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Name: Justine
Location: Annapolis, Maryland, United States

Justine, is a little bit more than you'd expect. This is where you are supposed to put your "elevator speech". What you'd say if you were in the elevator with somebody you wanted to connect with. I don't have an "elevator speech". If I ran smack-dab into one of my "heroes" I'd just have to smile and be polite and keep my yipper shut and that's probably for the best anyway!

Sunday, August 31, 2008
Growling for a Growler
Saturday night, eleven thirty. I just woke up. I’ve been asleep most of the day. All the weirdness and the stress have finally caught up with me. It’s a fabulous three day weekend and I’m down for the count. I had hoped to go to the dusk to dawn show at the drive in tonight.

I was awake earlier in the day long enough to go to my computer alumni buddies lunch bunch. We went to a fabulous brew pub called the Du Claw and I had a pint. The seasonal brew was Mysterium. It’s a Belgian spiced ale. Yummy.

I normally select the Misfit Red but I love to try the seasonal brews as well. I noticed today they shifted several of the old regulars off to the seasonal menu and put some odd new brews on full time. I sincerely wish that I could get somebody to drive me to a long lunch at the Du Claw so I could have a go at the beer sampler.

The Rams Head used to brew their own beer but state law kept them from growing their business. They wound up selling their brewery to Anheiser Busch. Their beer will now go from local brew to horse whizz.

I can’t talk though, I used to love Watney’s Red Barrel.

I’m looking forward to the re-release of Schlitz original formula. I remember Schlitz from the fabulous teenage beer bashes long ago.

Of course I also remember some pretty wretched Lambrusco and Rose wines from the teen years. I gave up on wine entirely a few years ago because it’s either let half the bottle go bad or drink the whole thing by myself. The last time I tried the tasting hoopla, I liked the Shiraz varieties. But at that time I wound up realizing I was dating a full blown alcoholic and drinking went off the menu entirely. I've since gotten rid of the beau and reacquainted myself with alchohol.

J2 sent me a DVD copy of James May’s wine tasting series. I’ve tried to watch it a few times but something always happens to interrupt. Today the DVD player went wacko and started skipping. I know when I open the player up there will be a hair on the DVD or wrapped on the spindle. (I have waist length hair and it winds up wrapped in every electrical appliance in the house.)

Since I’m boring myself to sleep with this tedium, I will go on back to bed. Night all!
Friday, August 29, 2008
I wish Hunter were here.
Now that I have mumbled on about nothing, save the demise of the lamented Mr. May, I can put the keys to something joyful.

Joy being the work of Hunter S. Thompson. More specifically his book “The Kingdom of Fear: Loathsome Secrets of a Star-Crossed Child in the Final Days of the American Century”

For a year and a half my copy had been submerged under moving debris. Last Sunday I found it shelved among my Nero Wolfe collection. My copies of “Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas”, “The Great Shark Hunt”, and "The Rum Diaries" had surfaced during the initial library unpacking.

"Kingdom of Fear" is the book that contains the story of a child Hunter against the FBI. (The FBI lost.) Also included are the story about the ball peen hammer, the mountain lion, and the flaming convertible. This is one of those books I re-read frequently and am amazed at every time.

Thompson's prose has such a beautiful flow and swell to it. Lurking among the absurd situations and the luxe phrases are carefully formed flashes of insight. Thompson's reputation and the book jacket blurbs would have probably kept me away from Thompson's work forever but I fell for it because I heard it read outloud first.

One evening while I was doing housework, I had Bravo television on for company. (Yes it’s hard to believe I had a break between being a Rally Driver and a Sex Goddess.) I was in another room dusing when the program I had tuned in was over. A movie started. I heard a rising monologue flowing along with the description of someone driving through the desert and fighting off drug induced visions of bats. The prose was succulent, coherent, and articulate despite the subject. Mesmerized by the voiceover, I sat down in front of the television and watched “Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas”. Twice.

Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro went flat out portraying the doped up, depraved, journalists Dr. Gonzo and his trusted "Samoan" lawyer on a tear through Vegas.

I grew up in a tourist town. I’ve seen plenty of people acting the way Duke and company acted and I've wanted to see them all ground up and used for chum.

It wasn’t what the characters were doing that kept me coming back, it was the monologue running on top of the action. The words and sentences were sumptuous, and when combined with a target-on pinpoint point of view, the movie was irresistible. Raul Duke’s character might have been face down in a pile of sick but his monologue was saying things about the world the rest of us have all thought and felt at some time.

It's a combination of outré behavior backed with a “what everybody secretly wants to say” prose that drew me to Jeremy Clarkson’s writing. Clarkson may be the joke candidate for Prime Minister but if he was in the running for U.S. President I’d vote for him in a tic. He may be a borderline jerk but he doesn’t appear to be a sociopath and that’s all we’ve got running this time out.

In a much gentler vein is James May’s writing. Not many people would think to buy an ancient camper and then tow it with a Rolls Royce. That’s the kind of “Left Turn in Albuquerque” thinking that keeps me reading and watching his work.

I truly wish that Hunter Thompson had decided to stay with us a while longer. I’d love to hear his voice on this year’s election.

In lieu of that I’ll leave you with some quotes from “Kingdom of Fear”

“Sane is rich and powerful; Insane is wrong and poor and week. The rich are Free, the poor are put in cages.”

“Weird behavior is natural in smart children, just as curiosity is to a kitten.”
A Tame Looking Schwinn & The Lamented Demise of Mr. May
It’s raining. Not even a heavy rain but a fine mist to dampen up the plants. We haven’t had a rainy day in over a month and even though it’s a holiday weekend the rain is welcome. At least it is by me. Otherwise I’d feel obligated to get out in the yard and cut back all the bushes that have gone wonky over the summer.

The first order of business this morning is a good strong pitcher of iced tea and some aspirin. The conditioning is working quickly, last night I broke the four mile mark for the second time in three days. This morning I’m sore in odd places, along my shoulder blades, tiny places around my waist, my collar bones, and spots around my hips.

I had read that my Schwinn Airdyne gives a full body workout. I never really thought about it until this morning when I woke up with twinges in odd places. The Airdyne is an exercise bicycle constructed with fan blades in the wheel to provide resistance. There are no adjustments or settings. The harder you push the harder the air pushes back. There’s a “force” gage and an odometer so you have some idea of your progress from session to session. For the longest time the best I’ve been able to do is three miles in fifteen minutes at a force of 1.5. This week I’ve begun to use the arm bars a quarter of the time. This raised my force to a level 2 and my distance to four miles. It might seem like an easy thing to hold onto the arm bars while you pedal, but that Airdyne is constructed to make you reach, push, and pull to stay onboard. It takes extra effort.


Ouch!


Yesterday I managed my trot around the building complex and a stint on the bike. It was a good day. Today I’m looking forward to going home and slithering straight into bed.

Thirteen days left to get ready for dance class. Fear being a great motivator, I’ll probably get on the bike again tonight and promise myself a nice slither into the sheets immediately afterwards. To avoid total embarassment when returning to dancing lessons is a noble pursuit to be sure, but it makes for boring writing. My apologies.

I’ve got a meditation session with friends scheduled tonight too. The sessions this week have rattled my bones. Last night I fell deep into a journey and had experiences that shook me a bit. Remaining calm through the experience seems to be the lesson du jour. Writing about meditation is as exciting as writing about exercise and illness. Again my apologies. I must get up to some hijinx this weekend so I can make an interesting entry or two!

Last night was also a night for renewing old acquaintances. W's mother turned 88 on Wednesday and his sister turns 60 today. I have no clue how we all got so old so quickly! For their birthdays I was able to send them a bouquet of roses from Flowerbud.com. They arrived yesterday and were a big hit. I received a "thank you" call last night from both ladies. I now have a standing invitation to visit. We gabbed for ninety minutes about everything from dogs to how people go crazy with greed when someone passes away. It was like I’d never left the fold.

“Mom W” told me the rosebuds were a good three inches across and the stems were as big around as a little finger. The variety is “Hot Lady” and they’re big dark pink Ecuadorian roses. I’ve only seen the Ecuadorian giant roses live once.

Oddly enough that was in London in Hampstead. My traveling companion and I were doing another of our treks through the environs and we passed a store with a bouquet of giant roses in the window. The blossoms where the size of baseballs and the whole arrangement was as close to perfection as I’ve ever seen in real flowers. Of all the things I saw in my trip to the UK that is one of the things that sticks with me.

The other thing that stands out is that I was kind to a theater usher who was getting grilled by a rude patron. During the intermission the usher came back and moved me and my friend to a pair of beautiful box seats.

James May has announced in today’s column that he has consumption and it is terminal. He does not expect to survive to write another column. He writes that he contracted tuberculosis while on his month long trek across the UK towing a camper behind his Rolls Royce. Like many other readers of his online column, I left my condolences in the comments section. It is a sad thing that after surviving the artic with Clarkson he should be felled low by a camper.

Oddly enough W lives in an area where tuberculosis is making a comeback. More alarmingly the area has been subject to outbreaks of drug resistant strains. The areas reliance on poultry farming has led to variations of the disease mutating and perfecting themselves in the rapid fire succession of generations of poultry. The area also has a history of Sarcoidosis. That’s a nasty parasite that helped lead to the demise of Bernie Mac. It also went through the last office building I worked in. It took out 4 people. Two of them are on disability and two of them are retired but ill.

Life can be “short brutish and cruel” as somebody said somewhere.

In line with that thought and yesterday’s mention of working in the fields, I’d like to give you a link to a website called Skorpy’s Page. It’s filled with vintage photography. Today’s image is children working in beet fields.

All the images on Skorpy’s Page are stunning reminders of how far things have come from my grandparent’s time. God Bless you grandmothers and grandfathers. I am so thankful that you made my lifestyle possible!
Thursday, August 28, 2008
The Seven of Cups Returns
For some reason I can't explain
Once you'd gone there was never
Never an honest word
That was when I ruled the world
- Viva La Vida by Coldplay

The moment I heard my first story I started looking for you . . .
- Rumi

I drew the seven of cups this morning, it is the perfect essence of where I am.

The Seven of Cups.

Joan Bunning has a fabulous book and web site for learning about the archtypes seen on the tarot cards. Click Here to see her site.

Below is a quote from her site about the Seven of Cups.

ACTIONS

indulging in wishful thinking
creating fantasies
dreaming
getting caught up in illusions
letting your imagination run wild
kidding yourself about the facts
building castles in the air
waiting for your ship to come in
lacking focus and commitment
avoiding putting ideas to the test


having many options
being offered many alternatives
facing an array of choices
believing in limitless possibilities
looking at a wide open field
getting to pick and choose


falling into dissipation
overindulging
letting everything go
becoming disorganized
eating/drinking/partying to excess
neglecting your health
entering into addictive patterns
being inclined toward indolence
being lazy
procrastinating

DESCRIPTION

As I gaze around the room right now, taking in the casual disarray, I know the Seven of Cups speaks to me - for better or worse. It says, "Yes, order and hard work are nice, but ... isn't it more fun to just let everything go?" Letting everything go is what the Seven of Cups is all about.

It is easy to worship the gods of efficiency and neatness. We like trim lawns, alphabetized filing systems and time management - the world of the Emperor. We admire order in all its forms and want everything to be just right. The Seven of Cups provides the balance. This card stands for all that is sloppy, impractical and lax.

When the Seven of Cups appears in a reading, it is important to look carefully at how disordered your situation is. Is everything too controlled and regular? Perhaps you need to let things fall apart a little. When a rigid system breaks up, there can be a tremendous release of creativity. The man on the Seven of Cups is amazed by all the options he has.

On the other hand, if you are in a chaotic situation, some tightening may be necessary. No one is happy and productive in a crazy environment. Regularity gives structure to life. Taken to an extreme, the looseness of the Seven of Cups can lead to harmful patterns of decadence, addiction and self-indulgence.

