Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I asked for a white christmas, not white until February

First of all, it's snowing AGAIN. And it's under 20 degrees F outside. Brrrrr.

We don't need more snow! We don't need more cold! We still have snow piled up high from the first blizzard way back in mid-December!

Second of all, I am so not looking forward to getting on that plane this afternoon. To help dismantle someone's life in front of that person is not going to be easy. I will be happy to spend time with my mom and aunt (and Yank in Texas, who was gracious enough to offer me a ride from the airport to my aunt's house), but not so happy to be mailing off all the things my aunt has collected for the past 80+ years.

Third of all, thank you to QIR for sending me replacement fairies. I think I'm going to get some of those little plastic dealies to put on the backs of the wires so I don't lose this set. And I will make the gold fairy and the lone silver fairy into other pretty jewelry.

Fourth of all, thanks to the Hulk for posting this awesome comic. He really does have a flip-top head.

And finally, thanks to Loki for giving me a nice leg rub and keeping my balls warm this morning while I play on the computer. I'm off to finish packing (have to bring extra luggage for with to bring back stuff), go to the gym, and head off to the aeroport. I'm bringing my camera so I can show everyone what cool stuff my aunt has.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The party which is given for a pregnant woman as an excuse to eat and give wee tiny presents

I find it very odd to be in a room full of estrogenic/post-menopausal women, all cooing and oohing and awwing over tiny socks and hats and things to hang the toys in above the bathtub.

There were salads and veggies with dip and coldcuts and cheese slices, with rolls and mustard to make sandwiches. I brought hummus and carrots, hoping the honoree would be able to partake because her current condition has brought on some health issues (luckily she thanked me and said she'd been craving it.) There was also a cake, of which maybe 3 people in the room of 25ish women took a piece.

Most of the women had already had their kids, if they were going to. Some of them want kids. Some are in their 30s and never married, so the possibility of having kids is slowly diminishing, and the palpability of their uterine gymnastics reacting to the onesies and bibs with cute logos was kind of over-the-top. The lady sitting next to me was in her 40s at least and married to another woman, and she seemed a little confused about all the hullabaloo. Because of course, every single brightly-colored plastic toy and little post-bath terrycloth robe thingy had to be passed around the table, like some sort of weird fertility ritual.

My friend received three hand-knitted or -crocheted blankets, not including the one I'm still working on (I whipped up some quick booties and a jester-style cap in jaunty shades of bright blue and green just to have something to give her; the shower was planned for two months before her due date because she's measuring so big that the doctors think she'll be early, even though it's her first. She looks about to pop already.). Three women besides me spent hours working with yarn and needles to produce beautiful textiles that will, in all likelihood, be peed and pooped and barfed on regularly during their use (that's why I make blankets out of machine washable yarn!).

Since it was a work shower, there weren't any of those horrid games like guessing melted candy bars in diapers or anything involving toilet paper. Or is that wedding showers? Anyhow, I found myself wondering what the whole experience was like for her - she's seven months pregnant, halfway across the world from her home (or the mothership, as Monkey likes to call it), days of travel to get to her parents or siblings. While she and her husband have lived in the states for a few years, I'm sure it must be a little weird and alienating to be experiencing your first pregnancy in the midst of a country, culture, and language that is not your own. She was very grateful for the shower and all the things that roomfull of hens had given her, but she looked a little shellshocked - sure, it was a lot of stuff, but it didn't even touch the amount of stuff that they'll probably end up with. Luckily for my friend, her mother plans a 3-month visit starting in early March, so if she's not around for the birth she'll be here shortly thereafter, and will be able to help her daughter deal with all the stuff that comes with being a brand-new first time mom.

Mostly, I wonder what the differences are between Indian baby showers and American baby showers (are there Indian baby showers? I don't know!). Are there gifts she'd be getting if she were having this baby in India that she isn't going to get here? When we were in China last year, seeing all those women wearing the same pregnancy outfit (black corduroy overalls with cartoon characters embroidered on the bib), I thought about how pregnancy and the birth of a child is universally celebrated, even in China where most women only get to do it once. The scary step of deciding to carry a baby to term, to bring a new life into the world, to rear children to the best of one's ability, seems to me to be the ultimate act in optimism: the child will be born healthy, live to adulthood, and be a productive and positive addition to the human race. That room full of women, in various stages of their lives, some of whom have children and/or grandchildren, or who are still awaiting children, participating in the ritual of cooing over the tiny caps, booties, onesies, all seemed to benefit in a very primal way from the party to honor a new mother and the acoutrements that brought.

Even (though I may hate to admit it) me.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Coastal Giants

The third Star Wars movie (Return of the Jedi) came out when I was four years old. One of my earliest memories of going to the movies was coming out of the movie theater, walking through the lit outdoor area to our car, and worrying about the Darth Vader breathing sounds - of course, it gave me nightmares that night.

Anyhow, the part of the movie where Luke and Leia are dressed in camoflage and helmets and riding on speeder bikes through the enormous trees? Looked like the walk up the road to Brian Foster's house. It never occurred to me at the time, or even until probably the 5th or 10th time I saw the movie, that most people never got to see redwoods, let alone saw them on a regular basis or lived amongst them. It's only now that I'm an adult and have lived in other places that I have been able to appreciate the beauty and rarity of the area where I grew up.

