Monday Morning

Today we had the unique pleasure of participating in an all-day meeting. None of us knew why we were there, not even the Tsumommy. Never mind that she’d called the meeting.

I took half a Xanax. I’d learned from hard experience – accompanied by the occasional errant mid-meeting yoyo of drool – that a slow, steady buzz is preferable to losing control of one’s facilities in front of the coworkers.

I can’t say I’ve ever loved my job – a failing economy coupled with my wanderlust means I have no choice but to be okay with any gig that’s even mildly creative, pays the bills and doesn’t give me a bleeding ulcer.

And things were cool until the bloated bigwigs who’d hired the Tsumommy got so many complaints about her they were forced to notice. In classic bait-and-switch intimidation style they fired up the smoke machines and stepped away from admiring themselves in the mirrors of their Lexus and BMWs long enough to take out one of their own.

Unfortunately, the fall guy was my boss, and now the Tsumommy is my keeper.

Friday Existential Angst

So a nice, relaxing night at home just turned into absolute chaos, complete with nearly a dozen axe-wielding firefighters, poised, ready to hack into anything that could potentially face a hazard … any hazard at all.

 

It was a bit disturbing, to be honest.

 

But soothing, considering the fact that there were eardrum piercing alarms wailing throughout the entire building along with smoke billowing from downstairs.

 

And, half an hour later the culprit – an overfilled dryer hose – was disabled and all was well…

 

Except for my clothes.

 

Thankfully, mine were not the scorched ones laying smoldering in the dryer, but the ones spinning around in the washer, waiting to get warm.

 

And alas, the inside of my apartment is about to resemble the ghetto, complete with underwear hanging from every surface.

 

At least this time there was something to report. I passed the time outside with my neighbors on both sides of my brick and mortar slice of toast regaling them with tales of my last Philly 9-1-1 call, complete with hulking police goon promising to return to the scene of the alleged crime for “a poke.”

 

Yeah, hard to forget the time Rachel and I convinced ourselves a scary criminal had infiltrated the (locked windows of) the Netherhouse. But, in West Philly, anything can happen, and as we stood, panicked, outside the door waiting for the cavalry, that reality literally hit close to home.

 

Or so we thought. As the nine officers combed every nook, cranny, closet and drawer of our massive 7-bedroom abode, the fact that I’d chosen a poker and Rachel, I think, a stick, to protect ourselves with dawned on us: were it the real deal, oh yeah, we’d be so dead.

 

And that’s when big, bad Officer Creepy uttered his poker-derived innuendo. Nowhere was safe…

 

And so I moved, but the guilt still manages to dog me, makes me wonder if maybe I’ve gone old, or weak, or soft. I’ve lived in cities around the globe and here I am running away from a neighborhood where houses regularly run in the $300,000s because of a big lug and a scary noise.

 

Yet somehow things still don’t feel quite “right”, crispy undies notwithstanding. It’s not the house, or the ‘hood, or the whole kit and caboodle. Or is it? I am uncertain, unsure, unable to decide what’s best.

 

So, for a autumn Friday I find myself asking: what next?

Newhouse: As Out of Touch as Ever

I’m unsure how to feel about Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications (full disclosure: my grad school alma mater) recent foray into the realm of media awards.

 

According to Dean David Rubin on MediaBistro.com, the school’s newly created Mirror Awards will “highlight the best media coverage of media … The idea is to hold up a mirror to the media and honor it that way.”

 

Hey, that’s great. Coming from someone who is not, and financially cannot, make a living doing the very thing she begged, borrowed and practically stole to be able to do — journalism — thanks to the bullshit surrounding the biz, I’m all for it.

 

From media consolidation to rampant ethical violations run amok, there needs to be a mirror.

 

I’m just not sure Newhouse is the place to be handing out the accolades.

 

Or perhaps not Rubin, the man who gave the least compelling commencement speech I unfortunately was forced to witness.

 

Imagine if you will:

 

Students from one of the country’s preeminent journalism schools were thrust, trial by fire’like, into the fray in the months following Sept. 11.

 

The reality of the job, and its inherent risks and responsibilities, became crystal clear that day, and every day for the rest of the semester. The reality of what happened, and the enormous task for those charged with putting it down for everyone to understand, sank in the second we watched the first tower go. None of us would ever be the same.

