Friday, January 30, 2009

Worrywart


We are celebrating both of our kids birthdays this weekend. With birth dates only a week apart, their parties are usually combined. I know this vaguely dissatisfies both of them. But they cope.

This celebration always sends my mind wandering. I don’t spend much time reminiscing about my earlier adulthood. Primarily because most of it is a blur. Between figuring out how to be married, have babies, rear children, including one with special needs, buy a house, make a home, deal with daycare and schools, pay bills, see doctors, bumps in the marriage and a career, it’s no wonder that big chunks of my 30’s and 40’s are hazy at best. This is the common complaint of every parent.

I once told a friend, that the last thing I remembered was smoking hashish my senior year of high school. The next thing I knew I'd been married 30 years, had two grown kids and a career in the last industry I ever imagined working in. I wasn’t joking. Most days, that’s how I felt. And a lot of those days, a nice long toke on a bong would probably have done me a world of good. However, I keep reminding myself, middle-aged, middle class, career-oriented mothers DO NOT DO THAT!!!

With the kids grown and quasi-independent, I have more time to stop and enjoy the moment. Many moments are very sweet. But I also have more time to worry. And unless you’ve been living under a rock this past year, you are aware of all there is to worry about right now.

When my husband and I were raising a family we worried continually. We worried about tuitions, mortgage payments and especially about coping with a child’s disability and the attendant doctors, hospitals, clinics, therapists, seminars, support groups, experts, documentation and schools the disability entailed. We worried about how this affected our other child. We worried that we didn’t have enough time to make long languorous love, or even take a quick fuck. We worried when our careers hit major potholes periodically and that one of us sometimes drank too much and the other was often remote and distant. But those were internal worries, unique to our insulated world, issues over which we knew we could exercise at least some control.

Now I have time for big picture worries, worries about issues far outside my own control.


As far as the current economic mess goes, my family has been lucky so far. We lost a chunk of our retirement, but we have time to make it back. We’ve remained fairly insulated from the crisis so many people are dealing with. But I’m not insulated from recognizing the peril families now face, and ache for them all.


I hoped after the election and Inauguration the economic tailspin would right itself fairly quickly. I don’t see that happening. There is only so much one person, one President, can do when the whole world has decided to fall apart all at once.


I watch with anxious eyes the latest goings-on in the middle east. Our relationship with every country in that region is, in my humble opinion, fucked up.
I watch the strutting, blustery posturing of the Israelis and the fanatical zealotry of the Palestinians and their supporters throughout the region with increasing anxiety. Both sides' complaints and issues are valid, their current situation is not viable. Every time we interfere or take sides, we seem to make it that much worse. Regardless of what we do, the entire region is on a timetable that will eventually run its course. I can’t hazard to guess how it will end up. But I can worry about the resolution.

I look at the image we’ve portrayed to the world through our behavior in Iraq and the lowering of our standards regarding human rights, personal accountability and fairness. Then I wonder why anyone else bothers to talk to us. What would happen if the rest of the world just started shunning us?

My list of angst-filled concerns go on and on. I haven’t even mentioned the bizarre man-child in North Korea and worrying about what the hell he is up to. There are nuclear warheads still aimed at points all over the earth and the increasing likelihood that at least some of them will end up in the wrong hands. (I don’t believe there are actually any “right” hands when it comes to this issue.)

I can barely bring myself to think of the polar ice caps melting, the extinction of entire species whose only fault was they had the bad luck to inhabit the earth at the same time as humans. Every time I turn off a light, set back my thermostat or put gas in my hybrid, I feel a sense of futility.

But mainly I worry about how we collectively react to the stress caused by all of these overwhelming problems. Do we isolate ourselves further, guarding clearly marked borders and lines in the sand? Do we waste time longing for some pie in the sky idea of the good old days? Do we obsessively point fingers in blame? Do we cling to ideas and actions we know will never work but keep hoping that if we stick to our wrongheaded-ness just one more time a miracle may occur? Do we ignore the valuable lessons history can teach us simply because history reminds us of our past failures and we cannot bear to admit we have been idiots, yet again?

Or do we blunder ahead together, trying to collectively climb out of this mile deep hole with just 2 feet of rope? Hoping that even though we don’t know what we are doing, but keeping in mind some lessons of history and moving ever forward, eventually we will move out of this morass? I’m fairly certain this is the only option we have. But I worry that no one else will see it that way.

