Thursday, January 31, 2008

the duty of the juror

Some weeks ago, the Sober Husband came upstairs all wound up. "This came for you," he said, holding out a jury duty summons.

His anxiety only built as the weeks went by, building to a fever pitch last weekend. "I can't plan anything," he muttered darkly, "since I may have to spend all week driving the children around while you're on jury duty." This was said in tones which implied that I was a shameless hedonist, abandoning my family for exotic jury pleasures.

I was dozing off one night when the Sober Husband woke me. Looming over me and looking very intense, he said, "I don't want you to feel any pressure about jury duty." I mumbled something and went back to sleep. I thought he was trying to make me feel better about his pressuring me to get off jury duty, and it wasn't for some days that I realized he was in fact nagging me to stand up to the court personnel's pressure and refuse to be chivvied into serving on an actual jury.

On the first three days of my jury duty, I dutifully checked with the court after 4:30 to learn that my group was not required to show up the next day. The Sober Husband seemed to feel that this pattern was well-established, and his dread seemed to abate. I noticed on Tuesday that only two groups had not yet been called in, all the others having been activated, and I mentioned this to the husband with my theory that this guaranteed I'd have to go to court on Thursday or Friday, but he dismissed this. Predictably the next day the last two groups were required, and equally predictably the husband got panicky. "but I just sent out email announcing my talk!"

"What talk?"

"I'm giving a talk at work."

"You KNEW I could have jury duty." I was unapologetic.

Today was the actual day. The other group, which I dubbed "Loser Group", was mandated to report by 8:30. Mine, which I called "Slacker Group", was supposed to turn up by a more leisurely ten a.m. I enjoyed leaving the house alone, kissing the sad husband good-bye, and walking to the subway, just like the old days when I was childless and held paying employment outside the home. The civil court's jury assembly room is actually quite attractive, with plenty of burled wood and subdued lighting. I scored a seat at a nice table, and I became friendly with the gay man nearby, who was pouring over People's annual People Who Lost Half Their Weight issue. I was deeply absorbed in my novel when my name was called, and a large number of potential jurors trudged up to courtroom 303. There the dignified yet perky Judge Tang informed us that we were there to serve in a two month trial. The potential jurors all stiffened in horror at this pronouncement.

Judge Tang withdrew in a dignified manner to her chambers, leaving her clerk to have those of us who wished to weasel out of the trial fill out excuse forms. I wrote on my form that I was the stay-at-home mother of a small child and my husband was unable to take two months off work to care for her. My excuse was one of the very first ones granted, and I scurried off to get my official release form from the jury room. There I saw my poor bored acquaintance from the morning. I tipped him off that he'd most likely be called up to potentially serve on the two month trial. "Why did they call the names from the ten o'clock group when we were still here from 8:30?" he said frustratedly. I shrugged apologetically, and I left after only two hours of jury duty.

Once on the sidewalk, I called the husband. He was incredulous and overjoyed that I was done so soon. So much stress and worry, over losing just two hours of the Drunken Housewife's time. Secretly I had been daydreaming of a nice week-long trial ... escaping from everyday life into the posher confines of the jury box. In reality, it's extremely unlikely I could ever get on any jury, given that I'm not only a former lawyer but also rather bossy. One can always dream, but sadly one spouse's daydream is another's nighmare.

Monday, January 28, 2008

irrational behavior in and out of the World of Warcraft

The husband is lagging behind me in our exploration of the World of Warcraft. Over the weekend, he abandoned his first character and created a new character after some research. I had done the same ages ago. We both created our first characters impulsively (mine a Night Elf rogue, his an Orc warrior) and then later realized they weren't the right choices (the Elf lived in a sickeningly cute environment; the "warrior" was too weak and was constantly being killed). We differed in our research to create the right new character. I read up online and in the Warcraft manual about the different classes before determining that my personality was suited towards becoming an Orc hunter. The Sober Husband asked around at work which type of character is the most "overpowered" and then made himself an Orc warlock, killing off his old character with no mercy.

Although my character was thoughtfully chosen, she has a pet which was impulsively picked. My character, a hunter, has the ability to tame a wild animal, which is her immensely helpful sidekick. I picked a cougar because I like cats and it was the most convenient sort of wildcat to tame, since it was around when I was looking for a pet. I put no analysis into it. Now my character is much more advanced (level 51, if you're following this geeky saga more closely than you'd like to admit), and I'm running across more sophisticated sorts of wild animals which have special abilities and exotic appearances. I'm contemplating getting a new pet, but it feels disloyal.

I confessed this to the husband. "Can I tell you something irrational?"


"I'm thinking I should get a new pet, and there are two kinds I'm really interested in. But it feels really mean and wrong. I know my cat is just a computer image, but it feels disloyal."

"That's irrational, but it's kind of cute. I think it's okay to be loyal to a computer cat."

"Can I tell you something even crazier?"


"I swear that since I started thinking of getting a new pet and checking out other ones, my cat has started being disloyal. He runs off all the time now, and he never used to. I have to call him with my whistle all the time now."

