Tuesday, December 21, 2010

don't eat shrimp with orange juice and vitamin C, it will make "有毒的三鉀砷 (即亞砷酸酐),又稱為三氧化二砷, 其化學,式為(As2O3) " you'll die right away... sorry to irritate yo

Above was the subject line of a recent email from Dad. Below, the text, all in Chinese, translated by Google:
** Very important to eat them .... taboo ***

*** *** Shrimp + orange = dead **

** Eat them drink orange juice is suicide, when **

*** Shrimp + vitamin C = arsenic ***

Taiwan, the night the girl died suddenly ** ***

Sunday, December 12, 2010

lawyers in love

B.: In the year and a half we've been dating -

S.: We haven't been together for a year and a half.

B.: August 2009 until now. That's a year and four and a half months.

S.: See?

B.: I rest my case!

S.: I would have said sixteen months.

Monday, December 06, 2010

defensive line

It's really cool in football how when a defender intercepts a pass, the defense suddenly switches into offense mode and the defensive linemen start blocking a path for the runner. I like both when cornerbacks make interceptions (because they are fast and agile) and when tight ends make interceptions (because they are not too fat and not too fast, perfectly average, like the Mario character in Super Mario Bros. 2), but best of all is when a defensive lineman some how gets the ball in his paws and bolts toward the end zone. Because once you get past the defensive line, how in the hell is a quarterback going to stop a runaway refrigerator? Here's a good video of the unstoppable defensive lineman:

That is my only real thought of the day.

Also, today me and my brother and his fiancee took Grandma to two amazing things: (1) Silicon Valley dim sum, meaning it was authentically delicious Chinese food (Chicken feet!! Mmmmm!!!) in a pleasant, clean, upscale atmosphere (so hard to find!); and (2) Costco. Costco is ordinarily spectacular enough, but this time it was especially fun because we got a motorized cart with a basket in front for Grandma to motor around in. It was built low to the ground and heavy, like a Corvette, and she loved steering through the crowds, saying, "Ex-Q me!" She even picked up a few driving habits naturally, like looking over her shoulder before turning and not stopping and starting suddenly in traffic! I foresee a new way to spend time with Grandma!


Bananarchist to S.: "You're argumentative."

S.'s response: "No, I'm not."

Note to self: S. doesn't like it when you point out irony to her.

Sunday, December 05, 2010


B. met me today at the Daly City Toyota dealership for brunch. I was there to take my Corolla in for routine servicing. They turn the engine light on at 20,000 miles so you have to go and spend $90 to get a boy named Johnny to flip that light off. I almost took a picture of the Daly City Toyota dealership's Valued Customers Wall, where Siu Fong's name tag was pinned next to Jerry Asuncion's and Jin Park's, etc. The population in the dealership was 95% Asian. The girl at the cash register told me to take a Santa-shaped chocolate from the mini-sleigh it was riding in because the dealership had "hella chocolate." It also has huge TV screens, a cafe, and a lounge area where people can wait with their complimentary coffees and pastries.

We opted instead to eat the bagel sitting in B.'s brother's Camry, with the shockingly violent Bruno Mars love song "Grenade" playing in the background. ("I'll catch a grenade for you / I'd jump in front of a train for you / Throw my hand on a blade for you / Take a bullet straight through my brain.") B. misheard me when I said, "It's pretty early," and she repeated, "Yeah, this bagel is really herby, isn't it?" God I love how validating B. is, even when she validates what she hears from me as complete nonsense.

We drove through Colma to have Filipino brunch at Lucky Chances Casino. Let's see what Wikipedia has to say about Colma:
Colma is a small incorporated town in San Mateo County, California. The town was founded as a necropolis in 1924.

With much of Colma's land dedicated to cemeteries (17 for the interment of humans and one for pets), the dead population outnumber the living by thousands to one. This has led to it being called "the city of the silent," and also has given rise to a humorous motto among some residents: "It's great to be alive in Colma."
Lucky Chances Casino is where animated human forms in this necropolis go to make the transition to their final resting places. It is a 100' x 100' room lit by fluorescent tubes 50 feet above the floor. Everybody under this light looked appalling. Here, too, the population was 95% Asian. B. and I stood behind a table and watched men in sunglasses stack plastic circles in front of them, and earned a dirty look from a card dealer. We ventured to the cashier, where I asked a series of idiotic questions in an artificially high voice ("Umm, can you tell me how this works???"). The man thumbing chips behind the counter was laconic. ("No.") But this is what we gathered: the casino operates because the house does not play; the players take each others' money, and the house takes a fee for each bet made. This was the most sense we could make of a nonsense situation. B. noted that even though she understood every word in "Progressive Omaha Jackpot," as a phrase it evoked no meaning in her mind.

We had a similar experience moments later in the Cafe Colma, a 24 hour diner serving Filipino breakfast that sits inside the Lucky Chances Casino. All of the letters on the menu were recognizable, but they were all jumbled up into meaningless order. Spamsilog? Sinigang bangus? Siopao? Neither B. nor I had had Filipino food. After much consultation, spying, and solicitation, we learned that the suffix -silog added to a dish means you get garlic rice and eggs on the plate, with whatever precedes the -silog. Spamsilog = Spam. Bangsilog = bangus. We ordered tapsilog, chicken adobo, and siopao. For some reason I expected Filipino food to be cold and vinegary and salsa-like (because of the necropolis setting), but the chicken adobo was a savory stew of spices I associate with Chinese food, garlic and soy sauce. Quite good. The siopao was a gigantic steamed bun filled with sausage, ground pork, and egg. We concluded, upon palming it, that it was a C cup. "At least," B. said.

Later, B. sent me an email saying, "Thanks for the depressing morning. Casinos and cemeteries - can't wait for our hike next time we hang out!" and the forwarded three NSFW amateur videos of women giving birth. I recommend you go straight to 3:30 on this one:

I thought I would finally have some time free today, so I wore my sports bra and running shirt all day, expecting to find some hilly paddock on the mid-Peninsula to trot circles in. Finally, Saturday - after a long week of working like a dog, meaning working not at all like a dog works, sans-exercise, having no time to move myself from anything other than a staring-at-computer or eating-at-desk position, letting my body revert to the jellyfish-like consistency it had before I started P90X - I would have some time to jog.

Instead of jogging I went to the Hillsdale mall to make my annual purchase of lesbian business casual work attire. Did I tell you that last year I got a invitation to a lawyer event in San Francisco that read "Attire: Festive Northern California Business Casual." Readers, what the fuck is Festive Northern California Business Casual? S. said it meant sweaters embroidered with Christmas trees. I thought it meant Santa suit.

S. thinks I have a bad habit of justifying everything by saying it is "California casual," e.g., why I can call my boss an asshole (I really did this, to his face!) and have him laugh it off, why R. takes a break from her workday to run a company-sponsored 5k in a salt marsh, why S. and me and my brother and his fiancee spent an additional 90 minutes after finishing our food at the Benihana in Cupertino chatting with the cute young Bengali family sitting at our table about methods parents use to hide video gaming systems from their addicted children. Sometimes I use California casual to excuse my fleece outerwear; sometimes it means obsessive outdoor fitness; sometimes it means matter-of-fact ethnic diversity. California casual is actually a car dealership employee inviting you to have hella Santa-shaped chocolate out of a mini-sleigh! My life aspiration is to always be Festive Northern California Business Casual.

Then work called. As I hauled my new oversized trousers and undersized shirts to my car - DAMN THIS RECTANGULAR BODY - I got an email. Opposing counsel is motion-happy, and you are to write an opposition brief. Come to work.

So I went to work.

Here's the weird thing. It was okay. Work has been really good recently. I try not to talk about my job on this blogsilog, but I'm going to make an exception. Something changed a few months ago. A partner took a chance on me and asked me to do some work for him. I think he thought it was okay. I think he thinks I'm okay. And so I've been getting more and better work.

And even weirder, the more work I get, the more I like it. The nature of the work has not changed - Big Computer Company A sues Big Computer Company B over a invention both sides claim as their own, Law Firms C and D litigate like beavers - but my feelings for it have. I like being given responsibility. I especially like when this beloved partner sits me down at the beginning of a project and explains exactly how hard it is going to be and how high his expectations are for what I will produce. I like to be pet on the head and told I've done a good job. I like to feel crushed when I've disappointed the partner with a crappy draft, and I like to feel eager to prove my worth the next round. What it comes down to is that more work for me means more approval from this Daddy figure. Of course by now you realize I've imagined NC-17 rated sequences with him re: management technique.

I'm in this feedback loop where the more work I get, the more useful I feel in the firm, and the more useful I feel the more confident I act, and the more confident I act the more I feel empowered to ask questions, to ask for the guidance I need to produce better work. More confidence also means I behave more like myself (i.e. Festive Northern California Business Casual) rather than the scared shy person I was being before, which makes less stiff, more likable, which I think makes it easier for people to work with me. All of which, I think, gets me more work. Which I like, because it makes me feel useful, confident, etc.

I had a hard time adjusting to the corporate culture of BigLaw for almost a year. I hid in my office and just did whatever work came my way and tried to draw as little attention as possible to myself. I think what I found hardest was that I felt I had to suppress any hint of weirdness and silliness in order to fit in, but I still had to be chummy in that way professionals call "collegiality," which felt fake. Like a laugh track, or something.

