Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Follow the Recipe

One of the most profound lessons I learned this year -- and believe you me, there were a LOT -- was over Christmas. For Christmas Eve dinner, I made bouillabaisse from the New York Times Cookbook, as I have on dozens of occasions before. But this time, instead of using the recipe as a suggestion, I followed the directions to the letter. The result? SPECTACULAR. It was easy, took less than an hour, and the stew was a subtle yet jubilant celebration of seafood in all the right ways. But the true test was the next night, when I made it again for my lifelong French foodie friends, the Gayot family. (Running around LA looking for clam juice on Christmas, however, wasn't easy.) Never shy or retiring (Sophie told me flat out, "Do not bring wine or flowers. But bouillabaisse sounds fun"), they murmured praise in French and English. They loved it. Sophie has finally found a decent bouillabaisse in LA. And so on.

The lesson here? That Craig Claiborne probably knows, oh, a teensy bit more about food and how to make it than I do. It's his job, he's done it for 60 years, and look! He's written down what he knows in a book! Just there waiting for me!

I'm done reinventing the wheel, I think, and will take a good long listen to a professional, no matter what the arena -- food, financial, design, hair, whatever. But when it comes to INVENTING something else, something new, something that is busting to come forth from my deepest psyche, well, then, I'm all over it.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Goodbye, Catwoman



We lost our dear, inimitable Eartha Kitt yesterday. Eartha, wherever you are, I trust you don't have to pay retail there. You will be missed.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Frosty is Jesus!



It's taken me 40 years to realize this -- Frosty is Jesus! Here are just a few of the uncanny parallels:

It's all about rebirth. The kids believe! (his disciples and followers), while the Evil Magician (Pontius Pilot/John the Baptist) is trying to squash him. He goes away, into a greenhouse (a cave), where his true friend, a girl (Mary Magadaline) weeps bitter tears over his apparent death. But then! Santa (God) gives the lowdown that he will return. And there's a bunny (Easter) who is cute and fun and puffy.

Think about it. But what a fun way to be indoctrinated ...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bing's Got a White Christmas



It's a strange Christmas for so many people this year. So maybe "White Christmas" is the time to start over, start fresh, start pure. We all get a clean slate, if we want it.

Sunday, December 21, 2008



It may surprise those who know me that I am crazy for Christmas music and have more than 450 songs from various artists on my iTunes (who knew there was a Barbershop Christmas!?). It may NOT surprise you that I am also a HUGE Beatles' fan, and this is one of the most fun products from them. It may help to take a belt of something stiff to join in the fun before you watch this. Or smoke a ton of pot. The lads are having a jolly good time.

Keep checking back as we count down the days to Christmas with video and song!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Night Live

One brilliant thing about 40licious is that you get adept at pattern recognition -- unless you are so ingrained in the pattern that you can no longer step outside and recognize it as such.

For example! Every Friday I come home, exhausted, day piled upon day, a week of service to the good people of Southern California. I usually make dinner for one or more people, because it's the start of the weekend and who wouldn't want to do that? But each time, I get home with a box of groceries and realize that my house looks like meth addicts camped there for a week, what with knitting all over the couch (sure, meth addicts can knit. They can do an afghan in an hour!); mail, napkins, electronics, scraps of paper for cards all over the desk; every sweater or jacket I wore heaped on my chair; yet more guts from Lucy's stuffed bear all over the floor.

There is the mad dash to get the long cooking thing done (tonight it was spicy sausages from Mario's), then the other mad dash to make the house look like Thing 1 and Thing 2 did their thing.

If you want to make your house look presentable in 10 minutes or less, just follow these easy steps:

1. Spray every surface of the bathroom with Begley's Best, or similar eco-friendly cleaner.
2. Draw the shower curtain closed and give a swipe to the parts that show.
3. Shove all knitting paraphernalia into bag, move to end of couch.
4. Throw all magazines on coffee table away in recycling bin. The will not be read anyway.
5. Eat Trader Joe's Peppermint Double-Stuffed Oreo Dipped in Dark Chocolate with Peppermint on Top.
6. Quick Sweep.
7. Spray lovely grapefruit scent, light candles and set table. Voila!

But here's the great part about a night like tonight. When your best friends from 4th and 5th grade come over, and they are amazing and smart and funny and inspiring and do really good dream interpretation about the dream with the dead horses in it, it does not matter that you forgot the dust bunny behind the bathroom door, or that there is a huge pile of miscellaneous Christmas paraphernalia on in the middle of the room.

What does matter that I chose well when I was 10, and I am a better woman for it.

Jo and Steph, I love you madly. Happy Christmas, and thank you for all you bring to my life.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Christmas Tradition

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

This is a little something I worked up with my brother Ilya, his wife, Gali, and their two sons, Jonathan and Adam. It was a little difficult to choreograph because some of us live in Israel and Copenhagen, and also, because Baby Adam can't walk yet, but we are all talented and managed to work it out. Enjoy!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Five Years Ago



Five years ago today, my dad slipped out from his big, broken-down body. I am not sure where he went. Though I have a feeling he was still in the room with me, somewhere, palpably, for at least a couple hours after he was declared no longer of this earth. I don't dream about him frequently, but when I do, we are always eating dinner and having a lovely time. I think that's his way of checking in.

If he were around, he would have seen the terrible play I wrote about girls and their dads in 2005. He would have said goodbye -- and "It's about time" -- as I left the Northwest for Los Angeles to seek a bigger universe. He would have fielded tearful calls as my threepeat with Marc imploded, yet again. He would come visit my new home, which reminds me so much of our New York apartment, the place where I grew up. Most of all, I hope he would have been proud of the person I have become, am becoming, will be.

Dad, if you are in a place where you can read this, know that I miss you terribly and that I love you dearly.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Other Side of 40licious

Me and my mother, when times were simpler.
I wrote about her here, in "Hippie Mom Purse."


The reason I made this blog was to talk about how amazing it was to be 40licious. It would be an aggregation of all things learned up to this point, smoke signals from the other side of the mountains that, "yes! It's good here! Come over and settle!"


One not-very-amazing thing about being 40licious is watching your parents get old and/or die. I am in the tiny Victorian seaport of Port Townsend right now. Instead of poking around antique stores, wondering if that nautical art would look good in my parlor, we are working to get everything in order after my mother's fire six weeks ago. Mounds of receipts. Will the insurance company pay for dog food that she had to buy? Do we have to list each sock, each shirt, each random piece of fabric damaged by the fire? Does anybody actually work at Foremost Insurance -- the specialty company for mobile properties -- or are they all robots with a voicemail extension? We are trying to figure this out. We are trying to understand each other's language, and not snap and not bite when one of says the stupidest and most obvious thing.


Me: You snub your nose at all these galleries downtown, but there were a
ton of people in them last night at the art walk. Why don't you put your art there?
Mom: Nobody buys art here.
Me: They can't buy what's not for sale.




And then there's this perennial favorite that is getting terrific airplay between us:




Me: Why don't you get a place where you can rent out a room to someone who
might be able to drive you around and do some housekeeping?
Mom: Homeless people always move out, they can't afford the rent. And the
utilites cost just as much as the rent does. I can't afford it.
Me: Do you need to have a homeless person there?
Mom: Why would they need a room, then, if they weren't homeless?
Me: OK, I guess you're right, you can't afford anything. I'm putting you in
an old folks' home.
Mom: I'll move back to New Zealand.
Me: Great, that will give me a place to visit.






