepper out of your teeth or something.

So I click on "Zoom Out" a few times until the photo looks like a person again, and has life and movement and reality. File saved, next.


As a young child, I had a pretty hardy constitution, as I remember. I got the usual colds and the flu a few times, some scrapes, a header off my mom's bed, and two unfortunate run-ins with some barbed-wire fences. Oh, and I jumped out my bedroom window with an umbrella, Mary Poppins-style and broke my ankle. Alright, so maybe I was a little reckless, but I was basically healthy, is what I am saying. Heh.

When I got to my teen years, my guts started going to hell, and for the longest time I didn't know why. I would just suddenly feel pain, nausea, and KABLAM. Kablam would go on for hours, and sometimes days. My mother would actually sit with me in the bathroom while I cried and moaned, and she would hold my hand, and clean out my puke bucket, and never once even wrinkled her nose. She would look at me with infinite sadness and say, "When you hurt, I hurt." That is either crazy, or sainted. Or some of both. I ended up being diagnosed with some food allergies many years later. Hooray.

Anyway, early on in this charming change of gut-events for me was The Easter Incident. I must have been about 13, and as always we had made the drive up to my grandparents' house about an hour and ten minutes away for Easter dinner. My Grandma Lizzie was a fabulous cook; I liked everything she made, and she made a ton of food, as is the Midwestern custom, and everything from scratch. There would always be sour-cream mashed potatoes with butter, fluffy biscuits with butter, sweet potatoes with butter, freshly-baked slices of sourdough bread with butter, corn pudding with butter, green beans with butter. The without-butter items were cottage cheese, a small bowl of assorted pickled vegetables, gravy, and salt and pepper. Tall glasses of milk from the farm were poured for the kids, icy cold water for the adults. And of course, because it was Easter, Grandma Lizzie had made a massive glazed ham, studded with cloves. It smelled amazing.

We all sat down and oohed and aahed over the bounty. Grandma brought out the blue Delft plates, and we began to pass the dishes, all except the mighty ham, which my father cut in huge slabs and plopped on our plates. We would fill the plates until food would slosh off the sides, go for seconds, and sometimes thirds, then rest our stuffed stomachs for an hour or so until we could ram down some apple pie with a slice of sharp cheddar cheese, and another cold glass of milk, coffee from a bubbling percolator for my dad and grandparents. It really was an obscene amount of food, but man, so yummy.

After this gullet-jamming festival vaguely having to do with Jesus, my mom and Grandma began the process of Dividing The Leftovers, a sacred event. We got the bulk of the spoils, since Grandma was all of 4'11' and ate like a bird, and Grandpa Guy, who was also thin, seemed to sleep most of the time. The many containers of Tupperware were then loaded into our car for the tedious ride through the Wisconsin countryside back home. We waved goodbye and headed out into the sunset, hoping always to get home before dark. It was snowy and cold still, not unusual there in the early spring.

We were about 10 miles into the drive when I started feeling seriously bad. It started with pain. Pain that got sharper and sharper until I had to say something, because I was starting to sweat and feel very worried.

"Um, my stomach doesn't feel very good."

My mother whipped her head around to look at me. "Oh my goodness, you are as white as a sheet. Bob, pull over!"

"Oh, Christ!" My dad had such a way with words. He slowed the car to a stop into the gravel on the side of the mainly-deserted country highway, and my mom told my brother to ride in the front while she sat with me in the backseat. I took my seatbelt off and put my head in her lap, as my dad drove off again. The pain was increasing so much, and I started to cry while my mother stroked my head.

Then it started. The cause of the severe pain I was having became all too obvious.


I started letting loose from my bowels the most uncontrolled, ungodly horrifying rancid blasts of glazed ham gas the world has ever known. They kept coming and coming, long and loud and painful, twisting through my intestines like an evil knife. My dad and brother and mother all cried out in agony at the intense stench; it was powerfully overwhelming and hung in the air of the car, heavy and nauseating and stunning in hamosity. Despite my dad now going about 80MPH and the cold weather outside, all windows were lowered in an attempt to continue breathing. My mother, my sainted mother, covered her face with her sweater, while I cried and farted and moaned. My dad, nervous and irritated, went to light a cigarette.

"BOB! NO! YOU'LL KILL US ALL!" my mother screamed. She was worried the spark from the lighter would ignite the entire vehicle, and we would erupt in methane-flame, crash, and burn in some farmer's snow-covered cornfield.

It was at this point that the full absurdity of the situation was absorbed, and everyone started laughing, including me through the tears and the pain, because at the end of the day, hideous-smelling incredibly loud farts are funny. My mother laughed until she cried, and apologized to me while continuing to giggle. We froze and laughed and cried while I continued to pump out evil ham gas.

My dad drove straight past our turn off to the next town, where we made a stop at the hospital emergency room. They poked and prodded and x-ray'd me to make sure I didn't have something more serious, gave me meds for the gas, and sent us home again. My mother threw all the lovely Easter Tupperwares away, and it was a long long time before we had ham again, but that story became family legend.


