Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Happy Birthay, Willie!

Here's a birthday salute to country music legend, Willie Nelson, who turns 75 today - and is now the same age as my mother. WEIRD.

Willie is famous for many things but among my favorites, he is the only person known to have smoked a J on the roof of the White House. He played a concert there in 1978, then accepted President Jimmy Carter’s invitation to stay the night. Before turning in, he wandered up to the roof to enjoy “a fat Austin torpedo.”

When asked about it these days, he insists, “My short-term memory is so bad I don’t remember that. I’ll check with Jimmy, see if he remembers.”

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Though I endured an incredibly gnarly space-age dental procedure yesterday, I'd really rather focus on the positive - it's all the, er, rage in mental health circles.

SO, check out my neighborhood! It is bursting with color right now and I've nearly run my truck into telephone poles just 'ooohing' and 'aaaahing' over the bright pinks, deep reds and eye-popping yellows.

Please enjoy the colors while I try to describe my weekend: Beanie, my horse teacher, is driving me hard these days to get my cantering down. Lord knows I've got a lifetime to learn when it comes to riding horses but I feel like I may be getting somewhere. Beanie is very encouraging - happy to yell when I fuck up but also lets me know that I am improving.

On Saturday, as an April snow came down, we grabbed a couple of hard ciders and rode over to the neighbors for a visit - I felt very studly. Then, the 22-year-old ranch hand made a pass at me - I tried to lay out the math for him but he was not concerned with such logic. Good to know I still got it somehow, somewhere, even though I can never find it when I need it. Meanwhile, I've put in a request to my friends for a more seasoned fellow - say ages 40-55. I just don't have the patience to train 'em, y'know?

I mean, just look at this tree, wouldja? It's just sitting in someone's front yard, screaming "YELLOW! YELLOW! YELLOW!" to everyone that passes by. I love it.

Now then, where was I? Oh yes, the weekend. Then, later that day I met up with HDW & HDH who kindly took me along with them on their date. We had some fine grub at the Lowry Tavern (artichokes are an aphrodisiac, I'm convinced) and then we went to The Soiled Dove to see Karrin Allyson, an incredible singer I'd never heard of.

Karrin doesn't just sing, the music literally moves through her body and comes out her head and hands; it is mesmerizing. She is known for her jazz tunes and Brazilian melodies but she also did some great standards like, "Guilty" which I'd only seen done by John Belushi in The Blues Brothers. Plus, she's an adorable pixie and you can't take your eyes off of her. A major talent and I'd nearly missed her.

So, yes, I have learned to trust the artistic instincts of HDW, who always blows me away with her fantastic ear for quality music. I needed a Colorado music guide and when I heard her casually sing all the words to "I've Been Everywhere" - no small feat - I knew that I had found the right woman for the job.

Ahhhh, yes, ... springtime in Denver. It's especially lovely on Vicodin ...

On Sunday, I did some more cantering and there were a few times - at least five - where I had no control over the horse. SCARY. At least one of those times was heading straight up the side of a mountain. Ben was huffing and puffing, determined to do what I asked of him, even if he was out of shape.

But as long as we both keep trying - and bloomage happens - there is something to celebrate.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Makes Sense

Finally, a helpful graph detailing the previously unexplained relationship between drinking Starbucks lattes and and being an Obama supporter. The world can now move forward. Wonder if they are putting all that "change" in the barrista tip jar ....

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Charlie Rose + Charlie Rose = Samuel Beckett

For those of you who love Charlie Rose, appreciate the theatrical stylings of playwright Samuel Beckett and walk around with too much tech gobbeldy-gook in your heads, this link is for YOU.

Update: But if you are just waaaaay too deep into the campaign shenanigans and need to take a step back for a belly laugh, then this link is for YOU.

I know, I know ... what can I say? I'm a giver.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Life on Earth

It's Earth Day so I felt obligated to put Her name in the post title but I don't get it. Do we go back to trashing the place on Tuesday? Let's face it, humans are the Keith Moon of the animal kingdom. We need to clean up our act yesterday or we'll get banned for life.

