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, February 26, 2010

The Latest Tag

Friend Kass is fun. I don't have to have met her in the flesh to know this. It fairly jumps off of the monitor and into the room. This woman is exuberant. She hadn't posted in a few days, but she has a brand new granddaughter, so I didn't think much of it, although I missed her. I think this woman would be good at designing or organizing party games or fun things to do at a business mixer.

Her post said:

Open your first photo folder,scroll down to the 10th photo, post this photo and the story behind it. Tag 5 people.

OK, I can do that, and I have such a mixed bag of stuff in photographs, anything could pop up.

Like Kass, I'm not tagging people specifically. I'll just issue the invitation ~ join in, if it pleases you.

There is a place where I love to go when I am looking for solace. It lies within Death Valley and it features a small system of smooth, golden sand dunes. It is peppered with the debris of long abandoned mining operations and it features the most beautiful variegated rocks I've ever enjoyed. One goes to this place expecting to experience, and one does experience, a classic desert outing.

Tucked around the far side of a mountain outcropping, however, lies an unlikely setting ~ a marsh! In Death Valley! It isn't a very large area, but it boasts ponds with reeds and cattails, salt flats and waterfowl. While the sand dunes across the valley are a silent cathedral in warm, neutral tones, the marsh is a bustling village plaza with darting birds and flashes of green plants. The juxtaposition of these divergent microcosms pleases me. I purposely plan to hike in both locations on each trip and I end up feeling like I've been to two separate destinations.

The picture is a gaze into the jumbled reeds, mostly dry and brown because it is the winter solstice. Some of them have a little green at the tips, however, a reminder of the autumn past and the spring to come.

In my ears right now: To keep in theme with my picture, I was going to say Fields of Gold. Most who read me probably know this beautiful Sting piece. I went to YouTube and made a discovery. Their name intrigued me: Celtic Woman. Hey! I'm very much into my Welsh-ness. I listened to them. I think they are lovely. Embedding is disabled, but if the song pulls you or if you're simply music curious as I am, this is worth a listen. Try it! If you don't like it, you'll pull the plug.

Something that charmed me: Celtic Woman charmed me.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Meaningful Things: Music and the Letter

I am a woman who loves to write. My father does, and my daughter. We're wordy sorts who feel an urge to tell our stories. Yes, we're all talkers, too. But we particularly seek out writing as a means of expression.

I am also strongly drawn to music and bonded to some of it. My music. It doesn't even have to be particularly good music for me to love it. I'm willing to listen to virtually anything at least once, and if I like a song, I'll probably always like it. I'll remember the first time I heard it and why it pulled me in. Sometimes I remember what the weather was like and what fragrance I was wearing. I certainly remember the company I was keeping at the time. Eventually some of the songs become a part of who I am, the artist a friend to me. And I like to introduce my friends around.

Um . . . and then there are my musical oddities. I (frequently) land on an old or new favorite and play only that song for ~ oh, say six months in the car. Likewise there will be one going in the office for 11 hours a day. I've been known to make co-workers nearly weep and Ex refused to go anywhere in the car with me for years. I like to enjoy my music by nearly complete immersion and then I move on to the next song. I think about how I'd play it or how I'd have structured the delivery of the lyrics differently. And yes, there is some hope for me. The medications do control most of the other obsessive behaviors . . . I'm kidding! And a music lover with similar taste to mine presents me with custom mixes frequently. They contain up to 25 different songs. I didn't know people listened to music that way.

I received a letter from a young man in the late 1960s. I was somewhere between 15 and 18, depending upon whichever year that letter landed. 1969, I believe, so either 16 or 17. The young man and I exchanged letters often, and this is unusual, because we were also seeing one another in person - extremely often. But he is a writer, too, and we both fell to written communication to supplement our face-to-face time. We each had that much need to express ourself to the other. It is fortunate that we developed the writing habit, because we faded from and reappeared in the other's life time after time. We spoke seriously at one time about collaborating on a book about a relationship that had many faces over time. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say we have exchanged a million words, or perhaps a googol, in person and in writing.

So the letter arrived with its 6-cent postage stamp. Sometimes I used feminine stationery. We both used college lined notebook paper. We were teenagers. Students. Notebook paper was appropriate to our circumstances. He wrote in fountain pen. He still does. This was a shorter letter. Just the one piece of notebook paper, written on one side. I'm sorry I don't specifically remember the letter's subject, but I do not. What I do remember is the writing in the left hand margin. It was a snippet of something, a poem or a song, and it was dreamy and beautiful. He had turned the page at right angles to write those words, as they were presented vertically when compared to the horizontal sentences of the letter. Although I did not have a complete frame of reference for the words, they made me think he was the most brilliant and sensitive young man I'd known.

When I next saw him or spoke to him on the phone, I asked about the words and he pointed me to a music album I've now owned on vinyl, 8-track, cassette, CD and MP3. I bought the record for myself with babysitting money and I proceeded to breathe in every word of every song . . . for 41 years now. Many of them are wonderful, but the one from which he wrote part of the lyrics is a thread in my personal tapestry. I introduced both of my parents, my husband and my child to the artist, but more to that song. They probably all liked it, but it didn't mean to them what it meant to me.

The words he wrote were these:

" . . All my sisters soon were gone
To Denver and Cheyenne.
Marrying their grownup dreams,
The lilacs and the man.
I stayed behind, the youngest still,
Only danced alone . . ."

