Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Five Things

After yesterday's soul searching, these are the items I landed on--whenever I break any one of these "rules," that seems to lead to my biggest regrets.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Step 4: The Step that Keeps on Giving

Ah, the Fourth Step. It never ends. Once you figure out something--a repeating pattern, an emotion that pops up every now and then for you for no apparent reason, that sort of thing--you've got to go back and reexamine your whole darn life to see how that "something" has been operating in ways unknown to you. Maybe not to your detriment, but maybe it has kept you from seeing the reality of a situation more clearly, or maybe it has kept you from appreciating as fully as you could have the little gifts that life sometimes hands you.

In prep for a lit course I'll be teaching in the fall, I've been going back and reviewing literary theory, so now my poor ole head is full of Lacan and Freud and Jung. You can't help but apply this stuff to your own life as you're reading it. I am a psychoanalyst's fantasy client. I got a double whammy as a child--first the ultimate abandonment when my mother committed suicide (I was six), and then she was replaced by a stepmother who really didn't want kids, but she wanted my dad, so my brother and I came as just a part of the deal. She was impossible to please and pretty much just wanted us out of the way, ascribing whole-heartedly to the "children should be seen but not heard" method of parenting. We did not have family conversations, period. There were simply a set of rules. You were left alone if you behaved. But if you broke a rule--well, then it was out to the backyard to pick your own switch from the forsythia branches, strip it of blooms if there were any, then be beaten 'til you cried and then be beaten 'til you stopped. There were hot summer days I was made to wear long pants instead of shorts because my stepmother didn't want anyone to see the bruises on my legs. Poor, poor, pitiful me, I know.

Well, people who know this stuff about me and also about the child sexual abuse I endured from my best friend's father have wondered before where my values have come from. Believe me, there have been times even I have wondered why I'm not a complete sociopath. My answer is "books." It's true.  I picked up most of my simple-minded little childhood values from the books that I read. Reading alone up in my bedroom, out of everybody's way, was one of the safest things I could do. In the balance, I can't say books were a bad way to learn about what's good and right behavior and what is bad and wrong and selfish. But I did grow up with some "pie in the sky" ideals about how things should operate--so I waited out my childhood until I was an adult, when I was sure things would change because finally I'd be in control of my own life. Hah. That was the bad thing about being "raised by books"-- I wasted a lot of my adulthood being frustrated that the good guy did not always win (in fact, he often loses) and that life is often unfair and unjust (systems and ideologies and religions actually don't normally protect the good guys; they merely reinforce the status quo).  Yes, I've been boning up on my Marxist criticism, too.

The unfairness of it all made me drink, drink, and drink some more. At first it was just to help me continue in the old pattern of putting my feelings on hold while waiting for something better and bearing life that way. But as the years passed and as alcohol turned on me and it took more booze to make me not care, I often overshot and the pleasant, happy buzzes turned into rants and rages. Booze became a problem. Indeed, alcohol started to cause problems.

Well, it's delightful to figure all of that out, but the question becomes: now what?

Here I am, fifty years old, and I still suffer when I look around and see injustice and see the "bad guys" winning and see institutions that should serve to make us all better people with better lives doing anything BUT.  Lately I have been trying to persuade myself that it's "one person at a time"--each of us is challenged to evolve and become a better soul, and THAT is how change comes about. The Rosicrucians have been transformative in this regard.

But some days it doesn't feel like enough.

Today I have no answers. If anyone else does, I sure would like to hear your thoughts.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Christina Perri: "A Thousand Years"

Enough vagina posts already. Now let's move on to this incredibly sappy song that I can't help loving anyway.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Topo Map of the Vaginal Area

In case you are a beginner or simply have trouble finding your way around, you enter the large opening in the center (with penis, fingers, a dildo, some other toy, or even a hand). However, don't just plunge in and do your bidness. The area must be properly prepared for such invasive procedures. Many women (but not all) love the lower hole (the anus) to be stimulated as it is a quite sensitive area--and I have YET to meet a woman who does not love the upper area (the clitoris marked "you are here" for your edification) to be given lots of attention. And I mean lots.

