Friday, July 31, 2009

[Kizz] No Last Name

During the 2004 Presidential election I worked for a man with a lot of money. He decided, as he often does, to use that money to back certain politicians. In this particular year he also used whatever media presence he had (not miniscule, not huge) to endorse the candidate of his choice for the highest office in the land. As the lowest on his totem pole of personal assistants it was my job to answer unsolicited mail and phone calls. I was given a 5 figure bonus (low 5 but 5 nonetheless) at the end of the year because that part of my job alone should have broken me. I'm willing to bet that the only reason it didn't was because I was too busy to reflect on how ridiculously awful the experience was while I was in it.

I remember one woman in particular who called quite early on, [Edna]. First she wanted to talk to the boss but they all wanted to talk to the boss so that never flew. I told her (probably truthfully) that he was out. In that case she wanted to know if the boss had a US Passport. I'm not sure why they phrased it that way but I'd already had and continued to have that question a lot. He does so I told her. Was he a US Citizen? Yes. What about the fact that he was born in [Turkey]? Well he wasn't born in [Turkey] so I didn't see how it figured. Oh yes he was, she ranted! Then she yelled to her husband in the background to double check. I'm not sure which channel [Morty] was watching but the volume was up pretty high and it took her a couple of tries to get her question across. She came back to me more certain than ever. I reassured her as kindly as I could that he was not born in [Turkey]. She got hopping mad. Where was he born? I started to hesitate here. Whenever they started to get ranty or self-righteous it was a cue to keep my answers short, polite and as uninformative as possible. Engaging in unproductive conversations usually did more harm than good. I couldn't see a clear exit so I told her the truth again, he was born in [Belgium]. I did not point out that was a fact she could have checked with numerous other sources on the internet, the television, at the public library and, if she was terribly ambitious, probably the immigration department of the United States of America. Well, it still wasn't America and didn't I know he was trying to be President? No, ma'am, that was certainly not the case. In her defense, how was she to know that, she didn't have my insight into his other...intellectual pursuits. A stint as president was most certainly not among them. But he was supporting [presidential candidate] with a lot of money and many parties! (No! Not...parties!) True and that was because he wanted the candidate to be president. It was just a first step, she countered. Since engaging her was the very last thing on a list of smart tactics I might employ I didn't go to the internet and read to her from the qualifications required of a POTUS, I wouldn't have read all of them, just the part where s/he has to be a natural born citizen of the country in question.

Unable to provide that knockout blow we went a few rounds on the boss's intentions before she got frustrated and decided that conversion was her only hope. My conversion not hers, sadly. At her request I gave my first name. I refused to give my surname and made up on the spot an office policy that, for safety's sake, we did not reveal our full names. Was not that, she declared, proof that the boss was hiding something from me, from all of us, that his intentions were not pure and that by the time the votes were all counted he'd be Lord High Dictator of Our Beloved Stars and Stripes why oh why was I not doing something to halt his perfidious march immediately! OK, [Edna] wouldn't have used perfidious or lord or even beloved but that was her point. She saw in the (possibly misguided) passions of this old, rich dude the demise not only of her country but her family and her own frightened little person somewhere in the "heartland." I did a lot of travel itineraries in that job and, honestly, she needn't have worried, I never did a solitary one for the heartland, he just wasn't interested.

I tell you this not as stand alone blog content or even as a rant against people who dislike our current Commander in Chief but to say that, again, I am not surprised by the birthers and their inability to let go of this one item that has somehow grappled onto their fears and is now riding herd. I get the fear. I was mortally afraid for 8 years. I'm still afraid just with a side of curly Hope now. [Edna] didn't stand alone either. She was the first of many and she waited until we'd been chatting more than 20 minutes before she threatened my life and my immortal soul (not hyperbole, by the way, we both ended the call near tears) so she wasn't even the worst of what I put up with that year. These birthers will eventually be elbowed out of the spotlight by someone else with some other fear that hinders their ability to accept what has happened here. Let's just hope they aren't the equivalent, on a national level, of the guy who disguised himself as a messenger to sneak into our office and deliver a hand written threatening letter to me.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Raw And Delicous

I'm going out for sushi with some friends tonight at one of my favorite raw fish emporiums. This guy likes raw fish, too. He likes it so much he talks about it all day and throws it high in the air with a shit eating grin on his face. Also, I think he's hot. Well, I guess everyone thinks he's hot today since he's in Seattle and they're having a crushing heat wave.

Anyway, this is just to say that I'm still working on my trip photos but took time out last night to post pictures of two other events that happened before my departure.

*For the record he is not making a rude gesture in this photo, he's describing a car accident he was in to the guy standing to my left.

Just A Story

The health care "system," or "crisis" if you prefer, in the United States is too difficult for me to parse by far. As far as I know the Obamahaters are as right as the folks in my, less fanatical, camp. The one thing I do know is that what's going on right now is laughably inadequate and setting up precedents and habits in both consumers and health care providers that must be squelched. Since I don't totally get it, though, I can't say how. I liked when Mihow asked her readers about their health insurance situation and I would love to hear about yours (be specific so we can try and compare apples to apples!). This here will be my health insurance story.

I never thought about health insurance until I was over 30. Well over. I guess I must have had it through my parents and then through my college and it's possible that someone helped me out with something for a couple of years after that but I didn't think about it so I didn't know. No money of mine was spent on health insurance. Mostly I paid out of pocket and went to sympathetic doctors. Please know that sympathetic doesn't mean cheap or even affordable. Because I didn't have insurance I didn't go for check ups unless mandated by a school or job and I was (still am) a relatively healthy human. However, when I needed someone, it was usually on the verge of an emergency and I was usually in the middle of something that sapped me of any time to deal with the problem. Once, two days before a show opened, I had an ear infection so bad it gave me neuralgia all along one side of my face. It couldn't be ignored. I had to miss dress rehearsal so as not to miss a performance. The doctor's visit cost me $125 which was just over 1/3 of my weekly gross salary at the time. There were antibiotics on top of that and yogurt to combat the medication and more over the counter meds to do what the yogurt could not. That sort of thing happened, at most, once a year, though.

