Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Rock and Roll

Cozy in my Santa Clara hotel room tonight, I ordered up some dinner and wine and got my thumb busy on the TV remote. Weird thing is, I never watch it at home; it just doesn't occur to me anymore. Between Netflix, Internet TV and my reading pile, the network schedule just can't compete.

But when I get in a hotel room, the TV is my friend. I gorge myself on channels, as I did tonight. I stumbled upon the movie, "World Trade Center", which tells the true story of two Port Authority police officers who became trapped under the fallen towers on 9/11.

I avoided the film when it hit theaters, because I thought it too soon and also, because it was directed by Oliver Stone, who can be a bit heavy-handed in his conspiracy messages. The only thing that kept me watching tonight was recalling Fang's glowing review and that my main man, Nicholas Cage (born in Long Beach - yeah!) had the starring role.

It didn't take long to get completely sucked in. Fang was right, the film is a gem - really well done. I got so choked up, I couldn't swallow my dinner. I just kept thinking about all the people who worked on this film, knowing what a delicate story they had to tell and the weight of that responsibility. It was a tough assignment and by god, they pulled it off with real grace.

When it finally ended, I was emotionally exhausted. I pulled my boots on and was fixin' to head down to the bar - needed something to slake my thirst and calm my nerves.

Then, the entire building began to shake. My 14th floor room was swaying and creaking, drawers slid out and doors flew open. It was like being in a motorhome with 20 fat guys on the bumpers rocking it hard. Damn. An earthquake!

I looked out the window as the quake continued. I didn't see Silicon Valley break in two but at some point I realized that standing in front of a plate glass window was definitely NOT what they taught us in school. I ran to the bathroom and stood in the doorway - the only safety tip I could recall.

It seemed to last forever - one of the longest I felt in a long time. I immediately tried to call friends and family in San Francisco, which I imagined to be much worse. I could not get through - all lines were busy. 'Crap,' I thought, 'I'm going to need two drinks now.'

I headed for the elevators but they had stopped working. A guy was standing there, equally shaken, and we made nervous small talk. Impatient, I headed to the stairs and he followed. I felt like it took forever to get down and hey, wasn't it moments ago I was watching a film with frightened people running scared down cement stairwells? How quickly life imitates art.

Turns out, it was a 5.6er, officially labeled "moderate" with no injuries, thank god, and no damage. We got off lucky this time.

Meanwhile, come tomorrow, I board a plane for Southern California, a region recently battered (and still battling) raging fires.

Ah yes, it's great to be back in California, land of constant excitement.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Last night, I opted to take a break from my fire fears and take my Little Sister, Velrene out for some organized terror. We braved the "Hauntplex" in Centennial City, an oddly placed industrial extension of Denver that is plenty scary on its own. The Hauntplex generously offers three menu options in tangible fright: 13th Street Manor, Primitive Fear or Realm of Terror.

While trying to decide in front of the ticket booth, I turned to ask a gentleman standing near. He seemed very informed. "They are equal intensity just different settings," he said knowledgeably. "13th Street Manor is a haunted house. Primitive Fear is in a jungle setting and Realm of Terror is a Medieval dungeon."

"Wow, that's a pretty clear description,"
I said, "Do you work here?"

"I designed them all."

Alllllrighty then! We chose the haunted house for the familiarity and because it seemed less likely to add to my wild-animals-eating-me-alive nightmares which seem inevitable in that jungle scenario.

Since this was Velrene's brilliant idea, I make her lead. From the first zombie appearance, I grabbed the back of her coat and would not let go. When one half-dead motherfucker jumped out of a couch cushion, I nearly shat myself, screaming and half-laughing all the way through. Intellectually, I knew that these were actors and that I'd paid $15 to be in this situation but frankly, these realities mean nothing when zombies are popping out of closets and grabbing at your ankles from under a bed.

The 13th Street Manor taught me this: I may not make such a great mom. Whenever something green, oozing and moaning would appear, I would simply swing V forward in the classic, "Take her, not me!" maneuver. Nice behavior. Very maternal. By all means, eat the child, just stay the fuck away from me, for the love of Elvis.

