Saturday, May 3, 2014

A fee to ride with me

Whenever I have to work in the Bernalillo County Clerk's Office I have to ride the elevator. Ok, I don't have to, or so the signs posted by the elevators claim. The signs advise I do my body a favor and take the stairs. Uh huh. I'm fat. I smoke. And it's seven floors up. This is after I've already climbed one flight just to get to the basement elevators. 

I am considering a gradual approach. I'm thinking I could climb to where I'm about to pass out and then swap over to the elevator. I'll get back to you on this.

Elevators have become my favorite social experiment.

Here's how it works: typically when I get on the elevator in the basement I'm by myself. Within two floors another rider or riders join me. Now for the fun part.

I wait for the doors to close and inform my fellow passenger(s) there is a fee for riding with me. Most people respond with a nervous glance and shift their stance. The fee is simple, I tell them; no money required. 

The fee is a joke. It must be clean. It must be funny.

1% of men say they don't know any jokes yet their face says otherwise.
99% of men blush, duck their heads and try to suppress a laugh. 
At this point the trick is to make eye contact. All men shift uncomfortably. Their smiles get wider and they begin chuckling aloud. The ones who hiccup laughter are also shaking their heads as they mentally recall and discount known jokes.

70% of women go into panic mode. A joke? She wants a joke - ahh! Help!
The remaining 30% is a mixed bag of: I can't tell jokes; I just heard a great one but can't remember how it goes; or they show a goofy picture on their phone. If I get a goofy picture, I also get the story behind it. More often than not the story is better than the picture so this does count as a joke.

Now I've been requesting a fee at every opportunity for more than a year. Rarely my fellow passengers and I share the same destination. But we all depart the elevator with a smile.

The other day I shared the elevator with three men. Did I get a joke? No. Two of the men got off on a lower floor. The other man announced to me "you're always so chipper. I've ridden with you before so I knew about the fee." Yeah but he didn't tell a joke. 

He went on to say he thinks he has me figured out. He believes I am a naturally happy person on a mission to share happiness.

Ok. Far be it for me to disillusion him. That's not why I charge people to ride the elevator with me. The fee began as a coping mechanism and has evolved into a very amusing social experiment. No one has ever gotten angry. No one has ever copped an attitude. And everyone leaves happy.

So why the fee? Because I had an intense fear of elevators. My father spent decades trying to convince me of the soundness of the science, engineering. What goes up must come down, except in elevators where you can be stuck somewhere between. I don't like confined spaces to begin with so the fear of being trapped between floors is very real to me. All alone in a little box and no one knows I'm there. This is the stuff of nightmares.

Hence a coping mechanism that not only shifted my focus onto another person but made that person aware of me. Simply it's how not to be alone in a crowd. Charging a fee to share an elevator maybe a kooky way of getting attention but it's highly effective. And I'm getting over my fear of elevators.

Oh yeah, and I'm sharing happiness. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

You made me go there

People are commenting that I am short with them and at times all out losing my temper while speaking with them on the phone. 

My initial response is "Duh. Thank you for repeatedly proving you haven't been listening to a word I've said."

Fuming about yet another of those conversations, I concluded the direct approach didn't work nor did using examples of what's irking me. Since listening is not the offending parties strong suite, I am now putting it in writing. 


1) have your kid or grandchild answer the phone. If you are busy - don't answer, it's that simple. Later when we do make connection you spend the first 5 - 10 minutes apologizing for, regardless of age, the kid's inability to take a message and then remember to give you the message. 
   In the future I shall either hang up when the kid answers or give a scandalous message specifically tailored to piss you royally.

2) what is the deal with women over 50 calling just to sniff and groan? Not only is this thoughtless and unappetizing, you're too busy sharing your misery long distance to realize how utterly ridiculous you sound. At your age no one should have to tell you to get off the phone, blow your nose and take drugs if needed. Trust me, "sniff, ugh, sniff, ah" is not scoring you sympathy points.

3) if you're more interested in what's on TV - get off the phone. Likewise, if a show is coming on you want to watch, don't call me. 

4) the growing fad seems to be making me repeat myself over and over, and over. An appropriate response to "are you still there?" is not huh? 
     Thank you for expressing how little I mean to you. Have you noticed I quit calling?

