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Exit ArchiveArchive for the "Memories" Category

Here’s a blast from… er, a time long ago.

In 1991, I got to act in a few sketches for a Bridgewater, Massachusetts cable access show called The Cutting Room Floor, created by Bob Caron and David Almeida. Christian Roman wrote most of the episode. My B.U. friends Catherine, Synneve, Karl, and Seth were in the show as well. I did improv in college and then professionally in Boston with Seth and Chris, and professionally in L.A. with Seth after 1994. Catherine, Karl and I made A Pound of Flesh in 1993, in which Seth had a part. None of us had anything to do with Mr. Belvedere: The Golden Years in 1997.

Enjoy this ridiculous but often rather funny piece of local cable access TV history and read more about it on the official Vimeo page. You can also see the other episodes there.

Watching this now for the first time since 1991, I remember how Chris and I both loved Monty Python. We had re-created a couple of their sketches at the coffee house nights in Claflin Hall. You can see the Monty Python influence in the above, with props and themes that weave through the episode, and segues between skits.

Boy, it’s good to see this again!

UPDATE: David reminded me that a skit we shot was included in episode 2 as well. Here it is! Look for “Sleeping Through the Movies with Philip & Bean” at 13:05. And here’s the Vimeo link, also with interesting tidbits about the episode.

It’s been a month since we’ve posted anything over at the LFTI blog. We’ve been busy. Oh, and we’re incredibly boring.

But land ho! Ahoy! Buckle me britches! It’s a new post!

The post itself seems to be rather useless, but something good has come of it: Videos of old Burger King ads! Horrible, horrible ads, these, and ripe for the mocking, even by children. Here they are directly:

I hated these ads so much as a kid, I made fun of them on audio tape. I have those old audio tapes in my possession now, and I plan to digitize them sometime in the next fifteen years. When I do, I shall post my Burger King parodies here.

Mark you calendars!

“When men lose a sense of wonder, there will be disaster.”
—Laozi, 6th Century BC

Space and its vastness, its denizens of rock and ice and gas, its rings and spheres and smudges and wisps, have forever inhabited my mind, creating wonder, taunting, daring me to comprehend the impossible distances, sizes, existences of the universe.

I have not been awed by space much lately, meaning in the last decade or so. I have taken a moment or two here and there to marvel at the Hubble Ultra Deep Field snapshot, or look at the surface of Mars, but the luxury of time to spend imagining space has slipped away from me.

Thanks simultaneously to Sven and VSL, I have discovered The Big Picture, a part of The Boston Globe‘s website. Today, VSL sent a link to these pictures of the Sun. In the midst of a mind-numbing, boring work day, the pictures were a great surprise, and I pored over them for some time.

After subscribing to The Big Picture RSS feed, I saw another space-themed photo set, Enceladus Up Close.

Saturn's moon Enceladus in a false color image by NASA

This is a false color image of one of Saturn’s moons, Enceladus, as captured by Cassini. (Click the pictures to see it in a larger size.)

When I was a kid and making up scenarios in my head about space, traveling there, and the adventures to be had, there were no pictures of this clarity. Well, okay, the moon was pretty well photographed, and we had some great shots from the Voyagers and Vikings, sure, but the most detail to be found of anything beyond this limited scope was in movies or paintings or our imaginations. The picture above? Reality! This is a real place. You can imagine actually setting foot onto that surface, exploring those ridges and craters.

In the last 8 years, people’s minds have gotten smaller, and their influence has stunted the imaginations of the world. To me, Enceladus as a creation of a God is such a let-down, a cop-out compared to the magnificent thought that this small world is a product of the universe itself. I think it’s time for me, and for everyone else, to turn out from themselves, shake off the selfishness of recent history, and wake up the boundless, infinite wonders of everything around us, from a micron off our own skins to billions of light years away.

The quote at the top of this post is something I wrote down from a bulletin board at Imagineering one lunch hour maybe 13 years ago, and have carried it in my wallet since. I never guessed it would resonate with me more now than it did then.

