Friday, September 26, 2014

The Sun Going South

In late sunshine I wander troubled.
Restless I walk in autumn sunlight.

To many changes, partings, and deaths.
Doors have closed that were always open.
Trees that held they sky up are cut down.
So much that I alone remember.

This creek runs dry among its stones
Souls of the dead, come drink this water!

Come into this side valley with me,
A restless old woman, unseemly,
Troubled, walking on dry grass, dry stones.".

 - Ursula K. LeGuin, Always Coming Home

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

My Great Leap Sideways

"The time I’ve lost in wooing,
In watching and pursuing
The light that lies
In woman’s eyes,
Has been my heart’s undoing.
Though Wisdom oft has sought me,
I scorned the lore she brought me,
My only books
Were woman’s looks,
And folly’s all they’ve taught me."

 - Thomas Moore  (1779–1852), The time I’ve lost in wooing

You know how people keep saying we have to have The Conversation? Mostly about race, but sometimes about beating women down or posting their naked pictures on the internets if they speak up. So bring it, boys. Oh, wait. You already have: every two minutes in America.

Assuming I had naked pictures, and that I was dumb enough to upload them to the cloud, posting my naked pictures would bring that trend to the kind of halt a schoolbus full of orphans would make being rammed into a bridge abutment at 90 miles per hour by an 18-wheeler with “Grim Reaper” spray-painted on the side.

My own story of sexual assault is actually three, including one about which I cannot speak and therefore about which I shall remain silent.

There was the time a neighbor fixed me up with her brother, a cop from Riverside, who took me to a cheap dinner and then called me a cunt because I wouldn’t fuck him in the front seat of his muscle car. He dropped me off at his sister’s house before peeling out to accurately demonstrate the actual size of his penis. She was babysitting for my toddler, who I then had to carry two blocks home in her sleep.

One out of five women are likely to be raped, gentlemen. Some would say the rape epidemic is a fiction. I couldn’t agree more that it would be nice if fewer women were being assaulted today than yesterday.

As to Mr. Number Two, I’m quite sure he is limping around right now trying to remember where he got that scar next to his penis. Or maybe he’s dead because some other woman managed to actually hit his femoral artery with her metal nail file – what I was going for when he hit me so hard on the side of the head that I saw stars. At least I drew more blood than he did: a victory of sorts. And I didn’t get raped that night either, although I had to pay a cab because it was too far to walk home.

In both cases, I was a full grown woman, and I was wearing lipstick. In retrospect, I was probably was asking for it because I had, you know, a pulse.

But here’s where I want to depart from the hegemonic discourse about how great things are going, and leap sideways. I submit that… wait for it….  it would be even better if women didn’t get assaulted at all. No kidding. Even better: how about if women didn’t always have to worry about being disrespected, raped, assaulted, paid less, and knocked out in elevators?

More importantly: it’s not women’s looks that are the problem here. It’s the aggressor who is at fault. If women’s looks are your only books, you’re fools. Time to wise up.

So because men no longer find me rapable – because I’m old enough to join AARP and because my dress size is two digits – I feel safe going on record and saying if good men don’t stand up on the side of good women, we’re headed down that slippery slope that leads to covering our heads and FGM and honor killings here in this land of the free and home of the brave dickheads who call ladies cunts.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

My Personal Opinion of Farmers Insurance

“The mere narcotizing effect of which cosmic forces have on a shallow and brittle personality is attested in the relation of such a person to one of the highest and most genial manifestations of these forces: the weather. Nothing is more characteristic than that precisely this most intimate and mysterious affair, the working of the weather on humans, should have become the theme of their emptiest chatter. Nothing bores the ordinary man more than the cosmos. Hence, for him, the deepest connection between weather and boredom.
 - Walter Benjamin, The Arcade Project

It’s been hot lately. I talked about the weather for 15 minutes the other night with a complete stranger. Did you know it’s been hot lately? Enough narcotizing.

