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Sunday, April 12, 2009

47: EASTER!!!!

We made it! It is Easter! Woohoo!

The cookies have returned, and I have eaten myself silly. Thanks Girl Scouts. Rows and rows of your fundraising devices now line my stomach, and will soon cushion my ass. And technically, I don't have to be writing this right now! But I needed to acknowledge Easter and making it to here. And I had intended to finish the cliffhanger that was yesterday's entry, and then ask the readership what would come next. But instead I find myself announcing that by virtue of making it to a day where I could take the day off, I'm going to have to write that another day! Which is good, because that means - fishcrockpot - I don't know how to quit you!

But I can today.
Because, stuffed with Easter foods, too much food, too many cookies, and too much dread of a new week, I am going to watch The Sound of Music! With commercials! Lazy and worthless!
This movie is on every Easter and I LOVE IT.

The Sound of Music and the Big Lebowski are tied for my all time favorite movies. So tonight, because the Big Lebowski is not frequently shown on ABC Family, I'm going to enjoy the hills that are alive, with The Sound of Music.

Maria is just about to be told that the convent is not a place to hide (FORESHADOWING - IN ACT III IT IS EXACTLY THAT!), and to climb every mountain (WHICH SHE ALSO DOES LATER!). This movie - my GOD i love it.
And the production design! I want to frolic in trees wearing curtains and singing! And I don't know if I have a bigger crush on Maria or Captain Von Trapp. But their wedding is still approaching. That train! The 40-mile-long wedding dress train. And the Salzberg music festival. And nuns tampering with Nazi car parts!!! Christopher Plummer's stares!

AH! I love this movie!
Climb every mountain! Ford every stream.

I will follow every rainbow until I find my dream, maybe tomorrow.
But for tonight - - -

So long. Farewell. Auf wiedesehen goodbye!

To everyone who has taken this journey with me and supported me along the way, I thank you for carrying me over the Alps of self-doubt when I was too tired or scared to carry myself. Hope you visit us again in this fishy mission.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

46: And the temptation has never been greater

The temptation to phone it in on this entry, the temptation to eat all the cookies in my house that I've been saving for tomorrow's breakfast for 40 days, the temptation to eat all the crumbled Heath bar pieces that are supposed to end up on a cake for tomorrow's Easter dessert and be fine with a lackluster cake, the temptation to let myself off the hook for this blog because the big hook I've been on is about to end. The Temptations themselves - Get ready, cause here I come.

But I cannot, in good conscience, intentionally crank out crap on what is supposed to be the final big push here. The Saturday before the ultimate deadline - Easter. I will say I have consumed quite a bit of Cool Whip during my consideration of the many ways in which I could conceivably wimp out, but I cannot let myself be a great big quitter. One - we're so close to making it! Two - there is unfinished business in the crockpot! Three - remember that tease from the Isaac Asimov entry just four days ago in post number 42? That still needs to be resolved. What was so fascinating about him that I found out there? Let's see if we can't get down to business and sort through the unfinished business.

Previously, on post 25 of the crockpot, the McCartney Mansion was visited by the shadowy figure of Prince, debonair deal maker, and Jeopardy! victor over Sir Paul himself. Michael Jackson and Bruce, the guy in the surgeon's outfit in Prince's Revolution, had left to play Keytar Hero. Paul and Prince were left to do battle, and the battle went to Prince. When the final jeopardy question involved a Minnesota loon, Prince was more than happy to say he knew all about it. As a result, Prince gets to choose another game to be played another day, because he likes games quite a bit.

No one has heard from Prince since. And Bruce is no longer making house calls.
The McCartney Mansion went back to business as usual.

Lately, Paul has been listening to a lot of "Mr. Roboto." [aside: how has Eugene Levy never been part of a Styx spoof? I think he very closely resembles the lead singer]
Michael Jackson, in preparation for Easter, has been singing "Bunny Be Hiding Something" all week long, hoping that the bunny indeed will be hiding something around the house for him to find. By mid-week, he'd purchased four boxes of Peeps and announced that he had named them all Tom. When Paul came to breakfast on Wednesday morning, Peeps lined the window sills. Michael, who'd been hiding under the table, popped up and sang "I always feel like, somebody's watching me" to Paul.

Paul explained he'd rather consume his Cream of Wheat without edible animal cruelty reminders adorning the walls, and certainly without peeping Toms all over the place. Michael said he understood, and then hurried off, saying he remembered he'd left something yellow in the shower he'd forgotten about.

Paul was actually kind of fond of the Peeps, as he liked their sunny marshmallow dispositions, but had to make sure Michael knew that hiding under the table before he had pants on was not an appropriate roommate to roommate gesture in the name of fun.

Paul wished he could hide eggs for Michael to find, as eager as he was to partake of childhood activities. And Paul was an expert at hiding things, what with the marijuana he'd hidden high and low (mostly high), back in this heyday. Or hayday, as the case may have been. One of his most famous arrests had actually been a victory. He had served as his own decoy for his own delivery. While his suitcase may not have made it through security, no one heard anything about the dummy piano that had been shipped to a studio and immediately disassembled. Even the black keys of the eighty-eights held surprises inside. That was always a point of pride for Paul - everyone thought the lyrics held hidden messages when, like everything else they did, the music was home to the real power.

Maybe he'd hide a basket for Michael, somewhere obvious he'd be sure to go, like the pogo stick closet. Or maybe tomorrow they could have bacon with breakfast, one of Michael's favorites.

Not many knew that the real sword Heather Mills dangled over Paul was not his abuse of her, but rather, abuse of pork. One of the world's most famous vegetarians was like everyone else on earth - in love with bacon. And when Heather figured out he loved bacon more than he loved her, she began to realize her time was limited and she'd better get a compelling argument together to get out of there with a fortune. And that's when she began operation Helter Skelter, assembling many rumors to spread through the gossip Mills. But she knew the sacred cow she held over Paul's head, ready to slaughter at any moment, was the man's love of crispy bacon. And on his birthday, crispy bacon run through the yellow of his over-easy egg, co-mingling creatures of land and air in one delicious bite.
One shot of that forkful and Paul together, and he would be sunk like a toad in a hole.

Paul was considering a trip to the Cadbury store to procure something small for Michael. He didn't want to send anyone though, he wanted to go himself - catch a little of that outside world engaged in acts of joy like binge purchases of chocolate for binge consumption. As he sipped the last dregs of his coffee, he flipped through disguise ideas in his mind. It couldn't be something from old tymey entertainment without Michael in on the gag. It couldn't be anything from Sergeant Pepper as he'd get asked for Cirque de Soleil tickets to the Love show. And he couldn't go as Ringo, as he might get stopped for questions. His Ringo voice was awful. Surprisingly bad for someone with such a gifted ear. He did a better Louis Armstrong imitation than he did Ringo.
Eugene, the estate's mechanic, entered the kitchen, his coveralls grease-stained, hoping to find some lemonade in the refrigerator.
"Lemonade hits the spot, eh Sir?"
"You bet, Eugene. Hey, lemme ask you, do you have any more of those coveralls around?"
"Sure, extra pairs in the gardening and pyrotechnics shed. You have someone new coming on staff?"
"Oh, I don't know, thinking 'bout it though."
"More than enough pants - and work - to go around, Sir!"
"Indeed, Eugene. Indeed. You have a nice Easter."
"I'm Jewish, Sir."
"Ah. Well then, a sexy Seder."
"I will Sir. Oh, you know, I will."

Eugene winked and went back the way he came, and Paul was left thinking he might go under coverall afterall on this mission. His mind flashed to images of singers in coveralls. Billy Joel and Uptown Girl. Then there it was, clear as day - what had been bothering him all these years. The Styx lead singer in a gray robot suit suddenly transformed into the Styx lead singer in a purple jumpsuit. And it had shoulder pads. That was it. That was the subtlety that Asimov had described that he had refused.

It was all obvious to him now. Styx had taken the idea and run with it. Thank you very much, Mr. Roboto. Life is all just a - Grand Illusion. The song stuck in his head.
Paul had chocolate to find and a bone to pick. He headed for the shed, robe flapping in the breeze.

