Sunday, April 30, 2006

Happier Katie

A long talk, a good cry, and several hugs; a shopping trip, a shared bar of blackcurrant-hazelnut chocolate, and a nice walk through Stacy Park go a long way towards reconnecting with a teenaged daughter who is, after all, a pretty awesome person.

Please excuse my earlier histrionics and cancel our guest appearance on the Jerry Springer Show.

We got matching toe rings.


Katie was born at home, under the care of a wonderful lay midwife (what's Susie doing in Alaska?!? I didn't know that!). It was a very easy labor (you can call your labor very easy from a distance of 13 1/2 years) - lasting about 8 hours, during which I took a long walk around the neighborhood with Susie, hung out by the apartment pool listening to the water sounds, watched Monster in a Box, and finally took a shower through the last few mind-wiping white contractions before it was time to take to the bed and push that sucker out. I was clear and conscious the whole time, if a bit loopy with endorphines and adrenaline by the end. When she was born the midwives laid her on my tummy right away, and within a few minutes she was nursing.

So it can't be that they switched bassinets at the hospital.

Some of it is normal teenaged rebellion, but Katie is so unlike me. She and her older brother Eric look a lot like their dad and nothing like me at all. Eric has his grandfather's propensity for backing you into a corner and droning at you about things that don't remotely interest you until you begin to consider chewing off your own arm, not so much because it would help you to escape as because it would break up the monotony a little.

(His paternal grandfather, I mean - not you, Daddy!)

Katie seems to have inherited her paternal grandmother's temperament. My ex-MIL is at heart a really good and caring person. (And if you'd told me ten years ago that I would be saying that, I wouldn't have believed you.) But like her, Katie is completely out of control of her emotions. They govern everything she does, and they're volatile: from affection to fury. Honestly, I don't know whether she's going to get knocked up or kill someone first. But if it's "kill someone," that someone will probably be me.

Last night I told her to get off the computer - she was on chatting with "friends" - I really believe in allowing kids their privacy; the computer's in the living room where everyone hangs out, but I wouldn't snoop on her, although there are time limits on her use and she's been repeatedly warned that the chatosphere is heavily populated with 50-year-old perverts. (Hi guys!) But she's being home-schooled - rather against my wishes, actually - and needs social interaction with kids her own age; several of her friends from her old school in Corpus are on her contact list. Additionally, she's always been very weak in writing and spelling and doesn't much care for reading (again, switched at birth?! Hello?!?) so I think that expressing herself in writing is good exercise for her. Though it's a bit dubious whether l33tsp33k counts as writing practice.

However, 11:30 at night is way past chatting hours. I told her to get off the computer. "Just a second," she said. Five minutes later I told her again. "Just a second!!" she repeated, getting pissed off. After another two minutes I said, "Okay, you've had more than enough time to wrap this up. You're off NOW, I'm getting really tired of this."

"Well, I'm getting really tired of YOU!"

Skeevy little brat. I slave over a hot mainframe all day to support my family, and this is the thanks I get?

So I order her once more off the computer, and since she doesn't seem to be moving in that direction I grab her shoulder; she shakes me off and storms off to her room and slams the door. This isn't too atypical and I was only slightly upset, so I sat down planning to write about Eeyore's Birthday Party, which was completely awesome by the way, but that's all I'm probably going to write about it. I had a wonderful time.

But then Katie's door opened again and she stormed past me, her shoes on, out the front door. I asked where she was going - again, 11:30 at night - and she said, "Wherever I want!"

Can't let that one go by, unfortunately. I followed her outside and told her she certainly wasn't going out walking at 11:30 at night, and for the first time in her life she actually completely refused to obey on this and I had to physically subdue her... not that I did. I actually had to struggle with her in the parking lot. I didn't know what to do but to hold on and not let go. There were a couple of times I thought she was going to punch me. I just tried to stay calm and hang on and after a couple of minutes she suddenly turned around and stormed back to the apartment, thank God, because she's nearly my height and a bit heavier than me and I couldn't possibly have physically forced her. She was shouting at me and I was embarrassed and afraid.

Once we got back in she screamed at me and cried and stormed off to her room again, came back out a few minutes later to show me some rather nasty-looking long scratches on her arm, accidentally inflicted while she was trying to pull away, yelling, "Are you happy now?!" Then she stormed off and slammed her door again. Somewhere in here my husband noticed that something was going on and went to talk to her briefly about how even if her mom is wrong, she still has to do what I say. Gee, thanks. And I went to bed and cuddled up with Anna, who had fallen asleep there after we got back from Eeyore's.

Anna's the only one of my kids who takes after me, though she's definitely a lot stronger-willed and will never be anybody's pushover. But in terms of temperament and taste we're a lot more alike. Maybe her teen years will be easier. I held her and remembered when Katie was her age, how she was my cute little bug-girl and so much fun to take everywhere because she was so adorable; and how now she's awkward and adolescent and gets on my nerves, maybe because she's so many of the things that made me hate myself when I was her age. I thought about how I never seem to have managed that whole unconditional love thing you're supposed to have for your kids; that I do what I have to in order to take care of them, but often don't feel that I particularly like them. I'm so bad about just shutting off to people when things aren't working out and discarding relationships rather than working to fix them; but you can't do that with your kids, at least not without spending a small fortune in boarding school tuition.