At 25 years old I got a job that included health insurance. After you were employed for 3 full months you were eligible for their major medical coverage through a NYC-based provider. I felt safer but it didn't teach me anything about health insurance because, unless I lopped off an arm in the service of a production, I wasn't going to use it. When I departed that job 8 months later on winged, fleeing feet I had not used the insurance at all.

I went away to a country with socialized medicine. Didn't use that.

I came back and continued on as I had left off with no insurance and the occasional important, required visit to an understanding health care professional. I worked as a freelance theatre technician, a pet sitter, an office worker, a studio cleaner and an actress.

I worked for a major credit card company and had health insurance that I don't remember much about. I think you had a month or two before it kicked in. No dental. There was flex spending for eye and day care. I got some kick ass glasses just before I left the job. Don't think I ever went to the doctor. Never learned how the insurance really worked.

While I lived in MI the theatre company paid $200 per week gross. If you became ill (something you were never to do because it would mean canceled performances and all the attendant problems for them) and required medical attention the founders offered up to a $200 advance to help you get the help you required. Repayment terms would be agreed upon at the time of the loan.

I came back, I tried to find my place in life, I temped a lot (temp agencies do not offer insurance) and then it was September of 2001.

In November of 2001 I took a temp assignment at a financial firm. By the beginning of 2002 I had agreed, for reasons still somewhat unclear and probably having to do with the death of my grandfather, to accept a permanent position. Health insurance kicked in immediately and was lavish in its coverage. $10 co-pays, $5 to $10 co-pays on prescriptions, no employee contribution, few network restrictions, flex opportunities for eye care and child care, even some of our dental was covered. It was impressed upon me repeatedly how rare and beautiful such a package of benefits was. I saw it in action too. Since the maternity coverage was so stellar at least 10 women I knew of stuck out hellacious jobs and intense pressure to quit in order to have their pregnancies covered by this insurance. When someone left on maternity leave you made sure you got back that book she borrowed before she left. The only women I know who came back afterwards did it because they were planning to have more kids. I went to the dentist once or twice. I had a check up or two. I had a couple of problems that needed taking care of and I did, no muss, no fuss. I was just learning how I could get at least partially reimbursed for some things that I had thought weren't covered when I had to leave. So I learned a little about health insurance but wouldn't have passes a test on the subject certainly.

When I left that job in 2005 I knew enough to negotiate health care into my new package. It should cover all the things I had covered in my old job and do it with a similar ease (i.e. few network restrictions and lower co-pays and the like). The agreement made was that my premium would be paid into my salary pre-tax and I was in charge of finding coverage when my COBRA ran out. COBRA was just under $570 per month. When that ran out the only comparable plan I could find that was available to an individual was from AETNA and cost just under $770 per month. No dental, no flex. Having the money come into my account pre-tax amounts to an employee contribution, I've never done the math to figure out how much, though. Like clockwork every year the premium amount has gone up $200 per month. For just one individual, me, my premium is $1204 every month and if AETNA continues as it has since I started using them that will rise to approximately $1400 in September. Co-pays are $15, there's a $100 per year prescription deductible (about which I always forget). I have gone to the emergency room once and done ortho follow up. I have had 4 surgeries (technically, they all happened in one day at the office but were billed as separate surgeries, though I paid just one co-pay) on my forehead and done all the follow up on that. I have had numerous dermatalogical appointments and tests. I had an epic double ear infection and a year of follow up to cure and banish that. I have yet to go to a gyn appointment or the dentist. I get annual check ups and I have tried a bunch of different allergy meds and come up with answers I feel comfortable with on that front and I get a flu shot every year (no appointment necessary, no co-pay!).

The fact that I pay that much money per year (even if it's not all technically "my" money) chaps my ever loving ass. I simply do not use that amount of service every year and it keeps going up anyway. I looked around for other choices and there just aren't many. I'm committed to keeping my coverage national since I do go to New England fairly frequently and you just never know what can happen. The best choice I could find was through Freelancer's Union. I'm not 100% sure I'd be eligible but I'm at least 90% sure I would be. The premium is significantly less, between $400 and $500 per month. The network restrictions are much, much stricter and, from what I can tell there are many more hoops to jump through when getting specialty care like dermatology which I now require regularly for the rest of my life. The co-pays are around $25. Outpatient surgical co-pays are $200 or 20% depending on some rules - now would this mean that I would have paid, for instance, $200 for my facial surgery or $800? There's a larger deductible for prescriptions and the co-pay is at least as much as that for doctors visits. That's a lot of complicated math (for me) to see if I would come out ahead of the current high premium. It would certainly be more headaches and it would depend year to year on what sort of health issues I had to address. The intricacies would, I suspect, make me even more reluctant to address my health issues.

The bottom line is, I still don't understand health insurance but I'm using more of it and I'm doing my best to learn as I go. Even on the most basic level of comprehension, though, I think it's clear that we must change our way of doing business in the health care industry and we must do so soon. I have no answers, just my story which is only one of many across the land. Go on. Tell me a story.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Madness, I Say!

I Mad Men'd myself yesterday at lunch time. It looks....disappointingly exactly like me. Except they won't let me bring a martini to work anymore.

Take this gift of a Nearly Wordless Wednesday diversion, please. It's about to get needlessly political around here for a while and we might need something to clear our heads with.

The Mad Men thing, not the martini.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

9 Things I Did On My Trip And One Thing I Didn't

1. I hiked halfway, well not really, up a mountain. We were at the Timberline Lodge which is, approximately halfway up Mt. Hood. MamaKizz and I hiked (read: walked) a maybe a thousand more feet up. Despite telling me it made her breathing hard she was the one who was ticked that we didn't walk the rest of the way (at least another thousand feet up) to where the lift let people off. I told her she was welcome to go, she'd just have to do it alone. It was gritty and windy and she was wearing the one jacket we had between us.

2. Instead we went to the pool and hot tub. I haven't been swimming in years, it turns out. I can't remember the last time I went swimming. I have a swim suit but I'm pretty sure it has the tags still on it, though I bought it at least 7 years ago. I also failed to pack it for this trip so, wherever it is, it still has the tags on it. Mom lent me one of hers and we had a grand old time. I should swim more. I'm not very good at it but I really like it. Also, "Hot Tub" has just officially made it on to my list of things I want if I win the lottery.

