Flaming Balls of Gas

It’s that month again; the one in which I get to turn another year older. When I was a child I got it into my head that the date of my birth held the key to my destiny. That I had been sent to earth for some special reason. By this logic anyone born on my birthday was special too. This idiocy was reinforced when I found out how many famous people were born on May 26th. 

John Wayne was born May 26, 1907. He rode horses and shot guns.  I tried to ride a horse once but the critter paid me no never mind (as my grandmother would say) galloping off into the desert until it finally got tired.  Luckily it knew the way back to the barn because I sure didn’t.  Clearly being a cowboy star was not in my stars.

Sally Ride was born May 26, 1951. At one time I wanted to be an astronaut. My motives were entirely selfish.  I wanted to sail off into space to find the mothership that deposited me on Earth like a demented stork with a sick sense of humor.  But then I hit high school and realized I have math dyslexia.  I can’t even copy down a telephone number without transposing the numbers.  Plus they drink their own urine in space,  Yuck. Did I ever mention that  I’m a real picky eater?

Stevie Nicks was born on May 26 1948 and Peggie Lee, May 26. 1920. I tried out  for choir once and sang so beautifully that the choral director suggested I consider a career in comedy.

Indeed, of all the celebrities born on May 26th (Dorothea Lange, James Arness, Jack Kervokian to name a few) the only one I feel a kinship with is Isadora Duncan born May 26, 1877.  I love to go barefoot in the garden. I love to dance in loose clothing. And I suppose one day my scarf will get caught in the spokes of a Bugatti and that will be end.

As I got older I realized that having my picture taken all the time or reading about myself in “stars who’ve aged badly” would have ended, well, badly.  Very badly.  It’s a good thing my path was not one that led to celebrity.

 

Do you feel a kinship with any celebrity born on the same day as you or are the stars just flaming balls of gas twirling out in space?

The Beatles’ Slept Here (or not)

Last week I wrote about the legendary Mapes Hotel in downtown Reno Nevada. Well, if you cross the Truckee River and walk down a block you’ll run into another landmark hotel, the Riverside.

The Riverside. Today, low cost artist lofts and studios.

The Riverside. Today it contains low cost artist lofts and studios.

As you can see, it’s a good, solid structure, almost boring in design. However, at one time it was more notorious than the Mapes.  Not because it was a rocking, rioting fun place to stay but for a different, almost more scandalous, reason.

The current structure was built in 1927 reportedly on the spot where the city of Reno was founded in 1861.  During its heyday (1930 to approximately 1950) its select clientele stayed in two or three bedroom suites on the upper floors which were equipped with kitchenettes and had been designed specifically for them.  Generally they were women traveling alone or with children and servants in tow.  Many books and movies set during that time contain references to the Riverside including the “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand and the movie “The Women.”th-4

Another clue to the hotel’s notoriety (if you haven’t guessed yet), the old courthouse is virtually right next door. 

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Lobby of the Riverside from Historic Reno

After the women no longer needed to trek to Reno for its special services, the hotel went into a tailspin and by the time I knew of its existence it was a moldy though dignified and staid sort of place where one’s grandparents might stay.  Finally it closed in 1987.  But, unlike the Mapes, preservationists prevailed and the building now serves a community of artists and has an organic coffeeshop in the lobby. What an interesting life that old gal has had!

As to why the Riverside has a place in my heart, well, according to a popular urban myth the Beatles once stayed in one of those multi-room suites on the sixth floor. Only, I know it never happened. It was just the mind fart of a couple of silly girls that somehow got out of control, resulting in an assault on the sixth floor of the Riverside.  Unfortunately the word got out at school and for years after I was the butt of many jokes.

I left Reno shortly after high school and only returned for short visits with my family thus I rarely saw any of my old classmates. So when I found out at my 10 year reunion that the kids who’d made fun of me now firmly believed (and supposedly had evidence) that in October 1965 the Beatles hid out in the Riverside Hotel, I felt like I was on an episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.  Even when I told them it was hokum, they stuck by their stories. I, the instigator, was irrelevant.  The story had a life of its own and was now entrenched in the minds of people who wanted to believe. (I fictionalized the whole thing a few years back on Wattpad.)

So if you haven’t guessed the Riverside’s claim to fame, here’s one last clue: For many years the phrase “I’m going to Reno” meant only one thing and it generally wasn’t something any man wanted to hear.

Trumps Come and Go

One of my favorite blogging buddies left this comment on a recent post:

Trumps come and go. Sometimes humanity has to step back to make a bigger step forward. Most important is to stay human in any circumstances. Better future comes when people change their mentality, not when they change their government.

