Wednesday, December 29, 2004


Can somebody please, please, pleasepleasepleeeeeeeeze put Christopher Walken in a box and mail him to me? He’s by turns grotesque, tender, deadpan, hilarious, and vividly charming. I simply must own someone with such an incredible gift. As Larry Hobson: "I jumped out and pranked him to death with a tire iron!" This is a transcript of that skit. It’s beyond… beyond anything, but it won’t be as funny just reading it, and I guess somebody else wrote it anyhow, but he brings it to life. That voice! The Continental is a masterwork of monologuing slapstick. The fabulously psycho Ed Glosser trance face! Is there anybody else on Earth that terrifying?! And I finally understand the true meaning of (after two days of painful anticipation, not knowing the answer would come like a lightning bolt from above!) "I have a fever, and the only prescription is… cowbell!"

I’d also like to point out that any transcript of Futurama, which I also adore, reads like a VCR manual written in Hong Kong, by a Hong Kongian who never had formal training in English. Huh? For instance, Fry: "I’m literally angry with rage!" and Bender: "You were in the best coma I’ve ever seen!" Can someone please wrap up Matt Groening the writers of the first four seasons and mail them to me, too?! They can live in my closet with Christopher and write lively skits for him, which he can perform for me and select guests every day at 5PM. I don't suppose that would really work, though. Too much of a good thing.

To quote my niece, Abbagayle, who is ten: "life was so much better when you called me Boogerbean!"

I’m so close to something I want desperately. If I have to do unscrupulous things now, and later make up for the bad karma with some serious philanthropy, I will. I SO want this job. I hope you don't think that's unreasonable. It's a pity that nothing unscrupulous will make any difference to me getting it or not. It's all about circumstance.

The entire year 2004 was a feast for editorial cartoonists. I watched the FoxNews year in review thingy and shouldn't have... I can't bear it. I can't forget the footage, I can't ignore the irreverence with which the media treats death, war, disaster, and I can't face that I can't make a major difference. Sometimes I can paint pain, but I don't show anybody.

Speaking of pain, They still make the Pain Gum, and it still tastes like pain! And what a wonderful product it is, as it whitens teeth and freshens breath, two of my main priorities in life. I just can't wait to share the Pain!

Ignorance is Bliss

I've admitted before to generally being tremendously oblivious, but in my defense it's probably due to the fact that I seem to have a severe and occasionally unbearable amount of empathy. I suppose that comes with vivid imagination, the ability to feel things so deeply, because I can so easily and genuinely imagine myself in another's situation if I put my mind to it. Thank Heaven it does take effort or I'd be so constantly filled with pity and remorse that I'd be unable to function. Sometimes it just takes the right words to trigger it, though, and without preamble I'm shot brutally into reality with often painful consequences. I read some words like that today, in a Reuters article about the tsunamis on MSN News:

"My mother, no word! My sisters, brothers, aunt, uncle, grandmother, no word!" yelled a woman at a makeshift morgue in Lhokseumawe, Indonesia. "Where are they? Where are they? I don't know where to start looking."

I'm also somewhat paranoid about natural disasters, and I'm fiercely protective of the people I love. This woman's captured words projected me helplessly into a momentary paralysis imagining how I'd feel if my mother were lost, my sister, grandma, father, and I had no way of knowing whether they lived, no way to find them and no way to help them. I unfortunately can fathom standing in front of a billboard covered in polaroid snapshots of thousands of dead and broken bodies, looking for my family's faces, their hands, arms, hair, ears, knees, praying that I identify no part of anybody. It's a debilitating pain.

Until this article and the pictures in an MSN slideshow I had managed to put thoughts and observations about the disaster into the back of my mind and go about being preoccupied with my own narrow life. Now it's harder to do so. Now I'm wondering if I've been improved or handicapped. How much does it pay to remain sequestered in my safe, rural, simple world? What else am I missing?

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Puppy 2


Me and Bit


Red Light, Green Light

A couple came to the counter this morning at City Hall and asked me about renting the Machine Shop for a wedding some weekend in July. I pencilled them in and took their name and number, which I wrote down in the calendar book Mikey uses to keep track of the reservations. Half an hour later, while I was on the phone with another customer, Jo handed me a Post-it with a name and number on it, and I didn't recognize them as the woman's. I returned the call and as soon as she started talking about July it all came back, but Jo was truly disturbed when I told her I hadn't put the two together. Have I no short-term memory? Is it because I was focusing on something else? Do I not focus at all?

I despise my job. (The actual work and logistics, not the people and place. City Hall is lovely and the girls are my friends. But the paperwork!!! Ugh!) I want a new one. There's a slim-but-there chance I could get another one here at the City, at the Water Treatment Plant, but there's a minefield between now and then, and I'm not sure I want it bad enough to dodge the flying debris from Jim's and Mikey's offices. And I'm not sure I want to work for someone who goes by his high school nickname, which is 'Oop.' He's a nice fellow, but I have to tell people that when they call for the Superintendent of Public Works. I say "that would be Oop Hansen, I'll transfer you." They say "what? Oops?" and I say, "no, Oop. Please don't ask me," and they giggle. Which is only a tiny bit gratifying, even though I like to make people laugh. Local government jobs, mes amies, are a pain in the ass.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Faith in Christmas

Merry Christmas, world. Even though there are people in it who aren’t Christian. I think that any holiday that means I’m together for days with my fine family, and I get to buy them stuff they need- or want and wouldn’t buy for themselves- is a fine institution. So Happy Holidays, or whatever works for you.

