Some of my most interesting experiences happen when I'm walking my dog. I meet a lot of fellow dog-walkers who are generally nice humans. Except that stern, rod-straight man and his neurotic, uber-focused Border Collie that I've seen every day for the last I-don't-know-how-many years on their way to the beach. Neither of them look happy, if you ask me. The man never smiles, rarely speaks and looks exactly the same every single day. This is not an exaggeration. I could spot that guy anywhere in the world in a throng of identically looking men at any given time. Same khaki pants, same backpack, same hat, same red jacket, same green Chuckit toy. I kick ass at Where's Waldo because of this guy.
I give the man props for taking his furry companion to the beach every day but for the love of Dog give the poor thing some Prozac before he starts licking the walls from too much training!
But this post isn't about dogs or grouchy neighbors. It's about twins.
Twins fascinate me. They always have. It wouldn't be a stretch to admit that I secretly wanted to have one. But that would have been a cruel twist of fate for my parents especially if the cosmos has cursed them with an identical set of me. I'll leave the reasons up to the reader's imagination. To be clear, it's fraternal twins that I'm fascinated by. Specifically, the differences between them. I mean, if would be silly to "compare identical twins", right? Wouldn't that be oxymoronic? (or is it just me?)
It was my recent good fortune to cross paths with a gorgeous set of twin girls. They looked to be about 6 and were drawn to my dog who is a very handsome dude, if I must say so myself. I overheard them ask their father if they could pet him and he replied they had to ask me nicely first. This made me like the dad immediately. I said yes before they even asked. These two cherubs had eyes the color of the ocean behind them and the blonde braids that I longed for in my teen years and still covet as an adult. They were very similar in appearance but their differences were abundantly clear. Cherub #1 was gregarious and talkative and enveloped my dog with brave hugs and nose kisses despite the fact that he was eye-level. Her hands were dirty with whatever it was she had explored on the beach and her braid was coming apart at the seams. Cherub #2 stepped in once she saw her sister getting major face licks. She was clearly more cautious and definitely cleaner like maybe she used a sand shovel to dig for that buried treasure rather than her bare hands. She wore a frilly hair trinket that kept her braids from abandoning ship.
Cherub #1 sported a tattered denim skirt, a stained cotton tee-shirt and fleece camouflage boots. Cherub #2, a feminine tutu and an equally girly-girl top. Her fleece boots were brilliant pink and adorned with a million sequins.
When I commented on their boots, Cherub #1 volunteered they got them for Christmas. When I asked them if they were twins, it opened up a floodgate of information delivered in a spray of machine-gun-fire consciousness devoid of pauses: we're twins and we're going to be six and we were born on the same day but we're not identical and our birthday is August 21st and we're going to have a big party when we get home and we love dogs and we're on vacation and live in Idaho and this is my dad his name is Jeff but my mom could come because she had to work and do you want to know what we want for our birthday?
My head was still reeling from all that information and I was searching for bullet holes in my chest but hell yes, I was dying to know.
"I want a bow and arrow," she said.
When I asked Cherub #2 what she wanted, she replied with a clear and confident voice.
"I...want a wedding dress."
Dad laughed out loud, not the least but surprised by any of this.
"As you can see…they only look alike," he said.
I could tell by the way he looked down at them he was head over heels in love with his angel twins and their myriad differences. He was proud of them and it showed. It made me like him even more.
All I can say is those little nuggets made my day. And even though the encounter was fleeting and random, I'll never look at a bow and arrow or a wedding dress as long as I live without thinking of them.
I told you twins were fascinating.
Or maybe it's just me.
As I was getting undressed on my way to the security line at LAX the other day, I took notice of something. Maybe my magpie-ness was taking a down-for-maintenance hiatus like the ObamaCare Web-site. Or it could have been the sound of a woman colliding with a Sees Candy kiosk while sending a text. It was amazing how many people thought nuts and chews were fair game just because they landed on an airport terminal floor. Jesus, people! Get your priorities straight! Didn't you notice the cans of Toffe-ette rolling toward the escalator?
