Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mmm Magic

Wow.  It has been an awful long time since I've posted, hasn't it?  Well, I apologize.  Really, I do. Kiss and make up, my darlings?

In my defense, October wasn't all that interesting of a month for me.  In fact, I can hardly think of one notable occurrence therein (outside of some remarkably gruesome ER intakes at Wild Bird Rehab).  Mostly, I spent the days working despairingly and the nights smoking copiously.  Weekends predominately involved brunching, reading, and working out.

November, on the other hand, was extraordinary.  That was the month I joined OkCupid (OkC) and I subsequently spent the following thirty days contentedly binging on the fruits of my OkC endeavors.  I am, admittedly, drawn to online social networking in all of its various formats (as witness, my endless twittering), so that was part of the OkC appeal.  But an even bigger component was realizing that a veritable cornucopia of dating opportunities awaited me online.  At some point in my twenties, I began to presume that meeting a like-minded, atheistic, intellectually vibrant, freaky freak in this outwardly vanilla town was a nearly impossible prospect.  Turns out, I was utterly mistaken.  Rather, St. Louis is stuffed to the brim with the polyamorous, the unconventional, the kinky, and the unexpected. 

In December, I began dating a younger man who could conservatively be characterized most accurately as a fucking sex god.  I won't go into too many details here*, but suffice to say, he has superbly met and exceeded all of my expectations, thus far.  In him, I've found my ideal GGG** partner.  At turns dominant, creative, tender, insatiable, and far more.  Not only that, but his intellect truly entices me, too.  In sum, I feel incredibly fortunate to have met him.

Outside of the fucking and the dating, I've spent much of this month in the gym and on the yoga mat.  I want my body to become the perfect machine.  That probably sounds highly crass and self-involved to the uninitiated, but the sex I'm having is absolutely transformative.  It is sex magic.  It is consecrated.  It is worth. the. effort. 

More later, my dears.  xxx ooo  *lewd gesture*

-J.


*(Since he may be none too appreciative of my writing of our exploits so publicly.)

**Good, Giving, Game

Monday, October 4, 2010

TMI Trifecta

In the past couple of weeks, I've posted on both suicidal ideation and masturbation.  I'll round out my TMIfest with a blog in which I graphically describe the loss of my virginity.  (I'll never be president at this rate of inappropriate, shameless self-disclosure.)



During my thirteenth year, one early spring evening, I was loitering about in the streets of my west county apartment complex.  It was warm enough to be outside without a jacket, but there was a coolness to the air when the breeze picked up that left goose bumps along the skin of my exposed arms.  The sun had freshly set and the sky displayed a yawning blue/violet along the horizon. Above my head the cosmos was black enough to see the initial winking stars of the night.

A couple of kids around my age were having a lover’s quarrel (if you could call them lovers—given that their relationship was really quite chaste). They were remarkably gorgeous characters. She was diminutive and curvy with old Hollywood good looks and dark locks of thick hair falling into her concentrated hazel eyes. He was tall and impossibly lean with chin-length, chaotic, blonde hair and titanic, cerulean peepers. Their argument was mostly nonsense, indiscernible to an outsider, but it enveloped them both, warding off the brisk spring air and their maddening young lives.

I remember their fight to this day because it was happening on the roofs of the car ports above me. Their voices were not shrill but contained an intensity those haphazard structures had never seen before and probably never saw again. There must have been tears—most certainly on his part (he was a sensitive, almost effeminate boy)--perhaps on her part, as well. That night was my introduction to the boy to whom I would lose my hetero virginity.  If I remember correctly, he ran off in a panic before I had a chance to speak to them.

The next time I encountered this boy was months later.  He had broken up with his green-eyed lady and was doing his best to court her best friend, Bella. I recall walking into Bella’s basement and seeing him sprawled out on one of her father’s old, olive green, lazy boy chairs with a gangly leg hanging out over the side of one of the chair arms. He was waxing poetic about The Dead Kennedys--holding court about the lessons he had learned from Jello Biafra regarding the imminent ways of the world. I was struck by his barbed taste in music and his kinetic energy, his mile-long grin and open face. He was beautiful, exuberant, and sweating like a first-time mother having just given birth. I think I loved him from that very moment in my own removed way.

He was somewhat successful with Bella and we became better acquainted as a consequence. He would telephone me to complain about her and to lament about his former rooftop lover. I would do my best to dispense worthwhile advice, given that I knew significantly less about relationships than he did. Soon, we had developed something of a friendship. (Recently, he marveled to me that he had never in his life spoken with anyone so frequently or at such length on the phone.) We both were embroiled in high school drug-taking and we would routinely call each other while tripping or rolling. We would describe the nature of our altered mental states and discuss life in the most intimate of terms. The drugs diminished all of our youthful pretensions. We spoke without ego boundaries. I can hardly remember a word of our conversations now. What stands out, in retrospect, is how exploratory these discussions were. How we learned from each other and how we stanchly supported one another.

This boy had, coincidentally, known my best friend since they were KinderCare goers. One morning, I was in the kitchen of her father’s humongous, affluent home. (We must have been skipping school, as was our wont.) The white-hard, winter sunlight was streaming though the bay windows. My best friend was telling me that it was her understanding that this boy now had a crush on me. I balked. I thought there could be no foreseeable way that he could possibly have an interest in me. As it turned out, it didn’t much matter, because some new girl had pursued him in the interim and they were dating.  I felt she wasn’t nearly good enough for him--a warmed-over excuse for a girlfriend, totally unsure of herself with an uninteresting mind. Clearly, he should be with me.

That following New Years Eve the boy and I were planning on attending a party together. He had invited me to meet up with him at his parents' place beforehand. We had smoked some weed and were preparing ourselves for the foray in his over-sized bathroom. I naively asked him if he thought I was pretty. He momentarily considered it, while standing behind me, gazing at my expectant reflection in the mirror. Making a determination, he pretended to spank me and told me he’d love to bend me over his knee and teach me a lesson. I blushed deeply and then hit him with how-dare-you-speak-to-me-that-way-?, faux indignance.

That night, at the party, I tried to put all of the moves on this boy in my amateurish manner, but he was a decent enough sort. He didn’t want to cheat on his girlfriend, but it seems she already knew what was coming. She had duly noted how he doted on me and how he virtually ignored her. Shortly thereafter, they broke up. I remember the boy and I cruising on long car rides during the following time period:  how our sweaty fingers laced impeccably together, and how very nice it felt to be physically connected. I recall furtively making out with him while parked a few blocks away from my parents’ home. He was an absurdly talented kisser. Soft lips. Responsive. Susceptible.

He, Bella, and I met at a local, lesbian coffee house (ironic, I know) on the night of interest.  Bella and I had hatched a plan. I wanted to lose my hetero virginity and he was available. We essentially dared him to sleep with me and he was, of course, game. Consequently, we returned to Bella’s car--he and I in the backseat, she in her front passenger seat. I was wearing my customary long, black velvet dress and not much else. He was on top and did his best to enter me, but I was so tight and making such pitiful noises that he wasn’t sure that he wanted to continue and possibly hurt me. But Bella mischievously goaded him on. She told him, “If you don’t fuck her, by God, I will come back there and do it myself!” (We both knew that this was not an idle threat – considering that Bella, the green-eyed lady, and I had all been together, sometimes concurrently, in the past.) Thus, he not unhastily proceeded according to her directive.

***

I presently reside in the neighborhood where I lost my hetero virginity.  Virtually every time I walk past Cheap Trix (the tattoo parlor/fetish shop that we had parked in front of on that night over a decade before), I warmly remember that youthful fiasco and I smile to myself with inward bemusement.

Om shanti.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

In Honor of Masturbation (or Why Christine O’Donnell Should Go Fuck Herself)

As many of you know, I am a huge proponent of masturbation.  [If you are a family member, or Christine O’Donnell, you’ll probably want to stop reading this, now.]  My philosophy on self-pleasure is best described by a phrase typically associated with voting: [masturbate] early--and often!  This is a vital activity for all of the usually cited reasons:  it relieves stress, it is educational*, and of course, it feels fantabulous.  Not to mention the fact that manual stimulation can occur with a lover (or to a lover) and no one gets pregnant or sick (protection that doesn’t cost a dime!).

On a semi-related note, this past weekend I attempted to finish Symmetry (again).  I’ve been steadily picking my way through this book for weeks and the process is downright atrocious. To explain, the authors rely heavily on equations to explore the subject of symmetry (as it relates to Emmy Noether’s theorem). Their use of equations would not normally be an issue (I’m not one to shy away from a little math) except for the fact that the authors assume that their readers have some familiarity with the basic symbolic notation involved in physics, and since I’ve never taken a formal physics class in my life, this has proven somewhat problematic for me.

