Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Out With the New, In With the Old

Yesterday brought two significant shifts in my home entertainment world. First, Dave, a super sweet cable guy that reeked of pot and cigarettes, dropped by to take away my cable box. My new 2007 'Let's Get Heather into Adulthood' budget plan means I've got to live leaner and let the networks, YouTube and Netflix fill the Comedy Central gap.

Dave was awash in guilt for arriving beyond the designated 1-3 p.m. window. I assured him it made no difference to me, working at home and all. He was so relieved I didn't yell at him and demand his boss's name, that he hung around to make sure all my VCR-DVD-life support wires were still functioning. He then noted that he was conveniently "fresh out of" a key piece of equipment, a 'blocker' which does exactly what it sounds like. "So, like, you'll still get the same channels but only be paying for basic," he said. "They won't notice unless they do a random check. Sign here, please."


The next lovely man-angel who came to my door was a studly UPS driver – is there any other kind? He brought my father's Xmas/Birthday present – an Epson Heritage Music System. It's one of those old time-y looking stereos that unites all music playing capabilities of my pre-iPod lifetime minus the beloved 8-track – CDs, cassettes, radio and, best of all, records. Remember those?

Last night, I set it up and dove into my long-neglected stack of albums, trying to decide which one to play for the ceremonial first spin. Perhaps Tijuana Brass? It was the soundtrack of my childhood, after all. Maybe the Slim Whitman album I purchased years ago but actually have yet to hear? Sex Pistols? Led Zep? Duran Duran? Holy shit … Shaun Cassidy???? Looking back can be fucking scary.

After a few embarrassing flips through the dusty collection, I came upon The One, the album that rightfully deserved to kick off a new era of phonographing fun: "Cheap Trick at Budokan." During my twelfth summer, this album was played so many times, over and over and over again - I was quite surprised to find it still in one piece. This may have even been the point in history when the phrase "ad nauseum" was born.

In 1978, I faced some unwelcome changes in my life. For one thing, my parents were getting a divorce. Though my word-weary pal, Allison, assured me that this would translate into a lot of guilt gifts and trips to amusement parks, I was not comforted. My Dad moved out and my world shattered.

This news arrived about the same time that my body hit puberty like a brick wall. I tried to ignore the B-cup boobs that arrived nearly overnight, even tried to ace bandage those babies, to no avail. My 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Merrill, finally sent a note home to my mother: "Buy this girl a bra." There were only two other girls my age in school who had breasts – Amazonian bullies named Janelle and Cheryl who heartily slapped me on the back and took joy in snapping my new bra strap on crowded playgrounds. Good times.

Of course, with this new body acreage came acne. Oh yeah, that was AWESOME. Overall, I felt like a bullhorn abruptly came down from the clouds – or perhaps, up from the oozy tar pits of hell – and flatly announced: "(Ahem.) Attention! Attention! Heather Clisby: Your childhood is now OVER." There was no gentle easing into Womanhood for me – it came on like a bucket of ice water. (I'm mindfully sparing you the menstruation aspect to this story, gentle readers and Fang.)

So, to cheer me up, Dad and I and packed up his new mid-life crisis toy, a Jaguar XJ6, and we hit the road. He was headed to his 20-year high school reunion in Minnesota and would drop me off for a month at his sister's Iowa farm. It was an unforgettable trip – I read to Dad from a trivia book I found (Do you know that only 27 percent of women can whistle?) and my right arm became beautifully bronzed. I had a blast with the cousins – 'walking' the beans, feeding the hogs, chasing the chickens, having dinner for lunch and 'supper' for dinner. However, I also spent a large portion of my visit in their basement, reading "Amityville Horror" – which scared the bejesus out of me (and I didn't have a lot to begin with) - and listening my new Cheap Trick album.

Keep in mind, kids, that entertainment used to require some dedication, some focus and the willingness to get up off the couch, time after time, and move the needle back to the beginning. I took great joy in this – something comforting and Buddhist-y in the repetition of the act. By the end of the summer, my six-year-old cousin, Ryan, (who grew up to become my San Francisco roommate) was even singing, "Surrender" – only it came out "Suwwender!" because he had an adorable lisp.

