Saturday, December 20, 2003

Use razor blades to tell the future.
241712 minutes

For the first time in years, Christmas comes all too slowly. This is only the second Christmas since I was 16 that I will not be working through the holiday. Hopefully the idleness won't drive me crazy. It's also the first holiday season I've honestly looked forward too in a long time.

I can remember being small, and just feeling like December was the longest month in the whole world, like Christmas would *never* get here, just waiting and waiting, and asking grownups how far away it was, and why can't we open presents now, and having a general feel of frustration.

Left alone far too often when school was out, I learned to slit scotch tape with a razor blade in such fine strokes that wrapping paper wasn't cut on packages underneath the tree. Thus I would unwrap all my presents at the first opportunity, and re-wrap them so well that my mother never noticed. My curiosity was such that I practiced my expertise on the presents of others as well. My mother thought I was nearly clairvoyant in my present-guessing abilities, and I didn't disabuse her.

"What do you think it is?" she ask, sure that I'd never guess.

"Hmmm...lots of little parts... medium package...I'm going to guess it's a chemistry set!"

My mom's face would try not to register that I'd "guessed" that very thing. She went through elaborate wrapping rituals to try and confuse me; when that didn't work, she'd just hide presents in the house and vow not to put my things out until Christmas Day. Which would only leave me in the house alone to find them. After a few years of this - by which time I was old enough to not care - she took to hiding things in my father's workshop, a folly because things get lost easily there, and once hidden, may not surface until Easter, at least, if not a few years down the line.

For the record, I still dislike surprises, and will do nearly anything to find out what I'm being given before the day. I often tell people what I'm getting them. It only seems polite.

I work Monday and Tuesday and then I'm off to Nashville for almost 2 whole weeks. I'll try to put up three more Nashville stories while I'm there.

Hugs and wishes, people I love best, it's almost time to party.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Continuance of a Random Life

dinner with friends and the ashes of an inadvertent saint

Last Monday I stood on the steps of the Smithsonian Castle in Washington, D.C., and was able for the first time to see clearly the Washington Monument at one end of the mall and the Capitol building at the other. One year previous to that moment I was working twelve hour shifts split between being a movie theater usher in Cobb County, GA, and night stocking at the Target across the street.

I stood on the castle steps for a minute or so and thought about the above facts. The air was cold and clear, and unlike my previous trips to D.C. in the tourist season, early December left the streets nearly bare in the afternoon. There was little noise or color to distract me, and I could admire the architectural planning that had laid out one of my favorite places to visit in the whole world. I do not pretend to understand how I am so lucky to get to do and see the things that I do in the world, nor do I fully comprehend the random sequence of events that has led me to my current job, without which I surely be on management track with Borders or a movie theater chain. Sometimes I simply stand out in the cold and take a minute to look at the people and buildings I'm around, and know that the world is a beautiful, brutal place, and through all the pain and joy I am simply happy to draw one breath after another.

This year is ending. Another will soon start. There is no way to know where I will be on any random Monday, twelve months from now.

Inside the Smithsonian Castle, just to your left in a vestibule, are the ashes of Mr. Smithson who accidentally built most of the museums I enjoy in D.C. He didn't mean for his money to benefit me at all. He meant for his nephew to settle down, writing in his will that the money would go to museums in America unless his wild Italian nephew, the last living blood relative had children. All the nephew had to do was procreate; instead, thanks to his gay way, the money came here and 150 years later scads of school children see the bones of a mastodon.

Because life is random that way.

I was in DC to work, but happily had IHOP with wgSarah late Sunday night, and lovely vegetarian meal in Tacoma Park with the fabulous Mat and Emily Monday night. I love how creative the people I know are. Sarah is busily providing internet writer's with a place to stash their stuff. Mat and Emily fantasized about living by their music and design during dinner.

They are all successful and creative and doing well. I suppose I am too.

I want to make a comic book. I just need...collaboration. Spark. Money and time. I'm ready for the next big thing.

For a while Monday afternoon I sat in the basement of the National Gallery and looked at sculpture and thought about a) how I think Rodin is over-rated, b) how it is that I know so many awesome creative people, and c) when I was going to get off my ass and do the graphic novel.

So here's my New Year's Resolution, folks: You will see the fruits of my imagination in 12 months, come hell or high water. I promise.


The D.C. Metro systems rocks.

P. P. S.

So to Emily, Mat, and Sarah.

Friday, December 05, 2003

The Cat Came Back

Some of you may remember Bunny the Cat from this post a while back. Bunny came to stay with me last September in order to recuperate from her battle with a poisonous snake; unfortunately, one day three weeks into her stay she ran out an open door and disappeared.

Bunny was wearing a collar. I called all the local vet offices, looking for her; anyone who found a cat like that would surely to god take her to the vet. I went on long walks looking for her. I called shelters. And after a few weeks, I assumed her lost to the wilds, victim of dog or car.

Not so; someone called me Tuesday night. Bunny had been eating out of their cat's back porch food bowl for a couple of weeks, just since it got cold. They had her waiting in a carrier and I was able to walk to their house to pick her up. When I called my aunt and uncle to tell them of Bunny's miraculous return from the dead, my aunt started crying and my uncle drove all the way from Powder Springs to pick her up. He told me he never wanted Bunny gone in the first place; my aunt, it turns out, hadn't wanted to give her away either. It took Bunny faking her own demise to get appreciated. While I assured them Bunny was welcome to stay with me for as long as she'd like, the cat is back in Cobb County now, at least three lives down...

that we know of!


9 days since my roommates did their dishes
25 days until they're gone


The Republican ate my graphic novel selection for Thanksgiving. He liked The Doctor from The Authority, got a few giggles from My Filing Technique is Unstoppable, glided through Hellboy with an intent look on his face, and took the first Alias book home with him and promised he'd give it a try. When we spoke this week, he admitted how much he dug it.

"It's not like anything else I've ever read before. But I like it."

I silently giggled to myself, having hooked the boy on graphic novel crack. He's not reading single issues yet, complaining that they're inefficient and not as easy to deal with. I agree. I also think I'll have him reading single issues in 90 days. Because I am just a little bit evil.


Having to open all those Mylar envelopes and take out the single issue makes the reading pleasure last longer. That's what I keep telling myself....

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Freak Out!

Yesterday I gave a lecture at UNC-Chapel Hill. I was invited to do so. It went well. I am freaked out by my own success. Deeply satisfied and freaked out.

I had this nagging feeling that a friend of mine was in trouble all day yesterday. She was. Double freak out.

Walked into my house around 11 last night to find that roomies had packed everything up to move. I suppose me photoshopping bad roomie into Bush's visit with the Queen was the last straw. I am freaked out by the lack of discussion about it, but happy, I suppose. There's no 'winner' in fights like these. Triple freak-out.

I need a new room mate for January. Quadruple freak-out.

I slept in this morning, like I usually do when I work until near midnight. I woke up to check my work e-mail and found I had missed a super important meeting. Freak out beyond understanding.

Continuing discussions with The Republican about...stuff...that Freaks. Me. Out.


Call or write me and tell me to calm down. Super-duper-to-the-max-freaked-out, I am. Anyone who can make me laugh gets a private plane when I win the lottery.

Sunday, November 30, 2003

Pushing the Territorial Boundaries

I hid out and was anti-social this year again for Thanksgiving. I've grown too used to doing as I please on turkey day, and the habit is stuck fast.

I still had a lovely holiday though; The Republican was here, as well as Christi and her friend C. We sat around watching Christi make collages, and eating good food. The Republican and I spent a good deal of time going through my comics collection. Virgil and Serena were supposed to visit, but never showed. And that's just fine as long as he remembers to call me one day.

The crazy roomie left town with dishes in the sink again and a trashed dining room even though he knew I was having a party. So I photoshopped him into Bush's visit to England and hung pictures of him all around the house inserted into embarrassing situations. Because I am still smarter and funnier than he could ever hope to be. And making it look like he gives blowjobs to the royal guard made me feel tons better.

I also saw my mom and sisters this weekend, briefly. Really, that fulfilled my family quota for November. I'll go home for the holidays this year, but I'll sleep over at Andrew & Tony's or Christi's. I've been invited to two New Year's parties already, which nixes my idea of having a blow-out here.

There are limits being tested and pushed in all areas of my life. This is stressful. I'm pretty confused about the whole thing, and what decisions I should make. If you have any ideas about what I should do, let me know.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

I am not the better man.

letter edited first for anonymity, then for clarity

Dear Aral:

I got your package the other day. Thank you so much! You have no idea how much I needed that exact thing at that exact moment. It was a perfect cheer-me-up thing.

Christi Underdown and two of her friends (C. and N.) were in this weekend for the Duran Duran concert. We had a big brunch Saturday afterwards - me, Christi, C., N. and my upstairs neighbor J. and her boyfriend. You would have had a hoot with us. I put on a real spread - 4 cheese quiche, wheat toast with jam and goat cheese, pecans, walnuts, almonds; hot tea of many kinds, chocolate soy milk, cranberry grape juice, bananas, apples and fresh strawberries with whipped creme I made that morning. I also pulled a cherry pie out of the oven at the very end, but everyone was too stuffed to even try for it!

We all sat and talked and laughed for a couple of hours. Underdown and C. are in charge of a girl scout troop and they find the work surprisingly rewarding. J.'s boyfriend, who was here for the first time, turns out to be a freelance photographer, and that's interesting.

I was glad to have them all as guests, but the early afternoon party is slightly overshadowed by my roomie, who slams doors all morning and who has left his part of the dining room a huge mess. Even though it's he who is supposed to wash the dishes, he didn't do them all week - luckily my other roomie got up Saturday morning to help me. I don't even have enough silverware and plates at the beginning of the brunch for everyone, but we laugh it off, as the dish washer finishes before too long.

