Sunday, August 22, 2010

Adventures in Reading

Friends often ask me what I'm reading now. So I thought this year I would keep a running list of what I've been reading (to the best of my ability).  I've just updated it to catch up with my summer reading.
Besides these books, I also consistently read The New York Times Online, The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, Entertainment Weekly (guilty pleasure), and Writer's Chronicle.

I hope this list will help inspire your own reading adventures.  I'd love to know what's been on your reading list this year.

  • The Distant Land of My Father (Caldwell)
  • A Weekend to Change Your Life: Find Your Authentic Self After a Lifetime of Being All Things to All People (Anderson)
  • Out of Our Past: The Forces That Shaped Modern America (Degler)
  • The Holy Book of the Beard (Brenna)
  • Rock Paper Tiger (Brackmann)
  • Eat, Pray, Love (Gilbert)
  • White Asparagus (Belz)
  • Super Sad True Love Story (Shteyngart
  • The Sweet By and BY (Johnson)
  • The Disappearing Spoon (Kean)
  • A Walk on the Beach: Tales of Wisdom From an Unconventional Woman (Anderson)
  • Father of the Rain (King)
  • Sanctificum (Abani)
  • Medium Raw (Bourdain)
  • You Lost Me There (Schwarzbaum)
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Smith)
  • Water for Elephants (Gruen)
  • Summer of Firefly Memories (Gable)
  • The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (McCullers)
  • The Help (Stockett)
  • Olive Kitteridge (Strout)
  • The Hole We're In (Zevin)
  • Where the Money Went (Cantry)
  • Revolutionary Road (Yates)
  • The Passage (Cronin)
  • The Rum Diary (Thompson)
  • The Taste of Civilization (Flammang)
  • Rough Country (Sandford)
  • The Ginger Man (Donleavy)
  • The People's Act of Love (Meek)
  • Being Real (Scott)
  • Bright Lights, Big Ass: A Self-Indulgent, Surly, Ex-Sorority Girl's Guide to Why it Often Sucks in the City, or Who are These Idiots and Why Do They All Live Next Door to Me? (Lancaster)
  • Fat! So? (Wann)
  • The Fat Studies Reader (Rothblum/Solovay/Wann)
  • If You Have To Cry Go Outside (Cutrone) - I want to give it to every teenage girl I know. Cutrone is fearless about honesty and living one's truth.
  • Drood (Simmons)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Random Thinks: Creativity, Self Expression, HAES, and Being Alone

Life is full of wonderful, crazy ups and downs.  Mine in particular seems to be feast or famine, rain or shine, without much balance.  As much as I enjoy one of those lovely sunny days where there are moments of rain, there haven't been any of those in my life for some time and I don't foresee any on the horizon. Not that I'm complaining mind you.  This morning however, I'm taking a breather to put some recent thoughts into words in hopes of making some room in my head for more.

I've experienced a surge in creative energy lately.  And with it, a desire to chuck everything and go on the lamb from obligation, responsibility and reality.  I want to draw, paint, write, and create. However, this creativity spree needs a funding source and so my urge to throw caution to the wind and go for it, is tempered by the daily grind of work and meeting life's financial obligations.  Good thing I don't find this daily work a grind at all. 
Along with this overwhelming external creative explosion, I've spent a good deal of thought and energy on internal expression as well.  I, like most people I assume, spend a lot of time inside my own head.  One of the things I think about most often is how to align my external self with my internal view of who and what I am.  Understanding that we have little control over other people's opinions and conceptions of us, I still desire to reconcile these things for myself.  What does this mean?  Well, its not about diets, exercising, and conformity to external expectations.  Its about acceptance, health, and self expression.  OK, those of you who know me might be saying "she conforms?" and you'd be right.  Conformity is not one of the things I'm well known for.  But conform I do.  I'll admit that some conforming to societal norms can seem necessary to navigate through life.  It certainly makes things easier.  But it also stifles the creative energy of the individual and honestly, who are "you" to tell me what's the best way to get through life or to hamper my ability to get through life.  Purple hair, tattoos, and multiple piercings do not prevent an individual from being a productive member of society.  Creative expression of appearance is no indication of one's abilities.  Body shape and size are equally non indicators of an individuals motivation, drive and abilities.  "Societies" general reactions, disinterest, and dislike for anything beyond "normal" or "average" is the real culprit that hampers self expression and self acceptance. 

