Tuesday, August 31, 2004

MONDAY SUNDAY

The weekend was so exhausting I was tired right through Monday. Actually all of last week wore me out because I got off the couch, missing the last week of Olympic events, but since swimming was over I found myself less transfixed by the games. And I missed Ian. But yes, I got off my couch and resumed my mad social whirl. If it can be called a whirl when you’re home by 10pm. But hey, that’s after working all day so it’s pretty whirly.

Thursday night I went to a party to celebrate the opening of new production offices for a company that a couple of my friends have set up. Ms. Joey impressively raised $6 million to finance an independent feature. Get down with your bad producer self girl! Very proud of her. Very happy to go slurp mango margaritas and have tortilla chips with guacamole and salsa for dinner. I also got to catch up with old roommate, dear friend Richard. He got married two years ago and twins arrived shortly after that and he’s kind of fallen off the face of the earth. I love that, other than being really busy, he’s still got all the irony and neuroses that I’ve always loved. He makes me laugh.

Friday night Lori came up with her kids and did NOT ask me “how is the dating going” – at least not until I brought it up the next day. She must have heard me the last time we got together - the time when she asked total strangers if they had a single son that I could date – and I told her that shit like that made me want to avoid her phone calls and why couldn’t she just be happy that I’m happy? Which is good because she’s one of my oldest friends and although we could not be more different we still know each other so well we can practically finish each other’s sentences.

She came with her two youngest kids, Hailey who’s almost 11 and Michael who is almost 13. We went and saw Napoleon Dynamite because there really aren’t that many movies out there for kids and they’ve seen most of them. So Lori and Hailey thought Napoleon Dynamite was totally lame and Michael and I thought it was okay. The guy in front of us thought it was hilarious and laughed uproariously, almost insanely throughout. Then after the movie Michael and I quoted lines from the movie to each other and giggled so I guess it was a little better than okay. It just be that it’s really directed to people with the humor of adolescent boys.

We got home from dinner about 9ish and Lori and I were reminiscing about when we saw “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest” and since I own it we decided to share it with the kids. And it was only after the movie started and the word “fuck” was flying around that I raised an eyebrow and wondered if perhaps this movie wasn’t really appropriate for kids under the age of 15. That’s how old Lori and I were when we saw it. And after we saw it we spent the rest of the night crying every time we thought about it. And then there’s the sex and the suicide and the smothering. We told them to cover their eyes. The movie is still a wonder. And it still makes me cry. And it’s really not PG-13 at all, but the kids liked it anyway and I’m not their mom.

We all got to sleep about 11:30 and then got up again in what seemed like only a few hours to take Michael out to Woodland Hills and drop him off at Temple to attend a Bat Mitzvah. Lori had driven him up from San Diego just so he could do so – and so we could hang out. There was a little drama about what Michael would wear. She wanted him in khakis with his plaid shirt tucked in with topsiders. Michael and I were both pretty yeeesh at those shoes. He was willing to wear the outfit she picked out for him but with the shirt untucked over a black t-shirt and with his black converse tennis shoes, which we both thought looked a hell of a lot better than those topsiders. This would be one of the massive differences between Lori and I – and I think it comes down to the Orange County fashion sensibility being quite a bit different than Los Angeles. Especially when you’re talking about people over 30. Or it could just be that Michael and I are equally eccentric about what we think looks good. In any case she guilted him into wearing the ugly shoes and I wondered if I’d had children would I make them wear ugly clothes. Especially if I was going to drop them off at an event where no one knew me and no one ever would so I would never have to suffer their judgmental comments at the soccer field where the married with children gather to continue the hierarchical hell of high school.

But anyway.

After we dropped Michael off we headed out to Malibu since I don’t know my way around Woodland Hills and Malibu is just a left turn off the freeway and a much nicer place to eat breakfast and shop. And although I swore I wouldn’t buy anything I found the greatest skirt that I knew I wouldn’t find anyplace else and so I bought it. Because I’m weak. And because I knew that there would be days, and nights (that’s how fabulously versatile this skirt is) when I would be thinking, “If only I’d bought that damned skirt…) And I really try not to regret. We weren’t shopping that long when Michael called to say that the Bat Mitzvah was over, but there was a party that night and could he spend the night and get a ride home tomorrow.

Um, no.

So we got back in the car and went and got him. And sat in traffic on the 405S. By the time I got home I was exhausted and took a little nap. Well I tried to take a nap. I never actually slept because I was on the phone all afternoon. So when I had to decide to drive down to the LBC for a CD release party, or out to Echo Park for extreme wine tasting, I opted for Echo Park because the drive was much shorter and I was running out of gas. Plus, Bud called me to tell me that she was on her way to another party up in Laurel Canyon before we were to leave and well, all that is just a lot of driving since we were heading down to Irvine the next morning for a little wholesale shopping.

Bud got over to my house about 7:30 and we headed out to The Echo, a club my friend Liz runs where they have monthly wine tasting. And this isn’t like any wine tasting you’ve ever been too. No. It’s extreme wine tasting which pretty much means that by the end of the evening you’ve consumed about one and half bottles of wine – should you choose to do so. They are held out on the Aimee Semple MacPherson celebratory terrace which is actually the patio out back of the club which looks like a penitentiary exercise yard decorated with festive Christmas lights. It does sit directly under the blue neon cross in the sky at the church where Aimee proselytized to the masses.

The wine tasting is conducted by an English gentleman named Julian who exhaustively researches the theme for the wine tasting as well as the wines and often gets blasted throughout the evening. The first one I went to was tied to the Tour de France with wines featured from the countries of selected riders. At one point during that evening Julian called us all cunts. Which, according to him is a British term of affection. Saturday’s wine tasting featured Argentinian wines and was thematically tied to haunted lighthouses and the horrible events that got them that way. I never really got the tie-in, but the reds were quite good. So was the Chardonnay and I’m not partial to those. In any case a good time was had by all although I really should’ve eaten dinner before I went because I was so hungry on the way home ‘round midnight, that I believed that I really needed to go to Jack in the Box for a little sustenance so that I wouldn’t wake up with a hangover.

Because it’s so much better to wake up at 5am with the most horrible indigestion I’ve ever experienced. But I wasn’t hungover. No. It just felt like my head was stuffed with cotton batting and everything I did was in slow motion. I headed over to Bud’s in Santa Monica about 10am to drink coffee and moon over her fabulous new Heywood Wakefield dining room table – pure art – it’s so sad that craftsmanship is almost non-existent in furniture anymore. It’s all become more or less disposable Ikea – even the expensive stuff isn’t made all that well.

We headed down to Irvine to hit the sale and get “special friend prices” and fab wool coats and cashmere and other fun stuff. Considering how wiped out I was I did pretty good as far as focus. This isn’t easy shopping. It’s dig through the racks for treasure hard work. By the time we were out of there we were hungry and tired. Profoundly tired. And because we couldn’t think of anyplace in Los Angeles where we could sit on the water and have snacks and cocktails – hair of the dog and all, we stopped in Long Beach at the Marina where McKenna’s Creek has been reincarnated as McKenna’s on the Bay.

I grew up in Long Beach and hanging out there has a level of familiarity that is both good and bad. Good in the sense of – how much fun is this to sit in the sun and feel the breeze and watch sailboats while sipping a bloody mary and eating a crab and cheddar on sourdough. Bad in the sense of – I’m so glad I got out of here and that I’m not one of these people who lives in the bar at McKenna’s. Which may have gone away but all the people who used to hang out there came right back and they’ve only lost hair and gotten fatter and more wrinkled.

Getting home after two bloodies took a little effort as alcohol and sun, while initially putting the wind back in our sails, left us feeling dehydrated and head-achey. It was all I could do to get home and fall back on the sofa where I talked on the phone for hours until I finally had to go to bed.

And that’s why I was too tired to write anything yesterday. I never got a chance to rest myself all weekend. But I had fun. Next weekend should work out better as Monday is Labor Day and it's all about resting.

Friday, August 27, 2004

PARTY LIKE IT'S 1955

The Republican Convention starts on Sunday and I was going to get all serious and stuff about what a threat this administration is to the general reputation of our great country in the world at large - I mean Hello! if you're watching the Olympics, or the Olys as this clever girl calls them, then have you noticed how totally empty stands erupt with cheers for U.S. athlete's over there? It's the age of technology and it's being added for the U.S. audiences who watch those events almost 8 hours after they happen. What I'm hearing from people who are there is that those worthy athletes from the United States are being met with, at best, polite applause. There's a definite "chill" going on where the U.S. is concerned if you ask anyone who lives anyplace else but here. Of course if you listened to, or read news sources from other countries that would be no suprise. And NBC is making sure that viewers here still believe that the whole world stands and cheers for us.

And I could go on. I so totally could, but then I started thinking about this upcoming week of festivities around the Republican National Convention in New York City. And I am going to be so curious to see what kind of a party those folks throw. The Democrats had Al Sharpton and Bill Clinton and Barak Obama who all pretty much rocked the house with their speeches. But they also had celebrities running around - I mean Andre 3000 made that scene, and it don't get much hipper than that. So I'll be interested to see who the Republicans will be trotting out. I doubt very much that I'll be able to stomach much of what is said as I have come to realize that so much of it is a big fat lie. Did anyone see the economic report yesterday where it turns out that over 30 million people in this, the wealthiest nation on earth, are living in poverty? Do you think they're going to open with that? No? Me neither. Instead I believe they'll be talking about all those new jobs that have been created over the last year. Mmmhmmm. Jobs at Burger King and Starbucks because everytime you turn around there's another one of those places opening at a strip mall near you.

I'll be interested to see how many days the Prez attends the convention because you know he likes to party. And vacation. In fact, he's spent most of his presidency doing just that - vacationing. And raising money. It will be interesting to see what Anne Coulter drapes her boney ass in - something red and black and white with little swastika buttons maybe? And will their be any women speaking? I heard that Laura will be speaking on a luncheon - I think for other women, so maybe women will just stay in the their seats, listening politely with the legs crossed at the ankles and their hands folded in their laps.

While the Republicans party I think we should all be able to do so at home as well. For instance we can all drink everytime the word "God" is uttered, or everytime W. mispronounces a word, or everytime an ambiguous statement is made about the situation in Iraq. It will be interesting to see how badly our fearless leader screws up his speech, because although he's not allowed to speak unscripted he always manages to somehow mess it up with a little free style. Like recently when he was ominously intoning about how terrorists are plotting new ways everyday to destroy America and take away our freedoms.. and so are we (I do believe he was speaking on behalf of the government).

I received the RNC 2004 Convention Schedule for the big night of the nomination in an e-mail recently and I will share it here, many thanks to the creative soul who launched this onto the world wide web.