I just got back from Christmas Eve with a faction of the family in Bridger Valley. We ate, opened specific gifts, and sprinkled glitter-laced dry oatmeal to visually and olfactorily entice a certain eight reindeer; a new tradition, but a charming one. On the way home, through shining snowy fields, the moon picked out details of cozy farmhouses decked in cheerful lights. Every glowing house had extra vehicles. I saw truckers’ rigs at the T&A Travel Plaza and wondered why they weren’t home for Chrismas. Dad always made it home, and when the time came he couldn’t, we went to him. We haven’t had our Christmas Day walk on the beach for years now, but I will always treasure those mild San Diego afternoons in the quiet, sunny surf.

My cousins sent me the funniest card. It’s a caricature of Santa in his sleigh, which is teetering precariously on a little shack with a half-moon in the door. The reindeer are scattered on the ground looking perplexed, and Santa is shouting "No, No, No! I said, ‘off to the Shmidt house!’" I got the same card from someone else last year, and it’s just as hilarious now.

I’m tracking Santa on NORAD’s website. I think that if the Internet had been around when I was little, I would have believed in Santa far into my teens. If it wasn’t for my sister, I would have lost faith much earlier than I did, even. She had questioned Mom so incessantly at ten that Mom finally gave in and spilled the beans, and Christmas lost some of its magic for her, despite how tremendously spoiled we were. So one year when it looked like I was beginning to doubt, she went out with a broom handle and made ‘reindeer tracks’ that ended abruptly where the reindeer surely took off in the deep snow around the side of the house. Completely disregarding the sets of little moonboot tracks next to them, I was entirely convinced for a few more years. Now isn’t that a great sister?

Thursday, December 23, 2004

More Puppies

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Can You Hear Me Now?

Life should be more like a cell phone plan. All about nights and weekends.

Some funny stuff happens when you live somewhere cold. For instance, when I got in my '87 Dodge Raider this morning (after unplugging the heater and prying the door open with a broom handle), I discovered that the half-full (yep, she's an optimist!) diet Coke I left on the dash last night was frozen solid. I jumped out to scrape the windshield and fiddled with the paper soda cup until the chunk of brown ice fell out into the snow in a bubbly, dirty-looking cone. That's not all. I pillaged my sister's fridge while at her house at lunch today to check on the puppies and let Daisy out, and left my plunder (a Tupperware tub full of pasta) on the seat of my truck when I went back to work. When I went home at five'o'clock, it too was solid. Mom frequently sends me out to the trunk of her Buick to get a frozen pizza or bag of frozen chicken breasts or the last foil-wrapped loaf of last year’s potica. Jo drove around for two months last winter with a couple of medium-sized turkeys rolling around in her trunk like loose bowling balls.

Sometimes it feels like nobody's listening, and then out of the blue somebody says exactly what you were thinking and it doesn't matter anymore that you may be alone again tomorrow. The half of my queen-sized bed that should be empty never is; there are half a dozen books, a half-finished crocheting project, two live cats, half-folded clean laundry, a bank statement, two empty CD cases, a gift, an old calendar, a half-read letter, an art supply catalog, various throw pillows and two Boyds bears, a drafting pencil and eight clean paintbrushes bound together with a rubber band, all tangled up in my blue and white afghan. Once I found a fossil there, and once a dried lemon peel from the vase of citrus potpourri on the dresser.

It took me two hours to wrap the remaining Christmas gifts still piled on my couch tonight. A lot of them were things that I carefully thought out and wrote on a list and hunted for in the jungle of Ogden. But also, and infinitely more fun, I had two boxes of giftable things I’d collected all year that had to be assigned to the most likely recipient. Those are the best things, the surprises that happened when I wasn’t under holiday duress. And as usual, it all just came together.

I’m heartened by the fact that I’ve never loved a shirt enough to want to wash it each night before bed, hang it up to dry, and wear it again the next day. I don’t know anybody who does that for sure, but I have my suspicions. I lived something like that way for a month in Europe when I was fifteen. Got very boring. Almost, almost I could do that with the beloved camo ringer tee I bought in Innsbruck, Austria, after a crazy lightning storm, which fit like pajamas then but now looks like I’m on my way to the basement of Area 51 in Salt Lake City on fetish night, and I’d be way overdressed, believe me. Boy oh boy… the seasons and days and bra sizes sure do add up.

Stand by for more puppy pictures. I’m taking tomorrow off (in a futile attempt at insurgency) so there’ll be time!

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Puppy III


Jeffery Does Elvis





Red Herring

There are days when I think every song on the radio sounds just like Let's Hear It For Me. I hum along and think of stage or stadium lights glinting on brass and how dearly I miss public performing.

The final count is six beautiful Lab puppies. All chocolate, all fat and sleek, two females and four males. The one black pup didn't make it. She was considerably smaller than the rest and was probably dead early on; Daisy had a heck of a time getting her out after the sack broke. My sister was awake for thirty-six hours straight, and had to meet the Vet out on Wasatch road at 2:00AM this morning. He made her laugh despite the stress by saying "I was just thinking how much like a drug deal this is. Middle of the night, dark, rural spot, you pull up and I hand you a couple of filled syringes." They induced labor with those shots and got the last one out at 3:00AM. Aside from being a behemoth in a Lilliputian world (we're paranoid she's going to squash a baby), Daisy's a great mom.

