Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I thought it was Yo-Se-Might

Even at a young age, I was pretty clever with language, aside from the stutter. I've got it down to one word now, and only when I think there's something important to say: "So," as in: Su-su-su-su-su-so.

Su-su-su-su-su-so, our government is about to shut down state parks and fire half the park rangers.

As a kid, my family was a bundle of nerves most of the year. That only changed when we hit the great outdoors for two weeks of camping. Something about trekking through the pine forests and peeing in the wild brought us to our senses.

My parents were never ones to throw money away on planes or hotels. We traveled to the Sierras, Smokies, or Rockies by car, often driving 24 hours. We’d eat liverwurst sandwiches packed in the cooler, and, on a long trip, stay in motels with broken magic-finger beds. It was travel on a shoe-string. I remember one long drive through the desert. I must have whined a lot, something regarding lack of water. My sister said, "Let's all spit in a cup and make her drink it." That was so great -- one of the few times she got in trouble and I didn't. See, I suffered from chronic car-sickness, and my parent feared the image would make me barf.

We would pitch a tent in 110 degrees, or pouring rain. And love it. Eat – what the hell did we eat? – maybe half-baked pancakes on the Coleman stove, or beef jerky. And love it. If we were lucky, milky coffee or watered down wine. And love, well, you know. Then the family would hike together; my dad with his rucksack from the Norwegian days (he never replaced anything for the sake of fashion), my mom with her hands on her hips, my brother and sister trailing somewhere behind. I was always at my father’s side; I’d do two, maybe three steps to his one.

And then, there was always a time when my mom would stay back at the campsite, cleaning things up, reading, maybe. And so would brother and sister. And Dad and I would take a 10-mile hike to some destination he had planned. We would sit on the edge of a cliff and eat our sandwiches. I never let him know I was afraid of heights, because I was so proud to be there.

Su-su-su-su-su-so, our government is about to shut down state parks and fire half the park rangers.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Crazy Legs

Running gives you time alone with your thoughts. Want to get past that first mile? Forget you are running at all. Make the legs do the work while the mind flies off somewhere else. That is, I believe, an exercise in Cartesian dualism.

I think that’s Cartesian dualism – sounds right anyway, and sounding right is often right enough, if said fast enough.

Be that as it may, I do know for a fact you should pack your brain with thoughts before you start the run, or you might run out.

I’ve tried carrying along some lofty and profound ideas, but for me, they just don’t have legs. For example: Was Kant right after all? If there is such a thing as Karma, are there mitigating circumstances? Is pragmatism just spiritual laziness? Yes, yes, whatever.

That was good for half a block. The rest of the night I ran on empty.

I need something with real substance. Something profoundly engaging. Something … something like this…

Go ahead, click

Movie comedies. Just thinking about movie comedies will carry me through a whole summer of sweat.

There are only two countries that can make comedies: the US and Great Britain. If you believe otherwise, you’re not going to like my list, you’re not going to like me, and you’re probably here by mistake anyway.

I’m talking all manner of comedy: Satire, broad, black, drawing room. With brilliant dialogue that makes you feel like a comedic genius just by quoting it.

My first cut is unmanageable. How to put some order here. American vs British? Old vs new? Preston Sturgis vs everyone else?

Ok, right off the top, here’s my list. On my next run, I’ll think how to whittle it down.

Life is Sweet (Mike Leigh)
It Happened One Night
Mr and Mrs Smith (Carole Lombard)
The Awful Truth
Raising Arizona
Waiting for Guffman
Best in Show
The Pink Panther
Kind Hearts and Coronets
The Palm Beach Story
Sullivan’s Travels
The Ruling Class
The Lady Eve
Twentieth Century
The Ladykillers (Alec Guinness)
His Girl Friday

Friday, June 26, 2009

Anyone have a safety pin?

Serves me right I suppose. Well, something has been served to me anyway, and all too often. Had to put on ye-olde-business-suit today for the first time in almost a year, and the first thing out of my mouth was an invocation to the excrement gods. Holy merde! It took – ooph – a lot of persuasion to make the button kiss that button hole.

How did this happen? Rewind, rewind.

