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Friday, June 13, 2014

Come Back To The Five and Dime...

Last night I saw up and watched a movie I had already seen. Not that this is of any interest, or even unusual, I have only recently stopped watching movies I've seen like 87 times already. Such is the lure of cable: "Oooo, "The Dark Knight Rises"  is on. Again. Because I just finished watching it on the east coast feed, how cool is that?"

Not very cool, I've decided, although I admit I have a Batman thing and always have.  I think it's because the Caped Crusader (and no, I'm not big on the  1960s TV show, fun though it was) has no super power. He's rich. He's a progressive soul who likes to use his billions for the good of the 98%, he supports widows and orphans and all sorts of green fuel alternatives. He's single. He's easy on the eyes. What's not to love? My son said I have a "lady boner" for Batman. Maybe. Although Christian Bale runs a close second.

Anyway, the Batman has to buy shit. He didn't get bitten by a bat (as they're vegetarians, or does one use herbivores? I'm not sure) and he didn't get merged with a bat in a lab and his father didn't mate with a bat, he's just a rich do gooder. Some would call him a vigilante. But he would kick the asses of the Texans who carry assault rifles into the local Walmart just because they can, so I'm good with that.

Besides, he's hot. And, unlike superman, there's an air of sexuality about the Batman, he does not stand for "Truth, Justice and the American Way", he stands for ass kicking.   But I digress...

Last night, as usual, I stretched out in bed, and ate a taco (that's not usual) and spread my stuff all over the bed and turned on the television. I didn't watch HBO, but I went to the network. I think I watched Jeopardy!, I'm not sure. It was on late, after the basketball game. So I was going to turn on the late news and decided to check out Turner Classic Movies, you know, just in case. And there it was.


I love that damn film. Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean. All at their peak. I sat up until 1am and watched it, just in case it ended differently this time. It didn't.

And today I've been thinking about James Dean. My son and I have discussed him more than once, he thinks that Dean would have been a "whatever happened to him?" long ago, I think he would have matured into a hell of an actor, much like Paul Newman did. We'll never know.

But what I was thinking about was a grey, drizzling Sunday about 10 years ago. I had seen in a newsletter that Hearst Castle, one of my favorite places to visit, decorates the place at Christmas the way that the magnate himself did. Okay, he didn't do it himself, the staff did, but you get the idea. There are something like 20 decorated Christmas Trees set up all over the place: Downstairs, upstairs, in the lady's chamber. I wanted to see this. We made plans to drive up on Sunday and take one of the tours.

The hubster sneezed and therefore, being a man, went to bed for a week. So he wasn't going. Because he had a cold, I got a late start with the boys, we didn't leave until after the requisite grocery store, drug store run. Because we got a late start, I took the short route, I didn't want to get there and find the last tour had just left. The short route, btw, takes over three hours, the longer, more enjoyable drive about a half hour more. I shot up the 5, over the grapevine and headed west on the 46. This isn't a very interesting drive, it's a lot of nothing, but it doesn't meander up and down the coastline either.

It was grey, chilly and drizzly, the kind of day I live for. I was driving carefully, not as fast as I usually do, and I have a lead foot people, it's not like I was poking along. The 46 was quiet, a bit of traffic but not a lot. One of the boys was dozing in the back seat, the other in front, there wasn't any radio reception and we were quite cozy, just enjoying the ride, the light rain, the warmth in the car.

I'd been driving on the nice, straight if small highway for about half an hour, maybe 35 minutes when a feeling I can only describe as creepy beyond anything came over me.I checked the car.  Trevor was next to me, his headphones in, Owen in the back seat snoozing. A truck up ahead, doing his thing. I never knew what "the hair on the back of my neck stood up" really meant until that instant. There was something off and I knew it. The car sounded fine. The mist was fine, I wasn't going too fast or too slow, I wasn't going to hydroplane, the road wasn't slippery. And out of nowhere, the thought popped into my head: James Dean died here.