That kind of thing. Plus, I am having neurotic episodes from seeing people I knew 10 years ago, people I sort of remember, that I can't place, that I know I should say something to, so I smile and nod and say, "I don't know if you remember me, I'm Vanessa," and then they say "yes, of course," and then they still don't tell me where I know them from and excuse my self to eat some more cheese on a cracker, feeling empty and shallow.



This trip is not fun. It is not glam. I have also realized that Mom is going deaf in one ear -- OR she may have wax buildup, she won't go to a doctor. And her dog has fleas. Tomorrow I will pile them both in my rented Jeep and get them fixed up.


Forced to take a look at whatever the sweet side of this is, it would be that tonight I get to see my junior-high and high school best friend, Knitting Architect, and meet her child who is probably more little lady than little baby at this point. And we will eat salmon that is swimming right now, and she will fill in huge gaping holes in my memory about stuff we did when I lived off the grid so that I can put more stories in my book.


The bottom line is that I know I am being the best daughter I can possibly be. Even though neither me, nor Mom, are feeling particularly celebratory about it.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Now We KNOW What Jesus Would Do!

A Bear Crapped on My Table

I've been told by a very inspiring and influential person to get my papers in order (well, outline and proposal) and start working on my memoir after she read my article about living off the grid in Grist. I feel like I landed on the soft pillow after riding bareback in the woods for years. There is a crack in a windowless and doorless room where the light has begun to stream in. I could do this. I could write my book. My book.

December is always a little tough for me because it was the month my father died in 2003. I will always remember the day that I handed him my business card after deciding on a career as a freelance writer. It read:

Vanessa McGrady
Journalist
He handed it back. "One day it will say 'journalist and author.' "

But I never thought that I had enough to say.

Of course, my father was always right. It still takes me a long time to realize this.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A relief

They say you shouldn't make popcorn with Silverwater Secret Spice, pair it with an organic Merlot, and Google old boyfriends. But I say, this combination can lead to an exciting psychological breakthrough. You should try it sometime.

Why? Because you might stumble upon some dumb comments said ex made publicly, and learn about the online communities he's joined and think, upon seeing his much fatter, much balder self in a picture posed with his new "band" against a telephone pole with some water in the background, "what a loser."

Indeed. Sigh.

If you really want to see how far you've come, just Google. You'll be glad you did.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Quantum of Soul-Ass



Dear James Bond,

I've loved all your incarnations since I was a wee lass. They have fueled my passion for the perfect man. For the pithy quip. For the way to get something done just so.

I loved you as Sean Connery, and Pierce Brosnan and Roger Moore. Then, when I thought it couldn't get any better, here comes hunky Daniel Craig, who was all smart and lovely and so. damn. beautiful. in Casino Royale. THIS Bond was resourceful and even more charming and so human and so lucky and so ... well, he fell in love. Even when he was strapped all nekkid in a chair and beaten silly on his manparts. My heart ached, physically ached for him. For Daniel. For the life we could have together if he could just get out of that chair! And come to America and find me! And decide that we're great together and get married, not just for the green card! Because he doesn't need one anyway, as an international spy!

So today, with a belly full of leftovers, I traipsed -- traipsed, mind you -- to my local theater to watch Bondliness wonders unfold in "Quantum of Solace." First of all, where did you get that title? Did you drink a bunch of tequila, blindfold yourself with your tidy whities on your head, flip open the dictionary, land your finger on "Solace" and "Quantum" and decide to just go for it? Did you enlist a brain trust from Oxford to find the perfect title, then go on Babelfish to translate into German, Spanish, French, Dutch, Esperanto and then back to English, and this is what came out? Did you outsource it to India? WHAT THE HELL DOES "QUANTUM OF SOLACE" MEAN???? It sounds like a euphemism for something, as in, "Dude, I downed a quantum of solace last night and I'm not going to be able to make your wedding. Sorry about that." It sounds like some obscure Medieval measurement, as in, "Sire, I must reveal that we've only a quantum of solace left in the entire shire. Surely it will not last the winter. What shall we do? Oh! Heavens! I shall ring a large bell and kill some peasants!" But enough with the title. Whatever.

James, I KEPT WAITING FOR THE MOVIE TO START. There was that insane violent car chase through all the Italian tunnels. Then some more stuff exploded. Then some people got shot. Then you made it with a lady. Then some more people! Then Dame Judy Dench was lovely and sassy with the meager amount she was given. And you threw your dead friend in the Dumpster! Then some more stuff exploding! And then it was over!

Honestly, James, I thought you'd be more resourceful. Yeah, you with a bloody face in a tuxedo is kind of ruggedly handsome the first time. We got that. Okay, enough already, you don't have to do it, like, EIGHT TIMES IN ONE MOVIE.

I don't know if it's good enough, anymore, to have your leading lady seek a revenge killing for the evil dictator that raped her family and burned down their house. Can't we think of ANYTHING ELSE HERE? Can't we transcend the hackneyed, puhleeeeeeeeeze?

So, my darling James, as you know I am a very forgiving person. Hell, I had two three-peats that ate up about a dozen of my best mating and dating years. I beseech you, please re-watch yourself in "Casino Royale" and "Dr. No" and 10 other films where you were masterful. You're verging on being downgraded to a thrice-recurring role in "CSI: Car Chase Explosions" at best, or the bad/good/complicated guy in "Miami Vice 4."

For now, James, you're on probation. And might I suggest several 12-step groups for you?

Love,

Vanessa

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thank you.

It's pretty easy for me to think of all the things for which I am grateful. I do it every day before I haul my bootie from my delicious flannel-sheeted bed.

Though I realized today, with an electric little startle, that I have evolved into a Very Single Person, despite whatever romance may be taking center stage. People see me that way. At least five of my dearest friends invited me to Thanksgiving because they know I will not be entertaining my own family, who are far flung into the corners of the United States, and that I certainly don't have the In-Laws issue or the "kids want to do it this way" thing. I get seasick watching my 401 (k) and Roth IRA swan dive and leap up daily, because I'm not counting on someone to pad that shared bank account with his pension pennies. I don't have to put up with anyone else's nautical art or boxes of old photographs or crappy furniture with high sentimental value because it is MY HOUSE. All mine.

I think, at 40licious, I am finally comfortable with that, with what I have become, with the idea that it doesn't have to be more complicated than this.

So with a happy, full heart, I will finish my whipped yams with homemade marshmallows in orange cups, put on a smear of makeup and my sassiest boots, and head out to Don and Adam's for my Thanksgiving dinner.

Oh, and by the way, thank you for reading.

Love,

Vanessa

Monday, November 24, 2008

Scarf of the Week


This one was for Mashi for her 40licious birthday. She's amazing for so many reasons -- AND SHE IS THE NEWEST MEMBER OF THE 40LICIOUS HALL O' FAME!

1. She grew up in Mexico City with dreams of becoming a ballet dancer.
2. Those sweet dreams brought her to Los Angeles, where she enrolled in a special high school and studied ballet.
3. She got herself a job at McDonald's to get her through ballet training.
4. She got shot during a holdup at said McDonald's.
5. She almost died, but didn't.
6. She went to school on McDonald's dime and learned how to be a PR agent.
7. She has eventually become one of the most sought-after agents in California, because she has such great command of the craft and ALL ethnic media, not just Spanish.
8. She has taught me more about my work than anyone ever has.