There was a pause, and then the husband said, "I want you to write about this on your blog."

I thought that he meant this was the sort of amusing anecdote worth sharing, but now I suspect he wanted me to humiliate myself publicly as a Warcraft idiot/addict. Later in the day, I called my mother to wish her a happy birthday. The Sober Husband got on the phone and, during a break, announced portentously, "Carole plays Warcraft six hours a day now."

"I do not! You played Warcraft as much as me today!"

After we hung up the phone, I dug into the husband. "You were tattling on me! What kind of spouse tattles to his spouse's mother?"

"Evidently me," said the husband unrepentantly.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

important calls are personal and private

Lola was home sick from pre-k for three days last week, and so I had to drag her along to her big sister's piano lesson in the torrential rain. This mostly meant that I got soaked, as Lola currently will not wear her own raingear but instead wants me to unbutton my raincoat and hold it out away from my body over her, creating a little latex cave for her and allowing her to shuffle along slowly without seeing where she is going. (Why do I go along with this? Because it's easier to just take a drenching for the team than to stand at the side of my car and argue with an obstinate five year-old until I've bullied her into putting on her own coat. Lord, I am a lazy woman indeed).

I made her grab some toys to play with on the long drive over to Iris's school and during the piano lesson. I was surprised when Lola pulled a television remote out of her little backpack. This, it turned out, was intended to be a celphone (it would have been truly pathetic if she'd pretended to watch TV in the hallway of the Northern California Music and Cultural Center). Pacing back and forth, Lola muttered urgently into the remote when not listening intently.

"Who are you calling?" I asked.

Lola covered the remote with her hand and looked at me regretfully. "Private", she said condescendingly.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I'm intolerant of all that tolerance

I'm on the fringes of a social community which prides itself on its tolerance, creativity, and warm acceptance of society's misfits. No, I'm not referring to the neighborhood of the Castro, where I reside. I mean the Burning Man community, composed of people who either attend the event and live a life influenced by it or people who used to go back in the day, when it was a small event not yet publicized nationwide, and who now go to little spin-off camping events instead of the current form of Burning Man. (I myself have not attended since 1998, although every year I, tediously enough, yammer on and on about how "this is the year I'm going back to Burning Man" only to sell my tickets at the last minute).

Currently the community has been riled by some vicious debates over whether we can tolerate the behavior of some of the more extreme members. First there was Paul Addis, who prematurely burnt down the Man. Paul currently resides in the psych wing at San Francisco's jail after a dramatic arrest at Grace Cathedral on potential arson charges. I was amused no end at Paul's stunt, which drew me quite a bit of criticism from friends, who huffed, "Don't you know people were right there who could have been killed? There were people who inhaled a lot of smoke."

Even before he burnt down the Man, Paul's behavior was problematic. I've known Paul socially (and casually) since 1996, and during all that time, Paul was intense and sometimes scary. He is also smart, funny, creative, and energetic, unfortunately suffering from bipolar disorder. Paul puts a face to the problem of dealing with the mentally ill, a face with garish yet artful paint on it. How fair is it to judge someone for behavior which is a symptom of a brain disorder? Shouldn't there be compassion for one struggling with a serious illness? On the other hand, most people don't want someone like Paul about any more because he's, well, crazy.

Paul is now yesterday's news. The latest Burning Man figure of controversy is Matty Nash.

Tall, handsome, charismatic, and oh so alternative, 36 year-old Matty was the frontman for the Mutaytor, a huge and bizarre musical ensemble based in LA. He seemed to have it all, including a gorgeous wife who was the self-professed "den mom" for the band. The Mutaytor had professional representation and plenty of gigs. Then Dateline aired a "To Catch A Predator" episode, and there was Matty. A predator. He'd driven an hour to meet up with a putative thirteen year-old girl, with condoms, lubricant, and a vibrator in hand. Online he'd been trolling for sex under the screenname "sugardavis."

It turns out Matty had been arrested ages ago but kept it a secret from his bandmates and friends. In the end, he pleaded no contest to the criminal charges, accepted registration as a sex offender as part of his plea bargain, and posted a whiny pseudo-apology online.

The overall reaction seems to be "awww, he said he's sorry, and the decoy was really twenty years old, and those shows are so sleazy, and haven't you ever done anything bad? How can you be so judgmental?"

One of Matty's supporters wrote online:
"We are one body. If you skin your knee with a bad decision you don't cut off your leg to fix the wound. You acknowledge the misjudgement on your part, make changes, hopefully with the shared wisdom of your tribes experience and wisdom, and learn so as to be able to share the next time a mistake is made.

The Tribe quickly dwindles if you just keep dropping the fuck ups.
What's that whole "cast the first stone" bit?"
Another wrote that he "honors Matty" for "showing us the dark."

I don't honor Matty. When he was arrested, he admitted to the arresting officer he'd been in counseling with his wife because of his "sex addiction" and "meeting people off the internet for sex." (I don't believe sex is an addiction. It belittles the heroic struggles of alcoholics and true addicts to call sleaziness an "addiction").

