12.21.2005

Pirate hair

Last night at the The Surly Girl Saloon a man dressed as a pirate walked in the door. My thought process went as follows: Santa? No. That's a pirate. What month is it again? Nope, not Halloween either. He must be dressed up as a pirate JUST BECAUSE HE FEELS LIKE IT. Awesome.

A few minutes later I realized that he was Captain Morgan and was being paid by the rum company to hand out mardi gras beads and visors that said, "Drink responsibly! Captain's orders!"

After recovering from the disappointment that he wasn't just into pirates, I decided that he really did make a credible sea robber because 1) he said 'Ar' a lot 2) he was very swashbuckly 3) his hair was perfect: long, dark, and curly.

My colleagues and I became the teeniest bit fixated on the hair and were imagining what it looks like when he gets home from a long night of work hanging out at a bar. We thought he probably loves that hair and buys expensive product for it and got the job just because of it. Did a Google search for "jobs where I wouldn't need to cut my hair".

Well, it paid off, Captain. And thanks for the visor.

12.20.2005

I got yer nature right here

This just in: Sheep can recognize fifty other sheep and human faces. Their little brains are firing away just like ours when it comes to memory and emotion. They probably have a consciousness.

If you are a shepherd or have another opportunity to get close to a sheep, you might feel good knowing that they will remember you even if you go away for two years. aw. Brought to you by National Geographic/December 2005, a bunch of scientists in Cambridge, England, the BBC, the field of Evolutionary Developmental Biology (street name: Evo Devo), and Ronckytonk.

While we're on the subject of animals, I'd like to give a shout out to salmon, who swim thousands of miles from the ocean to their river and stream birthplaces in order to spawn and die, if they are LUCKY.

Anyone who has been in the Pacific Northwest during spawning season is compelled to admire salmon, if they have any heart whatsoever. Salmon swim against the current, try to fling themselves up waterfalls, and have to put up with people like me who watch them from the underwater windows at Seattle's Ballard Locks, pointing, staring, and making up personas and monologues for them until they are swept backwards and whipped out of sight.

12.18.2005

The art of not feeling dead

I just read a book that did something exquisite. It explained to me what I experience.

This is not to say that I agreed with everything that Curtis White wrote in The Middle Mind: Why Americans Don't Think for Themselves but I appreciated his views because they were well-argued.

He forced me to tweak my thinking about cultural standards (academia, work), artful diversions (music, literature, and theater), and media (radio, television, internet).

I had to put the book down a lot and stare at the wall. When I'd realize what I was doing, I'd grab a pen and make a note somewhere. Or I'd just underline furiously and snicker because Curtis White's opinions tend to be aggressive.

He relishes dissing people who are almost institutions themselves and he doesn't hesitate to verbally flay them for lacking imagination, justice, freedom, and creativity.

In short, Curtis White is not afraid to burn a bridge.

The most lucid bottom line that Mr. White illustrated for me was the difference between feeling alive and feeling dead. The I GET IT sensation when reading his take on feeling alive versus feeling dead is related to the fact that when I'm mentally energized I tend to say to myself "I'm ALIVE" and write in my journals "I'm ALIVE I'm ALIVE" as if this somehow isn't obvious.

Yeah, I'm alive. My heart's been beating continuously for awhile now - not in dispute - so what I'm referring to is about more intuitive feeling.

I believe in curiosity, spontaneity, and risk and when I make decisions by these standards, I'm being true to myself and I feel alive. When I make decisions based on fear or because I SHOULD, I'm not acting out of desire, I'm being false, and the icky dead feeling starts its morbid creep inwards.

Examples:

- When I try to tie together a bunch of ideas and don't know if I'm making any sense, I feel alive.

- When I take a job with a publishing company, end up in the Marketing/Publicity department, and spend all my time thinking about sales and promoting other people's ideas instead of working on my own which was the reason that I wanted to work with literature and EVEN THOUGH I SHOULD BE HAPPY to have even found a job in New York where I have a lot of responsibility and can wear whatever I want and cuss like an infidel in meetings, I (eventually) feel dead.

- When I am surprised, I feel alive.

- When I go for the easy and predictable question, analysis, or response, I feel dead.

- When I experience art that makes me question everything, I feel alive.

- When I work closely with people and my work might help someone or something improve, I feel alive.

- When I hear debates about party politics and the differences between Democrats and Republicans, I feel dead.

- When I consider going to a really expensive grad school to learn a skill doing something I wouldn't love out of terror that I might never have a stable income, I feel dead.

- When I consider going to a really expensive grad school to learn a skill doing something I love and might never make a ton of money at, I feel alive.

- When adults play in public and don't give a shit if they look like jackasses, I feel alive.

Notice that not all of the alives are comfortable.

