Friday, June 30, 2006

The Greatest American Story of All Time

Lonesome Dove is the greatest film ever made. I saw it for the first time in 1989 when I got back from France. Dad had recorded it on VHS and said I would like it. I wasn't so sure so I put it off for awhile, but finally got around to putting the first tape in the machine.

Oh. My. Gosh.

It burned itself into my memory.

I'm reading the book again and those scenes from the movie keep flooding back. What a story.

While this isn't always the case, I am SO GLAD that I saw the movie before I read the book because I can now picture in my mind all of the characters -- espcially Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones as Gus and Cap'n Call. Whoever the casting director was for that movie did an absolutely outstanding job of picking the right actors. I think those men and women were born to play these roles -- whatever they did before, or since, pales in comparison to the life they gave Larry McMurtry's characters.

This scene grabbed me and has never let go:

JAKE SPOON: Well, hell, boys. I'd damn rather be hung by my friends than by a bunch o' damn strangers. Newt... Well, adios, boys. Hope you won't hold it against me. Never meant no harm. [spurs his horse, hanging himself before Gus does it.]

And this is the most poignant scene in cinematic history:

WOODROW CALL: Augustus...

GUS MCCRAE: [opens his eyes] By God, Woodrow, it's been one hell of a party. [dies].

I cried for three days straight after watching that scene. Seriously -- mom had to turn off the video for the night because I was SOBBING uncontrollably. Gus died, and so did a little piece of my heart.

So -- in honor of selling my condo, I've decided I'm buying three things: 1) higher speed internet at home, 2) a bottle of Paris perfume, and 3) a DVD copy of Lonesome Dove!

Life is sweet.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Two Very Happy Days

I was so happy that day in September 2002 when I signed the closing papers on my condo and became a home owner for the first time. But I’m happier today because I just received the funds from the sale of that condo.

Things change. Life changes. Needs and wants change. My little 35+ year old apartment style condo was just what I wanted four years ago – it felt affordable and manageable and familiar. At this point in my life it’s about the farthest thing from what I would ever want to buy again. I learned so much from my home-owning experience that has changed my perspective and opinions about what type of place I want, in what kind of neighborhood, in what kind of condition. My condo just wouldn't fit me now.

But I did experience a teeny tiny twinge of melancholy today because this sale does represent my final physical detachment from Austin, a place I still consider home.

This melancholy got me thinking about “home” and its meaning. Here are the 21 places I’ve lived in my life – but only those highlighted are places I’ve considered to be “home”.

Aggie Village
Billings 1
Billings 2
1503 Choteau Street
8738 Douglas Circle
Lakewood rental
13915 W. Alaska Dr.
Farand Hall
Boulder Apartment
Los Angeles
Austin Onion Creek
Austin – Barton Skyway Apt.
Austin - Pink house with Robert and Eugene
Austin – Apt. with Robert
Austin – Studio Apt. near Optical Shop
0 Alegria – Beth’s storage shed
501 Bull Creek
8730 N. MoPac Expy. #209
OKC Apt. 1
2409 NW 22nd St.

Oddly, I consider my real home to be a place I’ve NEVER even lived – The Last Stop. If home is where the heart is, my heart is at the Stop.

I don’t feel the need to rush into home ownership again any time soon. I like paying my relatively cheap rent for my old, shabby chic cottage where I can call the landlord for any real problems that arise. I realize this isn’t the best approach to financial management, but for now, it works for me.

I wish the new owners of my condo the best of luck. They got a new AC, floors, fixtures and paint, so right now that little place is about as it’s ever going to be. But most of all, here’s to the (condo) doors of our lives that eventually close and become memories and to the new doors that open as we move forward. Onward ho!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Slow Down on the Caffeine

This is what I feel like today.

Monday, June 26, 2006


Karin really is the “sweetest” of my friends. She’s funny and bouncy and kind, yet she’s no stranger to the darker side, too. There is an emotional fragileness there that can act as her gateway to the downward spiral, but she always pulls her way back into the light. I admire her fighting spirit. Karin is pure and transparent by nature -- what you see is what you get -- and what you get is a very good thing.

Karin went from zero to sixty in my life in about 3 seconds. I don’t even really know how it all happened. I distinctly remember seeing her in the studio a few weeks after she’d been hired, when Clifton and I were running a pledge drive, and I must admit I didn’t make much of an overture to get to know her that day. All of sudden, my next clear memories are of us doing things together socially and the next thing I know I’m in her wedding and she’s one of my closest friends! Seriously, (that’s a Karinism), I don’t exactly know how, or why, we clicked so quickly but we did and I’m grateful for that.

I do think we bonded in the trenches during the heat of battle. Things at work were C-R-A-Z-Y and in many ways, she had it worse than me. We looked to each other for understanding and support as we tried to fight the good fight. That strengthened our bond.