I recently met a young woman who owns her own small coffee and tea shop, she lets the hair stylist across the street use her as a "hair model," trying new techniques and styles.  On the day I met her, she recently had a small shape shaved into the hairline with a short asymmetrical cut.  It was bold, brave, and beautiful.  And I was inspired.  I'd already been considering a full shave of my head, a clean start and new beginning, and now I was thinking about all the possibilities.  I still have a full head of hair, but each day I'm closer to a change that more fully expresses my true self. 

I'm also fully embracing the health at every size premise (HAES) "that the best way to improve health is to honor your body, adopting health habits for the sake of health and well-being (rather than weight-control)."  The thought of spending any more of my free time at a gym or "working out" is completely distasteful to me.  It's not enjoyable and it doesn't feed my creative spirit.  Instead, I choose to dance (I can't be any more awkward than this guy), to laugh 'til I have to run down the hall to pee, to participate in the famed "balance beam olympics" (water version), and to move around while I'm standing in long lines at concerts (most recently Lady Gaga).  I want to find joy in movement and defy anyone to tell me that they find more joy in going to the gym than in spending time with friends or family laughing and moving naturally and healthily. 

Finally, there is a video that's been circling social networks lately.  Tanya Davis' How to Be Alone.  As someone who long ago embraced the joys of being alone, finding an amazing sense of self and freedom in alone, I'm excited that others are sharing this video.  Too much of society equates alone with lonely and the two could not be further in likeness from each other. "Society is afraid of alone though. Like lonely hearts are wasting away in basements. Like people must have problems if after awhile nobody is dating them. But lonely is a freedom that breathes easy and weightless, and lonely is healing if you make it."  There is another video of Tanya Davis' poetry that hasn't circled quite as widely through my social network (There's a Flower in My Pedal).  There is a line in the poem "just like everyone else, this year I got married", the video then flashes to the words "to myself".  I love this thought and want to embrace it and live it out.  I can't think of a more beautiful thing than to love and honor ones self enough to make the kind of commitment one professes to make when they marry someone.  We live in a time where the meaning and importance of marriage is twisted by groups and individuals mostly concerned about politics and religion.  Some take it for granted, while others are going to the highest court in our nation for the right (a topic for a different blog).

Perhaps all of our energies would be better spent focused inward, accepting ourselves for who we are and committing to living that life to its fullest expression.  And in that practice of learning to accept and respect ourselves and our own differences, perhaps we will learn to accept and respect others.  Perhaps we could learn to stop judging ourselves so harshly and will then be unable to find faults in others as well.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Day 1: Yourself

30 Drawing Challenge Day 1: Yourself
As promised, I'm posting the results of my attempt to tackle the 30 Day Drawing Challenge and as predicted it took me 7 days to actually get to it.  At this rate, I've already stretched my 30 days into 210.  Perhaps I should call it the year-long drawing challenge.  Time however is not really the point.  Its about getting back in touch with my creative energies and flexing those artistic muscles that have grown atrophic from non-use. 

I also am discovering that its about something else this particular exercise gets right to the heart of: self-discovery.  Admittedly, the idea of self portrait was terrifying to me at first.  Over-thinking it as I tend to do, I arrived at the grand scheme of doing something very abstract and esoteric.  As I approached the actual task at hand, I thought differently (or somewhat at least).  I hadn't initially planned an image of myself at all.  Perhaps its because I don't think of myself in terms of what I look like.  I don't own a full length mirror and I put my makeup on with a hand-held compact.  Rarely, when I get a glimpse at me or (e-gads) I see a photo that has somehow snuck by my photo radar and been taken of me, I feel as if I'm looking at a stranger.  I frequently comment on how the body is just a mode of transportation.  And much like a car, it doesn't really matter if its a luxury mobile, sporty compact, or pimped out ride, if it gets you from point A to point B safely then it will do.  However, having recently purchased a brand new sporty compact car myself, I can admit that we probably all feel a bit safer and more comfortable in a newer, younger model.