It did weird things to me. At the beginning of this year, I had just returned from three months of international travel. I had moved from my shared apartment with beloved O. in the big faraway city of Chicago - where I had clearly-defined schedules, income, expenses, habits, friends, and hobbies - back into my parents' house in the suburbs, where, if things felt familiar at all, they were familiar in an infantilizing way. (Like being told to take a bath at night, or forced to put ugly XXL t-shirts on my car seats to prevent scuffing.) My known world was disrupted enough as it was, but on top of this feeling fake at work did funny things to my emotions. I hit a nadir sometime in February when I went out to a cafe with R. and O., best friends since childhood, and felt uncomfortable. At a loss for words. They said I didn't seem like myself. I lay on that divan in that cafe like a clam, cold, heavy, buried in underwater sand. I love that stupid fucking metaphor! A woman I had just met told me "Your personality is usually light, but recently you've been heavy" before offering to spin crystals over my heart chakra, and my reaction was not to run screaming but to say You are absolutely right.

Nobody at the firm said act straight or die. I must have imposed the burden upon myself to suppress my personality. I'm overcautious and guarded when I'm in a new social situation. I am hella shy but people think I'm being aloof. I scribbled a furious note on my notepad during the first session of the memoir class I took at Stanford this fall, as people went around the room introducing themselves: "BE MORE OPEN ABOUT YOURSELF." I felt embarrassed for being too guarded to be loose/flexible/creative about describing myself, while my fellow memoirists let their wacky personalities out right at the beginning. My nickname on my college rugby team was "Buddha" because people thought I was shy, quiet, and inoffensive. I spent my first six months in Chicago pretending I was straight. What the f?? You get older, you think you've found your confidence, and then you experience something new and it throws you back to square one. You know? I'm so slow to adjust.

I discussed the taste of human flesh with a colleague at the copy machine last night around 9:30. He called it "long pork." I told him to cut his hand off and try.

I consider this a victory.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

evening with large

Yesterday, I took R.K. through a workaday evening on the Peninsula. He is in town for a wedding - a delightful wedding for which I was his plus one, more on this later. I worked while he wandered around San Francisco, Ferry Building to Fort Mason. At six, I picked him up from the Palo Alto Caltrain and drove in local and highway traffic down 101 to the Google campus, where with our chatty tour guide we enjoyed a cauliflower pinenut spread on cheese toast and banana chocolate mousse, and encountered a living wall, a solar-powered trash compactor, a collapsible fence made of polyethylene paper, and comfortable nooks full of intelligent-looking young people working past work hours. After touring the foosball table and the mystery pair of socks on the floor, we turned the corner and found two people playing at a grand piano.

We left. At my house, R.K. sung a soft tune and plucked out a few notes on the banjo while I thumbed the pearl of my Blackberry Clitoris looking for fires to put out. Dad set up R.K. in the extra bedroom and booted up a 2001-era desktop so that R.K. could be forced to view family photos. Boo remembered R.K. from Brooklyn sleepovers and leaned hard against his legs, begging to be patted. I coaxed my toes into the five-fingered shoes that R. had lent me, and Boo and R.K. and I walked the hundred yards to Grandma's house, where I applied tapotement therapy to her shoulders with an 18" daikon and Grandma told a story about losing a bunch of radios while doing her daily tai chi exercises in the schoolyard of Taiwan University. Obedient and well-mannered R.K. gamely carried on his end of the conversation and offered his name, but Grandma misheard him, gestured widely with her hands, and referred to him as "Large" several times. On the slow walk back home, Large and I stopped at a mystery spot that smelled like jasmine. We tried to delineate the edges of the sweet smell, sniffing the air in three dimensions until Large said he was going to pass out.

I subjected Large to P90x's Chest and Back disc. He stopped after half of the DVD, saying he was going to throw up. "I ate too much," he said. I believe you, Large. He sunk into our twenty-year old gray pleather loveseat and watched me finish the exercises and transition into the ab-ripping portion of the evening's festivities. I told Large of my parents' and my shared love of useless tschotskes, how a year ago S. said she would not permit me to bring any of these beloved trinkets into any shared household we would have, how I reduced my toys into one tissue box of useless crap, and then dumped out said box of crocheted sushi, rubber Cup o' Noodles, a baseball inscribed with the Constitution, a Barack Obama face towel, a Swan Lake music box, a miniature mace, a plush rat, and a $3.99 spinning Made in China LED toy onto my bed. We played with these while talking about relationships using terms like "aromantic" and "family love."

I had to wake at 7:15 for an East Coast conference call, so afterward I roused Large and we had breakfast at my favorite diner in town. I accidentally ate roughly 15-20 egg whites while Large said things like, "A hash pie is basically a potato pancake, except with bacon because it's not Jewish." I am pathologically unable to not chat so I flirted with the sixty year old lady at the cash register about buying Pez dispensers on Valentines Day, and then I drove Large three hundred feet to the Caltrain, where we did not hug goodbye because I anticipated seeing him up in the city after the work day. Well, the work day has left me wasted and I am unable to drag my tired ass north, so a remote hug from Palo Alto, dear Large, and thank you for visiting.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


I was scared to meet J., so when she finally arrived, I rose to hug her, saying, I've heard so much about you! and then returned immediately to my supine position on the floor. I was "stretching my back" but really I was just nervous I'd stutter, or fail to be scintillating, or just flat out say something stupid. S. hadn't fully furnished her new apartment - it wasn't that strange that I would be on the ground.

J. is one of S.'s best friends. They met studying abroad in Beijing when J. was drawn to S.'s cherry red Fluevog boots. She is tall and slim, with a rangy stride, and glasses and eyebrows that always seem raised in excitement. Her face has Lucille Ball-like elasticity and humor. She gestures a lot. Favors large scarves. Speaks quickly. Leans in when listening. When she learns that a friend has a piece of new information to share, she shouts at her partner, "Why haven't we plucked this apple from the tree??"

Before I met her I heard stories. J. took care of S. in times of great need. J. is the type of person you invite over for dinner, but then she cooks - she walks casseroles of delicious food twenty blocks to your house, and then lets you keep her pretty pottery for weeks because she knows you don't have dishes.

The first time I met J., she talked about preparing for a winter train ride up to central Canada. All I could think to say was that the previous tenant of S.'s apartment had left behind a half dozen issues of a men's bodybuilding magazine, and she should bring these for the trip. Isn't it gross, I said. Look at their bodies.

At dinner with J. and her partner a few months later, J. asked me what S.'s brother was like. I had just met him. I said, He's just like S., but nice. I was teasing; of course I find Couchzilla nice. I meant that S.'s brother was more relaxed, less driven than his sister.

J. responded with her body and with her words. She pushed herself away from the table, sat up straight in her chair, and said, What do you mean S. isn't nice? She's so nice.

I fumbled around for an explanation. I meant, I mean, she's nice but he's like chill . . . J.'s socially adept partner rescued me by smoothly changing the subject.

Thus I learned something else about J.: she's fucking loyal. She is that friend. The protector. If I ever wronged S., J. would be the first person in line to disembowel me with a pitchfork. That snippet of conversation laid out the ground rules. Strange, knowing that only made me respect J. more.

S. and I tiffed earlier in the week about where to spend the holidays. Plaintiff/Counterclaim Defendant wanted both parties in California for Thanksgiving. Defendant/Counterclaim Plaintiff wanted to be at home. Both sides had compelling evidence for their arguments. They came to no resolution and Plaintiff left the call in a huff.

S. had dinner with J. tonight. I took a break from work to have dinner and exercise. When I returned, I saw in my inbox S.'s itinerary. For a trip to San Francisco. For Thanksgiving.

I knew right away what had happened. This is the chat we had after I got that itinerary:
me: really1?!?
no really, ??!?!!?

S.: hi!!!!

me: OMG!!!!!!
i love j.!!!!
did j. have anything to do with that?
i love j.?!!?
i love you!!!!
wait am i reading this correctly

S.: hahahahahaha
why do you love j.?
what about ME?!!??!!?

me: you too but first j.!!!!

S.: what!
what does j. have to do with anything?!

me: oh i don't know
just a guess

S.: why did you guess j.?

am i right?

S.: tell me why you thought of j. immediately!?


A dangerous time. Orange and black candy 75% off at CVS. Little blue piles of mini Crunch bar wrappers all over my desk at home. Little balls of Reese's cups foil all over my desk at work.

Can anybody tell me, are Butterfingers like vegemite? Captured waste from another food-making process given a second chance at a supermarket shelf? Because I cannot understand why else candy makers continue would continue to manufacture them. Or black jelly beans. What's the point??

Saturday, November 06, 2010

giants won the world series

The Giants won the World Series on Monday. R. and I watched Game 5 at Antonio's Nut House with the folks I met while watching the NLCS - I complained about one of them in a previous post, but truth be told it has been nice to see the same people over and over in the same bar and have friendly feelings toward them. Makes me feel like a real townie.

The game was a pitching duel, a shutout on both sides until the late innings. We were on edge, waiting for a team to break through with a hit, two hits in a row. Lincecum was flawless. Cliff Lee seemed so too, until Ross and Uribe stacked up hits, Huff moved them up with the surprise bunt, Burrell whiffed (again!) and then Renteria hit a ball that looked for a breathless moment like it might drop in the field and turn into a pop fly. But it didn't. It slipped between the first row of the bleachers and the center field fence. A perfect clutch home run. We all lost our shit. The bar erupted. I leapt up on the footrest of my barstool and almost tipped myself face-first into the guacamole, screaming with my arms over my head. "That's the World Series! That won the World Series!" I said.

Two innings later Wilson closed it out. Hamilton struck out looking at a sick breaking ball; Guerrero grounded out. Wilson built up the count to 3-2 with Nelson Cruz. We waited. The next pitch: fouled back. The next one. No one dared to breathe. Nelson stepped in with a huge swing. And - he missed!

