Friday, June 29, 2007

Boy Bling Part Deaux

This is S.B. in his new gear, shipped direct and to our door by Grainger Industrial Supply. For those of you who may not know who or what Grainger is, picture Saks Fifths Avenue, only for engineers.

With the glee that I would, say, order that smashing new Dolce and Gabbana sweater set for fall, S.B. made the following purchases last week: one bright white, ANSI-rated hard hat, complete with Class E&G rating (formerly class A&B) and V-Guard, as well as reflective-tinted, ANSI-rated Z87 protective eye gear, courtesy Orange County Chopper.

Outfitted thusly, you could bounce a bus off his head, swing a truncheon at his face, and light a fire under his toes – he'd be no worse for the wear.

This is also why, party people, when temptation comes a'callin', I tell the receiver to talk to the hand, ain't nobody home. I mean, why eat a burger out when you've got ANSI-rated sirloin like this at home?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Recipe for Disaster

Why would pro wrestler Chris Benoit murder his wife, his son, and then kill himself?

Here's one theory, courtesy of S.B.:

Start with: one pro wrestler who becomes famous for extreme forms of behavior marginally recognized as a sport but which is really just dumb-ass spectacle for twelve years olds (literally and figuratively).

Add: a gradual addiction to the accompanying attention and fame.

Mix with: a raging addiction to steroids and perhaps a slight mental illness masked by the extreme forms of behavior demanded by the industry.

Blend in carefully: a viewing public with an average I.Q. below that of, say, a door mouse (no insult to the door mouse intended) who rewards increasingly extreme forms of behavior.

Fold in: career decline and the pressure of having to give up the spotlight in favor of the "real world."

Sprinkle with: the normal shit that happens to us all on an every day basis.

Bake: for 22 years in a 500 degree oven until the mixture bubbles over.

And there you have it: yet another titillating bit of "news" to keep our minds off what is really going on in this country, like, perhaps, the creeping beginnings of a nasty-ass inflationary period and, oh yeah, the Iraq war. Ho, hum.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Good News/Bad News

The good news:

To quote

(CNN) -- Republican support for President Bush's Iraq war policy suffered a significant crack Monday evening when Republican Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana urged the president to change course in Iraq "very soon."

The well-respected GOP voice on foreign affairs took to the Senate floor to urge Bush to avoid further damage to America's military readiness and long-term national security.

"Our course in Iraq has lost contact with our vital national security interests in the Middle East and beyond. Our continuing absorption with military activities in Iraq is limiting our diplomatic assertiveness there and elsewhere in the world," he said.

Thanks for not towing the party line, dude.

The bad news:

Dozens of Rodeo Drive boutique owners breathed a collective sigh of relief this morning, as Paris Hilton is back on the streets and ready to shop. Boutique owner children everywhere rejoiced as well, since it looks like they will be able to go to the Ivy League colleges of their choice after all.

Is it just me who thinks this, but is this poor child's problem not that she's rich and spoiled rotten but that she's mega-retarded and the family just doesn't go there?

Monday, June 25, 2007

A Wing, a Prayer, and Some Guy Named Mike

Of all the shoes in my closet, these are the one pair I cannot do without.

No, really. I'm not joking. These are my favorite shoes. Because while a great peep toe pump or sassy wedge will always make me feel like a million bucks, only my Brooks trail runners will make me feel like an athlete.

A difficult thing to do.

I was downright dismal at sport in school, boasting a shocking discordance between hand and eye, a stubborn inability to keep my mind on the game or my focus on the team. A junior high school coach had high hopes for my height and put me on the basketball team. Another thought I could be a gymnast. Another a dancer. My step father taught me to ski, a friend to swim. My efforts at all of these endeavors were tepid at best.

But there was one thing I could do and it was this: put one foot in front of the other and run. Not very quickly mind you, but I could do it for a long, long time.

These days I mostly run trails, which I find much more interesting and more challenging than road running. I also run trails because, and forgive me for using a well-worn analogy, it teaches me valuable lessons I can carry into the rest of life. And believe me, I need all the help I can get. Like:

1. You can forge new trails when the well worn path has been lost. If you don't mind a few goat heads clinging to your ankles.

2. While it's important to be on the alert for danger (is that thing slithering through the grass a rattler or a bull snake? just how fresh is that cougar print?) you shouldn't be so wobbly-willed that you miss the thrill of it, too.

3. It's best to maneuver around obstacles rather than try to go through them.

4. If you disconnect your body from your mind and your spirit, you're going to trip over your laces and it's going to hurt.

5. In running, there is no such thing as fat or thin, hippy or busty, short or tall, beautiful or homely. There is only running or standing still.