So my approach was a bit of abstract realism.  When I think about who I am, I consider the young girl buried in books in search of all the possibilities life has to offer.  I'm still that girl, I haven't given up on life's possibilities and I really do believe that everything and anything is possible.  The tree and the dragonfly are symbols I align with and relate to.  The dragon fly has a very complex history. Its etymology derives from the Greek Anisoptera meaning not equal.  Culturally its seen as both good and evil.  Swedish folklore refers to the dragonfly as the one who weighs people's souls for the devil.  But Japanese culture sees it as a symbol of courage, strength, and happiness.  The tree, is mythologized in many cultures.  I view the tree as a symbol of strength and flexibility.  From the elasticity of its branches, the sensitivity of its foliage, and the strength of its massive root system, trees are built to withstand, endure, and regrow from the very ashes of fire and maelstrom.  They hold knowledge from the ages and while they have strong roots, contrary to popular understanding, they actually derive 99% of their mass from the air (really! watch this).  I was raised in a pretty traditional mid-western family (until it became nontraditional), my roots are strong and yet I feel (like most I assume) as if I've derived much of who I am and who I'm becoming from my experiences and surroundings, above and beyond my roots. 

And so, Day 1: Yourself was certainly more of an exercise in discerning more about myself than portraiture can accurately depict (which is almost always the case).  And yet from my abstract and esoteric thoughts of who I think I am to the abstract realism (and still esoteric) depiction of who I actually am, I found it a rewarding and enlightening experience.  So go on, give it a try yourself.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What's that you doing?

OK, so I've been delinquent in my personal blogging.  Lots has been happening lately and I haven't made the time to focus my attention on the blog.  If you are still reading, thank you.  Stick with me, things are about to pick up. Here's the plan.  I'm taking on the the 30 Day Drawing Challenge.  I've been flexing my artistic muscles more lately and am excited about a focused opportunity to continue to be creative.  Now as my best friend says, "I know, I know, you're a free don't like rules and expectations to define or confine you."  And she's right.  So its likely that this 30 day challenge could turn into a 43.5 day challenge plus/minus a few days.  But I don't really think it matters. For me it will be about exercising my creativity which feeds my energy matrix like a battery charger.  And provides fodder for further creative expression by other means.  

So if you stick with me a while longer, you will find fairly frequent posts with images and thoughts from this process, which I hope you will enjoy immensely thus feeding your own energy matrix in return.  

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Road Trip Reflections: Music and Memories

I usually fly to Oregon for visits with family and friends.  Its quick, 1 hour, and less stressful than driving.  This summer I thought I'd try something different. So I've just spent the last two days driving from Sunnyvale, Ca to Newport, Or.  I know many people who have made this same drive all in one day, which worked fine for them.  I'm just not into sitting in my car for that long.  And perhaps I'm not that good of company for myself.  Excited about the destination though not the actual traveling, I left on Thursday morning with a trunk full of things I probably won't need, my traveling companion (Leila) and a clear mind.  I plugged in my IPod and commenced driving.  One of the best things about the long drive was an opportunity to reconnect with my favorite music. As is so often the case, I get so consumed by other forms of media that music often takes a back seat and I forget that music is a comfortable old friend, always waiting for my return.  The soundtrack of my journey began with a little Alicia Keys, included some Bryan Adams, Daughtry, Death Cab for Cutie, Dixie Chicks, Fergie, Fink, Roberta Flack, The Fray, Fuel, Gaga, Gym Class Heroes, Incubus, Indigo Girls, Keith Urban, The Kooks, Lincoln Park, Madonna, Jo Dee Messina, Matchbox Twenty, Brad Paisley, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sugar Land, KT Tunstall, Carrie Underwood, Ursula 1000, Butch Walker, Wailing Souls, 311, and ended with some great Rob Thomas.
One thing I hadn't expected about this long drive was how both the music and road trip itself would evoke memories of times, long past.  As each mile passed by, a reconstruction of parts of the past began to reveal themselves in recognizable landmarks.
I've actually made this drive a couple times before.  The most recent, when I moved to CA in September of 2005.  We also made that trip over two days and I realized that the most beautiful part of the trip, through the Siskiyou and around Mt. Shasta were traveled at night, and so I was seeing this part for the first time in many many years.  And it was stunningly beautiful.  Mt. Shasta seemed to be playing tag with the cars as we wove in and out of its view.  And at one point I decided to pull off the freeway to get a picture by stopping on an overpass and jumping out of my car.  (It was perfectly safe, Mom.)  Of course, just 1/4 mile up the road there was a view point which would have served the same purpose.  The other time I made this drive and back was in 1998, when Lacey, Noah and I drove to San Jose for PACURH.  That drive was made in one fell swoop and as I drove past the Olive Pit at Corning, Ca I could vividly remember Lacey sitting on a picnic table outside of McDonalds with a coffee cup in one hand and a cigarette in the other (smokin' and jokin'). And the stop at Noah's favorite pizza place in Grants Pass where I had pepperoni pizza with ranch dressing for the first time, but still eat to this day.
Further into Oregon, as I approached the Rogue Valley, I recalled the summer day that Mark, Kyle and I drove there to attend the wedding of friend and former reslife staffer, Shawn.  We got so lost and finally had to stop and ask for directions because we thought there was no way the wedding would be out in the middle of nowhere river land.  But it was, in this beautiful area. And then there was the fun road trip just a few summers ago with Shelly to Ashland's Shakespeare Festival and Crater Lake.  Where I learned the art of spotting stray buckets along the highway and deftly stopping to pick them up. (During this current trip I actually saw someone cross the interstate median to pick up a bucket on the opposite freeway!)
When the sounds of Matchbox Twenty came on, it took me back to the early 90's when a couple of friends (Stephanie and Greg??) and I drove to Salem to see this little-known band at the Salem Armory.  There were only about 50 of us, hanging around this small stage in a quonset hut.  It was an amazing live music experience I will never forget.  In 2001, I saw them again, with Donny in the Rose Garden, from the third level.  While it was a fun concert, it just wasn't the same.  And then there was the Nickleback concert with Mark also at the Salem Armory, after it became more of an actual venue, but before the band was well known in the states.  And the Jo Dee Messina concert at the State Fair with Patrick one summer, where I called Claire who had just left from visiting Oregon that day, so she could hear some of it.
Driving across, HWY 20 from Corvalis to Newport, I was reminded of the fun drives with Lonnie, singing "You Can't Hurry Love" (Dixie Chicks) at the top of our lungs as we drove the back roads through Kings Valley, just to get out of Monmouth for awhile.  And all the great times with friends like the Wauers, Anthony, Michelle, and others from the Newport area, that we'd jump in cars and caravan to the valley for bowling, chinese food, or such, like when David once stopped the car, which was packed with eight people, and pretended that something was wrong with the car, just so those who were smokers could get out and have a cigarette.  The others were so annoyed by this.
There is a quote by Tennessee Williams, "In memory, everything seems to happen to music."  I believe most of us would say there is a soundtrack to our lives.  In the last couple of day, I learned that when combined with a road map, that soundtrack can bring alive some of the most vivid and wonderful memories of times and friendships that feel so long ago, but linger still.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Life's List of To-Dos

