About Me

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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Frig's Day (Friday's Old English Name)

That's surely how it friggin' feels to me. It's been a hard week. I began it with a flight to another state to make a visit at a hospice. I didn't care for it much. It took something away from me. I left something behind. It staggered me badly enough that I walked obsessively on Tuesday. The reader doesn't need to how many miles or the damage it did to my feet. One's obsessions can be embarrassing. Let's just say I was trying to walk away from the pain and there was much pain to walk away from. Newsflash: it does not work to try to walk away from pain. The pain just rides on one's shoulder.

Some bloggers mourned the passing of Simmons, Salinger and Zinn during the week. I did, too. Mourning them made me put aside my personal mourning. I didn't want to think about that death any more. Much easier to handle grief over public figures we never really knew. I'm reminded again of the futile way I try to handle loss. Every time. I am stuck on stupid. You see, I always want to do something. "Do something like what, Les? Bring him back from the dead, for instance?" I talked to a counselor who told me all the right things to do like experience the pain and then let go. No, no. This woman doesn't actually want to feel anything about this. Mother Badger sent an e-mail with love. I've been continuously supported in person, on the phone and in e-mails by those who care about me. And I just can't shake off the notion that I need to do something.

I thought to sit and write beautiful words - holy words, the most beautiful writing ever presented, this as a tribute to a man's life. But I sat up all night at the computer and learned I had a blockage. Constipation. I can't write holy words for him. I'm pretty empty of beautiful words. So I'll write some plain words. Plain words are OK, if they're given sincerely. Even if I can't build a shrine, I can make a little impromptu roadside memorial.

His life was filled with many challenges no human being should have to deal with. The ways he sometimes chose to deal with these things were not pretty ~ like during observance of the making of sausages and laws, one's gaze might have to have been averted a few times. I've never known another person who suffered such heartbreaking life events, and I believe the heart actually does break into pieces. His heart finally gave out and I think that is profound. Make no mistake about it, he had many lofty highs in life and people who loved him and successes that exceeded the sum of all of his parts. But I am sad that he is gone. He was younger than I. I wish him happiness, like everyone deserves to be happy. Happy, not dead.

When I saw him Sunday, he recognized me and told me he was glad that I came. Then he asked the $64 million question. The one I've run from for most of my life. "Were you ever really in love with me?" For the type of association he and I had, one would expect "in love" at least in some period of the relationship. I took a deep breath and I lied while looking directly into his deep brown eyes. And I saw peace, relief, maybe happiness, or maybe I even saw that intangible thing - love - cross his face. I have suffered this week from lying to him at that point in his life. I'll shoulder that. Because I didn't lie about feeling another form of love. He has that. I give it freely, in truth.

It is fortuitous. The camping date was already on the calendar. So I'll go and refuel and I'll be warm(er). I'll hike and scramble around finding rocks. I'll read and I'll think and I'll cry. I'll draw with my pencils and write in my journal and take (poor) photos. And when I come home, I'll go on. I'll post my silly Chapter 2 of The Field Trip and I'll work. I'll walk somewhat fewer miles and take care of the cats and the birds. I'll buy groceries and get the haircut I scuttled last weekend in favor of hospice. Something will surely charm me and I'll surely worry about booking enough jobs to support our little magic carpet ride. Because that's how life is.

In my ears right now:

Something that charmed me: I read this in the news and it made me feel calmer. "Tonight's full moon will be the biggest and brightest full moon of the year. It offers anyone with clear skies an opportunity to identify easy-to-see features on the moon.

This being the first full moon of 2010, it is also known as the wolf moon, a moniker dating back to Native American culture and the notion that hungry wolves howled at the full moon on cold winter nights. Each month brings another full moon name."

There's another kind of moon for you, Tag!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Surrealistic Sunday ~ The Field Trip, Chapter 1

"What do you feel like doing?" "I don't know, what do you feel like doing?" "Oh, I'm not sure. Let me bubble on it." It didn't take me long to land on it. "I'd like a field trip. It's been more than two years." "OK, that sounds like fun. Let's each take a camera." Good idea! I wasn't a blogger last time I made this trip.

I have a long association with Las Vegas, with some sizable gaps. I arrived here to live on the Bicentennial Day (July 4, 1976), remained 7 years, stayed away 18 years and have now been back for 7 years. I've worked at or been closely associated with real estate sales, escrow, construction, mortgage lending, land purchases, property management and now in a service industry catering to the general populace. I know the place pretty well. It is an unusual city in that it takes on new appearances seemingly overnight. When I returned in 2003, I was stunned that so many new buildings I knew from the 1970s were gone. But not entire city blocks of them. Piecemeal. So that one can't quite get comfortable. There's the old Alpine Inn, but I can't quite place the buildings on either side of it - they're new. Tall buildings mixed in among short, squat ones. There are tracts of land that have never been developed since the city's birth in 1905 - some of these vacant places completely encircled by development.

The route to our destination took us ten miles along a major east-west artery of the city. We weren't two miles from my place when we began to take in the most amazing sights. Neither of us uses this boulevard very frequently. The first stunner was that two favored restaurants situated next to one another had gone out of business. One was boarded up, the other had changed hands. A "WTF?" look was exchanged between us. Soon we noticed entire professional plazas that appear now to have only one or two businesses open where there used to be 50. My god. Several major chain grocery stores had gone down, now empty or housing the latest indoor swap meet - oh, they're thriving. I'm not sure I can count high enough to tell the number of huge car dealerships now out of business. Dear readers, yes, we do read the news and we do know there's a recession in full bloom. We know that from the neck up and from the effects that has had on our personal finances and lifestyles. The impact of the ghost town, however, was not intellectual. It was visceral. This is bad. And it's going to take a long time to revitalize. We, great communicators since 1968, were very quiet in the car.