The song is "My Father" by Judy Collins. Across the decades I've thought about my own practical Kansan father who wouldn't have ever promised such a thing as " . . we would live in France . ." or that "we'd go boating on the Seine and I would learn to dance . ." unless he had the paid tickets in his pocket. Of course, I'm not much of a dreamer like the woman in the song. I wonder which of us had it better.

The young man who wrote me the letter was an active Viet Nam war protestor. He was associated with a group called The Resistance (among others) and he participated in a protest organizing meeting at which he sat next to Judy Collins. He still grins when he speaks of it today. In 2000, my mother, my 10-year-old daughter and I sat in the champagne picnic area at the San Diego Summer Pops awaiting Judy Collins. It was cool on the bay. We munched and drank bubbly (not the child, of course). My mother hoped Collins would sing "Someday Soon". She probably would. It was a big hit for her. Amber hoped for "Pretty Polly". Unlikely, but I hoped so, too, in solidarity. When she walked out onto the stage, I nearly choked on my croissant cucumber sandwich. Where was Judy Collins, the cute folkie/hippie chick with the voice of an angel and the words that spoke to me, subject of Stephen Stills' "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes"? Who was this 61-year-old in the pastel colored suit and what had she done with Judy? Until she took the mike and said, "Hello!" That was Judy Collins' voice! What the heezy? And as she sang the evening away, reminiscing about a young singer/songwriter named John Denver who stayed with her family while trying to make a name for himself, I realized that Judy wasn't a cute folkie/hippie any more and Leslie wasn't 16, and we were still spending a wonderful evening in one another's company.

When she sang "My Father", I wanted it never to end. My mother recalled the song and tapped my foot under our picnic table. My daughter, a child who knew every word, sat with tears rolling down her face.

When I did some research for this post, I came across the YouTube shown below. Judy speaks of her father's blindness and how he was sent away to a special school. It reminds me of my blind great uncle, Ralph. And then she proceeds to sing her beautiful song, taped in the same year I learned the words.

In my ears right now: The reader already knew this!

I'm going to end this one a little differently. It's the lyrics that charm me:

My father always promised us
That we would live in France.
We'd go boating on the Seine
And I would learn to dance.
We lived in Ohio then.
He worked in the mines.
On his dreams like boats
We knew we would sail in time.
All my sisters soon were gone
To Denver and Cheyenne.
Marrying their grownup dreams
The lilacs and the man.
I stayed behind, the youngest still,
Only danced alone.
The colors of my father's dreams
Faded without a sound.
And I live in Paris now.
My children dance and dream,
Hearing the ways of a miner's life
In words they've never seen.
I sail my memories of home
Like boats across the Seine
And watch the Paris sun
As it sets in my father's eyes again.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Cheap, But Meaningful Gift to Oneself ~ I Love Learning New Things!

Beloved Dylan is drawn to plants and flowers. He has never met one he didn't like . . . to eat. Virginia Woolf became so impressed with his delight for greenery, she has become a chomper, too. It is truly the only perverse, wrongheaded behavior either of these cats commits, and it makes me unhappy. The result is that my home is devoid of plants. I get lovely light in the rooms due to the placement of the windows and I would have some beautiful growth in every room if I could. However, I gave up plants in the home after several episodes of green vomiting on my very light carpet. In my office, a second choice but a good one, I sport some truly remarkable specimens. Home dudes occasionally need to be reminded not to brush up against long, twining limbs and trailers: "Watch out for the plant, Homes!" I don't have a third choice place in which to enjoy plant life.

On a Sunday at Fresh & Easy, I treated myself to a bromeliad. These odd looking species range from the well known pineapple to large varieties that thrive outdoors to small, colorful, showy ones that only thrive indoors. My new purchase was all flashy pink, tightly overlapping leaf bases tucked in among long, curving, narrow green leaves. I always think the colorful stalks resemble a reptile's scales, many precisely interconnected pieces working together to cover the internal structure. I felt it was too cold to leave my bromeliad in the car overnight, so I carried it inside on my first trip from the car. I'm nobody's fool. I put that plant on the top of the entertainment center amongst many other items ~ they wouldn't notice it for just a moment. They'd be far more interested in the rustling grocery bags and the smell of the guacamole and shepherd's pie and cucumbers. I returned to the car for the last load and trudged back inside, arms overloaded. I wasn't even completely across the threshold when I spotted two furry creatures at the top of the entertainment center, shooting furtive looks across their shoulders and . . . . chomping. Heartbreak. I was only gone a moment. Those plants are comparatively pricey, too.

Fast forward a couple of weeks. I always stop to look at the plants and flowers when I enter Fresh & Easy. What? The bromeliads were still on the shelves, but on sale for $2.10! Hmmm . . . OK, well that makes sense. They'd been there for awhile. Some of the leaves were broken or scarred, and I wouldn't have taken some of those plants for free, but I poked around the gathered offerings and came up with a pretty nice replacement for my pink and green beauty. It had an odd, deep purple, microscopic flag protruding from between two of the "scales". I wasn't sure what that was all about, but it was easily plucked off. When I entered my home, I immediately put that plant in the coat closet at the front door. Hey, I may be too trusting at times, but I'm not stupid. That night I served dinner to a friend. I opened the coat closet and said, "See what I found!" He looked a little startled and quipped, "I don't think it's going to thrive in there, Les, even if it is a plant that will tolerate low light." "You goon, you know it's going to the office with me in the morning!"