Every so often, it seems like it is a good thing to make a solid and truthful assessment of your life. Where ya goin’, howr’ ya doin’? Things going well, not so well? Happy? Content? Fulfilled?

It seems like it is a good thing, but I am not sure if it really is.

I have been through plenty of Assessment Cycles. I have come to believe that these are actually Head-Up-Your-Own-Ass-Ment Cycles. There is no checklist of qualities or achievements that has any real meaning or permanence. Life is ever-changing, fluid, mercurial, and infinitely open to the daily variations of feeling, want, perception, and influence. There is no black-and-white, yes or no. All shades of gray. I have fewer answers, as well as fewer questions. It is said the older you get, the less you know, and I think it is true, and not a bad thing. Just a thing. Just an is.

We expect and want life to be this steady uphill journey, where you may struggle but you are still always improving, being better in some way than before, to be King of the Hill at the End of the Day. It just really cannot be like that. You are set out at the beginning at the bottom of the nasty rugged imposing mountain with no tools, no clues. You gather what you can along the way, you might have some company or help here and there, but it’s a solo jaunt for sure. You have zero experience in mountain climbing so instead of this clean sure-footed trek, it’s a tragi-comedy of falling rocks, spectacular pratfalls, useless detours, sudden elevations, blizzards, unexpected sunshine, stunningly-pretty wildflowers, ill-tempered mountain goats, missed footing, ponderous exhaustion, stubborn balking, boundless energy, dehydration, and dizziness. Halfway up, your backpack filled with tools tumbles down the mountain and you don’t even have a can opener to open the crappy, overly-sweet baked beans you have to eat to live. You bash open the bean can with a rock, and cut yourself on the can, and scream, ‘OH SHIT!!!” and it echoes down the mountain, causing an avalanche and the death of several eagles.

You get to the point, long long after you started climbing, where you can just see the top of the mountain. It’s not that far to go, and that is both rewarding and terrifying, in your beat-up, well-muscled, dirty, and self-reflective state. Your backpack is lighter than you think it should be, which is a disappointment and blessing. If you had everything you needed, you wouldn’t have room to pack another tool you might find along the way that might be the most helpful of all.

Assessment isn’t going to do much for you, other than cause you a few moments’ grief or satisfaction. Something will change in some way, and all the goal-setting, planning, smugness, or wallowing will be replaced by simply doing something. Doing is greater than thinking about doing, or thinking about what’s been done. History will repeat itself over and over again, even though lessons have been learned, and whether you like it or not. It’s part of the deal.

Get some new climbing shoes and keep moving. Up, down, sideways, circular, whatever. Just keep going.


No. Out.

Despite some effort from my mother in particular, I just never thought this was true. For a time, I was taken to Christ The King Lutheran Church, which we kids dubbed “The Broken-Down Spaceship” or “The Ski Slide” because of its unique curved roof, considered very modern architecture at the time. Some devilish and stupid soul did actually ski down it once, got injured and arrested. You can’t ask for better entertainment than that in a small Wisconsin town, dude skiing off the church roof. Jackass, 1960s style.

How I hated getting up on Sundays to go to church. Whether I was in Sunday school or sitting bored out of my skull in regular services, all I could think of was, “WHEN DOES IT END?” I can remember holding my mom’s hand walking into church and thinking, “All these people believe this is true.” I thought and I thought and I thought, and I came to my own conclusion: no proof, no good. Soon afterwards, I told my mom, no more. She and my dad were completely appalled, dismayed, shocked, but I would not back down. I didn’t believe what Pastor Johnson said, and I deserved to make my own choice. My mother looked hurt and my dad looked mad, but the outcome was that we stopped going to church, only attending a few more times over the years on holidays. I think they were afraid that I was going to stand up on a pew and start yelling, “NO GOD! NO GOD!” and embarrass everyone. I never would have done that, but I am glad they thought so. Sleeping in is wonderful, and I did still watch Davey and Goliath, primarily because that was the only kids’ show on TV on Sundays. Davey was a sap, but Goliath ruled.

Prior to this, it sure didn’t help the God cause with me when the evening news showed Bible-belters burning Beatle records after the whole John Lennon “we’re bigger than Jesus” statement. Even though I was very little, I felt the ignorance and the fear and the ugliness right through the television, from smiling gum-chewing hair-flipped teenagers joyfully ripping apart LP covers and tossing them in the flames. Way to underline the hypocrisy of religion, sheep.

All of this made an impact on me. No one I knew or saw was living like I thought God wanted them to, with mercy and kindness and tolerance and benevolence. Walter Cronkite gave the Vietnam body count every night, black people were getting water cannons turned on them, people who spoke up were assassinated, students shot to death at college, and as best I could determine, this was not a manifestation of the imperfection of man. It was that no one, at the core, really truly believed in God either. Lip service, hedging bets, insurance. Lies. Fear. Weakness.

