Tuesday, October 02, 2012


This is me, just me. No makeup, no soft lighting, no mask. The wrinkle across my cheek is from the brief, hard nap that I took between 6:00 and 8:00 this morning. The lines fanning out from the corner of my eye are from forty-two years of squinting into the sun. The furrow in the lower right is from an equal number of years of smiling.

* * *

"You could use a chin implant," my mother said, reaching across the restaurant table to tug at the lower half of my face.

"Jesus, Mom."

"Oh, it's easy. They just pop it in, and..."

"What I'm saying is that I don't think there's anything wrong with my face!"

"Well, it's something to think about."

Monday, October 01, 2012


Santa Barbara Harbor Breakwater, August 2012

"What makes this time different from the last time?" Red asked.


"Yes. How is your relationship with Hardt different from your relationship with Peter? As we're both coming out of spectacularly failed marriages and starting new relationships, I'm curious."

"This time, nothing goes unsaid. I don't assume that he can read my mind. I don't presume to know what's on his. Everything - good and bad - is out in the open."

"How's that working? Can you really do that?"

"Not yet, but I'm trying. I'm learning."

* * *

This month's NaBloPoMo theme is "Mask", and today's prompt is "When you saw the word mask, was your first interpretation protection, covering up, persona, or performance?"

My short answer to that prompt is "yes."

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

The Camera Eye

"So," he said, running a hand through his hair and looking up at the ceiling, "I have a son with autism, and he's going to be coming out here to live with me."

Seven weeks later, he returned to California with Gothic.

One of his favorite things to do is to take pictures. Hardt says that some of them are gorgeous, but I wouldn't know. The boy keeps his art to himself.

"Did you get some good ones today, Gothic?"


"Can I see some of them?"


"I"ll show you the ones I took."


"But I can't see yours?"

"No. They're for me."

"What if I take a whole bunch of pictures of you and I don't let you see them?"


"Well, you can't stop me, Gothic. It's happening."

I hope someday he lets me see some of the pictures he takes. I would love to see at least a little bit of what he sees.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012


Monday, September 03, 2012

The Head of a Pin

I bought this pin today. It's the most I've ever spent on a piece of jewelry.

It's in place now, but I've been taking it out every couple of hours to attempt to get a good picture of it. It is a larger gauge than any of my other pins, so removing it and putting it back in is painful, but I keep doing it, hoping that I'll figure out how to get a clear shot of the detailed metalwork. My eyes water every time I try.

One year ago today, right about this time of the evening, Peter leaned back against the sofa, looked down at his feet, and started the weeks-long process of telling me that we were through. I was sporting the scab from the screwdriver incident then; the professional piercing was still a few weeks off.

I can't explain why it's bothering me this much, this anniversary of a brief conversation. It wasn't even the most painful discussion that we had in those long few months of last year. I can't explain it to my housemates, can't explain it to the Amazon, can't explain it to Hardt. Maybe I can't explain it to them because I can't explain it to myself. Doc would probably be able to help me work through it, but, for reasons that will become clear, she and I don't delve too deeply into this corner of my emotional baggage. "I dunno. I'm just in a mood. I'm sure it'll go away once I get some sleep." I don't believe this, but I say it anyway.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Coming Soon

This was one of the oldest unfinished projects in my stash. Not anymore. Tune in this week for the full story.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

You Have to Be Looking for It

I was cleaning out my dryer vent a few months ago, and this curve caught my eye. I loved the subtle color changes, the satiny finish, the warm glow off of the metal. I spent several minutes trying to get a clear shot of it. The colors reminded me of a ball of Newton's Yarn Country that I have in my stash.

You can find it anywhere, sometimes in the most unexpected places. Beauty. But you have to be looking for it. You have to look.

Friday, July 13, 2012


I turned forty-two on Monday.

To celebrate, I served up a plate of homemade mint chip ice cream for myself for dinner. I’d thrown a big party over the weekend, with Big Guy, The Engineer, Doc, Peter, my beloved Hardt and his boy Gothic, and many friends and neighbors filling my garage-turned-alehouse with laughter and energy, but now the party was over, and it was quiet. As I stood at my kitchen counter and ate that artistically arranged dessert, it occurred to me that this would be the first birthday in my life where I’d climb into a bed in an otherwise empty house, where I’d fall asleep alone.

I slid the Fostoria plate gently into the sink, then shuffled over to the sofa for what I hoped would be a mind-numbing night of television. It was too early to sleep, but I was done with anything more than that. It was warm, even at dusk, so I wasn’t able to convince Winston to climb onto the cushion next to me. There wasn’t so much as a second-rate Law and Order marathon to be found. I stared at the DVR recordings list until the cable box screensaver came on.

Hardt had called earlier, just before heading out to buy groceries for the perpetually hungry Gothic. I chatted with him for a few minutes, doing what a lifetime of experience and habit had trained me to do. I listened and laughed as he told me about his hectic day. I love his stories, love listening to his voice. It wasn't hard to pretend to be happy, because I was only halfway pretending.

At the same time, I had a conversation with him entirely in my own head, where we decided that he was busy that night and shouldn’t have to worry about me. “You have to get back from the store and cook dinner, then get Gothic ready for work in the morning, and get to sleep yourself, because you must be exhausted from having to manage all of that. You sound tired. I’m having a rough time, but it’s just a day. I’m strong enough to take care of myself. It’s just a day.” He heard none of this second conversation, because, like I said, a lifetime of experience and habit has made me very, very skilled at keeping the parallel thread to myself.

When he called back a few hours later, I willed myself to unfix my gaze from the AT&T logo burning its way through my television screen. I put a smile on my face and some false brightness in my voice. "How was the store? What did you have for dinner? Oh, my day? You know, the usual. Not much going on. No, no cake. It's O.K. Nobody's in the office this week."

The veneer held up for a few minutes, until he asked how it felt to be forty-two. I pulled my phone away from my face, clapped my free hand against my mouth, and started crying.


It’s almost 10:00. He has to get up so early tomorrow.


And I’m being an asshole, because I had a great weekend, and all I am is let down because it’s over. It’s a normal feeling. I should suck it up. It’s what I do, after all, and I’m better at it than anyone I know.


And this is a totally temporary thing, just until we can figure out how to get Winston and Gothic’s cats together so that we can all be in the same house, so next year won’t be like today, and birthdays are arbitrary anyway, because I should have been born two and a half months later than I was, so today doesn’t mean much, if I think about it. It’s just a day. It’s just a day.

“Suzanne? Are you O.K.?”

I’m proud of what I did next, because it’s something fairly new for me. I was open, unguarded. “...no...I’m alone, and I don't know why it's getting to me, but it is, and I feel stupid for it, but...”

The response wasn’t what the lifetime of experience and habit had trained me to expect. Hardt didn’t try to convince me that I shouldn’t feel down, or tell me how tired he was but that he’d try to see me the next day. He didn't remind me that I’d just hosted a big party two days earlier, or suggest that I go next door and see what Lazzie was doing. None of that happened.

