Friday, December 29, 2006

Nordstrom's Dressing Room Trauma

I was at Nordstorm's last night wandering nervously around the Women's Undergarments section. I'm going to a BLACK TIE dinner on New Year's Eve and I bought a killer black velvet gown, and...well, let's just say Miss Turtle was in need of some new undergarments for her dress.

I wandered around looking at lacy frilly things. I picked out one or two items to try on in the dressing room. I get into the dressing room, disrobe, and stare in complete horror at my reflection in the mirror.

Am I really that fat? Am I really that ugly? Do I look that bad wearing light turquoise? Do I look that bad wearing black? Do I look that bad even existing?

Even my long, dark hair which flows halfway down my back and which I know is beautiful, looked horrible in that dressing room. Even my bright smile looked dim and gnarly.

I tried on several items trying to focus on finding what I needed, bought my stuff, and ran out of there. Looking at myself in the mirror this morning, I concluded that the lighting in the women's dressing room at Nordstrom's in the San Francisco Centre is calculated to make you want to slit your wrists.

I spent the rest of the evening lamenting the fact that I, who used to be unique and pretty, had suddenly turned into disgusting troll. Who would love me? Who would even look at me? Will the people who are my friends and family still want to talk to me? Am I Medusa?

I got over it by settling in with the wonderful jacuzzi style footbath my brother got me for Christmas, sipping a cup of hot tea, and counting my blessings:
  • Sure, my arms and legs are ugly as sin, but at least I have them.
  • My eyes might look beady in those awful dressing room lights, but at least I'm not blind.
  • I'm a smart girl. Really.
  • I have a good job, good friends, and a family that loves me.
  • I'm going to a BLACK TIE dinner for New Year's and I'm going even if I have to put a bag over my head.
  • My dog loves me. So do the penguins.
  • My feet are small, my hands are capable and I have great cleavage (when I feel like showing it).
  • I do have beautiful long, dark hair. At least in the sunlight I do.
  • I have very few wrinkles, although I have big "smile" lines.
Time to stop. Time to get off this stupid tangent and start packing for my awesome New Year's weekend. There's wine to taste, spa treatments to indulge in and cleavage to flaunt.

Happy New Year's everybody and don't let the dressing room lighting get you down.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Miss Turtle's Mostly Christmas Haiku 2006

The Ex-Mas Bells Ring
Trees blurt out their Pine-Sol scent
Cold fingers my toes

Brother's gift is late
Forgot to wrap the others
Remember gift cards!

Head cold, sleepy, snarf
Move slowly, my parents wait
Must get going now

Although I complain
I still like the trees and lights
Electric snowflakes

So Merry Christmas
And a Happy Holiday
Wishing you love, peace

A Note - Folks, progress has been made. A year ago I would not even DREAM that I would have enough courage to write a Mostly Christmas Haiku. A year ago I was so afraid of verses and syllables that I would have done anything to get away from them. Haiku? Just say the word to me and I'd look away, eyes downcast, face blushed, unable to even try it. I credit this change to the Choka and the good people who run and contribute to it.

When the Choka first started, I was even afraid to go on there and look around. When I finally did all I could do was read it and marvel at everyone's cleverness. Now, I contribute regularly, have been famed and shamed, and was even included in awgeez' "Sam I Am" Shame Alley write up from Week 38.

Choka on everyone. And if you haven't checked it out, please do so. The more, the merrier.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

It's My Birthday...

Today I am 41. The thing that has been running though my head all day is Smeagol saying to Deagol, "It's my birthday and I wants it!" I have no "one ring" to sustain me through 76 years of searching. No literary masterpiece to couch my exploits in, no Led Zepplin song inspired by me.

It's just me and my dog. Me and my good friends. Me and my family. Me and the killer chocolate cake my secretary made for me. It's not a bad life. It could be a whole lot worse. I could be filing for bankruptcy like someone I know.

There are good things happening, no doubt about that.

No doubts at all.


In the back hallways of my mind, a barely audible voice is singing:
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday, Miss Turtle
Happy Birthday to you.

I'm sitting here slumped in front of my computer screen/32 inch widescreen TV. I'm gearing myself up to go out into the cold night so my dog can "do her business."

Universal heartache abounds.

Happy birthday to me.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A Conversation, Clean Sheets and a Book Cover

Three Beautiful Things for today:
  1. I have a difficult time meeting people in my day to day life and can even be shy around people I know in structured situations like a party so I decided I would "practice" by talking to people I don't know as a way of getting used to making the first contact. Today I talked to a guy named Bruce while we were waiting to be called for a massage at Nordstrom Spa. I asked him how his day was, he said he was here on business and tweaked his back while playing golf. I said I was recovering from last night's firm party and needed "balancing." A short but fun conversation.
  2. I have to say one of my favorite feelings on this EARTH is climbing into bed right after I've put on clean sheets. I wriggle my feet around, I sigh and roll a bit. I squeeze the covers with my fingers, relishing that wonderful feeling. Ahhhhh!
  3. Last, but not least: one of my best friends had to do a book cover for an assignment and she did one for the novel I just drafted "A Lament for KP." Although the novel title will likely change and I won't start revising it until the New Year, this book cover is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Makes me cry as I close this post. 'sniff' A lovely photo will follow in the next couple of days.
May all of you have three beautiful things to list today.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Beautiful Day Along The Embarcadero

A friend of mind showed me pictures of a mother and child sculpture she took at Burning Man two years ago. I'm almost certain this is the same sculpture but without the the fire coming out the hands and the fire-laden footprints behind them. That's the Bay Bridge in the background

I'm surprised at how well this shot of the Bay Bridge came out. I didn't even realize the red boat was in the picture until I viewed it later.

Speaking of Red, this small diner-style "Java House" is an iconic fixture. They serve a great breakfast.

I must have taken these pictures over a month ago just before I started writing my novel. The weather lately has been cold, rainy, and foggy. Very different from the glorious blue skies in these photos.

Random Jangle

Today I marched through screens and tags and duplications. I've been on that march for weeks now, but all I get is .tiff files stuck to the bottom of my heels for my trouble.

I'm still waiting for the new lamp that's supposed to liven up my already live office. Smaller, yes, but it's got damn good feng shui (although it's missing the goldfish bowl). No matter, fish swim in my waters on a regular basis, the natural light from the skyscrapers outside my window encouraging them to no end.

The eternal army is unhappy with their new quarters. They keep sending me irritated dispatches. "No one can see us from this angle," they whine, "No one oohs and aahhs anymore."

To which I respond, "I guess my oohhing and aahhing ain't enough for you guys, eh?" They're just jealous of the native americans, coal miners and beekeepers across the way. And they still haven't figure out which aerial shot is London. I made it easy for them, made sure the London Eye was almost dead center in the picture, but they're still guessing.

Mother octopus guards her brood. Her eyes are closed, must conserve energy. An octopus has that Zen monk air until they surprise the crowd by unscrewing the jar lid and pulling out the prize fish of the day. Spectators gape in shock. They learned something new today.

Head and neck. Nose made of cartilage. The person turns this way and that, but is tired of the exposure. They want a rest, keep asking me to turn to the part about the structure of the sun or how a microprocessor works. Energy lurks within these realms.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Time, Structure and Balance

Lately, I've been focusing on the big TSB. This is probably in response to November's novel writing accomplishment and my own self-marauding feelings. Having been acutely aware of both ends of the spectrum of my deepest self, I can see how both sides contradict, feed and can even co-exist together. Here's what I mean:

While writing the novel, I learned that I was able to take the zillions of ideas and swirling thoughts inside my own head and condense/collapse them into a story. Even more amazing, I was able to do that in a specific, demanding time frame. This is huge for me (and probably for others who participated). The number of stories/scenes/scenarios rolling around inside my head are probably countless, but I've learned they are useless up there in my skull. The real trick is to get it down on paper/computer where you can actually do something with it if you choose.

And I was able to do all of this noveling while standing on the plateau of my own despair getting the crap kicked of myself by my own persistent brokenhearted feelings. Sure, it was time to move on, and has been for quite some time, but that didn't stop me from continually torturing myself in this way.

