Monday, May 31, 2010

Calvin Grotepas

He went to West High in Salt Lake City, Utah. I'm not sure of his graduation date right at the moment, but he did graduate. He went to the University of Utah and majored in art—I don't think he ever finished his degree, but I'm pretty sure he was only a few credits shy of getting it.

He loved to work with his hands. When I was a kid, he made jewelry from polished wood—earrings, mainly. He taught me to whittle, though I sucked at it, and he made me begin with a bar of ivory soap. I didn't see the point. I wanted to start on my first masterpiece immediately. I wanted to be like Henry Moore, whose work he loved.

While he was still enrolled in college, he worked for the Deseret Press, the printing and publishing arm of the LDS church, and that's where he met my mom, who was working as a typesetter (to me, working in the publishing world, this love story is beautiful). She saw him first, so the story goes, and it was love at first sight. Later on, when they were married, he worked for a few other companies running their presses. He loved being a pressman.

They bought a house in Farmington, Utah, and he finished the basement—my mom and him, working as a team. After that, he worked long hours to sculpt the tiered yard into a beautiful landscape with flowering plums, spruces, Ponderosa pines, peach trees and cherry trees, yuccas, red buds, oaks, and the crowning piece, an almond tree (it died rather soon). The yard was a work of art—the railroad ties that delineated the grassy areas from the plants and trees were axe-cut by him (he cut his head open this way, once).

Years later following his divorce from my mom and after digging into pottery—mainly wheel-work—he found his niche. At least, it felt to me like it was the stuff he had always wanted to do. Hand-built pottery and bronze-casting. Some of the most organic-looking pots came out of this period of his work. Great, curving vases glazed in dark oranges and deep reds, but so finely done that they weigh much less than they apparently should. In a way, they remind me of something from another world, something from a science fiction novel. It's a fitting marriage of two distinct disciplines because he loved science fiction, space, and Carl Sagan.

Sometimes we realize that the only way to understand the interior of a person is through their creations—the way they organize the unorganized, apply order to disorder, filter beauty from the mundane. Sorting through the remnants of a life, we find that we didn't understand a person at all and we see that we measured them by the wrong instruments. When we were looking at the disorder of everyday matters, or the things on which society focuses, we should have been looking at the language they spoke best.

When I looked for my father on Google, I found two links: one from a news article from forty years ago when he was rescued in a skiing accident by helicopter and just a few other links regarding court cases against him. The cases were all reasonable, I'm sure, and I don't blame the people who were charging him because he suffered from severe mental illness and could be very difficult to get along with. That was the other part of his life. The messy part.

Bu I want him to have another legacy on the Internet. I want him to also be remembered for the good things. I didn't understand him completely, but I know from his art that he was beautiful.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Barbara and Barry: Pure Bliss

Is it really such a crime to love Babs? And in particular, her duets with Barry Gibb? And to be more to the point, the song "Guilty"?

I feel like I've written about this a million times already, but it turns out, I've only actually written about Babs once, in this post, and it was just to mention how great "Evergreen" is. Because it is. And "Guilty" is amazing. "Out on the street anybody you meet got a heartache of their own . . . " That's true. They do. Thanks, Babs, for pointing that out.

And then thank you, even more, for the entire song and how you make any little duet seem epic and romantic and perfect and you do it without auto-tune or any digital engineering, just your emotion and your crystal clear tones.

"Pulses racin', darlin', how grand we are, little by little we meet in the middle . . . make it a crime to be out in the cold . . . " Barry. My word, Barry, you make such an amazing, profound point. And you know, when you sing with Babs, with your brothers in the background, you slay even the casual listener. You make my life feel like the romantic comedy it was always meant to be. You make me think I could do anything, move a mountain, walk on water, fly away in a hot air balloon with my lover, glasses of sparkling champagne bubbling away, fluted stems held so delicately between our fingers, and stars in our eyes, nuzzling noses like two shy deer.

And then there's the part in the song, the chorus where Babs and Barry sing together, and Babs does that signature move where she, kind of off the cuff, goes all lazy in keeping time with Barry's singing, "And we got nothing to be guilty of, our love will climb any mountain, near or far, we are, and we never let it end, we are devotion . . . ."

And they are. I mean, have you heard the song? That sort of singing and dueting (is that a word?) is PURE devotion. And it makes me feel devoted. It makes me fall in love with everything. This computer (which I already loved, but now I love it more). This table. This coffee shop. The people in the room with me. All of them. I now love them simply because "Guilty" is making me feel it, feel the love.

It's a love potion. It's BETTER than a love potion. It's the key to world peace. Babs and Barry. The perfect union of man and woman in song. The only other magical combination I can think of right now is Babs and Neil. But for now, I'm feeling it with "Guilty."

