May 2012

LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT LAUREL

Every now and then, someone waltzes into your life when you least expect it and changes it forever.

In June of ’08 I attended a house directors’ conference in Seattle. Most of us were in casual clothes, but there was this tiny sprite who was dressed in adorable suits and fancy-dancy clothes every day. She had this adorable little laugh that brought sunshine into every space she entered. She’s maybe 5′ tall..in heels.. weighs 12 pounds, they don’t make clothes small enough for her, and she’s got this really adorable short, red  haircut that reminds me of Mary Martin in Peter Pan. She became the belle of the ball.

We started to get to know each other that week. We ended up on the same campus that fall, and were kind of the renegades among the house mom crew, even though we joined them for get-togethers.  But Laurel and I loved to go to the campus bar, share a hamburger or whatever else sounded good, and have a couple of drinks together. That was WAY below  the status of our compatriots who wouldn’t be caught dead in a campus bar.

We ate a bunch of really good Mexican food that term (along with maybe a margarita or two), took long walks, and even ended up with the worst haircuts in the history of the world at the same time.  When I left to go to San Diego State, I knew there would be a void in my heart that no one else could ever fill.

Laurel is one of the most remarkable women I’ve ever known. She danced in Vegas back in the Rat Pack days and lists people as friends we’d all cash in our pensions to know. Then, she danced for the troops in Vietnam, and performed the most unselfish, heroic and dangerous act that I won’t share, because it’s very private to her. I’m trying to get her to write a book about it — but she probably won’t. To her, it was just the right thing to do.

She’s been a real estate maven, became a flight attendant at (I forget whether it was 40 or 50) and retired from Continental after 10 years. That’s when she got a phone call from the service that placed me in northern California for my first job, and they placed her at USC. Since then, she’s been on two other campuses. There are gigantic cards all over her office from her girls. In a generation of college kids who haven’t been taught to appreciate things that are done for them, hers would get in a monkey knife fight for her.

And when I called to tell her about my situation at Alpha Phi, four weeks into the term when there would be no jobs available until the next fall, without even breathing, she said, “You’re going to stay at my condo in Vegas.” That was three months ago. Tonight is my last night here, and I will never be able to thank her enough. Because of her generosity, I was able to finish my book that had been totally destroyed by the publisher I fired, sleep someplace that was both quiet and dark, was able to decompress, gave me time to think about what’s important — and not — in my life, and gave me a place to go when there was no other. Most of all, it gave me the space to get my act together and learn to trust the universe again. Five weeks of hell had taken its toll, and I was a basket case. Because of her, (oh, and her firmly kicking me in the ass to get over my pity party) I’m back on track.

I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life at this very moment of time. I don’t know whether my house director days are over. I don’t know whether I’m supposed to trust that my writing is where I should be putting my energies.  There was a time, before Abbi got recruited to start the cheerleading program at a small university in California that I was going to sell everything I owned, get in the car, drive south, hit the Gulf of Mexico, take a left and drive for a year. Maybe that’s the next step. But regardless, I’m back to understanding that I’m where I’m supposed to be — right here; right now. Without Laurel, I would never have had the time or space to get my peace back.

My favorite cousin and best friend, Hank Fidler, died when he was only 51. I lost so many people I cared about before and after him; and lost two more in the last week. People I haven’t seen for years, but regret not staying in contact with.  I thank whatever source rules our life everyday for Facebook and Classmates for putting me back in contact with so many of the friends I lost over the years, and am searching for some of those who seem to have gone into the Witness Protection Program. And as total technology neophyte, I’m still thankful for cell phones, e-mails, and hope to learn how to do skype so I can keep my connections with these people. I’ve even discovered sorority sisters from across the country — and am so happy that one of them, a girl I never spoke to in high school, has become a close friend.

I’ll never be able to repay Laurel for her generosity and hospitality over the last three months. And will spend today doing laundry and getting her condo boo-ti-ful for her sister to show up tomorrow. But I pray that this beautiful lady will always be a part of my life. Because life is too short to lose someone you love.

So for today, I love you Laurel. Meeting you that day in ’08 made my life a better place.

I hope my story of meeting Laurel will make you appreciate your friends more and encourage you to reach out to those you used to love but who have been lost over the years. Don’t ever take them for granted again.

On Monday, I’ll start sharing with you my wisdom on what needs to be done to get out country back on track. For today, be safe out there. You are loved.

 

THE BOOB TUBE

Yesterday was spent making my last 10+ hour round trip from Vegas to LA. I packed up everything that won’t be needed for my one-week hotel stay, interview clothes (just in case)  and then possibly a couple of trips, and took it to Abbi’s to be put in storage.  She  already told me I had “way too much shit,” and rolled her eyes when we toted another full carload into her apartment.  Once again, I reminded her that if I was going to be living somewhere in the fall I’d need all that “shit.” If I wasn’t, we could go though and pitch.  I didn’t remind her that half of the “shit” in our storage unit was hers, and she has a place to live.

During the four years Bill and I were stationed in Hawaii we didn’t own a TV. My time was spent cooking, baking all our bread, knitting, sewing, quilting, learning to be Abbi’s mom, directing the cherub choir at the base chapel, and attending officers’ wives club functions as well as being involved in the youth group at our church.  I had friends on base, and one of them was teaching me to paint. I spent Abbi’s naps at the kitchen table honing my new skills. Being a full-time-stay-at-home-mom was my full-time job, and I loved it. We bought our first TV when we got transferred to Lowry AFB in Denver and wanted Abbi to be able to watch Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers (and I got hooked on Murder She Wrote). After that, even owning a TV, I’d spend my evenings reading and listening to good music.

I owned a TV. It didn’t own me.

Living in a sorority house with 35 – 200 girls is different. There’s a staff to oversee, walk-throughs to make sure no one threw up on the carpet the night before and didn’t think it was their job to clean it up, finding things that need to be fixed (there are always things that need to be fixed), maintenance men to escort to their job and chaperone while they’re working in girls’ living areas, and the fun part spending time with the girls and  watching “Boys Meet World,” “Criminal Minds,” or “Jeapordy” marathons or joining in  a “Mama Mia” sing-a-long.  But no matter  how interesting the outside-the-job-life of a house director is, 9.5 out of 10 times, you’re going to walk into her apartment and the TV will be on.

Mine usually came on at about 4pm for Judge Judy (don’t judge me) and stayed on till bedtime. I don’t remember being in that rut in my NorCal school, primarily because I was so into my writing community, but when I hit San Diego State, I fell into the same rut as my counterparts.  Half the time, I didn’t even know what I was watching.

I started to realize how bad my addiction had gotten when Cornelia Read came into my life. I needed a dictionary to read her first book, “Field  of Darkness.” Talking to her made me remember that I used to know what those words meant. Luckily, she loves me and continues to nurse me through vocabulary rehab.

So being at Laurel’s was a bit of a culture shock for a couple of days. Then, I started liking it. Enjoying the peace and quiet. Hearing the wind in the trees and birds chirping, working on more damned re-writes and reading at night.

I remembered that one of my Alpha Phi’s had just been hired by Hulu and decided to check it out. Then, discovered that all the major and a couple of minor stations have videos of their prime time shows that can be watched the next day — except for The Evil Fox that won’t let you watch their shows for 7 days unless you have a cable connection. But if I had a cable connection, why would I have to watch the show on Hulu? I know. Me and my logic again.

