Pick Me!

A weblog by Laura Moncur

2/1/2004

Confession of a Restaurant Owner

Filed under: The Confessional — Laura Moncur @ 5:09 am

It’s a nice place, so Mike and I go there pretty often. It’s a cross between fast food and a sit down restaurant. You go up to the counter, order your food and pay, then the staff brings your food to your table. No tipping allowed. The owner of the restaurant helps cook and wanders the tables, making sure that people like their food. We see him so often that he knows our faces and welcomes us back.

Last Thursday, I ordered the Mushroom Stroganoff with Beef. It comes covered with freshly grated parmesan cheese on the top. While I was stirring it in, some of the parmesan fell out onto the table. I don’t like to eat at a messy table, so I gathered the cheese and placed it on our receipt. By the time he came to the table, I had forgotten about the cheese and was happily enjoying my pasta.

“Hey, welcome back! I didn’t see you in the line. How is everything?”

Mike and I extolled his praises, but I don’t think he heard it.

“What is that? Did a sprout get into your dish? Are you sure everything is ok?”

He pointed at the cheese on the receipt. It looked like I had rejected some of my food. I tried to explain that the food was excellent.

“Oh, that’s just some cheese that fell out of the bowl. I just put it over there to keep the table clean.”

“Wasn’t your table clean?”

“Oh, I’m sure it was immaculate. It’s just that if food touches the table it feels contaminated in my mind, so I won’t eat it. It’s my personal psychosis. I love the food and the restaurant is always clean.”

I had visions of the nice girl that I’m not allowed to tip getting reamed in the back room because Mrs. Moncur doesn’t think his tables are clean. It seemed like I convinced him. Then, from out of nowhere, the confession came.

“You know, we all have weird things. Like when I’m watching television and the volume is displayed, I can’t let it be a prime number.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. If I’m at someone else’s house, I’ll ask them to turn it up a notch or down a notch so that it won’t be a prime number or I’ll just try not to look at the television.”   “What if the channel is a prime number?”

“That’s just fine. It’s just the volume. 17 is bad, but 18 or 16 are just fine.”   “Wow. That makes my cheese thing look a whole lot less psychotic, doesn’t it? Maybe it’s just a glitch in the Matrix.”

“Yeah. Well, have a great day.”

He shook his head briefly as if to clean the idea of prime numbers on the television screen from his memory and continued greeting customers and bringing take home boxes to ones who are unable to finish their tasty dishes.

As far as confessions go, that one is mild. I wonder if I’ll start noticing the volume numbers when I watch television now. Will his glitch in the Matrix affect me? Is it like a virus? Maybe it will work the other way. Maybe he will feel more comfortable with those pesky prime numbers the next time he sits down at a television. Maybe his confession relieved him of that fear. I’m going to pretend that’s the case. I can’t be receiving these confessions for nothing.

2/2/2004

Caffeine Withdrawal

Filed under: Health and Fitness — Laura Moncur @ 5:05 am

A couple of Saturdays ago at my Weight Watcher meeting, the leader did a “back to the basics” meeting. I always find these kind of meetings so helpful to me because when I started, I had a horrible Weight Watcher leader, so my initiation wasn’t the best that the program had to offer.

I learned a lot of new things that I should be doing considering that I have been following the program for over twelve weeks. I really should be hitting the whole grains because it will help “keep things moving.” I really should be watching my sugars, fats and oils and which ones would be helpful to me. I also learned that I should watch my intake of soda.

As a scientist, I know that case studies aren’t valid data, but I hear a good story and I think, “Man, I should try that.” Logically, I know that I shouldn’t believe it based on one case study, yet my inner Klingon says, “I think we should try it, sir.” So, my Weight Watcher leader says that when she was running, she found that it was easier for her to breathe when she stopped drinking carbonated beverages. She prefaced this story with the statement that it was only her individual experience, so it wasn’t like she was trying to fool us.

So, last Monday, I quit soda cold turkey. I thought it would be a piece of cake, considering that I hardly drink any soda. I was just trying to find a way to make my running easier. Plus, I thought, I would get off what little caffeine I drink every day, so that on the day of the race, I could guzzle down a Diet Mountain Dew and really feel its effects when it actually counts.

Tuesday, I had a headache. Wednesday, I had a massive headache and went to bed with a rice bed buddy. That night, I ended up sleeping almost twelve hours. When the headache returned on Thursday, I started to worry. Maybe I was getting sick. I’ve never had sinus headaches this many days in a row with no help from Sudafed, Tylenol, Ibuprofen or aspirin. It was weird. I began to worry that Melanie must have given me some horrible cold. I began to worry that I might be depressed and not even know it. I began to worry that I was getting a brain tumor. Then, I remembered. Oh yeah, I haven’t been drinking soda. This must be those Caffeine Withdrawals that people talk about.

By the way, don’t bother searching for advice online about caffeine addiction unless you are actually looking for herbal remedies and joke quizzes. That’s all you’ll find. I even went to Dr. Weil. I think he’s a quack, but compared to all those herbal remedy quacks, he looked almost bona fide. His recommendation, along with others, is to drink green tea. Sure, that has less of a stimulant effect than coffee, black tea and Mountain Dew, but it also has other stimulants to get addicted to. I decided to just weather it out.

No headache on Friday. It took four days to get through that headachy time and the only thing that gave me any relief was sleep and a rice bed buddy. Man, I think I’ll skip the Dew on race day just so that I don’t have to go through that again.

03/12/04 How To Quit Soda

2/3/2004

Conversations in Women’s Locker Rooms

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:42 am

Here it is. Everything you’ve always dreamed of. What do they talk about when they’re in the locker room? I will give you, word for word, everything that was said in the locker room after my workout.

At first there were three of us: the gym babe, a blonde in a towel and me. I came in and started talking.

ME: “You know what’s really weird? When you’re listening to a song on your headphones and when you turn it off, the music overhead is playing the same song.”

BABE: “No kidding.”   BLONDE: “You know what’s weirder is when you change the radio station and the exact same song is playing on a different station in the same spot.”

We all nodded. The babe left the locker room. The blonde continued to dress. She put on a blue and white print sundress that looked far too cold for the Utah weather outside. We’ve had a heat wave at 37 degrees. It has addled our minds.

ME: “I love that dress. It looks like a blue and white china platter.”

BLONDE: “Yeah! I saw this dress at Ross and I just had to have it. I got this suit with a skirt and pants, for work. It was only twenty dollars for the suit and the pants were seven.”

ME: “Wow. What a good deal!”

She held up the blue pinstriped suit. I knew that I should be wearing nice outfits like that to complete my secretary costume, but in this cold, I just can’t bring myself to do it. Here is this girl in a sundress in the middle of winter. What’s the matter with me?

I noticed that she had a ankle bracelet on her right leg and a tattoo on her left. The tattoo was very colorful and quite large, covering half of her calf. I hurriedly changed out of my sweaty clothes and jogging bra, hiding behind the lockers so she couldn’t see me.

BLONDE: “What do you think of this sweater?”

She had topped the sundress with a long, blue sweater. It matched perfectly and ended where her skirt ended. It was fabulous.

ME: “You look great! I love that sweater. It’s perfect.”

We both went to the mirror to put on makeup.

BLONDE: “Sorry I’m taking up so much space.”

ME: “There’s plenty of room.”

BLONDE: “I just take up half the thing.”

She indicated her gym bag.

ME: “Yeah, me too.”

We silently put on our makeup. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught her looking at me. I wondered what she thought about my boring jeans and bright green shirt. She started talking, but it wasn’t to me. She was on her cell phone.

BLONDE: “Yeah, I’m almost done.”

She took the towel off her head and her long blonde hair was wet, perfectly curly and fabulous.

BLONDE: “I had to shower because I was stinky, so I’ll be there soon?Ok, bye.”

I was done and now it was time for me to hurry back to work. I really looked at her before I left. She was decked out in sparkly blue eye shadow. At that moment, I wanted to trade. I wanted her to go back to my engineers and their construction specifications and I could go to her life and the voice on the other end of her cell. She obviously was living a much more exciting life than I was allowing myself to live. I wanted to be her.

ME: “Wow! You’re sparkly! You look great! Have fun!”

I walked out of the locker room and back to my engineers.