3. I went to the top of the Space Needle. I am afraid of heights and I am afraid of building collapses. Also, being stuck in an elevator and having an elevator plummet to earth unchecked. I was by myself, though, (sometimes it's easier not to panic that way) and I thought I should give it a try. It's something I never would have done if I lived in Seattle (see: Empire State Building + living in NYC) so it also held appeal. It turns out I kind of liked it. It was after dark so the lights were pretty, the elevator operators talk the whole ride and they tell you how long that ride will be (40 seconds) so it didn't seem too bad. The thing that changed the face of the visit for me was the wall of facts. As soon as I started to learn about the structure and the history it has endured my mind started to spiral off into bad places with planes and earthquakes and lightning and how soon before impact one might look forward to losing consciousness. So I got right back on the elevator and went back down. Perhaps not the wisest $16 ever spent but worth it I think.

4. Had dinner in an old firehouse with one of our Guest Bloggers. She's a full fledged resident of Seattle now, all her things live there, too, as of a few weeks ago. I had a gourmet pizza made with all local ingredients and she had a schmancy grilled cheese sandwich with a watermelon salad side and we shared and it was awesome.

5. For dessert we hopped, skipped and jumped (low jumping, we'd just had a ton of local cheese) across the street to have cupcakes from Cupcake Royale. For years I've read Ampersand and when Chiara lived in Seattle she was a Ballard (Free Ballard!) resident and she often trekked to Cupcake Royale for a treat. That made it one of the few things I knew about Seattle before I went and a place I was determined to go. My Peppermint Party cupcake was all that and a bag of (chocolate) chips.

6. I took the ferry to Bainbridge Island. At a friend's suggestion I wanted to take at least one ferry and he said that, were time not an object, the Bainbridge Island ferry was the one to be on. It was foggy in Seattle and windy cum frigid on the water also magical and bizarre and I'm really glad I did it. When I got to the island I took a walk along the harbor, into town, looped through the tourist traps, got a non-Starbucks, non-coffee to keep me warm and headed back on another boat. (The return is free! The ticket seller thought I was an idiot not to know that.)

7. The friend who talked ferry with me is someone I haven't seen since I was a freshman in high school and who I only began talking to on Facebook recently. Facebook has been our only contact since he left all those years ago. His family moved away when he was a sophomore. We met for lunch and he treated me to a delicious Dungeness Crab Cake and salad and wine lunch and we had so much fun we continued on a wander through the city and he blew off the lion's share of his workday. It was probably the biggest and nicest surprise of the whole trip.

8. I went to the Olympic Sculpture Park. Twice! I planned it into my route to go meet B for lunch and took a good long while scoping it out and photographing it and thinking about sculpture and art. Then B and I used it as a mid-wander coffee (and non-coffee) stop along our walk. We sat in the arty chairs on the simple patio and looked out over the enormous, metal sail-like structures and wondered why he didn't take his kid here more often. My favorite pieces were the metal tree and the driftwood swinging sculpture. Photos will be forthcoming.

9. I kept running into posters advertising an exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum. I loved the image on the poster so I figured, if time permitted, I should probably check out the museum. The image was from a Wyeth exhibit (Andrew, I think), one of his Helga portraits. There were a lot of things to like in the museum but the tiny Wyeth show was still my favorite. There's something of the soul of a great photograph in his paintings without sacrificing the artist's emotion that paint allows. Had I not been elbowed out of the way by a gaggle of officious old biddies I might have stayed there all afternoon.

10. I did not see Mrs. G. We had great plans, she and I, but storm fronts in her own life and a distinct lack of anything good from my cell phone service provider meant that we never managed even to speak while I was in her town. Since I don't know her actual last name or her address I could not even track her down and leave a cupcake on her doorstep. It was my one great regret of the trip. Even worse than not packing a swimsuit or pyjamas.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Blog Who Now?

This is traditionally the time of year when my blogroll expands. Bloggers from far and wide are winging their way home flush with swag to recap the Blogher experience. I read voraciously and click all the links and, often as not, wind up with at least a handful more blogs to read each internet-full day. For at least two years now I have poked various and sundry friends and said, "I really want to go to this but I don't want to go alone, will you go with me?" Then life happens and people get married on a mountain and have 40th birthday parties and spend 3 weeks and several dollars getting the blood out of their dog's urine and I don't go.

Guess where Blogher is next year?

NYC, baby!

It feels like someone is saying, "For the love of all that is Twitterable, bitch, go to Blogher already!" So I am going! Pricing is here. I'll be buying a full pass, at earlybird pricing even and I can't wait! I want to submit to the Community Keynote*, I want to make swag, I want to go on a Photowalk, I want to offer people free text & phone travel assistance, I can't wait!

And I want you to come, too. What do you say?

*What entry do you think I should submit?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Biology Lesson

Does this look familiar to anyone? These were round and about on Mt. Hood (I'd venture between about 3,000 and 6,000 feet of elevation. Didn't see them anywhere else but that doesn't mean they don't grow anywhere else. My Aunt L would like an ID if you've got the 411 on these things, please.

I'm able to ask you this because I've finished processing all the photos from Mt. Hood and the wedding. Still many, MANY more to go from the trip.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Elle Est Arrivee

Jane is home! She's even planning to stay for the foreseeable future. We had sushi lunch last week and, as always, it was like she never left. Thank goodness for that and for her.

Last night I had dinner with high school friends and their kids. Oh good heavens their kids are delightful. I hate it when I feel as though kids are hating hanging out with the adults and bored and we can't break through to them. That's never going to happen to these girls. They are charming and I could learn a thing or two from them about fearlessly leaping into conversations with strangers. Some kids give you one word answers to "So what have you done in New York?" Not these ladies, I heard new bits and pieces all day long and it was all fascinating. We walked a long, long time along the Hudson river too so it was just one of those brilliant NYC evenings.

Today I'm angling for a drink in the neighborhood. Feeling the need, I suppose, to be definitively home. First, though, I napped and had a dream where the dogs and the roommates and the washer/dryer combos multiplied with every passing second. Very odd.

I hope you're loving every second of your weekend thus far, too.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

You Don't Surprise Me

I've been confronted a lot lately with people who are sure they're going to surprise me. They don't actually mean surprise, they mean impress, but that's neither here nor there. They are all quite sure that their ideas are far and away so delightful and innovative and simple right that I will be shock rocketed right out of my stodgy old seat.