So, I'm stuck in a Silicon Valley hotel room and the presentation that I've flown here for just got cancelled. That means, that gallon of Diet Coke I just drank to write the presentation has a few hours to go before it wears off. So, here's my favorite things right this second:

#1 - Mama Iva scored a passport today! Only a few of you know what a big deal this is. My mother is from North Dakota and one of those old school patriots who heartily believes that everything good in the world is located right here in the good ol' U S of A so why bother even taking a look elsewhere? My father, from South Dakota, is the same way. My brother and I don't get it.

However, I have been slowly and quietly nagging away at my mother to take a trip with me. Initially, I had lofty goals. We could go to Scotland! Look up the ancestors! I got no answer to this, not even a standard, "We'll see." So now I shoot low and we have successfully signed up for a quick weekend cruise to Mexico in July - passport required. (The ship even leaves from her town - how easy is that?) VICTORY. My plan is to gradually expand her horizons until one day she wakes up in Europe and somehow loves it.

#2 - For the first time in history, a woman won an Indy race! Yay for speedy vaginas! I'm so gosh darn proud of Danica Harris, I could just spit, as my father would say. The 26-year-old driver nailed the Indy Japan 300 in her 50th career start:

"I'm glad it finally happened. But I would be lying if I told you I didn't think it would be me. I've been asked so many times when and if I can win my first race. And, finally, no more of those questions."
Y'see, when it comes to feminism, I've always been in the Madonna/Madeline Albright/Oprah camp, which is to say, don't stop to ask permission and get petition signatures, just do it. Show, don't tell. Danica sure showed 'em.

Finally, a shout for the Blue Team: Happy Birthday, Fang! I made the trek out to Christmas Island yesterday to celebrate his aging process and witness his comical attempts at BBQ'ing. It became more of a Monty Python skit but not too many things caught on fire. I mean, that's why I wore my cowboy boots after all, to stamp out possible disasters. For the full story in all its hilarity - please go here. And bring some napkins. And a fire extinguisher.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Outfit

Earlier in the week, I mentioned an extravagant outfit I'd worn in Vegas. Like the asshole that I am, I offered no visuals. I have received a number of email and IM proddings to the effect of, "So .... where is it?"

Well, here it is. This is The Outfit at Burning Man many years ago where it barely raised an eyebrow. I purchased it at Piedmont, every showgirl's favorite store in San Francisco's Haight Ashbury district. The Outfit is actually one of the more conservative things one can find there. It wasn't cheap but it has paid for itself several times over.

Sadly, none of my photos show me with the jacket off - guess I'm kinda shy. The main bodysuit is a halter piece and the front displays some eye-popping cleavage.

So, I'm off to the airport again in a few hours. Should be tricky since I got a serious smackdown yesterday from Stomach Flu or food poisoning or something that inspired all my bodily fluids to find both north and south exits immediately. I'm still quite woozy today but the road calls.

Update: Okay, since many of you have complained that you cannot view the photo (get Firefox, people!) I've attached another photo here, albeit, not nearly as exciting as the Burning Man shot.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Stanley the Desert Tortoise: More Lives than a Cat

Gather 'round, children - time for a story. Meet Stanley the Desert Tortoise, a beloved character from my childhood. I've asked my old friend, Kathleen Teager (she's not old, just our friendship) to compose the story of his very long life and his many near-death experiences. Enjoy!:

“Is he out yet?”

Every spring for the past four decades, I’ve asked my parents this same question. The emergence of our tortoise from his winter hibernation is an annual family event. About a month ago, Stan decided it was time to walk out of the garage into the spring sunshine. According to my mom, this year he came out, loped around for a bit, then decided no, not yet, a bit more of a winter nap was in order. You know how great it feels to be cozy in your bed on a cold winter morning? How great that must be to stay asleep as long as you want, and when your body tells you it’s time to get up, that’s when you do it. No alarm clocks, no schedules, just nature’s sweet awakening.

Stanley the Desert Tortoise, a.k.a. Stan the Man, is remarkable in that he is approximately 125 years old. About 30 years ago he was examined by a reptilian expert, known simply as the Turtle Lady, in Long Beach, CA who deemed him close to one hundred. That makes him born around 1883, when Chester A. Arthur was president (dude at right). The average tortoise lives 80-100 years. What’s even more interesting is that he has survived multiple brushes with death, making him as tough as his hard, gray shell.

