Monday, May 30, 2011

a tree falls in studio city

There is a walnut tree in the middle of my driveway. It has been there for a long time. I once had pictures from when my house was built, from the original owners, clearly showing the tree in the exact same location, at least as far back as 1958. In fact, the builders poured the driveway cement and built the house pretty much around the tree. This half-a-decade old tree has been as much part of the landscape of my street as the infamous palm trees that grace the borders of any street in any photo of southern California in its glory.
The best of times. Every morning since we bought our house, I sat in my balcony, right behind the tree branches, and smoked my first cigarette of the day watching life on my street through its leaves. Often catching people unawares, like leaving their dog poop unscooped, my voice boomed from my hiding place, scaring the bejeezus outta them, making them clean up after themselves (as they should). Sometimes I eavesdropped on intimate conversations, secure in the shelter that the large leaves supplied, hearing when I shouldn’t snippets of a breakup, an unsatisfying sexual encounter, or a mother frustrated with a reluctant child. The tree supplied shade to our cars parked right below it, in just the right amount. We never watered it, never tended to it (except for the occasional mandatory fire department imposed trimming), and it flowered and bloomed with the seasons when it should. On cue it shed its leaves, when the seasons changed, marking the passage of time, and funnily, the months where it stood bare were the months when all dog walkers were very diligent with their canine scoopage.
The worst of times. This being a walnut tree, every spring, my front yard would hold its annual squirrel convention of walnut eating contests. They ran up the tree two by two, three by three, and feverishly ate as much of the walnut as they could, peeling and dumping the remains on our cars and our entryway, then peeing and defecating to their little hearts’ content all over the place. They paid attention to nothing: not at us waving our hands furiously, not at newspapers or shoes being thrown at them (some of those years, our cars were brand new, the shoes not so much), not even at our dog barking and chasing them (granted he’s a tiny Chihuahua, but still, they ignored him royally). These herbivorous rodents were on a single-minded mission. It’s almost like they knew exactly when the walnut was just becoming edible, and knew just how little time they had before it was ripe enough for humans to eat. By the time the walnuts were edible, there would be none left.
We tried everything. We hung CDs from the tree (which apparently only works on birds) and we had long poles at the balcony to poke them off with (they simply squatted out of reach and resumed eating with a huff). We thought about shooting them all, (if you had to stumble on the piles of walnut shells and feces they left behind every time you went outside or paid the hefty repainting fee for our cars, you would side with us on this one) but we quickly realized we’re not gun people. We tried all sorts of chemicals to take the goo and the sap from the cars but the damage could not be undone. Nothing worked. In the end we realized that the only time the squirrels left was when all the walnuts were gone. So at the first sighting of a hungry squirrel, my husband would start to furiously harvest the walnuts, trying to beat the race with his human tools… he cutting down the fruits, me sweeping the floors, our daughter somersaulting between us.
This was a tedium that we engaged in yearly. Some people cleaned their pools en famille, some their gutters, some polished their bbq grill, getting ready for the summer fun… we got rid of the walnuts before the avalanche started.
Until this year.

It was April when my husband mentioned that he thought it odd that the familiar squawking of squirrels fighting over the same walnut had not yet happened. He furthermore pointed out that the tree was still buck-nekkid. I told him walnuts are fashionably late and then one day out of the blue, the whole tree would be covered in buds, kinda creeps up on you like that. And who in their right mind would miss or look forward to the (literally) crappy shell-covered ground?
By May we noticed that the few branches that blossomed had already dried.
Today, I had to admit the tree is gone. It still stands there, all gangly branches, but it is hollow,  just a corpse, really. No more leaves to shelter me from sight. No more walnuts. No more fighting squirrels.
My 53-plus-year old walnut tree is dead.
I know I probably shouldn’t, but I can’t help feeling a little sad.

Of all the wonders of nature, a tree in summer is perhaps the most remarkable; with the possible exception of a moose singing "Embraceable You" in spats.—Woody Allen

Monday, May 23, 2011

dear friends and family,

As I haven’t seen any of you around here yet, I am assuming that you are either still at the gate, getting your visa clearance, or were left behind on earth. Since I seem to still have Wi-Fi for the time being, I am posting from what I am assuming is the entryway to heaven, as I have seen neither Adam nor Eve thusfar. There’s a guy named Peter who is apparently in charge, but nobody has seen him since this morning, he must be on a really long lunch break. Not a very good time to take a break, if you ask me, this place is packed, and there is only one way in (through the big doors by the big clouds at the end of the entryway).

