Saturday, January 24, 2009

Hi Patrick! It's Me, Drew! I Baked You Some Cupcakes. Okay If I Drop Them Off With You At Work?

Wow! I know a member of the Obama administration! And not just anybody, but Patrick Gaspard, President Obama's political director.

Way back when, he was the volunteer coordinator when I worked on a congressional campaign back in NYC. I doubt very much that he would remember me or that the cupcake ploy in the title would be successful.

Still, I can't help but being filled with thoughts of What Might Have Been. When Hillary first won her Senate seat, a few people suggested to me that I should apply for a job with her. I possibly would have had a shot, although I was dissuaded from that because although I like working in government, I really hated standing outside of subway stations at six in the morning handing out campaign literature, and those thing pretty much go together. In NYC anyway. Which is, in part, why Patrick Gaspard probably wouldn't remember me: I wasn't a stand-out volunteer, much preferring tasks like sitting in the office and putting things in alphabetical order.

Still and all, with a bit of immodest Well-Get-A-Load-Of-Me, Patrick will join the President of the New York City Council, a member of the New York State Senate, and a few journalists and activist types on my personal list of "Notable People With Whom I Am On A First Name Basis."

Martin Delaney R.I.P.

Omigosh. Martin Delaney died. That is a damn shame.

Delaney was the founder of Project Inform, which provided treatment education to people living with HIV from way back. I met him once, and as I suspected, he proved to be scary smart, although a really, really nice guy.

Back in ACT UP, any debate about treatment or treatment activism could be settled by saying, "Well, Martin Delaney says..."

Truly a man who made the world a much better place by having been born into it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Lady Speaks In Welsh

Thank the Lord, I'm going back to school! On Monday, the Spring semester starts. I am chafing at the bit. I am particularly excited about my courses this semester. Materials of Construction, Architectural Practice I, Introduction to Drawing and Perspective, Introduction to Urban Planning, Managing Construction, and Building and Fire Codes. I'd have trouble if I was asked to pick a favorite in the line-up, and even more trouble picking a least favorite. As opposed to last semester, they all look like they'll be pretty lecture-and-textbook heavy, so that will mean a lot of time spent sitting in my wee bungalow reading and taking notes. Or at Starbucks or Koffi or wherever.

Does this also mean New Clothes For School?

No. No, it does not.

Not like dressing for school isn't a Whole Thing. Now in my forty-fourth year (same age as Michelle Obama!), getting dressed has gotten trickier. I am increasingly wary of Mutton Dressed As Lamb. Perhaps that is in part due to living here in Palm Springs, where every day I am confronted with mutton-y men out for a gambol dressed like lamb-y teenagers. (Note to Ubiquitous German Bodybuilder Guy: Put some clothes on please. You know who you are.) Not infrequently, I'll look in the mirror and think, "Oh Drew, you aren't forty-two anymore. You just aren't. Change."

And these concerns are also perhaps inspired by two of my recent web obsessions, Gofugyourself, which offers scathing critiques of the fashion faux pas of celebrities I don't know about otherwise; and Hot Chicks With Douchebags, which does much the same for guys from New Jersey and such places. In both instances, the common ground would seem to be Trying Way Too Hard. And as this is also a venal sin of Mutton Dressed As Lamb, that has become my watchword.

But that's not the end of the trickiness! At my institution of higher learning, I would estimate that only about fifteen percent of the student body is over the age of twenty-three. So mostly, I'm totally surrounded by kids, likable though they may be. And there's the temptation to "just dress like everybody else does." But however strong that temptation may be it is to be resisted at all costs. Because I'm not a kid. I'm forty-four. Dammit.

So most days, there's a lot of editing that goes on before I leave the house. I want to look stylish and a little natty, but in a "Here to fix your furnace, Ma'am" kind of way appropriate to my being a construction management major. But also keeping in mind age appropriate attire. And all at the same time avoiding Trying Too Hard at all costs.

You see my plight.

I think mostly I hit it. Sometimes not. But of course, at school, it really doesn't matter, because I am viewed by my post-adolescent classmates as being a total freak.

What manner of freak?

You may well ask.

The Lady speaks in Welsh.