In addition to running mostly trails, I also run mostly alone and undocumented. In fact, it wasn't until just last year that I entered my first race ever, the nine mile trudge up the Sandia Mountains that Trail Runner Magazine calls one of the "12 Most Grueling Trail Races in North America".

I entered it again this year. Friends and family think I'm crazy, and maybe I am, just a little bit. It's easy to get addicted to this particular kind of extreme motion, lose touch with your rational faculties, and push ever harder at the edge of your personal perseverance envelope. But you know what, you also learn some nifty things about your fellow human beings.

Like the Boy Scout troop who spent all the previous day clearing the trail for last year's run. They also camped on-site overnight so that next day they'd be at the ready to pass out cups of water, slap our hands, cheer us on. What a feeling that was, to run by all those eager-faced Scouts – their enthusiasm so genuine and pure, I felt a renewed obligation to run the best race I could run.

And then later, during the infamous last half mile of the race – a stretch of 18 percent grade that has broken running spirits far tougher than mine – when I was close to tears because I was certain I wouldn't finish anything except my own life, there came out of nowhere a Voice. Not the voice of God, but someone who may as well have been. It was Mike, a member of the Albuquerque Road Runners running club, sponsors of La Luz, who of course finish the race waaaaaay before the rest of us mortals and then stick around along the last section of trail to encourage flaggers like me.

Mike got right in my face, grinned a big-toothed grin, and said, "Hey, snap out of it. Imagine there's a rope tied from around my waist to yours and I'll pull you up the rest of the way." And Mike started to run. I started to follow. Because of Mike, I made it up that last half mile in a decent enough time to finish nine minutes under my goal of three hours.

You've heard it said that there is no crying in baseball. Apparently, there isn't in running, either. Thanks, Mike, for that lesson. I sure hope you're going to be there again this year.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Vive la Difference

The first time I ever made S.B. relocate a rattlesnake, I feared he might divorce me. That's because S.B. is from south Louisiana. Over there, if something slithers along the ground or scurries up a tree, you shoot it. Sometimes, after you shoot it, you might do what one of our good buddies likes to do, and that is skin it, position it in an action pose in the freezer in order to scare the wife, and then cook it up for unsuspecting friends and family at the next barbecue. But never, under any circumstances, do you simply leave said wildlife in peace, much less relocate it.

But that's what I made S.B. do with the second rattlesnake that showed up at our old place. The first one, I let him shoot. In fact, I must admit, I asked him to. And then I was overcome with a guilt so powerful it banged away at my insides for days. I vowed never again to kill a snake (unless for some reason it was going to be dinner.) Otherwise, I was simply going to relocate all creatures no matter how creepy crawly off our property and back out into the wild. Hint: use a broom and a deep bucket . . . and try not to piss the snake off.

Today we take this relaxed approach with as much wildlife as we possibly can. For instance, the first year we moved in to this house, we discovered our happy home is host to a small nursing colony of pallid bats who every year from March to October, settle in under the eaves of our house.

Cute little critters, and they keep our insect population at bay. They are getting to make quite the mess on our stucco, though, so this year, S.B. built them a splendid bat box condo, which unfortunately, they have yet to grok to. We even sealed off the entire house (so we thought), yet somehow the bats are still here – only not in their condo. But what are we going to do? We want them here. And stucco can be washed and re-color coated. Perhaps next year they'll get the message.

And see this gal here?

This is our resident orb-weaving garden spider, a species which has built its webs somewhere along our patio overhang for the past several years now. Two years ago, a truly spectacular specimen showed up – twice the size of this one here, beautifully marked and vibrantly colored – and went about constructing a Web that could have won a design award it was so complexly woven.

Unfortunately this spider built her masterpiece right in the spot where me and S.B. were fixing to start working, sanding and staining our vigas and posts, which you have to do every couple years out here in the high desert, which tends to suck moisture out of everything like some gigantic sky-bound Hoover vacuum.

So I said to S.B., "What about the spider? Shouldn't we relocate her?"

S.B. let his head fall to his chest in that exaggerated gesture of annoyance which always means I'm just about to get on his every last nerve. "Sure. But YOU move it. And do it soon. I want to get started."

Using a long handled wooden spoon I gently nudged her into a deep Tupperware dish, then coaxed her back out onto the side of the house well away from our work. Of course, I fretted like a mother hen for days, checking her every couple hours to make sure she was still there. She was. And within about three days time had magically rebuilt her home. Not only was she beautiful, she was also adaptable.

Oh, and I learned something else, which I highly recommend you try at home: tap at the bottom of an orb spider web ever so lightly with your finger and watch in amazement as it springs instantly to life and rushes with terrifying predatory verve towards that very spot. Whoa. Just make sure you get your finger out of the way . . .

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Stupid is as Stupid Does

I'm afraid, party people, that we are morphing from a nation of the brave and the free into a nation of the irresponsible and the utterly moronic.