So I went on a mission to find the shows that actually interested me, and wrote down the nights they were on so I could watch them the next day. Monday: Alcatraz (cancelled by The Evil Fox), Survivor, Castle, NCIS, NCIS-LA, Criminal Minds, Revenge,
The Finder (cancelled by The Evil Fox), and The Shark Tank. Out of all the 400+ channels with endless shows, there were only 9 shows I really wanted to watch. And the best part was that I wasn’t held captive by a time slot. No, I don’t know how to Tivo or record to watch later.  So, if I needed a break from work at my Starbucks office, I’d pull up Criminal Minds.  Or I’d come home at night and watch a couple of shows. And I realized I didn’t miss anything  except the daily news and some sports.

Then, Laurel called last week to tell me she’d turned the cable on in preparation of her sister arriving this Saturday. And I turned it on. Suddenly, I was watching a day-long NCIS marathon, even though I’d seen most of the episodes. The next day found me in front of a Criminal Minds. And after my shows were off at night, I’d find myself scrolling through the endless “Beach Butts,” “Zumba,” “57-year old looks 27,” “Wealth Without Risk,” and shopping channels and realizing I had no idea how many infommercials were on TV now. After 10pm, they’re on every channel. I even started to order a couple of the things after investing a half hour of my life watching their schpeel, but caught myself just in time — primarily, because I didn’t know where to have them shipped.

Suddenly, I was longing for the days when television wasn’t on 24/7. There were three channels, we had to get up and turn the dial to get to the next one, and we watched the shows — Ed Sullivan, George and Gracie Burns, I Love Lucy, Gunsmoke (we had no idea Miss Kitty ran a ‘house of ill repute’,  Johnny Carson — as a family.  Kids watched Miss Marilyn, Soupy Sales and Howdy Doody without parental supervision, when we weren’t out playing — missing them didn’t end our world. American Bandstand came on just after we got home from school, and that wasn’t to be missed — ever — that’s where we learned to dance. And we couldn’t wait to show off new skills at 5-cent sock hops in the gym over lunch hour. (Admit it. You practiced with a door knob as a partner, too. Didn’t you?) This spurred the first real teen-age rebellion because our parents thought The Twist was sinful and we danced right along with Bob and Justine on Bandstand anyway.

But times have changed. Television shows are geared to a 7th – 9th grade intelligence level. The only 3 & 4 syllable words are on NCIS and CSI.

Limiting myself to a couple of hours a day (primarily because streaming videos eats up gigga-thingys like sharks guzzle up surfboards), has been refreshing. I’m much more relaxed, don’t have to worry about getting home in time for (or worse, planning my social life around) Castle, and realize that if I didn’t own a TV I wouldn’t miss it. If I end up at another house in the fall, I may just take the sorority’s TV and put it in the closet or one of the girls’ study rooms for the times when they take their computers into a large space, put in an exercise video and rock out in a place where there’s room to move, and stick to Hulu.

I’ve always said that “Life’s too short to drive a hardtop,” and now I can add, “Life’s too short for NCIS marathons.” (At least, most of the time.)

Off to run errands – and go visit  Kenny G., hoping he’s not there. I’m almost wantingI get a house for fall, just so I can give him a home. See you tomorrow.

 

 

SO MANY SUBJECTS, SO LITTLE TIME.

Today’s post was going to be about how much I hate 3-days week-ends, and think we enjoyed having one day off in the middle of the week more than three days together. It’s not really enough time to go anywhere, but just enough time off to tick you off because you can’t.

All the time schlepping back and forth from Vegas to La & back (sometimes, making the 10-11 hour round trip in one day), put me in a position to not understand why my Kids from San Diego and LA areas are all “Vegas Baby” every time a 3-day week-end arrives.  Because of the stop and stop traffic, that normal 4.5 hour drive from LA or 6-hour drive from San Diego becomes more like 7 – 10 hours — sometimes more. To me, that would take the fun out of the short period of time I’d be able to enjoy myself — especially facing an equally frustrating, slow and long drive home.  Friday trips from LA to Vegas are the worse, when the car behind me is filled with college kids; all with beers in their hands drinking their way to Vegas. Luckily, since we were only going about 10 miles per hour, I felt relatively safe, but still want to get out of the car and bitch slap them.

Then, I was going to talk about how frustrating it is for me to have gone from someone who could multi-task herself into oblivion and love every minute of it, have two books going at the house and another one in the car (and remember what each was about), and worked on writing one book in the morning and either magazine articles or another book in the afternoon being transformed into someone who can only focus on one large project at a time and picks up a book not having a clue where I left off.

And then, there’s the frustration of trying to lose weight at 65 years old when I can’t exercise, thanks to the same incident that stole my ability to multi-task/focus/remember what I’ve just read.  And how much I miss exercising. And even sweating.  Maybe once all this is over I can get a physical therapy person to help me get some of my strength and flexibility back. I’d love to be able to swim again, but as of now, can’t move my neck enough, so I’d drown.

But I think I’m going to go with last night’s Thunder/Spurs game. Or lack of same. I haven’t been that bored since I watched Hoffa….the only movie I ever walked out on.

I’ve so been looking forward to this series — two teams who could arguably beat any time in the East (with apologies to My Girls, Genise who loves her Heat and Jeanelle who would sacrifice herself to the gods for her Celtics…..I’ve already made apologies to my adorable Tammy Mao for my feelings towards her beloved Lakers.)

But last night, neither of the teams earned that acolade. Both teams were missing 3-pointers. Both missed easy slam dunks. Ibaka did his job. So did Tony Perkins. Our Cedrick Perkins played well. But Westbrook spent most of his time on the bench…..is there something they’re not telling us?  It seemed Durant couldn’t make a three pointer if the game depended on it. Hell. Most of the time neither team was even hitting free throws. W. T. F.?

The Thunder should have won last night. The way the Spurs were playing, if we’d stuck to the normal game plan of conserving energy during the first half, staying with in 10 points, start playing when the time clock hit 3 minutes, and winning in the last 10 seconds, we would have be fine. But the guys looked so frustrated.  There was no spark. That Thunder Edge was nowhere to be found.

The poor schmuck two seats from me had about 10 bets in his hand…..Over 191.5 points (lost), Westbrook with over 25 points (lost), the list goes on. The only thing he won was a bet for 3 -three-pointers from each team, and he had that by half time. But he kept going back to the window to  place more bets to hedge on the bets he’s already made.  Throwing good money after bad.

Another guy came in later and sat beside me….we talked about the game for awhile, the mistakes and lousy play from both sides, and his bets. His were slightly better than the first guy, but not not enough to make a real difference. He asked me what bets I had. I told him I don’t bet. I just came to enjoy the game.  He told me, “You didn’t win either.” I had to agree. We also agreed that Tony Parker was a freaking idiot for going out on Eva Longoria, who was smarter than most and kicked his ass out on the first offense. Which tells you how bored we were with the game itself.

It reminded me of the legend Papa Bear Halas (did you know he was also an inventor, lawyer, and had played both pro football and baseball?) when he stood at the front of the team bus after Da Bears had totally embarrassed themselves for an entire 60 minutes of play.  His first remark was “Gentlemen, this is a football.”  Maybe Brown should have had the same talk last night. The old Thunder magic just weren’t there.

Maybe the ease with which they beat the Mavericks (and thank you so much for wiping that smurk smirk off of Mark Cuban’s face), and the Lakers, whose only game of the series was won by the refs, they thought the Spurs were going to be a piece of cake, too. Who knows. Maybe it was just a really bad night.

(But didn’t you love it when, after Kobe (the bitchy little girl) blamed Gasol for the Lakers loss of the game the previous night, followed by several news sources blaming Kobe and Metta and their technical fouls for the loss in game 4? Since we won by 3, they may have been right. Either way, Kobe was pretty quiet after that.)

