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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

It's better than the gym...

Do men retain water? I've been wondering about this. Periodically, I do. No pun intended, although I don't really know why people say that. I realized I made a pun. I didn't do it deliberately but there it is. So I apologized for it. But...I then left it there. If I didn't want it there I could just take it out, that's why God invented the ability to highlight with a cursor and hit the delete button. But some idiot, somewhere, made a pun, said "no pun intended" and now it's pretty much cliche.

Anyway, back to the water retention problem. Since I've been enjoying the freedom of menopause, I thought that maybe the bloating would go away with the rest of it. No, not really. I can't set a clock by it but yeah, I bloat. It usually takes me at least 24 hours before it dawns on me though. Because up until then, I get pretty worried that I've had a 20 pound weight gain. Overnight. My fingers, which usually look like Farmer John breakfast sausages anyway, suddenly start to resemble the overstuffed Italian Sausage the local deli keeps in the meat case. The ones with fennel seeds. The fennel seeds look sort of like the age spots and freckles. Yeah, those days of smooth, silky alabaster skin are loooooong gone.

My watchband starts to cut into my wrist and none of my shoes fit. So I lay on my back in bed at night, thisclose to hyperventilation, wondering what horrible thing is happening to make me swell up like a hoppy toad. Round at the slimmest of times, my face now resembles a smiling Buddah. I've decided I spend way too much time lounging on the couch watching check flicks and the 20 extra pounds I carry around in my butt alone is sliding around and settling in other places. I'm guessing I'm possessed.

After about 36 hours or so of this I realize I have to pee. This thought usually hits me when I'm either on a bus, 2 hours into a suspense movie that clocks in at 2 hours and 15 minutes, or while I'm crammed into the middle of a church pew on Easter morning.

After about 4 hours I realize I might as well just stay where I am, maybe bring a book or some needlepoint in with me because all the liquid I've been chugging for the last two to three days is now making a break for it. The up side of this is that now I feel cool, my normally too big paste wedding set (my actual wedding set is currently vacationing at a pawn shop. Don't ask.) is now loose on my finger, my watch flops around nicely (I always wear my watch very loose, I don't know why I like it that way but I do) and my shoes fit. Well, as much as they ever fit, I wear a size 10.5, which no one makes so I'm usually crammed into a 10 because I walk out of 11s)

This last time, however, I decided to sign on to Weight Watchers and start counting points...about an hour prior to the inevitable flood gates opening. I am, on day THREE. I haven't weighed myself, no one should have to witness something like that, including me. Besides, well, yeah, there's no besides, it's just depressing and I mean, hello? I'm starting to look like I'm seven months and I lumber, I KNOW I weigh about the same as Jabba the Hut.

Well, so far I'm having fun with this. I have made momentous discoveries. I have discovered that Starbuck's has a frozen delight and they make it in a "light" variety. Grande Caramel Frappucino - Light. 2 points, 3 with whipped cream. I'm torn about this though. In the first place, there's an independent, neighborhood coffee house here in the urban village and I really like to go there. They're both within walking distance from the apartment, in fact, they're damn near across the street from each other.

Gorgeous, isn't it?

But the little coffee seller, while they make a mean cafe au lait, doesn't make gooey things that sort of resemble a coffee margarita. But I feel really hip walking around like the young folk, on a summer night, with my fancy coffee drink, waiting for my son on the local mini mart while he buys his nightly ration of lottery tickets.

So it's a really good thing because I also walk to Starbuck's. So I get my exercise. It's probably not a LOT of exercise but it's a helluva lot more than I get sitting on my azz watching "Mamma Mia!" for the thousandth time. I feel urban. I live in an urban village and the barristas recognize me. Actually I think they recognize me because I'm usually accompanied by an extremely tall, charming, curly headed young man who's rather easy on the eyes, but I'll take it. I'm wondering. Does anyone know just how to make a Caramel Frappucino? Because I sure as hell don't. So how do I know it's really light? They could be making me the same one they make for everyone else, I wouldn't know the difference. Maybe it's some great, big cosmic practical joke. And another thing. If it's "light" why does it cost the same? Shouldn't it cost less? I assume they're not putting the good stuff in it, so shouldn't it be reflected in the final price? I think it's about time all this lard actually benefited something, even if that something is just my bank account. "I'm sorry, you're the size of Lake Michigan so we're not putting sugar in any of your food, butter either. Your bill has been adjusted to reflect these omissions."