I learned that even in my darkest, most self-indulgent times I could move forward in other ways even if I was still on that plateau. And, because everything else is moving forward, I have no choice but to follow by climbing down from that plateau to cheerier possibilities. The key for me is Time, Structure and Balance.
  • Time - I've started scheduling my activities into specific time slots. This came directly out of learning to figure out when I was going to work on my novel in such a way as to meet that 11/30/06 deadline. While this seems confining, especially since I like some degree of spontaneity, I find it liberating because it allows me to focus on what I'm doing in the moment. One of my problems is I don't have a good sense for how long it takes me to do things in my personal life. I tend to over-schedule or not schedule at all. Scheduling in this manner really helps me.
  • Structure - I started setting goals and mapping out the steps to accomplish them (also the result of writing a novel in a month). I've done this many times in the past, but never made it past the planning stages. Slipping goal-related tasks into time slots along with everything else seems like a natural next step.
  • Balance - I need Balance like a fish (or turtle) needs water. I'm learning that internal vs. external, active vs. passive, open vs. closed, etc. is crucial to my feelings of contentment. If I start spending too much time doing something/not doing something then it's time to focus on the other side of things.
If I were feeling childish (and believe me, I often do), I could complain that this past year and a month have been a complete waste of time for me because I'm not in the relationship I really wanted to be in, but I know this has not been a waste of time at all. In fact this past year and a month will likely be the biggest turning point in my adult life. The lessons learned, things accomplished, and people I've met have all been priceless. Preparation for the unknown waters, wide horizons, and endless possibilities up ahead have finally been completed.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Song That Keeps Following Me Around

"Miss Turtle."

"Miss Turtle."

I can hear Mr. Gryphon talking to me, but I can't respond to him. I'm standing in the concrete BART station at Glen Park. It's Friday night and I'm leaning up against a pillar. Trains going to the airport keep pulling up and departing, causing the wind from the tunnel to whoosh around me. Trains going back downtown are not coming any time soon and that's where I need to go. I missed my station because I so upset. I'm sending an email message. Another futile one. Tears stream down my face. People are walking by. I know they are glancing uneasily at me. I'm not sobbing, but my tears are unmistakable. I refuse to look up at them.

I turn away from Mr. Gryphon so I can focus on finishing my email message. I finally do and another train to SFO pulls up. I briefly think of that line from Casablanca. Something about "a man with a comical look on his face standing on the train platform looking like his teeth has been kicked in." Too bad I'm not wearing a putty colored trenchcoat and black fedora. Both look good on me.

The side of the train platform going towards downtown fills up. More people steal glances at me. I focus on the far wall. A dirty stone wall with sharp, mottled tiles. I glance up at the ceiling. The concrete beams seem to be decorated with worn out striped fabric. Very odd, early 70s.

I continually wipe my eyes. The tears have settled on my fingertips like drew drops clinging to a half-closed rose petal. Salt from my tears is starting to dry on my face. Perhaps if I cry enough, the salt will eventually form crystals on my lashes. I hear Mr. Gryphon behind me, but still ignore him.

"Miss Turtle." Mr. Gryphon comes around the other side of the pillar. I don't talk, just cry some more. He hands me one of his handkerchiefs. I really need one. The skin on my face feels tight. I once read that tears release some kind of toxin in your system. I'm not sure what good a toxin would be on my skin, but it doesn't matter I guess.

I'm finally able to talk a little, "Why am I so stupid? Why do I do these things?"

"I can't answer that. I can tell you the decor in this place is really bad. Are we going to wander the airport like accusing ghosts or go back downtown?" he asks. He is looking down at me, arms folded. People move around him, having conversations about co-workers and television shows.

"We're definitely going back downtown." I wipe my eyes some more. They keep streaming like I'd been hit with the white billowing clouds of tear gas.

He nods and leans on the pillar with me. I hear a song starting. One with the following lyrics:

"Does life seem nasty, brutish and short
Come on up to the house
The seas are stormy
And you can't find no port
Come on up to the house

There's nothin in the world
that you can do
You gotta come on up to the house
And you been whipped by the forces
that are inside you
Come on up to the house

Well you're high on top
of your mountain of woe
Come on up to the house
Well you know you should surrender
but you can't let go
You gotta come on up to the house"
(Tom Waits, Come On Up to the House, Mule Variations (1999)

"Are you playing that, Mr. Gryphon?"

"No. I noticed it keeps following you around, though," he says. I smile a little. He's smart enough not to say the next thing and I'm grateful for it.

"I don't know where the damn house is so how can I surrender and go on up there?" I look up at the black BART sign with flashing red letters. It tells me that the train going downtown will show up in 4 minutes.

"You're asking me where it is?" he fluffs his feathers much like how the penguins do when they want to relax.

"No, I'm not. Perhaps we should hang out at the Casino tonight."

"Not a good idea. There's a brawl that's been going on there for the last two weeks."

"I guess we should go home then, Mr. Gryphon," I sigh. I really don't know what else to do. "Why does this shit take so much time? Why do I have to learn to be patient with my bombed out feelings? Why can't I just turn them off?"

"The price you pay for that kind of behavior can be problematic," says Mr. Gryphon. I look up at him. "It's not in your nature to turn off your feelings. You are not a faucet and wishing you were one is a waste of time. Wishing you were anything other than what you are or wishing you'd done something differently is also a waste of time."

"I hate this whole thing, Mr. Gryphon."

"I know you do,"he says. His tone reminds me of someone and I wince.

The train is coming now and everyone moves towards the platform. Before we join the boarding crowd, I turn and look at him again, "I know what to do now, Mr. Gryphon. I really do."

"Then do it," he says. He has to bend down and pull his wings in tightly to get on the train. We manage to find two seats together. We do not speak again for the rest of the night. I am too busy trying to figure out the how of what needs to happen next.

Friday, December 01, 2006

O-ZO-MATLI! Ya Se Fue! Ya Se Fue!

Ozomatli, The Fillmore, SF (11/30/06)

Ozo playing in the middle of the audience. We were all sitting on our knees around them.

Ozo playing on the very narrow stairs in the lobby of The Fillmore.

Years ago when Ozo came out with their first self-titled CD, I stumbled on it in the Hear store at Stanford Mall in Palo Alto, CA. I was working in Palo Alto at the time and had started going to the Hear store after work to listen to CDs. It was the only store I had been in at the time where you could wander from display to display listening to whatever CD was on the headphones. Curious about the CD display card's "kitchen sink" description, I gave Ozo a listen.


Things haven't been quite the same for me since. I had never heard such a band before. 10 guys from East LA who play a combination of hip-hop, salsa, and funk, all with a Latin music undercurrent. I bought the CD and listened to it over and over. When Ozo came out with Embrace the Chaos, I bought that too.

I only have the first two CDs, but I'm going to remedy that situation tomorrow evening after I hang out with the penguins. One thing I love about this band is the sound is very nostalgic for me. Since I'm half Mexican, that Latin undercurrent/Mariachi sound reminds me dearly of my grandfather, who used to play the guitar for me, and of my childhood.

I had never seen Ozo live until last night although I figured they must play a monster live show. I was right. Late last month when I was feeling like the broken hearted loser completely incapable of ever finding someone who will actually care about me (okay, so I'll admit it's over a month later and I still feel that way much of time, but I'm getting over it - very slowly), I decided that I needed to have some kind of fun so I bought my single Ozo ticket.

Yes, I went to a concert alone for the first time. I was too upset to go through the sometimes humiliating process of trying to find someone to go with me. I don't know anyone who's even heard of Ozo except one person and he doesn't want to have anything to do with me.

Last night I had my doubts. I've been to The Fillmore before to see the Stay Cats (what a fucking monster show that was!), but that was a long time ago and I was worried about it. I also thought that going to a concert alone would be like going on a roller coaster alone: somewhat fun, but a curiously empty experience when you don't have someone else there to scream with.

I went anyway. Thank God.

I've seen a few shows in my life and THAT WAS THE BEST FUCKING SHOW I'VE EVER SEEN! They were unbelievable! I danced for so long and so hard that I must have lost five pounds from slamming my ass around and sweating buckets. My neck, hips and back were so stiff when I left The Fillmore and walked out elated into the cold San Francisco night that I had to take a muscle relaxer when I went to bed. I lost my voice because I sang to all the songs I knew, all the songs in Spanish (even though I don't speak Spanish and most certainly had them wrong) and even sang to the songs I'd never heard before. I lost my voice because I screamed my head off.

Carlos Santana was in house but he didn't play. They were very proud of that and kept mentioning it. Chali 2na was in the house (he was on the first album) and they played one of my all time favorite Ozo songs the Cut Chemist Suite. We were in the house and the walls were burning and sweating.

Did I miss having someone there with me? Not really. It would have been nice, but it didn't detract from what will probably rank as one of the top three shows I've ever seen in my life when I look back as I'm laying on my deathbed.

Ozo is playing tonight and tomorrow too. I thought about going again, but I'm still really muscle sore. We'll see. I may decide to chuck everything and go see them tomorrow too.

