Tuesday, December 20, 2005

worth remembering

Something I read years ago and came across the other day (while reading A-Word-A-Day, wordsmith.org, my favorite subscription. Anu Garg is a man who honors and loves the English language.):

    For all our conceits about being the center of the universe, we live in a routine planet of a humdrum star stuck away in an obscure corner...on an unexceptional galaxy which is one of about 100 billion galaxies....That is the fundamental fact of the universe we inhabit, and it is very good for us to understand that.

    —Carl Sagan, astronomer and writer (1934-1996)

Saturday, December 17, 2005

there are only two of them

How do you detail the account of a maddening experience? Particularly an experience chockfull of maddening details—without boring the shit out of your reader? It's not an original solution, but this is what prompted the birth of bullets. Scan or skip...

  • got called back (for the 3rd time in 5 years) on a mammogram
  • ominous "mass" in my left breast (all former were in the right)
  • but I'm not worried...probably just a cyst like the others
  • set up appointment for spot compression and an ultrasound
  • for the uninitiated: spot compression is the difference between someone stepping on (let's say) your foot with a big boot and someone stepping on it with a high heel. It's all physics, baby.
  • picked up my own film from M.D. Anderson because River Oaks Imaging has a history of not being able to find their metaphorical ass with both latex-gloved hands
  • got there half-hour early (as mandated) and waited the customary hour before someone came out and told me there was a problem
  • even though I'd brought my own film, the report was not included...they needed the radiology report
  • my doctor's office was closed for lunch
  • another half-hour elapsed before they had everything
  • finally I was called and put on the odd mam-cape (like a small, thin cotton poncho with snaps)
  • the technician did the series: a couple large plate horizontal and vertical x-rays and then a series of small plate ("small heel") x-rays
  • she took the film to the radiologist
  • then, like random searches, I qualified for another round of the same
  • back to the radiologist
  • and back for a third series
  • and then, holy shit, a fourth round of increasingly tight compressions
  • and she seems very concerned about the area closest to my chest wall and under my arm
  • now I'm worried
  • finally she sends me in to get the ultrasound
  • the ultrasound technician sets me up, squirts warm gel all over my now glowing-with-radiation left breast and begins rolling the sensor around and watching those mysterious images on the screen
  • she gets called away and I'm miffed
  • 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes pass
  • the previously warm gel-covered left tit is now freezing and I am fully pissed off
  • doing the enraged patient twice in one week is exhausting
  • I clean off my abused breast and put on my cape, hop off the exam table just as the technician comes in
  • what the hell is going on here? I am not smiling while I bark.
  • the ultrasound technician seems uncomfortable and says she is waiting for the x-ray technician...in comes the masher tech
  • they stand there awkwardly and try to tell me (without compromising themselves legally) that the think the original mammogram was mislabeled.
  • that the breast that was labeled "L" was actually the right breast and that they've been furiously trying to find something on the left breast that had already been examined, biopsied and cleared for landing three years earlier on the right.
  • their concern and thoroughness and apologetic behavior reminded me not to kill the messenger
  • then they mammed the right breast, for good measure, ultrasounded the left (as ordered) and said that the original work had to go back to M.D. Anderson for reevaluation and correction
  • when all was said and done, I was infuriated but too weary to give a shit
  • and relieved. I hate it when I start thinking about saying good-bye to my breasts.
So, patient reader, whenever you read about someone getting the wrong limb amputated, don't be surprised. There are only two of most of our appendages, but evidently that's one too many for some medical technicians. Before my next mammogram I'm going to label them both with a Sharpie.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

fake to the 2nd power

First they extrude some butter-flavored, sugared chemicals and call it a Butterfinger. Then, they make a powder which tastes like the fake Butterfinger flavor, add it to hot cocoa mix (another manufactured pouch-sealed wonder) and before you know it, I'm drinking Butterfinger Hot Cocoa. And liking it. It's all wrong, I know. It's just that Butterfingers are so addictive. Now, I've got hot heroin.

The other day I came across another one of those words that make me grunt and look around wildly. "Cosmeceuticals" And my friend said he's heard that the corporate jargon extruder has just pooped out "Marketecture." It's blasphemy. Yes, I know...so is Butterfinger Hot Cocoa. I agree. I'm not trying to legitimize the shit, I'm just sheepishly admitting that I enjoy it every once in a while.

But cocoa can be thrown away or rejected. Kept out of the reach of children. Words, however, are sticky. Before you know it, people will think that "cremains" has always been around—like it wasn't the bastard child spawned from a nasty affair between funeral corporations and marketing.

Friday, December 02, 2005


My workspace at the Chronicle is even less defined than the aforementioned (like many months afore) detestable cubes I've inhabited. I thought at one point that this was going to be a colossal problem but it's not. I mean, I would much prefer not to have my back to a walkway and my workspace wide open, but I don't feel like committing a homicide over it either. The saving grace is headphones and the type of job where I am not interrupted too often. So I listen to music loudly and crank out my work.

Today I discovered a flamenco station. A moorish/gypsy/spanish blend that comes close to the perfect definition of deep red. Instant images of watching flamenco dancers in Andalucia. More authetic than the staged variety in Madrid (we were bused up the narrow winding mountain roads to these small gypsy villages) but certainly tourist-driven. Nonetheless, they were spectacular.

The performance took place in long, narrow, cave-like rooms decorated with copper cookware. The audience sat one-deep along the white plastered walls and three or four deep at the end of the room. The guitar players and random singers sat near the opening of the room. The dancers entered the hall and began their dance three feet from the viewers—dancing shoes clicking up and down the room and stopping periodically to strike some dramatic stance. In spite of the tourist appeal, this was their town, these were their relatives and the dance and the costumes were breathtaking and erotic and nothing less than vertical foreplay.

P.S. Richard Pryor died this past week. Sweared extra the past couple of days in his honor. If there's a god up there, hope Richard Pryor has him peeing his royal robes.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

just friends

Had the urge to roast some walnuts this afternoon. I love the fragrance of warming nut oils. Thought for a moment, "Hey, I'm enjoying a little culinary moment here! Maybe I haven't broken up completely with the Holidays. Perhaps we could meet for coffee and just be friends."

But I'm not sleeping with them again, goddammit.

on death and decorating

I was sitting in the reading room (use your imagination, we own a 1920 Victorian bungalow that doesn't have a music room, butler pantry or servants' quarters either) and noticed that, at some point, someone had closed the door on a baby gecko. There in the bottom few inches of the door jam was splayed the cartoon-flat, brown reptilian remains. Not a lizard-shaped paint chip as I had assumed in an earlier, nearsighted observation.

We're not going to go all CSI here and determine the culprit or cause of death, though one would have to be full-out moron not to have a pretty good idea how Mr. Lizard crossed-over. After the initial (brief) "poor critter," I quickly segued into "damn, that's cool." (It's abundantly clear why I am never going to be a crazy pet lady.) Anyway, I was thinking how fabulous it would be to have "fossil" remains scattered throughout the drywall of our house. Little bits of evidence of history. An architectural-archeological blend, if you will.

I'm in house-remodeling mode. I love this part. Where there is no idea too off-center, expensive or impractical to be mused upon. I also love secret compartments and ways to display my tools that combine storage and decoration.

