Friday, October 31, 2003

Last night I was accused of being, among the people in the room at the time, the person most likely to become a collector of those sci-fi/fantasy/who knows what swords: like those "Blade of Camelot" deals, lumpy with synthetic gems and coiling dragons. I was taken aback. I was instantaneously enraged, in fact. I demanded reasons. Here are the reasons presented to me:

1) I like classic rock. True, some of the artists in this amorphously-defined* genre tend toward pseudomystical or medievalist images of British Isles warfare. But good grief, if an affection for Zeppelin makes one likely to want collector's swords, every single person I know other than Lord Ocelot'd have an attic full of the things.

*because how useful can a genre definition that includes both David Bowie and Lynryrd Skynryd be?

2) I am often mistaken for having a Gothic leaning. Note that "mistaken": my accusers weren't saying I had such leanings, only that strangers make this mistake. (Evidently, wearing a black t-shirt and not smiling signifies Siouxsie Sioux to much of America. I don't get it.) But because people make this mistake about me, I must want swords? The hell?

3) This was the finest piece of arguing my "friends" had for me on the subject: I like My Little Ponies. Yeah. Because I have said that I do not think they are tremendously ugly, as these people do, I am thus a huge fan of them, and this correlates to wanting collector swords.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

[Note re. yesterday's posting: I received a couple of breathless e-mails from friends concerned that the portion addressing the Simply Jesus body shop might give the impression I am not a fan of pit bulls. Please let this note be my assurance that nothing, truly, could be further from the truth.]

Just as I was unable to let the beginning of the NFL season pass without a post touching upon football, I must now alight briefly upon the start of the NBA season. I realize that dwelling on sports will alienate much of my (ha) readership, but kindly indulge me as I ask: where do these guys get their tattoos? $12 million a year and they all get their ink at parlors favored by ex-Marines and longshoremen? Are they in so much of a rush to get back to the gym that they can't ask the artist to see his portfolio before they get that skull&basketball combo on their triceps? Guys, guys, don't rush into these things! Your workwear is a tank top and shorts, so everybody's going to see those muddled blobs all the time.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

The above-ground portions of my BART commute don't offer much in the way of scenery: mostly just the Port of Oakland's crane-herds and Oakland's western badlands. There are a few bright spots, though, if "bright spots" is expanded to include baffling or comic names and signage. There's Esther's Orbit Room, a bar handpaintedly advertising both its "Jazz Blue's Music" [sic] and its breakfasts. There's the Simply Jesus auto body shop, which would be more accurately named Simply Chained Pit Bulls. There's First Encounters Hair Design - "For The Discriminating You". And Sweetie Pie and Poppy's, as un-sweetie-pie an establishment as imaginable. My current favorite is the Western Service Workers Assocation building. Their slogan is "Here to Win - Here to Stay", accompanied by a commie-style mural of valiant service workers. The Association is boarded up, and if I were one of the former volunteer staffers I'd've painted over that slogan once The Association shuttered its doors. Bit embarrassing to leave it up there, wouldn't you think?

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

This morning's member of the nefarious stop-sign conspiracy was soundly honked at by the furiously perplexed motorist stuck behind her as she sat and stared. I felt a soothing flush of validation, a new spark of hope in the benevolence of my community, then sadly realized this brave person wasn't a maverick North Berkeleyite intent upon rejecting the conspiracy: he had Oregon plates.

Monday, October 27, 2003

I can no longer pretend it's just an improbable chain of coincidence. There must truly be a North Berkeley motorists' conspiracy designed to torment me and make me question both my sanity and my eyesight. The conspirators have selected one narrow area of operation: stop signs. For the last two weeks, whenever there has been a stop sign encounter with anyone, any driver, during my very brief to- and from-BART drives, the same scenario has been played out, if the other motorist reaches the intersection before I do.

The other driver sits there, at a full stop, waiting for me to reach a full stop as well. Then he or she stares. He or she stares at me with an easily-read expression of "The f*ck you waiting for?" Let me be very clear on this point: the other driver is completely stopped while I am still approaching. There is no room whatsoever for the other driver to be having a Who stopped first? moment. None. Often there is firm eye contact as I approach. We lock eyes, and I try to beam to them, "You see me? See how I'm rolling? And you are stationary? I'm still rolling. Rolling. OK . . . I am now stopped. You may drive on." Nope. Staring. Then an exasperated, jerky Go ON already wave.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

"And so I'm realizing that, because I'm apparently such a one-issue voter that Howard Dean's NRA endorsement is all I care about, I could conceivably vote for him, for Dean. For Howard Dean!"