My other roomies leave some time during the brunch. They were invited, but didn't come, which is a shame. After J. and her boyfriend are gone, my overnight guests talk about how rude my one room mates was. What's up with him? Where did the room mates go?

I tell them about the current tension, and we're all a little giggly and it just gets ridiculous. He knew for over a month that I had guests coming, that I was throwing a brunch today. He deliberately made his bits of the house messier, but it bothered no one in the end. He's just sort of awful. N. asks what I do to someone who disrespects me so. I say there's nothing to be done, but while washing dishes, realize I'm really mad. I get an idea.

I have this really wide masking tape left over from painting my room, and I take it and run it , wall to wall, chest level across the last quarter of the dining room where roomie's pile o'crap is. Then I take a piece of paper and use a green glitter marker to write "This mess belongs to my room mate, who did not clean up even though he knew I had friends over" I hang the paper to the tape, so that it floats in mid-air over the mess.

N. and C. are giggling, and I'm a ham, so it goes farther.

I get out the ladder and a roll of paper towels and I grab a couple of thumbtacks off my cork board. Christi holds the paper towel roll while I take one end of it and tack it to the ceiling over the mess. Then the paper towels are hanging like a long streamer over the mess, draped twice for an elegant presentation.

Christi shakes her head. "Why?"

"Because I'm tired of his passive-aggressive shit." I say.

"So you're going to start your own?" she says, ever the voice of reason, and this makes me pause, but only for a second.

"This is funny." I say. "And it's all I've got left."

And it's true; it's all I've got left after two months of someone being snide to me and stressing me out in my home, which is always supposed to be my calm relaxing place. I just don't care anymore about his feelings, which is a horrible way to be. I'm tired of him always thinking he's *right* to be an ass to me.

I'm tired of being the better man, of walking away when he's rude. I'm tired of ignoring how he never gives me my phone messages, of how he's rude to my guests, how the dishes sit and everything else. All I've got left here is my sense of humor, juvenile and barbed as it is; and let's face it, I'm funnier than my roomies. A smart joke is ten times more effective than any shout, and an atom bomb compared to a fist.

The girls and I leave the house and have a decent hour or so of wandering in and out of shops up the way. I'm making friends with C. and N., who are nice enough, and I invite them to come back again and stay if they'd like to Christmas shop in Atlanta. After our outing we come back to my place to pack them up, but end up watching the Harry Potter trailer four of five times because Christi hasn't seen it yet. We pick apart the details and when they leave hug and then wrestle their luggage into Christi's trunk. Your package has come in the mail, and I'm excited.

I need the package, because when I get back into the house, roomie has left me a bizarre letter about how much he and the other room mate hate me. They think I'm the worst person ever. I'd like to say I don't care, but losing one of them as a friend does hurt; also, I can't believe the paper towels had such a powerful impact. Roomie acts as if I put a baseball bat to his computer. But no; it's just that I publicly mocked him.

I do feel a little bad about it. After I take a nap (cause friends make you need a nap after a while), Dust and I talk about comics but I find that I'm still shaking from the adrenaline of roomie telling me (via letter) that he thinks I'm a horrible person. Dust tells me I'm not, but my stomach is full of acid. Sara calls and asks if she can spend Thanksgiving with me and despite the fact that I'd planned a rather adult party, I can't say no to my sister. The holidays suddenly loom, huge and emotional.

There's only one thing to do; I watch your tape.

Kids in the Hall : Tour of Duty first because I've never seen it before (fingering Strawberry Shortcake!?!) and then the Chasing Amy extras. I love this stuff. I love Kevin Smith and this reminds me of before Ben-my-boy turned into an asshole. He looks like he's going to make out with Kev or Mewes at any second and he's got those fuck-me eyes. He even tries to hit on the ordinary-looking Criterion rep on one extra.

And then there's the movie commentary. I love this movie more than any other. Every time I see Chasing Amy, I catch something new. This time is no exception - the insights are wonderful, but it also makes me realize that the reason The Republican has bad hair is because he has the *exact* same hair and beard as Ben in Chasing Amy. It's 1996 hair, and The Republican's the kind of guy who would have seen this movie in 97, decided that was the haircut for him, and stuck with it FOREVER. It makes me laugh and miss him. Not that I can talk; far too often my hair sticks right off my head, and the short bangs incident of 1998 goes withoutexplanationn.

Things are horrible, Aral, sometimes. But also things are wonderful. I can't explain it very well. I guess that's life. Thank you for the tape, it meant a lot.


Saturday, November 15, 2003

Where to start.

In the early midnight hours of last Saturday, I started off this week on the phone with Kati. I had been angry with one of my roommates for over 30 hours, and she graciously volunteered to be my pressure-release valve. I ranted for 40 minutes, and then Kati said something to make me laugh, something about how rewarding her work is in Chicago. Thank you Kati. She also said the following:

"Elizabeth, you have got to stop having emergencies."

It's true, I thought. I have got to stop having emergencies. I will dedicate the next week to emergency preparedness.

It didn't work out; Monday I got a nail in my tire, which sucked away all my free money for the week. I spent most of the day running around trying to get ready to go to Birmingham on Tuesday, and also trying to fix my tire. And being pissed, because this is what Kati was trying to talk to me about; I've got everything scheduled just so, the money worked out just so, and so when something like a nail in the tire happens, everything else just...falls down. I have got to stop having emergencies.

That night, The Republican called me from a comic book store. He stayed on the phone with me while buying me 300 bags and boards for our holiday comic book extravaganza. He told me I was beautiful. I needed that; when he called I was curled under my covers at 7pm on a Monday, wishing the week were already over.

"I'm bringing you bags and boards" he said.

"All is right with the universe" I said.

An hour later Friend X calls me, hiccupping and gasping for air through her tears. I can't believe he said that to me we had a big fight, oh god, oh, god it hurts so bad and he and Ryan could form a club and this so awful I can't hardly breathe and I'm sick and he left to sleep at his friend's and I don't know and

And I listen to her heart break over the phone line until another friend gets to her to sit and hug and handle all the kleenex. I listen to friend X's heart break and mine breaks too. This is the price we pay for letting someone else get as close as her man did. Can I let that happen to me again? How many times do you get kicked in the ribs before you give up on love? I can't stand it. I can't stand that she hurts so bad and I'm in for the night and even if I wanted to go comfort her, I've got to go to Birmingham the next day.

I call The Republican and say: "Are you committed to being in for the night?" No, he says, I'm just reading comics. And then, because I ask him to, The Republican gets up, goes to two different grocery stores and drives 20 miles to take friend X a chocolate cheesecake from me.

Friend X calls me when the Republican gets there. "Your pie arrived."

"Tell him he's a sexy motherfucker." I say, because it will make them laugh. X dryly delivers the message, which makes other people in the room laugh, but she's too emotionally exhausted to laugh herself. I tell her I love her and the phone gets put up for the night.

Tuesday and Wednesday in Birmingham is stressful, but I make it home by 9 Wednesday night, and work for the next two days is a blur as I get ready for a trip to Florida this week.

Friday night I sit in my coffee bar and read my comics and try not to think about money, men, and the hundred little problems that need to be solved in my life. I score a neat piece of furniture at a yard sale for $30. I send Friend X a cheery card and some cash, because this breakup means she'll have to go through a near divorce, she'll need a new place to live and change, we all change, and I wish I weren't working so hard that I can't be there physically for her.

I can't believe The Republican took her a cake because I asked him to. He's so nice. I don't know what to do, all I can hear is Friend X crying and all I can remember is how often these things end badly, so badly that I could barely function last time it happened to me. I don't know if I can get so close to someone again. My heart is a bag of broken glass, and I don't know what to do.

But life is good, and Dust tells me so this morning. He is currently enjoying some romantic success, and what with his artistic success and his romantic success and his success at mastering the Margarita mix, he tries to roll some success over to me.

"Life is good." He hasn't even had time for his comics, his romantic success has kept him so busy. I laugh at him. I should have good new to tell him, but I don't. He says I should make The Republican iron my shirts, and I don't disagree.

Life is good. The sun is shining, the air is getting cooler, I got a star at work again. But there are nails on the road, my heart is a bag of broken glass and I need to win the lottery. And I miss you. And life is good...even when I'm afraid.

Virgil is coming to visit for Thanksgiving, and he will have a better opinion than I. He will know if everything is beginning or ending.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Savannah, surreal

Savannah, surreal, come visit.

There is something distinctly surreal about my life sometimes. For instance, I found myself wandering around Savannah late Thursday night with a group of drunken archivists.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

I spent Wednesday and Thursday night in Savannah, as well as Friday morning. I dig the town in an incredible way; I think I may vacation there some day. It reminded me a lot of Morgantown. Centered around SCAD, the Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah has marshaled great force to protect its historic buildings. On a Thursday night in November the air was warm and wet, and the streets pleasantly full of people eating and drinking and having a decently good time. Savannah is a town that is alive in the way I need places to be; it has its own culture and knows how to party for no real reason. Viva Savannah.

When the wind is right, you can even smell the paper mill, a smell that reminds me of my Grandma's home town just an hour and a half south of there. It's one of my favorite smells; salty marsh and paper mill. Mmmmm, the memories. Hanging Spanish moss, life out of creeping humid decay, and bitchin' seafood. I considered Savannah when moving back South; I still consider it a place worthy of making a life in. Savannah makes me think about getting a PhD.

I can't believe Halloween was just a week ago. I'm working crazy long hours, and it seems two weeks have passed in one. My work is incredibly demanding, and I have to keep reminding myself of why I like it so much. The pressure can be intense; meeting others in my field I have to continually think about what they think about me, and pay attention to the body language of my supervisor.

I am learning at an incredible rate, but I don't feel it's enough. Often I know my own demands on myself are unrealistic; however I have to continually guess what is appropriate in certain circles. I didn't grow up white collar, and as always this can be an issue, if only for me. Watch the way you dress. Watch the way you express yourself. Don't look nervous, for god's sake. I wish I had acting classes before I took this job. I think it would help me; I need to learn to project moods in front of people, moods and attitudes to which I am unfamiliar.