The bromeliad has sat on the corner of my desk for a week, pleasing me a great deal. I like to water it, pouring the liquid into its middle where all the leaves and the stalk converge to make a cup. It would seem I chose a location where this plant believes the lighting to be perfect, and it surely attracts attention from visitors to my queendom. "What in the world is it?!" Midweek I noticed some odd, deep purple, microscopic dots protruding from between some of the "scales". Yesterday, when I arrived for work:

Who knew? A flower!

Today when I arrived for work ▬ ▬ ▬ ►

It puts me in mind of a little girl with her hair in pigtails high on her head. And there is promise of more purple flowers to come! Odd, deep purple, microscopic dots protruding from between some of the "scales", indeed! Yesterday I e-mailed the photo of the first flower. "Ha! Look at that!" came the reply. This morning I e-mailed the picture of the twin flowers. He responded, "I always thought that pink spike was the flower." I always did, too. I love learning new things! And down below, the reader likely thinks I'm going to say those purple flowers are what charmed me.

In my ears right now:

Let's play Twister, let's play Risk, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
See you in heaven if you make the list, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Something that charmed me: My desk lizards charm me. Oh, come on, reader. You knew that! For I am the Queen of the Reptiles and I am feeling far more frisky than I have in awhile. She's ba-a-a-a-ack!

Photo credit for the lovely Virginia Woolf:
J. D. Morehouse

Friday, February 19, 2010

Buffet Table, Chafing Dishes

I assume there is widespread general knowledge that Las Vegas is replete with buffet restaurants. In "the day", some of these establishments constituted fine dining at a bargain price and were a kind of "reward" or thanks from the house for the gambling money left behind by the tourist. I'm sure there are still some fine ones, but if I had to take a stab at how many there are, I'd say three bazillion, mostly identical, and they serve up shlocky food for big bucks. These are a kind of "reward" or thanks from the house to say "Leave more of your money behind in exchange for little or nothing. Leave it for us to line the pockets of the fat cat corporations that do little or nothing to support programs and infrastructure in Nevada." Does the reader get the mood I'm in?

I've been emotionally dining at a buffet that serves only beef jerky, corn on the cob, overcooked tortilla chips and taffy (for dessert). I am emotionally toothless and suited only to yogurt and vegetable broth. I've had a lot to chew on and it has given me verbal constipation. I can't write. Forget "can't write". I can't even organize my thoughts. I'm not only down. I'm up and down and up again. This is unusual and I don't know myself, for mostly I'm pretty level, pretty routine.

Last weekend I was giddy. I'm a woman who loves a holiday celebrating love. There was a hint of spring in the light and the feel of the air and the temperature. I actually managed two days in a row off from work. I got the good haircut, entertained people I care for, exhanged Valentine cards and little gifties.

Monday I shifted from giddy to shitty. I was unkind in a way I cannot believe of myself. Oh, I can tell anyone the reason for it. It's that I simply cannot believe it of myself. This rendered the middle of the week "shaky ground and shaming oneself". Yesterday I offered an abject and sincere apology and found myself able to look at my own visage in the mirror last night. When I looked at myself I appeared tired and drawn. I reminded myself to be kind and generous, for I certainly want to be treated that way.Someone who cares for me reminded me I suffered a bereavement not a month ago and I still haven't finished the book about dealing with grief that Mother Badger sent me. I'm still wearing the rubber band on my wrist to snap when I want to feel something other than what I am actually feeling. Note to self: Stop trying to run from it. Walk through it, experience it and move forward. It's still there, no matter how fast you run.

Last night I was asked whether it was possible for two people (another person and I, specifically) to behave in a certain way with one another. The question blew me out of my chair. The behavior is a positive one, productive, peace-giving. Not negative in any way. But I was overwhelmed by the enormity of what I don't know. We're complex, we human beings. Layers of phyllo dough built inches thick. Some of the layers are crimped around the edges and some have tiny tears. We're patched in places, with unsightly scars. And we're crispy in other spots that might crumble when pressure is applied. Some of us possess the honey intended to be included in baklava and some of us seem empty, unable to present sweetness. I had to reply that I don't know what's possible between people (the two of us specifically). I don't have it all figured out. Worse - I don't have anything figured out. I got back a good response: "I don't know what's possible, either. We'll just make it up as we go." All right. Where there are human beings of good nature in the mix, the way will be found.

I observed something this week. I noodle around (like I suspect most bloggers do) in 25-30 blogs, adding some from time to time, slowing on reading others. I read the serious and humorous things some very talented sorts write. I read people who are passionate about their avocations and I see the art presented by those with a special eye for capturing and presenting beauty digitally, in clay, with paint. Sometimes I favor a trend that this blogger is following right now, and other times that one over there pulls me strongly. Almost invariably, the bloggers have posted pieces, whether verbal or visual, that tell of the angst they feel from time to time. This is natural I think. We are expressive sorts (that's why we blog), so we express. It awes me that, just as the readers and followers cheer over a happy or brilliant post, they also reach out in kindness when the blogger is troubled. I was touched to see men offering another male blogger comfort this week. Yes, I do know that men can be kind just as women can be kind. I was touched that the male followers reached out to say it.

