31 December 2009

New math

Trader Joe's Cashier: That will be $19.41
Suebob: Interestingly, that was also the year I was born.
Trader Joe's Cashier: Neat
Suebob: [waiting for the light to dawn] Yes, a long, long time ago
Trader Joe's Cashier: Since it's your birthday, do you want a lollipop?
Suebob: [still waiting for the light to dawn] Um, no, that's ok. At my age, I really shouldn't.
Trader Joe's Cashier: It's pomegranate flavor.
Suebob: [giving up] Oh, ok - antioxidants! They can help reverse the aging process you know. I eat a lot of pomegranates.
Trader Joe's Cashier: Ok, well, have a good day then.
Suebob: [muttering as I leave] Damn California school system. Damn Proposition 13. Nobody has any math skills anymore. Do I LOOK 68? Wait...don't answer that.

29 December 2009

Jumpin' Gyminie

I got a new swimsuit that is perhaps a bit more low-cut than I had anticipated it being.

Because I am a cheap bastard, I bought it from Land's End Overstocks.

I love their swimsuits - they wear really well, come in a zillion styles, and they make a size for people with freakishly long torsos such as myself. The cheap bastard part comes in because I will buy almost anything that is on sale and not entirely hideous.

I exercise in these things, not lay on the pool deck waiting for my mojito, so style is not a big concern.

This suit is cute but, as I said, cut really low for my taste.

But I'm in an aqua aerobics class with all women, so who cares, right?

At the end of class, we put the lane lines back in place for the swimmers. Because our teacher always runs late and because swimmers seem to be compulsively on time, there are often swimmers waiting for us to finish.

There was an older man - maybe 70ish - waiting in my lane as I pulled the lane line in. I had to struggle a bit, twisting and turning as I fought to put the hook in the wall as I pulled the line taut.

"Pardon me," I said to the man as I crossed in front of him.

Looking right down my suit, with eyes boinging out like a cartoon cat, he said "Oh, NO PROBLEM."

Glad I could make his day.

25 December 2009

Songs that save your life

Sometimes it is the smallest things. You're beaten, you're down, you're alone, you don't know where to go or what to do.

Then a door cracks open and out spills just a sliver of light and suddenly you can see and you just KNOW that you can reach over and jerk that sucker open and walk through that doorway, out of the darkness and into a new place, a place that is, at the very least, different from where you are.

I don't know why songs are so often the thing that pops the door open. Something in music connects right up to Control Central right down there in the middle without having to travel through the buzzing wiring in our brains. It just gets in there and does what it does and we end up laughing or sobbing or gasping or standing up and shaking parts that we didn't even know we could shake anymore.

So there I was a while ago, driving around. I lived with someone who hated me and who was perpetually unhappy, both about my existence and about everything else in general. I had felt FAIL for so long that I couldn't even imagine what WIN was anymore.

I was getting on the freeway, heading home, feeling like crap. And then "Jump" by Van Halen came on the classic rock station.

I KNOW. Can anything be more silly or ridiculous? It's not great music. It's not gonna be on anyone's top 100 list. But that day, in that place, it GOT me.

Even though I was hearing it on the radio, the thousand times I had seen the video rushed back to life in my head and I was driving along seeing that nutty video play in my head and singing and laughing.

"Might as well jump." Damn right.

Suddenly I knew to the marrow of my bones that I was going to be ok. No matter how much anyone tried to keep me down, I was going to get up, to jump, and the jump was NOT going to be off a building.

I was going to leap through life with goofy, goony joy, the same kind of crazy life force that caused Diamond Dave to put on that wack red net corset-y outfit and parade around the stage like a low-rent Mick Jagger with bigass hair, the same joy that kept Eddie smiling his little elf smile while wearing possibly the most unattractive yellow tiger-striped jacket ever made.

"Might as well jump." From then on, when I was getting looked down upon, I had that song in my head and Eddie's sweet smile in my heart. On the outside, I put on my best blasé face and went through the motions and did what I had to do so I could put my escape plan into motion. But inside, I knew who I was. I was someone who could always jump.

I'm so thankful for that song. It gave me something, you know? Tell me about a song that saved you.

18 December 2009

Puzzling Evidence?

I went on a business trip and took the Red Stapler with me because I knew I would be meeting up with some bloggers and I thought it would be great to get some photos.

When I was unpacking upon my return, I found the stapler had suffered in transit:

The following Monday, we found that we were in danger of being laid off.

I started this blog and got the stapler when I first started that job.


17 December 2009

What. The. Heck

How could I leave that grim & depressing post up for so long? My apologies. My excuse is that I have been BUSY - I think I have done seven news articles in the past five days PLUS job hunting.

Ok, a bullet point post will have to do.

  • I'm not going to say much but cross your fingers for my job hopes. There may be something good around the corner.
  • Things with the folks are even MORE worrisome. I'm pondering next steps. I wish my siblings all lived in my town so we could sit down over coffee, because they are all smarter than me.
  • I have done exactly nothing for Christmas so far.
  • My ex-job supplied me with 2 months of career search services, which I very much appreciate. That is mighty decent of them. There is something to be said for working for a SuperMegaHuge Giant Corporation.
  • Any advice on whether to buy Quark or InDesign if I want to do some design work again? I have Illustrator and PhotoShop. I worked in Quark 40 hours a week for, oh, a billion years, so I am more familiar. What are all the cool kids using?

Ok, off to do more reporting. Mo' money, baby.

09 December 2009

Best Blog Challenge

The lovely Gwen Bell has issued a challenge about a challenge: write about something that challenged you this year and how you overcame it and why it was a good challenge.

Here I go.
No really.
I'm doing it any minute.

I don't like to think about challenges. I just want them to go away tra la. I am lazy like that.

I don't know if I have overcome this one yet or not.

Ok, I haven't. It is my continuing challenge, one that I deal with every single day.

I am challenged by not having my parents' precipitous decline into old age taint my world view. The pain and suffering and helplessness they face every day as their bodies and minds wear our are almost more than I can bear at times.

Their existential crisis has become my existential crisis. What's it all about, Alfie?

I try to keep my eyes wide open. To be helpful and kind and to not minimize or ignore their suffering because I hate seeing it so much.

Sometimes I pass and on many days I fail. I forget that they aren't who they used to be.

I snap at them, I'm sarcastic, I'm impatient, I run out of there just to get away for a while.

The temptation is to put up a wall - not against them so much but against feeling what is happening to them and letting the full horror wash over me. Because it is horrifying, it is scary, it is painful.

It is only when I can gather my inner strength, my hidden Toltec warrior, and just be there that it is all ok. If I can just breathe through it, remember to be right there, right then - that's when I can feel all the feelings and let the power of love tie us together instead of let the misunderstandings, pains and fear tear us apart.

So. That's not the most cheerful challenge on earth, but there it is. There is no tidy ending, no Oprah-episode "Aha" moment. Just life. I hope that's enough.

08 December 2009

Fun Poinsettia Facts

I know that you think this is a poinsettia:
Supermarket poinsettia

But I live in The Poinsettia City, where we have poinsettias like this:
Big poinsettia

Close up, they look like this:
Poinsettia bush

If you like the white kind, you can go over to my neighbor's house:

That's a big poinsettia tree!

Random Poinsettia Facts:

  • Those big pointy colorful things on poinsettias are not the flower. Those are bracts.

  • The flower is that weird little thing in the middle. If you want a long-lasting poinsettia, pick one where there is no yellow pollen showing on the flower.

  • Poinsettias are from the genus Euphorbia. There are some very weird-looking Euphorbias.

  • This may be why the Poinsettia's botanic name is Euphoribia pulcherrima, pulcherrima having the same root as "pulchritude" or beauty.
  • Many people think that Poinsettias are toxic, but you would probably have to eat a giant Poinsettia salad to make yourself sick. The sap of Euphorbias is known to be irritating to the skin, though, so wash thoroughly if you get the sap on yourself. And just to be safe, do not eat the leaves.

  • The world's biggest grower and breeder of Poinsettias is Paul Ecke Ranch in Encinitas, California. They are responsible for all those cool curly, spotty and multicolored Poinsettias that come out each year.

  • Poinsettias are one of the most difficult holiday plants to grow. They need to be tricked into blooming precisely at Christmastime, which means providing them with exactly the right day length. Growers cover the little plants with blackout cloth or give them extra light at night to make them think the nights are just the right length for them to set flowers.

  • I was a horticulture major in college. Does it show?

Enjoy your holiday season. And buy some Poinsettias.

