html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: June 2006

Friday, June 30, 2006

What will it take for you to believe me?

Why would you doubt me on this? Do you think I don't know what hops look like? Every year I ask for hops for my birthday and every year my friends are all "here, have this CD."

Top left: The guy catching the disc is our webmaster; the other guy is 6'2" or so. Engineer and chemist; so pretty.
Top right: Oh, man. That's Nick. I miss Nick so much since he moved to Boston. Nick is a baby; in his early twenties or something. We never thought about dating, 'cause he's twenty or so, but Nick and I got each other instantly. We first started talking at a Pie Contest and by the next time we saw each other he knew it was perfectly right for him to sprint the length of the field and lay out into my arms. He's tall, but he's about eighteen, so he hasn't put on his adult weight. For years we were always roughhousing on the sidelines; I don't think we ever walked through a door together without posting each other up. Oh Nick honey, why did you go? We could have started dating next year, when you turn sixteen and get your driver's license.
Bottom left: I don't know his opponent, but the guy in red is Jean-Michel, who breaks into my house to shower.
Bottom right: I don't usually get that view of Courtney. Usually I watch Courtney from behind as she accelerates past me.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Good luck with that.

Readers, I have gone on dates as a result of this blog. I don’t talk about them here, because entertaining you isn’t worth maybe damaging a new relationship. This time, though, I think I’ve got nothing to lose.

I’ve liked the guys I met so far, and I liked one of them an awful lot. He’s really smart, almost as funny as me, and from everything I saw, he’s a good person. I would have guessed that he liked me too, except that before we could try to be anything, he had to leave for the summer. I got a call from him the other night; we chatted for a while, but I think his real point was to give me a heads up. Seems like his ex has changed her mind; she wants to get back together with him. I don’t think he’s decided anything yet but I don’t think he ever got over her, either. I expect he’ll try again with her.

Part of me is hurt and disappointed; I would have liked to have had a chance with him. Another part of me is amused and even a little relieved. Since dating in general is shaky ground for me and starting a new relationship raises baffling questions, it is almost comforting to be in a situation I know how to deal with. This has happened to me twice (two times!) in the past few years. I know exactly how it goes.

Based on the times I've seen this before, their relationship won’t work. The reasons it didn’t work before haven’t changed and now it’s been fractured even further. However, trying again will make him believe that it won’t work and this time he’ll get over her. When the dust settles in about a year and a half, I’ll get a call from him that puts us back on a friendly basis. (I’m not sure why they call again. Because I was the last intriguing thing that happened, back when things were calm? Because I’m an unanswered question – what if he’d gone that direction? Because they’re hoping for (and get) absolution?)

With my streak, I’ll still be single when he calls in a year or two. But next time he won’t be a really neat guy that I want to figure out and spend time with. Next time, he’ll be a sucker that got worked twice by the same girl. The second time he should have known better and he had another option. I’ll be happy to hear from him and wish him the best, but the whole tenor will feel different, have no potential. He won’t have the crush glamour on him, but whatever connection was there turns into more affection than usual for such a casual friendship. It’s not what I hoped for, but at least I know it turns out fine.

No harm, no foul, mister. We're good.

Bad grad school, I of II

Second grad school was miserable for me, and I honestly think the largest part of it was pure bad luck. As far as I can tell, it was being there during the wrong years, some malice and some tactlessness on my part that made my Ph.D. program so bad that for two quarters I cried everyday for my whole drive home. Then I realized that they couldn’t make me stay for my Ph.D.; I could flee with a masters! With an end in sight, it all got better.

My first year at Davis was in law school, which was fine. That year, however, the Environmental Policy group lost three of six professors, including mine. She passed me off to another professor, whom I liked but whose work wasn’t what I was looking for. The next year was my first in grad school. My new advisor went on a year long sabbatical; two more professors left the Environmental Policy group. It was a real shame that the only professor left doesn’t like women, or engineers, or lawyers, or masters students. It was also too bad that I didn’t understand quite how touchy he was about the new field of policy science, and spent the first day of class badmouthing the theories in the book he edited. I didn’t know! I also didn’t know that he was entirely willing to tell people that they didn’t belong in his program, or call them ignorant assholes, or not tell them about meetings, or savagely criticize their presentations in class. He had a reputation for being brusque; when I tried to tell my professor or the department chair about him, they would assume that was what I meant. But he went after me special, and he was the only professor there.

If your group has almost no professors, it also can’t have many students. My year, we got two students. It was great when I could take classes with yet another Chris, but mostly I struggled with being the only person in class who wasn’t from that department. I split my third and fourth years between grad school and law school. It was OK, if I didn’t mind that grad school was on quarters and law school was on semesters, and it took me ten hours to register every quarter because no one had done that joint program since before they switched to on-line enrollment. I just got used to having five finals periods each year. I started TAing, and loved that part.

My third year the policy group managed to bring on a couple new professors, but not soon enough for more students in my fourth year. It was probably too late for me to have a sense of camaraderie with them anyway. The next year the group went on a huge recruiting drive. It was really hard to get students for our policy program. Our program was housed in the Ecology group, which required a rigorous biological sciences background. But we did pure policy and it was hard to find people who wanted to do that after a science background. I inadvertently got my revenge when the new potential crop of students came to check out the program and meet the current grad students. Somehow I was the only person left after dinner with the five potential new grad students. Someone casually asked if I had enjoyed my time at Davis. I couldn’t say anything, but I guess they got their answer when tears welled up in my eyes and I stared silently at my plate. We didn’t get a single student for the next year. Serves them right.

Bad grad school, II of II

My second grad school program prided itself on being interdisciplinary. It was an environmental policy program housed in the Ecology Group. We were required to take graduate level classes in ecology, economics, political science, engineering (just modeling), and statistics; I was doing a law degree on the side. By the second year, I hated being interdisciplinary. There are two huge problems with it; first, you are always bad at everything, and second, no one is interested in your interdisciplinary insights.

For everything but the engineering, I was walking into Ph.D. level classes with whatever background I got in undergrad and a lot of skill in going to school. I could take the tests, but I always knew that I wasn’t understanding the material the way the students from that discipline did. I wasn’t fitting new things to a framework of knowledge I already held; ideas couldn’t click together to confirm or discount something I already thought about; I had very little depth or sense of scale or repetition in any of those fields. I couldn’t get good at anything. On an emotional level, it is hard to be a student that way. I remember taking a first glance at a midterm one day and seeing that it was completely bewildering. I knew instantly I couldn’t pass the midterm but I didn’t even know if the test was hard or I just didn’t know the right things. (It was hard; he threw it out when he saw our scores.)

