Tuesday, November 30, 2004

 

He's Just Not That into You

If you don't know about this book, allow me to defrost my testicles and tell you what I can about it:

*165 pages of "advice" by an unknown writer for Sex and the City
*In it's 14th printing--1.4 million copies sold in the last year
*Simple, amusing advice of how to "recognize the signs" that a man isn't interested in a woman
*Been featured on Oprah... twice

Armed with the awareness of this staggeringly painful example of money for nothing, I've set out to write my own "advice" book, with a goal of 165 pages and as much humor as I can jam into it. The problem is, of course, that I'm not funny.

Makes for a challenge, doesn't it?

Thus... tapping my funnier friends!

So, beginning in January, right around the time I plan to start writing another actual novel, I'm diving into my own self-awareness book, How to Fake an Interesting Life. I'll be looking for brainstormed ideas, so if you're leading an interesting life--or are just faking it well--please let me know, and I'd like to ask you a bunch of questions. You can write to me at michaelgryan1964@yahoo.com and I'll tell you what I think are some of the core ways to create the false front of an exciting, fulfilling life without actually leading one.

I'm sure maintaining a blog counts as one of those faker's ways...

Monday, November 29, 2004

 

Yunjin Kim Wrote to Me!

I'm a shameless fan, I guess. I get excited about such small things, but like a lightweight drinker, I argue that it's a *good* thing--I'm a cheap drunk, and at least it doesn't take a week in Hawaii or a new BMW to make me happy.

Yunjin Kim, the Korean actress from the TV show Lost, sent me an autographed picture!!!

She wrote "To Michael" above her signature, though it's hard to see here.
Many years ago, when she was still on the show Square Pegs, I wrote to Sarah Jessica Parker. I was one of her very first fans--she wrote me a long handwritten letter, sent me an autographed picture, and when I wrote to her again a couple of years back, she remembered me enough to send another picture. I hope that Yunjin Kim becomes a huge star in the U.S. and that I'll have the honor of saying "I was an early fan." She included a handwritten note:

"To Michael,

I want to thank you again for your kind support. The pictures finally came out! Thanks for waiting! Love, Yunjin XOXO"

It was like an early Christmas present. The season is off to a great start!

Sunday, November 28, 2004

 

Dad's Day, Revisited

Luana, her beau Russ, Lu's mom Kathy, and my goddaughter Michelle came for dinner tonight--a belated Thanksgiving celebration--and Luana brought my copy of the photo from Dad's Day Weekend with her. This is from when the guy told me, "Dad, straddle your daughter from behind." Oh brother.

Harrison followed Michelle around most of the night (he recognizes a future wife when he sees one, I suppose); he latched onto Russ, calling him "Papa," and seemed almost crushed when they all had to leave at the end of the night; and in the end, we waved goodbye to them from the living room windows as they disappeared into the night.

How odd that Harrison would find family in strangers. How odd that I would feel a surreal moment of empty-nest syndrome watching Luana and Michelle drive away. Is this what getting older is about--a drifting sense of absence and memory, setting aside bits and pieces of your own life to add it to someone else's life, someone younger, someone you want to take care of?

Or am I getting overly sentimental as the seasons change? Let's go with that. For now.

So... do you see the family resemblance?

Janell says I "look like a dad." I'm not quite sure how to take that.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

 

Santa Claus Hath Cometh to Town

Third year for Harrison and still he approaches Santa as one does a dog whose disposition hasn't been determined.

You'd better not pout... I SAID...

Note the matching knitted sweaters. The one that adds 10 years to me and takes 10 years off of Mrs. Dorian Gray. Someone in this photo actually *made* those clothes and it's a safe bet that it wasn't me or Santa. So, that just leaves Harrison and Janell. Who looks guiltier?

I'm sort of hoping for matching Indiana Jones hats next year.

Friday, November 26, 2004

 

The Day After

No, I'm not referring to that post-nuclear war TV movie. I'm referring to the first official shopping day of the Christmas season.

The movie and the mall bear some striking similiarities.

I was up at 3:45 AM... after staying up until eleven Thanksgiving night watching the Seinfeld special on NBC. Oh, curse TiVo for not having a stronger will than mine! If only it would force me away from watching programs in real-time.

By 4:20, I was in the car, headed to pick up my friend Carmen, who went with me this year to seek out the freebies. Only Carmen and my friend Ethan are crazy enough to do this; I've yet to make another friend who will sacrifice sleep and common sense for the sake of a free Disney mini-snowglobe.

By 5:20, we were at the mall, joining the crowds surging through JC Penney's for that aforementioned snowglobe. Some people were still in their pajamas; presumably, they went back home and to bed after getting their handout. I, on the other hand, went through the line twice. Free is free, people.

At 5:45, Carmen and I temporarily went in separate directions--she went after the $10 gift card at Sears, I lined up for the free Bon-Macy's giveaway. Remember that goggle-wearing kid in A Christmas Story, waiting in line behind Ralphie to see the scary department-store Santa? I got the 52-year-old equivalent of him in line behind me at the Bon.

"It's not a teddy-bear this year," he told me, forelorn as if he was announcing his cancer was back. "It's a bobblehead."

I used to work for a bobblehead company; hearing the word again was like the hypnotist's secret word that makes you cluck like a chicken or imagine you're naked in front of a crowd. I cringed.

"Bobblehead?" I said, hearing the tremble in my voice. "Is it Santa?" (We made Santa bobbleheads. Tons of Santas. All bobbling and fat.)

"No, it's a gingerbread man," scary guy in line told me. "Benji."

"The dog?" the guy in front of me suddely asked. He'd been listening to his ipod and eavesdropped at just the wrong moment. "They're giving away stuffed dogs? What happened to the teddy bears?"

"No more teddy bears," I said. I sounded so authoritative, like I knew of what I spoke. I didn't, for what it's worth. "Now that the Bon is owned by Macy's, it's class is gone. It's a bobblehead."

"Of the dog Benji?" The guy in front of me sounded incredulous. "They should do Snoopy."

"It's a gingerbread man," scary guy said.

"Snoopy is NOT a gingerbread man," the guy in front said, scoffing openly. "It's Snoopy, man. The dog in the cartoon."

You want to know who was in a cartoon? Me, listening to 2/3 of the Three Stooges at 6 A.M.

I got my bobblehead--I'm not sure, but it still might've been made by my old company--and went to rejoin Carmen. She bought a sewing machine. It weighed six hundred and twelve pounds, and I chivalrously volunteered to take it to the car so she could go through the Bon line for the crappy bobblehead doll. Benji. Oh brother.

Alderwood Mall has finally finished it's four-hundred-year renovation, and now J.C. Penney's has a parking garage. How novel. Except I didn't know they had TWO parking garages. After twenty minutes of wandering the lot like a Christmas Jew in the desert, I called Carmen's cellphone.

"You can't find the car?" she asked before we even said hello. She and my wife must talk about me often; Janell would've answered the same way.

"Maybe somebody stole it," I suggested. I have no doubt my '93 Ford Escort wagon--a brown one that Janell has beknighted "the mocha turd"--is high on the theft-watch alert list.