Your correspondent from The Poinsettia City,

06 December 2009

The list

My friends Spike, Lucky Spud and Doodle went to Vegas on an ill-fated trip and had so many bad things happen that they finally started a bulleted list, just so they could remember them all, lest they leave anything out of the tale of woe.

It is in this spirit of marinating in the badness that I bring you: My Week, The List of Horror

  1. Mom got chest pains

  2. Poor Swine Flu baby spewing germs all over ER waiting room

  3. Blessedly short Swine Flu emergency waiting room wait

  4. Followed by all-day in Swine Flu Emergency Room

  5. Noisy, horrible, uncomfortable ER packed to capacity

  6. Dad such a mess he didn't recognize a restaurant where he had eaten literally hundreds of times

  7. No water or bedpan for mom for hours at a time

  8. No food offered for mom from 7 am to 9 pm

  9. Angioplasty

  10. My last day at work cut to 2 hours squeezed in

  11. Cleaning my cubicle

  12. Saying goodbye to beloved co-workers in a rush

  13. 3 day old dishes rotting at home

  14. Not able to spend any time at home because landlord was sealing driveway and Goldie was trapped in hot car

  15. Standing in hospital hallway for 90 minutes with 91-year-old dad and sis because no one knew where mom was

  16. 3 nights on my folks' "block of cement" guest room bed

  17. Return of sciatic pain in my legs due to #16

  18. Saturday spent at medical labs, with Medicare nurse and doing a freelance job

  19. Sunday morning flat tire

  20. Tire store closed on Sunday

Ok, it wasn't ALL bad.

  1. Mom made a good recovery. They caught it just in time.

  2. My sis PK came far to rescue us when I was freaking out because the angioplasty fell on my last day at work and I needed to go clean out my cubicle and say goodbye. She really, really saved the day.

  3. A nice hospital employee named Devin very kindly walked me and my lost dad around the hospital when we couldn't find mom, and his sweet gesture swept the rest of the staff's cluelessness and rudeness right away.

  4. Mom promised to go back on her heart meds.

  5. If nothing else, it kept me from thinking about my last week at work

  6. I had an understanding manager who said "Of course family comes first" when I needed to take time off

Tell me about the FUN thing you did this week.

01 December 2009

My most embarrassing life

My Most Embarrassing Moment by Suebob, Mrs. Flinger's Period 3 English*

*Explanation at bottom of post

Most embarrassing moments are usually just that: a moment, a brief time of realization and blushing, followed by the blissful softening of time's passing.

But what happens when your embarrassing moment happens and you don't even know about it until long after everyone else has heard about it, when, years later, the realization comes crashing down on you like an emotional pile of bricks?

That's what happened to me.

When I was in my junior year of high school, I awoke one day with terrible back pain. I was in ballet at the time, so I thought I had strained a muscle.

I iced, I used a heating pad, but nothing helped. My mom took me over to the chiropractor and I almost passed out from the pain.

I remember standing at the counter and having my vision disappear down to pinpoints and the noises around me get farther and farther away until someone grabbed me just as I collapsed.

Someone took my temperature and found I had a 104 degree fever. My doctor ordered me admitted to the hospital. Our family doctor at the time was this harsh skinny old guy with a thick German accent. I always suspected that he was a retired Nazi but I'm sure that is just speculation...mmmmaybe.

They put me on the pediatrics ward at the hospital. The doctor came to visit me there and took me into a broom closet and did my first, and by far the worst, pelvic exam of my life.

Between the pain and the fever and the broom closet and a strange man rooting around in my privates with the grace of a ham-handed plumber, I was a mess. During the exam, Dr. Mengele asked me "Are you sexually emancipated?"

This was 1977 and I had no idea what he was talking about. I assumed he was asking me if I was a feminist. After all, the debate over the Equal Rights Amendment was raging at the time. So I said yes.

After that, things get a little fuzzy. My fever went up even higher and I ended up spending six weeks on that peds ward, receiving massive doses of erythromycin for a staph infection that had settled in the bones of my lower spine. Except for developing a permanent hatred for runny food served on plastic plates, I recovered fully.

Fast forward 25 years. My sister Laura and I were talking about the time I had spent in the hospital. She said, laughing, "And that old German doctor told mom and dad you had gonorrhea."

"WHAT?" I yelled.

"You didn't know? He said he had asked you if you were having sex with a lot of people and, with your symptoms, he suspected gonorrhea."

"Doctor Mengele told mom and dad I was having sex with a lot of people and had gonorrhea?? That isn't what he asked me. He said 'sexually emancipated.' I thought he meant if I approved of women being firefighters and judges!"

So my most embarrassing moment lasted 25 years, the years when my parents thought I was a total slut.

Mrs. Flinger has a new project: trying to help bloggers become better writers. Thank God. Somebody has to!

The idea is that we will do weekly writing assignments and give each other gentle and helpful criticism. Week one's topic: My Most Embarrassing Moment. Ok!

29 November 2009

Helter skelter

How often do you think to yourself "There is something seriously wrong with me?"

Often? Please say often. That way I won't feel so alone.

Today I was walked Goldie at my old community college and parked over by the swimming pool. I used to spend an hour a day there doing laps, back and forth in the glassy blue water, composing poetry as I listened to the bubbles in my ears.

I walked up to the fence and looked in and suddenly felt like I had been dropped down an elevator shaft. Darkness zoomed up around me.

I was instantly nauseous and reeling. I grabbed the chain link fence to keep from toppling over.

The pool was empty. It wasn't the sight of my beloved swimming pool empty that got to me. It was just...oh, here it goes - empty swimming pools horrify me in a way that I can't even explain.

It is not rational. It is blown out of proportion. It is more than a bit ridiculous. And it happens every single time.

I staggered back from the fence and kept walking Goldie around the campus for about half an hour, but I couldn't get that gaping empty swimming pool out of my mind.

I felt sick and weak and bad. I just limped on, propelled by the force of a determined 65-pound mutt on a squirrel hunt.

Toward the end of the walk, Goldie sat down suddenly and began madly licking a back foot. I looked at her paw and saw what looked like a moderate gash, like she had stepped on something.

I urged her on because there was nothing I could do to help her. In the middle of the street, she sat down and began licking and chewing and would not move. Fortunately, it wasn't a busy street, but finally a car came along and I kind of dragged her over to the edge.

"Is he ok?" the man in the car asked.

God bless him. I told him she was ok, just had a little cut. I really appreciated him asking - just one human letting another know that they cared. I love people like that.

I sat down on the sidewalk and inspected Goldie's paw more closely and found a big thorn. I pulled it out and we waited a bit and she recovered enough to start rooting in the bushes again.

Then I realized my fear and nausea was all gone. Funny how sometimes a small crisis can return our focus, bring us back into ourselves and make everything ok again.

So make me feel better and tell me about your irrational weirdnesses. Come on. You know you want to.

23 November 2009

Big tough cops in pink shirts

I saw these police officers at the 3-Day Walk for Breast Cancer in San Diego this weekend. For the weekend, the "thin blue line" turned into a pink line - which I think is pretty dang cool.

19 November 2009

The Layoff Chronicles: All the Children are Above Average

We had our last phone conference call with our Vice President, who was also laid off. Half the team is leaving, the others are staying.

Rachel: I had to drop off the call early to meet with a headhunter. Did anything happen after Scott spoke about [some ongoing project]?

Suebob: Well, there was a kind of tearful goodbye from Shelly, and then we got trophies. Oh, man, you missed getting your trophy.


Suebob: Yeah, we all got trophies. Just like soccer - all the children get trophies, even the losers.

Rachel: The wha? No they didn't. SHUT UP! YOU SUCK.

Suebob: [rolling on the floor laughing at my own excellent joke].

12 November 2009

The Layoff Chronicles: The Circle of Life

Background info: Every December at work we do an all-hands-on-deck project that has traditionally taken five of us on our team about six weeks to accomplish. Meanwhile, dozens of other people across the company are also frantically working to accomplish their pieces of the project, and a wonderful woman named Debbie stitches them all together at the end to make one magnificent finished piece.

The problem is that this year, only two out of five of us will be around to do the project.

Because it is so complex, we begin planning in November. Thus, the emails begin.


From: Person, Patty
Sent: Thursday, November 12, 2009 1:28 PM
To:[Lots of people]

As work for the *Massive Gigantor Project (name redacted)* gets underway, we would like to have a kick-off meeting with the sponsors. More materials will be provided prior to the meeting.

