Behold the mighty #2 pencil!

Behold the mighty #2 pencil! It is an understated object, with its body reminiscent of the color of a school bus (which were yellowish orange in my neck of the woods.) It feels much slimmer in my grasp now as compared to my elementary school age hands. It is an object that brings back memories. I happened upon the pencil whilst waiting for Better Half to complete his doctor’s appointment and found comfort in it.

The smell of lead and the smell of lead applied to paper is still familiar to me. The very sound of the leaded point as I scribble my notes is like hearing a forgotten symphony. “Tap Tap” accompanies each punctuation mark or capped letter and at the beginning of each stroke. I can not help but notice that my handwriting has not improved much since my youth.

I relish the rough fell of the exposed wood under my index finger. It brings to mind scantron tests (“Class, take out your #2 pencils…”) and ropy yarn used to tie back bunches of hair. I think of Mickey Mouse pencil cases, Strawberry Shortcake and Holly Hobby book bags, Bionic Woman and Little House on the Prairie lunch boxes and the ever-present scent of those damned pens that smelled like fruit. I owned none of these things (with the exception of the Bionic Woman metal lunchbox.) Much like the boys, I preferred a simple #2 pencil and a cheap blue or black pall point pen.

My mind harkens back to the dusty school room in Simi, where my classmates and I frantically write our hearts out, our heads bent low as we toil to pour forth our knowledge during a pop quiz. The lead slowly wears down from the effort as the very winds wear down the summit’s peak; I cast my eyes about in search of my Pink Pet eraser that was lost so many decades ago. The classroom silence is punctuated by the occasional sniff of breath from a child or the soft grinding “schk schk”of a manual sharpener.

The quiz time would run out and the tense scowls would slide off our faces like eggs slipping from a Teflon pan. We would raise our desk lids and stash our precious #2’s in the pencil rack, then snatch up our recess necessities and snuffle towards the door. The pencils, much like the unvarying test schedule, would always be waiting for us upon our return.


Painful Monday Musings

The following would be a highly truthful statement:

I have been a bitch for the past month.

It would become even more candid if I also stated that I do not see it as “bitchiness” as much as it is the expression of my habitually caustic and cynical sense of humor in my blog posts. One could almost believe me to be a rabid left-wing freak of nature.

Dear Readers, I certainly am bitchy as well as cynical (and caustic) but I assure you that I have not morphed into the Ranting Cow of the Apocalypse. (That’s like a horse only more useful in that it provides wholesome milk and flank steaks.)

Surely my wonderful Christian friends sat in agog (and Magog) of my recent “fundy” blog posts. They have almost certainly never encountered the sort of lunatics that those posts were attributed to. Rest assured, dear Readers, Autrice has not turned her back on God (even if she would like to place some of His more fanatical followers on a deserted island…… and drop a bomb on said island……. containing roughly several thousand kilotons of napalm-B. Bring marshmallows.)

I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy, as it turns out. Napalm-B is a horrific substance. Rather, let us simply whack the offending freaks with our slippers. This method works rather well on spiders.

The catalyst for my rancor is indeterminable. (At this early hour I could not even tell you if I misspelled that word.) Perhaps 80% of it is attributable to my body’s inability to cut me some slack in the pain department.

I have problems sleeping. Falling to sleep is not the problem. Sleeping without massive muscle contraction is. My nocturnal pose closely resembles a fossilized theropod or other such small bi-pedal beast. The muscles in my neck and spine slowly contort my body backwards and then cramp. My arms draw towards my chest and my hands ball up so tightly that I awake with impressions of my fingernails embossed in my palms. The slightest stimulus – a breeze from the ceiling fan, Better Half stirring in his sleep, the Italian Greyhound shifting his position, the cat landing softly at the foot of the bed – causes my body to spasm. I take twice the amount of muscle relaxant, to no avail.

Whereas the spasms are painful, the muscle pain felt upon awaking is hellish. It feels very much like a “whole body” Charlie horse. My jaw and the muscles in my face and head throb from clenching. I feel shaky from the amount of lactic acid that built up during the course of the night. My muscle attachment points shriek in protest as I move about. There have been several mornings where I awoke only to become conscious of the level of pain I was about to endure and promptly cried myself back to sleep.

I have come to realize that the pain assessment scale utilized by hospitals during triage is rubbish. My “5” is your “10” and my “10” would leave you either unconscious or beseeching Dr. Jack Kevorkian to put you out of your misery.

I have always been blessed with a high pain threshold. I can recall breaking both my arm and collarbone as a child and not shedding a single tear over it (pain scale level = 2.) I have fallen down canyon walls, hurled myself over fences and participated in mosh pits without batting an eyelash (pain scale level = 1.) I put off having emergency gallbladder removal surgery simply because I knew it was a “bad time to take off work” and “the pain wasn’t so intolerable” (average daily pain scale level = 5, gallbladder posterior necrotic.) When I tore a tendon in my leg, I was able to cope with the pain even as I groused about the cast and limited mobility (doesn’t even blip on the pain scale.)

My “10” does not cause me to lose consciousness. I would presume falling from an airplane and being impaled upon the Chrysler Building to be a “10” or at least close to it. Passing a gallstone (replete with grey skin, sweat and the shakes) scored at that level. My nocturnal “fossil dinosaur dance” registers a “7” currently, with the pain level at “9” upon waking.

Sadly, I am not very sympathetic towards those who whimper at the slightest discomfort. If I can persist in walking around with infected wisdom teeth for a week then you can endure three seconds of discomfort when they inject you with Novocain.

I am empathetic towards suffering however. I understand just how crushing pain can be. I can appreciate the feeling of dread that often accompanies chronic pain. I do know what it feels like to go into shock due to pain. I would certainly fluff your pillow and hold your hand were you to be incapacitated by it.

As to my cynicism:

The other 20% is probably due to my feeling as if nothing can be accomplished. I had so many summer plans that were left undone because I was in no state to carry them out. Fall is rapidly approaching and there is much I wish to do to prepare for the holidays but my nagging doubts defeat me even before the first leaf on my tree turns orange. To be blunt: it is depressing the hell out of me.