 

There was no escaping it, no getting back to life — we were in j-school, where current events are life. We saw the world, and the field we had yet to break into, change before our eyes. The future was tumultuous and uncertain, but we were there, learning to be a part of it.

 

With this as our educational backdrop, we sat in mid-2002 in the Carrier Dome clad in those ridiculous square hats, ready to take on the world.

 

So what words of infinite wisdom did Rubin choose to impart to us on that beautiful spring day?

 

None. His words were not for us but our parents, asking them not to be too upset about the thousands of dollars they’d shelled out for their progeny’s education, because it’s a good school with a good name and it will all work out in the end.

 

Really. No seriously. I’m not kidding…

 

Thousands of dollars, countless hours of lost sleep, two bouts of bronchitis, weeks of lectures, Kaplan’s sadistic law class and Ward’s meandering ethics class, several thousand cups of coffee and just as many AP Style Book quizzes later I found myself sitting, dumbstruck, wondering what fucking relevance this had to me. And then I realized: none.

 

With his eye on the checkbook and completely out of touch with the lives lived just under his carpeted office day in and day out, he — like media companies of today — pandered to the bottom line.

 

And Rube’s at it again, proving just how outrageously out of touch he is with the very industry he gets paid to, purportedly, understand:

 

mediabistro.com : What types of media do you consume daily?

 

Rubin : The New York Times, in print, The Wall Street Journal, in print and online, Syracuse Post Standard, NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered. If I get home in time I’ll watch the CBS evening news — I’m warming up for Katie. Then later I watch MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann — he’s the best writer in broadcasting, very, very entertaining.

 

mediabistro.com : What about blogs?

 

Rubin : No. People will send me things and point me to them, but I just don’t have enough time.

 

mediabistro.com : So no RSS feeds for you?

 

Rubin : No.

Well goody then. At least I don’t have to worry about sending the dean’s office into a tizzy. And, uh, Katie fucking Couric? I can’t wait to see her take on the hard news of the day. “Massacre in Darfur, he he, Israel and Hezbollah still killling, tee he!”

 

Unfortunately, his reading list sums it up: old dinosaur media equivalent of a bran muffin and black coffee.

 

Yes, it’s important to keep up on what these pubs are doing and saying, but if you’re not looking beyond the Gray Lady and NPRs of the world at this point in the game, even just a little, you’ve already been left behind.

 

So, I’d nominate myself for a Mirror Award if it included criticism of the media peon making machine.

 

Alas, I can only look in from the outside as I slave on the dark side to make ends meet and pay the student loans Rubin was trying so hard to convince the parents were so important, and playing under the old guard’s nose via RSS feed.

How I’m Weird

Okay, I’ve been tagged by Mags at You Forgot Poland!, so I’d better get on with it … I’ve been slacking enough already!

 

So, I’m supposed to, in five answers, list how I’m weird. Lordy, where do I begin?!

 

  1. I know all the words to the Eagles song (fly, eagles, fly, on the road to victoreeeeeeeeee!!!… you get the idea…), but know next to nothing about football, despite the fact that I was a cheerleader for over a decade and the captain in high school, no less!
  2. Even though I was a cheerleader in high school, I wear black every day. Not because I’m depressed, but because I’m messy, and drop things on myself – from coffee to candy – on a regular basis. Plus, I went to Catholic school, and have no fashion sense.
  3. I must buy magazines from the back of the rack, and only if I’m convinced the pages haven’t been ruffled by browsers.
  4. I sleep with a pink stuffed pig named Gordy. I even take him camping. And on business trips. It’s pathetic, I know…
  5. I can cook elaborate cakes and pies and pastries, along with just about any dish I put my mind to, but I cannot boil an egg without blowing it up.

Near Death By Derby

Death By Derby

I almost made it, folks, I almost got to hit the rink, hit my friends
and say yes, indeed, I am a roller derby queen. Unfortunately, the
fates have other plans for me and more than likely you’ll find me
manning the ticket booth.

It’s true.

Last Thursday, on what has become a routine flogging, trouncing and
ass-flashing head first dive to the floor, I managed to split my elbow
open to the bone.

