Friday, December 28, 2007

Holiday in Mississippi

When I arrived at Denver Airport, I was greeted by this adorable jazz band. Instead of rushing through security, I plopped down to eat my sandwich and enjoy their music. I gave a few compliments and ate it up. They're Shriners, like my Grandpa Wilbur, which made me love them all the more. Their swinging melodies ringing throughout the terminal really helped put me in the holiday mood.

Meanwhile, my transition from Death Bed to Holiday Madness has been taxing, to say the least. A nasty cough still remains and I'm still recovering from bronchitis. I hadn't even realized the blog had been neglected until I got a note from Fang, "Are you alright?" God knows, I love the Internet but it sure was peaceful being unplugged for a few days. I've returned to my 'informed state' and the world just got weirder, it seems.

Here in Mississippi, men and boys go hunting in every spare moment - duck, quail or deer mostly. EVERYTHING comes in camoflauge - even RMAC's new golf cart is camo. At left here is Brandon, a family friend, getting ready to go sit in a tree on the family property known as "The Farm." (Robert, my brother, is having a blast as he gradually builds up his dream property, bit by bit.)

As someone who aspires to be a vegetarian (all signs point to failure so far), you'd think I'd find this hunting business offensive. Instead, I see it as a very healthy return to mankind's roots. Before we could order pizza on our cell phones, we had to go out and kill our dinner with our own wits. (I was reminded of this in Africa - when we complained about having cabbage soup every night, we were told to go get a goat or pig and get the spit ready. We were hungry enough that we did just that. My fangs sharpened there, no doubt about it.)

Of course, we certainly don't need to hunt to get our meat any longer but that is only nutritionally speaking. I think that for some male humans, the hunt taps into a primitive need - it returns a sense of dignity that has been worn away by centuries of luxury.

Just watching these grown men get giddy and glow with accomplishment - it's really hard to ignore. Of course, as long as everything is eaten - and it is - I'm okay with it. Anyway, the best land conservationists are hunters - Teddy Roosevelt and National Geographic taught me that much.

So, while the men went off duck hunting on Xmas Day, the women gathered round, poured the wine and watched - what else? - "Steel Magnolias."

I will admit that the film choice was mostly my urging; I wanted the chance to view the classic Southern Woman film with a bunch of the real thing. The cast seemed to have every actress in 1989 Hollywood - Shirley MacLaine, Darryl Hannah, Julia Roberts, Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Olympia Dukakis - and is known as "the funniest movie to make you cry." All I know is, I want a place like Truvy's Salon nearby, where beauty and gossip flow freely behind a screen door. It would have to include a wisecracking Shirley MacLaine as well.

Also, here in Mississippi, the Fireworks Stands is a year-round business. People stop here the same way folks go to REI in Colorado or pick up bread and milk everywhere else. Here's Mama Iva and Robert just getting a few necessary items. I've seen them shoot them off on a Tuesday night before - because it's, y'know, Tuesday night.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Down & Out

I'm in a sickly haze these days. I'm enduring coughing spasms that eject green alien thingys and a grey fog surrounds my wobbly head. My body aches and my brain thumps in painful tantrums.

I just hope this clears up before I board a plane on Sunday or my head will explode ... and that would be unsightly.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Knotted Up & Grown-Up

I woke up yesterday, on my 42nd birthday, with my stomach in knots. I even puked for good measure. The night before, I'd had a painful Numbers Crunching Session with Gins to see if I could possibly manage the monthly cost of a horse.

She was gentle but the numbers, not so much. Gradually, it started to dawn on me that Copper would not be mine. I cried a bit and searched my budget for fat.

"You already live pretty minimally," she said. "Already, you've got yourself living on $100 per month for groceries - that's insane."

"I like Ramen," I said. "And maybe my vegetarianism will kick in. That might help."

Such was the desperation of this session. (Gins also noted that my paltry $5 a month for toiletries "mocked" her own spendy habits in this category.)

