Friday, November 28, 2008

Headed Up the Mountain

As recent tradition holds, the Clisby Clan is packing up all the leftovers (an embarrassment in protein and starches, I can assure you) and heading up to the family cabin in Green Valley Lake. This is the very same cabin that nearly burns down every year and also the site of the world-famous Chick Cabin Weekend.

Activities, in no particular order, include:
Board games
Jigsaw puzzles
More eating
- there is an 'Artist Tour' every year, some good stuff

Also, today is the first annual National Day of Listening, put on by Story Corps. I brought my crude little tape recorder so we'll see how many family members I can get to sit still for this. Check it out and see if you can get your mother or brother to talk about their lives. Everyone deserves to be listened to you ... everyone has a story.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hitting Strides

Hear that painful stretching sound? Nope, it's not a wild, angry hyena being tortured, it's the sound of me growing a little. Though I pop around the world a lot, when it comes to normal evolution, my maturity rate is a snail's pace.

Still, I'm making some notable strides lately, worth documenting:

1. A couple of weeks ago, I showed up for my regular weekend horse lesson, and Beanie (my all-knowing teacher) announced: "Today's lesson is ... you ride alone. Bye!" And she took off. So, I've been doing just that. Grooming, tacking, riding and avoiding death all by my lonesome. Then, I found out this week that the two horses I ride regularly (Bob aka 'Mister Dude' & Ben, pictured above) have been moved to a faraway barn and I'll likely never see them again. Just as I peaked, I am left horseless, holding a full bag of carrots. Sigh.

2. As previously mentioned, the improv has been a rollicking good time. I feel like 2009 will bring more expansion and silliness. I need to get better about encouraging my friends to come to the shows. Not a time to be shy.

3. Lo and behold, I still run! Every other day or so, I manage to jog the circumference of Washington Park before breakfast. I sure won't win any races (alas, speed walkers still pass me) but I'm starting to get a groove here. I even shock myself by showing up in the bitter cold. I nearly froze my face off the other morning but scored big points with myself for not wimping out. And you know what? It is unspeakably beautiful at that time of day - the squirrels are extra cute.

4. I'm getting used to singing and playing guitar in front of innocent people. Usually, it goes just fine and no one dies. This only encourages me to do it again. And again. I've started a new weekly habit with my musical-genius friend, Camille, where I provide feedback on her latest brilliant composition and she sits patiently while I warble through whatever simplified tune I've brought. It's gonna help a ton, I can tell.

5. I go to church! Okay, so it's only been twice ... but still! I listen and everything! I even feel better when I leave. It's still early in the relationship but I like it so far.

6. The love life is even proving signs of life after several years of living in the basement. Not sure if my 'picker' is repaired but time will tell.

Full steam ahead ....

Friday, November 21, 2008

Season of Gratitude: Thankful She Didn't Win

Um, wow. This video truly sums it up.

After granting a pardon to one turkey, Governor Palin conducts a press conference with a live turkey slaughter going on behind her. Television stations actually had to blur gory parts of it.

Meanwhile, Sarah is blathering on and on and, gosh darn, is "Just happy to be here!"

Comedically speaking, she's the gift that keeps on giving.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Rodents on Fire

Despite a thorny work project being thrown at me today, I was cheerful. Know why?

Fact is, my comedy improv group, The Rodents of Unusual Size kicked major ass last night at our monthly show. Mind you, due to various circumstances, there were only three of us left to play. So Jeff, Christa and I did what any cornered rats would do, we stole a monkey.

Matt Krupa, from that other improv group, Monkey's Uncle, kindly offered his comedic services. Together, we KILLED! Good Lord, my stomach hurt just trying to do scenes.

We play one game called "Back in My Day" which has several of us (we often invite fellow improvers from the audience to join) lined up. The host gathers words from the audience - holidays, nouns, food, whatever - and each one is put to us. When comedy lightening strikes, we hobble forward, playing a grumpy old person, bitching about days gone by with the starter phrase, "Back in my day ... !"

So, the phrase was 'grape juice' and Matt hobbled forward and exclaimed, "Back in my day ... we didn't have grape juice ... our grapes were full of wrath!"