We arrived at the intersection we'd aimed for. On one corner is the Sahara Hotel & Casino, directly across from the enormous lot that's never been built upon. Another corner is home to a vast one-story building, vacant and painted entirely black - walls, windows and awnings. Near our corner were some old familiar sights and some startling new ones. A block east sits one of the most venerated eating establishments in Las Vegas. The Golden Steer has remained in the same location since 1958, gradually annexing all the space in the commercial building it occupies. It looks exactly as it did when I dined there on my first wedding anniversary in 1978 when it was already 20 years old. But strolling eastward, there's something new. Where once squatted the tattiest wedding chapel of them all - the one with the pink plastic posies stabbed into the ground on approach to the place where one enters marital nirvana - soars all 41 stories of Allure. Finally, on the corner, hunkered at the heel of Allure, our destination.

"If it's in stock, we have it!" Yes, that's the way I've always heard it goes.

I can recall no change in the appearance or ambience of the Bonanza Gift & Souvenir Shops since I first spotted it in 1976. It is tacky, trashy, objectionable, wrong and funny in most every way. From its location to its merchandise, my field trip subject is wrong. And just as I enjoy venerable things and the beautiful desert, wonderful music and some intellectual writing, I like knowing about the wrong contained in the Bonanza. Yes, I do want to peruse the wares in the Bonanza's Naughty Town. I want to see the T-shirts that surely no tourist would buy. I want to pick up things that must have been invented or created by people crazier than I. I want to shock my companion and make him laugh out loud. I want him to point out the wacky stuff he sees before I do. Just about once every two years.

The fun begins in the parking lot. It's filled with people who have come from near and very, very far and it's loud. All that's missing is calliope music. As the photographer bent into the car to get his camera, he recoiled from a resounding roar and the sound of people scremaing. "No worries. It's the roller coaster on top of the Sahara." He regained his composure and set about getting the exterior shots. I had trouble concentrating on photos as I was drawn to watch the certifiables' circus. I saw a man in bad thrift store clothing riding a bad thrift store bicycle, circling and ringing a bell for all he was worth. He had an adequate jacket and he was the happiest man I have seen in a long time, kicking his feet off the pedals and shaking his legs in the air. He greeted everyone he encountered as he circled and I greeted him, "Happy new year, happy home dude." Of my companion, I asked, "Do you think he's a serious cyclist?"

We aimed for one of the many doors, each featuring a uniformed armed guard. "Do you think they have a prohibition against cameras and photos?" I never had considered that! If they did, mine could easily be slipped into my purse or coat pocket. His requires a sizable case. We stepped up to the same door we always use (come on folks, we're orderly!). "No shirt, no shoes, no service." We had on shirts and shoes. "No smoking." We don't. "No public restrooms." We went before we left my place. As we crossed the threshold, my reaction was the same as always. My pulse picks up a little and I get ready to laugh. The big grin spreads from one side of my face to the other before I see any of the goods. We always follow the same route through the store - hey, we're hikers and campers, we follow maps.

We first encounter all the Elvis stuff, and there's a lot of it. I'm not an Elvis fan. My mother (who shares the king's birthday) and Ex were big fans. I'm fried on Elvis. We don't even stop in that football field-sized department. Glass shot glasses, ash trays, ceramic bells and vases celebrating fabulous Las Vegas? Nope. We don't slow down for that. Miles of racks of jewelry similar to that found in any 99-Cents Store? It doesn't even register on our radar. Finally, less than 10% of the way through the establishment ~ the T-shirt section. Now this bears some attention! There must be 1,000 T-shirts of every imaginable description. Some are lame, some go beyond naughty all the way to obscene. Some are simply hard to understand. What, someone is going to come visit Las Vegas and buy a T-shirt with a rebel flag or the ocean on it? OK, whatever. The cowboy and southwestern themed shirts make sense to me. A lively debate was held surrounding what a particular T-shirt depicted. It was gray with black line drawings. I thought it was a monkey's face. He thought it was a big, fat guy's chest and abdomen. Regardless, it was stupid and ugly. And we were ready to move on.

We stepped into the 100 Acre Woods that whets my appetite for this peculiar trash cruising. No, we weren't in Naughty Town yet, although I could see it just a few miles off. We had entered the area of "small stuff". Magnets, desk accessories, stationery, soaps, snacks, purses and things that defy description. Racks, bins, baskets and rows of these things. I need to handle them all. Lest the reader think my companion becomes bored or testy as I cruise, be assured: he's touching and checking things out, too, calling my attention to things as frequently as I say "Hey!" or "Look at this!" to him.

Some of my favorite hits this time:

Bacon stuff! (Here we go again with bacon!) Bacon placemats and bacon wallets - I know I'd enjoy pulling that out at Bath & Body Works just to watch the reaction of the cashier as I purchase Warm Vanilla Sugar bath products. Bacon bandaids and bacon mints. Mints? Are they minty or bacony? Look, while I don't eat it, I understand that people love it and enjoy it with eggs or in a BLT. But who decided it was funny? Who decided "We'll make bacon funny stuff and people will buy it"?

Toast bandaids. For those who don't care for bacon, I guess.

Safety measures for all the bacon and toast preparation workers, I imagine. Who'd buy these? Who'd put these on their refrigerator door? Oh, I can stand in the shop and laugh like a donkey, but I wouldn't buy this stuff. It's pricey. Shockingly pricey. And stupid. And funny. And wrong.

So, is the Bonanza the world's largest gift shop, as the sign proclaims? I don't know the answer. I'm not in charge of that. But it's large, no question. And we'll visit it again soon in Chapter 2 before I go away this weekend.