Stan was brought (illegally) from the Mojave Desert by my Dad’s friend, Jack, in the early 1960s, meaning the majority of his life was spent like a normal tortoise, in the hot sun, digging sand tunnels and eating desert plants. Jack gave Stanley to my parents in 1967, which marked the beginning of his life in Long Beach, California. The weather was dramatically cooler and wetter, but Stan adapted fine. His diet changed to rose petals, hibiscus flowers, and star jasmine plants, along with his favorite, Santa Rosa plums.

My childhood memories of Stan are of him walking around our backyard, with a swipe of ripe plum across his toothless mouth. He never bit anyone, and seemed to enjoy it if someone scratched the back of his shell (although emotion never registered on his face, so I’m not sure). If you picked him up, he would surely hiss. He was a favorite show-and-tell item at my elementary school. I brought him to my second grade classroom, and he ceremoniously took a poop on the linoleum, much to the delight and squealing of my classmates.

His first brush with death was a near drowning, sometime in the 70’s. One behavior he brought with him from the desert was tunneling. Stan had dug himself quite an impressive hole, and was probably bent on settling himself for a long winter nap inside when a rainstorm began filling his hole with mud. Luckily my brother, John, and my dad, pulled a muddy - and probably pretty pissed off - Stan from the hole and put him in the garage. Gradually his tunneling behavior stopped, and the garage became his home every winter.

In the late 80’s, Stan’s peripheral vision started to diminish. He was 100 by then, so what do you expect from an old man? One of his routines was to stroll the perimeter of my parents’ swimming pool. One day, he got too close to the edge and fell in. My dad just happened to notice a dark, gray, boulder-like figure in the center of the 9-foot deep end, dove in, and pulled Stanley to the surface. I was home from college at the time and helped revive a cold, wet, foamy-mouthed tortoise back to life.

My dad and I turned him upside down, causing great amounts of pool water to come out of his body and onto the deck. He looked terrible, his eyes were glazed over and he was not moving. I actually gave him CPR, breathing my warm breath into his wrinkled, scaly mouth. Stan then spent the next ten days in an incubator, recovering from pneumonia at an exotic pet vet’s office. The vet told us that he was probably under the water for over two hours, and was able to go into hibernation mode to survive.

Stan enjoyed the Bill Clinton years unscathed. However, the 21st century brought some more scary adventures. Stan has always had a wild side, making him attracted to getting out of my parents’ backyard heading out in search of female tortoises and other delights. My dad has always been extremely vigilant about keeping the gate padlocked so that Stan wouldn’t be able to venture outside of the yard into unknown dangers.

However, a few years ago, the gate was left open and Stan escaped down the driveway and onto Tulane Avenue, a small suburban street. When we discovered that our beloved family member was missing, a frantic search took place throughout the neighborhood. Signs were posted, neighbors were interviewed, and my brother placed in ad in the paper. Several promising phone calls came from people who had found desert tortoises. One lady sent us photos of the tortoise she had, and by god, he looked exactly like Stan, with the same shell markings. My parents brought him home, set him down on the patio, and we instantly knew it wasn’t Stan. This turtle could haul ass, crawling fast and perky like a much younger boy. In fact, this young dude was probably only in his 50’s. Whereas we’ve always thought of Stan as quiet, slow, and a bit cranky, this strange tortoise was outright friendly! We gave him away to a very nice family who promptly named him T2, after the Terminator.

A few weeks later, we received a call from a young man over by Long Beach City College, who said that a tortoise had been living in his mother’s backyard for a month. Sure enough, it turned out to be our guy. Long Beach City College! Holy shit! That means that Stan walked down Tulane, probably hung a left turn onto Harvey Way, where cars go along at a pretty breezy clip, lined with plenty of storm drains for an elderly tortoise to fall into. Then here’s the amazing part: He must have walked across Clark Avenue, a busy street across from the college where cars whiz by at 40-50 mph! Stanley must’ve made his way ever so slowly across the street while cars, buses, and bicycles missed him by probably just inches.