5) before uttering any sentence that begins "I know you don't want to hear this" unless 'this' is refers to a tragedy or work related issue or directly involves you and me - bite your tongue and pick a different topic. The real amazing part is how often I get phone calls on the same damn topic in which "I know you're tired of hearing this" is stated. 

6) please stop taking the statements "I'm working" or "I'm writing" as an invitation stay on the phone or, once I get you off the phone, to call back repeatedly. It wouldn't be so bad if you actually had something to say. 

7) see #6. The same holds true for the statements "I'm fixing a meal" or "we're sitting down to eat". You don't take my phone calls at these times. Yet when I say this my phone doesn't stop ringing. Honest I didn't think much about it until a friend quipped "are your eggs cold yet? have you given up trying to eat and gave your food to the dog?" Thank you. I'm not even going to ask why you find these stunts fun. The comment it makes on your view of our friendship is unflattering.

8) when you call to ask my advice will you please warn me when the question is the opening salvo of an argument? I am not your spouse, kid or boss. I don't live with you therefore I don't know the history behind your current mood. 

9) yeah. you know. ah huh. These are NOT descriptions. When relating an incident try including pertinent information. Saying "Then he, ah, yeah." tells me nothing. Typically the conversation ends with me having no idea what you were talking about. 

10) this is actually my #1 pet phone peeve. The phone rings. I answer and you make a partial declaration such as "shots are being fired" and the line goes dead. Then you don't call back with the rest of the story. And your phone goes direct to voice mail for hours or days.
     In the future I shall assume you are either dead or have killed someone and you're on the run. I will post the least appropriate condolence on Facebook. 

Yeah, I'm copping an attitude. Yeah, I'm fed up.  Would I have to go to this extreme if our conversations were face-to-face? 

One last peeve - ask before giving out my phone number. Maybe there's a damn good reason I didn't give that person my number.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


Chapter 19, edit of Desert; I'm staring at a blank page and I do it well. My heart beats once to every third blink of the cursor. An episode of Midsomer Murder, quite simply the best detective saga written and then transformed wonderfully into a series, plays on the television. Desiree sleeps nearby. Now and then she lifts her head to check on me. My coffee cup is empty but I've a full pack of cigarettes. Dinner is thawing in the oven. 

I click on the blue W icon. Yep, the page is still blank. Yep, the cursor is still blinking. One, two, three; yep, my heart's still beating. The coffee cup has yet to refill itself. 

People often tell me I should designate writing hours. Oh my god; to do so would frustrate the tar out of me. My heart would be beating with the cursor. Work has specified hours. Writing is not work. I do not set out to write a certain number of pages or words per day. I wonder at those writers who claim they pound out 5,000 words a day. 

If the average book is under 100,000 words and I've been writing at a pace of 5,000 per day yet I'm only completing one to two books a year - how many days begin with deleting the words written the prior day? 

I am at peace with the blinking cursor. I see possibilities in the blank page. Apparently however, I will have to refill the coffee cup.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Journey to Beauty

There's a mountain called Sandia outside my window. The view from my balcony is spectacular. 

I am intrigued by this mountain. Any given moment it's appearance changes. While season, time (as in hour of day or night) and angle of light do play a major role in presenting Sandia, the simple truth is it's the composition of the mountain that makes it beautiful.

A geologist could provide details: approximately when Sandia formed; it's mineral composition and precisely what provides it's color and reflective properties. But why ruin the mystic?

Story has it Sandia got it's name from the gorgeously surprising shades of pink it turns at sunset. Watermelon, pink.  On a clear winter evening, with a light dusting of snow, the mountain looks like a mouth-watering confection. Other times it glows with a brilliance that reflects warmly across the valley.

Like that mountain, at any given moment, our attitude, personality and opinions is a matter of perspective.

While in North Carolina I was captivated by cloud lightning. Picture psychedelic kaleidoscopes contained within individual clouds, most often seen at night surrounded by a field of stars. Without boisterous thunder. Without fearful bolts rushing to ground. Just the beauty of nature's laser light show where power is displayed in silence.

Seems like any more it's all about being "up in your face". Loud and obnoxious. Finger-jabbing. Got the hand and the head going. Shrieking.  The adult version of hands over ears and singing "la-la-la-la"

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest. Normally the mountains are quiet. They tend hang out in one place. Every once in a while one has something to say. From time-to-time one or more decides to move. These sudden actions are sure to get everyone's attention. Mountains aren't to be taken for granted.