Huddled in a dark corner, we were both too petrified to enter the bedroom which clearly had a decaying corpse in the bed, so we hatched a plan. Breathless, I helpfully suggested, "Let's wait here for some other people and then hang onto them!"

"Yeah, yeah," agreed V. "Okay, yeah."

Then, a young couple came down the hallway, clinging to one another - the girl hanging on the boy's belt. V simply hitched our wagon to girl's pants and that was that. They never shook us lose or even tried. V learned this tactic early when she'd yelled back at me, "Let go of me!" and I refused. See? I'm teaching her things. Survival tactics. That's important stuff, folks.

At one point, we had to squeeze through a slanted wall crack in total darkness. This is when I realize that leader role may have risks but the caboose position sucks equally. Those godforsaken creatures were right at my heels, breathing on my hair with their rotted teeth and asking me in giggling, evil tones if I was ready to die. While I should have casually responded, "Gosh no, I have yet to see Miami," instead, I screamed-babbled something like "No!!!Ohgod, nooooo!Pleasenoooo!AAAAAAAAAAA!Omigodomigodomigod!!!!!"

Finally, after one exhausting macabre scene after another, we find the exit. We finally let go of one another and gulp in the night air, all talking and laughing at once. We apologize to the couple and they confess, "Oh man, don't worry about it! We were happy to have more back-up!"

Just then, we turn a corner and a large man wearing a hockey mask jumps out of the bushes and makes quite the display of starting up his massive chain saw. HOLY FUCK. I can't remember the last time I ran that fast. Later, we went up to the Designer Dude, whose name is James, and complimented him on that last bit - a beautifully cruel touch. He was pleased.

Going back to my truck, my heart still racing like a bunny in heat, I chuckled at the irony. Here I was paying my hard-earned cash to experience fake ghosts while my good buddy, HDW, is currently trying to get rid of hers. Yup, that very evening, she had a ghostbusters crew visit her home to see what could be done. She's grown tired of the light switches moving on their own and her kitchen being rearranged. 'Tis her story to tell so I'll stop there but I have to admire the timing here - just in time for Halloween!

Friday, October 26, 2007

OK, For Now

This is not a recent photo of my beloved Green Valley Lake, it's just me being optimistic amidst all the fiery madness.

In my last post, I linked to a much-needed GVL-focused story in the Press-Enterprise. I sent the reporter and photographer a thank you note. (As a former and sometimes-present reporter, I remember how few and far between these can be.) The reporter, Mark Muckenfuss - who sounds like he should be a character in Harry Potter - kindly sent me a note back that gave life to my hopes:

"Thanks for your note Heather. I drove down Wild Cherry from the north end to Yukon and saw no damaged homes on that stretch. Hope you can keep enjoying your cabin."

That is precisely our street that he is talking about so it looks like we are intact ... today.

However, the Slide Fire has burned 13,700 acres was just 20 percent contained by late Friday afternoon, with 10,000 houses still threatened and many mandatory evacuations still in place. It's progress but it remains an agonizing battle.

Eric Spillman, a reporter at KTLA, is doing an admirable job with not only his on-site broadcast reporting but his blogging as well. He often ends up playing traffic cop to reader opinions and feelings which are raw and hyper-sensitive right now. That alone is a full time job. He opened his Wednesday post with this observation regarding GVL, population 600:

"This tiny town may have lost more homes per capita than any other in Southern California."

Also, I'm reading some unfortunate facts - that firefighters had to literally abandon GVL late Monday because the fire became too dangerous. Consequently, a number of residents, including the retired fire chief, stayed behind and battled with what few hoses they had.

The retired chief, Martin Neville, is now being lambasted for criticizing the fire department and I would agree that loss of a human life is not worth any structure; my family would not be comforted by the survival of our little cabin had it robbed someone of their loved one. No way.

Still, if the Green Valley Lake Inn, the local watering hole, isn't a pile of ash when I finally get there in late November, I'm buying a round of drinks for these stubborn fools.

Supposedly, they are going to post a list of homes that are no longer on the San Bernardino website but I can't find the list on the site and I'm too exhausted right now to dig further. I'll check tomorrow or call the hotline, 877-885-7654.

