Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Dissonant Notes ...

♪ After deciding earlier today that I would make a crappy professional fund-raiser, I got some gumption and fired off solicitations to a new crop of would-be 3-Day donors. A co-worker promptly made a contribution and I actually asked him if he mistakenly added a zero. You gotta love extreme generosity from unexpected sources.

♪ L.A. Dave, who has the constitution to stomach watching "The View" on a regular basis, informed me of a creepy segment from today's show: a "fashion trend" (I'm not buying it, literally and figuratively) disguised as a Swarovski-encrusted giant Madagascar hissing cockroach brooch. "Ew," you're thinking. "Who wants to wear a dead bug?" Who, indeed? So you'll be pleased to learn that it's not dead. That's right, kids. You can plunk down 80 smackers for the privilege of wearing a blinged bug on a leash. Check this, from the retailer's site:

"These insects come in varied patterns and are decorated with the finest Austrian Swarovski crystal. All roaches are male to ensure sterility, and come complete with a leash set. This consists of a gorgeous pin you attach to your clothing with a chain that clasps to the cockroach's carapace to keep him from running amok. The lifespan of these animals is approximately one year if housed and fed properly."

You should never have to feed your jewelry.

♪ The AP out of Amersterdam is reporting: "Dutch pedophiles are launching a political party to push for a cut in the legal age for sexual relations to 12 from 16 and the legalization of child pornography and sex with animals. ... The party also said everybody should be allowed to go naked in public and promotes legalizing all soft and hard drugs and free train travel for all." Well, sure. Free train travel. I can get on board with that platform. And I didn't even mean to make the bad pun.

♪ The end of the world must be nigh: A baby in China was born with three arms and Paris Hilton is releasing an album of reggae and hip-hop. She has reportedly written the lyrics to seven of the songs. I'm sure I hope in vain that one of them is titled "Vapid." Or "Insipid."

♪ I've been very indecisive lately, so instead of taking one dessert to yesterday's Memorial Day cookout, I took three, including Rice Krispie treats. People get stupidly excited over Rice Krispie treats.

♪ I finally watched the entire two-hour season finale of "Lost" yesterday. Holy crap, that's a frickin' brilliant show.

♪ L.A. Dave and I decided that I should approach Sir Paul about being his next wife, as I can play rudimentary keyboards and sing simple harmonies (not that anyone could ever replace Linda) and I have a thing for older men. Toss in an accent and I'm a goner. Dave thinks I should start campaigning right away. I think a respectful waiting period is in order.

(Yes, I'm joking.)

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Anti-Vegan With A Vengeance ...

A few minutes ago, I received an e-mail from someone unknown to me, alerting me to a column that was written about my 'Skinny Bitch' blog post.

My new friend writes: "I stumbled upon a rant by some Atkins idiot name Jimmy Moore who is taking the 'espress [sic] elevator to hell - go'in down.'

It looks like he is trying to get other stupid people to send you angry emails.

Here is a nice one instead. You go girl!! Kick some ass. :)

-Pops"

Well, thanks, Pops!

I have to say, I don't fancy using my blog to get into a pissing match with anyone. We're all entitled to our opinions. We're all entitled to our lifestyles. I'm just expressing my views. If you want to follow Atkins, hey, happy meat-eating. But what's the harm in considering another way of eating? There are people who think I'm nuts for cutting animal products out of my diet. Okayfine.

To wit, the mission statement of The Common Voice, the home of the piece about me, is this: "The Common Voice is a shared community of individuals with various ideologies and views on the issues of the day. It is a Web site that gives these community members an opportunity to respond to the issues of the day through interactive tools and discussion areas. All this is for the purpose of allowing us all to better understand one another - and ourselves."

So Jimmy Moore, the author of the piece and a regular contributor to The Common Voice, suggests, "Why don't we educate Beth Kujawski further about how healthy the Atkins/low-carb approach really is by sharing with her how this way of eating has changed our lives? Send her an e-mail at bethkujawski@earthlink.net."

FYI, Jimmy (because I know you're reading this), your meat-eating minions have yet to share their elucidation. And by the by, the limitation of the written word lies in the lack of inflection. I didn't "deride" you or your hometown. I've spent time in South Carolina. Barbeque *is* a way of life there, and if you're an Atkins follower, that would seem to be a good thing.

So I offer an olive branch (vegan) or an Olive Garden branch (where you can eat meat). You live your Atkins life, I'll live my vegan life, and we'll both die someday anyway.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Notes From La La Land ...

I'm back from L.A.

It didn't dawn on any of us (me and my colleagues, that is) until someone at the client site mentioned it yesterday as work was wrapping up, but the Friday of Memorial Day weekend is *not* a great day to have to travel. Lines? You haven't seen lines until you've seen the lines at LAX on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. But hey, I got on a standby flight this morning, which was a lovely thing. Otherwise, my flight would be landing in about 15 minutes, and then I'd have the joy of Chicago road construction ahead of me.

So, work was work. Whatever. The hotel was nice for what it was. I'm not a Courtyard by Marriott kind of gal (truth be told, I'm a bit of a hotel snob), but this particular property was very nice, very Craftsman-y (as in the arts style, not the tools from Sears), and very well located in the Old Pasadena part of town. The Westin downtown, that I stayed in the last time I was in L.A. for work, is right across the street from the client's office building, but everything in L.A. was booked this week because of some big medical convention. Terribly inconvenient for me.

And so the most remarkable part of the trip, for the girl who would be a chef if she wasn't a writer, was the food. This is for John, who likes it when I write about vittles:

Monday night's dinner for the four of us wasn't so special (it was at an Italian restaurant with a Moroccan decor - odd). The radicchio and endive salad was a bit too bitter, and the pasta was unexceptional but I managed to involve asparagus, so I was happy. And a glass of red Zinfandel always puts a smile on my face.