So Mashi, ¡te quiero y feliz cumpleaños!

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Reality


I just looked in the mirror and thought, "Wow, I look like a 40-year-old person who just had a helluva week, hauled herself up from a tiny nap, ratted her hair, put on a sort of sexy slip with a cardigan over it and her most forgiving jeans and is heading out to a bachelorette party for someone who is still in her 20s."

Ah, clarity. Which is what you get when you are 40licious. But still.

But I feel so ... 40.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Burning

California is burning. I have been fortunate enough to have been spared an evacuation, but there is fire everywhere around. You can't go outside without gulping smoke. You feel it in your eyes and throat.

And at this late hour, tonight, I hope that the people I know and love are OK as I scour the news, looking for clues. 

Come stay, everyone. We will all fit in this little place somehow, and figure out blankets and shower times and sweats to sleep in. And tomorrow morning we can squeeze orange juice and make coffee and just go from there.

Light is on all night.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

No.

"No" is a complete sentence.

Try it sometime. 

It's amazing how easy it was at, probably 2 or 3 to just be all, like, "no!" randomly and for everything and probably even for things that I meant to say "yes!" to. But somewhere between there and here I have become a pleaser, hedging my thoughts with, "I think ..." and "We might ..." and the "What about if you ..." 

I know I am not alone in this, it's especially common for women. But dang it, I am 40licious and today I will just say "no." And I don't need a reason.

Say it with me.

"No."


Monday, November 10, 2008

My New Blogging Challenge - One Year Ago Today

OK, here's a new blogging challenge -- post an email you sent or received one year ago today (or to whenever the date is that you posted). Here is mine from last Nov. 10, in response to someone who had her first Craigslist experience and wondered about the veracity of the seller.

Yes, he sucks bigtime and is trying to scam you. Also, send to Craig and let them know about it. Be careful!!!!

I’ve bought and sold thousands of dollars of stuff on Craigslist and the usual transaction is:

1. Post the item, say it’s a bike.
2. Someone responds and comes over to see said bike.
3. They decide to buy and PAY CASH. Do not ever accept anything other than cash. If they don’t have it all on them, take a CASH deposit.
BONUS STEP: The customer will try to bargain down. If this is your first showing and you’ve already gotten some other emails or calls of interest, tell them: “You know, I’d be open to bargaining if it doesn’t sell in a few days. I’ve got some other people looking and I know it will sell at full price. Would you like me to take your number?” The customer usually has enough cash on them to pay full price if they’ve already come to see you. 99.9% of the time you will get your price if the person’s already in the house.
4. They pay you. You write out the receipt and keep a copy for both of you. Even better, type and print out two copies before they get there.
they leave
5. You pocket cash
6. You blow half of it on margaritas with your girlfriends
7. You all decide to get tattoos with a secret symbol, something like Hello Kitty
8. You spend the rest of the cash at the tattoo place
9. You drink more margaritas on your credit card
10. You go back to the tattoo place. The guy had bad skin, but really nice eyes.
11. You wake up at 5 a.m. at Tattoo Guy’s place, when his roommates come home from their gig.
12. You look in mirror and think “why the fuck do I have Hello Kitty on my neck?”
You go into the bathroom and find the Tom’s of Maine toothpaste, spread some on your finger and simulate brushing.
13. You make out some more with Tattoo Guy, steal his vintage Motley Crue tee, and head home.
14. You decide to go for a bike ride. Holy crap! Someone stole your bike!
15. You call police.
16. Officer arrives. He has only gray, jumbled-up teeth, but really nice skin.


Hope this helps!

Love,

Vanessa

Let me know if this works for you!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Creative Fall

The Celts have a word for this time of year: Samhain. It's a time when you go indoors, work on crafty things, ponder existence, and listen to Led Zepelin and Etta James. My inner Celt is apparently raging, as I have made no less than five scarves in the last month. Mostly because I don't know how to make hats or socks or anything else. However, I Speak Film turned me on to a great idea to knit kitchen towels out of cotton. (She is a GREAT photographer, but also a kick-ass knitter. She taught me!) Also, today, I made a handbag from a cute skirt that just didn't look good on -- and doesn't look that good as a handbag, either, but it's at least useful. Clearly, I am no Knitting Architect, and I will never be.

Little Mary wanted a scarf the same color as her towel.
She has a very bright future as a scarf model, don't you think?


Brother Ian picked out his yarn for his scarf last April.
But it wouldn't be as good if he didn't have to wait.
This scarf has inspired envy in at least one person, and his order is in!

Now I need to get back to working on the things that really matter. The things that I want the most, what they call "blue chips." Which involve me actually working.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I Can't Take It

Everybody's relatives and friends are dying at work. I am so sad for them. Crap. That must mean it's my turn soon to have a friend or relative die. Um, God, you didn't read that. Just skip over that part.

I am alternately thrilled and overwhelmed and frustrated at work. I am happy when I can rock a good non-corporate, not-very-slutty-but-still-punky look, like today.

My mother's house caught on fire and I sent her some boots and the UPS guy got the wrong number but she found him at the store and finally got them but they are too small and now she has to return them but Zappos does not have her size in that and can I get her some other ones and I don't know what she wants and she has to look on a computer but oh, right, HER COMPUTER BURNED UP IN THE FIRE and the line to use one at the library in her little town is too long.

However:

It is a good thing Obama is our president.

And it is a good thing that I am counting down to my vacation. My TROPICAL vacation. To the Caribbean. That I won on a game show that only lasted, I think, half a season. People tell me that I am still on in reruns, though. And my cousin, who manages a car dealership in Florida, just happened to see it when it aired last January, which was fun. It was called "Temptation: The New Sale of the Century!" and it combined shopping prowess, trivia, and lightening reflexes. So, you see, if you think you are wasting your time pondering the wares of the Rack and Goodwill and SkyMall and Target and TJ Maxx, you, my dear, are wrong. You are in training. For the what you were meant to do -- get free money and be on TV! It CAN happen to you!

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Letter to the Girl in the Towel

Dear Current Occupant of My Former Residence on Rowena Street,

Busted. You realized that, as you stood at the door, hair in one towel, another wrapped around your LA-too-skinny ass.

I really tried to do this in the most civilized manner possible. I left a nice note. You didn't respond. I went again, with hopes that you would be home this time. You were.

Some advice, seeing as you're young and still living with roommates and clearly a Troglodyte and not a very nice person:

1. When the UPS delivery person brings a package that is NOT addressed to you or to anyone you live with or to anyone you know, DO NOT sign for it.
2. Said package is likely a gift from someone very dear to the intended recipient. It may be a gift, such as a silver box engraved with the intended's name on it for her 40licious birthday.
3. Because it is highly unlikely that your name is also Vanessa McGrady, this box will be of no use to you.
4. The sender will feel crappy that she went to all that trouble and wonder why recipient did not send a thank you note. At best, she will think recipient a thoughtless fool. At worst, she'll go over and over in her head all the possible reasons recipient could be mad at her. Which there have never been. We are talking about a 39-year friendship here.
5. If you must sign for packages that are not yours, at least send a thank you note.
6. When the clearly concerned intended recipient shows up at your door to explain the problem, in the nicest way possible, do not call her "babe." Especially do not call her "babe" repeatedly.
7. When you live in a major metropolitan location, do not answer the door in a towel. There are plenty of crackheads with crowbars and creepy magazine salespeople and pent-up Jehovah's Witnesses waiting for an opportunity like that.
8. You have to deal with your own karma.
9. Save up your pennies, girlie, and get a one-way ticket back to whence you came. Because being the kind of person you are, you will not make it here in LA. Or anywhere.