Cross your fingers!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Holding Our Breath

There are hundreds of wildfire headlines but this one from the Riverside Press-Enterprise might be my favorite:

"Green Valley Lake Narrowly Escapes Disaster"

Also, we uncovered some welcome news last night. Many thanks to 'GVLSean' on the SoCal Mountains website who wrote:

"Just got an official 'unofficial' report. My neighbor phoned me and said his friend that works for the GVL water company told him that the homes in the immediate area of Wild Cherry and Fern/Yukon are OK! Specifically, my home is on the corner there and his is on Fern to the west of us and they are OK. I hope this helps some folks."

Since our house is on Wild Cherry, this is huge relief. My brother is ready to celebrate but my mother and I are not convinced. The Slide Fire still surrounds the area and it is 0% contained. It has already destroyed 200 homes and three structures.

In the spirit of puns and bad taste, I'd have to say we are not out of the woods just yet.

Photo Credit of downtown GVL: William Wilson Lewis III, PE

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Flaming Nightmare Continues

With over 800 million people evacuated from the California wildfires, the media is recognizing this as one of the biggest disaster migrations in U.S. history, second only to Hurricane Katrina. Nearly 3/4 of the people in my life live in Southern California and nearly all are affected in some way.

I spoke to my pal, Sharon, yesterday who lives in Encinitas (San Diego County) but had been visiting her sister in Long Beach. She called her neighbors who told her, "Don't bother coming back, we are all being told to leave." Like so many of us, all she can do is wait.

As for Chez Clisby, still no final word. There is no one up there but firefighters and they are ... um, busy. My mom has a friend, Jason, who is a volunteer firefighter and lives in nearby Running Springs. He has the cabin's address and has promised he will check on it when he gets the chance but since RP is suffering hefty damage, we assume this is not a huge priority right now.

The map above indicates that the town of Green Valley Lake is literally surrounded by fire and our cabin is likely somewhere in that circle. A report I read this morning did not lift my spirits:

"While firefighters are risking their lives trying to save homes, there have been dozens of reports of looters across the mountains. Deputies have not been able to confirm many of the reports, but there have been some arrests. Even worse, authorities made an arrest of a motorcyclist who was allegedly witnessed trying to start an arson fire near Camp Seely on Tuesday evening."

Meanwhile, I've got that familiar Hurricane Katrina-feeling - a sense of dread that things will get worse before they get better.

UPDATE: My mom just sent me this image below, detailing the extent of damage in Green Valley Lake. Our house is on Wild Cherry Drive and so far, in the blue, meaning intact. Click on image to enlarge.

Still, with fires blazing all around, we are nowhere near in the clear. Also, we are deeply saddened by the loss already suffered in this little town. GVL has always been a hidden SoCal secret, happy to stay unchanged in the shadow of Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead. Looks like it is going to be even smaller now.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Fires Rages at Green Valley Lake

"Slide Fire - Green Valley Lake, is burning south-southwest toward Green Valley Lake. The fire is currently 150 acres and is destroying homes."

--Official Site for the San Bernardino County, Disaster Information as of 10/22/07, 7:56:52 p.m.

The Clisby cabin is located here. The site of the annual CCW gathering and home to many family memories since 1958. It could all go up tonight.

This would be a paltry pain compared to those who are fleeing their homes in fear of losing everything. Those poor people, I feel for them. Several have lost their homes already in Malibu and San Diego and god knows where else. It's so dry there and those Santa Ana winds are killer.

Damn, I got the hometown blues watching Southern California burn. It's going to be a long, uncomfortable night.

Update: RimoftheWorld tells me that most of Green Valley is still standing but many homes have burned. Last count, 30 structures are gone in this little mountain village.

I Do What I Want

Mostly. In that regard, this weekend was especially successful. I'm pleased because late last week, a dark cloud of depression threatened my mental landscape with inner taunts that went something like this: "LOSERloserLOSERloser ...." Then, I took a nap and the stormy emotional clouds had moved on to some other vulnerable soul. Hopefully, not you.