Something to be said in favor of a stressful office job – it kept me thin. Lots of running and hiking to shed the events of the day. Hiking and running still figure in, but now sans stress, not with the same fervor, the same life and death concentration.

Plus, all Snickers aside, blue cheese has loved me often and all too well.

Can I live without a concrete schedule? No, apparently, I cannot. Writing, writing daily has nourished the spirit, but what do you know, it has nourished the body as well.

So I’m dropping food like a bad habit. Like a bad habit? It is a bad habit. And amping the running. Funny thing is, friends must have seen this global expansion, but said nothing. Remember, friends of mine, sometimes it is kind to be cruel.

There are many occasions to which the human spirit does not plan to rise, does not even see as a possibility on the horizon. Building a raft and sailing the Pacific, for example. Or sit ups.

(Add end dumb y) A friend of mind just sent me this link. That's the last banana split he gets at my place.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

All things vegetable and mineral

Did you know I grow vegetables because I don’t like vegetables? But after all the sweat and blood (secateurs are not for daydreamers) I drop on their little crowns, I'm compelled to eat the buggers.

There are blogs, so many blogs out there where people take romantic, almost pornographic, portraits of their squash and snap peas, then wax rhapsodic about biting into the crisp delicious goodness. These bloggers get all up in your face with their piety and root-bound poetry, as if this vegetative compulsion makes them one of God's chosen.

They’re wrong of course; it is I who am closer to god. I tell the truth. No vegetable on earth tastes as good as a Snickers.

In my house, we were not allowed to eat candy at all when we were children. Probably because the parental units knew their tiny subunit was born with a long, root canal-waiting-to-happen sweet fang. When they finally relented and opened the gates to sugary heaven, I would chew a whole pack of gum (Stripe or Juicy Fruit) in thirty minutes. A roll of butterscotch lifesavers? Don’t blink. My mom tried poetry. “How about this beautiful red apple instead.” Or “Take this ripe, juicy, sweet plum.”

Right lady, kiss my apricot. Pass the M&M’s. And a Pepsi. (Oh, please, I didn’t say that. I would have been murdered on the spot. In truth, I just stole some change from her purse and walked to the country club vending machine for a Heath Bar.)

I’d make peace with raw vegetables if they tasted more like butter and garlic. But that heirloom carrot is like sucking on an old tire, even though it costs more than a set of Michelins to grow it. Tomatoes are ok because tomato sauce over pasta requires lots and lots of cheese and meatballs.

But with the others -- the zucchini and cucumbers and green beans and eggplant -- cheat. Braise ‘em, roast’em, sauté them. Fry them in bacon lard. Douse them in hot pepper sauce, and cover their little tasteless bodies in sausage. Melt some Roquefort.
Better yet, throw a party. Everyone will swoon over your spring onions and bell peppers. But at the end of the night, the only thing missing will be the Cheetos.

(Note: I of course like all those soulful vegetable blogs. Also, there is blogger activity going on in philosophical support of the protest in Iran. You’re welcome to join in. You’re also welcome not to join in. I’ll try to contribute something brief and barely readable on Saturday. To get my brain working, I’ve heard a plate of fish (fish! don't get me started) might help.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


"A young Iranian woman named Neda is killed in the streets. Another walks down the street, defiantly showing off her hair and body. And still another woman says she's not scared. 'When they want to hit me, I say hit.'"

... One expert says women protesters are the "new face of Iran."


There must be some organizing going on, net-wise, blog-wise. Let me know. How much more powerful to hear millions of indiviudal voices, rather than just a few arguing heads of state.

Didn't the Berlin Wall fall this way?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Summer Solstice

"Do you ever wait for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always wait for the longest day of the year and then miss it!" — Daisy (The Great Gatsby)

I answered the call from Huntington to aid in traffic control. They expected some huge crowds. Turned out, I was a bit de trop. Back, stay back.

Please form a single line. Schnell.

Much as I like to crack the whip, I wanted to see Anna. Henry and Arabella may have been the great collectors of the past century, but Archer (son/step-son) trumped them. He collected an artist.