Then, for all that you are working so hard in so many directions, there is no pay-off. There’s no one else to talk to. Academics talk big about the value of interdisciplinary work, but I can tell you that they don’t want to hear it in class. They mostly don’t want to hear it out of class, either. Most chose their discipline because that’s what fascinates them; they are naturally less interested in other things. But even though you understand how the property rights system you are discussing in environmental law will undermine a carbon emissions trading system, you would have to show the proof to explain and no one is willing to follow it with you. Your (very nice) ecology professor isn’t real interested in discussing whether a model of foraging behavior depends on animals being rational economic agents, either. I know. I tried. If a thought was hard and interesting, it would require someone else with enough background in both disciplines to critique it; I gave up hoping to talk about what I was learning.

I like understanding all that different stuff and I think interdisciplinary collaborations have potential; people rooted firmly in their own disciplines working on a common problem can yield interesting and useful results. I still think I see a niche for me as an environmental mediator, moving between people in their own disciplines. But being interdisciplinary itself was rough and unrewarding. I wish I had had a department instead of a graduate group. I wish I had stayed in a field.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Always bid.

That, my friends, is not a picture of Pete’s great catch. A catch like that from Pete is not unusual enough to post a picture. No, that is a picture of Ryan’s all-out bid. A bid, in Ultimate, is any hard try – any attempt that you put your heart into. Ultimate is all about the bid.

It makes sense that Ultimate players love the bid; a disc in flight is far more erratic than a ball, so a crazy-ass attempt can make an impossible catch or D and a crazy-ass attempt can miss through no fault of the player. You cheer for the bid like you would cheer for the play. You hear it all the time on the sidelines, “nice bid”, “sick bid”, “bid for that!”. Besides, no matter who came up with the disc, both players ran like demons and tried so hard and we all know what that feels like.

In Ultimate, one of the few things that can get you yelled at is not bidding. If you were on D and didn’t take a swipe at a passing disc, or contest for a throw to the girl you’re covering, a senior player might gently take you aside later. “Did you see that you had a bid on that disc? A fast girl like you could have gotten it… .”

When you have played Ultimate for a while, you bring the philosophy of the bid into your whole life. Everything you decide to do deserves your best try, because the bid itself is so important. Success might be nine parts the bid and one part chance, but the bid is the part you can be proud of. And if you held nothing back, failing is almost secondary. It doesn’t feel as good, but you can still have your team in your heart, reaching to slap hands, murmuring “nice bid”, “sweet run”, “I saw you trying”, “nice bid, hon”, “good bid”.

(Scott Cook took that picture.)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I used to sing Pressure Drop when his Mom called.

I took a year of Farsi in undergrad; one day the instructor assigned the following essay: explain to your parents that they will have to give you the freedom to choose whom you will date (or what you will study). She figured it was a topic that would resonate with a bunch of second generation students, but the teacher read the best essays back to us, astonished. The best essays were a couple beautiful letters to parents saying how much my classmates loved them, loved their home and culture, desperately wanted their parents’ blessings when they chose who they would be with. My classmates wrote they understood their parents wanted only comfort and love and happiness for their children, and believed their parents had wise advice about what type of partners would bring them that happiness. One letter closed by telling her father that she had so much of him in her; begging him to trust that and please never disapprove of her or turn against her.

My family is typically western, but I went to a math/science magnet and did a Korean martial art for all of my adolescence. All of my friends were Asian-Am* and a lot of that culture stuck with me. I believe in the importance of family and respect for my elders. I liked that family was central to my ex’s well-being; I wanted him to feel that strongly about a family that we created. I didn’t want to defy his mother; I wanted to show her that I could be a good wife to her son. I never could because her objections weren’t to anything I could (or was willing to) change. He sometimes chose me and he sometimes chose her, but the real problem was that he was forced to choose at all.

I won’t try that route again. My next boyfriend’s mom will have to like me from the first. But the fact that her voice is important to this hypothetical boyfriend and that his family is a big part of his life isn’t anything I would want to change.

*Really, all my friends were Asian-Am or Eastern European. When I got to Berkeley I thought I had never seen so many white people in my life. Twenty years later it seems like all my baby siblings' friends are black or Middle Eastern, which is only interesting for the demographic shift in my old neighborhood.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Actively like me. Not just tolerate.

I’ve been trying to tell you guys all along that my only absolutes for the men I would date are nice and funny and smart. Then I state a preference for dorky engineers or against serial killers, and I get comments about how I need to be more open minded because the man who is right for me might not fit my exacting criteria. In the Options post, I got a comment suggesting that I branch out from white men. The commenter had no way to know that my seven year ex wasn’t white; I’ll let the implications about racism on my part go for now. However, the experience of dating someone from an extended-family culture left me with another absolute, one that I mean profoundly and without exception, and which may well exclude men from other races. I am not fucking around when I say that I will never again date a man whose mother does not like me.

My ex’s mom hated me on sight. She hated me because I wasn’t of her race, her religion, wasn’t smaller than her son, didn’t wear designer clothes, couldn’t offer her family status in their native country like a girl from a good family would, because my parents are divorced, because I don’t eat meat like a reasonable person. She hated me. Things always stayed civil, if you don’t count the times when she would pull me aside to suggest some weight loss goals, but round about year four, when it looked like I could well be permanent, her opposition became more overt. She would call to tell him that it looked scandalous that my car was parked outside his apartment (and seriously! Fifteen minutes after I arrived the phone would ring from a city on the other side of the world, with a complaint about my car! Fucking amazing. All those aunts, all with nothing better to do.). She would announce family emergencies as we were on the verge of leaving for vacations. She would campaign against time spent with my family, who liked him unreservedly from the first meeting. My favorite was that she kept a list of reasons he shouldn’t be with me in her day planner.

It killed me that there was nothing I could ever do that would make me good enough for her son. That we were always delighted in each other’s presence wasn’t enough. I could never love him faithfully enough, or cook enough good food (and god knows my rice would never taste right) or put enough work into keeping a house or be kind enough to his siblings or get enough education or do anything that would convince her that I was a better option than any size-two girl of his race. The big extended family had some nice and some truly cracked-out people in it, but she genuinely believed every last stupidly drug-addicted or recklessly promiscuous or painfully shortsighted cousin, every mean or shallow or petty person in that family would have been sullied if he had married me.

She fought hard, too, which put me in an awful position. There was no possibility she would ever give, so he always had that pressure on him from one side. If I yielded, said that I guess we could skip that trip if his mom really needs him, well, she would do it again and I would always lose. If I held firm, said that we had planned this and we bought tickets and it was important to me, then I had to watch him feel terrible about the decision. I never got the feeling his mom cared how hard that was on him.

It was sad and awful for me, and worse for him. I am not willing to have that problem again. To nice and smart and funny, you can add “his mom likes me” as a rock-hard absolute. For the rest of it, I’m willing to let the world surprise me.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Not sleepy.

Tyler Cowen is pimping me over on the Volokh page, where the lawyers are not as fond of me as economists are. That's cool. The negative comments of imaginary people carry as much weight as the pleasant affirmations of imaginary people. I should start a Wall of Shame. I saved my favorite for last.
late to this thread, but Megan should've just called her entry "20 reasons why I can't get a date." She does sound like an interesting person though.

