Tuesday, September 26, 2006

That which we consume defines us

Hulk has been working on a project for his 3D design class and it got me thinking about the issues of consumerism and self-image. The story behind his project boils down to how we as Americans often define ourselves by the kind of car we drive, and how car companies take advantage of that by pushing image rather than the actual features of the vehicle. While I was in San Diego this weekend, Oldest Friend's car broke down and she is in the market for a new one. She borrowed the car of a friend and we ran necessary errands for starting her new job, and as we drove around she looked at cars and thought about what kind of car she wanted.

"I should have the kind of car I like, that I want," she said at one point. Granted, up until this point she's been driving a 15 year-old Honda with over 200,000 miles on it, so it's not like she's buying a new car every 2 years or something. She needs a wagon or SUV for her job (needs the cargo room) and has been looking on the internets to find a newish used car that will serve her needs at a certain price point. She's going to be spending a lot of time in the car, so it should be both functional and comfortable - but part of her just wants to get something flashy and high-status, hang the expense of gas, since her company will pay her for it.

I've never owned a car, and I've thought a lot over the last year about the kind of car *I* want. Mostly my criteria will be balancing my desire for high gas mileage and efficiency and environmental impact with the practicality of needing all wheel drive to live in this state and drive into the mountains in the snow and drive on the unmaintained rutty dirt road of the cabin. Not once have I thought about the message I would send to other drivers on the road about who I am by what I am driving. Because I see a car as a necessary tool, not a status thing, and the only thing I ask is that it isn't an ugly color.

But the consumerism and image-consciousness of Americans isn't limited to cars.

In San Diego there is a restaurant called Hash House. We went there for breakfast yesterday morning. Apparantly, it's a very popular place, with lines out the door on weekends. It was packed at 10 AM on a Monday, with all kinds of business meetings going on. I sat at the bar to let my friend have her pow-wow with coworkers on her first day of work, and looked at the menu and the lineup of wine bottles behind the bar.

For a breakfast place, it seemed OK in terms of what kind of food was offered - scrambles, "hashes," pancakes. Pretty standard, with a bit of an upscale vibe. And then I saw the prices - probably 2-3 dollars more per menu item than I'd normally pay (My scramble which included veggies and goat cheese, potatoes, fruit and toast was $10). I thought, oh, it's an image thing - this is a hipster type place so they have to charge accordingly. And then I saw the plate plunked down in front of the guy sitting two seats away. Did I say plate? I meant TROUGH.

Seriously - the guy had ordered a thing that had at least 10 eggs scrambled with stuff in them, two gigantic buttermilk biscuits, a gooey mound of mashed red potatoes, all covered in sausage gravy. A giant sprig of rosemary adorned one of the biscuits. It could have easily fed 5 people to stuffed and 8 to normal fullness. I am not lying when I say that the "plate" was a good 18 inches in diameter. "That almost makes me lose my appetite," said the woman sitting between us. She ordered just scrambled eggs and a biscuit, and the kitchen decided to feed her a mound of pasty red mashed as well. It was twice as many potatoes than the Hulk and I cook for the two of us - and was probably more than 3 or 4 people could eat comfortably.

When my food came, I was prepared for the worst. It was enough food for two solid meals for me, and I thought what I'd ordered was pretty basic. I'm glad I ordered my potatoes "crispy" and not "mashed," though, because the crispy ones were mostly just new red potatoes done up in a little more oil than I'd like. The scramble was good, the toast was good, my 1/4 of a personal-sized watermelon was good, and the potatoes were OK - I had them box up half of it and took it home to have for lunch. (I didn't keep the rosemary sprig).

You know the scene in Pleasantville where the mom has a table piled high with food and tries to convince the kids to sit down and eat it? Yeah, every table at this place was like that. Seeing trough after trough of food piled high coming out of the kitchen, plunked down on people's tables, enough calories for entire days, started to skeeve me out a little. Obviously, at Hash House, you get what you pay for - my breakfast cost $10 but I got two meals out of it. And mine was small compared to some. But knowing how much waste comes out of a normal restaurant kitchen, I can't even imagine the excess left on peoples' plates at this place. Ugh. I guess the new thing in "concept" restaurants is excess, rather than the restraint of 10 years ago. And people in the same image-conscious world wring their hands over being just bony, rather than skeletal, because thin is in, baby. I guess it's really bulemia that's in.