No one saw the dumbwaiter move.

In December 1974, the former Beatle Paul McCartney approached Asimov and asked him if he could write the screenplay for a science-fiction movie musical. McCartney had a vague idea for the plot and a small scrap of dialogue; he wished to make a film about a rock band whose members discover they are being impersonated by a group of extraterrestrials. The band and their impostors would likely be played by McCartney's group Wings, then at the height of their career. Intrigued by the idea, although he was not generally a fan of rock music, Asimov quickly produced a "treatment" or brief outline of the story. He adhered to McCartney's overall idea, producing a story he felt to be moving and dramatic. However, he did not make use of McCartney's brief scrap of dialogue, and probably as a consequence, McCartney rejected the story. The treatment now exists only in the Boston University archives.

- Wikipedia entry, "Isaac Asimov"
In 1974, Styx released this album:

This iconic image of Isaac Asimov shows a similar face:
Could it be, that Styx and Asimov were also
appreciative of one another's work?

Could Mr. Roboto have been Paul's idea
done differently by someone who deferred
to Asimov's suggestion that the imitation
robot band wear robot-esque clothing and not the clothing that the real band would wear, including orange and yellow tiger striped shirts with a vest over top, as the lead singer always did, as that would cause a confusion too great for an audience that was stoned or more to follow? The transition from gray to purple would not be too difficult to grasp. Though it might be a robot band on the run, it would be a band that anyone could catch, even when they'd been "taking their thinking to a higher plane of thought" for hours on end. And maybe Asimov had been right about having lyrics that rhymed. Robotically.

Paul had been a fool, he now realized. But he wanted to hear it from Styx personally.

* * * * *

When Paul returned from the Cadbury store, and was back in his smoking jacket, ready for tea, he came upon Michael, sitting at the kitchen table with a dozen eggs in front of him.

"Michael, what are you doing? There aren't peeps in there, you know."
"Oh, I know Sir Paul, I'm just going to dye, dye- dye these eggs cause it is Easter, dye - dye - dye them right away. Peeps don't live in the eggs. I'm not lovin' these e-e-e-eggs."
"Ok then. If this Easter is just an apple, I'll let you take a bite."
"Thanks! Oh, and by the way, I FOUND the egg you left for me in the kool-aid pitcher."
"What egg? What kool-aid pitcher?"
"The one with all the grape kool-aid in it over there. And the smiley face!"

Paul looks to the kitchen counter and sees a kool-aid man smile on a glass pitcher full of a dark purple liquid. He notices the handle has a familiar, ambiguous design.

"Where is that egg, Michael."
Michael pulls an egg out of his pocket that is covered in purple sequins.
"Open it," Paul demands.
Michael cracks the egg, and purple glitter flies everywhere. The egg disintegrates. A small projected image appears. It is Prince, dressed in a purple version of Princess Leia's outfit from Star Wars when she was a hologram, right down to the hair buns. His message begins as the last of the glitter falls:

Purple rain. Purple rain.
My friends, I come to you in peace. And to tell you the time has come. The game will be held tomorrow.
And you will attend. And yes Paul, I know it's a holiday, but what better time then, for play?
And Michael, I know you're excited. Everything to you, after all, is a thriller.
Sleep well my bunnies. Until it is time to hop, I remain, PRINCE!

The image vanished.
Michael clapped.
Paul decided to ask the cook to add bacon to the lentils on that night's dinner menu. He needed to be fortified for the challenge that awaited.

Friday, April 10, 2009

45: Good Friday, isn't it?

Well crocker stalkers, we are very very close to the E-day here, which I must admit I'm looking forward to as this week's posts seem to have fallen off the fun-wagon somehow. I realized today that using my brain at work may actually distract me from using my brain not at work! I suppose it also keeps me from being entirely rusty - the doing things involving thought and words, but it also makes it less appealing to come home and produce anything fantastic by way of brain to hand to computer interaction if that's what I've been doing during the day. Even there I'm too lazy to add the dashes that probably should go between those words! But thank all powers in the universe that I have a job, many times over. Please do not think I'm complaining about that, just noticing that this week's entries seem to be running out of steam at the very point that they should all be accelerating into one last great creative effort before Easter happens!

Instead of thinking of wonderful ideas to share, I just watched the season finale of Friday Night Lights and am in the midst of emotional overload! But even though my brain may not be thinking of wonderful ideas to share that are new and original, I can still be heartened by being that emotionally affected by someone else's wonderful ideas shared on screen and the acting that conveyed those ideas. I guess that's why I am a t.v. lover, because it gets me, often times more than movies - certainly more often than the crappy ones.

Again, the show is so good that I cannot believe that these families aren't in Dillon, Texas right now. I also kind of want to go to Texas immediately.

Aside from absurd humidity and a whole lotta guns, Texas does have a fantasy appeal to me. I like cowboys and steak and boots and beer. And outlaw country music! I'm sure there'd be plenty to not like - aforementioned humidity, cockroaches, dust - but Texas is not a dirty word to me as I feel it is to many. Texas pride does not make me angry, as it does to others who cannot stand Texas thinking itself better than the rest of the states. Maybe it's a Pittsburgher's sympathy for the necessity of defending one's homeland as superior to the last swig of beer in the bottle an the last adjective available in the positive word section of the thesaurus, no matter how valid the claim, but I don't mind a bit of Texas swagger. The University of Texas marching band wears burnt orange fringed cowboy outfits, for goodness sake. That's a whole different kind of swagger, and I respect it.

A Texas-sized shout out to one of the fantastic early influences on my love of a story well-told - Aunt Jeanne, the Texas relative.

My grandmother's cousin grew up in Pittsburgh, but married a man who was destined to go search for oil in Texas and find it. I remember that it really was not until adulthood that I figured out she was not from Texas for all time. Because to me, and to my life experience, she was from Texas for all time, and always would be.

When we were young, Aunt Jeanne would record stories about monsters on tape and send them to us. I remember the fruit monster very vividly. It was a story about a monster who wanted to eat all the fruit around and not share it with anyone. Aunt Jeanne would embellish with dramatic elements like voice changes and suspense-building pauses, and she really knew how to build a story until we could not take it any more and simply HAD to know what happened to the characters. How did those children escape the fruit monster? How did that situation get resolved? Could the fruit monster find redemption if he learned to share?

These are the questions that kept us enraptured as we listened to her voice through the tape player. I loved those stories. And the monsters.
The monsters, even though they ate things like fruit, not children, were still sources of worry until the very end, when usually the kids figured out a way to deal with the monsters in question. Again, story was key - Aunt Jeanne kept us on the edge of our seats until the very end, and that was what made the stories such good stories.

Hopefully, I picked up some tips from Aunt Jeanne's Texas tapes. At least a healthy love of fruit, that's for sure. But even if I did not inherit the ability to craft ideal story arc, I definitely gained an appreciation of an arc done right.
Which is part of why Friday Night Lights is a story I like to follow.

Soon we have to figure out the end of this story - the fish tale of fishcrockpot! What to do without the onus of Lent hanging out there in the cosmos? Luckily, the onus is, much like the eyes of Texas, upon us for a while longer.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

44: Holy Thursday, Batman!

It's holy week. No wait, in the Catholic world I think that may be Holy Week, with some capitalization there. Not quite sure, but that's how I remember it being written everywhere. Regardless, today IS Holy Thursday, a day reserved in the Catholic calendar year as the day things move from "man this stinks" to "BOY this is really going to suck." The day when the tone goes from "Jesus kinda knows that some stuff is going to happen" to "Jesus REALLY REALLY REALLY would prefer to skip the rest of this week" in the stories of Holy Week times.

Catholics usually mark holy Thursday with a foot washing service, which is designed to emulate the foot washing done by Jesus to the feet of his disciples.

This was explained to me sometime in grade school as being particularly significant because, even though we think it might be kind of gross to wash someone else's feet now, it was really really gross back then because you know what people drove to get from place to place? Feet.

