News ain’t what it used to be. Well, the content is more or less the same: people doing good stuff and bad stuff, weather-related mishaps, and rampaging animals. I think that covers it, yes. But the standards of journalism = (insert sound of spiraling kamikaze airplane here). Is anyone with me here? Anyone? Probably a few of the old-timers left at the newspapers who can remember the days when there was a distinct line between The Washington Post and The National Enquirer. Content was well-written, reliable, and there was the sense that it was important that the news be delivered in a truthful and professional way. Now every media source is so desperate for readers and viewers that those boring old standards have given way to general sloppiness, sensationalist headlines, and story after story about complete freaks likes Octomom, Kim Jong-Il, and Paula Abdul. Why doesn’t Kim Jong-Il shoot missiles at Octomom and Abdul? There’s a story.

My point that I am trying to deliver in my way, which is confusing and rambling, is that I grew up thinking that the news was sacred and important. I believed that you should be able to rely that what you were told was the truth, much like what I thought about the government. Sigh. I also thought it should have some humanity as well. Here are two news figures that loomed large in my life.

My family, like most Americans in the 1960s, got their televised evening news from CBS’s Walter Cronkite. NBC had the well-respected Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, but they were dry as dirtbombs. An hour with those cats every evening was like watching paint dry. ABC struggled with a rotating cast of newsmen: a too-young-then and too-Canadian Peter Jennings, the stiff Frank Reynolds, the interchangeable Howard K. Smith and Harry Reasoner, and a couple of other dudes who didn’t last long.

Walter was the man. He was a journalist straight out of Edward R. Murrow’s legacy: someone who was curious about the world, intelligent, passionate but thoughtful and controlled, experienced, and had a sense of humor. Walter Cronkite believed, and it was completely evident in all his work, that the American people had a right to know the important things of the day free from government interference, network honcho pressure, or the personal bias of the reporter. The people trusted him, and he never let them down, through some of the greatest national tragedies and triumphs, or just the stories of everyday life. Walter Cronkite is like the rock star of journalism to me, and I think I would either cry or hop up and down with joy if I were ever so lucky to shake his hand.

Now let’s talk about Albert The Alley Cat.

If you didn’t grow up in the general Milwaukee area during the ‘60s and ‘70s, you will have no clue who Albert was, but if you did, you absolutely know. Albert The Alley Cat was a puppet, YES A PUPPET OF A CAT THAT IS RIGHT, voiced by Jack DuBlon on WITI-TV. Now I don’t know about the rest of you folks, but I feel darn lucky to have had a CAT PUPPET help deliver the weather reports on the 6PM and 10PM local newscasts. Albert was legendary and beloved, paired with Kennedy-haired weather man Ward Allen. He was feisty and comical and misspoke constantly (“the humidery was 90%), and was also featured on WITI’s “Cartoon Alley” and “Funny Farm” programs, so I was Albert-saturated. It was fun to have a little levity in the newscast, and Albert also helped a generation or two of kids become more interested in the news around them via propinquity, I bet.

Walter and Albert. I loved them both. Look at this:

Albert The Alley Cat’s “Cartoon Alley” switched from evenings to mornings on January 8, 1962. Walter Cronkite started anchoring the CBS Evening News on April 16, 1962. I was born on April 6, 1962.

After a complaint from their snooty new qualified weather man Tom Skilling and the American Meteorological Society, Albert The Alley Cat was dropped from WITI’s news team in January of 1981. Walter Cronkite retired from the CBS Evening News on March 6, 1981. I turned 19, and sadly said goodbye to my lifelong news friends, the consummate broadcast journalist and a silly kitty puppet in a knit hat.

That's the way it is.

OW 2

I got toothpaste in my eye!!!! MINTY EYEBALL AAAAAAAA!!!!


The best part of my day -- all of my days, really -- is when I am listening to music.

I don’t know if I heard it on Underground Garage or SIRIUS-XM’s ‘60’s channel, but there I was in mah car and up pops one of my FAAAAAAAVORITE songs of ever, “Pictures Of Matchstick Men” by the British group Status Quo. I was thoroughly mental about this song when it came out in 1968. It was one of those tunes that if I even heard a fragment of it playing, I don’t care how little or how far away, I would drop everything, find the source, shoosh everyone, and listen rapturously until it faded into the next song. It is such a cool little piece of poppy psychedelia, with the dumbest guitar lick ever. I love it. It is even stupider than “Smoke On The Water.” I could play it on guitar long before I could play guitar. By god, I think I even played it on a cigar-box/rubber band guitar. Lead singer/guitarist Francis Rossi wrote it in his bathroom, trying to hide from his wife and mother-in-law for a few hours. HA!

Anyway, I am obviously still crazy about the song and I was completely floored to hear it now for the very first time in stereo! All these years, and I had never once, ever, heard it in anything but muddy mono. This was clearly a song mixed for AM radio, still the dominant force in music in 1968. The stereo mix, apparently done for some reissues in the late ‘90s, is really different. It’s fun to hear alternate mixes, all the little pieces that go into making a song. That rhythm guitar sound! OOOOOHHHH! Love it love it love it! I can hear the buzz of the guitar amp at the opening, the harmony vocals are clear and separate. I wish I could find a vid with the stereo mix for you, but instead here is a very cute semi-live performance from back in the day:

More than a little of the movie “Spinal Tap” was taken from the long history of Status Quo. I don’t believe their drummer exploded, however. That may be Lurch on the organ. Let’s say it is.

It gets me thinking about cover versions, as there have been a few of this song since it was a sizable worldwide hit. I’ll say it again: if you do a cover, do it better or do it differently or both.

Sigh. Well, Ozzy Osbourne certainly did it differently, but certainly not better. This is called “deflating the very life out of a song.” It is SO SLOWED that it is almost silly, like dragging an elephant behind a Toyota Tacoma:

Gaahhhhhh. There’s a lot of mess going on in there. I can almost hear that there were some good ideas in there, but they got drowned. Six minutes! Man.

But salvation arrives in the 1989 alt-hit version by Camper Van Beethoven! Now THIS is a cover version! It is so clever and does all the right things, therefore trumping even the original. The use of violin in place of the sitar-y type guitar line is inspired, and the drums are MASSIVE, perfect for the pace of the song. I bought this when it came out, and the needle practically jumps off the vinyl, it’s so loud. David Lowery’s vocals are nicely tongue-in-cheek, and the rest of the arrangement is just so well done, and the playing confident and nuanced throughout – aggressive or quiet where needed. NICE DAMN JOB:

“Matchstick” reminds me of matchstick potatoes – you know, shoestring potato sticks, those little super-intensely-greasy things – which reminds me that I am hungry and should go make some dinner. I will leave the last cover version of “Pictures of Matchstick Men” to the four participants of an Illinois middle-school talent show, featuring two brothers, their dad, and some kid on vocals. Rock on, guys.


Today I popped over to the OOCGP for a quick Iced Latte before the school/martial arts run and parked in the 15 minute zone so I would not be tempted to hang out, as I really didn’t have the time. Getting back to the parking lot to go back to the car with my coffee, I hear my mother’s voice in my head saying “LOOK BOTH WAYS BEFORE YOU CROSS!!” Thanks, Mom, that lesson got through. Anyway, I see a car coming and I wait for it to pass but it stops and the driver waves me across. I smile back and wave, because I can also hear my mother say, “BE POLITE!” It occurs to me, as I clack across the pavement in my summery heels, that I did not used to get waved across the street so much. No sirree, I did not. I know why I do, now. It’s because I am better-looking than I used to be.

Now, bah, I hear you say. But hear me out. It is true. As noted before in this humble and repetitive place, I lost a bunch of weight and bought a bunch of new clothes. This has not at all transformed me into a Hot Bitch because nothing short of an Extreme Makeover With Astoundingly-Extensive Plastic Surgery and The Blinding Of The Public would accomplish that. But, even with the very modest gains I have made towards General Attractiveness, I am treated in a substantially different way. People in general are nicer to you when you look Less Fat and Dress Better. I get smiled at more, talked to more, looked at more, and waved across. If I go into a nice shop or restaurant, I get better service. People assume I am wealthier, smarter, more disciplined, and therefore more worthy.

I take this all with a mine of salt and substantial detachment. I have had many times in my life when I have been treated differently. I have been on both sides of something enough now to where I see things for what they are, for the most part. It is something to note, to observe, an interesting phenomenon. After all, I am always the same me.

People judge you on all kinds of measures, and treat you accordingly. People assume I am smart because I wear glasses and speak with some confidence and vocabulary. But those same folks used to look down at me as a dumby because I didn’t have a college degree in my 20s, as I was instead running around taking pictures and rocking and working for $4.50 an hour in a hair salon and selling bootleg concert cassettes. And even after I earned my degree, sometimes that still wasn’t enough because it in was in a “soft” science from a state university, it wasn’t a professional or advanced degree, and I never worked in my major field. I’d have to cure cancer to please everyone there.