Ew. I know.

Only I didn’t know it when I did it, but an hour later, as I pulled my
elbow pad off and flashed my funny bone to the team, no one was
laughing. Immediate gasps, shrieks and calls of, “Oh mah gawd get some
stitches, girl!” filled the room.

Unfortunately, medical care more advanced than a splash of Betadine is
foreign to me, and as I crawled into bed a few hours later I had no
idea what kind of festering adventure would be awaiting me on the
other side of dawn.

By the time I’d finished throwing up the next morning as I stared,
bleary eyed, at the pink tinged surface of my elbow bone, I wasn’t
sure what to do next.

Thanks to my mother’s occupation as a nurse, I know how to clean and
bandage the mess with near-bizarre precision. Unfortunately, I’ve
always suspected my mother’s career was a hindrance later in life as
it removed any sense of concern or urgency in relation to pain. Many
of my closest friends have found this out the hard way:

Moving into a stereotypically hilly apartment in San Francisco a few
years back, my friend Kelly smashed her hand while leaping,
maniacally, into my precariously balanced U-Haul van. Rushing out of
the apartment, mindful of the 3-hour window the rental place had given
us to move all my crap across town (SF may not be wide, but it makes
it up in hills), I stopped, looked at her limp, pale limb and asked,
as the tears of pain rolled down her face, “Can you move it?”

“Yes.”

“You’re fine. Let’s go!”

If it can be moved it cannot be that bad, and therefore it’s good
enough to go back outside and play, damnit, and leave me alone….

And with the move test as my litmus I slunk into the doctor’s office
the next afternoon, where it became obvious that freedom of motion is
not the only way to gauge the severity of a wound.

Potential for amputation is.

And as I sat, shaking, wondering how on earth I’d ever floss my teeth
again with only one arm, I started to think of all the other things
going on in my life I’d been missing since roller derby took over my
life.

And I decided that the injury, while probably not fatal and likely
(hopefully – I have to go back tomorrow at 7:30 a.m.) not to result in
anything more than a nasty scar, was a sort of wake-up call to
remember that I’ve got a lot of great things in my life in addition to
my beloved fellow derby girls.

Like writing, drawing, and general art-making.

And my friends, and my family, and someone who falls somewhere, I’m
not sure where, in between.

Not to mention the job, no matter how square, and apartment, and, one
day maybe, a dog.

And, well, hey, most of all, let’s all give a big round of applause
for: my arm.

As the drummer from Def Leppard can attest, two is better than one…

Somewhat Back From the Dead

I’m going to have to start explaining away these long electronic absences, aren’t I? What’s believable? But then again, does anybody care?

I mean, I could have been whisked away to an exotic isle by some dashing prince or sultan or something, to lounge about on pillows while sipping mimosas fresh squeezed by virgin albinos.

Or injured in a horrible car crash that left me unable to remember anything but all my old phone numbers, and I’ve been spending the last month dialing them in the vain hope that someone will answer and have an inkling of who the hell I am…

But then again, I barely know who I am sometimes, so to expect a perfect stranger with themisfortune to have been passed down my old digits to clue me in to the answer to the existential crisis I suffer on a daily basis would be futile at best, a really shitty story at worst.

The truth, of course, is never as exciting as fiction, and with that I must admit that, in addition to being absurdly busy, I’ve been globe hopping and recuperating from the effects of living in one of the worst air quality regions around.

Thanks coal… you killed my grandpa, great-grandpa, and all their friends, and now you’re going after me…

I’ve got asthma, folks, it’s true – hence the forced rejection of the rock’n’roll lifestyle in favor of albuterol inhalers and moments of looking like a purple Chihuahua, all bug eyed and suffocate’y – and that ailment tends to result in at minimum two bronchial infections a year.

I got this most recent the week before I was supposed to go to Canada for work. By the time I got back, old men carting oxygen tanks for their emphysema were offering me hits.

Although, I did resist the urge to attempt to joke with customs.

“Are you carrying any plants, produce or live animals into the United States?”

“No, but I’m pretty sure I’m an incubator for the Hanta Virus…. Kill me, please!”

