Huntress of the Lens


Monday, May 31, 2010

My exoskeleton on Memorial Day

Last year on this day I wrote about my Grandmother, who was a veteran of World War One. It really touched my Big Daddy and we talked about her later on the phone. I did a really good job with that blog and don't think I have another tribute of equal weight in me this year.

My son gave four years to the Army, as did my Big Daddy and his Dad too if I'm not wrong. We're an Army family I suppose. That surprises me to write, since I grew up in the stone-age of the 1960s watching coffins come back from Viet Nam on the news every night, and protestors with flowers and that famous song, sung from John and Yoko's bed.

I wouldn't let my kids play with guns of any kind when they were little (I thought war was a human habit that could be stemmed if we didn't encourage our little warriors to play games of pretend death.) No squirt guns, no finger guns, no, don't bite your sandwich into a gun and shoot your brother with it. They had to really work me to get the Ghost Busters gun-like thing, because "It sucks ghosts IN mom, it doesn't shoot anything out!"

Andrew had to blackmail me in the worst possible way to get me to sign the papers for him to join the Army at 17 during wartime under the command of a man who doesn't know that nucular isn't a word. I didn't even get them birth certificates after their home-births till later in their lives, and I established a pattern of sleep-walking as early as their pediatric visits to help
lay the groundwork to keep them safe from a draft. I was born a little too late to be a true hippie, a little too early and lacking in self-confidence to be a dancing queen at the disco. I just thought that people should be nice to each other.

Michael and I just watched a very interesting television show about Jerusalem and the crazy
antics that have been going on there for centuries, fighting over a rock. Somehow our Teacher Lady managed to show us only the beauty of the monuments and leave out much of the blood-soaked history that surrounds the objects we studied. Maybe I just didn't want to hear it. Timor and the Mongols were bastards, I remember that part. If you were to ask me today though I would say that I just spent a semester studying beauty and not blood.

I am starting to realize that the urge to war does not originate with little California boys with
squirt guns though. One thing that fascinates me in footage of riotous discord in the middle-east though: You throw that rock today and it's an Israeli rock, but pick it up and throw it back and it's a Palestinian rock. Somewhere in the Akashic record is the number of times each rock has changed its allegiance and intention.

I am torn in the conflict between my abhorrence of war and my admiration for those who will dedicate their lives to the concept of military service. I detest the former, and have great admiration for the latter. I guess I will have to leave that as one of life's conundrums however, I don't even have the energy to come to a concrete conclusion and defend it in debate form.

What I really want to talk about is body piercing. It's ancient. It's National Geographic. It's those primitive indigenous peoples who go around poking, cutting and marking themselves. Watching it in a school movie with the calming yet authoritative male voice-over about how lucky the brown people were to have the white people show up and put a stop to all of that could make me shudder, and avert my eyes into my best friend's shoulder. How could they do that? Circus side-shows collected a million nickels selling a glimpse of the crazy things people will do to their bodies.

In my skewed view of the world it makes perfect sense to decorate my skin (and yours) with indelible marks till there's no flesh-tone left. It's what I do. The first tattoo seems so significant, it has to hold meaning and be a commitment to forever and maybe signify sticking the big toe into the waters of being "other." After a while I'll wedge any old thing that suits me in the moment, in between all the other images, because I don't want to be the color of human skin anyway.

When I was in high school there was a girl named Nikki who had not one but two earrings in her lobes. It was foreign and unheard of and I wanted to be like her. I went home and immediately forced a second pair of earrings into my lobes. No ice cubes or potatoes here folks, I just shoved them through. It hurt.

The phenomenon of modern, western body piercing started (I believe) with punk-rock culture and the application of safety pins and other things you could just put through your flesh to freak out "normal" people. I missed the 80s, I was a vegetarian and breast-feeding. Legitimate body piercing was transformed by Fakir years ago. Oh, and pirates, they did it too.

I've been cruising along for a couple of decades, decorating away and not really jumping on the body piercing boat. Just because it's body modification doesn't mean I'm into it. Branding, scarification, ritual cutting (including circumcision) and the implantation of shapes and horns and other things kind of freak me out.

Somewhere along the line ears became fair game, and it was no big deal to see someone with twenty-five earrings in an ear. I remember being sober for just two weeks and having my tongue pierced so that I would have something foreign and slightly painful on the outside of my body to reflect the unseen changes I was going through on the inside.

One after another during the last six and a half years I have had metal installed in various places, and I've come to love it. I don't understand the appeal, and I'm certainly too old to be "discovering myself" the way teenagers do. I am though, coming to recognize the feeling I get in the morning when I'm going to do it again.

It's a searing pain, that part never changes. I go to a zone that accepts and slides between the sensations and leaves me floating above that thing called "ouch" That's how I ended up with a hole in my lip, a Monroe (those are jewels applied where Marilyn and other lucky women have natural beauty marks) two holes in my nose, (my ________ and my _______). I am not stopping for some reason, and I feel like I should know better. Now I have a gem on my inner wrist, anchored by a titanium foot that my flesh will grow into and surround, and one on my cheek. What the hell is up with that?

I feel like a decorator crab, adding pretty shiny bits to my exoskeleton, and like an invulnerable super-hero because slowly but surely I am becoming made of metal.

Happy Memorial day, enjoy your barbecues and backyard festivities. Remember those who gave everything in conflicts that may have meant nothing at all, but gave it all anyway. Don't drink and drive. Remember that an amazing group of people wrote some documents that others would die to defend, that give us the right to poke as many holes in ourselves as we want and marry who we wish in our "pursuit of happiness." Be kind to those you know, and those you don't.

