Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Nikki Shops


Fresh out of fresh gift ideas? Check out Nikki May's recent shopping excursion in Paducah's Renaissance District where a girl (or guy) can find a sleighload of unique and affordable gifts. Keep yourself revved in the holiday spirit with an uber-motivational Caffeine Bomb. Read all about it right here.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Piercing 2009: The Piercening




I don't know what to tell you other than, given enough booze, we are extremely impulsive and susceptible to suggestion. As soon as Kim started calling it getting pierced "in the crunchy part", meaning, I suppose, the crunchy part of our ears, it was On. (You know...the the medical term is Crunchvectus. We got pierced in our Crunchvecti.) Christa initially spent some time in the bathroom shouting, "I'M NOT DOING THAT!" and "NO WAY! I'M NOT COMING OUT!" but was quickly hustled to the car and made to see reason. [If you study the pictures closely, you'll note that somewhere between locking herself in the bathroom back at the house and getting to the piercing stand, she morphed into Sexy Girl Rocking a Piercing. Go figure.]

We were conveniently chauffeured to the Auntie Em (cash? what's that? we don't carry it) and then on to the Jolly Rancher were the Elite and misshapen are stabbed with needles and permanently marked with flesh graffiti.

Ryan, our over zealous piercer, subjected us to the longest, most drawn out piercing ritual ever in the whole wide world. It all went on so long that our buzzes were harshed and we spent a fair amount of time in the waiting room trading shoes and plotting and calculating where the nearest cold beer might be located and strategizing whether or not we had time to leave, pound down a few, and return unbeknownst to Ryan. We were also subjected to many piercing "rules". For instance, only one of us could get pierced at a time, and the rest of us weren't allowed to stare at the piercee during the procedure and heckle and breathe on them, etc. while it was happening. Which, if you ask me, is half the fun.

As you know, I don't like rules, and as a result I did a lot of questioning of the Ryan and the Ryan's Rules of Piercing. I was labeled "difficult" for my trouble--by my own posse, mind you--but felt I may have struck a blow for more Piercing Freedom and Flexibility in our time.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Falling

It’s six o’clock on Thursday night. A work meeting ran late, and I’m just now getting home. The house is dark and smells faintly of lime and vanilla, the remnant scents of last night’s dinner of Pad Thai lit by candles and friends. The house is a little cold, chilled by fall and the time change, but still feels cozy.

My little place. With all of my things.

I begin turning on lamps and the Tallulah stirs a bit in her crate, but doesn’t make a sound. She is confident in the routine, knows she will soon be freed for a romp in the back yard along with her big sister.

This time of year is both the best and the worst for me.

Sweater weather. Boots…BOOTS! Cowboy and riding! Hunting and hiking! Leggings and thick soft cotton tights, and yes, even flannel. I will soon dust off one of the greatest inventions of this or any century: my electric blanket. It will warm my soft bed against the increasing chilliness and be topped with high thread count cotton sheets, a decadence introduced to me by the Yankee Clipper. (Being a heads-up girl, you can bet I thought to make off with several of the better sets).

But fall is also the dark time.

I flirted with my sanity one chilly fall when I was twenty-eight.

I am reminded of this every year, every single year, when the darkness descends, reminded of the shadow that fell over me then that, for a while, I thought might not lift. I remember how it began, first washing over me in waves that would, after a time, retreat. I thought I could withstand it; thought I would win the battle, outlast it. Thought I could have a good cry and be done with it.

Pretty soon I was having that good cry every day. Then twice a day.

And then I was engulfed. Utterly. I almost could not breathe for the heaviness in my chest, the constant lump in my throat. The sadness never ended. It was everywhere. It came from a well so deep and vast that I could not express it or cry it out, or deal with it. It paralyzed me, blocked out the sun. I could not work, could not take care of my boy. Could not. Stop. Crying.

“You are depressed, Suzanne,” my Mother told me.

This is not COULD NOT be depression. I am failing. I am simply failing to control myself, failing to go to work, failing my child, failing myself. I am a failure.

“You need a doctor,” she told me.

And although she sat near me, her voice came to me from a distance, passed through a channel, and then, finally, into the grieving chaos that had overtaken my brain.

Doctors can’t fix this. Doctors can’t fix failure. Why can’t I stop this??? What can a doctor possibly do to fix….this…NIGHTMARE? I need to fix it, me. Only I can fix this. I need to do something.

I could only cry. That and apologize.

“I am SO sorry,” I would choke out. Over and over.

Another arrow would shoot into the darkness,

“You are going to get through this. You are going to be okay. This happens to people all of the time.”

This…THIS happens to people all of the time? Jesus Christ, how do they stand it? And, no, I am not going to be okay This? This right here? IS SO NOT OKAY. I am not going to be okay. I AM NOT OKAY.

I would stare at my mother, hiccupping sobs, in total disbelief. She totally and completely, looked like she believed it. She seemed even confident about this. She looked, for all the world, like she thought I was going to be okay.

This made me cry harder and feel sad for her.

“I am sooo sorry.”

I stopped eating. Everything, every single thing I put in my mouth tasted exactly the same. Like I imagined cardboard or dust would taste. It was too much effort, anyway, the chewing of food. So I stopped doing it. What I could taste was metal. After a while, I could taste metal all the time. It was as if a penny had melted in my mouth. It was the taste of fear, I think. I lost twenty pounds in a few weeks. When I did fall into a short, fitful sleep, I would wake with wet cheeks. I was crying in my sleep.

“I’ve made you a doctor’s appointment. With an Indian psychiatrist,” my Mother told me, “When I worked at the college all the Indian professors were the smartest and most sensitive. This particular doctor specializes in something else, but I’ve convinced him he must see you. He didn’t want to.”

Even in the state I was in, I knew I did NOT want to imagine that conversation. Poor Mr. Indian doctor. Never had a chance.

(Sob, hiccup. Helpless unknown Indian doctor….sooooob).

I soon found my blubbering, emaciated self deposited by my supremely confident mother at the office of Dr. S. I will never forget walking into his office.

He stood . Offered me his hand.

“Hello, Miss Clinton.”

I put my hand in his, burst into fresh sobbing.

As if from nowhere, he produced a box of tissues (Kleenex brand, in a taupe and white box) and indicated I should sit. I sniffled exhaustedly.

“And why are you here, Miss Clinton?“ Dr. S. asked calmly.

“Be…be (hiccup) because you’re Indian,” I choked out between sobs.

He blinked a few times at this. Said nothing.

“My…my mother thinks Indians are the bes…best doc…doctors,” I explained.

He blinked more rapidly.

Eventually, after some questioning, he would determine, yes, I was indeed depressed. I needed some sleep. I needed an anti-depressant. These were the days when Prozac was new and it wasn’t prescribed in my case. Dr. S. wrote for something else and told me,

“Go to the candy section of the drug store and buy a sack of lemon drops. Do you know what lemon drops are? These pills will make your mouth dry.”

I nodded. Lemon drops? Okay. If he’d said stand on one foot in the parking lot and recite the Lord’s Prayer I would have done it.

(sooooob!)

How will this help? How will pills help failure? Pills are for physical pain or antibiotics or for taking when one has to stay up all night. There are no pills for…this. For failure.

“You need a break from your sadness so you can get well,” Dr. S explained.

I didn’t believe him. Didn’t believe pills could stop sadness. Didn’t believe there was any fixing me.

“Why am I so sad?” I asked.

He shrugged, “We’ll worry about that later. Right now you need rest. Need to be able to function.”

I filled the prescriptions. Bought the lemon drops. At least they helped with the metallic taste.

I began staying with my Mother. She saw that my son got off to school, folded our laundry, sat up with me and told stories. I don’t remember them now, I only remember that she told them and, for brief, very brief periods, they distracted me just a little from the brainstorm of sadness. I do remember the theme of the stories: triumph over adversity. Survival.

Dr. S. had said it would take a few weeks for the prescription to take hold, for the chemical to hit my synapses. I waited. Tried to believe I would get better. I didn’t believe it.

I spent a great deal of time sitting cross-legged in a chair before the TV lighting one Marlboro Lite after another watching poor Anita Hill tell the truth about Clarence Thomas. I began to equate Anita’s suffering with my own, only she was far braver than me. Anita was facing down the entire US Senate on national television. And I could no longer leave the house; bear the scrutiny of a single stranger on the street.

(sooooooob!)

“This will pass, Suzanne. I’m TELLING YOU. It. Will. Pass,”

My mother continued to believe this, continued to assure me. She would place a soft hand on my bony knee, look me straight in the face, in the eyes, and say it. Over and over. At least once a day. More, usually.

And then, one day, miraculously, the prescription did begin to take hold.

It wasn’t a perfect fix, and there were some hellacious side effects, but slowly, slowly, things began to change.

First, I began sleeping regularly. Somehow, through the magic of chemistry, this drug caused me to go to sleep at around 9PM. Mornings, I would wake, as if an invisible hand tapped me on the shoulder, at 6:00 a.m. I’d immediately reach for my cigarettes as the sadness would again settle over me like a shroud. Except now I’d had a full night’s sleep, hours and hours without crying or suffering. My mother, upon hearing me begin to stir, would often come in the room, sit with me in silence as the sun rose and the heaviness descended. She would face it with me, an arm around my shoulders.