When my eyes begin to glaze over from information overload (and absolutely no one can casually overwhelm the average reader like a Nobel Laureate and theoretical astrophysicist can), my hand begins to drift toward my lady bits. I then take a small break from my reading**.  You see, I have this unusual fetish (if you want to call it that) involving higher education.  My sexualization of academia seems to have taken root as a consequence of my having repeatedly watched the library scene with Lara Flynn Boyle in Threesome (which you can and should watch here) during my formative adolescent years.  As a consequence, it seems that I adore big words, too. I also enjoy big concepts.  There is something terrifically sexy regarding enormously active brains.  Probably the sense of mastery involved (or maybe I am equating intellectual mastery with sexual mastery -- truth be told, these things go hand-in-hand more often than you might presume). 

Regardless, I've still got a good one hundred pages remaining to read, so I'll undoubtedly have a colossally stimulating weekend ahead of me.  

Om shanti,
la Contra Yogini



*Seriously, if you want to be a fantastic lover, masturbate. A lot. Then masturbate with your partner. You’ll be surprised at how much you can learn from such a seemingly elementary activity.

**Hmm...maybe it isn’t the equations that are the trouble - maybe it is the masturbatory interludes, but I digress.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Boll Weevils

About a month ago, while I was working the evening shift at WBR, I noticed that there were these curious, exquisitely tiny, black bugs happily crawling about in some of our bird seed.  I had never seen these bugs in our seed before, so I brought some to my supervisor for inspection and she reassured me not to worry about them.  She gamely explained that these were merely boll weevils and that they couldn't hurt the birds.  (To be sure, the birds were eating the weevils right along w/ the seed.)

When I heard the words boll weevils, I immediately recalled the below video and exclaimed, "So THOSE are what boll weevils are!"

And now, you all know, too--



Of course, I hummed this pithy wee tune for the rest of the night, completely unable to erradicate it from my head.  You'll probably soon know all about that, as well :)

They're lookin' for a home!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Romancing The Act

Of late, I've been ruminating on the act of suicide.  An Old 97's lyric from Fight Songs astutely describes my mindset:  Thought so much about suicide/Parts of me have already died.

I've slid so precipitously far into major depression that I'm actually showing signs of romanticizing the possibility of death.  To wit, my sister and I were driving around recently when I pointed out a particular location to her and brightly stated, "That was where I almost killed myself once," as though I was calling her attention to a great vacation spot or a beautiful architectural feature.  Naturally, she was disturbed by my casual, quasi-cavalier attitude regarding my near untimely death.  So I reassured her [and now, all of you readers] that I wouldn't actually go through with this act--that I hadn't attempted it before, because I ultimately realized that she and our youngest sister could never comprehend why I would do such a horrible thing.  And, of course, I'd rather not traumatize people (especially innocent, young ones) who care about me.*  

Nevertheless, I think about suicide a lot.  I draw this notion close to my chest the way Linus lovingly cuddles his sky-blue blanket.  The prospect (again, not the act itself - but simply the fantasy) is coldly comforting.  It is as though I am reinforcing my decision to stay on this earth every time I realize what a very real possibility suicide is.  I could do it.  Any day.  Any time.  I could drive off a bridge into the Mississippi.  I could jump off a bluff at Castlewood.  I could hang myself from a tree.  So many possibilities.  Knowing that I could kill myself makes me feel less suffocatingly trapped in the life that I'm living.

***

I've been trying to pinpoint when precisely my mood grew so very dark.  I've concluded that it must have begun with the MVA in January.  That was the triggering event.  Normal people do not react to a car accident the way that I did.  For me, it was the equivalent of emotional terrorism.  Immediately following the collision, I was a hyperventilating, mucous-soaked mess.  I could barely even speak to the responding officer through my panicky sobs.  I was thrown into a tailspin of financial concern and physical insecurity.  How will I get to my job?  How will I work with this pain?  The ER visit isn't covered by my insurance - will I be sent to collections?  What will that do to my credit?  When will I get a new car?  How will I pay for the down payment and the medical co-pays?  Etc. etc.

Unlike the majority of my friends and associates, I do not have middle (or upper) class parents. I come from a working class background (to put it mildly).  Thus, I have no one who can bail me out of my financial troubles.  This is pretty much a sink or swim situation for me and the MVA brought that disquieting reality to the fore.

***

My mood seemed to stabilize around springtime.  I continued to be unhappy, but not unhappy enough to actually do anything about it (more likely, I was paralyzed into inaction and apathy by the ongoing depression).  Also, there were plenty of intervening events - out-of-town trips, visiting friends, work at WBR - to distract me from my failing mood.

It seems that everything started getting particularly bad again in the past thirty or so days.  I learned that someone close to me has cancer, a whole host of deeply fucked-up family problems erupted (that I will not address here for legal and privacy reasons), and I experienced even more financial troubles.  In addition, I acutely detest my job. Every morning when I arrive at my office, I feel as though I am decimating yet another precious day of my life, but I get the impression that this is common for many Americans.

Oh, and then there is the loneliness.  When I am utterly forlorn, I tend to isolate myself even further.  I don't want to be accused of being overly pessimistic and I also don't want to pollute anyone else's healthy mindset.  So I just stay away from most people.  I retreat inward.  I ruminate.  I fantasize.

In sum, I need to see a doctor.  This is a chemical thing that I've successfully dealt with before.  I simply need to do something about it, instead of comforting myself with grotesque suicidal ideations.**


Om shanti.



*Moreover, I am now completely atheistic and so I intimately feel that this is my only life to live.  I've nothing to look forward to after death.  Suicide doesn't make sense to me - not at this time anyway (maybe that would change if I were experiencing intractable pain in old age or something of that nature).

**Please, please don't post comments about how selfish you think suicide is.  I find that sort of commentary dismissive and judgmental.  Major depression is not an illness I've chosen for myself.  When one feels this desolate, thoughts of suicide naturally arise.   It does not follow that because I admit to them, I will act on them.  Thank you.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My Day In Brief



"Handsome.  Got my leather boots on."



This video saved my day from utter craptitude.  Multiple times.

Love live P.J. Harvey.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

To Dream Amphibial

Last night I had the strangest dream [where everything was exactly how it seemed - sorry, Postal Service stream of consciousness interruption]. I dreamt that, when changing the water in one of my water-bound plants (a cutting that I was attempting to root), I had discovered a multitude of exuberant, tiny tadpoles in my water vase.

Initially, I was very glad to see them, thinking a momma frog must have stopped by overnight and specially chosen my window sill to have her babies. This discovery brought to the fore of my (un)consciousness pleasant, childhood memories of my capturing miniature, spring peeper tadpoles from our backyard creek. (I’ve always been very fond of toads and frogs; because I spent so much time as a child in and out of water myself, I relate to their amphibial nature.)

The dream soon took a fantastic turn. Somehow, I abruptly had a mouth full of tadpoles. It is unclear whether I had absentmindedly taken a drink from the vase of tadpoles*, but once I realized what had happened, I quickly and gingerly tried to spit them all back into the water.  I then anxiously hovered over the vase to see if they had survived the trip to and from my mouth.  The tadpoles seemed to be okay.  Most of them floated at the top for a second (most likely stunned) and then kicked back into action and started swimming quite contentedly with their brethren.

Within moments I felt more tadpoles in my mouth – crammed in between my teeth and gums, in the back of my throat, and under my tongue.  I automatically presumed that I must not have spit them all out before (although, I remember being certain that I had emptied my mouth of tadpoles in the dream - this is not something one easily mistakes: whether one's mouth contains tadpoles or not). At any rate, I again spit my mouth tadpoles into the vase.

At this point, the dream begins to break down; maybe because I was approaching the end of that particular REM cycle or perhaps because I’d forgotten the ending since I awoke (dreams are fleeting, after all). Regardless, I recalled the dream the moment I walked into my shower this morning and felt the water streaming down my body. I’ve since been pondering what this dream could have meant.  If anyone would like to offer up a dream analysis, please feel free to do so.


Om shanti.




*This part of the dream is rather hazy.  However, the depth of my inattentiveness is so profound that I feel this could be a feasible theory.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

On the Tail of a Raptor

Not too long ago, trouble swooped into WBR on the tail of a raptor.  As I've previously written, our facility deals strictly with Passeriformes meaning "those who perch" a/k/a the beloved, backyard songbirds.  To a raptor (colloquially known as a bird of prey), our entire facility appears as fresh lobster in a grocery store tank might appear to you:  ripe for the eating.  However, the particular raptor in question was hardly in a position to do any songbird hunting.  For one thing, he was securely confined to a carrier large enough to house a medium-sized dog.  For another, he had suffered some sort of injury - initially suspected to be an issue of toxicity, according to the animal control officer, Newton, who had called ahead to request that we triage the bird.*

Our ER tech, Janey, began her examination by donning thick, leather handling gloves that comically dwarfed her diminutive upper extremities.  Frankly, the bird himself, with his powerful talons and ultra sharp sense of his surroundings (even while injured), didn't appear all that intimidated by her medical trappings.  Indeed, nothing much seemed to be bothering this raptor at all.  For this reason, Newton suspected that the raptor might have eaten or attacked a bird who had been poisoned.  Our raptor seemed to be neurologically inhibited (another classic sign of toxicity) and just a few sandwiches short of a picnic basket.