Archer married Anna Hyatt. From what I can gather & see via my den chair, Anna sculpted huge dramatic scenes, generally involving fierce and passionate and predatory animals.
The Huntington (I think this is so, I don’t know for certain) has only two, and uncharacteristic, Anna pieces, but they are two of my favorites.

Why do I love these guys? They're proud, obedient, and with all this restrained power resting – but almost quivering -- beneath their collars.

And then, you can’t go back here you know, but I can. Here is the property, unrefined, unclipped, unbridled. There are 120 acres of manicured loveliness at the Huntington, which currently leaves another 120 acres of untouched loveliness. Touched and untouched are breathtaking, of course. But when you see them side by side, well, I’m sure there’s a word for it, but it’s probably French.

PS: Possible Anna?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Friends of mine

We never met Richard Feynman, he was dead by that time. Still, he deserves the credit.

I have known R, a different R, since I was 17. He was best friends with an on-and-off boyfriend of mine, a boyfriend I liked more as a friend, but loved enough to love when it seemed like the right thing to do. Anyway, this boyfriend shot himself the early part of this century, but that’s another story.

D, the eventual heroine in this story, and I met many years later, after I bought my horse. D had a 17-hand saddlebred, just about the only horse my Vandy wouldn’t cow kick. So the four of us covered hundreds of miles of trails, in blistering heat, in snow. D’s a short little thing, but she can stick a saddle, so was always around when I got thrown. She was also always around through miles of my boyfriends.

And I felt bad, you know. I had all this LOVE knocking at the door, and she was a bit on the lonely side. So I fixed her up with on-and-off, and the three of us went out. Instant dislike, no, that’s too mild, antipathy, antagonism, an-wehateeachother. But the one thing that came out of the meeting was that on-and-off challenged D (who is a finder by profession) to locate an obscure Richard Feynman video (Yes this was in the 90’s, we’re in video days).

Of course D found it, and gave the precious tape to me, which I carelessly tossed somewhere. It was my duty to turn said tape over to on-and-off, and I couldn’t find it.

How to tie this up into the great love story it is. The random universe that often turns cruel, can also turn kind. To show my penitence, I invited the two for dinner and on-and-off brought his friend R to the dinner, because R just happened to be visiting that night.

D and R fell in love at the table, even before the appetizer. Even before the wine. Madly in love, forever in love. Since that day, that day I tell you, they have never been apart for more than a few hours. They work, eat, sleep, talk, ride, travel together. They’re always touching hands. (I chide them constantly. “God, you’re disgusting. Give it a rest!”)

Oh yes, I found the Feynman tape, years later. In the trunk of the car I was selling, under an old saddle. To this day, D believes I had a careful hand in her great happiness. Uh-uh, it was a very careless hand.

But D would never analyze anything to that degree. With D, you're either in or you're out. Once you're her friend, and I know this for a fact, you can do no wrong.

(R got an absurd, ridiculously impossible diagnosis from a neurologist this past month. Fuck doctors. I believe in love.)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Altadenahiker Does Her Civic Duty (sort of)

When I walk into a federal building, my heart races and hands go clammy. Something to do with the austere, authoritative atmosphere, the stench of gray, the chairs of a thousand butts. Erase your face here. You are nothing but another foot of the great shuffling public.

I've been on juries before, but only vice. I can do vice, I mean, I can sit in apparent judgement of what is considered vice, because I think (perhaps mistakenly) that no one ever died from vice.

But this time it was criminal justice, where all the cases, apparently, were the Big M or attempted M, and could last for weeks if not months. We saw an orange jumpsuit escorted down the hall. I kept swallowing The Scream. We Norskis invented The Scream. I'm a skip-in-the-sunshine girl, I can't do this.

How can a blithering pool of jelly do this?

Jean and Miss H were in for jury duty lately, and neither of them blubbered (internally or at least bloggedly) about it. In fact, Jean took the time to work on some sketches. How did she do that? I tried an essay, for like five minutes. Here it is: Oh please, not me, not me, not me, not me.

Then I got called to a panel. And eventually got off the panel. (No, I didn't act like a fool, it wasn't for emotional reasons.)