New York, NY
6:00pm Opening prayer led by the Reverend Jerry Falwell
6:30pm Pledge of Allegiance
6:35pm Burning of Bill of Rights (except for the 2nd amendment)
6:45pm Salute to the Coalition of the Willing
6:46pm Seminar#1: Getting your kid a military deferment
7:30pm First presidential beer bong
7:35pm Serve freedom fries
7:40pm EPA Address#1: Mercury, it's what's for dinner
8:00pm Vote on which country to invade next
8:10pm Call EMTs to revive Rush Limbaugh
8:15pm John Ashcroft Lecture: The Homos are After your Children
8:30pm Round Table disucssion on reproductive right - MEN ONLY
8:50pm Seminar#2: Corporations - The government of the future
9:00pm Condi Rice sings "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man"
9:05pm Second presidential beer bong
9:10pm EPA Address#2: Trees - the real cause of forest fires
9:30pm Break for secret meetings
10:00pm Second prayer led by Cal Thomas
10:15pm Lecture by Karl Rove: Doublespeak made easy
10:30pm Rumsfeld demonstration of how to squint and talk macho
10:35pm Bush demonstration of trademark deer in the headlights stare.
10:40pm John Ashcroft demonstrates new mandatory kevlar chastity belt
10:45pm Clarence Thomas reads list of black republicans
10:46pm Third presidential beer bong
10:50pm Seminar#3: Education - a drain on our nation's economy
11:10pm Hilary Clinton pinata
11:20pm Second Lecture by John Ashcroft: Evolutionists, the dangerous new cult
11:30pm Call EMTs to revive Rush Limbaugh again
11:35pm Blame Clinton
11:40pm Laura serves milk and cookies
11:50pm Closing prayer led by Jesus Himself; alternate, Mel Gibson
12:00pm Nomination of George W. Bush as Holy Supreme Planetary Overlord

It's pretty much what I expected, but I'll probably watch anyway. Not that often you get to Jesus Himself lead a prayer.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

TEA AND SYMPATHY

I could hear the screams that were coming through the phone even though the bedroom door was closed and I was sitting in my own room reading. The sound was so full of pain it was like the dying screams of an animal and I reacted like Bambi’s mother, my head snapped up and eyes opened wide in alarm, as my ears strained to hear what my father was murmuring to whoever it was that had called. I leapt off my bed and crept down the hall to stand at my parents closed bedroom door, my ear pressed against it, shamelessly eavesdropping. Who the hell was he talking to? Was it someone I knew who was so clearly in trouble?

Since my parents were both therapists and my father also counseled students at the college where he taught odds were good that I did not know the person in trouble. But that sound of pain still made me feel concern. And also a little afraid. I wanted to know that they would be okay. I wanted my daddy to make it okay the way he did for me when I fell on my bike and he carried me into the house and cleaned my shredded knee with Physoderm before gently bandaging it with a, "there all better now".

He hung up the phone and got to the door before I could move away and pretend I hadn’t been listening. It didn’t matter though because he was on his way to find me. It was 6:30pm and he had to give a final that night at school and this client, I’ll call her Elle, was in serious crisis. Like she was going to kill herself crisis and she’d called him to come over and stop her from hurting herself. But he had to be at school to give the final – in 30 minutes. He asked me if I would be willing to go over and sit with her until he was done.

I was 17 and after hearing her screams I was more than a little unsettled at the idea of sitting alone for two or three hours with a suicidal stranger. What if she got violent? What if she tried to kill herself while I was there? My dad reassured me that this wasn’t the case – he would’ve called the police if it was that kind of situation. He explained to me that she didn’t want to hurt herself, that’s why she called. She was in so much pain she was afraid that she would hurt or kill herself and she needed someone to just be with her. He would come over as soon as the final was finished and take over.

I was already involved because there was no way I could not think about this person who was hurting so bad that she could make that sound. So I said yes. My father’s confidence in me made me believe I could handle it. And so we left and my dad drove me over to Elle’s house and introduced me to her. She was in her 30s although she looked younger, with blond curly hair to her shoulders, held back off her face with a hair clip. She was rail thin her arms and legs like a child’s yet filled with a tension that created an aura of a woman on the verge. She clung to my father and her wails rose up, braying and howling sounds coming from someplace I didn’t ever want to go.

What the fuck was my father thinking to leave me with her. Alone. For hours.

I guess he was thinking he didn’t have any other options except maybe the police and even I could see that would be a bad call. She was more like a horribly distraught child, but in a grown up that behavior is scary to see. After my dad left Elle and I sat down on the couch. I watched her warily as she sobbed and I handed her Kleenex. Not knowing what to say, I asked her if she wanted a cup of tea. Inquired if she had eaten anything? Having no idea what to do in a situation where there’s really nothing that I could do, I reverted to that which comforts me. Food and beverage, preferably prepared by someone who loves me and brought to me in bed. So I made us tea and found some Vanilla Wafers and since she couldn’t stop crying I suggested that we go sit on the porch. Sometimes just a change of venue will help when I’m really sad. Getting up and moving and resettling in a different place would at least provide a momentary distraction. It also took us out of the house and into the fresh air of the night which I myself desperately needed as the house was stuffy and it felt like I was up to my chin in all her sadness, anxiety and fear.

She was practically catatonic so I felt like I had to fully pay attention. Hanging ou, reading a magazine and just keeping an eye on her wasn't going to fly. I feared she would escape to some dark corner of crazyland where my dad wouldn’t be able to reach her when he got back. I very much wanted her to be better when he returned than she was when he left. Not just for her sake and for my sake, but for his sake because if something happened to her I felt like it would be his fault for deciding to leave me with her. I was thinking that he really should’ve dropped me off at school to give the final. I was far better prepared to pass out papers and read for a few hours.

As we hunkered down on the steps of the porch Elle took a sip of her tea and looked at me. “I’m sorry” she said, “I just can’t stop crying”. “It’s okay. I don’t mind if you cry,” I lied. “Want a cookie?” She took one and drank some more tea. I told her to take a big deep breath and let it out slowly and to just do that a few times and concentrate only on the cool air going in and the warm air coming out. I did it along with her. It’s amazing how just breathing can calm you down. I know there’s a physiological aspect to it – the oxygenation of the blood and all that, but there’s also an immediacy and a connection to the moment when you pay attention to each breath as you take it. And my parents had just gone through Transcendental Meditation so there'd been lots of talk about how powerful "the breath" is - I figured what the hell.

We sat there and breathed together for a little while, which made me feel a bit calmer and I guess Elle did too because she started to talk. Elle had a history of abuse that was hard to believe and difficult to listen to. She had been raped by her brother and her father from the time she was about 6 years old until she ran away as a teenager. She had tried to sew her own vagina up with a needle and thread when she was 9 so that they would stop. She told me these things without crying, though she asked for a blanket because she was cold. I went and got one and when I sat back down I put my arm around her and put the blanket around both of us. I had a feeling it was only going to get worse and if she didn't need a hug at that point, I sure did.

She lit a cigarette and told me about how she’d had a baby boy when she was 16 but she was addicted to drugs by then so he was in and out of foster care most of his life. She’d been a prostitute and gotten arrested. More than once. Her most recent boyfriend had tried to kill her. She told me that she felt like she deserved bad things to happen to her because she was a sinner. Her son had told her that he didn’t want anything to do with her and that he never wanted to see her again. Her voice was dead as she told me these things perhaps because she had repeated her story over and over in AA and therapy. Maybe because she was finally exhausted from all the hurting and crying. But now I was crying because it was a horribly sad story. And what do you say to make it better? The psyche can’t be washed with Physohex and bandaged with an “all better now.”

She put her head on my shoulder and said she was sorry for making me cry. And I looked at her and said, “But, I’m crying with you because all those things hurt so much and I am so sorry that they happened to you. I’m sorry that those things could happen to anyone. I’m sorry you think it was your fault because it’s not.” We sat there quietly a little longer and then she said she had to go to the bathroom and I asked if she wanted me to go with her? Did she still feel like she might hurt herself? She stopped and thought and shook her head. “I’m better. Thank you.” I still followed her in the house and watched the clock anxiously, fully prepared to break the door down if she didn’t emerge in less than 10 minutes.

When she came back out she had washed her face and she looked as exhausted as I felt. We sat on the couch and I held her hand asked, “What are you going to do? When my dad comes? Will you let us take you somewhere where you can be safe and not be alone?” “I don’t want to go to a hospital,” she said, getting agitated again. Okay. Next subject. I wanted to know about positive things that were happening now because I didn't see a drug addicted prostitute sitting on the couch with me. That's not who she was anymore - right? I asked her about her work. She had a job that she liked and where she had been experiencing a level of success. She had been sober for about a year. She had just bought the house that she was living in because she thought that her son would come live with her. I pointed out that she had worked hard and created such good things in her life and it would be a waste for her to not be here to enjoy them. And just because her son didn’t want to live with her now didn’t mean that he would never want to live with her.

So wouldn’t it be a good idea to go to the hospital to make sure that she would be here in this house, with her great job, when he changed his mind?

About that time my dad showed up and I went and sat in the car so that he could talk to her alone. It was 10pm and I was completely exhausted. More tired than I had ever been in my life to that point. My heart felt empty and my brain felt fried. Even though she was a lot better than she’d been when I had first got there I didn’t see how she could ever be really well or happy. The things that had happened to her, the things that she had done to herself were so horrible. How could she ever close her eyes and not have her head fill up with that shit? My dad came out to the car and said that Elle had decided to go to the hospital, did I mind if we did that before we went home. We drove to the hospital and my father went in with her so she could check herself in to the psychiatric wing.

I cried on the way home because I was so tired and because I couldn’t stop thinking about the abuse Elle had suffered as a child and the reverberating destruction that it still wrought on her as an adult and on her son and on everyone who came into contact with her. My dad held me and said, “thank you so much for being there for her you did a really good job”. And I was so conscious in that moment of how lucky I was to have ended up with my parents, in my family, in our home. I took that all for granted up until that moment. And as I write this I am grateful for all the love and protection and encouragement that I received as a child because just being born isn't a guarantee of the happy childhood I got to enjoy.

My dad continued to work with Elle and she and I saw each other occasionally at my father’s Christmas Open House for his clients and students. Elle got much better and eventually was able to quit therapy with my dad, but he kept in touch with her. Her son did come around and move in with her, eventually joining the military and getting married himself and having a baby. Elle met a really nice man and got married too.

And I know that I am in some very small way a part of her happiness now because I sat with her with her for 3 hours, drinking tea and crying because it hurt - to make sure she would be there to experience the good stuff that life still had in store for her. And I what learned from Elle is that no matter how bad your story has been till now if you stick around, and you’re willing, you can make the next chapters good ones.

It’s never too late to have a happy ending, but you gotta stay in the story.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

HOT FUN AND FREEDOM

The check engine light came on and the car started to jerk and cough until finally it died altogether. Nanette, Peggy and I sat there in the dark on the side of Highway 10, semis roaring past, whipping through the heat of the summer night. As each one passed Nan’s little white Toyota Corolla shuddered like a whipped dog. It was about 9pm and we had been trying to get out to Yucca Valley, near Palm Springs for the last 2 hours. We were going to stay in a house, well okay, a shack that Nan’s father owned. It was built sometime in the 40s – no insulation, no phone and certainly no air conditioning or swimming pool. We didn’t care though because the most important thing it didn’t have was adult supervision. We were 17 and to us, this was the ultimate freedom.

