Monday, May 31, 2004


Today is the day that we remember those who have lost their lives fighting for our country. To protect our freedoms. Today is also a day that I remember all of those who didn't lose their corporeal lives, but instead, lost something that was theirs and now isn't. They lost some of their joy. They lost some of the belief in this government that is supposed to stand for democracy. They lost their trust in what's right and good. Specifically I think about my Aunt Sue and all the other people who went to Vietnam in the 60s and 70s to fight a "war" on the orders of their government. Aunt Sue studied to be a nurse at Stanford University and to pay for that education, she agreed to join the Navy for a period of time after she graduated.

When I was a little kid my Aunt Sue was the most fun person I knew - and she still is a lot of fun today - she's really smart, and she's really funny, and she is a talented artist, and back then she had red hair and blue eyes and was always having fun with her friends. She listened to rock and roll music and I thought she was the coolest girl ever.

In 1967 she left for Vietnam aboard the USS Sanctuary, a large white hospital ship with a huge Red Cross painted on the side - this would be lit up at night so that enemy aircraft would know that this was not a fighting vessel and hopefully not attack it. My grandparents went up to San Francisco to watch the ship sail away, carrying their daughter to South East Asia. My grandmother stood on the Golden Gate bridge and cried as the ship sailed under it and everyone on the ship stood and waved at their family members lining the sides of the bridge overhead.

The Sanctuary sailed back and forth between the MeKong Delta and the DMZ, the wounded were brought by helicopter to the ship for treatment. I'm not sure how many troops were in Vietnam at that time but they very quickly reached the 700 bed capacity and stayed full. Sue wrote regularly, mostly about the people she was serving with on the ship, the pranks they played on each other, the fun they found. At least those were the parts of the letters that I heard. Like I said I was only a little kid.

Still, I knew that things were very scary in VietNam. It was on the news every night and as my father was virulently anit-war, he never shielded me from the realities of the body counts and body bags that appeared nightly. I didn't understand then why we were there, and I don't really understand now. In retrospect it seems that so many lives were lost and irreperably damaged and there doesn't seem to be a good reason for that. What was the benefit? What was the reward? My friend, the fabulous Ms. A, whom I've mentioned before, never knew her dad because he was killed in Vietnam when she was a very small baby.

When Sue finished her tour in Vietnam she returned to California and was stationed in Oakland at the Navy hospital, first stop for those who were so badly broken that they couldn't be fixed and sent back to fight upon returning stateside, before going back home to the cities and towns they came from - without the arms, legs and sanity they left with. My aunt and the others that served with her, who were returning to the U.S. were flown into a small little airport in San Bernardino where they were instructed to change into civilian clothes immediately and not to tell anyone that they were just returning from Vietnam. They were still spat upon and the one taxi driver who picked them up tried to charge them $150 to drive them 10 miles.

A lot of Vietnam veterans, including my aunt do not believe in this war. They don't believe that the war in Vietnam was a good thing. They were ordered to serve and they did without question. But they are questioning this situation in Iraq now. I look at what is happening in Iraq and I ask all the same questions. Why are we there? People keep saying that we are fighting "the war on terror" - but the only people who were being terrorized by the dictator Saddam Hussein were the Iraqis and the Kuwaitis. It's never been explained to me in a way that makes any sense, how what happened on 9/11 is related to the war in Iraq? Ossama Bin Laden and Al Queda are a separate issue and a credible connection between Saddam Hussein and the attack on the World Trade Center or the USS Cole, or any of the other Al Queda attacks has ever been made. So why are Americans dying in Iraq?

For me to ask this question does not mean that I do not support the troops because I deeply appreciate those people who put their lives on the line in service to their country. I appreciate the loss that the families who have loved ones in the service all over the world feel when a birthday, a graduation, an anniversary pass and their loved one is sleeping in the dirt in the foreign country and dodging sniper fire.

Today is the day to remember all those who have died and all those who continue to make a great sacrifice in service to this country. But it is also a day to remember the government that sent Americans into the Vietnam conflict and to remember that the government was wrong about that. Today is a good day to remember that just because the President says something is true, doesn't necessarily mean it's true. If it looks like bullshit and it sounds like bullshit and it smells like bullshit - it's most likely bullshit.

And that Texan's got a pretty big shovel.

Saturday, May 29, 2004


Last night I went to see a new movie called "Saved" and I'm so glad I did! It stars Jenna Malone as Mary, a senior at a Christian High School who gets pregnant ends up questioning the belief system she was raised in. This movie worked for me on so many levels, but first of all can I just say how much I love the fact that Jenna Malone looks like a 17 year old girl. Her bumpy skin was real and they didn't try to cover it with make up or hide it with lighting.

The whole cast is wonderful! I particularly loved Eva Amurri, daughter of Susan Sarandon who seems to have inhereted her mom's acting genes as well as her eyes. Patrick Fugit from "Almost Famous" is a stone fox - pure and simple and MacCauley Caulkin makes a great transition from little boy to wheelchair bound babe. And then there's Heather Matarazzo, who is under-utilized but still manages to steal scenes. If you have never seen "Welcome to the Dollhouse" go rent it. She's not doing enough and it's probably because she's not barbie doll pretty like Mandy Moore - who is hilarious and heartbreaking in this movie as the teen Anita Bryant - who goes off the rails completely in Christ's name. Amen.

The script which was written by the director, worked on so many levels. It captured much of the ridiculousness and hypocrisy that is inherent in the fundamentalist Christian movment, but it also made room for the earnestness and the good stuff that is part of the experience. Especially for teenagers. And I write that from the perspective of an adult who accepted Christ as my personal savior when I was 17 and attended Maranatha bible study at Calvary chapel in Costa Mesa two times a week. I stood in the church sanctuary singing with my hands lifted over my head, eyes closed, tears streaming down my cheeks as I felt the love of Jesus flowing through me and everyone else. I carried my bible with me everywhere reading The Word every chance I got. I flashed my upraised index finger in the "one way" sign to my christian compadres when I saw them as school.

Of course my motivation for being there was more about the fact that two of the hottest guys at my high school - major fuck ups - had gone and got born again first. So I was guided more by my lust for Kevin and Ronny, than a love of Jesus, but once I got there I got on board. At least until I started noticing a lot of incongruency in the message, like how Jesus will forgive you for anything, but if you're having pre-marital sex you should know that he's in that room with you and he judges you.

Okay - but does he still forgive me?

Mary, who gets "in trouble" because of her very best, if sadly misguided intentions, grapples with the same questions I was asking and some people give her the same black and white answers I was given. You know, basically - don't ask those kinds of questions, just read your bible and shut up. But there are also characters in the movie who are very human in their willingness to say, "I don't know", and to explore the fears that motivate them to hide behind dogma. The movie is hilarious and poignant and an exploration of the Christian faith that is respectful and ironic at the same time. It brought back all my good feelings about Jesus and the good times at Calvary Chapel.

I don't go to Calvary Chapel anymore and I have a very difficult time hanging with my "Christian" friends since a lot of the stuff that comes out of their mouths isn't very Christian, or even rational. Blindly labeling people as sinners who are going to hell because they won't behave a certain way, or submit to a dogmatic rhetoric is more reminiscent of behavior of people in a cult. Even if it is the cult of Jesus. But I get why they buy into the extreme religion thing - these are scary times, you know?

There are those fundamentalist christians who will probably be offended by the movie. I doubt that pastors will buy out whole theatres so that their flock can attend, like they did with "The Passion of Christ" - but they should. Laughter is good for the soul and when asking myself what would Jesus do? I do believe that he would get himself a large popcorn and a Mountain Dew and enjoy this movie.

You should too.

Friday, May 28, 2004


So I'm reading the Hollywood Reporter this morning and there is a review of yet another reality show that will be brought to us by NBC, because everyone, even the network that gave us critically acclaimed shows like Frasier and The West Wing (back in the day it was good and you know it), must jump on the this bandwagon to hell.

So this new show is called "The One Who Got Away" and the premise is this: Take one hunky, desirable bachelor and re-unite him with seven of the beautiful women that he has dumped. They will all live together on an estate in South Carolina and I guess the plan is that due to the romantic setting and all he will overcome his sexual addiction and commitment issues and re-unite with one of them.

Oh, and his name is Skipper and he's a bartender.

Woohoo! The girl who "wins" on this show is one lucky lady.

Without even looking I know that the producers are men. And I also know that the seven gorgeous women are going to be self absorbed, low self esteem, mental defectives because what self respecting woman would go on a show and compete against other women to be selected to be "the one" by a vacuous, albeit hunky bartender, sporting an empty expression that can maybe, if you're drunk enough, pass for deep.

First of all, I appreciate cute bartenders, I really do. I have made out with more than a few of them. I mean that's what they're there for right? You're on vacation. You get drunk. You close the bar. You make out with the bartender. And then you forget his name!!! And if you should date him and he decides to "dump" you - so what. Move on! You don't go on TV and humiliate yourself and your gender by trying to win him back!