Please let us know if you are unable to attend our kick-off meeting. Debbie and I will determine the best approach to follow up with you to review information.

Thank you.

Patty Person


From: Person, Patty
Sent: Thursday, November 12, 2009 2:10 PM
To:[Lots of people]

The attached PowerPoint presentation is for our Kick Off meeting on Monday.
[Massive Gigantor Project Kick-off - 11-16-2009 v4.ppt]

Patty Person


From: *My Director*
Sent: Thursday, November 12, 2009 2:13 PM
To: Person, Patty
Cc: Suebob; New V.P., Debbie
Subject: RE: Kick off 2010 Massive Gigantor Project


My position and Suebob’s have been eliminated. The remaining team is moving under *New VP Name*. You have appropriate representatives from the remaining team for your meeting, but we will not be participating.

New V.P. and Debbie will have to let you know how XXX team will participate with Massive Gigantor Project moving forward.

My Director, who rocks


From: Person, Patty
Sent: Thursday, November 12, 2009 2:16 PM
To: My Director; Suebob; Debbie

I am sorry to hear about you and Suebob. I wish you the best.

My position was also eliminated. I am including Debbie on this email, as she will be overseeing this work going forward and will need this information. Thanks again!

Patty Person
Strategy Leader


And with that, I started howling with bitter laughter. What else can you do? Cry? I'll bet that is what poor Debbie is doing.

11 November 2009

In honor of Veteran's Day

And in honor of safe returns, and of love between people and their animal friends:

10 November 2009

The Layoff Chronicles

Conference call self portrait

Yesterday we got to the stage of mourning called "Anger." I knew it would happen, I just wasn't sure when.

I awoke with a snap at 3 a.m., mad.

Mad that we had been laid off without Some People having a shred of understanding of what we do and why we are needed to keep doing it.

Mad that some people I thought were less capable had been spared when good people had been lost. Mad that we got let go at the worst time of the year to find a job.

Then when I went into the office, I found that it wasn't just me. Everyone had been hit by the Big Angry Bus at the same time.

There were a lot of IMs and "WTF?" and arm-waving. There were "I just don't understand why...." conversations. Fortunately none of it was directed at each other. We have Higher Forces to blame, generally.

Finally about 10 a.m., I realized what was going on and said "Oh, I see we are in the anger phase!" That somehow made me feel better. This, too, would pass.

The day ended with my church board buying me butternut squash ravioli and a big glass of syrah for dinner, and sitting around a big table talking and laughing, and if that won't take the edge off your anger, I don't know what will.

And now for your Moment of Inspiration. Even without the song, watching Astaire "fall" so beautifully would cheer me up.

08 November 2009


I was having so much fun on Friday, my first day of being laid off, that I forgot to post.

It wasn't a real day of being laid off, since we got a 30-day notice. They just gave me the day off to mourn and regroup.

I slept in til 8, had waffles for breakfast, goofed around on the internet, talked to friends, walked the dog on the beach and, oh? Forgot to mourn and/or regroup.

But I got my laundry done.

Felt better than I have in months. And got an offer to do writing work for a friend's company as a consultant.

Then on Saturday I made money interviewing the brilliant and fascinating Daniel Ellsberg, who was at the center of one of the most important news stories of the 20th century. I could have talked to him all day and all night and would have paid for the privilege. But no. I got paid to do it.

Poor, poor pitiful me.

07 November 2009

My mom can out passive-aggressive your mom

My mom never accepts presents gracefully.

Her usual modus operandi is to wait about a week after she has gotten something and then return it to the giver, saying "Oh, I would never use this." Or "You need it more than I do."

Or, in the rare instance, "Do you mind if I give this to Hazel? I don't need it and she might like it."

Damned if I know why she does this. She has returned gifts from clothing to household items to even real maple syrup ("Oh, we'll never use this. We'll just stick to the Log Cabin like we like.")

Finally, one day, about six weeks ago, I snapped. I told her that it wasn't very nice to always give presents back, that it made the givers feel like crap and that she needed to just say thank you and never mention what she did with the gifts ever again.

She made little wounded noises and "Well, I was just trying to be nice" statements and was generally kind of miffy.

Since then, there have been a couple "Oh, I was going to try to give this back to you but I'm not allowed," statements, but she has been better, admittedly.

But I should have known she had a card in her pocket.

A couple weeks ago, she finally cancelled the WebTV service that my sibs and I had bought for Mom and Dad in, oh, 1997. She was mostly getting spam email and wasn't enjoying it and it wasn't worth the $24.95 a month she was paying MSNBC for it.

"I don't know what to do with that keyboard thing," she said.

"Throw it away, donate it to Goodwill, whatever," I said.

"Well," she replied. "I know I'm not allowed to get rid of anything you give me."

Twelve years, people. She has had it for at least twelve years.


And I wonder where I get it from.

05 November 2009

The promised details

I was ready to get laid off when I dressed for work this morning. I just felt it would be today. My office's dress code is very casual, but something inside me said "I am not going to look like a schlub in front of these human resources people." So I put on my best slacks and a colorful top and makeup and accessorized appropriately, just in case.

And I was right - by 9:30, I had gotten the speech ("the economy, necessary streamlining of operations blah blah blah") and the big green folder of paperwork and had to make the Walk of Shame across CubicleLand.

I almost wanted to write "UNION" on my notepad and hold it above my head just for fun, a la Norma Rae.

When this journey toward layoffs started, I was scared to bring anyone along with me, but now that I have officially gotten notice, I am so glad I was honest here on my blog.

The support and warmth of people on the internet is incredible. It makes me feel like I am part of some magical community.

Of course, I don't know how magical it will feel when, sometime in the spring, I show up on y'alls front porch, asking for lunch and then have you tell me to get lost or else you are calling the police, but still...for now, it feels great.

And then there's my family and local friends. Also lump-in-the-throat great. Nothing like adversity to make those bonds clear.

And to tell you the truth (slap me if I begin another paragraph with "and") it wasn't all that adverse.

As I said in the post previous, my team was decimated. Out of five in California, two are left.

But we took it with grace and humor and a good bit of joy.

We made the human resources layoff lady cry. Twice. And this is a woman who lays people off ALL DAY LONG. She cried because we were so great and because we comforted our boss instead of asking to be comforted. Because we laughed and joked and looked each other in the eyes.

We were released for the day but we didn't want to leave. We had a potluck planned for lunch, so we hung out and bitched and laughed and then ate a long, slow, delicious lunch topped off honest-to-God Snickers Salad.

I will indeed miss the people I worked with. They were truly the finest kind and we made an awesome, work-doing machine.

Team 350px
Only 3 remain

That our efforts were not good enough for the company we worked for speaks more to the impatience and cruelty of modern corporate life than to anything we did or didn't do.

All things come to an end, and it was time for an ending. Time for me to bust out and to move on. I have no idea what I will be doing, but I have no doubt that my life will be more creative, more zany, and more fun-filled than it was before. With quite possibly a good dose of struggle and angst thrown in for good measure.

Of one thing you can be sure: I will keep you posted. My rollercoaster is yours.

Thanks again for your kind words, hopes and prayers. You're the best.


30 days notice, decent severance package, our team decimated.

More deets later. I'm ok.

04 November 2009

No one appreciates what I do

Matt, Rachel and I were walking to lunch.

"Holy sh*t!! What is that...."


"Oh my gah. Are there DEAD PEOPLE in there or something?"

We began staggering around, clutching our noses in a dramatic fashion.

We had walked by a parked tractor-trailer truck that a horrible rotten fish smell was blowing up from in giant green clouds. Well, not literally, but still.

"Something is seriously wrong with that," I said. "Who leaves a trailer full of rotten fish?"

When we came back from lunch, the reeking thing was still there, and though we cut across the parking lot and walked far away, it the stinky stank still smashed into us.

"I'm gonna call the police and tell them," I said.

So a couple hours later, I made the call.

"I'm over on Reese Road and there is this truck that is full of rotting fish," I said.

"Is it parked illegally?" the dispatcher asked.

"Um, no," I said.

"Do you think for some reason that it is stolen?" she said.

"Ah, no, but it seems weird," I said. "It really stinks."

"So you are reporting what, exactly?" she asked.

This is when I saw the flaw in my theory and saw this call through the dispatcher's eyes. I'm sure her flashing "NUTSO" sign was blinking like mad.

"Uh, um, I guess I know that parking a stinky truck isn't exactly illegal," I said, "But I think maybe it is abandoned or something. Can you just send someone to check it out?"

