Saturday, September 30, 2006

Let the Seasons Begin! - Autumn 2006

Growing up in Southern California, there were no seasons, only variations on a single 75-degree day. In L.A., the only true indicators of fall were found in the TV Guide. Who knew of changing leaves when there was Must-See-TV?

In San Francisco, you knew it was summer when the wool hat, scarf and gloves came out and we again remembered Mark Twain's famous quote: "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." While freezing my ass off waiting for the bus one morning, I recall reading about Georgia roads buckling in the unfathomable heat and internally noting the irony. Meanwhile, an exasperated woman also waiting nearby finally let loose to no one in particular, "My god, people, it's JULY!"

'Obviously, a new resident,' I recall thinking, noting that she had about eight layers on.

So, with great anticipation, I look forward to my first full year of complete seasons – the first ever in my life. Bring on the whole enchilada: the blasting heat of summer, the crisp golden colors of fall, the freezing snow of winter and the bountiful flowers of spring. The entire concept is strangely novel and I am ridiculously excited. At this point, I would easily pass up a celebrity sighting (it's shocking, they actually resemble real humans) for an overnight snow any old day.

My favorite season of all – autumn – has arrived in full force. My neighborhood (see photos) is exploding with vibrant colors that conveniently match my coloring. Any girl that came of age in the 80s had their colors done (I'm pretty sure it was government enforced, for awhile) and naturally, I was an Autumn. What some folks see as a time of death, I see as glorious opportunity for making soup, strolling through leaves and buying brown lipsticks. Let's not forget that there's some new TV shows to watch too. (Old habits die hard.)

To celebrate the first official day of autumn, my pal, Gins, and I headed to Rocky Mountain National Park to take in the changing Aspens and listen to the elk bulls do their annual bugling. Called "The Rut", it marks about 6-8 weeks of the elk mating season. During that time, they are everywhere – all over the park, in people's yards, walking down Main Street – something about being powerfully horny that makes the elk population less shy.

Watching these magnificent beasts arch back their great antlered-heads and screech to the world their incredible longing, we felt a tad invasive. As Gins joked, "Hi, um, we're here for the elk porn?" We did observe that, not unlike car alarms in human urban jungles, the bugling was entirely ignored by other elk but possibly served as a warning to the elk ladies that the evening's boisterous activities would resume once all the idiot pink humanoids left the park. As the ranger put it after one particularly fierce bugle, "He's saying, 'Get ready, baby. I'm coming for ya.'" (Sigh. Would that I were horny only once a year – certainly would simplify matters. In fact, I could also probably use a park ranger or some other official agent to supervise. Perhaps in the next life?)

Anyway, there's something about an entire season being so radically different than the one before it that offers promise. I sense that each cycle will bring fresh hope, a clean slate and a new chance to rectify the myriad fuck-ups from the previous cycle. Being reborn every three months could do wonders for my life and brings me back to a basic philosophy: Change is good.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Life in the Silver Lining

Famous for my romantic luck (all bad), I was stood up this weekend for my first official post-debacle Denver date, with a man we'll call V. 'Twas going to be lovely – a drive up into the mountains and a BBQ in the woods followed by some inevitable adult horseplay. Yay! Look at me! Moving forward, exploring the outdoors, making friends … I'm so goddamn healthy, I can hardly stand myself!

And then, nothing. No word. No phone call. No email. Just silence.

Imagine my delight on Monday when I learned that V had simply been thrown in jail. Y'see, I've got a knack for this kind of thing. If the Learning Annex offered seminars on "How to Avoid Serious Commitment by Picking the Wrong Men Over and Over Again" I could have a cottage industry on my hands. Truly, it's uncanny.

Like the time I went on a date only to watch him make out with another girl - all night. Or the time I was stood up because the guy's ex-girlfriend showed up with the 11-year-old daughter he'd never heard about. Or the guy who wined and dined me, swept me off my feet and then casually mentioned his wife. Oh, I've got a million of these – gems, all of 'em. (The photo above is just an ideal example - a lying Tom DeLay mixed with a drunken Nick Nolte, compliments of Fang. Anyway, I'm sure we've dated.)

