29 September 2007


She changes every time you look
By summer it was all gone
Now she's moved on

The day after I got back from Toronto, I received an odd little email from a retailer where I occasionally purchase clothing.

Join us for an open-call event for 40+ models.

My immediate reaction was typical: I laughed out loud.

Then I read it to the spouse who said without hesitation, "Do it."

Of course, he only wants me to do it so he can rub a certain sister-in-law's face in it should I, against all odds, move into actual competition.

The daughter, reading over my shoulder, looked appalled when I asked if she thought I should enter.

"NO! You're not the model type!"

This begs the question of what type I am--other than type-A Gemini mommy--but it's also highly ironic that when I was a teen, everyone insisted I was the model type.

I laughed again, mainly at the daughter's chagrin, banished the email to the "delete" folder and went back to cleaning up my post-summer chaos.

But I find myself thinking about it.

This summer was an odd bridge to a younger self. Not, understand, that I want to be my younger self; I don't have too many looming regrets over what I've done in the last 20 or so years. But it linked that younger self to the woman I've become, made me see that for all her faults and her callow youth, maybe she had a few redeeming qualities that are still extant in who I am. I wonder, a little, if I might be able to pick up that lost 15-year-old in the same way that I was able to redeem the 23-year-old who was searching for her place in the world.

Not that I've ever actually located my place in the world. It's more that I've realized that where ever I go, there I am. Not a bad thing, really.

Then, of course, existentialist musings aside, there's the fun factor. I will do almost anything that is fun provided that the risk in doing it is acceptable. I get tremendous pleasure from keeping the world at large guessing at what I'll choose to do next. To that end, I've worked in a restaurant, on enormous retrospective conversion projects, TV shows, for the world's largest trust, creating databases, doing freelance research, and most recently, wreaking my own brand of havoc on a science and engineering firm. But, hey, in the words of the lovely Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Bored now. Summer's over and I've finished touring North America with my favorite rock band. So, what could possibly be more fun than making the leap from editing toxicology papers to middle-aged modeling?

This is not to say that I actually believe I have a snowball's chance in Hades at actually modeling. I have no doubt that I'm still too tall, and too whatever else is out these days. But, as with entering my children's truly horrible bathroom in the American Standard Ugliest Bathroom contest, the fun isn't necessarily in the winning. It's in showing up.

Go listen to some good music: "Shesmovedon" from the album Deadwing by Porcupine Tree.

28 September 2007

...it's a coffee percolator going wheeeeeeeeeee...

Because it's Friday.

It's also almost impossible to be depressed listening to this song.

Go listen to some good music: "Eleven Saints" by Jason Webley.

27 September 2007


Scene: carloading in front of the school

Me to the son: Where's your lunchbox?

The son, barely controlled frustration: I don't have it yet! I. JUST. GOT. BACK. FROM. PE!

Me, reasonably: Then why are you here? Go get your lunchbox.

The son stalks off.

The daughter, aggrieved: He's in such a bad mood. He's so cranky.

Me: He's thirteen. This is what he is now.

The daughter: I wish he'd grow up!

Go listen to some good music: "Changes" from the album Best of Bowie by David Bowie.

26 September 2007

Sun and moon

...all through the night...

I need to rediscover the shape of my days, or perhaps more accurately, reshape my days. So much travel, so much disruption, too much fun, and now it's time to resettle. I am finished--for now--with looking for airfares and airports, and hotels that don't have bedbugs but are close to where I need to be, and with wondering how many frequent flyer miles I have left, and where the hell is Bonner Springs, anyway?

This morning, I woke a little after 3 a.m. and spent the next two hours trying to coerce myself back to sleep. Unsuccessful, I finally got out of bed at 5:30, thinking I'd make scones for breakfast (no eggs though, so no scones...hmm, a bit of grocery shopping would seem to be in order), chatting with the cat who was asking in a sweet tone for breakfast, turning on the coffee and admiring the huge moon hanging in the west.

If such things interest you, tonight is the full moon, which also happens to be the Harvest Moon.

