Saturday, October 29, 2005

Introducing: The Next Era

After visiting and talking with some of my closest friends today, I realized that I've made some internal decisions worth recording. In early 2006, I shall be leaving San Francisco behind and heading for a new adventure in the Deep South. This may seem crazy from many angles but let's face it, this is where all the action is.

In the next few months, expect to find various "oh-my-god-I'm-leaving!" Valentines to my beloved, foggy city. Like a beautiful lover that takes all your money, she can be cruel but she certainly isn't easy saying goodbye to. Especially when I'm heading toward a recently devastated area that is hot and full of Wal-Marts; nationally, Mississippi ranks first in illiteracy and obesity. Hmmmmmmmmmm. Have I thought this over properly?

I have and I realize that Faulkner's home state is also a lot of things that don't show up in government surveys. Mississippi is full of tasty duck gumbo, neverending music and warm greetings . . . not to mention most of my family.

My two-year-old nephew, Robbie, knows so little of me. I am merely that crazy Aunt person who shows up twice a year, teaches him tongue tricks and has a long, black nose that makes noise (my camera.) This cannot continue, especially during these crucual years when he is developing his political ideals - heehee! Also, his parents, I am more than a little fond of.

My brother, Robert, is well, my Big Brother - need I say more? I used to follow him around just wanting to do whatever he was doing - skateboarding, water ballon assaults, spitwads - I never questioned the task. Seems I haven't really grown out of this habit. I remarked to him one time that he owned my goat and he replied, laughing (possibly even smoking a cigar): Heather, I OWN your goat . . . "
Maryann, his wife, is a true Southern Pistol, not to be confused with a timid Southern Belle. In her musical accent, she is the type of woman that cannot be stopped, no matter what the challenge. I remember watching her command the microphone at The Broke Spoke (a tin shack bar in Kiln, Mississippi) with the proudest singing I'd ever heard. Mind you, it was awful, the girl simply can't carry a tune (especially after adding alcohol) but that was irrelevant. Later, she grabbed a man's cowboy hat and then proceeded to beat everyone in billiards while looking very hot only two months after giving birth to Robbie at age 40. She just rocks.

Furthermore, my own father (can't wait to write about him!) lives there most of the year and pitching in during all the reconstruction is very appealing. Everyone starting over together. Who knows what I'll do, I'm open to a dump truck job fer chrisakes but at least I won't be a cubicle.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Hunger

It's here, already. This year, however, I'm ready to talk about it.

As the fall-back time change approaches and the skies grow darker earlier, I become a ravenous beast - it has always been this way. Sure enough, this week I began to look forward to breakfast, eat lunch at 11:00 am, forage for snacks until 4:00 or so and then leave early for fear that I will soon begin gnawing on my own foot or that of a delicious co-worker.

This zombie/bear-like behavior - while appropriate for the Halloween spirit - inevitably comes on with a vengeance and usually evens out by Thanksgiving, before any real damage gets done. While I've never attempted to describe this crazy urge before, I now realize how biologically driven it is. As my hemisphere slips into the dark side so the folks in New Zealand can enjoy summer, the Heather Machine is pre-programmed for survival, baby.

Never mind that I could easily live off my standard year-round blubber for several months as it is, the H-Bod isn't interested in my opinion. Pondering this on the bus today, it hit me that my existence has two bosses: Me and Nature, with the latter fully empowered to supercede the former. It's like working for a boss who travels a lot and on those rare occasions they are in the office, they make a huge mess, rearrange your perfect system and are a general pain in the ass. You think you are in control, handling those day-to-day details with masterful ease and the next thing you know, he's crashed the server, lost the stapler and broken the coffee pot.

Not only had I previousy known this Truth but knew it well enough to teach it to someone else. Several years ago, I was driving through the Australian outback accompanied by a fidgety 25-year old Irish Catholic virgin with a sad case of Psoriasis. I think his name was Mark. Anyway, he was firm on his decision to not have sex until he was married because that is what the church told him to do. I could see that this outer-imposed rule was wreaking havoc on his innards. I also sensed doubt, and so I pounced.

"Mark, when you get sick, does your body care about your ruined weekend plans? When your hair grows long, does it bother to see what the latest syle is? When you think about naked girls do you think it cares about the rules of a book? It doesn't and you know why? The body has its own agenda! Fight it all you like but those fucking molecules will always win."

Mark was silent for several kilometers, chewing on this. I'm not sure if he ever got my point but I do know that I will be having some cake now, thankyouverymuch. Can't wait for breakfast . . . !