"Did you go out by the shoes?" she asked.

"Yes."

"The women's shoes?"

Silence.

Carmen said, "I'll come help you find it."

By the time we loaded the car and went back in to shop, my arms both ached--I'd been Atlas with a sewing machine on his shoulders.

The Disney Store had the cattle lined up around the back of the store and back out the front door again. Two clerks running four registers. Those foolish sheep, shuffling along like lemmings for a buy-one-get-one-free. Not me. Not this ship, sister.

Oooh. Look at the Mickey ornaments. They're so cute. But the line....

Moo. Baa. Lemming. (I don't know what a lemming sounds like.)

Whirlwinds of KB Toys, the book store, Godiva's (yeah, Janell knows a stocking stuffer now), McDonald's (no deals, per se, unless you count the best grease in the ENTIRE WORLD WHEN YOU'VE HAD THREE HOURS OF SLEEP!), Target, Costco... Boxes, packages, wrappings...

I dropped Carmen off and was back home by 4:15... twelve hours after leaving the house. Was it only half-a-day later? It felt like a month. Janell had been out in it, too. We both looked shell shocked--like the day after a nuclear bomb.

Only thirty more days until Christmas. I'm expecting some serious radiation fallout between now and then.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

 

Giving Thanks

My wife and son, my mother and sister. The ones who have to put up with me.

My good friends. The ones who voluntarily put up with me.

Financial stability. No matter how hard I try to achieve instability.

A modicum of talent. Same amount as the guy who wrote Bridges of Madison County; it's all I ask.

Harrison Ford, Ming-Na, Stephen King, John Irving, Paul McCartney, Yunjin Kim, Elton John, Dave Matthews, Matchbox Twenty, Disney, Pixar, Elmore Leonard, J.K. Rowling, Tom Wolfe, Stephen Donaldson, George Lucas, Lemony Snicket, Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Amy Tan, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Tom Hanks, Matt Groening, Phil Collins, Eddie Murphy, and the scores of other celebrities who keep creating things that I look forward to with the same glee as when I was a kid waiting for David Cassidy or Darren McGavin or Adam West to come on TV.

Hope. I'm thankful for it even when I don't have it, because I hope it's out there just the same. And in hoping it's coming... well...

So, Happy Thanksgiving. Eat like there's no tomorrow... because if you'll be in line at J.C. Penney's at 5:30 AM for the free Disney snowglobe, today and tomorrow are guaranteed to blur together.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

 

Thanksgiving Song

There aren't songs about Thanksgiving.

Christmas is loaded for bear with songs, of course, enough so that I own about 70 CDs of Christmas "favorites." (There are times, however, when "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" makes you want to choke yourself to death on tinsel.) Most any spooky song stands in fine for Halloween--"Monster Mash," "Werewolves of London," "Frankenstein," even Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" (that spooky music from The Exorcist) work just fine. And I *could* write a sonnet about your "Easter Bonnet." Hell, even "Yankee Doodle" works for the 4th of July.

But there's no song about Thanksgiving.

Except one. Sort of.

I heard the entire thirty-minute, unedited version of Arlo Guthrie's spoken-word-song 1967 tune "Alice's Restaurant" on the way into work this morning. I even drove around the block twice so I could hear the end. It might be a bit dated, referencing the Vietnam War... but maybe not so irrelevant, given our Iraq War.... And so I present, in its entirety, italicized where sung, "Alice's Restaurant," our Thanksgiving Day song.

***
This song is called Alice's Restaurant, and it's about Alice, and the
restaurant, but Alice's Restaurant is not the name of the restaurant,
that's just the name of the song, and that's why I called the song Alice's
Restaurant.

You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant
You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant
Walk right in it's around the back
Just a half a mile from the railroad track
You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant


Now it all started two Thanksgivings ago, was on - two years ago on
Thanksgiving, when my friend and I went up to visit Alice at the
restaurant, but Alice doesn't live in the restaurant, she lives in the
church nearby the restaurant, in the bell-tower, with her husband Ray and
Fasha the dog. And livin' in the bell tower like that, they got a lot of
room downstairs where the pews used to be in. Havin' all that room,
seein' as how they took out all the pews, they decided that they didn't
have to take out their garbage for a long time.

We got up there, we found all the garbage in there, and we decided it'd be
a friendly gesture for us to take the garbage down to the city dump. So
we took the half a ton of garbage, put it in the back of a red VW
microbus, took shovels and rakes and implements of destruction and headed
on toward the city dump.

Well we got there and there was a big sign and a chain across across the
dump saying, "Closed on Thanksgiving." And we had never heard of a dump
closed on Thanksgiving before, and with tears in our eyes we drove off
into the sunset looking for another place to put the garbage.

We didn't find one.

Until we came to a side road, and off the side of the
side road there was another fifteen foot cliff and at the bottom of the
cliff there was another pile of garbage. And we decided that one big pile
is better than two little piles, and rather than bring that one up we
decided to throw our's down.

That's what we did, and drove back to the church, had a Thanksgiving
dinner that couldn't be beat, went to sleep and didn't get up until the
next morning, when we got a phone call from Officer Obie. He said, "Kid,
we found your name on an envelope at the bottom of a half a ton of
garbage, and just wanted to know if you had any information about it." And
I said, "Yes, sir, Officer Obie, I cannot tell a lie--I put that envelope
under that garbage."

After speaking to Obie for about forty-five minutes on the telephone we
finally arrived at the truth of the matter and he said that we had to go down
and pick up the garbage, and also had to go down and speak to him at the
police officer's station. So we got in the red VW microbus with the
shovels and rakes and implements of destruction and headed on toward the
police officer's station.

Now friends, there was only one or two things that Obie coulda done at
the police station, and the first was he could have given us a medal for
being so brave and honest on the telephone, which wasn't very likely, and
we didn't expect it, and the other thing was he could have bawled us out
and told us never to be see driving garbage around the vicinity again,
which is what we expected, but when we got to the police officer's station
there was a third possibility that we hadn't even counted upon, and we was
both immediately arrested. Handcuffed. And I said "Obie, I don't think I
can pick up the garbage with these handcuffs on." He said, "Shut up, kid.
Get in the back of the patrol car."

And that's what we did, sat in the back of the patrol car and drove to the
quote Scene of the Crime unquote. I want tell you about the town of
Stockbridge, Massachusets, where this happened here, they got three stop
signs, two police officers, and one police car, but when we got to the
Scene of the Crime there was five police officers and three police cars,
being the biggest crime of the last fifty years, and everybody wanted to
get in the newspaper story about it. And they was using up all kinds of
cop equipment that they had hanging around the police officer's station.
They was taking plaster tire tracks, foot prints, dog smelling prints, and
they took twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy photographs with circles
and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each
one was to be used as evidence against us. Took pictures of the approach,
the getaway, the northwest corner the southwest corner and that's not to
mention the aerial photography.

