Friday, September 28, 2012


We’re not superheroes. At least, I’m not. I don’t know about you.

This probably isn’t news. You spend your days being pushed around either by people or by circumstance. Some days you feel lucky when nobody at all notices you, at least for a little while. I’m right there with you, this whole week was like that.

Still, we’re more powerful than we think we are.

Yes, you are.

For example, right now you have the power to hurt my feelings.

Sure, it’s not flying, or invulnerability or even talking to fish. But it’s actually quite lot of power, and I probably don’t even know you.

I’m not kidding, by the way.

Total strangers can, randomly without reason, throw contempt at you and rattle you down to your bones. It can be just a look or a word, but it stings. Oh, you recover. You’re not stupid, you know it’s meaningless, but for a minute there, it stung.

You know when people do it to you. Do you know when you do it to other people? Do you know when you’re stressed or pissed off or really tired and somebody gets in your face or even just slows you down and you lob a shot of scorn at them?

Most of the time I bet you don’t. The stress or the anger or the fatigue is too big, smaller stuff just slides off. Other people, by definition in this context, are smaller stuff, just like we sometimes feel like smaller stuff.

There’s a flip side to this. Good things can be done to make a good difference. (Bam! You’ve been ambushed by a pep talk. Don’t go, I’m almost done.)

Someone held a door for me today. Yeah, it’s puny. It’s not a transfusion or organ donation. But you know what? It mattered. I was in a bad place in my head and someone waited an extra few seconds for me to get to the door. With a smile, like it wasn’t annoying.

In the midst of being around people we wouldn’t choose to be around, of being disliked for no good reason, of all the tiny discourtesies that pile up when you’re in a society, in the midst of all that there are glimmers. Bits of courtesy, the occasional kindness.

It’s powerful stuff. Maybe more people should wear capes.

In any case, it’s better than talking to fish.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

More Post-Mortem than Postscript

Dear Auntie Scary,

If you’re not going to send in that form, would you give me the address so I can?


{So redacted, as if I wouldn’t recognize the email address}

Dear officially-anonymous person,

Thanks for your note. I’m a little scared you weren’t kidding. The answer is no.


Aunt Scarycookies

Sunday, September 23, 2012

He Meant "Dear Aunt Scary" Yes, It Counts! (Ask Auntie)

I got your email contact through a personal search and decided to let you know about this packaged financial transaction that will benefit us. I am Mr. [redacted] the Group Executive Director/ Group Finance Director of the Bank Of [redacted]. On the course of the 2011 end of the year's report, I discovered that my branch in which I am the Chief Auditor had Ten Million Five Hundred Thousand U S Dollars(10,500.000.00 ) of which no body/staff or director is aware of and will never be aware of, I have also PLACED this fund on ESCROW CALL ACCOUNT without a beneficiary.
As the Group Finance Director, I cannot be directly connected to this money thus I am compelled to request for your assistance to receive this money into your bank account. I will compensate you with 40% as gratification while 60% will be for me. In course of this transaction, there are practically no risk involve because It will be a bank-to-bank transfer. please this is very confidential transaction please.
(1)Your Full Name……………………….
(2)Your Age……………………………….
(3)Your Sex………………………………..
(4)Your Occupation……………………..
(5)Your Country…………………………
(6)Your Telephone Number…………….
(7)Your Fax Number……………………
(8)Your International Passport for more Identificatin
I will appreciate your timely response.
With Regards,
Mr. [redacted].

Dear Mr [redacted],

No, but thanks for asking.


Aunt Scarycookies

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Farts & Recreation

Let’s talk about your feelings.

Don’t get scared, this isn’t going to be one of those talks. I want to talk about reactions, gut reactions, the things you feel then discard as unworthy.

By the way, I’m proud of you for that. I wish I could do it myself more often instead of being judgmental. But sarcasm is my hobby and snide is its hobbyhorse. I don’t know what that means either, but it sounds cool and decisive so it stays in.

Example: The other day I was sitting here at my desk, minding my own business, when I heard the guy next door fart so hugely and loudly that it was like automatic gunfire. Then he said, almost as loudly, “Ahhhh!”

You would have been happy for him that his gastrointestinal distress had abated.