I thought no, I thought yes, I wasn't sure, I didn't really remember. But about 30 seconds down the road I saw the sign, "James Dean Memorial Highway" and there was the intersection of the 46 and the 41. There's also a bar with a tree in the parking lot with a really weird kind of fence thing around it that says "James Dean " with some dates, one of them being 9.30.1955 of course, and was, I read somewhere, paid for by a rich, obsessed Japanese businessman. I don't know that for a fact. h

It's kind of quiet up there now, but I was there right after the 50th anniversary of Dean's death, not by choice, but, you'll pardon the term, by accident. I knew I MUST have read something about the accident so the location would have been rattling around in the dusty index cards I think I keep in my brain, I'm not so vague as to never have come across the information. But what really stuck with me was the time and place I got the weird feeling. It wasn't AT the junction, ti was before. It was before I saw the highway sign, before the Jack Rabbit cafe with it's steel tree fence thing. There was nothing really there.

Except the old road.

The roads have been reconfigured since 1955, which is unusual for California rural roads, but then this one probably got more action than most, not only from  the lookey Lous, but it's a pretty straight and direct road between the I-5 and Paso Robles. The junction has been moved a bit west, I found out.  The spot where I got the willies was the spot where one can see traces of the (now dirt) road that WAS the 41. I must have been within 25 feet of the place he died. That was the day I changed my mind about ghosts.

Was it him?: Who knows, I sure don't. I know that, out of the blue, SOMETHING touched me. And it wasn't one of those fun pokes either. It stuck with me and to this day I remember the odd sense of something going on. If it was him, maybe he thought it would be funny, you know, lets scare the chick behind the wheel in the mom mobile. Maybe we were related, my family always claimed there was a distant relationship, because, as we all know, Dean is SUCH an uncommon name. But it's my maiden name.

And maybe it was an ill timed hot flash, who the hell knows? 

All I know is that, since that day, I believe in spirits, or ghosts, or whatever one wants to call them. Oddly enough, it's never anyone I've ever MET, I suppose my mother knows running into her wouldn't be the best thing in the world for either of us, although I'm getting kind of tired of having her in my dreams, she's been dead for almost 14 years. Hell, maybe she ran into Dean in the afterlife and told him it would be funny to poke me on a two lane highway on the south end of the Central Valley. I absolutely adore the California Central Valley, btw, I just love to see the fields and smell the garlic and alfalfa and watch the mature cotton sway. I love the vineyards and the orange groves. This probably annoyed my mother, who claimed to be allergic to everything and always wanted to go home to the Midwest, she was always annoyed that I didn't want to go with her, because if I didn't go she wouldn't either. 

Well, that all came back to me as I sat up watching "Giant" last night, knowing I would regret the lack of sleep today but not regret watching the film. Although it ended the same way. Always does. Except that once Jett Rink passes out drunk in the ballroom we never see him again and I've always wondered how he got home.

I've always loved this picture of James Dean. I actually had a tee shirt with Mickey Mouse in that pose. Everyone thinks it's a screen capture from the film. Know what he was looking at? George Stevens. There are other stills taken at the same time, he was listening to his director. Which is why I think he would have stuck around.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

"Just walk beside me, and be my friend."

I know a woman, she is better than an acquaintance but not what I would call friend. This is because, in my smallish world, "friend" is what many call "best friend" and of friends I have maybe half a dozen. I know people from the Internet, people I would never have met otherwise but for a dysfunctional message board we all ended up in, and some of those people I consider friends, even though we are face to face seldom, if ever. They are my support, my rocks, and I hope I can be the same to them.

There are others, from the same dysfunctional place, people I have met. Some I like. One betrayed me. That was the one I spent a lot of time with before I realized that perky is just a blurred and narrow line away from psychotic. This I know for a fact, a hard, nasty, cruel fact. Although I actually ran across her accidentally in cyberspace a week or so ago and I was somewhat saddened to discover that she hasn't changed and still considers herself just too adorable for words. Trust me...boobs are perky. Women over 40 are not, nor should they aspire to be. Seriously, get over yourself.