"Right. Ok," she said patiently, with the tone of someone who is going to turn around to her co-worker right after this call is over and relay this dumbass conversation word for word. "If someone is in the area, I will have them stop and take a look."

Then she took my name and phone number. No one came to get me and take me away, so I guess that's something.

03 November 2009

Question du Jour

There's that old notion that men who drive huuuuuge monster trucks must be compensating for a lack *ahem* somewhere else in their lives, right?

The guys at work want to know - does that make women a little more interested in guys who drive Mini Coopers or SmartCars?

Inquiring minds want to know.

02 November 2009

I guess this means I am NaBloPoMoing or something

The latest rumor flying around - and who knows if it is true - is that layoffs will be conducted in a staged fashion, a bunch every so often 'til the end of the year. Or maybe longer.

Yes! This is SO good for my mental health. I am SO GOOD at handling this kind of stress. Almost as good as I am at riding a unicycle on a tightrope while juggling flaming Barbie dolls!

Please send Xanax. Or Oxycontin. At this point, I have no room to be picky.

*I am joking about sending me drugs. Please do not break any local, state or federal laws on my behalf.

01 November 2009

Signs and Wonders

Belgian Waffling wrote a post the other day about trying to memorialize her mother's death properly and feeling like she failed to do so.
I can't ever find a meaningful way to mark these occasions. I've lit candles, many many candles. My mother was always finding a church wherever she was (despite being an exceptionally lapsed Catholic) and lighting a candle for some or other person she was worried about. We went the morning after she died and lit candles in York Minster and though the gesture was absolutely right, one she would have absolutely done herself, it was hollow for me. Everything I've tried feels empty. I've sat in the undertakers with my sister and a Diptyque candle, and a coffin, neither of us quite sure what we thought we were doing, I've been to a tree planting, I've been for ceremonial afternoon tea at Bettys Tea Room...But I can't find a single thing to do on these days that feels right for me. I suppose I still think there's nothing right about her dying; a decorous, fitting tribute feels inappropriate. It suggests a finality I don't feel.

I suppose anyone who has been through a big loss knows what she is talking about - "Everything I've tried feels empty. Sigh.

Today is Dia de los Muertos, a joyous Mexican celebration of those who have passed on before. Family and relationships are tremendously important in Mexico. Of course, they are important everywhere, but Mexicans seem to have a strong and special warmth for family that they extend far past death, recognizing that just because people's bodies are no longer with us, that doesn't mean that those people aren't still in our lives.

As I prepare for the holiday, which we celebrate at church, I have of course been thinking of Laura and Curt. They knew each other well and had great affection for each other. I hope that wherever they are, that their paths cross frequently. The thought of them hanging out together gives me great comfort.

So in honor of Dia de los Muertos, let me share a little Curt and Laura story.

The house I lived in with Curt had a terrible ant problem. While this worried me a bit, it sent Curt into a frenzy.

He tried to stop the ants with every non-toxic method known to man. He put the cats' food dishes into little moats of water. He sprinkled boric acid on ant trails. He used Windex and Simple Green.

And still the ants came.

One time when Laura was visiting, she saw Curt on his ant hunt. He had been sticking his head in the back of the cabinets with a flashlight, hunting ants.

A week after she went home, a package arrived in the mail for Curt. It was a big bag full of plastic glow-in-the-dark ants.

The note said "I thought these would be easier for you to find with your flashlight."

That's the kind of person my sister was. Always thinking of other people.

Edited to add: 10 seconds after I published this post, I walked into the kitchen to find one of my cabinets infested with ants, which had never been a problem here before. Ok, you pranksters. I get the picture. Knock it off! Love you two.

Looking up
Me & Laura on the beach in 1983.

29 October 2009


I always feel like I need a palate cleanser after writing a super depressing post. So here comes the grapefruit sorbet of blog posts.
Things I Find Utterly Comforting
  • BBC World Service. When I hear them say "It is 3 a.m. GMT," the idea that there are nice British news announcers with posh accents awake in some little studio at 3 a.m., just so I can hear about things like EU politics - well, that is strangely comforting to me. They are THERE for me. They are my people.

  • Speaking of radio, Daniel Zwerdling friended me back on Facebook. Not just comforting, but thrilling in a totally NPR-geek kind of way.

  • IMG_0852
  • And speaking of truly great voices, Barack Obama comforts me in a deep and satisfying way. I could listen to him talk about, say, agricultural trade policy with Central America for hours and not get sick of him.

  • My Superhero "Earth" necklace. I always thought these colors would be too wimpy for me. They're not - they are perfect. I feel like a pretty, pretty princess when I am wearing this necklace.

  • Goldie. Well, of course, Goldie.

  • Banana trees growing in my yard. Even after 4 years, I still think my banana trees are the niftiest thing ever, and sitting under them in the soft shade listening to the leaves brush together lets me pretend I am on vacation in the tropics.

  • The prayer for protection that we say at Unity. Like to hear it? Here it goes:
    The light of God surrounds me.
    The love of God enfolds me.
    The power of God protects me.
    The presence of God watches over me.
    Wherever we are, God is,
    And all is well.

  • Those Gap body pants they sent me randomly and for free for visiting the Shutter Sisters suite at BlogHer 2009. I am not getting paid for this review and I did not ask for the pants, but I must say they are the softest, comfiest thing on earth, and any time they want to send me more, I will say so again (hint, hint) and if they send me more than $40 worth, I will yank down my BlogHer ad so quick you won't remember it was ever there. Just saying.

  • Listing all the countries of the world in alphabetic order. Not strict order - I just start with all countries beginning with the letter A (of which there are a surprising number. Don't forget Angola!) and moving on to B when I can't remember any more A's. I do this to fall asleep. I rarely get to the letter E.

Ok, what comforts YOU?

28 October 2009

Damocles's Bitch

I am still standing, with the layoff sword swinging above my head. I can feel it whoosh by and chop a few hairs each time.

Today hundreds were lost. Like baby birds with new wings, they got sent into the unknown. But I'm sure it felt like plummeting, not flying.

They were people who have rent to pay, mortgages, kids to feed, too much debt. Maybe they cried, maybe they swore. Maybe they just sighed and put their stuff in their cardboard box, resigned.

I hate this waiting, the way it makes me feel. Hopeless and helpless with a stomach full of butterflies and a head buzzing with bad thoughts. Can't sleep. I try to meditate and my mind slips away in the space of two breaths.

And yet I love this waiting because it is one more day of doing this job, getting paid, not having to scramble with all of the desperate masses out there.

Like any caveman who doesn't understand the forces that befall him, I look to signs and omens: if we don't hear anything by noon, that means we will make it through the day. I check his eyes to see if the security guard looks nervous, like he knows something. I read and re-read the announcement emails, examining individual words, phrases, for hidden meanings and connections.

I hope it's not me, then I feel bad, for if it isn't me, it will be someone else. Do I deserve to stay? Am I better than my co-workers? Do I work hard enough? Am I smart enough, capable enough, do I care enough?

Or do I not care at all anymore? Maybe that's what this dead, flat feeling is, dull like a smashed penny from the railroad tracks.

I am at a loss. I wear the same clothes day after day. I don't fix my hair. Sometimes I don't comb my hair. I don't know what to eat. I don't want to get up in the morning or to go to bed at night.

Goldie is unsatisfied that I am not getting up. So she is reminding me of what I am doing wrong by menacing me with her giant dog head.

Maybe it is time to move on. But please don't let me have to.

I wish things were happy. I wish they were simple. I wish people treated each other better.

In Spanish, to hope and to wait are the same word, esperar. Espero por la futura.

25 October 2009

At long last, an Amtrak update

A nice lady from Amtrak called me to talk to me about this post. I wish they had a bigger staff so I didn't have to wait weeks for a resolution, but that's Congress's problem, I suppose.

Eddie Valentine said she is route manager for the train I was on, and that I am completely off my tree with charges of racism. She didn't say it that way. She was very polite.

"Don't see something that isn't there," she said.

She explained that on long-distange trains, passengers are sorted by destination to minimize the amount of foot traffic and luggage moving and whatnot that might disturb others as they prepare to exit the train.

Makes sense. I cannot remember anyone asking me my destination but I am willing to admit that my memory may be faulty. I was dealing with bags and traveling companions and tickets and ID and perhaps the lady did ask me. I don't remember it - but I could be wrong on that count.

Ms. Valentine also explained in no uncertain terms that she is Black and that there is no way she would stand for that kind of activity on her train.