Depression eats away at motivation. (I am not severely depressed but I am apathetic towards life in general.) Daily chores pile up as I “put them off until I am well enough to do them” and indeed what would have once been effortless has now become a nearly insurmountable task. Factor in Better Half’s “I need to rest/it is too hot” and hardly a thing gets done around here. I am not griping at Better Half per se (as he is disabled from the Gulf War), but I am weary of the eternal argument that usually begins with “this house is filthy…”

Better Half does not seem to realize that (for me) flexing my muscles and getting out of bed is the greatest and most painful challenge of the day. The pain does not decrease as the day progresses; I wake up enough to “suck it up and drive on” (i.e. endure it.)

I do not know if Better Half really can not do something because of a bad day, or if he is simply saying that he can’t in order to avoid doing it. He “cried wolf” quite a few times in our early marriage (the end result being my throwing up my hands in resignation and doing the task myself.)

My lack of proper sleep creates a rather short fuse. During those moments when he announces that he needs to rest, my mind goes through this little conversation with itself:


“Fuck it all, if it’s not done now then there will be even more to do tomorrow!!!!!!!”

“No!!!!!!! Christ, please, no! We need to get this done and I can’t do it. I'm a failure because I can't pick up the slack today.”

What actually comes out of my mouth is: “alright” followed by a soft sigh. This acquiescent reaction can be attributed to the depression. It is not Better Half's fault nor do I blame him.

One of our previous exchange students, Vlad, will be coming to the United States sometime after September 15. He currently does not have a clean room to sleep in, nor is the bathroom in any state for houseguests. The office is in absolute shambles. The kitchen needs straightening (it is not too bad) and the floors need a good deep cleaning. I am living in a state of dread that all these things will be done at the last minute (as is always the case when we have company over) and doing so will leave us in a state of exhaustion.

Evolution in a nutshell


Insufferable Elmo….

I confess that I have never been a Sesame Street fan. My mother was a woman who did not rely upon outside sources to teach her infant about words, shapes and numbers. I was utilizing fully structured sentences by eighteen months of age (as in “Yes, more milk” instead of the proverbial “baaaaaaaa” that some babies and toddlers scream in order to procure a sip of liquid.) By the time I was two, I could not only differentiate between the “yellow ball” and the “purple triangle” but could spell those words.

Perhaps it is due to my mother actually using the phrase, “Honey, can you differentiate between…” or perhaps it was because she always spoke to me in a mature fashion?

Suffice to say, I never watched Sesame Street in my own home. I found it dull. I could not comprehend why the characters on the idiot box (I called it a “tell vision” because I continually told it the answers but it kept asking the same stupid questions) did not grasp the very basics that I had already mastered.

My Sesame Street experience stemmed from those odd times when my mother had an important errand to run. I was left with our next-door neighbor and her children. Dall and I were both four, while his sister Allison was much younger. The very memory brings to mind sweetened apple juice bottled up in those damned Tupperware primary blue- and red-coloured sippy cups. (I had been using a regular glass since being weaned.)

“One of these things is not like the other” as the song goes. A screen split into four quarters, three quarters containing a similar theme. The odd corner was glaringly opposite. The child (or perhaps infantile adult) was expected to guess which “thing” was not the same. I can recall a sound spanking in punishment simply because I called Dall a “dummy” for totally overlooking the fact that three quarters were filled with bathing suit clad people whilst one quarter had a guy in a ski suit.

The Count was cool although I never understood why he was so proud of himself for reaching the predetermined number of the day. Even Big Bird could count that high if pressed. The Cookie monster was obnoxious. There was an animated typewriter that rolled across the screen (“Nu ne nu ne nu”) that would capture my attention at times. Kermit’s “Muppet News Flash” was always something to watch, as I loved the character (I later joined my father in becoming a devout “Muppets” fan.) I don’t recall cracking much of a smile over Oscar, Bert and Ernie (and for the record, I thought those “room mates” were like that nice couple of gentlemen down the street, with their white rugs and furniture and kissing on the lips.)

If I have one gleaming thing to say about Sesame Street it is this: the show taught millions of American kids during a time when the average parent was too busy to teach their child anything. It helped them better their reading and reasoning skills. It entertained even as it educated. It presented everything from the alphabet to Mr. Hooper’s death in a way that did not patronize or insult children (unless of course they were children raised by my mother.)

In the 1980’s, Sesame Street jumped the shark with its introduction of the character “Elmo.” (For those who do not understand this term, it is a metaphor that denotes the tipping point where a show has surpassed its peak with viewers, or else a point where new plot twists are illogical when compared to everything prior to their insertion. The term originated with “Happy Days”; Fonzie was made to literally jump a shark whilst wearing water skis.)

I hate Elmo.

I loathe him as the ambassador of modern parenting. I loathe the high-pitched, unintelligent, singsong, third person, DUH! baby talk. I despise him as the bastard icon for the PC reason-with-your-child movement (“Now Johnny, you don’t weally want to stab mommy with that big sharpy sharp knifey, do you? Johnny, how do you think that wiwl make mommy feel? *Parent: please adopt melodramatic sad face to show child how unhappy you feel.”*)

Is it any wonder that the average child entering kindergarten can not read?

Kevin Clash has provided Elmo’s voice since he first appeared on Sesame Street. Clash is a rather handsome man with a pleasant expression and perpetual smile. It is hard for me to imagine him as a person whilst I watch a red demon spawned Tickle Me doll contort in a tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizure on the floor as the children clap their hands in glee. (I also wonder if his wife asks him to “do the Elmo voice” in bed.)

In its 33rd season (2002), Sesame Street underwent an obvious, dramatic makeover, apparently intended to address many of the current trends in children's programming, like more rituals and repetition, brighter, more cartoon-colorful real-life characters and sets, and more exaggerated, simplistic mannerisms in addressing the screen and seeking viewer interaction. Regular segments like Journey to Ernie are almost identical from one episode to the next, with only the fine details changing, and the Number of the Day always being presented initially by Count von Count playing up an organ keyboard until he finds it, sequentially. (He is still proud of that feat, even after three decades.)
This all seems an attempt to emulate the huge success of Elmo's World, an extremely ritualized segment presenting exactly the same routine every week.
To put it simply, after jumping the shark, Satan lifted his hind leg and produced a 15-25 minute segment of Elmo in a CG universe, and he saw that it was puerile, and he named it “Elmo’s World” and the peasants and slack-jawed children rejoiced. This time is taken away from the total Sesame Street episode length.