Regardless, I’m still hoping for a series where both of these talented teams remember how to play ball starting on Tuesday. I’ll be back in a casino watching, because that’s almost as much fun as being at a game. I’ll put myself in yet another smoke-filled room where I expect a luau pit to be unearthed at any minute, and I’ll yell and talk trash with the guys around me who are there every night. I just hope I don’t walk out on the game again…..I left with 2.25 to go. Not because I thought the Thunder was going to lose, because I’ve seen them pull out clutch wins in the past, but because I was simply too bored to watch another minute.

I want a series where both teams play their guts out, I want to see them sweat. I want to see them foul. I want to see passion and maybe a little blood and the love of the game come out. And pride in their cities. And pride in themselves. And both teams doing everything in their power to beat the crap out of the other team. They’ve both worked too hard to get to this point to quit playing now.

And I’m not even a basketball fan…..haven’t been since I had the biggest crush ever on a basketball player in junior high school when I didn’t miss a single game so I could watch him run up and down the court  in those tiny shorts the players wore back then.  He didn’t even know I existed. Probably wouldn’t know my name if he heard it today.

But damn it, the Thunder has made me a basketball fan again. And if I’m going to sacrifice myself to a room filled with smoke, drunks, and homeless people who can spend whole days in the sports-book room just to have a place to stay, I deserve a good game. I’ll be there tomorrow night…..and we better Thunder the Fuck Up.

I’m running to Abbi’s tomorrow morning to take some of my stuff to put into storage. On to the next phase of the adventure. I’ll be back Wednesday. Till then, be safe, be careful, and watch out for drunk college kids with beers in their hands in the car behind you. See you then.

ON THINGS WE DON’T NEED

When I broke up housekeeping back in June of ’06 to start my adventure as a sorority house mom, the first thing I did was go through my 3000-square foot house and analyze every single item.

To my surprise, only a few things really stood out — a three-drawer, birdseye maple lowboy (that’s a 3-drawer set of dressers for the uninformed) with a 4’foot mirror that hangs over it — that my great-grandparents brought over from England. When they died in an accident in New York, my grandmother took the set with her when she was relegated to Richwood, WV to live with her uncle who owned Birch River Lumber company. At 14, she became their bookkeeper (today’s equivalent of a corporate accountant), met my grandfather, and the rest was history. There’s also a secretary that my cousin Nancy has. Both are treasured for so many reasons.

There’s a rocking chair the guy I lived with in the late 60’s through ’75 gave me. It plays a major part in a mystery short story I wrote that might become a book. But wherever I live, it’s not a home until that black rocking chair with the worn-to-the-original-paint arms and edges claims its rightful place. It’s in storage now in LA. I feel lost without it.

If my CHS’ers remember Reuel Sherwood from class of ’63, HIS uncle Reuel (my grandmother’s brother – you might remember him as “Cap” Sherwood, the shorthand-writing court reporter) brought a scarf back from the Phillipines he’d purchased while stationed there during the Spanish-American War. It’s framed, and also holds a place of honor in my heart and on my wall (when I have one) — along with the elaborate mirror my mom and dad were given as a wedding present. Once again, they’re in storage and I can’t wait to see them hung again — hopefully the mirror will end up over a fireplace where it belongs.

Of course, there were pieces of Abbi’s artwork (she’s conceptual; I’m “see the tree, paint the tree”) and mine, jewelry, etc. And boxes of scrap-bookable-memories separated by stages of Abbi’s life: baby, kindergarten, gymnastics, elementary, middle school, high school, and college, along with a myriad of cheer and dance uniforms ranging from school to competitive to collegiate to professional. And her multiple National Championship and All-American stuff. Those need to get into scrapbooks so I can pitch the rest. When finished, they will belong to Abbi. We’ll go through the rest of the stuff together so she can decide what’s important enough to keep. They’re important to me, partially because my mom didn’t keep anything from my childhood/life. But, I’m thinking Ab’s collection will be a lot smaller than mine when we’re through.

Some of the things that were previously “important” went along with everything that didn’t follow me to California…to my favorite charity, Other Options. Would I ever need my grandmother’s silverware again? Was it important enough to schlepp clear across the country when I’d never need/use it?

Every time I’ve moved, I’ve culled more belongings. When I left Alpha Phi three months ago, I filled a 5′ tall box for donations. Now, such a short time later, I’m doing it again.

Abbi’s year-old business is turning a profit and supporting itself. But it’s not completely supporting her yet. I had a long talk with her, made her look me in the eye so she knew I was serious, and told her that if she wants to sell granny’s dresser/ mirror and anything but Joey’s rocking chair, I’d be fine with it. And I am.

I look at my friends in their beautiful big houses and yachts with all the superfulous items sitting around –chatchkies is the Yiddish term — little collectable figurines, decorative vases; basically stuff.  I mean, all that of it  meant something to us at one point in time or it wouldn’t be there in the first place. But how much of it would really matter if it were blown away in a tornado, crushed in an earthquake or destroyed in a fire? What would you be digging through rubble praying to find?

I challenge you. Go through your home and examine every single item. Some things will force you to pick them up and bring tears to your eyes.  Others, you’ll look at and not even remember where they came from — even though they’ve been in plain sight.

It’s spring cleaning time. Start pitching the things that are of no value to you mentally. Sell some of the stuff that has value, but perhaps to someone else. Donate the rest. I was surprised at all the shoes I hadn’t worn for years but refused to part with because I paid too much for them. They ended up in that 5′ box at Alpha Phi. (OK. I kept the Wee-Juns.)

I hope to someday be in a position when I’m not owned by anything. I don’t know why it’s become so important to purge my life of “things,” but every time I do, it makes me feel more free. Though I’m ready to find out where I live, I don’t want to be tied down by objects.

I’ll never own anything attached to the ground again. Owning a house again holds no appeal….maybe if I could find a house like the one in “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir,” where I could hear the surf every day, walk on a beach, and be on a bluff just high enough that the waves wouldn’t crash on me personally, but other than that???? Now a  boat? That might be different. But there’s not much room for chatchkies on a live-aboard. You don’t want things falling off shelves when nature takes its course.

It’s the people I miss. If I’m going to officially live someplace, I can’t wait to establish roots, find a writing community, join my alumnae association, make real friends, and embrace relationships again. It’s funny. After living all over the world, the only places that really felt like “home” were Denver and Berkeley. Yet, I have no desire to return to Denver. I’d go back to the Bay area in a heart beat. Hell. I’d get in a monkey knife fight to live there again…..spend rainy days on my computer in the cafe at Book Passage in Corte Madera talking to random people who meander in and out, re-join my beloved Sisters in Crime and Left Coast Writers, live in Uggs, and drink at Izzy’s after book signings. Or not.

If it’s my lot to buy a box on wheels (Should I get my girls together and paint a VW bus?) and travel the country, simultaneously writing two fun books some of you already know about, that will be my home. I could spend time on the road  re-establishing relationships that could hopefully become friendships. You guys could even travel with me — even for a short time to visit campuses in the area for research (part of which would require drinking in college bars) and to be my designated photographer. And Crislip and I still have mining for gems in North Carolina on our “do it together” bucket list. God, I love that girl.

I’d like to reconnect with my cousin, Reuel. And spend time with the girls I wanted to see when I signed up for the Myrtle Beach trip last summer.