Okay, maybe you had to be there but holy shit, ... laugh? I thought I'd die.

That improv, I'm telling you, it's like a drug. Like flying without a net. Like being on a roller coaster. With a strange wig. And sunglasses. It felt really, really, really fantastic.

Improv and horses: The two main components of my mental health care plan.

A Bully's Come-Uppance

There's really no words to describe this CNN video from the G20 Summit - it's all pretty obvious. My pal, Maria tweeted this with the words, "No one will shake our hand. How sadly fitting."

It says so much about our current standing in the world and, as the announcer observes, "This may be a case of what goes around comes around."

So,, is it January yet?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Obama's First 100 Days

Yes, it's a bit early to measure his performance since he probably hasn't even packed yet for the Big Move. But when he does, and the weight of the free world lands on his bony shoulders with the sharpest talons you can imagine, people will watch his first few moves like a hawk.

When that happens, please refer to this handy tool that compares the First 100 Days of other presidents in recent history. FDR created the Securities and Exchange Commission, JFK created the Peace Corps, Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act and George Bush ... created the Faith-Based initiative and defended his decision to NOT sign the Kyoto Protocol.

So there's really nowhere to go but up here, Big O.

'The Heartbeat of America' ... on life support

I'm highly annoyed at the auto industry today, GM in particular. As I type this, execs from GM, Ford and Chrysler are going before Congress to discuss whether the Big Three will get a federal bailout. As a happy Ford owner, I realize I should be rooting for the company to be saved but I've searched my gas tank for sympathy and come up empty.

It was the greed of these companies that got them where they are and now they are whining from the bottom of a wishing well. For decades now, since the Nixon era actually, there has been a call to lessen our dependence on foreign oil. How do the Big Three react to this? They flood the market with SUVs and put out the Hummer.

All along, these companies have had access to technology that could seriously reduce our usage of oil and they have dawdled with it. In the end, they took the low road that led to higher profits for the industry and the oil companies. They should be ashamed. Here's why:

In 1990, GM debuted the EV1 at the Los Angeles Auto Show, the first car with zero-emissions marketed in the US in over three decades. The vehicles were marketed through dealers located in only a few regions (e.g., California, Arizona, Georgia). The cars were only leased, not sold. Though demand was high, GM ceased production of the vehicles and all the EV1's were destroyed or donated to museums or universities.

A colleague reminded me today to view the documentary, "Who Killed the Electric Car?" which delves into the short life of this GM EV1 electric car. Asks the film's tagline: "How could such an efficient, green-friendly vehicle fail to transform our garages and skies?" Reason? Greed. As long as there are still fossil fuels trapped in the earth, people will pay big money to find it, sell it and burn it.

Flash forward to today: GM recently posted a grim video that details the reverberations of a failed auto industry and how it would affect the economy and smiling factory workers. Yes, it would be fucking scary, no doubt about it but as reporter Brian Naylor commented in this morning's NPR piece, these companies would not cease operations without the bailout. Auto sales are down but they are not non-existent. (If it weren't for sales in places like Russia, China, India and Brazil, they would be even worse.)

So, I reject their sympathetic pleas and remind them that they were born and thrived in a capitalist society that they helped build. Now, they want socialism all of a sudden and I - a bleeding heart liberal - would rather see them get off their asses and stand up to the challenge. They need to rally to the red, white and blue balls (yes, I said blue balls) that these companies try to evoke in their ad campaigns:

"Chevrolet. An American Revolution"
"Built Ford Tough"
"Grab Life by the Horns" (Chrysler)

Please. These companies have proven themselves to be nothing but a bunch of greedy, candy-ass wusses with no long-term view. They need to implode and rebuild themselves from scratch with people who give a thought to the future.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Weekend: Many Highs, One Low

Overall, the weekend was mostly grand. A sampling:

My buddy, Laura, and I participated in the Denver Arts Week by checking out their 'Night at the Museums' where they have a bunch of shuttle buses that visit all the museums for free. Favorite part: The 'Women of the West' exhibit, as part of the 'Denver at 150' at the Colorado History Museum. Weirdest point of the evening was being held captive in the Byer-Evans house while a community theater person rambled on and read us a letter from the Civil War era - which would have made some sense had we been in the South and not in the Rockies.