Elmo’s World occupies a large amount of “education time” yet follows the same basic patterns each week. I shudder to think of how Elmo’s fans behave when they reach school age and find out that not all things are structured and doled out in whimsical baby-chatter.

Why do our children require more repetition, more exaggerated and simplistic mannerisms, and why do they need more cartoon-colorful real-life characters and sets?

A recent study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics states that each hour infants and toddlers (age 0 – 3) spend in front of a TV increases a child’s chance of developing Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) by 10%. A child who watches three hours of television a day is 30% more likely to have this disorder. The rapid image changes affect their brain development. The AAP recommends that children under the age of two years should not watch television at all. Children older than two should only watch one hour a day, unless it is educational programming. Even with that, they should not watch more than two hours of television a day. Where does that leave Sesame Street? There is a lot of competition for that two-hour slot.

Couple bad television habits with the refined sugars found in most marketed children’s snacks and you have a recipe for disaster.

Snuffleupagus (or simply Snuffy), Big Bird’s imaginary friend, was finally proven to be real simply because the PC crowd felt that molested children would somehow assume adults would not believe them if they brought up being touched inappropriately by an adult. (Huh?)

On the positive side, the show did help children understand the devastation caused by hurricanes and 9/11. I can not mock it for that noble endeavor.

Instead I shall engage in a little insult in Elmo’s (dis)honor. They really should begin preparation for the growing stages of his fans. Perhaps a series of short stories and a line of toys is in order? Elmo can then chatter away in his childish voice as he explores the adult world that he is maturing into (have I mentioned that the character had been perpetually three years of age since his inception? Have I also mentioned that I was speaking with better syntax and self-awareness since the age of two?)

There are precious few children’s characters that irk me as much as Elmo does. Barney the Purple monstrosity comes close, as do the Teletubbies and those Veggietale beasties.

I did not pine away when Elmo was captured by insurgents,

Nor did I breathe a sigh of relief upon his return as he appeared before the press with a dazed look upon his face.

His short-lived mainstream “comeback” career was one stop short of the toilet. So too were his aspirations to star in the porn industry once his costar was identified as being an underage Muppet.

But I am sad to say that the scars of his time as a hostage, coupled with the downward spiral of his fame, lead to a decreased ability to function as a healthy and rational Muppet. He took his own life on April 1st, 2007. No suicide note was found.


SS #74: I get that sinking feeling...

"I get that sinking feeling…" wasn’t just a euphemism in my early twenties.

Rhonda was my best friend’s sister, a tall redhead in her mid twenties with a first-rate sense of home décor balanced with an untouchable sense of sheer slothfulness. Rhonda never cleaned - unless there was a party.

I always had a sinking feeling when I walked in the front door of our two-bedroom flat. Perhaps it was helped along by the blast of fetid air issuing from the kitchen, or perhaps it was seeing a five-day-old Taco Bell burrito, half eaten, on top of the television cabinet, right next to the extra large drinks container filled with fuzz capped soda. It certainly could have been from the reek of filth drifting like a biohazard cloud from her bedroom. Rhonda was lazy, ergo I spent as little time in our shared domicile as humanly possible.

“I get that sinking feeling that Rhonda hasn’t been busy” was a popular expression always applied to the kitchen sink. It was what we called a “Mexican standoff” in regard to “whose turn it was to do the dishes.”

I felt that it was unreasonable to demand that I do dishes when I did not contribute to the filth. I did not take my meals at home (I had the perpetual image of bacteria doing the two-step on every utensil and pan and could not muster up the nerve to actually eat anything in that house.) My school-job-job-sleep routine was such that I had perfectly sound reasons for spending up to a week away from home. Yet, if Rhonda determined that it was “my turn” for dishes, said dishes would sit in the sink until my return.

Rhonda was a slob, dear readers.

She was impeccable in dress, the proverbial poster child for the runway models of the world. She was extremely girly in her tastes. She was prone to going on a weeklong vacation with her boyfriend Greg whilst leaving a roast on the counter.

You read that right. The woman left town for a week and left the leftovers of supper sitting in a pan on the counter. Not a dirty pan - a roasting pan containing roughly 3 pounds of beef roast, replete with potatoes and carrots.

Rhonda would not think twice about leaving food out to rot. I actually used one of her forgotten beef and cheese sandwiches as a project for my biology paper – the stages of growth in the common housefly. I pinched my nose and cautiously approached the food (left upon the kitchen table) and snapped up a photograph every day. This went on for two weeks. I was able to successfully chart not only the stages of a housefly from egg to adulthood, but also study the rapid decay of lunch meat subjected to summer temperature over a course of time.

"Aut, why the hell didn’t you throw the damn sandwich away?" Dear Readers, did you miss my part about “Mexican standoff”?

Rhonda had a dog – a very sweet mutt in temperament who also lacked any training. Rodney Peabody Bodkins was a creature that tugged at my heartstrings. He was often left chained to a pine tree in the front yard during the summer. During winter, he was kept indoors (the traces of left over food were minimal during those periods thanks to his hearty craving for abandoned victuals and my text books.) Rodney was not housebroken however, and it was commonplace to see dog fudge on the carpets. The dog fudge would remain in place as miniature hotels for all those flies that had lost their homes thanks to his appetite. Rhonda would allow the shit to remain where it fell.

My room was my sanctuary. I kept my door tightly shut. It was pristine, dog-free and filled with dryer sheets and Japanese incense to counter the abysmal stench outside my door. Sadly, it was also off the kitchen, which meant that I would have to journey through the piles of pans and dishes in order to shower or leave the house. My partial solution was to leave the window unlocked. It faced onto a porch and entry and egress from the apartment was simply a matter of climbing through the portal. I can not recall a single shower taken in that apartment – I used my best friend’s bathroom in the apartment upstairs.

I think Rhonda got the hint when I came home one day in a disposable paper biohazard suit. How sad for her that I timed it to coincide with one of her parties. I removed the mask, smiled upon the gathered crowd munching on their finger foods and announced that I was glad that she finally cleaned the filthy kitchen as the bacteria cultures coating the countertops were making me rather ill.

We parted ways shortly afterward.