I remember once fretting to a friend about this tired old topic and asking plaintively, "Why does God hate me so much?" and he shook his head in wonder, "I have no idea." Perhaps it is not too late to become a militant lesbian nun? Were it not for my flaming heterosexuality, I might consider it.

Discussing this latest beau-in-the-slammer disappoint with my steady pal, Gins, I marveled, half-laughing, at my own dysfunction. "It's like the normal healthy-man-attraction magnets that get put into a woman got loaded into me backwards, hence, the reverse effect," I whined. The conversation then fell into a typical pattern: "Well, just be glad that he wasn't in an accident" and "The bright side is that he didn't stand me up on purpose" and so on. I began to recognize this song, had heard it relentlessly from myself and others for decades now.

I observed to Gins that my life feels like one long series of coulda-been-worse-ifs, on-the-other-hands and just-be-glad-thats. Finally, in a moment of exasperated defeat, I screeched, "I'm fucking tired of looking on bright fucking side!" Soon, we were collecting all the sad sack glass-half-full phrases recently uttered about my love life until Gins (portraying me) said: "I feel like my life has been one long series of silver linings."

And there you have it.

Making the best of a bad situation has become a full-time job for me and for what it's worth, I'm good at it. As mentioned in a previous post, I'm falling down just as much as I always have, if not more, but I'm popping back up a lot faster. This forced optimism in the face of relentless failure seems to be strengthening me but what I'm in training for, god only knows.

Why, just the other day, my own TV friend, Calamity Jane, filthy and drunk, leaned wearily up against a wall and sighed: "Every fucking morning I have to figure out how to live my life all over again." Of course, she drinks more than I do and bathes much less so she's got her work cut out for her but I know the gist. It just seems like for all my experience in this area, I would have something to show for it – a few bitter divorces behind me, at the very least.

The scary thing is, the older I get, the less I seem to know, like I've got early stages of Romantic Alzheimer's and pretty soon I'll be punching my crushes on the arm and running from them on the playground.

Well, at the very least, there's always tomorrow.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Tall Tree Falls in Texas

Though she was a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a teacher and a famous politician, to me, former Texas governor Anne Richards was simply a fabulous comedienne. With that shock of white hair and her unflappable ways, Ann was the kind of gal that made me feel good about being female. (Unlike Anne Coulter, who I fantasize about beating upon, all too often - she should be banished from the gender.)

Anne passed away yesterday at the age of 73, leaving a shining legacy of public service and salty one-liners. Her famous fear of a boring epitaph, "She kept a clean house," is no longer a concern as I note today nearly a thousand news articles from around the world singing her praises.

It was her famous quote regarding George H.W. Bush at the 1988 Democratic National Convention that launched her onto the national stage: "Poor George, he was born with a silver foot in his mouth." To his credit, he later sent her a silver charm shaped like a foot. Point being, it was hard not to love Ann, even when you fell into her crosshairs.

Last year while in Austin, I read a funny story about when Ann, as governor, was called on to address SXSW attendees namely, rock critics. She didn't know what to make of them. (Putting this link in now, I see that the SXSW folks have already posted the story I was about to tell - front and center.)

The day I become a serious AR fan was the day I happened to catch a radio interview with her. Some local San Francisco DJs had called her on a whim, apparently, and were shocked that they got her on the phone. They conducted a faux-serious interview, asking for her "views" on Texas chili, women's rights (in the home) and, of course, hairstyles.

She matched their playfulness, joke for joke, often at her own expense. Launching into a full description of her own famous 'do, she said it was, "like pure white spun sugar, like what you'd get at the county fair, carefully shellacked onto my skull. It's a corona, really, is what it is." Her delivery was masterfully deadpanned - I recall laughing uproariously in the car.

It would be nice to have more humor in politics, god knows we need it. I'm still mad that Bob Dole wasn't allowed to let his funny monkey out while on the campaign trail. I didn't find out about his legendary wit until after he'd lost and that's a shame. (Still wouldn't have voted for him but I sure would've hated him a whole lot less.)