But this is the story about someone else from that same place. She's a pleasant woman, a bit younger than me. Okay, more than a bit. I understand, from people I trust beyond trust, that she could be, shall we say, manipulative and unstable. I can see some of that. But I have met her and her family, and spent a pleasant hour or so under a shady tree just shooting the breeze. While I do believe what I heard in this respect, I also say that I never had any run ins or quarrel with her. I can see a bit of what people have told me, not to go into detail, but there was some pettiness at one point. I shrugged it off and when she popped back into my life I said sure," hi, nice to see you" because it was.

She lives in another state and we're more pen pals than anything else. I noticed that there is some maturity as the years have passed, and that's the way it should be. Not someone crowing that they're "perky" or "bubbly" or some such nonsense. I've got nothing against an effervescent personality, but I find that when one has to describe oneself with those terms, and used them to define him (or her) self when prompted, well, that's self-absorption that defies language.

Several months ago, long the first of the year, my out of state friend popped into my cyber life again and, as usual, I said "Hi!"  Before I said something that unintentionally offended, she sent a lot of her Internet (and personal, I imagine) friends a note. She had been feeling ill and thought her fibromyalgia was taking a turn for the worse. After a lot of doctor's visits came the call, the one that everyone fears and makes every one's blood run cold. It wasn't fibromyalgia.

It was acute leukemia.

I mentioned  to my two friends, the ones who were wary of her, what was happening. One of them said "I heard from someone else. That poor girl, she must be terrified!" THIS is what good people do. They keep perspective. They do NOT hold grudges, they have sympathy for someone who is in trouble. I initially wasn't unsure if I should tell them, there WAS, indeed, some bad blood there. But frankly, I kind of needed to tell them, I'm not sure why. Just as I say an occasional prayer that the perky one and her band of stone faced harpies doesn't find out, because they will immediately hit Partypalooza for balloons, paper plates  and other celebratory items. Because they're disgusting. But I digress...

Through the last six months or so I have watched my ill friend, via the Internet, take the journey of her life. She has withstood more chemo than any living creature should have to withstand. Her first marrow doner was found unsuitable. She has spend literally months in hospital, in isolation.  She had seven rounds of chemo in 10 days before Christmas and kept her humor through all of it. Her hair fell out, and when it started growing back, it had turned white. She made fun of her bald pate. She reported on visits and gifts, and asked for prayers, freely given.

Her family reconciled with one another, and a few of them with her, and she felt that the journey was worth it to have them back in her life, a silver lining in this threatening cloud. I am amazed at her courage and her spirit. She has traveled to the gates of Hell and is smiling while she tells her tale, certain that she will be turning back, and soon.

A backup doner had been located, a young man in Europe. Seven days ago she began intensive chemo, six treatments in six days. She spend the first three days eating junk food until the expected nausea hit, so bad she ended up in the ER a few nights ago.

Today she posted a picture, which I share with you: I don't think it's ooky, but you might and for that, I apologize:


That's not a blood transfusion. She's watching the rest of her life. That's bone marrow. All of that chemo poison killed a lot of stuff, including her own marrow, she had the last of it yesterday. Today, that bag was hooked up to her line and being fed into her bloodstream. That cherry colored stuff will then look for something it can latch on to...and what it will find is her marrow less skeleton.

She will spend 100 days with no outside dust, no ungarbed visitors and no JUNK FOOD. The danger of fast food is too great a risk, healthy people tend to fight off the constant barrage of infectious organisms being served up at Mickey Ds and friends, but when one's immune system is compromised that McRib will turn into McSalmonella.

I'm not one of those people who go around talking about JAYsus! at any given time, but it makes one think, you know? How appropriate that, with Easter less that two weeks I can see someone coming back to life. Sure, she's not rising from the dead, but look at that. It's new life. Actually it's shared life, a young man somewhere in Europe offered to share his life and his health with a stranger and isn't that just the most amazing thing ever?

