Thursday, September 30, 2004

MY MUST SEE TV

Wednesday nights are going to be my new “must see TV” nights. Or at least a reason to get Tivo. I am, so far, underwhelmed by the new fall season. Of course I don’t have any shows that I’m attached to, other than Joan of Arcadia and that was starting to get a little tired by the end of last season. Oh, and I am very addicted to America’s Next Top Model, but I think I’ve mentioned that.

But last night was ANTM night so I blocked out my schedule and made a delicious meal and my friend Kalli stopped by on her way to her husbands gig because she loves the ANTM too. She didn’t make it until the final elimination but she really did miss much. There’s too many girls and only a few standouts. There were some pictures taken last night and there was some drama in the house which is honestly what I tune in for – the psycho drama. And it looks like Ann will be the queen of psycho drama for this season.

On the way to Jamaica they hit a little turbulence and Ann has a meltdown. Like a total baby meltdown wherein she calls Eva momma and has to go lay in her lap. And while Ann is a pretty girl with good bone structure and a great body she’s got no idea what to do with it and I’m thinking it could be that she’s a lesbian who is repressing her tendencies which precludes her from giving the camera that come fuck me look that all good models should have down pat.

It’s strange that by the time you’re old enough to be comfortable with your sexuality and to have some experience with sexuality, you’re too old to be America’s Next Top Model. But whatever. After Jamaica Magdalena gets launched – she doesn’t even get to move in to the Waldorf Astoria house. Which is way cool, but using cameras to decorate just seems a little too on the nose. At the house Ann melts down again because she wants to share a room with Eva and Eva is like the last one through the door so she ends up taking the bed in the family room. Ann is VERY upset by this.

I missed the third act because I was talking to Kalli on the phone, catching her up, but the gist was that everyone hates Kelle the black girl who was raised in “Sea Gate - the last gated community in New York.” She needs to stop saying that it really bugs. The girls all hate her because she comes from money and she has to talk about it all the time. Even when she’s talking about how everyone hates her she can’t help but drop in that she’s wearing Gucci pants. She is just, like, so totally annoying.

Eva still has big attitude, but now she’s a little less mean and abrasive. Or at least they’re editing her that way. Tocarra has got waaaaaaaay too much energy. She exhausts me. Ya Ya was a standout this week. At least in the photo shoot. I can’t really remember if she said anything because she kind of blends in with all the rest of them. This is how I keep them straight: Cassie is the stripper, Jennipher has reaaaaally long hair, Kristi is the blond, republican with no neck, Norelle has braces and is kind of awkward and funny looking, Julie is there to represent the culture of India, Amanda is blind and there’s this girl Nicole that I somehow missed – I have no idea who Nicole is, unless she’s the girl who gets drunk and will fuck anybody. I remember that girl from last week but I didn’t think they picked her, although when you think about it that would a great reason to pick her, so maybe they did.

So after ANTM comes Taye Diggs as Kevin Hill. Kalli arrived just in time to say bye to Leah with the “mad eyes” on ANTM and see what’s coming up next week – platinum blonde hair and a weave for Amanda, so we kind of missed the very first part of the show because we were talking and pouring the wine and getting dinner. We came in on the first act and he’s already got the baby. Damn, that was fast. They killed off the cousin in the teaser. I love Taye Diggs. He’s the kind of beautiful man that you look at and you kind of stop paying attention to anything he’s saying because you’re so busy looking at his mouth. And noticing that the color of his tie matches his lips perfectly and it’s kind of mesmerizing. The show itself was great and when Kalli and I took a puff of pot I could’ve turned the sound off and just watched him. But the sound was on and the show was well written.

At one point Kalli says, “You know this is kind of like Ally McBeal.” And I’m like, “Yeah, except that he’s an alpha male, but you’re right it’s kind of that ‘whole new world’ thing with the baby angle.” It was good pot. I taped the show and I’ll watch it again. And again. But stoned or not, I think it’s good. I don’t know where they got this baby girl, but she is so cute and I swear she rolls her eyes on cue. Whoever directed the show shoots everything and everyone in close up – tons of close ups. It kind of reminded me of The Courtship of Eddie’s Father which I remember also seemed to have lots of close ups. I could use some more master shots for context. So much so close kind of detracts from shots where you see Kevin Hill in profile leaning down to Sara, his new baby girl and she’s such a cute baby and he’s such a hot guy – I still went “aaaaahhhhh” out loud, but the pay off was diminished because I’d been seeing everything so close up all the time.

After Kevin Hill Kalli took off for the gig and I switched over to ABCs wife swap. I saw a preview of this on Sunday and was riveted and last night did not disappoint. I don’t know where they found these people, but they’re all kind of extreme. Last night featured Jodi, a millionaress, and that’s the actual word they used to describe her, who has never worked a day in her life, and spends most of her day doing “me time” swaps with Lynn who works two jobs, cleans the house, cooks for the family and raises the kids. Jodi’s lifestyle is extreme in that she has 4 nannies for 3 kids AND a housekeeper, AND a driver. I was surprised she didn’t have a butt wiper. Lynn looks weathered and older than she probably is and she’s very self aware. I like Lynn. I’m not sure about Jodi.

Jodi’s husband is Steve, aka the soulless bastard. Steve is a workaholic who is all about how much money he has and what he can pay for. He married a rich woman and they have three kids whom neither of them see or spend much time with. These people are so disconnected from reality. Lynn’s husband Brad looks like he might’ve played with the Oakridge Boys back in the day and he basically sits around on his ass and does nothing. I’m sure he has a job, but in this show he’s edited to look as though he literally does nothing but sit around on the couch and watch TV with his two daughters who also do nothing. Ever.

The first week of the swap the women have to live by the rules of the house and they both have a hard time because Lynn isn’t used to doing nothing but shop, spend money and get her hair done while someone else is taking care of the kids. Jodi sure as hell ain’t used to getting up and chopping wood. She does give it a shot though, wearing gold lycra gottex and fur boots, she cuts wood for about 15 minutes and then decides that’s enough. They never show her driving the bus, Lynn’s other job – I don’t think she has a license. Brad and Jodi get into a huge fight where he tells her that she has no idea what reality is and she just can’t believe it. It’s his reality out here in BF nowhere that’s not reality. He should get out more. She does call him out for not appreciating his wife – go Jodi. And then she goes out on the porch and cries because, “no one has ever spoken to me like that before.” I mean I kind of understand, she cleaned the toilet, what’s he so upset about? So what if she’s not doing the six hours of back breaking work and cleaning the house and cooking. I mean who wants to do that? Brad interviews that Jodi isn’t playing by the rules, she was supposed to come here and do his wife’s job. At this point my phone ring and it’s my friend Stephanie who says – “Oh my God, they have a three legged dog!” And I look and realize that yes, indeed they do. ABC found a rural working class family with a three legged dog.

Meanwhile, Lynn is having a horrible time with the soulless bastard who has taken her out to dinner with all of their tony, uptown, New York friends where he is so condescending and the people are so boring and nouveaux riche that I was suffering along with her. She just rolled her eyes and kept her cool and handled it much better than I would have. Steve is one of those people who is doing image maintenance and that’s about it. He is pretty much sucking air that could be used more for more productive purposes than providing this soulless bastard with life.

In the second week, when the women get to change the house rules to their rules all hell breaks loose, and that’s the point of the show really. I start to really like Jodi when she makes Brad do all the cleaning and cooking because she’s going to have “me time”, and the best part is when she tells him that he’s going to take her out for a romantic dinner. Ha! He hates her so much I can’t wait to see that!!!

At Jodi’s house Lynn tells Steve that he will be home by 6:30 to have dinner with her and the kids and she lets the nannies and the housekeeper go. Steve about dies he’s so freaked out by having to deal with his kids. After the first night he just decides that he’s not going to live by those rules and basically tell Lynn to go fuck herself. He treats her like a servant for the remainder of the show, until the final night when she tells him she’s going to a hotel because she won’t allow someone to treat her with so little respect and she feels bad for him that he sees spending time with his family as such a chore. She bails and leaves him alone with his three children and Steve just can’t believe it!

Back in New Jersey Brad is developing a whole new appreciation for Lynn and all that she does. Jodi is in the kitchen making cookies with the two girls and all of their friends that she invited over. It actually looks like a good time. I’m starting to like Jodi who at least is trying to give the girls an idea of what “me time” is. Every woman needs some of that. On the last night when Brad takes Jodi for their romantic dinner they discuss the fact that they actually do like each other and she tells him that he really needs to appreciate all that his wife does. Um, hello! No kidding. Brad gets that now that he’s spent the last week doing all of Lynn’s work as well as his own. Jodi did get out there and help him once he started actually doing something so I guess she was just trying to make a point.

When they swap back Brad is practically sobbing, he’s so glad to have his wife back. The soulless bastard who followed Lynn’s limousine, driving his own Porsche, to the swapping location, just can’t understand why Lynn has such a bad attitude. He’s living in his own private Idaho because there’s not a person out there watching this show who would want to ride in a car with Steve. I feel sorry for Jodi that she has to go home with him because she might’ve been clueless but she’s not soulless.

My favorite part was the very end where Lynn interviews that she’s so happy to be back with her family and that having all that money and lifestyle doesn’t make for happiness. Cut to Jodi who’s spending more time with her kids and Steve who interviews, “so yeah, now we’re spending more time with the kids, and I wouldn’t mind if there was less of that.” What an ass. Final shot is Brad who interviews that now he helps Lynn around the house and he enjoys it because it’s time they spend together. And she says that now she’s got all this extra time for.... me time. And she kind of laughs, but he puts his arm around her and says, “you deserve it.” And I really like Brad and Lynn and Jodi. And I think Steve is a putz.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

TO BIG SUR WITH BUD

I love nothing better than to get in the car and just go. One of the best road trips I ever went on was with Roseanne several years ago. At the time she was still recovering from a broken heart and had just run into her ex-boyfriend, with his new girlfriend on Thursday night. Saturday morning she walked in my room and said, “I want to go somewhere. Would you want to go to Big Bear with me?”

Um, no.

I’m not a big fan of the local mountains, the drive to get there takes you through the “inland empire”, an area that was probably beautiful when someone started calling it that, but today is currently blanketed in a layer of dark brown smog most of the time. The road to the mountain resorts is windy and I’m not a person who gets car sick, but I remember being truly challenged on that highway. Of course the nausea may have been precipitated by my insistence on reading in the back seat of the car. Oh and the whole bag of candy corn that I ate during the ride probably didn’t help either.

In any case going to the local mountains doesn’t bring up happy thoughts. I had recently read about a little town up near Hearst Castle called Cambria and having never been there thought that would be a fun place to check out. So we each grabbed an overnight bag and set off about 9am. It was this time of year so the sky was clear and the air was cool, but the sun was out to give us a little heat. We hit the 101N. and I lit up a joint as we listened to “This American Life” on KCRW. God I love that show.

By the time we got to Ventura I needed to eat breakfast or I was going to get cranky and we’d lost the radio signal, so we stopped and grabbed a quick bite to eat at a coffee shop. Roseanne, or Bud, as she is known to those friends who are family, didn’t really want to talk about running into the ex-, or how it made her feel. It had been months since they broke up and she really had moved on, but it had thrown her, seeing him with another woman. Especially since he was wearing clothes that she’d bought him.