In his letter to the community, Matty apologized for "having sex with people he met online" -- "people", not minors. He stressed that the decoy was 20 several times... as though to make it out that he went there with the intent of hooking up with a 20 year old. He never copped to having sex with minors or trying to have sex with a minor.

"Having sex with people from online" is a nothing, in my opinion. Although I'm off being monogamous with my husband, I have single friends who have used the Craigslist casual encounters section to hook up with strangers, strangers whom we might say quickly became new friends (and special friends at that). Whatever one might think of that, to me it's fine if everyone involved is a consenting adult. There's a difference between trolling for strange online and chatting for months with someone who is supposedly thirteen years old. The judge who sentenced Matty reportedly observed that he was disturbed by Matty's "grooming" of the decoy (who wrote in authentic kid IMese), which was classic pedophilic behavior.

If Matty had written in his open letter something like, "Oh my god, I was going after a 13 year-old. I can't believe I did that, but I did. Thank God they caught me", I'd feel differently about Matty's letter and about Matty. Instead, he downplayed his situation by talking about having an open marriage. He talked about how he didn't have enough money to hire good enough lawyers to get himself off.

It's also telling to me that all this came out after Dateline aired the footage of Matty being caught --- NOT after Matty was arrested. I wonder if Matty was hoping that footage would never be aired, and he'd be able to go about his life with no one (other than his wife, who seems to have kept his secret) knowing. His band mates were blindsided. One told a reporter that his phone started ringing off the hook the moment the Dateline episode was over, and then the band's booking agency summarily fired them. Gigs were canceled as promoters didn't wish to have a nationally-exposed pedophile performing. Matty whined in his letter that he was just trying to keep the focus off his friends and family by keeping all this secret, but if he had just left the band at the time of his arrest, the band could have had a calm transition and avoided the panic and stress it suffered later.

Like those motherfucking sparrows who always return to Capistrano, once again I was going through that tedious annual ritual of discussing my purported return to Burning Man this year. This time, though, it's a lot less tempting. I don't want to be part of a community which "honors" Matty Nash. I don't want someone like him around my beautiful daughters, and I feel sad for any young girls he preyed upon. Beyond that, I'm sickened by the "radical tolerance." Some things are worth judging.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

back to basics

I told the Sober Husband, as a treat, that he could select the dinner menu and recipes of his choice (winter squash risotto and a spinach salad were his choices). Five year-old Lola talked wistfully of what she would choose. "Pasta, but just pasta! No STUPID GARBAGE in it!"

I suspect this is a reaction to the farfalle with pan-seared radicchio I served the other day, which I personally felt was fabulous, but taste is so subjective. One person's gourmet radicchio is another's "stupid garbage."

Saturday, January 19, 2008

the heartbreak of the Lola

One of Lola's pre-k friends was turning five, and the little birthday child was, naturally enough, very excited about her birthday party. This adorable little girl had lots to tell Lola about the upcoming party, and Lola came home from pre-k with many breathless updates. "It's a drop-off party. What is a drop-off party? It is a drop-off party, and you have to remember that. I am going to stay after the party! I am going to stay until midnight! And she says there are going to be two Barbie dolls in my thank-you bag."

Apart from the two Barbie thank-you bag (which was mentioned several times a day), the alleged after-party had a powerful hold on Lola's imagination. Lola and another few favored guests were hypothetically going to play until midnight (or as the birthday child herself said to me on my workday at pre-k, "Sixty o'clock! We're going to stay up to sixty o'clock!").

Iris tried to talk some reason into her younger sister. "Lucy, NO ONE is inviting you to stay until midnight. NO ONE. Not for ten years!"

"But she SAID," Lola said obstinately.

I tried to lower Lola's expectations with no luck. Today as I dropped Lola off ("Remember, IT IS A DROP-OFF PARTY!" Lola instructed me firmly, although as it turns out, other parents stayed, eating exotic cheeses and swilling down microbrews), I asked loudly, for Lola's benefit, "So what time should I pick up Lola?" The birthday child's father looked at me as though I were an idiot and said, "Four o'clock."

When Iris and I arrived to collect Lola, Lola refused to put on her shoes and sat down on the floor in passive protest She did buy herself an extra half an hour (during which time Iris ate two slices of birthday cake), but her staying until midnight was clearly not on the hosts' agenda. Then it was time to take her perfectly reasonable, and indeed beautifully hand-decorated little thank you bag, which contained not a single Barbie ("I knew no one was giving her a Barbie," said Iris happily). And that wasn't all. As we drove home, Lola burst out crying. "I forgot my pinata candy!" Also, she reported that another child had taken away her "only lollipop, I think it was chocolate."

I took Lola to a drugstore for a consolation lollipop on the way home, but a heartbreak which was building for weeks cannot be easily cured, even with sugar. Poor Lola learns again that the world is not as delightful as we hope it will be.

