Gone Fishing...

...minus the fishing part. (though writing is a lot like fishing. you throw out a line and see what bites.)

Be back in a week or so with a bit of a tan and a bounce in my step. Cheers...


On Pause:
Where the Physical and the Mental Sip Tea

I’m on pause, that place of immobility where even attempts at action result in pause, such as repeatedly hitting the play button on the DVD remote that offers no result unless you count ‘staying as is’ as a result, the unacknowledged and much maligned result that if properly examined is as much of a result as any.

Got that? Reach for tea. Sip. Continue.

I battle pause due to my overdeveloped relationship with forward. Forward is my buddy. We toast often, glancing back over our shoulders at where we’ve been. In our religion, we pray to next. ‘As is’ is tough for pause skeptics. Believers try to tell us of its value, and we smirk saying, “I don’t want to simply live like a dog and accept,” even though of course we would. We just don’t know how.

I think of treadmills. Inconsequentially. The moving and unmovingness of those wannabe sidewalks make me smile and that is a tiny departure from pause, kind of like one frame forward on the DVD. Undetectable progress, perhaps, but progress nonetheless.

Smiling is good. Smiling beats its opponent.

The paddy wagon knocks at my door, but I say I’m busy learning about pause, so I can’t come to the door right now. Have you ever seen a paddy wagon? They move in a staccato kind of way as if they haven’t caught on to 24fps. Those of you in video world should insert 30fps thinking, but I’m old school and I think in film. We are a dying breed, I am warned, as if I didn’t know that, as if I thought forever lived in my DNA. Well, maybe it does. In my DNA. But in this case that indicates that my DNA isn’t really me because while my DNA can live forever, I cannot. I am a dying breed. Just ask anyone who still develops film. And if you find that kind of logic circular, I invite you to join me on the treadmill where circularity is welcome and appreciated.

Pause is interesting, I say to Forward as my tea reaches a comfortable temperature. Forward replies that pause looks a lot like insanity.

Bah humbug, I retort because no one likes a killjoy.

The tenor of this discussion indicates a need for vacation, a change of scenery, which some would interpret as challenging pause to a duel. While I’m not a fighter, ‘duel’ has an appealing romantic quality to it, so I nod, and say, “Yes, yes. That is what must be done.” Pause, I take you on.

In other words, I’m going on vacation. Sort of. A writing vacation in the company of others who wield pens. Far, far away where palm trees sway and I will learn the hula. If you think all of this has been crazy, picture me doing the hula. If that image doesn’t scare you, you’re not properly informed.


Fringe People

You know fringe people. We glide amongst you down city streets. We drink coffee nearby as you pour through notes and scratch out reminders preparing for your next engagement. You laugh joyously with a friend as she details last night’s misadventure, and we watch. We see the sad child-eyes when a parent gets too angry. The dog running off-leash, he is in our visual care.

Some seek the comfort of being enfolded while fringe people need to reside in the outer position, a place that allows the freedom to flee at the first hint of danger. You invite us to join, and we accept, yet even when there we observe.

We play with our duality, the ability to participate and watch at the same time. Inside and outside simultaneously, we try to explain. You smile and nod but aren’t certain you understand. And we know this.

When others say they struggle to be alone with themselves it is our turn with confusion, for intimacy with our thoughts is what we know as home. Sometimes we feel guilt for our place on the fringe, as if we’re defying the biological imperative to bond. And then we ease into our thoughts and recognize our hard wiring as our imperative. With an inhale and an exhale we accept.


The Wild West

New street-side accoutrements are popping up in my adjoining neighborhoods, and I’m certain I’m witnessing the birth of a cultural revolution. I’ll call it ‘Governance by Guilt.’ Children raised in certain households will recognize the method.

Our cars are outfitted with accurate, visibly placed speedometers, yet on my daily commute I now am greeted by large monitors that display the speed of approaching cars on a screen directly below the speed limit. Most of us knowingly speed, so confronting us with our transgression is hardly illuminating. On the other hand, the public shaming aspect of this tactic is highly effective. I can’t help myself. As I see the device looming in the distance, I slow down, an involuntary reaction to ward off criticism.

Those monitoring our streets are onto something. We will start driving slower, at least when facing these signs. We may not actually ever drop so low as to hit the speed limit, but each one of us will determine our own acceptable level of disobedience and tack that number onto the legal maximum. After all, this is already fairly common psychology amongst freeway drivers. Take a poll. Most believe that driving 5 mph over the speed limit on freeways isn’t even speeding. “You can’t get a ticket for that,” these drivers will say. I dare not counter, “Of course you can,” because that is not a welcome response. Furthermore, no one ever goes just 5 mph over the speed limit anymore. That’s so 1970s.

In Los Angeles, we’ve basically adopted the attitude that you can drive as fast as traffic will allow because it is such a rarity to see a clear street that when we do we feel as if we’ve landed on open course day at the race track and just let it rip. (Please note, around schools such behavior is frowned upon even by the most diehard of traffic whiners.)