Gradually, and only occasionally at first, I began being able to focus on other things. Things other than the sadness. Began to be able to ponder my life, how it had suddenly stopped, realize it needed to begin again. Now. That I needed to take control of it. ME in control. NOT the sadness. These periods of clarity and focus began exponentially to increase in time and intensity. And in fairly short order.

I got off my ass.

I was a shadow of myself; a thin, colorless mechanical version of me. But I was functioning.

I began to think of and refer to this new state as “being a good little soldier”. Early to bed and early to rise, Benjamin Franklin (very, very unlike the regular me). Able to focus on only the task at hand (I’ve since decided this is what it must be like to be a man. Very simple.) and nothing more, nothing less. No mental gymnastics, no hamster in my brain spinning frantically round and round. Without the usual ten thousand other thoughts, impressions, conversations, memories, inspirations, worries, floating in and out in there along with the grocery list and the awareness of when the car payment is due and snatches of song lyrics and bits of sentences, etc. etc.

Just plain old what am I doing RIGHT NOW.

I resumed the care and supervision of my son, went back to work. For the most part, I took the reins of my life, the ones that my Mother had held for me when I could not, back into my own hands. I saw Dr. S. once a week. My meetings with him were no more than perfunctory check-ins--nor had they ever been, really--with him assessing that I was functioning, taking my meds properly and continuing to recover.

One day, Dr. S. asked me if I remembered my first meeting with him and I told him that I’d never forget it. He said, “I remember you sat in that chair,” he gestured toward a chair on the opposite side of the room, “and now you only sit in this chair,” he indicated the chair in which I now habitually sat.

“Obviously, that’s the sick chair,” I concluded his observation for him.

He smiled, nodded.

I smiled my shadow smile, a quick conscious stretching of my mouth.

I looked like me, I sounded like me, I was eating so I had hips again, but the medicine, miracle that it had been in the beginning, made functioning possible but in equal parts, it robbed my ability to be in touch with my feelings, my real self. I began to miss my spinning hamster. Realized that was who I am, after all. It was as if a thick protective glass wall had sprung up around me. I could see and hear everything, but it was dulled, muted, distant. Just as the shadow me was dulled and muted. I was in my life, but not part of it. Not fully.

Suddenly, I wanted it back. Knew, without a doubt, I had to take it back.

“I’m ready to stop the meds,” I told Dr. S. one winter day.

“Absolutely not,” Dr. S., startled, responded uncharacteristically quickly, “You must not stop taking the medicine. Do you understand? Do not stop,” he stared at me, for the first time ever, sternly.

“I understand I must wean off. I’m telling you I’m ready to do that,” I shot back, stealing a furtive glance at the sick chair.

“You’re not ready,” he stated emphatically, “You will relapse. All my experience tells me you will relapse if you stop now.”

“I won’t relapse,” I answered.

We stared at each other.

I took a breath,

“I am going to begin weaning myself off. Today. Now. With or without your help.”

He sighed,

“Do you understand this action is against my counsel and advice as your physician?”
“I do understand,” I answered.

And so we began the process: me with a sense of urgency, he with unconcealed skepticism. Within a few months, I was back to myself again. I was a little scared, shaken, somewhat uncertain, but I was a mother, a friend, a daughter. My hamster had climbed back on the wheel. I was me again.

Once I was drug free, Dr. S wanted to begin the process of psychoanalysis. Therapy.

“We need to get to the bottom of this now, “ he told me, “You are ready.”

He had a point. I knew he was recommending what he thought best for me. But I was back to myself and something had shifted within me. Something important. My inner voice told me I was done with the sadness, at least to that extreme degree. Told me I was done with the sick chair, whispered the truth to me:

This experience is over for you. Distance yourself from it. Live your life. Move on. Be strong.


I shook Dr. S’s hand. Thanked him. Walked out the door and into the rest of my life.

I was twenty-eight years old. I was pretty darn sure I knew what I was doing, but it was still a little scary to face down the doctor that medicated me out of the madness and assert my instinct over his much greater training and experience.

In the end the entire incident, start to finish, was six months long. The period when I was completely incapacitated was probably around three weeks or a month, and the rest of that time was spent recovering on the meds. My break was short, very short in the scheme of things, but intense, enough so that I’ve since separated my life in terms of “before” and “after” the experience.

The first fall after all that, my twenty-ninth fall, would hit with a vengeance. The darkness, the chill, it all screamed a bleak reminder of the events of the previous year; re-awakened the fear in the pit of my stomach. I steeled myself against it. Stared it down. Walked through it. Remembered how lucky I’d been to have someone there that other dark fall exactly when and how I needed them. Someone in the gap, that time when things could have gone either way, doing exactly the right thing when I absolutely could not.

A mother smart enough to recognize my depression for what it was, manage my life and my child when I could not, get me to the right doctor (Indian, of course), believe with every fiber of her being that I would be okay and tell me so, in no uncertain terms, Every. Single. Day. Did she, on some level, believe me into recovery? I didn’t know. But I was grateful, so grateful that first fall that I was still whole, still okay, still in the light and not lost down some dark rabbit hole never to emerge again. I knew for certain, and with frightening clarity then, how very close I’d come. And I knew there was only one reason I hadn’t been lost: my mother.

I was overwhelmed with gratitude my twenty-ninth fall.

Eighteen falls have passed since then. And during each and every one of them, when the leaves change and the air turns crisp, without fail, I still at some point always, always pause and remember. I send out a little prayer of gratitude to the universe for what my mother did for me in the dark fall of my twenty-eighth year. It is what I am doing right now, tonight, this Thursday night, in my cozy little place. With all of my things.

I sat down tonight to write a short blog post about fall and contentment. And then my typing fingers finally realized I’ve never thanked my mother, out loud, like I’ve thanked her in silence every single fall for the last eighteen years.

Until now.

Thank you, Mama. You saved my life.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

By Way of Explanation

I’m not writing.

I’ve been through dry spells before. But, yes, this is a full-on drought that is about to turn into a dust bowl and I don’t even really know what to do about it. I’m receiving messages and emails from people I never hear from saying…are you okay?

The good news is that I am okay. I think. As an official over-thinker and charter generational member of the Paducah Chapter of Over-Thinkers Anonymous (originally founded worriedly by my mother and her mother and her mother and her mother and her mother whom we have traced back to Boston on the 18th of April in ’75 calling out after Paul Revere…”Have you had your supper??”) I am at least 50.62923% certain that I’m okay. Especially when the sun is shining. Unless I think about it too much in which case, under any circumstances, I can usually always eventually convince myself: THE END IS NEAR.


Stuff is going on in my life that is for now, I think, completely unsuitable for blogging.

Thing is, I would like to blog it. No, I would LOVE to blog it. Need to. Want to. Desperately wish I could. Daily…DAILY I experience situations that would make FASCINATING blog posts. It sickens sickens me to walk away. I can’t stop repeat repeating everything I say, I’m so unnerved by this. I have had people (smart people) turn to me and say,


“How are you not blogging this??? How?” or, “So! You this you have to blog, right?”

Trouble is, I feel like either the time is not right, the material is not suitable, the stuff would be a serious invasion of another’s privacy or, most importantly, that my mother would KILL MY ASS DEAD if I blogged it.

It’s the same old question: where is the line?

Only it is a much tougher question to answer as a single person. As a married person it was simple: Satan was my husband. I made fun of him. It was my job. Now? Satan is the Yankee Clipper. I am on my own. It is an upside down world.


The problem is the longer I do not write about my life, the more the momentum slows and I begin to lose the thread of the/my/a story completely. Do I write in another venue? Turn my sociological research into a Thesis? Plunge into NaNoWriMo (note: I’m too lazy and preoccupied for this)? Not writing isn’t really an option. I may not be writing in my blog, but I have a small circle of (writerly) friends to whom I find myself occasionally typing ridiculously long, detailed emails. I realize these communications are less about informing them and more about me sneaking in a fix so I don’t completely blow from lack of self expression. I get to a point where I’ve got to, literarily speaking, barf it up…somewhere. Apparently, I’ve reached a place in my life where writing is an essential part of keeping me sane. (Remember when Sybil had to draw “the people”?) Writing is going to happen one way or another, it seems. Ideally, it would happen here as a means to keep all three of my readers happy. Hopefully, it won’t happen on the floor of the booby hatch with a purple crayon. But wherever it happens, I can not do it at the expense of anyone else, share details about the lives of people who didn’t sign up for this little hobby of mine, or share too much about myself.



Or can I? This last item, the sharing too much of myself, is actually in question, because I, if I'm honest, in my heart of hearts, think there’s no such thing as too much. What I’m feeling may feel special to me, but it is universal. And therein is what lies at the heart of all good (or even halfway decent) writing: expressing the the commonly felt through one’s own unique experience. Telling the truth. The truth is the thing that reaches right out off the page (or screen). The thing that makes you “get” it. Even on the small scale of blogging, the truth is essential and more of me (or any blogger) is what you voyeurs want. It's why you're here right now. It’s what I, as a voyeuristic blog reader myself, want from the blogs I read.