Don’t get me started on how people treat stay-at-home moms. It’s like we are all as retarded and useless as Barney.

I’ve had people assume I know nothing because I was too young. I have had people assume I know nothing because I am too old. I’ve had people treat me like a second-class citizen or worse because I am a woman. I have had people treat me with greater compassion and respect because I am a woman. People have overestimated me, and underestimated me. I have been treated like a bad person because my parents were poor and treated like a bad person because my parents were rich.

When I was little, from age four to age eight, my dad was the mayor of our rather small town in Wisconsin. Even in this miniature venue, there were perks. Everyone was so nice to me, whether it was at the grocery store or the gas station or at a school event or the post office or a restaurant. “Oh, it’s the Mayor’s Daughter!” I kid you not. I did not get it at all. I just thought I must be cute and charming or some shit, or that people were just nice. When my dad lost the next election, I got the wake-up call. Adults and kids who used to suck up to me, tell me how adorable I was, smiled and bent down to talk to me? Well, the day after the election those folks began to snub me and my mom and brother on the street, like we were invisible or had contracted village political leprosy. This was a bit like a punch to the gut, when my mom sadly confirmed what I saw and felt. How could anyone treat a little kid like that, for that, I thought. My mom did not have the answer, but she did hold my hand as we crossed the street, looking both ways.

And yes, it does occur to me that maybe people are letting me cross the road now because I am old or walk like a feeb in heels. Hee. In any case, this chicken crosses the road faster, the same as I always was, even though the driver waiting for me doesn’t know all the differents I have seemed to be.


During last night's televised National Spelling Bee, there came a request for me to spell.

My word was: "tagliatelle."

I spelled my word immediately and flawlessly, and did a small jig and fist punching of the air.


Definition of terms: P = Peer, M = Me

Problem #1:

P: Quit using big words, people will like you better!

M: (speechless)

Equations: M – words = 30P; 30P + M = words/100; M(words/100) = M(100sad)

Problem #2:

P: Wanna go smoke in the field?

M: Nah.

Equations: P + smoke = massive fire; M – (P + smoke = massive fire) = words(HA HA!)

Problem #3:

P: I’m pregnant at 15 so I can keep my boyfriend!

M: (speechless)

Equations: P + baby = boyfriend + The Road; Baby(Boyfriend) = 0


M + words – fire – baby = 100(words)(HA HA)


Thank you Stereogum, for pointing me towards this wonderful series of Elderly Folks Reviewing Indie Music. HA HA!


Ah. No Iggy Pop nomination after all. President Obama picked the rumored top-of-the-shortlist pick, Sonia Sotomayor, for David Souter’s seat on the Supreme Court:

I am a bit disappointed, but I am never surprised at the predictability of high-level politics. Sotomayor fits a profile. A Latina born to a working-class family and someone who had to have had remarkable determination and intelligence to attend the Ivy League schools that would help her to carve out an impressive legal career, she would bring badly-needed diversity to the Court.



This is what I fear: that in Sonia Sotomayor, we have another shrewd career judge whose cases of note are not all that notable. She’s spent 30 years in law, and has some amazing appointments, but where is the remarkable proof of her merit to sit on the nation’s highest court? Being known for being bitchy in the courtroom is not a measure of intelligence; it’s a measure of a lack of civility. Making decisions based on personal views instead of law is worrisome as well. There is an incredibly-fine line between using your life experience to interpret law as best you are able, and using your viewpoints to effect the change you wish for, regardless of any law. It is difficult to extract from her 400+ written opinions enough to tell, and maybe that is another reason she was selected.

Sigh. Do I sound Republican here? I am not. On paper, Sotomayor seems like she would be a good choice for Obama – tremendous range of legal experience, woman + Hispanic, bipartisan support, young enough at 54 to sit on the Court for many years. But I am not seeing anything in the meat of what she has authored that tells me she is the best person for the job. This is always what I want: the best mind and heart and experience, no matter what your color or race or gender or background. But politics don’t work that way very often, do they? Those who scrap their way to the top, to be noticed, to get the Big Stuff, are really not that often the very, very best – they are damn good but also just incredibly ruthless in their drive to achieve. They do the Right Things, are seen by the Right People, and usually make some rather severe sacrifices in the process.

But maybe what I hope for from the Supreme Court is actually unrealistic and dated. It seems most decisions made in the nation’s higher level courts are on technical details of the law, where one simply has to have the tenacity and focus to sort through hundreds or thousands of pages of documents and precedents to find the correctly-cited and coded answers and then apply some sort of legal formula. The grand decisions, the cases heard that are familiar to most Americans like Roe v. Wade, Brown v. Board of Education, Miranda v. Arizona, where are they? It’s not like there aren’t grand issues out there that need brave and bright people to examine them. But the law has grown so ungodly complex with such minutiae, I wonder who and what it serves anymore. Itself, maybe, not so much the people. I don't know.

I will watch Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings with great interest, and I very much hope she impresses me. Me, The People.


Gather 'round children, and let me tell you a story from days gone by. Not too close though -- you all look germy.

Once upon a time in the Kingdom known as Dairyland, there was a High School. It was not really high, as it was on a rather flat piece of land, and it was hardly a school, considering that I got my diploma from it after barely attending for three years, instead playing guitar and/or smoking around the perimeter of learning. But still, the High School stood, drawing in children from far and wide, from the smelly pig farms to the stately lake homes. They came by yellow schoolbus and Transmaro and 10-speed bike and their mom's puce-colored '77 Ford Granada. They came to wander the halls in packs of ski-jacketed girls with long middle-parted hair, boys with Packers jerseys and winged hair, and teachers that often were better suited for a Dead concert, the Land of Misfit Toys, or Hitler's Gestapo.

One such teacher that best fit the latter category we shall rename "Miss X." Miss X was Miss X for a reason -- her gender was at best non-specific, a "Pat" before there was a "Pat." She was trollish: abnormally short and squat with a dark brown bowl hair cut and heavy plastic glasses. A troll, or perhaps some kind of fat horrible beetle or tropical slug or oil drum. Of course, Miss X had the teaching job most suited to her physique. She was the High School Girls' Gym Teacher. Clearly a role model for all young ladies in their quest for fitness.

Miss X had the charming manner of a wolverine, or since this story takes place in Dairyland, perhaps a badger. You may not know the temperament of either animal but I will assure you that they are surly, unpleasant, and smelly. She ruled over the High School Girls with bitter authority, mocking their efforts at each and every sport they were required to participate in or risk academic failure. If Miss X had tried herself to hit a softball, she surely would have tipped and rolled, much like a Weeble that had been painted in Ugly.

Worse than the foul morale Miss X brought to the High School playing fields, was her behavior in the Girls' Locker Room. Children, you may not remember these days, but back in the olden times before pedophiles or crushing school district lawsuits, all students over 12 years of age were required to strip fully naked after gym class and shower amongst their peers. Do not widen your eyes so! I speak the truth! Yes, whether you were tall and thin, short and fat, zitty or pretty, or in any stage of pubertal bloom, you had to leave both your privacy and dignity in your gym locker or again, risk the dreaded gym "F," meaning you could not graduate and forever leave High School. Fear of never leaving is a strong motivator.

Miss X enjoyed girls' shower time most of all it seemed, according to the evil grin she sported in the locker room. On her watch, there would be no strip-dash under the water-wet your hair-dash out, the preferred move to try to become Not Naked as soon as possible. No, Miss X was having none of that. All the girls were to remove their clothes, stand in a line to wait, while Miss X stood at the entry to the large shower area and let in five girls at a time. She would watch the girls in the shower the entire time, and yell at them to use more soap. Mortified by this, the girls would finish, then as they were ready to leave the shower Miss X stood by the stack of white towels, smiling. She would extend her midget arm out with a towel to a shivering embarrassed girl, then snap the towel back with a laugh, keeping on with this until she was sure the young lady was cold, furious, and humiliated.

The only small way out of this nightmare was to have your period, and then you only had to strip down halfway and sponge off at the sink while Miss X screamed at you to use more soap.

It is widely said in Dairyland that many complaints were raised over the years about Miss X, but no action was taken to remove her from the High School. A few of the girls changed schools because of the antics of Miss X, and a few left school altogether. Your humble storyteller had the foresight to obtain a fully-legal-but-utterly-medically-bogus gym excuse, because I am smarter than the average wolverine or badger.

A year after I was pushed out of High School with my scroll in hand, the beauty of karma was revealed to me in the form of a local news item I happened to read: Miss X, riding her moped to school one morning and no doubt stressing the small vehicle's tires, collided with another vehicle, and she was permanently transferred to the Girls' Locker Room in the sky, which I hope was solely populated by 6', 250-lb. incorrigible female gang members.

