Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Another brilliant thought during my commute to work

I have a pretty long commute to work these days. And by pretty, I do mean pretty. I travel through rolling hills of rural Albany County to get to downtown Schenectady (um, not so pretty), where my office is. (In case you missed it, I landed a great 3-month tech writing gig. But don't worry--it's just for the summer and I'll be Vegas Linda Lou again in no time.)

Anyway, here are some pictures I took at 50 mph when I should have had both hands on the steering wheel.

The other day on my way home I made a music video with a song from Crazy Heart in the background, but wouldn't you know, my damn phone won't upload it and don't tell me it's user error. I'm beginning to think I own an $80/month piece-o-shit brick.

Anyway, the other day I passed a cop off the side of the road waiting for speeders. Lucky for me, I don't speed on country roads. That's just plain stupid, especially when you're taking pictures and making music videos.

But upon seeing him, my first thought was, "I sure as hell don't miss those damn Henderson cops," as anyone who's ever driven near Las Vegas can relate. That wasn't the brilliant thought, though, just the impetus for it. No, my brilliant thought was,
In order to get into the police academy, prospective cops should a) be at least six feet tall, and b) be packing at least six inches below the belt.
That would take care of a lot, don't you think?

I'm adding that to my "If I were queen" list.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Tom Cruise, you would still turn me gay but jumping on Oprah's couch is not a crime

In my book I talk about the little games my friends and I used to play to get through a work day at GE. We had our "ghoul pool" of celebrities we thought were knockin' on heaven's door, our "If you had to be gay with any celebrity, who would you choose?" question (hello, Beverly d'Angelo!), and our "Which supposedly hot celebrity would, in fact, turn you gay?" question. I know--not extremely mature behavior for a bunch of people with masters degrees.

Anyway, the celebrity who would turn me gay (not that there's anything wrong with it) is Tom Cruise. Eeew--I find him repulsive. So. not. my. type. Give me Denis "Handcuffs and Whipped Cream" Leary, that skinny-ass genius Billy Bob Thornton, or an intelligent hunk of Philip Seymour Hoffman anytime!

So the other day I heard a piece on NPR about Tom Cruise's new movie and his apparent fall from grace in Hollywood. Yes, the Scientology thing is just plain icky (I'm in total denial about John Travolta's affiliation) and I think he really was an asshole to Brooke Shields and Matt Lauer.

But then there's Oprah's couch...

That's the part I find baffling. Is it just me or was that whole thing blown way out of proportion? I'm reminded of Howard Dean's infamous scream from his concession speech after the 2004 Iowa caucus as he tried to fire up his supporters (the media never showed us the thousands of people in the room cheering and waving flags).

So Tom Cruise jumped on a couch while expressing his passion for the woman he loved--isn't that a good thing? Wouldn't you LOVE to have someone so freakin' enamored with you? (I mean, as long as you felt the same way. Otherwise, yeah, that would be... uncomfortable.)

Kobe Bryant is a basketball hero as if those rape charges ever happened (personally, I believed his young accuser) and Clarence Thomas continues to sit on the Supreme Court (every cell in my body says Anita Hill was no liar), but Tom Cruise jumps on a couch professing his love and sends his career to the shitter?

That's messed up, people.

What do you think?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

LUT: Some fun music and a video

You know I think my son-in-law, John Rice, is the ultimate—I couldn't hand pick anyone as a better mate for my daughter. In addition to making my Courtney the happiest girl on earth, John is a fantastic musician.

Besides playing in the Red Haired Strangers, I just found out he’s been working on something for years and it’s a lot of fun. LUT (pronounced loot) is a tongue-in-cheek project in the vein of bands like Ween, Flight of the Concords, and Tenacious D. Check out these lyrics to one of my favorite songs, “Woman Driver,” on their latest CD, War Wagon.
It’s gotta be a woman,
Gotta be a woman driver
She’s playing with my life on the left-hand side
Oh, woman
She’s on the cell phone
Since 50 miles ago
I seen her nearly back-end a truck and I said what the…
Heck are you thinking?
Ain’t like it used to be
In this land of the free
A man needs a wife on his right-hand side
Not in the driver’s seat
The three band members perform under assumed names (John is “Lars Bumgratenschlef”) and what’s interesting is the guys haven't played together in the same room since 1996 when they were all living in California. Since then they’ve made five CDs worth of material by sending tracks back and forth across the country, at first by mail and now through the Internet. They even put together this music video via remote technology (starring "Lars" himself).