Which brings me back to my original men retain water? Since I never see guys walking around with spiffy, whipped cream topped coffee drinks I'm thinking...NO. They NEVER seem to have to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and they all have bladders the size of a stock pot.

They're missing so much.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Paging Juan Valdez...


I can't GET any coffee because a bunch of guys are holding an impromptu meeting in the pantry and no one can get to the DAMN COFFEE MAKER!

They've been there for 20 effing minutes. Oblivious to the two dozen people who have come in, hovered, tried to get through their love knot and given up. And come back to the same problem.

What the hell is it with MEN?

Is there a reason men won't do anything until it's overdue? Is there a reason men won't do anything without a reason? I mean, a reason as in "if you leave that newspaper in the middle of the floor the ink will rub off on the carpet and the cat will pee on it." I don't know ONE guy who will just pick the damn paper up because it needs to be picked up. They all need solid, scientific proof as to exactly WHY the paper needs to be picked up and, having been given said proof, they set up a time line. As in "well, the cat's outside, I'll pick it up when he's ready to come in unless he comes in and goes to sleep, in which case the paper doesn't need to be picked up for awhile." And then they argue with you as to just why it isn't really necessary to pick the paper up at all, it's not doing any harm on the floor. "Because it's a mess, that's why" doesn't compute.

I, like most people who own furniture, have what's still known as a "coffee table" in front of the broken down sofa. It's my homage to better times, when the frame didn't stick out of the couch and the upholstery was on one piece because the damn cat refuses to stop using the furniture as his personal scratching post.

Have I mentioned I'm not a cat person? Although I always seem to be stuck with one. This, however, is the first time I've had one that destroyed the furniture. He's SEVEN FREAKING YEARS OLD and, while I don't approve of it, I'll rip his claws out myself because I'm just NOT in a mental place stable enough to wait for the cat to die in 10 years so I can FINALLY have a decent place to live. It's probably "Better Homes and Garden's" fault but still...

Anyway, back to the coffee table. Every time I open the Internet, turn on the television or go into someone else's house I see a coffee table. All kinds of various coffee tables. Glass, wood, marble, tile topped, you name it.

Now, here's the operative word: SEE. I SEE the table. Sometimes it's unadorned, sometimes the morning paper and a magazine or two are on it, almost always there's something ornamental. Something pleasing to the eye, something nice to look at. A plant, maybe some flowers, some sort of ceramic tschotsky.

I haven't seen my table since Easter Sunday when we had our measly family to dinner. I mean measly in a numerical way, btw, we only have two people who condescend to visit us. The rest of the time I have four nicely curved maple legs which support 10 pounds of empty envelopes, 47 various business cards, half a dozen unwatched DVDs, two weeks worth of junk mail and the hubster's laptop, permanently in the open position.

The hubster loves his laptop like life itself. He's had it a long, long time. It has a special stand with built in fans to keep it cool and comfortable. He's run it so long the battery has turned to some sort of jello goo and now said laptop is permanently lashed to a charger which is lashed to an external hard drive (which sits on the floor next to the sofa) which is all lashed by cable to the wall. This is pretty much why no one BUT the hubster ever sits on the can do serious damage to yourself if you inadvertently get tangled up on all those cords and God forbid you should pull a cord out of the laptop while your trying to keep your footing and not pitch forward out the second floor window.

He travels with the laptop and he carefully packages it and takes it to the hotel desk if we leave the room, there to check the laptop into a secure place. My son, on the other hand, usually stuffs HIS laptop into his backpack and leaves it on the nightstand when we leave the room. This horrifies the hubster, who thinks the world is lined up at our door waiting for an opportunity to steal his Mac. Oddly enough, neither laptop has even been compromised. I personally think there are a couple of reasons for this. 1) Computers, like automobiles, are outdated the instant ownership is officially transferred from dealer to purchaser. Both the hubster and my son are Mac users. My son is running a platform called either Leopard or Snow Leopard, I'm not sure which. The hubster, early on the bandwagon, is, I believe, running Saber tooth Tiger. No one is especially interested in any of these outdated operating systems. 2) Everyone and his brother HAS a laptop. If you hold your nose and use Windows you can go to Walmart on Black Friday and get a laptop for 69 bucks. Like cell phones, they're just not that exotic.