We went for a walk this morning. No shit. I actually left the house and allowed the sun to shine upon my happy hermit head. Stopped by a new store in our neighborhood called Tansu. I hate window shopping and I'm not crazy about the trendy, antique-stuffed, overpriced shops that have sprung up all over our part of the Heights. But some of the products they advertised in their postcard mailer looked interesting. Besides, we were out walking and it distracted me from the notion that I might be exercising.

I wandered upstairs, took one look at a bedroom set they had on display and
fell hopelessly in love. As I have confessed before, I make no decision quickly. I have been "researching" (not "window shopping," dammit) headboards and dressers for...well, forever. I rarely find something that makes me look twice and there it was. Oh, hell, here's what I'm talking about (ignore the basket with the greenery—I'm never going to be the crazy plant lady either):

A blend of Arts & Crafts and Japanese furniture styles. Now, I've never been drawn to Asian design as strongly as I have to Arts & Crafts and more modern forms but these pieces have won me over. Solid cherry and black walnut crafted in Vermont at a place called Copeland Furniture. Never mind that it costs a pretty penny, look at the colors and clean lines. Covet the subtle curves and beautiful drawer pulls. Drool over the joinery and solid craftsmanship.

And I think the fossil and tool motif will work beautifully with it.

video games or alarm clocks?

milan in the morning

    "...people don't respect the morning. An alarm clock violently wakes them up, shatters their sleep like the blow of an ax, and they immediately surrender themselves to deadly haste. Can you tell me what kind of day can follow a beginning of such violence? What happens to people whose alarm clock daily gives them a small electric shock? Each day they become more used to violence and less used to pleasure."

    Milan Kundera, Farewell Waltz
And this written in 1973, just slightly after Atari appeared on the market but well before video games became a part of the cultural consciousness. And well before video games began to replace other outdoor kid activities like playing that oh-so-wholesome (if-you've-been-living-in-a- cultural-blackhole) game of "Cowboys and Indians." Before our society's violence became intrinsically linked to increasingly graphic TV shows and video games.

As I drifted awake this morning (for the third time, saintsbepraised), I wondered about alarm clocks and their contribution to world violence. Oh, certainly there was violence before snooze buttons and Pong, but how much have these devices really contributed? Or do they just feed the destructive need inherent in human beings?

I don't know. It's early and I haven't had my second cup of coffee. All I know is that my state of mind sans alarm clock is much more attuned to pleasure than violence. So I'm going to have my coffee and read the Sunday comics rather than rant about the roots of violence in our culture. Ahh.

Friday, November 25, 2005

junk food vs. fast food

What with mad cow disease, avian flu and the historic swine flu, the non-meat-eaters in our country must be delirious with vegetarian vindication. The vegans have probably gloated themselves into spontaneous combustion (oh, I meant bloated...all those raw vegetables make you so gassy). So what are we, the shameless carnivores, supposed to do? Begin sheepishly sifting through the organic tofu (that's right, though it seems redundant) and bulgur wheat patties at our local Whole Foods store?

Probably. But for those of us who hear the words: T-Bone, Ribeye, and even New York Strip Steak accompanied by a faint but persistent angelic choir in our heads, there must be another option. If we, as a culture, can master the chemical prestidigitation involved in making a Hostess Twinkie, than we can figure out how to raise, butcher and prepare an animal without turning the fucker into a petrie dish of deadly disease.

And speaking of Twinkies, it is amazing how much shit is written about them little snack cakes. On first googling, I found more upbeat, urban myth-destroying links with a pro-Hostess-spin than anything about the nutritional abomination that they are. Of course, it goes without saying that I love them. There is no verifiable reason, except for connecting their sweet, chemical sponginess with all things primal...like a warm bottle, a dry bottom and a well-worn blankie.

There are even Twinkie Recipes (from Hostess, of course) complete with a stunning cross-cultural, cross-genre recipe for Twinkie Sushi...don't think about it, just do it. The other recipe photos look way too much like regurgitation for me to recommend them.

Then, there's the Twinkie Project. Purportedly executed right here in Houston at Rice University. The harsh tests of Twinkie endurance were spellbinding but the haiku was disappointing. Still, you've got to love two young men, attending one of the most prestigious universities in the south, spending that much time concocting, conducting and documenting their experiments on the cellophane-wrapped nutritional equivalent of etymology's bastard child, "crapulence."

What I want to know is why can't you order Twinkies in the drive-through at fast food places? Wouldn't that be perfect? Slick up your digestive tract with more foods that use the word "extruded" somewhere in their formulae. Until this moment, I never fully comprehended the difference between junk food and fast food and now I get it. However, the day a Twinkie shows up on Mickey D's backlit microphoned menu will be the day that the two will, once again, become one.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Well, my firstborn left yesterday for his next adventure. I will miss him greatly...but it makes me smile to know that he is happily roadtripping across the country. Once again Barbara worked her magic and managed to get all of David's possessions into his vehicle. It's like watching all those clowns climb back into the Volkswagen Beetle. You're positive that all that stuff won't all fit, but she jigsaw-puzzles it together with room to spare.

He got to Phoenix early this afternoon, arriving two days before Thanksgiving for his little brother. Wednesday is "Special Person" day at 8-year old Gavin's school and he wanted his big brother David to come with him and be his "special person." It is so sweet I can't stand it.

I'm feeling a little sheepish about Thanksgiving. After all, it has been a 20+ year tradition for us to put out a huge spread and have family and friends join us. But I'm completely uninterested in doing any of it. After all these years, all I want to do is sleep late and have a turkey sandwich. The sheepish part is getting use to the 180° reversal of attitude. How could something be eagerly anticipated year after year and then, suddenly, be of no interest at all? It's like I've broken up with the Holidays.

Monday, November 14, 2005

feeling better, sort of

After making many of straight friends, family and acquaintances feel uncomfortable last week over my reaction to the whole Proposition 2 debacle, I am somewhat happy to report that my outrage and heartbreak have begun to heal over. Other people's glossed-over, laissez-faire response to our "predicament" doesn't make me want to light into them with the grocery list of ways these kind of laws and documents can fuck up our lives. I am just conscious of how much that kind of anger can debilitate me after the initial rush.

Anyway, onward and upward. Or something.

I was walking around downtown during lunch late last week. The weather is finally beautiful in this overheated city. Yet we are still a decidely indoor people. As I walked past Miró sculpture in front of the Chase building, I saw a group of smokers clustered together on their little concrete island of exile. It ocurred to me that the need to smoke every 2 or 3 hours forces them to go outside more than the rest of us. The smokers probably get more fresh air than the non-smokers.

The holidays are coming and I'm feeling unusually bland about them. For an atheist, I sure do love those Christian-glazed holidays. But this year, I find myself relieved that our kids will be visiting their stepmother and we won't have to dredge up the energy to celebrate until Christmastime.

Okay, I'm starting to depress myself here, so I'm going to bed. Like my mother always said, if you can't think of anything nice to blog about...

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

only halfway home, it seems

It occurred to me the this past week that I've lived in Houston for exactly half of my life: 23-1/2 years. That's amazing since I came here from New York under protest. But I never expected to fall in love with Texas nor with a Texas woman. But I did. Raised my family here, went to college here, enjoyed a career here and bought a wonderful old, needy house here.

