Monday, February 27, 2006

Mobile Dysfunction

I just read the alarming fact that 15 percent of Americans have interrupted sex to answer their cell phones.

Um. I'm not sure where to start with this. I would like to know the gender break down of this statistic. I would imagine it would be mostly women since men have a more limited (ahem) window of opportunity for live-action monkey antics but who knows? You get a guy who is a workaholic bond trader or a Hollywood agent and he could reach for that thing in one sweaty Pavlovian swipe.

Which also makes me wonder what the occupations of these folks are? Unless you are a heart surgeon or for that matter, a sickly patient nervously awaiting a liver donor, I'm not sure I see the urgency.

Along these same wireless lines, I would like to share a golden nugget that my colleague* shared with me today. She returned yesterday from Spain and was groggy by 8 p.m. When her cell phone rang and she saw it was her ex-ex-boyfriend from years ago, she hesitated, but answered, "Hello?" She got no greeting in return but did hear voices.

She soon realized it was the sound of two people having sex and then, she recognized her ex's voice. And then, the nugget: The girl says: "Oh, that's okay. You're just tired. I understand. It happens sometimes."

See, now you would never get this kind of betrayal from a land line.

*a fine upstanding Christian from Indiana who turns red at the mere thought of telling a fib.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Me, You, Others

Sitting here, rotting away in Corporate America, chewing antacids to appease my rebellious stomach, I feel compelled to goof off and share my trivial thoughts.

Every morning, I ride the bus to work and never tire of this commute. Someone else does the driving and worries about parking. I am not obligated to speak to anyone or make eye contact, though I occasionally do. The only social rule? To give up my seat to an elderly or pregnant person. Mainly, all I do is read.

Once deposited downtown, I head to the office at Second and Folsom Streets through a flurry of urban activity. On the way, I see city workers, bike messengers, bankers, caterers, tourists, cabbies, art students, mailmen, street vendors and professionals of all stripes. Observing this human zoo is one of the best parts of living in a large city - such a variety of life teeming in one big cauldron.

Mornings like today, when I am obsessed with the details of my life (Where will I go? What will I do? Etc.,) I find it a great comfort to hide behind my dark sunglasses and instead, study my fellow drones as they make their way through the hive. Such stories in these faces!

I see a young Irishman with a backpack walking towards BART, smoking with one hand, reading a travel guide in the other. He looks free and pleased with himself.

A power-suited woman passes me, a cell phone clamped to her blonde head. Her face is twisted in a panic and I hear her plead, "Well, I sent the email on Friday, I don't know how-"

A crazy-ass black dude walks behind me talking to someone (or perhaps, no one) about some unforgettable gams: "Her legs were crazy! Crazy, I'm telling you, the last time I saw legs like that, they were on my grandmother's dining room table!"

As I near the CNET building, I pick up nerd small talk as tech wizards compare high scores on various gaming platforms, as hunters would compare kills in the wild.

As I do every morning, I pass the same elegant entrepreneur in a brown top hat as he wheels his portable shoeshine business (complete with theater seats) down towards Market. At night, he'll roll it back, where both he and it live, under the freeway.

And on it goes. Quittin' time, same thing in reverse. Just yesterday, as I was walking home along Market, I thought to myself, "Gosh, I love this town, such a contented life here." At that very moment, a homeless guy covered completely in grime attacked a public pay phone with much screaming and violence. Hard to explain but he was somehow trying to violate the machine with parts of itself all the while delivering enraged expletives to a citenzry that, for the most part, ignored him.

Though I may not be the first to observe we are all living in our own separate realities, I am certainly the first in my universe to notice. Oh, how I sometimes wish that life were a comic book and thought balloons existed. Instead, I rely on body language, facial expressions and one-side cell phone conversations to put the puzzle pieces together.

Project deadlines, money worries, sweet reflections on the previous evening's lovemaking - all these thoughts I pick up from my fellow city dwellers. For a moment, it comforts me, knowing we all have our hang-ups, our dreams, our fears and a life filled mostly with minutia.

It never fails to help me face another day.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Lure of Elsewhere

Coming to you wireless from the Beatnik Café in Joshua Tree, my very favorite place on Earth. It is my final wish that when my fleshy shell goes stiff, I am to be toasted and lightly sprinkled from some mesa in Joshua Tree . . . . which is illegal, which is perfect. As long as my ashes don’t float down to Palm Springs, I’ll be happy – I don’t want to have to spend eternity on some unnatural golf course trampled upon by vacationing Hollywood execs.

