Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I've got the Internet on the brain today and the news is only feeding my fixation. It all started yesterday, when I was reading an annual report from Gartner (industry analysts) called "Emerging Tech Trends Analysis." (I had to put down the porn and everything.) Mind you, it's for work so I skimmed over most of it but stopped cold when I got to this part:

"By 2010, 70% of the population in developed nations will spend 10 times longer per day interacting with people in the e-world than in the physical one."

Of course, my first thought was, "Whoa. I'm gonna have to blog about this."

I also recently read another article that teaches parents about cyber-bullies and how to deal with them. It offered some chilling examples – emails and IMs that reveal the usual cruelty of adolescents combined with the safety of anonymity – as well as these enlightening stats:

  • 90% of middle school students have had their feelings hurt online
  • 75% have visited a Web site bashing another student
  • 40% have had their password(s) stolen and changed by a bully who then locked them out of their own account and then sent communication posing as them (WTF?)
  • Just 15% of parents know what cyber bullying is

Besides making me really happy not to be a teenager circa 2007, it drives home the former stat in a big way. The Web offers a voice and sometimes, real power to reach out and touch people, or metaphorically and emotionally bash them in the head. Previously, it was just the bigger kids v. smaller kids, rich v. poor; fat v. thin, pretty v. not-so-much but the Internet is the great equalizer – like pooping and death. Basically, if you can punch a keyboard, you're in the game.

THEN, today's news brought this fresh humdinger. Seems an Egyptian blogger was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison for insulting Islam, the Prophet Muhammad and Egypt's president, "sending a chill through fellow Internet writers who fear a government crackdown." Hmmm, well, so much for anonymity. Makes me feel pretty damn lucky that I can post things like "Dick Cheney is a Scrotum-Less Toad" or "The National Disgrace Continues" without being thrown in the brig. At least not yet … though I'd be disappointed if there wasn't a file on me somewhere.

This brings up another point. When I get together with my blogger buddies, we often discuss the decision to use our own name v. using a nickname or a made up one. It never occurred to me to make one up because my ego is the size of Texas and if I accidentally made a clever turn of phrase on Post #87, dammit, I would like Heather Clisby to have full credit.

On the other hand, there are several bizarre stories in me that could never, ever be posted here because a) my family reads this b) I represent large corporations and would like avoid job loss and subsequent litigation, and finally, c) I'm considering running on the Obama ticket, just to fuck with Hillary. Shmeder recently pondered this dual-existence when she accidentally outed herself to her sister, wondering, "How could anyone who knows me not know?" I guess I see it as two worlds co-existing in a parallel universe with very few bridges across and even fewer canoes.

Recently, I got a call from a friend who is a fast-talker. She went on and on about her life and I loved it because I miss her so. At one point she stopped to breathe and said, "I'm sorry, I should ask about your life but I read your blog so I kind of feel up to date. ANYWAY, so back to me … " Charming as hell.

One my very, very favorite bloggers, "Confessions of a Pioneer Woman" recently pulled out a fan letter which describes this one-sided feeling perfectly:

"Dear Ree,
After months of reading your blog on a daily basis, with the exception of maybe a few days my internet was down, I decided it was time to send you an email. First and foremost, it has been nice getting to know you through your writings, photos, and bodily functions. It almost seems as if we saw each other at Albertson's one day and decided to start emailing. But soon after we met I was in a disfiguring accident and fell into a vegetative state. You continued to email me daily even though I was now the “vegetable boy” and could not communicate back to you. The doctors reported that staying in contact with friends and family was important to my recovery so you set up this elaborate website to communicate your daily activities to me. They (the hospital nursing staff) mounted a laptop directly above my head and every time they would play a burp or juice-bag episode they noticed that my thumbs would move.


I can only hope that ClizBiz will someday make somebody's thumbs move in the same disturbing way.

In the meantime, I am gearing up to attend SXSW again this year, March 9-17. DO expect daily reports, same as last year. However, this time I've opted to only focus on the film and interactive portion of the festival. (Frankly, Austin offers great music year-round – too many damn people in the way at SXSW-Music Fest.)