In the meantime, I donate to the local food bank, I write my checks to organizations that provide direct aid. I volunteer. I engage politically. I try and be a better person. None of which relieves my unease.


So, after whipping myself up into a fury of worry, I again consider the only two surefire ways I can think of to get me out of my angst filled ruminations. One, get my tubes untied and try really, really hard for a miracle, get pregnant again and fall back into the stupor that befalls all parents while raising children, thereby relieving me of any time or brain-power to worry about the rest of the world.

Or, forget how foolish I will look in my “maturely” sophisticated, black business pant suit and stacked heels, driving around the city in my Prius, squinting at street signs because I won’t give in and wear the damn bifocals, and searching for a connection to score some hashish, while praying the dealer accepts American Express.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Out of the Mouths of Mouthy Broads



What a funky, gray day. One word succinctly sums up my mood - Blech!

It’s official, winter has now worn out its welcome.

On days like this many people daydream of lounging on beaches in Mexico or another similarly exotic local. I look for comfort in words. Specifically, words or phrases someone else spoke, at some point in the past. It could be the recent past or distant past. My only criteria are that I find humor or hope in the words and that I can relate to them. They speak to me.

Words reassure me. They are often the most permanent, tangible evidence of someone’s life. Pictures and memories fade. Words never do. And just a few words strung together can make someone I never knew and never could have known very real to me.

So, through the years I've collected quantities of strung together words that someone at some point said. They either express exactly how I felt at the moment of discovery or they have the ability to transform my mood.

And when my day is as crummy as today has been, my soul calls out for the words of a certain mouthy broad who died over forty years ago. She had balls before it was conceivable that women could have them. She was always herself, even if her true self was somewhat artificial and she never apologized for anything. And no matter what others think, the world needs a steady stream of mouthy broads if it is to survive, or at least survive with it’s sense of humor intact.

So here are strings of words attributed to a 20th century icon and a sometimes role model of mine - Tallulah Bankhead. I reached for them today when the gray was at its most black. I hope they lighten your mood, as they always lighten mine. And I hope that behind the tongue in cheek humor, you can see the nuggets of truth.

“If I had my life to live again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner.”

“Nobody can be exactly like me. Sometimes even I have trouble doing it.”

“I’m as pure as the driven slush.”

and my personal favorite -

“My father warned me about men and booze but he never said anything about women and cocaine.”

Monday, January 26, 2009

Believe Me


I immediately noted the shout-out to the “non-believers” in President Obama’s inauguration address. The label followed a recitation of the worlds major religions, “Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus”. If I had not picked up on it, journalists and pundits were quick to point it out to me. In most of the commentaries I read, the writer was happy that the "non-believers" have finally been recognized.

I realize he used the term to include US citizens who were not members of the world religions cited. That would be me. But this artificial designation used to represent a large portion of the population not only doesn’t accurately reflect the beliefs of the members of the group, (not mine, anyway) it attempts to lump disparate philosophies as well as spiritual, emotional and faithful beliefs into one group that are all collectively addressed as “non-believers”. I am happy that this very substantial block of the US population, normally ignored in discussions of religious affiliations, was included in the address. But, I would prefer a different moniker than “non-believer.”

I dislike the term, and I would venture to guess most people lumped together under this label dislike it as well, because it so inaccurately reflects our human condition. I can’t speak for all of us, but I can say that while I am not a subscriber to organized religious beliefs, I am most definitely not a non-believer. While certain of my beliefs may differ from traditional Judeo-Christian “values”, they are based on a recognition that there is more to this world than what meets the eye or what can be explained away with pure logic. They are beliefs I hold dear and do not want to see dismissed, either intentionally or by poor word choice.

I try and live by my core set of beliefs every day, much like a Christian or a Hindu. These form the foundation of my life and the time I spend on earth. Some of them are universal, found in every major religion. Others are beliefs that aren’t expressed as readily, but I feel sure are not unique to me. The list is far too long to recite in this space, but I can share a few of the most central themes.

1. I believe that I should learn something new every day. Living a day without increasing my knowledge, is a waste of a day.

2. I believe that I should be genuinely kind or genuinely sympathetic to at least one person in need or distress, every day. Unfortunately, I find this far harder to achieve than my first belief. But I try.

3. I believe that I should try and refrain from damaging this planet that has been gracious enough to allow me to use it for a short time.