We all have things in the back of our minds that we want to do before our time to do them escapes us.  Some hold them closely and never share, others write them down and cross them off as each one is accomplished.  No matter how we do it, these lists change as we change.  When I was younger, my list included things like live in California, go to art school/college, have a family....  Some of those things I have accomplished, others have just changed as I and my priorities have changed.

I'm a list-maker.  I make to-do lists at work and home, shopping lists, cleaning lists, etc.  So it makes sense that I would also have a list of life's to-dos.  Unlike others who have a top 50 or 100, my list changes, grows, or shortens as my life changes.  These are things that have pretty consistently been on my list over the years.  Everyday is a day closer to accomplishing one or more.  The others, give me something to look forward to for tomorrow. I hope you'll find some motivation, inspiration, or incitation to make and live your own list.
  • Aid in the effort to outlaw/close down puppy mills
  • Audition for a Broadway Play
  • Be an awesome friend
  • Be ridiculous
  • Build a dream home
  • Build a Habitat for Humanity Home
  • Build and use a compost system
  • Bungee Jump from a hot air balloon
  • Create a business plan and start my own business
  • Cruise the Galopagos Islands
  • Cruise the Nile River
  • Decorate my dream room
  • Do research at the Library of Congress
  • Do something to improve someone elses life
  • Donate regularly
  • Drink the sunset
  • Drink whiskey at a pub in Ireland
  • Eat at the source as much as possible
  • Get a PhD
  • Get an article published in the New Yorker
  • Get the tattoo I've always wanted
  • Go deep water cliff diving
  • Go on a cross country motorcycle trip
  • Go on an Alaskan Adventure Cruise
  • Go sky diving
  • Go to a Playboy Mansion party
  • Go to culinary school
  • Go to Machu Picchu
  • Grow a garden with all my favorite vegetables
  • Invest in the stock market
  • Invite friends over for dinner frequently
  • Join PETA
  • Laugh Often
  • Learn to bake an awesome dutch abple cherry pie
  • Learn to forgive
  • Learn to meditate
  • Learn to play the piano well
  • Learn to roller blade
  • Live for a week at a Nudist Colony
  • Live for One Year in Costa Rica
  • Live for One Year in New York City
  • Live for One Year on the Greek Island of Karpathos
  • Live greener
  • Live outside (camp) for one month
  • Love and be loved
  • Love every day
  • Make my own list of the 100 best cocktails
  • Open a Swiss Bank account in Switzerland
  • Own a pair of purple boots and wear them a lot
  • Participate in La Tomatina
  • Perform a Stand Up Comedy set in a Comedy Club
  • Publish a novel
  • Put up (can) vegetables for the winter
  • Quit my job with dramatic flair
  • Read all of the 100 Best Novels on the Modern Library's list of English Language since 1900
  • Rescue puppy mill and kill shelter dogs
  • Run a 10K
  • Run a marathon
  • Sail from Seattle to Mexico or vice-versa
  • See the statues of Easter Island
  • Sell a drawing or painting
  • Sleep in a haunted house (not by myself)
  • Spend a week at a Silent Retreat
  • Spend a year living in England retracing and writing about literary history
  • Start a charitable foundation that supports democratic education
  • Stay at Cambria Shores for a full week watching the sun set and rise every day
  • Swim in every ocean
  • Swim with dolphins
  • Take a 6 mo world cruise
  • Take up yoga
  • Throw an over-the-top party
  • Walk along the Great Wall of China
  • Walk and dance in the rain as often as possible
  • Work on a political campaign staff
  • Write a novel