It’s like this: tell me about you; no, really [whisper], tell me about you.

Can I tell you about me?

And the answer continues to be...right now...I don’t know.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

JK8: The Vanity Fair Piece


In an article entitled, "The Unreal Rise of Jon and Kate Gosselin", Vanity Fair weighs in. Not really much new here, but the piece does a good job of encapsulating the whole sad trajectory in VF style. Read it here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mary Pecan Comes Home


Alert readers may remember back in May, this post, that I wrote about both the events following the ice storm and the ex-man's loss of his mother. Back then, I (in an unintentionally dramatic way it turned out) had a real, live tree shipped to him as a memorial that I thought would be special.
Now known to us as Mary Pecan, that tree recently reached sufficient size as to need a more permanent home. Of course, I asked for a photo of Mary in her new outdoor habitat. And every time I look at the picture, I cannot stop thinking of the opening line from "The Giving Tree":
Once there was a tree...and she loved a little boy...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Southern Festival of Books, 2009

We walked many miles, we got lost, but eventually we made our way to the Southern Festival of Books (a celebration of the written word) and we had a great time. But we are resolved that next year? Next year we will spend the night like sane people. We will get a hotel and we will map out a strategy and we will attend more sessions, see more writers, take more time. Because, people? There is a lot to see and a lot of ground to cover at the Southern Festival of Books.

We left Paducah at 9:00 (or thereabouts) Saturday morning and, of course, the first order of business upon arriving in NashVegas was, most importantly, lunch. Which for me usually means Noshville and Saturday was no exception. I had the mushroom and barley soup and the toasted walnut and orange and salad. My Mom (right) and aunt Patsy posed for a photo:



And, no, they didn't call each other the night before and agree on striped turtle necks and jackets, that shit just happens all on its own. After lunch, we were in for a VERY long walk to the festival (owing to I forgot to check about were perzactly the plaza is located beyond just "downtown"). Held in War Memorial Plaza and the Tennessee state capitol in NashVegas, the SFOB occupies a fairly sprawling venue better than a city block long that encompasses the capitol legislative chambers at one end, and the library at the other. The event features three days of rotating (for the most part hour-long) sessions with reads from the authors attending, a signing section, books for sale, and book-related vendor tents, among other things. You see Mom and Patsy here mounting the steps to the plaza, the capitol in the background.:
To their left where the columns are, one climbs another set of large steps to another elevated outdoor plaza where the books are sold and signings take place, behind them the venue is bisected by another street and bordered opposite the capitol by the library. Ahead of them you see some of the vendor and food tents. There are other stages that feature musicians and various demonstrations including, this year, cooking. The bulk of the rotating sessions are held in the legislative chambers of the capitol which are woody, cavernous, echoey and historic.

After a lot of dithering, we realized where we needed to be was in the library in order to see a screening of "That Evening Sun" a film starring Hal Holbrook based on a short story by William Gay, a writer with the potential to join the great southern writers, in my opinion (read an excerpt from Gay's novel "Twilight" [obviously not THAT Twilight] here). According to the schedule, not only would the Director of "That Evening Sun", Scott Teems, be present for a talk and questions, but that William himself would too. This, then, was my pick for the coveted 1:00PM activity. For whatever reason, SFOB planners tend to stage all the biggest names at 1:00PM, in other words, at the same time, so girl has to choose. (Please stop this practice, SFOB.) Choosing William and the film meant we had to forgo Elizabeth Berg (owie).

I was expecting, hoping actually, for a good movie and was surprised with a great one. "That Evening Sun" tells the story of a Tennessee farmer, Abner Meecham, (played by Hal Holbrook) who decides to check out of living death in the nursing home and return to his remote Tenneee farm to live out his few remaining years on his own terms. Instead of the quiet homecoming Meecham expects, he returns to find his son has rented his home place to a family of ne'er-do-wells, headed by one Alonzo Choate. The film then tells the story of the face-off between Choate and Meecham. Meecham sets up camp in the tenant's quarters and, as they say, it's "on". See the trailer here.

I've never had the experience of seeing a really good movie and then having the director and, in this case, screenplay writer, present to talk about his (or her) process and thoughts afterward. It was a real treat. I got a huge charge out of Teems sort of pounding the table and describing his passion for authenticity during casting saying he declared, "All southern accents in the film must be AUTHENTIC--or we're sunk!" (the accents were authentic, actually.) Here's a really badly lit photo of Scott Teems (left) and his interviewer.



Sadly, for whatever reason, William Gay himself was not present (wah!! What gives, William?). Still, the talk and q and a was fascinating. That whole experience alone was worth the trip for me.

Afterward, while visiting the main tent for tee-shirt and poster swag, I glanced up to see none other than Silas House shopping for his own tee-shirt right next to me. "You're Silas House!" I sort of squealed, sticking out my hand which he shook saying, "Why, yes. Yes I am."

Of couse, photo!



Silas was one of those rare people who sort of oozes goodness. Alas, I don't believe writers often get treated like rock stars (unless you're JK Rowling).

But they should, don't you think?

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

2009 Southern Festival of Books...THIS weekend.


Shut the front door: William Gay, Silas House, Elizabeth Berg, Rick Bragg. Many, many more. And they're all going to read to you. Plus! Nashvegas in October. The Tennessee state capitol. See the full schedule here. I've been to this event before and these people? That can write really well? Are nearly indistinguishable from the rest of us. You'll sometimes see them just...standing around. See you there.

Lost (But fairly happy about it.)

You should know I have been in a fairly crazy good mood for a while now. It sort of comes and goes, but still, it for the most part stays these days. Case in point: I had to get up at 5:00 a.m. this morning.

I am not a morning person. Not at all. I am one to throw alarm clocks, sleep through Very Important Stuff in the early morning hours and hit “snooze” forty-seven times. I am one not to speak, if at all possible, until 10:00 a.m. If you are speaking to me in a very loud voice and are especially chirpy at dawn, I am liable to reach over with lightening speed, twist your head around on your annoying chirpy little neck until it pops and you drop like a stone, and then blithely step over your lifeless body still squinty-eyed and half asleep on the way to the fridge for a Diet Coke.

This morning, however, though I was not happy to be rising at 5:00 a.m., I also was not overly pissed off either. And by 6:00 a.m.? I almost, practically smiled. Is this what it’s like to crack up? Very pleasant? Do you, without warning, start to enjoy life? Just before you go all Juliette Lewis in the “Come to my Window” video? (P.S. Have you seen Juliette Lewis lately? Will someone please tell me when, in a very, very literal way, she started channeling Janis Joplin and why everyone acts as though this is perfectly normal and like she’s NOT doing a full-on Janis Joplin imitation when she sings?)


Oh, and apropos of nothing: Carrie Fisher. I love Carrie Fisher. But I really, really am going to need her to stop aging. Because, unbeknownst to Carrie, we are twins separated at birth, and every time I see her getting older I know that I am too. This would be very upsetting if I weren't in such a damn good mood these days. (Disclaimer: Carrie is older than me. Technically.)

Speaking of aging. I jumped on my treadmill on Sunday armed with Violet, my new iPod. And, by the way, I just want to interject here that since being recently introduced to the iPod and then getting Violet for my birthday, I am a Changed Woman. I mean, seriously, these iPods are handy! You can totally go on a trip, miss your connection, fly around the country for 16 hours and, long as you've got your iPod, completely tune the rest of the world out. So handy! Also, as I discovered on the treadmill Sunday, Violet is an absolute MUST HAVE for exercising. Thirty minutes of torture just zipped on by with the help of Carlos Santana. Apparently, I hadn't been on the treadmill for a while. If my still-sore ass two days later is any indication. But my point is: iPods. Get one. And, remember, you heard it here first.

In a still more disturbing story that may or may not be related to aging: Friday night. Olive Garden. Soup, salad, chardonnay. Not that much chardonnay. Hilarity. I have to potty. I go to the bathroom. Come back out. Suddenly, I'm in the Disneyland parking lot. All the tables look the same...endless. Where was I sitting? This side or that side? Down this hallway of booths or that one? I have a faint flicker of a memory and set off in a direction. The wrong direction. I double-back, tour the restaurant for a while. No sign of my party. I walk to the other side. The wait staff begins to look at me strangely. Especially since I'm giggling. At myself. I go back to the lobby. Consider sending an SOS text. This thought leads to more giggling. More concerned looks from the wait staff. But no...NO! I will not be conquered by Olive Garden! I can do this! It's only one glass of chardonnay and a few snorts of a second! Focus...focus.

The story has a happy ending. This time.

Should I be worried?