The son wandered out, wondering what I was doing up, and I sent him away. The spouse wandered out, wondering what I was doing up and no doubt hoping for scones, and I banished him to the exercise bike. I was already irritable with lack of sleep and eggs, and didn't really want to talk to anyone.

When I have been away, and in most cases, I'm away for barely 24 hours and rarely, about 36, my family becomes enormously clingy. They have to touch me, as if to reassure themselves that I am not really in Canada, Colorado or Chicago. The daughter, who returned safely from Catalina last Friday despite Storm of the Century prognostications, was in high dudgeon because I wasn't here when she got back.

"Can't you just sell your Toronto ticket?" she suggested sweetly a few days before she left.

"No," I told her, remembering what we'd gone through five months earlier just to get those tickets.

"I'm very resentful," she said with a squint.

"Tough," I told, her and kissed her goodnight, cheerfully.

I remember the birth of the son, and the huge sea change that took place, the morphing of self into mother, feeling much as I did when I married that I'd lost a huge chunk of self, my individuality, and a great deal of my freedom. When the daughter reached something akin to the age of reason five or so years ago, I discovered that nothing had really been lost. Possibly, I had been temporarily misplaced, or left in the lost luggage bin, but the essential me was ready to reappear. As it turned out, it was all a matter of timing.

I have to remind myself that periodically running away from home actually makes me a better mother. I am neither irresponsible nor do I shirk my duties (ok, I still haven't bought a dishwasher but, well, I still have to buy a dishwasher), though my children, master manipulators that they are, will try to ensure that I feel unbelievably guilty. The spouse, not so much, though he mentions wistfully that I am the sun around which they all, including the cat, orbit, and that when the sun disappears, everything tends to spin a bit out of control.

That, my darlings, is known as night. The sun vanishes over the horizon to go shine somewhere else for a few hours. We take it on faith and experience that the sun always comes back in the morning.

And so do I.

Go listen to some good music: "Sun and Moon" from the album Mania by The Lucy

23 September 2007

Everything you want

You're waiting for someone
To put you together
You're waiting for someone to push you away
There's always another wound to discover

The autumnal equinox occurred at 5:51 am EDT as I printed out my Air Canada boarding pass at Toronto Pearson International Airport. Both events marked the end of my summer.

Summer is always precious, for all the normal reasons: vacation, good weather, a certain freedom, but also because I see it as a time of rebirth. My birthday falls in late spring, and celebrating that annular event marks necessary change. Summer is a time of reflection, a time to explore the deep and inexplicable desires that drive me, a time to move forward on the journey that life is meant to be. It is a time when I meet myself, and am utterly astonished to see that who I believe I am and who everyone else sees are two wholly different people.

Travel magnifies every moment, every nuance. Friday morning, I was moved to deep, heartbreaking joy at the sight of the sun breaking over the eastern mountains while my plane taxied down the runway. After a week of unrelieved stress, I could have cried over the singular miracle of a sunrise.

Saturday morning, I watched the sun rise over Lake Ontario, changing the clouds to rose before appearing as a fiery ball above them, light reflecting off the wet roof of the Air Canada Centre below. Thousands of miles from home, the same sun rises, the same eyes watch, and the experience is completely different and just as miraculous. Anticipation and a cup of good coffee just added to the moment.

This morning I watched the sun rise over the airport in Toronto, shining blindingly through the structural glass and metal, illuminating and silhouetting the people busily moving along the walkway suspended above. They were beautiful in their motion and sense of purpose.

I've logged over 20,000 miles in the air this summer, landing in airports large and small all over North America. I've seen old friends and cities I know well, and made new friends and visited places I've never seen. I watched a perfect marble grow from a chunk of glass; I watched bats rise in near silence from a chilly cave to go in search of food.

Through it all, though, was family and friends, people so precious to me who lived with me in moments of perfect harmony and accord, and insane laughter, whether it was over getting lost again or what might be growing in Kansas City or that the two most orthopedically challenged members of the family were hiking through a cave faster than anyone else.