In kindergarten or first grade, we took a field trip to Armstrong Woods, and learned about how old the trees were, and got to see the cross-section of the tree where they show the different dates according to the rings on the tree. I returned to Armstrong woods about three or four years ago when I took Hulk there for his first major redwood tree experience. It was pouring down rain the whole drive there, and continued to rain while we walked the detritus-strewn paths through the park. But redwoods are so big, and crowd each other out competing for the sunlight, that not much rain got through the over canopy. There aren't good words to describe the experience of walking through the redwoods in the rain, hand in hand with someone you really care about, dodging banana slugs and puddles and soaking in the mist with your skin. But it's still one of my favorite days Hulk and I have shared together.

The atmosphere beneath the redwoods, even without rain, is completely unlike anything else I've ever experienced. Imagine being by the cold Northern California ocean, feeling the spray, without actually getting wet and without any wind. Or perhaps, imagine walking into the indoor, tropical part of a botanical garden or zoo or a butterfly pavilion, feeling the moisture in the air, but without the heat and heaviness. The air beneath the redwoods feels alive unlike anything else; there's very little else living aside from the ancient giants around you - only a small amount of light fiters through the trees to hit the ground, so there often isn't much ground cover or many small plants. The plants that fight for the little light that gets through are the best and the strongest, the most beautiful, never diseased or ugly. The air is still, and the trees seem to breathe and talk to one another as you walk, awed by their age and size, beneath them.

Some of the trees have survived multiple fires and are thousands of years old - the living layers of the trees are the very outer layer underneath the bark, so a fire can completely burn out the inside of the trunk and the tree will keep on living. (The wood is also pretty fire-resistant, which is why lots of people covet the wood for building stuff.) Redwoods are living testaments to perseverance, patience, and weathering storms - these trees have seen centuries, far more than most other creatures on earth might ever aspire to see. It's a humbling experience to see a cross section of a tree felled a hundred years ago and see the Battle of Hastings (1066) marked halfway across the diameter, and the birth of Christ marked when the tree had already lived a few years. Amazing.

If you're ever in Northern or Central California, or on the Pacific coast in some parts of Oregon, and you have the opportunity to walk beneath the redwoods, I highly recommend the experience. Sometimes when I look into the night sky when we're at the cabin or when I stand at the edge of the roaring ocean, I feel tiny and insignificant. But when I stand beneath the redwoods, looking up and up and still unable to see the tops of the trees, I just feel awe. It's the closest I ever come to a religious experience.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

My oldest friend found me a car; Nicole Ritchie is a skeleton

Oldest Friend called me today at work to tell me she was buying my car.

"What?" I asked.

Apparently, she needs to buy a car right now because she needs one for work and her current car isn't really functional. This friend is one of the best social networkers I have ever known - she is friends with hundreds if not thousands of people - and she put the word out that she needs a car ASAP. Well, someone she knows had a relative who wanted to sell, and the price was right, so she's jumping on it.

When I visited her in September, we were talking about cars and I told her what I was looking for. So when she found out the car she was buying was a 2001 Subaru Impreza Outback Sport with 60K miles on it and selling for $8K (original owner selling), she realized that she was buying my car. It's even green!

The cool part is that she's going to drive this car for a few months while she looks for what she REALLY wants in a car (her new job pays her lots of money and she may end up needing an SUV for work anyhow) and then she's going to sell it to me. So it appears as though I will finally have the car I want, like, exactly the car I want, in just a few months. Sweet! Hulk's going to have to teach me how to drive a manual, but it's something everybody should know how to do anyway, right?

Also, for her job she got to go to Sundance and she saw all kinds of famous people, who are apparently even skinnier (Nicole Ritchie) and sluttier (Tara Reid) and at least as creepy (the guy who plays the son on Nip/Tuck, a cross between Michael Jackson and Peter Gallagher) in real life as in pictures and on TV. (She also saw more well-respected stars, like Anthony Hopkins, but he doesn't have a bad boob job or an obvious eating disorder.) She also saw Sean Whateverthehellhecallshimselfthesedays Combs in an exclusive club and says he's a great performer.

Also, today it is 41 degrees and sunny, and I had to go outside and just stand in the sun for a few minutes. I hardly even needed the sweater I was wearing. Maybe a little of the gross old snow we've had for the last 5 weeks will melt a little.(Unfortunately, we're supposed to get ANOTHER storm this weekend. Ugh.)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Aunt Edy

My great aunt Edy is one of the coolest ladies I have ever known.

She grew up in D.C., taught ballroom dance classes for Arthur Murray, and married a man who loved her for years before he had the courage to ask her out. When asked why she married Uncle Bill, she replies, "I admired his qualities."

Edy married Bill during World War Two. He was an air force pilot and ended up career air force, moving the family around all over the world. My aunt collected all kinds of neat things from Japan and Germany and France and around the US, and has amazing stories to tell about her life's adventures.

Uncle Bill died in 1990, and her daughter (my mom's cousin) lives in rural Canada, does not drive and refuses to fly. Her son (my mom's other cousin) is still working in China. He has two kids, both of whom live about a 3-hour drive away from Edy. Aunt Edy lives alone.

She's always been a social, active lady, swimming daily in the spring-fed pool at the park, taking clogging and line dancing classes with people many years her junior (she's 87!) She's never been sick or in the hospital other than to have her children. Other than macular degeneration, she hasn't ever had a thing wrong with her, physically. She's in fantastic shape and has a terrific outlook on life and love, writing down her thoughts daily and sharing them with my mom and her kids.