Check out some of the panels for blogging and whatnot, including a keynote by Dan Rather. (Fang, eat your heart out!) I'm especially interested in "Do You Blog on the First Date?" which will discuss the ethics of airing personal details of one's life, which often includes juicy bits on other people. Also, there's another one called, "The Rise of the Blogebrity", which I think Howard should be sitting in on, with his rising fame and all.

Thinking about all this, I recall a comment that Kath, who lives way, way out near DIA, once made. "Hey man, I practically live in Kansas. My whole world is online – the Internet is my connection to the outside world." Too true. Working from my little Denver apartment and looking to buy a home, I now realize I can live anywhere – as long as I can get online. I just hope I don't forget how to talk.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Mississippi Unplugged

Back home again, snug in my Denver home/office existence but I'm still stubbornly clinging to the serenity of the past week. I hadn't had a real vacation in so long, I'd forgotten its value – eagerly following the daily trail of fun and whimsy and NO WORK.

Nearly every morning, I was awoken by the sweet urgings of my three-year-old nephew, Robbie, who was sent down below – where they keep the edgier aunties – to get me on my feet. It often went something like this:

Robbie (softly): "Aunt Hedder, you got to wake up."
Me: "Zzzzmph? Heeeeeey. Zzzzzz. Heeeey, sweeepee, wazzup?"
Robbiereferring to my butterfly eye pillow): "They told me not to be ascared of your mask."
Me: "Howzat? Mmmmmgoodforyoupunkin. Zzzzzzzz."
Robbie: "Aunt Hedder. Your da last one."

And so on. By the end of the week, he got more forceful, pulling back covers, rocking my immense form and pulling me out of the sack by the appedages. Honestly, it was the sweetest alarm clock I've ever had and I'm missing it immensely.

Other highlights include:

Ripping it up on Friday night with my sisters, Julie and MaryAnn, at Mosaic, a tapas bar in downtown Ocean Springs with belly dancers, hot Latin men and yes, hookahs. So much dancing, drinking and enlightening those around us – include a batch of lovely Air Force cadets – to the joys of inhaling fruit-flavored smoke. Hard to believe we were in Mississippi.

Heading out for a day of fishing (or in my case, photographing) on the open waters of the Gulf. Captain Robert went way, way out and tied us up to a triple oil rig, a massive structure that awakened some bizarre longings in me. (I get that way around large amounts of steel – you should have seen me trying to contain myself touring a Navy ship. It wasn't the sailors, trust me.) Anyway, the Cap'n, his first mate, Ricky, and sister Julie put eight or so lines in the water. My brother pulled in a beautiful Red Fish which he was immensely proud of - see above. (It was, in fact, the only time my modest brother said: "Heather, take a picture of me!"

Sadly, the Fish Feds soon came along and made him throw it back. Seems we'd traveled so far from land that we ended up in Federal waters where the Reds are an illegal catch. (After Chef Paul Prudhomme had caused a sensation in the early 80s with his Blackened Red Fish, there was a feeding frenzy so now they are protected.) The Fed was actually quite nice about it as he could have easily confiscated the boat and fined Captain Robert $5,000. Still, when my brother asked politely if he could not fish at all in FedWaters the officer guessed, "Well, not unless you're the President or something … " which caused me to launch into a tirade, "Don't even get me started on that guy …. !" Julie quickly stepped in to calm me – a skill she picked up being married to Kris, a fellow patriot also known for political tirades. After we watched the Feds motor off and watch the silvery gleam of the fish float away, my brother mumbled, "Well, at least we got a photo of it" to which I replied, "Can we go back to the State of Mississippi now?"

Went through a box full of old family photos with my father. He would tell me who it was, where it was taken and guess at the year and I would scrawl this info on the back. "Well, I'll be damned, that's me with my first hunting rifle … And this here is your great-grandparents, Joe and Gertie Pease, probably in South Dakota … and look! Your grandmother as a young girl, just look at that bathing suit – ha!" Delightful but it also made me painfully aware that time keeps marching on, ready or not.

When I began to learn the guitar, I stated very clearly that my goal was to play well enough to impress drunk people; congratulations to me, I have reached that point. The first night, the Sisters and I got completely blotto and I broke the instrument. With drunk folks, two chords are all you really need, though I did have a special song I'd rehearsed. I played "Jambalaya" by Hank Williams in honor of MaryAnn, the fiery redhead who married my brother and brought this new Southern experience into my life. Although I really fucked it up, she didn't care. She started bawling and insisted on video taping the performance again. I'm hoping she was drunk enough to have left the lens cap on.

