May 23, 2008

A questionnaire by Bernard Piveau

I tend to shy away from all of the questionnaires and such that are rampant at MySpace and Facebook. I figure I've provided quite a bit of info about myself on my profile page, and I'd rather have people ask for anything else they'd like to know. That initiates a dialogue, and that's what I'm on the 'net for. Not just to blab about myself (though this blog might indicate otherwise), but to put myself out there and get a response, to share with others, to learn and be exposed to new things by the folks I meet through the intarwebs. So those MySpace questionnaires with a hundred and a half questions have always struck me as a little cheesy and defeating the purpose of truly sharing information.

That said, I've always loved the questionnaire from Bernard Piveau that James Lipton uses at the end of interviews on Inside the Actors Studio. It's brief, it's simple, and sometimes there's something to be said for brevity. So, here goes:

What is your favorite word? There are sooooo many. Love of words is what compels me to read and write. But there is one word that I use pretty frequently, so it probably qualifies as a favorite-- Why?

What is your least favorite word? No

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Curiosity

What turns you off? Ignorance

What is your favorite curse word? This is the question everyone loves, right? I don't know that I could choose just one curse word. What I enjoy is stringing a bunch of expletives together. There's just a nice, satisfying emotional release from all that vulgarity rolling off my tongue, like letting loose with something along the lines of "goddamn, simple-assed, mother-fucking prick" when someone cuts me off in traffic. That's good stuff.

(Though it does make me a bad Buddhist. And now I'm wondering if I should have set this blog for Adult Content...)

What sound or noise do you love? Spring Peepers

What sound or noise do you hate? Car alarms. Hearing one of those things can set me off on one of my strings of expletives.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Travel writer

What profession would you not like to do? Any type of political office

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? "Hah! See? You were wrong!!"

So, now it's your turn. Anyone?

May 22, 2008

Anniversary of a road-trip

Three years ago this month I accomplished one of the few goals I've had in life (goals beyond that of just having a good life, that is). I drove across the U.S. along rural Route 50, from one coast (almost) to the other. It was a terrific adventure that left me craving more. Additional trips have been in the planning stages since then (most specifically, cruising the west coast along Route 1), but have yet to come to fruition. Maybe one day.

Until then, I'll continue re-living this one periodically. I created a website at the time as a journal of the trip, but now, in remembrance, I'm posting it here. The first day or two are up as of this evening, and the rest will be added a day or two at a time over the coming week. To check it out, just click on the label below for Route 50, or navigate through the 2005 entries in the Contents section over there to the right. Enjoy!

May 17, 2008

Following Circles down a lonely road

Somebody's always watching you.

My father once said those words to me, back when I was a kid. I had stolen something from a friend, a bright red rabbit's foot. Her mother called my parents that night and I went before the firing squad. Of course, I denied, denied, denied. My parents were furious. At school the next day, my friend told everyone and, despite my continued denials, I ended up ostracized by the entire sixth grade. After several days, I cracked under the pressure. I left for school one morning with the rabbit's foot in my pocket and headed far enough up the road that I figured my parents were no longer watching from the door. Then I doubled back, to the little cul-de-sac at the turn in the road, and pitched the rabbit's foot as far as I could into the woods.

Unfortunately, my father was standing by the front window at the time. He confronted me in a rage when he came home from work that night, before sending me down into the woods with a flashlight to find that damned foot. "Remember this," he told me, "Somebody's always watching you."

But who's watching in the lonely places?

The light sucked and the camera somewhat sucks, therefore these photos are not terrific.

This portion of road was driven, not walked. And my little Honda Civic handled it like a champ.

So, as I mentioned in this morning's post, I did go to Shaharazade's this afternoon. They were empty when I got there, but while I was eating, several groups of out-of-towners (presumably in town for their offsping's graduations from Shepherd U) came in to look around. I also heard the waitresses discussing the reservations for that evening (a 10-top and a couple of 4-tops). So business seems to be good. The owner popped his head out of the kitchen at one point. I probably should have spoken with him, but I was enjoying my meal and my book too much to shift into business mode. Plus, I'm feeling a bit peeved with him. Especially after one of the out-of-towners asked the waitress if "this is the place that's up for sale" and she responded in the affirmative.

