Friday, December 29, 2006

Party at the 'Port

Last night, RMAC (that's my brother and his wife, collectively) and I went to a party in Gulfport that sure didn't look like much from the outside. Behind an abandoned storefront, boarded up and apparently forgotten, we found one swinging scene. A jam band, not formal enough to have a name, played their hearts out below posters of Herman Munster, John Wayne, Jesus and the Rebel Flag. My brother, Robert, immediately placed a cold Budweiser in my hand as I leaned against the foosball table and took in the scene. Nearby, on a long table covered with a plastic gingham tablecloth, I eyed a pot of homemade beans.

A tall fellow named Rick told me the place used to be a feed store when he was a kid. "Yeah, my parents used to send me down here to pick up chicken feed and now here we are," he said, "whooping it up." Behind him, I noted a weathered white wooden beam that stood in the center of the room. In rough black ink, someone had scrawled down the side, "Thank you our Lord and Savior, General Lee."

I met tons of folks, including Dean, a shy man who loved the music but lost all color in his face when I suggested he take to the dance floor. "I .. I .. can't dance, there's no way I would ever do that," he said. To Dean, this was a certain social death he could not bear. Then there was Kelly, who gave healthy, solid snorts with each burst of laughter. She was easy to locate at all times. I also met Lisa and Andy, a darling couple, who were notably impressed I had made it here from Denver.

At some point, I grabbed my sistah-in-law, MaryAnn, and swung her around the dance floor. We were both wildly drunk and by this time, I was a few other things as well. Talking Heads, Elvis Costello, Rolling Stones – awesome cover bands who know their shit can never be appreciated enough. I led, of course, bad habit of mine. We were squealing like little girls and after the song ended, the audience - arranged along several living room-esque couches - clapped wildly.

Sure don't miss a nightlife with long lines, cover charges and velvet ropes. I'll take Southern abandoned storefronts any day.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christmas in the Deep South

Down on the bayou, once again, for the holidays. Lil' bit o'duck gumbo, some hush puppies, collard greens, fried okra and wash it down with a big fat dose of the blues. Best of all, my kindred are here and there is not a snow drift in sight. (Kinda miss it … until I heard another storm is headed in tomorrow.)

Last year, the Mississippi Gulf Coast experienced a tough Christmas post-Katrina. Antebellum mansions flattened, bridal gowns stuck in trees and casinos on the beach in a mangled heap. All this devastation was set against a grim brown background, with every blade of grass and leaf blown away. This year, there is more hope. Piles and piles of debris and ruined vehicles have been carried away and rebuilding is underway. At the very least, new street signs are up, which provide an uncanny sense of civilization to once bustling seaside towns.

Today, my sister-in-law, MaryAnn, and I cruised what used to be a proud downtown in Pass Christian, we came upon trailers marked "City Hall," and "Hancock Bank" and "Public Library." Of course, there is also, Pirate's Cove, the local bar trailer. Surveying the scene, it struck me that when rebuilding a town, we start with the basics: banks, books, bureaucracy and booze.

All this surveying made us thirsty so we picked up a six pack, a pack of cigarettes and two of the tiniest brown paper sacks I have ever seen. These were provided so that we could continue our drive while still enjoying liquid refreshment. Love that Southern service!

We hopped a car ferry Bay St. Louis and watched the Gulf sunset burn a line along the horizon. Approaching the still-charming town, I recognized a beachside church I had photographed years earlier, Our Lady of the Gulf, and was relieved to see it still standing proudly.

Once ashore, we explored the gutted Fire Dog Saloon, recently filled with sand for a Jimmy Buffett music video featuring a song about hurricanes … in Florida. Then, we headed home but not before stopping in at the lone gift shop open. Turns out, it was also connected to an elaborate grid of art galleries, many pieces of which focused on the surviving the storm. It was impossible to escape but people are moving forward – what else can they do?

Meanwhile, I worry about my new home town, whether it is prepared to handle another two feet of snow and all the headaches that will bring. Lucky for us, it will eventually melt.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


Yesterday's blizzard has mellowed but the two feet of snow has disrupted life here in Colorado. We made national headlines - even NPR squeezed us in between a dead Turkmenistan president and Baghdad's suicide bomb o' the day. I received worrisome calls this morning from all over the country, mostly warm places – friends worried about how a lone California woman will fare in her first Rocky Mountain winter.

Honestly, I couldn't be more thrilled. This is precisely the stark lifestyle difference I was looking for. Mind you, it was great growing up in Southern California but there was something very 'Groundhog Day' about it, weather-wise. It was basically 75 degrees all the time – small variations on the same damn day throughout the year. It used to feel quite wrong going to the beach in December, though I did it anyway. Christmas lights in palm trees? Not the same effect. (Xmas in Australia, in the middle of their broiling hot summer, has to be particularly annoying.)

Years later, I (with the help of famed grumpster, Tamburlaine) finally put my finger on my own irritation with this bland weather menu. The perpetual Sunny Day was an implicit forced happiness that often didn't jibe with my moods. There was an unspoken sentiment, "Hey! It's sunny outside! Go on and get happy!" Holy fuck. It used to drive me nuts. My parents – Dad from South Dakota and Mom from North Dakota – did not understand this and probably thought us ungrateful, I'm sure. Thankfully, my brother is the same as I. He now lives in Mississippi and cannot get enough lightning and thunderstorms to make up for the past without.

San Francisco was a big improvement in weather variety. I used to love watching the fog roll in over my city at the end of the day like a big misty blanket. There was no pressure to be joyful-on-command. I could be moody and arty if I so desired, or I could be bliss-ridden, but at least it would be my own choice.

When I heard that Gov. Owens had declared a State of Emergency today, I was shocked. Honestly, I thought this was normal, exactly the scenario I'd pictured. No State of Emergency I've ever experienced was this beautiful. Mostly involving earthquake devastation or race riots, I'm used to crumbled freeways or intersection violence, not something that looks like an idyllic Christmas card.

It is quite amazing to be in a major metropolitan city that is entirely shut down (minus the city-hosted sledding parties.) There is that feeling of abrupt self-sufficiency with a lovely tinge of anarchy. I felt this during the LA riots and my brother felt it even more intensely post-Katrina. He and his wife took a boat out on the bayou the day after the storm and could hardly believe their eyes and, of course, their ears: complete devastation and total silence. Though we worried about them, they did just fine. "You know I love that urban survival shit," my brother assured me.

Of course, my snowbound giddiness is lessened by the knowledge that 5,000 of my fellow Coloradans are stuck at Denver International Airport (DIA) and that the National Guard is there now, delivering blankets and diapers. I mean, it's one thing to have your flight cancelled or endure a long layover but jeezus, that situation has to be some special kind of Hell. (I fly out on Sunday so we shall soon see how far out this flight disruption goes.)

In yesterday's Denver Post, a reporter observed that nobody was on the streets, except for one tourist couple from Fresno, California. Unfazed by the blizzard, they were out shopping. After watching many a Broncos game on TV, they'd decided to visit Denver for their 10-year wedding anniversary and had no regrets. "We thought it was like this all the time," they said. They were having a blast, which I understood completely. Of course, here's the part where I reiterate my work-at-home status. Not dealing with a commute will surely keep my Snow Love alive and I'll admit, I am feeling great affection for my employer today.

Back in my S. Milwaukee Cave in Washington Park, I live right up against I-25 (sounds so ghetto but it's really quite nice) and am used to seeing traffic go by. At the moment, there is not a soul on the interstate and no cars on the street. Best of all, the snow provides a padded acoustic effect resulting in the softest silence. It is incredibly peaceful. The only sounds in my neighborhood are the snow shovels scraping down sidewalks.

At some point today, I will layer myself up and trudge outside. I will take a little walk, nothing too ambitious, just a block or so. If you see me, by all means, make some Hot Toddies. I'll be the one with the giant grin on her face, intensely happy on my own terms.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

'The Year of Living' – Part 3

I sit here, marveling at my first bona fide blizzard, when suddenly I am pinged by a bored colleague. "Post something," she commanded. I gave her a list of subject choices and she opted for another installment of 'The Year of Living' where I pull an entry out of my travel journal, a dog-eared page from my globetrotting days:

… STILL! 4 November 2005, 12:42 p.m.

Amazing, the things my new 'family' and I have been through with Northwest Airlines. I'm trying to document the situation before it becomes clouded by other incredible experiences.

The Saga of Flight 56

Los Angeles, 2:35 p.m. 11/3/95

We board the plane, destined for the Midwest and sit on the tarmac for 45 minutes. Finally, we become airborne. Upon landing in Minneapolis, I make it over to Gate 2 to catch Flight 56 to Amsterdam, where I intend to catch a flight to Nairobi.