I have learned the hard way that it does help, no matter how deep your grief is or how much you just want to curl up into a ball and die, to fill your life with glorious experiences like seeing the best concert of your life or writing a novel in a month. It doesn't make the pain go away, but it does prove that you can make your life better and you do have the power to make great things happen even when all seems lost.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Casino

Today I wandered through the Casino of my torched love life. It's still there, some parts of the building are black with soot, but everyone just stays on the side that's still good. It's warm outside this evening (it's always evening) so the sheared off parts of the building don't bother anyone.

It's crowded here, but not because I've had a lot of lovers. It's crowded because the angels and demons of my psyche like to come here for recreational purposes. You do know that they like to gamble, don't you? I often wonder why they don't repair the place, but I realized they don't care at all. So much for divine intervention.

Various characters and monsters also show up. On Thursday nights, everyone gets a real 100% bonus so the place is packed. Sometimes it looks like the occupants of the Cantina scene were transported here (there is no Han Solo even though I've wished for it often enough).

The Casino looks like the Bellagio or some facsimile of it complete with fake Chihuly flowers. All day and all night the tables go on. The sounds of video poker, slot machines sounding everywhere. Bells and whistles. There are cushion chairs that look like overstuffed tomatoes (reference to E.M. Forester), the people who work there are running two and fro. They all know me and nod, but no one smiles.

A brawl breaks out approximately every hour on the hour. For some reason, angels and demons get petty hotheaded while they're gambling. The fights can go on for hundreds of years which is why security's first priority is to get them out of the building as soon as possible. Every once in a while there's a full scale fight that half the Casino takes part in. The tables are smashed, chips fly everywhere, holes are punched in the walls, the sound of unearthly screams and shouts are everywhere. We've learned that it's best to move to the other side of the building (the side that isn't fighting) and wait it out. The last one lasted about a week. Group fights are always shorter. Afterwards, everyone apologizes profusely and they clean up the place. I figure when they finally brawl on the side of the building that's burned out, it will finally get repaired.

Big gaudy flower displays, lots of overpriced restaurants and, of course, the wedding chapel. I try to stay as far away from that place as possible. There's even huge Ferrari dealership, the largest ever seen by human eyes (several floors). I never get to drive them or even ride in the cars. Too expensive. At least there's a world class art museum, but I'm the only one who visits.

I don't know how to gamble. I'm too shy to try my luck at the tables. Hell, I'm even too shy to try to learn how to play. The employees always ask me if I want a lesson or two. I shake my head, saying nothing.

On the other side of the building, I see Mr. Gryphon in the poker room. He's a little difficult to spot since everyone in there is immortal and sporting feathery or scaly wings. He's a great poker player, has offered to teach me several times, but I always decline. I've always been bad at bluffing.

Tonight with the sounds of the games playing on, I decide to stop and sit on the floor in the middle of the wide thoroughfare. Everyone steps politely around me. It's my place, after all.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

NaNoWriMo Update: 50,179 Words!!!!!


(with apologizes to Mr. Ali)

Yes, Dear Reader, I officially crossed the NaNoWriMo finish line. I can run around my apartment shouting and dancing my jigs, but it does feel a little lonely because there's only me and my dog. It's a bit late to start making phone calls so I can't do my Ali imitation over the phone right now.

Still, I was working so hard at getting to the right word count that I didn't realize what I achieved until after I scrambled my novel (all 147 pages of it) and prepared to have it word counted at the official NaNoWriMo website. As I browsed for the "Final Lament Scramble.txt" I felt a faint glow which grew brighter and brighter. When I got the web page that said "WINNER!" I almost couldn't believe it. Then I started to giggle. And then laugh. And then belly laugh.

My only wish is for a significant other to share this victory with. Oh well. Perhaps I'll get my wish next year when I do this all over again.

Tomorrow I'm sending out a huge email detailing my victory and then me and my friends are going out and CELEBRATING!!!

NaNoWriMo Update: 42,648 Words So Far

So they put up their automatic word counter over at the NaNoWriMo website and since they mentioned that word counters can differ from one another, I decided to scramble my novel according to their instructions and submit it to the word counter just to see far off it is from my counter in Word.

The very good news: Yes, folks, Miss Turtle has officially gained 2,641 words without doing any more work this evening. That's almost 10 pages of writing. Amazing!
The bad news: I fear when I reach 50,000 words, my novel will not have the obligatory "The End" written at words 49,998 and 49,999 and I'll have to continue to do some writing after November 29th until the first draft is finished.

I guess I'll just have to start writing leaner and meaner so everything ends at 50,000 words or thereabouts. How I'm going to do that, I don't know. Like everything, I'm going to have to figure it out.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

NaNoWriMo Update: 40,007 Words so Far

Yes, I'm going to reach my goal of 50,000 words by November 29, 2006. Why by November 29th and not November 30th? Because I'm going to a concert on November 30th that's why.

Actually my hope is to finish the last 10,000 words tomorrow. Whew! I'm completely burned out from spending the entire evening writing that I don't know if I can handle writing all day tomorrow, but we'll see. We'll see.

I'm babbling, I know. Sorry about that. I'll be doing "real" posts as soon as I finish this 50,000 word monster. I've got a backlog of posts to do for this blog, but I don't have the strength or mental capacity for it since I've been doing NaNoWriMo. I can't even update the 5-7-5 space.

More later. It's time to for bed.

Oh and I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

NaNoWriMo Update: 20,112 Words

I had hoped to make it to 25,000 words today, but doubling my word count is still good progress. Total number of pages written is 63.

Once again, I spent all day writing. I was having a tough time of it. I kept getting distracted by the charms of Wikipedia, figuring out what to eat, trying to decide if I should look for more classical music CDs, pondering the history of drug use in the 19th century, and I kept reading plot spoilers for movies (most notably Saw II and Saw III).

My story still wants to write itself with very little conscious input from me. I was trying to decide how to I was going to introduce several important elements, but while I was trying to figure it out, I found I had already written said elements down without paying much attention to what I was putting down.

The plot still has holes and lacks some fundamental character development, but I've made notes of all that and will take care of those flaws when I do the re-write.

I'm very tired. It's almost midnight again and I have to walk the dog before I go to bed. I hope to have 5,000 more words by Wednesday, but I won't be surprised if I decide to take Monday and Tuesday off again.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Picnic Table

"Miss Turtle, you're supposed to be writing your novel, not sitting here with me."

"I know, but I've missed you. It's been forever since you've made an appearance on this blog," I say. Gryphon and I are sitting at our picnic table. In the forest paradise of my own psyche, the picnic table is a place where we meet often. There's a plastic red and white checkered tablecloth, fine cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery, upscale crackers I've never heard of (forget Saltines and Ritz), some fresh grapes, stuffed marinated olives, truffle pate and some pears. The usual beverage accompaniment would be a soft white wine or a medium red, but since neither Gryphon or I hardly drink alcohol, there's Martinelli's.

I pick up a stuffed olive and bite into it. Yum. "I was just thinking that when NaNoWriMo is over, perhaps I'll start up The White City again" (a blog I started for about week which featured Mr. Gryphon and I in adventures).

"That would be fun, Miss Turtle, but we have regular adventures already," he says. He is picking up an upscale soda cracker and delicately spreading a very soft brie on it. The forest is life affirming. Everywhere the trees are lush and sustaining.

"Well, yes, of course we do, but those are personal adventures that I can't really share with anyone," I take a sip from the flute of apple cider, "Don't you get tired of being my protector and savior during my nightmares?"

"Never. I welcome it. I don't like dying, by the way. I just wanted to tell you that," Gryphon suddenly looks up through the trees. His wings open just slightly, the tips of his claws just show. I look at what is making him uneasy. It's only the T-Rex crashing through the trees. I wave him over, but he only smiles his killer smile and waves back before moving on.

"Mr. Gryphon, you might not like dying, but you only had to die once. I died at least two times before being scattered as part of the Universe."

"That sounds painful," said Grphyon. He is completely unconcerned.

"It wasn't. It was wonderful, in fact."

"I know," I wince a little at that. The way he says it reminds me of someone. This makes me think of something. "Mr. Gryphon, aren't you at all curious about who you're based on? Don't you want to know?"

"Not really. Does it matter? Besides, I get the feeling I might have started out based on someone, but I think I'm different now," he says. He stretches his long legs out under the table. There is a life-changing warm breeze. The kind of breeze that makes you want to weep with joy.

"You're different, but some of you is the same. I think I've taken the aspects I needed for a companion like you and kept them with me."

Gryphon smiles at me. He yawns. "I'm feeling very relaxed, Miss Turtle. Thank you for joining me here."