Indeed, J-Tree is where I will spend my final days and every time I come here, I wonder why I don’t move sooner. Between Pappy & Harriet’s , the Beatnik Café, The Sun Runner and the Desert Institute, I could be quite content. Funky characters abound, observatories and recording studios aplenty and the desert itself – I could be happy here and stay close to Mama Iva. Then, I remember that I’m already moving to Austin or Mississippi or New Orleans or Wyoming or Whatever and then I ask myself “What the hell is your problem, Self? Why can’t you sit still, fer chrissakes?”

Clearly, it is change that I crave; a new adventure and a fresh place. Little pockets of people that I would meet, a like-minded community I could infiltrate and a host of eclectic hubs that would show me underground secrets.

Why the wanderlust? I have always marveled at rich people with homes in Italy, New York, Paris - how do they know where home is? Still, given my druthers and a Google bank account, I would happily have homes in Joshua Tree, Austin, San Francisco and Mississippi. Oh my yes, I could do this quite easily.

So then, the question is, how do I make a lot of money? How do I arrange my life so that I do not have to wear a nametag or spend my days in a cubicle? Will this blog lead me to fame, fortune and high-speed wi-fi wherever I roam? Furthermore, why didn’t I pack my Magic 8-Ball for wobbly moments just like this?

I had a dream last night that my life was about giving speeches. I love the idea but don’t I need to have survived some intense national tragedy or have my name associated with Oprah’s Book club to do that? My needs are basic – horses to ride, cheese to eat, wine to drink and, of course, the Internet. What else is there?

I like talking . . . maybe I could become a monologist and pattern my life after Spaulding Grey minus the suicidal ferry rides. God, I feel like George Constanza, “What about baseball? I like baseball. Maybe I could manage a baseball team . . . .”

Feedback? Thoughts? The ClizBiz Suggestion Box is now open.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

And If Cheney Doesn't Shoot You, They'll Just Ignore You To Death

Ah, the post-Katrina 'Where the hell were you?' mess rages on as New Orleans holds a jazz funeral for itself. As you can see, the ugly bathtub ring that encircles the majority of the city is not going to be scrubbed off anytime soon. Sure, Mardi Gras will go on, as will JazzFest but how comfortable is everyone going to feel come hurricane season? What fabulous new surprises will Mother Nature (whom we've been raping since we got here) have in store for us this time around?

Katrina left more than 1,300 people dead in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, hundreds of thousands homeless and tens of billions of dollars worth of damage and guess who seems the most pissed off about it? A Republican senator from Maine.

That's right, the daughter of two mayors, who has probably never dealt with hurricane threats in her life, is there, front and center, asking the tough questions. I'm talking about Senator Susan Collins and though nasal nose Lieberman is in there with her (he asked Chertoff, incredulous: "How did you go to sleep that night?") it's Collins who is winning me over.

In any case, a 520-page Katrina report on the inaction of the government, top to bottom, states:

"The preparation for and response to Hurricane Katrina should disturb all Americans. Passivity did the most damage. The failure of initiative cost lives, prolonged suffering, and left all Americans justifiably concerned our government is no better prepared to protect its people than it was before 9/11, even if we are."

So, there you have it. Buy your duct tape, shop at Safeway (cuz it's safe!) and plan your day around government-issued orange alerts, see how far that gets you. All this fever about WMDs and what kills us in the end?

At this point, it looks like a combination of wind, water, cartoons and Tweety Bird sniffles.

Sleep tight!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Killer Vice

While it's all very amusing that little DickieVice has gone and gifted a Texan lawyer with a faceful o'buckshot, the story, much like a true kill, it starting to rot and stink. Unless, the fellow dies - and I am certainly hoping he does not - it's just another keystone cops episode in this administration and it's making me nostalgic.

Remember Ford falling down all those stairs? Or cracks in sidewalks or whatever? It didn't take much. Who can forget Bush Sr. puking in the lap of some foreign dignitary? That's gotta be my favorite. However, I do love Bush Jr. nearly choking to death on a pretzel - it would have been a fitting end for such a monkey of a man.

Because the Veep is actually Montgomery Burns, it's juicy good fun. If this were, say, Ronald Reagan, we'd already have a great one-liner making the rounds, probably something about somebody forgetting to duck. Bob Dole would've given us a real zinger, but no such luck here. We are dealing with a colorless, humorless man whose approval rating clods along at 24 percent and let's face it, Oops-Gate 2006 is just another incredibly easy reason to hate him.

Most of all, we still haven't heard from the one guy who has the most to say about the VP's quail hunting accident: Danforth Quayle himself. Okay, so the man can't spell 'potato' but at least he didn't drag us into unneccessary wars with exaggerations of our impending doom.

Friday, February 10, 2006

A New Job For Francis

Tomorrow, they will bury one of the coolest guys I ever met. He happened to be the father of my college roommate, Laurianna, but I like to think we were friends on our own terms.