One would think that, with this laptop in existence for lo, these many years, he might use it to, oh, I dunno...maybe keep himself ORGANIZED? Instead of writing things down on empty envelopes and the back of receipts from Trader Joe's and then pitching them onto the burgeoning volcano of irrelevant papers on the coffee table and promptly forgetting he ever talked to anyone, maybe, just maybe, there's some sort of calendar gizmo in the computer? Okay, I KNOW Macs usually don't run Outlook, which is a Windows operation that causes little bells go off now and then and say things like "Pay the phone bill by 5pm today!" but there MUST be something in there.

Something where one could type in "Pay the phone bill by 5pm today or you will have no Internet in the morning and your wife will go to work and blog about how damn disorganized you are."

Not that that's news mind you, he's been this disorganized for the 30+ years we've been together. He was an hour late to our wedding rehearsal dinner because he didn't remember to look the place up on a map and he forgot that we were coming separately and therefore I wouldn't be driving, and he didn't "kiss the bride" at our wedding because he was thinking about something else and wasn't exactly sure that's what the priest meant by that phrase. I'm used to it. I didn't say I LIKE it, but I'm used to it.

So why am I going on about this now?

Because I STILL can't get to the damn coffee, that's why!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tales told by idiots.

So I'm sitting here doing what I do every morning, Monday through Friday. I'm swilling black coffee and watching the morning news and wishing I didn't have to go to work today. It's not so much news as it is "let's amuse the disgruntled people who are trudging to jobs they hate" sort of show, although when news breaks, they're pretty good and covering it. Well, most of them are, one of the anchors came from the late and not at all lamented "Tech TV" and has no freaking CLUE what news is unless it involves a USB port, in fact the actual tech reporter on this station was stranded in New Orleans when Katrina hit and he did a damn fine job reporting, but I digress.

However, this station used to be known for it's news, especially it's local news, it's considered a broadcasting pioneer and rightly so. They initiated a morning show, must be 20 years ago. It's habit, especially since the morning of September 12, 2001. Because I didn't have the TV on the morning of September 11, 2001 and I got that news from my crazy ass neighbor who left me with the impression the Nazi's were invading Burbank. So now I always check.

This brings us to this morning. We are on Lindsay Lohan watch. I find myself wondering if the rest of the world, or the country, or even the state is joining us, or is this some sort of weird, Los Angeles ritual? Know what the traffic reporters are covering this morning? The traffic jam around a) Lindsay Lohan's apartment or condo or whateverthatis and b) the traffic jam around the Beverly Hills courthouse. "You might want to try taking San Vicente to Santa Monica and avoid Canon..."

Because poor widdle Lindsay is going to jail. For 90 days. Not.

Now lest I give the wrong impression, Lindsay is going to jail, we watched the judge send her there this morning. BTW, props to the judge for having the cameras turned off before Lohan was remanded into custody. I don't think she will serve 90 days, nor do I think she should. Lindsay, IF she goes to the slam, will serve no more than 25% of than sentence, probably less. And when she gets out the public will start screaming for her head, and the head of the poor law enforcement officer who put his or her luckless signature on her conditional release papers. They will scream special treatment, stars buying their way out of jail, demanding her still beating heart be placed on a platter as a public offering to the rest of the world that we do NOT give celebrities special treatment. And they will drag her skinny butt back to jail where my tax dollars will go to her care and feeding.

Oh, come ON. In the first place, if Lindsay Lohan's name was Lindsay Smith and she was sentenced to 90 days under the exact same circumstances she'd be out in 10 days, give or take, and no one would care. And as for not giving celebrities special treatment? The same people who will argue that side are, right now, watching the picture being broadcast by 8 helicopters and a hundred members of the news media as they follow Lindsay's SUV making it's way towards the Beverly Hills Courthouse. And she's late, btw. BIG news yeah, that special treatment thing really doesn't hold water.

People are now texting the news station with their opinions, as Lindsay got caught in some intersection traffic and was 7 minutes late. Someone thinks they should add 30 days to her sentence for "tardiness". I've got a quarter says whoever sent that is late to something at least once a week...hell, who isn't? By that logic, next time the author of that text is late to work they should have to spend an extra 30 minutes there, even IF your boss says "yeah, traffic was a bitch today, don't worry about it". BTW, the judge didn't say JACK about her being 7 minutes late. If the judge can live with it, so can the rest of the world.