One of Karin’s greatest gifts is her ability to tell a story. It’s like you’re there. She can describe a situation really well and, while it’s sometimes inadvertent, she can be absolutely hysterical in the process of the retelling.

I will never forget how hard we both boo-hooed on the phone the night before I left for Oklahoma. I have a very, very small circle of close friends, and Karin is one of these important people in my life – she accepts me, and I accept her, craziness and all.

Karin has been on my mind lately because I know she’s feeling anxious about so many things. I really want her to be happy. I admire her for trying to build a life that will bring her the things she’s always wanted, and, with her fighting spirit, I think she’ll prevail, but the journey hasn’t been an easy one.

I guess I’m missing my good friends today. So here’s to Beth and to Clifton and to Karin…my little bitty inner circle.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Church on 19th Street

I pass this little church every day on my walks with Dot. It's a Seventh Day Adventist church smack dab in the middle of a little residential neighborhood a few blocks from my house, and it intrigues me every single time I go by.

The parishioners are all Hispanic, I never hear English being spoken, and there is a small parking lot full every Saturday night -- maybe 30 cars - and usually one or two nights during the week. The preacher is blacker than the darkest night and with his thick Caribbean accent, I'm guessing he's from Haiti or Trinidad or some similar place.

The front doors are ususally open and you can hear the preacher talking over a crackly PA system or the congregation singing songs accapella. But more often than not, they have a big screen up on the stage showing a Spanish-speaking preacher seriously shouting and sweating and dancing around in front of a huge audience that you can hear yelling and praising in the background. You can see the satellite dish in the picture, so this little church is obviously connecting to a larger church somewhere else in the world for the bulk of their messages being delivered by the wild man on the screen.

I always get a strange feeling about this place. Not really a bad feeling -- just strange. Kind of like there might be some grape Kool-Aid being passed out to the faithful and that guy on the big screen is going to tell them all when to take the Big Drink. Beth told me that in Louisiana the Seventh Day Adventist churches consist mainly of Africans and Creoles and they have always incorporated voo doo and animal sacrifices into their services. She tells one of the best stories about "Mimi", a Creole woman from Clinton, who attended one of these churches and was one of the town's most interesting characters.

I do crack myself up. Here's a simple little church minding its own business and I've got them sacrificing chickens just before they pull a Jonestown right here in central Oklahoma City! Not very fair, I guess, but it definitely keeps me thinking as the Dotopotamus and I walk by.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

I Need The Dog Whisperer!

Dot has developed the really annoying habit of taking lots of breaks during our walks. We've always gone on really long walks, ever since she was a little Dotopotamus, but for some reason these last few weeks have become a battle of the wills.

She just doesn't want to go very far, anymore. I know Dot is healthy and in good shape -- the vet told me so in May. I got her hair cut short so she wouldn't be as hot. I just think that for some reason she's got it stuck in her mind to be stubborn and lay down because she's discovered she likes the feel of the grass.

As we're in mid stride Dot will just plop down on someone's lawn. She especially loves the nicely manacured lawns with the greenest grass. She'll just lay there and ignore me. I've tried waiting her out (we sat there for 20 minutes one time), tugging at her, using a stern voice, using an excited voice, poking her...nothing works. If time is really of the essence in the mornings, I have to go stand right behind her and start nudge her with my feet until she begrudgingly gets up. She'll go about 20 feet and do it all again.

I need that amazing Dog Whisperer guy from the National Geographic channel to come 1) tell me what's changed and why we suddenly can't make it around the block, moreless around our 3.5 mile loop, without a dozen breaks, and 2) what can I do to break her of this habit? I read in a book one time that dogs can pick up on your mental images -- like they're reading your mind. So I'm constantly conjuring up the image of a sweet little energetic, well-behaved dog walking sprightly right beside me with her tail wagging, head held high and eyes forward. Then I'll look down at Dot as she's rolling in squirrel poop on someone's lawn, getting tangled up in her own leash, and I realize that my puppy's telepathic skills need a little bit of work.

Friday, June 23, 2006

One Step Closer to World Domination


Clifton and I were sitting at the Hole in the Wall one Friday evening after work. After our CRAZY, long days at work we would spend just about as long at the Hole dissecting everything that was happening while solving all of the problems of the world. Good times.

It was this Friday evening at the Hole when Gene introduced us to Aubrey who turned out to be one of the oddest men I’ve ever met. Aubrey is an older guy, a UT professor of physics and mathematics, and the original Austin hippie, complete with the long, dirty beard, tattered tie-dyed t-shirt, and a wild look in his eyes that hinted of being way too smart and way too stoned. That night, Aubrey entertained Clifton and me for hours talking about how math will ultimately solve all of the mysteries of the universe. He was totally engaging.