Our plan was to lay out in the desert sun, smoke cigarettes and drink the beers we’d pimped at the liquor store on our way out of town. I wasn’t a big fan of beer so I had my Boone’s Farm “Tickle Pink” wine. We also had a couple joints that I had rolled from my dad’s stash. We didn’t care that the temperature would probably hit 109 degrees during the day and not go much lower than 95 at night. It would be fun just because we could get as drunk and stoned as we wanted and stay up late. For entertainment we’d brought along my portable stereo and a bunch of albums, including Richard Pryor’s “Is It Something I Said?” that Nanette had “borrowed” from her brother. This was a time that pre-dates boomboxes, much less Ipods with mini-speakers. It was also in those days before cell phones.

Which is why we were sitting on the side of the highway on the verge of panic. After some discussion we popped the hood and got out of the car. We had no idea what to do but looking under the hood for a clue was at least something. If only it hadn’t been so dark. We pretneded to check the oil and the water in the radiator and got back in the car… and it started. We got a little further and it died. We kept this up for a while because we really wanted to start our weekend getaway – but finally when we got close enough to an offramp Nanette went and called her dad. Who came out in his car and drove slowly in front of us – stopping more than once to get something out of the trunk of his car. It was only much later in life that I realized that Nanette’s dad and mom got a divorce because he was 1) gay and 2) alcoholic. All those stops? He was refilling his glass.

We ended up staying at his very chic and air conditioned home in Palm Springs that night. We got there in time to catch the news where the top story of the evening were the human remains that were found out in the Yucca Valley – not far from where we’d be staying. Without a phone. There was suspicion of foul play possibly related to a snuff film that was supposedly produced in the area. No suspects were in custody. With my morbid fascination for all things serial killer and deviant ways to die I didn’t sleep all night, finding it impossible to drop off to sleep when fantasies of what snuff film making serial killers lurking in the Yucca Valley would do with our 17 year old selves.

The next morning Dad and Nanette took the little Toyota to the mechanic and then he dropped the three of us, along with our smuggled contraband, off at our vacation getaway. Despite the fearful sleepless hours of the night before and the oppressive heat, we still gaily waved as we watched the dust kicked up by his Cadillac hang in the dead still air around us. As soon as he was out of sight we went inside to change into our bathing suits, set up the stereo with speakers at the windows and mix up some cocktails. It was 120 degrees inside and the interior of the shack was akin to the hellhole at Yuma Territorial prison. There was no breeze. But there were also no adults. The latter lack simply won out over all the other things we didn't have. It was a simpler time and we were just delighted to be there – with no car, no phone, no air conditioning. In the middle of the desert where human remains had recently been found.

The Hilton Sisters we were not.

We hung out all afternoon roasting ourselves in the sun and drinking ourselves into oblivion. The only respite we could find from the heat was to take an ice cold shower. And it was good that we enjoyed those because there was no hot water. Unless you count the initial gush of scalding water from pipes seared to temperatures created by nuclear fission by the sun which seemed to be only about 100 feet away from the surface of the earth. As the scorching ball of fire began to set we lit up a doobie, that’s what we called a joint in the olden days, and sipped yet another cocktail as we sat on the rusty, rotted lawn chairs on the hard packed, sunbaked square of desert that made up our “patio” and blissfully enjoyed the Technicolor show as Jackson Browne serenaded us from the speakers that held up the windows.

Once it got dark we started talking about the “human remains” and wondering aloud about the snuff film. Did they use a shack, much like our own? It was so easy to imagine the sordid murder playing out – especially since we were all alone out there. Paranoid in the dark. We decided to go inside and get something to eat. That’s the nice thing about the munchies. They can distract you from all the negative emotions like terror. It’s like someone flips a switch and all of a sudden perverts wearing masks and black rubber gloves carrying chain saws don’t seem that scary because you’ve got Milk Duds and Doritos and OH MY GOD! They’re the best Milk Duds and Doritos EVER!

Then we put on the Richard Pryor album. And smoked pot and drank and listened to it over and over again until we had it memorized – laughing so hard we were crying and our faces hurt. Eventually we turned off the light to go to sleep and almost immediately fear was my bedfellow, but then Nanette goes, “So I was walking down the street…” and I got the giggles so bad I almost wet the bed. Richard Pryor is the real deal – a genius. And I thank God that we had that album with us because I could have easily spent the whole night completely freaked out about someone finding our human remains in that shack in the desert. And that's not nearly as fun.

The next morning at what seemed like dawn there was a knock on the door. We all sat up immediately, the rush of adrenaline canceling out, for the moment, the humongous hangovers we would soon be sporting. We whispered frantically back and forth,
“Get the door!”
“No! You get the door!”
“I’m not getting the door!”
“Who do you think it is?”
“I don’t know, get the door.”
“Could it be your dad?”
“He doesn’t get up this early.”
“Well, I’m not getting the door.”
The knocking came again, louder this time, followed by a woman’s voice, “Yoohoo, ladies!”

That didn’t sound like a psychopathic snuff film murderer, so I answered the door. It was one of Nanette’s father’s friends who’d come out to see if we wanted a ride back to the house. She stood there eyeing the empty beer bottles and overflowing ashtrays as we told her that we weren’t ready to go yet. We still wanted to hang out a little longer. She left telling us that she’d let Nan’s father know that we were okay and that he should come back around noon. We were too freaked out to go back to sleep so we took ice cold showers and cleaned up the shack which got hotter and more sweltering as the sun rose in the sky and by the time he arrived we were ready to go lounge by his pool and eat tuna sandwiches in his air conditioned kitchen.

The Toyota wasn’t ready until after 4pm so we didn’t get on the road again until about 7:30 since we decided to stay for dinner. It was Sunday night, but it was summertime and we didn’t have anywhere to be the next day. The sun was setting as we hugged goodbye and said our thank yous. I don’t remember exactly what was wrong with the car, but it was fixed and we were headed home. At least we were until just a short distance before we reached Riverside. When the car died on the side of the freeway. In the dark. Again.

We got out of the car and stood around peering under the hood. The freeway at least had dim lights in the emergency lane. Not that we knew what to look for or what we might be looking at. Nanette had just pulled out the oil dipstick and was peering at it when a car pulled up and stopped in front of the Toyota. Peg yelled, “Get in the car” the urgency in her voice making us move posthaste. As we sat in the car, Nan clutching the dipstick in her hand, a Hispanic man came to her window. She cracked it a smidge and in very broken English he offered to help us. “No, that’s okay, somebody’s coming. Thank you though.” He went on his way.

As did the next four people that stopped to help through the small crack at the top of Nan's window. We kept thinking that the car would start like it had before and we would be able to limp to an offramp at least. But no. It was sicker than before. After what seemed like two hours of jumping in and out of the car I’d finally had it. I was sick of being stranded on the side of the road. I was tired and I was sunburned and I wanted to go home. So when a black Camero pulled over with tinted windows with a black power sticker on the back window I decided that I was going to go with the nice black guy with the huge afro who was offering to drive us to the nearest gas station.

Peggy was horrified. Certain that for sure our bodies would be found raped and murdered in some ravine. At that point I truly didn’t care. Death would’ve been preferable to what amounted to pergatory on the side of Interstate 10. So with Peggy and Nanette stuffed in the backseat with all of our luggage I pulled the passenger door shut and said, “let’s go.” And that very nice and most wonderful gentleman drove us to the nearest gas station where he dropped us and all our shit off with Thermo Jet at the Mobil gas station.

Where we sat on the curb and watched the low riders cruise sloooooowly past the gas pumps, the cholos inside staring at us and making sexually suggestive remarks because it was a slow Sunday night so why not scare the three white girls sitting at the gas station like the Beverly Hill Billies with all that luggage and a portable stereo. Therm Jet told us all kinds of stories gang violence and such and advised us to come sit inside so that we didn’t get in trouble.

So it’s coming up on 11pm and we’re sitting in a filthy gas station lit by flickering fluorescent bulbs hanging out with a guy who’s made up some kind of super hero name for himself. Tall and lanky in his dirty wife beater t-shirt under his oilstained coveralls, with red hair and a brillo pad beard the color of cinnamon he was more than happy to have the company. When Nan described the sound the car made before it stopped he nodded sagely and said, “Mmhmm, sounds like yew threw a rod – yee’re gonna need a whole new injin.” Nan’s eyes filled with tears. So did mine but more because it seemed like I was going to spend the rest of my life in the grimy sweatbox that was and is the inland empire.

Finally about midnight Peg’s brother showed up to pick us up and take us to her mom’s house in Anaheim Hills. It was decided that her mom would take us home the next day on her way to work and Nan could have her car towed off the freeway during daylight hours. We immediately fell into an exhausted sleep in the air conditioned bliss of a home where there was parental supervision and the peace of mind that came with it. For all our desire to be independent and out on our own it was really just too exhausting for more than a weekend.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

THE VIEW FROM MID-SLIDE

At one time in my life I had a cast iron stomach and fancied that I could eat anything or any combination of things without repercussion. As I have gotten older this belief has been belied in the face of my continuing attempts to pretend that I’m not aging. And there are lots of things that slowly begin to happen, little harbingers of fading youth. Things that make denial difficult. Things like alarming noises coming from my joints when I get out of the car. Spotting a whisker gleaming from my chin as I check my rearview mirror. Nipple hair that sprouts seemingly overnight – I shower every day how is it possible to miss a 2” hair springing from my breast? The other night I fell going up the two steps into my dining room and I had no idea how it happened. My first thought was of that commercial for the speaker box old people put in their homes so they can push their emergency button and say, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up”. I could get up but still, I had no idea how I fell – I wasn’t drunk or anything. One minute I was up and the next I was down. This is not a sign of good things to come.

But lately the most disturbing part of this aging process has been my belly and it’s attendant drama every time I eat something. It wasn’t that long ago that I wrote about my mom letting one rip at the Christmas tree lot and it seems that karma is now biting me on the ass. Literally. And because I am so anal retentive I walk around imploding all day which I know cannot be good for me although I’m sure anyone who is downwind appreciates my efforts.

I have ignored the rumblings for a very long time when I think about it, blithely consuming things that most sane people would never eat. Especially when their bodies are warning them off with dire symptoms. I once created a case of extreme food poisoning that I thought was going to kill me. I say created because I actually had food poisoning 3 times in 10 days. When you get food poisoning it beats the hell out of your immune system making you an easy target for any other questionable bacteria that you might come into contact with.

In my case the first bit of food poisoning occurred down in Mexico one weekend where I was scarfing nachos and drinking margaritas with abandon. By the time I got home that night I was not feeling well at all. I spent the night tossing and turning and running back and forth to the bathroom. About 3 days later I ate some leftovers out of the fridge that were questionable but I’d had a few glasses of wine and I needed to eat something. I ended up doubled over with cramps for most of the night. Have you ever noticed that food poisoning always seems to come on at night, at least most of the time.

The weekend following the Mexico adventure, and 3 days after the bad leftovers, I went to a friend’s wedding down south in Dana Point. We all got hotel rooms because we planned on drinking and didn’t want to drive home. Three of us shared a room and Erin was starving when we arrived so she got a quesadilla to snack on before we went off to the wedding. She didn’t finish it all and left it in the styrofome container on the dresser.

