Bang Bang, She Shot Me Down

I may be frisky and flirtatious, BUT I’M TAKEN!

I was reading tonight in the blog of, that’s right, a 30-year-old woman about how she met this other woman who let it be known that she was of the lesbian persuasion. No problem, except that the new girl repeatedly brought up the fact that she was not available, as in “I already have a girlfriend.” One of the comments on this blog (Blogger and Commenter — you know who you are) touched a nerve that I have had exposed for most of my life and that can be summed up as “Waaah! Why are you telling me this? Are you trying to hurt me or ‘get’ me in some way? Are you trying to one-up me or something? Am I such a rotten companion that you don’t even want me to make a try for you?”

To put it another way, it’s all about me.

Yes, I’m that sensitive about my own feelings, and that insensitive to yours. Hey, once you break down and admit you love me (you know you want to), that’s different. Then I am totally in touch with my gentle, poetic side. But in normal social situations, keep your boyfriends or girlfriends to yourself.

Examining this syndrome to a depth that I have never bothered to do before, I see that it is another example of my insecurity and lack of confidence. I mean, maybe I am talking to someone who is exuberant about her loving, committed relationship, and she is merely trying to share her joy with the world, including me. Why would I immediately have to get defensive about it?

The fact that I usually think the “I’m not available” remark, however it’s expressed, is a jab AT me also suggests that I view a LOT of women as potential — say it with me — sexual partners. Maybe I do. Maybe it’s more obvious than I thought it was. I no longer look directly at the breasts when addressing a woman, and I feel like I’m being a gentleman, and I quit that pubic-hair-on-the-coke-can routine right after the Clarence Thomas hearings. But, hey — boys will be boys, and they will be IN YOUR PANTS, girls, if they can. So that’s it: I feel busted, and guilty. As polite as I tried to be, I had filthy intentions, you saw through them and DERAILED MY TRAIN. Caught red-handed trying to follow God’s Plan. Oh, the shame. But I’m feeling better already, having confessed.

You know who I admire? The guys who see all women as potential sexual partners, win some and lose some, and don’t get too fucking mental about it, like I just did. I don’t understand women (You’ve never heard that before, eh?). They have a million ways of shooting you down. I should know by now that I don’t have to make up new ones of my own.

Note to the blogger who got me started on this track: Yowzah! You must be some hot mama! You even make the girls nervous.

Sex, Blogs and Rock’n’Roll

I’ve only been a blogger for a short time, and I am finding that I enjoy reading blogs more than I do writing them.

Maybe it’s because I am not as clever as I thought I was, and when I re-read my posts I am usually disappointed. Either it’s not funny when I thought it was, or I wandered off the point somewhere in the middle and never got back to it, thus making the whole thing look like a 7th-grade essay, or I just didn’t find the words to say what I meant. I used to have a great vocabulary, but I lost it gradually after coming to the realization that a lot of people had no idea what I was talking about. I started speaking in plain English, and gradually forgot all the big words. See, I don’t even have a big word meaning “big words.” But I used to.

Now that I’m writing on the internet — I should say now that there IS an internet — plain English is not that important. People can look up anything they want — even get it translated from some other language into English. Plain English, if they want. So I don’t have to talk down. I could use all the polysyllabic verbiage and circumlocutory constructions I wanted. But now plain is the only way I can talk. So my blogging is a little, um, boring.

On the other hand, I have read hundreds of other peoples’ blogs, and they are funny, intelligent, well-researched AND they freely use big words that I understand but can never think of when I want to. They are also poetic, god damn them, and dirty, god bless them. Yes, sex blogging: How I love it. The filthy details of randy midwestern housewives’ masturbatory fantasies, and how they become my masturbatory fantasies.

I have noticed that all blogs are written by 30-year-old women. This, I suppose, should not surprise anyone. Who writes diaries? Who are the diarists in your life? Girls, then later women. Enter blogging. Wow! Diaries that others can read, but they are just as private as any journal under lock and key because no one knows who you really are!! So you can keep your secrets while you reveal them. And you can lie about your exciting life and your dates with Brad Pitt or Gwyneth Paltrow and hey — it might be true.

