Tuesday, March 27, 2007

self portrait - stages of first grade

More Tool Self Portraits here.

It's the last week of this challenge, I just realized, so here's a slew of Tool photos that I forgot to post before.

Here's a distrubing one, but oh how we laugh and laugh over it.

Monday, March 26, 2007

I Got Nothing Else, Just Basketball Talk

My children know that during this time of year - during the college hoops tournament -- they better occupy themselves by playing in the street -- or whatever it is they do when a tournament game is on -- or they need to join the madness to which their father and I so deeply subscribe. They're either for us or against us. In past years, the girls have scampered in and out during games saying things like, "What team do you want to win?" "Why are you yelling at the TV?" "Pretty uniforms!" This year was the first that Maya was interested in the tournament beyond the neat mascots and making fun of cheerleaders. During the Georgetown/UNC game, both Maya and Mina were (almost) riveted by the second half in which the momentum swung from one team to another. Husband and I were rooting for the Georgetown Hoyas mainly because in a surreal display of a skipped-generation, parrallel universe, Patrick Ewing Jr. plays on this Georgetown team and John Thompson Jr. coaches. Their fathers, in the same exact roles, were part of the Georgetown team in the 80's. It makes a great story. And Maya decided to jump on the Hoyas bandwagon. She said to Husband, "Y'know, GTown's in Washington DC," which I had told her a few days earlier. Husband raised his eyebrows. My heart soared. Mina said she wanted UNC to win and we said, "Whatever. You're dead to us." Mina skipped around most of the game saying MyTeamIsWiiiinnnningMyTeamIsWiiiinnnnnning which following the Oregon loss (I had them going all the way) was making mommy want to drop kick something.

With about seven minutes left, Georgetown was down my ten and Maya took to yelling things like, "AH, REBOUND!" and "Don't panic, boys!" She threw her hands up, frustrated. We all stared at a dead-serious Patrick Ewing, Sr. on the TV screen, in the stands, for the 48th billion time. Then I said, in my tourney-seasoned way, "Maya, it ain't ever over until the buzzer sounds in college hoops." Mina had gone to her room at this point, self satisfied, but when she heard us whoopin and hollerin for the tremdous comeback Georgetown was making, she sauntered back out, now in dress up clothes. She was still chanting MyTeamIsWinning until she saw that the score was tied at the end of regulation. "AH MAN," she yelled. We yelled back, "Yea, Mina, what's up your precious Tyler Hansbrough now? You're so going down!" Instead of going back to her room -- she was wearing princess shoes and a Lucy Ricardo dress and a tiara -- she sat and watched the rest of the game and yelled at the TV until Georgetown had won the game by ten. Then Maya asked, "How much does it cost to get in your pool?" I said, "20 bucks." She said, "Ok.". Husband added, "Of your OWN money."

An obsession may have been born with Maya yesterday. And it was born during a Georgetown game where a Patrick Ewing was on the roster and a John Thompson was listed as the coach. The mind-bending irony to this is not lost on me because my own obsession for this tournament also began precisely during a Georgetown game. In 1985, I was a senior in high school and a starting guard for my varsity basketball team (holla'). One of my after-school jobs was as a hostess at a place called Carlos & Pepe's, which was an establishment made from the El Torito mold. I worked the night that Georgetown upset Villanova. I remember that the TV's, which hung in the corners of the bar, shook on the hinges as the second half unfolded. I remember staring at the screen, menus in hand, watching the senior Patrick Ewing and John Thompson beat the odds. I ignored customers -- they may have eventually sat themselves -- until every second ticked off the clock. The celebration of them winning -- the level at which they triumphed in their own ability to pull off an upset and prove disbelievers wrong -- had a profound impact on me.

That's all I got.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Little Madness in the Spring

A LITTLE madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King,
But God be with the Clown,
Who ponders this tremendous scene—
This whole experiment of green,
As if it were his own!
-Emily Dickerson

Check this out:

Sasha Choi wrote that she was downriver.

Lazaro Best said, "With it prissy." And Lessi Queen states, "It is a McDaniel."

Wat said, "Deforestation oh!" Amie Hinkle told me her aunt be a chiff.

Gray Jeffrey warns of a WINDCHILL ADVISORY.