Drinking perfectly made-up high class cocktails created by Julie, the world's most skilled home bartender. I remember something with lemons, limes, ice, Cointreau, tequila all served in a chilled martini glass.

Getting my baggage 24 hours after my arrival, after it had enjoyed untold adventures in Nashville - Robbie became obsessed with this and would mention it randomly throughout the week. One conversation:

Robbie: "That man delivered your bag so you can change clothes."
Heather: "That's right! So now I don't have to wear Aunt Julie's underwear."
Robbie (sternly correcting me): "Girls don't wear underwear!"
Heather: "Um, really? Who you been hanging out with, Robbie?"
Robbie: "Girls wear panties."
Heather: "Ahhhhhhh … yes, of course."

The whole week led up to a day/evening at The Farm, yet another extension of the Clisby Empire out in the Mississippi woods. RMAC has enough acreage to hold a barn, a cooking shed and lots of toys with wheels – tractors, trucks and best of all, the coolest little dune buggy that goes over EVERYTHING. Robert had cleared enough trails – and sand pits for burning out – that there were plenty of places to rip around. They invited up some friends (who brought their ATVs) and we ate crawfish, drank beer, shot rifles, played horseshoes, barbecued sausage and just hung out. Later, we made a beautiful campfire and told ghost stories. The half-moon was gorgeous and I picked at my guitar. It was a beautiful, perfect night and I felt immensely grateful.

Vacation's over but that lucky feeling remains. Gotta find a way to keep it with me always.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Bloated Wednesday

I've learned a few things since my vacation began. Recovering from Fat Tuesday requires – at the very least – 10 hours of shut eye, several teeth brushings and a Diet Coke or two. (A full confession might also be in order, either to someone named "Father" or "Officer.") Beads, I've discovered, are the key to complete happiness, especially when thrown from decorated floats that cruise along the Mississippi Gulf Coast and caught with the free hand not clutching beer. These very same beads can also inflict pain if one is unprepared. My three-year-old nephew, Robbie, got beaned pretty good and went home with bead-shaped welts on his neck.

Hanging with the family crew this week for a much-needed unplug, I couldn't be happier, or drunker, if you want to be exact. I got very lucky with landing the tribe that I did – they are a funny, life-loving gang. My brother, Robert, and his wife, MaryAnn (collectively RMAC) are once again, hosting and being generous with food, booze, love and laughter. Despite airline delays and lost baggage, I didn't hold back on my first Fat Tuesday.

Also here for the revelry is my stepsister, Julie, a vivacious brunette (pictured above) who approaches life with the same lust and gratitude that's become the family trademark. She's an expert fisherwoman and the best non-professional bartender I know. This is Julie's first visit since The Wedding of RMAC in May 2002 and she had never met Robbie until now. The child is blessed with a number of aunties but Julie and I strive to be The Bad Influence Auntie Twins. So far, so good.

In the afternoon, we attended the Biloxi Mardi Gras parade and the town had a bit more celebrate this year. Though they had suffered a terrible, unimaginable blow from Katrina, nothing – and I mean, NOTHING – gets in the way of Mardi Gras. Empty cement foundations still support FEMA trailers where awe-inspiring mansions once stood but no one was thinking about that. Marching bands, silly hats, beads, booze and celebration – this is all that matters right now.

Later in the evening, we hopped over to catch the Gulfport parade. Shorter but equally fun with better quality stuff. I even managed to score a beautiful stuffed Mardi Gras jester doll. Beads, schmeads! I was done after that. Though there were cops and crowd control, we all marveled at how such a thing could never, ever happen in California. If it did, alcohol would not be allowed, there would be no parking and has-been celebrities would proliferate the scene. Ick.

Heading home in some amazingly dense traffic, we were forced to stop so my brother could take the longest roadside piss of his life. His eyes had turned yellow when our journey first began and he may have pushed his luck too far. Once the release came, the joy of relief nearly caused him to break into song. "Nothing personal, honey," he said to his wife, "but that may have been the best orgasm ever."