I held little sleeping Anna, whom I love so much it almost hurts, and wondered if I will lose her the same way, and cried myself to sleep.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Living in Art

I just made coffee and began absent-mindedly to pour it into a wine glass, so you can tell right there about how much sense this post is going to make.

Last night Margie and I went to the coolest place, a tiny storefront on 5th Street rented by some friends of hers as an art space, sandwiched between a nightclub and a print shop. The space is maybe 20x30, with about a 15' stamped tin ceiling. They've built platforms and steps and levels, with several tiny cubbyholes they present to us as "rooms" belonging to the different participants. None of the cubbies are even large enough for a twin mattress, but they've put down padding and blankets, have one working TV and an Atari 2600, and are indeed living there. The print shop is the landlord and very graciously allows them to use the bathroom facilities.

And that deserves a whole entry of its own. The restroom is in the actual shop, which, in a huge space in an old downtown building, with brick walls, wooden floors, gigantic industrial presses, and unscreened windows open to let the air circulate, looked downright Dickensian. There were tubs and tubs and tubs of paint for silk-screening, all thick and glossy, the consistency of chocolate pudding. The floor and walls are splattered, supplies and carbon-copy work orders strewn about, and colorful drawings on the whitewashed bricks closer to the workstations. I wonder what the people who work there are like?

Getting the grand tour of the guys' art space reminded me a lot of those really elaborate wooden playscapes with all the different levels, passageways and turrets, like that one in Cole Park in Corpus - the kind where you have pretty much even odds you'll never see your kid again. Pretty much anywhere you are in these guys' space you have to duck slightly. They're in the process of covering the walls with paintings - some hung, some directly painted on the bricks and wooden beams - and they have their musical equipment set up on the top level, which from outside through the window looks like an elevated stage. But you can't hear them outside, at least not on Friday night. They're drowned out by the music from the club next door, throbbing through the solid brick wall loudly enough that we had to raise our voices slightly to be heard.

I don't know what they eat. There's nothing resembling a kitchen, and man cannot live by dining out alone, especially downtown. Still, I thought it was amazing; and it was a really weird feeling hanging out in the "living room" by the window, watching clubgoers streaming by, most of them oblivious to our presence, a few turning curiously to glance at us, lounging around on wooden scaffolding with beers in our hands.

It's good to be right in the thick of something but also completely removed from it, therefore protected from it. It's detachment as a way of life: watching everyone work and play and live and love all around me, occasionally spinning me briefly into the dance before moving on to the next step, but for the most part I'm a spectator in the middle of the stage.

Oh please. How "profound." Well, I guess that's art for you.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Buttlickers (Reprise)

At this point I would just like to say that I am getting way, way, way too many hits from people googling on "buttlickers." I believe that may be the single biggest traffic generating keyword I've ever posted in this blog. Interestingly, most of them are from Germany, which tells you a little something about our Teutonic friends that you may not have particularly wanted to know.

Buttlickers are cats! I was writing about cats! I don't even want to know what you nasty people have going on. Go lick butts on somebody else's blog. I'm a fargin' Mommyblogger, fer crissakes.

(Psssst... I posted the real goods on my MySpace page. But I'm not going to tell you my username...)

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Confessions of a Biblio

Arranging books is a lot like arranging flowers. You can group them by author and title (also known as "the boring way"), but it's rather fun to come up with creative groupings that would make people laugh.

If, that is, people ever came over to see them, which they never can, because your apartment is such a disorderly, filthy, cluttered mess that you can't possibly have company.

It was with the aim of solving this particular problem that I came up with the brilliant solution of moving a couple of bookcases, then scootching my entire living room wall arrangement about two feet closer to the window. It really opens up the space and is a more efficient arrangement of everything. Of course this involves de-shelving a lot of books so that the cases are light enough to move, then reshelving everything, which is the fun part.

My copy of The Sensuous Woman (inherited from my mom) usually ends up next to Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care, following the shopping-mall logic that always places Motherhood Maternity stores right next to a Frederick's of Skankville. There's also a Bellydancing for Beginners paperback Mom picked up in the mid-seventies. That one's now nestled cozily against a tattered old copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People, by some Carnegie or other. (It should really be a shorter book: Be insanely wealthy, and before you know it someone will come along and name a famous building after you. How hard is that?)

A copy of the script of Hair pairs nicely with a history of the Vietnam War.

I wasn't sure where to put Fear of Flying; right now it's next to Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, which probably isn't too comfortable for either one of them; but in books as in flowers, a little contrast can have a nice dramatic effect.

Authors by whom there are several books are fairly conventionally grouped together, although I did think of doing a dates-only section and grouping 1984 with 2001: A Space Odyssey. I could still do it; I'd have to put them with my high school yearbooks, all of which are identified only by a year stamped in relief on the spine and cover. But then I'd have Animal Farm floating around all by itself. I guess I could put it next to French for Cats.

My "classics" are only enough to fit on one shelf with slight overspillage. Does anybody want my copy of Madame Bovary? I hated that book. Close to the end, I was practically chanting, "Eat the arsenic! Eat the arsenic!" I have no particular problem with adultery, especially under Emma's circumstances; but running your family into financial ruin buying curtains?? Get it over with, for heaven's sake.

If they'd been contemporaries, do you suppose Jane Austen, Machiavelli, and Ken Kesey would have been pals?

Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett share a shelf, though I'm a little uneasy about it. I do like Pratchett, really; but still I can't help feeling that Douglas is slumming a bit. I hope he doesn't mind.