What I find most disconcerting about this trend is that drivers will actually begin to drive more slowly and then traffic will back up even worse in LA. We just don’t need that. Road rage will peak, and we will be in the news for all kinds of bizarre incidents.

What I’d really like to know is why the 30 mph limit is so widespread. Have you ever tried driving 30 mph? It feels like you aren’t moving. The close second is 35 mph, which I just consider a typo. 40 is more like it, but when we encounter 45 mph, we begin to see the word ‘reasonable’ instead of numbers. Unless of course, it’s on a freeway ramp, in which case we tell ourselves, “I can easily take that turn at 60.”

Despite my discomfort with these devices, the most laudatory aspect is that they’re solar powered. It’s amazing how a city can innovate when motivated. In the spirit of forward thinking, I think my city should mandate solar powered contraptions everywhere. Hanging off buildings, powering streetlights, running the gas pumps at gas stations. Wouldn’t that be a nudge to the energy industry?

In the meantime, I’m off to reset our alarm clocks. Due to the trickledown effect, if I’m going to start driving the speed limit, it’s going to require my leaving home earlier in the morning. It was one thing to begin daylight savings sooner this year, but forcing me to drive slowly and wake up even earlier? I just don’t know how much change a person can take.


Relativity: the Exhale

[a tidbit on the heels of Relativity, which is required reading for this to mean a thing...]

she disappeared through the door, he reached for the paper napkin that she’d delicately placed against her lips, and drew it to his nose to see if any scent of her remained. All he smelled was aroma-of-brown-napkin, the distinct scent that indicated a bypassing of the crucial bleaching phase towards purity.

“Or impurity,” his mind interjected. “Bleach is hardly pure.”

He shook his head to shut up his dissenting thoughts, and reached into his coat pocket for a pen. And upon the napkin that had touched his lover’s lips, he started making a list of the pros and cons of their relationship.

She, on the other hand, required no list for guidance. As she exited the coffee house, their life together receded into the background as her eyes focused on the path ahead. Without hesitation she moved forward through determined pedestrians as if part of a virtual reality game, leaning left, leaning right in order not to collide with the fast walkers. Each time she succeeded with minimal sideways momentum, she gave herself a point. By the time she reached the end of the block, she’d scored eleven to the pedestrians’ three.

“Not bad,” she thought. But when she saw the empty bench before her, she crumbled onto it. She thought of starting over and how people turned to newspaper want ads, to page after page of desires and needs. She moaned. She wasn’t organized enough to condense her wishes into a single concise ad.


My Concern is Your Concern

Dear Sitemeter,

I am worried about you, which is kind of a way of saying I’m worried about myself. And no, not all of my relationships are thus structured, but I think you can handle my honesty because we have never pretended that ours is a two-way relationship.

You have refused to share stats with me for three days. I tried emailing your master to determine if you were ill, but I received no response. Either your master is off at a prolonged happy hour, you are truly ailing and master is thus preoccupied, or as a non-paying customer I am of little concern. I don’t know which of these possibilities I would most embrace.

The truth is that with you out of commission my stalking behavior is hampered. I can no longer discover which kind souls are sending me readers, and therefore I cannot hop back to them and say ‘thank you.’ I like to be gracious, so you see you are harming my reputation by making me seem ungrateful.

I don’t know how long I can let you malinger. At what point do I end our relationship and find a new stalking partner? Have you ever done this to others? I hope you will reply and let me know how to proceed.

Thank you.
Your loyal blog writer who is slowly going mad

UPDATE: the impersonal response snatched off sitemeter's blog...

s25 - Update
We are aware of delays and lag on s25 and are doing are [sic] best to resolve it. In this case we had a particular site that has been running a promotion, nearly quadrupling their traffic. We’re working on relocation [sic] this site to another server. We expect to see the lag dissipate over the weekend.

The Sitemeter Team

Yes, I am part of s25. I can assure you that I am not the site behind the snafu. Quadrupling my traffic would register less than a passing 18 wheeler on the Richter scale (we Californians do care about that Richter scale.)

But really, running a promotion to increase traffic? Interesting. I could use a little more lovin'. Now, what can I offer??? [thinking cap put on and plugged in...]

In the meantime, I've have taken your suggestions and am stepping out on sitemeter. Statcounter, are you ready to dance?


Going to the Well: the First Good-bye

[continued from Going to the Well: The Beginning]

Remembering Our First Farewell – September 1988 – Moscow Airport

The first time I said good-bye to Yuri, it felt final. I blurted out proclamations of reunion, but deep down didn’t believe a word leaving my mouth. In 1988, the barriers between our countries – the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. – remained strong and required many negotiations with bureaucrats to circumvent them.