Initially, I was in the wrong seat which pissed off a German couple. Then, the German woman became enraged at me and my sleeping bag for reasons unclear. We managed to fly for about 45 minutes before the captain announced a problem with the wing flaps. We made a U-turn and flew back to Minneapolis.

We sat there, in a faulty tube, for nearly two hours while mechanics tried in vain to adjust the problem. They had us deplane and we stood around for another hour or so before they found us another plane. (People were openly smoking in a posted 'Smoke-Free' environment – a German woman was crying.)

We boarded another plane around 1:00 a.m., confident that it was fixed. Because it was a different plane, the seating arrangements were jumbled and people were busy arguing and wouldn't sit down. I noticed that the flight attendants became quite panicky.

This made more sense an hour later when Mary, the lead stewardess, announced that the flight crew had now exceeded their regulated air time and the flight would have to be rescheduled. The level of anger amongst the travelers was so high that the Airport Police were called in to nip any rioting plans in the bud. (Though we did storm the galley and manage to relieve the aircraft of its soda and nuts.)

After we 'deplaned' – a verb I am really getting used to – we then had to wait in hideously long lines to receive our hotel vouchers. At this point, faces became familiar and waiting in line allowed for exchanges of sympathy and interesting conversation.

I was fortunate enough to find two women to connect with. Carol Hanson – a 49-year-old Gloria Steinem look-a-like from Iowa – is trying to meet up with her husband in Moscow, where he doing agricultural research. Robin – a 40-year-old Army brat who looks like a brunette Cybill Shepherd – is desperately anxious about reuniting with her French husband at their home in Mulhouse, France. She, unlike Carol and myself, is at the end of her trip after spending a week in Tuscon, cleaning up the details of her previous life.

I couldn't have hand-picked two lovelier women to be in Hell with. All three of us are writers; Carol is also a psychologist and Robin teaches English as well. They are both happily married, happily child-free and both are well-traveled. They are living with their minds open, their hearts taken and their passports full. They are an inspiration to me and I have told them as such.

After a very comforting rest at the Thunderbird Motel (heavy on the stuffed wild animals and Native American motif), I'm now writing from a very luxurious business class seat on my way (?) to Amsterdam. Once again, there was another last-minute panic in boarding this morning's aircraft. When I heard Mary scream, "Everybody, just find a seat anywhere you can!" a scruffy young Frenchman and I instinctively ran to the front of the plane. (Despite our language barrier, we are now having a blast, toasting every five minutes with our selection of wines and champagnes.) Additional elements to this story are simply more of the same – a grumpy pre-dawn shuttle bus, other confounded problems, angry Europeans nearly dead from homesickness, etc.

But there has been much laughter and I've never been so acquainted with so many fellow passengers on one flight. (At breakfast, we talked of getting t-shirts: "I survived Flight 56, over and over again.") And, because of the destination - catching connecting flights in Amsterdam – everyone is off to exotic locales.

Take Rob, who moved to Fargo, North Dakota from his home in Jerusalem in 1984 and is trying to get to Spain. Then there's Elizabeth, who is going to Vienna with her daughter for a three-week shopping spree to look for a wedding dress in Paris and Milan. One good-humored woman was trying to get to Berlin while another man – a talkative chap who loved to tell jokes – was returning to his home in Switzerland.

It's odd but in cases of Major Bummer, people really do reach out to one another and form bonds. No matter how brief, they still matter and serve their purpose well. I do, however, look forward to brushing my teeth …

"You're not actually writing about this nightmare, are you?" –Debbie, stewardess, Flight 56

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Happy Birthday to Me!

Amazing but true, I managed to survive my 40th year and today entered into my 41st – another telltale tree ring.

It was spent primarily recuperating from yesterday, which seemingly lasted years, 22 hours (awake) to be exact. I rose at the butt crack of dawn to join my pal, Carley, for a day of skiing – my first such outing in Colorado. Though she was having lower back pains, she decided we should still charge on up the mountain to Breckenridge.

Apparently, we hit some 'traffic' though knowing the LA quagmire for 31 years, this definition seems quaint. Carley was frustrated with our late start but I was too busy being impressed that I live so close to a variety of ski resorts. I am used to the four to six hour drive to Tahoe so getting there in two hours seems incredibly luxurious. My Rocky Mountain proximity is still dawning on me as I feel my inner ski bunny slowly take shape.

It had been several years since I'd last skied and I was just banking on ingrained body memory. I stuck to the green square trails just to get reacquainted and wouldn't you know … it is just like riding a bicycle. Sometimes, clichés do come true! Mind you, I'm no Suzy Chapstick but the basics – stopping, turning, avoiding trees – all came rushing back. What a relief!

Now that I am an old woman, I can tell you that much has changed in my expansive lifetime. When I began skiing at age 14, a lift ticket cost $18. This amount now covers your noontime bowl of chili and a cold beer, that's about it.

In hindsight, there were early signs of snowboarding clearly evident in empty swimming pools across America – although skateboarders of yore were not nearly as fashion-centric. While noting many hyper-cool boarder outfits, I couldn't help recall watching my handsome brother ski one bright sunny SoCal winter day in faded 501s, sunglasses, nylon gators and no shirt. I think it was during the 80s. In my book, this image remains the pinnacle of winter sport organic hipness.

The biggest change of all: the omnipresent cell phone. For safety reasons, this is a huge improvement but I've heard of people being knocked over by swinging chair lifts as they chatted away. One of the Breck operators told me they lecture folks all day long, "Pay attention!" to no avail. Still, I have to admit, I'm impressed everyone is getting a signal.

Later that evening in Denver, I was surprised by a birthday gesture from a friend. The lovely Miss Bliss from Ol' Miss had an informal gathering at her place. I'd arrived in a wild outfit, as instructed, and she set about accessorizing me until I looked appropriately pimped up for the evening. "Girl, you look Super Fly!" she assured me. A group of us went outside to smoke a cigarette and were treated to live opera coming out the window of a higher floor. "Oh yeah, that guy is a professional opera singer or some shit like that," she explained. I really enjoyed it. Arias and nicotine, it turns out, go together nicely.

Back inside, champagne was popped, 'party favors' consumed and gifts were bestowed. Bliss gave me the most amazing painting she'd created just for the occasion. She is a superb artist and I was deeply touched. Every image in the brightly colored painting had a reason, as she explained, "See, this is your new life – the mountains. This is the ocean, the life you left behind in Cali. The lotus is me … " I was speechless. Again, I have to marvel at my phenomenal luck with friendships. It sure makes up for an awful of stuff that is missing.

What is so fortuitous about this gift is that my living room has a noticeable bare wall. The apartment is filled with trinkets from the past - treasures, photos and mementos from days gone by. I had intentionally reserved the most obvious blank space for evidence of my new life. I wanted something from Denver for the best spot, a piece that was all about the future and the promise of things to come.

When I unwrapped the canvas, I immediately knew, "This is it! This is what the blank wall has been waiting for!" I hung it up today and the bright colors enrich my little cave more than you can believe. The warm intentions behind it go nicely with my twinkling Xmas tree.

After a few more glasses of bubbly, a gang of us headed out into the night, off to a fancy nightclub with various rooms, DJs and wildly dressed partygoers. Throughout the evening, I was referred to as "the birthday girl" and they would not let me pay for anything. There was dancing, there was smoking, there was flirting and a few other things I cannot describe. Sometime around 4:00 a.m. I fell into bed – my own, thank god. My head was fuzzy but my heart was fuzzier.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Network Kicks In

While my romantic life is forever in shambles, my world has no shortage of love. True, my Man Picker may be broken but my taste in women is impeccable.

It all began last Thursday. There I was, minding my own business, toying with loneliness and depression when an unscheduled Love & Friendship Parade came storming through my life for a full three days, making a lovely point.

There was a knock at the door – Mr. Fed Ex dropped off a massive mysterious box. It turned out to be a 17-piece cookware set! My good pal, Laurianna, (a bad ass firefighter in Albuquerque) decided that enough was enough. We are former college roommates and during a recent visit, she'd noticed that my cooking skills had advanced, yet I was still using pots and pans purchased at garage sales and Thrift stores in the 80s. With mine and Jesus' birthday creeping up, she splurged on the most beautiful cookware I have ever seen.

Once out of the box, I laid all the shiny pots and pans on the counter and just marveled. I even took a photo. It feels unreal, like I won something. Honestly, I was worried I'd have to have to stage a wedding to get my paws on some quality kitchen goods. Laurianna basically saved me from my first marriage.