"You're welcome," I reply. As he turns to pick up a bunch of grapes, I look at him longingly. "I love you," I say so softly that he doesn't hear. But it's not him I'm telling that to, it's someone else. Perhaps this is my way of finally moving on. I thought I lost everything, but I still have my dearest Gryphon, my dreams and wishes, (painful) personal growth, this blog and the belief that love is (still) everything.

A trio of frogs dressed in tuxedos come around the bend. They are carrying their musical instruments and take a moment to set up. We watch them in silence, eating and drinking. The forest is awash with colors from a Van Gogh painting, all brights and yellows. The frogs start to play Mozart, of course. I look at Gryphon and smile. The forest is alive with birdsong to enhance the musical experience.

Things have changed, yes, but I have no doubt that all the questions rolling around in my head will be answered sooner rather than later.

The Coffee Table, Tiny Fry and Mindfulness

It's hard to think of three beautiful things right now. There are many, but my state of mind doesn't want to go look for them. I scratch and dig anyway. It's good to challenge your sadness and lethargy.

1) The Coffee Table - Biologist #1 at the Aquarium found and placed a coffee table in the middle of a four-cubicle space. We talked about it, discussed board games that we can put underneath it, talked about the flowers Biologist #4 had put on top of it, Biologist #6 said he would bring in a carpet (it's sitting on bare concrete right now) and we ate our lunch around it. Biologist #1 outdid himself even more by setting up his self-spinning disco ball above it.

2) Tiny Fry - Since we'll be moving into the new aquarium in the process of being built, biologists have been setting up temporary holding areas in any place they can. The temporary space we're in is very small. Tanks are everywhere, especially in the basement. The "Holding Room" has new racks of fresh and salt water tanks. We've been lucky to hatch out many tiny fry (baby fish so small that sometimes it's hard to see them) and many of them are growing up healthy in large numbers. Good thing because we're going to need them all.

3) Mindfulness - I spent time practicing mindfulness today and I was amazed at how beautiful the world is. This prompted me to start conversations with people I wouldn't have normally tried to talk to: families lost in Union Square, couples on MUNI, men and women. From the polished worn out door to the elevator in my building to how it feels to slowly pet my dog while sitting on the floor with my eyes closed to watching the bus lights flash and shadow on black asphalt, I felt like the world was open to me somehow and thinking about revealing its secrets.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

NaNoWriMo Update: Total No. of Words - 12,697

That's a total of 40 pages so far.

This week has been tough. I've been stomping my feet and talking about how my novel is crap. Last week's disappointment keeps showing up and getting in my face (I'm alternating between anger and lots of pain). Work has become politically annoying.

Today I got home and felt like throwing things around. A writer needs a notebook or something to take quick notes on and even though I have a basket full of mostly blank books I was incapable of making a decision as to which notebook to use. I started to cry from the frustration, but boiled some water for tea and decided to go back to my old habit of taking notes on three-by-five cards. Problem solved.

According to "No Plot, No Problem," the NaNoWriMo website and the emails I keep getting from these folks, feeling like your novel is crap during week two is very common. It's also common to feel like your story has no focus and that your characters are as two dimensional as cardboard. And I guess most people quit during week two.

I finally sat my butt down on the chair with some fresh tea and opened my novel. I started out by reading it, you're not supposed to read it because it will only depress you, but I did anyway. Then I began filling in some back story and fleshed out some of the scenes which adds to the word count. As I read it, it didn't seem all that terrible. What seems pedestrian turned out to be a skeletal draft: the crucial bones are there, but the possibilities are endless.

I picked up at the end and wrote on. The story unfolded easily, almost languidly. I was surprised at the turn of the events even if the basic outline of the story is known to me. Things are starting to come together.

I'm feeling all right. Good even. Even in my pain and loneliness, I was able to crank out over 2,500 words tonight and none of those words were filler. The story actually moved along and now there's some real character development happening. Best of all, I don't really know how this is going to end. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

NaNoWriMo Update: Total No. of Words - 10,004

I've made some progress, thank goodness. Today I wrote a total of 23.5 pages. There are many things to blog about, but since I spent the entire day writing it's going to have to wait. The target for the first week is 11,669 words. I'm hoping to surpass that tomorrow and Tuesday so I'll have a built in buffer if the going gets tough during weeks 3 and 4.

Since my Palm and Mac are finally talking to each other, I'm planning on attending some of the many writing gatherings that are going on here in SF next week.

The more I thought about the previous excerpt, the more mortified I felt, but then I decided that crappy posts of my first draft shouldn't deter me from posting more of them. What the hell. I gotta get some fruits from this labor, right?


Outside the snow was magical. Paul was feeling thankful about Stiggs and Annabelle, but bittersweet. He felt he would never find a wife of his own. He quickly put those thoughts out of his head since they made him sad.

Ahead of him, Kasper walked lightly on the ground. They were climbing a slight rise that Paul knew would give them a nice overview of the gardens and the hedge maze. The wind blew gently around them sending the snowflakes into white swirls. They reached the top of the rise and looked out together. All over the garden were the quiet drifts of snow. Snow formed as clumps on the naked trees. The tops of the hedge maze were crowned with white. All around them were the gentle rolls hills of the estate and all the “rooms” each section of the garden represented (note to self: elaborate on the “rooms”). Just beyond the hedge maze, they could see the small bridge and frozen little river that Joseph had drowned in.

Paul glanced at Kasper who was blissfully unaware. He looked peaceful and happy. Paul watched the swirls of snow blanket Kasper’s curls and then looked out at the view once more.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

NaNoWriMo Update - Total No. Words Written: 2,500

There's a story in here about how I was thwarted at every turn from starting this novel, but I'm back and things are up and running again. I'll relay the story in the next day or two. I wasn't going to post an excerpt, but I posted one on the NaNoWriMo website and I'm surprised at how good it felt. Keep in mind this is a very first, rough, dump draft and is in dire need of editing. With that warning, here it is:

A Lament for KP (the title will change later)

“Hey! Hey!” both men heard a familiar voice. Joseph was running into the stable, out of breath.

“Where’ve you been, anyway?” asked Paul. He couldn’t help but smile for Joseph was grinning from ear to ear.

“I’ve been in the house. The main house, Paul, and I saw him,” he said grinning even wider.

“What?” Paul stopped smiling.

“I saw ‘em Paul. The mysterious boy, in the flesh. He caught a glimpse of me and smiled,” said Joseph, relishing the looks on their faces.

“You did not! You’re just bragging! You didn’t see him at all,” said Stiggs.

“What did he look like? How tall is he?” asked Paul. Earlier he had told himself he didn't really care about this guest. His lordship had many distinguished guests and this one was the same as the others.

“He’s about you’re height, Paul. Brownish curly hair, like mine. Blue, blue eyes. He’s a little fragile looking, but dressed very fine. He has big eyes,” Joseph folded his arms across his chest and smiled. He was very satisfied.

“Excuse me,” said a soft, cultured voice. All three young men turned to look. Joseph stared and then quickly bowed. Paul and Stiggs bowed too.

The young man, undoubtly the man Joseph saw, ignored their bows and walked towards them. Although Joseph had said the mysterious boy’s eyes were blue, they were unlike any blue he had ever seen. They were the color of the bluest sky in the summer, clear and open. His clothes were made of the finest materials, very ornate. Paul watched as the boy stepped thoughtlessly into the muddy parts of the stable, apparently not caring that his very fine shoes would be ruined.

“I want to see the horses,” the man said simply. He looked them expectantly.

“Of course, Sir. Of course you may see the horses. Would you like to see one in particular?” Stiggs took over since the stable was his domain. The young man linked his arm in Stiggs and led him down the stable. Stiggs stiffened and then relaxed. They stopped in front of Thunderbolt, his lordship’s prize horse. Paul watched Stiggs answer the young man’s questions. He slowly went back to brushing the mare in front of him. Joseph nodded to him and then went back to the main house.

Paul continued to work. He could hear Stiggs talking to the young man and he felt envious. He peeked at them. They had moved on to another horse, and were absorbed in conversation. Paul turned back to his work. A little later, he took another peek and this time the young man glanced at him. He and Stiggs were coming down the stable row, arms still locked. The young man had looked back at Paul in open curiosity. Paul started sweeping the mare’s stable when the young man stopped in front of him. He unlinked his arm from Stiggs’ and openly stared at Paul.

“Can I help you, Sir?” asked Paul. He glanced quickly at Stiggs. The young man did not reply, but continued to look at Paul. Paul stood steady and openly met his stare. He waited.

“What’s your name?”

“Paul Winslow, Sir.”

“My name is Kasper Hauser. Do you know who I am?”

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Little More Than Two Hours to Go...