Friday, January 18, 2008

miniature book reviews

I'm a maw constantly consuming and craving books. Let me continue to winnow the wheat from the chaff for you:

"Shopgirl" by Steve Martin: this bestseller was reviewed as being Jane Austenesque. Let's see: Ms. Austen wrote long, witty books populated by believable characters and featuring a plot. Mr. Martin has given us a novella packaged as a novel, really lacking a plot worthy of a book. It should have been hacked down to a short story and published in a magazine. Finally, the characters were not believable enough, other than the immature 50+ year old who is obviously Mr. Martin himself. Would a highly educated young woman, the holder of a graduate degree, really take large sums of money with no agonizing from a man old enough to be her father who makes it clear he is only casually sleeping with her? My female friends would need to discuss the power dynamics and the worrisome traditional fifties-esque roles inherent in that scenario ad nauseam before accepting or rejecting the payments. Even less believably, can a half-witted slacker boy unable to maintain an erection or take a woman on a date suddenly become well-dressed, thoughtful, generous, and decent in bed after only listening in on some self-help tapes? The self-help industry wishes its products were that powerful.

"When We Were Bad", just out, by Charlotte Mendelson. This is a witty and engaging novel about a famous British feminist rabbi whose eldest son runs away on his wedding day... just weeks before the rabbi's next book about family values is due to be published. Unlike in Mr. Martin's work, Ms. Mendelson's characters are eccentric, interesting, and extremely believable. Their crises, arguments, beliefs, ambitions and conflicting loyalties all ring true. I loved this book and will look for Ms. Mendelson's prior works.

"Terminal" by Andrew Vachss, another recent publication. I hope to hell this is the last Andrew Vachss novel I ever read. I am so over him and his annoying Burke character. He lost me earlier in this series with his extraordinarily annoying distinction between "brats" and "bitches." Vachss and his alter ego, Burke, are proud of hating bitches but loving brats. What is the difference? A bitch is a woman with pride and intellect, who doesn't mind pissing off a man. A brat is a woman who loves to piss off a man in the hopes that he'll pull her panties down and turn her over his knee, spanking her into submission. Me, I'm a bitch who feels nauseated when reading this crap. Thankfully "Terminal" spared me more of Vachss' bitch/brat analyses, but basically it was a rather dull outing in Vachss land, with endless repetitions of tough guy prose and posturing.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

an update from the sibling wars

Eight year-old Iris Uber Alles burst into the room, angry and aggrieved. "Lola's hurting my feelings! She's being mean!"

It turns out that five year-old Lola's offense was "she's keeping a scorecard! Every time I say something she doesn't like, she writes it on her scorecard! And it's mean!"

As Iris was angrily denouncing Lola, Lola bustled in busily and settled herself down at the nearby coffeetable with a piece of paper and pencil. Completely ignoring Iris's cries of "She's doing it now!", Lola set about making marks in columns. "I need a new piece of paper," she announced importantly.

I smoothed things over by noting that it was nearly bedtime and if Iris Uber Alles wished to follow her tradition of watching a Simpsons episode before bed, we needed to hurry. Upstairs we settled in, followed by Lola, but our fragile detente was shaken when Iris warned Lola not to take her spot on the big bed. "I'm getting my scorecard," threatened Lola.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

buying a car with the Sober Husband

Within 48 hours of my old car passing away (and yes, it could have been put on expensive life support and saved with an organ transplant, but we had previously determined that we would put a Do Not Resuscitate order into effect in the event of a transmission or engine failure), we had a new one parked out in front. (It could have been 24 hours, but Saturday afternoon and evening were devoted to one of our more sprightly readers, Lemonjuicer, who may be remembered for the picture of her cleavage she entered into our First, Possibly Annual, Readers' Photo Contest. It turns out that as well as award-winning cleavage, she has an amazing family who are a joy to meet). This speediness nonplussed our friends, who consider the purchase of a car something which should be pondered and worked at, but that's how it is with the Sober Husband.

This was the third time we bought a car together. The first time came after an earlier Oldsmobile of his suffered a catastrophic engine failure while I was driving it at top speeds in the Sierras. To this day I can hardly believe I was able to get out of that situation without serious injury. The Sober Husband actually had that car repaired at great expense, only to total it a month later on the Bay Bridge (and unbelievably enough, he walked away from that with just some bruises. The car's massive front end crumpled up like a piece of Kleenex).

The Sober Husband decided then to try going without a car (we were childless then, not even engaged yet). After a month of commuting without a car, fed up with BART, he called me at work. "I'm going to buy a car after work, if you want to come." He met me at the BART station, and we walked to a nearby dealership. Within a few minutes he had located an acceptable car (the very same recently deceased Oldsmobile, at that point a mere toddler of two years old). "I wish to buy this car," he said to the used car salesman. "I have tickets for the ballet, so I need to get it in the next two hours." The salesman was completely at a loss, as every time he tried to get into his traditional script of selling, the Sober Husband-to-be cut him off. "Yes, yes, I want to buy the car. You don't have to tell me about the car. I just want you to get the paperwork done so we're not late to the ballet."