The moral of this story is: HA HA!

Now run along.


Something I know, as a pro shopper, is that going to the grocery store on the evening of a major holiday during an NBA playoff game will assure me clear aisles and a peaceful food gathering experience. And so it was at the Safeway. All the extraneous personnel had gone home for the day -- no Meat Man, no Customer Service Girl, no Hard Rock Mom checker. Just me, a few single dudes doing a beer run, and the low-rung employees that had to come in.

I filled the cart with copious amounts of fresh fruit, creatively-packaged snack items, those teeny cans of Diet Coke, and something I had never seen before: Johnsonville bratwurst patties. Like hamburgers, but made from brats. I am not sure how I am going to cope. Do they make hot dog patties? My mind reeled at this idea.

$376.74 later, I pushed the heavy cart out to my car, and unloaded the groceries into the back, and I thought about just being able to walk into this place and buy anything and everything I need and want from a food selection that would make most people in the world weep with overwhelmed joy.

Memorial Day, in a suburb of Seattle, Washington, 2009. I'm laying in the sun listening to satellite radio and grocery shopping, my children are healthy and safe, and despite all its flaws and problems I feel like I am fortunate to live in the United States. If he were still alive, my dad would have played his trumpet in the VFW band in some small town Wisconsin parade, or would have wished he still could. He was very proud of his service in WWII.

War, what it is good for? I know what I think about it, but when it comes down to it, what do I know? Absolutely nothing. I know I think it is base and horrible and often the ugly game of the power-mad with nothing but misery as the outcome for the people who fight and the people being fought over. I know I think we can try to avoid it, but we can't ever stop it. But I can't know what war is truly like. I have been protected from it all my life.

I will leave tonight's last word to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, with the transcript from his famous 1936 Chautauqua speech -- a great deal of truth and relevance in his words today, wherever we are on Memorial Day, 2009.
We are not isolationists except insofar as we seek to isolate ourselves completely from war. Yet we must remember that so long as war exists on earth there will be some danger that even the nation which most ardently desires peace may be drawn into war.

I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded. I have seen men coughing out their gassed lungs. I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed. I have seen 200 limping, exhausted men come out of line—the survivors of a regiment of 1,000 that went forward 48 hours before. I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war.

I have passed unnumbered hours, I shall pass unnumbered hours thinking and planning how war may be kept from this nation.

I wish I could keep war from all nations, but that is beyond my power. I can at least make certain that no act of the United States helps to produce or to promote war. I can at least make clear that the conscience of America revolts against war and that any nation which provokes war forfeits the sympathy of the people of the United States. . . .

The Congress of the United States has given me certain authority to provide safeguards of American neutrality in case of war.

The President of the United States, who, under our Constitution, is vested with primary authority to conduct our international relations, thus has been given new weapons with which to maintain our neutrality.

Nevertheless—and I speak from a long experience—the effective maintenance of American neutrality depends today, as in the past, on the wisdom and determination of whoever at the moment occupy the offices of President and Secretary of State.

It is clear that our present policy and the measures passed by the Congress would, in the event of a war on some other continent, reduce war profits which would otherwise accrue to American citizens. Industrial and agricultural production for a war market may give immense fortunes to a few men; for the nation as a whole it produces disaster. It was the prospect of war profits that made our farmers in the west plow up prairie land that should never have been plowed but should have been left for grazing cattle. Today we are reaping the harvest of those war profits in the dust storms which have devastated those war-plowed areas.

It was the prospect of war profits that caused the extension of monopoly and unjustified expansion of industry and a price level so high that the normal relationship between debtor and creditor was destroyed.

Nevertheless, if war should break out again in another continent, let us not blink [at) the fact that we would find in this country thousands of Americans who, seeking immediate riches-fool's gold-would attempt to break down or evade our neutrality.

They would tell you-and, unfortunately, their views would get wide publicity-that if they could produce and ship this and that and the other article to belligerent nations the unemployed of America would all find work. They would tell you that if they could extend credit to warring nations that credit would be used in the United States to build homes and factories and pay our debts. They would tell you that America once more would capture the trade of the world.

It would be hard to resist that clamor. It would be hard for many Americans, I fear, to look beyond, to realize the inevitable penalties, the inevitable day of reckoning that comes from a false prosperity. To resist the clamor of that greed, if war should come, would require the unswerving support of all Americans who love peace.

If we face the choice of profits or peace, the Nation will answer—must answer—“we choose peace.” It is the duty of all of us to encourage such a body of public opinion in this country that the answer will be clear and for all practical purposes unanimous. …

We can keep out of war if those who watch and decide have a sufficiently detailed understanding of international affairs to make certain that the small decisions of each day do not lead toward war, and if, at the same time, they possess the courage to say "no" to those who selfishly or unwisely would let us go to war.

Of all the nations of the world today we are in many ways most singularly blessed. Our closest neighbors are good neighbors. If there are remoter nations that wish us not good but ill, they know that we are strong; they know that we can and will defend ourselves and defend our neighborhood.

We seek to dominate no other nation. We ask no territorial expansion. We oppose imperialism. We desire reduction in world armaments.

We believe in democracy; we believe in freedom; we believe in peace. We offer to every nation of the world the handclasp of the good neighbor. Let those who wish our friendship look us in the eye and take our hand.


I went 135 miles to get into an outdoor public pool today. One way.

That essentially was my day, a road trip to Leavenworth, Washington, a pseudo-Bavarian tourist town in the mountains that features exactly what you would expect: taffy, ice cream, knick-knacks, cottage architecture, an oom-pah yodeling band playing in the park, more taffy, bratwurst, beer, terrible art displayed at an “art show,” a hat store, a toy store, a pastry store, more ice cream, perhaps you would like some taffy, and lots of people walking around buying the stuff in the stores and thinking about when they can drink more beer. It reminded me of Germantown, WI. (clever name, eh?) which is essentially the exact same thing as Leavenworth except for no mountains and the addition of lots of cheese. We originally had planned to drive west to the ocean for the day, but turned and headed east when it quickly became clear that the weather at the beach was going to be cloudy and chilly, and Leavenworth was sunny and near 80 degrees. That’s a no-brainer for me, who needs no further instruction in clouds and chill. I wish I liked taffy, though.

After the long and pretty drive through the mountains, passing mounds of snow still remaining on the side of the road in places, people selling salmon jerky (yes, salmon jerky) at the side of the road, a very long big river with whipping rapids that I would be extremely unhappy to fall into, and a curious turn-off for the “Iron Goat Interpretation Site,” we arrived in Leavenworth, lucked into a parking spot, and MissSix and Mr11 immediately began harping for STUFF. Two lemonades, two bouncy house rides, two climbing wall climbs, one piece of fudge, one snickerdoodle cookie, two brats, and NO shiny green hat with several stuffed snakes coming out of the top of it, we had pretty much done the town. But we had packed swimsuits and towels in anticipation of beach, and it just so happened that the City Of Leavenworth Public Pool was opening this very weekend. There really isn’t anything that pleases the kids more than a municipal pool filled with the leaking swim diaper urine of many infants, so we made our way over.

It had been a awhile time since I had been to an outdoor pool. You forget just how many people can and do jam into a pool, where it is so crowded that there is not so much swimming going on as avoiding getting clocked by some kicking foot or having a maniac five-year-old cannonball on your head. But still, the weather was beautiful, the water was warm (don’t think of the pee, don’t think of the pee, I kept saying to myself), and of course the people-watching is always interesting. Tribes of young teenage girls who never actually go in the pool, toddlers in giant elaborate floating swimsuits who can barely walk without tipping over, the Incredibly Massive Fat Dude who displaces half the water of the pool, lots of hovering moms and dads of various ages and shapes and tans or lack of tans, the newly-appointed and vigilant lifeguardettes, and me, Shlub Mom in an Italian swimsuit that would look better on That One Really Fit Mom Over There.

The best view of the day, which for me is always the Jaw-Dropper View, came from Tat Girl. If I were truly evil, I would have taken her picture but you will have to settle for a description, the Lesser Evil. Tat Girl was maybe about 21 or so, and about 250 pounds of wavy dimpled jiggle, pouring over a very very very too-small red-and-white striped bikini. This would almost be enough if not for her four tattoos: one arm with some cascade of chemical symbols on it; the other arm with a trail of musical notes that led up to a lopsided grand piano on her back; the requisite snake + flowers design on the back of her left calf; and, AND, the best – a very large black pistol tattooed on her stomach, pointing down as if to look like it would be tucked into her waistband. Aaahhhhh. Very nice, Miss, very nice. I spend a few seconds thinking WHY GOD WHY, and then realize I will never come up with a sufficient answer other than "there is no god," and walk over to buy a couple of bottled waters from a girl who has to look up their price.