Due to puppies, my sister and her husband didn't make it to the City Christmas party. I sat by Jo and Don, just the two of them and my date and I at the table (nobody likes to sit too near the emcee; there were empty seats at the mayor's table, too. I think people are afraid to be singled out). We had to commandeer that table because we didn't want people to see the telltale ashes of one of the luminaries; while we were lighting the tealights in the bottom of the bags, two to a table, thirty tables, one of the small blue paper sacks burst into flame. My date said, very calmly, "oh, this one's on fire," and blew the two-foot flare out in the next breath. I would have screamed my head off if he wasn't there. I'm not a big fan of open flame.

The rest of the evening went fine. People were beaming with alcohol-induced goodwill, and after a few rum-and-cokes even I forgot to resent them. I was getting glares from mother hens that don't approve of me drinking, so I was glad to be sitting with Jo, who likes to piss them off by loudly commanding an obliging Don to buy drinks for me. (I'm not worried about alcohol. I'm pretty sure at this point that the only thing poised to endanger my immortal soul is eBay.) I wore jeans and a black camisole under a sheer fringed poncho (it's the only poncho I own, I swear! A ghastly trend!) just so the same judgemental biddies could get an eyeful of the tasteful tattoo on my shoulder. Our door-prize trick on the City Clerk, my boss Jim, was a great hit. He's a small-business owner and heavy into the Main Street theory and urban renewal. His pet product at the frou-frou decor shop he and his gifted wife run downtown is several lines of pricey Department 56 Village pieces. We bought him one from WalMart for ten dollars, a little figurine of the original small-town WalMart five-and-dime, with lights and bright poinsettias in the windowsills. He almost died laughing. He's an admitted snob, but we love him. I played Vanna White to Barry's Pat Sajak all night as he handed out door prizes, and I'll tell you a secret. I know why they dressed her skinny, toothy self in floor-length ballgowns. It was to hide her ugly Easy-Spirit pumps or Sanitas nurse clogs, because that job is Hell on Feet. I had on a pair of black patent leather AE sandals with three quarter-inch straps, rhinestones, and kitten heels, and I paid for it dearly today. Good thing there's somebody in this world who literally begs to give me foot massages, and I just happened to have him with me. There's a line in Little Women when Meg attends a dance in second-hand heels she knows are too small and will cause her much suffering: "but, dear me, let us be elegant or die!" My cares seem so light just now. Allow me to be sentimental.

Jo's husband Don makes incredible cedar-smoked salmon. I enjoy it even thought I generally don't care for the stuff. Jo wore one of her beautiful Norwegian wool sweaters to the party, the kind that cost more than my car. It's the same model Hilary Clinton wore when they filmed Christmas at the Whitehouse one year. She's fond of mentioning that. Jo, not Hilary. Don had on a nice black sweater and olive-green cargo corderoys and the biggest Black Hills Gold ring I've ever seen. I teased him about the pockets on his thighs and how mod he is. Jo scoffed, said "he likes pockets. That's where he hides his cigarettes." He shouldn't be smoking; he's got health issues. If he dies before they retire, she's going to do worse than kill him.

I shopped all day with my sister and a six-year-old who drives me bonkers, but I learn so much from her. Waiting while my sister took a much-deserved shower, Bit and I played Castle. I got to be the princess and had my lines neatly scripted by that busy mind. Things were going great (between the earthquake and my second fall off a cliff) when my imaginary father suddenly divulged to me that he was God and Jesus was my brother. Later, while God was randomly zapping evildoers with the king's magical scepter and Jesus was healing them just as swiftly, I began to question the introduction of the scriptures to those at such an impressionable and imaginative age. I stopped worrying when the child's mint milkshake suddenly became a character in our fun tableau. She'll sort it all out eventually.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

More Good, Bad, and Ugly

I'm battling a massive headache. Holiday stress sucks. There are too many commitments and lists and plans. There isn't enough time to do everything, and here I am blogging. I need to get more sleep.

I must have eaten something weird or bad yesterday (Jim's hot artichoke dip, perhaps?) because I had a dream that, long into the future, somehow the Bible and the complete works of J.R.R. Tolkein swap spots, and what was fiction becomes fact, and what was speculation becomes myth. Lord of the Rings as the basis of future religion? Wow. Although there is a documentary on the fancy DVD that explores the parallels between the fiction of LOTR and historical facts and figures. They tossed in a comparison of greasy Grima Wormtongue (think about that name for a second- gross!) and Russia's Czarina Alexandra's witchdoctor Rasputin, which was totally fascinating to me. There were other such parallels; LOTR is jam-packed with literary stereotypes, but so superiorly rendered they're easily believable: the reluctant hero (several of those), the oppressed female, the schizophrenic who could be a good guy but then again maybe not, a rotten turncoat, the vengeful proud, the stalwart buddy, etc. So well done. Love it.

Two more good reasons to love LOTR are David Wenham's extraordinarily-lovely-when-tortured blue eyes. If I knew him personally, I would cause him constant pain just to see him don that gorgeous glassy-eyed look of soul-deep suffering. Not that I'm as much insane as Dean Koontz's fictional Steven Ackblom: "they were all so beautiful in their pain, and all like angels when they died." An established artist, he methodically tortured and killed people so he could paint them in that twilight moment before death when he perceived them to be at their most spiritually pure, to capture the resulting perceived ethereal beauty. What's weirder was that people who viewed the paintings before his method was (fictionally!) known appeared to sense that beauty, share in his admiration of it. Zowie. If I could create villains like that, I'd already be a celebrated author. Makes me wonder what kind of life that Koontz has had, though, to pop them out so consistently. His bad guys aren't like Stephen King's Halloween haunts and his predictable vengeful abused. They're just the guy next door, but with something terribly wrong upstairs. To read him create the thoughts they have that justify their psychotic behavior to themselves is like, dang. I just can't put my finger on it. Freakin' spooky. It's like you suddenly worry that they might be right, even if you know they're crazy. Just so you know, I'll never be a horror novelist. I just can't bring myself to create more bad in the world. But I like reading good bad. It's neat.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


I forgot to tell you about this. This is what happens when you hit a large bird. It was either an owl or an eagle, I'm not sure. But it sucked.

