Thursday, December 30, 2004


For the News Years resolutions of 2005, I hereby resolve to:

1. Drink and smoke from the time I awaken in the morning until I pass out at night, daily, causing everyone within 5 feet from me to move away from my lethal stench.

2. Eat as much starch, cheese, chocolate, cheese, olestra free potato chips, cheese, ice cream, cheese, and cheddar-Parmesan goldfish in one sitting as humanly possible - at least 3 times a week.

3. Live a completely exercise free lifestyle.

4. Show up for work late.

5. Call in sick often.

6. Make loud and inappropriate noises from my cubicle at work.

7. Watch the TeeVee every day.

8. Throw temper tantrums in public often.

9. Be as California rude to as many people per day as I come in contact with.

10. Hug people who drive Hummers and thank them for contributing to the economy.

11. Talk about my bodily functions in a graphic manner at the dinner table.

12. Stop reading entirely.

13. Embrace mediocrity entirely.

14. Speak my mind without diplomacy or editing.

15. Be more proactive and agressive about leering at men half my age.

16. Eat as much starch, cheese, chocolate, cheese, olestra free potato chips, cheese, ice cream, cheese, and cheddar-Parmesan goldfish in one sitting as humanly possible - at least 5 times a week.

I really hope I can do this. In the past I have not been able to stick to even one resolution, and have often ended up doing quite the opposite. I have a good feeling that 2005 will be different. It's all about optimism.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Rain, Anyone?

The Rainy season in Los Angeles that precedes the Flood/Mudslide season (the other two seasons of the year being the Fire Season and the Quake Season) has a definite effect on the people within the city. The first drizzle triggers a panic that has every news commentator on every local channel stationed at some outdoor hotspot, like the Media Center Mall in front of the Coffee Bean, talking in urgent and dramatic tone about STORM WATCH 2005. Or 2004. Or 2003. And so on. The first car accidents start due to the greasy build up that has accumulated over the previous ten months, which, combined with the bad driving habits particular to the region, makes for some pretty long hours in the car getting to and fro. Moods are generally bad. So is hair. Then comes the deluge. The Los Angeles Rainy season starts with a harmless drizzle in late December that becomes a sudden deluge of large sheets of water falling from above, often accompanied by wind that will make those lovely palm fronds from those trademark palm trees you see pictured in all those postcards detach and smash through your living room window. That is if you’ve neglected your Palms. I think they fine you for that. Anyway, the people get a little touched in the head during the short period of rain that generally tapers off in February. I think people are so dehydrated by the time it shows up that they are simply not prepared, despite the knowledge that it does this every year. The LA River fills to full with a current that moves at a good clip and generally claims a few lives, usually the invisible people that inhabit the river during the rest of the year. Weird people seem weirder, or maybe I just notice them more due to the cleaner air brought on by the rain. Who knows. For example, today, Manpants and I were driving down Magnolia and I noticed a tall man down by the river, wearing khaki pants, a sweater, deck shoes, carrying a large quantity of plastic grocery bags….wearing a three foot high Dunce Cap. I kid you not – I could never make up anything quite so random. A DUNCE CAP. He was walking into a grove of trees. To pee, perhaps. Or maybe he has a small cabin in there. Now, I’m not sure what a man would be doing in his GAP best down by the LA River wearing a Dunce Cap at 2:00 in the afternoon, or at any other time of day, for that matter and this little sighting will have me filled with wonder and puzzlement for weeks, I’m sure. I’m positively haunted by it. Then of course there was the elderly couple on Crescent Heights that were walking their pet duck. That was earlier. A pet white duck walking in front of the elderly couple as normal as you please. I thought I was losing my mind until someone else told me they saw the same couple. There is also a young lady in South Pasadena who walks her pot-bellied pig, in a bright pink harness and leash ensemble, at the same time each day down Fair Oaks Avenue. She looks at you a little defiantly if you stare. My thinking is – You’re walking a PIG, what do you expect? This is a major thoroughfare, not a rural country road.