Andy Partridge wrote a song that summed up my feelings: the anger, the ridiculousness of it, the terrible deep sadness of belief and hope in things that could never be known, and never would pay off.

Dear god,
Hope you got the letter
And I pray you can make it better down here.
I don’t mean a big reduction in the price of beer
But all the people that you made in your image
See them starving on their feet
‘cause they don’t get enough to eat

From god
I can’t believe in you.

Dear god,
Sorry to disturb you
But I feel that I should be heard loud and clear
We all need a big reduction in amount of tears
And all the people that you made in your image
See them fighting in the street
‘cause they can’t make opinions meet
About god
I can’t believe in you.

Did you make disease, and the diamond blue?
Did you make mankind after we made you?
And the devil too!

Dear god,
Don’t know if you noticed
But your name is on a lot of quotes in this book
Us crazy humans wrote it, you should take a look
And all the people that you made in your image
Still believing that junk is true
Well I know it ain’t and so do you
Dear god
I can’t believe in
I don’t believe in

I won’t believe in heaven and hell
No saints, no sinners
No devil as well
No pearly gates, no thorny crown.
You’re always letting us humans down
The wars you bring, the babes you drown
Those lost at sea and never found
And it’s the same the whole world round
The hurt I see helps to compound
That the father, son and holy ghost
Is just somebody’s unholy hoax
And if you’re up there you’ll perceive
That my heart’s here upon my sleeve
If there’s one thing I don’t believe in...

It’s you
Dear god.

“Dear God” -- XTC


Transfer 20 pounds of fat from Britney to Madonna, and you have two problems solved!


This morning, my breakfast at the Other Other Good Coffee Place is almost too pretty to consume. I have a big latte in a creamy white round mug, the foam on the top forming into a leaf pattern with striations of caramel and white. My little sandwich, egg and folds of thinly-sliced ham and perfectly-melted cheddar, looks like a Martha Stewart creation on its flaky croissant. I actually smile at my food in appreciation of its damn good looks. Note that I wrote "almost" too pretty to consume -- oh, I am going to suck up every bit of it.

I have learned that having protein for breakfast is the smart thing for me to do. If I have something sweet like cereal or a muffin, I am hungry again too quickly. This pretty food will get me nicely through the morning, and I probably won't even want a lunch. Protein, lots of water, watch the fat and carbs, all is well. It's actually simple.

Breakfast is supposed to be the most important meal of the day. I think that is the case, but so few people have or make the time to enjoy it properly. There is work and school to rush off to, and breakfast usually turns out to be whatever you can cram down your face in 10 minutes, or you skip it altogether. I wish every breakfast could be in a sunny, open kitchen, at a clean table, no one rushing, beginning the day talking and waking up and enjoying some decent warm fresh food before each heading out for the day. LOL. I know, it's impossibly June Cleaver. But that's the vision I am stuck with. Blame my cultural upbringing.

My mother, who is even goofier than I am, would fairly often serve breakfast by extending her long arm out, reaching a long leg backwards, and saying, "TA DAAAAA!" in a theatrical move worthy of vaudeville. She would even do this when I was a surly exhausted self-absorbed teenager scowling at her because it was still dark out and I had to stand outside in the freezing cold to wait for the horrible school bus and an hour's ride. She never stopped smiling, or making me whatever I wanted for breakfast, even though I didn't deserve her consideration whatsoever.

I will see her soon, after a year's absence. I will make a point of making her a lovely, almost-too-pretty-to-eat breakfast. I will extend out my short arm, kicking back with a short leg, and I will say, "TA DAAAAA!" She will smile, and I will smile, and it will be a good start to the day.


Oh, Very Very Very Thin Emo Dude, how could it be that your girl pants still fell completely off your ass even though you had a giant white belt and you had literally sewed yourself into the pants?


Today's jaunt was to the 6th Annual KEXP-FM Summer BBQ in downtown Seattle, featuring some good alternative bands, including The Dandy Warhols, a big favorite of mine. KEXP is a great radio station, one of the best independent stations in the country, and they always seem to keep a fresh attitude and playlist, unlike the rest of the dross that is regular radio these days.

It really should be against the law somehow for it to rain in the summer in Seattle.

As we headed out, it started pouring rain. DAMMIT I said. By the time the car was parked, it was not raining as badly, and to live here is to accept the feeling of being wet and miserable at any moment, so I put my grey hoodie hood up and and started walking over. First thing was getting something to eat. I tried a brat and of course it sucked because Seattle just has no feel for such cuisine, and a few of a mountain of curly fries, made by spinning a whole potato with a cordless drill. Don't ask me to explain further, just accept what I tell you.