Next day, I received a long, loving email from Joanie, an old friend from the LBC. She'd gotten caught up on the blog and felt compelled to say, "Makes me wish I'd known you better all these years." Her out-of-the-blue letter really made my day. She also provided a brilliant theory about our mutual love luck:

"I think it might be that we're freaks, and so we go for fellow freaks (freak fellows?), and though I don't think that freaks are necessarily any more assholish than any other group, the ones we, or at least I, tend to go for are the ones that are more overtly freaky, and I think those do have a higher incidence of fucknuttery."

Whether this is true or not, does not matter – what does matter is that my new favorite word is 'fucknuttery' and Joanie gave me that gift amidst her gesture of understanding.

I then recieved a random phone call from my old friend, Andrea. We go back to the 10th grade. "Just thinking about ya," she said, "Howz it going?" Again, completely out of the blue.

Later that evening, my friend, Jennifer, flew in from San Francisco. She is always full of love and laughter – a welcome antidote to a tough work week. We took the light rail (my civic pride insists) to Buckhorn Exchange for some rattlesnake and whiskey. There under antlers and wagon wheels, we discussed the state of our lives and dreams for the future.

Not long after we returned to my Milwaukee Street Cave, there was a knock at the door. (Very odd, since no new friends know where I live.) To my astonishment, there were two additional friends – Andrea and Maria – who had also flown in from San Francisco as a surprise! They stood there, bags in hand, shivering, laughing at my dropped jaw while I sputtered and made an effort to process the new expanded situation. The three women (all work friends) had organized the hoodwink from the get-go. Thank God I had cleaned the bathroom. The next two days could be a viable candidate for induction in the Weekend Hall of Fame.

As previously discussed with Jennifer, the main goal for Saturday was clothes shopping for me. I had to attend an intensely professional three day corporate seminar the following week (where I am now) and needed to appear highly respectable, completely crisp and thoroughly competent. In other words, I needed a convincing costume. (Turns out, faded jeans and dirty cowboys boots don't convey the necessary characteristics.) Admittedly, I have little or no skill in this area and look my best when dressed by committee. As I explained to my friend, Karen, "It takes a village … to dress the idiot."

After a delectable breakfast at The Egg Shell (love those potato pancakes!) we stormed the Cherry Creek Mall. With military efficiency, we took over the dressing rooms of Banana Republic, Ann Taylor Loft, Ann Taylor and Aldo to accomplish my Corporate Fashion Makeover (CFM).

I tried on many items expertly picked out for me by the CFM Team – black pants, grey skirts, crisp white button-downs, blue sweaters, black blazers – you name it. Under the curious watch of amused sales staff, I learned that a tapered leg is a big fat no-no and that a mid-calf length skirt is – no matter how pretty – unflattering. I now speak the term 'kitten heel' with a general inkling and understand it is technically okay to wear black patent leather pumps with brown pants, even though my gut still tells me 'no.' In short, I got an education.

To bring all these new items together, I purchased a designated 'key piece' that the CFM Team was/is crazy about. Thrust upon me, the dress jacket is black with grey piping and a thick, nubby texture. Like a dog due for a bath, I fought and fought but it was no use, CFM Team had made up its collective mind. Nub Jacket was not only a crucial part of the new wardrobe, I was told, it would be the crux of the entire strategic effort. Knowing they know best, I pinched my nose, handed over the plastic and made the purchase. Operation Nub was ready for launch.

To celebrate my deeper plunge into debt, I took CFM to DAM, Denver's new crowning jewel. Plenty of art to ponder and weird angles for wooziness – all much appreciated. Then, it was off to the grocery store to buy egg nog, circus animal cookies and suitable hosiery. We then picked out a Christmas tree upon realizing Maria had never done so (apparently, her family drags a piece of green plastic up from the basement every year.) After some hilarious peer pressure, (I think CFM became drunk with power at this point) I eventually gave my phone number to our helpful, hunky lumberjack who apparently was flirting with me. (My knowledge of men decreases every day so I believed them.)

Since we were getting in the yuletide mood, I then took CFM to Blossoms of Light where they 'oohed' and 'aaahed' in all the right places. Then, off to my favorite Denver restaurant, Steuben's, for chocolate shakes and mac-n-cheese. ("There are so many straight men here, I can't believe it!" said Andrea, offering at least one reason I no longer live in SF.) Then, it was back to the cave, where we decorated the tree, teased one another and giggled past midnight.

The next morning, I made my famous Deluxe Egg Burritos while they put together suitable ensembles for my trip. Jen carefully explained, "Okay, Heather. This is Day One, Day Two, Day Three and here is an alternate you can rotate in. Of course, The Nub works on all days, as we'd discussed."

While waiting for their airport shuttle, Maria asked to see me complete in one outfit, pointy shoes and all. I complied and Jen's eyes got teary. "Oh, our girl is a grown up!" Maria just stared and shook her head, "It's like a different person." Meanwhile, Andrea openly coveted The Nub, "I've got to get a jacket like that. I'm going back there and get one for myself."

This morning at 7:00 a.m., in a high-rise hotel in San Francisco, I reached for the crisp new clothes and thought about the CFM Team and all my girls (new Denver pals included) – all the expert guidance, the endless love and the never-ending support that keeps me afloat. How lucky can a girl get? I'd be lost without this network – truly, truly lost.

I reached for The Nub and put it on. It looked perfect – CFM was right. Still, I could not resist. I looked in the mirror and singing into the toothbrush did my best Roger Daltrey, "Whooooooo are you???? Who, who – who, who! I really wanna know …. !"

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Background: "The Year of Living"

We recently introduced a semi-regular feature here at ClizBiz, called 'The Year of Living.' Once a week-ish-or-so, I would post a journal page from my mid-90s globe trotting days. I'm just one page in this experiment but joy-of-joys, I got me a real live anonymous reader request! My ego just busted a belt:

*Please* can you write about how you were able to do this world-wide trip? For those of us who aspire to that depth and breadth of adventure and travel --- how does one financially and mentally even BEGIN to think about doing something similar? My friends and I can barely pay our rent, and my parents would kill me traveling 'alone' as a woman... but it's an ultimate dream. Congrats for doing it! Please share how one can do the same!

Aspiring SuperGirl World Traveler


The year was 1993 and some crazy Australian friends quite matter-of-factly announced it was time for my walkabout; I must have been crazy ready to hear that call. After very little thought, it was decided.

I then mapped out the next two years, worked like a dog, saved my money and focused like a horny hummingbird. (Holy shit, where is that girl? I could use her now.) I set up my credit union to take $200.00 out of every paycheck (twice a month) and figured on approximately $10,000.00 for the trip, including airfare.

For the next two solid years, I worked two jobs (ironically, a newspaper restaurant reviewer and a pizza waitress) and poured over maps, with an eye on Africa. Keep in mind, children, that this was still one year before the Internet became known to the general public. I actually had to read travel magazines, investigate ads, and send away for pamphlets … up hill, both ways, in the snow. THEN, I had study them … er, by firelight.

All through this process, I would slowly announce my travel plans to family and friends. My father and brother were predictably excited and envious. Mom raised a worried eyebrow and may have instinctively said, "We'll see." Friends dutifully cheered me on and Fang worried about the lack of plumbing on my behalf. This statement process, I now realize, was really more for me, a promise to myself. I remember working the drive-thru at McDonald's in high school and watching the planes fly by. "I am soooo outta here someday," I'd declare between the McNuggets and the single cones.

Of course, there was also great fear. Part of it was going it alone. I mean, just who did I think I was? Apparently, I was a bad ass. Then again, at 29, I had traveled enough to observe that traveling alone might not only be easier but also present a better opportunity for meeting people. Ultimately, I knew myself - I'm at my best on the road, just like my father.

T-minus six months is when push comes to shove. You have to start actually buying tickets, faxing over visa applications, making a final budget and worst of all, planning where all your shit is going to go. Also, I had a lovely white cat, Nik – what to do with him? (He stayed in Washington with my Dad and stepmom, Shirley.) I almost didn't go out of guilt and then I asked myself, "So, um, you are not going to see the world because of your cat?" I mean, how crazy is that? Thank god I recovered my sanity.

Once I'd decided my trail – Africa (nine countries), Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Hawaii – I had to start gathering gear. You have to start pondering what to put into a backpack for an entire year. What in god's name do you leave out? You have to adapt a turtle brain - a very good excercise in basic needs. (This is another blog post entirely.)

I'm packing a long experience into a fairly short summation here but basically, you just have to want it bad enough. It used to infuriate me (still does) when people would react to plans of my trip with, "How lucky! I wish I could do that!" Turns out, anyone can. I can understand older people with kids, jobs, mortgages and what not – makes perfect sense, but I would get this from 19-30-year-olds! Wandering around the world is the kind of thing everyone apparently dreams about and I feel very fortunate I've experienced it. Recalling this adventure is making me remember how nice it was to want something so bad and just zero in on it. Hmmmm, must find new obsession ...