Thing is, as much as we joke about it, Canadians ARE really super nice. It creeped me out. I was afraid to turn around because I was sure they’d be making faces at me…

But, I survived long enough to make it back on American soil and into my snuggly, Venus sleep trap bed.

Also went to the acupuncturist, which is always fun but even more so when you’re sick: walked out with my usual dazed and confused look, along with a back covered in perfectly symmetrical purple bruises and a chest littered with small metal dots.

Apparently the former is an ancient Asian tool used to draw toxins and bad stuff out of your body and into these glass suction cups. Thus, it’s called cupping. All I brought out was some suntan lotion from the 1970s and a few gnats I’d swallowed while running along Forbidden Drive a few weeks ago.

The latter are press balls, which I usually have scattered along my ears. They’re little metal balls placed strategically along pressure points, covered by a small square of Band Aid material. You’re supposed to press on them at regular intervals. They’re certainly a conversation starter.

“What the?”

“Oh these. Yeah, you haven’t heard?”

“No, what?”

“I’m beta testing a new government program to imbed personal data, ranging from blood type to credit rating, directly into the body. Less need for paperwork, saving trees, blah blah… Granted, the Wallet Makers Union Local 666 has been protesting since its launch, but I think the MIBs have pretty much disappeared most of them by now. Wanna’ press on them? Ooh, that feels gooood!”

Nooooo! Moe’s!!!!!!!!!!

Those of you who know me know of my deep-rooted, near daily obsession with burritos – specifically, Moe’s Southwest Grill. At least twice a week since a franchise opened near my work I’ve been hitting the flour-shelled salsa/bean/guacamole trinity of the food of the East Coast non-Mexican gods.

They know my name.

They know my burrito (tofu, black beans, no sour cream, fresh cilantro and chopped jalapenos).

And yes, I’d recently boycotted them for what seemed like an eternity after some numbskull left me standing there, burrito growing cold, while he failed to grasp the concept of how to multi-task through cheese and lettuce.

I swear I had nothing to do with it, but he got fired, and I’d recently returned to my Mexic-ish obsession.

Until today.

Venturing out at noon in nearly religious preparation for an evening of wiping the rink floor with my limbs, I made my way to … what was once … Moe’s.

“Nooooooooo!!!!!!!!” I wailed, throwing myself upon the locked doors.

No explanation was given for the sudden departure of my best fast food friend. It wasn’t lack of business – there was always a line. And I personally kept them in tortilla chips, I’ll bet.

Was it something worse? Something, dare I say, illegal? Illicit? Downright gross?!!?

Whatever the cause, this is a tragedy, people, a tragedy!

What do I do now? Do I stock my pantry with food and, shudder to think, cook? Do I overextend my already paltry budget and buy food out? And if I did, what could possibly compare?

But then, maybe it’s time that something gives.

Much as I love the stuff the fact of the matter is it’s bastardized East Coast faux fast food. And while the original, and best, burrito love of my life lives in the City by the Bay, I can’t help but find myself thinking that, even if the original, authentic article were offered to me it might be time for this old girl to take a chance on something entirely new.

I just have to hope I can somehow incorporate guacamole!

Q: Why Derby?

A: Since I could walk, I’ve been hell on, and off, wheels.

At age 2 my mom enrolled me in tiny tots tumbling class. I promptly tumbled, all right: off the trampoline, beyond the reach of the safety barrier, and ass first onto the hard concrete floor. As the adults gasped, I immediately proceeded to get up and demand to do it again.

About that time I also got my first hand-me-down big wheels. The toy’s low profile made it perfect for rolling under tables or taking some hapless adult out at the shins.

From there I graduated to full-fledged big kid bikes: banana seats, streamers, cards in the spokes. Growing up with a large extended family meant I always had some bike or other to scar myself with.

At age 4 I started ballet; at age 6 was cheerleading, and onward until I turned 18 and the gates of heaven opened up for me in the form of the dark cave in downtown Providence where bands played and I discovered: the mosh pit.

Bruises, contusions, concussions, boots marks, bite marks, and the occasional grope. I surfed the crowd at Pearl Jam, got sweated on by the Rollins Band, punched a skinhead at the Pumpkins – and immediately denied it – got into a fistfight at Fuel, and suffered many a tongue lashing from the enduringly uptight Ian MacKaye.

