Thursday, December 27, 2007

Yes, Minister & Yes, Prime Minister

"Yes, Minister" and "Yes, Prime Minister" are British television sitcoms which aired from 1980 to 1988. I bought "Yes, Minister" for my brother as a birthday present, but had never watched it. I finally sat down one evening with him and we took in one of the episodes.

The show is brilliant. I haven't watched much TV, but it's up there with the best shows I've ever seen. In fact, I think these two shows, which always have to be taken together, might be the best thing I've ever seen on television.

The shows are about the machinations and political goings on behind the scenes of the British government. The three main characters: Paul Eddington, Derek Fowlds and a spectacular Nigel Hawthorne are perfect and have marvelous chemistry. The dialog is not only hysterical, but incredible feats of acting. Great, great stuff.

I bought "Yes, Prime Minster" for my brother's Christmas present and we watched a few episodes. The show usually concerns Jim Hacker (Eddington) as the Minister, and later Prime Minister, trying to make some progress with his policies, and Sir Humphrey Appleby (Hawthorne) as his Permanent Secretary, and later Cabinet Secretary, trying to oppose them. There's a lot of manipulation, circuitous explanations, head butting and horse trading going on. Appleby usually manages to get the best of Hacker, but sometimes he doesn't. Derek Fowlds plays Bernard Woolley, Hacker's Principal Private Secretary, and is usually caught between the two. It's easy to focus on Nigel Hawthorne's amazing Sir Humphrey as it is the showiest role, but Paul Eddington and Derek Fowlds roles are essential and just as admirable.

One of my favorite things to do during the show, in addition to having a great time and a good laugh, is to look at all the men's exquisitely tailored suits and to take note of their beautiful ties, pocket squares, and shirts. Someone there at the BBC has great taste in menswear. My brother was commenting that Sir Humphrey has the most beautiful suits. I disagreed. I explained to him that the reason they look so great on him is most of the time he is sitting up straight and many of the other characters are sitting slumped. Eddington as the Prime Minister probably has the best suits, shirts, ties and pocket squares, as he should.

Now, I haven't seen "West Wing" but I'm told it's very good, but can it be as good as these two shows? Here's a short clip from "Yes, Prime Minister - The Tangled Web" for your enjoyment:

YouTube Fun

Space between atoms/current favorite movie trailer/Miss Turtle feeds the penguins.

Hurray! An answer to one of Miss Turtle's most burning questions: What is UP with all the space between atoms? I've been wondering about the answer to this question for years and here I've found it on YouTube. Long live YouTube!

Next up is my current favorite movie preview "The Dark Knight." This shows our first look at Heath Ledger's Joker. Now the Joker comes with some serious pedigree in terms of the actors who have portrayed him, but I'm thinking this is looking promising.

Last, but not least. Someone at the Aquarium found a short video of me feeding the penguins! It was taken by someone in the audience. I had no idea the video had been posted.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Back to "Bird by Bird"

I don't know what the hell I'm doing. This is not a new idea, it's just that during this floppy, scrappy time of unemployment this truth has been brought to my consciousness front and center.

Last Tuesday I splurged using my finite financial resources and went to see Anne Lamott speak at the Jewish Community Center here in SF. Anne Lamott has written a number of books about religion and other topics. What she is most known for people like me is her classic book on writing "Bird by Bird."

I read "Bird by Bird" years ago and didn't like it. There was nothing new there, I thought, that I hadn't read in a bunch of other books on writing. I didn't like how insecure she was or how she seemed to flail around. True, she is a great writer, but I was uncomfortable with her brutal honesty. I didn't want to take advice or emulate a person who seemed so damn clueless. I wanted confidence and security. I set the book aside and checked it off as having read it. I would find what I was looking for elsewhere.

I don't know why I went to see her other than the fact that "Bird by Bird" is a classic now. Maybe I wanted to sit in a dark auditorium and hear someone who writes for a living speak. I hadn't read any of her other books. I was feeling, and still am feeling, lost and inefficient.

Seeing Anne was a revelation for me. She was funny, poignant, brilliant, and oh-so-brutally honest. She spoke to me and made me feel a sense of hope. She said she doesn't know what the hell she's doing either and that no matter how many books you've published, you'll still feel that way. Fortunately for me she focused on reiterating her ideas for writing and how those ideas can help you with the rest of your life.

She talked about the insecurities that she battles with on a daily, hourly basis. She talked about her feelings and how they get so overwhelming. She talked about how it is possible to be productive and to write the truth even when all this crap is whirling around in your head like a blinding snowstorm.

When I read "Bird by Bird" over ten years ago, I didn't like how she talked about all the distractions that get in the way, all the insecurities and all the feelings. At that time I wasn't writing regularly. I was arrogant. I knew I wouldn't have these problems at all. Now that I write on a somewhat regular basis and have a small body of work behind me everything Anne wrote about is true. It seems the deeper I get into this writing thing, the less I know. I feel like I'm crawling around in the mud all the time, searching for a way out, searching for a plan, guidance, a sign pointing me in the right direction. There is no sign and it's so painful. And lonely.

I don't know what the hell I'm doing. Anne said everything would be fine in her life if she just didn't have a mind that comes up with so much crap all the time. I have that problem too. I also think that all my love relationships would work out great if I didn't fall in love with the guy. Everything would be simpler and easier for both of us.

I tell myself to relax and enjoy and I can't. Instead, lurking in the back of my head is the first draft of my novel and I don't know what the hell to do with it. I have to finish it. There are at least three novels and two more short stories rolling around in my head right now, not to mention at least two or three short stories that have already been written and need to be finished. I'm not doing the stories any justice.

I'm still learning how to swim and the hardest thing for me is learning how to breathe. Yesterday, I took my second lesson and struggled with exhaling with my face in the water, then turning my head to the side and taking a breath. I sucked in water. I coughed. I got scared. My swimming instructor is wonderful and was able to keep me going. He told me how he's taught people how to swim who were terrified to be in the water. It's all about taking one step at a time and putting it together slowly. And practicing.

I realized while blowing out bubbles during one of my drills that I don't have to force the air out. I can be quieter and gentler about it. I don't have to rush. I don't have to push. I can just let myself be in the water. I figured out that even if I start to get scared as it kick my way across the pool, even if I get that sudden fear that I won't be able to breathe when I have my face in the water, I can still gently do my breathing exercises and I can still make to the other side of the pool. And I can continue to go back and forth across the pool like that.

Anne's suggestions:

1) Short Assignments - All you have to remember is you just need to do one piece of whatever it is. For writing, all that means is you need to focus on one paragraph, one small scene, one exchange, one inch of writing.

2) Shitty First Drafts - Anne says everyone writes terrible first drafts. Unreadable. Awful. Cringe inducing, painful first drafts. She says it's all right. All you have to do is get it down on paper (or the computer). Only after you've done that will you have something you can fix up.


This is where I'm stuck for I have lots of first drafts of stories/novels. I don't know how to fix them up. Well, okay. I think I've figured it out finally at least for this moment with this novel, but for the most part I don't know what the hell I'm doing.

And the older I get, the less I know, but when I say that I'm not just saying it to be cute or cliche. When I say the older I get, the less I know, I mean in a despairing, God-help-me-as-I-crawl-across-the-harsh-muddy-swamp-with-horrible-bugs-biting-at-me kind of not knowing. Usually I lie there among the bugs, the mud, the smell. I cry in frustration. I exhaust myself. The result is I end up doing nothing. I've got plenty of time to do anything and I spend much of it doing nothing. Despair. Pain. Desire.

One inch of writing. Keep doing my breathing exercises in the water as I'm swimming across the pool even when I'm convinced I'm going to drown. The first draft does and will suck; write it down anyway. Keep moving forward, slowly and gently.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

What I've Been Doing With Myself

It's amazing how much of your time is filled when you're not working. My biggest problem is I stay up too late and then get up late. I haven't been getting as much done as I'd like. I feel like a slacker. I feel very inefficient.

I read that the purpose of our lives is not to be efficient, just like the purpose of objects is not to be useful. I'm not sure how that applies to me, but the principles are sound enough.