Okay. NaNoWriMo starts in a couple of hours and my nerves are shot. I don't know why I feel like jumping out of my skin. Probably because I sent an email en masse to a bunch of my good friends and family telling them that, yes, I am writing a novel in a month and, even more surprising, I actually have a blog and a body of work under my belt.

Many of my friends know about my blog and so do some members of my family. Almost nobody knows that I have written a novel before and have something on the order of 10 (ten) short stories that have already been written. All of them are in rough draft form. None of them have been read by anybody except my ex (he read only one because he was convinced it was about him) and a very dear friend of mine because I gave it to him for his birthday (my first complete short story, by the way).

I'm a writer, people. A real writer, and I'm coming out of the closet.

Preparations have begun. I've been steadily reading "No Plot, No Problem" by Chris Baty, Founder of NaNoWriMo and just bought myself a new PDA which will sync to my Mac (this was the perfect excuse to spend the money). I have not made the all important shopping trip. I'm considering doing that right after I finish this post.

What I like about NaNoWriMo is there's a whole lot of support. Write-ins and weekly writing meetings have been set up here in my hometown. There's even a first minute write-in not to far from where I live. I think I'm going to have to pass on that one, I'm still setting up my PDA.

Less than two hours to go. I'll need to shake my booty to Black Eyed Peas, take the dog for a walk and consider running to the grocery store before everything starts.

(Miss Turtle takes a deep breath....)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

NaNoWriMo - Writing a Novel in a Month

Today was disappointing so I decided my channel the knee jerk reaction to go off the deep end into something completely different.

Miss Turtle has been known to react to such disappointments by crying for hours on end, sending futile text, email, phone messages in desperation, etc. No more!

I considered my options: 1) sing really loudly to "We Gotta Get Out of this Place" by The Animals and "Spill the Wine" by War and Eric Burdon, 2) shake my booty to "Push It" by Salt-N-Pepa, 3) drink lots of water, 4) have my palm read, have a tarot reading, or a crystal ball consultation, 5) cry some more, 6) stuff myself with a dozen fresh Krispy Kreme doughnuts, 7) whine at one of my friends (as if they haven't heard enough) or 8) write a novel in a month.

Having completed nos. 1, 2 and 5, and being in the middle of no. 3, I decided to pass on the doughnuts (for now) and the palm reading, etc. for money/health reasons. This left no. 8.

I wrote a novel a few years ago. It's about a 200 page skeletal document in very rough draft. I never went back to edit it or get it ready for publication. Mostly, I wrote it to see if I could make myself focus enough to start such a project and finish it. It took about three months. Although not worthy of publication, it is a real novel with characters, character development, story arch, good guys, bad guys, plot twists, a subplot I really like, a climax and a proper ending.

I've had another novel rolling around in my head for about five years. I've made notes about it here and there, tried my hand at drafting a page or two, but never took myself seriously enough to write down a first draft. Lately, I've been thinking about this story I love so much. I have a very good idea about how it begins/ends and possible major points in the middle, but I'm curious to see if I can pull it off and what surprises will come out of the writing.

So I signed up for the NaNoWriMo (click on the icon to the left there). The basics: you sign up, write your novel of 50,000 words or 175 pages during the month of November, have your word count verified, attend some parties along the way and win your badge/certificate. "Winning" comes from the satisfaction of knowing you finished your 50,000 words. There are no best novel contests, no guarantee of publication, just the personal satisfaction of reaching your goal. I'm all over that.

I have serious doubts I will complete this goal, especially since I only have a couple more days to prepare and get my head wrapped around the idea, but I thought doing something constructively nutty was a better way to channel my disappointment. I could go back to sending desperate text, voice and email messages, but that's the old way of doing things. Miss Turtle is gearing up for the new! Even if I don't complete my goal, I'm sure to find out something new about myself in the process and that's usually a good thing (usually).

Wish me luck. And keep drinking water and shaking your booty to Salt-N-Pepa.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Second Show this Week

I'm living it up, people.

My brother has been going on about Badly Drawn Boy for a few years now. I even have one, possibly two CDs he's burned for me somewhere in my humble CD box.

No, I'd never listened to them. In fact, I have quite a few CDs my brother has burned for me over the years that I've never listened to. It's time to change that stupid mode of non-behavior.

Inspired by the show I went to Saturday night (to see a band I'd never heard of with a friend - good show, really fun time), I stuck my head on the local newspaper's website, pulled up the search engine and ran a search for everything playing in San Francisco today (or rather yesterday).

Badly Drawn Boy was at the top. I called my brother. He was at work. He got really excited. I got a couple of tickets via fax request that I sent in around 2:45 p.m. for that night's show.

Badly Drawn Boy, Great American Music Hall, SF
Taken with phone camera because I forgot my regular one.

Damon Gough is the main guy from Badly Drawn Boy. He's from Manchester, England. He was having a difficult time of it. Had to stop in the middle of the set because he kept crying during his songs. Was really pissed off (he yelled at everyone to "SHUT THE FUCK UP!!! YEAH, ALL OF YOU AT THE BAR!!! SHUT THE FUCK UP!!! HAVE SOME RESPECT!!!"). He finally apologized to everyone saying he wasn't in a great mood. Cried during the last song and cried while we stood up and screamed at the end.

Sure he was having a bad night of it, but Damon was FUCKING awesome!!! He sounds better having a terrible night than most people have during their best nights. Shit. Can any of you think of any band that sounds fantastic while the lead guy is crying through most of the set? Can you? I don't think so.

Great show. If you're feeling up for it, check out his new CD. Just released in the UK yesterday. Will be released here today.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Fog, Lazy Day and Quiet

Three beautiful things:
  1. The cool fog of a Sunday afternoon in San Francisco.
  2. Not getting up until 1:30 pm and spending the rest of the afternoon deciding what picture to change your profile to and which movie you're going to see tonight.
  3. Not going to the movies at all today, but enjoying the quiet of the evening and playing with the dog.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

What's Bad for Me is Good for Him

When you work with penguins there are certain things you learn. One is no matter where you are in the penguin display, you are in their way. It doesn't matter if you are bigger than them. It doesn't matter if you're human and they're birds. The display is their territory and their home and you are in the way even if you are standing on one side of the display and they are standing on the other.

Another thing is that most penguin behavior is done for a good reason, no matter how random or contradictory it seems.

Last Saturday, I was in the display on my hands and knees scrubbing the floor when I someone came up behind me and bit me in the butt (ouch!). I turned around and it was my old friend, Pierre the Alpha Male. Head lowered, eyes blazing, he was ready for a fight. I stood up slowly and backed up a little. I talked to him quietly ("Hey, Mister, what're you all pissed off about?"). He continued to advance towards me ready to bite me again with his sharp beak.

This was a little unusual. He almost never comes after me like that. When we first moved the penguins into this space and Pierre was running around kicking penguin and people ass left and right, he was letting me pet him on his chest. Sometimes he takes pot shots at me with his beak as I'm walking by his nestbox or when I try to pet him and he's not in the mood, but that's about it.

Since this was unusual, I paused and looked around. This is always the best thing to do when something different is going on in the penguin display. I noticed I was scrubbing close to Homey's rock. Homey, recently widowed, had taken to hanging out on the rock next to Pierre's nestbox. As both of them are at present mateless, we have been hoping they would couple up. Homey herself was taking a dip in the pool. I kept looking around. I was close to Homey's rock, but that's too far from Pierre's own nestbox to prompt this kind of behavior. Sure enough, the explanation became very clear for Homey climbed out the of the water and went to the other side of the penguin display. Pierre abandoned his challenge for a fight and ran up to her. They proceeded to do a little necking (mutual preening is the penguin equivalent of making out).

Pierre the Alpha Male. Pissed off, Defensive, Romantic.

This is good. In fact, it's good that Pierre came back later and tried to beat me up again. Why? Because he and Homey are finally taking positive steps to pair up and this includes Pierre defending both his and her territory. I'm hoping that by the time I go back to the Aquarium later this morning, she will have moved into his house. I watched them after I did the morning feed and observed Pierre indulging in the devoted mate behavior he is so good at (following her around, preening her head, calling to her and defending her space/honor).

During the afternoon feed, Pierre begged and pleaded to be fed on land. The penguins usually feed in the water unless they're molting, sitting on an egg or raising chicks. Or if they are at the top of the pecking order and looking all adorable with those wide eyes. I consented by giving him a big fat herring. Our relationship seemed to be back to normal. He must have forgiven me because when I left the display and did my usual call, he answered back.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Three Things. Well Okay, Nine Things.