All these comforting memories came flooding back last night as I put the needle down once again and heard lead singer Robin Zander declare, "I want YOU .. to want ME" which I always thought was a fair request. Against my better judgment, however, my heart had been drawn to the cigarette-dangling, spectacled drummer, Bun E. Carlos, mainly for his obvious defiance of what a 'rock star' should look like. Seriously, he looked like he could be the band's sloppy but lovable accountant or maybe sell insurance. The other two, Robin and Tom, were predictably man-pretty, which never really works for me. Okay, maybe sometimes.

Hearing the first roar of all those screaming Japanese school girls … Zip! Those 29 years sure flew by! I finally made peace with my boobs, my acne has been replaced by wrinkles and my Christmas holidays are finally spent with BOTH parents at the same time, in the same room – a major familial advance that began just three years ago. This time, however, I had the power of the Internet … (Insert trumpets blaring here.)

I was quite pleased to discover that none of my beloved CT boys had overdosed but were, in fact, thriving. Bun E. had quit smoking (!) and looked happy, despite never receiving my love directly. Rick Nielsen remains quite relevant, having written the theme song to 'That 70s Show' and 'The Colbert Report.' The band still releases albums, appear on Howard Stern, get referenced on 'The Simpsons' and they even gave a free concert in New Jersey last fall. They also founded their own record company, Cheap Trick Unlimited. Says Nielsen, "Running our own label has been a lot of fun. One day Bun E. gets to be President and one day I get to play President."

Glad to hear some of us never quite grow up.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Long Road Home

For as long as I can remember, organized religion and I have not gotten along. Sadly, it has often presented itself to me wrapped in judgment, hypocrisy, hatred, intolerance and a long list of rules that tell me I'm dirty, wrong and need to learn obedience to a deity that seems to have lost interest in the fate of mankind. This, I could never swallow.

At the same time, I envied (and continue to) folks that possess a strong faith in a higher being that will take care of everything. 'Seems very handy,' I always think, 'I'd sure like to think Someone is in charge so I can relax a little.' Therefore, every decade or so, I embark on a personal spiritual quest and poke around, ask questions, read books, talk to churchy folks I admire and generally double check to see if I missed something. My aim is always to score an invitation to this party that my own (dis)beliefs have shut me out of.

As for my own religious upbringing, it was wonderfully generic. As a family, we occasionally attended Lakewood Village Community Church, which is technically Christian but in a sort of all-inclusive way. I don't remember any ideas placed in my head about other religions being wrong, just different. Still, the Clisby Clan wasn't there all that often, as most of our Sundays were spent on motorcycles or ripping around in dune buggies, getting mud in our teeth.

My first spiritual adventure took place when I was 19 or so. I was taking a World Religion class in college with great enthusiasm, sitting front and center, hand always raised in earnest. The semester-long assignment was tailor-made for me: Visit as many houses of worship as possible and write an essay about each one. I went to chapels, monasteries, cathedrals and synagogues, technically "on assignment" but secretly hoping one would spark something inside me, something I could hold on to and believe in.

Nothing. Though I did get an 'A' in the class, I've been chasing this elusive spiritual spark ever since. Now with religion playing a lead role in bloody world politics, the concept drives me away even further. (Don't even bring up the long-accepted pedophilia within the Catholic Church unless you want to see this blog actually FROTH and burn up your computer monitor with rage.)

I have never been able to pray. I always felt ridiculous because I am basically talking to myself. Again, I like the concept, aiming your loving thoughts and healing energy toward the well-being of others, but I could just never get past the sense that no one is listening. This was until last February, when my friend, Fran, got promoted and now works in The Front Office as God's go-to man. (Technically, this means he had to leave Earth but some big jobs demand relocation.) Anyway, now I talk to Fran and I know he's listening. Especially since I firmly believe he was behind my move to Colorado in the first place - he just used MonkMan as a tool, which, ironically, he is.

Since my arrival, I have made a number of friends who seek a similar peace. Though the New Age-y stuff doesn't really jive with me (a crystal is a pretty rock, people! That's it!) I do appreciate both the complexity and simplicity of learning from other's similar quest.

My friend, Neal, for example is a self-described "seeker of truth" and for him, the path is laid with numbers and symbols. At one party after another, Neal tries to engage me in his latest discovery in quantum physics and I try to follow as long as possible until my own modest brain (which is more hard-wired for tracking movie trivia and celebrity meltdowns) can no longer keep up. Last night, fast and furious as always, Neal was showing me geometric diagrams and lists that point to similarity in all the major world religions and how it was leading him to study the major philosophers of each. I asked him if he had a favorite. Looking up from a book, he smiled broadly and, for once, spoke slowly, "Jesus."