I'm not sure why some people are content to move from place to place while others are inclined to settle down immediately. Oh, there are theories but sometimes it feels like it's coded on your DNA...it's such a primal pull to nest or wander. I'm not quick to make major decisions—particularly about where I hang my hat. I circle, I sniff, I investigate, I weigh options. It's maddening to the people around me, I'm sure. But once I've decided, I'm pretty much immoveable.

So I applied for adoption. Gave up my New York residency literally and figuratively and became a Texan. I love this place in all it's contradictory, arrogant splendor. My roots have grown deep and this is home.

Last night, for the first time in over 20 years, I began to think of leaving. Leaving my big city and my beloved house. Leaving the tang and twang of a culture that taught me to wear cowboy boots and eat spicy food. Leaving a city of full of fascinating people and dear friends. Proposition 2 passed yesterday by a heartbreaking 76%:

    Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman. [already a law]
    This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage. [my italics]
Oh, shit, people. Fear and Bigotry. It's not political anymore, it's personal. You have said in one loud ignorant voice that my relationship of 19 years deserves no respect and no protection. That all feeble protections I've eked out of the system (domestic partner coverage, hospital privileges, last wills, etc.) over the last few years are up for grabs. Back into that legal limbo freefall without a landing pad.

Where will we go? Will anyplace ever feel this much like home again?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

homonyms of the week

I am a whore for homonyms (almost as apeshit about alliteration):

  • rheumy/roomy
  • neigh/nay
  • whirred/word

namely this

Nomenclature. What you call it. It's a weighty responsibility (and opportunity) that, frankly, most people do not value enough
What knucklebrain missed this one? Here's the deal. You don't dismiss a product name solely because of a possible adolescent interpretation. Adolescents can mutate any name into something disgusting, sexual or negative. It's their job and, by god, they are good at it. However, you don't have to be intuned to your Beavis or Butthead persona to understand why "HoMedics" is a bad idea.
They took two fairly benign concepts: Home and Medic. They noticed, cleverly, that the last two letters of one were the first two letters of the other. And they never looked back. Then, they put a little symbol under the "o" and superscripted it, just in case anyone out there missed the point. Anyway you slice it, Ho Medics sounds like sex worker EMTs. If you emphasize the home part instead, you get Home Dic(k)s. Which conjures up no healthier an image.

Speaking of whoring dicks, this just in from our favorite almost-hip, not-quite-cool, musically-challenged Captain Kirk...
William Shatner has been pimping a local law firm aptly named "Smith & Hassler" How, how, how, does he deliver this shit without a hint of irony? He's not that good of an actor. I desperately want to add another partner or two. Smith, Hassler & Irritant. Or Smith, Hassler & Sold-My-Soul-to-Satan, Ltd. (Not board certified in anything but lucrative misdirection.)
Nice Republican Apellation
My friends have a new nephew named Cannon. I didn't know if I should publicize this...but it is too good to pass up (I'll leave out the last names, okay?). The baby's older brother and sister are named Hunter and Savannah. Hunter, Savannah, and Cannon. And Savannah was almost named Remington. How can you top that? Send them to Big Game Nursery School?
In my Father's House, I mean, Neighborhood
While perusing new home ads (because I love what builders come up with for new streets and developments) I came across this beauty: "Kingdom Come Manor." Kingdom Come—no shit. What do you think? Think we're looking at a big welcome sign for non-Christians? Clearly, Apu this is not the place for you. Mohammed get thee to Allah Estates. Esther, we're building a nice, very nice development across town called Hebrew Homes. I don't know. Kingdom Come. Just sounds like it's asking for it. I would give up my left tit to name the streets on the wrong side of the tracks. And there will be a 7 Deadly Sins Avenue. And a 666 Beelzebub Blvd.

Monday, October 31, 2005

my hail marys, our fathers

Sometimes I come to this blogging experience like a penitent Catholic.
"Readers, forgive me, it's been 11 days since my last submission..."

Here are the random thoughts (you're always on my mind) I've been collecting in the interim.
All grown up
Went and had my annual PapMammopalooza yesterday. Feel like
such an adult. Haven't been feeling particularly fit lately. Okay, I feel like shit being dragged around in a generic trash bag. Anyway, I only thought I felt bad as I was directed towards pre-stirrups-humiliation-weigh-in. Knew I'd put on a couple of pounds, but was unprepared for the...enormity (floabw) of the metamorphosis. Almost awe-inspiring in that "I got all that done in just six months? Damn!"
Been doing a fair amount of brain teaser/word puzzles lately. Subconscious fear of Alzheimers is my guess. It's like cerebral calesthenics—I actually get kind of a good brain rush...hard to explain. Anyway, it occurred to me that if my physical energy and my mental energy were switched out, I'd be a mildly retarded professional athlete.
My son
My son is moving from Houston to California. Or Oregon...I'm not completely sure. I hate the thought of being an even vaguely clingy mom. Hate it. But, shit, I love that boy and here are some of the reasons why.

  • He was recently in Seattle and called me to tell me about this bumpersticker he thought I'd appreciate: We're making enemies faster than we can kill them. This from a previously apolitical creature who is guarded (and rightly so) about the tendency for people to turn over their mental steering wheel to whichever leader, preacher or whackjob happens to have a spare set of keys.
  • Popular culture and music are appealing to me, but not always on my radar screen. I don't have to personally track down what's happening because I can just call my son. Like the other day I asked him, "what the hell is that tuft of hair called that guys grow just below their lower lip?" And he says, "It's a soul patch, mom." And I am completely happy.
  • Our tastes in books, music and movies have enough overlap that his suggestions are almost always on target. He recently suggested we watch Me, You and Everyone We Know. And all I can say is ))<>((
Lordy, lordy
When the moons of religion and irony align, I say HALLELUJAH. Do not miss this article about a baptizing, proselytzing, electrifying Waco preacher.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

vigils: power or futility?

Mecom Fountain, 6:30 p.m., tonight October 26, 2005

There are nationwide vigils tonight mourning the 2,000th life lost in Iraq (2000 U.S. military lives, of course. There've been estimates that the Iraqis have lost anywhere between 10,000 and 37,000 lives in this war) and whenever I mention this, I always hear the question what is the point of having a protest at all?
Well, it's not like the vigils are going to change national policy overnight. And it is always tempting to reduce such activities as impotent stands by a bunch of hippie fanatics. But most modern social and political change, regarded as historically successful or beneficial, has woven into it's beginnings protests such as these.
This is, after all, the week of Rosa Park's death. At the very least, we should not be giving up our seat to an injustice, just because the majority don't agree or are too afraid to speak up. As opposed to hiding behind internet donations or grumbling in private conversations, the act of standing up in public (or remaining seated, whatever makes the statement) is a powerful symbol. Often as unsettling to those that demonstrate as it is to those that drive by.
2752 lives were lost on 9/11. What happens when we match that number with U.S. military deaths in Iraq? Because everyone knows that is what this is really about. A war to avenge the loss of American life in the 9/11 WTC attack. Whether the attackers and Iraqi leaders were directly connected or not (not). Whether there were weapons of mass destruction or not (not). Whether Bush told the truth or not (you fill it in). So what will we have proven? We can kill our own (and others) with as little justification as al-Qaeda?
This war has always been a huge mistake. We have proven nothing and have earned the widespread disgust and disapproval of most of the civilized world. Tens of thousands of lives have been brutally, and meaninglessly lost. "W" is for wrong.
P.S. The rally was small (less than the 150 signed up, I would estimate) but earnest. Most people just drove by. Many honked and gave us the peace sign. A few flipped us off or swore at us. Altogether a gratifying exercise of freedom of expression by all.

random thoughts that cheer me up

virago \vuh-RAH-go; vuh-RAY-go\, noun:
1. A woman of extraordinary stature, strength, and courage.
2. A woman regarded as loud, scolding, ill-tempered, quarrelsome, or overbearing.
[what a surprise, this second definition]

"In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king."
Erasmus said it first, but Tom Waits said it best.