“Come over,” he interjected.

“But I have this stuff I told them I'd do for work...”

“Do that, then come over.”

“...and you have to make lunches for tomorrow, and...don't you need to sleep?!”

“I can do that with you here, you know. Please finish your work, put on your driving glasses, and get in your car. You don't have to be alone. You don't ever have to be alone.”

My instinct was to tell him that just the offer had made me feel better, so I didn't need to put him out by going to his place. I would then hang up and cry myself to sleep, thus saving him from being burdened with me. It has never served me well, that self-sacrificing instinct, but it comes so easily.

I took a deep breath and said, "O.K., I'll just do this one thing and then I'll head your way. You're sure you'll be awake when I get there?" Giving him every possible out.

"I'll be up, baby. Drive safe."

When I got to the intersection near his house, it looked as though all of the lights were off. I almost turned back for home, six miles away, because I still thought I might be imposing. I inched forward a few feet, and the porch light, previously obstructed by a tree, shone into view. I started crying again, just a little bit.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


My birthday present from Big Guy

So much has happened.

The last six weeks have left me breathless - sometimes gasping with boundless joy, other times suffocating under the weight of unimaginable pressure and horrifying loss – and I’m just now starting to get air back into my lungs.

As I often find myself saying after a long absence here, I don’t know how much catching up I’m going to do, when it’s so much more like me to keep looking and moving forward. We’ll see what happens. For now, I simply need to get back to writing.

Monday, May 28, 2012


Tidworth - England
27 December 1945

Dear Papa,

Received your letter of the 12th today. That's not very speedy, but it's good considering the recent service. I don't care, so long as they eventually get here - that's what counts.

Christmas is over. I can't say I'm not glad. There's something special about Christmas that makes you pretty homesick. We had four days off and didn't do a darn thing but lie around and wonder what the folks at home were doing. It was nice that all of you got together this year and I'll bet you had a good time.

We are on our final day of full-scale redeployment here today with the loading of the 12th Airborne on the Queen Mary. Then we pause a week or so to get our breath and then, lookout - here come the G.I. brides! That's the last straw in this whole mess. But, although I've seen some peculiar goings on in this redeployment program, I can't conceive of their using available troop space to ship the brides over. It's bad enough to think we may be retained over here to do the job of putting them aboard. Well, Papa, by the first of the year, there will be around 175,00 men over here who are eligible for discharge in January. That's 200,000 less than they've been shipping each month. So if their intentions are honest in getting eligible men home it should be easy enough to do. They can cut redeployment in half and still handle that many troops. By the same reasoning, I should sail in February as I become eligible (at last) on the first of February - both on points and length of service. I can't miss on that part. Naturally, the whole thing hinges on the whims and fancies of the brass hats over here who are reluctant to tell us goodbye. Kind of look for me the end of February, Papa, although it can pretty easily be March. I am getting closer, one way or another.

Oh, I put in my application to visit Paris the last week in January. I"m looking forward to it very much. I think it will be very interesting and lots of fun. I hope my old boss, Capt. Williams is still there. We will really have a time then. My only worry is getting away from the P.X., but the lieutenant said if it was at all possible I could go. The devaluation of the franc will make it possible to do a little spending. France is having a hell of a time controlling the black market.

Yes, it was certainly too bad about General Patton. He had what it took to be a real soldier and what his presence meant in winning the war should never be underestimated. It makes you damned mad to think he had to lose his life the way he did.

The foreign ministers seem to have hit it off better in Moscow than in London. That's good news, Papa. We are beginning to learn how to prevent war and I think the people themselves should give as much attention and loyalty to these men who are trying to win the peace as they did to those who won the war.

So, dear father, it's time to say au revoir again. Don't let Matt get at that Sauterne. I'm liable to be dry upon arrival. It won't be long, Papa.

Your loving son


* * *

I cry every time I read this. "That's good news, Papa. We are beginning to learn how to prevent war..." He believed it.  He was a good man.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Gun Time

I did it! I ran my first half-marathon last Saturday, and I’m walking and talking today.

Standing at the starting line, I was pretty sure that I was going to foul the whole thing up. My team didn’t do much work on pacing. After fourteen weeks of training, I still can’t run at a steady pace on my own. I run too fast, I hurt myself, I slow to a crawl for a bit, then start running too fast again. Half of the Walnut Creek coaches, including the pacer that I run with on weeknights, decided not to run at all during the race. “Allen? Why are you in jeans?!? ALLEN!!!”

Worried, but determined to run a good race for my sponsors and for myself, I ran along on my own for the first quarter of a mile. Then, my friend Nicole pulled up beside me. She and I have done long practice miles together, and, more important, she has one of those fancy watches that tells her if she’s running at the right pace. I was elated to see her. “I’m going to try to run without stopping for at least five miles, then switch to intervals. Is that cool?”

“Nicole, I’m so happy to see you that I’m cool with however you want to run this thing. Let’s do it!”

At mile marker 5, we agreed that we both felt good enough to keep going without switching to intervals. Nicole’s foot started to hurt, but we pushed on through. At mile 6, we saw the first of the half-marathoners coming back toward us.

“Have you seen any other AHA runners yet? I’ve been keeping an eye out for our team jerseys.”

“A couple of guys, but no women. I think we’re the top two AHA women running the half right now. Sweet!”

We ended up running all the way to the turnaround, stopping for a brief comfort break at the halfway point. A gel shot and some water, then we were on our way again. “How’s your foot, Nicole?”

“It’s…numb? Is that good?”

“Well, I’m no doctor, so I’m going to say that it IS good.” The big muscles in my legs had started to fatigue, but I didn’t want to say that out loud. If she was still going strong on one good foot, I didn’t want to do anything encourage her to slow down. The gel shot kicked in just as I thought I wasn’t going to be able to keep up, providing me with a critical boost of energy.

A few minutes later, we started crossing paths with our AHA Start Training teammates. “You’re really close to the turn! Keep at it! Good job!” It felt amazing to be running out there while cheering on the rest of our team. We kept at it, jogging and cheering and clapping, until we passed the last outbound racers coming toward us on the trail. Our teammate Sally can only walk, and not very quickly, but she was determined to try for the whole thirteen miles. Prior to the start of our training, she hadn’t walked more than half a mile at a time in thirty years. We came across her at our mile 8.5, which would have been her 5.5. “Incredible job, Sally! Wow!” I don’t know if she finished. I hope she’s proud of however far she made it.

We slowed at an aid station to pick up some gummy bears, a surprisingly effective source of mid-race glucose, and happily gnawed on them as we trotted along under the trees for a few more minutes. Finally, we agreed to drop back to a fast walk for a hundred yards or so. We checked her watch and saw that we’d jogged straight through for almost ten miles, farther than either of us had ever gone at that pace.

At about 10.5 miles, picking up the pace again, she pointed off to our left. “Hey, who’s that guy waving at us? Is that your boyfriend?”