So, this morning, I did something I have not done in years. I willingly took my body and its encased hungry soul into a house of worship. Please note: I was not sporting a bridesmaid dress, nor was I earning a grade and there were no dead bodies involved. No one knew and I was not expected; no pressure but from within.

A few months ago, I had felt that urge rise in me again and went religion shopping online via Wikipedia. 'Hmmm, I heard Quakers are nice. I think there was something about them on "Six Feet Under" once. I eat their oatmeal every morning so that's a good start, right?'

All info looked great to me until I got to their 'Testimony of Simplicity' which espouses a practice of "plainness" in their dress and outward appearance as well as in their speech. Um, so what am I supposed to do with my stash of glitter eye make-up and my extensive feather boa collection? And am I supposed to stop swearing and speaking my mind? Are those cracker Quakers kwazy??? Next!

Eventually, I found Unitarian Universalism which basically is a bunch of folks who feel strongly about building a spiritual community and encouraging intellectual discourse but without all the fire and brimstone. "Theologically liberal" was one description. Sounded like there might be room in there for me.

I had been meaning to test out the First Universalist Church of Denver for months but when I saw this week's sermon, "Paying Attention: The Gift of Listening" I knew the time had come. Listening is a pet topic of mine and feel it has become a lost art - our ears are either jammed with cell phones or plugged up with iPods, not to mention all the media noise. I once proposed a seminar on the topic to a grassroots touchy-feely kum-ba-ya type organization in San Francisco and it was originally accepted but later cancelled for lack of space. (Note to self: I need to resurrect this.)

This Sunday, I felt a tingle of something. Maybe it was because immediately upon arrival I purchased two small quotation books, Oscar Wilde and Abraham Lincoln, from their impressive bookstore. Maybe it was the warm welcome I received from so many people who noticed I was new and alone. Maybe it was the essay I saw tacked to a wall, "The Dangers of Becoming Sheeple." Then again, it may have been the sanctuary itself, which did not present images of death, violence and ghosts, as I feel so many do. The only symbol was a candle with a circle around it.

I think the moment I knew I would return to this place was when the Reverend Kirk approached the podium and began his sermon on listening: "It was that great philosopher, Rodney Dangerfield, who once said: 'In my family, we were so poor, we couldn't even pay attention …'" He went on to quote Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and a few other wise folks, some of whom happened to be children. I enjoyed it tremendously.

Yes, indeed, this just might work.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Sex on the Prairie

A recent news bit reminded me that in my beloved state of North Dakota, it remains illegal to move in with your beau or beau-ette or maybe even have sex with your roommate. I learned this a few months ago when a similar law was challenged in North Carolina. The media then listed all the states that still have this outdated law on the books (Florida, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia have similar laws) and there it was, NoDak.

I couldn't believe that the state the gave us the world's finest senator, Byron Dorgan, could be so backwards. (When Al Franken was asked on 'The Daily Show' which Democratic senators had actual balls, his response was, "Byron Dorgan and umm ….ummm, hmmm, let me think…. ")

(Mind you, I've never actually lived with any man I have been sleeping with so it does not affect me personally. I came very close one time - packed up my stuff, gave notice to the landlord - but when push came to shove, it didn't happen. Honestly, I have somewhat avoided it due to the fact that I own a truck, meaning people ask me to help them move. More times than I can count, I have witnessed the horrible tension of a co-habitation gone horribly wrong. Somehow, in my mind, I got the idea that if I am going to share a bathroom with a man, I want a shiny ring, a big party and a title change, at best. As always, this mindset has nothing to do with morality, which I carry in low supply.)

Another sharp state senator, Tracy Potter, a freshman Democrat from Bismarck, is asking the state legislature get a grip already and repeal the law. Mind you, this isn't the first attempt – similar efforts have been rejected three times since 1990. In typical NoDak fashion, Potter made a folksy attempt a common sense when discussing the matter with the Senate Judiciary Committee:

"Mark Twain expressed a simple view of people's personal relationships with government ... that I think government should adopt. That is, I don't care what you do, as long as you don't scare the horses."

