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Lorelai and Me in sweat pants

December 14, 2014

So here it is winter. Least surprising lead sentence of any blog post ever. You’re welcome. You get what you pay for.

I’m mostly sitting around in my Sport Knit Pants from Land’s End (the motto of these pants is “We don’t make you feel quite as self-loathing as baggy sweats”) and watching Gilmore Girls.

I have never watched Gilmore Girls before and am not quite sure why I’m watching it now, except that I want to see how Lorelai, Sookie and Michel can support three grown adult people on a 10-room inn that required a major remodel. I’m not economist, but I can do some math, and their occupancy rate is going to have to be about 335% for them to survive. Just saying.

But still, since it is the dark of winter, that show is occupying most of my brain space. I don’t want to go out. I don’t want to socialize. I don’t want a lot for Christmas, just a comfy chair and something warm to drink and to watch the damn Gilmore Girls until I am done. The funny part is that about half of Twitter and Facebook are doing the same thing, because I see people tweeting thing like “How does Lorelai not weigh 450 pounds?” (Oh, wait, that was me. Nevermind).

For the uninitiated, the reason every woman with a computer seems to be watching Gilmore Girls all at once is that Netflix just released all 7 seasons for streaming. The show ended in 2007, so we get to see quaint olden customs, like the use of flip phones and people having meals while talking to each other, not texting AT ALL. It’s like Little House on the Prairie, practically.

I have so many questions about Gilmore Girls. I spend most of my time watching it yelling questions. Like:

  • How does someone who works in hospitality never have to work nights or weekends?
  • Does Kirk really have every job?
  • Why have parents never freaked out about Miss Patty smoking in the dance studio?
  • Why do the seasons go spring, winter, spring, fall, winter, summer and change every week?
  • How many kitchen employees does the Inn have?
  • And why are they all whipping egg whites by hand? No one has ever whipped egg whites by hand since the invention of electricity. As a matter of fact, right after Edison invented the light bulb, Hobart invented the electric mixer, and everyone beat their hand whisks into plowshares. Fact.
  • Why has no one ever killed Lorelai for talking all the time?
  • If Lorelai were ugly, would she get away with even 5% of what she does?
  • How come no one ever gets pissed at Luke for having full-on arguments with Lorelai while he is waiting on them? I’d at least give him a pissy face or maybe the massive throat-clear that sounds like a walrus mating call.
  • Does Lorelai ever work? Seriously. Ever??
  • Why does the Inn’s kitchen have tiny home sizes of food products, not industrial-sized buckets?
  • What makes Sookie think small peaches are watery?

Oh, I could go on. I’m thinking of having GilmoreGirlsCon, where we all meet up at the Burbank Airport Hilton ballroom to discuss. We could have panels like “Floral Design in the Emily and Richard Gilmore Home” and “UCLA as Yale: An Insult to the Ivy League?”

Join me. I’ll be the one standing by the door holding a sock, in case Lorelai shows up and I can finally put one in it.

How Not to Protest Ferguson

November 30, 2014

“It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” – Assata Shakur

I wasn’t sure I was going to the Tuesday night protest following the Grand Jury announcement in Ferguson. There wasn’t a local protest. The nearest one was in Santa Barbara, 45 miles away. I hate driving in this winter dark.

But I hate injustice more than I hate driving in the dark. Also, I felt like it was the least I could do. Show up. Support. I was inspired by the quote up at the top. Our duty. All of ours.

So I went and got there about half an hour late because I had to drive up there after work. I parked a distance away from the Santa Barbara Courthouse (sometimes called the most beautiful civic building in the world, and I tend to agree – see the photo), thinking there would be a huge crowd. Hoping.
Photo by Anna Fox. Used under a Creative Commons 2.0 license.

I got out of the car and heard…nothing. There was no one around back of the courthouse. No one in the famous sunken gardens. No one…

I walked around the front and spotted five people sitting on the wall. I walked up, holding my magic-markered JUSTICE sign still rolled up in my hand.

“Um…is this the protest?” I asked.

Yes and no. That was what was left of the protest. The others, several hundred of them, had been there and went a-marching. No one knew where. A lady was on her phone, trying to call people who were in the march. She couldn’t hear them well. She said perhaps they had gone to a plaza about 6 blocks away.

Just then, three other people arrived, so the four of us decided to go find the marchers. This began a period of us wandering the streets, lost, pointing at clumps of people, saying “Is that them?” It was a beautiful night in Santa Barbara, with twinkly Christmas lights on all the palm tree trunks and a warm breeze blowing, so there were lots of clumps of people out and about.

We never found the protesters. I ended up walking back up the street with an LED lighting scientist, him probably regretting his decision to walk with me, because I had 100 questions about LEDs and never wanted to stop talking. He finally said, “Uh, I think I should call it a night…” and scurried away.

I went back to the courthouse and by then there were only two other lost guys there, texting friends, trying to find the protest. I called it a night, too.