The science fiction collection, such as it is, runs more or less chronologically: H.G. Wells to Arthur C. Clarke to Isaac Asimov to Anne McCaffrey to Kurt Vonnegut to Larry Niven. I have some shelf space here, so recommendations for further purchases are welcome. But no fanfic!

There's a Bible, counterweighted with Isaac Asimov's Guide to the same. Incidentally, I can't recommend the latter volume highly enough - very scholarly and very fascinating. And that reminds me, in this month's National Geographic there's a very interesting article on some gospel manuscripts rejected by the early Christian Church, including a Gospel of Judas, with some really fascinating ideas: it's Gnostic in philosophy, and includes the idea that Judas was selected by Jesus to assist in carrying out Jesus' destiny because he alone truly understood Jesus' teachings. They're working on restoring and translating the manuscript and the website will be updated with findings.

I also discovered that the 1968 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica has roaches! Eeeewwwwww! And not even in the proper section, but all over inside the bookcase behind the volumes. They like the old glue. Thank goodness those nice heavy books make good bug squishers, and the handsome faux leather covers wipe clean with a damp cloth.

Anyway, I have got to go and finish cleaning up, so that I can have an exterminator come in without dying of embarrassment. I hope I get one who's into books.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Squish One for Me

1. This should have been posted yesterday. It was written yesterday, inspired by a conversation at work, and would have been particularly inappropriate for Earth Day.

2. Sorry, but nowhere in Blogger's Terms of Use does it say I can't write poetry at you. I checked.

3. This is my hundredth post! W00t!

Insects are not our friends,
They devour us from within!
(In the Northern Hemisphere, they merely bite us.)
Termites munch on our abodey
And the cockroach is just grody,
Living off our filth and our detritus.

Bees make honey, but they sting,
Wasps aren't good for anything,
And pretty butterflies have bugly faces;
Moth babies eat our plants,
We're overrun by ants,
And crabs turn up in SUCH unwelcome places.

Mosquitoes, ticks, and lice
Are anything but nice;
Gnats and houseflies exist solely to annoy us;
So, strike a blow for man!
Squash a critter, if you can;
Or wipe out a cool million, and be joyous!

(Disclaimer: I don't really hate bugs. In fact, I for one welcome our new insect overlords.)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Put On Your Pajamas

Will you read an account of a dream? Mom always told me to quit going on and on about dreams already; they're only interesting to the dreamer. I'm sure she was right; on the other hand, it's my blog...

Airplanes and impending airplane crashes are one of my recurring dream themes, and always involve really vivid imagery.

I was on a flight, I think to visit my parents. It was very late at night and very, very dark out, and the flight had been substantially delayed due to such low fuel that it wasn't likely we'd make it at all. The pilot was flying very slowly to make the fuel go as far as possible.

I wasn't particularly worried, although at some point one of my seatmates had a diabetic collapse, or possibly was pregnant. (It was a guy, so as an awake person, I'll go with option A.) I thought about calling my dad to let him know I'd be delayed; then I thought about calling Louis Black, editor of the Austin Chronicle, on the theory that if the plane went down, his last conversation with one of the casualties would give him something interesting to write about. (Not to imply that Page Two isn't always completely riveting.)

All the passengers were sitting around tables watching some trashy cable TV show. I was leafing through the Chronicle, the inside front page of which was blank, with a blurb somewhere briefly apologizing and explaining that most of the staff had been on vacation. The guy on TV was talking about how stripping is just another form of prostitution, which irritated me. "So is marriage," I remarked. A middle-aged woman across from me glowered and said, "It is not!"*

We were all watching out the big picture window as the plane sank lower, and lower, and lower, closer to the water; but the lights of the island were very close by - it looked as if we might just make it after all. The pilot said we were going to burn up all the rest of our fuel to get to an altitude of two miles; from there we would just descend right into San Antonio and everything would be fine. The plane began to climb sharply, generating several gees of acceleration.

Then I was in the control room - which looked rather more like a hotel room; the pilot was in bed, there was a flight attendant bringing him food, and again there was a big picture window, but the venetian blinds were closed. The flight attendant, looking a bit shifty, said we couldn't open the blinds because the sight of being so high up might frighten the passengers. So I went up to the window and peeked out to show I wasn't afraid. We were over a dark, Gotham-like city, drifting underneath us slowly, full of very tall buidings and so near you could almost reach out and touch them. It felt as if the belly of the plane would scrape some of them at any moment. "It looks fine to me," I said, "only I don't think we're quite two miles up."

The pilot and flight attendant scoffed at me, a mere passenger, thinking I could judge altitude, so I raised the blinds and the pilot was horrified. He'd given the order to climb to two miles and (due to treachery somehow) it hadn't been done, and we were all doomed.

1. Psychoanalyze this dream and explain how it relates to my current problems with intimacy.
2. Explain how gee forces, noticeable to the point of severe discomfort, can be explained given that the plane did not actually gain any altitude.

*But seriously, if you want to get into the traditional socio-economic factors involved in the exchange of female sexuality for economic support throughout history, you have to admit that -

What do you mean, you don't want to get into it?

Monday, April 24, 2006

Still Unpacking

Discovered this scribbled on a legal pad at the bottom of a moving box:

U.S.S. Enterprise

From: Bridge Staff
To: Crew List All Hands

Many of you may have noticed last week that we were all wearing little worms on our necks. It turns out those were alien parasites. If any of you are still wearing the little worms, please report to Sick Bay immediately.