Laura & I met for breakfast the next morning at the Country Road Cafe, ate too much once again, and went for a gorgeous hike nearby at Pence Park. We discussed how living in Colorado has changed us - that our REI shopping list is often longer than our grocery shopping list. We also sat on a boulder, gazed across a snow-covered mountain range and discussed the idiocy of racism. As Laura observed, "What I don't get is, it's PIGMENT! PIGMENT, PEOPLE! I mean, really? The color of cells? That's what people are so upset about? I don't get it."

Post-hike, I had a horse lesson - meaning I rode my Arab friend, Bob, around a ring while Beanie yelled at me: "SHOULDERS BACK! HANDS FORWARD! LOOK UP! INNER LEG BACK! ELBOWS BENT - LIKE YOU ARE CARRYING A TRAY OF DRINKS! THERE! THAT'S IT!" (The next day, my lesson involved riding alone in the ring - not as loud, or as fun.)

Unfortunately, once I got home and showered, I got online and came across this story in the Denver Post: "Anti-Obama Threats Rise" which listed out just a few of the "hundreds" of horrific incidences of racism since Obama was elected President. I found these two particularly horrifying:

"At Standish, Maine, a sign inside the Oak Hill General Store read: 'Osama Obama Shotgun Pool.' Customers could sign up to bet $1 on a date when Obama would be killed. 'Stabbing, shooting, roadside bombs, they all count,' the sign said. At the bottom of the marker board was written 'Let's hope someone wins.'"

"Second- and third-grade students on a school bus in Rexburg, Idaho, chanted 'assassinate Obama,' a district official said."

The article made me sick. At first, I thought that most of the incidents would be in the South (and many were) but they were mostly on the East Coast and very few in the West, with the exception of Idaho, long a favorite of the skinhead community. I liked to think that we, as a country, had evolved from this type of blind hatred but as the school bus incident attests, the hate is merely being passed down from generation to generation.

I was so saddened and distracted that when I drove to meet my friends, John and Camille, for dinner, I parked my car several blocks away by mistake. Then, I looked up and found myself pondering at a street sign far too long. Without realizing it, I was parked on 'Race' street. Sadly, there was so Harmony Street to intersect it.

The next morning, I checked out the Mile High Church with a new gentleman friend. The place is massive and kinda fancy - with a full professional level band and jumbotrons for those sitting in the outer edges, in the non-fanatical sections.

After the service, everyone was encouraged to meet with 'practitioners' standing by to lead you in a short, personal prayer. Since my church date was participating, I figured I might as well. (Praying is not my thing so I can use all the help I can get.)

I asked the woman, named Lisa, to please help me pray for this country and the people who carry hate in their heart. "I am very, very worried about it," I told her, "and don't know what else to do."

So, we closed our eyes and she said a bunch of pretty words, calling out my concerns to the heavens. I just kept picturing that school bus full of children, chanting for the death of their new president and tears just flowed down my cheeks. Finally, she finished and I opened my eyes and saw that her eyes were full of tears too.

Honestly, I just don't know if mankind will ever fully resolve this issue until we are, at last, all one color.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Very Sexy Horse

But not the kind of horse that you take home to mutha ...SUPER FREAK!

(Photo Credit: Julian Wolkenstein.)

One More Gush, I Swear ...

Now that he's ours and we get to keep him, Obamamania has reached a global fever pitch. Thousands of articles, photographs, broadcasts and blog posts across the nation and the globe have celebrated Obama's victory last week. In an effort to convince myself that it's real and not a hopeful delusion, I may have read/seen them all.

So, before reality sets in - and its going to come storming in like a herd of angry elephants - I want to share my favorite quote from this shining moment in history. It was in a Wall Street Journal article from last Thursday, "World Greets Obama Win With Hopes, Warnings":

"I feel like someone has slapped me in the face," says Afrouz Tavakoli, a 35-year-old Iranian mother of two small boys, who cried as Mr. Obama's victory was announced. "I suddenly have newfound respect for America's democracy and ideals."