“Yes! Unless we’re hallucinating. Are we hallucinating? How did he get out here? I need more gummy bears. Wait…yep, that’s him. Ten second hug break!” I skipped off course and threw my arms around him. “C’mon, Nicole, you hug him, too. He’s really good at it!” Hugs all around and a laughing “keep running, sweetie, this isn’t the end of the race”, then we were back on the trail. She said that I should have kissed him some more, but I replied that it would have added too much to our chip time. “Plenty of chances to kiss him after we cross the line. Finish strong, girl!”

We walked a good bit of the last two miles, but sprinted when we saw the cameras and heard the announcer calling out the names of the racers as they came in. (If any of you have ever run in an event organized by Brazen Racing, you know how great they are about personally welcoming you across the finish line.)

We ran under the arch at 2:44:46. I know that it’s not supposed to be about the finish time or where I placed in the results, but I’m still proud to say that I was near the middle of the pack overall, and finished faster than half the women in my age group. Not bad for my first long race.

48 hours post-race, I’m happy to report that I’m not in any danger of losing any toenails, and my legs feel good enough for me to consider running again within a couple of days. I’m running another half-marathon in less than a month. I feel fantastic.

And, yes, there was plenty of post-race kissing.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bath Time for Castro

I did not pick that fountain at random, or because I thought you’d be able to easily recognize it. I did not pick it because I knew I’d have several angles of approach where I’d be able to see you before you saw me, which meant that I wouldn't look silly if I didn't recognize you. I did not pick it because I was thinking that, if we didn’t hit it off, I’d use it as my meeting place for all of my future dates, too. All of those things are true, but that isn't why I decided on that spot. I picked it because of a dream I had eight years ago.

The sculpture is an inverted, rounded ziggurat with alternating layers of yellow and black, like a child’s drawing of a bumblebee. The water flows down from a pool at the top, forming a sheet that partially obscures the body of the fountain, and creates a rat-a-tat sound as it hits the lower pool. Everything else at the mall is Italianate cast concrete. This bright, modern piece stands out, even though it is tucked in behind the Starbucks and the California Pizza Kitchen. I’ve always loved it.

In my dream, the fountain had been elongated into a tub in a gorgeous bathroom suite. I was one of several personal advisers to the owner of said suite, and we were all standing around patiently, clipboards and notepads clasped to our chests, while he enjoyed an afternoon soak. His name was Fidel Castro.

He was sitting in the bathtub, wearing an olive green cap and a pair of swim trunks. He had a rubber frog in one hand and a loaded revolver in the other, and he was happily playing with both, splashing them through the water and covering them with bubbles. We watched with amusement as he had a sing-song dialogue with the frog while pressing the gun muzzle to its bulging eye. He must have then decided that they’d reached a truce, his amphibian captive and he, because he made a beard and bushy eyebrows for it out of the suds. “¡Viva la rana Castro!” He was having a ball.

We’d let him stay in there for as long as we could, but time was running short. “Fidel, you have an appearance in a few minutes, and your fingers are going to prune. C’mon, jefe. Time to get out.”

The shot startled us all, but none more than Castro himself. We all jumped, then froze in place for several seconds, nobody sure who had fired or who had been hit. Castro had many enemies, but there was no sight line from outside the palace into his bathroom.

His advisers stared wide-eyed at him, and he stared back at us, suds clinging to his eyelashes and the end of his nose. He looked comical, but we were all too shocked to laugh.

The ringing in my ears went away after a few seconds, allowing me to hear the steady stream of bath water hitting the floor. I looked from Castro’s blank, stunned face to the small, round hole in the lower left corner of the tub wall. I looked back at Castro and saw that the gun was still in his hand, pointing down between his shriveled feet.

“What did you do, Fidel? What have I told you about guns in the bathtub?!”

I don’t know how the gun - steeped in a warm froth of Calgon and scoured by bath salts – was able to fire. I don’t know how he didn’t shoot one of us, or shoot himself in the foot. We all knew that we had quite literally dodged a bullet. The tub had not been so lucky.

For a brief moment, I thought that it would be possible to plug the hole with a towel, just to hold the water in long enough to drain the basin. Before I could even move to reach for the towel bar, the crazing around the hole spread wider, and the structure failed under the pressure. The stream turned into a deluge as the tub wall gave way. A wave of soapy water surged across the slate grey floor, breaking over our feet and flowing out of the doorway behind us to flood the Turkish rug in the hallway. Bits of black and gold ceramic littered the ground like broken shells on a beach at low tide. I was wearing a pair of leather and suede pumps, and I was furious that they were now ruined.

Castro was still seated in what remained of the bathtub, clutching his revolver. He hunched his shoulders and looked up at us sheepishly from under the brim of his cap, runnels of water flowing off of his scraggly beard onto his round belly.

“Dammit, Fidel!” I yelled. “Who’s going to clean this mess up? This was a custom-made tub. Do you know how much it’s going to cost to get a mason in here to rebuild it? Do you?! Dammit!”

Huge tears welled up in his dark eyes and rolled down his broad, flat cheeks. His toy frog let out a long, pathetic squeak as he squeezed it, its soapy beard dissolving into a stream that ran down his forearm.


Exasperated, one of the other aids sighed deeply. “Oh, Fidel…

And then I woke up.

I was chuckling to myself about this dream as we were strolling down the sidewalk. I was debating telling you about it, wondering if it would make me seem too strange for you to like, if you’d take your hand from mine and wish me goodbye and good luck now that we were back at the place where we’d started. I was afraid that you, too, would think that you’d dodged a bullet. “Weird girl. At least she didn’t eat much, so I’m not out a ton of money for lunch.”

Then you said, “I want to kiss you, but not here.” All I could think of was how very perfect it would be to kiss you right there, in front of that fountain.

“Why not here?” I turned toward you, and you leaned into me and kissed me, and then I wasn’t thinking about the dream at all anymore, lost as I was in the feel and the taste of you, and hearing only the staccato rhythm of the water hitting the tiles in the shallow pool behind us.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Friday the 13th: The Miniseries

Well, here it is, readers. This is the official start of the end of my marriage. In this envelope, on less than ten sheets of paper, are Peter’s petition for divorce, my response, and two copies of the process server receipt. It was mailed out on Friday the 13th. I don't know why, but I find that hilariously appropriate. We went on our first date on Halloween, after all.

You might think I’d be sad about this. You might be thinking, “Aww, Suzanne, I’m so sorry! You must be crushed!” It might surprise you to know that this is not the case. I’ve got a lot of good going on, and I’ve never felt better. Let’s take a quick break from me falling behind A-to-Z challenge for an update, shall we?

I’ve dropped fifteen pounds since Thanksgiving. All of those sweaters that I knit that were just a little tight? They all fit now. It’s all been through exercise. I haven’t changed my diet at all. What magical new exercise could do this? Why, running, of course.

The Start Training team is coming up on week 12 of our program. We’re doing twelve miles this Saturday, then the half marathon in two weeks. This program deserves a post of its own, which I’m going to give it sometime very, very soon. It has changed my life.

