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.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


"Would you like to go to Harvest Festival with me?"  She said she'd like that.  "Have you been there before?"  She had - once, like I had.  I don't know why they call it Harvest Festival, as it is held in late summer in the desert.  Except for the merchandise in some of the vendors' booths, there is nothing remotely harvest-like about it. It is simply the Promised Land of craft shows, the presenters required to jump through a few hoops to prove the quality of their goods before being allowed a spot on the selling floor.  On my prior visit, I'd come out with a haul for my friend's approaching birthday and a few trinkets for myself.  This time, I was on a mission.  I knew what I was after.  I paid $4 to park Lucy Sue and $9 to walk through the door, this for the privilege of going in to spend even more of my money. Later, a companion laughed at me over that at dinner. "What? You paid how much to be allowed to spend more?"  "Oh, it's a girl thing.  I'll probably go back next year and pay for the privilege, too."

Click image for larger size.
I was searching for Chinese charm bracelets, a little item that mightily pleased me a couple of years ago.  These confections consist of a slim black cord decorated with a gemstone figure, one temple bell and two charms. The gemstones and charms represent all manner of good things that might come one's way. Whenever the temple bell rings, which is approximately every time one breathes, one's prayer will be answered.  I was a rookie last time at Harvest Festival.  The bracelets are laid out on long tables in deep piles.  There may be a million or so.  Oh, yes, I saw the little code-breaker, telling what everything meant.  But it was a bit overwhelming and I ultimately just bought 5 of them for the price of 4, some for birthday girlfriend and some for me, and made my way home.

Click image for larger size.
The next day at work, my home dudes helped me translate the charms and gemstones into an understanding of my next karmic gifts to be expected.  They also had to help me, with a good deal of chin rubbing and furrowed-brow studying, learn how to operate the bracelet on its cord through the beads that tighten or loosen it.  "Hey, Les, do they all have a bell?"  I said they did.  "Prayers answered."  Great!  Who doesn't seek that?  "Anything like a yin and yang?"  I had one - balance and harmony.  "Do you have the money bag?"  Sure did - riches!  The cleverest of the group asked me about a fish. I didn't have one.  He asked again.  I said I didn't.  The third time around, I queried, "What's up with the fish, Homey?"  Freedom, prosperity and good sex.  Damn!  There were a million lying there.  How'd I get away without a fish?  I wore my bracelets on wrist and ankle until they fairly rotted off of me.  Sure I could have gone online to order more, but there is something about running one's hands through the pile . . I bought nothing else there this time.  My mission was accomplished.

It may have been sunny somewhere,
but certainly not where I was!
When we'd arrived it was a hot, late summer monsoonal afternoon.  I'd cracked the windows of the car and put the shade in my windshield so we wouldn't melt when we left the place.  Walking out, she needed a cigarette.  I don't care for this, but I don't hammer.  We've had the serious discussions.  She knows how I feel about it and what the rules are regarding how close that activity may be performed to my person.  I strive for tolerance.  As she puffed, I watched the sky go a funny color and thunderclouds roll in faster than I can type it.  "Smoke fast, please."  But the thunder started to boom and the rain fell in sheets.  We were placed nominally under an awning, but within seconds the pounding rain began to pummel us sideways.  "Shit!" I bellowed.  Mothers pushing strollers began to scatter, kids screamed, men repeated my sentiment loudly.  The hail hit and when it began to pound me in the head and ear, I knew I couldn't just stand there.  I was wearing sandals not fit to go anywhere near any form of liquid, but I moved along pretty smartly without face-planting.  We (and 100 others) charged the door of the Cashman Center and they let us back in.  "Lady, you can run like nothing I ever saw," said the ticket-taker.  "Your dark hair is all full of hail stones."  I was so grateful to receive that information.  Soaked to the skin, water dripping off of us from everywhere, the air conditioning nearly froze us. I can attest that a small pair of jeans weighs a ton when fully saturated.  If I hadn't worn a belt, I may have lost my pants.

The crowd milled around, listening to the thunder roll and watching the water come up over the curbs, hail piling up against the side of the building. And then the sun burst through, as suddenly as the storm had come in.  The entire show took about 7 minutes.  The aftermath was more lasting.  Our choices for getting to the parking lot were few: 1) Walk  on the sidewalk to Utah and circle around, or 2) ford the river and take our chances. We stepped into the current, twigs and debris swirling around our legs, mud collecting in my sandals, finally cresting the hill and spotting the car. Ah, the car. There was an inch of water in the cup holders, hailstones arranged in a pretty little tableau on  the dashboard. The upholstery spewed a geyser when we sat on the seats. Hair product streamed down my neck and forehead, condensation forming on the lenses of my glasses.  "Nice relaxing day out shopping, eh? Want some Starbucks?" She did. Teeth chattering, we drove off.

As I drove along, a text message dropped in. "Want to go for pizza? I'm hungry!" I sent a reply saying that I would enjoy pizza but explained I would need to go home first and fix myself up from the skin out.  "I'm sure you look great. It's just Metro Pizza." I averred that I looked anything but great. "Oh, come on. How bad can you look?"  I said I can actually look pretty bad under certain circumstances. Finally I sent the phone cam pictures. "Oh. OK, see you in an hour or so. Take your time."  Well!

So this time I got a gemstone cat (for protection), a bamboo charm (strength and resilience), a Chinese coin (riches) and the temple bell to ring all my prayers to truth. I got a heart (love and fulfillment) and a yin/yang (harmony). And - oh, yeah, I got a lovely green jade fish (freedom, prosperity and good sex). I'll let you know how that works out for me.