Monday, May 24, 2010

Green Thoughts

I certainly consider myself environmentally conscious and would even go as far as saying that I am an environmentalist (as defined by Webster: : "an advocate of the preservation, restoration, or improvement of the natural environment").  I believe that we are experiencing global warming as the fate of our own choices and actions.  However, I'm not sure about the concept that this planet, which humans have inhabited for over two million years, is so rapidly approaching a level of destruction that will make it uninhabitable for relatively near-future generations. Some things about this theory don't sit completely right with me.  Regardless, I still try and do my part.  So below is a partial listing of things I am doing in favor of a greener planet and some things where I happen to draw the line at (though I remain open to rational discussion about change).  I encourage you to think about your own green efforts...where is your line?

For a greener planet, I ...
  1. Drink tap water over bottled water whenever its an option
  2. Reduce my trips in the car (combining shopping with work trips, etc)
  3. Replace my light bulbs with CFLs and LEDs
  4. Don't use paper plates or paper towels in my home
  5. Reduce the use of phantom power by unplugging unused appliances and not leaving things like TVs and chargers in standby mode
  6. Recycle as much as possible in the home and at work, including electronics, clothing, glass, paper, cardboard, etc.
  7. Am in current negotiations with myself about building a patio composting system
  8. Don't ever run heat in my house (lucky I live in a temperate climate for this one)
  9. Plant CO2 absorbing plants on my patio
  10. Eat lower on the food chain as much as possible
I don't, won't, etc ...
  1. Take shorter showers.  5 minutes?  Really?  No thanks!
  2. Stop eating meat. Uh, no!  While I agree that food production animals need to be raised under higher ethical standards, I don't really buy into the whole "highest producers of methane and nitrous oxide" theories.  Perhaps its from being raised in rural Nebraska where our livelihood was dependent on the meat eating of others.  And quite frankly I enjoy a good steak, hamburger, bacon, roast, etc.  Also, I don't drive an I'll keep my 1lb of meat for each of your 40 SUV miles.
  3. Use naturally biodegrading cat litter. I mean really. Do you understand what happens to corn fibers when they get wet?  And even knowing this (again from my rural Nebraska upbringing) I actually still tried this solution.  So, until there are other solutions to healthfully co-existing with my two cats in this area, I'll be sticking to the clay--sodium bentonite.  Yes, I understand that its strip-mined. However, I also understand that the biodegrading version doesn't actually biodegrade in our landfills when its inside of plastic bags or buried by tons of other garbage.  So what's to be done about it?

