Monday, January 30, 2006

where black januarys go to die

oh yes, loyal reader it has almost come to this.

drumroll: tomorrow is the last day of january and i have not gotten one ticket!

thus the curse of black january is no more (otherwise i see a "pirates of the caribbean 3 around the bend and they're usually worse than sequels).

anywho. how glad i am that not only have i not had any run-ins with the law over a little something like my pedal-friendly right foot, but there have also been no warranted visits to lovely john and jane at my autobody shop. and alas, i did lose my "california good driver status" because of black january, february and march last year, but hey it only takes FIVE years to get it back. do you notice the tongue inserted into my cheek on that one?

so a prognosis of current resolutions is in order since the end of the month is upon us (for a key to the resolutions, scroll down below to the randomly named "new year's resolutions"

resolution 1: am looking into it. not signed up yet.
resolution 2: am playing doubles weekly. an elderly russian man named fareed is my partner-cum-teacher, who breaks into fits of curious laughter at inopportune moments during our games.i think they may be directed toward me.
resolution 3: oh yes, they think i am now the model daughter (as if they ever would have thought differently... *she says with a wicked grin on her angelic face*)
resolution 4: am doing this and loving getting back into encouraging people in a more active way again. i just have to sit down and do it, which is sometimes the hardest thing for me in general.
resolution 5: everyday i'm trying. and some days are better than others, but it's like tennis, sometimes you can't hit anything but that doesn't mean tomorrow you won't reach matchpoint.
resolution 6: nothing done on this front, other than furrowing of brow.
resolution 7: i need help with this! any takers?
resolution 8: CLEARLY this one is not working either, as evidenced in the phrase of local hoodlum last friday night in oakland: "hey shortie, work it."

well several out of eight isn't so bad, right?

why i could work for this australian tourism company

The questions below about Australia are from potential visitors. They were posted on an Australian Tourism website and the answers are the actual responses by the website officials, who obviously have a sense of humor:


Q: Does it ever get windy in Australia? I have
never seen it rain on TV, how do the plants grow? (UK).
A: We import all plants fully grown and then just
sit around watching them die.

Q: Will I be able to see kangaroos in the street?
A: Depends how much you've been drinking.

Q: I want to walk from Perth to Sydney - can I follow the rail- road tracks? (Sweden)
A: Sure, it's only three thousand miles, take lots of water.

Q: Is it safe to run around in the bushes in Australia? (Sweden)
A: So it's true what they say about Swedes.

Q: Are there any ATMs (cash machines) in Australia?
Can you send me a list of them in Brisbane, Cairns,Townsville and Hervey Bay? (UK)
A: What did your last slave die of?

Q: Can you give me some information about hippo
racing in Australia? (USA)
A: A-fri-ca is the big triangle shaped continent south of Europe. Aus-tra-lia is that big island in the middle of the Pacific which does not... oh forget it. Sure, the hippo racing is every Tuesday night in Kings Cross. Come naked.

Q: Which direction is North in Australia? (UK)
A: Face south and then turn 180 degrees. Contact us
when you get here and we'll send the rest of the directions.

Q: Can I bring cutlery into Australia? (UK)
A: Why? Just use your fingers like we do.

Q: Can you send me the Vienna Boys' Choir schedule? (USA)
A: Aus-tri-a is that quaint little country bordering Ger-man-y, which ...oh forget it. Sure, the Vienna Boys Choir plays every Tuesday night in Kings Cross, straight after the hippo races. Come naked.

Q: Can I wear high heels in Australia? ( UK)
A: You are a British politician, right?

Q: Are there supermarkets in Sydney and is milk available all year round? (Germany)
A: No, we are a peaceful civilization of vegan
hunter/gatherers. Milk is illegal.

Q: Please send a list of all doctors in Australia who can dispense rattlesnake serum. (Norway)
A: Rattlesnakes live in A-meri-ca,which is where
YOU come from. All Australian snakes are perfectly harmless, can be safely handled and make good pets.

Q: I have a question about a famous animal in
Australia, but I forget its name. It's a kind of bear and lives in trees. (UK)
A: It's called a Gum Drop Bear. They are so called because they drop out of Gum trees and eat the brains of anyone walking
underneath them. You can scare them off by spraying yourself with human urine before you go out walking.

Q: Do you have perfume in Australia? (France)
A: No, WE don't stink.

Q: I have developed a new product that is the fountain of youth. Can you tell me where I can sell it in Australia? (USA)
A: Anywhere significant numbers of Americans gather.

Q: Can you tell me the regions in Tasmania where
the female population is smaller than the male population? (Italy)
A: Yes, gay nightclubs.

Q: Do you celebrate Christmas in Australia? (France)
A: Only at Christmas.

Q: I was in Australia in 1969 on R+R, and I want to contact the girl I dated while I was staying in Kings Cross. Can you help? (UK)
A: Yes, and you will still have to pay her by the hour.

