Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Arrgghhh...



Yeah, photo just about says it all.  I think yesterday afternoon I looked exactly like this, and my hair-pulling shrieks of exasperation were no doubt heard in San Francisco.

Monday, for no known reason except the gods were apparently in the mood to mess with me, my printer stopped working.  Right in the middle of a project.  Between one photo and the next...no connection.

Though I love my photo printer, I have had some issues over the past couple of years. Sometimes the scanner won't work, sometimes my laptop says I don't have a printer installed.  **sigh**  I dig out the software CD, uninstall, reinstall and usually the printer comes back online.

Except. On Monday I spent four hours, peeps.  Yes, truly.  4 hours of my time, energy and mental stability trying to make the frigging printer work.  After going through all the hoops, thinking--for the tenth time--that everything was good to go, I would get an error message.  No explanation, no definitive reason,  Just...error.  I finally gave up and figured a new printer was in order.  Damn and blast.

So, yesterday I went to Staples and bought one.  It's much like the original--same brand, same photo printing capabilities, just newer--therefore familiar.  I get everything out of the box, set things up, all is well, this is totally easy, I'm making plans to finish my project as I install the software.  I print out the test sheet.

And get a message.  The same message.  Error.

Uninstall, reinstall, my frustration level rising, my curses getting more colorful, my threats hurling skyward, heedlessly courting the wrath of the gods, those bastards.

In the end, nothing has worked and I have the sinking feeling I've just purchased a printer I didn't need. I call Staples and talk to a very nice techie named George.  We go around and around, try all kinds of tricks, spend an hour on the phone...to no avail.

End result of two bloody wasted days?  A guy has to come to the house. It's going to cost me $140 just to have him pull into my driveway.  *sigh*  But, if all goes well, they'll take back the new printer and that's a good thing.  It will help pay for the house call.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Heaven

A while back I started to notice that my mattress was just not as comfortable.  With the new mattresses, you can only rotate them top to bottom, not totally flip them over like the old style. Greed is a factor here for the manufacturers, I'm sure.  After all, no sense in making a mattress that can be used for twice as long is there?  So, because my mattress was a good one, and bloody expensive, I wasn't in the mood to replace it after just a few years.

Then I remembered sleeping on a most excellent mattress at a hotel in Dublin--London, too; same hotel chain--and it was all due to the mattress topper.  So.  Rather than buy a new mattress, I began the search.  Which took me nearly a month.  I went to all the shops in my area, then went online. The disparity in fabric, stuffing, price, was astounding, and made it difficult to make a decision.

Ultimately, after hands-on research (stores) and reading recommendations and endorsements (online), I finally settled on a company back East. Everything is made in America, and the reviews from actual buyers were pretty much straight across the board exceptional.

I bought the Extra Plush Double Thick, which looks like this:


It arrived yesterday.  I'd kinda been stewing about the purchase--would it really be well-made?  Really be soft and cozy like the European hotel version?  I got it out of its ginormous box and spread it across my bed to get the full-on puff effect.  Wow.

Quickly stripping my bed, and remaking it with the topper, fresh sheets and pillows, it was all I could do not to crawl right in. The siren call was almost irresistible, though I forced myself to wait until it was time for bed.

Holy Hallelujah Chorus, peeps.  It was like being enveloped in a warm embrace, having a cuddle that encompassed my entire body, like being drugged with a taste of Nirvana.  I couldn't even concentrate on reading my book, the lure of snuggling was too enticing.

I woke up this morning at 9:30.  9:30.  I haven't slept that late since...well, since I don't know how long.  Surprisingly, the dogs didn't wake me either.  Or, maybe they tried and I was so far away in la-la land that I didn't hear them.

All I know?  Right up there with a sizzling kiss, a great book, chocolate truffles and the love of a good man, I'm adding my mattress topper to the Best Things In Life list...

Friday, September 12, 2014

Capture

On Sunday afternoons I watch a show called Capture, on the Ovation channel.  It's hosted by photographer Mark Seliger.  He interviews two people per session--one of the world's best photographers and an amateur, usually an actor--to discuss their work.  It's an amazing half hour that I often wish were longer.

I recorded last Sunday's program, then sat down last night to catch up.  I was beyond excited that the professional was Mary Ellen Mark, one of the people who set me on the path to want more than just a "picture" from my camera.