BUSTED WING UPDATE: I can touch the top of my head now! When I can pick my own nose, the first round's on me.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Here's The Thing

Yup, the bionic arm brace is off but I'm still typing with my left index finger, which has become the The Super Digit I always knew it could be. Nevertheless, I'm going to blame the infrequency of my blog postings on my recently crippled state. Trouble is, blogs being a narcissistic excercise, I'd be lying to the only person who knows the real truth, myself.

Clearly, I have not gotten the hang of this new medium, otherwise I would not censor myself at every turn. Turns out, my own brain houses the cruelest editor with very little regard for the talent of her host. No matter what topic I approach, it gets shot down by that that evil inner bitch that I shall now name, "Edna." Nothing ever seems to have "legs" and there's always her recurring question that never fails to plant a seed of doubt, "Who cares?"

I can see and hear her quite clearly. Anyone that gets within ten feet of Edna knows she smokes too much and since her husband ran off in the mid-70s, she lives at her desk, marinating in her own dour juices. Supposedly she's working on a book about North American herbal poisons but no one has seen a word of it.

So the other day, I'd been looking forward to seeing one my favorite artists perform (Jem at Bimbo's) when it is announced that the show is cancelled. After the initial disappointment, I began to worry about her. Did she fall ill? Was there a death in the family? I started to think about the strange one-sided relationship we have with famous artists - how we come to care about them because of the joy they have given. Anyway, I proposed the idea to Edna who shot it down so fast it made my head spin. "That's ridiculous," she spat, "there's just not enough there to work with. Try again."

And so it went, me avoiding my own blog - my self-proclaimed Writing Gym - out of some asinine fear that none of my ideas were good enough and I really had nothing to say.

Then, a beautiful thing happened, one of my favorite women (and an avid blog reader) started her own blog ClutterMusuem just after giving birth to son, Lucas. In her words: "Hey, my life is as insignificant as all these other blog writers', but they have a public forum, so why shouldn't I?" It was a refreshing wake-up call.

Fuck Edna.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

U-Turns 'R' Scary

They say it's never been done. They say that once you cross over into "the dark side" there's no going back, that the long black bridge from journalism to corporate PR is a one-way route. No one has ever journeyed back across and lived to tell - though plenty have tried, most have jumped.

Journalism is not something people get into for the money. That much I learned in the first five minutes of my freshman journalism course. "Is anyone here interested in making money?" Professor Meyer asked the room of young idealists. To those few who had raised their hand he gently advised, "I believe they are teaching marketing courses down the hall."

How I got to this bizarre point in my career is not important (I vaguely recall the blatant hedonism of the dot-com boom and being seduced by an enviable job launching online games - some details are fuzzy.) However, there is the tangible sensation of having chosen the wrong fork in the road and the burden of knowing I must now do some serious backtracking.

I worry, will journalism take me back? A better question might be does it even deserve me? What was once a craft has become an industry that is mostly over-dramatized and lacking in credible sources. How seriously can you take ABC News knowing that it is owned by a billion-dollar mouse?

It is no accident that the rise of blogs, podcasting and the resulting 'citizen journalism' have risen from the same world that gave us Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair and a careless Dan Rather with one fact checker short of a full story. Fine, the public has said, we'll do it ourselves then - we can type, we can talk. The fact that many Americans cite "The Daily Show" their main news source says something: If much of the news is fake anyway, why not get it from guys who admit to it? At least we can get some yuks in before Armegeddon dawns. If there is anything I have learned from my years in public relations is that the news is more staged than one would ever know.

Anyway, back to me . . . I honestly don't have a choice and neither do my future employers at the Austin American Statesman or the Associated Press or NPR or the Times-Picayune. They either let me re-cross that godforsaken bridge or I'll be forced into once again wearing a nametag and presenting the age-old question: Soup or salad? I'll burn that bridge before I go back there again - not all career U-turns are welcome.

Friday, October 14, 2005

A Grand Implosion

Ah, it feels great to just sit on the porch with a nice cocktail, stretch back in the rocker and watch the show - the bigger than life, completely unavoidable red-white-blue extravaganza of Bush Administration Implosion 2005.

Where to begin? Karl Rove as CIA leakster? The colossal mishandling of Katrina? Tom DeLay and his indictment woes? The death of Social Security reform? Our spiraling national debt? The nomination of Harriet "Enigma" Miers? Oh gosh, then there's the daily, bloody mess of the Iraq war . . . the "final throes" should become obvious any day now. The latest Bushian antic - a fully rehearsed conference call with a group of agreeable military brass - is really just the extra cherry bomb in this unbelievable show of incompetence.