Hopefully, I could find some of our old military friends…..or search the whole damned country until I find Jimmy Milbourne and Willie Fenwick — two very close friends I’ve lost and miss on a regular basis. I’d like to spend some time in Oklahoma with my alumnae gals drinking Sarah’s margaritas, with my “kids” who are now lawyers, teachers, mommies, one who just made the 89’ers baseball team,  and with Mary and Lena and their horsies. Watch the crazy crew Dayna and Micky put together to play competitive kickball followed by drinking on the weekends. Lie on beaches. Visit Charleston as an adult with a much healthier self-esteem than the one who ran away from home at 21 because she felt she didn’t belong. There are people I wish I’d known better, but didn’t think I was good enough.  The Mind of Ann was a very unhappy and lonely place in those days.

Two major new insights have become parts of my life during the last six years:

The lyricist for my punk rock band, Kill the Complex, wrote a song called “Soundtrack” that was on their Butane album.

Here’s the beginning (I may have a couple of words wrong):
“You know that song — you’ve heard the song before, but you don’t know where you heard it. The song sings to you; it makes total sense, too, but there’s one line that doesn’t. That never happens to me. I write my own songs. That’s all I wanted anyway — to be the creator of the soundtrack of my own life.”

What a concept — orchestrate my own life. Not be squeezed into anybody else’s mold. Not have to pretend to be someone I’m not and say what I’m expected to say. Be true to myself, and live the life that a) was chosen for me, or b) I have chosen — without concern for others’ perception or judgment of that life. “That’s all I wanted anyway — to be the creator of the soundtrack of my own life.” That’s so powerful. Not a path many choose. Thank you, Dann. Thank you, Kill the Complex. That song was written for me.

The second has become my mantra over 6 years of watching girls covet designer purses, flaunt expensive clothes, and make “things” their top priority. Paraphrasing GaGa, “They were raised that way.” Wait till you read the chapter in my book about the parents who flew in from Thailand the same day their precious daughter discovered that all the belongings she’d put in an unauthorized place over semester break were donated, because they were considered abandoned. I’ll never forget momma bird saying, “My poor baby. Her heart, her soul in her clothes.” How very sad is that.

So in my life, “Things are to be used, and people are to be loved.”

I can live without the third candle from the left. But friends? People I care about? No contest. You’re important to me. I hope I’m important to you.

So, until my special Holiday edition on Monday,  pitch some crap, see how it makes you feel, and please have a safe weekend. I hate the Good Old U S of A’s tradition that is three-day versions-of-New-Year’s-Eve-Amateur-Hour.

 

THE WORLD HAS GONE MAD. MAD, I SAY

Dude. The world has gone freaking crazy.

Anyone who ever appeared in a movie is a major star and opens a car door to get more press than kids starving on the street and ketchup is sometimes considered a vegetable in school lunch programs. Abbi uses her middle name instead of her last one (partially because the last one is Rinderknecht) and partially because she’s filled in when friends in the industry needed a standin. Among her rolls have been “brunette on slab,” and “girl on tradmill.” If anyone ever finds out who she is, she’ll be a headliner on AOL news and have her own reality show.

A guy was caught with a suitcase full of roasted fetuses.

Romney came out with a straight face and announced that “Russia is the US’s top geopolitical foe.” Even Colin Powell commented, “Come on, Mitt…..rethink this.” Hasn’t he been watching the news? Reading the newspaper? Or maybe he’s visiting Palin and looking at Russia from her front porch. Powell also said that Romney’s advisors are way too far right — Hell, they can’t even see the sun setting in the west.

But he won the Arkansas Primary. DUH! Did you know that Arkansas is #5 on the list of most populated Mormon states? Where’d the Southern Baptists go?

Get this. When the poll came out of Mormon states by population, I said out loud — “this is a piece of cake.” I figured the top one would be Utah, followed by either Nevada or Hawaii (home of the second Brigham Young University and owner of the Polynesian Cultural Center). Nevada barely made the list and Hawaii didn’t hit the top 50. Mississippi was #1 with 59%, Utah came in second, then, Alabama. Louisiana, Arkansas and South Carolina tied for 5th at 54%, followed by South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, and Oklahoma rounded out the top of the list with 48? WTF?

But is that as important as Lady Gaga setting up a social networking site for “Little Monsters?” I think not.

A man was fined for drunk driving with a zebra.

Pakistan, supposedly our ally, tried, convicted, and gave a prison sentence to the doctor who aided the CIA in finding Ben Laden.

One guy got suspended from his job for intervening when a man was beating his pregnant girlfriend. Another got 2 tickets for jumping out of his car to save his son’s life.

And here’s a news flash: Bethlehem existed for centuries before Jesus. Who cares? It was in the right place at the right time. And the world, especially the middle east, is a very old place.

Oh, there’s a soap that claims to wash away fat.

There’s now an “Ugly Baby” Syndrome holding us back. Fortunately, my cousin Bud wasn’t aware of that. Bud was such an ugly baby that he looked like my grandfather chewing tobacco. And that was officially “butt ugly.” My aunt told people he was napping when they came to visit. He managed to survive. Played football in high school. Got his degree from WVU. The Navy paid for his dental school, and he went on to become a Commander before retiring. Thank God he didn’t know about Ugly Baby Syndrome.

In the never-ending story of the maturity of the Lakers, Good Old Metta World Peace dissed Mike Brown for his body type.

A grandmother shot her grandson 18 times and killed him. Second-generation Post-partum?? We now have a disease and a defense for everything.

And a cheerleader kicked herself in the head. This should be news? Has anyone watched a national championship cheerleading competition? It happens all the time. Abbi’s done it a couple of hundred times. Right after throwing a 125 lb girl up in the air and catching her. Hell, dancers can raise their legs way OVER to the other side of their body and still keep their balance. They’re freaking amazing — and they kick themselves in the head sometimes.

It amazes me that every day I pull up the news to find yet more people abducted, tortured, and found dead. Where did we go wrong? What’s causing all this anger? Or perversion? In my day, a pervert was a guy who wore a mirror on his shoe so he could look up a girl’s skirt. A delinquent was anyone caught with a six-pack of beer in his locker or a switchblade. A thug was someone who came to school with cigarettes rolled up in his tee shirt sleeve.

And new? The Charleston Gazette was delivered in the morning and The Daily Mail was delivered in the afternoon. They contained real news — what was happening in the nation, our community, and the rest of the state. Couples could put engagement and marriage announcements in the paper free of charge. And obituaries could take up a whole column — and again, were free.

Our parents kicked us out of the house as soon as they threw breakfast down our throats and told us to be back by dark. They didn’t care where we were, as long as it wasn’t at home. But we caught hell if we misunderstood “by dark” and were late for family dinner. On weekdays, we played after school, but family dinner was our half time. We then did homework, and may have been allowed to watch a little TV once it was finished. Or we could go back to a friend’s house till about 9pm, when it was time to come home and get ready for bed.

We all walked home from school –sometimes alone, sometimes with somebody. It never occurred to us that anything would happen to us. And it never did. For that matter, we walked everywhere. I’d walk down town from South Hills, then walk all the way across town to go roller skating at Barlow’s, and walk home again after about four hours of exercise on the wood floor. Not many fat people around in those days. We walked everywhere. We played tennis. Or golf. Or went to Rock Lake for the day to swim, dive, swing out over the water and dance in the pavilian, or were in gymnastics at a gym downtown, or roller skated at — damn, I can’t remember it’s name. It’s where dad had his first heart attack — it was on the east side….owner was Kenny…… anyway, we roller skated during the summer and he covered it for ice skating in the winter.