Tuesday night, our group was down to three and were all a bit tuckered, so we thought we'd head someplace casual, grab some bar food and beers and make it an early night. Apparently, "bar and grill" in California means something completely different than it does here. The menu was lovely, but not at all what I was expecting. Still, we sat outside and it was, as Gemma would say, "the temperature where there is no temperature." The menu wasn't conducive to my new vegan tendencies, but I got creative and ordered a side of grilled asparagus as my appetizer (and a colleague shared a bit of his salad with port-poached pears and candied walnuts and Maytag blue cheese) and then the potato gnocchi appetizer as my entree. Served in a wide, shallow pool of basil cream Champagne sauce, they were so light, they practically dissolved on my tongue. Sauvignon blanc was a nice choice with it. Champange would have been better, but there was none by the glass. I had no business having dessert, but it was the perfect night for vanilla gelato, and the server brought some mango sorbet for the table to try, as it's his favorite. Even the coffee was fabulous.

Wednesday night, the dinner contingent was down to two (a colleague was ill, presumably from the previous night's dinner) so I chose a nearby French bistro, as my colleague/dinner partner and myself had had Italian the two nights prior. Ooh, carrot rosemary soup. It sounded promising. I asked Dan, our server, if he would bring me a small taste, which he did, in a demitasse cup on a demitasse saucer (but he didn't make me use a demitasse spoon). Good thing I tried it. Too sweet. Not enough rosemary. So my colleague opted for the French onion soup and I indulged in the lobster bisque. I never order lobster bisque. It was outstanding. To carry on the lobster theme, I ordered the grilled shrimp and slipper lobster tails with mushroom risotto on a red wine reduction, which happened to come plated with grilled asparagus. A glass of Pinot noir. Fab. Neither of us had any business having dessert, but it was one of those business dinners that had nothing to do with business and instead became an enjoyable discussion of all things personal, so we lingered, he over raspberry sorbet (which he had the night before, as well) and me with a tarte tartin, which was really more like a charlotte, as the apples were very chunky, instead of thinly sliced. Coffee. Lovely.

Last night, L.A. Dave and I headed over to McCormick & Schmick's for seafood. Guests from neighboring hotels are brought a complimentary appetizer, so we shared a crab and shrimp cake, as well as some fried calamari. The chili mayonnaise should have come with a straw it was so good. (Yes, my vegan tendencies went right out the window on this trip. I tried. The first day's lunch with the client was as vegan as I could manage, but we live in a meat-lover's world.) I was going for a perfect average on the aspargus front, so last night's entree was the sea scallops in beurre blanc, with sauteed spinach, and mushroom and asparagus risotto. Sauvignon blanc paired with it nicely. I had absolutely no room for dessert, but we were celebrating Dave's book deal, so he selected the flourless dark chocolate cake and insisted I have a bite, which I did. It was good, but clearly one of those desserts that should come portioned on a spoon. You don't need an entire slice. You need one bite. Which is all I had. And it was plenty. With coffee. Perfect.

This week's client (in beautiful offices with beautiful views) had arranged continental breakfast, lunch, and afternoon snacks along with beverage service every day, so we never wanted to anything onsite. Breakfast the first day, in the Founder's Room, the most insanely large conference room I've ever been in, was laid out with china and silver and glassware and a lovely assortment of bagels and doughnuts and scones and fruit. Lunches were salads or sandwiches and assorted baked goods. Nice. Afternoon snacks were light: crudite and dip, fruit and cheese with crackers, but yesterday's snack cracked me up. We wrapped up our meetings early, just as the afternoon service was being wheeled in, so the project manager asked that it be taken to her floor and set out for her co-workers instead, but the snack was ... artichokes. Yeah, artichokes.

In the car on the way back to the hotel, I started laughing. "Who serves artichokes as an afternoon snack in a business meeting?" As if we were all going to sit around the table dipping artichoke leaves into drawn butter and scraping them against out teeth?

That's California.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Notes From Here And There ...

Here, from this weekend:

Yes, owning a house as a single person is a bit of a chore. There's always something to be done. And I haven't a spouse or child to recruit.

Today was spent cutting my front lawn, then washing my car, then vacuuming out my car, then cutting my back lawn, then pulling weeds, then sweeping off my deck (helicopters galore) then hauling out my deck furniture and reassembling the pieces that need to be unassembled in the fall.

But here I am now, sitting outside on a lovely May afternoon, the breeze blowing, the birds chirping, the wind chimes chiming, my grass laid out before me like a putting green.

And my laptop is wireless! I am sitting on my deck, blogging, e-mailing, IMing. Oh my God, I LOVE technology! I am so gonna finish the screenplay out here in the next couple months. There's something so inspiring about being outside. Stephen King may prescribe facing a wall as you write, but this, this feels much, much better. I even have a portable outdoor speaker, so I can have my music with me.

All that's missing is a glass of lemonade.

And There, looking ahead:

I'm heading to Los Angeles today for work for most of the week.

Everyone (i.e. those who don't have to travel for work) thinks work travel sounds like fun, but I really dread it. One, because airline schedules have become nothing more than cruel jokes, and two, because my other projects don't get put on hold just because I'm onsite with a client, so I spend the whole day working with that client, then come back to my hotel and spend the evening working on all the other work that didn't get done all day while I was at the client's office.

That said, I'm bound to note some crazy Californian goings-on over the next couple days, and hope they provide much fodder for the blog.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Fluffy! ...

My life is shaping up to be a David Lynch movie these days.

Just about 24 hours ago, as I tried to access the Internet from my "suite" (I had to jiggle the plug in the outlet to make a connection), as my laptop managed a blistering 19.2 Kbps dial-up connection, I accessed my e-mail through the web and saw this subject line:

"How was Patty's birthday?"

I get a lot of spam, and the subject lines are usually weird, so I nearly deleted that message, but a little voice said, "No, keep it until you can see it tomorrow." (There was an attachment. My connection speed sucked. And I was exhausted.)

So tonight, finally back at my desktop, I read the message. But first, allow me to remind you that I made Patty an iTunes playlist for her birthday this year, and one of the tunes I included was:

5. Fluffy World by Mabel Dawn Davis
Your favorite word, and who doesn't dream of a fluffy world? Besides, this woman's vocal is just too weird not to own.

The e-mail, I shouldn't have to tell you at this point, was from Mabel Dawn Davis.

