Secret Pop

Sep 14, 2006

Severance of the Link Between Affluence and Good Behavior

I was walking back to my car after a visit to the gym this afternoon, and I nearly placed my walking foot down upon a used Winnie the Pooh diaper discarded haphazardly beside my driver's side door. My assumption is that these Winnie the Pooh diapers cost more than your average disposable diaper, and they certainly cost more than cloth diapers, which is what I assume poor people and environmentalists use. So I concluded that the person who left this obscene parcel beside my door has the money to spend on fancy diapers and also appears to have the money to operate a vehicle in these pricey times. Conclusion: They're rich. And yet they haven't been raised to participate in the longstanding social contract to not leave your or your family's evacuations in a public parking lot where fitness enthusiasts and fans of submarine sandwiches might be too trusting to look down and might accidentally tread on them. This proves my just-formed theory that being wealthy doesn't make you polite.

Nor does being fat and/or a fitness enthusiast, apparently. I concluded this only moments before the almost-diaper-stepping-on incident, because I had gone into a store to buy mineral water and other sundries. And there was only one checkstand open, and there was a loaded cart in the aisle but no person attached to it. The cashier was about to move it out of the way when the guy came back and said he had to get just one more thing, and she tried to protest, but he was too busy yammering into his phone in another language. So I'm right behind him, and a big fat lady is behind me. And she's wearing gym clothes, just like I am, so I assume she's just come from the gym, just like I have. Unless it's just a workout for her to get from the car to the store. So another checkstand opens, and the cashier says she can help the lady behind me, and I totally make eye contact with her and expect her to say, "She's next." But she doesn't. She just begins shifting her weight and her cart towards the other aisle. So I say, "I was next." And the fat lady looks at me again. And smiles. And keeps going. And she completes her transaction and leaves the store before I've even gotten to unload my purchases, because the phone guy is very busy and can't seem to decide which of the fifty credit cards in his wallet to use. I hate that. I hate it when you are relying on the decency of another person to prevent your having to stand up for yourself and justice. Had our roles been reversed and I had been the one behind her in line (but not necessarily so fat or unattractive), I would absolutely have insisted that she go before me. And not because I want an award. I just can't bear to look someone in the eye and have us both know that one of us is a shithead, and it's me.

The upside of this story is that the cashier appears to have been flustered by all of this, too, because she only charged me for one of the cases of Pellegrino in my cart. Hooray, free sixteen dollars worth of water! And also, hooray, impromptu social experiment. If I am ever rich or very fat, I will probably not discard soiled diapers or piggishly assume someone else's rightful place in line. But I have a feeling my behavior won't be enough to be statistically significant.

Sep 11, 2006

Memory Lane is not aptly named.

In my case, "Lane" carries too much of an air of quaintness and small-towny quiet. Memory Lane is a street in which kids can play ball without worrying for being run over. I guess because any cars that venture down that apple tree-lined stretch require a hand crank to start and may be delivering blocks of much-needed ice. Where my memories reside, there are four full lanes, a double yellow line (not for crossing), and room enough along the curbs to park and or ride a bicycle. And not one of those bicycles with the one really large wheel. Memory Lane, for me, is huge and heavily trafficked, and I've received many citations there, both for cruising and for loitering.

I am staying at my little sister's home in San Diego. She and her boyfriend recently moved into a very nice place in Carmel Mountain Ranch. I used to live in an apartment nearby, so this visit is filled with familiarity, right down to the smell of a September morning. It's cool out. The grass and shrubs are covered in beads of dew. In the shade, it feels like autumn. And in the sun it feels like spring.

I used to live here. I used to go running just down the road. I used to smell jasmine and eucalyptus in the shade, and I used to like it when the mist from the sprinklers caught me in the face. I used to wake up earlier than I intended and wonder how the days would go. I used to manufacture reasons to do just about anything for fear of sitting still.

Five years ago, when September 11 didn't yet have a name of its own, the air was a lot like this. The sun a lot like this. I fully believe in global warming, but you can't always feel climate change from one year to the next. It seems like this morning is just like the other September mornings that found me awake very early and heavy with the looking back. That was the last September 11 I lived in this city and in this neighborhood. Every subsequent anniversary, I have been elsewhere, except for one when I was here, but in the capacity of a visitor. I even went to a baseball game that time. And the Padres even won.