4. I believe it is not the quantity of friends or loved ones you can claim, it is the quality that counts.

5. I believe that those with fewer resources and abilities to protect themselves deserve my protection. This extends to children, the elderly and the infirm, the mentally or physically disabled, every kind of animal on earth, (except certain insects) and most plant life.

6. I believe you reap what you sow.

7. I believe that secrecy and confidentiality are grossly overrated, unnecessary ninety percent of the time and successfully maintained almost never.

8. I believe that most people are disarmed by, and ill-equipped to deal with, honesty in others. Nothing is more likely to set someone off-balance than sharing an honest thought or an honest emotion, except perhaps a sincere apology.

9. I believe that there is so much actual violence in this world, that creating artificial violence, or worse yet allowing violent activities for voyeuristic enjoyment is an abomination. Graphically violent movies, TV shows and video games demean and lesson the impact of the real violence people all over the world face daily.

10. I believe that sex, in any way, shape or form is one of the most healthy and spiritual activities in which a person can indulge. I believe that no sexual relationship between consenting partners is ugly or undesirable. I believe that the physical and mental release obtained from a sexual act is as close to nirvana as we mere mortals will ever obtain and we should never attempt to avoid it. I believe that sharing this intimacy with another person is always desirable, but the lack of a partner should never be a deterrent.

11. I believe that true, deep and abiding love doesn’t happen all that often. And I believe the world can be a cold and lonely place. So if two people are lucky enough to stumble on that passion they should embrace and commit their lives to it. The act of loving a partner is far more important than that partner’s gender, sexual preference, race, nationality or religion.

12. I believe that human beings have the capacity to save their species, although I see very little evidence that we will do so. But I am always willing to be convinced otherwise.

So, while I applaud President Obama’s attempt at inclusivity, I would be very happy if whomever it is that thinks up catchy jargon and new ways to say old ideas would come up with a more accurate descriptor of my inclusive group. I think we deserve better.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Containing Oneself


Although my husband and my daughter were Obama supporters from the moment he announced his candidacy for President, I took much longer to come to the table. There were several reasons for my reluctance to buy into their early support.

First, while I am a registered Democrat, I consider myself a progressive, generally far to the left of many liberals today. None of the original serious candidates for the Democratic nomination were touching on my hot buttons, at least not to the degree I wanted them touched. Obama probably came closest, but not close enough to be my ideal candidate.

Second, I was as frustrated as the next person that Bill Clinton did not have the self control to keep his penis in his pants when he was in the proximity of any woman but his wife for eight years. Was it too much to ask? But in spite of that, I believed that the Bill Clinton elected in 1992 was the President of my lifetime. And that translated over to a certain loyalty to his wife.

Next, I am of an age, sex, race and educational background that seemed destined to support Hillary, even without the affection I held for her husband. My Emily’s List membership demanded it.

But, I kept thinking of the baggage the Clinton's carried with them where ever they went and the seemingly endless supply of deep-pocketed conservatives who line up to take pot shots at them every time one of them opens their mouth. I wasn’t ready for more of the drama and I didn’t think the country could survive it.

So by very early in 2008 I’d admitted to myself I was supporting Barack Obama for the Presidency of the United States. My ambivalence had nothing to do with the obvious issues that inflamed certain pockets of our citizenry. I didn’t care what his race was. But I had yet to find anything in common that he and I shared.

When two people meet each other they play a subconscious game of compare and contrast. One of the best ways we learn about each other is to look for similarities and differences between the other person and ourselves. Those similarities are our connection points. If the similarities are superficial, the relationship will likely be superficial as well. If they run deep, they enhance the depth of the relationship.

And so, like every candidate before him, I looked for those similarities I could glean from the 30 second sound bites and 30 minute stump speeches, which is really all I had to go off of.

All through the summer and through the convention I struggled. I admired his oratory skills and his ability to bring his competitors to the table. I could sense some commonality, right outside my grasp, but could never pin it down.

While watching TV one night, the news program cut away to live coverage of the Al Smith dinner. And I found the commonality. It wasn’t in anything President Obama said. My epiphany came as he was sitting waiting during a lull in the program. The camera panned towards him, focusing on his face as he sat quietly. As the camera pulled back, allowing a wider view, we could see other people seated at the head table chatting with their neighbor, getting up out of their chair to talk to someone behind them or leaning forward so you could tell they were talking to someone in front of them.