I have only seen Brief Encounter once, but I always remembered, and often thought about, the ending, the moment when Laura decides to kill herself. I didn’t remember it for the emotion, necessarily, but for how it was technically achieved, the brilliant camera work and direction that support the emotion.

The movie is a measured study in careful, level shots, but just here, and only here, as the scream of a train whistle gradually approaches, the camera slowly tilts into a Dutch angle, and stays there through the next four shots. Then, on the fourth, as Laura’s urge dies, the camera just as slowly re-rights itself, and her life goes on.

I re-discovered this thanks to Post Secret. Someone’s secret was simply a still of the movie, and someone then replied with the YouTube link.

It’s movies and moments like these that fill me with love for cinema.

It wasn’t until I was led to Brand Name Pencils by H&F-J that I realized I miss penicls.

Well, maybe that’s not entirely true, the not realizing it part. I have, from time-to-time, longed to write and create once again with a good-ol’ wooden pencil. To chew on the slight metal ring holding the eraser. To feel the joy of using the rare, good pencil sharpener. I have used mechanicals most of my life, and still do, on those rare occasions when I still do use a pencil. Their convenience trumps the pleasures of the archaic.

I had not noticed that there were so many variations of type in the branding of a pencil. Look how much style and design gets crammed into such a tiny space! Pens don’t seem to be treated with that same care. Nor did I know that that slight metal ring that I loved to gently malform with my molars was called a “ferrule.”

I was just saying a few weeks ago how, with Polaroid doing away with the instant film for which it is/was famous, the Polaroid white border will become extinct as an iconic representation for photographs. (I even used it for my gallery icon.)

So, too, thinks Jason. His thoughts are more perfectly captured than I would have been able to.

BONUS: Jason’s a designer, so it’s no surprise that he uses classic Polaroid details for the article’s design. Very nice!

Via Daring Fireball. Yet again.

For some reason, I just poked into an e-mail folder I have called “Classics and Keepers.” There are not many items in there, and not much I’d label as “classic.” Except maybe the one I’m reprinting below.

But first, some explanation so that you know what the hell prompted me to write such a long (and often historically accurate) “essay.”

In April, 2004, a month before The Wren Forum opened for business, I had sent an e-mail to friends asking them which L.A. Phil concerts they wanted to choose for the second season of Disney Hall. I listed several concerts in detail, but snuck some pieces by a little-known composer named Lekowicz into the list. (They were: Symphony No. 1 “Cake and Cookies”; Symphony No. 3 “Not Too Early in the Morning”; and Hungarian Suite in G “Tchotchke.”) Sven noticed this, and asked for some background on the composer Lekowicz before he could make a decision.

My friends got the following on April 12. Good luck!

* * * * * *

Stephen James Lekowicz was born in 1769 in Englewood, Poland, to the renowned artist and philosopher couple Sletvanya Polisnika Harrison and Trevor Singh. (It is interesting to note that Polish surnames are not passed from parent to child, a practice which was seen as pompous and cruel.) From an early age, it was determined Stephen had a keen musical sense, and was soon encouraged by his parents to develop his musical talents by banging on tins of potted meat product with wooden spoons.

By the age of 5, Stephen had already composed two waltzes, a collection of pond songs, and the now-famous Pirogy Mazurka in F. His parents farmed young Stephen’s talents out for pay, having themselves hit upon hard times during Russia’s Smashing of the Poles into Submission campaign in 1774. Through this public exposure, Stephen’s most well-to-do fan was Glinka Hurdy, who, upon hearing the Danse Macaroni i Ser Stephen composed when he was 7, finally felt the composer had entered into his own. Hurdy and his partner, Spears Britney Gurdy, signed the young prodigy to compose works for their music publishing company, Muzyka Hurdy Gurdy.

During the Hurdy Gurdy years of 1777 to late 1777, Lekowicz’s pieces for intimate royal ballroom extravaganzas, such as “King’s Triptych Danse,” and his more extravagant compositions for intimate social settings, such as “The Lily Pixie and the Butter Bun,” became such gargantuan hits that Hurdy Gurdy could not cope with demand. Their shop and press warehouse were mobbed by enraged music enthusiasts, and Hurdy and Gurdy themselves were killed in the tumult.

