Tuesday, December 30, 2003

so many things we really don't control

My father grows less and less capable of using his right hand, a situation that I understood the doctors thought might have something to do with one of the chemotherapy drugs he was taking. So last week, they did an MRI on his brain. As of last night, when I had a rather clumsy phone conversation with my mother from the dripping stairway of the Civic Center BART station after a dance class, the results aren't back. Other than the news that he has carpal tunnel in both hands from so much keyboarding (he's fine at the computer, it's handwriting and gripping objects that fail him), we don't know anything yet.

The fear, of course, is that the cancer has metastasized and gone to his brain. I rather wish I would have had today free to really think about that, but I'd already promised Poi I'd go help him look at fabric for curtains. Strangely enough, this makes two days of the past three that I've spent most of the day helping a man shop, which is a whole 'nother thing, but I won't go there right now. So instead of sitting and letting myself have a reaction to the possibility, I've talked about it--briefly--with a few people. Mostly in the context of, well heck, I don't think I'm going to go look for an apartment yet after all, I think I'm going to see about putting all my stuff in storage and heading back to Detroit for a spell.

In some ways I'm totally prepared. It's frustrating to not have a "real" job with benefits and the kind of income I covet (especially after spending two days watching my employed friends shop, and wishing I could spend money without thinking about it so much), but the flip side is that if I need to jump, I can. Relatively easily, outside of the logistics of my stuff. If I leave the area for a while, it's not like my vaunted, much-beloved career as a waitress is going to be forever lost, for example. I made a point of trying to keep my life loose so I would have the flexibility to go home if I needed to.

What's getting me is that somehow, I still thought we had more time. And maybe we do, who knows? This could be some relatively benign thing (many things become benign when you compare them to cancer) and we could be worrying unnecessarily. For that matter, if it has gone to his brain, it can still be beaten. They have technology for that. But. But. But. Up until now the fact that my father has made it as long as it has can be attributed, as much as anything else, to will--my mother's in particular, but dad's as well, and that of his doctors, some of whom are phenomenal people by any standard. My mother was the one who first noticed that something was weird with dad's voice and made him see the doctor who found the first tumor, and like the warrior she is, she has pushed steadily for two years. I pity the doctor, pharmacist, or assistant who has given less than their all to the project of healing my dad and had to contend with my mother.

No. Scratch that. I don't pity them at all. I'm impressed as hell with my mom, and I don't think my father could have a greater champion. As the cancer has burned away the superfluous in him, revealing him as a manifestation of grace, it has done a similar thing to her; every day she becomes more clearly the embodiment of love. Not necessarily that pinkish, lacy kind. The harder, fiercer kind that comes in darker, more saturated colors; the sort you might find inside the body where this fight is taking place.

Her strength; and his equilibrium; and the doctors with their radiation, and bags of fluid, and pills that cost more per ounce than most street drugs; and whatever little I have done and will do (mostly finding ways to stuff him full of calories, peeling potatoes and grating cheese without crying). All of these things taken together still serve as no guarantee that we are really in control of anything. We do our best to slow it down, to distract it, to cut away what we can and stifle what we can't.

But none of this means we can plan or anticipate. It's not like figuring out what classes you're going to take to fulfill your major, and in what order. It's not like breaking a project down into steps and ticking off the steps as we complete them. Cancer does what it wants, when it wants, on its own quixotic schedule.

I hope to hell this isn't what we're afraid it is. I am not ready.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

nihongo ga joozu ja arimasen

Something that's bumming me out about moving out of my place is that I'm really enjoying Ohayoo. He has a friend visiting from Shizuoka, and she and I tried to have a conversation this morning while Ohayoo laughed and stirred fried rice at the stove. I studied Japanese for a couple of years in college, but it's all gone now; of all the things I've stuffed into my brain in the past thirty-odd years, why did I have to hold on to all those cereal commercial theme songs and lose the Japanese?

Anyway, Sayaka is a charming young woman, she likes the Haight-Ashbury very much, and hopefully tomorrow it won't be raining. That's the grand sum total of our communication. After she left the kitchen, Ohayoo turned around and said, "I'm listening, but I'm trying not to help." I couldn't tell which of us he was trying to force to practice--Sayaka her English, or me my Japanese? It turned out that he was making some kind of fried rice with Spam and things. He let it cool, and then he made four little packets shaped like pie wedges by filling a square of plastic wrap with rice, and then swiftly shaping it with his hands. When I asked, he told me he was bringing them to a friend who has to work in an office today, as a treat. What a sweetie!

My friend Risk, the only person I really keep in touch with from high school, is coming through town on the 31st. He has an 11-hour layover between Washington and Australia, and several friends in the Bay Area he wants to see, so he's going to BART into the Mission and hang out in a coffeeshop for a few hours, hold court. Introduce us to each other. I'm getting excited to see him. Risk and I had the kind of friendship that you usually see among girls--you know, hanging out on the phone all night, "you hang up first," "no you", like that. And then he graduated and I didn't see him for eleven years, until I needed a place to recuperate in Europe and he was working in Brussels, so I visited him there.

The thing that impressed both of us was that it was if those years hadn't passed. He met me at the train station, and of course I'd worried that I wouldn't recognize him, but he looked pretty much the same. And conversationally, we picked up pretty much where we'd left off at the wedding of a mutual friend--when I was 18. Of course, we had a lot to catch up on, but it was really nice to see that he was at heart the same decent, intelligent person he'd always been.

Brussels was an interesting visit all the way around. I was recovering from a bad Lariam experience, so I spent a lot of time in Risk's flat with his cats, working my way through his chocolate stash and his science fiction novels. Occasionally I would go out and take pictures of decorative ironwork (which I look at with great puzzlement today), eat pitas stuffed with corn, and visit galleries specializing in African art. It's a mixed thing, that last; I loved being able to see those pieces, but my awareness that they came to be in Belgium as a result of a particularly bloody colonial presence (King Leopold was anything but benign) was sobering. I also toured a chocolate museum, made the obligatory visits to the statues of peeing children, and got to see a solar eclipse (the photos of which I'm much happier with than those of the ironwork). I highly recommend Brussels for anyone who's getting worn out with Europe--the pace isn't so crazy, and you don't feel like you have to move-move-move the whole time you're there. Also, they have fruit-flavored beer.

It will be good to see Risk, and then go to my friends' parties. Last year's New Year was an awkward, anxious, and ultimately sad affair that ended in my driving a retching, viral E back from Santa Cruz and getting dumped a few days later after he'd recovered enough to do it. This whole month has been saturated with sadness, I'll be glad to have done with it. Having my friends around is making a huge difference.

Monday, December 22, 2003


I've lived here too long.

I just sat through two earthquakes, the first a 4.7, the second a 6.5, without a reaction. They were down in Central Cal, of course; pretty weak up here, but still. There's no way of knowing that when you feel the first one. Sometimes the second's a lot bigger, and of course there are aftershocks.

I was sitting on my little bed, with my little red plastic IKEA bed table popped up over my legs, working on my laptop. When the shaking started, I thought, gee, I guess I should go stand in the doorway.

Or at least I should probably blow that candle out.

Naw. I'd have to move the computer and everything, and I'm almost done with this paragraph.

Weird few days here. Strange electrical fields, maybe, a disturbance in the force. Two nights ago the lights went out as we were getting a party set up for some wealthy regular clients. They flipped, we stayed calm; most of our cooking is done with Sterno anyway, and if you're accustomed to regularly staging elaborate parties in temporary locations, working by candlelight in a real kitchen is still an improvement on being in a tent in a parking lot. The power went out all over the city, and hasn't come back everywhere yet; there were still lights out downtown last night and around Civic Center. Cops directing traffic. I'm also noticing that my WiFi connection has been really patchy this session. I should stop re-reading the 'Invisibles' graphic novels ArchitectX has been feeding me; I'm seeing ultraterrestrial conspiracy everywhere. Tom Ridge sees terrorists, I see Archons.

Anyway, the USGS has a cool site where you can find out about your earthquake in real time, and tell them about your experience of it for their calculations. So far, I'm the only person who's responded from this zip code. I am amazed. I mean, you'd think everyone would drop everything to touch base with the USGS, you know, check in.

Which reminds me. Last night, AX and I were driving around, trying to find Picasso's house. "Look!" I said, pointing, and feeling a lot like a little kid. "Airstreams! Two of them!"

"And people ask why I like you," he said.

I know it's hard for some folks to follow my mind. When I visualize my mind, it's a sort of shiny greenish bird that's been fed too much caffeine and can't hold still. My mom's the same way; long ago we had to cut a deal with my father that we would make some kind of noise, like the car backing-up beep, to indicate that the subject had changed, so he didn't get lost. He's an intelligent man, is Dad, but his mind is a very different animal.

So AX and I finally found Picasso, who marched us at gunpoint to a Moroccan tapas sort of place and forced us to eat delicious things like prawns grilled with lemon-sumac gremolata. AX's best friend and her affianced were there, exhausted from a day of nesting, and the five of us had the sort of conversation that my little green bird loves. I couldn't really keep up, however; I was still suffering from pre-holiday-get-shit-done sleep dep, two hours trudging in circles through the Dickens Faire dressed like a nineteenth-century Romani (the important detail here being that I was doing it in boots that don't care for the floor of the Cow Palace, even covered in sawdust), an intense play about wrongly accused people on death row, and then rushing around watching AX do his holiday shopping. Fortunately nobody else seemed to be firing on all their cylinders either; but as Pavlova noted, as long as one person at the table knew the answer to whatever esoteric question had been raised, we were fine. We're not quite ready to field a Trivial Pursuits team, however, as none of us know anything about sports.

Now that I've turned in my piece about fad diets (do not EVEN get me started on Olestra) the week stretches ahead of me without a single work commitment. I can't even begin to fathom it. I haven't had this much time to myself in months. Tomorrow I'm going down the coast a piece, stay in a youth hostel a couple of nights, go out and visit the otters and egrets and elephant seals at Ano Nuevo. This is the elephant seal breeding season, which is about as noisy a spectacle as you might imagine. They migrate, you know; they've been spotted as far north as Alaska, so when they do come to land they hang out and get fat to prepare themselves for months in the cold water. I'm bringing all the silliest books I can find, none of which will be about theater or dieting, and I'm going to read in the sand dunes and draw bad pictures of birds. Merry flippin' Christmas! I did roughly the same thing last year, around Thanksgiving, and it was so restorative. I had two conversations in three days--one with the elephant seal expert, and one with a fellow hosteller about environmentally sound building practices. Otherwise I was quiet and still and loved it. This year I understand that the hot tub is working (!), better and better.