So, I really do already know the answer to my ailment. One foot in front of the other. Do it again. Inhale. Exhale. Do it again. I think I'll make the appointment for the indulgently long massage and while I lie on the table, I'll think some more. I'm looking forward to a more usual weekend. No visitors, no holiday, no bicycle race. More balanced. I think I'll step up to the buffet table again and . . . Hey! Look there! Mashed potatoes. Applesauce. Cottage cheese and soup. And I feel a new tooth growing in!

In my ears right now: Another important part of the soundtrack from my misspent youth. Written by Dylan, performed by The Byrds. Does it get any better?

Something that charmed me: It intrigues me how friend Kirk often "thinks" in movies, and Tag sometimes in music. The Badger surely thinks in flowerly terms, and Kass appears a multilingual thinker to me, favored reader. Others I follow think in cycling and good writing and things psychological and beautiful poetry within their fiction. I think in food. Not at all times, but often. Food and I have a long and fiery relationship. I understand it very well. So, no, I wasn't starving to death when I wrote this post. At least not in the physical sense.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Surrealistic Sunday ~ The Field Trip, Chapter 3

Someone who knows me very well and cheers for me and who watches me write (both the physical process and the end product) asked, "You're writing about something difficult or painful, aren't you?" I wanted to know why he asked that. "Answer the question and then I'll tell you." I admitted I was working on a couple of pieces that were difficult and that had stirred up some ghostly activity in the soul. I asked how he knew that. "You're flogging The Field Trip and writing about the home dudes and I saw you draft your next about the desert, but your face says that's not where you really are 100%." Oh. Exposed. It is true that I have to leaven the emotionally troubling posts with some donkey laughs. I am driven to tell both kinds of stories. But I can't write all the angst-filled chronicles in a linear manner. One could bleed to death.

This will be the final chapter telling about the field trip to the wrong place. I've already finished touring the reader through the establishment. Now I want to share my fascination with one of my purchases. Yes, I do think this is funny, fascinating and wrong.

I spent an amount of money it takes me seven minutes to earn on a tiny box of peppermint artifically flavored (with attitude) Cat Butt Gum. I am not sure I knew that flavors or gum have attitude at all, but OK, I'm a quick learner. The box contains 8 miniscule pieces of gum with "kiss my ass" attitude. All right. Gum and flavor not only with attitude, but with "kiss my ass" attitude. I like to think I am a modest, amateur wordsmith, but I can't come up with a way to describe what I think I could taste and then think, "Oh - definitely - the message in that bite was 'kiss my ass'." And if what I tasted was peppermint, I assure you, I'd only think "peppermint". This marriage of kiss my ass attitude to peppermint flavor is difficult for me to comprehend. But the mysteries on the front of the tiny box don't hold a candle to the puzzlements on the back.

Made in Canada for a company located in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, the gum's box was designed by Modern Dog Design Co. OK, all well and good. I understand a bit about commerce and advertising. But it's about the text on the back of the box! It makes me laugh out loud every time I read it, and at the very bottom of the box, in typeface so tiny I can barely see it with or without trifocals, is this: "P.S. Copy by Jun, he's a bitch." WTF?

7 Helpful Occasions to Chew This Gum

1. When you suddenly need to change your mood. I know chewing gum always helps me to change mine! What???

2. When somebody yell at you and you don't want to listen. Earplugs or leaving the room might be as effective, but OK.

3. If you are lack of attitude. Attitude is not what I lack, but I don't think the gum would give me any.

4. When you need to refuse. Um, wouldn't you just say no?

5. When you want to be picky. I'm picky without the gum.

6. When you want to be selfish. I'm not sure I ever want to be selfish and I don't think the gum would help me to be that way.

7. When you definitely want to say "kiss my ass". I think I'd just say it if I felt so inclined.

*Chew more than one if you need extra attitude. No, it's already been decided. I'm not chewing any.

In my ears right now: I love it. I have always loved it.

Something that charmed me: Boris charmed me. "Boris Putznik, The Human Contortionist" it says on the back of the card I bought at the Bonanza. I Googled "Boris Putznik" and came up with nothing. Do you suppose Boris is not real? Or is Boris Putznik such a common name, Google can't sort out one from the other? The reason Boris charms me: there he is, doing what he does, and that expression on his face, to me, says "having a great day at the office!"

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone. I love a holiday/celebration that celebrates love! And, like the Dixie Chicks, I believe in love . .

Friday, February 12, 2010

Surrealistic Sunday ~ The Field Trip, Chapter 2

Preface: Most readers will want to have reviewed Chapter I of this adventure before proceeding. Those with good recall and humor won't need to do so. One may also want to click on the images contained herein to be reminded that the overarching theme of this outing and this destination is "wrong". I don't like this stuff. I'm fascinated by how wrong it is. Who thought it up? Why is it here? Who in the world would buy it? And why would they buy it here?

Please rejoin me at the World's Largest Gift Shop where we are about to make our way from all the lovely bacon and toast items and Naked Men In Oven Mitts to the "what the hell?" section and then to the Mother Lode ~ Naughty Town. Having rushed through the departments that don't draw us, now we tend to inchworm our way along, guffawing in an unbecoming way. The Bonanza gets high marks from me for carrying merchandise that will fulfill all the souvenir and gift-buying needs of every visitor who comes to Las Vegas. Come on! Get out your list and follow me.