Where I found it the next morning in the pre-dawn hours with a horrendous hangover. Or perhaps I was still drunk because I decided that it would make an excellent snack and I threw that bad boy in the microwave and heated it up for a little snack before I passed out again. Had any of my compadres been conscious and sober I’m sure they would’ve stopped me but I was awake and alone with my own bad judgment. I got up the next morning and felt pretty alright considering that I had been karaoke-ing the night before doing a bang up version of Kung Fu Fighting in my wedding finery at the local bar down the street from our hotel. I believe I was accompanying myself with all my best karate moves as I sang. It’s all kind of a blur.

The first sign that something was not right with me was that I turned down the donuts that someone had bought. I was extremely fatigued on the drive home, but that could be chalked up to all the gallivanting the night before. I got home about 2:30 in the afternoon and had to lie down. About 20 minutes after I lay down I began doing the home version of the Exorcist – starring me in the role of Regan. I was writhing on the bathroom floor making guttural noises as I crawled on and off the commode while hurling into the trashcan. And every once in a while I would think that perhaps the worst was past and drag myself back into bed because my body was aching so badly that the cold hard bathroom floor was akin to lying in a pile of broken glass.

About 7 hours later I just knew I was dying. I called my brother who has a degree in microbiology and at the time was working in the lab with bacteria and various viruses. I asked him what I should do and he suggested that I take my temperature and if it was high I might want to consider going to the hospital for some hydration. “No!” I croaked, “What do I do to make the dry heaving and the cramps stop.” His answer did not please me. He told me that I had to let my body get rid of the poison. Not what I wanted to hear.

I took my temperature and it was 104.8. I was trembling and absolutely positive that I was going to die. I called the hospital emergency room and asked them if I could come in for one of those suppositories that stop vomiting. That’s how desperate I was. Since I couldn’t keep anything down I was willing to stick something up my ass to make the pain stop. Unfortunately the hospital was in concurrence with my brother. I had to let my body do it’s thing to get rid of the heinous bacteria I had ingested with that quesadilla some 15 hours earlier. The nurse I talked to also said that if my temperature got up over 105 I should come in because I might go into convulsions.

I hung up and I cried – but I had no tears.

I rode it out and finally got some sleep the next day. I wasn’t able to eat again until the day after that. And ever since I’ve stopped eating things that are even a tad questionable. I’ve also become so aware of what a hard time I have with certain foods and most noticeably with alcohol. Not only does it reduce my ability to make sane choices (and this expands into areas beyond food), it also makes me sick. I can’t drink more than two cocktails without dire consequences, e.g. throwing up in public.

And lately conversations with friends contain references to blood pressure and high cholesterol. We say things like “How’s the Lipitor working?”, “I’ve got a great lady I see for colonics” and “the Glucosamine and Chondritin really helps the aching in my knees – I don’t limp so much in the morning.” And some of these people haven’t even hit forty.

It’s like we got old overnight!!! Or maybe we’re just obsessed with our health more than the generation before us. Perhaps the pharmaceutical industry has a hand in that with all the magic pills they make to ease our “social anxiety” and create erections on command. I heard someone say the other night that 40 is the new 30 and that may be true, but I’ve got parts that feel like 40 is the new 60. And before I go looking for a magic pill I’m going to try a colon cleanse because as they say, “death begins in the colon”.

They also promise lots of energy, glossy thick hair and a flat stomach. Pfizer and Merck aren’t offering anything even close to that!

Monday, August 23, 2004

THE RANDOMNESS OF NATURE

You just never know where you might meet your mate. Leisa and I had arrived in Aspen, Colorado on the 3rd and were looking forward to the Fourth of July celebration. My friend Cindy had moved up to Aspen a couple years before and I had been out to visit earlier that year for skiing. Aspen in the summer is actually more fun than it is in the winter. There’s more to do and you can wear cuter clothes because you’re not freezing your butt off. Unfortunately because it costs a lot to live up there Cindy had something like three jobs and we didn’t get to see her a whole lot. She did give us some suggestions about places to go and things to do. Fun trails to hike.

It being our first night in town we decided to go out and party… at just about every bar in town. We met two guys – one with an eye patch who looked like a pirate, the other a German who drank Strawberry daiquiris with little umbrellas in them. We told them we were going to go hiking to Maroon Bells the next day and they said they’d meet us up there.

Which is probably the only reason that upon awakening with horrible hangovers the next day we decided to go ahead and go on the hike. It really wasn’t something either of us felt up to doing, but Cindy said that it was a very easy walk, only about a mile. “You guys really shouldn’t miss it – it will probably make you feel better!” You have to take a bus most of the way up there at that time of the year – they don’t allow cars in – so we wouldn’t even have to walk that far.

Shortly after arriving in Aspen Cindy went on a date that involved hiking up Aspen mountain under the full moon. In the snow. They were wearing snowshoes and there was a whole group of them. "Them" being Aspen locals who also think riding your bike 200 miles over a pass in the rain is fun. I should’ve known that a girl who thinks that’s a fun date would also define “easy walk” a little differently than I understand the term. I imagined a pastoral meadow leading down to a lake at the base of the beautiful bell shaped mountains that make up the Maroon Bells. That’s the picture you see on all the postcards so it wasn’t like I was making it up.

In preparation for our easy walk Leisa and I went to the deli and got some sandwiches to eat by the lake. And we also figured some lemonade would be nice for our picnic and heck why not some beer too – there was room in the grocery sack. So we staggered down to the bus station to catch the bus that would drop us off at the trailhead. I couldn’t wait to lay down by the lake and relax with a cold beer and a sandwich. My head hurt and I was really nauseated, which in retrospect I now know was altitude sickness exacerbated by the non-stop drinking we had done on the airplane and carried on into the night before.

The town of Aspen sits at an altitude of 7,945 feet. Leisa and I were both coming from sea level. Our bodies weren’t dealing to well with the thin air. The lack of oxygen made every movement seem like it required more effort. So did the hangover. The guys we met the night before were not at the bus station and we should’ve just taken our sandwiches and beer over to the park and had our picnic, but for some reason we decided to just go ahead and take the hike.

We were on vacation for God’s sake and we had on our hiking boots so a hiking we would go. The bus ride takes about 15 minutes and the rode winds through Ashcroft, an area so beautiful that my senses were lulled as my head rested against the window and I gazed slack jawed at Colorado’s rocky magnificence. So when the bus stopped I momentarily forgot that I wasn’t on one of those tours where you sit on your ass and get driven around. I could've happily just rode the bus back and forth.

But we had reached our destination for outdoor fun and adventure. The sun blazed down on us as we followed the other hearty souls to the trailhead. We stopped to adjust the sack ‘o sandwiches which was starting to feel quite heavy and we hadn’t even gotten on the trail. We also needed to take a minute to catch our breath. The walk from the parking lot had winded me. Therefore we ended up trudging alone, left in the dust of the others who either knew where they were going or were just more eager to get there.

The trail was nice and flat when we started out, though the bells were nowhere in site. You know like when you’re hiking somewhere and you can see where you’re going and it gets closer and closer. This wasn’t like that. We strolled along through the woods and after about a quarter mile we came to a stream that flowed along beside us as the trail started into a gentle grade. At about the half mile mark my arms were cramping from carrying a six back of glass bottles so I stashed them under some rocks in the stream reasoning that they’d be real cold and refreshing and we could stop and enjoy them on our way back.

We continued on with our sandwiches and our lemonade and the trail began to get steeper. The sun got hotter and we both felt worse and worse. It seemed that we had been walking forever. Certainly much further than the mile that Cindy claimed would take us right to the lake. We had been walking about an hour and now we were beginning to have to navigate rocks and the trail just kept going up and up.

Now they say that when you are tired and winded it’s best not to stop. It’s best to keep going. But when you think you are going to puke your guts out and all you have to drink is lemonade sometimes you just have to stop. So we laid down on the side of the trail like two wounded animals and, as we were lying there enjoying the scenery, we watched in astonishment as a woman and her two kids came scampering down the trail from the direction we were headed.

This woman was smoking a cigarette!

We were gasping for air and asked her how much further it was to the lake. “Not that far,” she said, exhaling a stream of smoke in our direction and taking another long pull off her ciggy as she strode past. We watched her go in amazement at both the fact that she was smoking at all, and that her lung capacity was unfazed by the elevation or the exertion. Maybe going down was going to be a lot easier. And she said we were close. We didn’t have that far to go before we could sit down and eat the fucking sandwiches that we were dragging along like ballast.

And the damned lemonade – the not at all refreshing, warm lemonade.

So we dragged ourselves to our feet and kept going. Up. The trail just kept going up and up and up. Granted we weren’t scaling cliffs and hanging by our fingertips but it wasn’t what I would call a “nice walk”. At this point we were trudging slowly along dragging our soggy grocery bag like Christ and his cross on the road to Calvary. We were too dehydrated to even sweat and once again we went down on the side of the trail puffing and panting, trying to catch our breath. If we had been horses it would’ve been considered a merciful act to just shoot us. The flies and other insects that are always present on actual nature walks, but never present in pictures of people on nature walks, moved so slowly in the thin air they wouldn’t have had a chance if we’d had the strength to lift our arms and swat at them. I was seriously wanting to turn around and go back because we had been on this “easy walk” for at least 2 hours and I still didn’t see any mountains that looked like damn bells. I was just about to tell Leisa that I couldn’t go another step when another woman came by on her way back down.

She had two blood soaked, white Kleenexes hanging out of her nose – but she was able to tell us that we were really close and that it was so beautiful we really had to get up there. We stood and continued up the trail because to go down would mean that we would have to hike with the bloody nose woman and she could make it then what big pussies were we? Plus, it was clearly a view worth bleeding for in her opinion. So onward we went – the sack of sandwiches was now hemorrhaging sandwich juice, which was running down my leg, so I was being followed by a parade of slow flying, buzzing flies.

After about another 20 minutes of walking the trail rose above the tree line and over the top of the rock strewn hill in front of us I could see the top of what just had to be the bells. It just had to be or I was going to lay down and die on that trail. Unfortunately we had to hike up a very narrow switchback trail through the rocky shale field. There was a nice couple starting up at the same time as us. They were from Kansas and they were on their honeymoon. I thought to myself that this is not something I would do on my honeymoon since I was so wanting to go into a full whine. But since Leisa was now moving ahead at a nice clip I was happy to have them to plod along behind. Perhaps it’s because they were from Kansas and it’s a really flat state but they were having a difficult time making it up hell hill too. When we finally reached the top and I got around the bend I could see the lake at the base of the most spectacular 14,000 mountains soaring up just like – you guessed it – huge maroon bells.

Leisa was already laying flat on her back gasping for air as I pulled up dragging the soggy, bedraggled bag of mushy sandwiches and warm lemonade. Food has never tasted so good. We were soon revived enough to really appreciate how beautifully breathtaking the place was. We started chatting with a couple of guys that were sitting not too far away from us. They offered us a puff of pot and we gladly accepted – probably not the smartest decision since we still didn’t have any WATER! But they were nice – Matt and Dave – and they were there with their sister and their aunt and uncle who lived in town. Turns out that we’d missed Maroon Lake completely and we had just hiked 3 miles over 500 vertical feet to Crater Lake. Now 500 feet is nothing when I’m at sea level but I felt every inch of it up there over the 11,000 feet of altitude mark.