If this situation even approximated reality and you took a commitment phobic guy, put him on an estate with seven women whom he jerked around and hurt, he could potentially get wounded. I mean physically. Think about it. What if the women are NOT the kind of chicks who spend their lives competing for the attention of men? They do not define their value based on whether or not they're in a relationship? What if the guy just had great taste in women - but is a commitmentphobic pussy - and they take all the smart women and put them together with this guy and he's going to try to win them back?

What if the women were playing another game? For money? And what if they put their heads together and just fucked with the guy till he didn't know what was going on? He's falling in love all over the place and they're playing him like a fiddle - getting him to make himself vulnerable. Sharing his deepest secrets, maybe even crying. There would be cameras all over the house where the women could watch him pitch woo at whomever he's having a special date with so they're all onto him. All the time! And they would all be comparing notes and strategizing about how to help the one who appears to be favored win!

And whichever one he picks gets a million dollars! And sends him on his way!

Now that's a show I'd watch - but unfortunately I don't think you could find that many smart, together women who'd date a bartender named Skipper.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

I was watching the odd and sundry videotapes that are stacked up in the TV cabinet, thinking I would recycle them and record new stuff or toss them out altogether, when I came across a D’Angelo video that I’d recorded from MTV or VH1 or somewhere. As usual I was mesmerized as I watched it and the memories came flooding back of the time I saw him live. He’s good on video and he’s good on CD – but there ain’t nothin’ like D’Angelo LIVE.

You may not know who D’Angelo is. I didn’t. My musical tastes, while wide and varied, tend more toward classic rock and soul. Yes I can sing along with Eminem and Jessica Simpson, but mostly because the aural environment is saturated with them and they enter my consciousness subliminally. When my friend Liz called me and said she had two tickets to see D’Angelo at the Universal Amphitheatre, and did I want to go, I said “Yes!” mostly because I am a game girl who will try just about anything. I mean you can always leave if it sucks right?

So we head out to the concert and Liz is playing D’Angelo’s CD, Brown Sugar on the stereo and it sounds a little bit like Prince meets Marvin Gaye – you know, Boot-ay music. That’s cool. The last time I’d said what the hey and headed out to Universal for free musical offerings it was to see Poison/Cinderella/Dokken/Slaughter, and even the fact that we were backstage the whole time and the fact that I was really curious, couldn’t balance out how bad it sucked. I will never understand the hair band thing – but that’s another story.

So Liz and I get to the ampitheatre and as we’re walking down, down, down toward the stage and our seats I am noticing that the audience is predominantly female. There are a few, and I mean very few, men scattered throughout. Hmmmmmmm. And Liz and I are about the only white girls around. Hmmmmmmm. Our seats are in the second row, stage left. The edge of the stage is about 25 feet from where we are sitting! Nice!

No sooner do we sit down than the houselights go down and the stage lights come up and the band is rockin! In addition to all the musicians there are three back up singers, two guys and a girl, all of whom are wearing what appear to be caveman outfits - lots of flesh, and leather and fur. They dance vigorously and then Heeeeere Coooomes D’Angelo! And the audience screams. Like they are screaming for the Beatles, these ladies are screaming. I am a little frightened and sit in my seat taking it all in, not quite sure how to behave. I am feeling like I need a little time to slide into the groove.

The music is good, very good, in fact. Better than it was on the CD. Probably because D’Angelo, who appears to be about 5’7” is one of the most charismatic and sexy men I have ever seen IN MY LIFE! He bumps and grinds and squeals and howls and sings about making love and shit, and I am starting to understand why the women around me are moaning and screaming in response. I want to do that to, but honestly I am too white to pull it off without sounding like a dork. Really.

But about midway through the show… when he gets to the part where he takes off his shirt… and he’s wearing these leather pants that I’m sure are custom made just for him because they grip his ass in back and, in the front, they fall just about 2” above his pubic bone, displaying the slightest bit of hair on a tautly muscled torso – howdy six-pack! My hand goes to my throat where I would’ve clutched my pearls if I were wearing them and I look at Liz and gasp, “oooohhhh!” I am now feeling D’Angelo. And the estrogen level in the concert hall is at dangerously high levels. As he begins to hand roses out to the women in the front row while singing sexily to them I cannot take my eyes off of him.

THEN he gets down on his stomach and starts humping his way to the edge of the stage! Which is only about 25 feet away from where I’m sitting. There is mass hysteria as the women from the seats above start charging down toward the stage to get them some D’Angelo! The security guards block their forward motion so that they are suspended on the stairs next to my aisle seat screaming in my ear, “I LOVE YOU D’ANGELO!” Oh my God, I know what they mean! And we all watch as he lazily sits on the stage with his legs spread and bent slightly at the knees, and he takes this girl's hand, who is standing in the front row at the edge of the stage. He takes her hand and as he sings and the back up singers croon along behind him, he slowly, very slowly brings her hand to his lips and SUCKS HER FINGERS!!!

And now we’re all on our feet screaming. There is fucking female pandemonium going on as he grins and stands up and goes to the stairs at the other end of the stage and walks into the audience. Oh my gosh he is amongst us now and his progress is visible by the heaving mass of women throwing themselves at him, attempting to climb the large, hulking mountainous bodyguards who surround him as he passes by allowing his fans to brush their fingers against his hard, sweaty body.

From that point on it’s all kind of an endorphin blur. The audience pulses and writhes to the call of his voice. We are his and he is ours and the men in the audience are just kind of hunkered down in their seats with a look of stunned amazement, tinged with the littlest bit of fear, on their faces. When he comes out to do the finale – you know the song – the one he sings in the video, while standing there completely naked – How Does It Feel. As he sings that song the women flow down the stairs again and it becomes a call and response. He sings, “How does it feel?” and the horns hit duh-da-dut, and the lady standing next to me yells back, “IT FEELS GOOD D’ANGELO!” and all around us women join in with “MMM-HMMMM”, “YOU KNOW IT DOES!” and other graphic commentary. And when he gets into “How does it taste?”, well they all tell him – “IT TASTES LIKE BROWN SUGAR BABY!” And it goes on and on until everyone is all sweaty and out of breath with our pink places atingle!

And then, just like that the show is over and I’m very certain that every single one of those men who brought their ladies to the show that night got to hit it in the parking lot. D’Angelo gives good show – I’m here to tell ya!

Wednesday, May 26, 2004


I love to grow stuff, mostly vegetables, but also certain kinds of flowers, like Sunflowers. My favorite part about growing stuff is that you can actually watch it grow. I'm an immediate gratification kind of person. I don't want to wait a really long time for outcome. I am most likely to get bored and move on to something else. If you grow something like tomatoes you can watch the process take place almost right before your eyes.

Where I live now we don't really have a yard. It's more like patches of dirt in various places around the building. My neighbor (not the crazy one who lives upstairs, and will hopefully be moving soon) and her family like to grow stuff too, so we usually do it together. This year she got organic tomato plants from the farmer's market and some worm poop to put in the holes before we put the tomatoes in. The worm poop is supposed to make the plants stronger. We planted on the new moon, she put her tomatoes in and I planted my green bean seeds and my beet seeds. Almost immediately the tomato plants began to flower and now all those flowers have become tomatoes!

My green bean seeds took about 8 days to break the surface of the ground. At least that's how long it took the first one to show it's little green head. Every morning I'd go out and water and check to see what else was coming out of the ground. It was all I could do not to stick my finger in the dirt to see if I could feel anything. The delicate little Beet sprouts started coming up next and it just about killed me when I had to thin them to make room. I ultimately couldn't thin the bean and throw away the wonderful healthy looking stalks that I'd ripped out of the ground. So those are now growing in pots.

I also planted herbs - thyme, marjoram, sage and lavendar. I know they will overgrow the pot I put them in and have ambitious plans to move them to the front of the building which is basically a wasteland of clay like, root bound soil, but I think if I could get them to take hold they'd do well there. I am a haphazard waterer at best, which is good because my neighbor loves to water and has to rein herself in when leaves start to turn yellow. Neither one of us really know what we'er doing - we just put it in the ground and let it go.

I have hydrangea and scented geraniums (rose and chocolate mint) growing on the side of the house and I don't even water them. The gardener does when he comes once a week and they get very overgrown until he trims them back. I am fickle - once something has grown it doesn't interest me to maintain it. I am fascinated by the actual growing of the plant.

A couple years ago I built a trellis - like one I saw Martha Stewart build on her show, only I used twisty ties to hold the plywood stakes together because I didn't have a pneumatic airgun and hardwood for framing. The concept was the same - mine was just the trailer park version, not real purty, but it worked. The tomatoes were planted in a bed alongside our back drive which abuts the garage of the building next door (the same garage that the drunk vomiter lives over). The trellis trained the plants to grow up, and they did, to about 4 feet. Those tomatoes thrived and continued to grow even after the season and into the next year!

One day I came home from work to find them all ripped out of the ground - everything including the trellis, gone. The crazy lady's boyfriend told my neighbor and I that Norman the skeevy perv who owns the building next door had had his gardener rip them out. I say Normal is skeevy because he had never had a conversation where he looked me in the eyes. He was one of those who only conversated with my breasts, his whiny, nasal, voice wheezing in never ending drone. Needless to say I was furious! Why in the world would he think it was okay to rip up pounds of ripe tomatoes? We'd been growing stuff in that strip of dirt for a few years.