This is always the time of year I stumble back into old messes. There are milestones on previous calendar pages. Proximal moments with like elements. The spans between them converging as the point of looking back grows further from them and the idea of a beginning loses its meaning. I have always felt this way. I have never felt this way. I am assuming a brand of feeling that may never have been. Mostly, I just know that there are times when I have been unhappy and there are times when I have been reluctant to admit that I was not unhappy, and neither of them felt as foreign as the times when I was sure everything was wonderful, and unhappy was only worth understanding for the sake of its antonym.

Saturday night, I noticed people wearing sweaters, and I was thrilled. I celebrate the return of fall weather. And all the melancholy it brings. I have needed a break from the heat.


Nothing is awful. Nor is anything awesome.

After a week of sequestration and a night of mistrust, I drove to San Diego this morning to spend some time with my family. It was very family-ish and good. My dad gave me sincere hugs and said he loved me, and he smelled very nice like he always does. Beulah showed me the slide show she made in memory of Tasha, and we cried together over it. Sarah and Beulah and I went swimming, and Audrey came with us, and everyone delighted in what a funny little goofball she is. Especially when riding around on a kickboard. I experimented with my Canon 30D and took extraordinary pleasure in selective focus. And my mom seemed delighted to have her three girls all together in the same room. She taught us to make jiaozi (I'm pretty sure Sarah already knew how). And she congratulated us when the dumplings were pretty and Chinese-looking. And she clucked gently when they weren't. When we ate them, Beulah was in charge of the background music, and she decided to play a lot of Beach Boys songs. Somehow, the topic of my historically non-working digestive system came up. While we were eating. And Beulah delighted in making fun of me by replacing Beach Boys lyrics with words about poop wherever possible. I helped. I'm a good sport, and I know a lot of words. But I couldn't help but wonder why it's okay for us to talk about this at the dinner table when no one in the family seems to be able to stand a photograph of me with my dog's tongue touching my mouth. My mom also minds a great deal when I tease her about her garage sale and estate sale "findings." She showed me an impressive lambswool rug she bought for five dollars, and I said, "Someone probably died on it." And she boiled our handmade jiaozi tonight in a really huge Calphalon pot she got for forty dollars. I said, "I'll bet some old people used to boil their dentures in it. And they're dead now." Those little japes really get under her skin. But sing a Beach Boys song with the bass line replaced with repetition of the word "bowel," and I guess you're fine. Maybe she would have minded if company had been there. Or maybe she was just riding out the high of having been proud of us. I think it really meant something to her that her three daughters were helping her make dumplings. I heard her announcing it to her sister-in-law on the telephone as we were finishing up. And she mentioned wanting to make a tradition of this. I'm for it. I love jiaozi. And I love knowing how to make those perky little dumplings with my own two hands.

Sep 7, 2006

Blurring the Line

I swear when I heard about Hollywoodland, I assumed it was a made-for-TV feature. Maybe the director called in a favor from Adrien Brody. And maybe Diane Lane was being blackmailed (although Must Love Dogs was so bad, she should have had to give her Oscar back). Because Ben Affleck can't possibly be big screen material anymore, unless Kevin Smith is involved -- and Kevin Smith has a way of making the big screen much, much smaller. Even when I heard the director talking about the movie on NPR the other day, it never clicked with me that it was going to be released in the cinema. It wasn't until yesterday, when I saw a commercial for the movie that ended with its release date that it all sunk in.

That's not to say that a TV feature is anything to be ashamed of anymore. There was a time when stars making the jump to the television was a real sign of the decline of a career. But these days, I guess there's big money to be made on the small screen, too. A guest spot on a series isn't considered slumming like it used to be. Law & Order isn't The Love Boat. Or Columbo, for that matter. I know. You can't really tell which way I meant that last comparison to go. That's fine.

Anyway, I can't imagine that Hollywoodland ought to be bothered with. I'm not saying you were going to bother. My money's on The Covenant taking the pot this weekend. And when I say "my money," I don't mean the money I would spend at the theater, because I have no intention of seeing either of those movies. Ever.

Sep 6, 2006

On Process

I have long since realized that the amount of meticulous and painstaking attention I pay to the work I do goes largely unappreciated. I know it. I'm not saying I deserve any special reward. I just know that people don't generally see the quality in good work, whereas they are very quick to notice when the work is poor. I mean, if you only knew how much time I spend processing my digital photos before posting them, just so you have something to put on your MySpace profile. The project I am working on has been periodically taking over my life. This most recent bout had me sitting on my couch for days on end, napping an hour at a time once or twice a day when I couldn't focus my eyes, and missing out on everything. At the moment, I have been working for twenty-two hours straight. No naps for me today. And no bank errands. And no gym visits. And no dinner with friends or improv shows or bar time. No dinner at all, actually. I took a shower while my postscript file was processing about fifteen minutes ago. That is the first luxury I have allowed myself. And it was well-deserved.