Sadly, with the passing of his employers, Stephen and his parents were left to the mercy of poverty, and from 1777 to 1782 they roamed the Polish countryside, dodging Austrian, Prussian, and Russian “liberators” and hoping Stephen would soon be accepted into the Stanislaw August “Augie” Poniatowski National School for Poor But Gifted Musicians and Their Parents and/or Immediate Relatives. Their hope was shown light when, in August of 1782, Poniatowski, recognizing Lekowicz as the composer of his favorite dining hall background piece, “Ham and Polonaise on Bread,” welcomed the emaciated but fiercely passionate Stephen and his family into the school.

This period proved to be one of unstoppable musical growth and enlightenment for Lekowicz, who composed no less than 149 pieces under the tutelage of the well-meaning but mediocre masters of the Augie school. Some of the pieces from this era include the Scherzande in B Minor, Sarabande for Flute and Tuba, “Samba dla Idiotów,” and the now ubiquitous Symphony No. 1 “Cake and Cookies.” This latter work has been hailed since its creation as nothing short of light and fluffy. Taking no more than 12 minutes to play and with nothing more challenging in its theme than that of pure gastrointestinal pleasure, this symphony is a model of the period and a delight to the ear.

While Poland was experiencing a slight resurgence of culture, it was still difficult for musicians to make a living plying their trade. It was for this reason that Lekowicz, at the age of 29 in 1788, became a spy for King Poniatowski. From this time to 1792, Lekowicz composed fewer works, but gained a maturity that was not present in his earlier works. Of these newer style pieces are the Scherzo in A, G, and E, the Ecossaise and Requiem in C Minor, Symphony No. 2 “Shaken Not Stirred,” and the Hungarian Suite in G “Tchotchke.” This last work was composed while Stephen traveled clandestinely in Hungary, collecting information for the Commonwealth and sampling the local cuisine. It is considered one of the most accurate portrayals of Hungarian Gypsy music ever captured by someone disguised as a gypsy while under the command of a puppet regime. The ironic title comes from the early 1800s, when the Spanish composer Falla de Guerno Hispola Fernando Hacienda was heard at a post-concert party in Seville to comment that such a “souvenir” of the Hungarian Gypsies was genius, as the gypsies themselves carried nothing more than they needed to live.

In 1792, Lekowicz was caught up in the confusion surrounding the formation of the Confederation of Targowica. When Russia and Prussia came to the aid of the revolt they started within Poland’s borders, The Commonwealth fell, and Lekowicz was one of the four million citizens annexed by Russia. This embittered Lekowicz, and his works became even more sparse in frequency and more revolutionary in tone. It was then no surprise that he moved his way to Warsaw to join the Uprising of the Soon to Be Defeated in early 1794. This uprising was soon defeated, however, and by 1795, Russia forced the abdication of the King and absorbed the rest of Poland.

Now without a homeland, Lekowicz took to writing more furiously. Pieces from this era include The Abdication Waltz in F Flat Minor, “Mass for Sausage and Cabbage,” Piccolo Concerto No. 4, and Symphony No. 3 “Not TOO Early in the Morning.” While only his third symphony, and this while aged 36, this last remains his masterpiece, a symbol of rebellion and refusal to work within a system that included too many countries ending with the syllables “ussia.” Most notable is the symphony’s lack of a fourth movement. Lekowicz claimed in a letter to his sister, Lara, a figure who was so important in his life that it has been decided to ignore her almost entirely in this essay, that his not writing a fourth movement was, besides being a protest against the dismantling of the country he loved, a wonderful way to save time. “This symphony would have taken me nine more months to write,” he wrote. “Audiences of future regimes will thank me, dear sister, for abolishing the necessity for them to stay seated in the hall an extra 20 minutes.”

Stephen Lekowicz soon after met Jaye Davidson Plotknywscz, with whom he fell madly in love. The couple planned to marry in the spring of 1799, but died in January of that year of Walesa’s Disease, a rare deformity of the facial hair. Jaye’s contraction of this disease, known to only afflict men, was confusing to the doctors of the era. Instead of fighting to get the couple well, the doctors spent their time in conference over the odd case, and Lekowicz and Plotknywscz died, covered entirely in beard, in a hospital in Vancouver, Canada.