But I digress as magpies often do. What I noticed wasn't the sugar-junkies scrambling for the candy but rather the ones who were filming it. I had no inclination to film the carnage namely due to the fact that I don't know how to do it on my "device" formerly known as a cell phone. I could probably figure it out if I took a few minutes to learn but I have no desire to learn new things. Besides, I had taken my undressing a little too far and had to put my shirt back on before the device-o-philes got bored with the candy looters and turned their attention my way.
What I'm taking too long to say is this: We have all become magpies. Some, like me, are what I'll call low-tech magpies. Those limited to the shiny objects that pop up on their HuffPost News feeds...like that picture of Kim Kardashian's post-baby ass tweet. And then there are those who transcend even the obvious moniker of hi-tech magpie. It goes beyond that. They're the ones who actually provide the content that filters down to the low-rung magpies like me.
I'm undecided if I envy them or fear them.
I suppose that depends on whether my airport strip-tease ended up on YouTube or not.
This is the first in an endless series...
...unless I suddenly throw all my electronic devices into the sea which isn't going to happen because I get all my news on-line. I'm pretty basic about it: the New York Times Headlines, HuffPost, CNN, Women in Hollywood and my lame, confusing horoscope that tells me things like: "your emotions sink into the deep waters of your subconscious, making the next few days a bit uncomfortable".
So I've got that goin' for me.
But never mind my subconscious. I'm more worried about the crazy shit mucking up my focal awareness and causing me deep and profound personal distress.
How is it that I can be reading a completely serious news article on-line about, say, a devastating tornado...or a crazy suicide bomber and WHAM-O, my beady, black eyes drift to a shiny, sparkly headline like this: Lindsay Lohan Wears Some Seriously Short Shorts.
And I'm ashamed.
I feel like a magpie reading porn in church.
Disclaimer: I am not making fun of religion, crucifixion, defenders of Christ, Romans, Jews, or their countrymen or anyone who sweats in a profuse and horrifying manner.
This isn't about Jesus.
This is about yoga.
Hot yoga...and my warped sense of visual association.
An epiphany struck me yesterday during my Bikram yoga practice which, by the by, I both love and despise with every fiber of my being.
Just before I lifted myself out of that resting pose...shinfeinayana or whatever and just before...parasinvania-something or another, I looked down...
There beneath me in stunning sweat-stained glory was a perfect outline of myself. My soaked, stringy hair, my shoulders (damn, they're a little wide for my frame), my waist (need to work on the love-handles) and my short, circus-clown legs.
All I could think of in my heat-stroked delirium was that it looked like my own private Shroud of Turin.
Somebody roll that boulder away and let me out of this hot box.
My niece's husband has a great sense of humor. He fits in well with our family because we all enjoy taunting each other to see who can get the most laughs at someone else's expense. No one is safe and nothing is sacred in this wholesome Lord-of-the-Flies-meets-a-Don-Rickles-Celebrity-Roast family tradition.
Recently, it was my turn to suffer through the taunts when aforementioned nephew-by-marriage [we'll call him Sean] had control of the conch. He summoned the other family members via a group e-mail and it was game on. He sent a picture of Santa consulting a long list of good children he would reward. All my sibling's names were on it. But not mine. He found it quite amusing.
Little did he know the deep, painful history this would conjure.
A history I will disclose to you now in all its dysfunctional glory...
It all started in The Time Before Cable Television,The 1960s, In other words, four channels in glorious black and white one of which was host to my most cherished memory: Romper Room. It's where I learned to be a good Do-Bee [despite forgetting what that meant during my adolescence and subsequent failed marriages where I engaged in lots of Don't Bees but that's for another time]. It's where my fascinating with entertainment started. I was mesmerized from the start. I wanted to be one of those kids. What star were they born under that bestowed on them such a coveted gig?
Regardless of my misguided envy, I held out hope. Hope that one day, Miss Nancy would speak my name at the end show when she looked through her magic mirror. If I couldn't be one of those privileged kids, at least I might hear my name uttered by the golden voice of my godess-like idol. Each day I would wait patiently for the end of the show, teetering on my Romper Stompers for good luck.
But she never spoke my name.
Each day, I would collapse in a heap of steaming hot despair, gnash my baby teeth, wail to the highest heavens [there's medication for fits of this nature today, but alas, I was behind the curve in those early years]. It brought my parents great distress. My older sisters, on the other hand, would point and laugh and claim I needed a good spanking.