I am finding role models in nature where there are prime examples of human behavior. Destructive forces are loud. Flood waters. Tornadoes. Fires. They take. They don't give. It's all about them.

I want to be like Sandia reflecting the best of those around me. I need to be like cloud lightning confident to show inner beauty minus outbursts and drama. I have to be relentless like the Sahara moving persistently towards goals, erasing from my vicinity that which distracts from my identity.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Final Words

I enjoy wandering thru cemeteries reading headstones. There's an abundance of beloved spouse and parent, many I suspect to be a lie. But every once in a while I run across a gem. A favorite - "My death does not mean you get the last word". Ok then; my first reaction was the words gave a fairly accurate picture of the person's nature. Clearly she was a real bitch.
Sometime later that week I got into wondering about the person who chose the engraving. Was it a spouse or child; a sibling or best friend? All we have are the words he or she selected to memorialize the deceased.
I visited the grave again next time I was out that way. The decease's first name is too androgynous to reveal gender. He/she lived well into their eighties. There were no religious symbols on the headstone. A trek around nearby graves suggested he/she wasn't buried with family. I couldn't stop wondering why those words were chosen.
Several more times I ventured out to the cemetery expanding my search section-by-section looking for a clue. I guess I figured somewhere in the rows of aging leaning headstones would be one that read "in heaven the argument continues". Or words to that effect. See, I was still of the frame of mind the deceased was a bitch. I wouldn't have been surprised to find a headstone with "now I'll never hear the end of it".  Or "I hope heaven has earplugs".
Weeks went by, I was busy elsewhere when out of the blue it occurred to me what a large decorative headstone marked the grave. Somebody spent big money on it. And the engraving was done nice and deep so to be legible for a good long time. This didn't seem like the actions of someone laying a nagging spouse to rest. 
My mind began exploring other possibilities. Still assuming the deceased to be female, my perception of her altered from shrew to fun-loving and outgoing. Could be she was laid to rest by her husband of fifty plus years who looked back fondly on their life together and knew the one thing he'd miss most was their recreational bickering. Maybe it was one of her kids that picked those words because he/she knew mom's voice would be in his head guiding away from or reprimanding poor decisions. Quite possibly a lifelong friend ordered the engraving to give the deceased "the last word".
I have been charged with the honor of seeing to the final arrangements of several friends and one nephew. Although we joke about it, I do take the responsibility very seriously.
Given my sense of humor and the fact they won't be around to stop me, perhaps there should be some concern on what I might have engraved on their headstones. I'm good with words. I like things that make people stop and think. Remember - I'm the one who had "there'll be a test later" engraved on my oldest brother's headstone.
The choice for my nephew is easy. Due to terms of our agreement regarding his final resting place I feel it both fitting and necessary to toss a small bronze plaque after his body as it rolls down the mountainside into a ravine. See, it would be my luck that his head will strike a rock and years later when his remains are found some medical examiner will rule his death a homicide. Therefore to save a lot of fuss I'll send him off with a plaque that reads "natural causes; leave me be".
When the time comes and a certain friend's ashes are scattered, I swear I'm posting this sign nearby:
"Wipe your feet! I ain't going home with you".
For all the cemeteries I've wandered through I'm still hoping to come across:
"I have time now, what did you want"
"Double-dog dared 1X too many"
"Last thing I said, men don't read instructions"
"Dude - I'm dead"
"Psst, don't look now. . ."
"Yes; I was feeling lucky"
"Ah, someone else is in here too"
"Died with a smile. Still smiling. Ask me why"

