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I’ve decided that I’m going to celebrate the Chinese New Year this year. While this may seem a horrible, culturally-insensitive thing for one of the whitest, most Anglo-Saxon, former-British-colony dwelling, child of Western privilege to go around declaring, bear with me. I have never loved, or been all that successful, trying to embrace rebirth and a new year in the dead of winter. At least here on the wet coast, by the end of January life does actually seem to have begun again; with snow drops and the occasional crocus forcing their way through the mud, the prospect of spring actually becomes plausible. But this year, I’ve got a whole slew of new reasons for needing a second chance at beginning the year, so for now at least, I’m applying for cultural conversion.

About a week and a half ago, one of my closest friends fell from the sky. Except the sky was a window, and the window was in his new bedroom, and his new bedroom was in my home. And he fell hard. Three stories. Onto a parking lot. I was the only other person home. He had been fixing his curtains. It was only on Tuesday that he was finally moved into a room in the hospital that actually has windows enough to warrant curtains, and I couldn’t even bring myself to joke with him about it. I haven’t been up to joking about all that much lately.

I have been to the hospital every day. He was even sitting up when I saw him this afternoon, and we had a good chat. I want to go to the hospital to keep him company, but I also go because day-by-day I’m trying to replace the image of him that seems stuck on the backside of my eyelids, lying on the concrete, looking like a broken bird. I can still see the hole in the heel of one of his socks, on the ankle that he shattered but I ignored, trying to see if he was still breathing. When I lay on my side in bed at night, sometimes I still dream that my pillow is wet with blood. I don’t mean to be gory, and I sure as hell try to leave all of these images aside every time I go see him, but both what happened and my own reaction are a big part of why I want a new start to this year.

I’m getting ready to start my high school teaching practicum on the 30th – 13 weeks in an East-side classroom not far from where I live – and I want to start that next year, fresh, and not carry over all of the heaviness I feel right now into what I’ll be doing tomorrow. I want to have fun with the students, encourage them, and help them enjoy school. I want to be able joke with them, and not sit behind my desk and see how transparent and fragile they are. Not see frightened little birds who didn’t learn to fly, and fell instead. I want a new new year so that by the time it starts, my friend no longer has to lay surrounded in heart rate monitors and institutional grey walls, and I can sleep through the night, and joke again.

It's 1:40 here, and I know it's amost 7 there. I wonder if you're eating breakfast, getting ready for work, on the train, at work, or what. I don't know your morning schedule that well, but that's okay. You don't know mine either. For some reason, we've never talked about it. mine changes every ten weeks, and yours, well, I just don't know. I know you've had chaos at work. Do you wake up earlier? Go to bed later? You'd think I know about the latter, but I really don't.

I pucker my lips and kiss the air, hoping. Hoping that the collection of hydrogen, helium, nitrogen, oxygen, and other trace elements miraculously conglomerate together and form lips identical to yours to press against. My hands are warm on my shoulders like I miss yours being. Just like every night. I find that a cotton comforter feels like flesh if you rub your lips against it just right. I may sob. I did last night, I think, I can't remember. They run together. They're all nights you're not here.

There is a Taoist parable about three vinegar tasters. Long story short, the Taoist drinking the vinegar is smiling, because he experiences the bitterness, and it helps him appreciate the sweet things in life that much more. This is not the winning strategy you might think. See, your arms around me was sweet. Not having them makes them sweeter when they will be here. But I don't know when that is. It's like someone waiting for a cig break, not knowing when they're going to have it. But they know sometime they will, so they keep anticipating. I probably don't understand the Tao that well. I don't really care. You don't either.

I hold the comforter tight and squeeze. I can't remember if you're that thin or not, so I just pretend you are. I know you aren't, but it's okay. I miss you, the most beautiful man I know. You don't believe me when I say that, but it's true. I came to a conclusion. I miss you not because you complete me. Instead, it is because you show me that I can complete myself. And I pray and hope with all my might that once I do that, the two of us can become more than a whole. Something amazing.

But I'm just a silly girl with dreams.

Want to participate in an E2 art exhibition?

A few days ago I was elevated to Level 6, with the coveted right to post a homenode picture. Unfortunately, my hands trembled so from excitement that I failed to hit the "submit" button, thus completely failing to get the coveted picture posted. I had to summon help from kind Senior Noders until it finally worked and my HN pic was in place.

An E2 first?