A recent example: On February 16, 2006, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), a federal agency, adopted new regulations beginning at 16 CFR part 1633, that require mattresses, mattress sets, and futons manufactured on or after July 1, 2007, to resist ignition to an open flame source such as a candle, match or cigarette lighter.

Please note the last five words of that sentence . . . (and no, not because it doesn't employ the serial comma.)

According to the news I listened to yesterday, the federal government estimates these regulations will save – get this – 274 lives a year.

Yes, you read that correctly. Not 274,000 lives a year, not even 2,740 lives. But a whopping 274. That comes out to, what, about 5.437 lives per state?

Which yet again begs the disturbing but necessary question: do we really need these 274 lives?

Let's say a fire starts in your home when you're asleep. Most likely, your smoke alarm will go off, enabling you to hoist yourself from slumber, race to your kids' rooms, grab the dog-cat-gerbil-parrot-big-screen-television, and get everyone safely out of the house. Whew! Smoke alarms truly save the day!

However, let's say for some greatly tragic reason you don't have a fire alarm, it doesn't go off, or you slumber soundly despite the sounds of crackling embers and the smell of smoke. Well, correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think a fire retardant anything is going to save your happy ass at this point, do you? Nah. By that time, everyone is, quite frankly, toast.

So, who exactly are these fire retardant mattresses going to save?

That's right people, those folks who are a-dog-paddlin' in the shallow end of the gene pool, who use their bedrooms as party central (and not in a good way, oh, no, no, no), ground zero for drinkin' and smokin' themselves into a stupor before going to bed. And then forget to stub the cigarette out and trudge the J.D. all the way back to the kitchen cabinet.

Well, don't know about you, but I for one am extremely glad our federal government, in its astounding, infinite wisdom, continues to have our back. Aren't you?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Warmed by the Sun, Rocked by the Winds . . . Stolen by the Shrub?

This is Geronimo. A fearsome Chiricahua Apache warrior who spent most of his life valiantly fighting the encroachment of the United States and Mexican governments onto his tribal lands. For nearly 25 years, and always outnumbered, he and his men and their families eluded capture. It wasn't until September 4, 1886, when they all finally surrendered to the United States government. After being incarcerated at forts in both Florida and Alabama, Geronimo and Co. were permanently settled at Fort Sill, Oklahoma in 1894, where Geronimo lived another 15 years. He died there February 17, 1909, for all intents and purposes, a prisoner of war. He was buried at the Apache Indian Prisoner of War Cemetery at Fort Sill.

This is a Yale Preppy.

Despite his propensity for pastels, the Yale Preppy can be a rather fearsome presence if it's oh, say, around 1:48 a.m. at a nearby New Haven watering hole and he's riding the crest of a raging Jägermeister high. And he does on occasion so enjoy playing at being a warrior. On the back of a horse. With a pith helmet and funny-looking stick. He, too, has spent the past 25 years eluding authority. As well as responsibility, maturity, and honest, productive work. Until graduation when the Yale Preppy is forced by his father to succumb to the forces of the family law practice. In the service of which he will most likely die, because he has spent his whole life happily unqualified to pursue anything else. Except maybe a senatorship or two.

So what else do Geronimo and Yale Preppy have in common?

Well, apparently, legend has it that in 1918 three Yale Preppies – including George W. Bush's grandfather– happened to serve as Army volunteers at Fort Sill during WWI. As members of the super secret Yale social club Skull and Bones, these three merry pranksters thought it would be such the good show to dig up Geronimo's grave and steal his skull, bones, and his prized silver bridle. Said items have supposedly been used in the society's super secret initiation rituals ever since. We won't, however, ask how they are used.

For years considered so much poppycock, today we're not so sure. A contemporary letter discovered by the Yale historian Marc Wortman was published in the Yale Alumni Magazine in 2006. In it Skull and Boner Winter Mead wrote to another Yalie: The skull of the worthy Geronimo the Terrible, exhumed from its tomb at Fort Sill by your club... is now safe inside the tomb together with his well worn femurs, bit and saddle horn.

Which pissed Geronimo's great-grandson, Harlyn Geronimo of Mescalero, New Mexico, right the frig off. He wrote a letter to Dubya requesting the remains be returned immediately.

Says Harlyn: "According to our traditions the remains of this sort, especially in this state when the grave was desecrated ... need to be reburied with the proper rituals ... to return the dignity and let his spirits rest in peace."

As of today, no response from the Shrub. Most likely because he's too busy with his own forms of skullduggery.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Opposites, They Attract Me

This is my first love in golf. And not just because he cuts such a dashing figure on the course, with his wasp waist, broad shoulders, and legs for days. Despite him utterly flubbing the U.S. Open yesterday, it is my plan to remain hopelessly devoted because he is the ultimate athlete – unbelievably talented, laser-focused, exceptionally driven. And, by all accounts, quite a nice guy off the course, oriented towards family and generous with both his time and his money (although I really wish he would see the light and quit shilling for Nike).