Sometimes the laziness applies to your thoughts and dreams. It is easy to wish for something, but not so easy to make that wish come true. When you see this card, make sure that you are backing up your plans with work and effort. Tighten up your life and commit yourself to doing what it takes to reach your goals ... even if it means (sigh) cleaning house.

end quote


I am balanced like a Range Rover stuck on a boulder. I'm jammed between belief and disbelief, trust and fear, and past and future. My wheels are spinning trying to find grip.

During Sunday’s work I was given the power of two stories. The first was about a young woman who lost her fiancé’ in the Second World War. She lived the rest of her life alone. She had many friends but never again love. She died young and alone and twisted with arthritis. How she stood up under the pain and sorrow I do not know. In a way death must have been a relief.

The second story was of the daughter of a wealthy merchant family in the late 1800s. She wanted to travel the world and explore what life had to offer. She often sneaked away from her family’s watchful eye and went for larks on the railroad. Despite her families efforts to find a “suitable” match for her, she didn’t find anyone she wanted to marry. As she moved into her forties she helped her father with the family business and when he died she took it over. She was in love with a young friend of her father’s. He would never officially “court” her or ask for her hand because he thought it would see he wanted her money. She finally told him that she needed him to marry her and help her with the business or she would fall into dire straights. They married and were happy. They did a small amount of traveling. They didn’t’ have long together. It was all too little too late.

Tuesday night I was given the story of a spirit figure floating in a cozy bedroom. The spirit could settle upon the bed and be seen by the sleeper there. The sleeper had anticipated the spirit’s arrival and reached out and embraced the spirit. The spirit could not stay. There was only a moment of connection and then it was gone from the “home” of the room and back to being alone.

All these stories are so full of pain, loneliness, longing, lack of love, and wasted time. They all are full of waiting for things that never seem to come.

Is this the theme of my story in this life as well? Can I refuse my story? Can I refuse to accept this lack of love? Can I refuse to accept the loneliness? Is it possible to refuse to accept the story I am living and pull another from the cosmos? How do I break the cycle?

It has to be more then being friendly and going out for activities where I meet others. If that was the answer I’d have to have a social secretary by now.

Is there a sea change that’s needed in some part of the soul or mind? Is there some thing that I must find and fix? That seems to cruel to someone who has spent their life trying to be “good enough, fast enough, and strong enough” to be loved by their own family.

I don’t understand what makes someone love you or not love you. I know it has little to do with who you love.

Part of me wants to go deeper into the mystery, roam far a field, and move into the unknown and variable dream time. It’s as if all the parts of myself that believed in the magic of a summer night sky or the turn of the tide are all needed to come forward and be themselves to pull me over the boulder in the road.

There is a facet to the Seven of Cups that calls for opening to possibility. That message is coming at me from friends, teachers, and songs on the radio. One of my favorite songs is “Burning Down The House” , the first line is “Watch out you might get what your after.” The Pussycat Dolls “When I Grow Up” song is on nonstop rotation on the radio now and it repeated says “Be careful what you wish for ‘cause you just might get it.” The simple act of thinking “Hey yeah, I might get what I wish for.” causes my toes to tingle.

Then the darkness comes down. The memory comes back of the phrase “Those whom the gods would destroy the first grant their fondest wish.” It happened to me in 2000. I was dating the quintessential nice guy. We were looking at houses and wedding rings. It seemed like I was finally going to have a loving home. Then I discovered that Mr. Nice Guy was a sociopath, an alcoholic, and had bipolar swings. He didn’t want to change the status quo either. After a spate of trying to be supportive my survival instincts kicked in and I walked away.

How do I reconcile that with the overwhelming neediness that keeps driving the stories that amble through? Is there an illusion to be broken? For all the talk of love driving the universe and all of spirit, does love exist at all? I refuse to accept that it doesn’t.

After business school and “Management By Objective” and a lifetime in a goal oriented industry and in a goal oriented nation, how do I become open to a possibility without becoming attached to an outcome? Or more importantly how do I open to a possibility without instantly being overrun with a mental “todo” list to make it happen?

How do you “let go” and float in the cosmos and be open to possibility and not grind to a stock standstill?

Ask a question, get an answer.
Bruce Springsteen is on the radio and he’s got a point:

Dancing In The Dark
- Bruce Springsteen


I get up in the evening
and I ain't got nothing to say
I come home in the morning
I go to bed feeling the same way
I ain't nothing but tired
Man I'm just tired and bored with myself
Hey there baby, I could use just a little help

You can't start a fire
You can't start a fire without a spark
This gun's for hire
even if we're just dancing in the dark

Message keeps getting clearer
radio's on and I'm moving 'round the place
I check my look in the mirror
I wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face
Man I ain't getting nowhere
I'm just living in a dump like this
There's something happening somewhere
baby I just know that there is

You can't start a fire
you can't start a fire without a spark
This gun's for hire
even if we're just dancing in the dark

You sit around getting older
there's a joke here somewhere and it's on me
I'll shake this world off my shoulders
come on baby this laugh's on me

Stay on the streets of this town
and they'll be carving you up alright
They say you gotta stay hungry
hey baby I'm just about starving tonight
I'm dying for some action
I'm sick of sitting 'round here trying to write this book
I need a love reaction
come on now baby gimme just one look

You can't start a fire sitting 'round crying over a broken heart
This gun's for hire
Even if we're just dancing in the dark
You can't start a fire worrying about your little world falling apart
This gun's for hire
Even if we're just dancing in the dark
Even if we're just dancing in the dark
Even if we're just dancing in the dark
Even if we're just dancing in the dark
Hey baby

Note:
At this point I usually throw in a James May reference if I haven't made one. There are two things to say about that. Number one, of all the people on earth who could have inspired me to get back to banging on the keyboard regularly why was it James May's work that sent me to it?

Secondly, here is a link to the BBC's production notes on the Polar Special. I didn't give the lads due credit for preparation. But I still think they had a death wish.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Join Us for the KY Jelly 53!
Good afternoon Tuxedo Inn readers whoever you are.

There’s not much to report today. I’m having a new and unusual type of nervous breakdown. But all in all, that’s not very novel. I have a good collapse at least once a year. It’s getting close to fall and I haven’t had mine yet this year and I want to get it in before the holiday rush.

“W” and I continue to talk on the phone and the internet. We really have just picked up where we left off. He’s harder to distract during a conversation, but that gives me a challenge. It wouldn’t be any fun otherwise.

I’ve resurrecting my flirting skills and having a bit of fun. This morning I was blowing kisses at a delivery truck driver who was staring at me in traffic. When the light changed, we were both laughing.

Traffic in the slow lane on the beltway this morning was averaging between 70 and 80 mph. It’s usually not that bad at the time I come in. This morning it was sheer madness. Yesterday I just about ripped the ABS out of the car to avoid a Mustang weaving through traffic. Sometimes that morning commute makes me feel like I’m doing strafing runs in hostile territory. I fear my number is coming up.

Usually I refer to the Beltway as NASCAR but I think the beltway deserves a name. On Top Gear this week they showed people lining up and paying the toll to drive the Nuremberg Ring race track. Perhaps I should call this the Baltimore Ring. Nope, that sounds too dignified. The Redneck Ring? Nope, that’s to insulting to the true hillbillies. Any suggestions? Maybe call it the “KY 53” because it’s fifty three miles and somebody’s always trying to drive up your bottom?

Thanks to J2’s care packages I watched the Top Gear Polar Special last night. I really don’t know if I’ll ever watch Top Gear again after that. The producers of the show out and outright tried to kill Richard Hammond. They didn’t do Jeremy Clarkson and James May any favors either. James said he did not want to go to the North Pole but was apparently threatened with loss of his job if he didn’t.

Survival specialists were hired to train the team on artic survival but they had no success. The survival trainer insisted his face be blurred out because he didn’t’ want to admit he worked with these guys. Even Sir Ranulph Fiennes was brought in to try and wise this lot up and he nearly failed. When he finally showed them photographs of his hand before the frost bite and showed them the stumps of fingers afterwards, they finally started paying attention.

Granted they were the first to ever drive to the North Pole. They were surely also the luckiest.

Richard Hammond, being the fittest, wasn’t accorded the privilege of driving. He was stuck on a dogsled to race against Jeremy and James in a pick up truck. He was paired with North and South Pole Explorer Matty McNair and her team of dogs. As they crossed frozen ocean, the sled bogged down and Hammond had to run alongside for long stretches. The first day he recorded skiing behind and running beside the sled for nine hours. Prior to this he had a few downhill skiing lessons from Clarkson.

The dogs were overheating running in the 32 below zero degree “heat” of the day. So they swapped to sleeping a few hours and then running the dogs the “night”. Since it was light twenty four hours a day Hammond quickly became disoriented. As the adventure progressed each glimpse of his face on camera was more alarming. The exhaustion, disorientation, and desperation in his eyes made me begin to sincerely hate whoever had concocted this stunt.

At one point the dogs were let out of their harnesses to sleep. Matty McNair, held up the lead dog harness and asked Hammond if he’d like to try it on.

“I need a new lead dog and you’re pretty strong. You want to try it on?” She said.

Hammond looked at the sled mounted camera then back at McNair and raised his snow shovel.

“You can try but there’s nobody else here and I have a shovel.” He replied

Later he admitted to the camera that he was embarrassed about loosing his temper. He did well compared to Clarkson and May.

When Clarkson and May reached the magnetic pole first, they radioed Hammond. The look on his face was enough to break your heart.

I later read that Hammond and the dogsled diverted from their North Pole target then and went straight for an abandoned weather station where the group was scheduled to be airlifted out. The artic team took the vehicles back the way they had come. There was no word on if the dogs went out airlift or mushed back with Matty alone. I hope they caught a ride.

In typical Jeremy Clarkson fashion, he slammed the Toyota truck he was driving down onto an ice boulder. One of the fuel tanks came off and the suspension and tires were damaged. He did other typically “Jeremy” things as well. James threatened violence on Jeremy’s person several times in the finished cut of the film. I would be amazed if he hadn’t actually taken something to the side of Clarkson’s head when the cameras weren’t rolling.

One film clip shows Jeremy sound asleep behind the wheel of the pickup truck and James just as soundly asleep in the passenger side. The truck ambles along at full speed for thirty seconds before it hits a bump hard enough to wake Clarkson. He startles and mumbles “Oh shit.” They then stopped to pitch camp. That scene drove home how little business either one of the Top Gear crew had at the North Pole.
I thought they were “misguided” when they pulled their stupid stunts during their tour of the American South, but this makes me believe they’ve all got a death wish.

How can you trust car reviews from somebody who hasn’t got the instinct for self-preservation? How can you watch people with a death wish run laps without feeling like you're at the Roman Circus?
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Rockin' The James May Vibe
I’m working my James’ May hair look this morning. I drove in with the sunroof open and Billy Bob Thornton cranking. Neither did much for my coiffeur or my sinus headache. But they were good for my soul.

I’ve popped the wondrous wicked original formula Sudafed. Momentarily my head will start pinging like a popcorn popper.

Last weekend was overload. Friday night I came face to face with the legend of my nightmares and the one who started me on my road to Taos in 2000. He was the frailest human I’ve ever seen and that includes my 85 year old grandmother. There was a bow wave of self-awareness and control that rolled off him like a casual cloud of cigarette smoke. I don’t think he’ll appear in my nightmares again, but he taught me one last lesson. He showed me that energy, that life-force, and he made me wonder how I could have the same thing for myself.

Sunday I spent a few hours in meditation with my teacher. I’d like to write about the experience here, but this isn’t the place for it, not now. I’m still trying to decide where the experience came from. I believe in the power of “story” as a cohesive force separate from the words that construct it. Not in the twee teaching tales used to brainwash pre-schoolers on television, but the power of the arc of a story such as the archetypical myths.
I was given the gift of two stories. Both of them were bittersweet and sad. They brought into focus what a crossroads I’m standing in.

I want more out of life. Like the Queen song says: “I want it all and I want it now.”