My hand is almost healed enough for me to stop wearing The Immobilizer, which is a good thing, since The Immobilizer is a little the worse for wear after being in Winston’s mouth. Knitting resumes!

Alive, healthy, and relatively uninjured at the moment, I figured it was time to start dating. After what has to be a record-settingly short time online - a mere three days - I met someone amazing. This also deserves a post of its own, which I’m also going to give it sometime very, very soon. As soon as I can break away from kissing him. Readers, he's hotter than the sun.

Feeling fit, feeling strong, and feeling an unbridled happiness for the first time in years, I opened the manila envelope and filled out my part. It’s the end of something good. It’s the start of something else good. It’s all good.

Monday, April 16, 2012

F: Fair Warning

Fair Warning

Van Halen

I’ve had this recording in one form or another since I was a kid, probably way back to when I was thirteen. I had a Maxell tape of it, recorded from The Engineer’s vinyl album. When that got stolen from my beloved Pontiac J2000, I bought the official tape. When CDs started replacing tapes in my collection, this was one of the first ones on my shelf.

Best Lyric
This is not a complicated album. There won’t be anything profound about the lyrics. They’re just fun. Let’s go with this one.

Well, my baby’s on the corner and she’s lookin’ so fine
Put one and one together and it blow my mind
Man needs love to live, I’m livin’ proof
Catch that smile and I hit the roof

Big double-take but you keep on walkin'
I'm in love
One summer
I'm overdone
- So This is Love

Why it Won
It’s thirty-two minutes long, this record. Thirty-two minutes of perfectly crafted summertime music. I’d listen to the tape when I was washing my car, getting ready to head over to Bird’s house to pick her up for an afternoon of aimless driving. I’d listen to it over at Big Guy’s house while he drank beer and cleaned his tools. I’d sit in the passenger seat of The Engineer’s Trans Am while it played at top volume, pouring out of the open windows as we cruised around town. Today, probably twenty-eight years after I first heard it, ‘Fair Warning’ brings all of those memories flooding back over me. It's a good-time record.

Runner(s) Up
Facelift – Alice in Chains - I decided to leave Cal Poly SLO after hearing this album. Long story.

Finn – Finn Brothers - Tim and Neil Finn, of Split Enz and Crowded House fame, stopped bickering and breaking each other’s bands up long enough to put out an amazing record together back in 1995. The standout track for me is 'Where is My Soul', one of my favorite songs in my entire catalogue. This was a close tie with ‘Fair Warning’, but Van Halen won based on sentimentality.

Friday, April 13, 2012

E: The End of Silence

The End of Silence

The Rollins Band

Purchased in 1992 at Wherehouse Records in Tulare, California. I was dating one of the other sales associates, a kid named Jim. We had the same hair – shoulder-length strawberry blonde pageboys. He was young, a couple of years younger than I was, and in that in-between phase where he hadn’t quite shed his boyishness for manhood. In our baggy work vests, kneeling in front of a rack of videocassettes, we were indistinguishable.

Jim was a skater, in the way that well-off suburban boys are when they want to feel rebellious. He didn’t give a damn about anyone or anything, and he couldn’t wait to get out of his whitebread town and get tattoos on his pale, freckled skin, and he hated his parents, and he…”Jim? I left a Pop Tart out for you, honey.”

“Thanks, Mom.”

Jim introduced me to skate punk that year, bands I’d never heard of before – Nomeansno, Swervedriver, Superchunk, Fugazi, so many others – and it changed my musical life. I’d been a metalhead for years, and I was resistant to any other musical genre. The few weeks of dating Jim opened up a whole new world of possibilities. I veered hard toward alternative just as the grunge wave broke, early enough that I could tell customers, with smugness in my voice, that I’d been listening to Soundgarden since before they were cool.

We didn’t last long as a couple, if we ever were one to begin with. He seemed to be too concerned with his image to stay with someone as non-indie as I was, and I grew tired of being his “establishment” lay. I never was his girlfriend. I never met his parents, and he never met mine. We just casually stopped being together.

Weeks later, I’d learn that he hadn’t seen things quite that way. More on that when we get to the letter “M”.

One of the albums – vinyl albums – that we’d lie on his bed and listen to was ‘Hard Volume’. I bought ‘The End of Silence’ on CD a few months later, because I didn’t want to track down the older disc. I didn’t care about being that indie.

Best Lyric

Wasted time spent thinking about you
You know I’ve come to hate myself
Smashing my hands against the wall
Trying to forget the foolish way I felt
You’re so kind when it serves you well
Your cruelty
- Almost Real

Why it Won
This is one of the few recordings we’ll see this month that doesn’t see start-to-finish play. I start at ‘Tearing’, listen to ‘You Didn’t Need’ and ‘Almost Real’, and end with ‘Obscene’. I never listen to the songs before or after those four. This subset forms the perfect breakup EP. Like most of Rollins’ work, you can’t sing along to it when you’re driving down the road unless you want to rupture a vessel in your throat. But if you’re feeling the need for a rage-fueled, hyperarticulate angstfest, you can’t go wrong with this one.

Runner(s) Up
Electric – The Cult - This tape was playing in my cousin’s dad’s car the first time I ever tasted alcohol. Listening to the CD takes me right back to Buena Park, 1985.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

D: Dusk


The The

I can’t remember why I bought this CD. It might have been my occasional craving for melodrama, which was being fulfilled at the time by a stolen MP3 of ‘Love Is Stronger than Death’ that someone had ripped for me from the ‘Romeo + Juliet’ soundtrack. I don’t know how long I’ve had this disc. Maybe ten years? I remember ordering it from a record club because it only cost a penny, and “maybe I’ll like more than one of the tracks, but who cares? I’m paying a penny for it.”

I also remember the first time I put it in the CD player and listened to it all the way through. I was hooked from the opening salvo of ‘True Happiness This Way Lies.’ ‘Love Is Stronger…' followed it, and then I was surprised and delighted to hear ‘Dogs of Lust’, which I didn’t realize was by the same artist. Three good songs on an album was about my average back then for putting it in rotation, but ‘Dusk’ kept going beyond that.

It hasn’t gone unplayed for more than a couple of weeks in more than ten years.

Best Lyric

’Coz I ain’t never found peace upon the breast of a girl.
I ain’t never found peace with the religion of the world.
I ain’t never found peace at the bottom of a glass.

Sometimes it seems, the more I’ve asked for, the less I’ve received.
Sometimes it seems, the more I’ve asked for, the less I’ve received.

The only true freedom is freedom from the heart’s desires.
And the only true happiness this way lies.

Why it Won
I love Matt Johnson’s voice. I love his writing. I love Johnny Marr’s guitar and harmonica work here. It’s subtle, with less of the bright, almost irreverent jangling he had with The Smiths.

