Thursday, July 30, 2015

Love & Potatoes

I wonder if I'll ever live with someone I love again, now that Marz is moving out in a month.

When she came to stay four years ago (temporarily, supposedly), I'd thought I'd never want to live with someone again. I'd been living alone for thirteen years, happily.

But after Marz slept on my couch a couple weeks, I invited her to stay for real. That meant she slept on the couch for another year and a half before the landlord knocked through a wall to make her a bedroom, and Marz lugged home on the bus a rolled-up mattress.

Living with her was as annoying as I'd imagined living with someone would be, or even more so, since she, just barely out of her teens, was still a puppy.  

"I'm not a puppy!" she'd say. 
And now she's not. 
But the first week she was here, I suggested we cook something simple: potato salad. "You boil the potatoes," I told her.

After she got them going, I saw the laptop was open. 

She had googled "how to boil potatoes".

I loved living with her though, not because I loved having a roommate but because I'd come to love her.

At the time I met Marz––first online on a Shatner fansite, then in person walking the Camino across Spain––I'd thought I'd never love anyone new again after my mother'd killed herself nine years earlier.

It hadn't been a Garboesque hand-to-forehead declaration, 
"I shall never love again!" 
Love simply looked like too much work, like digging a garden in a beaten-down yard, and then all the labor of planting, weeding, watering . . .  
I didn't have the emotional oomph to want a garden, even.

But Marz wasn't like gardening. She was like the flash of sunlight off the bell of a tuba in a marching band. 

Now that she's moving out, (and let me say, it is entirely right and meet she do so), I rather [secretly] wish I could live with someone I love who loves me.

I think of my friend Jill who's getting married in a couple weeks after being single for thirty years. (That's the wedding I'm making 100 German chocolate cupcakes for.)
She says she can't believe how nice it is to live with someone who cherishes you.

I'd like that, maybe. I have the energy for it now. But what sort of human would that be? A lover? A husband-type? 

And how do you locate such a one? Dating
As they say:

I am not inclined . . .

Maybe a lovely new friend will drop from the sky. 

If not, I will be happy living alone. After all, I know how to boil potatoes.
Moomin cartoons by Tove Jansson

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Adventurers' New Clothes

Last night with sewing friends, I made accessories for two of my toy animals.

The Bunny sports a hip-hugging belt, decorated with long-stitches and a workable button; the Moomin, Snorkmaiden, a jaunty tie with a decorative button. (Thanks to bink for her help!)

[I've got to get a new camera---shooting pictures with the laptop is too awkward.]

Before anyone else had arrived at the café, a young woman walked up and asked what I was sewing.

 "Oh . . .  uh, I'm a little embarrassed," I said. "I'm making clothes for my toys."

"That's not weird at all," she said. "I think it's great!"

The public have spoken.

I do wonder about my attachment to my little animals, which has not lessened since childhood. But I see other grown-ups have it too---like Orange Crate Art, who has little turtles and an owl kitchen timer. 

I think I may have found my calling: I would be happy outfitting little toys. When I have the room, I'm going to set up a sewing area.

Esther told me about people who remake hypersexualized dolls--and this morning I found Tree Change Dolls:
 "The creation of Tasmanian artist Sonia Singh. Sonia recycles, repairs and upcycles forgotten and discarded dolls. They are given a new down-to-earth style and are soon ready for outdoor adventures. Rescued from landfill these dolls get a second chance at play and a new lease on life."
Sonia (below) seems to work mostly with Bratz dolls, who start off looking like they've had a bad reaction to silicon injections. She sells them for around $200, and they sell out immediately.

But today I will be writing an index, so off I go to do that.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Going for a Bike Ride

I am heading out in a few minutes for a longish ride.

I'm getting a bit stronger on the bike. But far from this:

^ Fausto Coppi, (1919–1960), famous Italian cyclist

Monday, July 27, 2015

Some Things Happened

Today I asked the publisher if they'd found someone else to write the Garbage book I'd turned down as too depressing.

"Yes," they said, "another author had started to write a book about World Hunger, said the topic was too horrible to live with every day, and chose to take on Garbage instead, saying it was far less awful than hunger."

I felt so much better. 
I'd felt guilty and even a bit ...lightweight for turning the book down (though I'd never think that of someone else who did the same thing!). And I hadn't realized other authors turned down horrific topics, but they said it happens all the time. So I'm not crazy or bad or weak as I'd feared I might be, a little bit.

The publisher then asked if I'd like to edit some books in a certain series, and I said yes, probably, let me look at some examples from the series before committing. 

I want to work around other people, but I also like editing, which is pretty solitary no matter where you do it.

Anyway--possibilities! Nice.

Then I met my sister for an exercise class at the downtown Y, after she was done with work. 

As it happened, the instructor this evening used to teach a class my sister and I had attended regularly the entire year before our mother's suicide. 
I'd liked this teacher but I'd stopped going to the downtown Y after my mother died, and so I hadn't seen her since. She remembered us though and was happy to see us.