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

As political as I get

When I was little history was yesterday.  Five minutes ago new became obsolete.  I was born in the 60's.  Because we travelled frequently up and down the West Coasts of both America and Canada I gained a unique perspective on the era and the people shaping it.
Never in my wildest imagination did I consider how 40 years later I'd be sharing with my great-nephew and his friends how the 60's was a heck of a lot more than hippies and protestors; sex, drugs and rock and roll. Suddenly I was "the old folk" recounting memories of childhood. More than that I began wondering just what the kids today are being taught. 
Three weeks ago I embarked on a 2,000 miles trip from southeastern North Carolina heading west to New Mexico. Although I had carefully plotted my route at the time it did not occur to me what significant locations lay along my path. Then as I approached the North Carolina - Tennessee border road signs began stirring memories of stories heard in my youth. Ah yes, back in the days when I was either trying to stay awake or covertly flirt with a cute boy during history class. 
Meaning no disrespect to those who lost their lives but battlefields don't interest me. Think about it, in my lifetime we've always been fighting somewhere. So many places in fact I'm not sure I can list them all. And for that matter, many have undergone one if not several name changes.
What did catch my attention was a simple road sign stating the miles to Oakridge Tennessee. 
History.  More precisly, a significant neon marker on the timeline of events that has directly impacted every single person on planet Earth - and still does.
I had to take the exit. I had to pull over and stop and reflect on events that transpired in that place nearly 20 years before my birth. This was bigger than the 60's. Sitting there along side the road it occurred to me, if not for Oakridge we would not have the prosperity of the 40's and 50's. There would not be a generation known as Baby Boomers. Oakridge is directly responsible altering our language and social structure.
When I got to the hotel that night I posted a question on Facebook - and recieved very surprising responses. The question: "the federal government built the town of Oakridge to provide housing and services for workers of what project?"  Bonus question: "name Oakridge's western counterpart where the project was completed and tested".
The following day I posted the same questions on Twitter. Save for a few history buffs, the replies were so embarrassingly wrong I removed the questions and responses. Lordy, if this isn't a sad commentary on what is not getting taught in school. I can't imagine that many kids slept through history class. Come on people, there are several movies about this "project". The key word being - project.
Oakridge along with it's western counterpart Los Alamos developed the atomic bomb. Overnight America and the rest of the world learned new terms. Words are powerful. Saying the words changed our thinking, and thusly our way of life.
Atomic Era. Nuke. Might, as in the Mightiest Nation on Earth. We had the Power!
Cold War. Bay of Pigs. Fallout shelter. Descriptions like "Downwinder" crept into our vocabulary. Schools had bomb drills. Everyone knew about the red telephone and the button. Communists, and Socialists were the enemy.
There was the promise of cheap electrical power. Designers and Advertisers jumped on the bandwagon. Harnessing the atom opened the door to a bright and shining future. Jobs and prosperity; new fields of science, engineering, medicine - if they could dream it, it was within their grasp. Sure there were naysayers even among those responsible for the era but very, very few listened. America was riding high.
For the first time in history a nation's status was determined by it's ability to blast another country "back to the Stone Age."  Those of you old enough will remember that was the most often heard opinion regarding how we should approach Vietnam. Ironically at the same time we feared our enemies would do precisely that to us.
I would now like to point out a few ultra important facts. The American people were not asked if we wished to develop the atomic bomb. No citizen went to the polls and cast a vote for the allocation of funds for the Manhattan Project, building of two cities or amassing of manpower and resources. No citizen was given the opportunity to say "yes we should nuke Japan" or "no, the mere threat to nuke them is enough".  Likewise no citizen was given an opportunity to say "I really don't wish to be a part of nuclear cloud dispersal / distribution testing." (Google - Pacific Northwest radioactive fallout tests 50's and 60's)
Stop. Go back and read the above paragraph again.
Our government made a decision that affected the lives of every person on this planet, not just then but for generations to come. And did so WITHOUT the knowledge and / or approval of American citizens.
Looking back I wonder how people might have voted. Would they have realized the atomic bomb was more than a means of swifly ending World War II?  I doubt anyone back then could have imagined how a few short decades later America would apologize for nuking Japan, and that we would be indebt to Japan and China.
Because of the discussions with my great-nephew (born in 1995), I firmly believe the 1960's was the last time the average American citizen did anything that altered the course of this country. People of every race and religion came together to say "enough is enough; we don't like what's going on". We are the People. This is our country, our home and our lives. We will have a say!
Apparently they did not say enough. Apparently we got complacent. Sometime between Nixon's resignation and Obama's election it seems the American voters became selfish, self-gratification seeking assholes. Is it any wonder ads for mood / performance enhancing drugs run back to back with commercials declaring our entitlement to money, to vacations, to whatever. How is it we have multiple generations asking the same question - what's in it for me?
The DEA and multi-agency task forces cannot fix America's drug problem because the drug(s) are legal. Turn on the television and watch the commercials if you don't believe me. Stay tuned long enough and there will be notice of a class action "bad drug" lawsuit. We are entitled to compensation for failing to take responsibility for our actions or lack thereof.
As you are getting ready to vote next month there is something else I'd like you to consider about Oakridge. Picture yourself moving into a brand new house.  Your spouse is raking in overtime wages at the Lab. You've got a job clerking at the grocery store. Your son is an usher at the movie theater is the envy of his friends. He gets to watch movies for free. Technically you are living the American dream: job, home and money in your pocket. No one within your earshot better say anything derogatory about America or her government. Ok, so there's some stuff going on that doesn't seem right but hey, you've got more than you dreamed.
How did it feel years later when your sons and daughters protested the same government? Were you embarrassed or did you support them? Did you defend their right to speak their mind and challenge authority?
See, I'm guessing in the 60's you were still unaware the the primary construction material used at Oakridge was a mixture of concrete and asbestos. Third Law of Physics applies: every good is measured by an equal portion of bad. Simply put - what's in it for me is also the entitlement to be homeless, unemployed, hoodwinked and dead.
We have made the government our parent. We have charged them with supplying our every need. We have our hands out like children demanding an allowance.
Guess what folks, our govenment is no different than us. It's all about "what's in it for me?"  Just as private citizens overspend themselves into bankrupcy and homelessness, we have given our government the power to do the same thing. Sadly anymore it seems we only wish to hold them accountable for not meeting our whiney demands. Gimme, gimme, gimme. 
I was born in the 60's. I'm a huge fan of the freedom of speech. From time to time I still hum the song Signs - there's something happening here and what it is ain't exactly clear. Personally I don't like the direction America is heading. Equalization reduces everyone to mediocraty. It stiffles dreamers and kills aspirations and denounces achievements.
Personally I feel America needs a bit of revolution about now. Come Election Day - STAY HOME.  DO NOT VOTE. (Oregonians, do not mail in your ballots.)  If you really want your opinion to matter send the message "none of the candidates are suitable!" 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Exhale. Inhale

