Pick Me!

A weblog by Laura Moncur

1/1/2004

Resolutions

Filed under: Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 5:26 am

I’m not big on resolutions. I tend to change my life during Lent instead of at the first of the year. By the time I choose my life changing behavior, everyone else has given up on theirs. I’m a pretty consistent person, so I’m the one that notices that things are a hell of a lot busier at my gym at this time of the year. I just grit my teeth and hold on until mid-February when things get back to normal.

I am constantly in a state of resolution. I don’t sit down and think about how to change my life at the first of the year because I do that every day. I am constantly monitoring myself and trying to correct my foibles. New Year’s Day has no hold on me. It’s just like all the other days of the year.

I’m wondering if that habit is healthy for me. I am ever-critical of my behavior. Instead of looking for the good in my personality and actions, I am always looking for the evil to stamp it out. The thought of looking for the good within myself and reinforcing it, doesn’t sound right to me. Sure, if I were perfect, I could look for the good and keep it up, but that sounds like a maintenance activity instead of an advancing one. I want to make myself a better person every day. Isn’t looking for the evil within the way to do that?

All over the nation, people are shunning cigarettes and Twinkies. A lock went on the liquor cabinet and last night was the last one night stand, really. Maybe we should be looking at it differently. Maybe we should be deciding the positive things we want to do instead of the negative things that we don’t.

“I will chew sugarless gum and find friends who have healthy habits.”

“I will eat healthy food at regular intervals throughout the day so that I won’t starve myself.”

“I will write in my journal every time I feel the need for a drink. I will work through my emotions.”

“I will treat myself as a holy temple. Only those who are worthy are allowed into my life.”

Some of these resolutions were mine long ago and have become second nature to me. I no longer crave cigarettes. Others came naturally to me. I’ve never had a one night stand. I am a goddess worthy of only the best. I don’t know when I decided that, but it happened sometime in high school before I ever got a chance to test it. Others, I’m still working on. Eating healthy may be a lifelong struggle for me, but I work on it every day. New Year’s is just another day in a long line of days spent working on making my life better.

1/2/2004

New Mouse

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:14 am

About a month ago, I got a new mouse at work. It has four buttons and a scrolling button. It totally screwed me up. I’ve talked before about tactile learning, and this is another example of that. All of a sudden, I had a different mouse at work than I had at home and I couldn’t use my mouse at home.

It’s such a strange feeling to reach for something that you intellectually know is not there. When I used my mouse at home, my thumb would reach for the “back” button on my mouse, but it wasn’t there. No, damn it, that was my mouse at work. “I need a five button mouse at home!”

So I got one. Mike, the ever-vigilant husband that he is, bought me a five button mouse for Christmas. It’s a Logitech and my, it’s spiffy. It actually has a sixth button right on the top under the scrolling button. I have no idea what it does, but it has a little folder on it. Maybe it organizes my folders for me. Nah, only secretaries do that. I just tried it and all it does is switch between programs. I can do that with Alt+Tab anytime I want to.

Unfortunately, the problem is not solved. In fact, it’s even worse now. Now, I know that my mouse at home has a back button. My thumb instinctively reaches for it in the same place as my mouse from work and it misses every time. This mouse’s back button is in a different spot than the one from work. My poor thumb is as confused as ever.

It’s like when I suddenly find myself on one of those ergonomic split keyboard. They are totally out of fashion now, but Mike still uses one. It’s one of the reasons that I shun his totally cool computer in favor of my own. When my fingers are on the keys of his split keyboard, they are suddenly lost. They are at a different angle and the keys are ever so slightly off-kilter. Typing is impossible for me and my speed goes from 65 wpm down to about 20 wpm. Typing isn’t an intellectual activity: it’s a tactile one.

What will happen? Will I get to the point that my little thumb will learn where the back button is on both mice? Will I learn both of them and switch without even noticing or will my thumb forever revert to the buttons for the work mouse because I use that one for eight hours a day? Maybe I should just buy myself a Logitech mouse for work. Then I could have the magical folder button at work and at home. Then I wouldn’t have to Alt+Tab to switch between programs anymore.

1/3/2004

5K

Filed under: Health and Fitness — Laura Moncur @ 5:56 am

It means a lot of things. It’s the size of diamond that Jennifer Lopez got from Ben Affleck after his stripper indiscretion. It’s the down payment and closing costs on a reasonably priced home in the Salt Lake Valley. It’s also the distance of a race. In particular, a race I registered for last week.

Of course, the 5K is far overshadowed by the marathon. There is a $100,000 purse for the marathon and a $500 gift certificate for the 5K. I guess a marathon is over eight times longer in distance. If things were fair, the purse for the 5K would be $12,000. I wouldn’t be bothered, but I know I’ll be just as tired at the end of my race as those marathoners will be at the end of theirs. I’ll train for just as long, too. I’m just not as advanced in the world of running as they are, but I’ll be there soon.

ROXANNE: Oh, the marathon is great, isn’t it? JERRY: Oh, yes. Particularly if your not in it. – Peter Mehlman, Seinfeld, The Apartment, 1991

So, I will be training for the next few months to get ready for this race. The last time I ran a 5K, I was twenty pounds heavier and finished in 40:02. That’s a horrible time for a 5K. When the winners were crossing the finish line, I was only halfway through the course. Not this time. This time, I’m thinner and I have more time to train. I will be at the front of the pack. I’ve paid my $25 entry fee. There’s no turning back. I’m going to win for my age category at least.

Make way! I’ve got-I’ve got a runner here! Get outta the way! Make way! Make way! Make way, it’s a contender! – Gregg Kavet & Andy Robin, Seinfeld, The Hot Tub, 1995

I don’t know the time that the 5K will start compared to the marathon. I suspect that we’ll be long finished before the marathoners are even halfway done. When I look at their course, I realize just how long a marathon is. They start in the mountains, run through all our beautiful parks and end up at our biggest shopping center. They’ll probably finish right in front of the Virgin Superstore that our city is so proud of.

ROXANNE: I wish we had a view of the finish line. JERRY: What’s to see? A woman from Norway, a guy from Kenya, and twenty thousand losers. – Peter Mehlman, Seinfeld, The Apartment, 1991

For the next few months, I’ll probably will be talking about running a lot. Whether I’m training outside or at the gym, I’ll be thinking about it quite a bit. It will naturally show up here. Wish me luck!

1/4/2004

Raw Sewage

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:28 pm

It’s a lucky thing that I write these entries ahead of time. If not, I would have just disappeared off the face of the earth a couple of days ago and my weblog would have been silent. Here’s a sample of what my personal journal entry looked like a couple of days ago�

01-02-04 10:32pm

This year has come in like a lion, so I’m hoping it goes out like a lamb. If it holds for March, maybe it will hold for the year. We noticed that the drains were slow a week ago. Yesterday, they became impassable. When I took my shower late in the day, the tub took thirty minutes to drain. The toilet caused an overflow downstairs, so we called a roto-rooter-type place called The Drain Doctor.

Drain Butcher was more like it. It was all downhill from there. He came at five this morning and ran the roto-thing down the toilet drain. The drains seemed the same, but he said it would take couple of hours to fully drain. With trepidation, we paid him and let him leave. We hoped, rather than believed, that he was right.

By 10:30 am, we knew he was wrong. We called the Drain Doctor again and asked them to send him back. By the time 12:30 pm rolled around, we gave up on his coming and called them again. The plumber finally called at 1:30 pm with a lame excuse about just barely getting our page and would be there in 45 minutes.

He finally showed up, put the camera down the drain a mere ten feet and found water. Surprise, surprise, it wasn’t draining. Just like we had said on the phone (and knew before we even let him leave), the clog hadn’t gotten any better, so he went to get the super jet-rutter thing and a helper. They tried the small jet-rutter, then they tried the huge jet-rutter, which they ended up getting stuck in our pipes.

By 8:00 pm, they just cut off the jet-rutter hose and said they’d call us back tomorrow to get it out. Mike and I hadn’t used a rest room for nine hours. Additionally, Mike hadn’t slept at all the night before, so he had been up for over 24 hours straight. We were ready to freak out.

Thank God for Mom and Reed. They are letting us stay overnight in their Taylorsville condo. There is a bed and a washing machine. Most importantly, there is a toilet that can flush. We can shower here and do the laundry. We brought Sid and I am so grateful to them. I’m sure really good karma is coming their way as we speak.

I forgot to mention the most spectacular part of the whole thing. When they were using the smaller jet-rutter, they forgot to put a plug on the hole in the bathroom where the toilet had been, so a huge geyser of water sprayed our entire bathroom. Water that had been through the sewer pipes, mind you. I’m amazed that I didn’t break down and lose it right there. It is still unclean and lying open as we speak. Mike and I just left the cats at home, grabbed Sid and our laundry and drove to the condo.

Ironically, I think I asked for this. I sometimes feel like I control the universe because I am here, living what I asked for. Two weeks ago, Mike and I were going to run away. We were going to take a couple of extra days and go to Vegas or Boise for a quiet getaway. I told him that I wanted to relax and do nothing, so we decided to stay home. We were going to clean the house from top to bottom and then I was going to stay at home and just write and read and crochet. I was going to unplug and hide. No TV, no shopping, just a clean house, writing in my journal, reading a good book, crocheting the afghan, and listening to music.