In my ears right now: In the continuing theme of "wrong", it doesn't get more wrong than this. It's so wrong it makes me ashamed I was alive in the 1970s. I challenge the reader to watch it all the way through. Better yet, watch it, make a list of how many wrong things you see and tell me the number. I'll send a prize! Not to be missed: Bowie's black bodice that moves independently and separately from his body when he shakes his narrow booty. It must have been made from cardboard!

Something that charmed me: The Electronic Yodelling Pickle. I worked hard to think of some meaning it might add to my life, for I certainly wanted one. It was loud and it was stupid and it was pretty wrong. Alas, I left it behind. I couldn't think of anything I'd actually do with it. There's a recession on and I'd just driven through a deserted city. Electronic Yodelling Pickle notwithstanding, one wants to be mindful of expenses.

Some photo credits: J. D. Morehouse

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Ten Things I Love (I've Been Tagged)

Latebreaking: There seems to be some question whether the assignment was "Ten Things I Love" or "Ten Things That Make Me Happy". I need to state I processed it as "Ten Things I Love". If I'd done it the other way, I'd have had a list of things that impact me far less than these. If I muffed the assignment, please give me credit for earnestness, sincerity and hard work both on myself and with myself.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

My original post before I wondered if I'd muffed the assignment:

I am usually up for a challenge and I'm almost always up for fun and games. I like connecting with others and learning new things ~ these are major themes in my life and my writing. So when blogging friend Kass threw down the gauntlet, I was ready to rumble. I put two blog posts that were almost ready on the back burner. I grabbed a pencil, some scratch paper and I began to scratch.

I knew immediately that I would not list my family, my lover or my job. Of course, I love all of those. It goes without saying. They occupy a level above Ten Things I Love. Within two minutes I'd made a list of seventeen things I love (I may have to do this exercise twice!). I struggled to pare it down to the requisite ten. I quickly made an association: my ten subjects include some of the labels I use most frequently on my blog. Hmmmm . . . . so I write about what I love. And then something washed over me that made me feel sad. When I look at the list of ten, I realize I am not actively engaged in some of them. I am avoiding some of them. I'm doing some of them only half-way. A revelation: find happiness by jumping deeply into the things one loves.

In no particular order (in fact I thought to list them alphabetically to eliminate any perceived order) here are ten things I love.

I love my physical well-being. I make a pilgrimage every Sunday of life to Fresh & Easy to buy good food for myself. This is more than "grocery shopping". It is a celebration of self. I fuel myself with foods that support my well-being. I walk many miles every day, regardless of conditions. Sometimes it isn't very pleasant. But I never fail to feel grateful I can do this. I hike and climb in the desert for the pure joy of it. At my desk every day, I set a timer to remind me to get up and move my body. I use weights, a wobble board, a light-flashing hula hoop and resistance bands. I indulge myself with frequent massages that help ease my body from what life has done to it. It wasn't always this way. I have 215 specific, well-identified reasons to be grateful for how well my body serves me.

I love to write. I am a person compelled to tell things. I need to tell my stories, my history and my observations of the day. I have a strong urge to share the funny things that happened, to rant about the injustices and unkindnesses I observed. I love rich, colorful, plummy words and I like to make language art with them. I want to retell conversations, and sometimes the written version is better than the actual dialogue. Writing letters and journals, essays and post-hearing briefs have all been part of my tapestry. But writing a blog has been an epiphany to me. Imagine writing and having other human beings comment about it! For me, comments don't need to be false-positives. I've let nasty comments in, too. It's more important - to me - to simply have another human being react and interact. Blogging is the best new thing I took on in 2009.

I love music. I surround myself with it nearly constantly. I'm like millions of other people who would say music is important to them. I might say I take that up a notch. When I hear a song I know, I am quickly transported to the time and place I occupied when I first learned it. Say something (anything) to me and I can often pop out some snippet of lyrics to highlight what you've said. I'm not stupid, but I regard some song lyrics as a rallying cry for life ~ it's an appreciation of the songwriter's ability to weave words into images. I am tattooed with a short version of the most profound lyrics I know. So, from Pachelbel to Pure Prairie League, the Bangles to my Beatles, Billie Holiday to Bob Dylan, R.E.M. to the Rolling Stones and the Backstreet Boys to Beethoven, I have loved it all [except rap]. I can't imagine what it would be like to lose one's hearing. Do you suppose the songs would play on in one's head?

I love my animals. I share life with two cats (Virginia Woolf and Dylan) and two birds (Bloomsbury and Benson). My father says I "over love" my animals, attributing to them qualities they do not possess. My father also says it would be a good life to live as one of Leslie's pets. It fulfills me to be the sole caretaker of another creature. I feed them and clean them and take them to the veterinarian when necessary. I brush the cats and clip their claws. I clean the spittle from the birds' mirror so they can continue to chirp while admiring themselves in its reflection. I buy good feed and palatial bird homes and the preferred type of cat litter. I provide toys and catnip that are mostly ignored and bird toys that are eagerly employed. It sounds like I have to do a lot and spend a little money, doesn't it? I talk to these beautiful fellow animals of the universe and each of the four looks at me as if I am brilliant when I speak. As if what I have to say matters. None of them has ever been cruel or done a thing to hurt me in any way. It's a dynamic that works beautifully. I provide the basic needs for their lives. They grace my presence with all their beauty and their trust in me.