In the meanwhile I’ve been brooding, contemplating, and kind of conspiring. Because I’m planning to pull off an E2 first -- a writeup about an artist (in this case Eduard Wiiralt, 1898 – 1954), combined with an art exhibition of some of the artist’s works!

But that’s not possible, I hear you say -- E2 doesn’t do pictures! True, in a writeup it doesn’t. But all Level 6 noders and above (and editors) have homenode pictures. So my art exhibition just needs a little cooperation from a number interested and pic-authorized noders.

This is the plan:

First, I would like interested pic-authorised noders to come forward and volunteer to post one of the artist's pictures on their homenode for one full day, the very day that the writeup itself is posted by me.

I will e-mail the pictures to you, several days beforehand. I will also set the day and time of these coordinated postings -- which will be in about a week or 10 days from now (the precise day will depend on how successful my call for cooperation turns out to be).

I’ve succeeded in finding 15 pictures by Eduard Wiiralt on the web, so I need 14 kindly cooperating noders. Wiiralt’s works are mainly graphic (etchings, etc.). The themes vary from "naughty nudes" (well, not all that naughty -- you can see one example right now on my HN) and grotesque mass-scenes, to completely naturalistic pictures of animals and people (but still with a certain surrealistic twist).

Take your pick

You can take your pick from the list below on a first-come-first-served basis (if the one you wanted is already taken, then I’ll send you another one, but I won’t give you a chance to change your mind). I’ll mark the taken ones with the exhibitor’s username.

Below is a list of the 15 pictures and the (broad) categories they fall into:


(A) Suggestive and/or grotesque

1. Cabaret                    to be exhibited by in10se 
2. Hell                       to be exhibited by XWiz
3. Preacher                   to be exhibited by pint
4. Absinth Drinkers           to be exhibited by doyle

(B) Naughty nudes

5. Bathers                    to be exhibited by AudieMcCall 
6. Gabrielide                 to be exhibited by GrouchyOldMan
7. Paule                      to be exhibited by haze 
8. Woman In Red Skirt         to be exhibited by JohnnyGoodyear 

(C) Naturalistic, with a twist

9. Camel w. Berber Boy        to be exhibited by rootbeer277 
10. Tiger with Cat            to be exhibited by yclept 
11. Tigers                    to be exhibited by Lometa
12. Regine                    to be exhibited by DejaMorgana 

(D) None of the above

13. Self-portrait w. Violin   to be exhibited by montecarlo
14. Violinist                 to be exhibited by IWhoSawTheFace 
15. Women’s Heads             to be exhibited by allseeingeye  

Please /msg me -- giving a) the number of the picture you want to exhibit and b) your e-mail address.

Your reward will be that you will become cooler than the temperature in Stockholm right now (- 10 oC)! No, no -- there are much bigger rewards for all of you exhibitionists -- JohnnyGoodyear has promised a Blessing to each participating exhibitor / exhibitionist!

Yours Truly,

montecarlo

*** Tigers, Ladies, Monsters, Violinists -- thank you! But this list is now CLOSING, because it's all filled up, regrettably! Thank you again! But the ART EXHIBITION itself will come to you all very soon, in a place very close to you! Auf Wiedersehen, but only for the time being! ***

UPDATE: The Eduard Wiiralt E2 Art Exhibition was successfully carried out between January 26, 13:00 ST and January 28, 13:00 ST, i.e during TWO SERVER DAYS. The Cooperating Exhibitors were the very ones on the list above.

The few of you who know me personally know that I am not a superstitious person, and these days I'm not all that religious either. I tend not to believe in "signs", believing that if people wanted to contact us from the great beyond, they would choose methods that are a little less open to interpretation.

That changed a bit when I went to see the bankruptcy attorney on Tuesday -- the woman whom I will soon be calling my attorney.

After gathering all the papers I needed, I left work and headed over to her office. It was a small, single-family house which looked like it had been there for a while. Steeling myself, I went over and opened the door to meet her. She greeted me right away, and directed me to have a seat in a waiting area. I obliged, and took note of my surroundings.

The first thing that caught my eye were a series of plates hanging on the wall of the living room-turned-lobby: Star Trek collectors' plates. A Star Trek poster (from Star Trek V, I think) hung on one wall; a collection of large, gold pins covering various insignia from the franchise hung on another. And it didn't stop there: aside from the Trek memorabilia, there was a multitude of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter merchandise hanging everywhere.