"See, Jennifer, you do this, you say things to me like this, and I know that when you realize you don't mean them you're going to be mad at me, for hearing you say them."

"No no, I'm serious, I've been thinking about this for weeks. This isn't the first time I've realized this."

"Hmm. Whatever. I'm giving you a chance to take it back."

"I don't want to take it back! I love Howard Dean! I love how he hasn't yet mastered his tendency to blurt."

"Whatever, I'm still giving you a mulligan on this."

"Giving me . . . a mulligan? Have . . . holy sh*t, have you been playing golf?"

"Hey, you know what 'mulligan' means and you don't play golf! Why would it mean I've been playing golf!"

"I noticed you didn't answer the question."

"What is this, an interrog-"

"Yes. So, golfing, then?"

"So what if I did? So what?"

"Wow. Wow. I liked you better when you were an anarchist, I think. What, what would possess you?"

"You want to know? Fine. Because it's interesting to me to suck at something. I've never sucked at anything before. It's novel, to suck."

"Ohhhhh, you know that sh*t's going on the site."

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Because I've always been a homebody and more than a little square, it's difficult for me to judge whether I'm now "old". E.g., I can't say "I'm getting old: I never want to go out to bars anymore," because I never did to begin with. So I have to look for other, slightly less time-honored cues. One of these involves a bumper sticker my high school car, a baby-blue Caprice Classic named Beverly, used to sport: "IF IT'S TOO LOUD, YOU'RE TOO OLD."

And it is with regret and much muttered cursing that, according to this wise axiom, I am now too old. It is now possible for music to be too loud for me. How I rue this loss! My one badge of youth! I was listening to At The Drive-In yesterday, a band of inestimable merit and merciless rocking. On the Mohs Scale of [Rock] Hardness, El Paso's finest are diamonds for sure. While I did not want to turn them off, I did want to turn them down. And I did think, "Would it've killed them to've thrown in a hook every now and then? Little palate-cleansing harmony, maybe?"

It's all downhill from here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

There's a gorgeous, haughty gAysian, employee of the coffee bar where I'm twice daily forced to get my boss a latte, whom I've been trying to befriend for nearly 3 years. "Befriend" isn't quite the honest word: more accurately, I am trying to become hag to his fag*. But I've had years of trouble breaking through. It's only in the last six months or so that he's even been dismissively cordial with me, as opposed to ignoring me outright.

He criticized my tendency to lean at all opportunities, rather than stand upright, last week, so that was a start. But the breakthrough I've been waiting for happened yesterday. As my order was being prepared, he and I were by coincidence both standing at the end of the bar, staring at the footwear of a nearby woman. She was wearing black suede stilettos with velvet ribbons crisscrossing halfway up her calves**. Brian mused aloud, "To me, that's not really an office shoe." God, the many chiffon layers of understatement and contempt he folded into his voice! This was my opportunity to land him, to show him I was worthy. "Unless your office is a brothel," I ventured, expressionless. Brian whinnied appreciatively and sighed, "That's the truth." And victory was mine. This morning he gave me a coy wave when he saw me coming.

*this is quite distinct from having friends who happen to be gay men; this is an altogether more masochistic & emotionally reckless type of relationship

**the footwear of young office girls has been growing exponentially more inappropriate over the last couple of years; in this wardrobe area, the lines between office and titty bar have all but vanished

Monday, October 20, 2003

One of the many puzzling behaviors exhibited by my fellow daily BART riders involves their collective reaction to loud headphoned music. No one bats a drowsy eyelash at throbbing dance music thrusting out of a passenger's Sony, nor at rap played at volumes sufficient to make the sociopathic lyrics sporadically intelligible. No one directs any sharp, reprimanding glances at these music aficionados. But Lord, if I listen to a little punk rock, and my neighbors can briefly hear it when the train slows? Everyone in earshot spins around, saucer-eyed, to see who in Christ's name could be disturbing the peace in this thoughtless manner. Who is this savage in their midst?

I engender a similarly shocked and outraged reaction from other passengers when I walk through the train, from car to car. People do this all the time, of course. But when I do it? When, at the the end of my evening ride, I walk through several cars in order to ensure getting off right next to the escalator*? People's heads fly up to stare at me like I'm sweating freely, in a nylon nightie, with a kitchen knife in my hand. That's the best way I can describe these looks I get. They look at me as though I'm breaking fistfuls of social etiquette guidelines all at once and am frightening them to boot. Why? Why?

*because, quite astonishingly, fully half the passengerload of any BART train seem never to've been on an escalator before, and you do not want to end up behind these people.