My favorite song, although I love all of them, is the organ-driven, hypnotic, almost sinister ‘Lung Shadows’. “I close my eyes, and you are with me. I can feel your breath upon my body. Come closer to me. Come closer to me…”

‘Dusk’ is an album you play as night falls, as you are getting ready to head out into the noise and lights of the city, or as you sit alone in your room and watch the darkness spread across your walls. The feeling it gives me reminds me a bit of the paragraph near the end of this story. “…and by then that sad between feeling would have passed. It always passed, but then, it always came, too, and it still does, that quiet, each of us in his room, fixing himself, straightening away, before going into the evening, thinking about things that happened and things that would happen.” (By the way, this is as good a time as any to throw an unabashedly enthusiastic suggestion for everyone to go over to Tomato Nation and read every one of the Famous Ghost Monologues. Some of my favorite short stories.)

This is another completely perfect record.

Runner(s) Up
Dragline - Paw - A southern rock opus. “I snuck in your bedroom to steal some change for booze. But all I found were love notes from another boy...”

Dry – PJ Harvey - Polly Harvey will make an appearance later in the month with an award-winning disc, but ‘Dry’ shouldn’t go without mention. This is an angry, bad-ass chick album. My college roommate, Pigboy, stuck his head into my room when I was playing it one night. “Huh. I don’t get it.”

“She’s not singing to you, dick.” Polly Harvey and I have both grown up, but back then I was an angry young woman with a chip on her shoulder, and this was my favorite album.

C: Cure for Pain

Cure for Pain


Much of Cure for Pain serves as the soundtrack behind David O. Russell’s ‘Spanking the Monkey’. I became entranced by ‘Let’s Take a Trip Together’ and the scene it plays under. If you’ve seen it, then you know that it’s a compelling, dark moment. I watched the last few minutes of that movie every time it was on. This was back before DVRs, so that meant hunting it down every time it played on IFC in 1997-1998. That tells you something about how it grabbed me. It wasn’t long before I was down at Rasputin buying the CD.

Best Lyric
Ooh, this is a hard one. I don’t think I can pick just one verse of one song. In lieu of reprinting the lyrics for the whole album, here are three of my favorites.

She had a smile that swerved
She had a smile that curved
She had a smile that swerved all over the road
- All Wrong

Hide your daughters in the snow and watch out for the undertow.
Hold both hands against the door and dig your feet into the floor.
I tell you there’s no map and there’s no clue
Of where to go and what to do.
Who to dog and who to ride and who to hold
forever by your side.
- Mary Won’t You Call My Name

Let’s take a trip together
Headlong into the irresistible orbit
Breathe in the cold, black space
With the glistening edges.

Let’s take a trip, me and you.
Let’s go the scenic route –
Get to finally
Get to finally
Get to finally
Get to know each other.
- Let’s Take a Trip Together

Why it Won
Cure for Pain is pure, slinky lust in music form. It’s all darkened bars and bodies pressed close, a seductive look and a whisper in your ear just before you feel the soft, tentative bite on your neck.

For the uninitiated, Morphine was a three-piece band at this point. Drums, bass and vocals, and sax, and what you heard on the album wasn’t too far from what you’d hear live. I like some of their later work, but none of it is as intimate and sultry as ‘Cure for Pain.’ The late Mark Sandman purrs out his lyrics, and the sax throbs under his vocals like an ardent lover, sometimes matching him note for note, sometimes wailing out on its own in response to the caress of his velvety voice.

Look, it’s a sexy, sexy recording, is what I’m saying. I’m listening to it and typing this on my lunch hour at work, and it’s making me want to jump the next person who walks by my desk and drag them into the broom closet.

It’s also listenable from beginning to end with no clunkers to skip. Few recordings in my collection can boast of that kind of quality.

Runner(s) Up
Copper Blue – Sugar. – Another fantastic album from around that time. I listen to this one all the way through, too, but the mixing on it is rough. After one or two times through, especially in a car, the midrange starts to hurt my ears

Core – Stone Temple Pilots – Classic hard rock, full of testosterone and swagger. This was my favorite music to drive to in the early 90s. I owned a Pontiac J2000, so ‘driving’ might be a liberal term for what I was doing.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Running, Running, Falling Behind

A-to-Z friends! Please don't give up on me. I know I'm falling behind, but I've got good plans for the next few days of posts, and I'm going to sprint to catch up.

Why so far behind, you ask? It's a time management issue. By the time I get home, get in a run, give the dogs some much-deserved love and attention, and eat dinner, it's usually too late for me to think clearly enough to write the way that I want to. And these albums I'm picking? They deserve my best writing. Music is a great passion of mine, and I don't want to short-change it for the sake of squeezing a post in by midnight every day. I just have to rejigger some things in my schedule, and we'll be back on track.

I've got a lot of good stuff going on right now. My running team is going out for ten miles this Saturday. My seedlings are getting large enough to move outdoors. My beer fridge now holds a fresh keg of pilsner. Spring is in the air, and it is glorious.

And, yes, I still knit. I can hold needles and work with worsted weight yarn while wearing The Immobilizer. Look for new projects to come off of the needles soon. I've really missed it. It's good to have yarn in my hands again. Yarn without dog slobber on it, I mean.

Monday, April 02, 2012

B: Bong


New Fast Automatic Daffodils

I picked this up in 1992 at Wherehouse Records. It was a sample disc we had playing several times a day, even though most of our customers wanted to hear Garth Brooks or Dr. Dre. We'd all wait impatiently for Ropin' the Wind to end, and then someone would "accidentally" brush against the CD changer too forcefully in the middle of "In Lonesome Dove". We'd pretend that we didn't know what was going wrong with the hated Brooks disc. "It's just not playing! We'd better move on to the next one."

Of course, we'd already done that, but nobody else knew that "Bong" opens with ten seconds of silence, allowing us to pretend that we were fixing something instead of kneeling behind the counter with the office keys, trying to scratch the shit out of "What She's Doing Now". It was as though New FADS were conspiring with us to be played. When it finally came out of the rotation, bound for the used CD bin, I snapped it up.

Best Lyric

This summer's price is the best one yet
Last winter I was the new range in, but
Fashions change to rearrange my space
And I...I bring home the bacon for you
- It's Not What You Know

Why it Won

It's only a five-song EP, but they're five really good songs, perfect for speeding down the freeway on a blindingly sunny day. (Not that I've tried it or anything.) There's a driving energy behind each song, fueled by the tight, strong drum track and the galloping bass. I've always been a sucker for a Manchester accent, so it's saying something that my favorite song is the instrumental "Beautiful."

This is one of those recordings that I'd be heartbroken to lose. I've backed it up in several locations, and I have at least two physical copies of it. I won't carry the original in my car, which is the true test of the worth of any of my CDs.

Runner(s) Up
Becoming X - The Sneaker Pimps - I realized that I start skipping songs after Post-Modern Sleaze, which means I only like about half of the recording. If I cut the album down to seven songs, it would be a strong contender.

Body Count - Body Count
- A brilliant, sarcastic protest record that few people would have noticed, had it not originally been released with the controversial "Cop Killer" as its closing track. It was rereleased with a different track a few months later. We heard about it ahead of the recall of the first pressing, and fought each other to buy what we had left in stock. Bong beat it out for the spot, because I listen to it more, but BC was a close second.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

A: Angel Dust

Angel Dust

Faith No More

Purchased at Wherehouse Records, Visalia, California, June 1992. I worked there at the time. I've had this same CD since then, never had to replace it.