Monday, December 13, 2004






Fog On the River


Cottonwood II

Cirrus? Cumulus? Nimbus?




Weekend Notes

I'm pondering Garrison Keillor's (creator and host of A Prairie Home Companion) analogy of marriage, upon being asked about his second one: "The rules for marriage are the same as those for lifeboat passengers: stay in your place, no sudden moves, and keep all disastrous thoughts to yourself. And if one lifeboat sinks, then you find another one." I think he's pretty much right.

Just so you're aware, I know of no more beautiful musical sound than The Canadian Brass playing Pachelbel's Canon (select it from the sound menu). It's absolute distilled wonder and perfectly honed "passion and joy." Which is exactly what music should be.

I bet you didn't know that the name of that ballet pose you always see, the one with one arm straight up and the other extended behind, aligned along an extended leg, all extremities gracefully loose but calculated, is arabesque. It's a beautiful word. I also bet you didn't know that the SR-71 Blackbird spyplane, affectionately dubbed 'The Sled' by its elite pilots, went from St. Louis to Cincinatti in 8 minutes. At Mach 3, the SR-71 flew three times faster than the speed of sound. Faster than a fired 30-06 bullet. What do these things have to do with each other? Nothing, except that they're prime examples of all the things there are to know in the world, and there's just not enough time. So many things to be interested in, and I have to work 40 hours a week. I'm not interested in that at all, because I'm not making a living doing something I love. Be patient with me.

Geminids tonight! And near-perfect viewing conditions. Go without sleep. I see meteor showers as proof of something grand and lucky and brilliant. I plan my wishes on predictable falling stars. Watch flaming bits of Phaeton flash across your sky tonight. You never know if you'll get another chance.

My step-Grandma Rose is having a bit of a hard time. This is her first holiday season without Grandpa in 58 years; he passed away suddenly in May. We spent Saturday with her, just visiting. We took her a centerpiece with red and white roses, carnations, ribbon, pine and lavender, and some amaryllis bulbs to plant. They always grow for her, lovely and graceful and strong. She's the 82-year-old mayor of Pinedale (population 1,200, and incidentally the town in the continental U.S. farthest from a railroad, which is saying something. It's just south of Jackson Hole, Wyoming's Hollywood). That's her on the left, lighting the Town Christmas tree last Friday. She looks pretty happy in the picture. As long as she's busy, and being Mayor keeps her so, I think she'll be fine. I don't know about after that.

The drive up there and back was one of only a few trips the four of us have made all together, both parents and both offspring, in the last ten years or so. Fun, but strange. We used to pile into one of Dad's Jeeps in San Diego on Saturday mornings and drive east into the desert just for fun. We'd stop at the diner in Ocatillo Wells and have burgers, or climb around in the sandstone steps in the hills by an inexplicable stone watchtower. Or we'd go north and stop at the Deer Park winery and car museum, and Mom would magically produce a fabulous picnic out of the humblest edibles. Or we'd find a movie theater somewhere in that long, connected playground of a coastal metropolis, someplace playing a family comedy, and later we'd have chinese food at sunset at some hole-in-the-wall place by the beach. We'd come home after dark, my sister and I wind-beaten, hoarse from singing loudly into the vortex that tore away our words and sometimes breath and tossed them into the sucking, silent wind. An open old Jeep Wrangler is the best way to appreciate the salt ocean spray in the cool night air.

We made Mom and Dad watch the third Lord of the Rings movie this weekend; we had to make a friendly bet about the actor who plays King Theoden of Rohan. Dad swore up and down it was the same guy that played Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars. It turned out not to be, but pointed out how remarkably similar the two actors, Bernard Hill and Alec Guinness, are in voice and expression.

I'm always disorganized this time of year. Things are always somewhat composite; nothing's solid and predictable again until Valentine's Day. But I'm somehow more keyed in, more intuitive and far more likely to appreciate the value in something as simple as children singing Oh, Christmas Tree in another language, any language. Especially German. There are quite a few traditional carols that just sound their best in German. I suppose that's their original language.

Friday Morgan and I went to Ogden, UT to Christmas shop. I could have gotten everything in town this year (I try to shop local) except things for one person, and I'll still get most of it here. Sometimes I just like looking at someplace other than Evanston. Someplace with malls and all-night coffee shops and fast food on every corner. Someplace a city, even one with drivers as incredibly rude as Ogden.

I've fallen in love with horseradish sauce, because it makes everything, even ham, taste like my beloved unattainable sushi.

I'm wrapping everything in silver and blue this year. Silver paper with blue ribbon. I never thought of blue as a Christmas color, really, until this year. We're doing the City Christmas party in a blue and white snowflake theme because we're tired of plain old red and green. It's turning out fantastic.

Did you know you can read some Dickens, some Shakespeare, some Flaubert, even some Jane Austen, all at Cliffnotes online? I read Madame Bovary in two hours the other day. I am extremely enlightened now. Except it just cleanly illustrated to me my proclivity for looking for myself in books, seeking traces of my life like faint spice in fresh-baked bread. I look for the lesson in every flavor.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Please Save Me...