In my ears right now: Because I love it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Kirk's Fault, Birthdays and Growth

OK, I'm not exactly apologizing for my musical obsession below. Just sayin'. It's Kirk's fault. I accept no responsibility. All right, I'd accept responsibility for the Civil War, so maybe I'll take on just a little of that here. For sometimes, someone has only to say a little tiny something and it gets me going. All he wrote was "Knocking on Heaven's Door" and I was off . .  OK, it's short, easy to remember, conjures up different visions in all of us, I imagine, and there appears to be no worthy artist who has failed to do it ~ and do it well. I understand it is an easy four-chord tune for the musically inclined to play. So, in no particular order of appreciation, here are some versions that made me dance this morning. Yeah, I have a favorite version, but it may not be yours.

And that is not at all what I wanted to write about. David's birthday approached. I'd been back at work for a month. I like to cook for him and he likes what I make. It's been ages since I put on any form of a whoop-dee-doo, and I was in the mood. I spoke at length with my AA sponsor. This would not be a gift for David if I pressured myself to the point of breakdown. But a little challenge to myself could be a very good "next right step" as I find my way along. I started to pencil a menu. I needed to transport food for 25, set it up, serve it . . . Jennifer was soon on board. "I'll help you. I make killer fajitas!" (She does, too!) I pulled recipes, bought ingredients, cooked for 3 nights after work. Rice, beans, albondigas soup, chile relleno casserole, all the condiments, gourmet cupcakes, and Jenn's fajitas. I pondered why I had ever stopped cooking and making whoop-dee-doos since I love those things so much. Oh, wait. When one drinks as much as I was drinking, such things as complex plans, recipe cooking, shopping for ingredients and executing the whoop-dee-doo become insurmountable. Yet another of life's pleasures I sacrificed to King Alcohol.

Jenn cools her jets
with My Dog and
The Greatest.
But not this time. We both got up at 4:15 that morning and I picked her up by 6:00. We hauled my new purchases, a cupcake stand and an appliance used when one wants to take loose ingredients to make a quesadilla rather than just take fajitas and side dishes. And we hauled all that food. We invited Mailman Steve to pop in for a meal and FedEx driver Ray. They came! We made platters of "take-out" for the carpet technicians who were out working at lunch time. And we still hauled home mountains of food. The last cupcakes went to AA with us, where many recovering alcoholics enjoyed a little treat. "What, did you women give a party or something?" Boy, howdy.

Birthday Man with a little
wrist action on the paper plate.
OK, everything was not perfect. Sometimes I go in too many directions at one time. Who knew my camera had been set on macro and left that way? I barely remembered to run to get it before he blew out his candles and started to chow down. It was a rare event to see David without a baseball cap. He looked grand and I pitched him. "Sir, we haven't had our picture taken together in a long time. What do you say?" He said, "Yeah!" The crowd was thinning and we posed ourselves. Jennifer took the shot. Oh, it would be a sweet scene if we could clearly be seen. Alas, the macro setting! However, I love the picture. I know it's David and me. I know it was on the occasion of his birthday luncheon just after I'd returned to the place I know I want to belong for the foreseeable future. I know I need to slow down and pay attention to the details. Maybe the reader can imagine viewing the photo through a veil of sentimental tears, eh? That's how I look at it. And so it goes . . .

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My Own Private 9-11

I imagine there are few people over a certain age who do not know something about the horrible events of the September 11, 2001 attacks by al-Qaeda against the United States. The four coordinated suicide attacks on that Tuesday morning were shocking, devastating and resulted in many changes to the routine ways in which some things are conducted in the U.S. and throughout the world. I am not a good enough wordsmith to add anything cogent to the millions of words already written about the horrors. I don't have a photo or film clip to present. I was nowhere near any of the individual events. I was distracted that day. I had to learn much of what I know about 9-11 by reading and discovering long after the fact. For I, too, had been focusing on the 9-11-01 square on the calendar for some time. I had personal business to conduct on that day.

I was downstairs chatting distractedly with Ex, making the coffee, even though I would not be allowed to drink any that morning. That seems odd now - that little snippet. He was perfectly adept in the kitchen, by now acting as menu maker, shopper and cook. Why I, coffee hound, was messing with the makings when it was denied me is unclear. Likely I had insisted. I needed to keep my hands busy while my head spun out of control.  Amber came down the stairs with an odd look on her face. While getting ready for school, she'd seen the first news bulletins on TV. She didn't fully comprehend what was happening (who did?), but she knew she should likely say something. "You know those twin buildings in New York? You guys better turn on the TV." We did so, and I have a sense of us staring like two slack-jaws at the screen, comprehending no part of what we were seeing. At the time we switched on the set, all eyes were on New York. Then the Pentagon was hit.

I knew my mother would be preparing and drinking her coffee in the north county, and I knew there was no chance she'd partake of news delivered by any media. She is a TV-phobe, not very interested in hearing about anything remotely resembling news. She likes floating around in her own world and her own head. She would soon join Ex and me at a hospital, for I was to have surgery that day and we'd all made careful plans to support me and to support Amber so she could have as normal a day as possible. Nevertheless, we felt Mom should be told what was going on. She can't always be allowed to float along in a bubble. "Mom, dust off the TV and turn it on. I think we may be at war." She asked a good question, given the hour: "With whom?" I didn't know. Anxiety was creeping up on me. I already had a good sense of fear and dread going on. I didn't have much fiber left with which to deal with the attacks. "Just turn it on, Mom. We'll both be available on cell phone. Please take yours out of your purse and turn it on. We're going to the hospital as planned."