"If I were King of the Forest,
Not queen, not duke, not prince.
My regal robes of the forest,
would be satin, not cotton, not chintz."
The Cowardly Lion

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

surled wearies

There are probably eight Houstonians not watching the Astros/White Sox game right now.
I am only technically not one of them...because I'm not in front of the television but Barbara is calling plays and scores to me while I do something, anything, but watch the game. It's not that I don't like baseball, it's that the pleasure I experience is not worth the stress I receive while watching.
Anyway, I'm in one of those creative and conversational troughs. To use a topical metaphor, my mental catcher keeps signaling suggestions to me and I keep shaking her off. Nothing seems all that interesting. So I'll stop here until something fabulous pops into my head or I get knocked over by a line drive.

P.S. Went to bed early. Slept like a Cardinals fan.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

proposition too stupid

MoveOn.org sent an email to it's members asking if we wanted to endorse or oppose Texas' Proposition 2 on the November ballot. Prop 2 bans same-sex marriage and goes further to define marriage in such a way as to potentially nullify any domestic partnership benefits and prevent any form of civil union. This is a no-brainer but I guess they ask so as to accurately represent their members. No surprise, I oppose the measure. I sent the following (or a cleaner, abridged version of it) to MoveOn:
In ten days, my partner and I will celebrate our 19th anniversary. We met, raised two children, bought a house and have worked here in Houston during these 19 years. It is beyond ridiculous that ours and other same-sex relationships be regarded as less than "real" marriages—it is a national disgrace and, to put it eloquently, just plain fucking stupid.
Most of the people I have worked with (in oil & gas corporations, no less) over the years–Texans across the political spectrum–have had little or no problem with my orientation or our relationship. I mean, they didn't really care one way or the other...which is the true measure of success. The real issue is that if we were granted the legal right to marry today, it would hardly cause a ripple among the general public. The majority would be completely unaffected.
This is just a diversionary tactic and I am sick of being used by homophobic conservatives as a political hot potato. Give us the same rights and get on to other pressing matters.
I am so goddamn tired of this foolishness.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

birthday postscript

Since we were petsitting for friends out in East Jesus on my birthday, Barbara found a steakhouse–my annual carnivorous request–to take me to in (far) East Jesus called Hoffbrau Steakhouse. We headed over there after tending the dogs. When we arrived at the address, the sign was there but the restaurant was not. Turns out the owners changed the name to "Texas Country Cookin'." Now, any business sporting an apostrophe where the g used to live is immediately suspect. Then again, Texans do know their beef. Besides we were already out there, so in we went.
What a fully-rounded cultural experience: from the wan looking 16-year old hostess named Tiffany, to the dusty, taxidermied critters in the front showcase (available for sale, of course), to the spotty-looking longhorn cattle head on the wall, to the waitstaff all sporting shirts that looked like the state flag with armholes—all screaming local charm. But nothing, and I mean nothing, was more apropos than the unexpected entertainment.
Sitting at o
ne of those electric organs that have all the musical instruments mystically crammed onto the motherboard and available at the flick of a switch, was the lead and only singer for Rockin' Rod's Oldies Revue. Yessirree Bob, there he was, a sixty-year old man in a gimme cap singing Temptations hits with a such a twang that I imagine that's what it would look like if they taxidermied Motown. Rockin' Rod. Again with the apostrophic assault.
I felt morally obligated to order Surf & Turf. The waitress brought us our soft drinks in two quart-sized plastic glasses. The straw a vertical pole in the chunky ice floe of diet coke. The food was mediocre but the experience was sublime. I think Barbara wants to make sure you know that she expected this to be a good steakhouse. She gets full credit and I am the one who insisted we stay. What a great time.

they say it's your birthday

So yesterday I celebrated my 47th birthday. And like every year since we've been together, Barbara treated me like royalty. Well that's an understatement.
It sounds so sentimental (and I am perversely allergic to all things sentimental—especially on the heels of my diatribe against "cutesiness") but it's the the naked truth that the woman treats me like it's my birthday everyday. Why is it so hard to talk about having found this unbelievable relationship? Because misery is so much more interesting? Or am I just afraid of making someone else feel badly...like I'm bragging? Or because I don't want anyone to think I'm sappy? Jesuschrist, that's so stupid.
It will be 19 years this month that we've been together. I've snagged the brass ring. I think we are more than the clichéd
soulmates. She is the loveliest human being I've ever known and facing the world together side-by-side is the most unexpected and wonderful experience of my life. We each have strengths and weaknesses oddly complementary to the other's weaknesses and strengths. But I can't say exactly why this extraordinary relationship works. Yes, we communicate and, yes, we treat each other with care...but some of this feels like luck. Just two roads crossing at the right place. I don't believe there's a cosmic "cruise director" out there. No Fates moving the chess pieces at the perfectly timed moment. I just feel lucky. And happy. So happy birthday to lucky me.

Friday, October 14, 2005


Thanks to my dear friend Joe, I am happy to share this bit of holiday consumer tackiness: the christmas sweaters are in and on sale.
Holy Jesus of the Kitsch Creche, you can actually put your hands in reindeer head pockets. As a crusader against all things "kute" I may sound a little harsh about the "Christmas Kitties" sweater and the like. But I find that kind of cuteness in adults to be as appealing as drooling.
And these sweaters are actually more classy than some I've seen. If you want to see some real beauties, go near a mall or flea market in November and be visually pummelled with Christmas Regalia Apparel Purchases. And we all know what that spells. And while we're on the subject of Christmas "Kitties," they are kittens not kitties, underpants not panties, and most of all: tits not titties. We are not three years old.
Happy Holidays.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

a secret and some sleep

No More Secrets
I realize that none of you have been sitting on the edge of your cyberseat waiting to find out about the big SECRET...but I'm going to pretend you were anyway. (Besides, most of you already know, even if you didn't know you knew.) We've been preparing for my parents' 50th wedding anniversary surprise party. There. Now you know for sure. I couldn't take the chance that they'd stumble across my blog site and spoil the surprise, hence the big hush-hush.

So. A huge success. Both Rafael and Dolores were very surprised and, after the initial shock of seeing that many people giving them a standing ovation, seemed delighted. There were 80+ family and friends in attendance and everything went smoothly (a tribute to my anal-retentive list-making personality, so I'm told).