I love venerable things. I call items with history "venerable things". These need not be priceless antiques. Ordinary household articles of long ago pull me more than a Renaissance painting. I like to handle venerable things and think about other human beings who may have handled them. I wonder if the venerable thing had special meaning to its owner, or was it simply "the potato masher"? I buy venerable things at estate sales and curiosity shops. I decorate my home and office with them. Sometimes I am fortunate to find some lovely vintage item I can wear as clothing or jewelry. Some of my favorite venerable things: my grandmother's 1917 high school graduation gift - a lavaliere that now belongs to me and will belong to Amber someday; my circa 1800 cut glass inkwell with tortoiseshell lid; a pair of eyeglass frames from about 1920. These frames are perfectly round and beautifully crafted. I want to wear them so badly it nearly makes me weep. I cannot find an eyeglass dispenser willing to try to put lenses in the frames. They fear what material the frames may be made from and whether it will hold up to today's methods of making glasses. I shall keep looking. I want those frames on my face. I want to think about the other human who wore them.

I love to be creative. This is one of the loves that makes me sad. For I am not doing it. OK, I'm writing. And I aimed my camera at some beautiful things. On one camp-out. But I am not using fabric in any way, even though I may own the lion's share of the world's stores of fabric. The sewing machine gathers dust and there are no pins sticking in the carpet. I haven't needle-pricked a fingertip for longer than I'd like to admit. The seashells used to fashion angel ornaments languish in closed bins among the shining ribbons and "jewels" meant to render them beautiful. The rubber stamps and archival ink containers lie idle and my embosser hasn't been plugged in for far too long. My cardstock and envelopes and embellishments are lined up neatly in their dustproof containers. Maybe forever, never to be touched again? Those I love enjoy receiving cards I've made. Why am I giving shitty store-bought cards to people I want to present with beauty and the creative part of my love?

I love to read. My mother, my daughter and I each began to read on our own, only nominally guided, at the age of 4. We are strong right-brainers who enjoy words and process information by reading. "Don't show me how to do it. Let me read the instructions!" I am surrounded by men who learn things by looking at a television. That doesn't work for me. When I look at a screen to learn something new, I take it in just like everyone else. Eyeball deep. When I read to learn something new, I absorb it into every part of me. I rabidly attack Prevention when it arrives every few weeks, completely reading it in one sitting. I have more self-help books than I can name, and I read and re-read them. I have many books that are old friends to me, some dating back to the 1960s. I try to give each of them a spin every year. I have virtually visited many places in the world I'll likely never actually see ~ by reading about them. Probably my favorite books are biographies. I'll read one about pretty much any person. This feeds the need not only to read, but it also puts me in the "connecting with others" mode that I love. the ability to read anything ever committed to writing, uncensored, is about as good as life gets. Whatever is intriguing, one can go find out about it.

I love learning new things. When I started my current job, I had a first-ever experience. It took me longer to catch on than I would have hoped or expected. I've always been a pretty quick study. I was about to turn 55 and I attributed the slight lag to my age. I am a bit kinder to myself now. I was entering a field I knew nothing about, managed by software I'd never used. I'd never held a sales position and had to learn that, too. Maybe I wasn't so slow! I was given a good, curious mind and I have many of the qualities of a terrier dog - some things may stump this chump, but I just keep digging until I find what I was going for. I'm afraid my learning process may not be pretty in its execution, rather like the making of sausages and law. It pleases me to learn new things. I wanted to know how to create a website and how html code works - I learned. I wanted to learn to blog. I've done so. I hope I never lose curiosity, even as I slow in my capacity to quickly grasp new things.

I love the desert. I will not be able to tell the reader why I love the desert. I've struggled for hours for those words that will not come. So I shall tell what I love about the desert. I love the loose sandy trails that make a hike feel torturous. I like the rocky hikes that scare me when the boulders shift beneath my feet. I like the drops so long I have to sit down and scoot myself down the rockface on my backside. I like to roast in my own juices in the sharp sun, eking out that one last camping trip in May before temperatures force the summer camping break. I like the snowflakes that fell and melted on my warm, bare skin as I struggled to help put the rainfly on the tent at 2:00 a.m. without my glasses. I love that I lay in 75 mph winds for hours, trying to sleep, weeping in fear, and surviving it. I love the way the coffee tastes differently out there. I love that I know how to pitch a tent, fuel and operate lanterns and a stove, make a safe campfire, follow a map. I like to poke around old mineshafts and find interesting treasures. I love that little creatures allow me to hold them and seem to enjoy my company. I love knowing how to identify animal tracks and desert flora. When I breathe in the presence of the petroglyphs, I feel like I'm in church. When I hike through a broad vista of cactus flowers, I know I have gone to a better place. It's an extreme environment. Harsh. One has to develop skills. I was a city girl. The desert opens its arms to anyone tough enough to survive in it. I thrive in it.

I love connecting with others. Human beings fascinate me. Almost all of them. I have felt like an alien visitor all of my life, however, because I don't feel as if I really understand other people. Therefore, I study them carefully. My friend and I laugh about something. If someone said, "Hey there's a great author from the 20th century named Hemingway", my friend would want to read Hemingway. I would want to read the biography so I'd know about the person Hemingway was. If my pink bus were an actual bus, I'd be the small woman at the back, surrounded by her bags of stuff, craning her neck to check out all the other passengers, taking notes. I study people and I try to find some place where I might make a connection with them. It excites me to find the fragile strand of commonality between me and another person. The electrical connection makes me feel alive and normal and . . . not so different from anyone else. Not alien.

CHALLENGE: I didn't think this exercise up. I was tagged. I'm officially tagging anyone who reads this to go do it for yourself. It's a good, introspective time spent with oneself. Tree, I'm specifically tagging you. Maybe you can't do it right now. But do it sometime. Do the short version. It might help you find your way. It helped me find mine.

In my ears right now: It runs long. It is worth listening to. It is like church music played on a pipe organ. She's got the pipes.

Some photo credits: J. D. Morehouse

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wintry Morning Musing

I'm not anxious to attribute forces in nature with human abilities to "think" and "preplan", but the storms hammering California also affect Nevada and they've landed at the evening commute hour each day this week. Today promises to be the same. I've half a mind to bitch about the inconvenience of it, but my mind turns to the possibility of desert vistas with cactus flowers in April and May. It shuts me right up.