If I have one criticism, it’s that the music behind the kooky lyrics is so damn good, it’s hard to remember the CD is kind of a spoof. They’re planning to enter the CMJ and SXSW music festivals—both great places where bands can break out. Hopefully their novel recording technique will help to set them further apart from the sea of crap-rock that's out there. They’re also looking into ways to market to music supervisors who do movies, etc. Keep your fingers crossed for LUT!

Got some extra time at work today? Check out LUT’s website at www.stinkpants.com. Stinkpants? But of course.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Purgefest 2010: so far a resounding success!

I'm a happy girl these days. I admit it: I like to get what I want and fortunately, things are unfolding just as I had hoped.

For those of you new to this blog, a couple of months ago I quit my job, got rid of most of my possessions, gave up my fab luxury apartment, sold my 14-year-old car and bought a new one and told my boyfriend I'm leaving Las Vegas to spend the summer with my family and friends in upstate New York and hoped he'd still be there for me when I returned.

I purged everything that no longer brought me joy. I gratefully released circumstances in my life that had run their course. I put a treasured relationship on hold. I shook the Etch-a-Sketch of life and crossed my fingers that the next picture I'd create would be a pretty one and not a scrambled mess.

I took a risk. So far, it's paying off.

Since I initiated Purgefest 2010, I laughed my ass off during a 12-day cross-country trip of a lifetime with my sister/best friend. I savor every minute while in the company of my daughter and son. I hold my beautiful infant granddaughter almost every day. I'm able to joke with my 11-year-old grandson before he gets too cool for granny humor.

I'm enjoying the Albany music scene, and have seen bands in a coffeehouse, the back room of a downtown bar, in the backyard of a watering hole in a tiny hamlet, and on the banks of the Hudson River.

I watched with pride as my son-in-law played with his band, and will practically burst next Saturday night when my daughter plays her first gig since giving birth 2 months ago.

My dear friends Tim and Susan have extended me an open-ended invitation in their country home.

I feel like we're a bunch of college kids again, sharing a house together. I am filled with joy as I listen to Tim play his guitar on the deck and watch them cuddle on the couch after 31 years of marriage.

Last Friday I started a technical writing job that will last through September--perfect timing for my return to Las Vegas. It took me two weeks to find that gig. They offer benefits, a 401-K, paid life insurance and an hourly rate that's higher than the job I gave up. My co-workers are awesome.

My relationship with Mike is stronger than ever. Forget "out of sight, out of mind"; absence has made our hearts grow fonder.

The moral of the story is, don't be afraid to take risks. If you're not happy with the way your life is going, take the steps you need to take to change it. Figure out what you want, what will make you happy, and for God's sake, just do it.

I've gone to two wakes in the past five days. Enough said.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Memories of my father and why I wonder, “How Am I Normal?”

Tomorrow is Father’s Day—if you’re lucky enough to still have your father or you have a loving stepfather or an exemplary baby daddy, don’t forget to honor him.

I’ve written about my father several times here and he pops up in my book a lot, too.
I come from one of those families where everyone's a comedian. "You're eight years old?" my father would ask my little friends. "I'm surprised at you. When I was your age, I was ten!" Each new playmate we brought to the house was subjected to Daddy's repertoire of one-liners, straight from Yogi Berra's B-list. "I know your mother," he'd tell them. "We went to different schools together."

Daddy was a funny man. Funny ha-ha and funny odd. When he called to inform his sister about a death in the family, he was both at the same time.

"Joyce," he began to break the news, "how many uncles do we have?"