I was going to drive down State Street (it’s a great street!), but it was blocked. I had seen an ambulance earlier, so assumed there was a traffic-blocking accident. I headed down toward Cabrillo Boulevard, because if you can’t drive down State, you should at least take a trip down Cabrillo, with the palm trees high in the sky over harbor lights twinkling on a perfect sea.

But no. The road was blocked again and traffic was being diverted down convoluted alleys and one-way streets. “Santa Barbara cops!” I muttered, frustrated, heading for the freeway.

A few miles down the road, I flipped on the radio.

“There are hundreds of people blocking State Street and police fear they may head for the freeway,” the news guy said.

So don’t worry about me getting arrested at a protest. I can’t even FIND the protest, even when it is right in front of me, blocking traffic.


November 27, 2014

I know that my favorite part of Thanksgiving is supposed to be the food, or time with my family, but I have a confession to make: my favorite part of Thanksgiving comes the night before.

About 50 members of my church gather (everyone is invited, but only a few show up) to give thanks. We pray and sing some songs, and then it’s time for gratitudes.

People walk up to the front of the church if they have something to say. They talk about new babies and new jobs and family and friends and being grateful for living where it doesn’t snow. But the surprising part is that they also give thanks for the hard times. The illnesses and deaths and job losses. Sad stories that held a small glow at the center. Families that got closer. Lessons learned about what to let go of, and when. More time spent in prayer and meditation and quietly holding hands.

Last night just a few people spoke, but at much more length than they usually do. Then a young man of about 15 got up and spoke.

“I have had a really rough year and I know it has been hard on my mom,” he said, choking up. “I just want to say I’m so thankful for her, for her love and support and I want this year to be better and for her not to have such a hard time because of me.”

With that, everyone started to cry. We know teenagers. We know how parents often don’t get appreciation, much less public thanks in church. We knew how hard it was for him to say, and for her to hear, and yet how proud and happy she must be.

We were all just sitting there snorfling. The choir director hopped up and said “Well, that feels like a good time to close this, so for the rest of us, let’s all speak our gratitudes aloud simultaneously for the next 30 seconds or so.”

So we all did that, a murmur of thank yous for every possible thing, but it felt unfinished, cut off too short.

Reverend Judy got up and said “I know Todd said that was the last one, but I want to leave the floor open for anyone who really, really feels like they have something they need to speak gratitude for.”

And people did. For another 20 minutes or so, people rose and spoke, then it felt more done, so we took an offering, sang another song, and hugged each other.

I love that service. I love that so many people participate. I love that we look forward to giving thanks together every year. I love that it got to be too much and we tried to end it too early and then Judy remembered to feel what was going on and left the door open for more – that she was present enough to make that change.

Church is like us. Messy and unfinished and silly and confusing and too much and not enough and yet somehow perfect. For all of that, I give thanks.

No, Talking About Racism Doesn’t Contribute to Racism

November 26, 2014

I’m feeling a little Scoldy McScolderson about race after a day of reading stupid comments online, so please bear with me as I take a trip to Racial Discussion Kindergarten. Here’s an example of what set me off.

  • Talking about racism doesn’t make racism worse any more than talking about the weather makes it rain.
  • Just because someone of a different race than you treated you badly doesn’t make you a victim of racism. It makes you a victim of prejudice. Racism is a system, not an event.
  • Racism is not an us-vs-them phenomenon. As Booker T. Washington said, “You can’t hold a man down without staying down with him.”
  • Racial issues bear discussion, and you being uncomfortable with that doesn’t make the discussion less necessary. In fact, the discomfort probably means the discussion is very necessary. Uncomfortable discussions of race aren’t the cause of racism.
  • Just because you don’t understand what someone is angry about doesn’t mean they don’t have a good reason to be angry.
  • Asking the dumbest questions over and over (For instance “Why do we have to keep talking about race all the time when we all should be equal?”) isn’t helpful. You have the responsibility to educate yourself.
  • It’s not anyone’s duty but your own to educate yourself. It is not your one friend-of-another-color’s responsibility to change your mind, especially if you have shown yourself unwilling to be open-minded at all.
  • When you say things like “What about black on black crime?” you’re just trying to derail the discussion at hand. This is not helpful. Also, crime is most closely linked with economic inequality and poverty. Anywhere in the world that there is more economic inequality and poverty, there is more crime, regardless of race.
  • “Slavery was a long time ago.” Yes, but its effects ring down through the days. And Jim Crow was not very long ago. I remember the Civil Rights era well. Housing discrimination, educational discrimination, discrimination in our justice system and discrimination in hiring are all alive and well, and it doesn’t take much more than 2 minutes of googling to find plenty of examples. A little education goes a long way.
  • If all else fails, ask someone and then shut up and listen without arguing why their truth isn’t valid.

If you believe that there aren’t any racial issues operating in the US anymore, do me one favor. Take an hour and listen to this episode of This American Life. Or even if you’re well aware of racial issues. It’s worth a listen.
My friend Kelly is very wise. Go read this great collection of her essays on race.