I’ve told Abbi more than once that rather than her Aussie moving here, she needs to move to Australia. And if THIS Republican gets elected to the presidency, as soon as my settlement comes through, I’m finding a nice island somewhere and applying for citizenship. I fought too hard for women’s rights in the 60’s to see them stripped away now. And damn. Russia’s our biggest threat again? Who knew. I kinda thought it might be North Korea or China — but I’ve been wrong before. Anyone who knows the guy I married or Kraig the Serial Husband knows that.

How the hell do we get things right again? Has the horse been back in the barn too long?

I think the lovely Samantha Lamb (“friend” her on Facebook and visit her site — read her blogs — you’ll fall in love with her). She took over her grandparents’ place in Hobart, Oklahoma (about 1.5 hours out of OKC) and runs her very own self-sustaining farm — makes her own wine and cheese, bakes tons of pies, built her own guest house, and lives with a menagerie of animals, all of whom have names. She makes her living with her photography, and even living on a remote farm, remains one of the most beautiful young women I’ve ever seen, and is a fashion icon of her own making. But if we’re ever in trouble, Sam has all her needs met at home. In a real community where people still care about each other, she meets with her “old guys” every morning for coffee and pastries, and where they still rally together as a community for barn raisings. I envy her. It’s a ton of work, but the thought of doing the same thing is in the back of my mind. The only trouble would be having animals I’ve given names, mommied, and raised slaughtered for breakfast in the morning. I can’t even eat lobster because they mate for life. Think I’d probably end up a vegetarian rather than slaughter an animal for food. And if you could have been there when I had to kill a chicken at my grandparents, with Doc Brown watching over the fence and laughing his head off, you’d understand.

This used to be such a great country with real neighbors and families/friends who were there for us when we needed them. We sat on porch swings and talked to neighbors. Met for church socials and had reunions complete with picnics during the summers. Holding hands or a guy’s arm around your shoulder or waist was intimacy. We bought our boyfriends simple gifts — I remember Barbara Mohler getting Mark Stewart a shirt from Frankenberger’s and having the sleeve monogrammed. Now, it’s digital cameras and trips and really expensive jewelry. The shirt meant more.

We have homeless veterans, women and children living on the street. That’s a sin in this country. We can’t get medical care without an employer providing a policy. We spend more (borrowed) money fighting other nations’ battlese than we do taking care of our own educational system — and we’ve slipped to one of the worst educational systems in the world. We not only don’t help our neighbors anymore, we don’t know them.

Something has to change. I thought I could make a difference one college kid at a time, but I was kidding myself. I’ve lived with too many who were raised to believe nothing has ever been their fault, they should never have to accept responsibility for their actions, their wants and needs are more important than anything else, and have never heard the word, “No.” They haven’t had to work for anything, so don’t appreciate what they have. They have their AMEX. Their Bloomingdale’s card. Their Beemer or Mercedes or Porsche. Because their family’s used car isn’t good enough anymore. Hell. We were thrilled to get anything with four wheels and a radio that could get us to Shoney’s.

For once, I have no answers. Just a sad, sad feeling in my gut that makes me want to go back to Tioga, West Virginia and have Doc Brown stand at our fence and laugh at me while I chased a dying chicken around the yard.

Until tomorrow, try to come up with answers. Maybe we can figure out how to change the country one person at a time.

THEY’RE WRONG. IT IS THE HEAT.

When my little sprite, Laurel, offered to let me stay in her condo in Vegas, I was thrilled. I still am. I don’t know where I would have been for the last three months without her generosity.

But it’s only May, and Vegas is damned hot. It’s 88 degrees in the condo. Has been for 4 days. Before that, it was 84 degrees for about three weeks. That’s insane. Opening the doors and windows doesn’t help because though there’s a great breeze wafting through the center of the condo complex, it only whirls in circles and doesn’t get into the units. So it only teases us. I left the door open last night hoping to bring the temperature down, and it plummeted to 86. The maintenance guy said he’d be here first thing this morning, but he’s not even taking my calls.

I came SO close to wrapping a beach towel around myself at about 3am and easing myself into the swimming pool when no one would notice. Yup, I was awake at 3am. I can’t sleep when it’s this hot. Haven’t had more than 3-4 hours sleep in many, many nights.

But today, I have to stay at the condo because I’m down to paperwork that has to be spread out and stuff that requires the printer. So I’m guzzling my frozen water like crazy and hoping to stay hydrated. But the worst part is being out of vanilla frozen yogurt and strawberries — they were finished off at about 2am. It’s all I want to eat anymore — 3 meals a day. That will be rectified when I have to go out later today to fax some stuff at the rent-a-mail-box place, go to T-Mobile to see how many gigga-thingies I have left on my wireless card, visit Kenny G. and make a trip to Walmart’s frozen food section…. where I may just push all the food aside, close myself in one of the containers and see if anyone notices.

It really is the heat. And now I understand why my counterparts who lived in Phoenix when I was with McBee Systems said they could only work till noon in the summer and spent the afternoons in the office (I’m betting they spent the afternoons at home in their pools).

I’ve already taken my first cold (cold, really cold) shower of the day to bring my body temp down, and it will be one of many. Haven’t had dry hair in days…..but the plants were all watered on Saturday, and they’re dry as a bone now.

The funny thing is that I kinda like Vegas. The people are genuinely friendly. And helpful. And funny. And in Laurel’s part of town, North of Palace Station and the Rio, everything I need is within about 2 miles. If I weren’t driving to LA once a week, I could probably make it a month without buying gas. And there are direct flights from Vegas to just about every airport in the country. I mean, I’ve met people who fly up here once a week, every week, just to spend their day off.

When I ask locals how they handle the heat and why they live in Vegas, they say they love it — tried moving away, but came back. I guess the dry heat is an acquired taste. So whenever the next person makes the comment to me that dry heat is better, or I go east of here and someone throws out “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity,” I’m probably going to bitch slap them.

I’m an East Coast girl. I was raised on humidity. And since some of the other states I’ve lived in are Ohio, Nebraska and Oklahoma, we’re friends. I know it well. And I know how to handle it. After about a hundred years in sales, I’m used to carrying frozen bottles of water in my car in a thermal case — I put a bottle behind my neck to keep my body temp down, and as it melts, I drink it — so much colder than a regular out-of-the-cooler-at-Target water. Frozen washcloths work, too.

But having lived in California for the last 6 years, my body’s expectations have changed. Or I thought they had. When I went back to Myrtle Beach last summer to meet up with some old high school buddies, everyone ragged me about how much the humidity was going to bother me. Didn’t even slow me down. I complained less than the others who lived there. Guess my body felt at home. Oh, and I remember how to Shag.

For now, I think I’ll take another cold shower and lie down on the couch to try to get some sleep — it’s under a ceiling fan — and hope the maintenance guy shows up. So far, there’s no sign of his crew in the complex, and they’re usually all over the place by now.

If someone wants to freeze a blanket and bring it over, I would SO owe you big time.

Sleeping in the pool tonight. If I get arrested for really indecent exposure and scarring some poor kid for life, your phone may ring.

More tomorrow…..

KENNY G

This is SO not about the guy whose screeching music hurts my ears.

Kenny G (how could anyone name a self-respecting cat Kenny G?) is a handsome, very fluffy black cat with elegant white markings who is in PetSmart prison waiting for someone to adopt him. He’s been there for a couple of months. I suppose he’s lucky that the people who found him took him to PetSmart instead of a shelter — after a couple of months, his options would have been “removed.”

He was first abandoned, along with his sister, when his parents moved and left them behind. When discovered, they were put up for adoption. I guess that was lucky for him, because at least they weren’t put in a shelter.