I must have stepped through a worm hole or something because it felt like I lost about five seconds. I blacked out after the last pitch and came back to find myself screaming, jumping up and down on the peanut shells underfoot, screaming and screaming with a hundred and fifty people in the bar. It was like we were locked up in a champagne bottle and and then Brian Wilson popped the cork and we just blew up and spilled over. I peed in my pants, only a little bit, I just couldn't control myself. We were just making sounds, not even words or "Yeah!!" but "AGHHHHHHHHH!" R. and I bear-hugged, then threw our heads back and jumped up and down screaming "AGHHHH!!!!!" in unison. We broke off, stepped back, double high-fived, did the same with the people around us, and then went back to jumping up and down and screaming. I even gave the woman with the talking problem a two-handed high five. We cut loose, I mean literally, physically; R. said later, "I was just farting and peeing all over myself when they won."

Things subsided into a general din punctuated by occasional wooting crescendos, but after that petered out very quickly. Within about ten minutes the packed bar had half-cleared out. The Giants were dogpiling by the pitcher's mound in Rangers Ballpark. I bought vodka shots for me and R., because I didn't know what else to do. We seemed shell-shocked. We watched the Giants spraying each other with champagne, and the inaudible post-game interviews for a few more minutes, then drove back to R.'s house to watch the news.

I was still in a blissed-out daze on Wednesday morning when I woke up, so I decided to take a half day and get myself up to the ticker tape parade. What a trek: traffic on the highway to the commuter rail, thirty-person lines at ticket machines, lines to get into the station, lines to get out of the station, almost standstill shuffling in Civic Center Plaza. Took me almost an hour and a half to get there.

I didn't think the parade would be amazing, but I thought that something ceremonial would satisfy my psychological need for closure. What happened in the bar after Game 5 felt strange; twenty minutes after the spasm of victory, most people were gone. R. and I and a few strangers sat around a table beaming at each other, and up at the TV screens, but in the corner a few people had started shooting pool, the kitchen staff kept pushing out orders of fajitas de camaron, and the peanut shells went untrampled. It seemed to come down awfully quick. There weren't riots in Palo Alto. Nobody danced in the street and fell down drunk into a crowd of fans. I went over to R.'s and ate half a bag of kettle corn. Life just went on.

So I wanted a ritual. Plus I was curious. I wondered if people would be excessively polite and giddy in San Francisco the way they were in Grant Park the night Obama was elected. You know when you experience something intense and you want to be around people who feel the same way? How your private joy about a non-private event finds special meaning when it is shared by a hundred thousand people? Freud calls this the oceanic feeling. I'm into mob scenes, and San Francisco is a really fun place for a feel-good mass gathering. Maybe because of all the pot? Gay Pride, Dyke March, Dolores Park on a sunny Sunday - when it's good it's really good.

In the Daly City BART station, I stood in line behind a man named Norm. Norm had taken the bus from Half Moon Bay (a town on the Pacific about 40 miles south of San Francisco) to the BART. His trip by public transportation was going to take him more than two hours. Norm didn't understand how to use the ticket machines, so I bought him his ticket with my credit card when I bought mine. He seemed really happy about this. We sat next to each other for half an hour on the train and chatted about his Ty Cobb impersonation, the VA Hospital where he was going to get his eye fixed, how he worked up from a menial job at a photography agency and became a photographer himself. I told him about my girlfriend in New York; he was from New York, too!


We stuck together and split up when the throngs exiting the station pushed us apart. I shouted "Goodbye and good luck!" over my shoulder and ascended to the street.

(Norm in the crowd at Civic Center station.)

The event itself was kind of a crowded mess. It was clear that the city had only had one day to plan. There were no speakers or projection screens, so basically if you weren't seven feet tall or hadn't started lining the parade route at 8 a.m., there was no chance for you to catch any of the action. No bathrooms or vendors or water, either.

(The crowd at Civic Center Plaza.)

People climbed whatever they could. Crowds of people gathered on the public bathrooms. I saw about twenty on a big white van.

During the World Series, I would tell anyone within earshot that the Giants were superior as a team not only because their players were scruffy nonconformists who seemed to love each other but also because their fan base is far more diverse than the monochromatic crowds in Arlington, Texas. Seriously, in the pans of Rangers Ballpark, the only people of color you'd see were Giants fans. Watching that made me feel like a female executive must feel walking into a meeting filled with men, or a Jewish person must feel in a supermarket where everybody has a little Hitler mustache. This coupled with the alarming habit in some ballparks of putting up "K"s whenever a pitcher gets a strikeout - do they realize that it says "KKK" all over their stadium?? I was so happy that that kid dressed up in a bright red full-body crab costume (in homage to San Francisco seafood, I think) sideways-walking around the ballpark after Game 5 was Asian. I cannot understate the importance of this.

I don't mean to sound triumphalist. All I mean to say is that on Wednesday I was as interested in the people around me as I was in trying to catch a glimpse at my favorite ballplayers. I took a bunch of photos with this fancy new camera I bought last week.

(This kid is holding this man's ears like they're handles!)

(It can't be all feel-good. This tattoo captures everything that is wrong with San Francisco. No taste. So tacky.)

I stood in a throng on Larkin Street and roasted (80 degrees in the city?!) for an hour, getting a glimpse of (I think) Cody Ross's arm, and the backs of lots of people's heads, but not much else.

I don't know if I found the oceanic feeling. The mood was mixed. People were getting irritated at the heat, the crowd, and the invisibility of the hometown heroes. I freaked out because the cell towers were all clogged up from the crowd and I got a work email 45 minutes after it had been sent. Even so, when Tim Lincecum's bus passed on McAllister, giving us a split-second look at our long-haired super Freak, we all cheered him like a champ.


I used to be one of those nerdy, sarcastic adolescents who derided sports as frivolous and athletes as overpaid meatheads. This despite my fascination with the World Series-winning A's team of 1989 and the Superbowl-winning 49ers team of 1995! First sports was just baffling: I just didn't get how my seventh grade homeroom teacher could chat it up with a twelve year-old boy at 7:45 a.m. on a Tuesday about how a team that wins over 100 games per season should make it to the postseason no matter the standings. Then it became contemptible: only 39% of Americans believe in evolution, 65% don't show up for midterm elections, one in four read no books, and you're wasting time on rich men playing with balls???

I recently hung out with Matt, a friend who grew up down the block. I was a year ahead of him in school, so I supervised his work on the high school newspaper, and I always felt that because of that, he respected my opinion more than it deserved. I haven't seen him for maybe a decade. Making idle chat with him on a walk around Stanford campus about two months ago, I asked him what his recent trip to San Diego had been like. He said it had been "nice." Then he self-corrected: "Oh God, 'nice.' What an insipid thing to say. San Diego wasn't just nice."

I couldn't help but feel that this was some sort of performance for me. Back when I knew Matt, I think I was the kind of person who'd judge a description of something as "nice" as insipid, just as I would judge sports fans as mindless consumers. What a snot I was! I wanted to hug Matt and apologize for the person I had been. I mean who knows, maybe he really thought "nice" didn't capture what he wanted to express about San Diego and it had nothing to do with me, but nonetheless I read the whole situation as an indictment of my adolescent snobbery.

Hold on, I have to stop myself from going where this writing is going. Who am I fooling, writing this narrative of enlightenment, as if I have gone from snob to loving, nonjudgmental Buddha. Nope - still a snob, also a hypocrite. I still think people are empty-headed cabbages for preferring mindless entertainment to reading and voting; it's just now I also happen to enjoy that mindless entertainment. It used to be that I liked country music because I found it comically conservative but now I think I really like comically conservative country music OH GOD it's hard to be a guilty, neurotic bitch! What the fuck am I saying? I can't really just enjoy something - I have to stay alert, observe other people's faces, question the social implications and politics of their pleasure and mine, and basically just con myself out of a good time. What rapture I have is secretive and rare. Ask my exes.

Eh. So thank you, Giants, for letting me jump up and down and scream with my best friend in a bar full of jumping, screaming people. It felt so foreign that I had to describe it above as "passing out" - like an out-of-body, out-of-consciousness experience. But really it was just happiness. For that moment. Unfiltered, unquestioned happiness. Thank you.


Sorry for this upchuck of a blogpost. You see my brain is actually just scrambled egg whites, high in protein, low in fat, nutritionally superior to whole eggs but still just a mess of shit on a plate. HIRE ME, EMPLOYERS.


