Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Everyone's a Bastard

At least, that’s how I feel sometimes. The exceptions to that headline are: my family, my friends, Stoker, all people who agree with me about the following subject (and this does not mean that you have to agree with me about politics, just about being inundated with pessimism), Mike Savage, and the Pope (I just like unwavering religious figures, both dead and alive). So, I guess "everyone" means the media, because honestly I don't get into political discussions with people. However, some of my coworkers bring it up, unsolicited by me. I usually don't give them my two-cents, either because I'm not really informed on the subject or because it's just not worth the energy.

Here's the problem: I’m so sick of hearing about how George Bush sucks. If one more person subtly or unsubtly hints to me through any medium—standing by the water cooler in the break room, on the radio, television or web page—that they think the president sucks, I swear I’ll hit them. Well, probably only the people at the water cooler. But I’ll do something rash, like throw my computer monitor out the window or tip over the water cooler. Seriously. I’m so tired of it. What gives? I mean, when Bill Clinton was being duplicitous and lying about crap, you couldn’t find a single person talking about how they wanted to defile
images* of Bill Clinton’s face or make fun of him or sing shitty songs about what a big, fat, humongous liar he was, or about how horrible America is.** It was like a walk in the park as far as popular opinion was concerned. You know? He only perjured, but no media source or single person could even imagine that his finesse for lying would carry over into any other part of his administration. He was great. He was wonderful.

It’s all a bunch of crap. And I’m sick of it. Don’t talk to me, I just want to be alone now***.

*This is a link to the NIN statement that they won't be performing at the MTV video awards because they can't use a large, unmolested picture of Bush's face as their backdrop.
**I used to support Amnesty International, now I just think they're a bunch of misinformed, never-satisfied jerks.
***A joke. Sort of. You can talk to me.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Fear of Falling

Tonight we had rehearsals for the wedding, which is this upcoming Friday night (June 3rd). It was kind of strange and made everything feel more immediate and real.

There are stairs in the back of the room at the reception center, for the bride to go down as a kind of gauntlet, it seems, before the marriage takes place. You might call this a test of her devotion to the groom and her desire to enter the institution of marriage. While it's nice to watch a bride glide into the room in this manner and seemingly float down from above -- the entrance accentuating her physical beauty and prowess -- it's torture to be the one clunking down the stairs in a wedding dress and dangerous shoes, as I will surely be. And tonight I felt very stupid practicing on the stairs in bermuda shorts and an old black Strokes t-shirt, to this very dramatic (though beautiful) music, with Stoker, my mom and dad all watching me. I felt out of place, but luckily we're not having a big ceremony or anything so we were the only people there.

When we left Stoker's parent's house this afternoon, his mom and dad said, "See you on your wedding day!" And that was crazy to hear and think about. It's not that I'm scared to marry Stoker -- I know I want to be with him forever and I love him. But the whole ceremony is a big deal and there's all this pressure on me to perform. When I try my best to step/glide and everything down the stairs on Friday night, I'll be the center of attention. I used to love that, but now that I'm older it's an awkward spot for me. What if I fall down?

Friday, May 27, 2005

Today and this Weekend

1) I like my post about bachelor parties, so I'm going to make this one short. I want everyone to scroll down after reading this, to be sure to read the bachelor party post, and also the comments. They're very insightful.

2) The power went out at work today at around 11:00. After about 20 minutes you could really feel the building heating up. The generator wasn't even working, so no computers. We were useless. They sent us home. I get paid for all 8 hours. What a deal.

3) I went to the comic book store with my mom this afternoon. She loves Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck comic books, and incidentally, so do I. I bought two graphic novels. One is actually this guy's diary of his trip to France and Morroco. At least I think those are the places. The other one is by some guy named Andy Watson, or something (I don't have them with me). This is my first foray into graphic novels, influenced by
Ward, who wrote about the Sin City movie and graphic novels. I took one of the graphic novels to Stoker, at work, who had to stay for the whole day. Poor boy! The power didn't go out on that side of town.

4) I'm getting my hair trimmed tomorrow because I'm getting married next Friday. One of my coworkers is counting down the days and announces how many are left, loudly, every morning. It's funny. "7 days!" He'll say with a huge grin on his face, rubbing his hands together.

5) Last night Stoker and I drove 1 1/2 hours to Cache Valley to catch the tail-end of his cousin's wedding reception. Afterwards we drove the rest of the way to his parents' home in Richmond. You'll be happy to know that Gouda, the baby goat, is still alive and doing very well. Kelsie has been bottle-feeding her and now Gouda can run and jump like a regular little goat. And Brie, the older baby goat, still loves me. We're going back up there tomorrow so I can spend more quality time with the baby goats (tongue-in-cheek). I love the goats. But I also like to hang out with Stoker's family. Okay, okay, secretly, I really love hanging out with the baby goats.

6) Did I mention that I made dinner for Stoker tonight? As a surprise. It's chicken curry in a crockpot and I found the recipe on the internet. It's not bad. I've made if before. Here's the

2 whole chicken breasts, boned
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/4 c. dry sherry
2 tbsp. butter or margarine
2 green onions with tops, finely chopped
1 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. salt
Dash of pepper
Fluffy rice

Cut chicken into small pieces, place in crockpot. Add all remaining ingredients except rice. Cover and cook on high setting 2 1/2 to 4 hours. Serve over hot rice.

7) So much for short. But this is the end. If you're not going anywhere for the 3-day weekend and are reading this, too bad. Keep your chin up and all. If you are going somewhere, have fun. I'll be prancing in green meadows with the baby goats while pastoral music plays in the background. That may sound lame, but believe me, living in a musical is anything but lame.

Okay. That was lame. My life is not a musical.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The New and Improved Bachelor Party

For the record, no, Stoker will not be going to a bachelor party and he will not be going to a strip club. I bring this up because my coworker asked me if Stoker would be participating in this tradition. When I said no, my coworker said that maybe the guys (meaning Stoker’s friends, not the guys I work with) would take him, you know, and then Stoker wouldn’t have control over this and he’d just have to go along begrudgingly. I told this coworker that there are no ‘guys’ to speak of. Stoker’s not a man’s man. He doesn’t hang out with the ‘guys.’ He hangs out with me, my family, his family, and occasionally our friends who consist of both males and females .

There’s this problem in modern society of double-standards. Double-standards irritate the hell out of me. Case-in-point:

Before marriage, women throw what’s commonly known as a ‘wedding shower’ for the bride-to-be. At these showers gifts are given to prepare the bride for her upcoming marriage, such as towels, dishes, pots and pans. Sometimes gifts relate to sex, like lingerie or tasteful nightgowns. But again, this is to enhance the relationship. Women prepare and look forward to being a wife, while also aware that it’s an end to an important phase of their life: being single.