And THIS is what pisses me off about the "special treatment" hue and cry. People scream that celebrities get special treatment when, in cases like this, they get the same treatment we all do. These people who are right now tweeting that it's about time don't really care if Lindsay is punished for succumbing to her personal demons. They want her punished because she's rich and famous. Because not ONE of these people gives a damn that every other person sentenced for the exact same crimes will be out early. They don't give a damn that the jails are so overcrowded the sheriffs don't have room for all these people and they let non-violent criminals out early every freaking day of the week.

I was once in court on a ticket and we stopped the routine crap so the judge could deal with someone who had been brought in on some sort of "you're going to end up in jail" crime. The miscreant was affable and pretty resigned to his fate, which wasn't THAT bad, he was going to jail for like a week. When discussing this with the judge, the judge rather genially suggested that he go in directly. Because the jail day turns over at midnight. And he said "go in now, you'll be out by the week-end". I assume the guy was, I didn't follow up. But does anyone complain about THAT? No, it's just the way it is. Unless your rich and then the general public wants your HEAD. People, let's be honest here. You don't care about Lindsay's DUI. She's rich and famous and you're not and you want her to suffer for it.

She's going to the wrong jail anyway. Problem is, they don't have the sort of jail people like Lindsay Lohan need. A jail for idiots. Is Lohan an idiot because she says her passport was stolen? Not really. She's an idiot for thinking anyone BELIEVED that though. But even that isn't cause for incarceration in the jail for idiots.

Lindsay Lohan has filed a lawsuit against E-trade and their advertising firm for the babies talking like grown ups commercial in which a jealous baby girlfriend finds out her baby boyfriend has spent time with another baby girlfriend named Lindsay and refers to the other woman/baby/whatever (the one named Lindsay) as "that milkaholic". Lohan says everyone knows that means her and it's defamatory or something.


Lohan claims that, like Cher and a few others, she's known by a single name and that whenever anyone says the name "Lindsay" they are referring to her and everyone knows it.

Uh, Lindsay? No. Not really. In the first place, most people refer to her as "that idiot Lindsay Lohan". If someone says to me "have you seen Lindsay today" I will, most likely, answer "Lindsay who?" Case in point:QUICK! What's Beyonce's last name? You know it but you had to stop and think for a second. What's Cher's last name? Yeah, I don't know it either. We ALL know what Lohan's last name is and we all use it. Lindsay Lohan. Besides, you can't refer to yourself as "LiLo" and sue someone for using the name Lindsay.

I'm reminded of a short lived lawsuit once filed by Whitney Houston. Some company, most likely the Bradford Exchange, issued yet another collectible plate. It was a Dolly Parton plate and around the edge of what I remember as a very tacky plate were the words to "I Will Always Love You" in some sort of an everlasting circle.

Houston, who had a BIG hit with that song, attempted to file a lawsuit. I don't think it saw the light of day as a whole lot of people remembered that a) Dolly Parton recorded it first (and did well with it, I think) and b) Dolly Parton WROTE it. Personally, I figured Houston AND her entourage were all probably high at the time anyway. BUT...had they been high and had they ended up in a court of law because of this and had Houston been sentenced to serve time for this (the drug use, not the Dolly Parton plate) she should have been sentenced to a jail for idiots.

See? It would also relieve a lot of the overcrowding problems.

Okay, in all honesty here, Lindsay doesn't need to go to jail. She needs to go to Betty Ford. Has anyone but me noticed that, since the rise of spiffy boutique rehab facilities, (most of them at the beach)rehab doesn't seem to stick? So you check into "Promises" and you get pampered and you come out (after making a reservation for your inevitable return visit) and your dealer picks you up. Lohan needs to be locked down in the desert sans her cell phone and Twitter account and spend six weeks scrubbing toilets with a toothbrush.

If that doesn't sober her up, nothing will.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

My life on the internet, and how it grew...