But back to 30-year-old women. OK, they aren’t the only bloggers, but they might be half of all bloggers. When do they find the time to put together these witty, sexy, smart rants? It takes me a week to write five paragraphs, and they are knocking out daily posts, while they raise three children alone, hold down a full-time job, attend law school, read voraciously and pursue two or three potential boyfriends, all of which activity shows up instantly in their blogs. I am ready to submit. Women are truly superior beings. I get it. I humbly request to serve at your feet.

And now, because I read more than I write, I feel like I have all these new acquaintances, people who know me, and I know them, and we chat a little every few days, and we get each others’ jokes, and we are concerned for each others’ emotional and physical health. If someone posts pictures I study them as if they are of my sister’s wedding, and comment on them as if anyone gives a shit what I think of them. Some of the 30-year-old women have man-trouble, and I am right there with my wise advice, which is about as useful as tits on a bull, and I fervently hope no one takes it seriously, or I could have some real liability, but I feel like it’s OK to give advice and if I have a breakthrough maybe I will even ask for some, too, because, you know, I feel like you are all my pals.

Except that you’re not my pals, really, and we really don’t know each other, and I only think I know who I am dealing with because I have — in many cases — accepted more or less at face value who each of my blogging buddies says (s)he is. And this makes me pathetic, I guess. Not that I don’t have any friends in real life. I have lots. Ok, two. But still, I know they would go to the mat for me. How many of you would do that? All right, then.

My Bad, Part 1

OK I apologize for the previous post.

I didn’t watch every fucking second of the Today Show this morning, because at some point I had to take a shower (etc.) and get dressed, but at no time did I see anything about the guy they pulled out of the Los Angeles River the other day. Everything seemed to be preempted by the Brad and Jennifer breakup. There were at least three segments, maybe more, devoted to this. What’s the deal? He’s prettier than she is, but he can’t act. Oh, wait: Her name is Jennifer, so she’s probably been drafted to be Affleck’s next squeeze. Good luck to all three of them.

Flood Channel rescue

Every time it rains in Los Angeles, someone falls in the flood channel.

As noted here, there is no good reason for this, except that it makes for an excellent couple of hours of reality TV, as a million firemen try to save the clown while the video cameras roll. Anyone who wants to see this spectacle, please tune in to The Today Show on Tuesday, January 11 (NBC). Our local NBC affiliate has been teasing the fact that one of the numbskulls who fell in and got rescued is going to be interviewed, hopefully by America’s cutie pie Katie Couric. They have some great footage of the rescue. This will be good television, people.

Heart of Dorkness

OK, I’m a geek.

I admit it: I know a lot about computers: I build them, I fix them, I experiment with them, I try lots of different software and hardware, not all of it absolutely necessary to my survival. OK, almost none of it really necessary. OK, none of it.

Two or three weekends a month in my town, we have a humongous computer swap meet, a tribal gathering of hundreds of fly-by-night vendors*, thousands of bargain hunters, pocket protector types, retired engineers, students, geeks and cool guys like me, all searching for that hard-to-find ISA SCSI adapter, that one magical piece of software that will change their lives, or maybe a brand new computer because they have had it with the old one crashing all the time.

This mob crowds into exhibit halls at the L. A. County Fairgrounds, which is in Pomona, California, as far away from Los Angeles as you can get and still be in Los Angeles County. Usually the “computer show,” as most people call it, occupies two high-ceilinged football-field size buildings at the fairgrounds, and despite the enormous space available the crowd is shoulder-to-shoulder within minutes after the gates open at 10 AM, and it stays that way until closing at 5 PM. The treasures for sale are previous-version software applications, OEM peripherals, beige-box computers, off-brand flatbed scanners, oddball cables and adapters, motherboards, sound cards, hard drives and all the individual components needed to build a PC from scratch. On a good day it is a chaotic bazaar, a sweaty, shouting, frustrating, pushing and shoving experience. Saturday was not a good day.

On that day I drove forty miles of bad road through a torrential downpour to get to the fairgrounds. My mission: Find a software firewall to protect my home network (I said I was a geek), and buy it cheap. My home is a fortress, digitally speaking, and I guard my network jealously. The old firewall was, well, old, therefore possibly breachable, and I had planned this trip for more than a week. Who knew the Storm of the Century would be going on? OK, the century is young, but still. I could have called it the Storm of the Millenium, so lighten up. When I parked the car, the rain had let up a little, and I hopped out and headed for the gate.