Here's how I've been filling my time lately:
  • I've been taking swimming lessons. The new penguin display pool is going to be three times the size of the one now and eight feet deep. Everyone who works in there is required to take a swim test. Since I have the time I've been taking swimming lessons and practicing at the pool. I can swim a little (more of a dog paddle), but I'm not comfortable in the water. These lessons are really good for me. A huge challenge for me is learning to how to breathe and getting used to the rhythm. After I get a job and get proficient with swimming, I want to take a climbing wall class.
  • I've been running errands once a week for one of my friends. She pays me a good hourly wage for my efforts. It gets me out of the house and doing something useful for someone else.
  • I've been doing some poking around with the job hunting, but nothing too serious. I did manage to get a phone interview for a company I very casually sent my resume too. That was a nice boost.
  • I've been volunteering at the Aquarium. It's a really exciting time since we're gearing up to do the transfer back to the new Aquarium in less than a month.
  • I've been working through the online classes the employment placement agency offers on their website. The company gave me access to the employment placement agency as part of my severance, and it has been very helpful. In fact, I worked through the "interviewing" module class just before my phone interview and it was really helpful.
Things I should be doing:
  • Working more quickly through the online classes.
  • Reviewing my health insurance/COBRA information and figuring all that out.
  • Calling people I used to work with to see if they'll be a reference for me.
  • Revising my novel. I'm sounding like a broken record now.
  • Finishing the Gotham Writers' Workshop book I've been really enjoying.
  • Working through my Netflix queue. It's pathetic how many movies I haven't been watching lately when I have all this time.
  • Exploring neighborhoods in this City so I can do some of those blog posts for a change.
Things I should not be doing:
  • Obsessing over a lost love.
  • Sleeping in every single day.
  • Going to see "No Country for Old Men" a fourth time. I just found out the DVD is not due out until March of 2008. Grrr.
  • Buying unnecessary items. Earlier this week I bought two new bath mats. They were on a shopping list I had. It's true the old ones were over 15 years old, but they would have done just fine until after I got a new job.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

City Life: At the 76 Station Near 19th Ave. and Judah

"Well, I guess I better go outside now. I can't eat in front you and I really need to finish this sandwich."
- A guy I was talking to at the service station while waiting for my tires to be changed.

I walked into the tiny waiting room and sat down next to this guy who looked like a goofier version of Bono around 1991 or so. It also looked like he was wearing foundation that was a touch too pink for his skin, but no matter. He asked me what I was doing there and then told me about the van he'd just bought for $1,200 that was being checked out. Then he kept talking about how the mechanics at the gas station were ripping us off. It was raining outside. Joe, the owner of the station, kept calling me sweetheart as he walked back and forth. Cars came and went with steady frequency.

The price of gas was $3.45/gallon.

The goofy Bono look-a-like guy kept talking to me about...whatever. How the mirror opposite of us could be a two way mirror. About his new, used van and how it was costing him $400 to get checked out. When he told me about having to go outside to finish his sandwich I told him I could turn my head and not look at him while he was eating and how it wasn't necessary to go outside in the rain.

I didn't see him after that. It didn't seem like he even came back to pay for his car and I was there for a long time. Strange.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Working Life: Transition Discomfort

I've been seriously remiss with these blog posts. I apologize to my readers.

I've been spending most of my time pondering what I'm supposed to do next and planning the rest of December. Several interesting feelings have been coming up for me.
  • Guilt over not being employed. It just feels really wrong to not be working.
  • Worry about having a finite amount of money in my bank account. It's really scary knowing that another paycheck isn't coming in anytime soon.
  • Lack of motivation. I just don't feel like doing much of anything, but I still manage to get things done anyway.
  • A worrisome nagging suspicion that I don't necessarily want to go to another "company" and do what I was doing before.
I've come up with different ways of dealing with the above feelings. The company provided me with access to an employment placement agency who will help me assess my skills, look over my resume, and help me come up with a job hunting plan. I heard that a lot people who are laid off don't bother with these services even if their former employer offers to pay for them, but I have to say I've enjoyed attending all the seminars they've offered so far. Plus, I think it will help me with my desire to "assess" my skills and see if I could do some other kind of work.

I've been going through "Apartment Therapy," a book with an eight week program for getting your apartment in shape. I've also been going through the Gotham Writers' Workshop book "Writing Fiction." I wanted to take an actual online class, but can't afford it right now. The book was $15 and is a writing course in itself. I also just bought a book called "Time Off! The Leisure Guide to San Francisco." It's about low cost ways to enjoy the City especially if you've been laid off, and goes into detail about how to use your newfound time, and how to deal with job hunting, finances, etc.

It feels really uncomfortable not working. I keep thinking I should get on the ball and get cracking, but I really want to take the time to figure what kind of work situation I want to be in. There are huge alarms going off in my head and they're saying "WAIT! WAIT! Don't rush into anything! Explore, ponder and figure things out!!!!"

I guess that means I need to take this time off rather than throwing myself at another high paying, but soul sucking job. I'm very close to considering doing something really different and taking a pay cut. I need to figure out what that something is.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Llewelyn and Me

"An adventure, perhaps?"

"No, sir, not now." Mr. Gryphon says nothing more. I am gazing out over the dry dusty land. We are sitting on an overlook, the hot rough stones are jagged and unforgiving. Below us is the desert floor dotted with scrubby bushes. I can hear the sound of his boots on the ground. I look over my right shoulder at Moss approaching the cliff. He's wearing a straw cowboy hat, his dark hair sticks out here and there, his brown cowboy boots have taken a beating. He's also carrying a shotgun. He can't see Mr. Gryphon and me sitting nearby. Moss is looking down on a group of trucks and SUVs below us. They are parked in a rough wagon style circle. He squints his eyes and then looks at the scene through his binoculars.

I look out beyond the vehicles at the line of scrub in the distance, above is the open blue sky.

"Bad things down there, Miss Turtle."

"Hm yes. Heroin deal gone wrong," I say absently, still looking out beyond. I can't see all the dead bodies lying on the ground, but I know they're there.

"It's hot," Mr. Gryphon observes. I look at him directly. He is wearing Raybans and clutching a large transparent yellow bottle of water with a straw sticking out. Pieces of ice float in the water. Llewelyn Moss is making his way down to the trucks. I want to watch the rest of it, want to follow Llewelyn on his journey through hell, but I'm only distracting myself again.

I stand up with effort, dust myself off. "All right, Mr. Gryphon." He stands up as well and we turn to go back the way Llewelyn came in. I take the bottle of water from Mr. Gryphon and drink deeply. A door appears after about a quarter mile of walking in the beating heat. It's hanging in mid-air, fading slowly in and out, like a ghost door that got separated from its haunted house. I reach for the doorknob and give it a turn. The door goes solid and it's dark blue color comes into focus. I open the door and walk through. Mr. Gryphon follows and pulls the door shut behind us.

We are back in the newly constructed giant maze in the new wing of the living quarters of my imagination. I'm tired and a little hungry. I walk through the twisting corridors to the front entrance, climb the stairs and move towards the huge kitchen down the long hallway.

After we get there, Mr. Gryphon bustles around the kitchen after shooing the Cook away. He is making a smoothie for me (blueberries and raspberries). I am sitting at the counter, not doing anything.

"I keep thinking I need a manual, an outline for how to live, Mr. Gryphon."

He looks at me before turning on the blender. He knows better than not to say anything when I start talking like this.

"Thing is, I can't seem to find that manual. What about a code? Do you think that will help? What am I supposed to do next?" I watch Mr. Gryphon pour out the purple contents of the smoothie into a tall glass. He pours out another one for himself.

"I just don't know what to do," I say, "I mean, the stakes are much higher now. I mean, I don't have a job anymore so I have to figure something out soon, right?" He places the smoothie in front of me and slips a clean straw into it. I take a drink. It's wonderfully cold.

"If I were Llewelyn my purpose would be very clear, take the money and run from the horrific evil that's pursuing you, but I got no horrific evil pursuing me."

"We could find that evil if you want, Miss Turtle," says Mr. Gryphon carefully. I look at him over beautiful stone counter tops and shiny new gas stove.

"Seems a little counterproductive, don't you think? Shouldn't I be focusing on larger issues?" I ask.

"There is no larger issue that running to save your own life. Nothing like it to bring everything into focus," Mr. Gryphon sits next to me and takes a sip from his smoothie.

"Maybe that's what I need more focus, less mission statement, less broad overview. More specificity," the tiles on the back spash above the sink are a repeat of the beautiful stone countertop but also have hand painted tiles here and there to add color.

"More specificity," I mutter. Mr. Gryphon says nothing more. I am tired from talking about it. I am tired from wondering about it. I'm just plain tired. I feel like my brain is on overload. I feel like my brain is exerting too much effort even for the simplest of decisions. I even have difficulty trying to decide what to eat for dinner nowadays. I need quiet and rest.

Maybe I should go back and start following Llewelyn around until I get my bearings again.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Movie Musings: A Movie is Nothing

The floor of the old convenience store is wooden and dirty. I walk slowly towards the counter. Things are slow and easy in my world, as familiar as the sound of my cowboy boots on the old wood.

A man, useless and red faced, is standing at the counter.

"How much for these? And the gas?" I say picking up a small bag of sunflower seeds. I open them slowly and begin eating them one at a time.
"Will there be anything else for you, sir?" he asks as if he didn't hear me.

Weak and stupidly polite. The rest of our exchange seems so mildly confrontational, but in the end we are negotiating for the man's life and he knows it.