...from Christmas music. I can't think of a song, ditty, tune, composition, etc. that I hate worse than Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses. It's just horrible. I hear it every year, with that irritatingly repetitive, syncopated and staccato saxophone honking and the godawful monotone chanting. And if Elvis's Blue Christmas didn't have a deeply sentimental connection to some wonderful and hilarious memories, I'd despise it too, because of the background singers hooting like drunken owls. And then there's whole discs full of dogs barking and cats meowing the classic carols. They make me want to shoot the radio. Feliz Navidad is another one I should ridicule but can't, because it still means all those foggy December nights marching up Orange Avenue in Coronado or San Diego's sparkling Harbor Drive along the waterfront, with red velvet ribbon candycane-striped around my bass trombone slide and happy, admiring holiday crowds and blinding t.v. camera lights. (Did I tell you I'm related to the Farnsworth that invented television? And I only have twelve channels of cable, which I hardly ever watch.) Anyhow, one of the only Christmas songs written in the past ten years that I really adore is Sam Bacco's soft and haunting Belleau Wood, recorded with surprising taste and care by country music artist Garth Brooks on his most decent album, Sevens. It's about a Christmas Eve truce, a pause in a bloody (and disputed) WWI battle (which, confusingly, all my research shows took place in June. Even so, the song never fails to choke me up.) I also like that Merry Christmas, Carol song about a mall Santa who finds a girl on his knee asking only for parents for Christmas; said mall Santa ends up adopting said orphan. Very touching. Very Christmassy. Bah humbug.

All This White Stuff

The novelty has officially worn off. I don't care if it is supposed to be a white Christmas; I'm sick of this crap. If it fell only where it wasn't in the way and the temperature didn't drop and the wind didn't blow icy particles into my eyes, then fine. But no.

I just saw National Treasure. I'm not going to tell you whether I think you should run out and see it or not, because that shouldn't influence whether you see it or not. Ok, yes, you should. Go. But Nicolas Cage is Elvis reincarnated, and Disney just can't freakin' miss. I know you get tired of hearing this, but I worshipped Walt and I don't care how badly-run the company is now, I LOVE DISNEY. (Ok, letting Pixar get away will cost them their souls, but still. Pixar wasn't involved with Pirates of the Caribbean or National Treasure, and they're fine.) Disney could take over the government of the United States and I'd cheer. Disney is the Juggernaut of Joy and I'm the first one on the bandwagon. I'd eat, sleep, wear and breath Disney. In a way Disney is all my ideals: my creative dream job, my happy place. I could be a lowly janitor (ask me if I really think being a janitor is lowly; go on, ask, so I can sing the praises of Frankie and Martha, the keepers of City Hall) at that weird green sheet-metal Disney building off Ball Road in Anaheim, in the gutter of I-5, and I'd be happy. Close your eyes and try to imagine life without Disney. Sucks, doesn't it? Admit it. You love Disney, too.

Ebay Update

Someone is still foolishly bidding against me. I promise you now this idiot will go down in flames.

Ebay Disorder

It occurred to me today that ebay breeds contempt. I'm serious. I hate everybody who bids against me. Yes, I know that's the point. But if I know they're going to lose, it annoys me that they keep driving the price up. I'm a competitive enough person, but I'm a gracious loser in most things. Ebay turns me into a win-monster. I have to win. Long after I've lost interest in attaining whatever the item is, I'm still very interested in stomping the other bidder into the ground. How dare they bid against me! How dare they imagine that they are more entitled to the item than I am, especially if I bid first. Take, for instance, the pale yellow long-sleeved AE t-shirt I'm bidding on right now. It says Moose, Wyoming on it and there may be a cute little graphic with a teddy bear and a tent or something, but the point is it says Wyoming. I live in Wyoming. I'm assuming the other bidder only wants it because he or she is a brand whore and has to have a cheap AE t-shirt. Bastards, it's mine! My ugly yellow ill-fitting shirt! Lemme have it! Ebay is not good for my blood pressure. It's hurting my karma score. I'm still going to win.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Cocoa Couture

This is crazy. I don't know what to make of it. My mind can't grasp the idea of $350 couture chocolate. Just, no.

Also, there's a new kid in purgatory. Go see. I guarantee you'll have something to think about for the rest of the day that's worth the time it takes to load.

I'm having fun Christmas shopping this year, because I have both the money and the inclination for the first time in six years. For the first time in my adult life, really. Life post-Oscar is 100% easier. This year, after six years of stressful holidays, I have nothing to worry about but generic seasonal concerns like shopping and parties and where I'm going to spend vacation days and dropping hefty hints. It's glorious. There are no more power struggles in my personal life, no more get-rich-quick schemes, no more repercussions from somebody else's irresponsibility and drug addiction and selfishness, no more of his lowlife friends and relatives, and no more fear when the phone rings. There's nobody but me, and I like it completely. The other people in my life who had to suffer along with me throughout that relationship seem to have forgotten and forgiven me completely, and for that I'm eternally grateful.

I was perusing the Kemmerer paper today and spotted a baby obituary. Those are always morbidly fascinating to me; they make me think of the sadly sensational lives of Charles and Anne Lindbergh. I got to reading and discovered the 16-month-old boy was the child of my grade-school archnemesis. The baby died at Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake of complications from surgery to remove both his diseased kidneys. Now, as I remember her, this person didn't have the normal scope of emotions, so I have a hard time imagining that she's suffering the way a woman with any maternal instinct would. I realize that's a sick statement, and in a way I hope I'm wrong and she's grown up and got a soul, even though it would mean she suffers more. It just goes to show you how very, very long I can nurse a wicked grudge. Before you jump on me about my inhumanity, though, let me tell you that people who've known her since she last treated me like crap speculate that her consistent prenatal recreational drug use may be to blame for the baby's illness. And that, to me, is inexcusably inhumane.