After finding the gloves far too cumbersome to utilize properly, Janey abandoned them for her customary thick towel.  She dropped the towel quickly over the raptor's head (thus, preventing him from visually tracking her), wrapped it closely around his body (thus, immobilizing him), and then extracted him expertly from his carrier.  Janey proceeded to examine him thoroughly for any visible signs of injury.  Other than his docility (healthy, wild raptors are not usually handled by humans with any level of ease), we could find no other signs or symptoms to account for his strange behavior (after animal control received a call reporting that this raptor had spent several hours perched, essentially unmoving, on a residential porch banister, he had been picked up by them just as easily as Janey had handled him).

Hopeful that the effects of the presumed poison might already be lessening, Janey decided to give the raptor some fluids.  She slowly and carefully inserted a thin, rubber tube down his throat (he was still wrapped in the towel and did not seem to be under any duress) and injected the tube with fluids.  As she was removing the tube, Newton noticed a pink fluid escape from the corner of the bird's beak.  We next spotted several small pink dots on the white towel.  This was just the information we needed:  from there, we were able to conclude that this raptor was experiencing some minor internal bleeding.  Given that he had originally been picked up at a busy intersection, we deduced that he must have been struck by a car.  Janey then administered to him some anti-inflammatory by injection and turned the bird back over to Newton for safe keeping until the local raptor rehab facility opened in the morning.  I later found out that our patient had been successfully admitted to the proper facility with a good prognosis.  

***

I was delighted to be able to witness this simple procedure involving the raptor.  It felt like a special treat because I far prefer birds of prey to songbirds.  I admire their strength, their intellect, their graceful, yet powerful, flight.  Honestly, it is all I can do to keep my eyes on the road when I drive through the countryside; I am that raptor-crazed.  After we received the call from Newton requesting our services, I was nearly overcome w/ giddy anticipation.  However, as exciting as it was to triage the raptor, we had an even more exciting new admit the following week - but in an entirely different regard.  This charge was exciting with respect to the severity of his injuries.  He was a snow-white, racing pigeon with a pink beak and matching pink feet.  He also had a troublesome, rather large, pink splotch covering his upper chest feathers.  The elderly couple who had brought him in theorized that he might have been hit w/ a BB gun, but they were hopeful for his recovery because they had observed the pigeon eating voraciously while he was under their care.

I was too chicken shit to examine the bird myself, lest I somehow exacerbate its injuries, so I again summoned the help of Janey.  As was her wont, she wrapped the bird in a heavy towel to immobilize him and then began to inspect the area that blood had painted pink.  In no time whatsoever Janey discovered why the bird had been eating so much and so often - he had a gaping hole in his crop. To explain, according to Wikipedia, "in a bird's digestive system, the crop is an expanded, muscular pouch near the throat. It is a part of the digestive tract, essentially an enlarged part of the esophagus."  As you can imagine, it is quite difficult to gain any substantial nourishment when you have your throat torn open.

Oddly enough, despite the traumatic wound, this bird was stable and attempting to eat.  It appeared as though his wound had somehow been cauterized (possibly as a result of fermented bird seed in the wound?), which was beneficial, in that the wound had not been infected, but was problematic, in that we were not sure if necrosis (the premature death of tissue) had set in.  If we were dealing w/ necrosis, then the bird did not have a very good chance of surviving - even if we were able to successfully close the wound.  Janey dutifully attempted to reach the vets that volunteered for our facility when serious cases were involved, but no one was available this late Friday evening before a holiday weekend.

After briefly conferring with me, Janey made the decision to intervene and attempt to glue the wound shut.  She felt that he would not survive the weekend with this open wound and that this was his best chance at viability.  First, Janey gave him some medicine for pain and then went to work cleaning the wound and removing the broken feathers surrounding it.  At that point, we were able to rule out necrosis because the wound began to bleed.  It was viscerally painful for me to watch, but I felt that I owed the bird my full attention.  That if he was going to have to endure this procedure, than we would have to be present with his suffering, too.  He hardly struggled at all during the cleaning, only closing his eyes when Janey plucked a particularly large feather near the wound.  He was utterly silent, too.  In sum, this bird was one of the more stoic patients I'd ever met.
 
Eventually, we were able to clean the wound and prep the bird for the gluing procedure.  Unfortunately, the tear was quite jagged (ironically reminiscent of a raptor attack), which would make it all the more difficult to properly close.  I applied the glue to the wound myself and then held the bird still as Janey dexterously sealed it.  We checked the wound a couple of more times before leaving WBR for the evening and it remained securely closed.  We were hopeful that he would enjoy a successful recovery.  Sadly, I subsequently learned that the wound had reopened and instead of attempting to reseal it, our director decided to put the bird down.  (She is very conservative about these sorts of procedures and not a proponent of gluing, in general, so we were not surprised at her decision.)  Nevertheless, Janey and I still believe this pigeon would have survived to race again, had our director simply re-glued the wound.

***

To conclude on a less existential note, typically at this time of year, things begin to slow down at WBR so far as juvenile new intakes are concerned.  With one exception:  baby American Goldfinches.  For some reason, they have a late clutch compared with the rest of the St. Louis area song birds.  If you are curious about our little goldies, check out this video of three different goldfinches at three different stages in their development.  Note, the beeee boop-boop-boop call of the oldest of the three.  Curiously, theirs is a very catchy call and difficult not to imitate.  I'm sure I'll be beee booping up a storm at WBR as these guys get older and another busy baby season draws to a close. 


Om shanti.





*If there are no other alternatives available, most at WBR will not refuse emergency care to a needy patient - songbird or otherwise.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sviatoslav Richter

Richter explained his approach to performance as follows: "The interpreter is really an executant, carrying out the composer's intentions to the letter. He doesn't add anything that isn't already in the work. If he is talented, he allows us to glimpse the truth of the work that is in itself a thing of genius and that is reflected in him. He shouldn't dominate the music, but should dissolve into it." Or, similarly: "I am not a complete idiot but, whether from weakness or laziness, have no talent for thinking. I know only how to reflect: I am a mirror . . . Logic does not exist for me. I float on the waves of art and life and never really know how to distinguish what belongs to the one or the other or what is common to both. Life unfolds for me like a theatre presenting a sequence of somewhat unreal sentiments; while the things of art are real to me and go straight to my heart."  Approach to Performance (Wikipedia entry)
I've listened to both of the below Richter pieces approximately ten times each tonight.  As a result, I'm sure some (myself, namely) might accuse me of obsessive-compulsive behavior.  It is just that the depth of his performance is so astounding.  I can't escape his reflection of these "waves of art."  They elicit a pleasant, tingling, visceral reaction.  Indeed, I seek them with vigor. 

No matter!  I shall return to my music. *end Norma Desmond impression*

In all seriousness, Richter truly does embody Beethoven. It is almost a spectacle to behold (um, belisten?)--



[Sadly, I couldn't locate the second movement on YouTube, but I did find it on Grooveshark.]



Om shanti.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Summertime Rolls

Those who own vehicles equipped with all of the amenities--including air conditioning--can easily roll up their car windows, put on their dark sunglasses, and thus effectively blot out of their consciousness the people sharing the world around them.  As you know, my new car prohibits my traveling about St. Louis in this insular manner.  When homeless and displaced people stand and beg on street corners, I must be fully present with them and their suffering.*  Perhaps as a consequence of this, or as a consequence of my having done some begging myself in my own homeless days, I've begun to give rather generously to these folks.

To wit--there is this older gentleman who works the southern corner of the IS 40/64 exit ramp at Grand Avenue during the afternoon rush hour.  Not too long ago, St. Louis was under a severe heat wave warning (w/ temperatures exceeding 100 degrees) for the better part of a week.  During that time, I took to bringing this unfortunate elderly man cold water bottles from our office fridge, because I could hardly bear to watch him day in and day out sweating profusely in the full sun.  I would wait for him to shuffle past my car, then I would leave the water near his army duffel bag when the traffic light turned green.  Needless to say, I very much enjoyed being his water fairy for that heat wave.

Last week, on the same corner, I emptied my brimming change purse (theoretically my Clayton parking meter change) into a destitute older woman's grateful hands.  I've never seen a bigger grin than the one on her face as her fingers filled and filled with quarters.  After heartily blessing me, she walked on.  I think my witnessing that ginormous grin whetted my appetite for an even more expansive display of gratitude.  (I'm not sure if this makes me a megalomaniac, but it seems quite likely.)