image location

    Thursday, May 20, 2010

    A Landlord Named Karma

    I've lived and worked in enough college dorms to learn two things:  1) when lots of people are living together in close quarters with poorly insulated walls, there is going to be noise, and 2) some people just can't be reasoned with.  Both of which bring me to the neighbor upstairs. 
    I live on the ground floor of a three story building, thus the woman who lives above me is sandwiched between my apartment and her own neighbor upstairs (who happens to play the drums).  We all share our bedroom wall with the kitchen wall of the connecting apartment, which as you can imagine can create some situations in which sleep will be disrupted by say running dishwashers, families that cater events on weekends and are up cooking at 2am, etc.  All things that in the five years I've lived here, I've dealt with patiently and with understanding that life consists of a certain amount of noise we have no control over.  My neighbor upstairs however has not. 
    Over the past five years, I have made a myriad of compromises to the way I live my life to accommodate what appears to be her super-human sensitivity to noise. Side note: She once complained to the landlord about a high-pitched noise coming from the refrigeration unit at the 7Eleven across the street.  She said she could hear it in her apartment.  I could barely hear it when I was actually at the 7Eleven.  In the first year she complained about things that I could fairly easily change: vacuuming in the a.m. on weekends, rolling my laundry cart out at 6am on Sundays, etc.  So when I found that I could turn the volume off of my TV and still hear/understand what was being said clearly when we were watching the same channel, I knocked on her door and shared my concern with her.  She did not welcome this and I quickly learned that she was the type to retaliate.  She never knocked on my door to complain about noise, opting instead to ambush me out on the side walk when I was coming home from work or out walking the dog.  Often, she'd raise her voice while I attempted to reason with her--drawing attention from neighbors.  And then she would follow that up with a complaint to the landlord about my unreasonable noise making.  Then she began to retaliate with noise.  I once mentioned to her that it would be nice if she wouldn't vacuum on Friday night at 9pm when I was typically settling in to watch a movie.  Not only did she not stop, but for two weeks straight, she vacuumed EVERY night at 9pm.  And has since continued to vacuum on Friday/Saturday evenings.  She also took to gossiping about me (and others) with another neighbor right outside of my windows/patio.  Under the guise of walking their dogs, they happily greet each other and spend 20+ minutes every evening talking and cackling in raised voices.  They cleverly mask their gossip by speaking in French; a language which I understand perfectly well.  Lets just say that she is a mean spirited, prejudiced, vindictive individual.  Even the nicest neighbor I've ever met, an older gentlemen, shakes his head when he sees the two of them and has referred to them as "the gossip hags." 
    Two weeks ago, the neighbor upstairs interrupted my perfectly calm zen-patio afternoon when she stopped by to announce that I would have a new neighbor upstairs in a few weeks.  Apparently she bought a new condo and will be moving.  I could barely hold back my expression of complete joy at this announcement.  That move can't happen soon enough for me as her insanity about noise has increased tri-fold over the past five years, culminating last night in her stomping on the bedroom floor (my ceiling) at 2am for nearly 45 minutes straight, a practice she has taken-up to alert me to the fact that some noise has woken HER up.  It doesn't matter what that noise was or where it actually came from, if something has woken her up it obviously had to be me. 
    And so Karma, I'm putting you on notice. I fully expect that in her newly-purchased condo, the neighbor upstairs will experience the same kind of neighbor that she has recently been to others.  And I have complete faith that the universe will deliver me a new neighbor upstairs;a ruggedly handsome, single heterosexual male in his mid to late 30s who understands that living life comes with a certain amount of reasonable noise.  Maybe he'll even have a Harley. *wink* 

    Wednesday, May 19, 2010

    A Harley Moment

    Hoping to shave a couple of minutes off my ten minute commute home tonight, I took a turn onto a road I'd never been on before.  It took me through a rough looking industrial area that dumped right back out on the road I usually take home.  Though I didn't cut any time, I did have a thought provoking chance encounter.  At the stop light, my car came to rest next to a guy sitting on a classic Harley Davidson in the turning lane.  An average height, sun-roughed man; his greying goatee and long hair trademarks of my image of a "Harley Man."  And exactly the kind of guy that twenty years ago I was likely to have ended up marrying, or at the very least ....  The bike--a thing of beauty, was definitely a fxb sturgis from the early 80's with studded leather saddle and saddle bags. It looked carefully restored with shiny black paint and red trim.  Dressed head to toe in leather, the rider wore a vintage-style classic leather helmet, sun glasses and smile.  As I sat there admiring the bike and its rider, all the tension from what has felt like the longest week in recent history escaped.  And I just knew that if at that moment he had turned to me with a nod towards the bitch seat and said "hop on," I would have.  But its only Wednesday after all and as the lights turned green, we both drove off in our separate ways.  Oh well, there's always tomorrow.        

    Friday, April 9, 2010

    Bodice Ripper in Progress?