You’re kind and charitable.

Me, I was snide and tweeted about it.

To be fair, I deleted the tweet eventually. To be fairer, I did that because I didn’t like my “love thy neighbor” and “turn the other cheek” punch line, not because I felt that it was in bad taste.

Like I said, I want to discard the judgments. They’re snarky and unworthy of the person I’d like to be.

But let’s face it, no matter how puerile, fart humor works.

Monday, September 17, 2012

O Frabjious Day!

Sometimes life sucks. This isn’t news. Your life has sucked occasionally, and I’m sorry about that.

There are different kinds of suckage. There’s the generally shitty day. It’s the kind of thing that produces platitudes like “door opening” and “silver lining”. We’ve all had those and I certainly hope your today isn’t one of them.

The thing about a shitty day is that it ends, and you deal with it. Whether you want to or not. You clean up and you cope.

Not so with the long-term decline. It doesn’t matter if it takes weeks, months or years.

The decline is insidious. You can reach a point where if things were only as bad as a few weeks ago that would be great. The decline feels like the air has turned into doom. The decline is a rusty suit of corroded mental armor that lets every attack through.

Of all the ways that life can suck, right now I think that the decline is the worst.

I had a decline going on around me. (I wasn’t depressed, this was external.)

Then something good happened.

In the midst of a decline you forget that’s even possible. But it is. It did.

And you know what? The decline went away.

That’s like Newton’s apple falling up. It's like finding out that Cheetos are rich in antioxidants, or that you persuaded somebody not to vote stupidly. It just doesn’t happen. But it did. I’m knocking wood things stay this way.

At least I finally understand that boring old story about Pandora, because now I know what hope feels like. It feels fairy-tale-ending good.

Friday, September 14, 2012


Tomorrow is his birthday.

Yeah, I found something to get him. I’m not saying I hit the office supply aisle at CVS, but who can’t use a mini-stapler? I didn’t even blink at the $3.49 price tag. Plus tax, mind you.

Besides, I found the perfect funny/hip t-shirt and it actually came in his size. Ok, they were sold out. It’s the thought, right? I’m sure he’ll love the one that isn’t as nice and is a size too small. Who wouldn’t?

Hey, I never said I was good at gifts.

I’m good at birthdays.

There’s a difference.

As I type this, I’m bringing a vat of water to a boil so I can peel tomatoes for his favorite gazpacho. My schedule for the afternoon just says “make cake.” Tomorrow there will be coq au vin with plenty of bacon. I’ll get the crunchy bread at the last minute, that way it’ll be fresh.

So when I write the words “Big Pretty Bow” on an unopened shipping box with a third-choice whatever inside, that’s not completely unromantic.

It’s meta.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Whither Winter Weather?

It’s 100 degrees outside, and almost that inside. Depending on where you are, your reaction could range from “Oh my God, 100 degrees? I’ve just put on my winter coat and checked the storm windows” to “Only 100 degrees? Whiner.” (I’ve heard both.)

It’s that time of year, folks. Hotter here than it was in July, but the calendar and the window displays say it’s time to gear up for the holiday trifecta.

Halloween is arguably more fussed-over than Christmas in my neighborhood. By “neighborhood” I mean most of Los Angeles County, though my immediate neighborhood goes psycho-nuts with the decorations.

Put it this way, they’ve already begun building haunted houses in front yards. Seriously. I can e you some pix if you don’t believe me.

I’m the only one who appreciates Thanksgiving, but any holiday that’s all about the food without having to deal with gifts appeals to me. Like… oh, never mind.

Right now, in this betwixt and between moment, nature is holding its metaphoric breath. As am I. Soon the weather will break (knock on wood) and the Autumnal Equinox will pass. When that happens, the calendar gate opens and the holiday races begin.

Gentlefolk, warm up your credit cards and prepare to start your shopping.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Do, Do

If you’re a grownup, getting through the day can be difficult. Just to start with, you have to decide what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it.

Motivation helps. If you’re at work, you’re motivated by a paycheck to do work. If you’re at home, you’re motivated by other things. You rest when you’re tired. You do laundry when you run out of things to wear. You watch TV or play video games when you’re awake, stuff like that.

