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.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Girlfriend Terri and I determined long ago that we have been profiled in this city. Oh, yes, without question. We are targets. Each of us is a small woman of a particular age, respectable looking. People would likely guess that we pay our bills and our taxes. On time. We each drive a modest, decent, newer model car of a color that defies description - unremarkable in every way. For the most part, each of us drives her car reasonably, abiding by the laws no one else here seems to understand. No police officer would ever spend a moment's thought on the possibility that one of us might be a threat to him or her. We're unlikely to be packing. Our reward for fitting this profile is regular citing for some truly ingenious "traffic violations". We call these events "Metro's (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department) fundraiser". Hit the little women and add to the city's coffers. We are ticketed for things nearly as silly as going airborne to pass other cars or digging a tunnel to avoid a busy intersection. Really. We pay up, too. While I have a moral twinge about paying for extortion, I also object to the traffic court system which requires multiple appearances downtown, taking time out of one's life repeatedly, just to be required to pay in the end, anyway. Profiled. Sitting ducks.

Most recently, I have had the kind use of a friend's car more often than I have driven my own. I believe the friend sees this as a meaningful way to assist me at a time when I am coming out of some difficulties. He won't take gas money, he won't take no for an answer and he won't move his car so I can my own out of the garage. OK. I an accept a kindness graciously. The trouble is that bright red, V8 Mustang GT embarrasses the living hell out of me. No chastisement, please! I understand it's a classic car, an icon, that many Americans love. I just don't happen to be one of them. The trouble is that the car is so anti-me, so far from anything I represent, so big, so roaring, so heavy, such a gas guzzler . . . I don't care for it at all. When I arrive at AA in it, the bikers sitting outside smoking give me the "Hey, honey" look or make comments that border on unwelcome. Young Turks pull up next to me at stoplights and check out the machine from bumper to bumper, jaws dropping when they see me at the wheel. Recently a friend walked me out to this car and kind of grinned at me. Hey, the windows are tinted so dark, at least it would be difficult for an observer to be certain it was me. And finally, an older man at AA saw me arrive in my Nissan recently and said, "Weren't you driving a much finer car the other night?" Grrr . . None of my friends has any issue jumping in, reclining the seat back to an angle I can't use to drive, and hitting the sound system, so what is it with me?

By the way, I was also mortified in my 20s when I was tapped to move my mother's Cadillac from one location to another, for fear someone might see me in that conveyance which is not reflective of me, either, so I have long-standing issues. Which is not the point of this story. I was driving home feeling clean - cleansed - from my AA meeting. I started up a gentle incline on a street that is residential, quiet, but quite wide, sun-dappled at 6:30 p.m., and notorious for the motorcycle cops who lie in wait under the freeway overpass seemingly 24/7. I saw him there from a couple of blocks back. I made certain my foot was scarcely touching the gas pedal. It occurred to me (again) that that V8 engine roars even when the driver is not gunning it. But I felt I was doing all right. He was starting up the motorcycle and pulling out as I passed him. He hit his lights and I pulled over. I know how to behave. Don't flail my arms around, don't dive for purse or glove compartment, just wait for him to arrive at the window.

We immediately established a grand rapport. "Do you know why I stopped you, M'am?" "Sir, I don't." "Well, this is a 25 mph zone and I clocked you at 39 mph." "Ah," said I. We danced a little. I explained that I needed to get out of the car to get to my purse from the back. I had difficulty locating registration and insurance (hey, it's not my car!), but he was patient and level about all of it. When he gave me the ticket, he said, "You've been really cooperative. I wrote you up for only 5 mph above the speed limit." "Well, I thank you, Sir. Could we list the Ford Motor Company as partly responsible since this car likely goes 50 mph when the ignition is turned on?" Smiles. "Drive safely." I did. And slow. Not to split hairs, but when I got home and examined the ticket more carefully, I noted that it reads "Actual speed: 39, Cited speed: 30." I'm not quite sure I understand this. It's not like anyone else (the Court, DMV) will fail to know I got clocked at 39 mph. I'm required to contact the Court before August 10, so I can't even rely on the Rapture to get me off on this one. And as I drove off, I did not call the man a rat bastard or any other derogatory name, even under my breath.

OK, well it can't be blamed on anyone other than myself. It's not a weird charge - simply "going too fast". It'll cost more than I want to pay and I'll likely moan about that when the time arrives, too. I can't dance and I'm too fat to fly. "Pay the ticket and shut up, Les." "All right I will."

Last night I went a pretty far stretch across the city to listen to an AA speaker. He was an older man, very lively and entertaining to the 300 or so of us who gathered to hear yet the next drunk's tale. Yes, we really do get something good from that. It's part of the AA juju. The reason the program works. I am good at a speaker meeting. I absorb what the presenter has to say and I spend time rehashing it, spending time in the larger and smaller themes. I can't shake this, even though I've had a night's sleep and other distractions . . . this man's "bottom" (the place an alcoholic must reach before he is finally ready to admit that he has a problem) was remarkably bad by the standards of most people. He arose out of the wreckage across many years and regained a truly admirable way of life. His date of continuous sobriety? September, 1958. You should have seen me doing the math on my fingers and toes. I'm in awe.