After the ordeal, we went back to the jail. Obie said he was going to put
us in the cell. Said, "Kid, I'm going to put you in the cell, I want your
wallet and your belt." And I said, "Obie, I can understand you wanting my
wallet so I don't have any money to spend in the cell, but what do you
want my belt for?" And he said, "Kid, we don't want any hangings." I
said, "Obie, did you think I was going to hang myself for littering?"
Obie said he was making sure, and friends Obie was, cause he took out the
toilet seat so I couldn't hit myself over the head and drown, and he took
out the toilet paper so I couldn't bend the bars roll out the - roll the
toilet paper out the window, slide down the roll and have an escape. Obie
was making sure, and it was about four or five hours later that Alice
(remember Alice? It's a song about Alice), Alice came by and with a few
nasty words to Obie on the side, bailed us out of jail, and we went back
to the church, had a another thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat,
and didn't get up until the next morning, when we all had to go to court.
We walked in, sat down, Obie came in with the twenty seven eight-by-ten
colour glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back
of each one, sat down. Man came in said, "All rise." We all stood up,
and Obie stood up with the twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy
pictures, and the judge walked in sat down with a seeing eye dog, and he
sat down, we sat down. Obie looked at the seeing eye dog, and then at the
twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures with circles and arrows
and a paragraph on the back of each one, and looked at the seeing eye dog.
And then at twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures with circles
and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one and began to cry,
'cause Obie came to the realization that it was a typical case of American
blind justice, and there wasn't nothing he could do about it, and the
judge wasn't going to look at the twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy
pictures with the circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each
one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us. And
we was fined $50 and had to pick up the garbage in the snow, but thats not
what I came to tell you about.

Came to talk about the draft.

They got a building down New York City, it's called Whitehall Street,
where you walk in, you get injected, inspected, detected, infected,
neglected and selected. I went down to get my physical examination one
day, and I walked in, I sat down, got good and drunk the night before, so
I looked and felt my best when I went in that morning. `Cause I wanted to
look like the all-American kid from New York City, man I wanted, I wanted
to feel like the all-, I wanted to be the all American kid from New York,
and I walked in, sat down, I was hung down, brung down, hung up, and all
kinds o' mean nasty ugly things. And I waked in and sat down and they gave
me a piece of paper, said, "Kid, see the psychiatrist, room 604."

And I went up there, I said, "Shrink, I want to kill. I mean, I wanna, I
wanna kill. Kill. I wanna, I wanna see, I wanna see blood and gore and
guts and veins in my teeth. Eat dead burnt bodies. I mean kill, Kill,
KILL, KILL." And I started jumpin up and down yelling, "KILL, KILL," and
he started jumpin up and down with me and we was both jumping up and down
yelling, "KILL, KILL." And the sargent came over, pinned a medal on me,
sent me down the hall, said, "You're our boy."

Didn't feel too good about it.

Proceeded on down the hall gettin more injections, inspections,
detections, neglections and all kinds of stuff that they was doin' to me
at the thing there, and I was there for two hours, three hours, four
hours, I was there for a long time going through all kinds of mean nasty
ugly things and I was just having a tough time there, and they was
inspecting, injecting every single part of me, and they was leaving no
part untouched. Proceeded through, and when I finally came to the see the
last man, I walked in, walked in sat down after a whole big thing there,
and I walked up and said, "What do you want?" He said, "Kid, we only got
one question. Have you ever been arrested?"

And I proceeded to tell him the story of the Alice's Restaurant Massacre,
with full orchestration and five part harmony and stuff like that and all
the phenome... - and he stopped me right there and said, "Kid, did you ever
go to court?"

And I proceeded to tell him the story of the twenty seven eight-by-ten
colour glossy pictures with the circles and arrows and the paragraph on
the back of each one, and he stopped me right there and said, "Kid, I want
you to go and sit down on that bench that says Group W .... NOW kid!!"
And I, I walked over to the, to the bench there, and there is, Group W's
where they put you if you may not be moral enough to join the army after
committing your special crime, and there was all kinds of mean nasty ugly
looking people on the bench there. Mother rapers. Father stabbers. Father
rapers! Father rapers sitting right there on the bench next to me! And
they was mean and nasty and ugly and horrible crime-type guys sitting on the
bench next to me. And the meanest, ugliest, nastiest one, the meanest
father raper of them all, was coming over to me and he was mean 'n' ugly
'n' nasty 'n' horrible and all kind of things and he sat down next to me
and said, "Kid, whad'ya get?" I said, "I didn't get nothing, I had to pay
$50 and pick up the garbage." He said, "What were you arrested for, kid?"
And I said, "Littering." And they all moved away from me on the bench
there, and the hairy eyeball and all kinds of mean nasty things, till I
said, "And creating a nuisance." And they all came back, shook my hand,
and we had a great time on the bench, talkin about crime, mother stabbing,
father raping, all kinds of groovy things that we was talking about on the
bench. And everything was fine, we was smoking cigarettes and all kinds of
things, until the Sargeant came over, had some paper in his hand, held it
up and said.

"Kids, this-piece-of-paper's-got-47-words-37-sentences-58-words-we-wanna-
know-details-of-the-crime-time-of-the-crime-and-any-other-kind-of-thing-
you-gotta-say-pertaining-to-and-about-the-crime-I-want-to-know-arresting-
officer's-name-and-any-other-kind-of-thing-you-gotta-say", and talked for
forty-five minutes and nobody understood a word that he said, but we had
fun filling out the forms and playing with the pencils on the bench there,
and I filled out the massacre with the four part harmony, and wrote it
down there, just like it was, and everything was fine and I put down the
pencil, and I turned over the piece of paper, and there, there on the
other side, in the middle of the other side, away from everything else on
the other side, in parentheses, capital letters, quotated, read the
following words:

("KID, HAVE YOU REHABILITATED YOURSELF?")

I went over to the sergeant, said, "Sergeant, you got a lot a damn gall to
ask me if I've rehabilitated myself, I mean, I mean, I mean that just, I'm
sittin' here on the bench, I mean I'm sittin here on the Group W bench
'cause you want to know if I'm moral enough join the army, burn women,
kids, houses and villages after bein' a litterbug." He looked at me and
said, "Kid, we don't like your kind, and we're gonna send you fingerprints
off to Washington."

And friends, somewhere in Washington enshrined in some little folder, is a
study in black and white of my fingerprints. And the only reason I'm
singing you this song now is cause you may know somebody in a similar
situation, or you may be in a similar situation, and if your in a
situation like that there's only one thing you can do and that's walk into
the shrink wherever you are ,just walk in say "Shrink, You can get
anything you want, at Alice's restaurant.". And walk out. You know, if
one person, just one person does it they may think he's really sick and
they won't take him. And if two people, two people do it, in harmony,
they may think they're both faggots and they won't take either of them.
And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in
singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out. They may think it's an
organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day,I said
fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and
walking out. And friends they may thinks it's a movement.
And that's what it is , the Alice's Restaurant Anti-Massacre Movement, and
all you got to do to join is sing it the next time it come's around on the
guitar.