I used to be a stage manager. The short description of stage management is that it is a low paying job where one works long hours to intensely mother people one has never met before. I don't do that anymore. Shortly after I graduated from college I took a job stage managing at my alma mater. The people were fine but not my besties, the job was tedious and the show was lackluster (sorry, I know it wasn't meant to be and I know that apartheid is important, but the truth is the show was not stunning and I can't bring myself to spruce it up). Each day was like the next so I wasn't paying a whole lot of attention to the calendar when one night at half hour (one half hour before the performance the stage manager goes around reminding everyone involved that they have a half hour to get their shit together [see also: 15 minutes, 10, 5 and PLACES!]) one of the actresses came running out to me in a tizzy. I was led back to a stairwell and shown the lead actor grimacing in pain. He said he'd twisted his ankle badly, could barely walk on it. I asked him a few more questions, rotated the ankle a little and made some decisions. "You" I said forcefully, pointing to a freshman on the tech crew, "go get some ice at the deli. You," I picked my assistant "find a towel or something for the ice. And you," with a coolness that almost mitigated the need for the ice, I stared at the actor, "don't unlace that boot. Not even a little. If you do and your foot swells we won't be able to get it back on and you won't be able to go on. Keep it laced up tight, ice it and I think you'll make it through the show. I'm going up to talk to [the faculty producer] I'll be back in 10 minutes and we'll see what happens." They all stared at me with an odd sort of fear around the eyes. I trudged upstairs and explained the situation. Mid-explanation the phone rang. The big cheese took the call and heard from a shaky student voice that, it being April Fool's Day (whoops), they had wanted to play a prank but I hadn't reacted at all the way they'd expected. I didn't panic, I wasn't thrown for a loop, there were no tears or even a gasp and then I started solving the problem and, frankly, none of them knew how to deal with that. Oh, and, would they be reimbursed for the ice?

So when recently confronted with all these people, sure they are going to leave me sockless, I want to yell "NO! No you won't surprise me! Would that you motherfucking could. You are, in point of fact, not surprising at all, you are the same dirtbag monkey flinging the same tired poo at the world that you always were so please stop promising me shit you are incapable of delivering. I like surprises, I love them and you? You're no surprise, my friend, no surprise at all. So quit teasing before I tell the jury that, with that attitude and those tits, you were asking for it."

That, though, seemed like it might be the equivalent of ruining an unsuspecting actor's "wild" and "crazy" April Fool's prank so I think maybe it'd be nicer if I shared something that did surprise me. Not only that it surprised me in a good way.

My camera got dust in it. The West put dust in my camera! Stupid west. Dozens of my photos from the trip have the same commas of crap in the upper left hand corner and I am not proficient enough with the foolishly basic photo program I have to retouch the dust to my satisfaction. Not to mention the fact that you should not leave dust in your camera. So I e-mailed Phototech to get an estimate on the cleaning. On their site they deal with a lot of people from out of town so the time line they have for sending an item in is measured in weeks. I agreed with the estimate and, even though I wasn't mailing the item in, was sure that I'd be looking at losing my camera for a day or two, possibly until Monday since they are closed Saturdays in the summer. The dilemma here was that I was going to Heather's beautiful picnic birthday party (pictured) last night. She turned 50 in a swanky park by the Hudson River and if I dropped off my camera before that I wouldn't be able to take any yummily sunlit photos for posterity. On the flip side if I took photos with my dusty camera I might very well die of a white hot rage induced aneurysm when I started to look through them later. So I zipped down on the express train during my lunch hour (everyone leaves their office on lunch hours and not everyone confines themselves to their office neighborhood but to me it seems wildly naughty, you'd never know I'd been an adult member of the workforce for over 20 years) and dropped off my camera.


"Excuse me?"

"You can pick it up any time after 2:30."

"Today?!?" It was 1:43 by their clock.

"Yes. Any time after 2:30."

Now that? That fucking surprised me.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Dancers

As I alluded to yesterday, the technicalities of my photos didn't always turn out the way I wanted them to on my recent trip. I still managed to capture most of the emotions, though.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I Stole This Photo

This is Clemo expressing his deep love, yeah cake! Firm, thick lengths of cake. Yup, that's it, it's all about cake*.

You know why?

'Cause it's his birthday.

When I first met Clemo he wasn't always very happy. He was, in fact, a known curmudgeon. Until, of course, you scraped off the brittle candy coating and figured out what was really on offer. Much to his dismay I think everyone has figured that out now. His jig is up (dirty!) and he's reduced to posts like this that talk about his...cake, yes his cake, it's all about the cake.

Happy Birthday you old curmudgeon! Hope your...cake is delicious.

*Or alternatively it's him playing Svengali somewhere that I failed to research. I honestly don't know which interpretation is more creeptastic.

10 Things Trippy

I've been posting my trip photos slowly on Flickr. More on that later.

2. The rhythm is definitely different out West than it is here. I could not find it in myself. I tried and tried but could not.

3. It turns out that a maple bacon donut is not too much. Not too much at all. It is, in the immortal words of Goldilocks, just right. VoodDoo Doughnut also made me possibly the very best chocolate frosted doughnut I have ever had the pleasure to consume.

4. Seattle makes really hot men. Or perhaps attracts them. I didn't find out if they were all native. Stay tuned for those photos, too.

5. My very unscientific observations showed me that women in the West are more "normally" sized. Please note I'm not saying that the women out there are fat. I saw more people who look like me than I do here in New York. I think. It felt like it but I'm still watching New York with new eyes to see if it still feels like it.

6. I had to implement a self-regulating measure in Powell's Books. My arms got fuller and fuller and finally TVMike asked, "Do you want some help with those?" I declined because I told myself that if I couldn't carry it I couldn't buy it. Still spent $95 but got a LOT for my cash.

7. I went to the land of Starbucks. I have mixed feelings about the franchise and I generally try to patronize locally owned or smaller chains wherever I am. I figured, though, that at some point I'd go to a Starbucks in Seattle. I even passed by what I think was the original one. I got my cocoa fix in the airport. Technically still in Seattle I guess.

8. There's a ton of public art in the cities I visited. It's embedded in the walkways and crawls along buildings and I loved it. I want more of that everywhere.