"You gotta be mine, we take it away, it's gotta be night and day, just a matter of time." Just a matter of time before Babs takes over the world with her voice. I can't believe she hasn't yet. Pure unadulterated, un-auto-tuned, gorgeousness in a voice.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Paranoia. Part III.

If you're just joining me, I strongly suggest reading Paranoia and Paranoia. Part II. before reading part three.

Who knew I could stretch such a stupid story out so long? Stoker knows. My family knows. But they're not here right now so it's just hearsay. I really only planned on telling you a small anecdote about my strange bouts of paranoia, but it's warped into this monster because the paranoia didn't exist until Ted existed. Before that I was a clean slate, so to speak. Naive. Gullible. Trusting.

I had said get lost, essentially, to Ted. Then I began bidding on the magical script on eBay that would change everything. When my ship was nearing port, the one that was about to come in, some jerk began bidding against me. Email relationship ensued (and I have a weakness for the written word, really, and it extends to emails*) and the mysterious bidder told me all sorts of enchanting details about his life in San Diego.

Caught up?

Ok, so Ted denied being Rob. But only after I had tricked Rob into telling me what he looked like.

Now, I know you know where this is going because of foreshadowing and other reasons. Why include this stupid eBay story if it had nothing to do with Ted? You are clever enough to see that Ted will turn out to be Rob. You even know WHY Ted was doing what he was doing.

Recall that he only wanted what he couldn't have. Would he give up? NOOOO. What a brilliant idea. Track the prey down on the internet, lure your prey into a comfortable relationship with your assumed identity, be witty and charming and perfect, get into the mind of your prey, make your prey love you, and then wham! Reveal the truth to your prey. There will be no choice but a confession of love.

Did that paragraph even work? I was going for clever but I've failed miserably. The point is, Ted couldn't describe a physical appearance too far from the truth, otherwise I'd fall in love with a tall dark, handsome guy and then when he revealed himself to be Ted and not Rob, I'd be too disappointed. Better to make sure that Rob and Ted sort of overlap in my head. Right?

Oh man. This is why I'll have sudden bouts of paranoia.

Ok, ok. So, I hated to be paranoid and accuse Rob of being Ted. So I didn't do that until I felt pretty sure. In an email conversation I confronted "Rob."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Come on, Ted. I know it's you."

"Ted? Who the hell** is Ted? I can't believe you're accusing me of being someone named Ted. I'm Rob. Rob in San Diego."

"Like Rob in High Fidelity? And Rob's girlfriend Laura in High Fidelity? You didn't even get an original plot for your assumed identity."

"What's High Fidelity? Is that a movie? A book?"

"Oh please. You've clearly done your research. Watching all the movies I love suddenly."

"You're freaking me out. This Ted character has obviously worked you over."

Ok, so you get the point. The above conversation may or may not have taken place verbatim. Rob denied being Ted. But I knew I was right.

So, I can also concoct schemes and trickery, though I hate it and in truth I was rather sick the entire time feeling like I was living in a sort of nightmare***. It was my birthday at the time, so I guess this must have been happening in March and not December like I originally thought—although, the Christmas before my birthday, I received an acoustic guitar and a couple books (Spreading Misandry and Poetry Speaks) from a mysterious benefactor (another plot from another movie). Who could it have been? Ted hated it that I was turning into a feminist because of the English department. Though I wasn't a feminist.

March 27th. I email "Rob" and tell him how depressed I am because it's my birthday and I'm SO lonely (you will hate me for being scheming, but I didn't like being stalked. Weird, I know). I tell him how much I need the comfort of a male companion, but there is no one. "Well," I say, "there's my ex-boyfriend who is still my friend," . . . Dave, we'll call him. He was way older than me, had just barely broken up with me, but we were still friends. So I tell "Rob" that Dave will come over and I'm just going to sleep with him for the hell of it. It will ease the loneliness.

I had no intention of being so stupid. But "Rob" would think me just that stupid and impulsive. So I have Dave come over and he leaves his vehicle out in front of my house all night. Ted, by the way, had enrolled in some master's courses back at the university, despite the fact that he lived an hour and a half away. So he was commuting back and forth.

Just by chance, I woke up at five in the morning and glanced out my bedroom window. The sky was pink, I remember because that was the reason I looked outside. At that very moment, Ted drove by and slowed when he saw Dave's car. He almost swerved into it, I think.

Ah sweet retribution.

See, he had work that morning in the city. My brother-in-law worked with him at the time. That was part of the scheme, which was probably my brother-in-laws plan, actually, now that I think of it. Jason (brother-in-law) went by Ted's cubicle to say hey. Ted looked like he'd been awake all night.

"You all right, Ted?" Jason asked.

"Not really."

"What's wrong, man?"

"I wish I could tell you," Ted said, with a wistful look. He did want to tell on me, I'm certain. He was the tattletale sort. He probably wanted to drive straight to my mom's house on his way to work that morning, break down her door, grab her by the shoulders and say, "DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOUR DAUGHTER DID LAST NIGHT?"