And she should know. She’s Irish and they’ve had their fair share of Trumps. A few years back we embarked on a suicidal mission to see as many historic sights in the United Kingdom as possible in just two weeks.  We undertook this mission with only rudimentary knowledge of the English monarchy.  This is akin to mowing the lawn with nail clippers.  After only a couple of tours of places like the Tower of London and Westminster Cathedral we were forever lost in all those Plantagenet, Norman, Beaufort and Tudor spats and back stabbings. So we bought this book to help us make sense of it all:

img_2541It promised to transport the reader “on a regal journey from the earliest days of anglo-saxon monarchs, through famous battles and the foundations of historic buildings.” Those of you who know a lot more about the British Royal Family than I do will probably scoff.  You can’t really learn much from a 126-page book whose aim is to leave tourists marveling at the enduring institution of the monarchy.  For example, the five pages devoted to the current royal family contain not one picture of Princess Diana nor is there mention of the Duke of Windsor’s ties to Adolph Hitler.  Indeed, the book ends with this sentence: The monarchy continues to be a strong thread in the fabric of national life, its powers reduced, its pageantry more symbolic but its magic at times hardly any the less diminished.

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“Bloody Mary” – so named because she liked to slaughter non-Catholics. Black magic must have been her thing.

In the United States we number our presidents and, from the results of the last election, do not favor the idea of dynasties. But it was interesting to read that from the 9th century to the 21st there have only been 56 kings and queens (not counting the formerly separate realms of Wales and Scotland). Since 1776 the US has had 45 presidents. Of course the more frequent turnover, in my humble opinion, has not always been positive. When the Dems get in power they undo what the GOP has done and vice versa.  This seesaw only hurts people and the environment. 

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Lady Jane Grey 16, convicted of treason and beheaded.

Another difference between our two systems is we do not elect infant presidents (until now that is), whereas many of the British monarchs were preteens used as pawns in bloody struggles for the crown. Those who had “protectors” with their best interests at heart might just make it to adulthood but most were left in the hands of murderous rival gangs. 

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Edward V and his brother Richard probably around 11 when they “disappeared.”

One thing I particularly enjoyed while reading the history of the Kings and Queen was learning how monarchs earned their nicknames:

  • Harold Harefoot (Harold I) so named not because of his hairy feet but because he was “fleet of foot.” 
  • And Silly Billy (William IV) who never expected to be king and apparently enjoyed his youth enough to be thought of as “frivolous.” He was also the oldest person to be crowned (64) but it appears Prince Charles will beat that record.

The kings were often known for their interests: there were warrior kings, sailor kings, farmer kings and kings who just liked to ride around on their horses and hunt. There was even one king with a passion for digging ditches (Edward II). The queens also got nicknames: Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen (no sex for her) and Mary I, Bloody Mary (no Protestants for her).

So Inese is right.  We will somehow survive and perhaps learn something. Is that too much to ask? By the way – please check out Inese’s blog.  She’s an amazing photographer/blogger.  And to all my friends in the UK, kindly remember that I got my facts from a book written for clueless tourists!

What Not to Wear to a Tea Party

Last summer I was invited to a tea party.  By that I mean, tea and crumpets with ladies in frocks and garden hats and not a group of people with teabags hanging from the rims of their hats screaming “Obama is an Arab.”

The Tea Party

The Tea Party circa 1930

I hadn’t been to a tea party since my daughter was three and the teacups held apple juice. My first thought was “goodie, I get to pretend to be a lady again.” You see readers, I spend 90% of my time in baggy clothes and flip-flops and rarely wear jewelry.  My mother describes my fashion IQ as “mid-century homeless.”

Therefore, what to wear was an immediate concern. It would have to be something I already owned (and fit into) because, even when I was very thin, the thought of being watched as I stripped to my panties always freaks me out. So, you could say my unwillingness to bare my butt to hidden security cameras lowered my frock candidates to two, both of which were bought for funerals but worn to any and all special occasions, including weddings.

The next big decision was which piece of jewelry to wear. Oh my, the true test of whether or not you’re a sentimentalist lies in the jewelry you’ve carted all over the country.  I like to think I’m not but below are pieces I haven’t been able to part with so you tell me:

buttonsButtons – from the assortment above you’d think my political inclinations swing wildly but the Nixon, Rockefeller and Bush buttons I inherited from my father.  They’re a reminder of all those arguments we had around the dining room table, many of which resulted in my expulsion to my bedroom sans dessert.  They also remind me of one of the last things Dad ever said to me before his death “Republicans really aren’t nice people.”  I have no idea what prompted him to say that, probably the swift boating of John Kerry. I’m sure Trump would have mortified him.