Yikes. Easy to see why Megan is single. A bit prone to over-generalizations and really fun to be around?

and then, in response:
Agreed, perhaps it isn’t that there is anything particularly wrong with dating lawyers but mabye there’s just something wrong with Meagan? She was afterall in a relationship with a guy for seven years who ultimately found that he didn’t want to marry her. It stands to reason that he probably knows a lot of things about her that we don’t.

The better question is would a lawyer want to date her? I doubt it.

She sounds like a whiner. I wouldn't date her.

What a ridiculous argument by that woman. Make your argument interesting Madam, post your picture. If you are drop dead beautiful, well then I'll listen out of curiosity. If you are ordinary - well that is like listening to a poor man endlessly drone on about what color Porche he will buy - when, uh, he gets some money. Besides, even if beautiful, she can just wait a few years. When she is no longer in the socially magic (meaning desirable to major male demographic) 18 to 28 age group, her negotiating power will peak and rapidly decline. Whom she "would" date will magically expand to include bald men, flawed men, yes, maybe even (horrors) lawyers. Indeed, should she chose to pursue that often female failing for marriage at all costs - she should be so lucky to as "date" a lawyer who could occasionally pick up the dinner check. ... Now what color Porche was she going to buy again?

I am six years past any possibility of being desirable, but I have no intentions of ever dating a flawed man. Never.

Friday, June 23, 2006

My call.

The Spring League tournament is tomorrow. Because I believe in my team, I want to make my predictions up front. It is gonna be my team vs. orange in the finals. That game could go either way, but I'm looking forward to four games in 106 degree heat tomorrow.

See you Monday.

Update: We lost in the finals to orange team, in the relatively mild 100 degree heat. My team this season was great to play with and our first three games were fun, but the finals were oddly joyless (separate from losing, I swear). I love Ultimate.

East Coast Tour!

Anand and I are going to Philadelphia and DC in July! We are going to visit Dubin and TJ; I am gonna bring Dubin flowers and tell her she is more charming than kittens and more witty than Dorothy Parker and more captivating than fireflies, all in the hope that she will please one day write me a love letter too. Then we are going to visit Dennis and Amber, and I am going to tell Dennis that he is so big and strong and handsome and manly, all in the hope that he will take us out to make dry-ice bombs.

Anand is my usual travel partner. We travel together with complete ease, which really shouldn’t be a surprise, because we are the same person. It’s true. I realized a few years ago that Anand and I are exactly alike, except that he is just a little bit better at all the things that are us. I’m vegetarian; Anand is vegan. I can remember long strings of numbers; Anand can multiply and divide them. I remember details of my friends’ lives; Anand remembers details of his friends’ friends’ lives. Our IQ’s are almost the same, but his is one point higher (and I don’t care what he says, it is not a very important point). We both used to fall asleep as children by doubling numbers in our heads, but he could get higher.

When Anand and I were at Berkeley, we would walk everywhere together. We would fearlessly step off the curb, and if every car in sight didn’t instantly screech to a halt, Anand and I would shout, in perfect unison: “CROSSWALK! CROSSWALK, ASSHOLE!” I thought nothing of it until he left to ride his bicycle across the country to go to Charles River Tech. Then I realized the importance of having a giant Indian man by your side, a strong baritone to give your shout resonance, the flawless timing to make drivers decide that it was funnier than annoying. He lives in fucking Dallas, (where the good Christian girls love them some vegan ass; like everything else, his drought might be just a little better than mine) so I almost never get to see him. I miss him a lot.

But I get to see him soon! And maybe I also get to see you? If you live in Philadelpia or DC and you think you would like to meet two of me, let me know. I would love to meet the people who read this. Maybe a Philadelphia get together the evening of July 21st? A DC get together the evening of July 22nd? Fun.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

I wasn't even supposed to be here today.

I was right when I wrote that the Drunk Old Guy wouldn’t last much longer in our garden. I would have overlooked all the minor stuff he agreed to stop doing, then took up again within the week. But while I was in LA this weekend, the neighbors told my co-manager Denise that they didn’t want him living in his van outside the garden anymore, and that he took off in his van after hitting a parked car. Denise is a doer, so she had him out and the lock changed within the day. I don’t miss him, but I also didn’t need Amy asking me how I would feel if he killed himself because we all know that the garden is the thing he loved most in life and what else does he have anyway? Jeez, Amy.

You know how long it took to get replacement garden drama? That’s right – one day. Denise has given Blonde repeated warnings not to leave junk around the garden, so when Denise found three large garbage bags full of cans in the shed on Monday, she put them out on the street. Blonde has been at the garden since the first day. She’s always been a mildly erratic gardener, leaving her plot untended until the day she shows up with a twelve-pack of Natural Light and some baby plants, and re-makes her plot in a fourteen hour blitz. She is also the worst violator of the only rule I care deeply about: no kitsch in the garden.

Blonde called me three times last night, pissed and crying and frantic. She has been laid off (?) from her job at the bakery; to make ends meet, she has been canning. Monday night, after searching trash cans and dumpsters until four in the morning, she left her three bags of cans and bottles at the garden while she went home to get warm and get some sleep. She figures she collected $25 worth of cans, which she intended to spend on her grandson’s birthday present. Each time she got to the part about her grandson’s birthday, she just dissolved into wails. In between sobbing over her lost night’s work, she was furious. Are we ashamed of her for canning? Don’t we know that she takes care of her own? Do we hate recyclers*? We are thieves! Purely mean thieves, who owe her twenty-five dollars! For her grandson’s birthday, and we are back to crying… .

An hour of listening to Blonde left me with two unresolved thoughts. First, it reminded me how terrible it feels to be broke. I was out of work for longer than I want to tell the lot of you after grad school. I remember how each dollar carried such a huge weight, cast a constant fog of worry that was hard to breathe through. If Blonde is feeling like that, $25 is a huge, riveting, utterly compelling amount of potential relief, so important that calling relative strangers to cry and scream at them is trivial, nothing. I also remember how kind people were; how my generous friends would murmur to me that they were taking me out this time (as if I could pay next time – although now I do). I could pass that on to Blonde; to me, $25 means I can’t binge on more plants for my porch this month. Also, as bleak as I remember that time being, I never once considered spending a night climbing into dumpsters for aluminum cans. Because I got lucky at birth, the worst it can get for me is a very unpleasant conversation with my parents.