It's no secret that deserts are arid, and its no secret that the desert southwest is in a years-long drought. For the past four years, we've been struck by how many fewer cactus flowers present, by how clearly distressed and progressively more distressed are the yuccas, the Joshua trees, the scrub and creosote. Then comes a year like 2005, when there was so much rain some of the topography in the Mojave Preserve was forever reshaped. One wishes for balance, but the climate in a desert is one thing consistently. It is extreme.

Tuesday night's pounding rain made for a beautiful Wednesday morning! When I pulled out of the driveway, I saw the most wondrous scene. Red Rock, the Spring Mountains and the Sheep Range - all seeming close enough for me to reach out and touch - had a light dusting of snow against the scorching red, orange and caramel rock formations. Although most of the valley was crystal clear, there were some insignificant wispy clouds over Red Rock. The sun came blazing up over Sunrise Mountain and painted those wispies peach, right before my eyes. It was damned glorious!

As I drove into the sunrise, my car dashboard screamed "ICY". Yes, I'd say so. A full 10 degrees colder than the last few mornings. As I descended eastward, I could see a thick blanket of fog along the Strip hanging lower than the tops of the casino buildings. When I stepped out in the parking lot, the air was cold. It was quiet (for a wonder, at the busy intersection where my office is located) and I thought of the word "crisp" as I pulled frosty air into my lungs.

I heard on the news this morning that the Las Vegas Valley got 1 1/2 inches of rain in 2009. That seems about right to me, based on my own observation. In the first three weeks of 2010, we've received .80 inches, with more storms promised this week and next. We hope for balance and we hope for flowers. Meteorologist Sherry said we are "in the black" for rainfall right now. I might say we are in the black for these three weeks, but that does nothing to offset the years and years and years of drought.

And this post is not meant to be all about the weather.

Some conversations have occurred between various bloggers in person, in e-mail, and on some of the blogs. These conversations are about meaning and etiquette and rules of blogging. The conversations were generated by observations of how various bloggers group up on certain blogs for one purpose, then split up into different groupings to go to a different blog for a different purpose. We perform our dances with an ever-changing cast of characters, all for everyone (who's interested) to see. And what are the messages we send with the songs we sing in our writing?

I'd be interested to hear what any followers or readers think about such things, and I started the conversation, so I'll toss out a few of my head-scratchers.

A few of my followers meet in one of their blogs to thoroughly chew on a particular subject. I like, follow and enjoy each of these bloggers, so I go to that blog and read it, too. These people are perfectly brilliant in their discussions. I'd like to join in, but I have nothing to add. I am profoundly stupid regarding the topic about which they are profoundly knowledgeable. Here comes the twisty part. I go, I read, I say nothing because I am intimidated. I want to shout, "Right on, 'tend friends, you're remarkable!" Mind you, I could go off and learn about what they're discussing, but I'm not sufficiently interested or motivated to go do that. And all of this makes me feel a bit like a stalker and rather inadequate. [Disclaimer: If some of this is just my own dumb shit, then commenters will either say nothing or will say, "Leslie, that's your own dumb shit."]

A favored follower said something to me yesterday that nearly made me fall off of the chair. This person is intelligent, funny, feeling and gregarious. Take this blogger to a cocktail party and sparkling conversations will ensue. When the blogger found my pink bus, she wanted to join in, but she felt there was a bit of a closed club atmosphere between me and several followers. Ironically, at the time, I was wishing more voices would jump on so my bus wouldn't seem like a closed club. She said she worked at putting her comments on and I was immediately welcoming, so she quickly felt at ease. But I ponder on her hesitation and I wonder why my blog sent out a "closed" vibe. And, yes, I've also hesitated to jump in sometimes because I'm unsure whether I will be welcomed.

A blogger felt a little unsettled because a follower who previously commented often had gone silent. The follower hadn't stopped following the blog, but no longer had anything to say in comments. The blogger was considering whether he had been offensive in some way or failed to be gracious, thereby silencing the follower. "Well, do you ever go look at her blog?" He does. "Have you ever posted a comment?" He never had. "Maybe she'd like you to add your thoughts and ideas about her posts, as she does for you." The question here is how much do bloggers want to give-and-take? Is it a courtesy or a favor to give as well as one receives?

Here's one I do know how to handle. Occasionally a blogger posts something that's not up to usual standards. Sometimes a great follower will post a comment that makes one think, "Did he even read what I wrote? Did he even get the point of the post?" One moves on and checks out the blog at the next posting. We all blog as a form of expression. We're human. Every post isn't going to be wonderful.

Those are the things that pull my brain cells today, dear readers. I'd thoroughly enjoy learning what you think about such things.

In my ears right now: Something fun!

Something that charmed me: Eleanor and Harry charm me. Eleanor strikes me as a chiquita who could dress out a deer while wearing that charming gypsy blouse and peep-toe pumps. And then go put up some peach preserves before cooking chow for 47 ranch hands, never disturbing one hair in that pincurl 'do. Harry's pencil-thin mustache draws my eye almost as much as the mismatched shirt and tie. I wonder how he ranches with those long fingernails, and the best part of his presentation is the three inch foldup at the bottom of his jeans. Well . . . . . the 52-inch belt is pretty remarkable, too. See you at Buck Lake Ranch!

Some photo credits: J. D. Morehouse

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Things Aren't Always What They Seem ~ Or ~ A New Man in My Life

Version I ~ For the Romantic

It wasn't planned. There was no New Year's resolution made. And I never saw it coming. I've been lightning struck! Of course, enchantment doesn't typically announce itself, so perhaps I shouldn't beat myself up for failing to expect it. Suffice it to say, favored reader, it has happened and his name is Dennis. New year, new man.