Amber had seen and heard enough. She'd been offered some options for her day. She'd landed on going to school as usual and walking afterwards to Aunt Becky's. Her dad would pick her up for dinner and they'd come to see me in the hospital after their meal. She'd been made to understand Mom wouldn't be very frisky and they'd only stay a few minutes, just so she could see I'd come through surgery and now was on the other side. The breaking news distressed her - she was 11 - and now she wanted to simply spend the entire day with Aunt Becky. We actually preferred that. We wanted her in one known place rather than two places with a solo walk in between. Oh, yes, it was Lemon Grove. On her walk, she'd pass the homes of a few different relatives in a 6-block walk, but we still favored her being in one location with a person we trusted 100% to make good decisions.

Amber and I had had a Mom-Daughter sleep-together the night before, bunking in her waterbed playing music we both loved, talking as needed. I don't believe our hands ever ungrasped, even through the sleeping hours. We woke from time to time, both crying. We were scared. We were a well-counseled family, the bulk of that bestowed on me, a bit less on Ex and a sanitized version applied to Amber, appropriate to her age and understanding. Even my mother had been let in for a little bit of preparation. For this surgery was going to drastically change me, and - therefore - everyone close to me, everything I did, everywhere I went, everything I thought, felt and emanated. We were in for some change. I was 49 years of age. I was very reliable and predictable. Good old Les. A rock. The one you could count upon to remain steadfast. I wasn't known for changing up anything in any way.

At the hospital, I was ensconced in the corral where pre-surgical patients wait together in their anxiety and misery. The staff members were clearly distracted, patients' families gathering in front of TVs in the various waiting rooms. I heard one woman make a tart comment to her companion: "Hey, I'm having surgery. Can I get a little attention here?" Though my procedure was scheduled for the afternoon, I reported at 7:00 a.m. and was given an IV. This caused me to need the bathroom 2 or 3 times an hour, dragging my little pull-along contraption with me. I remember feeling absolutely frozen, begging warmed blankets which were produced repeatedly with a smile. Between them, Ex and my mother managed to both keep me company and monitor the news. And finally I went from the corral to the chute. "Bye, Mom. Bye, Ex. See you on the other side." In the chute, my hair was covered, I got a light sedative in my IV (odd, because I'd toughed out many hours without sedation and now I was about to go completely under, but sedate me they did). The nurses there were also distracted, chatting among themselves. One commented on a grisly TV scene wherein body parts could be seen on the roof of a New York building. I didn't think much of that in my sedated state, but she apologized to me for being too graphic. And suddenly, "he" was there.

By pure happenstance, one of the world's recognized front runners practiced his specialty at his clinic and at the hospital 5 miles from my home. I was - once again - the chosen one, the lucky child, to be in his care. I was his third surgery of the day. "Do you know what's happening in the world today or have you been too busy to hear it?" He said he knew about the attacks. "Are you distracted in any way?" He said he was good to go. "OK, then I am, too. I have an 11-year-old who is relying on you to be as expert as you are." He promised to do his best. I suffered a few slight indignities in the operating room, such as meeting the crew that would film my surgery. And then I was mercifully removed from consciousness.

I have said many times in writing that I have suffered more than one addiction. My surgery was to help me with but one of those. I walked into Alvarado Hospital that morning weighing 340 pounds. I'd been gaining toward that peak for many, many years. Though I had managed such things as a successful career, a pregnancy and childbirth, international travel and many more of life's most wonderful gifts, I was now beaten down with nowhere else to turn. I'd tried every reasonable remedy but I'd succeeded in nearly destroying myself. My surgery was Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, the hard way. I was not a candidate for the less invasive laparoscopic procedure. It would color everything that came afterward. Not all outcomes have been joyous. Amber calls 9-11-01 the day she lost her mother. That is an enormous and powerful statement she means completely. My truth is that this was the first enormous gift I gave myself in order to find myself. The 10-year journey has been one of tremendous highs and a few deep lows, those not directly related to the surgery or its results. I wouldn't change a thing. The enormity of the impact of all of my changes cannot possibly be expressed in one blog post. I will continue to write about them, though. I have wanted to write of this for a very long time, as it is such a deeply integral part of the me of today. And - there - now I have done so.

A few things I know: there are enough of "us" now that we know 5 years post-surgery, 80% of us have gained back 50% of our excess weight. I am not one of those. Knowing what my skeleton, blood, muscle and other parts should weigh, I was given a number that - if I reached it - I should accept with good grace and call it a day. I weigh 35 pounds less than that number, without ever once taking extraordinary steps to cause more weight loss. I know about infections and torn staples and all the other horror stories. I read the same news reports you do. I just haven't suffered any of them. I know "they" were right to counsel us about the number one side effect: broken relationships of all kinds. Though Ex and I had been together 30 years and scoffed at the notion my surgery would break us apart, the marriage collapsed in 13 months. I know that not everyone is happy for a person who finds her way out of a terrible trap. Mostly people want things to remain the same. For most of us, profound change is too difficult to contemplate.  Good old Les. She changed everything in one fell swoop.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Personae, Debate and Mistaken Identity

OK, you've already met me 
as Stamp Girl.
What do you think of the new 
and updated Stamp Woman?
Click for larger image.
A friend at work showed me a picture collage on his iPhone, featuring his young grand - son's face tricked up like stamp images. "Isn't that cool?" he asked. Boy, howdy! My head began to spin. "Hey, Mark, if I e-mailed a couple of pictures, would you mind . . .?" He said he didn't mind. When the picture landed, I chortled a little, being a woman who is pretty easily amused. Then landed another e-mail: "What do you think of this?" Ha! Coin Chick!