It was like deja-vu, exercising with my sister to this familiar voice.
It came to me to remember that that year, 2002, I'd signed up for a training weekend to lead a certain exercise class. But after my mother died a couple weeks before the training, I'd been too wiped out to go--I slept all the time--and I'd cancelled my enrollment.

This doesn't elicit
exactly a happy trill from me, but it was a moment of transparent interconnection---like looking through a window in time, remembering in my body how active I'd been and how . . . hopeful?
Yes. A vivid recall of things feeling possible.
Of me feeling possible.

How odd. 
I can't usually point to a concrete fact and say, "This would be different if my mother hadn't died, this definitely changed", but in this one instance, I can. And I'd forgotten it.

If I'd taken the training, gone on and taught an exercise class, . . . then what? 
Maybe nothing. Maybe something. Perhaps I'd have stayed in better physical shape all these years. Or, quite possibly, not.

It doesn't matter what was going to happen. What matters was that it couldn't happen.

Remembering this change of plans brought me some relief, like finding out other authors refuse hard topics.

Maybe because. . . well, sometimes the fallout from my mother's death seems like an illusion. 
Did it matter? Yes, of course it "mattered," but it's all so nebulous... Did it signify anything? 

Wasn't I going to be just where I am anyway?

And here comes this mundane memory: 

I didn't take that class, and therefore whatever was going to unfold from that, didn't. 

That is proof:
Yes, it happened, like a meteor crashing into Earth and making a hole that became a lake, and now I'm used to the lake and forgot the impact of the meteor.

And as it is with exercise class, so it is, even more, with other  things I cannot name.


For more info on suicide prevention or help if you are struggling:
"The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals."
Outside of the United States, please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.


...made me laugh out loud.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Name That Thing

OOh, fun! I went to Merriam-Webster's online dictionary to look up the plural of "spoonful"(spoonsful? or spoonfuls?) *
and ended up playing their "Name That Thing" quiz a whole bunch of times.

I did well, but only because the quiz is multiple choice. I have a decent passive vocabulary, but if it'd been write-in, I'd have written "thingamabob" over and over. 

Naw, I'd have guessed.

Let's see...
(for girdle)

"bobsled" (for luge)

"zipper teeth" (correct)

"under-bridge?" (I do know septum, but doubt I'd have come up with it)

 "ampersand" (the only one I'd be 100% sure of)

...and "that boat Funny Girl sings on at the end of "Don't Rain on My Parade"--um, um... 
(close enough)

I liked the quiz because I was learning something (not sure I'll retain any of it).
* In the past, spoonsful, now spoonfuls is ascendent.

What I'm Reading

"Maybe you've glanced out of the window and seen there, on the lawn, a bloody great hawk murdering a pigeon, or a blackbird, or a magpie, and it looks the hugest, most impressive piece of wildness you've ever seen, like someone's tipped a snow leopard into your kitchen and you find it eating the cat."
 -- Helen Macdonald, H Is for Hawk, (2014), p. 4

I started this book last night, and it's a bit heavy on description for me, but good.

Birds of prey have become more common here in the inner city, where there're lots of bunnies and squirrels and prey birds to pluck up.

Just this morning, bink and I were biking home from the farmers market when something in a rumpus glanced off a parked car next to us, then flew off squealing, pursued by a hawk.

Friday, July 24, 2015



I'm cutting up polka dot cloth and sewing the raised velvety black dots, outlining with white thread, onto this green silk. 
(It's a long scrap edge: twenty-five cents at the Thrift Store.)

I don't want to make projects, I just want to sew things onto other things. But this is becoming wearable. 
My friend Jill is getting married in three weeks--I'm going to try to finish it into a scarf I can wear to her wedding.


I'm making something else for Jill's potluck wedding reception too:
One Hundred German-Chocolate Cupcakes!

Jill was saying what a racket the whole wedding business is: 
if you want to order a wedding cake,  for instance, you're supposed to meet for a "consultation."

I said if she was OK with something informal, I could bake a cake--maybe even find some cake tiers. 

So we consulted (not such a bad idea) and settled on cupcakes as easiest to transport and serve, and out of the kinds of cakes she loves, I chose German Chocolate because it's impressive but [fairly] easy to make look good, or, rather, you can't make gooey coconut-pecan glop look good. 
It just does.


Life has gotten happier this week.

To begin with, the apartment is super clean: 
I'd washed and painted walls three weeks ago during a weird cool spell (in the 70s--almost unheard of in July), so the dried egg is off the kitchen cabinets, and the cobweb swags are gone from the bathroom ceiling.

Then, Marz's mother arrived in town yesterday (her first visit, staying in a hotel), and beforehand Marz had gone into hyperdrive clean-up mode; she'd even vacuumed under the couch cushions. 
Plus we both purged our possessions and hauled bags to the Thrift Store. 
So it's really nice around here, and I feel love for my little home, beleaguering as it sometimes is. (Noisy, crowded neighborhood, etc.)

Marz has found a nice place to move to on September 1––a house with a yard and garden in a much quieter neighborhood, with (fingers crossed) compatible housemates.
The mood around here lightened a lot, once she made her decision to move. The pressure's off. It gives me hope that eventually she and I'll become good friends again, once we're not living together. (Or at least move apart on good terms.)