As we speak, that is exactly where we are. We are hiding and isolated at Reed’s condo. No TV. Just my MP3 player, my book that I got from Stacey for Christmas, this journal and the dog at my feet. I am sitting next to the heater vent and I am unplugged. This is exactly the escape I was hoping for. I was planning on getting it at my house, but here, there is no choice. I have to unplug because there is nothing here to plug in. I’m doing laundry, which falls right into my cleaning house gig. Once we get this drain problem solved, that house is going to receive a cleaning like it has never seen before. That damn geyser hit the fucking ceiling.

I feel totally contaminated. I should take a shower as soon as I have some clean, dry clothes to change into. It is 10:45 pm and I vow to finish the laundry before I go to bed. While we waited for the plumber to come, I napped, so I can work a little extra right now. I also crocheted an entire skein on the afghan while I waited for them to get their shit together.

So, I’m vacationing in a strange house. Just me, Mike and Sid. Mike is finally sleeping. Sid, uneasy, scared, and feigning sleep, is at my feet. I am writing because that is what I do when I’m upset. I write. I put pen to paper and let all the frustration flow out of my mind, out of my heart, down my right arm and right into the paper. I just took a deep, cleansing breath. I can feel the stress leaving me. Tomorrow, we will meet the Drain Doctor at our damaged and abused home. They will correct the drainage problem. They will remove their damaged and abused equipment from the pipes of our home. All will be right with the world tomorrow. I just have to get through tonight.


The entire house has experienced the joy of Clorox. It only took $488 to get the damn thing out of our pipes. Our drains drain. Our toilet flushes. Our water flows. For now� The ominous prediction of future problems looms. It’s an 80 year-old house, and I’m still writing.

1/5/2004

Haircut

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:10 am

Alina cut four inches off. I told her to, so it wasn’t a surprise when she turned me toward the mirror. Two years ago, there was a failed experiment with bangs and another hair dresser. Ever since I found Alina, we have been growing out the bangs and this weekend, they were finally long enough to make the big cut. All my hair is the same length again. It’s all really short.

When you look at the hair magazines, it’s classified as “medium.” I guess it’s not short according to society’s standards, but compared to what I’m used to, it’s really short. It reminds me of myself in the 80’s. My hair was this length and cut when I was obsessed with living Molly Ringwald’s life. Now, you couldn’t pay me enough to trade places with her.

I look at my picture, here on the weblog, and I realize that I look nothing like it anymore. That’s the difference a radical haircut can make. Instead of the relaxed and casual woman with the hippy hair, I look like Sigorney Weaver in Working Girl. I look like Elizabeth Perkins in Big. I look straight out of 1986. I’m a determined business woman on the way up the corporate ladder.

There is the alternative. I could straighten my hair. It takes about thirty minutes every day and it is incredibly damaging, but I could wake up a little early and actually work on my hair instead of just washing it and allowing it to air dry. I could blow it out with a round brush and work it over with the flat iron. It takes some doing, but it’s entirely possible.

Of course, then I’m yet another person. When it’s straight with this cut, I’m still not the relaxed and casual woman with the hippy hair. I am the frigid bitch. I am Selma Blair in Legally Blonde. I’m Sarah Michelle Gellar in Cruel Intentions. I have a stick up my butt and I’m a successful business woman at the top of the corporate ladder.

The only way out of this is through. My personal style is long and curly. I needed to go short to fix my previous indiscretion. This is the penance that I have to pay in order to get back to my true nature. I will live through this short hairstyle. Within the year, it will be longer and closer to my favorite length. Until then, it will look good, it just won’t look like me.

In the end, I don’t really care about my hair. I’m happy as a clam because my toilet flushes and my drains drain. It’s absolutely amazing what I take for granted and how grateful I feel when I realize it.

1/6/2004

Lisa Loeb Glasses

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:27 am

That’s all I needed. If I straighten my hair and wear a pair of Lisa Loeb glasses, I look like a hippie chick just as much as I ever did with the long curly hair. I don’t know why I had forgotten about Lisa Loeb. I have the same haircut as she does when it’s straight. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it.

Now, I just need to go to Hot Topic and buy three or four different pairs of nerdy girl glasses. Wow! An excuse to go shopping! I think that I’ll get some with rhinestones. It has been so long since I’ve indulged in rhinestones. I’m totally stoked. This haircut is so me if I wear Lisa Loeb glasses. I can be a hippy chick and have short hair. Just in case you were worried about my style dilemma, I’ve got it all worked out.

Really, I don’t care because my toilet flushes and my drains drain. The rest is just frosting.

1/7/2004

Dreams

Filed under: Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:50 am

There is a point when I am waking up in the middle of a dream in which I don’t know what is the dream and what is my imagination. My eyes are still closed and suddenly, I can control the events within my dream. I must be awake and imagining a finale to the dream so that I’m not left feeling like I left the movie theater before the climax.

They say dreams are the windows of the soul–take a peek and you can see the inner workings, the nuts and bolts.  – Henry Bromel, Northern Exposure, The Big Kiss, 1991

Last weekend, I had a dream about a teacher and some students in detention. I have no idea where the dream ends and my imagination begins. I guess it doesn’t matter. The memory from both were both wholly created within my mind. For some reason, I feel like I’m not responsible or even own my dreams, whereas my imagination is my own. It is a source of pride and shame, whereas my dreams are merely interesting fodder for talk

Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.  – George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950)

When I was a teenager, we shared the bathroom. My mom, Stacey and I would all be together in the bathroom getting ready. The schedule for the showers went as follows: Me, Mom, Stacey. I would shower first, then move on to the makeup vanity. Mom would shower next and by the time she was done, it was time for me to do my hair while she put on her makeup. Stacey would stagger out of our bedroom right before Mom’s shower, but she needed food before she could be civil, so she ate breakfast before finally coming back upstairs to shower while I did my hair and Mom put on her makeup.

A schedule defends from chaos and whim.  – Annie Dillard

We were three women in a bathroom every school morning. Every morning we talked about our dreams. If we didn’t remember our dreams, we wouldn’t talk about them, of course, but almost every day one of the three of us remembered a dream. Stacey’s dreams were long rambling and incredibly detailed. I remember once she started telling her dream, I stepped downstairs for just a minute that turned into thirty minutes and when I came back, she was still talking about the same damn dream. We didn’t get to analyze her dreams. There wasn’t time. We just listened.

Dreams are postcards from our subconscious, inner self to outer self, right brain trying to cross that moat to the left. Too often they come back unread: “return to sender, addressee unknown.” That’s a shame because it’s a whole other world out there–or in here depending on your point of view.  – Dennis Koenig and Jordan Budde, Northern Exposure, Roots, 1991

Most of the time, we were able to analyze. It was like a game to play every morning. “What do you think this dream means?” We didn’t base important life decisions on the analysis. It was all for fun. It was like a parlor game for the bathroom and we played it every morning. With three active minds, there was always a dream to play with.

Dreams come true. Without that possibility, nature would not incite us to have them.  – John Updike (1932 – )

I miss that game. Mike can’t play it. Sometimes he tries to play it with me, but he doesn’t have ten years practice like I do. He takes the analysis too seriously. It’s like he’s worried that I’ll make a life changing decision based on the random firing of neurons. I don’t even know how to teach him to play the game correctly. After thirteen years of marriage, I don’t think it’s going to happen. Maybe I should just call my sister every morning so we can go through our dreams together. Of course then, the phone call would be two hours every time she wants to tell me one of her dreams?

1/8/2004

Get Out Of Dodge

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:43 am

After the sewer fiasco, we decided to go to Wendover. It is the place that the locals go to run away. Slimy and small, Wendover, Nevada is a two-hour drive from Salt Lake. They have a few casinos and hotels for reasonable prices. It’s a gambling town. Its sole attraction is gambling, which is outlawed in Utah. We don’t even have a lottery. We have to drive to Idaho for the lottery and Wyoming for the beer. There’s plenty of Jesus here, though, just in case you were worried that we didn’t have anything to turn to.

Being a mathematician, I’m inherently not a gambler. Every time I put a dollar in a machine, I can calculate the return on my investment. I’m always so surprised when the casinos announce their payback rate and it’s something like 95% or 97.3%. That’s like telling me that I’m losing 5% every time I play. Why the hell should I play? Plus, I’ve doctored enough numbers myself to know that those machines don’t payback 95% all the time. The only way I can win is if I don’t play.

I’d much rather pump my quarters into that Dance Dance Revolution game, anyway. That’s the machine I’m hoping the casino has. I love that game. I could play it all night and not feel like I got ripped off. It cheers for me when I do well. It boos at me when I dance poorly. I work up a little sweat and I love it. I could never do aerobics because they don’t have little arrows on the floor to tell me where to put my feet. This thing is better than any dance class I’ve ever taken.

I’m bringing books and my afghan that I’m crocheting. I’m going to sit in the jetted tub in the room and just relax. I’ll be far enough away from Salt Lake to not care about it anymore. I took time off work and I’m going to enjoy myself. I just feel like I need to get out of Dodge. Pray for good weather for me so the drive only takes two hours.

