Secret Pop

Aug 27, 2003

Walker, Texas Ranger as Passive Aggressive Customer Service Revenge Tactic

My cable box has been acting up. It's not the first time. There's no program information in it. When you go to the guide, it just says, "To Be Announced," over and over again. So, I never know if I'm actually watching Columbo. Very unnerving.

Last time this happened, I waited a few days and then called for service. They brought me a new box. Now, it's happening again. So, I called and asked them to hit the box with a signal -- like they do -- and the guy at the tech service desk told me to turn the box to a cable station like channel 8. So, I turned it to channel 8, which happens to be the USA Network. Then, he sent the signal and explained what was going to happen. That is to say, he explained that I would have to leave the cable box on that station for twenty or thirty minutes until the guide data reset itself. And now I'm stuck for the next half hour with Walker, Texas Ranger playing. In my imagination, I'm writhing on the floor, clutching a fatal bullet wound, croaking out the defeated words, "Ya GOT me!"

Aug 26, 2003

Wherever you don't happen to look

I sometimes forget that you can get surprise glimpses into other people's lives when you go out and walk around at night. With their windows open to the summer night air and the drapes pulled back, you can see your neighbors busying themselves with their evenings, and it feels secret and wonderful and you like them more than you normally would. Like when you look at a child while he sleeps. No matter what a terror he is in the waking hours, you can't help but coo over him when he sleeps.

So, tonight, I was taking my temporary doggy for a walk, and I saw one of my neighbors playing the cello next to a grand piano in the portrait window of a very grand house that I don't think I'd ever noticed before. He had art on the richly-colored walls and a handsome fireplace and soft, warm lighting. One of the upstairs rooms was painted a deep green. The lights were on. I wondered what happens in that room. It looked like a nice place to read.

For a moment, I thought about what I would say if I bumped into him during the day. I might say that I play the violin and noticed him playing his cello, but then what? It's a peculiar triumph you feel when you realize you have something in common with someone. It's like a bit of armor. Something to protect against the sharp edges of awkwardness and estrangement. It's why my mom makes friends with people just because they are Chinese. They've got that in common. Who they voted for isn't important. Besides which, my mother doesn't vote. Shame on her.

So, I live on the same street as this fellow. And we both play stringed instruments. And we both walk upright and many other things. But the chance that we will ever be friends? Slim, I suppose. I only saw him in profile. I don't know that I would even recognize him on the streets. Unless he was carrying his cello. And wasn't also Yo-Yo Ma.

New menu. No new choices.

My brain has gotten all muddy. Cramped with concern. Swelling with urgency. Dull with pragmatism. Percolating with ambition and the split rays of unfocused desire. I even forget sometimes to look forward to the things I never fail to enjoy. I forget to grasp onto the enduring hope that tonight is the night I get to see a good friend and a favorite performer, thinking instead of all the plates I'm failing to keep spinning and also dreading the Baked Honey Chicken. It's sickeningly easy to sour the milk of optimism. And not in any sort of delicious cheese or sour cream sort of way.

I cut my finger badly yesterday. Not on one of my new knives. Rather on one of my old knives that had to be put away to make room for the new knives and their gargantuan housing. As knife blocks go, this one is a mansion. These knives live in splendor. But the other displaced knives, banished to live out the remainder of their rust-attracting existences in the jangly bottom of a drawer that jerks when you try to open it, had their revenge on me last night. I was having trouble getting the drawer open, and I realized that my very fancy cheese grating device had lodged itself in such a way as to block the drawer from opening but a fraction of the way. I thrust my hand in to shove the other gadgets and utensils aside, pressing with great force against the exposed blade of a knife I once wielded. And it was sharp enough to cause me great harm and to make me wonder if the knives I now have are really so superior. (Trust me: they are. I had to slice tomatoes later in the evening and my faith was restored -- it was like magic!) I hurried to the bathroom to plaster an Anakin Skywalker as Pod Racer bandage (they were on sale a long time ago) on my bird finger, dripping blood all over the sink and delaying the completion of my Indian dinner preparation. I'm fine now. But my finger is sore. And Lenny Bruce is dead.