Sunday afternoon, I gave a man who approached me on Ted Drews' parking lot a $10 bill before he could even offer me a complete story of woe.  He was so sincerely grateful for the gift that he promptly wrapped me in an all-consuming, bear hug, then pulled quickly away and self-consciously apologized for his sweatiness; I assured him that I was sweaty, too, and that it was no big deal.  He then smiled warmly at me and asked that God bless me and my family, before kindly smiling at my sister and walking away.

I seem to be hopelessly enamored with the prospect of earning others' good graces and, consequently, I'll freely give nearly anyone what they ask of me.  Over the course of five recent work days, I awakened nearly two hours earlier than I would normally, due to the fact that a friend and co-worker recently totaled her car and desperately needed a ride to work (she opens the office, so we had to arrive promptly).   Please understand that I--a tried and true, insomniatic, night owl--volunteered for less sleep exclusively b/c I wanted to be my friend's beloved heroine.

Similarly, this is how I came to volunteer at Wild Bird Rehab.  When Diane plaintively asked me (with dark circles underlying her big sympathetic eyes), "Do you have time to volunteer?   We really need the help right now,"  I was veritable putty in her hands.  Soon I was faithfully spending my Friday nights (sometimes into the early morning hours) performing hot, filthy, back-breaking work and deriving much pleasure from this humble practice.  I felt good about myself and about how I was spending my free time.  I couldn't fathom abandoning these wild creatures for a single night out at the bar - to do so would leave me cheating myself out of something far more valuable than simple debauchery. 


***


I wish I were a gifted enough writer to adequately express what it feels like to go on an altruistic giving binge.  The effect is so powerful, so concrete, so immovable that the experience is downright radical.  When I began volunteering at WBR my mood shifted completely.  I think the work actually lifted me out of a clinical depression and there is a good deal of evidence to support this contention.

Specifically, the existential psychology (born out of the philosophical and aesthetic movements of the same name) paradigm suggests that people suffer from mental issues as a consequence of the problems that arise out of the realization that humans endure an essentially meaningless existence.  Hence, in order to cure people of their ills, one must help them to work through these problems of meaning.  For me, volunteering at WBR and doing kind things for the people around me (everyone from strangers to intimates) helps to infuse my life with tangible meaning.

Further, it has been suggested by positive psychologists (although, the concept goes back as far as Greek philosophy) that the highest pleasures in life are those built around giving back to others and one's community.  I am a living example of the effectiveness of this approach and I encourage anyone reading this who suffers from depression arising out of such crises of meaning to emulate me.  Even if you obtain no benefit for yourself, you will be hugely helping others.

Om shanti,
la Contra Yogini



*Although, lowered windows in summer isn't exclusively negative - I'm also fully present to the joy of school children playing, the musicality of sweet bird songs, and the brightly green scent of cut grass.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

L'enfant

I've never been interested - not even casually - in a boy* who was substantially younger than me.  As with most women my age, I've routinely dated older men--not by design, per se, but organically so.  My first long-term relationship involved a man who was seven years older than me; my most recent was with a man three years my senior (expectedly, I've noticed that the older I get, the less that an age gap is involved).  It seems that this familiar, reliable pattern may soon undergo a profound change prompted by a chance meeting.

A couple of weeks ago, I became acquainted with a boy, nay, an infant (he can't be more than a few years out of high school, at most) who works at a local record store that I've begun to frequent.  He is a remarkably young and fresh-faced person with these searchlight blue eyes, which brilliantly shine forth when he smiles at me.  He has this unspoiled air about him-- no bullshit, no emotional wreckage, no insurmountable barriers.  His youth is nothing short of stupendous to a love-worn woman pushing thirty.**

Baring the occasional one off here and there, I haven't purchased a goodly number of new CDs in quite some time.  L'enfant happened to be working on a night that I was floating on a musical high, arising out of the ten or so albums that I had then intended to purchase.  On this particular evening, I cheerily gallivanted around his store for the better part of an hour, often summoning him for assistance in finding obscure artists and bantering with him about musical trivialities such as the evils of selecting collections over the original fully cohesive albums.  Since that night, I've returned to his store on several more occasions (coincidentally, with him working on staff each time) in order to supplement my newly flourishing collection with CDs I had forgotten to purchase earlier. 

L'enfant is so unbelievably young that he utterly fails to intimidate me.  I am my true unadulterated, goofball self when around him.  I am sarcastic, and generous, and playful all at once.  I am a connoisseur of music comfortable with other connoisseurs of music.  I. am. a. force.  Consequently, I've often wondered what would happen if I did, in fact, decide to date him.***  I have this ongoing fantasy that the interaction would somehow cleanse my love life, as easily as I might reset my laptop after it freezes up.   That I'll have some sort of highly beneficial How Stella Got Her Groove Back epiphany about the simplicity of love and romance and, thus, act accordingly.    

I am positively sure that my younger self would have wanted to date this boy.  He is knowledgeable about music (obviously - he works at a record store); he is unassuming; he is witty; he is respectful.  But he is also an awkward mess with bad skin and untamable curly hair that freely undulates atop his head.  He reminds me of our fledglings at Wild Bird Rehab - so cocksure, so filled with life, so unable to fly.  His flutterings unmoor me.  I am cast out to sea.  Possibility abounds - even so close to shore.  Luckily, I have his searchlight eyes to guide me.

Om shanti,
la Contra Yogini




*Girls, yes; boys, no.

**Albeit, a woman who looks much closer to his age than her own - he flashed me an unfettered expression of astonishment when he inspected my ID and, assumedly, saw my 1981 birth year.

***According to Julia Rose - who is acutely attuned to these happenings, being a boy-crazy, hormone-addled teenager - he is most definitely interested in me.  When we last saw him (she was with me when I first met him, too), she exclaimed, "He only has eyeballs for you!  And such pretty eyeballs, too.  I'd like to scoop them out and put them in a jar, but he never even glances in my direction because he is too busy looking at you."

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Visit

Have you ever had a dear, old friend propose the possibility of evolving your friendship into an amorous relationship?  That very thing happened to me this past spring.  I, to a certain extent, initially balked at the prospect for a number of reasons, which I enumerated to my romantically inclined friend (we shall call him Bruce), as follows--
  1. I did not want to damage our longstanding friendship;
  2. I had broken up with my boyfriend of four years only months before and was very much enjoying my new singledom; and
  3. I wasn't sure that the prospect made much sense given that many states separated us from our respective residences.  
Nevertheless, he wanted to visit me in the summer and he wanted me to suspend any judgment until that time, when we could revisit the subject in person and I agreed.  Over the intervening months, we did not communicate much and I assumed that this was because we were both making an effort to avoid further muddying the boundaries of our friendship.*    

***

Bruce arrived in St. Louis for his scheduled summer visit this past Friday.  I picked him up from the train station late Friday night and treated him to a midnight City Diner dinner.  While we were catching up, Bruce revealed that he had been dating someone for the past several months and that he had promised this girlfriend exclusivity just prior to the time of his departure.

I will not lie; my first thought was "Hey man, nice shot!  You pierced me straight through my treasured ego."  Here I was fretting this entire time--wondering what was going to happen, what his expectations were, and how to best maintain our friendship while attempting to negotiate this unfamiliar situation.  Meanwhile, he was busily hooking up with a girl who had played fast and loose with his heart once before and who had subsequently proven to be quite the flake (in my somewhat embittered estimation). 

Of course, I was also hurt.  When Bruce first made overtures toward me in the springtime (of his voodoo), I had discussed the situation with a mutual friend of ours.  She had known Bruce for as long as I had and she was very fond of him.  She thought we would make a great couple and she wanted me to pursue the relationship.  Moreover, she felt that he was an upstanding guy who would never purposefully treat me poorly.  Essentially, she felt that I could trust him, which was of the utmost importance.

Rightly or wrongly, I'm having some difficulty in trusting him at this point.  It goes without saying that I did not appreciate his springing this girlfriend news on me unexpectedly.  Instead, he should have been forthright with me from the very start of his nascent reattachment to his ex.  That is what an upstanding guy would have done not waited to see which relationship would work out in his favor.  It seemed to me, on some level, that he was simply keeping me on the back burner as a Plan B in case Girl A didn't pan out.  Still, I determined not to let his big reveal ruin our long awaited weekend together; after all, he was still my old, dear friend.

Hence, things proceeded as originally planned.  We enjoyed spending time with friends of ours; we went caving on the countryside; we visited the botanical gardens, et cetera.  Last night, we had several rounds of beer at a local Vietnamese restaurant and then returned to my place to listen to some music.  We shared songs with each other and discussed the merits of select musicians.  We drank late into the night (or early into the morning, as the case may be).  Eventually, my alcohol soaked brain started to wind down into sleepiness.  Bruce was sitting on the couch next to me so I maneuvered my body into a reclined position without laying in his lap (ever mindful of the girlfriend in his home state).  In response, he softly chuckled at my posturing and said, "Jen, you're pretty amusing in your attempt not to lay in my lap."     