9. A jaywalking ticket in Seattle is $52. Fortunately I do not know that from personal experience. Not for lack of trying, though. They are freakishly serious about their street crossing rules.

10. The time change didn't kick my ass especially in either direction but I am still, I think, a little bit on West Coast time. It does not make getting up for work any easier.

Monday, July 20, 2009


Today is my college roommate's 40th birthday. I remember only because she was born on the day of Neil Armstrong's moon landing. I hadn't really thought about it leading up to today but suddenly it seemed important. I tracked her down on that most controversial of social networking sites, Facebook, but haven't sent her a message yet. I suppose today is the best day to do it, though, I can simply say Happy Birthday! and see what comes of it. It was she who gave me the name I use here, Kizz, actually Kizzy when she christened me. It was one step in the process of redefining me that began when I got that acceptance letter, ostensibly from NYU but really more like being accepted to New York City. With her I negotiated subway inititations and bank accounts and a hundred other little details. I made the tightest French braids my weak fingers could, learning her beautiful, unfamilar hair. Then, less than two years later, her life veered right and I stayed put (Kizzy means "stays put") and we trickled away like branches of a stream.

Facebook makes me nervous. I feel as though it should be treated like a loaded firearm. However, it's been very good to me. While in Seattle I had the loveliest afternoon with a man I haven't seen since I was a freshman in high school. It wasn't awkward at all and it was both a treat and a privilege to discover all the ways he's the same as I remember and thrilling to hear all the ways in which he is so different.

Meeting W the first time was part of my own little moon landing, I guess. College and New York City are at least as far away from my small hometown as the moon is from Cape Canaveral. It would be a much less momentous trip to send a birthday greeting to someone who helped me plant my flag in the home I love. I've got until midnight. How much do you want to bet I do it?

Sunday, July 19, 2009


You know how it happens. I know that I have a lot to get out about the trip and I started writing in my head days ago. I knew which post would kick off my travelogue and as I thought and "wrote" it became more and more intricate. You know what happens when the posting becomes highly anticipated and delightfully intricate. I know you do. Totally impossible to execute.

It occurred to me that I really wanted to post something today. I just didn't want to post the intricate post. Also, it's Sunday which, to my largely Christian mentality, is a day for meditation. What's meditation but thinking on something, letting it run unfettered through your mind, seeing where it leads you. My meditation today is on a part of my trip, not the impetus for it, not the largest part of it and yet, it turns out, possibly the most important part to me.

I saw TVMike for the first time in, we figure, about 13 years. When I heard from him and it became clear that we'd actually be able to get together it was all I could focus on about the trip. He was in a show so we probably wouldn't be able to get together until Monday and my train left at 2:30 that day so we'd only have a few hours. It didn't feel like enough, I needed to see him sooner and longer and I couldn't wait. When I came out onto the concourse in Portland there was an old man set up near security singing Danny Boy. It was, essentially, the first thing I heard in Oregon. It was what I asked TVMike to sing to me one day a million years ago the night of an ill-fated tequila drinking contest he had with Pony Express. We wound up sitting in a seedy lounge a few blocks from my motel on Sunday night then spending 4 leisurely hours wandering his city and talking and buying books and smiling on Monday.

I knew I missed him but had no feel for the depth of that missing until seeing him again was on the horizon. We are connected in some way I don't understand. I was disconcerted to see that some of the same dealbreakers for our friendship remain in place. It is equally unsettling to know that that knowledge does nothing to diminish my love for my friend. Maybe it was good that I had to leave. Maybe a little knowledge is plenty. Truly, though, I feel that we need more time to share space, to sit next to each other and drink coffee and talk about pets and theatre and relationships and get into the meat of what we've done and thought for the last 13 years. I need to know more and I suppose I need to figure out how to get it from this distance of 3,000 some odd miles.

Here's the thing that, if you've ever talked to me about location and living and moving, may strike you as important. Seeing Portland through his eyes, seeing how happy he is, seeing the work that he's been able to do, seeing that he's supporting himself doing what he does best (acting), seeing him period, has made me think about moving to Portland. It's not something I'd do, at least not any time soon, but it's opened up that space for an idea in my head.

I'm meditating on it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Land of the Free & the Home of the Brave

I started my traveling this morning at 7:30am Pacific. With a distinct lack of both information and deadline I decided I'd depend on public transportation. I braved bad directions, unfamiliar places, inattention, annoying seatmates and a host of other minor distractions and I was this close to getting all the way home. You know what broke me? The 8th Avenue subway at 14th Street in Manhattan. Police investigation at Jay Street temporarily suspending all service to Brooklyn. I caved and hauled my heavy things up out from under ground, raised my hand high in defeat and hailed a cab. I'm home (as of 10:17pm Eastern), I've restored sound capability to my television, watched a couple of things, ordered in food and should hit the hay soon in order to be ready to pick up my beloved pooch tomorrow morning.

I have much to say but no capacity to say it. How was your week?

Seventeen, Seriously

I found this poem in a piece of Friday Night Lights fanfiction. I think it's completely true and absolutely not true but the contradiction makes it beautiful. Rimbaud wrote it in 1870 according to the fanfic author, FleurLB.

No one's serious at seventeen.

--On beautiful nights when beer and lemonade

And loud, blinding cafés are the last thing you need

--You stroll beneath green lindens on the promenade.

Lindens smell fine on fine June nights!

Sometimes the air is so sweet that you close your eyes;

The wind brings sounds--the town is near--

And carries scents of vineyards and beer. . .

--Over there, framed by a branch

You can see a little patch of dark blue

Stung by a sinister star that fades

With faint quiverings, so small and white. . .

June nights! Seventeen!--Drink it in.

Sap is champagne, it goes to your head. . .

The mind wanders, you feel a kiss

On your lips, quivering like a living thing. . .

The wild heart Crusoes through a thousand novels

--And when a young girl walks alluringly

Through a streetlamp's pale light, beneath the ominous shadow

Of her father's starched collar. . .

Because as she passes by, boot heels tapping,

She turns on a dime, eyes wide,

Finding you too sweet to resist. . .

--And cavatinas die on your lips.

You're in love. Off the market till August.

You're in love.--Your sonnets make Her laugh.

Your friends are gone, you're bad news.