Today I saw the movie "No Country for Old Men." And I'll confess because I'm sort of proud of this even though most of you might think it's nuts, but who cares what you all think of my movie goings? I saw "No Country for Old Men " at the 1:55 pm show and then again at the 4:50 pm show. Same theater, paid for it twice.

Why did I do that? Because I can do whatever the fuck I want, that's why. I don't have anybody to bitch at me or anyone to tell me that what I REALLY want to do is somehow wrong or stupid or not what THEY want to do.

Now when I say I couldn't take my eyes off this film, I mean that literally and I have the movie tickets to prove it. I loved this film. I loved it's uncompromising ending. I loved the cast, but especially Javier Bardem. If you want something that's going to be a clean, tidy and satisfying ending on a meditation about the nature of evil then don't go see this movie because you won't like it.

What I liked best about it was watching the characters closely. They are all vividly drawn and a wonderful study for when I think about my own characters. Even the minor characters, the ones who only had a part of a scene, are vivid and distinctive. The dialog is just great. Some great lines there.

On the other hand, a movie is nothing. It's a bunch of lies called a story that flashes up there on the screen so you can sit in the dark (or in your living room) staring. Sometimes such a thing can elicit an emotional response or make you think or be enjoyable, but that's it. I don't think it's all that much. I passed two young women on the way out of the mall where the movie was playing and they were chatting about how "cute" all these useless Christmas displays were, how much they loved certain stores. I looked around and everyone was carrying a large shopping bag. I can't believe I used to be like those girls at one time. I can't believe I used to believe that shopping was a recreational activity.

(and what's more, I can't believe that men want to fall in love with such shallow girls, even men my age. they don't seem to care about them shopping and cooing about Christmas displays. as long as they're young, thin and "hot" that's all they're interested in).

Which is "better" watching a bunch of lies called a movie (or book for that matter) or supporting our economy by going shopping (and sounding like a dipshit while you're at it)? Since I consider myself one of the "liars" who make up stories, I'm going to go with making up a bunch of "lies" as the better activity. At least I'm moved and intrigued. Is that better? I don't know.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Working Life: The Big Kiss Off

Approximately 12 hours ago I was sitting in bed having taken a mental health day off. Absolutely nothing was going on at work and I had just finished with a big project so I felt like I earned it.

I got an email on my Blackberry from a girlfriend who mentioned that "[The company] has been laying people off, I heard." Eager to get some details, I called my girlfriend on my cell phone when a call from the company came through at the same time. I took the call. It was my boss.

She started out by telling me that she didn't feel right having to say what she needed to say on the phone and asked me if I wanted to come into the office. "Just say what you need to say, right now," I said, my voice cold and even. I was already reaching for my pen and a random pad of paper. She explained to me that my position had been eliminated and I no longer had a job effective at that moment. She explained the severance package a little. I took notes. She faltered in the middle saying again that she felt it was wrong to have to tell me all this on the phone and not in person. I merely replied "Keep Talking. Finish Saying What You Need to Say to Me." We made arrangements for me to get my severance package delivered.

My voice broke and cracked only at the end of our conversation. I was glad of that. I sat staring into space after I clicked my phone off. I was out of a job. It came with no warning. I wasn't the only one. In fact, there were a bunch of us in the same boat.

The next few hours were a whirlwind of phone calls, tears, reviewing of paperwork, reviewing of my financial situation, more phone calls, more tears, more calls to the company to find out who else was being piled into the boat with me.

After a while I managed to get over my initial panic because I realized I had enough money to last me for at least six to eight months, if necessary. If my unemployment lasts longer than that I still have options, I can still start over. I felt very lucky. Much luckier than many of the others I'm in this same boat with because I'm a single woman with no mortgage, no kids, no car payment and a very supportive family. The fact that this has happened right before the Holidays is not going to make things more difficult for me.

Many people asked me what I'm going to do. The current plan is to relax for at least a week and then slowly get back into looking for another job. The Holidays are a lousy time to job hunt so I don't expect much to happen. After the first of the year, I'll be pounding the pavement along with everybody else. Of course, this plan is subject to change.

Life has really gotten strange now. 24 hours ago I was waxing poetic about the Momentary Dance and musing about how I see myself differently because a man pulled me into his arms a few weeks ago. Now the company has given me one huge kiss off. Oddly enough I sense that these two happenings, unrelated as they are, will twine together around me. How I change and stay the same will be affected by these two events. It's going to be an interesting ride.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

2007 Trip: Loneliness

Since I got on the plane without my traveling companion I had difficulty shaking off the loneliness I was feeling during the first part of my trip. I had been looking forward to traveling with someone to share things with. The first few nights in my room, I wondered everything from "Shouldn't I just forget about everything and go home?" to "What is karmically wrong with me that I get left alone at the fucking airport gate just before a much anticipated vacation?"

I was feeling down much of the time in D.C. After leaving the U.S. Botanic Garden, I walked to the Air and Space Museum, surely one of the greatest museums in the world, and had to leave after 15 minutes. The last time I was in D.C., I spent a precious few 4o minutes in Air and Space due to the severe time constraints. I had to leave, though. My traveling companion would have loved this museum. In fact, we would have spent at least two days there. Instead, I only managed to get a picture of the actual Spirit of St. Louis before leaving:

Even now, seeing this picture makes me wince.

That night back at the hotel I sat and wondered once again what the hell I was going to do. I had no plans for the next couple of days. I felt I should throw in the towel and just give up. As I indulged myself in channel surfing (a real novelty for me since I don't own a TV), I decided since I was already in Washington, D.C. I had to challenge myself to make the best of it. This was a good decision, but it didn't take away the empty feeling. I had to come up with another way to deal with this feeling. That night I couldn't think of anything, but as I was nodding off an idea popped into my head. I'll show you want I mean in the next post.

2007 Trip: Conservatory - Orchid Room

The Conservatory had a room just for orchids. It was cooler than other parts of the Conservatory and was wet and drippy like a cool forest. Orchids were everywhere. On the ground, on the trees branches above my head, along a wet wall and hanging in various places.

Many of the orchids were big and showy like this one.

I like this one's spidery shape.

Getting close up pictures of these flowers was difficult. My new camera does not have a real manual focus so many of my photos from this day came out blurry. It's difficult to take a good picture of an orchid without getting as close as possible since the shapes and details of these flowers are so striking.

This is not a vanilla orchid, by the way.

While I lingered in the the room, a docent with a group came in. I listened to her talk about the orchids. She pointed out the vanilla planifolia orchid, a small unassuming climbing vine orchid in the trees above us. She explained how we get vanilla beans for our vanilla flavoring from this plant. I had no idea. I knew vanilla beans came from a plant, but did not know it was an orchid. Very interesting. I couldn't get a picture of it because I couldn't see where she was pointing.

You can see in these pictures how shady and drippy it is in this room. They have the misters going on pretty regularly in here.

Some orchids are otherworldy, like this one. I love the strips and spots.

I've been told that certain orchids like it here in SF due to the cool, foggy climate. I may yet get a couple to see how I do with them here.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

2007 Trip: Conservatory

After my hop-on-hop-off bus tour, I spent some time in the Conservatory at the U.S. Botanic Garden. The Conservatory is lovely, even if it isn't that large. They have a wonderful collection of plants.

Palm Trees.

Conservatories are fun places. They have a romantic feeling to them like you're only just beginning to find your best life among the beautiful flowers, plants, trees, humidity and water. Reminds of me a glassed in Garden of Eden. We humans were made to love plants.

Glorious, eh? I made sure I took a picture of the sign so I would remember the name later.

Something about the light today made everything sheer and glowy.

I couldn't get over the color on this flower. Scarlet, Orange, Sunset, Velvet are words that come to mind.

This is some kind of pine tree, if I recall. I was taken by the directions the leaves are going in. Reminds of how hair flows.

This is really strange, but before my trip I had a dream I was looking at this flower. The flower petals are shaped like overlapping leaves instead of being in a circular shape like a rose. In my dream I was looking at this flower very closely and taking in the yellow color. The place and the light in my dream is exactly the same as it is here. I don't know the name of this plant; there was no sign.

This fern was located in the Garden Primeval section of the Conservatory. I had such a difficult time getting a focused shot, but I loved how the light was coming through at that moment.

They had a nice room of succulents and cacti.

Sometimes I think about picking some kind of plant and allowing it to grow into an obsession. Some of the men I've been attracted to have had such an obsession including rare succulents that look like they came from another planet, odd looking orchids and carnivorous plants.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Desire to Share

"I re-learned something today, Mr. Gryphon."

"And what is that, Miss Turtle?"

I don't reply at first. Mr. Gryphon and I are inspecting the newly finished subterranean maze in the new living quarters of my imaginary library. This maze is only a little larger than the one that was in the basement of Mr. Gryphon's former mansion. Like the old maze there are doors lining the wide hallways. At each intersection there's a "you are here" map. As we walk through I note the odd titles on the doors: Area 51, Sherwood Forest, Minas Tirith and Europa (moon). Here and there are wooshing sounds because the doors and their contents are always changing.