And there was music. But there's always music. And dancing. It wouldn't be my life without them.

Happy first day of autumn.

Past the places where you might have turned
You never did notice
But you still hide away
The anger of angels who won't return

Go listen to some good music: "Everything You Want" from the album Everything You Want by Vertical Horizon.

19 September 2007

Smoke on the water

I've had iTunes installed on my computer since the spouse gave me a U2 iPod for Christmas several years back. It was meant to be the small groovy gadget to accompany me on my morning run rather than the enormous CD player I was wont to carry and from which I was too lazy to remove My Favorite Headache.

These days, my 40GB iPod is simply enormous next to the shuffle I gave him for our anniversary a couple of years ago, and the little tiny inch-square shuffles I gave the kids last year. I don't mind, though everyone else seems to, and I've never come close to filling it, even though I have whole albums on it, even, yes, My Favorite Headache.

I love the whole idea of legally downloading music. Personally, I'd much rather my favorite artists get paid for what they do rather than have people steal their work. So iTunes and similar services are a real boon in my view.

There is a downside to all this though. I have the only PC attached to the Internet in the house mostly because I have two children, and I'm a tough Mommy. If you want to use the Internet around here, you use it in my kitchen under my watchful eye.

The kids have had great fun exploring all the music we already have: about 1500 things loaded on iTunes, not to mention hundreds of CDs and 500 vinyl albums, which we use as ballast for our bookcases. We all buy stuff from iTunes and share, so I have "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" on my running playlist, and they have the original theme from James Bond.

The spouse is the wild card in all of this. He downloads the...er...unexpected stuff: Deep Purple, a-ha, all the explicit versions of Aerosmith songs, "In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida" and lo, what did I find on my iTunes the other day? "Dancing in the Moonlight" by King Harvest (you know, I realized I never knew who performed that song).

"Did you download this?" I asked, increduously.

"Yeah," he replied, looking startled. "You don't like it?"

"You do?" I asked.

"Well...yeah!" he said, defensively.

Scorpions. Taco's "Putting on the Ritz." OutKast's "Hey Ya."


Ted Nugent is on *my* computer.

I'm trying to figure out how to extract all his music and put it somewhere else. Like his laptop.

Ted Nugent?

Okay, full disclosure. Yes, I was the one who downloaded The Dresden Dolls' "Coin-operated Boy." Three days worth of Rush? Yes, me. But it's my computer!

Go listen to some music: "Smoke on the Water" from the album When We Rock, We Rock and When We Roll, We Roll by Deep Purple.

18 September 2007

Dirty laundry

The Wall Street Journal reported on Page One this morning that Oregon resident Susan Taylor is facing possible legal action from her homeowners association. Her crime?

Hanging a clothesline in her backyard.

According to her neighbor, an interior designer, the clothesline "bombards the senses."

(Actually, I think interior designers are far more likely to bombard the senses, which is why I won't hire one. But that's me).

Like Ms. Taylor, I live in a "nice" neighborhood. Clean, congenial, generally well-kept, significant housing values. Fortunately, we don't have a homeowners association; peer pressure is generally enough to assure that all is nicely maintained.

Three years ago, we relandscaped our rather large backyard. I had a fairly good idea of what I wanted: a play area for the children, a space for outdoor entertaining, a vegetable garden and a clothesline.

I grew up with a clothesline in the backyard. We never owned a dryer. Living in the desert, we also never needed bleach for the whites. The sun took care of that just fine. It was a win-win situation.

The person who was hired to design and install our new landscape (for whom I have a very unsavory nickname that won't be divulged here) crabbed endlessly about the vegetable garden, but went ballistic over the clothesline, and basically refused to put it in.

But I did.

This is California, people. The place that has obscene amounts of no weather. The place that has a really dreadful track record of maintaining a usable power grid when it gets over 90 degrees Farenheit. I don't like to spend one cent that I don't have to, so a clothesline makes sense on so many levels, including the common one. Clotheslines are only bad when people leave their clothes on them for days at a time, which my mother once did when we were children. She learned her lesson, though, when she had to remove a black widow from my brother's jeans.