2/4/2004

Super Bowl

Filed under: Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 5:30 am

It passed me right by this year. Sure, I knew it was happening. I knew who was playing, but I didn’t spend one second watching it or the spectacularly naked half-time show. I just don’t really consider football all that important. If I were married to someone who thought it was important, I might deign to watch the Super Bowl, but Mike is just as apathetic about the spectacle as I am. We visited Kristen in the hospital instead.

All that the engineers could talk about in the office was Janet’s right breast. Oh yeah, and the game was good too. There was a farting horse and a streaker, but none of that compares to Janet’s right breast. Do you think it was planned? They want me to answer and all I can say after seeing the pictures is, “Duh!” Of course it was planned. Women don’t wear star shaped pasties under their clothes unless they plan to reveal their goods. Not even Janet Jackson. Sorry, boys.

By the way, that kiss with Madonna, Britney and Christina was planned too. Sorry to bust the bubble. The art of choreography doesn’t really allow for impromptu kisses to look that smooth and polished. Want to eat your heart out? They probably had to kiss each other many times during the practices in order to get it right and on the beat.

It seems like so many of us live through the television that we forget that life is messy. Anyone who has actually ripped off the clothing of a lover knows that clothing never conveniently rips showing only one breast. Anyone who has ever tried to give someone a surprise kiss knows that foreheads bump, teeth click and sometimes things don’t work out. Sometimes they turn their head and all you get is a mouthful of hair. No matter what the romance novels or porn movies say, life is messy.

And, isn’t that the joy of it? Life is messy. I want to jump into life with both feet and roll around in the mud. I want to run haphazardly through life, allowing the sweat to get into my eyes, stinging and burning. I want to allow life into my bed vomiting itself all over my warm flannel sheets. That’s the beauty of life because for as many times as life sends you vomit, it could have sent you ecstasy. That’s the crap shoot that we are all willing to take. Sure, you ripped the shirt in such an awkward way that it just looked malevolent instead of passionate. Sure, you leaned over for a kiss and all you caught was brown, curly hair smelling of shampoo and hairspray. Life is messy, live it up!

2/5/2004

Perfect

Filed under: Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 5:32 am

I got a portable CD player for Christmas from Mike. It plays CDs and MP3s. I have really enjoyed using it at the gym. If I’m wearing my headphones, I don’t have to communicate with any of the people there if I don’t want to. Wearing headphones is like a cloaking device for everyone else. If some weirdo talks to me and I don’t want to deal with him, I can just pretend not to hear.

Of course, I can also just slip into another world when I’m exercising with music. A single CD isn’t quite enough when I’m exercising, which is why I’m glad that this player works with MP3s also. I just made myself a MP3 CD that holds all of my new albums. Beyonce, both Outkast albums, Pink’s new cut, John Mayer and Now 14. I have hours of music on one CD, so I don’t have to change during a workout, or even during the week. It’s not as good as my computer at home that has every album I ever owned on it, but it’s good enough for the gym.

Good enough is such a new idea for me. Good enough always has been promoted to me as the worst of mediocrity. Mr. Leonhardt at K-Mart used to say, “Good enough is not good enough.” Since my K-Mart days, I’ve always scorned good enough. Only perfect would do for me and only perfect would do for whomever I was working for. Only perfection was good enough.

This, my friends, is the first step toward insanity. I drove myself crazy trying to be perfect. No matter how good I was, I never thought it was good enough. Perfection is a demon that I have been fighting since I recognized it as such a couple of years ago. Perfection is an addiction that is never satiated, no matter how much I eat at its table. When I purge it from one aspect of my life, it surfaces in another.

So, this CD/MP3 player isn’t perfect, but it’s good enough for the gym. I may not be perfect, but I’m good enough for now. I’ll always work on myself to get better, but until then, I can be happy with my strengths and abilities as they are. It’s hard being human.

2/6/2004

Waiting for the Deep-Fried Pop Tart

Filed under: Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 5:32 am

He told me that he would rather have a deep-fried Pop Tart. He was joking, but the request was so obscure, it has stayed within my mind like a visual aid to help me remember something. I had offered him a citrus fruit, but he shook his head. Now, the Deep-Fried Pop Tart is lodged in my brain like a popcorn kernel, aching and inaccessible.

It has to be the kind of thing that is only good when it’s fresh. Deep-fried, two days old and out of the fridge just sounds disgusting. Let’s face it. Fresh and glistening with hot oil, draining on the paper underneath it sounds disgusting too. He would rather have a deep-fried Pop Tart than my juicy clementine. Easy to peel. No pits.

Isn’t that human nature? Instead of enjoying the fruit in front of us, we hold out. We hold out for the impossible. We hold out for the intangible goodness of the Deep-Fried Pop Tart. We don’t even know what it will taste like, but it must be better than a silly little bite of citrus.

What about me? What am I denying myself right now because I’m waiting for the Deep-Fried Pop Tart? What have I put on hold because I’m waiting until I’m thin, rich or ready for it? What about you? What are you waiting for? I want to grab that fruit and tear into its skin. You don’t even need a finger nail to peel it, just gently tug at its orange rind and it will release itself to you.

2/7/2004

People Watching

Filed under: People Watching — Laura Moncur @ 5:12 am

I like to read people watching entries on weblogs. They are like spying on people except that I can’t possibly get caught. I love to read about the ideas that other people have about the people they are watching. That’s probably why I like to write people watching entries. I guess I just really like to watch people.

It’s something that Mike doesn’t really enjoy. He plays along with my silly little game because he knows I like it, but he doesn’t really enjoy it. I could just sit at a crowded shopping mall, an amusement park or a coffee shop and the most exciting thing about all of those places is to watch the people.

The most erroneous stories are those we think we know best – and therefore never scrutinize or question.  – Stephen Jay Gould (1941 – 2002)

I love to make up stories about them. I see a man walking across the street with a Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket in one arm and a bag of sides in another and I feel excited for him. He has a bunch of people waiting for him at home and when he walks into the door, he will be the hero. He brought the KFC. Maybe everyone is coming to his place to watch a movie. He and his friends argued all week about which movie they were going to watch and in the end everyone gave up. They decided to let the movie freak pick. He always brings the weirdest movies, but it really isn’t about the movie. It’s about all of them getting together.

That’s the kind of story that will instantly come to my head. I saw that guy crossing 7th East at 21st South. He looked happy, even though it was snowing outside. I was warm in the Beetle, just watching him. I pointed him out to Mike and started telling the story, but Mike was driving and we got too far away before I could finish the story.

Everything you can imagine is real.  – Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973)

I make up stories about people I know, too. Work acquaintances, people I talk to at the gym, and people I used to know a long time ago. I’ve found that in every case, my stories are completely wrong. Every time, they are strictly a work of fiction. They come to me so quickly that I sometimes believe that I can read the minds of people. Nope, nada, nunca. Every time, it’s wrong.

So, what is it? If it’s not clairvoyance, it must be my imagination. It must be what I want for those people. I want that guy to have a fun party. After trekking all the way to 13th East on foot in the snow, I want him to have the best party with that Kentucky Fried Chicken. He looked so happy that I didn’t want to think about ungrateful children or fighting in-laws. I wanted him to stay happy, so I imagined the happiest get-together that included KFC that I could imagine.

You try to give away what you want yourself.  – Lois McMaster Bujold, “Memory”, 1996

Maybe it’s a cry for what I want in my life. Maybe I want a movie party with a bunch of friends and a movie freak. I miss those days of casual get-togethers with KFC and tofu for Cory. My huge group of friends have all moved away to San Diego, San Francisco, even Japan. Yeah, that’s it. I miss my friends, so I was giving him what I wanted. I guess people watching has more to do with me than it does the people.

2/8/2004

Calling Card

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:13 am

Last Sunday, when I was at the gym, Ocean’s Eleven was playing on the television in front of my treadmill. I haven’t seen that movie again since it came out, so I was glad to watch forty minutes of it while I ran. I listened to my new music and read the closed captioning for the movie. How’s that for sensory overload?

There is a scene where George Clooney is recruiting Matt Damon. He had been watching Matt pickpocket a man on the subway. George lifted the stolen wallet off Matt and left him a calling card that said a date, place and time written on one side and his name printed on the other. Just his name, like the kind of cards that we got in high school at graduation. I still have half a box of cards that say: “Laura Susan Lund” on them. They sit useless in a box with my tassel and diploma.