There's no deep philosophy here. It's just a true story, one going on even as I type this. Something that was educational to me has become part of my reality and it's absolutely magnificent. I feel privileged that she let me follow along with her on this journey. It just proves that bitterness and ugliness of spirit will prevent you from something wonderful. Those people who exercised such callousness and hatred, and harbor those feelings to this day? I actually feel sorry for them right now. If I were to list some of the most beautiful things I had ever seen, I would mention my sons. I would add the  Northern Lights and the Milky Way. I would put Michelangelo's "Pieta" and the Shrine of Lourdes on it. I would list the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset and the Ring of Kerry in Ireland. And I would list that bag, that bag of life. I smile every time I look at it, and I am filled with wonder and happiness. And the haters and the naysayers won't know what it feels like. Because they have put such a price on their friendships that they can not possibly know the pleasure of just being friends.

And that's a sad thing indeed.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Tyranny of Petty Things.

When I was a girl we lived on a hill. It wasn't much of a hill, we were about 8 houses up said hill. It went quite a ways up, where the houses got bigger and grander and more expensive, but we were firmly in the middle of the first block and therefore high enough for my mother to say that we lived on the foothill. This kind of crap was important to her, I think she made up for her lousy upbringing by attaching herself to things that glittered. You know...faster, higher, richer? The fact that we flooded every winter and lived a mile and a half from the local airport never seemed to be part of her vision.

It gave her some sort of weird comfort. Because, in spite of the fact that we were decidedly middle class and my father was a machinist, my mother fancied herself as some sort of social tree topper. This may have come about because of the general 1950s suburbia atmosphere that she embraced, I'm not really sure. She drank (incessantly) martinis and smoked Pall Malls and once explained to me how the 50s, with their Miltowns and cocktail parties and trays of rumaki and women in baby doll nighties was just the most ideal time EVER and we should go back to those good ol' days because we were all happy and in our place. She used to lecture me and my friends on how to be a seductive woman and told us that elbows were only slightly more unattractive than knees and shouldn't be shown. This was in 1966 or thereabouts. My mother was weird.

Anyway, in the late afternoon I would go outside and stand in the driveway and look towards the airport. I would hook my butt on to the retaining wall that marked the terrace-like housing lot on the "up" side of the hill and I would watch the sky. The local airport was Lockheed, later known as Hollywood-Burbank and various other sundry twists until it settled into today's version, "b Hope Airport". It wasn't LAX but it was pretty big time, we had 707s and Constellations and DC3s  taking off and landing. The late, lamented short hop airlines, like PSA and Western ("The ONLY way to fly!") had terminals there.

Well, about 4:30 or so was a busy time for landings. We were situated rather fortunately, geographically that is, we could usually SEE the planes but seldom heard them. So out I would go and I would start watching the west. And the planes would start coming in. I would watch for an hour sometimes, watching the planes stack up waiting for landing. There would be 4 planes, all flying in a big corkscrew over the airport. The one on the bottom would make its last, lazy turn and then straighten out, dropping out of sight as it landed. At the same time, another plane would come into view, head towards the terminal and join the springlike pattern at the top as everyone shifted down a level. It was a thing of beauty, of symmetry, it was almost baseball like in its summer perfection. And, as the air traffic settled down so did the sun and, in case you don't live by west coast, there is something glorious about the sun setting over the water.

The planes were full of people but I didn't really care. Okay, I cared, but they weren't the object of my interest. It was the craft that I loved, the absolutely beauty of some guy in a control tower juggling six planes all wanting to land on the same runway within six minutes of each other that fascinated me, it was a ballet of steel and jet engines which I could barely hear from my driveway; the fat, cigar like body of the DC 3s, the sleek silver tubes of the 707s and the exquisite triple tails of the Constellations, Connie's everyone called them, all, like Oscar Hammerstein's hawk, "making lazy circles in the sky."