We got back on the road and turned up the music and Bud decided to partake in some bud so by the time we got off the 101 at San Luis Obispo we were pretty well baked and figured it would be an excellent idea to stop at the Madonna Inn. We got some cookies at the bakery and bought some postcards in the gift shop and then we looked around and stumbled into the bar, which, if memory serves was replete with red leather and carved wood. It looked like something from middle earth where hobbits would party. And it had a dance floor. With the right people heading up for an evening of dinner and dancing and cocktails at the Madonna Inn could be such a great time. You could really dress up. In pretty much whatever you wanted. It would be hard to look overdressed in that room.

We head up Hwy. 1 and ate our cookies so that by the time we pulled into Cambria we weren’t really hungry. And the couple of puffs of pot we had smoked made decision making difficult. The conversation went like this,
“Do you want to eat here?” Here being a little pizza parlor. “Oh, okay. I guess. I don’t know.” Then when we got in the pizza parlor with all the local tweeners staring at us I decided that no, I did not want to eat there. In fact, I didn’t want to stay in Cambria. I wasn’t feeling Cambria.

It was about 1pm and we decided to just keep going north up Hwy. 1. And to keep taking hits off the joint. With the music turned up really loud and the windows down. Bud was driving so I actually got to see more of the spectacular drive than I usually do. Usually I have to pay attention because it’s a two lane highway that runs along a cliff high above the ocean, so I really appreciated being able to relax and enjoy how incredibly beautiful the central California coastline is. When we got to Big Sur I suggested that we stop at Nepenthe for a drink so we could figure out where we might want to stay because now it was 4pm and I was pretty much done with being in the car.

So we sat at the beautiful long redwood bar, watched the sun begin it’s descent and drank a few beers. Bud was remembering when she was last in Big Sur with her ex- in November. They had stayed at the Ventana Inn, just across the street, and he had asked her to move in with him. With our combined beer and pot buzz we spent the next half hour trashing the guy and toasting to the fact that she didn’t move in with him and make what surely would’ve been the biggest mistake of her life and somewhere along the way she decided that we should go stay at Ventana so she can exorcise any remaining love for the demon.

I was drunk enough to think that was a fine idea especially since it was getting dark and I didn’t want to drive in the car anymore. Bud called across the street and at 5:30pm Ventana had one room left, a suite on the meadow which normally went for $475.00, but because it was so late in the day they gave it to us for $375.00 and we thought it was a total deal. In retrospect it really was. We ended up in what was basically a two story cabin with a balcony that overlooked a meadow and beyond that, the ocean. Downstairs we also had a porch that the french doors opened onto and on both the balcony and the porch there were rocking chairs, rustically constructed out of spruce of some such wood.

Not wanting my buzz to die we immediately made dinner reservations for Ventana’s restaurant out in the woods. The fact that we didn’t pack the clothes for this kind of destination and the insanely exorbitant prices did not stop us. We were on a roll. Following the path through the very quiet grounds that reminded me of a very posh and expensive camp for grown ups we headed out through the meadow toward the woods, passing a couple lovingly intertwined on a random hammock. I remember thinking that it was a nice touch, the hammock, but I wouldn’t really want to lay there on the side of the trail – intertwined or not.

As we headed into the woods, and these were serious woods, like Hansel and Gretel woods – the kind that you could imagine bears and other critters living in, especially if you took a couple puffs of pot before you decided to walk into them, in the dark – what little light there was from the moon completely disappeared. The only thing lighting the path were tiny, unobtrusive malibu type lamps, and this was not a paved path. This was a path that you practically needed hiking boots to walk on – it was an uneven dirt trail that wound through the forest where critters most definitely did live because we could hear them skittering as we went past.

When we got to the restaurant which was dark and woodsy with glass walls I was starving! We ordered an excellent bottle of wine and everything that looked good on the menu. Of course I also had to order dessert because they had chocolate mousse cake and I LOVE chocolate mousse cake. I couldn’t eat it by the time dinner was over but I decided I would carry it back through the forest with me. If I got lost trying to get back to the Inn at least I would have a snack until help came.

The walk back seemed like it was a lot farther than the walk there, probably due to the food and the fact that we had been drinking pretty much non-stop for the last five hours. I’ve never been very good at that. It just makes me want to go to sleep. But Bud had other plans. She wanted to hit the Japanese baths that dot the property. She wanted to do everything there was to do, and damn it she was on an exorcism mission and I was her wingman so I couldn’t go to sleep just yet. We went back to our two story tree house and donned our complimentary, super luxurious, white terry robes. Now, Roseanne is not a “naked in public” person so I was surprised that she was cool with the fact that since we didn’t have bathing suits we were either going to have to wear our clothes in the bath or be naked in public. But she had also been drinking for five hours.

So we roll into the bath house closest to our location, at least that’s what it seemed like to us, but who knows. It was deserted and that worked for me. When you step out of the women’s shower room into the chill night air, you step into the gender specific area, which is small. In the middle of the two gender specific areas is a co-ed area that is larger and has steps that you can sit on, thus immersing yourself up to your chin. We moved to that area and were enjoying the total hedonism of sitting naked in hot water up to our chins with the gorgeous clear night sky above and an excellent buzz. That moment was short however, because we were soon joined by a naked couple in their 60s, which in and of itself wasn’t problematic, but the man kept asking me to stand up and press the button to make the bubbles go. And there were no bubbles and the thing he wanted me to stand up and press was a pine knot. And explaining that to him didn’t get him to stop asking. So we duck walked out of the co ed, naked in public pool, slipped back into our robes and went out into the night to try to find our way back.

Once we got to the room I collapsed on the couch in the living room in my pristine robe and got out my chocolate mousse thinking to watch television and have a snack. Bud pulled one of the rocking chairs out into the meadow and when I looked out the french doors all I saw was a tiny druid in a white hooded robe who looked to be rocking back and forth in mid air. I passed out shortly after that and when I woke up the next morning my chocolate mousse was all over the front of my robe and I had a horrible hangover. Horrible is actually an understatement. This was an epic, red wine, throbbing temples, someone is trying to poke my eyes out of my skull from inside my brain hangover.

But there was free coffee and breakfast set up in the main lobby. It was quite early so I didn’t bother to do more than put on sunglasses, brush my teeth and clip my hair up. Bud looked a more pulled together but we were still into wearing our complementary robes so we did. I picked up our complimentary newspaper that was lying on the doorstep and we stumbled toward the main building. I have never wanted, or needed, a cup of coffee so badly in my life. I put my newspaper down on a table out on the deck and headed in to get a cup. Sadly, there was someone there in front of me and he was taking up every bit of space to make his cup of coffee. No sharing of the coffee table for this guy who I just knew was some USC frat boy on his honeymoon. As he lingered there taking his time and hogging the space I moved closer and closer thinking that I would drive him off by standing in his personal space, but he wouldn’t be rushed. He finally moved on and I got my coffee and some meusli and guess what? When I got back to my table this blonde woman was sitting at the table right next to it. Yes, it was about shade, but still I didn’t want to be that close to people. And wouldn’t you know it the coffee hog came out and joined her. Great!

So I’m sitting there all pissy and annoyed at having to deal with the mere presence of other people, although I did offer to share my paper when she asked me where I got it, and Bud comes out with her tray and sits across from me. She is making really big eyes and slightly gesturing with her head to the couple next to us. I’m thinking that she also finds them annoying and so I’m nodding in that “I KNOW!” kind of way. But then she starts silently mouthing something at me. And I’m squinting through my hangover trying to understand what she’s saying and all of a sudden the world comes into focus and I realize that the coffee hog isn’t some USC frat boy, it’s JFK Jr. and his wife Carolyn Bessette. And I also realize that it’s their first anniversary and this must be what they’re doing to celebrate – they’ve come to stay at Ventana where they’re sitting next to a deranged looking woman in a chocolate smeared white bathrobe who stands too close.

All kinds of thoughts ran through my head starting with – he’s much better looking in pictures and she’s much prettier in person. Then I noticed that they weren’t really talking to each other, that they appeared to be more like a couple you’d see where he’s taken her to the obligatory breakfast after a one night stand and they’ve realized that they have nothing to say to each other. The whole vibe was strange. She was taking pictures of a little bird and he was reading the paper and ignoring her. Then I started to think about how hard it must be to be them with people staring and the press hounding...

And that I was wearing a chocolate smeared bathrobe should any photographers be hiding in the bushes stalking these people.

I told Bud I was going to go get ready to go and took off. The drive back was beautiful and relaxing and I drove to give her a break since we basically drove up and turned around and came back. But my favorite part of a road trip is the part in the car. And that road trip was one of the best ever – worth every penny because it’s such a great memory and the exorcism was successful. Bud was a much happier girl after that trip. As far as remedies for a broken heart, bruised ego that’s got to be one of the top three.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

STEARNS STORIES

My life can be compartmentalized by location. This occurred to me when I was entertaining the idea of how to sort and store three storage boxes full of photos. Not being the sort to scrapbook – how weird is that trend? – I started making mental categories and realized that most of my stories are marked by where they happened. Some of my favorite stories are from the house on Stearns Drive. I think of these stories and the photos that illustrate them as “The Stearns Stories.” Today I got an e-mail from one of my friends whom I met while living in that house, that Louie had died. Louie, and his wife Molly were great characters from the Stearns stories and when I heard about his death it brought me back to the beginning.

Ten years ago my friend Roseanne and I decided to share a house. I had lived in an apartment when I first moved to Los Angeles, but found that sharing a house with friends was actually a better way to go. More bang for the buck so to speak. At the time I was living with two other girls and our lease was up and we were all ready to move on. So Roseanne and I started looking for the next place by driving neighborhoods that were fairly close to the one I was already living in because it was a nice neighborhood and being a creature of habit I wanted to stay near my dry cleaner, my grocery store, my bank – you know. The thing is that rents go up every year so we couldn’t afford to live in a house in my neighborhood. We couldn’t really even afford to live in an apartment in my neighborhood!

So we went south because in Los Angeles when you move south prices go down. And this paradigm holds true all the way to South Central which is why the poorest people end up down there. We headed south of Olympic on Crescent Heights and start driving the streets of Carthay Square, a neighborhood that has it’s own historical preservation society which means that no one can tear down the 1920s spanish style tract homes and build the monstrosities that you see west of La Cienaga. And that’s a good thing. We didn’t see much that day, but we did find THE PERFECT HOUSE! There was a “for rent” sign on the lawn and there were workers inside so we walked in to check it out.

Since the door was open.

To the left was a huge living room and to the right of the tiny entry hall was the dining room. There were three bedrooms and two bathrooms, but it was the kitchen that was too exciting for words. It had been completely remodeled with new tile and new appliances and new floorings. It was clean. And the very best part was the banquette in the corner which wrapped around a red formica table. The hardwood floors were all bleached wood and the ceilings were 20 feet high. There were speakers in every room, including the bathrooms with dials which you could use to turn the volume up. There was a Mr. Steam Sauna in the small bathroom. There was a small backyard and an electric gate across the driveway. There were rental applications on the counter in the kitchen.