I hope this helps.

Love,

Vanessa

Sunday, November 2, 2008

10 Commandments for Our Once and Future Leaders


Juan Enriquez (2008) Pop!Tech Pop!Cast from PopTech on Vimeo.

This is quite possibly the smartest man in America. He explains what happened to us and how to get out of this big mess we're in. The video is about a half hour long, so pour yourself a glass of cabernet, get a tub of Haagen Dazs Rum Raisin ice cream, and get yourself some free education.

If you don't have time for that, in a nutshell, here are the 10 commandments, which link back to his presentation:

1. We have to save the dollar (AAA rating in jeopardy)

2. We have to fundamentally and brutally restructure debt

3. All entitlements are fair game. To begin with...

a. If you are 60 to 65 you probably just lost a big chunk of your nest egg.


(we don’t want anything from you)

b. If you are 55 to 60, we need two more years’ work from you

c. 55 and under, we need three or four more years from you

4. Cut back military by 2% per year for ten years

5. Cap medical costs at 18% GNP (going to be a cat fight, but we need to have it)

6. We have to triage our support for companies (don’t attempt to save dying whales)

7. The program has to be bipartisan. It has to make both Dems and Repubs unhappy

8. Simplify and broadly apply Sarbanes Oxley – apply it to government, apply it to hedge funds

9. We will invest in growing start up companies (which create the most jobs – this is where the economy is growing)

10. We will treat education as a varsity sport (and continue to recruit foreign PhDs)

You're welcome.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Universal Disgust


I love my nephew so much. He's much sweeter than anyone else I know -- except for maybe his dad, my brother Ilya. At 15, big kid that he is, he still cuddles up in Ilya's lap.

He sent me this Facebook thing today, a protest that if McCain is elected that he won't go to school on Nov. 5.

The amazing thing is that the kid lives in Denmark.

We ate hot falafels until we cried in Tel Aviv last April. I know he's too big to think of him as my baby. But he is.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Full and happy

This picture of me with singer Amos Lee was taken solely for the benefit of my former intern, Carlin, who is a huge fan of his. He was very nice and didn't make me feel like a dork for asking.

I missed a couple days of dispatches from Pop!Tech, mostly because they had me so dang busy thinking up ways to save the world. And of course, there was my mad passionate affair with lobster. However, I no longer discuss my love life on this blog, so you'll just have to use your imagination about the things I did to those poor unfortunate crustaceans.

I wish you could have come. I wish you were moved to tears with me when Ben Zander made a room full of 600 people sing "Happy Birthday" to one person, like it mattered. Like it was a ballad to a disappearing lover. Like it was the celebration it should ALWAYS be.

I wish you could have talked all night about energy and politics to Rufus Cappadocia, a revolutionary cello player who has deconstructed classical music into something so deeply moving and profound and funkalicious.
The economy as told by Juan Enriquez, illustrated.

I wish you could have watched Juan Enriquez so eloquently describe how the US got into the clusterf*ck it's in and how we need to get out -- if we can at all. I'll have a manifesto for you to mail into your leaders soon.

I wish you could have breathed the snappy Maine air and slipped through the carpet of leaves on Camden's sweet narrow sidewalks.

There will be video posted of all the presenters, we're told, and I'll point you to the ones you absolutely cannot miss.

In the meantime, I leave you with my new friend, Frank Warren, who spoke about his Post Secret project in which hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world have sent in their secrets for him. He does it for the love of humanity. He has saved lives because of this project. Write to him sometime, it's cheaper than the shrink.

Frank Warren wants to know your secrets. I didn't tell him any,
mostly because I have so very few and don't want to run out.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pop!Tech - Day 2 - Love and Horror

This second day of Pop!Tech inspired by beyond any words I can piece together. I heard Imogen Heap, one of my faves, LIVE, 50 feet from me. She is beautiful and charming. But the overall mash up from the day, without looking at my notes, is this:

  • Passion and creativity do not come from your head. They come from your heart.
  • Create for one person. Make it good. Make it the best it can be.
  • Love is the square root of everything.
  • You can text 30644 with the word FISH to check to see if your sushi is from a sustainable fishery. More at http://blueocean.org/.

    On a more horrifying note, my mother's home caught on fire. She's OK, as is the dog. A faulty heater set the bathroom ablaze and wrecked the back half of her home, and the roof. Her clothes and carpeting are ruined. Here's the amazing thing: For her birthday last Sunday, I sent her a Mexican bingo game and a Virgin Mary bracelet. The fire stopped at the bracelet and all her paintings -- 100 or so -- were spared from fire, smoke and water. She is also lucky enough to have a friend who is putting her up in his empty apartment, but she still needs a bed -- if you live in the Port Townsend/Seattle area and have a bed she can borrow until we figure out what's happening, please let me know.

  • PS -- Tonight Malcolm Gladwell introduced me to his parents and gave me a piece of dark chocolate. I was all tongue-tied. And at dinner, by happenstance, I sat at the bar of Cappy's, ordered my lobster and began talking to the woman next to me. Turns out she's married to Richard "Empire Falls" Russo, who won a Pulitzer Prize. This is all surreal. The nexus of all my favorite things and people. I will probably meet God tomorrow.

    Wednesday, October 22, 2008

    Pop!Tech - Day 1 - Speaking the Unspoken



    Holy crap I am hyperventilating about what just happened on my way back from the opening-night cocktail party, but first here's the meaty part of the post:

    I am here in Camden for my third Pop!Tech conference, where culture and technology come together, presented by today's greatest writers and thinkers. Today there were special pre-conference sessions. I went to see Joe Navarro, a retired FBI profiler, who spoke about nonverbal communications. Among the gems he imparted to us:


    • We are constantly transmitting information by how we present ourselves, our
      actions, expressions and how we choose or not choose to appear.

    • Our limbic brain controls our emotions and "gut" reactions; thinking is not involved.

    • Pointing with one finger is one of the most offensive things you can do. Use
      your whole hand to wave, instead.

    • When we get away with something or when we get caught, we do the "tongue jut," ala McCain after the last debate.

    • The most honest part of anyone's body is his or her feet. Watch where they are
      pointing, or not pointing. That will tell you everything. The face is the least
      reliable.

    • The weak never assess or adjust their judgment if a situation or person is a threat or not a threat. Think of paranoid schizos.

    • Watch what happens when you shake hands with someone. Do they back up? They need more space.

    • Watch people who display their thumbs out of their pockets, like doctors or politicians or even Sarah Palin. It means, "We are not equals."

    • Always frame people in blue; it is soothing and also a demonstration of power.

    • If you want someone to rememeber something, present it in yellow against a blue background.

    • Life is a movie, not a photograph. But you can tell a lot from a photograph.

    • To establish an empathatic channel with someone, use the same word as they do.

    • A head tilt is one of the most powerful comfort signals there is. Abusive
      mothers do not tilt their heads toward their children.

    • You can tell which child a parent favors by his or her body language. Watch for the weaker, more relaxed leg toward the favored child.

    • There is no single behavior that is indicative of deception; just look for indicators of stress. Which you can find out about in Navarro's book, "What Every Body Is Saying."