I think a lot of those idle afternoons lately. Because of the Winter Games of the whateverthehellitis Olympiad we're watching a lot of television and, therefore, a lot of commercials. The hubster and I are of an age where we still watch commercials, because, well, you never know when you might miss the next big thing in breakfast cereal. Also, it might be funny. There are two that are pounding away at us now. One is the buff boomer who is trotting through his very rich and neat house telling us that the European way of life, that stop and smell the roses attitude, is just so much bullshit and we're awesome Americans because we work till we drop and, eventually, we get stuff. Like his gas guzzling Cadillac SUV. And it's cool because we went to the moon and, apparently, left a Caddy up there with the engine running. So screw the fact that those time wasting Europeans take an entire month a year off and they live longer, happier and healthier lives, keep pounding away and get yourself a car.

The other one is the woman driving her babysitter home and the new Chevy is awesome and it has leather and an XM radio and a GPS and as she pulls up to the girls house the girl, who has been taking in the spiff of the car, suddenly raises her rate from $40 to $60 dollars. In the first place, who the fuck pays that kind of money for a 14 year old babysitter? And in the second place, what a greedy, calculating little bitch. It's still just a Chevy for Gods sake. Hey, your car's spiffy, give me more money. Seriously? THIS is the kind of behavior we now glorify in advertising?

So I got to thinking. I got to thinking about those long, lazy summer afternoons watching the planes land and thinking of how difficult I would find it now to stand for an hour and feel absolutely NO GUILT about doing absolutely NOTHING except letting an experience wash over me. We no longer walk or ride our bikes unless our doctors order us to. We race everywhere, just so we can do something and race back and hardly anything we do is worth rushing for. I don't have a car, and yes, I would like one. But I am beginning to realize that, when you keep chasing the top of the line you never get there. There is always something else out there, something new, something better than the one you have. A used Toyota is going to get me to the same place the guy in the Cadillac is going and if seeing me pull in in a used Toyota makes him feel good, well, dude, do I feel bad for you!

Sure, I'm as guilty as the next one. I would like a house, and some financial security. But I'd rather have some new, clean carpet...with a built in cat scary thing in it that would pop up every time the damn cat starts circling anything other than the litter box. If I could invent that I could probably afford the Cadillac. But I don't want one. I WANT to stroll home, I want to stop and have coffee at the local bistro, I WANT to have a long, lazy dinner at a picnic table, I would rather work until seven and take a two hour break in the middle of the day. I want to work to live, not live to work. I want to be able to stop for an hour and marvel at the planes landing.

I thought it might be old age and nostalgia, but my younger son told me the other day that, if he had the money, he would move to Europe. We were talking about the commercial, and how General Motors is telling us that in Europe they don't have as much "stuff" as we do. And he said "Yeah. And they live a hell of a lot longer."  Slowing down isn't going to be easy, I long for organization. But maybe it can work. I mean, why the hell should I have high blood pressure? Why do I need to be on antidepressants? There is happiness out there and I have come to the conclusion that the reason we aren't reaching it is because we pass it. We're going so fast we blow right by it.

So maybe we do need to do something on the weekends. We need to put dinner in the slow cooker. We need to stop worrying about what we're missing on television. For HEAVENS SAKE...we need to STOP MULTI TASKING!  Write a letter. A real letter. Send a thank you card. Watch a program. Go to a ballgame or a museum. Take a picnic lunch to the park. Start a patio garden. Look out the window. .

STOP CHECKING YOUR FUCKING SMART PHONE while you're doing it!   One at a time, people! Just like the planes landing...slowly and gracefully, and never getting tangled up. Try living as if you're in a landing pattern. Glide, circle and, when it's the right time, come in. Put the next thing on the list on top and do it again.

And do NOT pay the damn babysitter $60 bucks.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

I'm just too short...

Well, we're going to give this thing another try. The problem with blogging is that one feels compelled to write about stuff that no one else is interested in, and thereby make it interesting. God alone knows why, I sure don't.