After they wiped some of the rain off the stage and fiddled with the sound for a zillion minutes, I made my way down to the stage to see a very good Portland, OR. duo, The Helio Sequence. They were much harder rocking live than on their records, so I was all good with that. The rain-soaked crowd was remarkably good-humored, not horribly high/drunk, dressed mostly in black, with lots of interesting hair. The age range was all over the place, including a short and rotund women with a long ponytail and a baseball cap in front of me who must've been 70. She did rock to the bands. The Dandy Warhols were superb, despite having to play a short set, and I banged my hands against the stage and went WOO and smiled a lot.

Despite the rain, the rain delay, the bad brat, mud, skunk-smelling pot, and a bitch whom I had to deliver the Evil Eye to, I had fun. Thanks, KEXP!


Oh, all right, the end of the opening ceremonies with the guy floating and "running" around the edge of the stadium, and the big torch and the fireworks, ok ok ok. That was pretty cool. I'm not completely jaded.


Tonight I am watching the opening ceremonies to the Beijing Olympics. Normally I would not, although I did every Olympic year for most of my years. But now I am too pained by the constant commercials promoting brotherhood and world solidarity, and then selling me something, and the constant yabbering patter of Blab Costas. I see and appreciate the spectacle of beautiful fireworks and lighting displays, marvels of design and synchronized perfection. But it doesn't thrill me, and I can't help but think that underneath all of this lies the reality of grim politics and unseen Army men with eyes watching, guns ready. Everything changed after Munich, I think, as NBC shows a close up of the face of Shimon Peres.

But enough of that. I am watching because a good friend of the family, a school friend of my teen, is marching tonight in one of the bands, made up of some of the best young American musicians. It obviously is quite an honor for him to have been selected, and I hope to catch a glimpse of him: tall, long black wavy hair, mischievous face. Tonight he will be playing the trumpet, although he is such a natural musician that he can pick up and play anything well. I have no doubt that he will become a professional musician someday, as his parents are.

I try to imagine what this experience is like for him. I zoom my mind to that place, so very far away, so very strange. I imagine him in the heat, humidity, chaos, pollution, different smells, different sights, different everything. Seventeen years old, across the world, playing for the world. I imagine him in his costume, nervously standing amongst strangers, waiting to hear the call to start, hearing the music that goes before him. I imagine him bouncing up and down, shaking off the jitters, smiling, laughing, wide-eyed, taking it all in, grateful.

How glad I am that he is having this experience, and I send out lots of love and best wishes to him in China tonight. And I always hope that when we all have a chance to see the best, in music or athletics or whatever it may be, it can bring us together, even for a short, spectacular time.


We did not vacation when I was a kid. Most regular middle-class families back then didn't do as much in the way of elaborate family vacationing, maybe a long car trip to the Grand Canyon or something at the very most. But we really didn't do much. Driving to Indiana to visit my mother's half-sister and her six kids about once a year was pretty much it. We didn't do anything there except eat and play canasta and watch tv, while I marveled at the very different dynamics of the Large Family, which was "older kids watch the younger kids." The oldest daughter seemed to be completely in charge of the youngest one at all times, even for meals and bedtimes. This bothered me a bit, as I think at the time the oldest girl was around 12. It seemed too much. The thing I remember most about those trips was driving past Gary, Indiana and trying not to breathe for the stench of it. It seemed, from the interstate anyway, to be the pit of hell, far far removed from my quiet grassy rural upbringing.

I think about all the big vacations I have planned out over the years for my kids, always thinking about what they would enjoy, what experiences would be cool for them to have, how to please everyone in a week to ten days. I wonder if they will remember much of them. Sometimes it is hard to justify the thousands of dollars spent in airfare, hotel, food, tickets to whatever. I still cannot bring myself to go Disneying with my two youngest. I took the oldest when he was about 7, and it was seriously not fun, not even he thought so. Endless waiting in lines in the heat for things that were OK, but not great, pushing through crowds to do anything or go anywhere. He had much more fun back at the hotel pool, that is a fact, and a good thing to remember. Hotel pool = always fun.

I shouldn't say I never vacationed as a kid; I did, twice to the same place in the same summer. It was quite a shock, that we were actually going to drive Up Nort and stay in a cabin in Sugar Camp, WI., obviously placed on Sugar Camp Lake. My dad knew the people who owned the small resort, a brash, salt-of-the-earth type older couple. And when I say "resort," I am not talking anything other than a few tiny log cabins with Indian names resting in the sandy, pine-tree studded soil, and a common building with a jukebox, a bar, a Coke machine, and a very-randomly-staffed kitchen. A steep slope led to a small pier on the cool clear lake, really a little chilly for swimming even. My dad staked himself out at the bar with his friends, my mom always seemed to be cooking or cleaning even in the damn cabin, and I was able to set out on my own to do whatever. It was easy to make friends with the other kids that were staying there, and we all formed a little tribe of sorts.