Another kindergarten Christmas program was endured/enjoyed tonight, and it was simply darling. Six-year-old Bitsy, slightly big for her age, with her perfect Claudia-the-beautiful-child-vampire ringlets, pink cheeks and pink satin ball gown was a complete angel. She always looks like an angel, really, until she opens her mouth. At one point our little blonde aspiring star was enthusiastically bouncing away, out of time with the campy Christmas tune, and her mother leaned over to where Morgan and I were doubled over laughing, and, wiping her eyes, said "oh Lord, my child's got no groove!" All we could do was agree.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Scenery II


4-Point in the Parking Lot

Dancefloor at the Legal

Bar at the Legal

Tiles at the Legal

One Very Pregnant Lab


The people upstairs are making so much noise. If I hadn't seen them at Maverick with a butchered pine tree strapped to the roof of their van, I'd wonder what the devil was happening. As it is, I now know that these people can't do a damned thing without arguing.

I've added a list of links to my favorite productivity enhancing Internet games to the side bar there, so your boss can get as much work out of you as mine does out of me. A word of warning: Bowman is totally addictive. Lose-track-of-time-and-stay-late-at-work addictive. Some people find Bubblebees annoying, but it's soothing to me. It's where I go when it's too cold to run around the outside of the building in my shirtsleeves to wake myself up, even though it has the opposite effect. And pengu/penguin smack/yeti games are absolutely the best. I personally like the bloody pengu smack with landmines to make the blood-trailing severed head go even farther, because I'm good at it. I didn't link to things like that horrible Crimson Room or Viridian Room or the helicopter-in-the-chute game or the sperm game. Those are far too irritating and really not suitable for a work environment. I also didn't include the weird Pong version of "Undress Captain Jack Sparrow" because he's an anime drawing and not the real thing. If it was the real thing, I'd never get any work done. So if you want that, you have to go to Dave Barry's blog and click on Productivity Enhancers in the Category Archives. (Don't click on "Unfit for the Office Unless You Work for the Osbornes." Just don't.) There are also various versions of Pong in there, including a circular one that drives me bonkers, but I play it anyway. That's also where I found Starsky and Hutch Pinball but it doesn't have a satisfactory amount of Owen Wilson in it, so it's just so-so. So! Go waste time in the best ways possible, and look for me in the high-score lists. That will be about as productive as actually playing the games, because I'm not in there.

Learning Farther

I took a quick road trip to Utah today. The place I wanted to visit to Christmas shop wasn't open, which didn't surprise me, because that's how this part of the world is. But it was worth the drive just to clear my head and inhale the optimism my little square truck seems to emit instead of carbon monoxide. Monte the Think Tank. My thoughts progressed productively, and I took some pictures of the pretty scenery while haggling with Monte about the radio. He seemed to want a silent drive and I wanted tunes, but being the willful car he is, he finally got his way. (Unless I have A-1 perfect reception, for some reason the engine noise interferes with the station until I can't stand it anymore. Same thing with the windshield wiper motor. It always happens when David Bowie comes on KJQ. I know, I know. Put the cd player that's sitting in your sister's garage in and stop complaining. I will! Sheesh.)

At the point of a canyon lined with chalky red bluffs, I happened to glance over at something that sent me into one of those instant time-warp reveries. It was the grungy little cafe at Echo, at the junction of I-80 and Hwy 84, a modified farmhouse with an add-on, rundown motel in a dusty parking lot. I remember a balmy July afternoon there a few years ago when Dad and I stopped for a late lunch on our way back from the big car show in Logan. I had a plastic aircast on my left ankle and wore my favorite stretchy denim capris and the Reefs flip-flops that seem to never wear out. The raffle car at the Logan show had been a little deuce coup, just like the one in the Beach Boys song, and it had sent Dad off into rapturous tales of his teenage years in Phoenix, drag racing on Indian School Road. Photos from that time show a big, handsome kid, a broad-shouldered football player with perfectly combed wavy blonde locks, sparkly blue eyes and a lazy grin full of white teeth. As we eased into a cracked vinyl booth in the dim cafe he was musing about his truckdriving days through those canyons, when his c.b. handle was 'Leadfoot' and every highway patrolman between Kansas City and Los Angeles wanted a piece of him (which isn't him blowing smoke; I've heard it from a lot of people). A few colorless folks in the cafe seemed to know him, and he talked with some about a guy named 'Fats' who ran the place. It was the greasiest food I'd ever seen but Dad didn't seem to notice and I figured one time wouldn't kill me, so I got fish and chips and a diet cola.

Today the place was deserted except for a primered black and red Scottsdale with a camper shell and a skinny chocolate Lab. It looked open and I thought about stopping but remembered something from a snippet of conversation at the High Stakes lounge a few weeks ago on a Wednesday night, when Jo's husband Don said "the place hasn't been the same since old Fats died." He had to mean the Echo Cafe; he was a truck driver, too.