Don't bite your sandwich into a gun and shoot your brother with it.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Look

All this time I have thought that my super-powers reside in my wit, my vocabulary, my eyes that are not eyes. I am guessing recently that it's not those things at all. It's my Mom status, and my ability to look at something that hurts.

"Mom, look at this, do you think it's ok?"
"Mom, this is how I feel, should I go to the emergency room?"
"Honey I bumped my head (shot a staple gun into my hand, have a red itchy bump etc.) will you look at it?

Somehow, just by looking at things I make them better, I guess. This is not entirely true, because "Will you look at this?" is always followed by "What should I do?" I forgot to become a doctor, sometimes I don't know.

When the boys were little there were three treatment options available for everything besides broken bones:

1. Bandaid.
2. Ice cube in a baggie
3. Vitamin E capsule with a tiny pin-hole in it to apply as you wish to your injury.

That made life so easy. Just the time it takes to choose which remedy best suits the emergency can take a hysterical boy down a few notches. Obviously the vitamin E remedy was the most efficacious, it was certainly the one chosen most frequently.

First I had to get the bottle and separate one of the slightly sticky glowing, golden oblongs of healing. Then came the search for the safety pin to poke that tiny hole. "Here you go, I'm sure that will make it better." and they had a whole squeezy, oily, smells-like-better amount of sticky substance to rub or dab on the trauma. Bandaids are very cool, but many times nothing but an ice cube in a baggie will do, depending on your affliction.

With Molly it was different. I had to hold her, agree and expound on just how horrible the injury was, and then do light. "Doing light" means holding my hands slightly above the affected area, and first shining white light and then green when the time was right to heal her from the
inside out. As a child she would lay hands on me too when something hurt and I could feel them become warm and actually affect the pain. All that is stupid now, a doctor prescribed her some Vicodin for something once, and she would prefer to go straight to that, bypassing the light all together.

Looking at the spot is something that has never changed though, as a first-responder. "Will you look at this for me?" comes before an Xray, or stitches or any other legitimate medical treatment. I suppose I have gained this powerful look from being a person who has babies at home or will pull my own tooth with pliers if necessary. Maybe it's just because I am the Mom.

Lately, my super-powers have been failing me though. People have things going on that just a look or a touch (or even a punctured capsule of vitamin E) won't even begin to address.

Andrew's extended inability to breathe correctly is beyond my motherly powers. LM's nail puncture to the foot needed treatment that I couldn't give. (I don't have any tetanus shots lying around.) I don't really have the medical knowledge to help someone detox from heroine and cocaine addiction on my couch. Michael's 48 week Interferon treatment is another. I feel completely over my head.

Interferon is a bitch, pure and simple. It is the Alexis Carrington of all drug treatments. It's
worst late at night, when the same things aren't real to both of us, and only various ice cream delights will serve to settle his agitation. He talks in a half-sleep, frantically, and requires my participation. He becomes angry or petulant, or sorry and it's my job to remain calm and patient and not snap back. I have a mouth-guard I keep clamped between my jaws made from the words "Stop being a dick to me, I'm on your team!"

I get to see a doctor myself on the 7th, and start all over with my own quest for health, and I'm going to need some immediate answers so I can get back to being Super-Mom and looking at other people's ailments to make them better. If my labs come back with a thyroid problem I may slit my own throat, rip it out myself and then they'll have to stitch me up; they've all taken the Hypocratic oath, haven't they?

I've had babies at home and pulled a broken tooth from my mouth once, I'm sure I can remove my own thyroid if necessary.

Got something wrong? Let me take a look at it and find my vitamin E.

Friday, May 28, 2010

A long story with a thin gruel of excuse.

I used to be afraid to drive. Not always, I learned to drive in the first place down in Orange County, the land of the ten-lane freeway and the 70 mph merge. At some point up here though, I became so terrified of driving that I would sometimes pull over because I thought I would faint or have a seizure just driving the kids to school.

I wasn't driving IN town, much less to any of the towns close to here, my world got very small. I have a loving and dedicated friend that would come from far to see me for years because I just couldn't get in the car and drive even to meet him halfway.

Bridges are and always have been an issue for me. I suffer from the completely irrational knowledge that gravity will suck me right over the edge and into the long-down. I don't imagine that the bridge will collapse, (well, not so much, but that's a secondary fear) I simply have a certainty that I will either be sucked over the edge or some mad impulse will cause me to drive toward the railing and through it as though someone else's hands are on the wheel. From the neck up I know this to be nonsense, yet all the internal organs I so depend on for sustained life (my heart, my lungs, my other squishy internal places) will not believe that it is safe for me to drive over a bridge.

When we first got Libby (The blue Jeep we had right before we got married) something came over me and I decided that I would drive alone to pick up Andrew from the airport. He flew in
from Germany to walk me down the aisle with his brother.

Oakland airport is, in fact, across a bridge from here, but hey, I was the bride and felt imbued with super-powers. I could do this. It became a symbol for all the things I could now do, like not take a drink or stay in a marriage since I had chosen so well. I was an adult, sober and not afraid any more. That was the costume I was trying on that day anyway.

I was talking to my friend Annelise when I drove over the bridge. (It's that little baby bridge right after Vallejo and before Crockett, its name eludes me now.) I told her "I can't feel my feet but they're sweating in my shoes, I'm going blind, I think I'm having a heart-attack and I'm pretty sure I'm starting to have a seizure." By the time we had discussed all of my medical symptoms I was over the bridge and exultant.

I arrived at the airport 45 minutes early, because that's how I roll. Thank you Big Daddy for all the lessons in punctuality and politeness. I couldn't find the British Airways terminal no matter how many times I toured the concourse so I finally asked the information desk where to find it. "Oh, that's easy." They told me. "It's at SFO." San Francisco. Mars. Infinity. A place I could not drive, and I had 45 minutes to get there.