Recollections of Bigelow Street

I had the fortune of spending the majority of my childhood in one home. My parents relocated from their crowded Hollywood apartment between Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards in the early 1970’s. They chose Simi Valley for its reasonable proximity (my father was still employed in Hollywood) and affordable housing (the value of my childhood home in today’s market is simply astronomical.)

2362 North Bigelow Street was a serene California ranch-style home, replete with a paved drive, attached garage and slightly sloping lawn. My most vivid recollection of the home’s front yard is the red geranium bushes that my mother planted (she removed them shortly before the house sold.)

We did not have a separate pathway up to the front door. One simply walked up the drive. A white Ford Pinto (bought to minimize the massive expense of gasoline during the 70’s fuel woes) was always parked closest to the door. My mother’s parking slot was to the left of that and once contained a passive purple Pontiac Grand Prix, later replaced by a sky blue Buick Regal. The garage held no vehicles whatsoever. My father constructed walls to create a utility and laundry area for my mother, and the rest of the cavernous space was occupied by his collection of theatrical lighting, sound boards, tools, theatre makeup, old costumes, scrims, old magazines, props and set pieces, boxes of scripts and general junk.

The interior of the home was my mother’s to decorate and she honed her design skills to a fine edge; my father’s talents at engineering and set design played a large factor into the grandeur and quirks of the house itself.

The front door was a heavy wooden masterpiece. A large opaque glass oval window allowed you to glimpse the hues of the house interior. I also recall that there was an etched hummingbird in the center of the door; a reflection of my mother’s love for birds.

One was greeted by hand-laid parquet wooden floors (laid by my mother) upon entry. A solid wall of mirror was on the immediate left, and a vast living room sat opposite. The living room had Spanish mission flair; deep green couches and trendy leather chairs beckoned one to sit in luxury. Splendid oil paintings (done by a friend prior to his becoming famous) adorned richly yellow walls. Heavy curtains festooned a row of windows on the far wall, joining the living room and dining room together in this “L” shaped space. My father lovingly restored an antique organ, and this anchored one wall visually. The living and diving rooms also incorporated several china cabinets into the mix and these were filled with silver serving pieces, platters, exquisite china and sentimental trinkets. The living room was “formal only” and I was not permitted to sit upon the furniture unless company had come to call. We walked through the front door, refrained from stepping into the living room, and proceeded directly to the Grand Central Station of the home – the family room.

Our family room had a lovely brick fireplace. The room itself was simply enormous. My mother never could decide how to decorate the space. It served as a breakfast nook, a television room, a piano room and a host of other things during our residency. The kitchen sat directly off of the family room and had a small entry door into the dining room (where the L branched to.) Opposite the kitchen was the hallway leading to the bedrooms and baths. Entry to the back yard could be gained from the family room as well.

I can not recall much of the bedrooms. My own room was originally shades of reds, whites and pinks. I personally chose a bright red shag rug for this room when the builders supplied us with samples. Do cut me some slack, dear Readers – I was only two years of age.

My parents’ room had double doors and an en suite bath. The color was blue until Mum replaced the 70’s gold carpeting with deep green rugs. There was a room set up as an office, which we all called the Library until computers came along. This room had solid bookshelves on all the walls and a desk floated in the middle of the room. The guest room was my Nonna’s retreat until she passed and then it was transformed into the television room. My own room was the largest of the bedrooms, secondary to the master suite.

If I look back upon it, I would have to say that I recall my room as being eternally messy. My mother kept a spotless home and I preferred to simply climb over mountains of books and toys. I had my bed and dresser as well as a large desk. My father constructed built-in shelving around my large window and added a bench seat to complete the look.

I had no real theme to the madness. The room reflected my eclectic tastes. It was never frilly or overtly girly. I did have some collectable china and hand stitched dolls from my paternal grandmother (Nugymama) in her attempt to mollify my feminine side (or perhaps she was trying to draw it out?) The room actually assumed an androgynous elegance when I hit my “Oriental period” in my early teens (my favorite Christmas gift from my parents was not the stereo system but the ivory Chinese statue.) If I could latch onto one childhood treasure from that room, it would certainly be the cardstock pteranodon mobile my father and I made when I was in the first grade.

The kitchen was not the heart of the home. This is not to say that it did not serve that purpose! My mother is an exceptional cook and simply did not like people getting under foot. I would sit at the counter and watch her as she baked (she would lose track of measurements if interrupted) or else my father and she would collaborate on a meal. My father is a surprisingly good cook in his own right, and is very talented when it comes to making pastas and breads from scratch.

Our backyard was luxury. My mother designed the swimming pool shape and constructed a heavy brick wall to stave off the embankment. My father installed an underwater sound system (a speaker placed in the pool wall with underground wires leading back into the house) and the music could only be heard if one’s head was below the surface of the water. We had a covered porch and plenty of patio furniture and plants. The yard was the setting for many a cast party after the close of a production.

Our property backed a concrete arroyo. These are common in California: it is a constructed concrete waterway that gathers rain runoff and leads to the sewer system. Approximately eight feet deep, with slanting walls and a bottom that was around six feet in width, arroyos provided endless hours of entertainment – provided our parents did not catch us in them! Our particular arroyo ran the entire block and if I walked it I would simply have to climb over the chain link fence into an elementary school playground at the end of the block. Arroyos are rather fun things but we soon learned to scrabble up the sloped walls at the first indication of thunder; flash floods and waterways are a deadly combination.

The saddest day in my life was our final morning in that house. I can recall walking through all the empty rooms with a feeling of overwhelming sorrow. So many delightful memories were wrapped up in those walls. Everything that I knew was contained under that roof. We were not moving to a new California home, but to Colorado. I bid each element a teary farewell, despite being in my teens and much to old to hold anthropomorphic views.

I leaned against the television room wall and relished the cool feel of the smooth surface against my face as I said goodbye to my Nonna one last time. I ran my hand over the kitchen counter and recalled all the holiday meals prepared in the kitchen. I sat in my empty bedroom and cried. I sprawled upon the textured concrete surrounding the pool and ran my hands in the cool water for a while and then forced myself to memorize the patterns of the tile under my fingertips. I waited until my parents were speaking to the movers outside, and then did a few cartwheels in the living room. My parents allowed me the honor of locking the house up – I was the last of my family to touch that beautiful etched hummingbird in the front door.