It was an excellent show, Mary Ellen was just mesmerizing, even more so at 74, and I was glued to every word she said.  Then. Toward the end of the program, Mark was rifling through some of her celebrity black & white shots when suddenly I caught just a glimmer of...something...before he set the photos down.  I backed up, replayed, backed up, replayed and there it was.

The memory...

Somewhere in the early 90s.  The BFF and I are at Seattle's Pike Place Market on a crispy autumn Saturday.  On the lower level there were wonderful shops of vintage clothing, prints and posters, antiques.  This part of the market is removed from the bustling tourist stuff above where the fish, food and restaurants are.  We went there at least once a month for the cool clothes, but on this particular day we were headed for the poster shop where you could get just about anything ever photographed.

J wanted a particular shot of this goth guy, with tattoos and spiky hair, that she'd seen in a magazine. She's talking to the owner and I'm browsing around when I turned a corner...and had one of those life-changing moments.  I actually felt it sear through me, for two reasons.

Reason One:
At first, I thought the photographer had to be Annie Leibovitz because it was a celebrity shot, in black and white, and sort of her style. On closer inspection however, I knew it wasn't her work, but then, who's was it?  The owner of the shop clued me in. Mary Ellen Mark.  And I fell totally, utterly, forever under her spell.  I did research at the library, talked to art gallery people, bought her photography books (this was before the internet, Wiki, Google) and began to look through my camera lens in an entirely different way.

Reason Two:
Hanging on the wall was her photograph of my ideal man. I was completely lost in the vision. It was like someone had probed my brain, finding all the bits and pieces, and here was the result. I still feel that way--hence the total body rush last night at that little glimpse in Mark Seliger's hands as he shuffled through Mary Ellen's photographs.

I give you a man in his prime. 42 years old, incredibly great hair, ruggedly handsome, tattoo, abs and low-slung jeans.  It transports me, peeps.  It did back then, it does right now.  A stunning photograph.

Jeff Bridges, 1993
photo by Mary Ellen Mark



Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A World Unto Itself...

I live in a foreign land. Sometimes I understand the language and feel at home, other times I wander, clueless and alone.

The geography runs the gamut from harsh, frozen tundra, to parched desert sands.  In between are lush hidden valleys; snow-capped peaks reflected in deep pools; untrammeled forest, not yet felled by axe.  And although there are still jewel-bright glades and shining stars, there are also rivers, sluggish with the weight of pollution; stagnant lakes and pockets of toxic poisons, and seas that rage against the despair.

The lives within my country, like the landscape, are diverse: kind, loving, intelligent, caring…also rude and thoughtless, ignorant and fiercely angry at times.  There is pain and sorrow, but often laughter and joy.  Balance is hard won, acceptance harder.

There are many stories here. Layer upon layer of seemingly endless stories that echo from past voices, and make my heart yearn for future tales.  Every day is new and I treasure each unveiling, even if I don't comprehend the meaning.

What is the name of this place, you ask?

Mind.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Alaska Might Be Calling Me Home...

Yesterday afternoon, after chores and dog stuff and whatnot, I plopped down into my comfy reading chair, new book in hand.  I had barely read the first chapter when the dogs started doing this odd throat-clearing, hacking thing.  Distracting, but whatever. Until I started doing it and then smelled smoke.  Strong, acrid, shit-the-house-is-on-fire smoke.

I jumped to my feet, trying to follow the scent like a drug dog at airport security.  The smell completely permeated the house, giving me one of those prickly rushes of anxiety, coupled with a frantic desire to find the frigging flames before the house was engulfed.

Where was it coming from?

I calmed down after a minute or two when I realized the entire valley below me was filled with smoke, not just my house. Thick and strong, it made breathing difficult; the sky tainted with a sickly pinkish hue. Somewhere a forest fire was raging.

Yesterday afternoon...


I turned on the Northwest News channel, and sure enough.  Three separate, out-of-control fires to the north, east and west of me with evacuations, homes in jeopardy, acres of trees burning to ash in the tinder-dry forests.