"Now you're the Leslie Morgan Silver Dollar," he wrote. Having not
seen this possibility before, I guffawed right out loud. David commented

that my hands resemble claws, as if I were clawing at my face, in the coin
version. "Yes, Sir. Distressed at the economy. Clawing for my life."

The end of the work day neared. Only George and I remained in the office. "Would it be bad form if I took the rest of my birthday cake away rather than leave it here to be enjoyed with coffee tomorrow?" For, despite having served plank sized portions, there was still half of that mammoth cake remaining. "Darlin', it's your birthday cake. You do whatever makes you happy." I decided to take it to AA. Sometimes some people there haven't eaten all day. The free coffee and refreshments might be all they get for awhile. Jenn and I attracted a lot of attention in the parking lot. Typically, when someone appears with cake at AA, it means they're celebrating a sobriety birthday. Everyone applauds that. But the cake, on its own, is appreciated, too. "Whose birthday?" "Mine!" "Oh, do you have a year now?" "Nope, I have 59 years!" Odd looks. We set up for the meeting, answering all the questions: "Leslie's birthday, brought the rest of the cake, etc." A woman who is rather contentious came in. "What's that?" We explained again, though we thought a giant slab o' cake was pretty self explanatory. "We're not supposed to celebrate belly button birthdays at AA," she pronounced.

I don't care for the term. I understood she meant we celebrate sobriety birthdays more than natal days, but her comment made me bristle a little. I looked around the room where are posted the 12 Steps, the 12 Traditions, all the short slogans we live by . . nothing about "celebrate no belly button birthdays here". I said, "We're not celebrating anything. I simply brought refreshments to be shared in fellowship." And, besides, there are no "supposed to's" in AA - it is a system of benevolent anarchy. Everyone does it his or her way. Jenn grinned. "Well done," she mouthed. Some others came along and someone said, "Hey, it's your birthday, why don't you lead the meeting?" I did so, with pleasure. The question of belly button birthdays vs. sobriety birthdays was thoroughly chewed upon, as AAs on both sides of the question munched away at my cake. Since I was leading, I got to observe rather quietly, and it pleased me to watch people rant about what was right and what was not and to tuck absentmindedly into that confection that aroused such passionate conversation.

Up just with the sunrise, I flipped on the coffeemaker and the TV, started the shower, stroked Virginia Woolf's fur for a moment, yawned. It requires a lot of my energy to get myself up and out every morning. Oh, I want to go! It's just been a long time since I kept a work schedule and I have to be disciplined about meeting all my obligations, one such demand being to allow myself rest and relaxation and pleasurable activities. An ad came on announcing a concert at a casino-resort I could walk to. I've walked to a concert before. It's kind of fun to simply stroll through the madness as everyone else tries to maneuver cars through chaos. The streets between the venue and home are well lit and busy around the clock. I'd be safe. Maybe . . I like John Sebastian, coffee-house folkie who fronted the Lovin' Spoonful and a handful of other good groups in the day, as well as having a solo career. He's a great songwriter whose voice remains true and who still looks adorable.  Maybe . . The announcer raved on about the intimacy of the venue, the rare opportunity to see a performer as special as John Sebastian. One of the artist's songs kicked in, fairly loud compared to the spoken part of the ad, and I had a "WTF?" moment. For performing in person is one Joan (pronounced "John", at least in this TV spot) Sebastian. Not at all the man I had in mind. So, maybe not . . . Oh, I'm certain Joan Sebastian is a marvelous singer. Just not what I was expecting.

Special thanks to Mark Bubel for indulging my whimsy.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


I like the little truism "Bloom Where You're Planted". It encourages me to simply do the obvious next right thing, with what's at hand and I'll blossom. I've been back at my  much loved work (with only a slightly different flavor and location) for a month now. When I look into the mirror, whether literally or metaphorically, I am amazed at the profusion of sprouts and blooms. Oh, to be sure, there are few stalks or full flowers yet. But compared to only a short time ago, it's as if I've been given a strong application of spiritual, mental and emotional Miracle Gro. Don't read this as "everything's wonderful". Everything is not. But almost everything is much better. And that is huge.

I never really knew George, beyond the knowledge that he was nominally related to "us". I worked only for A1 Carpet Care and was David's assistant. David's preference was that I be bonded to him and to A1 and that others in the special little world give me space to do what I do. And that worked fine for us all. Now I work for both David and George, seated in the place where George can be found most times. David pops in many times a day, many times simply to read my face, and we burn up the cyberworld with text messages and emails. It is a wonderful time in space for one who loves to connect with others, such as I.

George, it is clear to me, is a man who "does for" women. He is strong, well-established, sure of himself, knows his way around the planet, and - more importantly - around Las Vegas. He is rather aggressive and confrontational with men, seemingly unprovoked, sometimes. Conversely, he is rather courtly toward women - all women. When a female openly ponders about how to accomplish some task, George gets right in it, partly advising and partly trying to shoulder some of the required action. I am of mixed feelings about this "being taken care of". Mostly I resist it, though I listen to advice. Sometimes (less frequently), I'm simply grateful for a little assist in a mundane errand or dilemma. George calls me (and other females) "darlin' " with some degree of frequency. This is something I've never appreciated from anyone in business, but I have not yet prickled about it coming from George. That's what he does, naturally. If I find it truly objectionable, I'll say so, and I am certain he would modify.