And they had sandals to cover those feet, which meant that feet were covered in filth and disgustingness, and probably enough callouses to serve as the other parts of shoes that sandals were not providing. So to get up in those toes and wash them for not one, but twelve people's feet, TWELVE PEOPLE when, oh, you're also about to die for their salvation as well as everyone else's on earth and all who would ever be on earth - yeah, that was kind of a big deal, at least as it was explained to me.

Somehow the feet washing services always seemed particularly strange to me. The whole idea is great - that Jesus humbled himself in such a way, making a point that hey jackasses, you're not better than anyone else and you're supposed to be helping people, (paraphrasing the intention there) - but somehow any time I saw people doing this act in public in modern times during childhood, it weirded me out more than anything. Maybe it was because it was a visual shift of the expectation of people I saw at church all the time. Here was Mrs. So-and-so in the same corduroy jumper outfit with turtleneck she always wore, but now Mr. Smithandsuch was stooped over her feet with a bowl. And then the guidance counselor would be in the seat next to her - Mr. Gives-a-guide with his wool pants rolled up to the knee.

Maybe it was all those pasty white calves exposed when they didn't seem like they should have been? Or maybe because foot washing seemed like such a bizarre thing anyway? Like, no one I know in real life has a giant tureen of water in their homes reserved for foot washing. It wasn't like they were having someone feed them french fries or do their taxes, it was something that it seemed was never done. Perhaps if I had had more familiarity with pedicure foot tubs it would not have seemed weird. But I swear, no one I knew got pedicures until I was in like, eighth grade. The mani-pedi combo was far from ubiquitous, and certainly not an indulgence that teenagers would enjoy, even when it did become something that people did. People's moms got manicures, not people's friends.

Well today, on Holy Thursday of all days, I did not have water and rolled up pants, but I did have someone tend to my feet with care and precision. I had an appointment with the podiatrist for (gross alert!) a possible regrowth of a plantar wart. Every time I go to this doctors' office I feel like I am about 14, and not because I feel like a kid again, but because I am so significantly younger and more physically able than the rest of the clientele that I actually start to feel awkward about being young and able to walk at a pretty good clip. Not only do these older folks that the receptionist knows by name have walkers, they have aggressive and chronic foot troubles that make walking painful and difficult! Even watching their approaches from a chair, I feel frustrated and impatient, and then guilty both for having physical capacity that they do not, and for feeling frustrated on their behalf and by their pace when maybe they're moving at a rate they'd consider a success. Every time I go it makes me think that I would be a horrible old person. Too crabby and mean and nasty to be worth keeping around in old age.
If I make it that far, I will be the poster child for killing the horse out to pasture for the glue, because dealing with the horse bites is just too much.

Each examination room has a different set of very detailed and graphic images of foot maladies to consider as you wait and as you avoid looking down during your procedures. Fungi, corns, callouses, ingrown, overgrown, non-growing, growths - they have it all. And it is all, believe you me, disgusting. But while I'm there for something minor, I can't help considering that the doctors see ALL of those posters come to life.

I would think Catholic podiatrists would keep Holy Thursday as their own day of personal meaning, so gross is the possibility to me of touching feet with things gone wrong all day.

As I got into the chair today, I kind of looked at my shoes on the ground in the corner, unbent my leg where I was examining a toe, and told the doctor, "I think my feet smell. Sorry."

"That's ok."

He was totally unfazed.
And though I'm sure foot stench is a normal part of the profession, it still struck me how genuinely reassuring his response was. It's not as though he was just saying it was ok, it was that it actually was. He was not bothered by it. He was going to take care of things, clean things up, overlook flaws, and fix things where he could. Send me off better than he had found me without judging me the way he did find me.

And to mix all metaphors into one gross stew, somehow Jesus and podiatry inspired a reflection on Jesus, and podiatry, and Holy Thursday, and humanity, and friendship. And that maybe the message of Holy Thursday, more than just showing the extreme lengths to which an all-powerful yet human savior would go to humble himself to the level of humanity, performing the lowest of tasks for those who followed him, is that Jesus was taking care of friends. Of those who followed him. And in that way, it's a message suggesting being there for others to take them as they are, help them work through their accumulated funk, no matter how dirty or gross or in-grown, as best as you can, and then send them on their way.

I'm fairly certain I'm probably lifting a homily from 1995 from the recesses of my memory, but somehow the acceptability of my stench today was a note to me to accept the stench of others more, especially others I care most about, and to really be thankful for those who accept my stenches (and there are many) all the time.

And, if a scalpel and hand-eye coordination is available, flake off the dead stuff or the decay that weighs friends down or gives them worry or makes them feel less than the best that they are.

So today, it's my hope that I be a better podiatrist to my friends. And put my best foot forward.
Offer a Dr. Schollder to cry on (terrible, I know).

Hm, is this both sacrilegious and spiritual reflection? Probably.
But I'm ok with it.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

43: And Three More to Go

Well, ok, probably four more, but still, tonight is absolutely a night that, were I not obligated by my word and bond (which may be as strong as Sea-Bond denture adhesive, but less minty fresh), I would not be writing. Knowing how way leads on to way, way led on to way. What can I say?

Today was a fairly busy day that was somehow full of an odd energy that was both upbeat and wacky at the same time. Things struck me funnier than they were. And if things were ridiculously disastrous, that was also funny in an "Oh well!" kind of way. It was like there was a soundtrack playing for a montage, but I was in the montage, not hearing the music. Like being a few beats behind due to exposure from a gas leak. Or resigned to things and amused by the state of things like Mrs. Krabappel from The Simpsons. It was Wacky Wednesday.

Wacky Wednesday was a book we had at my house when we were young. A Dr. Seuss book with illustrations by someone else, the book was full of rhymes and words and the progressive chaos found in one day by a child who wakes up to find everything is alllll screwy. It's like the beginner's guide to entropy, but finding the signs of increasing disorder on each page makes it a manageable task for children. As the day goes on, things get nuttier. And what really makes the day nuts is that NO ONE ELSE NOTICES IT'S NUTS. I actually think the Beatles' "A Day in the Life" symphony build at the end of the song may be inspired by the book Wacky Wednesday, now that I think about it, as the messages really do overlap quite a bit.

Seeing as it's Wacky Wednesday today simply by declaration, I will go ahead and leave room in the crockpot for some wackiness. Do you remember when people used to make posters in grade school, or sign the back of yearbooks with things that were like, a word to go with every letter of another word? That was somehow supposed to give you overall meaning or a sense of things?
For example, fishcrockpot might be turned into:


At least that's what they usually seemed to become in my memory - more of a jumble of cryptic meaning or random word assembly than anything else, even if it started with the promise of a message of moral soundness. If not thoughts, it would usually be a word with inherent value or characteristic words spelled out at the side. For example, if the fish of the day in the crockpot today is mackerel, and we wanted to be inspired, this is one option that we'd put on a bulletin board:


And so, in the spirit of wacky b.s. that framed the corners of the school bulletin boards in the framed corners of my memories, I'm going to go today with a list, as a crockerstalker faithful informed me that they're always fun to read. My list will put alphabet soup in the fishcrockpot.
But today this will be things I love, which will hopefully, between one letter and the next, relate.

SOUP'S ON! Get out your spoon!

Cresting waves
Delaware blueberries
Every summer
Fall leaves crunching
Golden moons
Juices, joys
Kermit the
Lovers, the Dreamers and
New crayons
Oceans, the
Scents sense
Thought full
Understanding, underpants
Vindication, vacation
Xylophone songs
You, sillyou, I love
Zzzz asleep already, again.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

42: It Never Rains in Southern California


And yet every time it rains, there is a bit of disbelief, in addition to moisture, in the air.

It rained today in Southern California, and even though it was not a surprise to me, as I'd heard this forecast predicted on the radio not once but twice, it still took me by surprise. Grey clouds rolled in sometime in the late afternoon, as the predictions had promised. And yet even as they hung low, gaining stratus status after pushing out some serious cirrus of the midday's blue skies, I still thought, "Nah, that will pass right through."