    Before I tell you about how I made a geek of myself in front of one of my heroes, I will tell you that I made a new friend upon checkout, and we are suddenly BFFs and tomorrow AM we will go to yoga where he promises to teach me to fly! (It involves me balancing my pelvis on the soles of his feet.)

    OK, so we're leaving the cocktail party, walking up the blustery, leafy streets of Camden, and a guy with a radical mop of hair asks us where the restauarant is and is the party still going on. I take a look and without thinking, I blurt out, "Are you Malcolm?"
    "Yes I am."
    I introduce myself and tell him I am a huge fan. And of course he thanks me.

    This is Malcolm "Blink" and "The Tipping Point" Gladwell.

    And then we told him where the party was and send him on his way. And I start hyperventilating and staggering up the street because I have read his work and it has affected me most profoundly. And then my new friend Michael and I start emailing and texting people that we just met Malcolm Gladwell as we say "holy shit" to each other over and over again.

    This is going to be an amazing conference. It feels like the first day of the best semester ever. Holy crap. Malcolm Gladwell.

    I am such a geek.

    Tuesday, October 21, 2008

    The Maine Event


    Cousin Elizabeth's daughter, Mary, can kick
    anyone's hiney when it comes to monkey bars.

    Each October I haul my tukus all the way to Maine, where I go to recharge in nearly every way. First I spend time with family, get all gushy, and fantasize about moving here (where you can buy a huge house with water view for 300K, a Victorian manse for $600K). Then I hit Pop!Tech in Camden, which fills my head with radical and innovative ways to make the world a better place. (Feel free to drop in any time, the conference will be webcast!)

    It is all a state of absorbtion. Absorbing the good, good fun I have with my cousins and their kids. Absorbing words from great minds and souls like Malcolm Gladwell, Chris Anderson, Brian Eno, Imogene Heap, Tom Friedman (I bumped into him last year, got all weak-kneed and asked him to sign my book), the people who started KIVA ... the list goes on. The world's best thinkers and creators, telling us how they did it and what we can do.

    And each October, I realize how I need to quit whining and realize how lucky I am that I can come here, that The Powers That Be at work are supportive and understand that if I don't feed my creative brain I might die, that my family is hilarious and lovely and will take me in, no matter what tales of chaos I bring to the table.

    Oh, and have I mentioned that my last 4 out of 5 meals have involved lobster? ($3.99 a pound! Bad for the lobstermen. Good for us, though.)


    My handsome, charming and freaking hilarious cousin Seamus serves up a "lobby."

    Friday, October 17, 2008

    It's Just Not Working Out

    Dear Frigidaire Dishwasher,

    I loved you from the start. You, with your shiny stainless chest, your sleek black sides. That Smart Soil SensorTM that separated you from all the other contenders. Those cute little groaning noises you made when you were working really, really hard.

    You fit in so well with the family: The stainless/black Frigidaire fridge, stove and microwave. Don't you remember when we were all so happy together?

    You gave and gave and gave, only asking for a little Jet Dry in return, every now and then. And I?

    Well, I don't like to keep score. You know that. I'm not petty. But I think you should know that I had my WHOLE GODDAMN COUNTER replaced, in GRANITE, so that you would fit nicely, not jutting out like an ass all the time from the original too-narrow 1947 tile counter. I had to fire one counter guy and fight with the second, who drew on my freshly painted wall IN PEN, just so you would have a frigging decent home.

    But then you got all leaky -- major puddles -- and I couldn't figure out where the water was coming from. I even ordered a $13 gasket smaller than the top to a small yogurt container that came in a gigantic box.

    OK! So maybe I didn't hire a "professional" plumber to get you all back and nestled into place. Maybe I didn't "realize" that you need only special dishwasher soap. And maybe, just maybe, I should have "turned on the water supply" before running you again to see if my Christian Science approach to your healing had worked.

    That stinky smoke smell you've been belching out all evening? Is that a hint? Do you hate me? Do you want me to replace you with a younger, shinier model? In this economy?

    You know what? I don't know how to express what I'm feeling in words. I'm still processing. Can we just take some space from each other for a while? Good. Because I'm going to Maine to Pop!Tech for a week and I'll just leave you home alone to think about what you've done.

    Yours in Christ,

    Vanessa

    Thursday, October 16, 2008

    Cheap Chic! Body Lotion!


    My fave bloggers are all about living on the cheap these days; to wit: Bake Like a Ninja and Half-Assed Kitchen. They also happen to be hilarious and lovely people, too.

    I work with a sassy and charitable and funny woman named Katie. Over lunch the other day, we lamented that our high-power friends who ALWAYS make money are scratching around for work. Our sort-of employed creative type friends (the class to which I usually belong) are having a REALLY tough time of it. What we realized that in this time of roller-coaster economics, we're kind of like bonds. We're not in the sexy or exciting job. We tell people we work at the power company and they're all, like, "eh." But what we traded for is stability, and the good feeling we get when we can take our friends who need it the most to lunch.

    Which leads me to a new feature on 40licious called "Cheap Chic!" with a cost-cutting measure so that you can still live your fabulous glam life, but without spending a lot of dough. Today's entry: Body Lotion!

    Body Lotion!
    Assemble all the creamy lotiony stuff people have given you over the past couple years that you never quite took to, or products that you bought for your face but didn't work out. Now empty them into a large measuring cup, and whisk them around for a while. Add some olive oil, drop by drop, to increase viscosity. Then add a drop of essential oil or two, or maybe some vanilla extract, and put it all back in the most decent bottle you have from the bunch, maybe with a new label. Voila! New life for old lotion! More space on the shelves! No perfectly good stuff in the landfill! No having to hassle with the overly made up woman in a lab coat at Macy's!

    DUDES: You can also use this as a thoughtful, homemade gift for your lady. She won't even notice her stuff is missing. HOWEVER: MAKE SURE that you are not using her Creme de la Mer or similar expensive face cream that she relies on every morning to make her feel human. Your gesture will backfire and you will feel bad, and then she will feel bad because she knows you were trying to do something nice, but damn, that stuff costs $119 at the Duty Free place and, well, just never mind. Thank you, honey.

    Wednesday, October 15, 2008

    Irony Check

    On a scale of 1-10, how ironic is it to administer my glucosamine, probiotics and vitamin tablets with a swig of organic merlot?

    Getting Engaged



    This video made me want to do something to help somebody. To engage with the world. To shut my trap and actually do something with the creative brew inside. To be a better person.

    Will.i.am for VP!!!!! Write in!!!!!

    Monday, October 13, 2008

    Two Weddings


    #1 - Saturday night
    Malibu beach at night. Beautiful dahlias and matching red and orange tablecloths. Congressman with dentist-white teeth officiated, full bar. When I say "Malibu Beach," I mean that. We were not allowed to go inside the historic mansion. Cold. Gathered around heat lamp. Sneaked back to cocktail area, swiped red shiny tablecloth and wore it as my wrap the rest of the evening, as we foraged for food. To be fair, they DID serve food. Tiny burgers, cones of fries, grilled cheese that quickly cooled in the windy night air, little Chinese containers of shrimp chow fun. Danced and danced and danced in order to preserve all limbs from falling off.

    #2 - Sunday morning
    Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at LA Music Center. Bagpipes ushered us in. Stunning view of Downtown and mountains from 5th floor on impossibly crisp, clear LA day. I was inspired to begin with, because the bride is my good friend Liz, who is 62, has never before been married. She was fine, alrighty, with her perpetually terrific haircut and living her good political life, making the world a cleaner, greener and more honest place. Then six years ago she went to the opera, by herself, and the man who sat next to her, also by himself, was to soon become her best friend. Then boyfriend. And now, husband.