But life just keeps spiraling through its never-ending circles...


You saw me lost and treading water
I looked pathetic
I looked as helpless as a stinger without a bee
But underneath my presentation, yeah
I knew the walls were coming down
And the stones that fell were aiming away from me

Hey, what would it mean to you?
To know that it'll come back around again
Hey, whatever it means to you
Know that everything moves in circles

I saw you standing in my headlights (blink, blink, blink)
I thought I'd run you down for the weight you left on me
Instead I pushed rewind, reversed and drove away
Seeing you disappear in my rearview
Brought to me the word reciprocity

Hey, what would it mean to you?
To know that it'll come back around again
Hey, whatever it means to you
Know that everything moves in circles

Round and round we go
Who could've known it'd end so well
We fall on and we fall off
Existential carousel

Restaurant update, or lack thereof

Just a quick update for anyone who might have been wondering what happened to all my angst-ing over buying and running Shaharazade's...

The restaurant seems to be a no-go. I asked the owner over a month ago for the tax returns and income/expense reports. He responded fairly quickly that he was overwhelmed (no hint of what with) and that it'd take him a few days to get everything together. After about 10 days, I sent him an e-mail to check on things, and got a response letting me know that he was sorry for the delay and still working on things. A week later, I got another message from him letting me know that he'd just finished three tax returns with his accountant, including the one for the restaurant, and then gone home and lost them all. He'd requested new copies and would get everything to me as soon as he could. After another week or so and nothing further, I picked up the phone and called. I spoke with his wife, who said that she had seen some of the paperwork so she knew he was working on things, and that she'd have him contact me. Finally, I sent him an e-mail saying that I was heading into a busy time at work that would include a 10-day business trip (to Vegas, baby! I'm sure I'll have stories from that), and that it would be a bad time for me to try to review things. If he could get the paperwork to me during that time, I'd look at it and get back to him as soon as I could. If not, then I'd contact him in late-June/early-July to find out the status of the restaurant. That was five days ago and I've had no response.

So it seems it was a pipe dream, after all. I still love the place, though, and will probably head up there later today for a pot of tea and a late lunch, to relax, and read, and ponder what else in my life I can angst about for your reading pleasure...

May 11, 2008

From a flea-market to Diamonds and Coal

Took advantage of a grey and eventually rainy day to head up to Baltimore for lunch at Bertha's-- mussels, a side of sauteed spinach, and a really lousy yet somehow delicious bread (had to be the garlic and caper butter I kept dipping it in). With the accoutrements of my meal and a good book spread out on the table in front of me, I was quite contented, which makes the thoughts that sprang into my head all the more perverse (though that should come as no surprise).

When it comes to aphrodisiacs, oysters are the shellfish most universally called to mind. But I've come to believe that mussels are a quite overlooked candidate for that categorization. Have you ever really looked at one? They're distinctly, specifically, female in appearance, if ya know what I mean, down to almost the last anatomical detail. And when drenched in warm butter, which always ends up dripped down the chin on the way into the mouth... As a heterosexual woman, I sometimes find it to be quite an, ahem, interesting experience to dine on them. But they're a gustatory indulgence I've come to associate with the edgy seediness of Baltimore and Fells Point, and Bertha's is a wonderful place in which to consume them-- Old and dimly-lit, with deep green walls (that match the exterior) and aged wood floors, and full of an odd-ball collection of vintage paintings and prints hung at sometimes cock-eyed angles. I haven't eaten anything there besides the mussels and spinach, but the rest of the menu must be better than decent, considering the place is pretty much always full and has been that way for a couple of decades.

The Full Moon Saloon's seen better days

Planned new shopping development: The beginning of the end for Fells Point

Patterson Park pagoda, north of Fells

Wandered through a flea-market on the square at the end of Broadway on the way over to Daily Grind, at which I found an Incubus lyric scrawled on the wall of the ladies room. Speaking of Incubus, it's been a few posts since I've used one of their songs as an excuse for my ramblings, so bear with me...