Taking a very close Second Place to Tat Girl was Mr. Euro, who entered the pool with a ponytail, disturbingly-supple manboobs on his thin body, and a light blue Speedo containing apparently the smallest package on an adult male possible. This guy made George Costanza look like Ron Jeremy. Oh, sir. Sir, sir, sir.

On the plus side, the crowd was a good crowd: mellow and unscreechy and smiley. Everyone was happy the pool was open again, the sun was warm and comforting, and their bellies were full of taffy. Pounds and pounds of delicious salmon taffy.

I could have stayed there until the sun went down, pink and peed-on, happy as can be, but it was time to make the 135 miles happen the other way. About halfway back home, we stopped at The Reptile Zoo, saw a bunch of cool snakes and an alligator and a bird-eating spider and I laughed when the monitor lizard that was coming over to eat MissSix fell off his window and looked pissed.

Good day.


On Andrew Loog Oldham’s show on SIRIUS-XM Underground Garage, there is a segment called “Take Five” where listeners send in a list of five songs that mean a great deal to them, or helped shape them in some way. I know for some people this idea is ridiculous – that any song could have any kind of lasting effect or provoke some kind of real change. But songs are just words put to music, and words come into our minds and hearts in many different ways. Other people’s words are incorporated into how we view the world, whether we are conscious of it or not.

As I sat in the sun this afternoon, listening, I began to think about it. There have been so many, many, many songs over the years that I have loved passionately, completely, giddily. There are many that I associate with certain time periods or events in my life, and many that evoke powerful emotions in me. But I started to hone in on the idea of songs that actually changed the way I thought about things, or brought out something in me that I wasn’t able to quite articulate. Those, are few. Here are five:

1. The Kinks: A Well Respected Man

I was very little when I first heard this song, but it absolutely got my attention. Its repetitive and simple melody appealed to my nursery ears. I did not catch all the words until years later, and did not fully understand the character that Ray Davies laid out then, but it was the first song I can remember hearing that was funny and sarcastic and a clear put-down of its protagonist. Something was up out there in the big adult world, said the Kinks, and Davies’ very dry and detailed way of seeing started to open my eyes, while making me smile at the same time.

“And his mother goes to meetings,
While his father pulls the maid,
And she stirs the tea with councilors,
While discussing foreign trade,
And she passes looks, as well as bills
At every suave young man

And he’s oh, so good,
And he’s oh, so fine,
And he’s oh, so healthy,
In his body and his mind.
He’s a well respected man about town,
Doing the best things so conservatively.”

2. The Rolling Stones: Mother’s Little Helper

For me, the companion piece to “A Well Respected Man.” The woman in this song could be the well-respected man’s mother or wife, and was so utterly unlike my own Betty Crocker mom. I was fascinated by her dissolution and desperation . Busy, yet profoundly bored. Unappreciated, aging, and drugged is no way to go through life, ma’am, I thought. And I vowed never to be her.

“What a drag it is getting old
Kids are different today,
I hear ev’ry mother say
Mother needs something today to calm her down
And though she’s not really ill
There’s a little yellow pill
She goes running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper
And it helps her on her way, gets her through her busy day

Doctor please, some more of these
Outside the door, she took four more
What a drag it is getting old.”

3. Elvis Costello: “Radio Radio”

Anyone who grew up in the heyday of AM radio knows what I am talking about when I say that radio broke my heart. As it slipped into formulaic bilge, smooth-talking DJs droning on while playing the middle-of-the-road Top 20 garbage rock they were told to play by some cash-happy corporation robots, all the spontaneity and fun and life and uniqueness was shoved out of MY RADIO, and it was crushing. It is always particularly wrenching to have something wonderful in your hands, and then have it taken away. Elvis Costello knew how I felt, and as I watched him play this song live on SNL, an infamous and wonderful moment in rock n’ roll, I knew I wasn’t alone.

“I was tuning in the shine on the light night dial
doing anything my radio advised
with every one of those late night stations
playing songs bringing tears to my eyes
I was seriously thinking about hiding the receiver
when the switch broke 'cause it's old
They're saying things that I can hardly believe.
They really think we're getting out of control.

Radio is a sound salvation
Radio is cleaning up the nation
They say you better listen to the voice of reason
But they don't give you any choice
'cause they think that it's treason.
So you had better do as you are told.
You better listen to the radio.

I wanna bite the hand that feeds me.
I wanna bite that hand so badly.
I want to make them wish they'd never seen me.

Some of my friends sit around every evening
and they worry about the times ahead
But everybody else is overwhelmed by indifference
and the promise of an early bed
You either shut up or get cut out;
they don't wanna hear about it.
It's only inches on the reel-to-reel.
And the radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools
tryin' to anaesthetise the way that you feel.”

4. David Bowie: “Heroes”

At this point in Bowie’s career, I was a fan, if a slightly reluctant one. He was so talented and so interesting, but at the same time I found him cold, and I wondered if he was as aloof and alien as the odd characters he became in his performances. “Heroes” changed my mind about him and his depth and heart, and the very idea of what was heroic to me. I had never heard anything that was so filled with such aching sadness and hopelessness, yet so brave and beautiful. The song brought to me the idea that heroism often comes down to the smallest actions of people, and is often unknown to the world.

I wish you could swim
Like the dolphins
Like dolphins can swim
Though nothing
Will keep us together
We can beat them
For ever and ever
Oh we can be Heroes
Just for one day

I will be king
And you
You will be queen
Though nothing
Will drive them away
We can be Heroes
Just for one day
We can be us
Just for one day

I can remember
By the wall
And the guns
Shot above our heads
And we kissed
As though nothing could fall
And the shame
Was on the other side
Oh we can beat them
For ever and ever
Then we can be Heroes
Just for one day.”

5. Oasis: Rock n’ Roll Star

Something that I know now that I didn’t know when I was younger is that everyone wastes far far too much time worrying about what other people think. I don’t have very many regrets in my life, but this is one – that I let worry and fear and the idea that I would be judged and found lacking stop me from doing the things I truly wanted to do. When I heard this song, I smiled over the way Noel Gallagher was able to capture that place between dreaming and becoming, and how sometimes you just have to say to the world, screw you, tonight I’m a rock n’ roll star.

“I live my life for the stars that shine
People say it's just a waste of time
When they said I should feed my head
That to me was just a day in bed
I'll take my car and I drive real far
You’re not concerned about the way we are
In my mind my dreams are real
Now you’re concerned about the way I feel

Tonight I'm a rock 'n' roll star
Tonight I'm a rock 'n' roll star
Tonight I'm a rock 'n' roll star

You’re not down with who I am
Look at you now, you’re all in my hands tonight

Tonight I'm a rock 'n' roll star
Tonight I'm a rock 'n' roll star
Tonight I'm a rock 'n' roll star.”

Thank you, Rock Stars.



Raccoon: (standing by a tree outside the house) HA HA!


Susan hesitantly placed her sandaled right foot on the first grayed board that was nailed to the bottom of the tree trunk, feeling if it would hold underneath her weight. It creaked and twisted a bit, so she pressed down harder. It seemed to steady with that, so she continued climbing up, wondering still if one of the old boards would break off as she went higher. She felt a little silly, as if the birds and squirrels were watching her with some disapproval, some pushing-50 woman climbing up to the treehouse. She pictured herself as child climbing the same tree and how light and quick she was, only worrying then if she might get a splinter on the bottom of her bare feet, and whether the treehouse might have been infected with “boy germs.” Susan’s small bag banged against her side as she rose, adding to the awkward feel of it.

As she came to the opening of the treehouse, she marveled a bit that it was still here. Her father had built it one summer for her older brother Bob. He and Bob had gone down the long slope of the backyard of the farm where a large grove of trees stood, spared from being chopped down for gardens. There is always one tree that when you see it, it seems meant to host a treehouse: its branches spread out like a cradle, waiting for someone to come with scrap lumber from the barn, some tar paper, a window salvaged from an old shed, a hammer, a box of nails, and a few weekends’ worth of measuring, cutting, fitting, and the occasional slipped swear word that echoed back towards the house. Through all the summers of pirate play, and the falls where Bob whipped fallen rotten apples from the treehouse window at any interlopers, the hard long winters where Bob whipped snowballs at interlopers, and the wet mucky springs where the treehouse floor would get caked with mud from their boots, it remained. Bob passed it on to Patrick, who passed it on to Jerry, who passed it on to Susan, the baby, whose tea parties and doll conventions in the treehouse were met by her brothers with great disdain, and some small amount of affection. They all grew, moved away, had families, came back for long summer weekends, Thanksgiving and Christmas and Easter.