We took them all because we wanted this house and we were going to make damn sure that no one else got it.

We filled out the application and took it to Michael, the man who was handling the rental for the owners, two lesbians who were breaking up. They had bought the house and put about $150,000 into the upgrade so they could use it as a secondary residence. These were wealthy women. Their primary residence was in Aspen, CO. Neither one of them wanted to live in the house at all anymore. Yay for us! With dogged persistence we stalked Michael who just wanted to celebrate Rosh Hashanah with his friends, until he told us that we could have it.

We so totally scored! I had never lived in such a cool house before, nor have I since, and I'd lived in some pretty nice houses. One of the women was a lighting designer so the house not only had top of the line lighting fixtures, but little touches like recessed halogens in the hallway that threw a wash of light on the walls where you could feature artwork and photos. We didn't, but we could have and damn, I loved the option. I couldn’t decide what I loved more the fabulously clean kitchen with the miele dishwasher or the Mr. Steam Sauna.

We got the keys two weeks before the first of October, which was our actual move in date, and we started slowly moving stuff in and organizing it. A change for me since in the 3 previous moves over the 4 previous years, I usually waited till the last minute, moved everything including a bunch of trash and shoved boxes in the garage as a later date project. But the house was so clean and nice and Roseanne is a perfectionist so she would never have let me get away with that.

On one of the first trips to the house with my boxes, as I was unloading them from the car, an elderly couple approached from across the street. They introduced themselves as Molly and Louie, or rather, she introduced them because Louie didn’t really speak that much and Molly talked A LOT. In about five minutes she told me about Liz and Daley who were her neighbors that were getting married and how they came home late and kept her up all night. She told me about the Foxes who lived next door and how they had adopted a little boy who had medical problems. She told me about how not that long ago Vicky, Mrs. Fox, had been walking down the street, the street that I was just moving to and had been held up at gun point for her cell phone. She told me that I had better be very careful unloading the boxes into the house and be sure to lock the door of the car after I took each item out, because, and this would come to ring in my head as Molly’s refrain, “You never know what could happen.” And just then, to illustrate how very dangerous this neighborhood was on a sunny autumn afternoon, an ice cream truck tinkled by. You never know Susan, he could be selling drugs out of that truck!

Molly also gave me a run down on Louie’s health. While Molly, at 70 was like a small force of nature, Louie, at 80 was more like the slender tree that bent to absorb her force. He had white hair and was ghostly pale, a little blue around the lips and he mostly nodded in agreement with everything she said. Louie had “heart trouble” and had to take nitroglycerin tablets all the time. In fact, she said, he had to take them after he ate because just digesting his food was stressful. Geez Louise! I asked if he’d had an angiogram? My mom had quadruple bypass surgery the year before so I was pretty well versed on the cardiac odyssey. Molly said that their doctor had told them that he needed to go in for the test, but it was at UCLA and she didn’t drive and she was afraid for Louie to drive because of his “heart trouble.” Plus, she said, “God forbid they should find something wrong.”

I looked at Louie and his blue lips and trembling hands and made the observation that he looked horrible and couldn’t eat a meal without cardiac distress so it was probably a good bet that something was definitely wrong. “Where are your kids?” I asked. “Oh, they don’t live here and I don’t want to worry them,” Molly replied. Well, it’s really nice to meet you both Molly and I don’t want to seem forward, but you better get this taken care of because Louie, you are a walking time bomb and it’s only a matter of time before you collapse on someone’s lawn while you’re walking to the corner. And Molly, if my mom hadn't told me what was going on I would've been very upset. You aren't being fair to not tell them about their father's health problems."

I’m such a tactful bitch.

Molly’s face blanched. “Susan,” she said, “Do you really think that could happen? That he could die?” “Um yeah, Molly, I do. Your doctor isn’t recommending the test for no reason. Just go find out what’s wrong and get it fixed.” The tiny little woman clasped my hand and looked at me with total trust. “Well, if you really think so, but I just don’t know how we’ll get there and back.” And being the classic rescuer/co-dependent I said, “Well, if you make the appointment I will drive you there and I will pick you up, that way you don’t have any excuse to put it off now do you?”

I was so exasperated I fucking dared her to take me, a total stranger who was moving in across the street, up on my offer. What the hell was I thinking!! I wasn’t. I just got sucked in and I got involved in the lives of total strangers, because it’s something I’ve been doing since I was born. So Molly made the appointment and I took them and then went back and picked them up. Louie’s angiogram showed that his arteries were almost completely blocked. Der! A bypass was recommended or it was only a matter of time until Louie keeled over on the front lawn so Molly decided that surgery was the lesser of two disasters. She called her kids and let them know and their son came down to take them to the hospital and be with her for the surgery. Louie was a new man after he recovered and I was Molly’s new best friend.

I loved Molly and Louie who became the little Jewish grandparents I never had, because I am a DAR card carrying WASP, and I was honored to know them. Now imagine living across the street from your nosy Bubbie who’s always peeping out her window and is in your business all the time, but who is such a character and has the biggest heart, that no matter how frustrated you get, you just can’t get mad and you’d have some idea about how Molly worked my last nerve. And in recent years I swear sometimes I'm channeling her when I find myself doing a Gladys Kravitz, but she and Louie are some of the best parts of the Stearns stories. Molly died in 1997, a story in and of itself and yesterday, Louie quietly joined her. Ten years after his bypass surgery, at age ninety, just months after leaving the house on Stearns that he lived in with Molly for more than 60 years, to stay with his daughter. Today he moves in with Molly at the Home of Peace cemetery in East L.A.

Rest in peace Molly and Louie - I love you.

Monday, September 27, 2004

I'M SAYIN' A LITTLE PRAYER

On Sunday nights I often go meet my friend Christina and her boyfriend Urban for dinner at the Rainbow. The Rainbow is world famous as a hangout for rock stars and other various and sundry “personalities”. Although I eat there quite regularly I often feel like a tourist as I sit there and watch, wide eyed, as people in all kinds of get ups wander through. The women, many of whom look like porn stars with their huge fake boobs often displayed in not much more than a bikini bathing suit triangle top, clomp past in their insanely high stripper shoes. The men, many of whom look like rock stars, and maybe they are, but I’m thinkin’ that most of them just want to be, their skinny bodies encased in leather pants and their arms covered with permanent tattooed sleeves. And then there are those who are trying to achieve the look and not quite hitting it – the slightly overweight girl in the too tight dress with the scuffed white high heels. The obese girl with the bouffant hairdo and the dress made out of what looks like a crocheted piano skirt which barely covers her bottom when she leans over to hug the valet.

Urban and Christina are good friends with Mario and his wife Scarlet who own, not only the world famous Rainbow, but also the Roxy and the Whiskey – venerable venues which have featured the world famous and not so world famous rock stars and bands. I have been lucky enough to get to know Mario and Scarlet over the last couple of years and while I love hearing the stories about Robert Plant, Janis Joplin and Mick Jagger from the 70s, what I love even more is just being with a couple that love each other like Mario and Scarlet love each other.

They have been married for 50 years after meeting in a nightclub in Chicago where Scarlet was a waitress and Mario asked the floor manager to make an introduction. They have kids, and grandkids and great grandkids. They still hold hands and fuss at each other. Now I’m sure that they’ve had rough spots – but what impresses me is that the obvious affection they have for one another and the friendship is so clearly between them. I asked Mario how they have managed to stay married for so long and still like each other and he said, “I take care of her like she’s a little girl and she takes care of me like I’m a little boy.”

When I think about it that wouldn’t be the first place I’d go. I tend to get resentful when someone treats me like a little girl. There is a man in my life who occasionally calls me “little girl” and my feathers get ruffled even though I know he means it affectionately. But I think that if I really trusted someone to take care of me the way one would a child, with all the love and protection that’s inherent in that care, then it makes sense that a bond would be built that could last 50 years or longer, and that I would want to return that care.

It’s an interesting concept. Last night I was sitting with Mario and Scarlet and they told me that Mario, who has not been feeling well at all lately, has been diagnosed with an aneurism. They haven’t been able to do the surgery to repair it because he’s retaining water and it’s around his heart. He’s been on medication to reduce the fluid and hopefully they will be able to do the surgery this week. Although I am certain that Mario will be just fine, because he is a strong man who has by and large taken good care of himself, I still take that step forward into a world without Mario and it breaks my heart. I would miss him terribly yes, but it would be so hard to see Scarlet without Mario – they go together like a matched set. Like two people do after sharing more than half a century of life together. So say a prayer for Mario. And for Scarlet too.

Friday, September 24, 2004

SMOKY BLACK BEANS

Last night I made the most kick ass Smoky/Spicy Black Beans for dinner. They derive their smoky spiciness from a chopped chipotle chili. I love chipotles and always keep them on hand, the canned kind in the adobo sauce. The heat they bring is a slow burn that brings up beads of sweat on the forehead and the bridge of the nose. This recipe is easy and quick so these beans are going to be a staple around my house (along with beano – geeez!) and I just have to share it here:

1 small onion
1 chiopotle chili (either canned in adobo or dried)
2 – 15 to 16oz. Cans black beans
2 tsps. Olive oil
¾ C. fresh squeezed orange juice
1 C. water

Mince the onion. If using dried chipotle, in a bowl soak in boiling hot water to cover for 5 minutes and drain. Wearing protective gloves mince the soaked or canned chipotle. In a colander rinse black beans well and drain.

In a 2-3 quart heavy saucepan cook onion in oil over moderately low heat, stirring until softened. Add chipotle and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add beans, 1 C. water, and orange juice and simmer, mashing mixture 3 or 4 times with a potato masher, until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Season beans with salt. Serves four.

Okay – forget the potato masher. Simmer the beans about 15 minutes and then put the whole mixture in the blender and blend it enough to chop up the beans a bit, but not too much.

Use the canned chipotle in the adobo sauce. The flavor rocks. Also, I don’t use the protective gloves, but I learned tonight why they say that you should. If you get chili on your hands and don’t wash them immediately and really well, and then you touch your eye, even if it’s like an hour after you've chopped the chili, your eye will burn as if it’s been cut with a laser. So if you don’t wear the protective gloves, be sure to wash your hands. And even then don’t touch your eyes.

Serious.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

EVERY WEDNESDAY

It's been years since I have scheduled my life around watching television. I was bored with Friends years ago and there is really nothing "must see" about any network tv. That is until I got inadvertantly hooked on America's Next Top Model at the end of it's first season. My friend Elyce, who is an intelligent woman had gotten addicted and she was telling me all about Robin, the bible thumping, plus sized model from Memphis. Elyce is from Memphis and she was embarassed by Robin. So I tuned in just to see what was up and I immediately got sucked into that vortex of bad chick mojo that just seems to happen when you put a bunch of women in a room together.

When you make it a bunch of young, insecure, pretty women who are competing, pretty much on the basis of what their faces and bodies look like, you get psycho melodrama! It's like a train wreck and I just couldn't pull my eyes away. I must have tuned in when there were about 5 women left that first season, but last season I didn't miss an episode. I was there every minute of Camille's disconnection with reality. Camille was the "crazy bitch" from last season. Shandi, the Walgreen's clerk with a body like a preying mantis took over the uncomfortably thin girl role that had been played by Elyce in season one. They did introduce the new "girl with malady" the lovely and sweet Mercedes who has lupus, but there really was no hardcore "street tough" like Adrienne who won season one. Season two was won by the babysitter with a few extra pounds, Yoanna House.