At one point I asked Aubrey if he thought there would be life on Earth one million years from now. He said “yes” but it won’t be life as we know it – it will be artificial life. That led to a completely sci-fi conversation about computers and how man (via math!) is building smarter and smarter machines and how someday we are going to build the right programs that will allow computers to take over the computing – in other words, computers will begin to “think” and “make decisions” for themselves. Aubrey believes that when this happens, over time, computers will begin to “evolve” on their own, becoming more and more intelligent. Then, in our effort to foil mother nature, as we humans continue to try to live longer, healthier, stronger and smarter, man and machine will ultimately fuse in some “bionic man” kind of way (Aubrey used a much more sophisticated explanation than that!), and artificially enhanced life will be born.

Shiner Bocks aside, it was one of the most fun bar conversations I’ve ever had.

But it got me thinking. Maybe hippie Aubrey is right. Will part of our natural human evolution be the incorporation of technology to the point that it ultimately takes over and a new life form is produced? Homo Erectus, Homo Sapien, Homo Machinetus.

Actually, I have proof that this day is drawing near.

I am fascinated with the “thinking” responses of on-line websites that are based on my choices. Actually, what I’m really fascinated with are the people who developed the algorithms that the computers’ programs use to make educated guesses about me. You see it everywhere, now.

Example number one. I rent my movies via NetFlix, the wonderful service that allows me to rent as many movies as I want, to keep for as long as I want, for the low, low monthly price of $9.99. Each time you go back to that website to add another movie to your queue, NetFlix tells you what you want to see based on what you’ve already rented. Sometimes I think I’ll trick it because my movie selections are so completely diverse. But – most of the time – it gets it right! Based on three completely diverse movie choices I made, 1) The Passion of the Christ, 2) The Blue Butterfly and, 3) Capote, NetFlix suggested that I would like 1) Celsius 41.11 which counters Michael Moore’s left wing rhetoric in Fahrenheit 9/11, 2) Tuck Everlasting about a reclusive family in the 1800’s who discover the fountain of youth (also one of my favorite books of all time), 3) Braveheart about the leader of Scotland’s independence movement and 4) Dreamer about a broken down race horse who makes a heroic comeback. It was right – I’d like all of these movies. Now, I’m smart enough to realize that somehow NetFlix’s algorithms include common identifiers like directors, actors, and story themes, but I also think they somehow must tag more general characteristics like conservative, liberal, romantic, independent, etc. It’s pretty amazing to me that the system processes all of the “tags” associated with my movie choices and from that information decides what else I might like.

Same with example number two, When you buy a book or something else from that site, you’ll get their famous line, “Others who bought XXX (the thing you are buying) also bought XXX”. So, not only are their algorithms figuring out what you like, but Amazon’s marketers have honed in on our competitive desires to “keep up with the Jones’s”. So, if “others” are reading Book Y because they bought the same Book X that I’m buying, then I’d better buy Book Y, too! Weirdly, I usually think I’d really like Book Y. is example number three. A website devoted to “shared space” for people to display their digital photos – and they’re not really trying to sell me anything – it’s all free. Their algorithm is something they call “Interestingness” where they sort through the thousands of photos people upload onto their site every day and pick the most interesting to display/rotate on their home page. And the photos they pick are really cool! I’m guessing the programming equation must include something about the image’s lighting, or shapes, or composition, or something obscure like that, but every picture Flickr has chosen for the home page is totally right on in terms of its “interestingness”.

PBS stations are trying to tap into this “personalization”, as we call it. If you visit our website for information about certain programs we want to send you an enewsletter every week promoting programs of a similar nature that you would enjoy. This would all be automated through the programming.

You see this stuff everywhere online.

Maybe it’s all coincidence. Maybe it’s all a big scam. Maybe it’s pure randomness developed by savvy marketers to get me to buy more things. But the science/math behind the process amazes me, and I think it’s the first step towards computers being able to “think” on their own, just like hippie Aubrey told us over beer at the Hole in the Wall on that Friday years ago.

So, will there be life on Earth one million years from today? Mind boggling stuff to think about on a Friday...

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Roses Smell Like This

My favorite perfume is Yves Saint Laurent's Paris. I was originally drawn to it about 17 years ago because of its name (I admit I’m a real sap for all things Paris – you could hand paint the word “Paris” on an old rock and I would give it center stage on my coffee table) and its beautiful salmon pink bottle. But then I fell in love with the scent. It smells like roses. Pure roses. Like the kind of rose perfume a sweet little grandmother in a print dress might wear. But bigger, and bolder, and decidedly more sophisticated.