My friend needed to buy a printer, so we scooted up to "Fashion Valley," an enormous high-end mall with Coach and Louis Vuitton and Burberry etc. so she could look at the Apple store. I wandered around the main mall area while she compared printers, and saw many Fashion Victims. One in particular stood out to me - she looked like a trophy wife, shopping at 2 PM on a Monday afternoon with her enormous rock on her left hand. She wore a silky black short sleeved blouse under a really ugly corset top, skinny jeans that had no place being on her average frame, and pointy metallic stillettoes that she had trouble walking in. Part of me wanted to point and laugh, but only the part that's like the kid in the emperor's new clothes story. I mean, did she realize that her expensively but obviously processed hair, her ridiculously large Gucci bag, and her attempt to follow every Hollywood fashion trend at the same time (while not being able to balance in those heels) just made her look like a kid playing dress-up? You know you're a Fashion Victim when your clothes wear you and not the other way around, because I can't for the life of me remember what she actually looked like.

She was just the most egregious of the Fashion Victims at Fashion Valley. Everyone was trying so hard to project this image determined by the brands and looks they'd consumed, and nobody seemed to have the confidence to pull it off. I say, if you've got the money to wear all that stuff, have the good taste to know HOW to wear it (hint: not all at once). However, I guess I'm not one to judge, because my outfit all came from discount stores (Ross, TJ Maxx, Payless Shoes), my purse was a Guatemalan gift from Hulk's bro & SIL, and I wouldn't have even considered going into any of those expensive brand stores. You'll never catch me paying $80 for a basic t-shirt even if I'm a millionaire someday.

But I guess that is, in a way, how I define myself - by consciously choosing not to wear brand name stuff, by projecting an image of comfort rather than style, by practicality over excess or expense. I don't think I'm better than anyone else who might choose differently - but sometimes I wonder whether people are conscious of their consumer choices. I'd rather be defined by what I do, not what brand of clothing I wear or what kind of car I drive, but since our culture is so focused on these things, I'm sure I'm judged every day by people who are influenced by branding. I don't mind paying more money for something that I want to last that I know is high-quality, but more money does not always equal better. I wonder whether most people in American society still realize that.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Jesus! (and godless heathens)

My cousin married a youth minister this Saturday, outside in the San Diego sun, with water and city in the background. According to another cousin's husband (also a youth minister - this is actually my third cousin to marry a youth minister) who performed the ceremony, God was also at the wedding. As one would expect He would be at any such religious wedding.

We were told to arrive an hour ahead of time for "cousin pictures" and, of course, ended up standing around for the entire hour waiting for one picture. I found it funny that all of us were wearing variations of the same style of dress, halter neck with fitted waist and forgiving skirts, though they were in all colors and fabrics. The genetics breed true, and we all benefit from similar styles - the only cousins who got boobs were the bride and a bridesmaid, and we all have the hourglass shape with substantial muscles. And booty.

The ceremony was blessedly short (much shorter than that of the cousin whose husband performed the ceremony - at their Jesus wedding, literally in an enormous church that had giant gold letters above the alter that said JESUS!, they had a full church service), and the processional was a harpist and Matisyahu for the groomsmen and back to the harpist, and the bride and groom took communion together, after which a seagull came and stole the remains of the bread. The bridesmaids looked beautiful in periwinkle and black, and the cousin who got married in the JESUS church was matron of honor, looking like she had a basketball shoved under her dress. Other than that, you couldn't tell she was pregnant. And she liked the blanket, so that's good.

I had one issue with the ceremony - well, I actually had several, but knowing my relatives I knew what to expect. Maybe it's just me, but I don't think mention of divorce is appropriate in a wedding ceremony, even if it's to say "Divorce is not an option"- especially when my in-the-middle-of-a-bad-divorce father is sitting awkwardly a few seats away.

The bride and groom had written their own vows, the groom pledging to guide the bride in their married lives, and the bride vowing to obey her husband and let him guide her. At least they didn't try to do any converting of the congregation during the ceremony.

* * * * * * * * *

My 14 y/o cousin still eats nothing but white processed carbs (at the reception, she ate a tortilla and some croutons). She was seated at the table with us heathen cousins - my sister and her boyfriend, the two cousins from the other godless branch and their boyfriends, and me. I was kind of bummed that the Hulk wasn't there just because everyone else was with significant others. My favorite (godless) cousin is dating a guy from Berkeley who, personality-wise, is so much like the Hulk it's scary. He's even a comic book nerd. He and Favorite Godless took a trip to Central America last year and were giving me suggestions for good places to go in Costa Rica. I hope that next time we're in the Bay Area, probably for Tday, we'll be able to spend some time with them. Godless Cousin rules.