What were we supposed to do with those cards? They were small compact and only said our name. I can tell people my name. They won’t remember it, unless it’s important. If it’s not important, I don’t care if they forget my name and if it is important, they’ll remember. I ended up taping a card in each yearbook I signed that year. There is one taped in Michael’s yearbook. I still only used half a box. What was I supposed to do with the rest? Useless unless I want to recruit criminals and I don’t want them to know anything about me except my maiden name.

What I need are calling cards with all my essential information on them. It was all so easy when I was a realtor. I would just give friends one of my business cards. My cell phone was always on, so my friends could always find me with my business card. Now that I’m a secretary, I don’t need any business cards, but there are countless times that I’ve written my email address on slips of paper for people. What I need is a card that has all that info on it so I can give it to friends who want to read my blog or email me a cool link. Handwritten notes are so easy to misread. Preprinted cards with my name, address, phone number, email and blog URL would be so convenient.

I thought of this idea on Wednesday last week, so I dropped by Staples and bought some cool business cards that you can run through your printer. Sure, they’ll be perforated, but I’m only giving these cards to people in lieu of writing my info on their hands, so perforated edges aren’t really a concern for me. I’m not trying to impress anyone like I was when I was a realtor. I’m just trying to get information to them in a clean, concise way. Plus, they look all natural and handmade papery. It’s bogus and just printed on one side, but I’m ok with that. I’m not a real hippy, so it doesn’t need to be real, handmade paper.

All of this was started with a criminal that doesn’t exist putting a cryptic note in the pocket of another criminal that doesn’t exist. My calling cards will be used by my friends and acquaintances, yet the idea of having a calling card on hand just makes me feel a little more like a criminal on the edge. Wouldn’t it be funny if there was a pickpocket who always left his calling card complete with blog address? You could read about yourself the next day. It’s making me chuckle just thinking about it.

2/9/2004

This Writing Life

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

Monday morning. It’s not really Monday for me. This is posting on Monday, but I’m writing it on Thursday the week before. That’s how things work in the newspaper industry. Articles are written days before they “go to press.”  I want to work how a newspaper writer would work. I want to work how a magazine writer would work. Keep ahead. Write days ahead so that you never get behind. “Stop the presses” just doesn’t happen in real life, especially for articles that go in the Lifestyles section. If you miss your deadline, you just miss an opportunity to show up in print. There is no room for delay or procrastination. I don’t have to be perfect, but I do have to be on time.

Intellectually, I feel like I should treat this blog like a newspaper writer, but there is another gut feeling that bothers me sometimes. Instinctively, I realize that the Internet is a completely different media than print. It is so easy to “go to press.” Why should I treat my weblog like a newspaper when it is so clearly NOT a newspaper?

When Kristen was in the hospital, my prewritten entries seemed so empty and silly. I posted small notes saying that our family was in crisis, which seemed so much more real than the prewritten entries that I had written days before I knew that we were going to be in crisis. Of course, I didn’t worry about the blog. I knew that I had a few days of entries to hold me through the worst of it. I didn’t disappear off the face of the earth because I write days ahead. Which is better? Man, I don’t know.

I tend to write in bursts, writing a couple of entries one day and nothing the next. I mostly write Monday through Friday and rest on the weekends. I don’t like to get more than three or four days ahead because then when I want to talk about something cool like Janet Jackson’s right breast, it ends up posting days after I was so excited about it. This schedule is just arbitrary, actually. I could set up a different schedule where I write every single day. Then the time that it was posted would be the time that it was written. I could work well either way, but right now I’ve been working in bursts. Which is better? I just don’t know.

What about if I died? My entries would show up posthumously like clockwork until we finally reached the final entry of my life. How do I feel about that? On one hand, I hate it because the silly things I had written would be haunting my blog after my final curtain. On the other hand, I like it because I would be able to speak from the grave. A part of me would live on beyond death. It would be a short-lived legacy, but that’s better than most people have. Yeah, maybe the newspaper method is better. I may never have a genetic legacy, but I can at least have a written one.

2/10/2004

Why Girls Are Weird

Filed under: Books & Short Stories,Reviews — Laura Moncur @ 5:07 am

I just finished reading a book by a blogger about a blogger. It’s fiction and a love romance novel in many respects, but I found it thoroughly enjoyable. I’m not a romance reader, so this is a switch for me. I’m usually hardcore sci-fi all the way. There was a blog entry about a Tiny Wooden Hand that just had me laughing out loud. I worried that I would wake up Mike with my guffawing.

The book is called Why Girls Are Weird by Pamela Ribon. She still keeps a blog at http://pamie.com/. I haven’t scoured its pages yet. I just did well enough to finish the book before it had to go back to the library. I wish I had bought it. Tiny Wooden Hand is exactly the kind of fix I need when Old Cowboy Winter starts closing in on me.

I don’t know why I feel the need to provide an advertisement for this book. Ok, that’s a lie. I want to tell you about the book because I really enjoyed it. It was a book in a genre that I usually abhor and I loved it. I ate it up. I actually finished reading it. Plus, it was recommended to me by another blogger. I feel like I need to pay it forward.

If you didn’t know, I maintain the Motivational Quotes of the Day, so I’m always looking for quotations. Some authors are wonderful writers, but they are far from quotable. Other authors fill my little black book with interesting quotations. Here is what I gleaned from Why Girls Are Weird:

When something that honest is said it usually needs a few minutes of silence to dissipate.  – Pamela Ribon, Why Girls Are Weird, 2003   Having a holiday weekend without a family member felt like putting on a sweater that had an extra arm.  – Pamela Ribon, Why Girls Are Weird, 2003   When you live in Texas, every single time you see snow it’s magical.  – Pamela Ribon, Why Girls Are Weird, 2003   It’s sad when our daddies die. Makes us one less person inside.  – Pamela Ribon, Why Girls Are Weird, 2003

All of this tells you nothing about the story or plotline. That’s what Amazon.com is for. They have a synopsis and lots of readers’ comments for you to chew on. For me, I can only rate her as a quotable author. Here is the scale: with J.K. Rowling as a one (hard as hell to sift through all those adventures to find a good quote) to Somerset Maugham as a ten (you should see my copy of Summing Up, to post all of those quotes would be a copyright infringement).  I rate Pamela Ribon as a seven: some good quotes that are mixed in with all the good reading. Thanks, Pamie!

Man in the Dressing Room

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 2:34 pm

Today there was a man in the dressing room when I went to the gym. I saw him doing electrical work when I walked in. My inner dialogue immediately started invading my head:

Come on, Laura. It’s just a guy. He’s working on the other side of the gym. He can’t see anything by the lockers. Just change your clothes just like you always would. You’re not embarrassed by your body, are you? Ok, you are, but you vowed that you were going to act like you weren’t. What would that beautiful Oriental girl with the fake boobs do? She would just whip off her jogging bra like she didn’t even notice he was here. Of course, she’s probably an exhibitionist, but that’s another story. If he saw me, does that make me an exhibitionist because I was willing to change in here, knowing that there was a guy on the other side of the wall? Fuck it. I’m going to be proud of my body. It isn’t anything he hasn’t seen before, right?

And with that, I remembered the old trick from ninth grade. I could change into my jogging bra without a risk of him seeing anything, even if he did walk right into the locker room area. The old Flashdance trick. It takes extra time, but the risk just turned down to nothing. So I did it. I changed with a man in the locker rooms. There was no way he could see anything while I wiggled under my clothing, but I did it. Maybe he would be gone by the time I was finished with my run.

He wasn’t. And I couldn’t. I just couldn’t bear to risk trying to change in front of that guy. I just sucked it in, felt the shame of my body and waited my turn to change in the tiny dressing room that had suddenly become popular.

The irony of it all is that he was installing lights over the makeup counter. I had just been wishing for lights in that area. Be careful what you ask forů

2/11/2004

Running on Fumes

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:38 am

I feel empty today. Kristen came home last Friday and she is almost as good as she was before the stroke. It’s amazing how quickly she has recovered and we are so grateful. The stress is over. The danger is past. We visited the hospital for the last time on Thursday. Everything has caught up to us.

Mike has been sleeping for hours and hours. All those days when he only got three or four hours’ sleep have caught up with him and he is sleeping a big sleep. Last Sunday he was like a bear. I woke him before we had to go visit family. After we visited family, he came home and went back into hibernation. Now that the danger is past, he can sleep.