I met a lot of nice people today; always do in situations like this. Funny, how with people you've never seen and will never see again, you both share some intimate thoughts. Like your plane is going to crash or something.

And the judge seemed suitably judicial, but thoughtful and even sweet. Not everyone got excused.

I'm excused. It wasn't me, it wasn't me, it wasn't me.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Just Say What

Radio serves two important functions: It will mop your brow during bouts of insomnia, and it will nudge you in the ribs when you’re driving.

I’m strictly classical music at 3 a.m. But in the car, I’m more catholic in my taste. And one of the stations I listen to has the uber-conservative personalities, mostly the ones who make outrageous statements in a modulated and apparently reasonable tone of voice.

Why this station? Well, because I already know what I think and don't need the amen. But what does the competition have to say?

Most radio hosts are gasbags, regardless of which political side they’re taking. (Daniel Schorr, anyone?) One of the hallmarks of a first class gas bag is the patronizing “Look” or “Listen” before launching into verbal farts. But better the gasbag you don’t know.

Lately, Dennis Prager has been a favorite windy companion of mine. He gained some notoriety this year with his philosophy that a wife should sexually submit to her husband whether or not she feels like it. Apparently, for a guy, a fuck is a fuck so long as there is, indeed a fuck, and the woman – well, big deal, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain -- read a book or plan a meal or something. This technique will ensure you hang onto the prize male specimen who is doing something or other behind your back. Well, frankly, you're both quite a prize at this point, aren't you?

Prager has since said he receives thousands of letters from women, thanking him for saving their marriage. Women listeners, Sir Prager? Really? Well then, the advertisers are losing a good bet, because all the commercials on your show focus on prostate health.

But anyway, That’s entertainment and keeps me amused, and I don’t find any of it the least bit disturbing. Until we actually agree on something.

Today Prager argued that Obama is right not to rattle the cage and thump the chest in the wake of the Iranian elections. In other words, let Iran actually think they have their own country and sort through this problem without US threats.

Holy shit. Listen, that’s what I think too. Look, now I’m worried.

Close the curtain, I have a meal to plan.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Lesson One: Don't actually sit on the baby

Well, my essay rejections are coming in fast and furious, so I’ve been a little busy, what with filing and such. And really, I blush. Some barely seem like rejections at all. I’m pretty familiar around those New Yorker offices, so they ask me whether the rat is finally dead and did I get my brakes fixed.

"Keep pitching us!" They say. "We saw something round and pink fly by, and it smelled like bacon."

So I’m thinking, just as the banana plant so accurately predicted the direction of our economy, can a corn plant do the same for my writing career?

My corn is getting its male bits pretty early in the game, and that doesn’t bode well. I think the stalk should be at least my height before it goes through puberty. Who around here also admitted to detassling corn as one of their nasty kid-jobs (Jean? Petrea?).

Those nasty kid jobs teach you a thing or two. Take babysitting.

That was my profession, from about ages 12 to 14. As a teen-aged babysitter, I could fix hotdogs for the kids and tell them when to go to bed. And if they didn’t eat or wouldn’t sleep, I scraped the dogs into the garbage disposal and we all crashed in front of the TV on the livingroom floor. Really, I felt my true job was to be able to call my mom in case of fire or if one of them died.
But, inadvertently, I learned some stuff.

After the fact, babysitting taught me one has to do a disgusting thing with that diaper before it goes in the washer.

Babysitting taught me how to apply make-up. I’d spend most of the evening in the wife’s powder room, working on my Maybelline eyes. Do you know, moms out there, that every babysitter you hire will rifle through your Estee Lauder? Maybe that’s where you got that cold sore.

Babysitting taught me you don’t ask your boyfriend over when there’s a full liquor cabinet. (Story for another day.)

I find it amazing when someone claims to “love children,” as though children were pudding. One either likes pudding or doesn't like pudding, because all pudding is pretty much the same. But I think we become more pudding-like as adults, once we learn the fine arts of equivocation and compromise. But each child is so much his or her own person until the edges wear away.

And I don't like it. Pudding, I mean.

Friday, June 12, 2009

I know it's gloomy outside, but lighten up

I must interrupt. Shoes off or on, my virtue was never in question.