My employers, my clients, my friends -- I don't think anyone really sees how I work. And I'm not saying I do anything spectacular. I just think people don't know how much extra leg work I will do if allowed to. With this current project, I've spent six hours straight just sourcing stock photography. Or two hours today trying to find a title font I was happy with. And then it's clicking on every single object and making sure their x and y values are JUST RIGHT. And then doing it again. And then outputting postscript files and deciding half way through to go ahead and look up the photo credits on the stock images so they can be listed with the copyright information.

So the prickly part is whether or not any of this extra attention to detail is actually worth it. I know my previous employers have never really rewarded me for the countless sleepless nights I've worked, unwilling to let an HTML document or a design piece or a sheet of copy or a PowerPoint presentation go out with an inconsistent use of tags or a comma in the wrong place. It's entirely possible they didn't believe I worked those hours. Maybe they assumed I set an alarm so I could wake up at four a.m. and email them with my questions. I don't think I have the face of a liar, but what do I know.

The sun's coming up now, and I notice it. And I wish I didn't know it was going to be too hot to sleep in three hours.

This has been a complete waste of your time.

Sep 3, 2006

Figuratively speaking, Congressman Darrell Issa can suck my dick.

I am watching a re-airing of Real Time with Bill Maher -- which has fallen into considerably less favor with me since host Bill Maher buried his, shall we say, opinion in Ann Coulter -- and Darrell Issa is so irrevocably full of shit, it makes me want to push him in front of a bus.

But this brings me to another point. It really irritates me when people have so little imagination that my saying that someone or something can suck my dick prompts them to ask me if I have one. I always answer that question with a yes, and I usually leave it at that. But, please, people. When I went to see The Lost World: Jurassic Park 2 with friends at the cinema and the end credits began to roll, one of the boys in my party said, "The Lost World: Jurassic Park 2 can suck my cock." And no one asked him if he had one. But I'm also going to wager that no one thought he really hoped for a blow job from that movie. It's a movie. It can't give him a blow job. People seem to be fine with that. So it's a figurative expression. And yet when I use it, the figurative nature of the expression goes out the window.

Gender skews the meaning of a lot of things. So much so that you can't replace certain phrases strictly by shuffling their gender meaning, because their effectiveness is completely affected. If I were to replace "suck my dick" with the equivalent that would be correct for my gender, it would hardly carry the same weight. In fact, I would guess people might think I have a thing for Darrell Issa and want him to come over late night. I don't.

I also think I may be giving up on Bill Maher. The comedy bits aren't that funny. The guests aren't that good. And I'm not entirely sure I know where Bill stands on topics outside of the importance of pretending to be a guy with any amount of sex appeal whatever. I used to really enjoy the show. I don't know. Maybe it's just the war. I've grown weary of so many programs because of how tired I am of hearing the same messages, the same arguments, the same shallow pin-pricking at the surface of what really matters. My friend Adam sent me a sound clip of President Bush admitting in no uncertain terms that there was no connection between Irag and 9/11, despite years now of subtly and insidiously encouraging Americans to come to the opposite conclusion. I believe the pull quote is Bush saying, "Nobody's ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq." And my response to Adam was, Why don't we ever see any backlash when these things shake out? The most I expect to hear is a wry mention of it on The Daily Show. If anything. I'm just so tired of everyone shrugging it all off. The news that we were lied to provokes maybe a shrug and a, "Meh. What do you expect? It's the government. They also screw me on parking tickets constantly. Assholes." Remember when there was all this passion in the debate? Passion that was squelched in me by too many years of unsubstantiated neener-neeners from Republican acquaintances who don't read the newspapers but care very much about paying less in taxes.

But maybe I'm just as tired of arguing as everyone else. I'm assuming it's now just taken for granted that our next president will not be a Republican, unless it's a Republican who completely takes this administration to task on the campaign trail. I'm so disillusioned that that scares me, too. I'm thinking, Come on, Democrats. Don't get lazy. We have no laurels to rest on. The electorate is not energized. There are no more unicorns on the Beltway. All is surely lost.

What a downer.

Anyway, Congressman Darrell Issa can suck my dick.