Q: Will I be able to speak English most places I go? (Ireland)
A: Yes, but you'll have to learn it first

Sunday, January 29, 2006

rowdy like a 5 year-old's birthday party

we went to one of our favorite karaoke joints tonight. the usual suspects katy, alan and i, along with friends alison and dennis settled in early at the mint.

the energy and audience was incredible. i think the climax had to have been an entire bar of various aged people swaying with their arms waving in the air and singing along with the 80 year old man on stage in a rendition of "i just called to say i love you." such camaraderie. alan got the place contemplative with his always stirring version of journey's "open arms" and katy later sang about "a preacher man's son." me: i tore it up with a little j.lo number and back up dancers. good times.

alan, my game soulmate and i are always coming up with new pursuits and ways to entertain ourselves. ever the divo, he is always game for trying out my ideas. we have decided to make a mockumentary akin to all the lovely christopher guest movies, but for the joy and entertainment of our bandy of friends. tonight it began gelling into place: the theme will be a karaoke contest where the winner will be k-j for a day. whoa. i'll let you know more about it as it continues to come together.

the subculture of karaoke is such an interesting one where you get everything from the people who are tone deaf, to those who are tone deaf and not fun, to those who can belt it out. this one girl tonight sounded like kelly clarkson from american idol. i'm guessing simon didn't let her on to the next round...

it was a great time had by all even as katy and kick-started the evening with the vocal meanderings of good ol' richie sambora and jon bon jovi. rock on.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

memorial service

my friend sherry’s* mom, gloria, died this past weekend.

two years ago when sherry’s sister passed away of anorexia, i treated her to a pedicure, as a way to get her mind off of it even for a little while since I knew she really likes shiny lacquered nails. Sunday morning’s announcement of her last moment’s with her mom in church sat on me with the weightiness of an anchor. gloria had struggled with cancer for some time. her last words to her daughter were threaded with concern over how sherry might get home. even as sherry’s mom died, she worried and through her worry showed her love to sherry.

i knew i would do whatever she needed of me- more pedicures, pizza at Milano’s, watching Friends- some of her favorite things that might subside some of the grief and pain for a time. yet instead she asked me to sing at the memorial service and I unequivocally assented.

rewind to eight years ago: my last memorial service singing transpired at my grandmother’s memorial service. she had lived in Bolivia and I saw her only a few times in my life. my father had asked me to sing and of course I wanted to sing my best for my grandmother. my usually trained ear was not up to snuff that day, it turns out; as my friend lisa played “it is well with my soul” on her cello, she began humming. for the life of me, I couldn’t understand why, as we were in the middle of the song, she was humming. and it hit me that I was singing the wrong notes. I was so mortified that I fell back into one of my stress reactions and did my darndest not to laugh or giggle or let out a hoot, but I couldn’t believe it or my lack of control. I counted to fifteen then thirty trying to suppress the internal giggles fighting to get out- I prayed that God would help me look very emotional and I think on the whole no one else caught on- except for my 10 year old cousin michael grinning out at me from the sea of downcast faces- and a smartly etched scowl on my mom’s face, in deference for her ex-mother-in-law.

so my track record with memorial services up till now had been rather shaky. part of it is I am not a solo artist- I so much rather prefer to sing with someone else, it allows for so much more freedom and all the eyes are not directly on me. I am so at ease when there are several of us on a platform- but know the signs of “my solo artist situation”- sweaty palms, shaky knees, dry mouth, need to urinate, furtive looks- the full gamut.

I did my vocal wake-up routine as I worked from home and discreetly chewed gum to encourage saliva at the beginning of the service. I felt pretty confident about the song- “I Can Only Imagine”- it’s one of sherry’s and my all-time favorites as far as devotional stuff is concerned. I walked up to the podium, my palms jittery and I could feel adrenaline coursing through my vocal chords. my voice came out sounding of licks embedded within other licks (tremolos?) and I observed as verse one and chorus one finished that I was now coming into my own. I could finally drown out all the people looking straight at me, I could tame the tsunami wave of blood and take the helm. the rest of the song was a breeze. I wished I could have sung like I did last night in a practice room at the SF conservatory, but alas it was not meant to be. in the end I wanted it to be an offering, a song sung in my best voice for God, for healing over sherry and her family.

and even as I walked away from the podium, Gloria, sherry’s mom’s four surviving sisters said in hushed tones, “thank you.” a solemn reverie misting the air. I accepted these words and allowed myself at last to cry for their loss and for my microscopic way of breathing encouragement and healing over them.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

four letter word

a four letter word attacked me a week ago
with tentacles that grip and claw at
any ounce of hope, expectation and joy left.
the remnants of a dream, now encased in a glass jar,
suspended in formaldehyde, trying to preserve it,
keep it as intact as possible, though it no longer throbs
with life energy and looks quaint-
quasi-sentimental and paltry up on the shelf,
where i casually regard it from time to time
as something I used to consider with such gravity, as a promise

these days, i zoom through life like an electronic race car
on autopilot
rarely considering the tracks upon which i tread
as little more than binding shackles keeping me on one path
not letting me veer left or right and discover
how different life could be
in a different town, in a different job, with a different set
of friends, of pickaxes with which i might eke out a meaning
in this world, instead
i am contained within a 7x7 mile radius