So there we have it. An explanation at last. What do you think? Make sense?

24 October 2009

Good God I'm Glad I'm Not a Kid Today

Chicken Pox
Me enjoying a lovely case of chicken pox. Ah, those were the days.

Like childhood wasn't hard ENOUGH when I was growing up, parents keep doing awful stuff to mess up childhood. If I were a child today, I would walk around with dried peas in my shoes like a pilgrim to distract myself from the horror of modern childhood. The evidence?

Edited to add: Ok, I had to go back and edit because Mir thought I was being mean and judgy. She may be right. But I aim to please. Especially to please Mir, because she has nice hair.

1. Child-sized crocs. Step away from the Crocs display. Ugly shoes can wait for adulthood.

2. Daycare. Look, I don't like people now. When I was 3, I liked them even less because they seemed larger and scarier. I only attribute the slim grasp I hold on sanity now to the fact that, due to our tiny school size, there was no kindergarten. I got to spend one more blessed year at home in peace with my mom, instead of suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous schooling.

(I understand that you may HAVE to put your kids in daycare. I'm just forever thankful that my parents didn't because I know it would have been awful for me as a hyper-sensitive, quiet, misanthropic loner child. On the other hand, it might have made me a nicer and more patient person... Naaaaah.

And this point is actually meant to compliment my mom. She made being home so cozy and fun that I'm forever thankful that I got six years of it before I went off to school. Thanks, Mom. You're the best.)

3. Ruining Halloween. When I was a child, October meant two things: fun costumes and LOTS OF CANDY. Now people are insisting that Halloween be scaled back to an emasculated "Harvest Festivals" because of the witchy/pagan connection. Gah. Halloween is thrilling and a little scary and fun and involves LOTS OF CANDY. Candy is the true currency of childhood, and you people who want a healthy, sane Halloween are ROBBING children. Not having Halloween is like purse-snatching. Do you want to be a common street criminal? Hm? Then hand over the mini-Snickers.

4. Activities. Soccer. T-ball. Dance lessons. More soccer. Music lessons. Swim team. Holy cats. Can't a kid get some time to watch cartoons and pick his nose? How are children these days supposed to indulge their natural tendencies toward sloth and time-wasting?

Activities remind me too much of work. You have to show up, be on time, be dressed appropriately, pay attention. What ever happened to sitting on the couch in PJs before your parents got up, eating raw pop-tarts and drinking chocolate milk, watching "I Love Lucy reruns" and trimming your doll's hair with nail scissors? True, nobody ever gave me a trophy for that, but it made me who I am today. Ok, forget that last bit.

5. Miley Cyrus.

6. Birthday party gift bags. When I was a child and you had a birthday party, YOU got the presents. What kid wants to see other people happy on their birthday when by all rights it should be a Roman carnival of indudgence dedicated solely to THEM? Nobody, that's who. Guests BRING presents. Guests don't GET presents.

7. Food allergies. You aren't a kid today unless your parents are freaking out about something you can't eat. The days of Tang and Twinkies for lunch are gone forever, I suppose.

(Some kids have truly serious allergies disclaimer blah blah blah. I was actually thinking of a specifically nutty woman I know who thinks her kid is allergic to practically everything including wheat, rice, chicken, tofu and apples...when I am pretty sure that the kid is just sick of mom's long-simmering rage against practically everything in life. And I miss Twinkies and Tang.)

8. Drugs. OK, Mir. I took this one off because, you're right it was kind of judgy and mean and the whole subject is just a minefield of touchy emotions and despair.

9. AP classes. I went to high school back in the 1970s. Teachers were happy if you just showed up and weren't zorked out of your mind on drugs. If you turned in work, any kind of work, that was good for at least a B.

Now high schoolers are expected to know stuff and to achieve and to strive for things. All this actual learning and doing most certainly cuts into their time that would be better spent hanging out by the lockers and making fun of other people's outfits, as we so enjoyed doing. Kids today just don't know what they are missing.

10. Ok, Mir, forgive me. I was trying to be funny and I was a little mean. I just want the kids to be happy, really. Start by sparing them from ugly footwear and Miley Cyrus, and we can work from there.

23 October 2009

Senas, bet dar gyvas

(The title is Lithuanian, from a t-shirt Mr. Mojo used to wear. It means "Old, but still alive.")

The free Picnik online photo editing software I got at BlogHer has led to the recent spate of rotating blog headers.

I started playing with the program and just could not stop. FUN!

This week's header is in homage to Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player ever.

(I KNOW Magic and Kareem and LeBron are great. But nobody, nobody, will ever top Jordan).

When I went to name my blog, http://redstapler.blogspot.com was taken by someone who put up one lousy post and never came back, so I needed to add a lucky number to my URL.

I chose 23, Jordan's jersey number, because Michael could fly and because he was magic.

If you can watch old video of Michael playing for the Bulls and NOT get a thrill, I think there is something sad and cold and dead inside you.

If I ever stop enjoying watching those games, you can whack me in the back of the head with a blunt object and leave me in a ditch, because life won't be worth living anymore.

20 October 2009

I am mutli-talented

(I always like to say "mutli" instead of "multi." It makes me laugh.

I wrote a post over at Snackish, my food blog. Maybe there's a good reason I haven't posted over there for more than a year.

18 October 2009

"Ojai Day" - Now with Naked Chicks

The gangaroos and I traveled to the mystic village of Ojai for Ojai Day yesterday.

Not "Ojai Days" as most places might have. Good gosh, no. Two days would be such a hassle and Ojai is a very, very laid back kind of place.

In Ojai (pronounced O-hi), you can get your chakras balanced, your aura cleansed, and your Feng Shui'd. You need an organic, gluten-free, vegan muffin at the coffee shop? No problem!

Ojai Days 350px
Giant street painting

It is a pleasant little town that is wedged in a deep valley, where giant gnarled oak trees shade the streets and where orange groves scent the warm night air.

It served as the backdrop for the movie "Shangri La" and is home to many major and minor celebrities, so one is always squinting at tall guys with good hair thinking "Is that Ted Danson? Yes? No?"

A few weeks ago, we took my friend Jim to Farmer's Market there. He is from klassy, klassy Orange County, land of giant blonde hair and Cadillac Escalades in Shimmering Pearl with $3000 rims.

Going to Farmer's Market on Sunday morning in Ojai is a great way to get a full blast of the local culture. There was a dreadlocked guy with no shirt, no shoes and a macrame headband with natural crystals woven into it. He smelled of patchouli (of course) and had a tiny cute daughter, who wore moccasins that he had made by hand.

There was a girl with bushy, bushy underarms, assuring the Spinach Lady "I evision an abundant crop of leafy spinach for you this year" as she made big, swooping, growing gestures with her hands.

("This is AWESOME!" whispered Jim, his eyes gleaming with mad joy.)

We tried vegan fig ice cream (delish) and homemade organic aloe-based personal lubricant (didn't try that).

That's just the kind of place Ojai is. The kind of town where, if you feel the need to get away from the lube-industial-complex, you might just find your neighbor squeezing their aloe vera and bottling some homemade personal lubricant in their kitchen.

Ojai Day did not disappoint. First, something truly fabulous happened to me.

I went to the smelly Starr Market (ask anyone in Ojai about the Starr Market and they will say the same thing: "It's smelly." It is also fully carpeted, which is an odd thing in a grocery store, isn't it?) to buy something small and to get money back from the transaction, since I was not about to give those bastards at B of A $2 for an ATM transaction.

And I found this:
Red tic tacs 350 px
Oh joy of my heart! The Holy Grail! RED tic-tacs.

The cashier and the bag boy were laughing at my unrestrained happiness. They acted like red tic tacs are an everyday event in Ojai.

I bought ten packages - the most I felt it was seemly to make off with at one time - and I even gave one to CC, because that is the kind of super excellent friend I am - the kind that gives up The Most Valuable Thing in All The World.

After some vegetarian bratwurst (me) and rattlesnake and rabbit bratwurst (CC and Ish) we went down to the beer garden to sit in the evening shade under the sycamores. It really is a beautiful place.

"Ojai Day" beer garden 350

We sat on plastic chairs and listened to some Irish music and predicted who was finally going to be the first person to dance (it was no one, BTW. It's HARD to get white people to dance. Besides, the music all sounded like "When the Devil Went Down to Georgia").

We made fun of this lady's croc-like shoes.
OMG turquoise platform crocs?Turquoise crocs with thick soles and white socks? Say it isn't so.