The smell was the first news to reach me. I was with friends in a covered outdoor area. Ok, it was a hot tub. Not much could distress us in the comfort of warm bubbling waters. Discussion of the clouds' impending doom came, hung over the moisture in the air, then passed through. A new discussion had already started when the unmistakable scent of rain overpowered the chlorine and found its way to register with my mind.
Then exclamations of "Rain!" and "It's raining!" and "Uh oh" followed like a symphony performing a theme and variations.

Even the idea takes longer to register since I moved here, so rare are the experiences of a smell that is so unmistakable. When it does rain enough long enough to smell like rain, it's an experience like what I imagine smelling the perfume of a dead relative or the cologne of a lost lover must be like. It's an immediate emotional trigger to a scent that should not exist in a current frame of reference - time, place, people, surroundings - but does. It's also some sort of nostalgic trigger for me.
Thoughts like, "Ahhhhhh, now reality has found me, now this has the substance of life," seem to roll through my mind. And I did not move to L.A. from Seattle, or the Amazon basin, or some place that saw enough rain that I should be actively concerned with its majority absence from L.A.
But perhaps it is so basic a weather element that its return to my experience, however limited, seems monumental and emotional.

I think rain may also mark on some sort of internal record I forget I'm keeping of just how long I've been in Los Angeles.

And if I have any doubt about my time here, I just have to look down to catch the grimace on my face when I consider the prospect of walking in that rain.

It really only takes about six months here before one turns into a total weather pussy.

Really. I'm not apologizing for that one, because really - it is true.
When I find myself feeling annoyed at gray skies or a bit of haze, or even scattered raindrops that are here and gone in an hour, I have to reprimand myself for my ridiculous expectations of constant pleasure and perfection - Los Angeles weather. Los Angeles everything. A great way to do this is by communicating with any of my friends or relatives who reside on the east coast. Reports of snow in April and subfreezing temperatures knock the sense right back into me. My dad told me a stranger in the elevator at work said, "I went to bed in Pittsburgh and woke up in Fargo." I think may dad may work in the same building as Neil Simon, but the anecdote's impact is enough. I can be fine with rain. I could probably just carry an umbrella.

And umbrellas in L.A. are also used with hilarious frequency. I don't think I've ever seen people with as much rain gear as I've seen since moving to L.A. And I don't mean the Eddie Bauer/Columbia/Northface/U.S. Postal Service all-weather rain/snow/sleet parkas, I mean fashionable rain slickers and cute galoshes that come with matching umbrellas. People running around looking like the Morton's Salt girl or Mary Tyler Moore - having a ball and a lark in the rain.
Even the weather is an opportunity to accessorize here. Don't be a fool.

But the amount of precipitation that makes people run as though they are fleeing hellfire raining down upon them (which, now that I think of it, the L.A. air may be chemically similar to), and not a few raindrops is absurd. First drop on the sidewalk - umbrellas are popping up like human Whack-a-Mole.
Thwump! Better get the umbrella up, wouldn't want to get hit on the twenty foot walk back to the office.

Cold weather elicits the same overly cautious attitude. The number of dogs I've seen wearing dog coats while taking a long walk on the beach with their owners on a windy day - absurd. I feel bad for the dogs, actually. They must be demoralized. And, based on the fact that they're already completely covered in fur, hot. I'm not talking about tiny teacup poodles in outfits either. I'm talking about people putting their golden retriever in a fleece to go catch the sunset. I'm sure it's all done out of love though.
And because the dog coat matches the owners' fleeces.

Today the rain was not just drops, however, it was a full on, fully saturating misty mass precipitation event. You could not not get wet. Umbrella or not. And I was not.

As I felt my ire rise as my pant cuffs began to drag through drips and my hair became plastered to my cheeks, and I could not find my car keys when in sight of my car, I had to reprimand myself for being such a wimp, telling myself that I was not made of sugar. I was not harmed by getting wet, and should just quit my bitchin', even if only to the insides of my own head.

Somehow that idea dislodged a short story from the insides of my head, one I incorrectly attributed to Ray Bradbury. "Rain, Rain Go Away" is an Isaac Asimov story, originally published in 1959 in which a family is terrified of the rain and getting wet. It turns out that they are indeed made of sugar.

My search down the Asimov rabbit hole was absolutely amazing and again makes me think the fishcrockpot may be a portal to ultimate knowledge of some sort, but the coincidence to which I am specifically referring must be saved for another day. A day with revelations kind of akin to the circle of Electric Blue life revealed in day three's entry.

But other spectacular finds on these interwebs:
Some sources, though it is apparently an old English saying, attribute the same "When it rains it pours" slogan used on Morton's salt to Isaac Asimov himself! There's a roundabout for ya. I also learned that Asimov had a PhD in Biochemistry and taught Biochemistry at Columbia, but made more money writing. And he loved puns! And was hired to consult on Star Trek. Incredible!

The whirling stew of the weather from the salty sea takes me to the sweet send off - When it rains it pours!

p.s. and a note to those I've offended - I do love L.A. I may love the Randy Newman song of the same name more, but that is only natural as I am human (We love it!!!). I mean the above only as a critique of the seriousness with which some residents consider minor inconveniences in climate, not as an indictment of the entire place. And yes, your galoshes are cute.

Monday, April 6, 2009

41: You say Mundane, I Say Monday'in

Holy CRAP crockpot faithful, apologies are owed!

So, my phone rang today at about 5:30 p.m., PST. I was still at my desk at work, trying to read something that had been stuck in "not good" mode all day one last time and see if things magically fell into place. The phone call killed all chance of that, but it was fine, I needed to go anyway, and the magic was simply not happening.
The name on the caller i.d. that appeared? Mom n' Dad.

Yep, they've got one cell phone between two people.
I answered, assuming they wanted to talk about the NCAA final game that would be starting in about an hour.

"Ok, guess what is making this sound, and it shouldn't take you very long to guess at all!" my mom said.

[Sound of loud whirring noise in background that sounded distinctly like a vacuum cleaner]

Somewhere inside my head:
What? They don't read the blog, right? How the heck? Would someone have told them about this? Would they have gone to buy a vacuum cleaner because of my fierce recommendation of the Bissell PowerForce? Ugh, will they get the jokes I wasn't making but meant to imply? Yes. I'm sure they would.
"A blender?" I said, falsely hopeful.
And was this the moment I hoped would never come in which we were about to discuss the fish crockpot?
"A vacuum cleaner?"
"YES! A vacuum cleaner! Your father decided that the time had come. He hated the old vacuum cleaner, he hated moving it, and it was always broken, so he decided we needed a new one, and here I am with this new handy dandy Hoover model..."

No. This was not the moment that my blog was unearthed by the internet excavations of my parents, unleashing a whole new realm of fear of opprobrium for me - the fear of discovery of one's self-disclosure by one's parents. If you've seen Raiders of the Lost Ark, and remember that part where the bad guys open the ark to have a peek, it's kind of like that in my imagination.

Only a little worse.

"So we had this 30% off coupon at Kohl's, and while we were looking at the vacuums we realized you can spend anywhere from 100 dollars to well over 500 dollars for a vacuum cleaner. 500 dollars! Can you believe that? Well, we found one on sale that was $97 but it was down to $90, and then we had this 30% off coupon. So then, we get a sales associate because the one we want is up on a shelf and I have already decided I am not lifting a vacuum cleaner that is heavy, that's the whole reason we're getting a new one in the first place, because the other one is so danged heavy in addition to not working!"

I realized not only were they unaware of the blog, they were also unaware that I bought a vacuum cleaner too. And that I'd admitted I loved it.
I realized that this phone call was one to add to the famous DeFrank family chronicles The many joys of bargains and values: a common sense approach to common cents. I don't even think my mom had come up for air.

"So the guy asks his manager, 'Can we sell them the floor model? We're out of the one they want,' and the manager says, 'Sure, and give them 15% off.' and your father says, 'Twenty.' I couldn't believe it! Here we are, and we already have this 30% off coupon and he's going to get another twenty off? And so we have to get the manager to agree to give us both discounts, and would you believe it, they DID! And the thing about the floor model is, it's already assembled! I didn't even need a screwdriver I just plug the sucker in!"