When I see the hypocrisy and hatred done in the name of Christianity and the Catholic Church, I get very angry and try instead to think about those who live their lives by the original ideals - love, acceptance, humor and, most of all, a healthy exchange of ideas.

A handful of faces inevitably come to mind and Francis "Fran" Roman has always been one of them, along with his wife of 47 years, Lenora. Laurianna and I had always joked that her parents clearly had access to that heavenly direct line, The Red Phone - something that was brought out only in times of life or death.

Rewarded for his life of spiritual dedication, he was honored with a painless death, free of sickness and disease. Far from it - the man had undoubtedly gone running the day before or lifted weights in the gym on his final day on Earth. A citizen of Barstow, California, Fran was famous for running in ridiculous heat. "Sure, it was 114 degrees," he'd reason, "but it was 117 degress the day before and that's just way too hot."

The last time I saw him, in the spring of 2005, it affected me deeply. Laurianna was marrying Jim in Albuquerque and I was a bridesmaid. Though there were some cute boys paying me some attention, honestly, I preferred spending time with Lenora and Fran. We discussed politics of the day, the war in Iraq and the deep divide that was tearing the country apart. I could have talked with him for hours and never ceased learning. He had a gentle, soothing voice that made you feel respected, worthy . . . heard.

Fond of him as I was, he receives full blame for my spiritual breakdown that arrived with horrible timing. I knew Fran would be conducting the wedding service, as he was a deacon in the Church, but I certainly didn't see the Bible-based TKO that was headed straight for me.

Of course, he gave a riveting sermon, talking to us - as I'd praised him later - rather than preaching at us. Then came time for the Euchrist and he suggested to those attending that if they were not Catholic and simply wanted a blessing, to cross their arms against their chests. As I am highly suspicious of priests and their ilk, I already knew in my heart that I wanted very much a blessing - specifically because it was from Fran, a man who I admired and trusted. Other than Johnny Cash, there is no other man whom I would expose my spiritual side to in such a vulnerable way.

Because I stood nearest to the bride, he came to me first and I crossed my arms. As I bowed, he placed his hand on my head and spoke the blessing. Something weird began happening to my insides. Then, I raised my head, Fran looked straight into my eyes and spoke with conviction: "God loves you very much." Somewhere in my soul, a door, long rusted shut, creaked open, a draft came through and the tears came. And came. And came. And came.

He'd already moved on to others but I could not stop crying. Honestly, I sort of started to freak out, as did the 7-year-old flower girl next to me, who became increasingly concerned. Thankfully, it did not come with wracking gutteral sobs but holy cow, must my meltdowns always be in a public forums? I could just imagine what the guests must be thinking:

"So what's happening with that bridesmaid? She's kinda losing it up there."
"I dunno. Maybe she's just really close with the bride . . . ?"

My makeup long washed away, I began to worry about the amount of snot to be dealt with - an inordinately large amount. Also, what a failure as a bridesmaid. Laurianna wasn't asking for much, just walk down the gol'dern aisle, hold the pretty flowers and don't tip over - is that too much to ask? Oh yeah, and try not to drown yourself while you're at it.

Desperately, I looked around for a tissue and saw one clean white square held in the hand of Lenora, the bride's mother, who clearly had her self together. I creeped up to her and asked politely if I could have her tissue. Okay, so maybe I grabbed it and ran but it was all for the bride, I tell you.

Thankfully, the entire Roman family remained blissfully unaware of my spiritual meltdown but it affects me still. Even recalling it, my eyes fill up with tears. Fran spent his life teaching others, spreading the word and opening rusted doors. It was more than a calling for him, it was a joy. It's also pretty clear to anyone who knew Fran that he's got a new job now.

Answering the Red Phone.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Cheers, Ladies!

I just watched the Pittsburgh Steelers win the Superbowl and I must reflect.

The Superbowl and I are peers. Over the years, when people ask my age, I have occasionally given the smart-ass retort: "I'm as old as the SuperBowl." Therefore, I always watch the game with interest, as it is a cultural time capsule of progress/digress that fits precisely within my lifetime. (Indeed, the Janet Jackson half-time incident marked a dark, ridiculous and, indeed, pierced time in my own life.)

This year, with the recent feminst blog debate going 'round, I couldn't help but notice a few less obvious victories that don't end with large jewelry and quickly switched logo-encrusted baseball caps.

First off, they opened the game with a moment of silence for "two fallen heroes of this country,": Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King. Um, can we stop and celebrate that for a moment? Two women! Of color, even! Honored, at the Superbowl! The biggest American celebration of testosterone - other than war - that this country is capable of having and they are honoring these ladies.