Supergirl, you say your parents would 'kill you' for traveling alone and it makes me wonder if you are underage, still living in their house and and/or on the payroll? Otherwise, if the idea of defying your parents still terrifies you than yes, you are not ready to travel alone because you will have to defy a lot more than that to get there.

I wish you the best of luck. Please don't hesitate to ask me anything. Seems like all this info should go to some use.

Zippers and ziplocs,


Monday, December 04, 2006

I Found My Soul Mate and (Sadly) it’s The Wall Street Journal

I observed to a friend recently that I tend to think of publications as individuals. I've got the long, unrequited crush on that well-dressed literary hottie Esquire, I've got my fun, fiery girlfriend with BUST, a lust thing for the savvy nerd that is WIRED (can't explain it, geeks makes me hot) and my up-on-a-pedestal thing going for the brainy, outdoor genius of National Geographic. Strange then, that I should recently discover that the publication closest to my own mind is the 'staid and boring' - The Wall Street Journal.

Admittedly, I only read WSJ out of professional necessity – my company pays for the subscription. Every morning, I lay the paper out and see who has bought whom, who has fired whom and what tech trends I might find interesting and/or inevitable.

Earlier this week, I'd had a dream involving North Dakota. Bizarre, I know, but I often worry about the place. Its population is dwindling, the small farmer is struggling and I've just got a soft spot for all underdogs in general. The next morning, the WSJ calms my fears with a left column, A1, piece entitled: "Energy Boom Lifts Small-Town Hope on Northern Plains – Ethanol Plant Lures Outsiders to Tiny Washburn, N.D.; Population Skid on Hold; Remembrance of Busts Pasts." Whew. Okay, that's exactly the kind of news I needed.

Next, I prepared to screen a DVD entitled "Goodnight, We Love You" for a radio show in San Francisco, my beloved, "Movie Magazine International." The film is a documentary about Phyllis Diller's final stand up performance and I am currently reviewing it for broadcast. Before watching the film, I opened the WSJ to see a huge feature entitled "Comedy Comes Clean: In a backlash against racy and gross-out material, some comics are turning to still-biting but less salacious jokes." The article was a perfect primer for Diller's material, which is plenty salty but noticeably free of the F-bomb.

The next day, I read an intense front pager detailing the long journey of a war photographer, entitled: "A Chilling Photograph's Hidden History: Twenty-six years ago, a picture of an execution in Iran won the Pulitzer Prize. But the man who took it remained anonymous. Until now." The gripping article follows the photo's creation in 1979, its explosive trail all the way to the Prize and the final uncloaking of the photographer's identity in 2006. It is a truly phenomenal story – wish I could link ya'll to it.

So, I thoughtfully absorb all this and then go about my day – organizing my office, returning phone calls, making soup, filing papers and cleaning house. While dusting the living room, I spot a Netflix envelope and realize I have completely forgotten about my cinematic expenditure. "Damn, I better watch whatever it is," I said to the cat, "I'm paying for it!" So, later that evening, I plop down with some homemade soup to enjoy a highly disturbing documentary called: "WAR PHOTOGRAPHER."

I mean, it's just starting to get creepy. Should I be concerned that a major media outlet knows my thoughts before I do? Sigh. If only WSJ had horoscopes ….

Friday, December 01, 2006

Man Grows Limb Out of Crotch!

Okay, so that is not entirely true but I'm competing with the tabloids here. I came across this story and felt it was my obligation – nay, my duty – to pass it along. It possesses my favorite mix of emotional elements: truly heartwarming, totally disturbing yet somewhat hopeful.

Apparently, Israel Sarrio in Valencia, Spain got his arm … er, detached from messing around with a drainage ditch. He then walked in to the local hospital carrying the limb, assumingly yelling some Spanish version of "Holy fuck!"

The doctors hurriedly stitched it back to his stump but soon realized that the sewer water was going to spread infection. They had to quickly relocate the arm to another part of his body to keep it viable while they cleared away infected areas with antibiotics.

After what must have been a very bizarre family conference, doctors chose the groin. The story is, when the guy woke up, doctors had to quickly explain Israel's new tripod status before he could look down and see for himself. (I mean, some jarring images just do not leave the brain.) Even more troubling, he had to stay that way for NINE DAYS.

Can you imagine????

Good new is, Israel's arm has been successfully reattached and he's undergoing physical therapy. Doctors expect him to return almost-normal status. (For you sickos, more detailed photos can be found here.)

Other freaky things I found today's news: You can buy a four-bedroom house with a three-car garage and a big front porch for $150,000 with a view of a river valley … in North Dakota.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Blossoms of Light

Between work assignment, social obligations and holidays, I have been spending far too much time on planes lately. All my numerous times through security and yet, I feel no more secure. However, with every return to Denver, I am filled with a relaxed joy and it confirms my relocation decision all over again.

Even as I recently struggled to find my truck at 2:00 a.m. at the Mt. Gilbert parking lot at DIA, (Calling it Random Kansas Wheat Field Parking Lot, would be more accurate.) I could feel a familiar warm excitement at being home again. All the cars were frosted white and it was the first time that I'd ever experienced a steering wheel too cold to touch. Too hot? Sure. Melted Chapsticks are a signature of my childhood but this other extreme, I am slowly discovering.

Denver is, for me, The Never-Ending World of New. For example, today was my first time driving in snow … ever. It was also the first time using the 4WD on my truck; I felt so incredibly studly and made no effort to contain my squeals of delight. (That's a Squealing Stud in the Snow, for those of you following along.) Then, I played a blues riff on my guitar for the first time at my beloved music school, Swallow Hill. Three major firsts - all before lunch.

Tonight, I met my friend, Sarah, at the annual "Blossoms of Light" at the Denver Botanic Gardens down the street. It was quite spectacular, tingly even. Mayor Hickenlooper counted down, flipped the switch and … zzzzt ta-da! A giant magical snowy ChristmasLand appeared - a site to behold. Hundreds of excited gloved and mittened hands made for some comical applause - Puffpuffpuffpuffpuff! I found this hysterically funny, for some reason.

Seriously, around every corner and over every wooden bridge, we expected to encounter sparkling fairies handing out candy canes or giggling elves cheerily making toys. In fact, I'm pretty sure that when Will Farrell's character in "Elf" walked to New York from the North Pole, he came through here.

So much effort went in to setting this up, color me impressed. Thousands of bright, twinkling LED lights ("Energy-saving!" insisted our wonderfully green mayor) covered trees, archways, waterfalls, trellises and walkways - even the frozen pond had green 'Lilly pads'. Great care was given to color choices – not just your predictable greens and reds, lots of pinks, oranges and purples. There was even a grove of trees done entirely in autumn hues. Sarah's favorites were the trees wrapped in blue and green – so clean and crisp looking. Mother Nature, ever the dominant stylist, gave the final touch by dusting it all with the whitest, fluffiest snow I have ever experienced. (My inner LA voice insists that it feels so real, it has to be fake.)

Later, defrosting our extremities inside, Sarah and I drank hot chocolate, munched on cookies and listened to a string quartet. We watched kids get their picture taken with Santa and marveled at how we could see the detail of the cellist red thong. Always nice to see classical music getting sexed up a little, especially with holiday colors.

It is one of those nights that make me giddy about the future. This is Denver's ongoing gift to me, a breath of fresh (if not frigid) air that makes me welcome whatever else might be coming around the corner. I feel ready.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Familiar Ground

Stuck at LAX, as inebriated as I can possibly afford to be, I long to be home in Denver. Like many of us, I have spent the last several days with family, eating too much and spending time in places all too familiar. Please note the homemade cranberry-turkey sandwich at left with the double shot of airport whiskey - both quite necessary, I assure you.

[Note: The post comes a day late - thanks to false promises of "Free wi-fi!"]

Yesterday, I arrived at my favorite place on Earth: 29 Palms, California - specifically, a quirky little house that sits astride Joshua Tree National Park. I'm not sure exactly what draws me to this place. My mother first introduced the Dr. Seussian landscape to my grandfather back in the 1950s and the North Dakota farmer was instantly smitten. He bought a couple lots, had a house built and it still stands as the Hi Desert Branch of our small but mighty Clisby Empire. As with the San Bernardino Mountains Branch, there is no phone or television, just lots of books, games and wildlife to observe, plus the shuffleboard court in back.

The bunnies are large and the quail especially fat and plentiful this year, always a good sign. However, as much as I love this place, I dreaded this particular trip. It was here in February that I first innocently read a blogger fan letter from the man who would eventually (ahem) inspire my move to Colorado. Also, when I returned in April - I was here with MonkMan, camping with his friends. We'd stopped by the house and made love practically in every room, thereby tainting my beloved place with the foolish memory. That was a mere seven months ago and it feels like years. Such a naïve young girl I was then; such a wizened old cynic I am now.