For some reason, this was the day the promoters of the event had decided to tighten up security, and I mean they tightened it up. 600 mild-mannered technophiles were standing in line in the rain, while two rent-a-cops checked everybody for weapons! They had an airport-style walk-through metal detector and metal-detecting wands! Almost everyone had to go through two or three times, because, you know, this wasn’t fucking LAX, and no one was expecting to be scrutinized. Shucks, we were just there to shop, not hijack the fairgrounds. It took almost a half-hour to get to the front of the line, during which time the storm kicked up again, drenching all of us. A somewhat overly friendly older man with a striped umbrella struck up a conversation with me, and edged close enough to shield me from the rain. I was feeling a little nervous about this attention, but any port in a storm. Five minutes after the rain died down I had to remind him that it was OK to close the umbrella, and get the hell away from me. Call me a tease, or an umbrella whore, if you must. After a while we noticed that there were three lines, and the other two were going much faster than ours. They were the lines for the Easyriders Bike Show and the LA Tatoo and Body Art Expo ’05, which were taking place concurrently with the computer show. We passed the time debating whether it would be OK to stand in the faster, shorter lines, since it appeared that everybody ended up in the same place once past the gates, but the signage was clear — Computer Fair Here — and being the law abiding computer nerds that we all were (except me, I’m not a nerd), we decided to stay put. I noticed that all the babes were in the other two lines, and had to ask myself again “Where did I go wrong?”

Finally at the metal detector I emptied my pockets into a little plastic basket and went through the gate, which sounded an alarm because of… my belt buckle, maybe? But no matter, because the rent-a-cops had found my pocket knife in the basket, a miniature Swiss Army knife with a 2-inch blade, used primarily for cleaning fingernails and opening mail. They got so excited about the knife that they forgot to use their wand on me to find out why the alarm had gone off. They escorted me to a girl seated at a folding table and told me I had to give the knife to her, but that I could have it back upon leaving the venue. Thanks guys.

The girl took my knife and my name, and placed the former in a little ziplock plastic bag and the latter on a list of names. She tossed the baggie containing my knife into a cardboard box on her table, wrote my number on a card and let me know that I would have to present the card to her (and picture ID, please) to get my knife back. I was number 34, and I could see in her box that almost all the other “checked” items were knives like mine, in identical baggies with small numbers on them.

The fairgrounds are big — 487 acres, to be exact, and I walked about two blocks (through the rain) to the first of two exhibit halls. My elderly protector with the umbrella was nowhere around, probably having been detained by the guards for carrying an umbrella. I was getting wet, and I was no longer packing my weapon, but looking around at the bikers and the body art people I was relieved to know that we were all similarly disarmed.

Once inside the actual computer show, and confident that terrorists weren’t about to hold us all hostage by threatening to beat us with umbrellas or clean our fingernails with little Swiss Army knockoffs, I made quick work of my mission. I got the new firewall and headed for the door, when I noticed a disturbing anomaly: One of the largest booths, surrounded by one of the largest crowds, was selling knives! Buck knives, gut hook knives, fillet knives, carving knives, “police” knives, hunting knives, daggers, non-reflective stealth tactictal knives, “assisted opening” knives as well as a wide selection of samurai-type swords and shorter blades. Outside, the guards were confiscating knives. Inside, the vendors were doing their best to replace them. I had to leave my 2-inch blade at the door, but I could walk out with a fully functional switch-blade if I wanted to.

I didn’t want to, though. I still had to get back to my home network with my new firewall, and it was raining harder every minute. So I beat feet back to the main gate, stopping to get my pathetic little pocket knife. By this time the girl had figured out that, while it was pretty easy to officiously confiscate and toss peoples’ stuff into a box, it was a little bit more demanding to retrieve said stuff and return it. She was frazzled from pawing through her box of identical-looking knives in baggies with tiny little numbers on them. It took way longer to find my knife than it had to toss it in the box, and while she was looking more people were pushing their numbered cards at her and asking for their stuff back. One guy suggested that we be allowed to look for our own stuff, but she didn’t like that idea, so we just had to wait. This part of the stupidity was totally her fault, but she was too innocent to harrass, and I was a little peeved at the guy who informed her about the brisk knife and sword sale that was going on inside and repeatedly asked “Are you aware of that?” as if she should do something about it, and pronto.