Diamonds and Coal

If it’s good to complicate,
then both of us are doing fine.
Just keep your eyes on your part &
leave me alone to mine.
If it’s good to instigate,
we’re a fast horse, bet on us.
I’m not calling you an animal,
I think we just fight too much.

Come on, in spite of this we’re doing just fine
Even diamonds start as coal.

We’re both aligned in framed of mind
but circumstance got us good.
And now you’re seeing a side of me
I wished no one ever would.
Yeah, if it’s right to pick a fight,
we’re fingers in a sugar bowl.
Love isn’t perfect,
even diamonds start out as coal.

Come on, in spite of this we’re doing just fine
Even diamonds start as coal.
Give us time to shine
Even diamonds start as coal.
We’re incomplete & infantine
Even diamonds start as coal.

Give it time girl, the fire feels divine.
The sweetest things,
they burn before they shine.
We think way too much,
look at us losing touch!
A promise is a promise, I'm told…

Yeah, in spite of this we’re doing just fine
Even diamonds start as coal.
Give us time to shine
Even diamonds start as coal.
We’re incomplete & infantine
Even diamonds start as coal.

This is unfortunately not one of their better tunes, yet it's been stuck in my head for a few days now (which is the unfortunate part). It's quite catchy and the vocals are smooth and mellow, but the lyrics leave much to be desired. I mean, count the cliches, would'ya? The man's a hell of a poet, but fast horses and sugar bowls as metaphors? Brandon, babe, what were you thinking? Even when he drops an occasional weak lyric, though, there's always at least one pithy line that jumps out and takes on a meaning for me that's oftentimes unrelated to the main theme of what he's written.

"And now you're seeing a side of me I wished no one ever would..."

We've all got that side, don't we? Those silly habitual reactions that we'd like to disown. But how many of us face them? How many of us are even consciously aware of them? For many, qualities like immaturity, pettiness, spite, and cruelty are acted out without us even realizing it. We act, or react, without seeing our own behavior, without recognizing the shadow within. What's even worse is when we slip into projection:

...Jung also noted that, instead of repressing or denying the shadow, we may also project the shadow onto others, attributing to other people those nasty, unsavory qualities that we would like to deny in ourselves. Shadow projection can thus result in paranoia, suspiciousness, and a lack of intimacy, all of which afflict individuals, groups, even entire nations. Far from solving the problem, shadow projections act only to exacerbate the troublesome quality of this dark side of our soul, injecting a kind of poison into interpersonal relationships through self-righteous denial and distorted perceptions.
(A Guided Tour of the Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Robert H. Hopcke)

Part of what I enjoy about this blog is that it's a journal of sorts, providing the opportunity to analyze my own character and intentions throught the prism of my experiences and the music I listen to. I've wondered more than once just how honest I care to be in these posts. I'm only aware of a handful of people who read them, and I have no idea how frequently those few do so. But this site might have been discovered by dozens of bored and anonymous intarweb surfers who have found my words moving, thought-provoking, amusing, annoying, or just plain ignorant. I'll likely never know. It's enough, though, to give pause and make me feel a tad self-conscious. Do I want a bunch of virtual strangers to see that "side of me I wished no one ever would"? Or is this the place to explore my shadow compassionately and dig up the better part of me? Something to think about.

Only a reflection of my self (a rare self-portrait)

May 9, 2008

Kitteh update

I finally got some decent photos of the kittens, almost four months after adopting them in January. They're both almost double the size they were then, and it's been so very fun and interesting to watch their personalities and habits develop. If reading about kitteh shenanigans isn't your thing, you'll wanna skip this post.

Alec was the one that I expected to be mellow and dignified. He looks that way still, but is a devilish little bastard when it comes to things like jumping on countertops and climbing my bookshelves. I come home from work and find knick-knacks and books from a shelf five feet off the ground scattered all over the living room. This gives me paranoid visions of walking in and finding the bookshelf tipped over on the floor and the little brat-cat squashed underneath it. But he's got the most awesome purr and sleeps most of the night sprawled alongside my shins, so I'd be very sorry to see him squished.