I fight the urge to fully celebrate his low approval rating - the American strain of mass stupidity is a slow moving cowardly beast, it can retreat anytime. At least the right wing is not mincing their words ( and Christian tantrums have begun . . . so fun!

It's the GOP centrists I'm waiting for - when will they notice exactly what their Bush loyalty has gotten them? I feel like it's the longest political strip tease in history - one flimsy piece peeling off at a time to reveal what many of us knew from the beginning: The Emperor has no clothes.

Monday, October 10, 2005

It Sucks To Be Me

Well maybe not entirely but this is definitely the running news ticker headline that has been scrolling across my brain the last few weeks. First it was merely being stuck in the sucky corporate job I've been trying to leave for the last two years. Then, it was my stagnant love life. But lately, those whiny elements have taken a much-needed back seat to the demands of the body.

Ever since I took a Hollywood-style tumble (see previous post: "OW"), all of life's daily activities have been awkwardly taken over by the anxious understudy, my left hand. At first, I was shocked to discover how much the world discriminates against the Southpaw - cameras, scissors, can openers, it's as if no left-handed product designers had ever been born. Well, I reasoned, at least they were allowed to marry in most states.

Surgery revealed what a true mess I'd made of myself. The surgeon was quoted: "It looked like roadkill in there." I'd managed to rip the ligaments and muscle clean off the bone, an injury usually only seen on pro athletes. I now sport a sci-fi arm brace with a giant numbered dial at the elbow to control my movements. As the public reacts, I hear the same word over and over again, "bionic." I tell everyone that it's exactly like that . . . minus all the strength and my own TV show.

In the background of all this gimpiness, my teeth and gums are being fully harrassed after some long-term but low-level neglect. In preparation for some hideous gum surgery in early November, they are doing something to me called "deep root scaling" but I just call it Medieval. One quadrant at a time, every week without fail, they numb me up and go deep diving behind my gums with some evil tools while I force myself to think about how much worse life could be. Conveniently, the world has been very consistent about delivering large-scale disasters lately. Compared with drowning in my own attic, losing everything I own or getting buried alive in a mudslide, my dramas seem infinitesimal.

Sure, it absolutely sucks to be me right now but it won't always. There will surely come a day when I have a cool job I love, two functioning arms and a set of clean chompers but until then, I should be grateful for the little things. At least that's what I'll keep telling myself, especially next week when I see the gynecologist . . . .

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Going Backwards

Coulda sworn I was turning 40 this winter but apparently, I'm still seven. My mom left yesterday after swooping in to take care of me post-surgery (remember the elbow incident?) and we repeated so many familiar behaviors, rituals we thought gone forever.

Though she no longer had to chase me down and pin me with her knees to brush my hair, it didn't make it any easier. "Gosh, I've forgotten how to do this," she laughed, "but at least you don't stick your head out the car window anymore. Gawd, that was so frustrating" Heh.

Pulling my pants on/off - I'm amused how familiar this felt. Mind you, I was much smaller the last time this ocurred. It's much more humbling the second time around. To this point, I'm pretty sure the last time my mother bathed me, I(we) did not have the DD's to contend with. When it came to applying deoderant, I advised her: "Think practical. Pretend it's spackle."

Knowing that I talk of leaving San Francisco, it always helps for her to see the evidence firsthand. When we did the grocery shopping, she was floored at the cost. When she asked the butcher about getting a simple rump roast, he made a sniffy face and retreated to the back room, probably to consult his rarely-used reference manual, 'Middle-Class Meat.' We passed a newspaper headline that screamed: "Cost of living in SF, highest in state" and a magazine teaser: "Why parents give up on San Francisco." Then, at some point, she made the comment: "It must be frustrating knowing that nearly every man you meet is gay." Sounds like I will no longer have to explain myself any further.

Meanwhile, back at the homestead, she cooked, she cleaned, she organized and generally dispensed of love at every turn. Together, we read magazines, played games (she's ruthless at RummiKube) and even enjoyed an episode of "Freaks and Geeks." She washed my clothes and clipped my nails, signed my checks and fed my cat, answered my phone and spoiled me with gifts. For someone as fiercely independent as myself, it felt awfully liberating to hand over the keys to my life, especially to someone who'd given me the keys to begin with.

She returned home yesterday and my tiny apartment seems so quiet. I no longer need the pain pills every four hours and I even made a sort-of ponytail by myself. Guess I'm finally growing up, again.