We all headed back together, though Lisa and I were now very stoned and needed to fall back to have moments of paranoia by ourselves. We were really tired and we had both started to get really whiny. I was still carrying the empty soggy sack because there are no trash cans up at Crater Lake and I grew up in girl scouts where you are trained to always leave an area nicer than you found it, so I was also hauling some trash that inconsiderate people left behind. There was a brief period when Leisa was tripping out because it felt like we were walking on the moon and that we’d never get back and considered maybe having a cry. But it passed. We caught up with our new friends down near the bottom of the trail where they gratefully helped us drink our stream cooled beer. Now that was a moment straight out of beer commercial and after all, we were in Coors country. Only I’m pretty sure we were drinking Lowenbrau – here’s to good friends.

By the time we got back to the bus we were feeling pretty good to have made it there and back and we were also a bit buzzed because, well, the altitude combined with a little pot and one beer will do that to you. And Matt, well he was quite enamored of Leisa and today they are married and have two beautiful children.

Who wouldn’t be here if we hadn’t taken the wrong trail and persevered.

Friday, August 20, 2004

THE BOYS OF SWIMMING

I have spent the last week on the couch every night glued to the Olympics. As I have mentioned before I LOVE the Olympics. This week I have really been loving the swimming competition. In particular the men’s swimming competition. Most specifically Ian “the Thorpedo” Thorpe in the men’s swimming competition. I don’t know who the Megan Thorpe is on the web address, but I hope it’s not his mom – that would be weird.

In any case there’s just something about a wet boy with a big nose encased in a black latex glove - although surprisingly I find myself sorely missing the bygone days of the Speedo. It’s funny how something that is totally repulsive when worn by a regular guy at the beach is pretty fabulous when worn by a 20 year old boy with a swimmer’s body.

I am such a perv.

Of course, I have always enjoyed men’s swimming not just for the wondrous examples of physical prowess, but also because the long lean legs and broad shoulders featured on most swimmers are my physical ideal. I had a huge crush on Mark Spitz after the 1972 Olympics and if you think about it, it’s amazing that he did what he did with all that hair. The moustache alone had to have created tremendous drag. I remember watching adoringly, yet cringing with embarrassment as he attempted to translate Olympic gold into an acting career on an episode of Emergency. Randolph Mantooth had nothing to worry about. Anyway, I’ve never been one to go for the chunky, husky boy build of a football player. (I am such a liar – the major reason I enjoy football so much is because I love all that booty in tight pants. But evenso, it’s mostly the wide receivers and running backs. I don’t go for the no-neck steroid boys on the O-line, or those great behemoths who play defense.)

It’s just that this year in particular I am feeling like such a total perv because these are little boys for God’s sake. I could be their mother for crying out loud. Um, Eeuw.

But beyond a deep appreciation for the visual perfection I am amazed at how effortless they make it look. I remember a million years ago when I was swimming on the high school swim team and I honestly thought I would drown before I even made it once across the 25 meter pool. And it wasn’t just because I was wearing an old aqua colored wool one piece that had been in residence at the school since the late 40s – although it is a lot harder to feel speedy when your bathing suit is sagging from the weight of the water it has absorbed. No. It’s just plain hard to move your ass through water. Especially when it’s a challenge just to float.

Oh and I’m also scared to put my face in the water.

Why did I choose to participate on the swim team? Well that’s easy – it was so I could have closer proximity to the boy’s water polo team. I had visions of myself sluicing through water like Esther Williams – who always swam with her head out of water balancing a tiara on her hairdo. It was one of those things that was a lot more fun in theory than in practice.

Since they didn’t have any events in “sidestroke” or “dog paddle” I chose the backstroke reasoning that since I was on my back my face wouldn’t really need to get wet. Ha! If you’ve been watching the Olympics and you’ve seen the backstroke then you cannot have missed the underwater angle they always show of the start, where after doing what is basically a back dive into the water, the swimmers proceed to swim about half the length of the pool. On their backs, yes, but also UNDERWATER!

Needless to say none of my starts ever looked like that. In fact, that whole starting thing was a real challenge for me. I have almost no upper body strength – none. I have been known to knock on my neighbor’s door for help in getting a wine bottle uncorked. So to have to pull my entire body weight up into a hunched position on the side of the pool, my sodden bathing suit drooping unattractively, waiting for the startling blare of the start horn, knowing that I was expected to hurl myself backward into the water – well that wasn’t very much fun.

And then once I was actually swimming water DID get in my face because the people in the other lanes would splash water into my lane when they swam. Especially since most of the time I was swimming about where their feet were churning up frothy tidal waves. And more than once water went in my mouth while I was trying to breathe and I choked! It was horrible. I didn’t last long on the swim team because they expected me to compete and the water polo team wasn’t around for those meets so I wasn’t incredibly motivated to be there. It was just an opportunity for me to humiliate myself by choking and losing and then having to sit around shivering in a baggy, wet wool bathing suit.

They wouldn’t let me just come to the practices and swim around leisurely in my tiara so I quit the team. But I stole the wool bathing suit as a keepsake. In hindsight I consider it an excellent character building experience and it definitely gives me an deep appreciation for the accomplishments of all the swimmers who make it to the Olympics.

And I will always have a special weakness for boy who compete in the pool wearing lycra.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

WHERE IS THE LOVE?

It seems to me that it's not okay with the world, nay, it is unbelievable to many in the world, that it is possible for me to be single and happy. Lately, not a day goes by without someone making some reference or inquiry as to my romantic status.

My father’s wife when I called her to let her know that it would be fine for them to come spend the night while in town helping her friend move:

“Isn’t there a romantic lover who would be wanting to spend the night? That we would be interrupting?”

Subtle.

My dear friend Allison in her e-mail to me this morning:

How is suberbendy bob?
Anything?

Superbendy Bob is what I call the cute guy at the gym who does yoga, including the horizontal splits as I attempt to flirt with him while sweating like a man. And no, there’s no response. Nothing. And since in my experience when I initiate I end up renting the boat, making the picnic and rowing the boat that is the resulting relationship, by myself - and I don't enjoy it - there will most likely continue to be nothing.

My friend Alex as we were discussing what a nightmare internet dating is, and how come two women she knows have successfully hooked up – they were desperate, and now they’re in love – and we haven't (I don't know if I could ever get that desperate): “Well you haven’t been dating!”, when I encouraged her to keep it up. She at least has an Italian with Prada connections who's interested - I'd check that out albeit for admittedly mercenary reasons. All those bad dates can just beat you down man – and I so seriously suck at saying no, when I know damn well that there is no chance in hell that it will ever go anywhere. So I end up spending more hours on dates I don’t want to be on. A year and a half and countless hours I can't get back are all it took for me to finally realize that he's not on the internet. And also made me wish that I was sexually attracted to women.

Last week my friend Joe regarding a BBQ where his band was going to be playing: “Yeah, there’s 7 brothers in that family – maybe you could “hook up”, huh?” Um, yeah. All the brothers were very cute that's true. And they're all around twenty five years old! The one I found myself flirting with who appeared to have entered his third decade turned out to be married. So, no. I couldn't hook up.

Next week my friend Lori will be coming to stay and I need to get a stop watch to time exactly how many second pass before she says, “Soooooooo? Are you seeing anyone?” At one point I made up a boyfriend – a divorced salesman who lived in San Francisco – just so I could get her to leave it alone. But I kept forgetting the name I made up and when she’d ask me how he was and what was going on with our relationship, I’d get a real confused look on my face – so I finally had to tell her we broke up. I don’t know if she focuses on the lack of a boyfriend in my life to avoid the version of love she’s gotten herself into. She met a guy, moved in with him in 8 weeks and married him after 16 weeks. He withholds sex and won’t allow her to masturbate. When he’s away on business he picks a fight with her on the phone so he won’t have to have sex with her when he gets back. Her first marriage wasn't a whole lot better. But she's in love - although she's certainly not happy.

People! It’s not like I have no desire for love or a relationship!! It’s not like I am not open to meeting a great guy and falling in love. I am, however, at this point in my life, not really interested in hooking up with just any guy so that I can be part of a socially proscribed world of couples, or so that my father’s wife can introduce him to people at one of their inner child workshop holiday open houses as my “romantic lover.” If I wanted to do that there were lots of guys on Match.com who were up for it. I just can’t have a relationship with someone who I have no physical attraction to. I understand that relationships are about more than sex – but I know from experience that I will at least be motivated to hang out and work on things if I get squishy stomach just looking at a guy – even when I’m really mad at him. And that someone who makes me laugh really hard and thinks the same twisted shit is funny that I do can give me squishy tummy and can still be my best friend even when I’m working his last nerve. It’s just not that easy to find, but I have been blessed to be in love more than once, and I have faith that it will happen again when it’s supposed to. It just seems like all these people who take such an inordinate interest in my love life don’t have the same faith that I do. What I hear in their questions is, “what’s taking so long?”

In order to put their minds at ease I have considered alternative scenario answers such as: “Well, I can’t really talk about it until he’s left his wife – but he’s great! You’ll love him!!” Or – “I promise that you’ll meet him, hopefully someday soon! He comes up for parole in about 6 months and we’re feeling pretty positive.” I wonder if they would heave a sigh of relief that I was successfully hooked up. Hopefully that would at least stop Lori from asking total strangers if they have any single sons who would be interested in going out with me. But then she’d probably start in with, “Sooooooo? When are you going to have a baby?”

But I'm afraid they might take me seriously and start planning a "welcome home" party for my prison paramour, so I'm considering Boyfriend in A Box as a viable alternative. The only problem is I can't decide between Cowboy Clint, Musical Miles, or Self-Made Stan. I'm leaning toward Clint because I could blame his long absences on the fact that he's touring with the Rodeo and I could start wearing a cowboy hat and Wrangler jeans and talk with a twang - and blame that on Clint. Who has amazing abs from all that bullriding.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

CLEAR CHANNEL (PT. 2)

After her brush with Gary on the “other side”, J. started visiting psychics and mediums, interested to know more about the phenomenon. At the time she was dating a British video director, though they were having trouble because he was a very superficial guy. Like many of the men she has dated over the years he was far more interested in being seen with her, than in really getting to know her. As J’s. explorations took her further and further “out there” the distance between them grew to a point where she began to feel that it was pointless to continue dating him.

So of course he hung on hard and attempted to please her by at least appearing to be interested in the things that interested her. At the time she was reading a book called 11:11, which is about a doorway between dual realities – very heady stuff. She was also really interested in the higher consciousness that exists in dolphin pods and the experiences of people who would swim with wild dolphins. When they went to Mexico she tried to explain some of the theories behind these ideas to him and in his arrogant, leather pants wearing, hot shot rock video director way, he basically declared the lot of it to be a crock.

She refused to have sex with him for the rest of the trip.

The relationship was well and truly on the rocks. When they got home, in a desperate effort to win her back, he planned an evening up at his house, high in the Hollywood Hills, wherein he would make her dinner and then they would have a session with a channeler that he had found after making inquiries. J. was very appreciative of the effort he was making and so on a dark, rainy Friday night she and S. ate a romantic candlelit dinner and waited for the channeler to arrive.