Three things I learned about myself today:
  1. Since I have an overactive imagination, I need the following things: some structure (too much is restrictive), somewhere to channel my imagination and belief in my own authority.
  2. Some pampering is good, but exercise is as important for me as breathing.
  3. It's all about balance, balance and more balance.
Three beautiful things re internal stuff:
  1. Learning and accepting myself more and more.
  2. Getting better at staying in the moment.
  3. Meditation, especially when you meditate on what you want, is tremendously grounding and empowering.
Three beautiful things re external stuff:
  1. Standing in the morning sunshine while waiting for the bus.
  2. Writing about getting my butt kicked by Pierre the Penguin on the Choka.
  3. Receiving an unexpected souvenir of chocolate from Germany from a fellow employee.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Blog of Note: Three Beautiful Things

I don't check all the Blogs of Note, but the title for this one caught my eye. This blog is so simple and wonderful. Very inspiring. I'm going to try my hand at listing three things that gave me pleasure today:
  1. Redecorating my blog with the new
  2. Talking to penguins while I'm feeding them (and while avoiding getting body slammed by the males during a particularly enthusiastic feed).
  3. Having a leisurely lunch with an old friend I haven't seen in a long time.
Years ago I used to make Happy/Want lists. Each day I would make two lists, one of everything I was happy about and one of everything I wanted. It was interesting how these lists impacted my life. I found myself really paying attention to things because I would think "I can put that on my list!" As for the list of what I wanted, the lists started out with material wants, but gradually changed into what I wanted my life to be.

Please feel free to leave a comment about three beautiful things in your life right now or you can send me an email.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Burgess Visits Seattle, WA

Burgess the Puffin jaunts around the Emerald City...

On Alaska Airlines Flight 351 out of SFO just before 7am.

In front of a fountain, downtown Seattle.

Breakfast of Crumpets and Earl Grey tea, overlooking Pike Place Market.

At the Museum of History and Industry (devoted to history of Pike Place Market)

Saying hello to a cousin at the Seattle Aquarium.

Overlooking Elliot Bay, Seattle waterfront.

Salivating over homemade donuts, Pike Place Market.


I bought a book called "Experimental Travel" by Lonely Planet. Inside are intriguing games, one of which is entitled "Mascot Travel." Similar to the idea of the garden gnome in the film "Amelie," which has been ripped off by Travelocity for their ads, you take pictures of your mascot in various places on your trip. The idea is to make it look like you were not there and to use easily recognizable places.

Burgess is a handstitched puffin a friend of mine gave me some years ago. Most people assume that he is a penguin. I picked him over Mr. Potato Head because I was worried I would lose some of Mr. Potato Head's parts along the way. I also felt that Burgess would be easiest to get through airport security.

I must admit I was self-conscious about the whole idea and considered not doing this at all. I worried about what people might think of me. Silly, I know. Why worry about people you will probably never see again?

In fact, people are so focused on themselves and who they're with that most didn't notice when I was setting Burgess up for a shot. A couple of guys asked me if I wanted them to "hold my bird," but that's about it. The guy at the donut place did help by holding Burgess at the right angle. Too bad I didn't go back to the fish market (where they throw fish around). I'm sure those guys would have wanted to help me get a good shot of Burgess staring at some fish. A shot of Burgess looking at the Space Needle would have been nice too. Oh well. Next time.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

There's No Better Way to Start Off a Big Day...

than by listening to Leonard Nimoy singing "Proud Mary."

While Mr. Spock's infamous rendition of this song didn't make up for a much needed medium soy mocha no-whip from Peet's Coffee, it did provide a unique perspective on things.

I'm in the Big Life, people. Dig that groove.

More later.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Personality Test Results

I was over at the B1's Archipelago today and saw this link to an interesting personality test. Here are my results:

Neuroticism – 69
Extraversion – 16
Openness to Experience – 91
Agreeableness – 71
Conscientiousness - 10

You are introverted, reserved, and quiet with a preference for solitude and solitary activities. Your socializing tends to be restricted to a few close friends. You can be very easily upset, even by what most people consider the normal demands of living. People consider you to be extremely sensitive and emotional. Novelty, variety, and change spice up your life and make you a curious, imaginative, and creative person. You have a strong interest in others' needs and well-being. You are pleasant, sympathetic, and cooperative. You like to live for the moment and do what feels good now. Your work tends to be careless and disorganized.

(Hm. I never thought of myself as that sensitive, but what do I know?)

Neuroticism Overall Score – 69
Anxiety – 68
Anger – 60
Depression – 68
Self-Consciousness – 66
Immoderation – 33
Vulnerability - 80

You feel tense, jittery, and nervous and often feel like something dangerous is about to happen. You may be afraid of specific situations or be just generally fearful. You don't usually get angry too easily but some things can annoy you. You tend to lack energy and have difficult initiating activities. You are not generally self conscious about yourself. You often resist any cravings or urges that you have, but sometimes you give in. You experience panic, confusion, and helplessness when under pressure or stress.

(I hate to admit it, but I think this is true for me, at least in the last four years. Although I must say that I'm very self-conscious.)

Extraversion Overall Score – 16
Friendliness – 59
Gregariousness – 41
Assertiveness – 6
Activity Level – 6
Excitement Seeking – 8
Cheerfulness - 50

You generally make friends easily enough although you mostly don't go out of your way to demonstrate positive feelings toward others. You like crowds but sometimes feel overwhelmed by them. Sometimes you feel like you need some privacy and time for yourself. You tend not to talk much and prefer to let others control the activities of groups. You lead a leisurely and relaxed life. You would prefer to sit back and smell the roses than indulge in high energy activities. You get overwhelmed by too much noise and commotion and do not like thrill-seeking activities. You have a generally cheerful disposition.

Openness to Experience Overall Score – 91
Imagination – 83
Artistic Interests – 80
Emotionality – 91
Adventurousness – 51
Intellect – 67
Liberalism - 92

Often you find the real world is too plain and ordinary for your liking, and you use fantasy as a way of creating a richer, more interesting world for yourself. You love beauty, both in art and in nature. Sometimes you become easily involved and absorbed in artistic and natural events. You have good access to and awareness of your own feelings. Familiar routines are good, but sometimes you like to spice up your life with a bit of adventure or activity. You enjoy a certain amount of debate or intellectual thought, but sometimes get bored with too much. Often you exhibit a readiness to challenge authority, convention, and traditional values. Sometimes you feel a certain degree of hostility toward rules and perhaps even enjoy ambiguity.

Agreeableness Overall Score – 71
Trust – 58
Morality – 83
Altruism – 66
Cooperation – 34
Modesty – 92
Sympathy - 43

You mostly assume that people are honest and fair, however you are wary and hold back from trusting people completely. You see no need for pretense or manipulation when dealing with others and are therefore candid, frank and sincere. People find it relatively easy to relate to you. You will help others if they are in need. If people ask for too much of your time you feel that they are imposing on you. You do not enjoy confrontation, but you will stand up for yourself or push your point if you feel it is important. You do not like to claim that you are better than other people, and generally shy from talking yourself up. You are mostly a compassionate person, however you prefer to make objective judgments when possible.

Conscientiousness Overall Score – 10
Self-Efficacy – 34
Orderliness – 22
Dutifulness – 9
Achievement Striving – 37
Self-Discipline – 14
Cautiousness - 12

You are moderately confident that you can achieve the goals you set yourself. In general you tend to be disorganized and scattered. You find contracts, rules, and regulations overly confining and are sometimes seen as unreliable or even irresponsible by others. Mostly you work towards achieving your best, although in some areas you are content just to get the job done. You find yourself procrastinating and show poor follow-through on tasks. Often you fail to complete tasks - even tasks that you want very much to complete. You often say or do the first thing that comes to mind without deliberating alternatives and the probable consequences of those alternatives.

(Hm. Perhaps this is mostly true in my personal life. At work, I excel. I am very organized, prepared, reliable and proactive because I have to be. The last sentence is true; I'm forever sticking my foot in my mouth.)

If you decide to do your personality test, please do let me know the results.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Movie Tag

Ms. anne sent me a book tag. I decided to supplement that post with this one since I love movies so much.

Since I was a kid, I've always enjoyed movies. They were usually on TV until 10:00 pm which meant I could stay up late if I could convince Mom to let me watch the movie. I recall chaotic trips to the movies with my many cousins and uncles. We would pile into the van and spill into the theater. God knows how my uncles were able to keep track of us all. We would go to Disney movies, mostly. At home, I watched a lot of musicals (my mother's favorites) and tried to avoid horror movies. On occasion, I would be treated to a Jerry Lewis movie (I loved him when I was a kid) or a Godzilla movie.