Of course, the law doesn't seem to have stopped all those horny non-committal farmers. Census data indicate at least 23,000 of the state's 642,000 residents are living together as opposite-sex partners. "If we mean to enforce this law, we'll need a $10 billion prison," Potter said.

No word yet on what's to be done about homosexual cows.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Steamy and Springy

In my ongoing efforts to explore my beautiful new state, I took off last Friday afternoon for my first official ski trip. There were about 80 of us from Up The Creek, and we basically took over Steamboat Springs.

The drive was spectacular heading up - a bright sunny day, snow-capped everything and zero traffic. I made it in three hours flat and must've said out loud more than once, "Holy shit. I live here!" I recalled saying the same thing over and over when I'd moved to San Francisco - nice to feel that awestruck again.

I was immediately 'adopted' by two lovely ladies, Annie and Sally, who babysat me on the slopes in shifts. I needed it, that's for sure. Though I may have been one of the group's youngest members (and the only one I could find that had no divorces or kids) I was also the slowest. These folks are hard core. Still, I managed not to 'officially' fall (butt never actually touched the ground, thankyouverymuch) though I made some exquisite and rather complicated near-splats. On Saturday's last run, I followed the gang like a dumb puppy and suddenly found myself on a steep, icy run quietly shitting my pants. The run was called "Heavenly Days" but it felt more like a hellish nightmare.

I spotted a telltale red jacket with the soothing symbol of ski patrol, the square Swiss Army cross logo on the back, and nervously whimpered, "Um, hi. Yeah, um, excuse me ... um could you just, yeah, sort of ... be, y'know, nearby, for just a little bit?"

"Sure!" he said and skied promptly up next to me with a decisive WHOOSH! It was then I noticed the man was on just one ski. My savior's other leg was a wooden peg leg, just like a friggin' pirate, I shit you not. I may have even said, "Oh Christ, that's comforting" before I snowplowed down the icy mountainside with a batch of my patient new friends below, watching my every wide-eyed scrape.

I managed to survive which made the whiskey and the hot tub later that evening just that much sweeter. The next day's snowfall brought fresh champagne powder - like floating around on a cloud. I didn't want to leave but the ol' legs felt similar to cooked noodles. Taking the gondola down was nothing like going up. Again, I nearly shat myself while trying to make polite conversation with a fellow skier. That sudden view from above and the sense of falling down rattled me a bit but I played it off, cuz I'm really cool like that.

The drive home was less than idyllic but at least, I gaged it correctly. My estimation that with active snow and ice on the road combined with Sunday ski traffic would result in five hours of my life was dead on. Once again, I was scared shitless. It may have been the one time that my ignorance served me well. With heightened awareness of my snow driving inexperience combined with my lack of co-pilot (I tried to recruit one, I really, really did) my senses were so heightened, I was like a friggin' ninja. I barely batted a eyelash as I passed one crunched SUV and rolled Honda after another and tried to breathe.

I think it was Eleanor Roosevelt who once said, "Do something every day that scares you." Yeah, so I think I may have stocked up this weekend - I should be good for awhile.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

I May Be Peer-Orphaned But The Tingly Nipple Cream Helps

All I know is, I left for HDH's Sex Toy party on Saturday around 4 p.m. and I didn't arrive home until the following day at 2 p.m. I am only just now emerging out of three-day weekend fog and coming to grips with reality.

As for my fave sex toy of choice, it was something that resembled a throbbing silver bullet. It had five speeds and I'm pretty sure we had a connection. I didn't want to give it up although I did manage to 'accidentally' sit on it a few times. Sadly, my inner accountant would not let me make such a purchase - this is exactly the kind of frivolous expenditure that keeps me in 'tenant' status. Still, such items make perfect sense now that 51% of American women today are living without a spouse. Mercy! That's a lot of batteries.

{Also, I gotta report here and now that HDH's fish tank is indeed MIGHTY. Though a table full of rotating cocks and electronic tongues served as the centerpiece, the ten-foot-wide seascape certainly held its own. If any ya'll get the chance to see it, make sure you get the behind-the scenes tour as well. Impressive. I'm not surprised their neighbors think they are growing pot.}

After the toy party, I went to the Ogden to see My Morning Jacket. There were bunch of us there celebrating Carley's birthday. I had a good time but felt incredibly old. Don't get me wrong, concerts are great but I have been to so many (I used to write about them for a living) throughout my lifetime that there are very few musical acts I get excited about anymore. Unless there is some Dylan/Waits/Young/Cohen/Springsteen thing happening, I'd rather skip it. Like I said, Me=Ancient. Still, I did manage to stay up until 4:00 a.m. babbling incoherently and dancing around in my socks - that should count for something, right?