Apparently Norman and his new tenant the Gay Mr. Green Jeans who had recently taken to sprucing up the front of Norman's building had big plans to put rose bushes in, and since Norman believes that that particular strip of dirt is his he just arbitrarily decided to kill our plants. I called Norman at his place of business and left a scathing message on the answering machine wherein I told him that 1)I thought he was mean to do such a thing without talking to us about it and 2) that without a survey I couldn't disprove his contention that the dirt wasn't part of his property the cement next to is sure as hell wasn't and that if I saw him, his tenant or his gardener standing on that cement they would be trespassing so good luck planting and caring for the rosebushes and 3) he should never speak to me again for I would not acknowledge him.

Norman called me back and whined, "but Susan, you weren't taking care of those plants, they were growing wild and rose bushes would be prettier." I pointed out that since I am the only one with a view of that area it should be up to me to determine what I want to look at and everything I grow looks wild - I am not a big anal pruner. He said that since I wouldn't allow anyone on the property to tend the plants then nothing would grow there. I was in agreement with that and to this day when I see Norman I pretend he's not there because he's a big mean tomato murderer.

I throw all kinds of stuff into that dirt and just hope it will grow - apples, tangerines, anything with seeds - because you never know. I have a bunch of pots lined up right now just waiting for me to put something new in them. I think I'm going to plant a red bell pepper and a cucumber and some more beets. I don't really like beets, but they're super gratifying to grow.

I was at a BBQ on Sunday and my friend T. said that his daughter had just done a project in her class where they planted human hair with seeds and it made them grow really fast and the plants were really strong. Apparently whatever human hair is made of acts as great fertilizer. So it's all I can do not to take the scissors to my hair so I can try it. I'm not due for a haircut anytime soon so I would use the hair of my friends too. I may try the experiment with cat hair because I have lots of that.

Maybe I throw that in with the Sunflower seeds I'm growing to throw in "Norman's" bed.

Monday, May 24, 2004


Yesterday morning started out really early. I mean really early like 4:30am, when my neighbors pulled their car in behind the building and woke me up. I was expecting it because they'd told me they were going to and they had to leave for the airport at 5am so I wasn't unduly annoyed. However, when the radio alarm clock in the garage apartment next door, that sits catty-corner to my bedroom at the back of my apartment, started to go off at 7am, and continued it's steady beeping for an HOUR, I got really annoyed.

The guy who lives there was either not home or so drunk that he wasn't hearing it. I tend to think he was drunk since he's been waking me up by throwing up in the bushes outside his front door when he gets in at 2am - ever since I moved in. So on Sunday morning I was feeling way resentful that his alcoholism was affecting my ability to sleep.

And then over the sound of the beeping I became aware of wailing and sobbing floating down from the apartment upstairs. I knew that earlier in the week, R. had told T. that he was seeing someone else and it was serious and she needed to move on. And I knew that she had gone into his bedroom - they haven't slept together in five years - and destroyed it. But I only knew that by word of mouth.

As I listened to the sobbing and wailing, over the beeping alarm, at 7:30 yesterday morning I found myself wondering about these people and their lives. These are middle aged people whose lives pretty much suck. I mean, yeah, I'm annoyed that the vomiting neighbor's alarm is going off and it does so all the time, come to think of it, but it really sucks that he's so out of it that he doesn't even hear it! That he could choke on his own vomit and die alone in that little apartment over the garage and no one would know because he doesn't seem to have any friends.

And the lady upstairs, the speed freak, mad vacuumer, who is rude and loud and who, over the last five years I've watched lose her job, her car and put on 40 pounds - well she's also got no friends and she's been living up there with a man whom she screams at and who is a really good man who doesn't deserve that treatment. And now he's moved on and she's got to move out of her home. The place where she indulges in her self-destructive behavior and hides from the world, festering in her anger. I wonder if she's crying because R. loves someone else? Or is she crying because she has to leave and as far as I can tell she's got no where to go and no money to go there? I mean I think she can go to her mom's up in Oregon, but I don't think her mom even wants her? I feel for her - but I want her gone so bad I'm almost crying myself.

She sobs and wails and moans and screams until 11am. I can't make out much of what she's saying beyond, "I hate him", and I can only imagine what the inside of the house looks like. I'm very glad that he's removed all the guns from their house.

When it finally gets quiet I wonder if she's finally cried it out and gone to sleep, or if she's killed herself?

I hope that R. will start to play the piano again and wonder if he'll let me do a sage cleansing when she's finally gone?

Friday, May 21, 2004


I live in a city where ladies attend Botox parties and a vacation option might be having your face lifted and your tummy tucked. And with the advent of shows like The Swan or as I like to call it, The Stepford Barbie horror show, and Extreme Makeover, getting plastic surgery is becoming so commonplace that it's more like a fashion trend, like Jordache jeans, or "The Rachel" haircut - everybody is doing it!

I don't have a problem with plastic surgery - hey, it's your body do what you want. In fact, I purchased myself some pretty spectacular breasts back in 1991 just before all the hoopla about silicone vs. saline went down. Back when people still talked about it in hushed voices and hid out at swanky Beverly Hills or Palm Springs hotels until the bruising was gone - like no one was going to notice that all of a sudden your eyebrows were located 2" higher than they were 8 weeks ago, giving you a look of perpetual astonishment!

I did a lot of research before my surgery - spent time perusing Plastic Surgery medical Journals just so I would know all the pitfalls - like did you know that implants can, and sometimes do, slide from their position under the breast tissue to the ribcage area? Doing all the research helped me to determine what kind of implants I wanted, saline rather than silicone because I had a bad feeling about putting material that I use to caulk my bathtub into my body, and I briefly considered the Becker implant which allows you to make'em bigger or smaller in the months following surgery via a little tube that extends from the implant to the exterior chest area. I knew where I wanted them placed (under the muscle of the chest wall). I was informed about all of my incision options - under the arm, under the breast, at the nipple line. I interviewed lots of Doctors from L.A. to Orange County and, this I must say is the most important decision of all because there are doctors, mostly "cosmetic" surgeons who are indulging their blow up doll fantasies on women's chests which is why you see so many bad boob jobs. I'm talking about the seemingly pneumatic devices perched on the chests and just under the chins of so many women running around the hills of Beverly and Hollywood. I can't even look at Pamela Anderson without getting nauseated - the skin over her sternum is stretched so tightly between her huge plastic bazooms you can practically see the connective tissue struggling to hold the skin to the bone.

I went with a plastic surgeon who specializes in reconstructive surgery - since I had never actually made it out of a Carter's Spanky bra and into an A cup this made sense. We were pretty much starting from scratch with just a nipple and not much else. He didn't have a luxurious office like lots of the Bev Hills docs, with fembots manning the front desk like animated advertisement for the plump lips, taut flesh and massive mammaries these guys excelled at. His waiting room had not been redecorated since about 1972 when gold shag carpeting, rust colored upholstery and avocado green shades were the interior decorators colors of choice. The women who worked for him were of a certain age and looked it - they reminded me of my favorite teachers in elementary schools who's maternal, nurturing personas helped me get past the seperation anxiety brought on by six hours away from my mommy. The people who sat in the waiting room were not tanned and taut starlets and wives of rich men pursuing a bizarre self improvement project. Most of them were missing parts of their faces - like the guy with no nose, he lost it to skin cancer. Yeah, nothing like sitting with people who are truly maimed to give you perspective on what you're signing up for.

It is indeed a very weird thing to voluntarily go under the knife when there is no good reason on earth to do so. There is always inherent risk with anasthesia - even the light kind that they used for my surgery. And then there's the actual procedure itself which is brutal and violent. Oh yes indeedy. All those friends who'd had it done and told me it didn't hurt that bad - lying bitches. Because of the local aneshetic they injected into my chest, it didn't hurt that bad while it was happening, and yes I have memories of surgery because I was kind of awake. Awake enough to be aware of the fact that Dr. Cunningham was prying my chest wall away from my rib cage with what seemed to be some kind of CROWBAR - with enough strength to lift my shoulder blades off the table!!! I disinctly remember saying, "shouldn't I be asleep here? Could you maybe give me some more drugs please?" They did, but I still remember them sitting me up on the table when it was done to make sure my boobs were even.

After the surgery is when the real pain began. I mean like Army tank parked on your chest, can't breathe except in little gasps, kind of pain. I mean the kind of pain you get when your breasts which were previously non-existent are now swollen to size of two footballs and the skin is peeling off from the pressure of that swelling. I mean the can't lift your arm to brush your teeth because the muscles required for that activity have been pulled and bruised, possibly torn, and aren't working at all kind of pain. And the can't roll over in bed or remain vertical without supporting the mountains of overripe taut flesh that are your massive breasts, with both hands kind of pain.