With feeling.
So we'll wait for it to come around on the guitar, here and
sing it when it does. Here it comes.

You can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant
You can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant
Walk right in it's around the back
Just a half a mile from the railroad track
You can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant


That was horrible. If you want to end war and stuff you got to sing loud.
I've been singing this song now for twenty five minutes. I could sing it
for another twenty five minutes.

I'm not proud...

or tired.

So we'll wait till it comes around again, and this time with four part
harmony and feeling.

We're just waitin' for it to come around is what we're doing.
All right now.

You can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant
Excepting Alice
You can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant
Walk right in it's around the back
Just a half a mile from the railroad track
You can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant
Da da da da da da da dum
At Alice's Restaurant


Tuesday, November 23, 2004

 

What is wrong with the world?

This morning on the news...

*A memorial is scheduled today for two little boys, ages six weeks and nineteen months, who starved to death in their cribs while their mother drank herself unconscious in the next room.

*Police are still investigating the murder-suicide of a Edmonds, Washington, man who killed his two preteen daughters before shooting himself to death, the result of a bitter custody battle.

*Police arrested a Texas woman today who cut off her eleven-month-old daughter's arms and let the the little girl bleed to death in her crib.

This is all in ONE DAY. One morning commute's radio broadcast.

There are days when I feel like the news is a nasty version of Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire," this endless diatribe of societal failings. It makes it so that I don't even want to turns the news on anymore...

NBA basketbrawl, Washington vote recall
Peterson did it, "Secretary" Rice
Chinese author's suicide, Fallujah's nowhere left to hide
Camden is a DMZ, oil's record price
deer hunters, Arafat
Vioxx, Crestor, Stewart's rap
Reloaded JFK, what else do I have to say?

Monday, November 22, 2004

 

Revived after Revisions!

Done, and done--I spent two solid days locked in my office, listening to the new Elton John CD over and over (and over and over), working through the last of the revisions my agent wanted to see. And four thousand words later--that's how much new material I ended up adding to the book--I can breathe again. I just got back from Fed-Ex; the book is on its way back to her.

Some observations of the last week while I've been struggling through revisions...

*One headlight went out on my car. Just one. But since they both come on at EXACTLY the same time EVERY time, shouldn't they burn out at about the same time, too??

*The NBA: Nasty Bad Asses. I heard some announcer boo-hooing that the players have to "suffer so much verbal abuse from the fans" at every game. Cry me a river of multi-million dollar contracts and upcoming rap albums. Fans don't get punched in the face at WNBA games--sort of supporting the idea that money corrupts. As a side note, one of the fans who took it on the chin was named Mike Ryan.

*My Christmas shopping is one week behind schedule. Maybe one and a half. See what happens to you when you're neurotic? Self-imposed schedules suddenly become scripture!

*The JFK assassination computer game came out over the weekend. You play Oswald, of all people, trying to KILL Kennedy as his motorcade passes the Texas Schoolbook Depository. Good God. I'm both repulsed and fascinated by this. I'd be ashamed to play, yet I would, I think, given the opportunity. Ugh. Not the sort of moral quandry I relish on a Monday morning. It takes some of the fun out of having succeeded at revising the book this weekend, I assure you.



Tuesday, November 16, 2004

 

Commercial Appeal

Figure skating was on TV last night, on ESPN-- a channel I am rarely on, but since I really enjoy women's figure skating, I end up there periodically.

In the midst of the women's long programs, a quarter of the TV screen disappeared, down at the bottom. It just went black. And then, after a brief delay, National Football League scores began to scroll.

Next to me, Janell made a snorting noise. "Boy, ESPN doesn't know who their target viewing audience is for this show, do they?"

Raising the question... I know the stereotype of a football fan. But who IS the target audience for figure skating?

***
On a different note, I'm going to take three or four days off from blogging this week in order to do revisions to my novel, as requested by my agent. With a little luck, I'll have it all done by week's end and, on the weekend, can report back for active duty here. I'll post as opportunity presents itself before then!

Monday, November 15, 2004

 

Some Favorites Blogger Doesn't Ask You About

In lieu of a weekly list--which has lost some of its allure, to be honest--I thought I'd infrequently toss in a list that occurred to me spontaneously. What are the odds that this particular list came up on a Monday, my previously traditional "list" day?

*Favorite Dirty Word: If you don't have one of these, get one. You're missing out. I'm a fan of "motherfucker," just 'cause it's SO vulgar. I was thrilled when, during his Inside the Actor's Studio appearance, Harrison Ford said it was his favorite dirty word. I really gotta check with my mom if it's possible Ford could be my real father.

*Favorite Expression You Didn't Even Know You Used All the Frickin' Time: Apparently, I preface my more annoyed declarations with "Let me tell you something...." And now it's like realizing you've got a zit--I hear myself saying it ten times a day. Or saying part of it, anyway; I try to stop myself about half the time.

*Favorite Way to Waste Time: eBay. Then Amazon.com. Then watching Headlines News for more than half-an-hour, which means you're just recycling old news now. I'm wondering if "blogging" will make my list by this time next year.

*Favorite Food that You Have No Business Favoring: If you've not had Franco-American Spaghetti with greasy ground beef mixed into it, you're missing a religious experience.

*Favorite Unnatural Time of Day: 5 A.M. If you're up and rested, nobody will ask you to do anything and you can have no guilt about wasting time on eBay. Late at night is just too exhausting, but early mornings were made for privacy.

*Favorite Article of Clothing that Should've Been Thrown Away a Long Time Ago: On women, I happen to like granny panties. Sorry. I can't explain myself, so I won't bother trying. On myself, I'll hang onto a sock until I can put my foot through either end. Same thing with shoes--or what I think of as "oes" by the time I'm done with them, when they're but half what they once were. Hey, at least you can be glad I don't like granny panties on myself.

*Favorite Memory of an Utterly Meaningless Moment: I was maybe seventeen, working as a clerk in a Kroger's grocery store. Greg Kennedy, head stocker, came by me. He was a Burt Reynolds-like Vietnam vet with the sense of humor found in the rougher redneck bars. I thought he was about the coolest guy I'd ever met. So, when I said goodbye to him by calling out, "Have a good one, Greg," and he answered, "Already got a good one; now I'm looking for a bigger one," I almost cried with laughter. It meant nothing, though Greg grinned at me like the cat that ate the mouse, but I have never, ever forgotten that moment.

*Favorite Name, the One You'd Have if Anyone Had Asked You: I'd be a Keith. Keith Jackson Ryan. Screw Tom Clancy--I was born before he wrote his first Jack Ryan book, so he'd be plagiarizing me at this point.

Wow, I could keep going at this for days. I'll leave "Favorite Humiliating Song You Sing in the Shower" and "Favorite Way to Embarrass Other People" for next time!

Sunday, November 14, 2004

 

How the World Grows Smaller

Tempering my birthday and reinforcing my awareness that the world is always going to be a mystery to me, no matter how hard I try to understand it...