If you want some ideas on where you can “get out of Dodge,” check out Starling Travel:

1/9/2004

Dehumidifier

Filed under: Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:50 am

The first time I ever saw a dehumidifier, we were in North Dakota. Bobka, my great-grandmother, used to live in her own house in Pembina, North Dakota. It was right at the Canadian border. It was also the first time that I ever saw The Flintstones in French. I wasn’t bothered that Fred was speaking French so much that it was a different voice coming out of his mouth.

Anyway, there was a strange machine in her basement. Maybe it was an air filter. Maybe it was a furnace or something. I didn’t know what it was, but Bobka emptied a bucket of water out of it twice a day. Twice a day, this machine made water. Cool?

The more I thought about the machine the more confused I got. If Bobka wanted a machine that would make water, why would she just dump it down the drain twice a day. Why didn’t she drink it? Why didn’t she use it to water her lawn? Why did she just dump it out? I finally asked my grandma what the strange machine did and she laughed at me. I was an item of amusement to her with my weird little thoughts. It was a dehumidifier. It didn’t make water, it took water out of the air so it would be less humid in the house.

My desert eyes were amazed. There are machines that can take water out of the air? This could solve everything. I had just come to North Dakota from one of the worst droughts in Utah’s history. Why didn’t we have one of these machines in Utah? We could take the water out of the air and use it to water our dying grass. I had just lived through a summer in which I was not allowed to run through the sprinklers because of the drought. Our grass had turned dry and brittle. This machine could fix everything.

After I got back to Salt Lake, once again I became the subject of amusement. I told my mom about the magic machine that Bobka had that could take water out of the air. We should get one for the grass. My mother was a native of Millwaukee. She knew the machine of which I spoke. It wouldn’t work in Utah. There’s no water in the air to remove. That’s why we’re a desert. That’s why our grass is dying.

Last week, Mike and I bought a humidifier for our house. With the humidity at 19%, all of our plants were dying and the static electricity was threatening to mess up our electronics. After an hour of operation, the humidity was up to desert levels (25%). I wonder what a child from North Dakota would think about my magic machine that actually puts water into the air. Probably just be bugged because Fred Flintstone speaks in English with a different voice.

1/10/2004

Wendover, I Love You…

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 2:47 pm

01-09-04 12:45 pm: By the time this entry posts, I will be home. I probably won’t be unpacked. I might even still be waiting for Mike to bring Sid home from the kennel. When this posts, I’ll be home, but right now, I’m in Wendover.

For the first time in over 24 hours, we left the hotel. We hurriedly showered and dressed so that we could make the 10:30 am deadline for McDonald’s breakfast. Yesterday, we didn’t even let the staff clean the room. That’s what it’s like to hibernate. We hide in the room, leaving for food and rarely even leaving the hotel. Today, we actually let them service the room.

We allowed ourselves to explore all that West Wendover had to offer us. After McDonald’s, our first stop was the discount liquor store. Nevada has the amazing liquor concept called “the mini-bottle.” You may have heard of it. We can’t buy mini-bottles in Utah. They make us buy a huge bottle of the stuff. If we hate it, tough. We always buy lots of mini-bottles when we come to Nevada. It allows us to try new alcohol without committing to a whole bottle of the stuff.

We drove past the local strip club, Southern Exposure, and the dildo shop, the Blue Boutique. Same names as back home. It’s nice to see local businesses grow and branch out to other cities, don’t you think?

We drove through the small residential area here in Wendover. The mobile homes seem to outnumber the houses, condos and apartments all together. I can’t believe the mobile homes are sturdy enough to keep out the bitter desert cold. Some of them look so neglected that I’m amazed that they are still standing. The rust molecules must be holding hands.

If living conditions are poor, it doesn’t seem to affect the morale of the locals here. I am a people watcher. I watch them when they think that I can’t see. I see the locals working here. They talk to each other happily. The shop keepers were surprised at our presence, but not bitter. They seem happy. It’s nothing like Las Vegas. In Vegas it feels like the locals hate me. They want me gone. Don’t shop here. Don’t eat here. Just get out of my sight. No, Wendover is totally different. These people are actually happy here.

The visit to Wendover accomplished exactly what I needed. I needed to rest. I needed to hide. I needed to immerse myself in a town so wholly different from my own. How can I thank an entire town?

1/11/2004

Machine Ballerina

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 5:22 am

One of my favorite bloggers called it quits in a dramatic way. It was very Cartman. Her last post reads:

“I don’t want to write on my blog anymore. I think I’m going to take up personal correspondence instead. If you really want to know what’s going on with me, email me and ask. Or call. Or visit. I don’t like feeling like a product of mass consumption, and I don’t like being typecast, and I don’t like being analyzed, generalized, harped-upon and ignored. No more.”

Screw you guys. I’m going home.  – Trey Parker and Matt Stone, South Park

She has been writing off and on for about three years. When I mentioned it to Mike, we was very cavalier about it, “Yeah, all bloggers do that.” This surprised me. I’ve been writing every day of my life for almost as long as I can remember. My journals are boring outpourings of emotions and silliness, but they are consistent. Never once have I felt like a product of mass consumption.

Am I an afternoon’s pastime?
a thing on a string
to be thrown and retrieved
like a phone call received
on somebody’s birthday
to tease and delight
and then say goodnight
and then just say goodbye?
 – Suzanne Vega, Machine Ballerina, 2001

Will it be different because I am online? Will it be different because my journal is available to the world? Will it be different because I now have an audience? There are fifty of you out there now. What if there were fifty-thousand people reading my site every day? Would it make me feel like I was a product instead of a writer? What causes this? If it happens to every popular blogger, I need to head it off at the pass. I need a plan for this contingency.

Am I a toy on a tray ?
a soft piece of clay
queen or clown for the day
machine ballerina
soldier of tin
standing so loyal
while you sit so royal
then I’m put away?
 – Suzanne Vega, Machine Ballerina, 2001

What about the other arts? They Might Be Giants post a new song every single day on their answering machine. They call it Dial-A-Song (718-387-6962) and they consistently create every day. Did they ever have a meltdown? Was there ever a message saying, “We quit. You won’t have us to kick around anymore.” Somehow I doubt it. There might have been days when the message didn’t change. There might have been days when the message informed the callers that they were on tour. I just doubt that they ever told their audience to bug off. It doesn’t seem like their style.

Am I your Mad Magazine?
skin trampoline
pin-up pinball machine
your fantasy girl
of puzzling parts
but none fits or starts
we match wits but not hearts
I’m heard but never seen?
 – Suzanne Vega, Machine Ballerina, 2001

What about Johann Sebastian Bach? I don’t remember ever hearing the “Sod Off Concerto.” He wrote a new concerto every Sunday. His church needed new and inspirational music every week and he provided it time and time again. I’m sure there were a few weeks when they just performed an older piece or maybe the choir sang a chorale. I just doubt that Bach ever wrote the “I Hate You Ungrateful Bastards Cantata.” It doesn’t seem like his style.

For your approval,
perusal,
and your possible
refusal,
I’m amusing,
I’m a puppet for your play.
 – Suzanne Vega, Machine Ballerina, 2001

Guess what. It’s not my style either. If I’m going to quit, I’ll quit with grace. If I’m tired and need a rest, I’ll tell you that I’m tired and need a rest. The fact of the matter is: I AM A PRODUCT OF MASS CONSUMPTION. I’m quite proud of it, actually. Feel free to consume me. Unlike other commodities, I grow larger with mass consumption. Bring it on, baby!

1/12/2004

Physical Writing

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 5:01 am

The heater vent has turned off and I think both the washer and the dryer have stopped downstairs. I should get up and help get the laundry finished. I should hop in the shower and get ready for work. I should do a lot of things, but I’m still here, writing.

The only reason for being a professional writer is that you can’t help it.  – Leo Rosten (1908 – )

It feels good to let the words leave my hands and splash onto the paper. Sometimes writing feels like an entirely physical activity. I tried to explain this to Mike the other night, but he didn’t understand.

Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time… The wait is simply too long.  – Leonard Bernstein (1918 – 1990)

Sometimes writing doesn’t feel intellectual. Instead of racking my brain trying to find the correct words, the words flow too quickly. They are trying to escape my head, but my hand is too slow to let them all flow freely. Even the spoken word is too slow sometimes. When my words flow like water, writing is entirely a physical act.

We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to.  – W. Somerset Maugham (1874 – 1965)

Write quickly. Write fast enough to capture them all on paper. Oops! There goes another one. And yet another. So many profound thoughts are lost because my hand is too slow. That’s what writing feels like to me sometimes.

The way you define yourself as a writer is that you write every time you have a free minute. If you didn’t behave that way you would never do anything.  – John Irving (1942 – )

It is times like these when I feel like I should practice. I should be in training for writing the same way I am in training to run the 5K. I should just teach my hand to write faster. I should teach my fingers to type faster. Type faster than speech. Type faster than thought. If only I could type that fast, then writing would feel like an intellectual activity when my mind is racing.

Read over your compositions, and wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.  – Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784), from Boswell’s Life of Johnson

Of course, the real intellectual work comes after the words are on the paper. Read. Edit. Reword. Add some quotes to make it seem like I’m well-read. That is the true intellectual work of writing. After the idea is on paper, I need to train my mind to communicate clearly, but when the idea comes to me, I need to train my fingers to type faster. When the idea is flowing in my mind, I need the fingers of a sprinter.