    The amazing thing about this wedding was that it was all organically Dale and Liz. From the second the 60-something matrons of honor took the stage, I became unraveled. He read her a thoughtful, funny, poignant letter of vows. She read from her hurriedly scribbled paper, tacking on a "right to revise and expand" clause. The officiant was kindly, warm and wise in his words. One child sang "Home," from the Wiz, another played a slow and sweet excerpt from a concerto whose composer has left my brain. Throughout the ceremony and reception, Dale and Liz were cool, collected, and wildly passionate about starting their lives together.

    I choked through mascara-laden tears because I was so truly, genuinely touched by how they made this day their own, how they will go forward and make their life their own.

    And I took their vows, and made them my own. Just in case.

    Wednesday, October 8, 2008

    Woefully Unhip


    My coworker Steve has quit his job. He wants to do more meaningful things in his life. Like go to Southeast Asia for three weeks on Monday.

    My heart is heavy for two reasons: Because he was one of the two people from work who came to see Barry Manilow with me in Vegas for my 40licious birthday, and that cemented our friendship forever; and because he gets to move on, and not me.

    Tonight Steve and I went to celebrate and calibrate at the Edison Bar downtown, which is beautiful and mysterious and at the end of the evening, a woman in an angel bikini sauntered out and got in a cage, which was rasied over our heads. She did splits and intense gyrations 20 feet above the ground. I hope they paid her well.

    I have usually operated on the principle that I am the one who is likely to change. That I normally have a mouth full of news when someone asks what's up. Tonight, it's not me. Tonight, I'm the audience. Tonight, I'm staring down property tax bills. I'm glad that the dramatic spotlight falls on someone else's beautiful face. Just for tonight.

    Monday, October 6, 2008

    Friday, October 3, 2008

    A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

    I used to be open, loving, trusting, funny. I used to be patient and flexible and have a ton of cash on hand, just in case. People used to ask me, "what's up?" and I would could be cool and pithy in my reply.

    Now, I am none of those things. I am a hardened woman. And broke. I have traveled to the inky depths of my soul, and it scares me.

    You see, I have just undergone a kitchen remodel.

    Arthur, my contractor, is a lovely man. He was really, truly considerate and wanted everything to be right. His workers, Luis and Francisco, were flirty to the exact correct degree and quite talented and respectful, for the most part (I am overlooking the cigarette butts in my pepper plant and the mysterious disappearance of my eagerly anticipated leftovers.) Everything was priced just fine. I hired a different guy for the counters, fired him because he was a jerk, then hired a man married to my coworker to do the counters.

    I'm getting weeded by details, but suffice to say, after many, many trips to Home Depot, a leak in every hose, dust in my nose, electrical erratica, and more cultural and language barriers than Sarah Palin at tea with a Pygmy king, my kitchen is complete.

    It started like this. It had gone virtually unchanged since 1947, with perhaps the addition of new appliances in 1974.

    Then I arrived in summer of 2005, introduced the new appliances, an Italian ceramic tile floor and a paint job that turned out to be waaaaay too pink.


    I was carried away with the DIY spirit, and figured new hinges and a brightening of the cabinets would do the trick.


    Um, no. I was thinking "ballet class" theme with pink and black and white. Instead it was more like, "French prostitute flophouse."

    There was also an orange incarnation of cabinets, but that was too ugly for pictures. None exist, so please do not pester me with requests for photos. Like you know you want to.

    Then I went with just white and black and lived like that for a couple more years. Hinges didn't work quite right. Doors didn't shut all the way. Used a rickety metal cabinet I found on the street that left rust stains on the floor. Finally, the cumulative effect was to make me crazy. I'd snicker at the unstable cabinet and hurl insults at the doors when they kept popping open. It became time to ask for help. Professional help.


    After an initial extortion bid from Home Depot ($22,000 for cheap-ass resurfacing! With vinyl! On my cabinets!) I found Arthur from the underground network of people tippped off by the Home Depot coordinator when someone doesn't work out for them.

    There was this.


    And now, I am pleased to introduce my beautiful new kitchen. Come over sometime and I will proudly make you a sandwich and place it on my loveliest plate, which you can see through the clear glass in the cabinets.

    Sunday, September 28, 2008

    Success!

    Lisa is even sassier than I am in photos, if you can believe that.

    Today, 29,999 other people and I walked all around Newport Beach's Fashion Island (I actually thought it was a real island. Alas, it is just a chi-chi mall) to look for a cure for breast cancer as part of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

    We did not find it. We found a ton of cheerleaders, funny dudes in tutus, Boy Scouts handing out water and balancing cups on their heads, and one zillion cute babies. But hopefully, we are closer than we were yesterday to finding a cure. The walk so far has raised $1.42 million

    In case you were waiting to give until I actually PROVED that I walked, please note the picture of me of me and my excellent co-worker, Lisa. I would never, ever in a million years wear a shirt or a baseball cap like that on my own personal voiltion, so you know it's authentic. It's not too late to give, either! It's cinchy, just go to www.ockomen.org/race/vmcgrady.

    Thanks, everyone, for all your support. I know a lot of regular 40licious readers gave, and I'm so glad I could reach out this way.

    Saturday, September 27, 2008

    Radical acceptance

    I go to yoga whenever I can, whenever inertia does not get the best of me. Not only is it good for my high-water bootie (my hairdresser SueAnn remarked today that I have a butt like no white girl she's ever seen, which I'm hoping is a good thing), but also, sometimes the teacher will say something in passing but it will stick to me in the most profound way.

    For example.

    Last week Shad spoke about "radical acceptance." He was initially referring to accepting how our bodies were feeling as we dragged them in on Saturday morning. Stiff, creaky, perhaps a teensy bit hungover, whatever. Then he went on to talk about how once you fully and totally accept something, you can begin to change it and move forward. Actually, actively NOT accepting a situation or a person or even a bum leg takes quite a bit of energy, because you aren't moving forward.

    I love the idea of applying radical acceptance in other ways. Maybe I should accept that I'm 40 and it may be a little late in the game to have a baby -- and then I can move on toward getting myself set up to adopt. Or be the best auntie ever. Or I could radically accept that my brother and I won't have the same relationship we used to before our dad died, and stop trying to act like it will get back to normal. Maybe if I radically accept that we are different, as indiviudals and as a family, then I can move toward making a new and different relationship with him. And then there's radically accepting that I may never look good in a tiny black and floral silk miniskirt that's a half-size too small that I've held on to for three years. Once I accept that and get rid of it, I can move on and find something more suitable.

    What should you probably accept in the most radical of ways?

    Thursday, September 25, 2008

    This Is How Amazing You Are

    $1,745

    That's how much you've donated to my Race/Walk for the Cure effort. You people floor me.

    LuLuBelle and I will make the trek on Sunday in Orange County, in memory of my colleague, Charlene McComas, the original corporate wacky redhead.

    But it's not too late! We are still gleefully accepting small change and big bucks at www.ockomen.org/race/vmcgrady.

    And thank you, all, for every penny you've given so far. You're amazing.

    Can we get to $2k? Y2k? Why not?