When she spoke her directions to my blank and terrified face I nodded through my tears. That information lady was so nice she drew me a map. That map included the San Mateo bridge and some other terrifying and impossible things I had to do to achieve my objective. I knew I would die in the attempt, but for Andrew I decided to take destiny firmly in my teeth and do it anyway.

The San Mateo bridge is a tricky, lying behemoth of a structure. For the first long stretch I found myself driving along about twelve feet from the water, long and low. Why I can do this after all! My mistake was to look ahead. That Grand Bitch of a water crossing takes a dramatic turn into the sky, and curves while it finishes the crossing.

I had the idea that I should maybe pull over, cry and vomit a little, and then tackle the road into the sky. A voice in my head lets me know that if I stop the vehicle for any reason I will have to be towed off of this bridge.

I straddled the middle line. I was able to drive maybe 50 mph. I cried and said the Serenity Prayer about a million times. The traffic behind me obviously didn't know that this is the only way to make it through something like this, and didn't appreciate it one bit. I now know the pitch of every single kind of horn that can be honked behind me, whether or not I know which vehicles correspond with them.

After narrowly escaping death and making it across that bridge I find that SFO has only tiny little roadways in the sky that lead to parking spaces.
I did finally dock my spaceship and enter the building to find the proper terminal. His flight was late, I had somewhere close to two hours to regulate my body's functions and remember how to breathe before my beloved came through that international gate.

Then I had to drive over the Bay Bridge to get us home. To this day I don't know how I survived that trip, or what I was trying to prove by making it. It did, however, enable me to take slightly farther trips in the future, all carefully calculated to be guaranteed bridge-free.

I remember calling Joseph from the Santa Rosa mall the day I went to wait in line for my first iPhone. I was casual and smug about it. "Yeah, I just drove to Santa Rosa, no big deal." (He of all people knew just what a big deal that actually was.)
I have made that drive a hundred times or more now, and even extend it effortlessly to Guerneville when I want to. I still find San Francisco or even Berkely to be foreign countries, they have bridges in the space between us.

That prologue was to tell you about two things I see every time I drive to Santa Rosa or Guernville, and the strong connection I feel to both of them.

One is a building that has been in ruins for years; tall, stone, holes for windows and shafts of light beaming down through the missing places in the wooden roof. I have always felt called to stop and find a way into that building. There was something in there I wanted to see or connect with. Sometimes stories or energy will linger in a place, especially if it is made of wood or stone. It called me every single time I drove by and I never answered.

Recently I saw that the building had been reduced to a pile of rubble. That space still exists, but is full of dense stone refuse and I don't know how to merge my own cells with it to enter. Whatever those stories were they are lost to me now. I wish I had gone inside and listened with my ears that are not ears, looked with my eyes that are not eyes. I will never know what the story was, and I am deeply saddened at my own fear and the sense of "hurry!" that I buy into along with everyone else.

The other thing that touches my awareness every time I drive by it is a sign, hanging at the end of a grand driveway. I haven't tapped it on my teeth, but I am pretty sure it is wood that is painted bronze, not actual metal. It is an acorn, and I think of it as MY acorn. It has no words on it, just a beautiful faux metal acorn marking one spot on a road that I am now very familiar with. I must see it, and acknowledge it every time I drive that route, or I feel distressed. I want it for my own, an yet am content to let it hang there on the side of the road.

I feel anxiety sometimes, that like my old, ruined stone building it will someday be gone, and I won't know why. If I miss it on the trip out I don't feel well until I make the return trip home and see it. Sometimes I feel that if I were to just stop and tap my teeth on it to know for sure what it's made of it wouldn't be a disaster if it ever disappeared. If I won the lottery and had unlimited funds I would purchase it at any price. I don't know how I would make it through the rest of my life if I miss the chance to be absolutely sure what material it is made of.

There is really no point to this essay, I can't even come up with a good reason for feeling the need to tell you these things this morning.

I will use my stock excuse for occasions like this: I'm an artist. I have a spotted eye. My mind works differently than others' and that's why I can do what I do.

It's a thin excuse, but the best I have to offer at the moment.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


If I had found this app on thursday I could have blogged from my table of coffee and smoking friends while I was at the river.

In years past I would pop awake early and drink a couple of tiny hotel-room pots of coffee and write, and last year was the birth of my blog so I would do that while the resort woke up. This year was different in so many ways...

First, it was freezing for most of the weekend. Usually it's a panic to see if anyone remembered the sun-screen. This yes I was sad that I brought ten tank tops and one long sleeved shirt that I never found in my suitcase till I was leaving.

As I remember last year and the year before there were 1500-2000 women there, I think we had 500-600 on site this year. People seemed very hesitant to spend money, I was definitely NOT off the hook tattooing.

Once Shayla and I decided to cheerfully write the event off as a business loss we stopped stressing about it. She had been sick a few days before and was happy to leave a day early without feeling like she was leaving me overwhelmed with business. Tiffany was the one of us who was extremely busy this year, she did a ton of piercing during the weekend.

I was getting phone reports from Michael that this week's shot was the worst ever and I felt guilty that I wasn't home to take care of him. Just to make things perfect, my headache is back with a vengeance. The miracle medication Michael found on the Mayo Clinic website to try ( which left me headache-free for months) has just stopped working. There have been moments in the last few days where I can't even see straight, and have trouble putting sentences together. Add all that together and the weekend wasn't as super-fantastic as it usually is.

Other elements of the weekend were beautiful and perfect, like reconnecting with many of the women I have come to know and love over these last three years. Or watching a certain friend of mine get to be more of who she really is than she ever could or would when we're back here in our stuffy little town. I watched her bloom, and it was magical.