I'm looking after a friend's dog this week. She's lovely and affectionate and awfully nice to have around. She's dozing in the living room with Ghost World on the television. She's a canny one, that Cosette. Also, I heard Ghost World being promoted on a pay channel today. They were giving the evening line-up and announced it as a "dark comedy," and I found myself in disagreement. But before I began investing time and effort fashioning a cogent refutation, I remembered that labels are crap and seldom informative and summing anything up as the actual category into which you can best chuck it is lazy and dismissable. And maybe I'm more keyed up on the topic because of recent arguments stemming from the use of words like "conservative" and "liberal" and "right-wing" and "hot," but I'm entitled to prickle at the sound of our language as much as the next guy. I also do not read the TV Guide.

Aug 22, 2003

If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow, why oh why can't I?

I was watching a program about Judy Garland yesterday on Turner Classic Movies. And, while I have always enjoyed her performances and admired her talents, this time, I learned something crucial about myself. A cameraman was talking about when they were shooting Summer Stock, and how, after shooting had ended, Judy went off to lose weight, but they hadn't shot her big Get Happy number yet. So, she came back after two weeks and had lost twenty pounds and looked fabulous. Because of this, I learned that I am shallow and obsessed with weight loss, because all I could think about after I heard that was how she managed to lose twenty pounds in two weeks. What's wrong with our society? Me, that's what.

Aug 21, 2003

Neverending Blue

I started writing something yesterday, but I never finished. Now, I've lost it. That is my least favorite thing.

I wrote this on July 30 at 9:57 P.M.:

"I just found something on my hand and tasted it to see what it was. When did I become someone who indiscriminately ingests substances I find on my skin? It was A1 sauce."

I let things pile up in my office. Stacks and stacks of things sit there undisturbed. In some future excavation, the disctinct strata may reveal to scientists and diggers much about me and who I was at those times. It's disconcerting.

Sometimes, I'm looking for stamps or something I know I saved, and I come across words I scribbled on the envelope my insurance bill came in. Or I see a phone number I keep losing. Or a magazine I never finished reading. I'm just a mess of distraction. And I need more drawers.

I watched Bowling for Columbine last night, at long last.

Aug 16, 2003

I enjoy voting.

There was an amusing bit in the West Coast edition of the New York Times this morning. I was sipping iced black tea at Starbuck's and laughed bubbles into my drink when I read how a campaigning Bill Simon introduced himself to a patron outside an In n' Out Burger, saying, "Hi, I'm Bill Simon, and I'm running for governor." To which the patron replied, something to the effect of, "Me, too." And then he asked his companion, "What about you, Jim? You running for governor?" And Jim said, "Sure, I am."

Sure, part of me felt sorry for Bill Simon, perhaps the only legitimate name that would be on the would-be ballot. And part of me felt sorry for me, being resident of a state that occasionally makes such a laughing stock of itself. And part of me felt sorry for the people who argue that this is a great idea and applaud the power of the people. (What a bunch of maroons.) But mostly, I just thought how much I will savor my jaunt to the ballot box, where I will receive my keen "I voted!" sticker and promptly affix it to my outerwear. No one likes voting more than Mary Forrest. You can take that to the bank and inform the clerks of it.

Aug 15, 2003

"Under the spreading chestnut tree, the village smithy stands."

I have a little calendar on my desk . It promotes the character Sof'Boy™ and has little calendar pages that you tear away each month. A few of the other months' pages are strewn willy-nilly across my desk. There's June. A glimpse of May. Remember April? What a mystery, the passage of time. I almost wish we would not mark it as we do. Sometimes the fact of it is nearly overwhelming.

Someone has watched me grow up over the years. Someone else has watched me remain the same. It depends on the casting of the chance encounter. "I can't believe you're all grown up!" Or it might be, "You haven't changed a bit!" Or, "Wow. You turned into a WOMAN." I suppose as we get older, maybe we are comforted when someone says we haven't changed. I, for one, can't stand it. I'm not asking anyone to take a set of calipers to my crows' feet, but I think I've changed a great deal, thanks very much. Physically, spiritually, every which way. And one can't deny the accelerated aging I've been subjected to at the cacophonous hand of my upstairs neighbor. That's hardly my fault. You should hear him right now. If I could sneak up behind him and chop off his head, I would.

I do see pictures of myself from time to time and marvel at how old I look. Or how young. I realize so much of it is the product of the flash. Photography can be your enemy and your friend. Just try and keep your head in a position that discourages the appearance of a double chin or puffy eyes. That's what the movie stars do. And for god's sake, suck it in.

Sometimes, I can see dewy skin and girlish freckles. Sometimes I see a sallow complexion with visible sun damage. Don't take any cues from me, America. My self-image is all flake. I hope your confidence is rooted in something less mercurial.