What do men do before the marriage? Bachelor parties (except Stoker, he’s not interested in this ritual). Some men are good and have friends who are also good and they simply go out to dinner, or go on a fishing trip. Whatever. Their focus isn’t on something that’s detrimental to his relationship with his fiancée and I don’t care what a man says about his wife being okay with strippers or porn or whatever. Deep down no women is okay with it. It hurts. And it’s an insult to his wife. If Stoker went to a bachelor party with the guys and there was a stripper, it would say to me that he doesn’t care about how I feel if he didn't leave or put an end to it. You know the word, cuckold? That’s a man whose wife has cheated on him. Where’s the word in our language for a woman whose man has cheated on her? As far as I know, there’s not one, but in my mind the crime warrants its own word, such is the importance and depth of pain caused by a man’s infidelity. And I think in the hearts of many women, a man watching a stripper has as good as cheated on his woman.

The solution: men need to change the view of marriage being the old ball-and-chain and look at it as something freeing. A married man has someone to love and who loves him. He has a hug to go home to at the end of the day. He has someone to listen to him. And there’s always sex. I’m not saying marriage is easy. I imagine that like most good things in life, a person has to work hard at it and make it a priority to fend off decay.

So the next time one of your buddies gets married, throw him The New and Improved Bachelor Party*, which mirrors the wedding shower. Instead of pots and pans, give him a barbeque grill or power tools. What better way to show your buddy that you wish him well in his new life than by giving him a ratchet set? Men need tools, it’s not like they grow on trees. They’re expensive and to have a happy, comfortable home a guy needs to be able to go out in the garage and get his pneumatic drill when home repairs are calling.

*This term has been copyrighted by me. Just kidding. But I offer it as the solution to our culture’s negative stereotypes regarding marriage rituals. Not the opposite, which is women regressing to the lowest common denominator and taking the Sex in the City way out of things by having lame-assed bachelorette parties at the Chippendales club. Real great, girls. Real great. Take five steps back on the evolutionary scale. That’s a good idea.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


Three baby goats were born on Friday night. The bellering (that’s what they called it and I assume they must know, being around goats and all) woke me at 3 am that night. But I didn’t go out to watch Doug (Stoker’s father) and Christy (his mother) help with the birth. In the morning Kelsie came into the room to tell her sister, Anarie, what happened. I listened, pretending to be asleep on the chance that I might want to go back to sleep after they left (I didn’t). Kelsie told Anarie what colors they were and their names. This year it’s a cheese motif: Mozzarella is white with black patches, Cheddar is black with white patches and a spiral of white going down her foreleg, and Gouda, the runt, is brown with white and black patches*. Runt sounds harsh to an uninformed person (me), but she’s very small and Staccato (there must have been a music theme a few years ago) is rejecting her. Actively, as in pushing Gouda away with her nose and knocking Gouda down when Gouda comes near to nurse. I’m very disappointed with Staccato, but I’m trying to understand that it’s just her goat-ly instinct.

But don't worry, I think Gouda will make it because Stoker’s family is bottle-feeding her and when I left on Sunday she was a little better at walking without falling down.

We’re going back this coming Saturday. Why? I have my reasons.

Reasons to go back to Cache Valley on Saturday: rejuvenating “country” air, Brie (the baby goat born 14 days ago), Gouda, “country” mornings, Stoker’s sisters, sitting in Paul and Ann’s backyard on Sunday afternoons (Stoker’s brother and sister-in-law and we only did that once, but I’m planning on going back for a repeat visit). And last but not least: spring in Cache Valley. It's the best — everything is green and if I really knew, I could say it looks like Ireland or New Zealand at this time of year. Since I don’t know, I can’t stand by that comparison. But it looks like pictures of Ireland or New Zealand that I've seen, and yes, I’m in love with Cache Valley**.

On Saturday evening we went to the Black and White Days parade, like I mentioned I would. The parade passes right in front of the White house (no really, Stoker’s last name is White). And we sat there in lawn chairs with the evening sun on us, a row of senior citizens on my left and Stoker on my right. Every float tossed candy and you’ll be happy to hear that there WAS salt-water taffy, Sixlets and Tootsie Rolls amongst the cornucopia of candy (I’ve been waiting my entire life to use cornucopia in a sentence). Word to the wise, if you want the old-fashioned parade feeling, with candy and everything, you’ve got to go to small-town parades. City parades don’t throw candy anymore for safety reasons, eliminating any REASON to go to a parade.

Later that evening Anarie and her friend, Aram (both are studying performance piano at the university), played a few songs together on the pianos. And then, instead of feeling like I was in the country, I felt like I was in Carnegie Hall. Exaggeration? No. I’m not an aficionado by any means, but it was awesome. Aram played something called the Sabre Dance. Five stars.

That about sums it up. Yesterday Stoker and I got our marriage license and then I went to the dentist because I’m getting a crown in a few weeks. That sucked, my mouth is swollen.
I think I’m allergic to the gloves the dentist wears. Stupid gloves, I look like Krusty the Clown (or is it Klown?). Great. That will be great for the wedding pictures.

*Sorry to disappoint, no Feta.
**N.B. Cache Valley has its share of crap. Like crap as in horrible downtown Logan traffic, which you don’t expect because it’s considered a small town. But the growth of the valley is random and unchecked and the city-planners aren’t city planners at all. Apparently. Because the sprawl is insane. The only main thoroughfare is through the center of Logan on Main Street. The only time it’s not congested is in the middle of the night. Otherwise getting from, say 1400 North to 700 South is an infuriating journey. That’s my biggest complaint about C.V.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Black and White Days and Sauerkraut Festivals

This weekend I’m going up to Richmond with Stoker. I say up, because as we all know*, locations that are north in latitude are ‘up’ while locations that are south of where you are, are ‘down.’ Many people mix that up**.

But anyway. I’m going to a sort of festival/celebration called Black and White Days in Richmond (pop. 2,000). It has to do with cows and an auction. I think. I think there will be other animals. Maybe goats and pigs. There’s a parade. Hopefully there will be candy tossed from the parade participants. Hopefully there will be salt-water taffy in the candy mix. Saturday morning -- though I’d love to sleep in -- I’m supposed to run in the Black and White Days race with Stoker and his dad.

If you don’t already know, Richmond is home of Big J’s, the joint Uncle Rico and Kip have shakes and fries in, in the movie Napolean Dynamite. Just to familiarize you with the area.

Most of all,
I’m looking forward to seeing the new baby goat (Stoker’s parents have goats). These are pet goats, in case you’re thinking otherwise. And there might be another baby goat born while I’m there. I’ve never been around a live birth before, with animals or humans. So I’ll let you know how it goes. I’ll also give you a report of Black and White Days, which promises to be exciting and entertaining. Check back often.

FYI, my folklore mentor, Barre Toelken, has told me that the best sauerkraut he’s ever had was in Providence, UT (beating out Germany and Austria). A town not far from Richmond. I’m telling you that to illustrate the beauty of small towns and small town festivals. I’m not quite certain how it does that, but nevertheless, there it is: for great sauerkraut go to Providence. There's even a festival called the Sauerkraut Festival (short on creativity, but long on good sauerkraut. What?) every September.