People baffle me.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

I Am a Bone Head Math Goddess!....The Epilogue

Happy Holidays, Ladies and Gentlemen. Well, to bring up that old sore that sits like a big boil on the overfed ass of life, the finals are almost over. And I, the supremely remedial math student got...what on her final? 100%. Yes. That's right. I studied until the skin on my face fell off. Or maybe it fell off due to the Santa Ana winds - which will make that happen right along with making this insane town even more so for the duration that the hot, bone-dry winds fly through here at a good clip - but the studying paid off - the transposed numbers were put in the proper order and my parched skin and I completed the course with a flying "Pass." The class is so remedial as to be Pass/Fail only - so no letter grade to gloat over this time. English Lit is done, Biology 3 for the Non-Biology Major (such a lie, such a lie, such a lie) will be another matter, and is yet to be taken.

I will be taking a break for the holidays, and wish you all the best of times, and the best of whatever occasion you recognize or celebrate. We will be celebrating the Winter Solstice, the WASP/Italian food fest, family and friend togetherness and will celebrate my Grandmother's 104 good strong years on this planet. She decided to begin her journey to leave us a week ago Sunday. No measures have been taken, per her wishes. When Father John sat down that Sunday and told her she was about to go on a marvelous adventure, she said in her usual matter of fact way, "I know. I'm looking forward to it." It's one of the very last things she said. She was given last rites, and many of us have been able to make the trip to have a last visit. She no longer speaks, but appears to be resting comfortably. She's showed remarkable resilience and she's still hanging on with us. I have the feeling that she is waiting for something or someone. Perhaps for one of the family members that haven't made the trip, perhaps something else. I don't know. I'll be making another trip to see her tomorrow, and am grateful for the opportunity. It's an understatement to say that she's been quite a powerful influence in my life, and I'm going to miss her.

Hug your loved ones, do something nice for a stranger and don't tell anyone about it, plant a tree, play in the snow...or mud...or frolic in the hot dry wind....and eat a really awesome dessert and forget about the calories. Happy Holidays.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


As I’ve stated before, Los Angeles is a funny place. It attracts the majority of society’s underbelly, maybe because of the weather, maybe because the town is so expansive and without any discernable plan that one can disappear into the fabric and no one will be the wiser. This underbelly that I speak of is of no specific socio-economic status, but I’ll say that a lot of them live in the 310 area code. Okay, maybe 323 as well. It’s a place where people are as openly rude as possible. Holiday season or no, they will honk at senior citizens crossing the sidewalk, they will cut in line in front of you, they will crowd on the elevator before you can get off so that you miss your floor, or if you’re on the freeway, they will refuse to let you merge to make your exit – or they’ll just force you off the freeway. This is very different from the open rudeness that exists in New York, where if a person is mad at you, they will tell you to your face in as confrontational a way as humanly possible, but if they see a piano about to fall on your head, they will rush to save you without thinking twice about it, even if it means they get squashed in the process - conversely, the L.A. resident will not only not help you, but they will pretend that they didn’t even see it coming and had absolutely NO idea of the hazard to the poor stranger. This is why so-called “good Samaritan” acts end up making the local news due to the sheer unusual nature of the act itself.

If you are “no one,” meaning there is nothing evident about your social status or job description that will enable the person in front of you to move in an upwardly fashion on their way to Entitlement, you are invisible. If you are in the service industry, it is understood that you will be verbally abused as part of your job description. Los Angeles job listings will frequently contain the phrase “must have thick skin.” Los Angeles might have been a city in one of the Blue States that vehemently opposed slavery; but maids, gardeners, garment workers, valets and bus boys who are paid under the table at far under minimum wage do not count. That includes the ones who were kidnapped from other countries to work here in the sweat shops downtown. A blind eye is turned as long as conveniences remain available.

In addition to the rampant rudeness, there are the predators. These include the people who troll Hollywood Boulevard waiting for a child to use the payphone so they can drive up and snatch them into their car. These include the people that prey on innocents fresh off the bus from Iowa hoping to make their big break in the movies. These include the people who use the 14 year old hookers on Sunset Boulevard or Lincoln Avenue knowing fully well that they are children. These are the people who simply fixate on one person and make them the object of their peculiar brand of interest. This last variety refers to “The Stalker.” They say you can’t truly call yourself an L.A. resident until you’ve had at least one car accident...and a Stalker.