"I know what's going on, Ted. You need to stop," Jason said.

Guilt flashed across Ted's face, quickly replaced by feigned confusion. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Yes you do. Seriously, it's out of hand. Leave her alone."

"Fine." I'm sure his shoulders slumped and a cloudy look filled his eyes. I know that look very well, still.

Jason was quite nice about it. He liked Ted just fine, while being very aware of his stalkerly impulses. So he wasn't rude. And I wasn't either.

There's clearly a reflection upon my poor judgment in this whole story, that I would be such a jerk to share it with you, that I would date Ted's brother, that I would make him think I'd slept with Dave just to find out the truth.

Who is the bigger jerk? you ask. Me or Ted? Ted would say me. And I would say Ted, while adding the caveat that I made a bunch of mistakes and bad decisions, like all the times I let him back into my life thinking he'd finally gotten over everything and could let me be the one who got away (the girl he only wanted when he couldn't have her). Like when he got married and sent an invitation to my mom and invited me, through my mother, to email him a congratulations or something. Big mistake.

And then when I stupidly let him have the address to my blog when I was just beginning to date Stoker—he'd asked to get in contact with me through my mom or sister (again). I said all right, thinking once more that he could NOT be a weirdo. All the anonymous comments he left were evidence that he couldn't.

Oh the madness.

And oh the strange fears that crop up when someone says something or does something that reminds me of him. Sometimes when I meet a new person and establish a light email rapport with them, because I can't see them, if they say or write anything remotely like Ted, I feel myself wondering if this is another one of Ted's ploys to infiltrate my life again, and this time he's even gone so far as to hire an actor to portray a 3-dimensional manifestation of his assumed identity. Crazy, I know. And inevitably I feel the question burning in my head, the curiosity, the urge to jokingly ask, "You're not, by any chance, a forty-one year old man of Scandinavian descent with blond hair and blue eyes, with a background in electrical engineering now practicing patent law . . . are you?"


That's the paranoia.

*In fact, this is how Stoker won me over.
**Ted never swore, so this was incontrovertible proof that Rob was not TED.
***Recurring nightmare beginning when I was eight: a baseball scout claims he wants me on his team because he's seen how amazing my arm is when I'm throwing dirt clods at things with my friends. I don't want to be on his team. But he won't give up. Even after I've reduced him to being a wheelchair with my dirt clods (a creepy wooden wheelchair, no less). Nothing will stop this major league baseball scout. I wake up after his face is a bloody mess. Hmmmm. I must have seen some kind of horrible movie at my cousin's or something—they were always watching age-inappropriate movies. Some movie with a wooden wheelchair in it....

Magic Numbers

Real quick, I just want to celebrate a momentous achievement. THREE-HUNDRED-AND-TWENTY-SEVEN POSTS. Thank you, thank you.

I know that by my age, most people have already written somewhere near two-thousand-six-hundred-fifty-two posts* or thereabouts, but I didn't even know what a blog was until January of 2005, and as you can see, I acted quickly upon discovering this noble art (thank you Communication Arts magazine—those of you elitists who wanted to keep it a secret club [all you Live Journal snobs heh heh heh], feel free to go burn an effigy at their headquarters for spoiling everything what with their vast readership and all . . . and yes, I totally know how you feel. It's how I feel about the vinyl cool-kids club, from which I've retired . . . ).

Anyway, yes, 327 is the most magical number in our numeral system. So I wanted to celebrate. Thanks for coming to my party.

*Assuming you started blogging at fifteen and wrote three posts a week every year for seventeen years. NOT impossible. I know there are people with this goal . . . somewhere.

Paranoia. Part II.

In this story, I am not the hero (but like I had to tell you THAT...). I don't mind being honest about the fact that when I was young, I may have been a self-centered jerk. Most likely, I will realize at forty-two that I was egocentric at thirty-two. In fact, I hope for that. I hope I keep growing and evolving.

If you didn't read Paranoia, read it first. I mean, if you want to. If you don't care about me or my blog, then fine. Skip it and just read this. Fine. That's fine. Go right ahead. You're missing out. But do what you want. Who am I to advise you? I'm sure the back-story is completely unnecessary and I'm sure you can find several individuals who will pitch in during a gripe-session about my needless wordiness. I'll give you their email addresses. You guys can meet up for coffee.

To pick up where I left off, Ted asked me to marry him after three or four years of wishy-washy behavior towards me and the relationship. I said no, and goodbye forever.

The following school year, the Scorpio who'd taught me that men can be passionate and vibrant (rather than dead inside like withered autumn leaves, like Ted) moved to the Midwest to take care of his grandfather. We fell out of contact and I began dating a beautiful bead-maker with Native American roots. He made me bracelets and necklaces when he couldn't sleep because of a rare condition involving asthma, and taught me how playing the banjo can be sexy and not just silly.