And now, thanks to the man who shall henceforth be called "Sean of the Doom" I learn that my name didn't even make it onto Santa's top-twenty list fifty m-effing years later?! Even after all the years of repentance, all the years of self-improvement, all the years of I'm-sorry-I-was-just-too-young-to-knows...I still can't make the grade.
Come to find out, my name didn't even make it into the Top 100 Most Popular Female Names of the 1960s. Yes...I looked it up.
The number one name was Lisa.
I knew a couple named Lisa during my childhood. I have no good memories of either of them. One tortured me during lunch in the third grade, the other had an aversion to bathing and smelled like urine.
I don't care. I'm going to change my name anyway.
So, please. Next time you see me? Call me Lisa.
My good pal and I - along with a couple of other dudes who love film - just returned from the Sundance Film Festival. I was going to post some cool stuff about it along with a funny story about what happens when you forget to put your glasses on in the morning.
I have to tell THIS story.
For anyone who knows me or reads my blog (thank you, thank you if you do), I am not well-versed on the ways of technology and how to use it nor how it uses me without my knowledge.
Flying home, aforementioned peeps and I were talking about privacy settings on all the devices we lug around like appendages we can't live without. This is somewhat ironic since my girlfriend was just telling me a few nights before that stuff comes up on her Facebook page about where she is or where she's been. She and I both pondered how in the Sam Hill that happens. I told her I don't think that's ever happened to me.
As usual, I was wrong.
I just found out from the Timeline thing that I was at Mission Ranch recently. There was a map....and a little red pin showing the exactly location of the place. Yeah, okay. I was there with a group over the holidays. The relevance of that and why anyone would give a shit is my first thought.
Then I give it a little more thought and my blood pressure goes up and I have to take a Xanax and pace around my office for a while. Not out of fear, I'm just pissed off.
Fortunately, I don't have any stalkers that I'm aware of because Facebook (or whatever device made this happen) put a giant "She Is Here" target on my back without me knowing it. But the worse thing about all this is that I don't have any idea how to control it because of my limited technological prowess. I'm at an extreme disadvantage. I suddenly feel like a patsy in a world of I-don't-know-what.
Advertisers? Marketers? A government experiment? What!!
Naturally, I want to know how this happens but I'm afraid to ask because I fear it involves a learning curve and at my age, I'm pretty set on going straight.
But I don't think I can do that. I have to know because I'm stuck in a world I know very little about soon to become just a speck in a nebulous universe of clouds and hashtags and faceless pings and tracking devices that I don't even know I'm carrying around.
[You do know that the proliferation of technology in our society was what drove the Unibomber crazy, right?]
We saw a film at Sundance called Afternoon Delight where the main character has a meltdown which I identified with immediately.
It was about The Cloud and what the motherfucking hell is it? And what is it capable of? I mean think about it. It's this "area" that we can't touch or feel or see that stores all of our digital belongings. It's not a place. It's not a thing. It's godlike. We have to trust and have faith that It will always be there for us...therefore It merits a capital letter when referring to It.
Just like God (unless you're so inclined to refer to Him as g-d in which case It might need to become I-t for some).
Seriously, folks. I'm gobsmacked by all this shit. It simultaneously fascinates me and repels me. I have nothing more to say so I'll just quote Mick and Keith who had no idea their words way back in the day would have such relevance today:
Hey you! Get off of my cloud!
I have no idea if this cloud thing has anything to do with anything and quite frankly, I don't give a shit. It's too exhausting to decipher. It's all the same to me and I am stuck here. Trapped. I need this stuff and hate this stuff. I consume it, I gobble it up and it threatens to choke me. I try to spit it out but can't.
So I just swallow hard and hope for the best.
P.S. Just so you know, today I'll be in Monterey getting my legs waxed at 606 Lighthouse Avenue at 1:00. Then, I'll probably stop in Carmel for a coffee with some friends at that little place between Areias Jewelry and the Coach Store on Ocean around 2:30ish. Then to Whole Foods at Del Monte Center where I'll purchase some nice baby arugula and some roast chicken. I'll be there around 4:30 if you're in an abduction kind of a mood. Say! How about I make it easy for you...I'll bring the duct tape.
In case you didn't notice, I can't draw.