"Why, we have one uncle," she answered, to which he bellowed, "WRONG!"
What a nut, huh?

On our road trip my sister Lori reminded me of something else he once said, which I’d totally forgotten.
“Why should I worry about driving around in clean underwear? If I get in an accident, I’m gonna shit my pants anyway.”
Aaah, the wisdom of Dad.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pet peeve #437: LOUD talkers at the movies

Remember I told you I got this new phone? It’s a T-Mobile HTC and even though I’ve had it a month now, I still have no friggin’ idea how it really works. I just touch stuff, swear a little, and hope for the best. My apologies if I’ve accidentally called you lately; hopefully that nonsense will end within the next year or two when I finally get the hang of the thing. Of course, then it will be time to buy a new phone. Let me say once more that my blood pressure would be a lot lower if the goddamn thing came with a user’s manual.

As you can tell, I’m not the most patient person on earth. I’ve said many times that I have all the patience in the world for people, but I could take a hammer to a machine that doesn’t do what I want it to.

Um, I have to revise that statement. Evidently I have no patience whatsoever, for machine or mankind.

Yesterday I took my grandson, Connor, to see The Karate Kid after school. Because I’m neurotic about being late, we were the first ones in the movie theater. Armed with popcorn and a giant-sized icy sugary concoction that only a loving granny would be crazy enough to buy, we settled into the best seats in the house.

People started filing in during the advertisements theater owners think it’s okay to show even when they charge freakin’ $18.25 for two matinee tickets. Surprisingly, Connor was the only kid in there. As luck would have it, the young couple in the row right in back of us TALKED REAL LOUD during the ads, which bugged the shit out of me, but like the freakin’ saint that I am I gave them the benefit of the doubt, figuring they’d pipe down once the previews came on.

But no. They carried on their stupid friggin’ conversation all during the five or so coming attractions, in total oblivion to the occasional glare I sent their way. Surely they won't keep this up during the feature presentation, right?

Wrong. The movie started and they were still blabbering away.

At that point I. am. heated. Why the hell do people think they can talk out loud in a public movie theatre as if they’re alone in the privacy of their living room? Huh?

So about five minutes into it, I stood up, turned around and pointed at them and said in my loudest voice that could still be considered a whisper, “Shut up! Shut UP!” and then calmly sat down.

I swear, they did not make a peep throughout the rest of the movie.

At first I wondered if I might have been too harsh but I soon concluded, no, somebody has to put the kibosh on this kind of rude behavior. Plus I wanted to set a good example for Connor, who didn’t bat an eye. He already knows I’m a whack job.

How about you? Would you have been the Norma Rae of movie goers, standing up for your rights? Or would you have seethed in silence? Or are you so easy going that chatting movie patrons don’t bother you at all?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The shopping in Santa Fe was great, but nothing compares to what I came away with

It’s been four weeks since my sister Lori and I embarked on our famous cross-country crazy sisters’ trip. I still have so much to tell you.

One of the highlights was our stop in Santa Fe, where my dear friend Joan put us up in her fabulous house. Joan and I met here in Albany back in 1987, when we worked together in one of the looniest work environments I’ve ever encountered (and I’ve witnessed quite a few). Like two war buddies who’ve shared the hardships of battle, we’re bonded for life.

Several years ago Joan and her partner, Donna, bought the place in Santa Fe as a second home. Last year Joan got a job out there, and that’s her primary residence now. Unfortunately, she lives there alone. Soon after they purchased their house, Donna was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and a year later she was gone. I want to say she was about 43.

By the time Joan and Donna got together, I had already moved out West, so I didn’t know Donna very well. Her smile and her upbeat disposition are what I remember most. She coordinated Joan’s 50th birthday party, and having pulled it off so well, was radiant with joy. But what I loved most about her was that she made my friend so happy.

I felt Donna’s presence in the house we visited. Joan had a couple of pictures of her displayed, and when I admired a piece of artwork, she said, “Oh, Donna picked that out.”