I'd worked only a couple of weeks when my birthday came. I hadn't peeped a word about it, but it was not forgotten. I was only slightly taken aback when David popped in and said, "Grab a pen and pad. Come upstairs with me." No, he's not curt or rude. We just speak in shorthand sometimes. Usually when he goes short-of-words that way, it means his brain is bubbling with the newest idea. It never occurred to me we could have chatted downstairs right where we were at the time. I just hollered out, "Going upstairs with David!" and climbed the stairs in the broiling sun. When I went back down, with David hot on my heels, I learned I'd been had. George took me by the shoulder to the embarrassing moment  . . .
Some of these made a much-
appreciated gift. Hey! I'd been
unemployed for a year. This was
exciting! My head whirled.
Edible flowers. I ate one to prove it.
I sprayed the rest with a matte acrylic
spray to preserve them for some
future use other than simply add-
ing to my momentary pleasure
and future body weight.  ;~}

I decided to put half of my windfall into savings, use some to repair some of the harm to my personal business after a year of neglect, and some to buy a couple of things I'd not been able to afford before. Part of that was easy: make a bank deposit. Some of it was glorious: I bought a modest haul of art supplies I'd hungered to own and use. Some of it was daunting, just a little, because I still cannot easily handle more than a few demands at a time. My car, Lucy Sue, looked shameful. Mostly, she had sat for a year, collecting not miles, but dust and grime and hard-water stains. A drive-through car wash wasn't going to do the job and I'm not physically up to cleaning her decently. Along comes George. "I know just what to do, darlin'!" He fumbled for his cell phone and barked out, "Get your ass down here to the office. I need you." I cringed at the approach and waited for whomever to appear. Enter Pablo, a male who has given service to George for many years. He's likely accustomed to barked orders and good pay.  An hour later, during which time George ran out into the parking lot windmilling his arms and pointing out tiny spots of Lucy Sue needing attention, the car gleamed. It smelled good. At the end of my day, George took me outside by the elbow, opened the car for me and damned nearly hooked up my seatbelt across my lap. I drove off feeling pretty happy. I'd paid the enormous sum of $20 plus tip. It was a small investment in feeling a whole lot better.

One finds it in the little
things, small connections.
The next day, a Friday, it was monsoonal, hell for hot and threatening rain. This did not make me happy, as my car sat out in the open. I dreamed at the window a little bit, observing the gray sky and traveling back in time. I wondered whether Vicente still cleaned cars as poorly as a car can be "cleaned", still exuded the charm that pulled me magnetically and whether he had ever received his transplanted kidney. I experienced a little wave of sadness and went back to work. How can this happen in real time, reader? For I am not even slightly fictionalizing this: a man walked past my window outside. I only had a fraction of a second to experience the lightning bolts going off in my head. He opened our door to enter. He made eye contact with me as I sat behind the desk. He nearly dropped to the floor. He began to visibly tremble. He clutched at his chest a la Fred Sanford having the big one. "Leslie! Ay, dios mio!" I vacillated between grinning and tearing up. "Hola, Vicente." "Leslie!" He came behind the counter and took me by the hand. His English has not improved, nor has my Spanish. Other than talk about car cleaning, and limited talk at that, we have trouble communicating to completed concepts. This took me aback only a little: he put my open hand on his chest - hot from hellish heat, wet from his profession - car washing involves water, even for Vicente - heart pounding nearly out of his skin. I could physically feel all of this. He continued to grin at me, trembling. I was struck - for the 9 millionth time in life - by the mystery and joy of connecting purely with one other human being whom one can't help being drawn to. I don't know why I am so bonded to a man who really does a poor job that I pay him for. He is not "hot for me", nor am I for him. It's not that. But whatever one calls it, we have it and it goes deep. After he collected himself, Vicente (of course) put the moves on me about the car. That's his livelihood. I impressed upon him that the car had just been detailed "jesterday". "Oh, jesterday?" I nodded. "Next week, Leslie?" I nodded. David walked in and took in the grand reunion. Vicente left and David grinned from ear to ear. "And you'll still be giving him a 50% tip, won't you?" I nodded. The story of Vicente's return into my small arena does not end here. He (and others) will be the subject of my next post after I grab a couple of photos I need. Across the period of a year, Vicente got his transplant and Leslie got sober. I told him, partly in pantomime, about my alcohol fueled crash and burn. "Ay, dios mio! Now better, Leslie?" I told him I was better now.

David stayed nearby, leaning against my counter on his forearms, a stance I now recognize as the newest, "Let's talk" pose. I was intrigued by his look, as he isn't the only one between us who "reads face". "What's going on, Sir? I can see you're percolating." In our little world are represented many different beliefs and belief systems. A fragment of knowledge about astrology used to make us crow about the Virgo Brigade in our world under the stucco canopy, back where the world can't see us. For in a group of maybe 25 people, several key players were Virgos: David, me, the much-loved and now gone Rudy, Cesar, the wonderful carpet technician. We knew our world ran well because of our Virgoan superiority . . I'm kidding! We thought it was interesting. "You know Trudy?" Sure, I do. She now manages A1 Carpet Care and I don't resent her for it. She was looking for a job when I surrendered mine. She seems to have done well with it and David has told me she is now "one of the family".  "Her birthday is the same day as yours, August 24th. She's exactly one year older than you are." I grinned. "Sir, how the hell did you manage that?" He grinned that slow, broad beam and shook his head from side to side, slowly. "I didn't know until a couple of days ago. I had to scramble so her birthday wouldn't go 'forgotten'." And so it goes . . .

In my ears this weekend:  Because I love just about anything he performed . .