Pierson Z. Horace has a climate intensifier.

I think Eke was trying to tell me about a dine limit?

Shipping said, "It wasn't a Zeppelin as there was no engine noise . . ."

Ymallow Verbiage was all, "I go columnar."

I've been told hundreds of times that I've won an international lottery. Why do so many Nigerians need me to help them out? And why are so many trying to enlarge my penis?

My email spam has gone from annoying to perplexing. I understand the lottery/nigerian/penis-enlarging hustle, but what's with the interesting names and the odd subject titles? I was going to write them all down, if only to get good names for fiction, but 30+ a day is exhausting.

Other than that, not much to report. I feel very observing as of late, like I'm collecting blog-fiction fodder like chestnuts, storing them for a later date. Speaking of which, I saw Lauren Hutton at the Farmer's Market over the weekend. I think she's in her mid to late 60's and she's still stunning. I heard her voice first, gravely and low, talking about sprouted peas. I went to fondle alfalfa just so I could stare at her. I'm smooth like that. She was wearing a thin-strapped woven backpack and an olive, thick-cable sweater with large round wooden buttons. I nearly pointed at her to say, "I'm gonna age just like you, lady."

I suppose I'll report other recent star sightings just to make this post completely fluffy and meaningless, except for the Dickerson part of course:

* Flying back from the Florida tournament, David Hasselhoff was on our connecting flight from Vegas to LA. Now, I know all you ladies, and a couple of you fellas, want to know how he was looking; don't crowd, I'll get there. He actually looked better in person, but he was in super-flirt mode with whomever was his traveling companion. It was kinda gross, but I'm sure we all look the same to the outside observer when we're exercising our suave flirting stylings so, go ahead and get your flirt on Knight Rider!

* I saw Rene Russo at Whole Foods a little while ago. Holy cow, does she look fantastic in person.

Which I've come to realize that most celebrities do look better in person, like how profession golfers or tennis players or basketball players are EXPONENTIALLY better than even really good civilian players, it's like celebs are professional lookers. They just look that much better than the rest of us. Unless they've been hitting the juice and pills a little too much, then they look like shit like the rest of us. Oh, but Paris Hilton does not look better in person. I will mention that. I saw her at a fashion show for Husband's job a couple months ago. But maybe the juice and pills thing applies there. She was wearing a $4.99 platinum wig that fell to her non-existent behind. Her skin was trashed but heavily caked with foundation. Every few minutes she checked herself in a compact which made Husband and me laugh and roll our eyes and many other things to make ourselves feel better. Then I saw photos from that night and she looked 1000x’s better; the hair looked chic and pretty, the skin flawless. How’d did she do that?

All celebs are also WAY smaller in person. Almost always when I see someone famous I say to myself, "That looks like a tiny version of (fill in blank.)" Throughout high school I worked for an athletic shoe store and one night Madonna and Sean Penn (married at the time -- 'member that?) strolled in. I didn't notice them at first, but all the other employees scampered to the back to gawk. I thought to myself, Isn't that cute? It's a teeny tiny version of Madonna & Sean! "Let me know if I can answer any questions for you or get you anything," I said as they perused the shoe wall. She turned around with a disgusted, bored look on her face and he said with a smile, "Ok, thanks" which was kind of ironic because back then he was know as the dick.

* Barry Bostwick was eating Indian next to us last week. I only think of him as Brad, y'know?

* Toby McGuire and his baby's mama were at my fav vegan spot brunching a month ago. Maya was all, "Spiderman!" She hasn't learned how to play it cool yet which is why I didn't tell her about David Hasselhoff until after we passed first class. I didn't want her spewing quotes from Dodgeball, hoping for some interactive scene work.

* You know who's not tiny in person is Laila Ali who I saw at LAX a couple weeks ago standing six foot in the Starbucks line. WOW, she is fantastically gorgeous. We locked eyes for a second and I almost did a goofy wave. "Hi Laila."

* I gave Alfre Woodard my shopping cart at the market once 'cause there were no others.

* Christian Bale was loitering around our dance studio because his little daughter didn't want to leave.

* I saw Wade Robson twice in one weekend. Mandy said he was stalking me.