Iris Chang. We went to the U of I at the same time. Her parents were both professors there. Unlike some of us who just keep missing the mark, Iris wrote three books, one of which was a NY Times bestseller. She won awards left and right for her humitarian research into the trials fo the Chinese in America; she even made the cover of Reader's Digest. She had a two-year-old son.

She killed herself this week.

She suffered from depression, and her work was hard--she interviewed people who had been brutalized by the Japanese invasion of China and the rape of Nanking. Her writing career was built on documenting historical atrocities, a tough row to hoe for someone who already feels the weight of the world on her shoulders because the synapses in her brain refuse to let her feel peace.

I have this vision of her driving her car out a lonely stretch of highway with a gun on the passenger seat beside her. She'd known she was saying goodbye to her baby boy for the last time when she left the house that day. As she pulled off the road, what was in her mind? Pills are a cry for help; bullets are a sincere desire to be finished. I know her heart at that moment; I know how terrible the fear of living, coupled with the terror of dying. I understand that she could not see beyond the next few minutes, that all thoughts of what she would leave in her wake were gone.

And now she's gone. Just like that, a beautiful young woman with a career I envy, someone I could easily have been attracted to and even loved in another place and time, takes herself away. From her husband. From her baby boy, who will never understand as he grows up if someone his existence contributed to her fathomless depression. From anyone who might have saved her from herself.

This saddens me more than I can write here. I know I have a bias--she was a pretty Asian woman whose path crossed mine, she was a gifted writer, she grappled with depression, she was a recent parent. Had it been some obscure white stockbroker, I know I would not have been filled with the same sympathy, the same empathy. It would have been an article on the back page of USA Today, as Iris Chang's death probably is for millions of others.

But the fact is, this is another of those days I'll note in that mental book, the one of "what-ifs." What if there's ever a chance to change history by traveling back in time. What if the afterlife is a hivemind where we can find anyone, from anywhere and any time, and both provide and receive comfort. What if we can utterly understand the completely indecipherable one day.

Why, Iris? Why did you do this?

I hope I can ask you about it one day. Even if you didn't know last week, maybe you know now.


Saturday, November 13, 2004

 

The Usual Suspects

Janell threw me a birthday party this afternoon at the Tap House Grill in Bellevue, and a lot of good friends showed up. Better still, they brought gifts! You can't go wrong when people you really like also happen to like YOU enough to give you free stuff!

Back row: me, Janell
Second row: Glenn, Rick, Beverly, Chris, Debra (Debra, where are you going??), Rob, Mike, Ethan, Warren
First row: Farnaz, Lora, Mark, Jim, Traci, Jackie, Yuri, Hellen

It was great fun to hang out with the whole gang (minus Carmen, who had to be at a wedding today, Lisa, whose folks are visiting from out of town this weekend, and my goddaughter Michelle, whose dad couldn't get her there because he had to work), and while preparing the photo above to post, I got to thinking about all of them. It amazes me how you journey from place to place, time to time, and everybody contributes something different to your life to make you whole.

I look at this picture, imagine the missing friends from Seattle and the friends and family who live across the country, and it's a fascinating puzzle. It's a snapshot of who I am right now in my life. It's part of that Rubik's Cube mystery that I think most of us ignore most days--even me, yes. I only get philosophical an hour or two a day, I promise, mostly when working on this blog. And in that picture, I can see my own secrets, my own hopes, my own shame and my own pride. I've shared it with these people, and I think that's another role of friends: to reflect it back to you, to help you take ownership of who you have been, all in expectation of who you'll be.

Even the people I've not known that long, I've known for three years. And Beverly and Rick? They go back to my first DAY in Seattle, back in the spring of 1995. For the first year I was here, I spent every single weekend in their company. I met Mark and Warren later that same year. The time just slides by us, doesn't it? The children have come (Mark and Lora have three, Ethan and Yuri have two, Glenn and Farnaz are about to have their second, and Janell and I have eleven... uh, one. Sorry. Just feels like eleven some days!). Some of our friends have moved on, and a few have even died. Warren is moving to St. Louis in a week, and I'm still holding this reality at arm's length. Time comes and goes, faster and faster like a merry-go-round out of control, and change is the only inevitability.

Well, yesterday might have slid by as fast as any other day, leaving little but a memory in the space it occupied, but I've deliberately immortalized it in this photo. I know it's just a bunch of people in a picture, and someone else looking at it might see just a blur of faces, but I see the usual suspects, the ones who have made up a decade of my life. I'll look forward to seeing them again in the photo on my 45th birthday.


Friday, November 12, 2004

 

Birthday

Middle age.

Huh. It ain't all that.

The lay of the land looks more or less the same. No one crept out last night and switched all the road signs into some foreign language. I haven't stumbled, dry and weary, upon some ancient amphitheater in the desert, its seats filled with deathly silent spectators, all waiting for me. Instead, Hemingway's truth holds fast: the sun also rises.

I went to work. Rick, Larry, Heather, Ginny, Roy, Russ, Eric--the new work gang--wished me happy birthday. I got birthday emails from Traci, Chris, Brian, John, Parsoni, Luana, Rachel, Mitch, and Scott. Carmen sent a really cute Winnie the Pooh cookie collection to my office, and my sister Tammy sent along a junk-food basket that had co-workers begging me to open it RIGHT NOW. Janell took me to a really nice lunch at a nearby steak house. In the evening, I talked to my mom, and gifts arrived from her at the house. Harrison, oblivious to any changing in the age guard, wanted to play with the snowglobe that "he" got me.

And I went to bed forty instead of thirty-nine. In the end, it doesn't really matter, and it doesn't really change anything.

But I'm changed anyway. I *want* to be changed. I have my arms thrown open wide to the possibility of the heavens. I want wisdom or insight to flood my mind simply because I'm starting another decade. I hoping for an epiphany that will explain things to me that I've turned over and over in my head and hands like a Rubik's Cube.

Brace yourself, if you're hoping for the same things: if they come, it's not immediately self-evident.

I'm hoping that being open to the possibility, more open than I've ever been willing to be, will somehow make forty *mean* something. My friend Paul used to say, "Every day is Christmas." His logic was that, for one day a year, we are bottomless springs of kindness. We shed our biases and embrace diversity with a tolerance that'll be gone by New Year's. But Paul rightly pointed out that this wisdom is selective--we choose it, for the sake of the holiday. So, why can't we choose it all the time, every day?

And here I am, half-desperate for a certainty to shine down on me just because I'm forty now. It won't come today, I know. But having my roadmap out in this familiar but strange land might mean something important when I stop hoping and actually start constructing that epiphany I'm waiting for.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

 

Veterans

For all my distaste for the current administration and its policies in Iraq, I want to be clear that I have always had the utmost respect for veterans.

My friend Doug, whom I've known since we were both in seventh grade more than 25 years ago, was practically career Army before taking a job at Cisco. My friend Warren served before he became an FBI agent. Rob, one of the gentlest people I know, was in the Navy. My father-in-law served in Vietnam. And my uncle, grandfather, and father all gave of themselves to the U.S.