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dust-up in the Zen Garden

Hello, there. Stamp Girl here. Chick on a sharp learning curve. The stamp people and I have developed an exciting atmosphere, everyone learning from everyone else, people chewing on "her database" who'd never heard of a database a month ago. "Can your database do this?" Probably can! From my side of the building, "Is this a Lincoln Commemorative or something else entirely?" I think philately is at least interesting, and maybe even kind of fun. They seem to think I am at least interesting, and maybe even kind of fun. New friendships formed, a Labor Day BBQ is planned and next week I will put on my first event since returning to work. More on that later, as my event is a surprise in honor of someone who happens to read this blog.

One does not work for David and expect slow easy days. He and George pay well and provide absolutely everything needed so the staff can work hard and do their jobs well. They're excited about what I bring to their company and want magic immediately. Without any pressure ~ they know everything about why I crashed and burned, approximately where I am in recovery, and some of the triggers that could be bad for me. It's been four weeks now and the days fairly gallop. I haven't missed one AA meeting for  being too tired (or for any other reason), though I've had to be disciplined about managing it all. I know this, for certain: I was more than ready to return to work and people and to activities requiring the use of my brain and energy. I also know this: it takes everything I have to do everything I need to do in this new life and keep my balance at the same time. I am frustrated I cannot find time to write much to be posted. I long to "make art" now the creative juices are flowing. I must do my Fourth Step work and continue with my program. Yeah. And not lose myself in any way.

For the purpose of decompression, I made a little zen garden at my desk. I keep a plant, some essential oil to rub on the pulse points for relaxation aromatherapy, my Tao, some special rocks, a pair of framed Asian artworks Jenn made for me, a lovely little piece of Depression glass I got for my birthday, a pair of Asian art collages I've made, and - oh, yes - the fish. Though I always keep bettas in pairs - yes, in separate homes, but within sight of one another so they'll flare and put on a show for me - there was only one available the day I went fish shopping. He's a purple hazy little fellow I named Jimi and he was a pretty mousy little fish. Not
much to say. But I liked observing him in his cool watery world separated only by glass from the hellfire of the blacktop parking lot in a Las Vegas summer. Shopping again, I found Big Red, a crowntail betta with some blue areas against the scarlet fins and some attitude. I submit that few creatures contain as much testosterone, ounce for ounce, as a betta fish. Peace and tranquility are no longer. But I laugh out loud at the fish rowdies.

OK, so some insider philately fun:

To give the reader some sense of perspective, if this was a full set of the five stamps, it would be valued at somewhere between $7,000 and $26,000 depending on many things including whether the stamps had ever been hinged (listen to me talk stamp!), the condition of the gum and more. I don't know the value of these exact stamps. But let's say they're on the lower end of the price range. Wouldn't you still want the word "Louisiana" to be correctly spelled on your display? Just sayin'.

And for the truly discriminating investor: One of our consultants has a customer who wants a fine classic, but feels the price is too high. Alex is an older, courtly Russian man from Moscow who has seen many of the finer things in the world. His accent is slightly French and becomes more pronounced when he gets animated. "Leslie, he just doesn't understand. He's not stamp expert. We are. How can we show him?" Hmm . . well, let me see. 1875. Only 3 known to exist. eBay Buy it Now price: $64,999. "Mr. Smith, for a VIP client such as yourself, we'd be willing to match the eBay price. You'd save so much over full retail." Buy the stamp, dammit!

Leslie's hammer
So I've produced a few small pieces of mixed media collage work and they please me. I've even made some for myself and put them up. Sometimes completing a piece means stealing 10 minutes after work, standing at my counter gluing and arranging, hustling so I can have the pleasure of creating, but still making it to AA. The other staff watch me with interest and flattering me. One woman said I inspired her to decorate her office after sitting between blank walls for two years. I finished a piece and hollered indelicately, "Charles, do we have a hammer?" He said we didn't. What? We live amongst half of the world's Steve Kaufman paintings hanging on the walls and we don't have a hammer? "Could you get me something I could use to drive one small nail? I'd use my shoe if I had the right kind on." He moves pretty quickly for a big man. "Here you go. You can keep it to be used again." I asked if he was sure. Was it special for any reason to him or his son? "No, it's yours." That nail was about 2 inches long and not very big around. It required delicate application of the tool at hand. It worked really well.

In my ears right now: A double served either way you like it.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

This Isn't a Performance Review, Is It?

If the reader has visited here often, s/he knows I like words. Oh, I fairly consume the morsels, savoring the flavor, masticating them to a new consistency, sieving them through filters of dictionary, thesaurus, synonym, antonym and used-in-a-sentence. I love to take on new (to me) lexeme as my own small badges of personality and I love - love - to engage in wordplay, using phrases that don't seem the right ones to illustrate a point, or taking terms somewhat out of context to infer new meaning. A lot of paper and virtual images cross my desk, some of which please me and some not. I am pretty quick, glancing, digesting, concluding, filing for storage or recycling. My workplace is still new to me in some ways. I don't know all the tricks like "Oh, unplug the laser printer at night or it goes poltergeist." or "That coffeemaker on the left spews water like a pump." "No fooling," thought I as I mopped myself off. So one of the office machines suffered a contretemps and began to regurgitate hundreds of pages of stuff. I clicked on "Cancel", I hit the "End" key, I powered the rascal down by turning it off . . . to no avail. That apparatus was fully intent upon sending forth its spawn and all I could do was clear the output tray for a long time.