We regret any inconvenience this may have caused.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Benny Hell

Did you ever think about Benny Hill from the women's perspective?

If you're attractive, you have to spend most of your time on the run, scantily clad, at double-speed, being chased by middle-aged and elderly perverts trying to cop a feel. If you're butt-ugly (note there is no in-between), you actually find the perverts attractive, and you have to chase them.

You have to choose one of these two alternatives for your afterlife. What'll it be?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

If it wasn't for Schadenfreude...

...I wouldn't have any Freude!

Well, not really.

The psychological damage inflicted by my old employer is like a healing-over war wound. It's really pretty much all better now, but I'll be telling my grandchildren stories about the scars.

I "hear" that one of the other senior sales consultants recently quit. Since they fired "Karen," this leaves them only with the adorable and enthusiastic, but wildly disorganized "Suzi," and the 22-year-old cousin of the president and niece of the CEO, "Ginger."

It's hard to type while making wiggly exaggerated quotation mark gestures.

Rumor has it that when the most recent consultant quit, she told off the president so thoroughly that it made her cry: a nasty taste of her own nasty medicine for a nasty person, that. Additional goings-on there include the firing of the woman they hired to replace me, the firing of an account executive from Suzi's team, and the loss of four or five clients.

Oh yeah. And what happens when I think of all the 60-hour weeks I put in there, making $6K a year less than I am here? And how I was anxious to the point of terror much of the time? And how I couldn't sleep nights? And how I used to sit at my desk and cry? And how I now go home right at 5 every day and get to take lunches and breaks and don't have to sell anything and don't have evil malicious people to deal with and got yesterday off because it was San Jacinto Day?

I get Freude, that's what. Hell, I get Gemütlichkeit!

Sweetheart! Please don't pee on my car!

Man, if I had a nickel for every time I've had to say that...

Last night Margie and I went out. I have to admit, I do miss the Corpus nightlife just a little. At least on weekends (on weeknights there wasn't one - most of the clubs are only open Friday and Saturday). As long as we avoided the ghetto-fabulous scene at Club 1/Club I (depending on which side of the sign you're looking at), we could hang out somewhere not too crowded, yet moderately happening; get a little dancing in; and (here's the important bit) we could always count on being the most attractive women in the place.

I love Austin, but I do benefit from a slightly smaller pond, if you know what I mean.

We started off our evening at Lala's, where no one gasped or swooned or dropped his drink on the floor at our arrival, had a couple of spicy Bloody Marys and some nachos, then left to grab a bottle of wine at HEB and drink it on her front porch. This ended up being very entertaining, because her neighbors were having a huge-ass fratty kegger. Apparently no one could see us on the dark porch, or they were (more likely) so drunk that they wouldn't have noticed us if we were lit up like a neon sign; so we had front-row seats to all the drama and excitement that extremely inebriated 20-year-olds can provide. Belligerent posturing; lovers' quarrels; angry negotiations over the car keys in groups where nobody had any business driving; the inexplicably combative game of drunken seduction; we were keenly watching and commenting, quite wittily I'm sure, on it all. It reminded me a little of MST3K.

But we knew we were in for trouble when the hostess shrilled out, "Omigod you guys! Do not pee in my yard!" I'm sure she meant they should go inside and use the toilet, but you know and I know that's completely impossible. Men love to pee outside anyway, even completely sober, even at their in-laws' house. Men have a strong inborn drive for outdoor urination. They can't help it. Throw in a bladder full of beer and a long line for the restroom, and you might as well try stopping Niagara Falls with a sharp reprimand.

So the chastened males moved their activities down to the next yard, Margie's; not fifteen feet in front of us, hosing down trees and bushes with abandon. Thank God the porch is elevated several feet, though at this point we were laughing so hard I'm surprised we didn't fall off it.

I did have to intervene (see post title) when some guy wandered around right on the other side of my car, parked in Margie's driveway. I felt bad, because he seemed really nice and terribly embarrassed; he assured me he'd only been peeing on the ground next to my car. Well, we can hope.

Margie is moving soon, hoping to get into a house with a couple of bandmates in San Marcos. I hope the place has a porch with a nice view.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

A Cure for What Ails You

First Aid is gross! Gross! Totally grody! My two new-hire cohorts and I had a mandatory all-day class in it today. (I'm now certified to administer CPR, so if you happen to feel a heart attack coming on, be my guest! You might not have quite as many ribs when I'm done as you started out with, but it's all in a good cause.)

At the end of the course we filled out a standard evaluation form to rate the instructor, the material, and whether we felt the course had achieved its stated objectives, as well as say what we thought was best about it and what we felt needed improvement. The last question was, "What did you like least about this course?" After some thought, I took it at face value and answered:

"The reminder of the frailty of human life and the fact that all of us are ultimately doomed."

Just as well those forms are anonymous.

I meant it, though. I don't think I'm any more squeamish than the average person, but all those images of punctures and burns and sucking chest wounds (which means a chest wound that punctures a lung; though I can't help thinking that pretty much any chest wound would really suck) seriously bring home that fugly sense of mortality that often wakes me up with the cold heebie-jeebies in the middle of the night.

Is this normal? I am so not reconciled to the whole concept of death. It really bothers me. A lot. Not even that I'm horrified of being taken out by an axe murderer next Wednesday; no, the thought of only having, say, forty or fifty more years and then *poof!* oblivion! cessation of existence! nothing! is fucking frightening, and there's nothing I can do.