    I was cleaning up some files from an old flash drive this morning and came across this piece I started writing several years ago.  It smacks of romance novel and I never finished it, but I might.  This is the opening page....thoughts? 

    This was the kind of thing he’d always done.  B-- had perfect timing and when she saw his maroon baseball cap and scuffed cowboy boots at the edge of the concourse, she didn’t care that he hadn’t been waiting 20 minutes for the plane to land, what mattered was that he was there.  Just as he’d always been.

    His six foot three frame towered above her as he dipped his chin in a welcoming nod.  He didn’t say anything, he knew he didn’t need to.  The touch of his hand at the small of her back spoke a thousand words and closed the gap of the years that had spanned between them.

    “I had to check a bag”  “k”

    He looked over the heads of the crowd and led them towards baggage claim.  While they waited for her bag, she recalled the day a few years earlier, the summer before the planes hit the twin towers, that he’d met her there at DIA for a drink during a short layover.

    He’d once said “Call me when you come through town.”  Not sure he’d really meant it, but he did and when she deplaned, there he’d stood with his hands deep in his pockets, reading the floor.  She knew he didn’t like being around so many people, and yet he’d come this time—fought the crowded parking lots, found his way to the gate and waited.  Her plane had been delayed and now they had less time than they’d planned.  He didn’t seem to mind, pulling out a stool at the bar and ordering her favorite beer as if they’d been here before.  It’d been a year since her father had passed, so unexpectedly.  She’d just been back east visiting her mother for the first time and instinctively he knew it had been a rough one.  As usual, he didn’t speak much, waiting for her to invite conversation.  And she did.  What had he been up to? How was Elizabeth.

    His answers were brief.  “Workin’.”  “She’s fine.”

    It was enough—just to be there. 

    They’d only spoken once or twice since the day she’d entered the church graveyard to see him standing there.  Hat in hand.  Standing by himself, away from the others.  She had not been able to go to him right away so she lifted a hand in a quiet greeting and he nodded.  While the brief service took place, she thought about his presence.  It was nice to see him, but why was he there?  It had been years since they’d spoke, the physical miles between them too many; the emotional miles too tender.  As the service came to an end and the funeral director slowly lowered her father’s ashes into a ground, still hardened against the spring thaw, she felt his arms come around her from behind.  At first surprised, her muscles tightened, and then she was helpless to the desire of her tired body to collapse against him. 

    She was home.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010

    California "Find Yourself Here"

    Don’t be fooled by my year-round tan, local address and pocket-sized dog, I am not a Californian.  In fact, given my quite vocal displeasure about the nuances of this state in which I currently find myself the majority of you might think that the first time I ever uttered the words, “I’m moving to California” was just about five years ago when I packed up my one bedroom apartment and two long-haired tabbies and left Oregon.

    It wasn’t. 

    Like most young children, I had a penchant for throwing a fit when I didn’t get my way.  Also, like most, I would threaten to run away; the idea of which seemed to make my mother just a little too happy.  “I’m moving to California!” I would yell, and if I were really upset, “I’m moving to California and I’m going to buy a boat!”  Somewhere I had gotten it in my petulant adolescent mind that one had to own a boat to live in California.  As the heat of my temper subsided and the idea of going to California on my own became more daunting, I would suggest, non-apologetically, that someone else in the house could perhaps join me.  That I might be willing to allow one of my sisters or mother to live in the guest house of some mythical mansion that was waiting just for me to move in, no doubt in the general vicinity of where I was going to park my boat.  My family would laugh it off.  They knew I wasn’t going anywhere. 

    And yet, here I am. 

    I came to the Bay Area for professional reasons.  A job I loved, which three-plus years, two promotions and one lateral-move later, was the culmination of extensive overtime, hard work, stress and anxiety.  It was a demanding environment, and when I wasn’t physically at work, I was there mentally – at home checking email, planning how to accomplish the next day’s to-do list, and worrying about the possibility that I’d made some kind of arbitrary mistake that would inevitably come back to bite me in the ass, depending on the mood of those in charge.  I went to work, came home and slept (kind of), and went back to work; often slightly less congenial than the previous day.  When I did find the time to take vacation, I would retreat to Oregon, with friends and family. It was peaceful, made sense and fed a desire to be back in that nurturing environment again.  Of course it did, it was vacation!  Back at home in California, the ulcers would flair up, my mood would take a nose dive, and the grind of the weekly routine continued on.   I had few active friendships, little time to myself with any energy to do anything, and an upstairs neighbor who to this day consistently complains about the level of noise coming from an apartment I wasn't really spending that much time in.  No wonder I disliked California so much.  Granted it could never have lived up to the ideals of my fantasy-fueled childhood musings, but I’d certainly had more hope for it than this.  California and I just weren’t going to click and it seemed our time together was limited. 