Still, I am considering cheating with this man:

I know. Angel Cabrera is wrong, all wrong. He smokes – cigarettes! – between holes. He's got a gut. He looks like he'd rather do anything but work out and I bet he doesn't even know what dental floss looks like, much less broccoli.

Yesterday, he finished a few holes ahead of Tiger, who, had he not squandered any number of easy peasy birdie opportunities, would have forced a play off. So where was Cabrera while Tiger finished up? Was he out hitting balls to stay warmed up? Tensely pacing? Conferring with his caddy? Nope, he was yucking it up with all and sundry back at the club house, his entire demeanor broadcasting, "Hey, I win, I win. I play off, I play off. Now, get me another cigarette and some wine."

Gah. I bet the dude is one hell of a lot of fun.

As for Tiger, I'm not ready to pack my bags just yet. Cabrera, well, he could be a one hit wonder (and I so do needs me a golfer with staying power). But Tiger, he's got to get back on game. I will wait, but I won't hold my breath.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Doin' My Homework

It was the bane of my educational existence, this freakishly intense curiosity (teachers assigned research papers, 99.9 percent of the class swore, I got goosebumps of anticipation just thinking about my dexterity with the Dewey decimal system), coupled with an inexplicable inability to Understand the Assignment.

I'm better now. Because, really, my livelihood depends on my understanding the assignment. On occasion, though, I do slip. Like yesterday, when Doris Rose asked me to write seven things about my story, I thought she meant my crap ass novel, not my real life.

Luckily, she gave me a do over.

So, without futher ado, here are Seven Things You May Not Know About Moi:

1. I gave up smoking exactly seven years, five days, eight hours and fifty seconds ago. I mourn it every day. I used to dream I was having sex with Johnny Depp. Now, I dream I'm smoking Johnny Depp's cigarettes.

2. My first movie star crush was Sidney Poitier, circa To Sir With Love. I slept with his photo, clipped from a magazine, under my pillow. I must have been, what, five years old? And here's something else: I thought African American people were that color because they laid out in the sun all the time. I was devastated when I found out, au contraire, they were born that way and I myself could never be black.

3. I hate most romance novels and romantic movies (with the exception of the
The Way We Were, at the end of which I always cry like a smacked toddler in line at Wal-Mart.) What bothers me is that the underlying supposition of most romances is that we're not complete without a soul mate. I do not believe I am incomplete without any kind of mate, soul or otherwise (although my life is infinitely richer and more fun with the one I have). Here is my theory: Whereas lust comes upon us unexpectedly (it's Mother Nature tapping her toes for us to just get it on and propagate the species already so she can take the afternoon off and go shoe shopping), I believe love is something altogether and entirely different (although, of course, it goes much better with lust!), a decision you make, something you work at and practice like a vocation or craft. I also believe the heart is a muscle and gets stronger the more you work it, but only after you learn to love – or at the very least grudgingly tolerate – yourself.

4. Like most people, I have a series of dream jobs. I also have a series of "practical" jobs (i.e., those which I could actually achieve without a whole hell of a lot of extra schooling and dumb ass luck). My bestest practical job is this: urban planner.

5. Whenever I get stumped on something in life, I think, "What would my mother, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Helen Keller, Hunter S. Thompson,
Lewis and Clark, Ayn Rand, Chief Sitting Bull, Miss Piggy, Courtney Love, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Tiger Woods, S.B. do?" We all need heroes to guide us. I have a troop full and am adding to the roster all the time.

6. I grew up on various middle-of-nowhere places in northern New Mexico. This childhood was marked by a tremendous amount of personal freedom, a bracing awareness of the wide open spaces of the American West and it's potential for opportunity as well as brutality, and the ever-present working relationship between man, animals, and the environment. One of my most formative experiences was this: I was out walking the mesa behind our house one day with my father when suddenly, not a half dozen yards in front of us, a hawk swooped down and snatched up a rabbit. I was horrified and immediately began to cry. My father made no attempt to soothe or shield me. "That's how nature works," he said. "The hawk has to eat, right? So do coyotes, bears, and mountain lions. So do we."

7. I have always been fascinated by the history of the Plains Indians (the Sioux were the most gorgeous, glorious, and baddest ass of all) and the discovery, opening, and expansion of the American West. So two years ago, in honor of the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition, S.B. and I few up to Great Falls, Montana to paddle the Missouri through the famed White Cliffs. Three days. On the river. Paddling AGAINST a 20 mph wind. Our first night at camp, filthy and exhausted, we disembarked among the
most lonesome, haunting, stark landscape I've ever experienced. It was hands down the scariest feeling of my entire life. I wish everyone could experience it.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Tagged, I'm It

Yesterday, Doris Rose, "tagged" me (to use what I assume is blog parlance – orangeblossom?) with a challenge to write seven pieces of my story that she, Wicked, and Dizzy do not already know about.