Still, it needed to be done, which is why I insisted on the trip. Painful as it was, the place badly needed to be reclaimed. To honor all the years spent in 29 J-Tree, time with family and reveling in its natural peace and beauty, I cannot let one disappointing affair mar my feelings. After all, this is the place I've chosen to be "lightly toasted and sprinkled" after my spirit has moved on.

Quite soon after we arrived on Saturday, I went for a stroll to walk off some gravy. After a few hundred yards of purposeful walking, I quickly realized I had a specific destination in mind. Down a long sandy path, I soon came upon an old friend.

We'd met years ago, under the pale light of a full moon. I was off down some midnight trail, probably muttering to myself and trying to figure out my life, as usual. A recent flash flood had made the sand mushy and I slipped down steep incline, landing in a gritty heap. I then heard a contemptible snort following by whinnying laughter. This is how I met my equine friend, Snort.

This time, he stood there, it seemed, waiting for me. I walked straight up to his shoulder blade, gave some rubs and let him sniff me over. I had grabbed my grandfather's old coat from the house, a TUMS tablet circa 1960s still in the pocket. Snort found the coat fascinating and couldn't get enough of it. I stroked his jawbone, scratched his ears and touched his silky nose. My public face then dissolved and I collapsed into yet another heap at the hooves of Snort. There, between the cacti and the desert gourds, I sobbed and sobbed, embracing all the searing pain before letting it go. Under the horse's guard, I felt small and worthless but the demons just scattered.

Later that evening, after Leftovers Round Five and a family game of RummiKube, I found myself in that holiest of places, Pappy & Harriet's Pioneertown Palace. The Rojer Arnold band was doing a tribute to the late Buzz Gamble, and I was unspeakably content. I had a frosty cold beer, a front row seat to the action and I was back, once again, making new memories at my favorite place on Earth.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

When Celebs Lose Their Shit

After returning home from another brilliant Monkey's Uncle improv show last night, I was hungry for more hijinks and flipped on "Seinfeld." There are few shows I never tire of ("I Love Lucy", "Sex in the City", etc.) and this is one of them. Doesn't matter how many times I have seen the episode, I still laugh uproariously.

There I was, marveling at the collective genius, when I had an impulse to switch channels. By sheer chance, I stumbled across Jerry Seinfeld guesting on David Letterman, discussing Michael Richards' very public display of racist rage in the middle of his stand-up act last weekend. To my surprise, Seinfeld was quite serious and trying to make amends for his friend. Next thing I know, they've got Richards on satellite, looking older and visibly distraught, struggling to explain his reprehensible actions.

Just seeing Richards face brings visions of Kramer famously whizzing into Jerry's apartment and so the audience began to laugh, as did I. Then, Seinfeld uncharacteristically tried his hand at seriousness and chastised the audience, "Don't laugh. It's not funny." That alone, was surreal – like Madeline Albright launching into a striptease or Dick Cheney doing a guest voice on 'The Simpsons.' Awk-ward.

But not half as awkward as Richards himself. While he sputtered and fidgeted, it took a while to sink in that the man was deadly serious. I had to get up and brush my teeth in the middle - it was that hard to watch. I picked up some nervous laughter in the audience and again, they were called on it. "I hear some of your audience members laughing," Richards said to Letterman, "and this is no laughing matter." After that, you coulda heard a pin drop. This was television at its weirdest.

So, what is the deal lately with celebs going bonkers these days? Tom Cruise is beyond repair in my book – the three-minute "I'm really not gay – see look!" kiss at his own wedding is just another example of his inner struggles. Can't exactly blame the media – it's not like Mel Gibson was being trampled by paparazzi when he went drinking with his inner anti-Semite and trotted him out for all the world to see.

It's not so much the meltdowns that I am tiring of – because those can be really fun – it's the barrage of earnest apologies that are starting to chafe. I'm not saying that Celebs Gone Postal should not make amends but it's starting to feel like the soup of the day.

I feel like some enterprising broadcast executive could start an "All Apologies" network (theme music by Nirvana) and just run them 24/7. You think I'm joking but remember, folks laughed at Ted Turner – "Who wants to watch news all the time?" (I also had the same idea for car chases but I think "Cops" now has that covered.)

Admittedly, I have a soft spot for celebs who do not apologize for every mistake. Despite going barefoot in a public restroom, driving with her infant in her lap or chomping gum through a major interview, Britney Spears' best quality may be that she just doesn't give a shit, hence, the fascination. Instead of Richards' promise to "take some time off, do some personal work," Britney just shrugs, snaps her gum and says in her Louisiana twang, "We're country, that's just how it is."

Obviously, Richards is mortified by his actions, as he should be, and seems as shocked as anyone that he's actually an angry racist. Admittedly, targeted members of the audience had found his weak spot - his failure to succeed post-Seinfeld - and were taunting him about it.

We all have angry buttons and apparently, mine is watching the morning express bus driver casually forget to stop and pick up me and my fellow shivering commuters. In San Francisco, I completely snapped during one occasion and attacked just such a bus. Crazed and frothing, I nearly got run over as I tried to board it at 35 mph. I'm pretty sure I even beat my fists on a passenger window in a full-blown rage as people grabbed their children away from the raging psychotic that I was. Nope, it wasn't my finest hour and you know what?

I'm not sorry.

Friday, November 17, 2006

A Spicy, Glorious Stew

As Bush finally ships off to Vietnam to make nice-nice (30 years too late, as Fang points out) and volunteer Minutemen – or, as I like to call them – Mi-nute Men – stalk our southern border, I can't help but notice some fascinating cultural seepings in W's home state.

Yesterday morning, I read a news story that got me downright misty-eyed. Traveling abroad a few years back, I somehow morphed into a dedicated rugby fan. My team was, and remains, The New Zealand All Blacks. At the start of every game, the Blacks, cued by the blow of a conch shell, would perform a harrowing Maori (NZ indigenous folks) war dance called the 'haka.'

With bulging eyes, wild tongues, knee-slaps and frightening growls, the haka is a sight to behold. It is impossible not to be seduced by the sheer power of it. "Ka Mate! Ka Mate! Ka Ora! ("We're going to die! We're going to die! We're going to live!") – the deep baritone warrior chant makes your hair stand on end and, for some of us, draws our nipples towards the sky. In Maori tradition, the haka was performed prior to battle and the All Blacks were the only sports team in the world that indulged in this Pacific Islander tradition.

Until now.

Joy-of-joys, this menacing and beautiful display of testosterone has now taken hold in that bastion of Americana – Texas high school football. Bedford, home of the Trinity Trojans, also boasts a large population of Tongans, who are big and mighty and make for excellent defensive ends. One of these Tongan Trojans, taught the ancient war dance to his teammates during a practice rain-out. Not only did it take but Trojan fans have gone haka-wild. Evidently, young girls now wear shirts in Bedford asking: "Got Haka?" Fans even hang around after the game, in the hopes they will perform it again.

Best part of the story: A videotape of the Trojan haka performance was shown to a group of elderly Bedford Tongans. They couldn't take their eyes off the white Texan boys performing this ancient dance with such fierce intensity and dedication. They wept with joy, knowing that future generations of Tongans would be accepted in the community. The Trojan football coach now jokes that Bedford first-graders are learning the haka before they learn to block and tackle.

Meanwhile, the border town of Laredo is gearing up for its annual Society of Martha Washington pageant – an elaborate tribute to the First First Lady. Young debutantes, the great majority of whom are Latina, vie for the chance-in-a-lifetime opportunity to portray Martha on this highly-anticipated night. As National Geographic explained: "It doesn’t matter whether you're Anglo or Mexican. All that counts is old blood, deep roots and the size of your hoop skirt." Indeed, it's all about the gowns, which can weigh up to 85 pounds and cost in the neighborhood of $30,000.

As a border town, all citizens of Laredo are bi-lingual and easily slip between both worlds. It is often said that the two Laredos, "beat with one heart." The NG article observes that the "cultures have not so much collided as colluded to form one region, separate and apart from both home countries." This is a dream, or a nightmare, depending on which side of the … er, fence you're on.

Speaking of blockades, I was in Berlin the summer after the wall was torn down. I even paid five deutsche marks to rent a hammer and chisel and take some blows myself. I can tell you, there will never be a wall high enough to keep out the ideal that George (the original), Tom, Ben and the other founding fathers had in mind. This country, flawed and fabled though it may be, is one big social experiment in constant progress. While the politicians spit and argue, the rest of the country is busy getting on with organically and spontaneously getting along.