So many of the customs of that circle that I find tacky were associated with this wedding - the registry information was included in the invitations, there was an enormous gift table, and both bride and groom participated in the money dance. Because it was tradition from when the first cousin married a youth minister, the heathen cousins all donated our small bills to the bride's bag and we swayed as a group. She beamed, embraced by her female family, looking radiant as only a bride can look. And healthy. She looked so happy and healthy, having recovered from a major operation that completely changed the shape of her face a few years ago. She was always beautiful, but yesterday, she was stunning - and free of the pain she'd had for so many years before the surgery. I could tell that yesterday was truly the best day of her life, and she was at peace with what life would bring. She trusted God and her new husband to take care of her, to make sure that her life would be a happy one. It's a lot harder for us godless heathens to have the same peace of mind

The music played at the reception was an interesting mix of easy listening and Jesus rock. Much of it was, at the same time, both incredibly cheesy and incredibly meaningful to this group of people who truly believed in the sentiment of the music.

My sister wasn't feeling well, and so we skipped the after-party at the hotel where the heathens stayed. She and Drat dropped me off with Oldest Friend, whose car is now mostly dead, and I spent the afternoon nursing a headache while she cleaned and organized to prepare her space for working from home. She officially starts her new job tomorrow.

We went out for drinks and appetizers, flirting with the cute bartender, and then joined the heathen branch and boyfriends for dinner. My mahi mahi was delicious. It was so nice to be in the company of people who were both related to me and like-minded, where I could drink and possibly swear and talk negatively about Shrub without offending anyone. My aunt and uncle are really very cool - I know they are the ones closest to my dad but also the ones who liked my mom best - so it has to be hard for them and their kids, to know only what my dad tells them about the situation. I offered to tell Favorite Godless the whole story sometime if she really wanted to know, but we can't do anything to antagonize my dad and make things worse for my mom while the divorce is still pending.

It was a long, exhausting, and family-filled day. This afternoon, Monkey's coming down to take me away to the land of the plastic people, and we'll spend the evening enjoying the concert, and keep each other awake on the drive back to San Diego.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Three good things

1. It was "member appreciation day" at my gym yesterday, and they were giving out some kind of energy drink and snack mix (of which I didn't partake) and doing a variety of free tests. One of the tests was a body fat screener, and when no gymployee was at the table I picked it up, plugged in my numbers, and held the thingy until it told me my body fat percentage. Results: under 20%. It told me how many pounds of fat I am and I did a little math in my head and realized how many pounds of fat I am NOT, meaning I am over 110 pounds of lean tissue, muscle, bone, etc, and if I tried to get back to my high school weight I would probably die of anorexia. Damn, I have a lot of muscle. But I felt better about myself knowing exactly how few pounds of fat I would have to lose to be below a healthy fat percentage for a chick, and I went home with a new appreciation for my body. So that was good.

2. I found out that there is a big fancy mall near the hotel in Indianapolis where I will have to be for the first week of October, and this big fancy mall includes stores that I like (H&M, for example) that aren't even in Denver. How the hell do Indiana and Wisconsin have H&M and Colorado does not? It is a mystery. But at least I know I can do some shopping during the downtime.

3. I finished the baby blanket for Spawn3 of Cousin last night at approximately 11 PM, eyes crossed, vision blurred and swimming. The last bit was a bitch, being 9 rows of seed stitch for a border (140 stitches). Not like that means anything to you guys, but I felt a big sense of accomplishment when I bound the thing off and cut the yarn and put it down on my lap and said "Holy crap, that's a blanket!" Tonight I hve to weave in the ends and block it so it has time to dry before I leave on Friday. And soon I can start on giftmas presents, so if anyone has any requests (items, colors, etc.) speak now or forever hold your peace, because that shit takes time.

Sure, they may be small and petty, but we need all the good things in our lives we can get, right?

Monday, September 18, 2006

I looked really hot in the red dress, too.

All things considered, it was a pretty nice weekend. It is quickly becoming fall here even before the equinox, and Saturday was breezy and crisp as only a Colorado autumn day can be. The air has begun to electrify with static and feels sharp on one's skin. After a lovely breakfast and leisurely morning, we wanted to get out of the house, so we walked down to the 16th street mall to people watch and shop.

The dorks were out with their convention badges; the crazies were out with their toeless shoes and dreads in their beards; the tourists were out with their ill-advised wardrobe choices and herd mentality. At TJ Maxx we split up and I ended up trying on a bunch of stuff, including some awesome brown corduroy hippie pants with embroidery on the leg, a going-out shirt, some soft comfy exercise pants, and a fabulous strapless red dress with black sash and crinoline (I didn't buy the dress(noplace to wear it), but I did buy the other stuff). Hulk also managed to find something good, and we moved on to our next stop, Cross Dress for Less.

It was a typical Saturday at everyone's favorite discount store, with hordes of people, stuff thrown everywhere, and shoes without mates or boxes. I found shirts from the Juniors section, a dress labeled size 5/6 (it was the only one, and I kept my fingers crossed), and several other things to try on - including this pretty and stylish green BCBG/Max Azria zip-up sweater made with ribbon yarn shoved on a rack amongst some jeans. I voted no on the skirt (not paying $35 for a skirt from Ross even if it was marked down from $100), yes on some of the shirts, the sweater, and the dress - it fit perfectly and I can wear it (if I find some kind of a shrug or light sweater) to the wedding this weekend - is a silky brown with turquoise and cream dots halter neck.