My neighbors have been hilariously fascinated with my clothesline. Last summer, the neighbor who kept my vegetables watered decided a clothesline was such a great idea that she stole all my clothes pins (which she did return once she found some of her own). A few months later, another neighbor called to find out where I'd bought the clothesline because she wanted one, too.

My only shame is that I don't use the the thing as often as I'd intended. When I went back to the office, I ended up doing all the laundry in the middle of the night...and I do mean 2 am, usually while I was embroiled with editing a document that needed to be in court first thing in the morning.

But now that I'm settling back into something akin to normal life, I'm looking forward to putting my clothesline to better use than as the Black Phoebe's favorite place to sit and taunt the cat.

So Susan Taylor, if you get tired of Bend, it sounds like you'd feel at home in our neighborhood.

Go listen to some good music: "Dirty Laundry" from the album I Can't Stand Still by Don Henley.

17 September 2007

Are you lonesome tonight?

Three years ago, at the crack of dawn, I sent the son off for his first trip away from home. Every year, the fifth grade class at the children's school goes to spend a week pursuing "outdoor education." I'm one of the troublesome parents who regards this particular program as a) an insane waste of money given what I'm already spending to send the kinder to private school, b) a random attempt to separate me from my children even earlier than everyone is already trying to, c) dangerous, unnecessary, and did I mention insane?, and d) a good reason to ask my doctor for a prescription for tranquilizers.

Ok, admittedly, this is not Kid Nation, though I worry about the potential for Lord of the Flies. In fact, before the son left, I made sure he'd read Lord of the Flies. Truly, there are 2 teachers and a student services person along as chaperones in addition to the counselors provided by the camp, and they are supposedly supervised in everything, including going to the bathroom.

Overprotective much? Yup, I am. These are my children. They are going to an island. Without my jaundiced and much practiced eye watching everything they do. It pretty much scares me to death.

The daughter left this morning.

I stayed as busy as I could today, helping the spouse do some prep prior to going to court tomorrow, doing some more dread shopping, marketing myself to a potential client (that's the joy of freelancing...having to sell myself), making nice to the former boss, and riding the exercise bike for a furious hour.

We've always joked that the daughter never realized the umbilical cord had been cut. When she was younger, she tended to be quite shy, so shy in fact, that at her grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary party, she dived straight under my skirt so she wouldn't have to talk to anyone. More recently, we took her to a concert and the unbeatable combination of being mere yards from both her favorite musician in the world and her favorite baseball player in the world (who was sitting a few seats away from us) had her clinging to me like a barnacle most of the night. It's never been unusual to find her holding on to my leg, or waist or arm for dear life. She still curls up in my lap in the morning upon awakening.

But she was certainly ready to embark on this adventure.

And I'll admit I was base enough to try to dissuade her from going.

"No, Mommmmmmmmeeeeeeeeeeeee," she replied. "I can't wait to go."

Like the son before her, I suspect that right now, she is so engrossed in the novelty of her sleeping bag and her friends and the prospect of a giant sleepover that she hasn't even realized I'm nowhere in sight. That may come later in the night if she chances to wake up and realize she's not at home, but I truly hope not.

I know it's time for her move a little further from me. She knows it, too.

"If you feel homesick," I told her this morning, "just remember that when you think about me, I'll be thinking about you at exactly the same time."

And it's the truth because I haven't stopped thinking about her all day, and won't through the next four days. Just like the son before her.

What children don't realize is that their childhood is so much harder on us than it is on them.

Go listen to some music: "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" from the album The Essential Elvis Presley by Elvis Presley.

16 September 2007

Hold me now

I can only think of one thing worse than trying on a bathing suit: hunting for a new bra.

As I've mentioned before, I'm sort of a failure as a girl. I play the wrong games, listen to the wrong music, dig in the dirt with my bare hands, and while I buy makeup (I love to buy makeup!), in the last 3 months, I've worn makeup exactly 6 times (though in the six months prior to that, I'd worn it maybe once). So when it comes to foundation garments, I'm rather more interested in the foundation than the garment.