Background: every year for the past three years I have participated in an annual event of mass insanity called National Novel Writing Month in which eager would-be fiction writers from all over the planet (and maybe some from the moon, judging from posted writing samples) put fingers to keyboard, pen, and palm pilot to write a 50,000-word novel in only 30 days. During the month of November. With Thanksgiving looming large and everything. Two years ago, I dragged WT and DR into the mess with me. Each year we have managed to produce fully-realized mini-opuses and this year we plan to do it again.

I assume these are the "stories" to which DR is referring. Or, it could also be our own personal stories, in which case Doris Rose will, I assume, correct me and I'll comply at a later date. And, I'm also assuming we post these to our blog, as per proper blogging etiquette?

So, without further ado because clients are clamoring for my non-fiction words, I give you:

Seven Things About My First Novel – As Thirsty As You Are – a political satire in 51,234 words.

1. One of the book's main characters is modeled after my father-in-law, due to his having spent quite a few years in Louisiana politics, including being a major player in what is known as the "Last Hayride."

2. The book's title is taken from a line in the Soundgarden song, "Burden in My Hand." Here, I use it to symbolize ambition, as in, you may be able to exist without food for weeks, but you can't exist without water for more than a few days. Truly ambitious people don't hunger, they thirst.

3. Another main character is modeled after Ann Coulter, of whom I am no particular fan. However, in the book, she's one of my fave people. So I gave her many fabulous outfits to wear.

4. A pit bull named Bubba Jake figures prominently in the story.

5. An entire chapter is devoted to discussing the difference between dry and humid heat, played out as a conversation between two truckers in a Kansas City diner.

6. Another entire chapter is likewise devoted to a discussion of the Lake Ponchartrain Causeway.

7. There are a lot of cocktail party scenes because I like to dress my people
up and make them drink weird concoctions and do inappropriate things with other characters' spouses. It's the Jackie Collins in me. Just when I start hitting on something smart, someone takes their clothes off.

'kay, that's it!

Now, off to do some other work so I can watch the U.S. Open. I'm dying to see what everybody's wearing.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Get Behind Me Satan and Bring Me Jack White

When I opened my email a few minutes ago to start the work day, there was a message in there from Bob the Copy Editing God, who contracts with the same Atlanta book publisher I do, stating he is caught up with all assignments thus far and hence is skipping town for a long weekend to go to:


There are going to be all kinds of wicked cool musical acts there this year: The Flaming Lips, Kings of Leon, Tool (a current obsession of mine), Ben Harper, Wilco.

Even the recently drudged-up Police will be on hand (an event that seems to excite everyone on the planet except moi. While I'm certainly glad to see the boys are speaking once again and I'll admit "Roxanne" is a great song, Sting bugs the hell out of me with his whole holier-than-thou Tantric trip, and in high school when I stood in line for two hours for their autographs, Andy Summers flung my notebook at me and then sneered in that self satisfied manner of upper middle class Brits slumming as rock stars.)

No, what really gets my blood going – and in fact is the one act that I am most going to be beyond heartsick to the bone to miss – is the White Stripes.

These folks are nothing less than pure genius. In my humble opinion, it's been decades since a music group has done such mind-blowing things with only a couple guitars and a Kleenex box set of drums.

I love these guys so much that in Moi's Alternative Backwards Islamic Universe (where girls rule and get to eat the most cake), I have assigned Jack White the position of fifth husband to moi. (Meg can cook.)


There are very few things that can send me into a spiral of gloom and doom for more than 5.6 seconds but missing the Stripes? It will take me all day to get over this.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Stay in Vegas

The next time I stay in Vegas, whether en route to the spa or because S.B. has decided to switch careers and become a world champion hold 'em player (it could happen), I am so not staying at the Tropicana.

Yes, it's cheaper than a two dollar hooker. Yes, it's five minutes from the airport and a short cab ride to the Venetian. It's also older than death, with dimly lit rooms redolent of eau de unwashed bod and perpetually soggy carpets. Which would explain the mold and mildew on the window sills despite the Mojave heat.

Which would also explain why, for instance, the average Tropicana guest resembles the middle aged couple I encountered while hustling to my room Thursday afternoon. Dressed in matching over-sized NASCAR tee shirts and brightly colored turquoise flip flops, she was tottering on unsteady legs towards the sports book room while her husband shadow-boxed her from behind, mocking her ungainly gait with a steady flow of farting soundings and phlegm-coated gawfaws. Niiiiiiiice.