He was abandoned again by this sister when she was adopted. From that moment, Kenny G moved into his cage, relegated himself on his sleeping box and fate, and stayed bundled up sleeping. Because there was nothing else to do.

Then, two baby black and white kitties moved in. One was adopted almost immediately, and Kenny G recognized the loneliness in the remaining little 8 week-old orphan.

That’s when he took over. He adopted the kitty. He groomed her, and she’d roll over on her back to let him do his job. Totally trusting and adoring her new parent; after all, she’d never really known one. He stood over her while she napped, and wrapped himself around at night to keep her safe and protected. He never left the baby’s side. Both were so happy.

And then, the unthinkable happened — Or the obvious, if you’re familiar with pet adoption stories — the baby was adopted. Everyone loves a cute baby.

Kenny G was alone again. Back in his cage. Back on his box. Sleeping because there was nothing to do with his time in a place where there is no window sill to sit on, no birds or squirrels to watch with twitching tail, no spot of sunlight to bask in. No one to love. Abandoned. Alone. Again.

I love Kenny G. I want Kenny G.

I want to give him a place to live with window sills, and rays of sunshine, and kitty snacks along with an occasional bite of turkey or some other “people” food. He should have someone to lay on to watch TV or interrupt while they’re reading a book. Or a computer keyboard to nap on. And a bed to snuggle up with his human at night.

But I can’t do that. I don’t know where I live. I don’t know when I’m going to know where I live. And though being a vagabond is a lifestyle I’ve come to embrace, because it seems to be the life I’ve been handed, it can’t be Kenny G’s. Every time I go into PetSmart — for no other reason than to let Kenny G see me and know I’m there and I care. I pray I’ll go see him today and he won’t be in his cage because someone will have noticed this huge, handsome guy over the weekend and taken him home. But he’s an adult. If it happens at all, it’s going to take awhile.

And I started to think that Kenny G and I have a lot in common. Because of the Workers Comp case that’s kept me in jail in California, I have no options other than to find another job in this state or hope my book sells well and I can move onto a house boat in the Oakland Embarcadaro or get a mobile home and hit the road. Then, I could give Kenny G. a home. And I’d have one. I’m ready to know where I live.

Also, it hit me that I might — just might — be able to put my trust issues aside and give someone a chance to come into my life. It think I’m ready — but then again, where? How do I strike up a relationship with someone if I don’t even know where I live? Or how long I’ll be there?

I spent a good deal of time on the phone yesterday with my buddy Lynn Crislip and realized I miss having a BFF. Someone to go have a drink with — or go mining for gems — or be able to call just because I want to hear a human voice — or meet for lunch — or just bitch about stuff with. But moving all over the world hasn’t afforded me that gift. The high school friends I know are scattered all over the country. My friends from the military years are scattered all over the world, and since that was the time before computers and cell phones, I’ve lost them. The writing community I embraced in the Bay area have been converted from “friends” to “acquaintences” over the last four years of my absence — oh, sure, every now and then I go to one of their book signings and go out for drinks afterwards, but it’s not the same. In my three months in Vegas, the only adult conversations have been with people at the post office and at sports bars during the Thunder games. Ok, I’ve got to admit that’s fun since I’m the only Thunder fan in the room surrounded by Laker fans….who even start cheering for the Thunder in the last 3 minutes when they turn it on, take over the game, and win in the last 20 seconds

So for now, Kenny G and I have to speak to each other like he’s in the prison cell that owns him — through a glass wall. Paw to hand.

I want Kenny G.

But I’d have to change that damned name. Kenny G is SO wrong for a cat — it’s as strange a concept as any woman with a working uterus voting for Romney (let the screaming and bitching begin) —

I’m thinking Holmes. But then, I’d have to adopt Isis, too, and call her Watson. After all. Kenny G shouldn’t be alone again.

And for today, that’s it. See you tomorrow.

CUSTOMER SERVICE TECHNICAL SUPPORT – ACH!!!!!

About yesterday —

Left Vegas a little after 6am – stuck in traffic – late for accupuncture appointment in LA – spent about 20 minutes trying to have conversation with amazing Korean accupuncturist who almost understands English – Belated Mother’s Day Lunch with Abbi & Aussie (Yes, I asked for Chik-Fil-A) — met with Hillary to get book ready for upload and work on website — back in car at 3:40pm — hate the 101 — hate the 15 — finally got home after 9pm — realized body was shaking and that it was 85 degrees in the house — took cold shower — e-mailed Abbi to let her know I was alive — threw up — e-mailed Abbi to ask her what to do (drink water to get hydrated) — watched Revenge on Hulu — went to bed — couldn’t sleep — finally nodded off a little after 3am — woke up at 9am. OK — that’s yesterday and today.

Now, let’s address the myth that is Customer Service Technical Support.
You know what I’m talking about.

When I fired my publisher and decided to go “Indy,” a lot of things landed on my shoulders. And I handled all of them with style and grace until it came time to number the pages of the manuscript.

Look at a book. See all those un-numbered pages at the beginning and end? Ever wonder how they got that way?

First, I tried going to the first page I wanted to number and programmed in the number “1”. Nope. Started numbering at the first page, which was supposed to be blank. Went to another place, which started numbering at page “9” but numbered all the pages “1”. Tried half a dozen clicks in the formatting part of my system, with no better results. Asked college-age-kid-at-“My Office”-at-Starbucks to see if he could figure it out. “Piece of cake,” he bragged. After about a half hour, he put the computer down and left, saying he needed a drink. It was about 10am.

I asked the counter people, my Office Assistants, if any of them knew how to do the numbering sequence. Not a clue.

Asked how to get to UNLV, because someone in their computer department would know. Found it’s clear across the world from where I am in Vegas — but they told me there was a junior college just down the street. I called, asked for the computer lab, told them my problem, and they said they’d be happy to help.

Got there to find it wasn’t that easy — needed a college password to get into the system — told them it wasn’t an issue that concerned the internet — and a nice young man planted me at a table, said “This should only take a minute,” and after about fifteen of them, there was a tribe of computer geeks surrounding my table, none of whom could figure out what the hell to put page “1” on page “9” while leaving the first 8 pages un-numbered, and were pretty embarrassed about it.

So, I called Hillary, and she said she was sure we could figure it out when we got together. God, I hoped so. I was having visions of putting out a book with no page numbers.

I called my Computer Geek Robert at the UCLA computer store/repair center, and he didn’t know either, but did some research and called me back about an hour later with a phone number for Microsoft Technical Support. I did, after all, have a valid program. He sold it to me himself.

Got to Hillary’s yesterday, she sat down at my computer, and started playing. Same problems.

That’s when things got funny.

Hillary knows her computer shit. So, I called the number Robert had given me and put her on the phone with the Customer Service Technical Support. They spent way too long making her jump through hoops verifying that I bought the damned program and wasn’t just some grunge who bootlegged his roommate’s copy to save $69 – because that’s how much the $499 version costs at the University Computer Store. I do love my Bruin card.

They put her through steps one and two — then, sent her to another non-English speaking person (OK, I’m not being non-PC here. I’ve seen Asian girls in my house throw a cell phone across the room after trying to talk to Customer Service Technical Support, a beautiful Hispanic girl slam down her computer screen to close the computer after frustrating hours of trying to get answers from phone geeks, only to get disconnected, and an Indian pre-med student who threw her I-Pad down as hard as she could on the soft cushions of a couch because she really wanted to throw it against the wall after trying to talk to people who couldn’t understand her and didn’t know what they were talking about.) — and then she was transferred to another support person, and another support person. After about maybe 30-40 minutes of sitting there trying to get answers from people who a) didn’t understand what she wanted, b) gave her the same answers as the three people before them, c) didn’t have a clue how to run the program they were (I’m assuming) paid to know how to use, I saw Hillary the Hero do the unthinkable. She typed something like “Windows 10 – Start Page 1 at Page 9” into Google search while the phone was still at her ear.