Susan settled herself on the floor of the treehouse, a little out of breath, and pulled a cold bottle of Coke from her bag. Her father always had them in the refrigerator; always bottles, never cans. She twisted the cap off and took a long gulp of the sugary soda, felt the smooth cool wet glass of the bottle in her hand, and looked out the treehouse window. It was a truly beautiful place, the farm, more a gentleman’s farm than the working farms she knew, so it lacked the dust of hay, the manure smell, farm machinery broken down from overuse, old trucks. She could see the fresh look of the white paint on the house, the neat gardens, the trees that stood like a line of big benevolent soldiers, rising and falling with the hills and the horizon. No one else would see this view again, she thought. She would be the last person to sit in the treehouse.

When her own children were old enough, she and her husband Mark had brought them down to the treehouse, excited for them: first Daniel, then Jason, then Chris. But it wasn’t the same for them, she thought. Each of the boys were initially excited with the novelty of the treehouse on Grandpa’s farm, but then became bored and headed back up to the house to play the videogames they had brought with them. Susan wondered if they knew how to play at all without a screen or instructions. She and Mark would sit at the bottom of the tree and talk, while some joyful scream of digital victory sometimes drifted down from the house.

It had taken far too long to convince her Dad to move. Actually, she thought ruefully, he wasn’t even convinced; he just gave out. He was almost 90 now, and her strong hearty determined father had slowly descended into some impenetrable fog; still having lucid moments or days even, but not enough. Despite good hired help and lots of it, it wasn’t safe for him to remain, and Bob had been the one to pick out a nursing home for Dad, close to where Bob lived in Raleigh.

A swallow darted by the treehouse window and drew Susan’s eyes to the back porch of the house, now piled with boxes of things to go to Goodwill or the dump. All the kids and grandkids had come over the last month or so, picking out things they wanted, while her dad sat in his TV chair, staring out the window towards the apple grove.

After her mother had died, when she was 17, Susan had thought that her father would surely sell the farm and move into town. But he didn’t, and when she left for college that same year and came back at Christmas, he had invited a woman who worked at the fabric store in town to dinner. It seemed sort of amusing to her now, but then it was so horribly uncomfortable with Mary sitting next to her father where her mother had been, and Susan and Bob and Patrick and Jerry all silent and sad and furious, saying barely a word through the very nice meal Mary had made for them all. Her dad had meant no harm; he just didn’t understand. All the kids had left, Mom was gone, and to come back and see someone else…it was just too much. He and Mary got married about a year afterwards, and peace was made over time, especially after the grandchildren came along. She was a good person, and they had a good marriage, 18 years until a winter chest cold turned to pneumonia overnight, and she was gone.

A squirrel scratched and scampered up the side of the treehouse, startling Susan a bit. There was still so much work to be done at the house. She pulled the last draw from the Coke, set the bottle down on the ledge of the treehouse window, and decided to leave it there. The land was going into development soon enough – the tree, the treehouse, and the Coke bottle would all become part of the same thing: bulldozed, mashed, and removed. None of the kids could afford the property, and none really wanted the upkeep of it anyway. Dad needed the money from the sale, and there really was no arguing with the deal he got, in this economy.

The treehouse had a really, really good run, Susan thought. She took another long look from the window, etching the details and colors and feel into her mind as she sighed. No one could have asked for better. Her sadness gently lifted as she gingerly made her way down the tree steps again, and walked slowly up the hill towards the house. All in all, it had a good run.


Once again, I am going to sweetly ask in the most dulcet typing taps I can deliver, that you, yes YOU, YOU THERE RIGHT NOW, YOU, go on over here to help my pal, Boston Globe writer Geoff Edgers, finish his Kinks movie:

He's getting reel-y (heh) close to the finish line, with just $5500 needed to complete the editing work. I like his grass-roots fundraising here very much, because I am a DIY kind of cat myself. There are different pledge levels from $10 and up with PREMIUMS and everything. processes the payments, and your account will not be charged a single penny of your pledge if the $5500 is not raised by August 10, 2009. You can change or cancel your pledge if needed any time before the deadline, too.

As someone who has contributed work to the project, of course I am invested in seeing it come to life as well, but even if I had not been involved I would be a booster. Considering the huge influence the Kinks have had on popular music, there is a real lack of film/video about the band, and most of it has been the usual unenlightening documentaries using the same mashup of old clips, asking the same kind of questions to the same set of people. This project takes a very different approach to measuring the Kinks value, and promises to be fun, funny, thoughtful, and interesting.

I know times is tough out there, but I do hope you can throw a few $$ Geoff's way so this film can be in the can and on its way to getting OUT. I will keep the link to the donation site up on my sidebar menu for the summer.


Your humble fanster with Ray Davies, 1980


I am a responsible person. I pay my taxes, don’t litter, and take the grocery cart back into the store instead of leaving it in the parking lot to drift on its wobbly wheels like a slow pugilistic metal bastard only to hit some innocent random vehicle with its cruel dent-inducing edges. I think about things, generally, before I do them. I go through the pros and cons, I reason things out, and come to some kind of a logical decision. And then I, generally, just do what I wanted to do in the first place, confident that I have my back-up argument in place somewhere in my “ALREADY REASONED OUT” files.

One of these things thought about was how and when to have children. This was something I had wanted to do since forever, but had enough self-control, self-esteem, and functioning brain matter not to be on episode #1,933,220,443,322 of “Maury”-- “MY 13-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER WANTS A BABY AND DOESN’T CARE WHO WITH!!!!” No, no, no. I had seen enough around me of the horror show that was having a baby too young or at the wrong time or with the wrong person: welcome to welfare, trailer life, Kraft Mac & Cheese, and the devastating knowledge that you had not only screwed up your life, but someone else’s as well. People got out of this life sometimes, tried to do their best, but why make an already-difficult task harder? Avoiding this was in my control. Waiting was GOOD.

So that is what I did. Until I couldn’t stand it any longer. Age 30 was looming, and I had baby fever in the extreme. Baby fever suspends logic, as seen above, and even I, Logic McSmarts, was not immune forever. Which is why I finally chose to get pregnant at age 29, with my husband and I both in the middle of full-time college, not a lot of extra cash around, not really knowing how this would impact everything. How can you know? That stupid saying: “Having a baby changes everything.” DUH! DUH! Of course it does, but you have no idea how much, or for how long until you are in it, and in it for awhile.

Baby #1. My goodness. He was something else. He was so something else that there was NO WAY IN HELL I was going to have another baby, or at least not very soon afterwards. Ha ha. And that is not at all to say he was a nightmare or anything, not at all. Well, alright, he didn’t sleep much and demanded constant attention and was terribly annoyingly bright and active, which sometimes seemed like a bit of a nightmare when all I wanted to do was CHILL OUT FOR JUST A SEC. But all in all, he was exactly the kind of child anyone would hope for, and a delight. It was me that needed time, a lot of it, to gear up to what being a mom really was.

It took me five years after Baby #1 to want to have a Baby #2, and then it took another year-and-a-half to get him into existence. Six-and-a-half years between kids is a long time. You are essentially starting over and re-learning all that early stuff. Baby #1 spent his days at school, and Baby #2 was raised almost like Baby #1, an only child, with all that one-on-one attention and focus. Big Brother #1 liked his role as the benevolent infant overseer until Little Brother reached about three-years-old, could talk back, and started messing with BB #1’s stuff. Then the age gap became too much for BB #1. His younger brother was always going into a stage that BB#1 had just left, and it made it difficult for him to relate to his smaller brother because he found him embarrassing rather than charming. They turned out to have very very different temperaments and ways of relating to the world, and never really connected. I knew that there was never any guarantee that family members would be all Brady Bunch – I knew it completely, and didn’t expect it. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a disappointment.

Ten years after Baby #1, I sat with my husband at Roy’s restaurant in Denver on my 39th birthday and carefully laid out my reasoning behind trying to have a Baby #3. He was fairly appalled, and reasonably so. He reminded me that I already had a lot on my plate and that I was always running around stressed out, which was true. He reminded me that he was a lawyer with horrible work hours, and simply could not be around as much as he would like to be for me and the kids. Yup. He reminded me that starting over with an infant again meant years more of no sleep and unreasoning toddler outbursts and never going to restaurants or movies or traveling easily. I agreed. Everything he said was true. My only real argument to counter was that I didn’t feel ready to leave this place in my life and that I had more love to give. He said he’d think about it, as I finished up my seared ahi lunch and smiled.

Baby #3 was born about 18 months later. She inherited brothers 11 and 4.5 years older, a giant dog, two elderly cats, and two parents in their 40s. She charms and tortures us, determined in her role as the baby of this motley group that she outshines us all or at least gets her pick of what to watch on television with some regularity.