I can tell when someone is wearing Paris from a mile away – it’s distinct, not overpowering at all, but unmistakably unique. Cissy Cooper wore Paris. And, coincidentally, so did Beth Bryant for a short time.

It’s such a rare treat to buy my favorite perfume because it is ridiculously expensive. Insane people spend so much money on an ounce of scented water. But every now and then, over the years, I have indulged. It’s been well over a year since I’ve had any Paris so I’ve decided that when I receive the funds from my condo sale, I’m going to splurge and get a bottle. That $75 will give me months of pleasure and I’ll leave a teeny tiny bit of roses in my wake.

There is nothing worse than an overpowering scent, but nothing better than just the right perfume.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Heat Is On

After nearly one month of 98+ degree heat in Oklahoma City...the first day of summer is officially here!

Remember when summer meant no school and three whole months of freedom? When I think of the summertimes of my youth, these thoughts come to mind...

The big backyard on Choteau Street.

Playing outside until dark, then taking baths that left dirt rings on the tub.

The mint plant by the back door on Choteau.

The smell of the freshly mowed lawn.

Charcoal grilled burgers.

Twirling lessons.


Camping in the backyard with Jacquie.

Vacation Bible School.

Snow cones. Running like we were possessed to meet the snow cone truck with our quarters when we heard its song in the distance.

The swimming pool and swimming lessons with tubes in my ears.

The “balance beam” wall at Mrs. Williams’ house.

The lake. The Boat. Waterskiing.

Texas. Long drives to Texas. Small towns. Grandparents. Cousins. Singing Conventions.


Templed Hills.

The roller skating rink.

Part-time jobs.

River Rafting.


General Hospital.

The Many Adventures of Steve and Lori.


Los Angeles road trip.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Red and Yellow, Black and White

As I was driving around running errands on Saturday, it seemed like every church I passed had their big banner staked in the ground promoting their VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL. Nothing symbolizes summer break more than VBS – ‘tis the season indeed.

We certainly went to VBS at First Baptist in Helena and I remember enjoying the unusualness of it all. Church for five mornings straight was certainly different! The group consisted primarily of the kids who went to our church, but every year there would be those 10 or 12 “new” kids who came just for VBS. They might have been friends of church members, or someone’s grandkids visiting for the week, or maybe they were from around the neighborhood and their parents were looking for things to keep the kids busy. It was all kind of exciting.

We would gather in the sanctuary for the general assembly – singing, pledging allegiance to the U.S. flag and then to the Christian flag and then to the Bible. Mr. Luebeck would deliver a short kid-friendly message, then we’d break off into our classes for lessons. Each year usually had a theme around which each day’s lesson would revolve. We’d go from class to SNACKS and ARTS & CRAFTS – two of my absolute all time favorite things in the whole world. After enjoying a little red Kool-Aid and sugar cookie is there a kid anywhere who hasn’t made a painted macaroni necklace, string and Popsicle stick cross or praying hands candle at Bible School?

After arts and crafts we’d gather back in the sanctuary for a special message from a guest speaker and some more singing. I think we’d practice our “program” then, which would be delivered on Friday evenings when the parents would come watch our little production.

I can’t say that I had any huge spiritual awakenings in Helena’s VBS, but I had fun and learned some more about Daniel in the Lion’s Den, Shadrack, Meshack and Abednigo, and Jonah and the Whale.

However…I experienced a HUGE “spiritual” moment, or perhaps it’s better called a “moment of awareness”, at Lochwood Baptist Vacation Bible School in Lakewood when I was 17.

I never really embraced Lochwood. Maybe it’s because I was so socially awkward at that time but I never really fit in, so I don’t carry too many memories about the place with me other than this one I’m writing about and that absolutely horrific musical play we did where Jill Campbell was so embarrassed to be a part of it that she completely hid her face in the hood of her cloak through the entire production – it looked like the Ghost of Death that led Scrooge through the Christmas Carol had a bit part in our extremely bad rendition of “The Promise”. But I digress…

I was obviously too old to attend Lochwood VBS, but they did ask the teenagers to assist teachers, which I did.

The guest speakers for this particular day happened to be missionaries who were working in Africa. Now I had certainly heard about missionaries and I sort of knew what they did, but I never really paid them much mind, until that morning. As they talked, I became RIVETED on their every word. Their slides of the little dirty natives with their ribs showing who were eating their bowls of gruel. The straw hut schools with the dirt floors and no-electricity-having clinics. The little naked babies who had such sad looks in their eyes and the women who carried water on their heads. They told of these people’s suffering, poverty and lack of the most basic amenities.