Haven't really seen much of Adrienne or Yoanna since their big wins, but that's kind of to be expected. While both very pretty, neither one of these girls are really cut out to be a "Top Model" akin to Cindy Crawford or Naomi Campbell or even Miss Tyra Banks. Those days are over don'tcha know? Well, if you live in Oscala, FL and you're 19 - no, you really don't know that. And if you do you don't want to admit it and have to give up the pursuit of your dream. Plus, if we all just acknowledged that the day of the supermodel is done there would be no more America's Next Top Model and I would miss it.

You know great "reality" is in the editing and whoever edited last night's season premiere really milked every single bit of drama out of all that footage. I swear, an hour has never gone by so slowly there was just so much going on. And can I just say that I do not change the channel during commercials because God forbid I should miss a single minute. Last night we got to see a whole bunch of semi-finalists gather in L.A. before the cut to 20, before the cut to 14. Just in case you didn't get to see enough emotionally devastated crying girls.

I was fascinated with the broad mix of girls that they brought in for this episode. Damn, Miss TyTy knows what she's doing. There was Tiffany who was straight out of the 'hood and got into a bar brawl when some local chick at the bar they were all boogying down in told Tiffany to "take her skank ass outside" and then threw her drink on her weave. Tiffany went OFF on her ass! Drinks were flying through the air, glass was breaking, one of the girls got cut. In the van on the way home Tiffany cried and said, "what was I sposed to do? she threw her drink on my weave? Then she started telling sad stories about how she comes from the streets and she's trying to do something better. It's sad, but still girl, ladies don't fight!

There's Amanda, the 25 year old mother of a two year old with stunning blue eyes, and Retinitis Pigmentosa or RP. She's legally blind and this degenerative disease will leave her completely blind by the time she's 30. She reveals this fact at the top of the fourth act right after the first cut down to twenty and all the girls start crying because they feel sorry for her. When she says, "I can still see all of your faces," I get a little teary too, because Amanda seems like a really sweet girl. She just wanted them to know so that the playing field would be even. Hmmmm. I'm not sure if the playing field will be even - and maybe it will be, but I'm already more than a little concerned about the runway and Miss Amanda who makes it into the final fourteen so she's a contender.

And then there's Eve who's a very pretty girl and a total and complete bitch! She is so mean to Amy the horribly anorexic girl from Florida who claims that she just has a really fast metabolism, but looks like a walking skeleton so what she more likely has, if in fact, she's not vomiting after every meal, is a metabolic disorder and she needs to go to the doctor. But Eve does NOT need to sit there and say right to her face, "I don't believe a word you're saying and it makes me sick to look at you." It's so cruel, it's so harsh and I am hating Eve and thinking to myself, "why do they always have to pick a black woman to be the crazy hateful bitch?" And then we cut to her interview with TyTy who calls her on the carpet for being a nasty bitch. Eve starts to go into the headbobbing denial about how she doesn't mean it and she's sorry if anyone takes her that way, but she's just bein' who she is and they're just over sensitive. She doesn't have anyone to run to when life is hard and she's been on her own for a long time so she doesn't feel sorry for those big babies. TyTy isn't buying it and asks her "who in your life told you that you were worthless? Who was mean to you?" Eve's eyes well up and so do mine. TyTy tells her, "When you open your mouth to say hateful things to people think about it, do you want to hurt someone like your Daddy hurt you?" The tears pour onto her beautiful cheeks and she shakes her head. Tyra tells her that she's already had two girls who seemed completely normal turn into bitches in the last two seasons and she'll be damned if she's going to cast another bitchy black girl for this season. What a relief. Eve is the last name called in the final cut for the show. And even though she apologized for being so mean. She is a mean girl so she's going to have her work cut out for her.

The other two standouts are the stripper who has a shitty dad and wants to model so she can make something of her life, and personally I'm pulling for her although she's kind of too sexy to be modely. But she's such the under dog and she was real open about being a stripper. But I don't remember her name. Or the young Republican. Who wore a prom dress made from an American flag and modeled it for the judges - which reminds me, where was Janice?

At any rate it'll be me and UPN on Wednesdays at 8pm and it's going to take a while for me to figure out who the rest of the girls are because they're a lot the same. Except for the exceptionals that I mentioned above who have interesting back stories. That's what I like - those backstories all getting together in one house.

More to come.


Wednesday, September 22, 2004

OOOOH BABY IT'S A WILD WORLD!

The Federal government has got things under control. As my friend Sheila pointed out, they're sending that corrupt corporate diva Martha Stewart to jail in a couple of weeks, and they've just captured and deported that dangerous terrorist who was once fondly known as Cat Stevens as he attempted to enter the country today.

Dudes! This is the guy who wrote Peace Train! And although he converted to Islam and now goes by the name Yusef Islam it doesn't mean that he's automatically sending money to the terrorist training camps like they're UNICEF. The guy has made some questionable choices, sure. Like picking Islam as his last name. What's up with that? It's like Madonna taking the Kaballah thing to the next level and asking everyone to call her Esther Jewish. I mean it seems that with all the musical names available in the lexicon he could've picked something more, well cool - Cat Stevens was a pretty cool moniker for a guy who was born Stephen Dimitri Georgiou. I would've expected something less obvious, but whatever.

The dumbest thing he ever did and this may be why he found his butt pulled off the plane in Maine, was his response to the Salman Rushdie debacle back in 1989. Islamic leaders called for a fatwa against Rushdie after his fictional work The Satanic Verses was published because they decided that it was blasphemous. When asked if he supported the fatwa Yusef Islam (who used to be "I'm Being Followed by a Moonshadow" Cat Stevens) quoted Qu'aranic law as it relates to blasphemy and that got reported in the media as pretty much if Salman and Yusef were to cross paths Yusef would smite the blasphemer.

Extremism begets exteme actions. I had my own experience with extremism around the issue of Salman Rushdie and his book. I was taking a short story class with Mr. Bundy, a stocky little man who taught a pretty mediocre class that fulfilled one of the last general english requirements that I needed to graduate. I was back to finish school so I was about 10 years older than the majority of freshman in the class. We were discussing a short story written by Ernest Hemingway called "Hills Like White Elephants" which was basically about a couple in the early 20th century who'd resolved a pregnancy with abortion. Mr. Bundy stood in front of the class pontificating about how this story was "eclectic" and that it brought Mr. Hemingway quite a bit of criticism, much like the eclectic work by Salman Rushdie was bringing him criticism, and indeed all work that is considered eclectic for it's time usually came up against much criticism.

Being a stickler for the proper usage of vocabulary words, and a smartass smartypants, I couldn't help but add my two cents so I raised my hand and said, "Well first of all eclectic means to cull from multiple and varied sources so provacative would probably be a more accurate term and in my opinion to compare the moral outrage that Hemingway got for being provacative to the insane death threats that Rushdie is getting for being provacative is to disregard the religious fanaticism that fuels a fatwa."

Mr. Bundy turned bright red and screamed at me, "How dare you! You owe everyone in here an apology!! You have no right to say something like that!!!" The whole class went deadly silent and I stared at him flabberghasted. "Are you saying I have no right to express an opinion?" "Not when that opinion is insulting to other people. So I went, saying as I stacked my books and prepared to go, "If anyone in here has a problem with what I said please feel free to discuss it with me. And Mr. Bundy I will not apologize for expressing an opinion about what I feel about an extremist group calling for the death of an author who wrote a work of fiction. If this were a political science class I would express the same opinion about the barbarism of Christian groups who kill doctors and bomb abortion clinics in the name of God."

And I walked straight to the dean of the department where I filed a complaint against Mr. Bundy for his behavior. I couldn't believe that I had just walked out of a class I needed in order to graduate 2 months before the end of the term. And to this day I think he was less mad about what I said and more pissed off that I corrected him when he was giving everyone a brand new word of the day. But in any case he called me and we talked about it and he asked me to come back to class and I said okay but he had to apologize for giving those 18 year olds the impression that it wasn't okay freely express ideas and opinions in a classroom in the United States of America.

But the way things are going lately I wonder if we really can freely express ideas and opinions anywhere, much less in a classroom, without ending up on a "no fly" list. Or being rounded up and thrown in jail for standing too close to people who are protesting what this government is doing. Or, you could be identified as an "enemy combatant" and end up incarcerated by this government for years without ever being charged like this guy, until the Supreme Court does what it's supposed to do and let's you offer a defense at which point the government decides you're not that bad and let's you go. Even though you were reportedly captured fighting alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan. What the?

Oooh baby it's a wild world and it's getting more and more extreme all the time.


Tuesday, September 21, 2004

MAKING THE EFFORT

Everyday, on my way to work I drive past this colony of homeless people on Cahuenga Blvd., just north of Santa Monica. It started out with just one guy who appeared to be in his early 50s, but it's hard to tell the age of the homeless because living on the street is hard. So initially it was just this one guy who was sitting with his back against the fence and his pile of belongings beside him.

About a week later he was joined by another guy, a thin man who was small and wiry and often stood by the lamp post holding his leg up kind of like a stork. His belongings were against the fence though with the first guy who was still sitting, leaning up against the fence. Soon they were joined by a woman and now there was furniture - a small table and a chair and they had draped some kind of material, maybe canvas up against the fence to give them shade. At least that's what I assumed it was for because it was very hot out there on the street and they had no shelter. Now there was even more stuff piled against the fence so that it was flowing out onto the sidewalk creating their own little homeless world.

When I would drive home at night they would be sitting together talking and I got the impression that they had created a sort of family. These people interacted with each other in a way that people who like each other do. I could see the camaraderie and the toothless laughter and it made them seem so much less tragic than the three homeless men who live on Wilshire Blvd. a block up from my apartment. Those guys don't talk to anyone but the voices in their head and occasionally me when I address them by name - if they're lucid enough.

But this little camp of homeless bring to mind the hobos that were depicted in movies from the 30s about the depression. Specifically a movie called "My Man Godrey" where William Powell is picked up by Carole Lombard, a madcap heiress on a scavenger hunt. On her list of things to find is a forgotten man. That's what these people remind me of - forgotten men and women - people who no longer have homes with walls, or jobs, or cars or even the families they were born into. They've fallen on hard times and I cannot drive past them and think to myself that it could so easily be me. Or people I know.

This morning as I drove past I noticed that there was a new woman at the "camp." I noticed her because she was standing there in her filthy clothes that she'd probably been wearing for days straight holding up a compact and looking in the mirror as she combed her hair. And while many might look at her circumstances and the fact that she probably hasn't had a bath or brushed her teeth in a while and think "why bother," I was very impressed and it struck me as noble.

I wish I'd had a camera because it's a picture I'd like to look at whenever I need a kick in the pants to keep going. It was really quite the picture of perseverence.