I want to win the lottery and set up an independent publishing house, one for which money would never be a real issue. That's the dream nowadays. Providing my roommates with a new house, decently far away from me, and working on print projects all day.

I'll be working 50, 60-hour weeks all this month until right before Thanksgiving.

Then I'll party. Come visit. Come lay around my house and laugh with me. All of you. My roommates will be gone for the holidays, and I can fill the house with good smells and good people and relax, relief, unwinding from these constant stressors.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Halloween in Little 5

A Good Holiday

The day after Puck died was Halloween. I had planned to spend the holiday at my aunt and uncle's house, in a neighborhood far north of the city filled with children and candy. But when the day came around it looked like traffic was going to be horrendous and I just didn't feel like doing anything. Burying one of your best friends just isn't something that puts you in much of a party mood sometimes.

The outpouring of condolences that lasted all day was comforting though. Nearly everyone who had known Mr. Puck called or wrote with some memory. My supervisor at work put flowers on my desk. Andrew held a religious ceremony in honor of Puck's passing. I felt a hollow place inside of me, but managed to maintain.

I had four sets of trick or treaters. 2 sets were small children from my street, one set was a group of black children with no costumes, and the last set - after which I turned out the light - was a small gang of teens, one of whom had an infant in a snugli. The baby was small but very alert looking.

Christi arrived from Nashville just after 10 pm. We wandered around the party that was being thrown on the second floor of my house, and then went up near the bars. In Atlanta, Halloween is alive and well. The streets were swarming with superheroes, crash victims, and semi-competent attempts at drag. Christi took pictures of JLA members and a couple in drag as Elvis and Marilyn Monroe. We wandered into an all night tattoo shop and watched a boy get Pocopelli inked on his calf. The tattoo artist and his canvas seemed happy to have our attention, and Christi and I were fascinated.

Christi loved the neighborhood. Everybody does. I was glad to be out on this night with her, happy she came, but still just not very animated. I played pinball at the pizza parlor and we watched Halloween celebrants pass by the big glass windows. Ya-yas, cheerleaders in short skirts and beards, specters of death. I listened to Christi talk about her religious pursuits and we gossiped about men.

We wandered around Little 5 for another hour or so after that, poking our heads into clubs put not feeling like rocking out. We saw the famous Disco Party Bus that rides around Atlanta from party to party. It was parked in front of Front Page News, which was full to the gills and looked like a great time. I was interested until I discovered that for Halloween night the cover charge was $20. Neither Christi nor I had that kind of cash to throw around on a whim - we probably would've hung out for just an hour - so we walked back home, enjoying the people watching as we went.

She and I thought we'd go back to the party upstairs; instead we ended up in the back yard, out by Puck's grave, just sitting. A stream of Devils and Angels still passed around us as the party upstairs went on.

How can people think Halloween is about death? Halloween is about life. Everyone is dancing and sweating and dressed up and embracing and yelling. Everyone worth a damn is out in the streets with their friends or family re-affirming that the world is full of joy and goodwill to one another. Have something sweet. Have a drink. Don't you know how lucky we all are to be alive? One day you're here, curled next to me, just as you always have been. The next day you're under a patch of dirt. I wish I could have afforded cremation, so that he could be on the wind, in the sunlight, part of the air all ready. Burial has always seemed to me a barbaric and disgusting way to rejoin the ecosystem.

I don't say any of this to Christi. We sit in front of the grave and talk about a hundred other things. She hugs me. Around 2am, we pass out for the night, and the next morning have a decently long breakfast with hot tea and lots of good nutty protein. I introduce her to goat cheese. Later that day, after she's gone, I can't believe she drove all the way down here to spend the holiday with me.

Thanks for writing and calling, everyone. It means a lot. May you find white cat hair on your black shirt, a blessing from he who passed.

Friday, October 31, 2003


Mister Puck Scarborough Ferguson, 1997-2003
The Best Cat Ever

Mr. Puck, my beloved brilliant white cat, died Thursday mid-morning 10/30/2003.
He was struck by a car while reportedly trying to nap in the middle of Austin Avenue.

Despite rough beginnings, Mr. Puck overcame many traumas that would sour the disposition of lesser kitties. Mr. Puck and his siblings were abandoned in a suburban neighborhood off I-24 in the fall of 1997, where they were found wandering around by my sisters, Sara and Abigail, who called me and asked me to find them homes. We placed the other kittens with neighbors, but two of the litter - Mr. Puck and his sister, Titania, stayed with me. At the time I also had another kitten, Brigid.

Our happy home was not to last for long though; personal tragedy struck and I lost our apartment. Brigid was adopted by Ron and Dinan Spears, where she lived for another year before also losing her life to a speeding motorist. Titania was adopted by Andrew Anderson and Tony Gowell. Mr. Puck stayed with my sisters for the next six months while I tried to pull my life together. It wasn't easy for either of us.

In the fall, I snuck him into the MTSU dorms for a few months before we were busted. This was a happy time for Mr. Puck, who was young and enjoyed taking walks in the Peck Woods on a leash. There he would chase squirrels and be admired by other students. Many cats don't enjoy the figure-8 harness and leash, but Puck was an exceptional cat.

In the following years Puck and I would sometimes be parted for months at a stretch as I pursued my education - once I went to Spain for five weeks, another time he had to stay a semester each with Ryan Miller and then the Curboy family. He never held this against me, but instead always was happy to see me and curl against my stomach at night in the winter, or against my ankles in the summer. For years before we moved to Atlanta, Mr. Puck was better than any alarm clock; he got fed at 7 am and 7 pm, and in this way always woke me up. Being woken up by your cat is one of the best ways to wake up. Even once we moved and he got an automatic feeder, I loved to wake up and just spend a few quiet minutes with him before I got out of bed.

Puck's fur was closer to rabbit fur in texture than most cat's, and a bright white in color. He shared this fur with everyone ungrudingly, and was considered to be the most prolific shedder anyone had ever met. Many cats were envious of his shedding prowess.

Mr. Puck had been very ill earlier this year. He contracted heart worms from a mosquito bite, rare for a cat and often deadly. His vet gave him only a 50-50 chance of survival. I braced myself for the worst, but this did not happen. Although I would spend many sleepless nights during his illness listening to him struggle for air, and comforting him, Puck made it through with flying colors. He had a weight problem in the past, but after a year of regular exercise in houses with stairs - and overcoming a life-threatening illness - he had dropped his excess flab. The last thing I thought as I saw him Thursday morning was how healthy and beautiful he looked. His winter coat was coming in, tinted with white so bright it looked like silver. His eyes were large and clear green. Many people often commented on how beautiful a cat Mr. Puck was.

Mr. Puck is survived by his sister Titania, who had recently come to live with us again after an absence of 5 and a half years. Puck's current kitty lover, Tex, attended the burial.

A memorial has been built over his resting place. There's a circle of 6 fist-sized lumps of rose quarts, one for each year of his life. At the top of the circle is a small headstone. When I placed him in his cardboard coffin, I wrote on the outside in silver paint pen: Mr. Puck was the best cat ever. Mr. Puck was the best cat ever. Mr. Puck was the best cat ever. Over and over on each side. Because it was true.

Come spring, I'll make a big patch of catnip in that part of the garden. I think he would have liked that.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Version 2.0 with links and better spelling.

Hate the game, not the player

Hungry like the Wolverine

I drove up to Knoxville Thursday night, late. Erin and I sat around for a few hours talking about comic books, writing, and art. This was what I needed. I was still sort of scattered and jumpy while visiting her, but after a big midnight breakfast and an evening's rest under a fuzzy red blanket in an apartment full of slash and fandom, I woke up the next morning totally restored. Her one bedroom apartment was a mirror image of Dustin's old K-town place, and even included many images and writings he had passed her during his time there. There is something nice and right about that apartment complex, but I can't put my finger on it exactly.

I am thinking more about living by myself lately. If I had to live by myself, I'd want an apartment just like Erin's.

I rode off the next morning to northern West Virginia. The mountains were beautiful, and on the way I listened to Liz Phair, The Postal Service, and Tears for Fears. It's 7 hours from Knoxville to Morgantown. I was alone, but happy.

Jill stayed with me at the Mountaineer Inn Friday night. We were both rather quiet, and full of our own thoughts. Most of the people Dustin hangs out with in Morgantown are younger than Jill, who is 21. I felt old and odd. We hung out at Dustin's apartment and several people hung with us; one was a 19 year old guy, beautiful, single, who I knew liked "older women". I managed to keep my nose in a book most of the evening, with said 19 year old in the corner of my eye. Dustin was much amused by the actions of two girls who came to the party, both of whom obviously held him in high regard. I tried to talk to one of the girls, who seemed smart and interesting. Unfortunately, it was one of those meetings of learning disabilities that should never happen; after a few minutes, our conversation went like this:

"So what I was saying earlier applies."
"About actors?"
"What were you talking about?"
"What I said earlier."

Dustin, sitting to my right, actually pushed his hands in a separating motion between us.

"OK, stop it ! You're in an ADD feedback loop!" and he grins as I and this other girl are staring at each other with puzzled looks, until we realize that we're both suddenly lost in the background noise of a party, unable to understand each other or comprehend where things went off track. No one had warned us about each other, because ADD is something you usually hide. We spent a few minutes later in the party talking about her experiences with the medications I still refuse, until something shiny or loud distracted us and ended the conversation. Or maybe one of us just wandered away. Honestly, I can't remember.