Best Lyrics
You have a winning way, so keep it
Your future, your future, your future
You are an angel heading for a land of sunshine
And fortune is smiling upon you

- The Land of Sunshine

Why It Won
When this album ends up in my CD changer, I listen to it all the way through every day, sometimes for weeks. I never get tired of it. The wear on the case shows how much I love it.

The songs are an eclectic mix of approachable and catchy, with a smattering of intolerable screaming. I skip two songs of the thirteen - Malpractice and Jizzlobber - because they literally make my ears hurt. If I were to make my own copy of Angel Dust, it would have the remaining eleven songs in the order they appear on the CD, and I'd consider it perfect.

I'll confess that, until a few minutes ago, I'd never read the lyrics, and I've happily sung/hummed along without knowing what Mike Patton was saying about 70% of the time. The complex, swirling composition and Patton's odd phrasing make the songs compelling anyway. The most intelligible song, the waltz-timed RV, paints such a vivid picture that you can practically smell the funk and hear the oily squeak of vinyl under the ass of the narrator.

I'm guessing that The Real Thing was more popular, but I still consider this the pinnacle of FNM's catalog.

Runner(s) Up
Appetite for Destruction - Guns N' Roses - a classic, and another all-the-way-through album. It was a close second. The bookends of Welcome to the Jungle and Rocket Queen weren't enough to overcome the overplaying of Paradise City and Sweet Child o' Mine, however. I'd stab myself in the ear before I'd say, "Hey, you know what? I haven't heard SCoM in a while. That's a great song!" For this reason, I almost never pull Appetite off the shelf.

A to Z April

After a mostly successful NaBloPoMo in March, it's time to move on to the next challenge. It's time for A to Z April!

I've been thinking about an A-to-Z theme since signing up for this in early February. I wanted to have some structure to it, because I knew I'd end up cheating by the end. "X is for...I almost read a book about Xerxes a few weeks ago. But I didn't."

I decided my theme would be compact discs in my collection, which is pretty hefty. The last time I cataloged physical, store-bought CDs, the count was up around nine hundred. Some of them were massive hits, but more of them are obscure recordings by virtually unknown artists who couldn't capitalize on their one semi-major label contract. I hope it will be fun, and maybe one or two recordings might gain one or two more fans.


1. I'm picking by album title. No switching to artist name just because I want to squeeze them into a slot.

2. I will be using mass-produced CDs only, not albums that I've downloaded or compilations I've made.

3. "The" doesn't count toward the title.

Onward into April!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Evening News

"Molly? Molly?! Hey, MOLLY!"

"Winston, I'm busy sleep-barking, so..."

"You, uh, wanna hear a secret?"

"Do I have to wake up to hear it? Because this is the only time of the day that I'm this relaxed."

"Nah, I'll just tell you."

Monday, March 26, 2012

No Cause for Alarm

Why am I late for work every morning? I blame the weather.

I was just getting to the point where I'd wake up when the sun came through my window, and then it got too cold for me to leave the curtains open at night. Damn you, cold weather!

"Well, O.K." I though. "I'll just open the curtains first thing in the morning, and stand at the window until I no longer feel like going back to bed for another nine minutes and thirty-two seconds." That worked for exactly two days, and then we finally got winter weather. With the cloud cover, I didn't get any sunlight when I opened my window. Damn you, cloudy weather!

"No problem," I thought. "I'll set two alarm clocks, one all the way across the room." Here's why that didn't work for more than a day. The dogs, they are adorable when they sleep. They sleep on the bed, one on each side of me, turning my comforter into a very narrow sleeping bag. I have to squeeze out of this pocket by inching my way up to the head of the bed and climbing over them. You'd think this would be enough of a push to keep me going once I get free, but you'd be underestimating the pull of that warm, coveted spot at the bottom of the pile. I learned that I can get up, turn off the far alarm, then turn right around and crawl up into the middle of the bed again. They will not even wake up. At least half the time, I "accidentally" press the off button instead of the snooze button.

I tried anyway, but all I was doing was getting good at berating myself as I drifted back to sleep. Then, daylight savings time kicked in. The sun didn't come up until 7:18 today. Damn you, daylight savings time (which I realize is not technically weather-related, but close enough for government work)!

"I'll put one of the lights on a timer! That way, I'll trick myself into thinking that it's later. I'll just set it down here on the bed while I answer the phone, then I'll figure out which light to plug it...ah, dammit."

It, uh, looked like a big Abba Zabba, so you can't blame a guy for wanting to be sure. Now you can sleep in, secure under the protection of Fort Winston, without any lights clicking on and scaring anybody who might be sleep-barking while dreaming about squirrels. As you do.

Damn you...ah, I can't be mad at you. Look at your sweet face.

So I'm just going to go ahead and blame the weather for all the sneaking to my desk through the cafeteria every morning in order to minimize contact with anyone who would care and/or fire me.

Damn you, weather!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Two Bits

The question wasn't whether or not I was going to lie. The question was whether or not I gave a damn. The answer was no.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Stretching Toward the Sun

Someday, this little sprout is going to grow into a beautiful Mexican dayflower. I can't wait to see it. But, similar to how I can bring springtime to early February by knitting a hat, I'm also able to bring freezing rain to the region by planting seeds. It's going to be cold and damp for at least the next week.

Hang on, little seedling! I'm pretty sure that it'll warm up again as soon as I'm able to resume knitting.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Yoko! Oh, no!

"Instant karma's gonna get you! Gonna squirt you right in the FACE!"

"Uh, Molly? I'm kind of, um, mad at you, so..."

"You're mad at me? I'm SUPER loveable! Why are you mad?"

"Because you're a Yoko."

"I'm a WHAT?!?"

"You're like that lady who messed up the design of the Beetle or something."

"The three of us were like this awesome band. We even had a cool picture for our album cover. And then we had to break up, just like the Buggles, and it's all your fault, so you're a total Yoko."

"I am NOT a Yoko! I want to be one of the Beagles."

"I worked it all out. I'm like John, and Ernie's like Paul, and Hana's like that other guy who made that video with all of those animatronic squirrels, and you're a Yoko."

"Why can't I be Ringo, though?"

"Because you're different from us, and you broke up the band, and you make a lot of irritating noises, and you flash your lady-junk at the camera all the time."

O.K., dogs? Can I interject here? Molly, you did introduce a new dynamic into the pack, and now the boys can't play together anymore. That is kind of on you, sweetie.

"Because I am TOO MUCH FUN?"

Sure, pup. That must be what it is. And Winston, it's not like she's forcing you fellas to go after each other like it's goddamn Thunderdome, so it's kind of on you, too, guy. And, by the way, 'Yoko' is not a noun.

"Well, you're a Yoko."

"We're ALL Yokos! Yaaaaaaaay!"

I f&$king hate The Beatles.