I stop and study a door that has just appeared. It says The Sinking of the Titanic. "We can take a look if you want, Miss Turtle." He indicates the door knob.

"No, I'm not up for floundering around in freezing water right now. Perhaps later. Anyway, today I re-learned that even if you make great strides towards something, such as conquering your insecurities, that doesn't keep you from feeling lonely."

Mr. Gryphon looks at his feet and then at me "I'm here," he says softly. I look at his lovely golden feathers and reach for his hand. It is large, furry and reassuring. We stand there in the hallway just looking at each other.

"Yes, you are here and I'm grateful for it, but you know what I mean. I would like a human male who cares about me to share these things with."

"Hm. I know that's what you want, but know this, Miss Turtle, even when you find that man I will still be here even when you stop talking to me. I will still follow you everywhere like I do now."

"I will never stop talking to you," I say. We move on down the hallway, the sound of the wooshing doors in the background. "You know, even with my greatest accomplishment, I don't think that will keep me from feeling lonely sometimes."

"Many people who have someone feel lonely from time to time," says Mr. Gryphon.

We reach an intersection of the maze. The "you are here" is indicated with a bulls-eye. In front of us is a door that says Beatles Debut on the Ed Sullivan Show. I look at Mr. Gryphon with a smile.

"I think I want to be in that audience, screaming with the rest, Mr. Gryphon." He reaches for the door knob and opens the door. The sound of the screaming audience is overwhelming. I walk through and am dressed like one of the girls with those cat-eye glasses and a plaid dress. We are in Ed Sullivan's television studio. I'm shocked by the color since the only time I've ever seen it is in black and white. I move along on the aisles and find my seat. I scream and feel the electricity in the air. The room is exploding with anticipation. In a few minutes, Ed Sullivan will come out and announce the American debut of the Beatles. Mr. Gryphon has moved off to the stage near the camera man. Even he seems excited. I imagine the Beatles standing behind that curtain and scream some more. A young girl next to me faints. I don't feel so lonely anymore, but the desire to share all this, even this make believe fantasy, remains.

2007 Trip: Monuments

When I got to Washington, D.C., I decided to follow the itinerary because I didn't know what else to do. For the first full day, Friday 9/22/07, I walked from the hotel which was located about two blocks from the National Gallery on the Mall towards Union Station so I could take my hop-on-hop-off bus tour. It became immediately apparent that I'd brought the wrong sandals so when I got to Union Station I bought a pair of those ugly sneaker sandals. I wore them for the entire trip. They are wonderful.

The weather in DC was in the upper 80s and something like 90% humidity. Miss Turtle is not used to such sweltering heat. To give you an idea of the contrast, it was about 63 degrees today here in SF with 74% humidity. When we have humidity here, it's usually fog or mist related. It feels a half a world from the kind of humidity in DC. I was sweating bullets by the time I got to the train station.

While at the train station, I canceled the Boston leg of the my trip and booked a first class train ticket to NYC for later in the week, then I got on the tour bus. Here's a picture of the Library of Congress.

I didn't take as many pictures as you might have thought on this trip. My camera is pretty heavy and I got tired of hefting in around. On that same Friday, I took a night tour of the DC monuments. The tour kicked my ass, but it was GREAT! I highly recommend it to anyone.

Our Nation's Capital, of course.

Night shot.

These bus tours are fun. I used to think they were really cheesy, but I took one when we went to London and it was really valuable. They give you the lay of the land, tell you lots of history and trivia of the area, allow you to see parts of the city you won't have time to see later and get you oriented. It rained a little while I was sitting on top of the bus. Everyone else went downstairs, but since I was prepared with my umbrella I stayed where I was. The rain was warm and had a sweet, gentle quality.

The monuments in DC at night are so beautiful. The night was warm and friendly and there were lots of people around, lots of other bus tours all doing the same thing.

The Lincoln Memorial is overwhelming. Sure, we've all seen pictures of it, but when you are standing a few feet a way from where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I have a dream" speech, it was all I could do to keep myself from crying.

Korean Vets Memorial.

All of the monuments I saw were beautiful and moving, but none of them hit me like the Korean Vets Memorial. A bunch of life size bronze men are trudging through the difficult terrain, weighed down by their gear. They look all around, watching for enemy fire. Their faces are gaunt and exhausted. Their faces are beautiful. I tried in vain to get a face shot, but it was too dark.

I overheard a woman saying she's been to this memorial while it's been raining and that makes it even more realistic. She said she couldn't stop crying that night.

The last time I was here, I had time to see only one memorial so I picked the Vietnam Vets Memorial. It's amazing and so sad. Since the Wall is black and it was nighttime, I elected to not try to see that one this time around. Instead, I spent the rest of the time sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial looking out at the Washington Monument and enjoying all the people and the beautiful night.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

2007 Trip: Standing On the Edge of the Eastern Seaboard

We'd planned this trip for about three months. I was looking forward to it because, Godammit, I needed a vacation. My manager put it best, "You find yourself on the edge of mental illness and then you go on vacation. When you get back you're all nice and happy and recharged."

My traveling companion and I drove to the airport (SFO). We checked our bags, ate lunch and then made our way to the gate. Our itinerary was supposed to be as follows: 5 days in Washington DC, 2.5 days in NYC and 2.5 days in Boston. All arrangements had been made at least three months in advance.

We got to the gate and my traveling companion turned to me and said "I think you're going to have to go alone." I turned to him and laughed, and he said "Yes, you're going to have to go alone. I'm not getting on the plane." Then he walked away. Really walked away. As in walked away and walked out of the airport without me.

At this point in the post, it would be an appropriate time to write "WTF???!!!!" but I can't stand the term "WTF??!!" I mean, if you're going to take the trouble to write three capital letters and some question marks/explanation points you might as well do it right:

WHAT THE FUCK????!!!!!

Folks, just do it up right from now on. Don't bother with the three initials. It makes you look like you're trying to go back to your fabled years of mid-adolescence (unless you really are there).

Keep in mind that we were standing in line, holding our tickets and getting ready to board the plane with everybody else. I went to use the ladies room. I was hoping I would come back and he would be back at the gate looking for me, but that did not occur.

I made a single phone call and not knowing what else to do, got on the plane.

Who is this person, my former traveling companion? I'd rather not say, but I will tell you he was not one of useless assholes I've been dating lately. Why did he walk away like that? Turns out he's so claustrophobic on planes that he just couldn't get on board. Why didn't he tell me this earlier? Difficult to say, but I venture to guess that he really thought it was going to be fine, but realized at the last possible minute that he just couldn't do it.

We all have our limitations and phobias and I can't fault him for that.

On the plane, I sat there feeling freaked out. There's no other accurate way to put it. The guy in the same row with me asked if I was all right. I told him no and explained what had just happened only a few minutes earlier. We talked about it and he confessed that he'd never heard of anything like that. The plane was delayed on the runway for a hour because of an electrical problem and I knew my traveling companion had made the right decision. He would have gone nuts.

While sitting there I thought of all the things I could do. I could completely change my trip around. I had almost two weeks off from work and I could go anywhere. After mulling over the possibilities, I decided I would get to DC, collect my luggage, cancel everything and then catch a flight to Rome, Italy. Feeling a bit bright about my new idea, I happily thought about seeing the Vatican, the Coliseum, Florence and Venice. Then I realized I didn't have my passport and knew I wasn't going anywhere outside the U.S. Shit. While waiting to take off, I pictured myself in standing on the edge of the Eastern Seaboard looking out across the Atlantic towards the country shaped like a boot.

Since we were so delayed, I had to run though the George Bush Houston Airport to catch my connecting flight. I almost didn't make it. I can't stand running through airports. The only time worse than that was when I had to sprint through Chicago O'Hare.

I settled myself in my seat on the Houston runway. The surreal aspects of my situation came even sharper into focus. "What the fuck am I going to do?" I said out loud. I decided to take it one step at a time. For now, the next step was to get to Washington DC.

When we planned the trip, my former traveling companion and I had planned the trip around things we both like to do (see museums, aquariums, etc.) and this is a fine way to spend a vacation. The problem I was having was if I had known I was going to have almost two weeks off from work and traveling alone, I would have planned a very different vacation. I would have definitely gone to Italy to see the big three (Rome, Florence and Venice) and I might have even planned a stop to Paris.

I have plenty of experience traveling alone, but I've never traveled alone for this long. I wasn't sure what I was going to do next.

Monday, September 03, 2007

City Life: Overheard at Balboa Theatre/Superbad

Man in line after paying for movie ticket: "Hey, where's the restroom?"

Young, hip, weary ticket guy: "See those two signs there?" He gestures to his right.