Jill and I slept in Saturday, read a bit, and then after lunch with she and Dust's mom and step dad wandered around Morgantown for a bit. Dustin's mom had wanted me to walk a bottle of champagne up to him after the first cast call of the show that night, but I was phobic about it. Jill agreed to the job in exchange for Godiva chocolates. I decided this was a good way to go; I didn't want to be next to him in front of all those people. Before Jill and I went to see the show, I took a nap and then showered, and leaned my forehead against the cheap plastic wall of the bath and just paid some attention to my breathing. Fill the lungs and expel them; this is life. Mountains, men, comic books, bitter chocolate, sharp vegetables, the parents of your friends, the presence of someone you know more through their writings than through their everyday life. Dustin's mother paid me some high compliments this weekend; I listened to his stepfather's stories, carefully watching his mouth so that I could not be distracted. Dustin grinned at this; he knows I am paying more attention because I have too. None of this is easy for me. I can do this, I can be nice, I can be good, I can behave. I will not drink nor deflower the 19 year old from the previous night's party on this trip. I will accidentally swear in front of Dust's mom twice, alienate a waitress at the Boston Beanery, and manage to dress badly for the one instance where someone is taking pictures. Que Sera.

The show is exceedingly good. An adaptation of Dr. Faustus incorporating the music of Soul Coughing and using puppets, somehow it made you think about what the nature of hell might be. Dust was soaked in sweat and glowing by the end.

When Devon and Erin and Elizabeth Rathgen arrive for the second show, I am so glad to see them that I am given to spontaneous expressions of joy, I bounce up and down, I hug them too much. Oh, thank god, other people. And later I go to pick up Underdown from the Pittsburgh airport, and we meet everyone at an old house full with and undergraduate party in full swing, drinking and smoking in the back yard, girls flirting, Dustin more drunk than I've ever seen him, and I manage to actually relax a little more, and all of us girls who have driven so far - me, Christi, Jill, Devon, Erin, and Elizabeth R - we end up leaving the party to discuss philosophy on a hillside, what happens to you when you die, Devon's got a good idea, Erin, Jill and Elizabeth R. aren't into the huge house party like I am but I hang out with them instead.

The night ends with me, Underdown, Devon and Jill talking about...I can't remember. My memory extends as far as an image of me lying next to Underdown on the hotel bed while she and Devon and Jill converse. Devon is exhausted as well, but Jill is lit up in the presence of Underdown and Devon, Jill is animated and excited to talk to them.

I sleep alone, kicking the covers off my bed, disturbing the liner, tossing while Jill and Underdown are passed out on the other bed. The other girls are down the hall. There are so many of us up here, supporting one another all in one way or the other. We are all leaning a bit, Christi leans on me and I lean on Erin who is supported perhaps by the weight of all of us leaning, Devon is maybe abandoning her dream of being a writer, and where does that leave me, who is so much less talented? Jill wears a pair of pants covered in quotes she wrote last summer, her jeans covered in words. She writes in a little dark green spiral bound notebook all weekend. On the cover of this notebook is a metal hand. I once wrote a series of essays about hands, puppets, and comic books. I sent the essays away; I don't have them anymore.

The next day we all check out of the hotel, invade Dust's apartment, and end up eating a big meal together. Christi takes shots of people's plates for me, we make our own food porn. There is a long table with only six of us now, Jill left in the morning with her mom and step-dad.

At this table there are three of us on either side, so that no one sits at the head. On one side sits me, Underdown, and then Elizabeth Rathgen. On the other side sits Devon directly across from me, then Dust across from Christi, with Erin facing Elizabeth Rathgen. All of us get the breakfast bar except for Dust, so that his plate comes as a different shape from ours and unmoving from his chair he becomes the anchor, our center, and rightfully so as we have all come to celebrate him and his artistic success. This show is the equivalent of publishing on a higher production scale than most of us have previously enjoyed, at the moment he is the most artistically successful of us all.

Erin and I have a project due out next year that is already 2 months overdue in process; Devon is contemplating leaving Naropa; Christi hasn't published since Scribbling Mob; Jill scribbles in notebooks, but I don't know that she produces either. None of us are 19 anymore, although truthfully I don't remember being 19 that well. Dustin is still bathed in that light of artistic endeavor that I know have to search so hard for.

In the face of this midmorning gathering, as a table of writers, poets and artists, we do what comes naturally - we talk about comic books. Specifically, X-men. There was a boy at the party last night named Logan who had sideburns, this starts it off. Is Hugh Jackman good or bad for the character?

"I like my Wolverine short and ugly." I say, because it's true.

"But Hugh Jackman..." Says Erin, and goes on to pontificate that Hugh Jackman is rather nice to look at, and everyone is nodding. Also, points out Erin, Hugh Jackman's attitude lets him carry it all off. Wolverine is more of a state of mind.

"but the point of Wolverine's character is that he's short and ugly." I protest. "That's why he can never have Jean."

"But in the comics, it's not about why he can't have Jean. It's about him wandering around in the woods getting into fights."

I frown. "Only in the past decade has he been out in the woods wandering around, looking for fights. He wasn't always that way."

"Well, so, they get Hugh Jackman and say, 'hey, people like this tension between him and Jean, let's play up that.' ."

"But it was always there. I like my comic book characters miserable. If they're not in pain, I'm not interested."

"It's unrequited love" says Devon over her coffee. For the first time ever, I notice how blue her eyes are. I thought she was wearing contacts, but no, her eyes are an ultra-light blue, just like my cousin Joe's, and they're focused on me now.

Erin leans over the table, so that Dustin has to sit back a little so Erin can get my attention, because we're at opposite ends and I've been distracted again.

"About unrequited love...look, Wolverine loved Jean, but it would never happen. After a period of years, it just became this understood thing between all of them. The unrequited love faded into this deep friendship where everything was unspoken. Everybody knew it was there, and there was nothing to be done, so it was all underneath the surface. Because unrequited love either deepens into friendship or hardens into resentment."

Devon is looking at Erin over her glasses. "A bitter Wolverine full of resentment wouldn't be a very interesting character. They have to work together as a team to get things done."

I don't know what to say. I'm lost in the implications of all of this. So I say: "But I like my comic book characters miserable. If they ain't suffering, I don't want them. For Halloween, I'm going to be Jessica Jones. I'm just going to wear my leather jacket with a nametag on it that says HELLO MY NAME IS Jessica Jones, Fuck You."

Dustin nods, because he's the only one who reads Alias. I focus in on him. I can't believe he doesn't look hung over after all the partying he did last night.

"What do you think?" I ask him, because he's got that sly thoughtful look.

"I think that the name tag should just say Jessica. After all, there's only one place where that character would wear a name tag, and they don't let you have last names there."

Everyone else looks puzzled, so I lean back and explain: "He's talking about Alcoholics Anonymous. Jessica's an addict."

There is a communal shrug, and the conversation shifts, tilts, and moves on. Later there is a misunderstanding between Christi and Dust, and she and I drive for 10 hours back to Atlanta, and spend another two settling rental car matters and such. I miss her. I'll write more about that, later.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

To Cure, Apply Party Liberally

I've been working too much lately. Evidence:

To: Max
From: Elizabeth
#####: ********
############ *******


I was so exhausted this morning that when you complimented my "LJ", I thought you meant Leather Jacket for some unknown reason, and so I said "Thanks, it's pretty hot, but it's waterproof and I think it's going to rain really hard today."

And now that I've woken up 5 hours later I realize that you were complimenting my *Live Journal*, and that my response must have seemed kind of odd.

I worked 14 hours yesterday, and now I'm going to go home and take a nap, so that I might make some goddamned sense.

See you Monday.



Yes, I thought it was an odd response, but I figured you were using some new slang I was unaware of. Get some sleep and I'll see you Monday!

Nice jacket too...though. Max


Notice that above I said "I've been working too much", not "I've been working too hard". There comes a point where you've worked yourself for so long that you're no longer very productive, but you have to keep pounding away at things anyway. My boss is annoyed with me because I seem so slow. But I've just overdone everything this month, physically, emotionally, and practically. I've had to learn a ton of new information, radically alter my relationship with my room mates, and get
over a bunch of soul searching crap regarding romantic relations. Oh, and my Grandfather was in a diabetic coma for part of last week. I try not to talk about my private life at work, but goddamn, I need a break.

I feel broken from all the new information and processes. On the upside, they did give me one of those little pins that says "Great Job!". And then they told me to quit using the internet so much and pick up the pace a little.

I'm going to take a huge crazy break for my own mental health. I'm driving up into the mountains to watch an update of Dr. Faustus with puppetry. I plan on getting wasted and being surrounded by friends and some dear acquaintances. I'll be back late Sunday night. Don't try to stop me, I've got to just take a break for a while, listen to music, and try to get my head together for the holidays.

Nothing can stop me, nothing can stop me, nothing can stop me, except maybe myself.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Daredevil red & Batman Navy

I'm feeling really warm and content and happy right now. No real reason why that I could think of, just thought I'd pass it along.

Daredevil Red and Batman Navy

I finally found the money to paint my room. I primed the walls white over six weeks ago, but then ran out of funds and patience to do more. Now two of the walls will be dark red, two of them will be dark blue, and the trim will alternate. Because I am insane. And I like to paint. I suspect stamping will be involved before the project is finished, and I don’t know that I’ll be finished any earlier than Saturday night.

Putting on the colors is actually a lot more fun than priming was. I’m more patient with the plaster this time because I’ve worked with it before. Also, I’m not trying to cover up bivouac green with white primer. No, no. Now I’m working with tones that I like.

I also have a lot more room to work with since last weekend when Ron, Dinan and I reorganized half the house. After a week of fights the house got redistributed. The house works much better now, with Ron and I each having a separate room to relax and watch television in, with the both of us having separate cable modem connections. Oh, and we don’t really talk any more. Because we don’t really care for one another. But other than that, things are fine. Truthfully, while I’m sad that our friendship has pretty much ended, I’m also sort of relieved. I felt like I was having to tiptoe around him way too much, and the stress of trying to remain friends was waaaayyy too much at the end. So when things finally got broken for good between us, it was hurtful – but necessary, I think. I had given every effort I could to try and preserve our friendship, and it just wasn’t working. I was on edge all the time in my own house, where I need to relax and unwind at the end of the day. Since we’ve re-organized things I’ve been ridiculously happy, bouncy, and good natured.