Saturday Morning: Met up with Anjum and Mark for an incredible breakfast at Country Roads in Kittredge. I met Anjum the same unforgettable weekend I met my future sister-in-law, MaryAnn, and her sister, Robin Louise. (Anjum is a pal of 'Miss Robin' and was there too.) Anjum and I bonded immediately and I especially appreciate her warm and funny ways. Our Country Roads breakfast was no ordinary experience - they have a whole section called 'Smashed Mashed' with the usual breakfast goodies mixed in with mashed potatoes. I ordered the Cream Cheese Bacon Smashed Mashed with eggs and spinach mixed in. Pure ecstasy. I could only eat 1/3 of my order cuz I'm, y'know, dainty. Also, because I was too busy helping Mark eat his pancake - probably the best I've ever had in my life.

Saturday Mid-Morning: Down the road from Kittredge, I ventured to Indian Hills to meet up with Beanie, my horse mentor. If I lived 350+ years, I could never learn everything that Beanie has forgotten about horses. Therefore, I'm happy to do whatever she tells me to while trying and trying and trying again to get it right. Beanie is a tough teacher, notoriously picky and emotionally transparent. If she is disappointed, you'll know it. ("I thought you knew better," she told me after one regrettable instance. I was CRUSHED.) Even the horses don't mess with her - just the sound of her voice makes them behave.

On this gorgeous cloudless day, I finally progressed and made Beanie happy. Mounted on Copper, a new horse for me, I managed to keep him 'on the bit' for the entire length of the ring. Doesn't sound like much, I know, but Beanie was excited and that was HUGE for me. "You did it!" she said. "I have goosebumps!" I left the ranch high as a kite. (She even called me later in the day to exclamate further: "You're emerging! I'm so excited!" This was my weekend, peaking.

Saturday Afternoon: I hopped on my bike to enjoy the perfect fall weather. Colorado just explodes with autumn hues and I can't get enough. Denver looks like one big Candyland with giant orange, yellow and red lollipops everywhere. Riding through Washington Park and along Cherry Creek, I marveled at the day, trying to memorize the joyous feeling so I can recall it later when I'm dark and dismal. (This never works, by the way.) Even when my bike chain jumps the tracks and I'm forced to stop and play bike mechanic, I'm thrilled with the state of my hands, now covered in horse slobber and gear oil. I'm so dadgum rugged sometimes, I turn myself on.

Saturday Early Evening: Once a month, a lovely gal named Dianna invites four women and four men (all single) to come to her condo and put together a gourmet meal. Upon arrival, you pay $25, are given the evening's recipes and sign a document (I shit you not) saying that you will help with the dishes. Then, you all go over the menu, break up into teams and start cooking.

The menu:

-World-Class Margaritas (all fresh stuff, no mix)
-Chips and Guacamole
-Fresh Fruit Salad with Citrus Sauce
-Seared Scallops with Spicy Honey-Citrus Glaze on Celery Salad (my team)
-Cilantro Rice
-Golden Chanterelle Soup with Toasted Almonds and Sherry
-Buttermilk Biscuits
-Strawberry-Orange Trifles
-Lots o'wine

I had a terrific time. We were a well-traveled bunch - all light-hearted and funny. The kitchen was tiny which made for some forced intimacies and I was amazed at Dianna's tool stash. The woman must have a hundred measuring spoons and cups. A fellow cook/diner named Treson and I were both in awe as we confessed our growing compulsion to purchase almost anything from Sur La Table. He was especially smitten with a fancy silver 'pounder' used to hammer out fillets whereas I coveted Dianna's zester.

My partner, a handsome adventuresome accountant (only in Colorado can you be all three) named Steve, was clear: "Heather, I have no cooking skills but I do take direction very well so just boss me around." I took him at his word. "Steve, I need some honey and some hot sauce, stat!" Then, Steve would scramble to fetch me this and that while making sure my margarita glass stayed full. This was something I could definitely get used to.

Saturday, Late Evening: "Girl! What are you up to? Me and Carley are house-sitting Amy's house over on 13th and Pearl - it's a phatty pad! Amy and Cameron are here too! Come over and party with us! We're making Worry Dolls and playing Yahtzee."

There are few things more welcome than a random phone call from Miss Bliss. Just hearing her raspy, giggling voice gives me a heightened sense that fun is about to commence. So, I joined up with the girl gang and in between good ol' fashioned crafting and Yahtzeeing, indulged in a few less Heartland-approved activities. All the better.