Again, when they sang the national anthem, it was Aaron Neville (who seems like he'd had a stroke, bless his heart) and . . . Aretha Franklin, who belted it out in her Detroit hometown. The cameras flashed on various intense players and those who looked heartfelt. At one point, they showed Condi Rice in the crowd, beaming like I never knew she was capable of. I mean, if W. himself had performed a private strip tease on her birthday, she could not have visibly been any happier.

Furthermore, I have to point out that the ABC network had only two reporters down on the field to cover the action - chicks! Both of em! Smart ones too! They knew their shit! Neither one blonde or busty! Real vocabularies and everything!

So, yes, I am drinking champagne (which explains all the !!!) and on this Sunday afternoon, I am celebrating the fact that on the weekend of Betty Fridan's passing, some very subtle strides have been made and goddammit, that makes me proud.

And I'm saving my final toast for the cheerleaders who have been there all along.


Thursday, February 02, 2006

Where Does This Horse Go?

I'm at the precipice of a new era and am more worried than energized: What am I going to do with my life? Do I follow one of my career dreams (newspaper job, documentaries, photographer, oral history projects) and be poor or continue sucking on the corporate teat and possibly obtain a house/horse/child someday? I think I know the answer and yes, I like Ramen just fine but the question has been keeping me up nights lately.

I was discussing this quandary with my horse pal, Erika, this evening when suddenly I remembered to tell her about a dream I had a few weeks ago. I was on some UC Davis-type campus and saw a horse who had clearly escaped from the Equestrian Center - he was naked and looked like a kid that had jumped out of the bathtub - wheeeee! Naturally, I had a halter with me (doesn't everyone?) and quickly caught him, a big chestnut-colored fella.

With my new friend in tow, we embarked on one of those epic surreal journeys that only the subconscious (and perhaps Lewis Carroll) can create. Agreeable and sporting, he followed me everywhere - we hopped on floating wood chips, up and down stairs, through closets and even broke up a make-out party, all in an effort to bring him home. I also specifically recall bringing him down a ramshackle wooden hallway that seemed to get smaller the farther we went. He just put his head down, trying to fit. In reality, a tight space like that would not be accepted by any horse I know, at all.

Eventually, my horse teacher, John, came along and joined the effort but the dream ended with no conclusion. When I awoke, I was steeped it that powerful yet serene feeling you get from having a 1,000+ pound animal follow your lead. The internal residue of this sensation stayed with me throughout the day, to my great comfort.

After I described all this to Erika, she immediately remarked, "It's just like what you were talking about with your life and career - trying to find a home for this huge part of your life, asking yourself, 'Where does this horse go?'" A-ha!

This is exactly why I keep people in my life who are smarter than me, so they can figure stuff like this out. Anyway, as I continue to drag my future prospects around on a rope, if anyone knows of a comfy Heather-sized stall with good clean hay, I'd be much obliged.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Ladies in Red

One of my favorite Female Guideposts, LMB, is one of the few level-headed, clear-minded, modern-day femininists that actually lets me be myself, instead of like her. Same but different, a philosophy that is somewhat radical in the world of feminism which is why I let her read the fem-blogs for me - so I don't have to.

She's observed that many of the fem-blogs she reads are overtly angry and questions the productivity of it. Her reaction hit on the exact reason why the majority of feminist blogs bore me to death, they are excessively whiny with little room for humor. I love discussions of history, culture, politics and so on but the ongoing "patriarchal society" blahbety-blah is just a big yawner.

There's so much useless ranting that I simply find little value. Also, I've got plenty of anger fatigue already, just in general, as a citizen of Planet Earth so I really don't need to specialize. Perhaps I'm an oddity.

I mean, I tried to read Ms. magazine and I've tried to break it off with Esquire, but neither efforts truly take. I even wrote for and am a faithful subscriber to BUST and BITCH and find those publications highly worthwhile.

At this point in my life, I'm ready to take blame for everything that is not right with my life - no one else. I feel they should do the same.

I'm currently reading "What's Next? - Women Redefining Their Dreams in the Prime of Life" - my pal, Betsey, gave it go me. Though most of it relates back to one's faith (whoops! keep meaning to get one!) I'm finding some of the essay interviews with famous women very enlightening.

Just this morning I read the words of Susan Molinari, former Congresswoman and CBS anchor, author, wife/mother and now, teacher of politics at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, talks about the feminist reaction to her leaving Congress when she was the highest ranking woman in the House:

"There are incredible changes in all our lives. Sometimes we need to stop and ask, 'Do we really know where we are going?' We need to take time to celebrate. And give ourselves a break. Now that we have clout, it won't mean a thing if we don't have a sense of self-respect. People said to me, 'How could she do this to us?' They said, 'You set us back!' We've got to stop eating our own. We need to get self-respect and respect the choices of others."

Amen, sister.