Another thing I am grateful to the Giants for is the excuse they gave me to spend time with beloved people:
  1. May 14 regular season game at the stadium. R. and C. and I took Caltrain up and met O. and N. Spent 2 1/3 innings walking around looking for hot dogs and garlic fries and admiring N.'s toe cleavage, and most of the game checked out of the action on the field. A view of the water and the shipping containers all the way over on the Oakland side of the bay. R. and C. and I took the train home with the entire Palo Alto Swim Club boy's team, about two dozen white, Asian, and hapa kids with skin browned to almost the same color as their chlorine-lightened hair.
  2. Game 4 of the NLDS. Came down from my office to watch half an inning with my colleagues in the lunch room. Beloved partner P. looked bemused and said, "Do you follow baseball?" This warm beam of attention alone made the entire baseball season worthwhile.
  3. Game 2 of the NLCS. Went to W.'s house in Fremont with O. He cooked balut and fried fish for us while we watched the Giants implode. They lost 6-1. My very first balut was tasty! No little duck beak or face or bones, as I had feared, and only a savory, brothy flavor with a hard cap of egg white and a slightly veinier, tougher yolk.
  4. Game 5 of the NLCS. Met chatty Cathy and her less chatty friends at Antonio's Nut House. Beer, peanuts, baseball, and solitude (+ Cathy) = nice.
  5. Game 1 of the World Series. Met R. at her house, where she had been waiting for two hours to start watching the game. She came to the door going, "Wheee!!!!!" and clapping her hands in excitement. C. successfully stayed awake for the entire game. R.'s fitness challenge for the game was to do 10 burpees per run scored. Most Giants games this season have been low-scoring games, 3-2, 1-0, etc. World Series Game 1 ended with the score at 11-7, so . . . R. did 180 burpees! My fitness challenge was eating Cheetos.
  6. Game 2 of the World Series. R. and C. and I went back to Antonio's Nut House. Chatty Cathy and her crew were there; I waved. We grabbed seats in the front and watched the Giants dismantle the Rangers. R. and I made orange pom-poms with the yarn from a discarded knitting project - a wedding blanket for me, but the marriage ended before the knitting did, ehhhh, so we turned the yarn into rally poms. We also wore our matching Brian Wilson beards, which we'd picked up a few days before at a Halloween store where a California stoner dude had asked us in his low, druggy voice, "So, uhh . . . where you guys get those beards at?" We pointed him to the beards aisle.
  7. Game 3 of the World Series, Finnerty's in Manhattan. R.M. and R.T. met me at this densely packed bar. Poor R.T., trying to read her Stephanie Meyer novel on her iPhone while meatheads pushed past her to get to the bar. Eventually she succumbed to the television and R.M. and I took turns explaining to her the rules of the game. Met R.M.'s friendly Fresno folks, observed some people flirting, listened to some idiots behind me talking loudly about girls with fake boobs.
  8. Game 4 of the World Series, Pacific Station in Brooklyn with S., who tried to escape her baseball-watching duties by eating her pre-game baigan bharta very slowly. Found seats on a bed buggy couch next to a man in a Buster Posey jersey reading Foucault. S.'s initial irritation at her girlfriendly obligation turned into mild interest in the game. Tried to teach her about pitches but I couldn't get clear in my head the difference between a breaking ball, a cutter, and a slider. We made out in the corner between innings, and left when it was clear that the Giants would win. Sorry for writing that, but I'm really proud of the fact that you will make out with me!!!
  9. Game 5, as described above.
I congratulate you on making it to the end of this post, though I question your judgment and your interest in mindless entertainment in the form of reading some lezzie's blog. Please send your mailing address to me. To express my gratitude for your patronage, I will mail you a Giants snuggie. Go team.

Friday, November 05, 2010


I get a lot out of knowing that one of my friends is in a 16-person graduate program where 31% of her class has a name ending in "-ine":
  • Christine
  • Bernadine
  • Geraldine
  • Josephine
  • Delphine

Monday, November 01, 2010


December 5, 2009

S. called and said, “Guess where I am calling from? You’ll never guess.” I guessed. Hotel? Potomac? D.C.? All wrong: in a Marshall’s store in Pentagon City, Virgina. It was across the street from her hotel, and she was shopping with T. She asked me what I was doing. “Looking at maps,” I said. I was going up to Sacramento later in the day. We talked about this and that, but mostly S. prattled on about what she experiencing at the store. She paused for thirty seconds to take a call. It was T., calling from pants. Do you need to go? I asked. “No, we’re all caught up!” she said. She said, “Oh! Were your canoe shoes with jiaozi detail a brand called J. Company?” No, I said they were more name brand, and that canoe shoes with jiaozi detail were a popular style this year. I had seen several of the same kind. She said, “I want to buy these shoes. So cheap! And these! Oh no! So expensive. Sixty dollars?!”

T. came over with some potential purchases, and S.'s voice rose an octave as she said, “I like this one. Oh, this one is really cute.” Then it suddenly dropped. “This one—don’t get it; you never wear red.” I concurred and advised T. not to cause cognitive dissonance. The T. I know has never worn red. They were inspecting, according to S., “A bright red blouse, and a bright blue blouse.” T. went to the register, and S. said, “I wish you were here at Marshall’s with me.” She speculated that she would make me try lots of clothes on. “I would just get bored and wander over to the bargain bin and bags,” I said. “That’s right, you would probably go and try perfumes, you would open the boxes and spritz yourself,” she said. I said that’s what boxes were for, to be opened. She said, “No, they’re not.” I protested: I would repackage the perfumes.

I told S. that I loved to listen to her voice, and that hearing her moving around the store was like listening to a chaotic radio piece. I wasn’t used to other events happening while we talked on the phone; though often I am walking or biking or driving while talking, S. is most often stationary and indoors (except when walking to the subway). I said the sound coming through the phone was like War of the Worlds. She expressed interest in “sweater boots.” What are sweater boots? “Oh, you know, boots that look like sweaters. The least practical thing in the world, but they look so warm.” She said, “This store is so absurd. Clothes are so absurd. Look at this: leggings with buttons down the side!” I said, “I know, why can’t there just be 5-10 practical styles for us to choose between?” “Oh no,” she said, “I like clothes.” I related to her my broken windows theory regarding shopping: Marshall’s is chaotic, so it feels appropriate to deepen the chaos, and to not rehang items you’ve tried on. S.: “Oh, you’re so right, T. and I totally just draped this shirt over the rack.” Some smocks caught her eye. “I love plaid smocks!” I asked her if she had ever had experience with a plaid smock, so that she could make that ridiculous statement, but she ignored me. “I kind of want to buy this smock,” said she. “But the time has passed for me to wear smocks.” I asked her to define smock: “Too short for a dress, too long for a shirt.” Like what Britney Spears wears as dresses? “Exactly.”

I asked why the time had passed for smocks: “I am too old to wear things that look like pinafores.” I asked her what pinafores were: “Oh, nevermind.” She hung up and called me back a minute later. “I said goodbye to T. Now I’m going to walk to the train!” I told her to be careful because it was snowing and suburban, and there were bound to be terrible drivers. She said, “It’s a two minute walk, all within the mall.” So I said, “Oh, then throw caution to the wind! Talk to me, baby!” She said she had to go, because the train was going underground.

December 10, 2009

S. recalled to me the entire plot of Jane Eyre, and said that race generally and specifically the “blackness” of Mr. Rochester’s wife kept coming up in funny ways. I said that descriptions of men as “square-jawed” and rice as “fluffy” had failed to conjure any image for me as a young reader. We debated whether rice was adequately described as “fluffy,” and I concluded that S. approached rice on a visual-macro level, hence seeing the entire bowl as fluffy looking, where as I was tactile-micro, imagining the density and chewiness of each grain of rice as incompatible with my understanding of fluffy (voluminous but light, like cotton candy).

I asked S. again to define a pinafore, since she had described a smock as a type of pinafore, and then forgotten to define pinafore. She said, “A pinafore is a nursery school type of jumper.” I gave up. S. is a self-referencing dictionary.

August 26, 2010

S. called to say, “I almost bought my mother a party frock from the vintage store.”

I said, “Isn’t a frock just a large shirt?”

S. said, “Would you call a dress just a large shirt? Or shoes just . . . hard socks?”

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

introducing the giants

Productivity is at zero. Reading everything on the Internet about baseball.

Lots of reasons to love the Giants. Let me tell you about it. Primarily, like the city they represent, they're casual and fun with their weirdness. They bought out this lady with this hat (of the San Francisco skyline) to sing "God Bless America" during Game 5.

The remaining living members of the Grateful Dead sang the national anthem.

I especially like the weirdness that plays with masculinity. Take this guy, Brian Wilson. His punk/hipster style. His brown beard dyed black, which he claims he colors with a black Sharpie. In affect, hyperconfidence, alpha masculinity, wildness: the closer personality. A long clip, but you can see some of it here. Look how much this other man wants to impress him.

He pulls pranks like this one. It starts at :43.

Shit like this makes me wonder if he is a raging homophobe. If they all are. Aubrey Huff wears a red, rhinestone-encrusted "rally thong" for luck. These are frat boy jokes. A friend of mine, one of eleven female firefighters in FDNY at the time, told me that in the fire houses the men would pretend to hump each other; apparently this is how they expressed their disdain for homosexuality? The ways of man-groups are unknown to me. Still, because my sickness for Giants baseball is at fever pitch, I find this endearing, not yet abhorrent.

Then there is the man they call Panda, the pudgy third baseman who missed a tag in Game 5 because he couldn't stretch his leg to the bag. The catcher is a cherubic rookie with the fake-sounding name Buster Posey. Cody Ross, a man who pulls off the bald head and beard look, a reject from the Marlins picked up by the Giants two months ago, aspired to be a rodeo clown:
For years, Cody sat in the stands at every rodeo in full clown regalia - baggy pants with billowing colored scarves in the pockets - and full clown makeup.

He didn't abandon the dream until his dad quit the rodeo and moved the family to Dallas, where Cody blossomed as a baseball star.
But my favorite Giant by far is the skinny ace Tim Lincecum, the 26 year-old hippie/skater/stoner who was busted for misdemeanor pot possession a while back. After signing his contract, he told his agent his ambition was to buy a Volkswagen minibus. He can't stop saying "Fuck yeah!" on live television. He looks like he's sixteen and gets mistaken for the bat boy at away games. He walks around AT&T Park in flip-flops with his French bulldog. And he's a two time Cy Young winner and the best pitcher in the league. His demeanor is that of your average idiot stoner brother (we have all had one), as seen here in his promotional shoot for Giants Snuggies:

The outcome:

As if this is not enough, Lincecum is Asian-American!!!! Okay, half. His mother is Filipino!! Nawa'y pagpalain ka ng Diyos ng marami pang kaarawan!!! I bought a t-shirt.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

comparison shopping

Okay, BH says the switch from Georgia to Arial is disorienting. Let us compare these clean squiggles with the old, serify squiggles. I'll tell you what I did in Georgia, then I will tell you what I did in Arial.