Do not be offended if she offers you direction (e.g., "higher," "lower," "to the right," "to the left," "harder," "gently! gently!") as we all like different kinds of stimulation.

Learn to love vaginas. After all, you entered this world by passing through one.

And it is NOT a dirty or offensive word.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Vagina, Vagina, Vagina!!

Apparently in Michigan, when a female legislator objected to a bunch of proposed restrictions on abortion and other issues affecting women's health on the house floor and used the word "vagina," the men in the house were so appalled by her use of what they deemed an "offensive" word, she was instantly shushed and forbidden from further addressing that august body for two whole days. 

June 22nd has therefore been dubbed "Vagina Day" on Facebook, where we will all say the clinically correct word for this female body part as often and as cheerfully as we like. Join us here if you agree.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

For My Dad

Ah, fathers. Here's one of my favorite dads, whose woven tapestry of cursing no doubt still does hang in outer space somewhere over Lake Michigan.

My own dad was a profoundly imperfect man, but who isn't, and I loved him anyway. In our house, it wasn't the furnace that he continually wrassled with, but it was fuses. Fuses continually blew in our rickety old stucco house on Richmond's south side. The fuse box was upstairs on the second floor balcony, and fuses blew so often he kept boxes of the little suckers always handy. This was a true pain in the butt on winter nights, when he'd have to bundle up against the elements and head outside with a flashlight and climb the stairs to replace whichever one had blown.

My dad was a Navy man, stationed in the Philippines during WWII, an experience he never talked about other than to say he worked in supply and saw very little action. But he would never, ever eat rice as long as I knew him.

My dad was an undiagnosed alcoholic who, after getting a DUI and losing his job, learned to manage his drinking by drinking on Saturday nights only. I saw him staggering, bellowing drunk only a couple of times.

My dad fell in love fast, married, then had affairs. He blamed himself for my being gay. Said it was because I didn't get enough love as a child.

My dad was an introvert, bookish, retreated to the den after supper every night, stuck his nose in a book, and stayed there the rest of the night.

My dad died of heart disease when he was 56. One of the last things he ever said to me was that he was glad I was going into teaching (I was in my first year of grad school) because over the years, he'd learned that helping others is the only real reason for living.

I am more like him than different. I have repeated some of his mistakes. I think when he died he had finally found some happiness. And perhaps that is the biggest lesson he taught me. Sucking it up in your outer life and seeking happiness only on the sly is a recipe for grief, for missed opportunities. Fuck society's judgmental nature. As long it it hurts no one else, if it brings you happiness, do it. Be open about it. Be true to yourself.

Nowadays we have no fuses, but I'm pretty damn good at finding the breaker box and flipping the switch back on.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

What a Day! (Happy Sigh)

Okay, we made it back from Kauai without mishap... I managed to drop a piece of luggage on my foot trying to get into the front door in the dark.... so now I have a black and blue big toe.... and I spent a couple hours yesterday napping because of jet lag.

It couldn't possibly be because I'm getting old!

Today (my actual birthday), Chelle surprised me by taking the day off and taking me to a Giants game, where we had awesome seats (seventh row just to the right of home plate). Even though the boys lost, it was such a gorgeous day out that we had a blast anyway. And speaking of the Giants, how about Matt Cain pitching a PERFECT game last night? No hitters aren't all that rare, but a perfect game truly is. They showed the last pitch several times on the scoreboard over the course of the game today, and each time a cheer went up that folks probably could hear all the way over in the East Bay.

And, we did get treated to the Baby Giraffe (Brandon Belt) knocking a splash hit over the arcade and into McCovey Cove.