So, no. No more Tropicana for moi.

No, this is where I'd rather stay:

Just look at it. In a town where the architecture is as overblown as an entire troop of starlet boob jobs, the Wynn is a marvel of understated design cool. Its vibe is both modern and retro, '60's Brat Pack meets 00's Hollywood on a bender. In Givenchy and heels. It would never dare to scream and shout, but instead beckons with a throaty, come hither whisper, Jane Russell entering from stage left to douse with her hothouse brunette elan Marilyn Monroe’s exhausting champagne bubble charm.

If it is possible to be in love with a building then I'm in über lust with the Wynn.

My pocketbook, alas, remains firmly entrenched in Tropicana territory.

If, however, you would like to prevent me from having to endure soggy carpet and farting patrons next year, please feel free to send positive vibes and cold hard cash to:

The Fund to Send Moi to the Wynn

Cash, check, charge, and PayPal accepted. We have one year, party people. Let's make it happen.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Pressing Play

I am back, party people. Survived the flights, even. With the help of girl friends who not only bring their own fabulous selves along, but also FREE SOUTHWEST DRINK COUPONS. Can you say moi has some terrific friends? I knew you could . . .

So here's the deal: I had a simply splendid time, hiking, Pilates-ing and adventuring my ass off.

I also missed blogging every single day. Why? Because:

1. Apparently, along with not offering full fat products on its food menu, neither does the fargin' outdoor adventure spa in the wilds of southern Utah offer free Internet service. Can you say Dark Ages?

Well, I'm up to my ass in emails and work-related alligators and must go pick up the Ivan from the baby sitter so I will leave it at this for now. I don't have many photos to share because despite the Bachelor's Degree in Art History and Photography, I'm all about the words these days, people, and hence my final words for today:

If you have never trekked to southern Utah to soak in the awesome splendor of Mother Nature in all her freak geologic fabulousness, you simply must do so. Today.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Pause that Stresses

Oh, there's just so much that has happened overnight.

1. The Repub' talking heads did their thing yesterday. More Yada Yada, more brightly colored ties, more self aggrandizement by men who basically get their jollies pushing the buttons of power like a playpen full of three-year-olds with over-sized Speak and Says. For more info on the whole tragic mess, click here.

2. Pope Benedict XVI was nearly offed while riding in his Pope-Mobile in Vatican City yesterday. Yes, that's what the press
actually calls it, the Pope-Mobile. Really, what happened was, a man jumped onto the back of it. The press assumes it was an assassination attempt, but perhaps the gent only wanted a ride?

However. I will comment no further on any of it.

Because in exactly 29 hours, 31 minutes, and a handful of seconds, I'm getting my ass on a plane with three other girlfriends for our annual trek to an outdoor adventure spa in southern Utah while S.B. stays home with Ivan.

And so I will spend much of today not only rushing to tidy up as much work-related loose ends as possible, not only trying to decide what to wear for dinner in Vegas tomorrow night (we're going to Tao! we're going to Tao!), not only making sure all the birds and bats and bees and flowers are well-tended to, but also trying to talk myself out of shaking in my space boots about the plane flight. Yes, I can hurl my body from the top of a mountain tethered to safety by one thin rope, two pieces of bent metal, and a twenty year old
dude named Brent, but I cannot get myself calmly onto a plane.

Oh, I know all the you're-safer-flying-than-driving stats. I also know the solution. I tested it a few years ago during a flight from L.A. to Istanbul: one Ativan and a couple glasses red wine. Knocks me right out. Slept through the whole damn 12 hour flight with only the half murmurings of a couple Danes behind me to occasionally bust through the fog. (While we're on the subject, this is perhaps a good time to ponder a linguistic anomaly: why do the Swedes and the Norweigians speak with such a lovely sing-song intonation to their voices yet their Danish brethren to the not-so-distant south sound for all the world like they're reading off a laundry list with their mouths stuffed with Havarti? Discuss . . . )

However, I do not have any Ativan. And even if I did, my little ritual would do me
absolutely no good because, party people, it's only an hour and something-something minutes from ABQ to LV. They would have to take me from the plane in a stretcher. And then the news would be all over it and in my fifteen minutes of fame, looking more groggy and disheveled than Lindsay Lohan on a good night, I would be accused some way, some how, of instigating a terrorist act and wouldn't get to have dinner at Tao.

And people say vacations are relaxing . . .

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Just Because You Think Someone's Out to Get You . . . Doesn't Mean They ARE!

You know that saying "once an addict . . ."? Well, I used to be a wee bit of a conspiracy theorist. Although I sought help and am currently in recovery, on occasion, I do relapse. Combine that relapse with my naturally ding-a-lingy personality (which isn't going anywhere, it don't matter the therapy), and you get what happened yesterday.