I flashed back to my own sentence "Two screws later and I was ready for action" of yesterday's entry. My GOD I was my parents. And what was worse, I was being outdone by them! My parents had found it easier, cheaper, and better, and, though my enthusiasm for my vacuum purchase yesterday was unbridled, they'd done it with far more personal satisfaction.

They gave me their final tally, and they did get about a $100 vacuum cleaner, pre-assembled, ready to roll, lightweight and full of power and force, for about $40 bucks, once all accounting had been done at the register. I was impressed. I told them so.
"You know, strangest thing, I bought a vacuum myself yesterday for about $45 bucks."
"DID you?!? Let me put on your fa-" "ther" trailed off as my dad took the phone.
"Really!?! Where did you do that?!?"
"Ah! It must have been on sale?" he said like Matlock digging into a witness who presumed he was there for the defense, and getting away with murder while a meddling old man asked inane questions, when actually he was about to be nailed to the wall by a Matlock who already knew how the whole thing went down.

"I think it was a rollback?"

"Yes, you have to get whatever is on sale because the other stuff they have that isn't is more expensive than you can get it elsewhere!"

We talked a little more mega savings, a little more vacuum cleaners, and just as I was about to think "my GOD how much detail can you relate about buying a vacuum cleaner without realizing it's insanely boring for the person listening to your story, even if it was a great bit of financial wisdom" for about the third time as I heard he was still going, I realized that my parents had basically just done a live-action staged reading of my post yesterday. It was really the same story I'd told. Just told with more joy and less money spent. Better savings. A better dramatic, and fiscal, pay off.

So, to anyone who was bored by yesterday's entry (and subsequently, today's as it also discusses vacuum cleaners at great length), my apologies. I assure you that the excitement I experienced is pre-programmed into my genetic make-up, and not something that I can control (unlike the height settings on my new vacuum).

Life has a great sense of humor in this way, reminding us that we're really exactly like our parents or exactly the same as that one person who drives us crazy, or that, because we are not the more expensive HEPA standard approved model, sometimes we don't have quite a strong enough filter on what might interest others.

I am really not surprised that my parents and I found the same joy in vacuum bargains. Apparently neither are they, as they called me first to share the news.

What I do now look back on as moronic is my thinking that I could ever beat them at their own game when they've been at it so much longer! A lifetime of tag-teaming sales and specials, buying one, getting one free. I've got much to learn from my elders before I'll be walking off with savings like theirs. But at least I've got the training. And the genes for it.

I saw a friend later, after talking to my parents. She asked how my weekend was, if I'd done anything fun.
"I bought a vacuum cleaner!!!" I said, immediately too excited.
"I know, I read the blog," she said, kind enough to not laugh at my main, and mundane, source of weekend fulfillment and joy.

I laughed at myself. Of course, she already knew all about my wild times, living the crazy life in L.A., sweeping myself off of my feet.

Yep. You can run, but you can't hide from becoming your parents.
At least mine know how to grab the hell out of value. And well, cheap thrills will probably always work on me. That's good news too. And a savings!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

40: The Big 4-0 - Motor it!

Well, by the original Lent count, today would be the FINAL mandatory post and a day of near celebration and anticipation of achievement that would have me rambling like the Micromachines guy. Unfortunately, due to my faulty secular counting, I did not consult with the Lenten calendar quite accurately before I embarked upon this project. It is a good thing, however, as now I will be writing for an entire week that I otherwise might have not, due to my penchant for laziness and television watching.

I did consult with a higher Catholic authority on the mystery of the extra days in the 40 days of Lent. My dad kindly explained that Lent IS 40 days if you exclude the Sundays. So, I guess all of the lousy entries on Sundays kind of get a free pass in being lousy because they were freebies anyway. Ok, that's a cop out, but usually Sundays are typically just doom, gloom, bleach and brooms for me. Oh, and a lot of snacks. Lots of snacks. And sloth. Good bit of the R and the R.

As mentioned in a previous glum Sunday entry, I tend to get really into re-ordering my existence each Sunday by means of bleach wipes. Getting crusty toothpaste off of my bathroom sink somehow represents personal, philosophical, and mental re-centering for me in a way that is entirely irrational, but highly effective. It is the least I can do to get myself together.

Like, really, quite literally there is not much less one can do to consider oneself on track as a human being other than maybe de-linting a navel, but still, it's the little things in life that truly preserve sanity. So I do it. Today, however, the ante was upped quite a bit. Today I went on the equivalent of a spirit journey to a sweat tent in Arizona with a Shaman named Destiny or something, so complete was my transformation.

Much has been written, and many are the stories of women who find pleasure they've never experienced before by replacing man with machinery of one kind or another. I'm pretty sure you could probably make a whole Sex and the City season just from episodes based around storylines of involving technological, ahem, advancement, as it were. Imbued with motors, not machismo, these electronic replacements carry out a function with precision and consistency, and never need feedback. After today, I may know what these women are talking about. Today, I made a major purchase that gratified me in ways I never thought possible. I bought a vacuum cleaner.

My former significant other had been kind enough to loan me his vacuum cleaner from time to time when enough crumbs had accumulated on the carpet that small German children would wander to my apartment asking if this was the way home (they always ran when they saw the oven, before I could explain I just needed to sweep up a bit). When that relation-ship sailed, the plug was pulled on the vacuum too. (Please note that I am refraining from making about - conservative estimate - six filthy low brow jokes here in deference to the mixed company that may visit the crockpot from time to time and may not enjoy it quite as much when the crockpot works blue, but for those of you who also see the slow-pitch softballs rolling across the carpet, please know that is in fact paining me to not hit them).

I had not considered purchasing a vacuum cleaner in coming months as the last time I'd looked at vacuum prices I was shocked to learn that one could nearly buy a used car for what some of the vacuums went for. Even craigslist put resale vacuums in the $75-$100 range. When I found a few for around $40, I almost sent the posters emails, but then I reconsidered buying a vacuum cleaner from craigslist at all. God only knows what messes they'd handled before. And hopefully, none of those messes would be alive, but hope did not seem like enough to go on when contemplating a possible unintentional home infestation at the hands of a Hoover. Finding really crappy, tiny vacuums for around $65 at Target, I gave up my first time around.

But today, somehow I woke up with a mandate to try again, many months later, to find an affordable vacuum. Maybe it was the Rice Krispies I'd spilled last week, or maybe it was the few moths that I've seen floating around (moths = death, long story, another time), but today seemed like THE day to start with yogurt and internet sweeps for sweepers. Big Lots had nothing for under $99, and those seemed chintzy. Target had a vacuum cleaner for around $76.99. Ok. Reviews were good. It was in stock at the store nearby. I could be a loud and proud vacuum owner in an hour's time. And 80 bucks seemed like a reasonable amount for a major purchase. I tried to think of this vacuum as the vacuum I'd be pushing to get extra dirt off of the astroturf near my eventual grave. It would last. I would suck it up and do it. Then it would suck it up and do it. Time and time again. Clean carpet.

Then I remembered that my first browsing involved the Wal-mart website.
I headed over to see what was being rolled back and if it meant I'd be rolling forward the new wheels of my vacuum cleaner.

At Wal-mart, everything was cheaper. Juuuuuust like the ads said. Yep! Employee abuses be damned - they had a vacuum for $42.99! A Bissell that did not seem to be missing any major functions of primarily designed for use on non-dirty surfaces. Could that be real? Could it be a value? The reviews were pretty good. 4ish stars. Then there was the 4-total star Bissell PowerForce Bagless Upright Vacuum. This one was bagless. And had power. And force. And fairly enthusiastic reviews. But still, the too cheap to be good to be true shopper's doubt in me reared its head, and I browsed on. Then I found the Bissell PowerForce Bagless Upright Turbo Vacuum 6596, formerly $72 bucks, on SALE for $65ish bucks! And with 4 and 1/2 stars! AND it was available in store RIGHT THEN.
I could have a vacuum cleaner within an hour and a half, assuming I found Wal-mart and the lines at this Wal-mart were like the lines at every other Wal-mart I'd ever visited - insane.