I romanticize this because I can—it's in the past now. You know how it is.

I'm telling you this next part so you can see how I was somewhat cruel.

The next summer, the bead-maker wanted me to stay in our college town, but I insisted on moving back home to work. It crushed him and I thought he was just being ridiculous. While I was in the city, we had some kind of misunderstanding (I could detail it, but for brevity's sake, I don't) and he vanished. I was lonely and broken-hearted.

So what did I do? The only wise thing a moron can do. I called Ted.

In my defense, I didn't have any friends in the city. People got married and moved away. I had spent three or four years chasing Ted and never had time to nurture friendships.

I only wanted to go sky-diving. Something really crazy. Because the bead-maker had left me cold and lonely and I thought in all my theatrics that I had nothing to live for.

Ted and I went sky-diving. Then after that, he wanted to date again. I relented to just "hanging out." Cruel. I know, because I was really set on never getting into another exclusive relationship with him. I mean, honestly and stupidly, I thought that if I spent time with him and he'd changed and treated me better, then I could see us getting back together. So I wasn't a complete monster. You know?

But my how the tables had turned....

When fall came and it was time to go back to college, I let Ted help me move. And like a mean jerk, when he left to go back to the city that night, I said good riddance. It's kind of hazy. Maybe we spent a few weekends together wherein I tried to see if he had suddenly become chivalrous and cool and sweet and not small-hearted and etc. And maybe not. My memory fails me.

I began dating someone else. I told Ted that it was really over. Good luck. He accused me of being a jerk and I said, I know, you're right, it was unfair of me to ask you to go sky-diving with me. But we'll always have Paris, kid. He didn't think that was funny.

I thought he was REALLY gone this time.

Sometime that winter, I learned about eBay. I began bidding on things. I really really wanted this stupid script to the movie "Grosse Point Blank" because I fancied that if I had it, I could definitely write a blockbuster romantic comedy. Like a fool I used my unique last name as my screen name on eBay. Two of the auctions I'd participated in on other items (LP's of "Astral Weeks") got snaked from me at the last second. I was feeling pretty bitter about losing.

But there I was, winning the ridiculous script because NO ONE WAS BIDDING ON IT. My day had come at last. Victory never looked so scrumptious. Suddenly, out of nowhere, some jerk bid against me. One person. Being very competitive, I fumed. The bid war began. I had to win.

I felt strongly that if ONLY I HAD THIS SCRIPT, all my problems would be solved. The script I was working on in my spare time would magically become the golden script, the script to rewrite history, the script to turn the Sahara into verdant fields of corn, putting an end to hunger. I needed that script so bad. I needed to KNOW THE KEY to making my script* enchanting and the key was in the "Grosse Point Blank" script.

Naturally, I emailed the competing bidder. Or maybe mysterious-bidder emailed me first. In any case, I pled my case. We quickly struck up an email relationship because I have a tragic weakness for emailing. Want to disarm me? Send me a compelling email and expect a response in return, THEN write me back and charm me completely with your wit, your clever insights, and your sparkling intellect. I'll be putty in your hands.

It's disgusting. But also, isn't it awesome?

Mysterious bidder was named Rob. He lived in San Diego. He had a girlfriend named Laura. Laura was great, but she was mad at Rob and they were on the brink of breaking up because Laura wanted to live with Rob, but somehow Rob had strong core values and thought that was wrong and he didn't think it right to take advantage of her. So Laura was dating other guys to make Rob jealous—turns out, what she really wanted was Rob to marry her**.

There were signs. I'm not a moron (though all clues say otherwise). When Ted and I were dating, we communicated by email A LOT. People have tics in the way they speak that show up in their writing. I started to feel like I was emailing Ted. I tricked Rob into describing himself. How could he lie?

Rob looked a lot like Ted.

But Ted denied it.

*A compelling tale about a college age girl who writes a letter to John Cusack, which he answers, and then of course he falls in love with her, and the college girl's dreams come true, etc. Contact me if you'd like to buy the rights to this potentially surprise hit.

**This is sort of the plot to the film/book "High Fidelity." Notice a pattern? No, not a pattern with my former love for John Cusack, but the other pattern.


Sometimes my own paranoia startles me.

This is disturbing for a number of reasons, one of them being the genetic thing. My dad is kind of crazy. And my mom has always been really worried that I'm going to lose it. It's funny. And tragic, and if she's reading this, Mom, come on. You know I find it utterly endearing. After all, I'm already thirty-two and still haven't lost it. :)

She probably doesn't read my blog anymore. I pretend she does from time to time so I don't cuss too much. Occasionally I forget how much I cuss until Stoker starts teasing me with things like, "I won't say ______, if you'll stop saying _____." That's when it dawns on me that I must say _____ a lot. And then I feel bad.