I'm quite pleased for her, now, and I'm starting to feel excited about having an empty room. 
Even with her room, which the landlord had added by knocking through a wall, this place is only a tiny 1-bedroom apartment, but it'll be bigger than anywhere I've ever lived alone.
"Tiny", that is, in the US Midwest, where some folks have walk-in closets bigger than Marz's bedroom (with the blue-and-white quilt); I sleep in the kitchen area and each morning tilt my mattress up against the wall.

One thing I want to do is set up my sewing machine where I can leave it. I'd use it more if I didn't have to put it away every time: it's  bulky, you know. There are lots of things I'd like to sew. (Or so I think.)

It's been two weeks since I turned the Garbage book down, and I still feel relieved. I walk down the alley and see giant TV after giant TV set out for the trash, and I think, thankgod I don't have to dwell on this. 
(I imagine these behemoths are getting tossed to make room for flat-screen TVs, but why, all of a sudden, is there one in every block's alley? And where do people who deny we have an environmental problem think all these things go where they'll have no impact?)

Anyway, my mood is so, so much better, like a clean apartment, I can't regret turning the work down at all. Even though now I feel stuck as to which way to turn for work... 
But I trust it'll be OK, somehow, 
and meanwhile I'm not sunk in despair and dread. Yay!

Tales from the Thrift

Tales from the Thrift

I've been volunteering extra at the Thrift Store because a couple cashiers are on summer vacation, and I have the time. 

Yesterday a woman came in and bought sheets to try to keep the mosquitoes off her and her friends who are sleeping outside. (In the warm weather, some say that's a nicer option than the homeless shelters, biting bugs notwithstanding.)

I sold her the sheets half-price ($1.25 each). 
(Volunteers aren't supposed to adjust prices, but I know no one would disapprove. (Or almost no one, and I wouldn't care if they did.))

One of the part-time paid staff members told me he'd lived on the streets for 18 months himself.
"I didn't used to like bug spray," he said. "All those chemicals, you know--but sleeping out, bug spray is your friend."

"Eighteen months..." I said. "Wow. That's longer than a tour of duty." 

"That's what I called it," he said. "It started out as a social experiment, but I didn't know what I was getting into, and then it became a tour of duty."

"An experiment?" I said. "What were you testing?"

"I wondered if people treated you different, if you were homeless," he said.

"And what did you find out?" I said. "Did they treat you different?"

"Yes," he said.

Yes. Well, that's what you'd figure, wouldn't you? Not sure why he wanted to test it out on himself. 

But anyway, he's one of the good things about the store. 

 Our store is near freeways where people who live on the streets congregate---there are places to "sign" (hold signs asking for money/work) and places to sleep, though the police move them on.
It's quite obvious that some customers rely on the store as a source of affordable clothing.
In the winter we have a coat drive at a nearby church.

This is not our sign---it's from a Canadian thrift store run by the SPCA (society for the prevention of cruelty to animals).

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Some Favorite Films, Part I

Occasionally I refer to my list of Top 100 Favorite Movies. This list does not actually exist, so I decided to start it today. 

As I jotted down movies off the top of my head, I noticed they often clump together in categories. So here's my first installment of 21 Top Favorite Movies, arranged in categories (they could be mini film fests).  

Bonus Category: men doing yardwork, which I was surprised to note emerged as I searched for pictures. 

A 1955 Sex Threesome

1. Picnic: (1955, dir. Joshua Logan, USA, from a play by William Inge, a closeted gay man who grew up in 1920's Kansas) 
Favorite scene: William Holden and Kim Novak slow dance to "Moonglow", and the repressed sexuality makes us squirm with embarrassment. And then watch it again. (Well, I do, anyway.)
 "I know how to clap."

Holden was too old for the role, but he still looks OK doing yardwork.

2. Summertime (1955, dir. David Lean)

This movie is Brief Encounter, Italian style: on vacation in Venice, the Katherine Hepburn character in Summertime gets the sunny-side-up sexual satisfaction with a married man (Rossano Brazzi) that is denied the Celia Johnson character in Lean's damp and overcast Brief Encounter (1945).
3a. All That Heaven Allows (1955, dir. Douglas Sirk, USA)
Jane Wyman's grown children try to convince her to settle for a new-fangled television and give up her shameful love for her young gardener, Rock Hudson. [In real life, Wyman was eight years older than Hudson.]
Yes, she's brave not to give in, . . . but then again, he is Rock Hudson (if Rock Hudson were straight). 
 Bonus: Sirk's gorgeous cinematography.
3b. In 1974, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, wunderkind of New German Cinema, made a lovely version of this movie, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, in which an older German woman falls for a younger Moroccan migrant worker.

History x 3

1. Battle of Algiers (1966, dir. Gillo Pontecorvo, Italy/Algeria)

Enter the tangles of history: with the feel of a documentary, this classic film sympathetically presents freedom fighters in Algeria who resist French colonizers. 