In the haze of the concert, it dawned on me that I am at that weird middle point in life that presents certain social challenges. I recently joined a ski group (am heading to Steamboat Springs with them this weekend) that is made up mostly of folks in their late 40s up to early 60s. Nice folks and certainly very active but culturally, I have already run in to some problems. For example, I recently made a reference to "SouthPark" and they didn't know what I was talking about. We're in Colorado, fer Chrissakes. Ugh.

On the other end of the scale, my Denver friends are primarily in their late 20s or early 30s. The same thing that makes this easier - I have been there - makes it a challenge - I have ALREADY been there. Only lately have I started to notice that I may not live forever and, therefore, should make a retirement plan that does not involve eating cat food. My mindset has shifted; the things that used to excited me now lead to boredom. Good lord, have I become practical??? This may be some kind of skin-shedding thing - the death of a former self, perhaps. The first ring of this mortal coil. For the most part, I'm against it but at the same time, it feels awfully natural and God knows I'm way too lazy to fight it. I just wish AARP would quit sending me shit. My token response when people say, "You don't look that old!" is "Immaturity: It's good for the skin." I stand by this philosophy but ... um, I'd rather sit.

Truth is, most folks my age (41) have a very different lifestyle from me. They are mostly married and busy raising young children. Or maybe they are just married and only do things with other couples. Perhaps they are hiding at malls, churches and AA meetings? Support groups, divorce courts and playdates? Either way, I can't seem to find them.

On an unrelated note - has anyone else noticed that James Brown's probate lawyer is Strom Thurmond, Jr.? Does this seem weird to anyone or just me? Just asking.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Office

I write today's post from the heart of Silicon Valley, if such a thing really exists. It's mostly brains here, not many other body parts are represented, other than maybe eyeballs and lightening-fast thumbs.

Once a month, the Client has me hang out in their offices for some mandatory face-time. While they are one of the world's major technology companies, they haven't lost sight of the fact that tangible reality and physical proximity – until further notice – still go a long way in the business world. Though thousands of emails may be exchanged over the years, never underestimate the power of putting a face to a name.

After working from home for the past seven months, it feels odd to be confined to a cubicle under fluorescent lights once again; it is the Hell I've already escaped. Trying to find the elevator bank or the restrooms is mind-boggling when everything looks the same – one block of grey squares after another, bordered by endless hallway grids. Walkways and avenues are helpfully labeled "G5" or "B2" like a vast parking lot, a helpful tool to orientate the occasional lost worker bee.

I always have the same thought when I come to this part of the world, "This place is overwhelmingly sexless." This is not to say that people here do not engage in fornication but it sure doesn't feel like a priority. All the men wear blue button-down shirts and Dockers and have got Tomorrow's Meeting on their minds. A line of Victoria Secret models could saunter past and they might never look up from their Blackberry or disengage from their cell phone.

Silicon Valley is the Land of Distraction. Unless something can be viewed on a screen, it does not warrant attention. Basically, it is the exact opposite of New York City, which makes me feel like the sexiest woman who ever walked on cement. Not so here. Frankly, there are few things in this world that can crush my libido faster than an office park.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Year of Living - Part 4

Continued from Part 3 - a page taken from my travel journal during the Big Trip:

AMSTERDAM, HOLLAND 3:13 p.m., 11/5/94

I managed to get pretty wasted in that First Class seat - love those hot towels! The Frenchman and I cleaned our faces with them - so bourgeois.

I lost track of Robin but Carol and I exchanged addresses, hugs and wishes of good luck. Her parents live in Washington so maybe one day we'll meet again.

After being reunited with my luggage, a fellow 56er named Nancy was kind enough to let me use her hotel room in Amsterdam to take a well-needed shower. Absolute heaven.

After saying my goodbyes to Nancy, Bill and Dave, I strapped on The Monster Pack and attempted to explore the city carrying some 40-50 lbs. on my back. Right! I ran in to my friends from Idaho again and they convinced me to put it in a locker at the train station. Much better.