Possibilities for one's fun and kicky friends and relatives:

I know those things always keep me entertained on a Saturday night!

Here in the garden section are some lovely potential gifts for your friends who enjoy cultivating plants. It thrills me that these icons of the desert southwest, the Joshua tree and the giant saguaro cactus, germinate in 11-21 days and 3-10 days respectively. The packages say they are easy to grow, although I suppose they would not flourish in some parts of the world. A bigger problem, however, is the age of your gift recipient. One would want to present these thoughtful presents to a younger person. The Joshua tree grows five feet in a decade and begins to bloom after about 12 years. The giant saguaro grows one foot in 15 years and ten feet in 40 years. They actively grow for about 100 years and live up to 200 years. If you're looking for the gift that keeps on giving, these may fit the bill. For decades and centuries and generations of the gift recipient's descendants.

If there's a cook in your life, this item might be a hit! One could backtrack to the bacon and toast and Naked Men in Oven Mitts to fill a brunch-making basket. Remember there are bacon placemats and bacon mints. The shop abounds with ceramic Las Vegas bowls, dishes and coffee mugs . . .

Who has a pious little auntie? The Deluxe Miracle Jesus Action Figure with glow in the dark hands can't fail to please! He turns water into wine and feeds 5,000 with 5 loaves and 2 fishes. It says so on the box. Or perhaps St. Joseph, the patron saint of real estate would be appropriate. St. Vivian, the patron saint of hangovers might hit the spot if auntie enjoys a nip. Or if she keeps a pet, here's a lovely St. Gertrude (patron saint of cats) figure.

My mother is a world traveler and an avid Egyptophile. She has a beautiful home filled with fine art reflective of the things that please and intrigue her. I know I'm always proud to add to her collection of antiquities with another purchase from the Bonanza. It's so convenient, too!

Who has a little boy's or girl's name on their list? What child wouldn't want a fun and furry little jackalope?

Or dolls? Beautiful dolls!

May this be fair warning to the more sensitive reader: We are about to enter Naughty Town. If this distresses you, take a detour. But be forewarned. Naughty Town features some delightful items for still others on your gift list.

Speaking of dolls, we are greeted at the gates of Naughty Town by Mayor John and his wife Judy. Judy still hasn't received the memo saying turquoise eyeshadow was outlawed, but she's the first lady of Naughty Town, so we slide her some slack. As both she and John are inflatables, a foot pump may be a nice addition to the gift. Judy is an old stereotype. John intrigues me more. While both are guaranteed to "not snore in bed", I "get" Judy's function and purpose, but I'm not so sure I "get it" about John. I shall have to think about that. His look does not appeal to me, for I like dark eyes, not blue. I'm not sure John and I would be a match. But then, I am not Judy.

Should anyone have a gentleman on his or her list with an approaching birthday, this lovely lady might be a hit. The birthday boy wouldn't even need any actual humans to celebrate with. This sweetie will sing "Happy Birthday" and pretend to throw the pretend birthday cake in his face. No mess on the carpet from a virtual cake throwing. Birthday Girl is a veritable party in a box. Is it just me, or does anyone else think Birthday Girl might benefit from a large competent brassiere?

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I love the desert and most everything in it. The package caught my attention immediately. After all, I have been dubbed The Queen of the Reptiles. I wanted to open the box and look at the little fella ~ truly one of my favorite animals in the world. Maybe I'd even hold him in my hand and stroke the little lizardly spikes on the back of his head as I do when I nab one in the Mojave in the spring. Oh. They look so different in the Preserve. Not green. Hmmm . . moving along.

I will forever regret that it was not I who spotted the piece de resistance. I heard him say, "What the hell? Come here, look at this!" We chortled like snarks, and then it hit us at the same time. We weren't actually looking at the kit. The display box was empty. Here at the Bonanza, the World's Largest Gift Shop, the place whose motto is "If It's In Stock, We Have It", this very wrong item was SOLD OUT! It must be their best seller. OK, stick a fork in me, I'm done. "Ready to get out of here?" "Boy, howdy!"

It has been my true pleasure to serve as tour guide and personal shopper on my (approximately) biannual trip to Destination Wrong. As usual, I drank deep from the well and I won't feel the need to return soon. In my hand you see the familiar yellow bag with my $5.36 worth of purchases. That's about what I spend every time. I bought three postcards with the vintage images I so enjoy. I bought one box of Peppermint Cat Butt Gum with which to make the home dudes howl. The Peppermint Cat Butt Gum will require a post of its own.

In my ears right now:
Can't get enough R.E.M. My little birds love "Shiny, Happy People"! No, I don't think parakeets have musical taste, but some upbeat tunes make them chirp happily while ballads cause them to make quieter, throaty little noises.

Something that charmed me:
"Les, how does that gum taste?" "I wouldn't know, homes. I don't chew gum."