But I finally have an excuse to post this song. (Apropos of nothing but a good pun and sweet song)

And what do you think of this next version. It's not within one of the great movies of all time, but the simplicity is appealing. Give it a minute, it grows on you.


Bare Feats

Little Margaret Finnegan had one of those days. You know, you start out feeling great, say good morning to the world, pick some roses, sing a ditty, pet a kitty, and then someone shits all over it. Nothing serious – just bad enough to snap your open heart shut like a tapped oyster.

It’s the chance encounter where a stranger has an ax to grind, and he grinds it in your forehead.

One such encounter I had is particularly vivid, and happened in the college days.

I was walking down the streets of Hollywood, barefoot, which has always been my preferred method of transportation. A woman on the other side of the street screamed, “Put on some shoes you whore! You filthy whore, get dressed. You're nothing but a prostitute!” And she tracked my progress that whole block, continuing to shout.

Here’s the thing.

When someone screams something crazy like this, do people turn to check out the screamer? No , they all stared at the screamee. The entire time. Apparently thinking, well let’s get a good look at this whore.

A stronger person probably would have yelled back, providing information to correct the impression of a professional status. I, of course, said nothing.

But the story eventually paid for itself because it’s one I’ve told many times, in the service of some point or another.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Why we have dog days

Rather than a trait, is courage an act? A verb? If so, I'd wager you don't know when you're doing it (Hey, last week I guess I couraged!), but you sure know when you're not (Shoot, today I'm not couraging).

But some people have a better handle on the courage thing than others. I know, I have brave friends and hide behind them on a regular basis. They sport the coveted hard psychological candy shell but have a sweet and soft center. We are not of the same species.

If I could change anything about myself, it wouldn’t be higher IQ. Prettier smile. Better backhand. It would be a here-I-am-and-what’s-it-to-you attitude towards life. It would be going toe-to-toe with anyone who challenged me. Instead, my preferred method of response is to disappear. Oh, it's not a physical danger that worries me -- worse than that -- I just don't want my feelings hurt.

In fact, physically, I'm close to fearless, and will walk down any dark alley with nothing on my mind but what's for breakfast. But if you call me out on a blog that seemed rude, I'll be up all night posting dog pictures. (Because my old boxer looks just like Grandma Moses and will eventually melt your heart.)

Courage is a strange and elusive animal. I can spot it on a mountain top or ski slope. It comes to me when called, but only when I'm high above the clouds and the sun is shining.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Good Fellas

From this morning at the Huntington.

I told you men were lovely.

And they make sure the lawn is mowed. Or is it mown? Whichever you use, they'll be sure to correct you. Because they're lovely. And tiresome. And think they're always right.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Bound for glory

I know it’s horribly self-serving to link to one’s own post, but if I don’t do it, who will?

I had nominated the Stanford professor’s death as the most embarrassing in history. Well move over sir, and take your wires with you.

I believe it was also me who said men are lovely but really, really weird. I spoke with three male friends over the weekend, and all vehemently denied they found any attraction to a certain hobby. But someone besides David Carradine is doing it (er, are doing what he did. Allegedly did.)

I think the family should rethink the strategy of bringing the FBI into the matter. And I think they would better serve David if they said he had been looking depressed for the past few weeks.

(Time is kind; we'll all forget. He was a knock-out as Woody Guthrie.)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Boom Town

Let’s get to some beautiful people.

K put this movie on his blog, and I wanted to pander to him anyway. He’s getting published this autumn, and can probably introduce me to some influential people. Not that K and I have actually met. Go ahead, visit his site, look at his picture and the pictures he takes – does he look like blogger picnic material to you? Would you ask this man to bring his famous egg salad?

To our first invitation, I think K sent regrets, he was crushing a doll or cutting the head off a flower or something. Now he doesn’t even bother to respond.

Of others who avoid our vodka-spiked Hi-C events, Laurie generally has a cold, you know, one of those 2400 hour bugs, so her non-appearance is understandable.

The Blue Kitchen pair are the Nick and Nora of the cooking blogs. They wanted to fly out for our weenie roast, but were already committed to a penthouse champagne tasting.