Here's a snippet:

"How sweet of you to include my little rendition of 'Fluffy World' on the list. Thanks heaps for saying I'm a must-own! ... Now, I'm not 100% sure if you thought my vocal was just too weird because you disagreed with my interpretation... it is hard to really capture the essence of 'Fluffy' -- don't you think? Or maybe you thought my vocal was weird well, because I'm a really a man."

All righty. "Mabel" even included a live shot from a show! (Maybe a video grab? The resolution ain't so great. But I'll post a crop of it anyway.)


What a flippin' hoot!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Omaha? Ohmygod ...

I have no sense of Omaha.

United Airlines Hemispheres magazine's homage to Omaha makes it sound like a fabulous place to eat a steak and be Warren Buffett.

But I wouldn't know.

Despite the "weather," I got to O'Hare in plenty of time for Wednesday's 8:20 p.m. flight. Signs said main parking was full, but I saw them as I was driving past the exit to go to economy parking. Handy. So I went to main parking, figuring I'd be diverted. But no. Green lights at all the ticket kiosks. Rock on!

Found a spot, got to my terminal, walked right up to security. No line! Well, all right!

Once I put my shoes back on and got my stuff together, I checked a monitor. My 8:20 p.m. flight was scheduled to leave at ... 11:17 p.m.

Ah, crap.

Rich, my colleague, on his way to Chicago from Philly, was scheduled on the 9:50 flight, which was still on time. After traipsing through both B and C terminals and talking with Erin on the courtesy phone next to a check-in kiosk, I made my way to the gate for Rich's flight to be put on the standby list.

The gate agents were dealing with a throng of people trying to get to Newark. Normally, I'd let them deal with the situation at hand, but screw it. I needed to get on that list for Omaha.

As I was waiting my turn, a Jewish man appeared next to me. Orthodox, I'm guessing. I bring this up for two reasons: 1) To paint a picture, and 2) Because I know some pretty brazen Jewish people, and that's part of the story here.

As the line advanced and I stepped forward, he stepped forward, too, but slightly ahead of me. Yup, he was actually cutting in front of me. What are we? 8?

Whatever. There were thousands of pissed-off people in O'Hare last night. Why add to the bad vibe?

The lone gate agent had his hands full. A woman stepped behind the podium. Mr. Jewish Man made a beeline for her. She explained that she was a flight attendant, just using the phone, and not capable of helping him. He stepped back in front of me and was gesturing to someone in the gate area.

He looked at me, holding up his boarding pass stubs. "My wife needs these. I'll be right back. Is that OK? I'm sorry," he said.

"Sure," I said, "since you already cut in front of me anyway."

And just as he stepped away, the busy gate agent was wide open. Well, it's not like I was going to hold up the line and wait for my impatient little friend to return, so I stepped right up to the counter. Ah, payback's a bitch.

The gate agent pleasantly put me on standby for Rich's flight and confirmed me on my delayed flight and told me to keep an eye on the monitors and get to whichever gate had the earlier departure.

Blah, blah, blah, found a place to sit, blah, blah, blah, got a decaf Frappuccino, blah, blah, blah, Rich and I ended up getting on the same flight (his was eventually pushed back even later than mine, and mine moved ahead in the schedule) and we finally left the ground sometime after 11 p.m.

Headed to the rental car booth in the garage at the Omaha airport. Except that it closes at midnight. So Rich headed back into the terminal to get our car assignment while I stood sentry over our stuff.

People walked into the garage on their way to their cars. We did the smile-and-nod. And then I saw a guy who looked way too much like Will Ferrell in "Anchorman."

"I'm Ron Burgundy?"

I laughed out loud.

We ended up with a Taurus with NeverLost. (I need to get me some o' dat GPS for my ride!)

Got to the hotel about 1 a.m. The door was locked. The desk clerk had to buzz us in. Checked in. Rich had booked suites for us. (It was a very modest hotel. It's not like we had suites at The Four Seasons.) Swell. I'd get to spend about 7 hours in my suite, most of it asleep if I was lucky, as I'd only gotten four hours of sleep the night before.

At the gate, waiting to board the plane, I made eye contact briefly with a man who then decided to chat me up. I mentioned that the wait at the airport was made ever more enjoyable by my four hours of sleep. "Well, those who dance must pay the fiddler," is what I remember him saying.

I assured him that my four hours of sleep was in no way due to any reveling on my part. Insomnia, pure and simple.

So I finally got in bed in my suite, set the clock radio's alarm for 7 a.m. and tried to sleep.

I kept waking up, sure that the alarm wouldn't go off and I'd oversleep. And I was cold. The blanket on the bed was apparently made of Kleenex. So I woke up but decided to lie in bed until 7 a.m.

At which point, the alarm did not go off.

Got up, got ready, got downstairs. Had some OJ and coffee. We headed to our client's office (there are several sites in Omaha for this company; one is located literally across the street from the hotel we stayed in; of course, that's not where we needed to be for our meetings) and spent the day talking tech in the training room.

I hopped on a browser, courtesy of one of the interviewees who was logged in, and checked in for my 6:46 flight. "Flow control" appeared in ominous red letters with my reservation. Ah, crap. That's what they said last night, and we all know what a festival that turned out to be.

Whatever. I printed my boarding pass. Rich tried to check in but was having trouble. The computer was trying to confirm him on an earlier flight. He logged out without checking in.

We made our way to the airport. (After Rich, talking on the phone while driving, took a wrong exit and then proceeded to back up on the ramp. For the love of God, what is with men? A woman would have looked at the clock and said, "Well, heck, I've got two hours until my plane leaves. I'll just go to the next exit and turn around.") Returned the rental car. Walked through the enclosed walkway to the terminal behind a man who was smoking. GACK. I love inhaling smoke that was just in another person's lungs. Rich tried checking in at a kiosk. No luck. He picked up the phone and was able to get through the process. His seat was 1D. Rock on. First class. Nice. It pays to have status.

We made our way through security and to the gate where we were promptly greeted by the word "cancelled" underneath our flight number.

What the fuck? Not "Delayed." "Cancelled." My cell rang. It was a recorded message from United, cheerfully informing me that my reservation had been successfully moved.