A lot of people told me not to move in with friends. I did it anyway; it had been years since I’d had a bad room mate experience. I miss you, Aral, Jennifer, Mikele I suppose room mate luck just doesn’t last forever. Dinan and I remain on good terms, but often her body language is quite tense, which is understandable. It sucks that Ron and I can’t get along.

Now I have more of my own comfort zone; now I can curl up with hot chocolate and watch the new season on Angel or pore over comic books or lay about on MSN messenger chatting with friends for hours. Now I have more space to be myself in my own environment. I’m starting to feel settled and happy on a level I haven’t felt for two years. I’m incredibly happy with my job, where I get fulfilled in this way that I know I’m lucky to experience. I have good books to read, good friends to talk to, and I’m making my room into my own warm little cave for the winter.

In other news I’ve found a going-to-the-movies friend in my upstairs neighbor J. It’s a relief to know someone who will see anything, just like I will. It’s also a relief to start meeting more people here in town. These things take time. It’s all about space and time. There’s no forcing those two aspects of nature to flex more than they already do.

Friday, October 10, 2003

The 6th pillar of character.

The 6th pillar of character.

Thursday night I was in the Savannah River Valley, and I got to watch one of my cousins teach a High School marching band routine. This was just what I needed.

Picture a warm moonlit South Carolina night. Four dozen awkward teens, one of whom was another cousin, were spread out over a large mown green, lit by klieg lights. In front of the teens was a two story wooden tower built by the locals. On top of the wooden platform was a rather large guy in his late twenties, the High School band director, and my cousin, the same height and build as me but blonde. My cousin is the Middle School band director, but there aren’t enough kids out there to make a full marching band from just one school, so they have to combine forces a little bit. We’re in deep rural suburban South, and in front of the green is a road, behind it is a low brick High School from the early late 80’s or early 90’s.

As I walk up to this scene I actually watch the girls is the flag core jumping around, one by one, like idiots while the HS band director yells at them:


I start to giggle. I look at my cousin on the platform, who is also grinning. “Is that girl doing jazz hands? Am I actually seeing jazz hands out here?”

He waves he hands around. “Spirit fingers. We call them spirit fingers.”

I turn to yet another cousin – the one who had directed me to this whole scene – and he’s just shaking his head. We climb up on the tower, and watch the show and talk. Watching the rehearsal was just what I needed after a grim week of spectacular fights with my roommates and a workload so heavy I had to question my commitment to grants. What am I doing here in the South, exactly? Why aren’t I planning to go right back up north when I get enough money? Oh, right, this. Warm nights with family, watching a HS band show. It’s nice.

My band director cousin points out his students on the field to me – a girl on the flag core so graceless they call her Maytag, after the washing machine flourishes she manages; the one he calls his “anger management child”, a girl whom he pays extra attention too because she seems to have some problems relating to others; the guy who consistently runs over other people; our own relation, the biggest guy on the field, carrying the bass drum. He loves this, directing marching band shows.

I like the show too. There are dorky synchronized dancing bits and the flag core passes around some of those plastic geometric expanding balls for some reason.

The theme of the show is “The 6 pillars of character”, but my cousins can’t remember what those pillars are supposed to be, exactly; they’re concentrating on the marching routine and the music. The theater department is working on the pillars; I understand clouds and drapery are involved.

One of the pillars is definitely patriotism though. Halfway through the show, the entire band stops and yells “ONE NATION UNDER GOD, WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL!” And then they play Amazing Grace for a few bars.

“And then you should tell the band judges that if they don’t vote for your show, they’re atheist pinkos.” I hiss to my band directing cousin.

“Hey! That’s not a bad idea!”

“Aren’t you sort of emotionally blackmailing them with the pledge and Amazing Grace and everything?”

“My God, I hope so.” He says, pushing his glasses a little higher. We both know we’re joking, and he tells me about last year’s show, a tribute to the history of aviation where the kids formed 9 triangles and mimicked an air show. At the end of this year’s show, the kids perfectly manage to form first the school’s initials, and then USA on the field. I jump up and down and clap along with the others on the platform. But my cousin is shaking his head and calling out specific students on the ground.

“Hey! Flutes! It’s supposed to be a circle AND MY GOD YOU”VE GOT A PERFECT 90 DEGREE ANGLE! IT’S PERFECT! IF ONLY WE WEREN”T SUPPOSED TO BE A CIRCLE! You – yes, you! Don’t play to the hot dog vendors, I’m up here.” He turns to another teacher. “We need more vibrato.”

Yeah, they do need more vibrato. But that’s OK. I liked it anyway. The kids at least sounded great. My cousin hugged me, really hugged me, as I left. I want to go back and watch more shows. The kids try so hard, and it really is neat to watch my cousin do his thing.

My other cousin and I climbed back into my rental car. The two of us had a buffet dinner earlier in honor of our two birthdays in previous weeks. We’d eaten fried okra and other things at a gross country buffet that was nothing but a convinent place to get fed while we talked. I dropped him off near the river before driving myself back to Atlanta for the night, and his 19 year old body, pale as mine, was swallowed whole by the dark after he ran just a few hundred feet from me.

I drove home exhausted beyond belief but happy. Okra and hugs and band shows and warm nights in October, that’s what I’m here for. Please don’t let me forget it.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

I had a good birthday

The Republican.

Christi Underdown had planned to come visit me for my birthday weekend, and oh, the fun we were going to have. I was so excited. Then Christi got rear-ended at the intersection of Murfreesboro and Waldron Road (accursed intersection, you have thwarted my plans for the last time! I moved away and still you haunt me!). Remind me to tell you a story some time about that intersection, my dad's heart attack, Scribbling Mob and cock fighting. It's a good story.

Christi couldn't come visit; her back is ripped up and her transmission isn't doing well. So The Republican came instead, bringing with him a weekend of movie watching and my favorite cookies.

I'm not seeing The Republican. Of course, I'm not not seeing him, either. It's complicated, as these things tend to be. We live some hours distance from each other, and he hates Hillary Clinton. He's also an anglophile, a product of sexually segregated schools and he wears loafers. He builds roads, which I hate, and he listens to godrock, which makes me want to hurl.

He's also really, really nice to me. He has worn me down with his niceness and compliments. He's a source of interesting conversation; he's classically schooled, and can discuss history and mythology in depth. He's well traveled, impeccably mannered, and open-minded. He's an active pagan, and has a great deal of verse memorized (although most of it is Victorian, and I dislike Victorian verse). He's a friend of many other good friends, and so is recommended by his company.

But there's that Republican thing...

"I want to hang out with him", said Dinan. "We never debate politics around here; we all agree with each other. You should have him in the living room more often; I want to talk with him for a bit. I want to know why he thinks the way he does."

I groan at this. "Dinan. He's hopelessly outnumbered here. It's 3 to 1. And Ron gets going about the godless English, and it's all over with."

She sighed. "You're right."

I talked to Dust about it. About how ambivalent I am. I could hear his breathing on the other end of the telephone line; Dust's slow intake and exhalation of thoughts, the way his brain moved around the idea of me taking long walks through the park with a Republican of exclusively English descent, and worse, a member of the oppressive class.

"Well, it's like this: I'd rather see you with a Republican who is nice to you and treats you well than with a guy who works at DC comics, dresses great, is artistically brilliant but treats you like shit. I'd rather see you with the guy who wears loafers and is good to you than with a guy who is mean."

I paused, but only for a minute. "ARE YOU CRAZY!?! If I was dating a guy who worked for DC comics, we'd get preview issues, Dustin! That's comics a whole month early! We'd know who Power Girl's parents are right now! I'd totally rather date the guy who was mean to me!"

Well, said Dustin, that's your issue.

Indeed it is. We spent the next half hour discussing Power Girl's possible origin.

And The Republican is nice to me; I had the best birthday, where we went to the museum and looked at the Etruscan exhibit - he was actually more excited to see the Etruscans than I was! That was lovely. We also went to see a good 'ol monster movie where vampires beat up werewolves. He enjoyed that too. Do you know how hard it is to find a guy who understands my love of bad monster movies and who likes special effects and the Pelopenissian wars? Those are darn rare qualities to find in the same person.

I'm converting him to comic fandom, I think. He's already read the Sandman series, just recently, and that's the best hook anyone can sink into him. I sent him home with Kingdom Come, which may not really do it for him (but I can hope). We'll see. We'll see. We'll see if I can put up with someone who is incredibly nice to me.

And he is, really. He's good to me in this way that I really need. So we're communicating a bit, feeling things out. But he is entirely different in type than any other buy I've dated before. Probably this is not a bad thing.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

I'm 27

9 months down, 9 months to go.
Fly Delta Jets

It's October, and this weekend I will be 27, the age rock stars die. Quick, name as many tragically dead rock starts as you can: KurtCobainJanisJoplinJimi HendricksBrianJonesJimMorrison. All 27 when they bit it, as if this was the age that divided them from ever getting old, as if this is the last year you're allowed to be wild and free and alone.

Everything outside in Georgia is swollen with seeds, on the verge of bursting with new life. That's because we don't really get a winter here, but rather an autumn more like a New England Spring. Strange flowers bloom overnight, and while the pumpkins and apples are shipped in from other regions, I saw the orange trees in Florida last weekend working on sweets that won't be ready for a good while yet. After this wet mild autumn in Atlanta will come a winter where it probably won't snow, where the puddles only *might* freeze over. And then the real spring will just be another wet, muddy fall leading into June, nine months from now, when the sun will come back again in full force and I will feel happy to see it.

I went to Florida on business, flew into the panhandle and out again on the same date. While I was traveling, I had time to reflect on how much I love the Atlanta airport.