I just took myself out for a trot around the building complex. I couldn’t sit still anymore, couldn’t sit here staring at my reflection in my terminal screen. Part of me is obsessed with making change happen. Part of me is certain change can’t happen. Part of me is afraid change won’t happen. Part of me is afraid change will happen and it still won’t be enough.

I’ve been out walking around the building reminding myself that I’ve put change in motion. (Even though right at this moment it doesn’t look like it.). Dance lessons start in 16 more days. I’m seven days into my pre-lesson conditioning training.

The thought of not being able to keep up in the classroom is paralyzing. I’m so afraid of embarrassment and slinking away that I’ll probably have to have someone tie me up and drag me to class for the first session.

Last week was probably the toughest part of the whole project and I’ve gotten past it.

I also keep reminding myself that I’m going back to school on October 18th at the Community College. I’ve already been in touch with the teacher via email on the pre-class prep. Twenty page manuscript, double spaced, ten pitch.

Remember 10 pitch? Probably not. It’s a fabulous holdover from the typewriter days. You got to select 1 type style. My typewriter was a 10 pitch Pica. When I handed in my last college term paper in 1990 something, the teacher had a fit because she wanted some computer font. After she had her rant about “following” directions I responded. “My typewriter only has one font.” Then I walked away. I received an A on the paper, white out marks and all.

I remember one friend had an IBM Selectric. That had changeable type spheres. You could swap out the type face. He had a “speaker” font that did huge print for speeches. He also had Elite 12 pitch to go with Pica 10.

Even though I’ve been using WordPerfect or Word for decades, I still double space at the end of a sentence. I always will. Any little techie snot-nose that wants to carp about it can bite my 1930 Remington on the space bar.

I remember my junior year in high school when “keyboarding” was called “typing”. My mother had to take a day off from work and argue with the high school guidance counselor to get me into typing class. I was in the college prep program and the school considered it a waste of my time to take typing. They wanted me to take college CLEP psychology.

At that time my mom was working as a head nurse in a psychiatric hospital. She let “Ms Thing” high school guidance counselor what high school psych was worth. A battle ensued and when mom left the school I was enrolled in typing class.

The week before school started a group of Vandals (or Visigoths who can tell the two apart anyway) broke into the school and trashed the typing lab. The first month of typing class we worked on “mock keyboards” printed on paper and taped to the desk top.

I still managed to pass the class with a speed of 55 words per minute on a manual typewriter that weighed in at six ounces less then my 1968 Rambler.

Typing stood me in good stead in college. It’s been the one skill that’s fed me since I graduated from college. I hate to imagine a twenty five year career in computers without being able to touch type. There are some who do it, but it looks arduous at best.

With the predictive spelling correction of Word even fast sloppy typing comes out alright. The grammar correction irks me once and a while, but I’ve learned to ignore the little green underlines when it suits me. Sometimes I use “colour” and “tyre” just to piss off Word.

Don’t even ask about grey. I’ve spelled it grey instead of gray my whole life. Until the latest fixes for Word, it got blipped every time.

I believe I have the advent of Grey Goose Vodka to thank for the respite from the spelling police.
If the mighty Microsoft Corporation can change to accept “grey” as a valid word, perhaps change will work for me.

Six weeks of dance lessons, possibly followed by another six weeks of dance lessons. A three day intensive with a group of word hounds. There’s a big pinball machine show in October. The possibility of a weekend in Atlantic City is shaping up. All these things are change on the horizon, some activity that doesn’t involve doing the “shoulds”.

As soon as I’m able, I’m off to Skip Barber driving school. After the first go round at driving school, I’ll see how I feel about continuing with driving.

On last night’s Top Gear they showcased a woman race driver named Sabine. She challenged Jeremy Clarkson’s time around the Nuremburg Ring in a Mercedes by saying she could beat his time in a transit van. When I saw her careening around the track every nerve in my body started screaming, “I want to do that!”

The unrequited gear head in me is not going to be quiet until I give it attention. I find myself stomping my feet and regretting that I was born twenty years too soon When I was the right age to get into racing, girls were not permitted. It would have taken strong support by my father or my grandfather to get me into the arena. If my grandfather had lived to a ripe old age instead of dying young from asbestosis, I have no doubt he would have let me try my hand in the family auto shop. If I had wanted to drive, he would have helped me do it.

How different would my life be? I’d have one hell of a southern twang. I’d probably go by my first and middle names. I’d certainly not be a computer jockey on the outskirts of D.C.

Maybe, just maybe, I’d be happy.

The bugaboo to this whole story is grandfather passed young, father abandoned the family, and my stepfather did everything he could to insure I wound up on the street. The drive and strength I might have used for racing was used for survival.

I’ve survived well too. I’m in a good enough place in life to be able to consider driving school. Jeremy Clarkson is older then I am, if he can survive driving to the North Pole and driving the Silverstone 24 Hour, then I can certainly do this.

That brings me to the second bugaboo in the works. I have “snippitydippitydoowahdiddy” syndrome. No, that’s not the real name for it but I don’t feel like sharing today. It’s genetic and it went undiagnosed and untreated for twenty plus years. There’s been some damage done. There are still damage control issues. Things short out when they normally shouldn’t. My lungs are stronger but still not what I’d like. If I don’t rest, hydrate, and watch when I eat, my medicines can drop the floor out of my blood sugar. Medicines may make my skin break out in sun bumps forcing me to hide in the shade. Medicines also cause poor absorption of nutrients. The connective tissues around my joints and nerves can become inflamed and put me in excruciating pain. It all depends on if it’s a “good day” and if I’ve done the best at caring for myself. I’ve been working with the doctor and tinkering with medicines and supplements. I’m still hoping that I can find a better balance that will make me sturdier.

Traveling can be difficult. I get mad with myself when I tire before I think I should. Everything has to be well thought out. When I travel in the United States I know I can go to a local pharmacy and grocery store and get things to help me back on my feet if I suffer a flare up. Foreign travel is a way off.

I’d like to go back to the U.K. and I’d like to go to Venice.

From where I live now it’s easier to fly to London then it is to go to Las Vegas. It’s closer. However it’s easier to find friends who want to go to Vegas then London or Edinburgh.

It’s all a matter of remembering change is a slow camel sometimes but if you get off the camel in the middle of the desert you never reach the oasis.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Viva La Vida
I’m having this week’s grocery shopping delivered.

Last night at ten p.m. I transcribed my shopping list into the computer. I took advantage of Safeway’s “free delivery” option and purchased my meager provisions.

To me it feels a bit like I’m taking the easy way out. However, I’ve checked the criminal code and no where does it say I’m required to spend two hours of my Saturday hauling groceries.

My grandparents worked themselves to the bone and sent their children to school for white collar jobs so they wouldn't have to sew and reap the fields. The result is sixty years later; I don’t have to keep a garden and chickens in the back yard to have fresh food.

I’m very grateful to my grandparents. If I had to chop cotton, weed the vegetable patch, and tend the chickens, I’d probably be thinner and stronger. However I’d probably also be in the last handful of years of my life. Hard scrabble living did not mean longevity for the bulk of my family. Two matriarchs made it to 100. To be cruel, I think it was a function of their husbands dying young. They didn’t have more than two children so they didn’t succumb to childbirth. They had farms and money left over so they hired help and didn’t work themselves to death. The women in the family who had 8 and 9 children all died horribly before they were 40

Mrs. Beeton, the founding mother of domestic advice herself, only lived to age 28. Her ambling through the pearly gates as a young woman is an indicator of just how dire life was for women in the ‘good old days’.

But for all the horrors of the past, the grocer did deliver. My grandparents had a large grocery and sundries store in a rural area. My mother talks about riding along on grocery deliveries when she was a small girl.

In a present fraught with man made gadgetry and the voracious maw of the large business computer, I am working until 6:15 p.m.. My cupboards at home are nigh on empty. No matter how close I drive to the grocery store on the way home it will be almost 7 p.m. I know I’ll go on by and either stop for carry out or go home and scrounge a rickety sandwich on stale bread. By tomorrow lunch time I’ll be back at the mercy of fast food. The best way for me to eat well this week is to have someone bring the groceries out to me.

We’ll see how it all turns out. If I like it I can have deliveries made Saturday mornings in a four hour window of time. Then I can get the laundry done, do the housework, open all the mail, pay bills, and get the groceries in half a day. That’s down from the two days it used to take in the apartment. The Laundromat alone took half a day back then. Now I have a washer and a dryer. Woo hoo!

But this is a dud of blog entry today. Overburdened with the hub bub of home management. J2 threatens to send me a “Mrs. Beetons” from the UK so I can learn how to be a proper “woman of the house”. He’s on the other side of the Atlantic or he wouldn’t make that offer. He knows where Mrs. B’s book would wind up. Perhaps the NHS covers removing cookery books from bodily orifices, but here the emergency room techs would just laugh themselves to exhaustion.

Besides I have Betty Crocker and Alton Brown. My universal source of “how to” is my first edition 1950 Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook. It teaches how to form loaves of bread, make pancakes, peel tomatoes, and get cocoanut out of the shell. No fluff, no trendy foodie porn recipes and pictures.

When Betty Crocker fails to satisfy I turn to Alton. The only man on earth I’d ever stand in line to meet. (Apologies James May, Jeremy Clarkson, and Richard Hammond.)
Someplace in the clutter of my office I have a picture of myself and AB grinning away.

He has the most incredible green eyes. The force of his personality comes through his eyes in person in a way it can’t on television. Warm, bright, deep. It’s a bow wave that spreads through the room.

Perhaps it’s his time as an actor and a cinematographer, maybe it's something he learned how to project. Maybe it's just because the "lights are on and everybody's home" in that noggin. Click Here For Alton's Website!

It’s the same kind of swirl of energy that Billy Bob Thornton carried on stage with him last Thursday night.

Alton Brown has one cookbook on the techniques of cooking and one on the techniques of baking. When you've watched Alton on TV or read his books, you know why things do what they do when you trot them across the stove. You understand the Mayard Reaction and the lifecycle of an egg foam. When Alton gets done with you, you've got the technique to tackle cooking almost any comestible.

But you've got to have it in the house first.

This post feels like I've spent it trying to avoid talking about last weekend. Maybe I am. I had a few experiences that rattled me to the core. Perhaps by tomorrow I'll be able to make enough sense out of them to write them down. Perhaps not.

I have sorted out my Billy Bob photos and will post a few. The couple at the table with me sent me copies of their pictures today. They are a lot better then mine. They even have a full length pic of Billy Bob in his pomegranite coloured suit!

You have to see it to believe it!
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Billy Bob!
Oooo Billy Bob!

Friday night was the Boxmasters concert at the Ram's Head in Annapolis.

Boxmaster's front man, Billy Bob Thornton, overruled all the showroom rules and for one night dancing, smoking, and photography were allowed.

I was doing all three when I took the pic above.

If you look closely you will notice James May no where in the picture!
Friday, August 22, 2008
Billy Bob and the Temple of Desire
Not much productive to rattle on about today. Is anybody reading this thing? Do I really care? Is the square root of 3 really an important concept?

Tonight is the “Billy Bob Thornton & The Boxmasters” concert at the Rams Head in Annapolis. It should be a terrifying experience. To fall into that old style twang and rage music again. Billy Bob’s music usually makes me feel like I’m six years old and lost in a corn field in Arkansas in the broiling summer heat.

It reminds me of a part of myself that was dropped beside the road a long while ago. It’s a part that’s caught me up and insists on being heard once in a while.

It seems like another lifetime, when I had a father. It was another lifetime and I was my other self. (To mangle Shakespeare.)

As “W” and I say, we are to wise to woo quietly. I am too leery to remember easily. The past has to stalk me and overtake me in a song or a remembered book or the signs for barbecue on sides of the road in the Carolinas.

Memory lives interleaved in Billy Bob’s music. It wrangles out a sacred temple in the Waffle House’s along the interstate.