I think I’ve finally arrived.

To be continued...

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Did Everyone Get an F in History Class?

Hello there ladies and gentlemen - my wacky and winsome take on the more humorous side of life is on may interpret that to mean that I am having a moment, and you don't want to live in my head for even 3 seconds, let alone read what's really going on in there. So in honor of the young soldier, Army Spc. Thomas Wilson of the 278th Regimental Combat Team, who had the courage to stand up to Rumsfeld today in front of the world and demand to know why they have no proper equipment and are having to use dug up shrapnel from landfill to repair their vehicles; I give you a poem by Wilfred Owen, written in the year 1920, regarding his experiences in the First World War.

Dulce et Decorum Est
(Sweet and fitting it is to die for one's country)

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! GAS Quick, boys! - An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime...
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin'
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, -
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Wilfred Owen

Friday, December 03, 2004

Gongogoozler or Mammothrept?

In case you’re wondering what a Gongogoozler is, it is an idle and inquisitive person who stands staring for prolonged periods at anything out of the common. At least that’s what the word meant in 1896.

In the interest of following Oh Ancient One’s advice to me (that would be Grandmother Alice, who never let us call her "Grandma" because it made her sound old, but said at 100 that we could call her "Oh Ancient One"), dispensed at various times over the course of my life whether I wanted it or not and whether or not the circumstances were appropriate for her to say “try to keep a bright outlook on things,” I have decided that I am powerless over pretty much anything that does not involve direct action or effort on my part. I will, therefore, concentrate on keeping a positive attitude. Or bright outlook. Or light frame of mind. You know, there are an awful lot of expressions that seem to say: Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” And the aforementioned are not always easy for someone like me, since I’m often an anti social, human hating sloth that would rather sit home in my own sin.

Since there are so many synonymous expressions in the English language for always looking on the bright side of life, let’s look, in the interest of FUN, at some long forgotten English expressions that I think should find their way back into everyday discourse. Okay, they are insults. To fling. Which falls better into my “I don’t hate people, I just feel better when they are not around” frame of mind that I frequently try to hide from others in the interest of maintaining the ancient and forgotten custom of civility. Now some of these expressions don’t necessarily have a contemporary match, so I’m just itching to find new situations to throw these old chestnuts into the fray. Here are a few to start:

Johnny-Raw: A raw beginner; a novice; a boor. (John Ogilvie’s Comprehensive English Dictionary, 1865) The applications here could interesting.

Cousin-Betty: A deranged woman. Cousin-Tommy is applied to a man in that melancholy situation. (William Carr’s Dialect of Craven, 1828) Since I can apply this term to ME, I would like to be called Betty for the rest of the day, please.

Gammerstang: Usually applied to a female of idle, loose habits (C. Clough Robinson’s Dialect of Mid-Yorkshire, 1876) Well then. Perhaps I should change my nom de plume from Millicent Frastley to Betty Gammerstang. Has a bit of a ring.

Crump: "One that helps solicitors to affidavit-men and swearers...who, for a small sum will be bound or swear for anybody, on that occasion putting on good clothes to make a good appearance that bail may be accepted." (B.E.’s Dictionary of the Canting Crew, 1699) – I’m pretty sure they are referring to lawyers here. Maybe paralegals. But definitely lawyers.

Fumbler: An unperforming husband, one that is insufficient: fumbler’s hall, the place where such are to be put for their nonperformance. (B.E.’s Dictionary of the Canting Crew, 1699) – Ladies, they had a punishment for this offense as far back as 1699. Think about that for a moment.

Sinworm: A vile, sinful creature. (Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language, 1755) I like it. Though I think the definition is more fun to say. VILE is just a great word.

And here’s a great one that resonates well for me personally...

Counter-Caster: Contemptuous name for an arithmetician. (Thomas Browne’s Union Dictionary, 1810) It just tickles me that at some point in time an arithmetician made someone, or society as a whole, so annoyed that they had to come up with a contemptuous name. “Nerd” is just not a word that says "contempt."