And then I wonder about the nature of the community garden. The Drunk Old Guy and Blonde are both running afoul of some basic, common sense rules. Don’t shit in the shed; don’t drink in your van all day and bother the neighbors; don’t store your not-garden-related crap in the garden. Right? Obvious rules. But those rules are easy for people who have options; those rules would never constrain me, who can go home to get drunk or shit and never have to find a way to carry three full garbage bags home at four in the morning when I am cold and exhausted. Does creating and enforcing a largely reasonable set of rules have the effect of driving poor people out of a garden designed for the community? Does not enforcing the same rules drive middle class people out of the same garden? You know what? If we can get a garden meeting together to talk about rules, I honestly don’t care how it comes out. I just want people to consciously make that explicit choice; to be aware that these rules that make the garden more pleasant may make life harder for people that have bad choices in front of them all day long and also at four in the morning.

*Which sends me spinning off into the debate over whether taking bottles out of my blue bin robs the city recycling program of its most valuable assets, a topic I managed not to discuss with Blonde. I have also not figured out how to broach that with the aged, four-foot Southeast Asian woman who looks me straight in the eye as she goes through my recycling and would surely kick my ass in any fight I can imagine. She’s going to eat all the grapes on my fence, too and still I yield. I am a coward.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The news you’ve been waiting for! Finally!

Readers, I’ve been holding out on you. I know what you want to hear about, but last week I turned uncharacteristically shy. I have been waiting to see if I should trust it, letting things develop a little more. It seems like it really is happening though, and now I want nothing more than to tell you.

The Los Osos sewer project has been brought to the attention of the California legislature! For some reason, likely the blatant unavoidable desperation of the situation, their Assemblyman decided he was willing to go within fifty miles of that quagmire. Yep, Assemblyman Blakeslee has brought a bill to the California legislature that will take jurisdiction over the Los Osos sewer away from the Los Osos CSD and give it to the County of San Luis Obispo. While the County of San Luis Obispo rightfully wants nothing to do with that freakin’ mess, they are willing to build a sewer if they can choose the location and if they won’t inherit any liability from the millions of dollars in fines and the seventeen pending lawsuits against the Los Osos CSD. Blakeslee got the Regional Water Quality Control Board to say they wouldn’t impose fines on the County if the County means it about building a sewer, and the State Board to offer the County the unspent part of the $135M loan. In what I think is the most telling point of all, all five new directors of the Los Osos CSD, the ones that got themselves elected in the recall because of their passionate opposition to the old sewer location, have endorsed Blakeslee’s bill taking authority over the sewer away from them. Building a sewer was harder than it looked from the outside, wasn’t it, crazy people?

I’m fairly sure that Blakeslee’s bill is the best shot Los Osos has for getting out of this mess. It required compromise on all parts (and the citizens of Los Osos are still going to have to vote themselves a property tax increase) and the authority of Blakeslee’s official position to get the different agencies to agree. But I bet it can still collapse! I bet there is still some way all his leadership and hard work can be undone, leaving us with more of this wonderful story.

One last thing. The Blakeslee bill doesn’t settle the part that originally caused all the controversy, the location of the new sewer plant. The plans the old directors agreed on, a sewer plant as part of a park complex in downtown Los Osos, might be revived by the county. ‘Sewer plant’ in ‘downtown’ sounded fundamentally conflicting to some of my commenters, but I guess I am engineer enough to think it could be done. I would want to see the specs and know how the odors will be managed, but I can imagine secondary treatment enclosed in some bland building and a nice series of marshes to finish the treatment. In fact, and here’s the part that I should be ashamed to tell you, I even dreamed about it! I dreamed I was on some unfamiliar playing fields, and I looked around the park, saw the purple pipes for non-potable irrigation water, and realized, in my dream, that I was at the downtown Los Osos sewer location. It was fine, Los Osos. Stop fighting it.

Depends on how thinly you slice them.

When I told my Dad I was going to law school, the first words out of his mouth were:

How many lawyers does it take to tile a roof?

I liked the people I went to law school with, and they are more socially adept than many of my friends, but going to law school did not improve my view of lawyers. I thought law was insular and self-reinforcing, and the lack of an external reference means that lawyers aren't grounded by something that could prove them wrong. I never trusted that there was a solid core to law, so I don't know what the fundamental limits are to someone for whom law is a practice and discipline.

Some generalizations that make me doubt I'll date a lawyer:
Lawyers are often innumerate and proud of it, which makes me embarassed for them.

They went to law school because they weren't sure who they were, stayed because it is all-engrossing, and became lawyers because it is fucking hard not to after law school. But I don't think many of them like it, and I don't think most ever made an affirmative choice to find what they love and do it.

Many of them were whiny in law school, especially about how hard they were working. My impression was that whatever lightweight degree they did before law school had never shown them what it meant to work hard. Law school was the easiest of my graduate degrees (but then, I am very verbal and didn't care about my grades).

Lawyers themselves are often contempuous of their career and peers. It is hard to respect them more than they respect themselves.

I would date a lawyer who convinced me it was what he wanted to be doing, had an awareness that it is both a ridiculous process and has important potential for doing good, and was grounded in the physical world. I don't think those lawyers are common, though.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

She nailed it.

Capella said this exactly right. Except, really, no lawyers.

Let's go back to dorkiness.

I’m very excited. My boss is sending me to this class in the fall. Since my first year here has been a revelation in how much I don’t know about natural waterways, I’m pretty sure this class will put a lot of our work into context. Besides, when Margie talks about this class, her eyes get soft and she sighs a little and she looks all dreamy. I’m hoping it is as good as she says.

The best classes I’ve taken, out of an astonishingly long list of classes:

ERG 102 – Berkeley – Professor Holdren: At the time, I thought the class was about the subject matter, Quantitative Aspects of Global Environmental Problems. That wasn’t what it taught me, though. What it really taught me was how to estimate answers to complex questions. An amazingly useful skill.

BRAE 533 – CalPoly – Professor Burt: I freaking loved this class. The title was Irrigation Projects, but I always just called it Canals. I would never have thought Canals could be so interesting, but the goal is perfectly clear (reliable, on-demand delivery at the farm gates, no spill) and there are really neat ways to control canals to achieve that. When we were lucky, Dr. Burt would end lecture a little early and tell us stories about his work on international water projects. He said that water projects in India broke every engineer he saw work on them and that we should keep away.

ARE 204 – Davis – Professor Sexton: This class was pretty much my introduction to economics and Dr. Sexton was hard core. Man, there was so much math. I mostly remember that his board work was dense and impeccable. Everything was there, in order, and when you went back over it, it led you straight to understanding. I liked it a lot. I also liked Resource Economics from Wilen and still have a crush on him.

LAW 239 – Davis – Professor Farrow: This is the class that made me want to be a mediator. Professor Farrow was incredible, proving to me that mediation was a useful discipline and an effective way to solve hard problems. I gave her a hard time on both of those, but watching her convinced me. I want to be able to do that.

Along the way, I also liked History of Agribusiness (Levine) and Statics (Ludin) and Research Methods (Sabatier) and Legislative Process (I forget his name, but he was a super gorgeous black man with a great voice. I never missed his class.) and Public Land Law (Dunning). I passionately hated all chemistry and Philosophy of Law. The class that I missed that I think would be the next big piece to make me understand the world is a soil science class. I really should know more about soils.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Yes, including you.