    Friday, September 19, 2008

    Reverse Warrior


    Yoga is a metaphor for everything else. You seriously could drive yourself half bats making all the intellectual, spiritual and emotional connections. In yoga there is a counter pose for every pose. When you spend time bending forward, you move into a back bend. When you stretch left, you stretch right. And so on.

    There is a series of poses called "Warrior." For Warrior II, one foot faces straight forward. The other swings behind and points to the corner of the room. The front knee bends and the back leg stays straight. Arms are straight, like an arrow through the torso, in front and behind. Head looks forward, gazing over the fingertips.

    When you reverse your Warrior, you bring your front arm over your head, and bend backwards.

    As I was reversing my Warrior this evening, I wondered how that could translate. What if we all tried to reverse our Warrior? What if every time we felt super pissed off, we automatically provided the opposite of that and sent love to the object of our anger? So yesterday, when this chick at work was condescending and treating me like a moron, maybe after my initial furiousness, I could have gone over and given her some chocolate. And I would have felt a little better. And maybe she'd think harder next time she said something insulting. And we'd both walk away with a little more sweetness in our day.

    On a national level, what if instead of bombing the crap out of people, we showered our enemies with money and clinics?

    Consider this:
    What if we gave HALF of that $555 billion to Iraq and built schools and hospitals and helped them with infrastructure issues? And then we took the other half of that money, kept our soldiers home, and used it to rebuild New Orleans and Texas and anyplace else that needed a hand up? Or, gee, I don't know, bought health care for everyone here? Or paid teachers like basketball players? Nobody dead! Everyone happy!

    There very well may be some kind of life after our stint on earth. Actually, I'm banking on it. But in case there's not, or in case it's not what we think it might be, this may be the only chance we have. Right here, right now. This is the kir royale, the appetizer, the palate-clearing sorbet, the entree, the dessert and the double espresso. All of it. So why not try to make it better for everyone involved?

    How will you reverse your Warrior?

    Tuesday, September 16, 2008

    What Can I Trade Myself in For?

    Today I went to my lovely and assuring acupuncturist, the Golden Monkey, who is treating my sciatica. He asked, "How are you?" Instead of keeping to the topic at hand, I blurted out everything I wanted him to change. I think there was a list of five in addition to making my leg normal again -- including ridiculous things like "I want to be skinny," "I want my kitchen to be finished" and "I want my hair to be long again."

    He suggested we just go with the leg for now.

    And then he stuck all the needles in an I zoned out, like I do, all drooly and sleepy. I woke up to feel a man next to me. Like someone was floating hands over my body, as if he were doing reiki. And then I heard the door open and Matt come in.

    After he pulled all the needles out, I asked him how long he'd been hanging out before he retrieved the needles. He said he hadn't been. I told him I felt someone there, and asked if perhaps he'd heard tell of a ghost.

    He was very nonchalant about the whole thing.

    But I'm super sensitive, because the other day, Luis said that as he was working on the kitchen, he saw a man holding a book sitting in my chair. And then he disappeared.

    I guess it's time to call the psychic and see what all of this is about. If anything. Or maybe I just need a looooooooooooong vacation.

    Monday, September 15, 2008

    You Are Amazing

    $1,555

    That's how much I've raised in this campaign for the Susan G. Komen Foundation so far. Most of my friends aren't wealthy. A shockingly huge number of them are, in fact, unemployed. They are, however, big hearted and have vision and power. The only downside to this is that now I owe, like, 85 favors.

    You are all AMAZING.

    And it's still not too late to sponsor me and LuLuBelle as we hike around Orange County looking for a cure. I think they've hidden it somewhere, like Easter eggs. Lu will find it. She is bionic in the sniffer department.

    Go here to see what I'm talking about.

    Thank you, a thousand times.

    Friday, September 12, 2008

    $60! That's It!




    Due to your AMAZING generosity, I have far surpassed my original goal of raising $1,000 for the Susan G. Komen Foundation Race for the Cure. I set a new mark -- $1,500 -- and I have only $60 to go until I meet that!

    So if you have been hemming and hawing about donating, or if you thought about spending money on something foolish, like cocaine, Ringling Bros. Circus (it's terrible now, your kids will have more fun at the park), "surefire" stocks, The Product That Will Finally Make Your Hair Perfect, holiday-themed dinnerware, an empire-waist tunic from TJ Maxx that is on sale but will only be hip until 10 minutes ago, or Bio Bags, please, consider donating instead to this cause.

    It's so easy and you can feel rigteous and smug at tax time!

    You can click away here: www.ockomen.org/race/vmcgrady.

    Lucy and I will be walking on Sept. 28. I think it's 100 miles or something. We'll bring enough water and snacks.

    Thanks again, to everyone who gave. Your generosity floors me.

    Thursday, September 11, 2008

    Seven Years Ago

    Seven years ago I woke up to the sound of a plane zooming way too low for comfort. Then a crash. I thought it was Blue Angels, cursed them under my breath, and tried to find sleep again. But couldn't. The phone rang. I answered it -- Linda was still asleep -- and her frightened friend told me to look out the window.

    The first plane had just hit. I yelled for Linda to wake up. For the next two hours, we watched all of it. Crumble. People falling. Paper everywhere. We screamed, then cried, and did both, and went back to the window. And turned away. And wandered the ashy streets, as if there were something we could do.

    In shock, I walked miles and miles uptown to find my Dad, who was also visiting New York. I didn't know what hotel he was in. I kind of circled around midtown. I couldn't reach my brother all day, but lo, he walked up to Dad's hotel right at the same time I did. The three of us sat on the bed, watching those towers fall and fall and fall and fall and fall and fall. I kept crying. They didn't quite get it, because they didn't SEE. Really SEE it. Happening.

    I'll tell you the whole story sometime if you ask, because it is weird on so many many levels. And I am changed. And Linda and I have a different friendship, aside from being college roommates and friends after. I am worse and I am better.

    I am worse because before that, I had no real comprehension of how awful people can be to each other. I am better because my heart breaks every day for those people who left for work, perhaps in a fight, perhaps in a French kiss, perhaps not wanting to wake the other, and never came home. I have vowed since then to let everyone I know I love them whenever we say goodbye. Because I want them to know it, if we never see each other again.

    By the way, I love you. You all know who you are.

    Tuesday, September 9, 2008

    I Am Big In Texas

    I'm here in Houston for training and feel somewhat confined to my not-quite-urban neighborhood. So I decide to walk around to get dinner and pick up a few things for folks back home. Best place to do that is a 20-minute stroll down the road to the Galleria, home of Neiman Marcus, Saks', Missoni, Jimmy Choo etc. My boredom and slight annoyance with the homeogenity of it all was dashed to the barnacle-ridden rocks below when I saw that Oceanaire also lived at the Galleria.

    Now, when I was a food and travel writer for Sunset and other publications -- this is Seattle circa 2005 -- I did dine at possibly the best fish house in the country, the Oceanaire (and other fine establishments) on a regular basis. The chef there used to make me tuna poke when I asked for it, even though it did not exist on the menu.

    So tonight, I practically prance into the place, gushing about what a huge fan I am, and they show me to a table. Franken flops, cargo pants, dumb short hair pulled into a ponytail (I am desperately trying to grow it back, 2000 mgs of MSM a day), no makeup.

    But after I ask the busboy to check if the chef will make poke, they switch into celebrity mode. My waiter insists that I try no less than four types of wine. The manger comes over with a little bow and hands me his card and asks if there's anything he can do. The chef comes out and shoots the shit as he hands me my poke. The waiter has me on his radar and gives me his card. The chef comes back after the subsequent courses and gives me his card too.