My boss walked into my office today, saying, “I have a surprise for you!” “Are you being facetious?” I asked. “Maybe.”

He handed me this:

I think my reaction surprised him. “Oh, wow! This was my favorite mouse ever!” “Really?” I was not being facetious.

This, friends, is the Apple Desktop Bus Mouse II. According to Mactracker—an awesome, comprehensive app that gives info on every Apple product ever made—this mouse was included on all Macs from 1993 to 1998. It was only the third mouse design since the Mac’s introduction in 1984. My boss found this one locked in a cabinet in some conference room. It cleaned up really nice, and I plan to keep it.

I began using Macs when they showed up in my junior high school, though it took a long time for me to have one of my very own. Macs were too expensive, so my folks bought a IIe while I was in high school. (I first used a IIe and learned Apple Basic when I was in 4th grade.) I used my Apple IIe to write all my papers in college, but I loved every moment using the Macs at school to create flyers or newsletters or graphics.

I got my very own Mac, an LC III, in 1993. It had the new Apple Mouse II. When I started doing scientific illustration and page layout for books at Birkhäuser, the LC III was quickly replaced with a faster mac, a Quadra 610, that could better handle Illustrator and Aldus PageMaker. (Here’s one of the books I typeset. For some reason, I thought I had put my name on the copyright page. I usually did. Anyway, I want to go on record saying that nowadays, I would never stretch a font like I did in those black boxes!)

I did not upgrade my Mac until 1999, when I got a blue and white G3. I had already been living in L.A. and working for Disney for five years. I got the G3 literally weeks before the brand new G4 towers came out. It was my first introduction to immediate obsolescence.

I got my G3 less than a year after Apple had introduced the bondi blue iMac, the machine that began the rebirth of Apple and the Mac. Perhaps the most maligned thing about the new iMac was the mouse: it was round, which meant you could never tell, by feel alone, if you were holding it upright or not. My G3 came with one of these horrible mice, but I did not mind, because the machine still had an ADB port, which meant I could use my old Apple Mouse II. (I think this was the last Mac to have an ADB port. It was the first pro-level Mac to have USB.)

When I got my 12″ PowerBook in 2003, I could no longer use my Apple Mouse II. I still have not found a mouse I love as much.

The Apple Mouse II was perfect. That seems like a silly thing to say, because it had only one button, used a physical roller ball, and had no scroll wheel or scroll ball. But I consider it perfect anyway.

The mouse was low profile, which meant it sat in the curve of my hand without me having to bend my wrist backward to accommodate its bulk. The button end of the mouse was very shallow, down close to the desk surface, so I never had to strain my fingers up to rest on the button. My hand could relax comfortably. Most mice, especially today, have unnecessary bulk. They force the hand to arch up to unnatural heights, and the buttons are far off the desk, which pushes the fingers higher than is normal. The Apple Mouse II was shaped so that you could plonk your hand down, relaxed, on the desk, and the mouse would just happen to be there, in the cavity, ready to go.

The button had perfect tactility, which meant you could rest your finger(s) on the button comfortably without the button accidentally clicking. It also clicked at just the right pressure, so I never had to strain my fingers to press down. If a button clicks too easily, finger muscles get strained as you hold them aloft, trying not to click. When a button mechanism is too strong, the muscles have to strain harder to click.

The single button that covered the entire front of the mouse meant I could relax my hand in a natural position, even to the very right edge of the mouse, and still move and click with ease. A two-button mouse where the left button is the default button forces your wrist to rotate farther left and your index finger to angle more than is natural, then hold the pose the entire time you use the mouse. Most mice are designed with the buttons inset from the sides of the mouse, so even if you can rest your hand at the very edge, you have to move your finger to click. On the Apple II Mouse, you could just click any part of the front, and you were okay.