My father was an avid Tolkien fan. He even read the Silmarillion and other dense works that many folks are afraid to touch. He also loved Star Trek, having introduced it to me when I was a kid, and had gotten into the Harry Potter series as well. This attorney was the first person I chose, almost at a whim, out of the list I had assembled, and she just happened to have a collection that would've made him pop.

The next odd coincidence: in her office were two big male tabby cats. I own two tabby cats as well, though they're not the mousers these two obviously were. She explained to me later that they were formerly her barn cats, and had saved her horses when they alerted her to a possum nesting nearby. (Apparently possum urine is a deadly neurotoxin to horses; you learn something new every day!) Their reward was to come back and live in her office with her.

After doing a mountain of paperwork, most of which didn't even apply to me (they use the same form for all kinds of bankruptcy, and the majority of the questions enumerated my assets for a chapter 7), I sat down and talked with her. She said that the plan I had drawn up was basically what she would've recommended for us: a Chapter 13 restructuring that would include all debts under my name, except our house. The principal would be paid down, without interest, over the next sixty months in monthly installments. We don't have to liquidate a thing; we keep the cars, house, everything we own. And when those five years are up, my debts -- credit cards, car payments, my student loan, all of it -- will be completely gone.

I'm giving her part of her retainer on Monday to get the ball rolling. Swallowing one's pride and filing for Chapter 13 isn't easy... but I really do think my dad is trying to tell me something. And besides, do you know how liberating it is to tell the credit card companies to take their interest charges and shove them where the sun doesn't shine? The single worst thing creditors due to their clients is to raise interest rates when people near their credit limits... so I'm more than happy to face them and say, "Hey folks, you brought this upon yourselves, and you aren't earning another penny off of me."

Even if it means a black mark on my credit report... I'm getting out of this, and I'm never getting back in. Unsecured debt is slavery, and I value my freedom too much to let somebody else every control me again.

Hey Wilson,
Am just back from a most hilarious visit to the optometrist. (Second visit in two days.) Must first tell you about yesterday’s visit—my first to that office. It is a tiny (like 8’ x 8’) one-room, one-person affair tucked away on 9th floor of large office building, with barely enough space for examining chair, equipment, desk, file cabinets, and truly miniscule lab—size of Manhattan kitchen (I’m talking 2’ x 3’, tops). I assumed Dr. did not have frames on the premises until he indicated cabinet in one corner which he said contained all his frames. Cabinet is perhaps 3 feet high by 2 feet long. However, I withheld judgment until actually seeing the frame collection. OK, so today, hilarity began when someone rang the doorbell to his office and Dr. stepped into the hall to talk to her. (Since there is no room for a third person in the office.) Conversation went like this:
Woman: Well, I’m just shopping for new glasses, but it doesn’t look like you have any here…
Doctor: Oh no, I have probably THE largest collection of frames.
(I am barely controlling my rude snorts of laughter)
Woman (obviously flabbergasted): HERE?
Doctor: Oh yes.
Woman: Well…I’ll come back when there’s more…room.
Anyway, after my exam he invited me to look at frames, but quickly said he didn’t have anything like the glasses I had on, in fact had very few plastic frames. "I’ve been trying for years to get some plastic frames, but nobody is making them any more! Only metal!" Again I forced back squawks of laughter. He pulled out his entire collection of NINE plastic frames—all hideous—all pastel tortoiseshell type, huge round and square things like the kind I was forced to wear in childhood—with dreadful gold filigree at sides—very cliché Long Island Jewess-looking—it was amaaaaaazing! Massive, post-facelift full facial coverage models. Of course they’re very ironically stylish (not that he would know this) but I could get them for 25 cents at the Goodwill if I wanted. And as I explained to him, with my special-needs prescription, they would be a good inch thick at the edge with that kind of diameter. Still he had the nerve to tell me one of them would look good on me! Needless to say, I did not allow any of them on my face! Kept telling him I had already picked out frames I wanted, but he kept telling me that his distributor told him such glasses did not exist. He kept asserting "IF there was such a frame, they would know about it. They deal with just about everything in the US and most of the world as well." However, with further prodding he was induced to tell me that there was in fact a limited list of frame companies that his distributor bastards would deal with. I wheedled him out of his list so I could take it back to my own office and photocopy it. There is no way I am going to traipse around town trying on another 923 pairs of glasses just to be told they do not exist. Overall, was amazed that people like this Dr. survive passage of years. Felt like taking him on a field trip to LensCrafters or something. Can’t even imagine how one of those hipster spectacles boutiques would blow his mind with their CRAZY PLASTIC FRAMES that don’t exist. Don’t get me wrong, he was perfectly nice, just totally befuddled. Left the office feeling more concern for him than for myself! Nice change of pace.
O & O
Gruner