I now am mom to a 5’10” man/boy with whiskers on his face, a girlfriend who drives him around in a Lexus, and who has a deeper voice than his dad; a pre-teen who wonders aloud how he is going to deal with all this change in his life coming up; and a little bug of a 1st grader who still needs to be sung a lullaby every night at bedtime and still drinks from a pink sippy cup. The gaps between them have never been more evident, and my role never so spread out or strange to navigate. The longest diaper change ever, pros and cons duly noted.


Today is Joey Ramone’s birthday. He would have been 58 years old if he had been able to beat the cancer that ended up taking him off the planet in 2001. Of course, Joey was the lead singer of the incomparably wonderful punk pop band the Ramones, who rocked the world for 22 years out of Queens, New York. Time has not been too kind to the Ramones – a year after Joey died, Dee Dee Ramone died of an overdose, and Johnny Ramone lost his own hard fight with cancer in 2004. It is certain, in that unfair Van Gogh type of way, that the Ramones are far more popular and beloved today than they were in all those years they were playing and putting out records. Time has come today for me to tell you how much I appreciate them now, and why I didn’t earlier.

When I first read about the Ramones – likely at least a couple of years before I got to even hear them out in the hinterlands of the Midwest – I didn’t quite know what to think. This was the mid-‘70s, and music was solidly Album Oriented Rock. Think Kansas, Supertramp, Led Zeppelin, REO Speedwagon, Pink Floyd. Glam was petered out, my dear Kinks were thick into concept albums, the Beatles were having scattershot solo careers, and complete and utter CRAP like “Muskrat Love” and “Afternoon Delight” made me embarrassed to have ears. I was still in mourning for Mod. The hot look for guys was a Qiana shirt unbuttoned to mid-chest and wide bell-bottom pants. So, here are “The Ramones,” I read, wearing black leather jackets, straight-leg Levis, and white t-shirts. I thought they were greasers with long bowl cuts and greasers were WAY WAY uncool. This was clearly some kind of strange New York City thing, I thought, and not for me. They’d never make it.

So when I finally heard them and their breakneck under-two-minute-long jackhammer songs, I took their appearance and the similarity of the songs and dismissed them more or less as a novelty act. I thought they were kidding. I didn’t at all dislike them, but I didn’t give them much of a shot. They certainly were NEVER played on mainstream radio, I can tell you that. It was not an easy thing to hear the Ramones, or find their records in Wisconsin. But I kept reading about them and CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City and Patti Smith and Television and all the people over there who seemed so serious about their music. The “punk” I knew was garage rock from the ‘60s – I wasn’t really too thrilled about the term getting appropriated. I was still a young teenager, and bitter about how rock music had bloated and about died, and viewed anything at that time with suspicion.

I started perking up when it became clear to me that many of the punk and new wave bands of the ‘70’s were fans of the same music I loved – it was just coming out in a different way. I think I started “getting” the Ramones when the movie “Rock n’ Roll High School” came out in 1979. The deliciousness of the film was that the Ramones were featured as the world’s hottest rock band. It was so silly and implausible, and that made it wonderful. As teen rock fan “Riff Randall” (played by actress P.J. Soles) drooled over the decidedly-very-unhandsome Joey Ramone, the bands’ complete lack of acting skills just made it all even better.

The Ramones weren’t a joke band. They loved music, they had a sense of humor, and they were able to strip rock n' roll down to the bare bones minimum. They were always, always, THE RAMONES, and that was just fuckin’ awesome.

I became a fan, and remain so to this day. Happy Birthday, Joey.


MissSix: MOM!

Me: Yes?

MissSix: (Mr11)just said the "D" word!!

Me: Oh?? Well, that's not good.

MissSix: (whispering) He said, "Duh."

Me: (smiles)


I took the hippo-critical oaf. Hee hee! Wow!

How I lost 60 lbs by running on the treadmill


If you ever have the chance to be tagged to get up to dance to a melange of acoustic, electric, and digital noise, by god, I hope you do it. I hope you do.

Dan Deacon at The Vera Project, Seattle, 4/25/09
(thanks, KEXP)


MissSix: (alarmed) MOM!

Me: (not alarmed at all) WHAT?

MissSix: There's a teeny bug in my bed!

Me: Ah. (sees bug, smooshes it between forefinger and thumb of right hand) There.

MissSix: Thank you.

Me: Muahahahaha.


The beauty of her, it came to me one day as I watched her again board the #56 bus we shared each workday, was not expressed in any kind of classic way. Her face, although blessed with high cheekbones and clear golden skin, was plain, with no features to particularly note as pretty. She was thin and tall with reedy arms and legs, dressed rather drably, and her brownish-blond hair was always pulled back into a loose ponytail. No, her beauty was in how she moved, the way she carried herself. Maybe it was because I saw her over the years repeat the very same movements every morning that I was able to see it in her: her grace, the evenness to her carriage, the elegant way she moved her hands, even just to place her bus pass back in her purse. I began to appreciate this about her, peripherally I suppose. It’s rude to stare.

There were other regulars on the bus, of course: the jowly Greek man with wild curly black hair who was always eating something out of a white waxed bag; the ancient woman who no matter the weather wore a tweedy long coat, a kerchief over her hair, support hose, and slippers; the angry-looking young guy who would sometimes appear with all his ginger-colored hair shaved off. Businessmen in suits carrying laptop bags, giggling loud teenagers in packs headed to school, sunken-eyed sleepy middle-age women no longer looking around to see if men were checking them out – they all came and went, every morning, all of us stuck for a few minutes on the #56, going and doing the things we had to do.

It was this young woman that I noticed the most, though, and I wondered sometimes about who she was and what she did, and if anyone else saw what I did in her. Sometimes I saw her eyes flick over me, apologetically-quick, and sometimes she would raise the corners of her mouth in the tiniest smile of recognition with a polite nod, and I would nod and smile back in the same manner. Public transport etiquette . Past that, we never talked or made further contact – she always chose to stand even if there were seats available, her head raised to stare out the window. She got off the bus at Broad and 7th with lots of other people who worked at one of the huge office buildings there or maybe the hospital. The bus would pull away, and she would be lost in the crowd, and that’s the way it was, every morning, as five years passed.

The Monday after Christmas that year was cold and slushy, and the bus was filled with tired and crabby people with soaked shoes, not ready to head back to work. She boarded as usual, and I absently watched her delicate hands bring out her bus pass and swipe it in the machine, and something new caught my eye: a bit of light dancing on a very small diamond solitaire ring on her left hand. Ah, the Christmas Engagement Ring! Without even thinking, I smiled broadly and was happy that she was found. As she walked past me, I thought I saw her tiny smile become a little wider, if only for a few seconds.

The second week of February added a gold band underneath her diamond ring. The Valentine’s Day Wedding, I was sure.

Spring came and went, and as summer began, I noticed something was not the same in the easy flow of her, the way she moved. It was so slight that it took me a few weeks to realize it with any conscious thought. She seemed hesitant, slower, the dance of her had changed. The answer was soon made clear by her rounded belly: she was pregnant. Her stick-thin arms and legs remained the same as the baby grew in a basketball-like protrusion from her middle.

One particularly hot, hazy, and sticky morning, she boarded the crowded #56 as usual, nodded to me as she passed, and reached for the overhead pole about a foot away. As the bus moved away from the stop, a bike messenger sharply cut in front of it, causing the driver to slam on the brakes. As the bus lurched, she veered backwards, then fell forward into the aisle, landing on one knee and an outstretched hand, awkward. Appalled, I instantly got up, retrieved her purse from the bus floor, and helped her to her feet.

“Are you all right? Do you want me to tell the driver to stop?”

Her face flushed, she brushed back the strands of hair from her face that had fallen out from her ponytail, and spoke with a surprisingly-steady voice, “No, no, I’m fine, really. It’s fine. Thank you.”

I handed her the purse, and we stood. As she reached again for the pole above her I pointed my palm towards my open bus seat. “Here. Please.”

She glanced at me, waited and considered for just a moment, then sat. “Thank you.”

When it was time for her to get off, I noticed that she waited to rise until the bus was at a complete stop and after most of the other people leaving had already pushed toward the exit doors. I left the seat open and stood the rest of the way.

A few more weeks passed, and then one morning she did not board the bus. Ah, I reasoned, she’d had her baby. Nice. I thought of her, maybe at that very hospital by her work, or maybe already in her home with her husband and child, feeling the coolness of the new fall air, grateful to be done with summer and to be back to her own rhythms again.

I was very surprised when I again saw her board the bus after only a week away. The basketball bump was gone, but there was no husband, no pink-faced long-limbed baby carried in a baby seat along with her. She moved with grace again, I thought, which seemed both natural and odd at the same time. Her head down, she made her way back through the bus and came to stand across from me. This time I did not try not to stare and I looked directly at her face. The bus started forward, and she raised her head, and her eyes locked with mine. As she looked at me – right at me now - and I looked at her, her eyes slowly began to pool with tears, and the tears began to spill down her face, one after another, running down to her neck, then resting on her blue dress in small spreading dark dots. I had never noticed before that she had green eyes, and did not notice that I was crying silently along with her until I felt my eyes reflexively squeeze shut to clear them.