I suppose before I go, I should move as much of my stuff out of the house and into my studio as I can, so that I'm not coming back to face that particular task, but I am feeling supremely unmotivated to do anything more complicated than microwaving a Gardenburger and going back to bed.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

five golden toques

I wish you could hear Princess doing his mother's voice saying, "I just love Christmas music. I wish we could listen to it all year!" Princess is one of the sweetest, best people I know, hands down, and even when he's catty it's not like a nasty big cat, it's more like a fluffy kitty with a bow in its fur (god, he's going to shoot me). Even making fun of his mom, he does it lovingly.

Every year at this time, I've got this in my head.

Yesterday, I had the music itself pouring endlessly all over me. I try to stay out of stores after, oh, Halloween, to avoid the 1001 Strings versions of Little Drummer Boy and all the rest of it, but I really needed some office supplies. So there I was in Staples, gritting my teeth through the third version of "Let It Snow" they have on their tape over there and remembering my one professional foray into Yuletide retail, lo those many years ago when I worked at the Stonestown mall one Xmas. Ugh.

And then something came on I could relate to. I wonder if anyone else automatically substitutes "five golden toques" when they hear "The Twelve Days of Christmas"? Does anyone else remember Doug and Bob MacKenzie? Hey hoser, am I totally showing my age?

I feel like I'm also showing my provenance. Like, having this meme stuck in me will further the fiction that I'm Canadian. I didn't know this, but apparently the word "washroom" is a shibboleth indicating Canadianhood, and I regularly use "washroom". Growing up on the border confuses the issue, I guess.

Feeling particularly inane today. I had all these things I wanted to write about, but then I visited the raunchy, hilarious Pussy Ranch and she's so funny that I'm just feeling, well, maybe I'd better go take my shower and get ready for work and let someone else be amusing today.

Hark the herald angels and all that.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

I love candy

The troublemakers over at Misanthropicity have posted something that's tickling me. For your delectation, a fable
all-time favorite hits I don't own

Just between you and I. Don't tell, some of these are embarrassing.

Golden Earring, Twilight Zone
Howard DeVoto, The Rainy Season
Ocean Blue, The Captain of Her Heart
Alphaville, Big in Japan
whoever it was that did Lunatic Fringe
The Divinyls, I Touch Myself
A-Ha, Take on Me
Live, pretty much their whole first album
The Eagles, Hotel California
Gipsy Kings, Hotel California (see a pattern? no?)
Almost everything Adam Ant ever did, or at least up to and including Friend or Foe. After that, he pretty much jumped the shark with Viva le Rock, and whatever the one was right before that.

I'm trying to decide if it's worth getting into the whole file-sharing thing by making a list of songs I'm looking for. You know, the songs that if you hear them on the radio in your car, make you swing your head around and frighten other drivers.

My first real meal, post-chorizo incident: Pad See Ew, at King of Thai. I always bring a book when I go there, and never end up reading it; tonight that would be because they had the television turned to "Blind Date," a show I hadn't seen before. I wish I lived in LA so I could be on the show! It would make as much sense as anything else I do with my time. And then, as I was finishing my Thai iced tea, "Ex-Treme Dating" came on. The hostess seemed too mindless to maintain the brain function required to hold herself up, but the concept--like "Blind Date" except that one of the daters has an earpiece transmitting catty comments from the other dater's exes--reminded me a lot of a play I once thought about writing, so I watched for a while.

Can you imagine? I started to ponder which exes I would suggest to the producers, were I to go on the show, and what they would say about me. You really don't want to go there. The date they showed--between a very cute personal trainer and a nice-enough seeming professional bowler with a bit of a vision problem regarding himself--looked like it was going okay, until one of the offstage commentators told the guy to ask the woman about the time she stuck a fork in a guy's head on a first date.

Geez, aren't first dates hard enough? Of course, she was also doing this weird thing where she was deep-throating the egg rolls and asking this poor sap whether he was more like an egg roll or some other piece of food off her plate (I couldn't tell what it was, but I think it was a bit of deep-friend meat.) She must have thought the whole display was cute and spontaneous and flirty, but it was just weird; especially as bits of the egg roll were falling off her chin. I shuddered to think of every thing I've ever done that I thought was cute and spontaneous and flirty on a date, but probably came off as mildly psychotic.

This is why I don't own a tv. I get sucked in by this inane crap and afterwards feel like I've had the vital energy sucked out of me. Jerry Mander and his Four Arguments For the Elmination of Television aside, I just don't feel like I have the time in my life or the energy to sacrifice to the glass teat.

The first big dose of tv I had in several years came earlier this year, when LabRat had to have some outpatient surgery. I brought him home from the hospital, and decided to hang around until his roommates got home. So we watched his DVDs of Thunderbirds, and then it was the Discovery Channel doing something about Stonehenge that was sort of interesting, and then we watched:

Pet Psychic.


As I said, life is too short. And after THAT we watched Joe Millionaire, by which time LabRat's official painkillers were wearing off and his roommates were firmly in attendance. So I skedaddled, shaking my head in disbelief.

Eventually I have to go home and face the Howlers. God, they must be asleep by now, right? I started thinking today about looking for a studio apartment, and consolidating my living space and office/studio space again. Studio because I may just need to live by myself after this whole fiasco with Mama Bear and the Howlers and the skinny pothead boyfriend, consolidating to minimize costs. I can't really afford to live alone, but can my sanity afford to live with other people? Maybe I just need a place where I can let the egg roll dribble off my chin in peace.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

the lagomorph fights back

Remember that big chorizo burrito a couple of days ago?

I sure do. Because either it, or perhaps the pizza I had later that night (I know, I know, don't say it) has put up one hell of a fight, and I've been in some serious gastrointestinal distress for two days now. Fortunately I was able to get LabRat to teach my class yesterday. I didn't think being on the mat was the best idea, the shape I was in. I've been eating very sparingly--mostly apples, and the chocolates Almeida gave me for my birthday, and swearing that I will never touch meat again.

We'll see how long that lasts.

I keep meaning to mention this woman I saw on BART. Tall, reasonably well-groomed, but the most frightening toenails visible from under the skinny straps of her shoes. I mean, they were neatly polished (mauve), but they were long, long enough to seriously threaten the structural integrity of her pantyhose. I was fascinated and grossed out at the same time. All I could think about was how afraid I would be to be in bed with those long toenails. I couldn't stop staring at them.

The other excitement, and the reason I'm loath to go home, is that Mama Bear has lived up to her name and threatened to strike me if I speak to her child again. The background: Big Howler is feverish, and spent the night screaming. The whole night. I would have more sympathy (and I do have some, mind) except that Mama Bear has apparently taught her children that screaming is a more acceptable way of getting someone's attention that getting up off your little ass and walking down the hall and knocking on a door. I mean, they scream all the freaking time, sick, healthy, asleep, awake. And I have it on good authority that all children do not scream; this is not necessarily a given. So anyway, we were all up last night--Big Howler screaming, Mama Bear yelling at her to stop screaming, Ohayoo and his out-of-town guest listening to jazz and speaking loudly in Japanese, and yours truly, desperately trying to get an article done to catch the early holiday deadline and occasionally making a mad dash to the washroom.

So this morning, a friend of Mama Bear's came over to take Little Howler out to the park, but it seems they couldn't find it or something, and they came back almost immediately. And I got to listen to the discussion, right outside my door, about whether there's a park on that corner or not, and Little Howler decided to start, well, howling, that she didn't want to go to that park. And I couldn't stand it any more. So I opened my door, and asked Little Howler if she could scale it down just a little for a few minutes, while I finished my work. Which was when Mama Bear threatened to smack me. "I'm talking to my friend!" she said. Well, yes, I fucking KNOW that, how can I miss it, happening at full volume outside my door? I mean, my tone with Little Howler may not have been as sweet as it might (I tend to talk to children as if they are adults, and usually it works) have been and I do feel bad for Mama Bear, who isn't well either, but come on. Smack me? I'd like to see her try. Although she outweighs me by sixty pounds, I could take her, easy. And her skinny boyfriend, while I'm at it.

I am so glad that I'm moving out of there.

Things that just sound odd: Johnny Cash singing "playing Jesus to the lepers in your head."

I still haven't heard about Brazil, and it's two days after the foundation's deadline. I assume this means they chose someone else and I'm not going, but it would be nice to hear it from them.

Monday, December 15, 2003

still no word

I'm getting a little antsy about Brazil.

I was up way too late writing an essay about race and childhood. Well, to be totally honest, I was up way too late alternating Spider Solitaire and paragraphs of essay. I wasn't totally committed to finishing the latter, but eventually I figured what the hell, do it. You've been thinking about it long enough. If it gets chosen for the anthology, that's a hundred bucks and a couple of contributor's copies, and (more importantly) my name in print in another market. This is going to be the year I collect some scalps; I'm aiming for twelve new markets (roughly one a month) so I can list something on my resume besides "has also written for Hinduism Today."

Hippo came up from the south for lunch, and I introduced him to chorizo. I was probably way too jagged to be any fun, but he seemed okay with my wackiness. I have not, however, gotten the nap I was hoping to take before modeling tonight, and I can tell that my burrito has made me an entirely different shape. I feel like a python that has just swallowed some massive lagomorph.

Kern's apricot juice. Cold fingers (Mama Bear still has not managed to get PG&E out to turn on the heat; I am about to hire someone myself if that's what it takes) and nose tip. Off to work.

Sunday, December 14, 2003


Still waiting to hear about Brazil. Tomorrow is the day by which they announce their selection. Almeida reassures me that my topic is interesting, and I fantasize about asking the cute Brazilian who works at the pizza place across the street from my house to help me learn Portuguese.

One more day. Grrrr.