Man in line: "Oh, you mean those huge signs that say 'Restrooms, men and women'?" He ambles off. Woman with him looks at me and giggles in embarrassment.

Young, hip, weary ticket guy (to me): "Yeah, we keep the restrooms at the end of a GIANT maze to confuse everyone." He artfully rolls his eyes.

The Balboa Theatre is an older movie theatre located in the Outer Richmond out by 35th Avenue. Some days might be sunny, but the nights always seem to have it shrouded in fog. I don't mind driving out there since it's just on the other side of GGP from my apartment. Parking can be a bit of a pain, but at least you can find it.

Superbad (2007)

Dir. Greg Mottola

Recommended. Superbad doesn't get its own separate entry. I liked it. It was stunningly crude in parts, particularly the language, but I have to admit getting a little thrill from it all. I laughed out loud many times, but I had seen "King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters" less than a half hour earlier and that was a much funnier, better film.

I really enjoyed their mega-nerdy friend Fogall and his "journey" in the movie. Great soundtrack (good soul music).

A fun time.

Movie Musings: King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007)

Dir. Seth Gordon

This is a documentary about two men competing for the highest score in the arcade game classic, Donkey Kong.

Highly Recommended. This is a really good movie.

The world of video game competition is one that I'm completely unfamiliar with. This movie opens that world up, as small and nutty as it is, to someone like me who has never, ever given a thought to it.

And yet...this movie was really interesting. The gaming world has its own rules and obsessions. Sometimes you can't believe that these people are that into it, but they are. The rivalry between the two men, world champ Billy Mitchell and up-and-coming contender Steve Wiebe, makes for some riveting storytelling. Will underdog Steve beat Billy's record? Is Billy as shifty as he seems in the movie? Will Steve's wife give up on him? Will Billy show up and play in public? What's up with that videotape, anyway?

And this story is moving because we are following the trials and tribulations of the people involved. Steve's underdog status isn't just for the Donkey Kong high score, but also applies to most of his life.

Lastly, this movie is hilarious. From the bizarre comments and behavior by the gamers who are deadly serious about this business, to the situations both men find themselves in, to the blurted comments from the mouths of kids, this movie is laugh-out-loud funny.

Go see it or rent it. At the very least, you'll have something really interesting to tell your friends and family about.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Movie Musings: High and Low (1963)

Dir.: Akira Kurosawa

Highly recommended, however, if you are new to Kurosawa's films, I would suggest watching some of his other films first such as Seven Samurai, Ikiru and/or Yojimbo.

Note: Part of my years long review of the films of Akira Kurosawa. High and Low marks the beginning of the end of this film review. I have five more films to watch after this one and then I can declare myself finished with Kurosawa (for now).

High and Low is a modern film with an interesting premise. Toshiro Mifune plays a high level executive of a shoe company. He must make a choice to pay the ransom of his chauffeur's kidnapped son or the boy will die. The film is effectively split into two parts with Part One focusing on Mifune and his moral dilemma, and Part Two focusing on the kidnapper and the efforts by the police to find him. The film's depiction of the struggle between the classes and how the rich and poor effect each other makes for a riveting theme. Cinematically, as usual, the film is gorgeous with Kurosawa's meticulous attention to detail and positioning of the actors. There is a stunning train sequence (very Hitchcock!) and a harrowing sequence of the kidnapper wandering in an alley of desperate heroin addicts. At the end, Kurosawa asks us to consider that even though the nature of good and evil seems so cut and dry, it might be possible that one resembles the other.

A fine film, beautifully done, with Kurosawa's usual company of marvelous actors including Kyoko Kagawa as Mifune's wife and Tatsuya Nakadai as Inspector Tokuro.

I was disappointed that the DVD, put out by Criterion, did not have any extras. I would have enjoyed watching commentary for this film.

Aquarium Life: Domino at the Window

I got a new camera and have had a lot of fun playing around with it. Apparently, it has an intriguing "Aquarium" mode which I can't seem to figure out how to switch into so I can play around with it. I'll figure it out later and show you the results here. In the meantime, I'm just going to continue shooting pictures straight into the glass using the flash . You can see the results here.

Domino is our youngest juvenile at about four months old, I'm guessing. He's an odd bird in that he's completely unafraid of the adults and brazenly hangs out between two nest boxes that happen to belong to Pierre, the Alpha male and Grendal, Beta male, and their mates. Most juveniles hang out on the outside edges of the colony (in this case at either end of the display) when they're not spending most of their time in the water. I've never seen a juvenile with this much balls in all the years I've been working with these animals. At first, the adults spent a whole lot of time trying to beat him up, but since he turned out to be heavier than many of the adult males this did not deter him. Now the adults have gotten bored with bothering him all the time and tolerate him being there.

This is a view of Domino swimming in the water. Not a great shot, but so what? I'm still getting used to the camera. I almost never take shots from the visitor's side something which I really need to do more of. Like all the juveniles, Domino spends a lot of time in the water which has slimmed him down a little.

Including Domino, the total number of juveniles we have now is four. There may be more penguin chicks lurking around in the back. You never can tell.

Monday, August 27, 2007

New Blog: Fainting in Coils

I decided to start another blog where me and Mr. Gryphon embark on adventures. He will continue to appear here from time to time. "Fainting in Coils" will not be updated as often. I'm starting a sidebar space and will leave the name of the last post so you won't have to check to see if it's been updated.

Thanks for reading.

Plans for My Imaginary House

"I see you have started building your new house, Miss Turtle."

"Yes, the workers have only just started yesterday."

We are sitting in a gazebo on a small island in the middle of a serene lake. The water is pale blue and the lake is a huge rectangle. Swans float by apparently nonplussed by all the noise from the construction. To our right is a huge double row of trees leading up the long driveway. In front of us is the massive structure that is the Library. All around are the rolling green lawns of the front gardens, separated by orderly hedges and topiary.

In the forest of my imagination, the Library figures prominently, dominating the landscape. While Mr. Gryphon's house is up on a hill that we can see from where we are sitting, the library is the size of dozens of cathedrals and similarly built. Stained glass windows abound along with gargoyles and flying buttresses. There is no bell, however. It's a Library, not a church.

When I announced to everyone that I would be moving into the Library and would create my own living quarters in a new wing and modify aspects of the Library for my comfort, it caused a stir. No one was surprised, however. This is my interior life and I get to decide what my house is going to be like.

I had thought I would move in with Mr. Gryphon since he lives in a mansion, however, it was decided that he would move in with me when my living quarters are complete and we would give his house over to the other folks who live here. It's only fair and they deserve that kind of luxury.

We are sitting in the gazebo sipping tea. Rolls of architectural plans are scattered here and there. The main plans are unrolled on our table and we have been looking at them. It's a sunny day with a soft breeze. I hand Mr. Gyphon a white napkin with MT&G embroidered on them. Even before the workers had arrived, I had all the linens embroidered with our initials.

"So tell me about this place, Miss Turtle."

"The main part of the Library will remain intact. I'm not modifying any of that. The new wing will be one and half times the size of your mansion and I've decided to copy your Hearst Castle swimming pools and jacuzzi's. There will be 10 guest rooms, all with different themes and furnishings from different times. In addition to my own private apartments, there will be an aquarium with fresh and salt water fishes from all over the world, amphibians and reptiles and penguins, of course."

"That's fitting." Mr. Gryphon is spreading fresh jam on a scone with a real silver knife. "Will the penguins be housed indoors or outdoors."

"Indoors so they have a comprehensive air and temperature control system. I thought I would install a zoo in the back, but decided an Aquarium would be better. Also, there will be billiard hall, a huge dining hall like the one in the Harry Potter movies (maybe not that large), a white iron and glass conservatory and an art museum. In the back there will be a sculpture garden, a hedge maze and acres of gardens with marble fountains, and another conservatory modeled on the Temperate House.

Underneath, there will be a crypt and a subterranean maze, of course." I pour out some more tea for myself. I don't bother offering any to Mr. Gryphon since his cup is still almost full. Three of the swans are bumping up against the shore of the island, but don't get out of the water.

"Of course there will be a maze," says Mr. Gryphon. He eats his scone slowly, clotted cream piled high on top. We are taking tea with our usual fine white china with red flowers. I am wearing a soft white dress with silver leather slippers. Thin lace edges the neckline and hem. There is a rowboat tethered to the small dock on this little island.

I consult the architectural plans. "Now, Mr. Gryphon, where do you want your own apartments and do you have any preferences?"

"I would prefer to have my own small suite and for us to share the private living room/sitting room space. All one unit," he says gesturing in a square with his little fork.

"Are you sure about that?"


"I would have thought you would have wanted your own space, there's plenty of room."

"All in one space, Miss Turtle," he says, "Tea, please." I look at him and then pick up the teapot, pouring him some more tea.