The whole Universe opened up to me one night when my uncle took me and my cousins to a drive-in. We were watching some Disney movie, but I became transfixed by movie playing behind me. I completely ignored their comments and eventual teasing ("Why are you watching a movie you can't hear?") and just moved to the back of the car. I recall curling up in the corner and staring out the back window. It didn't matter that I couldn't hear the movie, I never wanted it to end. It was 1973 and the movie was Silent Running. I didn't see the rest of the film with the sound until a couple of years later on TV. Bruce Dern's character was odd, but the drones and his relationship with them moved me to tears.

A few years later, my movie life changed completely. It was 1977 and I went to see Star Wars for the first time (I would end up seeing it something like 35 times while it was still in the theater; I stopped counting after my 25th viewing). The theater was packed. We had to wait in a really long line. The final battle scene had me gasping because I kept holding my breath. I had never seen anything like it before (not even with Silent Running) and had never conceived that a movie could have such crowds. After that, I began to read movie reviews in the paper, to learn about directors and actors. I started the long, wonderful road of learning about film history.

I love movies. I can't say that enough. I love movies. And with that, here goes.

A movie that changed my life:
I do have a top 10 list of my all time favorite movies (which will be the subject of another post). The criteria for my top 10 is impossibly high. One of the criteria is that the movie must have changed my life or the way I view the world in some way. For this one I must list Amadeus, number one on my top 10 list and my favorite movie of all time. Most people are surprised when I tell them this is my favorite. They admit that it was a good movie, but they don't see why it's #1. Because of this movie, I became interested in classical music. Because of this movie, I took Music 101 and learned about Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, Strauss and the rest (and Mozart, of course). During that class, I learned a little of art history as well. It inspired me to take my Medieval/Renaissance art class. Because of this movie, I ran frantically through the National Gallery in London last year, marveling as I took in one perfect Renaissance masterpiece after another. Because of this movie, I still go see churches here in San Francisco because I love church architecture. That's a lot to get out of a two hour movie with some unknown actors and a bunch of powdered wigs, but that's what happened.

A movie I have seen more than once:
This one makes me laugh. If I like a movie, I'll watch it multiple times. This explains why I have quite a few DVDs in my collection. People don't understand why I watch movies over and over until I explain that watching a movie I love is like going to a favorite place to hang out for a couple of hours. I've seen many movies more than once, but the one that belongs in this category is Bringing Out the Dead, a Scorsese film starring Nicolas Cage. It's not one of Scorsese's best, I'll admit it, but right after I realized I was getting a divorce I was so distraught that I could barely function. I couldn't eat, sleep or go to work. The only thing I could do was write and watch Bringing Out the Dead. I can't tell you how many times I watched that movie in those first couple of weeks. There were a couple of days where that's all I did. As soon as it was over, I just started it up again for something like 20 hours in a row. I felt like dying and for some reason this movie made me feel like I could hang on just for a little longer.

A movie that made me laugh:
During the summer between my 7th and 8th grades in junior high school, my Dad suggested we go see a movie together. It was a hot summer night and we'd be going to the late show. After looking in the paper, we agreed upon a French film which was getting rave reviews. The film was La Cage aux Folles. First off, going to see a movie that not only featured, but was about gay men who dress in drag was completely unprecedented in my entire extended family. Second of all, it was the 10:00 pm show at a theater in Los Gatos. I was the only kid there and all the adults were staring at me. We got into the movie theater and I felt like I'd joined a secret club. It turned out I had. I never laughed so hard. What amazed me even more was that I got all the jokes. How is that possible? By the time I went back to school, I had a little notoriety attached to me since the news had spread like wildfire that I had actually seen a movie about gay men. Since everyone at school was impossibly homophobic, this made things very interesting indeed.

A movie that made me cry:
I cry easily, but I think I cried hardest during Toy Story 2 when Jessie, the Yodeling Cowgirl, sings that song about being loved by a child and then being forgotten when the child grows up and doesn't need them anymore. It made me think of my beloved stuffed animals when I packed them all away while I was moving out of my parents house.

The other movie I must mention is The Wizard of Oz. Having grown up watching it year in and year out on TV during Easter, I can safely say I know my way around this movie. As I've gotten older, however, this movie has become unwatchable for me. Even just thinking about it breaks my heart. A great, great movie. I still love those flying monkeys.

A movie that I wish had been made:
A adaptation of The Deathbird, a story by Harlan Ellison. It would never get made as it turns fundamental ideas of Christianity on its head, but it's a great story.

A movie I wish had never been made:
Pokemon: the First Movie. No, I haven't seen it, but the thought of it makes me ill.

A movie I just finished watching:
The Throne of Blood (dir. Akira Kurosawa). Kurosawa's take on Shakespeare's Macbeth is strange, haunting, spare and wonderful. Visually stunning and beautifully acted. Mifune is amazing as always, but Isuzu Yamada's version of Lady Macbeth is chilling. Her face and manner, always still and elegant, is ruin and death incarnate. A great film.

A movie I've been meaning to watch:
Well, there are a lot of them, let me tell you. Here are a few: Babette's Feast, The Treasure of Sierra Madre, Once Upon a Time in the West, Crash, Das Boot, Garden State, Almost Famous and Saw 2, etc.

Thanks for reading. I've really enjoyed writing this post.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Book Tag

Ms. anne book tagged me a while ago and I'm just now getting around to writing this post. As I've mentioned before on my last blog, I used to be a voroceous reader when I was a kid. Books were like food to me. In fact, I read so much that my extended family, mother and friends thought there was something wrong with me.

I still read, but not like I used to. Mostly I read while on MUNI during my commute, but even then I sometimes don't read for days at a time. I rarely read at home now, preferring to spend my time doing other things. Lately, I've been thinking it would be nice to do some reading at home, even a half hour here and there. Reading is a grounding, nostalgic experience for me. It really brings me home to myself, much like my mother's abondigas soup does (Mexican meatball soup).

It seems as I have gotten older, I don't read as fast as I used to. I used to tear through books at lightening speed, but now it can take me a couple of months to finish a book.

Since I'm doing more writing and have always wanted to be a writer, it goes without saying I need to read more books. Most authors say extensive reading, especially in the area that you're writing in, is one of the best ways to learn to write better. I must confess, however, that there is a small possibility that I might like movies a smidge better than I like books. It's difficult to say. A photo finish is the only way to be sure, not that it matters.

On to the tag (I'll also be doing a movie version of these questions in the next post).

A book that changed my life:
A Practical Guide for the Amateur Naturalist by Gerald Durrell. I was in my early 20s when I discovered this book. Richly illustrated and the first book I'd ever seen with the DK style photography (objects photographed on a plain background, museum-style), this book opened up whole worlds for me. From techniques on field collecting to how to set up a work room for your collection and experiments to detailed instructions for preserving specimens, this book is chock full of information beautifully presented. Durrell goes into each major habitat (rocky shore, smooth shore, forest, desert) and includes specimens he has collected from each. From this book, I learned how much I love to crash around on the river bank with a pair of tweezers, a plastic tray and my magnifying lens, how much I love to tidepool, how much I love to go birding and, most importantly, the deep satisfaction that comes with keeping a richly illustrated sketchboook with drawings of plants, birds and other animals. I gave this book away years ago and never got it back. It is now out of print. I need to find another one.

A book that made me laugh:
My favorite book of all time The Annotated Alice by Lewis Carroll and Martin Gardner. Gardner takes my two favorite books, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There and fills the margins of this book with notes about the history of the characters, of Carroll, of Alice herself, the philosophies, private jokes, politics, mathematics, etc. referred to in the stories. It contains several translations of Jabberwocky, including one by Carroll himself, a "lost" chapter and pencil sketches by Tenniel. Wonderful. Heavenly. Funny as all hell.

A book that made me cry:
The Golden Compass
, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman. The three Pullman books from the His Dark Materials trilogy are hands down the best books I've read in the last 15 years. Considered "Young Adult" books they are nevertheless complex, fascinating and extremely ambitious. Their views on religion and the role it plays in society is intense and uncompromising. All the great questions are here: who am I? what is my destiny? what is destiny? who/what is God? what is a soul? what happens after we die? what is the nature of evil? where is my place in this world? Beautiful, glorious, wonderful. I cried at the end of each book. I never wanted these stories to end.

A book I wish had been written:
The Sword and the Angel. An adventure story cutting across parallel universes, ancient and modern times, Heaven and Hell involving a young woman and her magic sword. We are talking about sword fights, car chases, mysteries to solve, tons of history, haunted places, quantum physics, characters from different mythologies, angels, demons, ghosts, etc. The story sort of uses The Divine Comedy as a jumping off point. I'm getting goose bumps just thinking about it.

