Archive for May, 2007

I’ll make it up to you with photos

On a sunny day in 1910, having recently divorced his wife, a man named Herman Hethke strolled into a canyon near Calabasas, California. Halfway down the canyon, he carved a tiny house from several boulders, and there he stayed, earning a reputation as a hermit. Sometime between 1920 and 1930, he walked back out of the woods and remarried, thereby providing a valuable life lesson: sometimes you just need a break from things, a chance to get some perspective before diving back in.

My father and I didn’t speak for about six years. After he moved to Europe, we slowly got back in touch. Mostly by e-mail. After a few years, he came to town to visit other family, and we had dinner. A year later, we met for another dinner. Ten days ago, he arrived for a lengthier visit.

They have been ten days of nightmares, of anxiety, of long venting phone calls to my mother. Ten days for which Husband should probably be sainted, as I have maybe been a little cranky at him for no good reason.

Some good has come of this visit, though. There’s comfort to be found in the knowledge that something is broken beyond fixing; you can finally stop trying so hard to make it right, and just accept that it will never work the way it should. It will clunk and grind along as best it can, unless or until it stops altogether, but there’s nothing you can do about it. And that is liberating.

Yesterday was our last day together. We went hiking. My father had been appalled, earlier in the week, to find out that I walk the world unarmed, sans weaponry. As we stepped onto the trail, he pressed a hunting knife into my hand, with instructions to carry it on me at all times. In his own very weird way, this was a tender gesture.

So off we walked, well-armed, into the wilderness, to visit the home of hermit Herman Hethke.

view over mountains 2
The Santa Monica Mountains.

up a creek
Cold Creek.

leezard
One of 18,562 lizards on the trail.

rusty truck
Herman’s truck?

hermit herman hethke's house
Home of Herman Hethke: Hermit.

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Argh, a meme . . .

But I can’t say no to Sachi.

The rules:
1. Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves.
2. People who are tagged write a blog post about their own 8 random things and post these rules.
3. At the end of your blog you need to tag 8 people and post their names (I punk out here!).
4. Don’t forget to leave them a comment and tell them they’re tagged, and to read your blog (See 3 above).

The facts:

1. I can wiggle my ears. Both at once, but also one at a time. My ninth grade biology teacher told us this was a vestigial trait, and one of the girls in my class called me a throwback.

2. Remember that kid who got picked on in school? The one who got beat up, and shoved into lockers, and pantsed, and called names (like “throwback”) all the time? Yeah, that was me. Sometimes I get nostalgic for my childhood, but then I remember how much I hated my childhood when I was in it. I think really I’m just nostalgic for all the free time, and the lack of financial anxiety.

3. For about two years, I smoked a pack and half of cigarettes a day, but never became addicted. I smoked because I enjoyed it. When I decided it was time to stop, I just stopped. I occasionally crave a cigarette in times of stress, but I never had the agony with quitting that other people experience.

4. I’ve been writing since I was about four years old, when someone granted me access to a typewriter. One of my first stories was about a deer and a fox who played together in the forest. Upon finding that both of their mothers had been shot by hunters, the deer looked at the fox and said, “now we will have to go out into the world and earn a living!” Thus I prepared myself for years of wage slavery.

5. Another of my first stories was about a girl named Cindy who found a dragon and brought it home. When she walked in the door, her mother yelled and her father fainted. My fight against sexist representation in the media began early.

6. I make terrible, awful puns all the time. I can’t help it. They just spill out of me, like soapy water from a hyperactive washing machine. I blame my parents and their punning games at the dinner table .

7. My father expressed disappointment in me when I reached the age of eighteen without ever having been arrested for civil disobedience. I assured him it wasn’t for lack of trying. Despite the numerous protests/civil disobedience actions in which I’ve taken part in subsequent years, I’ve still never been arrested. He’s still disappointed.

8. My mother, stepfather, and father all have Ph.D.s. Until I was about fifteen, I didn’t realize that this was optional, or that there was any possibility I might not get mine. Now I have an M.F.A., but I still feel educationally inadequate.

I won’t tag anyone, because Sachi tagged most of the people I would have chosen. But if you answer this meme on your blog, let me know! I would love to read your responses.

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Tinky Winky says bye-bye to Jerry Falwell

“Oh dear, it’s easy to say the wrong thing here,” he said. “Tinky Winky sad whenever someone dies, but …” He left it hanging there.

Go read the whole thing.

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Just Desserts – Chapter 2

Maltose and Dextrose, the brave explorer and the easily-bribed sidekick, flew far, far from home. They flew all through the day, watching the patchwork quilt of the land fade away into the rippled, glassy sea. When night fell, they huddled in the bottom of their Vessel and gazed at the pinprick stars in silence until they fell asleep.

“Land! Land!” Maltose raised her head at Dextrose’s cries. She tipped her pith helmet back and looked where he pointed, and saw cliffs, stark against the breaking dawn.

ARRIVAL

“Not just land.” Maltose squinted. “Buildings. Peeple.”

“Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s go!” Dextrose bounced up and down in his excitement.

“Sounds good to me!” Maltose steered the Vessel toward the strip of grass at the top of the cliff. As they drew near, she saw the villagers gather in small groups outside their houses, watching them approach. The Vessel bumped to a halt at the outskirts of the village, but the only peep to approach was a small child, who stood staring at the Vessel in awed silence. The other villagers remained huddled around their huts, whispering amongst themselves.

“They must not be used to outsiders,” Maltose mused quietly aloud. “Imagine the many thousands of years that their small culture has been here, isolated on this clifftop, needing nothing more than grass huts and coconut palms to survive. No doubt we seem miraculous to them – perhaps even godlike. That means,” she told her companion solemnly, “that we have a duty to these primitive people. We must speak slowly and carefully, and try not to shock them with concepts too complex for their savage intellect.”