On the dangerous mix of woman and humor, Ann pinned it down: "There's something a little scary about funny women. Well, they're threatening. There was a survey done one time where they asked women what they were most afraid of from men and their response was they were most afraid of being hit or beaten or hurt. They asked men what they were most afraid of from women, and they said being laughed at."

In an effort to keep up with the good 'ole boys in the early days of Texas politicking, Ann discovered (thanks to a family intervention) that she was an alcoholic. This hardly posed a bump in her soaring career. She dealt with the matter straight out, quit the hooch and moved on from there. As TIME wrote today: "But when the fog of booze cleared, Richards discovered that her wit was not fueled by whiskey. The twinkle in her eyes was there to stay."

As for her political life, of which much has been written, Ann was most proud of two actions that probably cost her re-election: She vetoed legislation that would have allowed people to carry concealed handguns and "cop-killer bullets." Also, she vetoed a bill that would have allowed the destruction of the environment over the Edwards Aquifer.

Ann's humor carried her well across the aisle and, barbs aside, she was noted for her bi-partisan friendships. Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, recalled Ann as "one of the funniest human beings God ever placed on Earth." He also has a great story about working with her in the early days.

"Not too long after we were both elected (he as Texas Commissioner of Agriculture, she as governor), she had a hot line put in my office," said Sharp, who served two terms. "I couldn't get it to work, so went over and asked what was the deal. She said, 'It ain't your hot line, it's my hot line. It only works one way -- mine.'"

Rest in peace, Ann, if you can stand the quiet.

Monday, September 11, 2006

9-11 Rewound

I know, I know – what can be said about 9-11 that hasn't been said already? Usually, I skip all the national scab-picking that goes on this time of year and choose to remember the day sans media. Personally, the most appropriate anniversary of 9-11 was the first one in 2002, spent driving peacefully through North Dakota farmland while noting each field combine quietly flew an American flag. It seemed fitting – respectful, stoic and subdued, yet plowing on ahead.

This year, however, I awoke much too early and flipped on the TV, something I never do before 7:00 p.m. All the tributes, all the 'I-was-here-when-I-heard' stories and the all moments of silence marked this sad day of remembrance. Feeling myself getting sucked in by the vortex of pain, I forced myself to shut it off.

But, being that media monitoring is a large chunk of my job, I found myself on throughout the work day. I noticed they were playing the coverage tape from that fateful Tuesday morning in 2001, exactly as it happened in real time. I couldn't resist.

I realize now why I had to see it. Being on the West Coast, by the time I had heard about the events, both towers were gone, the Pentagon was on fire and a soft, green meadow in Pennsylvania was already becoming famous. I'd never experienced the gradual dawning process of our national psyche that fateful day.

The images, of course, I'd seen a thousand times before but watching it 'live' with the anchors, reporters and witnesses describing, horrified, what they see before them – it shook me up. I had to admire the media – pretty much all of them – they tried best they could not to jump to conclusions lest they make dangerously false assumptions. There were several genuine blocks of silence as we all tried to process what we were seeing. At one point, an anchor blurted, "Look at that. Just look at it. You will never see a more frightening sight in your entire life."

As the north tower burned and we watched a second plane hit the south tower, an anchor sounded downright naïve when he asked the former head of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) if there was a chance that faulty navigational instruments played a role. The NTSB guy, Ira something, was incredulous and forced to spell it out: "It's a perfectly clear day. No pilot needs to depend on their navigational equipment on a day like today, let alone two pilots. This was an intentional act."

It wasn't until 9:18 a.m., 16 minutes after the second plane hit, I note the first time I hear the word "terrorist" uttered – two minutes later our nation's air traffic was completely grounded for the first time in history. Just like that, we became a different country.

That is what sticks with me tonight. Our initial denial that something like this could really be happening, that there has to be some mistake, some mechanical breakdown somewhere, right? Surely, no humans could have a hand in such an epic slaughter? If so, who? And why? Watching that day's replay, I could tangibly sense the mass back-pedaling of denial and feel us rejecting this ugly new world in vain, "No! No! No! No!" We wanted no part of it.

