Friday, August 29, 2008

A Nation of Mediocrity

I don't talk much about work in this blog. But something struck me today. We work so hard to get renewable energy into California. This is energy that comes from the sun, wind, geothermal, water and cow poop and other organic waste sources. Of course you need to get that energy TO people, via transmission lines. Because everyone so desperately needs several plasma TVs, and AC, and computers, and chargers -- but they don't quite understand how electrons get to these devices.

So people all have their panties in a twist about transmission lines for renewable energy running their neighborhoods -- but why aren't they up in arms about the Wal-Marts, the Cheesecake Factories, the Abercrombie & Fitches that mushroom overnight? I understand nature abhors a vacuum, and apparently, so do consumers.

These places make us, as a nation, as a people, mediocre. They are the path of least resistance. They are the beige in the spectrum of fabulousness and character. Don't get me wrong. I've dashed into a Starbucks on numerous occasions, and certainly have shopped 'til I dropped at TJ Maxx. Perhaps I'm being pedantic here. But can't we just put them in some urban center, or promote unique, human-based business, instead of treating the corporation as our parents, depending on them for our sustenence?

Used to be that when you were in an airport, you could tell from the great miasma of people who was from Texas, who the New York punks were, the ladies from Florida, the surfers, the hardcore bankers.

Now it just looks like everyone went to the Gap.

We have this awful place down the street called the Americana at Brand which is kind of like Disney and Vegas with a shopping theme. There's a patch of grass and a fountain with spurts that dance to nonstop oldies music. The good thing is that it brings life to dusty old corny Glendale, with hipper-than-anyone Japanese teenagers; huge families pushing strollers, toting kids and one about to pop out any day; starry-eyed first daters who need somewhere to amble after dinner at the Cheesecake Factory.

My sadness is this: that there isn't the same kind of life or enthusiasm centered around a library, a sculpture garden, a gallery, a museum in this region. That the shrines we build and value as a nation are to consumerism.

Presidential hopefuls, are you out there? Can you help? Can you bring a little soul back into our spirit as a nation?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Leaping over Faith

Imagine an actress passing over an Academy Award. A scientist refusing the Nobel Prize. Anyone turning down the very thing that they pray for every day.

I just did that.

It's muddy in here.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


When you get to be 40licious and start bringing in a regular paycheck, you get to do grown-up things. Like buy property. And do mostly whatever you want to that property. Which is why I one day decided to TAKE OFF MY KITCHEN DOORS AND RE-HANG THEM. Which is really only a job professionals should do. And then, to repair the doors that wouldn't close, I took out my Makita and sanded those suckers down. And sanded. And you know what? They still sucked. And then I decided to paint. A charming pink, white and black theme, perhaps something a French prostitute might feel comfortable in as she whips up a post-coital omelet.


I've since toned down the pink and tried to keep the 1947 character of my home. It ended up like this.
But for the last two years, those doors just dogged me. I decided, finally, to change them. Which involved a lot of conversations telling people I don't like thermafoil, I want wood, I want to keep the cabinets, I want to do this all in the most environmentally friendly way possible.

After Home Depot tried to extort a colossal amount of money for some cheap-ass refacing with strips of veneer ($22,000! I could built a cabin for that in the woods. In fact, I think I want to move back to the woods right now, especially after my amazing camping trip), I found Arthur. He's well into his 70s, I'd guess, and kitchens aren't really his specialty, but he's certainly lovely, understands the wood issue, and will paint and do everything I want. And of course, it turns out I need a new countertop and blah blah blah. So it's a full-on remodel.

This is my kitchen now, and for the foreseeable future.

It is its own unique agony. However, there are many lessons learned so far, including:

1. It's good to take EVERYTHING out of your cupboards at least once a year. That Thai noodle soup mix that looked so good two years ago but languished in the back of the cabinet may make a welcome comeback.
2. It's better to have a plan than to just "go with it" and call around for the plumber when it's time to replace the sink.
3. It's easier to find pantry items and dishes if you organize them in a scheme similar to the way you had them in the cupboards.
4. You may think that having an excuse to eat out every meal is liberating. It is not. Keep your stove working if at all possible. Or you will become cheese and crackers, because that is all you will eat. Especially when your friends get sick of you asking if you can take THEIR leftovers home, too.
5. The neighbors might not be thrilled with workmen parked in the driveway. Bring flowers and OVER-apologize and you will assuage your guilt. Say to your other neighbors, "Well, if Diane was having work done in her place I wouldn't mind a workman in the driveway. We all need to be flexible." This is your campaign message.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Power of the Wish

A wish is like a prayer. Or feng shui, or putting it out the the universe, or practicing The Secret or declaring an intention. We all do it in little and big ways, overtly and subconsciously every day.