This doesn't make me a candidate for Victoria's Secret.

(I do own a push-up bra. I bought it for an event 3 years ago, but didn't end up wearing it. Actually, I've never worn it because it was, frankly, embarrassing to see all that pushed-up flesh).

I've long worn a particular style of bra from Vanity Fair. It keeps everything where it's supposed to be, it's cotton, it's utilitarian without being hideous, and it's comfortable. I have about a dozen, and I recently realized they were all starting to fall to bits.

So I wandered off to get more.

There weren't any.

A quick Google search revealed that Vanity Fair had discontinued my bra.


I still can't think why they'd do this. It was the perfect bra!

Anyway, this added an additional load to my already overloaded mind: find a new dishwasher, find a new style of bra. Suffice to say I was a lot more worried about the bra (and still haven't got a new dishwasher, which is making the spouse very restive).

I went to the mall on Monday. I don't voluntarily go to the mall.

(There is another story altogether that goes with the mall trip, but I'll save it for another day).

Prior to the mall, I checked out several online bra-fit guides, including HerRoom. According to my tape measure and their calculator, I should be wearing a 38DD. Um, no. My weight is proportional to my height and I have a very average, unenhanced figure. Oprah might waggle a finger at me and tell me I'm in "cup denial," but no, unless the bra business has gone into vanity cup-sizing. Based on the calculator at Chico's Soma Intimates, my bra size couldn't be calculated based on the measurements I provided. That was disturbing.

All the sites did say pretty much the same thing, though: Go try some on. Well, I already knew that, and it was clearly going to be my only option.

I marched into Macy's and finally located the Intimate Apparel department, and started poking through the myriad racks of brassieres. Now, one useful piece of advice that HerRoom had provided was that if you find a manufacturer whose bras fit, keep buying from that manufacturer. But Macy's had bras divided not by manufacturer but by style: push-up (horrors!), demi, no wire (no way), and full-figure. Sarah, the sweet young woman who wanted to help me, looked at me a bit doubtfully when I outlined my requirements: cotton, no padding, underwire, Vanity Fair, and full coverage.

"Well," she temporized. "Here's Vanity Fair's best-selling bra."


Armed with five different bras, I finally worked up the courage to go into the dressing room. I broke out in a cold sweat as I started trying the things on. One was tossed aside because I don't like skinny straps. One, my cups ranneth over...and there was no way I was heading into DD territory. Long live cup denial!

By the time I got into Vanity Fair's best seller, I was already done, and I was going to buy that bra whether it fit or not.

Fortunately, it fit reasonably well. I fled the dressing room, grabbed two more, paid up and ran.

What mystifies me is that I wear sports bras at least half the week while I'm engaging in sports-like activities. I have no difficulty finding a sports bra that fits well and does it's job (yay, Champion!). But an everyday bra?


Go listen to some music: "Hold Me Now" by Thompson Twins from the album Hold Me Now.

14 September 2007

All the things she said

There are a handful of people who actually have the URL for this site. I know they show up periodically and read because they tell me so.

I often email entries to the spouse because they make him laugh.

I will very rarely leave a comment on another blog, and a few people find their way here that way.

Then there are the rest of you. (!)

You get here through Google.

I love Google. As someone who writes and researchs for a living, Google is very spiffy. When I was ToxGirl, I lived and died by Google and PubMed. It can be a wonderful, if periodically irksome, periodically mysterious, tool.

But I *CANNOT* believe what some of you are googling that ends up sending you here.

Ladies and gentleman (especially the one who came in from Germany, and I am so not repeating your search, and you should be really glad of that, and yes, I know I used the word "masochistic," but if you're an Angels fan, it follows that you are a masochist), this a pretty G-rated blog. A family-oriented blog even. It has to be because my teenage son likes to read it over my shoulder while I'm writing it. He is very damn nosey.