I've been to Texas a bunch of times to visit Edy, the last time being the summer of 2005. It was obvious that Edy was starting to slow down a little - she was getting reluctant to drive, particularly to drive anywhere outside her few haunts in the town where she lives (grocery store, aerobics class, the park with the pool). Also, her mind wasn't what it used to be - she would repeat herself throughout the day, and seemed the most lucid when talking about the past. We spent most of that visit cooped up in her house in the sweltering July heat, looking at old photos and letters and the cool old family Bible from 1840-something, and I took pictures of the house so Hulk could see all the cool antiques and paintings and stuff that made it Aunt Edy's house (he's still never met her).

Last summer, Edy got dizzy while trying to mow her lawn in 100+F heat and Texas humidity. She called her son in China, he called his son in College Station, and she got taken in to the doctor. They didn't find anything wrong, and she seemed to perk up a bit. And she was told NOT to try to mow her own acre-large backyard again, especially not in the summer heat. A few months later, she had some more dizzy spells and her arm started to hurt. Her son came back from China to get her more medical help - again, nothing specific. At that point, they started talking about having her move into an assisted living place, either in Texas or in California to be closer to my mom. But no, she was stubborn and didn't want to leave her house or her friends or everything she'd known for the last 30 years.

When we were in California for a visit a couple of weeks ago, my mom called me at the Irish German's house to tell me that Edy might have had a heart attack or a stroke. The cousin of my generation drove over to stay with her, noticing that she hadn't been to the grocery store in at least a month. He got her food, dealt with her medical care - again, nothing specific was actually wrong with her. Edy's son flew back from China to insist on arranging for Edy's placement into an assisted living facility - if nothing else, so she wouldn't be alone and would have lots of other people around, she being such a social person. My mom called me again today to tell me she will be going to Texas for a few weeks to help Edy move, to organize, pack, and give away many of the things in her house (so as not to have to deal with it later, probate and all that). The house will be kept in the family, but all of Edy's personal things and collections of cool paintings and furniture and knicknacks, everything that makes it her home, will either go with her to the new place or go to my family, since neither of my mom's cousins or her cousin's kids want anything.

I will be flying to Texas in a week or ten days to help my mom process all of the things that are physical reminders of Edy's life. I don't know how long Edy will live in the new place; apparently, she's fading fast, going to bed at 4 PM and waking up at midnight, never leaving her comfy chair. She can't read or write or watch TV easily because of the macular degeneration, so she just sits. My mom's cousin has to return to China at the end of the month, so my mom will be out there to overlap his visit and get all the paperwork finalized. Then she will need help.

It seems to me like Aunt Edy is almost more like a mother to my mom than her own mother was (mom's mother died when she was 21). I know this is going to be a very difficult thing for her - it's hard for me, and I've only met Edy about 10 times. But she's an amazing woman with an incredible wealth of stories and knowledge. I had hoped at one point that because she was so healthy, physically, she'd live to be 100 and my kids, were I to have any, would get to meet her and know her for the amazing person that she is. But she herself has been "ready to go anytime" as she puts it for quite a while, now. She wants to be with her husband and her sister and doesn't understand why she keeps waking up in the morning. Her own mother, my great grandmother, died in her sleep at age 80, and I think Edy expected to do the same. "I'm past my expiration date!" she kept saying, a grin on her beautiful face, when I was there in July of 05.

Aunt Edy, there is no expiration date for such a wonderful, beautiful person. I hope against hope that Hulk will get to meet you before you dance off into the sunset with Uncle Bill, and I fully expect that when you do you'll make good on your promise to "come back and knock some heads around once I get my wings!" I'm not a particularly religious person, but if anyone has what it takes to come back and be a guardian angel, it's you.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Not as bad as it could have been for "the most depressing day of the year"

Yesterday, I had to wait over half an hour in the freezing cold (it was probably 15F) for a bus to take me to the place where we had our all-day staff meeting.

That's right, another all day staff meeting.

My mild Renaud's syndrome didn't appreciate the cold plus inactivity, and my hands and feet ached and ached, despite two pairs of gloves and thick warm socks. There was a certain cameraderie, however, in the group of us waiting for the bus - including one girl who wore capri pants, a coat that wasn't zipped up, and no gloves or mittens. I don't know how she made it. I'm usally fine outside in the cold if I'm walking around, but there's only so much moving around one can do while waiting for a bus.

Then I got to trudge 3 blocks through the unshoveled sidewalks to the place where the staff meeting was held. Because yes, it DID snow again this weekend! Just what we needed, more snow. I shoveled our walks on Sunday afternoon but the people in the neighborhood where the meeting was were not so courteous.

The staff meeting was a room full of 55 people having to discuss things like "trust" and "restructuring" - fun, I assure you. At least they fed us. Also, I got to see my Excessively Pregnant Co-Worker, who is supposedly due at the end of March but measuring so big that she and her doctors think he'll emerge a few weeks early. Unfortunately, my head started to ache by about noon, and by 3 PM it was a rager. Finally, the thing was over and I decided to walk back downtown over the new pedestrian bridge that goes over the highway. It was actually pretty cool. I walked through snow and ice and mag chloride sprinkles, took the mall shuttle up to the top of the mall, and went into the gym. My headache threatened migraine menacingly, and I told myself I'd just get changed and go upstairs to see if there were any available cardio machines (by this time it was 5 PM. And a Monday. in January). To my surprise, my favorite be-armed elliptical was available, and as soon as I stepped on the machine my headache disappeared.