Back to the paranoia.

Part of not becoming paranoid or crazy is realizing the potential you have for losing your mind. Right? I mean, that's the paradox, so beautifully illustrated by Joseph Heller in Catch-22. You can get out of the dangerous mission if you're crazy, but if you're cogent enough to NOT want to go up in the belly of the bomber plane, then you must not be crazy. Only a crazy fool would want to be a sitting duck in that bomber plane's belly turret.

I'm not paranoid, really. But long ago, I dated this one guy for several years. I was 18 and stupid (but no stupider than most 18-year-olds. If you're eighteen and reading this, I apologize, but someday it will all make sense), so of course I put up with his general awfulness for far too long. Like three or four years too long. One week should have sufficed. Did I already mention I was very young?

Plus I'm a stayer. Some people are takers, some are leavers. I'm a stayer. I just mean, when I decide I love someone, I stick with them. I had decided that . . . . Ted, yes, Ted was great and that I loved him so much that if I had to, I would go into hell with ten screeching cats dangling from my limbs and sixteen dogs chasing me, the human cat tree, just to retrieve him, so great was our, er, my love. Of course, I never thought, but why is Ted in hell in the first place?

If I'd thought that, I would have realized he was in possession of an innumerable amount of sins strong enough to banish him to, if not REAL hell, then at least Dante's vision of it.  One of his sins was saying this to me at one point, "I don't love you.  I'll never love you.  Plus, you're not exactly what I'm looking for in a wife.  I want a woman I can sing duets with and who will teach our children to sing."  

Even at eighteen I realized how insane he was for thinking something so absolutely childish and ridiculous. I bet I laughed like my grandma laughs when she sees through the crap and finds a kernel of happiness so delightful, she can't contain her jubilation. Like the time on that family trip when my aunt was scolding my cousin in the parking lot of a national park (who, lots of parks there) and a bystander tried to step in and my tow-headed cousin said, "Butt out lady, it's none of your business." The scolding resumed.   

You can see why my cousin was being scolded with an attitude like that. My grandma thinks that story is really hilarious.

Anyway, Ted. He was awful. But I overlooked it because that's what you do when you fall in love. Sometimes love is absolutely insane and stupid. Ted was twenty-six and I was eighteen, and Ted had never had a girlfriend in all his life. He'd always loved from afar. He had no concept of what a relationship was like and he had no understanding of the reality of women, being the oldest of six boys. I was willing to work with that because I was young and pliant when it came to my expectations of a man.  

Ted continued to not want me, but then he'd want me, and then he'd break up with me, and then he'd want me back, and then he broke up with me and it really was the last straw. So I started dating his brother. I had no scruples. Plus his brother and I were good friends and we could talk about books for hours. His brother, Tom, asked permission to date me of course. We had cleared it with Ted. That made it kosher, right?  

So to make it more dramatic, Ted decided after I was involved with Tom that he wanted me back.  

I had started a war. Completely unintentionally, but still, it was the one time I really understood Helen of Troy.  

I was nineteen by then, but still utterly naive about certain rules. If no one explains them to you, how are you supposed to know you shouldn't date the brother of a guy who SWEARS he wants nothing to do with you because you don't wear makeup, and you ought to, you know (so then you start wearing makeup, because you're a whelp and you don't get it yet).  

This is getting around to my paranoia, I promise.  

After a few months of battling over me (I won't lie to you, it was kind of amazing to be fought over, but I'm completely ashamed of it now), I picked Ted.  I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, you moron. You should have picked the brother. Tom had no history of not appreciating you. And you're right. But the brother DID have a prison record*, which COULD have been difficult to live with.  

This was LOVE, right? The prison record shouldn't have entered into it. I tried to base my decision on logic somewhat, and also, my mom was really vying for Ted. She has a will like the moon. Try as you might, there's no way to escape her power—she flexes and your tides answer and you find yourself telling Ted that you picked him and saying goodbye to Tom.  

Even after the harrowing war that almost split the brothers apart for life, Ted still didn't appreciate me. Surprised?  I know. You saw it coming. Behaviors don't change that drastically.  Patterns die hard.  Etc. Etc. He wanted to get married. I didn't. Whoa, I know? Didn't see that coming, did you.  

Well, I had grown up a little bit after all his ping-ponging (is that an expression? Maybe it's pinballing. Or billarding. I don't know. Flip-flopping). Yes, I can only withstanding so much abuse before I learn a little. Slow-learners raise your hands.  Let's form a club.

Here comes the paranoia part, but forgive me for the long prelude, the back story seemed necessary somehow.  

Ted wanted to get married. We did the long distance thing a while because he'd graduated and moved to the city. In that time and after several attempts on his part to do the classic fade and disappear, I fell in love with someone else. A guy who was the complete opposite. And I realized that Ted was a loser, not only for how he'd always treated me, but for his lack of passion. His bitterness. The fear that ruled him.  

