Thursday, April 30, 2009

Eye Believe

Remember eye contact? When I was growing up, my father taught me to look someone in the eye when I spoke to them. You don’t see that so much anymore except for persuasion or dominance.

Oh sure, there are conversationally synchronized glances by way of punctuation, but as a rule I make more consistent eye contact with people I walk past on the street than I do with people I meet for lunch.

The “road rage” section of Traffic School said that eye contact is considered an act of aggression. They also advise not smiling at oncoming traffic. Since traffic doesn’t usually make me smile, this shouldn’t be a problem.

When I’m speaking with someone, and they keep looking away, they seem furtive to me. Hold on a sec while I look that up (yes, Jim, in my paper dictionary) because I always think “furtive” and I want to be sure it’s correct. Okay, “stealthy”. That makes sense vis a vis vocabulary but not vis a vis behavior. What’s “stealthy” about ordinary conversation?

Now I’m not advocating an unblinking psychotic stare, nor do I want you to ignore the other people around you. I just want to remind the world that, information exchanges aside, conversations generally happen for reasons ranging from general politeness to friendliness and that sometimes the old ways are best. Shoulders back, eyes front, and please try not to spit.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Boring, Boring, Gone

The media finally stopped blathering about shortened attention spans. It’s assumed that between video games, Twitter and whatnot, none of us can think about anything for more than a nanosecond because we get bored.

How often do you read an entire webpage, Godforbid a book? Okay, I’m cheating here. Obviously you are capable of following multiple paragraphs. Let’s move on and discuss boring people. You know some, though none of your close friends are boring. None of mine are, either. We’re not, you and I. So what makes those other people so tiresome to be around?

Maybe boringness (not boredom) is like villainy. A good villain doesn’t think s/he is evil. Nobody thinks they’re boring. When I tell a story or joke, or try to convince someone that something is interesting, it’s because I believe it really is interesting or funny or significant. Maybe boring people just aren’t persuasive enough.

But what about boredom itself? I’ve been trying to figure out what it is. Is it emotional, a form of depression? Is it intellectual, a form of – well, I hesitate to call it stupidity. I’ve been bored, and I’ve been stupid, and I believe there is a difference. I think boredom hits us in the spirit, but I’m not sure what I mean by that.

My mother doesn’t understand boredom. She associates it with a vacuity of mind that is incomprehensible given how interesting the world is. What do you think boredom is? And don’t just say you know it when you feel it.

Maybe I’ll have some more insight into all this after I sit through another hour of online traffic school. That’s what got me this far.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

No Degrees Of Separation

I think of them as familiar strangers. You have them too, different ones. They’re the people you see regularly but don’t know. They’re in your grocery store. They drive to work along the same route you take, though you may only recognize the bumper stickers and not the faces. They’re regulars in your Starbucks, or at that little place you like for lunch. For me, it’s the folks at my gym(s), we say hello when we see each other elsewhere, but in the gym we’re strangers.

Life is a balance between the known and the unknown, the familiar and the new. Too much of the same thing and we go stir crazy, but too much newness can put pressure on our coping mechanisms. This is true of our work, our play, our food--- and our relationships.

Technology factors in. Strangers read my gripes, paeans and haiku on Twitter several times a day. I don’t know everyone reading this now. I still tweet my soul and blog my guts out indiscriminately. Conversely, I lower my voice when discussing anything remotely proprietary in the gym. There are strangers, and then there are strangers.

For all that, I’m still startled when someone I recognize as a regular but don’t know says “Hello, Carole” to me in the gym. It happened again yesterday. I wonder if she knows Kevin Bacon.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hot (Fudge?) Sunday

Hey there, how’re you doing? How’s life treating you? Working hard, or hardly working? Oh, right. It’s Sunday, and a warm one at that.

I’ve been reading “The Nation” (Max saves it for me, thank you Max!) and thus feel obligated to say something worthy. The problem is, I’ve always avoided politics in here. Why stop now? You’ll either agree with me or I won’t change your mind anyhow.

“What about some insightful perspective into human nature?” you may ask. Please. We all know what human nature is, and what it’s good for. No, my only option is passive dry wit, which, unlike a Pirandello character, is in search of a subject.

Once upon a time, I created this blog because I wanted sanctuary. I was tired of composing narrative and wanted to speak in my own voice. I never expected to be heard, mere expression was sufficient catharsis. But I wrote stuff, and you read it and you’re still reading it (ha! gotcha) and now I don’t want to disappoint or worse--- bore you.

Maybe it’s time to go back to narrative, at least for today. Fictional characters don't get bored unless I want them to. At least mine don't.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Cautionary Character Study

This morning at the gym I saw something weird. Now, I’m saying this after spending the afternoon in Hollywood, during a road closure, where there were many extreme sights and many people who would stand out as bizarre in a small town or even another city. None of them were blogworthy, not even the busty blonde in a halter top who was jumping up and down repeatedly on the sidewalk just off of Hollywood Blvd. I did enjoy the gaggle of giggly secretarial-types, half on cell-phones, who went into the porn store. Likewise, I appreciated the meticulously dressed and made up stern older man who didn’t remove his toothpick before being effusively kissed by his young and exuberant friend.