Friday, September 17, 2004

DANCING WITH TEARS IN MY EYES

I watched the Mayor of Sunset Strip the other day, a documentary about Rodney Bingenheimer who, when I first became aware of him, was a DJ on KROQ. At the time radio in Los Angeles was pretty standard rock fare, like KLOS, KMET & KWST that played Led Zepplin, The Stones, your standard rock bands. But in the 70s there was new music emerging that didn’t fit with that format - the rock that is now known as classic and how old does that make me feel. MTV was up and running with 24 hour, commercial free videos featuring new artists like Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Talking Heads – GOD I love their version of Psycho Killer, Blondie, The Pretenders and Devo, to name only a very few.

And if you wanted to listen to those bands on the radio you tuned into KROQ. I don’t really remember the early DJs except for Jed the Fish because he always sounded like he was drunk or crazy, and he still does, but I do remember Rodney on the rock. Rodney was the guy with the high little voice who talked like that kid in elementary school who was always picked on. Every sentence went up at the end as though he was asking a question and he was so completely earnest in his love for music. Not only did he love it, but he also knew everything about the music and the people who made the music.

Rodney came to Los Angeles in the 60s when his mother, a waitress who collected autographs as a hobby, dropped her teen aged son on Connie Steven’s doorstep. And drove away. This was kind of glossed over in the documentary, like it was normal or something. But I can't stop thinking about it - it's a weird thing to do right? So Rodney goes up to the door and knocks and the maid answers and tells him that Ms. Stevens is out of town on location. Rodney was left on his own in Los Angeles at the height of the scene on the Sunset Strip. And the scene was about music – at that time rock n’ roll and little Rodney Bingenheimer immersed himself in that scene and knew everybody who was anybody. Sonny and Cher were like surrogate parents to him.

Being only 5’3” with the same hairdo as Davy Jones he got to be the stand in when they were shooting the TV series, The Monkeys. And that’s kind of the theme of Rodney’s life. He’s always next to the rock and roll royalty but he has never been able to rise to that level himself. He’s the guy that introduces the band and then watches from the side of the stage. As he approaches 60 years of age he has been relegated to the midnite to 3am shift on KROQ. He lives in the same apartment he’s lived in for years in Hollywood, surrounded by pictures of himself with absolutely everybody who was/is anybody in the world of music. He spends time with a woman whom he says that “he thinks about all the time and cares for very much”, but she’s got a boyfriend and says while sitting next to him, that she and Rodney are just friends.

The camera focuses very closely on his face as she says this and you can see the hurt in his eyes, but his expression doesn’t change. The hairdo that was so cool in the 80s when he was a very big deal, now looks like your bubbie’s hairdo. In fact, Rodney kind of looks like someone’s bubbie. We go with him to visit his father and stepmother and they have no pictures of Rodney anywhere among the glamour shot photos of his stepmom and the family that doesn’t seem to include him. It hurts me to watch this vignette, as his father goes into another room and tries to find an album where there might be pictures of Rodney.

With the advent of bands like Limp Biskit and Linkin Park, Green Day Rodney began to seem like an anachronism and even now with bands that are derivative of the new wave/punk pop that Rodney turned the world on to, like Modest Mouse, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Death Cab for Cutie – Rodney stills seems to get left in the dust. Even though I think he was one of the first to play the YeahYeahYeahs.

Toward the end of the documentary we travel with Rodney as he goes to London with his mother's ashes to dump them in the Thames. The loneliness, that to this point has only been alluded too is crushing. As I watch I feel so sad for this kid that grew up to meet all of his heros, but in the process seemingly forgot to make connections with anyone who would love him when he was old. I don't mean like a wife, I mean like a best friend. He doesn't seem to have any of those.

Midnight to 3am is no place for Rodney. It makes me sad. He's still playing the newest music that no one else has. He also plays the greatest of the old music - the music made by our heros. And the music he plays will always make me want to dance.

But now, thinking of Rodney alone in the studio in the pre-dawn hours and then going home to his little apartment in Hollywood filled with only pictures on the wall - I’m dancing with tears in my eyes.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

ON THE ROAD AGAIN

This morning I was driving to work and listening to NPR on KPCC as I often do. I enjoy the random stories they tell. I often learn new and interesting things. Like one morning they had a story about people who do research on hibernating bears to see if there are possible benefits for humans. When a bear hibernates it’s heart resembles that of a human in congestive heart failure, but after sleeping for six months, during which time they do not get up to pee, their heart is miraculously healed. Sounds amazing and if there’s some way to figure out how that happens (not to mention how they can go six months without peeing) that would be great. I am very glad that I am not a bear researcher though. Part of the job involves crawling into the den of a hibernating bear and taking it’s temperature with a rectal thermometer.

I know that I would wake up if someone snuck up on me when I was sleeping and stuck a rectal thermometer up my butt. And I would be mad. Imagine what kind of a reaction you'd get from a damn bear.

Anyway, this morning they had a story about a truck drivers and how they cover many long lonely miles and what they do to keep themselves occupied. They interviewed a truck driver named Jim who travels with a life size cardboard cutout of George W. Bush strapped into the passenger seat with a seatbelt. Jim says, "Yeah, he's got this good ol' boy expression on his smilin' face, just makes everyone feel real comfortable."

Um - okay, if you say so Jim, but politics aside if I see anyone driving down the road with a cardboard cutout of anyone strapped into the passenger seat I don't think comfortable describes what I would feel. More like, "Get away from this freak. Do not make eye contact." Jim talks to Cardboard George during the late night hours on the road and describes him as a good listener. He says that Cardboard George illicits lots of comments from the other truck drivers at the truckstop. Uh-huh, I bet he does. Some comments are positive and lots are negative, but Jim says that the important thing is that Cardboard George has got the truckdrivers buzzing down there in parking lots at truckstops across the country.

Jim says that if his cardboard passenger gets truck drivers to send in for an absentee ballot and vote, then he figures he's doing a lot more than just keeping Jim company over those long dark miles through the night.

And he's got a point there.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME

I hate baseball.

I can't help it - I do. It may make me un-American, but I find it incredibly boring and the uniforms are not all that attractive, rendering even the nicest rearend bulky. When I was a kid my grandparents had season tickets to the Angels games and every year for Mother's Day or Father's day I would, under duress and with a truly shitty attitude go and sit for hours in the stultifying heat and stench of BO, spilled beer and peanuts. Because there are no tie games in baseball during the regular season I thought for years that baseball games all lasted 12 innings because every game I ever went to took that long. Like four hours. I was never so pleased as when my grandparents got disgusted with the Angels and gave up their season tickets.

But over the last ten years or so I occasionally give baseball another try. I go to a game and hope that I'll get it. That I'll become one of those people who love to don their Dodger gear and go eat peanuts and drink beer with a bunch of other people wearing Dodger Blue. And every year my butt gets sore about the 5th inning, from sitting on the hard seat, and I get annoyed with the loud and rude people yelling insults at players from the opposing team and often even at the guys who play for the Dodgers. The most drunk and the loudest always sit next to me, in the row behind me and over my right shoulder. It provides me with an excellent opportunity to practice sobriety and patience and keeping my mouth shut.

Last year I went with my friend Elizabeth who is a HUGE Mets fan. I mean seriously, she's got BIG LOVE for the Mets. She has more than one Mets jersey to choose from when it comes to deciding what to wear to the game. She brought her mitt - which she got for Mets fantasy camp - just in case a ball should come our direction and for that I was thankful because it is a recurring nightmare of mine that I will get hit in the head with a speeding ball off the bat of some power hitter and appear on the jumbotron with blood spurting between my fingers and tears running down my face. Luckily no balls came our way but Dodger fans are just assholes to fans from the visiting team.

Well, actually a lot of them are just assholes.

But there is something to be said for going to a game with someone who is a fan. Elizabeth's enthusiasm was contagious. Or maybe not contagious, but I got how important it was for her to stay all the way to the end of the game so I didn't whine to leave after we sang Take Me Out to the Ballgame at the 7th inning stretch - which also happens to be the time that they stop beer sales. Thankfully the game ended after nine innings and although the Mets lost she still had a good time just being there in the stands.

I went again this last weekend with my friends the Thompsons. Daley is a HUGE Dodger's fan and he also has Dodger gear galore which he bedecks himself with for the game. Our seats were at the field level and the game started at 7pm. The night was hot and humid and the grass was surreally green, the Dodger's uniforms bright white under the stadium lights. At first I was confused because the St. Louis Cardinals were wearing grey and I know I've seen the Dodger's play in grey - so initially I was hooting and hollering for the wrong team. Because yes indeed, I was hooting and hollering.

It was a good game! There were homeruns and RBIs. Stuff was happening on the field and they play loud rock music and throw up the words "Make Some Noise" on the jumbotron. I figured what the hell - it was Friday and at the end of the week yelling your head off while drinking a cold Coors light in a plastic longneck bottle is pretty good fun. And when I got bored by the 3rd inning Liz and I went up to the stadium club where there was air conditioning and cocktails in glasses and we had shrimp cocktail and mushu pork prepared for us by the gourmet chef in the restaurant. We spent the next four innings up there in the cool A/C watching the game through the huge plate glass windows that separated us from the rabble.

We waited until after the 7th inning stretch and the singing of the song to go back to our seats where we found a pile of garbage and the crowd well on their way to an illegal blood alcohol level because cold Coors light in a plastic long neck bottle tastes like water and it was fucking hot outside even at 9:30pm. We got back just in time for the Dodgers to bring out Eric Gagne. I have no idea who he is, but apparently he's the guy the Dodgers bring out to pitch the last couple innings because he's so good no one can get hits off him. He has a weird goatee like beard that is basically frizz hair covering his chin and extending in a 3" scraggle. It's not a good look - I think he is trying to emulate that guy who is the lead singer in Metallica.

So Eric Gagne goes out and does his thing and the 8th inning comes and goes quickly. Yes!! Now if we can just get three quick outs in the 9th they can do fireworks and I can go home. The first out comes easily, but the next guy up gets a homerun and now the score is 7 to 6 Dodgers. And the guy after that gets on first. What up Gagne? I thought you da man? Da man who's going to get me home before the clock strikes 12. The crowd is on their feet screaming sensing that victory may not be so certain.

Ball one.
Strike one.
Strike two.

The crowd is going wild - nothing like putting a little pressure on.

And strike three! Woohoo! Game over!! Dodgers win!! The ushers line up on the field to keep the flowing crowd only on the grass. Not on the dirt. The jumbotron issues the request to "Please Respect Dodger Stadium" - yeah, this is crowd that totally gets the concept of respect. Uh-huh.
After about 30 minutes the stadium goes dark and the fireworks begin. I am not one who enjoys fireworks. Loud explosions make me jumpy. But these are the perfect distance away and they are playing Sweet Home Alabama and Jimi Hendrix and AC/DC and the fireworks are way cool because I have had several beers and I've got that good beer buzz going that makes me feel fond of the overweight tattooed folk who are my neighbors in the stands.

I had a pretty good time and I think that one baseball game a summer is a pretty fun idea. I just gotta go with people who love the game and have passes to the Stadium Club.