Then the Naked Chick showed up. What, your town doesn't have a Naked Chick? Ojai does. She has a splendid suntan and a bicycle, and she rides around naked all the time.

There is nothing that adds to the festive atmosphere of a beer garden like a cute naked woman wandering around! Everyone took it in good spirits. Guys peeked from around the corner of the beer trailer and laughed with their buddies. Five teenagers lined up to take their photo with their arms around each other's shoulders like she was a rockstar.

On the way home, Jerry, who was a few beers to the wind, said "But that's not right! What about the kids? How are you gonna explain naked to the kids?"

16 October 2009

Time for another "Parents, What Say You?"

Ok, suppose this is the case: you are in a diner with your two darling children, both under the age of four. On the shelf next to the table is one of those evil animatronic plus animals from Hallmark that sings and dances when you push its paw.

The diner is crowded. The tables are close together. The animatronic animal sings "Who Let the Dogs Out."

How many times do you let your kids push the dog's paw?

Zero, because you hate seeing children happy
Zero, because once you start that shit, it never stops
Once, to satisfy their curiosity
3-6, or until you are ready to lose your mind
Until another customer threatens you with bodily harm
Unlimited times, because your children are precious snowflakes who can do no harm and why do people try to quash the joy of little children?

(I had a poll up but it didn't work right, so hit me in the comments section).

15 October 2009

This one is for Jim

...since it worked the first time against the evil Red Sox (sorry, Jonna).

14 October 2009

In which I am maddeningly oblique

I told the World Famous Blogging Couple that I met for dinner tonight that I would write a maddeningly oblique post about them. See, they are breaking up but doing it gracefully and happily and maybe not really THAT breaking-uply and they may not be ready to go public with it.

Or maybe they are.

See how I am? Maddeningly oblique.

But more importantly, the man of the couple did something that filled me with joy.

He ate his salad with his fingers, dunking pieces of it in his dressing. YES! I am not the only person in the world that does this!

Salad. It is meant for fingers. Yes, I said it. Nothing is more unmanageable (except maybe peas) with a fork. And I was taught to never use a knife on salad. So. Unwieldy pieces, flapping free, covered with dressing.

A disaster waiting to happen.

Better to do as Mr. Mystery Blogger does and pick up and dunk. Come on. Try it. You know you want to. You could be a trendsetter for once. I know it didn't work out with the high-waisted jeans, but this may stick. Suebob says so.

13 October 2009

My Purpose in Life

I always suspected that I had something inside me that I needed to say to the world, something important.

I finally figured out what that is.

Are you ready?

Here goes:

For the love of God, clothing manufacturers - nothing larger than a size medium should ever, ever come with cap sleeves. Can you get that straight once and for all? Please?

I rest my case. Thank you.

12 October 2009

I Walk the Line

Goldie with some toys 350 px

My blogging gets shitty when I am hiding something. My blogging has been pretty shitty lately. I feel like I am walking a minefield of worries.

My job may be eliminated. And it isn't like it is a good time to look for a job, either. My mom is in constant pain. My dad is legally blind and getting more forgetful and confused by the day. Giant blobs of mucus are taking over the ocean.

And now my dog is deaf. I don't think she lost her hearing suddenly, but I noticed it suddenly. I went to my folks' house and she was outside in the back yard. I went to look for her and saw her around the corner of the house, standing looking at the back door.

I said "Goldie."

She didn't even look.

"Goldie. GOLDIE." Nothing.

Finally she saw me out of the corner of her eye and came leaping up, happily.

So. She still seems happy but it must be strange for her, the dog with supersonic hearing, the dog who could hear a lizard rustle a leaf 10 feet away, to be deaf.

Fortunately we both already know everything the other one wants and is thinking, so there isn't much talking to do. It's just another weird thing.

Tell me some happy news.

10 October 2009

So There I Was, Sitting On The Toilet

THAT's a great title for a blog post, doncha think? Especially coming from me, who shuns all discussions bowel-related, who has been known to unfollow people on Twitter - even people whom I really, really love - when they mention poo.

But it's true, there I was. And I heard this noise.


I had never heard the noise before. It wasn't a leaking or running water sound. I looked round at the toilet tank.


What the hell. It sounded like nothing else. I tried to feel if the sound was emerging from ME.

"Is that my BUTT????" I thought. "But I can't even FEEL my butt making that noise! How can that be?? Is my butt making noise I can't feel? I know I am old and feeble, but still - should I not be able to feel my own rear end?"


WHAAAAAT? Was something collapsing? Breaking? Dripping? It didn't sound like ANY OF THOSE THINGS.



Finally I stood up and went to shut the bathroom window and caught a movement out of the corner of my eye.

I saw a guy in the parking lot of the apartments behind my house.

He was standing at the dumpster, holding the lid open with one hand, downing a giant can of beer in big sips as fast as he could.


He must have someone inside the apartment who he doesn't want to know about his drinking. I saw him do this again tonight. He goes out, holds the dumpster open, and SUCKS down the beer.

Dude. Don't you know that they can smell the beer? Next time, stash some vodka out there. And try to be quiet.

But really? I'm just thankful it isn't my rear end making stealth noises.

09 October 2009

The same but different

I took the day off to hang out with my sis, who is visiting from the great Pacific Northwest, so I got to sleep in.

I stumbled out of my bedroom and flipped on the radio..."Obama still has not come out to speak on winning the Nobel Peace Prize."

The Nobel Peace Prize? OBAMA WON the Nobel PEACE PRIZE?

I whooped and began howling with laughter and delight.

Do I think he deserved to win? Heck no. It just made me laugh and laugh to imagine the outrage of the rabid right-wingers.

It was like the mirror image of how us lefties felt as we watched George W. Bush and the Cheney/Rove juggernaut roll over our Constitution.

Tha Patriot Act. Dismantling habeas corpus. Torture. Holding people without charge or trial. We watched it all with horror, helplessness and dismay.

It makes me laugh to see the other side have the same feelings as they watch Obama roll merrily along, garnering the admiration of the world. The Nobel prize. ¡Que rico!

Ok, Rachel Maddow put me in my place:

08 October 2009

Things that I wish people at work would quit doing

1. Heating up 3-day old fish leftovers in the microwave. As my dad would say, charmingly, "That is enough to gag a maggot."

2. Using the bathroom as the water cooler. Quit standing around with your friends and chatting in the bathroom. Other people are here to, um, take care of business. Good gosh, we HAVE a water cooler in the break room. Go over there.

3. Using the bathroom as a phone booth. If you are talking on phone in the bathroom, I promise you this: I will try to make every LOUD and DISGUSTING noise possible. Why? Because it cracks me up. Another Hot Mess has some other great hints for making bathroom life pleasant.

4. Coming to work sick. We have gone over this before, I believe. STAY HOME. GERMS. DO NOT WANT.

5. Having loud personal conversations. We work in a cube farm. EVERYONE CAN HEAR EVERYTHING. Yes, I agree that your cousin should not have gotten pregnant by that bastard Daniel while he was having sex with two other women on the side, but maybe everyone within a 30 foot radius should not know that. Just saying.

6. Wearing that godawful cologne. If two people tell you that you smell good, there are ten others who wish you would tone down the perfume. It is an enclosed space, people. Remember that there are people whose noses actually WORK who inhabit the office with you.

Thank you for your cooperation.

07 October 2009

This little slice of the internet

I keep wanting to write a thank-you to my blog friends. Something lovely and nuanced and deep about how you all have changed my life and made it richer and more fun.

Then I start and sound so stupid and trite. Or I begin telling stories and just can't stop.

Blog people just keep coming through for me. When I rip out my heart and spread it all across these pixels, you are right there to mop it up for me. And when I laugh, you laugh with me.

In 2007, I went to Chicago for BlogHer in a sad state. I could barely get through a day without sobbing. Strike that - I could not get through a day without sobbing.

But I went and met my blogging friends, and guess what? So many of them were broken that year, too.

I remember standing out on Navy Pier with Parentopia Devra and Goon Squad Sarah and just talking about nothing while we all stared out at beautiful Lake Michigan, which was shining like a turquoise bracelet.

Those moments comforted me then and through so many days since. Just those few minutes of fitting in fully and completely, of not having to explain a thing, of being able to be every inch me.

That's what I'm talking about. You people just being you help make it possible for me to be fully me.

Thank you.

04 October 2009

Parents, What Say You?

I was on the Amtrak (again), this time on the West Coast, with all the races mixed up (thankfully).

The train got so crowded that it was standing room only.