"All right." I consult the plans again. I can see this process of deciding how everything is going to be will take months, but since months is something I (we) have plenty of , I'm not concerned. Starting another blog is proof of that. Although we don't talk about it, I am looking forward to installing all the bathtubs that will be in my living space. They will range from Turkish tubs, to claw footed tubs, to those modern behemoths I'm so fond of. We continue our tea, looking over the plans. I can't wait to see how it's all going to turn out.

My dreams tend to be vivid and one reoccurring theme has been of me being in huge buildings like a giant hospital, giant hotels, giant castles and, yes, a library. The Library is the most compelling structure I've ever dreamed about, built like a cathedral, but with hundreds of stacks of book, stained glass windows, winding spiral staircases, and multi-levels extending upwards in an open plan. There are leather chairs here and there along with warm old desks and windows looking out to the current gardens. There is a massive reading room in the center with a dome and small cubicles for reading and working. There are also desks at the ends of rows of books for privacy and computers, of course.

My library has a comprehensive card catalog system since I really love card catalogs. They are housed in a beautiful marble drawers.

Someone once told me that when you dream of buildings, they represent your inner life. If that's true, then I'm very lucky indeed.


Mr. Gryphon is my imaginary friend. As his name suggests, he is a mythological creature half lion and half eagle. He occasionally appears on my main blog "Mock Turtle's San Francisco Life" (see link to the left there). This blog will be solely devoted to adventures we go on. Some will be for fun and others will be veiled references to issues I'm working through.

After taking on the Mock Turtle persona, it only seemed natural to add Gryphon since both characters appear in Chapter 9 of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. He is my protector, my friend and the voice of reason. He's a good guy.

The title "Fainting in Coils" is a reference to something the Mock Turtle says in Chapter 9 of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

The Infamous Netherfield Ball

This post is a modified version from Chapter Two of my 52 page story called "The Coda." Most of the "Coda" is not fit for being published here because it is too personal as wonderful as it is. Yes, even more personal than the rants I write here. Mr. Gryphon figures prominently in "The Coda" as a companion, protector and voice of reason.

“Miss Turtle, what is going on here?”

I am wearing all white. My long hair is piled up high on my head and my sister, Jane, has painstakingly taken the time to put pearls and ribbons in it for decoration. All of the women are wearing white since it’s fashionable at that time.

Mr. Gryphon is still his usual self. “No one can see you except me,” I say quietly. I’m having difficulty walking in my shoes.

“Sorry, Lizzy, did you say something?” A beautiful blond young woman walking ahead turns to me. She looks like the personification of Spring. Someone that Botticelli would have painted.

“No, I was just excusing myself. Someone stepped on my hem.”

She smiles at me. “There is a crush of people here, Lizzy, isn’t there?” I smile back at her and nod. We are waiting in the receiving line. Mr. Gryphon is staring at me oddly. He is taking up plenty of space, but no one seems to notice. I smile weakly at him. We’re going to have to wait before I can tell him what’s going on. He nods in the direction of a group of handsomely uniformed soldiers. I nod back and he makes his way through the crowd. He is much taller than everyone else there.

“Did you find him, Lizzy?” says a sweet voice close to my ear.

“Find who?” I say to Jane. I can smell roses when she leans towards me.

“Mr. Wickham,” she looks expectant, her blue eyes are bright.

“No, I haven’t found him yet,” I make a show of looking at all the soldiers swarming around, but I know he’s not there. I look ahead and see our hosts, Mr. Bingley and his sister Miss Bingley.

“Mr. Bingley looks quite handsome tonight, Jane,” I give her a little pinch.

“Oh!” she looks at him. His bright smile and agreeable manner are radiating down the line of people. Jane turns to me, giggling. She is blushing. “He does look so handsome tonight. Do you think he’ll ask me to dance?”

“Jane, he’s already spotted you and now he can’t take his eyes off you,” I nod toward him and sure enough he is staring at my sister like there’s no one else in the room.

We make it through the receiving line. After going through the required steps of finding my best friend Charlotte, dancing with Mr. Collins and then avoiding him, looking for Mr. Wickham and confirming that he’s not here, I manage to sneak off to find Mr. Gryphon.

He is sitting on a large chair holding a champagne flute. A white rose is just visible at his left shoulder. No one seems to notice the chair is empty. His manner is formal and refined. Put him in the proper attire and he would blend in as any wealthy gentlemen in the room even if he is half eagle/half lion and over seven feet tall.

“I have ascertained that we are in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and that this is the Netherfield Ball, and that you are Elizabeth Bennett, Miss Turtle. You look very beautiful, by the way.”

“Thank you,” I say, taken aback, “Elizabeth Bennett is a very beautiful woman.”

“Yes, and so are you, and a good deal more exotic besides. Now, what are we doing here?”

At that moment the reason for our being there is walking in our direction. Mr. Darcy hasn’t seen me yet. He is nodding at people as necessary and looking around the room as he strolls. He sees me and pauses in his steps for a moment. He stares openly at me without moving until he is jostled by a soldier following another young woman. He walks past me. I smile a small smile and watch him as he moves out of the room. Before he crosses the threshold to the ballroom, he glances back at me, then he is lost to my sight because of the crowd of people.

“Isn’t he beautiful?” I ask. Mr. Gryphon laughs, but mercifully doesn’t say anything. I turn to him. “Mr. Gryphon, why can’t I find a man like Mr. Darcy? I mean, I don’t mind if a man is a little shy and aloof as long as he has a good heart.”

“Lots of men are good hearted, and have the added bonus of being real human beings.”

“Yes, of course there are those few men somewhere, so why can't I find them? And another thing, why do many men hide their feelings if they have any feelings for me at all?” I’m still scanning the crowd for the tall, dark figure of Mr. Darcy.

“Mr. Darcy hides his feelings for Lizzy and even makes a disparaging remark about how she could never tempt him,” says Mr. Gryphon.

“Yes, but it’s different. Did you see how Mr. Darcy stared at me? He’s crazy about me,” I look around to see if Charlotte or Jane are looking for me.

“Lots of men have looked at you like that, Miss Turtle.” I wince and let the remark hang in the air without replying.

"Yes, you are right, Mr. Gryphon. Perhaps my time for finding someone who is crazy about me is over; I've had a decent run, I suppose. I can't complain.”

“That's a silly thing to say, Miss Turtle. You can swoon over Mr. Darcy all you want, but a man fixed as a picture on the screen is no match for a real human being.”

“Tell me about it," I say. I'm giving up on the conversation now. Mr. Gryphon and I have been down this road many times.

“You give up far to easy, Miss Turtle, because you think everything should be handed to you on a silver platter.”

“Are you trying to ruin this section of the story for me, Mr. Gryphon?” I face him squarely, my hands on my hips. He shifts elegantly in brocade white satin chair and takes a sip from his glass.

“I am merely stating the facts, Miss Turtle. You can’t expect me to watch you discount those things.”

“I guess I can’t.”

“Lizzy! What are you doing all alone in this corner? Are you all right?”

I turn towards Charlotte. “Oh Charlotte, I’m so disappointed about Mr. Wickham,” I say right on cue. Mr. Gryphon smiles grimly at me.

“I know you are, but you can’t stay here in the corner all by yourself. Come, let's find something to drink,” she takes my arm and I feel her lace covered hand take mine. I glance back at Mr. Gryphon as we leave the room. He is waving primly at me.

We make our way through the crowd holding our glasses and giggling at something Mr. Collins said when Mr. Darcy’s solemn, tall figure suddenly appears in front of us.

“Miss Bennett, may I have the pleasure of the next dance?”

I stare at him not in shock, but in awe at his beauty.

“You may,” I manage to stumble out. He nods his head in a slight bow and then I drag Charlotte out the nearest doorway to the garden.

“Uh,” I can’t remember what I’m supposed to say next, then it comes to me “Charlotte, did I just agree to dance with Mr. Darcy?”

“Yes, you did, Lizzy, and I daresay you’ll find him most agreeable.”

“I hope so because because something about Derbyshire,” I stumble out. Charlotte laughs on cue and we giggle together.

The dance is about to begin. I am looking appropriately solemn, but it’s really just me being unable to breathe. Mr. Darcy stares deeply at me and the music starts. I relax and let myself fall into the appropriate dance steps. He takes my hands. They are warm and strong.

“I love this dance,” I say.

“Indeed, most invigorating,” says Mr. Darcy. I see Mr. Collins watching us on the other side of the room. Mr. Gryphon is standing directly behind him, leaning against the wall with his arms folded. Mr. Collins is quite a bit shorter than average height and is completely dwarfed by him. Mr. Gryphon glares at Mr. Collins and then sticks his finger in his mouth with a gagging motion. I crack a smile.

“Now, it’s your turn, Mr. Darcy. I talked about the dance, now you should remark on the size of the room or the number of couples,” I say as we turn and hold hands, releasing and stepping around each other in time with the music.