Little Olive is the one that I expected to be trouble, but she's actually been fairly well-behaved, despite her liveliness. She doesn't have the boy's jumping ability, though she's beginning to make up for that by learning how to pry open cabinet doors in the kitchen. She also makes the sweetest little chirping noises when she wants attention.

At this point, they're not exactly buddies, but there's definitely a sibling dynamic. They don't curl up and sleep together, but they'll sit haunch-to-haunch at the glass storm door, watching the world go by. And every so often, one will begin grooming the other, licking its head and ears. After a minute or two, I'll see the one doing the grooming stretch its mouth open wide and suddenly latch around the other's neck like some camp vampire going after its prey. This is the cue for a round of wrestling that would put the WWF crew to shame.

Their favorite playground is the bathtub. He has a thing for my rubber ducky (gag-gift from a co-worker, and it's fun in a kitschy way), and she loves to jump in and chase her own tail, banging and thumping against the walls of the tub.

I'm constantly amazed at how attached I've become to these two little monsters (much more so than I think I ever was to the Goombah, I'm a bit ashamed to admit). Perhaps it's because there's two of them, perhaps it's because they were kittens when I adopted them. I don't know the reason, but I'm smitten, and they're spoiled rotten because of it.

Little shits had better appreciate just how good they've got it...

Helping out the Fat Cyclist

Elden's good buddy, Kenny, posted this in the comments to a recent update:

Dear Readers of,
This last week has been truly tragic learning of the down turn of Suzan’s illness. As I read these comments left by all you good people, the over all theme is the same. “What can we do for Elden, Susan and their kids?” I decided it was time to stop wondering and time to start doing. I set up a bank account in Elden’s name at a local bank here in Utah. It is linked to pay pal. The pay pal account is If you don’t have a pay pal account you can also donate by going to my business’s website and clicking on the link in the middle of the page, where you can donate with the credit card of your choice. Please know that all funds collected will go directly to this bank account and after a two month period will be given to Elden, Susan and Family. Elden is unaware of this account, until now, of course. I’m not sure how he will react to this comment, but if he removes it, I’m going to continue to put it back on his blog and I invite you as fatcyclist readers to also put this on your own respective blogs. I truly believe that we bless our own lives, when we help others, so I hope that Elden will allow us to help him through this very trying time in his life. He truly has touched each one of us, through his writing and his friendship.
Respectfully yours,Kenny

May 2, 2008

Reality check

Yesterday I read the latest post over at, in which Fatty (Elden Nelson) gives an update of his wife Susan's ongoing battle with cancer. Like so many other folks who commented on that post, I sat at my desk at work and felt my eyes well up with tears for two complete strangers whose lives I read about on the internet. Then last night, after posting my own latest blog, I thought about all the self-indulgent, self-absorbed whining I've done here on the 'net. I live a fairly peaceful, contented life, going to work, then going out to ride my bike or otherwise enjoy myself. Really, my life's so good that it's surprising that I'm as inclined as I am to pissed-off, depressed tailspins. After a short bit of wallowing, I come right back out of those moods and get on with things, but still, compared to Susan and Elden, wtf do I have to be pissed-off and depressed about? Susan Nelson leaves me humbled.

I'm sure I'll still post my usual rambling, self-pitying crap here from time to time (hell, this particular post is annoyingly self-obsessed). This blog's unfortunately my best outlet for those feelings. But Fatty's words served as a sharp reminder that I've got a lot for which to be grateful, and that people of Susan's ilk make any suffering I experience seem like small potatoes.

May 1, 2008

Bikes, kayaks, nature and death

Ok, so, I continued this past weekend to break out of the oh-so-hardened shell of slothdom in which I'd been stuck the last several months, by heading to Maryland's eastern shore area for a kayaking/cycling trip with my buddies from the Team Estrogen cycling forum (Can I just say again how weird I feel posting at a site named for a female hormone? But anyway...). We all signed up for the Wild Goose Chase ride at Blackwater Wildlife Refuge and, since we've begun paddling together as well as pedaling, the idea immediately came up to bring our 'yaks along and make a multi-sport weekend of it.