During our visit Lori, Joan and I were preparing to go to downtown Santa Fe for an afternoon of shopping and exploring. “I wish I had something better to walk in than these,” I said, referring to my Vegas heels.

Joan jumped up and asked, “What size do you wear?”

“Forget it—I’m only a size 6,” I replied. Sharing shoes with full-grown adults is nearly impossible.

She dashed out to the garage and returned with a pair of running shoes. “These were Donna’s,” she said. “See if they fit.”

They did. They fit perfectly.

“Keep them,” Joan insisted. “I was going to give them to Goodwill.”

We had a lovely time in Santa Fe. The shopping there is amazing— the art, the jewelry, the clothing… I could have spent a million dollars. I didn’t buy a thing, though. Nothing could have given me more joy than walking in Donna’s shoes.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Are you a city person or a country person?

I’m staying with my friends Tim and Susan while I’m here in upstate New York. As you can imagine, only very, very good friends could possibly put me up (or put up with me) for any length of time. So true. I’ve known them for 34 years now, so they’re pretty used to me.

That’s Susan with me in a picture taken circa 1980.

And here I am with Tim.

Yep, we go back a long way.

Unfortunately for them, I’m very comfortable here despite the fact that they have three cats and two birds. They used to have four, including one named Linda (so not funny), but the Linda bird and another one died.

Tim and Susan are really good about keeping the cats away from me (sorry, animal lovers—I’m not on your team) (but I'm still a lovely person) so I’m not mental about them, plus they’re nothing compared to the birds. I can’t believe I’m in a house with birds!

You know these two must be trusted friends and they’ve assured me those goddamn birds are hermetically sealed in their cage or there’d be no freakin’ way I could stay here. I told them if they want to get rid of me, all they have to do is tell me the birds want to get loose and I’ll be out of here in no time.

Tim and Susan live out in the country about 15 miles outside of Albany. It’s beautiful in rural Albany County, and they have a really nice spot. It’s so green around here, you’d think you were in Ireland. Gorgeous.

Susan and I have been walking this road in the morning.

Okay, here’s where I’m mental. I’d have no problem strutting myself into a biker bar at half past midnight, but I would never dream of walking alone on a country road in the middle of the day. I’d be afraid of a rabid Cujo charging toward me or a creepy banjo picker springing from the porch. Not to mention kidnappers and ax murderers--anyone could just pick you off and who would know? As Pee Wee said in his Big Adventure, “Scream all you want, we’re miles from where anyone can hear you!”

I’m not a country girl. Until I moved out West, with the exception of a brief two-year period I always lived right in the city of Albany and never even had off-street parking. Realistically I know that the chances of an ax murderer/rapist driving down a remote country road the minute I happen to be walking on it is probably less likely than my chance of winning the New York State lottery. But still…

Are you a city person afraid of the country? Or a country person afraid of the city? Or am I just weird?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

More crazy videos from our road trip

Remember how on our cross-country trip my sister Lori and I pulled over at highway weigh stations and asked truckers to step on my bathroom scales? Here's a short video.

Anything for a laugh, right?

Before we left my boyfriend, Mike, gave me a GPS. At first I was like, "Great, one more friggin' piece of technology to swear at," but it actually came in handy several times. However, we also took along a 4' x 6' map of the United States so we could pull it out at opportune times just for yuks.

So here's Lori getting some help from the guys at the Oasis Lounge biker bar in Ash Fork, Arizona, with our giant map spread over the pool table. The funniest part is, they don't seem to find the size of the map at all odd! And doesn't everyone measure distance with a yardstick? Not to mention, check out my sister's bust--it's better than Helen Keller's. (Read this post to get the reference.)

We're a couple of nuts. I guess you already knew that.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

An actual conversation I had with myself recently while scrutinizing my face in the mirror

This is nothing I should ever admit to.
Jesus H, Linda, what's with the vertical lines around that upper lip?

I know! Looks like I'm a smoker, huh?

Yeah. Maybe they're from all those years of drinking beer out of the bottle.