The words are strange to my mouth, "I haven't felt like writing". 
The statement is even stranger to my ears.

I've written all my life. Before I knew how to write I scrawled lines of pretend cursive on mom's note pads or any other piece of paper I got my hands on.

I wrote about dreams. I told about places I'd been or something I'd seen that sparked my curiosity. Often I expanded upon interactions with friends and/or animals subconsciously adding plots. Periodically I took inspiration from TV shows and wrote an episode or spin-off. 

As I grew older writing became an emotional outlet. Poetry or prose, it really didn't matter as long as the act of putting pen to paper eased the "too-full, going to burst" sensation in my head. Then when I moved to writing on the computer there came the added bonus of hitting the delete key symbolically eradicating the pain from existence.

Writing has always held a major role in expressing my creative nature. I also: paint, draw, sew, bead and play several musical instruments. While these are great hobbies, they are limited by location, time and space.

This has been a very difficult summer. It has been an extremely sad summer. For the first time in years I've actually wished to be back on OCD meds so my brain was wrapped in layers of cotton. Ok, while that is a true statement, it is not quite the full truth. I have no desire to live in a haze ever again. This has just been one unrelenting summer. I barely had caught my breath and wiped my eyes before the next sad news phone call hit.

Since the end of July I've had to make a conscious effort to breath: inhale, exhale, relax while conducting business. I haven't made it through a day without crying multiple times.

Now here I am days before making [another] major move across country and I should be excited. I can talk a good game. I can pretend there's all sorts of things I'm looking forward to seeing and doing. All the preparations have been made and route west has been mapped. But raw emotions make it difficult to see beyond loss and regrets.

Exhale; blow nose, wipe eyes
Inhale; focus on the horizon

Exhale; accept that I did my best
Inhale; carry the love, leave the regrets

In case you're wondering why I put exhale first it's because when sad things happen one after the other we tend to hold our breaths waiting for the next wave to knock us. You have to exhale in order to inhale. I feel like I've been holding my breath for months. Even though I've been crying everything inside of me is bottled up. So much has happened in secession I'm waiting for another shoe to drop.

Exhale; release what I have no control over
Inhale; grasp opportunity

Exhale; free the emotional log jamb
Inhale; start writing again.