*I made these rules up. But they work.
**Ha ha. The only exception is something that’s directly west or east of you, but is lower in elevation. In that case you may use down to describe your destination. As in, “I’m going down to the beach.” Also, if you’re on top of a mountain and you want to go down the mountain to a location that’s north of you, then you can say “I’m going down to Ogden,” or something.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Arrested Development = Good News

Good news everyone. Arrested Development will be returning next season. I didn’t get to see that many of the second season episodes because I don’t have television. What I mean is, my parents have it, but when I moved out at 18, (to Logan and then SLC), I didn’t have it (that’s about 9 years without steady television). So I got out of the habit of watching it. That’s a good thing, you say? Well, you’re right. It is. But anyway, I’ve somehow stayed on top of things, even without television. I just want to let everyone know, who cares to know, that they can find the best sitcom to come out in years on Fox this summer, for reruns. I don’t know when the second season will hit stores for purchase, but I’ll be sure to keep you posted.


In unrelated news (I know: overused, not-so-clever-anymore, expression), one of my co-workers who we’ll call Urban Cowboy for the sake of privacy, asked me if I went to Star Wars last night. My reply: no. I didn’t even see Attack of the Clones. I told him I didn’t enjoy The Phantom Menace and how could I with irritating Jar Jar Binx (or is it Binks? Who cares.). And poor Urban Cowboy told me he liked Jar Jar. Poor guy. But lucky for him, most people who matter will find that trait (as though liking an intolerable movie character qualifies as a full-fledged trait) endearing. Urban Cowboy left his cubicle to go get something from the printer and another co-worker, who we’ll call Chuckles, came over to my cubicle and said, “Jar Jar Binx? I overheard Urban Cowboy. Seriously, who likes Jar Jar Binx?” I told him Urban Cowboy must have been influenced by his son, who might have been young when Jar Jar Binx was at his prime in theaters. Then Urban Cowboy came back to his cubicle looking more innocent than ever and caught the tail end of the Jar Jar Binx conversation. Urban Cowboy looks more innocent to me now because he likes a movie character associated with children and innocence. Is that strange?

I don’t know. But Chuckles left after that and Urban Cowboy asked me something else and then the poor man had to endure an hour long lecture on why I didn’t enjoy The Phantom Menace and why Stoker isn’t the kind of guy who would want to wait until 12:01 am on May 19th just to see the new George Lucas epic. I got going and couldn’t stop. That’s what happens when you ask an over-analytical, post-English literature/Master’s of Folklore student a question about a text of any type (and text can apply to anything from a book to a grocery store). Urban Cowboy’s glazed look tipped me off that he wasn’t enjoying the words coming out of my mouth.

I laughed uncomfortably and said, “So anyway, I don’t know, maybe I’ll see the new Star Wars. After I see the Attack of the Clones. Stoker and I don’t really get into action movies. I mean, we saw Kung Fu Hustle. Did you see that [shakes his head]? It was good. Interesting. It’s an action movie, a kung fu show from Hong Kong, I think. It had great special effects. Did you see the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit? [shakes his head] You mean, you liked Jar Jar Binx and you didn’t see Roger Rabbit? That doesn’t make any sense.” And before I could give Urban Cowboy any more reasons to think I’m a weirdo, high-maintenance, opinionated woman, I turned back to my computer and polished off another boring ad.


I want to point out that I’ve updated the blogs I visit thing. Is that the blog roll? I don’t really know. I’m kind of out of it on the jargon. I stopped visiting some of those other sites. FYI, My Space Cowboy is not the official title of the blog the link takes you too. It is in fact, Stoker’s blog (for those of you out of the proverbial loop – I love to say proverbial – Stoker and I are getting married on June 3rd). And I want to direct traffic to his site today because he updated his blog, finally after weeks and weeks. Please stop by and leave a comment for him. Let him know what you think. Read some of his past entries. Encourage him to keep writing if you like anything he has to say.

Also, I don’t know what’s going on with the Imaginary Mind site. Linda has been working on her new computer system and it might be down. Be patient. I’m sure she’ll be back. I hope she’s still out there somewhere. You never know.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

iTunes Single of the Week

I guess I’m a jerk. I can’t help it. I’m a very critical person and I’m not trying to pass that off as a virtue. I’m really not. I’ve been sucked into the black vortex of iTunes and on occasion I listen to the free download of the week. This week it’s some young guy name Kyle Riabko. This is how iTunes (and probably everyone else, too) is selling his album:

Kyle Riabko has quite a resume for a 17-year-old. He's opened for Maroon 5, John Mayer, and blues great Buddy Guy. He also played all the guitar and bass parts on his album Before I Speak. Our free Single of the Week is one of his funkier tracks, "Do You Right."

First of all, my intent isn’t to be one of those bitter people who rip on everything around them, from fragrant spring blossoms (“They’re TOO fragrant. It’s making me sick.”) to the obese lady wearing a tube-top (“Why are tube tops back in? What fashion guru decided we needed to herald in another era of that unsightly style?”). You know, the kind of person who sucks the joy out of anything, even spring blossoms? Well, I’m not that person. I’m the person who, once her eyes have been opened, can’t go back to her ignorant, blind bliss (see Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”). Yes, I would dance around your comatose, staring figure, shouting myself hoarse that what you see is just a shadow of brilliance. So listen to me. What I’m saying is that I am one of those fools with ideals. When something falls short of my foolish ideals, I might say something. I just might.

And Kyle Riabko’s single of the week is weak. No really. I couldn’t pass that opportunity up. But it is. His voice is weak and there’s that irritating, polished, over-produced sound like what you get from a post-American Idol album (i.e., nothing but voice, while lacking a real emotional center). Plus he’s 17. And here’s the exact reason I’m a jerk: because I can’t listen to a 17-year old singing about love. I don’t know what’s gotten into me, but ever since I grew old (27), I can’t stand to listen to an inexperienced teenager calling a woman on. Who can? It’s like the momentarily popular Billy Gilman stuff. It’s embarrassing in its innocence. Not that innocence is a bad thing. Especially when 17-year old Kyle starts singing about how there's not another man who can do her right. Also, did Kyle write those lyrics? They suck. (“It’s time for show and tell, I need to do you right…”)

To Kyle, I will give him that the guitar solo is fantastic. The guitar itself has a sweet, buttery jazz sound and I love it. The drums are solid, except that sometimes the snare sound seems a little flat. The music itself isn’t bad. What’s bad is (what I interpret to be) the posing attitude of the entire song. The singer (remember, 17 years old) as a man. I don’t buy it. Great resume, you know, opening for Buddy Guy and John Mayer. But, as Stoker pointed out at the Keane show while Brenden Bensen was playing, a band doesn’t want an opening act that’s better than them. So Kyle’s resume does nothing for me. And also, he played all the guitar and bass parts on his new album? You’re kidding me. Right? How can this be?

I guess that’s a new thing for mainstream pop. So I’m a jerk. I’m sorry. Here are some links to several musicians who do most of he work on their albums, plus the production. (Player Hater) (Ani Difranco) (Bill Ricchini) (Now it's Overhead)

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Wicker Park vs. Shall We Dance

Today, I officially have to eat my own words. I’m not sure how to do that. Especially since I didn’t officially rip on the movie. You won’t recall me saying anything negative about Wicker Park. But I did, on more than one occasion and Stoker probably remembers all of those occasions, since he wanted to see it when it first came out, early in our dating days.