Barbara and I scanned and cleaned family photos for months so we could present Mom and Dad with a Flash presentation of their lives together, complete with The Penguins singing Earth Angel in the background. It was a total success. We also had six photographs of them enlarged to poster-size and mounted. These were hung up on the balcony above the head table and added so much to the ambience (thank you, LF, you rock).

All the siblings worked together. Gena made copious arrangements for food and housing, not to mention running interference on the day of so that Dad wouldn't show up at his usual hangout—the clubhouse where we were furiously setting up; Michael made and provided 60+ bottles of wine with our parents' portrait on the labels; Elysa created beautiful centerpieces
; Elena and Mark took care of setup and lighting. Then we all worked together to take care of a thousand other details. Michael, Elena, and our cousin Sean snapped photos (which I'd love to post as soon as I get them). Gena's friends pitched in like they were family (and like it or not, kids, you are now). Thr surprise arrival of Marisa and Lindsay (a surprise to Elysa and I) provided by our cousin Maureen completed the event.

I love my parents and they deserved to be honored for making their relationship work for 50 years and everything that entails. I don't love them because they are Ward and June Cleaver. I love them because they are not. Because their life triumphs are all the more significant in light of their feet of clay and, just as importantly, my feet of clay. There is always tension when grown families reunite. Particularly when we all live a thousand miles away from each other. But not one thing during this weekend felt like a step backwards. It was all either great or encouraging. I am so proud of my parents, my brother and sisters and all of our children.

The Aftermath
That was last weekend. A cool front finally broke the oppressive heat spell yesterday. Last night was the first air-conditioner-free night in over 5 months and holymarymotherofgod did I sleep well. I slept like every hour of sleep was a gulp of cool water after walking for miles in the heat. (So maybe I woke up a little bloated.) Not setting an alarm was a delightful indulgence.

Now, what? I'm having a little post-event blues (as always) and trying to tame the project-induced chaos in my house. This is not my strong suit but there's more sweet than bitter in my weariness and tapping into some new creative (albeit downscaled) project will help. It's my methadone.

Work continues to put a smile on my face. I am learning all sorts of stuff. It may surprise my friends and family how many hours I spend at work completely silent—just tackling the animation at hand, headphones on, mouse just a-clickin'. My co-workers are delightful, quirky geeks. I am so at home I can't stand it! I miss my old friends at other jobs (and you know who you are) and wish I could transport them all to where I am. I've begun signing off voicemail messages or emails as "reporting live from downtown Houston..." and I know that is completely stupid but I can't control myself.

Okay, that's all for now. Thanks for not giving up on this blog. It's a source of incredible happiness to me to know that you're still reading and responding.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

tom waits on the day after

Heard an interview with Tom Waits on American Routes. It was particularly sweet to stumble upon this taped interview because, well, I am a huge fan of Waits (I hate saying I'm a huge fan because the modifier seems to slip around the sentence a bit), and after the pressure of the past few days it cheered me right up.

They played a particularly fabulous piece from Real Gone called Day After Tomorrow. I tried to put the whole song in a two-column table but Blogger.com evidently doesn't like that, so I'm just including part of the song (I added italics to lyrics I particularly liked because it's my blog, dammit):

    I close my eyes
    Every night
    And I dream that I can hold you
    They fill us full of lies
    Everyone buys
    About what it means to be a soldier
    I still don't know how I'm supposed to feel
    About all the blood that's been spilled
    Look out on the street
    Get me back home
    On the day after tomorrow
    You can't deny
    The other side
    Don't want to die
    Any more than we do
    What I'm trying to say,
    Is don't they pray
    To the same God that we do?
    Tell me, how does God choose?
    Whose prayers does he refuse?
    Who turns the wheel?
    And who throws the dice
    On the day after tomorrow?
    I'm not fighting
    For justice
    I am not fighting
    For freedom
    I am fighting
    For my life
    And another day
    In the world here
    I just do what I've been told
    You're just the gravel on the road
    And the one's that are lucky
    One's come home
    On the day after tomorrow

hunker down

Since you asked:
hunker down

    Nobody seems to know exactly what its origin is, though it has been suggested it’s linked to the Old Norse huka, to squat; that would make it a close cousin of old Dutch huiken and modern German hocken, meaning to squat or crouch, which makes sense. That’s certainly what’s meant by the word in American English, in phrases like hunker down or on your hunkers.

    The Oxford English Dictionary has a fine description of how to hunker: “squat, with the haunches, knees, and ankles acutely bent, so as to bring the hams near the heels, and throw the whole weight upon the fore part of the feet”. The advantage of this position is that you’re not only crouched close to the ground, so presenting a small target for whatever the universe chooses to throw at you, but you’re also ready to move at a moment’s notice.
Hunker down has good onomatopoeia. Overtones of the word "chunk," which is a verb in the south, meaning to throw something like a hunk of debris.

post rita postulations

Rita swerved to the east and Houston was spared. Our house, yard and vehicles are fine and, saints-be-praised, we still have electricity. More specifically, air conditioning. For those of you who have been worrying, we are completely fine. A little more organized for the upheaval. Thank you for your cross-country calls and emails. It is more than a little heart-warming to know we were in your thoughts.

For the record, I don't think god spared us. I don't even think god has a grudge against Beaumont or Port Arthur (seeds of decadence, if I've ever seen them). I'm not sure, but I credit the hand of Zeus or, maybe it was Elvis. So, in homage to superstition
I slung some lamb's blood over the lintel, fastened on my garlic necklace, donned an aluminum foil mind-control shield and sat in the tub with some incense.

I think that's what saved us. Oh, and I wore my special underwear.

Friday, September 23, 2005

not surprising

Everybody does something when they're nervous. It's a little embarrassing to admit, for some reason, what soothes me. I get on the phone and pace. Barbara putters. I want a bowl of comfort food, something warm and brown (apple crisp, beef stew—it makes no bloody difference). Barbara smokes. And now, I blog.

I will attempt not to use this as my pacifier. If you find these entries as fascinating as watching an obsessive-compulsive arrange things in perfectly-spaced, right-angled stacks (100 times), I take some comfort in knowing that you can just close the damn window. My phone call recipients, alas, do not feel the same freedom and I am often unable to read their level of tedium while I rant.

My Puritan wishes that nervousness would make me clean house, exercise or pray. She lives in a constant state of disappointment. The old bitch.

P.S. In case you ever reread this, I need to add that I edit compulsively, hurricane or no hurricane. But it's worse pre-hurricane—I'm sure it's an air pressure thing. High pressure, I edit; Low pressure, I edit more often. So while this post may have originally been written at 11:30 a.m., Friday, September 23rd, it is subject to rewrite, I don't know, through next Easter.


We're all calm and logical, prepared to ride out the storm. I'm trying to work on some other projects while the sun is shining and the electricity is working, but the impending disaster undercurrent is so close to the surface.

I periodically turn off the tv, radio and close the online news window because all they do is force that useless worry to break through the surface. This morning's news: 24 nursing home patients fleeing Houston, died in the gridlock south of Dallas when their bus caught fire...and the levees are starting to fail in New Orleans. Suddenly I could just weep. (But, of course, I don't. The Puritan in my head says there'll be time for that nonsense much later. Actually she says nothing. Just stares me down.)

I'm going to try and focus on getting some things done now.

it's one a.m.