The fact that these missionaries were there to expose these people to Christianity and convert them from their own belief systems into something totally different didn’t enter my mind, at that time. All that seemed to register with me was that there was all of this Poverty and Disease and Hurt out there and these two people were trying to make it better. This was the first time that I truly realized in a real, feel-it-in-the-gut kind of way that there was a great big world out there full of people who didn’t have it nearly as good – not even a fraction as good – as I had it. I still get kind of choked up thinking about it.

For some reason that I still can’t fully explain, their talk really affected me and I was filled with this overwhelming sense of sadness.

I left the auditorium with big tears in my eyes. I couldn’t concentrate on helping the 5-year olds make their macaroni necklaces. So I snuck back up to the sanctuary where these two people – a man and a woman – were packing up their slide projector. Being the self-conscious social cripple that I was, it was VERY hard for me to approach them, but I did. I introduced myself and tears just started rolling down my face. It’s a little bit embarrassing, but I just started to cry. I tried to explain that their talk had really moved me and I wanted to do something about it and why did people have to suffer and maybe I should be a missionary so I can help….

And, while they were kind enough to this strange, gawky girl who was blathering on in front of them, they kind of ruined it when they started in with their judgemental “church” talk about how these people were heathens and nothing in their lives would be right without Jesus Christ and their job was to save souls. The waterworks quickly shut down and I got out of the sanctuary pretty quickly, because even then, I was skeptical about the idea of “converting” people or they would go to hell (I just didn't understand why God would condemn billions of people to an eternity in hell just because of where they were born...).

For me, these emotions hadn’t been about God or Jesus or Christianity. My feelings had something more to do with humanity and social ills and the realization of a “greater awareness” that I still can’t quite describe. My sadness passed fairly quickly, but something inside me changed that day as I became more aware of the larger world and how “insignificant” I really was. It's like some scales fell from my eyes.

Years later, when I heard that Jill Campbell, who had been sitting near me that day, became a missionary, I thought of this experience again and wondered if it might have affected her, too. Who knows...

So here's to all of the Vacation Bible Schools happening this summer all over the world and to all of the mothers who will be getting spray painted macaroni necklaces on Friday.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Happy Father's Day, Dad!

I didn’t have access to a computer, so this entry is one day late! Yesterday was father’s day and I have, without exception, the greatest dad on the planet and I am forever grateful for him.

Ron Holliday can boost my spirits and calm my anxiety like no one else can. He makes me laugh all of the time through his wit and his unabashed self-depreciating charm. I know he will give me advice and counsel, and he will humor me too, all of which is appreciated.

My Dad knows some stuff. He’s a genius. Boy Genius. Someday I’m going to write more about that, because it’s amazing.

But for me, it really boils down to this… I stand in AWE of Dad’s genuine example of positive thinking and living, and I, in turn, truly believe in the idea of self-fulfilling prophecy when I see what he has been able to bring about by his attitude, hard work and patient perseverance. He is truly kind. He is the rock of our family. Always has been. Always will be.

I’m so proud of Dad for all he has accomplished that sometimes I think I’ll bust. Mom Jo’s son-in-law is very powerful, indeed, for all the right reasons.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you so much.


Friday, June 16, 2006

A Sign From Above

Here's the first entry in what I hope will eventually be a gallery of signs I like to photograph.

I want to go back at night and see if the neon in this old sign actually lights up.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


As of the writing of this blog entry, 43 goals have been scored at the World Cup. I was sad for the U.S. team and their disappointing opening 0-3 loss against the Czech Republic but have high hopes that they can come back when they play tomorrow. Brazil is my favorite to win the whole thing. I love that announcer who screams G-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-A-L.

So, what do I know about the rules of engagement in a professional soccer game? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. I think there are 2, maybe 3, 45 minute periods. I know each team has a goalie. I know there are such things as penalty kicks. And that about sums up what I know about soccer.

But I won’t let that get in the way of my ardent cheering for Team U.S.A. and my tracking of the World Cup standings. Because I. Love. Sports. Specific to this blog entry, I love international competition, no matter what the sport. I’ll save football for a later entry because today it’s about the international games, be it soccer or hockey or gymnastics or ice skating or track and field or tennis or bicycling or skiing. Especially if it’s a “big event” like the World Cup or the Tour de France or the French Open – I’m there with the ferver and the dedication of a life-long enthusiast.

The grand dame of them all – the Olympics - ought to be declared a national holiday so that we can watch minute by minute coverage 24/7.

Even the more obscure sports totally rock – curling, luge, fencing, wrestling, swimming, horse racing – I can get behind them all, especially when it’s one country against the other.

The drama. The suspence. The unexpected. The rivalry. It’s great stuff. I believe man is wired to compete – probably has something to do with the survival of the fittest, only the strong survive, power equals dominance, must clain the other guy’s turf and all of that other evolutionary, psychological stuff. Sports provides a battle ground and men (and women) compete to be the best. To win the war. To claim the prize. To be the top dog.