To the next day.

IN THE AFTERNOON.

Gosh. How convenient. Thanks, United!

Happily, since I had checked in early, I was already on the standby list and got a boarding pass before I even got up to the counter. Rich was sent back to the ticket counter on the first floor. He returned with a boarding pass.

For Denver.

I got on the plane, one of those four-across numbers. The kind of plane you have to board by walking up the stairs that are built into the door. Small plane.

Short flight, thankfully.

Got off and saw Rich waiting for his luggage on the jetway, along with nearly every other traveler who travels with a black wheely suitcase these days.

"What are you doing here?" I asked.

"The flight checked in full, but two people didn't get on. I was in 2A."

First class after all. Good for him.

But Omaha? I know the travel hassles weren't Omaha's fault, but it's now my least-favorite city when it comes to travel convenience.

But then, come to think of it, I can't remember the last time I took a flight that boarded on time.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Continued Request ...

I fell asleep on the couch tonight. And after rousing myself off said couch and into the bathroom to brush my teeth, I crawled into my comfy bed and realized sleep was not part of my immediate future. So I slipped on shoes and went outside and took my garbage and recycling to the curb for morning pickup and then fired up the computer.

On a whim, I checked my Breast Cancer 3-Day page. Hey! My total jumped! Normally, I get e-mail alerts whenever someone makes a donation, but somehow, four people managed to sneek donations by me. Good thing I checked. I try to thank everyone via e-mail immediately and then follow up with a "real" thank-you note. So the e-mails have been sent, and the thank-you notes are written.

But before I try the sleep thing again, I thought I'd post a quick entry here. Traffic to my site is picking up steadily, so this is a continued request to my readers to consider a donation. You can click here to go to my 3-Day page.

While great strides are being made in the research, the statistics are still staggering:

* More than 200,000 women and approximately 1,500 men in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.

* More than 40,000 women and 400 men will die from the disease.

* One woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every three minutes, and one woman will die of breast cancer every 13 minutes in the United States. (In the time it takes you to read this post, someone will lose a mother, daughter, sister, or friend.)

But the good news is:

* The five-year relative survival rate for women with localized breast cancer (confined to the breast) is more than 95 percent.

* In the United States today, there are more than two million breast cancer survivors.

You can also help combat breast cancer by clicking here every day to fund mammograms for those who lack access to this vital screening tool. Or, if you'd like more information on the Susan G. Komen foundation, you can visit here.

(This is me and Catherine on last year's walk. We met up on the first day and spent the rest of the event together. There is nothing glamorous about walking, but the sunglasses help!)

If you're wondering why I do this every year, why I sign up to raise money and walk 60 miles in three days, the reason is simple: I walk because I can. Because I know women who have battled this disease and won. And I know women who have felt the fear of finding a lump in their breast. Happily, those cases have turned out to be benign. But so many aren't. I hope with all my heart that no one in my circle of friends and family will ever need the benefit of the research I am helping, in a very small way, to fund.

But every three minutes, another woman receives the diagnosis that will change her life.

I am connected to each of those women.

We all are.

I walk for all of them.

My love and thanks to all of you who have already made a contribution. To my other readers, I'm grateful for your consideration. I understand that we all have varying financial circumstances, but donations can be as small as $5. And they add up quickly. Last year, the national 3-Day effort raised $46 million.

Every 3-Day participant is walking toward the day when we will no longer need to walk. We are walking toward a cure.

Thank you for helping us find the way.

(And please feel free to forward this post to your friends and family. The wider the circle, the more we can accomplish.)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Molting ...

Every year, my yard transforms itself from brown, barren winter blah to lush, green spring. Most of my yard is not the result of my effort. It's the result of perennials that were planted before I bought the house, that dutifully come back, year after year. The foliage of my day lillies snakes like spiky feather boas around my yard. The peonies are ready to explode into enormous blooms. The ivy is climbing, the clematis is, too. Green everywhere.

Last week, I looked out my dining room window and spied something in the grass. I slipped on shoes and headed outside and discovered a patch of feathers and down. There was no bird among it. No evidence of a bird's lost struggle. Just feathers and down. I chalked it up to molting and went back inside.

We don't molt in obvious ways. We may exfoliate, but our sheddings are much less overt. We clean out closets and clean out refrigerators. We strip our beds of heavy blankets and flannel and put on cool, crisp sheets. We switch out our wardrobes and shop for summer shoes.

But the transformations that matter start on the inside. Maybe the change of season plays a part. Maybe not. But lately, I'm very aware of the relationships I'm shedding.

Some friends are temporary. Some are permanent. Sometimes, we think one is one kind and they turn out to be the other. Some friends are daily fixtures, some are peripheral, entering our orbits with a Christmas card or an unexpected e-mail, only to fade again.

When I was growing up, I lived next door to Michele. She was two years younger than me, but we were thick as thieves. I was always at her house. She was always at mine. I spent part of my summers at her family's resort in Door County. Sandy, the neighbor on the other side of Michele's house, would enter the fray from time to time and the balance of friendship would be thrown off, but Michele and I always found our way back to the center.

I was 16 when her family moved away. Michele and I stayed in touch. I'd visit her in Colorado. She'd come back here. But eventually, the visits stopped. We'd write cards and letters. But those began to wane. One year, she called me for my birthday and I didn't recognize her voice. I confess that she was better than me about sending birthday cards. I still think of her on her birthday, but we're not in touch. Her mom and my mom are still fast friends, so I get the occasional update on Michele's life, but our lives took very different paths and we ended up with nothing in common.

I wonder how many friendships are truly balanced. There always seems to be one person who's giving more than the other. I am often that person. And then I wonder if I'm giving more or simply trying too hard to sustain relationships that would otherwise die.

And then there are those relationships that have become so enmeshed that to sever them seems unthinkable and at the same time entirely necessary. It seems strange that people who have grown the closest are sometimes the people who must cut all ties. Sometimes it takes a while for that lesson to sink in and we go back for more.