So, we're going to volunteer at the Henderson Pavilion again through the stewardship of Acts of Kindness, the organization I support with my time and efforts. So this time, it's a local rock band combined with a symphony orchestra doing The Who, Pink Floyd and Led Zep, or so they say. All righty then. But I'm going and I'm scratching my head about why the damned Yellow Brick Road thing keeps popping up in my life. I don't like the yellow brick road reference or any images it conjures up. I know, I know. Dig out the black pants, white shirt, collect the vest at Will Call and listen to the music.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


It may be fair to say I am consumed by curiosity. I fairly rubberneck when I walk or drive somewhere, including the internet, rarely failing to take in virtually everything interesting there is to behold. I measure this claim against many hundreds of shared excursions during which I continuously pipe up with, "My god, did you see that?!" to draw the reply, "What?" "Hey, lookie there!" from me is frequently rewarded with, "I didn't see anything." "Listen to this headline!" can elicit a "Yeah, so what?" look. I love to learn new things, I love to handspring around in my head, and this often begins with something I've seen that I just can't turn loose. It doesn't have to be lofty or cerebral. For me, a picture does paint 1,000 words.

Once embedded in the head, I have trouble removing an idea or full train of thought until I've exhausted all the possibilities available to me. I Google and Wiki and ask a number of questions of myself: "Would I like to do that?" "Who else was there?" "What happened then?" "Who do I know who would be interested in this or appreciate it?" "Do I have any similar experiences?" Sometimes I cry about things I encounter, or feel helpless to lend any meaningful support to someone who needs it. Sometimes I belly-laugh, and those are the best times. But I get the longest play from the things that just continue to baffle me with "Would anyone really do that?" or "Why did they do that?" "What was somebody thinking?"

So today, it's about food, caused by something I saw online. I have a long, unhealthy relationship with food that includes phases when food was alpha and I was not, when I was alpha and food was not, and many things in between. I am not admirably adventuresome about food. Sure, hailing from the southwest, I'm 100% up for Mexican cuisine. I don't want to try Thai food or Vietnamese. Please don't try to introduce me to a new and exciting experience like that. I'm not going there because I don't want to. Italian or Chinese specialties - yes! Fish or seafood? Not going to do it. I don't care whose recipe it was, I'm not going to try it. On the other hand, in my own cooking, I've stretched far afield from what was modeled in my parents' home.

My father's tastes drove the menus in our home. I am lucky, I suppose, that his sensibilities ran to moderation of fats, salt, and other questionable substances, even decades ago. So dinners in our home consisted of salad, meat, starch, vegetable and dessert. Invariably. Jell-o did not count as dessert. He didn't like casseroles or any form of one-dish meal. He didn't care for many types of seasoning. Onions were iffy for him except with the ubiquitous Sunday pot roast. He didn't like a lot of gravy or sauces cluttering up his food. Bread was white - Wonder Bread. Holding no truck with "circus water" (other families called it Kool-Aid), our beverage of choice was Pepsi Cola. We ate canned vegetables because that's what he liked - no efforts to introduce him to the fresh or frozen varieties ever stuck. He hunted for some few years with business associates, but no venison or pheasant ever made it to our table. Suggestions of foreign cuisine fell on deaf ears and the cheeses used in Italian cooking smelled like vomit, he claimed. I am reminded of the period of time when he had an ulcer. I am lucky we were not all included in his diet of Gerber baby food.

Today, I eat more sensibly than most people if we count most as 51%. I avoid meat, though I am not a complete vegetarian. It is more personal choice rather than a moral stance. I am not so crazy about many fruits, but I have met few vegetables I didn't care to consume - gimme cucumbers. Pepsi Cola gave way to Diet Pepsi or Diet Dr. Pepper and I take on way too much coffee. No, the caffeine doesn't work against me. I'm pretty flat-line whether I drink coffee or don't drink it. Sure I love a decadent dessert! I just don't go there very often and the sorrow of my life is the day I broke my engagement to Haagen Dazs. Pasta is nice, in moderation. Love cheese, but I also am moderate about that. I don't do bread or juices at all - again, simply a choice. I don't choose to spend part of my caloric allotment on those things. I monitor how I'm doing by a visit to the scales every few days, being mindful of how my clothes fit, paying attention to how well I'm doing when I walk or swim. If I start trending upward in weight, I modify. It's a simple thing that works for me. Nope, I don't aspire to a geriatric modeling career. I want to feel good and strong and I want to live a long, healthy life. Do I splurge sometimes? Yes. Haagen Dazs now has those little $1 containers of their standard products. I eat from those containers 3 times. It makes me as happy as a full pint in one sitting used to do.

Couple all of that with this: I love to feed other people. In fact, I love to overfeed people. During a particular time in my life, Ex had to take me aside and ask me to pull back the reins on feeding him and Amber. They were huffing and puffing at karate, due to my culinary fanaticism at the time. I still read recipes voraciously, intuiting how the dish will taste and present. I smack my lips, even when I know that I won't eat what I prepare - only my guests will taste the offering. And, yeah, I'm still guilty of intimate relationships with some decadent foods. My potato salad will clog an artery quickly. I make a red sauce that gives rise to exclamations of "Mama mia!" And I'm guilty of taking the Milky Way cake to far too many events - made with 6 Milky Way bars and iced with 2 more, it weighs about 5 pounds on the cake plate. I like to watch what other people eat, too. "Hey, what's that?" "You really going to eat that?"

I'm not sure whether to call it a date. I'm pretty sure the other party involved would call it a date. What I might consider a date will require much contemplation and may or may not take up some blog space at a future time, but that's not what this is about. I'd ridden on the back of his very fine motorcycle to the Fremont Street Experience. This was a completely different mode of transportation for me, and kind of fun, though I've never again sought it out ~ he'd thoughtfully provided both helmet and goggles. We stepped first into Hogs & Heifers Saloon where I was almost immediately knocked onto my ass by a very large woman dancing like no one was watching. Home girl had that little saying down to an art! Picking myself up and dusting myself off, I had to say, "I'm not really so comfortable in bars." My friend was OK with that. He was a long time recovering alcoholic who took me into Hogs & Heifers because he thought I might like it. I didn't. Walking outside, we came upon a Soul Food Festival and Street Fair. I stretched out of my comfort zone ~ the fried catfish was good. My friend insisted that I be photographed (twice) with the two Chippendale's dancers on the street, which is also not at all what I do. But I did, with fairly good grace. I did not like this experience. I had to ask these youngbloods how to pose. They told me. Hey - they pose with young and old women all day every day in little clothing and for a price. I wasn't anything new, special or different. They shave their backs. But apparently, not daily. Ugh.