Back when I was in college, there were scattered about a few "non-traditional students," who had graduated high school about the time of the moonwalk rather than about the time of the Challenger disaster like the rest of us. In the English Department, there was this really wonderful woman named Georgia. Her kids had grown up and left home, and she decided to return to school and get her bachelors, an endeavor she had abandoned to marry here stockbroker husband who had a doctorate in Comparative Literature from Columbia and who would translate Flaubert and Dante and Goethe at the breakfast table while he had his morning coffee to keep his language skills sharp. Georgia was wonderful, and we all liked her.

Except for one this one thing she would do...

For example, in my Shakespeare courses, we would take one of the plays, divvy up parts, and do a close reading and discussion in class. And I think it was in one of the Henry plays where Shakespeare has some fun with one of the characters marrying a Welsh princess who doesn't speak a word of English. And so he would profess his love to her and then the stage direction given was, "The Lady speaks in Welsh." Which elizabethan audiences probably found to be a total gas, right? Well Georgia got the part of the Welsh princess. And rather than treating it like a non-speaking part, Georgia went to the library and listened to recordings of Welsh poetry in Welsh, and got a feel for the language and wrote down phonetically some words and phrases, and when the time came, Georgia/The Lady Mortimer treated us to the euphonious sounds of spoken Welsh.

When she innocently explained to us that she didn't speak Welsh, but had learned a few passages of Welsh so she could dazzle us when we read the play in class, there was much rolling of the eyes. For after all, who does that? Who spends two hours in the library learning phonetic Welsh when you could be sitting in the dorm watching MTV or getting drunk on beer or taking a bus over to the mall?

That would be Georgia, the Non-Traditional Student, who was paying for her education herself and who was taking a lot of delight in the whole experience and wringing from it every drop she could.

And so there we are in my Technical Drafting class, and several of us had finished up the assignment a couple of days ahead of schedule, and that's really cool because you don't have to show up for class and you can sleep yearly. Although several of my fellow students had a stroke when walking by my drafting table and glancing at my drawing, expostulating, "What the hell is that? Is that part of the assignment? How did I miss that one?"

No, I would answer, it's not part of the assignment. See? It's a study of fibonacci sequences and when you inscribe an arc in the little rectangles you get the same proportions as the chambered nautilus! Isn't that cool?

And they'd smile and then turn around and mouth the word "freak!". But I believe I'm well liked. Even though I am a freak who is paying for this myself and taking a lot of delight in the whole experience and wringing from it every drop I can.

And Monday begins the Spring semester, and new opportunities for the Lady to speak in Welsh.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

...ummmm... ...Amen?

So that was Rick Warren's inauguration invocation?

You're kidding me, right?

Okay, I've spent my entire life listening to our Collects from the Book of Common Prayer, asking God to change us into "his likeness from glory to glory" and shield us from the "changes and chances of this life" and such, but that was just about incoherent. Was the man drunk? Is that what he subjects his thousands of worshippers to every Sunday at his Saddleback church? Did he think about it at all before hand? Was reciting the Our Father at the end his throwing in the towel?

I can only conclude that my evangelical brothers and sisters in Christ set the bar pretty low when it comes to common prayer.

Thursday, January 08, 2009


Whoa! My first earthquake!

I almost missed it. I was lying there reading Agatha Christie's The Mysterious Affair At Styles and I wondered, "What the heck is that up on the roof? Just in time did I realize that it wasn't something on the roof, it was, in fact, a seismic event.

It was just a wee little one--my Bread Man Bread Machine rattles more crockery when it's kneading--but it was my first earthquake.

Once again in my life, I have the thrill of losing my virginity.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Palm Springs Gravel Festival!!!

Here in the desert, we are in the midst of the Palm Springs International Film Festival, which sort of undermines the basis of this posting, but maybe not. Maybe it's the exception that proves the rule.

The Film Fest looks pretty cool. And I think I'll see about checking it out. But last Thursday, when That Cowboy and I decided--as we were encouraged to do by the local news--to take a walk through the first Palm Springs Village Fest Street Fair of the year, I think I caught my first glimpse of the proverbial man behind the curtain here in the desert city that I love.

So the First Palm Springs Village Fest Street Fair of the Year.

What might that involve?

They close off several blocks of downtown Palm Springs and set up lots of little booths selling things. Especially soap. (Given that cosmetic surgery is quite the burgeoning industry here in the Coachella Valley, I immediately thought about Fight Club, and it would take a lot now to convince me that there isn't a strong liposuction-soap making connection.) But basically, it was about the same deal as I have observed at the other Fests that I've attended since I've been here.