I still took it kind of easy, finished up and walked home. My headache returned as soon as I stepped outside again and got worse throughout the evening, until I finally had to take some painkillers. It totally made my day to get so many comments on my blog entry about Pan's Labyrinth, though (and you all should go check out Hulk's review; it's better than mine.)

Then, I woke up this morning and checked out the Oscar nominations, and my dad's cousin got nominated again for Sound mixing for Dreamgirls (he and his team won in 2005 for Ray). Maybe if he wins again they'll let him speak - the guy is about 6'5 and the team of guys he works with are all wee, and they all talk and you can't even see his head because the camera focuses on the person at the mic.

I was also happy to see that so many of the nominations were spread around, and that Pan's Labyrinth got so many - I was expecting Foreign Language but it got several others as well. I still think it's the best movie I've seen in ages.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Two of three

There's been some talk on the Wide Wide World of Web (courtesy Joy on My Name is Earl) recently about the three Mexican directors and their triumphs with the three movies that have come out in the last few months: Babel, Children of Men, and Pan's Labyrinth (or, directly translated, The Labyrinth of the Faun). Babel did well at the Golden Globes; Children of Men is the latest from Alfonso Cuaron (of A Little Princess, the 3rd Harry Potter movie, and Y Tu Mama Tambien), and Pan's Labyrinth is being hailed by almost everyone as one of the best movies in years or even decades.

Last weekend, we saw Children of Men. At the time, I decided I needed to process a bit before I could write about it. It was well-acted, well-written, thought-provoking, all those things the critics like. Plus, it has Monkey's secret boyfriend in it (Clive Owen). The movie takes place about 20 years from now and, at the time of the film, no children have been born in the world in 18 years. The film basically shows what's going on in society as a result of people realizing they're the last people there will ever be, as everyone has given up hope that any children will ever be born again. Apparently, the whole world except England has completely gone to shit, and England is a totalitarian state treating any non-citizen as a terrorist.

I think what I liked best about Children of Men is that despite its abjectly depressing setting, despite how dark and miserable it was, some people still seemed to hold a glimmer of hope for the future and humanity. Also, perhaps less good, it was the only movie I've ever seen that made me want to run right out and get knocked up, just to make sure I could. Can you imagine? A world where there aren't any children, at all, for an entire generation?

Even more depressing, dark, and amazing was Pan's Labyrinth, which we saw last night. I've always been a big fan of fairy tales, and this movie is a fairy tale in the most traditional sense - no Disneyfied happily ever after here. The film does an incredible job of switching back and forth between fantasy and reality, and in the end you're not quite sure which was which - every adult character seems to be harboring fantasies of his or her own, quite opposite to the realities that they don't want to see. There were some wonderfully subtle parallels between the story of the girl, her mother, the captain, the conflict between the facist royalists and the socialist fighters and the story of the little girl who finds out she's the princess of the underworld and must undertake a series of tasks in order to reclaim her throne.

I have to be honest; there were some really graphic scenes involving injuries and incredible violence, and a couple of scenes had me covering my eyes or hiding on Hulk's shoulder. The makeup and special effects were perfect, though, showing you how gross war and torture really is. The movie also features one of the most perfect villains I've ever seen on the big screen - most of the time when he was on camera I was on the edge of my seat, holding my breath, afraid of what he might do next.

Probably my favorite aspect of this film was the discussion of fantasy as the milleu of the child or innocent - several adult characters tell the little girl that they once believed in fairies, but then they grew up - and tell the girl that she'll discover soon enough how horrible the real world can be. But there is nothing in the film to show that the girl doesn't understand this already; the fantasy world isn't an escape so much as a coping mechanism for what amounts to being a really screwed-up childhood. I loved the allusions to different fairy tale archetypes - the three tasks, the solutions having a "twist," the clever protagonist outwitting the monster. Even the ostensibly "good" creatures are disturbing and kind of freaky - the bad guys are scary as hell. If I had seen this movie at age 5 I probably would have had nighmares about eyes-in-hands guy for years and years. It's not a children's movie by any stretch of the imagination, despite the fantasy elements.

Seeing Pan's Labyrinth has inspired me to do more research into the academic discussion of fairy tales and their role in various societies. (I also want to see it again in the theater, possibly tomorrow. It's that good.) Children of Men made me want to spawn. I'm almost afraid to find out what crazy things Babel will inspire (seing as how it has Gael Garcia Bernal, it might just inspire some naughty fantasies), but I really want to see it to complete the Mexican director trifecta of late 2006. I recommend Children of Men, but I might have to insist that every one of you who reads my blog run out and see Pan's Labyrinth if at all possible. Just make sure to take someone along whose shoulder you can hide in for the really gruesome bits.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

want it, need it, gotta have it

There is addiction in my family.

I have known this my entire life. My dad's parents were alcoholics and then both stopped drinking entirely and now that whole side of the family is kind of born-again and nobody drinks at all. My dad isn't an alcoholic, but is an addict, just to a different substance. When I was younger, I was afraid to ever taste alcohol (and have still never done the substance Dad is/was addicted to) because I was afraid that just a little bit would turn into a lot and I'd never be able to stop.