Strolling along Fremont, I began to notice the " deep fried" signs. What? Fried Twinkies? Deep fried Oreos? Fried pizza? Oh, come on! Why? I mean would somebody really . . . well, presumably, because there were long lines in front of the establishments that sell such delicacies.

So, a little Yahoo News teaser caught my eye. I Googled, I Wikied. Yes, it really was deep fried spaghetti and meatballs on a stick. Though no nutritional information is immediately noticeable, there is a disclaimer that the recipe is a bit labor intensive and its creators intend to soon find out if deep fried lasagna might be a hit. I found other marvels - fried pickles, deep fried Coke, fried candy bars of every imaginable variety, and deep fried bacon. Bacon dedicated to you, Rraine! I've not yet quite figured these things out. You see, I like my spaghetti to smack against my chin and then I slurp it up like Lady and the Tramp. I'm not pickle crazy, but if I go there, I want it cold and crispy. Coke? That's a drink, where I come from! However, in the interest of public service, I thought to share these culinary delights so everyone has time to get some before the Rapture, now scheduled for some time in October. Hey, it won't kill ya! We're not going to be around long enough for these fat bombs to do us any harm. Or so I'm told.

Bon appetit!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Is That You Rapture? Come, Transport Me!

It has been a crazy few days. Crazy. My bed appears to have been the stage for a major wrestling event. Lying open upon it is a collection of books seemingly half-read, a collection of Bukowski poems, biographies of Mae West and Mary Todd Lincoln, huge volume of Mathew Brady's Civil War photographs dropped, I am sure, because of its size, weight and unsuitability for reading in bed. Before snapping the picture, left, I shamefacedly removed the large collection of empty cucumber water bottles from the headboard. I've become enamored of that beverage and I was told to push fluids. That headboard can shelter a mighty horde of those bottles. And now it is time to lift my head from my surrealistic pillow to rejoin the living. You see, I've been sick for the better part of a week.

Like many people who live near me, I am beset with allergy miseries. It's spring. The wind has shrieked, flinging dust, allergens and debris for about 7 years straight. I woke up, knocked around in search of coffee and felt tearful. "What's this?" I wondered, tuning up some mindfulness skills to check in on myself. Hmm - really high fever. The sort I attribute more to children than to adults. Eyes gooey, nose alternately runny and socked in solid, chest rattling like rusty old chains. Could I be sick? Um, yes, that miserable sensation in my ear suggested I was quite sick. Enough so that I broke down and sought medical attention. Antibiotics - check. Antihistamines - yep. Prescription eye drops - sure. Vicodin? "Do you think I'll really need that?" She thought I would. I had a pretty severe ear infection.The pain was going to get worse before it got better.

I do not care for Vicodin. It's effect on me is a not-quite-enough masking of pain. I still know the pain's there, just beyond my fingertips and I know I'll feel it more intensely before it's time to take another pill. Sometimes this medication makes me slightly nauseous or dizzy, and - oh, yeah, best of all - it makes me sidewinder mean after I've had about 3 doses. I once gave my mother 50 years of what-for in one Vicodin-inflamed telephone spew. I know it does nothing good for my personality and I try to avoid it. Also, there is some spirited decades-long debate within AA about whether one is truly "sober" if they're not drinking but are taking certain kinds of medication. I can see the argument in favor of "lost sobriety" if one takes these babies for pleasure and thrills. Pleasure? Reader, I don't understand one's coworkers who descend as soon as the dental surgery is completed, "Did you get any extra Vicodin? I'll pay you $4 a pill." I decided I would take them as prescribed, prescribed only for me, as needed for pain, by my physician who knows I am an alcoholic. If any deviation from that seemed imminent, I knew what to do to find help.

Settling into bed with books, music, cell phone, paper and pen, wireless keyboard, remote control devices, two cats, cucumber water, a bit to eat and the Vicodin, I set forth on a journey of unequalled brilliance and revelation. I read, I wrote, I dozed, I talked to myself and cats. It would be fair to say I meditated, though I am not formally trained for that. Apropos of absolutely nothing, I resolved several of the world's larger problems, wrote a discourse in florid language on a topic about which I heretofore knew nothing, made astounding discoveries of nature from my bedside, thought about whether it was morning or afternoon when the clock read 3:00. I did some AA 4th Step work which I didn't like at all. I did some Grief Recovery work on a couple of issues I'd not resolved within myself, though they happened some time ago. I liked that even less, so I turned over to sleep for awhile. By the third day, I was more than ready to shake a leg, get out of bed and get to an AA meeting. Yep, I felt like hell. No, I likely wasn't contagious. It wasn't that I felt a need to drink. It was that I needed to see the faces. Those faces. The two old men (old, as in my general age group) who are wordsmiths, like me. We love to tear into the AA Big Book with its 75-year-old language, applying our modern-day linguistic sensibilities to the precepts. "Les, did you bring your thesaurus?" "I did, men!" The (very) young man who comes on Thursdays and Fridays to take in a meeting where he might hear me speak. "I like to hear you share. I feel like we may have walked down many of the same paths." I feel the same, young taxi driver! I returned home feeling refreshed, refilled.