Thus the cut and paste and the rudimentary line drawings rather than real family photos. Besides, I don't take family photos. I leave that up to my siblings who are a really good at it. My talents are better suited to ransom notes.
Since I haven't kidnapped anyone lately, I'll stick to The Pilgrimage. I toyed with calling it The Hajj but I always try my best not to shark terms from other cultures to use as my own. It's an annoying American habit that I think is born of being a young country without a lot of history and what little we have is based on creepy religious dogma and puritanical repression.
But I digress...as I often do.
This year, all I wanted for The Holidays was my family.
I got them.
Damn near all of them. My brother's family managed to dodge the bullet.
They came from all over the place...in waves. Like a prolonged human tsunami.
They came. They partied. They ate. They plowed through 3 whole turkeys, 2 hams, 6 pounds of breakfast sausage, 3 dozen eggs, 5 gallons of milk, a big-ass crock pot of turkey chili, more bottles of wine than I can count, dozens of cookies, boxes of chocolates, dips and chips and crepes and Quiche and lions and tigers and bears, oh my! It was glorious! Romanesque! Feasts worthy of Cesar's blessing!
I like nothing better than feeding people. It's in my genes. I get it from my grandmother. I also got her overactive sweat glands which is another story for another time but the feeding thing...yeah, that's definitely what I got and damn proud of it. What I didn't get was patience. Or the ability to move at any other speed except full tilt.
This can be problematic during family get-togethers. I'm like a mutant jack-rabbit born into a family of lovely brown bears. They eat, they hibernate, they lumber along at their own pace never bothered by much of anything. I, on the other hand, flit around like my ass is one fire all the live long day until I collapse into bed without much recollection of what I did for the last 18 hours. I don't know how my family puts up with me. But they do.
I worry that it's out of fear. I see them whispering and pointing as I roast a turkey with one had and buy movie tickets on-line with the other. They stay a safe distance away when speaking to me. Perhaps to keep their limbs out of harm's way. What I want to say to them is....
I am not a cyborg! I am a human being!
Of course, I'm kidding. They love me! And I am deeply in love with each and every one of them. They are awesome. We don't fight. We respect each other. We all have a sense of humor and no one takes offense when I say things like "Get your asses in gear! We are leaving. Right. This. Minute! And rinse out that glass and put it in the dishwasher while you're at it."
I really can't help myself. I'm an extreme, dyed-in-the-wool neatnik in a family of not-so-neatniks. A radical. A rogue member of my own tribe. My niece described it perfectly when she said I was a person who "didn't like things on surfaces". I don't. I believe everything has its place. I just want everything to be good and right and....organized. I don't want to find a harmonica in the kitchen. And why the hell do you insist on this urban sprawl of belongings that stretches from room to room? And if you ask me one more time if I have enough toilet paper in the house, my head is going to explode. Did. You. Just. Meet. Me? I'm a professional hostess for fuck sake! And YES, I do!
Then I remind myself to breathe. I stop and remember that not everyone is a rigid as I am about certain things like obsessive neatness, having enough paper products to last through a nuclear winter and putting all the pointy silverware downward in the dishwasher to avoid gnarly jabs when emptying. Who the hell cares, anyway? It's what they make Band-aids for, right?
Yes, that's right, goddamn it! Go ahead, family. Put those steak knives points up from now on! Patience and understanding are virtues I am determined to master and it's time for this anal retentive to get her boot camp on!
So, I didn't explode when someone, yet again, said that they'd lost something. I calmly went outside and hacked at a sapling while they searched. They just hollered for me once they felt safe enough to let me back inside. Easy peasy!
I even managed to remain calm when my niece told me "the spell must be broken now" in the rented Suburban crammed with luggage, car seats and two kids on sugar highs.
"What is this spell you speak of, young niece?" I asked....patiently.
"My kids have puked in EVERY rental car they've ever been in. But so far, so good," she says with a nervous giggle.
Traveler's Tip: never speak of anything you don't want to happen while traveling, lest you cause it to happen by speaking of it. Trust me on this
Our time together was chaotic madness. It was epic in its revelry. It was us. Together. We laughed until we cried, teased each other mercilessly, ate until we doubled over and drank until our teeth were stained purple. Damn the calories and pass the cream cheese. We had a blast!
Ah, yes. We had a blast!