I know this is why I never started drinking coffee or anything else with caffeine, and I bet it's saved me a lot of money over the years. And maybe this is why I never started smoking (though I've also always thought it was gross, smelled bad, and expensive, not to mention the health isssues). Again, I was always afraid that the addict genes would express themselves. Luckily, on the other side I have relatives that both smoked and drank for years and gave up smoking with no problem (and now drink only lightly). It's like an anti-addict set of genes or something.

There have been times in my life when I KNEW I was addicted to something. Luckily, those things have never been particularly destructive. One time, I realized I was addicted to grapefruits - I'd gotten in the habit of eating one every day after school, and so I told myself I had to stop. Man, did I ever want a grapefruit for several days. I even itched a little bit. For grapefruit! Another time, I won a Super Nintendo in a contest and only ever played the game that came with it (we couldn't afford more games), and after a while I realized I was addicted to playing it, so much so in fact that I had calluses on my thumbs and couldn't sit in front of the TV (even just watching regular TV) without holding the controller in my hand and playing with it. The day I realized it, I stopped playing the game and never played any video games again. I was too afraid of getting hooked.

These days, I try to be more moderate in my behavior and watch for signs of addiction or habituation on a regular basis. I habituate really easily though, and for me it feels like the first step of addiction - like if I have a drink in the evening a couple of days in a row, I feel that I must skip a day or two so I don't get USED to drinking. I hate it when the words "I need a drink" come out of my mouth, which almost never happens, and sounds innocuous, but I'm really afraid of addiction, so I always try to amend it to, "a drink would be really nice" or something. And I know I'm at least halfway addicted to the gym, though if I'm going to have an addiction at least it's a healthy one. I go almost every work day (4-5 days a week, usually 5) and since the weather has been so cold I've even been going in on a weekend day just to get out of the house and get some exercise.

Last night I lay in the bed and my legs hurt from pushing myself really hard at the gym the last few days, and I told the Hulk that I wasn't going today, just to give myself a rest. But all day today, especially since about 1 PM, I've been itching - I have been working out in the mid-afternoon this month to avoid as much of the January resolutioners as possible - by 5 PM the place is PACKED. And Hulk and I have some stuff planned for the evening. On the weekends when I don't work out, it doesn't bother me so much because I'm distracted by other stuff. But on a weekday? I don't know if I can do it. I brought my gym stuff with me because it's always in my bag I take to work that has the laptop sleeve. I almost didn't eat my lunch when I was hungry so I could go work out first. But in the end, the rational, intellectual part of me knows I need a break if my muscles are this sore and the scared of addiction part of me knows I need a day off so I can prove that I'm not addicted to working out.

Maybe I'll just do an exercise video at home.

Brian Foster dreams

"How was your sleep?" I always ask Hulk in the morning as I'm getting ready for work. "Did you have any dreams?" He usually says no, or says he did but can't remember. But I always dream, and I almost always remember- I actually consider it a good night if I only remember one, or, lovely of lovelies, none - I don't think I get enough non-REM sleep sometimes. Lately my dreams have been full of anxiety tells - dreams of rings that aren't right or lost, dreams of trying to drive a big manual transmission truck backward through traffic, generally telling me that my life is starting to change in ways that I'm not sure I'm ready for. Of course I'm ready - to look for a new job, to think about "the future" - I need change and haven't had any in a long time. But it's still a little disconcerting, difficult to give up something cushy, and it's coming across while I sleep.

Last night, I don't remember having any anxiety dreams. I did have a Brian Foster dream, though. Have I mentioned Brian Foster before? He's a kid I grew up with, went to preschool and elementary school with, knew through high school, and he even went to UCB the year after I did. When we were kids, we were super close, but the last time I saw him was right before I graduated in 2000. About a month later, I started having dreams about him, and he's been a regular character in my dreams ever since.

Sometimes I go months without having a Brian Foster dream, and sometimes I have three a week. But I think I have to explain the Brian Foster dream thing a little bit more. It's obvious to me by now that I'm not actually dreaming ABOUT him. Hell, he hasn't been a big part of my life since 1988ish. But we did grow up together, spending nearly every day after school together (our parents, along with a 3rd family, had a sort of informal babysitting co-op), having sleepovers and playing with my little pony and GI Joe and the Millennium Falcon (plus all the Star Wars action figures). It's probably thanks to Brian Foster that I know how to relate to guys as well as I do, considering the crappy role model I had.

He did grow up to be a good-looking guy, super geeky about some particular hobbies. I don't know whatever happened to him - maybe he's still in the Bay Area, maybe he's moved, maybe he has a girlfriend or a boyfriend or a wife or a husband (no idea about his orientation). I really don't know. But I do know that he must represent something to my subconscious, because he plays a starring role in my nighttime escapades on a regular basis.

The thing about the Brian Foster dreams is that sometimes he is a little kid, and I am my current age. Sometimes *I* am a little kid, and he looks like he did back in April of 2000. Sometimes we're both little kids, or sometimes we're both our aged selves - I can't really predict it. But I always want to spend lots of time with him in the dream, to speak to him and hug him and find out what his life is like. Sometimes the dreams involve his little brother, or the house where I assume his parents still live. But I always feel that he is precious and interesting and like a missing piece that I am so glad to have found, happy to be interacting with him again. (If memory serves, I NEVER felt like this when we were kids. Mostly he was just the kid I played with after school who liked to put weird stuff in his mouth.) In the dreams, I never feel as though I have enough time to get everything I need from the interaction - I am always afraid to wake up and that he'll be gone forever. I want to fold him up and put him in my pocket, so I'll be able to take him out later and get my fill.