Smoke, like water, is impossible to keep out.  I could almost see it wafting under the door, sneaking in the windows, creeping up the stairs.  Last night sleeping was a misery, not just from the smell, but the residual heat from the blasted sun. It's still in the mid-90s, still no rain in sight, still no ease from one of the worst droughts on record.

Early this morning... 


Have you ever wondered what you would save, dear readers, in a scenario of "grab it and go?"  Are you prepared for an emergency?  I know that many folks around the LA area, during the Santa Ana winds and fires, keep what they want to save in their cars so all they have to do is get in and drive away. Last night I wondered what I would snag on my way out.  I wandered through the house, mentally discarding this, grabbing that, questioning myself over importance, what I could live without.

Bottom line?  I figure I could be out of the house in under 30 seconds. Purse, phone, camera, two dogs.  Toss everything in the car and hit the road.  Stuff doesn't matter in the whole scheme of things really, does it?  But living to fight another day sure does...

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Beauty and a Perfect Fit...

The other day I was at Michael's (the craft place) to find a frame for a photo I took of the BFF's very sweet dog, Lucky.  Whilst on the Idaho trip last month, we were sitting in her backyard at the picnic table when Lucky leaped onto the top like a gazelle--a very large gazelle--to join in the girl talk.  I had my camera close at hand because we were heading out on one of our excursions and in a most serendipitous moment, just as I raised my camera, she turned...

Lucky, the Chesapeake/Chocolate Lab beauty queen:


I'm going to send the shot to J, as a surprise, so was rummaging around in the frames and matts at Michael's looking for the right combination of colors and style.  I found the perfect frame, but the matt is still eluding me. Hopefully this idea won't end up being a Christmas present!

After my semi-success at Michael's, I went next door to Pier 1, just to see the cool Fall stuff.

In the Hallowe'en section, I spied this totally cool decorative piece that just called my name, and actually made me laugh out loud. When I got home and set it on the counter while I decided where to put it, I could hear Alan in my head, winding me up as he loved to do...

"What do you think?" I would say.
"Nice colors," he would respond, blue eyes twinkling. "Matches your broom."


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Musings On An Elevator



Yesterday I was reading a short story--well, more like a novella--that was so clever and thought-provoking, I mulled over the plot well after I'd finished the story.  This isn't a book review, but let me give you the gist, dear readers:

Guy is in the elevator, girl shouts to hold the door.  As she rushes in, she drops her phone, her purse slips, her hair covers her face, the elevator door closes.  Neither person has gotten any kind of look at the other and as the elevator starts to drop, it abruptly jerks to a halt and everything goes pitch dark. The kicker?  The guy is afraid of the dark. Course, over the hours they're stuck, we learn why he's claustrophobic, but I loved the twist that she was the calming influence.

Basically, the whole tale takes place in the dark, in the elevator.  They told each other things that normally--in the light of day--they never would have revealed; secrets and fears, sadness and joy. And all without knowing what the other person looked like; no preconceived notions based on what they could see--just two voices in the small, enclosed space. It was a great premise. And a really good story.

So, after I was done reading, I couldn't stop thinking about how this couple got to know each other, sight unseen, when most likely they never would have met or had a conversation otherwise.  She was sort of high-powered exec, he was an EMT, but tattooed and pierced, and yet they had so many things in common.

How often do people disregard or judge others based on how they look?  All. The. Time. Every single moment.  Imagine the people we don't get to know, the stories we never share, the lives that will never touch ours...because of what we see in another--or think we see.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

On an entirely separate note, though still elevator-related, a memory was brought back to life by the story...

When I was a senior in high school, I had a most vivid and horrifying nightmare.  I can recall it just as clearly now:

I was going to the dentist.  His office was downtown, on the twelfth floor (as in real life). I got into the elevator with a woman and a baby in a stroller.  We got to the tenth floor and the elevator slammed to a stop, jolted up and down, then began to fall.  I will never forget that feeling, or the look of shock and terror on that woman's face.  I woke up just before the crash, my stomach in my throat, my body in a lurching arrhythmia of imminent death.

Two months later, I had a dentist appointment.  I stared at that elevator door.  When it opened, I couldn't force myself to step in.  Shaking, I turned away and took the stairs.  For years after--truly, years--I refused to take an elevator beyond the tenth floor.

In the world of dream interpretation, I still haven't figured that one out...