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Jon Gosselin: Assholery at Warp Speed


Thanks to an alert Facebook friend, (thanks MET), I learned the whiny douchebag otherwise known as Jon Gosselin recently appeared on Larry King Live and is now denouncing the production of the reality show based on the life of his family. In fact, he is taking legal steps to halt entirely the production of the show that made him (fairly) rich and (in)famous. A show he repeatedly for years defended as an absolute positive in the lives of his kids, an enterprise he claimed provided learning opportunities and life experiences for them they would never have enjoyed otherwise.

Again, all this (it just so happens) in the wake of the announcement that his role in said reality show will be diminished likely due to the fact that he is a whoring jackass with little or no sensitivity the impact his sudden and very public extra-marital actions might be having on the psyches of his minor children.

That's right, folks. Jon Gosselin, the guy that, not two weeks ago, announced on national television that he "despised" the woman who bore him eight children, preferring instead the charms of his twenty-one-year-old girlfriend, Hailey Glassman (that should be a Very Special Google search for his children in a few years) has suddenly, and without warning, grown a conscience. A conscience as big as Olde Texas. A conscience SO BIG that it simply does not allow for the continued production of the show he enthusiastically participated in and defended for the last eight years (and as few as six days prior). A show that makes his Ed-Hardy-tee-shirt buying skull-ring-gifting, Manhattan-based lifestyle possible.
Poor, sensitive Jon, ya'll. He's HAD AN EPIPHANY. And a very suspiciously timed epiphany, at that.

Not that Jon is alone in his recently oh-so-recently acquired conviction that the show is detrimental to the welfare of his children. As I've written before, Jon & Kate Plus 8 is a show that was no stranger to controversy long before the specter of the Gosselin divorce reared its ugly head. There has been, since the beginning, a large group of detractors opposed to the production of a show dependent on its pint-sized stars for content. This particular controversy has been brewing almost since the beginning. The movement just never before had one Jon Gosselin in its camp until a minute ago, when Jon realized he was OUDT (Heidi Klum).

Then? For the fickle Jon Gosselin, the show was suddenly a Bad Idea all around. Wow. Who knew?

I've written extensively, probably too extensively, about how certain of my own life experiences make me perhaps overly (and unexpectedly) sensitized to the fate of the Gosselins. Jon's most recent and almost unbelievable antics only serve to strengthen my conviction that maybe, just maybe, Jon Gosselin is actually The poster boy for the bad behavior of divorced (or about-to-be-divorced) fathers everywhere.

This seems to me to be the sort of behavior we see every day in real life, but that is seldom so publicly presented as it is in the Gosselin case. Behavior that, clearly, is way more about this father's own personal well-being than that of his children. Behavior that would indicate that, not only is he not acting in a way that would show respect and care for his children and the union that produced them, but behavior that would actually indicate he doesn't have many qualms about using his children's fate and future as a weapon against his former wife. A former wife already disproportionately shouldering the lion's share of responsibility for their children. Their eight children. While Jon, in the meantime, despises her at his leisure. On TV.

I think, in the early years of JK8, Jon Gosselin garnered a lot of sympathy from the viewing public for having been "man-handled" by a wife that often seemed controlling and overbearing. In hindsight, and with the added benefit of recently having observed a now-rudderless Jon Gosselin in action, it's pretty easy to see how she got that way.

Somebody with a clue had to be in charge of the Gosselin ten. And it sure as hell wasn't going to be Jon Gosselin.

Friday, October 02, 2009

O give me a home...


Bookworm Books


Bookworm Books in West Yellowstone, Montana was by far the best retail discovery of the trip. A reader’s paradise, the place is literally crammed floor-to-ceiling with books of every description, many of them used, some not, most always in no particular order. The aisles are narrow and crooked, and often end in sudden claustrophobic book cul de sacs. One crammed-to-bursting wall sported a hand-lettered sign that promised, “In order by Author!”, as in: Can you believe it? (And anyway, it wasn't entirely true.)


This would all be annoying, I suppose, if one were searching for something in particular, but of course, “vacation” means that is not the case. So it’s not a big deal when you find “A Movable Feast” snuggled up to a Nancy Drew mystery. There were antique books and crappy books and classics and random first editions shrink wrapped in clear packaging perched atop coffee table books, and all of this stacked beneath a box of vintage western postcards: "Wish you were here!", scrawled in careful, shaky handwriting in the blue ink of a long-ago fountain pen on the back of a card featuring a solemn family of sad Native Americans.




I prefer a used book, of course, a book that has pages soft with use and the smell of another place entirely. And even with the amazing vistas of Yellowstone and the Tetons calling from just outside the door, it still felt worthwhile to take the time to run a hand over the spines, struggle through a few paragraphs of “Ulysses”, take photographs, breathe in the musty smell of pressed printed paper.

Ah…a good bookstore. There is no substitute.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Inside Old Faithful Inn

(Click to enlarge)

Jon Gosselin Wants to Postpone the Divorce Immediately Following the Announcement that he's Off the Show. (OH. HELL. EFF'N. NO.)


In an exclusive report by InTouch, Jon Gosselin has admitted that he made choices that negatively impacted his family, and he realizes the consequences of his behavior. This news rides on the heels of the TLC announcement that Jon has essentially been written out of the reality show Jon and Eight Plus Eight. The show will now portray Kate as a single mother raising her famous brood of children without Jon, and is to be named Kate Plus Eight.


Read the full story here.



Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Idaho Falls

This is the view just steps from where my work meeting was held. It's a nice metaphor for the whole state, I think: beautiful country; crazy religion (that's a Mormon Temple in the background).

If you're not familiar with the origin of the Mormons, let me just condense it down for you: in 1893, a white salamander told a dude named Joseph Smith where he could find a set of golden plates (or tablets) which were buried in a hill in Manchester, New York. These plates had previously been guarded by an angel named "Moroni". Yes, Moroni. Our friend Mr. Smith then spent the next few years dictating his translation of what was supposedly written on the plates in a language called "reformed Egyptian" to his wife. Smith also channeled the "voice of God" during this time, producing a whole new set of commandments. THEN, Smith returned the plates to Moroni, who was still apparently hanging around on that same hill in New York all this time (five plus years).

All of these writings form the basis for the Book of Mormon. Conveniently for Joseph Smith and all his apostles (yes he had apostles just like somebody else we know and...oh! Several of them saw the tablets before they got dropped back off with Moroni), the Mormon Deity was completely down with these guys having more than one wife. This all changed after they settled Utah, and the US government absolutely refused to admit them as a state unless they cut that shit out. Then, well, they reconsulted God and God was all like, yah, you should totally cut that out. And...presto! Statehood!

I know there are factions of Mormons who still practice polygamy and after questioning people in the city here about it (inquiring minds and all that) I'm told the pluralist Mormons live more in the southwest, like, in Arizona. The Mormons that rule Idaho and Nevada and Utah are just your regular garden variety salamander-believing one-wife, no-caffeine Mormons. Or at least that's what I was told today during my scientific investigation that consisted of me talking to the retired teacher at the antique store. So, obviously, as with all my research, you can totally take that shit to the bank.


Why they call it Idaho Falls: this here very long waterfall that runs through the center of town. You can still see the same Church of of the Latter Day Salamander in the far background. I snapped this from the walking trail portion of the bridge that crosses the falls. [Note to my now traumatized Mother: Yes, I was on a walking trail in broad daylight where the serial killers obviously lurk. Luckily, I've learned to recognize and deter serial killers primarily by singing "At Last" in my worst, most nasally and obnoxious Chicago Girl voice. Not even the sickest of serial killers wants to knock me over the head and drag me off to their windowless panel van after that. Trust me.]

And, really, though beautiful, that's obviously not a natural waterfall. It's a diversion dam built to generate hydroelectric power. The original dam was built in the early 1900's and the dam as it is today was updated in the early 1980's. This dam, along with three others like it, produce 50% of all the electricity required to keep Idaho Falls up and running. Without all this diversion and some fancy irrigating, Idaho Falls would be one dry-assed city, situated as it is, in the high Idaho dessert. Sort of like Las Vegas only not as hot and with fewer casinos. (Also, more Mormons I'm guessing.)



Wisely, Idaho Falls constructed a beautiful walking trail that circles the picturesque dam so out-of-towners like myself can risk life and limb snapping photos and enjoying the beautiful scenery during a stroll from the hotel to the downtown. I'm not going to lie to you, shopping Idaho Falls is not exactly like shopping Jackson Hole. Not by a long shot. But still. No complaints here. It was a lovely, lovely day. Even if it was pretty much all kitch (sp?).

My lunch at the Snake Bite Cafe: a Snake Bite Burger and house salad. If you look closely, you can sorta see the hot sauce leaking out the bottom. Like most of the western food I've eaten, it was perfectly fine. I have not, however, had any delicious food on this trip that would challenge my basic theory that the closer one is to New Orleans, the better food tastes. And that the southern United States produces, on average, the best tasting food in the whole country. This excludes the metropolitan areas which obviously attract top chefs at upscale restaurants who cook disproportionately delicious dishes. I'm talking here about just your regular food and the luck you might have at a highway diner. You're much better off in the south in that situation, in my opinion. And in New Orleans? There is no bad food. At least I've never had any.