All the more reason to oppose the war: I never want someone I know and care about to be killed defending a brainless decision. They join up knowing they could be killed in the line of duty, but they assume it will be for a just cause.

Never let it be for oil. Never let it be for revenge. Never let it be "because we can."

But that aside, I hope today that Doug, Warren, Rob, and all the others I know who have served in the U.S. military feel appreciated and understood, even if we cannot always see eye-to-eye politically. All of them are honorable people; all of them are people I would feel safe having guard my home and my family in the middle of some terrible, unforeseen night. And in the end, they have done what I know I am not capable of doing: they volunteered their lives for the sake of strangers.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

 

Star Wars: Revenge of the Nerd

Whoo-hoo, whoo-hoo, whoo-hoo!!!

I may not have mentioned this, so... WHOO-HOO!

Last Friday, the teaser trailer for the third (uh, sixth) and final (uh, right) Star Wars film hit theaters, TV, and the Web. Lo and behold, let us witness the return of Chewbacca and the rise of Darth Vader!

He had yellow eyes. Oh, Scott Farkus, you evil Jedi bully, you!

So, for the uneducated (or those even mildly interested), my Star Wars legacy of nerdiness...

*I saw the original film 49 times in the theater, Rogers Theater, over the course of that one summer of 1977. It was the only film the Rogers showed for more than a year.

*My mom, bless her pitying heart, made me both a Han Solo black vest and, later, when Empire came out, a blue Han Solo denim jacket with shoulder flaps. For the record, Mama-san, if you made me one of these now, I'd still wear it. And we have DVDs to get stills from now! (A far cry from the cutouts I had from magazines back in the early '80s.)

*I used to be able to quote all of Greedo's dialogue from the showdown between him and Han in the cantina. Now I'm down to "Go ta doh da, Solo?," which is still enough to prove some village is missing its idiot. As a sidenote, I still catch myself quoting about two lines ahead, and aloud, when the scroll goes up at the beginning. "It is a period of civil war," I pronounce, and other people leave the room.

*I dressed up for the premiere of Return of the Jedi. The denim jacket still fit, and Han never even wore it during the damned movie!! Oh the shame!

*
(Nope, can't even say that one. It's just too humiliating.)

*I had Meco's disco version of Star Wars on an album... and I really, really liked it. I danced to it. Sigh.

*Shameful Star Wars trivia about someone else: my mom fell asleep during it. Twice. Both times in the theater. Hehehehehehe. Someone with more embarrassing SW stories than me!

I have others. Please feel free to share between now and the next trailer, in March of next year, when I'll happily share more.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

 

It's All in the Mind

It takes about ten years to get used to how old you are.

And somebody once said that middle age begins with the first mortgage and ends when you drop dead.

On Friday, this Friday, I'm turning 40. You know what that means? It means I'm welcome at the Old Country Buffet's "Early Bird Dinner Special" around 4 P.M. every Friday. It means the college students I think are hot could be my hot daughters. It means that Farrah Fawcett--whose suggestive nipple in a red one-piece once held my adolescent attention like a total eclipse--is now drawing Social Security.

Yikes. I'm going to be 40.

John Lennon once said in a song, "Life begins at 40." Easy for him to say. He was 40 years and two months old when he died. In the world according to Lennon, I'm going to get shot in mid-January.

Should I resist my middle age? Dare I embrace it? Dare I eat a peach?

As Lancelot's gay lover once said, "I shall not go gently into that good knight." Or something like that. Unlike the French, I can put up a resistance. I've not mocked enough of the notions of my fellow human beings, nor have I lorded myself over the less fortunate sufficiently to be middle aged. I've not yet tried some of the greater things in life, like farting in a high-speed elevator (I've never worked in a building with one before now, so guess what I'm doing Friday morning on my way upstairs?). I've never successfully claimed to have voted for the Communist Presidential candidate just to see who'll break first, my Democratic or Republican friends. I've never embarrassed my son yet--at his age, that high-speed elevator prank is nothing but fun.

So, what's the secret to staying young? Is it all a state of mind, a deliberate blind eye turned to the liver spots that show through our winter gloves?

I'm going with medication. If you send me a birthday card this week, please include a sample of your preferred prescription med. Don't tell me what it is--I'm looking forward to mixing them.

I'll let you know next week how a birth control pill, Valium, two Viagras (you know who you are), and a Flintstones chewable work together. I'm betting I'm going to have a great birthday!

Monday, November 08, 2004

 

Yunjin Kim

I had a really, really cool moment this weekend when I heard from Yunjin Kim. She's the Korean actress who plays Sun on ABC's amazing new show Lost.

Yunjin Kim

A few weeks back, I decided to write her a fan letter, and my first draft turned into a soapbox almost immediately. Do you know how many Asian women have leading roles on prime-time television? Three--Ming-Na on ER, Linda Park on Star Trek: Enterprise, and Yunjin Kim on Lost.

Now, consider this: Ming-Na (www.ming-na.com) gets less than three minutes screen-time per episode of ER. Linda Park (www.lindapark.tv) is doing slightly better but let's face reality: she's on UPN.

Yunjin Kim had an entire episode built around her and actor Daniel Dae Kim (www.danieldaekim.org), and they remain central characters in the show, week after week.

I think that, as a rule, Asians are not treated well by the networks, and Asian women are treated quite shabbily. I should note, though, that Ming-Na had a spectacular turn on Law & Order this season, but again, it's just a one-shot deal. And it was supposed to be broadcast the night of the Vice-Presidential debate, so the episode was shunted around, making it difficult for even her fans, let alone the mainstream population, to find it.

About halfway into my tirade, I realized I'd missed the point of a fan letter to Yunjin Kim, so I started over. While I still wanted to make my point about how Asian casting (note that there's been no television show centered around an Asian family since Margaret Cho's All-American Girl in 1994), I really wanted to tell her how much I enjoyed the show and how great I thought the episode with her backstory was.

She responded to me with a very nice email, telling me about her website and promising me a signed photograph when they are available from the network. She also sent me the address to her newly created website.

www.yunjinkim.com

If you get the chance, check it out. And for the love of God, watch Lost--if you're missing it, you're missing the best show on TV and the chance to support the presence of Asian and Asian-American actors on U.S. television.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

 

SAW

This is the movie I saw while visiting Luana over in Pullman a week or so ago. It's the one I walked into blind, having no idea what I was seeing. It's the one that still disturbs me.



The premise: a doctor and a photographer wake up in a filthy, abandoned, freakily lighted public restroom, each chained to the the piping by his foot. They are the latest victims of the Jigsaw killer, who likes to test the boundaries of his victims by giving them horrific, potentially fatal ways of escaping the deathtraps he puts them in. Will the young woman eviscerate the paralyzed but definitely alive young man to get the key out of his stomach? She needs it--otherwise, in a minute or so, the "reverse bear trap" wired to her head is going to split her skull into pieces, and the key's the only way out. (See the poster.) Will the fat man slithering through the razor-enhanced barbed wire to get out before the dungeon's door slams shut and locks him in forever? These grisly traps are backstory: in this case, the doctor finds a single bullet in his pocket, and and audio recording that tells him he needs to shoot and kill the innocent photographer if he wants to save his wife and daughter, both hostages of the Jigsaw killer.