I've watched and read all the good news, bad news, intelligent commentary and speculative drivel that I can. An ulcer is making a mini-rita in my stomach and I must get some sleep. Until tomorrow...

Thursday, September 22, 2005

no go on the contraflow

Well, the word is out that TexDOT (that's the Texas Department of Transportation...but it always conjures up the image of a middle-aged woman named Dorothy working the diner counter in a small Texas town) is not going to create contraflow lanes on Highway 290. That is the way we get to Barbara's brother's house...so we're here for the duration.

It also looks like the storm is going to hit just east of us so we won't get the brunt of it and we will be on the "clean" side. The clean side. It sounds so Mormon. To balance that out, Barbara just picked up the last 12-pack of Corona from the gas station convenience store. What? It's got water in it. In case of a water shortage, we could use it to brush our teeth.

rita p.s.

Random hurricane thoughts

  • What's left on the grocery shelves when almost all the non-perishable food is gone? Bush's Chili, for one. I don't know what it tastes like but that's a powerful consumer vote of no-confidence if the hurricane-panicked won't even buy it.

  • Picked up yard items to reduce the number of projectiles. I reluctantly brought in our plaster "gnome with a gun" (perhaps you can't imagine what he looks like; here's an example of a similar, if less beguiling, armed gnome). If we end up sustaining a lot of damage from this storm, I kind of wish he could go out in a blaze of glory: sailing through the air, stubby rifle clutched in his gnome hands, a twinkle in his faded, painted-on eyes just before he hits the side of the new Compass Bank building.

  • Deciding what to take and what to leave is really not that hard. Especially when you have this much warning. What is harder is dealing with the possibility that you might have a hoarding (make the air quotes) "problem." However, now is not the time to begin sorting through all your shit. Really.

  • In spite of the fact that this is a very dangerous storm and that we're doing everything we can to protect ourselves, you can not deny the undercurrent of excitement. Our lives, however happy, are not very edgy. So, yes, we're a little fearful of the next 36 hours but you can't ignore the adrenaline rush...okay, it's more like an adrenaline spritz.

  • If you had t-minus 12 hours to a hurricane, what might you be doing? Hmm? Our neighbor is vacuuming his porch. First of all, vacuum and porch should never be used in the same sentence unless you're talking about being sucked up into a tornado while sipping iced tea on the veranda. (And wouldn't that be ironic, an appliance that sucks being consumed by Nature's biggest vacuum cleaner.) Then, there's the curiosity of getting it all clean so that the debris will have someplace tidy to land. Maybe it's nervous energy that drives him.

uncle, rita

Okay...goddammit, we're getting ready to leave. Rita's now a Category 5 with Galveston in the crosshairs...I don't want to throw my old house in the ring against the 170mph challenger.

Problem is, the freeways have turned into parking lots with cars and gas stations running out of fuel. The evacuation people are trying to close the southbound highway exits and funnel all traffic north on both halves of the freeway but so far they haven't been able to complete that task on I-45, not to mention 290 and 59. So, we're packed up and waiting to hear that the contraflow lanes are set up. Otherwise, we'll run out of gas an hour north of Houston and have to weather the hurricane in our truck...which is such a bad idea.

In the meantime we want our friends and family to know that we're taking all the precautions we can. We have a room in the center of the house without windows and we've got water and supplies to get us through. We've got our big butch truck to get us out if there's street flooding.

David and his friends are staying here, which makes my maternal geiger counter tick a little louder but they are in a brick house and well-supplied.

The last thing to be packed will be this computer*, so for as long as the DSL line holds, I'll add updates. Please don't worry, we're tough, sensible women with cell phones and power tools.

*If I could wrap my tablesaw in a hefty bag and tuck it under my arm, I'd be taking that, too.

Monday, September 19, 2005

secret squared

Secret project absorbing my life. Every weekend and weeknight. Will report back soon. I feel like I'm committing journal adultery.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

i miss new orleans

If you've heard any of the righteous alluding to the modern day "Sodom and Gomorrah" or any of the smug remarking that anybody with any sense would not live there, just remember: when hurricanes batter Florida, earthquakes shake California, tornados whip through Oklahoma or avalanches hit Colorado, there is always some asshole making obnoxious, hindsight-bloated commentary.

Like they knew this was going to happen. If you work in a high-rise: you should expect to die in a fire for being so foolish. If you live on California's coast: you deserve a mudslide for your ignorance. Inner city: drive-bys. Gulf Coast bathers: shark attacks. So—human nature being myopic, know-it-all and easily frightened—the people of New Orleans are now being subtly or outrightly blamed for their own misfortune. Or most offensive, some suggest that god was punishing the whole city for its sins.

All I can say in response is that I love(d) New Orleans. I've worked and vacationed there and those memories are full of wonderful images and laughter. New Orleans sounded, New Orleans tasted, New Orleans looked, like no other city I'd ever visited. It had a piquancy–visual and oral and aural. The people a rare mix of black, white, Cajun, Catholic and Voodoo. The decadent, wild Mardi Gras events were just a part (although a critical part) of the glittery whole cloth that made New Orleans. That and jazz musicians, beignets, cajun french and african art all combined in a figurative and literal culinary symbol: gumbo. And the architecture! Wrought iron gates, balconies, rich pastel colors and
french doors, all part of the charm. And I mean the verb, to charm: "To cast or seem to cast a spell on; bewitch."

So, in my own way, I pay homage to that wonderful American city and mourn with those that loved her best.

blogger clogger

Among the more trivial aspects of this disaster in New Orleans is the blog explosion. It's never taken so long just to get blogger.com to connect (5-10 minutes, which isn't awful but unusual). Victims and relatives, volunteers and organizers have flooded the blogger ranks. It is the present-day ham radio.

What a fucking mess. First of all, let's just worry about slamming the powers-that-be for mishandling this situation (to whatever degree) later. As much as I think W is a horse's ass, I can't get behind those who want to hang him for this...not now, not here in Houston. We need to get all these people cots, food and clean underwear...and figure out how they can survive for the next three months. Then, we can blast whoever deserves to be blasted for not doing their part.

Yesterday, along with thousands or tens of thousands (the numbers cease to adequately convey the image of that many people in one place) volunteers, we went to the convention center here in Houston to join in the relief effort. If you combined all the Bennetton, United Way and public television advertisements, you might begin to represent the array of humanity volunteering there.

Side-by-side we worked (and Barb & I were only there for about five hours). A human chain passing box, bag or basket of every imaginable donation. We helped move a mountain of donations from the curbside into the huge exhibit hall where countless volunteers sorted the mountains into clothing, bedding, toiletries, etc. so other volunteers could distribute them to refugees. Which cleared a space for the next mountain.

Here is a description of the panoply* of regular people in, or visible from, our small section of the chain:

  • Asian man, mid-twenties. Pearl stud in his nose piercing. Hair in a single braid down his back.
  • Very tall, dark-skinned black queen. Funny, irreverent and hard-working. Slinging items into the huge pile while keeping an eye out for good-looking men.
  • Middle-aged church-going couples from the suburbs. Portly, quiet and diligent.
  • Young, pretty black woman–maybe late teens or early twenties. Many grown women stepped back from the heavier packages and let the men handle them. Not this one.
  • A boy, about 10 years old, working alongside his dad.
  • Hispanic teenagers in their low-rider pants.
  • Men of Indian or Pakistani descent ferrying bags across the street.
  • Older white men and women, straining a bit with the effort.
  • Folks here on vacation.
  • People who had planned a New Orleans vacation and ended up here instead.
  • Women in burkhas driving up with donations.
  • Wealthy white socialites in coordinated casualwear.
  • Middle-aged lesbians in their sensible shoes.
And I wasn't looking for the feel-good liberal image. That's just how it all shook out.