I remember one occasion in my beloved Logan, Graywhale cd store. It was there that I picked up the soundtrack to Wicker Park and cursed it for having an array of excellent indie and not so indie bands on it. Death Cab, Aqualung, Broken Social Scene and the likes. I was, to put it mildly, very pissed. My contention? That a sweet, kick ass soundtrack featuring beloved and obscure bands (greedily horded by pseudo-elitists like myself) does not make a crap movie better. It soils the name of those bands willing to sell their precious music.

But, I guess the bands need to support themselves. And even if some stupid movie with aspirations to be really great (for example A Home at the End of the World*) features classic songs—Yaz’s “Only You” or Patti Smith’s “Because the Night”—doesn’t necessarily detract from the quality of the song. However, it does affect how a person hears the song. Once the song is associated with crap, a listener will always be able to, or even be forced to, recall the crap it was married to once upon an embarrassing time.

I’m just saying. There’s a price to be paid for associating your song with a movie. It’s a risk. If it’s a good movie or one that gains cult status, your song, like Kenny Roger’s “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In),” is reborn to a new generation. And the song will be remembered fondly as an appropriate accompaniment to the moment when Dude was flying over the city at night, bowling ball in hand. Man, that was great.

I guess most artists are willing to risk it.

Anyway, Wicker Park wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be**. In fact, it was pretty damn good. Especially since Stoker and I tried to watch Shall We Dance with Richard Gere and J-Lo a few nights ago. Why? We were drunk. No, just joking. I don’t know why. We were tired from our four-hour trek around the SLC outdoor mall and it was there, accessible (it belongs to my aunt, who lives next door). We didn’t get very far into the show before I couldn’t take the crappy acting any longer. Poor Stanley Tucci (Big Night = ****, that's four stars, btw). I really like him. It was too much to watch him making a fool of himself in one of the worst movies ever. Contrast that horrible piece of crap with the intriguing, nicely filmed Wicker Park.

Wicker Park=

– excellent love story: true love triumphs in the end. Similar theme as The Princess Bride. Let’s hear it for true love. (Not recommended for bitter, jaded, sad jerks who hate true love.) Right now, I love true love because I have it. But I understand hating true love.
– interesting cinematographic techniques. Plus, there’s that whole cool blue-lens thing going on (not the technical term for it). I love that, how it colors everything with a blue tinge.
– Josh Hartnett actually behaves like a person who’s lost someone they loved and his character does believable things, like sneaking into his former girlfriend’s house. My statements may seem tongue-in-cheek, but they’re not. Also, the culminating moment between the evil, sneaky girl and Josh Hartnett is a realistic portrayal of how real people behave (as opposed to Jerry Springer people). It’s not one of those over-the-top dramatic moments with people throwing wine in each other’s faces and smacking one another like the Stooges.
– Stoker compared him to that annoying moron-guy in Napoleon Dynamite (what’s his name? Don?), but I thought he did a good job (and I usually don’t like this guy), but the supporting male actor, Matthew Lillard, wasn’t so bad. His character also behaved in believable ways.

Anyway, most of the stuff I just said was based on what other people did, like the screen-writer, director, and cinematographer. But maybe they didn’t integrate those key-players in the making of Shall We Dance.

*And no, I haven’t seen this lame movie. And yes, I’m making the same (perhaps) mistake as I made with Wicker Park. But I’ll be willing to eat my words (again) if someone wants to challenge me. I’ll watch it, in the end, and if it turns out to be great, I’ll relent and repent. If it turns out to be (as I suspected), crap, I’ll laugh and say, “Shame on you Patti and Yaz. I expected this from Duncan. But really, Patti. Patti.”

**Important note: not all my fault. Note the dvd cover of Wicker Park. Note the trailer for Wicker Park. Notice how the movie was advertised as a sex scandal? I’m not into sex scandals or Harlequin romances. So I didn’t want to see it. Originally. Anyway, the movie is much more than that and actually has an intriguing plot. Stupid advertisements that drive audiences away instead of pulling them in.

Monday, May 16, 2005


I seriously can’t understand how so much variation can exist from one day to the next, when it comes to my hair. As many of you already know, I have naturally curly hair. It’s not tight, frizzy curls. It’s a mess of relaxed curls that straighten out on top when it gets too long. It’s Sheryl Crow-ish, to make a comparison you can envision, though not nearly so sexy and photo-shoot ready as Sheryl Crow’s hair. Last October I cut it short. At first I straightened it everyday and it looked all right. Straightening it everyday is a lot of work and I’m lazy when it comes to primping. Or, more accurately, when it comes to primping, I don’t at all. I’m not a priss, if you must know, plus it puts a lot of strain on my hair. What with my wild imagination and visions of it just falling out one day from highlighting it too much and burning it every day to make it straight*, I just stopped doing it. And Stoker likes it curly. That’s incentive to give up the work of actually ‘doing it.’

So anyway. What I don’t get is how one day it curls up just right, in little adorable clumps that I love, much like a Greek statue. Just how I want it. But the next day it falls limply over my ears in separated strands like angel-hair pasta, still curly but not curly enough for my taste. Stupid angel-hair pasta hair. On those days I feel ridiculous and out of place and I want to hide myself in a hat or a brown paper sack. Like today. I feel ridiculous.

How can it vary so much? I’m really wondering. How many factors go into how my hair behaves day after day? Does it react, one day, to an increase in humidity? And the next, to the dryness? Does it matter what shampoo I use? And when I use conditioner or I don’t use conditioner, does that affect it? I try not to give a crap about my hair (there’s an expressive phrase), but I do. Though not enough to spend an hour— or even a half hour—on it. I suppose this means I don’t have the right to complain.

Still I complain, because there are incontrollable environmental factors contributing to how it behaves. And that’s what chaps my hide. It really does.

And in other words, I’m having one of those ugly days.

But I’m listening to the new Spoon album, and just in case it matters to you (whoever you are, wherever you are), my favorite song on it is “I Summon You.” And here’s something else I’m thinking about: how is it that the song I end up absolutely loving on an album, is also the song the radio stations love and all the people in the world love (who listen to that band) and also the song the band loves the most? (In the case of Keane, it was “Everybody’s Changing.” The crowd went WILD when they started playing it at the show the other night. See previous post.) Like I’ve said before, I guess I just have generic taste that I sometimes mistake for good and eclectic taste.

p.s. If you thought no one could outdo my bad-hair, sunburned-shoulders day (oh yeah, I have sunburned shoulders. Stupid sun-block that I forgot to put on before my hike), my friend who just got back from climbing Mt. Rainer has 7 cold sores**.

*not the technical term for it, but that’s essentially what it is.

**I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, At least you don’t have the Ebola-like fever the people in Angola, Africa are suffering from. And I’m thinking you’re absolutely right, and that’s why I’ll never go to Africa.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Pre-recorded Tracks = NOT a Live Performance

I stayed home from work yesterday. I had a sore throat. I slept in until 11:30 and felt better after that. So I went to the Keane show last night, for which I bought tickets several months ago. The sore throat returned during the night. Damn sore throat! (Shaking my fist at the sore throat.)