I own my own home now and my appreciation for the seemingly insurmountable task of interior decorating dauntingly on the horizon. It has been two years of residency and to date the only element I am pleased with is my efforts in the hallway (discounting the horrific state of the wood floor on the top landing.) I have the urge to nest as my mother did before me and my heart itches to complete this task. For nearly twenty years I have not found a house that could replace my childhood home. I realize now that I have indeed found one; my desire to transform this house into a paradigm of emotional security tugs at every fiber of my being.

AOL, Wal*mart and Hilly Bibble Babble

Visiting AOL chat rooms is similar to shopping at Wal*mart; although you can find what you need for cheap, you will surrounded by a carnival freak show should you enter the establishment.

Goats adorned in white trash “wife beaters” pounding on keyboards with cracked hooves could not make more of a racket (or any more sense) than the majority of participants in the chat forums. Where else can one rub shoulders with a person who not only believes the earth is 6000 years old but also embraces the theory that mental health disorders such as depression are “of the devil”?

My goodness, does this mean that TFMM (aka Paris Michael) is trapped in wedlock with a demon tamer? I really must ask if Dr. Sultry has them trained to blow horns on command. Perhaps they jump through fiery hoops at this point? I would imagine that he uses the positive reinforcement reward system in order to avoid any civil suits from demon welfare rights groups. Each followed command earns the demon a morsel. Perhaps a small, frightened child would suffice? This could create a whole new market for demon whisperers and reality television programs.

Demons. The fundies profess that “all gays suffer from gay demons.” This astonishing revelation would explain why gay men are so sophisticated in regard to designer clothing and fashion. They will never go astray and find themselves attired in a socially unacceptable outfit thanks to the whispered hiss of the gay demon on their shoulder. I would presume that fundies believe the entire conversation might go something like this:

Larry: Oh, I need a new shirt

Gay Demon: Of course you do.

Larry: Oh look, there’s a sale at Kmart!

Gay Demon: Are you OUT OF YOUR MIND? You can’t be seen in Basic Edition! How gauche.

Larry: Oh, what was I thinking?

Gay Demon: Look to your right, darling! Armani released the fall line. All gay men wear Armani.

Larry: They do?

Gay Demon: Yesssss!

Larry: That’s for me then.

Gay Demon: We’ll put it on credit. By the way, you’re not prancing nearly enough. Swish, darling, swish.

Fundies seem convinced that demons (and gays) are set upon the earth to drive straight, goodly, purist Christians into the bowels of hell. This would explain why fundies type as if straining to have a bowel movement.

They rant malevolent slurs even as they thump their holy bible (hilly bibble, as one dear person terms it. She was promptly burned at the stake for her “mockery of God” and his minion, Paul.) I concur: it is puerile Hilly Bibble babble (say that ten times fast, dear Readers.)

One can not have an opposing opinion on the bible. The minute a person poses any speculation that goes against fundie drivel, they are labeled as witches, people who mock God, unsaved, unchristian, children of Satan, antichrists and bound for hell. Such people are in good company, for fundies cast the same disparaging remarks towards Catholics, Mormons, Muslims, Wiccans, Jews, Mennonites, Agnostics, Atheists and Teletubbies.

They gush the virtues of Paul (Peter is Satan himself) or of Timothy (because they think Timothy wrote the Book of Timothy) yet fail to quote one passage in reference to Christ’s actual teachings (found in the first four books of the New Testament.) In fact they seem unusually drawn to scriptures that cover homosexuality, immorality, adultery and other sexual topics (I sense that fundies are possessed by sex demons.)

Better Half proposes that their bibbles have a concordance that only shows “the bad things” and not the “good things”. I would have to agree. Every page containing verse which casts sinners into the Lake of Fire has been laboriously highlighted, dog eared, salivated on and used to enhance the fundie bedroom experience.

They seem infatuated with anything typed while the keyboard has the CAPS LOCK engaged. Typing in caps lock is the sign of an online prophet but only if the font colour is harsh black or fire engine red.

They firmly believe that Only True Christians founded America. These founding fathers were NOT Masons – and anyone who says that Washington was a Mason is a laissez-faire crack-head under the control of a Democratic Party Demon. (Oh please, Autrice! When has a fundie ever utilized fancy words?)

Noah kept dinosaurs on the ark. Dinosaurs pulled Marco Polo’s chariot as well. God killed the dinosaurs off in the great flood. (I had no idea that Marco Polo lived before Noah’s time. Did you? Where the hell did he get the chariot?) Humans are not primates. Classification is a tool of the devil. Radiocarbon dating is a lie propagated by Al Gore. Global warming is also a lie. God created the rainbow as a promise to mankind and the “evil faggots” corrupted that symbol.

All Democrats want to give special rights to illegal aliens, gays, unwed mothers with children out of wedlock, and farm animals. Your “Christian Reichs is in jeeopurdee!” There are laws on the table that will prohibit you from vomiting your hatred towards groups of people! Stand up for Jebus’ sake and do something!!!!!!!

(I would like to inquire if, should David’s Law pass, I would be prohibited from singling out fundies in blog posts as it is persecution of a (lower) class of people? Of course not, Autrice! A fundie is simply a fanatic of the Christian persuasion, and it has nothing to with the actual Christian faith itself. Silly me.)

What distresses me most the fundie approach to education. They remove their children from public school to prevent them from becoming familiar with sanity. They insist on “hom skulling” their loin berries to the point of stunting the child’s ability to rationalize and think freely. These same people can not spell, can not articulate their thoughts intelligibly in a public forum, have little regard for the rest of humanity and feel that it is their God given right to raise their children by teaching them twisted scripture passages (coming soon to a Jebus camp near you: Twisted Scripture, the hard rock band of Revelations… sold out tour!)

The very idea conjures up a mental image of a doily bedecked steel cage set in a country-kitsch themed kitchen somewhere in the great Midwest, over which is suspended a forbidding funnel. The child is placed inside the cage and strapped down. The funnel is rotated and secured in the child’s mouth and the parent begins humming “Bringing in the Sheep” whilst force-feeding that child a steady diet of grains, hormones and shredded pages of the KJV.

Another idea comes to mind: a fanatical youth camp, where children are taught to hate those outside their doctrine and all free thinkers. Frightening indeed, considering that I was not dwelling on corrupted Muslim youth camps in the Middle East.