Evidently, Worry Dolls (sometimes called Trouble Dolls) are folk art from Guatemala.The deal is: A sleepless, worrisome soul places the doll under the pillow and it pulls night duty, fretting about the state of the planet, your country, your parents and your soul so you don't have to. (Mine's the middle doll, looking resplendent in green.) When Bliss handed me the wooden clothespin to begin, my reaction was: "Girl, I got a lot on my mind, I might need a bigger one ... " Still, I like the concept - a healthier plan than Vicodin, that's for sure. Finally hit the sack around 3:00 a.m. - much too tired for worries so the doll got her first night off.

Sunday Morning:
Slept in, watched the first snow fall of the season and feasted on one of my famous Egg Burritos. Read the funnies. Played guitar.

Sunday Afternoon: I fetched my Little Sister, Velrene, and we had us some holiday fun. Seems she had not carved a pumpkin since she "was young" so I put her to work right away. She liked getting all the guts out; there was lots of squealing and "Ewww! Gross!" exclamations. We joined forces with my super-nice Minnesota neighbors, Erin and Tim, and carved away the day.

But I couldn't leave well enough alone. Still on my bizarre Everything Homespun-streak, I'd planned for us to make Halloween cookies as well. I managed to screw up the dough pretty bad, which Velrene thought was hilarious. I can't get used to baking in this !@%$#%! dry-ass climate. (The lack of moisture is one of the few things I do not like about my new state, although I do appreciate that neither acne nor fleas can survive it.)

So, V and I had to make a veryfast store run so I could swallow my pride and buy those godawful Pillsbury pre-made cookie dough tubes. It was fairly humiliating but again, V found it all amusing. Thankfully, the purple, orange and blue buttercream frosting we made turned out just fine. V had never used cookie cutters before or decorated cookies at all so it was a first. Her mother tells me that this my general department: Firsts. (Future assignments include teaching V to swim, rollerskate and ride a bike ... Gulp!)

We did all this while sharing music - an assignment I've given myself in this new relationship. At my urging, V brought along her Destiny's Child and Ciara CDs while I forced her to listen to old LPs (Wilson Pickett, Young Rascals, Sam the Sham, Frankie Lyman, etc.) and cassette tapes of Aretha Franklin. She seemed to enjoy it and even danced around the living room to the Queen of Soul.

Sunday Evening: Thought about cleaning up the cookie mess but instead ate leftover Smashed Mashed and watched 'Desperate Housewives."


Thursday, October 18, 2007

For the Mercenary Who Has Everything

Behold the Glambo Signature Series "Hello Kitty" HK-AK-47:

"The world should note the hand-crocheted shoulder-stock muffler and the anodized titanium plating. Several choices in stock wood are available. With a limited run of only 500, buy now before they're gone! An mere $100 extra includes Glambo's signature wood-burnt into the opposite side of the handguard. A perfect gift for the young lady of the house.A bargain at only $1072.95!"

You can get this baby at GlamGuns which was founded by a female US Army veteran who is only known as "Glambo." Peruse the store, there's some real gems in there. I especially like the CareBear Body Armor and the Lady Di Handgun.

Glambo's advice:

"You can be glamorous and strong wearing camo and combat boots as well as you can wearing pink frills. Just remember the most important thing: the AK-47 NEVER goes with plaid."

Thanks to Neatorama for the head's up!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Let the Boomer Deluge Begin

As frightening milestones go, yesterday brought a whopper. On Monday, the nation's first Baby Boomer applied for Social Security benefits. Kathleen Casey-Kirschling, a retired Maryland teacher who was born at 12:00:01 a.m. on Jan. 1, 1946, applied for early retirement benefits and will become eligible to receive benefits in January 2008 when she turns 62.

As millions of BBs (those born between 1946-1964) prepare to deluge the system and possibly, overwhelm the federal budget, I wonder what will be left for the rest of us.