I went downstairs to show off my loot and Hulk had found some amazing deals, including 2 pairs of designer jeans for $30 and a snowboarding jacket with removable reversible liner, essentially 4 jackets in one, with attached gloves, for $25. We left the store after a minimum of line hell and (after a quick two stops to look at shoes that I didn't buy) got blown home by the wind, which kicked up so hard and fast that one of my bags nearly blew away.

Then we made the ultimate in White People Food for dinner (meatloaf made with ground turkey, herbs from the garden, and a large array of veggies; broccoli; mashed potatoes) and went to bed with smiles on our faces, the "positive ions" (as my mom woulds say) in the air had put us in good moods all day.

Unfortunately, I had terrible nightmares about my dad all night and that clouded all of yesterday. We had another nice, simple breakfast, and walked to the Mayan to go see Little Miss Sunshine, enjoying another breezy sunny fall day. The movie hit a little too close to home in some ways (review forthcoming, I hope) and I was a bit moody the whole way home. Football was watched by one of us (I bet you can guess which - hint: the other of us knitted) and our usual Sunday afternoon and evening routine followed. I didn't get to sleep until quite late and was super grumpy this morning. At least there weren't more nightmares.

I don't know if my dad will be at the wedding. I know my sister and I are dreading to find out that he will be there, showing off his new(er) car purchased with My Mom's Money from the divorce settlement, and if he is there then we've made a pact that we'll help each other through it. Her boyfriend of 4.5 years has been just as privy to the situation as Hulk, so he will be somewhat of a buffer, and I hope Dad (if he's there) will be on good behavior since it *is* a wedding and is his family. My grandma is 87 and I don't know how many more times I will get to see her, and I haven't seen most of that side of the family since the Great Moving MLE Roadtrip of January 2003, so I wanted to go to the wedding in order to see everyone. If my dad is there, we will deal, and we will spend less time with the extended family after the wedding.

I am looking forward to seeing my cousin in all her 8-months gravid glory (I didn't see her PG with kids 1 or 2), and swimming and running with Oldest Friend, and going to a concert with Monkey. I am looking forward to seeing how The Pickiest Eater Alive has dealt with adolescence and how fantastic her dad (my uncle) looks now that he's lost over 200 pounds in the last few years (liquid diet, no surgery). I'm looking forward to spending time with the cousins from the branch of the family I like best, the ones who travel and enjoy life with an open mind, and I hope my grandma is doing OK after her hip replacement last year. No matter what happens, it should be an interesting experience, and if my dad is there, I will deal, and if he isn't there I will dance. But probably not until after the wedding.

Friday, September 15, 2006


There was a ghost in my house when I was a little kid. I know this because I saw it more than once - one time it was just a shapeless blob, but another time it was quite visible as a baby that turned over as it floated by at my legs under the piano. I was 4 or 5 when I saw it the second time, and I got the distinct feeling that it just wanted someone to know it was there.

Two years later, when we pulled up the nasty old carpeting in the living room and put down new stuff, we found a cement slab with a 1930s date carved in it and a baby footprint. The house in which we lived had once been known as the "hunter's cabin" and my parents learned that a family had once lived in the house and had a baby die of scarlet fever.

We moved to another house when I was 10, and about two years later the poltergeist showed up. It was a joke, really, that my family told to explain the weird things that happened, particularly to me when I was alone. More than once I had the chair pulled out from under me as I sat reading or eating at the kitchen table, and never when other people were around. Once my mom had cooked up a big batch of homemade soup, and my dad was serving it and sat a bowl in front of me. Halfway through the bowl I found a curtain rod hook - a rusty, metal curtain rod hook that looked decades old - and we didn't have any of those in our house, nor had my dad had anything to do with the hook. And then in my birthday cake when I was 12 there was a pushpin in my piece. I guess the poltergeist lived in the kitchen, because every weird thing happened there.

Apparently, the stories say that poltergeists are attracted to adolescent girls - and after me came each of my sisters in turn, so the poltergeist stuck around for several years, though it never did things quite as extreme to my sisters as it did to me.

In high school, I once had an extraordinarily vivid dream about my mom's mother, who died long before I was even concieved, let alone born (I think she died in 1971). Anyhow, in my dream she was coming for a visit, and wore a particular outfit and said certain things to me. My mom's mother was particularly interested in seeing me in a dance recital, and she loved Lissa, and somehow Laurel was very young though Lissa and I were our current (at the time) ages. I kept telling her to wait, that my mom would be home any minute, and would love to see her. But she left, saying that she'd be back someday.