I took his comment as an invitation to his lap and promptly repositioned myself there (keeping a proper distance from his naughty bits).  I was convinced that this was okay - it was okay for me to lay in my friend's lap, as long as it went no further than that.  Shortly thereafter, Bruce began to yawn and so I asked him if he wanted to lay down with me (and only to sleep -- not to be intimate).  Being the intelligent man that he is, he respectfully declined.  He felt that it would violate the spirit of his monogamy agreement with his girlfriend (which was probably correct).  He couldn't help but regretfully add that things would have progressed much differently between us had he not committed himself to her.
      
I should say, Bruce reads my blog on occasion (although, I doubt he'll weigh in on the subject here).  Maybe his young girlfriend could locate and read my blog, too, if she bothered to investigate the few people he follows on Twitter.  If she is reading this, she can rest assured that her boyfriend was on his very best behavior throughout the entirety of his visit.

Oh, and also, don't fuck with his heart this time.


Om shanti.




*He, on the other hand, has since explained that he had wholly accepted my initial protest and had consequently given up the prospect of a romantic encounter with me.  I truly do not understand how this miscommunication arose.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Coagulation

This evening, a couple of friends took me out for some fine dining at my favorite St. Louis trattoria on The Hill.  We started with a brisk, Italian, sparkling white wine, and then segued into a sultry, Argentinian red (the equivalent of a California Cabernet but, in my estimation, less rusty tasting).  As we were busily scrutinizing the menu for our entree selections, the following short exchange occurred--

Donna:  Do you think the [name of some ostentatious meat dish I can't remember] is pork or veal?

Jeff:  Well, considering that it is priced at $27.50, I'm guessing it is veal.

Donna:  Great!  Then I'm ordering it, if it is indeed veal.

Me:  You know, Donna, if your daughter [a radical animals' rights activist] finds out about this, you are dead meat (no pun intended).

Donna:  I just don't pay attention to that sort of thing [the controversy surrounding veal] and don't you tell my daughter, either!

 ***

When I was thirteen, I had the youthful insolence to lecture my father about the evils of industrialized farming while he was making himself a cold-cut sandwich.  As I was finishing some particularly truculent rant about how outrageously chickens are raised, my father silently turned to me and smacked me in the face with a slice of ham.  I still viscerally remember the greasy feeling that the meat juices left on my cheek.  That little happening cured me of lecturing meat-eaters about the evils of their diet whilst they were actually consuming it.  Thus, I did not have the stomach to criticize Donna's selection outright.  I could only look on in helpless dismay and incredulous bemusement as she ordered her veal.   

Being a professed vegetarian for the better part of two decades,* I've never actually eaten with someone who had the audacity (or complete indifference, as was the case with Donna) to unabashedly order veal in my presence.  In a moment of marked dissolution, I found myself quite curious to see what this much maligned dish looked like in living color.  Shortly before our meal was served, our waiter bestowed upon Donna a golden, ritualistic-appearing, dining implement--similar to an elongated, rectangular-shaped spoon--explaining that it allowed easy access to the marrow of the veal.  At this point, I began to feel a little queasy in anticipation of what seeming horror was to come next.  However, when the dish actually arrived at our table, it appeared as any other meat dish would appear to a non-meat eater - neither delightful nor grotesque.

I attentively monitored my friend as she enjoyed her dish, but she never picked up her "sacrificial marrow spoon" (which is what I had come to call it in my mind).  Eventually, she'd had her fill of dinner and pushed the plate away in abject satisfaction.  Jeff then asked her, with some confusion, why she hadn't eaten, or even tasted, the marrow.  She replied that it held no appeal for her and gamely scootched her dish in front of him so that he could partake in what he considered to be "the best part" of her meal.  

Both Donna and I watched Jeff in open fascination as he dug into the bone with that bizarre utensil.  He triumphantly extracted a brackish looking, almost black substance and then inserted the heaping spoonful into his mouth.  He dug in again and again before finally pronouncing ecstatically that, as soon as it touched his tongue, the marrow seemed to "coagulate" in his mouth**.  Apparently, this was a very good thing.  We segued into a discussion of fats in foods (as this marrow was obviously pure fat) and how folks like the taste of fat and so it made sense that Jeff would enjoy this aspect of the dish so much (in uncomfortable situations I tend to intellectualize).

We concluded our meal with shared succulent tiramisu, creme brulee, and no further incidents.  All in all, it was... educational :)       

Om shanti.


*Of late, I've begun eating fish, on occasion, but that isn't entirely relevant to this story.

**I'm guessing the word he was actually looking for was "liquefy" (it's nice to not be the only dyslexic at the table :)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Illusion of Control

My father, for all intents and purposes, has always been a troubled sleeper.  When I was a very young girl, my circadian rhythm synched up with his oddball internal time-clock and I joined him in nightly wakefulness.  In an effort to cope with the tedious sameness of those early morning hours, my dad would habitually listen to talk radio - predominantly that of the AM variety.  Most often, he tuned-in to sports talk, although he appreciated other types of late-night shows, as well.

Among those programs we enjoyed in shared wakefulness was //deep breath// Art Bell's Coast to Coast AM, the mother of all conspiracy programs (originating in 1984 and still on the air today).  I recall being entertained by all sorts of wild assertions relating to remote viewing, alien abductions, metaphysics, and the like.  I accepted much of the material whole cloth, in a way that only a child could.  My best friend surely could relate some embarrassing stories from that time regarding my fanciful thought process surrounding remote viewing and the US government's "collusion" in connection with same*.

***

About a year ago, I developed something of a crush on a man with whom I had become acquainted.  He had the memory of an elephant, a maddeningly quick wit, and an enchanting love of the natural world.  We went through a brief, yet intense, getting-to-know-you phase where we heatedly discussed our respective positions regarding religion, politics, science and other "hot button" topics.  I remember friends giving us a wide berth when we became embattled because we were so fervently focused on our debates.  Oddly enough, with his views on the far right (read: libertarian) and mine on the far left (read: progressive), we often found common ground--with our respective polarities on the spectrum meeting full circle (rather than, as I see it falsely conceptualized, extending linearly into the furthest outreaches of the political nether).

Unfortunately, the prospect of anything more substantial fizzled (for me, at least) after my crush expressed his belief in Velikovsky's wacky contentions concerning the planet Venus' supposed involvement in the formation of our solar system as we know it.  Being a student of astrophysics, my interest was initially peaked (given that I had heard not a whisper of this theory over the course of my extensive home studies), but after some cursory research--which conclusively demonstrated that there was no scientific basis in the theory whatsoever--I determined that Velikovsky was nothing more than a misguided conspiracy theorist.

After my mini-investigation, I sent my crush a Scientific American article I'd happened upon explaining why people find these sorts of conspiracy theories so compelling.  I thought it might give him something to consider and that perhaps he would ultimately come around to my more scientifically-minded method of evaluating information.  Unfortunately, he completely refused to read the short article.  It was around that time that he stated to me something approximate to "I know the truth when I am confronted by it.  I feel it in my bones."  That sentiment clinched my poor opinion of his intellect and thus distanced me from him -- an otherwise perfectly attractive and kindhearted person.

You see, wary of my own susceptibility to this all-too-human manner of analysis, I'd previously resolved to battle all superstitious, emotional reasoning and other such manifestations of our "demon-haunted" society.  For example, as many of you know, I've had a certain propensity toward mysticism at points in my life.  Despite my academic and philosophical adherence to atheism and agnosticism, a younger me routinely made statements dangerously similar to what my crush had said about the nature of truth.  At this point, I'm not sure if the human perception of truthfulness is born out of energy, per se, or spirit (doubtful), or simply the very human ability to plug into the motivations of the people around us.  Regardless, I once believed that the intent to truth was readily discernible to an attentive observer.  Today, I recognize that some truths are not at all intuitive.

Frequently, truth is nearly as incredible as untruth.  Case in point, wave-particle duality.  Originally, light was conceived as particle-based (hence the name photon).  Then, Young's double slit experiment suggested that light was in fact wave-like in nature.  Scientists ultimately concluded that photons posses both wave and particle characteristics (and they still don't completely understand why).  Now, if even in the hardest of sciences (ie physics) truth is not readily discernible, how on earth could an unassisted, untrained person intuit the truth? The prospect strikes me as downright ludicrous.  Of course, there is a difference b/t understanding the truth of a physical phenomenon and evaluating truth involved in interpersonal relations.  Still, if there was some reliable and valid way to discern if a person was telling the truth, we wouldn't need courts or trials - the prosecutor could simply ask the defendant if he or she was being completely honest and then they could check their gut emotional response--if their "bones" didn't register truth, than the defendant would be found guilty.