When my friends travel with me they know that I must stop at the Waffle House and pray my silent prayers as we eat. They don’t ask why, they only know it’s important. That’s why they’re friends.

It seems so long ago, that I belonged to a full family. It seems as much a myth as Athena or Boadicea to believe that I was the beloved daughter of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. It’s almost like it was never real at all.

It’s been a week of loss for Cousin Tuesday.

It’s been a week of transition for me. I’ve been working long term on a fiction project. I wonder if James May ever writes fiction for fun? This week two of my old faithful characters went in for divorce. The invincible, kind, and gentle “him” of the couple has been shown to be a womanizer. “She” was almost killed after being thrown off a second story by one of “his” enemies seeking to get “even”. She has suffered brain damage. Their son was killed.

Of all the characters moving through the arc, I didn’t expect this out of them. I didn’t expect “him” to be with his mistress when his home was invaded by those out to murder his family. I didn’t expect “her” to get caught without a sidearm. “Her” family has closed ranks around her and she is at her brother’s house. Her brother has previously been the swingle living roué and has now come over all devoted to family. Large sections of “her” memory are gone. “She” has a box of letters sent to her brother while he was in the armed forces to refresh her memory. “Her” father thinks it was the husband trying to avoid a divorce. Arrangements are being made to “hide” her with family out of the country.

I imagine I’ll be called to task for turning “Mr. Perfect” into “Mr. Schmuck”. Nobody else can be as surprised as I was. Of the characters I got to move around the board, I liked “him” “He” could be counted on to do-the-right-thing, be-tough-but-fair, and be-true-blue. “His” word, “his” honor, and “his” mystique have all been broken.

“She” was always loving, devoted, gormless, and gentle. “She” packed a pistol so “she” always had “his” back. “She” would follow “him” right off a cliff. Now she wants to push him off the cliff, walk down the hillside, and shoot him twice in the head to make sure he’s dead.

I think she’s about to become a “loose woman on the rebound”. I have a sneaking suspicion the “he” is about to die.

It’s a touch sad to watch them go. But as they move off the page and into their “after lives” new characters can filter in. I’m looking forward to that.


Some writers plot out their stories and character arcs. If I know too much about what’s going to happen I get bored and don’t bother to write the story. I’m writing because I have to know too!

Maybe all this death and destruction is a function of the way my mood runs like a roller coaster from joy to desperation. Everyone rolls up and down the track. Where I am in life now the peaks and dips are close together. In the span of an hour I can rattle down the slope weightless and smash into the bottom out.

Time to pack up my tent, fluff up my hair, and go see if Billy Bob is as scary live as he is on the radio.
In Memory of Mickey
I learned this morning that Cousin Tuesday's beloved friend Mickey has passed away. Mickey was just shy of seventeen years old. A good friend, a family member, a confidant, a beloved soul mate as only a dog can be.

My condonlences on your loss Cousin Tuesday.

Below are some of the words the poet Lord Byron inscribed on the marker for his dog Boatswain:

Near this spot
Are deposited the Remains of one
Who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferocity,
And all the Virtues of Man without his Vices.
This Praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery
If inscribed over human ashes,
Is but a just tribute to the Memory of
BOATSWAIN, a DOG
Who was born at Newfoundland, May, 1803,
And died at Newstead, Nov 18th, 1808.


It's pretty difficult to put a James May/Top Gear reference in here. Mr. May has speculated in one column that dogs could be taught to drive. I know Mickey would have taken Cousin Tuesday to the beach every time out.
I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine. . .
Calling. Calling. Calling.>

Ten of cups keeps calling, calling, calling.

This version of the card is from "The Victorian Tarot". Their website is here.


I can hear you calling. Where are you?
Thursday, August 21, 2008
As wicked as it seems . . . .
Tom Petty's XM Radio show has upped the ante from Toots and the Maytals to Keith Richards' "As Wicked As It Seems".

Reminds me of the line “Cruel and sweet, sweet and cruel as home made sin.”

Yeah, there’s somebody fits that line in my mind. But it’s not nice to say.

When I rambled up to the desk this morning I wanted a cigarette and a beer. That’s no kind of way to feel at 10 a.m.

I had the urge to drop the pc out the window and enjoy the view and a nice cinnamon roll and wait until at least noon before I went to the liquor store.

My employer would have taken a dim view of that behavior so instead I sat down and turned on the performance monitors. I browsed the system telemetry from yesterday and wished I’d picked something else to do for a living. I dutifully chomped down on my angst and wrote a "no lies" bloggie entry to move the plot along.

Now it’s the end of the day and I want something wicked and wonderful.

This looks like a nice mixture of both.

Sometimes smoke is a good thing.

You're right, this isn't a James May reference.

've got a bar of soap sailor boy.>

This week I had to sever a seventeen year friendship. I'd like to say it was a sad thing, but it was a relief. It fell in line with the overall decluttering. Trite as it sounds, it was getting rid of something that drained instead of enriched my life.

There's still forty five minutes left in the day. The monitors are running flat out. I've been through the performance data from this morning. If I have to look at one more DB2 manual I'm going to scream. I'm exhausted, cranky, and hungry. I'd like to go home and get drunk and get laid. Guess which one first?

Instead I'll go to the bookstore for a new novel and I'll go out to dinner by myself. Patient or impatient I'll just have to use my ingenuity and let the future unfold. So "S" tells me. I hope she's still patient and smiling whent hey call her to pry me off the ceiling when I'm up there hanging from the fan and barking. :)
Let's See Communion Wine, Holy Wafers, An Aston Martin. . .
What the hell am I doing?

A blog is a mighty public place to have an existential psycho therapy session. Or is it?

Seriously. A blog is as inconspicuous as a conversation on the Washington Metro at rush hour. The people closest by will eavesdrop and then they will forget. It’s anonymity by hiding in plain sight.

Very few read this crazy thing. It’s one more URL in a sea of electronic commuters.

My closest friends that do read already know that I’m paddling a stormy sea with a Qtip on a saltine cracker raft. We all are.

We’re just living in an age where our “quiet desperation” gets to let out miniscule shrieks on the digital frontier. Since I’ve always been one to think a good scream helps the soul, I’m howling away.

I’m having my spiritual rebirth with colour pictures and flash animation, thank you. In Flash the basic techniques of animation apply. You mark “key points” where the action turns and let the computer do all the messy mapping bits in between. I like to think of my latest growth spurt more in terms of “key points” then as a birthing process. I’d like to skip that whole birth analogy with the bleeding, pain, grunting, and screaming. Don’t even start with that “it’s good pain” crap either. Pain is painful, that’s why they call it pain.

Humor me, women approaching menopause look forward to having clothes and linens that don’t get ruined with blood. There are some sacred sisters who get into the bleeding symbolism. I can’t seem to find the spirituality in having to bail out of bed in the morning and spot scrub all the linens before I go to work.

Jack Kornfield wrote “After Ecstasy, The Laundry”. If the right kind of ecstasy finds its way back into my life, I am going to buy extra sheets so I can have a kip afterwards instead of battling the Kenmore.

There it is again, did you see it? Another neon sign on the pathway just lit up. I hadn’t thought of “After Ecstasy, The Laundry” in years. The mention of a spray-n-wash morning popped the title back into my mind. To make sure I spelled the author’s name right, I looked the book up on Amazon and had a peek inside.

Of course the page Amazon flipped me to was the one where Kornfield talks about the doorways to the journey. He fails to mention watching “Top Gear”. But I get the idea. Spirit calls us each with a voice we can hear. For me it was the sound of a Porsche, A Lamborghini, and an Aston Martin barreling through a tunnel in Italy. It was the sound of James May ranting at the camera, “I wonder how much more of this I have to endure before I can say I’m miserable and I want to go home?”

I’ve asked that question of God many times.

“There’s more for you to do.” Is the answer I receive.

Kornfield begins his book with a quote from Rumi:
“The moment I heard my first story I started looking for you . . . “

By the second page, Kornfield speaks of going into the darkness to find answers amongst the fear.

No wonder “S” smiles at me with that gleam in her eye. She’s been here too. She knows I am like every other timid bunny hopping around in the yard after dark looking for clover.

Is that the initiate’s secret? Finding the door to the path at all? Forgetting what we’ve been taught and remembering what we know?

Knowing God is waiting in the dark woods. Hearing him call me in the sweet rumble of an exhaust note.
Into the darkness . . . .
In the darkness, in the darkness, in the darkness. That’s where the answers lie.

Not in the sun drenched meadows and the playful romps. Not in the street cafes or the sweet wine. Not in the eiderdown. Not in the eternal rolling of the asphalt from the east to the west. Not in the smoky pink of the sunset, but just beyond. Just beyond the candle’s edge.

Where the mummers stop. Where the gleaming beads stop clicking. Where the dance goes without the music. In the space beneath the piano. In the room beyond the closed door. In the attic behind the chimney. In the ocean of night beyond the last channel buoy.

This is where, smiling, I do not want to go. Bound up in bandages pretending to be ribbons, I am afraid that in the darkness all will become undone. My brokenness will show. Brokenness will complete itself. I will fall to dust.

I fear the dust will not answer the shamans call as spirit sings over my bones. I fear I will not rise again a new and completed animal. A camel from the desert. A wolf from the woodlands.

I fear what will spin from the dust will gibber and be mindless. It will be helpless in the world. With no hope of any life to come save nothingness.

I cling to the edge of the light, the edge of the illusion that all is well. But if I forget what I’ve been taught and remember what I know, I’ll go into the darkness and find my home.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
That's the way I've always heard it should be . . .
Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.

That’s what the Pussycat Dolls are singing about this morning in their catchy little stripper dance song. While it would be totally inappropriate for me to throw a leg around one the office’s support columns and begin writhing like an eel, I am doing the “chair bop”.

I will also mention that I am an excellent air drummer. I have a full set of imaginary Zildjians. They are shiny bright, crisp, and clear. I am at my most joyful when I’m submerged headphones deep in a warm aural shimmer. “Whiter Shade of Pale” builds a wall of zillie happiness behind those lyrics.

The highlight of my summer was watching the drummer for the Kentucky Headhunters do his ten minute drum solo. He played with a simple 4 drum kit and a minimal cymbal set up which he powered down on with sticks, brushes, and bare hands.

I’m a drummer at heart and I’ve got those glitchy mad drummer personality traits.

Today I am not ready for my solo though.

Currently I have jammed the online performance detector for over two minutes. I feel like a total spanner. Thick as a brick but not as useful, that’s me on this job. I came in on this project last October as a newbie. I had some basic experience doing these tasks. Since then I’ve either been overloaded with work to the point I’m dazed or I’ve had everything taken away. Either way I’m dazed and confused and stone cold sober to boot.

Now I’ve just jammed the monitor on the other subsystem. I think SMS has migrated the critical datasets off to tape and I‘m waiting for a remigrate to DASD. That means I haven’t had to start the collectors in over two weeks. I’ve forgotten everything again. My notes don’t make any sense.

I’m just having myself a happy little panic attack.

I feel so f**king useless. I hate feeling useless.

The radio has changed over to Carly Simon’s “That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be”. Somewhere along the line I became too broken to think of marriage and children as being a possibility in my life. I don’t know whether I consciously chose or wandered into “spinsterhood”. Looking back it seems the culmination of countless little choices and a few inappropriate boyfriend selections.

When I dive into this state of unmitigated maudlin, I go thru each of those decisions. I examine each link in the logic tree to see if there is one decision I would have made differently.

When I push the nostalgia aside, I always wind up exactly where I am. Anything I counted as a regret when I started my ruminations ends up stacked in a neat pile labeled “collateral damage”. There is no life without compromise. To have kept those regrets at bay I would have had to make a choice that denied my true nature. Esoteric as it sounds, the only way to have repaired those regrets was to have turned into someone else at the time. That would have led to more sorrow.

This places me squarely in midlife without a partner.

Partner being the new word for long term boyfriend, manfriend, or whatever you’re supposed to call your main squeeze when he’s over forty.