I'm torn. There's so much of little consequence going on right now, and it's the things of little consequence that usually compel one to stop and mull over someone else's day. My recent experiences on the internet, however, currently trump the weather, the recent "attendance is mandatory" work party, and the truly inventive way Sarah Palin has found to shut Levi Johnson the hell up. All of these in due time though.

Many, many years ago (10, to be exact) a small band of refugees from the Island of Misfit Toys decided that their continual trips to Disneyland (that's the one in California) were getting expensive and decided the best way to handle this was to find a way to make their tickets and/or annual passes tax deductible. So they all got together and decided to merge their little blogs into one great, big, website, which would sell advertising and therefore make their trips a necessary business expense.

This, in theory, seemed like a dandy idea. Like all good websites the set up a discussion board and soon Disney geeks from all over the world saw the star hanging over the little village of Anaheim. And they joined. And they posted and they talked and friendships were formed. And the staff saw their hits go up and their ad rates and dividends (for they were a private corporation, issuing stock in lieu of salary) followed suit. And it was good.

A friend of the hubster's joined and the hubster followed suit. I followed a year later. Ah, but soon there was a rift. A rift of gigantic proportions. One of the founding members took his stock and left, to start a rival site. Unfortunately, when he left he took the only writing talent with him, along with the photographer. So news updates were now being handled to the two most local members of the staff, a couple of women who seriously fancied themselves reporters and steadfastly refused help from anyone who actually HAD any writing talent or credentials. Their hits dropped but...the discussion boards remained hot.

Occasionally, a member was chastised, a cone of shame descended on their member status disguised under the banner of "SUSPENDED". Rarely was a member banned, but it did occasionally happen. For the most part, Disney talk was lively, political talk was lively, vacation talk was lively. It was a lively, supportive place, all of us joined by the thread called Disney. And this was the place we called home.

It would take me three more blogs and a book to describe what happened next. The two local Brenda Starrs on staff found ways to make friends among the denizens of the "Lounge". This was a very nice thing until, gradually, it occurred to their "friends" that they were being used in order to further the retail businesses of these cordial and perky ladies. As checkbooks closed the friends were then gossiped about through private messages and their public personas cold shouldered. And new friends were found who eventually found themselves thrown into the litter by the side of the road and the board chugged on.

Until one day it occurred to people that the volunteers on the staff had all quit. And the actual staff members walked away from the day to day body politic of the message board and left it, lock, stock, and moderating to the Brenda Starr wannabe's who lived in the immediate Disneyland area.

Every person who ended up in the bone pile of former friends ended up on Suspension, or Banned. Every member who did not agree politically with said "Moderators" was regularly suspended, or banned. Once a month or so they would just load a bunch of members into a virtual tumbril and off they went. They fought with each other, at one point they actually SUSPENDED each other. Damn, but it was funny. The hubster was banned. Now everyone knew he got banned because a) I no longer sent $500 a quarter to support a staff member's home based scrapbook supply business and b) we vote Democratic and fight against Prop. 8. It was, actually, fine with me when they banned him, because they'd pretty much suspended everyone else who used to participate in political debate on the left too. So basically they left the right wing to argue amongst themselves, which got pretty boring. And those who weren't suspended or banned have wandered off. However, the big bad mamma moderator likes to argue. And the does so, incessantly. The gist of these arguments is "You're stupid and a liar. Have a nice day".

The hubster, btw, was officially banned because he pointed out in a post that another member was plagiarizing all of his comments. As in "it's a nice thought and you got it here (insert hyperlink)". He was banned for not reporting the plagiarism privately. Sure, whatever, we all know you don't like us and we all knew that you wouldn't have banned anyone from the opposing viewpoint had they pointed out the hubster was plagiarizing (which they couldn't have anyway, he's a professional writer as in "Hi, people PAY me to write" which has always been a thorn in the side of Brenda Starr) but hell, whatever.

Now, the wonderful thing about this was that, in one fell swoop, WE GOT OUR LIVES BACK! It no longer mattered why some gay Mormon, who couldn't put a coherent sentence together with both hands and an open copy of a Strunk and White OR back up any of his sweeping statements of fact with an actual source, thought God hated same sex marriage. We got up in the morning and turned on the news instead of firing up the computers. We found out that a handful of board participants were indeed our friends and remain so.