And we missed our mother...
...but didn't speak of it. Perhaps there was just too much chaos. Perhaps we thought it might be too emotional. What I like to believe is that not talking about it was natural. Natural in a way that she would have liked. She was practical. She wouldn't have wanted a fuss. Loving each other was what she taught us and that was what we were doing. We paid tribute with our actions. And that would have been enough for her.
It was more than enough for us.
I could go on and on ad infinitum about the good times had by all...but everything comes to an end eventually.
Regardless of the stress of hosting an army, I am sad when everyone goes. Truly sad. I call upon my California soul to soothe my corn-fed heart which breaks a little each time I have to say goodbye. No matter how long it's been since I left home, my roots are firmly Midwestern.
I'm okay with that because it's who I am.
And just in time to save me from reminiscing to the point of longing.....my sister sends a text from home:
I think I left my suitcases there, hahaha!
You people would lose your heads if they weren't attached. Wait....I just ran across one beautiful, brown eyeball and possibly someone's kidney...or it could be a spleen. Hard to say. Looks like it's been here a while.
And we both send back LOLs.
It is how we do in this fam damily! And I love it!
This is Gisele. The real one.
In our house, however, Gisele is a christmas tree. I bought her years ago...on sale. No one wanted her. Can you believe that? She was eight feet fall, thin and lithe. She wasn't wearing a Victoria's Secret Miracle Bra much to my husband's chagrin but rather green leafy polyvinyl chloride from top to bottom. Perhaps that's why she was passed over. People tend to expect so much from a super-model christmas tree.
She fit neatly in one corner of the living room, occupied little space. Super-model christmas trees are rarely obtrusive. They require little care, not even water.
But it is time for a change.
Alas, after eight years of stuffing her in a box, she has become unwieldy. Dare I say...out of shape? Her delicate arms so flexible in her early years have become rusty and arthritic. Gone are her perky branches so taught and alert, replaced by the sag of age and inevitable gravity. Her green has dulled, her shine and luster long gone.
It makes me sad to retire her but I must.
I manhandle her down from the garage pantry, her box torn and dusty. A lone spider peeks out from its winter nest, sees what's happening, abandons ship, skitters across the floor in search of another host. How soon they forget!
Gisele will go to another now. A family who will care for her in her aging years. I, however, must move forward. Return to my roots. Rekindle the joys of past seasons. I have so missed watching my dog suck down the tree water as if it's some kind of canine fountain of youth, wadding the folksy tree skirt into a tangle of damp velvet. Ornaments crashing to the ground. Oh, how I've longed for the pine needles and droplets of sap that stick to the bottom of everyone's shoes and coat every last, m-effing square of tile in my entire house. The memories come flooding back now like a long overdue tsunami.
I am overwhelmed with joy.
Yes, it's true. The REAL tree makes a triumphant return to our family home this season. Just in time for the arrival of the pilgrims and their offspring.
I am sorry, Gisele. Truly sorry.
With time....you'll understand.
I walk my dog a lot. It's great exercise and since I'm constantly reading about how I'm going to die earlier rather than later or suffer from excess belly fat and lethargy if I don't stay fit, I have decided to hedge my bets. I'm not convinced my dog is happy about this. I motor along at the speed of sound which is not conducive to letting him sniff every blade of grass or peeing 112 times in 45 minutes. It is far from a leisurely stroll but there are only so many hours in a day and I'm a profuse multi-tasker.
So the other day as I was race-walking along with my possibly pissed off dog , basking in the glory of the magnificent, powerful Northern California coastline when something caught my eye. It was a sign placed just above a rocky cliff that dropped off into the roiling, crashing waves of the Pacific. I have sped by it a zillion times before but never actually stopped to read it. For some reason, at that very moment, I thought it proper to take the time to give it a closer look. After all, someone took the time to put it there and maybe it's something I need to know.
Hmmm. Better read further because danger sounds pretty dangerous to me.
"The coastline is naturally dynamic...."
Oh. My. God. Really?!
"Crashing waves and crumbling cliffs...."
Okay, I can see that. It's right in front of me and therefore, by default, obvious, right?
"Rocks are slippery...'
Yes, they certainly are! They're covered with green, slippery moss and slimy kelp and seaweed.