I only have a few bits and pieces left to what I remember of the two trips to Sugar Camp:
  • The sheer thrill of getting yet another quarter for the Coke machine or even better, the jukebox, where a quarter got you five plays of "It's Too Late" by Carole King, "Indian Reservation" by Paul Revere and the Raiders, "You've Got A Friend" by James Taylor, "Draggin' The Line," "Mony Mony," and "Crystal Blue Persuasion" by Tommy James, and "Apeman" by the Kinks. There were a few Big Band and polka songs in there for good measure. I remember asking my mom why the adults at the bar played "Indian Reservation" over and over and over again, because I was getting sick of it. She said, "I think the drunk people like the heavy beat."
  • Fishing off of the pier, fully expecting to get a Muskie, but only snaring teeny minnows or smelt or hell I don't remember what. Little silver fishies I threw back. It would've helped to use bait.
  • A huge thunderstorm in the night, which sent me and my brother into my folks' bed, at far older an age than was probably reasonable.
  • Riding a minibike and getting stuck in the sand.
  • Eating a bowl of cold cereal in the cool crisp sunny morning, eager to get out and explore.
  • Meeting a mom with my same first name and birthday.
  • Wishing we could've stayed the whole summer.
I never asked why we went up there that summer, and never before and never after. We moved to an even smaller town of 300 people that fall, and the summers were spent in swampy humid misery, where the toads in the river were mutated by run-off from the electroplating plant nearby, and a field of corn grew across from that. My feet would get black with tar from walking on the hot asphalt of my driveway, and I would ride my bike, alone to a nearby quarry to slide down the steep banks or look for old bottles unearthed. "Maggie May" played over and over, and I thought of Up Nort, my old home, and far away places.



So today I spent a decent amount of time searching the web for jobs and reading about writing. It depressed me. Did you know there are writing jobs that pay like THREE BUCKS? TOTAL? Oh, good god. Honestly, and please don't think I am being too arrogant, but my loading the washing machine and unloading the dryer is worth more than three shitty bucks, much less composing some piece of prose for that. I understand, I do I do I do, that so so so so so many people want to be writers, and the supply of talented people will always be more than there are jobs. But jeez. I'm not 21 years old and sharing an apartment with three other knotheads; whatever I do now just has to pay a bit more than the cost of a gallon of gas. TWO YEARS AGO.

But how do I make money, doing what I do? I just don't know. So many of the writing jobs out there are for technical writers or marketing for hospitals or gas companies or insurance companies. I know I could do these things, but they mean no more to me than pumping gas or selling insurance or sweeping the hospital floor. At this point in my life, it only makes sense to do something that I really like and that is unique to what I can do. A job is a job is a job. I'd like to try to shoot for something higher, if I can.

I honed in on a site where writers who do short form creative nonfiction hang out. I thought OOH! now we are getting somewhere! Yippee, maybe I can come up with some leads or ideas. I read some of the published stories from a few of the writers, and I got sort of sad again. This was "writer's writing," what I find to be overly-crafted, self-conscious, and ultimately rather fake-y. I am too conscious of their perfected word choices, their flowing, flowery metaphors, the evenness of each paragraph. It is writing that other writers in a writing class would ooh and aah over, while secretly thinking that they could do even better. Sigh.

Not to say that what I read was bad! It surely was not, and of course I appreciated the talent in each little essay. But none of them really spoke to me, or made me feel anything, and certainly didn't make me smile or laugh or cry or think about their words after I left them, as beautifully composed as they were. There was no connection. I could not feel the people behind the words, only their schooling. In works of fiction, you absolutely MUST develop your characters to where they are believable, so that one way or another the reader will care about what happens to them, enough to finish the book, anyway. When you are writing primarily about yourself, your life, your experiences, what has to happen is that people are drawn to just you. I don't know if that is something you can craft. I think perhaps it is more that you can send out something that is honest, people can relate to you in some fashion, and that whatever you have said that day is good enough for people to want to hear more from you the next day.

Damn, if I could write and get enough money to pay for, like, a tank of gas and a week's worth of Starbucks, I'd be pretty happy! Maybe a new pair of jeans, too.


Today it was a pleasant sunny day, so after I spent an insane amount of money at the post office sending a package to London, I drove over to Starbucks and got some lunch. There is a large park nearby so I walked over and sat down at a wooden picnic table to eat, trying to up my "borderline low" Vitamin D with sunshine and an Iced Latte. Within seconds, a very large seagull swooped head on towards me. I was in no mood for gull shenanigans, and I gave him the dead-eye glare to let him know if he got close enough I would punch him in the damn beak. He swerved off to the right. I ate my tomato-basil-mozzarella sandwich as he perched about six feet away on the grass, glancing shiftily my way. I glanced back at him, sending out the message that he was getting none of my food, and he should f the f right off.