At the same time, sports can represent the best of who we are, honoring discipline and commitment and team spirit and overcoming the odds. Nothing can move me to tears faster than a poignant sports moment. I might have never before heard of that event where cross country skiers stop and shoot at targets but, man, I was rooting like a crazed person for that Swede who was trying to make his come back after a near fatal car accident that killed his wife and kids. That day, I was that guy’s biggest fan. And he won. And I cried.

So here’s to the World Cup and to all of the fans from around the world. I hope your team does well -- but I hope our team does better. Go U.S.A.!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

From Across The Pond

Mom asked me the other night why I liked watching British comedies on PBS. After a bit of stammering around, I realized I don’t really know!

Most of the Brit coms on PBS are dated, silly and their accents, coupled with the bad audio tracks synonymous with 30+ year old productions, means I often lose a good portion of the dialogue. I’ve seen most episodes one million times and they tend to come on later at night when I would rather be in bed.

But I love them!

There has never been a program funnier than Vicar of Dibley. As Time Goes By is great. Ballykissangel was my obsession during its run. Are You Being Served is so campy it’s unbelievable. And Hyacinth is always good for a laugh. There are many more, too. Chef is cool. Waiting for God is sophisticated and witty. Last of the Summer Wine is completely quirky and sweet. Fawlty Towers is so stupid you have to laugh.

I’ve been watching Brit coms since 1991. That’s when I discovered them on KLRU, which is probably why I originally fell for them – they were on PBS. For so many reasons I’m a public television fan but I’ll save that conversation for a later day.

There is a comforting quality about Brit coms to me – they have always aired on Saturday and Sunday nights – and they’ve really kept me company over the years. I like having them on in the background when I’m puttering around the house. It’s rare that I sit down and actually watch them start to finish – I’m usually doing other things, stopping to watch a minute or two every so often. It’s like checking in on old friends. But I still crack up at Mrs. Slocum’s colored hair and pity poor, whipped Richard.

There’s a timeless quality about many of the Brit com series, kind of like I Love Lucy or The Andy Griffith Show. I think that certain British comedies – like Are You Being Served – will always be popular, no matter how many years pass, just because there is a uniqueness and over-the-top-quality there that has never really been duplicated.

While I couldn’t take a steady dose of these schtick-filled shows, I do need them in small bits here and there so cheerio and happy viewing, mate!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Once Again, From The Top

Da da da daaa da daaa da daaaaa....da da da da da da daaaa da da da..

Recognize that tune? Why it's The Entertainer, of course. One of Scott Joplin's finest works. And the first song I learned to play on the piano just for fun. I was in the fourth grade and mom let me buy a music book of popular tunes -- all I remember learning to play from that book was The Entertainer and the theme song from M*A*S*H.

To this day, I can play The Entertainer. It's one of the only songs I ever committed to lasting memory. At age 10. So, after nine years of piano lessons from the incredibly gifted Mrs. Luebeck, you'd think I would remember Chopin or Debussey or Mozart....but no, I remember the dumbed-down beginner’s version of The Entertainer.

I’m eternally grateful to mom and dad for their commitment to pay for piano lessons every month for all those years – at a time when maybe they didn’t have a lot of extra cash. Being able to read music, appreciate the classical composers and, to some degree, being able to perform in front of a crowd (albeit not actually on the piano!), are all gifts I received from my piano lesson experience.

But man….talk about a very specific example of something in my life where I wish I could shout "DO OVER" and have the opportunity to go back and start from the beginning. Because in hindsight, I believe, if things had been slightly different, I could have been a great piano player. But, unfortunately, I ended up average, at best. Why do I think I could have been pretty good? Because I love music, I have decent rhythm and I can carry a tune. I can conceptualize a piece pretty quickly and my strengths were some of the more artistic elements like volume, tempo, and touch.

So what went wrong? It was my damned right brain.

While I have characteristics of both the right and left, I'm primarily right brained. Right brained people are visual and process information in an intuitive way, they look first at the whole picture, then at the details, and they tend to be fairly creative but often times a bit unorganized and can lack motivation. Left-brained thinkers learn from verbal cues and process information in an analytical and sequential way, looking first at the pieces and then putting them together into a whole.

And therein lies the fundamental reason I’m not a better piano player – I was taught in a "left brained" manner. Mrs. Luebeck, truly one of the most gifted musicians of her time, wanted her students to be well rounded and she wanted us to develop the "science", or technique, behind the art, so to speak. We had to learn scales, and exact fingering, and how to read the notes on the staff and how to count every different time under the sun. She spent as much time, and sometimes even more, on music theory as she did on performance. We had to participate in a lot of group classroom lessons learning things like harmonic resonance, the difference between a major and minor fourth and the physics behind sound waves from a harpsichord string that is "plucked" versus a piano string that is "hammered", and all of that...other...crap. Oh God, please don't send a bolt of lightening down to strike me dead -- I've never said that out loud before!