After the show, Stoker and I were talking about the band and their presentation (you should always assume Stoker is with me, even if I don’t mention him. He’s usually at my side. Or I’m at his. I really love his company) and I’ll be honest, I was a little disappointed. First of all, it’s impossible for me to go to a show and just sit there, soaking up the atmosphere and the music. I’m cursed with an obnoxious brain that never shuts up. Everything in sight is subject to analysis and over-analysis. It can be paralyzing and irritating. I don’t even think I could get in one of those sensory-deprivation chambers without my mind going wild with ideas about the human as all-consumer and Buddhist monks and yogis and meditation and stuff like that. Anyway.

First I analyzed the crowd and was annoyed that there was SUCH a crowd. What does that say about me? Of course, I don’t really find the crowds at a show like Radiohead or Coldplay as annoying. I don’t know why. Maybe because I don’t feel like I discovered them before anyone else. Another annoying trait I possess: wanting to be the originator of all cool things. Especially good music. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m cursed with generic taste that I often mistake for eclectic, discriminating taste. But at an indie-rock show, you get a bunch of kids dressed in black t-shirts, dyed black hair, and scrawny bodies accentuated by girl-jeans worn by both guys and girls. Which is the audience you expect. The audience at Keane struck me as unexpected. At Keane I felt like I was in high school, being chaperoned by a few teachers and parents dressed in their Old Navy-, Gap-, etc. best, with a few misplaced emo/hardcore/indie-rockers like myself (sometimes, sometimes I am a rocker).

It was unbearable. Why do I go to shows and resent everyone else there? I’m not sure. I’m still trying to work it out. One of the chaperone-y, teacher types there (and he really IS a teacher) was Soffe, an iconic Logan figure. Some think he looks like Jesus, but not so much anymore because his beard is really huge. But he’s also this heroic figure who wanders around town buying music and books and being intelligent in his Birkenstocks. And I suspect most people want Soffe to think they’re cool and smile on them with approval, because he seems so individualistic. Anyway, I didn’t expect to spot him at Keane, but it doesn’t surprise me, now that I think about it. He finds music he likes and doesn’t sway with popular opinion. Once I tried to argue with him about the cultish aura of the Polyphonic Spree with that as the basis for why they suck. He simply said, while avoiding eye-contact, that the music is good. So whether it’s popular or not, Soffe will listen to his internal voice and ignore the cheers and jeers of those around him. I guess that should be comforting to me. He was at Keane. I was at Keane. Stoker was at Keane.

But then I realized, amidst of flashy lights and video-screen backdrop hoopla, that Keane is just ‘okay.’ Why the huge crowd? I guess okay sells. I mean, it worked on me, didn’t it? And I’m an annoying, misled elitist. Here’s what I think: the singer has a voice that’s easy to appreciate. He’s not really singing anything that’s a lyrical wonder. But he stretches his voice and it reaches the high points in a sweet crescendo and you feel like something epic has happened. You feel like he’s singing about the emotional scope you experience in your everyday, banal life. And when he sings about it, it doesn’t seem so banal and unimportant. You feel a part of the epic, human experience. Not all singers have that quality. Brenden Bensen opened for the band and he certainly didn’t have it. I was bored with him after the first song, intrigued only (with lustful desire) by the beautiful semi-hollow body Gibson in his arms.

I leaned over during Keane and asked Stoker if he thought Coldplay is better. No question about it, yes. And they are. And pretty much Travis is better. (We’re sticking with British bands, here). And Aqualung is better. And Snow Patrol is better*. I’d say just about any other British band is better. I think I can make these claims because Keane had pre-recorded bass tracks playing during the show. What charlatans. I’m not kidding. What do they take their audience for? Or are we supposed to think that’s okay? Apparently, the media has been abuzz with errant cases of pre-recorded tracks, such as Ashlee Simpson on SNL, with super-star devotees and others claiming that it’s OKAY to play a live show with pre-recorded tracks. Personally, I’m against it. Why? you ask. What sort of fool wants to pay money to see their ‘favorite’ band gallivanting on-stage, pretending to sing and play? I’d rather stay at home for free and listen to the studio recording that I already purchased on my mediocre sound system, simulating the pre-recorded mess I’d hear at their misnamed ‘live’ show. Live music isn’t live when the band pretends to play. It’s a rip-off. And I’m not going to support it. Everyone else is free to.

But overall. Keane wasn’t that bad. They were decent. And Tom was gracious and seemed humble about their quick rise to fame. But they also had pre-recorded bass tracks for their encore numbers. I can understand. I guess maybe they’re just really great planners. You know, they stood around, planning their show and said, “What if our fans want an encore?” And decided they had to have something ready. Just in case. But what’s wrong with hiring a real bass player? What about ethics? Just because everyone else is doing it (do they really want to be associated with the type of bands who do it?), does that make it right? I mean, what about the proverbial bridge and that stupid friend jumping off it? Would Keane follow? These are important questions. Everyone needs to think about them.

*N.B. I don’t actually know for certain whether these bands use pre-recorded tracks or not. I assume they don't because they have band-mates who play instruments.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Who We Choose to Listen To: Bright Eyes and Mike Savage

I like Bright Eyes, I really do. He’s got a tremulous voice. He’s passionate. It comes through in his music. My friend Amy played a song for Stoker and me one night. It was Bright Eyes when he was 13 and he was singing, even then, with a voice full of torment and angst. I don’t remember what he was singing about, but it was funny to hear this youngster anguishing over love or politics or some other abstract subject. Anyway, Amy is an enormous fan and I don’t mean that she’s a large girl. She’s a small chick, but her adoration for Conor is pretty intense. That’s why she had a recording of him singing when he was 13 (he might have been 15, or younger. Like 9. I can’t remember).

I bring up Bright Eyes because I just watched the
video of his performance on the Tonight Show. A few weeks ago I went to iTunes and downloaded the song “When the President Talks to God” for free. I listened to it once and haven’t since. The lyrics are cutting and it makes you think. That’s what art should do. Make us think. And political questions are important questions. I’m not against someone asking political questions.

But I’m not so sure how I feel about mixing art and politics. Or how I feel about musicians going on tour to harvest votes from the masses for the political figure they favor. And why would any of us listen to a musician or a movie star? Do they speak louder than my guts? My inclinations? If so, what does that say about me? Easily influenced? Persuaded by flash and rhetoric? They may feel that they’re speaking out against flash and rhetoric, but they’re just another part of the distorted scene.

Sometimes I listen to Mike Savage on the way home from work with Stoker. You might immediately label me a militant conservative, but this would be wrong. I listen to him because he’s clear on his views. He spares no one. Not Bush. Not Rush Limbaugh. Not liberal democrats. Not even himself, if he’s been proven wrong about something. He calls it like he sees it and he doesn’t really change from one day to the next. He doesn’t pander to the press. But I can’t listen to him for very long or else I feel like the world is full of trashy, greedy people and there’s nothing worth living for. I bring Savage up because once, recently, he pointed out the mistake people make by listening to the political opinions of celebrities. Where’s the logic in heeding the advice of Bruce Springsteen over a political expert? There are people who’ve gone to years and years of college, studied political trends and histories, worked in political administrations and seen ethical and unethical situations unfold before their eyes. And yet, we have journalists who go to Oliver Stone and ask him what he thinks about Bush’s re-election (see Rolling Stone*).