We got by fine with that car, which was used primarily by the Sober Husband for commuting down to Silicon Valley, until I was in the third trimester of my second pregnancy. I had always been a mass transit girl, having not even obtained a driver's license until the week before I turned 30. But one fateful afternoon, toddler Iris Uber Alles fell asleep on the Muni bus, and I, hideously, hugely pregnant, had to carry her, our stroller and our bags of groceries off the bus, and I felt that I had somehow strained everything in my body at once. "I can't do this anymore," I announced. "I have to have a car."

At that point in time, we were strained for cash. Buying a second car seemed impossible, but I didn't think I could get through the last trimester taking the bus with Iris (who was scheduled to start preschool soon and hence in dire need of regular transportation). Our solution? Buying an extraordinarily crappy car. "I don't care how a car looks," noted the Sober Husband. "I wish there was some way I could buy an old dented car." I discovered a category in the newspaper labelled "Mechanics Specials", which not only included cars which needed work but also cars which ran well but had sustained some flesh wounds. But it was on Craigslist that I found a car advertised under the slogan of "Drive The Ugliest Car On Your Block." We drove up to Sausalito to view an ancient, massive dented Monte Carlo with a trunk lid which wouldn't close. For a few hundred dollars, it was ours. The seller, an attorney who dabbled on the side with reselling cars, told the Sober Husband, "Everyone's going to assume you're a felon driving this car. They're gonna think you just got out of San Quentin."

Although those prior car buying experiences had turned out fine, this time around the Sober Husband felt stressed. The last thing he wanted was to have to take off time from his beloved Doggyo to pick up the children at school. "I don't have time to go shopping," he fussed. "I just don't want to deal with this." We talked on the phone Sunday morning while he escorted Lola to a birthday party on Haight Street. "I want to get a car this afternoon; can you research it?"

The "research" was me spending some quality time online with Consumer Reports. I have no idea who the Consumer Reports people really are, but they have me wrapped around their little finger. I took their list of "Used Cars To Avoid" as gospel, and I poured over their "Top Ten List of Used Cars To Consider." I took some time, some pathetic time, to read ratings of the car of my dreams, the Mini Cooper, but the husband was dismissive over the phone. "How are you going to get groceries in such a little car?"

"I'll do it when the kids are in school."

"Are you really going to be able to fit all your kittens in there?"

He had me there. I can go grocery shopping without Iris and Lola, but I can't go pick up fresh foster kittens alone. Iris and Lola are capable of holding a grudge for a long, long time when left out, and I severely doubted the ability of a Mini Cooper to hold me, several cat carriers, and two children who don't like to sit very close to each other and who can come to blows even while restrained by carseats.

So it came down to two theoretical cars, neither of which was a dream car for me: a Toyota Prius (so eco friendly! Think of the savings on gas! And so quiet and well-reviewed by the faceless minions of Consumer Reports) or a Volvo S60 from 2004 or 2005 (the Consumer Reports people recommended against 2003, evidently a questionable vintage). The Sober Husband bruited about the idea of a Toyota Camry on the basis that Click and Clack like it, but I refused to consider it as it regularly tops the lists of most frequently stolen cars and I live in a city replete with car thieves. I couldn't find a conveniently located used Prius online or in the paper (although the new Priuses were surprisingly affordable, we view buying a new car as a fool's game. You pay so much for the prestige of having that new car smell, and anyone with small children won't be able to keep the interior pristine enough to enjoy that smell for long). The suburbs, however, are full of used Volvos.

We drove to Palo Alto as soon as Anton and Lola returned from their dinosaur-themed birthday party, in search of a particular 2004 S60. On the way, I mourned the loss of my dream car. "A Mini Cooper would be so much fun to drive. The whole world would be my parallel parking space." We braced ourself for the buying experience. "Remember, there's probably going to be bait and switch," said the Sober Husband obscurely and darkly. "I just hope it's not silver," I said. "I won't drive a silver or beige car."

"Why not?"

"I read an article about how truck drivers can't see gray and silver cars at night because they're the color of asphalt. It's not safe. And all cars are those colors now. I'll never be able to find it in a parking lot."

"If you could buy a magical device that would always find your car in a parking lot, would you pay two thousand dollars for it? That's what you're doing." He chuckled at the idiocy of his putatively beloved wife. "You could get some spray paint and paint all over it; then you'll be able to find it."

"If I have to drive a silver or beige car, I'm going to nail a Godzilla to the hood for a hood ornament."

The children shouted. "Godzilla! I want Godzilla!"

As it turned out, the Volvo in question was white and surprisingly perfect-seeming. I sadly regarded a green Mini Cooper on the street nearby. I took a test drive, while the husband had a cup of coffee back at the dealership. The salesman politely said nothing when Lola spent much of the test drive shouting, "Butts! Butts! Butts!" The children determined quickly that the Volvo was their dream car. "I wish we could live in the car and never come out," Lola confided. The salesman, unasked, gave us a Carfax report on the car ("This is the kind of thing we were supposed to ask for," I said. "This makes me feel like less of a loser.") The Sober Husband looked under the hood. "If you want to get all meticulous, we're supposed to take it to an independent mechanic for an assessment," I said. "Oh, no, let's not go that far," he said quickly.