I also tend to be a pretty G-rated person...although I've been known to wax poetic to my friends about paint-on pants (as well as the wearer of the paint-on pants...though in my defense, I'd have to say I've been pretty good at keeping a lid on it for the last 3 months or so).

*wanders off into a momentary reverie*

Anyway, you, O Reader with the IP in Wichita or thereabouts...google.ca, huh? Wow, that was some search. I am disturbed by the thought that you might be a foot fetishist, but I'm sorry you caught me on a really cranky day that day.

Social Security Administration, looking for the story behind "Strawberry Letter #23." I hope that was on your lunch and not my tax dollars.

Gentle readers (except you, Germany!) who wander in from Google, don't let me dissuade you from wandering. Just be aware that while I know the audience is listening, so the writer is also watching. I like a level playing field.

And confidential to my dear one who asked why I wasn't saying more about my summer travels: this is why! One four-letter word (minds out of the gutter, thank you!), and I'd have all kinds of traffic I don't want.

Carry on!

Go listen to some music: "All the Things She Said" from the album Once Upon a Time by Simple Minds.

12 September 2007

I can't dance

Saturday night, Chicago.

"Will you dance with me?" the man asked me plaintively, as we entered the parking lot.

"Sorry, not tonight," I replied pleasantly.

"Ok," he said. "Maybe tomorrow."

"Maybe," I agreed, as he stumbled away, arms waving, singing to himself.

"He was hitting on you," D. said in her best Authoritative Teacher voice, which was marred by only the slightest hint of teasing laughter.

"He was drunk," I protested.

D. considered.

"Ok, that was only half a hit."

There's something about these concerts and parking lots.

Go listen to some good music: "I Can't Dance" from the album Turn It On Again by Genesis.

07 September 2007

For all the saints, who from their labors rest

Madeleine L'Engle, 1918-2007

Some writers had a profound impact on my childhood. Madeleine L'Engle was one of them. I could not wait to share her books with my own children, who have loved them as much as I have.

The world always seems an emptier place when someone you admire leaves it.

"For all the saints, who from their labors rest," words by William Walsham How.

06 September 2007

Mysterious ways

I love absurdity, which is good because much of my life is absurd. And whether I'm the author of whatever mayhem is taking place, or simply an utterly willing participant, it's usually memorable.

This week, I think I've finally devolved to "act your shoe size, not your age."

I do wear a size 10, though, so all is not lost.

It started on Tuesday, with a trip to Michaels. Well, really, it started about a month ago in Denver, when a lightbulb suddenly went off over my friend D.'s head. I saw it go off, it was such a "Eureka!" moment. So, of course, we promptly hatched a plan, and then we got sick, and then she had to go back to work and I had to get the kids' back to school.

You know how it goes. The plan moves to the back burner in the wake of this thing we call having a life.

But things calmed down for me, and I started thinking about that idea of D's.

I wonder if such labours of insanity are always born of sheer wildass fun. D. spent the summer traveling with her son, and I, along with another of our friends, dropped in on them for a few hours at carefully chosen stops on their trip. The day usually ended with someone under a table, laughing hysterically, or curled in the fetal position in the backseat of a car, laughing hysterically. There was a lot music, a lot of getting lost--I think I spent more time lost in the Las Vegas airport this summer than I did anywhere else--some bad salads, and a lot of laughter.

Whole lotta chicken, too.

So, Michaels. I needed supplies. Why isn't the point. It was that the infectious hilarity of the summer kept bubbling over while I grabbed a tiny pair glasses, a bag of dinosaurs, a handful of googly eyes, and a whole bunch of felt. I started to fear internal hemmorhage, I was trying so hard not to laugh out loud.

Construction started today, and I emailed pictures of the progress to D.

I could almost hear her laughter from a thousand miles away.

Go listen to some good music: "Mysterious Ways" from the album Achtung Baby by U2.