I think I heard it on This American Life, when the male narrator said that the very first thought every straight man thinks on seeing every woman is “would I fuck her?”. I believed that instantly, and also understood that it isn’t even a matter of actively wanting, just an assessment of whether. I do something sortof similar; on my first glimpse of every man, I decide whether I would win in a fight with him.

I mostly decide that I would. I trained for years and I am not small. Then I’ll relax and become friends with him. If I don’t decide I would win a fight with him (unusually tall or strong, long reach or trained) I probably won’t spend time around him. Why would I introduce that risk into my life when there are so many nice people who pose no threat to me? A tall man with a gentle presence can overcome that bias, but I am wary for a while.

Claudia thought that was a creepy, neurotic way to think, but I don’t understand the alternative. What do small or untrained women do? Just trust? Trust each man's good will? Trust societal mores? Trust their instincts to leave? All the time? Live with a mostly unnoticed feeling of vulnerability? I don’t have to do that. My reward for giving a decade of my life to taekwondo is that men should feel that about me.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Just saying.

My Dad told me last night that my baby sister (the twelve-year-old) turned down a trip to Vegas this weekend because she knew I was visiting. I'm so touched. I would turn down most trips to see her, too. It's not like we do that much when I visit; recently she and my baby brother do their own things while I'm there. So it isn't that they want me to play with them as much as they just want me in the house while he plays video games and she is on MySpace.

Yeah, she has a MySpace page. I guess this is as good a time as any to bring something up. I just wanted to let you know that if you ever went to her page (which you would never want to do because it is entirely adolescent with bright colors and references to in-jokes and more exclamation points than you have used in a decade), even by accident, I would know. Then, I would find you and beat the living crap out of you before blinding you so that you can't look at MySpace ever again and ripping your fingers off so you couldn't write to her or anyone else. That's all. Great! Thanks!

See you Monday.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

I'm not a tip-toe Tom, I'm a tell you straight.

While Chris and I were playing catch, I asked him a question I’ve been asking a lot of people lately. “Chris,” I asked, “what does it mean to be passive-aggressive?” Chris was surprised at the question, and then he laughed and said “That’s right. You wouldn’t know about that.”

Chris and Anand have this notion that I am fearless. They must have got that from back in undergrad, when I would walk anywhere at any time by myself. And I would speak up at meetings to say unpopular things. And when the sociopath moved into our hippy house, I was fine with confronting him directly and being the one to speak for getting him ousted. (By sociopath, I don’t mean someone whom I didn’t really like and by the way he also eats meat! I mean profoundly broken monster whom I liked much better when he was sentenced to the Atascadero State Hospital, but has unfortunately been released again.) Oh yeah, and then there was the time when Chris and Anand and I were walking back from BART and I got groped by this big guy who was with his big friend. It took both Chris and Anand to hold me back, because I was going to go explain to him that he owed me an apology.

So Chris and Anand think I am fearless, and I guess in those instances the literal meaning is true. I just plain wasn’t scared in any of those circumstances. Honestly, I don’t think I would be if they came up again; those aren’t scary things for me. But I am far from fearless. The interactions that scare me are basic ones, ones that you need to build honest relationships. Specifically, interactions where I am asking for something I want, and likely implying that my feelings were hurt before. Things like “please call if you are going to cancel our plans”, or “I took that hard when you said that”, or even “I think it is time for a raise.” Conversations like that are terrifying for me. I think about them in advance for days, knowing that it has to be done, but when the time comes my hands are still ice cold and my throat closes so I can barely get words out and I end the conversation before it is fully resolved.

Dreading conversations like those is what got me thinking about being passive-aggressive. ‘Cause you know what is really, really tempting? To post about that stuff here! So easy! I can be all “Darling readers, don’t you agree that any right-thinking person would do things exactly the way I want for all of these excellent reasons?” And maybe I know that people who are doing things wrong are reading this, and they can get the message, and I don’t have to have an honest, straightforward conversation with them about important things! Truly, it sounds great. I’ve never been a passive-aggressive person, but maybe I haven’t had the venue before. I think this is going to open up whole new horizons for me.

For those of you who come searching for "tip-toe Tom":

The song is called Going Down South, off the R.L. Burnside album Bothered Mind. Lyrics Born is singing. I also like the Lyrics Born album Later That Day, for a hip-hop funk sound.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


A few years ago, the question “What is the worst feeling in the world?” came up in a group of friends. Some people had to think about it, but I knew instantly what the worst feeling in the world was. The worst feeling in the world is when you fuck up, you knew you were cutting corners because mostly you can get away with it, but this time the bad thing is about to happen and the consequences will suck and it is your own damn fault. I felt it in the seconds before I rear-ended someone and I felt it for months when I was in a job I couldn’t do well.

Since then there’s been a new worst feeling in the world, and it is closely related. This time the feeling is that I am doing this wrong, but I don’t know why it is wrong, and the bad thing could well happen and the consequences will be awful, and I can’t find the wrong part to make it right. This is the feeling I get when I wonder why the seven-year ex didn’t marry me, and why I haven’t seriously dated anyone since. And you know what? I’ve put together a mighty nice life, so if I didn’t want kids, I could keep enjoying myself and figure this out at my leisure. But I do want kids; not having them would wreck me. The deadline for that is not yet, but it isn’t entirely remote either. If I thought I had made progress, or understood the problem, or knew what to do, I wouldn’t get so panicked. But I don’t feel any closer to figuring this out than I did three or four years ago and I can’t let more years pass.

Something has to change, and there are some obvious options. My appearance? Dress like a girl and go back to my fighting weight? Oh please no, being there hurt all the time. Meet more people? That’s what this is. It was a big decision in itself; there’s no way you would know this, but I have long been a fairly private person. Settle for someone I’m not head over heels about? No. Being by myself is better. Have kids on my own? Well, that’s an option. Although it isn’t absolute, I’m afraid that choosing to have kids on my own is also a choice not to have a partner. So far I’ve wanted both, but kids and no partner is better than no kids. The day for that decision may come. A new city, one with men like me? Maybe. Maybe I am not winning over the sharp, funny, in-love-with-their-discipline men of Sacramento because they are few and far between, and also married.

Maybe I have to change locations, because Sacramento has worked for everything but finding me a partner. The only place I would move would be to Oakland, where my sister is, but perhaps that would open up a whole new pool of dorky men? It’s not like my girlfriends in SF are calling me to tell me how great it is to date in the City and how they go out every night with wonderful men who are anxious to settle down. But a friend took me to a show in the Mission a few weeks ago, and I was amazed at how many single men who seemed more or less like me were in the room. Not that they were scoping me, but that they existed. I can’t think of any gathering here that would have something similar; everyone seems paired off here.