I have been immersing myself into so many projects that I can’t keep up with all of them. I feel like I need to trim some things, but I’m reluctant to take the pinking shears to any of my life. I know that I have to simplify my life, but its all so good that I don’t know where to snip.

Do I cut out my weekly meditation class? I have such good friends there. I love the interaction that we have between meditations. That extra hour and a half is so nice to have on a Saturday morning. That’s the temptation. Go home and do chores. Stay for an extra half hour at the gym and sit in the hot tub. That might be more stress relief for me than the meditation class. How do I tell them that I have to leave?

Do I cut out choir? We are practicing for a special meeting in March that will include a bunch of songs that don’t really fill me with the spirit of goodness. There are the normal practices on Sundays and additional ones on Wednesdays with the choir director from the First Unitarian church downtown. Rumor has it that this other choir director isn’t as nurturing and kind as Jan, our choir director. If that’s the case, then I’m out of there. I find out tonight if this other guy is worth singing for. If he is a nice guy, then, I’ll stick around. It’s only until March.

Do I cut out Weight Watchers? Hell no. I need to learn how to eat healthy once and for all. I’m there for the long haul. However long it takes to get to goal weight and learn how to live this life as if it were my own, I’m there.

Do I cut out family activities? Hell no. I love to be with family on both Mike’s side and mine. Maybe I’ll take less responsibility with things, but I’m not cutting out my family.

Do I cut out my friends? Well, Mike and I don’t have much friend time. We try to keep contact. If any of our close friends come to town, we make sure we see them, but other than that, we keep things pretty casual. There isn’t much to cut there.

I feel like I’m spread so thin, but upon analysis, I don’t really have too much of a life outside of work and home: a class, choir practice, Weight Watchers, family and friends. When I list them like that, it sounds so hollow and empty. Maybe I’m feeling empty because I don’t have enough in my life instead of because I’m drained.

Gym Babe Update

Filed under: The Confessional — Laura Moncur @ 1:44 pm

I talked to the gym babe today. I had seen her yesterday, but I was upstairs on a treadmill and she was walking out the door. I had to find out how the tests went and whether they were going to cut her up.

The tests were negative, but the doctor still wants to cut her up. She’s going to a different doctor because this one just seems to want to give her a mastectomy. She will see the new doctor in a week or so, so she’s going to go tanning. Running from one cancer into the arms of another. I recommended that she go see Iris instead.

2/12/2004

My Worst Valentine Memory (Part 1 of 3)

Filed under: Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:44 am

When I was four, my dad told me that he was going to take me to school. I was so excited. Stacey hadn’t been born yet, so I was a lonely child left at Grandma’s house every day. I wanted to go to school so badly. I wanted to play with other children. At the time, my best friend was Miss Julie on Romper Room.

He tricked me. He took me to church. He took me to a “school where you learn about God.” That would have been fine if he had taken me to a church that had special classes for children while the adults had their own, but he had decided that we were going to be Jehovah’s Witnesses. Instead of playing with children my age, I had to sit quietly while the adults discussed the philosophical ramifications of refusing blood donations. I remember thinking, “When are they going to stop praying to God?”

Becoming Jehovah Witnesses required a lot of changes in our lives. Mom stopped smoking. I personally think that she did it because she was pregnant with Stacey, but Dad saw it as a sign of her newfound faith. We had to go to church three times a week. We had to go “out in service,” which meant that we knocked on doors and talked to strangers about “the Truth.” Most importantly, it meant that I would never live my ultimate fantasy, which was to appear on Romper Room and actually meet Miss Julie in person. You see, on Romper Room, they all pledged allegiance to the flag and little girls who are Jehovah Witnesses aren’t allowed to do that. My heart was broken.

By the time I was in fourth grade, I knew the routine. Every day when the pledge was said, I stood respectfully with my hands at my side. Every time there was a major holiday celebrated at the school, my dad kept me home. Art projects were pretty much off limits to me: handprint turkeys, Santa, cheesecloth ghosts, and those frilly paper hearts were forbidden. I was used to it by fourth grade. After four years, it had become routine.

The Demon of Perfection haunted me even then. Academy Park Elementary School had these little certificates that they gave to students who did well. There were High Achievement certificates for children who had good grades and there were 100% Attendance certificates for children who had good attendance. By fourth grade, I noticed that I had never received a 100% Attendance. It became vitally important for me to get a 100% Attendance certificate. I knew what I needed to do: I needed to go to school every day, even when they were celebrating holidays.

Of course, my dad was just fine with this. If I said that I wanted to go to school, even on Halloween and Christmas, then he wouldn’t have to find a sitter. It was easier for him and he got to believe that his daughter was strong enough in her faith in the Truth that she could withstand even the sirens of the holidays on her own. I embarked on the second term, determined to win the 100% Attendance award.

2/13/2004

My Worst Valentines Memory (Part 2 of 3)

Filed under: Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:44 am

Cognitively, fourth grade is THE year for Halloween. All fourth graders want to be firemen, ballerinas and pirates. It is the year for dress up. That year, I didn’t dress up. I had never dressed up, but it was particularly hard to go to school on Halloween. Fourth grade didn’t qualify as the worst Halloween memory ever, but it was close. I remember Dylan came as a Vampire/Devil. He thought it was so cool to mix those two icons into one Halloween costume. I came as nothing and sat in envy at my desk reading the biography of Davy Crockett while everyone else toured the school for the Halloween parade.

I must have attended the Christmas party. I have no recollection of it, so it must not have been that cool. I suspect that my teacher gave us cupcakes or something. I’m sure I ate the cupcake, trying to evade my guilt in favor of my sweet tooth. Maybe I took the Santa head off the cupcake so that I could pretend it was just a normal cupcake. I don’t remember.

It was Valentines Day that I wasn’t expecting. It happened right at the end of the second term. I had busted my butt, coming to school while sick and through those horrible holidays. Valentine’s Day didn’t even phase me. It hadn’t even been a blip on my radar. It was going to be just one of those silly holidays like Columbus Day. I would have to sit quietly while the other students made frilly hearts. Maybe I would bring the biography of Benjamin Franklin to read to keep myself busy. Then it was smooth sailing to the end of the term and that shiny certificate.

The vision of that shiny certificate became pale and indistinct on Valentine’s Day. I sat at my desk during the exchanging of the Valentines. I was quiet and near tears. Everyone was receiving Valentines from their friends saying, “Bee my Valentine” with a picture of a bee. Or maybe they said, “If you carrot all, you’d be my Valentine” with a picture of a smiling carrot. There was candy in some of the Valentines. Some of the parents brought cupcakes with candy hearts on the top saying, “Be Mine.”

I had to reject all the Valentines. I had to tell my peers why I didn’t have a box. I even said no to the cupcake from the mother who sometimes attended our class and helped the slow readers. I was a good Jehovah Witness girl because I had seen pictures of Armageddon and I didn’t want to die in a flurry of fiery rain just because I couldn’t say no to a cupcake.

I was just trying to hold on. If I could just hold on until I got home, I would be fine. I was walking home with my friend, Trudy Rushton. She was the good Mormon girl on Royal Anne Drive and my mom liked me to be friends with her. Right as we got to her house, she stopped and faced me, “I know you’re not supposed to get these, but I couldn’t let Valentine’s go by without giving you a Valentine’s Day card.” She handed me a tiny Valentine in a white envelope. I took it, choked out a thank you and ran the rest of the way home, leaving her at her house.

I can’t remember what the Valentine said, but she had written on the back, “You’re my best friend.” I cherished it, even though it might mean my demise in Armageddon. I showed it to my mom and asked her if I could keep it. She said I could, but I could never let my dad see it. I knew what that meant. If he found out that I had brought a Valentine into the house, he would think that it was “demonized” and destroy it. My beautiful little Valentine would be destroyed before my eyes if Dad found it. So I hid it.

2/14/2004

My Worst Valentines Memory (Part 3 of 3)

Filed under: Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:44 am

It wasn’t long after that when the term ended. I got my report card, so I knew that I would get a High Achievement certificate and my coveted 100% Attendance certificate. When Miss Ellis read my name I was so happy. I walked up to receive my attendance award. I was so proud of all that I had done. I had suffered through Halloween and even the surprise horror of Valentine’s Day. I was so happy when I stood in front of the class that I kissed my 100% Attendance certificate. I even held it up for everyone else to see.