It was a bit like that before Mom died, too, but ever since then it's been so much worse. Not having her around anymore continues to be just as unendurable when I think of it - I just end up thinking of it less and less frequently; and that's awful in and of itself, as if by letting go of the grief and moving on with life I were betraying her, abandoning her.

Maybe I use humor to cope because Mom was so crazy funny, and had a really quick wit, and she wasn't embarrassed to act like a huge doof in public, and since she died I've become more like her. That's not a bad thought, although it should scare the shit out of my kids.

There are much worse ways than humor to cope with the inevitability of death and the ultimate futility of existence. It's just a damn good thing my mother wasn't, say, Albert Camus, or my blog would be so incredibly depressing that The Cure would have to write a song about it.

And you'd better not say "it already is," or I'll practice CPR on you.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Very Good. I Must Say I'm Amazed.

Shopping and makeovers are great, aren't they? So much money has been thrown away on psychotherapy. All anybody really needs is a makeover and an expensive new wardrobe.

Last night my older daughter was watching a makeover show called "How Do I Look?" This normal-looking, if slightly frumpy girl had been selected by her sorority sisters (that would be the first problem right there) to be done over, because she had glasses, didn't wear makeup, and dressed in T-shirts and sweats all the time.


The victi^H^H^H^H^H target felt that she was just fine, that she didn't need to get all tarted up and get lots of attention from guys (lesbo!); so her "sisters," with the assistance of the show's fabulous hostess and the show's even more fabulous wardrobe consultant, essentially did an intervention. They gently explained that she was an embarrassment to the sorority and that a cute guy wouldn't even scrape her off the bottom of his shoe. They curled up their faces and looked pained, and hastened to add that they were telling her these things because they really cared about her and felt that she wasn't doing justice to her wonderful personality by looking like such a schlub.

So of course she had to cry a little and thank them for caring so much, and then the show got down to business. The sohos and the mucho fabuloso wardrobe consultant went off, camera crews in tow, to pick out possible new wardrobes for their chastened friend. Meanwhile, she agonized for about 45 minutes, in segments interspersed with fast-paced shopping footage, about her childhood and poor self-image. The fabulous hostess seemed as if she were trying to be very patient and sympathetic, but really wanted to haul back and smack her one.

But of course once the girl had picked out a wardrobe and gotten contacts and had her hair and makeup and teeth and nails and fake tan done, and the hostess brought her out to the applause of the studio audience (wait a minute, studio audience? Where the hell did they come from?), everyone cried with joy at how fabulous she now was.

Personally, I'm inspired. I too could go from a frumpy and self-conscious troglodyte to a fabulous dream girl in just one hour (not counting commercial breaks). See how easy it is to be happy?

Of course, years of psychoanalysis would probably be cheaper.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Egg Day

Easter morning: when just looking at the contents of your fridge is enough to give you cholesterol poisoning.

Last night a friend of mine took me to the symphony - such a treat! My friend had second-row orchestra pit seats plus an invite to the reception afterwards at F8.

Hilary Hahn is amazing, and reminded me a bit of my sister Jessie: tiny, cute, musically brilliant, and prone to flashy dressing on stage. They ought to be pals. I wonder if they've ever met?

The oh-so-dishy Peter Bay knows my friend, who's the ultimate renaissance woman. She's a civil engineer with a couple of extra master's degrees and a side job as a gigging Celtic fiddler, and is currently being considered for an ASO seat. So we got a chance to chat with him a bit at the reception. I've met him a couple of times before - when I used to sing in the Austin Civic Chorus we did Beethoven's Ninth with the ASO under his direction; and I attended one of these meet-and-greets with my friend a few years ago. He recognized me and welcomed me heartily back to town, but alas! apparently has gone and got married in the interim.

Damn you, Corpus Christi!

Oh, well. It's Easter; the kids are scarfing down pagan fertility symbols (breakfast of champions!), my sister Margie's coming over for dinner, and I need to clean the apartment in the worst way. I'm gonna go eat some eggs.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Marketing: It's a Shame

I just read a known spam email from my bulk folder because I was so intrigued by the subject line:

"This is the most modern and safe way not to cover with shame"

It turned out to be an unusually articulate and correctly-spelled pitch for (surprise!) erectile dysfunction treatment. I'm pretty sure that at this point, ED is the single greatest problem facing humanity.

Do you remember when, just a few years ago, the worst thing that could possibly happen to you was yellow teeth? You can still buy whitening treatments, of course, but the marketing blitz surrounding the products has subsided. For a while there, if you based your perception of reality on TV commercials,* you'd think that having slightly yellowed teeth meant you should give up any hope of ever having a love life, a job, or any semblance of a normal existence, and just go live in a cave. Thank God for Crest WhiteStrips. They saved us right in the nick of time.

Twenty-five years or so earlier, I recall that ring-around-the-collar was perhaps the greatest social humiliation ever visited upon mankind. Whatever happened to that? You never hear about ring-around-the-collar anymore, never!

Dandruff was huge for a while, remember? And failing to munch down on Certs used to have the people around you turning green and fainting from instant asphyxiation.

Of course, I have to admit, ED is probably a bit worse than yellow teeth; many men might not, but I'll bet most women have at least some up-close-and-personal experience with it. And no, it's not a heck of a lot of fun. Still, I can't help thinking that the "cover with shame" bit is just a smidge harsh.

Because, you know, it really doesn't matter, honey. Don't worry about it. There's always next time...