My attention was diverted by a close to 400-lb. waddling frizzy gray-haired grandma type and two tiny twin boys in her charge. The boys had giant heads, and I was amazed they didn't topple over on the sloped grass. "TONY! STOP," the grandma called after the larger twin, but he and his blue-Croc'ed tiny feet were long gone towards the playground. She would have zero chance of catching him if he decided to veer towards the road or something. The smaller twin stayed back, looking up at her like, "Well? You just gonna let him do that?" I again feel grateful for missing out on the wonder of twins. I am also grateful that I am not 400-lbs, wearing no bra in public with breasts like separated massive flounders. Holy hell.

Past the playground and quite a distance from me, I see a lone guy on the basketball court. He looks very fit and tanned, with no shirt and long dark blue basketball shorts, not too tall, maybe 5'10" or so. I can't really tell how old he is, maybe late 20s or early 30s, but he might've been some years either side of that too. He is taking his practice seriously, running lines up and down the court, then immediately picking up the basketball and setting up lay-ups, 3-pointers, jumping for rebounds with splayed Jordan jump legs. He's not the greatest shooter it seems, but I do admire his work ethic here as he sweats and never lets up.

I do not admire the seagull's work ethic, and finally stamp my foot and say "GO!" and wave abruptly in his direction. He flies off, finding a more likely source of nutrition from a table containing several messy children and dropped potato chips.

A strawberry-blond woman with a ponytail pushing a stroller with an toddler goes by me. She is also clearly very pregnant, with the basketball-type stomach going on. I wondered if she got close to the Basketball Dude if he would, in an exercise-induced frenzy, grab her by the tummy and try to dunk her.

I finish my sandwich and coffee and just sit for a minute, not at all wanting to walk back to go grocery shopping. The seagull takes one more swoop by me, sees I have nothing left of any value to him, and he f's right the f off.


Another important, interesting, and potential messy quality. It is something we are born with, to varying degrees. I have certainly witnessed it in my children, using the Under The Kitchen Sink Test. All kids rather early on become fascinated with the Stuff under the sink, which are usually many kinds of colorful and poisonous cleaning items, trash bags which could suffocate you should you put them over your head, and possibly even a disgusting roach trap, should you be so lucky to enjoy that little problem. My first two kids, both boys but each with very different natures, learned well when they first ventured over to check out the Sink Underland. My screech of "NO-NO! CHEMICALS!!!!!!" was noted seriously by both boys, who froze in horror at my tone, if not understanding wtf chemicals were. It gave me enough time to get over there and give an authority-laden speech about how we NEVER go there, because it is full of SICK and DIE and BAD. Their toddler eyes grew wide in fright, and neither boy ever messed with the Underland again. I didn't even have to baby-proof it-- CHEMICALS! was enough.

It tells you something about the innate levels of curiosity in people, this test. When my daughter was about the same age, I delivered my now-perfected rant, and she simply waited until I was out of sight to take each and every item out from the evil Sink World, opened or attempted to open them all, and laughed when I came back all AAAAHHH!!! CHEMICALS!!! WHAAATT? How dare she! I immediately went out the next day to find a door lock, installed it, which she promptly and handily dismantled to get at the dish soap to make "soup." Oh, crap. Being that she was my third child, I knew that I was in for it. Basic natures never really change. They are who they are, and she was going to curiosity me right into an early grave. Of course, I realize I am the one who sewed my own fingernail with the Singer. Karma.

She is not quite six now, and the Sink Test proved accurate. Last summer, on a regular Saturday, she was bugging her teenage brother, whose innate nature seems to be Bright 'N Surly, and decided that it would be a good thing to stick a wire drum brush into an electrical outlet. She howled in pain and fear when she not only got fried but jolted. B 'N S was not paying attention to what had happened at all, so as she ran up the stairs and we ran to her, all we saw were four little burnt fingers and a smoke smell. She was too freaked out and afraid to say what happened, so we fanned everyone out all over the house to look for a fire, while I called the doctor. Eventually, I got the story out of her and when I asked WHY WHY WHY would you do that, you KNOW not to mess with outlets, what did she say?

"I was -- sob -- curious."

Her fingers healed very quickly. We all know to keep an eye on her.

Ultimately, curiosity is a great gift, if harnessed to create openings and opportunities and questions, NOT DEATH. I see a lot of this smashed out of people early on, and it makes me sad. Being curious keeps you in touch with the world, keeps you in a fresh mental state. You should always be curious about something, but hopefully something more substantial than what the Jolie-Pitt twins look like. I can tell you that: THEY'LL BE CUTE, STUPID. Find something you want to know more about and maybe never took the time to figure.

I probably just should've stored all the chemicals in an upper cabinet, huh. D'oh!


Today I went out to dinner with most of the family to an x-tra cool burger joint. It's a little bit of a drive, so we seem to get there only about once in the summer. It has very very good root beer and ice cream and huge piles of nasty delicious food -- giant burgers and onion rings and such. I can never get close to finishing the food, which always bothers me because I think I am wasting money and I hear my mother's lingering voice telling me to "join the Clean Plate Club!" THANKS FOR THAT, MOM.