No, the morning sighting was stranger, and infinitely more disturbing. A man in his 60s; slight paunch, receding hairline, you know, normal, but wearing white bicycle shorts so tight they were transparent, emphasizing the pile of padding in his genital region. That was chillingly awful, and I apologize if you get nightmares.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

On Burbank Pond

People say “stagnation” like it’s a bad thing.

You have your favorite books and foods. If you watch television, you have your favorite shows. (I do too, just not as many.) At work, there are tasks you enjoy doing, and tasks you dislike less than others. We gravitate to our preferences, that’s human nature.

Unless it means living on Froot Loops to the point of anemic constipation, what’s the harm?

Stagnation is the putative harm, the lack of personal growth through new experiences. Still waters may run deep but they get a yucky scum on top. The stone that doesn’t roll is mossy. So what? Moss is nice, and I’m sure that scum looks good to other scum—or something.

As a middle-aged person, I find myself valuing comfort over adventure. Once upon a time, that would have been anathema. I’ve had my share of adventures, with the metaphoric scars and trophies to show for them. Now I play Pogo. Oh, and every couple of weeks we Netflix an episode of “Midsomer Murders”. We watched one tonight, it was good.

Please try to contain your envy. Remember, the bucolic life isn’t for everyone.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Life Cycles

Little kids have it easy. They wear cute little clothes and, for the most part, the people around little kids like what little kids do.

When does that stop? With me it was around five feet. Then again, it took less than a year to get to 5’6” from there. It could be an age thing, I have no idea. Somewhen everything went from “Oh how precious!” to “So?” and stayed there to the present day. This is normal, we all went through it, and few of us would go back willingly.

But (of course there’s a “but”) there are days when we want that gold star, that brownie point, that cookie for having been particularly clever. We want our anxieties to take center stage, and we want someone in Authority to reassure us. Reassurance doesn’t happen often in adult life. Society isn’t structured for that sort of thing. Instead, we have consensus. We poll our circle and collect aye votes for whatever we did, or want to do.

In the long run, I think we’re better off. As I reconnect with people from the past, I relive those days. When I talk about my past with my current circle, it causes them to relive theirs. This is an uncomfortable process. We have plenty to deal with now, and better ways to spend leftover time.

It’s almost enough to make me wish I still had my red Snoopy sleeping bag to crawl into, or at least a sugar cookie with sprinkles.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


Blogs are for ranting, that was established long before I ever thought of writing this one. I enjoy a good rant, clears the sinuses. I just wrote a beaut, a full page on why I was disappointed in the Renaissance Faire despite the terrific performances of the friends we went to see. (She was luminous and graceful, he sports a handsome new goatee and their children were adorable in their little costumes.)

You’ll never read it. Control A then delete. Gone, pfft. Let’s talk about why.

Okay, the Faire itself was a commercial cliche, though the food was good and the weather wasn’t as bad as it’ll be later. I got a ticket on the way out, there’s a trap on the long straight 15 mph road.

It’s easy to tear something down. Very easy, if you saw some of the outfits people put on for the privilege of paying $25 a head to be seen in. So what? You can go to your nearest mall to see people wearing silly fashions. You can go to Disneyland and be charged more for worse food. You can go to Jumbo’s for floppy breasts.

If our moment in history means anything, it means that it’s important to look forward, to build, to stop sniping and Get On With It. Besides, that’s what traffic school is for. Sigh.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Ask And Ye Shall Answer

The one who asks is the one who answers.

This could be my Fourth Rule. It isn’t, because it lacks scope, but it could be. (See “The Three Rules” November, 2008.) It’s like the hypothetical Eighth Dwarf.

Think about it. You say, “How are you?” My response, barring cutesy-pie flippancy, is “Fine, how are you?” Then you elaborate, thus being the answerer of the original question.

This works all over the place. “What do you think about x?” “Where do you want to eat?” “Does this make my butt look big?” (Just checking to see who’s awake.)

I’m a huge fan of etiquette and protocol, you all know that. This one stumps me because even the anointed Miss Manners has said that “How are you?” is a greeting, not a question. I want it to be a question. I want people to care how other people are. They don’t (Rule #3), and they won’t (Rule #1), but they should. I do.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

M Is For Melva

Who, if you’ve found this blog by accident, is my mother. She is 81 years old and kicking like a teenager--- metaphorically, of course. Her knees aren’t great.

Of course I speak to her often and see her regularly, but these last couple of weeks even more so. M is also for Maintenance, and the warranty ran out on a few body parts, which have now been repaired and are up to industry standards, thanks for asking.

You’ve all heard me whine whenever I have to learn to work some new technology. Melva began life by watching the radio (sic), and can now work a dvd player better than I can. She’s taking a computer class just so she can read this blog. She can’t yet without my help, so we can talk about her.

We’ve all yelled at the tiny person straining to see over the steering wheel of the car in front of us. That’s not Melva, she can still leadfoot the accelerator. And she gets along with my friends. (Jim, she still talks about that chocolate martini.) Being with her is a testament to identity, and how it doesn’t have to erode with age. Intelligence, creativity, being interested in things— these are qualities we associate with youth. Mine have diminished over time. Hers haven’t.

In this case M is for Marvelous and aMazing and iMpressive. M is for Mother, and Mine is Melva. Mwah!