And in the midst of the undisciplined free form chatter, there he sat. Calmly, quietly, apparently serenely. No one was talking to him, trying to engage him in conversation. In fact, it looked like he was being pointedly ignored, although I don’t think that was the case.

And then I saw it. This is a man who is totally self contained. He is complete as he is, having all he needs within himself. He is comfortable in his own company and able to easily occupy his own mind when it isn’t engaged elsewhere. There was no sense of dependency on others to validate why he was sitting at that table on that night.

My point of connection and the single event that made me as fervent an Obama supporter as anyone I know.

Afterwards, just to confirm what I saw, I looked at every candid picture I could find of him, on the internet. And there it was. Not in every picture certainly, but in at least one or two out of every ten, there was a man standing in a crowd, utterly alone with himself and perfectly contented to be that way. It was blatantly obvious by the look on his face, his relaxed and graceful posture, his ability to ignore his surroundings and focus on within.

I can relate to that. I've had everyone from family members to my spouse, my closest friends to people who work for me or with me, comment frequently and usually not in a complimentary fashion, about my habit of pulling into myself, shutting out everything around me and engaging with my own company. My “self-containment”, as a couple of therapists have called it, had been discussed and analyzed ad nauseam.

And I have been warned of the downsides to this trait. A tendency to be remote, unapproachable. A tendency to rely on yourself when you should engage others. The negative impact of appearing snobbish or standoffish and the misconstruing of your behaviour as rude, just to name a few.

I try and over compensate for these tendencies. When I am with another person I try to truly be with them, although not always with much success. I appreciate the people I love and am curious about the people I don’t know. I have developed the ability to mentally gird myself for social occasions, assuring myself I can handle it for a couple of hours. I look for advice and suggestions from others, even though there is a voice in my head whispering “Why bother, you know the right thing to do. You don’t need anyone else’s advice or affirmation.” I try and empathize with others and focus on their qualities that I don’t have.

But, I am certain from experience, that the upsides of such self-containment are pretty good. I don’t believe I have ever been truly lonely a day in my life. I have trouble understanding the concept. It doesn’t bother me to travel, eat in restaurants, go to movies on my own. My opinions and beliefs are reasoned, well thought out and easily expressed because I have always had the time and desire to explore them with myself in depth. (Unfortunately this trait doesn't also mean that my opinions and beliefs are also always correct, just that I know what they are, even if they are wrong.)
If I am in an uncomfortable situation, I can make it comfortable, at least for me. You can put me in about any situation and I can entertain myself for hours, even days, without another person, a movie, a TV, a radio or a book.

And that is what I saw in that momentary glance of Barack Obama sitting all alone at a table, surrounded by a sea of others and looking perfectly contented to be that way. I saw that shot and understood exactly how he was feeling. If I couldn’t figure out what he was actually thinking, I could at least guess that it was probably fully occupying his mind and totally engrossing him.

All of this said, I am not Barack Obama. I could not be President. He has so many other qualities and characteristics that uniquely qualify him for the job. Qualities and characteristics I certainly don’t share. But we do share this one thing. And that was enough to satisfy me.

I think that, for every human connection, even one sided ones like mine with our new President, it only takes one meeting on common ground to forge a relationship. One connection that is shared, which allows enough understanding for a bond to be formed.

We hear all the time that the Presidency is the loneliest job on earth. That the pressure of every decision relies solely on his shoulders to shore it up, no matter how many advisers provide input. That he cannot do this job while constantly second-guessing himself. And that he better like himself, a lot, because sometimes he will be the only person on earth who does.

And for those aspects of the job, the art and quality of being a self contained person is a gift indeed.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I Sing Today



I took a day of vacation today to stay home and watch the Inauguration. I've never done this before. Even in 1993, as thrilled as I was with the election of Clinton, I went to work. But today is different. I can't express in words yet, why it is different. As the day progresses maybe I will be able to express myself.

For now though, I have to commit in writing a few words that Eugene Robinson on MSNBC just shared. He only said a couple of lines. I had to search for the rest. A poem by Langston Hughes that I am sure I have heard before. But it never seemed as relevant and breath-taking as it is today.

I, Too, Sing America - Langston Hughes

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen

When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,

And grow strong.


Tomorrow,
I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"
Then.

Besides,
They'll see how beautiful I am

And be ashamed--


I, too, am America.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Lessons Learned



My job duties revolve around continually asking a set of very specific questions. I spend my days focusing on something that most people would prefer to forget - their failures.