He's different in many ways from other men who have fascinated me. For one thing, he is young. I've never been drawn to younger men. But he is that. Significantly younger. About 18 years younger. And good looking! He presents quite nicely in his uniform and I'm made to feel confident seeing his belt with the tools of his trade tucked into it.

What I like about him: He didn't ask me. It wasn't discussed. But when I arrived at his door, my drink was waiting. No questions asked. "Here, Leslie. This is for you." "I thank you, Dennis." I like that he took my coat off of my shoulders and put it on a hanger, not on a heap of whatever. He is thrifty with words, using only enough of them to make comfortable conversation. His voice is soft and warm in the darkened room.

I like his hands. He is a good-sized man with large hands. When he touches my skin, I feel warmth and electricity and energy and peace. I want to feel those hands on my skin again and the date has been set. Soon we shall spend time together again. Reader, this is heady stuff!

Version II ~ For the Pragmatic

I badly needed to have some body work done, for I am an aching massage addict of decades. Stephanie disappeared from Massage Envy employment and I've had a pretty miserable time trying to hit-and-miss with the several massage therapists she'd recommended. I called yet again to make an appointment and found that none of the women I wanted were available. I started to do the slow burn. I pay the membership, I want the work and I'm finding it damned inconvenient to never land on a day and time with anyone I want who is licensed to touch.

The perky little receptionist sensed my displeasure and said, "What about Dennis?" Dennis? Uh-uh. Never have had a male massage therapist work on me. I have trouble with that. It's difficult for me to even contemplate. Lacey said, "He's our best deep tissue therapist - everyone agrees on that - and that's what you said you need. He's available at the time you requested and he could give you an hour and a half." There was a pregnant silence and then someone's voice said, "OK, Dennis it is."

I stewed at my desk all day wondering how I'd handle certain parts of discussion and just precisely how much disrobing I'd want to do. You see, not only am I old, I have certain bodily things I want to explain before I offer myself up in any state of undress. Yes, I understand that most people, or at least women, have some body image issues. Many of us think our rear ends are too big or our chests are too small. But I have some more esoteric things going on and I feel a need to speak of them. Double burden: the speaking of them is also difficult.

I drove through the downpour, spontaneously landing on necessary little errands to accomplish. No, that's bullshit. I was diddling time away so I'd certainly be late. Or maybe I just wouldn't go. Of course, there'd be a cancellation fee . . . . my pecuniary sensibilities won out, I drove on and walked into Massage Envy just as he was walking into the lobby to collect me.

My romantic rendition above is all too true. He did take my coat and he did hand me my drink (of water). He does look good in the ME polo shirt and I was pleased to see his trigger bottle of massage gel in his tool belt. He was easy for me to talk with, and he didn't talk me to death like some of the women therapists. I landed in a place that was comfortable for him and comfortable for me, somewhere between completely dressed and completely undressed. And then Dennis proceeded to give me the massage that made me understand I've never actually been massaged before.

I asked him about half way through if being a man of a certain size gave him an advantage for deep tissue massage. It seemed to me that with larger hands and more strength than most women, he might have a leg up on it. He said that might be part of it. He asked me if I'd like my feet to be massaged. I laughed and said I would like that, but having kept my tights on would interfere. He said he could do it through the tights. "OK, Dennis, just don't use any massage gel. I have to go home in these tights."

My friend had been having a massage in another room while Dennis worked on me. I waited in the lobby and we chatted a bit. "Would you like to stop by my place and pick up those things I forgot to bring you?" Uh-uh. "No. I've just had a life moving experience. I'm going home to sleep the deep sleep of the innocent."

In my ears right now:

Something that charmed me: Dennis charmed me. "How did I do for you?" I told him, sincerely, he'd delivered the best massage I've ever enjoyed. "Do you think you'll lose the tights next time?" I think I will!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Blazing Balls Was Just the Beginning

I wrote a post that included the retelling of a ritual I performed in the desert, hoping it would help dispel some angst. Said rite included imagining I converted my stores of anger and pain to flaming spheres and hurling them off the planet, out of the solar system, anywhere that would be away from me. But that wasn't the whole enchilada. No. I'm pretty intense. I'm thorough. I pay attention to the tiniest details. And I like to succeed at what I attempt. Taking a day off, driving more than 100 miles, hiking a trail that challenges bighorn sheep, spinning and throwing fiery orbs off the earth from a rock-strewn watchtower weren't enough for me. I'm not experienced at these things. I'm not a veteran high priestess of ritual performance. What if all that throwing didn't do anything? What if it only did part of the job? One wants to leave no stone unturned.

I am all of the (good and bad) things I am for very good reasons. My maladaptations are the very ones one would expect in a person who walked along my exact path in life. My strengths are precisely the ones that would present in a person who was well-supported in certain ways. Here is a truth that I know: as wonderfully original as each and every human being is, we also share so much that we might be far simpler creatures. Not amoebas, perhaps, but less individual than we like to think of ourselves. There are common patterns and rhythms in human behavior and resulting consequences that can't be ignored. We're not quite as unique as we think we are. Some of it is on auto-pilot. Or as someone I care for says, "Well, you're unique, but not for that."

I am not usually a noisy person. My normal speaking voice is not loud. I don't tend to scream and yell, unless tremendously provoked or when I'm having a tremendously marvelous time laughing. I had no siblings to yell and holler with, and the parents certainly wouldn't have tolerated any noise. But I wasn't inclined to be noisy, anyway. I've always lived in small family situations, so one didn't have to struggle to be heard. My daughter never has done anything to make me want to raise my voice. Although my parents had ups and downs in their marriage before they eventually divorced, I never once heard them raise their voices at one another. In my career as a union representative, I made compelling arguments in negotiations or when I represented a member at an administrative hearing. I gave some hellfire and brimstone presentations at meetings of school boards or other governing bodies. But I did these things in tones just loud enough to be heard. I use my soft modulation to highlight my strong words. Reader, please hold this thought: I typically don't make a lot of noise.