And so, once again, we ventured out and purchased the first car we test drove (and indeed the Sober Husband didn't even bother to drive it, relying upon my report), wrapping up the transaction in two hours (most of which was spent waiting for our turn with the financial manager to fill out the forms). Shouldn't a real grown-up put more time and effort into this? Decisive and firm action-takers or idiotic slackers: either way, we thanked each other at home later. "Thank you for making it not a shopping thing,"said the Sober Husband. "Thank you for buying a nice, reliable car suitable to my station in life as a middle-aged, middle class mommy," I said.

Friday, January 11, 2008

R.I.P. Oldsmobile

Today my aged Oldsmobile died a dramatic death as I was attempting to reverse out of my parking space. RIP, old car. You served us well and complained so little (except for your incessant "Check Engine" light, which I learned to ignore).

It is suspected that the transmission failed (there was a loud noise and then an unending grinding as I tried to reverse, and the car completely would not reverse but did slowly, lamely and noisily move forward in a most nerve-wracking manner). There is no point in repairing the transmission on such an aged car (it's a '96, and its 12 years are dog years, not human ones, given that its mileage is almost entirely city miles and the very worst sort of city miles at that, stop and go over Twin Peaks every day).

The husband is beyond distraught, into sort of a depressed state. One of our economy measures over the years has been to drive aged cars which are owned outright and which have such a low bluebook value that they don't require comprehensive insurance (although I, a former lawyer, insist upon maintaining much more liability insurance than is legally required). "This means financial issues, retail issues, and debt issues," mourned the Sober Husband. The man hates shopping.

My initial thought, once the husband proclaimed the car past saving, was, "Maybe I can take this opportunity to get a Mini Cooper!" Oh, how I have longed for a Mini Cooper, preferably in burnt orange or a sage green. After perusing the car ads in the handy Chronicle Car section, I determined a Mini Cooper was too pricy. Currently the plan is to go to a Volvo dealership in the suburbs on Sunday and buy whichever used Volvo seems most reasonably priced. I anticipate a huge amount of angst on the part of the husband (who seems, no matter how he tries to view the situation rationally, to have an undercurrent of thought that this is somehow my fault, but perhaps that is mere defensiveness on my part) and inordinate amounts of excitement on the part of the children.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

the state of the January

I'm sick again, with a sore throat, fever, and general malaise, but not sick enough to keep the Sober Husband home from work, so I must struggle on. Meanwhile we're in a rare cycle of storms.

On the worst day, hurricane force winds lashed the city, dropping trees left and right. We were lucky not to lose power that day, although my odyssey to deliver Lola to pre-k was filled with adrenaline. Power outages all around us meant that the traffic lights were not functioning, including at a rather scary intersection we negotiate many times a day. This particular intersection is located at a twist in the road, so one cannot see whether there is oncoming traffic when making one's way across several lanes.

Later in the day I collected one of Iris's best friends, who attends what is generally considered the best public school in the city (once heralded by Redbook magazine as one of the top public schools in the country). The power was out all day at her school, so she spent the day playing mancala. This young second grader insisted on going outside in the storm with no coat on the hopes of acquiring an illness severe enough to keep her out of school for at least a week (I didn't have the heart to tell her that illnesses come from bugs, not from wind and rain). Later yet, pining for pre-k, my young friend proposed to Iris that they sneak back into pre-k under the guise of being new students. "Lola is so going to bust you," I said, but she believed donning a foreign accent would cause the other students not to believe Lola. She tried out a Slavic sounding one in the car all the way home from Iris's school.

We finally took down our Christmas tree and lights last night. We hadn't put them up until three days before Christmas, shamefully enough, but we left them up long enough afterward to compensate (adding a different form of shame, the House That Keeps Its Christmas Lights Up Too Far Into January). The children were quite pissed and fussed at us the entire time we were taking down the ornaments. "Don't take our tree," they whined and whined. Their whininess changed to cheerful greed when the Sober Husband did his annual tradition of paying them to find any straggling ornaments we had overlooked. On the spot he decided to give them a dollar per ornament, a sharp raise from the traditional quarter. Lola earned three dollars, bringing one-dollar Iris close to tantrums, but then kindly "found" a dollar lying around (obviously one of her own), which she presented to Iris as possibly being hers. Iris was not too ashamed to scoop up that charity dollar with alacrity.

And in another mark of the season, The Party Is Over. I took my last foster kittens in to the shelter yesterday. This was depressing enough, as normally I circumvent the front desk and deal only with my rescue (the kitten rescue for which I toil is a private 501(c)(3) which has an arrangement with the city's Animal Care and Control shelter). Any day you will see people turning in once-beloved cats and dogs. Up in the intake room, one black cat had a beautiful tiger-striped collar and was hissing at the shelter workers sadly. Thinking she was a lost cat, I said, "Oh, someone loves you. They got you that great collar. They'll come get you," but the shelter worker corrected me. "That woman down at the desk just surrendered her."