Their failures, mistakes, faux pas or flat out fuck ups, or at least the threat of them hanging overhead, are what keeps me in business.

I look at people and organizations from all walks of life, trying to figure out what it is they actually do. Surprisingly, this is rarely as easy as it sounds. It never ceases to amaze me how many people can’t put into words what they spend their days pursuing. They can talk on and on, loading their comments with their particular industry’s jargon and the fashionable business buzz-words of the day, but they cannot succinctly say in 25 words or less “This is what I do all day.”

Then there are the label people. They tell me they are a Vice President of Production or Director of Development and I am supposed to know what duties that entails.

Eventually though, this is sorted out. Then, I get to ask the very best question - what happens when they screw up while doing what they do? I want to know the end result of what happens when they make a minor error. Or, when they make a huge, glaring, catastrophic, mistake of epic proportions. Their boo-boo may be so small as to seem inconsequential or so large the National Guard is called out and the FBI shows up at their door. I don’t care. I hunger for the nitty-gritty details of it all.

Every potential inaccuracy, every blunder, every oversight, every miscalculation and so forth, is mulled over in my head, the potential scenarios replayed on an endless loop, probabilities measured and intangibles considered. My brain has a running spreadsheet of every detail and organizes them into the “Positive” or “Negative” column. Then just like Santa and his ‘Naughty or Nice’ list, I get to pass judgment. Can we live with the potential errors always looming on the horizon with this group? Or should we walk away, vowing not to touch that mess with a ten foot pole?

Sound fun? Probably not, but some people take a perverse sense of gratification when they rake someone else’s failings or potential failings over the coals. I hope I’m not one of them. But if not fun, it is certainly very enlightening. And it is a great exercise when you are forced to consider the failures and faux pas of your own life.

While I have done this work for several years, I have only recently begun to consider what lessons I can take for my personal use. And there are definitely lessons to be had.

I think that people and even entire organizations have difficulty expressing what it is exactly that they do, because when they break it down to it’s most basic level, to the core actions and responsibilities, most of us don’t think what we do is particularly important or interesting. Or we may feel that what we do does matter, but worry others won’t see its value. So we dress it up in jargon and an artificial language full of acronyms few understand, hoping how we spend our days will sound more glamorous or important.

Also, what we do 8 to 10 hours of every waking day has increasingly become boiled down to a single label and we have all developed internal definitions of what that label really means. But our internal definitions are inconsistent and labels like Secretary, Assembly Line Supervisor, Lawyer, Customer Service Rep or CEO rarely define what that person actually does or, how important what they do actually is.

Whether their contribution is important to the continuation of mankind, or meeting a quarterly sales goal, shouldn’t really matter. What they do is almost always important to someone for some reason, or it wouldn’t be done. (Well, ideally this should be the case and I'm feeling idealistic.) And whether something is important to one person or one million people, it has value.

As to blunders, goof-ups, mistakes or screw-ups, people find it tremendously difficult to discuss their own failures or the failures of an organization tied closely to them. It is hard to admit when we fuck something up. Just look at our outgoing President. He has spent considerable time in the last month and especially in the last week trying to make his absolutely dismal failures sound like minor irritations. Something so inconsequential he cannot believe the rest of the world even noticed.

The rest of us may not have messed up something so thoroughly or on quite such a grand scale, as our soon to be departing leader, but our own mistakes feel pretty big and overwhelming when they are floating around in our heads.

I’ve committed my share of transgressions, omissions and slip ups. And I’ve been deeply embarrassed over many of them. Forcing myself to admit to some has been incredibly painful. But I am a firm believer in the theory that you learn something best once you already know the consequences of not knowing. We learn far more from the mistakes we have made in our lives than we ever learn in a classroom. Most importantly, we learn what it means to be human.

And so I try to approach what I do each day of my job with a sense of optimism. If someone can show that they learned from the error of their ways so I no longer have to worry about them making the same mistake twice, I am usually willing to cut them some slack. Better yet, if they have applied the knowledge gained from one error to other types of problems they could encounter in the future, then to me they are worth gambling on.

Humans are fallible. We all need to be accountable for our own actions and there are some mistakes or errors in judgment so large they present a hurdle that can never be overcome. But when we start to think others are error-proof or, worse yet, we are error proof, our fallibility usually hits us over the head with a sledge hammer. A hard lesson learned.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Thoughts Experimental


My daughter is leaving today for D.C.  She was a staffer on the Obama campaign so she has tickets to several inaugural events and parties.  I'm excited for her.  It is a once in a lifetime opportunity and after all of the long hours and hard work everyone who worked on the campaign endured, they have earned the celebration.