From that point on, we learned handy words and phrases to explain the bleak new landscape based on fear and paranoia. Words like "homeland security" and "WMDs," "Mission Accomplished!" and "suicide bombers" suddenly became part of our daily vocabulary. Previously comforting autumn hues such as yellow, orange and red abruptly became raw, hyper, angry – the government's tool to keep the national fear on tap.

Air travel, once a luxury treat that one dressed up for, soon became a tedious invasive slog that one laboriously un-dressed for. What was right became wrong, what was up was now down. Nothing made sense, least of all, our leaders. We were advised to go shopping and buy duct tape – despite the fact that the hijackers brought the mighty America to its knees with a few box-cutters.

Tonight, I am saddened that we used to be so innocent, so recently. Mentally and emotionally, as a nation, we were raped – four times in one day. That kind of violence leaves a mark. I notice with the ease the word 'terrorist' falls off our tongues in daily conversation and when I hear Osama bin Laden being discussed by little old church ladies. I know it when I see a child being padded down at the airport or when I see a SWAT team on the evening news nervously blowing up an abandoned bag of burritos.

I realize that the world is now offically caught up in a holy war and that this conflict will not end tidily like the wars of our parents. This war will not have a formal surrender ceremony aboard a battleship and there will be no gruff handshakes or re-drawing of borders. This war will be something we have not yet imagined and, I fear, we will lose our innocence all over again.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

When Office Gossip Fails

Over the years, I have tried in vain to be the subject of office gossip. As we all know, everybody who is anybody warrants whispers and raised eyebrows at the water cooler. I believe this with every fiber of my shriveled, blackened corporate heart.

In workplaces of yore, I have planted the "Holy cow, Heather's a lesbian!" seed – it seems the most plausible in my forever-single state - but it never took. Trying a different tack, I offered the, "Whoa! Heather sleeps around!" idea but all I got were yawns. (I guess that one's been done.)

Inspired by daytime television, I even submitted a wonderful story about infant me being found on the doorstep of a Satanic church and later surviving a shark attack while fleeing a low-budget Mexican drug cartel. All I got were a few questions from co-workers wondering if I got a deal on my airfare. 'Damn,' I thought, 'this is harder than it looks.'

Obviously, being fodder for the gossip mill comes easier to some. There are always those that inspire scandal with little effort. Every office has its Paris Hilton, some clueless and/or mean ho-bag that is forever providing the minions with hours of tawdry material. In fact, I've always viewed this person as providing a necessary bonding service to the rest – much like the coffee pot only with misplaced lingerie involved.

But beyond entertainment, I depend on office gossip to convey crucial information (though I believe the term en vogue is "leaks.") Again, I simply cannot find the onramp to this unique information highway, despite the omnipresent Internet. Honestly, I thought blogging would unclog this artery all by itself but again, no such luck.

When I left my San Francisco life, I was sent off with lots of warm wishes from friends, family and yes, colleagues. Spending 40 hours a week with a group of people tends to bond you – like school buddies only now we pay taxes and must wear matching outfits. All the ups and downs of life – the first dates, the break-ups, the new homes and new puppies, the lawsuits and the ill-fated forays into ocelot farming – it's all celebrated, mourned and pondered over together like soldiers stuck in the same foxhole.

So, when my Denver dreams with MonkMan all went up in a puff of incense, I posted it, talked about it, generally released the disappointment to the general public with the confidence that the story would be discussed or at least exchanged. I didn't think I needed to print up flyers a la Samantha Jones or anything but assumed the generic grapevine would function normally.

Imagine my surprise when a co-worker IMs me yesterday, September 8th, to ask about my relationship that dissolved in June. "How's the man????" she wanted to know. I was incredulous; this woman sits - every damn day! - mere inches from people who know the entire story and yet hears nothing. "You've got to be kidding me," I said aloud to the cat. "Don't any of those people get bored or seek chocolate? Is there no basic inter-cubicle mingling?"

You see, even my non-deliberate efforts to be discussed fall flat. When I pinged another co-worker about this (the very woman who inspired this blog) she did note that it seemed odd. "Perhaps you are the anti-gossip," she quipped.