Almost two years ago, when my parents decided to leave their Long Beach home of forty years and move out near my family in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA, Stanley had yet another near-death experience. In all of the hustle and bustle of moving, he went missing again. We tried the same methods of trying to find him, this time with no luck. My parents moved with all of their possessions and three cats, but sadly, without Stanley. We would cry when we thought about how he’d been a constant part of our lives, someone who was always there at family barbecues.

About a month after my parents had settled into their new home, they asked my husband, Gary, if he wouldn’t mind driving back to Long Beach to pick up a few things they had left behind that the new owners had found. When Gary got to the old house, the owners had the best surprise for him: they had found Stanley! Again, tremendous luck was with our reptile. The owners had decided to make some home improvements, and a worker was underneath the house. While he was under there, he heard loud hissing sounds. He thought it was a snake, and said he about peed his pants. His flashlight shone on the face of our Stan the Man, a miniature dinosaur-like creature whose life had taken place during three different centuries. Gary scooped him up, put him in a laundry basket with a big blue bow on it, and we delivered him to my teary-eyed parents like a gift.

What was truly jaw-dropping was when we realized that while Stanley was under the house, he had lived through termite fumigation. He is truly indestructible, a living legend in my family’s time, who will probably outlive my grandchildren.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Vegas Addendum: The Quest

I arrived in Vegas obsessed with the idea of visiting the Sam Kinison statue, for I truly loved the man. Sam was known for his screaming voice but he was beyond masterful in his content and delivery. Sadly, Sam was killed in a 1992 auto accident in Needles, California - on his way to Vegas for a gig.

Kinison was a former Pentecostal preacher and he knew the Bible backwards and forwards, often working the scriptures into his routine. My favorite bit was the hypothetical 'if Jesus had been married' and the kind of grief she would have given him after being gone for three days.

ANYWAY, Sam was one of my favorites so I wanted to pay my respects and grab a cool photo to share with Fang, the fellow who had enlightened me on all things Kinison. I asked everyone - cab drivers, concierge, bellhops, dealers - but none knew and sadly, many had never heard of Sam. Finally, Jody and I agreed that Google - and only Google - would provide the answer to my desperate plea.

When I woke up on Saturday morning and saw Jody in her own bed, online, I eked out my first words of the day: "Did you find the statue?"

"Well, the bad news is, it doesn't exist."


"Yeah, apparently, it was created for the movie 'Domino' ... "

"Hey, I just saw that! Oh, wait. Oh, man ... "

"Yeah, it was made out of Styrofoam and spray-painted bronze. Sorry. If it helps at all, there's plenty of people who were duped as well and have gone looking for it here and in Needles, where he died."

"Very disappointing. The man deserves a statue. (Pause) So, what's the good news?"

"Um, there is no good news. That's all I got."


"In another time and place he would have been called prophet." --engraved on the tombstone of Sam Kinison, buried in Tulsa, OK

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Vegas Report

Las Vegas: Love it or hate it, you gotta admit - it is like no other city on Earth. It's loud, it's crass, it is up all night and baby, ANYTHING is possible. With the Grand Canyon next door, it's like the best and worst of our nation all shoved into one area. After four days of over-stimulation and bonding with co-workers, I've finally returned to the quieter environs of Colorado.

I took the above photo from the Ghost Bar at the Palms on Saturday night. My outfit was wild and crazy though it didn't match my mood, which felt like being the quiet observer. That didn't stop others from goading me onto the dance floor. Strangers even approached me, asking for a photograph - it was the outfit they wanted, not me.

The Company put us up at The Hard Rock Hotel, just off the strip. Despite the 5:00 a.m. construction outside my window, I dug the place. I was told it was the original HR hotel - before all the cafes and all subsequent HR hotels - so the rock memorabilia was outstanding. For a music nerd like myself, it was sheer heaven. The photo above shows the entrance and it reminded me that the first CD I ever bought was Stevie Ray Vaughan. Immediately, I felt at home.

There was one hallway with beautiful portraits painted on one side - all big influences in music: John Lennon, Elvis, Madonna and, of course, my man CASH.

I passed by this several times a day and it was fun to transfer a big kiss on it with my hand. It gave me ideas about my own home decor - I just have to get around to buying one ...