I am also excited that this country is finally coming out of eight years of total disaster.  I would feel incredibly sorry for anyone stepping into the Presidency now.  It is such a mess I can't imagine that the worst of it can be cleaned up in only one administration.  We will be dealing with the aftermath of our blind stupidity for many years to come.

I admire Barack Obama tremendously, and if anything  my admiration has grown deeper since the election.  I've watched him do what every politician who has gone to Washington in my lifetime said they would do - reach out to the other side, to those they don't agree with and look for commonality.   It appears he is the first that will actually do it.  If he is able to at least prop up the economy, get us out of a war we should never have gone into,  begin to restore the rule of law and meet even a quarter of the other goals he has cited, I will be terribly, terribly impressed.  I am not sure that I believe anyone can do this.

I have been mulling something over in my mind for months and have struggled with how to express it effectively in words.  I still am not certain I can, but here goes.

What if the mess we have today is the natural evolution of a Democracy that is approaching 250 years old?  What if this is what it is supposed to look like by now?  What if this is the best we can expect?  While the style of Democracy we practice is far from perfect, it is the closest thing to a true, ongoing Democracy  this world has ever seen.   

What if this grand experiment truly is experimental in it's life span?   As experiments go, lasting 250 years is an awfully long run.  It might be that it is tired, worn out, and zapped of its strength to carry on.   What if it was never meant to last this long?   

If that is the case, then regardless of who is in charge, saving the United States form of Democracy would be a futile effort.   It would not be salvageable.  Something else, hopefully as good as and perhaps even better could be formed, if there is a commitment on the part of everyone involved.  But the form of governance adults remember so fondly from their youth (admittedly being viewed through rose colored glasses) would be out of our reach forever.  

I hope this is not true.  I hope that the United States is just nicked and dinged a little, not damaged beyond repair.   But I am absolutely certain that the only way we can hope to restore our government to the level we all deserve, or craft an even better one, is to look and move forward.  We need to learn from our past, not live in it.  And that is a lesson I think many, many people in D.C. have yet to learn.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Enlightenment 2.0


Believe it or not, there are many people who lived full, productive and even pleasant lives before the world changed so dramatically. Before our very own age of enlightenment.

While most people under 30 can hardly conceive of a world not wired, those of us beyond that age did manage to survive in the medieval time I label - B.I. ... Before. Internet.

We called a travel agent to book our flights. We purchased movie tickets at the theater. We read a newspaper to keep up on current events. We bought our pornography at the convenience store.

It wasn't always easy, but we functioned, we coped, we survived.

Since the advent of this conglomeration of switches, cable and protocols, our lives have altered dramatically. Major changes have occurred across all aspects of our existence impacting industry, finance, medicine, education, government and on and on. Ah, the wonder of the ages. I give you ... the Internet!

Now that I have sounded sufficiently portentous, let me confess. Changes to our world wrought by the Internet are impressive. Miraculous even. But I want to talk about something far more important. I want to talk about what the Internet means to me. How it has changed and enriched my life in ways I never could have imagined. Sometimes I actually believe the Internet was created just for me.

As my profile indicates, I am one of those people with a constant thirst for meaningless drivel. I will learn a small, obscure scrap of information and chew on it obsessively, much like a dog with a $200 pair of shoes or the passenger side seat-belt in your Audi.

Before the Internet, not living in Oxford or Cambridge, I had little opportunity to satiate my thirst to know everything I could about a subject of absolutely no relevance. Growing up, my reference library consisted of my Dad's 1928 World Book Encyclopedias, missing the volumes "K" and "R" and with no mention of television, satellites, or the Vietnam War. A trip to the public library was an option, but I found Dewey and his Decimals less than cooperative.

So, there were several fascinating topics I was made aware of, tantalizingly teased about and left bereft because I knew just enough information to be enthralled, but not enough to feel that warm feeling deep in your tummy we call "full".