A page came up. The words, “Numbering in Word isn’t always obvious.” We knew that. But she scrolled down, turned to me and said, “All the answers are here. I can do this,” closed the phone on the person who had left her on hold, walked a few steps to her computer, and five minutes later said, “It’s done. We’ve got it.”

Here’s my dig — like we don’t already have a couple of dozen digs about Customer Service Technical Support.

You dial the 800/866/877/666# and hear, “I’m sorry, the number you have reached is no longer in service.” (This is especially true in the case of governmental websites.)

I hate dialing a number and hearing, “Hello, this is Alex, your virtual assistant.” Then Alex pops off four or five prompts, none of which have anything to do with the reason you’re calling, so you keep slamming your index finger on “O” or “#” until you get a human being — unless Alex responds to your aggression with, “I’m sorry, that is an invalid prompt. Please call back later.” Followed, of course, by “CLICK.”

And you do. You call back. This time you hit one of the prompt numbers, because you’re going to outsmart Alex, your virtual assistant by connecting with a reasonable facimile of a human being, and they’ll transfer you to the right department. When you hear yourself saying, “This is the sixth time I’ve been transferred,” you know it’s time to admit defeat, raise the white flag, go to Office Depot and buy something else. You’ve aged a year, lost hours/days of your life, and still have no more information than you did when you dialed the number in the first place.

And we all know that the words, “May I put you on hold for just one moment,” either means ‘I’m going to disconnect you so you’ll have to call back and start hitting prompt buttons all over again’ or ‘I don’t have a freaking clue what you’re talking about so I’m going on vacation. Have a nice life.’

These people aren’t trained. You can hear them typing your question into a computer and hoping an answer pops up. If not, God help you both because you’re in for a bumpy ride. Your next words are going to be, “No, that’s not what I asked you………”

Don’t you just love it when, after investing more of your time than it took to put together the bicycle for your kid at Christmas to get no information whatsoever, they cheerfully end your call with, “Thank you for calling ‘WeDon’tGiveAFlyingF.” I’m glad we could be of service to you today.” I’ve found Jack Daniels comes in handy here. It doesn’t need an instruction manual and works every time.

Most of these jobs, even for American-made products, are shipped overseas by 1%’ers who pay people nothing to drive us nuts and waste our time. How am I supposed to understand someone in Sri Lanka who answers the phone with, “Hello, my name is Bruce. How may I be of assistance to you today?” when you know damned well his name isn’t Bruce in the first place? I’m pretty sure we have citizens in the good old U S of A that are just as incompetent and uncaring who need the jobs. Except we’d expect them to a) be able to help us because they speak English, and b) give a shit. And we all know that isn’t the goal of Customer Service Technical Support.

Here’s the secret. (SHHHHHHH. They don’t want you to know.)

The REAL, Down-Deep Goal of Customer Service Technical Support is to get you to pull out the damned manual or type something in “Google Search,” and figure it out yourself. If you can’t make the clock come up on your VCR, you shouldn’t have bought the damned thing in the first place.

I realize I’m a relic. I miss dialing a number and knowing “Miss James” is really “Miss James” and not a name on a script page. I miss that person having an answer or knowing who will. And having people put me on hold and come back to me. But I also miss cars that can be fixed with a screw driver, wrench, and duct tape. Hell. I miss legal pads and 3 x 5 cards (which are really 5 x 3 cards) – because they always work and I don’t have to figure out where they’re hiding in a damned machine.

But we can’t go back. Those days are gone. We have today, and will always have the evil Customer Service Technical Support. We will forever need Jack Daniels. Or YOU will. I have the phone number of Hillary the Hero — and I’m not sharing.

See you Monday. I’m going back to bed.

I NEED GLASSES

First, I have to give a kind-of apology for yesterday’s posts. Since I’ve been out of California for the last three months, addendums have been made to the free-college-for-illegal-immigrants-bill. They now have to have been in public school (illegally) for three years and have STARTED the naturalization process to get a free ride. It says nothing about FINISHING the naturalization process and a question: Can they possibly have enough knowledge in three years of public school to make them competitive in a collegiate market? Isn’t that setting them up for failure?

And it says nothing about FINISHING the naturalization process. I don’t care how many addendums you put on this thing, they should be offered work study, the ability to get student loans — the same options American citizens have. They should NOT get a free education on the backs of tax-paying families who have to mortgage their souls and college kids who have to work sometimes 40-hours a week in addition to carrying a full load of classes, belonging to a sorority, and being involved on campus to build their resume and trying to get a night off every now and then to play. It. Just. Ain’t. Right.

Now, enough about that. Let’s talk about me.

I need glasses.
I hate glasses.

My eyes aren’t that bad. I’m not wearing any now, and I can see the computer just fine. Most of the time I can read books without reading glasses. Not as often as I used to, but still most of the time. And it’s best if I get hardbacks instead of paperbacks, but can still make due. And I can read menus. That’s important. And instructions on microwave dinners. So I’m not starving — but that’s pretty obvious anyway. (Has anyone else noticed that the first three letters in diet are DIE?)

The fact that my eyes “aren’t that bad” has been my problem for years. I’ve never been able to get a prescription that’s ‘just right’ – I’m kinda the Goldilox of prescriptions in that way. So I wear them, get frustrated, take them off and leave them somewhere. $300 down the drain. Again. I can’t tell you how many times that’s happened. There are a lot of people out there with Gucci, Prada and Versace frames with their own new lenses thanks to me. I know. I should just get the $39/specials…..but that’s just not me. I like the pretty things.

Back in the day when I only needed one prescription, I’d get the old photogray (transition) lenses that were normal indoors and got darker in the sunlight, and Bingo, I had both glasses and sun glasses and could wear funky 70’s looking things that went with the rest of my professional-by-day, hippy-dippy by night self.

But now. This bi-focal thing is killing me.

I can’t wear contacts anymore. That’s what I prefer. But the bi-focal ones don’t work for me, wearing one shortsighted and one farsighted doesn’t work. I’ve even tried just wearing one for — I forget — maybe it was for distance, maybe it was for reading.

And I went to a lasix doctor, hoping that was an option, but once again being the special person that I am worked to my disadvantage. My eyes don’t meet their exacting specifications.

Back when I watched television — and I’ll probably be there again someday once I know where I live, I like to lie down on the couch with a cozy afghan to waste my time. And I lay on my side to read and sometimes go to sleep reading. So the damned glasses get twisted and bent and go lopsided on my face. Then, I’m trying to re-twist them so they look like they used to, and it’s like the times when I get frustrated and decide to “trim” my own hair — I end up going to the professional and getting them fixed and they always give me lectures and make me crazy and then I go home and do the same thing again.

But lately —– twice in the last two days, I’ve written phone numbers down wrong. An “8” became a “0” in a fax # I gave my accountant yesterday, and I wrote down a phone number last night so I wouldn’t have to look it up again today and a “1” became a “0”. Maybe it’s just “0’s” I need to avoid and there’s nothing wrong with my eyes afterall.