This is the real America and it cannot be withheld or contained.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

New Feature – 'The Year of Living'

I've decided that my first Colorado winter will be spent as a Writing Monk. The Plan: Slave in the corporate mines, eat gruel, do yoga and write. Sure, I'll take time off for guitar lessons, travel and skiing but seriously, I gotta get my ass in gear. Otherwise, I'll still be writing press releases in the year 2026 and probably trying to hang myself with the USB cable that plugs straight into my spine.

Consequently, I am rummaging through the hundreds of half-written essays, notes scribbled in earnest and especially, volumes of journals. Remember those? Before the Blogosphere was born in a sudden white flash, there was the tangible romanticism of paper and pen. To my delight, I've recently unearthed several battered notebooks that accompanied me on a year-long adventure around the globe a decade ago.

When I was 29, I gave up my cool apartment, left my sweet boyfriend, quit all my jobs, sold my belongings and bought a round-the-world ticket. For some of 1995 and most of 1996, I explored Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Hawaii as best I could. There is not a day that goes by I do not recall that magical time period of my life. What this experience taught me about the world, about people, about cultures – especially my own – is invaluable to me.

On a semi-regular basis, I'd like to share some entries from that period, get some of this stuff out into space. Here's the first, a short entry jotted down just after initial take-off:

LA to Minneapolis

The day has finally come and here I sit, hovering above my country in a DC-10, not really believing it. How could this possibly work … me, the world and everything? What if we don't get along?

Sharing a hot dog and a Budweiser with my mother in the airport ($12) was a poetic act. She's been so supportive, meanwhile enduring all kinds of disturbances in her own life. I will worry about her and her about me because that's how that sort of thing works.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Know Thyself

I’m trying here in Denver, I really am. I’ve been signing up for random social groups, clubs, activities, botanic gardens, film societies, whatever. I’m Marcia friggin’ Brady over here in the square state but developing a new network from scratch doesn’t happen overnight.

I attended one of my first ‘singles events’ this afternoon – a Broncos game in a bar – and had a revelation of sorts. Everyone there was perfectly nice - like me, a bit shy (ha!) and looking to meet new people. As more folks arrived, however, I started to feel more and more detached. Not just the usual girl-in-a-bubble sensation that I feel in daily life, this was something else. The feeling was that I’d somehow wandered into the wrong tribe.

Most of the other folks in the group were either much older than me or had just given up early, hard to tell. Mind you, I’m the most immature 40-year-old you’d ever want to meet, a source of pride, I don’t mind sayin’. Nearly every woman I met (yup, always plenty of those) had short, conservative haircuts and wore those non-descript Mom Jeans. They mostly lived in the suburbs and try as I might, I could not develop a connection with anyone. I remember thinking, “The first person who says the word ‘fuck’ I am buying a drink.”

I know plenty of rocking mamas so it really has nothing to do with whether someone has kids or not, it’s more about a vague resignation or an immense desire for safety that makes me impatient and fidgety. There is a stiffness there that makes me stiff as well and I should know to avoid it at this point in my life.

Right about the time I heard the woman next to me say, “I do not like horses,” my phone rang. It was a new friend, Bliss, a vivacious gal with a heavy Mississippi accent. “Girl! Carlie just got a new puppy! Ya’ll gotta meet us over at her place!” Something in my head clicked and after contemplating this for two minutes, I hopped off my barstool and left. It was still the first quarter.

Driving over to Carlie’s house, I had to admit that the perfectly nice people at the bar were simply not my people. Again, lovely folks but something about them all screamed, “NORMAL!” I always forget this and have to re-learn it over and over again. I try to fit in with NORMAL and I can never fully choke it down. My people are the FREAKS, I am so proud to say. Thankfully, Bliss, Carlie and others in their world are nowhere near NORMAL. There is drama, there is art, there is funky shit on the walls and plenty of mistakes out there for all to see; I find great comfort in this atmosphere.

I’ve always envied people who were committed to one distinction or another. I have lots of NORMAL friends and I have lots of FREAK friends and love them both dearly. Keep in mind that FREAKS can look perfectly NORMAL and certainly even sound that way but in their heart of hearts, that Freak Flag is ready to fly at a moment’s notice.

My pal, Court, is a perfect example: Blue-blood Boston-bred, pearl-wearing, blonde, blue-eyed wife works corporate PR in Manhattan but lives “in the country.” Among other freaky items she would kill me to divulge, that girl knows everything there is to know about rap and hip-hop. Together, we were once privately serenaded by Cypress Hill and I had to bring her with me to a Snoop Dogg concert so she could explain the music to me. While Courtney appears NORMAL (and may, in fact, be) she speaks FREAK fluently and that’s really all I need.

I remember being a cheerleader in high school (I know, I know but they gave me free audiences, matching outfits and all the boys I could eat – what’s an opportunistic girl supposed to do?) and secretly wanting to be in the band or do stage crew - something darker and lower profile. I should have realized it when my brother’s friends (shiny, happy, surfers) and my friends (conflicted, struggling artists) accidentally collided one day, the difference was notable.

I had a boyfriend say to me once (he was the most beautiful FREAK of all) “Yeah, the thing is, you can pass for NORMAL but you’re a FREAK inside.” It was pretty crystal clear after that. He’s right though, I can move undercover without much pushback but for the love of god, I certainly couldn’t keep it up full-time.

Takes one to know one. Years ago, I was in North Dakota visiting family and was meeting the wife of a cousin for the first time. When I stepped into Kim’s living room, my jaw dropped. I had been in enough North Dakota farmhouses decorated in family quilts and country ducks to know that Kim was interested in a different route.

The carpet was deep purple and in the middle of the room was a bright red baby grand piano. On the stark white wall below sun-lit cathedral ceilings was a beautiful art rendering of Disney villains – powerful and slightly disturbing. I was impressed with her chutzpah and quite sure the tiny farm town was scandalized by her inspired decor. All that was missing was a needlepoint satanic pentagram and a paisley octi-bong and they would have been obligated to run her out of town.

I looked this farm wife in the eye, with her blonde perky haircut and perfect white teeth, and noted something behind her eyes that said, “By god, this is who I am and I will not conform.” We recognized one another instantly and struck an immediate bond. Sadly, my cousin divorced her and she moved back to Fargo, where she died of breast cancer at the age of 42. She was too much of a lady to ever utter the F-bomb, I'm sure, but I know she could've used a drink.

I still see that twinkle in her eye and am so glad we got the chance to confirm our FREAK-kinship, albeit silently.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Beautiful Day in America

So many work deadlines are staring me down right now but it's nearly impossible to focus. How can I when it looks like it may be the The Beginning of the End of the Nightmare? It feels like Christmas morning and Jesus Claus was especially generous.

First off, Rummy goes down!!!! Woo-hoo! That only took six years of one abysmal failure after another. In this morning's press conference, Bush was unusually candid. A reporter asked him why he was so steadfast in his support of him a week ago and Bush responded, "That was before the election."


The most interesting stuff I've read this morning was about how the world is carefully watching. One story described pubs-goers Europe all glued to the TV, watching the returns. It's hard to picture us, as a nation, giving a rat's ass about another country's political outcome, especially in a bar, when a perfectly good football game could be on.

The Dems are sweeping away control of the House and possibly the Senate, though we are still awaiting word from the Virginia race. This was more or less predicted but even Bush admits that Republicans got a serious "thumpin'" in yesterday's mid-term elections. I'm doing a jig right now, can ya feel it?

Nancy Pelosi, first female Speaker of Da House! Oh, yeah! This is where I can't help myself, as a fellow California native chick, to contain my pride. Nancy is terrific and she's perfect for the job – she never shuts up. In celebration, I'm running topless around my mother's house while my ovaries and I sing, "I'm Just a Girl." All manners befitting a victorious lady will come later, if I calm down.

Meanwhile, I understand that my absentee ballot in Colorado has yet to be counted due to some tech glitch. Wtf, people? If I can get board a plane through a touch screen without ever speaking to anyone, what is the problem here with voting? More importantly, why is there no involvement from Silicon Valley on this issue? Maybe that will be my new drum beat since I am dealing with these folks anyway.

In a sad bit of news, Colorado and I don't see eye-to-eye on some important issues such as gay marriage and marijuana possession. Fine. I guess I'll launch my stoner lesbian wedding party in some underground club and send a special invite to James Dobson and his Focus on the Family goons just down the road.

I am still getting used to the curious mix of liberal/conservative thing here in Colorado. I have liked it so far - preaching to the choir gets old - but passing of similar measures has been taken for granted in California. I came from the town where the hot, hetero mayor sparked national controversy by letting gay couples marry. He was widely criticized for it but I was deeply proud of the move, still am. They told him it would kill his chances of ever running for the U.S. Presidency and he just laughed.