Ted sensed me slipping away and asked me to marry him (remember, he only wanted what he couldn't have . . . the proposal didn't seem genuine). I said no, then I said goodbye forever.  

Little did I know.

*For burglary.  He'd done it at eighteen.  Forgivable, right?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Dude. Seriously. Porn in the Coffee Shop?

I have always wondered WHO on earth would use bikini-clad women as their desktop wallpaper. Anyone? Really? You're that starved for visual gratification?  

I think to myself, "I don't really know anyone like that—NO ONE I KNOW would have the sort of mentality such a thing would require." I'm pretty much right.  

Although, now that I'm seriously considering it, I have a coworker who MIGHT do something like that. It's strange too, because he has a daughter . . . that's the kind of thing you think will change a man*. You know, make him realize a bunch of things about women, like that they're people, with hearts and thoughts and emotions, and how they want to be loved and all that and that they should be treated chivalrously despite all their chants about equality. 

Ok, so that's me, not women in general, and I guess not everyone is as thoughtful as I am. Heh heh.

So my curiosity was finally fulfilled last week at Starbuck's. There are only a few locations in the place I frequent where you can have laptop-screen-privacy. And this guy didn't have that. No big deal, really. I mean, he's obviously got deeper issues—what with thinking it's perfectly normal to use mostly nude women as his wallpaper. I thought I saw a wedding ring on him too . . . so even stranger. But I guess there are women who find that acceptable. To each their own.  

The point is, why would you subject yourself to such a distraction? If I understand men at all, visually that kind of thing is WAY more distracting than say, MY wallpaper (homesick-inducing landscape pictures of the Utah desert) and so how can he get any work done?  

Guess I don't understand men.

BUT if that wasn't enough for this trip to Starbuck's, the guy sitting next to him pulls out his phone and begins looking at porn. Right there. In front of me.  

Well, not quite in front of me. I was sitting behind him, so his phone was facing me as he perused the material. It was distracting. The mind is thinking, "What the hell. Am I really seeing this?  I could be mistaken. Perhaps it's a medical website."  So then I check again. And yes, it's porn. Then the mind thinks, "Am I wrong to want to censor this? I mean, this is a public space. There are children in here. There's a major aisle behind him. Whose rights are more important here? Who determines what's wrong and what is right in this scenario?"  

At any rate. I don't believe in censorship. I think people should be free to choose according to their desires. But I also believe in decorum and that there are times and places where certain behaviors are socially wrong. Such as looking at porn in a coffee shop where everyone can see it. Call me crazy. 

At that moment a mom entered the coffee shop with her little boy. He was probably five or six. Tall enough to see over Mr. Porn's shoulder and see it. And I thought to myself how scarring it would have been for me at that age to see something like what that guy was looking at. I really did. And then I felt like a jerk for all the selfish things I had ever done (weird, I know, but sometimes that's what you think about when you're faced with an uncomfortable decision), and I thought about the mom trying to explain to her son what that man was doing and why was he looking at that. 

You could argue, if you're an ass, that the little boy has already seen porn if he's six and he knows how to use the internet. And if you are that ass, I would say to you, "I'm sorry for whatever bad thing happened to you in your life that you think children aren't fragile and that they shouldn't be protected."

And I would mean that.  

So after my courage was all wound up based on my racing thoughts, I stood and tapped Mr. Porn on the shoulder. He looked up at me, surprised and scared as his phone snapped shut and I said, "You do realize that other people can see your phone, don't you?"  

"Fine, fine, sorry," he answered, sounding guilty. I wasn't rude or anything. I don't think I was. It's kind of a blur now. After I sat back down, the college student sitting with his back to me thanked me, which was kind of shocking.

At the time I took it at face value, like that he was trying to study but Mr. Porn's phone was distracting him. I laughed and said something back, I forget what. But looking back, now, I can't decide if he was THANKING me or CURSING me for having ended the free porn. Stoker pointed out that it's not that difficult to find free porn, so it probably wasn't that. Good laugh, that.
It was all very strange.  I've never been flashed, thankfully, but I imagine it's a similarly disorienting experience. The kind of thing that's so outrageous you can't believe it's happening and you sort of feel like you're floating out of your body. Because you've come to really believe that people don't do crap like that in public. But then later, upon further reflection you realize that people can really be messed up.  

I guess I love them anyway, as I am messed up too, in my own ways. And by love I mean charity. The kind of thing where you let your heart feel empathy for them because maybe at some point they were like the little boy in the coffee shop, all innocent and naive, but nobody looked out for them. Or something.  You know?    

But seriously. Don't look at porn in the coffee shop where bystanders can see it too. It's damn awkward. ESPECIALLY when you're visibly reacting to it. Thanks.  