He looks a little startled. “I’m happy to oblige. Please tell me what you would most like to hear.”

“That reply will do for the present,” I say as we move back and forth with the other couples. I look up to see Jane and Mr. Bingley who is looking at her like she is the only woman in existence.

“Now we may remain silent,” I say with what I think is with a touch of elegance and dignity.

“Do you always talk so much while dancing?” asks Mr. Darcy.

I turn around him, smiling. “No, I prefer to be unsociable and taciturn.”

Mr. Darcy stares at me and bites his lip on the next turn. I can feel myself melting with each touch of his hands and I want more than anything to grab him around the neck and shove my tongue down this throat.

“Tell me, do you often walk to Meryton?” he asks.

“We do often walk to Meryton,” I say drawing myself up to be pro-Wickham, “It’s a wonderful way to make new friends. In fact, we’d had the pleasure of making a new acquaintance when we saw you.”

“Mr. Wickham has such happy manners. It makes it easy for him to make new friends. Whether he’s capable of keeping them is less certain,” says Mr. Darcy.

We are supposed to take each other’s hands as we cross each other during the dance. I stop instead and we are face to face as the other couples move and turn around us.

“He’s been most unfortunate to lose your friendship,” I say and then as I stare into his eyes, I forget the next line. I tilt my head towards him and we are transfixed with each other. Unable to stop myself, I finally throw my arms around him and plant one on him. There’s huge collective gasp and the music stops. He doesn’t have time to react to the kiss before I am suddenly jerked back. As I stumble away from him, I can see that his arms are up as if he were just about to enfold me in them. His eyes are deep liquid.

“Come on, Miss Turtle, time to go home,” says Mr. Gryphon snapping me out of the moment.

“What are you doing!” I yelp trying to free myself from his iron grip. Everyone is staring at us and I can see from their faces that they are shocked to their toes. He quickly drags me out of there and then puts me in the nearest carriage. He climbs in after me after tapping the driver. Apparently, the driver can see him or sees someone because the carriage begins to move.

“What I’m doing, Miss Turtle, is saving Lizzy Bennett’s virtue. You have no right to compromise her like that. If you do, she won’t be able to marry Mr. Darcy.”

“I WAS KISSING HIM!” It is all I can say. The carriage rocks back and forth along the gravel road. I sit and pout, arms folded, not looking at him. Mr. Gryphon leans back on the cushions, apparently relaxed. Some time passes and I feel chagrined.

“You’re right. I shouldn’t have done it,” I say. He does not reply, his great yellow eyes glowing at me in the carriage dark. “Did you know, Mr. Gryphon, that in the U.K. Mr. Darcy was voted the man women would most like to go on a date with beating out James Bond and Superman?”

“That’s not surprising, Miss Turtle. There is something compelling about him, no question, but you need to remember a real man, not a fictional character who does everything you want him to do is far more compelling.”

I sigh. “Point taken, Mr. Gryphon.” I am back in my usual clothes. The carriage stops and Mr. Gryphon steps out and pays the driver. He helps me out of the carriage like a true gentleman. We step out onto a odd, friendly landscape. The carriage continues down the gravel path and disappears.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Quote of the Day

"'You and me,' Ben says gesturing at me, 'you and me, we are falling in LOVE! God, you're beautiful!'"

I met this guy Ben while standing on Market Street near Union Square tonight. It was about 9:05 pm and the bus (6 Parnassus) was taking forever. He chatted me up, kept asking me for my phone number and kept trying to give me his phone number. I kept politely refusing. Since I had nothing better to do, I let him keep talking to me. I was feeling relaxed, happy, it was a beautiful warm San Francisco night (warm for us natives is in the mid-60s).

When the bus came, he shouted his phone number at me. I boarded the bus and called out to him "Have a good evening!"

It was nice to hear a man, even one I'm not interested in, tell me I'm beautiful. It was an odd thing because I was wearing no makeup, my hair hadn't been brushed in hours and I was schlepping around in my usual shirt/jeans/sensible shoes.

Maybe the fact that I had the song "Shotgun" by Jr. Walker and the All Stars running through my head changed the way people were seeing me this evening. I did have the feeling like I wanted to dance all night long.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Comment Exchange

This comment exchange between myself and Ms. Anne is too important to leave in the Comments section:

Ms. Anne-
MT, I do not know what to say to make you feel better...

...except that I check your blog every day for new posts.

I find your writing interesting and educational, which I am sure is a reflection of your personality.

People who cannot see those qualities in you are not deserving of your time or your energy.

Continue to do the things you like to do, and you will meet other like-minded people. One of them may turn out to be the love of your life.

In the meantime, you will be doing the things YOU want, which is invaluable.

Me -
Ms. Anne - Thank you for this comment. In the aftermath of a storm sometimes you get cleaner, clearer skies. I'm feeling that way now.

Today, I think I've finally learned something very important and that is even though I've been experiencing many disappointments lately, I'm learning to nip undesirable situations in the bud a lot faster than I have in the past. I've become much more aware of when the red flags are popping up and the alarms are going off and I'm acting on them promptly. The process is frustrating and gives off the impression that there are few good men left in this world, but I feel a curious sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when I look back on these last couple of months. I haven't been letting some idiot guy treat me like crap for months and months just because I'm dying to be in a relationship.

Today I feel like taking these actions have left some room in my heart. It's a good place to be.

I hope you are doing well.


Good friends, like Ms. Anne here, can save you and help you see what you're supposed to take away from these difficult situations when you're having difficulty seeing it for yourself.

If so I Can't Imagine Why, Part 2 of 2

"Your hair wants cutting."

"Yeah," I say, " I need to get my bangs trimmed." I'm looking out of range of this conversation. Mr. Gryphon and I are sitting on a huge rock on the beach. The White City gleams in the distance behind us.

It's a bright sunny day, a little warm, but with a breeze. Mr. Gryphon wears oversized Ray Bans.

"It's quite a lot like our original scene in the original story," I say, "All we need is Alice."

"I've been wondering when she'll be showing up. Any idea when that will happen?"

"No idea. I expect it will happen at some point. I mean, isn't our talk with her essential to what happens next?"

"Dunno," says Mr. Gryphon. The waves roll in and the sound is beautiful and soothing.

"We are very lucky to live along the seashore, Mr. Gryphon. Many people do not have ready access to the beach." He smiles, but doesn't answer. Instead, he lowers his legs and dangles his feet in the cold blue water. A flock of majestic Brown Pelicans fly by, about seven of them. They give the impression of flying slowly even though they're moving fast.

"I've figured out some important things these last few days, Mr. Gryphon. I'm beginning to see how things might be hopeful for me, for us, after all."

"Things were never unhopeful. You were just wallowing around in yourself again."

"As befits my persona on this blog," I say absently. He shifts next to me, getting a little closer. Some small, leggy shorebirds are racing back and forth with the incoming tides.

I am still looking out of range of this conversation. It seems I've made some extra room somewhere in my life. I feel light and airy. Something or someone will take its place, but I don't what that will be yet. I have a feeling it will be a good thing, though.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

If so I Can't Imagine Why, Part 1 of 2

"I take it this means we'll be having more adventures. If so, I'm delighted."

"We have many adventures, Mr. Gryphon. I just don't take the time to write them down or even to articulate them to myself or to you," I say. A man shoves past me on this crowded sidewalk. Everyone seems to be in a big hurry. Mr. Gryphon glares at him, but says nothing.

The sidewalk and the huge concrete and glass buildings stretch out in all directions. Traffic is horrendous in this place. It's like New York City, but with the gloves off. Shouts and beeping horns sound everywhere.

"I was thinking earlier that I should abandon my fiction writing efforts. It's true I have lots of stories waiting to get out, but I can't seem to make any headway with the second draft of this novel I wrote," I say. Mr. Gryphon stops on the street and just stares at me. I stop a few feet in front of him. People are pushing past me. Without taking his eyes off me, Mr. Gryphon opens his wings to their full width and then extends his huge claws. The people stop and then begin to scurry around us.

"I'm only going to say one thing, Miss Turtle, and that is you haven't even given this novel writing thing a proper go at it."

I look down. I can see people's feet going past me. "I know," I mumble.

"Writing is good. I'm a huge fan of it, particularly if you're telling the stories," he says.

"Perhaps you're my best audience. Perhaps you, my imaginary friend, are right," I turn and begin to walk again. Mr. Gryphon closes his wings and retracts his claws. "Maybe I just need to take a Creative Writing course," I say.

"Now you're talking."

"Excuse me, what time does your watch say?" asks a man who has stopped in front of me.

"11:37," I say. Mr. Gryphon doesn't have a watch. The man moves on after looking at him for a moment.

"I tried talking to you while I was walking towards the Posh Bagel place this morning," I say.

"I know, I was walking behind you."