I once had a bitter fight with a now-former friend that literally left me shaking. How could we have devolved so? I used to tell this person I loved him, yet that day, my parting words, spit out with anger as he walked away, were "Fuck you."

For a long time after that, we avoided each other. Eventually, we came to exchange greetings as we'd pass in a hallway or on the street. Civil, we were. A couple years ago, we almost seemed back to our friendly ways. He suggested getting together for a drink, as we often used to do.

We never did. And I've tried to be in touch with him a few times since then, but it's finally sunk in that that relationship ran its course, and for both our sakes, we could no longer be around each other in any way.

It was a sad reckoning. Painful. And maybe that's why we avoid ending things that we know are no longer right for us. Losing a friend, a true friend, is a form of mourning and we instinctively avoid pain.

Some might say that if a person is a true friend there's no need to end the friendship, that any friendship that's reached a breaking point was something else.

Maybe that's true. Or maybe it was both.

Some relationships end without any appreciable pain. We just drift apart and one day realize that we're no longer friends. Other friendships hang on, a shell of what they once were, but comfortable in their familiarity, the sense that in a crisis, they'd be there.

But others. Others make your heart hurt. When you've come to see another person as a permanent part of your life and one day realize that the day has come to say goodbye? And maybe the other person doesn't even know it. Which makes you wonder if they'll notice that you're gone. And if they don't call, if they don't say, "Hey, why haven't I heard from you?", was it all in your head?

Did you imagine a relationship that wasn't there?

Monday, May 15, 2006

WAHOO! ...

L.A. Dave just scored a book deal!!!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

'Skinny Bitch' ...

Doreen called me the other night from the salon. She was reading aloud to her fellow salon visitees from "Skinny Bitch: A no-nonsense, tough-love guide for savvy girls who want to stop eating crap and start looking fabulous!," a bawdy little in-your-face book by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin.

Now, the journalist in me is forever wanting to get all sides of a story. I bristle when someone makes an emphatic declaration. I want corroboration. Just because somene says something doesn't make it true. Words are very powerful. They can be used for good and they can be used for evil.

But just the other day, I was IMing with Ethan, and wrote, "I wish someone would write the definitive diet book." ("Diet" as in "food we eat to live" not "Atkins" or "Slim-Fast" or "The Zone" or anything meant to be temporary and narrow.) Huh. Look at that. I think I found it. Hey, thanks for the tip, Doreen.

Now, some might say that I like this book because it's aligned with my new-found way of eating. Corroboration, as it were. But the central tenent of this book is, "Use your head." In fact, that's the title of Chapter 13. And 13 is my lucky number. So there.

In Chapter 4, entitled "The Dead, Rotting, Decomposing Flesh Diet," the girls come out with their barbs blazing: "The Atkins diet. Hmm. Eat the flesh of dead cows, dead pigs, and dead chickens. Avoid fresh fruit. You are a total moron if you think the Atkins diet will make you thin." Ooh, thems fightin' words, eh? I Googled "Skinny Bitch" to see if the girls have a web site, and ran across a blog entry that reads, in part, "... I guess you're gonna have to call me a 'moron' because that's exactly what the Atkins diet did for me! I was transformed from a 410-pound ticking time bomb on the verge of a certain heart attack down to an athletic and healthy 225-pound man ready to live a long and healthy life in just ONE year. Now I'm 'Livin' La Vida Low-Carb' (my autobiographical book is available at Amazon.com) and I'll never be the same again!"

To Mister Jimmy Moore of Spartanburg, South Carolina (where barbeque is a way of life), I say, "Use your head."

I tried the low-carb, high-protein thing once for a couple weeks. Yup, lost weight. You betcha. And you know what? I knew what I was eating couldn't be good for me. Does anyone honestly believe that they can eat steak dipped in butter for the rest of their life and be healthy? Apparently, some people do.

But have you noticed that the Atkins craze has abated? We're not hearing about it every day on the news. We're not seeing Atkins-approved products sprout up in every section of the grocery store anymore. Gee. Why is that? Maybe it's because people started to think that: 1) Eating nothing but protein is really frickin' expensive, 2) Maybe it wasn't the end-all, be-all path to wellness, and 3) They didn't want to live in a world without a potato.

I knew someone who was a full-fledged Atkins prophet. She would write e-mails, at length, about how great she felt - how clear-headed - and I watched as the weight dropped off. She wore smaller and smaller jeans. She tucked in her shirts. She faithfully ate her Atkins bars and meat. Atta girl.

And a couple months ago, I ran into her, and she was heavier than she was when she first started the Atkins diet. Uh oh.

We all know that "diets" don't work. Yes, you'll lose weight if you subsist on Slim-Fast shakes for six months, but if you never address your underlying relationship with food, you're gonna pack on the pounds again when you stop drinking the shakes.

So it all comes down to "Use your head." You know that a Meat Lover's pizza with extra cheese isn't good for you. You know that you're not doing your body any favors when you scarf down the jumbo bag of Doritos. You know your body's not thanking you when you drink a six-pack of Mountain Dew.

Still, the girls know that people don't like to be told that they're making bad choices. They probably already know it, but they don't want anyone remind them.

Yes, veganism seems radical because most of us have been raised on meat and dairy. We've been told that we need meat for protein and dairy for calcium. "Drink your milk" is a childhood mantra. So we did. And we do. But just because we do it, doesn't mean it's good for us.

"But Beth," you're saying, "I don't want to give up Oreos." Yeah, me neither. I love Oreos. But I love my health more. (And by the way, there's a vegan Oreo knock-off for when you absolutely, positively have to get your Oreo groove on.)

And hey, I love the planet. If we stopped farming so many animals, we'd cut down on global warming. And I love people. If we used that land to plant crops, we could go a long way toward feeding those who are starving. And I love animals. If we stopped eating meat, we'd spare 10 billion (that's billion with a B, kids) animals from inhumane deaths every year, in this country alone.

"Oh, that Beth," some of you are thinking. "She's such a bleeding-heart liberal. Meat is our birthright. Our ancestors ate it." Yeah, a couple million years ago. And they're dead now.