The French use torture such as water-boarding to extract information that helps them win the battle. 

The war is still going on today, however, and we are the inheritors of this story of terrorism. 
But who's the terrorist? 

2. Caché/ Hidden (2005, dir. & written by  Michael Haneke, France)
The dirty history of France in Algeria resurfaces with quiet desperation in one man's life. This tense film captures the way the large issues of history & politics are carried and passed on by anonymous, unimportant individuals.

3. The Lives of Others (2006, dir. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Germany) 
For a little relief, a sad but romantic tale about an individual's collision with and effect on history: a grey little Stasi spy in East Germany falls in love with the life of a playwright he is wiretapping.
Think Beethoven.

Speaking of wiretapping...  Movies About Sound

1. The Conversation (1974, dir. Francis Ford Coppola, USA)  
A very, very satisfying little film, made in between Coppola's huge successes The Godfather (1972) and Apocalypse Now (1979):
a audio-surveillance nobody in a cheap raincoat (Gene Hackman) overhears a murder plot. But who's the victim?

2. Blow-Out (1981, dir. Brian De Palma, USA)

A nasty piece of work, well worth watching. John Travolta accidentally records the murder of a politician and uses the surviving young woman to trail the killer.

3. Red Like the Sky (2007, dir. Cristiano Bortone, Italy)
For joy! A boy who is blinded in an accident discovers the power of telling stories with sound. The story is based on the life of an Italian movie sound editor.

4. Berberian Sound Studio  (2012, dir. Peter Strickland, Britain)
A meek English sound engineer (Toby Jones)  finds himself manipulated into mutilating vegetables to create disgusting sound effects for an Italian horror film.

Some Movies About Making Movies

1. Day for Night (1973, dir. Francois Truffaut, France)
On the set of magic and neurosis. This movie made me want to make movies, but I was growing up long before videocameras.

2. Son of Rambow  (2007, Garth Jennings, England)
A boy from a strict Christian sect that forbids media of any sort sets out to make a remake of Rambo. (The boy's mother, who defends him, is played by Jessica Hynes, co-creator with Simon Pegg of the wonderful British TV show Spaced. )

3. Be Kind Rewind (2008, USA, dir. Michel Gondry--director of 2004's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which I also recommend)
When Jack Black's character accidentally erases all the VHS tapes in a crummy video-rental store, he remakes the movies, with some help from the neighborhood. 
A celebration of homemade movie-makers and the kind of in-camera/real life effects that Gondy himself prefers to CGI (computer generated images).
Above: Jerry (Jack Black) and Mike (Mos Def) remake Ghostbusters. All you need is a little tinfoil.
4. The Wolfpack (2015, Crystal Moselle, USA) 
A documentary about six brothers whose parents have kept them isolated them from society in a high-rise apartment building. They brothers keep themselves sane by watching and remaking movies. 

Wolfpack is a real-life Be Kind, Rewind, in some ways, celebrating the power of homemade moviemaking and human resilience;
but it's also somewhat like The Conversation: the director spies on children who make movies to survive their imprisonment, raising a bit of a moral quandry (not that the movie reflects on its own making at all)...

Camp Horror Trio

1. Gods and Monsters, (1998, dir. Bill Condon)

Elderly, gay James Whale (Ian McKellan), the real-life director of the Frankenstein movies, schools his young gardener Brendan Fraser in campy horror as a response to life's horrors, including Whale's experiences in WWI.

Oh, these gardeners...

 2. The Old Dark House, (1932, dir. James Whale, USA) 
Adorable scary movie about travelers taking shelter in an old dark house

3. Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975, dir. Jim Sharman, UK/USA)
Adorable musical about about travelers taking shelter in an old dark house, in the campy style of Whale, with benefits.


1, 2. Singing in the Rain / Bandwagon 
Consider fast-forwarding through the talking parts of these song-and-dance classics. Of course the stars are Fred Astaire & Gene Kelly, but Cyd Charisse and Donald O'Connor are pure pleasure too.
Cyd Charisse & Fred Astaire ^ "Dancing in the Dark", Bandwagon

3. Pina (2011, dir Wim Wenders, Germany) 
The trailer is good.
Documentary about the  choreographer Pina Bausch. I don't care much about dance, but hers was something more. I first saw her dances in the Pedro Almodóvar's film Talk to Her.

4. Pedro Almodóvar's All About My Mother (1999, Spain)   
No dance, but plenty of theater:
Almodóvar dedicates this film, "To all actresses who have played actresses. To all women who act. To men who act and become women. To all the people who want to be mothers. To my mother."

Speaking of transgenderism, Antonia San Juan as "La Agrado" gives a great speech about being authentic in your body (and how much it costs).
"... because you are more authentic the more you resemble what you've dreamed of being."

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

I want a healthcare companion too!

If you like lovable puffy companions in anxiety, such as the Moomin or Totoro, like I do, you will love Baymax, the robot hero of Big Hero 6.

This is the story's set up (image via): 
The Hamada brothers have responded differently to the death of their parents ten years earlier. Big brother Tadashi has created Baymax, a "healthcare companion" who only wants to help, and little brother Hiro creates fighting bots who only want to win. 