Of course, mid-meal my five-year-old daughter announces she must go to the bathroom. Why yes, there is nothing I enjoy more than interrupting a meal to go in a public restroom. I ask her, as I always do, if she could possibly wait until we finished our food. She just smiles widely at me. Dammit. So, I take her through the restaurant to the ladies' room, the door of which has a giant cardboard cut-out of Marilyn Monroe in a bikini on it. My daughter looks at it and loudly goes, "EEWWWWWW! THAT'S DISGUSTING!" and I maneuver her into the can. It's a two-staller, taken up apparently by two small children, so we wait. The children's mother, a tired tanned blonde in a hoodie and cropped sweatpants, harangues them: "SPENCER! YOU SIT UNTIL THAT ALL COMES OUT NOW! ADRIANNA, WIPE FRONT TO BACK!" My child looks up at me and I can see she is dying to go "EEEWWWWWW!" again, but I frown and shake my head at her and for once, she gets it and is quiet. It is starting to smell a bit. My appetite goes further down.

Spencer, a buzzcutted lad of about three, proudly emerges first, and his mother dashes into the stall. "GOOD JOB SPENCER, YOU GOT ALL THE POOPIES OUT! YAY!" Oh, jesus. Lady, give me a damn break here, huh? She closes the stall door behind her, and takes what sounds like a Niagara Falls-type pee. She keeps yelling. "SPENCER! WASH YOUR HANDIES! WITH LOTS OF SOAP AND WATER! NOT TOO HOT! WAIT FOR ME TO COME OUT! ADRIANNA, FINISH UP NOW! DON'T USE TOO MUCH TOILET PAPER!"

Adrianna rushes out of her stall, pushes past the still-proudly-beaming Spencer, wets her hands, and bolts out the door. The mom flushes, asks Spencer, "WHERE DID YOUR SISTER GO?" while washing her hands, and Spencer points to the door. She grabs Spencer by his little arm and they rush out the door. OK. Time to get this done, finally. My food is surely cold.

I open the stall door for my daughter, the one Adrianna used as I am always suspect of little boys and toilets. Sitting neatly on the edge of the toilet seat is a lovely well-formed turd. I stare for a millisecond, and announce for my daughter, who did not get to see this or would have issued the loudest and longest "EEWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!" of all time, to use the other toilet. She pees for about three seconds, "All done!" I roll my eyes. She finishes, we wash our hands, exit the bathroom as Marilyn seems to wink salaciously at us from the bathroom door.

When I get back to my hot dog, lying there on my plate, well-formed, I decide I am full.


So today I wanted to go see a great local band, The Boss Martians, over at Seafair, and that is all I wanted to do. I hate airshows, AS WE KNOW, and hydroplane races as well. I am a reasonable person and these dangerous activities seem offensive to me. SO, I wanted to see the band play a free show in the early evening and then get back home -- I had missed seeing them many times. Drove into Seattle, got a shuttle bus to Seafair, walked through the park to where the stage was supposed to be and OH DEAR. Even though the band was set to go on at 5:15PM, the Seafair folks still wanted full-price admission of $30 until 6PM. AW!!!!!! And it was 15 minutes until showtime.

I went up to an old dude at the info booth and asked about this, telling him I just came to see the band play for their hour. All the dangerous and offensive activities had finished a couple hours prior. He told me, sorry, that's the way it is, and I turned and walked away, dejected. Thirty bucks X 2, plus $5 X 2 for the shuttle, and $10 for parking makes for a pretty expensive one-hour free show. Damn. Damn damn damn.

After I stood there for a few minutes, all sad and not really knowing what to do, other than I didn't want to fork up the $60, but really wanting to see the band, I look behind me. The Info Booth dude comes out to get me, waving for me to come closer. He holds out two comp tickets, and tells me to have a great time. I go WOW! and give him a big big hug and big big smile. His random act of nice saved the day. I dedicate my good time to you, Sir; you did a kindness thing, and I truly appreciated it. Thank you again.

Here's video from the show. Rock rock rock!


It's a really excellent quality. Or can be, anyway. You don't really appreciate determination in a serial killer, a 106-year old man who will not stop driving, or an aunt who keeps trying new Food Channel recipes out on you, all terrible. I am thinking more of the admirable part of the determined character, where there is a drive and a will to to do good, to do well, to not be discouraged by roadblocks and failures. I have periods of great determination, surrounded by slothful laziness. I don't really know for sure if sloths are lazy, but in thinking that they enjoy sleeping and hanging from trees and not doing all the much, I will use the analogy. Perhaps I am a determined sloth. I see a children's book character there, The Determined Sloth. I digress.

I have recently been looking over some of my Kinks concert photos from the 70s and 80s for a project. Many of the shows they were taken at now all blend into my mind -- arena after arena, pretty much the same kind of place, whether it was in Hartford, Columbus, Minneapolis, or Houston. But one show was so different, and I smile looking at the pictures, because I had to have a little more than the regular determination to take them.