The airport is 6 different buildings, Gates A B C D E and Terminal. These buildings stand free of each other above ground so that the airplanes can drive all the way around them, giving ATL the most space for people to connect with their flights as possible. Below ground, the buildings are connected by a long, wide, brightly lit passage. Inside this passage is a train that goes to all 6 buildings, long conveyer-belt moving walkways if you don't like trains, and a lot of public art.

The Terminal building connects to MARTA (the subway system in town), and they've got it set up so that if you ride the train you can pick up your Delta ticket right at MARTA and then scoot to your flight as quickly as possible. This bias toward Delta, based in Atlanta, is also visible when you fly into ATL at night and a giant red neon sign informs you to FLY DELTA JETS. I wouldn't, if I were you, though; they're now no longer serving food, but trying to sell it to you at prices that would make a movie theater blush.

The Terminal only has a few gates, mainly it's the building where you check your baggage and get your ticket. There's also a big center court with a few places to eat and shop. But mostly you go through the Terminal to get through security so you can make it to gates A-E.

This is brilliant security, by the way; Atlanta was up on all the international measures long before most of the rest of the states because of the 1996 Olympics.

Once you get through security, you have a choice: Conveyor-belt walkways or the train. It's always a tough choice for me.

The train is always cleancleanclean and has metal poles and strapser staps for holding or a bench at either end to sit on. And it announces everything in a clean woman's voice, and when it takes off there's this lurch of inertia that always makes me grin, I love the way the train speeds from one building to the next, I love watching tourists fall over themselves, I love the train.

But the walkways are nice cheifly because Atlanta uses the wide hallways to exhibit a lot of art. Right now there's all these stone statues from Africa in between building A and Terminal. They're beautiful; my favorite was of green stone, at least seven feet long, and was a woman swimming. Gorgeous.

Don't believe it's one of the best airports in the world? Look here:

Best Airports
Worst Airports

Monday, September 29, 2003


Another Week of Bits and Pieces

Yes, I could write a decent, coherent narrative this week. But let's face it, those links from last week were fun. One more little bits and pieces entry, and then I'll write more, cross my heart.

After all, who could resist Encyclopedia Brown's obituary?

A week ago I got to play with my toddler cousins again. I never get to see little kids anymore unless I make a special effort, and this is odd to me after years of working at a children's book store and having my sisters on hand whenever I'd like to see them. I should have spent more time with my aunt Laura and cousin Audrey, but they sent all the kids out to play, and that just killed me.

"Would you guys mind if I went out and played with the kids? I never get any play time since I moved."

Audrey was exhausted, leaning in her chair. "GO! I get too much time with them! Have your turn! Please!"

Laura snickered. Weather this is because she's a stay at home mom, or because Audrey is pregnant again is up for debate.

This guy things we should Kill All the Librarians. He seems upset chiefly because we're raising awareness of the USA PATRIOT act. When people know what is allowed under this act, they are generally appalled. You know, the crusaders burned librarians.

This is why we should exercise our right to make fun of that scary John Ashcroft as much as possible.

So, why would I want to play with toddlers? Why would I miss hanging out with kids? Example:

Colin and Ruel are involved with their own game, which involves pretending to be Leopards. Ellie, who is 2 and a half, feels a bit left out. So I lean down and ask her: "Would you like to read a book?"


"Want to play on the swings?"

"No." She pauses, and looks up at me, clearly forming one of those toddler tests for grownups in her mind. "Let's pretend the monkeys are coming."

I stand up and say the right thing: "Oh NO! The monkeys are coming! What should we do?"

"RUN!" screams Ellie, and we tear ass to our grandfather's bed, where Ellie assures me the only way to monkey protection is through tents made out of blankets.

My days are mix of delight and fear. If only I needed to make up imaginary monkeys to scare myself.

"I don't know that Atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God." -George Bush senior

In order to blend in undetected with evangelical Christians, most Atheists now tend to be morbidly obese and will tell you, whether asked or not, that their enormous girth is the result of an undetectable thyroid condition and not the box of Little Debbie cakes they are holding.

this guy died. It's worth mentioning because he wrote my favorite biography of Truman Capote, and because he was an upper class rich white guy, that, so far as I know, wasn't a bastard. Worth mentioning after all the other links on this page.

I'm going to be late for work. I have to go in early on Mondays and Fridays because I have Spanish lessons. Hasta Luego.

Monday, September 22, 2003

The World Won't End.

The World Won't End

A few short things that are no big deal. The world is a beautiful and strange place full of random bits. Here are a few:

The RIAA will eventually change or die.

Bunny the Cat came to live with me last week. Bunny lost two-thirds of her tail when she was born on a truck engine five years ago. One of her back legs shattered when she slid off the engine and hit the ground; it healed a little shorter than the rest, so she hops a bit when she walks. Bunny lost a fight with a snake last summer, and is still recovering from the resulting poisonous infection; she's patchy and stitched up. Agoraphobic, she rolls around under my bed hissing and spitting, like some demented, possessed black dustbunny. The other cats are wary, but fascinated. I made her a safety maze out of boxes under there, and she's my little monster under the bed. Occasionally I drag her out and pet her - she enjoys this as long as no one else is around to see her acting like a cat.

Here's a nice British bit about Libraries.

It's banned books week.
Thank your local librarian for protecting your civil liberties.

I owe Ron, ohmigod, I owe my roommate Ron for driving my grandfather to Marietta while I was at work today. I'm sure Grandpa just insulted the heck out of him with jokes about Jimmy Carter and whatnot all the way to Cobb county and back. Ron, like all good people, believes Jimmy Carter should be sainted. So does my Grandma. It's just one of the many reasons why my grandparents have been divorced for three decades now.

There's a nice interview with Neil Gaiman on NPR over here.

Fall has started; the pecans are nearly ready, and there are heavy warm lightning storms over Atlanta I can watch from my big front porch. And I know that the world won't end if none of the boys I've fallen in love with never love me back. The world won't end if I stand out in the rain with no shoes on, thinking about how I've got to learn to love the rain more than the sunshine. The poets have all got it wrong; love is not fire, but water, love is standing in the autumn rain and accepting the inevitability of being soaked to the skin. Love is liquid, love is erosion, the Grand Canyon was built by love. Love is rain, love is a contaminated lake, love is dew on flowers and the dew our bodies make for each other.

And love, like water, can never touch the sun. He's hot as hell, think about that. They don't call the devil the lightbringer for nothing.

here's one last neat cartoon. See you next week.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Harvest Moon over Kentucky

Harvest Moon over Kentucky

I spent most of last week in Kentucky on business. It was nice enough, I suppose, for the area. I found a lot of things depressing - the teaching rooms in Kentucky state colleges are often just as bad as some in Tennessee. Orange threadbare carpets, fluorescent lighting, antique white vinyl paint over cinderblock. Air inside such buildings is thick with moisture, less than the usual amount of humidity found outside in the south in September, but still far to high to be really comfortable for some.

On the up side, I ate smoked duck with plum sauce at a really excellent little restaurant for less than $15. So there are benefits to being a visitor to a rural economy. Pulled pork barbeque, inexpensive beer, and less of a parking problem than elsewhere. Have I mentioned my love affair with food lately?

Johnny Cash died the last day I was there, and as I drove back through Tennessee to get home, NPR played hours of interviews with the man in black, interspersed with his music. It was a nice memorial to one of the few people in the music business I always thought deserved respect. My stomach flipped over as I drove though Nashville. How badly can a business screw up an art? Look at Nashville, and there's your answer.

I'm working too much lately, but I am making time to fix up my house finally. I just started to feel like it was coming together this weekend. I don't have any more unopened boxed in the floor of my room, finally. I have a nice long curtain over my window that matches my bedspread. I'm bringing it all together. This is home. Atlanta is my home. The rhythm of things is finally settling, finally getting down to a steady pattern that I can depend on, feel safe in, and routines are getting solidified.

I love routine. I love my home. I don't think anything big will change for a while, and that's perfectly all right with me.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

In sickness and in health

In sickness and in health

So, about four weeks ago I went to a new doctor for a routine girly checkup. And as soon as she looks at me, the doctor sort of puts her brows together, gets me on a scale, and starts asking questions about my height and weight and looking at my hands and hair. And she says:

Has anyone ever talked to you about your thyroid gland?

Nope. I've had really sporadic health care my whole life. After about the age of 10, I have rarely seen the same doctor twice. I've moved around a lot, and gone for years without health care coverage. But I don't remember anyone ever saying anything about my glands. I mean, I'm a pretty healthy person. Other than an old knee injury and some rather common allergy problems, I don't really have any health concerns.

When did you start and stop growing? Are there a lot of tall women in your family? What about heart conditions? Any thyroid problems that you're aware of? Have you been having headaches?

and on and on. And then when I'm on the examination table, and she gets her assistant to sort of message my throat, and the assistant nods.

I think you have Hypo-thyroidism


This is a teaching hospital, would you mind?...

I've got no problems with that. There are a group of doctors walking by, mine leaves the room, a couple of younger doctors come in.

Hypo-thyroidism. Typically, the adult patients will not recognize their own symptoms...possible secondary involvement of the other glands, and the system as a whole will react...

So, they take blood from me, two tubes. And I get one of those little pamphlets that is all the information they can squeeze on a 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper in a soothing manner. And I am told it will take 3 weeks for the results to come back from the lab, but that's OK, because I'm not in imminent danger or anything. I didn't even know that I was sick. I mean, I went to the doctor for my yearly gyn exam, for chrissakes.

The results came back this week. Actually, they came back right before last week's big party, but I deliberately wouldn't look at them until I felt like I had the space to deal.

Results: Borderline. AKA: we don't know shit.

I call the doctor. Well?