Personally, I have only half-hopes that there will be anything left for my own retirement. (See above for the ClizBiz retirement plan - photo credit goes to a very clever Someone Else, not me.) As it stands now, I plan to live in my family's tiny desert home in 29 Palms and try to avoid eating cat food. Yup, it's going to be lean and mean when you throw in global warming, well, it'll be toasty as well. Good times!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Homespun Weekend

Healthy, healthy, healthy! Yup, that's me. I've revamped my life as of late. It's been a whole year since I got regrettably drunk, lost all my things (wallet, house keys, cell phone, dignity, etc.) and had bartenders calling my parents at 2:00 a.m. out of concern. I don't do that stuff anymore. No way. Not me. Nosirrreee, Bob. I'm living the clean life now ... even if I have to borrow other people's lives to do it.

Can't recall if I've mentioned this but I signed up to become a Big Sister and mentor young'uns. I've acquired a stash of random knowledge and by god, someone should benefit. The first thing I'd like to teach tomorrow's leaders is to not drink exotic cocktails, stash your purse behind an amp and then forget where you put it.

So, after a very extensive screening process (FBI, CIA, DMV, my mom, my boss - they talked to everyone) I finally landed a kiddo. Her name is Velrene, she is 10-years old and she is delightful!

We had a our first 'date' on Friday night and, at her mother's suggestion, I took her to the Ringling Bros. Circus. It was fun but in one fell swoop, I got a whiff of how expensive it is to parent. Velrene wanted a snow cone and I was happy to oblige until I learned it costs NINE DOLLARS. "What?!" I yelped, "what is it? Frozen shaved gold???" Holy cow. I had no idea how rigged kid entertainment is. I mean, I knew about Disneyland but geezus ....

We enjoyed the circus, Velrene and I. All the dancing and high-wire acts were great. However, neither of us were comfortable with the tigers and elephants, they didn't seem too happy. (PETA was handing out 'informational' comic books outside which confirmed my suspicions.) Velrene really liked the dog tricks though and I, of course, loved the horsey stuff.

The ride home was pretty hilarious. Commenting on my hippie/redneck music choices, she asked point blank: "Why do you listen to this weird music? Don't you listen to hip-hop?" Uh-oh, my street cred was about to dissipate.

I then tried to locate some hip-hop on the radio and the more I struggled, the harder she laughed. Since my dork-dom was already revealed, I just went for it. Settling on a classical music station, I asked her, "What about this? Is this hip-hop? Does this work???" I reminded Velrene that it was her job to educate me on modern music since I've evidently stopped noticing. She just shook her head and laughed harder, looking at me like I was the funniest alien she'd ever seen. Darn whippersnapper.

On Saturday, I headed out to the pumpkin patch with the Higbee Family (see above). As with most of my friends, I've known Amy since kindergarten. At Bancroft Jr. High, we were famous for our matching night owl tendencies; Amy and I felt strongly that slumber parties were not for actual slumbering, they were for obsessing over boys and giggling into the night. Anyone who felt differently had best sleep with their bra on, lest it be frozen by morning. That one of my oldest friends lives in nearby Parker, well, it makes me feel less disconnected from my past, even if we rarely get together. Some friends are like family, y'know?

This is my second annual pumpkin outing with Amy, her wonderful husband, Mike, and their three adorable children: Michael, Charlotte and Nathan. We picked out pumpkins, ate funnel cake and climbed the occasional tree. Auntie Heather, always playing the Annie Liebowitz/Mary Poppins role, tried to be useful as much as possible. Michael and I even rode some bungie thingy for EIGHT dollars albeit the satisfaction level was much higher than had it been a ball of flavored snow.

I always learn so much hanging out with my friend's families. Child rearing looks hard but rewarding. Spending time with kids is loud and messy but it also feels like my soul is getting a shot of B12. I get that same feeling hanging out with horses, also stinky and expensive but not as loud. Still, the horses don't generally run up, squeeze your thigh and tell you that they love you. They tend to step on your toes and sniff your hair, which is as much affection as you can hope for.

Today, just to keep the Norman Rockwell groove going, I made homemade grape jelly with the incredibly yummy Concord grapes that grow in the backyard. (Not my doing - the feller that built the house planted them in the 50s.) Here's Michelle, another childhood friend that visited last week, picking them, as ordered to by me. Yes, that's right, I make my house guests do manual labor, pay them nothing and disallow union organizing as well, so there.