It would be easy to say I'm lonely. But lonely isn't the feeling. I have friends, belong to groups, and have a social life.

It would be easy to say I want a husband. But I don't, not really, not just for the sake of saying I have a husband.

My longing is for an Anam Cara. Isn't that what we're born wanting before all the fairy tales and foolishness set in? When we splinter off into the illusion of life, into the illusion that we are separate from God, how can we feel anything but longing?

On the level of being in this life, in this body, I want a companion, a mate, a lover. Like most daft people, I want this person to be my anam cara as well. It's a lot to ask. The older I get, the more I fear that an anam cara may not come for me.

My friend "S" laughs at me in her gentle way. She keeps reminding me that what has happened in the past has nothing to do with what happens in the future. Just because I have been wandering in search does not mean my search will not find.

"S" also laughs at how "wierded out" I was when I found the "fly boy" from last week's dream matched a name and a face from the past. Instead of seeing it as reassuring and astounding, I still find it frightening. It fits hand and glove with my childhood fear that I was born into the world searching for someone that I lost. I feel like I'm wandering around the world in a huge game of "blind man's bluff", calling and being called to by someone I don't quite catch up to. The whole world becoming a giant "funhouse" with floors that give way, windows that open then disappear, doors that move and darkness and distortion everywhere.

I haven't quite settled in and left the fear behind. I haven't learned to "fox walk" as my friends "S" and "V" do. I'm still "she who walks in the dark". I bumble along with the blindfold of fear on all my senses. Part of me knows that if I remove the fear I could navigate this mystery almost as easily as I walk through my own home in the dark at night.

I'm in the point of suspension between the present and the past. I'm hanging like the "Hanged Man", suspended in God's grace and will. The only way past is through. The only way through is to surrender. I've been moved by divine discontent, guided by God, and called through spirit every step of the way over the last two years.

The Moody Blues said it best in my good luck song, "The Voice".

"With your arms around the future and your back up against the past"

Where's my Jame's May reference in this one you ask? I don't even have a Top Gear or car reference thrown in here today to fall back on. Well I'm going to tell you the only reference I have is that I don't have a reference. Give me a break, I'm having an existential melt down!
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Liar Liar Pants On Fire?
My mom and my best friend constantly remind me that men are a different species. As such, men don’t operate the way we do. Things men do amongst themselves for a lark in public would get a woman shived in the ladies room in even the best country clubs.

A case in point would be James May’s “airport shopping dare”. It involves convincing a friend to buy a piece of clothing that is truly hideous. James May and fellow presenter Richard Hammond developed the game to kill time in airports between flights. May brags about being exceptional at cajoling his friends into looking like idiots. He also confesses that Hammond talked him into a bad leather jacket as payback for a pair of bad sunglasses. May took the game up a notch with Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson in the new car showroom. Later on May laments that he helped talk Clarkson into an unsuitable Lamborghini and Clarkson doesn’t trust him anymore so the game is ruined.

In the woman’s world I live in, if you allow a friend to buy a pair of bad sunglasses karma will insure that you get at least two months in purgatory and a bad haircut. If you convince your friend to buy an ugly leather jacket, when they figure out you tricked them they will set about revenge. This revenge will not be limited to airport shopping concourses. Take that friend wedding gown shopping with you and you are guaranteed to go down the aisle looking like an extra from a vampire hooker movie.

Shopping advice is a sacred duty amongst female friends. Men wear trousers and shirts from the time they get out of diapers until they go into the grave. Nothing much changes for them. When middle age attacks them, they just lower their trouser waistbands below their tummies and motor on.

Women are trapped in a fashion world were the clothes are designed for twelve year olds and look bizarre when they are in style. So how do you know if you’ve got this year’s appropriate look? You have to rely on your friends. They are your first line of defense against warped changing room mirrors and commissioned sales people. They also hold in sacred trust your actual size. Men would rent a billboard and list your size, age, and sexual history in a convenient location in front of your workplace. Then they would be dumbfounded when you rummaged your purse for your trusty .44 and put a bullet between their eyes.

This gap in sense of humor makes it difficult to deal with the opposite sex. Since I haven't decided to join the Sisters of Sappho, I'm still trying to find a peaceable median.

But it’s not so much the sense of humor I have trouble getting around as the lying with a sincere face. The very trait that makes an expert at “airport shopping dare”.

I don’t mean the little fibs about missing birthdays, denting the car, and forgetting to pay the gas bill. I mean the whoppers. But more then that, I mean the run-of-the-mill bull. The crap they throw at you to “get a leg over”.

Remember I was raised by a woman born in 1926. I had that “love” crap drilled into my head. I’m not one of the generation that has “hook ups” or “friends with benefits” or “f**k buddies”. I’m a throwback stegosaurus who doesn’t include “casual” in her repertoire. Unless you are Johnny Depp, I’m not likely to come out of the stone ages for you.

If guys would just come out and say, “Hey I'm not really interested in getting to know you. I just thought we’d go out for some laughs, I’m looking for a quick bit, nothing past next week.” I’d really appreciate it. I’d have the opportunity to say “No thank you.” up front or accept knowing exactly what I was wandering into. It would be a hell of a lot easier then dealing with mistaken assumptions and anger. If I get called a “frigid lesbian” one more time, I’m liable to take a hasty action with a firearm.

If we are out to save the baby seals and the red crested snookie bird, how about throwing a life line out to the middle aged daters? I’ll admit I’ve been living under a rock for the last six years. I’ll admit I have no clue what’s hip, I’m happy to go to the opera. And before you jump on the “evolution” speech, remember I’m out of the breeding pool. I’m not looking to pass my traits on to anyone else; I’m just looking for a little somethin’ somethin’ to get me through to my dotage.

At this stage of the game I’m like a vintage car, I’ve got my secret starting procedures and my rust spots beneath the carpet. But, I’ll guarantee there’s not another one out there just like me and I’m not quite ready for the junk yard yet.

For better or for worse, the glitch in my ignition is lies. I can’t seem to get around them. They tick me off and make me walk away before a guy’s even gotten well into play.

It’s my personal tick. Earned thru years of experience.

When I was nine years old I watched my father pack for another of his business trips. He patted me on the head and told me he’d be back the following week. After he left, my mother told me that he wasn’t coming back, ever. He’d found a new family and we weren’t in it.

Dad was the most fantastic liar I’ve ever seen. He looked like a young Robert Wagner. He had the sly, sharp charm, and the all encompassing grin. He never failed to let me down. He forgot birthdays, forgot middle names, forgot to tell me he remarried, forgot child support payments and he lied about it all. All he had to do was talk to me for five minutes and I’d forgive him anything.

Somewhere along that line my “lie detector” instincts got a bit tangled. When I layered on boyfriends and fiancés over the years, my instincts became spotty at best. I finished up the “Alice in Wonderland Trifle” of experience with the males of the species with a full tilt sociopath.

Sociopaths are the best liars in the world because their reality changes second by second. They always believe they are telling the truth. It’s your fault if their “truth” changes thirty seconds later. They will say or do anything to get exactly what they want in each and every moment. They are Tony Award winning quality performers in the craft of lies.

You’d think that my self-defense mechanism would pick up some lie-detector ability after all these years.

Hell, even at work my boss just confessed that he lied his boney ass off to get me to take this assignment because he couldn’t get anyone else to do it.

Now I’m making decisions about career, job, mom, and that infamous “other species”, all premised on the belief that anyone who tells me anything is lying.

“W” and I were chatting earlier this week. The conversation was littered with the underlying subtext of each of us trying to figure out if the other was lying to “get a leg over”. We did the verbal dance, we minced words, and we left things unsaid.

“W” used to say that I caught him in every lie. It was a slick way for him to get out of being caught with his foot in a fib. I don’t doubt there were some doozies that sailed past me like the breeze.

"D" says that you can tell if a man is lying because his mouth is moving. When he's quiet, he's thinking up his next lie.

My mom says that women love their children and they love their pets but there’s never been a man yet who loved anybody but himself. I’m becoming more and more afraid she’s right.

When me and my fellow stegosaurus romanticus sisters die, perhaps we’ll leave a stronger generation of women in our place. Maybe this whole love bullshit business will be pushed to the back of their minds and they’ll build there lives on something more then fairy tales and lies.


James May's Airport Shopping Dare Columns Can Be Found At These Links:

James May Dares, Wins

Truth Card
Monday, August 18, 2008
Closetland
Closetland.

That was another word that had dropped out of my consciousness. More sinister then “moggy” and more meaningful.

It was a quietly kept move with Alan Rickman and Madeline Stowe. Sponsored by Amnesty International, it dealt with oppression and physical and psychological torture.

I found it on video and only then because I’m a aficionado of Alan Rickman’s work. My friend Carolyn and I camped out in front of the television to watch.

It took us three hours to watch a ninety minute movie. It was too intense. We kept having to pause it and take a break. The horror of the movie is driven by Rickman's performance. It's in what he says, how he says it, and how he moves. He stays in a tight, concise character that resonnates unstoppable energy. There are no graphic scenes of violence, no blood, and no heroes. It's just Rickman's character interrogating a woman in a nightgown and it is nauseatingly horrific.

“Closetland” came out a few months after my stepfather died. My mom was fighting his children to keep her home and possessions. Work was downsizing and I was always two steps away from the noose. On the recommendation of my physician I went to see a family counselor.

On our second visit I handed her the video of “Closetland”. I’d rubber banded a slip of paper to it that said “Can you understand?”

It was the first time I was able to admit to myself that my childhood had not been the same as everyone else’s.

When the house I grew up in was sold, I was the last one out. I set the door locks, took a last look around and whispered, “Goodbye Closetland.”

Twenty years on I still have to remind myself that “I got away.”

For information on the movie “Closetland” Click here.
This one's for you. . . .
Cousin Tuesday, this blog’s for you. Well, with the exception of the obligatory James May reference. Hmm. Do you suppose James has ever had a Schlitz chilled by hanging it in front of a window air conditioner? That, my friend, is quality entertaining.

I’m still looking for the “green mustang” picture. I though I had it attached to my scrap book, but it isn’t in there. It must be in my old photo album, the white one with pics from the 70’s in it.

Of course neither of us was old enough to be out without our parents back then. Ahem.
Let alone own a car or get up to mischief. We being only 4 or 5 years old at the time.

Every once and a while during the remodel, a red telephone light button would fall out of a box of bric-a-brac. I’d have to stop until I quit laughing.

I remember the “grilled cheese” incident. It was during my first tentative attempts at being a hostess at home there in “Closetland”. It didn’t take long for me to realize I was about as domesticated as a Snow Leopard.

Ok, so maybe I’m a Snow Leopard that knows how to manage a household. But I’m not up to hosting a dinner party. If I have to figure out the mechanics of being a social butterfly, I’m going back up the mountain and sit in the snow!

All this reminds me that it’s time to stick a claw in the AC filter and pull it down for replacement. Yes, I buy the more expensive filters and for one simple reason; it cuts the dust. The less dust on the flat shiny bits of décor then less money you spend on cleaning staff. That’s right, cleaning staff. I have a maid service that comes in every few weeks and does the scrubbing. I work a zillion hours a week at a grizzly job to pay the mortgage and there’s a few pennies left to pay for cleaners. It’s cheaper then doing it myself.

Odd as that may sound, if I add up how long it actually takes me to clean and then multiply it by my hourly rate, the maid service is one third cheaper.

Plus having a service buys me back my Saturdays. You know Saturdays? It’s the day you take care of the car, take the mom out for lunch, do the laundry, open the mail, pay the bills, go to the bank, go to the grocery store, take a nap, and watch the DVR’d episodes of Top Gear? Most of the time I combine the nap with the Top Gear so it’s a good thing they scream and blow things up a lot or I’d be dead sound asleep for the evening by 5:30 p.m.

If they drive a Bugatti Veyron I will wake from a sound sleep at the mention of the name. Drool trickles from the corners of my mouth and I feel my heart break with yearning.