Okay, it's not crap, per say. It's really the EXACT things you need to know if you are going to be a "serious musician" – and Mrs. Luebeck, God bless her, really believed that all of her students had the potential to be serious musicians. And most of hers were very studious and accomplished…but that really wasn’t me. I was never a very good "Mrs. Luebeck" piano student, at least not until my final year of lessons.

From the beginning, I just wanted to play songs on the piano. I was way too lazy to practice scales or do my compositions or really practice hard on those classical pieces. I wanted to play boogie woogie, and gospel and popular tunes (reminder…Mom Jo was a major influence!).

But I was so bogged down in learning this other stuff that I became crippled. I couldn’t play it if it wasn’t written on the staff, and even then, reading it on the staff was difficult. I couldn’t play by ear to save my soul because that wasn’t the way I was taught. And that would have been the PERFECT way for me to learn! Nothing about it was intuitive for me. If ever there was a good candidate for the Suzuki method, I’m their girl. If I had been taught to learn to play by ear, without the "crutch" of having to play the song just like it was written on the paper, I think I would have been such a better pianist.

I’ve decided there isn’t one thing wrong with teaching a child to play an instrument for the pure sake of enjoying the music. It doesn’t make them a lesser person if they can’t finger the perfect E flat scale!

But that makes me sound ungrateful, and I’m not. It was an honor, and truly a priviledge, to be one of Mrs. Luebeck’s students. I just don't think her teaching style and my learning style meshed well.

I do remember the EXACT MOMENT during my sophomore year when I decided to take my piano lessons seriously. It was after my basketball game in Butte, Montana. The team was eating dinner at a restaurant and I was sitting by Monica Strope. Monica was pretty much my idol – popular, smart, talented, competitive, driven. She started talking about her upcoming piano recital – the piece she was playing, how long she’d been practicing on it, how important it was for her to do well. And all of a sudden, it clicked for me. Right there, right then. I had better start taking this piano-lesson thing seriously. And I did. And I started doing pretty well. I started practicing because I WANTED to, not because I HAD to. My recital piece got better and better – it was Chopin. I actually was able to memorize the song. And I was rated a "I" at state that year. Mrs. Luebeck was proud. It made me proud that I had beat the "II" I’d received the year before.

Shortly thereafter we moved and I was swallowed up in my angst and newfound freedom from daily practicing (!) and did not pick up piano lessons again in Lakewood. I didn’t play much. Certainly never "practiced". So my piano lesson days were over, which, honestly, was okay. I had gone as far as I probably ever would have gone with them.

Now at the Last Stop, I’ll sit down every now and then and try to bang out a Heavenly Highways hymn, or two, on Mom Jo’s piano. I can’t read music that well anymore so there are plenty of clunker notes, to say the least. I’ve thought before, as an adult, that it might be fun to take a Suzuki class, but I have never made the commitment to do it.

Seeing our old piano at Matt’s house brought back a lot of these memories. Some great music was played on that plain, little instrument, and it holds some wonderful memories of Mom Jo and Mom’s playing. And mine. I played the piano once. I wasn’t very good at it, but it was a big part of my life, and if this blog entry might sound like I’m complaining, I’m really not. I’m extremely grateful that I learned to tickle the ivories in Helena, Montana with Mrs. Luebeck.

The fact that I always had to play after world's-most-gifted-and-talented-paino-player-child-prodigy Mark Walker in recitals? Nothing that a few good therapy sessions couldn't cure!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Baubles, Bangles and Beads

Maury Sullivan has had a tremendous influence on me in many ways, and I’ll forever appreciate her. Through Maury I learned so much about how to conduct myself as a young professional (not so young anymore!). She helped me develop a sharper sense of humor. She gave me a feel for what it was like to accomplish overwhelming tasks. She showed me what sophistication and style looked like.

So it was through Maury’s example that I came to love…. ACCESSORIES. I discovered my inner passion for baubles, bangles, and beads. Maury had so many great accessories, but it was seeing her fabulous necklace from the Austin Museum of Art made up of tiny bits of materials that had traveled to space encased in lucite that was my tipping point. That was the coolest necklace I had ever seen… in…my…life… and I had to get in on that action.

As a big girl, I haven’t always had a full range of stylish clothes at my disposal. But what I discovered was that I could take a fairly plain outfit and make it look so much more put together with just the right accessories. The right necklace and matching earrings. The perfect scarf. One lone bracelet or a giant ring.