Bizarre weekend of work, involving a great many things catching on fire. I will write more later, but as friendly as the Goth barrista is to me (we have a certain service worker camaraderie), eventually he's going to boot my butt out of here. Also I have an essay to go write. I am wired on mocha. A friend has loaned me a car for a month (!) and I am tempted to drive around all night simply because I can. It's not currently raining, and yesterday I spent a whole bunch of money on a bottle of expensive perfume for my birthday and I've been thinking a lot about female identity again. Just looked at a (male) friend's blog for the first time and realized that we are sort of like the two sides of the same coin in where we are and what we're thinking about right now, which was very interesting. Or maybe the same side of two different coins. Huh.

Must go home and ride this wave.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Snufkina, Mike, and Princess save the day

I know there's some interest in how I am going to write about my birthday. At least, I know I'm curious, and the two of you who were there for the piece de resistance that capped off the single worst birthday I have ever spent certainly seemed curious. Speaking of which, Mike, I'm so sorry about all that howling I did in your car after unexpectedly seeing the man I'd been stressing out about all day, for the first time since we broke up all those months ago. In the company of the one person I have good reason to believe hates my guts (versus all those people who probably just hate some smaller part of me, like my Islet of Langerhans, say, or my tragus, or perhaps the tiny bones in my ears.) Please tell your lovely wife that I am not usually quite so much of a freak. Ahem.

But I find that the whole fiasco of the day just begs to be written in a very specific and humorous way that requires more energy than I have right now. Also, I am still vaguely hung over from all that vodka (two shots! Watch out, I'm a lush!) and I just worked a Christmas party where I ate too many desserts and I am exhausted.

So I'll say this. For now. The day started badly and promised to end worse, but thankfully Snufkina was with me for the last several hours--even if she couldn't prevent me from accidentally cutting myself with my own fingernail, fercryinoutloud--and she brought flowers and cookies and a big warm heart. And after Mike had dropped us off at Dalva, Princess came out to meet us, bearing gifts (including the one for last year's birthday) and looking cute in his little round glasses. The two of them, who hadn't met before, hit it off instantly, and then we slid past the bouncer who had offered to give me my birthday spankings and went to another bar where Snufkina's honey tried to refine my pool-playing technique (did I mention that I won? But only because he scratched on the 8. Although I'd been holding my own up until that point) and their friend the doorman fed me quarters so I could kill plenty of nasty Area 51 aliens. Area 51, one of the most fabulous ways to waste quarters ever invented, and the only video game I can say I'm any good at. Now that it's so hard to find a Joust machine anywhere. Anyway, I am currently number 6 on the highscore list at Bender's.

So that would be Sergeant Major Indri to you, soldier. At one point I was up to 65% accuracy!--astonishing. I have learned several useful things. One, I am a better shooter drunk than sober. Two, the edges of my ears turn red and get very hot under those same circumstances, but not necessarily both ears. At one rather disorienting moment, a whole bunch of drunk people seemed to be squeezing my ears to ascertain which was the hottest. Finally we all dispersed, and Snufkina and her snortling, warfling, wrinkly pups walked me home and made sure I got my key in the door properly and so on.

Some theater people believe that a bad dress rehearsal presages an awesome opening night. So I'm telling myself that my birthday was the dress rehearsal for the year. I really hope my thirty-fifth year is a little better than the couple preceding it... although I recognize that I've had some wonderful things happen, and I've done some things I'm happy about, it just seems like I've had enough grief for a while. I could use some good news. Like, oh, my father's cancer going into remission for a dozen years. My soulmate finally getting on the right bus and showing up. A huge apartment with cheap rent and decent water pressure. Getting chosen for Brazil would be nice right about now (and I should know by Monday, eek.) Like that. One truly good thing that doesn't flippin' melt away on me.

Something I wanted to write about sooner, but got distracted. The other night I was burning my very first CD, music for modeling, and the first track I put on was Zoltan somebody and his gypsy orchestra doing "Dark Eyes", which is of course Hungarian (and which I believe the Elvises have covered), and of course there's that wonderful, sad movie by the same title with Marcello Mastroianni. I really like this song, and (having dark eyes myself) have started to identify with it. So anyway, a day later, I was coming home late from class, and as the escalator at the 24th Street BART station pulled up even with the main level I heard familiar music... and there were three guys playing the same song, on mandolin, violin, and guitar. What are the chances of that? As I was heading up out of the station into the rainy evening, I turned back to look, and a young man in a light blue raincoat and dark blue backpack was spinning ecstatically to the music, his backpack bouncing.

I used to think it would be really cool if every person had their own musician walking around behind them, playing their theme music. This was a lot like that.

This is a truly amazing city.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

I am now officially leaving my Jesus year


Tomorow is my birthday. Three-four. Not quite on the dowhill slope to forty and still getting carded, hallelujah.

This morning I made the mistake of thinking about where I'd been at this time last year. And remembered that I'd been anticipating going out to dinner and dancing with friends, and that E had said he might join us, and I was wearing my little pink top with the sparkles that was probably way too young for me then and dancing with abandon and joy... because I was in love with him already. As it happened, he didn't make it--I later found out that he was having an anxiety attack--but he called on my cell to wish me a happy, and the next night (which was really my birthday) he took me out to a totally lovely Italian dinner and we necked in the booth and I did not think I could contain everything I was feeling. As I wrote in my notebook this morning, on BART, with not enough sleep and too much sugar in me; "I thought that I was finally about to have the beautiful, intelligent, sensitive lover I had been looking for my entire adult life." It did not help that there was a boy on BART who looked like E, if a bit heavier, or that I am still a little viral and draining and the water is coming down out of the sky like it's got a quota to meet, or that Matt lost yesterday (but by a very narrow margin--Newsom had better watch his back), or any of the other things that were sticking in my craw. I don't think about him all the time any more, but every now and again I start thinking, am I going to spend the rest of my life looking for him?

I'm much better this evening, if soaked to the skin. Had a good modeling session this afternoon, for a class that was having its end of the semester party, so there were plenty of tasty snacks lying around unguarded. Found some good books at the library, including one about the effects of the Black Death on fourteenth-century European culture (what does it mean that such a book sounds like fun to me?) and several for the article I have coming up for Kitchen Sink. Had a great Jill class. Am counting down the days until I finally get a break, and can lay in bed for a few days reading and napping if I like.

Thirty-four. I'll know better tomorrow what that feels like. Trying not to get too caught up in everything I haven't accomplished by this time.

Monday, December 08, 2003


Yesterday was the Guild's model marathon, and as a new model it behooved me to participate--it's an opportunity to be exposed to lotsa artists who might want to book me, and it also takes care of my "community service" obligation to the Guild.

It turned out to be a lot of fun. I could only do the first half, as I was scheduled to cater in the afternoon, but next time I'll try to do the whole day. I met a bunch of my colleagues, finally, and got to see them work--people do some very cool stuff on the stand. There were four stands set up--one for long poses, one for twenty minute poses, one for five and ten minute poses, and one for one and two minute gestures. A stand might have one model, or as many as four. There were dozens of artists there, all drawing away like maniacs and eating the snacks we sold to raise more money for the Guild.

I started out on the long pose stand doing a double model pose with a guy. This is the third time I've worked a double with a male model in two weeks, after years of being solo on the stand; it's interesting for a lot of reasons, not the least of which being that some models (not all) try to use the opportunity to create a pose with some interaction, or even a little emotional narrative, but without being overtly sexual. But there's the whole matter of being in physical contact with this other person, holding perfectly still, and trying hard not to think too much about the naked-and-touching thing. Last week I laid with my head in my partner's lap, trying not to think about having my hair down and touching a part of him my hair hasn't touched on anybody lately; yesterday if I shifted my eyes I was staring right at this stranger's (meaningful) equipment and wondering if he shaved, or just wasn't particularly furry. When I was an art student, I always had some trouble drawing men. How can I put this? I hadn't spent that much time looking at flaccid penises, so they were a challenge to draw. My drawings, which might be very precise around the face/hands/feet, tended to have this... blank spot. I guess I'm not the only one. The Guild regularly books a lot more female model jobs than males (about 70% to 30%), so I gather a lot of artists just prefer drawing women, for whatever reason. Which is a shame--there are some great guy models out there, and I got to see them work yesterday.

Anyway, another really nice thing about sharing the stand is that if you know your personal pose isn't great from every angle, the artists do have another model to look at. When I went over to do short poses with two or three other people at a time, it was a total blast.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the "inner game" of modeling, now that I'm doing it so much and for new people. I have a lot of ideas about that, but I have to get down to City College to do my second drawing class of the day. Yeehaw!

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

how long have I not noticed how odd this is?

Soft Rock.

Just think about that for a minute. Soft Rock. Never mind for a moment that rocks are by their very nature hard; Hippo notes that perhaps the term is meant to refer to music that is schist-like (composed of a laminar structure that breaks easily?) or perhaps more porous than your granitey music. Okay, porous is a good word for some of this stuff, if we can also use the words spongey and damp. But I, not surprisingly, digress.

Now there's Soft Rock and Hard Rock and Death Rock and Rock en Espanol and so on and so forth, and I'm thinking that just maybe the term "rock", relative to music, has been stretched to cover so much territory that all the oomph has gone out of it, like the elastic in those panties you keep just in case you're late to laundry day, and now they're effectively much larger than they were when you first bought them, and felt sexy in them.

And I wonder why people wriggle away from me at parties.

Had a meltdown in Jill's class last night; too stressed out by the newest eviction and the goopy weather and then she was having us do things I'd never done before, and she wasn't breaking them down because it was an intermediate class, and I just lost my shit and had to sit out the drills. Not proud of that; even worse was that my other teacher was there, and a couple of people I'm friendly with, and they were all concerned and I was embarrassed and wished I'd made it look like I'd just remembered that my oven was on and slunk away gracefully. So tonight's class with Patience was much better, especially since nobody else showed up and it was all about me, me, me, and Reverse Egyptian and Fake-Out Turn and Over-Shimmy until she probably wanted to scream. But she didn't because she is a good and kind and thorough teacher, and I am now feeling much more competent.