So, since most of you who read my blog know me, tell me. Why do I dream about Brian Foster so much? What is he representing, and why do I feel this way about the little boy or grown man in my dreams? And if, on some crazy chance, you ever see this blog entry, Brian Foster, you of the common enough name that googling it doesn't tell me who you are now or what you do? Hi! and, um, I'm really not obsessed with YOU, I swear. For some reason, you stand in for some part of myself that I can't figure out. But if you comment here, I'll email you, and you can tell me about who you really are and not who my brain tells me you are in my dreams.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The ongoing saga of MLE's teeth, starring punk-ass enamel and failed sealants

Once upon a time (it's story time again, yay!) there was a girl who inherited every crappy teeth-related thing from both parents.

That girl, of course, is me. My teeth are crooked, the enamel is yellow (not stained! I don't drink coffee ever and rarely tea - whitening stuff wouldn't do me any good), and I have a strong proclivity for dental caries. I think that if my teeth were not as shitty as they are, I would be a few grand richer. Over the last seven years, I've spent approximately $3500 out of pocket (that's WITH dental insurance, mind you) on fillings, more fillings, crowns, wisdom teeth removal, and a root canal. And I've never had braces, which I'll be paying for myself (eventually), so that's going to add another several thou onto my expensive mouth.

(of course, it doesn't make me feel any better to know that one of my sisters inherited perfect straight white teeth and has never had any cavities. She got the perfect skin, too.)

It seems as though every time I have work done on my teeth, it causes some other problem. When I was a teenager my family dentist extolled the virtues of dental sealants to seal up my (also inherited) deep molars so I wouldn't get cavities. And guess what? Every single one of those sealants leaked. Every last one. I got a cavity under every single damn sealant. And one of those fillings pushed up against the tooth next to it, so I couldn't get the floss beneath my gum inbetween those two teeth. I ended up with a cavity under the gumline that got so bad I had to have a root canal. I couldn't afford a crown at the time so I had a temporary one until about two years ago.

And my wisdom teeth! The bottom ones grew in sideways, pushing up against the back molars. This created pockets where stuff got in (of course) and I got bad cavities in both back molars. The wisdom teeth had to come out to keep the problem from getting worse, but once those were out I couldn't afford to fill the cavities. Another thing I paid for about two years ago, one of which ended up needing a crown. So that's two crowns, one root canal, and about 8 fillings for the bitch-ass leaky sealants.

Every damn time I go into the dentist for a checkup/cleaning, they find something else. I get praised for my brushing and flossing and how healthy my gums are and how little tartar or plaque I have, but it doesn't seem to make any difference to the damn enamel, because I continue to get cavities. In case you hadn't guessed, I had my six-month appointment today. "Your gums look great!" said the hygenist. Of course, the bite wing Xrays told the true story - the horrible filling that caused the root canal needs replacing (and it's a doozy, one step away from ANOTHER crown), another filling has a cavity underneath it, and two fillings that were done like a year and a half ago just aren't sitting right against each other and need replacing. So that's FOUR fillings I need dealt with, only one of which actually has a cavity associated with it, and said cavity is because the damn filling is so old and crappy and of course it got a cavity underneath it.

GODDAMN MUTHERFRACKING TEETH. I would be a rich woman if it weren't for my teeth. And I really need braces, not just for cosmetic reasons, but because I have a crossbite that's weakening one of my front teeth and I would probably get fewer cavities if my teeth had enough room to sit properly in my damn mouth. But I can't afford it just yet. Of course my insurance would pay for braces for any spawn of mine, but for me? No frakking way.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Big House

Once upon a time, four boys lived in a house in Oakland. Two were brothers, one was a high school friend, and the fourth wore cowboy boots.

At varying times, the people who lived in this house changed. I dated one of the brothers for three years, so a good amount of my college social life revolved around the house, even when roommates played musical rooms and two of the original ones moved out and the crazy meth head girl (another high school friend) moved in and her rats all mated and ate their babies and she would be up for 3 days without sleeping and didn't pay the rent, and then they kicked her out.

I, myself, lived in this house officially for one summer (the summer College Boyfriend went to China), though I was there pretty much every night for about two years. During the time I lived there seven people lived in the house sharing one shower, and four were sweaty boys who were painting all summer. It was, shall we say, an interesting summer.

Anyhow, I have lots of stories about the Big House (as we called it, since it was a big house), but those will have to wait for another time. The purpose of this post is to write about the wonderful time I had hanging out with said brothers and another high school/college/Big House friend (aka the Irish German) when we were in California last weekend.

And yes, one of them was College Boyfriend. He and Irish German bought a house together in Oakland (for the purposes of fixing up and selling in a year or so) and they regularly hang out with Older, Somewhat Hairier Brother, and I hadn't spent more than an hour or so with any of them in years. I called up the Irish German to let him know we'd be in town, and he arranged for the brothers to all hang out at the house on Sunday. It was, quite frankly, a lovely time.