Now today is Disneyland's anniversary, it opened to the brahmins and the press 55 years ago today. The unwashed masses, btw, weren't allowed in until the 18th, but I digress. It's also the anniversary of said website. So, while Disneyland celebrates a birthday, they decided to celebrate one too. They charged their own members 25 bucks a head to watch a slide show run by some staff member's in-law, a presentation, I have no doubt, for which he will be well the members 25 bucks a head. It was in a local hotel in the vicinity of Disneyland and the hubster, curious as to what both Disneyland AND the website were doing, wandered down there this morning. He found himself in the hotel lobby where he was seen by one of the Brenda Starr wannabe's...the one who tells people I'm a drunk and a psycho because I no longer send two grand a year her way, btw. Well, he availed himself of the hotel's loo and then, walking through the lobby, he stopped for no more than 5 seconds and looked in the wide open doors of a meeting room. THEIR meeting room. He was there long enough for his eyes to adjust and then went elsewhere.

Within five minutes he was approached by hotel staff who told him that his mere presence was disturbing and agitating "many guests" in said slide show and he was, courteously, thrown out. His mere presence on the property was enough to throw the "staff" into such a tizzy they actually reported it to the hotel. I wouldn't be a ALL surprised to find him on a "No Fly" list. Kind of like the aging Henry VIII having to deal with the ghosts of his former wives. And, I personally hope, the headless ghost of Thomas Cromwell. There's a picture: The hubster as some perky Disney obsessed woman's personal Anne Boleyn.

Although they gave us OUR lives back, they appear to have lost their own. By banning members who annoy them they've entered into a business circle of paranoia, always looking, always frightened that someone they screwed will appear when they least expect it.

Living well IS the best revenge...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I Live To Serve.

I have been remiss of late in blogging. This is something most likely noticed by myself, as I have doubts anyone really reads this. Blogging, I think, is the "I'm Okay, You're Okay" of the new millennium. That book, btw, was a piece of crap and should have been re-named "I'm okay and you're not but I'm going to tell you how to be okay like me." I think we blog because we all know this stuff but no one wants to publish us, they publish Molly Ringwald. Molly Ringwald has written a self-help book and someone paid her good money for the privilege of bringing it to us, the unwashed masses, and it's as close as your kindle. They publish books like "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus." THAT was a best seller. Some GUY writes a book in which he opines that men and women aren't put together the same way.

THAT explains it! Damn, I hadn't thought of that until John Gray PhD. told me that. And then he told me how to deal with men because, up until he wrote that book I had no idea. Until he explained it to me I used to wonder why I don't announce to the world I'm awake every morning with an earth shattering fart, followed up with the requisite butt scratch. This, btw, is something men can't help, it's genetic. I remember watching, in awe, my 2 year old son one morning, as he toddled into the living room, stopped in front of the television to see what was on and stuck his little hand down the back of his diaper to scratch his butt. And, while we on the subject, no, Dr. Freud, I never really wanted one of those things. Although, I must admit, there are times I think it would be nice to have the ability to aim. I remember several years ago we were leaving Las Vegas (now, there's a title if I ever heard one) and a truck overturned on the I-15 south.

Now, if you've ever driven in or out of Vegas you know, there's ONLY one way in or out and that's the I-15. At least once you pass the cut off that'll take you through Henderson and into Laughlin and the I-40. Well anyway, there we were, thousands of us stuck on a two lane highway that's been closed down by the CHP. After about 90 minutes I threw my empty Big Gulp cup out the window, it was mocking me. I immediately regretted this, as the reason I threw it out the window was because it reminded me of the quart of liquid I had consumed with NO WAY of processing now. Eventually I gave up and walked to the side of the road where I then skidded down the gravel embankment and found something resembling a dead bush in the middle of the summer desert. After several furtive looks around I dropped trou...and was immediately caught by a pleasant desert breeze, which blew everything I was leaving in the dead bush back into my shoe.

See? The ability to aim would have been handy. So would the Big Gulp cup.

Anyway, I've come to the conclusion that blogging is the new self-help. Except instead of pouring our hard earned money into someone else's idea of what will make us trod the straight and narrow path to normalcy and unspeakable popularity we simply peruse blog sites looking to see who's life sucks more than ours does. Now I personally have decided that anyone who is single has it worse than I do, but this isn't about a blog, it's about a phone call.