Photo credits:
Bonanza Gift Shop exterior, LimesNow and the Gift Shop denizen - J. D. Morehouse

Gift Shop wares for sale - LimesNow with her point-and-shoot

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I Don't Do All Things Well ~ I Don't Have To

Over at Elisabeth's there's been some discussion about things one does well and things that are more challenging or do not come naturally. I am a person who must fight the urge to try to be perfect at everything I attempt. Oh, yes, my good head knows that perfect is impossible. But my gut still says "Do it perfectly." It comes from temperament and conditioning. It is exhausting. I've only been trying to resist it for about two years and it is difficult for me to find the welcoming place between frantic perfectionist and self-indulgent slacker. I've struggled learning to ask others for help after a lifetime of refusing to do that.

I am lucky to work in a place where the players are all so diverse, there are probably few things in this world that we couldn't tackle together. There is a completely non-judgmental air so it's OK if one is a girl and doesn't know how to adjust the alternator on the steam cleaning machine. If one of the homes isn't all that literate, we'll work around it - that's why I'm in charge of writing. We're a small group in close quarters who have weathered much together in the name of the team. Here there is a deep understanding and admiration for each person's special talents. No one is beaten up for things they don't know how to do. Which is not to say there is much tolerance when one of us gets stuck on stupid. We share information and model behaviors for one another, the idea being that everyone has something to teach everyone else.

As one might imagine, some roles and niches have developed. Troy is a mechanical sort. He can and does build anything. He can repair motors and engines, machinery and broken furniture. I know where to go when I want some shelves installed or when my office chair blows a wheel! He impresses me because I am not mechanical in any way and I don't want to touch tools. That's what I have him for. He owns every tool in the world, the toolkit to carry it, and he knows how to use it. When I have him come to my home on a Sunday, I have a long honey-do list, the payment for which is cash.

Cesar is a fixer. He knows how to fix most anything one can name, even if parts are missing. He can find an ingenious way to repair some item that "can't be fixed" and have it work. Cesar also fascinates me because of the odd variety of things he can do well: paint, alter a wool suit or coat and give a credible razor haircut. [He once offered to razor Justin's hair and I immediately said I'd rather give him my haircut money than anyone else. "Uh-uh, Les. If I mess up Justin, I can just shave his head. If I mess up you . . . "]

The way I help the homes typically has something to do with paperwork. Maybe it's time to register the car or renew their business licenses or complete papers for a traffic ticket. I've helped some of them open their first bank account and taught some to use software programs. One asked me to teach him the ropes about building websites and blogging and another requested I explain the intricacies of the Excel spreadsheet and formulae. I've gone farther afield from time to time, though. Once I exchanged ironing two dress shirts for an oil change in my car. And once I sewed a pair of ripped pants for the same home dude who came out with me to cheer the Badger at a criterium and showed me how to take video of the event with my BlackBerry.

Some of my favorite hits:

I alternate more pairs of glasses than Elton John in the 1970s. Often a screw goes missing or a temple piece needs to be reattached. The John Lennon glasses throw a trifocal lens fairly frequently. For the price of a fast food lunch, Cesar will sit for an hour rehabbing the collection so I can be cool again. He's great at shortening or fixing jewelry, too.

At the first of every month, when our fleet of service vehicles is being inspected, I get a chirp on my BlackBerry. "Hey, Les, toss your keys down. I'll check your car's body fluids. All the other hoods are up, why not yours? I'll check the tires, too!" I write myself a note to provide pizza later that day.

Sometimes one or more of the guys asks me to make an eBay purchase on their behalf or create a spreadsheet to help keep track of their deductible business expenses or locate something on craigslist. These are things I do well and without difficulty. I usually find a Starbucks giftcard on my chair the next morning, or a Fresh & Easy pass.

It's a beautiful thing, this helping one another out.

Late in August I went to the granddaddy of all craft shows. I was looking for really special birthday gifts for my girlfriend and I found them there. I bought myself a duplicate of nearly everything I bought for her. One stall that drew me featured Chinese charm bracelets. These pieces are slender black laces, each with four charms that have different meaning. One gets a card that tells the meaning of each charm. There seemed to be no two bracelets alike, and there were many tens of thousands of them spread out in a heap on long display tables, longer than I am tall, and as deep as I am thick. I was snared when I touched the first one.

There is no small legend surrounding the selection of the charm bracelets. If one is enlightened and pure of heart, a spiritual energy guides one to the charm bracelet best suited to her needs, says the legend. An example is my bracelet that has the charms for eternal youth and everlasting love, a pot of gold, bamboo for strength and a peacock for colorful romance. I'm asked to believe I selected that bracelet because those were the things I most needed for fulfillment as I stood at the table in the Cashman Center that hot afternoon. And one can select for another person, too, as I did for my girlfriend.

Although the picture makes it seems as if one just ties the bracelet on, that's not accurate. The bracelet is actually long enough to practically serve as a belt and each end of the lace passes through a pair of beads. One pulls the ends to tighten, loosen or adjust the bracelet. But I didn't figure that out. I asked others who came in and out of my home and who may get off the farm more frequently than I do. No one could figure it out. The bracelets sat for months. Sometimes Virginia Woolf would make off with one that I'd find in some strange spot. I know it was she because Dylan is not obsessive about small shiny objects. Finally I brought the bracelets to work a couple of weeks ago.

During our morning huddle, I told the legend of the bracelets and explained I needed help. Cesar didn't say a word, but walked toward me with his hand out. I gave him the bracelets. He took my wrist and went to work. Meanwhile, Troy mused that these that worked in exactly the way I was about to learn they did work. He was right! He knew because his daughter has some. Good, I'm selecting teenagers' jewelry again.