In my year hiatus I gained back about 20 of the 26 pounds I lost. Quell drag. There is nothing more annoying than discovering that your underwear didn't really shrink. It was the underwear that gave it away. Finally having worked my way into single digit pantie sizes I find myself with a continual wedgie which, when one is sitting in exactly the right position can actually be quite pleasant. It's the most "pleasant" I've had in years, actually. This position, however, most often occurs at my desk chair, urged along by the annoying jiggling of my left knee, something that only occurs at work. My boss finds my new pleasant demeanor while bored stiff in my empty work area a wonderful change by the way. On my last day I intend to tell him just why I appear to be having such a good time.

Anyway, I went back to Weight Watchers and lost 4 and a half pounds the first two weeks, which inspired me to find new and inventive ways to sneak cookies into the food pyramid. The way I see it, if you make a cookie, stick your thumb into it before it's baked and then fill the resulting divot with a large glob of blackberry jam you have created a fruit. If only my ass would get on board with this.

However I have discovered whole grains and Greek Yogurt. Non fat Greek yogurt blobbed in a small bowl over a handful of shredded wheat and topped with a handful of berries isn't half bad, by the way. Add a little Stevia and a shake of cinnamon and it's quite tasty. Get the Stevia that resembles either raw or brown sugar, not the stuff that Walter White gave Lydia for her tea.

Also, a can of tuna, a can of white beans, a couple of hard boiled eggs, some lettuce and some low fat salad dressing makes a hell of a lunch. Which is good because I live in the only part of the country where a cold salad is an appropriate lunch right now. The temperature is over 80 freaking degrees here in the urban village and, frankly, I don't talk much about it. It seems insensitive, what with the polar express or whatever it is that's affecting the rest of the entire country except California, where the sun shines from San Francisco to San Diego and, I understand, actually does slop a little into Vegas.

At least that's what the hubster said, he just got back from Sin City, ended up spending about 50 bucks in total and was gone for half a week. During this time, I found myself being able to get in the car and drive whenever I felt like it, which was liberating to say the least. I saw a movie, I went shopping, I bought a television set. I had  small Sony in the bedroom, 13" screen and 100 pound body. It took up most of the dresser. I found it on someones curb one day while I was walking home from the bus stop and, after five years of service, it crapped out. The picture was a big blob of fuchsia in the middle surrounded by a lime green halo and in order to turn it on one had to push the on button on the remote about 17 times in a row until it finally "caught." It was a lot like trying to get a car with a not quite dead battery going.

Well, thanks to one of my sons and his significant other, who happens to be some sort of tech geek genius, we found a floor model for sale. It's 19" and it's a flat panel, because, frankly, I don't think they make those other kind anymore. It's HD and it weighs about 6 ounces. They didn't have a box so they wrapped it up in cellophane and taped the remote to the back, charged me half price and I brought it home where we plugged it in and hooked up the satellite tuner. Did you know that the sky is blue and grass is green? I'd forgotten. I spend the week-end watching stuff in HG that I would not have watched under any other circumstances. I watched "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Oh yes, I really did, from beginning to end. By the time it was ending I found myself taking issue with the historical inaccuracies regarding Mary Todd Lincoln and Stephen Douglass, who, according to the film, were engaged when she met old Abe. And Lincoln only had one son, Willie, in the movie, and Willie died, not of influenza, but of a vampire bite. Mary was a pretty, bright, vivacious woman who frequently ventured outside, volunteered at field hospitals and was, most decidedly sane. These things bothered me. The fact that Abraham Lincoln kept a silver tipped axe in the oval office and forayed out into the hall of justice slaying vampires as he went didn't annoy me nearly as much as that Mary Lincoln thing. In fact, it really didn't seem to bother me much at all. Actually, that concerns me a little...

The hubster came home to find a new television in the bedroom and was NOT impressed. Apparently he liked the hot pink and green color pattern. He periodically asks me how my "new toy" is working out.

Quite nicely, thank you. Quite nicely indeed. In fact, I think I'm going to watch "Showgirls" next.