In one episode Jeremy Clarkson says that he is distraught because his time behind the wheel of the Veyron is over and he’ll never have that joy again. How maudlin do you think I feel? I’ve never had the joy at all!

Meanwhile Cousin Tuesday you have owned a Mustang. “W” is currently sporting around in a Mustang GT. I am rambling through town in a door bashed Sable that has a good sized engine for a commuter car. It also has all the comfort you need when you spend three hours a day in a car and haul around an 82 year old. I have that sad sweet longing to make enough money to be impractical.

Cousin Tuesday, at this point I will point you to a column by Jeremy Clarkson on why it is better to rent a dog than a prostitute:

Jeremy Clarison Times UK

You will appreciate the fine logic. Jeremy thinks a bit like we do.

I flipped through Mr. May’s columns as of late. They all make him sound like an alkie and not a clever one at that. So no recommendations for his work online. He varies from the alcohol theme on a post at TopGear.Com but in it he talks about conning Jeremy into buying a car that he doesn’t really like. Sounds like a sweet man.


May I suggest at this point you visit this “Walk Down Memory Timeline” from out good friends at:

http://riunite.com/timeline/



Good Times, Good Times
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Sunny Sunday
Sunday morning. Woke up to a bright sunny eight a.m.

Immediately went back to sleep until just shy of noon.

Much better.

The laundry is perking along, the stereo is thumping, the plants are watered, and the grocery list is coming together nicely.

No bizarre nightmares last night. As long as it took me to fall asleep I could have gone to the drive in to catch “Hellboy II”. I want to see it on the big-big screen and it’s up third on the bill so it starts at 1 a.m. You get a discount if show up for the third feature. Oh well.

The Rhapsody player is serving up new albums by Cindy Lauper and Rick Springfield. The past seems to be on the spin cycle and it keeps looping to the top lately. But perhaps it’s not riding the steel belted radial of memory but the sweet fresh blacktop of continuity.

I chatted a bit with “W” last night. He was a bit rattled with the idea of “Glory Days” goggles. They’re like beer goggles but they strike when you’re stone cold sober and nostalgic. They help you forget little things. Little things like when your ex-fiancé showed up at your house wearing another woman’s track suit. Or when you caught him getting a "hummer" from the neighborhood race car groupie.

Little things that keep you from remembering the relationship with a fond glow.
I don’t think “W” has a set of “Glory Days” goggles where I’m concerned. He remembers our time together more as a Texas Cage Match. I seem to have forgotten everything but feeling warm and loved.

I imagine we were both hell on wheels . He reminded me that I was in constant pain back then. I’d blocked that out. It wasn’t until four years ago that I met up with a medication that keeps the pain down to “occasionally”.

God, it was a wonder anybody could put up with me then.

“W” deserves a combat medal.

What really surprised me about our convo was that he had read my blog. He used to avoid anything I’d written like the plague. The obvious question might be, “Will I stop writing so openly now that I know he’s reading?” The answer is “No”.

I didn’t behave myself a decade ago, why should I start now?

“W” is used to the unvarnished me, so I don’t think he’ll mind. Besides, now isn’t the time to start being “mysterious” and “duplicitous” anyway.

I get the feeling he thinks I’m a bit loopy when I say that I do still love him. But that’s ok. I didn’t expect anything when I said it. It was just important to say. People need to know they are loved.

I learned the very tough lesson that love for someone can exist perfectly well without reciprocation. Sometimes it’s much better to love someone from a very great distance. There is a thin line between sacrifices made for love and self-immolation. If you allow that which you love to destroy you, then you are a broken instrument in the world and then you cannot do what you’ve been sent to do. Just loving someone or something is enough to keep you human.

But boy sometimes that lesson sucks like a Hoover!

Since I have a grocery list and I need to go get some more of that great pain med from the pharmacy, I’ll toddle off. Where’s my James May reference you may ask?
Well I’ll include the picture of my desk below. J2 has sent me plenty of goodies in the Royal Mail. Some of the treats are on my desk.


Yikes!
Friday, August 15, 2008
Round and Round She Goes
Today is a “down” day. The car is rolled securely up in the parking lot, half the office is on vacation, and I can hear “BB” cleaning his SLR camera two cubicles away. “BB” is the unofficial office photog and he took pics for a going away luncheon.

BB has a cubicle full of photos of steam trains, rebuilt cars, and flowers. He tells me that he rebuilds classic cars on the weekend. He also tells me his friends have threatened an “intervention” if he doesn’t toss the clutter in his house. BB is charming, witty, blue eyed, and stops to talk every time he walks by. I’m hoping he’ll pony up and give the girl some play.

As part of my new “Get it in gear” policy I asked him out last weekend. I received a gentle and graceful let down. He didn’t get the “coyote arm” face, so who knows?

My boss at work wasn’t able to transfer me out yesterday. However the team manager for our contracting company transferred my work to the “new guy”. So far there is silence. My boss has told me to sit back and relax since I’ve been running myself crazy for the last six months.

I’m on the clock with the waiting game for the interview earlier this week.

It’s “Hanged Man” time. Time to suspend and be still. Time to surrender to the divine flow. All things in God’s time. All prayers are heard. I’ve asked God to come in and arrange things, help me, and set the situation to his will for me.


The Hanged Man


All this trying to be calm and patient has left my thoughts rattling in my head like jumping beans. So the writing will go gamboling a bit today.


Spent an hour or so chatting with “W” last night. It’s odd but we seemed to have picked up where we left off. I think we put our “Glory Days Goggles” on when we chat. But it’s fun.

J2 has emailed me more photos of the mysterious labradoodle from the video. It’s name is Jasper, it’s got white curly fur cut short, and apparently is thick as a brick. Jasper will ride in the car without a lot of fuss and prefers to lay with his head on J2’s foot as opposed to anywhere else in the house.

I also received some nice pics of Hampstead Heath. Someplace in my top desk drawer there is a chestnut I picked up on a walk at HH a few years ago. I remember the “heath” the best of all the places we visited. Mostly I remember being thirsty and exhausted the whole trip. I was with a friend who insisted on taking every walking tour in the book. We walked incessantly day and night. She didn’t like the idea of just sitting down to look at a place and get the feel of it for a few moments. She had a punch list and “tickety boo” we were on the run!

We did a daytrip to Edinburgh by train. That was nice. I got to see the countryside and something besides London. London is like Baltimore or DC. A city is a city, no matter how many ghosts from ages past supposedly roam around its streets. Edinburgh felt like home. When we got off the train I got that warm fuzzy twinge that tells you that you’ve been someplace before. I kept up with the breakneck pace of my cohorts but later in the afternoon wandered off into a neighborhood. I followed where the instinct led. I wound up at a stone apartment enclave. I came over dizzy and almost passed out. When the spinning stopped, I took photographs of the place and hurried back to the group. We were due for the train back to London.

I have one of the photos I took of that neighborhood on my mantelpiece at home. It’s a panoramic shot of a row of buildings in the bright September sunshine. There is one window in that jumble of apartments that I have inkling about. I’ve dubbed it “my window”.

I’ve never felt the need to go back to Edinburgh. It was a flick of chance that I wound up there in the first place. Part of me thinks that I just needed to go there once, just to prove to something else in myself that it was still there. Who knows? Maybe I was just tired and thirsty and a wee bit demented.

I’ve felt more then a wee bit demented with some of the dreams I’ve had the last few weeks. They’ve been peculiar dreams about the time of WWII. It was fall, late September to Mid-October. I saw insignias, jacket patches, squadron numbers, and the eyes of someone I knew was going to die in a freak plane crash. I called him by his first name and begged him not to go. He just smiled and told me that he had to go. Anything less would be desertion. He died when his plane hit the water without having ever been fired upon.

Since today was a “down” day, I doodled around with Google. I put in the squadron number and found it belonged to a real RAF squadron. I found a website dedicated to it. There was a list of pilots who had died in their planes. The first name and details of the freak accident were on the third page I read. He was on transfer to another squadron at the time, being moved closer to the main fighting. The month was October. He had been with the original squad less then a month. I searched the photo gallery but didn’t find the face or the eyes from my dream.

I won’t mention the squad or the name out of respect. Was it coincidence, forgotten history class from college, something else? I’ll never know. I’m rattled to say the least.

This would be the point where I’d throw in my obligatory Top Gear James May reference. But what is there to say? I watch James May careen around in fast cars each week on BBC America. In one episode he flies a plane with Richard Hammond across France. It doesn’t seem a very good connection on such a down day.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
James May & Alton Brown A Match Made In TV Heaven
James May and Alton Brown a match made in cable channel heaven.

Since BBC America came to my FIOS channel lineup I’ve become addicted to Top Gear. Sure I watch Hotel Babylon, Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares, and Doctor Who.

Top Gear is a different animal from anything else I’ve ever seen. We have Motor Week and they do their fair share of tacking a camera on the dashboard and showing the road through the windshield of a sports car. But MotorWeek only shows the empty car and the road, you never see the driver and you never hear their comments. The test drive segments are dubbed with a scripted voiceover by someone who sounds like he’s never even driven a car. There is no engine roar, no tire smoke, no pop eyed presenter steering out of a slide, and most importantly there is no fun. Top Gear puts adult hosts in the cars we all wish we could get our hands on. They compete in bizarre competitions that most of us would give a week of vacation and a tooth or two to try. Last season they crossed the English Channel in a pickup truck!

In the middle of all the gleeful madness, there is one host in the group that always seems to have the history of the clutch pedal or the Archimedes principle on the tip of his tongue. James May. In the challenges he always explains to the viewer the logic behind his choices. He’s a repository of eclectic knowledge. Sometimes I watch just to see what he’ll come up with next.

He’s a lot like the gear head version of Alton Brown. Alton Brown is a kitchen science geek who has taken FoodTV by storm. His series, Good Eats, takes basic ingredients and basic cooking techniques and explains how they work together. In an tip on Bruschetta, Brown explains that the browning of toast is caused by the Maillard Reaction. More importantly he does it with a wacky example involving a telescoping fork and a blackboard. Alton Brown's science entertains and sticks with you. The next time you are confronted with a cooking dilemma, you remember his stash of tricks and can use them for the amazement of your dinner guests.

Alton Brown has the same ability to produce facts, figures, and wry wit as James May. Brown has produced two special television series on motorcycling across the United States in search of local roadside eats. He’s done entire episodes from inside camping caravans. May has done a series from California wine country in a motor home.

Brown and May seem to be cut from the same cloth. What would happen if the two of them put on a television series together? James could lead Alton on a motorbike journey across England, Wales, and Scotland to discover the local pub grub. Alton could take James through the Southern United States and shown him that Americans aren't all as bad as our press. Two gear head science geeks on a leisurely cruise on motorcycles. Adventure and misadventure are sure to follow.

I’d watch it. I’d by the DVD just to watch it twice.
Billy Bob We Hardly Knew Ye
This morning I took a forty four magnum hand gun and put a bullet through my husband’s brain.

His face held a surprised look for a moment. Then he dropped straight down to the floor.

I hated the carpet in the bedroom anyway. The walls are going to need repainting, but I’ve already picked the color so no big problem there.

That ruddy bastard won’t tell me what to do ever again. His gob is permanently silenced. His nasty bendy fingers are permanently kept to himself.

My life is my own again. I can go buy myself a new Mustang GT or go insane and get an oversized Cadillac. I can double dip my knife in the peanut butter with impunity.

Am I worried about murder charges, prison, or prosecution?

No.

Shortly after Billy Bob splarched up the beige carpet with his brains, I woke up.

It’s a repeating nightmare. I wake up one sunny morning with a bad case of coyote arm, married to somebody that I don’t even know. This time it was Billy Bob Thornton. He appears a lot. Sometimes I pop into the dream trapped in a pick up truck going to Arkansas with him at the wheel. In those I can never get the doors open to get out, we stop at the Waffle House and I drink bad coffee and try to escape by running away across an ever widening parking lot.