I missed Molly, and so many other people who have come to love her did too. The combination of her growing up and having a life of her own that isn't just half of my life and the knowledge that her brother moves out a little more every day is making this empty-nest thing hard for me to deal with. I taped her picture to my glove box and pretended that she came with me anyway.

I also had an interesting time with my recovery this weekend. I am totally used to being around seas of alcohol with drunk people bobbing on the surface and even going under. My recovery is strong and I wouldn't trade my life today for a drink or any other drug. I walk fearlessly anywhere I want to, because I carry my new life within me and I know that to turn around and walk the other way would be to lose everything and eventually die.

Someone left a beer and a shot of Jaegermeister on my tattoo station when we went to dinner the first night, and it whispered to me throughout the meal. I don't even LIKE Jaeger, and yet I could hear it from the room the whole time. I told on myself and my girls made sure it was gone by the time I got back to the room. The final morning there was a fat-half of a very aromatic joint on the table in front of our room. I was very surprised at how elaborate my plans to take it, hide it, smoke it later and never tell developed so quickly. I was saved by a hero named Stacy who tried to give me the remains of a large bottle of vodka. I said "no thank you" and I told her she could save my life if she took it with her. She offered to "join me" with it, and I said " No, you should just take it and save my life. Being a hero would be so much more dramatic!" she had no idea what a service she did me.

On my drive home I listened to the iPod playlist I had made just for the weekend and meditated through my agonizing pain-helmet. I was exhausted from all the things I did NOT do rather than the things I did all weekend, and ended up sleeping for an entire day yesterday. Being home with Michael, who IS my home no matter where we are has done much to recharge me. His promotion has provided us with REAL medical insurance, but my first appointment with my very own physician doesn't happen until June 7. I'll get to start all over from where I was a year and a half ago in my quest for answers to the question "What's wrong with me?"

Now that I've cleared my clipboard of everything that lingered from that much-anticipated and anti-climactic weekend I'm sure I'll have something funny or thought-provoking for you soon. Sometimes this blog kicks ass, sometimes it's just a repository for all the squeaks my mental hamster wheel makes. Hey, you get what you get.

Writing on this iPad I don't get to do all the little editing and illustrating tricks I so enjoy, but I'm in love with the idea of not being tied to my glorious Super-Mac for the purposes of blogging.

Tonight is the final for my glorious art history class, and then I'll have to go without until the fall semester. Thank you " tired ole teacher lady" for the best set of Tuesdays in my life!

Ciao y'all!

Blogged from my giant phone that doesn't make calls...

Location:Terrace Dr,Napa,United States

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Screaming Cocktail Wieners

Two Queen-sized beds shoved together, five women. One not feeling well, one sober, three pretty drunk, sleeping in a row like unruly cocktail franks on a plate. Shayla says I snore just like her bulldog John Rambo. Tiffany got stuck sleeping right over the crack between the two beds. I got star shaped nipple shields (held on with the barbell that pierces them) yesterday and my nipples hurt worst than they ever did during the first two days of nursing any of my babies.

Drinking, dranken, drunk. I'm not that drunk, really. I heard that a lot last night. I, in fact, was not drunk at all, but I woke up with the hangover that someone else deserves. Screaming women fighting all night long like mockingbirds, except they were angry and not up in the trees.

It's cold here, can I get a "What the fuck?" from the congregation? Usually I lament the lack of sunscreen, and this year I'm looking for my jacket.

Ok, Angelique is here for coffee, a girl's gotta keep her priorities straight.

Shitty internet connection

here, I hope this posts. Pictures of the mayhem soon.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Soccer Mom Newsletter

Well, this is it. Whatever is packed is what's going with me to the river. If I've forgotten something, chances are that Shayla will have remembered it. I always have fifteen times more stuff than I need anyway. I guess my biggest fear every year is that no one will want anything from us, but then I'll be over my head by tomorrow afternoon and wondering how I can get it all done. I hope Tiffany gets a chance to do many piercings, and that we sell all the Pride jewelry we've been gathering just for this event.

Got to see my folks for two days, that was a great way to kick off a fantastic weekend. I would have liked to spend more time with them but Michael doesn't have much left after a day of work that starts at 4:30.

I need to change spaces and become inspired and enlightened, this reads like a soccer-mom newsletter.

In 1992 I started this thing called Flying Colors Tattoo, and once again I'm taking it out on the road. I am the Tattoo Lady dammit, I'm an unstoppable force. I am going to win this weekend with my Power Girl team.

If I forget the charger for my camera battery after thinking of it all these times I will have to deduct one point from my final score.

Beautiful river, land of love and laughter and my honeymoon, here I come!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

River Time-The circus is packing up and leaving town.

Well, it's that crazy river time of the year again, and this year seems to have flown by. Shayla and I pack up our shop and go to the Russian River Resort for Women's Weekend and tattoo at the event. This is our third year for this event and it's always a highlight of the year for me! It is relaxing and crazy at the same time.

To travel a tattoo studio is like packing up a circus to move it to a new town, except that the circus knows it won't have to return to its original location in three days and have everything set up just the way it was before. We're not a traveling shop, and even though we've done it a few times it always feels like chaos and the terror that we'll forget something we really need.

Every year the amount of things I've been certain were essential has grown smaller. The first time we did it I had three of the largest Rubbermaid buckets packed full to the brim and never used most of the stuff I brought. Last year I was down to two buckets, but still felt compelled to bring 14 rolls of paper towels when 5 would have sufficed. I over-pack, it's a thing I've always done, because it won't matter if I have 67 things if number 68 is the one I need.