*lovely word: panoply n A splendid or striking array.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005


So, I'm working on a secret project. It's consuming vast quantities of my free time but I can't talk about it yet because it's a secret, dammit. That's partly why I've been so uncharacteristically silent here.

I find myself talking to friends and wondering if they're completely sick of hearing about whatever project I'm currently working on. I look for signs of boredom. Wandering eyes, fidgeting and the telltale glancing-at-the-watch. Sometimes I diplomatically comment, "Am I boring you?" or "You have someplace you need to go?" Well, the diplomacy is in the voice inflection. Either of these statements could morph into sarcasm with the slightest change in tone. Sometimes I can't control it.

In other news, I'm trying to understand how the flood walls and levees (used to) keep New Orleans dry. I need a civil engineer to look at this map and 'splain. I wish we had this in our paper with a diagram. Wait, I work here. Maybe I'll ask the people who do that sort of thing.

Voila! All I had to do was look a little harder and I found a page linking to a great graphic (scroll down and click on the link in the right hand box, labeled: Graphic: New Orleans and Storm Surge.) If you don't have a civil engineer on hand, a good diagram is the next best thing.

Friday, August 26, 2005

sorry for the extra step

For those of you who make comments (and I love comments), I apologize because I had to turn on that "comment verification" thing that makes you enter the wacky, wavy words you see in a box in order to make a comment.

I started getting obnoxious mass-generated emails from those mass-generating email scumbags. So, this seems like the best solution for now.

petrolurine /PETCH-roh-lure-reen/

My dear friend Lori just sent me this link to an article in National Geographic News:

Urine Battery Turns Pee Into Power
John Roach for National Geographic News
August 18, 2005

It's all about Urine Gas (and they used to be only neighbors); fueling your vehicle with pee.

Let's say they pull this off—the best idea since cows eating grass that was fertilized by cows eating grass—what I want to know is this: will it spawn an entire subculture of amateur urine analyzers?...not unlike, I imagine, mothers who sit around and swear that consuming clarified whale fat* while breast-feeding helps their floppy little newborns to better hold up those huge noggins.

If a Urine Analyzer Club develops, I'm so there.

I will strongly urge Jetta owners to load up on bratwurst and schnitzel. I will wax poetic on how my post-asparagus urine not only works better than high octane, but makes my Accord "happy." I can't wait to test drive whole milk vs. skim, lasagna vs. sushi, etc.

This is so much better than Willie's Biodiesel, which would only allow you to compare performance of oils recovered from frying different types of food. I mean, that would still be fun (like does the byproduct of fried okra lug my engine or does my Tundra crave tempura wok oil?) but it's no match for pee fuel possibilities.

*Stop looking for this. I made it up. If it is a product, I'm clairvoyant. I made up the benefits, too.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

fat kills, pat urges

On a day where

  • the headlines bemoan and rank American obesity (And we're only #6! For shame! In a state where toddlers cut their teeth on T-bones; in a state whose claim to fame is that "everything is bigger in Texas," we spritely waddle in behind #5-ranked Tennessee), and
  • there's a spotlight shining on America's biggest lardbrain, Pat Robertson, as he adds Venezuela to the list of countries that think we're rampaging pyschopaths (Oooo, let's watch God's righteous servant eviscerate the 6th commandment.* What? He didn't read "Thou shalt not kill" as not "Thou shalt not assassinate"?**)
I am grateful for random juxtapositioning. (Or, for those who feel a higher power is moving the chess pieces: the humorous hand of Fate.) Here are two items as they appeared hand-in-hand in the national headlines list in today's paper:

1830 Book of Mormon goes on sale page at a time
California court grants gay couples full parental status

I'm sure this is not done on purpose...but I like to imagine it is.

*The subtitle to one of Mr. Christian's books is "Reclaim the Blessings of the Ten Commandments." His next book is entitled, "Thou Shalt Not Kill Unless It Increases Traffic to My Website and Sells More of Pat's Diet Shakes."

**if you ever forget how to spell assassinate, just picture Pat Robertson and think
Ass, Ass, Inate.

Friday, August 19, 2005

novel start

Writing a novel has never appealed to me as much as reading them does. But I keep coming up with random character descriptions that sound suspiciously like the first page of a story:

    She was a second millenium kinda woman: bilingual, bisexual and bipolar. Understated and medicated.
And then, nothing. Maybe I'll piece these all together and showcase them as some sort of avant garde fiction genre. And make that face that says, this is all too deep for anyone else to understand. Lest someone ask me to explain it.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

i got your culture right here

Headlines from the news last week:

    NASA culture still jeopardizes crew safety, a new report says
    BP must fix its safety culture, board says
    (bolding emphasis mine)

Using the word "culture" to describe corporate environments seems somehow...too cultured. Just another word about to be pummeled by the world of business jargon. Okay, so we've also used culture for nasty things growing in petri dishes but there's a comfortable distance between microbes in agar and museums or arias.

For the record (from dictionary.com):
cul·ture (klchr) (or in Lawn GUY lund-ese: KULTCH uh) n.

  1. The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought.
  2. These patterns, traits, and products considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population.

airport observations

Airport lobbies are the junk drawers of humanity. Full of fascinating, irritating, useless, priceless subjects. One of my favorite pasttimes is to get on the plane with someone I've been watching and try and guess what they'll do to pass the time in-flight. Particularly, what reading material they choose.

There was a woman waiting for the same flight as we were on, who looked like she should have had the words "My self-esteem went on a permanent vacation and all I got was this large, oversized, non-descript t-shirt" which covered her large, oversized, round-shouldered, slouching frame. Now, I'm a big girl and my point is not that she was large but that she had been well-taught to embrace invisibility as punishment.

Anyway, when we got on the plane, my vantage point enabled me to see her reading material. The perfect match: a binder labeled "The Building Blocks of Successful Leadership" propped up on the tray table, yellow highlighter and mechanical pencil gripped tightly in one hand. Self-help seminars and how-to management courses enrich themselves on the clueless and desperately insecure.

Then there's the cellphone criminals. Some day, I'm afraid, I'm going to lose my shit in an airport while listening to one more person yammer nonsensically on a cellphone with their "public" voice. I know this subject has been beaten to death but I can't leave it alone. And I'm not alone. (I love that there are people out there considering this problem from a design solutions point-of-view!)

I just can't believe that anyone would think that the drivel and minutae of their banal existence is the slightest bit interesting to those poor saps who happened to pull the short stick and end up sitting within earshot. I'm going to lose it and nobody but you, dear reader, will fully understand how long I've resisted.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

august beginnings

I started a new job yesterday. At one of my favorite sources of rant fodder: the Houston Chronicle Online. My first permanent (non-contract) job in 8 years. Not one to count her chickens, I usually reserve judgment and keep my expectations basement-low. But between the welcome basket and the warm welcome I received yesterday, my expectations for a positive experience are creeping up.