All these tiny little alterations, muscle movements, and position-holdings add up over the hours, and, in my experience, at the end of a long mousing day, they hurt. My right hand is sore every day using “better” mice. For sure, hands of different sizes and shapes may require different shapes of mice. A large hand still rests its fingers at the surface of a desk, so the low mouse button works well there. Perhaps stronger fingers would need stronger button clicking, and a wider hand a wider mouse to more comfortably grip, but overall, I posit that the Apple Mouse II was a perfect, average shape.

My current favorite mouse is the Wireless Mighty Mouse. Yes, also by Apple. I have used a number of other brands of mice, and none of them works as well (though the Logitech MX 300, now impossible to find, was pretty decent). With the Mighty Mouse, I get back the low profile and the low, borderless button. I swap my left and right clicking, so the right side of the mouse is my “left” click. This way, I only have to strain my hand or fingers occasionally to execute a “right” click. My hand can rest as it did using an Apple Mouse II. (I tried swapping button mapping on other mice, but for some reason, it didn’t work so well, mostly because the unclickable side border made it pointless.)

The down side of the Mighty Mouse is that I have to be very careful, and therefore strain my hand, to do a “click and pick up the mouse to move it before you unclick” maneuver. This is easy on most mice, but because the whole top of the Mighty Mouse is mostly one piece, the only place to grab and hold is the side-click buttons. I have to move my thumb up to the left side click button (because it does not naturally rest there), then sort of do a squeeze–hold while I click the main button, then do a cumbersome lift… Do you know how many times I accidentally squeeze too hard and bring up Exposé? And then suddenly I’m stuck, hand aloft, mid-click, with all my windows shrunken, and everything has to come to a halt while I repair the mess.

Another issue is the touch-sensitive button. I love the idea in theory, but you have to lift your fingers off the “left” click “button” to make the “right” click “button” work properly. If the mouse senses a touch on both sides, it does not execute a “right” click. This strain does get to my hand by the end of the day.

I could get into my issues with tracking sensitivity, but I won’t. Suffice it to say that the Apple mice have the best tracking algorithmicity thingy I’ve used. Other mice are too sensitive and don’t get the acceleration right.

One could say that I simply like the Apple Mouse II because that’s what I got used to using. It seems a fair argument, but it doesn’t work here because I can just lay my hand down on my desk, let it relax, and see how it comes to rest. The Apple Mouse II fit right into that relaxed posture. I do not imagine other people’s hands lie in completely different ways than mine, all twisted to the left with fingers naturally hovering in the air and wrists bent backwards. Maybe I’m ignorant, or a fool. Or maybe it’s approaching 8:00 on a Friday night, and I’m here in my office writing a blog post about mice.

I have spent a lot of time at work testing mice, trying to find decent ones that haven’t been bastardized by forced progress and redesigned for redesign’s sake. It’s a constant battle. So seeing an old friend walk in the door was a great surprise and, perhaps pathetically, a happy one.

Back long ago, when my Apple IIe was brand new, I spent hours playing the text-based adventure game version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It was a damn frustrating game, but funny, being infused as it was with Douglas Adamsian humo(u)r.

It turns out there had been a sequel planned, which comes as no surprise; anyone who was a fan of the radio show, the TV series, and the books knew there was much more to the story.

Well, it turns out this guy named Andy Baio has gotten his hands on a backup of the shared network drive from Infocom, the company that produced the Hitchhiker’s game. (Infocom was more known for the Zork games, none of which I ever played. Well, to completion, anyways.) Andy has posted some emails about, memos regarding, and even a playable version of the unfinished sequel!

I am still making my way through the post’s comments, which are almost as fascinating as the story itself. (UPDATE: Keep reading them… the Bywater spat is fascinating!) But I’m taking a break to post this so my bucketload of readers can go enjoy the posting right this very second. Go! Read! Geek out!

Via Daring Fireball

I was possessed last night, around midnight, to pull out the collection of letters, faxes, and pictures I have from my time with Byron. I have kept them all together, in a neat stack, in the back of one of my closets. On top of this stack has always sat a little stuffed bear, wearing a sweater knitted with a British flag.