She then went on to explain that some people are "talked about while others are not" and that I should see this situation for what it truly is: loyalty. Apparently, my colleagues tend to circle wagons around me, rather then publicize my failures. I'd been going about it all wrong, swimming upstream when I should've been floating down river, enjoying the view.

Even though I face the inevitable telling and re-telling of my sad sack love story over and over again, I am suddenly grateful for the ironclad friendships of my co-workers. Their instinctive silence now feels like the loudest form of support I could ever ask for.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Placeholder Post

While I have at least four solid posts simmering on my internal stove right now, god only knows when they will cooked enough to share - my muse is a flighty tramp.

In the meantime, just to keep ya'll entertained, I'm sharing this disturbing photo of the First Monkey and the First Fembot leisurely watching two pachyderms fuck. Perhaps George and Laura were in Africa to pick up some love tips? This might even be where George got the inspiration for his political philosophy: "One must screw the people to save the people ... hmmmm. Wow, I be brilliant!"

Either way, we're probably still paying for that trip.

Monday, September 04, 2006

(Trying to) Look Ahead

It's not easy going backwards. These days, I try very hard to stay in the moment. It's much too maddening to wring my hands over the past or fret about the future. And while I'm at it, who are these people who say they have no regrets? They must have major memory lapses, is all I can figure.

My recent visit to California brought all this to the forefront and left me rather blue-ish. Snug in my Denver apartment, it's quite easy to focus on the road ahead - anything is possible and, with the exception of my first eight days, there are no ghosts following me around, reminding me of wrong choices and youthful ignorance.

My mother's house in Long Beach, always a sanctuary in my life, made me ache with loneliness this time around. On my last visit in May, I was so goddamn happy I didn't even use the stairs, I just floated around in a rose-colored fog. My re-appearance so soon made me miss that gooey mess of a woman that was me, much more so than the cardboard cut-out man behind all that bliss. Not-so-deep down, I fear that when I told my sister-in-law, "If this isn't The One, then there isn't One" that I was right.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Our Lady of Yahoo

Speeding along on a balmy Silicon Valley night, a precise half-moon gazing down at my rental car, I caught an amazing sight on my way to the Santa Clara Hyatt. Mary, bigger than I'd ever seen her, done up in silver and lit up like ... well, like Madonna.

For some reason, it caught me off guard. Religion has always been a huge part of our culture but for some reason, I've been noting how it folds in with politics, music, cartoons, language - anything and everything, right down to the bible scriptures on the bottom of my In-n-Out soda cup.

I had to see her, say hello, take a photo. Ask her how she scored so much real estate just blocks from Intel and Oracle. Did Larry Ellison ever stop by? Craig Barrett come to share some jokes? I've no doubt that Meg Whitman has shared secrets - girls do that, y'know.

I pulled into the parking lot, nearly ran over a Chinese woman, who barely noticed me and headed to the scene. I waded through a throng of excited folks of Indian descent and passed a Latina as she was heading down the steps. I reached the base of the statue and was impressed with Mary's sheer size. In her silver steel robe, she looked cold yet exuded warmth; mind you, I only felt this through the very idea of her. Who doesn't have a soft spot for Mom? Mary is the ultimate example of the favorite Troup Leader - her door is permenantly open and there are always cupcakes and Kool-Aid. None on this night, however, just a ton of flowers.

It was then I noticed the huge building just behind her, the international headquarters of Yahoo! I was glad to see it, made the atmosphere seem joyful and celebratory. After all, this was a company started by two scruffy-looking boys who had more brains than money. Their success story, and others like them, is what makes SV such young, hopeful place. (I also find it incredibly dry, boring and sexless but I'm trying to be positive here, for Mary's sake.)

Just before I left, a small (perhaps only by comparison) Asian man climbed the steps to Mary's feet and bowed before her. Down on bended knee, he looked like he might propose. I kept my distance to allow him privacy but from my perch I could see clearly that he was speaking to her. Then, after sharing his deepest thoughts (fears? concerns?) Jerry Yang got back up, walked down the steps and said goodbye to his gorgeous heavy metal friend.

Okay, so maybe I am taking a leap of faith with that last assumption but isn't that what Mary's all about?