We're taking Tiffany from our beloved Mosh Pit body piercing this year, so we'll be making room for her and all of her equipment in the room. Blair is coming to be our manager, but Molly (my usual right hand) can only come for one day and night. She will get to drive her own car there though, so I don't have to worry about getting her back to Napa for work. Kristen Van Dyke is performing this year, and she'll be staying in our room with us if other accommodations haven't been found. Picture this: One hotel room with two queen sized beds in it. 6-7 women sleeping there, dorm style, and two tattoo stations plus one body piercing area created during the day.

Right now I feel this kind of panic, like I should be down at the shop packing even though it's only seven in the morning. I only booked one giant tattoo today, which was foolish of me, but I missed it on Sunday because I was so sick from working all day in the sun the day before. My parents are in town for one more night, I want to spend time visiting with them. A dear friend is having an open house at her new salon and I promised I would stop by there to support her in her new venture. This is too many things to get done in one day, and yet I will have to just figure it out.

A part of me thinks I like it like this, and that this is what it must be like for a race car driver or the Octomom every day. It's like juggling, or herding sheep. Making lists and working efficiently is very satisfying when I can pull it off. Last year there were about fifteen hundred women attending the event, although I don't think I did more than a dozen tattoos. It's go, go , go all weekend until the sun goes down, then we get to just hang out and have a good time. It's not a super profitable venture, we have to pay for the hotel room and don't really have the ability to accept debit cards so we end up pricing based on how much spare cash women have brought with them. It's great networking though, and I always see at least a couple of clients during the year that I gave a card to during the event.

What it really is, is a chance to be in a whole new location filled with women who are all there to have a good time, and to just be away. Away from this shrieking blue jay, this over-stuffed house, these tomatoes that still need to be moved to their large pots and the mess that is my side of the bedroom. I'll miss Michael, and yet I always realize just how madly in love with him I am while I'm gone and I come home with that part of me re-charged.

Last year I left for the event as one person, and returned as another. The "New Me" was born there; lasting changes that have left me a better person.

This year Jen and Angelique are inviting me to fire-walk with them. This thought fills me with terror, and also excites me because I believe I can travel the coals hand-in-hand with two of my power-women and reach the other side transformed. We'll see, I think I'm uncertain at this point, but at the same time I know I'll do it. I don't know why the month of May has somehow become Overhaul-of-the-Spirit month for me, but if I evolve this year as I did the last who knows who will be coming home on Sunday afternoon? I know the year ahead will be full of challenges, upgrading my Soul could really make a valuable difference in how it goes for me and those I care for.

We're packing up our circus and taking it on the road. I'm driving west into the sunset of the familiar and also the land of "Who knows what might happen?"

I don't think this is an interesting blog per se, but I do blog in the mornings during the weekend while the resort slowly wakes from the chaotic party the night before. Maybe you'll get something great from that location. Actually, this time of year marks the beginning of my blogging in the first place, the most significant of the early pieces was called "A Love Letter of Sorts" ( ) yet now that I went back and looked, it wasn't one of the first at all. It was one of the first things that felt important to say anyway.

This has been one very interesting trip around the Sun for me, and here we go again. My next missive will be written from an early-morning table full of coffee and cigarettes at the beautiful alternate-universe of the Russian River. I can't wait to find out what this year has to offer!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Yay! Art is pretty!

When I first started writing my presentation for Art History- Survey of Islamic Art I was feeling oh so clever.
Let me give you a short background of this class and my enrollment in it: Michael took a class with the same teacher last semester and would come home every evening after class very excited about whatever they had covered that night. He told me the teacher was fascinating, and that just when he would start really getting into an era and want to go in depth about it the class would move on. I understand, they were surveying art from paleolithic times to the middle ages, not really a lot of time to linger over the cave paintings or the Greeks.

I hadn't taken a class in some years, the only reason I even attend college is to learn things I'm interested in. I have sixteen unrelated college credits so far. I decided I would join Michael for a semester with this teacher he enjoyed so much. (If I were to write in a blog that he has a total crush on her he would become defensive and deny it, so you won't see me writing that here.) I'm an artist, of course I would enjoy the class, and it was something we could do together. Along with that, I was pretty sure I could beat him at the class since I already knew what things like reliquaries were without even taking the first semester.

I have a deep vein of competitive lust in me. I am compelled to make anything into a competition, and Michael is an easy mark. I'm not saying he isn't highly intelligent, he is, I'm just saying that his thirst for blood in any challenge is not matched by my own. You may assume that this would mean I was into sports, or even a sport, but you would be incorrect. I hate all sports. I find my competition elsewhere. Art history is a competition, and I entered the match with the intention of winning. I see pumpkin carving, cake baking and story telling in much the same way.

He did score slightly higher on the first quiz than I did. He had already passed a course with the Queen of Art History and told me just how I should study to get a good grade on it. He was either trying to trick me, or she was just quizzing differently this semester because it is the first time this curriculum has been taught by her, or at the college we go to. It was all new ground and I listened to his advice that one and only time. "Do you want to study together?" he offered so sweetly. "NO! I want to beat you in this class!" We did our own thing from that point on.

The trouble with learning things that have specific dates attached to them is that I simply have no hook to hang that hat on in my mind. Add to that the fact that the Arabic language has nothing in common with the Germanic or Latin based languages I am familiar with and I can't use any of my regular little tricks to remember the name of anything. Oh, and everything seems to start with the letter M. So in reality I should have done far worse on the quizzes than I did.

My God though, the art! Going to class every Tuesday night was like sitting in a two hour History Channel special on things that are mind-bogglingly beautiful, and being able to ask the program narrator questions as well.

I remember a time in my tattoo career when I discovered bubbles, and every piece seemed to call for a bubble or two. This Islamic style of pattern and geometry, color and complexity is going to bleed over into my own work in the same way, I can feel it.