I look forward to the day when we look back and wince in remembering that we treated our fellow Americans as second-class citizens because they were different. Seats on the bus, separate drinking fountains, voting rights … the right to marry – these exclusions were, and are, shameful and cast the only shadow on an otherwise beautiful day in American history.

Now then, where can I get some good bud?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Trying to Relax in Santa Barbara

Once again, I'm out of town and once again, I have mixed feelings about it. I've come to Santa Barbara to celebrate the 40th birthday of an old friend, Michelle, who is now even older.

It's always strange coming back to California, in one region or another. So many people, so much smog and yet, I feel a pang of sadness for the SoCal I used to love. It certainly isn't the place I left in 1997.

I was forced to work yesterday, not something I'm thrilled about. Good lord, this cannot be my life. I don't want this to be this corporate doofus that I've become. I'm not at a point where I'm ready to accept this adult albatross. It was just a few weeks ago, on a conference call, when I heard some biggity-wig utter the words: "Well, we'll just have all the worldwide operations go through Heather."

That woke me up. I thought to myself, "Holy shit, I hope there's another girl named Heather on this call." There wasn't.

So, I'm trying to juggle these new responsbilities while still live my usual carefree life. A part of me thinks that it is about time and that I've been putting this off for as long as I possibly can. The louder part of me refuses to play along. This inner argument is exhausting - see photo.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I'm My Own Nightmare

Last Saturday night, I dressed up like a crazy disco ho-bag ('tis the season) to join other Halloween revelers for a rare night on the town. I met up with new pal, Karen, at the home of her friend, Doug. He lives in an adorable loft and was hosting some pre-festivity cocktails before everyone ran off to their various parties and events.

Doug was serving a classic drink (circa 1930s) called, "The Sidecar," a delightful concoction he used to make for his great aunt - despite the persistent rumor that he made them for his grandmother. I loved them! A little brandy, a little Cointreau and the perfect amount of lemon juice all dressed up in a sugared rim. Yum.

By the time, we got to the Breckenridge Brewery for their annual canned food-raiser "Brimstone Boogie," I was happily smashed. It was great to be out amongst my fellow Denver-ites; I don't see them nearly enough and miss them terribly.

With everyone in full costume, conversations happened easily. An entire herd of folks came as various emoticons and there was a Catholic priest who was there, very drunk and trying to get as much flesh in his hands as possible - all for the character, I'm sure. (He should have also had a tithing plate and a nervous buddy nearby dressed as a lawyer.) Doug was dressed as a 'chick magnet' with those marshmallow Peeps Velcro-ed all over him. I can vaguely remember a friendly guy dressed as Duffman buying me more drinks, not that I needed them.

At some point, I regressed into an old habit: Storing all my stuff behind the band's amplifier. I swear, I've been doing this since the 80s and even in to the 90s when I was writing about bands for a living. Never had a problem. Keeps me from being weighted down, y'know?

At some other point, I go to my special secret hiding spot and can't find my stuff. I begin frantically searching the entire club but find nothing. Incredulous to my bad luck, I somehow end up in sitting next to soda tanks 'backstage,' bawling my head off and taking inventory of my loss: Cell phone, eyeglasses, house keys, driver's license, ATM card, fancy red velvet gloves, gum, $22 and a small container of silver glitter. Oh yes, and two coats - one to match my wild disco outfit and the other black velvet with red fake fur collars for the neck and wrists. (The coat is so coveted amongst friends that it is actually listed in my Will.)

Thankfully, a kind soul and BB staff member named Doug took pity, fetched me water, helped me look for my stuff and generally worried about my well being. Eventually, we had to give up and he inquired how I was going to get home and what my plan was. At that moment, I realized how alone I was in this new city, which kick-started a new round of tears.

Karen had already gone home and I was left with little choice. I had to approach poor Doug, who I'd only met hours earlier, and ask if I could crash at his place. I had no money, no house key, no coats, no money, no eyesight and, at this stage, very little self respect. Gentleman that he is, Doug agreed.

I slept badly, running over various tragic scenarios in my head - my bank account cleared out, my apartment cleared out, my cat murdered, my car stolen ... my glitter used up. Gak! Up by 7 a.m., I waited patiently for the sun to rise so I could start my horrible day. Thankfully, Doug had a stack of Playboys, fun stuff that I rarely get to peruse. (Question: Since when did full-grown women devolve away from public hair? Brrrrrr.)

I called my petsitter, Mark, who has an extra key, and asked if he could meet me at my house to let me in. I called the brewery and left a pathetic pleading message with my home number. Then, I waited for poor innocent Doug to awaken so I could then hit him up for the $20 it would take to get me out of his life ASAP. He finally arose around 9 a.m. and quickly handed over the cab fare.

All through this, I realize I'm bummed about having lost my 'things' but actually feel much sadder about the idea that one of my fellow revelers robbed me blind. This would leave an indelible black mark on Denver's spot-free record; this incident would mar our relationship while still in its crucial beginning. I mean, if I can amp-stash my stuff for decades in the seedy clubs of Hollywood, Los Angeles and San Francisco without incident - what does that say about Denver? I didn't want to think about it.

I did the feaux Walk of Shame, running into Doug's elderly neighbor in the hallway wearing red glitter boots and not much else, and caught a cab home. Petsitter Mark met me at the door handing over several keys - he'd had extras made on the way over, out of concern. (Now, that's the Denver I love!)

My home phone tells me I have seven voice mail messages, several are from the brewery telling me that they found my stuff, tucked away in a very odd place. (This is when I remember another old habit: Doubting my original hiding spot with each passing cocktail and re-hiding it over and over until ... well, until this happens.)

But here is the fun part: My voice mail included two messages - an amused one from my father, "Hey, honey! Heard you were out drinking last night and lost all your stuff! Way to go!" and a frantic one from my mother, "HEATHER, WHERE ARE YOU??? PLEASE CALL ME! I HOPE NOTHING HAS HAPPENED TO YOU!!!" (This was supplemented by a similar email I later found from her in ALL CAPS.)

Apparently, the staff at the Breckenridge Brewery was so concerned about my well being that they called my parents ... at 2 in the morning. Never mind that I am 40 and legally responsible for myself. Let's even overlook the fact that I partly moved to Colorado so no one would know what the fuck I was up to but let's ask the only question that needs to be asked here: What the hell?

Truth be told, I found the BB's behavior pretty damn adorable. Of course, if I were 25, that calling-the-parents thing definitely would've enraged me. Still, not only did I have my stuff back but my faith was restored in Denver. I tried to imagine a nightclub staff in LA or even San Francisco giving a shit about a drunken weepy loser and I just can't picture it, which makes me fall in love with Denver all over again.

Thus, I'll probably go out again tonight. Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Work, Work, Work

Employment. A necessary evil. I've never met anyone who didn't need it. I fully comprehend that it pays for my life – my apartment, my food, my heating bill, my car, my clothes, my concert tickets. I'll even admit I have it better than most, working from home. I do not deal with a lengthy commute, applying make-up or matching my socks.

My parents represent extreme ends of the employment perspective. My father, age 72, has been retired since age 48. He just travels around the country in his motor home and is pretty much the most relaxed, happy guy you'll ever meet. He worked his butt off as a young man, did well for himself, lost a bunch on various wives, and then organized his life so he'd never work again. When you call his cell phone, his voice message says: "Wonderful day! I woke up this morning and I'm still alive and I think that's just great! Hope your day is going as good as mine! Bye-bye!"

My mother grew up as an only child on a North Dakota farm where she dreamed of working as an office secretary, a job she still keeps and loves. She is 73 and puts in a 40-hour work week with great dedication. It is not just a job in which she excels; it is a large part of who she is. She is a Professional, an old-school secretary that every modern-day executive pines for. Not only is she smart and highly efficient, she enjoys the atmosphere of a structured workplace. I recall her disapproval when I worked at Macromedia and told her I had a big slide behind my desk that went down to a lower floor. This was something more suitable for a playground, she scoffed, not an office.

I remember witnessing her boss say to her that she could work there as long she wanted to. "Even if you're 100," he said. "We'll just build little ramps for the wheelchair." This is great job security but it makes her children nervous – she might just take him up on it. Then again, she says if she quits, she'll afraid she'll rot to death and I believe her, because she believes it.

Trying to pitch her on the idea of retiring (always a failing effort) I suggested she could travel or even … perhaps do volunteer work? She was adorably indignant: "Forget it! If I’m working, I'm getting paid!" I have to admit, I love this part of her that refuses to be some doddering old granny that stays home and bakes pies. She is very much a modern woman and always will be. When the internet boom happened, mom didn't miss a step – she doesn't want to be left behind. We communicate regularly through email while my father brags he's never even touched one. "I'm almost dead. Why bother?" he reasons.