Friday, October 17, 2003

The music-preferences section of my Friendster profile reveals one set of tastes; the automatically-compiled Top 25 most-played list on my home computer's iTunes, quite another. Quite another. It isn't that I wouldn't go to war for the stylish bands I list publicly. I don't mean that I'm feigning my affection for them. But if that Friendster profile were to be completely instead of partially honest, per what the iTunes Most Played list tells me, it'd have to include a lot of early Van Halen, for instance. In fact, "Hot for Teacher" would have to be the first thing I listed. The very first.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

"So it looks like I'm going to have to go under the knife again."

"For your knees?"

"For, no, Jennifer, for my harelip. Yes, for my knees."

"Aww, you mean we may no longer get to enjoy your Judy Garland pill fiending?"

"My . . . do you mean the supplements? Right, the glucosamine I 'fiend' for so I can f*cking stand up in the morning without toppling? Jesus, I should just get neutered at the same time, make it easier to deal with harpies like you."

"Poor booboo! What're they going to do to you, put more Teflon in?"

"Yeah, but it won't help much. Only thing that'd help is connective tissue from cadavers, which I'd never- "

"Yeah, yeah, I remember when you clocked that doctor who suggested it."

"Right. So no dead people tendons."

[giggling] "Yeah. Because of your . . ." [choking with laughter] " . . . your moral beliefs, right, your ethical lifestyle . . . " [nearly hysterical]


Wednesday, October 15, 2003

You know the two good-sized veins visible on the underside of your tongue? Mine are about twice as thick as anyone else's. They're like the nightcrawler veins that pop out of over-athletic boys' arms when they show off. They gleam purple-black through my skin. They're so repellent to others that even my significant other and my most yuck-tolerant friends can't bear to look at them, no matter how I beg them to. And I do beg, because I'm a little proud of them. They're the only part of my body that shows any vigor. I like having something mighty. My theory as to their oversize? I reckon it's because of all the bile-soaked invective I'm forced, due to the constraints of civilized society, to hold back. So all of the verbal violence I want to spray the Bay Area with must remain in my tongue, and it must take veins like mule arteries to do it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

"Name of the Game" winner for Monday Night Football's 10/13 matchup: Alge Crumpler. First name pronounced, yes, as "Algae". That the runner-up, the overpaid Peerless Price, is so distant an also-ran says much about Mr. Crumpler's serendipitous naming. Because yeah, he plays defense, crumplingly.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Perhaps my least favorite element of the social reality of my work environment is the need to repeat, nearly or perfectly verbatim, the same conversations again and again. For example, all chats with superficially-friendly acquaintances hinge upon how close or not close we are to Friday, a ritual of such grinding, stultifying tediousness that at this point I'm either spitting or barking the words, depending on how much I like the superficially-friendly acquaintance. No one notices, however, for so ingrained are these rituals that one's enthusiasm of performance is immaterial, unabsorbed.

The worst of these threadbare exchanges for me is the one I have 5 mornings a week with the security guard who mans the loading dock. I have to walk past his post to get our mail. Every morning, without the smallest variation, he bows (?), greets me and asks how I am, I respond that I am well and ask how he is, he states that he is well. I retrieve the mail, wish him a good day, and he returns the wish. He is a sweet if dim-witted man and there's no reason this banal exchange of pleasantries should peel the membrane from my nerves, but it does. And so, cruelly, unfairly, I am engaging in it with increasingly visible savagery. The script remains the same, but my reading of the lines grows ever more shrewish and snarling. On Friday, I audibly snapped my teeth at him after the final line of our scene.

Did he notice? Of course not, though it echoed like a whipcrack over the concrete expanses of the dock. And so I am further encouraged to stamp these conversations, with him and with others, with overt hostility, secure in the awareness that no one will notice, so robotic are these exchanges.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

"Been meaning to ask you something. What gives with the omnipresent paperback in your back pocket?"

[snarling] "I have been known to read a book, Jennifer."

"Jesus, you know what I love best about you? Your ability to ignore 80% of the words in a sentence, then cobble together the remaining 20% into something you can shout at someone about. Do you want me to repeat the question, or do you want to run around the room in circles tearing at your hair for a while?"

"What about the paperback in my back pocket?"

"That . . . that was my question to you! Astonishing!"


"I am asking you this because I've seen you shove a book in your back pocket when you're leaving to, like, go to Whole Food for some lychees and sulfate-free bacon, so you're not going have any reading time, unless - have you started reading while driving? You have, huh!"



"Then what."

"Because it looks a little showy, I'm saying. A little bit pretentious."