So it happened that this morning, I knew I must clean up the artifacts of the few days during which I'd clearly had more than one transcendental experience. Stack the paper, close the books properly with bookmarks, mail the notes and cards and other forms of communication I'd written, brush cat hair from everything, get the sheets into the laundry. Feeling so enlivened, I wanted to review what I'd written, what I'd highlighted in the ultimate books, what I'd digitally recorded as reminders to myself. I envisioned myself a latter-day seeress, gliding down Newland Avenue on paroxysms of deep truth, hair and garb not unlike that of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Um, yeah. To paraphrase an old shibboleth, "A wasted mind is a terrible thing".

So, my great observation of the natural world: Virginia Woolf's claws click like so many tiny high heels on the hardwood floor as she walks. I don't need to have the lights on to tell which cat approaches. Of course, when Bogey approaches, the earth moves, too. It seemed so profound when I observed and internalized it.

I wrote my de profundis epic opus that would make a rock weep. Oh, I struck a blow on page after page, pouring it all out, my entreaties for the peace that beautiful verity would have brought, though I was only to be smote with one pretty prevarication after another. No sestet, couplet, no iambic pentameter here, this was blooded ink run rampant. A sonnet squared or cubed relating pain, becoming anger. I sense my writing style was affected by the Oscar Wilde study I'd just completed a day before. Carly Simon thought her wrongdoer was so vain he'd probably think this song was about him. I'd submit that some blackguards wouldn't recognize themselves in a mirror. We shall see when I send it, embossed and decorated, to the intended recipient. I believe that all of that falls under the Grief Recovery umbrella.

In my recorded messages to myself, I sound like a rummy - there's really no nice way to say it. My missives look like the flying monkeys wrote them. And I'm really, really still unpleasant. Yesterday, I resorted to deep sighing and eyeball rolling, reminiscent of some of my mother's more unpleasant nonverbal expressions of unhappiness. Oh, it wasn't my fellow AA's fault that she's dyslexic and had only been to the speech location once before, in about October of 1998. It's not her fault that when I offered to MapQuest the place, she said, "No need. No problem." When I allowed as how I figured we were now in Arizona, she became distressed and couldn't tell me even which direction to take. Hey - all the landmarks had changed. Once we arrived, late, I was immediately put off by the first speaker for a reason not fit to print. Then he launched into his one-liners about the inadvisability of dating a "broad from AA". Ahem. Not one, but two, women speakers annoyed me by the word they applied to females. "Women" is a word that usually sits well with me. Certain other words don't fly as effectively and I tend to drift in my thoughts. Women speaking arrogantly about other women . . . And so, one can see I'm still not 100%. Still a little grumpy. Tetchy like. However, I hear no wind and the sun has finally come out and the raspy gacking noises of Virginia Woolf hurling really expensive cat food came from outside, not inside. I think this will be a better day. It'd be a hell of a note if the world ended or something.

Monday, May 16, 2011

We're Off!

We already knew the wind would be an issue. It's a given. Besides all the weather forecasters seemed to be in agreement for once. The wind was going to blow. We came out of the AA meeting, did a little grocery shopping to hold my friend's grandma over until our return that evening, and went in search of lunch. Elephant Bar was a nice change of pace. We typically dine out downscale, but this afternoon was an outing and we intended to eat like it. Groaning a little, we made our exit and went to seek out our venue, which was very nearby and very easy to locate. "My god," I breathed, "look at the roof of the thing. Where do you suppose people sit, down in the ground?" We were off to see the wonderful Wizard of Oz!

I wasn't too far off the mark, as it turned out. The huge, industrial brassiere-inspired canopy covers a descending pit of 2,500 theater seats with grassy slopes and lawn chairs nearby for those who choose to dine and watch a show al fresco. Modern, clean, well-maintained, it occurred to me this venue might be a little high stepping for Henderson (which I have always called Hooterville), but who am I to complain about progress? "Meet Diane at Will Call," read our instructions. Um, yep, as long as I don't have to slither on the ground like a snake to find her. As volunteer ops go, I'd give high marks to both my organization Acts of Kindness and to the Henderson Pavilion for their attention to detail, clear vision of what they needed the volunteers to do, hospitality, instructions and materials to hand out, new vests and name tags no one had ever worn before. About 10 minutes into it, we knew what our afternoon held in store!

By 2:45 p.m., we were shivering in our seats at the top of the arena, teeth chattering, bone chilling. Fairly good in a pinch, when I heard there would be a pair of volunteers needed deep down in the pit in the stage area, I elbowed my friend in the ribs and arched an eyebrow. She gave an almost imperceptible nod. She'd got my message. Likely, we came across as a pair of pretty pushy broads, but we secured our berth at the orchestra pit, ostensibly beneath the screaming gale that shot through the open area under the canopy. It wasn't perfect, but we probably had the best location under the circumstances. We did our share of pointing out restrooms and concession stands, solving the mysteries of Section B Left and Section B Right, keeping interlopers out of the orchestra seating if they'd not paid for the higher-priced ticket, and we finally settled into our seats to watch the show.

My friend has a degree in Theatre Arts. I do not. She said it was a very good play for what it is: small Shakespeare company, no money, large rafts of volunteers everywhere. The sound was great, the staging very good. I'll be honest. The Wizard of Oz is not high on my list of favorites. But this was fun and I'm glad I went. I am tucking a handful of good things into my experience basket and I'll definitely volunteer for these folks (both Acts of Kindness and the Henderson Pavilion) again. I got a bit more desensitized to flying monkeys, too, a long time terror.