I looked back and forth between the specs and reviews of the PowerForce and the PowerForce Turbo. They seemed really similar, and the difference in reviews seemed negligible. Finally, it came down to the Turbo being in stock, and the regular bagless upright needing to either be shipped to me, or shipped to Wal-mart for later pick up. My mandate was too great. For 15 bucks, I was going to have the slightly better model, and I was going to have clean rugs before sundown. I wrote down the directions to the Baldwin Hills mall.

I hate shopping. I am not good at it, I don't particularly like spending money on things that I can't eat or drink, and I hate being in crowds of shoppers. So going to Wal-mart on a Sunday seemed like a recipe for disaster. But somehow I was committed to this mission, and the disaster that awaited me had to be endured.

Wal-mart was a hustlin' and a bustlin' with families of all shapes and sizes looking for values of gigantic proportions, many of which, according to the signage, there were. As I tried to maneuver my cart through aisles of throngs of children, their church shoes clicking on the linoleum as they squealed and raced after siblings who had found "The COOLEST toy!!!" ever that they needed to see and touch and try for themselves, I realized that Wal-mart was serving as a microcosm of L.A. Too many people seemed to be in one place at the same time trying to meet their exact needs and desires without much consideration for the conflicting desires, or personal space, of those around them. The hustle and the bustle. But at least in Wal-mart, unlike the freeways, everyone seemed pretty happy. A lot of children were hearing "Ok, put it in the cart," as answers to their pleas for the treasures they were finding. In a down economy, this was an upbeat scene of material consumption and toy joy. It was good. And I was about to stimulate the economy myself, if I could just find the vacuums.

"Third floor."
This place has a third floor? I thought, as I walked to where I hoped an escalator would be, and was. Then a quick navigation through the kitchen dish rack section, and I was face to face with a wall of vacuum cleaners. There, as promised, stood the Turbo. It did seem like a force to be reckoned with. Shiny. Sturdy. Maroon.
And there too, by surprise, the unassuming PowerForce bagless upright. My assumed pre-determined decision became stuck around the roller of my brain like a loose piece of carpet fringe. My mind made a very loud, not good whirring noise. I'm stuck! What now! Better look closer before things smoked.

They had two floor models out of the boxes for inspection. These vacuums looked nearly exactly the same. A point-by-point review of the specs on their signage indicated the only major difference was about $15 bucks in price, and the HEPA filter for pollen and dust mites on the Turbo. While an allergy victim myself, I was pretty much resolved that no amount of vacuuming would be able to eliminate pollen from the world. One was under 50 dollars. One was closer to 100. "Screw it, I'm going cheap," I decided.

I hoisted the PowerForce bagless into my cart and thought, "wow, those reviewers were right, this is light!"

By the time I got out of Wal-mart and back to my pollen-covered, dust mite-laden apartment, I somehow was exhausted and fell asleep (the aforementioned Sunday sloth). Finally, as the sun's descent began and the weight of Sunday moved in upon me, I got the vacuum out of my car's trunk and opened up the box to see what kind of construction project awaited.

Two screws! That was all that it took. And sure, they were Phillip's head, but really. Two screws later, I was ready for action (ok, that sounds dirty, half-hearted apologies).

It was lovely. A blue the color of the roofs in Greece, the kind that calendars feature so often to make you want to go there. I was able to follow directions. Things were going great. Now, to plug this in and see what happened.

What happened was PowerForce! We took off around my apartment with a vigor and efficiency that made my internal obsessive-compulsive-o-meter quiver. Corners were cornered. Under the coffee table with ease. Around the chair leg with grace. Crunchy things unseen being swept up with noise and force. This thing was so strong it even tried to eat my slippers! Ah! Now I knew why the reviews had so many exclamation points in them. This product WAS too good to be true for less than 50 dollars. And it WAS easy to remove the dirt and dust from the bagless compartment for easy disposal. I thought about writing one of my own! Run, don't walk to buy one of these upright wonder machines!!!

As I wound the cord around the cord knobs for the first time, considering whether to go with a figure eight configuration or a straight loop, I actually hugged the vacuum cleaner. "I love you vacuum!"
I couldn't help it. It just slipped out. I know it's not the right thing to say for a first time but, at that moment, I did love the vacuum cleaner.

Now it needs a name, and a permanent place for storage in my apartment. We'll find a spot.

I know it may seem perverse to sublimate emotional and physical need from a human being to a vacuum, and all the more appalling as this seems to have some sort of domesticity perversion involved, which suggests a need to live up to some old school gender role stereotyping that I abhor, but really, I swear it's just the ultimate fulfillment of my Sunday obsessive-compulsive quest for order and cleanliness with which to be prepared to begin the week. I doubt I'll form any REAL and lasting emotional attachment. At least definitely not before I start using the attachments.

It comes with an extender for mini-blinds!!!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

39: The Big Game

Well, it's Saturday night, and I was all excited for back-to-back basketball games that would fill my Saturday with excitement and emotion. It's the final four of the NCAA tourney! And while the first game of the day had some excitement, the second game has been so one-sided that I actually watched a DVR-ed television show about sports to get at some of the excitement and emotion that actual young people playing amateur sports in real time in real life was not providing. The show in question, that was a salve for the disappointment of the second game's Carolina dominance (congrats Heels), is the fantastic, underrated, and thank-goodness-renewed, Friday Night Lights (airing on NBC every Friday! Season finale next week!).

Based on the book and movie of the same name, I came to this show a season after its appearance on television, and have been absolutely smitten ever since. I tried watching a few episodes of season one, but the characters had progressed so much since then that I couldn't go back, because it seemed like there was no way these could be the people I knew so well as I knew them in season two. This season, I have cried or at least had tears well up in my eyes for a moment EVERY EPISODE. (My record episode was the 4-cry episode when Saracen tried to find his mom). And I am not one to get choked up at every Hallmark ad. In fact some would say I'm an unfeeling shrew, so for me to be crying at t.v. this much, something has got to be good.

Though the show has a rabid fan-base, it has been nearly canceled multiple times, and finally just got renewed in a monumental two season deal that has fans overjoyed. It is almost bittersweet, however, as this season's episodes seem like they were written with the expectations of cancellation, and characters that we've grown to love are having to face change, tough decisions, old love and new love, and the impending pain of change, the loss of high school innocence and the permanence of that old saying "You can never go home again." This season the writers seemed as though they were resigned to the fate of cancellation, and therefore went ahead and wrote the most realistic, powerful, and fantastic episodes for their characters yet. No bells and whistles and cheap ploys that seemed like network executive-forced storylines (last year there was a murder) are involved. Just characters acting, reacting, talking, and living with one another and themselves and the silences that actually exist in life as we would expect them to.

It's for this reason that I am still astounded the show, which is fabulously written, also has not won more actual statuettes for actors on the show. Realism is HARD. And this ensemble is so proficient at interacting with one another like actual residents and students in a small Texas town obsessed with football that the may be too good for their own good. One actor is going to play Gambit in the Wolverine Origins movie and my reaction to that news was not "Oh that actor got a movie!" it was "Riggins (his character's name on FNL) is in a movie!" Like the senior in high school is going to be leaving Texas for a bit to go make a movie, how great for him! If I were to see any of these actors in real life, I would only be able to relate to them as their characters unless I did some real real real hard work to pull myself together.

Proof of this statement.

I don't know if it was the fourth of July or Memorial Day, but I was in a supermarket near my house, the same supermarket I go to to buy the same 10 products every week, talking on the phone with my friend about an impending barbecue that day. As I came around the corner from the greeting cards aisle, trying to make a beeline to the beer, I came square upon Saracen, the team's quarterback at the time, and a kid who was also busy earning a diploma from the high school of hard knocks. And did I mention he's my favorite?

I immediately started whispering to my friend on the phone, also an FNL fan, and am sure I made a face that said "HOLY CRAP YOU'RE SARACEN WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN THE GROCERY STORE would it be weird if I approached?" I noticed Saracen was pushing a cart overflowing with what looked like what one would need to have a very successful barbecue for the tiny, cute blonde who looked about 18 he was accompanying. I knew it would be weird if I had approached.