No spoilers, but guess who wins.

Tadashi is voiced by Daniel Henney, who I know from Tintorera is one of the most beautiful people on the planet. In fact, I'd avoided the movie in the theaters because I don't often like animation, and one reason I finally gave it a try is because she keeps posting photos of this guy. 

I'm particularly fond of Henney in these striped pants:

The brothers have a fantastic crew of nerd friends too. 

My favorites are bicycle-designer Gogo Tomago (she says, "Quit wining! Woman up!") and Wasabi, a timid nerd who designs lasers. I vote his wasabi-colored sweater as Best Sweater Ever.

There's a lot to love here––including the fact that nothing annoyed me–– 
unlike two very good films out this summer: 
Inside Out, which I like because it champions sadness, but I didn't like that it left me wondering why the characters who act out the adults' emotions were all [or rather, as Michael points out in the comments here, they all present as] the same sex as the adult, while the girl's emotions are mixed sex--are we supposed to solidify as we age?;

. . . and the otherwise crazy-excellent Mad Max: Fury Road, with its, shall I say, failure of imagination around race, which annoys me no matter how generously I read it (the Citadel-dwellers appear to be Nordic supremacists, but why are the Many Mothers all white?)––

 but, anyway, I guess my favorite thing in Big Hero 6 is when Hiro is urging Baymax to run faster to escape the bad robots, and Baymax tootling along on its little legs calmly says, 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Currants, Currents

I. Currants

A side-benefit of having artist friends is that sometimes they make you into art. 
Laura watercolored this postcard of me, after I fed her tuna noodle casserole last night. (My downstairs neighbors are out of town, and we were painting on their deck).

I like how she's depicted how plump I've become: I look like a juicy berry!

I was painting red currants I'd brought home from a restaurant. v

Laura is a gardener as well as an artist, and she told me this is a "raceme" of currants; that is, a cluster of fruit on a single stem. (As opposed to their relative the gooseberry, which has one fruit per stem.)

II. Currents

Speaking of the arrangement of reproductive organs . . . I'd written a couple days ago about my fears that trans/genderism might be reinforcing a false association:

Girls like pink.
I like pink.
Therefore I'm a girl.

That it can look that way is a concern of mine.  It reminds me uncomfortably of people accusing lesbians of really just wanting to be men.

But omg, I am not au courant in gender theory:
I had no idea that a raceme of radical feminists have taken that concern of mine to extremes and claim that gender reassignment is mutilation and, therefore, trans women are mutilated men.

--from the New Yorker article, "What Is a Woman? The dispute between radical feminism and transgenderism."

OMG, no! I want to say clearly that I do NOT (not, not, not!) subscribe to that view. 

I do want society to get it that a woman can, say, dress in a top hat, white tie, and tails, or a man wear a Hello Kitty tutu and totally love being their sex & gender. 

But if some people can't get that, that's not the fault of the trans community! (I fear I maybe implied that it was.)

To me, the question of gender identity is somewhat like wearing a hijab:
what's most important isn't whether or not a woman chooses to cover her head; 
what's most important, I'd say, is that she––we, you and I––can freely choose to wear or not to wear a hijab, and that we not take that choice away from one another, even if we dislike the outcome.

I found something like this view in an interview with "Judith Butler on gender and the trans experience". Butler (who I've never read before) says:

"Whether one wants to be free to live out a “hard-wired” sense of sex or a more fluid sense of gender is less important than the right to be free to live it out, without discrimination, harassment, injury, pathologization or criminalization – and with full institutional and community support. 
That is most important in my view."
I'd like to quote Voltaire again and say that whether or not "I disapprove of what you say, ... I will defend to the death your right to say it."

(Though don't hold me to that "death" thing.)

But it turns out he didn't say it.

I'm always wary of quotes you find on refrigerator magnets––half the time they're misattributed––so I googled it.

Sure enough, this line wasn't said by Voltaire, it was said about Voltaire––by biographer
Beatrice Evelyn Hall, according to this article. (Closer than some wrong citations, anyway.) (Oooh, the article cites a whole book of such flubs: What they Didn’t Say – A Book of Misquotations, edited by Elizabeth Knowles.)

The article goes on to say, "If you want to quote Voltaire on free speech, here’s something that he did write once, in his 1763 Treatise on Toleration
 “The supposed right of intolerance is absurd and barbaric. It is the right of the tiger; nay, it is far worse, for tigers do but tear in order to have food, while we rend each other for paragraphs.”

Paragraphs or headscarves or gender... As Voltaire also didn't say,
"What a fuss about an omelette."

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Reprieve; Cultivate Your Own Garden

Denise just wrote that after doing more research, she doesn't want to bike into winds and over hills, up the West Coast either!

Good! no disappointment on either side.

She said she's going to stay home in San Diego and garden.

Excellent. As that great philospher Captain Kirk, said, "We must tend our own garden."
[Yeah, it was Voltaire, but Kirk practically says as much in the episode "This Side of Paradise."]

"Cultivate your own garden."