Friday, September 10, 2004

AND THEN THERE WAS ONE

I heard him before I ever saw him. He was only about six weeks old and apparently had gotten separated from his mother and his sister so he was running around in circles meowing at the top of his lungs. He was a fat black and white tuxedo kitten, one of two born to the stray that someone had dumped in our alley. Sensing that not one, but two suckers lived in the building she had camped out and, although she was completely feral she would come out whenever she heard me or my neighbor drive up. So we fed her. What else could we do? She was quite young, not yet an adult herself. Before long she was pregnant by one of the disreputable gang kitties that hung out in the area.

This litter of two, a male and female were born in the spring of 2002 and I, freaking out that we were going to have litters arriving every six months from not only Mamacita, but also from her offspring, insisted that we get a trap and get them all neutered. A project so much easier said than done. Feral cats are wily little beasts and wild too! Fraidy, the name I gave the little boy after I caught him freaking out, was the first one we caught. We’d thought he would be the hardest because the female kitten that I named Audrey, because she was petite and flirty, like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Mamacita would both let us get pretty close. Audrey would actually let me pet her if her head was in the food bowl. She didn’t have the same primal fear about humans that Fraidy had. He was a huge pig though so I guess it makes sense that he would the first one to crawl into the cage and trigger the door to slam down, locking him in. He fought so hard the cage jumped around from his attempts to get out. By the time we got him to the vet 3 blocks away he mouth was bloody from trying to chew his way through the metal.

He was able to come home the next day having tested negative for Feline Leukemia and HIV. When the door to the cage opened he went running to find his mother and was wary of us from that day forward although he was always vocal about wanting to be fed. The three of them would hang out together sleeping on the walkway between our building and the one next door. Audrey got friendlier and friendlier, skirting along the stairs with her rearend in the air, rolling over on the sidewalk and cocking her masked head with the black smudge on the nose. She was a preternaturally intelligent animal who was so onto us when it came to that trap. She was so light that she was able to go into the trap and eat whatever delectable treat we’d placed in there and slip back out without triggering it.

By now the Audrey and Fraidy were about 6 months old and from the screams in the night it was clear that Mamacita and possibly Audrey were at risk of becoming pregnant again. After much effort on Cheryl’s part she and her husband caught Mamacita and got her to the vet to be spay. She was indeed pregnant and my worst nightmare would’ve come true had we not caught her. She was also free of Leukemia and HIV and was able to come home in a couple days with dissolving stitches. Two down, one to go.

Audrey at six months was a gamine personified – she would talk to me when I got home late at night and dance around my feet as I tried to get up the stairs to open the door. She would stick her head in the house, sometimes curiously venturing in to see what was there. Both she and Fraidy were getting into all kinds of jams. Audrey would climb about 25 feet up into the Bottlebrush tree out front and then howl in fear until we came outside to coax her down. Fraidy got himself stuck between the walls of the garage necessitation that we hack a hole in the outside wall and pull it back while he decided whether it was worse to be stuck or to have to pass so closely to the humans who had captured him and taken him to a laboratory where parts of him that were probably important were removed forever. He finally relented and tore past us yowling dramatically, retiring to the roof to give himself a bath. Audrey got some kind of wire wrapped around her tail, which distressingly lost circulation and then flopped over, dead. I knew that if we didn’t get her to the vet soon she would get sick and die.

Audrey was just not going to let us trap her so I took advantage of her fascination with the inside of the house and her voracious appetite. We stopped feeding them for a day and the next morning I put a plate with a small bit of food in the very back of the cat carrier and set it down in front of the open door. Audrey stood in the doorway, her nose in the air sniffing, and then she cautiously stepped, one paw at a time into the carrier – streeeeeeeetching so that her back feet were still out on the porch, she craned her neck and tried to take a bite. I lurked in the kitchen and as soon as I saw her get the first taste I leaned over and shoved her butt into the carrier and shut the door. Gotcha!

The 10 pound plastic carrier began bouncing up and down against the wall as Audrey struggled to get free. Her tiny little white paws curled around the metal mesh of the door helplessly as I carried her to the car and drove her to the vet. Where she was spayed and had her tail amputated and tested positive for Feline HIV. The vet said that she had seen over 60 cases come in over the past year and that Audrey would be able to live with it as long as she stayed healthy. Kind of like humans. Audrey had to stay at the vet for two weeks for the stump where the amputation was to heal. I went to visit her and she was in the back of a cage in a dark room where the cats were kept wearing a white plastic cone collar around her head. I opened the door to see if she’d let me pet her and she climbed out and right into my arms where she curled up and started purring.

Audrey went on a hunger strike for the three days she was left at the vet. On the fourth day I said I would take her home and put her in the guest bedroom to recuperate. I couldn’t stand the thought of her in that dark, cold room filled with cages. She howled all the way home and when I opened the door of the cage to let her out in the guest room she immediately ran across the bed and onto the night table to the window, which she climbed like a spider and desperately fought to get open. I pulled the door shut and wondered what the hell I had gotten myself into as I listened to the wild animal sounds emanating from the room. I waited about an hour and it had quieted down some so I poked my head back in the room and saw that Audrey was busily working at ripping the heating vent out of the wall. She had it pulled out about 3 inches and when she saw me she only worked more ferociously to make her escape.

My poor old cat Peaches, seventeen and blind was very disturbed by the smell of this interloper and would sit crouched outside the door all day with his nose to the floor. No one was getting any sleep because Audrey would get on the dresser and knock things to the floor at 4am and nothing would calm her except for me going in and laying down with her where she would curl herself against my stomach and finally close her eyes. It was a very long two weeks which ended when Peaches had a stroke and I had to put him to sleep and I was over having Audrey in my house. So she went to the vet and got her stitches out and was released. Mamacita would have nothing to do with her once she got back to her peeps though Fraidy was glad to see her.

Last October Mamacita got hit by a car and killed. We buried her in the rose bushes by the garage. And Justin the little boy who lives upstairs stood and cried and he read the poem he wrote for her. Audrey and Fraidy still hung out and now Audrey would allow us to pet her and even pick her up. Fraidy was still scared, but we were his people. The ones with the food and he would sit on the roof of the garage and wait patiently for breakfast. Whenever I would drive up he would appear from wherever he’d been napping and he’d walk me to my door, stopping and rolling over when I stopped to talk to him. I was able to pet him if his head was over the bowl, but he was still completely wild in a way that Audrey never was.

Last Friday night was the last time I saw Fraidy and the neighbors said they last saw him Saturday morning. One of them told me that Saturday night Audrey was roaming around crying and crying. And she’s been crying ever since because Fraidy is gone. We haven’t been able to find his body and we have no idea what happened to him. Although they aren’t really our pets, everyone in the surrounding buildings off the alley have come to think of the little black and white cats as part of the neighborhood. They were fed by more than just Cheryl and me. The French guy down the way buys them fresh chicken and fish and bought them catnip toys. Linda and her Dobermans Greta and Wally loved them because the cats wouldn’t move when those huge dogs meandered over for a sniff. We didn't mean to get attached but really, we couldn't help it. I try to be pragmatic. I mean cats that are outside have a short life span what with disease and cars and dogs being walked off leash by irresponsible owners. But because I don't know what happened to him I keep expecting to see him when I come home and it breaks my heart to see Audrey huddled all alone.

And now there is just one.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

AT LAST!!

Tonight's the night! The first game of regulation play in the '04/'05 season. I've got the Patriots although it was a difficult choice with Peyton Manning being the big deal co-MVP from last year. Still I think that the Patriots will want to come back strong after getting smoked in their last pre-season game. I also noticed that Manning threw more than one interception in his last pre-season game. But pre-season, shmee-season. Tonight they play for real and I am beyond excited.

I will be ensconced in a booth facing the flat screen over the bar at Enoteca Drago eating delicious Italian food and drinking more than one of the 50 offerings that they have by the glass. With me will be my best friend Christina (go Carolina!) and long time no-see Sheryl - because oddly enough I know more women that are into football than men. Swear. Most of the men I know can take or leave the pigskin, while the women I know not only love the game but can discuss players and stats. One of the best superbowl parties I ever went to was attended by women and only women. It was the Denver-Greenbay game in San Diego in 1998. We actually went down the night before to see if we could meet any cute guys in town for the game. All we found were a lot of fat people in windbreakers and polyester, some wearing their cheeseheads out to dinner. It was pretty much a major disappointment after all that work to find a parking place.

At the party the next day there were seven of us and we had excellent snacks! Mini goat cheese pizzas, mushroom quiches and spinach salad with our white wine and light beer. We were at my friend Jonne's house and that girl used to watch ESPN Sportcenter every night she could spout stats and once pointed out Bubby Brister to me at a bar in Aspen. I had no idea who he was much less that he played football. She's a huge Dan Marino fan and is still disappointed that he never got a championship ring.

I've been a football fan since the late 70s when I used to watch with my dad. Over the years it's become an addiction, especially when you throw in football pools. I won last year and by the end of the season I would even place the occasional bet. You can bet on anything, weird things - like the coin toss. I don't bet on the coin toss, but I do like the under/over. So far the betting thing hasn't worked out too well - my bets cancelled each other out. My mom loves football too. She and her husband played the pool together and they would sit down and look at the current stats and the schedule and the IR list and then they'd go back and forth about what their pick would be. They were out by the third week I think.

So it's strange to me that I have rarely, if ever, dated guys who like football. A few years ago I dated a guy who watched it with me and enjoyed it, but if I hadn't wanted to watch he would've been out in the garage with his arc welder. He did sweet football related things for me like running out to buy a new Directv receiver when his blew up right before the first Monday night game because I was coming over for dinner and said I wanted to watch the game. And he went to a really gross sports bar with me and Jonne to watch the AFC playoffs and he held my purse while I was outside having a cigarette. And he bought a big screen TV in time for the superbowl which he had to hire a couple guys of the street to help him move into the house.

But he was an anomoly - in many ways.

There used to be Brett - my bestest manfriend - who would often use his key to come in and crash on the daybed in the living room after a big Saturday night out, and in the morning we would hang out and drink coffee and watch the early game. Then we'd go get food for the afternoon game and make something for dinner and watch the late game. But he's gone - back to the NYC where his Giants will most certainly disappoint him AGAIN this year. Sorry dude but they ain't got it goin' on.

This year my friend Dave has Directv's NFL ticket so I will be making the trek out to Malibu where we will loll in the luxuriously decorated bonus room, complete with bar and mini-kitchen, and try his darling wife Sally's patience as she gets stuck on baby duty while we hang out in front of the TV set all day. Actually Sal is one of the best ladies I know so I could see her getting me out for an early hike before I sit on my ass all day noshing pigs in a blanket. Because I see her point that there's just something wrong about sitting inside all day when it's gorgeous outside. Here in California there really is no good excuse to do that.

If you live in a place where it's freezing or it snows there's really nothing else to do but sit in front of the tube and eat cheese curds - explains a lot about why those folks from Green Bay and Denver were larger than your average fan. It's cold in both those places. But in sunny southern California it's really hard to rationalize sitting inside on a sunny day. And so I pray for rain. Nothing makes me happier than waking up to a gray, drizzly Sunday morning during football season.

And I look forward to watching the best sport EVAH with Christina, Sheryl, Elizabeth, Jonne, Jerilyn, Dave & Patrick! Are you ready for some football!!

Friday, September 03, 2004

OVER IT!