*Not recommended.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Thursday Conundrum

Rats! I couldn't go to my sister's show tonight because I left my purse in my desk at work. I have subsequently discovered that my badge won't get me into the building after hours. (My sister is neither West African nor Mojo Nixon, incidentally.)

You can't go out with no ID and no money at my age: not old enough that doormen won't card you, but too old for drunken twentysomethings to buy you lots of drinks.

Really, how very irksome.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Hey Austin! Show Us Yer #&@^*!

Yes, Austin already has a smattering of topless bars. We have Sugar's, the Yellow Rose, Exposé, the Crazy Lady, Joy, the Landing Strip (nice name! Wit and class!), and I'm sure a few others I don't know about.

We now even have one whole option for the ladies: La Bare, right in front of my parking lot at work. But I won't go there. Don't get me wrong; I absolutely adore gay men! I just feel that, for me, stuffing money into their skivvies is a little pointless. Um, so to speak.

But the thing is, all of these places are fairly standard for their type. None of them are quirky. They all feature nearly-naked people with nice musculature and little to no body hair, walls lined with mirrors and big-screen TVs, the steamy fragrance of smoke machines, loud canned music, overpriced drinks, and very flattering lighting. They're pretty much the same everywhere. I say it's time to start different kind of place: a uniquely Austin topless bar.

First off, let's get rid of that nasty vibe of exploitation. The customers in these places are nothing but wallets on legs! I'm given to understand that some people feel the dancers are dehumanized, as well, though I never thought that was quite as clear. However, let's say our topless bar is a liberated and egalitarian establishment, where all expectations are spelled out clearly beforehand. The customer needs to know exactly what s/he is paying for, and the limits on the dancer's services are clearly spelled out. No sneaking a grab, and the cost for table dances is not negotiable, you lousy chiseler.

We'll also get rid of the $8 "house drink" with no alcohol in it. Our Austin topless bar doesn't serve froofy drinks, anyway. It serves beer and coffee. No decaf, and definitely no Bud Light. I suppose margaritas are permissible, but they have to be really good margaritas.

All this is specified in a five-page contract you sign when you walk in the door, then enforced, in a firm but friendly manner, by good-natured bouncer Leslie.* Your signature on the contract also counts towards the petition to get Kinky Friedman on the gubernatorial ballot, as long as you are a registered voter in the state of Texas and did not vote in a primary.

Our dancers are regular folks, who don't have to shave anything they don't want to shave or cover up their tattoos with makeup. Five-inch stiletto heels are perilous and uncomfortable, so they wear Birkenstocks.

Customers may watch sports if they absolutely must, but there will also be a selection of good indie films playing. Dancers and waitstaff are permitted to jeer openly at customers who go into a topless bar just to watch TV anyway.

It goes without saying that the music is live. So as not to increase the dancers' tip-out astronomically, we'll only use up-and-coming bands (so to speak) who are happy to play for free just for the exposure. (So to speak!)

What do you think? Sounds awesomely cool, doesn't it? I think I'll make a fortune, which I propose to offer to AMD as an incentive not to build on the aquifer.

Reader suggestions for a name are welcome!

*You should be on your knees thanking me that Leslie isn't one of the dancers.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Pass It On

Tagged by the lovely and talented Bainwen... allow me to present some uninteresting trivia about myself.

1. Who was your first Prom date?
Paul, my first and only. Prom date, I mean. Do please extricate your mind from the gutter.

2. Who was your first roommate(s)?
Kathryn, from Mason, Texas. She called me up a couple of days before heading to Austin because it had occurred to her that a fellow UT student might be (gasp!) black. She had never met a black person before and was nervous.

No, really.

3. What alcoholic beverage did you drink the first time you got drunk?
Ahhh, a fine vintage Ernest & Julio Gallo vin du jugge, my freshman year at UT. Paul had just dumped me. Alas!

4. What was your first job?
I had a summer job after I graduated from high school at my stepfather's then employer, Teledyne Brown Engineering. I made $6/hour which was pretty damn good for a first job, back in those days! I also wore an onion in my belt, which was the fashion at the time.

5. What was your first car?
A 1981 VW Rabbit I bought from my friend Steve for $200 after he "totaled" it by denting the hatch slightly. (Body work is expensive, you know.)

6. When did you go to your first funeral?
My friend Cindy's husband's funeral in 1999 or so.

7. How old were you when you first moved away from your home town?
17 - I left Madison, Alabama, where my parents lived, to go to UT in Austin. But I've never really had a "home" town.

8. Who was your first grade teacher?
Mrs. Iseley, The Iseley School on Shoal Creek near MLK in Austin. The pink brick house with white wrought-iron railings is still there but will probably be torn down for condos; it's no longer a school. I can't find any web results for it.

9. Where did you go on your first ride on an airplane?
To Philadelphia from Austin, visiting my dad, when I was four.

10. When did you sneak out of your house for the first time, who was it with?
Oh dear Lord, I never have. Is it too late to start?

11. Who was your first Best Friend and are you still friends with them?
Jenny Howell in Ann Arbor, Michigan. We have not been in touch since we were eight.

12. Where did you live the first time you moved out of your parents house?
W1245, Jester Hall, UT Austin.

13. Who is the first person you call if you have a bad day?
My father or stepmother or stepfather.

14. Whose wedding were you in the first time you were a bridesmaid/groomsmen?
I have only been in one: I was privileged to be a groomsmaid for my friend Terry when he married Rosalyn - wonderful couple with whom I dropped out of touch because I am a total schlub.