The funniest part, though, was hanging out afterwards with her and a couple of other women from the pro troupe, and talking about body hair and the sleep habits of friends. Grace's boyfriend not only talks in his sleep but tells complicated jokes in any of the three languages he speaks. Fluid's cousin sleeps with her eyes open and rolled up in her head (ew!). Meanwhile the conversation about body hair was enlightening... all I'll say about that right now is that if you think women don't notice hair on other people's bodies (male and female), oh boy.

Sunday, November 30, 2003

beer is not my friend

Raining steadily today, cold and dark. I rose at 1 pm, feeling incredibly stupid, just in time for Mama Bear to inform me that she and her boyfriend had been talking about moving in together, and it looked like sooner rather than later, and gosh his stuff wasn't going to fit into the apartment with me there, so I shouldn't worry about writing a rent check tomorrow, she'd just take the last month's rent I'd paid when I moved in, two months ago.

Excuse me?

Boy, she's really sorry, because I'm a great roommate (read: I do everyone else's dishes and only complain about it here), and she's happy to write me a good letter of reference. It only just occurred to me now, hours later, that said letter would probably be written in crayon on the back of some other piece of paper, if our rental agreement is any guide, but whatever. She's resourceful.

Cranky is not exactly the word. Angry is not even it, although David Richo makes a wonderful point about the disservice we do ourselves when we try to represent our anger as something else: disappointment, sadness, peevishness, whatever. But I digress. I mean, I am angry, but mostly I'm surprised. If they've been discussing this, why didn't she say something when she showed me the room? It would have been the responsible thing to do, and she seems (for all of the mess and so forth) to be a pretty responsible person. I don't know.

So, it looks like I jump back into the scary Craig's List pool. Sigh. Princess will have a guest room open soon, and ArchitectX's roommate is moving out to get married, so I have a couple of gracious offers to consider. And I can always sleep in my studio if it comes to it, although I prefer not to. I can't help but think that there's a message in this that I'm not hearing yet.

Other than seeing a cat get hit by a car, which was horrible and haunted me all day (why, if you know you've hit an animal, do you drive away? Bastards. Props to the older gentleman who did stop and scoop up the cat and promise to take it to the SPCA), yesterday was a much bigger and better day than today has proven to be. There was enough material in yesterday to cut out three whole regular days. The kids' class went really well in the morning--my students are really much better aikidoists than they think they are, and Big D was helping me out, which was great. He's 200+ pounds, shaved head, wide as a barn door, and totally sweet. He's also a really good uke (attacker) for me to demonstrate the effectiveness of aikido, because he's a fair bit larger than I am, so when I throw him it looks impressive. We made it through class without having to play the dreaded 'Warball', and they were asking good questions. In a few weeks, on the last day of class, I'm going have their parents come on the mat, and have the kids teach their parents how to roll--I expect it to be a very entertaining morning. Then I went over to the Fat Chance Belly Dance studio to buy a set of zills and a choli top; they have all sorts of awesome books and videos and so forth, and I had to restrain myself.

Speaking of which, not having to work last night meant that I could do both of Jill's classes--beginning and intermediate--which felt totally luxurious. We spent some time experimenting with floorwork in the intermediate class, and while my knees are pretty sore today, it was really interesting. She's showing things in the advanced classes that she doesn't in the beginning class, and I can see that this will continue to be a complex and vexing study--which makes me happy. She had us break into small groups and develop short choreographies where we got to the floor (harder than aikido, although the latter does actually help a bit), did something there, and then came back up. Then we had to show what we had to the rest of the group, which wasn't nearly as nervewracking as I expected, and our classmates made the supportive noises and the zaghareets and so on. Then she taught us something that involved swinging our heads around with our hair loose, which defies description when she does it and made me dizzy and ecstatic when I did it.

There's a debate raging on med-dance, the Middle Eastern Dance listserv, about authenticity and culture and so on. I've stayed out of it, mostly because I'm studying with one of the more cutting-edge teachers and feeling almost personally attacked by all the dancers who say what we're doing (tribal/fusion/industrial/gothic/flamenco-influenced/whatever) is killing the form. Oh, please. I just finished reading Palace Walk, the first book in Naguib Mahfouz's Cairo trilogy (set around World War I), and while I am interested in and respectful of Arabic culture, I don't understand people who seem to believe that we need to be slavish in our replication thereof. I mean, Amina (the mother of the family) is threatened with divorce because she dared to leave the house when her husband was away so she could go to the shrine of a beloved saint to make obeisance. The women wait to eat until after the men have finished. The women who dance the form from which ours is drawn are generally understood to be lower than 'ladies', no matter how gracious, refined, and self-reliant they were. Do we need to replicate all of that as well as making sure our costumes and movements are perfectly authentic? And do I need to point out that we're Americans, dancing here, with our own histories of movement and culture? We're not going to move the same way, the music doesn't necessarily stir us in the same way (how many bellydancers know the words of the songs they dance to? Although many do admittedly make an effort to find out), we're not dancing in the same settings in front of the same people.

I know I'm making a rather absurd argument here. But bellydance isn't even specifically, purely, Arabic; the gypsies initiated it. Belly dance and flamenco share roots. The Tsingano, to whom I am tangentially connected, were as responsible for its manifestation as the Egyptians or the Turkish or the Lebanese. So should we be making sure that we're doing it exactly like the gypsies, who themselves adjusted what they were doing according to taste, whim, and audience? I appreciate the poster who says bellydance isn't a ladder with narrow rungs where we have to step on fellow dancers to rise; it's a series of wide plateaus with room for everyone.

Anyway. Later I got a chance to show what I've learned when I went to see my buds the Red Elvises at Slim's, and they played "I Wanna See You Bellydance", a song I've been dancing to on stage for, what, five years now? I'd had this idea that I was going to do something relatively polished, but of course that went all to heck, surrounded by cables and amps and the new drummer's kit and of course all the other people who wanted to shake their hips with Oleg and Igor and Oleg (yes, they now have TWO Olegs, an embarrassment of riches). I was also right behind Igor, who was wearing a pretty wide zebra-print suit, so if anyone could see me besides the drummer, I'd be amazed. So I danced with the other crazed audience members (including several guys, which was a nice change) and tried to build on what they were doing, and was entirely too conscious of a postural problem Jill had identified earlier in the day, and had a good time. Slice did turn out to be there, which I'd expected and braced myself for, but I didn't see him until after the show. Oddly enough, Bride of Slice wasn't there with him, but her friend was--"are you the stunt double?" I asked, managing to stop myself from asking if she was the body double--we all chatted nicely for a moment; he and I said nothing about the whole wedding registry ugliness, he didn't mention the wedding and I didn't ask. So. Better than expected. And then I went and hung out with the guys until about four, which mostly consisted of watching other people trying to impress them (including an insanely long story about how this one fella smoked out Jimi Hendrix's bass player at the Boom Boom Room) and wishing I had some Doritoes to go with my cerveza.

I think I've written before that it's sort of a struggle dancing socially now, because every time I'm out on the floor I'm thinking about stuff like my posture, or how a certain move will work, or practicing a turn. The first time I noticed this, I was dancing to house music with PRobot in a gay club, and I was able to stop caring what I looked like in motion because house is so forgiving. I'm trying to not worry about this, that my natural intuitive form might suffer from the domestifying effects of dance classes; eventually I usually relax enough to get out into the wild places. I have a plan for Burning Man 2004; I want to go out onto the playa with a big rug and a boombox and just dance, intuitively, for hours. Until I drop, maybe. I'll have a thermos of iced tea to share with anyone who comes by to watch or dance with me. This is a little different than dancing in one of the clubs, mostly because I'll have chosen my own music, and because I don't want to be enclosed. It's like the '50 drawings' exercise my drawing teacher gave us years ago. We set up a still life, and had to make fifty drawings of it without changing the arrangement of the objects. We could change everything else: our perspective, our materials, whatever. The idea was that after we had exhausted everything we thought we could do with the set-up, we would have to dig deeper to find something new, and we might be surprised by what we found.

I think about '50 Drawings' a lot. It's a great exercise, and can be applied to so many other things.

Friday, November 28, 2003

clean, follow, or get out of the way

The one truly useful facet of my monthly visitor is that the week before she arrives, arrayed in all her sanguine glory, I get incredibly inspired to clean. The rest of the month, of course, I'm kind of a slob. But for a few brief, shiny hours, I become the raging bull of domesticity.

Happily, that ephemeral state corresponded to a day off this month, namely Thanksgiving. I woke up too early to the screaming of Mama Bear's children; Mama Bear was taking a bath and apparently pretending that she had no children, so eventually I went into their room to see what was the matter. Apparently Little Howler didn't like one of the donuts she had been dealt for breakfast, and had to make a tremendous amount of noise about it. She would not stop until the offending pastry was removed from her sight. Meanwhile Big Howler explained that I should not be in their room (I'd knocked and asked, mind) and I pointed out that since they'd woken me up, they were just going to have to deal. Mama Bear had set them up with a tape of Legally Blonde, god knows why. What happened to the good old days, when kids watched porn over breakfast?

Anyway. The trajectory of that discarded donut, there's the story. Because as I carried the plate to the kitchen, suddenly I felt it: Must... Clean... Kitchen... Grr. The primal desire to put my hair up and scrub around the stove burners was so strong I nearly released a howl of my own. Fortunately for my compulsion the drawers were a mess and there was baked-on, caked-on, exploding stuff everywhere. I had plenty to occupy me. It was a couple of hours before that picked-over donut finally made it into the trash, before I remembered why I was in the kitchen in the first place.

Something I noticed, living in the Oakland house with all those other people. If you start deep-cleaning, the other inhabitants of the space will generally do one of two things: start cleaning, or beat a hasty retreat. Mama Bear, her boyfriend, and the Howlers naturally took option two, and headed out to the park after much hush-hushing. Ohayoo, to my surprise and delight, came out of his room after I'd been sorting take-out pizza red-pepper packets from plastic forks from birthday cake candles for about an hour and a half and decided that he wanted to clean too. Apparently he was reminded of New Year's in Japan, when--he told me--everybody does a serious cleaning to welcome the new year. We had the longest conversation we've had to date as he methodically took everything out of the refrigerator, one shelf at a time, and scrubbed the fridge interior within an inch of its life. Oh, it was a beautiful thing. Especially as there was some of that weird brown fridge goop juice pooled on the lowest shelf. Ohayoo is the man I want on my side the next time the gunk monsters try to smash our fair city; he must have worked on that fridge for a solid hour or more.