I grabbed an Internet recipe, called Mama Iva for luck and put on Grandma Myrtle's apron for ancestral insight. I don't know if I did it right but I made a big giant mess, stained my hands (and a few other things) purple and ended up with nine jars of the stuff. It'll be a day or so before I can test my success.

All this hearty down home doins' has made me impervious to my usual temptations. For example, I met a yummy man today and he was making googley eyes at me. So, how does the man make his living? He pans for gold, of course! He bought a map and everything! I couldn't hop in my truck fast enough. I'm trying to avoid trouble these days instead of give it my phone number.

Yup, I'm still attracting all the weirdos so nothing's changed there. I think I'll stick with kids and horses for awhile. In the long run, I think they are less mess.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Home is where the ________ is

This weekend, my old pal, Michelle, is visiting from Santa Barbara and the timing couldn't be better. Lately, I worry that Denver is starting to become just a place where I sleep in between trips. Being gone so much, I've become something of a hermit the last few months when I am home. I only drive to the airport or when I go to ride horses. Okay, not true. I also drive to Swallow Hill for guitar lessons and to Jeff's house/Avenue Theater for Rodent stuff.

Mind you, I'm having a good time - cooking, writing, playing guitar, yoga, reading, watching movies - but I can feel myself detaching from the rest of my species and that concerns me a bit. I've officially, once again, given up on meeting a worthy member of the opposite sex. Either I'm too picky or too ugly or they are too dull. I live on random compliments these days, which, thankfully still come. (After some conversation, a older fellow at Sunflower market said to me yesterday, "You're a welcome addition to the state - a very attractive woman." Thank god for him, even though he is on severe medication.)

Michelle asked me last night as we were driving to Swing Thai, "So where do you hang out or get coffee or whatever? Where is your neighborhood?" Um, I don't really hang out, I told her, and I don't drink coffee so .... Unless I am going to meet someone or do something specific, I really don't mingle. I tried it earlier this week, and even though I met some swell folks, I felt like I was playacting the whole time.

Perhaps this is part of getting older, settling down in a way but since I mature at a glacial pace, any change in my outlook or habits is always confusing at first. Still, I find myself craving winter so that I can at least blame my housebound tendencies on something other than myself. I've got so many creative projects that need tending, projects that I've begun but need finishing ...

Last night, during dinner (while the Rockies were KICKING ASS!!! YEAH!!!) I confessed to Michelle that I've been having some weird physical sensations lately.

"It's like my heart starts racing and it's harder to breathe, and then this heat goes up over my head to my ears and ..."

"Panic attack," she announced. "You're having panic attacks. I used to get 'em all the time, what you need to do is ... "

Wait, what?

I'd heard of these but assumed that they were brought on by stress and tense situations. I don't really have any stress, unless I'm late for a plane, and I've never felt more relaxed in my life. Bizarre. I even get them as I'm falling asleep, which should be the most relaxed state one can ever be in. What's the deal? How have I fucked myself up this time?

I'm glad Michelle was the one to tell me - we've known each other since third grade or so and it was she who inspired my move to San Francisco back in 1997. I had just come back to LA after a year of traveling abroad and the place no longer fit me, I needed a change.

After I went to live with Michelle, she sat me down and told me all about this new thing called, The Internet. It sounded impossible. There was a giant box on her desk and it was there she showed me my first email.

"And then, you just type your message ... " she said. I can still recall it like yesterday. "And then, you press send, see? Then, it goes to their inbox."

"But how does it get there? I don't get it."
I was a slow student. Eventually, I caught on.

Michelle and I used to throw legendary seasonal parties in our tiny Presidio Heights apartment. We had live bands in the living room and come Sunday morning, we often had at least six remaining bodies, hungry for eggs. A local poet - published and everything - was inspired by these wild events and wrote a poem about them. In between parties, Michelle and I would paint our toes wild colors, watch scary movies and go check out bands. We still laugh about the times I went out even when sick. I'd just curl up next to the amplifier (Les Claypool, Michael Franti or Train, probably) and enjoy horizontally.

Little has changed. Tonight, we're off to see LIVE at the Fillmore. Michelle is the Managing Editor of Santa Barbara's weekly, The Independent, and she's actually here on assignment, to cover the final night of the band's tour. I think we are going to some backstage party afterwards. Anyway, it feels like the old days. When all of our friends get married, have kids and buy big houses, Michelle and I are always left wondering: "Should we be doing that too?"