I hear this as:
Do my work; 
take some action (ride a bike, search for a job, clean/repair the house)

Do my work; 
i.e., not other people's, as in, Let them attend to their own work.

Do my work
create, as opposed to consume


Tractor Balm for Soreness

After six days in a row biking 10–, 15–, 20 miles/day, my wrists, butt, & knees were pretty sore, so I took a day off yesterday.

I'm feeling fine today, but the thing is, while I don't have to be in great shape, I'm seeing (feeling!) just how dough-y I am, and I don't think ten days is going to be enough to get in decent enough shape for a cycle trip up the West Coast--with someone else

If it was just me, I could go 20 miles/day, but my friend is lighter, younger, and fitter than me, and while she's said she's willing to slow down, I know I'd push myself to go farther, faster--at her speed, not mine.

So, I'm thinking I'll go with Plan B and explore my own state, with the goal of taking a longer trip in six weeks or so, not two.
This coming week, I plan to bike the 24-mile trail to a river town, and have a friend pick me up at the end. 
Then I'll try biking it round-trip.

I asked a friend who'd biked across America on the 1976 Bikecentennial (now Adventure Cycling) for tips, and she recommended, among other things, Corona Ointment for sore bums. It's a livestock balm, and you can buy it online at the Tractor Supply Store. 

I'm not biking enough mileage to need it (yet?), but I'd like to be able to say I get my supplies from a tractor store.

Sardines for Sadness?

My life feels kinda sore too, and there's no tractor balm for that. Well, there's beer. (And sardines? Do they apply to sadness?) 

But the best plan, I learned on Camino, is just to keep going . . . and at my own speed. 

This may sound obvious (?), but it's comforting to me to remember that the road keeps going, and, as this Camino graffiti says, going at your own speed is best. 

This can include sitting still and letting other people walk––or bike–– on by.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

I Can Make This Work

My friend Denise has invited me to cycle up the West Coast with her, from her home in San Diego into Oregon.

The last time I biked long-distance, I was 20 pounds and 30 years lighter:
when I was twenty-four, bink and I cycled around Ireland for a month. 
We just did it, left home with no physical preparation at all, and that worked just fine.

Now, I'm not in great shape, and I'd only have two weeks to prepare.

I've been asking people, Should I go?

The answers reveal personality as much as knowledge.

Friend #1 gave a cautious go-ahead ("it'd be an adventure..."), and then brought up a dozen practical concerns. 

Friend #2 said, "THIS IS A DISASTER!" And listed a dozen things that he was sure could and probably would go wrong. 

Friend #3, a big cyclist, who I ran into while we were both biking, said, "Go! It doesn't matter that you're not in shape; you are standing here with a bike, that's good enough! Get a cell phone before you go, but please go! "

Friend #4, another experienced bike-tripper, said, "The question isn't your fitness, the question is your companion: would you travel well together? I can lend you a one-person tent so you can be independent."

Friend #5 said, "I can't bike anymore since I hurt my back. Go now, while you can."

It was Friend #2 (his unequivocal no!) and Friend #4 (her unequivocal yes!) who made me decide to give it my best try over the next week:
I will do least one 50-mile day, and every day I will bike some steep hills (in short supply here on the plains, but there are a couple nearby that I could go up and down, over and over).

I told Denise that if, after one week, my heart and knees have not exploded, I would commit to the first 250 miles, from San Diego up to Santa Barbara (about one week)--taking along Friend #4's wee tent.

It gets hillier, north of Santa Barbara, and I'd either stop there or, from there on, take it one day at a time. (I would like to bike through the redwoods...)

I'd really like a cycling adventure to clear my heart & mind. 
Then when I got home, most likely to an empty apartment, I'd get serious about job hunting. [I know I've said this before, but now I'd absolutely have to!]

So, if I don't do this West Coast trip, I'm going to plan a shorter, flatter cycling trip here---say, up to Duluth and back (about 300 miles, RT).

William Shatner provides me best encouragement of all--his repeated mantra: 

"I can make this work."

Make what work, and how, is up to me. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Come back to the ship again, Spock honey!

Kirk (in white space suit) goes to Spock's rescue, in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979).

Reference to Leslie Fiedler's 1948 essay “Come Back to the Raft Ag'in, Huck Honey!" about American's “national myth of masculine love,” as illustrated by the homoerotic subtext of Huckleberry Finn.

I'm not the first to make the connection to Fiedler's essay-- Time referenced it when they listed Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock in the couples section of their book, 100 Most Influential People Who Never Existed (2013). 
K/S are even an interracial pair, like Huck and Jim––or, rather, since Spock is half-Vulcan, interspecific (the term for "occurring between species").

Monday, July 13, 2015


Rosamunde Pilcher.
Even when my brain is melting.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

What I'm Reading When It's 90ºF, 73 Dew Point

I biked 15 miles today, our first really hot & humid day. 
Biking's the perfect thing to do when I'm  feeling sad: the wheels keep spinning, and the brain stops. I dropped in on my friend Laura, and she gave me raspberry lemonade made with her own berries. Restorative!