12.14.2005

Pop culture panic attack

Last night on the phone Jocardo came up with three t-shirt ideas based on offensive things recently said to me by people on the street. Now, even if Velva Sheen were still around, I wouldn't make or wear the shirts because it would be rude but that didn't keep me from laughing and thinking about it.
The offending pedestrians were racist and sexist but Jocardo is the methadone to their nasty habit. He has the gift of making the strange and awful funny. He is chronic pain management.

Not so very long ago I was having a bad time. I told Jocardo that I had spent an entire weekend bawling my eyes out like a baby. In between saying, "I'm sorry, darlin" and talking me through the roots of my sadness, Jocardo said he wished that I wore non-waterproof mascara so that streaming black rivulets would make me more like a Tammy Faye SNL skit. He also peppered our conversation with dramatic enactments of how that would look. Suddenly the only thing hurting was my stomach from violent bursts of laughter.

That same week I was in a bookstore with Jocardo and something else strange and awful happened. We were walking around when I was suddenly sweating and my face blushed hot. I took off my hat and wiped the sweat from my forehead with shaking hands. I got nauseous and dizzy. I walked back and forth a couple of times but stopped when I began blacking out and losing my balance. I held onto a table and focused on Jocardo through the tunnel of flashing lights and told him I had to go outside NOW. I stumbled to a bench, unbuttoned my coat and mumbled curses. Then I hung my head between my knees and said, "You know, when this happened to Miranda on Sex and the City, it was a panic attack."

Jocardo was ecstatic.

"Baby, you made a pop culture reference, I'm so proud of you!" I am notoriously bad with the pop culture but they are one of Jocardo's sick little areas of expertise. It made me laugh.

12.12.2005

I'm not Amish

Today's snapshot is of me sitting in Ohio watching the television in Jimmy's California hotel room through our computer web cameras.

If this isn't enough to make you run out and buy a video webcam so that you, too, can share this kind of outrageous entertainment, I don't know what to tell you.

Except that this is more what it looks like when I don't have a whiskey hangover:



Coming soon: some real intellectual stuff.

What's on your mind, Baby Jesus?*

*Image exhibits immense historical inaccuracy and RT acknowledges that it is ex-treme-ly genetically unlikely that Baby Jesus had blue eyes and peach-colored skin and furthermore is sure that he didn't wear stocking caps or travel on the dashboards of vehicles.

This fraud of a BJ, however, participated in a live Nativity scene last night and spent four hours swaddled and pawed by a rambunctious 'Mary'.

RT fed a carrot to the camel on site.

12.10.2005

These cocksuckers think they know everything

A man on the street just told me that these cocksuckers think they know everything. He didn't say who these cocksuckers are, just that they know everything. Then he asked me to mail a paper bag for him.

"There's a mailbox right there," I said and pointed to one standing in plain sight, implying that he could do it himself. He replied that that 1) he shoveled the sidewalk 2) he likes lemon tea 3) but not coffee. I chose this moment for my exit.

"Well, have a good one!"

I guess I'm not the only one who has some time on my hands and wants to tell people what I'm thinking.

12.08.2005

Kids who sin die young?



"Hey! You've got a condition you need to get rid of! It's called sin!" said the middle-aged guy into a microphone, standing in front of a Christmas tree decorated with little American flags. Yesiree, I do have a condition, but I call it provocation. I periodically turn the television to the Daystar Network on Channel 19 to see what kids Christian programming is up to these days. I provoke myself.

I had been reading for hours and wanted to space out. The other channels were broadcasting infomercials for knives and real estate seminars and some Saturday morning show with kids dancing and talking with wildly exaggerated movements and expressions that I find SUPER CREEPY. There was also the Daystar Network.

The question What Does God's Voice Sound Like? was on the screen in the middle of a swarm of different colored question marks. They interviewed a dozen kids who all pretty much said a variation on the same thing. 

"Ummmmm, it's deep and low and powerful and great and....mighty."

A few of them also said God is nice and/or kind. The only one who stood out was an overachieving Asian boy who quoted a bunch of scripture before rattling off the list. Well, I thought, I would have said something similar when I was ten: may not all the scripture, but God as nice old guy in beard and deep voice, staff in hand sort of thing. 

Then it was time for Adventures in Dry Gulch, starring Gospel Bill and his sidekick Nicodemus. There was also a woman in gingham who ran the general store and who kept waving her rolling pin in people's faces, Mister Farnsworth, and Toby, Mister Farnsworth's grandson who was visiting from back East. The basic plot of this instructional drama was that Toby was a rascal who didn't obey his parents, particularly when he glued Nicodemus's boots to the floor, put Mister Farnsworth's false teeth in jalapeno juice, and let the horses out of the corral.

He was brought before Gospel Bill for judgment. Toby stuck his bottom lip out and scrunched his face up and denied everything while Gospel Bill lectured him on obeying one's parents. Toby was later overcome with guilt, fessed up, and ditched his bad ways.