Two of the other homes were looking at the card that tells the meaning of the charms. They began to pepper me with questions. "Les, do you have a bell?" I do. "That's 'may your prayer be answered every time the bell rings'." Well, good! "Is there a yin and yang?" I have one of those, too. "That's for balance and good decision making." I can use a little assist in that arena. "If you have a little stone purse, that means 'may your money bag always be full'." I'll take two of those! "Do you have a fish, Les?" I looked. No fish. "Are you sure?" I looked again. No fish. "Look once more." No. I'm tired of this game. "There's no fish, homes." Big grins. "I guess you didn't need any freedom, prosperity and good sex that day, Les."

It's a beautiful thing, this helping one another out.

In my ears right now: Much loved R.E.M.

Something that charmed me: My bracelets, of course! The reader knew I was going to say that.

One photo credit (the wrist of LimesNow - January, 2010): J.D. Morehouse

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Time to Tidy Up

I broke out the DustBuster on Sunday. Oh, it's literally true that there was some crumbly debris in the crevice between the carpet and the baseboard. I got it up and then tried to locate some coffee grounds or cat hair or anything, really, to pull up into my DustBuster. It took me a moment to notice the symptoms. For when I start obsessively vacuuming, it is metaphorical. It means I need to tidy things up. Ex used to joke that when I was "chewing on things", trying to restore some order to myself, he would run out to tell the neighbors to throw open their doors because I was on the way down the street with the vacuum cleaner.

I am not "troubled", exactly. It's more like my head is filled to maximum capacity and some of the voices are speaking too loudly. Some of it is about my writing and some about other aspects of life. I'm unsettled and dissatisfied with myself and it's time to regroup and become tidy again. I want to write and I also want to read the writing of other bloggers. I want to do something with the closet that almost contains all the crafting materials and - oh, yes - I'd really like to make something with said crafting materials. I want to make a huge crockpot of red sauce and feed people, but I can't focus to buy the thoroughly well memorized ingredients.

I have an unruly queue of posts waiting in the wings. I want to finish Chapter 2 of The Field Trip and I've still not told the best Sugarhouse story of them all, despite having written Chapters I, II, and III and about the Secret Order of the Sugarhouse Hoppy Taw Society. The holidays came and I got distracted writing about them. I need to get us out of Sugarhouse and on with the ensuing 50 years! I still have a mountain of photos to share from the last camping trip and the one before that, and there are three embryonic posts about the things I see and experience "out there".

The race weekend unsettled me as they always do if I cannot be present. One wants to be at the race, given some meaningful occupation. One wants to drive ahead, get out, wait for the peloton to appear, check out his position and form, assess his well-being, and repeat the process. One wants to hand up water at the designated place on the course, and if one fails to plant the water in his hand, she cobbles a plan to drive forward, get out where she can easily be seen and keep trying to give that water until she succeeds. Only the first race of the season has been completed. Knowing the hellish conditions he rode in, I found it particularly difficult to watch the clock, watch the radar, watch the hour-by-hour weather and hope not to receive a phone call too early for him to have finished. It's going to be a busy spring, with races near and far.

This morning, at the intersection of Desert Inn Road and Durango Drive, my (almost) four-year-old car turned 20,000 miles. At the moment the digital display flipped from 19999 to 20000, it hit me that I had an empty BlackBerry holster in my purse. I did the 360, went home, collected the device from the exact spot where I knew it would be, and made it to work on time. It is not like me to be so forgetful, and particularly about the BlackBerry that is always at my fingertips.

For Tag and for Kirk (and anyone else, of course), I saw a news article that revisits an old topic once presented on this blog. It seems the Neon Boneyard is undergoing some changes and perhaps some day soon, I won't have to contemplate jumping the fence to commune with those venerable things.

Friend Tag had something cool on his blog this morning and I'm going to snag it from him, as Kass has already done. Its theme is what happened in my birth year. I like trivia games and round robin games. I've been known to start one or two and participate in more. I'm going to process mine a little differently, however, leaving out the boilerplate stuff that applies to everyone's birth year and commenting on the things that strike me. I have a few entries of my own to add, as well.

What happened the year I was born.

In 1952, the world was a different place. There was no Google yet. Or Yahoo.
I seem to remember that.

In 1952, the year of your birth, the top selling movie was This Is Cinerama. People buying the popcorn in the cinema lobby had glazed eyes when looking at the poster. They were still showing it widely 8 years later when I was taken to see it. I remember the trip over the Grand Canyon and the virtual roller coaster ride.

Remember, that was before there were DVDs. Heck, even before there was VHS. People were indeed looking at movies in the cinema, and not downloading them online. Imagine the packed seats, the laughter, the excitement, the novelty. And mostly all of that without 3D computer effects. It was also before colored TV and transistor radios.

In the year 1952, the time when you arrived on this planet, books were still popularly read on paper, not on digital devices. Trees were felled to get the word out. The number one US bestseller of the time was The Silver Chalice by Thomas B. Costain. Oh, that's many years ago. Have you read that book? Have you heard of it? It resided on my parents' bookcase and I have read it.

In 1952, West Germany has 8 million refugees inside its borders. I was born not so very long after World War II.