I don’t remember the name of the boy who said it. It cut me so deeply that you would think that I would remember his name forever, but he is faceless and nameless in my memory. Maybe the grief and anger blinded me. He said, “Geez, it’s just a 100% Attendance Award.” I tried to say to him that it was hard for me to get that award, but the vision of sitting in the room while all the kids were walking in the Halloween parade struck me on the side of the head. The vision of coming to class when I was sick and miserable struck me on the other side of the head. The vision of all the kids exchanging Valentines while I sat, loveless in my desk socked me right in the nose.

After that, the tears just flowed. I remember Miss Ellis trying to explain to the boy that some awards are harder for some people to get. It didn’t help. It just highlighted the fact that I was different. Getting 100% Attendance next term would be just as much of a struggle. It would be a struggle my whole life. I just let the tears burst out of me while I rushed back to my desk. I hid my certificate so that no one could see it.

I was never able to explain to that kid why my award was so important to me. I’m sure that it was just something that he got every term with no hassle or problems. Maybe he was one of those children who was blessed with eternal health, strong teeth and the socially accepted religion in Utah. He had no concept of how hard it was for me to sit in that room while everyone else was part of the party. No amount of tear-soaked words could have explained that feeling of being left out.

I think I was fifteen years old. Dad had left our lives. When my parents divorced, the divorce decree stated that at age twelve, Stacey and I could choose whatever religion we wanted. I had dumped the Jehovah Witnesses on my twelfth birthday. It hadn’t been a question in my mind. I was cleaning out the bottom cupboard in the kitchen when I found it: Trudy Rushton’s Valentine from fourth grade. It had been six years and the ache was still fresh. I think I’m still angry at my dad for making me hide the only Valentine I ever got for fear that it would be burned. I’m even angry at my mom for not protecting me from his psychosis. That’s why I hate Valentine’s Day.

2/15/2004

Work for Spiritual Growth

Filed under: Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 5:36 am

It has been said that repetitive activities are springboards for spiritual growth. When your hands are busy cleaning, your mind can relax and move to a higher plain. When your feet are pounding on the pavement on your daily run, your mind is lulled into a state of consciousness conducive to thought. When your fingers are crocheting the same stitches on the afghan, your mind can focus on more pressing matters in your life. I believe this is true because I have experienced it first hand.

That which is static and repetitive is boring. That which is dynamic and random is confusing. In between lies art.  – John A. Locke

Repetitive activities are friends of mine. Placing labels on tabs. Punching paper with holes. Folding ledger size paper to fit in letter size binders. All of these activities are welcome to me. As a secretary, I would be lying if I said they were interesting and fun, but they are welcome, nonetheless. They are an opportunity to give my mind a rest and move it into the realm of “zoning out.”

Never regard study as a duty, but as the enviable opportunity to learn to know the liberating influence of beauty in the realm of the spirit for your own personal joy and to the profit of the community to which your later work belongs.  – Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955)

I can enjoy repetition. It’s mind-numbing boredom that I have yet to conquer. When there is nothing for me to do but answer the telephone when it rings, I feel myself wanting to claw the walls. This is how a secretary’s life is. Sometimes it’s busy and there is too much for me to do. Sometimes it’s slow and I search my brain for something to keep me busy.

Work saves us from three great evils: boredom, vice and need.  – Voltaire (1694 – 1778), Candide, 1759

A true monastic would be able to find God in the boredom. Why is it that I can allow my mind to achieve a higher level when I’m folding paper, but not when I am at rest? There is nothing to do but sit and think. Why is it that I am better able to think when I have a cyclic activity for my hands? It makes no sense to me. I should be able to relax and “zone out” easier when I have nothing to distract me. It’s a mystery of the human mind.

2/16/2004

Buddha and St. John Climacus

Filed under: Health and Fitness — Laura Moncur @ 5:08 am

I’ve been within the same ten pounds for over a year now. It’s not like I’m within 15 pounds of my goal weight. I have about forty pounds to go, but I am stagnating at this weight. It’s not Weight Watcher’s fault. When I follow the program correctly, I lose weight. The problem is that I haven’t been following the program. Sure, I’ll be really good for a month, lose ten pounds and then inexplicably start dinking around. Before I know it, I’m back to this same weight.

Right now, I’m following the program correctly, I’ve lost a couple of pounds and the other day, I noticed something about myself. I’m right at the weight where my cheekbones start to show on my face. If I gain five pounds (which I have gained and lost about six times over the last year), my cheekbones become hidden under the flesh. When I lose five more pounds, my face becomes a lot prettier. I don’t know what it is about those cheekbones that scare me, but I think that might be part of what I’m hiding from. What is it about being pretty that scares me?

Damn it, I deserve to be pretty. That whole “Pretty Is As Pretty Does” thing is getting so old in my mind. I am pretty inside. My actions are pretty, so I totally deserve to be pretty on the outside. Why do I insist on gaining enough weight to hide those cheekbones? Am I scared of what will happen to me when I become a beautiful woman? I’m not even comfortable with the idea of being a woman. I still feel like I’m a girl.

I’m looking at my St. Jude figurine. I don’t believe that getting to my goal weight is a lost cause. I just don’t believe that. I can’t call on him for help. To the left of him is Buddha. He is smiling and very fat. He says that I shouldn’t worry about getting to my goal weight. I need to work on my inner self first. I need to achieve enlightenment, then I won’t be bothered with my corporeal being. It is merely a vessel.

Yes, my body is merely a vessel. That is true, Buddha. Yet, I need to be able to keep my vessel healthy and strong so that it will last me for as long as I need on this planet. Sure, you believe you have another chance. You believe we have an infinite number of lifetimes to “get it right” but I’m an atheist. I’m a nonbeliever. I believe in nothing.  No God, no Allah, no reincarnation, nada, nunca. I only have this one life to get it right, so I need to get on the stick. I feel like I have to be healthy, intelligent, enlightened and joyful. Plus, I don’t like the idea that all of life is suffering. That just sucks. Sorry, Buddha, I can’t be the roly poly elf that you are. I have to be svelte. I can’t take being pudgy anymore.

So, I have no help from either St. Jude or Buddha. Who is the patron saint of the chubby? I know I’ve fruitlessly searched for this before. When the martyrs were martyred, there was no such problem. Gluttony was sited as a vice, but for the normal population, it was easy to avoid gluttony. Back then, it was easy to starve to death. This time when I did the Google search, St. John Climacus came up. He’s not the patron saint of obesity, but he did have advice on avoiding gluttony:

The following are the signs, the stages, and the proofs of practicing stillness in the right way — a calm mind, a purified disposition, rapture in the Lord, the remembrance of everlasting torments, the imminence of death, an insatiable urge for prayer, constant watchfulness, the death of lust, no sense of attachment, death of worldliness, an end to gluttony, a foundation for theology, a well of discernment, a truce accompanied by tears, an end to talkativeness, and many other such things alien to most men. – St. John Climacus, Patron Saints Index, 505-649 AD

So, I need to practice stillness. Buddha and St. John Climacus agree on this. I guess I’m not quitting my meditation class. Lucky thing I waited to make a decision until I thought about it for awhile.

2/17/2004

Ocean’s Eleven

Filed under: Movies,Reviews — Laura Moncur @ 5:28 am

“Did you guys get my email about the cool idea I had?”

“Is this the idea where we sit on the couch and watch movies for four hours?”

Dan doesn’t mince words. It was clear to all of us that he was not enthralled with the idea of watching two movies in a row.

“Yeah, but it will be really cool. It’s Frank Sinatra Vs. George Clooney. We’ll watch the original Ocean’s Eleven with Frank Sinatra and then watch the new Ocean’s Eleven with George Clooney. Then we can argue about which one is better.”

Stacey, Dan and Mike were concurrent: George Clooney is better. Sight unseen, they were certain that the original Ocean’s Eleven couldn’t hold a candle to the new one. I hadn’t seen the original, so I couldn’t defend it. Then again, who could beat Old Blue Eyes? George Clooney? I think not. The point of contention was not the aversion to watching old movies that they all have. It was the four hours on the couch, which is something that I can do on a TV binge without even thinking. I didn’t even see that coming.