It is time for America to stop catering to these zealots. We need scrupulous and goodly Christians to step up to the plate and stuff the Pharisees back under their rocks.

Those whacky fundies

There is a fine line between expressing your views of political candidates discussing a topic and taking sadistic pot shots at a group of people simply because you hold mistrust and hated of them in your hearts.

I am speaking in regard to a news story written by Michael Blood of the Associate Press entitled “Democratic Hopefuls Tackle Gay Rights” (Democratic Hopefuls Tackle Gay Rights - AOL News.)

The forum was sponsored by Logo (if you don’t know what Logo is, I suggest you check your local listings – fabulous movies!) and HRC (a gay-rights group that is active in Democratic politics.) Of the eight top contenders, six attended. (The leading candidates for the GOP were invited to give their views on a second forum, but they declined.) Given the nature of the sponsors, it is only natural to assume that the candidates would be questioned on their stance in regard to sexual orientation and same-sex marriage “in a forum that forced candidates to confront politically touchy issues that have vexed the nation.” Most handled themselves well.

Whilst the story does not delve too deeply into what was discussed (highlighting only certain key answers) it does at least give gay and lesbian votes (and those who are proud to call them friends) a peak into the opinions of candidates. What is most shocking about Mr. Blood’s article is the callously vehement opinions posted below it.

The spirit in which the opinions are expressed is more commonly found in the bible-thumping, small-minded and rancorous right-wing fundie movement (where it is acceptable to bash gays, lesbians, Hispanics, illegal immigrants and everything else “un-American” and “Ungodly” as a means of getting attention.) One can almost be lead to believe that the average American Christian is boorish, lacking an education, and reads nothing but the KJV bible.

I do not mean to imply that all Christians are morons. I am Christian in faith. I associate with wonderful Christian people from all walks of life; my friendship base encompasses a plethora of denominations.

My concern is with the uniquely American “fundamental” movement that spends its days deciding who deserves hell. They are not in fact actual Fundament Christians, dear Readers. Most have been removed from their church homes by the pastor or members of the congregation due to the person’s intolerant views as they pertain to certain groups of people. These rabid dogs are more at home with the Westboro Baptists and the KKK.

I submit a few simple statements as evidence (AOL/AIM users) The posts earlier made these appear tame.

Newmexicobear3 says, “why are politicians such hyprocrites. queer luvin queen hillery and all the rest of the double talkin democrates would sell their soul for a few votes. we humans were made with the ability to make choices. if your gay its because you choose to be quit blamin it on your poor ma an pa your just queer and thats all there is to it.”

Meechemill says, “girlsinthegarage. I do care about the homosexuals and lesbians - they can keep the hell in their closets and quit trying to get straight people to ACCEPT their filthy, dirty, immoral ways - they were born straight but chose to be a pervert, queer, homo what ever. Now we have our Democrat presidential candidates kissing up to these queers just to get their dirty vote. Their true colors come out - esp0ecially that sick looking John Edwards - what a kiss-up he is and old Hiliary smiling from ear to ear with the Homo's - pretty low to stoop for a vote - Just remember - these queers do nasty things behind closed doors but don't want you to think about THAT when they pretend to be NORMAL which they aren't - if they were NORMAL they wouldn't have CHOSEN to be GAY – yukkkk”


God save me from your fanatics! 11663 comments, most stating: gays should die, put on islands, gassed, beaten or have their genitals removed.

These people (those who leave such horrendous comments) are an embarrassment to humanity. Perhaps if their father and his sister had not brought them into the world, we would have peace? I thought we'd left this sort of bigotry and prejudice behind in high school. What a sad society we have become when people feel they can abuse their "right to free speech" by vomiting hatred towards one group of people. It is because of these fanatics that David's Law should be passed.

Their fanaticism, loathing of those who differ from them, and narcissistic self-righteousness is an abomination before the Lord. If any deserve the “fires of hell” it certainly is they, and not the “gay sinners” that they so passionately condemn. Their actions deem them as inbred, undereducated, and an impediment to society’s progress.

Dolphins, Embargos and China

Many of you may not have heard the news regarding the first cetacean extinction (Yangtze River dolphin.) This tragic circumstance could have been avoided had the Chinese government allowed the import of (often free) alternatives to the gill nets and other destructive devices employed by local fishermen. Quite a few people have stated how shocked they were by the Chinese government’s willingness to allow this extinction to occur.

Several people expressed their desire to see the country “nuked” (and that will benefit the environment in what way, you odious morons?)

Others assert that is just one more sadistic action in a long list of atrocities committed by the Chinese recently (think tainted pet food, tainted fish, tainted medications and herbs etc.) These people insist that the United States declare a trade embargo on all goods from China – in effect, everything we currently purchase from China would become illegal to include items containing goods imported from China.

Whilst the idea is amusing (Wal*Mart and all the Dollar Stores would go bankrupt within a week – praise the lord) I can only wonder if people appreciate or recognize the amount of goods that would be effected by such a restriction.

In other words, what will Prada use as a handbag clasp? What will Gucci use at the bottom of shoe heels? Will Armani go belly-up for lack of buttons and zippers? Cheaper lines (think Basic Edition and anything vomited by Martha Stewart) would also be affected.

Ah yes, I can see it all now:

Overseas tourists debark their flights and find themselves surrounded by Homeland Security. They are lead to “embargo enforcement” areas, stripped of their clothing, and handed (100% recycled and made in the USA!) paper smocks once they reach the terminal. Their fancy clothing is confiscated – as are their eyeglass frames, cell phones, iPods, wallets and any other “suspected” item. This makes travel during winter rather intense.

On the streets roving gangs of thugs lurk in the shadows and wait for the BMW or Jag to roll up. Frightened businessmen speak in hushed tones, offering wads of $100’s in trade for an Armani button wrapped in cellophane. There is a 40% chance that the button is a knock-off item from Mexico. Formerly elegant women begin to make appearances on Maury and Springer, begging for help as they have been reduced to nothing more than “button and clasp hos” whom sell their bodies in trade for goods.