Could be. I'll just tell people they're from whistling the theme song from The Andy Griffith Show.

Good idea. People will totally believe that.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

We CAN make a difference, in our own way

I want to share a comment I received from my dear blogging buddy Barbara on Saturday's post about how watching the news is making me out of whack.
I love Louise [Hay] but don't know if I can agree with her about the news thing....its horrible but its real. We can't help it or change it, but in some ways it makes me appreciate my life even more even in the midst of my own "stuff". And if everyone ignored it, who would be passionate and caring enough to help? We can make a difference just by how we live our lives.
We can make a difference just by how we live our lives. How true that is, and it's something I really needed to be reminded of. Being polite to the cashier at the grocery store, smiling at the person you pass on the street, asking how someone is doing and really listening to their response... these are all ways we can make the world a better place, and these simple acts really can make a difference despite the magnitude of the crap going on in the big world.

I've had three minor encounters in which strangers affected my life in ways I'll never forget. The first happened probably 15 years ago. I was on my way to an afternoon work-related appointment and though I was all dolled up in a black business suit, I was feeling particularly insecure about my looks. You know how a fat day, bad hair day and bad face day all combined can send your mood to the shitter and the only thing that can lift your spirits is a new shade of lipstick? Well, there I was in the make-up aisle at the Madison Avenue Price Chopper in Albany scrutinizing the beauty products in search of the one with the greatest transformative powers when an old lady approached me and said, "You look so chic, you must be from New York City."

And poof! That was the end of that little exercise in self-loathing.

The second encounter occurred the day my father died of a massive heart attack. I was working for GE in Connecticut the morning I received the news and sped up to Albany in a surreal fog. On my way to my sister's house, where everyone had gathered, I stopped at the Albany Savings Bank to get some cash. (This was before the ATM days.) The teller, a young guy with "Chris" on his nameplate, performed the simple transaction as if I were the most valued customer who ever walked through the door. I'll never forget his smile; it was just what I needed.

"Thank you for being so nice to me," I told him. "I just found out my father died."

With that, he took my hand into both of his, looked me in the eye and said, "I'm very sorry to hear that."

The third encounter also happened years ago here in Albany and is an example of attempting to practice what I preach about being nice to everyone. Coming out of CVS (no doubt after yet another lipstick purchase), I smiled broadly and held the door open for an elderly woman approaching the store.

"That's an exit!" she snapped, and then opened the door marked "Entrance" her own damn self.

Okay, maybe you can't be nice to everyone, but I still got such a laugh out of her. So just remember, every encounter you have with another human being is an opportunity to make their day. Even if they're a crabby old bat.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

I'm a helpless a-hole and Anderson Cooper is making me mental

Do you ever get totally freakin' out of whack? That's me right now (more so than usual). Don't get me wrong; I'm not complaining. I'm just noticing that I'm out of whack.

It should be no surprise considering that I quite intentionally blew up every bit of stability in my life. Hell, I quit my job, gave up my apartment, and hit the road for 12 glorious days. But oddly enough, it doesn't bother me that none of the house keys on my key ring are to my own place. During our trip when I bought a cool wall hanging in Arizona, Lori teased me by exclaiming, "You don't have a wall!" And with every fridge magnet I bought she reminded me, "You don't have a refrigerator!"

No, the fact that I'm mooching off my dear friends and have no real source of income isn't what's setting me out of whack. I think it's the fact that since I've been here in Albany, I've been watching more of the news.

There's ugly shit going on.

God knows you could call me a million names, and "Bird Lover" wouldn't make the cut. But even I am repulsed by the images we're seeing from the disaster in the Gulf.

Yes, I'm actually feeling sorry for birds. Jesus H, what a friggin' mess. I mean, where would you start? You have to wonder how much more those poor people in Louisiana can endure.

The whole thing is overwhelming. I feel like a helpless asshole. Helpless because I'm at a loss as to what I can possibly do to make the situation better, and an asshole because I'm the kind of person who starts whining when CVS discontinues my favorite shade of lipstick.