Usually it's smells and songs that assault my memory, but the thought of that good summer day has me wondering if I'll ever get Dad to a car show again. He had a hard time walking those uneven, grassy lanes full of his beloved glossy machines even then, and had to peer out of his good eye to point out special engine modifications or recite historical facts about each model, dropping famous names like candy. He's failing the way many vivacious people do, swiftly and sullenly. The once bright blue eyes are still piercing but the left one is tinged a dark green by the blood seeping behind, blotting out the world, so he squints it and turns his head, hawklike, to make better use of the other. He walks with a walker or cane or pushing a wheelchair, careful of the oxygen hose that tangles him up in the hall. He has a truly superior mind but without 20/20 vision and 100% mobility he seems to feel he has nothing to offer. He's always been active; he's never had a career that didn't involve momentum. From copper miner to hunting guide to ranch hand to mechanic to trucker to owning a cab company and everything in between, he's never sat at a desk stacked with charts or forms or waited idly for a consumer to come to him with a need. There's always been something to do. There was always an activity for his mind and hands, so that he now seems plagued by unexpended energy and irritation at immobility. I'm sure he had no idea at the time, but sitting down to wait until he was better enough to continue is probably what ensured the fact that he probably never will be. Not for me but for him do I hope there's something after this life, some beautiful state where ability is restored to us and our time is filled with good and useful tasks.

On a lighter note, I got a half-expected and highly-anticipated phone call from a semi-long lost friend today, which makes me super glad. So I'll have a visitor after the holidays, which is just grand but means I'll need to clean my house. I got to thinking and realized I haven't done the dishes since before Veterans' Day and there's a pile of car parts in the middle of the living room floor. Still, I can't think of a better excuse to clean up.

I went with my sister and her husband to the Legal Tender (Evanston's tacky meet market) at midnight last night, after her company Christmas party relocated from the Elks Lodge. I've recently come to the conclusion that if you're going out, you have to start drinking when everybody else does or you totally lose perspective. I had two very strong rum-and-cokes in an hour and came home pensive, and I woke up this morning in the same annoying mode. It seems bound to persist so I'll turn to other creative outlets that don't harrow up my soul as much as writing. I also woke up thinking about how blood, when it's present, is always the richest color in the room, and how you can't trust anyone named Starla (no offense if that's your name, I'm sure it was just a dream), and how the men I want always seem to want me only when I'm not available. Thank the Lord I can't remember the details of whatever subconscious wanderings brought these thoughts on, but I'm sure they came about because no one told me 'happy nightmares' before I went to sleep. The shnockered, sequin-spattered wife of an ex-CEO told me I was blessed and to go in peace, but it didn't seem to have the same effect; if anything, it made things worse. I'm looking forward to Christmas but things always seem to get a little weird this time of year, and I'm always tempted to say things no one wants to hear. Maybe I'll ask someone to censor my blog until January 10th. Or maybe I'll just post pictures. After all, they're worth a thousand words each.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

How is She Doing That?

OK, so you'll stop begging to know: allow me to introduce you to the best $350 you'll ever spend. I bought a reconditioned Olympus Stylus Digital 400 off ebay in the fall of 2003 and became the instant digital photo queen. The bright, beautiful new Verve promises to be everything my SD400 is not, and it's everything, so hey. Just it's faster, with TruePic Turbo, and a better LCD, and it takes Quicktime video and you can buy an orange one! And not only is it pretty point-and-shoot and perfectly user-friendly, it's the sexiest piece of hardware in existence. Now I know Canon and Sony and Kodak and Hewlett-Packard and everbody have very equal products, maybe cheaper, but I just love this one. It's compact and smooth and rounded and small, and it has that expensive, heavy, quality-feel when you hold it in your hand. It's weatherproof; I've dropped mine in the snow and laughed. It's tough; I've also dropped in in the driveway. I didn't laugh, but I didn't freak or cuss, either. It's tough enough to let kids handle and not worry, and I carry it with me everywhere (honestly, 24-7) and I could still convince you it's brand-new. Now wait, a word of warning: I am also the Photoshop queen, so not all of your pictures will have the awesome graphic potential mine do, and I'm the next Georgia O'Keefe, so your artistic eye is not so naturally, brilliantly good. But with some practice, I'm sure you could pull a close second. So go, get thee a Verve; just pick a color and click 'Buy Now.' Happy shooting!

Lake Wobegon Meets Ballet West

Oh, what won't happen in a small town.

These whirling snowflakes, captured at our community performance of The Nutcracker, have been blurred to protect their identities. I'm certain that three local business owners and the director of the Chamber of Commerce would like to remain somewhat anonymous, especially since one's baggy briefs are clearly (and surely intentionally) visible under his white tights and gauze tutu. The bright pink greasepaint discs on his cheeks and crown of iridescent spangles perfectly topped off the best night of ballet I've seen since the San Diego Youth Symphony was in the pit for The Nutcracker at Copley Symphony Hall. And the kicker was that through his whole ludicrous but extremely enjoyable performance, Bill never cracked a smile. He had the same look on his face he has when he comes to City Hall to pay his (late) waterbill. Mundane and stoic, completely deadpan. He was entirely expressionless as he leapt and bounded and pirouetted across the Machine Shop's heated concrete floor. It was priceless.

Also involved in this liquor-soaked production were his Honor the Mayor, president of the State Bar Association, never suspected of malversation (’s Word of the Day, I swear, and fifty points for me for slipping it in, and rhyming, to boot!), the Superintendent of Grounds and Stuff of the highly recommended municipal Purple Sage Golf Course, two or three City Council members and their equally pillar-worthy spouses, local business owners and local board members, local "personalities" and local biddies and local bums. It was fantastic. It was never meant to be serious, but what makes it way funnier than if they tried to make it funny is that they do the opposite and try to do it right. They coreograph, they costume, but then, of course, they drink. And I’m no critic of alcohol. Some of the best things I’ve ever had happen with the best people I’ve ever known had to do with liquor. It lets the real person out, as far as I’m concerned. I love my friends extra when they’re amplified, honest, and too far gone to realize that not everything I say is funny. I just wish they’d stay near me until they’re hungover and boring enough to drive home. And I mean that in the kindest way.