1/13/2004

Kurt Cobain’s Journals

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 5:22 am

I don’t know which book store we were in. We go to so many that it could have been anywhere. It could even have been a music store, for all I know. I was drawn to the book because it brought to mind a very personal memory for me. The cover looked like a Mead Spiral Notebook. It could have been my journal.

Michael held it up and said that if he ever became famous, that I need to find all the notebooks that look like this and destroy them. I wonder how Kurt would feel if he knew that his personal journals are reproduced in full for the world to see. I wonder what he would think about the legal wrangling that went on for ten years after his death. Would he have written a concise and notarized will to prevent those problems or do you think he would have relished the drama?

What about my journals? I have boxes of them. Should I dispose of them? They aren’t flattering sometimes. My journals aren’t polished and shiny and clean. They look more like that Mead notebook of Kurt’s. Since the first time I put pencil to paper in fifth grade, I find that my old journals are embarrassing and trite. That first little journal was a small blue thing with a lock. Looking back on the entries is painful. I only turned to it when I was in pain and fifth grade pain is so simple and petty.

It wasn’t until high school that I faithfully started writing every single day, whether I was happy, sad or indifferent. Those entries feel just as simple and petty, though. I documented what I wore to school, who talked to me and how I felt about my favorite crush. As with all my journals, my words were censored somewhat. I always assume that someone will read my journal. That’s why it wasn’t so hard for me to go online. So what if the world reads my journal? My paranoia had me believing that I had no privacy long ago.

A strange side of me wants to digitize them. It wants to go back to the small blue book and start typing them in: misspellings and all. Why would I do that? Why would I waste time in the real world to document my thoughts of the past? Most people believe that journal writing is a huge waste of time anyway. Why would I waste it twice?

Some of those journals I haven’t even read in years. They have been moved from the apartment to the condo to West Jordan to Sugarhouse. The box is opened to verify what they are and then closed again until the next move. What a painful way to spend an afternoon, reading my old journals. If I’m not going to read them, why do I keep them? Why don’t I destroy them so they don’t end up like the Kurt Cobain Journals?

Maybe they are the only proof that I was there. Yes, I was in West Valley, Utah. I went to Academy Park Elementary School. They moved us to Hunter Elementary in sixth grade. Then I went to Kennedy Junior High. Then I went to Kearns High. Then I went to Westminster College. Then I went out into the world. Here I am. There I was. Here’s the proof.

If I destroy them, do I destroy myself? Would my past be destroyed as surely as the pages? Maybe that’s it. I’m planning on being senile. I’m planning on forgetting my past, so I have documented how I felt and what I did so that I won’t forget it. The only glitch in that theory is that some of my best and worst memories aren’t documented in my journals. You see, I assumed the world (or my mom) would read them, so I couldn’t write about the party that got out of control. I couldn’t write about the time that Calvin failed me. It wasn’t until over fifteen years later that I felt safe enough to tell those stories. In fact, there are other stories that I don’t even feel safe enough to tell right now.

So, they don’t truly document the past any more than a photograph could. I don’t plan on reading them, even if I become senile. They are too painful to even look at, much less read. So, why do I keep them? Is it for posterity? No, after I’m gone, I’m not going to worry about that. I’ll be dead. Is it for my unborn children? God, no! Don’t let them see those things! Why don’t I just throw them on the fire? I guess it’s just like Mother Nature said in that episode of Northern Exposure, “One of the things that keeps you from dropping them in the nearest volcano is that you had to work too hard to get them.”

1/14/2004

Your Weblog Is Depressing

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 5:42 am

Yeah, I know. Believe it or not, I’m not a depressed person. My mouth and vocal chords aren’t depressed. Anyone who talked to me would be happy and jovial and laughing at my rapier wit. Maybe just my fingers are depressed. So much of my writing is automatic. So much of my writing is a physical activity. I’ve decided to blame my fingers.

There’s a dark side to each and every human soul. We wish we were Obi-Wan Kenobi, and for the most part we are, but there’s a little Darth Vadar in all of us. Thing is, this ain’t no either or proposition. We’re talking about dialectics, the good and the bad merging into us. You can run but you can’t hide. My experience? Face the darkness, stare it down. Own it. As brother Nietzsche said, being human is a complicated gig. Give that old dark night of the soul a hug! Howl the eternal yes!  – Stuart Stevens, Northern Exposure, Jules et Joel, 1991

Who knows? Maybe I’m not a depressed person because I get all of this depressing stuff out of me every day. I write two pages of personal journal every day and from that, glean the good stuff for a weblog entry. I guess “good stuff” might be a misnomer if you find this weblog depressing. Still, I realize that this stuff isn’t funny or inspirational. If I found this weblog, I would stop reading it.

It’s cabin fever season people, that time of year when four walls feel like they’re going to come in here and choke the spirit right out of you. Time to lock away those firearms and hang tough. No way through it except to do it.  – Jeff Melvoin, Northern Exposure, Una Volta in L’Inverno, 1994

Yet, you are still reading it. I know you are out there. I see you log onto my site every day. I don’t know your names, but most of you are from the United States. Some of you are reading this entry on your PDAs. I must have scared away my reader from toro.com, but there are lots of you out there reading my entries on your lunch hours and late in the night while I sleep. I see you. Thank you for reading my site, even if you find it depressing.

Life’s dirty. Life’s unclean you know. It’s birth, it’s sex, it’s the intestinal tract. One big squishy, unsanitary mess. It never gets any cleaner either. You know, dust to dust, worms crawl in, worms crawl out, right? Even though we know that, we still walk the walk, we still live the life. We’re like a bunch of little kids. Little kids, you know, we jump in this big old pond of mud and we’re slapping it all over our face, rubbing our hair all down our backs and we’re making these glorious, gooey, mud pies. That’s us.  – Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider, Northern Exposure, Mite Makes Right, 1994

By the way, to the person who found my weblog with the search string, “Southern Exposure Wendover.” I’m sorry. I didn’t actually go into the club, so I can’t tell you what it’s like at all, just that it exists. It is located in the strip mall to the west of the Smith’s grocery store. I just found it ironic that Wendover didn’t have a Wal-Mart, but they had a strip joint. I guess people go to Nevada for two things and they aren’t relaxation and isolation.

Continuous unremitting darkness has been known to send some people into an emotional tailspin, so the management here at KBHR radio suggests locking away the firearms. The desire to stick that 45 between the teeth can get pretty strong at times, so why invite temptation.  – Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider, Northern Exposure, Northern Lights, 1993

I can’t promise that I’ll be funny. I’ve got to save all my wit and charm for conversation, I guess. Believe me. Most of my humor is of the slapstick variety and taking a pratfall just doesn’t translate well in the written world. I used to have a really funny weblog to recommend to people who thought I was depressing, but he hasn’t written for two months straight, so you’re on your own. If you find someone funny, send me a recommendation.

1/15/2004

Man, it’s cold…

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:47 am

As I write this, it is 19 degrees and foggy outside. One of my engineers just came back from a site visit and he said that his toes felt like they were going to break off before he would be able to get back into the car. I wonder how the surveyors feel out there. I have gone into hibernation.

I’m usually an outdoors person. I walk to the local restaurants from my home. I walk to the local stores from my home. I walk for fun to the park. I sit outside in my backyard just to enjoy the outdoors. Since Old Cowboy Winter hit us this year, I have been hiding in the house. It’s just too cold to enjoy a walk outside.

Of course, when I say it’s too cold to take a walk, I think about the New Yorkers. They walk everywhere. They walk to the Subway. They walk to their local stores and restaurants. They do it in humid cold, which is way worse than our dry cold. When it’s 19 degrees outside and 19% humidity, it actually feels like 19 degrees outside. When the humidity is up to 40%, it feels much colder. If they can walk to their restaurants in the freezing cold, what’s the matter with me?

Well, for starters, I’m not a New Yorker. I’m not forced to walk everywhere; I choose to. I have a perfectly functioning car that can keep me warm while I go out and about. I guess I just miss walking everywhere. It feels good to be outside in the sunshine and I miss it. When my engineer came back from his visit, I wished that there was a reason for me to freeze my toes outside and get paid for it.

I just need to get out there. Next time I feel like leaving the house for a local restaurant, I need to just put on my heavy coat and boots and walk there. The feeling of the cold air on my cheeks is invigorating and it feels even better when I finally get to my destination. Winter evenings are so quiet compared to the summer. It’s like the snow dampens the sound and keeps it from bombarding me. This brown bear is leaving the cave, no matter how cold it gets.

1/16/2004

Sun Drive

Filed under: Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

As drove home from work on Wednesday, the fog was so thick that I could look directly at the sun: no sunglasses needed. The massive red disk was just starting to dip into the mountains. If I had left for work five minutes later, I would have missed it. It looked spectacularly huge when it slipped right behind the Chevron refinery. It became part of the refinery and snapped out of the distance into the foreground. The sun looked like it was part of the refinery process, like some huge, red carefully controlled burn.

A child could have drawn this sun. It was perfectly round. There were none of those pesky sun beams flying off it, blinding me. It was just a huge crimson circle in the sky. I half expected to see a smiley face to appear on it.  I have been complaining about this fog, but I had forgotten how beautiful it can be. I had forgotten how it can obscure the sun enough to give me the opportunity to look straight at it.