When I woke up and told my mom about the dream, she told me that the outfit her mother was wearing was one she liked a lot toward the end of her life (and it was an outfit I'd never seen being worn in pictures or anything). She also said that of the 3 of us, Lissa was the most like her mother in temperament. My mom's mother has yet to visit me again, but I'm ready if she decides to do so.

And then there have been the prophetic dreams. They're always somewhat mundane in terms of what they foresee - in 6th grade I had a dream that I was eating lunch with a cousin I'd never met and I was telling her that I had two boyfriends, and 3 years later the exact situation happened at a family reunion (she turned out to be a second cousin). I dreamed that I won first place at the science fair and then I did. You know, silly stuff like that. My sense of deja vu usually comes when I realize I've had a dream about a particular situation months or years before the situation comes to pass - but it's never all that important.

The most significant prophetic dream I ever had happened when I was living with QIR and her cat (indoor only) disappeared a day or two before she was scheduled to go on a long trip. We all looked for the kitty and QIR looked in shelters and put up signs but she had to leave, and our other roommate and I kept a lookout. Two weeks later, I had a dream early one morning that I woke up, went into the kitchen, opened a cabinet, and out came QIR's very skinny kitty. After the dream, I *did* wake up and go into the kitchen. Of course, I looked in the cabinet, and of course, no kitty. But then I got the feeling I should look out the back window - and there she was, very skinny, having been out of the house fending for herself for over two weeks (pampered, declawed and all). QIR got home a day or two later and was very happy her kitty had returned.

So, all in all, nothing particularly impressive, and my boyfriend is the biggest skeptic there is when it comes to stuff like ghosts and astrology and whatnot. But I can't discount the experiences I've had, and I can't explain them away. I choose to keep an open mind, and listen to my gut about people and places and situations, because as far as I can tell it's never been wrong.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


On my way home from the gym today, I passed a few traffic signal and utility poles that had the same sign plastered to them with packing tape. It read:

I love you
I miss you
Please come home

Now obviously, the sign is intended for the object of the signmaker's desire to see it and respond, though it didn't identify any details. But just think of how many other situations in which it could apply: a lost pet, a lost sock, one's sanity, one's good looks or good health. How many things do we humans love and lose over a lifetime?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Why I hate Rush: A tragedy in 3 acts

Act I: The Mullet

The summer I was 14, I went to the first swim team practice only to see this cute, bemuscled tan boy about my age. This was only unusual because the town I grew up in was so small that I knew *everyone* unless they had just moved to town (he had). I thought this boy was cute and I liked his muscles and his tan and his ability to swim a mean butterfly (I didn't like his mullet, but it was 1993 and I didn't care THAT much). We began hanging out on a semi-regular basis, taking the bus to Healdsburg to go swimming at a different pool and see a movie at the movie theater (my town didn't have one at the time) or renting movies and watching them at one anothers' houses. I really liked this guy, though his maturity level left something to be desired. It was so weird; he was kind of stuck in the 80s, what with his mullet and his love of bands that had made it big in the 80s and were no longer big. I learned eventually that he had a much older brother to whom he looked up with great affection and emulated to some extent - so his taste in hair, clothing, and music pretty much stemmed from what his brother had liked in 1986. He was so intelligent and funny and cute and yet he just WOULDN'T kiss me (warning sign #1).I mean, what the hell? We hung out for months and held hands sometimes and that was all, and eventually I took matters into my own hands and kissed him sometime in November. Man, was he ever a big pussy.

Act II: The Gift

Despite his reluctance to do much with my physically, he got over it eventually and we did the typical young teenager things (all quite properly above the neck, of course, with more hand-holding and such). He still attended school in another town, so I only saw him sometimes in the evenings or on weekends. We saw movie after movie and, because we were only 14, had to rely on our parents for transportation if we were going anywhere out of town. Mullet boy began to talk about a surprise that he had for me, that I was going to just love. It was going to be my Christmas present and was something he had been planning for ages. I got a little excited - what the hell could he be so excited about giving me? I knew whatever it was had to be important to him. Christmas came, and with it my present: tickets to the Rush concert at the Cow Palace in January.

Now, I'd always been very honest with him about my opinions on his taste in music. I didn't much like Rush, even though they had a new album out that he was so into, and I had told him so on more than one occasion. But since HE wanted to go to the concert, naturally I must want to go, right? And a part of me was just a little excited, since I'd never gone to a big concert before. Plans were enacted for his mom to go with us and, in so doing, chauffeur us down to the City. He was elated for weeks looking forward to this concert. I was torn; I wanted to go to a big concert, but did it HAVE to be Rush?