I don’t know why you’d set up a knife booth at a computer show. Maybe somebody misunderstood what the term “hacking” means. Or maybe somebody thinks that computer geeks need weapons, or want them. From the look of things on Saturday, they might be right. I also don’t understand why you’d want to frisk people who only want to shop — I thought the President said we had to shop, or the terrorists would win. If the terrorists’ goal was to cripple our country by making us all stupid, it looks like they are on to something out in Pomona.

In the meantime the real security is at my house, on my network. Just try to hack me.

*To be fair, the vendors at computer shows are honest and hard-working. I just wanted to use the phrase “fly-by-night.”

Slippin’ and Slidin’

Here’s a picture of my commute this morning.

Raining in L.A. Who knew? You are looking at the 405, known in some quarters as The San Diego Freeway, although this picture was taken more than a hundred miles from San Diego, and going away.

Brake lights. Tailgaters. Lane-changers. People in big fucking hurries. Every couple of minutes a full-on, gut-wrenching, heart-in-the-throat near-disaster. Some asshole steering with his knees, shooting pictures with a digital camera while trying to drive.

I got the camera out too late to shoot the cause of the big traffic jam I ran into: One or more bozos driving as if it weren’t raining, spinning out, blocking lanes for a half-hour while the rest of us fumed and crept along. Of course, given a chance, the rest of us would have screwed it up ourselves, because it never rains in Los Angeles, so we don’t know how to drive in the rain. Top that off with an oil slick that has been forming on the roads for five years (since the last wet winter) and you’ve got a recipe for Happy Fun on the 405.

Hot Tramp, I Love You So

Lord, take me downtown — I’m just lookin’ for some tush…

So I’ve got this MP3 player, and I ripped about 350 songs and dumped them all in there. It’s not an iPod – it’s better than that. 20 gigabyte hard drive (that’s 5,000 MP3 songs, yee-ha!), 14 hours between charges, plays like five different formats, has an FM tuner, creates MP3 files on the fly, has a built-in voice recorder (Note to self: Figure out some way to pay for this.), gen-you-wine leather case, comes with a remote control and about fifty little gizmos, adapters and attachments, hooks up to my USB2 port (is the cable included? Yes!), requires no special software – just drag and drop the music. It’s so fancy that it has a New York style belt clip: You have to unbuckle and thread your belt through it, so if anyone wants to snatch it and run they will have to take my pants off first.

I knew I was going to be doing solitary work today — stuff that must be done alone, mind-numbing stuff that I dread, so I took my player to work with me, got myself all hooked up, stuck the little buds in my ears, set the thing to play every song at random, and I was partyin’!! I was takin’ care of business, I was shakin’ it like a Polaroid picture, I was watchin’ the detectives, I was born in the U.S.A.!

The hours flew by, the work got done as if by someone else, while I rocked out in my own private stadium. And where else would you hear “The Israelites” by Desmond Dekker and the Aces back to back with The Heartbreakers’ “Room at the Top” followed by the classic Tom Waits “Filipino Box Spring Hog?” Sweeet.

Until I was 20 minutes late for the staff meeting because I couldn’t hear them paging me. I couldn’t hear anything, because I was rockin’. Someone finally came and got me, and I was busted taking the earbuds out — oh, that meeting. But in the immortal words of Keith Richard — or was it Pete Townsend? — “Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke.”

Social Security

In which I get double mileage out of one rant.

This post originated as a comment I made on someone else’s blog. It was in response to his occasional whining about how Baby Boomers are trying to steal his Social Security income. Since he is only thirty years old I think he could find some more immediate worry, but that’s blogging.

