Monday, January 30, 2012

The Not-So-Great Escape

I’m trying to figure out why I went ballistic when I caught a kid from next door (a visitor, not one of the ones who live there) in our back yard.

Well, he wasn’t still in the yard, and I didn’t exactly catch him. He had climbed over the wall to retrieve yet another football. I saw him perched on top of the wall halfway through his escape. I hurried out back and spoke to him. He ignored me, jumped down on their side and ran to his pals. I’m not talking about a small child. This one looks old enough to drive.

What would you have done? You probably would have had a sense of proportion. After all, he didn’t have a knife or a spray can, he didn’t damage anything and he was definitely scared of me. You might have shrugged it off. Not me. I may or may not have Romanoff DNA in my ancestry, but I am definitely descended from the land of Baba Yaga. (Google or Wiki it, children. Auntie can’t explicate everything.)

Say it with me, bwa ha ha. Come on, no one’s looking. It’s fun. Bwa ha ha! Oh, never mind.

I pulled over and stood on a piece of broken sculpture tall enough for me to see over the wall and called them to me. Two smaller ones ran up nervously, at once. The three older, problem boys returned to their game. I shouted a second time. They froze. Seriously, they stopped moving like in a game of freeze tag. As if I couldn’t see them quite clearly, or they couldn’t see me just as clearly. I told them that I knew they could hear me and to stop their game and come to the fence. I waited until they all did so. And then I asked them not to break and enter my property again. That’s a quote, as legally inaccurate as it may be. (Sis?)

“But we had to get our ball!”

“No,” I explained. This is really what I said. I typed it out as soon as I came in. “You didn’t have to get your ball. You wanted to get your ball. Next time, come to the front door and ask one of us to return it to you. If we’re not home, leave a note and we’ll return it when we get back. You’ll have to play something else in the meantime if that happens. Got that?” I made them all nod. One smart-ass hung his head but didn’t nod. I stared him down, “You too.” Eventually he nodded and so did I before I released them.

In case you were wondering why I don’t have children, this ought to clarify things a little.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fame & Defamation

Yeah, yeah, I get it. We’re all supposed to want to be famous.

I can’t name them all the Kardashians, nor pick them out of a reality icon line-up. But even I, who live under a virtual rock, have seen the glossy pix at the supermarket. That’s how famous they are. It’s traditional to point out that they are famous for having done nothing worthwhile. Very few world-improvers become popular. So the name Kardashian is the synonym du jour for empty notoriety. So what?

It would be nice if we all just wanted to be really good at what we do instead of really well-known for having done it.

Granted, I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with attention. When I was your age, I was five eight and extremely busty. (I still am, but the effect just isn’t the same.) My slutty bordering on skanky wardrobe didn’t hurt. There was attention. It wasn’t the same thing as fame or even fame’s bratty stepchild popularity, but it was a distant cousin. Close enough that I never developed the “want to be famous” mentality. This gives me a peculiar perspective on celebrity.

In the last few days, I’ve heard “I’ve heard about you” as well as “I know who you are” from total strangers. I don’t want to know what they heard, or how they know who I am. I don’t even want to know who they think I am. But within the little goldfish bowl of my life, I seem to have acquired a weird form of semi-celebrity. This tells me two things. First, I may want to rethink my wardrobe. Second, I was right in the first place when I didn’t want to be famous.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


It started at the gym, as so many of my observations of the human condition do. There’s a guy there who calls some guys “bro”, while he calls others “bra”. Either way, you can hear the awkward quotation marks. I’m still trying to decide how he chooses which honorific to use. I doubt he knows. Still, that’s where the title for this post came from.

Friday was a rare personal holiday. (For my lovely and much-appreciated foreign readers, don’t look at a calendar, it was only mine.) We went out to breakfast. The next table was filled with half a dozen entertainment-industry types, all about my age. I kept reminding myself that they are probably much better at what they do than I am at what I do, but that didn’t keep my eyes from rolling when they were loudly condescending to the very nice server. And the orders! Scrambled eggs, done “medium” – she said that three times, as if repetition would give it meaning. One guy ordered something that on the menu is a small paragraph of delicious sounding ingredients. Then, a la Jack Nicholson, he listed all the items he didn’t want. Why bother in the first place? Another sadly, earnestly, and at length, explained that he was using up all his calories for the whole day with this one meal. Talk about first world problems.