I also swept the area outside our door, and the steps leading down to the street, which I've been itching to do for about a week. It's amazing how much of a difference that alone made. I was really happy when I finally left the house to go to D's for Thanksgiving dinner. Just walking down clean stairs put me in a good mood.

At D's, I got to try playing her husband's accordion. Oh wow. I felt like the heroine of Bread and Tulips, dreamily squeezing away in Venice. Getting those nice rich chords for as long as you want... like piano, but without so much stretching. Poi has an accordion he bought off a friend who was in a bit of a spot. He keeps telling himself he's going to learn to play it, but it's been a year and no squeezes. Maybe I should buy it off him in turn.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

the Virgin Goddess

A small victory last night; ArchitectX thought Artemis and Diana were two different goddesses, I contended that these were different names for the same goddess. "Artemis and Demeter are the same," he insisted. So I made him look it up online, as his Bullfinch's is shamefully old and not as extensive as mine. And... I was right. This came up, of course, because we were talking about comic books yet again, and I was noting how strange it is that in Wonder Woman's current incarnation, Diana has a sister Amazon named Artemis.

This is the sort of thing we can amuse ourselves with endlessly. ArchitectX was the one who broke the news to me about the Fantastic Four's tough-guy Thing being Jewish (Benjamin Jacob Grim--who knew?) and explained the difference between the various kinds of kryptonite. He has an elaborate theory about the Kabbalistic significance of Superman's costume (you did know that Superman is sort of Jewish, right?) and sometimes I can barely keep up.

BUT, I knew that Diana and Artemis are the same. Very pleased about my small victory. Now, Demeter and Ceres are the same goddess. If Ceres sounds familiar, it may be because we get the word "cereal" from her name; she was the goddess of fertility and the harvest.

I also learned about Carna (yes, like carnal and carnation), the goddess responsible for fleshly health. And, for reasons that are still not clear to me, doorhinges. It seems that she gained the favor of two-faced Janus, who's the god of hallways and portals and so on. He liked her, so he let her have doorhinges.


It is incredibly cold here, although the sky has been very bright and shiny. Sunday afternoon, light on sleep and heavy on modeling cash, I spent an unprecedented amount of money on socks. I mean, I bought a pair of wool stockings (magically knit with cotton on the skin side) for more money than I usually spend on a pair of jeans. Oh, but I love them already. It's nice to be able to wear skirts in this weather. I also bought a pair of black-and-red-striped knee socks, because I'd been to an event Friday night that made me realize I am simply not dressing fabulously enough, and some multicolor socks I'm wearing now in anticipation of going to see Cirque du Soleil tonight.

Friday night's performance was just amazing. ArchitectX put on his tux and took me to Paul Nathan's Dark Kabaret. We saw a man put himself through a stringless tennis racket. And George Clinton showed up, beaming, benevolent, and incredibly funky for a man about a year younger than God. There was more to it, of course, but my fingers are too cold to encompass the whole wonderfulness of the evening.

Looking forward to a week with little or no work. Last week flattened me. Of course, I seem to be coming down with something--and one of my roomies has the flu, so I'm a tad concerned--but as long as I can read without having to get up to puke too often, I'm ready if that's what I'm in for.

My other (adult) roomie, the sushi chef, and I now have a little joke based on my limited grasp of Japanese. Yesterday, at, oh, two in the afternoon, I said ohayoo gozaimasu to him as he came into the kitchen. I corrected myself immediately, as I had just bid him good morning. "Or is it still ohayoo?" I asked, referencing the fact that we both work late and sleep late. "It's still ohayoo," he answered. This afternoon, I noticed when he came into the kitchen at two, he said ohayoo to me... this is so tiny, but I love it that we have this joke that nobody else in the house would ever get.

Sunday, November 16, 2003


A couple of months ago, I applied to a program that sends one journalist, photographer or videographer to Salvador de Bahia, Brazil for a month to work on a self-designed project. Wrote the letter, paid the fee, got the forms in and promptly forgot, so that in case I wasn't chosen I wouldn't feel too terrible. The date when they were supposed to announce the finalists came and passed and I heard nothing, then an email came that they had to delay the announcement because they had too many good applicants. Well, that's it, I thought.

Came back to my studio tonight after an incredibly silly musical about nuns on a cruise ship and the world's largest torta con chorizo, and after wrestling with my failing computer for about half an hour finally opened the email revealing that...

I have been chosen as a finalist!

There are nine others, many of whom appear to be older and more experienced than I am, if their profiles are any indication. Some of them are serious heavy hitters; I noticed a couple of daily editors. They want to study things like Candomble and the lives of prostitutes and the Middle Passage. And there I am with my curiosity about the first Sephardim in Brazil and their role in the slave trade, this insane idea involving serious digging around in ancient dusty shit, and they've misspelled my name in the finalist list and I am so, so excited. Now I have to dig through all my files for the perfect clips to send as additional support for my project, since I couldn't send any with the original application. I am incandescent.

The same session netted an email from a guy I'd met at a play; he'd been struck by the fact that I started our first conversation with an explanation of how a left eye/right hand-dominant sniper holds a pistol on its side so she can use the sights properly. He is also a writer who is opening a novel with an image of an exploding hippo. I've been meeting rather a lot of men lately, suprisingly enough off-line. There was a moment last week where I found myself wondering how so many men could be squeezed into the woodwork. It's probably because I have no time to date anyone and not all that much interest, but it's so wonderful when a man makes an effort, and some of these guys are. Might just go out with the exploding hippo fellow. What the heck. The novelty of meeting men off-line is also refreshing--I'm glad to see I'm still capable of it, although it's sort of weird being on a first date and not having been so thoroughly briefed beforehand.

I rather like it.

The interesting piece is that I am exerting very little effort, which is unusual for me. I'm often the one who asks for the first date, primes the steady flow of emails, does the, um, legwork. And I sometimes find myself wondering, in my less certain moments, whether the men I get involved with really want to spend time with me, or if I'm just something that happens to them; if they continue to go out with me because it's easier than saying no. So this new modus operandi--let him call me--makes me a little nervous because I am releasing control of the process, but also makes me feel like I'm not going to get into another situation where I have to bite back the tearful question, "do you really want to be with me, or are you just afraid to hurt my feelings?" Let me be clear: I am NOT turning into a Rules Girl. I just have a lot of other stuff on my plate, and people I want to spend time with that I don't see enough.

To that end tomorrow--later today--a new (platonic) friend I met via Tribe is coming over to the studio to teach a workshop in the design and construction of sock monkeys and other critters. He's promised to bring along his Sock Platypus to show us, and he sent out a link to the Socktopus. Of course I'm thinking about making a sock lemur. Although a sock meerkat would probably be pretty easy, seeing that meerkats are sort of sock-shaped to begin with. I'm really pleased that Naiad and Almeida will be coming, neither of whom I've seen in a while, and Snufkina, who just turned 30 and therefore deserves a new sock monkey. Poi might come by, before heading off to fire spinning practice; I love that conjunction of events. Sock monkey construction/fire spinning. AND hopefully we'll use up lots of my buttons and scraps.

From a leftover-Halloween-candy wrapper surfing the pile of stuff on my desk: There are about 9,000 tastebuds on your tongue. I think about this as I walk by the new Cicrcuit City on Van Ness, which features massive photos of people improbably enjoying their gadgets (does ANYONE really use their laptop while lying on their stomach on the floor? For more than a few minutes?) In one, an ecstatic woman is lifting a clump of popcorn to her mouth as she watches what we assume is a Shamu-sized television, and the magnification of her taste buds is sort of unnerving. They're just too Lovecraftian at that scale. She needs some tentacles coming out of her chin, or eyes on slimy stalks.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

here boy

It's not unusual to see a dog carrying a stick. But today I was walking up Van Ness behind some kind of pit bull/terrier beastie and his man, and the dog had a two-foot-long section of two-by-four in his mouth. Seriously. Almost as good as watching the dog was watching other people watching the dog. People smiled, shook their heads, stepped out from bus shelters to get a better look. The man, a rather colorless fellow in a San Francisco Giants T-shirt, didn't seem to notice that everyone was staring at his dog.

Eventually they stopped in an alley between Post and Sutter so the dog could do what dogs do outside, and the dog dropped the board with a resounding thunk. I thought about sticking around to see how s/he picked it back up, but the guy flashed me a glance that didn't suggest he'd appreciate strangers standing around watching his dog squat. So I moved on.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

falling into a pillow of silence

Sometimes I get these little flashes of words I like together, words that nail an image I want to get across. "I should use that in something," I think. Right before I tell myself that the image is so cool that of COURSE I'll remember it. Right before I forget it altogether. I know, I know. Carry a notebook. But then you need to remember to look at the notebook again.

A recent combination I liked and will eventually use: "One leprous olive."

The title is one such phrase. Not brilliant, but captures a moment today while I was at my friend F-Stop's house, waiting around to be an extra in her student film. At one point we all had to be quiet while the sound folks recorded the crackling of the fire in the fireplace. The suddenness of the quiet was extraordinary. It wasn't like the ringing silence you get when you leave a noisy nightclub or concert and find yourself on the street, blinking your ears in disbelief. Oho, say the ears, enough of THAT. This was different. Not as abrupt, as the voices of crew and extras died down by ones and twos. Not as thorough, as the rustling of one of the actresses brushing her hair in the bathroom competed with the clock ticking in the kitchen. Two kinds of percussion. This was quiet with the flavor of gravity; either a silence falling from above, or one falling into silence.

The rest of the shoot was fascinating, and only lasted a couple of hours longer than anticipated, which seems about right. ArchitectX changed his hair and appeared twice; he had a character motivation and everything ("you're going to get a beer".) I kept changing my mind about my turtleneck. We ate string cheese and drank cran-mango from the rapidly warming refrigerator, which had been unplugged (along with almost everything else in the house) so the lights would have enough power. The cats Merlin and Spencer kept breaking through the barricades of helpful girlfriends, trying to sidle through the reaction shots. I've spent worse Sundays, and perhaps when F-Stop is famous I'll be able to point to this film and say, "that's my hip!"