If you have more responses to dumb comments about race, I’d love to hear them. Hit me in the comments section.

The Most Killer Travel App of All

November 19, 2014

Golden Gate

I often say I have good travel karma. On trips, things usually go my way, despite my best attempts to screw them up (for instance, the last time I flew, I arrived at the airport without any idea of what airline I was flying. I used to be incredibly obsessive about that stuff. I think my pendulum has swung a little too far in direction of “Tra la, it will all be ok!” I finally remembered I was flying on “The one with the cookies!” and got myself to the Delta terminal. Biscoff biscuits are a powerful incentive for me).

I do not, however, have good travel technology karma. I should be voted the person most likely to be squatting next to the electrical outlet behind the trash can in the airport. While everyone else is speeding along, cleverly consulting apps that get them discounts and priority boarding, I am watching a spinny circle on my cell phone screen, waiting for something to happen as my battery life is sucked away.

Last week my friends CC and Ish and I went to San Francisco for a few days, and my travel tech unlucky streak held. We were using public transportation, so the guy who rented our house to us (we rented it on! I love it so much!) suggested we download the Muni app.

I tried, but didn’t have enough room on my phone to download it. I tried deleting some old apps but then accidentally told my phone to update everything, so I had to wait for 72 apps to update, but there wasn’t enough room for the updates, so it got stuck with a bunch of apps half-loaded and just sitting there, and the Muni app never did load. Apparently I would never know which bus route was which.

I needn’t have worried, though. I soon realized that we had the most killer travel app of all in the form of my friend Ish. He often claims to be the shy, retiring type, but he is lying. Ish will talk to anyone and everyone about anything and everything.

At Hearst Castle’s (empty for repairs) Neptune Pool, he quizzed the pool guy about filtration. In case you’re wondering, they both favor sand over diatomaceous earth.

Ish has enthusiasm and excitement about everything he encounters. He’s the human equivalent of a French Bulldog puppy. He finds someone to ask, and starts asking. I’m always afraid I’m going to bother someone. I think “Oh, they don’t have time to talk to me,” but in my experience with Ish, most people are delighted to share what they know.

He got us directions. He got advice. He learned stuff. He found out who made the pies at the diner we went to. He met nice people, including a 68-year-old Filipina lady named Edna who showed us her vegetables and walked us to her favorite BART station (the one inside the mall at Powell Street). He introduced CC and me to nice people he met, and their dogs.

If you have to take a trip, download some apps. But I’d also suggesting packing Ish or someone like him. Your trip will be the better for it.



November 12, 2014

Dang it, it occurred to me as I fell asleep Monday night that I had missed posting that day. And yesterday I was traveling, so that’s my excuse.

I’m having fun, though. Photos to come!

Hey, NPR, it’s time to let Car Talk go.

November 9, 2014

Even if you’re not a fan of Car Talk, you have probably heard, at some point or another, the raucous laughter of Tom and Ray Magliozzi, also known as Click & Clack, the Tappett Brothers, as you flipped around the radio dial.

Car Talk was on for 35 years, 25 in syndication, and was one of NPR stations’ most beloved shows. It aired on more than 650 stations weekly and had an audience of over 3 million.

I was one of the people who loved my weekly dose of Car Talk lunacy. I could recite the fake staff names at the end by memory…”Our statistician, Marge Genovera; our seat cushion tester, Mike Easter; our Russian chauffeur, Pikup Andropov.”

Last week, Tom Magliozzi died at age 77 after a rough go with Alzheimer’s. The show had been airing for the last couple years as re-edited re-runs, which explains why so many of the episodes featured pre-1995 cars and their problems.

Even though I treasured those hours spent laughing with Tom and Ray, I think it is time to let Tom rest in peace. Doug Berman, the show’s producer, has said that they plan to keep airing the re-runs because that’s what Tom would have wanted. I think Tom would have said “What kind of wacko idea is that?” followed by his trademark exuberantly out-of-control cackle.

I know it’s hard to let good things go. It’s especially hard when those good things are a huge cash cow. But when we cling to the old and known, we leave no room for surprises, for creativity, for new delights.

Car Talk bashed through the grey wall of seriousness that had enclosed NPR before Tom and Ray got there. They opened up the field for other great, innovative shows like This American Life and RadioLab which manage, like Car Talk, to be informative and fun and playful.

I understand about clinging to the past, but as a creative person, I always have to vote for the future. It gives me a pang that our newspaper is still printing Peanuts in the Sunday comics section, 14 years after Charles Schulz’s death. Every time I see it, I can’t help but think he would root for a new young cartoonist to have that valuable comic real estate.

My guess is that Tom would think the same thing about Car Talk. The show has done all that it can do. Tom left us mentally a while back. He left us physically this week. Putting Car Talk to rest would show no disrespect to his memory. The most Car Talk thing to do would be to drive bravely into the future, leaving a trail of laughter behind us.



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