I am not one to dawdle. Though I can easily over-agitate, I seek some balance between catatonic and manic. I try to keep busy enough in the head to make life interesting and fun and quirky and droll. As the pages flew, some words and themes began to grab my attention. Originally, I'd deemed this output to be unknowable (by me) computer bullshit - you know - UCBS. But could it possibly be subliminal stimuli, an evaluation of my worth after two weeks of sterling performance? There were some 100,000 words that said absolutely nothing. I was sure of it. But then . . there seemed a suggestion that I am not stacked (true), that I am offensive and commanded to flush. A fairly harsh assessment, likely not deserved. Intentionally null? Oh, I don't think so. I didn't set out purposely to be that. Then came the comment that I needed to clean up my features (which it seemed I was able to begin and end) and was intentionally blank! The coup de grace, however, was that I have no installed memory. What the . . ? David walked by. He takes the temperature of a room by looking at my face. He says he never has to ask me how things are going and we must never enter me in a poker game. "What's wrong?" "Oh, nothing. Just a funky machine. It's been a couple of weeks now, David. Am I doing OK enough?" Big grins all around. All right, I can go back to my work now.

So, I love me some Mike. Mr. Mickey Man has introduced me to more new (to me) music than anyone else I can think of. And he pays attention to what the other music lover enjoys. If I'm not mistaken, his e-mail said nothing. Simply a link. Oh! Oh, my! New. New Lu.

The imagery, tempo and tone put me in mind of her 2003 tune, Ventura, which is important music to me.
Look, folks, I get it. You like her or you don't like her. That's OK. It takes all kinds to make a world. What I love among so many other things: she puts her age/generation right out there: " . .I'm 57 but I could be 7 years old . ."

Something bad happened to me this week. Another human being behaved really badly and sent terribly disturbing bad thoughts careening in my direction through the mist. I didn't deserve bad treatment, though I got it. I was supported by women friends, fellow AAs and I got through without drinking.

More, more to tell. I have a writing deadline of 9-11. For on THE 9-11 ('01 ~ it's been nearly 10 years) my tiny, personal world changed. And I'm trying to tiptoe up to writing about it. I am both compelled and hesitant. A terrible dilemma.

And, p.s.: some of the photos of Lucinda show an eroded chick a la Grace Slick in her dotage. Other, carefully artistic Lu - man! Could I be as glorious as that?

Signing off, a jumbly Leslie Morgan . . appreciated today (by others who expressed themselves in different ways) sufficiently to make me willing to try on tomorrow as another day . . .

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Advent of Atticus

What an odd day. A fairly intense earthquake rattled the eastern part of the U.S., which is unusual. Hell for hot in Las Vegas which isn't unusual in August, but is still hell for hot. To the right below is a truly bad picture of one corner of one of my monitors. Oh, you get in between all the stuff through which I had to maneuver, and produce a grand photo. This is simply for illustrative purposes. You can just about make out that you're seeing WeatherBug. In the red strip across the top, it reads "Alert". The alert is for excessive heat. Ambient air temperature 107 at about 3:30 p.m., though when I got into the car, the sensor was reading 118-degrees down on the blacktop. I display the Microsoft jellyfish on my desktop, though it looks more like flames in my poor photo. I thought that was appropriate, given the temperatures.  "Leslie, is that a jellyfish?" I said that it is. "Is it pooping?" I said I didn't believe so and that I thought that was just part of its body streaming along behind. "I wouldn't want to be the nature photographer who has to follow behind wildlife to take pictures of them pooping." I said it might be time to return to one's own desk and leave me alone to contemplate other things.

I had an itch - a yen - to make art and it couldn't be Asian in theme, because that's virtually all I've done since I very recently found ways to express myself again. I used a purchased large black initial "L" that I embellished with sand dollars, two fountain pen nibs, faux versions of the Penny Red Brown stamp that sells for many thousands of dollars each, a London postmark, a European house address number in metal, a glass stone, and paper images of a postcard and old sheet music. Art. I made it for me, the newly anointed Stamp Girl. Not sure what the two shiny, scuzzy looking marks are about. They don't appear in real time. And speaking again of shitty photography, this one is going to show more of my efforts if one clicks on the picture and gets the larger version.

My friend and I made a pilgrimage to Hobby Lobby. We'd printed the coupons, bought the Starbucks just before going in, wore comfortable shoes, carried pads and pens so we could scribble ideas. Hey, we know how to do this. We share or go halves on some art supplies, but playing the coupon game forces us to check out singly, each applying her coupon to the most expensive item in her basket. Our mothers didn't raise any fools. We already agreed we'd spend a long time there, each going her own way and then meet in the middle to ask "Did you see . . .?" or "Do you want to go in on this?" I came around the end of one aisle, having found some wonderful items marked 50% off. That's when I saw him. My blue eyes met his very dark ones and I looked away, trying not to appear too interested. I don't know if he was onto my game. I gave another sidelong glance and decided I'd sashay right past him like I was unaware of his presence. My decision didn't hold. I stopped right in front of him. To my surprise, I reached out my hand and touched him, only moments after first laying eyes upon him. I am compelled to confess I took that fella home with me to stay. I've wanted a male like him for a very long time and he seemed the perfect one, from his size to his sweet face. I made him my own.

This is Atticus, my new guy. Yes, that is the reason I named him Atticus. I don't know very many other Atticus references from which I would have drawn. He makes me smile from ear to ear. He reminds me of Amber's sock monkey, Martika, whom I bought for her at a street fair when the child was still riding in a stroller. Martika was my girl's good friend for years and we changed her up a little as Amber grew older and more fanciful. I made dresses for Martika, sewed on long, fluttery eyelashes, beaded a bracelet right onto her arm and occasionally exchanged her eyes for a new pair. We made up songs about Martika, and that sock monkey became one of the family, essentially a lovable relation who could be tossed into the washer and dryer when she got grungy. She wasn't ideally suited to going into the bath with Amber, but nobody is without shortcomings. Martika was right there beside us in good times and bad. She went into bed with a little girl who was sometimes happy and sometimes sad, scared from time to time, excited upon occasion. Once, on the night before I had a surgery, I'd invited Amber for a sleepover in my bed with me. We were scared about the surgery and both of us cried and held hands during the night. Martika was there, too. Remembering that simian sister makes me smile and feel a little tender around the edges. I hope, if she no longer goes into bed with Amber, that she at least has some protected spot in a closet, and hasn't been thrown out or lost across the years. If Atticus brings me half the joy I think he will, then I will long consider myself a golden child upon whom have been showered many wonderful gifts.