***

Jennifer Whitson and her colleague Adam Galinsky, in their 2008 study entitled "Lacking Control Increases Illusory Pattern Perception" (published in Science), defined "illusory pattern perception" as follows:
"the identification of a coherent and meaningful interrelationship among a set of random or unrelated stimuli...(such as the tendency to perceive false correlations, see imaginary figures [ie: in ink-blot tests], form superstitious rituals, and embrace conspiracy beliefs, among others)."  The researchers thesis was that "when individuals are unable to gain a sense of control objectively, they will try to gain it perceptually."  As Whitson explained the psychology, "Feelings of control are essential for our well-being -- we think clearer and make better decisions when we feel we are in control.  Lacking control is highly aversive, so we instinctively seek patterns to regain control -- even if those patterns are illusory." -Michael Shermer, Scientific American (Feb. 2010)
***

I later discovered that my crush was a fan of more troubling, modern conspiracy theorists including Alex Jones, who has been described as "your typical irascible, bombastic radio shock jock" who "replaces the ordinary vulgarities and titillations with preposterous conspiracy theories" - which I would say is a more than fair characterization.  As you can see, to the right of this post, I succinctly describe myself as being "open-minded" (among other attributes). I would like to think that the fans of Alex Jones are simply amused by him--that they are similar to the people who read horoscopes for entertainment value alone.  It may be that this interpretation is correct, but it seems that it is more likely that followers of conspiracy theorists and astrology are actually seeking control in an otherwise chaotic world.

As excerpted above, it seems that is healthy for individuals to seek control in this manner--in that it mitigates the damage that results from being helpless.  In that respect, I am hesitant to disabuse anyone of patently false notions that would otherwise help them to properly function.  Nevertheless, I also strongly feel that knowledge is power.  That knowledge is a more sustainable base of control than illusory pattern perception.  However, I am not so naive that I believe that knowledge is equally available to all.  There is a reason that it was forbidden to teach slaves to read.  Perhaps (now, I'm going to be the one reminiscent of a conspiracy theorist), those in power would rather that the masses be fed bullshit conspiracy theories (tea party, anyone?) than knowledge that would allow them to rise up against oppression and subjugation in a meaningful manner.

OM shanti.


*Interestingly enough, it turns out the the US government did spend some $20 million dollars researching psychic phenomena in the early 90's, including remote viewing, but the program was axed after it proved to be a complete failure in generating any usable intelligence 

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Primaries

I just voted "no" on Prop C (the one that attempts to undermine Obamacare) and "yes" on Prop S (the one that attempts to support the City's public schools) only moments before the polls closed.  Having executed my civic duty, on what may be the hottest election day ever in the S-T-L (100+ degrees outside), I am presently luxuriating semi-nude on my sea green, comfy couch, with an "I voted" sticker prominently adhered to the bare skin of my chest.  Ain't democracy grand?

OM shanti, fellow citizens :)

PS  I now turn my attention to an unpublished blog entry that I've been fiddling with for the past week.  Hopefully, I'll be able to make it over into something presentable....

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Big Jake

To the best of my knowledge, I've intimately known only one murderer in my life*.  He bore a striking resemblance, both physically and temperamentally, to Yosemite Sam--excruciatingly short, ever-bearded, swollen-nosed (from near-constant drinking), excitable, and, of course, a lifelong gun enthusiast.  He thought of himself as "Big Jake," which is what his immediate family called him in times of playful good humor and, alternatively, hateful derision.  I, on the other hand, preferred to refer to him as "Jakey" largely because the mischievous feminist in me found much joy in addressing him with, what he considered, a feminized diminutive.  (His given name was James - but no one called him that.)

Jake was the first person to successfully teach me how to roll a joint (others had tried and failed).  Early in our acquaintance, he presented me with a time-tested methodology that he had employed with others in the past:  essentially, he tossed me an ounce of weed and a packet of rolling papers with the assurance that, by the time I finished the bag, I would be expert at the task.  (He was also the only established drug dealer I've known who never got caught--not even a scare.) 

I met Jake through his daughter, Shelly - a sunny, blond-haired, blue-eyed, girl-next-door type.  We had worked retail together during my late teen years and had become fast friends through our shared love of sex, hip-hop and marijuana.  One evening, after our store had closed, she invited me to her home to hang out with her parents.  They were sitting around their kitchen table drinking cheap beer and smoking expensive weed**.  Her mother, Bobbi, was an incredibly charming and insidiously clever woman, obviously the brains of the operation.  Her father, I would soon learn, was a racist, sexist, child-abusing, ex-heroin addict and, as indicated above, drug dealer.  Truly, I knew that Jake was not a nice man. Hence, it did not come as much of a surprise when I learned this past spring that he had killed Shelly's grandfather (Bobbi's father) and then turned the gun on himself.

Fortunately (for me, at least), I had distanced myself from the family a year before these events had transpired when Shelly's now deceased grandfather had attempted to murder his then girlfriend (which is, perhaps, a story for another blog post).  At that time, both Shelly and Bobbi had expressed a want to "finish the job" that Shelly's grandfather had been unwilling and/or unable to accomplish.  I then realized that this family was far too dangerous and morally bankrupt for me to continue my association with them.  (To this day, I suspect that Shelly would be a decent person, if she could only disentangle herself from her mother's foul influence, but with each death in her family--her brother had overdosed on heroin months before her grandfather attempted to kill his girlfriend--she grew ever closer to Bobbi and ever farther from a normal life.)

When I think back on the time that I spent with Jake, my stomach turns.  Years ago, I assumed that his drunken rants and crazed behavior were only the posturings of a person with short man syndrome - an ill-conceived attempt to garner respect and attention.  Now, I know better.  Had I not determined to avoid contact with him and his family, who knows if I would have survived to write this somewhat convoluted blog post.

Honestly, I had hoped that some form of wisdom would reveal itself to me in the writing of this piece, but I've only come to conclude what an obviously senseless act murder is.  If I were granted the opportunity to relive those years, I suspect I would never have become friends with Shelly.  I now fully realize that I could not have saved her from her family, that my influence on them was minimal, at best, and that, rather than my pulling them out of the muck, they had succeeded in dragging me further into it.  Needless to say, this has been a humbling and disheartening life experience.  At this point, I can only wish that Shelly will promptly seek the professional help she so desperately needs and thus thwart the cycle of violence for the next generation.   
        
OM shanti.


*Excluding state-sanctioned killing by soldiers;

**Evidently, Shelly and her parents had smoked together since her middle school days.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Redacted

Moments ago, I received the following message in my e-mail inbox--

Jen-
I know you want it, I know you want it from me.  I have created a fictional person on [Facebook] named Scrable Whoritic.  Her email is ********@yahoo.com and her password is wordwhore.  I have started a game with her, but sadly she does not exist, so it may be her turn forever! So sad, isn't it Jen?!?
-[Scrabble Pimp/Trick]


Oh, suuuure.  Clearly, I am the one who wants it.  After all, I did go through all of the trouble of setting up a dummy FB account and a Scrabble game and all.  I JUST CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT IT.

***

No, really.  I am gonna go play my turn just as soon as I publish this blog post.  He is right.  I do want it and I do want it from him.  Scrabble is a naughty, naughty game, my droogs...   
xo

Thursday, June 3, 2010

For the Birds!

The monetary value of a volunteer's time is now estimated at $20.85/hour,* as per The Independent Sector. Accordingly, I'm donating over $250 (12 hours) to Wild Bird Rehab (WBR) over the coming weekend.  Normally, during the breeding season I work six hours/week at WBR, but we are going to be short-staffed on Saturdays for the next month and a half, hence my additional time commitment.** 

Speaking of WBR, one of our thoughtful volunteers has begun posting videos of the youngins on his YouTube channel, which will give me the opportunity to introduce you to some of them, as follows--

Hatchling Sparrows



My guess is that this video was taken on Monday the 24th.  When I attended these guys on the 28th (the following Friday) they had already sprouted feathers!  All five of them were alert, feisty, and hopping around like miniature adults. I anticipate that by the time I see them again tomorrow, they'll probably be smoking cigars and chasing after tail (see how I punned there?).  No more lousy incubators for them!

What I particularly fancied about the above video is that it demonstrates how easily one of the babies can sleep while nestmates are all going mad for food.  I just about lost it with glee when the volunteer in this video finally tapped the unresponsive, sleepy hatchling out of exasperation and, without missing a beat, he promptly lifted his diminutive head out of a sound stupor and gamely gaped for food.  Such a charming little moppet-headed fellow.