They also had an entire Johnny Cash section with personal letters, hand-written lyrics, awards, clothing and performances from early in his career; a great place to linger. In fact, the thing I liked most about the hotel was that music came first before all else - before the gambling, the restaurants, the pool - they were highly committed to their motif.

The carpet, for example, was a trippy design of musical notes, treble and bass clefs. The lighting fixtures were made of Zidjian drum cymbals and the elevators (which sort of resembled S&M dungeons)each featured some appropro song lyric, such as Lenny Kravitz: "Are you gonna go my way?"

There were a few folks along who had never been to Vegas - lots of sweet, smart kids in their early 20s who grew up in the East. It was fun to watch their faces as we came upon the Eiffel Tower, the New York skyline, a giant Egyptian pyramid or a pirate ship aflame - and this is all just walking down the street.

Also, there was seemingly a Fake Boobs Convention in town that week. (As someone who has been lugging around a serious rack for the past 32 years, it is easy for me to spot a new owner.) There was one chick hanging out - in every way possible - at the pool and we were convinced that 'she' may have, at one time, been a 'he.' Someone in our group was sent to investigate and discovered that 'it' was a professional fire-eater in a circus. That's Vegas, all right.

Behold: My favorite thing in Vegas - Dale Chihuly's glass installation on the ceiling of the Bellagio lobby. It always leaves me breathless, which is fitting, since it looks a lot like being underwater at The Great Barrier Reef.

I just love this place. The Gardens off the lobby are magical but less so when there is a guy on his cell phone next to you shouting to his buddies, "Dude! I'm at the Bellagio! Meet me here, we'll score some chicks and get fucked up!" Vegas is teeming with these cavemen.

In the middle of the Gardens, they even had two 'gardening sheds' full of butterflies - so amazing. It was strange and beautiful to learn about nature with craps tables only feet away.

This was my gang - my longtime homegirl, Jody, along with our new favorite fellow, Dave. He's like 23 going on 35 or something like that. Jody and I opted to stay an extra day/night just to chill and sleep by the pool. We went out for a big fancy dinner on Friday night and I even got hit on by a real live man! Woo-hoo! Ah, the many wonders of Vegas.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Vegas Bound

In a few hours, I'm headed to Vegas for some heavy-duty bonding with my fellow corporate slaves. The last four times I have been to Sin City, it has been at the behest of others - either employer or client - so it's a place that somehow finds me, not the other way around.

I can totally appreciate the random uniqueness of the place - there is no other city like it on Earth - but I got my fill long ago. There's something claustrophobic about the dark casinos with all the binging and bonging that assaults my senses. Also, I get terribly sad observing the smoking zombies sitting at the slot machines, moving only one arm for hours on end. It's like they are just killing time, waiting to die.

Still, I'll be with some pretty cool folks, an element which allows me to embrace any location. Oh, and I've brought a pretty wild disco outfit ...y'know, just in case the mood strikes.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Weekend Unplugged

Don't get me wrong, I loves me big giant helpings of Internet - blogs, twitter, Flickr and such - but when the weekend comes, it's time to cut the cord, baby.

Friday night, I dragged my lovely low-maintenance house guest, Laura, to see the IMAX film, "Living Sea", at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science - my new favorite hangout. We were such late arrivals that my free tickets (with membership) were no good to them. ("They are about to close the doors, just go!" said one flustered usher.) Incredible footage, breathtaking beauty - all with a fitting Sting soundtrack. I'm pretty sure I watched the entire thing with my mouth hanging open uttering the occasional, "Wooooooooow!" or "Neat-O!" Unfortunately, some of the aerial shots made Laura nauseous so I guess we won't be seeing "The Alps" anytime soon ...

Saturday morning, I dragged Laura up to the barn to meet my horse friends. She tagged along while my friend, Bob, and I turned out Bob & Ben, who gratefully rolled around in the dirt and raced one another around the new ring, occasionally stopping to sniff our pockets for treats. I tell ya, watching horses run free has got to be one of the most beautiful sights on God's Green Earth. I even snuck in a quick lesson with Beanie while Laura ran around petting the barn cats, Albert the Dog and feeding carrots to the rest of the equine gang.