I recently filed the second homeowners insurance claim I have ever filed with Farmer’s Insurance in >25 years.  They more recently denied it, just like they did when I found mold from a slow leak  under my kitchen dishwasher that hadn’t been used in 20 years, and refused to even give me a copy of the hazmat report that it was black mold I should have noticed sooner. Because, apparently we should all be checking beneath un-used and un-movable kitchen appliances regularly, rather than discovering the mold when it spreads to the adjacent cabinet beneath the sink. Due diligence.

Tiffany, my good neighbor claims adjustor from Kansas, at first said the fallen tree branch must have fallen (and badly damaged a guest’s vehicle) because I must have been negligent in not removing a dead branch that was clearly threatening to fall in my driveway.

When I produced a 3-page detailed invoice and cancelled check for $5,000 worth of tree work less than 90 days ago, it gave Tiffany pause. But only briefly. Tiffany then said it must have been an act of god.

Well then, I said. Since I had the burden of proof that I wasn’t negligent, she’d have to prove it was an act of god, beginning with proving that there is a god. Tiffany said that act-of-god is a legal term of art. I said I’d been a lawyer longer than she’d been inhaling air, and term of art or not, she had the burden of proof. 

Unless, I suggested in my best good neighbor voice, there was a policy exception for “shit happens”. Tiffany reminded me that the call was being recorded. I reminded Tiffany that shit happens is a legal term of art, and was in no way directed at her or intended to impugn the reputation of Farmers so-called Insurance.

As the claim was denied – to my great lack of surprise – as an act of nature, I felt it not worth my trouble to file another claim for removal of the branches that were knocked down by the hurricane remnant that blasted through my backyard even more recently. Tiffany can't afford to waste any more air denying any more claims from now until I replace this worthless company with someone who won't at least disrespect my atheism. 

Tiffany did mention that Farmers insurance has a good neighbor clause that will pay up to the amount of my deductible but that if I invoked it, she couldn’t guarantee that my rates wouldn’t increase. I told Tiffany that is my exact definition of bad neighbor, but then again being a good neighbor wasn’t my job, so what do I know.

I do know that good neighbor is a meaningless term of art used by Farmers Insurance. And now, so do you.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Don’t Apologize

“A recipe is not as precise as a chemical formula, since ingredients vary slightly, as do cooking utensils and stoves. But a little difference is sometimes refreshing, and so it will not matter if there is a slight change in the finished product. For example, a sauce or a pudding may be thicker or thinner without being a failure. Don’t apologize! Just present it differently – the softer pudding in dessert glasses instead of on a serving dish as you had planned.”
-       Fannie Farmer, The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, Eleventh Edition (original copyright 1896)

I was in a bad mood: I’d been reading the news after breaking up (again) with my mercurial quilting machine. Cooking when in a bad mood can lead one of two outcomes. When it works, cooking can lead to sublime transcendental enlightenment. The risk however, is that as they slowly go bad, failed cooking experiments can generate a gradual accumulation of nameless dread that eventually coalesces so thickly in the kitchen that it triggers the smoke alarm. So cooking while angry is always a risky undertaking - but one I was willing to take on in my dark mood.

Fortunately, I have the key, to escape the nameless dread. Garlic can make all the difference, and I’m not talking about scaring away werewolves. There’s something about the smell of roasting garlic that dispels the dread and summons the sublime. Thus, my challenge was to make something with garlic. Then, there were the other ingredients to assemble like an offering to the gods of anger: I needed comfort food, aka gluten. And obviously, cheese.

I found this cool spicy hot chili oil and I always have fresh basil on the windowsill although these days, my pot is looking a bit tired. So, why not something in the bread machine that will infuse the kitchen with aromas of mental wellbeing and carbohydrates to accompany my postprandial bourbon. So I made the dough in the bread machine, then kneaded it and let it rise on my counter and baked it on the pizza stone in the oven.