Notice, too, how the "itty bitties" in this video look like something out of a Sesame Street skit with their over-sized, split-melon shaped heads and lemon-yellow lined, hot pink mouths.  This is particularly true of the European Starlings.  Those birds are freaking evolutionary power-houses.  Not only can you inconceivably visually overlook their gaping mouths, but they also produce deafening tweets comparable in decibel to a car alarm.  At the beginning of May we were admitting new nests of twelve or more of these baby starlings each day, so you can only imagine the cacophony in our nursery!  


Fledgling Bluebird



This little dude is no longer in the alcove (where we keep our youngest birds).  You can easily discern by his noble temperament, that he is growing up.  Although, to be sure, Bluebirds (BB) are inherently more dignified than a lot of the other native birds we rescue.  You do not hear the fledgling BB begging for food very often, although they will certainly accept it, when offered--provided that the meal is of a variety that they prefer.  Notice, at the start of this video, he immediately gaped for blood worms (the bright red food) that were offered to him, but when the volunteer dangled a beige-colored meal worm (MW), he stubbornly refused to open his beak.  Older BB love, love LOVE crickets.  It is not unusual to see a little post-it on the front of their cages saying, "Please feed me lots of crickets!"  We'll keep the MW in their cages for when they start to self-feed (since the MW are alive, they keep better than frozen crickets), but when offered a crickety snack they positively glow with appreciation.

Funny story about BB, last season I had made friends with one (which really isn't a good plan - since they are wild birds and shouldn't at all be domesticated).  Whenever I would walk into the nursery, he would joyfully sing his little heart out to me and I would do my best to whistle his call back at him.  It got to the point where we would spend the entire evening warmly chirping at each other, as I made my rounds to the other cages.  My fellow volunteers would good-naturedly chide me about it, "You stop singing at that BB!  He is going to think he has a friend in here!"  To which I would hotly reply, "But he DOES have a friend here!"  Unlike a lot of our other birds, it is rare to have multiple BB come in together, so they tend to be in private cages - which I think is unfairly lonely for them.

If you are curious to learn more about our birds, you can find them at this YouTube channel.  I'll be sure to keep posting blogs about them, as breeding season continues, and should anyone be interested in donating time (or money), you can get in contact with us through WBR's website.  Many thanks, in advance, to anyone agreeable to giving to our lovely birds!

Om shanti.


*Which is more than I get paid at my day job!
**Peripherally, Julia Rose took her algebra final yesterday, so I have a bit more free time on my hands until her fall semester begins.  We've worked so diligently this past school year on her algebra lessons that I feel as though I'm on summer vacation, too.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Solar, Stand, Solstice

I've been running a social experiment on myself with relation to my personal tolerance threshold regarding physical discomfort.  I'm not precisely certain from where this urge was born.  Perhaps it was an effort to assuage my overly-developed liberal guilt regarding creature comforts or a need to prove my own toughness to myself or even to get a sense of my struggle concerning pride and greed over practicality and health.  Regardless, as the notoriously steamy and sticky St. Louis summer wears on, I am sure to learn more about my core workings -- one way or the other.

To explain, when I was searching for my latest car, following the totaling of my former vehicle in January of this year, I determined that I wanted to purchase something uber reliable and as new as possible in consideration of my budget.  I settled on an '08 Hyundai with 30,000 miles on it and a 100,000 mile, ten-year warranty.  Everything on my car is manual -- from the steering to the transmission to the very windows.  Experience has taught me that I will ultimately pay more over the life of the car for the replacement of these often fragile and expensive items (ie the motors in automatic windows) than to simply choose hardy manual options.  In so doing, I also purchased a vehicle without air conditioning.  *cue the ominous, foreboding music*

Now before you go off half-cocked and dismiss me as a raving, potentially dangerous, lunatic to voluntarily invest in a vehicle such as this when I live in a river city known for its unlivable, humid summer (sometimes spring, sometimes fall) climate, I must reassure you that it wasn't that I didn't want air conditioning, it just wasn't available on the base model that I bought.  Still, that is hardly a reasonable explanation for most St. Louisans.  When I've told people with a wry grin that my very nice looking, newish car indeed does not have air conditioning, they've looked at me with disbelief bordering on pity.  "Jen seemed like such a level-headed girl; clearly, we've woefully misjudged her."  My own mother finds me suspect.  I could hardly get her into my car for a test drive in February, for goodness sake, when she learned of its undesirable state.  It was as though she didn't want to get too attached (to me or the car).  I believe, on some level, she felt she had failed me as a parent upon learning of this shameful debacle.



Admittedly, since I've owned this car, much deep, penetrating thought has been devoted to the routes that offer the optimum protection from the sun and the least opportunity for extended stops at traffic lights (as these are the times that a lack of breeze most pointedly leads to high internal body temperatures).  Today, I was meditating on this issue while stopped at a red signal on tar-black pavement with the unforgiving, afternoon sun beating down upon me.  The interior of my car could not convincingly be described as sweltering, nevertheless, I began to wonder if I should be concerned about safety issues such as heat stroke or even fainting spells, given the anticipated rising St. Louis temperatures in coming months. 

Interestingly, I've noticed already that my body has grown rather accustomed to the lack of an external coolant.  In fact, when my sister was riding with me recently, she felt her own arm and then mine and marveled to herself that my skin was still cool to the touch given the extreme heat in my car.  Since that time, I've begun to wonder if I might develop some sort of super-human ability to cool myself.  If maybe we're all just a little soft from too many creature comforts like air conditioning.  If this experience will somehow tap into a deeper evolutionary imperative by my driving around in my own personal sauna. 

In my current situation, I often think seriously of photons.  These elementary particles of energy that have traveled immense distances from the sun's core to my vulnerable, yet adaptable skin.  That visible light is the primary manifestation of solar fusion on earth.  That this is our main source of energy, what leads to photosynthesis, what drives the majority of flora and fauna on our planet, and yet what could very well be the untimely death of me.

When I am stopped in traffic on the aforementioned shadeless blacktop, I begin to slip into another mode of consciousness.  My heartbeat seems to slow, my breath becomes shallow, and my mind expands.  At these times, I'm reminded of my yoga classes from summers past when our instructor would purposefully conduct class in the heat.  She felt that it brought us closer to being.  That it moved us into deeper contact with the seasons that we would otherwise not fully experience, given our modern lifestyles.  That it taught us where our limits truly extended.  It is in this pioneering spirit that I continue with my mad social experiment.
Unwilling to be in shade of any
kind, wild pinks, flowers of everlasting summer
covet even the
sky of the sixth month 
-F. Teika
Om shanti.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Fascinating Dichotomy

But what if the universe was always there, in a state or condition we have yet to identify--a multiverse, for instance?  Or what if the universe, like its particles, just popped into existence from nothing?
Such replies usually satisfy nobody.  Nonetheless, they remind us that ignorance is the natural state of mind for a research scientist on the ever-shifting frontier.  People who believe they are ignorant of nothing have never looked for, nor stumbled upon, the boundary between what is known and unknown in the cosmos.  And therein lies a fascinating dichotomy.  "The universe always was" goes unrecognized as a legitimate answer to "What was around before the beginning"  But for many religious people, the answer "God always was" is the obvious and pleasing answer to "What was around before God?" 
- Neil deGrasse Tyson

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Whispering @ 7:25

Quite possibly the sexiest thing I've ever seen:



@ 8:16:  Whispering is cut short.  Meg looks up.  Glares at cameraman disapprovingly:  "George."  Pauses.  Then winks.

Jack:  "Where's George?" [Feints, as if Meg hadn't already warned him.]

Meg:  "George is right there." Points at camera.  Smiles coquettishly. 

Jack:  Looks into camera.  Discovered.  Holds head in his hands despairingly.

Meg:  "We're having a secret conference...It's things you don't want to know about, George.  Because...they would be too scandalous..."

***
In sum, voyeurism. is. hot.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The S-Word

Not too long ago, I was having dinner at Harvest with a couple of women whom I had known since grade school.  We were discussing wedding planning (yawn) and my acquaintance (I hesitate to even call her my friend), Julie, casually said something to the effect of, "well, she decided against the little black dress because it was too slutty."  I just about dropped my wine glass when my friend, Angie, agreed with Julie.  I hadn't heard Angie use the word "slut" in years, much less utilize it as a descriptive term.  Since that time, I've noticed with dawning horror that this word is used fairly regularly (I even had someone write it in my comment section recently).

You could easily describe me as insulated in this respect.  I've challenged my friends and family so often on their use of gender-specific (read: feminized) derogatory language that they rarely, if ever, use words like slut, whore, or cunt in my presence.  I have a real problem with the fact that there are twenty words synonymous with slut and no real counterpart to describe men (short of male-modified terms like man-whore, and such).  It has been shown in countless studies that slut and words like it structurally maintain sexism in the English language; hence, I do not use them.  Similarly, I do not watch TV that glorifies that sort of language (it won't surprise you to learn that I do not own a television), and I've been known to walk out of movies that are thick with that vernacular.  It disturbs me.  Just as the use of the n-word disturbs me.  I feel there is no place for that type of language in a progressive culture.