The Moscow airport was bustling as the 270 American peace walkers searched out Soviet counterparts, our companions of thirty days, to say good-bye. Together we’d navigated propaganda, language barriers, constantly changing schedules. Conspiracy theories had circulated of the Soviet organizers intentionally upsetting our orientation to keep the politics subdued. We’d debated and discussed it all.

But at the boarding gate on our final day, none of that mattered. We’d formed strong bonds that seemed to mock the proclamations of the Cold War. The finality of the hugs hurt deeply, and months later when studying a photo of Yuri and me saying good-bye, I couldn’t deny our pain filling the frame.

The Americans put off boarding as long as we could.

After the final hug, swallowing the suppressed tears, I climb onto the plane and stumble towards my seat as the nearly three hundred American peace walkers around me move towards theirs. When the plane takes off, I am in silence, squeezed into my seat, the air oppressive with the sadness of hundreds of good-byes.

Once aloft, the restrictions of the seats too formal, we throw our bodies onto the bulkhead floor to huddle in small circles, ignored by Soviet stewardesses who simply don’t care.

We play oneupsmanship with the stories of our good-byes, detailing how we rid ourselves of our worthless Rubles by stuffing them into the pockets of our grateful Soviet friends, the ones we were leaving behind a barrier open only to departing foreigners with proper passports. Many of us discover we’d showered the same group of Russians with our money, leaving them like strippers with bills tucked into g-strings.

Our sadness turns to laughter. I’d given all my money to Yuri and he’d looked shamed to accept it. But it truly was just paper to me, Americans unable to convert Rubles back to dollars, and Rubles of no value outside the borders of the Soviet Union.

As I recalled those final moments with Yuri, our frantic words of meeting again, of his band coming to the U.S. on a cultural exchange tour, our voices gaining speed in the excitement of the dream, I had to wonder. Two countries filled with such hatred for each other, could they ever be bothered to sanction such a fantasy?

So two years later, as I stood before Yuri’s family in his tiny Siberian village amidst the hugs and squeals, Yuri exploding with laughter, it just couldn’t have been more surreal.

Within days I came down with a stomach bug, and as I tried to rush to the outhouse in the middle of the night, I threw up all over his mother’s vegetable garden. This after my first night when I’d nearly suffocated due to some inexplicable allergic reaction. As I felt my lungs filling with fluid, my wheezing growing louder, Yuri broke out a pane of the window to allow some untainted air into the room. But it didn’t help, and I moved onto the front porch in the cold night trying to breathe wondering how I was going to survive.

For the next two weeks, I slept in an unheated outer room with a sweatshirt over my face, the seemingly fragile American girl undoubtedly a mystery to this rural Siberian family.

Ever since that night on the porch, I’ve had an inexplicable image of dying in a fire, the time unclear, possibly a century earlier in that village. Perhaps before I’d continued with my relationship with Yuri, I should have read that as a sign.

…more of Siberia and beyond to come…



“It’s not working,” he said. “The way you’re living life is not working.” He’d sat her down gently, intending to break the news over an hour’s worth of coffee, but once faced with the task he leapt in unable to contain himself.

She glanced up from her steaming brew knowing he needed no prompting to continue.

“You see, I’ve been watching you, and your ‘trying’ is misguided and quite pathetic. You’d be better off sweeping all day.” He hadn’t meant to sound so harsh but her unwillingness to launch a defense before his brutality started fueled his ire. He used to know a fighter in her, but that person was gone. Before him sat a passive being of small attempts. He wanted his old lover back.

She reached for one of those petite plastic thimbles of milk, pulled off the foil top, and added it to her coffee. She had given up the substance years earlier, but now faced with an attack, she decided to distract herself. Reaching for the wooden swizzle stick, she created beautiful swirls that reminded her of images she saw on Nova.

“You have so much,” he offered. “Not everyone is offered such a repertoire upon landing on the planet.” She nodded involuntarily. He no longer was playing fair, tugging at her subconscious. But it hardly mattered. This conversation had no end, so there could be no winner.

She glanced up from her art and met his eyes. “What would you prefer me to do?” she asked. “Apparently the tenor of my existence is an annoyance to you.”

“I’m not here to prompt drama,” he retorted.

“Of course you are,” she said more calmly than intended.

“You see, this is the kind of thing I’m talking about. You won’t fight for yourself any more.”

“No, I won’t,” she replied. She reached for her coffee cup and took a sip. The milk congealed on her tongue due to an unpleasant chemical reaction with her highly acidic saliva. At least that’s what she told herself. She wasn’t much interested in the realities of science for they didn’t contain the romance she needed to thrive. She reached for his cup of black coffee and took a sip to cleanse her palate, and then reset the cup in front of him. “Thank you,” she said. “I needed that.”

He assumed she meant the coffee. He didn’t know that his words had sparked her memory of romance. She stood from the table, and reached for her satchel. “I suspect that I’m done here,” she said, and left unceremoniously through the door.