I just wanted to bring up a few issues to clarify a the following points.

1) I like Bright Eyes music. I don’t like listening to him slander the President. Even if I don’t agree with all of Bush’s policies. Even if I think he’s lied to us. Where was Bright Eyes when Bill Clinton lied? I’m sick of listening to a bunch of babies whine about politics in their music. If they think they’re not part of a certain propaganda in the press, they’re disillusioned.

2) I like Bright Eyes’ music. I think he’s taking the wrong angle in his song, though. What he should acknowledge in his music is that every individual on earth, if they practice any form of religion, believes in their cause and that God somehow supports their cause. Is everyone in the world wrong to believe that God loves them and supports their cause, loves them in spite of their mistakes? I don’t know. But Bright Eyes would probably like to believe that God loves him even when he does something awful, like when he stole candy from the convenience store as a 9-year old**.

3) Bright Eyes, if he doesn’t like it here, should go live in a country where he’d get his tongue cut off for bad mouthing the dictator he’s forced to like. Maybe he forgets that the right he has to sing about whatever he wants in this country has been protected by soldiers who, while they may be poor farm boys, still don’t feel appreciated (be it WWII veterans or soldiers in the Middle East now) when he sings a bitchy song like the one he’s pushing all over the media. Or, if you feel you must sing about your political opinions, disguise it with abstractions. Like abstract art. Like

4) I really love Saddle Creek. I don’t want anyone who reads this page to think that I support mixing politics and art, though, just because I have a link to their page on my blog. It's just as I said, I like Bright Eyes. But politics are mixed up and confusing and I don’t want to know what he thinks about Bush, Republicans or animal rights. I don’t even want to know what the people I work with think about Bush. Or Republicans.

*You may ask, “Rolling Stone?” I was on a flight to D.C., it was a fluke. I don’t really read Rolling Stone because it’s Trash.

**I made that up.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Baby Elephant Walk

So Stoker has been helping me edit Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the music that I'll walk down the aisle to. We used some Sony program that came on my Vaio laptop which I bought in 2001. We normalized the levels because it goes a little haywire in the middle of the section that we want to use. You know what section I'm talking about, the really beautiful triumphant part (because as we all know, marriage is a triumph!). If you know my mom, you'll know that this is the most beautiful piece of music ever written.

Anyway, Stoker is having a bad night because he's been sick. He caught something on the flight home from Phoenix. He took some Benadryl or something, he's all out of sorts, and I stand by my assertion that antihistamines are mood altering drugs (not that anyone is fighting me on this). I know from experience. It's why I stopped taking Claritin. I have horrible allergies, I'm allergic to everything, but I'd rather have an exhausting sneezing fit (they sometimes last an hour), rather than being pissed off at everyone I know and love for absolutely no logical reason. Poor Stoker. It will be good when we finally move to AZ and have our own space. My family, bless their hearts (and bless Stoker's heart, and your heart -- whoever you are, wherever you are), are probably sick of me, because even without the mood altering drugs I still have horrible mood swings. Like I need drugs to accomplish that.

Anyhoo (I had to say "anyhoo" that time because I already started a paragraph with "anyway," I'm a really clever writer like that). We've also been picking the music for when we walk back down the aisle together (have you seen The Cutting Edge? Exactly like that scene where they're picking the music for their ice skating duet). I think we'll use "Baby Elephant Walk."

p.s. I'm going to go make a Toaster Strudel for Stoker, I know it will cheer him up. Like that story I heard about the grouchy neighbor, when I was a kid (not that Stoker is grouchy). You know the one, where the really bright empathetic kid says he'd make a cake for the grouchy neighbor . . . maybe I'm making this up.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Travels with Stokey

In Arizona we stayed in Tempe near ASU. It was a beautiful campus and I wish I could teach there during the time I live in the area instead of working in advertising. I feel like I belong in a university, but bad luck, ignorance and some stupid laziness on my part have made that difficult for me.

We rode a shuttle from the Sky Harbor airport to Alamo Rent-a-car. When we arrived, the shuttle driver told everyone to get out and choose their car. So we got out and chose a car. When I had reserved a car on the internet, I picked the intermediate car, the example was a Pontiac Grand Am. But then I worried about the price, like that they would raise it on me and the $71 total (for three days) the internet had quoted me was just a lure. So we chose a Ford Focus. Everyone else was driving to the exit gate and so we did too. The lady at the gate asked for our paper work. We didn’t have any. She directed us back to a brown building to pay. At the brown building, they had our reservation and all we had to do was pay. Then we could pick our car, which was not a Ford Focus, and leave.

Stoker and I took the Focus back to its spot, but that was a tiny bit more complicated than it should have been. The damn Focus was really touchy on the brakes and I pushed on it too hard, the car came to a screeching halt and I accidentally hit the horn. Everyone looked at us. It felt like we were in a bad comedy. Luckily I didn’t hit a car or a person. Anyway, we ended up with a sweet Altima instead of a Grand Am or Focus. It smelled better and drove better. Everyone else in Arizona was driving Impalas. It’s a very popular car there.

So let my experience be a lesson to you: when renting a car, plan ahead and reserve it on the internet. Go through the process several times until it shows you the best price. Make the reservation. I don’t think they’ll change the price on you once you get there. The guy at the counter told me that even if I downgraded to the tier just below intermediate, I would have paid more for it just because I got such a good deal on the internet.

Stoker and I found an apartment with the help of a realtor named Gary, who was originally from Dodge City, Kansas and frequently used expressions like “Strap on your bonnets,” and called Stoker a Casanova. He called Stoker a Casanova because earlier in the day, Gary had helped another future student of the Conservatory, Mikey, find an apartment. Mikey is also from Logan and worked at the same music store as Stoker. They’d been in the same band together, too, before I started dating Stoker. And actually, I met Stoker, sort of through Mikey. Stoker played drums in a band with Mikey. Mikey and I were friends during the summer. We used to go on walks together and talk. I enjoyed his company and conversation. Before I moved back to Salt Lake, I didn’t feel like I’d really miss him, though. I liked him as a friend. Occasionally I’d run into Stoker when I was with Mikey. In July I moved to Salt Lake, got a job and returned to Logan on the weekends to see my friends. Sometimes I’d hang out with Mikey. Sometimes Mikey would drive to Salt Lake to see me. Finally, one night, he stole a kiss. I’d been avoiding that because I was unsure of how I felt about him and I’m usually not unsure of how I feel about a guy. The kiss told me a lot about how I felt about Mikey—that I didn’t like him as more than a friend. Anyway, I guess he thought I was his girlfriend and that’s what he told Gary, the realtor. He told Gary that one night Stoker showed up at one of their gigs with ‘his girlfriend [me]’. Gary thought it was a hoot. Gary also thought it was a small, small world.

I feel bad about Mikey. But look, I’m marrying Stoker. It’s weird to say, but I really think that should be a comfort to Mikey. I wouldn’t be marrying Mikey. Even without Stoker, things would have skidded to a halt between Mikey and me.