And when I go to the sports bar to watch Thunder games (“F” World Peace), I have to sit at one of the tables with the video poker machines that say “reserved for gamers” and tell the barmaid, Kaela-with-her-butt-hanging-out-of-her-shorts-because-it’s-really-a-biker-bar-and-not-a-real-sports-bar, to tell me to move if I have to so I can see the screen better — and still can’t really see the guys’ numbers. And it pisses me off that I used to have a butt like Kaela’s. There are a lot of things more than love that are wasted on the young. Like tight asses and perky boobs — and eyes that don’t need glasses.

I’ve learned to drive by “things” rather than street signs because by the time I get close enough to read them, I’m driving past them. (Which reminds me. Why do they give driving tests in Spanish and expect people who don’t speak English to find their way around? Isn’t that kind of like putting brail on toll booths to tell how much money to put in?) Anyway, here in Vegas, I know to turn right after the McDonald’s on Sahara and then go a block past Mr. D’s Biker/Sports Bar to get to my office at Starbucks, and on the way back, turn right at the Cadillac dealership — and when I get back to Laurel’s condo, it’s the one before the driveway with the van parked in front.

And shopping? I don’t do that much anymore. It’s really sad. I used to love to get home from work, grab something to eat, change clothes and head to the mall to spend the evening. But the prices on those damned tags are too small. It’s like I need to carry reading glasses around with me and pull them out to read a tag and put them back in my purse and pull them out to read a tag and put them back in my purse. So, when I feel the need to shop, I just call Abbi and ask her if she wants a new pair of jeans. We both win. And no one knows I can’t read the price tags.

So, as soon as I get back to Los Angeles, I guess I need to go to the doctor and try to see if I can get past my Goldilox syndrome. But I know what’s going to happen. My vision is like 75/50. So the cycle is going to repeat itself.

Maybe I just need a “seeing-eye Toy Boy” to get me around. It could even be one from the biker bar at this point in time. After all, my eyes aren’t really that bad.

Please note: The Mind of Ann will have to take the day off tomorrow. Have to leave the house at 6am to get to a doctor’s appointment in LA by 11, then play with my web-designer-PDF-converter-editor-photographer, Hillary for a couple hours, then have lunch with Abbi and her Aussie — haven’t decided whether I’ll be staying w/ a friend at UCLA or driving back. Either way, there won’t be time for my mind to be working, so I’ll see you Friday.

LET’S TALK STUDENT LOANS

What were the Republicans thinking when they DOUBLED the student loan rate? I don’t get it. These people are so out of touch with life in America, it’s hard to believe they ever watch the nightly news or pick up a newspaper.

For the record, I understand why they chose to not forgive student loans. We can’t get car loans, mortgage loans or credit card debt “forgiven.” Students and their parents signed the papers knowing the loans were going to have to be repaid. That’s the price they’re willing to pay/invest to give their child an education.

But to DOUBLE the rates? Are you freaking kidding me? Even the Federal Reserve only raises the interest rates it charges banks by 1/4 to 1/2 points at a time. Mortgage rates go up about that rate each time. Even a 1% increase is rare. This is right up there with highway robbery.

Abbi and I were lucky. We only had to take out one $5000 student loan in her college career. But it was her sophomore year. The interest starts the day the loan papers are signed. She graduated four years later. And they give a six-month grace period. So that’s four and a half years of interest before the first payment is due. It’s a great racket for the student loan business. The reality is that the payments just about cover the interest rate. Seven years later, she’s still paying.

I have a friend who, from the time she was a very small child, told everyone she was going to be a rabbi. She was laughed at (“isn’t that cute”) because Conservative Judaism didn’t allow women to be rabbis until she was in her mid-forties. Shaina jumped on the program the minute that privilege became available. Took out student loan after student loan to go back to college for another 5 years to become a rabbi. The cost? About $90,000 in student loans. Even with very well-paying congregations, she’ll be paying for that one when she’s signing loans for her two boys to go to college. What if her loans were taken out now, at 6%?. Damn. And her first synagogue? Waco, Texas. It hardly seems fair.

But here’s the kicker. Jerry Brown, in his infinite wisdom (see, I can bash Democrats, too) decided to sign a bill into law that lets Illegal Aliens be granted a FREE college education in California. Free. Like costing them nothing. His premise is that with an education, they’ll be more likely to get higher-paying jobs and become productive members of society and no longer on the rolls of those who need government assistance (which they shouldn’t be getting anyway). No wonder California is bankrupt.

Here’s my problem with that. First, there are NO stipulations. I believe that if we’re going to hand out educations at Cal Berkeley or UCLA, there should be a stipulation that the illegal agree to become a naturalized citizen before entering the university. That way, when they get out of college, they become a Tax Paying member of society. As the law stands, they can enter college as an alien free, graduate free, and go back to work in their communities without having to pay taxes — or repay student loans.

And who is paying for this FREE education, you ask? That would be me. And all the families who work their tails off so their kids can go to college. And the college kids who work sometimes two or three jobs to pay for their education and expenses…..and worse…..those families that have to take out student loans now so their kids can go to college — at 6% interest. To sit beside someone in class who is getting a free ride? This whole thing is just wrong.

I take a lot of heat because I believe that anyone in this country illegally should be mandated to become a naturalized American citizen or leave. Get the hell out. I’m tired of hearing stories from my nursing grads about families who drive in from Mexico in their Mercedes to have a baby free in an American hospital so the child can be an American citizen — then, that child is eligible for Medicare, Social Security, food stamps,etc. And just like the Vietnamese who came here in the late 60’s and early 70’s, even naturalized immigrants are given a five-year grace period from paying taxes. Why shouldn’t every college graduate be given that same privilege.

Our great grandparents came into this country as immigrants, too. They had to have a sponsor before they were allowed off the boats. Sometimes, the boat was turned away at Ellis Island and the ship’s captain made the decision whether to continue until he found another port that would accept his passengers (it was usually New Orleans), or take them back to Europe. They got no special treatment. Had to pay taxes, make their own livings, and build their lives without government assistance.

There are so many illegal immigrants here now, it’s hard to find a place in Oklahoma, Texas, California, Florida or Nevada where you can go down the street and half the people aren’t speaking Spanish. And they look at you like you’re crazy if you don’t understand what they’re saying. They don’t even bother to learn to speak English. There are rallies all over California for “Immigrant Rights. What are they willing to pay for those rights? We pay for ours. It won’t be long until Spanish is the national language — or Mandarin if the Chinese decide to call in our debt and take the country as collateral.

Abbi has a friend from Australia who is trying to get a green card — working visa — and is having a hellofatime getting to work in this country LEGALLY. He’s meeting with an immigration attorney tomorrow and hopes there are hoops he can jump through to accomplish this feat. Now, he has to get a 90-day visa, then go back to Australia to get another one. And since he does a considerable amount of business here already, you’d think we’d want him here. But….

I have a friend (you’ll hear about him in the book) who got married to get his first green card. That marriage didn’t last long, neither did the second or third. But, then he got mugged at a bridge tournament in Miami and had his passport and green card stolen. So, he got married again to get new ones. That marriage lasted a couple of years, and he got divorced again. But once you have a green card, there’s no more proving anything to anyone. It’s yours for life. However, Kraig pays taxes, owns a home, and accepts his responsibility as a working member of the country he has chosen to live in. But he will never give up his Canadian citizenship because if he ever needs major medical care, he can go back and get it free.

I’m not sure when this country got stupid, but we’re sure there. We’re coddling people who don’t pay taxes on the backs of those who do. Sometimes, it feels like Constitutional Rights only apply to those who aren’t entitled to them.

And that’s my bitch for today. I’ll try to be more user-friendly tomorrow…..it depends on the news.