But Dextrose was not listening. “Shopping!” he cried, and scrambled out of the Vessel.

THE VILLAGE

Maltose followed, and stood by Dextrose’s side, looking up at the sign. “Oh. Yes,” she said. “Well.”

ENTERING ANTIQUE SHOP

“Can we go in, Maltose? Can we, please?” And without waiting, Dextrose ducked through the low door.

ANTIQUE SHOP

Inside, the shop was dusty and dimly lit. Small statues, jars, and carvings lay scattered about, and cracked paintings hung from the dark walls. In the gloom, they could see the shopkeeper behind the counter, nodding in half-sleep.

“There’s something strange about him,” Dextrose murmured.

“Don’t be prejudiced,” Maltose scolded. “He’s just like the other villagers – they’re all pink and have large ears. You can’t expect peeple everywhere to be just like they are at home.”

“But that’s just it,” Dextrose said slowly. “He looks . . . familiar, somehow.”

The shopkeeper snorted and awoke fully. “Tourists!” he cried cheerfully, and waddled out from behind the counter. “Welcome, welcome to our little village, where everything is just as it should be and nothing is as it shouldn’t! Can I interest you in some artifacts or native painting? All one hundred-percent authentic!”

He herded them over to one side of the room. “See this stone tablet? Five thousand years old if it’s a day. And yours for such a low price! What do you think, Madam?” He asked as he held it out for Maltose’s inspection.

THE CURIOS

“I don’t – I think – I mean, we’re just looking,” Maltose stammered. The shopkeeper looked at her face sharply as she spoke, then his eyes widened and he dropped the tablet. It broke into three pieces when it hit the floor.

“Oh, no!” Dextrose wailed, “It’s broken!”

The shopkeeper waved distractedly at him. “Never mind, young Sir. It’s worth more in three pieces than in one anyway. Might I ask, respected customers, from whence you hail?”

Here Maltose felt on firmer ground. Speaking slowly, using small words and grand gestures to communicate, she told him about the Strange Land Across The Big Water, and the Tribe of Yellow Peeps who lived there. She explained about the Great God known as the Adventure Bug who had told them to Journey Far Away To Foreign Lands. As she spoke, he grew pale, and stumbled back behind his counter. He drew out a piece of paper, wadded it up, and wiped it across his shining forehead. As he did so, his ears wobbled alarmingly, and he reached up to steady them.

“That’s it!” Dextrose was triumphant. “The ears! They’re not real! He’s actually a Peep like us! But Pink!”

“Hush! Hush, perceptive young Sir.” The shopkeeper looked nervously about. “I have been living among the villagers in disguise for many years, they must not discover my deception.”

“But why?” They were edging out of Maltose’s comfort zone, and she was not entirely pleased. Natives were supposed to be grateful recipients of her exotic tales – they weren’t supposed to have urgent dramas of their own.

“Because I was sent here, far from the shimmering desert of my home, twelve years ago.” He wiped his forehead with the wad of paper again. “I was sent here to wait. For you.”

Oh, well, that’s all right then, Maltose thought dazedly. As the two Peeps stared at him, beaks gaping, the shopkeeper looked down at the stained, crumpled paper in his hand. “Oh, vegetables!” he cursed, and frantically began smoothing it out on the counter. “Twelve years of waiting, and I almost ruin the map.”

Maltose and Dextrose sidled closer.

THE MAP

“But what’s it for?” Dextrose asked.

“And where does it lead?” Maltose added. “And why us?”

The shopkeeper, beginning to recover his composure, smiled enigmatically. “It is for, and leads to, a great treasure hidden deep in the perilous desert. As for why you,” he shrugged. “That I do not know. I always thought it should have been someone taller, myself.”

Dextrose grabbed the map and began hopping up and down. “A treasure hunt! A treasure hunt!” he sang. “C’mon, Maltose! Let’s go, quick! Before the other teams find it!” He raced out of the door, heading back to the Vessel.

Maltose narrowed her eyes at the grinning shopkeeper. “It isn’t that easy, is it?” she asked him.

“Define ‘easy’.”

Maltose groaned, and left the shop without further questions. Bitter experience had taught her that asking questions just got her answers she didn’t want.

She climbed back into the Vessel, where Dextrose was waiting impatiently. As they took off, she could see the small child who had been so fascinated with the Vessel running along the ground below them, waving. She waved back, then turned to her excited companion. “A treasure hunt it is, then.”

LEAVING TOWN

(Chapter 1)

Set-Designer, Fetcher-of-New-Batteries-for-Camera, and Master of the Photoshop Domain: Husband. Story-Writer and Photo-Snapper: Uccellina.

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It’s my birthday and I’ll blog if I want to

When I was about six years old, I began to recognize the value of Experience – and I pictured it that way, with a capital E. As I sniffled back my tears from whatever latest disaster, I would think, Oh, well, at least it’s an Experience. I learned to be grateful for those miserable moments, because they shocked me out of my everyday complacency, and often gave me new insight into my life and the world around me. This childhood coping mechanism developed throughout my life until it flowered, in my adulthood, into a fairly relentless silver-lining detection skill.

For instance: Today is my birthday. I am at work. This is not optimal. But! Lawyer and Litigator are taking me out to lunch! Coworker gave me flowers! And the zoo has been saved! Silver linings abound!

My friend Peggy calls this “living a life of gratitude.” I am grateful to all of you, my friends and my readers, for sticking with me through my endless bitching, my political rants, and my mysterious blog hiatuses (hiati?). Thank you.

And happy birthday to me!

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