Okay, so say you're, um, a citizen of a democracy and it's time to elect the person who is going to be your leader for the next four years. And you receive this resume. Is this really the guy you'd pick? Really?

RESUME
GEORGE W. BUSH
The White House USA

PAST WORK EXPERIENCE
I ran for congress and lost.
I produced a Hollywood slasher B movie.
I bought an oil company, but couldn't find any oil in Texas; company went bankrupt shortly after I sold all my stock.
I bought the Texas Rangers baseball team in a sweetheart deal that took land using taxpayer money. *Biggest move: Traded Sammy Sosa to the Chicago White Sox.
With my father's help (and his name) was elected Governor of Texas.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS
I changed pollution laws for power and oil companies and made Texas the most polluted state in the Union.
I replaced Los Angeles with Houston as the most smog ridden city in America.
I cut taxes and bankrupted the Texas government to the tune of billions in borrowed money.
I set a record for most executions by any Governor in American history.
I became president after losing the popular vote by over 500,000 votes, with the help of my father’s appointees to the Supreme Court.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS AS PRESIDENT
I attacked and took over two countries.
I spent the surplus and bankrupted the treasury.
I shattered the record for biggest annual deficit in history.
I set economic record for most private bankruptcies filed in any 12-month period.
I set all-time record for biggest drop in the history of the stock market.
I am the first president in decades to execute a federal prisoner.
I am the first president in US history to enter office with criminal record.
I set the all-time record in US history for most days on vacation by any president during my first year in office.
After taking the entire month of August off for vacation, I presided over the worst security failure in US history.
I set the record for most campaign fundraising trips than any other president in US history.
In my first two years in office over 2 million Americans lost their job.
I cut unemployment benefits for more out of work Americans than any president in US history.
I set the all-time record for most foreclosures in a 12-month period.
I appointed more convicted criminals to administration positions than any president in US history.
I set the record for the least amount of press conferences than any president since the advent of television.
I signed more laws and executive orders amending the Constitution than any president in US history.
I presided over the biggest energy crises in US history and refused to intervene whencorruption was revealed.
I presided over the highest gasoline prices in US history and refused to use the national reserves as past presidents have.
I cut healthcare benefits for war veterans.
I set the all-time record for most people worldwide to simultaneously take to the streets to protest me (15 million people), shattering the record for protest against any person in the history of mankind.
I dissolved more international treaties than any president in US history.
My presidency is the most secretive and unaccountable of any in US history.
Members of my cabinet are the richest of any administration in US history. (The 'poorest' multimillionaire, Condoleeza Rice has a Chevron oiltanker named after her).
I am the first president in US history to have all 50 states of the Union simultaneously go bankrupt.
I presided over the biggest corporate stock market fraud of any market in any countryin the history of the world.
I am the first president in US history to order a US attack and military occupation of a sovereign nation, and I did so against the will of the United Nations and the world community.
I created the largest government department bureaucracy in the history of the UnitedStates.
I set the all-time record for biggest annual budget spending increases, more than anypresident in US history.
I am the first president in US history to have the United Nations remove the US from the human rights commission.
I am the first president in US history to have the United Nations remove the US from the elections monitoring board.
I removed more checks and balances, and have the least amount of congressionaloversight than any presidential administration in US history.
I rendered the entire United Nations irrelevant.
I withdrew from the World Court of Law.
I refused to allow inspectors access to US prisoners of war and by default no longerabide by the Geneva Conventions.
I am the first president in US history to refuse United Nations election inspectors(during the 2002 US elections).
I am the all-time US (and world) record holder for most corporate campaign donations.
My biggest lifetime campaign contributor, who is also one of my best friends, presided over one of the largest corporate bankruptcy frauds in world history(Kenneth Lay, former CEO of ENRON Corporation).
I spent more money on polls and focus groups than any president in US history.
I am the first president to run and hide when the US came under attack (and then lied saying the enemy had the code to Air Force 1)
I am the first US president to establish a secret shadow government.
I took the biggest world sympathy for the US after 9/11, and in less than a year madethe US the most resented country in the world (possibly the biggest diplomaticfailure in US and world history).
I, with a policy of 'disengagement' created the most hostile Israeli-Palestine relations in at least 30 years.
I am the first US president in history to have a majority of the people of Europe(71%) view my presidency as the biggest threat to world peace and stability.
I am the first US president in history to have the people of South Korea more threatened by the US than their immediate neighbor, North Korea.
I changed US policy to allow convicted criminals to be awarded government contracts.
I set all-time record for number of administration appointees who violated US law by not selling huge investments in corporations bidding for government contracts.
I failed to fulfill my pledge to get Osama Bin Laden 'dead or alive'.
I failed to capture the anthrax killer who tried to murder the leaders of our countryat the United States Capitol building. After 18 months I have no leads and zero suspects.
In the 18 months following the 9/11 attacks I successfully prevented any public investigation into the biggest security failure in the history of the United States.
I removed more freedoms and civil liberties for Americans than any other president inUS history.
In a little over two years I created the most divided country in decades, possibly the most divided the US has ever been since the civil war.
I entered office with the strongest economy in US history and in less than two yearsturned every single economic category downward.

RECORDS AND REFERENCES
I have at least one conviction for drunk driving in Maine (Texas driving record hasbeen erased and is not available).
I was AWOL from National Guard and deserted the military during a time of war.
I refuse to take drug test or even answer any questions about drug use. All records of my tenure as governor of Texas have been spirited away to my fatherslibrary, sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public view.
All records of any SEC investigations into my insider trading or bankrupt companies are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public view.
All minutes of meetings for any public corporation I served on the board are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public view.
Any records or minutes from meetings I (or my VP) attended regarding public energy policy are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public review.
For personal references please speak to my daddy or uncle James Baker (They can bereached at their offices of the Carlyle Group for war-profiteering.)

Thanks to Marcia for forwarding this to me via e-mail!

Thursday, September 02, 2004

WHO'S A LIAR?

I am just plain lazy because I was up late last night and I drank wine so I thought I'd pass along an excellent article that appears on Salon.com today. I have a premium subscription so I got to see the whole piece, which is wonderfully written and pretty tragic when you consider the fact that this president is trashing this country the same way he trashed that house in Alabama. I love Salon.com, for the quality writing and excellent journalism, and I highly recommend the subscription - I think it's like $15. They're giving out a free day pass today so I don't feel to horrible about lifting the article and posting it here. You really should read it - although I know it's going to make Patrick and Sheila angrier than they already are. It pisses me off too. And wow, Barbara Bush is one scary bitch - whoo doggy!

George W. Bush's missing yearThe widow of a Bush family confidant says her husband gave the future president an Alabama Senate campaign job as a favor to his worried father. Did they see him do any National Guard service? "Good lord, no."

By Mary Jacoby

Sept. 2, 2004 NEW YORK -- Before there was Karl Rove, Lee Atwater or even James Baker, the Bush family's political guru was a gregarious newspaper owner and campaign consultant from Midland, Texas, named Jimmy Allison. In the spring of 1972, George H.W. Bush phoned his friend and asked a favor: Could Allison find a place on the Senate campaign he was managing in Alabama for his troublesome eldest son, the 25-year-old George W. Bush?

"The impression I had was that Georgie was raising a lot of hell in Houston, getting in trouble and embarrassing the family, and they just really wanted to get him out of Houston and under Jimmy's wing," Allison's widow, Linda, told me. "And Jimmy said, 'Sure.' He was so loyal."

Linda Allison's story, never before published, contradicts the Bush campaign's assertion that George W. Bush transferred from the Texas Air National Guard to the Alabama National Guard in 1972 because he received an irresistible offer to gain high-level experience on the campaign of Bush family friend Winton "Red" Blount. In fact, according to what Allison says her late husband told her, the younger Bush had become a political liability for his father, who was then the United States ambassador to the United Nations, and the family wanted him out of Texas. "I think they wanted someone they trusted to keep an eye on him," Linda Allison said.

After more than three decades of silence, Allison spoke with Salon over several days before and during the Republican National Convention this week -- motivated, as she acknowledged, by a complex mixture of emotions. They include pride in her late husband's accomplishments, a desire to see him remembered, and concern about the apparent double standard in Bush surrogates attacking John Kerry's Vietnam War record while ignoring the president's irresponsible conduct during the war. She also admits to bewilderment and hurt over the rupture her husband experienced in his friendship with George and Barbara Bush. To this day, Allison is unsure what caused the break, though she suspects it had something to do with her husband's opposition to the elder Bush becoming chairman of the Republican National Committee under President Nixon.

"Something happened that I don't know about. But I do know that Jimmy didn't expect it, and it broke his heart," she said, describing a ruthless side to the genial Bush clan of which few outsiders are aware.

Personal history aside, Allison's recollections of the young George Bush in Alabama in 1972 are relevant as a contrast to the medals for valor and bravery that Kerry won in Vietnam in the same era. An apparent front group for the Bush campaign, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, has attacked Kerry in television ads as a liar and traitor to veterans for later opposing a war that cost 58,000 American lives. Bush, who has resisted calls from former Vietnam War POW John McCain, R-Ariz., to repudiate the Swift Boat ads, has said he served honorably in the National Guard.

Allison's account corroborates a Washington Post investigation in February that found no credible witnesses to the service in the Alabama National Guard that Bush maintains he performed, despite a lack of documentary evidence. Asked if she'd ever seen Bush in a uniform, Allison said: "Good lord, no. I had no idea that the National Guard was involved in his life in any way." Allison also confirmed previously published accounts that Bush often showed up in the Blount campaign offices around noon, boasting about how much alcohol he had consumed the night before. (Bush has admitted that he was a heavy drinker in those years, but he has refused to say whether he also used drugs).

"After about a month I asked Jimmy what was Georgie's job, because I couldn't figure it out. I never saw him do anything. He told me it basically consisted of him contacting people who were impressed by his name and asking for contributions and support," Allison said.

C. Murphy Archibald, a nephew of Red Blount by marriage and a Vietnam veteran who volunteered on the campaign from September 1972 until election night, corroborated Allison's recollections, though he doesn't recall that the Bush name carried much cach├ęt in Alabama at the time. "I say that because the scuttlebutt on the campaign was that Allison was very sharp and might actually be able to pull off this difficult race" against the incumbent Democrat, Sen. John Sparkman, Archibald said. "But then no one understood why he brought this young guy from Texas along. It was like, 'Who was this guy who comes in late and leaves early? And why would Jimmy Allison, who was so impressive, bring him on?'"

Bush, who had a paid slot as Allison's deputy in a campaign staffed largely by volunteers, sat in a little office next to Allison's, said Archibald, a workers compensation lawyer in Charlotte, N.C. Indeed, when Bush was actually there, he did make phone calls to county chairmen. But he neglected his other duty: the mundane but important task of mailing out campaign materials to the county campaign chairs. Archibald took up the slack, at Allison's request. "Jimmy didn't say anything about George. He just said, 'These materials are not getting out. It's causing the candidate problems. Will you take it over?'"