Sunday, November 02, 2003

talking to Jill on the phone

So we finally got a chance to talk about what joining the troupe entails. I was at my desk surrounded by ATM receipts that need to go into Quicken, she was driving home from the dog park where she's trying to teach her new canine charge not to be afraid of larger dogs. A far cry from the shadowy, jingling, whirring, hip-dropping, ululating, rose- and amber-scented world of le danse orientale. As an American Buddhist titled his book, 'after the ecstasy, the laundry.'

She was trying to gauge my commitment. "Without burdening you with the whole story, and conscious of the fact that you're driving," I said, "there is a major transition going on in my life, of which bellydancing is an outward manifestation, and one to which I am committed to devoting my energy. I am definitely into it."

"That answers my question," she responded. "I didn't know. People have different reasons. Some people are dedicated to performance, some are just interested in it as a mode of expression. But you've been diligent, and you communicate well, and you seem well-adjusted [I am withholding the editorial comment in accordance with an effort to not keep undercutting myself, but it's wriggling pretty hard and I don't know how long I'll be able to hold it down] and those are qualities I want in the group." "My heart's in the right place," I told her, "even if my hips aren't yet." I'm proud of that last, it took a while to come up with. Jill didn't laugh. Oh well. Maybe she was changing lanes. Maybe it's just funny to me.

We spoke more, about the contract (not uncommon in troupes) and dues and rehearsal requirements, picking up troupe responsibilities, supporting the professional troupe, and the advantages of a group of new students coming in all at once instead of in dribs and drabs. I took notes. I told her not to pull over to get the business manager's phone number, I knew where to find her online. We said goodbye and went back to our prosaic days, she to get her house ready for a party, me to scheduling work.

Her comment, though, really stuck. The idea that I appear to have my shit together. Emphasis on the word 'appear', because there have definitely been some days in the past month (uh, call that the past year) where I felt like I was careening wildly, and especially when I first started training with her, I was often fighting back tears in her class. Not because it was hard (although it is) or because I thought I would never get it (I know better; aikido has taught me a lot about perseverance) but because I'd start thinking about E, and how supportive he'd been of my dancing, and the fact that we danced really well together, and how I had let that convince me (along with other things, of course) that we were star-crossed.

Yes, I'm one of those people who starts really focussing on a discipline when I'm recovering from a breakup--I'd been doing aikido for a couple of months when BowlCut moved out of our apartment, and my practice got a lot more serious right afterwards (I've talked to quite a few people of whom this is true, incidentally), and now to some extent the same is true of my break with E. Although I'd always wanted to study bellydance, my incredible desolation post-E was like jet fuel.

I mention this because I've written to him, and told him about being invited to join the troupe, and he has responded very warmly, and asked me to keep in touch. We may be friends yet. I'm not ready to see him, or meet his girlfriend, but we can email each other, gently.

An art therapist whose book I've been skimming talks about making a 'safety box.' You take, oh, a shoebox or cigar box or something, and put the things in it that remind you of whatever you're sad about. Not just to get them out of the way, I mean, you decorate the outside or some such crafty art therapist glue gun and glitter sort of thing, and you treat the object as a sacred receptacle. You have all this intentionality around it. You're not putting these things--or feelings--away for good, you're just sort of giving yourself a little breathing space.

I haven't made my safety box yet. Not for lack of materials, as there is no lack of cigar boxes in either my studio or my family's holdings, but I just haven't had the time. So I have an imaginary safety box in my head. And it's working pretty well. I mean, it's a great replacement for the current system, which is some sort of perverse aversion therapy thing I do where I just wallow. Not a safety box, more like an open strip mine. Anyway. The great advantage to the virtual safety box, besides the fact that it's a lot safer than trusting me with a hot glue gun, is that in my head, I can make it any size I want. Which is a goodness, in light of the past twelve months or so; I don't know that a cigar box would really do it.

And my virtual box has a lid large and strong enough for me to dance on.
relocated to monkey heaven

My college roommate Sharkay spent an exchange year in Delhi, where she was mugged walking down The Street of the Monkeys. Mind you, she was carrying a bunch of bananas and a newspaper in one hand, and eating a banana with the other; so she was fully loaded and distracted when her attacker made his move and divested her of all three items. She now hates monkeys as much as she does squirrels, and with more reason. I can't tell either story nearly as well as she does, and I have a lot of other writing to do tonight, so I'll just point you at the article that made me think of her.

Apparently it's all very funny until it happens to you.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

great hulking monster that I am

One of my dance teachers, coming around to poke us each individually in the back to show us which muscles we were supposed to be using to hold our arms above our heads, said that I had "hefty lats." Huh. It was sort of like when my doctor commented on my trapezius a year or so back. Both times I wanted to say, don't make me angry, you wouldn't like me when I'm angry, but I was flattered as well. Toss people on the ground a few nights a week for ten years, I guess this is what happens.

Maybe I should bag the bellydancing, invest in some spandex and a dumb stage name, and take up wrestling?

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

detritus and luxury

You know how every house has a junk drawer? Admit it, you've got one. Half-full matchbooks, individually wrapped fork/napkin combos from the takeout place, endless sets of cheap chopsticks, rubber bands, crumpled warranties for items that have long since gone AWOL, capless pens, penless caps, bent paper clips, plastic straws, rusty scissors, and the innumerable "little wheels off of things," as Shirley Jackson once wrote.

This morning I went looking for a phillip's-head screwdriver in my new place, and ascertained something I had suspected: every drawer in that flat is a junk drawer. In addition to the usual suspects, every drawer I opened contained at least one crayon, and a couple of plastic grocery bags. Costume jewelry rings, packets of red pepper flakes and parmesan cheese, a long-empty single-serve soymilk container with its straw still inserted, paintbrushes with dried paint gluing the bristles together, plastic forks to eternity.

On the friends-of-hoarders listserv I'm on, someone just posted that scientists have uncovered the gene for OCD. I'm thinking I'd like to open a can of OCD whup-ass on my new place, but I need to talk to the Master Tenant, she of the two howling daughters, before I touch a thing. I remember what happened when I tried bringing some order to the kitchen of the group house I once inhabited in Oakland. Either the order crumbled after a week, or I drew the wrath of He Who Must Accumulate; it was a discussion in that very kitchen between he and I about whether covering the walls with extra egg beaters was really decorating or not that sent me packing.

Anyone who has seen my studio knows that this is a coals to Newcastle situation. But I really am trying to pare down. Here's Hans Hoffman on the matter (although I believe he was talking about either writing or art, not my desk), "The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so the necessary may speak."

Speaking of which, has anyone else noticed that the magazine 'Real Simple' is totally cluttered with ads and features on things to buy? Does this seem disingenuous to anyone else?

Oh, and. Mies van de Rohe and his "less is more" statement? I read that he actually said that at a dinner party when the hostess was trying to serve him another helping of something he wasn't enjoying.

Absolutely fascinating and totally snarky: James B. Twitchell's 'Living it Up: Our Love Affair with Luxury.' Here he is on a recent fad:

"The word [pashmina] is a linguistic trick. Cashmere is goat hair from Kashmir, an area between India and Pakistan, whereas pashmina is simply the Persian word for the same goat in the same area. In other words, it's the same stuff."

Friday, October 24, 2003


Means "yes" in Arabic. At a bellydance performance, calling it out is a sign of encouragement.

Last night I went to see to see my teacher's apprentice troupe perform, and before they went on, she and I were talking at the bar, and she told me that she'd been meaning to ask me if joining them was something that would interest me.

My friend told me afterwards that if I was hyperventilating, it wasn't obvious. "You looked," he said as he walked me home (I think my feet must have touched the ground at some point, but I have no recollection of it) "very calm and thoughtful. Like you were giving the question serious thought. I almost thought you were going to say no."

As if!

"It's a time commitment," Jill told me. "Probably three nights a week. Can you do it?" and I wanted to say, would you like me to move heaven or earth first?

I finally understand what people mean when they say they were beside themself with emotion. I honestly thought I was having an out-of-body experience.

The trippy thing about this is that almost exactly a week ago--Wednesday the 15th, to be exact--a new actor/teacher acquaintance asked me if I'd ever acted, and I told her that I'd stopped after college. She pushed, and got me to admit that I have always thought about pursuing it but have been too afraid. Then she told me to go out and have a head shot taken. I did not trust my voice; she had somehow managed to hit something so deep, so quickly, that I was totally unprepared for it.

Some dreams, you know? You have them, but they seem unattainable enough that you don't have to live up to them. I felt this morning, as I thought about these two women asking me in all openness if I wanted to do these amazing things, as though some new creature was struggling to be born of me. Maybe later in my life than I might have liked--sometimes I feel a little old to be starting either of these pursuits--but maybe this new creature just has a long gestation period.

I'll write about this further, but right now I need to run errands. I'll say this: I am terrified of performing. I'll be so exposed and vulnerable! I think to myself. And then I remember, uh, I've been an artist's model for twelve years... how many complete strangers have seen me naked? Uh, hello? And I'm afraid of being in front of strangers WITH MY CLOTHES ON?

Thursday, October 23, 2003

horror movie footsies

Just in time for Halloween, the skin on the soles of my feet is doing its best George Romero. I'm not sure if it's my new shoes, or the fact that I've been taking so many dance classes (barefoot), but combined with the dilapidated silver toenail polish, the effect is downright reptilian. I'd been thinking about getting one of those sassy spa chair pedicures before the peeling began, but now I'm afraid to; afraid the esthetician will recoil in horror--or worse yet, that I will get A Lecture. Like the 'Happy Teeth' lecture, you know the one.

Speaking of Halloween, I have decided to go as Anger. I have this fabu gown purchased for five smackers at Out of the Closet, the resale shop that gives all its proceeds to AIDS research. This is important because I suspect I am the first born female to wear this shimmery purple-pink-magenta confection, with its two layers of tulle on top and a built-in crinoline; the thing is a size 14. I have some serious taking in to do. Currently my plan is to make myself some nice prosthetic spines to glue to my shoulders and upper arms, but that involves latex and I am NOTORIOUS for not getting latex-based costume concepts done in time. For other people, fine. I made Slice a prosthetic chin once, and Avocado a lovely pair of troll ears. But for myself, usually it's a last-minute thing with a real headlong quality to it. Mymble has suggested that I find something I can carry as my Grudge, which just proves again how freaking brilliant she is; I'm thinking a puppet about the size of a cat. But with a lot more teeth.