Gospel Bill then turned to the TV audience to spell out further the perils of disobedience. He said that disobedience on a regular basis is like getting caught in Satan's trap and to illustrate his point he whacked a drumstick against a mousetrap so that it was caught. He gave the camera a moment to do a close up on the ensnared stick and satanic trap. He explained that the gospel says that if you obey your parents you will be healthy and have a long life.

"Well, if you disobey, the opposite must be true," and here good ole Gospel Bill held up two dinner plates that had HEALTH and LONG LIFE printed on them and he smashed them with his fists so that they broke into lots of pieces.

12.06.2005

SPOTLIGHT: Kyle Bennett


Aliases: Chris Elliot, Dr. Bunson, some other guy also named Kyle Bennett who is a BMX pro

Trademark: referring to females as "gals", boundless sensitivity

A couple of days ago Kyle called while I was walking to a Marathon gas station to buy a six pack of Bud Light. We discussed a sweeping number of subjects which include but are not limited to the following:

1) Kyle bought a house in Portland, Oregon 

2) Why blowing your money and moving your belongings into your parents' garage at the age of 30 is not necessarily humiliating or AT LEAST is only temporarily humiliating 

3) How Kyle threw away his almanac when he remembered that he has the Internet

4) How I once slow danced to karaoke in Cody, WY

5) How I was considering crawling into bed to drink my beer under the covers because IT IS SO COLD IN OHIO.

6) Why Tara Reid should die.

Kyle admitted, when pressed, that he could never really kill anyone. He would just talk to Tara until she was crying and laying in a heap on the ground. Then he'd walk away. "Lighting a cigarette," I volunteered.

Now a tour leader in the Western U.S. for Bicycle Adventures, Kyle enjoys notoriety as a former cab driver, concessions manager for the circus, and for helping launch what was to be the largest World's Fair in history. Instead it was, as he put it, "one of the most devastating financial debacles of the twentieth century, which certainly didn't help the people of Germany with their already less-than-sugary demeanor."

Kyle still sets aside one month a year to go to the Western Washington State Fair in Puyallup, WA where he "helps the folks of the greater Tacoma area to become the biggest people they can possibly be."

Thanks for that, Kyle.

Forty Feet of Happiness

I woke up yesterday morning to the sound of four gas burners clicking on and wooshing into flame, one after another. Here's what I found after extracting myself from bed, the only place in the apartment that is warm and sometimes not even that: Bova, friend and fellow itinerant who is currently homesteading in Columbus, huddled on a stool next to the stove. The heat isn't working. We both felt expletive-y.

 Bova's boyfriend Rem gave me and Bova a detailed tutorial on how to plastic windows so as to reduce the indoor freeze.


To reach the top of the window Rem stood on a lawnmower that kept rolling backwards so Bova or I braced the mower with our feet in addition to drinking Natural Ice and listening carefully. Rem loves to plastic the windows. He doesn't even mind the idea of spending an entire weekend sticking down tape, stretching plastic over the tape, and heating said plastic on every single last window of the whole house that he owns.

I think this is because he thinks the gun part is fun. When we got to the part of the tutorial where we needed the gun, Rem got kinda excited and said, "You haven't even seen the best part!" and presented the wheel of extension cord that allows him to roam the floor freely, heat gun in hand.

He referred to the extension cord wheel as FORTY FEET OF HAPPINESS.

You messed me up, Minnesota

Snow just started falling from the grey, grey sky and I actually feel warmish for the first time in hours. Still, I'm keeping my orange hat on and my scarf within reach. Snow is pretty. There's lots of nice things about snow. Let's all think of them right now.

I used to be far more plucky when facing the winter, particularly at the start of it.

Ohio Valley, circa 1985: The beginning of winter and all its sledding, cocoa, Christmas blahbiddyblah and the general sense that many things cozy and good were on their way. I was a kid who made lists on a regular basis of Things I'm Excited About and yes, there was a Things I Like About Winter list.

I made these lists because I must have really been happy about a lot, including learning calligraphy, and lists were one way to practice calligraphy and innocently practice the power of positive thinking.

I'm still down for a good snowball fight and sit by the fire but have to admit some grousing that causes moderate to severe moodiness on holidays. I also get distracted by my constant dread of being cold.

See, I moved to Minneapolis at age 19 and I'm still in recovery if recovery means that I've turned as-of-yet-irrevocably and vehemently against a season and most of what it entails.

In Minnesota, I rode my bicycle in sixty-below wind chill, waited for the bus in sixty-below wind chill, the skin on one of my ears froze and turned bad colors, and local schools had to close sometimes because the skin on little kids' body parts froze and turned bad colors. It's f'ing cold in Minnesota. And it lasts six months. So, no, not for me.

Since those two years in Minnesota I've lived in Olympia, Ecuador, Seattle, and New York. I've been back in Ohio for about six weeks. I'm adjusting.

Who is Ronckytonk?


I am a girl sitting behind a plate glass window in Columbus, OH. This is what I look like reflected in the hubcap of a bus parked in Providence.