Anyhow it was the kind of thing that can only happen in a small town. This wouldn’t be near as hilarious if nobody in the audience was acquainted with anyone on the stage. The charm is seeing your friends and coworkers in costumes and cadence you’d never dream of by day. The scruffy Nutcracker Prince himself was wearing what was obviously (to a Wyomingite) a cross-country ski suit, skintight black spandex from neck to ankles, under a royal blue felt tunic and red felt sash, and I have a suspicion that the black handlebar mustache was, believe it or not, authentic. Clara’s rambunctious boy-brother, who breaks the prized Nutcracker doll, was played by a slight adult man in slightly-too-tight lederhosen. The evening’s mysterious Drosselmeier was a perfect stately sorcerer/uncle with silk cape (was that dried vampire blood on the collar?) and dignified walking-stick with what looked to be about a two-hundred-carat plastic jewel on top. He kept cracking jokes about balls when Clara was adoringly fondling the Christmas tree ornaments. Everyone in it was wonderful, and each was a model of community spirit in their willingness to fling dignity offstage and be a complete goof for a good cause, because of course it was a fundraiser. After tomorrow night’s performance I’m certain it will be called a great success.

I occasionally complain that nine out of ten months I suffer. In some ways I actually do. I'm chafed by small-town gossip and freezing winter temperatures and the amputation of the endless opportunity and rich culture I reveled in when I lived in San Diego. But there's unspeakable charm in small-town life, too. I guess it just takes the holidays to remind me.

Friday, December 03, 2004


Deck the Halls

Standing Room Only


Special K

Missing 'I'

Light Up My Life

The Next Post

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Black Coffee Friday

Tonight wound up quite the fiesta by my standards. After the parade (I got hit in the head by saltwater taffy thrown from a float) and a warm-up buttered rum at Summit Pets and some pink wine at Jim's and Bonnie's store (a frou-frou extravaganza), I got shnockered at Kate's (A Place for Libations and Conversations) with Jo and Don, who are delightful at any hour but extra-super-great when they're shitfaced. It's fun to watch the faces of people they know light up when they spot them. For some reason younger people gravitate towards them. They're just young at heart, I guess.

We wound up at the Flying J having breakfast entrees and black coffee at 10:30pm (which is the weekday Evanston equivalent of 1:00am anywhere outside the state of Wyoming). Jo will say anything and Don can't hear a word, and I love them dearly. I don't know what I'd do when she retires in five years, if I was still stuck here. Go crazy, I guess. Fortunately, I won't be. The only drawback to tonight was that I had to Febreze my head when I got home, and if I hadn't been wearing my favorite irreplaceable Vigoss jeans I would incinerate them. Smoking in an establishment is still the proprietor's prerogative here. If I'm not close enough to a cigarette to make my eyes swell shut, I'm ok, but I still can't sleep smelling it. I'll have one hell of a smoke hangover in the morning even though the half-dozen rum-and-cokes won't touch me. Thanks for the drinking gene, Dad, and the anti-smoking gene.

I'm going to use this weekend to regroup. After ten minutes of trying to scrub the black circles off underneath my eyes I realized it's not mascara. I'm tired, but I'm happy.

Naughty or Nice

If you're not sure what to get me for Christmas this year, I'll tell you. Anything from the J. Jill catalog that's periwinkle bouclé and has a v-neck and hood and cute little sleeve pocket. XL, because I have an abnormally large chest, or L if you want people to stare. Because they do. You learn to live with it. Anything cashmere or anything Olympus or anything that's deep berry lip gloss in a cunning little container is also acceptable.

I walked home and back at lunch, and it's a brisk 18°F. But the sun is bright and you could paint any local vista with just two colors, white and pthalo blue. I'll be walking home in the dark, but the Light Parade and Open House at downtown businesses is tonight, so it'll be fine. I'll be all liquored up and jolly and probably spend way too much cash but hey, isn't that what Christmas is all about?

Slingshot Santa

I have this gray Northern Isles wool sweater that sheds tiny gray fur all over my desk whenever I wear it. This is some consolation.

Sober Santa

I just love seasonal Productivity Enhancers, don't you?

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Trash to Treasure

I'm just wondering if the fact that my cats are both extraordinarily beautiful makes up for the fact that they're both remarkably dumb. Probably from a theoretical standpoint it doesn't, but they sure keep my feet warm. It's freakin' cold. I plugged in the magnetic oil pan heater on my car tonight so I won't feel so bad if I decide to drive it the four blocks to work in the morning. Walking is lovely, such a beautiful time, but it's below zero, people. Have pity.

Tonight's fourth grade holiday program at school included a sprightly number about the not-so-perfect-anymore Saint of Festivities, Martha Stewart, in which sixty ten-year olds sang about how she can prepare a nine-course meal without breaking a sweat and create beautiful wreaths out of trash. It was hilarious, as it was meant to be, and afterwards my brother-in-law said something very loudly about her maybe still being in solitary confinement, and we laughed even harder. It's like she's addicted to productivity, smuggling contraband baking necessities into her cell. A neurosis involving the inescapable desire for culinary perfection. Honestly, woman, get a grip. And the stock is still going up.

You wouldn't believe how far a few people would go just to hear me say "I like having you around." It scares me, but at the same time it's truly gratifying. Weird.