The first time I remember being able to look straight at the sun, I must have been about six years old. It was after I went to first grade, but it was before my grandma moved to Billings. I was out in the backyard of her home on Windsor Street. Attached to her back porch was a trellis and there were large and orange honeysuckle blooms clinging to it. It was a hot evening and I was surprised that I could actually hear the wings of the hummingbirds, feeding on the honeysuckle.

I was just sitting in the backyard listening to the insect noises of the hummingbirds, when I noticed the sun. There were clouds obscuring it on the horizon, so I could look straight at the sun. I remembered a biblical story in which someone was blinded by the sun. I had accepted that story literally, not realizing that the sun can “get in your eyes.” I stared at the sun, trying to see if it would make me blind. It made a round burn mark that floated in my line of sight. I didn’t really consider that blindness. I stared at the sun until it went behind the Oquirrh mountains.

After it was gone, I ran inside to tell my mom and grandma what had happened. “I stared right at the sun and it didn’t blind me.” My mom dismissed what I said, “You couldn’t have stared directly at the sun. It would blind you.” I argued with her for about five minutes and I regretted that I hadn’t brought her outside to see the sun sink. She probably doesn’t remember that day.

Many times I have seen the sun look like this. It’s usually on a foggy day like Wednesday, but I have looked directly at that yellow disk through thin clouds. Sunsets, sunrises and daytime I have observed this phenomenon. It’s like I feel like I need to keep looking to prove to myself that it really happened because someone didn’t believe me once.

1/17/2004

Eskimo Words for Snow

Filed under: Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:38 am

They say the Eskimos have a large number of words for snow. I think that’s baloney. Two, maybe three, words tops is all I’m willing to believe from them. It’s not that I think that Eskimos don’t have the creativity to name all the different types of snow, it just that every thing that I have ever been told about another culture has been a lie. I’m reluctant to take this one at face value.

According to The AFU and Urban Legends Archive, it’s all bogus, so I guess my instincts were right. Well, if Eskimos don’t have a million words for snow, we Utahans should make some up. When I started writing, we had that tiny and  fine snow that reminds me of dandruff. It’s just enough to muck up your windshield, but not enough to clean the dirt from the street. Sometimes it just fools you and you think that the fog is really thick, but when you look closely, it’s snow.

When I was researching the Intuit words for snow, the flakes got bigger. They were only about half the size of Christmas Snow. It was the size and quantity of snow that sent my mom into a terror-induced trance one evening. It wasn’t the year of the horrible snow. It was before that and it was before the divorce, so I was younger than eleven years.

We had gone to Valley Fair Mall. You know how things are at the mall. They are warm. You take off your coat and carry it around with you, wishing you had just left it in the car. Eventually, you forget about the outside world and get lost in your errands. That’s what happened to us that night. It was a wonderful evening with my mom and Stacey when we stepped outside. She froze. The most vivid part of this memory is watching my mom just look straight up at the sky at those snow flakes.

Whenever I tell this story, careful listeners always interrupt me. “Isn’t your mom from Wisconsin?” I can see their minds click. It’s like a little cartoon balloon is above their heads. “Wisconsin gets major snow. Why would she be scared of snow?” I remember the day when I asked her those exact questions. “I grew up in Wisconsin, but I learned to drive in Virginia.”

Ah, yes. Virginia. My father was stationed in Portsmouth, Virginia during part of the Vietnam War. I was born in Virginia. I always imagine my young mother on the bus when she realizes that she could just learn how to drive my dad’s car. I can see her on a  bus in 1969 with a baby, trying to bring home groceries. It was so much easier to shop for groceries before the baby came. Here she was suffering, when she could just learn how to drive that car that just sits dormant while he’s away at sea. Easy decision. It’s a time of revolution. Women can drive cars now.

Ah, yes. Virginia. There are bugs the size of rodents and rodents the size of small dogs in Virginia. The reason the bugs can get to the size of rodents in Virginia is because it never gets cold enough to kill them. It doesn’t snow there. I had a friend who went to school in Virginia and she said that the one time it snowed while she was there, the entire city shut down. She said that there wasn’t even an inch on the ground.

Plus, there was that horrible frozen 7th East incident. When my mom first moved to Salt Lake City, she got a job at Grand Central on 7th East and 21st South. Ironically, I live within walking distance of the store in question, except it’s a Circuit City now. After closing, one snowy evening, my mom spent hours trying to get to my grandmother’s house on 17th South and Windsor Street: a three mile drive, tops. She spent several hours trying to drive a couple of miles back home on a “sheet of ice.” Every time she would use the gas, the car would slide. Don’t get her started on this story. The length of time it took her to get home gets longer every time she tells it.

So, my mom was scared of snow. She was scared of the ice. She was scared of getting stuck. She was scared of getting the girls home safely. She was frozen in a trance, looking at the snowflakes coming down from the sky. All of that fear faced her at that moment. I remember suggesting that we just call Dad and have him pick us up, but I saw something change in her for a moment. It’s a time of revolution. Women can drive cars now. She got into the car and drove us home that night.

They say that there can be no courage without fear. Unlike most things that “they” say, I know that this one is true because I saw the courage fill my mother’s body that evening. If I were given the chance to name the kind of snow that’s about half the size of Christmas Snow and falls quickly, covering the ground thickly within a few hours, I would call it Mother’s Snow. Eskimos might not have a million words for snow, but I do.

1/18/2004

Demon of Perfection Revisited

Filed under: Health and Fitness — Laura Moncur @ 5:06 am

I just realized that the Demon of Perfection has resurfaced in my life. He is not affecting my writing this time. No, I am writing every day like clockwork. It might not be perfect, but it certainly is consistent. I’ve been told that writing is really the art of editing, but I know that it’s possible to edit your work to its death. No, the Demon of Perfection is leaving my writing alone this time. It’s like he ran away because I noticed him.

For the last year, I have maintained my current weight. I have lost the same five pounds about three or four times over the last year. It has been rather frustrating. Before that, my weight loss was steady. I joined Weight Watchers on January 17, 2001 and I lost fifty pounds that first year: steady and healthy weight loss progress. Last year, this progress stagnated. I’ve been at this weight for a year and I’m sick of it. I’m ready to finish the job I started two years ago.

It wasn’t until just now that I realized that part of the reason it has stagnated is the Demon of Perfection. It was so important that I just had to write to tell you about it. I’ll tell you now that I can be perfect. It wouldn’t be an attraction or menace if I had zero chances of being perfect. I can follow the Weight Watchers plan perfectly for one day. I can follow it perfectly for two days in a row. I can follow it perfectly for months at a time, but there are always things that interfere.

No matter what month it is, there is always a celebration looming. There are decidedly more celebrations in the winter, but every month has something to celebrate, even if it’s just the beauty (or oppression, depending on the year) of summer in August. I let these celebrations scare me. It’s possible to be perfect on these celebrations, but I don’t necessarily want to. I want to jump into life fully with two feet. I’ll get out and dry myself off afterward, but an open plunge into life is what living is about.

So, I allow myself to be perfect for days or weeks at a time and then chastise myself for one full-figured celebration. Then the Demon steps in. If you can’t be perfect every day, what’s the point of trying at all? If you’re not going to be perfect on Halloween, why should you bother being perfect the week beforehand? Or the week afterward? If you can’t be perfect all the time, you might as well not even try?

What would have been one day of celebration turns into weeks of bingeing. I’m like a slow motion bulimic. Instead of bingeing in the morning and purging in the late hours when no one can see, I binge in January and purge in February. All in the name of Perfection. To Hell with Perfection. I hereby cast ye out! Instead of Perfection, I now strive for Adequate! I don’t know how Adequate I need to be to keep losing weight, but it is my new goal.

1/19/2004

Running with Snowy Egrets…yeah right…

Filed under: Health and Fitness — Laura Moncur @ 9:21 am

When you are not practicing, remember, someone somewhere is practicing, and when you meet him he will win. – Ed Macauley

The temptation was so great. I am having a little bit of muscle soreness in my left leg. I worked myself a little too hard on Saturday on my hill workout. I found a treadmill at the gym that goes up to 15% incline, which is the highest I’ve ever seen and way too steep for me right now. I didn’t think it was but my inner thigh and hamstring have the final say.

I’m tempted to take it easy until my leg feels completely better. There are many options for me at the gym. I could do those elliptical trainer things or maybe a stair stepper. Neither one of those would put any stress on the sore muscle, yet I was tempted this morning to just not go to the gym at lunch today. I’ll practice for the 5K tomorrow.

When I read The Runner’s Book of Daily Inspiration, it told me how great it was to run in the rain at this time of the year. Whoever wrote that entry has never run in Salt Lake City, Utah in January. It is very rare when we have rain in January and snowy egrets are such a rarity that I’ve only seen one once in my whole life. Yes, this morning it was very tempting to just blow off my workout today.

I was tempted until I got the Motivational Quotes email. That Ed Macauley is right. Some bitch is going to be at the gym working out today and I might be running alongside her in the SLC 5K. I can’t let her get the jump on me. I have to keep going. I’ll work on the elliptical trainer today. I’ll baby my sore muscle, but I’ll keep working on my endurance and strength.