This morning, Julie and I awoke and took stock of the destruction. I'd eaten many bright colored things that I don't recall (just King Cake, hopefully) and the cocktails never stopped flowing. Worst of all, we'd stupidly smoked about eight million cigarettes.

"I sound like an old bar hag, Julie," I growled. "At least you sound sexy, like Jennifer Tilly or Demi Moore."

"No, no," she said. "I sound like the Friday Night Women Who Call For Vicodin." Julie's husband is a dentist (his name is Dr. Brain!) who occasionally receives random calls from desperate ladies who are loathe to face the weekend unmedicated. They beg and plead and play up one urgency or another but Dr. Brain is inpenetrable.

Still recovering, we behaved most of today and have just returned from a lovely bayou boat trip to The Shed for the most delicious BBQ dinner I've ever had. On the trip there, dusk was fading in to night and the water, smooth as glass, mirrored the trees exactly. We sped along, sipping our gin and tonics and looked forward to the pulled pork and potato salad. The trip home was a bit chilly but equally beautiful. A delicate sliver of moon lit up the sky and the Mullets – "The Happiest Fish in the World" – lept all around us. MAC, perched on the bow like a Viking queen, lit a safe path home with her industrial strength flashlight. I looked at my brother and he grinned, "This is my life!" A lucky man, indeed.

Tomorrow: New Orleans!

Also, three-year-olds are very quotable - who knew?:

"Now I don't stink anymore!" –Robbie, celebrating post diaper-change

"I have a gun!" – Robbie, pointing the American flag at me

Julie (singing on the boat): "I wanna be a cowboy, baby!"
Robbie (joining in, guessing at the chorus): "All night wong!"

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Angels Do Exist - You Just Have To Make Them

Don't ever get the idea that my favorite underdog state, North Dakota, has no creative ambition. Please note that thousands of dedicated NoDak appendages flapped yesterday to break the record for the most snow angels ever made at one time.

They only had to break Michigan's record of 3,784 but more than 8,900 Dakotans, including a 99-year-old lady, gamely plopped their ass down in the cold snow for a chance to prove their collective angelic worth.

Ever on the defense of NoDak's dull reputation, Edna Arvidson, 84, of Bismark, pointed out, "People think there is nothing going on up here." Well, I think this chilly stunt should certainly put that perception on ice for awhile ...

Friday, February 16, 2007

Out of Office


Hi! You've reach the voice mail of Heather. I'm not here right now because starting right this very second, I'm on vacation. You heard me. The quitting time whistle is blowing and I'm yabba-dabba doin'.

For the next week or so, I'm climbing out of the corporate salt mines and trading it all in for a much-needed Whiskey Dew/gumbo transfusion on the Mississippi bayou with the family tribe. I realize that my recreational plans may cause some inconvenience to your status meeting and derail a few deadlines so I promise to check messages sporadically, if I remember ... maybe.

However, if this is a bona-fide white collar emergency, dial 9-1-1 and tell them you got a coupon off the internet, so they need to make it there in five minutes or less or its free. Our lawyers will back you up.

If you do manage to reach me, I apologize in advance for my slurring. No, I'll be fine, I'll just be ... y'know, tired, that's all. Also, ignore the screaming in the background ... that'll just be a healthy batch of joyful children, I'm sure. Plus a few (ahem) other types. Should you attempt to conference me in, I will be busily engaged in one of three things - drinking, fishing, practicing guitar, drinking or laughing.

Hmmm, looks like my math skills took off early.

Well, it should be a quiet business period anyway. This week kicks off Chinese New Year, launches Carnaval and wraps up Mardi Gras. With me gone on top of that, the media might have to actually start reporting on the Anna Nicole Smith case that we haven't heard much about. As my primo, Mat, commented, this very evening: "Yes, when great powers - Brazil, China and Heather - close down, the global economy grinds to a halt."

Meantime, go ahead and set up something for us on Outlook and send along an agenda. I'll download the data and create some action items for us to brainstorm when I return to civilization.

Have a nice day!

Now, get me the fuck outta here ....


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I Get Lucky Sometimes

Once again, I'm in San Francisco and the morning's USA Today reminds me it is Valentine's Day. Some years, the occasion mocks me while other times, I celebrate. Sure, sure, we all agree this is just one big ad campaign designed to sell cards, candy and jewelry but there is no denying its impact. I mean, we've managed to forget that DeBeers, the diamond company, invented the engagement ring and now accept it as a standard tradition.

