Saturday, October 30, 2010

So Long, Cave

For the past 4.5 years, this has essentially been my office view - the golden spire of nearby DU set against often-white capped Rocky Mountains. Not bad, eh?

And then, of course, there's the garden ...

Despite being right up against a major interstate (I-25), I have found so much peace here. I realized tonight that I'm completely ensconced in an area deep in prayer; nearby Iliff School of Theology, the huge seminary down the street, and all the usual desperate praying that goes on at the very nearby University of Denver. ("Please God, help me pass this final!", "Please God, help me get laid!", "Please God, I'll never drink again!", etc.)

In any case, something has made me feel incredibly safe here and I could happily stay a contented troll living anonymously alongside a giant river of humanity, but change is calling. I've spent many an evening in my cave being self-indulgent and puttering around in my head - writing, yoga, music, movies. It was here I first experienced being 'snowed in' and all I can say is, I am all for it.

Most of all, I'm going to miss Eliot, the adorable 5-year-old girl who lives beneath me:

She lives with her dad, Graham, a nice young man who takes fatherhood quite seriously. I can often hear him singing to her at night and I'll miss hearing her giggles come up through the water heater. Sigh. Hopefully, there will be other children in my life soon.

On my final night in the cave, I am filled with gratitude. Though my first couple of months were rocky, it proved to be a very soft landing. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hi-Fi v. Wi-Fi

It's fascinating to me that as Americans become fatter, our technology slims down. So much of our communication and entertainment in previous decades has come from bulky, brown items and now they come in tiny slivers of silver and black. Anyone remember when the television was part of a 'console' that made it look like a sleek piece of furniture?

Though my livelihood depends on the latest technologies, though I am completely reliant on my iPhone and MacBook Pro, though I worked at technology Ground Zero, Macromedia (Adobe), in San Francisco before, during and after the dot com frenzy, though I am a WIRED subscriber and a paid blogger .... I am also crazy about old technology.

First thing every morning, I fire up an ancient Packard-Bell Hi-Fi AM/FM Phonograph Stereo Console unit to get my daily NPR dose. When the dear old lady who lived below, Esther, was finally moved into an Alzheimer's Home, they had me come down and take anything I wanted. I laid my eyes on this beauty (circa 1950s?) and it was LOVE.

The sound is incredible - note that the entire bottom half is hiding several speakers. I also love to play my many, many vinyl records on this baby. It's what she was made for. Do you know what doesn't sound incredible? This:

Though my father's heart was in the right place when he gifted me with this multi-tasking stereo, it sucks deeply. Designed to play CDs, LPs, cassettes and the radio, it only performs about 40% of those tasks. No doubt it was Made in China and while its old-timey face is meant to pull my nostalgia cord, all it does is hold up plants and piss me off. In the donation pile it goes. Cheap, fake efforts are no replacement for the real thing. 

Confession: For the last decade or so, I have been dutifully bending to my favorite yoga video of all time: Ali MacGraw Yoga Mind & Body. Filmed in New Mexico's ethereal White Sands National Park with a rich soundtrack by Dead Can Dance and led by Yoga Master Erich Shiffmann, it is stunning. It literally birthed my lifelong yoga practice (for myself and others) and I never, ever tire of it. All this from a $15 videotape.

That's right, video tape. We're talking VHS, baby. Sure, I bought the DVD version but it's simply not up to snuff. And while I have gone through several DVD players since the technology arrived, my VHS player is a friggin' soldier that refuses to die. Technically, it was a 'gift' from Bob, an old boyfriend who bought it along with a television as he was tired of visiting me and having no entertainment technology available. This was perhaps 1993.

So, at least once or twice a week, I fire up the old gal - the crunchy noises she makes to start, stop, forward and rewind do sound ancient - and we do yoga together. For reasons that may be ridiculous, I have no intention of getting rid of the Signature 2000 or her dutiful partner, this giant, boxy television:

 And yes, that is Jethro from the Beverly Hillbillies.

(Which reminds me that our family used to have a tiny b/w TV in the kitchen. Mom kept it for years and I adored it. One day in front of my brother and I, she discussed getting rid of it. I protested loudly: "You can't get rid of it - it only plays the Andy Griffith Show! It's like magic!" She laughed while my brother turned it on and sure enough, "Aunt Bee, have you seen Opey?" My brother freaked out and my mother stopped laughing. She did get rid of it, saying it gave her the "creeps.")

So, here's the funny thing. Shortly after moving into my Milwaukee Street Cave, nearly 4.5 years ago, I somehow lost the remote control for the old style TV. Happily, this led to more in-depth guitar practice for one is no longer expected to constantly get up to change channels and/or endure commerials. I mean, it's 2010, fer chrissakes.

Unhappily, this has led to a horrible twitchy finger when I finally do get a remote in my grubby mitts. Visiting family or staying a private hotel room, I simply go nuts. I'm in such complete control that I am totally out of control. My fingers become infected with ADHD and I get drunk with power. Not pretty. 