Between the doc and the photographer is a corpse--a suicide victim--with a gun in its dead hand. To get to the gun first, one of the men will need to escape the chain around his foot... and that's where the title of the film comes in. Each man finds a hacksaw on his side of the room. It's not strong enough to cut the chains, but it'll go through flesh and bone just fine.

Ugh.

Critics have torn the movie apart, and probably with some justification. Sorting out the logic of it after the fact was tough. Why this? Who did that? What's the reason for that??

But in the moment, none of that mattered. This movie is damned scary. If you can avoid the reviews and the trailers, go see it for the fright of the year. I've seen lots and lots of horror flicks in my time--when I was younger, they were my favorite kind of movie--and I have some points of comparison in terms of fright. Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Halloween. The last few minutes of Ringu (The Ring).

I don't know if it's still giving Luana the shivers, but I still find myself thinking about it with a bit of a shudder. I am secretly grateful Janell wasn't there to see it with us--when she saw the TV-movie version of The Shining I had to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom with her every single time.

If she'd seen what I SAW, she'd need to get up with me now.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

 

DAYSed but No Longer Confused

Well, my little odyssey of soap operas that began last summer with the weirdness of the Salem Stalker on Days of Our Lives and the candidacy of Howard Dean seems to be coming to an end. The outcome of one of them, at least, makes sense. The Days outcome.

Tony, the lunatic (formerly dead of a rare blood disease) who orchestrated the hynotizing of Marlena to convince her that she had committed a series of murders... the madman who drugged people to simulate their deaths, then stole their "corpses" from their coffins... the nutjob who re-created the entire city of Salem on a remote island and then surrounded in with a forcefield (I love how soaps can mirror REALITY so well)... is also a patricidal vampire.

Really.

Tony's father, Stefano, turns up on the island, too. Sort of. Everyone thinks it's Stefano (also a mental case, as I understand it), seated with his back to them in a chair in a magnificent study, a cigar burning. But when the chair is turned around, it's Psycho in spades: Stefano is a desiccated corpse. Tony cured his own blood disease by killing his father via a blood transfusion to save himself.

This plotline partly comes about because the actor who used to play Stefano is on another soap and unavailable. It also partly comes about because this show is just flat-out weird.

Tony claims he did all this out of hatred and jealousy of his brother John (who's also one of the walking dead on the island); I guess little bro stole Kristen, the love of Tony's life, out from under Tony's nose. (Note that I can't find anything to suggest that Tony messed with Kristen's life, which he should have done as well, don't you think?)

Well, the bad guys always lose in this scenarios, and somehow, Tony ends up on the run from his tormentees... to disappear. Yep, they undo his plot but they don't technically get the bad guy. Where's the future story arc in that? Instead, Tony somehow sets off a volcano on the island before escaping, and John, Marlena, and the other "victims" of the Slasher have to flee for their lives back to Salem.

Ah, reality TV. Where would we be without it?

Reader letter in this issue: "The story surrounding GENERAL HOSPITAL's Courtney taking in a teenage foster child is ridiculous. I find it very hard to believe that Social Services would put a 17-year-old boy with a single, twenty-something woman who lives in a loft that has one bed." Oh, yes, M.S. of House Springs, Missouri--let's definitely try to keep soaps more believable. We should add more forcefields and battery-operated volcanos!!!

Friday, November 05, 2004

 

What the Hell Is He Talking About??

Okay, my commentary on the last 24 hours is restricted to short notes about the world in general. Let me know if you actually understand all of them--you either know me really well, or you need a life as badly as I do...

--Damn, and I kinda liked Raj. Bowtie notwithstanding, I'd hang out with him... but I'd keep him away from all my single female friends, because a dork with a walking stick who calls every woman "my dear" is NOT going to date anyone *I* know.

--I'm pretty sure that's James Earl Jones's voice... or else it's Mufasa talking to the Emperor.

--Elastigirl's got a hot butt. It's too bad she sounds like Holly Hunter.

--I'm guessing that Jesus either shops exclusively at Wal-Mart, can't stand pork chops, or has no sense of humor. Or maybe all three.

--There are some happy kids home from school today in Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey. It's like every child's dream, provided you're not actually *there* when it happens. Sorta like Jesus finished his pork chops and then did you a favor.

--Guilty, guilty, guilty. He should've gone fishing for a better alibi.

--Comatose, huh? It was probably Tuesday's outcome that did it to him. I feel a little comatose myself.

--Well, I'm voting for the donkey! Again! This time, the big fat smelly green thing can't win!

Thursday, November 04, 2004

 

Coping without Hope

A friend wrote me a rant today about Bush's victory that culminated in this sentence: "please delete this email. Web-based emails make me nervous now."

Another friend was within one lip-tremble of crying over lunch yesterday while we discussed the Presidential elections.

I empathize with both of them. And while this might sound a little close to the ostrich head-in-the-sand approach to politics, let me outline my own plan for coping. Because fear of being monitored and heart-sinking depression, as both of these friends know, is unacceptable. We will not be driven to despair because one snot-nosed wooden-gunned cowboy and his cronies hold the politic reins of our country for the next few years.

So, here's my approach...

We fought, we lost. That's the fact. But we did not die. We may YET die--let's see how long it takes him to bait South Korea into nuking Los Angeles--but we're not dead today. Today, Georgie Porgie is still President. And he was President a couple of months ago when I got my new job. He was President while I was having fun over in Pullman. And he was President while I was writing books and taking Harrison trick-or-treating and watching Lost and writing out my Christmas list.

Not to appear naive, because I know he's made a mess of things and the mess can be greater still, but we'll survive. We might even thrive, some of us, even a lot of us, who opposed him.

And again, the semi-ostrich approach: I don't want to hear him, I don't want to see him. I don't need to have my nose rubbed in our loss by his half-cocked smirk and his mangling of the English language. I don't need to hear the derogatory, self-satisfied doubletalk of Condi Rice to recognize that we have to listen to that gold-toothed half-wit for another 1500 days. So, I'll make my source of information TV Guide, Entertainment Weekly, and the new Disney catalog for the next few months, until I feel I can deal again.

In two years, we'll elect more senators. And a senate with a majority of Democrats can defuse a healthy chunk of a nutball Republican presidency. Then we shoot for 2008, and whatever G.W. and his circus train of profiteers mess up between now and then, let's hope a Hilary Clinton-Barack Obama ticket can clean up.

We cannot beat him right now, folks. He won, fair and square. Unless he fucks up royally and hands us an impeachment option, we're stuck with him for a while. And we have new information about our fellow Americans, too--we're a divided nation, and if we let politics become more than the shell game that it is, we quickly learn to hate the other half for their difference. It's just another form of discrimination and prejudice, in the end.