As the bus came towards her stop and slowed, she let go of the pole, opened her purse, found a Kleenex and dabbed at her face, and walked out, shoulders perfectly straight, fluid, beautiful.


“The first draft of anything is always shit.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Hence the appropriate title of this blog. Thank you, Dead Macho Writer!


Five thousand pounds of laundry need to be sorted and put away before tomorrow morning. But eff that – it’s nice again today and I am gonna sit outside to try to raise my pallor from Corpse to The Very Ill. That’s like a full two shades up, pretty ambitious.

The first thing I notice as I bring out my boombox and bottled water and stack of magazines is that the $20 worth of steaks I had to toss in the dumpster yesterday has made the air smell like rotting death. This is not appealing at all, and seriously cuts into my enjoyment of my serene lounging experience. It is a testament to my desperation for some sun exposure that I will continue to sit there, breathing shallowly. Oh, well. It doesn’t seem to matter to the dog, who is on her side sleeping in the shady dirt. She probably prefers it.

A loud scary little black helicopter flies overhead and I squint up at it, frowning. It looks like a horrible black wasp, and I feel like shooing it away or blasting it with a jet of Raid WASP-NOT. Nasty thing.

Ko Melina’s incessant nervous laughter on her SIRIUS Underground Garage show also interferes with my happiness. Stop it, ma’am. When she stops talking for a second at least I get to hear “Green Fuz” by The Green Fuz, which maybe be the lowest of low-fi garage punk classics. Ahhh. Now that’s more like it. I love how the drum break sounds like a junior-high-school drum section bashing away, and I hope it was.

My god, those steaks smell so BAD. HA HA.

As I read, everything from pop culture garbage to cool California driving trips to new iTouch apps to fiction reviews to quotes from Clarence Darrow to microdermabrasion recovery times to the long and disturbing cultural trend of binge drinking in the UK, four things cross my mind:

1. Making real connections to other people and things is what makes life rich, expands the mind and heart, is the frosting on the cake, but you cannot depend on them to be your life. Your connections are not you, just adjuncts and hopefully very good and positive adjuncts. At the end of the day, you are on your own.

2. Statement #1 is not sad. It just is.

3. You can’t grasp the responsibilities nor appreciate the depth of the possibilities of the freedom you were born with until you accept #1 and #2.

4. Perhaps the rancid steaks are poisoning me.

Time to go in from out, get back to the laundry, not as white as I was but I never tan anyway.

Rolling Stones -- "I'm Free"

HA 11

Drew Carey, while hosting his monthly shift on SIRIUS Underground Garage, after a song by the Ronettes:

"And that record was produced by Phil Spector, MURDERER."


On the days when it is not raining, when it is sweet and warm and sunny like it is today, I am compelled to go out. No agenda in particular, just out, hoarding the feeling of the weather like it was gold or myrrh or Frankenstein or whatever. The day started out sadly, however, with the pout and sniffle of MissSix, and the unfairness of her getting a cold on a playdate day. I follow strict Parent Code on this issue: Do Not Send A Sick Kid To Someone’s Else Home, Even If Desperate. So I had to tell her that the playdate was off as she tried for some minutes to convince me that she was not sick at all, just that her nose was crying and her head was hot. It was time for me to head off to my appointment with Slappin’ Sarah, but I told her that if she was feeling better from the Magic Motrin by the time I got back, we could go out and do something together. She agreed that out was good, and stopped crying.

I returned in no time flat, and we negotiated our outing. MissSix wanted beach, but I knew what beach meant – filthy wet smelly child – not something I thought was prudent for a young lady with a cold. She swore she would stay on the grass only, but I still said no. She would no more be able to resist flinging herself in the water than our dog. So we decided to head over to the OOGCP for a cool drink and small snack, and she would bring her portable art case along and me my computer. She would draw, I would write, and we would be Out.

She decided that she wanted to draw the big fountain there first, so she set up her little art station and did just that. Two women about 10 years older than me noticed her after a bit, asked me if that was my daughter, and I nodded and said yes, she is an artist, and smiled. I didn’t say she pretends to be an artist, or would like to someday be an artist because art is not just for the accomplished or adult. She is an artist, as much as anyone in the world, and I respect the joy and passion she has for it. The ladies cooed and awwwed over her as she kept on with her mission, focused and unaware of anything else. I let her do her thing, and attempted to see my computer screen in the bright sunshine while nomming on a chocolate croissant, which was getting melty in the heat.

She finished her drawing and decided that she wanted to sell it, and wrote a backwards “2$” on it, and made up a sign that said “OPEN.” I watched, and said little. Another lesson for artists is that not everything you make is going to be instantly bought by a rapturous public. Certainly the yellow lab wearing a huge red bow that walked by didn’t have two bucks, and the dad chasing his running toddler who was heading like a steam train towards the fountain didn’t have time to dig out two bucks either. She asked me if she could call out “FREE ART FOR SALE!” and I said no, that the people relaxing with their coffees probably would not dig that. I did not go into the inconsistencies of her sentence, either.

Not terribly disappointed at her lack of income, she asked if we could go get our nails done, and I said yes. It is so nice to say yes sometimes, it really is. Just yes. I have to say no so often. We picked out very similar shades of very light pearlescent blue and sat next to each other and smiled as “Ellen” and “Sara” painted us up, blabbing away in Vietnamese. After that, we headed off to the grocery store and picked up bananas and meat and cheese and bread and whatever else added up to $300; MissSix got to pick out Lucky Charms cereal and some lovely hot pink Gerbera daisies. She carried the bouquet around the store like a princess, asked me to marry her, and giggled loudly at the thought.

Out was then done, the art case brought home, groceries put away. MissSix found a blanket and pillow, and fell asleep on the floor next to me and I hear her breathe now as I type, a little snotty but comfortingly even and quiet. Out was good.


Free People blue-grey-black tie dye t-shirt: RETAIL $108.00, I PAID $19.99

Free People coral t-shirt vest with weird macrame shoulders and a "5" on it: RETAIL $78.00, I PAID $19.99

Thin thin grey swingy long sleeveless knit vest: RETAIL $49,00, I PAID $7.99

Nice smelling body cream with Dead Sea Salt and Shea Butter: RETAIL #12.99, I PAID $4.99

No jeans, because of the big sushi dinner prior to shopping. Oof.


Let's get real. Adam Lambert = Sam Harris. Over-the-top screeching drama is NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT artistry in any way. I don't give a damn if he can hit huge high notes -- it is all so forced and mannered and ugly-sounding that it makes me want to PUKE! PUKE PUKE PUKE PUKE PUKE! AAHHHHHHHH! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!


If he does ANYTHING with Auto Tune on his voice, I swear my head will pop from sheer horrible overload.


Someday, The Shiny Scythe of Extincteration will take a mighty and broad swing through the air, decisive and final, and I shall die. This particular combination of human molecules will leave the planet for good, and with any luck will not be replaced by some infant who grows up to play that super-annoying sub-bass-drenched hip-hop out of his or her jetpack speakers. I will be sad to go, I assume. There are things I will really hate giving up for eternal unconsciousness: the feel of the sun on my face, laughing, my kids’ faces, delicious creamy warm coffee, and watching dogs bark and “run” while they dream. Maybe the hardest thing is knowing, as the Scythe looms, that you are going to Miss Stuff Happening and Knowing More About Stuff That Is. I have such a curiosity about so many things, and it is going to be hard to be cut from the game before some of those answers are figured out. I don’t give a crap about the existence of God (ain’t gonna happen), if there are alien toenails on Jupiter (I’m not a Star Wars geek), or how to provide fresh water and healthy food for billions of needy people (answer: population-clearing plague or crunchy delicious alien toenails).

What I so so so so want to know more about is THE BRAIN.

Oh, I LOVE the brain. I not only love it, I think it is so cool and sexy and fascinating and awesome that I would marry it, or at least fawn over it at a romantic restaurant. The brain is where it’s at, baby; there’s your key to err thin right there. It’s the most powerful thing in the world, and when we can begin to unlock what is IN THERE, well, oh mah goodness. I believe this completely: that someday science-type people will know so much more about how the brain truly functions on every kind of level, and all will benefit in such an immense way that you can’t even KNOW, MAN. It’s all IN THERE. But now, in 2009, we are like chimps poking at a pile of dung with a stick, or that’s the way it will seem someday. The brain remains for the most part a total mystery, some mass of tissue and fluid and electricity that does things somehow, and if you prod certain areas with a small electric charge you can get people to wink.