"Mr. Gryphon, why can't you be my boyfriend?"

"You ask that a lot, Miss Turtle," he says then he looks around, "Where are we going?"

"I don't know. I don't know."

A woman wearing a silver fur coat stopped me, "My diamond watch has stopped cold dead. What time is it?" Her watch was beautiful and sparkling.


"I'm trying to beat the clock," she says. She is pretty with a warm smile. We move on.

I sigh. "I guess this is what it's all about. All this hurrying and shoving around." We are stopped again at a huge intersection. Cars are lined up and down. We are waiting our turn to cross the street.

"At least you don't have to think past the last mile, Miss Turtle."

"It wouldn't be a bad thing to have to think only about the next step, eh Mr. Gryphon?"

"No, it wouldn't be a bad thing." I smile to myself. He reminds me someone and for last few posts I haven't been wincing so much at the reminder.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Recent Comments

I want to thank the good folks for their recent comments. They are very encouraging. Sometimes I feel like I'm posting out in the middle of nowhere and all I'm doing is some really boring navel gazing.

All comments made go directly to my gmail account so I get them right away.

Response to Mr. X: Yes, I think I know who you are. If I'm right, then you are the person with whom I first tried some of this experimental, cryptic writing in the form of emails. I've also been thinking about you lately for some reason. Years ago you made the following comment:

"Some lonely guy is sitting alone in his room wondering where the fuck you are."

You were talking about how you were certain I'd find the right guy for me. I have not, but when I'm thinking about how I'm doomed to remain single for the rest of my life, I think about that comment and it brings tears to my eyes. Where is that guy anyway?

Thanks for reading everyone.

Crank: Annotated

See original post "Crank." All of these strange, cryptic posts are either based on real incidents or contain obscure references to things in my life. After writing and then reading this post several times, I decided to annotate it because it's based on the scariest event in my teenage years. I got the idea for the language from watching the film "Brick" that neo-noir hardboiled detective teenage drama. The dialog in that film is both unnatural and great.

I spent the year between ages 17 and 18 experimenting with drugs. I managed to be sensible about it, but every once in a while I would find myself in scary situations like this one. In addition to smoking a lot pot (which I consider to be as harmful as getting your martini on with your friends on a Friday night), I snorted crank (methamphetamine in powdered form) and cocaine whenever possible. I had no idea that crank and cocaine were two different substances. All I knew was that crank was cheaper and harsher to snort. One night me and a few people (two were my friends) piled into some guy's Pontiac and went to this house I'd never been to before in a neighborhood I wasn't familiar with. Our mission: to score some good coke.

The colors only got brighter with that expensive stuff. No feeling like I'd take on the world. No staying up all night. Smooth sailing, though. No choke.

Snorting coke was strange for me. True, it was expensive and more difficult to come by, but oddly enough I never really got "high" from it. It would make the colors get brighter. I felt more energetic, but I didn't get that euphoric feeling or the feeling like I could have endless amounts of sex like most of my friends did. My best friend said it made her feel like she could take on the world. I never had that feeling. Coke was super easy to snort, though. Very smooth going up the nose and no harsh after burn. That's what I mean by "smooth sailing." I did like how it made my gums numb when I rubbed leftover powder on them after the snort.

"There's a limit," said the Cutter, "You can only get so tall before it bottoms out on you."

The Cutter was a real person. A nice, older guy (maybe in his early 20s). He was at the house when we arrived. They called him "Cutter" because he was good at cutting coke into a fine powder and preparing the lines for snorting. I'd never met him before and I never saw him again after that. He told us an anecdote about Sabrina the Princess (more on her below) who snorted tons of coke in one sitting, but stopped getting high after a couple of hours. She said you can only get so high. After that, your nose, face, neck and chest start to go numb. The Cutter proclaimed it a waste of money to keep snorting after reaching that point.

Who are these people, these Parents? At the time, the most frightening thing I'd ever seen were the scales all over the dining room table. The table was so large it could have been laid out for eight or even ten. I think about parents I know now, even knew then, and I'm convinced those people are all dead and buried. Crisp hundred dollar bills fluttered around the edges of the table in a gross parody of cliche.

Ah, the Parents. The Parents were the dealers. They were real Parents and it was their house we were at. It was a nice house, two stories. Brand new. The house was full of new furniture and the Parents looked respectable enough. They looked like they could work at any good company. Maybe they did. The only difference was they had a hard, wary look about them. Their faces were worn out and slightly saggy. They were both probably in their early 30s.

The TABLE. The dining room table was big as I described. The scales were weight scales and there were piles of cocaine all over the table. The coke was being weighed in scales and bagged up by the mother. There were baggies and twist ties all over the table as well as crisp $100 bills. The sight scared the hell out of me because I knew that with this much coke there had to be some scary people lurking around the corner or in the upstairs bedrooms. My friends thought it was all so "cool" but I just wanted to get the hell out of there.

Parents. Almost as lethal as the ones who fed the kids almond flavored Kool-Aid. We were lucky. They left us alone. They had blue velvet drapes hanging loose in the living room. It's 3:15 in the morning. You don't know where your children are because I'm one of them. I don't even know where I am.

I called them Parents because they had a kid (the blond with the Moe haircut-see below). He was only 13 years old and hyperactive. Apparently, the kid had been snorting coke since he was around eight years old. We were lucky the Parents just wanted our money and for us to stay out of their way. I remember nervously looking out of the living room windows. The curtains were drawn so no one would see the piles of coke on the table.

The reference to the Kool-Aid was to the powdered grape flavored drink laced with cyanide that the poor folks of The People's Temple not only drank themselves, but also fed their kids. The Jonestown massacre had created lasting, terrifying images in my mind as an impressionable middle-schooler. Cyanide, apparently, has a smell like burnt almonds. Also, just so we're clear, they did not use the name brand Kool-Aid during that tragedy. It was just a grape flavored powdered drink.

I digress.

Burning sharp, cheap. Eyes water. Some kind of lift going on up there. Nervously, I talk of elephant tranquilizers and bodies of water. It's like a bad dream. A kid with a blond Moe haircut, who has just gotten to his growth spurt, is rouncing around. Everybody wants to be his friend. Everybody wants a smooth sailing. A Parent, male, glowers at me. He's used to seeing the likes of us, so stupid and useless.

After negotiations and payment, the Cutter finally cut our coke for us. I insisted upon taking the first snort. I don't know why. I didn't know any of these people and everyone saw me as passive and meek. It was good coke: I felt a surge of energy after that snort. The elephant tranquilizers and bodies of water reference was to drug PCP or "Angel Dust" which I have never tried. There was a rumor that the drug was used to tranquilize large animals such as elephants. Also, I heard that in addition to some people experiencing rages so total that they can break the handcuffs the police have put on them, users are drawn to bodies of water, fall in and drown because they become disoriented and don't know which way is up.

The kid with the Moe haircut had a lots of friends because his parents were dealers. If you had drugs or access to them, everyone wanted to be your best friend. It's a user kind of culture.

A friend, one of the few I'm with, produces a Jay. I'm running wired and it's close to dawn now. I have to run down soon. Before we leave in a 70s crowded car, I catch a glimpse of Sabrina the Princess, her long dark hair and youth is waning at the tender age of 14. She's dead. It's only a matter of time. The Cutter glances over at her and shakes his head. It's a lost cause. Her big dark eyes see none of it.

A Jay is a joint. Since I had snorted good coke I was feeling pretty energetic. On the way home, my friends told me to take a few puffs to come down a little, so I did. Sabrina, the 14 year old, was also the daughter of Parents (different ones) who were dealers. She had a hard look about her and was obsessed about maintaining her high for as long as possible. When I say that she's dead, I'm not kidding. That girl, with her big dark dilated pupils and an unnatural hardness about her skin was completely lost to the world. The only place to go from there is to the harder drugs then to overdose.

Thankfully, I move on from all that. Thankfully, I only went with them to see the Parents and the Cutter once, my nerves having failed me. My best friend said I was unbrave, but at least I didn't make up imaginary boyfriends and tell elaborate tales about them.

I never went with my friends to look for coke again. I was too scared. I was a wimp. I used to think that these were undesirable traits, but now I can see they saved me because the fear was far more powerful that the pressure to conform to what my friends wanted me to do. My best friend at the time was a drama queen and always looking for attention. She did make up a boyfriend who was obsessed with her. He lived in a mansion in Hillsborough and drove a Porche. Their relationship was seriously screwed up, even in an imaginary way.

The Tylenol stopped her short. And I was luckier than Hell for it. I didn't want to see those scales on the family dining room table ever again.

A little while later, my best friend attempted suicide by taking a whole bottle of Tylenol (this was before the Tylenol scare where they pulled every bottle from the shelves in every store). I drifted apart from her after that and soon thereafter stopped my experimentation with drugs. I was very luck to have made that break