I can't recite much poetry. And much of what I can I learned from the cinema.

The smith, a mighty man is he, with large and sinewy hands.

Aug 14, 2003

the tinkle of ice in an advancing cocktail

Summer makes victims of us all. The heat. The late dusks. The rush to wear one's whites. The impending end of it. The fear of the lamenting that begins when you've failed to squeeze that last breath from the season. Failed to have that last poolside barnburner. Failed to get your bikini body out of the mothballs. Failed to quit smoking. Failed to reinvent yourself. Failed to move. Failed to remain still. Oh, but for another shot at that last big hurrah.

That's not me, I'm afraid. My years have ceased to mark themselves with the borders of academia. Each month is just another month. I measure my happiness. Take stock of my shortcomings. Remember what this month was like for me in its most recent iteration. Or the one before that. Summers often manage to slip by me unnoticed. But for the change in my wardrobe, one might never know I was paying attention.

No, I would never wish for an endless summer. I do not do well in the heat.

Yes, but at least it s a hot heat.

Aug 7, 2003

More of the Truth

This is something I don't like people to know. I have picked up a habit that perhaps comes from the poverty of my early twenties or possibly from growing up in a cash-conscious home. Whatever the progeny, its manifest has been the propensity to consider eating food that is spoiled and should be thrown away. I do this all the time. I hate to waste, but I always cook too much. or I bring home leftovers and then kick myself for letting them spoil before eating them. I remember when my parents' house burned down, things were quite tumultuous, but just before the fire, we had gone out for a birthday dinner for me and I had brought home most of a gigantic piece of prime rib. But with all the running around and tending to things the post-fire time required, I hadn't gotten to eating it. And when I opened the styrofoam container and found the pink, spotty, slimy evidence of spoilage, I distinctly recall thinking, "Well, maybe this part over here is still good." It's really horrible. I'm terribly ashamed of it. To my credit, I seldom actually eat the rotten stuff. I just feel bad about throwing it away. And on the occasions when I've given spoiled food a try but found that it was vile and garbagey-tasting, I have promptly spat it out. I promise. I never serve old food to my guests. This is a standard of mine. But nothing seems to be too old or too dried up or too withered for me to consider making a sandwich out of it. Even if that sandwich occurs between bread slices that have had to have their moldy bits excised with careful fingers. I won't blame you for finally deciding I'm a freakshow and not to be trusted. But this is the nature of confession. Perhaps some out there will find my honesty endearing.

Aug 6, 2003

You're never thinner than when you've just thrown up.

I am in the mood to rid myself of things. Or to replace things. Or to acquire things. Any of these at any given moment. I can't make up my mind.

Aug 5, 2003

"I did not come here to be devoured by symbols of monarchy!"

I have errands to run and no time to run them. Blast!

But I can sing the praises of having Casino Royale playing in the background while one is getting dressed. Try that the next time your cable goes out. You'll be walking a mile in my shoes at long last.

Aug 4, 2003

Epilogue to what preceded this

I was reading in bed shortly after writing my last entry when I saw a moth flitting about. I kept still for a minute or two until it flew within reach, and then I snatched it out of the air with my bare hands and crushed it good and dead. I felt very Chinese at that moment. And by that, I do mean superior.


For nearly all of the weekend, the sultry Southland pall was on me in a thoroughly clammy way. Along with the scent of sunshine and the desire for a swim -- whatever that smells like.

I eat things that appall some people, and I've grown comfortable with that fact. I don't read off my dream menu just for inherent shock value; in fact, I am more often inclined to keep my whims to myself except in the company of very close friends who are less likely to make a face and then an exit. But even my own sister thinks I should take my culinary cues from Fear Factor. When she was visiting earlier in the week, we caught the last half of Hannibal, whose gore appeals to her. And I thought (tacitly) that that bit of pan-seared brain was probably delicious. Truth.

I am a bit of a broken record when a dog is on the scene. I have to exclaim, "Doggy!" or sing praise-filled songs of its cuteness. Even I don't find this amusing anymore.

I can be a bit manic about bugs. If I see one flying around in my apartment, I usually embark on a quest to either end its days with an artful whack of a bit of junk mail or chase it out a window that I can close before it knows what's in the works. And I have been known to utter taunting words of triumph when either of these finally occurs. I have traced the origins of this behavior to the Great Fly Infestation of 1994, a story I will save for another day.

I don't sleep as well or as often as statistics suggest that I should.