She showed up about 9:30pm, a regular looking woman with dark hair. She appeared to be in her early 30s and was still dressed in her work clothes. She looked like she worked at a bank. There was a fire in the fireplace, and it cast the room in a warm glow. J. lit some candles and then settled on the couch in front of the fire – S. sat next to her on her left, and the channeler sat in the armchair to her right.

The woman closed her eyes and took several deep breaths. J. closed her eyes as well, breathing deeply and moving into a meditative state. The channeler started talking, giving both J. and S. information about their lives and their relationships past and present. And then she said to J., “There is an entity here that would like to communicate with you directly, if you will give your permission.”

Thinking that the entity would speak to her through the channeler, of course J. said yes.

But that’s not what happened. As she sat there in her very relaxed state, breathing deeply, she became aware of something moving into her body, or perhaps she was moving into it. But whatever was happening she was aware that everything around her appeared to be green as if she were looking through a green pane of glass, or green sunglasses. At the same time her legs and arms began to move, seemingly of their own volition. Her legs bent, angled out the sides, her knees moving close to her shoulders, her toes pointing down. Her arms spread out, her elbows lifted high, her hands pointing downward and constricting into claw like points.

Oddly, she never felt frightened, only curious at the sensation of her “self” being moved aside as if making room for company. The communication that took place was non-verbal, yet she had the distinct feeling of some kind of interaction going on between herself and whatever this thing was that had moved in momentarily. She was aware that S. had moved very quickly down to the other side of the couch, putting as much space as possible between him and her contorted body.

After about 15 minutes, during which time the channeler stayed in what seemed to be a meditative state and S. stayed curled in the fetal position at the end of the couch trying not to whimper like a little girl, J. felt the entity (for lack of a better term) leave her body and her limbs relaxed. The channeler opened her eyes and looked at J. in amazement. She said that she had never seen that happen before and that J. was clearly a very open channel herself. With training she could learn to connect to the other dimensions and channel at will.

That night S. slept on his side of the bed and never tried to touch J. Their relationship ended days later.

But the channeler turned J. onto Shawn Randall, a well known medium and teacher and began taking classes. And that is where she discovered Staria the entity that she channels to do healing work. She learned to move herself aside and allow Staria to come in and counsel people. I’ve had several conversations with Staria, who is delightful, and has a higher pitched voice and a much bigger vocabulary that J. During a particularly stressful time in my life Staria gave me an image that I often think of when things suck and it was this: If you can see that life is a horse that is moving forward and that you are the one holding the reins, then you can also see that you have a choice, and it is this – you can either get on the horse and ride, or you can get dragged along behind it, but the horse is going to keep going.

As one who has a hard time determining that fine line between tenacity and masochism, I find myself thinking on that often and it makes me laugh. Because for a disembodied entity hanging out in J's. bikini bod – Staria’s not only wise, but pretty funny too.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

CLEAR CHANNEL (PT. 1)

My friend J. channels an entity called “Staria”. J. is a beautiful woman, an actress/model who worked non-stop throughout the 90s as a bikini babe selling beer for major breweries in advertisements you’d see during the superbowl. I’ve known her for 20 years and we’ve been roommates and neighbors over the years. She was a practitioner of meditation and other metaphysical endeavors, but she had never considered entity occupation of her body until one evening after she and I, along with another friend M. consumed about 3 grams each of very strong mushrooms. The magic of psyllocibin kind, not the pungent, but equally pricey Morel kind.

We were hanging out in the living room riding the gentle receding wave of hallucination when she looked at me, where I was laying on the floor with my dishtowel (mushrooms make my nose run and also make me drool) and she said, “Gary is standing right behind you.” Gary, my sweet friend, had died about 6 months earlier after a long and torturous decline into the hell that is AIDS, and I was still numb from missing him. J. knew Gary very peripherally through me. She’d taken some gorgeous photos of us when he was still healthy, but if he was going to appear to anyone there was no good reason why he would pick her. I mean he knew M. much better and adored her so it seemed that he would give her a psychic knock on the subconscious before J. I considered the possibility that perhaps she, in her lithe slenderness was metabolizing her shrooms more slowly and so was in the midst of an hallucinatory vision.

But she went on and said, “He wants me to tell you that everything you told him was true.” She was sitting up on the couch and M. who was in the chair against the wall was staring at her with really big eyes. Now I knew what I had told Gary when he was dying and I thought he was unconscious, but no one else knew so this was kind of freaking me out. I asked “what was it that I said that was true?” And at this point tears started streaming down J’s face, she said, “He said that he feels freer than he ever did in his body and that he is in the most beautiful place and he’s sorry for what he put everyone through. He’s sorry that he made you all suffer.”

Okay. That’s what I said to him. Verbatim. When he was in a coma and his respirations were labored and it seemed like minutes would elapse between raspy breaths. I climbed in the bed and put my arms around him and whispered in his ear that it was okay to go. That when he left his body he would expand and find himself freer than he could ever be in this physical life. That he should look for the light and move toward it because it would take him to the most beautiful place he could imagine.

I was winging it. Not necessarily making it up but pulling it out of my ass for sure. In that moment when someone I loved was so clearly struggling to jump off the mortal coil but couldn’t let go, I tried to give him a map and a flashlight to make his way. I told him what I believe is true – but there are lots of people who would disagree with my version of the truth. Gary in his glory days of hyper-intellectual Skeptical Inquirer super atheist would’ve been the first person to tell me I was full of shit.

But, at the time Gary was in a coma, so I felt free giving him my two cents knowing that he couldn’t argue with me.
So now I have J. repeating back to me the words I whispered in his ear and M. has her knees up under her chin in a seated fetal position staring at the space on the wall over my head. I glanced over my shoulder and I didn’t see or feel anything spectre-like there. J. continued, “he wants you to move on. You are still grieving and it keeps him near you. He would like to move on too.

Now all three of us were crying and M. was freaked out because this felt vaguely like something that you could go to hell for. Or at least that Satan might have a hand in. And it was very weird. J. was almost speaking in the same cadences that Gary used. She has her own way of talking that was kind of valley, kind of her own lingo, and she wasn’t talking like that.

And then there was the fact that we had spent the afternoon hallucinating after eating blue mushrooms grown in the Amazon. I decided not to think too much about any of it and just accept the information since it was probably what I needed to hear. Whether it was Gary who was reaching across from some other dimension to tell me to let go already, or whether it was blue shrooms giving J. a gift with language that would be gone the next day.
But there was something to that experience that didn’t go away the next day for J. and she embarked on a journey that some would call crazy.

Monday, August 16, 2004

WANNA BET?

I spent three hours sitting in the waiting room at the mechanics on Saturday waiting for my car to be finished. I had to turn in the rental car before the 24 hours were up or they would've charged me for an extra day. So I cooled my jets watching Al Jazeera with Elie the lovely man who owns the garage where my car goes when it's sick.

Elie is from Lebanon. He is Catholic. He thinks all muslims are evil. He ordered Al Jazeera from Dishnet because he can understand arabic. I cannot, but he translated for me. I said that they should have it with english sub-titles so that all of us ethnocentric english only speakers here in the U.S. could see what the perspective is via middle east news stations. Elie said that the government here won't allow that. I am not surprised. They show stuff on Al Jazeera that we know nothing about. For instance on Saturday an oil field in Iraq was blown up. That makes a bigass fire when an oil field is blown. I don't think even Red Adair could've put that puppy out. I worried for the humans that might be near by having to breathe toxic air. They also show a lot of graphic violence - dead bodies lying in red rivers of blood. Children and babies. I had to look away, but I didn't turn my head in time and they also hold the camera on those images while the commentater speaks over.

They had a tape of Muqtada Al-Sadr with his bandaged hand speaking about how the U.S. is the enemy of Islam. He stared at the camera from under a simian ridge of brow with dark shadows under his eyes. There is a psychotic intensity in his thorazine glare. They definitely don't have political spin doctors in the Shiite party. But I guess they don't really need them. It's kind of a zealots are us situation. And although Elie and I do not agree about the decision to go into Iraq, we do agree that poverty is the root cause of the majority of problems in the world.

It probably benefits terrorist organizations that so many people are starving and living in sub-human conditions because to them "an honorable death" that will get not only them, but their relatives into heaven would seem like a reasonable option to starving and living in squalor watching your family starve. I would imagine it seems like the only active thing one can do to make their lives better - strap on a bomb, or hi-jack a plane, kill some infidels and get free passes into heaven for those you love.

I cannot relate to that kind of decision making process. It seems like insanity to me, yet it happened - almost 3 years ago. And they are working to make it happen again. Despite what this government says, or what it tells the media to say, there is nothing that they can do to stop it. We are not safer. It's a whole new neo-con world and now terrorism is part of our consciousness. And I am watching with great interest to see what happens in the months leading up to the election. I would not be surprised to see any or all of the following things happen:

Dick Cheney is replaced on the Republican ticket by Rudy Guiliani.

Osama Bin Laden is "captured" and trotted out (from whatever dark cell they've been keeping him in)

E-voting is allowed throughout the state of Florida, particularly in those districts with large populations of black voters - and George Bush wins in all those districts.

Fox News announces that George Bush is victorious - on November 1.

I know those things sound crazy - but it's a crazy world, so you wanna bet?


Friday, August 13, 2004

FRIDAY THE 13TH

I'm not superstitious, but today is definitely feeling like it could hold all the crap you hear about Friday the 13th. Last night as I was driving from work to see a friend, the clutch in my car started feeling not quite right. And I was on the freeway. As I was going up the hill there was an alarming feeling "clunk" from the clutch pedal, but it still functioned. However it soon became apparent that it didn't have it's usual "spring". I continued on my way because my mechanice was closed and I wasn't anywhere near home.

After dinner, on my way home, it started to become more and more difficult to get my car into first and second gear. Shit! I took side streets home and tried not to shift. Unfortunately the side streets have stop signs every other block. It was a long drive home and I was all sweaty and dizzy from holding my breath. I put the car in the garage and set the alarm so I could get to the mechanic when they opened at 8am.

This morning the car drove just fine. What the ? I took it in anyway because the clutch was still feeling wrong. Then I got a rental car - and that took forever because they didn't have any ready to go on the lot. So I waited. And I waited. Once ensconced in my Buick Regal I ran home to change for work and grab lunch.

Which I left on the counter.

I got in about 10:30 and since there were no messages I went to the gym and did my 20 minutes of slow lifting. I have decided to work the top of me and the bottom of me separately so only half my body is in crippling pain for two days afterward, instead of all of me. Today was my lower body so currently I am unable to stand without assistance. Thank God for the rails in the handicapped bathrooms. While I was getting dressed I this song came on and as I listened to the first few lines I wondered, "Did Susan Vega make a new record?" And then I realized that it was Ashley Simpson!! Wow - that was weird. And it got me thinking about whether or not she was "saving it for marriage" like her sister.

I am so completely exhausted after these workouts I am incapable of intelligent thought.

When I finally powered up the computer the first thing that I saw is that Julia Child died. And that made me think of how I used to watch her cooking show. I learned a lot about loving good food - she inspired me to try new things at the table. And she's younger than Nana so I got a little wave of anxiety because I don't ever want my Nana to die. Even though I know she's going to - it makes me cry to think about it. So I got a little weepy about Julia and Nana and how people have to move along off this mortal coil.