*I should point out that I really appreciate that there are still men in the world who appreciate the female form and all that. It's not like I'm saying men shouldn't feel things. I'm just saying. It's weird that this guy had skanky wallpaper. That's all.  

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pretty Crappy.

I should be working on a short story right now, but I'm feeling pretty crappy.

Lately Stoker has been teasing me about the phrase, "I feel pretty crappy." I guess I've been saying it a lot the past few days. Why not? I DO. I FEEL PRETTY CRAPPY.

For all intents and purposes, the weather here is akin to a bear the size of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man with paws as large as thirteen cows, and I might as well be the fish between the bear's paws. I'm not sure if those measurements are proportionate--the point is, the weather tosses me back and forth between its meaty paws with no apparent concern for how I FEEL about it.

I feel pretty crappy about it.

It's not just the flooding and the wind storms we just had, which were really unfortunate. In general, the environment is toxic to me. Do you realize I didn't have ANY gray hair before I moved to Tennessee? No wrinkles either.

Now, you're probably thinking something like, "Well, be serious. You were also four years younger when you moved to Nashville. Wrinkles and gray hair CAN appear in that amount of time."

And I'll give you that. Wrinkles and gray hair are quite stealthy when it comes to choosing their victims.

However, my teeth ALSO started falling out once I got to Nashville. Coincidence? Hardly!

The problem is the humid sub-tropical climate. That's right. SUB-TROPICAL. I'm from the desert. I was miserable there due to allergies. At least--I fancied that the desert made me miserable. From my current perspective, in the arms of this bastardly bear, the desert looks like heaven.

From Wikipedia, the final authority on all knowledge:

Nashville's long springs and autumns combined with a diverse array of trees and grasses can often make it uncomfortable for allergy sufferers.[14] In 2008, Nashville was ranked as the 18th-worst spring allergy city in the U.S. by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.[15]

Translated, this quote explains that Nashville is the 10th circle of hell. Apparently it is a place reserved for those who sinned against mother nature in some way, however innocent or ignorant the sin(s) may have been.

I also enjoy the mild phrase "make it uncomfortable." Mild. Ha ha.

During late summer, autumn, and winter, I forget how the spring attacks me with its clumsy paws and batters me around like a shuttlecock. I think, "Hey, it's not so bad here. Though I pine for the great basin desert and its thin atmosphere, majestic highlands, and icy, clear streams and wildflower meadows, I could also just stay here. I've made a few friends, established a couple haunts. No big deal. Plus my job's not too bad. And most of my cats were born here--I'd hate to tear them from their birthplace."

There are even a few days in the spring when I think I'll be OK if I have to stay here forever.

Then the bear rears its ugly muzzle. It typically comes in from the Gulf, occasionally across the plains, but always it carves a swath of hell before it, a low pressure or a high pressure system that strangles me. And then the bear arrives and I become its rag doll.

So anyway, that's why I'm having a hard time writing. Simply because I feel pretty crappy.

Friday, May 07, 2010


For several uninteresting reasons, I'm having a difficult time concentrating lately.

Who am I kidding? The reasons are actually incredibly fascinating. Because I'M interesting, mysterious, entertaining, and a whole host of related adjectives.

Seriously. It's undeniable. I keep a blog to make a record of my compelling opinions and intriguing adventures.

This morning I stopped at the Flatrock Cafe for a sausage biscuit. Stoker got a breakfast casserole and Larry, the manager, gave him a large helping. Stoker lamented that he didn't think he'd be able to finish it because he was full already, but he felt bad not finishing it. Then he said in an evil overlord voice, "FINISH HIM!!!!!"

I laughed. Raucously. Sometimes I realize after I've already emitted an obscene laugh like that, that I'm laughing obscenely. And then I want to apologize immediately to let people know that I know that my laughter was inappropriately loud. No one cares at that point, but sometimes it's nice to try to convey that you WANT to be genteel, even if you're not by nature.

The reason my laugh was so loud and obnoxious was due to the reference-humor. Is there such a thing? I'm sure there's a genre or sub-genre of humor that's referential and that's where it gets its power. I don't know the name of it, so I'm calling it reference-humor and in my case, it's based on some weird personal quirk I once told Stoker about.

You know what I'm talking about. Some purely stupid phenomenon you possess and it baffles the heck out of you that you even do it, let alone that you're AWARE of it, but somehow cannot make it stop?

It kills me that Stoker remembers such things. He's got a mind like a steel-trap.

A while ago I told him how it really really bugs me when I think to myself anything relating to the word finish. Like, "I need to finish the vacuuming, then I can play PS3." Or, "Once I finish this sandwich, I'll do the dishes." Or, "Holy crap, I'm NEVER going to finish painting the mudroom."