On Friday night, Stoker and I ate sushi rolls at a place called Ra’s in Tempe, next to ASU. I guess it’s a chain and that explains why it wasn’t nearly as good as Go Sushi. A place I love to eat here in Salt Lake City. I look out my office window, now, at the cloudy sky and snow-topped mountains, the green green trees and think that I don’t want to leave Utah. This is home. It’s my favorite place on earth. I’ve been a few places and I want to end up here. I hope we end up here.

In Tempe, we walked around a lot, browsed through many shops and listened to live bands here and there. Apparently the music scene in Phoenix is outstanding. I didn’t notice that, so much. I did notice the heat. That everywhere I looked there was a swimming pool or public parks with water fountains and wading pools for kids and adults to cool off in. I saw a banner strung across Mill Street near ASU that said, “There’s never enough water to not conserve it.” Or something.

Stoker and I drove into a very Mexican part of the city to find good carne asada tacos. In the panadería, someone shouted in Spanish that they needed someone who spoke English, but Stoker speaks Spanish and he told them (which, if you don’t know can be said, “Yo hablo español” I think. I don’t speak it. I’m learning, though). That made them really happy. A man bantered with Stoker in Spanish that the biggest mistake Americans make is eating real carne asada tacos because then you can never go back. And I’m here to testify that it’s true. If you’ve never had them, you should.

It will be a nice change, you know. But I like my mountains and the seasons. I’d follow Stoker anywhere, but I hope in the end we find ourselves here.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Thinking "Outside the Box"

Well, first of all, I try not to use this expression. I’m sure I used to, until one day in a moment of enlightenment, I looked and beheld the irony of the expression. I’m sure many people have had a very creative person or team leader or someone say to them, “Well, yeah, I mean that works, but it’s not what I’m looking for. I’m looking for something different. Something outside the box.” To which you simply nodded your head and agreed and then tried really hard not to hit them, while struggling to think of a concept that was indeed outside the box.

Or, you’ve had someone say to you, “I like Bill. Bill has good ideas. Bill thinks outside the box. You should try to think outside the box like Bill.” And inside you're fuming and thinking about stupid Bill, who doesn’t really think outside the box, but in fact kisses ass by giving people exactly what they want instead of having creative integrity. Worst yet, you’ve had someone say to you, “I’m the kind of person who just, you know, thinks outside the box. Really pushes creative limits. Yeah, that’s me.” And you resist the urge to smack them. Just flat out smack them, while secretly noting that you’d never hire them or take them to lunch with you, because you really know the truth.

The truth: using the phrase “thinking outside the box” is in direct violation of what it purports. To say, “I think outside the box,” is to say that you don’t think outside the box. Someone who says it is using an inside the box expression.

And besides, what is this box that so many people insist upon thinking outside of? It’s very abstract and if there’s one thing a poet or writer tries to do, it’s to avoid abstract words like love, hate, anger or boxes without explaining them with a concrete example. Box, while seeming to be a concrete idea, like a real box that you can touch, is being used as an abstraction. Let’s attempt to be concrete. Let’s say this ephemeral box people talk about being outside of is really a cubicle. This cubicle I’m sitting in right now. Try for instance to insert a concrete word in the phrase, “thinking outside the box” in place of 'box'. Try it now. Good. That was very creative.

And now let’s try it together: “I like Bill. Bill has good ideas. Bill thinks outside the cubicle. You should try to think outside the cubicle like Bill.” Funny. Good old Bill. Outside the cubicle. Where he belongs because he doesn’t know how to work and come up with real creative ideas. At least a cubicle is a tangible kind of box. You can picture it in your head, as opposed to a billion different options for boxes.

Anyway, my example kind of sucked. Try some others, like an apple, a lampshade, or a frosty mug of root beer. Some of your own creative choices. I just hope you feel more enlightened about why the phrase is annoying and stupid and now you’ll never use it any more. Now you will truly push yourself to your creative limits and think of a way that’s not cliché or “inside the box” to express that you’re an innovator. An originator of great ideas, like you are.

On an informative note, Stoker and I are going to Arizona tomorrow to look for an apartment and check out the Conservatory. I’m anxious for a change of scenery and the chance to travel with the boy*. We’ve never traveled a great distance together, yet ("And then there's that word, yet..."). Just to St. George, Utah and good old Filmore. It will be interesting to see how we’ll feel together, traveling. I used to get really homesick traveling, but now my home will be going with me. I wonder how it will feel.

*Stoker, who is still not comfortable being called a man. And I think it’s cute to call him the boy, except for all those Freudian implications. In my defense, for most of my dating life I’ve gone for older men (more Freudian implications. Stupid Freud, doesn’t even know what he stupid does). My first boyfriend out of high school was 8 years older than me. And that was the trend for a long time. Older. Then I had a boyfriend who was my age. And then Stoker. He’s 4 years younger than me. But he’s the most mature and secure man I’ve ever been in love with.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005


For eight years I honed my mind with great literature, scholarly and critical articles about literature, folklore and a variety of other subjects such as ecology, French, geology, astronomy (I almost wrote astrology*, ha ha) and music. The past nine months I’ve been writing generic ads to recruit healthcare professionals (physicians, nurses, physical therapists). What took eight years to sharpen into an intellectual weapon and creative tool, has now been undone in nine months of repetitive, useless use.

I’m so depressed today. And I broke my little promise to write about ‘thinking outside the box.’ Check back tomorrow.

*Case in point.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Fred: the Mighty Hunter, Gentle Lion, Friend to All

I’m sorry to focus on somber subjects two days in a row. But if you read yesterday’s post, you’ll know that this is a continuation of something important. After this, I promise that I will lighten the mood tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ll write about something clever, like how that phrase ‘thinking outside the box’ is a phrase that is inside the box—that phrase by itself is a paradox. I know I’m the first one to think this.

Last night my mom took Fred, the mighty hunter, to the vet. She hoped he could provide some relief for the little guy. He’d had a UTI, or so we thought. The medication wasn’t helping anymore, bless his little heart, and without extensive tests we couldn’t know what was really wrong with him—diabetes, kidney stones, or cancer. Plus his arthritis had thoroughly permeated his skeleton, not to mention that he was going blind and deaf. 19 years is really long for a cat. What relief is there from old age except death?

So the vet put him to sleep and my mom held onto him. He relaxed, finally, and then slept. My mom said she hadn’t felt him relax and be at ease for months. It was really hard for her, you know. She’s never had to make the ‘put-them-to-sleep’ choice about any of our cats. It’s a struggle. I know many people also struggle with it.

I want to tell you a few things about Fred, in memory of him. I’ve been thinking about him since last night. I’ve cried a lot—for Fred more than for any of my other cats who have died. But then, Fred came along when I was about nine. And now I’m 27. It seems like he walked up the pathway outside the house sometime after my mom’s divorce and before her remarriage. It seems like he’s been around for a long, long time. And now I’m quite bereft. The last thing I did for him was wash his paws in the kitchen sink the night before he died (on Sunday). You might think this is really disgusting, but Fred was so old that he struggled with the whole litter thing. Cat litter. You know. Stoker held him and I cleaned the litter out of his paws. Last night when I was sad and crying, Stoker told me that it was good that Fred had clean paws before he died. That made me cry more.