So! That's it then. I know you'd love to listen to all my half-baked theories all night but, people, I have to pack! And return to the homeland bright and early tomorrow morning. I have yet to edit my photos from the remainder of Yellowstone, the Tetons, and Jackson Hole. I'd say I'll do that real soon, but you know how that's been going lately. It's a wonder I've posted anything.

See you on the other side.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Yellowstone

Grand Prismatic Springs, Yellowstone (click for larger)

I'm taking a minute to post a few of my favorite shots from yesterday. Flickr is giving me a fit and for some reason selectively uploading only certain of the photographs I tell it to. ARGH! Otherwise, I have very little time between frantically seeing jaw-dropping, amazing sites constantly (and I'm not kidding this place is paradise) and driving from one place to another--Yellowstone is massive, and it takes forever to get from one place to another. Especially when you are stopping to photograph constantly.


Turquoise Pool, Yellowstone

My flight in Friday was a nightmare beginning at 6:30 AM at the Paducah airport when, apparently the plane wouldn't start. The explanation? It "needed some alone time". This from the pilot. I think he thought that might cheer his passengers up, but I assure you, it had quite the opposite effect. We were delayed, herded off and then back on to the plane. The result of all this was that I missed my Memphis connection (I ran into the terminal just in time to see the flight flicker off the screen). I dashed over to the Delta counter where an apologetic Delta agent immediately booked me on a flight to MINNEAPOLIS, handed me a boarding pass, herded me across the the way to the next gate and, in less than 15 minutes from touch-down to take-off, I was on my way to Yellowstone by way of Minnesota. I would board no less than four flights that day (Paducah-Memphis-Minneapolis-Salt Lake City) before I would arrive at my destination city, Idaho Falls, a full ten hours later than expected. It was a lot of text and Facebook whining, I assure you. (Thanks for your support.)


Sapphire Pool, Yellowstone

Only scenery of the caliber that I have experienced here since my arrival could shake me out of the exhausted state in which I began this little adventure. I am constantly moving from one amazing vista to another, camera pressed to my face. I squeezed off nearly 400 shots yesterday, only twenty or so of which I feel are the least bit worthy. Photography is an unforgiving little little bitch of a sport. I'll post a Flickr show if I EVER get a spare minute.
Who could resist a "Snake River Pale Ale" at Old Faithful Inn, Yellowstone. Very chewy, actually.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Traveling


I'm going on a little trip. And whilst away on this trip I hereby declare I shall be shod in one pair of boots or another each and every day. The photo above should provide a (giant, screaming) clue as to my destination. I will be armed with my camera and the shooting capacity for at least a thousand photos. If I don't obliviously wander off a cliff with the camera affixed to my face, I hope I will find the time to upload a few of the more bearable shots here in the very near future. What? Shut-up. I'm thinking positive about this. I've never been to the pacific Northwest (<----CLUE), but I can assure you I will, as with each and every trip I take, return an insufferable expert on the region including where/what to eat, most picturesque locations, local customs, fun facts, and general history of the area. Just ask me.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Like watching paint dry...

Yes, I continue to be riddled with guilt about my lack of postage. I was talking with a friend the other day and reeling off my litany of excuses for not posting: too busy with work, too busy with school, too busy drinking wine and debating the merits of Ryan's Steakhouse (which, for the record, I think is completely gagifying even if you can top your potato with another potato or make your own heinously large BMI-busting sundae if you're brave enough to grasp the snot-covered ice-cream dispenser handle), too busy eating at Jasmine, too busy being inappropriately touched. On the shoulder. (Hi Sandy. That was for you.)

This friend suggested I post my latest school paper which I declared, in my very, very, most annoying and whiniest voice, was the only damn thing I've written lately. And so I'm taking his advice. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my paper on the Kennedy-Nixon Debate of 1960, an event that happened MANY YEARS (many, many) before my own birth. Which, of course, doesn't stop me from having all kinds of opinions about it.




Nixon-Kennedy Debate
The Nixon-Kennedy debate held September 26, 1960, featured presidential candidates Richard M. Nixon, at that time vice president under Dwight Eisenhower, as the nominee of the Republican Party, and John F. Kennedy, a Senator from Massachusetts, as the nominee of the Democratic Party. The debate, lasting an hour in total, allowed each candidate an opportunity to respond to questions from a panel of media correspondents. By prior arrangement, both candidates agreed the subject of the debate would be limited to domestic affairs and that each would be allowed an 8-minute opening statement. This debate, one of the first of its kind, introduced the visual element of television into the equation. (Woolley)

The opening statements by Kennedy and Nixon are nothing if not remarkably similar in content and issue identification. Both debaters include the economy, the threat of communism, power production, civil rights, education, social security, elder care, and Medicare as major issues. As the debate begins, Kennedy, the candidate to give the first opening statement, identifies these issues and Nixon, speaking second, in many cases, agrees with Kennedy’s assessments and goes so far as to point out the many areas in which the candidate’s views are similar. While this may be true enough, this may mark the first misstep by Nixon in making the republican come across as weaker by agreeing with rather than taking the chance stand in contrast to his opponent. On balance, Nixon makes an excellent case during his eight minutes, specifically, that the Eisenhower administration, of which he is a part, has implemented programs that have boosted the economy and made the Americans of 1960, in general, more prosperous than they had been in the past. (Kennedy-Nixon Debate ¼)

As the debate unfolds, upon watching the video, one cannot mistake the difference in looks and demeanor of the candidates. Both Nixon and Kennedy do, at times, seem tense when watching the video, it is nearly always Nixon who comes across as more tense and even, at times, looks haggard. By minute twenty, the viewer can clearly see beads of sweat standing out on Nixon’s face. Kennedy, in contrast, looks (and is) younger, more confident, relaxed, and never breaks a sweat. Kennedy’s chin is held higher, his manner, arguably, more presidential. Kennedy seldom smiles while Nixon smiles somewhat more frequently and nervously. (Kennedy-Nixon Debate 2/4)

While one cannot help but be struck by the difference in looks and manner when watching the video, the opposite is true upon reading the transcript. Nixon’s question responses are dense with facts and figures. Nixon’s remarks are, on average, longer, more specific, and more complex than Kennedy’s more general responses. (Woolley) This fact, however, is easily lost when viewing the debate on video.

As significant as the Nixon’s sweating that begins at around the twenty minute mark is a question posed to a somewhat already seemingly (visually, at least) shaken Nixon at approximately minute twenty-five. The question, posed by a Mr. Vanocur reads in part, “…Now, in his news conference on August twenty-fourth, President Eisenhower was asked to give one example of a major idea of yours that he adopted. His reply was, and I'm quoting; "If you give me a week I might think of one. I don't remember." Now that was a month ago, sir, and the President hasn't brought it up since, and I'm wondering, sir, if you can clarify which version is correct” (Woolley) The beginning of the question referred to Vice President Nixon’s campaign claim that he is a proven, effective leader. One cannot help but be struck by the somewhat negative tone of this question both in reading the transcript and watching the video delivery of query. On balance, no question of quite this sort is posed to Kennedy. Again, Nixon’s sweating betrays him, although he offers an excellent response, explaining that specific credit is almost never given to cabinet members and team advisers of the President. (Kennedy-Nixon Debate 2/4)

As significant as the “If you give me a week and I might think of one” question is to Nixon, perhaps the most significant exchange for Kennedy occurs afterward when Mr. Novins poses the question that reads, in part,

“…And I'm wondering how you, if you're president in January, would go about paying the bill for all this. Does this mean that you?
MR. KENNEDY: I didn't indicate. I did not advocate reducing the federal debt because I don't believe that you're going to be able to reduce the federal debt very much in nineteen sixty-one, two, or three. I think you have heavy obligations which affect our security, which we're going to have to meet. And therefore I've never suggested we should uh - be able to retire the debt substantially, or even at all in nineteen sixty-one or two.
MR. NOVINS: Senator, I believe in - in one of your speeches
MR. KENNEDY: No, never.
MR. NOVINS: - you suggested that reducing the interest rate would help toward -
MR. KENNEDY: No. No. Not reducing the interest -
MR. NOVINS: - a reduction of the Federal debt.
MR. KENNEDY: - reducing the interest rate…”
(Woolley)

While a strict reading of the transcript would indicate that Kennedy reversed himself in the heat of a difficult question, in watching the video, this exchange actually comes off as a victory for Kennedy. Timed as it is, immediately after Nixon’s difficult question, Kennedy, seeing the shoe about to drop, takes the offensive. By calmly and insistently challenging the questioner and refusing to accept that he may have advocated for the reduction of the Federal debt (and the smart money says he did), Kennedy comes off as the calm, in charge victor whereas a smiling, sweaty Nixon reads as defeated, at least in the visual sense.