What would you do if the very thing you wanted most in the world showed up at your doorstep? In the most unexpected of ways? And whatever decisions you made to accept it or not would affect you and other people forever?

Would you:
a. freak out?
b. drink a glass of wine and ponder it?
c. be very very still?

I think I'll go with a combination of all three.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Yes, We Think We Can Dance

For some, it's glorious to watch Phelps glide through the water as if he were wrought from the loins of Neptune himself. For others, the ceremony and passion of nations coming together in friendship and sport warms cockles and muscles. For the McGradys, however, we've found our competition ... and we're in it to win it.

Ladies and gentlemen, sports fans and culture aficionados alike, it gives me tremendous pleasure to introduce two of my favorite people on the planet, Eirik and Bjorn McGrady.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Spare Change

If I weren't so fiendishly devoted to Sue Ann Jewers, my sassy redheaded stylist from Chicago, I'd go here, on Abbot-Kinney Road. Just because of this.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Camping, 40liciously

This 40licious is seriously considering becoming a vegetarian again.

I have received hundreds, if not thousands, of inquiries about where I've been from loyal readers. Thank you all for your concern!

I couldn't tell you where I was going, however, because I was delightfully surprised by a camping trip to an undisclosed location. Which turned out to be one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen, the Kern River. Do you know this place?

We bombed out of the city Monday morning. The gritty landscape gave way to the relentless, impossible desert. We drove to soundtrack of 88 specially selected road tunes. We had enough food for a family of eight, for a week (there were only two of us). Except we forgot things like cutlery and plates and dish soap. And what a fool I was for thinking that we'd only need a six-pack of beer!

Our campsite was magical, with a couple little trails leading to our own little slice of shore on the Kern where we fished, took baths, chilled out. A canopy of green kept out the hot, hot sun. We ventured out a couple times for fishing and hiking -- but it seemed better to just get "home," to Site 17 at the Hospital Flat campground.

Now I haven't been camping in years and years. Mostly because when I lived in the woods in Chimacum, off the grid, it was basically the camping experience with Internet access. But now that a few years have passed and I don't expect a bear might take a crap on my coffee table, I can resoundingly yell from the treetops that I want more Big Nature in my life.

Here's what I learned. Feel free to use any of these lessons, should you find yourself traipsing around the woods, sniffing your clothes to see which ones least smell like camp smoke, and swatting bugs for 72 hours straight:

1. Portion control: Really, there's no reason for two full coolers of food, plus a giant box, for only two people. I think the rule is that you're not supposed to eat more than your head's worth every day. You don't need all that variety. Instead of two or three cheese options, slice up a baggie full of some Monterey Jack and call it good.

2. S'mores are never as good as you remember them. If you must indulge, because it just wouldn't be camping without, just make one and split it.

3. You can usually be Zen and let the bees do their thing and you do yours. Usually. but sometimes, a bee will get sick of you, all hanging around their living room, stinking up the place with your leftover carne asada, rice and egg breakfast, and sting your ass.

4. Benadryl. Benadryl. Benadryl. In case you're deathly allergic to the above.

5. You can work the "I got stung by a bee!" sympathy for about 20 minutes, after which time, you have to go back to hauling your share of the stuff back to the truck.

5. You might take a lot of pictures and movies to help you remember your magic time out in the wilderness. Do not look at any of these during the trip. You will not like what you see. You will become obsessive over your puffy eyes and hair by God, and you will just keep trying to check out yourself in the car window. You cannot plug in your flat iron anywhere. Adding lip gloss will only make you look like a fool. Just go with it.

6. A shovel is the single most important tool you can bring camping. You can bat out fires with it and level your tent site. But most important, if you need to do what a bear does in the woods, it is much more elegant to excuse yourself to a remote, leafy location with said shovel and do it there, rather than to use the foul, stenchy, bee-ridden, holes they consider toilets at the campsite. Seriously, they have better bathrooms at Gitmo.