and remain suspended, wondering
dreaming of leaving, but awaking to a reality of staying put
even as others catch their queue and board that plane taking them away
to encounter and reckon with their destinies,
yes i am awake drinking in the burnished pink sunsets dripping off the golden gate bridge-
my backdrop, Your voice tuning in as a quiet, soft voiceover,
with coy small phrases, trust Me, wait on Me
and i sit back on what appear to be laurels
exhausted by my inertia.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

tabula rasa

at the homeless dinner tonight, i sat with bill* whose eyes crinkle up when he smiles, out from beneath his cabbie hat. he inquired several times if i would be eating. i explained that i usually don't because someone may come in very hungry and i can always eat later (i felt better about this stance when i found out later that don has been ill because last month he only ate 10 days out of the month). i finally succumbed after bill pointed out that second helpings were being served. i can't wait to give him these warm isotoner gloves i got for christmas- as soon as i unwrapped the gift, i knew they were meant for him.

our bible study which a guy named don* dubbed "second helping" followed the meal. seven of us sat in an intimate circle and began discussing christmas and new years, since we haven't seen each other in a few weeks. it is so refreshing to sit among these friends, outdoor dwellers though they may be, who are so immune to putting on airs and just willing to put "it" out there.

a guy named gus* came in and said he could only stay with us for the prayer, but wanted to pray with us. he ended up leading us in a two sentence long prayer that was ungilded with words so meaty and rife with desire for God to move in His life this year, to help him change the things that he knows he needs to change. his prayer for the group resonated so much with me and all these musings transpiring in my own heart. he stayed long enough to tell us his ex-girlfriend gave birth to a baby girl on the 19th- how elated he is about it all and how he carjacked a van and was going to drive it through the door of the federal building but was taken away by the police instead (all in retaliation of his then-girlfriend's whereabouts being unknown).

don read us a page of his journal, talking about how truth has been revealed in past generations, how there's nothing new under the sun, which of course reminded us of a wise king eons ago who came to the same conclusion. and then he read this statement that "perhaps he might at some point be used by God to explain a truth in such a way that another person who has seen that truth but never understood it, might." pages and pages of journal entries and poems. his is a deep well from which he draws.

andy* mentioned how he wants to try to go back to school to become a wrestler. he told us how this christmas was the first one he has spent without his mom alive- though he talked about it gesturely, it sounded like she was his family. whew. that's hard- as i remember so many christmases with just my mom and i. as he continued delving into explanations of wrestling school, she came into the conversation again. she had told him he ought to go and do it, that he should pursue his dreams. but then, he mentioned that he took care of her as her illness worsened, for a year. as a back-up plan he's thinking of studying cooking.

i say this because each of us in that small circle had something we wanted to accomplish this year- both lofty pursuits and mundane tasks like cleaning a room or listening to/playing/enjoying music (which is not so mundane).

we're not so different in the end. and a new year is a fresh start- a somewhat blank slate to be written onto.

as i left don showed me a quote from bob dylan on creativity and the forcing of it- forgetting that the creative comes and cannot be summoned so easily, otherwise i would have a widget instead of a poem.

nothing beats a happy new years like that.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

new year's resolutions

i woke up this morning at 3:12 a.m.

3:12 a.m. which may mean little to you dear reader, but i covet my sleep and usually find such enjoyment in it. but this morning there have been other designs. i have already worked for 30 minutes, answering emails and trying to think up some clever phrases for packaging we are helping conceive; i also continued working on a poem begun yesterday, which will probably be finessed when i'm really lucid.

new years day. tabula rasa. the flicking out of a newly washed fitted sheet onto a bed, smelling of bounce freshness. i love the promise of a new year and all that it could hold. i think they provide markers, much like our birthdays where we are given an opportunity for a new start. really, there are new starts throughout the year, but this one for many people sticks out as a keeper.

but perhaps it is now perceived as a false fresh start. many of my friends who i asked the simple questions: what do you hope to accomplish this year? do you have any goals for the year? gave the somewhat passable answer of "not doing that sort of thing" which i kind of wonder is a cop-out. i think there is much to be said for going big picture and visualizing what you want your life to be about because then it helps each of us see where we need action steps and what those look like. otherwise we are all dreamers and visionaries with no feet. i personally am looking forward to the following:

-- i resolve to learn calligraphy this year
-- i resolve to play badminton regularly
-- i resolve to call my parents at least once a week
-- i resolve to write more letters
-- i resolve to make better choices
-- i resolve to start putting myself out there- in terms of seeking to be published
-- i resolve to fix my blog again, so my links reappear. argh.
-- i resolve to not be the darling of thugs, hoodlums, drug dealers and the homeless

so dear friend, i challenge you to challenge yourself with one thing that you may think is beyond your power to accomplish this year and then the challenge goes on: may you seek after accomplishing that thing with every ounce of sustenance and God's provision that is afforded you. may God guide your feet and provide the energy and power that is His to bestow and may you achieve your goal, knowing it is you in His power achieving it. and i would lastly encourage you to take the baby steps that will help you achieve the whole/ the big picture image.

if you feel like sharing with me what that one thing is, leave a comment or email me. cheers.