They were an L.A. cliché. Don’t tell me that clichés happen for a reason. I was born here. I know. That doesn’t make it less embarrassing, just like I was embarrassed by the 40ish woman crossing the street in front of Warner Brothers wearing a midriff top with jeggings. She didn’t have the posture or the attitude, let alone the figure, for either.

We all have our idiosyncrasies. Own them. Rejoice in them. Be proud of them. But never forget that they are idiosyncrasies and other people aren’t obligated to respect or honor them, because they won’t.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Father Knows Facebook Best

Somewhere along the line we lost our authority figures.

Teenage rebellion, the impulse that spawned the cri de coeur “You’re not the boss of me!” has lost its sell-by date. Now we carry that defiance into adulthood.

This goes beyond the parental-equivalent authority. Granted, nowadays, Grandma and Gramps – or even Mom and Dad -- are just as likely to be bungee jumping or hitting as you are, maybe even more so. But let’s face it, you weren’t going to ask their advice anyhow. Because they just wouldn’t get it. Things are different now. Ancestors are not an authority.

We’ve replaced the wise authority figure with a consensus. Think about it, if you’re ambivalent about something, you’re more likely to poll your friends on Facebook (and me mine on Twitter) than to seek out someone who might actually know the answer.

This cuts the other way too. How many times has someone asked you something which you know from experience or training, and then watched them ask four other people the same question? It especially rankles when the other four people were chosen for their looks or something other than that they might have as good an answer as you did. It’s even worse when it’s a stranger. That bartender is only guessing what’s wrong with your relationship. You don’t want to get your medical diagnosis from him, either.

The irony and coincidence (it’s both, Ted, so back off) is that I’m posting this on the day of the Wikipedia blackout, when we’ve also lost our substitute authority figure. We may not take relationship advice from Wikipedia, but a lot of people do go there for medical diagnoses.

It’s enough to make me call my mother just to ask her advice about something. Maybe she can think of the name of the father from “Leave it to Beaver”. I was going to put it in the title, but with Wiki down, I can’t.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Treading Metaphors

I became a writer because everywhere I looked, I saw a story. I became a blogger because everywhere I looked, I saw a metaphor. Now that I’ve deleted the self-deprecating and unfunny paragraph I wrote after that, we can talk about those metaphors.

Friday was a marathon back-breaking housecleaning tour de force. And you know what? The place looks pretty much exactly the same. If that’s not a metaphor, I don’t know what is.

You know perfectly well what it feels like to bust your ass – succeed – and still have nothing to show for it.

It’s obviously fine if no one notices failure, but we want our triumphs to be recognized. Okay, we want our triumphs to be lauded, but I’ll never hear any applause for getting on a stepladder, taking down every light fixture, carefully washing it, and just as carefully replacing it throughout the house. (Just one item on a list that would daunt that hinting Heloise herself.)

Dusty lights aside, so much of what we do in life is necessary, good, important and even difficult – and ultimately goes by without any more notice than an Edith Wharton fan would get at a rave.

But wait! There’s more. If we don’t do it then someone will tskingly see, though they might not say anything out loud. Then there’s the aggregate effect of neglect which makes it so much worse when we finally get around to whatever it is. No matter what your occupation, vocation, or avocation is, something will fall apart if you don’t do it.

It’s all about the metaphor. The metaphor here is: treading water.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Cemetery In Motion

People don’t really “do” cemeteries anymore.

It could be a cultural thing. My local death-garden doesn’t have a fraction of the glamour of, say, Westminster Abbey.

It could be a generational thing. Let’s face it, nowadays Goth is more of a fashion statement than an ideology.

Or it could be that with the zombie overload of recent years, people don’t want to be around that many actual dead bodies. You know, just in case.

When Robert in his Felix the Cat t-shirt and I in my pink “one tough cookie” t-shirt stopped by to visit my grandparents today, we were the only people around except for the platoon of gardeners, who were more nicely dressed than we were and terribly amused by us.