Act III: The Misery

The day of the concert, Mulletboy and his mom picked me up in her new little Dodge Neon and we headed south on Highway 101. Around the middle of Santa Rosa, the car started making noises. Bad noises. Then it began to sputter and jerk. Then it died just after his mom pulled over to the side of the freeway.

Sucky, right? Yes. But this guy - his reaction was utterly childish and ridiculous. He screamed. He cried (he literally cried tears of rage), he stomped his feet, he got out of the car and punched it. Damn. I knew right then that my relationship with this guy, no matter what the outcome of the concertgoing experience, was doomed. I would never want to spend much time with a guy who acted like a 3-year-old when things didn't go his way (I had a perfect example of why not at home). So his mom calls his stepdad; stepdad comes with another car; we drop off stepdad and drive on our merry way once more in a crappy old uncomfortable 2-door of some sort.

We get to the concert. It is enormous, and overwhelming. There is pot smoke and cigarette smoke and mullets everywhere, men of many ages in that white t-shirt or black t-shirt and torn basic jeans and white or black sneakers. Some were wearing the flannel shirt, such coture. The opening band was actually pretty fun (The Melvins), though I wasn't at all familiar with their music and our seats were pretty terrible in terms of what we could see and it was all way too loud and kind of scary. Then Rush came on.

Oh, my god. It was awful. There was a terribly cheesy light show, and they played songs that I knew and hated, and they played songs that I knew and didn't care about one way or the other, and they played songs that I'd never heard and never needed to hear again. I got a migraine headache from all the noise and crowd and lights and smoke and there was nowhere I could go; I couldn't get away from it, and my boyfriend and his mom were obliviously dancing terribly to the terrible horrible music that I hated hated hated.

Finally, it was over. It was late and I never stayed up that late (I was only 14, for Jeebus' sake) and I felt like crap what with the migraine and all, and we finally got to our car and dealt with the traffic getting out of the parking lot and drove back to Cloverdale. My boyfriend insisted that he take the passenger seat, despite my headache and assorted misery (lovely boy, that, really) so I huddled in a mass on the floor of the rear with my head on my hands resting on the seat, brain feeling like I had Shaken Baby Syndrome, staving off tears of pain and horror with sheer will. After 3 or 4 eons had passed, we turned into my driveway and I stumbled into the house without a word.

Epilogue: In which I dump a guy in true teenage passive aggressive girl fashion

A few weeks later, my Valentine's Day present (early) was a trip to the Santa Rosa Symphony, which was OK, but also kind of lame, and then I went to my camp's midwinter long weekend over President's Day and totally hooked up with this other guy, and then I came home and I didn't ever call Mulletboy again. He called me a few times, and I grew more distant and made excuses, and finally he stopped calling. I still feel kind of bad about it, but I was 14 and just didn't want to deal, so I didn't.

We exchanged a few letters over the next couple of years and he told me that he had gotten into the whole Rocky Horror crowd, transvestism and all, which kind of didn't surprise me. I ran into him at a video store a few years later, hand in hand with College Boyfriend. He hadn't grown at all; was still about 5'2 or 5'3 and still had the mullet. It was a weird conversation.

So that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I absolutely hate Rush with an undying passion, and will change the radio station if I hear it, and if Hulk wants to torture me he just has to sing a bit of the chorus of "Tom Sawyer" and I will run screaming from the room. Sure, it's irrational, but I have good reason.

It was a day.

I got up and went to work that day. As normal, I rode BART to downtown Oakland and hopped a bus to Alameda. On BART, I heard people talking about something that was going on in New York and maybe DC and did you hear what happened? I wasn't quite sure what to think, so when I got to work (I was the first one there, working extra hours before my upcoming trip to Colorado; my boss made us make up the time beforehand if we wanted any time off), I turned on my computer and checked out CNN. When I realized what was happening, I went to my message board and turned on my instant messenger to try to find my friends in New York and DC. Luckily, all my internet people checked in at some point that morning.

My boss called and told me that he was closing the office; that he had called most people at home and the few others who were en route should be told to go home. We locked up and left. I went back to Berkeley, unsure what to do with myself. It was the middle of a Tuesday. What could I do?

I avoided calling my Oldest Friend who was living in DC at the time. I figured that her cell phone wouldn't work or at least that it was best not to tie up the lines, so I called her parents to make sure they had heard from her.

I decided to go to downtown Berkeley and see what was going on. I shopped on Telegraph; about half the stores were closed. I wandered around, not sure what to do with myself. I just couldn't understand this thing. I couldn't comprehend what had happened. The numbers in the news reports made no sense; the whole situation made no sense.

That night, I talked to the Hulk and my mom. My roommates and I had a TV that was used for watching videos; we didn't have cable or a rabbit ears or anything so it wasn't until years later (while watching Farenheit 911) that I even saw the famous footage of the towers being hit, burning, collapsing. To this day I am so glad that I didn't watch it happen over and over. So many people I know got sucked into watching it and couldn't look away. I couldn't look at all; only at stills and read the news and listen to the firsthand accounts of my friends in NYC and DC.