Okay, that's a lie. Actually, I'm the one that does that. Michelle is a bit more secure in her non-conformity. Very inspiring.

In conclusion, life is weird. I feel like I do too much and not enough, all at the same time. Funny, I have about 10 tightly written posts (with photos!) already composed in my head but this morning, I just needed this space to ramble and reveal a bit.

Maybe because I get comments from people who say, "I read your blog. Your life is so exciting, you do so many cool things!" I would agree that life is not bad for the ClizBiz but it doesn't mean I don't get a little confused and blue. The grass is always greener, etc.

If this wandering un-focused post does nothing else, let it serve as a reminder that everyone faces challenges, some are obvious - like medical stuff or financial stuff - but most are internal. I have always felt anxious about life - like there are various strong-headed women inside me and each one battles for earth time. You know, 32 fucking flavors and then some? Recently, I've begun admitting to trusted friends, "I'm starting to accept the fact that I'm not normal."

They all laugh and say the same thing: "Normal is over-rated." Guess I'll just have to take their word for it.

Monday, October 01, 2007


It seems I spend more time in the air these days than I do on the ground. I recently went back to LA for some work meetings and, other than seeing some old friends, I dreaded it. The thick brown air and relentless traffic always threaten to take all my oxygen, not to mention my patience. Instead, I kind of fell in love with the place all over again.

"Linked together by the tedious reality of interconnecting freeways it’s almost as if the car has replaced the old community center. Los Angeles with its 72 suburbs in search of a city has no center ... it’s in our imagination."

--Diane Keaton, in her foreword essay for the photography book, "Los Angeles"

First things first, set the rental car radio dial to 89.9 KCRW, The Best Radio Station in THE WORLD, nay, Universe. It was kd lang who gave me the nickname that I now use for it, "my daily musical multi-vitamin." Thanks to a certain Mr. Harcourt and the Internet, my mornings remain delightfully eclectic, no matter my address.

Second Task: Call Gins, another LA-native who never seems to be far from the Internet, and ask her to please locate the nearest In-n-Out Burger, pronto. (They are only in California, Nevada and Arizona.) Screech tires into the parking lot and gently place all goals of vegetarianism aside for a few hours while I make love to my DoubleDouble. For anyone that remotely likes burgers, this place is Holy ground.

(At some point here, I receive the most bizarre text message of my life. From my badass friend, Laurianna (a firefighter in Albuquerque), calmly letting me know that she'd just given birth to her second son ... on her bathroom floor that morning! Y'know, how is that supposed to make me feel?!? Lazy, that's how! Sheesh! The nerve! Anyway, welcome to the world, Jack!)

Then, I check into my hotel, Oceana, which is a swanky boutique spot right on the ocean in Santa Monica. My room is so big, I believe it beats my Denver apartment in square footage. Apparently, the place used to be condos so the rooms are pretty self-contained with two balconies, a game corner, office nook, kitchen and a humongous bed that could easily fit four or five very good friends. As with most hotels of this nature, I immediately had the urge to move in permanently and have all my mail forwarded immediately. Instead, I just let my suitcase explode all over the place and did some spiral leaps in my new living room while munching on the goodies they have provided: strawberries, figs, chocolate chip cookies and champagne grapes. YUM.

Every last detail in my room has forethought and some complexity - from the chess/checker table to the knotted thingamajig plant on my desk. Delightful.

For some reason, in hotel rooms, I must have the television on at all times. This is strange because I do not watch it at home, ever. (Although, I will occasionally turn it on during football season, mainly because I find the sound of football games, including the male-centric ads, wildly comforting. Must have something to do with Dad.) Short of jumping on the bed and raiding the mini-fridge, this is me, being extravagant. When I crawl into my fluffy white oyster of a bed that night, it is the remote control I cling to, until I am drifting off to my late night dream date, Conan O'Brien, whom I adore.

Behold, my Santa Monica porch. Yup. I'm just trying to deal with these gol' dern business trips the best I can, you know? It ain't easy but ... well, okay, I confess: Sometimes, it is very easy.