Let me tell you what I did this weekend. I masturbated twice and spent probably two hours altogether watching porn or searching for "impotence" on Google Images (tip: HILARIOUS!). I have no idea why so many of my recent blog posts concern sex, except it probably has something to do with me turning thirty and not having something sucking on my nipples once every 2-6 hours. Immediately before time number 1, I ate probably two-thirds of a pillow-sized bag of Doritos Cool Ranch chips while reading about the Giants' NLCS victory. Friday night I already told you about. Saturday I woke at 11:30, did an exercise DVD called "Core Synergistics," played rainy day soccer with Boo, then took grandma and her five million pound wheelchair to a local cafe, where I taught her how to say "One low-fat decaf latte, please" and where we split a madeleine and a ham and egg scramble. In the early evening I drove up to Oakland listening to Katy Perry at deafening volumes, despite hating that b. Seriously, I detest her music like it's Pepsi or Burger King, Katy being Burger King to Lady Gaga's In-N-Out. Nobody likes a Number 2. Except Mao Asada, you cannot blame her for the freak bad luck of competing against the best figure skater of the millennium. Fucking Katy Perry, your contrived edginess, you imagine she's like the first of Eddie Murphy's marriage prospects in Coming to America, obediently jumping up and down on one foot and barking like a dog because she's been told to do so, putting on a blue wig because some music exec thought up the candy aesthetic right before a nocturnal emission. Lipstick on a pig, sheeple!! Artificial coloring! The soulless "Fine fresh fierce we got it on lock" versus the snarling "I want your ugly, I want your disease": no contest! What the fuck am I saying. OH despite detesting Fräulein Perry I NONETHELESS screamed along to "Teenage Dream" on the drive to a most delicious Laotian food dinner in Oakland. The lettuce-wrapped rice balls were like an erection of the mouth, but JY seemed extremely disappointed that Champa Garden was out of fried bananas and ice cream. Afterward, we retired to JY's artfully-arranged studio, where SW disclosed her foot anti-fetish (a story about a blood blister made her recoil in horror from the storyteller) and JY described her ambition to become a well-compensated personal organizer. ("I'm really good at packing trunks," she said, for the THOUSANDTH time.) Came home, Cool Ranch and consequences as described above. Sunday woke again after 11 a.m. Tiramisu, a mango tart, more Cool Ranch chips, coffee, cheese and even more chips went into my face within 120 minutes. I was so fucking bored today, ladies. Holy shit was I bored. I called my parents to hang out. They were busy. I called my grandma to hang out. MY GRANDMA REJECTED ME. Carry on with the TV and nap, Gram, I didn't want to hang out anyway. A colleague's work-related celebration only distracted me from excruciating unoccupied rainy Sunday afternoon boredom for an hour, then I went to a bike store and a camera store and barely managed to refrain from buying some very expensive new toy (the contenders were a new single speed and a micro four-thirds digicam) to fill the void of companionship in my life. Physical fitness, then more Giants-related Google searches, then two dinners and a half of a Sausage McMuffin have brought me to the present. I am such a fucking WASTE. I cannot WAIT until Monday. I am going to catch up on Jersey Shore now.

Now contrast the sedate new font for the new age: My weekend was marvelous! Today I dressed in matching clothes and unsoiled underwear, and attended a polo match fundraiser for Shih-Tzu Rescue with Brad and Chad. Afterward, Madison and I got couples' colonics at the new wellness studio in Aptos. The water was perfectly clean throughout!


I fiddled a little bit with the fonts on this page. Hysterical serifs seem so late 20s. Clean old Arial is more appropriate for my new decade. Tell me if this improves readability.

Faaaaack, guys, I have been writing this blog for six years. Twenty percent of a life! That's two bar admissions, three relationships, three cities, three laptops, three full-time jobs, three bands, four bicycles, four apartments, five internships, six roommates, a marriage, a divorce and a law degree.

I had a Friendster account when I started this blog. Yeah. Friendster.

It's time this goose started laying golden eggs, don't you think? I'm open to ideas on how to monetize six years of verbal diarrhea.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


By "magic finger," below, I meant "ring finger." The finger which indicates marriage and conservative family values. I intended no other meaning. Dear God, readers, scrub your minds. Bananarchist is a PG-13 blog.

we are here for each other

How fitting that a day after writing off all of God's children as imbeciles I should have an experience that renews my love for all of God's beautiful imbeciles. For anybody feeling disenchanted with life's offerings, I recommend volunteering for a queer youth Halloween dance.

The kids. Were so. Adorable. Have y'all seen teenagers? They are babies!! They are pimply, uncomfortable, mumbling babies. The younger teens arrived in the first two hours, in pairs and small groups, and stood around awkwardly fingering stray bangs behind their ears. They alternated between shyness and hysterical confidence, going from focusing intently on their sodas to running at each other for piggyback rides and then back to self-conscious, disconnected chatter. My camp counselor/herding instinct kicked in and I tried to corral the kids at one table so that they would speak to each other, and I was delighted when they finally did. This lovey-dovey pack of cute, uncomfortable midgets dominated until a large contingent of older kids from the queer Latino youth group (how I love the Bay Area!) showed up in drag and in high heels, and towered over the younger lumpen, who shrank off the dance floor and returned to their spots by the candy bowl. I spent a fair amount of time on the parquet inadvertently doing moves from Cardio Hula; pop music in 2010 is so good! I could listen to "Bad Romance" forever.

Tonight settled the outstanding question of what costumes will predominate at this year's Halloween parties. Long have I bored dearest patientest S. with "No costumes came out of this year's blockbusters! How can you dress Inception or Winter's Bone???", and now I have my answer: Jersey Shore and Lady Gaga. Italian-Americans of the mid-Atlantic win in 2010, so don't go running off to your carniceria, because half a dozen other Lady Gagas will be at whatever party you're heading to, attracting flies with their room temperature meat dresses. Remember that year everybody dressed as Roy Horn, with plush tigers attached to their faces? Halloween is so topical. Of course tonight the kids' costumes divided along the same lines as adults' costumes do, with slutty maids and slutty kitties on the one hand, and, for example, body-sized pumpkins on the other. My favorite was a kid who wore a gray sweatsuit and pieces of gray-painted cardboard and a gray bike helmet and swung a plastic sword and called herself "Joan de Arc," because I did the exact same thing when I was a wee lesbipup, except much worse, with my story ending with three months of hand-painting going into a school garbage can and me walking the elementary school Halloween promenade just wearing the gray sweatsuit, sniffling, and her story ending with happy calisthenics and triumphant self-assurance on the rented Jewish Community Center dance floor. I pretty much thought I would die from a heart attack of cuteness tonight. I told S. it was like watching Puppy Cam.

I've been volunteering for this organization for almost a year now. This is the same youth group I was in when I was a lad of sixteen. At a fundraiser for it I attended in March, I learned that my third grade teacher, a now 85 year-old man, was a flaming 'mo; later I visited him for tea at his house, which was decorated with Judy Garland photographs and Fauvist paintings, and he corrected my memory of my beloved fourth grade teacher, who was actually a bigot who disfavored black kids and made snide comments about the fey faculty members. He held his bad feelings against her for twenty years after her death! What I'm saying, I guess, is that these things come full circle. At least that's what the Mexican-American drag diva who performed tonight said. Mama Dora said seven gay teens had committed suicide in the last few months. Seven known suicides, that is, how many others we don't know. We are here for each other, she said. We are here for you. You are here for me. I fixed my eyes on a slim boy in sky blue Daisy Dukes and imagined him pulling me out of the rubble of my earthquake-destroyed metaphorical house. I believed, yes I did, I believed it could be possible.

Then Mama Dora said, "And now it is time to dance," and she began a Donna Summers song, and the older volunteer sitting to my right leaned over and said, "She was before your time, but this song was a huge hit when I was in high school." Let us all hope the boy in Daisy Dukes will someday be leaning over someone else and saying the same thing about Lady Gaga and her bad romance.

* * *
Post Script. The only negative thing I will say is that we are killing our youth from the inside. Edibles tonight were cheese pizza, chocolate Halloween mix (Snickers, Twix, M&Ms, and Almond Joy (vom)), candy Halloween mix (Nerds, Sweeties, LemonHeads (just three letters from NoEnamelHeads)), gummy candies, barbecue chips, tortilla chips, Doritos, Red Vines, chocolate chip cookies, mini-brownies, and Hansen's soda. The healthy offering was water. Wake up, sheeple! We must STOP feeding the FUTURE OF AMERICA this SHIT. Naturally I filled my face and went back for seconds, and carried on conversations with the uneaten half of a Red Vine wagging out of my mouth, but whatever, I have my degrees, my development is finished.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

blocking the plate

I went to a bar after work to watch the Giants game. Finally. All I ever wanted, all I ever needed was here in my amber ale, a cup of peanuts, a late October baseball game, and a noisy room full of unfamiliar faces. I intended to enjoy my tipple anonymously for the last three innings, then go home satisfied after the Giants had secured a World Series spot. Nobody talk to me, words are very unnecessary, I see nothing except Cody Ross's intriguing bald-head-with-full-beard style. Said my stern expression, my closed-up body language.

Bar was packed. I snagged a stool at an occupied table. Folks at the table - three middle-aged men and a middle-aged woman - were friendly and didn't seem to mind me joining. I settled in, jawed happily at my peanuts, and moved my eyes from one big-ass HDTV to another, trying to find the best view between the bodies of the bar's Silicon Valley worker/Stanford student clientele.