When my friends started complaining that she could no longer hear what I was saying and was concerned that something was wrong, I told her I'd have to hang up and text her. "Saracen is in the store" was my message. "Oh my GOD!!!!" was her reply.

I then proceeded to the fresh flowers walk-in cooler where I went to browse for roses...a.k.a. talk openly without being afraid I'd be caught being a crazy-eyed fan by one of a t.v. show's stars. I explained the situation. I explained that he looked normal, pretty much just like he did on the show, and was wearing normal people clothes not douchebag Hollywood star clothes, and was with a very hot girl, also, as should be the case. My friend thought I should talk to him anyway. I realized she was right.

I left the flower cooler and began casually browsing aisle after aisle, aisles on which I needed no items - aisles for pet owners, adults with bladder control problems, garden tools - all for the love of a show and one of its under-praised stars. I did not find him on aisles, unattended by his blonde. I finally spotted him in a checkout line, verrrry much in the service of his blonde. Very much trying to navigate the checkout process.

It would have been gawker-stalker-like to approach. The blonde would have shot me death glares. He might have responded badly. I said nothing. I kept shopping.

UGH!!!! Regret regret regret!!!

Now I HOPE he's on the wine aisle. And I hope it's a day when I'm wearing my Friday Night Lights t-shirt. And I hope that I won't care what hot girl he's with or how embarrassing he may be, I will say "Thank you for making excellent, compelling, believable television. You are a fantastic actor on a fantastic show, which is a phenomenon that is becoming more and more rare on network t.v. My thanks to you and your cast and your writers for your great work."

And if he didn't seem too freaked out, I'd probably add, "Also, I'm in love with you."

I'm sure nothing bad could come out of that. There are other grocery stores if I end up banned for life from that one.
And maybe Riggins shops there...

Friday, April 3, 2009

38: What's Going On?

Unfortunately, I mean that in the most Marvin Gaye sense of the phrase. Yesterday the crockpot got as political as it is probably capable, discussing guns and the disturbing new trend of making a gun (or several) an acceptable weapon to use when one loses one's mind and decides to end it all, and take out a few people along the way. Then today the FIFTH American mass shooting in a month happened, killing 13. This occurred after a student was also killed on a college campus in the south by a shooter.
These are not an acceptable statistics to relate. But what happens now to change them? How does this get fixed? I do not know.

Tonight I went to see a play written by my friend in "the valley." If you are not familiar with Los Angeles, this may be meaningless to you, but it is an area north of L.A. that is in fact a valley between several mountains. The play was great - kudos to artists all around. I was alllll inspired to come home and really try knock one out of the crockpot park. But on the way home, as I traveled through windy darkened roads and seemingly endless merges at 11 p.m., I noticed how many exits had warning signs for 20 mile-per-hour, 360 degree turnarounds, or how many times 3 lanes became one in what seemed like 20 yards of space, and wondered exactly what the speed limit was when these roads were designed, or how far off the estimations of "numbers of cars on the road in 20 years" statistics must have been to move forward with construction of what seemed to be perilous turns and dangerous banking angles and absurd merges and exits for a city whose residents drive. A lot.

After nearly missing an exit lane and quickly swerving into a lane before I was stuck on a freeway that would have taken me away from home, I began my descent down a mountain and back toward the flat, beachy lands that spread on toward the southbay. Cars passed too fast. The hill curved.
L.A. traffic stops for no reason all the time. Lanes slow down. Brake lights appear. And then traffic goes again, and there IS no explanation or problem to be found.

But as I came down the hill tonight, dark in its mountain cut, things came to a screeching halt. Brake lights started, stopped, started and stayed lit. Turn signals appeared sporadically and desperately. The fast lane wanted out of the fast lane and cars were turning at jaunty angles in the middle of other lanes. Something was wrong. Something was actually and really wrong. Hazard lights came on.
As I came around a bend I saw a Ford Explorer flipped over, hugging the guard rail. I drove through the glitter of smashed glass on the road. Two other cars were pulled over in front of it, one was backing up. Girls dressed in club wear were running toward the overturned car, looking completely helpless, completely panicked, and rightfully so. The car was sitting on the side like a giant beige turtle, stuck on its back and unable to right itself.

An 18-wheeler passed slowly, as far away as it could, hazard lights flashing. The driver in front of me slowed to almost 15 miles per hour and all I could say was "Go go go go we're going to get hit from behind. And we don't want to see. Don't gawk. Go go go go. We cannot help them. We should get out of the way."
And somehow during this slow crawl, I saw the man with salt and pepper gray hair who seemed to be in his 60s crawl out of the passenger side of an upside-down car.
I looked away as fast as possible because I did not want to know. He looked ok. But I could not watch to find out. I only hoped my first glance was right. "GO!" I said out loud, demanding action from the car in front of me.
When I passed the driver in front of me finally, moving over to the lane farthest away from the accident, I saw she was probably trying to call for help on her cell phone. I assumed one of the cars that stopped already had. I assumed I should get the hell out of the way to be helpful. That there was nothing I could do in my car for those people other than pray for fast ambulances, safe bodies, life in tact.

"Young Turks" by Rod Stewart was on my radio as the tiny trickle of red tail lights flowed south down the freeway's lanes. We picked up more cars as we went, those who missed seeing the disaster in which we just missed participating. The lucky. The scared.
Young hearts, be free tonight. Time is on your side.

Rod Stewart's words seemed horribly out of place as I kept going, certain to signal and check mirrors before lane changes. Time was on my side, but what if it wasn't? What if something terrible happened at any minute? Then what? And what do you do if you're the family member of someone to whom something terrible happens? The guy crawling out of his car's upside-down window frame - looked like a dad, maybe even a grandpa. What do you do when something like that happens?
What happens with tragedy and crisis?
My instinct was to run. But what would I do if I got a terrible phone call? And there was no running to be done? The same with the shooting victims - what do you do when you hear your grandmother died in the place she moved to to stay alive, NOT from old age, but from someone deranged? How do you ever go back to normal life as usual when something so disruptive and devastating has occurred?

I worked in a risk management department once, and as part of that job, we executed a disaster drill to simulate emergency response. As I sat in what would be the simulated mission control room, I could not help thinking how absurd it was to expect any human being to be able to execute protocol in the middle of terror and chaos. I already knew I was not of the mettle to do so. "GO!" is my instinctual response, not "stay and call others on your phone tree to notify them of your safety, while keeping detailed notes." I admire the people who have the nerves of steel for such scenarios. The people with personalities that make them heads of Emergency Medicine departments, national guard units, nursing stations. I am far more wimpy, and I know it. I just don't understand how anyone isn't, I guess.

I wish the crockpot weren't so dreary these past two days, but MAN it's hard to be upbeat and full o' laughs after having an intense experience that makes me feel extra lucky to be alive and in one piece. And hard to imagine families and friends of those who were going about their days and lives as usual but had tragedy befall them without any warning. Or who have been exposed to terror and the sensation of fearing for their lives from which they may never fully recover.

What is going on here? And how does this trend change as fast as possible? And who can make this happen? And does anyone have their email address?

Sorry to be such a downer. But be safe and careful! And human and kind!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

37: Crock-Pot Shots and I'm just happy to see you

Let's give this crockpot a shot!

This morning, a bumper sticker on a car caught my attention as I was walking to work. When I got close enough to read it I saw it read "FROM MY COLD DEAD HANDS!"

Seeing as how I was only 1/4 of the way through my coffee at the time, the phrase rang a distant bell, but not one that registered. Then I read the seal next to the slogan for the National Rifle Association and realized OH! Oh yeah! I think Charlton Heston quoted that famous saying once referring to the only way one would be able to strip him of his guns. Then I thought WOW that's an aggressive bumper sticker. And especially fun to find posted on a car in an area where all too often people are forced to give their possessions to others who stop cars, get out, show their gun to their new acquaintance, demand those possessions, then take them and drive away.

And on what type of vehicle would you imagine such a bumper sticker would be? This one was a sedan. I really think it was a Ford Taurus.