Anyway, after I posted my comment, I read it and enjoyed it so much I thought I’d put it here, too, because I want to put something here today but I’m busy baking persimmon bread. The post, with minor edits:

You should relax about Social Security. Nobody would be more at risk in this regard than the baby boom generation, if there were a “Social Security Crisis,” which there is not. The system needs a minor tweak, perhaps the funding of one less high-tech bomber per year, but the current crop of “leaders” wants to dismantle our system of a low-yield but secure federally managed plan and replace it with a scheme to shift the retirement savings of the nation into — surprise! — the pockets of investment bankers and CEO’s, with the caveat that if you happen to invest in, say, an Enron or an MCI, you can kiss your life savings goodbye, but you should starve happy because you had the opportunity to act as a rugged individual. To get guys like me to shut up and let it happen, they propose to spend 2 TRILLION dollars (your kids will pick up the tab, OK?) to fund the transition.
The good news is that inevitably even the Christian Right will wake up and start to object to this kind of foolish spending. The bad news is that the beneficiaries of this scam will be isolated in walled and guarded cities by then. OK, not really, but their money (which used to be ours) will make them untouchable.
Your enemies are not hippies or boomers, who have been paying for fifty years to keep Social Security afloat. Your enemies are your elected officials.

Happy New Year to all. Thanks for checking in.

Priorities

Hurray for The United States!

The Bush administration, after being embarrassed by international criticism, has increased its pledge of help for the tsunami victims to $35 million, about the amount they are burning in Iraq every four hours, and a bit less than they are planning to spend on the 2005 inauguration festivities.

No Brainer

It’s raining like crazy right now in Southern California.

It started last night, continued on and off throughout the day and it’s coming down anew this evening. We’re getting as much as an inch per hour, the wind is gusting up to 50 miles per hour and there’s a flood advisory in effect. These may not seem like scary numbers to anyone living in International Falls, Minnesota, but it’s really just about the most weather we ever get here in the land of sunshine and lollipops.

.

Normally the rain hits hardest in the mountainous regions to the north and east of L.A. In the old days, before we improved the drainage, the water just ran off, down through the gullies and streams from the mountains, right through the city to the ocean, bringing with it lots of mud. The two biggest streams came to be known as The Los Angeles River and The San Gabriel River, although they were often dry for years at a time. This system had been working pretty well for centuries, a long time in a town where you’re old at 29 and the Nielsens come out every morning.

But today the rivers are mostly paved aquaducts. Realizing that Nature had screwed up, the various municipalities that make up greater Los Angeles have been pouring concrete in these ditches for the past fifty years, until now they are very efficient transporters of water. Now when it rains in L.A., these rivers become raging 30-mile long torrents of angry, muddy, boiling water, filled with rocks, trees, cars and occasionally people. The water screams down through the basin at thirty miles an hour and ten feet deep. The pavement assures that nothing is absorbed into the ground, so as the river flows along it gains more and more depth and power.

I haven’t turned on the television news since I’ve been home from work, but I am willing to bet right now that at least one local station will feature a story on someone who has fallen into the river and has to be rescued. It happens every time it rains. Some nincompoop will climb over the fence and get close to the edge. Since it’s all paved now, when the nincompoop slips, there are no branches to grab onto, no uneven ground to slow his fall. He is going in to the drink, and fast, and then he is going wherever the river goes, because nobody is strong enough to fight such current.

They will have a helicopter shot of the river, and they will pan the camera around and every now and then we’ll get a glimpse of the asshole in the water. Then we’ll see the 50 or so firefighters, cops and paramedics on the shore, with their assortment of vehicles and lifesaving equipment. If the guy has found something in the water to grab onto, like an abandoned car, the lifesavers will be throwing ropes to him. If he’s free floating they will be running ahead to the next bridge, from whence they will try to grab him as he floats by. Of course what we all hope for — this is the most exciting — is that they will drop a rescuer down from a chopper to grab the guy and pull him to safety. Or maybe we hope they’ll drop him and he’ll disappear. I’m not sure about that.

If I watched TV at work I could see this live, with running commentary from local TV announcers who are warm and dry in the studio, as well as from the reporter in the helicopter and the occasional telephone interview with some fire captain. But there will always be a recap on the 11 O’Clock News, in case I missed it, which I did.

So here’s my advice for the rainy season in Los Angeles: stay away from the river!

This is so simple that you could call it a no-brainer: If you had no brains at all, you should still know enough not to fall in the river. I mean, there’s nothing around the river that you have to get to — no stores, no churches or schools, no government offices. Nothing. And there are bridges every few blocks, so you’d never have to ford the stream to get where you’re going. So why would you even go near the river, considering that the consequences of falling in are so extreme? Well, you wouldn’t, even if you had no brains at all. So don’t.

It’s a no-brainer.