* * *

Doc and I are still trying to decide whether or not it's worth trying to reintroduce the boys. They started fighting a few months ago, vicious fights where both dogs came away bloody. We think it has something to do with the energy that Molly brings to their playdates. She's a noisy player, and she riles up the other dogs around her with her growls.

Do we try to teach her to not be so provocative? Do we go back to getting them all together for walks, and see if we can get them to calm down? Do we accept that the three older dogs won't ever get back to where they were when that picture was taken? That last option is a little sad, because it's been a theme around here lately. "That was a beautiful time, but it's never going to be like that again. All I have left is the picture."

On the other hand, they don't seem to mind too much. They love each other. We still get different combinations of the dogs together, just not Winston and Ernie. It's working itself out.

Maybe she's not Yoko. Maybe she's more of a Linda.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Immobilizer

Today's whether report is about two different yet equally unappealing choices.

"We can shoot a little bit of cortisone in there," said my long-suffering hand surgeon.

Remembering how painful it was the last time he stuck a needle into one of my hands, I blanched at the suggestion. "Or, I could just, you know, give up knitting. And fishing around in my purse for change. And brushing my hair. That's another option I'd be perfectly willing to consider."

"Well, we can also try immobilizing it for a few weeks, and you can take Advil--"

"Yes! Let's do that. I already throw those magic beans back by the fistful. They're not making much of a difference anymore. Maybe if I doubled up again?"

He looked somewhat alarmed.

"I mean, I take them according to the recommendations on the bottle, of course," I added. "Of course. I love my liver. We're very close."

He's so low-key, and such a consummate professional, that I never know if he knows when I'm joking. I hope I bring a little levity to his day.

I chatted with the nurse at the counter about my impending divorce for a bit. We've developed a friendship over the couple of years I've been going in there, despite our rocky start. "Come back just to visit!" she said, after I made my follow-up appointment. I should bake cookies for them.

So, now I have three weeks with what I'm calling The Immobilizer. It looks so imposing that it ought to have a proper name. It extends two-thirds of the way up to my elbow. It's fairly macho, much more substantial than the brace I bought at the store a while back. Doesn't it look like it should have rockets or a laser attached to it? I wonder how much it would cost to rig something like that up. I wonder if he'd laugh out loud if I walked in there with a laser pointer and some Nerf rockets strapped to my wrist.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Winston's Review: Nikon Field Glasses


It's me, Winston J. Schmidt.

I've been keeping pretty busy with hanging around and looking handsome, and coming up with new and creative ways of arranging Fort Winston on Suzanne's bed. I haven't had much time to review Suzanne's stuff lately, but I promised to do more write-ups of my work, so here's something I worked on a while back.

Winston's Art: "Unmaking a Spectacle of Myself"

Materials: Nikon field glasses

My Process: So, Suzanne left us again for, like, three days (half an hour, just long enough to chat with the neighbors across the street - ed.) and she put her purse in the closet, so I had to be more creative with this one.

I couldn't find anything good in the kitchen, and she'd emptied the trash in all of the bathrooms. I though about eating a remote control, but I got bored after gnawing on the battery.

I was pretty bummed that I couldn't find any more eyeglasses, because that's still my favorite medium. I found the next best thing up in the library, though. These binoculars came in a big, soft case, and they're made of glass and plastic, so they're practically giant eyeglasses. So, uh, you can't blame a guy for making an honest mistake, right?

I didn't get much of a chance to do anything creative with them, because Suzanne came home too soon. I only got as far as chewing them into tiny pieces on my bed. I think I did a good job considering the tight deadline, though.

Conclusion: The case wasn't real leather, which was disappointing. The field glasses were much more complex than eyeglasses, so chewing them was about a hundred times more satisfying. Overall, this was a fun project.

Suzanne doesn't leave us alone in the house anymore, not even when she's out in the garage working out, so it might be a little while before I get to do another large-scale review. Don't worry, though. She'll drop her guard before too long, and I'll get back to work.

Anyway, thanks for reading along.


Winston J. ‘Bug’ Schmidt

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Challenge My Nuts!

"Challenge my nuts!"

I used to work with a guy who would shout that from his office. He'd bring in seasoned pistachios - wasabi, cayenne, and something even hotter - and try to get people to eat more of them than he could. Most people wouldn't take him up on the challenge, but that wasn't really the point. The fun was in the invitation. "Are my nuts too much for you?!"

English wasn't his first language, but he was fluent in it. Fluent enough to know that what he was saying was borderline inappropriate, but that if he said it with a heavy enough accent, nobody would call him on it for fear of embarrassing him. "What if he doesn't know what he's saying is funny?"

He'd been in the U.S. for decades. He knew. But he'd sit in his office and joyfully yell out, "Mike! Try to put my nuts in your mouth!"

I finished Emerald Across the Bay on Sunday in a less-than-stellar 1:43:15. I finished Bay to Breakers twelve minutes faster than that last year, even though I was laboring under the strain of trying to keep a Gatorade gel shot from tearing my guts apart from the inside. I was hoping for somewhere around 1:30:00 for EAB, given how much more training I've been doing this year. I'd like to blame Belligero for adding to my weight, but he's only about two ounces. More likely, the issue was poor pre-race nutrition, and a lack of pacing. I ran too fast early on, and lost steam at about mile marker 5.

I consider Sunday's finish a success anyway, because I felt good after I crossed the line, and I'm not limping today. In fact, I went out running with part of my team this evening, and we're going out again on Thursday. I'm learning that it's not the Olympics; I don't have to leave everything I have out on the trail during every run.

The question isn't whether I'll be able to finish the half-marathon. I already know that I can walk thirteen miles without breaking a sweat. The question is whether I'll do it the way I want to do it, running across the finish line, ready to turn around and do it again. I'm hopeful.

A couple of my friends commented on my picture when I put it on Facebook. "That's a *real* Suzanne smile!" Yes. Yes, it is.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Prep Talk

I sit on the bed for a long time with my jacket still fastened and my scarf around my neck. I know I should get some sleep, but I'm kind of...I don't know. It feels weird to be here by myself. Not at all bad, but weird. I feel like I should go back out and do something, like the evening shouldn't be over.

I spend half an hour carefully laying out my things for tomorrow morning, then rearranging them on the other bed to take this picture. I don't feel any less wound up.

I realize that I feel that way because this is the first time in my life - in my entire life - that I've gone out of town and stayed by myself without it being for work. This is my first solo personal trip.

I set the alarm clock and two separate alarms on my phone. I try to get the alarm for the Touchpad to work, but it refuses to make a sound. I spend longer than I should trying to get onto a network so that I can look for a better app for it. I give up after twenty minutes, when I realize that I'm just procrastinating, that I won't need the Touchpad. If I'm this nervous about waking up on time, I'm not going to need more than two alarms anyway. I'll wake up every hour between now at 6:00, anyway. That's how I am.

Everything is ready for tomorrow. I have my gel shots, my water pack, my spare socks, and my D-tag. I have my headphones, and my rain hat, and my race bib. I have Belligero ready to go into a secure location so that he can run with me.