We decided to watch the original last Sunday and compare it to what we remembered of the new one. We got Free Wheeler Pizza from the old Mad Platter building and sat down to an evening of smooth talkers and one big Las Vegas Heist. There was only one rule: we would fast forward through any singing.

There was nothing that I remember from the new Ocean’s Eleven. Daniel Ocean hasn’t just gotten out of jail. Daniel Ocean is still married to his wife, even though she has walked out on him and got an unnamed job. Daniel Ocean isn’t even the idea man. The idea man is anguishing over the project with a sidekick that builds card houses. They pick up one of their accomplices at a burlesque show and we had to have an argument about exactly what a burlesque show is.

Best Line (said to a stripper at the Burlesque show): “Honey, I want to take you home and spread you on my waffles!”

Worst Line (said by Angie Dickinson to her husband, Frank Sinatra) “Danny, we both know that you love one thing and that thing is danger.”

We fast forwarded through the gratuitous singing of Sammy Davis, Jr. and Dean Martin. We suffered through so many scene changes and different players that we were confused. All I know is the Electrical Man has lung cancer so he wants his share to pay for his kid’s college. “With your share, you can buy your kid a college.” I had that strange feeling that comes with old movies when I realized his kid is probably old enough to be my father by now.

All of this, and we only lasted thirty minutes. We turned off the original after only thirty minutes. When I finished fast forwarding through Dean singing to himself at the piano before a gaggle of platinum blondes walked in, they all agreed that they couldn’t take one more minute. We popped out the DVD of the original and popped in George Clooney. I would like to say I was outnumbered, but even I was cringing at the corniness of it all. I wanted to see a real heist.

You can’t imagine how much more pleasurable it was to watch the new one after just seeing thirty minutes of the original. We saw George Clooney walk into the strip joint to pick up Brad Pitt and we all recognized it, “The Burlesque Show!” At Elliot Gould’s fancy house, we saw the Chinese Acrobat sitting on the diving board, “The House of Cards!”  When the big fight started, they panned over the celebrities who were attending the fight and guess who we saw, “Angie Dickinson!” Julia Roberts looked eerily like the young Angie Dickinson. Since we had only seen thirty minutes of the original, that was where the little in-jokes stopped for us. I wonder how the movie would have been for us had we been able to watch the whole damn thing.

Next time, we’ll do it right. We’ll do The Thomas Crown Affair. It’ll be Steve McQueen Vs. Pierce Brosnan! Pierce Brosnan is the best James Bond we’ve had since Sean Connery. Who could be a better Thomas Crown? Then again, it’s Steve McQueen! All he needs is a fast machine! Hard call. Who do you think will win?

Just a Note…

Filed under: Blog Stuff — Laura Moncur @ 3:26 pm

I’ve decided to time all my prewritten entries at exactly 5:00 am so that you know when to look for them and you can tell whether I was really up in the early hours writing. I just thought you’d like to know.

2/18/2004

The Homeless Guy on 1-80 (Part 1 of 2)

Filed under: Kathleen Bennett,Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Cory and Kathleen moved to San Francisco so long ago that I couldn’t tell you when it was. Let’s see if I can pin it down. They moved after the release of the Bare Naked Ladies first album because I remember sitting in their basement apartment in West Valley singing, “If I had a million dollars?” They moved before the release of Mike’s first book because I remember bringing a copy of his book all the way to San Francisco for them. So, sometime between July 28, 1992 and November 1995. That’s the best estimate that I can give you.

I remember the first time Mike and I visited them in their San Francisco apartment. They lived on Shrader Street, which was just two blocks from the Golden Gate Park and four blocks away from the corner of Haight and Ashbury. My parents weren’t hippies. They were very square, but even my mom believes that everyone should make a pilgrimage to the corner of Haight and Ashbury. I have actually gotten a parking place there. I would have taken a picture, but it was a rental car.

After only a few months living there, they had sold their VW bus. It was too hard to find a parking place and the public transportation was amazing. For the truly awkward treks, they bought a motorcycle, but mostly, they walked everywhere. While we were there, they expected us to walk everywhere, too. I was appalled.

It wasn’t the physical activity that appalled me. Even though I was severely obese at the time, I wasn’t going to let my fat get in the way. I was appalled at the homeless and pierced youth on the streets asking me for money. I was scared that they would attack me. I was pissed that they spent at least twenty dollars apiece for each of their multiple piercings. Why would they ask me for money if they had enough for a pierced tongue, two eyebrow piercings and that stupid thing right above their chin?

Kathleen and Cory couldn’t see them anymore. By then, she was stone thin, training for a bike race that spanned from San Francisco to Los Angeles. She hadn’t shaved her head yet, but Cory had. “It helps if you look like you belong here. You guys look like tourists.” I nodded my head. Damn straight. I AM a tourist. When do I get to see that wharf thing that everyone thinks is so great? I didn’t say it out loud, but I’m sure that my face told them exactly what I was thinking. I’m just that kind of person.

I remember Kathleen trying to comfort me. “I don’t give them any money. I used to when I first moved here, but they just remembered me and bugged me every day. Now, they’re just part of the city? you know?I see them every day so I’m used to them.” What she was trying to explain to me was so complex that I couldn’t have possibly understood it at the time, even if she had been able to find the right words. “I’m used to them” is about the closest she came to this feeling.

2/19/2004

The Homeless Guy on 1-80 (Part 2 of 2)

Filed under: Kathleen Bennett,Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Mike and I moved to Sugarhouse last July. Sugarhouse isn’t as urban as the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco, but it’s very similar. It’s the closest thing that Salt Lake City has to The Haight. We live within walking distance of over fifteen restaurants and as many stores. When the weather isn’t below fifty or above one hundred degrees outside, Mike and I walk everywhere.

The homeless have been kicked out of the metropolitan areas of Salt Lake. It happened a few years before the Olympics, but just because they can’t sleep in Pioneer Park anymore doesn’t mean that they left our town. No, they moved to Sugarhouse. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the homeless from the hippies. Point of reference: the homeless usually hold up a cardboard sign and the hippies are usually carrying a paper bag from Wild Oats. Don’t give hippies money. They just get pissed.

Life is different now that I walk everywhere. I see things that I would have never seen if I had been driving. I find things on the ground. I dodge dirty snow and dog shit. I look the homeless and the hippies in the face instead of zipping past them. I see all of this on a regular basis.

There’s a homeless guy on the corner of 7th East and I-80. I see him every day. He’s tall and thin. He wears a crocheted blue cap. He didn’t used to wear the cap. It was bright blue the first day I saw him wearing it. Since then, it has grayed in color. I suspect that it  eventually will be the same gray that everything that survives a Utah winter becomes. The other day, I gave him money. I don’t know why.

I was in my car and he was crossing the street. I’m usually on the right lane, waiting for the light and he is usually on the left side of the street. This time, he was crossing, so I beeped my horn. He thought that I was beeping for him to get out of the way, so he jumped. It was only after I was able to get the window down that he realized that I was trying to give him money. “God Bless.” I didn’t bother to tell him I was an atheist. I just took the blessing and left when the light turned green.

Now comes the awkward explanation. Now I try to put into words what Kathleen was unable to describe to me so long ago. That clumsy grappling for words to describe what it feels like to live in Sugarhouse. What it feels like to see that blue crocheted cap every day. What it feels like to walk on 21st South past the other homeless. What it feels like to mingle among the hippies and the yuppies and even the puppies. Dogs and humans and dirty snow the color of coal. All of it is mine. The dirt, the sky, the homeless, the home bound, the stores, the parks, the vacant lots, the vacant real estate, the vacant stares: all of it is mine.

I am filled by it all and all of it surrounds me. My day isn’t the same if the guy in the blue cap isn’t there. My day isn’t the same if my walk is missing the slight tremor of fear when I walk past the tattoo parlor. “I’m used to them” isn’t enough. They are part of me and I am part of them. Even if I never speak. Even if I never pass a dime. Even if I walk quickly with a light step. They are mine and I am theirs and we belong to this land.

2/21/2004

Distracted Driving

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

The neighbor’s cat has been walking on my car again. I can see his muddy footprints on my new windshield. I can see the spot right near the roof where he slipped on the curved roof of my Beetle. I feel a little vindicated that my car made him look silly. I can just imagine him slipping a bit and furtively looking about. He’s embarrassed and he’s worried that some other cat saw him being very ungraceful. It’s against the Cat Code, you know, to be ungraceful.