Elizabeth II is proclaimed Queen of the United Kingdom at St. James's Palace, London, England. This pleases me as I am an Anglophile and I think she is a practical, likable woman who knows how to do things we might not expect of her. She did active military service in World War II and when an intruder entered her bedroom in Buckingham Palace, she talked him down while she rang for assistance. She shoots and is outdoorsy. Ex was fascinated by the pastel purse that always hangs from her forearm. He was convinced she kept a gun in there in case she had to take care of herself in a dust-up. She certainly wouldn't need to carry a wallet and ID and money. She has other people to do that for her.

The Diary of Anne Frank is published. I first read it very young. It was my first awareness of Jews and what they suffered. At the time I read it, I didn't know there were bad things one's father couldn't prevent from happening. It terrified me.

The United States Army Special Forces is created. A British passenger jet flies twice over the Atlantic Ocean in the same day. Martial law is declared in Kenya due to the Mau Mau uprising. The first successful surgical separation of Siamese twins is conducted in Mount Sinai Hospital, Cleveland, Ohio.

The Nobel prize for Literature that year went to Fran├žois Mauriac. The Nobel Peace prize went to Albert Schweitzer. The Nobel prize for physics went to Felix Bloch and Edward Mills Purcell from the United States for their development of new methods for nuclear magnetic precision measurements and discoveries in connection therewith.

The 1950s were indeed a special decade. The American economy is on the upswing. The cold war betwen the US and the Soviet Union is playing out throughout the whole decade. Anti-communism prevails in the United States and leads to the Red Scare and accompanying Congressional hearings. Africa begins to become decolonized. The Korean war takes place. The Vietnam War starts. The Suez Crisis war is fought on Egyptian territory. Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and others overthrow authorities to create a communist government on Cuba. Funded by the US, reconstructions in Japan continue. In Japan, film maker Akira Kurosawa creates the movies Rashomon and Seven Samurai. The FIFA World Cups are won by Urugay, then West Germany, then Brazil. I think of the 1950s as cold and steely gray. No color. The cold war, men with gray hair in gray suits driving big gray Dodges, sterile scientific progress being made everywhere.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected president in November, 1952. For me, he epitomizes the men with no color, the men with gray hair in gray suits driving big gray Dodges. And yet . . . Stepfather was an aficionado of Norman Rockwell paintings and the art on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. He was generally Rockwell's age and he appreciated the images that reflected life in his era. I am not particularly a Rockwell fan, but when Stepfather organized a group he took to lunch and then to a Rockwell exhibit, I went along. I am not a Rockwell fan, but I was a Stepfather fan. The museum was packed with patrons ogling the magazine cover images. I roamed around, not impatiently, and landed before Rockwell's portrait of Eisenhower. Although painted mainly in white and neutral tones, this image utterly screams color. It is warm and exudes light. This must have been what the man was like in real life. Colorful and engaging. It was painted in 1952, the year of my birth.

Do you remember the movie that was all the rage when you were 15? In the Heat of the Night. I do, but Bonnie & Clyde rings my bell more clearly. My father took a girlfriend and me to see it at a drive-in. It was a grand outing until a bedroom scene showed itself and Clyde's lack of sex drive was discussed. One of the most uncomfortable moments I've ever spent in my father's presence. Today we'd just cackle about it. Then it was excruciating.

Do you still remember the songs playing on the radio when you were 15? Maybe it was Ode to Billy Joe by Bobbie Gentry. I remember. I didn't Google this, I have that thing for lyrics, remember? "It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty delta day, I was out choppin' cotton and my brother was balin' hay . . . ."

Were you in love? Certainly.

Who were you in love with, do you remember? I've never forgotten for a moment.

When you were 8, there was Pollyanna. I wanted to be as adorable as Hayley Mills. I still want to be as adorable as Hayley Mills.

6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1... it's 1952. There's TV noise coming from the second floor. Someone turned up the volume way too high. The sun is burning from above. These were different times. The show playing on TV is Kukla, Fran and Ollie. The sun goes down. Someone switches channels. There's The Ed Sullivan Show on now. That's the world you were born in. I was introduced to my Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show at age 11 in 1964.

"Progress", year after year. Do you wonder where the world is heading? The quotation marks are my addition. I'm not sure we are making "progress". I'm a bit jaded, a little cynical. I am terrified about where the world is heading.

The technology available today would have blown your mind in 1952. Do you know what was invented in the year you were born? The Floppy Disk. Optical Fiber. The Fusion Bomb. Anything would have blown my mind in 1952. I was a newborn that August.

Christopher Reeve was born. And Dan Aykroyd. Douglas Adams, too. And you, of course. Everyone an individual. Everyone special. Everyone taking a different path through life. Angela Cartwright (Ha, Kirk!), Annie Potts, Carol Kane, Cathy Rigby, Harry Anderson, John Goodman, Juice Newton, Leslie Morgan, Marilyn Chambers, Mr. T, Patrick Swayze, Roseanne Barr. I'm in some pretty good company here!

It's 2010.
The world is a different place.
What path have you taken?
I'd say that differently. I haven't "taken" it. I'm still "taking" it. I'm not complete yet. I'm still standing.

In my ears right now: The Beatles. The End. Kass wrote about love being the great equalizer and I'll take one of those to go. Because I know that in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

Something that charmed me: The Badger dropped in his sincere thank you comment this afternoon. He was touched by the kindness of so many.