But when you come down to it, motivation doesn’t matter. It’s all about the verb.

Sometimes you do what you need to do. Usually you do what you have to do. If you’re very, very lucky then you get to do what you want to do.

You may think it’s how you feel about it, or why you’re doing it, but like I said, it’s really all about the verb.

You think it’s about the need-to or the have-to or the want-to, but it’s really about the do.

At the end of the day, how you were motivated or what you decided or how you feel about it doesn’t matter.

The only thing that counts is what you got off your ass and did.

Like I said, it’s all about the verb. You just don’t get to pick the verb.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Fat Chance

Let’s try this again. “You’ve lost weight” is still NOT a compliment.

Yes, yes, we’ve covered this before. Apparently some of you need a refresher. Thinner isn’t necessarily better.

Losing weight to prevent or combat a medical condition can be helpful. Healthy is more attractive than unhealthy. I’ll stipulate all that.

But face it: A little extra weight won’t give you a stroke or diabetes, and losing it won’t make people think you’re hot even if you have the personality of a constipated toad.

Oh sure, I grew up with TV. I saw magazines. I went to movies. I even had a grandmother who wept tears of disappointment at my obesity when I was a 5’8”, 115 lb teenaged ballet student. And I’d probably look better now if I dropped a few pounds. So what? It won’t change who I am or how you feel about me.

If you want to give somebody a compliment, like with any other dialogue, say what you mean.

Are you glad to see them? Do they look great? Then just say that, dammit.

True story, this morning a guy said to me, “You’ve lost weight.” I said, “Oh, no!” He looked puzzled, and said, “You’re not trying to lose weight?” I said, “No, I’m not.” He had trouble with that. I knew he was trying to be nice, but it whiffed big time.

So if you’re the one who is trying to be nice, stick with the weather. Or, even in a contentious election year, politics is a safer topic. We show our values in our politics, and it’s better to insult someone’s morality than it is to risk bruising their delicate self-image.

Saying just about anything else is usually better than a failed compliment. And assuming someone is on a diet is like assuming someone is pregnant.*

Guess what, you’re not making an ass out of me, you’re on your own there.

*I wanted a gender neutral example, but I have it on good authority that guys don't make comments to other guys about their appearance. Which ought to make me rewrite this whole thing as a feminist rant but I won't.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

An Alternate History Of Starbucks

Once upon a time, this conversation might have occurred. Then again, it might not have.

Decorator #1: “I just got the greatest gig! I’m going to decorate a coffeehouse!”

Decorator #2: “Big deal. Some bad art by local artists and mopey pretty young people. There’s no money in it.”

Decorator #1: “This one is called Starbucks. It’s going to be huge, bigger than you can imagine.”

Decorator #2: “As big as a movie theater?”

Decorator #1: “No, I meant it metaphorically. There’s going to be one on almost every block in the whole world. Besides, movie theaters are going to get really small, so that’s a bad analogy on every level.”

Decorator #2 snorts scornfully: “I think somebody’s been sniffing wallpaper paste again.”

Decorator #1: “I thought I’d have a laptop on all the tables. You know, as a kind of themed centerpiece.”

Decorator #2 snorts again, more scornfully: “Laps go under tables, not on top of them. That’s the whole point of sitting in a chair.”

Decorator #1: “No, I mean a small, portable computer.”

Decorator #2 gives up snorting, blows nose in a nicely monogrammed linen hanky: “Stupid idea. Nobody wants to take work with them everywhere.”

Decorator #1: “Trust me.”

Decorator #2: “Hmm. I get it. A small computer would cost much less than a normal-sized one. That could still end up being really expensive.”

Decorator #1: “It’s okay. There’s an infinite number of people in Los Angeles who want to be screenwriters. We’ll have plenty.”

Decorator #2: “A screenplay on every screen? How monotonous and utterly boring.”

Decorator #1: “You’re right. Every once in a while, we’ll set one to Facebook, just for contrast.”

Decorator #2: “What’s Facebook?”

Decorator #1: “Don’t ask.”

And so it came to pass. This is dedicated to everyone without a laptop in any Starbucks in the Greater Los Angeles area. All five of us.