Outside of my linguistic objections to these sorts of words, I largely object to what they symbolize.  The idea that a sex-positive woman must be put down, must be marginalized, must be controlled and thus labeled a slut or a whore.  I understand that some people have a less generalized use of the term (ie:  a slut is not simply a woman who has frequent sex, but a woman who has sex in a scandalous manner - ie:  with men in committed relationships), but I nevertheless believe that its use is inappropriate.  It is a far too emotionally-charged word to use lackadaisically.  Words of this ilk have historically been utilized to teach hate and oppression.  I'd rather not propagate that mentality.

To get back to the "slutty" dress, I don't even know what that characterization is supposed to mean.  What exactly is slutty attire, anyway?  Is it low-cut?  Is it tight-fitting?  Is it mid-riff baring?  Is it something that highlights the female form?  I honestly don't comprehend why we need to be protected from our bodies.  I don't understand why feminity must be hidden.  I have a friend who routinely gives me disapproving looks for my cleavage shirts.  She thinks I am dressing too immodestly.  Granted, this is the same woman who had to fight tooth-and-nail in the Middle East to be allowed to appear in public with her head uncovered.  These are all social constructs.  What does it matter what form they take?  At one point in time, a woman who revealed her ankles was being risque.  Personally, I believe that a woman (and a man, for that matter) should be allowed to wear whatever she wants, as long as she is covering up her naughty-bits.*  If you don't like it, don't look at her.  There are bigger things in this world to concern ourselves with than how much skin a woman is revealing.  

Om shanti.


*Actually, I think people should be allowed to walk around butt-ass naked, if they so choose, but I know that isn't entirely realistic at this time.

Monday, May 10, 2010

And the Pursuit of Happiness

A number of female bloggers have recently written about how they predominantly (if not exclusively) use their blogs as vehicles with which to highlight the more positive aspects and happenings in their lives.  They've argued that no one wants to read about their misfortunes and so they make a concerted effort to focus their blogging on uplifting and/or comical personal stories.

Frankly, I take issue with the assertion that only the positive is fit for public consumption.  I, for one, would much rather read about a person's validly negative life experiences than to solely read insipid, inane flounderings toward a positive spin where one does not rightfully exist.  While gratitude journals certainly have their place, I would prefer to not have my online world subsumed by Oprah-esque, happy-happy, joy-joy ramblings.

Reading a piece by Rebecca Traister, Screw Happiness, verified that this phenomenon is hardly limited to online blogging.  It seems that omnipresent satisfaction is a regular expectation of women in American society, as follows:
But really, how could [women not get sadder as they get older], given the aggressive messages about happiness and how they must achieve it, and unhappiness and how they must avoid it that are foisted on them from every direction, making them feel like failures if they are not warbling and grinning their way through life?
It appears that we've collectively discounted the virtues of unhappiness.  Traister makes the point that dissatisfaction can act as a "propellant" to "show us what we do not want" and to "give shape and specificity to what it is we do want."  Further, she acknowledges that sometimes life is not unicorns and rainbows and that is fine, too.  It isn't bad, it isn't less than, it simply is.  The Buddhists hold that "life is suffering."  That suffering instructs.  That suffering builds character.  I believe that suffering helps us to fully appreciate the good things in life because we have something to measure against, something to provide contrast in what would otherwise be a monotonous, gray landscape.

Kurt Cobain once said, "I miss the comfort in being sad" and I've often empathized with that sentiment.  Sorrow can be an enriching experience.  Digging deep into the marrow of unhappiness can leave one feeling cleansed and even protectively enveloped in a cocoon of melancholy.  I'm not proposing that women should haplessly wallow in self-pity and despair.  It just seems that, every so often, taking a dip in the deep end isn't such a negative thing.  In fact, it could be a welcome opportunity for self-development and personal growth.  At the very least, I reject the expectation that women be ever happy, ever positive, and ever cheerful--like good little 1950's housewives.  All of my emotions are worthwhile and worthy of expression.  After all, they are reflections of my complete and expansive humanity.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Word of Explanation

If you are new to my blog and/or haven't visited in the past twenty-four hours, you might be asking yourself, "What is that gorgeous, cock-and-balls shaped image at the top of Jen's page?"  Why, that, dear readers, is LBG-2377, a galaxy proto-cluster some 2.5 billion years older than any other light we've yet detected on this here planet.

More specifically, what you are looking at is light that has tirelessly traveled 11.4 billion light years* to arrive at our cosmologically insignificant watery globe.  In other words, you are traveling back in time to see our universe as it existed some eleven-and-a-half billion years ago - tantalizingly close to its nascency**.  Further, this is a stupendously colossal, highly energetic object you are viewing -- something exponentially larger and inexpressibly more active than our own Milky Way.  Scientist James Bullock, director of the Center for Cosmology at UCI, described it, as follows--

We believe LBG-2377 is a seed that eventually will grow into a massive galaxy cluster. Our finding suggests that this is a monster structure being born in a very bright, catastrophic event with a lot of gas and matter collapsing at once. We are not just seeing one solitary galaxy. We are seeing a bunch of bright galaxies coming together at the dawn of structure formation in the universe.

At the dawn of structure formation in the universe.  When everything we see today in our night sky was only a twinkle in the universe's eye (hee!). Attempt to wrap your mind around these concepts: the tremendous size, energy, distance, and time involved therein.  This is an infinitely enjoyable pastime worthy of my joyously sharing with all of you. 

Om shanti.


*Light travels at a speed of 5,878,630,000,000 miles per year.
**We now estimate the universe's total age at 13.7 billion years.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Runaway



"What makes you think I'd enjoy being led to the flood?"

An Amicable Exchange

After some consideration, I've determined that my overly abundant breasts are largely responsible for the continued perpetuation of my weight gain, for the following reasons:
  1. They leave me blissfully unaware of my ever-growing middle-section b/c they obstruct my view of same;  I literally have to push them aside in order to properly view my stomach;
  2. They serve as a distraction, in that the people around me tend to not treat me any differently, b/c they only seem to notice my goodly ladies, rather than the other plentiful parts of me; and
  3. They initially absorb much of the additional weight gain and hence distort my own sense of body mass - (ie:  "I can't be gaining weight, my pants still fit me fine"). 
To be fair to the girls, there are other things at issue.  For instance, after Mom fractured her hand roller-blading last fall, my workout routine suffered greatly and it became damn near non-existent after my car accident in January. As I'm sure you can imagine, crippling spinal/musculature pain can be quite demotivating.  However, my situation has become something of a self-propelling, negative feedback loop because the less I work out, the more I gain weight, the less my body is healthy overall, the less quickly my injuries heal, the less I work out... (you see where this is going). So, I've determined that I need to jump into a new routine already and work through the pain as I go. (It isn't as though anti-inflammatories and other pain meds are absent from the earth. If worse comes to worse, I'll start popping pills.)

What I've learned from leading scientific studies and my own experience is that having a committed exercise partner is the predominant indicator of successful maintenance of a workout program. Essentially, your partner motivates you to keep it up when you are unable and you do the same for them when they are feeling sluggish. For that reason, I sorely miss working out with my parents and sisters.  My mom and dad were VERY conscientious about exercise and very persistent about convincing me to join them. The only problem is that Mom can't really roller-blade anymore. Plus, I'm a little hesitant to return to that activity myself knowing that it deformed and crippled my mom's right hand.

I've been wracking my brains for that special someone who has the time and inclination to join me in an exercise program.  Of the infinitesimally small number of potential candidates, I've determined that my ex would be ideal. He lives just a few blocks from me and our gym membership is still current*, so convenience wouldn't be at issue.  Also, being a farm boy, he has (for all intents and purposes) endless strength and endurance** so I won't have to concern myself with him pooping out on me.

Given the above, I seemingly have everything in place to get back to a healthy body size--everything except motivation and inertia on my ex's part.  Prodding and poking him has proven ineffective.  I need to offer him something to sweeten the deal.  Essentially, to motivate him to motivate me.  What I thought I could offer up is casual sex.  I figure, why not?  We both excel at it.  We aren't having it with anyone else and goddamnit, I want a freaking gym buddy. Nothing makes for a more devoted work-out partner than one who is promised free lovin' afterward.  If our relationship set any precedent, I think he will remain tireless in his effort to get me to the gym and subsequently into bed.

Who else sees what a genius idea this is? ...Anyone? Anyone?! ...Bueller? ... *sigh*

Om shanti.


*Even though neither of us attends with any frequency--it is frighteningly true what they say about it being damn near super-human to voluntarily quit a gym.

**I once watched him valiantly magic a couch up three flights of stairs with minimal assistance.