Truth is, this celebrated Love Day hasn't bothered me for years because I was lucky enough to enjoy three completely perfect V-Days in my life. Honestly, they were so expertly crafted and manfully executed that I cannot imagine them ever being topped. I am still running on the fumes of their success and plan to for years, no problem.

#1: I was 14 and in love with Ricky, center (#56) for the Lakewood Lancers football team. He'd been my buddy in pre-school and we were drawn together once again. His friend, Willie, fancied my pal, Diane, so it became a double date. Each boy had written a poem professing their undying dedication to us and taken it to some woman, who then wrote out each sonnet on fancy paper. They brought us candy, flowers and took us to a romantic double feature at the Paradise Theatre: "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "Scanners" – an entertainment bargain as tickets were 99 cents each. Looking back now, Diane and I realize that the boys were 'practicing' on us – this was their first V-Day effort and they were not about to get it wrong. Ricky and I eventually went to the 9th grade prom together and then, the senior prom. Since he'd invested several years in our friendship and relationship, I made sure he was The First.

#2: In the late 90s, I moved to San Franciscoand soon fell in love with a darling man whom I nicknamed Tarzan. Several days prior, he pointed out that V-Day was nearly upon us. I wondered aloud if there was something I should do to prepare. His response: "You don't do anything. I'm the man, I do everything." How hot is that? VERY.

Tarzan showed up the morning of with red tulips, a gift poster from the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur and the makings for a scrumptious French Toast and champagne breakfast for me AND my roommate. He then told me to pack for the next two days and would not tell me where we were going. Heading south on Highway 1, we finally arrived at the Tickle Pink Inn, which sounds like a tacky place where the beds vibrate for small change but it was, in fact, a gorgeous B&B in Carmel-by-the-Sea overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

My jaw dropped upon seeing our plush room and with its amazing deck view. I believe I cried and said, "No one's ever done this for me before" to which he replied, "Well, they should have." We sat in front of the fireplace, drank wine and talked. There was a fancy dinner and some blissful lovemaking. The next day, we went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I felt like the Pink Princess of the Palace. Tarzan earned an awful lot of points with this effot and we remain good friends to this day.

#3: I was dating a wildly romantic fellow who had helped a friend move to New Orleans. He'd driven the U-Haul and was now staying in a 100-year-old mansion – friend of a friend and all that. I missed him terribly so I planned a trip to come visit, not consciously realizing the date – February 14th. Always a dashing figure, he met me at Louis Armstrong Airport with red roses and wearing his usual long, dark coat and black derby. What a sight he was! So handsome – I couldn't believe he was waiting there for me.

We returned to the mansion where he cooked up a fine Louisiana meal – crab pastry, collard greens, and hush puppies – truly fabulous. We dined on the expansive porch and listened to the beads of Mardi gras revelers clink up and down the street. Later, we went to the Maple Leaf with the gang and caught a kick-ass brass/rock band that brought down the house. We danced and drank and generally celebrated life above ground in that decadent New Orleans way.

Eventually, we returned to the mansion where a number of us all made out together. I know, this doesn't sound romantic but he and I were in a very active sexual stage and exploring stuff together. It was HOT. When I boarded the plane on Sunday, I felt like the entire weekend was written all over my face and my naughty smirk was betraying me right and left. I saw a nun on the plane and kept my head down.

Sure, I'm working on living in the Present and all that but days like today, it feels good to look back and rehash the red velvet efforts of such wonderful men. Though things didn't "work out" in the usual sense with a picture perfect wedding and a 50th anniversary party, I am still so grateful that we crossed paths. Roses die and candy gets eaten but I can survive an awfully long time on these frozen memories of Love.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

From the Front Lines of Love

Once again, my engines are revved up and I'm back in the race - just in time for the big V-Day. I'm dating up a storm here in Denver which is both delightful and painful. Even the fish I throw back, I feel for. They are trying hard – sometimes too hard – in an effort to locate a suitable companion. Who can blame them? It's like one long game of musical chairs and I always seem to be at the bar getting a refill when the music stops. And so I remain standing.