When I drive home from work now, I can see the sun. The days are getting longer and I scramble for my sunglasses to protect my winter eyes. It has been so long since the sun has visited full strength that I rush for the dark glasses with the 100% UV protection. In the summer, I just wear sunglasses all the time. When I’m outside they are on my face and when I’m inside they are on my head. During the winter, they hide in my purse. Right now I’m in limbo between the two. Sometimes they are on my face, sometimes they are in my hair and sometimes they are hiding in their case in my purse.

The footprints on my windshield leave little shadows on the passenger side chair. I try not to look at them while I’m driving. I am driving; I should be watching the road. I should not be staring at the sun, or looking at the cat’s prints on my windshield or following the shadow of those prints on the seat next to me or even composing my next entry in my mind. I should be keeping my full attention on driving safely so that I will be able to stay alive long enough to get used to the returning sun, clean off those footprints and write my next entry.

2/22/2004

The Travesty of Being Alone

Filed under: Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

She said it with so much self-assurance that I almost agreed with her, “He might be obsessed with work right now, but when he finds that Special Someone, it will be different.” I almost nodded, but I caught myself. There a split second there when I could have turned back. I could have politely nodded and let her believe herself, but something within me wanted to tell the truth. I wanted her to know that there was more than one way to live a life.

“Do you think? I don’t. He seems really happy with his life right now. You know, it’s possible to be alone and be happy.”

“He dates.”

“Yeah, but I think he’s happy with his life. It’s not like he’s incomplete without that Special Someone.”

I should have kept my mouth shut. I could tell that she didn’t believe me and there was no point in arguing about it. Plus, I didn’t want to launch into a discussion with her about physical needs versus emotional ones. I am in Utah, after all. The only physical need that is spoken about in polite conversation is eating. There is lots of talk about chocolate and ice cream in Utah. Sometimes I like to imagine that they are talking about sex instead, but they look at me funny when I laugh at inappropriate times. I digress.

In this state, it seems that being alone is a travesty. If you are not married, you should have a girlfriend, and if you don’t have a girlfriend, you should be actively dating. All of these “shoulds” are discussed as if they are fact, but I’ve come to the knowledge that they are not. It’s possible to be completely content with your life and be alone.

I’m not talking about “Alone and Looking” or “Alone and Grieving a Loss” or even “Alone and Just Busy Right Now.” I’m talking about “Alone and Happy Very Much, Thank You.” I’m talking about “Alone and Please Don’t Fix Me Up With Anyone.” I’m talking about “Alone and Yes, You’re Very Beautiful, but No Thank You.” It’s possible to live there and be happy and content, but this society will have me believe that it’s not true.

I blame Socrates. Wasn’t it him that said that we are just seeking our other half? If lovers are merely seeking their other half, it implies that we are incomplete unless we find someone to love. Sure that’s great for our genes and the propagation of the species, but as a self-actualized human, I find the concept demeaning.

I refuse to believe that I am only half a person. After over thirteen years of intimate contact with Michael, I know that he is a whole person all by himself. The two of us together make something better than we could be individually, but we are not two halves. That idea diminishes what we have created together.

So, here I am, wanting to explain all of this to her. I want to tell her that her life is great for her, but his life is great for him. There are as many ways to lead a happy life as there are humans on this planet. There is no single road to happiness and I find it offensive that she would try to force him to walk down her path, when his is leading to the same place.

I look at my little Buddha and St. Jude. Buddha is smiling at me, “Let her believe she knows the only path. It makes her happy to think that she knows the one truth.” St. Jude is staring straight ahead with the flame of the Holy Ghost above his head, “What are you looking at me for? I never got married.”

2/23/2004

Sense of Wonder

Filed under: Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 11:05 am

It’s clear now, but when I drove to work, it was foggy. I felt a little betrayed by the ice on my windshield this morning. After two days in Las Vegas, I had completely forgotten winter. It’s unseasonably warm, yet I want more.

I drive past several refineries on my way to work every morning. Sometimes they burn. Sometimes, they seem dormant except for the smoke billowing out of a couple of stacks. Today, in the fog, the burn was almost magic. The metal column was completely obscured by the fog and all I could see was the huge flame, floating in the air above the refinery.

Burning bushes and the Holy Spirit came to mind. “This must be how the early saints felt, seeing a huge flame in the sky, beckoning,” I thought to myself. Of course, there were no refineries to trick the saints into thinking they saw the fire of God. No, refineries are a modern experience that have nothing to do with saints or gods or monsters.

I was still groggy from the long drive home from Vegas yesterday, so the flame seemed more significant than it should have. It’s funny how a trick of the weather can create a sense of wonder in the ordinary. I wonder if it had been foggy when Moses found the burning bush.

2/24/2004

Akhenaten

Filed under: Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

His face sits on my desk at work. The Magic 8 Ball, Akhenaten, Buddha, St. Jude, my Get Fuzzy Calendar and a little box of tea are the complete personal effects on my desk. Buddha and St. Jude get top billing in most of my stories because they reside right under my monitor. I turn to them when I need advice.

Akhenaten, however, is so old that I never turn to him for advice. He serves as a reminder to me. His thin and stretched face lifelessly stares back at me. He was the first man in documented history to believe in One God. Sure, the Bible thumpers out there will point to Abraham or even Adam, but show me a picture of those blokes.

He reformed the entire religious structure of Egypt. Everyone was worshipping the One God, Aten, during his reign. His reforms were short-lived and reverted back to polytheism soon after his death. I never ask him for advice. I want to make a change that lasts far after my death. Akhenaten had no credibility in that area.

Why do I keep him on my desk? I bought his likeness from a shop at the Luxor hotel in Vegas. It’s a reproduction of one of the desecrated monuments found in a garbage heap thousands of years after his death. What we know about him is so limited and everyone has a theory. His likeness is deformed because of Froehlich’s Syndrome, or is it Marfan’s Syndrome? He was murdered for his religious reforms, or did he die of these diseases? He was the first pharaoh to be depicted in art as he was, or was it an artistic stylization? I don’t care about that stuff.

I keep him on my desk because he reminds me of the happy times with Mike when we first started going to Las Vegas for the computer conventions. He reminds me of Comdex 1992. He reminds me of InterOp. He reminds me of Mike’s first book signing. He reminds me of a time when the computer industry felt like it was the answer to everything. It was our One God for a few shining years and I’m mourning the loss of it.

So, a 3500-year old pharaoh reminds me of the time in my life when I worshipped the One God, The Computer. Just like Egypt after Akhenaten’s death, I feel myself reverting back to my old ways. There is no God. All the gods are false and all we have is our intellect and bestiality to protect us from the elements and each other. He is a reminder of a time when I put my faith in something other than myself. He is a warning and I never turn to him for advice. The Magic 8 Ball gives me better answers anyway.

2/25/2004

Lent

Filed under: Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Being a non-Mormon child in Utah usually means that you are friends with the Catholics. So many of the LDS children are told that they cannot associate with the world, that many of my friends at one time or another, told me that they could not play with me anymore because I wasn’t Mormon. The friends that never abandoned me were my Catholic friends.

That being said, you can understand how I would learn about Lent. From Ash Wednesday (Hey, you’ve got some black stuff on your forehead?) to Easter, my devoutly Catholic friends would give up something important to them. I don’t know when I started participating in this activity, but as a teen, I gave up things like chocolate and Twinkies. After some maturation, I realized that I could control my body and started to think of more challenging behaviors to sacrifice at Lent. Since my late teens, I have chosen thought patterns to control. For example, giving up thinking about Brad Pitt as a sex object, quit obsessing about the faults of my immediate supervisor at work, or stop fantasizing about winning the lottery.

Now, I see myself as the logical atheist that I am and yet I still give up something every year for Lent. I am still learning to control my mind, so I still give up a damaging thought pattern. This ritual never really had a religious significance to me, so I never really felt like I was doing this for a higher power, yet I still participate. Why?

At forty days, Lent is a conveniently lengthy time to break a bad habit. There are adults who still stop smoking or quit drinking coffee for Lent. After abstaining from something for forty days, it is substantially easier to resist it for the rest of my life. Having a period of time devoted each year for working to make myself a better person is incredibly beneficial. Choosing only one character flaw, and working on it continuously for forty days is the perfect way to perfect myself. The Catholic religion has stumbled upon a personal development plan that actually works. Why aren’t all of us observing Lent?