I was supposed to go to Colorado two days later, and obviously that didn't happen because all air traffic was still grounded. My flight got rescheduled for a week later, and at first my boss was a total dick about it ("You asked for Those Days off, not days a week later. You will take Those Days off like you said") and it took hours for me to convince him that I Can't Go To Colorado Like I Planned for Those Days So There's No Point In Me Taking Those Days Off and Can I Please Change My Time Off To Next Week?

My friend Heather got married on September 9, and was supposed to go on her honeymoon September 11 (Her birthday was September 13 and she was supposed to be on the beach in Hawaii having a Mai Tai). That didn't happen; they lost all their reservations and money and couldn't get anything refunded. They didn't go on their honeymoon 'til years later.

The tragedies of September 11 only affected me in the way that they affected most of the country; my friends who lived in the affected places were all OK, and my sadness and anger was for the situation and the people who were affected. I'm still not sure how I'm supposed to feel about the whole thing. But I do know that I feel far less safe today, after all these supposed changes to airport security and all the other things this administration has done to make us "safer," than I did on September 11, 2001.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Flying Solo

OK, for all you fashionistas out there:

What the hell do I wear to this cousin's wedding I'm going to in a few weeks in Sandy Eggo?

a) At the admiral's club on the naval base (uncle is career navy)
b) At 10 AM on a Saturday
c) Probably at least somewhat Jesusy, though these people do dance. But I highly doubt there will be any booze.

I'm guessing we'll be fed lunch but I have no idea how long the reception will go on or whether there will be an afterparty at some relative's house or anything. But I'm kinda stuck on what to wear, because the invitation seems like it might be kinda fancy, though I know my aunt and uncle aren't particularly wealthy, and it's at 10 AM not in the evening, and though it will probably be Jesusy it's not at a church (though there might be a chapel? not sure).

So. What do I wear? (Hulk is too busy with school to go, btw, and I wish I could take Oldest Friend (with whom I am staying) as my date because that would Rock but I've already replied that just *I* am coming, plus she wasn't specifically invited, Hulk was.)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Perhaps something more uplifting, shall we? YA fiction review #3

I nearly always eat some kind of cereal for breakfast, usually with some sort of berries on top if berries are in season. With my cereal I like to read for a few minutes and, for the last few months, my breakfast reading book has been Dangerous Angels by Francesca Lia Block.

Dangerous Angels is a compilation of five of Block's novelettes. The first one, Weetzie Bat, was introduced to me in 9th or 10th grade by a friend, and I just loved it; it was completely unlike anything I'd ever read. Though the books are meant to be for teens/YA, adults can perhaps get more of the references, especially in the first two books. After reading the first one I found the rest of them that were published at that time. Years later, I saw this compilation in the library and checked it out, finishing the last two books that hadn't been published yet in 1993. When we were in Seattle last fall I found this in a used bookstore and snapped it right up, because I like being able to fall in love with the writing style again and again.

Rereading Weetzie Bat, Witch Baby, and Cherokee Bat and the Goat Guys, I remembered why I had liked the books so much when in high school - they are written in a beautiful style, with interesting characters and situations, almost like a fiction/fantasy crossover. The final two books, Missing Angel Juan and Baby Be-Bop, just aren't as interesting to me as the characters grow up.

I think if EEK and Monkey have not read at least the first 3 of these books, they should because I think you would both dig them. There are goth and fantasy and poetical elements to the writing style that I've never seen duplicated, though I have seen them imitated. The plots of the first 3 books follow Weetzie, Dirk, Duck, My Secret Agent Lover Man, and later Cherokee Bat and Witch Baby. Cherokee Bat has 3 dads; Witch Baby is much like a changeling, and there's a whole cast of supporting characters. There are enough elements of reality mixed in to the fantasy to make the books more interesting and believable; for example, Dirk and Duck are a gay couple and there are a few references to the AIDS epidemic of the 80s. The fantastical elements become that much more real with the references to LA, perhaps the most fantastical yet gritty culture in the US. One nice thing about these books is that the plots are not so fast-paced that one can't put them down after just a few pages. They are leisurely, enjoyable material in small doses and it made my breakfast minutes that much more fun to know that I was going to be ingesting some beautiful language along with my Grape Nuts.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

This Girl Needs Therapy

We went to the cabin for the long weekend. (This is the cabin in Wyoming owned by parents of some friends of ours; we go up a couple of times a summer to get away from the city and enjoy just Being). I got Hulk's cold that he had last week, so that made the experience not as fun as it could have been.