I really enjoyed Hulk getting a chance to spend some time with these people who were some of my best friends in college (though I went to high school with all 3 of them, we weren't close until we all moved to Berkeley). And I enjoyed meeting Irish German's girlfriend, and catching up with all of them. We went out for Thai food; we played games and drank wine and I got to see the loveliest sheepish smile on Older Brother's face when he told me his wife was pregnant (a baby blanket for said spawn, due in April, is already in the planning stages). I got to hear all about their lives now, and how the Irish German has acclimated back to living in the states now that he's been back from Dublin for two years. We ate cherries and spat the seeds into their huge backyard/garden off the deck they all built themselves.

The best part was realizing how happy they all are in their adult lives. Older Brother is enjoying the challenges of owning his own business, providing for his wife and looking forward to baby (unplanned but not unwanted, and apparently concieved during wedding festivities of the Youngest Brother last summer). College Boyfriend continues to work for his brother, helping him run the business, spending time with his girlfriend of six years, and being solitary as necessary. And it warmed me up to see the Irish German with his girlfriend, since I'd never seen him in a relationship before (he's had them, just none I've ever met). Three boys, now three men, living their lives and remaining friends and still all giving me wonderful hugs when we said goodnight.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Another pilgrimage, sparkly rocks, and toy surprises

The trip to CA we took this past weekend was a bit more laid-back than our usual frenzy of scheduling visits with friends and family around whatever occasion has us in the Bay Area (usually a holiday, but also might include a graduation, a reunion, etc.). I didn't even hear back from two people I called to let know we'd be around, so we mostly decided to take things easy. We stayed the first night at QIR's (she of the ever-open futon and tiny fruit) and had breakfast Friday morning at the Homemade Cafe with her parents who were visiting for a QIRSis event. After breakfast, Hulk and I meandered around Telegraph avenue, marveling at the sunshine and lack of snow on the ground. No snow! Temperatures above freezing! and the sun was out, hooray!

My mom was scheduled to have furniture delivered (the demise of the couch finally spurred her to buy new living room furniture years after she'd wanted it) Friday morning so we decided to do some Berkeley stuff before heading up to the 'dale. Of course, no visit to Berkeley would be complete without the stop at Berkeley Bowl. It was the emptiest I'd ever seen it - when we got in line, there were only two people ahead of us!

Anyhow, some photographic evidence:

Unfortunately, the Bowl does not sell banana phones.

Some kind of vegetable that resembles a bumpy green crawdad.

Impressive fungus

Even more impressive fungus. Scale kindly provided by Hulk's thumb.

After we bought our rosemary potato bread and our chocolate-covered pistachios, we headed north. My mom called at least 18 times to confirm plans, reconfirm plans, change plans, etc. as we decided to meet in Santa Rosa because she and her friend wanted to go to the gem show. Yes, this meant beads and baubles and jewelry and overwhelming sparklyness. On the phone, she hinted that there would definitely be jewelry I'd want to try on, "just to see." Hmm, what kind of jewelry, mom? So we went to the gem show and my mom bought me some amber jewelry that she wanted to buy me and Hulk and I wandered around and looked at other jewelry. We saw a lot of gaudy stuff and a lot of beautiful stuff and this one vendor actually took the time to show us some of his more unusual inventory, like rings made from stones that you don't normally see set into rings, and some old estate stuff (a size 3 cocktail ring and a size 11 solitaire - that lady must have had a big finger!). He explained how star sapphires worked, something I'd always wondered about. And I got to see some interesting stones in unusual colors, like that sapphire that comes in reddish-pinkish, very striking and beautiful (though not my thing, personally).

By this time, I was way past Unfed and into About to Keel Over so we took my mom's friend back to her house and went to Round Table Pizza in Healdsburg, a California chain that I'd talked up for years. Hulk got to try his first Round Table pizza and I got to take my first trip down memory lane, as I hadn't been in there in at least 15 years. And it still looks the same inside - same jukebox, same video games, same party room with big screen TV. The only difference? In the very last bite (the crust) of the very last slice of the pizza we all shared, I found a big piece of wood. I thought it was a mushroom baked into the crust, but no, it was a partially-blackened piece of wood and I bit right down on it. Luckily, it didn't hurt, and the manager was all apologetic and gave my mom a coupon for a free pizza for next time.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

MLE and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad morning

I have this post in me bursting to come out, stories of going through old stuff and drives to new places and spending hours with old friends, but this one has to come first.

The trip home to Colorado yesterday could have been worse. But I'm not sure any further mishaps would have made me more miserable or made my mood worse than it already was. After a night of very little sleep (about 5 hours), Hulk and I arose in the dark of QIR's living room and hastily changed clothes, packed our things, ate bowls of his favorite cereal (not available in CO), and schlepped our bags out to the rental car. We didn't have to deal with much traffic (though the metering lights were on on the Bay Bridge and that made things take a little longer). We drove in sleepy silence through the city as the sun was coming up and left the freeway just before the airport to fill up the car.

The getting of the gas wasn't a problem. The problem came when we had to figure out how to get back on the freeway. After a few false starts and wrong turns, we managed. Then Hulk accidentally took the exit to another freeway rather than going to the airport, so we had to turn around again, just after I had mentioned to him about NOT taking that exit but going toward the airport sign. But he misunderstood. And he yelled in frustration and anger and not enough sleep, (and you have to understand, he NEVER yells, and he knows how hard it is for me to be around any man who yells), and I cried, and we managed to turn around. Finally we made it through the roundabout and torturous route to return the rental car and hobbled onto the train thingy to the airport. Neither of us got the special screening for maybe the first time in forever (on the trip out, Hulk got special screening for the pencil sharpener in his carryon - yes, a pencil sharpener. Way to go, TSA! Don't let those terrorists sharpen pencils!) but I was just miserable, exhausted, and cracked out.