Incredibly, in the wake of this difficult question for Kennedy, Nixon, who may have pressed his advantage here, again as in the opening, having another chance to draw apart and contrast himself with his opponent essentially actually defends Kennedy saying, “I think what Mr. Novins was referring to was not one of Senator Kennedy's speeches, but the Democratic platform, which did mention cutting the national debt. I think, too, that it should be pointed out that of course it is not possible, particularly under the proposals that Senator Kennedy has advocated, either to cut the national debt or to reduce taxes. As a matter of fact it will be necessary to raise taxes.” While Nixon might get “good sport” points on some level, this marks yet another failure of Nixon to take advantage of a situation handed to him by circumstances, a talent Kennedy seems to possess in spades. Ultimately, Nixon’s defense of his opponent does nothing so much as make an already presidential looking Kennedy look (if possible) more presidential while leaving a smiling, sweaty, too-thin Nixon looking distinctly second best. (Kennedy-Nixon Debate 2/4)

Also significant is the fact that Kennedy, either by luck or design, was given the opportunity to give the first opening statement as well as the last closing statement. If indeed, the beginning and end of a presentation are the most significant and lasting things an audience takes away, Kennedy’s advantage in this opening and closing placement is almost incalculable. By the time Kennedy makes his closing statement, the very last thing television viewers see of the debate, he is calm, noticeably calmer than he was to begin with, and certainly more calm and presidential than the, by this time, visually bested Nixon has been throughout the exchange. Kennedy’s closing statement is concise, persuasive and smacks of victory. (Kennedy-Nixon Debate ¼, 4/4)

The Nixon-Kennedy debate presents a fascinating dichotomy between content and impression, perhaps the first of its kind in US history. A strict read of the transcript would suggest that, while both candidates are well prepared and intelligent, Nixon has the edge having easily more facts and figures at his disposal, as well as more well thought out responses, and a better track record of experience to stand on. In this case, however, the element of television essentially hands Kennedy the victory, allowing him to take advantage of his superior looks, commanding demeanor, and ability to seize the moment. Nixon, in contrast, lacks Kennedy’s talent for thinking on his feet, continually failing to take advantage of the opportunities handed to him by the situation. In the end, Nixon comes across as more tentative, less commanding, and perhaps most surprisingly, almost a fan of the Massachusetts Senator himself. Kennedy, meanwhile, comes across as presidential, self-assured, and superior. Judged on content, Nixon is the victor in this historic debate. Judged on impression, Kennedy scores a run-away victory. The Nixon-Kennedy debate may well mark the first time in US politics that the phrase “perception is reality” comes into its own.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Pencils, Potatoes, and LauraK


I know...I KNOW! I'm a blog slacker. Totally.

Rest assured I haven't forgotten this here site and I continue to think of this lack of posting as a temporary condition. Also note that I regularly feel guilty (read: all the time) since I consider myself completely responsible for wasting 1.25 minutes of your day on at least a semi-regular basis.

I'm popping in today to award a long overdue Bizzyville super-snap to LauraK who, as if being Paducah PR maven, fashionista, Chamber events promoter/orchestrater, graphic designer, founding Get Together Gals partner, and now a movie star in her spare time isn't enough, actually managed to find the time to design the super-cool graphic you see above. I. Love. It.

Otherwise, work and school continue to combine to kick my ass. And, well, a girl's gotta have a social life, right? I keep having to take history classes and constantly find myself, like it or not, fighting the War of 1812. Let's just say I look forward to the day that that particular war can, once again, exist in the time-space continuum without me.

A far more interesting factoid in that vein: my history professor tells me that there were no potatoes in the eastern hemisphere before Columbus discovered (or invaded depending on your vantage point) America.

Think about it.

Russians? Potatoes? Vodka? Didn't happen until AFTER Columbus. Ireland? Potatoes? Not happening until Columbus.

I don't know about you, but this one shook me. If I'm honest, I'd have to say my preconceived notion would be that a recently evolved cavemen one day randomly wandered out of his cave and plucked a potato from the Siberian earth and let it ferment. Then maybe his mate having snatched a few moments from her "Quest for Fire" duties offered up a handful of fish roe and...ba-da-boom, ba-da-bing...Absolut, caviar and Russia. Sort of all in that order. And then, inspired by the vodka, they all broke into that Russian dance, you know, where they cross their arms over their chests and squat down and stand up and kick their legs out? Yah. Russia! Hey!

WRONG.

And Ireland without potatoes? Don't get me started.

And then there's...Algebra. Wa, wa, waaaaaa.

I got an email from a friend the other day kindly asking me how I was progressing with Algebra. My response: I bought a pencil. Yes, friends, I HAVE A PENCIL. So, at any moment, any old moment at all, I could start actually doing Algebra. With my pencil. And stuff. Could start. Doing. Algebra. With my pencil.

Recently, I learned that my Grandma on my Dad's side, otherwise known as Micro-Minnie the Pocket Grandma (she's tiny but mighty and could kick your ass, I assure you) will be celebrating her 90th birthday at a family get-together in southern Illinois. And at this get-together will be several ALGEBRA TEACHERS to whom I am related. Like, in one case, blood related. To a person with mad, serious algebra skillz.

So, maybe I'll bring my pencil and they can pray over me? Something.

Hey. It's a mechanical pencil. I'm not a complete loser.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

NashVegas


A picture of the lobby at Union Station Hotel taken hastily Saturday with my Blackberry just before a wedding reception was to begin which is the reason for the candlelit tables with the hydrangea arrangements. I spent much of the weekend in this lovely setting at a work-related event.

Unfortunately, still no impulse to write. I'm beginning to wonder.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Casey's First Visit


thirtysomething at last.


I was obsessed with the show thirtysomething when I was twentysomething; still even rapturously watching the re-runs painstakingly recorded on actual VHS tape in my own early thirtysomethings. I loved to hate Hope and Susannah, sympathized with poor Nancy and never quite got over Timothy Busfield's incredible acting in the episodes dealing with Nancy's cancer (I had previously wondered how the hell he landed the job). And who can ever forget the whole GARY'S DEAD episode?

While I've finally given up on the much-rumored notion of a thirtysomething made-for-tv reunion movie, I am looking forward to owning the first season on DVD. We'll all finally have that opportunity next week. Meanwhile, check out this NYT op-ed piece, "Finally 'Thirtysomething'" by writer and fellow thirtysomething obsessee, Porochista Khakpour, a girl bitten by the bug before she was even twentysomething.

Tallulah

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Livin' Large in Louisville

BubbleShare: Share photos - Find great Clip Art Images.


What can I say? We kicked Louisville's ass until it cried like a girl, of course.

We drank wine. We purchased fresh french baguettes still warm from the oven from the Bosnian baker. Shopped at the Asian grocery (we like to stay in touch with our heritage), ate GOOD Pad Thai at Yang Kee Noodle, I got that Big Purse I've been hankering for at NY&Co. We all got new clothes. We were accosted in the Mall and given Big Prom Hair all of a sudden. We visited Whole Foods where we FINALLY found Kaffir Lime Leaves and got olives at the olive bar and ate cookes while we people-watched the check-out (Go Lane 4 Checker!). We were visited by the Chef at Proof on Main who was so overwhelmed by our charms that he sent us dessert. There was other stuff.

All in all, the perfect weekend. Click the photos for larger versions and complete captions at Bubbleshare.

Friday, August 07, 2009

TGIF

[From Left: Kara McCombs, David Szemeredy, and Katelyn Swift at the GTG's event last night at Pasta House. The crowd was HUGE and I held my blackberry aloft with the intention of getting a crowd shot. Instead, I got this blurry photo of only my buddies standing immediately to my left. I'm blaming the big pours.]


I'm off for some big city fun with the goils this weekend. As of right this minute (and this may change) I'm not taking Pinky.

Okay, just writing that sentence made me a little queasy.

I AM taking the camera. I hope to be back soon. And, okay, I'm taking Pinky. No...no, I'm leaving Pinky...

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Y Pubed

Yep, took some time off here. This may become the exception rather than the rule for the next little bit. I'm not sure why. My payback is this super rambling, partially innappropriate post. Don't say I didn't warn you (or blame it on Wanda).

I'm supposed to be writing a blog post entitled, "The down-low on down there" all about pubic hair maintenance in the new millenium. I was all pumped up about it there for a while. And, I assure you, my research made for a VERY lively conversation with a group of people at a local bar recently. My penchant for sociological research of the generally naughty kind has been known to embarass a former associate or two but I've yet to run across very many people who weren't earger to share given the right mix of booze and and a racy topic.

My pubic hair survey was no exception. It yielded some fairly predictable results. The younger a girl is, the more naked her business is likely to be. Like, as in the under-thirty crowd is likely to be totally shorn. Woman over thirty? Likely to maintain some pubic hair, often a "landing strip" (an inch or so wide and a few inches top to bottom) since they may have child birth related, er, marks that are better off veiled.

What do men prefer? They prefer YOU more shorn than not, of course, though they themselves are not the least bit likely to shear themselves. One survey participant told me she regularly shears her (male) lover her damn self. And another survey participant told me she'd been sheared by a lover and the resulting trust/danger sharp-object-near-vulnerable-flesh situation was quite a turn-on.

I was, at one point, assured that pubic hair is "back" for the gay man. Which implies, of course, that it was "out" in the recent past. So take note: gay male pube styles trending toward bearded.