The day isn't even halfway over yet and I have spent most of my morning in anxiety and angst. I cannot wait for Friday the 13th to be over.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

OH DO YOU KNOW THE CHICKEN MAN?

I was reading this article yesterday and it brought up one of my very best food memories from my first dinner at Melisse. My friend Elizabeth suggested we go there as she was celebrating a new job. At the time Melisse was only months old, but I was familiar with Josiah Citron from Jiraffe – so I was excited to try it.

My first impression of the restaurant was that it was rather formal and staid, certainly nothing like the uber-hip rooms you find in most L.A. restaurants where the scene is usually better than the food. If you're into "the scene". The other patrons certainly weren’t what you’d define as trendoids either. There was lots of blue hair and men in suits. With ties. Since the decision to eat here was somewhat spur of the moment I felt kind of intimidated as I slunk behind the hostess to one of the booths that lined the perimeter of the room – very aware of the stares from the Nancy Reaganesque women seated at the round tables in the center. We had shown up with no reservation, but it was about 9pm and they were able to accommodate us, and I have to say that the hostess was very friendly and did not throw the attitude that you often get from the people who work at the trendy hot spots around town.

Of course, this may be due to the fact that you drop some serious cash when dining at Melisse, so as long as your credit card clears and you are reasonably clean and well mannered they’re happy to have you. I about died when I opened the menu – appetizers were $9-18 and entrees started at $26 and went steeply up from there. They also have tastings that can be paired with wine if you like – and I do.

But as an underdressed first timer I decided to play it safe – and still my mind was blown. We ordered a bottle of Cakebread Cabernet and I started with the Mandarin Tomato soup. Knowing that the chef is an habituĂ© of the local Farmer’s Market I figured it would be a very fresca soup – simple and delicious. It was a very fresca tomato soup, but first I was presented with a shallow bowl, at the center of which sat a leek and garlic flan. The soup was poured from a silver pitcher around this little molded dollop of flavor, so that with each bite I scooped a bit of flan and then dragged it through the soup. By the time I got the spoon to my mouth the flan was slightly melting, the flavors getting more intense and combining in the most marvelous way with the bright acid tang of fresh tomatoes. The flavors resonated into my head and I couldn’t help but close my eyes. I loved that soup – a lot.

For my main course I ordered fried chicken with truffled mashed potatoes, served with white corn and fava beans. Now this wasn’t the chicken referred to in the article – but it was the best fried chicken I’ve ever eaten. The dude does have a way with chickens. Mine was served, very lightly fried – no grease - with the breast sliced and the thigh deboned. I cut a piece and swiped a bit of the truffled mashed potatoes and I though I was going to die. I felt like that cartoon dog that would float up in the air every time he ate something delicious. The vegetables were so sweet and fresh I forgot I hate fava beans and inhaled them.

After those two courses, even though I was full, we ordered the cheese course which gave us a choice of three different cheese which were served with a dark bread replete with fruits and nuts. I am a huge fan of the cheese course – but it always comes so late in my dining extravaganzas I can’t really enjoy it because I’m eating on a full stomach.

And since I’m going for it I then go ahead and order dessert, because if you’re going to be in gastronomic agony it should be from eating phenomenal food and as much of it as you can. It’s not like I do this very often. Right?

So we got the flourless chocolate cake and port!

I got home about midnite and spent the whole night in pain from the rich food – like I said I don’t eat like that very often. And in spite of the sleepless night that meal stands out as one of the best I’ve ever had. I’ve been back to Melisse several times and it’s always wonderful – the service is divine in that they are attentive without being intrusive and so well informed. I never feel like an idiot for not knowing what lardons are.

I haven’t yet tried the $84 chicken, but based on my experience I bet it’s worth every cent.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

$%@!

So I just lost everything that I spent 30 minutes writing. And now I'm over it.

Suffice it to say that I was back in the gym yesterday. Achieved total muscle failure. And now I can't lift my arms of move without wanting to let loose with bloodcurdling screams.

Apparently this means I'm doing it right.

Oh, and the extreme, can't keep my eyes open fatigue that I have been swimming through this day in - that's normal too. On a positive note I will feel much better tomorrow. And eventually I won't feel so bad every single time I work out.

But in the meantime I'm too tired to even try to recreate my post for today which was about something completely different.

Aaaaarrrrrgggghhh!

Monday, August 09, 2004

LET'S TALK ABOUT SEX!

So I'm reading the latest book, "Wake Up, Sir!" by one of my favorite authors Jonathan Ames, and in the book the character, a writer, looks up nose fetish in a book called the Psychopathia Sexualis. This book is a collection of case studies collected by a doctor in Vienna, Richard Krafft-Ebing who was Freud's superior. Unlike Freud, Dr. Krafft-Ebing didn't care to understand why people did what they did - he just collected the stories. And wrote them down in his book.

Jonathan Ames is a very funny guy and I have read everything he's written. He writes novels with characters, like the book I'm reading now, but he also writes books like "My Less Than Secret Life" which is a collection of essays written from his real life experiences and short stories that seem, at least to me, to be based on his real life. Those essays and stories were so funny that I often found myself moved to read them aloud. To total strangers. Who didn't necessarily think they were as funny as I did, but that could've been because I was laughing so hard I was pretty much incoherently gasping the words.

When I read his novels I often find myself wondering what he's lifted from his own experiences since I have some knowledge of his experiences and perspective from reading his other work.
In "Wake Up Sir!" the young writer, Alan Blair, meets a woman at an artist's colony where he is in residence and he is completely taken by her prominent proboscis. He's smitten in a sexual way which drives him to the library to look up "nose fetish" in the Psychopathia Sexualis. And he actually finds a couple cases in there.

As he goes through the book, the character reminisces about his adolescent days spent under the sheets with a flashlight and a copy of this book soaking up "the beautiful narratives." The "strange yearnings and acts" of the patients thrilling him. So I'm thinking that this is something that Mr. Ames probably did himself beause it would explain A LOT about where his attitudes about sex and sexuality come from. He's got pretty fluid boundaries which makes for great story telling, but also make me wonder.

I am always interested in the things that turn people on. I love listening to the stories of my more adventurous friends - the one's who attend swingers parties and try things like scarification as ritualized sexuality. I can't personally imagine actually attending those events mostly because I have a very sensitive nose and the thought of being in a room full of flying sexual fluids or burning flesh skeeves me out.

I remember going to Drake's on Melrose back in the 80s - where they had a room in the back with little booths where people could watch dirty movies and jerk off. The jerking off wasn't allowed, but it definitely was happening. I accidentally wandered back there and was curiously making my way down the center aisle looking in the cubicles to see what was doin, when I got a big whiff of lysol over cum, and realized my shoes were sticking to the floor. I turned and ran as the bile rose in my throat - not because I had a problem with the activity - it was the smell. I didn't want to throw up in the jerk off room and ruin someone's good time.

Although I'm sure that in the Psycopathia Sexualis there are case histories about people who really like all those smells. And I'm also sure that there are a lot of case histories about "deviant" sex that today we wouldn't consider so deviant. Well not most of us anyway. I think the religious right considers any type of sex that's not in the missionary position and only for the purpose of procreation deviant - but the religious right is, in my opinion, pretty much wrong about everything. I say if you've got two consenting adults who are both sane and in agreement pretty much anything goes.

And if it makes you laugh even better.

Friday, August 06, 2004

MORE ADVENTURES IN DATING

Over the last year and a half, during my dating offensive of the western states I spent so many hours that I can't get back on dates where I was actually counting the minutes until I could go home and watch bad TV. I decided I might as well write them down as cautionary tales for the future, I have this propensity to say yes to dates that I really don't want to go on. I am the eternal optimist because, you just never know. That guy that you are in no way attracted to, just might turn out to be the one, if you give him a chance. That is my mother's voice in my head and through the years my mother has been mostly right so, you never know...

These stories are also entertaining - after enough time has passed. Although my friends think they're hilarious when I call them the day after and run the details past them just to be sure I'm not being "too picky" and "too hard on the guy". This is a story from the end of last year - so the trauma has passed. These are just dating stories. Someday I'll write about some of the relationships - jeez, I really wish I'd been born into a culture of arranged marriage. So it would just be over with and people could stop asking me when I'm going to find a nice guy. Or stop trying to set me up with the "nice guys" they know.

So this first sentence should now begin... Late last year

I was “set up” by my friend Evan – who is gay – so I figured at least this man would be straight, because Evan would know right? This man was someone he’d met at a networking event who was wanting to date a great woman and Evan thinks I’m great. He forwarded an e-mail to me which had pictures and a bio wherein this man described himself as a children’s social worker involved in a very special program and also a licensed MFT. I was interested in his work with children and that motivated me to want to meet him. We agreed to meet for coffee. He picks a Starbucks near my house and tells me that he likes the music they play at this one. I think it’s strange that he even knows what kind of music they play. I arrive first, on time, get my coffee, find a table and sit down to read the paper. He arrives late…

He is a smallish man, slight in stature, maybe 5’7” and sports a Van Dyke goatee and a diamond stud in his left earlobe. His face is rather gaunt most likely owing to the fact that he weighs 135 pounds soaking wet. He had described himself as a young 48 and relates how just recently a colleague at work told him that she thought he could not be more than 42. I think that this is probably because he’s seemed to be 42 since birth. I also think that he is overly concerned about age, but perhaps he’s in midlife crisis. His fashion choices include what he clearly considers to be rakish accessories – a wool scarf, a leather vest, yet they miss the mark and he looks more like a small boy dressed up for a special occasion by his mother who still shops in the 1972 Sears catalogue. In fact he dresses a lot like my father, who is still living in the 70s, right down to the diamond stud in its desperate attempt at being hip. I only realize this in retrospect and if I were attracted I think it would be reason for concern.

He speaks softly in very measured sentences. It’s like sipping a chamomile tea and Valium cocktail. His focus on me is intense – he stares deeply into my eyes as he asks me questions: What am I looking for in a relationship? Do I want children? (because he doesn’t). While I talk he makes affirmative noises, mm-hmming, and nodding, staring at me intensely, slowly blinking. I am, at first amused, so involved in observing him that I listen with only half an ear as he tells me that he has just ended a 3 month relationship with a woman that he was very attracted to, but he ultimately realized that in the bigger picture they didn’t connect in some very important ways. I ask him what he means and he says that she was not bright enough for him.

The blender starts to buzz in the background and he closes his eyes, holding up a hand, asking me to stop speaking mid-sentence until it has ceased. I raise an eyebrow in question and he explains that he is a Highly Sensitive Person. He has been reading a book about the HSP (highly sensitive person) and realizes that he has been so all of his life. He is easily overwhelmed by loud noises and crowds, or as he puts it “aroused”, and all of his life people have thought that he was just shy, but really he’s just an HSP and according to the book this is something that should be celebrated. The HSP is special because their sensitivity makes them able to connect very deeply with others and to be sensitive to their needs – like at a party if someone is uncomfortable he always feels this and he also knows what to do to make them more comfortable, by turning down the music and the lights. I don’t really know how to respond but I wonder if he knows what the psychological term “projection” means, and I am visualizing him sitting in a room lit with candles and new age music playing low in the background and considering that a real good wingding. I am also thinking that going to see the kind of live music I like is probably not something he would enjoy. In fact, going to see X would probably be a torturous and traumatically arousing experience for him. So live music is probably not something we could do together because I don’t do Yanni (although he is kind of sexy in that hairy Greek way).