Consider the following...

Palm Springs Gay Pride Fest: The parade lasted all of forty-five minutes, and the largest contingents seemed to be local high school marching bands. After the parade, we all went over to a local park where there were... lots of little booths set up with folks selling stuff.

Palm Springs Leather Fest: No parade, just two blocks of Sunny Dunes Boulevard closed to traffic, and lots of little booths of people selling stuff.

Palm Springs Festival of Lights: Downtown Palm Springs closed to traffic, and a parade of sorts consisting of pickup trucks draped in those twinkle light nets you can buy for $8 at Home Depot from local businesses. And booths of people selling stuff.

Indio Tamale Fest: This required a drive east on Highway 111 to Indio, and awaiting us was downtown Indio closed to traffic with lots of booths of people selling stuff. Principally tamales. Although they also had several stages set up with live performances, many of which helped to explain the Selena phenomenon to me. The live performances really made this whole thing worthwhile, and to my mind, Indio totally beat out Palm Springs in the Fest department.

So a pattern emerges...

Somewhere in this city there is a room. And in that room are some people. And they're sitting around a conference table trying to dream up Fests of one kind or another. The goal is to bring the maximum number of people to Palm Springs every weekend from November 1st to April 30th. There are, of course, the notable Fests, such as the Palm Springs International Film Festival and the Dinah Shore WPGA Golf Classic and the White Party, but that leaves a lot of weekend unaccounted for. And we can't have that.

I guess it's not enough that Palm Springs offers perfect weather and incredible natural beauty. Ya gotta have a hook, right? And if one must have a hook, let's see if we can expend the minimal effort required to construct that hook.

I don't know for sure that there's a Palm Springs International Doorknob Festival or a Palm Springs International Gravel Festival or a Palm Springs International Sexual Lubricant Festival, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that all of these have been up and going for the past fifteen years and they bring them in from as far away as Seattle and Amarillo and Chicago by droves.

My home, you see, is sustained by the perpetuation of a fallacy: Come to Palm Springs, where there's always something to do!. In fact, there's nothing to do here in Palm Springs. But that is exactly the reason why I--and so many other like minded folk--move here: It's very pleasant to do nothing. Especially when you're doing nothing in the company of folks who, in general, have their feet on the ground and their heads in heaven, in the warm California sunshine, and surrounded by majestic mountains and palm trees and the desolate beauty of the desert and such.

Oh. And there's really cool soap available, too.

Hire Me. Please.


Just got back from a meeting with my Financial Advisor. My funds are dwindling (nothing to serious... yet), and my attempts to find a part time job have just not been going all that well. Ho(t)me(n) Depot is Not Hiring! I'll probably be showing up in the local offices of Hard Labor Ready before too long. And I'm increasingly annoyed by postings on craigslist which look just perfect but which turn out to be nothing more than marketing ploys for the University of Phoenix or whatever. Or worse, this virtual stinky pile of turd.. And as to the latter, what I found really galling was that allegedly it's all about posting your resume online, right? And they have these little write-ups you can read about how to write a really killer resume.

Well here's a sample of the verbiage from one of their "helpful" essays...

"* Read it completely and let any one else with good semantic knowledge of English read it, to check the flow in it. [I found titles of projects and trainings, not matching the description.]

* Don’t write much (don’t create fuss over) about the small and irrelevant details, because you need to be packed with the explanation for those things at the time of personal or technical discussion.

* Elaborate on the projects, which seem relevant to the particular opening. They increase chances of your profile selection."

I mean... Use commas much? Is this supposed to be funny?

Ah well.

And, of course, there's the Big Underlying Anxiety: What if I devote two years of my life to getting a degree in Construction Management, becoming a LEED Accredited Professional, mastering AutoCAD, becoming proficient in Spanish, and getting certified in welding, and I still can't find a job???

What then?

But as my Financial Advisor prattled on about the risk tolerance of my financial portfolio, I was suddenly comforted by the thought that whatever the outcome, I am enjoying every minute of this two year sojourn. (And it's official: I got all A's. I have a 4.0 GPA after my first semester at College of the Desert.) That may not provide me with much in the way of comfort when I end up penniless and living in a tent in some canyon on the outskirts of Palm Springs, but I think that in fact it will.

Anyway, time to check the want-ads.