I don't do anger well. Oh, I have lots of it. Vast stores of anger. I own much of it. I possess anger both ancient and fresh. The problem is what to do with it. Park it in the garage next to the car? Wrap it up at Christmas and give it away as a gift? Donate it to charity for resale at one of those donation bins in the parking lot at the grocery store? I did not grow up in a home where anger was expressed. All the undercurrents were present in our ocean, but they were not mentioned. We simply flowed along. Later, in the career, I learned never to show my anger, although it was often present. Both personally and professionally, I am an expert at keeping the lid on. I'm the pressure cooker with the 100% satisfaction guarantee to never, ever blow. I do it very well. But it's not good for me.

My ability to avoid or deny anger is so ingrained that I usually don't recognize it for what it is. I'm not angry, I'm "unhappy" or "upset" or "depressed" or "not right today". But certainly not angry. I've tried all manner of things to address "unhappy", "upset", "depressed" and "not right today". Behaving obsessively in one way or another is always a good thing. If nothing else, the obsession diverts attention from the angst. Almost invariably in my life, the way I've exhibited anger is to blow up, thereby voiding the 100% satisfaction guarantee. Without describing some of my more shameful performances in precise detail, let's just say when the fury reaches critical mass, I blow up in some way that is nearly 100% guaranteed to add more anger and pain to the anger I've just blown up. Reader, please hold this thought: this woman stuffs a lot of anger.

Please rejoin me in my boulder fortress in the desert from where I am lobbing fireballs. Although it's unusual, it occurred to me that I would like to make some noise, maybe scare some of that anger away. I gave a few war whoops as I flung fire and that felt good. I turned up the volume a little, but I soon learned that hurling and hollering each require a great deal of energy and I had trouble balancing myself on the rocks as I attempted to do both at the same time. The noise thing intrigued me now, so I threw the last of the flames and started to scramble down the trail. I watched as I descended, making certain no people were about. When I hit the flats, I knew I was the only person around for miles, and I let it fly. My first shriek calls to mind Daryl Hannah in Splash. Glass shattering. I'm 57 years old and I know myself well, but I didn't know I could make that kind of noise with my body. I gave what must have been a pretty credible rendition of the rebel yell. I squealed like a pig at slaughter and I screamed like a banshee. It occurred to me to put words to this concert. I named names and cited dates and events. Loudly. And finally, I was done.

Lest the reader think this poor woman needs to be hospitalized, I will say this: I don't expect to find myself in the desert throwing fire and screaming very frequently. But this needed to happen, and it was one of the best things I've ever done. The pressure has been building for a long time. With guidance, this time I didn't blow in a self-destructive way. I simply blew energy, not my life. On the last, flat half of the hike, I was surprised by many things. I was amazed at how hard the neck, throat and abdominal muscles work when one screams primally. I was stunned at some of the names and life events that spontaneously flew from my face. I was startled to notice how torn up my shoulder felt. I'm probably not a good candidate for the geriatric ladies javelin team. Or discus.

An e-mail arrived. "Now that you've thrown it and screamed it, is the anger gone?" I had to ponder that awhile. I didn't pop back an immediate reply. When I did respond, I said, "It's not entirely gone, but it's dulled. It's no longer like a bleeding wound on fire around the edges. It's not eating me alive." I've lived the few days since the desert quite normally, but there is something new presenting. I am not so silent. Both personally and at work, I'm saying things that are on my mind. For you see, I have enough clarity right now to understand that if I don't stuff, I may not build up such a head of steam. If I don't remain silent, I may not have to carry such pain. And so it goes.

I'm moved to say that this was a difficult post to put up. It allows the reader a glimpse of how messy I am in some ways and that makes me feel quite vulnerable. Yet, just as I felt compelled to go into the Preserve and perform the ceremonies, I felt compelled to come back and tell them. Believe it or not, right now I'm the best me, the healthiest me I have ever been, sore shoulder, sore abs, sore throat and all.

Kirk, there is the story for your soundtrack! Do you think it will be a hit?

In my ears right now: A beautiful song, short(ish) for Kass ;~} and others with ADD, presented by two stunning performers. These are worth a listen, people. I like these "bookends" I find ~ a song that touches me, presented in different ways. Make mine a double!

Something that charmed me:

This makes me laugh out loud. It makes me chuckle until my abs ache. To my surprise, favored reader, I can't come up with any words to say. What is it, exactly? What does this image mean? Why is it called "Isolation"?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Of Massage, Bacon, Elevator Cars and Fireballs

Friend Kass gets my nomination for the Girlock Holmes Super Sleuth Award which has utterly no value other than it's tribute to her sensitivity to me. And that makes it worth millions. To me. "The silence is deafening," she wrote. "What kind of shit are you dealing with?" This woman and I are simpatico, favored reader. Congenial. We've never met and yet there is an electrical connection. And she was right.

I'd been pleased and proud to limp out of the holiday season upright. There were still the daughter's and the mother's birthdays to deal with and the every few days' (or once a week) sly and sometimes unkind shots made across my bow, but I thought I was doing pretty well. And then I made the phone call. When I was told that Stephanie no longer worked at Massage Envy, I couldn't reply. I don't think I said, "OK, good-bye." Now, I know how to find Stephanie. Her major job is in the spa at a high-end resort on the Strip. Although she'd never said a word about leaving Massage Envy, she had been bringing me spa magazines and speaking to me of vichy baths, exfoliation and various mud treatments, so maybe . . . . She'd been trying to figure out the best discounts for me, based on credit cards I held or frequent traveler scams I might belong to. Uh-uh. I'm not doing it. We found a way for me to get a 70% discount, and the day's treatment was still hundreds of dollars. I don't want a spa citron salad and a fluffy terrycloth robe all day once a month with treatments I don't seek made on my naked person. I want my frequent deep tissue massage, delivered by one person I trust and rely upon.