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This cheap plastic pendant was given to me by a sixteen year old boy who lived with his foster parents in a trailer park in Ridgecrest California. All three raced dirt bikes out in the desert at a time when movies like The Wild One depicted motorcyclists as thugs. But they were good people.  They taught me a valuable lesson about rushing to judgement. The pendant always reminds me of a spaghetti dinner, the drive-in movies and what it’s like to be sixteen and forbidden to ride on the back of a motorcycle.

hippie

I bought the sun pendant in the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco.  It always reminds me of following Country Joe and the Fish (who were playing on the back of a flatbed truck) and singing “Well, it’s one, two, three, what are we fighting for.  Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn, next stop – Vietnam.” I may have to wear it again.

The charm bracelet was from my Aunt Elvira who had no children of her own and used to take us to Disneyland. Until I was about thirty-five, it was my dream to live in FantasyLand.  Guess what – I’m having that same dream all over again.

keys

Whose jewelry drawer doesn’t contain an assortment of oddball keys? You can’t throw them away because one might unlock a diary that’s been hidden in the back of a closet for decades, full of childhood stories you’ve long forgotten.

junk

 

Other treasures include earrings without mates (they’ll show up), my grandmother’s charm bracelet, the odd pendant or two, and a couple of unpolished garnets.  It might surprise you to know that my jewelry collection is not insured.

Back to my ensemble, I decided that wearing old campaign buttons and just one earring might make me look even kookier than I generally do. They were definitely on the what not to wear to a Tea Party list.  Instead I wore a simple set of hand strung beads and clip on pearl earrings that had belonged to my grandmother.

You may wonder why I’m telling this story now. Well, months ago I predicted Trump would eventually go to war with the Pope not really believing it would ever happen.  Well, it’s beginning and I’m moving to Wonderland to have tea with the Mad Hatter.

To Quote Mr. Trump: Sad

Aside from a few freelance gigs, when people ask me what my last “real” job was and I answer “process analyst,” they either scratch their heads because they’ve no idea what I’m talking about or they scrunch their faces in disgust because they do.

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In the software industry, a process analyst’s main job is to figure out why projects either 1.) spiral over-budget 2.) take months longer than promised, or 3.) produce an end product so full of bugs that customer support runs screaming to the executive boardroom demanding the project manager’s head. If a project is guilty of all three, water-boarding would be a breeze compared to the verbal abuse and humiliation they face from a CEO schooled in the social graces by Donald Trump.

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This project manager’s not going to make it out of the room alive!

I didn’t have any training in “process analysis” and was hired primarily because I could write coherently, pull together a reasonable web site and I was too dumb to realize what I was getting myself into.  You see, process analysts are expected to develop checks and balances to make sure projects run on schedule, on budget and as bug free as possible.  And the worst part – we are expected to accomplish this task without armor and weaponry while the executives trot off to conduct business sessions at golf courses. Right!th-2

My first task as a process analyst was to reformat a set of templates used by project teams to gain approval of their plans. Many of them lacked coherent structure which drove the execs crazy. So I tried to make it easy for them to find key projections such as ROI (return on investment) without having to actually read the darned things.  You know how busy and important execs are!

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Should really read: “our processes aren’t complicated enough.

After approval, the plans were reviewed at quarterly meetings. The stated objective of these meetings was to see how far off track the teams were and help them back on target. Sounds friendly, doesn’t it? Not really. These meetings required a project manager to either song and dance around issues, point the blame at another group, or beg for more resources.  And they went on for days.  I know because I was required to attend each whip-lashing.

Before a product was released, the project had one last hurdle: the “release readiness review.” At this meeting the results of testing were revealed, deadliest bugs discussed and a decision made: Could marketing put a good spin on the release despite known issues or would they have to come up with a reasonable story for the delay?

I was at one such meeting when the CEO made the following comment to his team of execs.

“I didn’t know you all spoke fluent German.”

There was silence.  They looked around perplexed.  What was he talking about?  Well, readers, on this particular project all the testers were German thus their report to the execs was – you guessed it – in German.

“Perhaps one of you can tell me what this document you’ve all approved actually says. Unlike you I do not speak German.”  Ah, ah, ah.  Quickly the other execs whipped out their finely honed excuse generators. None of them spoke German either.

I’m amazed I lasted as long as I did. It wasn’t easy being the “process police” or witnessing daily evidence of the Peter Principle. But, because it was a multi-national company I enjoyed getting to know people from other cultures and perhaps that’s why I was able to stick it out. Sometimes it’s the people you work with and not the job.

Besides, thanks to my boss (who really should have been running the company) I learned how to bring groups together who are dependent upon each other for success but acted like they were at war (remind you of Capitol Hill perhaps?). On a team the objective should be  to sail across the finish line together and not drive each other off the cliff.thEventually the company was sold and the new owners had their own processes so my group, along with about one third of the company, found ourselves saying good-bye in the parking lot while pathetically holding our boxes of personal items. We were the lucky ones.  I heard from friends who survived the slaughter that the new owners had no process analysts and few development checks and balances.  Eventually everyone escaped.  Except for a few managers. They were the sort of people to have tossed children from lifeboats into the icy water and then bragged about surviving the Titanic.  On January 20th we’ll find out what it’s like to live in a country governed by people who increasingly have no need for process analysts, morality, decency or even checks and balances on their unconstitutional behavior.  To quote Mr. Trump “Sad.”