Blogger Stats tells me that someone came here because they were looking for Google hits on Rocky Roulette, the pogo-stick stripper. I am incredibly happy about this and I have no idea why. Either it's someone who knows him, or maybe it's the man himself doing a vanity search. Just think! Brushed by his glittery glory! Nothing but the best for you, Rocky; carry on the good work and for god's sake, don't get that lovely body hurt tumbling off some sweat-slicked stage somewhere.

Yes, I'm free associating. The last neuronal twitches of someone who worked out too hard and then ate too much Thai food. At least I'm not complaining, right?

Incidentally, if you like bluegrassy music with satirical modern themes like "We're Winning the War on Drugs", or music played on a washboard, or women who can sing like Betty Boop, you really must go see the Asylum Street Spankers on their "How the West Was Spanked" tour. Trust me on this one.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

eight hours in a row

You know how when you stop dating someone, maybe you decide you need to start taking better care of yourself? Well, this time that is manifesting a few different ways for me. One is that I've started being more consistent about the gingko biloba, using facial cleanser instead of soap, eating vegetables, like that. The second is that I've started sitting meditation in the mornings--the thing E kept trying to get me to do, I finally see the point of; issues around the way I handle anger were raised in my last conversation with PRobot and sitting seems like a good way to approach understanding better what that's about. Not that sitting appears to be doing Anything yet, but I know that's quick-quick must-have-it-now thinking; just sitting quietly for ten minutes a day has to be having some positive effect even if I'm not aware of it.

What is definitely making a difference, though, is getting enough sleep. A project made easier, ironically, by my moving out of my workspace. The room I rent to sleep in is so tiny that I can only have what I absolutely need--bed, dresser, one plant. Which means I am not surrounded by all my art supplies and books and chaos; not even my oh-so-seductive computer. So when I'm home, I'm much more likely to go to bed at a reasonable hour (that meaning anything before 4 am.) Lately I've been getting to sleep by 1, which is astonishing, and getting at least seven hours, which is even more astonishing.

It's making me feel a lot less jagged, that's for sure. I also just read that deep or REM sleep is vital to memory function because otherwise short-term memory traces (engrams?) don't get reinforced into long-term memory. Considering how spotty my memory's felt lately, anything I can do to support it, I'll try. A writer who can't remember shit is missing a pretty important tool.

I have a whole bunch of classes left on my card at the main studio where I take dance lessons, and not enough days to use them at my usual pace, so I'm trying something new each day. Today it was Afro-Cuban Modern, which totally kicked my donkey; the teacher used a bunch of ballet terms, which always confuses me, and we seemed to do an awful lot of leaping up and down. I was laughing pretty much the entire time, even when I lept straight into a wall. Especially when I lept into the wall. I have always panicked in classes where we had to learn a sequence of moves; I'm always going the wrong way, smushing other people, cursing my math skills, whatever. But this morning I knew I wasn't going to get it right the first time or the second, I had no attachment to doing it 'perfectly' because I'm not planning to become a professional Afro-Cuban Modern dancer, and there were other people there who were also running into the walls. Maybe I'll go again next week and try to leap into the big front window, or the stereo, or the fan. But tomorrow: Beginning Hip-Hop, which I think entails crashing into the floor instead of the walls. And then belly dance, which should be a cakewalk by comparison. We don't move fast enough in bellydance to crash into anything.

Afterwards, I treated myself to a stroll through General Bead, where a condition of employment is that you must have bleached hair dyed some unusual shade and wear lots of clashing colors. All of the adding machines (no registers) are encrusted with rhinestones and shiny plastic cabochons, and Handsome Boy Scratchy, the world's greyest non-grey cat, hangs out on some crocheted acrylic thing on the middle counter all day supervising the transactions. Today for the first time I noticed that HB Scratchy had a brush laying on his shmata, so I brushed him while the nice lady painstakingly counted out my order and he nearly fell off the counter. I'm puzzled by his lack of jeweled collar--everyone else who works there bristles with beads--maybe he is the one surface upon which no gem is glued?

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

down hips and snake arms

Tonight some things started to feel like they were working in my belly dance class. I'd been concerned--I haven't been able to practice very much lately, and I haven't made it to class as much as I'd like. But there's definitely something positive going on in my obliques--I'm able to get deeper into 'down hips' than I was before--and I started to coordinate the arms with the hips on the taqsim.

That latter is a colossal struggle. Every time I try to get arms and legs and hips to move together, each according to their own particular task, I gain more sympathy for my own students, most of whom are in the first and second grades. They're not entirely coordinated yet, they are still growing into their bodies. Many of them are dealing with some challenge or another of various degrees of subtlety. One boy can't seem to cross the mat without hopping like a rabbit. Another appears to be incapable of remembering the simplest technique long enough to perform it. One girl starts a front roll and ends up back rolling, and her sister just gets tired because there's something wrong with her heart. We get kids with Tourette's Syndrome, ADHD, all kinds of stuff, because the occupational therapists think martial arts will be good for them. Even the kids with no problems still have to learn how to focus; an hour is a long time.

We do what we can. We tell them to do what they can. We praise the smallest victories.

Something that has come up in my reading lately ('How to be an Adult in Relationships', by David Richo, if you really want to know) is that we love people the way we wish to be loved. We show them what we want by the way we love them. Spookily enough, today I came across a journal entry from February when the pain of what had happened with E was greatest. I had written that I needed to start treating myself the way I'd been treating him. I go comatose whenever I read anything about drawing myself a luxurious bath and making love to myself, blah blah, but there is a kernel here of something important. I need to be my own hero, my own heart; and as I do for those brave kids who keep coming in, I need to praise my own small victories. Tonight it is that my teacher told me that my snake arms looked great and then she pushed me and one other student to do something harder. She believes in me, I believe in my own students, I believe in myself.

Something I didn't write yesterday about the camera lucida, because I was too tired, is that the device is really quite simple. As Hockney says, it's a prism on a stick. The stick telescopes and has a little foot, so you stand it up on your drawing surface and by looking at it the right way, you can see the subject of your drawing and the paper at the same time. Such a thing can be very useful to the portraitist, who marks in the corners of the eyes, nostrils, mouth; the reference points that will make the rest of the drawing easier to get right.

The thing is, the camera lucida does not project an image onto the paper. Instead it creates an illusion in your eye, sort of like the trick that makes binocular vision possible, two things in the same place that aren't.

All of which is happening entirely in your own head. Look away, bump the prism, and poof, no image.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

camera lucida

My mother just showed me a photo of an ancient female relative. The photo has to be at least 90 years old, shellacked to a board. It features this incredibly dour-looking woman, built like a tank, in dark clothes. Neither my mother nor I look anything like her. The oldest photo we've seen so far of a relative.

I'm going a little stir-crazy here. Detroit, especially the burbs, is not pedestrian-friendly in the slightest, and out here it's one strip mall after another, with long stretches of road between. At least it's green and tree-y. The weather's been insanely, unseasonally warm, and that's been nice. The elevators in my parents' building have been very sporadic... climbing the stairs to the ninth floor, unfortunately, is the most exercise I'm getting.

On the landing at the fourth floor, my boots stick to the floor and light shows through around the edges where the metal landing doesn't quite meet the walls. Between seven and eight, it's taken someone a couple of tries to spell "jackass bitch" properly with a lipstick on the white-painted cinderblock. The place is falling down around my parents and their elderly, been-here-forever neighbors; to hear my mother tell it, the first of every month around here it's like lemmings.

Just before I left for Detroit, she writes casually, PRobot and I essentially broke up via polite emails. "Essentially" because "break up" isn't quite right; it indicates a level of mutual into-each-otherness that just wasn't happening. I keep expecting to feel something more than I do, but I wasn't particularly surprised, and I do honestly believe this is for the best. Certain things important to each of us were not manifest.

Which is not to say that I'm not sad and disappointed, but I think being here with my folks is giving me a larger perspective. And, well, how can I put this? I did not know that I had the capacity to restrain myself from falling in love with someone. Generally when I feel the loopy gravity, I let go. But there was so much evidence that such abandon would be unwise, especially after burning man, that I kept myself in check.

I don't like being in check, but it has its virtues. The trick now is finding that person with whom I don't need to restrain myself. Someone who thinks I'm the cat's pyjamas.

I've always wondered about that spelling, incidentally. Pyjamas? Pie-jamas? Pyee-jamas?

I'm feeling pretty introspective, but the keyboard setup on my mother's computer is very awkward and it's killing my wrists. Think I'll go back to reading David Hockney's 'Secret Knowledge', an absolutely fascinating book about the Old Masters. Hockney thinks they were using various optical devices--camera lucida, camera obscura--as aids to their drawing and painting. If he's right, and his evidence is compelling, we've all been working way too hard and thinking too little of what we're capable of.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

that man is not my governor

To say I don't believe what happened here yesterday would be an understatement.

Snufkina came over for dinner last night--the first meal I've cooked in the new place, and it has not apparently killed us--and one of the first things she told me was that when she'd left her friend's house, 25% of the returns were in and it was looking like the recall would go through. We're both on the MoveOn.Org list, so we have a lot of the same information, but we talked for a while about how scared we were and how ill-suited we believed that musclehead to be for public office. Then the conversation turned to other things, as it always does between us, and I ate my salmon down to the skin and some guys came by to pick up a key from my roommate and we had a nice little social moment and I started to appreciate apartment life. Went to bed not thinking about the election.

Imagine my horror, hustling to BART, when I saw the photo on the front of the paper. Arnie in a storm of red, white, and blue confetti. Have you heard that Orrin Hatch wants to propose a constitutional amendment that would make twenty years' citizenship adequate to run for President?

Guess who's been here twenty years?

We couldn't get the ERA through, and Hatch wants us to make it possible to have the Terminator as our president?

I'm saying it: what the hell is wrong here?