Oh man, I don’t want to move. I may have mentioned that I love it here. But the nice thing about facing your absolute worst case is that all other options are better. Maybe I should set a deadline.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Chamber of Commerce should pay me for this.

I moved to Sacramento in ’98, so I missed the early 90’s in Midtown, when it was all meth and prostitutes and no one wanted to live there so you couldn’t sell your 2000 sq ft Craftsman for $85,000. By the time I got there, Midtown wasn’t sketchy, housing prices were starting to climb, but there still wasn’t much of a scene. I remember thinking that there was nothing wrong with Midtown that another forty thousand residents wouldn’t fix. I don’t know if I guessed the number right, but whatever density it took to bring Midtown alive has arrived. There are more new restaurants and cafes and small stores than I can keep up with; it has become intricate and interesting to be here.

For all that, Sacramento is still pleasant. If you live in a big city, you probably don’t notice the trade-off you are making, in daily effort and ugliness and incivility. I visit friends in the Bay Area and they don’t even see that their daily life is hard; that they spend lots of small pieces of frustrated time in lines and poorly regulated intersections and finding parking and poor customer service. They’re used to it and they love the great parts of being in a big city. But for me, who wouldn’t use the amazing parts of being in a world class city very often, who doesn’t go to esoteric shows by musicians I really should know, who doesn’t eat at the extremely authentic pho place because extremely authentic means meat, who would rather be in bed by 10:30 anyway, that trade-off isn’t worth it. I would rather have all my days be easy.

Sacramento is easy. It is easy to run your errands, because everything is close. When my friend called to say that she was driving by and saw code enforcement in front of my house, I called the Public Works department, where I spoke to Officer Vargas. We very pleasantly discussed a schedule for mowing my lawn, and it was easy. Seeing friends is easy, so it happens a lot. When you want a community garden plot, you tell me or Denise and you get one; when you call the cops, they come (in Midtown); when you have to drive somewhere, you park in front of your destination. People aren't frustrated, so they smile easily.

I also like that I can have a lot of say in what Sacramento becomes. I go to meetings of the Parks Commission, to tell them to keep those vermin soccer players off my fields. I’ll be at a public meeting tonight on changing the city code so it doesn’t require lawns. When I email my Councilman, he emails me back. I don’t bother the mayor when I see her at Farmer’s Market, but I expect a nod of recognition because we’ve met a couple times. The league we started is becoming a city institution, and my secret project for the summer may also become a city institution.

Adjectives like friendly and beautiful and pleasant and accessible may not convince you that Sacramento is a great city. It is surely not exciting or exotic. But people here love it, and I do too.

Monday, June 12, 2006

I love it here.

Anonymous, you are so wrong about Sacramento. I am fully aware of popular image of Sacramento, but it is wrong for two reasons. First, Sacramento’s reputation is outdated; the city has changed enormously since the mid-nineties. Second, you have to live in Sacramento to know how great it is. I chose Sacramento over all other California cities* and I am not a hick who doesn’t know better. I grew up in Los Angeles, have lived in San Luis Obispo and on both sides of the SF Bay. My quality of life in Sacramento is sky high, more gracious and fun and involved than I’ve known anywhere else.

First, a clarification. The periphery of Sacramento is largely new suburbs and whatever you think of suburbs you will think of these. Suburbs are not to my current tastes, but I’m confident that the ones in Sac are no better or worse than any others. There are portions of Sacramento that remind me of nothing so much as the San Fernando Valley, where I grew up. That’s not where I live. I live in Midtown, which is half of the Grid, which is where the numbers and letters streets are. The Grid is the central part of Sacramento, built before cars. Lots of it is beautiful. The houses are mostly Craftsman bungalows and Victorians; many streets are entirely tunneled in tall elms and sycamores.

People who live in big cities say there is nothing to do in Sacramento. Living here, though, isn’t about what you do. It is about people. I can never explain what I do that makes my days so full. But yesterday was absolutely typical. At market Ali and I ran into Mike and chatted with him about his new baby, then saw Andrew and Patricia and thanked them for their party the night before. We came home and spent a lovely couple hours on my porch, eating lunch, pitting cherries for another pie, and laughing at the kitten. Margie stopped by with the baby. Then a nap before Roxie came by to meet the kitten and we went to check out a venue for the league party. Called Chris when I got back; we went to McKinley Park to play catch, where I saw Justin who once took third at Pie Contest. Chris and I went to get burritos, ran into friends of his and joined them for dinner. We stopped by to see his parents, rode our bikes around some more in the full moon and I got to bed late. This isn’t unusual in any way. I see someone I know every time I leave the house.

Summer in Midtown is an easy, constant round of grilling on front porches, going to the park, meeting for drinks, eating on restaurant patios. People who aren’t from here ask if I go to shows or movies, but I can’t imagine when I would do that (unless I knew a band member). And Sacramentans are friendly. You get a smile and ‘evening’ every time you pass someone on the street; porch sitters wave when you walk by; strangers will invite you into parties or join your crowd if the food smells good. Warm Sacramento evenings are lived on the street and they are sublime.

*God knows I’ll never live anywhere east of the Sierras, where the map is blank and there are dragons.

(I’ve got more, but I think this is plenty for now. Tomorrow I’ll talk about how Midtown has changed, why the scale of Sacramento fits me perfectly and why I may have to leave.)

Saturday, June 10, 2006

NO lawyers.

Anonymous, you're not gonna get much traction with me by badmouthing engineers. I love engineers. They're so straight and easy to be with. They just want a problem definition and then they're happy for hours, figuring it out. Engineers don't make things difficult, or want to have long painful conversations about abstract things.

I mean, if I were with an engineer, our conversations would go like this:
Megan: I wonder what effect term limits have had on the quality of local politics. I mean, since people at the top are constantly termed out, does that mean that there has been a constant draw on local politicians to replace them, constantly skimming the cream?
Hot Engineer Boyfriend: Hmmm, sure, I guess.
Megan: 'Cause it doesn't seem like experienced politicians come back to the local level after they get termed out...

By this point, a true engineer should already have a pained look on his face and be fidgeting. He'll crack soon.

Hot Engineer Boyfriend: Um, baby? I saw a broken thing earlier and it's still bothering me. Can I go fix it?
Megan: YES! Thank you, baby. I'll have your blowjob ready when you get done. What do you want for dinner?

See how easy that is? See how no one gets sucked into abstract debates without enough information? See how things get fixed without my doing all of it? I'm trying to be openminded about dating other types of people, like scientists. Shit, at this point I might even consider someone from the humanities, as long as he doesn't think his feelings are data. But I'll always think engineers are great.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Alright, since Tony asked.