--Then, one night, your beloved, writes. . .!

That night. . .you return to the blinding cafés;

You order beer or lemonade. . .

--No one's serious at seventeen

When lindens line the promenade.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

No Really, For Real, Realistically

I believe I have made myself perfectly clear on the subject of reality television. It is, in fact, the devil's entertainment and if it were to be wiped from the planet I would not mourn for a moment. I refuse to watch it on principle. This summer, however, my principles have been tested. What does one do when one's basic principles go head to head? Who will arise victorious? It'd make a great reality show.

Many years ago Pony Express worked for a theatre that had an education arm. One of her first students was a brilliant, beautiful, bold and brave young lady. They bonded and eventually the girl graduated and went on to similar but utterly different things. They kept in touch and last fall Pony Express watched her get married to a wonderful man, truly the love of her life, who also happens to be her dance partner. They are Zoe Klein & David Paris, or Paradizo Dance, an aerial dance team that has toured the world. One of their most recent performances was at the auditions for America's Got Talent.

So do I watch that horrific show, symbol of all that is choking the life out of our country thereby supporting a woman whose career I have watched with awe from afar or do I stick by my principles and learn about it all second hand? You can probably guess.

I think you should watch them too! You can see their first appearance here (it's right before the last commercial break) and *SPOILER ALERT!* they made it to the Vegas round so they should be on again soon. I assume it's soon, I mean summer's like half over so there can't be that many episodes left, can there? Please say there can't be. This is killing me. Check the web site for local listings.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Speaking of Hot

As I was writing things for my time away I realized we hadn't had one of these in a while. This seems as good a time as any, doesn't it?

Let's kick things off with perennial fave (well, mine anyway), Tom Cavanagh. Someone please write this man a show or movie that's engaging and worthwhile, will you? And someone else please agree to keep it on the screen or the air.
A few someones did just that for the lovely and talented Jada Pinkett Smith and we thank them for it.
Can you ever get enough of Robert Downey, Jr.? I was surprised that his recent movie, The Soloist, disappeared so quickly.
Steph and I have been talking pretty much nonstop about Rachel Griffiths lately. I'd rather shut my trap and just watch her work. (Dear Brothers & Sisters Creative Team, More Rachel, fewer ridiculous soapy plotlines. Thanks much, Kizz)
My man, Joshua Jackson. I find that even in deplorable projects he never disappoints.
Speaking of same, there's Nathan Fillion. He's not disappointing at all. Oh no siree. Thank you makers of Castle for fulfilling all our Fillionistic needs for the forseeable future.

I hear that Judy Reyes just had a baby. I think it's her first. Congratulations Mama!
How is it that the Romulans were the best part of the recent Star Trek movie? And is Eric Bana doing the Time Traveler's Wife or is it Gerard Butler, I can't remember. This, by the way, is Bana. The more important question, though, is why can I not find a photo of Bana's Romulan sidekick who, no offense, was even hotter. (And should I have punctuated that with a question mark instead of a period?)
I miss Jesse L. Martin. He's got a laugh that can solve all your problems, I urge you to get yourself in close proximity to it.
OK, give it to me straight, I can take it. Who did I leave out?

Monday, July 13, 2009

High & Dry

I got high marks the last time I got my hair done. You've seen me, you know that I am not a fashion plate and that my knowledge of all things beauty and grooming is limited. I do try and learn the basics, though, and especially when something doesn't look the way I want it to, I'm eager to be taught the trick of solving it. I'm never going to be the girl who pores over the beauty section of Marie Claire and sits at home trying out different eyeshadow techniques but I am thoroughly trainable.

Case in point; my last hair cut. Tonya and I always talk about my lifestyle, what's working for me with my hair, what isn't working, how I'm doing things and why. I get to tell her what I want out of my hair and she's thoroughly honest about whether that's realistic. I like that about her. So this time around I asked her why I couldn't get my hair to be as flat or as rounded in curl or as uniform as she always does. I wanted tips. She thought as she washed and conditioned me then warned me, "I'm going to cut your hair and then you're gonna dry it. I need to see what you're doing." Immediately I had performance anxiety.

I felt like a fool, standing in front of the mirror, awkwardly putting the dryer down on the chair behind me when I needed two hands to assemble some hair onto the brush. I had two brushes, too! Fortunately she was already impressed that I clipped up the top layer to dry the under layer first. She sat back on the couch, flipping through a magazine, and watched me out of the corner of her eye, occasionally calling out a tip but more often to ask a question. ("Are you done there yet?" "Why are you doing that?")

Guess what? I have fabulous technique! I have the best technique she's ever seen out of a client who wanted blow drying instruction (of which I'm sure there are millions....not). My technique is so good, in fact, that I have permission to dry my hair on high, though I might want to go with lesser heat. My pitfall, it seems, is not drying long enough. Apparently that's very common. Your hair is actually dry about 10 drying minutes after you think it's dry. And danged if she's not right! After I was done it looked almost exactly like it does when she dries it. As long as I'm patient and keep drying (will have killer forearms), take the dryer and the brush all the way to the ends of the hair and then I'm a little more patient I have great fricking hair!

I'm good at something beauty-related. Who knew?

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Short and sweet question today. When and where was the last vacation you took?

Honestly I'm not even sure how to answer this one. The last trip I took purely for pleasure was a little over a year ago, a day trip on the bus to Washington, DC. Total vacation from my life but it fit itself right into the middle of a regular weekend. Last time I took a week off was, I think, 2 summers ago when I spent a week in NH helping my mother clean her house (to no avail). Last time I put those two together? Yikes, I have almost no idea. I think it was in 2002 when I went to London to visit friends and then to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival. That is something I would repeat in a know, when I win the fricking lotto.

Bonus question: Why am I so stingy with the vacations?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I, We Wed

I feel like I've been to a lot of weddings. It's just a feeling, though, I don't think I've actually been to more than your average person. There's that wave in your mid-twenties when pretty much everyone you know gets married. Then there's another wave in the early to mid-thirties where you have the combo of the late bloomers getting married the first time and the second marriages of the people who pulled the trigger a little too early in the first round. You get some family weddings scattered throughout your life and the occasional "will you be my plus one?"