Marriage counselors suggest a designated "date night" to keep your relationship lively and interesting. Tuesday night: Art, competition and pancakes. That's been our date night for a whole semester. We go out for pancakes to top off the evening, and it's dedicated time where we just get to be with each other and I have loved it dearly. A chance to eat weekly pancakes and best my husband at some intellectual pursuit? Priceless.

We've occupied the same two tables in the back of the room every week, for two reasons: One is that I am left-handed, and all college desks seem to be designed for a right-handed student. I have to sit sideways to write and never feel like I have enough room to spread out and get ready for some fun. The other reason is that the two tables are together and we can sit like we're married. I always think of those two tables as the "married tables."

When I first introduced myself for my presentation I said "Hi I'm Laura, the older lady who has been sitting behind you all semester. The one with no filter for what is appropriate to say in class, and no volume control." Sometimes I think I am speaking very softly when the truth is I am saying it right out loud in my outdoor voice. One time when I fell asleep just a little bit (but not really) Michael poked me and said "Honey, you're sleeping." because I know he was afraid I would snore. I said "WHY DO YOU KEEP POKING ME?" and got that look from our teacher.

Yep, here I am, the old lady from the back of class, up here to make an extra-credit presentation.

Other students had obviously put a lot of time, effort and study into theirs. As I watched one after another I started feeling sheepish for seeing this as an opportunity to make people laugh. There are art history majors in this class, and it's serious business for them, their grade will affect which universities they get to attend when they finish up at our little junior college. I started to feel like I had brought the wrong thing to show and tell, like a douche bag or some condoms a kid might find in their parents' bathroom. It might seem like the other students would be as fascinated by these strange and foreign items as you did when you first found them, but going last can really highlight the fact that what you chose to show and tell is not really going to fit into the common scheme of things.

I made an Ottoman Empire hat to wear. It looked like a combination of a poorly constructed chef's hat and a cooked package of Jiffy-Pop popcorn. I drew a mustache on my face to complete the mood before starting the presentation. They laughed.

Laughter from a crowd, any crowd, when you are trying to be
funny on purpose is like a drug. I am addicted to this drug, and can never truly get enough. I hadn't written or practiced the talk that went with my Keynote presentation, I knew that to ad-lib it would either sink or sail me. I worked in Lindsey Lohan and Britney Spears (at their best and very worst) when talking about harems. I used slides from artwork we had actually studied, but wove them into a nonsense commentary of my own design. I used a very elementary drawing program to make pictures of my teacher, both happy and angry to use in conclusion. To be honest, I was just playing up there.

I have no idea whether or not I will get a good grade in this class. At least one answer on a quiz I took was a frowny-face with an arrow drawn through its head. I do know though, that I have had more fun taking this class than anything I've done in recent history.

I'm almost positive that I have won this class and beaten my dearly beloved husband. Who could ask for more?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Possibilities and Improbabilities-Being ready for Anything

I remember once, I looked at the boys' dad and he had a perplexed and concerned look on his
face. "What's the matter?" I asked him, and he said "I just realized that we're all on this tiny, spinning ball in space, and none of us know what's going to happen next!" I laughed at the time, but have remembered that moment randomly over the years. He was correct.

Everything is just highly improbable, and therefore sometimes hard for me to believe. This one little blue and green planet with its oxygen and its water. Being the perfect distance from the Sun. The fact that even
though the tiny Moon and the giant Sun are extreme in their differences of size and distance from this planet during an eclipse they appear to be the exact same size. These are only a few of the things that baffle me, and make me feel like anything at all might happen next. Don't even get me started on the Golden Ratio (1:1.618) or I will spin off into a place I find it hard to return from.

I have the intellectual power to grasp the workings of any system if I apply myself to learning it, but there are so many things to understand that my life-span simply won't allow for it.

Yesterday LM said that there are around five hundred miles of books in the Library of Congress if you put them all in a single row. I am a die-hard bibliophile, but that would torture me. I can enter any library with the intention of choosing a book, and feel obligated to look at each and every one before making my choice. Five hundred miles of books. If I don't pick up and consider each and every book I may miss the book I should read, and I only have a limited amount of time left on this tiny, spinning and improbable planet left to me.

If I choose the wrong book, and the one right next to it was much better suited for me and my need for knowledge I may have wasted that time reading the wrong book. Therefore I must give all of them careful consideration. I am not able to choose a book in a library. I find it ironic that if there were a christian hell designed specifically to torture me for eternity it might look much like the Library of Congress. On the other hand, if I had eternity to read all the books it wouldn't matter which sequence I read them in, so that is what the christian heaven might look like as well.

Bookstores do not torment me in the same way, because there is purchasing involved. I like to buy stuff. I am an American, and well-versed in the art of acquiring things I don't really need, all the time. Since I've stopped reading paper books and only read in the immediate-gratification-world-of-E it has become even easier. I can have a free chapter of any book I want to consider, and if it hooks me I can own it without leaving my chair, in an instant, with only the tap of a link. I currently have twenty or so books waiting for me, and they fill me with the same sense of security that stockpiling cans of food and dried-goods did when I went Y2-crazy back in 1999. Don't infer that I am not always on the lookout for yet another book to add to the list. If I ever reach a state of true booklessness the world will stop spinning. I'm not sure if this is really true, but it's too big a risk to take, I'm not willing to go there.

Amazon's list of "Books you may like" is created by the same type of person who deals drugs on a corner. "Hey, if you liked that, you should try this!" The person who compiles that list knows an addict when they see one coming. There are authors I have read in their entirety, and when I have a chance to pre-order their next book I start to sweat a little, and salivate; sleep comes a little harder each night as the release date draws near.