    Then, reality struck and the parts of California I had hoped existed, but was now certain had been sucked into oblivion by vapid local life forms, found a way to reveal themselves. 

    I, along with hundreds of others in my industry, was laid off.  The economic climate was such that moving to Oregon to find a job was just as much a gamble as staying put.  I had an apartment lease I couldn’t afford to break and the prospects outside of this state were just as dim as inside.  But there was an up side.  For five months I had all the free time anyone could ask for.  For the first month, I didn’t even look for work.  I slept, A LOT.  And read and then began to explore my neighborhood, my city, the surrounding cities.  I spent time with friends (from my previous job) for happy hour, movies, lunches and weekend brunches.  I began to spend time with a friend’s toddler a couple afternoons a week and quickly became the beloved “Auntie Netters.”  For the first time in four years, I was actually living in California.  It had become crystal clear that previously I had only been existing.   Now, a year after having lost the job that brought me here, I’m working in an environment where I thrive.  I go into work every day fully intact as myself and walk out the same way, I rarely leave any of myself behind, take work home with me, or feel pressured to be someone other than who I am. Its low stress, no overtime, and doesn’t pay well.  But having stripped my financial needs to the bare minimum, I’m getting by.  In fact, I’m doing better than that: I’m spending time with friends (new and old), writing every day, exploring new neighborhoods, valleys, and mountain tops.  And finally seeing what so many others have told me for years is great about living here in this state of California. 

    Ironically, the time I’ve lived in California is the longest I’ve lived in any one place since leaving home after high school.  And just about the only thing that's missing, is that boat. 

    Thursday, March 18, 2010

    Keeping It Real

    Ok, I am a self-confessed “Reality” TV Junkie. And yes, I know that these shows have as much to do with reality as the GOP does with truth telling. Regardless, I can’t help myself. There are two DVRs in my home, which equals four hours of recorded television to every hour of the day. And my tastes run from the popular mainstream variety such as Amazing Race and Survivor to the significantly more obscure The Robert Verdi Show and Giuliana&Bill. My favorite must watch however, is Bravos’ Real Housewives series. Even the title of this series mockingly reinforces how the stars of these shows are anything but “real housewives.” Andy Cohen is smarter than that, he knows his business and gets that the last thing anyone wants to see is the reality of women schlepping around the house in sweat pants and a t-shirt with baby spit on it.

    Like most of you, I grew up in middle-America. My mother was an actual housewife. She worked in the home raising three daughters until we were all old enough to get to and from school by ourselves. I, the youngest, was twelve before she began working outside of the home. Our house was clean, our clothes were washed, and dinner was on the table when my father walked in the door at night. She was the nanny, housekeeper, gardener, and chauffer. There were no day spas, limos, or Fred Segal’s in our neighborhood. So when I see Vicki (RH of OC) haranguing the other OC Housewives for not working outside of the home, I'm entertained and I laugh. Because even they don’t do the things ours and countless others’ mothers did and are doing to keep households functioning. And Vicki ‘s “real housewife at work” defense is about as slippery as the spray tanners and Botox injections she has done at her place of business (an insurance office). Yet, I’m obsessed. I watch them all, from the OC to NYC, NJ and the ATL. And I’ve dabbled in the viewing of their far inferior look-a-likes: Southern Belles, etc. I’m hooked, but for a reason far beyond pure entertainment value.

    The absurdity of what is portrayed as their day-to-day life serves as a reminder of how happy I am in my life, to be living in this reality (egad, a lesson?). With the exception of one or two of these “stars,” who had irons in the limelight fire before being pulled into the “reality world,” these are just people. For some reason they feel a need to share a version of their life with us each week, which I and countless others eagerly anticipate and watch. Yes, they all tend to get carried away with what they believe is some new found level of importance, reaching a higher rung in some arbitrary hierarchy of popularity and significance. But that doesn’t bother me. We’ve all been known to “get a little big for our britches,” as my father would say. Instead, I draw from them a reminder that life is really all about being happy with who and where you are and striving each day to just keep it real.