[acrid silence] "I'll tell you why, then, since it's the most burning question you've ever f*cking had in your life, since you can't rest until The Mystery of the Back-Pocket Book is solved - "

"Oh Christ, forget - "

"It's in case I get arrested."

"In case . . . ahhhh."

"In case I have to sit there until I get bailed out. It gets really boring."

"You . . . you know? That's really practical. I'm serious. That's very practical. You're a very forward-thinking young man."

"You're gonna wanna stop there."
Time only for a brief item today: it isn't "wo", and it isn't "woah", it's "whoa". Suddenly those misspellings are everywhere, rankling, rankling.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

I have a condition in which, on major holidays, I have brief, flashing moments of thinking things like "Sh*t, do cars start on Thanksgiving?", "Do we have electricity on Christmas?", etc. Another neurotic symptom for my scrapbook. Lately, we've been having intermittent server problems here at work, and the disorder has grown. "The server's down; will my bathroom key work?" "Is this White-Out never going to dry, with the server down?" "Are Post-Its still sticky with a downed server?"

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Listen, vegans: I support your ethical beliefs. You're right. You're assy about it, but you are in the moral right. However: please stop pretending your food is delicious. Just as safer-sex advocates should stop pretending condoms can be sexy. Eat your grim, saintly fare, but my god, admit that it's an enormous sacrifice and that much pleasure is lost. For god's sake stop insulting our intelligence and your own by asserting your tempeh&pine nut "meatloaf" is a culinary treasure.

Monday, October 06, 2003

The mysteries of mailing lists: on Friday I received some campaign literature from the Communist Party of California. The screamingly funny Reagan-cult mail I receive (hysterical free mini-calendars with Caesar-like renderings of the Gipper for each month; the requests for donations to the Reagan Library, an institution that basically makes its own jokes), that makes sense - I understand how conservative groups get my address. This one, though, whew! What kind of mailing list game of Telephone could've resulted in such a poor match? What next, Dogfighting Society newsletters?

Anyhow, the pinko lit held few surprises: Tourettesish syntax, a gross overindulgence in exclamation points, sinisterly unmarked envelope, slightly sexy logo (gear & sickle cutely fused), an abysmally poor grasp of the punctuation of possessives. My favorite bit was the reference to the folks paid to do the pro-recall petitioning as "mercenaries". Quite strong!

Friday, October 03, 2003

A local company, in the business of selling bulk fresh fruit to offices, employs a man to stand on Financial District corners each Friday morning, handing out free fruit with a promotional flyer. This man has a variety of costumes, each a pretty well-executed hand fruit. Apple, banana, orange, pear, bunch of purple grapes: he alternates among them.

What's interesting is that it's clear some costumes make him more uncomfortable than others. When he has to wear the grapesuit, his eyes stay mostly downcast, and he takes off his leafy cap at every opportunity. There is little verve in his sloganeering. The grapes sag disconsolately. In contrast, when it's the orange or apple, he's relaxed, grinning warmly, almost ebullient. I'm not sure whether he realizes it or not - I'm guessing he does - but what a sorry state of affairs! "Ah, today it's just the apple. No biggie. It's not that f***ing grapesuit. In that grapesuit I look like a total jackass."

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Today's corporate environments seem to make it rough for young males to feel secure in their masculinity. Most of the young males in this building are compelled to act more frat-boyish than Chico State frosh. Overenthused hi-fiving; loud, braying conversations about the previous weekend's extreme sports outings; the injection of a grammatically insupportable number of obscenities into every theatrically-performative elevator conversation. I suppose the donning of a tie necessitates an even more baroque buttressing of the hothouse flower of masculinity than is called for in other occupational categories. The worst manifestation of this is the constant wall-humping.

Most of the office suites in this building require card access: employees have credit-cardish little magnetized squares that must be passed in front of a scanner to unlock entrance doors (my own suite, mercifully, does not). Some workers keep the card in their wallets, others in a laminated badge on their hip. Those that use the latter, time-saving method must kind of lean in close to the scanner and wriggle a bit. It looks foolish. Not as foolish as these $85K/year frat boys, though. These boys hump the scanner. With the intention of appearing to hump. Often with whooping, more hi-fives. They each do this several times a day, every day.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Already? Already poinsettia, ugliest of all purportedly decorative plants, is beginning to pollute my sightlines, soon to saturate them completely? This means that soon I'll start mistakenly believing I will enjoy eggnog-flavored items, and that San Francisco's homeless ("city employees", Lee calls them, accurately) busking via music will play/sing only Xmas carols, thus greatly and richly increasing the discomfort they cause me. October 1st, poinsettia!