Across from me, there was a girl of about age 10 or 11 who seemed oblivious to the conductor's repeated requests to remove personal items from the seat next to you so that everyone could sit down.

She had a purple backpack piled on the seat with a pillow, and both tray tables down filled with stuff, including a route map with a big hunk of yellow gum stuck to it.

The train loaded up and people were wandering back and forth, seeking a seat, any seat. Yet she still did not move her stuff. She fiddled with her MP3 player and tossed her hair around.

Finally a guy, exasperated, asked her "Is this seat taken?"

She answered in what seemed to me a super entitled and bratty tone.

"Oh, I'm not allowed to sit next to anyone," she said.

Me and the lady from Philly next to me looked at each other with bugged-out eyes.

"Oh, now I've heard everything," said Mrs. Philly.

I was wondering if someone should tell the conductor about the nerve of this brat. Just then, he came along.

"You just leave your stuff right there, honey," he said.

Then I started thinking that I might be the lunatic here. I realized that the girl's parents had probably made her swear that she would not sit next to anyone, fearing that the Dreaded Train Molester would harm their young'un.

So what say you, parents? Should the kid have stuck to her guns as she did, or should have she shown some flexibility and let someone sit next to her?

01 October 2009

On the bright side

I never write about work because I am afraid of getting Dooced. But I may get laid off any minute.

Looking on the bright side - if that happens, I have a couple dozen really ripping blog posts in me.

Meanwhile, I have to relay a true story I heard on the radio today:

Three generations of the same family's women had gone to the same gynecologist for as long as they had all needed a gynie doc. Finally, the old GYN retired and a really good looking young doctor took his place.

The daughter went first and came home and told the mom and grandma how great the new doctor was.

Then grandma went. She came home and was mad as hell. She said to the granddaughter "I thought you said that guy was nice! But I have never been so humiliated! I put my feet in the stirrups and he lifted up the sheet and said 'Fancy!' What does THAT mean?"

Digging a little deeper, the granddaughter found out that Grandma had been nervous about the appointment, so she used some of her granddaughter's feminine hygeine spray right before she left for the appointment.

"But Nana, I don't have any feminine hygeine spray," said the granddaughter. "Show me what you used."

Grandma had picked up the granddaughter's can of red glitter hairspray.

Fancy, indeed.

28 September 2009

Welcome to California! Or, Adventures in Dogwalking Part 81

Goldie glows

Dear German Tourist Couple,

Yes, it was a lovely sunset, wasn't it? You looked like you were enjoying yourselves, walking along the beach path holding hands, in your comfortable, well-made shoes and natural-fiber clothing.

I'm sorry about the screaming.

I certainly did not mean to startle you. I know that the scene looked all too typical - a chunky middle-aged woman in fat-ass yoga pants with a yellow dog on a leash, walking near the bushes just after sunset.

I did not mean to scream so loud, or for so long. But it was the rats.

Oh, you SAW the rats, that's right, I remember. Yes, we have rats here. Right along the scenic beach.

I thought Goldie might have been onto something when she stuck her head in the bush. But often as not, all she scares up are lizards. So the two large, fast-moving rats were quite a nasty surprise.

They ran RIGHT for me. So I screamed like a little girl. Except with the force of a grown-ass woman.

That was quite some dance I did, too. I'll bet you didn't know that we lard-assed Americans could put on such a spectacular show. I looked like someone from the 1972 East German Olympic gymnastics team, right? Or is that a painful subject?

I hope you can forgive these transgressions. We here in California certainly appreciate your tourist dollars, especially as the state is flat broke. Please return again, and spend freely.

But you might want to avoid those shrubberies next to the trash cans.

Your tour guide,

26 September 2009

In which I swear a lot and talk about tits

So marketers have decided to target men's interest in breasts as a way to get them to care about breast cancer. Gah.

The best way we can get men to care about breast cancer is to remind them that it is all about much-beloved boobies, those soft and lovely objects of desire? Lord help me.

These ads make me sick. Yeah, titties are great fun for everyone but holy cats, give me a break already. To get a few more dollars for the cause, we further objectify women and, in the process, play into the idea that men are hopeless, sex-crazed goons who can't get their heads out of their asses unless a woman is shaking her boobs in their face. (Mixed metaphors our specialty).

Here's a hint for the marketers: breast cancer is a deadly, serious disease that affects a WHOLE WOMAN, not just her fun-sacks.

And another hint: most people - women included - don't give breast cancer much of a thought unless it has affected someone they know or unless they are in the radiology office for their yearly boob-smashing. And making it all about their lovely lady lumps isn't going to help.

"I pledge allegiance to my girls, to my chi-chis, to my hooters, to my ta-tas, to my gazongas. . . ."

Gah. I pledge allegiance to a worldview that represents women as whole humans, not just collections of sexually appealing parts.

Screw you, Susan G. Komen Foundation. Go take a 3-day walk and maybe when you get back I will be over hating your stupid ideas.

"The only people who could object to such ads are advocates for other kinds of cancer awareness." Really, Dan Neil? I don't think so. This is one woman who thinks that people can act like mature adults when they are discussing serious, life-threatening diseases instead of Hugh Hefner after he has had his Viagra prescription refilled.

What is next? Oh, I know! "Donate to help prevent Female Genital Mutilation and you might get laid by some hot African babe!"

Am I serious? Serious as cancer. Which, as you know, may affect my beautiful, bouncy boobs which I have right here on the front of my chest, because I happen to be a woman.

I am going to go beat my couch into stuffing with a tennis racquet. Good night.

25 September 2009

The White House Fence

I went to Washington DC recently for some Suebobian shenanigans. You know, reforming health care and speaking truth to power. That sort of thing.

My friends had never been to our nation's capital before, so we took the grand double-decker hop-on, hop-off bus tour, which I highly recommend. $35 and you get the big DC overview, so you don't feel like you have missed anything.

I loved my traveling companions. We passed monument after monument with scarcely a murmur, but then broke into shrieks of joy at the NPR building.

Being good raving liberals, we had to stop over at Barack and Michelle's place in hopes that they would invite us in to plot a socialist/communist/fascist/Whatever!?! takeover and let us help them wreck the way of American life as we know it. Or at least for tea and cookies.

When we got done taking photos of each other, complete with seriously unfortunate bangs:
Just wanna say hi to the President

...I passed the time by taking photos of people in comfy shoes taking photos. I am a big sap, so it choked me up a bit to see how excited people were to stand at a fence half a mile away from the most famous house in the world and shoot picture after picture.

There were young people...
White House Fence #11 350 px

Older couples...
White House Fence #15 350 px

Slightly younger couples...
White House Fence #3 350 px

Families with squirmy kids...
White House family 350  px

Really excited people...
White House Fence #9 350 px

European guys...
White House Fence #7 350 px

There were people from all over the world, speaking all kinds of languages. Ladies in glowing saris. Giggling Japanese schoolgirls. People in wheelchairs, with crutches and walkers and kids on leashes.

They could have bought a postcard, but everyone wanted their own photo to be able to say "I was there. Right there." I know exactly how they felt. I did, too.

Amtrak update

I used the Amtrak online tool to contact them. I got an auto-reply that said someone would contact me. In about four weeks.

FOUR WEEKS?? I certainly wish Congress would give those people the funding they need.

In the mean time, I am using my east coast contacts to poke around and see what they can find.

I will keep you posted.

23 September 2009

Signs of Intelligence

On Sunday, four friends and I were in a shuttle van to Dulles Airport outside Washington, DC.

I read a road sign aloud.

"George Bush Center for Intelligence."

"WHAAAAT?" everyone screamed at once. The van descended into cacophony.

"That has gotta be a joke," someone said.

The cabbie piped up. "Every time I go by this sign, everyone is making joke," he said. "Last trip, lady say 'Should be George Bush Center for Idiots."

(The Center is named after the first President Bush, who had been CIA director prior to running for office.)

21 September 2009

Back of the Bus, 2009-Style

I took the Amtrak from Richmond, Virginia to Washington, D.C. on Friday. It was a long, hot day and my three traveling companions and I were tired and stood in line to board the train with about 30 other people.

When I got to near the front of the line, an Amtrak employee was directing people to either turn left as they went up the steps into the first car of the train, or right into the back three cars.

The woman in front of me started to head left and the woman yelled sharply "Right! I said 'Right.'"

She looked at me. "You're traveling with who?"

"These three people," I said.

"Group goes to the left."

We climbed up to an almost empty car and got seats.