Horriblescopes

You are likely to have a new, exciting and sexually passionate relationship. This is a time for new and exciting things, not the routine. This leads to what will happen if you are already in a relationship. Expect the unexpected! Maybe even a baby or news about pregnancy! – Gemini yearly horoscope for 2017 from Sunsigns.org

On New Year’s Day the first thing I did was read my horoscope for the coming year. I don’t know why I bother. Those darn things are never remotely accurate but I keep hoping.  However, this year they really screwed the pooch. The last thing I need in my life is an affair!  I can barely handle one man. horoscope

My husband thinks it’s silly to read horoscopes (he calls them horriblescopes) however he is neither superstitious nor overly imaginative (he’s an Aries, wouldn’t you know). He’s also quick to point out that due to the shifting of the earth’s axis and numerous other “scientific” facts, I was born under the sign of Taurus and not Gemini. He’s wrong, of course. Here’s a description of the typical Gemini (from Serendipity Astro-lovers):

The eyes [of a Gemini] aren’t big, but they are bright and may be blue, gray, hazel or brown in color.

The facial expression is both bright and alive, but subject to change.

I think that describes me to a “T,” don’t you? I have either blue or grey or brown eyes and my facial expressions are alive and change.  Definitive proof that I am indeed a Gemini.

My husband is always trying to prove he’s smarter than I am.  This is because he was born in the Chinese year of the Rooster and they like to strut around with their chests all puffed out bragging.  I’ve forgotten what manner of fowl he is: Metal, Water, Fire or Earth. I was born in the year of the Tiger which means I’m impulsive and fearless but, according to Travel China, definitely not romantic.

“Tigers cannot give sweet love to their partners because they lack a sense of romance.”

So, I guess when that special someone comes along I’ll have to warn him to only expect sex – no sweet love from me.

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Well, here we are heading into the year of the Rooster with a man born in the year of the Dog as our president. If you’ve ever lived on a farm, you know dogs don’t always get along with roosters.  But, looking on the bright side, maybe Donald Trump (who’s also a Gemini) will have a passionate love affair and get pregnant!

 

 

Bah Humbug

th-5Thanksgiving is not my favorite holiday, however I am looking forward to joining with friends and commiserating over what the f**k has happened to this country. Instead of Happy Thanksgiving we will be having a Grave Misgivings bash, drinking margaritas and eating turkey mole.

When I was young Thanksgiving meant sharing a room with my sister when either one or the other set of grandparents came to visit.  I wish I could say it was jolly fun to spend time in that small house with my grandparents but all four firmly believed children were to be seen and not heard and they insisted on making weird shit which we were expected to eat.

th-4 For Grandma J from Massachusetts the feast would not be complete without oyster stuffing and green bean casserole. I’m sure there are many fine cooks out there who work wonders with those two dishes but alas my Grandma J believed that any recipe could be improved by Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup and dried onion flakes.

For Grandma M from North Dakota it was mincemeat pie and ambrosia salad.  I like fruit and I like coconut but her ambrosia salad was made with canned fruit and coconut that I swear had been sitting in syrup for years. And mincemeat pie, really?  Does anyone really like mincemeat pie?th-6

And we had to eat everything that had been piled on our plates otherwise we weren’t getting away from the dining room table.  The idea, hammered into our heads, was to be happy we had something to eat and weren’t starving like all those children in China. Seems an odd way to make children grateful, to force mincemeat pie down their throats.

I have to admit that as a child I also hated pumpkin pie. What a nasty little unpatriotic brat I was!  But I’ve changed my tune. After many years of experimentation my husband’s figured out how make pumpkin pies that don’t taste like wallpaper paste and they smell divine.  He generally makes three pies – one to take to friends and the other two to eat all by himself with a scoop of cookie dough ice cream.  He could eat pumpkin pie all day long and all year long without any qualms but luckily he doesn’t.

Joel's pumpkin pie - he makes three of them at Thanksgiving and doesn't share.

Joel’s pumpkin pie – he makes three of them at Thanksgiving and doesn’t always share.

Food isn’t the only issue I have with Thanksgiving. Its proximity to Christmas is the other.  Oh boy, time to really start stressing as the season to buy, buy, buy rolls over us like a big, black cloud.

But I don’t want to end this post on a negative note.  I am a thankful person – well fed, a roof over my head, healthy children and I’m doing what I love: sharing thoughts, stories and photos with other bloggers from around the world.img_2394