But hopping on a soapbox never won over the majority, right? People will hear what they want to hear and discard the rest. Still, do me a favor. Humor me here. Go to your library and check out "Skinny Bitch" or plunk your butt down at the bookstore and read it (I got through the whole thing in about three hours) and put it back on the shelf if you don't want to give the girls the royalties. Just hear them out. See if anything they say makes sense to you. Maybe you'll decide that they're 100 percent chock full of bunk. That's fine. Maybe you'll decide that you like one of their ideas and incorporate that into your life. That's fine, too. Maybe you'll fall backward like you've been smacked on the forehead by a televangelist and then scamper to the kitchen and pour your milk down the drain and vow to never eat another chicken breast for as long as you live. Who knows. But give it a read.

And lest you think that it's just a couple of chicks spouting off on their own brand of food religion, well, they cite 226 sources throughout the book. It's like a high-school reasearch paper that way, all those little superscript numbers. "Well, sure, but they picked sources that support their argument," you're saying. Honestly, I can hear your arms folding across your chest in defiance. Well, of course they did, but hey: They were able to FIND 226 sources to support what they're talking about. That counts for something. (One of them was Dr. Neal Barnard's book "Breaking the Food Seduction," which I own and love.)

By the by, the authors of "Skinny Bitch" aren't advocating that we should all be members of the Anorexic Nation. This is all about being healthy, not looking like a Tootsie Pop. But since our culture is all about looks, rightly or wrongly, allow me to introduce the Skinny Bitches of the hour. Looks like they're doing something right.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Other Hot Topic ...

Some of this blog's readers will note (with glee, no doubt) that I've steered clear of politics of late.

It's not that I've formed a favorable view of the current administration. Hell no. But if I'm not willing to wear my politics on my lawn, why display them on my blog? My opinion surely doesn't influence anyone, and I'm not an investigative blogger. My political commentary would be reactionary, not ground-breaking.

So let's instead tackle the other conversational no-no: religion.

Oh, don't worry. It's not going where you think it is.

I just read a story about the "church" of Oprah. Oh my. Well, sure. If you're gonna sign up for a "religion," you might as well head for the pulpit where the pastor gives out great swag. (The "Oprah's Favorite Things" SNL skit in which the woman's head explodes is one of best moments in television history.) This year, her big holiday hoo-ha welcomed Hurricane Katrina volunteers. Right. Because the actual victims of Hurricane Katrina need food and clothes and homes, not a:

* Philip Stein Teslar Diamond Watch
* Burberry Coat
* Burberry Purse
* UGG Australia's Uptown Boot
* Garrett Popcorn Shops' CaramelCrisp and CheeseCorn Tin
* The new Apple iPod
* "The Oprah Sweater" by Ralph Lauren
* Pure Color Cords
* Lovely by Sarah Jessica Parker
* BlackBerry 7105T™ from T-Mobile
* Brownies from Moveable Feast Geneva
* Nike Free 5.0 iD
* Kashwere® Shawl Collar Robe
* Croissants from Williams-Sonoma
* Hope in a Jar from Philosophy
* "Grace" Basket from Philosophy
* Oatmeal Cookie Dough from Fox & Obel Market
* The Oprah Winfrey Show 20th Anniversary Collection DVD
* Sony VAIO FJ Notebook

Although you could probably sell your loot for a pretty penny. By the way, I didn't realize Ralph Lauren designed "The Oprah Sweater."

I watch Oprah from time to time. Sometimes, she has very valuable things to say. It's not that someone else hasn't said them before or couldn't say them just as eloquently, but she reaches 49 million viewers a day, so the messages are hard to miss.

Yes, she's done a lot of good. Her Angel Network is a lovely thing. But the story I read referred to her as a hip, materialistic Mother Theresa. What? Yeah, Mother Theresa, from what I know about her life, managed to get by without plunking down $50 million for a house in Montecito, California. And Mother Theresa didn't own half of Hawaii.

And next week, Oprah's flock will be allowed to drool on their televisions as they watch "Oprah's Legends Ball." Ah, geez. "Look at all the beautiful, rich people whose life you will never have!"

You'll forgive me if I read a book instead.

Oprah deserves a lot of credit for a lot of things, but do we really need to suggest that she's God? Jamie Foxx all but said that.

Now, I don't believe in God (ooh, now there's an invitation for some comments, since someone recently hit me with a John 3:16), but if I did, I wouldn't think God was Oprah.

If she was God, she wouldn't need to take a limo to work. She'd already be there. She'd already be everywhere.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Maybe My New Career ...

... should be culinary consultant for films.

I'm just watching the beginning of "Last Holiday," and Queen Latifah is doing a cooking demonstration in a department store and has just created "a simple Creole roasted duck hash en croute."

Except that it's not en croute. En croute refers to food that is partially cooked and then wrapped in pastry and baked. What she prepared is hash on a crouton. Now, yes, crouton comes from croute, which is French for crust, but technically, whoever wrote that bit of dialogue is wrong.

Gosh, Beth. Type A much?

As Dave once said (after he asked me to explain a grammar issue to him), I am "dangerously fascinating." N'est-ce pas?

Anyone? Anyone? ...

Bueller?

My friend Marc sent me the link to this photo with the message, "I am at a complete loss for words."

I second his speechlessness.

Intrepid journalist L.A. Dave explains what Bush is doing in the photo:

"It was Auburn University. Here is the funny (?) quote from the official White House transcript.

Now we've got the University of Auburn Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving Teams. (Applause.) Coach David Marsh is with us, both the men's swimming and diving teams earned national championships. That's rare to do. And I welcome both teams with us today. It kind of says that, in a year of swimming, this is the year of War Eagle. I want you all to know that the women's swimming team kindly brought me a - (laughter) - awfully thoughtful of you. (Laughter.) I'm not going to wear it. (Laughter.)

Yuks abound."

All righty, then. It's good to know the story behind the briefs.

What I Don't Write About ...

Some days, it's hard to find a topic to write about.

Funny, huh? The world is full of topics. Everything is a potential topic. It all depends on how you look at everything.

Some things are fleeting. Some things are fixtures. Some things nudge me, some things nag.