While Kerry earned a Silver Star and a Bronze Star after saving a crewmate's life under fire on the Mekong River in Vietnam, by contrast, the Georgie that Allison knew was a young man whose parents did not allow him to live with the consequences of his own mistakes. His powerful father -- whom the son seemed to both idolize and resent -- was a lifeline for Bush out of predicaments. After Bush graduated from Yale in 1968, his slot in the Texas Air National Guard allowed him to avoid active duty service in Vietnam. The former speaker of the Texas state House, Democrat Ben Barnes, now admits he pulled strings to get Bush his coveted guard slot, and says he's "ashamed" of the deed. "60 Minutes" will air an interview with Barnes next Wednesday, but George H.W. Bush denounced Barnes' claims in an interview aired on CBS. "They keep saying that and it's a lie, a total lie. Nobody's come up with any evidence, and yet it's repeated all the time," the former president said, in what could just as well describe the playbook for the Swift Boat Veterans ads.

Yet, after receiving unusual permission to transfer to the Alabama Guard from Texas, Bush has produced no evidence he showed up for service for anything other than a dental exam. Later, Bush would trade on his father's connections to enter the oil business, and when his ventures failed, trade on more connections to find investors to bail him out. Linda Allison's story fills in the details about a missing chapter in the story of how George Bush Sr.'s friends helped his wastrel son. The Bush campaign, decamped to New York for the convention, did not return a phone call by late Wednesday.

A graceful blonde with a Texas drawl, Linda Allison now lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, in an apartment decorated in the dusky tones of Tuscany with a magnificent view of the high-rises framing Central Park. I visited her there Monday on the opening night of the Republican National Convention as she related publicly for the first time her long and ultimately painful history with the Bush family. On the table between us were two photographs of her late husband -- an elfin man with curly hair, shown in animated conversation. From her drawers she pulled out old letters and notes from Barbara Bush, George H.W. Bush and even one from George W. Bush, written to Jimmy in 1978 as he was dying of cancer.

Jimmy Allison's family owned the Midland Reporter-Telegram and other small-town newspapers, and they were part of the establishment in the West Texas oil town where Bush senior made his fortune and Bush junior grew up. Still, Allison has been almost completely forgotten in the semi-official stories of the Bush dynasty's rise; his role as political fixer and family friend has been airbrushed out of Barbara Bush's autobiography and other accounts. But he was one of the originators of what evolved into the GOP's "Southern strategy," helping George H.W. Bush win election to Congress in 1966 at a time when Republicans in Texas were virtually unheard of.

The Blount Senate campaign he ran against the Democrat, Sparkman, in 1972 was notable for a dirty racial trick: The Blount side edited a transcript of a radio interview Sparkman had given to make it appear he supported busing, a poison position at that time in the South. When Sparkman found an unedited script and exposed the trick, the Blount campaign was finished. But it was an early introduction for Bush to the kinds of tricks that later Republican strategists associated with the Bush political machine, from Lee Atwater to Karl Rove, would use against Democrats, often to victorious effect.

After Bush won a House seat in 1966, Allison followed his patron to Washington as the top staffer in his congressional office and served as deputy director of the Republican National Committee in 1969 and 1970 under President Nixon. It was Allison who advised George W. Bush to return to Midland after Harvard Business School to seek his business fortune in the booming oil industry, advice that Bush recalled fondly in a 2001 speech in Midland. When Allison died at age 46, after an agonizing battle with lymphoma, both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush served as pallbearers.

"Aide, confidant, campaign manager, source of joke material, alter ego -- Allison and Bush were bonded by an uncommon loyalty," former Reagan White House deputy press secretary Peter Roussel, who got his start in politics when Allison invited him to work for Bush's 1968 congressional reelection campaign, wrote in a 1988 newspaper column dedicated to Allison.

Linda, too, had a long, though not as close, relationship with the Bushes. She remembers watching Bush in 1964 at a campaign appearance at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas, when she was 32 years old and he was running for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. "He was so appealing to me. He said all the things that I believed in, and he wasn't like all the other Republicans running in Texas at that time, who were real right-wingers. He had a bigger vision of what the Republican Party could be. I volunteered for his campaign that day, and that's how I ended up being his Dallas County headquarters chairman." Over the years, Linda kept volunteering with the local Republican Party. "And they gave me bigger and bigger things to do. They appreciated me. And I felt like I belonged to something," she said.

But it was also this sense of being connected to a larger, more powerful force that seduced the Allisons -- a trap that many aides and friends of important politicians fall into. The dynamic allowed the Bushes -- Barbara especially, Allison said -- to manipulate the friends and supporters they needed to further their ambitions, a lesson she says could not have been lost on the young George. "They had a way of anointing you, then pushing you out," she said. "It was like a mind game. It was very subtle, very hard to describe. But when you were out, you wanted desperately to be let back in." It was how she and Jimmy felt when, in 1973, they experienced a strange and, to Allison, never fully explained rupture with the Bushes, which took place against the backdrop of boorish behavior by their son that persisted during the time he was nominally under the Allisons' care.

The break happened not long after a boozy election-night wake for Blount, who lost his Senate bid to the incumbent Democrat, John Sparkman. Leaving the election-night "celebration," Allison remembers encountering George W. Bush in the parking lot, urinating on a car, and hearing later about how he'd yelled obscenities at police officers that night. Bush left a house he'd rented in Montgomery trashed -- the furniture broken, walls damaged and a chandelier destroyed, the Birmingham News reported in February. "He was just a rich kid who had no respect for other people's possessions," Mary Smith, a member of the family who rented the house, told the newspaper, adding that a bill sent to Bush for repairs was never paid. And a month later, in December, during a visit to his parents' home in Washington, Bush drunkenly challenged his father to go "mano a mano," as has often been reported.

Around the same time, for the 1972 Christmas holiday, the Allisons met up with the Bushes on vacation in Hobe Sound, Fla. Tension was still evident between Bush and his parents. Linda was a passenger in a car driven by Barbara Bush as they headed to lunch at the local beach club. Bush, who was 26 years old, got on a bicycle and rode in front of the car in a slow, serpentine manner, forcing his mother to crawl along. "He rode so slowly that he kept having to put his foot down to get his balance, and he kept in a weaving pattern so we couldn't get past," Allison recalled. "He was obviously furious with his mother about something, and she was furious at him, too."

Jimmy, meanwhile, had larger issues on his mind. According to Linda, he was hoping to use the visit in Florida to convince Bush to turn down the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee because he didn't trust Nixon or his palace guard. "He had been so appalled at the Ehrlichman, Haldeman, Colson group, and he thought they'd sacrifice George. He just wanted to warn him, as a friend," Allison told me.

Apparently, Jimmy Allison's advice was not appreciated. In Hobe Sound, Bush senior kept trying to avoid talking with Jimmy about the RNC, Allison said. Then later, as the Allisons took their leave, Barbara "thanked" them for their Christmas present with unexpected cruelty. "She said, 'I'm so sorry, but we've been so busy this year that we didn't have time to do anything for our political acquaintances.' I swear to God, I'll never forget those two words as long as I live. For her to say that was absolutely appalling. Mind you, Jimmy was an old, old friend. And I had stayed as a houseguest with the Bushes, been invited in my pajamas into their bedroom to read the papers and drink coffee while Bar rode her exercise bicycle.

"Big George was just stricken by this," Allison continued. "There was a wet bar in the hall on the way to the front door. He grabbed this moldy bottle of Mai Tai that he said had been given to him by the president of China, and he said we just had to have it. Then he plucked this ostrich egg in a beaded bag from a shelf that he said had been given to him by the ambassador to the U.N. from Nigeria or someplace, and gave it to us. Can you imagine how embarrassing that was?"

The Allisons found they were no longer being invited to the Sunday cookouts the Bushes held to chew over the week's political events. And though Jimmy had once been deputy chairman of the RNC, when Bush chaired the committee, he "couldn't even get invited to a cocktail party there," Allison said. The freeze-out was subtle and surgical. "It took us some time to realize we'd been lopped off," she said. At home, the Allisons once decided to try that dusty bottle of Mai Tai from China that Bush had thrust into their hands in Hobe Sound. They were unable to drink the liquor. "It was so foul. The smell that came out of that thing! We just looked at each other," Allison said.

By 1978, Jimmy was dying. Whether out of guilt, genuine affection for old times or a desire to maintain appearances with a revered member of the Midland establishment, the Bushes responded with warmth. Jimmy's heart soared, Allison said.

George W. Bush, then running unsuccessfully for Congress, wrote his old mentor a letter. "Every person I see in Midland asks about you and sends their regards," Bush wrote. "Like a younger brother, I have treasured your advice, your guidance and most importantly your never selfish friendship." And shortly before he died, George H.W. Bush -– by then an executive at a bank in Houston after having served as head of the Central Intelligence Agency -– invited Jimmy back to his home. Elated, Jimmy persuaded the doctors to discharge him for the visit, Linda said. But Linda, who was not consulted, was incensed. Though she drove him to the Bushes, she refused to go in. "I was so furious. I had no way to take care of him. He was so weak, and they had taken him off the morphine, and he was in great pain," she said.

In a letter to the editor of Allison's newspaper in Midland after his death, Bush recalled that day: "He swam and relaxed. He was very weak but the warm water soothed him. He gave us hope. 'I'm going to make it,' he said."

But soon after Linda picked him up, Jimmy crashed. "He was in so much pain. It was unreal." At the emergency room, he waited 10 hours for medical attention. "I begged them to do something. I begged," she said, wiping tears from her eyes. "He was in so much pain. I was so angry." Jimmy died about a week later.

More than a quarter century later, George W. Bush is running for reelection as a "war" president. At the Republican Convention, delegates pass out Purple Heart stickers mocking Kerry's Vietnam wounds as "a self-inflicted scratch," and George H.W. Bush, speaking on CNN, lauds the Swift Boat Veterans' claims against Kerry as "rather compelling." Karl Rove tells the Associated Press that Kerry's opposition to a war that Bush avoided had served to "tarnish the records and service of people who were defending our country and fighting communism." Barbara Bush tells USA Today: "I die over every untruth that I hear about George -- I mean, every one."

Linda Allison watches it all from her New York apartment. About George W. Bush's disputed sojourn in Alabama, she asks simply: "Can we all be lying?"

About the writerMary Jacoby is Salon's Washington correspondent.


Yeah, four more years of these people - that's just what this country needs. NOT! But someone does seriously need to adjust Zell Miller's meds. That's one crazy dude. And what's really sad is that he doesn't even realize that he's just the RNC's bitch and he has completely undermined any credibility that he might ever have had. I would not be surprised if he gets an Alzheimer's diagnosis in the near future - because he certainly seems to have forgotten what he said 12 years ago about H.W. Bush.

I'm so over the conventions and the rhetoric and the "polls" - November can not get here soon enough. I'm tired of the Vietnam rehash - it sucked like Iraq sucks now. Too many American lives destroyed because of a lie and a bunch of bullshit. Sound familiar? The 9/11 rehash that the Republicans rolled out is just sickening - but this administration has been capitalizing on tragedy ever since that day so it shouldn't have been a surprise that they would continue to do so.

I think the American people have been told so many lies that they wouldn't know the truth it if bit them on the ass, but what can you expect from a nation that watches American Idol for the great talent. When they started screaming for Clay Aiken I knew the country had gone crazy.

I am so ready for the revolution. Please let there be one.