Somewhere outside of Dallas, Highway Patrol pulls over a small sedan. The driver is thrown into handcuffs once the car’s truck is popped – inside the cargo space are boxes upon boxes of GM side view mirrors. The Patrolman bears a grim expression; this is the fourth runner they’ve caught today. Had the runner made it to the state boarder, he would have been charged with a greater felony for crossing state lines.

Native Americans, declaring their reservations an independent nation, tear down casinos and construct strip malls filled with clothing shops. Boarder towns spring up along the Canadian and Mexican crossing points. Coyotes are paid thousands of dollars to smuggle illegal Chinese merchants and their goods into the United States. The BATF, FBI, Fashion Police and other agencies begin to closely monitor each and every China Town neighborhood within the United States.

The government purchases poodles, Chihuahuas and Italian greyhounds in vast quantity, and spends nearly a million in tax dollar revenue training these beasts to sniff out top fashion from Paris, London and Milan. Their noses pick up the specific scents of zippers made in China.

Millions of women can no longer purchase their Revlon, Almay or Avon cosmetics (some ingredients come from China.) Pets begin to starve. Riots break out all over the streets. Empty Wal*Mart, Kmart and Dollar Generals are raided and converted into unauthorized quarters for the homeless.

All major US airlines declare bankruptcy for lack of aircraft parts. Foreign aircraft sits on US runways unable to fly as their Chinese import parts have been confiscated. The Unites States Air Force is effectively grounded.

Soldiers of all branches run naked in the greens fields while the government researches methods of keeping their BDU pants secured to their bodies. No one wears their rank insignia or medals as the pin fasteners and ribbon bars are manufactured in China. Police departments have no means of holstering guns; they can not handcuff large groups of criminals, as plastic zip ties are in short supply.

In Florida, a lone Coast Guard cutter gives chase to a high powered-cigarette boat in the early hours of dawn; the criminals on board attempt to evade a conviction by dumping their evidence into the coastal waters.

Crates of Matchbox cars, household scissors, baby bottles, printers, notepads, pencils and pens, staplers, sippy cups, picture frames, microwaves, cooking utensils, electrical outlets, tools, shoe horns, eyelash curlers, dolls and other toys, egg timers, herbal vitamins, nail polish, car seat covers, cheap ceramic dishes, water pitchers, empty gelatin capsules, empty DVD cases, window fans, raw carpet fibers, wool, plastic chairs, keyboard keys, cloth material, vacuum and other household machine parts, baseball caps, stadium foam fingers, lighting fixtures, raw beads of plastic ready for moulding, cheap household knickknacks, plastic and silk flowers, bottles of dye, plastic boom boxes and telephones, Styrofoam packing peanuts and beads, and a plethora of other common goods normally imported from China now litter the coral reefs (killing off manatees by the thousands.)

This warped way of thinking is enough to give one goosebumps (which I hear are also on the Endangered lists due to the Chinese hunting them down and serving them to visiting Bulgarians.)



You Are 90% Boyish and 10% Girlish

You have a tough exterior - and usually a tough interior to match it.

You're no nonsense, logical, and very assertive.

Sometimes you can't understand women at all, even if you're a woman yourself.

You see things rationally, and don't like to let your emotions get the best of you.


How Girly are you?

I could not check even one of the boxes. What can I say? I'm transgender. I do not identify with ANY of the things they listed in the questions.

You Are 0% Girly

Um... you're a guy, right? If not, you're the most boyish girl in the world.

And for you, that's probably the ultimate compliment.


How much of a drama queen are you?

Curious -

Click here: Blogthings - How Much of a Drama Queen Are You? It would be interesting to know your results. Apparently, I am a total bitch.

You are a Drama Queen!

Congratulations, you should win the Oscar for performance of the year!
You're the type of girl who everyone knows - and loves or hates
You always speak your mind, going for a some shock value if necessary
Dramatic, yes - but it also almost always gets you what you want

Blogging Personality

Thank you, Annie. I love these gizmos.

Your Blogging Type Is Thoughtful and Considerate

You're a well liked, though underrated, blogger.

You have a heart of gold, and are likely to blog for a cause.

You're a peaceful blogger - no drama for you!

A good listener and friend, you tend to leave thoughtful comments for others.


Feels like... weather

My eye caught this just as I was closing the page:

Feels like 94? Darling, it feels like 104.


Pierogi and updates

Pierogi has tentatively settled into her new home with us. The chore of naming her was nothing when compared to the exertion of enticing her to eat. I was able to coax her to chow down on some Purina Friskies an hour ago.

I am not a Friskies enthusiast. I believe cats belong on a sensible diet (such as Science Diet) rather than filling their bellies with cheap food. A few years worth of veterinary clinic work gave me a healthy appreciation for the quality of a cat’s diet. Soft foods lead to rotten teach and liver diseases while the cheaper hard foods provide “filler” for the belly and have little nutritional value. If you question the quality of your cat’s food you need only look to the litter box. A healthy cat’s feces do not have a strong or vile odor. Diet is everything.

Pierogi seemed to enjoy the break of her four-day fast. Gandhi would have been proud. Had she not eaten today, we would have had no other option but to return her to the adoption group. I simply could not find any physical reason as to why she would not eat (a rudimentary exam, as I do not have access to labs or x-rays) and my apprehension was that she found her new environment purely too stressful given her fellow housemates (another cat and five dogs.)

The animals get along fine at this point. We had only a momentarily tense moment in the upstairs hallway that very first night (the other cat, Lady of Utmost Bitchiness, abhors having to share her humans. Tough.)

Other updates (I shall not get around to answering email today):
TFMM is still in Paris. He rang through on his cell last weekend but I was asleep. I am eager to hear all about his trip.

Pauline is on the mend and back at work at the pub. I simply adore her email. She is such a witty woman. I have published a few here (after editing out anything that might be too personal) as her humor sparkles.

Spider, of all people, emailed me from work. Apparently Ox failed his treadmill stress test and has an angiogram on Friday. Spider is beside herself with worry. As Better Half (and I) just went through one, she called on me for some comfort. My heart goes out to her, the poor dear. She is only thirty-two and this is a tender age for a wife to be when her husband is facing something that can be potentially life altering. I reassured her at great length.

Gumby’s Child passed her driving test with flying colours. This takes a great burden off Gumby’s shoulders as well carving a large dent in her budget – teenagers and car insurance rates are never a healthy mix. Gumby’s Child is a bright and responsible young lady so I do not have much anxiety at the thought of her tooling down the road in her beat up old Mazda.