Everyone says, "Go for it!" I love the passion behind this - who doesn't love a girl-and-her-horse story? Especially one with a happy ending? Trouble is, I'd be the only paying for it and financially, I won't be ready until 2009 - my original plan. As Gins said, "This is the not the end of a dream, it is only a delay."

Last stop: I talked it over with Beanie and we decided that I absolutely should not buy this horse. "I don't want to see something that otherwise brings you joy, become a burden," she said.

I felt a mixture of sadness and relief. The burden of a decision was over but it was not the one I wanted. "There will be plenty of other horses in your life," Beanie said.

"Do you promise?"

"I promise. Tons more."

I really wanted this to happen but I'm sorta proud that I tried so hard and worked it out as thoroughly as I could. This might be one they call an 'adult decision' and I am fairly unfamiliar with them.

Sigh. I guess this is what 42 feels like.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Another Tree Ring for Me

I woke up 42 years old today. Mom and Dad were right, the further down the hill you get, the more of a non-event your birthday becomes.

Still, I'm happy to have one, considering the alternative. Also, I've never understood people who lie about their age or refuse to divulge it. (It is especially puzzling when men do it - it seems girlie.) So far, I'm pretty proud that I've managed to survive so long on this poor neglected marble.

So, I've got to hand in my final decision on the horse today. Went over the numbers last night with Ginsberg, my unofficial (but tremendously competent) accountant. Purchasing the horse, no problem. Monthly upkeep of the horse plus lessons (roughly $600) - that's the challenge.

I already live minimally. No cable. No fancy dinners. No shopping addictions. The new budget would strip me down even more. No Netflix. No vices. No guitar lessons. Minimal travel. And a seriously reduced grocery budget. Hmmmmm, well, I liked Ramen well enough in college ...

At least blogging is (still) free.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I Love Winter

Boy-o-boy, do I love this whole white winter thing! Whose idea was it? Give them a raise. Seriously. This is only my second winter with snow and I'm as dazzled as ever. (Yes, I realize that having no work commute keeps it all magical.)

Just looking out my window and watching this fluffy magical powder fall down on my city, my yard, my truck, I get this inner feeling of calm - like Mother Nature is singing a lullaby or something.

I can't get over the seasons. It always felt odd, growing up in SoCal, and having the same fucking day, every day. "Guess what? It's 75 degrees today! Again! That's right, the sun is out so you better be HAPPY, dammit!" San Francisco had a similar mantra from the opposite end of the thermometer, "It's foggy and moody and chilly-as-fuck so you better be intellectual and artistic, dammit!"

Now, I don't mind being bossed around by the elements, as long as there's variety. Right now, my environment is telling me to stay put and not leave the house. I LOVE this.

Happily, I have not left my humble abode since Sunday, when I went on a super fun scavenger hunt put on by pals, Deletta and John. (Please note my incredibly fine-looking teammates at left: John, Emily and Jimmy.) Technically, we didn't win but I left with a full belly, a bag full of sweets and a copy of "Caddyshack" so I couldn't tell the difference.

Later that night, I drafted my two favorite neighbors, Tim and Erin, to join me in my favorite Denver holiday outing. T&E are a couple of salt-of-the-earth Minnesotans who moved here to attend DU. Among other similarities, we've already discovered that we have the same ... er, party habits.

(Photo by some cute guy named Spenderg.)

Therefore, when I suggested we hit the peace pipe and head on down to the Botanic Gardens to take in the Blossoms of Light, they did not hesitate. Even better, when we bought our tickets, we snagged 3-D glasses that made each light a little snowflake and/or snowman! I mean, the place was tailor made for stoners.

We giggled, oohed and aaahed and grinned our way through the sparkly wonderland. Honestly, you'd have to have a heart of stone not to let that place put you in a holiday mood. I'd love to see the Grinch come out unscathed. Impossible.