Originality became key. The more unusual, the better. Funky and eclectic. I learned from Maury that it was okay to be unique without necessarily being garish or weird. My accessories are the closest thing to a "signature style" that I have. And over the past 7 or 8 years, I’ve been able to collect some pretty neat pieces. None of them are very expensive, none of them are really one-of-a-kind and very few things are precious metals or gems, but I love them all and still take great pleasure every morning in opening up my accessory drawers and figuring out what to wear for the day.

I follow certain accessory rules. Cardinal sin number one is trying to don too many accessories at the same time. Nothing looks worse. And cardinal sin number two is wearing the wrong accessories for the wrong occasions. In other words, I will never wear my big 4" hoop earrings to work, and, similarly, I probably won’t wear my French silk neck scarf from Tattee’s on a Saturday when I’m going to the movies.

Maury will always be my brush with a genuine, live fashionista, just like "Carrie" on Sex in the City. I’ll never have Maury’s sense of style. I’ll never be able to pull off what she can pull off. I will never in one million years be that cool. But I’ll always appreciate her for helping me discover something that makes me feel a little bit less clunky and a teeny tiny bit more hip.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

C is for Cookie

I love Sesame Street.

I love Big Bird, Grover, Cookie Monster, Ernie and Mr. Hooper. Even though I didn't have the pleasure of knowing him when I was watching as a kid, I think Elmo is a rock star. The Count makes me a little crazy -- I could never figure out why he had to count so s-l-o-w-l-y and repetitively. "1-2-3-4-5-6...We've got it already!" Bert has always been a sad sack. Kermit was pretty awesome, but he kind of outgrew the show and became more synonymous with the Muppet Show and Miss Piggy. And anyone who didn't believe Big Bird and couldn't see Snuphelupogus obviously was deaf and couldn't hear my screaming, "HE'S STANDING RIGHT BEHIND YOU!" Guy Smiley and his weather reports, those silly aliens who only said, "Yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep..." and the back-up singing chickens were awesome. Who knew that while I was having so much fun I was learning that vowels had different sounds, sometimes it was okay to be afraid, how to count to 10 in Spanish, and all of those other valuable life lessons?

I grew up watching Sesame Street and I still have Sesame Street on the television in my office as I'm writing this right now. I watch Mason and Ruby and how they have both been mezmerized by the program -- well, really they are mezmerized with Elmo's World, but I count that as Sesame Street, where it originated. But because the girls watch the show via DVD instead of tuning in on a daily basis to their local public television station, I think they are missing out and not experiencing the true essence of the program.

Some of the skits are exactly the same ones from 35 years ago. They are timeless -- like the Rubber Ducky song and the animated segment about "Which of these is not like the others?" And then there are new segments about computers and technology and rap music.

But the theme song will never, ever change...

Sunny day... sweepin' the clouds away
On my way, to where the air is sweet
Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?

While one might argue that the show's creators have sold out -- I mean is there anything you can buy that DOESN'T have a Sesame Street character printed on it? -- I still think the basic integrity of the show remains in tact. Sesame Street makes learning fun for kids.

So, in the spirit of the famous Sesame Street sign off, this blog entry is brought to you by the letter "L" (for "Love it!") and by the number "1" (for the place the show holds in my heart).

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Little Things - Part 1

I tend to mark time by the big or memorable events in my life. Highschool graduation, going to France, being promoted at KLRU, my trip to Colorado last week - those kinds of things. If life were a crazy quilt these would be the patches of the brightest, shiniest fabrics, surrounded by many more patches of lighter colors with varying degrees of intensities.

But truly, much of life is spent between the big the moments connecting one big event to another. Most of life is spend in the day to day task of living...the grind...the ordinary.

So what do we take away from these regular days? I think it's the little things.

The things in life that aren't big, or spectacular, or monumental in any way...but they are the things that might make life a little bit more enjoyable, or a little bit easier, or a little bit more peaceful.

This is my first installment of "The Little Things" that are important to me...

1. Clean sheets. There is nothing better than getting in to bed when the sheets are clean. They smell good and feel good and they promote a sense of peace and comfort and accomplishment.

2. Television. Come on there really any other one single invention in the history of mankind that has been better or more beneficial than television? Polio vaccination -- no. Air travel -- no. Computers -- no. It is television! I can stay informed, be entertained, moved to tears, learn something new, waste time, develop new interests, indulge passions, share experiences...all via television.

3. Contact Lenses. I've been wearing them since I was 14 and they changed my life. I can wear sunglasses. I can change the color of my eyes if I want to. I can see more clearly. All with little pieces of plastic instead of heavy glasses.

4. Music. Need I say more?

5. Extendable Showerhead. It reaches every nook and cranny and makes cleaning the dreaded bathtub a lot easier too. Tres European.

6. Diet Coke.