A cat by any other name...

Better Half and I are wracking our brains in order to find a new for our newest member of the family - a pure white cat with perfectly pink ears and yellowish-blue eyes.

The list has been narrowed to the following:

Minuet... by Bach (Yes, you must have the ellipse in to denote the pause. A minuet is a social dance of French origin usually played in 3/4 time. The word was adapted, under the influence of the Italian minuetto, from the French minuet, meaning small, pretty, delicate. Bach was know for some rather intensive and heavy musical scores. The cat, which is somewhat rotund, would fit the combination.)

Claire de Lune (named of course for obvious reasons.)

Pudding (again for obvious reasons.)

Prada (she rather resembles a handbag)

Gnocci (a potato dumpling)

Pizzelle (a white cookie)

Luna (as in the full moon)

Parma (she does remind one of a large wheel of cheese)

Piglet or Bunny (rather pink ears and nose. Ugh I do hate this sort of name.)

Peony (as in the white flower)

Mewsette (obviously intentional misspelling)

Alba (Latin for white)

We wish to avoid the most common "white cat" names, such as Snow, Puff, Cotton, Whitey. If the oddity of our pets names leaves you wondering, look no further than our current pets' names:

Gennaker Leah Anne (Nen)
Waltzing Matilda May (Maddy)
Zephyr Zydeco (Zephyr)
Sami Specklespot (race name PB Drives On By, call name Sami)
Nutmeg Knucklehead (comes to just about any name you say)

Zen Kitty

We have also had:
Samantha Jane (Sammy)
Baron Barometer Betterunning von Offentracken (a retired racer, call name Baron)
Hover Pig (call name Ginger)

Cats prior (we seem to have had a run of these)
Pax (he was anything but!)
DZ (Drop Zone)
I have probably left off a few here

This poor animal will go sans any name until we see more of her personality.


SS#71 - Decision

Decision. A resolution, a choice made, a dedication to an action.

My decision has been to quit smoking again. It is the only domination I currently possess over my own health. I suffer no angst over this choice, nor do I have any trepidation. I think it neither exhilarating nor a choice to be celebrated.

In actuality I am so ill with whatever infection or flu grasps my body that the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal add little to my plight. It is a sad state of affairs when one meets “the urge to light up” with a lackadaisical “oh well, I don’t care” response. The nicotine patch makers suggest writing a list of positive aspects in order to inspire the smoker in their endeavor. Saving money and not having “smelly clothing and hair” is hardly inspirational to me. I take solace in the verity of my throat hurting less at the moment.

Please do not think that I am taking my decision nonchalantly; I simply don’t make a grand production of it. If I convince myself that I will become irritable and bitchy, have bad cravings and the inability to function normally my body will surely cue in on that mental state and provide me with all those reasons to sway me from my effort. Instead I approach it as “this won’t be easy but can be done” and then allocate my time to better measures such as enjoying my orange juice, spending time with Better Half and allowing my body to heal from the infection.

Yesterday was my first cigarette-free day. I had little trouble with it. I believe this is partly due to my own willpower; I was able to shrug off the habitual cravings generated by activities that trigger lighting up. I routinely smoke while I drive and take small smoke breaks while waiting for Better Half to finish up with the Pittsburgh VAMC clinics. I smoke as I work on the computer. I coped with these urges (there were very few, actually) by sucking on a cough drop.

I can not claim that I will be successful in my decision, but I will not punish myself if I should fall short of my goal. I have learned to take life one day at a time and this liberty allows me to reduce the amount of stress in my life.

Blazing Heat

Blazing heat has finally graced us. Summer bequeathed us with several hot days this season but they were lenient when compared to today’s shriveling high temperatures that seem to touch my skin with more propinquity than Teflon on a pan.

I shall not dwell on it. I snub the desire to part the curtains long enough to see the waves rising off the asphalt. I will close the eyes to my drooping plants. I am satisfied to merrily type my thoughts into MS Word whilst the portable wails on its highest setting. (Yes, dear Readers, we do have AC. We have a huge unit taking up residence in the back yard. We also have a window unit in the upstairs bedroom. We have ceiling fans, portable fans and in a pinch a panting dog. It is THAT DAMN HOT here. It does not help that I am on day six of my flu, replete with a 100.2 fever.)

Yesterday was splendid. Better Half and I tackled the jungle that threatened to engulf our front yard. We weeded the beds, mowed the lawns and snipped the dead flower heads from the plants. Our neighbor, Mary, came and went, bringing us fresh garden corn in exchange for some patty pan squash. Mike and Linda waved hello as they hauled their daughter’s new bed from the back of his truck; she required a new one for college. Our wonderful senior couple across the street waved and chatted about squash recipes.

This is a very peaceful and gracious neighborhood. We have a charming mixture of young and old, blue and white collar, retired and student. We habitually joke about our “neighborhood security”; we have several law enforcement officials on our street alone and their patrol vehicles are parked in their driveways. The neighbors take much pride in their yards. Lovingly tended flowerbeds frame rolling green lawns. Many of our seniors utilize a lawn service to keep things neat (we use a service for our sloping back yard) and you will never see trash carelessly tossed along the road. Should the wind steal your garbage can lid, rest assured that obliging hands would tuck it snugly someplace near your front door. Solicitous folk take concern over your wellbeing; a casserole here, offered prayers there. I am oft reminded of the Walgreens “perfect” commercials.

We do have a vigorous supply of wildlife despite our proximity to the main drag. Deer, raccoons, opossum, foxes and rabbits all share space here. I rescued a rabbit kitten from our front bed only yesterday; his zealous squeals brought his mother charging to his rescue and I released him into her care. Our bird population thrives in the trees and now includes a hawk (we keep an eye on our Italian Greyhound.)

Today the street is vacant. The neighbors beat a hasty retreat into their homes, the animals sought shade and only postman Jim ventures out. A few songbirds warble in contrast to the hum of air conditioners. Even the cicadas, frogs and crickets remain still. Better Half naps in bed between laundry loads (I am far too feverish to walk up and down two flights of stairs to help him.) I cast an envious eye on our neighbor’s swimming pool before withdrawing further into the cool confines of my office.