See if you can find excuses to use any of the above words over the next few days. It’ll be a hoot.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Takes a Lickin’...

“Put down that paper and talk to me.”

Those were Alice’s words today to my mother, who had been sitting by Alice's hospital bed, reading the paper.

My mother thought she was still asleep. Instead she heard the command and looked up to see Alice giving her The Stare. Apparently she has not only improved rather rapidly from a rather severe stroke and is able to eat that bizarre looking pabulum food-type-awful-stuff, but she is well enough to issue orders to my mother – I think she is the only person on the planet who can effectively get away with that.

Needless to say, we are all relieved...and astounded. Yesterday she was still not speaking, and her eyes were completely vacant. Pretty devastating to us all and we were each fighting the pull threatening to take us on the trip down Grim and Gloomy Lane. She moved a hand and moved her mouth like she was trying to speak at one point, but it did not look good.

The medical staff are quite a-buzz about it. Her ability to bounce back from things is certainly still there. Her short-term memory is not good, but for her to go from comatose on Tuesday to being able to demand my mother's attention on Thursday is pretty impressive. Hell it would be impressive on a normally aged person, but at 104, that’s...well, it’s inspiring.

I’m not going to question it. I’m just grateful. To those of you who e mailed or sent your lovely thoughts, thank you.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


Upon driving today, the sighting of a 60-something-woman wearing a huge red coat, riding a bicycle on the sidewalk of busy La Brea Avenue while singing at the top of her lungs...filled me with all kinds of glee.

If I have any say in the matter, that will be Me.

Which brings me to Alice. Alice is my 104 year old grandmother. She met my grandfather on a train around 1920 or so. She noticed him checking her out on the train, so, big saucy flirt that she was (and remained her whole life); she encouraged him with her winsome smile. He took that as an invitation and came over to flirt some more. I think if I had picked up anyone on a train like that, my parents would have shipped me off to an all girl school for troubled youth. I think if I knew ANYONE in this day and age who picked up someone on a train (let’s face it, the internet is safer) I would consider organizing an intervention. Alice has always done things her own way though, and three children, five grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren later (the grandchildren didn’t turn out to be very fertile, so only one gave her any great grandchildren) she is still as in love with him today as she was then. They were married for 65 years prior to his death, and had he lived past 90 they would have been married 79 years this New Years Eve. She has lived on this earth through every major event, invention, catastrophe and war since her birth in 1900. She had a career and a family when it was considered most improper. She topped that off by going back to school during the process. Prior to meeting my grandfather, she was offered a scholarship to attend Emerson College to study drama, but “nice girls didn’t do that back then.” She became a teacher instead and used her dramatic skills to good advantage in that environment. A tiny woman with a piercing blue-eyed gaze that would silence anyone in 5 seconds if they acted up. Her efforts with education resulted in a building being named after her in the school district she taught in. Physically active and an avid reader, she has kept in shape and has a sharper mind than most people less than half her age. Since her eye sight got bad, her avid reading has transitioned to books on tape and hours of CSPAN. She has stayed progressive in thought. She is an advocate of a woman's right to choose, and she believes in civil unions for same sex couples. She attributes her longevity to keeping a positive attitude. And having a beer on Friday night.

Sunday morning when we left after Thanksgiving weekend (during which she had attended The Incredibles and the Ballet), she wished me a safe journey and said she had a horrible headache. Yesterday morning they could not wake her up. She is currently in the hospital, having had a stroke. She stayed unconscious all of yesterday. Her eyes opened today, but that’s it.

I’d like to put out there in the universe that she has lived a very good life, is loved by many and has done great things. I don’t want this stroke to have impaired her mind or abilities, but I know better than to hope for that to be the case. I cannot think of anything worse for a woman like Alice than to have that happen after 104 years of being constantly on top of her game. It’s not okay. And if that’s the case, I want it to be over and for her to finally go join my grandfather.

If you’re reading this, I hope you send good thoughts in that direction. Thanks.