The only thing that is missing from the world of reading in E format is the smell. I had the opportunity to enter a law library the other day, and its heady perfume was entirely intoxicating. Not only were the books old, and leather-bound, but the words were important and therefore have a stronger scent. I almost had to sit down for a moment I was so overwhelmed.

Add the whole idea of quantum physics to this, and everything is entirely out of control. As Michael said, "Anything from Monopoly could happen." This fills me with a deep sense of unease, and a dire need to read as many books as possible. This will in no way ameliorate any of the possibilities or consequences, but I plan to be as well informed as is feasible when something finally happens.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The list

"If it weren't for you, my life might have been something great."
"If it weren't for you your father would still love me."
" You're just like me, you're never going to be pretty, you're going to have to get by on your personality. You better get to work on that, if people really knew you no one would want you."
"You are the most selfish person on the planet."
"The only person you ever think about is yourself, and you've ruined my life."
"There has never been a person lazier than you are."

It's funny how the things I heard as a child still stay with me, as though they're fact. I've lived my whole life trying to prove these things to be untrue about myself, and at the end of the day when the ocean comes rolling back in to take back my sand-castle I still feel like that description of me.

I try to live my life as a compassionate person. I do my best to always be in service to others, and think of their needs as well as my own. For years the highest accolade I sought was "nice" because I knew I wasn't, and I so wanted people to like me. Forget about being pretty, I'm funny and smart and that won't recede with age, but I would have liked to be pretty too, if only a little bit.

I am a hamster on a wheel, spinning it as fast as it will go, trying to be the opposite of the
person I was told so often that I am. I make it my personal responsibility to be sure that no one is angry or yelling, sad, lonely or hopeless, bereft or bereaved. If I can somehow make sure everyone is fine and that I'm doing enough to make sure everything works out just peachy then maybe none of that was ever true.

Then there's life, and other people and all the things they do; the corners they paint themselves into and I realize that I can't make the whole world ok, even if I'm wiling to sacrifice my own well-being in the process. If that were true I could check off "Lazy" and "Selfish" at the same time and reduce the list I carry within myself; the list of how I ruined everything. If I could make it all smooth sailing for everyone I love I would gladly suffer for it, with only the occasional complaint.

I was not allowed to be angry about anything, ever. When things make me feel angry I feel wrong and will send my own self to my room for punishment. Angry is selfish, and I don't want to be a selfish person. I want to be the opposite of the list so I can deserve my space on the planet. This is insane, and it's how my secret-self feels much of the time.

I have never made a fist and hit another person with it, nor have I ever been punched in the face. That is part of Anger, and to be angry is to be self-centered and selfish. Sometimes though? I feel really angry and I want to punch and shoot, rend and rip and destroy. I put myself in isolation and sit very, very still, and I never ever do these things. It is my life's work to make sure that her list about me is wrong, that I'm not that person.

If everything goes as planned my oldest and final child will move out of our home today. I won't have any of my kids with me any more, and their need for me will be finished. I am terrified that I have missed chances to be a better parent, or that like me one of them will find it in themselves to walk away from their mother and never look back. That's not entirely true, I do look back, but only from around the corner and I make sure I'm never seen doing it, at least by her.

I feel sad today. Sad that this phase of my parenting is over. Sad that this phase of my womanhood, with all of it's blood and fertility is drawing to a close. Sad that although I feel young I am not, and only old age is on the menu for future meals.

I could have done better, I might have been someone great and made huge changes in the world. What I did do was focus on one little list and try to beat it. Sometimes I think I have, and other times I know that she was right the whole time and no amount of pretending on my part will ever change who I was born to be. I am wallowing in self-centered melancholy and would not choose myself for company today.

Scarlett O'Hara and I, we will think about all of this tomorrow.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Roasted or Broasted, I can never remember which is which...

As a tattooed person, I normally avoid the sun whenever possible. Leave a piece of colored paper on your dashboard for three days and flip it over to see the color difference and you'll know the reason why. When I was young I used to lay out in the sun, we all did. Being tan and checking your tan line to see how far along you had come that day was the activity of the summer. I don't remember the sun making me feel sick or drained, we used to do that all day then go out and party all night. Then again, that was when we were young and immortal.

Yesterday my girls and I were out in the direct sun for several hours working on our project for the La Strada street art festival. It was large in scope and we were out there on the blacktop for hours. I used 50 SPF sunscreen like it was frosting, I didn't even really rub it in, just glopped it on and spread it around. I did this twice over the course of the event. I also wore a big hat, quite fetching may I add, if you're a migrant farm-worker or an older lady who enjoys gardening. We had our team T shirts, bandanas and knee pads, and a vicious need to "win" if such a thing were possible.

I have never worked in chalk before. It's an interesting medium. If you touch it it wipes off. You can blend color, but even a tentative little finger-pat will lighten the color. I am used to
applying color that no amount of wiping will change, and this is ephemeral and fickle. I discovered my ability to work with either hand or both hands at the same time, I'd forgotten that I can do this, although I would never try it with a tattoo machine.

I don't know that blacktop reflects sunlight, I want to think that black plus tar would just soak it up. Sitting on it, even on a folded towel is an experience that made me feel like a piece of meat in that nifty three-way oven from the infomercial though. I got cooked. When I finally stood up after sitting there for so long my legs were noodlish and I spun around and landed right into the panel I had been working on. I believe I was on the verge of sun-stroke, but Scott saved my life with an umbrella. I still have a piece of art on the ass of my pants where I hit.

The art part, and the experience of being in direct sunlight for several hours are two separate experiences though. The first I enjoyed immensely, and the second, not so much. I feel sick from it today. Is that really possible? I only have a couple of patches of truly sunburned skin, it's not as if I have become the lobster that I wear on my shoulder. I can hardly move though, and this will be totally taking me out of my work-day, I'm not even going to try it.