So, it rained a bit on Sunday night. Yesterday morning, when I got up to walk Ivan, I noticed this fine yellow dust on certain spots on the ground. "Hmmm . . . " I went. "Wonder where that came from?" Then I thought back to the rain and figured that perhaps the county had been spraying for pest control and the fine yellow dust – pesticidal residue – dropped from the sky along with the rain.

"Yew," I went. "That's got to be, like,
really unhealthy."

But I didn't have time to think much more about it.

Until about eleven o'clock when, during my work break, I decided to go outside and clean off the pool cover and discovered even more fine yellow dust! "Huh," I went. "That's a crap load of pesticide. I wonder if I should call someone?"

Then I scooped up a bunch of the powder on my finger and sniffed it. It didn't smell like anything chemically. So I gingerly touched it with my tongue. Tasteless. One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand. My tongue didn't fall off. My throat didn't close up. I was still breathing. But then a gust of wind kicked up, bringing with it a HUGE cloud of yellow mist.

That's it, I thought. Something's not right. So I turned off the water, jumped in the car (putting Ivan in the back in case, you know, it ended up he and I were the only two creatures left alive on the planet), and drove out into the neighborhood to see what was going on.

My relapse working itself in full force, the following scenarios played out in my head:

1. The Russians were testing a new nerve gas and we were the rats.

2. The Arabs had exploded a dirty bomb somewhere just on the outskirts of Moriarty, 'cause, well, you know, Moriarty is just so vital to our nation's strategic defense system.

3. My neighbor was using a power sprayer on her new home and was in the process of poisoning the entire neighborhood. (This would of course provide me with the perfect opportunity to give her the what for since her kids are now out of school and have been spending
every day, all day running around like a bunch of drunken sailors within hearing distance of my office window.)

A few minutes into my drive up the street, I spotted one of my neighbors walking his two dogs. Yes, another survivor. I stopped the car and waved to him.

"Can I help you?" he asked.

I pointed to a spot on the ground in front of us that just quite conveniently happened to be covered with a batch of fine yellow dust.

"Do you know of anyone in the neighborhood who may be spray painting or something? I'm wondering where this yellow stuff is coming from."

One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand. "Uh, that's pollen?" he replied, with a look that said, "What planet did you just fly in from?"

Ohhhhhhhhhh . . . duh. Boy, did that, like, never occur to me.

But pollen it is. Being produced by the waftfuls by our native New Mexican pinon trees which, I'm assuming, will as a result reward us all with a huge crop of pinon nuts this year.

Well, except for moi. Pinon nuts are my absolute favorite but no way Jose can I eat them with these #*%$&$#@ braces on my teeth. Which is fitting in a way. See, I relapse and ignore Mother Nature's signals and she in turn withholds pine nuts as penance. And to think, some people don't believe this planet we live on is one big web of inter-connectedness.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Dog in a Box

An old friend of mine from junior high school and I have a long-standing joke between us. Like me and S.B. she and her husband are child-free but dog-loaded.

The joke is this: when we die and some stranger from the bank enters our homes to hold an estate sale ('cause, you know, we have no children upon whom to foist, uh, pass along all our stuff), they will find a mantel filled not with family photos, but with the urns containing the ashes of our various dogs.

Of course, we could always put it in our final wills and testaments that the urns and their contents be disposed of prior to said official from the bank coming in to assess our stuff, but I think it would be much more fun to just leave them intact and present. Little testaments to our Cloud Cuckoo Land tendencies to collect not only shoes and expensive kitchen gadgetry, but also the remains of our beloved pets.

With the cool amusement of the newly departed, we will observe from on high as said officials (and perhaps the few friends and family left to us) wind themselves into knots of worry and guilt about what to do with not only our dearly departed selves, but with the half dozen others as well. Naturally, we will have no say in the matter as we have happily moved on to an eternity sipping margaritas and reading crap celebrity gossip magazines while Antonio Banderas and Gerard Butler administer our pedicures.

Presently, we're getting a good start on our collections.

This here is our good buddy, Beaux.

Dearly departed from doggie bloat last July. We miss him terribly. He was a big dog in body, a bouncing baby puppy in spirit. He loved everyone and everything, especially his ball and S.B. He would have given his life for that man, I swear. My favorite memory of Beaux is taking him to the Pecos one summer for a long hike through the wilderness, complete with ball playing sessions in a beaver pond. On the way home, we stopped at a Dairy Queen and I bought Beaux a big ol' soft serve ice cream cone. The expression on his face when he realized that he wasn't just getting a taste or two, but the whole cone!, and I was going to hold it for him while he licked away! was one of pure unadulterated joy. That was the happiest moment I've ever shared with a dog.