15. What is the first thing you do in the morning?
Are we being honest? I have a wee.

16. What is the first concert you ever went to?
We used to go see the Austin Ballet Company (now Ballet Austin) at the Armadillo World Headquarters when I was little. As far as rock/pop concerts, I saw the Moody Blues at Zilker Park in 1987.

17. First tattoo or piercing? What age?
Nine years old, I had my ears pierced. That's it, not because I wouldn't like maybe a nice belly button piercing, but because I'm a wuss and a half.

18. First Celebrity crush?
First one I remember was on Alan Alda. Damn, but M*A*S*H* was a kickass show.

19. Age of first kiss?
15, while watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Did I mention a guy named Paul already?

20. First crush?
Rico, in first grade, at the Iseley School. He was to die for, honey.

21. First time you did drugs?
What if I want to run for public office one day?

Okay, I tag Robbie and Bill D. Spill it, boys.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Comparative Musings: Part 596 in a 4,724-Part Series

There are of course a few things I do miss about Corpus. I miss my back patio - the cats loved it out there. I (kind of) miss seagulls wheeling in the sky and the way the whole city smelled like peppery beach grass after a good rain, even my parking garage at work. I miss Omar, and Denise, and Tricia, and Trent, just awfully. I miss the Eddie Olivares, Jr. (or was it Sr.?) jazz combo, which used to play at 21 Spirits on Saturday nights, with the cute stand-up bass player who so instantly spotted Margie and me as out-of-towners that, at the end of the song they were playing when we walked in, he announced our arrival over his microphone.* You can hear great jazz here in Austin, obviously - but you'll have to pay a cover and stand in a crowd, now won't you?

Other Corpuscles' loss was my gain. I miss 21 Spirits on Saturday nights largely because I didn't have to deal with a crowd and could find parking pretty close by. As far as decor and ambience goes, think Speakeasy's, only without the rooftop patio, and with significantly cheaper drinks.

They also apparently don't have a website, and neither does the band. Not real big into that newfangled Internet thingy, there, is Corpus Christi.

But there's just nothing to beat living in Austin, or more to the point, living in Travis Heights. Last night we didn't feel like cooking, so headed down to Fran's on South Congress for a quick burger. I never really thought about it before, but have you ever noticed how many 50's-themed burger bars are trying really hard to be what Fran's (or Dan's) just naturally already is? The place was full of a cross-section of nearby neighborhood residents and SoCoGoers, the jukebox was playing good music (until my husband got his filthy hands on it), and the food was just what it always is, which is a good thing.

Then we stopped at Vulcan Video on the way home. Does Corpus Christi have anything like Vulcan Video?

No. No, it does not.

It's not a bad life by any means, and I may have to be an apartment dweller for the rest of my days just so I can afford to keep living in Travis Heights.

I need to find a place with a patio, though.

*This was a telling and common phenomenon in Corpus. One of the first things many people would say upon meeting Margie or me was, "You're not from around here, are you?" I'm not quite sure why, as I thought the general populace looked fairly normal. Perhaps I have a big label on my forehead that says "Pinko liberal commie atheist scum," which has heretofore always escaped my notice.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Life's Little Tragedies

So I'm driving down Lamar after dropping off the big kids at their grandma's house, listening to some Brian Eno on the radio, and it's pretty good, very experimental, pretty weird, but catchy, so I'm dancing around a bit in the driver's seat. You know how you do.

A guy the next car over meets my eyes and smiles - laughs, even - and I realize something horrifying.

I'm a mid-thirties woman, driving a minivan with a 5-year-old in the backseat, and I'm totally jamming out to a typewriter solo.

Well, no wonder there aren't any boys in my yard. My milkshake has turned to cottage cheese!

Thursday, April 06, 2006


You can't keep a secret from your massage therapist. A massage is like truth serum - the knots come untied, the tension melts away, the endorphins get to flowing, and next thing you know you're singing like a canary. Who needs torture when you've got massage?

I mean that in a good way, of course.

A couple of weeks ago I damn near pulled the muscles in my right calf clean off in a freak puddle-jumping accident. My leg was getting gradually better until yesterday, when, dodging a car on Riverside (you know you envy my action-film lifestyle), I re-sproinged it in a most agonizing fashion. Yesterday and today I could barely hobble.

Ugh. So uncool. Action heroines are never gimpy!

So I looked up the wonderful massage therapist who gives weekly chair massages at my old old employer (not the bad one, the one before that). She used to work there as well, before becoming a massage therapist - she was a meeting planner like me, but left a couple of years before I became one. I visited her every week during my last pregnancy, but I hadn't seen her since Anna was born almost five years ago now, so it was such a treat to visit and catch up, and gossip about people we hadn't seen in 15 years...

And of course there are the things that have happened in the interim that I really didn't mean to go on and on about, but couldn't seem to keep my mouth shut: losing my mom; being traumatized by the Corpus employer; ... maybe one or two other things I won't get into here. Or three or four. Oh, but it was lovely. Judith so kindly gave me an hour and a half for the hour price! I left feeling happy, loopy, and dazed, and so completely relaxed that I wasn't sure I was okay to drive.

My leg is still just slightly stiff but much better. I can walk! I can walk!