There are bad reasons why the girl doesn’t ask out the boy. A girl might not ask out the boy because she has an outdated notion of gender roles, because she read The Rules, because she’s afraid that expressing interest will make her look like a slut, because she’s afraid he’ll say no. Those are all bad reasons. Asking people out is hard and scary and work like that should be spread evenly among all interested people. When I want to see a boy again, and think he might be unclear about my intentions, and that we might miss the opportunity, I’ll ask him. (I’ll ask him straight, too: I think you’re really neat and I would like to see you again. Can I take you out for dinner? None of this ‘let’s hang out sometime’ bullshit.)

That said, I think there is one really good reason why the girl shouldn’t ask the boy and it goes double for calling after there has been a date. The reason, and I have learned this repeatedly, is that men won’t turn down someone they aren’t very interested in. Especially if the girl is just persistent and interested enough and comes up with fun things to do. If I have a crush on a boy, I would love to plan fantastic dates. I would totally take the boy out to demolition derby at the State Fair, or an all-city championship high school basketball game followed by burgers at the secret good burger place. I can come up with stuff like that all day long. I would love to arrange a summer’s worth of dates and I have no fear of calling to invite him. It would be far, far easier than waiting to see if the phone will ring.

But here’s the thing. Boys want to go on fantastic dates and they’ll even put out afterward. They can do that indefinitely. But they can do that even when they don’t really mean it. So much later, when you really like him, he’s all “but I’m not in love with you”, or “I guess I just don’t feel as strongly about you.” And you’re all, “Holy fuck, this is how you’ve always felt? Why didn’t you say anything?” And he’s all, “I dunno.” So spending time with the boy and doing things with the boy (even personal things) will never actually tell you how important you are to the boy.

In my experience, and I hate that this has been true, the only thing that tells you whether a boy is interested is if he does the asking and the calling. If he wants to see you, he will ask or pick up the phone and call. If he doesn’t, then no matter how you thought the date went, no matter how obvious it is that you belong together, seeing you is not worth effort to him. Maybe that gut feeling of being into someone changes after much wooing, but I don’t really think so. To find out if he feels that, you have to wait and see if he calls. After about four days, you should know pretty good.

Added later: As I keep thinking about this, I think it tells us much more about the importance of rejection in dating than it does about behavior inherent to either gender.

And he has hops.

My team boyfriend? Oh, he’s just a guy on my former team. It’s not like I had a crush on him forever. I mean, I noticed that he’s an electrical engineer, because that’s the sort of thing I notice about a person. If I were the type to pine hopelessly for someone, he might be the type I would pine for, since he really is a genuinely good man. And if maybe we used to carpool to tournaments together and flirt for hours, and stay at the same hotels, and hang out on the sidelines together, well, it was a close-knit team. It was totally coincidence that he was on every single one of my league teams for a couple years. Pure chance!

Nothing ever happened with him (‘cause we’re just friends!), and once he got himself such a great girlfriend I didn’t want to be thinking about our platonic friendship so much. So I totally broke up with him. I didn’t make sure he would be on my league team and I barely cheer for him at games anymore and I don’t go to the bar after our games just because he’ll be there. I would worry about his tender broken heart, except that he probably hasn’t noticed. He never noticed before, back when we were perfect for each other.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

You heard me.

Ali and I made a fresh cherry pie to take to Chris' party tonight. It was the best pie I have ever tasted. We are going to win Pie Contest with that pie this year. I bet we win both the Presentation and Fruit Pie divisions; the winner of Fruit Pie almost always wins Best In Show. Y'all might as well start working on your Savory and Non-Fruit Pies, and hope to scavenge some prizes over there. If you ask nicely, I won't enter Non-Fruit Pie this year.

(I hold Pie Contest in late August. I'll post the invite here in early August.)

Real life applications.

On Sunday, I was driving just south of Sac City College when two big guys with two big dogs crossed in front of me. That put me in the perfect position to see when the little yappy dog ran out of the house on the left and charged straight up to the bigger dog. The bigger dog took one look, chomped down on the yappy dog and lifted it into the air. Now I saw that the two big dogs were huge pit bulls, and I thought for sure that this story was going to end poorly. The man holding the leash of the big pit bull spent about a second tugging on the leash and telling his dog to release the yapper before calmly reaching behind his dog to give the dog’s scrote a solid squeeze. The pit bull yelped, released the yappy dog, and the big men and dogs walked on.

Holy shit! I read about that once! I don’t remember where, but I remember reading that you can break a two-by-four over a pit bull’s back and it won’t release, and hosing the dog in the face doesn’t work either. But you can surprise a pit bull into releasing its grab by squeezing its testicles. (Chris tells me that another variation making the rounds in his old bad neighborhood, where pit bulls regularly ran free, is to shove a spoon up its ass. Oh.) I just never expected to see it live.

And that reminded me of another thing I never expected to see. My team boyfriend was telling me about a friend’s divorce. According to my team boyfriend, his friend knew her marriage was over when her husband stopped making her side of the bed. That’s right. He had always made the bed, but when things went wrong, he stopped making her side. The thought almost made me cry. It’s so harsh. Not making half the bed is just zero for two. You don’t get the neatly made bed you must have wanted AND you rejected the partnership with your honey. The symbolism of the marriage bed makes it all the worse.

I thought that must have been a quirk of that marriage, but I saw the half-made bed in real life too. I was at a friend’s cabin and had noticed twenty minutes into the weekend that they were going through rough times. When I passed by their room on the way to the bathroom, I looked through the open door and saw half the bed was made. My eyes got really big and I pulled the door closed and kept my mouth shut.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

I've always liked heights.

I am phenomenally patient. I think a lot of that is from having absolutely reliable parents, who consistantly did exactly as they promised and made me trust the future. Some of it is probably just my nature. I’ve always been patient. When I was four, I asked my Dad if I could go on the roof. He told me when I was twice as old, he would take me. When I was six, I figured out how much twice was and was relieved that I only had two more years to wait. On my eighth birthday, I found my Dad and told him it was time to go on the roof. He was surprised, because I had never once talked about it in the four years between. I don’t know whether he remembered his promise, but he took me on the roof and it was great. Totally worth waiting for.

I’m not sure whether being so patient serves me well. Maybe if I weren’t so patient, I would have realized that being in a long distance relationship for five and a half years was pure crap. When he told me he wanted to work in another country for a year, the first words out of my mouth were “I’ll wait for you.” But you know what? I waited for a year and a half, and when he came back, his heart was still there. Maybe if it weren’t so easy for me to wait, I wouldn’t have given him the years between twenty-two and thirty and now be thirty-four and increasingly scared I’ll miss having kids. I need to learn more about when to cut my losses, but that’s not my natural tendency. By default I would make plans months or years out, and wait happily in the meantime, enjoying the anticipation of good things.

The flip side is that I get unreasonably annoyed at people who speculate about the immediate future. “I wonder if we’ll find a parking spot.” or “Do you think they’ll be sold out of cherries?” Oooh, that makes my shoulders climb to my ears and my hands clench. We’ll know in a matter of minutes and we can’t know now. Why would you ask? Can’t you be patient for another two minutes? I hate that shit.

