Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Happy Tuesday!

Was everyone ready to go back to work? Because I sure as heck wasn't.

A lot happened this weekend, but the upshot is, Angels and Demons is fairly enjoyable, La Spiga isn't as good as I remember it--although the lamb was excellent--and the SUPER BIG NEWS is that I learned that you can poach an egg in the microwave!

No, really.

I am so going to start doing this at work.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Get Out Tonight Because I Can't

Need something to do? Boy, do I have an event for you!

Lady Sovereign is coming to the Crocodile tonight and I am going to miss it. I'm annoyed.

And she's also going to be at Easy Street in Lower Queen Anne and I'm going to miss that, too.


However, my mommy is coming up, and that's pretty awesome, too.

Monday, May 18, 2009

On Being Cool

Many years ago, I was driving my Wrangler around on a gray Seattle summer day, the kind of day where it's just warm enough to have the top down, if you have a convertible, if the heat is on full blast and your muscles are buff enough to keep your body temperature up with relative ease, and it may be gray but it is not raining and therefore you are PUTTING THE TOP DOWN.

Anyway, I was driving north on 99 about to enter Fife, and there was a girl ahead of me in a much older Jeep with the soft top down, her hair up in buns to avoid getting knotted by the wind, sunglasses on although it wasn't that sunny. She had some kind of smiley face sticker on her bumper and I pulled up next to her and waved enthusiastically. She looked over at me, eyebrows raised, and I practically dislocated my shoulder leaning across my Wrangler and rolling down the passenger side window as fast as I could. "Nice car!" I shouted.

She nodded politely, and gave me a half smile, and then the light turned green and she went straight and I took a left. She was obviously not the kind of girl who dug instant warmth from strangers, and we were not going to have a Moment.

And surprisingly enough, that was fine with me. I already knew by that time--and I have been reminded over and over again since--that girls who really are Very Cool don't often have time for Moments.

It's hard, being Cool, and being a Girl. I've met some Very Cool Girls in my time. Not the kind of girl that tries to substitute Attitude for Aptitude--those girls are a waste of space. I'm talking actually cool girls--girls that are, say, UFC fighters. Girls that ride motorcycles or drive sports cars. Girls that are firefighters or snipers or routinely summit Mt. Rainier. Classical musicians. Enterpreneurs. Rock Stars. Women that teach kickboxing for a living. Girls that do something dangerous on a daily basis, that could kill them or cause financial ruin, not just their own but the financial ruin of others as well. Girls that take huge risks. Girls who base their entire lives on a skill that requires daily practice, daily heartache, daily bruises, daily mental breakdowns. THAT is cool.

And surprisingly enough, girls who do that don't have a lot of time for, say, TV shows. Gossip mags. Long dinners with friends. Going out to the clubs three nights a week, or indeed one night a week. Whatever. They're not often in situations in which they need to make polite conversation with strangers, and so they're not in practice, and so they don't. It's one of the great paradoxes of life: those who actually DO something cool are actually the least likely to talk in any group setting. It's always the girl who drops four wine glasses and gets mascara in her eye on a daily basis that grabs the floor to talk about the fascinating daily anecdote from her paper-pushing job, while the girl who just hiked across Peru with only a sherpa for company sits quietly with her whiskey and coke.

There's a lot to explore here: how girls (and people in general) who make a living in a very specialized field have a very specialized view of strangers, namely, that a girl who routinely summits Mt. Rainier already has a group of friends in her climbing team, and her survival depends on being able to trust the team around her implicitly, and therefore may be rightly suspicious of instant warmth from a person she doesn't know. And a girl whose idea of big excitement for the day consists of an overflowing coffee pot is easily able to create instant warmth, because the word "trust" has no meaning for her beyond the obvious rules of life, that a complete stranger will not attempt to, say, punch her in the mouth. (Although that could happen, especially to her.)

Not to mention there is the issue of how best to balance living your life with HAVING a life, at least in which the definition of "having a life" means "going to parties". Which may not be the actual definition of "having a life", but is certainly a solid definition practiced by many. A boy and I were talking about this recently: he wants to be a millionaire by the time he is thirty, and he's exploring various ways to do that, but all those ways take time. And energy. And he wants to have a life as well, because even if he becomes a millionaire at thirty, where's the guarantee that he won't die at thirty-one?

Readers: thoughts? How do you balance the pursuit of amazing things with having a life? Am I alone in thinking that it doesn't make sense to put off "having a life" in order to work?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Study in Walmart Blue

This article in Newsweek about Walmart's view of recession shopping is insightful and well-written--and NOT a bash on Walmart.

But I'm biased--I love these sorts of articles. I love articles that explore ground-up changes, like what a run on toilet seats means for the economy, and I love well-written articles about so-called Evil Companies, which remind me to pull my head out of my liberal ass, and I especially love studies on consumer patterns.