Then I came home and took a cold shower, installed the Magical Box in the window (why do I always wait until it's lethally hot to do this?), and bummed a Rosamunde Pilcher book from my nice neighbor. Perfect for my mush brain.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Start of the Mx Honey Badger Long-Distance Tour

I. A Fierce Farewell to Garbage

Me in my new thrift store T-shirt (last week, before I cut my hair) >

The T-shirt reads "Honey Badger Don't Care"--a phrase, you probably know, from a whacky redub of a National Geographic video. 

I don't care about the meme of it, I just like honey badgers for the reason I suppose a lot of people do: 
they are small and fierce, and those of us who sometimes feel small would like some of their fierceness. 

I first met honey badgers as the only good thing in the terrible movie The Gods Must Be Crazy II:  a badger falls in love with a guy's boot and follows it around and won't give up.
Then a South African woman on Camino told me her son was nicknamed honey badger, because he would never give up.

Sometimes giving up takes some bravery too:

Today, I screwed up my courage and let the publisher know I can't write the Garbage book after all. 
I'm embarrassed because I've held onto it for a couple (three) months;  I'm hoping that's not a big deal for them because it's in line for 2017, so there's plenty of time to give it to another author in their stable.

I told the managing editor the truth:
"I know other authors like P. & A. can handle this sort of material, and I hope they can take it on, but it just makes me hate life. 

Garbage shows up the worst of us humans:
our rapacious greed and deadly short-sightedness that create the kind of desperate poverty that forces other humans to spend their lives in e-waste hell, dipping with their bare hands our discarded cell phones in acid."
I don't know how other people can stand to live with subjects like this for the time it takes to write a book. 
Am I unusually "sensitive"?

I've never been suicidal, but I started to think about how my mother left open on her bedside table the New Yorker's photo essay on war,  when she killed herself. 
It pays to be careful how much you flood your system with horror.

I don't know how people can stand to read the news every day either. I do want to know the basics, and those you can't really avoid anyway. But I just start to feel paralyzing despair if I look too closely for too long.

I'm more effective with little, close-up acts of goodness, like helping people at the thrift store.

II. Mx and Match

 Here's a fun bit of news that popped up when I was using the Webster's online dictionary:
they list the gender-neutral honorific "Mx" under Words at Play/Words We're Watching.

I'm all for playing around with norms, and I like Mx a lot, 
but I'm an old-school 1970's-style feminist:
we championed the ideal of changing society, changing our views of how biology defines us.

We used to have a slogan, "biology is not destiny".
Actually, I used to and still do think that's incredibly naive, but the idea was, society should change, not our bodies, and I still lean toward that.

Now people change their biology with surgery and chemicals.
I'm all for self-determination and the alleviation of suffering, so it's great that's possible, but this cause (as I've seen it so far) is just not near and dear to my heart.

Like, good for Mx Jenner for being brave and true to herself, but I can't get behind her Vanity Fair photo shoot that spreads a message that being female = lingerie wearing.

And, omg, the money... You could pay for hundreds, probably thousands, of wells for clean water with the money Mx Jenner spent. 

It's times like this that I feel Catholic. Not in terms of Catholic sexual politics, which pretty much [but not entirely] stink, but in the Catholic view of resources:
Love is infinite.
Food, clean water, housing, and health care, however, are limited, and we should focus on learning to share them. 

Well, it's early days yet; we'll see how this gender stuff all comes out in the wash. 
I'm really hoping it turns out to create greater liberation and authenticity for everyone and doesn't instead end up further solidifying gender roles and materialistic determination.

III. So, What Now?

So, now I'm not writing the Garbage book, I need to get serious about getting a job. I still have occasional short-term publishing projects---proofreading, indexing, and the like--but not enough to live on.

(I didn't get an interview for the County job I'd applied for last month. I suspect I somehow knocked myself out of the running by screwing up the computer-analyzed online application. 
Someone told me, for instance, that in some cases, if they ask for "3–5 years" experience and you write "10 years" that can disqualify you. I must look into this whole thing more...)

Money is going to matter a little more than before because Marz just told me she's moving out, she hopes in August, so I'll be paying all the rent. It's still reasonable ($475 = cheap for this city), but it's been great to have only paid half that for the past four years: 
so much freedom from financial stress!

I'm really feeling tossed up in the air and can't quite get my emotional bearings.

On the one hand, I feel liberated:
from the garbage book, which was seriously depressing me;

and from living with someone who didn't want to be living with me (ditto).

On the other hand, I feel lost and sad:
I'd thought Activities would be my work for the last 20 years of my working life, and that didn't pan out, and going back to writing schoolbooks wasn't ever my long-term goal anyway...
In fact, I don't have a long-term goal.

And while it'll be better if Marz and I don't live together, since she's unhappy here, it grieves me that it's turned out this way. Things had been hard off and on, but I had been happy living with Marz.

People who have kids tell me this is normal, but of course it's not normal to me. (Also, normal doesn't mean painless.)

This may sound bizarre (it does a bit, to me), but I've rarely been in the position of being left--unless I count my mother's death, which was a pretty dramatic departure, though I know it wasn't about me.