Talk about buyer's remorse!!! I was totally freaking!! Even though the doc told me that it would take six months for all the swelling to go down and for my implants to settle, I was sure that I had made a mistake of mammoth proportions. Going from Flatsy Patsy to Dolly Parton in the space of a couple hours also screwed with my ability to do the simplest things. My knockers kept getting in the way - when I drove, when I reached for something, when I turned around quickly and knocked out the man sitting in a chair behind me. All of a sudden I couldn't seem to eat without getting food all over myself. Before if something fell off my fork on it's way to my mouth it had a straight shot to the floor, now there was the large awning of my chest upon which the food bounced before it hit the floor leaving a trail behind it.

I had been so excited to finally be able to wear a bra! A fancy lace Victoria's Secret bra. I bought lots of them reveling at how pretty they looked in what was previously just a sock and panties drawer. Woohoo! This was back in the days when Victoria's secret named their bras and I had the whole collection. But I quickly found out that I hate to wear a bra - they are not comfortable AT ALL, and after years of running around flat chested, free and unfettered, I did not enjoy wearing something that felt like a harness and kept crawling up my back.

As the six months passed the swelling came down and the implants settled and my breasts became truly spectacular. Initially I was constantly checking them for leaks and worrying about "encapsulation" the thickening of scar tissue which feels hard and knotty and necessitates going to the doctor so he can grab and twist your breast and break it up. I really didn't want that to happen to me so I was always surreptitously feeling myself up, pretty much anywhere. It got to be one of those mindless habits, and then I'd catch some guy watching me with glazed eyes and remember I was walking down the street. And as it turned out one did deflate. I'm still not sure why but I think it was from shlepping a heavy backpack around Europe - yet another reason I'll never do that again. Anyway I woke up one morning having to pee like a racehorse and later that day while trying on clothes I noticed that my left breast was looking kind of flat and anemic, more like a breast you'd see in National Geographic. I dragged my friend into the dressing room and bent over and she confirmed that things were not at all equal in the chest area. I immediately called the doctor and he replaced the implant for free, but it was going to take one week for the Mentor rep to get a new one to the office. Not what I wanted to hear. I was ready to drive to the corporate offices in Santa Barbara and pick one up, when they called the next day and said they had one and I could come the following morning to have it replaced. I was in and out in 45 minutes and mightily relieved with only a little pain around the incision site.

But initially, they ceased to feel like a part of me and were more akin to new earrings or a great pair of shoes, that I wanted to show my friends, and any other ladies who happened to be in the bathroom when we rolled in for show and tell. It was weird, all of a sudden I went from being self conscious about my body to exhibitionist extraordinaire. They aren't even that big - they just look really good!

And they still do. The doc who does my mammograms every year still cannot get over the fact that my boobs aren't real. He says, as he stands there pummeling and kneading them, "this is the best result I've ever seen! I would never even know!! When did you have these done again?" The same questions every year and then he tells me about the nightmare boobs he sees on a daily basis. No kidding. We all see them - they're everywhere.

And that's when plastic is not so fantastic when it's bad. And when it's on a 17 year old - like Lindsey Lohan. She's in the press a lot right now because Mean Girls is still in theatres and when I saw her on press junkets I could not take my eyes off her bad boob job. It's a travesty. I mean she's a gorgeous, nubile TEENAGER for God's sakes who had perfectly fine breasts prior to her maiming. And that's what bad plastic surgery is - it's maiming and the doctors who do it should be punished. But a lot of the maimed think they look good and A LOT of them are celebrities so the general public goes along with it and get themselves maimed too.

I have no regrets - but I have spectacular breasts and unfortunately they are the exception, not the rule in tinseltown.

Thursday, May 20, 2004


At least it will be this summer! I just realized today that the Olympics are coming, the Olympics are coming!! Yay!! I love the Olympics! During the Winter '02 Olympics I printed out the handy viewing guide and spent hours in front of the television watching the luge and ski-jumping and curling. The Summer Olympics brings the opportunity to watch diving and swimming and it's about the only time that I don't cringe at the sight of men in speedos - though this year I think they'll be wearing those aerodynamic full body fish skin suits, but still, clingy!

I am not by nature a competitive person, nor am I driven to athletic endeavors for the joy of flexing my muscles. In fact, I don't really like to get sweaty while exerting myself doing sporty things - not my idea of a good time. But I really love watching athletes do what they've been training their bodies to do. For years. To the exclusion of everything else in their lives. I love the little bios that NBC sports does on all the athletes with stories about how their dad just died but they bravely soldier on, or they had cancer when they were a kid and look at them now.

Indeed the stories are already starting. There's a guy in Orange County who is going to try to make the swim team and compete in the 800m. against the unbeaten Australians. And he's 30! That's ancient in Olympic years. I mean it does vary sport to sport because you could be 60 and compete in archery, but let's face it if you're a female gymnast it's all over when you hit your 20s. I mean you can only hold puberty off for so long and if you've got an ass it's going to be pretty hard to get it over those uneven bars. Track and field is for the 20 year olds, but as they near their 30s they better have their endorsements lined up or their Wide World of Sport commentating gig because there's going to be some new youngster sprinting up on your ass and you'll already be running as fast as you can.

When my family went to Europe when I was a kid we went to Greece and saw where the first Olympics were held. In fact we saw the flame being run toward Munich because we were really lost, driving along a dirt road in the middle of nowhere along the ocean somewhere in Greece. As we drove slowly to God Knows Where, up ahead on the road we saw a ball of dust reflected in the setting sun and out of that ball came a slowly moving vehicle. Actually it was a convoy of vehicles driving very very slowly. My dad pulled over to the side of the road to make way as what looked like a police car crawled past. There were several other vehicles including an ambulance, and sandwiched in between them was the lone runner carrying the lit torch as he slowly made his way along the coast, taking the flame to the 1972 Olympics.

Where the Israeli team was murdered by Palestinian terrorists.

I am sure that "precautions" are being taken for the 2004 Olympics in Greece, but the state of affairs in the world is definitely casting a pall of anxiety over my normal joyful anticipation of the Olympics. I've been to Greece a couple times now and while they have tanks at the airport and guys with machine guns standing around I don't feel particularly safe there. At least not in Athens.

The people in Athens hate Americans. I know that's a glaring generalization and it's not necessarily true of ALL the people in Athens, but a lot of them really don't like us. And I don't really blame them - Athens is a tourist center and American tourists annoy ME for the most part - looking for McDonalds and a Holiday Inn so they can have all the comforts of home. Expecting people to speak English and basically being completely ethnocentric - I mean why travel outside the U.S. if you want things to be "like they are at home"? But anyway, the last time I was there was during one of their big elections. This is an interesting process because in Greece you must vote in the city, town or village where you were born, and if you don't then they take your passport away. Or at least this is how it was explained to me when I was trying to get on a domestic flight that was all booked up because the competing parties buy up all the seats to make it hard for people to get where they need to go. At least that's what they told me - but I'm an American who knows if I was getting the straight poop.

When we arrived in Athens, Jeri, Christina and I went straight to our hotel which had been booked over the internet. The picture on the internet didn't show the building next door that was either falling down, or under construction - we never did figure it out. We were just really aware of the men who were peering and leering at us from the windows, and spaces where there were chunks missing from the walls. Our "suite" consisted of two bedrooms and a siting room that looked like the waiting room at a mental hospital with cracked and dirty linoleum and a naugahyde couch trimmed with duct tape, but hey, it was only for one night. On our arrival we were informed by the front desk that they had rented out the second bedroom of our "suite" to some people called Brown, so they'd put a cot in the one bedroom where we'd all be staying. Okay fine, maybe they'll be cute English boys.

Or not. We took our naps, during which time the Browns arrived. When we got up to take showers and get ready to go out the Brown's room was dark. We didn't meet the Browns until we were all ready to go and they were emerging from the bathroom after their showers, he in his shower cap with the towel barely making it around his proteberant abdomen and she in her turban with a what looked like the bedspread from the bed wrapped around her rectangular bulk. They looked to be about 50 and we greeted them enthusiastically, hello! fellow travelers from another country. Apparently though, their name was Braun and they didn't understand anything we were saying because they only spoke German and ran quickly to their room and slammed the door. Auf weidersein Herr and Frau Braun!

That night we went to dinner and got a little drunk on Ouzo or Retsina or one of those fire water beverages that would make three women think it was a good idea to go out partying with our waiter and his friends. But we wanted to have the "local" experience! So they took us to a nightclub where we had to pay a cover and then we had to pay for the wine and the fruit. WE PAID -not a good sign! Especially since we were drunk and hadn't figured out the money and they were "helping" us. The floorshow was reminiscent of those Latino variety shows you see on cable tv - bad singers over-emoting and dance troupes in leotards with spangles. These girls did some jazzy numbers to Beat It and Billy Jean is Not My Lover that involved splits and cheerleading moves. When the women in evening gowns came out and danced around the stage while a guy sang Barry Manilow well that was about the time that Jeri and Christina and I decided to get up on stage and dance too! Whee! Everybody dance! Her name was Lola! C'mon people make some noise, clap your hands! All the local folk just sat there looking really annoyed and okay we were being "drunk girl" annoying, but it was funny and the show was boring until we joined in.