It’s strange where motivation can come from. I get the Motivational Quotes email so that I can make sure that the quotations have been typed in correctly. I signed up for my own quotations so that I could catch my mistakes. Every quote is something I’ve seen before and personally typed in myself. Every quote was one that I personally found inspirational. I forget that when I’m typing for hours or going through books in which I’ve underlined all the quotes that need to be put into the website. That website was originally something that I created because I wanted it to exist. It was something that I created for myself. I only remembered that this morning, when I really needed it.

1/20/2004

2 X 2 Matrix

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:49 am

Mike and I really get along with Stacey and Dan. Everything we do, we think, “Hey, let’s call Stacey and Dan and see if they want to come along.”

That’s what Darrin and I call a 2 X 2 Matrix. It’s very rare to find another couple that the both of you can like. You should be grateful.

I sat there, feeling ungrateful for not noticing that we had such a good friendship. Penny seemed almost jealous of it, but there was nothing I could do. I think she left her last 2 X 2 Matrix in Arizona. She was obviously missing them.

We invoked the rights of our 2 X 2 Matrix last Saturday and fun was had by all. We met after my meditation class. We didn’t have much planned. Mike and I wanted to take them to The Melting Pot and I had found a store that I was sure that they were going to like. That was it. Our reservation was for 6:05 pm and we got together at lunchtime, about noon. I was feeling under the pressure because I didn’t have any thing in particular planned to keep us busy until The Melting Pot would let us in the door.

I guess I shouldn’t have worried. We found lots of things to do. We were going to check out the Chroma Gallery over by our house, but it wasn’t open at its appointed time, so we blew it off. Someday we’ll get to go there and enjoy more than just the paintings that we can see from the front window.

Instead of the gallery, we looked at an antiques store and I came this close to buying a Fisher Price Record Player. It had plastic records and wound up. It worked like a music box and each record would pluck different parts of the music box. It was only $28, but I realized that the only reason that I wanted it is because I would want my unborn children to have something like that to play with. I realized that if I ever do have children, they probably would be unimpressed with the Fisher Price Record Player. It was more a gift for my inner child and she really would prefer colored pencils or another canvas.

We also went to Experienced Books. Ok, we tried to go there, but there was a friggin’ oxygen bar in its place. I literally started swearing like a carpenter with a throbbing thumb when I saw the oxygen bar. Never fear, Experienced Books is still there, they just have sized down considerably. It didn’t stop me from finding three Somerset Maugham books and Mike found a couple of mysteries. B.Daltons all over the city are closing, but we still have Experienced Books, thank goodness.

I found a place for Stacey and Dan. Last week, Mike and I drove past it going forty miles an hour. I only got a glimpse of The Light Spot, but I was able to see enough to know that Stacey and Dan would love it. We don’t have IKEA here in Salt Lake, so we poor souls rely on local modern furniture shops like Manhattan Loft and San Francisco Design. I found a new place called The Light Spot.  They loved it and I fell in love with the Punk Rock Futon. All I would have to do to replicate it is take a black sharpie to my comforter. Cool

All of this and it was only two in the afternoon. We had four hours to burn before The Melting Pot, so Stacey and Dan took us to the Dutch Shop and Europa, which are two ethnic markets right by our house that we didn’t even know about. We got lots of Russian and Dutch candy. Mike bought four flavors of licorice and two flavors of pfeffernusse. Dan got some really cool caviar (By the way, you left it in my fridge, man).

After the candy-buying binge, we all went back to my house to eat the candy until someone wisely mentioned that we were going to The Melting Pot in three hours and we needed to “save our appetites.” We all nodded knowingly and each snuck one more bite of exotic foreign candy that tasted exactly the same as the home grown variety with different packaging.

Instead of bingeing, we planned our next family vacation. We chose the dates, reserved the cabin within a few miles of the Yellowstone border and decided on the type of vehicle we are renting that can hold all of us and our crap on the trip up to Idaho. The most surprising thing is how easy it all was. Mike and I had thought that we were going to go to Yellowstone and we should just ask Stacey and Dan if they wanted to go. Within an hour of asking them, everything was decided and we were going to take my mom and Reed too. A whole family vacation to Jellystone! Yeah!

When six o’clock rolled around, I was so hungry that I was ready to order the full four course meal at The Melting Pot. They were looking at having oil instead of broth, sure go ahead. I was starving. We ordered drinks and ate tiny bits of food on long forks for three hours. We even were able to decide what we were going to fight about on the Yellowstone trip.

Nine hours together and a good time was had by all. Just chillin’ and hangin’ out. That’s what a 2 X 2 Matrix is. The four of us were able to enjoy each other, plan for more good times and make fun of Russian television. What more could we have wanted? Ok, there was one thing missing from our evening. Next time we go to The Melting Pot, we’re going to smuggle in a bag of Nilla Wafers.

1/21/2004

Apple Pear Potato

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:14 am

They say that if you plug your nose and cover your eyes, you can’t tell the difference between an apple and a potato. I’ve never tried this. I’ve eaten raw potatoes many times. I eat raw apples every day. Their texture is identical, so I guess I buy it. I can believe that they are the same if you can’t taste or see what you’re eating.

I was sitting at my seat before the Weight Watchers meeting started. I never eat before I weigh in, so I’m always ravenous when I get to my seat. I had brought an Asian pear and a cheese stick to eat while I waited.  I don’t usually choose Asian pears at the grocery store. The Bartletts always tempt me away from the Asian variety. I had gotten this pear in a fruit basket for Christmas. As you can tell, I had already eaten my favorites and I was down to the dregs. My choice Saturday morning was the Asian pear or one of two grapefruits. I took the more portable option and ran.

The first bite was the most interesting. I bit it gently, expecting it to be soft like an old Bartlett. Instead, it was crisp and cold from the refrigerator. Crisp, cold and tasting exactly like a potato. The texture and flavor were the same. It was a surprise and brought to mind the apple and potato taste test. I just finished that bite, thinking of all the times that I’ve eaten raw potatoes.

I usually eat a bite of cheese with each bite of apple. I had no apples, so I thought the cheese would go better with the pear than the grapefruit. Taking bites of that pear and cheese together was interesting. It made me think that maybe I should be eating more raw potatoes. It didn’t make me want to eat another Asian pear, however. I’m sure I just got a bad one, but it wasn’t good enough to ever risk choosing over a Bartlett.

I always feel self-conscious when I eat at a Weight Watchers meeting. It’s morning. It’s breakfast time and I’ve delayed my breakfast until after I weigh in. Right after the meeting, I have an hour to exercise at the gym and then I immediately go to my meditation class. There isn’t much eating time scheduled in there, so I fit it in right before the meeting starts. I never see anyone else eat. I see some diet sodas and coffee mugs, but it’s rare that I ever see another apple being devoured, much less a potato-flavored pear.

What is it about eating in public places? I know it’s considered rude to eat in front of other people, but there are times when I have to eat. Logically, I realize that I don’t register in the consciousness of any of the other members, but emotionally, I feel their eyes on me. I think that they must be appalled at my eating in a Weight Watchers class, even though I’m eating healthy food. Do they think that I have no control over my eating? Do they covet my pear? Maybe I can convince them all to shut their eyes while I eat. Then they wouldn’t be able to tell whether I was eating a pear or a potato.

Kristen Had a Stroke

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 9:16 am

Mike’s sister, Kristen, had a stroke this morning. I have some prewritten entries that will show up like clockwork. I will keep you posted as soon as I know anything.

Kristen Update

1/22/2004

How Quickly It All Changes?

Filed under: Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:20 am

Hugh Elliot is back and Standing Room Only has reminded me that I lived at a very momentous time in our history: that dawning of the computer age. I saw so many things come and go during this time.

It was eighth grade and I was saving my program on a tape recorder with an Atari 800. I thought that I had forgotten that joy. If you listened to your program on a normal tape recorder, it sounded like beeps and screeches. The tape machine could play music, though. I’ll never forget the sound of Weird Al Yankovic blaring while we programmed in Basic. Back then, the programs were fun. They were games. We made the screen change colors. We made it say the phrase, “Ataris are cool” over and over until it filled the screen.

Back then, I never thought about programming something useful. I didn’t have a computer at home and I was only allowed a couple of hours after school once a week. What good would a useful program do me? Sure, I could program the computer to tell me what day Easter would be on each year, but why would that help me?

When we were first married there was a window of time when it was more practical to program it ourselves than to wait for an application to take care of the problem. By then, I had relegated the programming to Mike. He had written the BBS from scratch. Mike, could you program the BBS to have another room just for me? Sure, but right now I’m programming it to give a different quote every time you press return without typing something?

And that was it. That was the mythical gleam in Mike’s eye. It was an Easter Egg in his BBS program. Now, the idea of a bulletin board system is just as archaic as saving one’s program written in Basic on magnetic tape. The BBS has been replaced by chat rooms and text messaging on cell phones. No more calling the BBS in the middle of the night, only to get a busy signal. We can all be on it at once.

What are you doing? Have you slept at all? No, I’ve been typing in quotations for the BBS. That was the first wave of the collection. Mike’s sarcastic collection of quotations was growing. All I could see was that he had to go to work on no sleep. My vision was a little myopic. I didn’t know about the Internet and back then it was still lurking quietly at the universities and government institutions. It was waiting.