Happy Birthday, Kath! If there was an In-n-Out in this frosty white state, I'd buy ya a DoubleDouble!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Holiday Spirit ... and then some

Behold: "The Lindsay Lights!" This extravagant yard in Thornhill, Ontario has been drawing crowds since 2002. Over 80,000 lights, most of them LEDs, blink to musical sequences that are broadcast on a local FM radio. The lights go on every night at 5PM through January 5th.

But the family isn't just about this eye-popping show, their displays are world famous and they have now raised over $42,000 for local charities. Check out their site.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hard Decision

I got an urgent call from my horse teacher, Beanie, last night. "Are ya sitting down?" she asked. Uh-oh.

She tells me that the horse I've been riding lately, Copper - the horse I have 'graduated' to - is up for sale because the owner is moving up to Fort Collins. It has taken quite awhile to find me a good 'school horse' that will challenge me in the right ways.

Copper is not a lazy hunk of horseflesh, he is an Arab and has his own ideas about things. Every lesson is a test and we still argue over who is boss. Though he has bucked off many and terrorized a few, I've managed to stay on his back, albeit, with a few close calls. I am still learning the language and he gets impatient sometimes.

I kind of like this about him. His feistiness is making me a better rider - more aware, more bossy. It actually takes awhile to move beyond the "But he's so cute!" phase before you realize that if the horse doesn't respect you, he won't listen to you. If he won't listen to you, you've lost control and then, you are in serious danger. This is why I call my teacher, "Beanie the Meanie."

She's not mean to the horses but she doesn't put up with shit and lets them (and me) know it. You should see these giant beasts stand at attention when she walks by. The woman can smell attitude and won't stand for it. I need to get to this place but I've got a long road ahead. "You need hours," she'll say, "hours and hours on the back of a horse."

What I need is a horse of my own. So, the understanding has been that I will buy Copper in a year or so, after I've saved up the money, paid off my truck and have more experience. Well, this sudden turn of events means I might have to make a quick decision. I should also mention that Copper is selling for $2500 which includes all the tack (saddle, halter, reins, brushes, etc.) This is a steal! If Copper leaves, I will have to go back to finding the right school horse on the ranch property - not as easy as it sounds.

Of course, my personal financial adviser, Ginsberg, is somewhere in China this week and cannot help me decide. It's a huge commitment - boarding, vet bills, hay, etc. - am I ready for it?

I'd said to Beanie, "I'm not ready."
She countered, "You're ready."

I've got less than a week to decide.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Physically, I'm a Grown-Up but ...

So, I took my Little Sister, Velrene, out for her birthday on Friday. We went to Chuck E. Cheese and V could NOT BELIEVE that I had never been to one before. It was there I discovered several things about myself.

I have a filthy mouth: Also, my swearing policy around children needs to be updated. I'd figured that as long as I avoided uttering "fuck,", I'd be okay.

I hadn't realized that 'piss' - as in, 'Don't piss me off!' said jokingly - also qualifies. V's eyes got big and, while pointing straight at me, yelled: "You used a swear word!!!" Nearby adults glared at me as we stood in line.

I look weird:
Years ago, I was laying on the floor of an airport, reading and completely minding my own business. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw two young boys playing Nerf football. One of them came near to retrieve the ball and stopped cold when he saw me:

"Can I help you?"
I asked him.

"You look like that witch lady on TV," he said matter-of-factly. "Yeah, you look just like her. It's in the eyes." He took off before I could ask which show but I'm hoping it was something like "Charmed" and he merely noted my inner Shannon Doherty. (Why hadn't someone said this to me during the Bewitched years?)

Fast forward to Chuck E. Cheese on Friday. So, this itty bitty Latino kid kept staring at me and following me around. He had nothing to say but was clearly fascinated - perhaps it was my red hair, or my white skin (I was the only cracker in the joint) or my funky glasses. I couldn't tell if he was smitten, amused or disgusted. .