A couple of days ago it was discovered that a one time friend and now acquaintance of my little group of friends had died. This is sad news, absolutely. She was in her 70s, about 20 years older, give or take, than we are. She was not in good health, and was in the hospital. A single friend of mine called me the day we found out. She called me during "Jeopardy!" Normally we don't answer the phone during "Jeopardy!" so this was all partly my fault. Twenty minutes later I'm still listening and clucking while she worries that no one mentioned the company we all used to work at, which is where we all met, in the woman's obit and what an oversight that was and she just doesn't understand it all.

And the entire time I'm thinking "um, okay, I've missed Final Jeopardy, my dinner is burning and just because YOU don't work therefore 7 p.m. is just another hour in your day I DO and I've only been home an hour and there are two kids, a husband and a cat waiting for me to feed them will you get to the freaking POINT?" Then I thought, well, maybe if she wasn't single she'd have a clue about what goes on in the rest of the world and might have something else to worry about besides an event that, while sad, can't be changed. This, by the way, is why many people think I'm a cold hearted bitch, I know that. Remember though, I was raised in a family who's motto was "don't wake me up in the middle of the night, great-grandma will still be dead in the morning."

What's really sick is that I'm still without a car and therefore can't go to the funeral which is out-of-state and, a mere two weeks later hasn't taken place yet. God help me, after my initial "Holy crap, are you kidding me?" when I heard the news my second thought was "ROAD TRIP!"

Not only did she live out-of-state, she lived on a route peppered with Cracker Barrels. We don't have Cracker Barrels where I live.

See? What'd I say? Self-Help. My practicality is your "man, that woman is nuts." And now you feel better about yourself and your own life. Which is why I'm here. Yeah, that's why I do it.

Works for me.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

It's a Grand, Old Flag at that...

My father built a cannon.

I must have been about 10. We had just moved to the city I live in today. My father, a precision machinist by trade and a Confederate General wannabe the rest of the time, got it into his gun loving head that he could build a cannon and damned if he didn't. Oh, it was a scale model, it's brass barrel finely spun on one of "The Shop's" machines. It sat on a handmade wooden caisson, beautifully constructed with large wooden spoke wheels. The entire thing was probably about 15 inches in length and for 364 days of the year (365 if it was a leap year) it sat on the side of the hearth in the living room. It made a nice tableau in there, the large, carved wood screaming war eagle clutching a brace of arrows in it's claw proudly gracing the wall over the mantel, my mother's kerosene lamps flanking my grandfather's clock and a red lava light ON the mantel and the little cannon sitting proudly on the red brick hearth.

On the morning of July 4th, however, my dad would wheel the little cannon out to the porch. He would put out the flag and then go to work. First, into the muzzle of the cannon went a small measure of black powder. Then something else I don't remember now. And finally, the "wad", a small disc of pliable yet firm material, about a half an inch thick and the exact diameter of the inside of the barrel. This was then tamped down with a wooden stick he had fashioned to look like something he had seen in a Revolutionary War movie, "Johnny Tremaine" if I remember right. And finally, a pinch of gunpowder was put into the little hole that had been drilled into the barrel from the top, towards the back.

A long, fireplace match was struck and touched to the little pile of gunpowder and everyone retreated a safe distance from the little cannon, about 12 inches would do it. The powder flared and went out. And about 5 seconds later, "BOOM!" came the shot, smoke puffed from the mouth of the cannon and, largely due to the echo set off by the set up of the gun on the roofed front porch a MOST satisfying noise was generated.

This shot usually occurred at about 7:15am. On a national holiday. When everyone was home. Sleeping in on a day off was highly overrated in my father's mind. My father actually felt national holidays in general were overrated and only let his employees have the day off because the government forced him to, an attitude he hasn't changed, btw. Earlier this year, on President's Day, my phone rang and the caller I.D. indicated it was my father. I cheerfully answered and was treated to a good five minutes on why the hell was I home, what the hell was President's Day and when did we start celebrating THAT? He doesn't believe in taking vacation time either, I am continually lectured on why I should NOT be taking vacation days. I took a day off to attend my uncle's FUNERAL and he's still bitching about how I shouldn't have done that. I told him not to worry, when it's time for his funeral I'll go to work instead if that would make him feel better about it, but I digress...