I read on....
blah, blah, blah something-something about "waves sweeping people off their feet"... yadda, yadda..."swept out to sea"...
And I start to go all cynical and laugh out loud at the absurdity of the warning. But then I remembered the importance of warnings. I mean, how else is one supposed to know they need to "STOP and remove frozen dinner from package" before placing it in the microwave? Or that you shouldn't attempt to drive a back-hoe after taking a sleeping pill? Warnings are important, folks! Im-port-ant!
But what about dangers for which there are no warning signs?
Like the unexpected ingestion of a flying insect?
Yeah, it sounds gnarly. I can assure you it is.
But it happens.
And it happened to me.
Just after I read the coastal warning. It was cosmic payback, I'm convinced.
It was also shocking and disgusting. Not to mention humiliating. It happened in front of a busload of Korean tourists. Perhaps they have a cultural aversion to seeing an otherwise respectable-looking woman hacking and spitting in public because they were clearly horrified. Mothers grabbed their children and fled for the safety of the tour bus. Men covered their eyes, turned away jabbering in a language I couldn't understand but the tone was unmistakable disgust.
Doesn't look like you can count on a Korean to come to your aid when you're hacking up a foreign object. Maybe the Heimlich is strictly an American thing? I don't know but whatever the reason, don't count on them in an emergency. That's all I'm sayin'.
So I was on my own. I had to rid my mouth of this winged interloper before it went any further....which it did.
I just had to, you know, swallow.
There! I said it. I ate a bug with wings, okay?
The remainder of my walk-of-shame was spent looking at the ground, the brim of my baseball call pulled down on my forehead like a quasi-windshield.
And I altered my breathing.
In through the nose, out through the mouth, NOT the other way around. What was I thinking? Did I learn nothing in Bikram yoga?
IN through the nose. OUT through the mouth. IN through the nose. OUT through the mouth.
No need to thank me. Just don't speed walk with your mouth open.
Translation: "I hate psoriasis"
For the record, I don't suffer from psoriasis but if I did, I'm sure I would hate it. I just chose that to illustrate my point [which, in the scheme of things is useless but somewhat interesting].
I've become fascinated with how we communicate. Probably because the way we communicate is changing so rapidly. And, in my humble view, it's not always for the better. I guess it's cool that we can connect with each other 27/7 using a mind-boggling array of methods from e-mails and texts to [insert method of your choice] from wherever we are in the world. It's convenient, I admit . But it's making us all a little more impatient and lazy in a certain way. I've gotten so used to getting answers RIGHT NOW that when I don't get them? I start getting serious ants in my pants and I have to remind myself that I sent that text question 12 seconds ago. Getting an answer back from my waxer about whether I can come in for a Brazilian next Friday isn't urgent and doesn't require an answer in 30 minutes or less or it's free like a fucking pizza delivery. I constantly have to remind myself to stop, take a breath, and buy a disposal razor if I have to. It's not the end of the world.
But never mind all that. What I want to talk about here is what I'll call "the symbolic sentence movement" for lack of a better phrase. You know, using those little emoticons to denote feelings or set the tone of the written word?
Yes, I use them in moderation. Like Botox. But I really only like two of them: the smiley face and the heart.
Smiley faces are nice. They denote happiness. Hearts are wonderful because they denote love. So prolific is the heart symbol that in their absence, we can just spell out the word and everybody gets it.
I heart puppies.
I heart Spanx [not really but you know what I mean]
I heart furry little bunnies.
But what about things you don't like...or even hate? Where's the symbol for that? I mean, everybody hates psoriasis, right? I mean hates it! It's horrible.
Since emoticons are used to alert a reader to, according to Wikipedia "the tenor or temper of a statement", there should be a symbol for it.
Given my limited tech knowledge, there probably is but I just don't know the right key strokes to make it appear.
So I made my own hand-made version: the upside-down heart. Seems fitting that turning a heart upside-down would be a gentle substitute for the word "hate".
I [upside-down heart] war.
I [upside-down heart] Keeping Up With The Kardashians.
I [upside-down heart] those tiny wrinkles around my mouth that nothing will fix. Grrrrrrr.
Yeah, somebody smarter and quicker than me has probably already come up with this upside-down heart notion.
I [heart] my upside-down heart.