For more:

Why We Buy, by Paco Underhill

The Call of the Mall, also by Underhill. It's not as good, but still a fun read.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Through the Looking Glass

Are you shy and wonder why? Are you OUTGOING and wonder why? Did you ever wonder what it would be like to be on the other side for awhile? And not just with a few drinks: to really be able to try out a new personality?

This article is a quick and required read. Right now. It won't take you barely five minutes, even if you don't read as fast as I do. (My friend C is the only person I know who can give me a run for my money. Hi, C!)

Key sentences:

"Day 25: A pattern is emerging. Since starting on Paxil, I've been drinking like a fish. For some reason, vitamin P combines incredibly well with alcohol. It's more fun to drink than it was before. I want to be drunk every night. I don't get hung over now, and I remain pretty lucid even when sloshed."

"Day 27: Also, the last few days I've considered cutting down on free-lancing and getting a regular job—consulting or something. Previously, I couldn't imagine a job like this. Regular hours and no creative outlet sounded like a nightmare. All wrong for me. But now, stability, routine, and boredom sounds A-OK. Pleasant, even. An easy way to make a buck and just live my life."

"Day 29: After deciding Paxil is worthless and downing three glasses of wine, I find I want to talk to people. No, it wasn't the alcohol. I drink at parties all the time—and go from standing alone in the corner to standing drunk and alone in the corner. This time, I'm craving conversation."

"Day 35: Pre-Paxil, I was a social drinker. Now I'm walking a mile in someone else's brain chemistry. I can see why some of you like to drink so much, maybe even need to drink so much. It's fun for me now, in a way it just wasn't before. On liquor and Paxil, strangers mean novelty, not fear. Group conversations are a chance to play raconteur, not a chance to smile weakly and shut up.

And it's so much better than sobriety. Sober for me these days means extreme detachment. Movies, once a favorite hobby, do nothing for me now. Likewise books—I just don't connect with the plots or characters. I can't recall laughing (while sober) in the past couple of weeks. I'm never sad, but never happy. Why wouldn't I drink?"

"Day 52: It's mercifully over. But a new phenomenon has taken hold. When I get teary-eyed watching a horrid chick-flick on a cross-country flight, I recognize it: feelings. On Paxil, I barely noticed they were gone. Now that they're back, even overcompensating, I never want to lose them again. Bitterness, anger, jealousy, sadness: They all make me happy."

It often takes an outsider to accurately and poignantly describe a phenomenon, and it turns out that personality discussions are no different. Seth described my own brain to me in a way I couldn't possibly have come up with myself. I'm not quite as extreme, of course, and I imagine most other "natural" extroverts aren't, either--after all, extrovertism isn't the same thing as sociopathy. We have feelings. But it would have never occurred to me before this article that group conversations would equal "smiling weakly and shutting up" to some people. REALLY? Boy. Shutting up never even remotely occurs to me. I always have a lot to say, and I especially have it to say in groups. Get me alone with someone and I can be calm--quiet, even. Put me in a group and the spotlight's on me and I will do anything to keep it there. Until this article, I didn't really understand that some people didn't feel like that. I KNEW that, intellectually, or else the entire world would have gone deaf a thousand years ago from all the talking. But still: it's fascinating to see his take.

This article is especially interesting to me because I recently stopped taking personality-changing hormones, aka The Pill. Leaving aside the sexual revolution aspects of the Pill, what it does to your hormones is fascinating.

In a terrible way.

Don't get me wrong--I was on it for many years, and it performed its job admirably. But had I realized just how much more sane and non-emotional I would be OFF the pill--and that I would lose weight just by blinking and breathing--I might have disembarked the train a lot sooner. The most telling moments arrived over several months when my relationship with the LT was imploding, and I cried every day, sometimes times twice a day. The LT and I broke up, and I was STILL crying all the time. And there is nothing worse, men, than crying at the drop of a hat and having no idea why or how to stop it, and assuming you're going crazy and wondering if you'll ever be sane again. Even though I KNEW I was crying for no good reason, I couldn't get a handle on myself. Suddenly, once I stopped convincing myself I was pregnant all the time (that's what the Pill does) I snapped out of it. Immediately. And I lost ten pounds. It was like entering SaneLand over night. Turns out these "hormone" things really do affect this "brain chemistry" thing.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Obsessions of the Day

I absolutely cannot stop listening to Grown Woman by Mary J. Blige.
Seriously. I need help.

Also on the obsession radar this week:

HIGHLY OFFENSIVE BLOG WARNING: Texts From Last Night. Oh Dear Jesus. So Funny. So Addictive. So Impossible To Stop Reading. My friends and I are now emailing our favorites to each other. It is OUT OF CONTROL.

Old episodes of The Mod Squad on YouTube.

These sneakers. I've been mildly sneaker-obsessed lately, since I desperately need new ones, and these are EXACTLY what I want. I would even pay the outrageous price. Problem: they were already sold out of my size by the time I got to the site. (Damn East-Coasters with their three-hours-ahead bullpuckey.) I got plain black, instead, thinking that I would paint them silver, and...they look so much like combat boots when actually on that I have to return them. Fooey.