I stopped having fun when I started to get the spins - all that sweet wine and not enough food combined with jet lag. Jeri had met a Greek sailor and I could tell she was going to start Part II of her evening and Christina is a stewardess so she can hang with the best of'em. I got my new waiter friend to drive me back to the hotel where I planned on passing out right after I threw up. He wanted to stop for a little date rape in the car but I dislocated his middle finger, thanked him for the ride and staggered into the lobby. Around me the sounds of gunshots rang out - because this is how the Greeks get ready to vote. They shoot guns in the air! Kind of like how Americans celebrate the 4th of July.

The next day we went to the Acropolis which you can no longer walk upon because the air pollution and tourist traffic is making it erode really fast. Twenty five years prior you could walk into the Parthenon and all over the Acropolis and it was so cool to walk where the Ancient Greeks had walked. Now you can walk on the dirt paths around where they walked, though they probably had to walk on the same paths to get to the temples so it's kind of the same. Oh well.

We also went down to Piraeus and booked a cabin on a late ferry to take us on the 8 hour cruise to Santorini where we planned to spend the bulk of our trip. We returned to the hotel and packed. We went outside to try to get a cab and not one would stop, which had been our experience from the second we stepped off the plane. We had taken buses and walked because no cabs would pick us up. After trying for a bit we went in and asked the desk clerk what was up. He said that they could see we were American and that's why they didn't stop. He called a cab for us and when the driver arrived, took one look at us and became surly and mean, and yelled at the desk clerk for tricking him.

He muttered under his breath in a threatening manner as he drove, though we tried to flirt and joke with him. We were really trying to win him over until he stopped 1 mile away from where our boat was leaving and then tried to charge us $150 for the ride. At this point we stopped being charming. Jeri is almost 6 feet tall and I am 5'9" and we were pissed. We had figured out how the money worked in the last 24 hours and we didn't appreciate him trying to bully us and steal from us so we grabbed our bags from the trunk and stood there screaming in his face, "agamisu malaka" which although I'm sure I haven't spelled it correctly, roughly means "fuck you pussyface" - Jer's sailor had given her some useful words for a fight. He was swearing right back at us, but he got in his cab and left with the money we gave him which was short because after all, he hadn't taken us to the boat - which we had to walk to through the port at midnight!

Things got loads better when we arrived on Santorini after a good night's sleep in our first class cabin, although I ended up leaving after 2 days to go with this guy I met to check out Crete. I couldn't keep up with the amount of booze being consumed by my friends and their new friends - I throw up when I drink too much and that's no fun. I loved Crete, a truly awesome place that I will go back and visit again, but I ended up getting stuck there when I tried to get home! The election travel conspiracy messed me up so bad I had to take a ferry from Crete back to Piraeus (12 hours), turn around and jump back on a ferry to Santorini (8 hours), run up the hill grab my luggage at the hotel and get immediately on another ferry back to Piraeus (another 8 hours and they weren't letting the cabins - it was seats only) so I could go catch my plane. That's 28 hours on the ferries with people who smoke and eat at the same time in low ceilinged rooms wreaking of deisel fuel.

By the third leg of that marathon I was in tears. I hadn't slept, I was exhausted, hungry and my feet were dirty which really drives me nuts. As I was sitting there crying into my gyro a diminutive man sitting across from me engaged me in conversation. I told him my story and he introduced himself. His name was Anthony and he was on his way back to Athens so that he could vote in the election. He worked in the steamship business and, in fact, his father owned a steamship company. He knew people on the boat and offered to take me to the VIP lounge. He was so nice and so polite and he spoke very good english because he'd gone to school in London, so I trailed him like a grateful lost dog. I would've followed him anywhere.

The VIP lounge was downstairs and was made up of upholstered booths. Anthony bought me a beer and I laid down to try to nap. I didn't want to be rude, but I was so tired I couldn't talk. The next thing I knew he was shaking me awake and he had arranged for the purser to open a cabin for us. It had 2 bunk beds on either side of the little room. I immediately took a shower and crawled in bed and passed out while he laid on the bunk opposite mine and smoked. It never occurred to me to feel distrustful or uncomfortable. I have never been so grateful to anyone in my life and he was a perfect gentleman.

The boat docked at 4am and the purser woke us. My plan was to pretend to be British so a cab would take me to the airport where I would wait for my flight which was going to leave at 11am that morning. Anthony took me instead to his father's house where he put me to bed in his old room and made me breakfast before driving me to the airport at 9:30, getting me there right on time. And now I know where the really wealthy people of Athens live and I will never forget Anthony as long as I live. The last time I heard from him was about 6 years ago - he called me about 5 in the morning, time difference you know. He asked if I remembered him and even having just been awakened from a dead sleep I said, "Are you kidding I'll never forget you! Are you in town? Do you need a place to say?" He was sorry for waking me and said he'd call again, but he never has, though I wish he would.

He told me when he dropped me off at the airport that he didn't want me to leave Greece thinking badly about Greek people, and I don't - but I think the world of Anthony.

And I hope that the Olympics are stupendous this year, not just because I really love them and I don't want anything to mar them, but because it would be great if Greece looked good in the eyes of the world. That would make Anthony happy I think.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004


I wanted to get this post done while the demo team was on their lunch break, but unfortunately the system here has gone all wonky and it's only now as the thundering crashes and trembling of the earth begins anew that I was able gain access so here goes...

I'm not a big fan of American Idol which could also be called Let's Get Humiliated in front of millions. There are lots of reasons why I dislike the show, but mainly it's because Simon is making a career out of being mean and mean people suck. Additionally what he considers to be "Idol" material is pretty mediocre if you look at the winners from the previous shows. This could be because I came to love music at a time when rock and roll was still good, albeit waning - the Eagles were about to break and begin the blah years of 70s rock. But the singer/songwriters were still around and they were really talented, e.g. Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne (before he got all political on us), Billy Joel (before he got all cheesy on us), Elton John (before the drugs got control of him).

The winners of American Idol are really nothing more than malleable youngsters with good voices, and they aren't much different than the manufactured pap that is Britney, or 98 Degrees, or Jessica Simpson. Yes, they sing well, but there's something soulless about what they're doing - yes even Ruben, who has a very soulful voice, cannot sell me on whatever it is he's singing about. I don't care. They will fade from our consciousness like your disposable Casio watches and all the other plastic crap that is lying around not disintegrating in landfills.

I hate to watch people being humiliated for a chance to become disposable plastic crap. I don't find it entertaining. I am happy that the Hung boy got a recording contract, but I wish he was in on the joke. His earnestness as he sings "She-bangs" with all that enthusiasm tweaks my heartstrings and I feel protective of him. I don't care if people sing on key or not - I just appreciate the fact that they're willing to sing and fuck those people who want to be all judgemental about how good they sound - or don't sound.

And on that note I just have to give a shout out and a "you go girl" to this gal for her version of "Dream Lover".

Monday, May 17, 2004

I actually had a really fun weekend that I would love to write about. Unfortunately my ability to focus is being drastically affected by the all spontaneous flinching and cringing I'm doing. Currently, there is demolition going on not 20 yards from where I sit. They are tearing down the buildings to make way for a new post-production facility - which will be great I'm sure, but right now the ground upon which I sit is shaking and trembling causing my computer moniter to jump to vibrate wildly. The air is pierced with the crashes and roars and it's all working my last nerve.

To put it simply I cannot concentrate.

I am jumpier than a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. So I will try again tomorrow.

Thursday, May 13, 2004


Eleven years ago today one of my best friends died of AIDS and I still cry from missing him. You know how they say time heals all wounds, well it really doesn't, you just get busier and you don't have the time to dwell in grief. And that's as it should because life goes on you know?

But I just wish so much that Gary was still here.

I remember very clearly one night when we were getting ready to go out and he said that he knew he'd die before he was 30 and that was okay because he never wanted to get old and ugly. Gary spent a lot of time looking in mirrors and was quite enamoured of his appearance. With good reason. If Rupert Everett and Hugh Grant had a lovechild it would look just like Gary - who was definitely conflicted about his sexuality, and who would've been titillated by the idea of a blowjob from a hooker in hollywood, just so he could say he had the experience. And perhaps that is a more accurate description - Gary was into all experiences, sexual or otherwise, just for the sake of experiencing them.

All experiences except growing up.

He was my partner in suspended adolescence and one of the best people to while away the hours with. We would lie in bed and read, and discuss our favorite words which we would then gleefully use in sentences as often as possible. He kept lists of these words tacked up on the bulletin board in his room. We would talk on the phone for hours about everything and nothing and when I could feel myself falling asleep around 2am and would try to get off the phone, he would say, "just one more thing" and we'd talk for another hour. After he died I found notes that he took during these conversations where he would write down things that I said and underline the parts he liked and wanted to remember. He sang in when we were out in public in a very loud, lusty, off key voice and he loved the Smiths and Morrissey better than anything.