Then the woman chatted me up. I thought she was just being friendly because she identified something lost about me. She wanted to know my opinion about a San Francisco cabaret show. About Jackass 3D the Movie. About Borat. About the bartender. About the Phillies Phanatic. About non-native Californians. About Palo Alto High School. About Lockheed-Martin. About H.P. Lovecraft. About whether it was rude to check text messages while some chatty lady talked you up. (Guess whose thumbs were on whose phone when she said this.)

Half an hour into this, I realized that shouldn't feel guilty turning my attention back to the game even as she hooked me with these open-ended questions. I had thought at first how nice it was that she welcomed me, acted friendly, and wanted to know my opinion, and I felt obliged to give her all of my attention, until I realized that she was one of those people for whom talking is survival, and that she might die if she did not keep sounds coming out of her mouth, and that she talked to me not because I was interesting but because I was necessary, in the same way that people lost in the desert drink urine not because it is interesting but because it is necessary. I missed the f-bombing home run in the ninth inning because she was talking to me.

What clued me in to the selfishness of this woman's thirst for conversation was when she said something that made it clear that who I was had nothing to do with the conversation. She leaned in at one point to say, "Oh, those men. They're talking about signal-to-noise ratios or whatever, work stuff. Let's tune that out." For real, lady, you can't tell that a surly, articulate lezzie doesn't want to find camaraderie with you in acting like a bimbo? Once upon a time, I think when I was very very lonely, I thought talking to strangers was God's gift to human happiness, and I had often inane conversations with people I didn't know. Some conversations kept running because instead of stamping my foot and saying, "Sarah Palin thinks Africa is a country, you fucking redneck!" or "That huge SUV that is the object of all of your desires is one reason our youth are being blown apart in Iraq," I withheld my judgment and nodded my head as if what the person opposite me said made sense. I'm just a get-along, take-it-easy kind of person, I would think to myself, I'm learning a lot about the goodness in everybody by just being patient and overcoming my judgmentalness. Talk about insipid (and delusional, because deep down I still judged them) self-regard. I couldn't even identify when I was getting bored because I welcomed even the dullest sensations as reprieve from my horrible, insomniac loneliness. So I bit my tongue and withheld my judgment and pretended to see reason in beliefs I didn't agree with and had lots of very boring conversations and thought each one of them brought me closer to God.

Well, we are all God's children but some of God's children are imbeciles. It's taken me a while to admit this, and I don't know how to square it with the harmonious let-a-thousand-flowers-bloom persona I have cultivated on this blog in the last two years, but sorry, it's true. Some people are just not worth your time. I'm sure they are fine people who donate to charity and recycle and make their pets happy but I would rather just not know about it. Me from Chicago 2008 might have shrugged and said tp the woman, "Sure let's talk about something else," but I am thirty now, and as I have discussed below, being thirty means putting up with less shit, discriminating between productive and pointless uses of time, and feeling entitled to have my opinion considered. I did not want to swallow my bitchy smart-ass personality and pretend to be that insubstantial female who is confuddled by scientifrical words, for the sake of propelling a pointless conversation forward. So, I withdrew from the conversation, slowly, leaning away from the woman, keeping my eyes on the screen even during (ugh, why) credit card commercials, responding to her questions monosyllabically and only after a delay, until she returned to her husband and his colleagues' conversation about somebody's plush Cthulhu doll.

In writing this I see how passive I actually was. But I think that's fine. I didn't feel I needed to reject her more directly or make her feel bad; the important thing for me was just identifying when the costs of the conversation outweighed its value, and to stop burning up my energy on it when it happened. How come it took me thirty years to learn that not all experiences are good experiences? (I wrote a very similar sentence a year ago. I am apparently still learning.)

I still feel like a total a-hole.

And the Giants lost tonight. A major earthquake successfully delayed at least until Saturday's game.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

loma prieta, 1989

The Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 struck during the warm-ups of Game 3 of the World Series, Battle of the Bay, San Francisco versus Oakland. I loved baseball and was thrilled to have its October epicenter in my home country. Everybody on the planet was watching Candlestick Park when it swayed on live television, when the live feed went to emergency broadcast, when the stadium steps buckled. Then when a truck nose-dived off a missing chunk of the Bay Bridge. When the Cypress Structure pancaked forty-two motorists between its upper and lower decks. When homes slid apart like matchstick architecture. When sixty-three people died.

I was nine years old. I had just taken a break from watching TV with Richard to pee, and was sitting on the toilet when I realized the water in the bowl was splashing up at me in a funny way. The house was swinging - exactly like that, like our house had been placed on the seat of a swingset and given a violent push. A crash and a yell sounded from the living room and then I was in the hallway, bracing against the walls, barely walking, feeling upended in a way that a decade later I would come to associate with uncontrolled intoxication, and pulling myself down the hallway to the backyard, where my brother and mother and I gathered and huddled and watched as the water from the neighbor's pool splashed over our fence. The palm tree behind the house bent like it was going to break its neck. All the while, there was this rumbling, rumbling, rumbling . . . like a train rushing through the neighborhood.

In my memory, the shaking went on for forty-five minutes and then turned into the dull vibration of constant fear which was not fully calmed until I left the Bay Area, nine years later. In reality, the quake lasted forty-five seconds, and the dull vibration of fear - well, I can't speak for other people's realities.

One strange thing that came out of the experience for me was learning to associate the warm feeling of belonging to a community with natural disasters. The earthquake gave me the opportunity, for the first time, to see all of my neighbors at once, emerging dazed from their homes, moving slowly from their driveways in clusters toward the center of the street and then just standing there, dumbstruck, immobile. I had never before believed these ghost houses held life - all one sees in the suburbs is one lonely metal capsule pulling in or out of a garage once an hour - but all of a sudden there it was, my street, my neighborhood, my people. Despite her shyness and crappy English, Mom must have exchanged comments with the prolific Mormon parents to the south and crotchety dog owners to the north, but I can't remember, and it didn't matter; words spoken or not, those were the people who would be pulling my skinny, golden brown California body from the rubble of my flat-topped three-bedroom house (should it tragically come to that). A powerful aftershock shook the leaves on the sycamore trees as we stood out there waiting.

When the earthquake hit, my spry eleven year-old brother had leapt out of the way of the three eight-foot tall entertainment center cabinets that pitched forward on the very spot he had been sitting and watching the game. That was the crash and the yell I had heard from the bathroom. I didn't really register the danger he had dodged but greatly admired my older brother's taekwondo-trained reflexes. Later, Richard and I busied ourselves sweeping up the detritus from the cabinets. "It's safety glass," he said, noting that the glass had broken into corn kernel-sized chunks rather than slivers and splinters. I thought "safety glass" meant safe glass, so I plunged - I don't know why I didn't test it first with some gingerly touching, but that's just how I did things, I guess - I plunged my hand into a bag we'd filled with pieces of glass, and pulled it out etched with itchy filamentary cuts. Nobody supervised this; Dad had yet to send word or show up from work, because the phone lines were dead and the bridges were closed and traffic was standstill on the highways, and Mom had her hands full with worry.

Public schools refreshed their earthquake curricula after the quake. How to horde water, flashlights, canned food; how to duck and cover; how to cower in a doorframe. I sat through the instruction thinking, "Why couldn't you have taught me this earlier??" Some strange Pavlovian conditioning made me associate the sound of the school bell with earthquakes: it rang once for recess, and twice for an earthquake drill, of which there were plenty in the days following the quake, but soon I came to associate the one-ring recess bell with shaking and violence and death, and for months afterward the sound signaling gay childhood playtime would also trigger in me physiological reactions of panic, i.e., elevated pulse, sweating, anxiety. My teacher never seemed to notice my fright at the beginning of every recess. The same thing happened with the rolling closet door in my parents' bedroom: its dry rumble sounded exactly like the rumbling I heard during Loma Prieta, so each time my parents went for a change of clothes, I would lay in bed gripping the sheets, breathing raggedly, waiting for the shaking to start. 1989-1990 was a very emotionally difficult year for me.

In school we learned that the San Francisco Bay Area straddled the San Andreas and its dozens of splinter faults. We were told to expect one major earthquake every 20-30 years. I recall thinking, as a nine year-old, that I loved California but wanted to leave it because earthquakes terrified me; I vowed to return in 2019, after the window for the next Big One closed. As it were, I left California but moved back in 2009, exactly when this big, dark Transylvanian castle of a window opened.

All to explain why as delighted as I am that the San Francisco Giants are one win away from another World Series, I hope to hell they don't make it all the way. I blame everything that happened in 1989 on the Giants reaching the World Series. I was an A's fan. In sum, go Phillies.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

bike shorts

So nice when friends recognize my love of obscenity. O writes:
K and I saw these in Florence, thought it was bike shorts designed for you, but they aren't padded. So we thought a picture would suffice.

Friday, October 15, 2010

claire de lune

I could not tell if K. was being sarcastic when she told me to help myself to her parents' heirloom tomatoes. She seemed to be embarrassed by how much care they had taken in growing them . . . so was she inviting me to eat, or to share her disdain for the hobbies of old people? I went to the kitchen counter and rooted out the sweetest and least damaged-looking ones while she sat down at a piano in another room and started playing Claire de Lune.

After I had picked over the crop, I stood to the right of the piano, eating tomatoes and turning the pages for her. She was nervous - "I don't ever play for anybody, I just like to play for myself," she said, with some defensiveness - but I watched her slender fingers hesitate and then find purchase, over and over, and I remembered those distant feelings of fondness that I used to feel when watching her, a dozen years ago. When she finished, I played a few bars from a vaudeville song and then a drinking song, but stopped when she said, faintly, "You're pretty good."