Otherwise, though, have I played it safe (maybe to avoid just such rejection)? Or have I just been lucky? 

I don't know, but this is situation calls for a skill I've not yet developed. 

I'm pretty plucky, though: I can figure it out.
I'm no honey badger, but unless I'm mired in garbage, I'm more of a dandelion than an orchid. 

IV.  Queen says, Get On Your Bike and Ride!

What I'm doing now is... getting back to biking.
Six months of biking to work got me into decent biking shape--a couple months off, and the parts have gone soft and the pounds have gone up.

I have this crazy attraction to the idea of biking across the United States next year, when I turn fifty-five. I really, really doubt I would actually do this. I did some long-distance biking in my twenties, and it's really, really surprisingly lonely

So, it's not that I think I'll actually get on my bike and ride across America, but the idea is so fun to think about.
And to research. 

Here's a cheering article from Adventure Cycling--it could apply to many undertakings in life:
"10 Things You Might Think You Need for a Long Distance Tour, but Don't"

Here's an encouraging one:

10. Physical Fitness 

Our first day on tour we did 13 miles. 13. You don’t need to be in great physical shape to do a tour. You can do 10 miles a day. You can be 80+ years old. You can be a paraplegic. Over the duration of our trip we heard about all of these situations, and the underlying theme throughout is that mental toughness trumps physical fitness.

Today I'm going to bike the chain of lakes---only about 10 miles, all bike path. 
You can call me Mx Honey Badger. 

Off I go!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Free Box

Tales from the Thrift

"What   i s   this?!" 

If there were a Song of the Thrift Herder, the phrase "what is this?" would have to feature in it; it's one of the most commonly repeated phrases in the basement of the thrift store, where we sort donations.

Often someone––staff member or customer–– will know what a mysterious item is, and I've learned all sorts of stuff.

That battery-operated thing that looks like a sex toy is a kitchen implement that you put in a pan of liquid you're heating up, so you don't have to stand there and stir it: 

it rotates on its own and keeps the milk or whatever from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

A gadget that looks like it's for car repairs is for sealing metal tops onto beer bottles.

This wooden egg on a stick goes inside a sock toe or heel that you're going to darn. 

Stuff that we thrift herders deem too obscure or too beat up to sell gets put in  recycling, the trash, or––my favorite–– a box that will eventually get transferred to the Free Box across from the check-out counter.

When I cashier, I'm interested to see what people rescue from the Free Box. 

(I get stuff from it too. An piece of antique china with a chip in it. An empty DVD case.)

Someone had worked on the toy donations this morning, and there was a ton of stuff in the Free Box this afternoon when I cashiered.

One woman enthusiastically showed me all the good stuff she'd found, including a rubbery manatee. *  >

"Oh, this manatee is cute," I said. 
"I'm not sure, but I think it's a tea strainer.  The tea leaves go in the bottom part, and you put it in boiling water and it doesn't melt because I'm pretty sure it's made out of silicon."

"Well, it's going to Africa," the woman said.  "It's for a mission that gives children Christmas presents."

"Oh, that's nice," I said. "Some kid will get a manatee..."

"Yes," she said, "and Jesus!"

"Ah. Jesus in a manatee," I said.

"Yes!" She put her manatee in a paper bag and happily went on her way.

Yes. Well. There you go. 
The answer to "what is this?" is not always what you might think.

* I found the photo of the manatee tea infuser on Etsy, where it was priced at $9.16.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

What I'm Reading

Molly Ivins: A Rebel Life, a biography by Bill Minutaglio & W. Michael Smith (2009)

I've often missed Molly Ivins's barbecued political writings, after she died in 2007, though there was such a long stretch there of nothing but bad news––wars, more wars, lies, and more lies––I wondered if even she could find humor in it. Probably she could have--that's what she did.

Much of what she said still applies, anyway.
"Next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please pay attention."
(Unlike his brother, Jeb! was even born in Texas.)

And unfortunately she was as correct as I'd feared she be at predicting the future of the wars--here, in 2003:
"I opposed the war in Iraq because I thought it would lead to the peace from hell...."
Unfortunately, she was wrong about Obama:
"Yes, he should run. He's the only Democrat with any Elvis to him."
I always saw Spock, not Elvis. (Kirk is Elvis.)

Much of my reading is serendipitous, and when I saw this bio of Ivins where I was house sitting, I was interested, since I knew nothing about her life. I hadn't even realized she suffered with alcoholism, badly, or that she had written for the Minneapolis Tribune newspaper when she was young and lived on Pillsbury Ave, which is half-a-block from me! 

Overall, reading Ivins is better than reading about her, but she's an inspiring outspoken woman, either way. 

I am inspired this morning to Wash and Paint My Kitchen Walls, which I have not done in a dozen years. 

Normally July has the worst weather for painting, the year's highest heat and humidity, but we're having a very weird cold front: 
this morning it is only 61ºF (16ºC) and due to rise only to 72º. 

So, up I go, onto the ladder, sponge in hand!