And some things are so enormous, so far-reaching, so transmutable, I don't write about them. Some things are too big for this blog. Too important.

And yet, it's those things that direct my days, consume my thoughts, and so, as this blog is an extention of myself, a place where I come to put down my musings, to work out the issues in my life, this would seem to be the forum.

I wrote a lot about G, after all. Though I didn't delve into all the details. So maybe that's the nature of this place. Maybe there are limits to what bloggers are willing to share with the anonymous universe. Well, I'm not anonymous. But I put my thoughts down for the world to read, and then I find myself holding back.

Still, this one seems to be forcing its way to the surface.

It's like one night, years ago, at a time when I had been holding so many things inside, and that night, I started crying and couldn't stop. I was crawling into bed and just started sobbing. As though the universe said, "OK, you've been trying to be strong for too long. But you're going to deal with this. Right now."

You'd think I'd be more proactive. But I am an expert procrastinator. I'll put things off until I absolutely have to deal with them, and then I kick myself into gear. Maybe that's why I did so well at a newspaper: Every day was a deadline. There was no time to dawdle. Well, no. Even then, I'd push tasks off. When I had an occational story to write, I'd invariably write it the night before it was due. Just like college. Just like high school. Oh, the nights I stayed up, clacking away, or typing first thing in the morning, before heading off to school.

I do good work under pressure. Maybe that's why I haven't dealt with the issue at hand. There's been no deadline. No ramifications for not speaking my heart and mind, other than my own endless strife.

Am I a masochist? Or just a coward? Or a little of both?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Nevermind The Magic 8 Ball ...

I am convinced that iTunes has synced up with my brain.

Once in a while, I ask a question, a la The Magic 8 Ball, and with iTunes set on Shuffle, click to see what song comes up as an "answer" to my question. The results are often astounding. As of right this moment, I have 3,880 items in iTunes (a couple of those are videos, but they'd still be relevant answers, I'm guessing), so the possible answers are pretty broad.

I was just clicking through random blogs and ran across one that posed a list of questions with instructions to set my music player on shuffle, ask a question, then see what song came up. This is my list. Some of them are obscure, some of them crack me up, and the one that asks what song will be played at my funeral is too perfect.

How does the world see me?
Exile - Lisa Gerrard

Will I have a happy life?
Tears to Tell - Howard Jones

What do my friends really think of me?
Selling the Drama - Live

Do people secretly lust after me?
Calling Elvis - Dire Straits
(Does this mean they don't lust after me and would rather hook up with a dead rock legend?)

How can I make myself happy?
It’s About That Time - The Idea

What should I do with my life?
Of The Girl - Pearl Jam
(I should become a lesbian?)

Will I ever have children?
Dancing in the Dark - Bruce Springsteen

What is some good advice for me?
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For - U2

How will I be remembered?
Precedent - Howard Shore

What is my signature dancing song?
Crazy (If I Was Trev Mix) - Seal

What do I think my current theme song is?
Echoes of Harlem - Duke Ellington

What does everyone else think my current theme song is?
Your Song - Elton John

What song will play at my funeral?
Daddy’s Gonna Pay for Your Crashed Car - U2
(Hey, how's that for clever?!)

What type of men do I like?
Clarinet Quintet in B Minor, Op. 115, Con Moto - Johannes Brahms
(Do I unwittingly like fivesomes?)

What type of women do I like?
Take It With Me - Tom Waits

What is my day going to be like tomorrow?
Desire - U2

Saturday, May 06, 2006

World, Meet Spellcheck. Spellcheck, World ...

Because I continue to see it misspelled and it bugs the crap out of me:

It's "millennium," people. Two Ls, two Ns (and two Ms and two Is and an E and a U, but most people seem to do OK with those letters). Not "millenium."

Even though none of us will be here to see the next one roll around, if you're going to use the word, learn how to spell it.

'North Country' ...

I can't remember the last time a movie made me so uncomfortable and so angry.

Not that any workplace is immune from sexual harrassment, but I've been lucky enough to work in a white-collar world where the large majority of men are presumed to be ever-so-slightly more evolved than the cretins portrayed in this film.

Which isn't to say I've never heard an inappropriate comment, but it's easy to forgive the occasional gaffe. Boys will be boys. And even I'll agree that we've gotten a little out of control with political correctness. Every word that's ever uttered can be misconstrued if you try hard enough.

But the outright hostility and humiliation that the women in this movie were expected to endure, because they were "taking jobs away from men who need them," well, Jesus. I almost had to press Stop.

I often wonder about bad behavior. I'm fascinated, for example, by the suggestion that Scott Peterson and other sociopaths literally lack the functionality in their brains that act as conscience. Because that's the only logical explanation for the heinous acts some people perpetrate against others. How does O.J. face himself every morning? How can he play golf? How can he have a cocktail? How can he simply live his life every day? How has his memory not destroyed him yet? I want to believe that there's some biological or chemical reason to explain how someone can be so unfathomably cruel to another person.

Of course, in this movie, we're not talking about murder. We're just talking about rape and debasement and incessant humiliation. But the questions remain: How do men like that live with themselves? How were they raised, that they seem to find no fault with their behavior?

Some of the men in the film were clearly disturbed by what they witnessed. Of course, they did nothing about it. Which makes them cowards.

But cowardice I can understand.

The rest of it, though ... There's no excuse.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Bruuuuuuuuuce!

Springsteen's on the road again.

My finances cannot handle the strain. My credit cards are bent to the point of breaking.

Ticketmaster sent out the alert yesterday. Tickets were to go on sale today at 10 a.m. $92. Eeesh. Tack on the Ticketbastard fees and the price jumps well over the $100 mark. And so it was with a heavy heart that I told Doreen that I wouldn't be catching Bruce's latest tour.

"It's OK," I told myself. "I don't like the venue. I've seen him five times in three years. It's not like it's the E Street Band." I can rationalize with the best of 'em.

Doreen and I IMed today as 10 a.m. drew near. I pulled up Bruce's Ticketmaster site.

Yeah, I don't have to tell you that responsibility went right out the window. I started refreshing the page.