So, if you can't beat 'em... ignore 'em. My ex-wife's sister had a bumper sticker that read "Shoot your TV." For now, that's a solid plan. Don't give CNN a minute of your life. Christmas shop, read a good book, go to the movies, follow your football team, play with your kids, visit your friends, and set this aside for the moment. Stewing on it is agony. Vigilance is still the only way to root out evil, yes, but you can set aside vigilance long enough to find your bearings again.

After all, it isn't the end of the world.

Hopefully.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

 

Four More Fears

This morning, the Republicans--eager to have things their way--started calling for Kerry's concession speech. They are salivating to sneer in the faces of the minority and say, "What we've been doing is supported by the American people... but not YOU American people. We're not even sure you ARE Americans, you who voted for Kerry."

I am reminded of their own ads showing the stalking wolves. The wolves of the GOP were snarling outside the Democratic door this morning.

As I wrote the sentence above, Janell called me to tell me that Kerry conceded. He called Bush and gave it up.

I could cry.

Eleven states voted against same-sex marriage propositions.

Tom Daschle got kicked out.

The governor's race in my previously liberal state of Washington is so close that it's possible the Republican candidate will win.

The Republican lock on the Senate, the House, and the White House is secure.

Wall Street numbers jumped this morning because defense, chemical, and energy companies feel secure and freewheeling under this administration. They can do what they wish without fear of repercussions now.

Four more years of George Bush. A massive turnout of voters this time, and Bush received in excess of three MILLION more votes than Kerry.

I feel completely disenfranchised. I feel alienated from my country, as if I should simply surrender to silence, go through the drudgery of the day, and simply watch events unfold instead of being a participant in them. I feel as if I no longer understand the majority of my fellow citizens--I thought most of us were on the same page.

We're not.

We believe in war. We believe in mismanaged budgets. We believe in prejudice and discrimination. We believe in big business. We believe in isolationism. We believe in Big Brother and the Patriot Act.

George Bush, the bumbling schoolboy, and his evil, dry-handed old teachers--Rumsfeld, Cheney--can do what they want to us now. They have all the power, from senators to governors to attorney generals. They can send us to Gitmo Bay when we disagree. They can take any amount of money from anyone at any time they wish, so long as it isn't Halliburton. They can look at gays and say, "Sorry, no happiness--uh, marriage--for you." They can look at the poor and say, "Sorry, no food--uh, welfare--for you." They can look at the elderly and say, "No survival--uh, healthcare--for you."

And yet, the elderly in Florida voted for him. The Cubans--who he has told are not allowed to see their families more than once a year--voted for him. Military families, whose children are being blown into bloody bits of meat, voted for him.

I am ashamed of my country today. Our country is alone in the world and we don't seem to care. And within this isolated country, I feel like a lot of us are even more alone. We are afraid of our government. And our one chance to do anything about it is over. For four years, the tyranny is coming. We won't be welcomed to participate--we'll be marked as the ones this administration wants to target. The big-mouthed do-gooding minority.

I hope Michael Moore is on his way to Canada as I write this.

Monday, November 01, 2004

 

Dads' Weekend

After a couple of days banging around the WSU campus with Luana--whom I think of as my older goddaughter--I remember exactly what was hard about college.

Being broke. When fixing a *second* bag of Top Ramen for dinner is living on the high horse, you're in college.

Actually weighing the pros and cons of walking a half mile to get somewhere. Hell, if I could, I'd drive to our mailbox, but Luana happily donned multiple layers of clothing to trek across campus to the football stadium. Definitely in college.

Sharing a home with strangers and needing to either safeguard your possessions or surrender them to the general population of your house. Two of Luana's housemates are football players who have successfully sunk her couch by body-diving onto it, and no food is safe in their fridge unless labeled, and even then, it's a coin flip whether it'll be there tomorrow.

All that said, I had a great time with Luana this weekend. I slept on the floor in a sleeping bag in her tiny little room, and I showered in her tiny little shower (which was small enough that crossing your arms isn't an option without both elbows touching wall), and I sat in the hail with her for the first quarter of the football game while visiting USC scored THREE touchdowns in the first SEVEN MINUTES (we then trekked home, soaked but amused, to watch the rest of the game on TV). Some highlights of the trip...

*Photo with Dad. The university bookstore, The Bookie, had a professional photographer taking pictures of dads and their kids. Luana and I went and had our photo taken, a "moment in time," as the photographers hyped themselves. The stone-faced cameraman didn't pat an eye when Luana referred to me not as her "dad," but as her "sugar daddy." Nor did he blink when when we both smirked after he suggested I "straddle your daughter from behind" on our respective stools.

*Bowling. If you don't bowl, you're missing out. The only thing that should stop you is a bruised thumb (and in some people's cases, like my friend Beverly, even THAT need not be a deterrent). I took Luana and Russ, her 6'8", 300-lb. boyfriend, bowling, though both claimed to be utterly talentless at the game. Uh-huh. I was on a league, people. A LEAGUE. I beat Luana only because she gutter-balled finding her balance in the first few frames, and Russ beat me by sheer force of will. He threw his bowling ball like a softball. And he even made $3.00 off me, 10 cents a pin, enough to buy 30 bags of Top Ramen. If you'd seen Russ eat, you'd know--that's ONE meal.

*Scary movie. We'll get into seeing SAW in a future blog. Suffice to say that Luana and Russ picked it, and I have been paying for it in my nightmares ever since.

*Drew Carey. I thought it was pretty cool that 10,000 people paid between $25 and $40 a pop to have Drew Carey and most of the cast of Whose Line Is It Anyway? mock the WSU football team's horrific 42-12 loss to USC. Ah, to be a fat, middle-aged comedian... uh, and get paid for it.

*Public Displays of Affection. PDAs, as Luana called them. I left her and Russ at the table in a restaurant while I went to the restroom, and when I came back, they were holding hands. When I sat down at the table again, Luana let go of Russ's hand and pulled away.

"It's fine, you know," I told her.

"No, it's not," she said firmly. "It's not respectful. Maybe it's a leftover from my Chinese culture, I don't know, but it's not respectful to show PDAs in front of family like that."

I swelled with pride for two reasons: Luana referring to me as "family," and her grace and poise in a time and place in her life where it would be easy to crawl all over her boyfriend, some sort of rebellious sexual display. Luana has class; she's a focused student (she's taking another year in order to complete her DOUBLE major), she's got a strong sense of what a romantic relationship in college does or does not mean, and she wants to put her best face forward. She told me that she cautioned Russ about swearing in front of me. (And if you know me, you know I'm one step removed from being a drunken Marine in my vocabulary.)

I'm already looking forward to being "dad" next year and to attending her graduation. I liked Russ and was even more honored that Luana actually wanted to know what I thought of him. (For the record, he's a mature young man with an obvious respect for his family and a clearly tender heart for Luana; I like big jocks who feel absolutely no need whatsoever to live the dullard sexist stereotype, who are comfortable being affectionate and sweet with the people they care about.) He was respectful of her, respectful of me.

So, for two days, I was very, very proud to call her Luana my daughter.

She was even a good sport about dressing alike.

Really, she looks a lot more like her mother.

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