Because it’s hard. It’s so much easier to say to myself, “I’m not going to fantasize about winning the lottery.” It’s a hell of a lot harder to control my mind every time I see a Publisher’s Clearing House commercial. During this time of thought control, I’ve found that it’s a lot easier to decide the positive thoughts that I want to place in my mind instead. Lent is easier when I say, “Every time I catch myself thinking about winning the lottery, I’m going to concentrate on ways to be more frugal with the money I already have, ways to earn more money in my spare time, or ways to cut my expenses.” That way, I have many other things to think of instead of obsessing over something that is statistically unlikely. I’ve found ways to make Lent easier for myself, but in all truthfulness, self-development is difficult, and that is why Lent is not a popular ritual, even among Catholics.

Wish me luck!

2/26/2004

Bleed

Filed under: Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

I think we were talking about bungee jumping. I don’t quite remember what started the conversation, actually. This weekend, Stacey, Dan, Mike and I drove down to Las Vegas and there was a lot of talking. I remember vividly what Mike said, “Someday in the future, people will pay money to be hit in the head with a hammer.” It was such a vivid idea that it has stuck in my mind since he said it last weekend.

He was trying to say that it was silly that people do such crazy things for a thrill. Oh, I remember. Stacey had been talking about the bobsled ride that she took with her friends up in Park City. It was a 5G curvy trip down the mountain that lasted only about a minute and a half. It’s the same trip that the Olympic Bobsled Team takes, but slower. It was sheer hell and she’ll never do it again. After describing this to us, Mike made his graphic comment about hammers. Somehow, I understand the concept of thrill. I tried to explain it to him.

When everything feels like the movies Yeah, you bleed just to know you’re alive.  – Goo Goo Dolls, Iris, 1998

Sometimes I feel so empty. I feel like I’m going through this life in a fog. I feel like I’m going through life with blinders on. Doing something thrilling is like taking off those blinders. For a brief second, it feels like I am awake and alive. Of course, I’m not much of a risk taker. I don’t bungee jump, ride motorcycles, or even ski. Going for the thrill proves that you’re alive only because it brings you so close to death. I understand the concept, I just don’t participate.

It’s like I’m walking around with a blindfold on.  It’s like if someone would just rip it off, I could see.  I could make some sense of my life.  – Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider, Northern Exposure, Dinner at Seven-Thirty, 1994

Instead, I shock myself out of the fog with my imagination. I can step into a fantasy world and imagine a completely different world for myself. A five minute sojourn into fantasyland is enough to bring me back to reality with the true sense of being alive. That’s probably why I enjoy writing so much. It’s like I’m in another world while I’m writing, even if the other world was just last weekend when we were talking in the restaurant.

2/27/2004

Burning Down the House

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

I’m scared of setting the house on fire. It’s not like I want to set the house on fire and I don’t trust myself. It’s just that I’d like to start oil painting again, but I’m scared that the brush cleaner will ignite and cover the entire house in flames.

You can’t blame me. There is a little picture of that very fire right on the bottle of brush cleaner. The little guy has his arms in the air because he is covered with flames that have been ignited by the pilot light of the furnace. If I look at that picture long enough, I can see myself in place of that little guy in the safety warning picture. My arms are in the air and I’m trying to locate the dog and cats so we can get out of the house before the brush cleaner kills us all.

You can’t blame me. That is exactly how the condo across the way burned down in a flurry of flame. It was July and everyone thought that kids must have started the fire with some random fireworks. It was later that we learned that the artist who lived in that unit spilled some of her brush cleaner and the vapors traveled to the pilot light before she could clean it up. Within two hours, everything was gone. They called the fire departments for Taylorsville, West Jordan and West Valley. Mike and I were watching the fire from the safety of our condo when the windows blew out. We could feel the heat from the blast in our own building and it was then when we realized that we were not safe. The firemen saved our condo, but the place across the way was devastated.

I used to paint in the basement all the time at our house in West Jordan. Even though the furnace was so close, the basement was just one huge room with plenty of ventilation. I had very little fear of fire there. This new house in Sugarhouse has so many leaks that I don’t even feel safe upstairs because the vapors could creep downstairs and find the furnace. I’ve only painted one painting since we moved in July and I worried the entire time.

Mike has tried to reason with me. Cooking fires are the number one cause of house fires, followed by heating equipment failure, electrical distribution equipment failure, smoking, and candle fires. Oil painting doesn’t even make the top five. There is no logical reason for me to be scared of setting the house on fire, but I’m not a Vulcan. I am a Human and we get skittish for no reason sometimes.

2/28/2004

A Broken Glass

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

I broke a glass Thursday morning. This is the first time I’ve ever lived in a house with tile in the kitchen. I’m pretty sure that this glass would have bounced on vinyl flooring, but it shattered into a million pieces this morning on the tile. I just stood there, barefoot, looking at the glass all around me. The noise was so loud that it woke up Mike. My egg was cooking on the stove behind me and my toast was toasting in the toaster in front of me. I felt trapped in a minefield of glass.

I think it was because I was sleepy that I felt trapped. I had only awoken maybe five minutes before. I staggered out of bed, went to the kitchen for an egg and cracked it into the little pan.  I got a piece of bread, turned toward the toaster, and started the toast. While closing the toaster, my hand hit the glass on the counter and I stood helplessly while I watched it fall. For a split second, I truly expected it to bounce. It was only when it shattered that I remembered that we have tile in our kitchen.

Our dustpan has been MIA since the move, but since the advent of Swiffer, we haven’t missed it. I missed it this morning. Mike helped me sweep up the largest pieces using a box from the dinner he ate last night. After the initial sweeping, I used the vacuum to get those microscopic pieces that can lodge in my feet. I don’t think I got them all, so I still expect to be wounded in the future.

I told Mike that we are going to buy all new drinkware. I said that we should buy all plastic glasses next time. He said, “But then they won’t be glasses, they’ll be plastics.” I was so tired, I couldn’t even laugh.

2/29/2004

Adult Eyes

Filed under: Movies,Reviews — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

“I have something for you.”

One of my engineers stopped me when I walked into the office on Thursday. He went into his office and returned with a VHS tape: Xanadu. Olivia Newton-John’s face and windblown hair stared back at me. I was truly happy to see her.

“Xanadu! I haven’t seen this movie since I was in sixth grade.”

I remembered that the two of us had talked about this movie. I was a child when I saw it and he was a father with a child almost my age. He loved the movie so much that he bought it. I was curious to see how well it aged.

I haven’t watched it yet. I am still in that state that loves the movie as only a child could. Olivia Newton-John was the roller-skating muse of music. She inspired Gene Kelly during World War II. I remember her inspiring Andy Gibb to build a roller disco, but when I look at the credits, it looks like that character was played by an actor named Michael Beck. Both IMDB and Amazon have Michael Beck playing the character of Sonny Malone.

I had a BeeGees record player when I was in sixth grade and I remember thinking that I could use that record player to open my own roller disco. Maybe I just made the strange connection to the Brothers Gibb in my own mind.

I remember one scene where there is a competition between the Big Bands and the Rock N Rollers. There was a song for the Big Band people and lots of jitterbug dancing, then there was a song for the Rock N Rollers and lots of modern dance. At the end, the two stages merged into one and the songs merged as well. I could still sing both songs and the merged version for you to this day. It was beautiful. I wanted to be a Big Band singer so much. It’s probably why I’m obsessed with the Andrew Sisters and Peggy Lee to this day.

I remember being so impressed with Gene Kelly playing a clarinet. I’m sure that my adult eyes will see right through that now. In fact, I’ve been procrastinating my viewing just because I don’t want my adult eyes to see right through the magic. I enjoyed that movie so much when I was eleven years old that I can’t imagine it will look the same at thirty-four. I could have rented this movie on my own any time that I wanted, yet I hadn’t watched it.

Now, my engineer has brought this movie in to me. I  don’t want to lose the magic, but he is going to ask me if I watched it when I return the tape. He loves Olivia Newton-John and will be disappointed if I don’t love the movie with the same fervor with my adult eyes as I did with my child eyes. Maybe I should just pretend that I watched it.

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