Now, I could follow a recipe. But the entire instigation for this cooking effort was the bad mood. And if there's one thing I hate (and there are many more than one thing) I don’t like things bossing me around – especially non-sentient things like signs and recipes.

It was Fannie Farmer who (I think my grandma told me when she gave me the cookbook for a wedding present) first applied the idea of precise measurements to cooking to make the experience more repeatable – like a scientific experiment – and less fraught with pinches of this and handsful of that. Betty Crocker (not to mention Keith Richards) had nothing on Fannie, my friends, when it came to cooking recipes with precise measurements requiring tiny spoons.

So, I consider a recipe to be a place to start cooking, not and exercise in proving a scientific theory about the thickness of a pudding: one that can be repeated with perfect consistency thereby proving the perfect pudding theory.  If I ever write a cookbook, it will be entitled Cooking While Pissed. Unless Julia Child already named one of her books that because it seemed to me that when she cooked with wine she, you know, got baked too. The fact that I was listening to a playlist heavy on the bagpipes had little to do with either the cause of my bad mood or the outcome of my cooking exercise (or with this post, for that matter).

Which was delicious bread, a bit heavy because I may have added too much cheese, thereby proving the scientific theory that yeast doesn’t make cheese rise. So I presented it as transcendently thinly sliced doughy lumps of garlicy cheese instead of bread, and it paired perfectly with my Sunday evening PBS mystery shows. So I’ve got nothing to apologize for. 

And also, by my second bourbon it occurred to me that my paternal grandmother may have given me a cookbook for a wedding present (thereby dramatically foreshadowing the failure of that marriage) but she might have been ahead of her time, slipping in the rather subversive message that a girl shouldn't have to apologize for her cooking. Thanks, Gram!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Lost and Found

I have always known
That at last I would
Take this road, but yesterday
I did not know that it would be today.
 - Narihira, translated by Kenneth Rexroth

I have a car with a programmable audible navigation system and a map.  In theory, I should never get lost. In fact, I do get lost. Here. In this town where I’ve lived most of my life.

Not hopelessly lost where I’d starve to death and be found in ten years by hikers; or even tragically lost where I’d be found slightly decomposed within days - like the bodies at the beginning of an episode of CSI. But I tend to turn left when my final destination is on the right and I should know this by now dammit.

I could make the excuse about the main highway that runs through my valley is Route 8 – an east-west road that goes from Arizona to the Pacific Ocean. When Route 8 goes through my valley however, it is actually going north to south, making a big zig-zag to take advantage of passes leading into and out of the valley. That also means that the dozens of secondary roads that criss-cross the valley also tend to veer from their primary north/south path to east/west in some places. Or I could admit that I’m directionally challenged, which is why I was such a failure as a professional feng-shui consultant that my clients’ homes were being possessed by evil spirits and demons. 

But now with my navigation system, whose voice is named Louella, by the way, I no longer need to fear this lack of directional ability - as long as I can program in the address of my destination.

At any rate, I got lost coming home the other night after I dropped a friend off in a part of town I rarely visit. We used Louella to get us there, but I figured I’d find my own way home without her guidance. Which I did, eventually. I was weak with hunger and dizzy from low blood sugar, and I seriously had to pee. But I found a new scenic route that covered 35 miles to return from a destination 20 miles from home.

Instead of worrying about getting lost, I can now work on developing my latest superpower: using power tools. I promise to only use my power tools for good, never to do evil, or trepanning, or to slice body parts small enough to fit in my compost bin. At least not until I get a bone saw blade for my reciprocating saw. Sadly, Home Depot does not stock them. But I bet Amazon does.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

She generally gave herself very good advice, (though she very seldom followed it).

Little Betty Winkle, she had a pig –
It was a little pig, not very big;
When he was alive he lived in clover,
But now he’s dead, and that’s all over.
Nurse Lovechild’s legacy - Dirge

While I was occupied overthrowing tyrants, righting wrongs, saving kitties stranded in the branches of tall trees, rescuing damsels in distress, and trying to sleep in, June became July.