Have you ever read Louise Hay's You Can Heal Your Life? It's a classic in the metaphysical world. She says to never watch the news; it can only bring you down. No shit. But is it okay to simply ignore world events and live in your own wonderful world? Some kind of atrocity is happening at any given moment and the reality is there's not a goddamn thing you can do about it. Is it better just not to know?

See? This is what's sending me out of whack. I'm completely overwhelmed.

Well, this is the first time I've ever posted a picture of a bird on this blog. And also the first time I've posted a photo of myself and my sisters playing bingo.

That's our youngest sister, Stacie. Lori and I stopped in on her last Friday night on our last night on the road and caught a bingo game at the local firehouse in Fairfax, Virginia.

That was in the good old days before I started getting caught up in Anderson Cooper.

How about you? Does the news make you mental, too?

Friday, June 4, 2010

A couple of pics

Remember how I said this blog wasn't going to turn into a mushy granny site? Yeah, I remember saying that, too.

Sorry, can't resist!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

What would Jesus do? Shake his head and roll his eyes.

I don't like the idea of religion being front and center in everyday life; that was one of the things that drove me nuts during the 10 months I lived in Utah. I wasn't kidding in my book when I talked about the black plastic blocks covering the Cosmopolitan magazines in the grocery store so shoppers wouldn't be exposed to such amorality. Having people try to impose their beliefs on others strikes me as just plain weird. That's probably why I love the Jews so much--they believe they're the chosen ones and aren't looking to add to their club, so they mind their own business and leave you alone. Cool.

Spending time in the Bible Belt last week was a real eye-opener for me. Elvis may be everywhere in Memphis, but through other areas of the South, it's Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. I wish I was able to snap a picture of a billboard we passed outside Clinton, Oklahoma, but by the time I read it all, it was too late.

It said,
"Are you lonely? I'm lonely. Let's talk. You first. Your friend, Jesus."
I imagine Jesus going, "WTF? I am so not that corny! And who said I'm lonely?"

If you ask me, people project some nutty crap onto Jesus, not the least of which is the mounds of anti-gay sentiment. I happen to believe that Jesus is totally all-loving (though he might not be too happy about that billboard). I also believe he has a sense of humor and will not strike my sister Lori dead for this pose at the last supper. (Taken when we stopped at the largest cross in the northern hemisphere outside Amarillo.)

We'll see...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I'm exhausted!

Wow. After about 12 days on the road, we rolled into Albany late Saturday night and Sunday I finally got to meet Hazel! Of course, she is absolutely precious.

You can't tell in the picture, but she has blue eyes and WHITE eyelashes and she looks like she's definitely going to be a redhead. I could eat her up. Connor is so thrilled to be a big brother--he's just adorable with her. I love that kid--duh. Doesn't he look a lot like me in this pic? And doesn't it look like I have a huge hole on the side of my face? (It's my earring--ha!)

I PROMISE this blog won't turn into an "Aren't my grandkids just the cutest?" site. Really. Just humor me a little. I have a lot of funny things to tell you about our trip, and some more pictures and videos to post, including a music video Lori and I made at 70 mph on a Tennessee highway at midnight. Very mature.

One thing I'll tell you right now--I am so friggin' sick of dealing with new technology. Between my fancy-schmancy new phone and the GPS Mike got me for the trip, for the past two weeks I've done nothing but swear while pressing buttons. And I mean I brought out my special swear words. I have all the patience in the world for people, but I could take a hammer to a machine that doesn't do what I want it to.

User error--kiss my ass. I think the T-Mobile help line has me on their Do Not Answer list, but as I told them, it might help if the phone came with a goddamn manual. "You can download it from the Internet," they told me. THAT IS SO NOT THE SAME and also not very convenient when you're on a cross-country road trip. Grrrr....

So I'm settling in here in Albany; I can tell it's going to be a while before I get my bearings. I haven't had a chance to catch up with my blogging buddies lately, but you know I love you. And thanks to all of you who've been along with us on this adventure. I so appreciate your reading all my crap.