A few things that charmed me: Opportunity Village is a Las Vegas institution - a non-profit organization serving individuals with intellectual disabilities. A good number of Opportunity Village clients played parts in the Wizard and they were amazing! We saw them arriving on the bus - so serious, practicing their lines or songs, carrying bright costumes. They drew many rounds of applause, obvious proud parents and friends cheering them from the audience. My favorite was a young man who played a guardsman in the castle of the Wicked Witch. He required a motorized wheelchair to move in line with the other marching guards. As he came onstage, his battle ax, affixed to the back of his wheelchair, proved too tall to pass under the doorway. The soldier immediately behind him reached out without fanfare, moved the shaft of the weapon about 15-degrees and the parade moved on. The entire time they were onstage, my eyes were drawn to that tilted war weapon and the smiling face in the wheelchair.

The star of the show was an SPCA rescue dog, a little Chihuhua mix named Cheeto who played the part of Toto. He was a pretty remarkable little well-behaved dog who endured a lot of handling by different people with equanimity. Until about the third act when the Scarecrow let fly with a fairly loud solo tune in the immediate vicinity of the dog who happened to be in Dorothy's arms at the time. That dog snapped and snarled, barking until Dorothy put him down with obvious concern. He was clearly pissed off at the Scarecrow for the rest of the show pulling back his lips in a snarl and showing his teeth.

Standing in place, stage left at the orchestra, I whispered to my friend, "Dorothy to starboard." My friend knows about theater, not about things nautical, so she looked both left and right before she spotted the child coming down the aisle. This child was Dorothy. The gingham jumper, the ruby slippers, the hair-do, the basket hanging on her arm. About 6 years old, her face glowing, she approached us for programs. We gave her several and commented on her beautiful costume. "Why aren't you backstage with the other performers?" we asked. "Oh, I'm not in the play!"Huh? We looked at each other. I guess the kid's mother dresses her up or allows her to dress herself up as characters when she goes out somewhere. I am a mom who encouraged imaginative play, including costumes and role playing, but this one made me pensive. I thought about the child and the mother at every break in the action. And I kept looking in the seats behind me to see if there was some damned flying monkey kid waiting to pounce.

Trivia question for a virtual prize: No fair Googling or Wiki-ing until one tries to answer! What color were the ruby slippers in the 1900 L. Frank Baum children's novel?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I Got the Old Blogger Bit Me Right in the Butt Blues

Man, what a Blogger global goof-up will do for a girl's e-mail inbox! "Hey, what the heezy?" "Am I nuts or . . . ?" "I know I saw a post! Where can it be?" Um . . yep, so Blogger strikes gain, but it seems system-wide this time, lasting longer than 24 hours, and with limited fixes so far. Some posts on some blogs are still entirely missing, some posts that had 40 comments now show 4, and the message currently on the Helpdesk is this: "We’re nearly back to normal — you can publish again, and in the coming hours posts and comments that were temporarily removed should be restored." On a friend's blog, the labels that once were there are there again, in reverse order from the original post, with no comma separators. Yow. Now, I'd be the first to engage in some civil disobedience or rabble rousery, maybe toss out something snide like, "Blogger eats boogers." But the last time I did that, I believe I was singled out by Blogger for grief, purposely applied to me.

Once the e-mails were cleared and virtual giggles exchanged, the question occurred to me: "What is a woman going to do?" Well, if I walked to Ross I'd feel good physically, I'd refrain from buying too much stuff I'd have to carry home, I'd feel some sun on my bones . . OK. Ross it is. Anyway, I have a task there: I am to buy a size 42H lilac and lace bra. Oh, no, this garment is not meant to be worn by me. It is not my size. I want to own the bra simply because it is a tribute to modern ingenuity and engineering. I talked about it a bit in a post that has now disappeared and will do so again if the past post does not reappear. It was suggested in commentary that I could use that bra as two fruit bowls, though I think I'll do this: line one cup with plastic wrap, toss in some salsa, put chips in the other cup ~ voila! A snack for 20.

I did find a few treasures for myself while shopping. One reason Jones New York keeps me as a satisfied customer is that disclaimer thing they do so well. For, you see, I needed make no mistake about it. I was getting 2 microfiber modern briefs, not any of those pesky microfiber old-fashioned briefs. WTF?? But at $3 each for $10 drawers, I'll put up with the designer's quirks. And then, the find of the day ~ MSRP $48. My price ~ $1.49. It's a beautiful 100% cotton nightgown made with attention to details such as flatted seams, embroidered information rather than hang-tags, oh! this is a lovely nightgown. It is not a nightgown any man would be likely to beg for, "Oooh, baby, put on that cotton one with the little pink rosebuds that only babies and grandmas wear - you know, the one that covers you from chin to toes and billows when you walk!" No, this nightgown lends itself to the cold evenings when the cats tuck in around me and I settle in with a good book, thinking just how grand that $1.49 ersatz negligee will feel against my skin.

I've always enjoyed doing volunteer work. Both Ex and I had our favorite causes we worked for, and we did some service as a family of three. I believe Amber thought all children spent Thanksgiving morning delivering meals to homebound people. When she was very young, she carried the placemats made by elementary school children and a flower for each table. Later she graduated to handling meals, letting Mom carry the small stuff and make the small talk. I have had incredibly poor luck in Las Vegas pledging myself to worthy organizations. I do not wish to overstate anything, but I think the general problem is that most groups need help and don't know what to ask the volunteers to do. At one huge charity's administrative office, the manager told me, "Well, all I really have is about 24 inches of filing to be done." "Well, OK, point me to the filing. That's why I'm here." I volunteered to take a group of blind people bowling once a week, guiding them down the street and through an afternoon of knocking down pins. Yes, I did have to have a serious talk with myself about how committed I might be to taking a group of blind people in the streets and then hanging out while they rolled. After watching a few frames of blind bowling, I decided I was up for it - it's a wonderful accomplishment and some of the bowlers are extremely competent. I cleared a pretty stringent screening process and got a lovely letter saying I'd be contacted very shortly. But I never was. I made a phone call of my own. "Oh, that volunteer coordinator is no longer with us." Um . . yes, but "I'm still with you. I'm volunteering." Oh! She said she'd get me a call right back. None ever came. What? How many people can possibly be offering to take on that task once week? I've walked maybe a bazillion miles and raised a lot of money for AIDS and breast cancer research in the big national events, but I have not so far been able to find a consistent local volunteer opportunity that pleases me.