Coming home, my house felt empty and dull. No kittens greeted me at the front door. Soon the scabs all over my legs will heal, with no more kittens trying to jump into my lap and skidding off. Often with five kittens squirming for position in my lap, I'd remark, "There's a party on my pants", but now the party is over. The Sober Husband was celebratory. When I mourned about missing my little kitten herd, he said acerbically, "Perhaps I should have saved some of their dander for a souvenir." But on the bright side, my little Henry Hairball will be coming home in a few days, as the Sober Husband was weak enough to give me Henry as a Christmas present.

Warcraft update: My character is now at level 37, and I have a formidable goal. I'm in sight of reaching level 40, whereupon my character (if she has amassed enough gold) will be able to train a mount. No more walking around on her own pixillated legs, she'll be able to ride in style. The Sober Husband was happy about reaching level 17 until he saw my level 37. "I'll never catch up," he said bitterly. There is a website where one may buy level 40 characters (for a few hundred dollars) all the way up to level 70 characters (over a thousand dollars). The Sober Husband isn't desperate enough to buy a character, but he proposed I sell mine soon and start another as a part-time job. I reminded him that it wouldn't even work out to be minimum wage given the hours it takes to level those characters up. "But wouldn't you get efficient at it?" "If it were that easy, people would have 'bots doing it."

2008 book tally: I just read "The Summer Before the Darkness" by Doris Lessing. Written in 1970, it's the tale of a middle-aged mother confronting her loss of individual identity as her children, now young adults, no longer need her and her neurosurgeon husband devotes himself to affairs. I found this book maddening. First I loved it, then I hated it, then back to love. Although the character is exactly my age, I could not relate to her passivity.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

a new year, a new idea

I normally read more than anyone I know (my reading has been cut into lately by my obsessive World of Warcraft playing, but I think that will be short-lived). When I was practicing law, my reading was cut down to about a book a month due to too much work and too little time (and indeed it took me a few months to get through Camille Paglia's "Sexual Personae", which I loved and the title of which witlessly scandalized all the partners at my old firm. Why didn't Ms. Paglia ever finish the sequel??). Typically though, I plough through a book a day, as I am a powerful speed-reader. This is actually a curse, as it means short books are unsatisfying. I hate to read more than one book a day, as the segues can be jarring. I love a good, long, rich and complicated book, and I love a very prolific author. Those were happy days indeed when I discovered Iris Murdoch and Patrick O'Brien: both so very good, and both so very productive. When I found them, they were both still alive and publishing at an alarming rate, and it was just so satisfying to feel I had more of their books ahead. (Indeed Iris Uber Alles is named after Iris Murdoch).

I have no idea how much I read in a year. I think I will try to keep track this year of what I read, and accordingly here are the first books of the year: "Hidden Moon", just out by James Church, and Stephen Chbosky's "The Perks of Being A Wallflower." "Hidden Moon" is set in North Korea and was lauded in various high-toned periodicals as being remarkably authentic, written under a pseudonym by a Western intelligence officer. I enjoyed this, but I didn't love it. Very atmospheric, very literary, but I found myself slogging through it. "The Perks of Being A Wallflower" on the other hand came out in 1999 and was a quick read. It's a charming book about a depressed, friendless boy starting high school, but I personally disliked the ending. According to the back cover, "The Perks of Being A Wallflower" set off a huge debate over the respective benefits of passion versus passivity, but I don't see it. If you're a fan of the coming-of-age genre and missed it the first time around, go hunt up a copy.

The other book I've been spending time with was an extremely thoughtful Christmas present from the Sober Husband, "World of Warcraft Atlas", but I'll spare you further discussion (except to note that it makes the perfect gift for the Warcraft obsessive in your life, but not me, 'cuz I already have a copy).

Monday, January 07, 2008

the WoW diet

Which is a more effective diet: an extreme case of salmonella or an obsessive case of World of Warcraft? The answer is most definitively World of Warcraft.

Since I started playing, I've been so caught up in the game that I've skipped meals. I've dropped an entire size. I don't know how many pounds it has been as our scale is broken. Yes, I know that's a set-up for a great joke -- how fat is the Drunken Housewife? So big she broke her scales!-- but the reality is that some child removed necessary parts from the scale. Unsurprisingly enough, no child admits responsibility. (Similarly no child will cop to having severely shorn the whiskers on Henry the Hairball, our last foster kitten. Lola, my top suspect likes to say aliens and ghosts are all around us and is quite insistent of her own virtue vis-a-vis the whiskers).

My Warcraft character is now a level 36 Orc hunter known as "Hassenpfeffr" on the realm of Drenden, with a level 35 pet cougar called "Frowstomatic." (A prior character, a Night Elf named "Lolathird", was abandoned at level 9 due to my deciding that the elf world was too cutesy. A gnome character came next, but I couldn't stand to see myself so short and lumpy and abandoned her before she even reached level 2. A Tauren hunter looked promising, but by the time she was level 5, I couldn't bring myself to log in. Finally I created Hassenpfeffr, and I haven't tired of her. I'm startled every time someone addresses me as "Hass", however, as that's my nickname for "Iris Uber Alles." Sadly her new helmet squashes down her perky purple mohawk, but she still has sass -- and extra protection from enemies.)