I'm Big(ger): Chuck E. Cheese has one of those long climbing tubes that cover the entire ceiling space. I announced to V that I was going to climb in that Kid Tube and experience it for myself. She warned me, "Um, I think you're too big" but I brushed her off, pointing to a sign that invited 'Mommies and Daddies' to take off their shoes, and join in the fun. Darn it, I'm still a kid at heart!

Yeah well, as soon as I got my fat ass up in the tube, I realized V was right. Technically, I fit in the tube, no problem, but maneuvering it, well, it was mighty cumbersome, to say the least. Also, there was the distinct smell of excrement; I immediately wanted out of the Tube of Poo.

Trouble was, kid traffic was backed up behind me and turning around was not an option. So, I scrambled around on my hard, old kneecaps and watched pint-size individuals walk past me. God, what a big fumbling moron. Then, I turned a corner and came face-to-face with my little Latino admirer.

He just stared at me with those big silent brown eyes. Since he wasn't talking, I took the opportunity to vent. "I know, I know, I look ridiculous," I said to him. He blinked, said nothing and kept staring.

"I don't know what I was thinking! I mean, what was I trying to prove anyway? That I was still a kid? Jesus! I'm not a kid! I'm a middle aged woman with a filthy mouth, hard kneecaps and a flimsy fiscal policy, at best. Yes, I have learned much about myself in the Tube of Poo, things I could not have learned otherwise." He blinked some more and then, I caught a slight smile and the distinct look of pity.

"Hey, I appreciate your attention, listening to me and all but can you help me get out of here? The big, dumb white lady has had enough self-discovery for today." Then, he silently led me safely to the spiral slide which brought back to the ground and reality.

V greeted me, "Well, how was it?"

"You're right. I'm too big."

"I told you but you wouldn't listen."

Note to self: Listen more, curse less.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Photos from Slide Fire

McShmoinkles has requested more photos from my Destruction Tour at Green Valley Lake. I put them all up on Flickr last night so check 'em out.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Back Home at Last

After an adventurous shuttle ride with an interesting Moroccan driver (we managed to get pulled over by the cops, thanksverymuch) I finally made it to my own bed at 1:00 a.m. Today, I'm mega-exhausted and drowning in deadlines. MOTHERFUCKER. I need some breathing room to get my life in order.

Don't get me wrong. I love going Places and staying in hotels but I now have all the tiny shampoo, conditioner and lotion bottles that I could ever want. Just last week, my cat, Simone, opted to register her opinion by barfing on one of my suitcases. I'm not impressed by her passive-aggressive tactics but I can't argue with her position.

As the plane landed last night, I silently counted the days until I hand over another boarding pass: 18.

I better make 'em count.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Back in Cali

I returned home from Thanksgiving on Monday and managed to stay in Colorado an entire FIVE DAYS before I had to get on a plane and head back to California again. Not long ago, flying on planes was one of my favorite things to do but this passion is eroding.

First the shuttle comes waaaay too early. Then, when trying to obtain a boarding pass, I discover that my travel folks only reserved the ticket - never got around to purchasing it. THEN I find out that my plane departure has been delayed by two hours. Grrrrrrrr! Were it not for the sexy Cuban man I met in the bar, the day would have been a total wash.

Anyhoo, I'm now in San Francisco, deeply entrenched in an annual Corporate Event where 90% of the males wear the same outfit: khaki or black pants, blue buttoned-down shirt, Blackberries at the waist and no tie. It's the official Silicon Valley uniform.

Alarming tidbit:

Catching up with a co-worker who lives in Beijing, we made small talk about the weather. She asked about snow in Colorado and then revealed this horrible fact: "Yeah, we used to get snow in Beijing. It stopped snowing completely a few years ago. The pollution is so bad and with global warming .... " she shrugged, "it just stopped. No more snow."

Chilling stuff. Or not, as the case may be.