I've decided that I love this city - again. The Dutch are so precise and posess great style. Watching them on their bicycles always amazes me - it's like a part of their bodies. They sing outloud, eat, hold conversations and run through the shopping list all from their bike seat. Small children sit on the handlebars with their parents riding and no one seems concerned about these babies falling off.

In a fancy mall housed in a building out of Red Square, several stores reveal that the American West is the fashion look. There is even a Marlboro clothing store. I think about the Dutch imitating the American look and I cringe with a strange reluctant pride.

We should be imitating them but bikes would never catch on in L.A. - we worship the automobile for its speed and independence. Shame.

Um, there are trees in the Amersterdam airport ... with real birds in them. Birds just flying around inside the terminal, very weird. No one seems the slightest bit concerned about it. Still, I wonder what it is doing for the birds self esteem, watching all those big planes take off. Also, doesn't anyone get pooped on? I must sleep here tonight and will try not to think about it. I just hoped the chirping awakens me in time for my flight tomorrow morning.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

New World Order

Since I turned 13, my New Year's Resolution has always been to lose 10-20 pounds. It's gone on so long, it's no longer noted on paper - the empty promise just runs on auto-pilot. Not this year! This is the year I get my shit together because there's nothing I long for more than my very, very own Pile of Shit.

Ducks in a row, eggs in a basket, target in sight - whatever you want to call it. It's the much-avoided Adulthood 101 era but this is long overdue. I feel like my branch of the Clisby Empire needs to begin production fairly soon or I will lose my membership card. Today marked the first of many sobering meetings to come with my accountant and it looks like change is afoot. (Mind you, my friend is not an official accountant but she kicks mucho a$ just the same. She said once, "My tombstone will read: "Here lies Andrea. She encouraged many a friend plan for a healthy retirement.")

So, after a year's worth of documenting every single thing I spent, it appears I've been having a grand old time. Evidently, most of my money goes right in to airline gas tanks; my travel budget is through the roof! Looks like I'll need to stay home more ... as soon as I get back from Mardi Gras in February. Oh, wait, right after SXSW in March, I mean. Of course, there is Chick Cabin Weekend VIIII in May ... Shit, this is going to be hard.

Okay, the cable has got to go. Parting with Jon and Colbert is painful but I'll have to catch up with those guys online. Alas, guitar lessons may have to be suspended - might have to be self-taught for awhile. After all, I've got the instrument, tons of sheet music and a good callous or two. Don't the best of 'em originally have more time than money? Anyway, the goal there has never been high - I've always said I just want to be good enough to impress a small cluster of drunk people.

Bottom line - all the stuff I ultimately want - a house, a horse, a kid, various barnyard orphans - must all be financed somehow. Unless I marry rich (if I find a blind one), score the powerball or blackmail Bill Cosby, these dreams will not come true. What I really need is a benefit concert.

What if I got WHAM! reunited just special and called it "Keep Heather Airborne Tour?" I could get Milli or Vanilli (whichever one is left) to MC (or just pretend to) and have Tiffany and Debbie Gibson engage in mud wrestling! I'm just trying to think on a budget here ...

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Hey, what time is it?

Crazy mind stuff lately. I'm reading this book right now called, "The Power of Now" by Somebody Smart. It talks about how much of people's regret, anxiety and other emotional pain is caused by our concept of time.

I know. I had to er,… light up just to get my head around it. I couldn't possibly provide an adequate explanation of the theory but I will say, this new perspective certainly has presented a new door of some interest.

Think about it. Step outside yourself and observe – what are the thoughts that run through your mind all day? Pretend it is a CNN headline ticker tape and stand back. How often do we think about what he said last night? Or have anxiety about what might happen with her tomorrow? 'What was that funny look from the boss today? Am I in trouble? I hope the dentist is nice to me tomorrow.'

That is why the truly beautiful moments are in the present – admiring a striking sunset, laughing at a store clerk's joke, enjoying a warm shower or savoring a juicy cheeseburger. This is when all else is forgotten and there is only the immediate present. There is peace because the internal chatter is momentarily quieted and literally shoved aside, albeit briefly.

That's why when the Now demands to be heard, such as in scary or life-threatening situations, details become so vivid and seemingly occur in slow-motion. When I tumbled down a flight of stairs last September and dislocated my elbow and ripped all the muscles and tendons off the bone, I ceased to worry about that morning's meeting or contemplate my lunch date the next day. I was too busy screeching bloody murder and experiencing the sensation of searing pain. Nothing else, just that.