It was waiting for Mike’s quotations. It was waiting for Hugh Elliot’s thoughts and ideas. It was waiting for Real Live Preacher‘s inspiration. It was waiting for me. I have seen so many changes in the computer industry pass over the years. Things changed so often and so quickly that I thought it would always be like that. Over the last four years, the industry has stabilized. The changes are slower. Sure, the processor speeds are doubling every year, but the computers are so fast now that it’s hard to notice. From the ground, the speed of light and the speed of sound look the same.

They call the old times the “Good Old Days.” I don’t subscribe to that. I would call those times good, but by no means were they better than right now. You couldn’t pay me enough to go back to programming on an Atari 800. My telephone has more processor power than that old monster (we still have it, sitting in the basement alongside the Atari 2600). I lived at a momentous time in history. I am grateful to have experienced those times, but there is no place I’d rather be than right here right now.

Kristen Update

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 10:36 am

They were unsure yesterday, but last night, they knew. She definitely had a stroke. There is a blockage in her carotid artery. The CAT scan was useless yesterday, but the MRI showed the blockage. She is going in this morning for another MRI. Waiting sucks

Kristen Update

1/23/2004

Confession of a Gym Babe

Filed under: The Confessional — Laura Moncur @ 5:47 am

I’m still not comfortable in the locker room at the gym. Something about it just makes me think about Janean Hunt looking at me undress and asking me, “Why would you wear those pants?” Adults aren’t as vicious as teenagers, I’ve heard, but that doesn’t stop me from cringing when I have to change clothes. I’m torn. Should I hide in the changing room and make everyone think that I’m so self-conscious that I can’t let another woman see my body? Should I just change in front of everyone, subjecting myself to potential comments?

I decided to fake it until I got it. I will pretend that I’m beautiful. I will pretend that I have nothing to hide. I will keep pretending until it’s true. So, I go to the gym. I change into my jogging bra in front of all the other women. In some respects, I would rather change in front of men. They would be appreciative. Women can be ferocious. Every day, I take that leap of faith and hope no one will attack me or my pants.

Two months ago, she spoke to me. I had seen her before. She’s tiny. She wears a dark layer of mascara and eyeliner in the blackest of blacks. She has that perfect hair that never gets frizzy when she sweats. She spoke to me.

I like your hair.

I waited for the insult to follow it for only a second before I added my own.

It can be unruly. It took me so long to learn not to comb it.

It’s so thick and curly. You’re really lucky.

That was how quickly the conversation went. I was coming in while she was leaving. Over the last couple of months, I have seen her many times and greeted her cordially. I say hi. She says hi. That’s the extent of the relationship. I don’t even know her name. Last Tuesday, that all changed.

Hello.

Hi. You’re breathing kind of heavy.

I am training for a 5K and today was a hard run.

I used to run a 5K, but they didn’t have it last year.

We talked about running and racing. I don’t have much time on my lunch hour, so I had to change clothes. I had to change clothes in front of her. I saved the jogging bra for last. It’s a compression bra that makes me look substantially smaller. Taking it off feels like releasing the innards of a Jimmy Dean sausage. I kept thinking that if I just did everything else, maybe she would go away before I had to release “the twins.” She kept talking to me, so I finally just took the leap of faith and changed right in front of her. I cringed, expecting some sort of catty response. Instead, the locker room became a confessional.

If the doctor knew that I was at the gym right now, he’d be angry.

Why?

I just had two biopsies taken from my left breast. That’s why I’m all bound up over here.

She indicated under her shirt. I couldn’t see the bandage, but I know that biopsies can be incredibly painful when the anesthesia wears off.

What are you doing here?

I just worked my legs. I didn’t do any upper body. I just have to exercise. It is such a stress reliever for me and I’m pretty stressed. They could have taken just one biopsy, but there were so many in there that they said they better take samples for both. They ended up giving me a hematoma, so they bound me up really tight.

You should go home and rest.

Yeah, I think I will.

I still don’t even know her name?

Kristen Update

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:29 pm

The doctors and therapists are hopeful. She has regained a lot of movement in her right arm and leg. She was able to walk down the hall with some help. We are still holding vigil.

Final Kristen Update

1/24/2004

Final Kristen Update

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:37 am

This entry was written on my Palm. I’m waiting and it looks like I’ll be waiting for a lot longer. As far as strokes go, there will be less waiting than usual. That doesn’t make me feel any better, though.

The hardest part is not helping. The occupational therapist comes in and her job is to reteach Kristen how to dress herself. I just want to jump in and help her get that right arm in the sleeve. It’s like biting my tongue, except there’s no tongue to bite.

The physical therapist comes into the room and his job is to help her learn how to walk again. Her balance is off, so I see her leaning to her left. I want to rush to her side to set her right, but she needs to learn how to balance again. It’s a journey that I can’t spare her. I can’t help her. I can only watch in agony as she learns what standing upright feels like again.

This must be what it’s like to be a parent. My legs work. I want to spare her the pain of learning to walk again. Just use my legs, but that’s not an option. Only she can learn to walk again. Only she can travel down that road. I have to stand by and watch. The only good that I can do is give encouragement and even that feels hollow and empty.

A gag order has been issued and because Kristen is Mike’s sister, I will comply. She has a long road in front of her. The doctors are predicting two weeks in rehab and continued therapy at home. That’s incredibly fast for someone who couldn’t move the right half of her body two days ago. For her sake, I hope they are right.

1/26/2004

Along Came Polly

Filed under: Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 12:26 pm

I haven’t seen the movie. Quite frankly, I’ve given up on Ben Stiller. When I realized half-way through Zoolander that I didn’t care how the movie ended, I officially gave up on Ben Stiller. I remember loving Reality Bites and loving it even more when I found out that Ben had originally wrote it so Winona didn’t choose either of the guys. Since then, I’ve only been vaguely entertained. I must admit that the gasoline fight in Zoolander was funny, but that was only a few minutes of a long and arduous movie. I’m tempted, though. I like the idea of watching a wild and irrepressible Jennifer Aniston spice up an uptight Ben Stiller’s life.

Karen she’s my boss at the shoe store.
We sell to the rich on Madison Avenue.
 – Jill Sobule, Karen By Night

Fiction is filled with stories of irrepressible people who help uptight people live a fuller life. It must be a basic human fantasy. I have seen all gender variations. Irrepressible women help uptight men. Strong and virile men help buttoned-up women. I believe it is a classic story that appeals to all of us. The problem with that idea is that there is no woman who is so totally irrepressible all the time. There is no man who is so strong that he can fully change the life of a woman who is set in her ways. It is a desire of the irrepressible to give a little spice to the life of the uptight. It is a desire of the buttoned-up to let their hair down for one virile night. It is a fantasy, but it doesn’t really work in real life.

Karen by night
We imagine she must lead a very dull life
With just a cat and a book by her side
We know her by day but we don’t know
Karen by night
 – Jill Sobule, Karen By Night

Those who are uptight, are uptight because they like their lives. If they didn’t, they would change them. Those who are irrepressible can’t be bothered wasting their time with boring stiffies. It just doesn’t work in real life, yet it appeals to us. No matter how exciting our lives might be, we imagine that they might be spiced up somehow by a wild uninhibited person. If only I had a wild person in my life, then I would be able to enjoy myself. No matter how boring our lives may seem, we imagine that we can help someone else have some fun with us. If only that person would loosen up, we could have some fun.

Karen by night
The leather comes out under the moonlight
Takes off her Chanel and hops on her bike
Looking like young Marlon Brando
Karen by night
 – Jill Sobule, Karen By Night

The whole idea is a desire for fun and enjoyment. I’ve seen it so many times. I try to buy fun. “If only I had a hot tub, then I could have fun.” I try to run away to it. “If only I could go to Hawaii, then I could have fun.” I do everything, but actually allow myself to have fun. I have to drive at least an hour and a half away before I will allow myself to enjoy life. The irrepressible person fantasy is the same as the hot tub fantasy. If only I had an irrepressible person in my life, then I could have fun. The uptight victim fantasy is the same as the Hawaii fantasy. If only that guy would loosen up, then we could have fun.

Wish I could be more like
Karen by night
 – Jill Sobule, Karen By Night

It doesn’t have to be that way. The only thing that we need to do to have fun is do the things that we love to do. That’s it. No fancy hot tubs. No fancy trips to Hawaii. No other people. We can have fun at home with some crayons and a blank sheet of paper. We can have fun at work with a little bit of idle chatter. We can have fun anywhere by just turning inward and thinking happy thoughts. It is so simple and so hard. I really wish that I could be more like Karen by night. Work hard and well during the day and party hard and well at night. Next morning, show up, fresh as a daisy.

1/27/2004

KCGL

Filed under: Personal History,Puttin' On The Ritz — Laura Moncur @ 5:50 am

KCGL PosterWhen KCGL went out of business, all of us punk kids cried. We had been informed that they were changing their format to Christian Rock. We protested. We went to the radio station, begging them to reconsider. I don’t remember calling any of the advertisers, which would have been the smartest thing to do. When you’re seventeen, the financial side of radio is the last thing on your mind.

Nothing that we could do could stop KCGL from changing their format. It wouldn’t have been that big of a difference except that there were no other alternative or new wave stations on the radio at that time. Suddenly, we went from 24 hours a day down to one or two hours a week on public radio. After a couple of months, I was desperate for new music. MTV was good, but it wasn’t the same as the radio.