I'm at university to take a degree in juggling. After a year of reduced activity and reduced life, I'm on a fast track. If I hit warp speed, I will harm myself. I need and want to work, keep working my AA program, write, make art, read . . . and it's not all fitting with the frequency I'd like. I'm painfully aware of which of those things must take priority, whether it makes me happy or not. So ~ ~ every day another lesson or ten. Do not read this as depressed, down or anything negative. It is only "new". Something to be learned. I'm a good learner.

In my ears right now:  Yep, I like it in its original form, as well.
Farewell, 58. Contained within you were the worst and some of the best days of my life so far.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

My NEXT Great Idea ~ Let's Play a Word Game, Guys!

Remember me, the kid who greeted other kids not with "Hi", but with "I've got an idea"? So I'm feeling just a tiny bit frustrated these days. Oh, I'll survive it and it's not going to be my excuse to pick up a drink, but I feel it a little. I get up really early to get ready for work. I work nonstop for several hours, jump up, navigate the streets of the city (ugh), pick up Jennifer, go to the library or wherever we've decided we'll pop into for the day, go to AA to fill my reserve tank, sometimes have to stop at Fresh & Easy or get my hair cut or whatever . . there isn't much time left in a day. I am pent up with words and ideas I want to get onto the blog and have not yet figured out how to make time to accomplish. But that's not exactly what this post is for.

I hold my sweet-natured little she-car - Lucy Sue - in similar esteem to that in which I hold my sweet-natured little she-cat, Virginia Woolf. Both of these girls have belonged to me only, not shared custody with anyone else. They rely upon me for their needs and I've managed to meet them, apparently, because both seem in good condition. When I stopped drinking and my life started to flow down the drain, Lucy Sue did what many alcoholics attempt unsuccessfully. She cut back on her drinking. For most of a year, I put in $10 of gas and it lasted a month. I wasn't going much of anywhere. Yes, I noticed all the signs on the gas stations. I knew gas prices were obscene. But I wasn't doing higher math. $10 is just $10. "How much will it cost to fill up my 12-gallon tank?" is another matter altogether. So I pulled in Wednesday, slid my card, used my preferred customer discount and started the pump. Man, it costs a lot to fill a tiny tank with fuel! Who knew? And - I swear this is true - I heard an audible reaction from Lucy Sue. She either groaned or emitted a little paroxysm of sated delight. She'd not felt so well-endowed in a long time. But that's not exactly what this post is for, either.

I love final resting places. Anyone's final resting place. Whether it's catacomb or crypt, graveyard or Golgotha, mausoleum or memorial park, I take great pleasure in communing with the departed. No, I'm not morbid. I don't want to imagine anything unpleasant. I simply want to weave through the rows, reading headstones and memorial plaques, imagining the people and their lives and those who cared about them. I've spent hours in the desert observing tiny ersatz funerary grounds and have been profoundly moved by what I saw there. I've slithered on my belly like a snake in pyramids both in Egypt and Mexico, viewed vast green  plots with the white markers for fallen soldiers in several places in the world, and - oh, the promised land - St. Paul's Cathedral in London. Beneath the beautiful structure consecrated in 1708, sitting
  there atop Ludgate Hill, the fifth structure known as St. Paul's is a place of great beauty, the tallest building in all of London until 1962, and possessing one of the world's largest domes, still. The stained glass is breathtaking and the American Memorial Chapel touching - remember, the Brits eventually became pretty affectionate toward us Yanks. St. Paul's fills me up with holiness, and I am not speaking of religion, as I don't do religion. At all. A person would have to be soulless, however, not to find something to love at St. Paul's.

After an awe-inspiring look around, almost always accompanied by profound silence from nearly every visitor, one descends to the crypt. Oh, here lie Lord Nelson, cheek by jowl with the Duke of Wellington and Lawrence of Arabia. There are the painters, Van Dyck and Sir Joshua Reynolds, poet laureate Nahum Tate (died 1715) . . my mind goes a mile a minute. The best memorial, however, houses
Sir Christopher Wren who designed the fifth St. Paul's, most of the prior structures having been consumed by fires dating as far back as the year 936. Wren's monument is unassuming dark marble, words inscribed: "Lector, si monumentum requiris circumspice". "Reader, if you seek his monument, look around you." I have never visited his resting place that his grave was not covered in fresh roses or daffodils, laid across the marble, bright punctuation on the deep-toned marble. Cathedral workers remove the floral overflow hourly. And all of that is sort of what this post is for.

Now, let's play the game. Imagine you have left the building, never to return. Those who loved you wish to construct a fitting commemorative tribute to the wonderful person who was you. What will it say? What will it look like? You are restricted to a headline of your choice (like I've used "Here lies Les" below) and 10 words to tell about your essence. Here is mine. Long may I lie in peace.

In my ears right now: Otis. If you don't love Otis, then I feel sorry for you.

Special thanks to esteemed Word Woman, Rachel Fenton, who recently applied the words "quirky" and "droll" to me. I can't claim those as my own brilliance.