So I get to fly home to Michigan tomorrow for my dad's birthday, and I just know I'm going to spend the weekend getting ribbed about this. I may have to make myself a T-shirt before I leave, warning people that if they bring it up I will have to hurt them.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

le petit mort

Walking down Mission Street after a morning spent in pleasurable pursuit--particularly if one has not yet showered away the evidence--is an interesting exercise. I am reminded of what Josh Kornbluth says in his monologue 'Love and Taxes' about what happened after he filed his taxes for the first time in seven years: "Dogs began to follow me through the Mission."

The married owner of the Greek import store not only sold me half a pound of feta and a tin of stuffed grape leaves. He hugged me. Repeatedly. Offered to find me a bellydancing job at a restaurant that advertises on his radio program. And then told me that he wasn't asking me for a date, as the difference in our ages is so great, but would I come by the next day for coffee? I was afraid I wouldn't make it out alive, under the amused alabaster gaze of dozens of statues of Greek gods, racks of books, shelves of galaktaboreko and sour cherry preserves. I squirmed out, nearly knocking over the tottery old lady standing in the doorway squinting at the jars of taramsalata.

Half a block on, still laughing, I heard a man yell hey, hey! I'm housebroken! If you take me home, I promise I'll behave! When I turned around, he barked at me and waved his cane.

Some days, this sort of thing drives me beserk. Especially if it happens at night. I yelled at some guys once who tried to get me to come over and hang out by their truck and drink beer with them as I was walking near City Hall. It really angers me when men don't get it that coming on to a woman walking alone at night isn't sexy or attractive, it's scary. Even the most sensitive of my guy friends don't always seem to understand why women are so cautious about which route they take, or why we might choose to drive or use the bus instead of walking or bicycling. It's an old, old complaint women have about men: we don't have the freedom to walk any old place we like at any time. Sure, men worry about being jumped and mugged--but not about being jumped and raped. Or even just yelled at suggestively, which is really wearying.

During the day, though, and if I'm in a good mood, it's not such a big deal, and sometimes it's so funny that I start thinking I should go buy a lottery ticket or something because I'm obviously sending *some* vibe out into the universe.

I'm gratified by how quickly I have come to think of the new place as home. Yes, I had to ask the man drinking the 40 on my stoop to move over the other night so I could perform the zen ritual with the key (breathing, breathing, thinking no-thought). Yes, the apartment smells of roommate one's children. Yes, roommate two pees with the bathroom door open and is still not very good at the guitar. Yes, my room is just a hair larger than six feet by six and covered with crayon drawings of what appear to be balloon aliens with razor stubble and petals around their heads.

But it is so nice to lock a door and sleep in a bed and not wake up to the sounds of the body shop opening for business beneath me. No hydraulic lifts, no air-powered lug-nut removers, no intercom. And I've always liked sleeping in small spaces, so the new room feels cozy and safe, not claustrophobic. I slept in my studio last night because it was too late to go home, and didn't enjoy it nearly so much.

I AM going to paint over those aliens, though.

Work last weekend was pretty intense. I did the set-up for a party that a well-known high-end jewelry store was having for their 'level T-4' customers. I'm not exactly sure what T-4 means either, except that the senior managers all know these customers by name and by which one-off pieces they own. T-4 customers come in from Colorado and Seattle for little events like this. They eat a lovely catered lunch and watch a video of black pearls being strung by a woman who has been with the company since the dinosaurs chewed tobacco. During the set-up, as I was moving chairs back and forth and back and forth, there was a guy who did nothing but watch the jewelry and loose gemstones being arranged in a vitrine. I suspect he was armed; I thought it impolitic to ask. Heaven knows, they were probably all strapped.

I made sure not to make any sudden moves.

There is such an incredible gap between the lives of the people I serve and my own that sometimes I hardly believe that we are the same species. In the four years that I've been catering, I've met a lot of waiters and chefs who become envious of the people we work for. They drift through the living rooms, the massive kitchens, exclaiming over the sculptures and the Wolf ranges and the shiny floors. They play name-that-painter. And I sympathize, I really do. It must be nice to live in a beautiful, tastefully-appointed home (although not all the rich do, of course; some of them have Terrible taste that no amount of money is going to fix) that you don't have to keep clean because you have staff for that. When you open a door in the home of a certain oil scion, looking for a bathroom, instead you find a beautiful indoor swimming pool fit for a hamam. Sometimes, when we have to turn a garage into a kitchen, we have to throw a tarp over the DeLorean and make sure our tables don't scratch the Jag. In the past week I've watched two different housekeepers blowdrying little wet dogs in two different laundry rooms, and I've thought about the times I've had to bathe my own cat (and yes, I still have the marks.)

But I have to wonder. Does food really taste better off a $700 plate?

I have also developed an obssession with junk drawers. I'm convinced that even the wealthy have them, and I'm going to start looking. I can tell you this; the rich don't have any better idea of what to do with all those wicker baskets that gift sets and flower arrangements come in than you and I do. But where you might keep your napkins in one, and I've used one for ticket stubs and ATM receipts, wealthy people have CLOSETS piled full of the damn things.

I am not exaggerating on this one.

Imagine the chaos if suddenly all those baskets were released back into the wild!

Thursday, October 02, 2003

the boing boing boing boy

After yesterday's ex excitement, I did in fact toddle off to work, feeling better with every mile that passed under my (rented) wheels, and howling along with the radio. The party turned out to be a fundraiser sort of thing for a nonprofit called Common Sense Media that I found very interesting. They're beating the same "protect our kids" drum that folks like Tipper Gore have made so infamous, yet they are pragmatic and non-partisan. Their site, like Amazon.com, features reader-supplied reviews of various media products (including video games) that break the product down--does it contain drug references? Sex? Violence against women? Materialism?

I'm not doing a good job of describing it, but the guy who spoke teaches First Amendment law at Stanford. He's not a reactionary who wants us all to go back to the days when actors sitting on beds in movies had to make sure they kept one foot on the floor. The site just gives you a heads-up about what a show or game or movie contains. It's like Consumer Reports, with an eye to making informed decisions about "The Other Parent"--the speaker's name for television, and also his book about its influence on kids. One of the guests talked about how when her young daughter wrote a review of 'Bend it Like Beckham' for the site, it was a chance to do some real critical thinking about what she'd seen--which seems like the whole point, to me.

It seemed like something I could get behind. It was an interesting evening. I might have to check the site myself occasionally--I hate going to see something and getting surprised by portrayals of violence against women. Unless of course the women are fighting back...and even then, I've been known to demand my money back (True Romance, anyone?)

I got cut early, so I was able to make it the Hotel Utah in time to see something that has probably scarred me for life. That would be the pogo-stick strip stylings of the incomparable
Rocky Roulette. Surrounded by bellydance performances by my incredible teacher Jill and members of her troupe, the classic burlesque of the Cantankerous Lollies, and the vigorous, yes-I-got-everything-waxed samba of Agogo, Rocky particularly stood--or hopped--out.

He took the Utah's tiny stage wearing an oversized black choir robe and what had to be a wig, and explained that he wasn't feeling entirely well. Suddenly some loud rock music (I can't identify what the kids are listening to today, sorry, unless it's Radiohead. Sometimes I can also pick out the White Stripes) came rolling out to chase off the lingering samba rhythms. Rocky shucked the robe, grabbed a blue-sequin and ball-fringe adorned pogo stick with "RR" emblazoned on it, and started madly bouncing around the stage while taking his clothes off.

I can honestly say I have never seen anything quite like it.

Let me hasten to add that I wasn't offended by this odd display. Far from it. I'm a huge fan of the movie The Full Monty because I love watching men strip awkwardly in an attempt to please women. I am all for that. Mostly I was concerned that this boy, who was holding his hair on with one hand, was going to bounce right off the stage in the middle of shedding his slacks to reveal a light pink rhinestone-studded thong. Which in fact he did, tumbling into the audience. Fortunately it's a short drop, and he was back up on his pogo stick momentarily, apparently unscathed, slacks flapping around his ankles. I took my hands away from my eyes.

Two members of Ultra Gypsy came on directly afterwards, looking bemused. All the snake arms and body rolls in the world can't quite touch a guy stripping on a stick. But Erin and Felice did a lovely job nonetheless.

It's actually pretty strange, having bellydancers in the middle of a show touted as burlesque, especially with slides of vintage porn (love those full, real, unretouched fifties bodies!) being projected onto the wall behind them. Bellydancers generally make every effort, as I understand it, to hold themselves apart from stripping or anything that resonates with it; down to wearing some modest covering over their costume until just before they take the stage. It's weird. Here you have a woman in a gauzy skirt and a belt and bra covered with shiny things (I'm thinking of cabaret or Egyptian style now, not Tribal, which tends to be pretty covered up), undulating up a storm. And yet. She does not backbend in such a way as to display her crotch to the audience, she does not touch herself suggestively, and if she's dancing with a snake or a cane, she is subtle in how she uses them. There is a fine line, and pro bellydancers spend a lot of time thinking about that line.

What got me is that I found the Ultra Gypsies a lot sexier than either the Lollies or Agogo. I know I'm biased. Jill is my teacher, and I have chosen bellydance for a lot of reasons. A big reason I'm staying with it is that it's so damn hard and I need the challenge. But it's also, to my eyes, incredibly beautiful. I've seen the Lollies before and pretty much walked away that time to scrounge for snacks; last night was no different. They're cheerful, they're good dancers, they're coordinated, but it just didn't do anything for me--and I look at girls! Agogo was the same thing during their first number, which was both highly athletic and kind of repetitve. I saw in both cases that what was being demonstrated was supposed to be sexy, and from the crowd response other people were finding it so, but it just seemed like grown-up cheerleading to me. I mean no disrespect to dancers in either style, or even to the dancers in question. They were good at what they were doing, and it looked like fun, and it was fun to watch. But it was so blatant, where bellydance is so subtle, and I guess I come down on the side of subtle.

Then on their last number, the glittery one, Agogo started pulling people up on stage, and they snagged me, and it was fun. Even though it is virtually impossible to dance in overlarge tux pants and the sensible, high-traction shoes I wear to work. Mostly I tried to keep from getting a feather in the eye, since I have no idea of Samba footwork, and hoped Jill was noticing that I can in fact dance in front of strangers without freaking out.