It makes sense, then, that my acrobatic and aggressive natures would collide.

For those of you not versed in the thoroughly modern game of roller derby, it’s a knock-down, drag out game that requires a lot of skill. You have to remain upright, on skates (a skill I have yet to perfect, or even comprehend) …

while keeping those around you from knocking you down;

while simultaneously trying to knock them down;

while looking behind you for your jammer and opposing jammer, who YOU are trying to help through the pack and knock the hell out of, respectively.

Confused yet?

In a nutshell, 10 women take the track — eight are blockers. They comprise the pack.

The two front skaters are called pivots — they control the speed and call the shots.

The last two skaters are jammers — they take off a few seconds after the pack starts to roll, and their job is to get through the pack.

Not so easy, and it’s not that simple.

They must avoid getting knocked down by each other as they zoom toward the pack; they must avoid getting knocked down by the rear blocker, whose whole job is to stop them from getting into the pack; they must avoid getting the crap beat out of them once they get in the pack.

And once they’re in the pack, they’re not allowed to hit back.

Yeah.

Their job is to score points — one point for each opposing team member passed, but, they don’t actually start to accrue points until they make their way through the pack… the second time.

That’s right: Get through the pack. Skate like hell. Go through again… Maybe.

Thing is, a lot of attention has been, and is being paid, to the fact that derby women have lots of tattoos and piercings and wear punk rock clothes and fishnets. But, that’s not the whole story, and that’s not the big story.

The truth is you’ve got women from 18 to I’m-not-telling who have jobs, husbands — or wives — kids, pets and outside lives. And we are all invested in one thing: beating the shit out of each other, and having a lot of fun while doing it.

Roller derby is no longer the post-’80s purple spandex Mad Max meets Madonna big-haired spectacle — the game is now all-girl and played — like skateboarding before the Boom Boom Huck Jam whore-down or skiing before the media tore Bode a new one — Just. For. Fun.

And I mean really, where else can someone my age get knocked down without suing someone, or worrying about breaking a hip?

Ethics? We don’t need no stinkin’ ethics!

Well well well … shocking to think that a scandal of failed ethics could possibly rear its head on Capitol Hill, but alas, it seems another one of BushCo’s minions … er… appointees, is responsible for a little bit of backhanded fact-morphing.

I know… I know… bending the facts to suit the Bush administration’s version of the truth is par for the course, and the furor behind Karl Zinsmeister, who Bush just appointed domestic policy advisor, is pretty much in line with all the other slimy lying cheating scheming bullshit surrounding the administration.

In short, he didn’t like a story that was written about him two years ago, so he put it on his own website, but first changed a bunch of the quotes.

Thing is, this time it’s up close and personal, as the article Zinsmeister raped was written by dear ol’ Justin Park when he and I toiled at the Syracuse New Times. (He’s still toiling in the ‘cuse, I’m just toiling!)

So, now my drinking and bruise-making buddy is the talk of the journo town, and potentially on the verge of crucifixion.

Fortunately, if anyone can take it it’s Park. He had to put up with me for two years!

Read the original piece, and the mutant.

Well, I fell on my technologically-challenged ass last weekend in Vegas.

Not only do I not possess a shiny, happy orgasmic iPod of all that is audibly holy, I could not find my digital camera when, ten minutes before I was supposed to leave, I decided to pack my bags.

So, I did what any aging art star who fondly remembers fondling Leicas and drooling over Hasselblads in the olden days would do: I dragged the crate labeled “cameras” from the closet — filled with such fun re-discoveries as an electrical-taped Holga, Polaroid Captiva, several Minolta 35mm’s and Keropi point-and-shoot — and loaded up an real, actual camera … with film, no less!

Granted, buying the film was probably as time-consuming and frustrating as finding the digital would have been — a few lonely rolls hung along the wall of the local CVS, nestled, dusty, between memory cards and reading glasses.

The good news is that there’s no effing shutter lag when doing photos the old school way. The bad news is that I’m still waiting to get them back …

In the interim, I’ve composed an image that, I think, accurately reflects the photos you will, someday, see …