Enough of this garbage. The Dickerson thing isn't garbage, just the other stuff.

Friday, March 16, 2007

My Happy Place

Here's the scene as I work from home today: My work laptop is on my . . er . . . lap, I'm lounging on my bed with every single pillow either behind me or around me. Pugs are snuggled in as tightly as pugly possible because god forbid they should venture to any other part of a queen-sized bed. Curlers are in my hair; I'm not sure why. To be honest, I'm experimenting. In front of me, on the TV, North Texas is trying to knock Memphis out of the men's NCAA tournament. I am yelling at the TV, at North Texas (causing the pugs to flinch) for the big upset. This is the exact tournament for which I wait all year. Three weeks of bliss started for me yesterday.

What I'm trying to say is that I'll be distracted during this tournament, but the fact that I am blogging during the second day, historically one of the more exciting days of the tourney, is a testament of my love for you. To add to my distraction, I run a huge March Madness pool. This year is the 8th annual. I twist people's arm to enroll and then I write commentary after each round and force all poolers to read it, quenching my sports-writing fantasy. This year there are record-breaking entries and if the IRS or the feds are reading this, What's up, boys? All 85 of my pool participants are playing for, uh, a handshake and a you're-a-genius pat on the back. I'm happy to report that I also lured this enthusiast into the pool, and we've made a side bet. The consequences are blog related. Look for humiliating results posted by the loser in approximately three weeks. M, You're going DOWN!

Monday, March 12, 2007

self portrait challenge

Hey, everybody, Epiphany Tiffany is back. And starring in a feature-length movie, an autobiography. And you know what else is back? The relentless epiphanies! This post is not only a self portrait entry for our friends with the fun March "Tools" theme, but this is also an EPIPHANY BULLETIN BOARD. Wootwoot.

I'll start:

* Hey, baking sucks. Not really. I love baking still, but the idea of it as a living grinds on me. Also, I'm not exactly sure why, but I've gained a few pounds and my sugar depression makes me a manic weep-a-zoid who posts dark blog entries that frighten my friends. SubEpiphany: Maybe try not to be SO desperate to leave the cubicle life. SubSubEpiphany: Cubicle life still sucks ass and I need to be rescued from it immediately.

*Any creative venture I do -- baking, bangles, painting -- is only a scenic route around my writing. I'm so bored with this epiphany that it is now my own version of Groundhog's Day. I mean DUH for fuck's sake. Hello, Epiphany Central? Help me because here's what I have to work out about My Writer Life: Writing is the only thing that takes total silence and my full, complete focus. E-ve-ry single thing else I can do while children climb on me and talk to me nonstop. With every thing else I can do two to three tasks at a time. So where are my blocks of vacuumous time? I'll expect something on that during the next round of epiphanies, thanks.

* I'm bringing Yoga back (yea). I had to give it another shot though I felt yoga was too good for me the first time around. I went to a studio that plays music during class. Not woowoo New Age music but hip hop and contemporary stuff. This may be a complete bastardization, I realize, but I love it. This version also is super athletic and it kicks my ass. Niz-amaste!

* There are a couple different ways to know you're having a good time. For example, you're at a party or you're away for the weekend and you're wrapped up in all the fun. You're thinking to yourself, "Holy shit, I'm having a good time right now"; you feel completely enveloped by it for the entire duration of the experience. Then there are times when you go to the park with your husband and your kids and you laze around there and maybe swing on the swings and maybe take your shoes off in the sand box, and then maybe you get watermelon BombPops from the ice cream truck which is still built like a rusty box and is still slathered in sticker images of every ice cream sold. And you sit on the curb and show your kids the best way to eat a popcycle which is to gnaw on it a little to create good slush and THEN eat that, but then you watch both your kids, at different times, accidentally launch their snow cones out of the sleeves right onto the pavement, and then maybe you discuss when the 5-second rule just can't apply, like if the snow cone had landed in an oil patch in the street. So, then you're riding bikes and scooters back from the park in the lazy-sun of late afternoon. The Locust Bean trees create a canopy shading your ride; they still shed melon-colored leaves and it softens the tread beneath you. And you look over at your daughter riding next to you and she's so beautiful & wide-eyed and the sun is sparkling all over her and you realize in that exact second that you are having the best time ever. You realize -again- that your life is perfect.