Monday, June 05, 2006

I took it outside in a tupperware container.

My girl cat didn’t sleep with me last night. I missed her weight and got up a couple times to call her. I figured she was mad about the kitten but I found out she was thinking about me too. She’s never done this before, but in an effort to show me who the real cat around here is, at two-thirty she brought me a live mouse. Oh sweetheart, thank you. You shouldn’t have.

Being the focus of competitive jealousy is unusual for me, but I already know one thing for sure. Mice are not the answer. Gentlemen, should we meet and be attracted to each other, and should I invite you into my house and bed, and should I later bring home someone cuter and lock him in the other bedroom, you don’t have to win back my love with rodents. All I want is your attention, you warm and solid in my bed, purring loudly. And sometimes, you know, his attention too. Well, mostly his attention. Just at first, ‘cause he is so damn cute. It’ll wear off, and then I’ll want attention from you again. But never as much as I used to, back when you were the cute one.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Ideas for a name?

Remember how I told you that the universe will bring you a cat when you need one? I had just stepped out of my house this morning when my neighbor asked me if I could take a kitten. Yep, a two-handful grey and brown shorthair needs a home. I brought her home and set her up in my bedroom to think it over.

I have strict requirements for my cats. I like outgoing cats with a loud purr; I don’t like skittish cats or chatty cats. My girl cat sleeps high on my chest or shoulder or back, whichever is available to her. She and my missing cat both knew the sound of my car engine and would run out to greet me when I pulled up. I liked that part.

I’m not sure how my girl cat is going to take her new housemate. I’ve told her that I won’t love her less just because there is a newer, cuter, more adorable kitten in the house. I said that I have more than enough love for both of them, but for a while I’ll be giving it all to the kitten. I think she understands that younger, prettier kittens need homes too. When I asked her if the kitten could stay, her furious hissing and claws said ‘no’, but her eyes said ‘yes’.

I know y’all have been anxiously waiting for From The Archives to turn into a cat blog. I’ll be sure to describe every single cute thing the new kitten does.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Not ALL my friends are nice.

Margie, for example, has a cold, black heart like a dried up fig. She told us straight-out that she did NOT listen to all three voice messages from me and Tracy, the ones where we sang, no, serenaded her with the George Michael classic Careless Whispers. She hit delete as soon as she heard the fits of giggling and did NOT listen to our flawless harmonies through two verses and a chorus. What a hater.

Nine of Cups would be good.

My friend Andrew hosts Solstice parties twice a year and I always look forward to them. Andrew is sincere and kind and genuine; I have to watch my mouth around him. I’ll make some snarky comment and he’ll be sad that I could say such a thing. Then he’ll resolve to think the best of me and love the humanity in me anyway. I can watch the whole process on his face. Since Andrew is sincere, his parties are sincere and I have found that I very much like two of his traditions. Every Solstice Andrew puts out prayer paper and lovely pens. If they want to, guests write down the parts of the past six months that they don’t want to bring with them into the next; when we burn the prayer paper, the smoke carries them away. Andrew also buys a deck of Tarot cards. We each pick one to predict our next six months. I find that I always have something from the last six months to let go and that the Tarot card I pick is spot on.

My first Tarot card was the Scholar. I didn’t want it because I thought it meant I would have to finish my Ph.D. program, but instead it just meant that the last few months of my master’s/law program would require more work than I had ever done. I don’t remember the next couple cards. But I found out about my ex and my ex-best friend on November 10th (not that I remember exactly or anything) and you just know that I filled and burned reams of prayer paper at Andrew’s Solstice party in December. I was hopeful when I picked my Tarot card, but when I turned it over, I’d picked the Five of Wands. I didn’t know what that meant, but the card helpfully explained that “the people you love and trust will betray you” and “conflict will surround you” and “small irritants will combine to form insurmountable obstacles.” I’m not inclined to dramatics, but in front of all Andrew’s guests I started shaking and then burst into tears.

Turns out that when you fall apart in the middle of a party, what you exactly want is a sincere and kind host. He took me outside and sat with me, and we burned the Tarot card on the brazier for the prayer paper. When we went inside, everyone was discreet and considerate. To this day I get a hug and kiss on seeing Andrew; every now and then, he’ll ask in an undertone if my heart is whole.

Andrew skipped the next Solstice party, claiming he was busy getting married or something. At the Solstice after that, to my great relief, my Tarot card told me I’d be getting this job and that I would have a good six months. He just sent out the invitation for his summer Solstice party and I’ll be there for sure. I’m hoping my Tarot card for the next six months predicts romance, or at least some action.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

And fix the sprinkler the drunk driver broke when he drove down my sidewalk.

When I was a kid, it was my job to mow the lawn. And by ‘mow the lawn’, I mean mow the acre of lawn with a heavy push mower once a week for years. When I asked Daddy why I had to mow the lawn when my sister only had to clean the pool, he would tell me it was because they loved her more. If I complained that our friends didn’t have to do chores all the time, he would say that we were born to a long line of Russian peasants and ceaseless labor is both our heritage and our destiny.

So it’s not that I don’t know how to mow the lawn, or that I am intimidated by the three hundred square feet of lawn in front of my house. It just galls me to put effort into a lawn I don’t want. People suggest getting a better lawn mower, but then I have to put money into a lawn mower I don’t want for a lawn I don’t want. So I watch the weeds get taller and taller, enjoy the spiders and ladybugs I find in there, and wait for notification from the city.

Last year I had one date with an internet boy, who by coincidence played in the Ultimate league I managed. When I asked what else he did around town he said that he was part of a dream interpretation group. I didn’t want to get heavily into his dream interpretation practices, so I told him that the night before league opened I had an anxiety dream about it. I dreamed we arrived at the fields and they were filled with five foot weeds like the ones in my lawn. The kind Ultimate players in my dream just looked at the fields, then started pulling weeds. In the dream, this tall fast girl who always burns me deep was also better at pulling weeds than I was. It seemed like a pretty straightforward anxiety dream, so I was very surprised when he told me that was fascinating. I said it seemed simple, but he said that when you dream you receive messages from the collective subconscious. “Really? The collective subconscious wants me to mow my lawn? Doesn’t it have better things to think about?”

I laughed, but the following Wednesday there was a short rain to cancel league, and I happened to be standing in front of my house just as a neighbor finished mowing his lawn and offered me the mower. The simultaneous occurrence of a free evening and a lawn mower couldn’t possibly be coincidence; I had to admit that the subconscious collective cared about my lawn.

The subconscious collective was blunter this time. Barbara called me yesterday to tell me that code enforcement was taking pictures of my yard. The ladybugs have been gone for a week, so I am ready to mow. I figure I made it to June without mowing, which is as much as I want to defy the subconscious collective anyway.