You're definitely symptomatic, and we think you should get tested again. Go to a general practicioner at a different point in your monthly cycle, and get bloodwork done again. Your thyroid glad is swollen, but an endocrinologist will not accept you as a patient until your levels are tested at....blah blah blah, blah blah blah, the truth is no one really knows what causes a body to attack parts of its own self, you're freakishly tall, you have all the other signs, and the American health care system is a rich man's broken toy. Have a nice day, try not to worry, or immigrate to Canada. Thank You, see you next year when its time for your next pap smear. (I'm paraphrasing here. I actively dislike the receptionist who had to give me this news).

So what do you suggest that I do in the meantime?

We suggest that you try to lose thirty pounds, and regulate your diet in order to help your body heal itself. Glandular problems are aggravated by weight gain.

At which point I almost yell at her one of the following phrases:

Glandular problems cause weight gain, dumbass!

Fuck You! Diets are for losers!

Maybe I'm hungry and horny all the time because of my personality, *not* a a glandular disorder.

So. 30 pounds. No sweat. I was skinny High School...before I got shoulders like a linebacker...and actual breasts...which I'm happy to have, soooo....

Right. Eat less, exercise more, try not to focus on how western medicine may or may not be failing you.

Except, I love food, and I love eating. I honestly know I associate food and love. I honestly know that since I quit taking drugs after college, chocolate cake has replaced drugs in my life. I eat when I'm happy. I eat when I'm sad. And if I can't get laid or drunk, I hit the refridgerator. I love food like I love men...all the time and as much as possible, please.

What saves me from being a total fat ass though is that I also love to walk. But since I moved from New England, I haven't done that so much. Which is to say I still walk a great deal more than most people, but far from the 5 miles minimum a day I used to enjoy.

But still, the food thing. I treat it like a vice, like a lover. And I know that's wrong, but I hate the idea of dieting. I grew up watching my mother abuse her body in a series of diets that never worked. She would drink vinegar. She would avoid food until she got weak and grumpy. On and off of weight watchers, Jenny Craig and a host of 80's fad diets. Nothing helped her much because she was chronically inactive, a victim of severe depression, and host to a series of hormonal problems so severe that my father eventually would sell off most of his guitar collection so that she could be treated at Vanderbilt.

Not that her mother was any better. My grandmother would eat Krispy Kreme donuts with Diet Coke for breakfast, and tell me that the one calorie drink balanced out the fried part of the meal.

It was a long battle towards healthy eating habits for me. I was in my early twenties before I realized the connection between my own mood swings and my meals. Slowly I learned to carry protein bars around with me at school to fight off grumpiness. I learned to cook with more nuts, I learned to avoid too much sugar, I taught myself about my own tolerance of caffeine. I make an effort to eat organic foods, to eat vegetarian eggs and fresh meats, avoiding beef all together. I have learned about olive oil and sesame seed oil and soy products. I'm a little obsessive about it. I love food, But I love good food.

And now I have to change my relationship with food all over again. It's a daunting task. And it dredged up a million miles of anger for me, of negative associations with the hormonal problems that plague the female members of my family. I honestly believe that "ideal weight" chart is a load of crap. One of my aunts kept making herself seriously sick, trying to stick to that chart. Every time she'd hit her target weight, she'd get pneumonia. And the lengths my mother went to... no. I love my body. I won't torture it, I won't fuck up my metabolism with some crash diet, I won't let a doctor make me feel fat.

I'm so tall I'm not even listed on most women's height/weight charts. So who the hell knows what the target weight should be for a woman my size and shape? Less than 3% of all American women are as tall as me. Break down the different body shapes into that number, and we're definitely a minority. I don't know what I'm supposed to weigh. No one does.

But if I have to guess, or, really, make up my own number, I'd say that I will try to lose 20 pounds. I will try to lose this Christmas, by exercising and not having desert and drinking lots of water.

And I will try not to be angry about it. That's the hardest part. Because my eating is really about anger, just like most other things about me. I realize that now, after thinking on it for a week. I eat, and eat well, because I am angry. One more little step away from that, and I know I'll be healthier in the long run.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Where was I?

Where was I?

Oh, right. The other 2 and a half days of DragonCon. Click here for the first 2 and a half days of the five day party.

So after the big parade where Aral and I cheered and jumped up and down, we ate lunch and saw some fan stuff and then split up. Aral went to meet up with Shrift; I went to work the Green Room.

Volunteering to work the convention allowed me to afford to go. I scored a discount pass and a discount room. I also liked the idea of working because I wanted to help make this fabulous thing happen. See, no one really gets paid to throw this party for 40,000 people. It's all held together by a bunch of wonderful people who work their asses off to make sure I have a good time. And I appreciate that!

I also was able to work one of the plum assignments. Susan and Andrew work the Green Room, the room that feeds all the special guests. It's like having a backstage pass to make Lt. Sulu a sandwich. And I dig that. I also dig listening to the writers and game designers and others sit around talking about what fans they are themselves. It's cool, man. I like feeding people, I like feeling like I help make the party happen.

But it was a lot of hard work. And I don't think I'll do it again next year. As much as I like the volunteers, and may even give 4 or 5 hours of my time to lend a hand, working 20 hours during the big party really took the piss out of me. I mean, a woman's got to sleep at some point, you know?

But Saturday WOW. I drank and sat with a bunch of my favorite people. See, Aral and I got bumped up into a small suite totally by accident. Tony, Sue and I had specifically gone to the Hyatt and had our reservations linked up. But when I went to check in I found they were trying to put me on an entirely different floor!

I demanded to be on the floor where most of my friends were staying. They gave me the keys to a corner room with three balconies and a living room set. We had to wheel another little bed in because there was only one, but that was OK.

So Saturday Virgil and I went on a liquor run. I fired up the TV and we had a little party, watching the original American Godzilla release with Perry Mason, and Army of Darkness. Yea us! Cairy, Skeet, Virgil, Winn, Serena, Aral and I just chilled. And sometimes that's the best.

Around midnight, 1 o'clock, I kick everybody out of the suite because I'm getting tired and Aral's about to fall over. Cairy and Skeet and I hang out in the hallway. The Hyatt is one of those deals where the center is hollow, so as we hung out we could see all the activities going on other levels. Saturday night is the night for room parties, and we could watch the ebb and flow of people in other suites.

I wondered where Winn got to, and knocked on his door right near us. Winn was sharing a room with Tony, Andrew, and Paula, so I wasn't surprised when someone else answered the door. Cairy and Skeet were mildly surprised that it was a naked Tony though. This didn't shock me. I manage to somehow run into a disrobed Tony about once a year. I should mention here that this wasn't even the second or third random naked person I had seen that weekend, nor would it be the last.

And really, now that I think of it, I'm going to quit writing about that night. It was a good night, and you can ask me what happened after that when you see me in person. It was pretty amusing. Paula and Susan were trashed and funny.

I realized that night that I know the best guys. I really do. I know all the best men ever. My standards for men are actually pretty high, and that's because Cairy, Skeet, Virgil, Tony, Andrew, Dustin and a few other men put the bar just that high. I feel bad for 80% of the men out there, because they'll just never be that good, that understanding, that smart, clever, or creative.

So Saturday was good. Nay, Saturday achieved a greatness that few other Saturdays could seek to replicate. I will be telling stories about Saturday for a long time to come.

Sunday less so.

I worked again, and I was over-tired at this point, because it was four days through the thing. And Aral left, and this bummed me out, and I had to leave our room because even having the discounted thing for two days was a stretch for me.

So Sunday night I got angry. But I also got some sleep, and a good long conversation with Virgil, which always straightens me out. Cairy, Skeet, and Virgil had an encounter with a thief. But that's their story to tell, not mine.

Monday I had to work the green room all day, and say goodbye to loads of people. And that's just not any fun. By Monday night when Dinan drove me home from the hotel - I was too tired to take the train - I felt like a record played too slowly, like, well, like I had been partying for 5 days straight. Because I had been partying for 5 days straight.

But it was the best, really. I know everyone didn't have as great a time as I did, but I think some people were trying to do too much.

Aral wants to do this again next year. I have no problem with that, no problem at all.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Why I'm so Angry all the time

Why I'm so Angry all the time

part one - the rant about lovers.

So I realized after DragonCon that I have this enormous well of anger inside of me. The four day party with my friends was fabulous. I have rarely had such a good time for four days straight - the partying, the hugs, the entertainment couldn't have been better.

But so what? I was still alone in a fucking sea of 30,000 people. Even when my friends gathered around me at my suite for a party - even when I was snuggled against Skeet (one of my oldest friends) while he patted my back and held me near, even then I felt incomplete. I am loved. I know this. Everyone gathers to me for parties, for road trips, for food and conversation. I work hard to be a good friend, I gather people I truly admire to me. Aral, after spending a few days with my friends, commented on how amazing they all are. I know this. I know I am lucky. I am constantly amazed at the quality of people who will put up with my ass.

But still -

It was late on Sunday evening when I crawled back to my own house for a night of sleep before the final day of the festival. In the dark, Virgil came and sat in a chair in the study to talk to me while I fitfully rolled in the guest bed, unable to relax after 3 solid days of overstimulation. Actually, 3 days of Dragon Con overstimulation and a week of Los Angeles before that, a week in a Beverly Hills wasteland working my ass off and missing everyone. I had then gorged on my friend's attentions and presence, and now I couldn't sleep. Virgil is ever the night owl, and we spoke softly as my roommate Dinan, and Serena, his love interest of five years, slept in neighboring rooms.

And we were speaking of Serena, who is beautiful and quiet and clearly adored by my oldest friend, despite some difficulties they have had over the years. And Virgil said:

The truth is, we are miserable without each other. I can't imagine life without her.

He spoke of the patience they have both had to learn. He talked about the rough times, and how tough they were, and how sometimes the toughest decision had turned out to be best.