The phones took off dramatically at work. It was evident that none of us had kept our edge sharp for dealing with nearly impossible demands of time and resources when we're booming. Homes and I were feeling the pressure, steam cleaning machine hoses sprung funny leaks and the general public's attitude has improved little. One customer had a major flood in his home, resulting in a huge water damage job. No, we don't wish anyone ill. But that's income for us. That's what we do. We didn't flood his home. We just fix it. Unfortunately, the man appears to be a tremendous alcoholic. Sober when Troy arrived to do the work, he required assistance to write his check at the end of the job. Now we cannot raise the man from the bed he shares with his demons to get our industrial fans out of his house. We are also concerned about the man's welfare. For me, there is pressure because it was month-end, year-end, accountants, taxes, and the anticipation of helping to breathe life into David's new business venture. This is all shared simply to say, "New day, same old stuff." I get through it better at some times than others.

I'd asked Stephanie for recommendations of some of the other massage therapists. My friend was looking for a way to reduce the cost of frequent massage and wanted to give Massage Envy a spin. "How about if we each book a massage, pay attention to the talents of the therapists, compare notes, and go from there?" "Good idea!" "OK, I'll book the appointments." We presented ourselves at the appointed time and met in the lobby afterwards. Walking toward the car, I asked, "How was yours?" He said it wasn't bad. Not perfect, but slide her some points for this being the first massage. "How was yours, Les?" I'd have to say it was good. Definitely promising. I'm not shy about saying, "Hey, is there any therapeutic reason you can't _____?" And now we know three different massage therapists there who are at least acceptable. Other massage days will roll around, and so it goes.

I'd been given a generous gift card that could be used at any of four dining establishments. We were massage-lazy, so we chose the nearest, not the one we already knew we liked. Being seated was smooth and easy and the vivacious Vicky soon had brought his Tanqueray martini and my iced tea (no, not the Long Island variety). She enthused to us for quite a long while about the restaurant's new menu and pointed out several ways for us to "get more" and "pay less". We could actually get about 5,000 calories worth of food for less than the fewer than 1,000 we'd hoped for. But the fun really began when we opened the new menus and began to study them. For we - two truly irreverent, sarcastic and sometimes rude individuals - found ourselves in the west's last bastion of applewood smoked bacon. We are two people with a serious aversion to bacon. After seeing it on the menu, even in the desserts (no, not literally), I began to notice the plaques on the wall celebrating the greasy stuff. I heard him say, "Oink" and "Do you see anything you'll eat in here?" And I started to hoot in my seat. His burger was decent he said - "Hold the bacon, please." My quesadilla explosion salad fed me three meals - "Hold the bacon, please." Note to self: Avoid that diner ~ it smells of bacon!

And then, the end of the evening. We took time, again, to speak gently, with care, of things damaged between us. We acknowledged again that neither of us knows how to fix these things, completely. We committed again to wanting to repair what is broken - to find the way. A week prior, he'd come up with a brilliant idea and I'd pursued it. I shared my findings and the comments made to me to be shared with him. We shared schedules for availability and we took hands and agreed, there are some things not to be put down forever broken, but pursued until they are fixed or until there seems no reason to pursue them. We spoke of camping soon to be shared, and a blanket of peace settled.

So, dear Kass, you were right. The little elevator car that is me slipped a cable and took a dive down a couple of floors. I did not crash into the floor 20 stories down. I just slipped a little ways. And now I hear the professionals gathering. Tools rattling, measurements being made, voices. "Broken cable over here on Number 4 - easily fixed." "Little shot of WD-40 and some duct tape, this will be as good as new." "As long as we're here, let's polish up the buttons and replace the light bulbs." You see, when you don't know how to fix it yourself, you ask for help. Call for service. Trust in the good intentions and ability of all the players (I understand that, I work in a service industry!), set the appointment and go.

I share this, feeling somewhat vulnerable. This could be easily mistaken for "crazier than batshit". I would hope the reader has read enough from me in this and past posts to understand it is pretty healthy. I performed a ritual this week. I drove to the Mojave Preserve and parked in a paved, well marked parking lot. I took the fairly short hike that is nearly flat in the first half and pretty torturous rock climbing in the second. I am never 100% certain I'll make that last 500 yards. One ends up in a rock citadel with a 360-degree view of the world. This being a weekday, I saw no other human being on foot. I did not create this ritual. I read about it and I understood it. I "got" it. One gathers her anger into a fiery ball and hurls that flaming orb into the cosmos. I flung that fireball like an Olympian discus thrower. And then the next. And the next. I threw balls of pain and anger and every other kind of rot until my ancient shoulder forced me to stop. I began to sag a little in the climb down the rocks. Before Las Vegas came into view, I was worried I'd fall asleep at the wheel. I slept all night long, never getting up to use the bathroom, tend to meowing cats or explore why the BlackBerry was breeeeeng-ing me at 2:00 a.m.

Photo credit: Hammer Head - J. D. Morehouse

In my ears right now: "Crying", a most beautiful song. I've loved it by Roy Orbision, Roy Orbision and k.d. lang in duet, Don McLean and k.d. lang solo. Yes, I'm playing them obsessively in order.

Something that charmed me:

I like k. d. lang's "baring my soul", "baring my feet" performance style. I suspect splinters are an occupational hazard and a warm, wool rug is a perk.