At any rate, I think Beaux's inhabiting quite a tasteful little urn, don't you think? We currently have him tucked into one of the two nichoes that flank the kiva fireplace in our bedroom. Nichoes (I guess the rest of the country would call them "nooks") are just one of the many unique design elements that distinguish our region's particular architecture. They certainly come in handy at times like this.

So, I picked JoJo up on Friday evening, anticipating a matching urn to balance out the space in the nicho at the other side of the fireplace, but no. What I got instead was something more in keeping with a Montana hunting lodge.

Now, I appreciate the care and thought Best Friends Pet Cemetery obviously puts into their work, finding unique and attractive containers to house the remains of their clients' beloved pets. And while this cedar box is certainly very pretty, it just doesn't say "JoJo" to me . No, girlfriend had much more flair than that.

So in keeping with her unique personal style, I do believe I'm just going to have to create for her a shrine that encompasses not only her remains, but also some flowers, Mardi Gras beads, my mom's funeral rosary, and Black Jesus brought in from the guest bathroom. Black Jesus doesn't get out much, so he may appreciate the company.

We certainly spent a lot of time worshiping JoJo while she was alive. I think it only fitting we pay her the same tribute in death.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Some People Just Need Killin'

Because they are simply too stupid to live.

This man is a personal injury lawyer. Irony much?

"Hi there. I'm Andrew Speaker and I'd like to apologize to everyone on the planet for letting my feelings of upper middle class white male privilege just run away with me. But you've seen my wife, right? She's hot. Super hot. That's worth risking a global epidemic for right there."

This is the border crossing in Champlain, New York where Speaker was allowed to slip back, uh, bribe his way back into the country.

And this is the photo of Speaker's father-in-law, a big-wig at the CDC who works with – you guessed it! – rare and dangerous forms of TB.

Hmmm. Does his expression say to you: "I'll learn ya, ya little preppy shit, to steal my hot daughter out from under me." It does to moi.

But thankfully, we have just the right person in place to administer justice:

Friday, June 1, 2007

Foolin' With Mother Nature

This morning Wicked Thistle sent me a You Tube video of a cat “nurturing” some baby bunnies. In it, the cat’s owner piles a mess o’ barely legal bunnies onto a big ol’ fluffy cat’s belly and urges it to, “take care of your puppies.”

So my first reaction – beyond wondering why the owner called the bunnies puppies – was utter amazement over said feline's self control. Looking at it, you could tell, just tell, that what it really wanted to do was not nurture the bunnies, but bite their little heads off and nibble on their tiny feet. It is, after all, what cats do. Yes, there are many instances where cats who have recently lost litters redirect their nurturing instincts to orphans of an entirely different species. But most often, the basic instinct is to stomp and chomp.

Which got me to thinking about all the ways in which we humans move about the world, assigning with merry abandon a whole host of anthropomorphic tendencies to all and sundry. Including our very own house pets. While I think it’s a natural tendency and part of our own nurturing natures, I also think it can get us into trouble.

For instance, we make much ado about what we regard as the canine ability to give “unconditional” love. Many studies have been done about whether or not dogs feel love for us. I have read a lot of these studies and have come to the conclusion that they do not. At least not in the way we feel love, like that for a spouse, child, or parent.

What I do think dogs “feel” for us is high regard. Unless it has been severely abused, most dogs quickly come to realize two important things about humans: we are the givers of food and the givers of fun, and therein lies our value. If you doubt me, just watch any reasonably competent dog trainer at work.

Dogs are, after all, pack animals. It is through the pack, and their place in it, that they survive. And also experience something else besides. Because while I remain unconvinced that dogs love us like we want them to, I do believe they crave, like us, a purposeful and enjoyable life – and they crave it with humans. It’s why we’ve been able over the centuries to domesticate them, to redirect their wolfish instincts into serving us as hunters, retrievers, herders, pullers, and, most recently, ball players, Frisbee chasers, jogging companions, fly ballers, sofa surfers.

All this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t love our dogs. We should, as deeply and widely as we love anything. But also, please, with some temperate regard for their true natures. Recently, I have been taking some lessons from poet Mary Oliver, one of our keenest observers of the natural world. Give your dog – and cat! – on occasion a break from being your end all and be all and instead, just let it be:

The Dog Has Run Off Again

and I should start shouting his name
and clapping my hands,
but it has been raining all night
and the narrow creek has risen
is a tawny turbulence is rushing along
over the mossy stones
is surging forward
with a sweet loopy music
and therefore I don’t want to entangle it
with my own voice
calling summoning
my little dog to hurry back
look the sunlight and shadows are chasing each other
listen how the wind swirls and leaps and dives up and down
who am I to summon his hard and happy body
his four white feet that love to wheel and pedal
through the dark leaves
to come back to walk by my side, obedient.