And I said "I'm angry. I knew - deep down I knew years ago - that I would end up alone. Call it self- fulfilling or whatever, but I am angry. It shouldn't be like this. It wasn't supposed to be like this. And the decisions I've made have been good ones, and I've still ended up alone. And I'm beginning to realize how late it is, and I'm angry. It's not fair."

Do you want to kick your feet and whine too?

Yes. Yes I do. I got turned down by my lover Sunday night. We were supposed to have dinner and an evening, and he got busy and forgot, and then it was the third night of Con and there were more important things for him to do than me.

Which is reasonable. I have more important things to do than him, usually. Usually I am the one first out the door. Because, well, I can live without him. I'm not miserable without him. The definition of a lover is someone who is *not* your significant other. A lover is someone you sleep with and leave. There are no strings.

Having a lover sucks.

I've had other girls enviously ask me how I do it. How do I always seem to have someone that I just sleep with, that I don't have to put up with from day to day. They think, because they see these relationships from afar, that having a lover is a desirable thing. It's not.

The sex is good though. It's always really, really good, or decently passionate enough that you don't mind the fact that you're naked with someone you wouldn't date. Lovers are people that you keep out of town, that you wouldn't really hang out with, because if you're hanging out *and* sleeping together, then you're dating. You're just not saying that you're dating, and that's lying to yourself, and I'm against lying in general.

No, having a lover is having someone who can live without you, someone who has a million other more important things than you, but who enjoys sex as much as you do. And that's bad. My lover is not as important to me, as, say, getting a good hotel room for the Con. My lover is not more important than my friends. My lover also doesn't think I'm more important than a good party. I am not the first thing he thinks of in the morning. He doesn't call me when he sees something that makes him think of me, because he rarely thinks of me at all. And that's OK, because we're reciprocal in that. We're grown-ups, we're all above the table with this. We know what's on the up and up.

Meanwhile, the person I really can't live without - a guy I have easily cried over a dozen times over - can easily live without me.

And I know the best guys. Seriously. I have the best guy friends ever. None of them are up for involvement with me, and that's OK.

But it does make me angry. I'm the friend. I'll always be the friend. I'll always be throwing the party, and listening to the most amazing men tell me about how much they love other women. And I don't even get to sleep with the guys who love me as a friend when they happen to be single. Because my guy friends are so cool, they're far to gentlemanly to really take that big step that can often lead to awkwardness. No, I'm stuck with lovers. As the guy I love best said,

I love you, I'm just not in love with you.

I love my guy friends, but I don't get to be in love with anyone. I just get to sleep around. And other girls are jealous. Don't be. I sleep around because I'm still waiting for someone to tell me they can't imagine life without me. Meanwhile, I go to the best parties, I fly across the country to look at LA covered in lights, and I sleep in king size hotel beds alone most of the time.

And I'm angry a lot of the time about that.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

I know the best men, I have the best friends

6,666 hours left.

The party went on for five days.

Aral arrived Thursday afternoon. It was so good to see her, and she looked healthy and happy, if a little tired and ready for her vacation. We loafed around, enjoying each other’s company and eating Indian food. We caught up on things that we had been uncomfortable telling each other in the rare telephone conversations we manage once every other month. She admired my neighborhood and the greenness I know she misses in New England. I admired how brilliant she is, as always.

The phone calls from Nashville friends happened all at once about 11 pm. Skeet called in on Virgil’s phone from the 9th floor of the Hyatt. Tony and others called in from the 17th floor. I started giggling uncontrollably because I was so happy. The parties had started. The parties had started and everyone was ready to get going. But we were too tired and our room wouldn’t be ready until tomorrow, so I got everyone’s information for the next morning.

Virgil and his girlfriend Serena arrived at my house around midnight. We were all so excited to see each other that no one could sleep, and we sat around the dining room table strategizing the next day until well after 2 am so we could snatch 4 hours of sleep before we actually *did* leave to party.

I made a big breakfast to fortify us around 6:30, and we left the house at 8. Getting there at 9, it took us exactly an hour to pick up passes already paid for. I dropped by the room where Tony, Andrew, Winn and Paula were holed up, and the party started. That was Friday.

Aral and I fell down exhaustedly just after midnight, because we couldn’t take it anymore. We were told about parties we missed the next day. But passing out at midnight on Friday allowed us to be the only ones of my party crowd to wake up in time to see the big parade the next day. The parade rocked. It was so awesome to see everyone marching in the streets, the Cobra Commandos, the Wing Commander guys, the Storm Troopers. I love that. I love that there are a bunch of guys who started playing GI Joe 20 years ago and just never stopped. There is joy in the world.

I got to talk to the guy who writes Barry Ween. I got to talk to the guy who wrote Whiteout. I got to see the guys who now draw Wonder Woman, Batman, and a ton of my other favorites. I saw members of my favorite television show speak live, got to see them in a real-life context. And that is cool. Know why? Because they’re just people, man. The best thing about this type of event is that you get to see that Greg Rucka is just some guy who went out and just…did it. He just started writing, and just believed in himself, and he was good, and now he gets to write Wonder Woman. I read his stuff all the time. And he’s just some guy. Well, some really talented guy. It gives me hope. It lets me see who’s behind the stuff that I like so much, so that I understand it’s not some mystical process that puts comic books in my hand each month. It’s just a lot of people working very, very hard. And it helps me to remember to work really hard too.

But relaxing and having a throw-down party every once in a while is good too.

More on that day after tomorrow. So many things happened this weekend that it would be too long of a post to put it down all at once. So this is the first half. More on Thursday, I promise.

But just to flaunt – I got to see the DC/Vertigo/Wildstorm preview. It was really commercial, but also very cool. Yea me. More later, including the drink Virgil invented, working the green room, Godzilla, naked people, and the best men in the whole world. Later.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Boring LA

Looking for Los Angeles

Even though I was at a conference “in L.A.” all this week, it wasn’t until Friday night that I really ended up in L.A. But even then I wasn’t in Los Angeles; I was in Hollywood.

Friday night Jennifer Pelose (whom I worked with in Boston) gwSarah (whom I met by chance at the conference) and I all ended up down on Hollywood Boulevard.. We walked around Mann’s Chinese Theater, El Capitan Theater, and discovered quite by accident that the mall we wandered into was actually attached to the Kodak Theater where the Oscars are held now. It was really odd; there were giant plaster elephants on top of the mall whose main court was an open air semi-circle. I understood it though; the builders were using the same type of plan used in Stratford-on-Avon, but all the symbology was very Hollywood, giant props and odd faux-Egyptian motifs. Underneath the giant props in this awesome design space, a pretty bad theme-park style show was conducted in center court. Dry ice smoke wafted out while giant screens cast clips from famous Hollywood moments. Beneath the screens, Rocky-Horror style, a few costumed performers went through the motions of unintentionally mocking the very industry the building raised up to honor.

Jennifer took pictures of us with famous footprints and pink cement stars. The stars are set into the sidewalk all the way down Hollywood boulevard. If my picture with Ray Harryhausen’s sidewalk star doesn’t come out, I’ll be really bummed. The footprints in cement are in front of the Chinese theater. The footprints and handprints really surprised me. They have a big impact on you when you see them. It’s irresistible to put your feet where Jimmy Stewart’s were, and impossible not to feel affected when you do so. I found myself fascinated by C3PO’s small steps, amazed at how many women sunk stiletto heels in, making their actual foot size impossible to gauge. Shirley Temple’s tiny marks made me feel bad, realizing how small a child she must have been, wondering if she was ever frightened by the crush of people here, and all the popping lights.

The best part of Hollywood boulevard for me was simply that it was crowded and full of odd people. I spent most of the week in Beverly Hills, at a famous old hotel that was quite nice but far too distant from anywhere I wanted to be. Tuesday night gwSarah and I walked in after a day of conferencing on digital archives to find the very real red carpet rolled out, because a benefit for St. Jude’s was being held under our noses. We found out later television stars had been in attendance, but we were too wiped out to even care. We spent the evening with Jessica, a computer program designer, eating dinner beside a swimming pool where Esther Williams once swam in all her glory. We ate at the hotel because our other dinner option would have been a restaurant on Rodeo Drive, and after only two nights of Rodeo, we were all done with it. None of us went into this field for the money, and so we were sort of stranded in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the wealthiest nation in the world. Beverly Hills is not L.A.

Wednesday night I went to Melrose to shop, and gave up after much searching. The clothes were the best I’d ever seen in my life, but while they were no where near Rodeo Drive prices, they were still far beyond my reach. Not to mention that none of them would fit anyway, because I’m 6 goddamn feet tall. I don’t know why I occasionally forget that. Melrose is exceedingly long and there are few buildings more than 2 stories tall. I did get a charge out of seeing the West Coast design building, which looks as if it were built out of blue and green legos.

I ended up at a really good comic bookstore there, ‘The Golden Apple’. I was impressed. But I didn’t feel like I was really in L.A. The night was warm and there were plastic chairs outside of the comic book store, so I sat while I waited for a cab back to the hotel. I had to wait for a cab, because when I waved at taxi drivers to hail them, they either waved back or simply made a telephone gesture with their hands. Since I was in a fairly hip retail district, there were a few people out on the warm night. But for the most part the wide white sidewalks were vacant, or home to people who only walked a few yards to their shiny expensive cars. Nice cars are evidently very important in LA. Perhaps that’s why the cab I called never showed, but eventually I did manage to flag down one of the cab drivers, who I can only assume hadn’t been in LA long enough to know that taxi hailing is simply not done on Melrose.

I never saw a public housing project while I was “in LA”. I was actually in Beverly Hills, and while this was very nice in some ways, in other ways it was everything I dislike in the world: it was difficult to navigate, everything was ridiculously spaced out, and all of it was horribly expensive. I was outside of the city, not in it. I was in Century City. Avoid Century City.

But the best part of the trip was my night at the Getty museum. Which you can read about here later this week. It was one of those nights I’ll never forget. But really, I’m too tired out to write about it just now.