Gruner –
You are a very lucky girl to have such a freak for an optometrist. I could only hope for such a maladjusted health worker in my life. Frames sound gloriously hideous! Good luck getting the frames you want. Are you just going to pay for them out of pocket?
Mike just came in and was telling me about a client, Mary Murphy, he visited yesterday. She started out the visit by reading him scriptural flashcards. She then proceeded to read him hymns from a Pennsylvania Dutch hymnal. This was followed by an actual singing of the hymns. After this, she read him an Ann Landers column detailing how to take care of a headache by using industrial strength duct tape to tape banana peels to one’s forehead and neck. She ended the reading by saying, "I just had to cut that out and share it with you." The pièce de résistance was when she told Mike how her sister-in-law had killed her brother and was trying to kill her. Ms. Murphy was forced to "hire the KBG to stop her." Yes, the KBG. Visit ended with the Ms. Murphy giving Mike a small plastic instamatic camera that takes panoramic photos.
Over and Out
Wilson


Wilson,
Good god. I wish I worked with pleasant deluded people, instead of infants in suits.
Ack. Phoned optometrist again to see if he would make up another style of glasses for me. I no longer like him. Antiquated jerk gave me runaround. Refused to order my frames. Told me AGAIN he has largest selection of frames in his office. I just love it when people say something like that and don’t qualify it. Largest selection on the 9th floor of 700 Market Street, south side, east corner...MAYBE. Anyway I said very sternly, “Dr. Albert, I looked at your selection and I did not find anything suitable, and that’s final.” He said “Well if you insist on wearing some odd pair of frames that nobody has ever heard of, then you’re on your own.” I said, “Yes I do insist, since they are going to be on my face.” (Also pointed out to him that frame maker was on his ‘covered’ list, so he could not very well tell me he had never heard of them.) Clearly he fears bringing new frames into his world. No matter. Have found another person who wishes to be paid to make glasses for me like a reasonable optometrist should. Will keep you updated.
Gruner

The Department of Homeland Security has spoken! America's most dangerous, deadly domestic terrorist threat has been identified. They are . . . eco-terrorists and animal rights activists.

Huh?

Granted, I think Earth First and the Animal Liberation Front a bunch of brainless cranks. Yes, the environment is in danger. Yes, animals deserve to be treated decently. But i have friends who remain alive today because of treatments and animal derived products. Do you know any insulin diabetics? Well the ALF wants them dead. And while I agree that forests need preserved spiking trees won't do it. They are the morons conservatives use to paint the entire left in fanatic's clothing. If any of them are reading I'd like to remind them that their antics do far more to hurt their goals than help. Do you think anyone is alerted to the plight of the lab rat after a raid? Most people think only of the destruction when they finish shaking their heads. They're political stunts are so ridiculous as to amount to political masturbation, because the only thing they do is make themselves feel good.

On the other hand so far as I know their body count is . . . . Zero. Granted a few 'liberated' lab rats probably starved to death without their food pellets but so far as I know that doesn't rank with say, the bombing of the Murrah office building or the killing af liberal talk show host Allan Berg.

And of course the current Administration and Republican leaders really don't care about the bombings of abortion clinics or the murder of Doctors who perform safe, legal abortions. Apparently none of those people who have actually killed human beings is so big a threat as a bunch of cranks who free chicken. God help us if a bunch of roosters get loose in the general population.

But then you see neo-Nazis, and ultra-fundamentalists are Republican voters. And they primarily threaten Government bureaucrats and liberals, a class of people most conservatives wish would either go away or die. Apparently our lives have less value than a bunch of lumber. But then we're not rich folk who are major givers to K-Street Republicans.

Let's make it plain, conservatives are not committed to democracy. They don't care a hoot about it. They've helped overthrow popular elected leaders in Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954) Chile (1973) and tried pretty darned hard in Venezuela (2004). In each case the popularly elected leader did something that potentially threatened the interests of U.S. businessmen. You see, for a conservative today, when democracy collides with money, democracy loses.

Perhaps we can sleep a little easier knowing that the Justice Department will be targeting all those nasty tree-huggers. After all, the Klan has been harassed long enough.

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