Other than the face-slapping, this is exactly how I feel - like the 'idea' of America just might be the real thing after all.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Old Friends

From the looks of this photo - the big hair and stonewashed jeans - it was probably snapped around 1988 in my college apartment. The women assembled (I'm the tarty one second from right) are my oldest and dearest friends. My memories with them go back to first grade and despite the upheavals of life, we have remained steadfast buddies ever since. We were, in fact, Camp Fire Girls together until we graduated from high school. (Wow - there goes my street cred.) We even had a 'gang' name: The Destroyers.

This weekend, two of them - Lisa (center) & Kath (on far left) - flew to Denver from Orange County, California to visit the Colorado Destroyer Contingent; Amy (second from left), who lives in Parker, and myself. (Diane on the far right couldn't make it.)

Kath brought a beautiful sympathy card for Simone's passing made by her darling daughter, Emma, aka "The Mighty Gumdrop." It was so incredibly thoughtful, I nearly cried.

Meanwhile, for comic relief, Lisa presented me with two ancient (July 1978) issues of Tiger Beat featuring the heart-throbs from our silly youth: Shaun Cassidy (someday I'll post the photos from my infamous Shaun Wall), Lance Kerwin, Leif Garrett, Andy Gibb, Scott Baio (a girl we knew was a dedicated stalker) and Parker Stevenson. Don't forget Willie Aames and Mark Hamill! Some sample cover headlines:

"Shaun: Why His Kisses Are Special!"
"Leif: What (Or Who) Upsets Him The Most?!"
"Scott: Help Choose The Songs He Sings!"

It reminded me how excruciating it was to be a teenage girl. All those raging hormones and no outlet, hence, the extra exclamation points.

For the most part, I was the tour guide and it was fun showing off my new state: Country Road Cafe in Kittridge (best breakfasts in The World), my beloved horse friends in Indian Hills and, of course, Red Rocks.

Already, in our early 40s, we have learned just why it is that old people talk about their ailments nonstop; it has begun. Our eyes, our hips, our agility ... the word "bunions" even crept into the conversation. "Okay, it is waaaaaay too soon for this, ladies!" I stated emphatically.

But the first thing to go with all four of us? The memory, it's just not what it used to be. I guess it's what happens when you're made of meat and the decay begins. I'm just glad I kept these wonderful gals around to help fill in the blanks.


Thursday, November 06, 2008

Yummy Factoids of the Day

#1) McCain aides were horrified to discover that Sarah Palin did not understand that Africa was a continent, not a country; and could not name the three countries that are part of the North American Free Trade Agreement — the United States, Canada and Mexico.

#2) Voters in U.S. 2008 presidential election: c. 131 million.
Total voters in all U.S. pres. elections, 1788-1908: c. 137 million

Nice to see that the country rallied to vote and to dodge the FUCKING BULLET OF ANOTHER SMILING-WINKING DUMB ASS IN POWER.

Yay, us!

The Red, the White and finally .... The Blue.

In the latest issue of Denver's 5280 magazine, I was astonished to see a 1924 photo of hundreds of white hooded Klansmen parading proudly down the streets of downtown Denver. They were offering their support to Denver mayoral candidate, Benjamin F. Stapleton, who won the election. Later that same year, Clarence J. Morley, an open member of the Ku Klux Klan was elected as Colorado's governor.

Flash forward 84 years: This is the very same state that turned blue on Tuesday and helped to elect the nation's first African-American president. Many theories abound on this issue, among them being the influx of Californians who have moved here and brought their liberal ideals with them. That might be true but mostly, I just think that Coloradans are tough and smart and don't fancy being left behind.

Either way, I'm immensely proud to be an American ... and especially a Coloradan.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A New America

Last night, America turned this battered ship around. We got us a brand new clear-eyed Captain and just in the nick of time. These are desperate times and every day's news just brought more woeful headlines. We NEED this. Not to mention the world. Did ya'll feel that rush of wind last night? That was the planet population heaving a gigantic sigh of relief. Blew my papers right off my desk and everything.