Though I am, in many ways, carefree like my father, aspects of my mother pop up. I still can't bring myself to call in sick unless I am near death. Still, my job does not define me. Hell, I’m not even sure what it is I do for a living. Something to do with the media and technology, the rest is fuzzy. It is very far from the globe-trotting journalist that I always wanted to be and that makes me so sad.

I ponder this because I've just returned home from a particularly stressful business trip and now I'm also expected to work over the weekend. I am asking myself, is this the life I want? Does my job help anyone at all? Make the world a better place? Make me tons of money? The answer is: Sometimes, somewhat, no and no.

As I left the San Francisco office yesterday for the airport, I stopped to gas up the rental car. A man with a squeegee stood at the pump and I groaned at the sight of him. 'I am so not in the mood for this,' I thought. I got out of the car and he asked if I wanted my oil checked, my tires checked, the windows washed, anything at all. I politely declined, telling him it was a rental car and I was about to return it. He nodded and backed away.

As I pumped my gas, I thought about the irony of the situation. I'm told there was a time in the 50s when crisp young men in white suits would perform all these services for free and now, it's up to the enterprising homeless. The man approached me again and said, "You know, I really don't mean to harass anyone. I'm just trying to make a living by helping a little." He was apologizing, for some reason, and I told him I understood.

I returned the nozzle, put the cap back on and, on impulse, reached into my wallet and grabbed a $10 bill. I gave it to him and said, "We all have hard jobs, don't we?" He was amazed and 'God blessed me' many times, something that never hurts for an overworked heathen like me.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Raped Planets and Crunched Scrotums

One of my favorite bloggers, St. Howard, pointed out today that Mother Nature, as a utility company, is about to go bankrupt, eventually leaving us cold/hot, thirsty and gasping for air. There's just too damn many of us and by 'us' I mean greedy Westerners who definitely want fries with that.

As house guests go, the human race is the drunken uncle who came for a weekend visit 20 years ago, refuses to leave, drinks all the booze, eats all the food, hits on your daughter and crashes the car. We are a nasty infestation of mites on the epidermis of the planet and it shouldn't be much longer before She shivers us off like a wet dog wringing itself dry from a bath. I can almost feel the Earth moaning to its GP, "Can I get something for this? Lotion? Ointment? Seriously, I'll even take back the dinosaurs. They were ugly but at least they only took what they needed."

I've noticed that the 'year of reckoning' everyone likes to throw around, 2050, is also used by the global warming folks. Apparently, this is the year the shit hits the fan and the hens come home to roost. If you come looking for me then, I will be the drunk old lady on the porch laughing and crying and saying 'I told you so.'

Furthermore, it looks like cell phones and anti-depressants decrease male sperm. (Guess this puts a halt to the launch plan of the Xanax Flipped Out phone or the marketing frenzy for Prozac Happy Tones – downloadable ringtones available at all mental health centers near you.) I guess all those neurotic investment bankers and hyper-stressed lawyers will suffer a dearth of seed while the happy so-called disconnected fellows will have plenty of mouths to feed. (Hey, did I just accidentally write a modern-day poem? Holy shit, some days, I've got talent shooting in every direction … )

Mainly, I wanted to point out this story so that I could highlight this quote...from a scientist:

"It's these guys that hang out in smoky bars, stressed and crunched up on their scrotum talking on the phone."

So, let this be a lesson to you boys, no crunching of the scrotum. And ladies, no twisting of the vagina, especially when you're on the phone, just to be safe.

Finally, after all this dreariness, here's one thing about the future I look forward to, even if it does combine YouTube genius with corporate marketing, I'll still be there – drunk and on the porch, laughing/crying, just for practice.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

I (Heart) New York!

It's really just that simple. Every fall, I get the urge (among others) to visit Gotham and grab onto that magical third rail of energy that is unlike any other. I am here now and I am not disappointed.

Believe it or not, I do not need to party heavily and go 'clubbing to get this satisfaction. I feel it just walking down the street or even riding the subway – where I wear a ridiculous grin like some tourist goonball. The New York City subway system is one of the great feats of mankind, right up there with Egyptian pyramids and Velcro - truly mind-boggling. Add to this the random live performances of the cello, steel drums, flamenco guitar and the human rivers that ceaselessly flow and you've got one teeming civic miracle.

Despite the widespread assertion that New Yorkers are gruff and grumpy, the reality is that this is probably one of the friendliest cities on earth. There is something about being all packed in together that makes them approachable. I find it very easy to make eye contact and exchange pleasantries here – of course, with my silly grin, the locals probably think I'm mentally unstable. On Friday, I struggled with getting my luggage up the subway stairs, a polite man offered to carry them up for me. "There ya go. Have a great weekend," he said smiling, before he disappeared into the crowd.

Magical experiences never fail to occur here in the Big Apple. Earlier this week, I quietly escaped from my company's Park Avenue HQ to get my hair done. While looking for the address, I came upon a small sign that read: "Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace. National Historic Site. Victorian Museum and Brownstone. Open to the Public." My jaw dropped and I may have emitted a sudden squeal. What unbelievably good luck!

If I have not mentioned it before, let me do so right now – I am a HUGE TR fan. I quickly ran inside to double confirm the facts and found two bored park rangers who found my babbling enthusiasm mildly amusing. I returned the next day to take a tour - just me and a bunch of students. (When the park ranger mentioned that TR would go skinny dipping in the Potomac, one girl asked where that was. "Washington DC" said the ranger, to which she replied, "Yeah, I'm just not that good at geometry.")

Of course, the tour wasn't exactly Graceland, but I was incredibly thrilled to have stumbled upon such a significant landmark amidst the busy hive of Manhattan. I was also happy to let the rangers know about the TR action-figure doll I keep in my office. "He's very flexible," I bragged. They seemed genuinely jealous and I am half-considering sending one to them for Xmas. I could probably even write it off on my taxes as a 'government donation.'

Mind you, if I lived in New York, it would probably kick my wimpy Californian ass - I am happy to love it from a distance. (I'm counting on Colorado to toughen me up.) Nevertheless, whenever I am here, I feel incredibly alive and powerfully drawn into the present moment, something I strive for always. New York City is one of the great, beating hearts of my country and (all 9/11 sympathies aside) it never fails to evoke a great swells of patriotism in my heart. Just by existing, it showcases Americans at their very best.

I've been pondering all this over the last few days, culiminating in a single observation. "This place," I thought to myself as I passed a smiling Fed Ex man on 5th Avenue, "can never be killed."

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Let It Snow!

Today's post was supposed to be about our population hitting the 300 million mark. (I mean, where is everyone supposed to park?) But then it started snowing and all my worldly focus seemed to melt.

Once again, I must point out that I am from California where things like this don't happen willy-nilly. There, such things only occur at far-away ski resorts (often with the help of machines) or on Hollywood sets, where 'snow' is made of salt and Styrofoam. California cities know of no such phenomenon, hence my child-like wonderment.

In fact, I never even saw snow until I was about 9. I think we were in Idaho or Montana, someplace far. My dad pulled over The Voyager, our beloved motorhome, and I ran outside to frolic in the weird, fluffy white stuff. I was in shorts and a tank top and it was awhile before I realized, "Hey man, this stuff is COLD." Seriously, this aspect of snow had never really occurred to me. This is where I am coming from.

Once the magical wintry flakes began falling this afternoon, I nearly leapt out of my chair. I even took Simone, my cat, outside and she was thoroughly disgusted by the situation. Mind you, she is entirely black and may have taken personal offense at the world suddenly going all-white (see accompanying photo for heat-seeking kitty-kat).

Holy cow, I had to celebrate with somebody. I IM'd some fellow Californians and got suitable responses like, "Yay! How exciting! Can you go outside?" "Run outside and make a snow angel!!!" and "Wow! Are you going to make a snowman???"

When I IM'd a friend in New York, I received a muted, "um, awesome." Guess my East Coast pal, a Boston native and former resident of Illinois, is over the whole freezing-ass cold reality of winter.

So, I called my mother at work. Raised in North Dakota, she merely laughed at me. This is a woman who still buys food in bulk - despite living alone in a beach town - based on a childhood fear of being snowed in for months on end.

Yes, I'm weather idiot but y'see, I can't help it. As previously stated, seasons are a magical mystery that I am just now beginning to unwrap. My brother is the same way – we both get extremely excited about thunder and lightning and our eyes light up with every boom, crack and flash. And yes, there is often giggling and a few squeals of delight.

Mind you, I may be an idiot but my brother is just plumb crazy. Living on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, he refused to evacuate for Hurricane Katrina because he wanted to "experience the storm." What's even crazier is that I probably would have done the same. The Clisbys: We're not terribly bright but we are easily entertained.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a date with a yet-unmade snow angel …