A partial list of the odd bits my brain was anxious to explore in detail:
  • There are people who drill holes in their heads on purpose.
  • In Oneida, NY they make pottery and china. But it was also home to a 19th century religious sect based upon the practice of older members of the sect introducing younger members of the opposite sex to the joys of, well, sex.
  • There was a Welsh prince named Madog who supposedly sailed to Alabama about 400 years before Columbus, went up river to the midwest, settled with a Native American tribe that to this day have blue eyes, blond hair and speak perfect Welsh.
  • Mormons have special underwear. (As a child I had specific underwear issues so this one really captured my attention.)
  • I was aware of the following physical conditions but had no idea how to tell them apart: goiters, carbuncles, plantar warts, pilonidal cysts, boils and pustules.
  • I had it on good authority that there was a pope, last name Borgia, who had a bunch of kids (did I mention he was a pope?) who liked to kill off their rivals, have sex with each other, bear their sibling's offspring and then, kill each other off.
  • My great grandmother made me aware that Solomon Grundy only lived one week, but somehow made the most of it. Jack Sprat and his wife took care of the lean and the fat, but no mention of a dog, so who took care of the bones? Eanie, Meanie, Minie had nothing to do with the Three Stooges and yet bore some sort of relationship to Moe. There was an elderly woman who evidently had a severe footwear fetish. How else to explain the whole "living in a shoe" premise? Where did these bizarre parables come from, what was the background story to each and why did adults continue to pass these snippets of information on to their children?
I was burning to know the rest of the story on each of these topics and so many more. I wanted knowledge of the unabridged kind, not the tantalizing whisper of a few truncated facts. And then, one day, my prayers were answered. The Internet - Enlightenment 2.0

Thankfully, I can confirm that my quest for information on the world wide web has led to more details on each of these topics than even I could absorb. And as an added plus, in my Internet search for answers to my life's great questions, I am continually piqued by new tidbits, new topics, new mysteries that I feel compelled to explore and resolve, to my intense satisfaction.

So, the next time you are pondering all of the great and noble changes the Internet has wrought, keep in mind its most important role, keeping me, Lulu, endlessly entertained and enthralled in my relentless pursuit of irrelevant knowledge.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Flotsam And Jetsam, Or The Lack Thereof

My first entry. It took me long enough. I started creating this space several months ago, but have been ambivalent about actually posting. I've had an itch to join this discussion for a few years now, but have avoided doing so for several reasons.

First, I am pretty sure I don't have anything new or groundbreaking to say.

Second, I don't think I can commit to posting about a consistent topic or theme. My brain doesn't function that way. It flits from subject to subject, seldom alighting long enough to develop an ongoing interest, much less a passion or an obsession.

Next, I have never shown any sign of having any self regulating discipline when it comes to following through on most of my best intentions, so I am certain that determining a schedule to post and then sticking to it, is beyond me.

And finally, while I have written all my life I've never been particularly interested in sharing my writings with anyone.

So, what has changed? Nothing really. But it finally dawned on me that few people on earth actually have something new or groundbreaking to say, but that doesn't seem to stop them from saying it. So why should it give me pause?

I also realized that this is my space and I'm not required to stick to a single topic. I may not have obsessions, but I have several diversions that occupy my mind and I can write about all of them, if I want. So my posts won't focus on a central topic or theme. Instead I will meander through whatever is catching my attention at the moment - news, books, music, politics, religion, the decline of the empire or the end of the world. Which, by the way I think about a lot.. Not in a pseudo-religious Rapturesque-like way. More in a "thank god we've managed to live another day without wiping ourselves off the face of the earth" way. There will also be occasional posts that some might find sexually explicit. Right now pondering the weird stages and strange turns my libido is taking, completely without my consent I might add, is the closest thing to an obsession I have.

I will post some fictional pieces I've been playing with as well. But I won't bore you, or more likely, bore myself, with discussions of such topics as visits to the doctor, my grown up kids who act like toddlers, the never-ending list of coworkers and family members who are always and collectively bugging the hell out of me, my cat, or the other flotsam and jetsam of my personal life.

As far as being disciplined enough to keep to a schedule? Well, it finally dawned on me that in all likelihood I may be the only person who will ever read this, so, if I'm not hung up about a schedule and no one else will even be aware that I don't follow one, my failure to stick to it, should not be an issue.

And this last bit applies to my final reason for putting this off as well. I may be posting my writings in a public venue so they are accessible to others, but I am doubtful that my audience will ever swell to a degree that anyone besides me will actually read what I post. So, that isn't really a valid excuse either.

That, I think, is sufficient for a first posting. I feel a somewhat sheepish sense of accomplishment. I'm on a roll now, baby!