I don't feel ready for tomorrow.

Friday, March 16, 2012


Today is the vernal equilux. Yes, I spelled it correctly. It's equilux. The equinox is still a few days away, but today is still an awesome day. In fact, this might be my favorite day of the year.

Sunrise and sunset are as near to twelve hours apart as they'll be for the next six months. The days only get longer from here. This is exciting stuff.

Sure, there's the promise of spring renewal blah-blah and late afternoons watching kids play in the sprinklers blah-blah-blah and summertime blah. That's all great, but that's not why I'm so jazzed about today.

I'm night-blind and therefore a real danger behind the wheel within a half hour of sundown. I can drive in an emergency, like, say, if my entire neighborhood is on fire and zombies are shambling out of the flames while hungrily smacking their undead gums. If I were the only one of the living who could drive, I'd pile my incapacitated neighbors and their children into my car and barrel out of here, and I wouldn't worry about who I might hit, because I'd most likely be hitting zombies, or the dude down the street that nobody likes all that much.

That's not a likely scenario, not because of the zombie thing, but because I don't know how every single one of my neighbors of driving age would lose the use of their arms and legs, and, if they had, why the zombies wouldn't have gotten to them before I could drag them to safety. Never mind that my whole neighborhood is ablaze for God knows what reason, it's just damned unlikely that I'm going to be the only one of us still standing. But, if I were and it was a dark, moonless night, I'd be willing to give night driving a shot.

Under normal, non-zombie conditions, me driving in the dark isn't worth the risk. The few times that I've been caught out at late dusk, I've almost hit people in crosswalks, or broadsided motorcyclists because I couldn't tell where they were on the road. I'm legitimately afraid that I'll kill somebody.

As a result, I have to carefully plan my days around sunset. I don't get to do as much as I'd like in the evenings, because I have to be done driving before dark. I can't take evening art classes, and I can't take the dogs to training. Friends will meet up after work for drinks and billiards, but I can't join them unless I get my car all the way home and get a ride back to meet them. If traffic is too thick on my way home from work, I don't even get to stop and pick up milk.

I know that it put a lot of pressure on Peter. No matter how hard I tried to not add to what he saw as his already overloaded list of responsibilities, things would come up and I'd have to count on him to be here to ferry me somewhere. "Are you going to be home to drive Molly and me to her class?" It was a big, stressful pain in the ass every week, as he'd barely get home in time to get us, then turn right back around and race to training, irritated and keyed up. It wasn't ever a fun thing, not like the classes during the summer, when the dogs and I were able to do it on our own without putting anyone else out. A lot of things were like that, not just with the dogs.

Toward the end, when he was telling me about how tired he was of "managing" me, and I was trying to tell him that it's just as hard for me to have to rely on other people, he snapped, "You could just take cabs, you know." That stung as much as anything else he's said to me, that he not only wouldn't acknowledge that it was hard for me to ask for help, but that it made him think less of me when I did. "You could just take cabs." (And stop burdening me with your weakness.)

When it's lighter, I can get around just like everyone else does. That's why this is my favorite day of the year. It's the promise of months of increased independence and freedom, of being able to do more than one errand before locking up my car for the night, of not having to race the sun to my house. It's the first day of the year that darkness doesn't get the better of light.

I don't even care that it's raining. I know the sun's up there.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Whether Balloon

Not the company in question.

I have a note at the top of one of my to-do lists in my phone. It reads:

Vodka. Blimp

The short phrase is written that way - capital-V-vodka-period-space-capital-B-blimp-no-ending-punctuation - because I tapped it into Evernote with my right thumb while I was driving down the freeway.

Now, I'm pretty anti-texting when I'm on the road. The reason I don't drive my beloved silver Volkswagen anymore is that I sold it to my friend. She'd crashed her convertible into a creek on her way home from a party. By the time she regained consciousness and climbed up the bank, emergency vehicles were waiting for her. She knew what they must have thought. It was late in the evening, hers was the only car involved in the accident on a fairly straight road, and she was staggering unsteadily toward a phalanx of police and EMTs. "It's not what you think! I'm not drunk!" She held up her phone, still dripping from its dunking in the muddy water. "I was TEXTING!"

I hadn't had a smartphone for that long back then, so I didn't understand how easy it is to get sucked into doing things that are just a little careless. "Just put your phone in the trunk if you can't keep your hands off of it. You're not crashing MY car into a river, sister! Besides, you aren't the only person on the road, you know." It sounds funny to me now.

Anyway, I was driving home from work earlier this week, and my phone was on my lap, since it's also my music when I'm in the car. Don't judge. I set up playlists before I put it into gear.

Just to the west of the freeway, something was drifting a few hundred feet above the trees. I kept glancing over to see what it was, but it was a little too far ahead of me to be able to make out the shape. It looked like an ad balloon suspended above a new housing development, but I didn't get any closer to it as I drove up the road. When I got near enough to see that it was a blimp, moving along with the flow of traffic, I tried to figure out what it was advertising. I spent a lot of time squinting up and to the left.

I wasn't alone. I could see drivers in the cars around me doing the same thing. We were all more interested in the blimp than in our regular commute.

Here's what I don't understand about blimp advertising. Why is it targeting drivers on the freeway? Doesn't that seem inherently unsafe? Shouldn't we all be focused on the road instead of trying to figure out what's floating around at NewsCopter 7 level? I thought on that for a few minutes, while still transfixed by dirigible billboard.

That's about the time that I got close enough to read side of the airship. "(name withheld to protect the company) Vodka." Not only was this thing distracting thousands of drivers after their long workdays, but it was also making all of them think about drinking. Hell, for all I know, some of them might have pulled off the freeway and bought a fifth of (name withheld to protect the company) Vodka. At best, it's creating a legion of distracted drivers. At worst, it's creating a legion of distracted drivers unable to see that they're sharing the road with a bunch of drunks. Who thought this branch of the ad campaign was anything less than foolhardy and dangerous?

I wanted to remember to be thoroughly outraged once I got home, so that I could contact the distillery and give them a piece of my mind. "I'll forget all about it if I don't have some kind of reminder. Rubber band around my wrist? Move my purse to a different seat? What if I don't recall what those things are supposed to remind me to do? Dammit! If only I had a way to make a note. If only..."

And that's how I ended up texting while driving down the freeway, and almost ramming into the back of a Ford Focus. I was doing it for all of us, for our safety. Maybe a little bit so that the company in question would try to pay for my silence with cases of sweet, sweet liquor, sure, but mostly for our safety. You're welcome.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Tuesday, March 13, 2012


The first thing Big Guy said when I told him that Peter was moving out? "You can come live with me."

I might have a lot of uncertainty in my life, but I never have to worry about whether or not the boys have got my back.

Monday, March 12, 2012

From the Peanut Gallery

O.K., so if you were wondering whether or not Suzanne was going to keep up with posting every day? Uh, looks like no.

Love, Winston

Winston? Guy, this post means I posted today. I'm still in it.

You're welcome.