05 September 2007

Desperate but not serious

I am stuck. In fact, I've been flailing when it comes to writing for the last couple of weeks. My brain is enormously preoccupied with other doings, not things that are suitable for blog content, and I just stare glumly at my blank computer screen while my brain dances off to think about other more interesting things.

It doesn't help that my life is largely settling back into a murderously dull routine. I don't feel like being funny about school lunches, mostly because there isn't anything funny about school lunches, and next to grocery shopping and matching socks, it's one of the chores I loathe the most.

Groceries? My grocery store moved to another town. I am not kidding about this and I am bereft. And angry. And none of the other eight billion groceries in the general area has what I usually buy.

Matching socks? We aren't going there.

I am almost ready to take the old boss back.

Ok, well, I'm not that desperate yet.


Go listen to some good music: "Desperate but Not Serious" from the album Antics in the Forbidden Zone by Adam Ant.

04 September 2007

Little fugue in G minor

Memory lives in the synapses.

Memory lives in the nerve, the fiber, the tissue.

When I was 14, I learned a dance warmup that is a series of centered stretches, similar to Pilates, for lack of a better description. The routine is about 8 minutes long. I still perform it several times per week to stay limber and light. Although I've long since set it to music, I still count the beats, I still visualize the opening of a flower as my arms open outward, I still see Martha Graham as I contract into my center.


Sometimes I'm extremely distracted, replaying an interesting conversation, or thinking about something I need to attend to, and suddenly find that five minutes have lapsed and I'm still stretching, on cue without having thought a bit about it.

The body remembers.

Some years ago, I was at a lecture where Caltech professor Christof Koch was talking about the nature of consciousness and memory, and the neurobiological basis for some of our actions. He told the story of driving for several miles with no conscious memory of having done so. Had he run that stop sign along his route? How had he gotten safely to his destination without the benefit of being aware of what he was doing?

Of course, there are so many things we all do on a daily basis without the benefit of being conscious of what we are doing. We breathe, we walk, we turn over in bed while sleeping.

I still dance as a form of exercise. It's not grand, not monumental floor work or combinations, grande battement and jete and tour jete in a studio. It's more barre: plie, releve, battement tendu, a bit of a cheat since I'm still disallowed weight-bearing exercise, and what I am doing on demi-pointe is most certainly bearing weight.

But the body remembers. It wants to move through the familiar routines, whether I am paying attention or not. And when I am quiet, listening to music, muscle fiber twitches and nerves fire because it wants to take off.

There are certain pieces I still remember, or perhaps, more accurately, my body remembers, pieces performed years ago. Without thinking about it, my arms curve in bras bas, or a foot absentmindedly moves through a little series of brushes along the floor. When you consider the intricacies of choreography and the stress of performance, there comes a time when your brain must relinquish consideration of every single movement, and your body needs to take over. The best, the very best, moments of performance were those when I felt myself flying through the air, leaping, kicking or very slowly pulling up from the floor into a perfectly balanced arabesque, without thought, one with the music and the moment.

The body remembers.

Go listen to some good music: "Little Fugue in G Minor" by J.S. Bach from the album Stokowski Plays Bach by Leopold Stokowski.

03 September 2007


Today was a day for familial duty, a day that lead us back to our old stomping grounds, the place my children were born, a place where I never felt I could breathe.

The spouse and I were both under 30 years old when we moved to that affluent and very Republican part of Los Angeles county. The choice wasn't exactly ours, and is a story probably best left untold because even this many years out, the memory is enough to send me in the general direction of apoplexy.

And so it was today, driving up the winding hill road that shimmered with the heat haze of the 106 degree temperature, under a pure blue and unforgiving sky, I was relieved to realize that the area no longer has the patina of "home," but is simply a place I recognize, a place that I visit occasionally. Still, I couldn't help but smile at the memory of my younger self angrily tromping up and down this steep road on foot, singing "some will sell their dreams for small desires or lose the race to rats" in a hissing undertone.

Most of the denizens of the area reviled the spouse and I because we were 10 or more years younger than everyone else. Our school and career choices allowed us to be where we were, but 20-somethings with such income were suspect. That we worked in fields of knowledge rather than those pushing financial paper or real estate did not help. Worse, our friends were in a huff because we'd both chosen business over academia, or essentially, eating over genteel poverty.