First off, I can't say enough how GREAT it is to work with a level playing field here in Colorado. The C-Man Buffet offers a wide variety of worthy dudes to investigate. I'd recently corresponded with an editor at 5280, complimenting them on the recent Love Issue. She wrote back, offering good wishes on my journey:

"While the 'Menver' theory doesn't hold in terms of numbers, in terms of educated, fit available, non-25-year-old guys, it does. Hope you find it fertile ground here!"

Indeed. I've got two balls (technically, four, I guess) in the air at the moment so I must be giving off a whiff of something. One is a fellow I met just last Sunday at a superbowl party. Last night was our first date and already, he's planned how we will spend our lives together. At 6'5", he's a big dude and I like 'em big but I learned long ago that Big Men actually come in a variety of sizes.

Already, it's going a bit fast for me so I may have to put on the brakes and possibly, change my phone number. He married at 20, divorced last April and has already decided I will be the New Woman. He's thinking about buying a five-bedroom house in Estes Park – perhaps, he wondered aloud ON OUR FIRST DATE, I could live there with him? I'm confident he hasn't the faintest idea who he is dealing with nor is he terribly interested. If MonkMan taught me anything, it was to think twice before tossing aside my own life plans for some starry-eyed fool entranced by an idealized version of me.

Furthermore, he has a 14-year-old daughter which terrifies me to no end. That was me, you see, dealing with a father busily upgrading to a new wife model. Vexing and quite damaging to a young girl on the brink of womanhood, I can assure you. After Big Dude left my apartment, I suddenly burst into sobs, missing a love I left behind in San Francisco. (Every time I hear that fucking Tony Bennett song, I want to break a window.) The comfort of the familiar, the devil you know and so on.

Thankfully, there is another fellow on the horizon more my speed. Plus, his existence adheres to my new policy which is: "Proactive, not Reactive." In other words, instead of just liking whoever likes me, I must take a more involved approach and carefully scan for red flags instead of making bed spreads out of them. Pick them out, y'see, and for the love of all that is holy and righteous, pay attention! Most ladies do this naturally; I have to leave post-it notes.

I picked this fellow out in a bar some weeks ago. He looked around my age (very important) and had a handsome, open face. I began a conversation and it flowed quite easily, mostly on the all-important topic of music. He eventually earned big, big, big points for uttering the following sentences:

"Yeah, I heard about them on KCRW, there's a show called 'Morning Becomes Eclectic' have you heard of it?"

"I HATE Disney."

"I'm not really a morning person, I hate waking up."

"My family is confused about my life because I'm not married.'What exactly do you DO with your time?' they want to know."

"I play bass."

I then asked for his phone number on the spot, putting it immediately into my cell phone and eventually made the first call. This is unprecedented Heather behavior. Quite simply, I prefer to be pursued, not the other way around. This may explain why I also find male strippers very, very unsettling. "I am the sex object, not you! Now get down off that stage and rub my feet like a real man."

After our first date, he called me later to make sure I'd made it home safely and bid me good night. That's whatcha call class, people! He said he'd call the following week but didn't hear a peep until last night, when he called as I sat waiting for Bachelor #1 who was two hours late! Bachelor #2 had lost his phone (my number along with it), apologized all over the place and was quickly redeemed. He's got plans for us to check out some music or the new exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

In the words of my mother: We shall see.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Why I Blog

I blame St. Howard, who has challenged a few of us bloggers to explain ourselves. Apparently, he was already tackling this question himself but it naturally came up in conversation the other night at HDW's birthday festivus, pictured at left. His query today posed a simple: "Why blog?" Here is what I came up with:

Not Old Yet: A few summers back, our office had us a batch of brilliant interns – all girls – who gave a terrific presentation on a new trend called "blogs." At the time, this was still a fairly fresh medium for the generalized adult human and it was just barely starting to show up in the business world. One of the interns, Maria, was eventually hired and has since become my friend and young, plucky sidekick - the Gabrielle to my Xena, minus all the heavy lezbo tension. She assured me that setting up a blog was the easiest thing to do and all the cool kids were doing it. That was enough for me. So, on August 9, 2005, with the catchy headline, "Hear That? It's My Blog Cherry Popping!" ClizBiz was born. (When I recently lamented to Maria that I feel old and out-dated with modern technology, she said: "Yeah, but the blogging saves you." Whew!)