In the past my boyfriends would appear in the dream's starring role. The dream would start with an ideal honeymoon day and end with me stealing a car and heading for Vegas.

I may have a tiny problem with commitment. I know I have a huge problem with the idea that some man is going to have his paws all over me at will and have access to my bank account to boot.

I’m over forty now, I’m like a five year old car with door dings and key scratches. I have memories of the bastards who made the door dings and I tend to park in the far off row by myself. It’s not that I don’t want to be in the parking lot or that I don’t want to flash my lights at the sports cars, but I don’t want to throw myself into a twenty car pile up either.

The other day when I signed my mom out from the assisted living she asked which name she should use. She’s had two married names and both husbands were rat bastards. I told her to use “her” name. She put down her maiden name.

At this stage of the game, if I got around to getting married, I’d keep my name. Why change it now? It’s the name I inherited from my beloved grandfather. Unless I found somebody with a spectacular name like Depp, Justin, Jasper, or some other short surname higher up the alphabet then McQuinn, how could I benefit?

I will never be a cooking, cleaning, homemaking, domestic goddess. I don’t want to be.

Cousin Tuesday once asked me if when I got married, wouldn’t I cook meals? My answer was, “If I don’t do it for myself why would I do it for somebody else?”

Certainly if I had small children, the elderly, or the infirm to care for, I’d find a way to provide nourishment for them. But as for a healthy husband, if he wants a cook he’d better hire one. I work 50 hours a week or more. I hire out the housework. I do the laundry while I’m working at home. I’m lining up a grocery delivery service to bring in the essentials.

But this has nothing do with Billy Bob Thornton or the Waffle House. Although if I woke up married to Billy Bob Thornton, I’d know he had gone potty as well. It all has to do with years of being controlled, manipulated, and left in the lurch by male family members who controlled my fate at the time. Combine it with a decade or so of working with overbearing “good old boys” who manipulated the workplace and you’ve got me in full on “leave me alone!” mode.

From time to time I remember how good it was to have a stable relationship and share a home. I remember fighting over the bathroom mirror. I remember Christmas mornings and sleepy Sundays.

I just don’t know if I’m capable of letting anyone else that close again. I’ve joined up with the school of “I love you dearly, why can’t you live next door?”

I see other women friends my age, their husbands have taken up mouse like living in a hidey hole somewhere around the house. They have an office, a library, a den, or James May’s proverbial “shed”.

Why can’t they just stay in their own house to begin with? Truly, at this stage of the game most of us have our own houses. We have our own apartments. We make the payments and it all works out.

When “W” and I lived together it was out of crazy love and absolute necessity. We couldn’t pay attention, let alone two rents.

But now, why can’t I have a world that joyfully intersects instead of becomes sublimated? Why can’t old stinky socks nest next door? We have lamps in the window and telephones to let our wishes be known to one another. It would be subtle and polite. Instead of having to hear “For God’s sake woman you’re going to kill me!” or “I have to have enough strength left to mow the lawn this afternoon.”, I could observe a delicately closed window shade. It would be much easier on the ego.


Why ask why, I know. It seems all is madness or absolute solitary. I’m suddenly wistful for a gentle middle ground. Perhaps it’s the angle of the sun, poised between the furor of July and the sad slip into darkness of September. Perhaps it’s the idea of giving up my comfy desk and sunny window to work in a rat maze and advance my career.

Too many choices and none of them optimal.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Nobody Expects the Spainish Inquisition!
Well ok, maybe I did.

I've been prepping for the interview since I applied for the job the first week of June.

Since I suspected that I’d have to walk the three quarter of a mile from the guest parking to the security checkpoint, I arrived 45 minutes early. I took the walk up the hill, praise God I didn’t keel over in the humid heat. I made the security checkpoint and phoned the person who will be my boss. During our meet and greet I discovered that she isn’t doing the interviews. Odd but true. Since I was still 30 minutes early, she took me back to her desk and we had a chat. I whipped out a copy of my resume, smiled, joked, and bubbled like a cinnamon roll.

I also found out that I’m in competition with someone on the inside. But I was told I had a chance. My spidey sense told me there is a struggle going on in the mix and I truly was the favored candidate by some.

The interview was draconian. I was ushered into a conference room to face a panel of three people. They stationed me so I could see the clock on the wall and handed me a pen and paper. Then they slipped a face down sheet of paper onto the table in front of me. They told me that I had 45 minutes to answer the questions once I turned the paper over. I flashed back to my High School SAT test nightmares.


I asked if I could use a word processor to type out my answers. They smiled knowingly and explained that I was to answer the questions verbally. The pen was in case I needed to make notes. They then told me that they weren’t allowed to comment or ask questions.

Facing my stoney panel of inquisitors I smiled, handed out copies of my resume for their note books, and gave a brief description of my experience. Then I went to work. I dumped out every technique, catchphrase, bit of technojargon, and war story I could come up with to answer the questions. I smiled, joked, emphasized teamwork, talked about the importance of good communication with customers, and flew the flag of unity and harmony amongst the departments. I finished all 8 questions in 40 minutes, smiled, thanked the for their time, and shook hands all around.

I felt like I'd just done my own one woman stage play. The woman who escorted me out of the building told me that I would receive a yes or no answer but it would take a month or so. When he shook hands at the door she said she hoped a decision would be made "soon".

My time in governmental systems has taught me patience. Being "Celtic", as it's called around here, I am genetically designed to hang on like a terrier. So hang on I shall.


I molly coddled my nerves on the way over to the office and slipped in quietly to find a pot of shite boiling to overflow.

All the work I've done for the last 3 weeks is being tossed out and they're giving it to the new kid on the team to redo. Of course they don't say anything I've done is wrong. So what the hell? The customer just doesn't want to do anything that we've requested so if somebody else wastes a week that accomplishes what????

To top things off I found out that the new kid on the team is a five star a**hole that got kicked out of the last place I worked. I want to work with this back stabbing psychopath like I want another set of bad root canals.

I've asked for a meeting with my boss tomorrow morning. There's been talk of finding me another posting, at the current job. Please God.

Tonight is going to be an occasion for "church key" use. If you're too young to know what a "church key" is then shame on you!

I hope the liquor store takes credit cards.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Notes From The Underground
Played with the digital camera today.

Below: The whiteboard in my cubie. Everybody has cute slogans about what would Jesus do? What would Buddah do? What would Krishna do? Since I believe in keeping religion and work separate I chose:

Stiggy!

Below: My tableau of creature comforts in my home away from home. There's the obligatory half-dead plant, the pitcher of tea brewing, mandatory mickey-d's toy, XM radio, and for the lunch time giggle there's Jeremy Clarkson's book. (Apologies to James May, read him last week.)

Creature Comforts
Miss Wiggly Pants
Ok, it’s Monday afternoon and I can’t sit still. I’ve checked my email, checked my class registrations, phoned everybody that needed phoning, pulled out my study notes, and tried to talk myself into being calm.

I feel like I could jump right out of my skin.

This is that wiggly, tingly feeling I get when something is happening somewhere that I can’t see but will change my life like a lightning bolt.

I found out this morning that there are going to be some changes coming up at work for me. I’ve been told not to discuss it with “anyone”. So I’m not discussing. (Like anybody reads this crazy thing anyway!)

I’ve been weighing the ideas and options about the career. Sadly I see a way to feel more useful, make more money, and have better benefits. What I don’t see is anything on my current path that would take me anyplace where I anticipate being happy.

Happy is a strange word in my vocabulary too. I don’t think I’ve used it in reference to a job in as many years as I’ve thought about the practicality of a moggy.

I’ve been doing this wicky wacky computer bizz for twenty two years. I studied this foolishness in college for three years. Starting out as a tape ape on the second shift, I’ve worked my way up to technical guru. I’m absolutely sick of it. It’s the only thing I’ve got to make a living. Stuck in the middle.

“Clowns to the left of me. Jokers to the right. Here I am stuck in the middle with . . . . “ With nobody but myself.

The wheels on my brain powered hamster wheel are going way to fast.
What's A Vauxhall?
Pet Shop Boys music seems about right for a moggy Monday. The word “moggy” has been gone out of my vocabulary for a decade. Then J2, aka JeremyB, used it in an email. I stopped and stared at it for a second before my brain spooled up the meaning. Cat.

I can always tell how fast J2 is writing his emails. If he’s going low and slow he converts everything into “American”. It he’s on a tear he leaves it Brit and uses things like tyre, colour, and moggy. J2 is not a moggy fan, he is a dog aficionado. He lists James May and his cat as one of the reasons he has a stout fence around his home.

On Friday I received another parcel marked “Royal Post”. It contained a copy of “And Another Thing” by Jeremy Clarkson, some photographs, and a computer CD.

J2 is a Jeremy Clarkson for PM supporter. Thank God he is not as witty or rough in convo as Clarkson or I’d have to put a flame suppressor on my email program!

As yummy as Jeremy Clarkson’s writing is, the treasure in the package was the CD. It contained video footage taken on a cell phone of J2s annual car wreck. He says he took the video for insurance purposes. I suspect he took it in case the other driver killed him before the tow truck arrived. Once again he has slid a car off the road, into a ditch, and upside a tree. God bless him.

He was in a Vauxhall. No Rover, Jaguar, or other exotic beauty had to suffer for his sins this time. In his defense, he says this is his “biff about” car and at least it’s not a Fiat Panda. If he’d have hit that tree in a Panda I’d be getting funeral details from his secretary.

At least he has a sense of humor about it. The Vauxhall will be back on the road sometime next week.

The videos included some footage of a summer garden, a labradoodle dog, and some linoleum samples. He wants my opinion of which one will go best in the kitchen.

Since I picked tropical colors for my house, I may not have the keenly trained eye to make something socially acceptable for the UK. I know I wouldn’t pick the white looking ones because they’ll be forever grotty. I know I wouldn’t pick the brown one because it clashes with the cabinets. The greenish one looks practical but I don’t know what the rest of the colour scheme looks like.

J2 will be well pleased to know that I’m spreading the sedition of Jeremy Clarkson amongst my friends. I gave “D” the first book and she’s giggling her way through it. She even read me a passage over the phone the other night.

Saturday I finally bought a digital camera. I’ve been practicing up with shots of the Tuxedo Inn. I will have my Flickr page updated and linked into the blog shortly.

I took the camera with me when mom and I went out yesterday. A vintage Rolls Royce wound up behind us in traffic so I took a few snaps to add to my “Rearview Mirror” album. I have a set of pics taken from where I spend most of my time, behind the wheel of a car.

Cousin Tuesday, please try the play list on the side bar. If you click through and tell Rhapsody you don’t want to register, they should pop up a live player that requires no installation. Let me know how it works. Please?
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
Hat Pin In The Arse
It’s been two years ago this month that I put mom’s house on the market. From August 2006 through July 2008 I spent almost every day off from work packing, sorting, selling, donating, moving, and unpacking something somewhere.

I cleaned out mom’s house in five days and had it repaired and up on the market in seven. It was on the market for one year and nine months. In the end we took less then one fourth of the original asking price.

This morning I took the last step in selling her car, I turned in the tags.

Everything that made up her home and her independent life is scattered to the wind. All her bank accounts are in my joint care. There is no longer a need for a will. My last chore is to update the advanced directive and to relocate the prepaid funeral plan from Florida to Maryland.


When it all started I was taking care of two cars, a house I couldn’t live in, an apartment, a cranky community association, two sets of health plans, a vacant lot, and a dog that didn’t belong to me.

In the two years it took to set things right for mom’s new lifestyle, I bought my first house, moved, remodeled, quit my job of twenty years, took up a new career with a contracting company and started the job search again. It was less then a month ago that I finished remodeling my house and sat down to catch my breath. I'm used to a two page long "to do" list.

“W” and I spent an hour chatting on the web last night. I filled him in on the fun things I’m lining up for this year.

His comment was “You don’t know what to get into next do you?”