So, what to do with all these funky old technology? Use it as decoration, like I do now with this old rotary?

Maybe I'm more like my mother than I realized. The woman still plays 8-track tapes and every time I hear that click over sound, I chuckle to myself. I must have listened to Boston's first album and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Damn the Torpedoes eight gazillion times through this technology. Which reminds me, does anyone remember Tom Petty's tongue-in-cheek technology commentary on Full Moon Fever? Against a background of of barnyard noises near the beginning of Track 6, we hear Tom politely explain:
"Hello, CD listeners. We've come to the point in this album where those listening on cassette, or records, will have to stand up, or sit down, and turn over the record. Or tape. In fairness to those listeners, we'll now take a few seconds before we begin side two. [pause] Thank you. Here's side two."
And what of my sub-woofer and giant speakers when all I need is my laptop and the two small speakers that accompany it? My many other VHS tapes from days gone by? My boxes upon boxes upon boxes and photo albums full of negatives and print photos? All my cassettes, especially those beloved mixed tapes?

 I'm only 44 and already my entire life is museum-ready.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Me Want Chickens

Although I am excited about moving to a co-housing community, it also means I have to put off my dream of having chickens for at least a year, unless I can convince them ...

In the meantime, we went on a Chicken Coop Tour in and around the Denver area. (Many thanks to Denver Urban Homesteading who organized the tour and the DUH's insane-in-a-good-way, James Bertini, who enjoys breaking the law as much as he loves being a lawyer.) We met so many beautiful birds and enthusiastic owners - it was inspiring. We also discovered how many different ways there are to house these fabulous feathered souls.

Some coops were just tiny dog houses and some were hi-tech pre-fab coops - not cheep - ha! In some backyards, the birds ran wildly around the backyard, taking dirt baths, foraging through garbage or whatever. While others had the corner of the garden perfectly spotless for the chickens and everything was obsessively organized.

My favorite might be James and Irina Bertini's old camper, formerly a favorite homeless hangout, now refashioned into a chicken hangout. Here's the back door:

And the inside:

And the whole kit and caboodle, which also includes a pen for geese:

 But everywhere we went, we found giggling kids who delighted in all things chicken. Besides all the fresh eggs - which are so much better than what you buy in the store - it's great for kids to know exactly where their food is coming from. Hell, it's better for adults too.

Ah, someday ....

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Dog Stays

Though I like to think my animal spirit is a horse - strong, fast, sexy - truth is, I'm more like a snail - ravenous, pesty and sloooooow. I'm simply not good with change, I'm either wildly impulsive or near-stagnant, not much middle ground.

And so, the dreaded move from my beloved Milwaukee Street Cave has begun. (Anyone need a feather boa?) Moving is one of those modern necessary tasks that nobody loves. I was speaking to my mother about it the other day and she moaned, "Oh, I HATE moving!" Mind you, the woman has not moved since the early 1960s. After all these decades, the memory is still fresh in her mind. 

Sifting through life's so-called treasures, one item at a time, presents the black and white question: Keep or throw? Donate or pack? Some good comes of this skin shedding, of course. When I moved from San Francisco to Colorado, I loaded up the guitar my father had bought me at Costco, asking myself, "Why do I have this? I can't play it. Why keep it?" Driving the instrument across the country actually guilted me into taking lessons and for that, I'm grateful.

But this story is about the glass dog.

When I lived in San Francisco, I used to find random cool stuff near the trash can. (A very common scenario in the transient Bay Area, actually.)  One day, I came down and saw this delicate glass dog sitting next to the bin. What to do? I can't walk away from an adorable animal, even a fake one, so I picked him up. I meant to donate him to Pets Unlimited before I left but he ended up getting mistakenly packed away by one of my friends.

When I arrived in Colorado and found myself quite suddenly alone (not the original plan at all), I had the luxury of time to really go through my stuff and donate even more crap to the Salvation Army on Colfax. Every Saturday for several weeks, I'd do a big drop off; the staff even learned my name and would say, "See ya next week!" 

One of these days, I loaded up a bunch of clothes, books and whatnot and put the glass dog in the front seat, finally ready to pass him along. When I arrived, I unloaded all the goods, got my receipt and got back in the truck. Suddenly, I was struck by an intense feeling of loneliness and an overwhelming sadness over my situation. I burst into tears, moaning, "What am I doing here? I have no friends! I'm totally alone! WAH!" If you are a human being, than you know the feeling.

I must have sat there for a full 10 minutes with my head in my hands, dripping tears on the steering wheel, when I finally opened my eyes and saw the glass dog, sitting next to me, staring plaintively. I'd forgotten to unload him and sad as it is to admit, that glass dog was my only friend on earth at that moment. I was beyond grateful.

Laughing through red, swollen eyes and a snot-clogged face, I just shook my head and put the truck in drive: "C'mon, buddy. Let's go home."

