Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sometimes a girl just needs someone to fuss with her hair...

I got some uncertain, but not great medical news today (the appearance of my optic nerve indicates possible glaucoma. Or I could just have a weird-looking optic nerve....) which was worrisome, at the very least. My eyes have given me some of the greatest joys of my life and my sight would be the last of my abilities I would want to lose. So I was upset and my response to it was to be utterly consumed by a desperate need to get my hair cut and colored. It's not the first time this has happened to me. Lets just say that, depending whether I was in or out of love, my hair has gone up/down/up/down like a Tressy doll's.

So I went to a hair salon I'd gone to before, but the woman who had cut my hair was no longer there. I must have looked so crestfallen and/or wild-eyed that the receptionist said, "But there's another salon down the road that's good."
I said, "So, it's really good? Really?"
She said, "Oh, yeah, it's great! My mom goes there."
Now, my dear readers, you will have immediately heard the clang of the warning bell; "My mom goes there." Danger, danger Will Robinson! But, like a junkie in need of her fix, I ignored it and soon found myself pulling in to a strip mall so desolate that it looked like the apocalypse had long since come and gone. Nevertheless, I got out of the car and walked into the promisingly named "House of Style." Of course, they didn't say WHAT style....

The Style-istas were Vito and Sharon. Vito was a guy with a paunch, a lot of chest hair with sparkles of gold chain peeping through, and a loud shirt. And he was not gay. I should have turned and fled right then and there. Sharon, who was to impart style upon me, was what you call a big gal; she was tall and "big boned" and big chested and big haired and big everything else. There was just a shole lot of Sharon and a whole lot of make up on top of that. Well, I was in such a state that even Vito and Sharon didn't deter me because, damn it! the crisis of my shaggy, roots-showing hair MUST be dealt with immediately! So Sharon, with her big hair, took me to the chair. I - the woman who never uses hair products - sat passively while she cut, colored, used a curling iron, hair gel, and even hair spray. And when she was done, this is what I looked like:
(photo from MsBlueSky)
You know, the eighties were a pretty good hair decade for me. I avoided the greatest excesses of the disco dos and overall looked pretty cute. But that was a few decades, a few kids, and a few pounds ago. Imagine me, today, with a hot stack of 80s hair, wearing old-lady-who-just-had-cataract-surgery disposable wraparound sunglasses (because they'd dilated my pupils) strutting out of the House of Style. It was a sight, and not a good one. When I got home I washed the product out of my hair and, by the time my kids got home from school, I was just me again. But for a little while, I looked like an AARP disco diva, and, all in all, I must say it distracted and cheered me. Sometimes a girl just needs hair therapy and it really doesn't matter where it comes from.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

One, and all.

Today, as I was watching the coverage of the inauguration on TV, I noticed that every image had "President Barak Obama" written under it. I know it was meant to mark what and who the day was all about. But after a while - viewing face after face in that endless throng on the mall, each of them so different from the next, yet each of them identified as him, as "President Barack Obama" - I began to feel that, in our shared joy, we were all and extension of him, and he of us, in one body politic, one country, for once, and for us all.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bye George!

Sageweb already posted this, but it is such a wonderful sendoff to W, and such a catchy, upbeat welcome to Obama, I have to post it too. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 15, 2009


16 things about me that you don't know

1. I was born in a hut in Taiwan.
2. I tried to be a breech (feet-first) birth, starting a pattern of always jumping feet-first into everything.
3. In the first six years of my life I lived in five different countries.
4. I had an amah who had bound feet.
5. I have, at various times in my life, spoken fluent pidgin English, Chinese, Cambodian, and English. Now I only speak fluent English. But I do speak that very well!
6. I went to middle school at the school that Sasha and Melia Obama now attend.
7. There was a girl there in my year, who got a new mink coat every Christmas. Really.

family history
8. I am (at least) 5% Native American (my mother had a DNA test).
9. My great great grandfather was the chief of the Eastern Cherokee. Oddly, he was also 100% Caucasian (both his parents emigrated from England). So great great great granny, anything you want to tell us?
10.He ended his life in an insane asylum refusing to speak anything but Cherokee.
11.Charles Frasier wrote a crappy novel about him in which he didn’t end up in an insane asylum (which I think is one of the most interesting things about him).
12.I plan to write a (nonfiction) book about his life. We WILL go all the way to the nuthouse!

Likes and dislikes
13.I have eaten sea slug, snake, and river eel (among other weird things).
14.The only foods I will not eat are liver and canned lima beans.
15.I think ballet is boring.

16.The compliment I received that has given me the most intense pleasure and pride was when the captain of a snorkeling tour boat told me I swim like a mermaid. I truly wish I could be a mermaid.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Talk to me darling boys!