“Your pants.” Was the obvious answer, but I’m not the girlfriend anymore. Haven't been for a decade. Bad come-on lines, no matter how funny, are a no-no in polite "ex" conversation.

I answered "Singing lessons" and let it slide.

We chatted about the rush in scooter sales, the Iris garden, and his sister’s 1968 Mustang. Then he dropped the hammer.

“I expected you to say ‘my pants’ ya know.” He said.

“Trying to be polite. “ I was glad he couldn’t see me rolling my eyes.

We went back to chatting about Aston Martins, James May suffering for his craft, and how “W” no longer has cable television. When I emailed him the info on driving school, he laughed himself to tears. He remembers me driving his “Burnt Bright Bittersweet” colored Capri with its touchy accelerator. He had problems with it stalling at traffic lights. I dropped it out of automatic and shifted it through the gears by hand to keep it going. The exhaust backpressure would make the engine balk during the lower range changes. I let it rev a little higher before I’d up shift.

I did a stint of taking his mother to the grocery store and around town, she noticed my technique.

“Leave it to you to find a way to make the thing work.” She laughed. “You never give up do you?”

“W”s mom is currently driving her own car, running her own house, taking care of a daughter recovering from a brain tumor, and taking care of her 102 year old sister in-law. She’s 85 years old. “W”s mom never gives up either.

In the words of Captain Jack Sparrow “Funny old world isn’t it?”

We’ve all spun around to “start” again.

I’ve been jabbed by the divine hat pin in my un-divine backside. It’s rev up now or forever be stalled in the intersection.

When I called the insurance agent to cancel the insurance on mom’s car, I asked about rates for a new Mustang/Camaro/Challenger. For my bracket, they’ be about 180$ more a year. Very encouraging. I have a nice sized check from Snowball’s sale to start the car fund.

I’ve started registration for non-credit classes at college in September and October. It’s 10 weeks before I have to have my pre-class 20 page manuscript to the teacher. It’s 5 weeks before I hit the dance studio for the first time in years. Skip Barber is up for late summer 2009.

That means tonight I’ll be back in the studio room of the house working away. I’ll be doing exercises to strengthen my back and whacking a manuscript together out of thin air.

Time’s a wastin’.
Monday, August 04, 2008
Lost Mind: No Reward Offered
I have lost my mind. No, that’s a lie, I didn’t loose it, I opened the window and tossed it out on the roadside. Right now a crew of convicts with sticks are wrangling it off the gravel and into a bin bag.

I went to bring up the IBM SMP/E Primer and my computer malfunctioned. I wound up on the Skip Barber racing school live chat page. Somebody then used my fingers to ask the rep questions about programs, cars, driving shoes, locations, and schedules. Before I was done, that person had picked out the 2 day High Performance Driving School class for me at the Lime Rock location. That same person is trying to find out if they use Porsche or BMW cars there. She’s always had an aversion to BMWs because, in this area, their drivers are wankers.

This same possessed person then went to CarMax and started looking at Porsches. She’s also been seen on the loose at the GM Camaro and Dodge Challenger websites.

If I don’t stop this girl soon, I may have another car in the driveway. Only yesterday I sold my second car to an excited sixteen year old boy who is probably covering it with bumper stickers by now.

No new car can park itself in my driveway until I get a new job. A new gas tank to feed is going to need more scratch in the till. The newest job I applied for closed today, so the applications will take another two to three weeks to get to the interview board. I really should be reading the SMP/E Primer. I am shooting for a job wrestling 32,000 MIPS under the hood. (Yes, MIPS is millions of instructions per second.) It would be a nice motor to drive on the information super highway. The one I’m angling for also spans 12 time zones and rattles enough cages to draw national attention should it “fall down and go boom”. That, of course, doesn’t scare me as much as the prospect of staying at the same old for the rest of the seven year contract.

I have lost my mind to want to jump into that size electronic buffer pool. At lest part of me thinks that. Right now that part is having a fight with the part that picked out driving school. If they stay busy fighting it out, I might have time to read a few chapters of the SMP/E Primer before I go home for the night.

Ok, I missed the James May reference in this part of today's post. Consider this it! "pbbbbft!"
Unsuitable Misadventure
The cable box went wacky yesterday afternoon. Not an unusual occurrence, I have to reboot it a couple of times a week. Yesterday’s “snafu” happened just as I sat down to eat a sandwich. Undaunted, I flipped on the DVD player.

It spooled up to the Top Gear Guys driving their gentlemen’s racers down a narrow, twisty, mountain road. As they wound downhill, Jezza and Richard revved up and braked and swirled their way along, whooping and giggling with glee. James winced and wiggled and grumbled. With each shift James banged his elbow on part of his Vantage N24's integral safety cage. He joked he was going faint from being dehydrated. He yipped that his “gentlemen’s business” had gone numb. He pushed the Aston Martin and the cabin filled with engine roar that drowned out his comments to the camera. When he slowed, the words “bleeding from the ears” were followed by a wince as he clanged his elbow again.

For all its beauty and power, the Vantage N24 was brutal, painful, and unsuitable.

Unsuitable sounds like a mince Victorian word, but it fits here, it connotes grudging admiration for an object while still damning it for not belonging. I’ve loved men who were “unsuitable” and it always ended in “misadventure”. Misadventure being another delicate Victorian word for self-induced tragedy.

I reconsidered my envy of James for the grand sum total of thirty seconds. He was suffering misadventure while driving an unsuitable car, but he was still larking down a European mountainside in a sports car. He wasn’t schlepping through bumper to bumper traffic in a blinding snowstorm. He wasn't enduring a snowboound Toyota's only heat source scalding his right foot just so his paycheck wouldn’t be docked a day. He was being paid to tell people how miserable he was in a car he picked out himself.

Jezza and Richard had selected air conditioned racers with comfortable seats and all the amenities and they were ahead of him on the road.

For all his careful consideration he had neglected practicality. Speed purchased by technical perfection was lost to the bone crushing abuse forcing the suffering James to slow down.

I turned the DVD player off. I wanted to leave my envy intact; I wanted to believe in the beauty and majesty of the N24. A little voice in my head said that with the proper attire, with a racing headset, with a cold clear October day, on a winding track somewhere there was enviable joy to be had with the N24. Joy that was still possible in a place and time where the Vantage N24 was suitable and misadventure was only a distant shadow in the minds eye.

Perhaps tonight, after work, when the house is dark and I am discouraged from the day, I’ll turn the DVD player on and watch James reach the bottom of the mountain. I’ll watch him roast like a squab and tell myself it’s all sour grapes.

I know I’ll be lying to myself. In my heart I’ll know that it’s still better to come to misadventure in an unsuitable car than to be practical and spend my days in a job I hate. I will cling to the myth that twists through each Top Gear episode, the myth that there is more to life then being suitable and safe and dying day by day in a totally practical fashion.
Saturday, August 02, 2008
Guess Who Are You?
Click Here for the "Guess Who Are You?" playlist. It's my contribution in lieu of a post tonight.


Rhapsody is having code problems so the playlist doesn't appear. It's a mystery ride.

If you can figure out the theme, email me and I'll send you a prize.

Note: Jeremy B sent me his guess but it was wrong. He also said there was no James May reference in this post, but he is wrong. In the July 30th blog post by James May to the Top Gear website he mentions Richard Hammond humming the themesong to "The Minder". That themesong is the last thing on the playlist.

So "pbbbbbt!" Jeremy!

Note #2: Cousin Tuesday asked me if I meant "Who Are You?" from the WHO. That's the first song in the playlist. I'll try and get a set list to appear for this playlist.

I did mean "Guess Who Are You?" as is if you take a moment and let go of all the "set" things you think you are, what happens? You may automatically say I'm the kind of person who is kind to pets, mugs little old ladies, watches Top Gear, thinks Richard Hammond is the cutest guy in the world, would never leave my wife/husband, and likes rhubarb. But what if drop your list for a minute? You can do either of those behaviors on the list but you can do more too. Like you can buy driving shoes, dye your hair red, quit your job, buy a sports car, flirt with a co-worker, or call your ex up for phone sex. Think outside the box you've put yourself in!
Friday, August 01, 2008
Driving School in 2009
Driving School in 2009.

I made the decision this morning.

Haven’t picked a school yet. I’m looking at Skip Barber and Bob Bondurant schools. If anybody has any suggestions for a school on the East Coast of the U.S., please use the “EMAIL Justine” button on the right hand side of this page and let me know.

My first course will probably be along the lines of “How not to get run over on the Beltway”. It looks like a good place to start. Skip Barber offers a series of classes in Atlanta which is a close hop for me out of BWI. I’ve just noticed they have a place just out side of Savannah GA and one near Kershaw SC. I love Savannah.

Skip Barber also has a 3 day intro to racing school for those with “no experience”. They use a 200bhp Mazda MX-5. That doesn’t seem too scary. If I get really obsessed they have a formula race program as well. I’m more inclined to leave the formulas alone. They do have a performance school that sticks with BMW’s and Porsches that looks dangerously fun too. Ummmm, options…..

There are just a few prerequisites I have to get together before I sign up. The first one being blood chemistry. Writing and reading about me have a gazillion syllable inherited endocrine system syndrome is boring. Suffice it to say that I have to get my iron levels, B vitamin levels, and blood sugar going in the right direction consistently. Right now things are fairly good but traveling is very hard.

I can develop serious anemia in pretty short order if I’m not careful. Sometimes it strikes me when I am careful. I’ll go along feeling fine and then out of the blue I have trouble breathing. Asthma meds don’t help much at that point because the problem isn’t with the lungs; it’s with the red cells carrying the oxygen to the cells.

This wacky syndrome interferes with the body’s ability to absorb iron and vitamins. Even with supplementation and a good diet, it’s a balancing act. Do anything hectic, strenuous, or stressful and I’m down flat.

The next six months will be the test on how well I can mange things. We’ve developed a medication and nutrition strategy that should get me up and rolling consistently. It’s time to put it on the road.

Mom has the same syndrome. I had a discussion with her doctors this week. Her anemia isn’t getting better. They have her on extra B12 supplementation but the levels aren’t holding. The month of July witnessed an almost complete disintegration in her ability to hold a conversation.

It’s damn near impossible to accept that Mom’s gone. Her body is up and roaming around but she’s gone. It’s my wretched task to take care of her as she falls the rest of the way apart and leaves this world.

Driving school is a bright spot in the fence around this gloomy field I’m walking through now. Although I don’t want to admit it, I see another sports car in my future. It’s going to take an awfully lot of driving to get my head back in order.

I wonder if Top Gear has sent the guys to driving school anywhere? Jeremy Clarkson has doughnuts, tyre smoke, and screaming down pat. Richard Hammond looks the most comfortable driving. James May has written about going to Range Rover school in “Notes From The Hard Shoulder” and he survived without completely bashing his head in on doorframe of the Rover.

What do you think Cousin Tuesday? Do you suppose you could escape reality for a few days and go to driving school with me?

Click here to look at the Skip Barber Mazda Driving School

Click here for a look at Bob Bondurant has to offer.

Notes from late in the day:

It's been a ripper but the schedule is shaping up.

I've got a dentist appointment for tomorrow to see if this joker can fix the crowns he put in wrong.

If I'm not in insane pain from the dentist, tomorrow night is a drive in night.

I've got an appointment for contact lenses next weekend.

I'm watching for the indoor shooting range to post the September NRA Basic Pistol Course schedule.

I can get the Maryland State gun safety class requirement out of the way online this weekend.

I've got a guy coming over to buy my mom's old car on Sunday.

Sunday I've got an arsty girl gathering at my house.

September I'm signed up for dance lessons.

I've decided to go to Skip Barber driving school in 2009 for the 2 day driving course. If all goes well with that, I'll take the high performance driving class second. I haven't picked a location yet. It depends on the schedules for the east coat locations in 2009.

There's a basic jewlery soldiering class in August as well, tomorrow I'm going to see if I can get a spot in the class. (Yes I make silver jewlery too.)