I am admitting to my own stereotyping here. My conception of a loud and proud gun owner and gun rights advocate of the degree matching that bumper sticker involves the sticker being affixed to a truck or a Hummer or a tank. But not a family sedan.

Somehow it was surprising to me in its intensity, like wow that is not just proclaiming your value system (again, my annoyance is fair and balanced as I've already ridiculed those who "visualize world peace" on their Priuses - ref. day ??? [I really should have used the tag system for this blog, I have no idea how far back I wrote about that]), THAT is aggressively informing others of the consequences of attempting change - - -death. Much like "Live Free or Die" as a state slogan, the NRA bumper sticker does not mince words or pull punches. It's actual life or death on the line when it comes to guns. Which, no really, that's actually true all the time. When it comes to guns.

And lest my crockpot faithful think I am either 1. on a soapbox hoping to persuade others to hold the same beliefs as me or 2. unaware of my hypocrisy here, let me respond by saying 1. this is just what I happened to stumble upon on the way to work and therefore, be thinking about today and 2. On day 33 of this blog, I reference how excited and impressed I was by the use of guns specifically. The Winter Olympics skiing/riflery biathlon is both exciting and impressive to me. Fact.

So, in the event that any crockpot faithful are also gun enthusiasts whom I have offended, please don't report me to the NRA, and please don't shoot me. I am not even (sorry animal lovers) stringently opposed to hunting in all cases. I just think the all or nothing approach fails most times, and that well, your cold dead hands is a lot to wager as a point of negotiation. Fairly one-sided there. Which, I know, is the whole point.

While guns don't kill people, people kill people, it's a lot easier for people to kill people if they are using guns. It's easier for people to accidentally kill people, and for people to accidentally kill themselves, and for people to accidentally lose their minds and open fire on some loved ones, some school friends, some school enemies, some old people, some people that were in the way, some people who shouldn't have been on the road at the same time, some preacher who didn't save, some lover who needed the "un" taken out of "unrequited" by force, and anyone around that lover who happened to be in the way, some guys just working at the gas station, waiting on TGIF like the rest of us.

Remember when the postal shootings happened back in the day? And it was horrifying and beyond comprehension that someone would light up a U.S. institution simply because they didn't like their job? The post office - something nearly every town in America has. The location of an errand! It was unthinkable.

Now, a shooting like that that would almost warrant an "Oh yeah, I can see that." "Going postal" is cliche. And now in many cases, too mild a point of comparison! Being disgruntled seems to be a far more justified reason for one to go out of his or her mind and start shooting strangers and loved ones indiscriminately than it once was. Or if not justified, it's at least far less shocking. And that is both terrifying and terrible.

After a copycat gunman opened fire on a school and then killed himself my best friend wrote saying "I hate guns, this is crazy!" and yep, it is crazy. But I think, even crazier than the fact that it's crazy is the fact that it is so LESS crazy than it once would have been. That is not progress.

Also, in a time of great discontent on a global scale, is now really the best time to be normalizing violence for the disgruntled as acceptable? Not in my opinion, but again, I have yet to make a bumper sticker.

I think my counter slogan would be "FROM YOUR COLD HANDS OVER MY DEAD BODY!"

Which is funny to me because, yes, that is pretty much what is promised there, were I to try to prevail my opinion upon those in the "from my cold hands" camp. At least one of us dies in that gun fight fighting over the gun fight.

As one who has consumed venison jerky, and who likes to watch olympians out-ski each other after out-shooting targets (not each other), I will not say I think all guns should be eliminated from existence (though I'm sure I could be persuaded if alternatives to the glue and caulk guns are created). But would it be possible to at least agree that, likewise, not all people who exist should have guns?

Curiosity and fact-checking took me to Youtube where I found people, based on their comments, to be far more polarized about this than I even thought.

Here's the bumper sticker inspiration.
It cannot be argued, that's one hell of a dynamic spokesman.

Here is a clip reel that is VERY VERY much exclusively on the other side of the issue. The use of The Simpsons and Chris Rock made me warrant this worthy of inclusion today.

And here is a song that I actually like as a song, which I randomly know exists because I once bought the Guess Who's greatest hits for someone else and the copy of the CD I received ended up being a wonderful gift to myself. It's too on topic not to include.The Guess Who are not quite as game for making concessions for well, game as I am, which is surprising as Canadians, but I think this addresses over-hunting and the impact of seeing guns as fun without consequence. Hope this link works. You have to click the play arrow at top right. Give it a shot.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

36: Ifs Ands and Buts

I feel like I've been opening the past week of crockpot entries with apologies for their substandard content (as I am tempted to do tonight since I just had a house call from several furies at large). I did enjoy writing last night's entry, and only wish that I could use the image of the actual man on page 73 (available for viewing at if you pick the "shop the catalog" link at the bottom and "view catalog" option). It was in rereading yesterday's entry and realizing that it would be great to actually include the image of that guy that I began to think about the nature of regret.

Moments of regret and shame are maybe the longest lasting, most indelible memories that I carry around, and yet they are also some of the most futile in many ways. So why are they so strong? Why do they never go away? Shame me once, shame on me...forever! And they do inspire fear of future shame. (Again, see THIS ENTIRE BLOG to see what the fear of shame influences).

I actually tried to consider what evolutionary purpose these memories might serve, and the best I could come up with was that they'd keep us from repeating mistakes. But why are they mistakes with such emotional weight? Why am I not struck with unbearable pangs of "Oh God!" that make me shut my eyes to escape my own mind's images when remembering that time I burned my tongue on hot coffee, or fell off of something too high. Shouldn't there be ridiculously intense misgivings every time I sip a steaming cup of coffee because I'm too impatient for it to cool off a little? Shouldn't I not overwater a plant when I leave town because I am shattered by the image of the plant that drowned the last time I left town?

Nope. Tongue is scalded every time. Hope you can swim, house plant!

The other thing about these memories - immune to rhyme and reason. In addition to practically being video footage of these shameful or unfortunate events in their clarity, they pop up completely unannounced at completely unrelated times. The self-imposed indignities of my past appear at the most random of moments, without any seeming likely trigger. But the intensity of the emotion attached to those memories is ridiculously sharp. Nothing about the soup aisle at the grocery store connects to me peeing my pants on a fishing excursion, but there it is. BAM! Shame. Regret.
Why would I do that? Why wouldn't I have just gone to find a bathroom? And why is that thought haunting me on aisle 4? I'm not even near clam chowder.
Totally unrelated.

I thought maybe these thoughts could be so significant in our memories and of use to our survival because if an act is something strong enough to be associated with shame so deep, we'd be sure not to repeat it. And maybe those shame memories are only for actions or outcomes so ingrained into us as culturally acceptable or unacceptable that, were we to repeat them, there would be a chance we'd be cast out of our human cultural group. Which, if we were depending on it and its members for communal survival and resource sharing (FOOD), might mean that we'd be cut off from what sustained us and therefore, have less chance of making it through with our genetic material passed on to someone new. I dunno. Maybe sociopaths never burn their tongues. I'm just speculating, but if anyone has anthropology info. - let the crock know!

While this theory seems fine and all, I also wonder why there are moments of shame in my mind that are so clear, yet do not seem to have any feasible say, genetic consequence. Like I remember, with shame, throwing one hell of a tantrum when I was about five. Which true, I do shudder in shame at that memory, but why have I held onto that for so long? Why can I not, as an adult, now let myself off the hook for having an unfortunate emotional outburst when I was five? Why do some things stick worse than others? How do our minds earmark things? And why?

These are questions that even the ramblings of this fishcrockpot probably cannot answer.
And tonight, without shame, and because I really do have to do dishes before I attract a raccoon infestation based on the amount of food bits that are accumulating in my sink, I am going to call this entry complete!

(Also, my memories of shame tell me that, if I were to attract raccoons, I might be forcibly removed from my human circle of acceptance and shared resources [evicted from my apartment] and then I'd REALLY have some shame to deal with and food bits for which to forage. And as my five-year-old self tells me every time she visits, I need accessible indoor plumbing).