Except for the music, the house was dead silent. Her parents were backpacking at Mono Lake. Things in the house were as I remembered them from a dozen years ago, but slightly improved. The central heating had been replaced with a woodstove, though neither were necessary in July. The wallpaper in the bedroom was still a floor-to-ceiling photograph of a nature scene, but the alpine forest from our teenage years had been replaced with a stand of autumnal birch trees. K.'s belongings, once packed into two duffels, were exploded all around the room. Books, clothes, gadgets. Immigration would not yield the visa she needed to get to the job promised to her in London, so she was stuck in Palo Alto.

It was nighttime and past the very large windows of the living room I could see the tattered windsock under the porch light, moving in the summer breeze, and nothing more. There was only a windsock and darkness outside of the house. So the vampire fiction K. favored of late was hard to stomach after sunset, she said. "It's fucking scary."

She told me about spending entire days lying on the ground, reading, failing to find the motivation to leave the house. "I just don't see any reason to get out anymore," she said, half laughing. "But if I'm really motivated I can get myself to the coffee shop . . . highly recommend it." I lay on a couch opposite her, not looking at her, pressing her family's collection of tropical seashells into my eye sockets. "Damn," I said, "Damn." What else do you say to somebody so unhappy? What do you say when somebody's inflection makes it impossible to ask, in a quiet voice, what you really want to know: "Why do you still believe sincerity is weakness?" What happened to you? I left by bicycle a few minutes later.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

30 before 30: self-assessment

I recently turned 30. (Thank you to all of the wonderful friends whose love and support on my birthday made me excited to start my fourth decade of life!) I am trying to note changes in my personality resulting from age, but it's hard to tell with only a few weeks of information. I predict: less putting up with other people's shit, more feeling entitled to have my opinion considered, continuing moderation of viewpoints (e.g., there is too much sex on television! The Madonna episode of Glee embarrassed me!), whole different topics for anxiety (physical decay, my own and my friends' family structures, career advancement, another decade of global warming, aging parents?), and . . . spirituality? I also predict in the next ten years another pop cultural phenomenon for single 30-something women in the 21st century, since Sex in the City killed itself off with that second movie and Eat Pray Love resolved with a perfect cadence.

In July, R and O and I sat down to write some lists. R wrote the 31 things she wanted to accomplish before turning 31 (she had seven months); O the 30 things before she turned 30 (she had a year); and I wrote my 30 before 30 with two months to go. Here is how I did:

30 Before 30

1. Take Mom and Dad to Crystal Springs Reservoir
The idea was to take them to this local nature spot, so that I could spend quality time with them and introduce them to a Bay Area treasure while getting them to walk off their fat. This goal was too specific. F.

2. Take Grandma to the movies
I give myself a high grade even though I did not take Grandma to the movies because circumstances changed: she is too immobile to sit in a theater for two and a half hours. So, I brought the movie to her, and we watched "Labyrinth" in my house. Also, she hurt her back two weeks ago and can barely walk, so I have been spending about an hour per day with her, giving her massages, taking her on wheelchair walks, and watching a really bad Chinese soap opera with her. More on this unexpected time with Grandma in another post. A.

3. Move to [redacted], or make definite plans to move
Discretion commands me not to say much. S frets that I won't actually follow through because I haven't figured out the career aspect of this, but this goal was more about getting myself there emotionally. Logistics will follow. B+.

4. Record three more songs
One for S on July 4th. One for a songwriters' group in Oakland that I joined. One to explain my early retirement plans to my boss. They are sloppy, but the goal was to record three more songs, not record them well. A.

5. Participate in something performative (reading, music, other)
Not what I had in mind, but I played the aforementioned second recording for the songwriters' group in Oakland. I'm counting this. B.

6. Finish bedside book pile
The problem with this was that I did not take an inventory of the books by my bed when I made this goal, and then I added ten more books to this pile with impulse purchases, borrowed books, and library reserves. I did read seven books since July, but were they the ones I intended to read? C-.

7. Discover two new bands that I really like
Eh. I went to see the Spinto Band and Miniature Tigers with JY at the Hotel Utah. I don't know that I really like them, but I liked them. They're both cute, sweet, electro-pop rock bands, the former a bit more frantic and young, the latter more mature and mellow. B.

8. Win one bet against O
During our San Francisco shopping expedition, O bought me a discount cropped cardigan and dared me to wear it (and only it) on our weekend bikeabout with R and to pretend like it was something I intended to incorporate into my everyday wardrobe. I cannot overstate how convincingly this appalling article made me look like a banana muffin. Unfortunately, I left it behind for the ride and lost that bet. We also have a bet going about whether I can finish P90X, but we won't know the outcome until Thanksgiving. I'm still on the wagon after seven weeks. C.

9. Run the San Francisco marathon
4:05:07. Also decided to do the San Jose Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon last week. 1:47:21. A.

10. Go to eastern California or northern northern California
Desolation Wilderness with S. A.

11. Buy more contact lenses
What is there to say? I'm awesome at buying contact lenses. A.

12. Go camping again (Lost Coast?)
See #10. A.

13. Do another bike-about/food odyssey with R and O (balut in South Bay?)
R and O and I do "bikeabouts," where we tool around the Bay Area on our bikes, stopping frequently to eat things. In the winter and spring we did bikeabouts to a taco truck in Niles and a donut shop and a chaat store in Sunnyvale. In July we did a 41 mile ride to and from Fremont to the Olivera Egg Ranch in San Jose. It turned out that balut was sold as live fertilized eggs from this egg ranch, so we decided against carrying unhatched chickens in our jersey pockets and instead went to the nearby farmers market for Mexican tamales, Indonesian tamales, white nectarines, and kettle corn. A.

14. Try to go jogging with Mom (or encourage her to do some aerobic activity)
This is a tough one. My parents really need to exercise. It's very hard to motivate them. I ended up buying six workout DVDs. The one that stuck was Cardio Hula for Beginners, which has introduced the "Tiki pump" move into my dance vocabulary. Still I'm finding it hard to change my mom's habits, but we have done this workout a few times together now. C+.

15. Bike with Dad to Union City
Nope. The idea behind this one was to spend more time one-on-one with my dad and also to get him to exercise. We have done Cardio Hula together a few times ("Step, two, three . . . now uwehe!!"), but no biking. D.

16. Find renters
Done. A.

17. Decide whether Boo can live with me when I move
Alas, no. Logistically difficult, plus my mom does not want to part with him. F for heartbreak, but A for effort.

18. Get to a stable place with S
Any answer I give here is counting balut before it is hatched, but I still think we're doing pretty well. My magic finger measures 44 mm in circumference, honey! Pass?

19. Do a weekday night hike with R and O and friends to spy on friends' relationship
Rancho San Antonio on a Thursday night, followed by fish tacos. Turns out it was less spying on a relationship and more pushing two unworthy men toward O. Neither stuck, but the gorge was very pretty. R entertained us by asking questions from the geography trivia quiz she had participated in at work that afternoon. What Middle East country consumes the most water per capita? Egypt. A.

20. Spend time with BH
Not as much as I would have liked, but there is more time in the future. S and I went to her place and gutted anchovies, watched video clips of talented Indian kids dancing and crying, and then attempted to do "smokey" eye makeup with B's limited tools. B- (for not spending more time).

21. Spend time with HK and KW
Total fail. Some email tag, no h.o. F.

22. Spend time with JY
Same as #20: not as much as I would have liked. J did come down from Oakland one Saturday to make zongzi with my grandma, where she made a very convincing and guai granddaughter, albeit with a strange Chinese accent. Then I gave her the bottle of wine that S and I had bought for her in Healdsburg and she said, "Oh no! I don't drink!" Party foul! B- (same reason as above).

23. Try Richard's mountain bike at Arastradero Preserve before work one morning
I pumped up the tires. Does this count? F.

24. Learn to cook five more of Mom's dishes
Tea eggs, sea bass, cucumber salad, zajiang stir fry, chili tot pie. A.

25. Do something nice for S's birthday
I wrote her a book called Y.O.M.S. I think this deserves an A?

26. Read "The Nine"
Why is this on my list? F.

27. Write something every day
I can't keep track of things that happen every day. But I did start a creative writing class at Stanford, which is pretty exciting. C-.

28. [Redacted]
Decided against this. F.

29. [Redacted]
Simply failed. F.

30. [Redacted]
Decided against this. F.



s on m on cunnilingus

Let me just note that S's main criticism of my description of cunnilingus was: "[Bananarchist], you can't foul in tennis. It's called a fault."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

an honest review of tough mudder

I will admit: I did not want to like Tough Mudder. I was skeptical of its tough guy schtick. The Maxim-style copywriting on their promotional materials. The free beer-and-tattoos fratmosphere. The seemingly desperate association with military/law enforcement manliness. (The words "counter-terrorism" appear within the first 250 words of their FAQs page). In my experience, people who boast about being tough are not. You have to earn tough, you can't just declare it. But here, all this talk of tough was marketing churn dreamed up by two very fresh Harvard MBAs.

A testimonial from a law firm partner on the Tough Mudder website suggested to me that the event was a glorified ropes course for beta males who need artificial challenges to cement their corporate relationships without the risk of accidental penis-to-penis touching.

(You can imagine how excited the photographer was to snap this shot.)

So. I did not want to go when it came time to go.