I remember haunting KCGL. I kept listening in the vain hope that they would change their minds. Maybe if they didn’t make any money with this Christian Rock stuff, they would eat crow. Once I heard them play U2. I thought that they were changing back and immediately called them. No, U2 is considered Christian, apparently.

I knew things were really bad when I saw the movie Pretty In Pink. I heard new Smiths, New Order and Nik Kershaw. It was a whole soundtrack of new music that I hadn’t heard before, except for the title track. After that, I started asking all my friends, “Have you heard anything good lately? What do you recommend?”

I bought more albums during that time than I had the previous year. I was still making the same amount of money at K-Mart, but I was spending more of it on music because the radio was gone. All I had were audio cassettes to rely on after KCGL died. I would buy albums just because one person said that they thought it was good. I didn’t weigh my options anymore. I just bought it all because I was so hungry. 

Then it happened. “Have you heard anything good lately? What do you recommend?” I was asking Pinkston. Unstable Mike Pinkston. Beautiful Mike Pinkston. He had just returned from picking pineapples in Hawaii and his forearms were bronze and bulky. I had been crushing on him since sixth grade. I’m sure he knew it, but he didn’t want me. Just like every other crush I had encountered up to that point. “Here, try this. You’ll probably hate it.” He handed me Japanese Whispers by The Cure.


Update 10-01-11: If you’re missing KCGL, you can relive the best of it on KCQN Utah, brought to you by Chet Tapp and Mister West!

1/28/2004

The Cure

Filed under: Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:25 am

I returned Japanese Whispers the next day. I had listened to it twice. Once while I copied it onto a cassette tape and again on the copy to make sure I did it correctly.

Whadja think?

I loved it. It made me happy.

It would.

What do you mean?

You’re just the kind of person that would get happy listening to The Cure.

What does that mean?

You’re just so f**king happy all the time. Not even The Cure can bring you down.

Yes, I fooled Mike Pinkston. The mask was so complete that he couldn’t see beneath it.  I was a normal teenager. I had as much angst as the next teen, but I hid it very well. I put on a Pollyanna attitude, thinking that I should fake it until I could believe it.

The truth of it all was, I wasn’t lying to him. I really liked that album. It really did make me happy. Listening to Robert Smith cry out made me know that I wasn’t alone. It helped me to see that my angst wasn’t nearly as bad as it could be. I wasn’t suffering alone and I wasn’t suffering nearly as much as I could. Yes, The Cure made me happy.

Japanese Whispers was the first of a music starved binge. I went to every music store in town looking for albums by The Cure. I bought them all. I’ll never forget my birthday that year when Dylan bought me a very rare live album. It’s sitting in my basement now. I believe I listened to it once so I could tape it onto cassette. Very rare Cure record, only played once. I should try to sell it on EBay.

That is how The Cure came to represent the Eighties for me. I rarely danced to them, but dancing was my whole life back then. If people who knew me would have described me, they wouldn’t have even thought to put me in the depressed Goth category, mainly because we only had two Goths when I went to high school. NecroNerds were really after my time. Most people put me with the Jocks and Cheerleaders in retrospect, but I really was a Punk Rock Girl.

Now, I look at my prissy Selma Blair in Legally Blonde hair. I look at my secretary costume and I feel like I’m behind another mask. I’m not pretending to be happy to mask teen angst. I’m pretending to be traditional to mask my punkdom. I look like a soccer mom, but I’m not a mom. Worse still, I’m always just “this close” to kicking someone in the balls. I never do because that might bust my mask, but still, that violence is right there, hiding beneath it all. So, tell me. Have you heard anything good lately? What do you recommend?

1/29/2004

Fun with Dick and Jane

Filed under: Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:13 am

I’m too young to know about Dick and Jane. I was born in 1969 and I should have learned to read using all those hippie/disco books that they gave us in school. I didn’t learn to read in school, though. I learned to read at home. I learned to read at my grandmother’s home. I learned to read with Dick and Jane.

One of the books was at my home. I think it used to be my mom’s and after looking around on the internet, I’m shocked to realize that the small book that I learned to read with is worth hundreds of dollars. I could have given it away to the DI if I didn’t love it so much. I don’t know if I have the book or if Stacey got it. It doesn’t matter. I can buy a reprint for about eight bucks. The memories are in the pictures and the words, not in the actual book itself.

I remember the first time I got all the way through that book. I had been reading for days and the stories toward the back were much harder to read than the stories in the front had been. I felt such a feeling of accomplishment when I got to the end of that book. I felt like a grownup.

Months later, I picked up the book again. I remembered feeling so good when I finished that book and thought that I should read it again. I picked it up and read it all the way through in one sitting. Instead of days of reading the words, it took only hours. I was strangely disappointed. Instead of the arduous task that I thought it would be, it was an afternoon of reading on the heater vent. But, I did read it all in one day. That must be a book for babies.

I don’t know why, but my book followed around Sally a lot more than Dick and Jane. I don’t know if it was a book for younger children or if I just got a different one in the series. I really don’t know too much about Dick and Jane except that they think that everything Sally does is really silly.

Mike swears I was born in 1948. There are so many things that I find fun to reminisce about that are just not age appropriate. I remember watching my dad test television tubes at Grand Central to see what needed fixing. I remember how it feels to have a strong sense of patriotism and I know how to hang, fold and salute a flag. I remember Dick and Jane. I know I’m too young to know all these things. Knowing them doesn’t make me feel older, just isolated from my generation. It’s all good. So what if my homies are a generation older than I am. I can also tell you who Britney Spears married in Vegas and the name of Big Bird’s dog. Maybe the problem is that I just can’t forget inconsequential things.

1/30/2004

Idolatry

Filed under: Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 5:49 am

Since you said that you’re an atheist, I brought you this.

Faisal handed me a small figurine.

“What is it? Oh, look! It’s a little Jesus. Thank you! “

I got it in the mail.

We look at the box it came in. I realize I was wrong.

“It’s not Jesus. It’s Saint Jude. He’s the patron saint of lost causes. If you have something that you’ve given up hope on, you’re supposed to pray to him and then you’re supposed to give money to this hospital.”

I know more of the story, but I didn’t tell him. Faisal is from Pakistan. He doesn’t care about Danny Thomas and his tear jerking story about trying to make it in the acting world. He just saw a Christian thing in his mail and thought that it would bother me because I told him I was an atheist.

“Thank you, I’ll put St. Jude right here next to my Buddha.”

There is the flame of the Holy Ghost above his head and he’s holding a gold disk. I have no lost causes right now. Sure, I’ve given up on that peace on earth thing, but I never really believed in it in the first place. For peace on earth to be complete, I would have to vanquish the violence within myself. I wouldn’t really call peace on earth a cause, just a hope.

I find it strange that the Catholic Church has so many saints. I understand how they came about. Many of the saints have a one-to-one correspondence to the Pagan gods that they replaced. It made Christianity easier for the Pagans to swallow. Well, that and the fact that the Roman Empire was breathing down their necks. I understand how they came about, I just don’t understand how modern day Catholics can pray to saints.

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Isn’t that what the commandment says? What are the saints but another set of gods to worship? How can a person follow the ten commandments and pray to saints without feeling like a hypocrite? How does that logic warp in the mind of the faithful?

If only. If only I could believe in God, then I could be guaranteed a route to salvation. It’s such a pretty story. I just wish it were true. Instead, I look at my Buddha and St. Jude next to each other under my monitor. I can kiss my fingers and touch his hand. I can rub his belly. Neither one makes me feel any closer to God or Enlightenment, yet I see the faithful perform these rituals. They seem comforting to them. I guess if I want comfort, I need to give it to myself and quit trying to find an outside source.

1/31/2004

Confession

Filed under: The Confessional — Laura Moncur @ 5:25 am

He told me the confession from the other side of the wall. It was like a real confessional. I couldn’t see his face to see if he was lying. He couldn’t see my face to see if I disapproved.

For the last four nights, I’ve been drinking hard liquor until I pass out.

When I receive confessions like these, my first instinct is to not believe them. My psyche cries out, “No!” and most of the time, my mouth does too. It wasn’t refuted and then I instantly wanted to disbelieve it. He’s lying. He’s just telling me that to make me feel sorry for him. He’s just telling me that to make me think he’s tough.

What am I supposed to do with knowledge like that? If I’m just supposed to butt out, why would he tell me? Was it just a slip? Was he lying? Please let him be lying. Am I supposed to intervene? Am I supposed to hire the A-Team to find him drinking himself into a stupor every evening and rescue him from himself? Maybe Charlie’s Angels would be better. How do I hire Charlie’s Angels?

I went from denial to savior within seconds. You should? What you need is? I’m sure it just sounded like blah, blah, blah? My mothering routine is so tedious, it actually bores me. Even when I give advice to others, it makes me want to rebel against myself. Before I could stop myself, I was spewing advice. Worthless advice, I realize. Hell, if I had said, “You need to adopt a cat,” that would have been better advice. He didn’t even ask for advice.

He gives me the impression of a man who has been worshipping at the same altar for too long. So many prayers given to a graven image. Even though the god doesn’t reply, he keeps sacrificing at the same altar. What could I have said to this man?

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