About half an hour into the trip, I went back to the dining car at the end of the train to get some snacks.

The first car I entered was packed. And the second. And the third. I didn't think about it much because I was trying so hard not to stumble into anyone with the motion of the train, but on the way back, it hit me.

My whole car was nothing but white people. And the three cars in the back were at least 90% black people.

Seriously? Seriously. In 2009. White people comfortably in the front. Black people crowded in the back.

I didn't say anything to anyone at the time. Like I said, I was tired and wanted to move on to the next thing - a shower, since in the course of the day I had had a bucket of grits dumped on me (long story) but now I'm thinking that Phone Calls Must Be Made. Because this cannot be.

13 September 2009

I don't know why I bother

I awoke last Tuesday and surveyed my kitchen. A quarter-full bottle of red wine sat on the counter. That meant that the night before, all by myself, for no good reason, I had celebrated Labor Day with more than three glasses of wine.

I was disgusted with myself. I'm a big lightweight. To me, three glasses is a lot of wine. What was I doing, drinking that much? And it wasn't just that night. Almost every evening, one gin and tonic turned into two. Maybe three. I often wondered "Am I drinking too much?"

Sometimes I would even stop for a few days, but I always went back. It never affected the rest of my life much, but I knew it wasn't doing me much good. And now, with the evidence before me, I knew I had to do something.

With new resolve, I poured the rest of the bottle of wine down the drain, along with the rest of the Tanqueray gin that had been stored in the freezer.

I had decided to quit drinking. Just like that.

Then I started reading blogs and found that Kristin of Better Now had just made the same choice. And recently Stefanie Wilder-Taylor had made some blogging-world waves by getting sober, too. I was in good company. I felt like a follower, but still.

I was proud of my decision, of my steely nerve. I told my friend who has been in AA for years what I was up to.

"Are you sure?" he asked. "What happened?"

"What do you mean, 'Am I sure, what happened?' I drank 3/4 of a bottle of wine," I said.

"Well, usually the women I know who quit drinking when they don't have a serious problem do it after they wake up after sleeping with some random guy," he said.

No. No random guy. Just shock at my behavior, which had seemed extreme to me. But held up in the light of day, it was starting to seem pretty mild.

This weekend, I saw Mr. Mojo, my ex-BF, famous ex-drunk and raconteur. Ironically, we met at our friend Jim's bar. Sitting on the patio sipping fizzy water with lime (me) and diet Coke (him), I asked him how long he had been sober now.

"Five years," he said, almost wonderingly.

He had once been a huge drunk. For about 30 years. Straight. The last time we broke up, he was drinking so much that he had pretty much given up eating - he got all the calories he needed from alcohol. He was THAT kind of drunk. I have no doubt that AA saved his life. He loves to joke about it, though.

"I quit drinking, too," I said. "Five days ago."

His eyes bulged out. "Why? What is WRONG with you?"

I explained the 3/4 bottle of wine thing.

"Ooh, 3/4 of a WHOLE BOTTLE?" he whooped, "You have to be KIDDING me. And now you're quitting drinking? That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard."

"I HATE YOU!" I shouted, smacking his leg. Probably only about the 5000th time I have ever said that to him. This time, I was laughing.

So if I go back to drinking, I have a good excuse. My two best friends who are involved in AA made me do it.

With a support group like this, I may need a liver transplant one of these days.

12 September 2009

Infro me!

I love being infromed! And I love Amercia!

Click on image to get the full-size fun.

10 September 2009

9-11 Tribute: W. David Bauer

Once again, I am re-posting a tribute I wrote three years ago (and have edited as I find more information) as part of Project 2,996, a blogging effort to honor each of the people killed on Sept. 11, 2001.

It is the least I can do. And each year, my stats show that, on this day, many people find this blog by searching for "W. David Bauer," so I know that they still remember and have him and his family in their thoughts every year on this day.

I collected this information from other articles and obituaries found online.


The victims. We hear it over and over again about Sept. 11, 2001. The 2,996 victims.

The person that I am writing about, W. David Bauer, Jr., may have been a victim for one short moment of his life. But for the rest of his 45 years, he was clearly a winner. From what I have read about him, he was a player and a competitor, someone who took to the field of life with gusto and determination and who gave it all he had.

In the NY Times tribute article, it mentions that he competed in a triathlon on the weekend of Sept. 8-9, 2001 before coming home to watch his sons play football and the to grill steaks and to drink good red wine with his family and friends.

He also played football in college at Villanova and was inducted into their Hall of Fame. One of his friends from college said: "His nickname was "Superman" because he could catch the bullet passes of our starting quarterback, Brian Sikorski, with one hand, either hand!"

He also had a lifelong love of basketball and volleyball. His teammate Tom Dooley said "I knew David as a competitor on the basketball court when we were both well past our prime playing days...[He] was a gentleman of the highest caliber on and off the court."

Mr. Bauer played professional football as a linebacker for the New York Giants ans another team before being sidelined by an injury.

In business he competed and thrived. He climbed up through the ranks at Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers and Credit Suisse First Boston before becoming head of global sales for eSpeed, a division of Cantor Fitzgerald located on the 105th floor of the North Tower. He was one of 658 Cantor employees who died in the World Trade Center.

He also contributed to his community. He was a past President and Founding member of the Villanova Financial Club. He served on the Board of Family & Children's Services and he and his wife were honored with the Helen Hoffman Award for Community Service. He was a member of Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church in Rumson, N.J., where he lived.

Mr. Bauer, who was 45 years old at the time of his death, was married to his wife Virginia "Ginny" and had three children, David, Steven and Jackie, who were 16, 14, and 12 when he died. He and Ginny had met in third grade.

So this is a man who lived, who really lived. He was someone who made good things happen for himself, his family and his friends. The type of hard-working, hard-playing family guy who is the backbone of our country and whom you would probably love as a neighbor.

Since Mr. Bauer's death, his wife has become a leading advocate for the families of victims of 9/11.

My very best wishes to the Bauer family. I am sorry for your loss and I hope this tribute did Mr. Bauer justice.

Here is a link to the 2,996 project.

09 September 2009

Messing with me

WHY? Why never any red tic-tacs??
I mourned the loss of red tic-tacs for a long time, I did. No other flavor could match their cinnamony goodness.

But then I moved on. I adapted. I grew. I decided that spearmint would do if I couldn't have cinnamon.

And now, this. They took away my spearmint, too. It seems a calculated move - to gradually take away my choices until I break and eat one of these: Orange, which, excuse me, is NOT A MINT, Original (which has exactly one second of good flavor, right at the beginning, before it degenerates), or Wintergreen (which is like eating Vicks Vap-O-Rub).

These are all the choices I have. Not just at the store shown, but everywhere.

Why? Why does it have to be like this? Can someone fill my mailbox with red TicTacs, like Juno did for her Bleeker in that movie (except he liked the orange ones. Dumb kid).

08 September 2009

Adventures in Dogwalking #67

My dog and I share the same favorite place: the beach.

I go online to look up the time of the lowest tide - to ensure we have a nice, wide stretch of wet sand to play upon - and we head out to our Super Secret spot.

On the path to the beach, there is a pile of wood that Goldie likes to explore every single time. She thinks small animals live in it. She may be right.

She wedges herself in there to get a better look:
She got herself in this spot

When we get to the sand (it is a remote area, down a path and about 1/2 mile walk from the road) I let her off leash to run and run and run. She will race up and down for as long as I let her, sometimes disappearing into a tiny dot at the furthest end of the beach.

When she gets hot, she plunges into the waves for a few minutes to cool down, her sides heaving, panting. Sometimes she goes out far enough that she has to swim for a bit and waves splash up over her head.

Her hobby is chasing birds. The little birds just fly up and out of the way, but the seagulls like to mess with Goldie's head. The same bird will fly just out of her reach or hover about 20 feet over her head, watching her circle around on the sand below with her head tipped back.

Often a gull will fly up and down the beach for 10 minutes or more with the dog in hot pursuit. When the bird tires of the game, it just takes off out over the ocean. I have seen this happen again and again.

Eventually I decide that we have to go home because it is getting dark. Sometimes Goldie lets herself be captured easily, but not very often. She usually pretends she can't hear me and races right by, tongue flapping. Then I have to wait until she is standing in the deeper water and can't run away. I plunge in and snap the leash on.

Once again to the beach, dear friends

The next day she is always sore and moves around creakily. This is a 14-year old dog, after all. But she never lets it stop her the next time. Every day at the beach is a good day for dogs.
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