Our flight was uneventful. And halfway through the flight I realized that I only had one of the earrings QIR gave me for giftmas, the ones she'd given me the previous night, the ones that were, amazingly enough, exactly like a pair I'd had and loved in high school until I lost one (though my old ones were gold and the new ones silver). I looked all over the plane around where I'd been but couldn't find it. I hope it's still at her house, but after the morning we had I'm guessing it's in SFO somewhere.

The one interesting thing about the flight is that the entire flight crew appeared to be youngish redheaded men. First time I've ever seen an all-male flight crew.

We got off the plane to find our luggage waiting (DIA is actually pretty good for that, having your luggage out mighty quickly) and had to get cash at the only credit union ATM I've ever seen that charges. Fuckers. Then, to get change, part of that cash was spent on a sugar-cinnamon pretzel, all evil white flour and transfats and sugary goodness that I was hoping would tide me over a little while. Of course, we'd missed the bus downtown, so rather than wait another hour for the next one, we took the bus to Stapleton (the old airport) and, of course, had missed the bus from there to downtown, so instead of waiting 40 minutes for THAT bus we took one to the end-of-the-line light rail stop and waited 10 minutes for the light rail train to go, and then we finally got downtown and took the mall shuttle up to the top of the mall. So 3 busses and a train to get downtown from the airport. Despite my cracked-out-edness, I went to work and sat at my desk and drooled in a stupor until 5 PM. I didn't even have the energy to go to the gym.

And of course, last night, I couldn't sleep 'til 1 AM. Which is why I am feeling cracked out today.

Crack is whack, yo.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Somebody's getting married, part the second

Oh, so you'd like a recap of our holidays?

Well, we spent several days in House of HulkRents, including a trip to Fort Fun for a beer tasting at New Belgium, home of Fat Tire. (Yes, I tasted beer, and even found one that I kind of liked. It was more like a sour lambic, though, not especially beery). Then we took Holla and Hollawife to the airport early one morning. We drove to Denver, braved the snow to find parking, and ran necessary errands while waiting to find out if the cabin trip was still a go. (Mutual decision was no: we were all concerned about the new storm coming in. Better not to get stranded in several feet of snow in rural Wyoming.) We drove back up to return the truck and got chauffeured back to Denver along with the kitties and all their assorted paraphanalia.

It snowed the next day, but only about 6 inches, not the 18 they'd predicted (QIR told me that northern New Mexico got the snow instead). My office was closed the following day, a Friday, due to the weather, so I ended up having nearly two weeks off of work (last day was the Wednesday before Christmas, sent home at 11:30 AM, then didn't go back in 'til yesterday). Despite my cabin fever and frustration at lack of exercise, we still managed to have a good time this break, and expected to have a quiet NYE with our kitties when our friends called us and told us they were coming down after all. So we had New Year's Eve with them (complete with going outside in the snow at midnight with our Champagne and toasting and watching the fireworks from downtown) and they stayed part of the following day as well, and then Hulk and I collapsed into sleep and I woke up to the alarm blaring yesterday morning.

So what did I get for Christmas from the Hulk? Several things, actually. Good chocolate (including Lion bars!) in my stocking. Earrings and a necklace. A birdhouse and birdseed for the backyard (now the trick is to figure out how to feed the birds without feeding squirrels). A book on dream symbology. This awesome t-shirt, depicting my favorite thing we saw in the airport in Tokyo (so much so that I took a picture of it, only to find out they were all over China as well). And a pottery bowl, the story of which I will have to relate in its own entry, because it is that amazing.

So whither this blog title?

Our best couple friends here in Colorado, the ones with whom we go to the cabin in Wyoming, the ones who (respectively) bestowed a strange nickname on the Hulk and plan childish birthday parties, got officially engagamafied on Giftmas in front of her whole family.

Not like we weren't all expecting it, or anything. They'd been talking about it for quite some time and it was just a matter of him getting her ring made. Hulk was actually the one to notice her sparkly new (amethyst) ring when they came over for new year's. Amber had to show me some fancy LOTR-type dresses she'd found on the internets, most of which were waaaay outside their budget (like, 3-5 grand), but so pretty and not at all white and poofy. Amber is not a white and poofy girl. They're planning to get married in either late August or early September and haven't picked a spot yet (my money's on "somewhere outside" - they'd like to do it at the cabin, but both have elderly relatives that would have a hard time accessing it, plus you kind of need a 4WD vehicle to get there).

So now I have two weddings to look forward to - Toph and Amber's this fall, and my sister's someday (she still refuses to even think about planning, and she has her reasons that I understand). And despite my lack of enthusiasm about going back to my dark basement cube, it's kind of nice to get back into a routine again. I just have to go to the gym at 3 PM every day in January until it quiets back down again, because lord, by 4 yesterday it was packed, and I'm sure the same at lunchtime (I went at 2:45).

Oh! the other thing that I have to look forward to is a trip to CA this weekend! I got an email from travelocity a few weeks ago advertising nonstop roundtrip to SF for $130 each (including taxes), which is unheard of pricing. So we're leaving Thursday afternoon and coming back Monday morning. We're going to spend some time with my mom and QIR and the Irish German and who knows what else? So stay tuned for more Bay Area stories.