Now I'm home and full of hot dogs and kettle corn and Ghirardelli Square hot fudge sundae, so I'm just going to relax and watch an episode or two of Dexter and make an early evening of it. To all my Facebook friends, thanks so much for the birthday wishes. Y'all sure know how to make an old lady feel special.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Booze: That Pain in the Ass

I thought I'd pass along a strategy that has worked beautifully for me this vacation. An alcoholic like me thinks "Hawaii" and the next thought that pops into my head is "mai tai" or "tropical itch" or "Kona Brewing Longboard Lager." It's also true that whenever you're seated at a restaurant in the islands, the first thing you're offered is a mai tai, inevitably the house's specialty. It just so happens that the mai tai and the margarita used to be my favorite drinks--I spent the better part of my drinking life always in search of perfected versions of these two, and my opinion is that the best mai tai can be had on Oahu at the Mai Tai bar at the Royal Hawaiian.

In any case, I'm not about to blow almost three years of sobriety just because I happen to be on vacation. But white-knuckling it is no fun, either.

So here is what works for me.

The server delivers drinks to the next table, or to Chelle, and I go ahead and look. I mean, I take a good look. I remember how the first drink of the day would always be so good, so refreshing, the thing that capped off the picture perfect moment, and how quickly it would go down and how phenomenal it felt to get the initial rush of the impending happy buzz. I acknowledge all of that.

And then I let my mind click forward to what happens when the glass is empty.

I want another one. I do NOT want the buzz to leave. I do NOT want that sticky, miserable, headachy feeling of the happy buzz wearing off. So I order another one. And then another one, if I can get away with it. If I can't, I feel the anger and anxiety of having to stop, and the fidgety sensation of trying to concoct ways to get back to another bar--suggesting, "hey, let's take a walk down the beach," looking, looking, looking around, and "hey, that place has a Happy Hour right now, let's look in"--and so it would continue, me irritable and worthless for the remainder of the day and night, drinking more and more in a futile quest to reexperience that initial rush of the first drink, until eventually I fall into bed and pass out.

Because the truth is, once I have one, I can't stop, and the truth is, once I start drinking, I spend more time feeling miserable than I do feeling happy.

And that is enough to make any fleeting craving go away.  Drinking is too much of a pain in the ass.

Spouting Horn

This is an interesting little sight on Kauai's south shore. There's a lava shelf at the ocean's edge with an old lava tube underneath, so when a wave comes in, water is thrust through the opening and it shoots out of the hole. How much it squirts out is entirely dependent on the size of the wave, so it's best seen at high tide.

We were also treated to another rainbow this morning.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Belmont Stakes Pick 4

Well, I'm not all that stoked about the Belmont today since I'll Have Another is a scratch, but still it's a Triple Crown race, so I gotta play! Here is a quick Pick 4 ticket I slapped together.

 Race #8    06/09/2012
$0.5 Pick-4
# 4,5,6
WT # 3,5,7,8
WT # 1,6,7
WT # 3,9

Friday, June 8, 2012

A Jam-Packed Thursday

I will (gasp!) be 50 years old next Thursday, so yesterday I put this aging body to the test and emerged relatively unscathed, although I admit I did spend part of yesterday being mad at myself for spending the better part of my mid-40s drinking like a fish and packing on way too many pounds.

But to the point at hand.

We decided to go see Waimea Canyon (second video below), dubbed "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific." Guidebooks say different things, but as best as I can make it out, two natural events caused its formation: on the one hand, the old volcano on the island's western end, of which Wai'ale'ale is one tip. Repeated eruptions and lava flows created the various layers of color. There is also a fault, so at another point, a massive earthquake caused part of the volcano to collapse, causing what was once three rivers to join into one. It flowed into the fault, further carving out the niches of the old lava flows.

Wai'ale'ale itself is known as one of the wettest spots on the planet because it rains there every day. I mean, we are talking on average 450 inches a year. When you get to the end of Waimea Canyon Drive, you are looking down into Kalalau Valley, and what you see is rapidly evaporating clouds with glimpses of green in the gaps. The fog can get really thick, too, as you'll see in the video below.

Here is video of Waimea Canyon itself from the first lookout.