Gary didn't have an idyllic childhood. His mom had psychological problems and he was the product of an affair his mother had with a man who didn't love her back. His dad, the man his mother married is a kind man who was dealing with alcoholism throughout most of Gary's childhood. But when Gary was dying I met his biological father and almost passed out because Gary was the spitting image of the man. I can only imagine how painful it was for his dad to raise and love a child who looked like the man his wife was in love with. His mother's illness made her very narcissistic and he probably didn't get what he needed to be able to feel like he could let others in - there had been profound hurt and abandonment. Coming home from school at age 8 to find your mother on the floor with paramedics working to revive her has got to suck. There was a part of Gary that was shut down, he didn't want to get too close or feel too much.

He had a really great friend in high school, Susie K. and he had all of her diaries which he let me read. It threatened me -this intimate friendship which very much mimicked our own sharing of secrets, but there didn't seem to be anyone else he let in. He hung with the guys, he screwed lots and lots of girls, even had a child with a girlfriend when he was 21 - not a high point in his life though he did have a relationship with his daughter. He really hated the mother because he felt so powerless in that situation. Any problems in our relationship were directly related to power struggles and I learned a lot about myself through this relationship.

Gary liked to push people's buttons. He loved to ask inappropriate questions of total strangers. He loved to get a reaction from the world in general. He reveled in intrigue and drama. He would have done well back in the days of Dangerous Liaisons. In fact, he was a 20th century rake. Which is why I fell for him so completely. Our resistance to growing up, our willingness to be distracted by self created drama made us perfect partners at that time in my life.

But the drama that AIDS created in our lives was more like a horror show. In February of '87 I was pretty severely injured in an accident. Gary used to sneak into the hospital after work and climb in bed with me - I was in bad shape, in a lot of pain, and the nights were the hardest. I went home to a hospital bed at my parents house and ate Percodan and cried because I was in so much pain. I also watched the news and it was all about the growing AIDs crisis. The next group that was showing up with the virus were drug using hookers. Then I get a phone call from my friend Dave D. who tells me that he just saw my ex-boyfriend J. at his cousin's the crack dealer's house, naked in the living room screwing a hooker named "sunshine" (I know how to pick'em let me tell you).

So I become obssessed as I tend to do with health related issues and I have a friend drive me to the free clinic, heavily medicated and on crutches to get tested for AIDS. It came back negative - whew! That was the longest week of my life (to that point). I told Gary to get tested or we were never having sex again. I was so freaked out by the whole experience I wasn't feeling so much like I wanted to have sex ever again anyway. So he goes down to the clinic and gets tested - only his results are positive. He swore me to secrecy - I was the only one who knew - and we both handled the information very differently and this is where the learning process realy got started.

Gary went into denial and got very self destructive, started partying and screwing around like he only had a month to live because that's how he felt. I, on the other hand, went into the making deals with God program. I volunteered to work with people with AIDS. I attended medical conferences at St. Mary's medical center on the newest findings and treatments. I immersed myself in AIDS education. I kept his secret and became fiercely protective of him which led to a lot of clashes because he didn't want to deal with his disease at all and I wanted him to deal with it the way I thought he should.

For 3 years he stayed remarkably healthy for someone who was driving the party train while carrying a killer virus, but there was a dark side that came out and got ugly. I watched him use and discard people and became very afraid that he was putting others at risk. He claimed that he was using condoms, but I couldn't know. I would throw fits and call him out and everyone thought I was a jealous lunatic, and sure that was part of it, but it was also the feeling that in knowing and not telling I might be an accessory after the fact.

Then he got arrested for possession and sales of cocaine. He wasn't home when the police came through the door with the battering ram and he claimed he didn't know who the scales and packaging materials belonged to, as well as denying that the half ounce of cocaine they found in his closet was his. I got him out, got him a lawyer and he got house arrest which allowed him to continue to work AND stay insured and his lifestyle continued to be self destructive. He would take the AZT which was the only drug therapy available at the time and it would make him sick so he'd stop. It was like he wanted to make life more and more awful so he wouldn't mind leaving it behind.

He was starting to do so-so when a group of us decided to take him out to the Grand Canyon. He had never been there, never seen the Hopi Kiva reproduction that his grandfather had engineered. We rented 3 RVs and 28 of us caravanned out to Arizona. In retrospect it was kind of crazy and we're lucky we didn't kill him. The 6 of us who were not feeling well at least knew to stay in our own Jamoboree of germs, but the stress of all that time on the road took it's toll on Gary. He spent a lot of the trip in bed and when he was up he was exhausted. On Sunday morning we woke up in the field outside the park around dawn and drove into to the Kiva. Gary was too tired to get up so we waited and had breakfast and talked and that's when people really started to get that Gary wasn't going to get better. That he was going to die. So we cried a lot too that morning.

When he finally started to die it was a slow and insidious process that ate him alive from the inside out. First it was thrush in his mouth, then systemic candidiasis. Next was headaches and neuromas - shooting pains that felt like electric shocks in his extremities. He had the biggest jar of Tylenol by his bed I ever saw and he ate it like candy. By that time he had moved to his Grandma's house where his sister and her husband lived and they took care of him and Grandma. When the Cytomeglovirus affected his eyes and he began the merry go round of hospital admissions he had to finally quit working. He spent his days watching television and talking on the phone when he felt well enough. Gary loved music - all kinds - he used to regularly win prizes by answering trivia questions on KNAC when it played punk rock, so he would record music on his answering machine that would give you an idea of how he was doing. Sometimes the songs would make me laugh and sometimes I would cry.

It took over two years for Gary to die. His hair thinned and he developed wasting disease exacerbated by chronic diarrhea. As the disease got into his brain he took to wandering the neighborhood in his tattered, not so tighty whiteys, claiming that the KGB was after him. One hearbreaking morning he was found in the alley with his duffel bag over his shoulder waiting for Alan to come pick him up in his boat. His moments of lucidity became less and less and he began lapsing in and out of a coma like state. He lost all of the fat on his body and his skin collapsed on the bones of his beautiful face rendering him skeletal. Hospice care workers came everyday to tend to his body, though his sister and his friends also took turns changing his diapers. He developed bedsores that had to be cleaned and tended.

Throughout the last six months there were numerous times when the call would go out, "this is it, he's going". And we would all rush over to Grandma's house and gather around his bed speaking in hushed voices. But after a couple hours, when he didn't die, we'd start to get hungry and someone would go get some hotdogs and beer and we'd end up having a what we called coma-q's. We all took turns going to his house at night to sit with him and watch Jeopardy. You'd think he was unconscious but then you'd hear him say, "what is New York City" or whatever the answer to the question was.

About this time when he was still more conscious than not, I sat by his bed and told him how angry I was that he was leaving me and how much it sucked that he didn't want to stay alive. I also told him that what I knew is that just like our lives are our own to live as we choose so too is our dying and that I wasn't going to try to inflict my will on him anymore so that I could feel less pain about him leaving me. That all I wanted was for him to be okay and I would stay with him until the end. I really wanted to walk away until it was all over. A lot of his friends did walk away because it was probably the hardest thing any of us that stayed had done up till then in our lives. Most of my friends who had died had done so quickly - I'd never been so intimately exposed to this kind of lingering death and deterioration. It was so painful it was hard to breathe and it consumed my life.

I remember holding his hand one night and reading to him and I felt him grab my hand. I looked up and he was looking at me and I could tell he was present. He said, "I feel like I'm stepping off a cliff into nothing and I'm so scared." Gary didn't have a spiritual practice and was militantly aetheistic which I always thought was more about getting a dig in at the mother of his child, who accepted Jesus as her personal savior shortly after the baby was born and became a proselytizing fundamentalist, than anything else. She got her revenge when he was really sick in the hospital and barely conscious. She'd come in with a bunch of people from Calvary and they'd stand over the bed praying for his soul and trying to get him to accept Jesus so he "wouldn't burn in hell". This continued all the way to his death and I think she did get him to say those words during a moment of incoherence - whatever, she was doing it for herself, and as Carl told her when he found out about it, "Gary would've accepted a bag of cheetos as his personal savior."

But that was one of the gifts that came with Gary's death. The understanding that everyone has a grieving process that is their own and it has nothing to do at all with the person who dies. I also got so centered in a faith that I've had since I was a kid, but hadn't accessed in years. I knew that Gary was going to be okay and that no matter how hard it was for him to leave his ravaged body, once he did he would be fine. And that night when he looked at me and said he was scared I climbed in bed and held him and told him that his soul was a butterfly and his body was the coccoon and it was okay to fly away and be free like he was always talking about. I told him that I'd be okay, we'd all be okay and all we wanted was for him to be okay too, so whenever he was ready... and in that moment I wanted nothing more than to hold the pillow over his face and help him on his way, because his humanity had been beat out of him by that fucking disease and to be completely honest it hurt so bad to have to sit there and watch.

But I didn't and it took him a couple more weeks to fly away. On May 13, 1993 I got a phone call at 9:30pm and it was Gary's brother telling me that Gary had gone. And I wanted to cry, but I couldn't right then because what I mostly felt was relief and gratitude that it was over.