So, about 7:15, the first shot was fired on Burbank. At approximately 7:20 my best friend's father would appear at our front door, having been rudely awakened on a day off. He would have been there earlier but he usually paused to put on a pair of pants, light a cigarette and open a beer before he headed across the street and volunteered to tamp the next load, cannon and all, up my father's ass.

The cannon then was relegated to every hour on the hour. My mother refused to go near the thing but my father and I could load and light in our sleep.

This was interspersed with periodic firings of the cat food cans. But only if someone had been "back home" (which meant someone in my father's family had been back to Mississippi even though they all actually grew up in Oklahoma, which they all claimed wasn't any part of the Midwest at all but really belonged to the Confederacy) and brought firecrackers back with them. Firecrackers were absolutely illegal in the Los Angeles area, even way back then and were always a treat. My best friend Marilyn, my dad, her dad (now on his second six pack of the day and having forgotten the early morning wake up war cry from the Dean's house) and I would place empty cat food or tuna cans upside down on a firecracker in the middle of the street, with the wick sticking out the side. Someone would light the fuse and then we ran like hell for the curb, where we waited breathlessly for the eventual explosion and oohed and ahhed over the height achieved by said can.

One afternoon we had just lit the fuse and straightened up to observe a black and white, quietly making his way down the block, searching for 4th of July miscreants with sparklers (which were also illegal in my town, in fact, EVERY kind of firework was illegal here, we're at the base of some notoriously dry foothills and the fire hazard does make it understandable, not to mention the idiots that set their garages on fire and blow off the occasional finger. If you can't light your barbecue without ending up in the E.R. you really shouldn't be allowed to play with gunpowder). Well, the fuse had been lit, the can was over the firecracker, the cop car was about 10 feet away and the four of us were pretty much shit out of luck.

The fuse smoldered forever. The car slowly passed directly over the can. We stood at the curb, the four of us looking as if we had just turned around to view at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and were now giant salt licks. The firecracker had the longest fuse known to man. The car slowly, silently rolled over the can and continued on it's agonizing way. His rear bumper cleared the focus of our attention and then, about five yards later, the thing went off like a roman candle. The cop car jerked to a stop. We stood, frozen. It was a shame now that I think of it, that can must have gone up a good 25 feet. We waited and waited and finely, mercifully, it landed, with a thud, on the asphalt and rolled to the gutter. We stood. The cop car idled. After what seemed like a week later the Mexican stand-off ended, the car shifted back into drive and continued his slow, silent tour of the neighborhood.

We retreated to the safety of the local city park, where watermelon was free, there was continuous (bad) entertainment under the band shell, one of the adjoining streets had been closed off and was being used for hayrides and tandem bicycle rentals and I came home with an empty coin purse and a plastic bag full of goldfish. My mother reported that the cop circled the neighborhood every five minutes for the next two hours but she was prone to hyperbole at times.

My mother died 10 years ago today, btw. She would. She's sitting somewhere now thinking "Ha!" My father and I used to drive her to drink, or at least that's what SHE said caused it. She also revered Thomas Jefferson and dying on the dame date he did would have pleased her to no end. The date, not the death.

The cannon, btw, was retired many years later. My father overloaded it and blew the barrel right off the little wood caisson, breaking one of the exquisitely crafted wheels in the process. He fixed it and it sits on his hearth now, under the screaming eagle. But it's all for show, it never worked quite right again. The city eventually stopped putting on the 4th of July picnic and carnival in the early 80s, the expense was killing them. My father left my mother, remarried and now lives about 90 minutes away. But for some reason it doesn't matter. Because every 4th of July I dress in red, white and blue and I make the flag cake and, even though my yard and barbecue were taken by the bank two years ago I will get out my grill pan and make burgers and hot dogs and potato salad and lemonade and I'll watch "1776" and "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and after dark I'll run out into the middle of the street to see what fireworks there are to be seen.

And I'll wax rhapsodic about the 4th of days gone by and I'll stop and think about what a truly remarkable thing celebrating Independence Day is.

So...HAPPY 4th, my friends! May your parades be long, your brass bands in tune, your barbecues easy to light, your baseball game successful and your beer cold. May you and your friends and neighbors have spectacular fireworks tonight. Because 234 years ago a bunch of sweaty men in bad wigs crossed the Rubicon and, in doing so, gave us this wonderful summer day.