Now, you cannot get to the North Shore of Kauai from the end of Waimea Canyon Road (or from any road that cuts across the island): there is the Na Pali Coast on one side, which is all sheer cliffs, and a swamp in front of you. Builders tried to get a road through the swamp once but had to abandon the effort. So, even though as the crow flies you are only about seven miles from the north coast, you have to turn around, go back down the road, and drive around the east side of the island (about 45 miles) to get to Princeville, Hanalei, and the north shore beaches. This "inconvenience" has turned into a blessing in disguise for Kauai, because it has ensured that parts of the island remain remote.

We wanted to visit Tunnels Beach, which is known as the best snorkeling spot on the island. I left my phone in the car, so I didn't get any photos, but trust me when I say it is a gorgeous beach--a HUGE beach. There is limited parking, so even though at first you think the beach is going to be as crowded as Waikiki on a weekend, it isn't. There's just too much of it. There is a beautiful, wide expanse of golden sand; the water is crystal clear blue, blue, blue; and on the east side there is a reef with some awesome snorkeling. Tons of colorful fish and then came the real treat: a sea turtle! He was feeding along the reef, and every time a big wave came through, he'd kind of flip up on one side so you could see his belly, ride out the wave, and then return to munching on whatever it was he was devouring from some small crevice in the reef. I basically just held still and stared at him, fascinated. Several times he came so near to me it felt like I could have reached out a hand and felt the rough surface of his shell.

All told, we spent about ten hours traveling around the island yesterday.

Today I am just going to sit on my ass, read, watch movies, and listen to the sea.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

It's not every day....

.... you wake up in the morning and the first thing you see is a rainbow.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tubing the Ditches in Kauai

Ok, the above wasn't our actual tour (I didn't bring my cell phone to video because there was no way to keep it dry), but the tour itself was the exact same one as the one in the above video, so this gives a solid idea of what "tubing the ditches" on Kauai is like. It's very cool! Relaxing, only one or two short adrenaline rushes, and truly beautiful countryside that's off the beaten path. Kauai Backcountry Adventures, the tour company, has exclusive access to the historic irrigation system of the former Lihue Plantation. This ditch and tunnel system that once irrigated vast sugar crops had been unused since sugar was taken out of production in 2000. (The land apparently belongs to Steve Case of AOL fame. He bought it for the sweet price of $900 an acre with the stipulation that the land remain undeveloped for the next 20 years.) In January 2003, Kauai Backcountry opened a section for exclusive tubing tours. This water system runs through some of the most beautiful and remote land on the island. It includes spectacular views of the ocean, coastline, mountains and valleys. The waters which originate near the top of Mount Waialeale, one of the wettest spots in the world, are channeled through ditches and tunnels hand-dug by plantation workers over a century ago! Grab a tube, don a headlamp, water shoes, and gloves, and jump in the gently flowing waters. Witness Kauai's spectacular, historical engineering feats as you float down the open canals, through several amazing tunnels and flumes engineered and hand dug circa 1870.

For me, the most interesting part were the five tunnels we went through--it was amazing looking at those solid rock walls and knowing the amount of labor that was expended for the whopping daily sum of .49 cents a day per worker.

After tubing, we had a picnic lunch in the backcountry at a remote swimming hole, and on the way back we saw a family of nene (Hawaiian geese) crossing the dirt road, a real treat because they are an endangered species. 

All in all, it was kind of a touristy thing to do and a little on the pricey side, but it was worth every penny and is something everybody from kids to ole grannies can do.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Ocean from Pool Deck 6am

There is a sea turtle swimming in the water, but it's still somewhat dark out so he's hard to see. He sticks his head up out of the water several times but it's really easy to miss.  I'll try more video later. Yesterday there were three of them swimming along near the shore riding in the waves.

Friday, June 1, 2012

IZ: "Somewhere over the Rainbow"

Well, every time I'm heading to Hawaii, nothing gets me in the right frame of mind better than Izzy Kamakawiwo‛ole.