Last weekend I took a flyer, most unlike myself, and served at a fancy-dress event to raise funds for Nevada Opera Theatre scholarships. None of my cautious concerns came to fruition and I enjoyed myself, even though the evening wasn't perfect. I learned all kinds of things. I can still do a credible charming, LBD evening chatting folks up. Sparkling water in a flute can pass for champagne, so I don't stand out. I can't tolerate too many nights out until 2:30 a.m. I got a buffet dinner valued at $45, though I was required to consume it in 12 minutes before show time - faulty planning by the event organizer. [BTW, yes, it did occur to me I could find a decent sit-down meal for $45 at many locations in the city, but that's not the point here and now.] The evening was a good thing to do, all considered.

For more than a year, I've kept an icon on my desktop for Acts of Kindness (AOK), seemingly a group very well organized, but not rigid in what it expects of its volunteers. There are a multitude of one-time opportunities in every sort of endeavor from helping babies or seniors, the disabled, community clean-up days, the arts and more. It appears one can pop in for an AOK event as fits her interests and schedule, with no regrets or recrimination. My friend has long been interested in every aspect of the performing arts, though I have not been. It was because of her involvement that I was asked to participate in last weekend's event. But when I saw this Sunday's opportunity to serve, I ran it past her and we're in! Yep, we're going to usher, greet or take tickets at a live performance of The Wizard of Oz in a wonderful outdoor venue. We've got the requisite black slacks and white shirts. We are capable of doing the requested tasks and then sitting down to enjoy the show. Wind and temperatures nearly 20 degrees lower than today's are predicted. OK, I'll wear the industrial strength hair slop and tie a sweater around my waist. As I recall, from some prior life, I like learning new things. And right now, I'm sturdy enough to go out and do just that.

In my ears right now: I'm feeling very JL today. I don't have any meaningful words to add to that.

Monday, May 9, 2011


I cannot turn a cartwheel. Yes, I know any child can execute a beautiful cartwheel, but I could not do it as a child and I cannot do it now. I can perform other acrobatic stunts considered more difficult, including a flip (or at least I could in 1967), but the cartwheel eludes me. I can hula hoop until hell won't have me any more. Funny, because I cartwheel across that imaginary plane of free association so effortlessly. Want to come along? OK, join me.

I just looked it up. The comedienne Rita Rudner is almost precisely one year younger than I. That makes her 57. A Virgo, like me, she would be meticulous, diligent, a perfectionist, if one puts any stock in astrology. I see billboards for her Las Vegas show whenever I take the Desert Inn Road flyover to avoid the traffic at the Strip when bisecting the town east to west or vice-versa. What the hell is Rita thinking with that splits thing at her age? Yeah, I know she is a trained dancer. But those splits! I wonder if she has to be assisted to rise from the floor after the photo shoot. I wonder if her good-looking trousers withstand the strain without giving way and whether the photographer's assistants have to artfully drape the legs of those trousers so she looks more . . . natural. Natural?? I've never seen her show. She is really good looking and when I have heard her interviewed on local radio or TV, she seems like a regular, good citizen who drives her kid to school and worries about some of the same things that bother me. She seems to be an older mom, as I was/am . . . but those splits!
Readers must tire of Las Vegans continually bitching about the wind, and I promise that I sicken myself in that respect, too. However, I'm not sure I recall anything like last weekend, just when we'd been enjoying promises of warm, relatively calm days. Those who are more tightly wound than I in a literal sense may pick this to death, but I read the Severe Weather Alert. We had an airport watch in effect, with winds sustained at 34 knots and gusts to 47 knots. It was damnably windy. On Saturday, my hair was nearly torn from my scalp as I went in to an AA meeting. Coming out of the Wynn casino at 2:30 Sunday morning, I observed, "Well, we've been in there for 10 hours. Maybe the wind . . " With that, the skirt of my dress was tossed over my face and the rest of my comment was garbled. Throughout the day, the screaming blow only amped up, rendering the air a dull brown with flying dust and grit. I have experienced stronger winds, once in the desert, camped in a gale we later learned was likely 75 mph, for a shorter, overnight duration. It scared me. I was not scared this time in the house, listening to things - some of them remarkably heavy - being tossed around and into the pool. But I am driven nearly insane by it. If it were possible to die from allergies, I might just do that, eyes and nose streaming, lips and tongue adhering to my teeth from too many antihistamines. I am reminded of an Anais Nin essay I once read wherein the characters were driven nearly psychotic because of the scirocco. I comprehend that. The essay was not really about the wind, but she depicted it as a vivid character, an important part of her story. And though I am seated in the wrong part of the world for a real scirocco, I deeply felt the sense of madness approaching. The windchimes created a hellish din, and I remembered that a Scirocco is also a Volkswagen . .

An AA acquaintance has been grounded by the courts for a short time and I have been providing rides. AA places great emphasis on the many benefits of alcoholics helping other alcoholics, considering even the simple act of making the coffee for a meeting a "service". From my perspective, giving rides to someone who lives halfway between my home and AA is easy. It is my pleasure to help where I can, and I am grateful that my fat is not in the fire for once, driver's license revoked and possible jail time in the future. We make our way along some of the older, more congested and always-under-more-road-construction thoroughfares of the city, along the Boulder Strip. People get fidgety in the gridlock, and so do I. "You handle it pretty well," observed my companion. "I'd like to just start flipping them all off." My gut clenched, I broke into a sweat and began to babble, "No, no. No. Don't do that, please. No." I drew a pretty strange look as I sat, miserable in the driver's seat, recalling the last time I flipped anyone off except in jest in the privacy of my own home. July, 1976.