I took the above photo from the Obama Campaign Headquarters here in Denver. There was always so much optimism there. Everyone was so focused and so determined to make things right again. Obama's oft-repeated phrase, "This isn't about me, it's about you" is dead-on. Let's face it, he's just one man and he certainly didn't get to the Oval Office on his own. He is certainly not going to be able to clean up the mess by himself so, grab a broom everyone!

After watching the emotional images last night on television, one sticks in my mind. An African-American professor at Howard University in DC standing in front of legions of joyful students. A reporter is trying to get some words out of her and the professor is trying her best but she's simply overcome with emotion. The professor - I don't know her name - looked to be in her early 60s, old enough to remember the painful struggles of the civil rights movement. There are tears streaming down her face and she is completely stunned by the reality of a black man leading her country. She squeaked out a few words, "I ... I ... am ..." but the reporter eventually ran out of airtime and gave up.

I can't even fathom what the African-Americans of this country are feeling today but I do know what I'm feeling: Intense pride and honest-to-God real joy. There is only word for this day: VICTORY.

Postscript: The only thing that bothers me today is the realization is that Simone lived her entire life under the Bush Administration. Truly, that is a horrible reality for anyone - man or beast. Hopefully, she's on the lap of Obama's beloved grandmother somewhere in the heavens and they are pleased and purring.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Goodbye to a Friend

My best friend died today and life is going to suck for a long time.

I'd visited Simone earlier today at the hospital and outwardly, she seemed fine. She rubbed her fuzzy black head all over me and I gave her coat a good brushing - her favorite thing. She opened all cabinet doors, pulled out drawers and even gave herself a bath while I read an ancient People magazine.

Then, they took her away for an ultrasound. The vet - an incredibly kind, cool woman named Erin Miller - called me later at home to say that Simone was "one sick kitty." Besides liver failure, her lymph nodes were enlarged, her gallbladder was irritated and her pancreas was just plain "angry." Still, they had a plan - liver biopsy, blood transfusions, pain medications and so on. I said 'yes' to everything, knowing full well the bill would climb into the thousands.

We made plans for me to visit Simone tomorrow and I hung up. In anticipation of houseguests next weekend, I began to clean the house for about 20 minutes. The phone rings and it's Dr. Miller again. "I think you better get down here. Simone just took a big breath and collapsed. She's on the table right now and we're giving her CPR."

I broke several speed limits racing to the hospital and the Dr. took me in to the operating room. There were four people working on her but she was clearly gone. Her skin was all yellow and tubes were everywhere. I asked them to stop and thanked them through warbly tears. Dr. Miller then scooped her up in a big, leopard-print blanket, handed her to me and motioned for me to follow her.

We walked down a long hallway into a quiet room clearly designed for this very situation. Cushy couches and lots of Kleenex boxes. I sat there weeping and cradling my kitty for a very long time and the good doctor sat with me, telling me how impressed she was with Simone's toughness. Dr. Miller let me ramble on about various memories and laughed in all the right places. Those people are saints, I tell ya.

Eventually, I handed her limp body over to the doctor and that was incredibly difficult. Even though I had lifted up her head and could see that her soul had checked out, stroking her fur had been a comfort - at least physically, she was still there.

Next, I was given options (yes to biopsy, yes to ashes) and signed another enormous bill. Then, I made a couple phone calls and eventually left the building with my empty cat carrier.

Now I am home and the apartment is horribly still. Thankfully, I have long-made plans this evening and they couldn't be with more suitable company. Laura moved here this summer from Chicago and we were pals in San Francisco. It was she who told me long ago of a wild black kitten that needed a home and did I know of anyone?

Simone was feral and beyond feisty when I picked her up on New Year's Day 2001 - the first day of a new century. Because she was so wild, her keepers warned me, "Let us know how it turns out. You can always bring her back." I made it clear: "You don't understand, I'm taking her HOME." I promptly named her after another fierce and beautiful black creature - Nina Simone - and that was that.

Words just don't fit around the expanse of my sadness and I'm so glad this little black cat crossed my path.

Goodbye, Simone.