Most uncomfortable wedding of all time was probably when I was a plus one for Baldsug. It was a truly lovely wedding. The venue was the balconied function rooms at the top of a hotel overlooking Central Park. The happy couple could not have been, well, happier. The food was delicious, the company was delightful and the view, as you might have guessed, was spectacular.

Baldsug and I, on the other hand, were a hot mess. He had somehow forgotten his dress shirt. The only shirt he had available was one notch the dress side of a flannel shirt. Oh, and it was a deep magenta. It would not make friends with a tie so he went cravatless which gave him a look he proclaimed "Tony Soprano" even though it was before Tony Soprano even existed. I looked lovely in a fire engine red, rhinestone encrusted velvet knee length dress. Oh yeah, it went beautifully with the magenta not-flannel. During cocktails before the ceremony I overheard people whispering. It turns out that wearing red to a wedding is a bad thing. It's too flashy and is, it turns out, an affront to the bride. So I was already feeling bad when we sat down at the back of the very small gathering for the exchange of vows. The couple had written their own vows and they were the most uncomfortably personal vows I have ever heard. Now, wedding vows are supposed to be personal, I get that, and I admire this couple for being so open about their love. I think it probably means they really are meant to be. However, as the affronting, whorish mol on the arm of Tony Pre-Soprano I felt almost guilty hearing them be so vulnerable.

I'm sure nothing like that will happen tonight at my cousin's wedding. If nothing else I won't be wearing red and I'm family so I'm supposed to be there no matter what I'm wearing.

Got any fun wedding stories to tell? Please change the names to protect the innocent. Nobody's wedding deserves to be publicly trashed. We cannot, however, be expected not to question the occasional choice.

Friday, July 10, 2009


I don't weekend well.

When I was in college I'd go home for the weekend and my mother would be difficult for the first day and angry for the second. It took me years to figure out that th efirst day was about how much she'd missed me while I was gone and the second was about how soon I was leaving. Mother doesn't bottle. So maybe this inability to adapt is genetic but it's probably just me.

I worry a lot about travel. I love to be other places but getting there is an issue. Do I have everything? Will I miss the plane/train/bus? How much does this cost? Will we make the connection? So I get to stations early and I actually relish the wait. So, going away for a weekend involves all that worry for 2 days. When I weekended a lot I'd always travel on Friday night, even if it meant arriving at midnight or later. If I didn't then what was the point? Wake up on Saturday, worry travel, arrive, just get settled, maybe do one thing, go to sleep, wake up and worry about traveling home. It's like I don't get a weekend at all. People who prefer to sleep at home on Friday and travel Saturday? I do not understand your species. Please enlighten me.

My current work schedule gives me a chronic three day weekend, which is ideal for my ilk. I can travel on Friday and Sunday and still have one glorious day of relaxation in between.

What's your travel M.O.?

Thursday, July 09, 2009


Tomorrow I'm off for the Pacific North West. I've never been West of Texas so this is an exciting probe into new territory for me. I worry that I won't fit in or have anything to do since I'm not big on hiking or camping and my level of greenness is good but really not great. However, I already seem to have plenty on my plate for the week so it looks like I've got nothing to worry about.

Friday (tomorrow) I'll get into Portland, OR early and meet my family. We'll trek out to Mount Hood, settle in and hang out. Saturday is my youngest cousin's wedding. I expect it to be quite the party. Sunday it's back to Portland until I head to Seattle on Monday afternoon (by train!). I have a friend to see, donuts to eat and a bookstore in which to happily drown. Monday through Thursday I'll be in Seattle dining with an internet superstar, seeing a friend or two, eating cupcakes, checking out the ocean and watching people toss fish around for sport.

I am petrified but that's basically just how I roll in the run up to a trip. Any trip. Even the short ones. I'm also super excited and perfectly accessorized and have over 12 hours to finish packing. You know what I won't be packing, though? I won't be packing my laptop. I don't have a smart phone. You know what that means, right? It means no internet for me for a week. I suppose I might get a quick dose here or there but basically I'm going to live life unplugged. There will be some pre-written posts coming at you while I'm away so maybe you won't even notice I'm gone. (Tell me you'll notice, please.)

I'll miss you but we could probably use some time apart, don't you think? Have fun! Don't do anything I wouldn't do!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Drum Line

As I walked through the park on the way home last night I had my iPod blasting so I only saw the hunched figure of a be-sweatshirted young man working his big African drum. I could hear his bass beats over my musical theatre selections and noticed that he was playing a phrase and waiting, playing a phrase and waiting. It was as if he was waiting for someone's response. Finally I acted like a grown up and took out my ear buds to hear what was really going on. There was, it turned out, a young, curly headed dude sitting on another bench across the small field and they were doing a little call and response. Mr. Sweatshirt then dug in for a long sentence. It was clear, to me at least, that he wanted to get a whole paragraph going, a dialogue even, but Mr. Curly wasn't getting it. He kept waiting his turn but the phrase was too long, it had too many clauses for him to parse. People were walking by, smiling at the fact of these drummers jamming in our little corner of the borough even though the song wasn't smooth or practiced in any way.

This weekend all the bloggy things, the things that have snagged on the inside of my brain and wanted to be told have been completely unbloggable. I simply cannot convey pure sights and sounds and those were the things that were grabbing my attention. To try and re-create them here for you would have been stilted like yesterday's drumversation.

About half an hour later I was walking the other way through the park with the dog and Mr. Curly had trekked over the dale to sit with Mr. Sweatshirt. Heads bent, they were working together on something longer, if not more intricate. It was mostly drowned out by the frustrated directions of twenty soccer players and the orders for calisthenics being shouted at the newbie football players but it was there.

I wish you could have heard it.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

10 Philosophical Forays

The other day I alluded to some elaborate dramas I may once have, um, erected in the service of spicing up a relationship with a student of philosophy. Grammar Snob has asked, nay demanded, that I elaborate for today's 10 Things. Against my better judgment I plan to comply.

1. To begin at the beginning there is, of course, Plato. A toga always did nicely for that, plain and simple.

2. Aristotle, not surprisingly, also a toga. This one had to be a lot more elaborate, though, and there was a wreath of laurels, too, all in service of the striptease portion of the evening. Aristotle is a lot more dramatic than Plato.

3. Chrome asked to borrow my Heidegger mustache. She's more than welcome to it but she ought to know that it was...strategically placed.