On the way home, I drove her past Red Rocks, by far, THE most beautiful outdoor venue in the world. Since Laura is moving to Denver from Chicago (that's her at left, with my cat, Simone, who is helping her pick out cool neighborhoods) come May, we are already making a list of places we'll go and things we'll do; it'll be a Dr. Seussian Summer. I've known Laura for a full decade now and it'll be swell to have an old buddy around.

Once home, we cleaned up and headed to Circle, which is a seasonal gathering of fabulous women (mostly from Mississippi) who kindly brought me into the tradition. We get together to talk, do readings and group meditation, to honor one another, to listen, to craft and then ultimately, to dance, smoke and party HARD. I recall going to one Circle that lasted 12 hours at two locations. I warned Laura that she may have to drive us home and I was right. I mean, what is the point of being so healthy all the time if I don't have the freedom to trash myself once in awhile?

So, after a very blurry episode in the Good Times drive-thru,we arrived home only to bust out more crafts. I worked a bit more on my Sin Box (which holds candy, cigarettes, the phone numbers of ex-boyfriends and certain recreational substances) which I'd begun last summer. I cut images and phrases out of magazines while Laura got busy decorating a box with paint and glitter. Drunken crafting, wheeee!

The next day, I slept in and Laura was highly impressed that I did not feel like ass. What she didn't know is that I felt like Ass Squared but I put up a brave front cuz I was raised by Midwesterners and that's their specialty. I moved pretty slow and sounded like an 80-year-old bar hag but I mustered enough energy to take her to Boulder, a town she had never seen before. We walked the Pearl Street Mall and I pointed out The Flatirons. Funny, but showing her around made me realize how much I have learned about my new home - a nice feeling.

We headed back home and Laura left to catch her plane. Somehow, miraculously, I scraped together barely enough energy to head up to the barn again for an exhausting three-hour lesson that involved me flying down the road in full canter with Beanie racing alongside me yelling, "Heals DOWN! Toes FORWARD! Use your left pelvic bone but DON'T LEAN! Hands QUIET! Sit BACK! BACK! LOOK UP! THERE YA GO! GOOD! GOOD!"

How I managed to stay on a speeding horse (Ben, a "hot Arab" meaning he spooks easily) while nursing a throbbing headache and trying to make individual body parts do separate things is impressive even to me. Still, I cannot BELIEVE how exhilirating it is. Honestly, it's like my heart just opens up and takes the world head-on. Of course, it's also fucking scary - don't think I notice that part too but it is liberating to do it anyway.

(Months ago, I'd said to Beanie after one spectacular ride, "Wow! That was fun!" and she responded, "Yeah, it's always especially fun when you don't die." This sums it up perfectly.)

I finally made it home, took a long, hot shower and made a dinner out of the pile of food that Laura left behind. ("I love eating. Eating and sleeping. Those are my favorites," she says.) I then wrangled my budget into something resembling reality and met with Gins via phone so she could scare me into a healthy retirement - cuz that is her job.

I finally got to sleep around 11 feeling exhausted, sore and very, very blessed knowing that when Monday dawns, it'll be time to plug in all over again.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Creepy Guy on the Subway

Behold: A pretty hilarious commentary - from the boyfriend perspective - from Tom Gleeson (an Australian comedian) on the James Blunt song, "You're Beautiful" which is, I now realize, a song about perving over somebody else's girlfriend on public transport.

Enjoy! (Thanks to Marc Andressen for the tip.)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Back in My Cave

After some on-the-road adventures, I made it back to my Denver Cave late Sunday night. Mind you, not before missing my plane and then misplacing my car in the Mt. Elbert parking lot which is located in the middle of a Kansas wheat field. Yup, that was me in 29 degree weather, rolling up and down the aisles desperately searching for a Ford Ranger with a Johnny Cash bumper sticker - no luck. I finally had to grab a kindly security fellow who loaded me up in his golf cart and helped me get on my way.

Right now, I'm sitting on a conference call arranged by the Democratic National Committee to talk about "Blogger logistics at this summer's convention" - the first effort by any political party. Mind you, I don't actually have my green light but I'm crossing fingers and toes. I hope to blog this history-making party from several angles for several blogs. We shall see what the blogger gods allow.

So far, still on hold.

(Photo above was taken by Beanie at the Coke Caves in Redstone, Colorado.)