A little background here: Tough Mudder is a running race. Kind of. The course I signed up for would be a seven-mile hike on dry ski slopes near Lake Tahoe, in eastern California. There would be eighteen obstacles that would have us belly crawling under barbed wire, wading through mud, climbing walls, and just plain grinding up steep mountainsides. One mystery obstacle would be disclosed at the start of the event. (Secrets revealed: the mystery obstacle was a shot of Tabasco sauce.) You aren't being timed, and you generally participate in teams of up to 20 people, so it's more a group bonding fitness event than a competition.

I was worried the event would be too disorganized, too expensive, and too dangerous. I had read other reviews about how the organizers of the event made rookie mistakes, like making the obstacles too small to handle the volume, so that participants had to wait forty-five minutes to climb a obstacle. And what the hell do two Harvard MBAs know about structural engineering? I foresaw a poorly-constructed log pile obstacle collapsing on top of me like an Aggie bonfire, shearing my limbs, crushing my organs . . . and then, as the light dimmed, a sheet of filler paper yawing like an oak leaf toward my face, signature first, with angelic voices saying "You idiot, you signed a death waiver."

More background: I am naturally inclined to be a floppy pud. If left in one place, I will stay in that place, like an unstimulated pudendum. I definitely did not want to drive four hours on a Saturday morning to roll around in somebody else's sweaty mud.

R. and O. convinced me not to be this person. We had already spent the $150, they said. It would be a nice excuse to get up to the mountains. If we felt tired we could just ignore the obstacles and walk the course.

So, I went. We made the drive to Bear Valley from the Bay Area, listening to O.'s indie rock mixes (Temper Trap, the XX, and mysteriously, Journey) and R. calling out the Gold Rush towns along the way ("Copperopolis!"). I ate half a family-sized bag of kettle corn and passed out with a sarong wrapped around my head.

(Manna from heaven.)

We got there an hour before our start. There were the usual prerace preliminaries. A long walk from the parking lot. (They charged $20 for "premium" parking if you wanted to avoid the walk. Lame.) A chaotic mob scene in the bib distribution queues. Shirtless, meaty men smelling up a room. Some bodypainted, some wearing funny costumes. The ratio of men to women in the room was three to one, so I made a point of loudly declaring, "I just don't see how I can do this without getting a yeast infection!!" and smiling sweetly when heads turned. (More background: I am a woman. And you have to be kidding me: three hours, seven miles up and down mountains, in muddy synthetic underwear? Yeast we can!) Getting our race numbers written on our foreheads in Sharpie, mandatory. T-shirts, safety pins. Bag check. Last-minute chomping on raisin bread. Finding the rest of the team, O.'s friends from work, and drawing hearts and American flags on our arms. Photos by the flaming logo. Sunscreen. Lining up for the wave start.

Here the organizers had us stand for the national anthem. I can do that. I love America. But then the man with the microphone asked us to repeat the "Tough Mudder Pledge," which involves words about being fierce, unwhiny, helpful, tough.

No, no, no. I do not do pledges. Here is the reason why:

During the Korean War, many captured American soldiers found themselves in prisoner-of-war camps run by the Chinese Communists. It became clear early in the conflict that the Chinese treated captives quite differently than did their allies, the North Koreans, who favored savagery and harsh punishment to gain compliance. Specifically avoiding the appearance of brutality, the Red Chinese engaged in what they termed their "lenient policy," which was in reality a concerted and sophisticated psychological assault on their captives. After the war, American psychologists questioned the returning prisoners intensively to determine what had occurred. The intensive psychological investigation took place, in part, because of the unsettling success of some aspects of the Chinese program. For example, the Chinese were very effective in getting Americans to inform on one another, in striking contrast to the behavior of American POWs in World War II. For this reason, among others, escape plans were quickly uncovered and the escape attempts themselves were almost always unsuccessful. "When an escape did occur," wrote Dr. Edgar Schein, a principal American investigator of the Chinese indoctrination program in Korea, "the Chinese usually recovered the man easily by offering a bag of rice to anyone turning him in." In fact, nearly all American prisoners in the Chinese camps are said to have collaborated with the enemy in one form or another.

An examination of the Chinese prison-camp program shows that its personnel relied heavily on the commitment and consistency pressures to gain the desired compliance from prisoners. Of course, the first problem facing the Chinese was how to get any collaboration at all from the Americans. These were men who were trained to provide nothing but name, rank, and serial number. Short of physical brutalization, how could the captors hope to get such men to give military information, turn in fellow prisoners, or publicly denounce their country? The Chinese answer was elementary: start small and build.

For instance, prisoners were frequently asked to make statements so mildly anti-American or pro-Communist as to seem inconsequential ("The United States is not perfect." "In a Communist country, unemployment is not a problem."). But once these minor requests were complied with, the men found themselves pushed to submit to related yet more substantive requests. A man who had just agreed with his Chinese interrogator that the United States is not perfect might then be asked to indicate some of the ways in which he thought this was the case. Once he had so explained himself, he might be asked to make a list of these "problems with America" and to sign his name to it. Later, he might be asked to read his list in a discussion group with other prisoners. "After all, it's what you believe, isn't it?" Still later he might be asked to write an essay expanding on his list and discussing these problems in greater detail. The Chinese might then use his name and his essay in an anti-American radio broadcast beamed not only to the entire camp, but to other POW camps in North Korea, as well as to American forces in South Korea. Suddenly he would find himself a "collaborator," having given aid to the enemy. Aware that he had written the essay without any strong threats or coercion, many times a man would change his image of himself to be consistent with the deed and with the new "collaborator" label, often resulting in even more extensive acts of collaboration.

Thus, while "only a few men were able to avoid collaboration altogether," according to Dr. Schein, "the majority collaborated at one time or another by doing things which seemed to them trivial but which the Chinese were able to turn to their own advantage . . . . This was particularly effective in eliciting confessions, self-criticism, and information during interrogation.

(Influence: The Psychology of Persuasian)

You see? There are psychological risks to moving your mouth along to words you don't believe.

Brainwashing did not end with the pledge. The organizers led us in a call and response: "When I say Tough, you say Mudder. Tough!" "MUDDER!" "Tough!" "MUDDER!" The curmudgeonly Chinese girl with bunions stayed silent but mouthed, "Candi! DA! Candi! DA!"

Then the starting gun, and we were off.

And I will now admit: I really liked Tough Mudder. Really.

It was physically much harder than I thought it would be. The atmosphere was friendly and festive, not rape mob. And I and all of my companions had a great time.

First, the physical aspect. We drove from sea level to 6,000 feet in a day, so our lungs were already struggling, and on top of this going up and down seven miles of dry black diamond runs really brought the burn. Many people started out running - some asshole sprinted up the first hill - but by the slope at the second mile, all were walking. We had to walk, anyway; there was a bottleneck at one section that involved tricky maneuvering down the rocky singletrack path. I thought the obstacles would take up more time, but it was more like half a mile of hiking uphill, followed by hopping through twenty truck tires, and then back to hiking half a mile uphill.

And the obstacles: turns out I have to psych myself up to leap into cold shitwater swamps. I did not know this about myself. I thought I wouldn't have a problem, especially after watching a line of people in front of me go through the experience, but still I hesitated whenever confronted with something wet, cold, and sticky. Only adrenaline and peer pressure pushed me forward.

Most memorable of the obstacles were a chilly uphill 100-meter dash through snowmaker clouds and the mud pits they made, a belly crawl through a wet gravel pit where one had to push other people's muddy sneakers out of one's face, and a snowboard bowl turned into a freezing bacterial vaginosis pond that one had to wade across to continue. I almost lost my marbles on the last one. Halfway through, my joints and lungs seized up from the shock of the cold water. I felt winded and paralyzed, and in a hell of a lot of pain. I only made it because O.'s cheerful obliviousness to my panic left no other option but to push on. That crazy bitch seemed genuinely happy to be in that wastewater.

(The birthplace of infections.)

For most of the race, I was hungry, thirsty, and tired, but safe and motivated, and that was a privilege worth paying for. You really do get an extreme experience out of it, even if you're putting down money to have ambulances and support staff around you while you're making the declaration of your toughness. (Note that there was only water offered two or three times, and no food. Bring your own, if you want it.)

Plus this event had spirit. Around mile three, we started hearing an unseen crowd going, "Oh!! . . . oh . . . OH!!!" We rounded a bend and saw participants lining up for the next obstacle (a vault over a Brobdingnagian metal spool), and making supportive, sympathetic sounds as they watched the failures, who, like me, ran directly at the thing and face-planted against its side. It wasn't a chatty race, but the general feeling was one of helpful camaraderie rather than competition. And for all my skepticism of the group-bonding artifice, I did feel very endeared to my teammates, who lifted me over pommel horses and pulled me out of tunnels.

We did not, however, stick around afterward to drink our free beers or listen to the terrible San Francisco band.

(The aftermath: muddy shoes in the trashbin.)

Also, eastern California is eyeball-shatteringly beautiful. I love to be sweating outdoors. Are those not reasons enough to go? Enough said.

(Bear Valley is in the Stanislaus National Forest.)

One big benefit of participating in this event was driving up to the Sierras and back with old and new friends. Third to picnicking and walking, driving long distances is my favorite way to spend time with people. It has all the attributes a shy social retard like me needs for a successful personal interaction: extended time together, something else to talk about and focus your eyes on besides each other, a journeying feeling (sometimes a Journey feeling too), and an excuse to play word games and eat Sunchips. I am going to use these West Coast methods to draw my friends away from the dark, noisy, awkward, expensive feeding boxes of the East Coast.

Where was I before this geographical gloat? Oh yes. Sorry. Tough Mudder. All good, very good, slightly pricey, slightly gimmicky, difficult and fun. Would I do it again? Yes. Eventually. Call me if you want to go.