Ok, your turn. What's your epiphany of the week?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Seeping Genes

My mother says that the first kindergarten I attended was run like a fascist regime. My mother says they were mean and they forced too many naps. She says they marched us to the bathroom at set times and didn't allow us to go when a natural urge called in our little bodies. My mother says that when the director of the school called her into the office because I had smeared my own shit on the bathroom walls for the second time, he suggested that I had severe psychological problems.

I remember only two things about the school: I remember that if my hair was unkept and falling into my face -- often -- then my teacher, an older woman that crouched over her desk as if almost crawling atop of it, would yank my hair back and tie it up in wide, pure-rubber rubber bands that were scuffed with dark smudges. My rubber-tied ponytail would leave large arches of hair on top of my head, and strands strayed near my ears, but at least it was out of my face. My eyes teared, not in humiliation, but because small allotments of hairs ripped against the rubber causing my eyes to well without my control. I wanted my mother to keep in the ponytail for days; removing the band was worse. When the rubber band was finally out, a small mass was usually attached from which long hairs sprayed. The other thing I remember about this school was the darkness of naptime. Lying on unfolded blue vinyl mats, the other kids seemed to sleep as soon as heavy blinds were drawn, but I stayed awake marveling the mid-day darkness of the room, churing in heavy five-year old thoughts. During naptime, I would sneak off to the bathroom.

Had my mother been a conventional one, she might've bought (more) into the notion of the suggested emotional problems. But she told them that I was probably trying to tell them something and that they could go fuck themselves. She pulled me out of school the day of the conference.

Here's the fork in the road of this story. I think my 23-year old mother, weighted by her own inescapable darkness, secretly wondered if maybe some genetic emotional damage had actually seeped into me too. Smearing shit is drastic, isn't it? But she retells the story full of pride because her five-year old daughter stuck it to the fascists. I acted out drastically in rebellion though we all knew I was not an acter-outter; I am not a boisterous rebel. In my present memory, this part of the story has been blacked out.

I saw my uncle and my grandfather for the first time in fifteen years a couple weeks ago. My grandfather, a rectangle of a man from Irish Canadian stock, has soften in nature but not in stature over the years. He's still over six feet. He still has neat and thick iron hair. He still drinks scotch that burns and smokes thick cigars. I see my (my mother's, my girls') prominent chin in his. He was a sergeant in the Marines, 1st division. He can't say Marines without 1st Division trailing, but that means he was present at Iwo Jima. It means he received two purple hearts, one for the mast that still protrudes from his shoulder blade; one for having his bottom teeth shot out. The amount of Marine and Iwo Jima paraphernalia has multiplied a ton-fold since I've last seen him. There is not one inch of his small house that does not remind you that he was a Marine, 1st Division at Iwo Jima. It is a life-sized collage. At 82, he is sharp, but nicer. He met Maya and Mina for the first time and he told Maya stories of a Korean TaeKwonDo grand master that he had befriended over the years. He scrawled out a contribution towards Maya's tournament fees. He commented about how polite they were and how much they look like me.

We drove to my uncle's house. It only occured to me that night that he's only eleven years older than me. He is a clown. A shyster, a hustler. He yelled my childhood name and danced around, his thick silver-red hair waving, his prominent chin guiding to a shit-eating smile. He seemed to be on speed. The girls went bananas for him because he's a clown. He told the girls about how he used to unscrew by bottles when I was a baby so the milk would dump on me. He said, "Yea, me and my mom had to care for her a lot because my sister was off ---" he paused for a momentary click of respect for the girls' Nana -- "screwing around." Later, he asked me if I had contracted the family curse. He was still smile-laughing. "Huh?" I said. "How many times have you been married? You're not on your fourth or anything, are you?" No. "Good, good. This one's it for me too. Last time I said that though I went to jail for beating that Russian bitch off of me." He laughed. "She shows up at my house with three goons and when I swung, I clocked her instead. Whoops." Laugh, laugh. Off to play ball in the back with the girls. My grandfather and uncle spoke often of my grandmother, surprisingly. That was the best part of the visit because usually I keep her locked down in the part of me that is equally a dungeon and an altar. My uncle whined, "Oh, you were her favorite. She fucking loved you the best. You were her baby." "I loved her best too," I said, but he didn't hear me. "This is all I have left of hers." He slapped a concrete garden ball that I realized contain some of her ashes. "I told that fucker husband of hers off after she died." I had heard that story where my uncle had gone to my grandmother's house months after the funeral to retrieve some things and the husband was holed up in the bedroom with another woman already. My uncle left $5 on the table with a note that read, "For your next piece of ass." My uncle can be likable. But days after my visit my mother asked, "He wasn't mean, was he?" He hadn't been, but I know he's the type to laugh and joke and then punch you in the face. They all are, on that side.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Holdin It Down