Let's just hope it doesn't rain again for a while, because I'm under strict orders to avoid puddles. Oh yeah, and also I'll need to close down Riverside Drive for a couple of weeks until I'm fully recovered. Sorry for any inconvenience.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

I've Been Had

How do you feel about Amway salesmen? You love them, don't you? They're so adorable! You just want to scoop them up in your arms and kiss their darling little noseys, don't you?

Oh wait, that's kittens.

Last week I got an email invitation from a high-level manager in our division. I was on a list of about 15 people, including our section director, most of whom I know to some degree, several of whom I don't. The invitation title was "Celebrate Success!" and the body read, "Please join us at this event so we can discuss how to keep this great momentum going." The location was given as "Offsite - North" and the time was 11am-1pm today.

I emailed the first guy on the distribution list - a charter member of our three-martini break set - and asked him if he had any idea what the hell it was about. He didn't, though he did make an ominous reference to Soylent Green. Nobody else I asked knew either. All were mystified.

Eventually the information worked its way around the department rumor mill that we were going to Dave & Buster's as some sort of a teambuilding thing, and we'd carpool (D&B's in BFE - can I get a chant going here?). Whatever. Free lunch, right? (Hopefully not consisting of us.) So I accepted.

Everyone else arrived before the manager who set up the invitation, was seated, and our food and drink orders taken; then the manager arrived with some other dude in tow. Said other dude turned out to be a financial consultant from Ameriprise; and the deal was that he was paying for our lunch and game tokens in exchange for us filling out a little personal information at the top of a form so he could contact us at a later date to discuss our finances.



Well, gosh. I'd just hate to waste the poor fellow's time on turnip blood, so I put in a disused email address and my old Corpus cell phone number. Mr. Soylent Green took it a step further and just made shit up.

The senior manager said our group had been hand-picked because we've all done such good work, and that the lunch and activities at D&B were a reward for our performance; but as my supervisor had been completely unaware of the event before today, that seems rather unlikely. My cube neighbor (who was not part of the group) thinks I should notify HR.

At least I got to demonstrate my dazzling suckiness at skeeball and pocket billiards to coworkers who were previously unaware of these traits; and isn't that what teambuilding is all about?

As it turns out, Soylent Green tastes just like chicken.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Jackie Chan: Dream Lover?

So we're sitting here watching Rush Hour on cable.

Actually, I think my favorite Jackie Chan movie is something I cannot for the life of me find on IMDB, which has a breathtaking fight scene involving stilts and ladders, and which I saw for the first time in Cancun, while on a business trip, 10 weeks pregnant with Anna, and therefore unable in good conscience to take advantage of the trays of fruity, paper-umbrella-festooned drinks in coconut shells which were wafted back and forth under my nose the whole time I was there. Those tropical pineapple-eating bastards.

But I digress! The question that shoulders its way to the forefront of every red-blooded woman's mind, upon watching a Jackie Chan movie, upon admiring his speed and dexterity and creativity in incorporating steering wheels and stepladders and bar accessories and stilts and car doors and whatever else happens to be at hand into his performance at the drop of a hat, is Holy Shit! What's he like in bed?!?

Ladies. Tell me you have never wondered this.

There are a couple of different possible opinions here. One is that he's not really much to write home about (that is, if you're into writing home to the folks about your sexual experiences, you abnormal sicko). I mean, yeah, whee, yee-ha! and all that, but at the end you're left smoking a cigarette 5 seconds later going wait a minute, did something just happen?

The other school of thought is that, fast and bedazzling as it is, it's savored magnificently in retrospect. Okay, so the actual act takes place too quickly for you to appreciate it while it's happening, but afterwards when you reflect back on it, you have something to remember forever.

Okay. Speaking in my official capacity as a mid-thirties female, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say no to scenario #2. Jackie Chan is awe-inspiring and marvelous and dexterous and all, but upon careful consideration, I'll go on the record as saying I wouldn't hit that.

Commercial's over, so back to the movie now. Y'all are so lucky to have me. Ebert totally does not cover this shit.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

I Don't Like Spam!

You might want to sit down. I'm about to wax less than rhapsodic about a longstanding and venerable Austin tradition.

I know it's April 1st, but really, I'm serious.

We headed out to Spamarama today. See? That's Sam Hurt's artwork at the top of the page! (And on the posters and flyers and on the T-shirts and caps and mugs they were selling at the festival.) I'll have to give it a big thumbs-down anyway, though. It cost us $15 to get in (three adults and a free kid), then $2 for Anna to jump around in a bouncy castle for five minutes, then another $2 for her to slide down a big inflatable slide, which was kind of cool but still only took her about 30 seconds, tops.

Plus we spent $18 for two strawberry margaritas and two cherry limeades for the girls. The margaritas were really big but seemed largely alcohol-free, and after just one of them, my stomach is sulking and making pointed remarks about why we don't drink wine coolers anymore. Gluh.

And of course it's a million degrees out and the lines are long, which would be okay if this were a cheesecake festival or something, but I'm not waiting 45 minutes in line for Spam. It's against my religion.

(Actually, on the subject of religion, I'll confess a little secret: I do rather like Spam, though I haven't had it in years. My dad used to make it once a week, fried in a skillet with half a cheese single melted on top of each slice - he was a bachelor, you know - served with a side of frozen peas or frozen corn. Heated up, I mean. And my grandmother used to make a lovely brown sugary Spammy casserole-type dish, with beans, I think.

No really, it was quite tasty!

I suppose if I wanted you to believe anything I say, I shouldn't post on April 1st.)