I cried later and I still do because I miss him so much - not that sick shell of a human, but my best friend whose word lists I still have, who could make me laugh and piss me off simultaneously, the guy who still had so much of the world to see and so many inappropriate questions to ask - the kind we'd all like to ask, but don't because we're grown up and polite. The guy who died young at age 30, but not pretty. Not pretty at all.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004


I don't diet. I have changed the way I eat to exclude that which makes me fat in favor of focusing on eating so that I'm full and well nourished, yet still satisfied. It's not like I'm on the non-fat, low carb, all protein, or eat nothing but chemicals plan - believe me, I eat. But the last few weeks I have been struggling with the desire to eat food that I know I'm not supposed to have. There are strong psychological drives at work and while I am not addicted to drugs or alcohol I do definitely have impulse issues with food. I will literally obssess until I get that food experience, usually it's an In'n'Out burger. I am powerless before the double double with onions. People on the east coast know not of what I speak, but my mouth is watering as I write this. Once I drove there in the middle of the night in my bathrobe the call of the burger was so strong. My idea of a great date is going to a movie and In'n'Out with a guy who also like onions on his burger.

It can also be weird and random things like 31 Flavors Jamoca Almond Fudge ice cream, Peanut M&Ms or fish tacos from Tacos Baja Ensenada, a 25 minute drive from my house to East L.A., and I'll obssess until I get it.

The latest obssession was Terra chips. You know those potato chip like things made from Taro root and Sweet Potatoes? I don't know why but I couldn't stop thinking about them even though I don't eat foods like that anymore. But still I found myself at Trader Joe's with 3 different varieties in my cart. I put two back to rationalize the purchase of the one bag, yes, it's a game I play with myself to make it okay.

So I'm heading out to my car and there's a homeless guy in the parking lot who hits me up for money. I usually have "bum money" on me - that two bucks in change that I can pass out, but this particular evening I had no bum money, so I told him no, I had nothing to give him. He said thanks anyway. I put my stuff in the trunk, taking the Terra Chips to open and eat in the car and he came over and took my cart for me. He said, "let me do that for you and thank you for speaking to me, most people walk by like I'm not there." His front teeth were missing and he was in his 30s maybe, he seemed like a nice guy. As he walked away with my cart to put it in the lot rack I wished I had money to give him. I got in the car and looked at the Terra chips that I certainly didn't need and, although I really wanted them, I backed up to where he stood and asked him if he'd like to have them. He grinned and said, "yeah - thanks!", like I had given him a gift. I think it was probably hard for him to eat them without his teeth, but it made me happy to think that at least his stomach wouldn't be empty. I wouldn't have enjoyed eating those Terra chips thinking about that hungry man in the parking lot.

Recently the same thing happened again - a homeless guy wanted to wash my windows and I had no bum money. I was on my way into the drug store to pick up a prescription and get a little bit of chocolate or something sweet - I have no will power when I'm wanting sugar - and so I said to him, "look I can't give you money, but I can get you something to eat and put it on my card." He smiled (another toothless smile) and followed me down the aisle where the cookies and candy and drugstore type food items are. At first he picked some sugar free cookies, but when I asked him if he really wanted that and pointed out the Peanut M&M cookie bars he was more than happy to go for those. Which was good because that's what I wanted and for some reason I got a lot more satisfaction from not eating them but buying them for someone else who was hungry.

I can deal with my cravings a whole lot more easily if I give those things I crave to my homeless neighbors and luckily for me there are a lot of those particular diet aides living in my hood.

It's just one perspective, but it works for me.

Monday, May 10, 2004


Friday night started out on a good note. The perfect martini sipped on a comfy couch while waiting for my friend Ms. A, who was running late. By the time she got there I was feeling no pain at all and encouraged her to join me. We were at Houston’s in Santa Monica and while I normally eschew corporate dining establishments Houston’s is conveniently located on the Westside and is a good middle meeting spot for friends who live in opposite directions. And, really, once I’ve had a big ass martini I could care less where I am.

Once A. gets there we are seated almost immediately because I put our name in when I arrived. So we start with the spinach dip – one of the things that I really like about Houston’s, any one of them – is their spinach dip served with chips. Okay it’s not food I normally eat, but I’m not usually tipsy on martinis, believe it or not. I was dismayed to discover that they took the one thing that I order, the seared Ahi tuna salad, off the menu. This is a major bummer, because I have never ordered anything else and I’m not really excited about trying anything else. The waitress, a very sweet girl with really white teeth (making me glad I’m being diligent with my Crest white strips) explains that if I order the seared Ahi tuna entrée they can include the dressing from the salad and there is a side of tomatoes and a cabbage salad so it’s very similar. Since I can’t think of anything else and I have finished my martini and am feeling reckless and wild, I say, “why not?”

A and I have a lovely time going over her latest adventures in internet dating. She’s nursing a bit of a broken heart and what better way to move along than to get out there and date. I tried that and have since taken a vow of celibacy, but hey, everybody’s different. So by Friday she’s had 2 dates with R. I would use his real name since it’s sounding like he’s not going to be part of her reality for very long, BUT you never know. There is a level of attraction and she did like kissing him – two HUGE hurdles, but there are some things that she’s having a hard time with, like the fact that he likes her a lot. Actually it’s more like a lot to the nth degree. And it’s scaring her because he’s coming on like gangbusters and she’s not even sure. I pointed out that the last relationship she was in was with a guy who described what they were doing as “hanging out and having fun”, which could also be translated as fucking without any level of emotional responsibility, commitment or presence. You know it is really hard to go from being ignored to being adored. That adoration can feel like smothering. But then when the person who is adoring you is telling you repeatedly what a great guy he is and it’s only your second date – well that can raise some red flags. After dinner we go upstairs to the bar and have another glass of wine and talk about what an asshole the guy who broke her heart is, because that’s what friends do for each other.

I get home about midnight and fall right to sleep, after all I have a full belly, there was good conversation, not too much alcohol, just enough to feel sassy. At 3:15am I wake up and my stomach hurts. And so does my head. I take some aspirin and I roll around in bed putting off the inevitable. At 4:30am I am violently ill – and there cannot be enough emphasis on “violently” to accurately describe what I am going through. I have been food poisoned. It is a long night.

My plans for Saturday included a thorough cleaning of my humble abode, which is pretty much a sty because I haven’t been around to clean it. That didn’t happen. It was all I could do to rise from the couch and drag myself to the store to by the fixins for spinach salad for dinner that night. Not just any dinner, but a gathering of Team Tiara. A group of very special and very fun women that I am blessed to have in my life. We get together once a season to feast and dance and laugh and while we’re doing all of that we wear tiaras. I shit you not. So there was no way I was going to miss out on that. It’s not like I have to look good and they don’t care if I lay on the floor and sip my champagne out of a sippy cup. Bubbly beverages are good for upset stomachs and champagne is bubbly right? So it takes me all day to get it together and get myself in the shower – I will be clean if nothing else. As usual there was way too much food, and lots and lots of laughing and wonderful conversation. Gorgeous E. who has been selected by Maxim magazine as one of the hottest 100 women is getting married soon and she wasn’t even supposed to be there, but her fiancé wanted to spend some of the evening hanging with his brother since he will be out of town almost till the wedding. She had spent the day sulking and pouting about this development because she was expecting a romantic dinner on their last night and of course, we all understood that, but we were really happy to be able to be there for her. And we all got a kick out the fact that she’s about to marry a guy whom she initially thought of as the biggest cheeseball ever! He called her for a year before she would go out with him. And his messages were along the lines of “you know people who hang out with me generally find that their lives improve.” Ha! Of course her life has improved since she started hanging out with him so a cheeseball with confidence isn’t necessarily a bad thing – as I was trying to point out to A. the night before. Anyway, we yakked and drank and ate until 1am which is pretty much how late we always go. It’s kind of like a slumber party only we don’t stay over and sleep in sleeping bags. Yet.

Sunday I felt a little better, got my house cleaned and had a good time with my family. So all in all it was a good weekend, though I really could’ve done without the throwing up and I don’t think I’ll be heading back to Houston’s anytime soon.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004


So last night I'm watching TV and one of those ads comes on with the pretty women sitting around the restaurant all Sex and the City-like. Their friend comes in and sits down smiling with her teeth bared and what pretty, pearly choppers they are! The ladies who lunch all start hitting her up, "who is he?", "you're glowing" - stuff like that. And she's all "what?" playing coy. Her pals hit her up about how she's got major commitment issues and her last relationship only lasted a week. She comes back with, "this was only a week!" and goes on to wax rhapsodic about Crest's premium whitening system with which she has just whitened her huge teeth.

And they're really white. Probably because the DP put some kind of gel on them to make them pop on camera, but nonetheless, I am overwhelmed by the urge to make my teeth bright, white so that I can walk around smiling with my lips pulled back into a grimace. I have commitment issues - this stuff's for me!

So I run out the door and across the street to Walgreen's and buy the last package of the new premium whitening system. I run home and read the directions. It's not that complicated but there are a lot of disclaimers - like the stuff only whitens natural teeth. Not dental work, not fillings, not veneers or caps. It says some people have to do their lower teeth separate from the upper teeth - it doesn't say why. If the gel gets on your skin, fabric, leather or basically any other material than your tooth material it will turn them white. This is true of your gums as well.