My Volkswagen was not a Scirocco, if those even existed at the time. Mine was the ubiquitous Beetle of the proletariat, 1972 model, yellow, with not the tiny or the huge tail lights of the earlier or later models but the mid-sized ones, regular old, beloved stick shift, not that silly Automatic Stick Shift thing Volkswagen offered at the time. That bug and I were well-suited to one another and I'd had many an adventure behind its wheel. Flying - oh, yes, way too fast - around the curve of one of the cloverleaf configurations of the LA freeways, I once came quickly upon an overturned truck that had deposited many dead cows in the roadway. Although quite distressed, I downshifted my little chariot, got onto the brakes and neatly, but narrowly avoided any cow collision. My timing was less fortuitous the time I got behind the semi-truck full of oranges that had spilled onto the Golden State Freeway, but oranges are less deadly than cows in a collision. I squeezed fresh OJ for about 10 minutes and went on my way. The VW had moved Ex and me, four kittens and all our worldly possessions to Las Vegas only a couple of weeks earlier. To my disappointment, it took Ex only about 14 seconds to find people to drink and play pool with. I was on my own in the evenings a lot.

It was monsoon season, something I'd never experienced. Hell for hot and humid enough to make it rain indoors. I drove to the 7-11 nearby and got an obscenely huge cold drink - it would have been the fully sugared stuff in the day, lots of ice. On the way out of the store, a man made a remark to me that I didn't care for. Given that this became such a life-altering event, one would expect me to remember the exact words, but I do not. It had to do with my appearance, in words I instinctively knew he thought were complimentary, but which I did not appreciate. Without giving the notion sufficient forethought, I flipped him off. Oh, it was a gentle flipping off, not truly intended to call the man out. If I'd chosen words instead of gestures, they would not have been the words typically associated with flipping off. The man ignited. He set his jaw and started to walk across the parking lot in a resolute way. Scared, I jumped into my car, started it and went out onto the street. He was on me in a minute, Barney Fife in the patrol car, chasing down a perpetrator. All he lacked was a siren. I knew how to handle my car and exhibited some fancy moves, spurting forward, dashing between other cars. He never missed a beat. I took parking lots at a fast diagonal following sharp, last-minute turn-ins. He was right there with me. Pouring sweat now, I was 23, shaken, didn't know the streets and we'd been at this for 20 minutes or more. There would be no cell phones for decades.

Appearances count for much in Las Vegas. We don't like to scare the tourists away. One of Metro's finest pulled me over on the Strip, probably for driving unbecoming a local or some such infraction. The angry man stopped and waited for me to get my ticket, apparently so that we could take up our chase again afterwards. Mortified, I told the officer my story. He went and had words with the angry man who finally moved on. "Are you new to Las Vegas?" I said I was. "From California?" What, was it stamped on me or something? I already had Nevada plates on the car. "Come on, honey. I'll see you home. I'd advise you not to flip people off in Las Vegas. They don't care for it." I've never done it again. It's the last time I felt kindly toward a traffic cop.

Something that charmed me: My fragile, ancient VHS videotape of "Enchanted April" has played as white noise and flashing gray/black/white/soft color distraction for days on the equally ancient 19" TV retained for the very purpose of playing those old tapes I'm not ready to toss. Enchanted April is . . narrow, I suppose. It doesn't appeal to hordes of people, but it is a firm favorite of mine. Ex tolerated it a few times a week and Amber became as dedicated a fan as I. Once a man who loved me agreed to sit by my side and try to watch it. Within 10 minutes, his book was open on his lap, but he stayed beside, hand occasionally patting my thigh, remaining together despite Enchanted April.

Anyway, the opening scenes take place in an impossible-to-fully-describe sodden, gray morning in London just after World War I. As Lottie rides in the bus, crushed in with disabled veterans and heavy clouds of cigarette smoke, one can feel the damp chill, smell the wet wool uniforms, lunches carried in baskets, shopping items perched on laps, some passengers standing in the aisles. The rain pounds on from a solid gray sky. Lottie sees an advertisement in The Times on the back of the newspaper being read by a man seated across from her. She dreams of "letting" (leasing) the vaunted villa on the Mediterranean just to escape London in April . . . The first 2-3 minutes of the video bring my words to life. Skip through the opening credits, if you must. And, yep, the first strains of the lead-in music are like nails scraping a blackboard. It's still worth that visual of 1916 London in April.

I didn't intend to do an Enchanted April snippet until a quote grabbed me: "It's easy to understand why the most beautiful poems about England in the spring were written by poets living in Italy at the time." [Philip Dunne, 1908-1992, American screenwriter]

And now, I shall cartwheel myself to a hot bath followed by sleep if I am lucky tonight, for tomorrow is to be busy and I need to be on my game. I surely do thank the reader for company during my mini-vacation for which I only had to travel as far as the confines of my own head. Have I mentioned I am pretty easily entertained?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Petals and Pricks

After 58 years of some really convoluted relationships, I have determined that the ones between mothers and their children are the hairiest. Oh, yes, mother-child arrangements are the most schizophrenic of all - soft, moist, vibrantly colored petals, some even scented, juxtaposed with the equally colorful pods with thorns so long and thin as to be almost invisible. There's the prize, with all of its elements. Take it or leave it. Here, for every mother's child, whether you grew just beneath her heart, or in it, is my Mother's Day offering ~

Yes, I did plant my body right in that mighty stand of cholla with my camera. Yes, I got jabbed. No, it didn't hurt nearly as much as some of the metaphorical pricks. Nor were the petals as lovely as some of the intangible ones that I have enjoyed.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

This Way, Madam

I was being sized up - critiqued, scoped out. Oh, one knows. And I did what I always do in such situations. I froze internally and changed nothing externally. I have learned that, for me, it's best to wait and see what occurs. For what I think is going on may not be what's actually going on. I replayed the last few minutes. What had I been doing or saying when I first attracted such rapt attention? Oh. Just talking. In such a way that a stranger would probably conclude I am well-spoken and know which fork to use during which course at a fancy dinner. Not much more than that.