What Stoker said about Fred’s paws sounded better last night. You had to be there.

Fred had the most beautiful paws. He was a big, orange tabby cat with fluffy paws. He looked like a lion and sometimes we called him lion—that made him feel really good. He dominated the neighborhood because his fluffiness made him look deceptively large. Sometimes we called him fluffy, too—that made him feel silly. Before he became an indoor cat he liked to skulk around outside beneath trees and the vines (with just his tail showing so you knew where he was, besides the mysterious rustling of the thick vines). He was an Aristocat, like from the cartoon movie. His tail stood straight up and sometimes he had a nice, happy walk, kind of a prance like Pepe Le Pu.

One time Fred tried to save some baby bunnies. I’m not kidding. My step-dad Terry debates this point with me and says he killed the bunnies. But that’s not true. While Fred did kill many small animals, I’ve seen enough of the dead ones to know the difference of his intent. If he’d wanted to kill them, he would have brought them to our doorstep mangled and chewed with injuries. These bunnies were carefully preserved. I even saw him carry one up the pathway to the front door. He was carrying it like a mother cat carries her kittens. Of course, the bunnies all died from shock and fear. But they were probably going to die anyway. Fred, being an intelligent cat, must have known the mother was dead and was trying to save them. You might think I’m being dense about this. But I’m not.

I’m a little bereft without Fred. The house seems empty without him. And I know the other two cats are worried about where Fred is. Hopefully he’s in heaven with the other cats and most importantly his friend Smokey who died when I was in junior high, and Alf who looked just like him and could have been his brother (that’s where his name came from, Alf-Fred. We were VERY creative kids).

Here’s a link to a somewhat corny site called the
Rainbow Bridge. I swear this poem was better when I read it years ago. Now it seems a little silly. But I still like it because it makes me feel good to think that I’ll see Fred again and to think that he’s not hurting any more. I hope he’s the mighty hunter he was in his prime. When his tail stood straight up, confident and happy.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Dead Duck

I’m kind of in a bad mood today, so forgive me for resorting to strong, yet cerebrally weak language like the term bastard. The reason I’m in a bad mood (and I’m not blaming someone else, I know that it is me who chooses what I feel), is that 1) it took me 30 minutes instead of 10 to drive 10 blocks from Stoker’s workplace, to my workplace this morning due to a stupid lane closure. And on the way, just before I turned into my workplace parking lot, 2) I saw the male duck (drake?) of a mated pair dead in the road. This was not just any old duck. This was a familiar friend I often saw all nestled down in the lush green grass by my office building, guarding his mate or walking along the sidewalk. Sometimes he’d quack at me if I got too close. Always the two of them were together. The worst part of it is that I don’t even know for sure that it was him. I assume it was. An hour ago I saw a female duck flying around the spot where his dead body is. I wonder if she’s waiting for him.

I’m one of those annoying people who apply human attributes such as love and fear to animals. Often I think that no matter what scientists do, they will never truly know how an animal perceives the world. Analyze the structure of the animal’s eye, all rods, no cones and thus unable to see color, or the nose and ears and determine that the animal relies more on scent than sound . . . but that won’t tell you whether it has emotions beyond basic instincts. Maybe that female duck poignantly misses her male counterpart. Maybe not. But I tend to see the situation with my heart rather than my eyes, while logic tells me that all living things must die. If it wasn’t by a car doing 65 in a 45 mph zone, it would have been a dog or a bastard hunter with his big, high-power rifle and scope. Still. I see the duck’s body, a mangled mass of color and feathers, and feel there is no justice in the living world.

To illustrate a specific reason why it’s easy for me to feel that animals have emotions I will give you the example of my family’s cat Fred, who is very old now. He keeps getting urinary tract infections. He wanders around the house seeking love. He meows in what I assume is loneliness and pain. I think he’s going blind. I don’t think he hears very well. I know he longs for affection. Why do animals long for affection if they don’t have feelings? And is it better to let him die of old age than to take him down to the vet to be put to sleep? This is the question my mother is wrestling with right now. She says she doesn't want to play god. It's a tough call.

Anyway. The duck died. Somebody hit him with their car on 700 East. Here’s the problem: we’re all going too fast to slow down for anything. Accident-related death is an inconvenience in the form of traffic jams and obnoxious freeway closures. Those very freeways, highways and high-speed four lane roads in the middle of cities are all harbingers of death. How many cats, dogs, or ducks did a Model T Ford mow down in its path around the turn of the century? I wasn’t there, but I’m guessing zero. We no longer see the world. We see our destination and that’s what pulls us into absurd speeds (the average freeway speed in Utah is, I’m betting, 80 mph). We pass by a family of geese starting across the road, barely missing them. We smash into a hawk diving for a carcass on the side of a freeway somewhere. The animals know nothing of the dangers. We are the ones responsible.

When did so many of us stop being stewards over the land around us? I mean this for myself as much for the bastard who didn’t stop for the duck. Because I’m destination-driven, too: at 5 o’clock, all I can think about is getting to 700 West where I’ll pick up Stoker. I can’t wait to see him so much that I don’t see anything around me. I get frustrated and annoyed at anything that slows me down. It’s like I’ve forgotten to breathe. The result of love? Or an obsession with making good time between my many destinations?

Another problem I see is that people are afraid to care. Say I’m the one who hit the duck on 700 East. I want to stop and mourn and move the body. There’s no emergency lane. If I pull over into a nearby parking lot, trying to get out into the road on foot is tantamount to a death sentence for myself. Who would slow down for me? Cars blaze by at speeds of 50 and 65 mph (remember, this is in the middle of a city with houses on each side of the road). People see and want to slow down, but does anyone? What if I came upon someone in my lane moving the body of an animal? Would I slow down? Would I stop? Why doesn’t the death of a beautiful duck draw a crowd? A pedestrian accident barely stops cars. I'm struck by the feeling that no one cares about anything that truly matters. We care about our cars. Our machines. Our jobs. Things with no animus. Things without life. Bloodless, husks of machines that we’ve given human attributes to. I’m not saying things aren’t important. I know they increase certain aspects of our quality of living. But they also decrease other facets of it.

Laugh if you want to. I take this seriously. I’m going to steal a line from a movie (I don’t remember which one) and say that I think it’s better to feel too much, than not enough (Bandits?). Nature writer,
Barry Lopez addresses the sad subject of roadway casualties in his book About this Life. The chapter called “Apologia.” And it’s not sappy and annoying or complaining, like I’ve done here. He just talks about traveling from the Pacific Northwest to the Midwest and how the journey takes longer than it should because he stops to bury animals he sees dead on the road. He shows you, instead of telling (yes, the opposite of what I’m doing).

Regarding the burial of dead animals, some will say "The animal is dead. It doesn't care. Burial doesn't matter or change anything." It only means something to you, the human. But isn’t that enough? And what do they know, anyway, about animals and dying? Have they interviewed a long line of dead raccoons, birds and skunks? Many cultures have stories about being rewarded for respecting animals. Why should ours be different?