I am not one to complain, but so far, this rapture business has not been very smooth at all! First of all, I was enjoying a chocolate ice cream and mid-spoonful I was yanked up and away (have no idea where my spoon ended up or for that matter what happened to the rest of my ice cream, it was damn good, wish I had it with me now). The ride, if you can call it that, was bumpy at best. My hair got severely messed up from the windy conditions and since there are neither brushes nor mirrors in here, I have no idea what I look like nor can I do anything about it. But I am grateful to be at least better off than this guy I met who is still waiting for somebody to give him back his missing arm. He swears he lost it in a battle, he’s looking at me like I would vouch for him or something, and I’m thinking “good luck buddy with your pre-existing condition”. They eventually sent him to where a bunch of people were waiting in a cordoned-off area, all covered up in ashes, who apparently need more time to get “processed”. I bet they’re the ones holding the line…

The service here is very slow, we have not yet had anything to eat and I’m starving. Though I wouldn’t in a million years shave my head and walk around naked wrapped in a sheet, like this Indian guy I met, talking gibberish about a hunger strike. Of course I said nothing to him, just gave him the “I don’t agree with you but I’m not saying anything” eye roll. That’s so rude. Not quite as rude as this woman Rosa I met on the bus on the way over here, who insisted on boarding first and sitting at the front of the bus. Some people feel so entitled, it really peeves me. I wanted to say “we’ll all get there, lady, back of the bus goes to the same place as the front” but I’m not one to make waves. She was wearing this retro hat, which I kind of dig, actually, but the gloves were a bit much.

Anywhoo, there are lots of people here looking for their family. They look so happy when they do, hugging and kissing each other. Some people are weird though. This man found three of his wives but he is still not happy. They’re a little upset with him too, truth be told, they don’t know which one to put him up with, since obviously, polygamy is out of the question. Lots of mother-son, father-daughter type reunions, though sometimes it’s hard to tell who is what just by their ages. 

I have not seen anybody I know yet except for my old college roommate, but I’m still not in the main entry where the big list is posted. So I don’t know who I’m rooming with yet. I hope it’s not her, I could barely stand her then, she was too goodie-goodie for my taste, always wanting me to sing hymns with her, as if!

There are two men who keep following me everywhere since I got here and giving me the evil eye. They keep checking something in their ipad looking device and talking to each other in this silent kind of language. I’m not panicking but I have to admit it’s a little unsettling. I’m not getting a bad vibe from them; they’re just making me feel like I don’t belong in their little club or something. Maybe I’m not supposed to blog. I better log off.


Monday, May 16, 2011

who's the god now?

There was a time when nerds and doctors deserved respect, if for nothing else, at least for the massive quantity of information they were able to memorize and recite at command. But while nerds trudged along, happily enumerating pointless statistics and data to whomever was remotely interested, then went away rancorless when shooed to build us a comfortable future full of promise, doctors demanded that their god complex be worshiped, or else. Damned was he who showed up to a doctor’s office with any kind of information attained beforehand. He was virtually spat upon with contempt: how dare he, mere mortal, place himself in the same league as the gods of medicine? So he who had dared sat back down, tail between his legs, because the doctor was a god, and frankly, he was needed.

Nowadays, any idiot with a laptop, a tablet, or a freaking phone, can Google just about anything and give you an answer to just about any question within seconds. You need a recipe for a gluten-free rhubarb pie? Done! Need to know the capital of Kazakhstan? There it is! Care to inquire about the top 3 recommended therapies for treating colon cancer? You got it! Want to know if you conceive tonight, what the birthstone of your baby will be? Just plug today’s date in this here ovulation calendar and presto! No question is too silly, no answer is too complicated. If you thought to ask it, chances are somebody has asked it before you, maybe even a bunch of somebodies, one of whom (or some, or all) did the research and posted the extensive answers for your ready consumption. There are very few things left to be discovered, very few solutions left unsought. And it’s all up there on the internet at your virtual fingertips. 

So why do doctors still walk around like they own the joint (earth or the universe, depending on their specialty)? Can’t they see how silly they look now that the jig is up and everybody and their mother are privy to all/same information?  

The irony is that the average human has more time to be updated on the latest medical research than the average physician. So tell me then, honestly, who’s the god now? 

Monday, May 9, 2011

90210 to the rescue

Let’s see: I have just been told that once turning 40 came and went, my bathroom started running out of jar-space. (Dear Husband, so what! You’re losing your hair in all the wrong places and don’t think I didn’t notice and who do you think you're fooling?). As much as I hate to admit that it's a-comin', each day, I look a little bit more like my mother (the way she looks now at 70, not back when she was my age, I wish! she was actually quite hot then).

Let’s face it: it’s straight downhill from here on out. Free fall!

90210 to the rescue.