Inevitably after I think to myself something about finishing anything, my mind always drifts to the next obvious thought: Mortal Kombat. When the evil announcer guy says after you've almost beaten your opponent, "FINISH HIM!!!!!" And the type is all blood-red in an evil, creepy way.

So things like, "I need to finish the vacuuming, then I can play PS3," end up followed by the with the haunting echo, "FINISH HIM!!!!!!" Turning the relatively harmless task of cleaning into an evil slaughter in the living room wherein Liu Kang's spine is ripped from his body and lifted triumphantly over Scorpion's head*--a bloody, grisly trophy.

It's gotten so tiresome, in fact, that I try not to EVER think of finishing tasks ("FINISH HIM!!!!!!"). That way, I never have to experience the transformation of these mundane daily moments into Kombat to the death. It's not that I don't love to finish things ("FINISH HIM!!!!!") and it's not that I don't love video games, it's that I don't LOVE the confusion of reality with video game reality.

But I DO love it when Stoker remembers the things I have said and casually tosses them out in appropriate moments and makes me laugh obscenely.

*Secret finishing-move not guaranteed to belong to Scorpion. I haven't played it recently enough to recall WHOSE finishing move the de-spiner is. It could be any one of the vicious fighters.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


We had a tornado. Then a flood. Then our basement filled with water. Then we lost our air conditioner. And power. Then there was a trampoline on my truck. Then I rescued a baby starling from the flood and the rain. Then my sister had a baby. Then they said don't use the water. Then they said, "We're going to cut the water supply." Then they said, "We're not. Just use fifty percent less." Then the water receded and the electric company came in the middle of the night and reconnected our power two days later. Then someone said, "There's going to be a gas shortage, get your gas." Then someone else said, "Don't drink the water. Three people have died from drinking it." Then someone else said, "That's a lie, I contacted the water company." Then I went back to work and the toilets keep flushing for no reason. Then I said, "Hey, does someone want to STOP these toilets from flushing for no reason? We're supposed to conserve water!" And no one listened. Then some people were WASHING their cars at the car wash and they said, "Hey, I paid for it. The truck needs to be clean. Gotta be seen in a clean truck." Then I couldn't concentrate. Then I drank too much caffeine and began to emit a high frequency buzz as my nerves vibrated.

That brings us today. I'm still buzzing. Those events didn't happen in that order. They're sort of out of order, but I like the order in which I wrote them.

Looking again, the order is pretty accurate.

It's been pretty crazy. Someone said to me that they didn't want to rub it in that they haven't suffered, that their house is nice and dry, that they had electricity the whole time, that Nothing Really Happened to them. But I'm glad. See, then they can help out. We can all help out. But if we were all without homes after the flood and the wind, then we'd all just lie there in the mud like mud beetles, helpless, and drowning or burrowing. There is such a thing as a mud beetle, isn't there?

Anyway, a bunch of ants were coming into my house Monday night, and I felt kind of bad for them. Did the water get them too? But the ants come out every spring, sending out their little soldiers looking for food sources. So I killed them. Sorry ants. But if I don't kill them and they find a crumb or something that I somehow missed under the couch, then they keep coming in. The way they know to not go back to That Spot is if the soldiers don't return. Ask E. O. Wilson.

To balance out my ant genocide, I saved a baby bird. The bird will live and grow up and eat the ants. It's the circle of life. The girl at Walden's Puddle told me the featherless hatchling was a starling. I thought it was a robin, but either way, I don't discriminate against which birds I'll help.

Initially I put the bird in the dove nest in my barn. It snuggled up to the dove babies and I had such high hopes that it would be one of those amazing stories about some inter-species triumph a la ugly duckling and all that. I think it worked for one day. The next day the baby was on the ground and the mother pigeon gave me a really dirty look, as though to say, "Ha. You really think I'm that naive? I don't take care of interlopers, my dear. I've got my hands full with these two. Next time I'll peck its eyes out!"

I returned the dove's stare as though to say, "Listen, where do you think that bird seed comes from that you munch on every day? Bird seed doesn't grow on trees*?" Still, her steady, unblinking stare made me a feel a twinge of guilt.

But try as I might, I can't be as heartless and unfeeling as Mother Nature. I tried to leave the bird alone, hoping it would just die and go on to loftier things in heaven, but it was too rough on my heart and mind. Like killing a part of myself.

So I fooled my neighbor into taking care of it. Ok, that sounds terrible. I didn't really FOOL her. She's not a dummy. But she's got a terrier rescue already, so I kind of knew she had a big heart for animals.

Plus she had electricity. And time. And I had neither. So we worked it out and she fed the bird Monday night, then I took it to Walden's Puddle the next morning.

*I realize that many seeds DO come from trees. But bird seed doesn't just drop into a nice pile of food for a bunch of doves hanging out next to the bird bath. I admit I've trained the doves to think it does. And I know they'd survive without the seed I put out for them. I help them through the winter, that's all.