7. Your air mattress? It needs much more air than you think it does. Don't attempt to blow it up yourself, either. About $9 in quarters at the gas-station air pump should do the trick.

8. Fish have their own angels and trout are smarter than people, for the most part, which is the way it should be. I actually rooted for the fish (my friend very masterfully snagged two decent sized ones for dinner. I threw my cute little catch back).

9. Around a campfire, silly songs become meaningful and serious songs turn hilarious. Conversations become sacred as you pull out the old forgotten stories and heartaches. Whiskey doesn't get you drunk, just warmer and more insightful. Also, fireside lighting is quite flattering and makes up for all the puffiness and dinginess you accumulated during the day.

10. Upon arrival home, as soon as you drain the last ice chest and throw out the last waterlogged lump that used to be cheese or salami or sausage or chocolate, do not answer emails or phone calls. Do not read your mail or decide on the tile for your kitchen remodel. Instead, make haste to the nail salon for a full mani-pedi. The ladies who work there will roll their eyes at the condition of your hands and feet, and perhaps laugh and point, albeit politely. But you will have taken the all-important first step of returning to civilization. Which, sadly, is the reality.

You simply cannot go back to work with feet like this.

Friday, August 8, 2008


I'm sorry. You cannot read what I am thinking tonight. It's for the good of all involved.



Monday, August 4, 2008

I Trusted You

My dear, dear Bio Bag,

I wanted to love you. Oh, how I reveled in the thought that you and I would be eco-licious together. We'd go on to save the world. I'd tell two friends, and they'd tell two friends, and so on ...

I would stuff you full of kitchen trash. You would hold strong for me, and eventually return to the earth. Upon my cremation, we would wind up together once more.

But alas, we are not to be. It's not for the reasons you think, either. Did I wince at paying $7 for you at the hardware store? Yes, but I convinced myself that I was doing the right thing. For you. For us. For my children (arrival dates TBD), and their children.

Around the same time you arrived, I also noticed some tiny, tiny bugs flying around my kitchen. I wrote that off to seasonality. I kept the counters cleaner than a Calabasas housewife's, all sparkling for the impending arrival of her maid. I put the bowls of ripe fruit in the fridge. And still, the bugs!

Tonight, dear Bio Bag, was the end for me. The dealbreaker. The turd in the punchbowl. Tonight, as I went to empty you, you broke free from the refuse I trusted you to hold dear.
Orange rinds.
Wilted dahlias.
Suspect leftover macaroni salad.
Lettuce too brown to serve.
Tri-tip to tired to reheat.
All in an unholy stew.
Spilled free.

I am normally a very forgiving person, Bio Bag. But I'm over the edge.

And it's not like I have anything against you. In fact, it's not you, it's me. It's just that I feel I need more than you can give me. You know, maybe you should hook up with someone who has a cat and just needs something to line a litterbox. Or a scrapbooking Minnesota teen to hold the things unfileable. Or perhaps, I know, get to know the people who stage homes, so they look eco-friendly right down to the rubbish bin. Also, I think you'd find plenty of admirers in San Francisco and other places that have banned plastic shopping bags.

You're wondering if I will go back to Hefty, or to Glad, or to the generic 99-Cent Store bags of yore. I don't know. I don't know if we can even be friends. Will you just let me think for a second?

I need to figure it out -- and I have plenty of time, because there's half a roll of you left.



Saturday, August 2, 2008

Aha! I Get It Now!

The thing about 40licious is that your perspective gets better. You have more to look back on. More days to compare with each other. Your pattern recognition gets more acute, so that you can tell yourself, "I know where this is going. Don't. Not this time." And mostly, you will listen.

So now I realize that I have peace. My job makes me proud and happy more often than not -- and they pay me every two weeks, so that I can support my real estate habit and feed LuBelle all the organic kibble she can gobble. I'm getting better at F now that there are new strings on the guitar. I'm putting on a reading of my revised play. I can call JoJo and she'll give me license to not get sucked into codependent family angst. Tonight I will paint and watch the rest of La Vie en Rose. My neighbors are funny and lovely. Most every night, I go to sleep with a full heart.

Five years ago, the peace may have have acted more like a palette for trouble, for drama, for the next thing to go horribly awry. But tonight, the peace is palpable. I notice this. I am grateful.