Today's tidbits and high points:

  • Did you know that when there's a plane crash, they pull all the airline ads from the online paper, lest the ad fall next to the story? I did not know that. Not something that most people would think of unless they were reading the horrible news and saw the ad pop-up next to it.
  • I love working somewhere where having the newspaper on your monitor is not something you need to hide!
  • Happy to report (ha) that there's a fairly widespread sense of humor and promise of entertaining, but not over-the-top, anarchy.
  • To my relief, most of my co-workers have a general aversion to flourescent lighting
  • Surprisingly, this is an unusually quiet workplace; only a few voices carry. Not anything that headphones can't eclipse. It's more open than I'd prefer, but not too distracting so far.
  • Working downtown Houston is great. Plan on exploring (read: getting hopelessly lost in) the tunnel system which has one of its starting points beneath my building.
I wonder how soon I should break the news about my sleep disorder. Swear to god, I'm going to wake up face-down on my keyoard today.

relatively speaking

Attended a family wedding this past weekend. Bride beautiful, groom handsome, both in love. A cake-topper couple if I've ever seen one. The wedding was held at a state park. Other than the heat, the wedding and reception were unqualified successes. The interaction with family, on the other hand, felt like being in a shooting gallery. If you didn't sustain a direct hit, you got nailed in the crossfire. Exhausting. I fear that I may have, inadvertently, contributed to the injuries. I don't know, it seems so hard to break through the defensive barricades and well-primed munitions.

Monday, August 08, 2005

counter to clockwise

We're going to start this off with a definition. (For godsakes, who do I think am I? The Queen? We are not going to speak in the plural because it displeases us.)

I'm going to start this off with a definition:

    widdershins adv. /WID ur shinz/ or /WITH ur shinz/
    In a contrary or counterclockwise direction.

A bit whimsical sounding when you read it but, I'm afraid, a bit obnoxious-sounding if you drop it into everyday conversation. Especially if you use the alternate pronunciation. And affect a slight British accent.

body parts
I am a lifelong fan of body parts. I mean anthropomorphising them, assigning unbiological characteristics or giving them extra attributes. A warning to the faint-hearted and delicate-natured: I am not. I am the proud owner of a freakish bladder. Yes, it's true. A container of dromedarian power. I have theories about childhood camping trauma from KOA toilets crawling with bugs contributing to my holding ability, but I am weary of the nature/nurture debate--it simply is.

I once worked somewhere for a week before asking the location of the bathroom. I used to be more embarassed by people's reaction to my 8-12 hour bladder, but no more. When I die, I think it should be sent to the place where extraordinary organs go. There, they could marvel at its elasticity and maybe discover hidden pleats, neatly pintucked all around. Now that I've opened the floodgates (oh, the irony!) of ongoing inner body commentary, be warned that there is no stopping me. I will gross you out. Not my goal but, unavoidably, a side effect of this topic.

Or more accurately, fast-pitch...whatever. I'm not a big sports fan (camping, pets, and sports--the holy sapphic trinity--I'm telling you, if it weren't for power tools and pussy, I'd lose my membership to the all-girls club) but if I enjoy watching any team sport, it's baseball. It's easy to understand and your mind can drift without losing your place in the game.

I tried to surprise Barbara by taking her to see a women's professional fast-pitch game. She sort of guessed what I was up to but was pleased nonetheless. So we drove down to League City to see the Texas Thunder or was it Tornados? It was Thunder. Anyway, it was fun.

And fairly rich in imagery. For instance, the (former Olympic) pitcher was very good. She did the fast-pitch windup and hurled that neon ball with incredible speed and accuracy. However, as she was standing there on the pitching mound (hill, lump, bump) I noticed that her pitching bicep was huge. I mean twice the size of her other arm. For a minute, I thought it was lighting or perspective. But no, there it was, a true Popeye appendage sans tattoo. This is what makes sports fun for me. Wow.

My good friends came back from visiting College Station, home of Texas A&M, the other day. They were full of observations and news. Evidently there is a Meat Science building there. Where they study meat, I kid you not. And sell it. What a Green Acres moment I had over this. They bought us some mesquite-smoked pork chops. Those aggies can smoke some incredibly good porkchops. More about this in upcoming entries.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

sales tax smoke & mirrors

If you had a sale advertising, let's say, 10% off everything in your store, you might attract a smattering of customers. 20% would do a little better but would hardly bring in the hordes.

Back-to-school, sales-tax-free weekend starts tomorrow here in Houston. The stores will be crammed full of people clamoring to save a big 8.25%.

And why would anyone enter into that fray for such a small discount?
It's all about getting
the man.

I hate to throw cold water on your shopping foreplay but while you snub the tax man, the business man is splashing on the (cheap) cologne in anticipation of your arrival.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

abandoned fallen angels

From yesterday's news:

    Child Protective Services is asking the public for help in locating the parents or relatives of a 1-day-old baby girl found abandoned Sunday afternoon in an alley behind a West Houston shopping center.
    CPS officials need genetic and medical information from the biological family, which can be passed on to an adoptive family, Olguin said. Also, the sooner the parents' rights are terminated, the faster the adoption process will be, she said.
    The parents of the infant face possible felony charges of abandoning or endangering a child, according to Houston Police spokesman Lt. Robert Manzo. Police have received a few calls regarding the infant, but there are no leads yet, Olguin said.
So what do you think? Do you think that someone who abandons a baby is going to come forth now that they are facing felony charges? Hmmm.
    Some have started calling the baby Angel Doe because "she must have had angels with her because she was found so quickly," Olguin said.
Ah, the circular logic of belief. So the dead infant found earlier this year should be named Fallen Angel Doe? Obviously that baby didn't have any heavenly babysitters.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

a brief report of decency

An excerpt from an AP story I read in the Chronicle about the terrible flooding in Bombay:

    "One minute we were hanging onto the rope, and the next my cousin slipped, and his head went under water," Bhargava said, shuddering. "I tried to pull him out with one hand, but my legs gave way. I kept shouting for help, but people couldn't hear me above the roar of the water."

    As he fought to stay above water, hands grabbed him and pulled him onto a tree by the side of the road. He spent the night with the strangers who had saved his life...His cousin was pulled to safety by people farther along the road.

    This hectic cosmopolitan city may be famed across Asia for its movie industry, its wealthy stockbrokers and its powerful business clans, but this week it proved something else: It looks after its own.

    The people who rescued Bhargava and his cousin were among the still-nameless Bombay residents who offered help despite the dangers, or who opened their homes to strangers, or who fed tea and biscuits to people wading past in waist-deep water.
Now was that so hard? A news story that mentions something noble that people have done.

I don't want whitewashed puff pieces about the bonnie state of the world. And I don't want the newspaper filled with feel-good, kitty-rescue stories.

But I'm weary of the unrelenting horror. Terrifying stories of loss, murder, war and natural disaster. It's lopsided and we know it. Because while we all know people who are miserably cruel, we also know people who are exquisitely kind.

And this isn't unique to rural areas nor urban centers. It's not about the eastern hemisphere or the western. It doesn't belong to the Christians or the Hindus. It's just about human beings rising above the muck and showing their decency.