Now that our Christmas vacation is over, Warcraft time is more limited. I need to work in Lola's pre-k classroom tomorrow. The day after that, I'm supposed to spend half the day chaperoning a second grade field trip. Today I had errands to run, children to drive hither and yon, groceries to buy. Meanwhile my Hassenpfeffer alter ego lurks in the recesses of the internet, waiting for me to log on.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

are you an Iris or a Lola?

Are you an edgy intellectual or a charismatic cutie? Are you preternaturally gifted at giving guilt trips or a brooding maker of hate lists? Or perhaps you're a Drunken Housewife or a Sober Husband type. Take this quiz and find out.

1. If asked what your favorite color is, you might say:

a. Black,
b. Pink,
c. I like lots of different colors,
d. I don't think about things like that. I hate aesthetic choices.

2. Your favorite food is:

a. Potatoes,
b. Probably candy but you like to say broccoli,
c. Ice cream,
d. "Pasta in the style of a glutton" (pasta with potatoes).

3. How do you feel about dessert?

a. I usually would rather have something savory, like a second helping of potatoes.
b. I look forward to it all day! Dessert makes my world go round.
c. I love dessert but don't obsess about it.
d. Love it, but usually I'm too full to go on to dessert.

4. What's your personal style like?

a. Usually I dress like a slob, but occasionally I like to glam it up.
b. I am all about fashion, baby. I dress beautifully.
c. I have my own very iconoclastic style. I'm not afraid to mix things up and look like no one else.
d. I'm afraid to look weird and like to stick to the basics.

5. Which would you prefer to read?

a. The more funky or literary fiction, gripping memoirs of fucked-up childhoods, and European detective novels.
b. Books about princesses.
c. Detective stories and comic books.
d. The Wall Street Journal and serious non-fiction.

6. Favorite drink?

a. Coffee in the morning and prosecco in the evening.
b. Chocolate milk.
c. Izze sodas.
d. Root beer.

7. Your dream vacation destination is ____.

a. Antarctica.
b. Disneyland.
c. Rome.
d. Traveling to see extended family.

8. Your romantic history?

a. Married twice, engaged various other times, have to count on fingers to tot up how many marriage proposals you've received.
b. Never been in a real relationship yet, but that's normal because you're young!
c. You've had a few boyfriends/girlfriends.
d. Married and happy to have gotten out of the dating rat race.

9. How about some shopping?

a. You can't rip me out of a bookstore.
b. I always like new clothes, and I'm always up for a trip to the mall if someone suggests it, but on my own, I won't initiate a shopping trip.
c. I shop 'til I drop! What could be more fun?
d. I hate shopping. I can't stand to be in too many stores. Retail depresses me.

10. What's your dream career?

a. Saving wild animals, but with flexible hours.
b. Princess.
c. Fashion designer.
d. Working at a successful high-tech start-up.

11. How energetic are you?

a. Eh, I'm fairly lazy, but I can have some surprising spurts of industriousness.
b. I love to exercise.
c. On my free days, I don't even want to get dressed. My dream day is spent in my underwear, playing around on the computer, watching TV, reading, calling for a pizza.
d. I can't stand to sit around. I'm always on the go.

For each a answer, one point.
For every b, two points.
A c gets you three points.
Each d wins four points.

If your score is between 11-19: You're a Drunken Housewife! You could do just about anything you wanted to, but usually you can't be bothered. Have another glass of Prosecco and put up your feet.

Between 20-27: You're living in Lolaland! You're a charismatic people-pleaser who can charm (or guilt trip) just about anyone into doing what you want. Feel the power of the cute!

Around 28-36: You're an Iris uber Alles! Your cutting intellect and many talents make you a valuable friend, while your tendency to brood and collect enemy lists makes you a formidable foe. You're confident and sassy.

37 and over: You're a Sober Husband type. Smart and energetic, you're the kind of person who gets things done. Maybe you could use a little make-over. Consider having the Lola or Iris in your life pick you up some new shirts, at the least. Or maybe not. In any event, wave your geek flag with pride!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

first an imposter...

Recently I was paid the great compliment of having someone post here stating that this blog is 'the greatest fake blog since Anonymous Lawyer." I wasn't a big fan of "Anonymous Lawyer" (although I read the paperback... a bit too light for me, but nicely written), but I did feel immensely flattered by this accusation. How charming that someone thinks Iris and Lola are great fictional characters.

On the web today I ran across someone who says I am the infamous Stanford Law Hooker, the Stanford graduate who turned prostitute to pay off her student loans and then married a Silicon Valley hotshot (believed to be the Sober Husband). I have actually been offered money for sex (declined it) and for domination services (declined that also) and was once mistaken for a porn star in my twenties (it was flattering, believe it or not), but no, I am not the Stanford Law School Hooker. I am what I am: a Drunken Housewife with my degree from Stanford hanging by the refrigerator in the kitchen. I don't have enough energy to fake this blog. If I did have some creative energy bubbling up, I have a half-finished novel lurking in the recesses of my laptop to finish.

In any event, I don't care what believes for the most part, so long as they enjoy the blog.