    Did they do a retinal scan?
    Did they tap my email to discover that indeed, I am writing for Sunset again?
    Did they think I was someone else?

    Probably, but I can't imagine who.

    Regardless, tonight I fall asleep full and happy in my Heavenly Bed (TM).

    Because in the state of Texas, I am alone and a star.

    Saturday, September 6, 2008

    I May Move In With My Mother

    Contractor shows up only sporadically these days. Still no water in kitchen, washing the few dishes I use in the bathtub. Dust is everywhere. My dog is pooping dust, I fear. Maybe it's good for her, I don't know.

    Today I came home to find:
    • kitchen cabinet doors on and painted the exact shade I wanted (good)
    • outlets in kitchen and office blown out and not working (bad)
    • workers thought enough to plug fridge into bedroom outlet with extension cord (good)
    • attempted to put food back in finished cupboard but new door doesn't open right (bad)
    • frozen lasagne! (good)
    • outlet for microwave and oven is out, I forgot (bad)
    • Kite Runner arrived on Netflix (good)
    • Ate crackers and tapenade for dinner (bad)
    • My Race for the Cure pledges are up to more than $1,200! (AMAZING!)
    • Nat and SG and Connie call and force me to come out for late-night party in Los Feliz (I love my friends so much)
    HOWEVER, the evening was redeemed when Angie turned me on to my new favorite time-waster, CAKE WRECKS, a blog about horrible professional cakes. This kind of blog, ladies and gents, is what makes our nation great.
    Um, somebody has to cut into this, eventually. Hello? McFly?

    Friday, September 5, 2008

    SU2C

    SU2C


    You can say all you want about the people in the entertainment industry. They're mean and temperamental. They're hogging all the Botox and Wellbutrin. They fostered the careers of Danny Bonaduce and Renee Zellwegger. But you know what? They're doing something government, the UN and any health organization hasn't. They are coming together around cancer, to try to get past the tipping point between searching for a cure and making cancer as harmless, as, say, dandruff. Take your pick of NBC, ABC and CBS tonight -- Friday, 8 p.m. -- to watch Stand Up 2 Cancer, and help get us that much closer to a cure. (You can also kill an amazing amount of time watching all the videos and whatnot until the actual event. Not like you'd kill time or anything ... you just read the Internet for the articles. I know. But still.)

    Also, I'm only about $400 away from my $1,500 goal for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. Think of all the stupid stuff you spent money on this week. That greasy lunch. Those flats you thought were cute but now aren't and rub a little bit on your toe. Scented candles as a gift because you couldn't think of anything else. Now, it won't hurt you to throw $15 or so toward eradicating breast cancer, would it? I didn't think so. Please go here to donate.

    Thursday, September 4, 2008

    How Long Until Election Day?


    Old, Grizzled Third-Party Candidate May Steal Support From McCain

    I'd like to set some new ground rules for our erstwhile candidates and their supporters, because I'm very, very close to switching out completely and listening to JACK-FM in the car, and spending my online time at www.engrish.com.

    So. If you are running for president or vice president, I respectfully submit the 40licious rules for campaigning, from this point forward.

    1. Enough with the POW stuff. Yes, I know that was a terrible experience. I myself even visited POW camps in Asia to gain a better understanding of something incomprehensible. But can we please move forward? In fact, I'm not sure of the mental stability of someone who was in a POW camp. Do we really want someone with PTSD next to the Red Phone? Also, just because you have been locked in a cage, poked with sharp sticks, and forced to eat thin gruel for many years does not qualify you for president. I had to attend Chimacum Jr. High School where I was regularly taunted for the wrong hair/clothes/family/car/upbringing/friends, forced by seniors to put my foot in a bucket of liquefied cow shit, and made to eat "pizza" by student workers who eventually ended up in the county clink. With suffering=competence logic, that should qualify me for Queen of the World. But it doesn't have anything to do with anything, except I'm sorry that you suffered such pain, McCain. So don't come around.

    2. Nobody from any party can say anything else ever about taxes. It's all bunkie. Nobody believes you anyway. You will backtrack. Do we not learn from history? Can we all agree that in order to be a civilized, healthy and educated society, with roads to drive around on and firefighters to come over when we've accidentally burned down the kitchen, we will have to pay taxes? Here's what I'd like to see: a pie chart! Of how each candidate would have your hard-earned tax dollars spent! And then you can decide on which person is more in line with your values by how he divides the pie.

    3. Please leave pregnant teens out of it. And how pretty Palin is. And that she should stay home with her kids. That's so trite. So maybe it's true that Palin's son with Down's Syndrome is really her grandchild. Maybe it's not. Don't all families have that kind of stuffing in the closet? Didn't anyone read the Feminine Mystique? Doesn't ANYONE realize how babies are made?

    4. If I hear the term "hockey mom," "boy's club/Washington insider" or "special interest" one more time I may sick up.

    5. Is it completely unfair to hunt moose from an airplane? Of course it is. Is it completely unfair to eat dead cow killed by a shot to the head whilst it waits in line at the slaughterhouse? Of course it is. But I had Ikea meatballs in my fried rice for dinner, and so I'm not sure if I can complain about the hunting thing. I just had to impulse-buy a BLÖRGG and that was it.

    6. Why isn't anyone talking about the environment? Do they not see the brown smear that is urban sky during all their jetsetting? Is anyone carbon-offsetting their travels? Extra points for anyone who comes up with a semi-realistic plan.

    7. Enough with who does and who doesn't support the troops. Everyone supports the troops. Some people just want them to come home and stop getting killed.

    8. If your last name is McCain or Biden, can you please, just until after the elections, stop being so creepy? You're really ooking me out. Even the sound of your voice makes my skin crawl. Suggestion: Stunt double! I think Nick Nolte and Gary Busey are looking for work.

    Wednesday, September 3, 2008

    This Can Happen To You!


    So, as everyone by this time knows, I am participating in my first-ever "athon" event, the Orange County Race for the Cure to support the Susan G. Komen Foundation. That's for breast cancer. Which is a terrible, terrible disease.

    My good and wise and generous friend Paul answered my plea and donated some money, and then, just moments after, he found the SAME EXACT AMOUNT in cash on the street.

    Voila!

    So, I encourage any of you who are just THINKING about donating and haven't yet to go ahead, it's easy and fun and, heck, you just may end up with a little instant karma.

    The site is here.

    I am so honored and humbled by this effort and how people have reached out. Within 24 hours, you all have donated $775 toward my $1,000 goal. I may have to up that now. Because you are, simply, shockingly big-hearted.

    Tuesday, September 2, 2008

    I Hate Cancer - My First "athon"

    My friend, Charlene McComas, kicked breast cancer's ass five years ago. But then it came back and took her down in the ugliest of battles. She died in July.

    Most of you who know me understand that I am not a “joiner.” I don’t take well to crowds and organized activities. Yet I feel so strongly about the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s Race for a Cure that I am participating in a run/walk on Sept. 28 in Orange County.

    I’m hoping to raise at least $1,000 for the foundation — can you please pledge? Even if it’s just $1 or $5, it is a welcome addition to the cause and a chance to help make a change, for the better. And, hellooooooo charitable donation!!!!

    The site is here: www.ockomen.org/race/vmcgrady

    Because cancer sucks. And I hate it. And I can't possibly stand to see one more person I know die from it.