I told myself that I'd see what I drew. If the seats were crappy, I wouldn't spend the money.

In, I selected two, best available, entered the funky word in the funky window and waited.

Two. In the pit.

Aw, hell. Like I'm gonna pass up the chance to be in the pit at a Springsteen show?

Grabbed 'em.

Springsteen is my drug.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

FOCUS ...

I'm not yelling at you. That's an acronym.

Tonight was my FOCUS meeting for the walk. (FOCUS stands for Fundraising, Opportunity, Community, U (You), and Steps.)

Anna, my 3-Day coach, gave me permission to skip this meeting since I've done walks before, but also mentioned that she likes to have experienced walkers come to the meetings to give first-time walkers first-hand accounts of what they can expect.

So I went.

And I'm glad.

Preparing for the walk can be a solitary pursuit, so it was good to be in a room full of women who are eager (and, understandably) a little apprehensive about this journey.

That's the great thing about the walk: In addition to raising money to help eradicate breast cancer, you challenge yourself to do something physical that you can't believe you'll be able to achieve.

So from time to time, Anna would toss to me and I'd chime in with an anecdote.

Before I did my first walk, my friend Gemma, a walk veteran, was an invaluable resource. The coaches are fabulously available to answer questions, but there's something even more comforting about having a peer to turn to. So I was happy to be there tonight to play that part for Anna.

And the whole way home, I kept thinking of more things I should have told my walkmates.

But I remembered to tell them the most important thing:

The chocolate mint Pria bars taste exactly like Girl Scout Thin MInt cookies.

Everything else, really, pales in importance.

Stumped ...

... for a topic, I wandered over to blogthings for some cheap self-analysis. Here's what I learned about myself today:

You Are a Dreaming Soul

Your vivid emotions and imagination takes you away from this world
So much so that you tend to live in your head most of the time
You have great dreams and ambitions that could be the envy of all...
But for you, following through with your dreams is a bit difficult

You are charming, endearing, and people tend to love you.
Forgiving and tolerant, you see the world through rose colored glasses.
Underneath it all, you have a ton of passion that you hide from others.
Always hopeful, you tend to expect positive outcomes in your life.

Souls you are most compatible with: Newborn Soul, Prophet Soul, and Traveler Soul


You Belong in Dublin

Friendly and down to earth, you want to enjoy Europe without snobbery or pretensions.
You're the perfect person to go wild on a pub crawl... or enjoy a quiet bike ride through the old part of town.


You Are 30% Weird

Not enough to scare other people...
But sometimes you scare yourself.


Your Hidden Talent

Your natural talent is interpersonal relations and dealing with people.
You communicate well and are able to bring disparate groups together.
Your calming presence helps everything go more smoothly.
People crave your praise and complements.


Your Birthdate: November 13

You're dominant and powerful. You always need to be in charge.
While others respect your competence, you can be a bit of a dictator.
Hard working and serious, you never let yourself down.
You are exact and accurate - and you expect others to be the same way.

Your strength: You always get the job done

Your weakness: You're a perfectionist to a fault

Your power color: Gray

Your power symbol: Checkmark

Your power month: April


And last but not least:

Your Career Type: Artistic

You are expressive, original, and independent.
Your talents lie in your artistic abilities: creative writing, drama, crafts, music, or art.

You would make an excellent:

Actor - Art Teacher - Book Editor
Clothes Designer - Comedian - Composer
Dancer - DJ - Graphic Designer
Illustrator - Musician - Sculptor

The worst career options for your are conventional careers, like bank teller or secretary.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Did They Register At Crate & Barrel? ...

Love, Malaysian style: Wook, 104, and Muhamad, 33, tied the knot. It is her 21st marriage. She is 71 years older than him. Do you think they have the same taste in music?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Accidental plagiarism? The Next Chapter ...

Today, the New York Times is reporting that Kaavya, everyone's favorite Ivy League plagiarist, may have cribbed off yet another book, this time from Sophie Kinsella's "Can You Keep A Secret?"

I read the story. I read the examples. One pairing is too close for comfort, but the others are a bit of a stretch. One example is rather gray, and the other one, well, who hasn't written something along the lines of someone's eyes being so dark they were almost black?

As I wrote to L.A. Dave this morning, this feels a little witch-hunt-y to me.

I'm not defending Kaavya. Plagiarism is the cardinal sin.

And I can't imagine what it must be like to be so young and to be so publicly shamed. And her parents. What must they be going through?

So if there are other offenses in her book, they should come to light, but they should be clear offenses. The Times piece cited three examples: One was rather blunt, one was rather murky, and one was rather generic.

With the bazillions of words that are written and published every year, sometimes a couple words are going to appear in the same order in two different places. That doesn't mean they were stolen from another writer. They're just common words or phrases or cliches. You can't plagiarize a cliche.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Fitness Crazy ...

Ah, the fun I had today at the grocery store.

In my post-cleanse world, I'm on the prowl for new and different ingredients that I've been reading about in Dr. Neal's books. I'm officially addicted to his recipe for muesli. Mom likes it, too. There's nothing too crazy in it, unless you consider vanilla soy milk edgy. But today at the store, I bought my first-ever package of texturized vegetable protein.

Huh?

Texturized vegetable protein. It's soy-based and used as a substitute for ground beef. Vegan Sloppy Joes, here I come!

Last week, I set a goal. I want to get into my size-10 jeans by June 10. I'm wearing 12s these days, so getting into 10s shouldn't be to much of a stretch. I think 10s might be the end of the line for me, size-wise. At my height, anything thinner than a 10 might leave me looking like a swizzle stick.

But for now, the goal is the 10s. I have about six weeks. I'm confident I can do it. "10s by the 10th" has become my mantra. When I think I want junk food, I tell myself "10s by the 10th." So far, it's working.

And then, today in my e-mail, I was recruited to join Allure magazine's Total Makeover to "lose weight and transform yourself in 6 short weeks!" And here's the picture from the e-mail:


For the love of God.

Yes, it's "Allure"-ing to aspire to look like, as Bridget Jones would say, "an American stick insect."

Sheesh.

When is the "anorexic chic" trend going to end?