My very close proximity to Beverly Hills (the plastic surgery capital of the world) coupled with my obvious and rapid disintegration, despite my valiant efforts to fight the ravages of time, made the question of tweaking here and there (and there, there, there and let’s not forgot there) almost inevitable. Nope, all the intellectual bravado in the world amounts to nothing when one is confronted with the telltale dimples of stored fat or worse, the relentless pull of gravity. Yikes.

I said: Don’t touch my face; I don’t want to wear the same quizzical expression for the rest of my life. Plus I like to blink now and then. They can do whatever they want on my body: tuck me, suck me, vacuum my cellulite, pull my stretch marks up or down, even sideways if they are so inclined, pick up my boobs off the floor and put them where I can see’em, leaving zig zag trails everywhere, as long as I can hide the scars under a bikini, I’m fine. I am clothed most of the time anyway, so if a little nip and tuck, even a relatively mediocre one, is going to make me look better (in my clothes), just tell me where to sign up. 

She said: Who cares about the body? The body you were born with is genetically fraught with problems, and it will only get worse with time… there is nothing you can do about it and even if you can, who cares! The face is where it’s at. That’s what people look at first, that’s what they look at the longest. Think of yourself as a business and treat your face as your operating cost. You present it to your clients, it represents you, and it has to look its best. So spare no money or effort to maintain this invaluable asset.

What do you say?

Monday, May 2, 2011

I will! I Will! I Kate!

So I caved. I wasn't prepared to think of myself as the type to participate in the royal wedding hoopla but nicotine withdrawal has been doing strange things to my synapses. So, even though I’m nowhere near the zip code of a monarchist, I watched it on TV. Here are some of the random thoughts that ensued (be advised that some comments may sound harsh but they come from a good smoke-free place):

A bunch of hemophiliacs who managed to intermarry, interbreed and hang on to the rule of a country for a couple of hundred years: Sure, they deserve some credit... but how much and for how much longer?

* * *

How different was Beatrice’s hat from Victoria’s? Enough to condemn one as a farce and praise the other as the epitome of chic?

* * *

Can you invite 2 billion people to your wedding ceremony via open carriage, media extravaganza, declaring a national holiday, etc. then impugn them for overstepping their bounds because they now want to know more about your marriage? By the same token, can you claim to be a public property (i.e. in public service) and then complain of invasion of privacy?

* * *

What I envy Kate and William is very much like what I miss in my car: the smell of new. Things like… the heart beating just a little bit faster at the anticipation of all firsts… the excitement over a simple kiss... the mystery behind lowered eyelids or a sideways glance… the unspoiled illusions about the other (read complete ignorance of all matters pertaining to the other’s bowel movements).

* * *

The poor queen mother in canary yellow…

* * *

Isn’t William still in his twenties? Bless his bald little head, where did all his hair go? 

* * *

Being a Vera Wang, Modern Bride but also Alexander McQueen fan, I don't understand the unanimous gushing over the lacey bridal number that Kate was sporting. She did not “manage to look contemporary and traditional at the same time”, she just looked very traditional. The press immediately jumped at juxtaposing Kate's likeness (the dress’s, actually) to Grace Kelly, somehow elevating Kate to her icon stature by this mere inference. I dug up a picture of Princess Margaret in wedding attire, and… but… oh… doesn’t that look familiar?

* * *

If you were one of the 1900 guests who was not invited to the after-ceremony reception at the palace (and especially if you were female): You got to wake up pretty early, got ready for hours (hair, makeup, adhesion of hat to scull), having already spent a small bundle and agonized over your outfit, agonized some more about your final look, went by bus to stay in line in high heels on gravel for hours, whilst the camera dissected you like a science experiment, to be finally allowed to find your seat and repose your behind, only to find out that you are to do so behind a maple tree and several voluminous headgears, in the WRONG section of the abbey. Then it was all over, and you had to fight the traffic and the crowds, -- minus the camera because it was now following the happy couple and your 5 minutes of fame were essentially up--, to get back to your home, your hat askew, in your wrinkled clothes and your achy feet, to watch on TV what fabulous foods would be served at a party to which you WEREN’T invited.

* * *

Did you notice how Kate and Will held hands in public only the morning after the wedding? Lest they inadvertently revealed the intimacy of those 8 years of shacking up before they were officially officiated upon...

the "let me escort you your majesty" hand-grip doesn't count.. come to think about it, she used the same grip with her dad... why would she not grab his arm... humm...

* * *

I don’t think it’s fair that they can’t go too far or too long for their honeymoon because he has to work. Only two measly weeks off? The blasphemy!

* * *

Do you think that Kate will stay home and gain some weight now that she’s done fitting in the wedding dress(es) like other non-anorexic post-wedding brides?

I could go on but it’s Monday and *I* have to go to work.