As far as the art went, I had a blast. It was a fundraiser for a local high school, the kind of school I wish had existed when I was sentenced to high school myself. It's called New Technology High School, and all the curriculum is done on computer. It's one of (I think) eleven schools founded and supplied by Bill and Melinda Gates to see if a radically new way of learning in the kind of world that college graduates might actually inhabit would change the success statistics when compared to regular high schools. I didn't research any of that, but I remember hearing about it when it was a new school. My Big Daddy was kind enough to call me and point out a technical error in yesterday's blog, if any of that wasn't correct please feel free to comment this and clear it up for me.

All the pieces were up for auction to raise money for the school. Each had a starting bid of fifty
dollars, with a "buy now" price of two hundred and fifty. Our bid sheet was pulled by the school, along with one other piece and taken out of the bidding process. Apparently these two pieces will hang somewhere public for a while and be auctioned off at a separate event in the future, and for more money I'll guess. This feels very good, this feels like winning the internet.

I don't know where our triptych will hang or for how long, but if I see it out there I'll feel very proud that ours was deemed to be one of the best. Blair designed it, and I never did hear what the piece is named. She, Shayla and I each worked on our own panel, and then we all added a bit to the two other panels, so it was really a group effort. It's hard to spot, but the octopus has a Calico Eye, that should give you a clue which panel was the one I did. Personally, I think Blair's eel and Shayla's Woman Tree are the coolest parts, but as a whole the piece ROCKS.

Now I have to call and re-schedule three different people so I don't have to tattoo today, I just can't do it. I feel like over-boiled chicken, limp and tasteless. Oh well, life happens, even though people feel I should be available for their tattoos (especially if I have made a prior appointment for them) I sometimes simply can't do the work. Yesterday got all I had to give for a while.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

One Hundred

Being Laura, Obsequious Grandiosity
Bee Love, Outwardly Giving
Bizarre Lady, Obsessively Gesticulating

I've lain in bed all morning, trying to come up with a fabulous acronym for BLOG. This is blog number one hundred in the Blogger format. I'm not sure how many I did on facebook, and then on Live Journal, but right here on this little page we have my one-hundredth morning of telling you things.

I love numbers! Not for use in equations, but for the colors they are. I have a special fondness for when they add up to big even sums. I remember when I had my one thousandth day clean, Michael snuck quietly into the candle-light meeting I was attending to bring me a dozen roses. Today is day 2,352 but that number is not as cool as it would have been if it were 2,000 or 2,500, although as a single day in a string of "one day at a time"s it's a very fine day.

like to add numbers up and then reduce them to a single digit. That's the root of numerology, I didn't invent that, but I love to do it. I remember teaching Molly how to do that and the boys telling me I would "ruin her for regular math." It goes like this: My shop address is 3373, so 3+3=6+7=13+3=19, and 1+9=10. You drop zeros, so my shop is a one. The number of Aces and new beginnings.

The magic thing about nines is that you can ignore them completely and still come up with the same answer. If you transpose numbers, the difference will be nine or a multiple of nine. My birthdate adds up to nine, which is very spiritual and makes me extremely cool.

I didn't choose the topic of numbers for the Big 100 though, I thought I'd write about me, since that's all I really do anyway. I am my favorite topic, I understand the material better than anyone else and usually find myself quite fascinating. Not really, but at the same time I seem to think that everyone wants to know what I think about everything so I write about it all the time. I was an only child, I grew up in the land of Me ME ME and had a lot of time on my hands to think about myself and how I fit into the world; how to stand out and be different from the rest of it. I think the fact that my Big Daddy finds me more intriguing than anyone else in the world has exacerbated this over time.

It's been a strange year, this May to May trip around the Sun, and I think it was early May last year that I started writing regularly. Maybe mid or late May, but May. That's the month I had my Big Cry, my Spiritual Awakening, the beginning of becoming New Laura. I could say "Ask anyone, I am a totally different person than I was a year ago!" or you could just read a hundred blogs.

I never cease to amaze myself that I consider it important to write them, and always wonder if you've read any of them when we're talking in person. The funny thing is: every now and then someone will surprise me by mentioning one and saying they've read it. This eggs me on and supports my fantasy that everything I choose to write about will be interesting or funny and that you'll really want to know about it if I spend enough time carefully crafting paragraphs and choosing illustrations from the internet. I love being me, I just want to tell you all about it.

Today Shayla, Blair and I are going to go do some art (and I'm pissed at the moment because in the old composition format I could have made the word "art" into a link to a newspaper article about the event) at New Tech High School. It used to be done as sidewalk art, or blacktop art, whatever you would call that. Street art? Now it's done on panels that will be auctioned off to raise money for the school. Ours will be a six-foot by six-foot piece that is actually three separate panels. We're each doing one. Blair developed the original design, and the panels are off-set so that they don't line up perfectly. We are three highly-competitive, hysterically funny women who are going to collaborate on one piece of art. This should be amusing to say the least. I'm pretty sure ours will be one of the best, because it's the Ladies of Flying Colors Tattoo that are creating it. I've never worked in chalk, and I'm old and concerned that sitting on the ground or kneeling all day to do some art will kick my ass.

Blair has made "Laura Croft" T shirts for us to wear, we have team bandanas, and matching kneepads that say "Team Awesome" on them. I am not in control of this event or our team, which will make it something completely new for me. Blair is our team leader, yet back at the shop she is the apprentice and Shayla and I are the Official Tattoo Ladies. I am open to some fun and new experience.

So, there you go, a short yet rambling blog about some numbers, some chalk and ME.
Happy 100 everybody!