Mid Town G apparently makes some mean rice-crispy squares, but somehow when our badminton tournament calls, the Guggenheim commission calls even louder.

Greenwich Village can never come because the minivan won’t start (and to be honest, I wouldn't trust his egg salad either). Mr Earl is always stuck in Lodi again.

I could go on insulting people for no reason. Maybe I should get to the movie.

Gable is Big John McMasters, and leaves no doubt that he’s big in all the important departments. Hedy Lamarr – she’s totally forgotten isn’t she – is just freakishly gorgeous. Poor Spencer Tracy once more gets to hold Gable’s purse throughout the movie. He’s Little John, I kid you not, every woman’s best friend.

So pour out the Goobers. Filmed in 1940, directed by Jack Conway. The score sounds like Max Steiner to me.

Boom Town

Thursday, June 4, 2009


My ancestors were near-sighted, far-sighted, oh, just generally bad-sighted, with touches of astigmatism for an impressionist view of life. Neither side of the family could boast good vision. So why me?

20/10, here. Friends ask me to read menus, street signs, and addresses on houses located 100 miles away. My talents may be few, I don’t look both ways, but I can see.

Well, could see. Last year I noticed, painfully, that the really tiny print on the bug-spray can was blurry. Not the instruction part (“Do not wrap head in plastic bag and spray down throat”) but disclaimer part (“Discontinue use if ants still move but you’re dead.”)


I’ve always wanted glasses. I look better in glasses than without glasses. Plus, they give you this cool little barrier between you and the world. But I hate to fail a test, any test. Perhaps that’s why I passed the eye exam. Here’s the thing: My vision has lost a step (more like twenty feet), and damn it, I want those pink oval frames with the cool transition lenses.

So the doctor finally agreed a prescription would improve my quality of life; I got fitted, and came for my return appointment to try them on. The fit was nice. I told the doctor he had a loose filling in his left bicuspid. We walked to the window and I noted the pollen on the stamen on the poppy growing 6 miles away, 40 degrees southwest of the echo mountain trail. Only trouble was, anything larger was a giant blur.

No, this will not do at all, I told the doctor, walking into the eye chart but clearly seeing the copyright date in the left-hand corner.

He made further adjustments. By now, I was wedded to the idea of pink wireframes, and had already invested $200.

Two weeks later, I took the new lenses for a test drive. Underwater, or so it seemed. Driving wasn’t a good idea. Nor was walking. Or breathing. Ever been seasick? Barf on the deck, divest-yourself-of-any-bit-of–lasagna-ever-eaten seasick? That’s what hit me and my new glasses while reaching for the Ajax cleanser on the bottom shelf at the local Ralph’s.

What price beauty? What price pretty pink frames? What price reading itty-bitty print? I can choose to see the sidewalk plainly, or choose to see the initials of the guy who laid the sidewalk two miles away cutely.

For now, I’ve settled for glasses and permanent nausea. Go back for another prescription adjustment? I can see your point. It’s you I can’t see

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Get A Grip

People who watch sports, particularly televised sports, and feel they have some sort of vested interest in the result, are pathetic. You know who you are. Pulling a numbered jersey over your ever-expanding stomach, spilling beer and spitting guacamole and Pringles as you cheer your team to victory.

As if the team could hear you; as if the team would care.

Sorry, but I think it’s important you face the truth. You’re wasting precious time and emotion on self-deception; wrapping yourself in the steroid-induced victory of someone who doesn’t even know you’re alive. To further the fantasy, you drop the hero’s first name in casual conversation. Kobe this. A-rod (or whoever it is that isn’t spending his summer in front of a senate-subcommittee) that.

Of course, none of these hold true if the game is tennis.

So, Rafa lost in the French Open over the weekend and life is not worth living. I go through the motions, remembering to talk to friends, pay the bills, wash myself. But look closely – my eyes are blank, my laughter hollow, and I missed a place behind the ears. Did I remember to floss … oh, what possible difference can that make now?

It was bad enough when Nadal started wearing shirts with sleeves. But to not see him at all? And if that smug Swiss actually pulls this one out (horrors), I’ve lost $5 to HER!