It was a beautiful, sunny, Southern California morning. Just over 70 degrees, cold in the shade, the kind of weather that makes people where you live hate us on principle. We paid our respects and then we wandered a bit. There’s always a lot to see. Every plaque is a story.

But the real story had happened on our way in. The attendant at the front gate handed me a flier that read: “We regret to inform you that recently there have been a significant number of car break-ins in cemeteries throughout the area.”

Hm, maybe that explains why people don’t really “do” cemeteries anymore. We can have our cars broken into anywhere.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Positively Negative

The 1970s did us a grave disservice besides promoting powder blue and chocolate brown as a desirable color combo. The 1970s told us that negativity is bad. The 2000s did it again. I seriously doubt any economists read this blog, so you’ll have to forgo the geopolitical implications. The point is that negative was considered a bad thing to be.

Yes, yes, yes, of course “negative” means “bad” colloquially. Wait for it.

The problem is all those chirpy “look on the bright side” / “there are no problems, only challenges” people. Want to piss Auntie off? Use the word “challenge” when you mean that something is a problem.

When negative things happen, you’re forced to decide either that they don’t matter or to deal with them. Notice that I didn’t say “bad” just there. That’s to distinguish between an unfortunate situation and genuine misfortune, in much the same way that I would distinguish between being temporarily depressed and clinical Depression.

Not everything that happens to us in the course of an ordinary day is good. No matter how insignificant they are, when things that are not-good pile up unleavened by the tiniest bit of goodness, we can become negative. Those happy-go-lucky 1970s people would chide us for that. They would be wrong.

Negativity is a good motivator. Burning off anger or resentment can get you through a lot of chores you might otherwise procrastinate. Being negative can help you realize that most of what bothers you is irrelevant or trivial. Unless of course it does the opposite, in which case you’re more likely to address it than to let it all continue. Thus negativity becomes positive in effect. That’s a Birkenstock up the patootie of a perky 1970s person.

Think about it this way, what if we could channel PMS as an alternative energy source? Now that’s an idea with some serious geopolitical implications.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Want to make someone feel good? Instead of telling them that you want to go somewhere or do something, tell them you want to go there or do that with them. If it’s not dirty – hell, even if it is— then you will have made their day. Because in the end, we really want to feel like we matter to someone.

Think about it. Fame, fortune and adventure are the traditional goals taught us through thousands of years of narrative. Once you get past survival, all of those can be reduced to a simple wish to matter. I’m trying to avoid using the late-last-century psychobabble here, because that vocabulary has become a joke. It trivializes what I think is a basic emotional need.

Okay, fine. I’ll say it. We want validation. (See my earlier post about being a parking whore, there’s got to be a joke in there somewhere.)

We don’t want to break down and spill our guts and then, only then, have someone remember an appointment for which they are late. That happened to me yesterday. It did not feel good. On top of my earlier distress, I was embarrassed and dismayed by my friend’s response. It was evidence that I don’t matter. To be fair, he really did just remember the appointment, and he really was late. That’s why we named my new punching bag after him. Still, even knowing that, the effect is the same.

The punch line is, when he got to the appointment, it turned out that it’s really next month. That doesn’t matter but it made me laugh.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Revolution

You made your resolutions. That’s good. Or even if you’re like me and don’t make resolutions, the process is still inescapable. It’s not enough that 2012 started yesterday, officially it’s starting again today. So you get your face rubbed in the process no matter how much you try to ignore the implications.

Everything that’s happened to me today, or everything I’ve done, has come with the appendage of “this is how the year is starting.” The tiniest variation of routine has ominous harbinger properties. Okey-dokey. I can live with that. I have enough discipline.

But eventually discipline becomes extraneous. I say this because discipline is so difficult. That’s its point. You should know that it’s still important. Not because it’s important to reach the goal per se, but because of what the goal means to you. Why do you want to be healthier? Why do you want to be more organized? What do you think your life will be like if you don’t wait until there’s no clean underwear left before you do laundry?

The joke is that resolutions rarely work. I think they can work, if what matters to you is to get past your imagined inadequacy. I think that next year I might actually resolve to make some resolutions. I’ve got plenty of inadequacies, both real and imagined. What the hell, you never know.