Even so, I enjoy the attention and his interest in all things me – hey, it’s my favorite subject! Because I wasn’t sure how this would go I have scheduled a bikini wax for 12:30 and I leave feeling like he definitely falls under the three date rule – one for yes, one for no, and one for maybe. This was the maybe date. I am pretty sure we don’t have a lot in common, but he’s a good listener. He asks if he can call me and I say yes and head off.

Next time we speak it is a Monday night. I am returning his call and tell him that I can’t see him the next weekend because I have plans. I suggest dinner some night the following week. He asks me if I’d like to celebrate his birthday with him. Is that weird? I kind of think it is. I mean he’s only just met me. Doesn’t he have friends? He wants to know where I’d like to go? What I like to eat? Hey it’s your birthday – you choose and I’ll be happy to go along. This being settled I want to hang up the phone, eat dinner and watch the football game. He wants to talk. I turn the game on and press mute and off we go. He’s back to asking questions and this time I’m only halfway paying attention because I’m watching the game so I don’t realize that he’s taking me down the road of past relationships. I am answering his questions – and watching the game – and he keeps asking me things like, “and how did that make you feel?” and “what do you think you’d do differently?” And I’m answering him and become aware that I’m starting to feel uncomfortable and little sad and really annoyed. I realize that he’s been analyzing me and that I have made a date to go to dinner with Therapydate. I tell him I need to go eat something – we’ve been on the phone for over an hour. I vow to keep my guard up and wonder if this is how guys feel.

On Sunday morning I am laying in bed, completely content because it’s raining out, my house is clean and I have given myself the whole day off to do nothing but watch football. Therapydate calls. I greet him happily, “hey there, how are you?” He says that he’s listening to one of the cable radio stations that you can get on your TV and the music is sad so he’s feeling kind of teary right now. Oh. I suggest he change over to the gospel channel. “No”, he says, “I’m enjoying just feeling sad.” Okay then. He asks what I’m doing and I tell him about how perfectly happy I am to have nothing to do but lay around my clean house and watch football. There’s a pause. “Football?” he asks, “You watch football? I don’t even watch football.” And now we’ve established another thing we won’t be doing together. “Do you watch basketball?” Not really, I tell him, I’ll watch the last 5 minutes of the fourth quarter but up until that point I find it kind of boring and frenetic, not my thing really. He tells me that he loves basketball and he plays down in Venice on a team. He gets quiet and then reverts back to asking me therapy questions, this time about my family. I feel my happiness start to drain away. I wonder silently, if when he’s playing basketball down in Venice with his friends does he ask a teammate who’s just been called for a foul, “how does that make you feel?” Does he get beat up? I change the subject and ask him if he’s inviting any of his friends to come along to celebrate his birthday? He says no, he wants to just be with me although he hastens to add that he has friends he could invite if he wanted. He asks how late can I stay out. I don’t know 11 or so. For some reason this is exciting to him. He tells me that he’s done research and selected a restaurant and wants to know how should we get together. Oh boy. I tell him that I’ll come to his house and we’ll go from there. I don’t want him to know where I live. I think this is pretty much going to be the “no” date. I am also aware that I am entering the PMS zone and allow for the fact that I have a tendency to be irrationally intolerant and pretty much a raging bitch so I have to give him the benefit of the doubt.

The day arrives and I have no idea what to give someone for his birthday whom I know very little about, except that he’s heavily into reflective listening and is highly sensitive. I decide to give him an orchid. I find them fascinating to look at and very calming, and it seems like a good gift for an HSP. I come home from work to a message from him – he wants to give me even more detailed directions to his condo than he gave me on Sunday. He starts describing where he lives and it sounds really complicated. I ask if there’s anywhere for me to park and he says he’ll let me into the parking garage. I offer to pick him up and drive us to the restaurant I don’t want my car trapped behind bars – I may need to escape. I tell him that I’ll call him when I get there and he can come down.

I drive down his street looking at all of the condos – miles of them. I think to myself that I would rather live in a shed that one of these Habi-trails. That PMS is pretty bad, I internally promise to be my nicest and sweetest self. I locate his building and call to say I’m here. I wait and wait and wait and after about 10 minutes he comes down wearing a leather vest again. I am feeling kind of sad for him now because clearly he had big expectations for this evening. On the way to the restaurant we somehow get on the subject of scuba diving. I tell him that I want to get certified but I’m kind of scared of having to clear my mask underwater however, I think it would be magical once I got down there. He tells me that he got certified but doesn’t dive because it gives him too much anxiety to be underwater and dependent on that tank for air. I wonder aloud if he can use his HSP techniques to center and focus on being in the moment and move out of the fear. No. He just starts to hyperventilate and worry about drowning.

The restaurant that he’s selected through his research is a Thai place in the marina. I want to order my regular – spicy beef salad, he wants salmon and he wants me to share. I have to tell him that I don’t care much for salmon, but he should have whatever he wants and not worry about me. He asks if I like fish at all – sure I reply, if I’m eating in a restaurant that specializes in seafood and doesn’t get their fish from local waters. He orders hot sake, which they’re out of and I ask for cold, which they have. He has no idea what that is. I explain that cold sake is actually the better quality akin to fine wine in our country. That high end Japanese restaurants will often carry various kinds and that often they’re poured into wooden boxes for drinking. The evening just kind of goes downhill from here as we go from subject to subject and our disparate personalities become more and more apparent.

He has asked for the table in the corner and is annoyed when a party of three are seated next to us and have loud conversation – again with the hand, pausing for silence. He rests his arms on his chair, closes his eyes and takes a big, deep breath, which he releases with an audible, ahhhhhhhhhh. He opens his eyes and looks deeply into mine and I decide to ask him about the relationship that he was just in, the one with the girl who was not so bright. I ask him if it was a physically intimate relationship. He says that it was. I ask him who ended it and he says that he did. I ask him how he thought that made her feel, this not so bright girl. He looks slightly taken aback and then says – I swear to God these are his exact words – “well, her behavior indicated that she was very hurt.” I then wondered aloud what she might’ve learned from the experience and said I hoped that it was that she should value herself more than to be so careless as to throw herself away on a relationship with someone who doesn’t take the time to get to know her before they get in bed. Vicious, I know, but I said it in a very sweet and innocent way – this is my version of therapy talk.

ME:
So have you ever lived with anyone?
HIM:
Yes, about a year ago. I lived with a woman for a year and a half in my place, the one that I own now. It ended when we had were having an argument, well I guess a fight really. I wanted a timeout. To go for a walk. As I was trying to get out of the apartment she threw herself in front of the door and wouldn’t let me out. I had to get physical with her to get out. Once I was out she told me that she was going to get a restraining order and I shouldn’t come back. This was MY PLACE! So I took a walk and went to a bookstore and read for a little bit then I called my friend Dave. He told me, and I agreed, that it would be best to get her out as soon as possible. So that’s what I did. After that I was a little frightened of her, but she left the next month. She moved to a religious community and now she’s married and living in Encinitas with this guy she met and he’s brought her kids out to live with them down there in Encinitas. So have you ever lived with anyone?
ME:
No. I can’t imagine it, unless we lived in a duplex. I need a place to go that’s my own.
HIM:
So you would want two separate residences.
ME:
Ideally, yes – a duplex would serve the purpose quite well I think.

He didn’t really like that idea, I could tell. He closed his eyes again and took another deep breath. Ahhhhhhhhhhh. He slowly opened his eyes, smiled and said, “I like this music”. Mmmm-hmmmm, it was new age Asian background music. Not bad, but I wouldn’t necessarily play it at home. I moved on to his family.


ME:
So are you going to see your family for the holidays?
HIM:
No. I don’t really like to spend time around my family.
ME:
Oh that’s right. Your mom is a screamer. (I remembered him telling me that he used the “ice mountain” technique to freeze his mother out when he was growing up and she would scream at him.)
HIM:
Well we have an agreement that I will go home next year for my 50th birthday party and spend three days with them. (Wait, I thought you were a young 48 – you just turned 49? And you already have plans for your 50th birthday party?)
ME:
Can you stay in a hotel?
HIM:
No. That would be weird. I’ll stay at my sister’s house. She has a room that I can go in and shut the door and read. (And that’s not weird – to stay with your family and shut yourself away from them?)
ME:Well, that’s probably better for you than staying with your parents.
HIM:
Yes. I’m still have an upset with them from when they came to visit when I was living with that woman I told you about and my mom was just relentlessly bitching about how she wasn’t this and she wasn’t that even when I asked her to stop and told her that I really cared about this woman. By the end of the visit my dad admitted to me that he liked her but when he got back home and my mom could hear him talking to me on the phone he would bad mouth her again.
ME:
Why does it matter so much what your parents think? I mean you’re a grown man. (You’re a therapist who should have worked through this stuff before they gave you a license)
HIM:
Well, I won’t allow anyone to be disrespectful to me or someone I care about in my OWN home.
ME:
So did you ask them to leave?
HIM:
(long pause)
Well, that never occurred to me.
ME:
Oh. (silently thinking – ooooeeeee! Big mother issues – this is definitely the NO date)

After this I was talking about things I love to do – go to the track to watch Thoroughbred racing. He couldn’t imagine. Fine dining – he doesn’t like to spend a lot of money, he’s a saver. He suggested a walk in the Marina – it was 9:30 and I had afterall said I could stay out until 11 or so. I pointed out that I wasn’t wearing suitable shoes for walking, but let’s just admit right here and now that if I was at all attracted to this man I would have kicked those shoes off and walked barefoot on dirty cement and thought it was incredibly romantic. I pay for dinner when the check arrives. It’s his birthday and although I am starting to be repulsed by the combination of fear and arrogance I really do want to be kind (Note to all men – if a woman pays for herself or both of you on a date early on, odds are she’s trying to buy her way out of the situation – this is probably your last date.)

On the way home he tells me about the political groups that he’s involved with that are doing good work to get Bush out of office, for instance the Moral Majority. I ask if he’s sure about that? I’m wondering if he knows that the Moral Majority is led by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and other members of the religious right and they actively hate liberals, gays and feminists and support the bombing of abortion clinics. In fact, I’m pretty sure that they’ve donated a lot of money to getting the shrub elected. I don’t say anything though in case he’s given them money. I tell him that I’m involved with moveon.org and that’s a good group. Oh yes, he knows about them, but he’s real involved with the Moral Majority. Okay, then. I’ve almost got him home it’s 10:15 and I can tell he’s disappointed, but I feel mostly relieved to drop him off and I sincerely hope that he is as aware as I am that we have nothing in common and there is no chemistry – I am not a receptive female. I quickly kiss him on the cheek and say goodbye. He says he’ll call me.

I want to tell him that there is a fine line between tenacity and masochism, but instead I smile, wave and drive off hoping that he was just being nice. Like me.