A few of my favorite things...

Saturday's weather was gorgeous, and much warmer than any of us expected it to be. It was great to be on the water in such a beautiful place, and to stretch out little-used muscles in the smooth repetitive motions of paddling. Like cycling, kayaking can easily induce a meditative state through the synchrony of breath with motion, and of body with vehicle. Forward propulsion of a kayak is more than just windmilling a double-bladed paddle. It involves power through the shoulders, rotation of the torso, swiveling of the hips, and pressure through the legs in order to glide and maneuver your craft through the water. Once this combination of body functions becomes muscle-memory, it feels both exhilarating and peaceful to move so subtly through nature, with the different perspective that comes from being at water level. That perspective creates an intimacy with your surroundings that no noisy, vapor-spewing jet-skier will ever experience.

After about our half-dozenth bald eagle sighting, one member of our group wondered just what it is about those birds that so fascinates us. They're certainly not the most noble of creatures, being more scavenger than hunter. And, in places like Blackwater, they're nowhere near as rare as they used to be. But there is a majesty about them that derives from their size and the fierceness of their profile. Honestly, though, I get just as much of a kick out of watching vultures as from sighting eagles. The humble turkey vulture fascinates the heck out of me. Butt-ugly up close, vultures also have some fairly vile habits, such as projectile vomiting when frightened and peeing on their own legs to cool themselves in hot weather, in addition to their diet of carrion. But on the wing, a turkey vulture soars the thermals with as much grandeur as any eagle.

Overnight, Ma Nature turned Jekyll-and-Hyde on us and we woke Sunday morning to a grey sky, chilly temps, wind, and the threat of rain. My more ambitious cycling buddies left the motel at 7:30am to get an early start on the 65- and 40-mile routes, while I puttered about my room trying to maintain my motivation in the face of gloomy weather. I finally got my crap together and headed over to the ride start at about 9:00 or so. My intention going into the weekend was to attempt the 40-mile route, even though I haven't been on a ride of that length in over eight months, but the dreariness of the day influenced me to do the 25-miler instead. I started out spinning easily at a much higher speed than my typical average. Within a handful of miles, though, a turn in the road put us directly into a cross-wind and I immediately slowed down to my usual pace. Entering the refuge's Wildlife Drive a third of the way through the route, we were requested to reduce our speed even further, which made for a nice opportunity to meander along looking for wildlife. I had fun at one point watching a tiny swallow (bank swallow, perhaps?) swoop back and forth across the road in front of me for a quarter of a mile, before it finally veered off towards the marsh.

Back on the road, the cross-wind turned into a head-wind and I was forced to shift down almost to my granny-gear. I forgot to look at the weather report later that evening to find out what speed the gusts were-- probably nowhere near as strong as they felt, but enough to make the last several miles a struggle. It's apparently lame to describe cycling as a Zen-like activity, but I insist on doing it anyway. Even in the worst conditions, finding that perfect balance of rpm/mph that allows you to spin the pedals in smooth circles, like a second hand circling the face of a clock, can put even the snobbiest cyclist into a zone of mindless mindfulness. It's the rides when the legs lunge around the cranks in herky-jerky squares that are the hard ones. But when you find that sweet spot, even on a difficult or painful ride... Those are the rides that you look back on fondly, with no memory of effort or discomfort. Take one of those rides, throw in beautiful rural scenery (even with a grey sky), and I end up one happy puppy.

Believe it or not, I did bring my camera along on this trip. I just left it in the car while I was paddling and pedaling. Silly me. But there are a couple of old churches with cemeteries along Md Route 50 that I couldn't resist stopping at on the way home, and a few of the photos actually turned out somewhat decent.

What's left of Old White Marsh Episcopal Church

So sad, dead at 17 in 1792