Absolutely positively out of style of the full-on bush ala 1975 (otherwise known as the full Farrah--sorry, Farrah). So, yah, unless you're naturally sparse down there, you need to be performing at least some maintenance. Though I know there are waxers ready to wax your lady-parts here in Paducah, no one I surveyed was putting themselves through it. I remain traumatized by a waxer who told me (while waxing my brows) that once when waxing an (extreme upper) inner-thigh (if you know what I'm saying), she yanked off the wax, and then watched as the girl's pores immediately filled up with blood. Talk about your wincing. I'm all about keeping up with the times, but yeeeouch. Then there's the lasering option. Again, good for you if you are committed enough to a shapely (or bald) pubic area that you're okay with a stranger electronically shocking your nether regions with a laser beam. Everyone involved in my particular conversation paled at the mention.

In other, less crotchety news, I've run into a bit of a snag with school. It seems that the hangover plaguing my 16-year-old self, lo, those twenty-five years ago on that far away summer Saturday when I took the ACT, has finally come home to roost. (DAMN YOU BICARDI RUM/VANTAGE ULTRA-LITES/OTHER!) Back then, I scored very well in all areas. Except. Math. This means in order to take Chemistry and something called "Contemporary College Math" ("math lite"), I must prove my compentency in effing ALGEBRA. And, thus, a phrase that I had thought permanently behind me has once again reared it's ugly head:

Solve for all x

People. If there's one thing I don't want to do these days? It's solve for all x. Whip me, beat me, but, please for God's sake, leave me alone about mother-effing "x". I have procrastinated (whined) about dealing with this particular scholastic hurdle for as long as possible, studiously skipping through English 101, 102, giggling through Psychology and Introduction to Business, even slogging through Astronomy, lollygagging through Kentucky history, whistling through Sociology, gliding through Management, and tiptoeing through more leadership classes than you can shake a stick at. I am a Leadershipping Bitch, by now, I assure you. And, lest we forget, I can, with an impressive degree of accuracy, name damn near every country IN THE WORLD (probably for another week or so).

All for naught unless I can Solve for all x. Damn it to hell.

What has to happen is that I must pass something called a "Compass" test. It is this test that I've been avoiding since my returning-to-school odessy began. I must pass the Compass to gain entry to Math Lite and Chemistry. My advisor (who as been advising me to address this issue for a full year now) finally nearly physically kicked my ass into the assessment room recently with a, "YOU HAVE TO TAKE THIS TEST AND THAT'S FINAL, NOW DON'T COME OUT 'TIL YOU'VE DONE IT."

I was abandoned with a Number 2 pencil in a pool of my own exponents and mothereffing Solve for all x.

In the end, I did fairly well as bad math students go. I easily demonstrated competetency in "pre" Algebra and was a tantalizing 10 points away from the magic number of 35 I needed in Algebra proper.

But ten points is ten points, people (that's ten more than zero, if you're counting and, God help me, I am).

It was decided I should visit the Tutoring Center. I just needed a little refreshing, you see. On presenting myself at the Tutoring Center, I was immediately subjected to TWO MORE HOURS of assessment testing--Number 2 Pencil, etc. They had to determine where I was going wrong, you see.

The verdict? I scored too high to qualify for tutoring. I was in that tragic gray area: Too smart for tutoring; too stupid to pass the Compass.

Still, they had mercy on me, if you can call it that, sending me home with a thick stack of sample Algebra problems to practice, meanwhile scheduling a in-person session with a math teacher a few days hence. My homework, enticingly labeled, EXPONENTS, ROOTS, AND POLYNOMIALS, then rode around in the passenger seat of the Subaru until it was time to drive it back to the tutoring session where I then presented it to my tutor, Michelle.

MICHELLE
SO! Which ones did you have a question on?

ME
Um...the "solve for x" ones?

MICHELLE
(Opening the papers)
So you did...

ME
I can write a hell of a sentence. Wanna see?

MICHELLE

(Pointing to a random sheet)Okay, which of these problems can't you solve?

ME

(I point to a problem that looks like this: 8x3-50x=2x(4x2-25)=2x(2x+5)(2x-5)
Anything that looks like that. Even a little bit.

---

And so poor Michelle (who has to have the WORST job on earth...seriously, "Math Tutor"??...just shoot me) set about refreshing my memory. Order of operations. Factoring. The Distributive Property.

Gag.

To my credit, I guess, it all sounded a teesy bit familiar. In a nauseating sort of way. I took Algebra 1 and 2 and Geometry in high school, after all. Michelle seemed impressed with even my rudimentary and very sketchy recollections (I immediately felt sorry for her if I seemed a promising pupil in comparison to the norm). Michelle was so impressed, in fact, that after thirty minutes or so she decided I should take the test again. RIGHT THEN.

I was, again, suddenly and without warning, dragged to the Assessment Center, deprived of my Diet Coke, given a Number 2 pencil and a calculator and left to prove my mathematical competence. I could feel Michelle and the now sympathetic proctor staring hopefully from a safe distance at my sad, geriatric, math-challenged self. I sighed. Took up my pencil. Began the test.

In the end? My result was six points worse than my original score. Apparently? Tutoring makes me stupider.
---

This means instead of wrapping up as planned in the Spring, I will have to take an extra class next Summer before I can move on to Real College, damnit. And that is IF I can manage to pass the Compass at some point this coming fall semester.

I have ordered the "Algebra for Dummies" workbook. I am resigned to my fate.

I am very, VERY annoyed.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Little Blog Nap


I'm in one of those loops where I write blog posts and then, for one reason or another, can't hit "publish". It's a phase I go through. I'm sure you're all desperate for more from me (riiiiight). Maybe soon. I posted the photo above to my Facebook profile. I took it ouside Petsmart this weekend with my Blackberry--probably the best photo my Blackberry has ever taken. Good light. It's all about the light. Well, and that and the ultra-cuddly subject matter doesn't hurt anything either.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Sara Astruc Interview

First, a ridiculously long preface.

I'm beyond excited to post this interview with writer Sara Astruc (pictured above), an on and off-line writer whose print work entitled "Jailbait: A Love Story" will finally be available in a couple of months at Amazon.

If you're not familiar, Sara was one of the Original online journalers. Back in the time not too many years after Al Gore sponged the remnant afterbirth of the internet off his inner thighs (no control, sorry). Back then, there were no such things as web logs or blogs or widgets or sites like Blogger that made it possible for everyone and their dog to write online. There was only coding and uploading. (Or something.)

It was the "Information Super Highway" and it was a whole new frontier.

I merged on to the Highway in 1998 and was immediately turned on by a friend of mine to what were then called "online journals" even sometimes "online diaries". I was soon hooked on a few: "Ceej's Battered Black Book", "The Book of Rob", "Daily Dose of Deb, "Dear Jackie Robinson" aka "Bad Hair Days". It was a new sort of addiction that fed into my love of reading and my documentary bent. Suddenly, I was strangely connected, but then not connected, to a whole circle of people and their everyday lives. Or at least the part of their lives they shared (often a suprisingly large amount).

I knew I would one day join their ranks. I loved reading them all.

But none so much as Sara Astruc.

Sara's journal, "Perfect Way" was, and still is, the most compelling blog (online journal) I've ever read. Her vast archives kept me glued to my computer screen for one whole entire Saturday night, as I devoured her writing in one juicy satisfying gulp, in those now faraway days of the 1990's. I became a slavishly devoted fan of her all-to-infrequent posts. What did she write about? Herself. Her past loves--one past love in particular. I think Sara was unusual in this way: that she opened up and shared herself so completely when she told a story. To me, Sara is the Joni Mitchell of blogging. And, of course, that means she is an amazing writer.

Eventually, Sara would stop writing much, at least online. I followed her through a few website incarnations through the years, always hoping she'd write more or get published as I knew she should. She still has a blog and it's still called Perfect Way. It has been near the top of my link list, sort of a little prayer, since I wrote my first post nearly five years ago. The Perfect Way of today, however, does not hint at Sara's prolific online past (though you can get whet your whistle here). Through the years, Sara and I crossed paths online a few times and this connection would eventually lead to a bolt of lightening in my in-box...would I like to interview Sara in my blog?

*GULP*

Um...yes?

And then I plotzed from excitement. Completely. And then I ran around like a headless chicken in my brain for a while (not that that's a particularly unusual occurance). And then I finally narrowed down the ridulous number of questions my brain began screaming at me to ten questions.

And then? Holy crap, she answered them.

Which is a really long way of saying: Here's my Sara Astruc interview. It's one of the awesomer things that ever happened to my blog. Enjoy.

ME: Why the long internet silences? Blog, already—I’m dyin’ ovah heeyuh!

SARA: Oh, lots of reasons. I started the page to tell some old stories. I didn't really want to write about the present. I am a private person. I do understand that it's hard to reconcile a private person with the sort of explicit and deeply personal writing I enjoyed putting out into the world, but I could hide behind my anonymity back then. Not so much, anymore.