I've been busy.

I've been battling for my world. I've been holdin it down for mine. I'm ride or die.

Mina got her report card this week. It was poor. And there were conflicting comments in the notes section. I realized that the teacher has most certainly pegged Mina as dumb and there is no clawing her way out of it. On her own at least. And I realized I had had enough of that batty woman's horseshit. I'm not letting one overwhelmed and disorganized teacher tell me or my girl that she's anything less than what she is. Mrs. So-n-So is not gonna drag down Mina's academic confidence. No way. Not when I look into deep, little black eyes and see brilliance doing the back stroke up in there.

Since the receipt of the report card, I've been talking to other parents, often and loudly. I've heard many similar stories about past and present second grade students that have been labeled; some of whom are now in GATE or honors classes. I learned what an IEP test is and I demanded one from our principal. Help may follow because of this, begrudgingly -- maybe. Which is why I've also signed Mina up with a tutoring center; an attentive, caring, understanding and expensive tutoring center. I'm not worried about cost. I know this money will come even if I have to sell fifty thousand cupcakes. I am abundant, goddamnit. I am abundant with brilliant children and love; we are wealthy beyond belief. Don't tell me otherwise.

So, there's been that. I've also been thinking a lot -- again, like always. But I don't want to talk about that.

Oh, and my Tivo-like device offered by the local cable company now has a mind of its own. It records things randomly, programs we don't choose. This started a few months ago when I looked on our play list and noticed a soft porn title, something like The Robot Girls of Venus. I grilled my husband nastily and he swore up and down, vehemently and passionately, that he absolutely did not record such crap. We then realized from the date that the show was recorded when we were out of town, when Grandma Carmen was housesitting and watching the girls. We shuttered and then quickly dismissed. Not that Grandma Carmen isn't getting her grove on with a little grindy-grindy B movie, but would she do that in our house, in our ROOM; record it even? Later Husband accused me of recording the Paris and Nicole Richie show. Then I accused him of recording fifty million Pimp My Rides. Now, we'll randomly look at the list to see what new, mysterious show has popped up. Yesterday it was five new episodes of This Week with George Stephanopoulos.

Last night I caught a reading given by a good friend. She and I had met almost a decade ago in a writing workshop. Her third novel just came out in paperback. I crammed myself in the back corner of the historic LA bookstore. I was in a little nook between tall bookcases purposefully getting physical with the books that lined the shelves. They smelled so good. The lighting was dull and terrible in this place; high bulbs let off a lifeless light. My mind wandered a bit as she read, as it sometimes does when she reads, and I looked at the stacks of books on the table and the ripped and curled posters, and I nestled in more against the case. Older intellectual types and hip, young thesis-writing intellectual types listened to her better than I did. I thought about how these types intimidate me. After the reading, my friend signed books and I thumbed through anthologies avoiding my self consciousness that swells around her crowd. And my stomach hurt from wanting this life still so badly. I stood weirdly at bay reading snippets of things; and I didn't feel any less than these people, but more like I don't know what to say when they seem so much more educated and writerly and blahblahblah. My own intelligence seems so raw and unintentional in this setting. Sometimes it makes me feel superior to them. I shuffled over, finally, to my friend and we talked warmly. She has always been supportive and kind to me and she signed my book as she always does: "To a brilliant writer, to a brilliant friend." This always illuminates me, like I'm a child. I left exhilarated by want, beaten down by want. I shrank in the dark as I walked to my car, and in the car I just rested my forehead on the steering wheel.