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Dragon of Fear Has Been Slain

Last night, for the first time ever, I went to an open mic and performed music on stage. By myself. Willingly. In front of real live humans and everything.

I met up with my pals, Steve and Daniel, at Swallow Hill, probably the best atmosphere in the world for this kind of experiment. (Steve also performed and he was so funny and delightful.) Each performer was not only super talented but they all had their own songs! Good Lord. I'm going to have to find out where crappier musicians play if I think about doing this again.

Anyway, I made it up on stage and the host asked about my gear. "I don't have a guitar or anything. I'll be singing a capella," I said. His eyes got real big.

Since comedy is my one useful skill in the world, I tried to charm the audience with humor. "Yeah, I thought we were going to a comedy open mic (this is actually true) so I'm not really prepared but I already put lipstick on and brushed my hair so I thought I should do something..." 

And that's when I belted out a Beck-inspired version of Hank Williams' "Lonesome Whistle." I did okay. It certainly sounded better in the ladies room a few minutes earlier but still not as good as my empty living room. But hey, nobody died. And they clapped. Best of all, when I got offstage, the host said:

"The only thing scarier to me than performing a song with no musical accompaniment is doing comedy. You, my dear, must have very thick skin." 

Hopefully, it will grow thicker and I can get more performances under my belt. These days, my mantra is: "I don't know what I'm doing but I'm doing it."

Monday, October 11, 2010

Boo to Columbus Day

This is not a formal protest, just the registration of a lifelong annoyance and Man-o-man! This holiday really pisses me off.

I remember as clear as day, sitting on a wooden chair in school (2nd grade? 3rd grade?) and the teacher talking about how in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue and 'discovered' America. Having already studied Native Americans, this threw me for a loop. I raised my hand asking how can somebody get credit for discovering a land that already had people?

Had Eddie Izzard been my teacher (FANTASY!) he may have responded: "With the cunning use of flags."  And he would have been absolutely correct.

Sadly, Mr. Izzard was not teaching at Mark Twain Elementary in the 1970s so I was undoubtedly given another explanation about how the Spanish explorer 'discovered' a place he thought was Asia (thus providing the nickname 'Indians' to the local residents) and claiming it for Queen Isabella I. In other words, a land is not discovered until hordes of white people arrive and set up 11,000 Starbucks.

It's one of those traditional American school subjects that I could never get my head around. Much like the day we were taught about slavery in the U.S. ("What do you mean 'buy people,' you can't BUY people!" I drove my teachers nuts on this.)

While I realize that CC's trip meant the opening of the land for trade and development to the Western world, it certainly meant the slaughter of so many native tribes and I'm not sure that's worth celebrating.

Seems silly to honor a navigator who got lost. Count me out.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

New Horizons

No, I'm not moving to a retirement home, but I am moving into some pretty scary territory: Co-habitation with a member of the opposite sex. 
Now, I realize I'm a bit of an anomaly. Most folks fear snakes, public speaking and/or nudity, jumping out of airplanes - that sort of thing. I'm totally fine with any of those. Spiders too. Swear to Yoda - put a snake in one hand, a spider in the other, make me give a speech, rip off my clothes and shove out an airplane and I'd call it a good day.

It's the double 'M's' that freak me out: Marriage & Mortgage, those time-honored trappings of adulthood. I feel pretty silly about these hang-ups (okay, maybe not the mortgage thing anymore) especially since they are such common milestones in our society.

So I've arrived at a point in my life where the idea of standing still has become scarier than moving forward - no matter how many reservations and fears I may harbor. Good news is, I hyper-ventilate a lot less than I used to while pondering them. Also, the hives no longer appear. Progress, right? I mean, people do it EVERY DAY, right? Sheesh.

My partner in this endeavor is a very, very, very brave and completely insane man whom you may or may not know but for privacy/SEO sake, let's just call him Kirk. He's one of my best friends and steady supporters and I like to think I am the same for him. Kirk has been through a lot in the last few years, processing big changes and looking after the needs of others. The time has come for Kirk to learn how to become a Selfish Motherfucker.

I can teach him this.

Meanwhile, I've been, as my mother might say, "lollygagging" though life with numerous sessions of "fiddlefarting around" and my selfish ways must now cease. Kirk can teach me this.

 Y'see, when a person has lived on their own for so many years, they get used to having their own way about pretty much everything but the problem is ....... Um, actually. There is no problem. Living alone is friggin' awesome.

Oh! Unless you choke and die alone in your apartment and nobody finds your body for weeks. I always forget about that one.

Nevertheless, ClizBiz craves personal growth - ready or not. Truth is, I've been quietly seeking this unique living situation (more on that later) and it has been seeking me. And so here we are. Which is why the boxes are coming out of storage and the daily emotional highs/lows that come with imminent change have commenced.

 Please pray for Kirk.