A lot has happened since I slowed down... September 11th, Nan (my mother) being diagnosed with Stage IV Ovarian-Peritoneal Cancer, some health scares of my own; job stress; my graduate research surfacing on Metafilter, of all places; a complicated relationship; some frightening and unpleasant truths about David (my father) finally coming to light.

The real story is unpleasant and not sparkly and not a fun read. My motto when I started this thing was "do no harm." I never wanted to use my web page as a weapon, never wanted to hurt people that are already wounded. So I started keeping my mouth shut.

And in Seattle, where everyone is so terribly wired, I had a harder time maintaining what was left of my privacy. My worlds finally collided when a guy I worked with and liked very much walked up to my desk and stuck a yellow Post-It to my monitor. It said "Damn Hell Ass Kings," and I thought Oh, shit.

I was going to tell him about the online stuff, of course, but Seattle turned out to be a scary small town and he'd found out all sorts of things about me over that weekend. And these people, who have information about me, well, they mostly got it over the Internet and don't really know me at all. So I had some explaining to do.

He thought it was hilarious, that I lead a double life, except it isn't. It's just all different parts of the same life. My life. And I am uncomfortable having to explain myself.

ME: How do you feel now about the fact that you chronicled, online during the stone age of the internet a) what at least seemed to me to be a very personal account of your first love, with high school BF Robin Artemus (a pseudonym, right?) and b) a list of your lovers otherwise known as "The List". These online writings caused a stir back in the day, did they not?

SARA: I started my web page on GeoCities in 1996 called, simply, The List. It consisted of a recitation of 35 or so names, men that I had all been involved with or dated or even kissed once in an elevator over the years. If you clicked on a name, it lead you to my diary entries from that time in my life. A couple of months after my site went up, it received Cool Site of the Day from Gannett Newspapers, and my traffic skyrocketed.

Having a list of men you've messed around with up on the Internet was a pretty revolutionary concept at the time, and it brought me a certain amount of coverage from the mainstream media. I was first interviewed by Condé Nast's Swoon, and then a reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer emailed me. It was his ensuing front page article that brought me to Justin Hall, and my first understanding of online journals.

In an effort to have changing content to my site, I began writing little essays — about my high school reunion, about Bill Clinton, whatever struck my fancy. I called this section of my website "Random Sample", and it wasn't until months later that I finally conceded that I was keeping an online journal, in spite of my best efforts to claim otherwise.

I'm not entirely sure what I expected. The Internet seemed a lot smaller back then. I imagined most of my readers as sort of sweet and dorky IT guys and research scientists. And for a while, this is what it was. The readership was almost universally men. The email they sent was smart and friendly and polite. Sometimes the guys would ask me for advice about their love lives, cry on my shoulder about their broken hearts, and ask if I knew why I was still single.

There were some flirty emails, but nothing scary. So I got more confident, and more open. And then America Online was taking off, and I agreed to appear in a televised interview that showed up in 13 countries, and suddenly my inbox was full of come-ons and intense speculation about where I lived and worked.

The response was amazing and a tiny bit frightening for someone like me.

ME: Does the real Robin know you shared the story—has he read it?

SARA: I told Robin about all of this in 1999. I was long overdue to tell him about the site. How could I not? I'd written about him for years, and then I was going on the television to talk about what I'd written. I had to tell him. He took it pretty well, he knew this day of reckoning would some day come from the little girl who'd loved him so much.

"I have something to tell you," I began, twisting my linen napkin around my fingers. Watching his face was awful. He didn't know what was coming, and it was a terribly tense moment.

I explained that I had written about him, about us, in a public forum, and he cringed. "It isn't bad," I interjected hurriedly. "Well, I mean, we both look equally bad. But it's a love story," I finished lamely.

"What did you name me?"

"What?" Of all the questions I thought he might ask, I never considered this one. Shit. "Robin Altemus.

"He blanched. "Robin? You named me Robin?"

"Robin is my middle name."

I reminded him quietly.

His eyes shot up to mine. "I had forgotten that," he admitted. He picked up his empty glass. Signaled the waiter. "You've been trying to tell me this for a long time, haven't you? You tried to tell me in Florida." The waiter takes his empty glass away. "It's okay, Sara." He throws some bills into the little leather folder. "It doesn't matter."

In the end, that was pretty much all that was said.

ME: Why the move to Seattle? You seem such the NYC girl (sojourns to FL notwithstanding).

SARA: Oh lord, I so do not fit in in Seattle. I used to entertain myself wearing my mother's mink swing coat to the Safeway at the top of Queen Anne Hill. People would actually hiss at me. They do not approve of women cutting up odious little animals for the sake of vanity.

There are some lovely things about Seattle, but none of them seem to be enough to keep me here permanently. I want to go back to my people, even though that life really fucked me up. But maybe now I get that, and why I let it happen, and maybe it won't happen again.

Or maybe it will happen again, maybe I will make all the same mistakes and all I am now is all I will ever be.

Last night I did laundry and sat a long time in front of the Bosch front-loader washer, watching my sheets spin around and around. The washing machine and dryer came with the house and are the fanciest appliances I have ever owned. I wish I could take them with me when I go. Am I going? I doubt it. I don't know where to go.

I want the next time I move to be last time I move, so I am not making any decisions today.

ME: Are you now (or have you ever been) married?

SARA: I have never married. I was legitimately engaged once, very young, and there have been a couple of half-assed offers over the years. I believed I was supposed to get married, that if a man didn't want to marry me then he really didn't love me. I understand it better now. For someone who thought she wanted to get married, though, I managed to duck and run every time it really came up.

Turning 40 was kind of freeing in that regard. It was like some invisible line in my head was crossed, a deadline or something, and I didn't have to pretend I wanted it anymore. I'm relieved now I never married. I like being unfettered in that respect.I am a loner by nature, and suspect I am just not the marrying kind. The men I tend to be interested in are married to their careers. It would have been nice to find a compromise somewhere along the way, but in the end I pick the men over the marriage.

There's always that tiny part of me that resists convention.

ME: Your writing is AMAZING. I think this is partly because you so effectively convey the fact that you feel –how to say—an otherness, sort of separate from or different than everyone else. On the other hand, you seem a totally hip, everything-going-for-you kind of girl. What gives?

SARA: I think the former is more true than the latter. I grew up a little out of step with my peers, being Jewish in a very old school NY social sort of town. I'm still sort of surprised by any social success I had back then.

ME: If memory serves, you began “journaling on-line” (this was waaaay before blogs, kiddies) while convalescing from open-heart surgery at an uncommonly young age (right?). Heck, you’re still young. Are you okay now?

SARA: I am okay. I had a stroke and then open heart surgery to correct an atrial septal defect that caused blood to shunt in the wrong direction in my heart. I was sick for about six years before I had the stroke-- heart palpitations, dizziness, vertigo, fainting. I went to doctor after doctor looking for help. They all diagnosed me with anxiety.

My then-fiance was a doctor and was no help either. My constant illness caused problems at work, with my family, and screwed up a couple of relationships. It's hard to date when you're sick all the time.

When I had the stroke it was a huge relief to find out I had never been crazy, and finally had a diagnosis. I floated along on this little polly-annaish cloud for awhile, and then about five years ago I got really fucking angry. I am only just recently getting over that rage.> >

ME: Do you have a huge legion of internet fans clamoring to read more of your work (much like, for instance, oh I don’t know, ME)?

SARA: I feel fortunate to hear from folks who'd like to read a bit more from me, but I can only hope that they'll feel compelled to buy my book once it's out. I am not taking anything for granted.

ME: A BOOK!!! I’m so excited to hear you’re writing a book!!!! Tell me all about it?

SARA: I'm going to be releasing my diary archives in a self-published book on Amazon in a couple of months. It's primarily the Robin Altemus story from The List. Holding it up all these years have been issues of privacy and money. I'd found an agent in 2001, but after September 11, I crawled into a bottle of scotch and my agent ran away to Vermont. Now, looking at the numbers, I think the story would best be served by me self-publishing.

I am willing and able to do my own promotion, and the Internet has always been kind to me. So I'm not even looking for a publisher at this point. I'm just going to get it out there and hope for the best.

ME: WHY NOT ROBIN 4-EVER? [Can’t help myself.]

God bless Robin, I still love him so. But we are not fated to be together. I would be a terrible wife to him, easily distractible and lost in my own head. He is safely married and has a beautiful daughter and I wish him nothing but a lifetime of peace and happiness after the hurricane that was me blowing in and out of his life.

ME: Bonus Q: Still drive Camilla?

SARA: Camilla went to Jaguar heaven. But in her place is a lovely X-Type, that has served me well. I bought her with the money I was saving in case Skye and I moved in together, or got married, or ran off to to Africa. I've driven her back and forth from Seattle to Florida, and she is a most perfect replacement for my old XJ-6.

It's funny, it's just a dumb hunk of metal, but I felt more like myself again.
***


Keep up with Sara at Perfect Way as well as at The Simplest, a discussion community she runs. Look for "Jailbait: A Love Story" at Amazon as well as on my own personal Night Stand in a few months.