4. We don't always think of Ben Franklin as a philosopher but he was. I had an extensive rig for that involving a kite and a key and a lot of string. Went through batteries like a mother but totally worth it.

5. I have to say that the Thoreau get up just wasn't my favorite. I didn't so much mind the scratchy grasses and leaves but the endless jokes having to do with the state of "Walden Pond" got tiresome and I inevitably wound up with "ants all over my picnic," if you will.

6. Descartes was a lifesaver. That whole "I think therefore I am" thing was my philosophical answer to "Honey, I've got a headache." The man in question would counter that our Rene would have been more of a tantric kind of a guy but I stood my ground. That generally led to a rousing discussion which served my purpose by getting the man's mind on some actual philosophy and getting me my much-needed rest.

7. At some point we strayed from the hard line of our purpose, if you'll pardon the expression. We decided we could delve into some modern day "philosophers." Some of you might have gone with Lennon or Presley or even Cobain. Being children of the 80s we got a lot of mileage out of The Material Girl. The Madonna get-up worked every time. I think it had something to do with all that crinoline.

8. As I alluded to before there was a John Locke phase. It wasn't so much an exploration of his philosophy as it was a series of puns about locks, keys and the limiting of each other's basic social liberties. 4 stars, I highly recommend.

9. Near the end we devolved into an unofficial homage to Sun Tzu. I would have preferred a little Marxism because I was certainly not seeing any "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs" going on. I will give The Art of War it's due, though, I prefer to go out with a bang than a whimper.

10. Oh, and I'm sure you're wondering about the most obvious one. For Freud, just a cigar. 'Cause sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and that's a very good thing.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Jewel Of A Day

Today has been prep day. The prep day for a short week and leaving town for a regular sized week (departure on Friday) and all the attendant worries and logistics. I'm stocked up on pet food. My fridge is clean. I've written and done laundry and prevented blisters. I have also processed a whole bunch of pictures. The Mermaid Parade set is complete. Next up? Lobsterbake!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Linked Up

I am a wee bit scattered and relaxed so I thought some links might be nice today. For instance, I spent a few hours yesterday and today finishing a book by Ann Packer, Songs Without Words. She wrote The Dive From Clausen's Pier, which is one of my favorites. This is not, I think, quite up to that but it was well worth time spent lying in the rumpled sheets taking it in.

My friend Leon has started a new site, The Edible Torah, which passes along the lessons he and his community have been teaching each other for years. Good recipes and good questions that I think will keep you hungry, in a good way, for quite some time.

Jen Carlson over at Gothamist makes a nice case for us to celebrate Independence for a whole week instead of one measly day. Did you know the 4th was just one of the days in the middle when some states signed? Similar to some of the bull that's going on in NY State currently NY was the last state to ratify, they were nervous, didn't know what to do. Ah, dithering politicians, it seems history does indeed repeat itself.

My friend Rick's friend Margaret passed away and he posted a very funny Christmas poem she wrote. It's not Christmas but I think you'll enjoy it anyway.

Over at Feministing Samhita asks, "why is racial discrimination only considered an offense when it is women or people of color being biased against whites?" in regard to an overturned ruling about an employment test and the employees who passed it in a Connecticut fire department.

This OK Rep, Sally Kern, and her "moral crisis" foolishness needs to be nipped in the bud. On the other hand I thank her for reminding me that not only do people still think that way but they are able to muster enough fellow feeling to be elected to office. Beware, my friends, beware. But I'm sure you are, you're all smarter than I.

A little while back Mihow did an informal survey of what her readers were paying for health insurance. Most of her responses came from NY and CA interestingly enough. The comments are interesting reading, as long as you equate interesting with petrifying. I wished that more people, myself included, had been as specific about co-pays and in-network requirements as they were about monthly premiums. Share over there or over here if you like, I think this is another case of knowledge being power.

What are you reading this weekend?

Saturday, July 04, 2009

On Liberty

"WHAT, then, is the rightful limit to the sovereignty of the individual over himself? Where does the authority of society begin? How much of human life should be assigned to individuality, and how much to society?"

- John Locke
- On Liberty

I've been thinking a lot about re-reading On Liberty. Thank you to that one ex-boyfriend with the philosophy fetish*. In 1869 (a mere 100 years before my birth) the distinguished Mr. Locke published his thoughts on liberty, democracy and the individual. These questions begin the 4th section of the treatise, Of The Limits to the Authority of the Society Over The Individual. They are questions people all over the world, and especially I think, in America have been wrestling with both before and since. Doesn't look like the debate is going to be settled any time soon.

And that's a good thing.

Happy Independence Day, y'all, may your burgers have just the right amount of cheese, your hot dogs a perfect slathering of relish and your beer be deliciously cold.

*If you think this means I had to dress up as famous philosophers to get laid, well...I'm not going to correct you.

Friday, July 03, 2009

'Night 'Night

I was going to write about some of my many quirks regarding travel today but my mind is elsewhere.

Our dear O'Mama is losing a friend. In accordance with the rules of this house, please give your pets a good scritch and many, many extra treats today. If you feel they must earn their treats may I suggest one for each breath they take. "Good breathing, lovey, good breathing."

And if you've got a little love left over for the O'Mama family that wouldn't go amiss either.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Lead Up

I love commuting on the week leading up to a holiday. Especially when the kids are already out of school. The streets of my neighborhood are quiet, there's always a seat on the train, and there are fewer elbows in every station as the week wears on.
Since I always have Fridays off I could choose whether to take Thursday or Monday and I went with Monday. It didn't really occur to me that everyone would be getting tomorrow off so today would be like a pre-holiday Friday. I've got a messenger package languishing at the station because offices were closed at times I really didn't expect.
I'm not headed out of town. I'm headed to dinner. I'll have a full, normal (for me) Friday tomorrow and I'll spend my three day weekend relishing the empty streets. I like spending holiday time in the city, it's like everyone just moved to the side so I could pass. Not because I smell or anything, just because it's the nice thing to do.
Travel safely, my friends, and celebrate well.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Fine Finned Friend

My fine finned friend is feeling a little under the weather. Please send healing vibes.

This may be my favorite shot of the day. Might have to print and frame it.

I added a few more shots to this year's Mermaid Parade set if you're interested.