It’s not like I need to apologize to my blog for benignly neglecting it; or to explain why my life lately has been filled with horrible medical calamities; natural disasters and acts of a vengeful god; exciting adventures involving unicorns and glitter; travels to exotic locals, culinary experiments that resulted in indescribable bliss, pilgrimages to religious shrines where I experienced a miraculous cure for my lifelong chronic athlete’s foot; or that I’ve finally managed to sleep late. Because who cares, right?

I also haven’t been too busy checking my Facebook page hourly to be sure I take the latest stupid test to find out what kind of musical instrument/kitchen implement/implantable medical device/Harry Potter character, or terminal disease I am. Because the internets are the only path to self-discovery through a dozen multiple choice questions yo. Nor have I been too busy reading posts by people who bloviate about something positively banal (or worse, christian extremism or political folly) and then say “share if you agree”. I do admit I’ve spent some time trying to decide which bothers me more, and instead have concluded that, sadly, I have only myself to blame that my FB page is cluttered with such crap because my choice of FB friends has been a bit indiscriminate and over-hasty. Sadly, herein art imitates life.

More importantly, I  decline to succumb to what I’ve seen so many bloggers do when they revive a dormant blog: whinge about how my recent life has sucked  - as if people might possibly give a shit or send me virtual hugs and relevant googled motivational quotes of which I would otherwise remain woefully ignorant.

It’s none of that. It’s NSA, people. They may be on to me. I think they may know what I had for breakfast (despite the fact that I swallowed the last bite as I finished the previous paragraph, and I already can’t remember what was on the plate). I fear that NSA may have discovered my secret identity, or my embarrassing sexual fetishes that involve plush toys and organic produce, or worse, my real weight.

So I’ve been hiding in my fallout shelter – or whatever the kids are calling bunkers today – reading back issues of The Paris Review and eating bloated cans of spaghetti-Os and hoping I’ll drop off the NSA radar and that my latest flare-up of paranoia will subside. Either that or I’ve been in rehab after one too many drunken blackouts where I awoke next to a dead hooker wearing a bloodstained clown costume, and lost the costume rental deposit because I didn’t use my Oxy-pen soon enough to remove the blood. And don't think I'm stupid enough to commit to the internets which one of us was wearing the clown costume.

Or maybe, - just maybe - I’ve evolved. I’ve taken my own advice that the virtual world is a pale shadow of the real world and I’d rather inhabit the 3-D world and enjoy the clover while I still can. 
Maybe I’ve found my inner deity and reconnected with the earth. 

Or maybe (and frankly, more likely)  I’ve had my medications adjusted to the point where I can actually garden a bit in nice weather without having to spend the night covered in flop-sweat while my pulse tops out at 145 before subsiding enough to let me sleep.

Maybe, I’ve decided that blathering online about my life is narcissistic and self-defeating. Maybe I've concluded that I could be enjoying an actual life in the real world, while the virtual world continues its plummet to hell without me.

( Title Credit: Lewis Carroll. Illustration credit: Yuji Kamozawa)

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Believe What You LIke

Jules Verne: The Trouble with scientists is that they only deal with the facts.
Scientist:  And what do you deal with, Mr. Verne?
Jules Verne:  Something much more important (dramatic pause) imagination.
 -  From The Earth to the Moon (movie 1958)

So I may be stepping out on a limb here, spiritually speaking. But I’ve been thinking of imaginary friends again, and I’m beginning to understand that Jesus is a real person. I'm far from sure about his surname or his legal status.

I don’t know bout the walking on water or the loaves and fishes or the raising from the dead. I’m thinking about imagination. Why can’t some people tell themselves stories that comfort them? If stories of violence can beget violence – as science has shown - then good stories might beget good.

And since we all will die, maybe the good we do is all that lives on. If only we could agree on what is good and what is evil. Too deep for me today. All I know is that today is good. That’s enough.