As most of you know, I'm (re)writing a YA novel set in San Francisco's Castro district in 1978. I'm thinking of adding a brief prologue to the novel in which I show the two main protagonists of the book fifteen years before the current start of the book. One protagonist is a 14-year-old girl. The other is a gay man. The girl I'll have some cred on, having been a girl. As for the gay man, I'm perfectly capable of imagining what my character would have felt like as a 15+/- year-old kid, but it's likely that anything I write from the point of view of a gay man will be more heavily scrutinized and questioned. So it would be really helpful to me if any of you lovely men who feel like it would write (in the comments or privately to my email which is linked in my blogger profile) a little bit about what it was like for you as a (closeted?) gay teen. My character is now fully out, after all he lives on Castro Street, but his family has rejected him because their religion condemns homosexuality - which is why he moved (far) away to San Francisco.

Any memories, thoughts, comments, analysis of what it was like for you in your teen years would be so helpful. And anything I take from you would be fully credited (if this @#$% thing ever gets published!) as well as fully transmuted into the character of a fifteen-year-old orthodox jew living in Atlanta (!). Of course, I have tons of experience being a male orthodox jew, so I don't need any help with that part.......

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The (straight) men in my life

OK, I admit there have been many times in my life when I was more likely to wonder, 'If they can put a (straight) man on the moon, why can't they put them all there?' than to sing the praises of straight guys. But for Christmas I made each of my brothers an album of photos -rescued through the miracle of Photoshop - that time and bad film had degraded to near unreadability. (The photo above is one of them. It was entirely varying shades of red when I started.) So I've been looking at photos of guys doing dorky guy things for the past month or so and pondering just what those alien beings mean to me.

First, and most formatively of course, was my father, who drove me f@#%ing nuts much of the time. Everything was a joke to the man. I mean, my God!, life was so desperately serious and on the brink of tragic to the poetry-reading, Joan-Baez-and Laura-Nyro-listening, unrequited-love-falling-in teen that was me. And all he had to offer me were jokes. The smart-ass quip was his native tongue. And the man was really, really smart - he spoke the language of every country we ever lived in and some that we didn't. He was the kind of man who collected facts and never forgot them. Even though he died five years ago, sometimes - if I'm wondering about something odd, like why the Chickadee hangs upside down when it feeds whereas goldfinches never do -I think, 'I'll call Daddy. He'll know.' So being super smart just made him even sharper with the punning, quipping retorts.

I, of course, am nothing like that.

Then there are the brothers. Two of them, born a year apart, what they used to call Irish twins. I was born four years after the second of them, so I was younger, a girl, and a small one to boot; there was no way I could win. But I kept trying. I followed them anywhere they would let me. Once I followed them up to the roof of our house for a peeing contest. Let's just say that having to squat to pee on a pitched roof almost cost me my life. I was hung up in trees ("elevator"), pushed down stairs ("escalator"), and exposed to all sorts of creepy crawly things as a means of testing my limits and then pushing me WAY past them. I got hurt a lot. I cried a lot. Much property was damaged. It was really fun. And it made me, well, plucky. Honestly, there's not one of you that can gross me out. I've lived through burping and farting wars, eaten any disgusting thing that was put in front of me (sea slug? No problem!), and had many a fine case of tropical parasites because of it. I laugh in the face of the grotesque, and then I eat it, and then I make a joke about it.

However, I spent most of my early life feeling deep, deep kinship with my mother, who is a sweet, gentle person and loves poetry, classical music, the theater, the opera, and Masterpiece Theater. She comes from a well-to-do, Southern family with a Faulknerian tendency toward alcoholism, depression, and suicide. Romantic stuff when you're a teenager. Much less so when you're a middle-aged woman who has lived through one nervous breakdown and thanks God for Zoloft every day. In fact, I fully expected to become my mother, but instead I married her, in male form that is. My husband is so sweet and gentle that my mother calls him an "honorary woman," and his tastes are so naturally refined that he makes me feel like a cultural poseur. So you can probably see where I'm going with this.... Because if my husband is like my mother, then..... OH SHIT.... Yes, it's sad but true, and probably entirely predictable to anyone but me. I'm my father and my brothers: I'm the annoying smart ass who makes jokes out of everything; I'm the one who hides behind dark doors late at night and jumps out shouting "Boo!" at my unsuspecting daughters; I'm the one with a faint perfume of white-trash hovering around me. Especially when I laugh, which I do too easily and raucously (I have actually been sushed for laughing in a Presbyterian Church). So, those knuckleheads, the ones who drove me crazy and tortured me, I'm them. Oh well, there's nothing to do about it except, of course, crack a joke.