It was scary as fucking hell, no one should have to hear such sounds come out of their own body. I'm talking primitive stuff here, folks. I was finally saved by a neighbor two flights up who said later: "I thought for sure it was my wife. I didn't think anyone could be as loud as her." (We called her The Sneezing Lady.)

Anyway, the book's author, I think his name is Eckhart Tolle, points out that this is precisely the sensation that drives adventurists and risk-takers. If you are scaling an ice wall with no ropes, jumping out of planes or surfing Maverick's, there's not a lot of time to fret about your neighbor's snide remark or that you dread attending an upcoming wedding, there is only Now. This requires extreme focus, which why these folks are such bad asses.

The question is, what to do with this newfound Present? It's truly the only moment you ever have. The past is gone and the future is only made up of bits of Nows. This is probably why when we imagine something in our minds (the face of a radio personality - the outcome of a relationship, the effect on the entire human race if we lose ten pounds – it rarely matches what we imagine it to be. One of the great philosophers of the day, My Dear Friend Lisa, said to me once when I asked her what marriage was like: "It is harder than I thought it would be and it's better than I thought it would be." The reality of the present always wipes out the future.

I've probably lost all readers at this point but what I'm trying to convey is that this new way of thinking has made me acutely aware of this very second. I feel myself at various points throughout the day, suddenly noticing that I am in a moment. In the center of that awareness point, I'm able to step outside myself take note of the present situation; it's like a fresh set of lenses or a front row seat behind home plate. The various colors on my royal blue desk become brighter and outside my window, the University of Denver's landmark golden spire glistens against the Rocky Mountain range that runs just behind it, its granite dusted white with snow. I could be on a conference call or writing an email but it is just long enough of a moment to recharge me. I'm telling you, my life suddenly looks like one big friggin' miracle.

I'm not sure where this is all headed but I do feel some relaxation in my anxiety about the future. I've already worked on letting go of the past. In fact when I got the license plate for my truck, Jack, the only letters were 'NPG' and I immediately decided they stood for No-Past Girl. I mean, what's the point in dragging shit around? I'm too lazy for that. It's like when I left all my cold weather gear in some hostel cupboard in Fiji after my arrival from New Zealand.

Admittedly, I'm rambling but I'm about due for it. Bottom line, I am pretty dang happy about my life these days. Not sure what it is but the more peaceful moments I take, the more I realize they are endless to be taken. It's really just up to me.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Five Things You Probably Never Knew About Me

As requested by (Denver) Kath:

My favorite show is 'America's Funniest Home Videos': Let me be clear - I accept the current version only, with host Tom Bergeron, not the Bob Saget era, which is insufferable. Not only is this the very first reality show, it is the only one still worth watching. Furthermore, I believe very strongly that if countries could exchange these videos - showing the idiocy of all humans, not just Americans - we could solve some major political problems and global misunderstandings with a few silly puppies and accidental groin hits. How much could we hate Osama if we watch him fall off a porch swing into a wedding cake? In exchange, we could send any of the Dick Cheney Goes Hunting series and then we could finally bring our boys home.

I eat Everything: I'm quite serious. I cannot think of a food I do not like. When I was a baby, my parents were amazed, especially in contrast to my brother's picky eating habits, "I don't like my food touching!" At one point, my father pointed out that my lack of food preference may work out for the Clisby bottom line: "Just feed her dirt, she won't notice." This is also the same quality that made my friends and family shake their heads in wonder when I landed a job as a restaurant reviewer.

I have no tattoos: I considered a globe image on my ankle to commemorate my travels but I put it off for so long (I am afraid of needles, another fun fact) that my blank-canvas of a body eventually become a retro item.

Like HDW, I am adopted: At 10 days old, my old name, Virginia Wallace, was retired as I was brought into the Clisby Clan. Talk about incredible luck. This was my one big break from the Universe.

I make the World's Best Egg Burritos: It's true. I'm not lying. Ask anyone. Year and years of practice have brought me to the top of my game. Furthermore, I'm especially adept at creating them with seemingly bare cupboards. It's not just about rolling up an egg in a tortilla, my friends, it's about love, commitment and my special ingredient, Ring of Fire.