Conform or be cast out. I've never conformed well, and here I'd traded in high school non-conformity for adult non-conformity.

To the outside world, we are largely quiet, boring, and possibly, slightly weird. In a home, we want a home, not a showplace, and we are more concerned with the safety and security of our neighborhood than we are with its address. I believe in upholding community standards, but I also like personal privacy. To that end, I am a political creature, for sure, but because I don't want to be pigeonholed, I don't belong to a political party, which sent the older folks in Affluent Suburb, Southern California, bonkers. She's not a Democrat! She's not a Republican! She's not Independent! They marveled over my designation in the voter roster: declines to declare. "Communist," whispered one old geezer.

(Most assuredly not. Nor am I Green or Libertarian. I vote every election without the benefit of anyone's advice. When I am angry, I write in the cat. When I am very angry, I write in the dead cat).

But there we were, too young, too different, with our very good address that we were really more embarrassed over than pleased about. Not everyone one thinks this way about a very good address, including the engineer of our house ownership in AffSub, who tried to steer us toward turning the unengaging little ranch house into something other than what it was: a pig's ear. I was so deeply annoyed with this person that I painted the living room and dining room walls wild shades of pink and blue, thinking it would be a suitable and not terribly subtle method of retaliation. Sadly, this was praised as a bold interior decorating choice, and before we knew it, everyone else was doing it too. I so wish I was kidding.

One of the most dreadful features of what the spouse would come to call the Half-Million Dollar Tarpaper Shack was its septic tank. I was expected to spend money on bold decorating choices, but spend money on something practical like fixing the elderly septic tank? NEIN! Not at least until a very, very rainy Christmas Eve when I had a house full of guests and the damned thing decided to burble over into the street.

The houses up on that mesa had originally been built as starter homes for junior engineer types at the NASA lab down the road. They were tossed up with rather careless California Ranch abandon in the late 1950s, and were pretty poorly built. When the Santa Anas howled, they howled straight through the house. When the earth shook, as it frequently did in the days we lived up there, the house shimmied like Gypsy Rose Lee.

I've never lived in a house that seemed angry, though, as this one did. No matter what we did to try to improve the place (and lord, there was a lot of improvement to be done), it was miserable and you could almost see it sulking. It knew what it was, and it didn't like it. Good address or no.

I don't miss that poor, sad house with the good address. Although it's taken a long time for this neighborhood an hour south to acquire the patina of home; although our neighbors are still older than we are and, I suspect, good-humoredly and bemusedly shake their heads over us; although we are still quiet, boring and possibly, slightly weird, I can breathe here. No subdivision with a gate and a good address for me; I like my quirky piece of Republican county where I can run free in the hills and where most people are so busy conforming that no one really cares that I decline to declare.

Go listen to some good music: "Subdivisions" from the album Signals by Rush.

01 September 2007

Begin the begin

I feel the need to tag the beginning of a month. There's always something fresh and free about the first of anything, even if it's September, which somehow sounds burnt and used up, even on the first day.

The weather here, however, is under the misguided perception that it is still August...a soupy 98 degrees today.

Monday will herald the official end of white shoes for this year. Odd, really, the rituals with which we are raised. Who declared No White Shoes After Labor Day!?

Truthfully, though, the reason I always tend to notice the first of September? Nothing to do with a three-day weekend, nothing to do with white shoes, nothing to do with what used to be the harbinger of the beginning of school before Those Who Know Better started mucking around with schedules.

It goes back to a concert I was at, held about a million years ago at Radio City Music Hall, on August 31. Michael Stipe of REM looked out over the audience and said, "It's a new month tomorrow. Aren't you happy?"

A non-sequitur of non-sequiturs in the middle of a rock concert, but yeah, Michael, I guess I am.

Go listen to some good music: "Begin the Begin" from the album Life's Rich Pageant by REM.