The Writing Gym: I quickly realized that the new toy could help me reverse a dangerous habit. I had recently written a cover story for the Santa Barbara Independent about Monty Roberts, "the horse whisperer", and it was excruciating to create. After years of corporate work, my prose taken on a horrible Velveeta texture with perky sentences and clipped, guarded descriptions; my own writing style had gone weak from lack of use. Used to being a hired hand for multi-national corporations, the Heather voice had become weak and distant. Zoinks! The blog became a place where I could just go and work out, "a place to bench press 10-lb. verbs or outrun dangling participles." What a delightful idea - writing for no one but myself without assignment or deadline, a playground of sorts. As I'd restated on my 100th post on 1/17/06:

"This blog is more like throwing personal jewelry into a black ocean - not only do I never know if the trinkets will hit bottom, be swallowed by a fish or be discovered by some wayward explorer, it is actually not even the point. The goal is getting my fingers around something internal, articulating it as a thought and flinging it outward - letting it go whether the world cares or not."

Self-Challenge: As Howard's friend, Lorne, pointed out recently, the pressure to think of something relevant and/or witty to say can be self-defeating. Every writer wants to believe they offer a unique voice to the world and some days, I am one of those cursed warriors. Other days, it's all I can do not to fling my cell phone into a snow bank and suck my thumb in the corner. Like most bloggers, I've got a folder of great post ideas that are somewhat evergreen – bits and pieces I grab from the news. Occasionally, I force it out (and it shows) but most posts these days feel pretty dang natural. Some come roaring out of me like a post-feast belch, others start with a small seed, germinate, sprout, grow and bloom over several days after much pondering, looking up to the sky, stroking my long beard and so on.

Ego (Legacy): There is a distinct sensation that writing comes naturally to me and for this, I am grateful. (If I could sing well, I'd never shut up so just be glad I got the quieter of the gifts.) Still, it is hard to keep the ravenous ego monster at bay and I lose this battle often. I had recently gotten down on myself after a few posts where I received very little feedback. I tried not to take it personal ("Um, Heather, people have lives, you know?") but failed.

Furthermore, I also receive weekly reports telling me how many visitors, page views, etc. the site receives. Readership has been a healthy three-digit number for months but all of sudden, it was down to two. Could I blame the new version of Blogger? I sure as hell did! Truth be told, I was mad at myself for losing sight of the original point. Bad, bad, bad Heather. Writing for a specific audience reaction is not the goal here; self-editing is the enemy. I am now forbidden to read these reports.

Nevertheless, I moped for several days about this and finally got my blog groove back when a colleague told me that a quiet, mild-mannered fellow in our office had become a regular reader. I hardly know the guy and yet he found something entertaining. Why anyone - let alone an acquaintance - would choose my little world over The New York Times or YouTube at any given moment is amazing to me. I remain unquestionably thrilled by this and have been riding high ever since. Also, I think my family – who read only on occasion – may find these posts endlesslessly fascinating immediately following my death in a bizarre gardening accident.

Fantasy: My dream job has always been newspaper columnist, a job I actually held for brief time. I wrote about food and restaurants for my hometown paper but ultimately, I resist sticking to one topic. I mean, I hate Dick Cheney with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns 24/7 but I only get the urge to mention once in awhile, otherwise, it's boring. I could never be a political columnist for this reason. I get distracted too easily …oh, look! A butterfly ….

Community: Strangely, this last one only just now occurred to me. When I got dumped on my ass upon arrival in Denver, I was so, so alone. The blog was my only outlet and ultimately, it became the major conduit for most of my Denver social life. Not only have I met the coolest people (all stemming from the amazing Kath) but it has become a ready-made support network that I never expected. Words of encouragement, topics for discussion and some damn funny writing - all to be shared - makes me feel like I am a part of something. The first time I met HDW, I believe I may have kissed her because a) she actually is really, really HOT and b) because after reading her wickedly funny posts, I'd already decided we would be friends. The topic was not up for debate. Same thing with Howard. (In fact, I feel compelled to post this photo of my two fellow bloggers, who are hilarious in person as well. Photo credit: The Amazing Kath.)

... and just like that, another long-winded post is born!