I'm nervous, but very determined so I go to the bathroom and carefully open the package for the lower teeth and very very carefully apply the gel strip. It feels weird and gooey, but I've got a good seal and I'm not choking or anything. So I apply the strip for the upper teeth and gingerly close my mouth and go watch television. Or really, I go watch the clock because although everything feels okay I have visions of my teeth melting.

After a half hour I remove the strips and there is goo residue left behind that is eeeuuuuuwww! I rinse my mouth out and look at my teeth. They pretty much look the same although they feel REALLY clean and smooth. My gums a little tingly and rawish. Hmmmmm.

Did it again this morning and I am committed to 12 more applications of the magical whitening goo.

I am such a consumer whore.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004


Just got the following e-mail from that Devil-ette Heather. It's a sad day for all of us who rode a mile or more in Alice. There will never be another white, wheezy and oh-so-scrappy (in every sense of the word) pick up truck like her. Alice, we'll miss you!

If you are getting this, it either means you understood my strange
relationship with Alice, my beloved truck, or you at least kept a straight
face whenever I became emotional (read: financially illogical) about her.
Either way, I thank you for that.

Though I planned to donate her later this month for some worthy cause, fate
became impatient with me and she was impounded by the city of San
Francisco. I was allowed one final visit this afternoon, long enough to
retrieve some beloved goods which included: oil-stained feather boas,
concert souvenir drumsticks, 10 red glitter cowgirl hats, well-worn Mexican
blankets, camping gear and various bits of emergency cash stashed here and

Special thanks go to:

My brother, Rob, who handed her over in 1990, " . . . she's got a year
left in her, tops."
My father, Bob, who simply made me an inside latch for the camper shell,
when I developed the habit of sleeping in the back, instead of arguing
the logic of it.
My dear friend, Al, who, in 1997, created the magical starter button
that delighted all guests: "Now Heather, this will only last a couple of
weeks, you have to get this properly fixed . . . "
Automobile Association of America
Ted & Al's Towing
All mechanics everywhere that eventually came to refer to her as "Alice"
instead of "your truck."
All Devil-ettes, especially Jamie, Devi and Tracey, who knew she was a
helluva soulful gal and just needed a "touch up."

Most especially, James Hampton, who escorted me to the grim, depressing
yard of jailed vehicles on the edge of town - a sadder sight you have not
seen. He is the one who took the final photos and comforted me even as I
bawled my head off with greasy yard workers looking on, perplexed by my
anguish. Of course, all they could see was the rusted body, cracked
windshield, fading stickers ("Jesus Shaves!") and dented sides - just
another piece of metal junk to them.

Sadly, Alice will probably not rest in peace but most likely, piece-s.
Still, she was always up for mile after mile of adventure and she sure made
those shiny cars jump outta the way! I'll miss her terribly.

Strangely attached to inanimate objects,


When I was a little kid I went to a birthday party at a theme park, can't remember which one, but there was a puppet show and it scared me to death. Perhaps it was my active imagination or my tendency to anthorpomorphize everything - even rocks, but I imagined that the puppets had secret lives and would animate when the puppet master wasn't around. I imagined their puppet thoughts and it frightened me and made me cry. I had to be taken outside to calm down.

One Sunday I was watching Chiller - horror movies that came on about 3pm on channel 5 - and there was a movie that featured an evil puppet like doll that came to life and stabbed people with a little tiny knife with a malicious, feral grin on it's little puppet face. In one scene it's walking across the living room, stalking the little girl who lives in the house who is sleep walking. And I'm huddled in the corner of the couch, clutching a pillow, barely able to breathe, whispering "wake up! wake up and run!!" I was so scared I started to cry. I was so frightened that I couldn't get up to turn off the TV - I didn't want to go near the TV!! So I called my mom and she turned it off and I wasn't allowed to watch Chiller anymore.

This past Sunday I went to Alexander's first birthday party. There were a lot of people there and a cowboy was entertaining the kids when I arrived. The food was great. Alexander was looking so cute in his little man spring outfit. All the kids were getting along well and having a blast. And then it was time for the puppet show. My friend Sally had found an amazing puppeteer who makes his own puppets and puts on a really great show.

As he brought out the first puppet and started doing his thing, I could feel myself getting freaked out! I had to go sit down where I couldn't see!! I tried to talk myself down and went back to watch some more. I was okay if I watched his hands and not the puppet, but if I focused on the puppets I'd get freaked out again. I finally gave up because I didn't want to have bad dreams.

It wasn't just me either. Ocelli, my goddaugher, who is almost three was scared by the puppets but hung in there as long as she could sit in her mom's lap.

Puppets are scary!

Monday, May 03, 2004


I'm not a big fan of reality shows, but I must admit to being completely addicted to home improvement shows. Especially if it involves before and after type activities. The human makeover offerings are a little strange because the people who get made over are often made over in Hollywood's idea of beauty which, in my opinion can border on mutilation. The Swan is the best example of this aberration - the women all end up with the same big hair and overly made up "Barbie" faces and it freaks me out. I can't watch it because it gives me bad dreams.

But anyway.

The grand daddy of the home improvement shows has got to be Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Each week on Sunday night at 8pm that goofy looking Ty from Trading Spaces lets some family know that their home will be receiving a complete makeover and then leads the team through the hour/week. The lucky family usually has a fairly dramatic back story like, for instance, last night's family lost their dad - he got sick and died, leaving nine kids for his wife to raise alone. The dad had big plans to fix up this house for his family, in fact, he and his wife had laid tile in their bathroom even after he got sick. But he died.

So there are 7 kids still living at home and they are all so sweet. There are 2 older kids away at college. The mom is just the kind of mom you'd make up if you could make up your fantasy mom. The only thing they ask the Extreme Team to save is the rocking chair where dad rocked all of his babies. You can tell they really miss him a lot. And that they really loved him - I mean I'm missing him too. This family is so loving toward each other and they clearly enjoy being together. It's hard to imagine how two people can properly parent more than 2 kids. Kids are work! They need a lot of attention!! But these two people had created a truly loving family and it is so sad that Dad isn't around to love and be loved.

And this is where I have to run in and get a box of Kleenex because from here on out it's tears. I don't even have to be hormonal. I am just a total sap for this stuff. And it's not just this wonderful family. There was the family whose dad was in the National Guard and got called up to serve in Iraq leaving them in a brand new house with a card table in the kitchen. There was the family whose son had gotten in an accident that paralyzed him from the neck down. There was the man who went out and found his homeless, schizophrenic father and brought him from the stree to live with the family only there wasn't enough room so that poor crazy man was living in a Winnebago on their property. There was the lady in Watts whose house was ruined in the flood and they not only gave her a new home, they fixed up her STREET! and the little community school where she teaches and loves and supports her neighbors.

And these people aren't toothless and pathetic. NO! They're like your neighbors or even you and your family. And they're not complaining. They simply sent in a video telling their story and asking to be considered for an Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. So one day they wake up and the whole neighborhood is gathered outside their home along with the Extreme Team and then they get to go on a one week vacation while their home is completely destroyed and they come home to a whole new house.

Since I became a fan of the show I met a guy who did all the electrical wiring for an alarm system that went into one of the homes. He told me that there are like 100 people working on these homes from 6am until sometimes 2 or 3 in the morning the whole week! So while I could be all cynical and focus on how it doesn't really cost the network that much because everything is donated for product placement - thank you Sears! - all of these people who are doing back breaking labor for hours and hours are doing this for more than the money. Another person who lives near Livermore, CA where one of these homes is located (an episode not yet seen) said that people would go over and watch because it is such an amazing thing to see. I mean they're completely tearing down and rebuilding a house in a week!

I love that the designers always cry too - like all of them. Especially last night. They were in tears before the teardown started. Dad's mother showed up as well as the 2 kids who live away from home and they were talking about their memories of dad. Tears - I'm telling you we were all misty from the getgo. As an audience member I was also being manipulated by the "interviews" with the family that they drop in to keep you glued through the construction. The angelic little blonde girl who looked into the camera and said, "befo dis my hawt was bwoken"...


So anyway this family got a whole new front on their house and inside a gourmet kitchen (stove with 8 burners, 3 ovens, 2 microwaves and the biggest refrigerator you've ever seen!), new family/living room/dining room, new bedrooms for the 2 boys who were sleeping in the hall and made over bedrooms for everyone else, a solarium game room and a playhouse that is also an outdoor home theatre with a big screen that lowers and a projection system. The little girls also got dance lessons to go with their ballerina room.

In addition to the memory tree out front which will grow and shade the house, there is also a family tree in the front hall - pictures of all 9 children with a picture of mom on one side and dad on the other and candles burning in a holder that they built that is shaped like a cool modernistic tree. By this time everyone is crying - the whole family and everyone who worked on the project. The family keeps saying how grateful they are and how much they appreciate it and how much dad would have loved everything that was done to this house that he wanted to make a great place for his family to live.

And under it all they are still missing him and you can totally tell that if they had the option of living in this great house or having their dad back, they would pick their dad and live in a refrigerator box.

So as the clock ticks 9pm I am sitting on the couch clutching my box of Kleenex and sobbing like the Extreme crybaby that I am.