It was June 19, 1982 at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia, a big multi-act show featuring the Kinks, Foreigner, Joan Jett, Huey Lewis and the News, and Loverboy. Good god. I didn't give a rat's ass about the other bands, and avoided the 60,000+ crowd on that incredibly humid hot day until I had to arrive for the Kinks' set. I had never been to a show that large, much less tried to photograph one. The stage was so high, there were so so many sweaty, shirtless. and drunken bodies already pressed up against it, I wasn't sure what I was going to do. But to be able to take pictures outside instead of the usual challenges of indoor stage lighting? Oh, I was going to make the most of this one way or another.

I made my way to the very front, by this time an experienced and bold and determined girl in the rock and roll crowd business. But it was not good. I am 5'4" and the stage felt like it was 30 feet high. I simply could not see, and moving back into the crowd was equally useless. Time was ticking fast and I needed to make something work. I spotted a red plastic milk case, the same kind I used to keep my LPs in, under the vast stage, asked security for it, and rammed it against the stage to steady it, and climbed up just as the band took the stage. It made me another foot taller, but the ground wasn't level and the crowd was pushing and surging against me as the opening music started to play over the massive PA system. BOOM! I fell off the carton, flat on my red miniskirted ass into the crowd, trying to protect my camera at all costs. Some asshole immediately got up on my carton and I got up and told him to get the fuck off with such venom that he complied and I tried it again. The band was now onstage and my usual superfocused nerves kicked in -- shoot shoot shoot shoot shoot! But unless Ray Davies came out on his ramp extended into the crowd, I got nothing, and even then I was shooting almost straight up. NO. NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

But what do to? I had to think fast, the show was rolling and I didn't want to miss anything more, and I didn't see anyone I knew. I desperately looked around for a option, somewhere to get the pictures I wanted to see. There really was only one place to go. Between Ray and Dave Davies' ramps, there was a small triangular area in front of the stage, open but blocked from the crowd. Spanning it was a single raised 2 X 4 beam. AHA. I eyed it greedily. If I could get there, the top of my head would be almost level to the stage. Now that I could work with. GO!

I abandoned the milk case to the asshole and made my way under the stage, the only way to get to the little oddly-constructed area. Uh oh. Two day-hired teenage security guards in yellow t-shirts stop me, despite my pass. They are only a few years younger than me, but look like babies.

"Uh, you can't come here, Miss."

"I need to take these photographs, and I can't do it from the crowd, and I need to do it immediately. I just need to get to this little area right over..."

"You don't have the right kind of pass for that. Huh huh huh huh."

I could hear the band roaring above me, felt the time swooshing by, and I was getting a little nutty in the heat.

"LISSSEN. I have got to take these pictures!! I am not causing you any trouble, and once I am done I will leave! Come on!!"

"Uh, well, I dunno..."

Hesitation! YES! That tells me I am in! I go on with them for another minute or so, drop the mad and replace it with a big old smile and tell them how grateful I am for their help. When I see the boys look at each other questioningly, I say "THANKS GUYS!" and bolt past them. I wriggle my way into the stage pit, somehow hoist my ass onto the 2 X 4 board, and I balance my cheeks there for the rest of the show, trying also to be semi-modest in my now-very-impractical miniskirt. I get more than a few big smiles from Ray Davies, no doubt amused to see what I had done. I give him a huge smile and a thumbs-up, and shoot roll after roll of film, jumping down into the darkness under the stage to change rolls in the camera, and to wipe my sweaty hands and face with my blue bowling shirt, before climbing up on the board again.

I know I am getting great shots, I can feel it, and I am thrilled beyond thrilled. Despite the band's seriously nasty mood amongst themselves that day, I catch Dave Davies looking over to his right at his brother, with the biggest smile I have ever seen on him. Click. Years later, it becomes the cover shot of Dave's "Unfinished Business"CD that was issued in the UK. I take a glance behind me. 60,000 people, and I am here, getting splinters in my sore wobbling butt, none more front, dripping sweat. I spot a man in the crowd holding a Flat-Coated Retriever dog on his shoulders. A full-grown dog, on a man's shoulders, in the middle of a huge rock concert. Well, I had to take a picture of that. It was absurd.

I leave my post post and wind my way to the grounds backstage after the first encore. Silly me. From there, I hear Ray bring Chrissie Hynde onstage, announcing her as "The World's Greatest Female Singer!" Then I hear Dave Davies yell "FUCK!" into his mic and he stalks off. Maybe it is better I didn't get pictures of that, huh? I liked the smiles better.

Determination got those pictures taken, certainly not so much talent or even my big goofy smile. I didn't cure cancer or anything, but I did the best I could at something at least for a day, and didn't give up. That is a really, really nice feeling. SLOTHS OF THE WORLD, ROCK ON!