I love reading and learning about my pal, the brain. The brain is really THE MAN, and reading and learning about the feet or the liver or even the eyeball is just not anywhere near as cool. I have questions. If I live another 50 years, maybe a few of them might get answered, maybe not. Stupid time. I have a particular interest in the study of memory, for quite a few reasons. I am fascinated by the idea that everything you have seen, done, experienced, felt, or thought about is probably stored in the brain, OMG, it’s all IN THERE! It’s like your own personal Netflix of your existence, except for the most part you have lost your account password and cannot get your movie of 1983 on demand.

And of course speaking of movies and memory, everyone has seen Rainman, and has heard about the phenomenon of the autistic savant who can recall voluminous amounts of dates and facts and figures with no study or effort put into such ability. Some piece of the wiring is off, differs, and another piece is freed, and we get this, although its use is of little value to both society and the savant. It is interesting only to the neurologist as a small window into what is possible.

I myself, in some small assumably-non-autistic capacity, have a quirk with my memory, it seems. It is both a great gift and a difficulty. Over the course of any given day, for all of my life, many times a day I am yanked back into my past by my brain. Something – a sound, a smell, a texture, a voice – or sometimes nothing definable at all, triggers the Time Machine, and I am instantly transported to someplace I have already been. I don’t know if that is so unusual; what seems to be the difference is the level, the depth, the amount of detail there. I can be sitting here, in my computer chair, and with no warning I am somewhere else, even if just for a few seconds. It is very nearly as complete and rich as the very reality of this minute, and then it is gone, something like a dream, just with no bizarre flying tigers or anything like that. It can be extremely jarring, and sometimes upsetting, for both the instantaneous and uncontrolled nature of the journey, and that it is a constant reminder of what was, and what is utterly gone.

But, for those few seconds or moments, it can be exhilarating and so exciting, and a confirmation somehow that everything you have ever done stays with you, has gone into making up the you that sits on the computer chair. The smallest most insignificant details were all registered, never lost after all. I can see and feel the texture of the Big Red Chair, the rough bumpy threads of the slipcover, the bright yellow color of the foam if you unzip the cover on the bottom right corner. I can run my finger along the smooth walnut of the bookcases, gathering soft gray dust, and I can read the titles on the spines of the books, in order. I can look out the window and see my dog in his pen, his shiny large metal water bowl tipped over by his huge paw, water making a thin river flowing in a concrete crack. I can see my mother watering the hanging plants with a forest-green metal can with a long swooping spout. She seems so tall. The gray-green linoleum squares of the floor feel cool, slick, and smooth under my feet, and the grandfather clock ticks away loudly, evenly.

This is from 1964 or possibly earlier. We moved to a new house the following year. When I tell my mother these details, she doesn’t say anything for a long time. When she does, her voice sounds a little choked up, wavering: “You were just a baby.”

There are a few people in the world, a literal handful, who have this quirk only with far, far greater accuracy and detail. A woman in California, Jill Price, seems to recall every single detail of her life – what she wore, ate, where she went, what day of the week any event fell – on demand. Her problem is that she cannot stop the movies from playing:

"I don't look back at the past with any distance. It's more like experiencing everything over and over again, and those memories trigger exactly the same emotions in me. It's like an endless, chaotic film that can completely overpower me. And there's no stop button."

I can just almost grasp what she is saying, almost am able to feel how incredibly paralyzing it must be for her. Current brain research assumes that we have to throw memories away, as to not overload the brain. But maybe it is not quite that – maybe they are all there somewhere, for all of us, and every so often something goes wrong, or right, and the flood of the past washes over the conscious mind. For someone like Jill Price, I would think the future would be a burden; more to add to the flood of information, more to keep her from living in the present at all.

For the most part, I feel very lucky. I will take the discomfort of Time Machine jetlag for the small comforts of being able to feel the softness of a pink baby blanket, the shape and grind of a metal bar underneath my knees as I hang upside-down on a jungle gym, the criss-cross pattern of my dad’s brown stereo speaker grills, and that it didn’t all just disappear into the fog, lost forever. It is all there. When the mighty Scythe comes, it goes with me, but if I am lucky I can write and describe it as much as I can, and then it goes to you.


What's amazing is that I am not more of a complete maniac, considering this is the stuff I was watching as a kid. HA HA!


I am not a Body Modification type of person. I have not one tattoo, no lip plates, no neck-stretching rings, no 2”-long Lee Press-On Nails, no Michael Jackson Brand Creepy Permanent Eyeliner. Why, I don’t even have pierced ears. Never have, either. No, I prefer my appearance changes to be impermanent and flexible. I was able to bag the purple hair in 1987 when it attracted more attention than its shining grape-juice beauty was worth, and every trendy piece of clothing has been easily shed and replaced by another equally-hideous trendy piece of clothing. I am not committing to anything more than chunky highlights and waterproof mascara.

I come from a non-bod-mod family, in fact. My father, despite five years in the United States Army, never got a tattoo. Many of his Army buddies did, however. For most of the years I was growing up, the buddies would reunite on some late-summer Saturday at a local Wisconsin park. They would grill hamburgers and hot dogs, drink serious amounts of beer, and after enough burgers and beer were consumed, would then bring out their various instruments (they had all been in the Army band together), and squawk away: mercilessly, to me, happily, to them. I remember seeing their old (to me, then) and tanned arms, and the faded blue tattoos with “MOM” or a busty ‘40s girlie or some gritty-looking animal holding a gun. The ink had softened over time, skin sagged, and the once-sexy girlie tat ended up looking like some blurry alien mimeograph. The men always seemed somewhat embarrassed by these remnants of their overseas youth, and explained them away as the outcome of too much gin during R&R in Australia. Some of the men went so far as to always cover their tattoos, they hated them so much, roasting in long-sleeved shirts, or never took their shirts off to swim in the lake. Who knows what I missed seeing? My dad seemed quite proud and relieved that he came away unscathed, which was surprising because he seemed to drink the most of them all. Perhaps he passed out in a Sydney alley before he could get inked with an image of a smiling red-lipped grenade with boobs and a garter belt or something.

My mother never had her ears pierced. When I realized that other women actually MADE LITTLE TINY HOLES in their ears and hung jewelry from them, I was just amazed. Wow! Hardcore, ladies! I asked my mom why she did not do this. Her reply made so much sense that I took it, and have used it myself all these years: “My hair hangs down and covers my ears all the time anyway, so why bother?” It is so damn sensible. That, combined with the viewing of my teen peers’ ears battling reddened, crusty, oozing earlobe infections, settled it for me. No piercings.

So that is where I am coming from. My opinion (and if you don’t like it, go spend 10 minutes and set up your own blog, stupid) is this crap is short-sighted and sleazy and so far played out as to be comical. OK, you just turned 18 and you and your pals think it is WAY COOL to go and get a tattoo, all together in a big group of obnoxious. Take a look at your tattoo “artist” for a minute. That’s the dude that sat behind you in Algebra I scribbling bad cartoons of dragons and skulls and giant lady boobs and knives going into hearts in his notebook. He is now going to take a nasty needle and poke the same drawings into your skin for LIFE while you pay him for it. This is not Rock, this is not Edgy, this is not Alternative: this is never in a million years going to make you any cooler and in fact makes you look icky or ickier. Yes, even the teeny tiny little star or heart or baby unicorn or snake around your bicep or the dreaded “Touch of Class” rose. All of it is horrible, and when you are 70 it’s all going to look like melted crayons anyway. If you are over 30 and getting a tat, you are either a circus freak or retarded, or a retarded circus freak. If that’s the case, go to town. Another exception would be a full face tattoo for that lady who just got the face transplant. It couldn’t hurt anything there.

Listen, if you are going to get a tattoo, at least make me laugh. Get one of a nice-looking sheep, and surround it with the words, “Me And My Friends Got Drunk All Together And All We Got Were These Lousy Sheep Tattoos.”

Now piercings. Hey, if you want to have pierced ears, that’s swell with me. I can’t see your earrings anyway, and I don’t have to take care of your holes. But let us be realistic how piercings on other parts of your face really look. Again, not cool – from anything more than a foot away, your nose stud, eyebrow ring, or lip bolt looks like you have either a crusty booger sitting on your face or a bird crapped on you and you don’t know it. It’s disturbing. People want to come up to you and quietly tell you that you have some sort of waste ball on your face, and then they see it is a piercing and have to go, “Ohhhhh.”

Piercings on the tongue or genitals just tells me you want people to think you are sexually freaky, but you probably are too self-absorbed and weird to be any good. Ewwww.

But, of course, if you LOVE LOVE LOVE your bod mods, more power to you. Enjoy them in good health and be proud. But don’t get mad at me if I try to flick your nose stud off with my finger sometime. Just trying to help.