Anyhow, I took part of Thursday off to prepare for the trip - I had about 4 big errands to run and a lot of chores to do before our friend picked us up. On my way to Kaiser to get my BCPs refilled, I had a rather unpleasant experience. Walking the other way down the street were a man and a woman who were screaming, just utterly bellowing at each other. I could hear the man much better than the woman: "Bitch, you'd better shut your mouth! You're making me angry, bitch! Shut the fuck up, bitch, I will slap you!" and similar lovely sentiments. The man looked enraged; the woman looked upset.

It wouldn't have been so bad if it were just two people screaming at each other, though it was a little disconcerting to hear the absolute hatred and anger in the man's voice. The bad part was that they had a two-year-old in a stroller between them, looking up at mom and dad in abject fear, cowering with tears in her eyes.

A storm was rolling in and I could feel the barometer shifts in my sinuses. The air felt charged, electric, and perhaps it just set off a negative reaction in this couple. I felt so sorry for the little girl, though - I wanted to take her away from them, I wanted to yell at them, I wanted to say "Don't do this to your daughter!" Of course, I just walked around them as we passed on the sidewalk and I tried not to make eye contact. Because what could I really do?

I had a much nicer experience while waiting for my refil; a young-ish couple were in there with their two-month-old and Dad was playing with the baby while Mom talked to the pharmacist. Dad was very doting, very interactive, and the couple presented (at least publically) a very loving, stable relationship. The baby was doing all the things that two-month-olds do (wiggling, sticking his tongue out, focusing on the sunglasses on Dad's head, smiling) and it seemed like Dad really knew what he was doing. It made me feel much better about the world and humanity to know that there are people out there who aren't abusive to each other or their children.

I guess for all I know couple #2 could have been just as dramatic and their relationship as full of strife as couple #1, and for all I know my experience with couple #1 was an anomaly. There's no way to judge, just seeing strangers once out in public. But it was such an amazing dichotomy to me.

This weekend, one of our friends planned a bunch of games for us to play together at the cabin but didn't tell us what they were; one of them was flour tag (I'd never played it before). I helped fill the toes of panty hose legs with flour and tie them off; everyone put on black t-shirts. A couple of hours before we played, another friend playfully threatened me with one of the flour-filled pantyhose legs. Immediately, my mood shifted to one of fear and dismay; here was this friend who I trusted threatening me. I didn't really notice how much it affected me until later, when we began to play the game and it was girls versus boys and here come four men, all of whom are my friends (one of whom was the Hulk), all of whom I trusted, stalking menacingly across a field wielding what seemed like weapons. I kind of snapped, and I think I scared all of my friends, but most of all the two that don't know me as well.

I should never have participated.

I didn't realize until later why I had gotten so upset at the game; why I have always gotten so upset when playing physical games like dodgeball and tag games, why I have always dreaded them and never wanted to play. It wasn't until yesterday, two days after the game, that I realized how upset I had gotten (seriously, I kind of scared myself with how extreme my reaction was) when I was trying to explain to the organizer why I had acted the way I did in playing the game. I hadn't told her before about my dad (Hulk and one of our other friends there did know my background and I think that they both understood why I reacted the way I did, even better than I had myself) and when I told her she looked surprised, and then said that that kind of explained things. I mean, part of it was that I was sick and part of it was that I'd had too much sugar which I only really eat at the cabin. But most of it was because I'd already felt threatened by one of our friends hours beforehand and I had dreaded the game once I knew what was coming and I was primed to go off like a rocket as soon as those guys started advancing on me, weilding these socks full of flour like Homey the clown, but since they were so long they could be projectiles or just painful weapons.

It's amazing to me what kind of damage can be done to young children by their parents or caregivers, people who are supposed to love and protect their children. I'm flabbergasted at my own behavior with people who I trusted, who were my friends, when I was put into a situation with such a powerful trigger. I'd never imagined that my childhood experiences would lead to things like that, would lead to spending years trying to rid myself of a fear reaction and tears when Hulk swears or makes loud noises in the kitchen. I'd never suspected that my dislike of physical games where things are thrown or projected at me (especially by guys) stemmed from the same early childhood experiences.

My dad never hit me (that I remember), but I lived in constant fear that he would - or that he'd do SOMETHING to hurt me. There was no safe situation (at home anyway), nothing I could to to keep him from reacting in such a way that made me afraid. Sometimes I wish he had hit me; I think physical abuse would be easier to get over than the mental and emotional abuse that he probably never realized he was inflicting. Our other friend who was with us on the trip has quite a bit of experience in the mental health field as an LCSW and has mentioned to me before that she thinks I'd benefit from therapy to work through some of this stuff that seems to come out at the most bizarre times. And, though I hate to admit it (because doesn't everyone hate to admit that there are certain things they might not be able to do alone? I sure do), I am starting to think she is right.