When the time was right, Auntie Mame rushed up to me, giving off an almost palpable cloud of My Sin, flowing clothes rustling. Not silk, but silky. "I'm wearing this crazy hat because it was the Women's Club Derby Day luncheon over at the Green Valley Resort." I responded how very nice that must have been for her, and I said her hat was certainly unparalleled. "Do you own the LBD?" Curious, I responded that I owned that wardrobe staple, the little black dress, in several colors, both long and very, very short. "How about really good shoes? Beautiful shoes?" Um, sure. WTF? It occurred to me that she may be about to ask if she could borrow from my closet and I was working on a gentle rebuff like, "Well, I'm not sure that any of my things would be your . . . taste." Sure, taste! For Auntie Mame is not only bright and loud, she is large, and I knew a proper fit for her was unlikely in my possession. "Tomorrow night, your friend . . . . " Aha! That was it. That's how it goes in Las Vegas. I should have seen it coming.

Las Vegas is home to many thousands of people who stage, set up, serve and execute events for a relatively few wealthy, cultured, influential denizens. In most cases, servers are required to appear as well turned out as the gentlemen guests in dinner jackets, whether they are busing tables or bringing the Mercedes up from the valet lot. Oh, to be sure, sometimes those who serve have to borrow the threads or be provided such as a "uniform". Sometimes they punch up their English-speaking skills at classes provided by "the house" after work hours. But damn, they look good! Las Vegas is all about appearances. The show must go on. For truly fine, catered events, "hostesses" and the like may be hired from agencies that ensure these people have all the polish desired, or the good women of "the guild" or the "ladies society" or the "boosters" beg help from their circle of acquaintances, hoping their own judgment of talent is on the mark. Payment for an evening of service is typically something like a free whirl through the best buffet in the venue, two hours before show time, and a chance to rub elbows with "a good sort" of people. At "showtime", the helpers mix with the crowd, smoothing, facilitating. They wear no name tags to say "Hey, I'm the help!" Sometimes partygoers believe such persons to be guests, just like themselves.

My friend began to elbow me in the ribs, grinning, nodding her head ever so slightly. Mame continued on, breathlessly, " . . it benefits the scholarship fund for the Opera Theatre . . the mayor, Steve Wynn . . I'm only asking the very loveliest ladies whom I know I can rely upon . .". Oh, boy. She had selected me to be a kind of opera-fan hooker. Purchased (for the price of a decent-enough meal), to run errands or perform honey-do's. I don't even like opera (mostly). I was likely to guffaw into the faces of the people I resembled as I mingled. Girlfriend started in on me quietly from my side: "I don't do well at finding my way through these huge resorts and you're a pathfinder. Sometimes they give you a $100 voucher for gaming after the event. (I don't do that, either.) I don't drive well in the dark. Sometimes you meet people who can help you in your career." Hmm. Girlfriend's career includes such things as stage acting and opera. She would be likely to meet other like-minded individuals. I, on the other hand, the wordsmith locked up untidily and unattractively in my little aerie of a studio . . . probably not.

My new life program points out to me regularly that I've not done a stellar job of designing my life's events. Sometimes it is good to sit quietly and let opportunities present themselves. And then make good use of them, within comfortable boundaries. "OK, Mame, here's the deal. I will not dance with anyone who has spent the afternoon selecting his clothing focused on meeting only me. I will not stand in a line of other women to be auctioned off for any purpose. I will not serve any food or drinks. (I am not too good for this. I am simply not good at it.) Do not holler 'Honey' or 'Sweetheart' at me across the floor. I will assist with showing the high end art, jewelry, spa and travel packages you have for auction. I have no problem collecting cash and credit cards and keeping orderly records. I do not speak opera." Extending her paw with red-lacquered claws, she said in a distinctly Ms. Everyday tone, "Welcome aboard. Thank you."

So we're driving home, Girlfriend and I. "Did you set that up?" My tone was a little accusatory. "No, I swear. You only made slight mention of having chaired some big events and her antennae came out. She was already worried whether I could handle the auction alone, and you dropped into her lap." She asked me what I would wear. "I don't know yet. It's already really hot, but the ballroom will be frigid with the air conditioning." What shoes, she wanted to know. "Hmm . . not certain. We'll have to walk miles, no doubt." A huge cheeser broke across my face. "You notice I didn't even have to check my DayPlanner in order to be there in fewer than 24 hours." Yes, Girlfriend noticed and didn't think any less of me for that. "I wonder if I look like some pathetic old bag who keeps her dress-up clothes well dusted and at the ready, just in case . . . " No, no. Girlfriend would never have thought that, but only that I take good care of my belongings. "Will you take a purse? They always get in the way and require some place to be stowed." I told her I'd carry a purse. Where else does someone store her spare pair of pantyhose, fragrance and makeup for freshening up? Oh. Girlfriend hadn't thought of that. She's younger and a much freer spirit than I.

Something that charmed me: She asked if I carried those towelettes in my purse, too - the ones one uses if there are spills on the clothes. "No, I'm not that bad!" She looked relieved. What? They don't work. They just smear the spill around. I made room for other possible necessities in my purse that work.