A book I wish had never been written:
I can't think of any book. I worked at a bookstore when I was in high school and came to belief that all books have a place in this world, even the dumb ones or the ones that are offensive to me. I once had a conversation with a customer about my feelings on this issue. He challenged me about a book, can't remember which one, when he declared at the cash register in front of a whole line of people: "Are you trying to ban this book, young lady???!!!!"

My response was "Sir, our job is not to ban books here. Our job is to sell books. As many books as possible." He didn't say anything after that, but the customers behind him had a lot to say. That was an interesting day.

A book I am currently reading:
Winkie by Clifford Chase. This book is about a teddy bear that gets falsely accused of mastermining several terrorist plots. I've only just started it, but it's really fun so far.

Longitudes and Attitudes, Exploring the World After September 11
by Thomas Friedman. This is a book with Friedman's New York Times columns just before and after 9/11. Very interesting. Mr. Friedman is thought provoking, very knowledgable about his subject matter and does not shy away from his own opinions.

A book I have been meaning to read:
I have a whole shelf of these, but here are the ones that stand out for me Night by Elie Wiesel, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and The Sumerians, Their History, Culture and Character by Samuel Noah Kramer. For this last book, I've always been curious about the Sumerians, especially their mythology and stories. I've always felt that man's first great civilization might have a lot to teach me about our own.

Since my readership is small, I will refrain from picking specific people to tag, but if you want to do one for me, I would be most appreciative. You can send it to my email address or put it in the comments sections.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Sunday, August 27, 2006

My Dog is Trying to Tell Me Something

Last week I came home from work and found that she'd gotten into my lower bookshelf (the one housing all my self-help books). I was feeling like a basketcase for a while and I'd been spending too much money making self-help authors rich. See the picture below of what she did:

Next thing I know, there's a present in the living room. No, not that kind of present. This one:

Now, my dog is plenty smart and she's been known to leave things (messages?) like this upon occasion. This is not a random thing. There is absolutely nothing else in middle of the floor except these three items and they are carefully laid out. What are they? A subscription card to Real Simple magazine, the book "Why Men Love Bitches" and the red ball that I sometimes put treats and peanut butter inside for her eating pleasure.

I think she's sick of me reading these damn self-help books and magazines and ignoring her. This is probably a much needed message in my humble household. I'm sure if she could move the computer to the middle of the floor, she would do that too.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Second Annual Trip to Napa Wine Country

Earlier this month was the second annual "girls-gone-wild" trip to Napa. Me and three of my girlfriends drove up to Napa Valley, about an hour east of San Francisco, stayed at B&B and did some intense wine tasting. Before I launch into the rest of this post, it's very important to note that I am a lightweight. A quarter glass of wine gets me tipsy. My friends note that this is a shame because I have a "good palate." I know very little about wine, but seem to be able to taste all the flavors everyone talks about during wine tastings (I once described an "earthy" wine as "licheny" since everyone agreed that "mossy" wasn't a good description; they agreed that my observations were spot on). My tolerance was even lower than usual this year because my usual drinking buddy moved to Southern California.

Accomodations: Internet pictures of an unfamiliar bed and breakfast can be very deceiving. Sure you can see the rooms, but you can't see the fact that there's a layer of dust on the furniture. There's a great view, but there's tons of the innkeeper's crap everywhere else and the innkeeper will gladly watch your dog, but that doesn't stop her 4 year old granddaughter from coming into your room unannounced

Silverado Trail is overall the best place to concentrate if this is not your first trip to Napa and you're visiting Napa on the weekend in the Summer. The main road, Hwy 29, was like a parking lot.

Friday Night Highlights: Dinner. At. Martini House. Without a doubt, this is one of the best restaurants I've ever eaten in. Keep in mind I haven't traveled much, but the food here was truly amazing. Located in St. Helena, this is an upscale restaurant with great atmosphere. I ordered Cream of Mushroom soup (unbelievable) and Flatiron Steak in Cabernet sauce (Jesus Christ!!). My friends had lamb (excellent), halibut with crab raviolis (yummy) and duck. I don't like eating duck at all, but the duck was knock-you-flat-on-your-ass fantastic. We drank a lot of champagne, wine and port. I lost track of which ones we had, but they were all great.

Saturday Highlights: We hit the following wineries Cuvaison, Mumm, Merryvale and Rutherford Hill. Cuvaison was nice and small. Pretty good wine.

Mumm was overall the most fun. Depending on what you pay for your tastings, you can get between 4-7 glasses of sparkling wine (what people incorrectly call champagne). You sit on the patio at your own table with an umbrella. It's a beautiful day. You drink your sparkling wine. Things get rosy and tipsy. Really fun.

Merryvale is located just off of Hwy 29. Good wine. I limited my tastings to two glasses instead of the usual five which my friends had. They had this stunning long table for special events. It reminded me of something out of Harry Potter (see below).

We spent quite a bit of time trying to get into some other wineries for tasting, but it seems that many of them are requiring reservations. Our last winery of the day was Rutherford Hill. Really good wine. I'd been to this winery years ago on my honeymoon and it's a great tour. I highly recommend it so you can see the caves. We didn't do the tour this time. Rutherford Hill is also a wonderful place to have a picnic. There's a nice view of Napa.

For pre-dinner drinks (!) we stopped next door at the bar at Auberge du Soleil. Auberge is legendary for its luxury. We had pizza, french fries and oysters. The oysters were glorious. Whew! I was pretty much tanked by the time we were sitting on the balcony overlooking Napa (see below) so I had an Irish coffee. That sort of perked me up before dinner. Sort of.

Dinner that night was at Press, also in St. Helena, located next door to Dean and Deluca. Dinner was great although I can't for the life of me remember what I had. My friend had a filet mignon which melted in my mouth when I had a taste. More wine, champagne and port. Good thing we hired a driver that night. Dean and Deluca is a great, upscale grocery store. Wonderful for picnic supplies if you don't mind spending money.

Sunday Highlights: Amazingly enough I was the only person who wasn't hung over. Sunday's tastings were decidely more upscale. We had to make reservations for each of wineries we went to: Quintessa, Joseph Phelps and Duckhorn.

Quintessa was the most upscale and most expensive. $25 for two tastings. We also got a sliver of brie, a tiny slice of blue cheese and two buttons of quince paste. My girlfriends insisted that the Cab we tried was the best overall wine of the weekend. They know all about wine. Knock your socks off. I liked it just fine, but found myself enjoying wines at other places more. Plus it was $120 a bottle.

Joseph Phelps was a wonderful tasting experience. You take your glass to two wine stations and then sit on the patio. It was another gorgeous day. The view was lovely as you can see from the picture below. My brother had requested a fruity, but not sweet Merlot so I bought him a bottle of the 2002 Merlot. It's quite good. Fruity, spicy.

We saved best for last. The glorious Duckhorn estate boasted not only the best wines overall, but a great tasting experience. You pay your $10 (3 glasses) or $15 (5 glasses) and wait for someone to call you. When you get into the tasting room, you get your own table, your own person to explain what the wines are and your own little bottle of water. Each wine has a little card explaining things like what the weather was like that year, what types of varietals are blended into the wine, etc. I bought my brother another 2002 Merlot which just kicks ass (we've already drank it). I also bought a 2005 Sauvignon Blanc which is fruity, fresh and perfect on a hot summer day. I almost never drink white wine and it takes a lot to impress me, but this shit is fantastic. The farmhouse-on-steriods architecture is beautiful (see below). You can't see it here, but there's a huge, wide wraparound porch on the house. Yes, that's my box of wine in the lower right corner. I'm thinking of joining their wine club.

Lunch was in Yountville at Bistro Jeanty. The food was good, but the service was lousy (they almost triple charged me). Their Tomato Soup in Puff Pastery was wonderful though. I had no idea tomato soup could taste like that.

We made it home safely and have already started planning next year's trip (probably to Santa Barbara for a "Sideways" experience).

Sunday, August 20, 2006

San Francisco Life

I changed the title from The White City back to the old title Mock Turtle's San Francisco Life. The White City felt more introspective to me, more exploration of the vast internal life going on all the time. There will still be a little of that, but I wanted to see that this blog was more externally oriented when I logged onto

Besides I like the old title and I really like seeing my name there.

There are a lot of potential changes coming up for me. I can see things are shifting when I look out at the horizon. From personal changes to work changes and everything in between. I've been feeling very introspective and spending most of my time enjoying being at home and being alone. Since I'm sick of whining on this blog, I thought I'd be more selective with my posts.

Thanks for reading.