I was looking for one thing in particular, but once I had pulled out the stack, I was sad to see that the silverfish have been at it. Silverfish eat paper, I was told by the last exterminator who’d been to my place to spray, uselessly, for the buggers. The envelopes and papers were covered with silverfish droppings, and I knew I had to go through and try to shake out any insects and clear the dropping off the papers. I was hoping the bugs hadn’t eaten away too much of this history.

As I went through, I opened every envelope, reading some of what was inside. I really wanted to sit and read every single word, but that would have taken hours. Mr. Fear and I were wordy in our missives.

One of the first letters I skimmed through was his last letter to me, after we broke up, over the phone, 5,500 miles apart. I had told him I could not talk to him afterward, that I had to cut him out of my life until I could get over loving him. His letter was pained, discussing how he was deciding to get over his guilt at the breakup being his fault. It wasn’t ever his fault; there should have been no guilt on either side. But there is always guilt.

A couple letters down into the pile was the first letter he wrote to me, when I still lived in Boston, was not out yet, and had really only begun to ponder what it might mean if I were to maybe somehow potentially consider the remote possibility that I liked guys. It was a giddy, happy letter talking about his Boston trip and how he’d pretty much fallen for me during it. He was careful to try to get that across without scaring me away as a potential friend. I had fallen for him, too, but couldn’t admit that yet. It wasn’t until I’d moved to L.A. that one of my letters revealed to him that “my heterosexuality is not set in stone.” Yes, those were my exact words.

The rest of the stack was everything in between the tone of those two letters, blissful and sexual and pining and mournful and hungry and hurtful and silly. Bryon is an artist, so his letters were often illuminated with his trademark black ink drawings, precise and perfect. There was a small stack of sepia photos he’d sent me from one of his L.A. visits, when he and I and Catherine and Steve R. went to El Matador beach. There were stories and scripts he’d written. There were ridiculous but charming faxes both he and I had sent each other. There were comics he’d mailed me that he knew I loved at the time… Calvin and Hobbes and Mutts. There were the “bedtime tales” we wrote each other, from loving to erotic to pornographic, sometimes all within the same page.

By 1:00am, I had made my way through. I had only found two silverfish, but they did seemingly crawl out of nowhere, so I’m sure more are hiding in the stack. There was some damage to the paper, but nothing terrible.

Bryon and I chatted on IM not long ago about what our love was and how it is still, to this day, for both of us, the love to which we compare all others. He’s been with someone now for a couple years. They are in love, but Bryon said it’s very different. It is the same for me, when I have loved others since. None of my other loves have been as hotly passionate or so all-encompassing that I spend days thinking of nothing else but the other person, failing to get work done, failing to fall asleep because the other person haunts my every cell and neuron.

There are some clichés about all this that I sometimes go through in my head, those occasional times I think about Bryon and our love. Sometimes the cichés are brought up by other guys I’ve dated. I always smack each of the clichés down.

Bryon was my first true love, and nothing can match that. So far, this is true, but I know what the love was, and I know I can feel that way again about someone else.

The downy halo around the relationship is a product of time. With this, I completely disagree. I am keenly aware that there were problems, but those problems did not diminish the love itself.

I am clinging to the past. I do have very fond memories of he and I, but I don’t cling. I appreciate.

Carrying a torch for the love I felt for Bryon will taint any new relationships I try to have. I also disagree with this. I am not carrying a torch. I am keeping in touch, on occasion, with my emotional ability to love someone and what that ability has meant to me, as well as what it will mean to me.

I am still in love with him. This one is more difficult. I have seen Bryon in the UK a couple times in the last few years, and we e-mail and chat occasionally. I do still love him, but it is not the passionate love that got kindled in our hearts over a decade ago. It’s a love for someone who I still admire and with whom I’ve shared something amazing.

That final cliché is the most painful to ponder. I moved on from Bryon years ago, now. I knew that would have to happen when we parted ways, despite that knowledge setting everything in me shuddering from grief. Getting over a love like that happens only when you allow the hottest flame of that love to die out. It’s painful and cruel, doubly so because it involves someone else who will have to let that same flame die. The pain today comes from knowing that I have moved on, and the passion of our love is dead, something that I helped to kill out of necessity, but not out of desire.

I will put the letters in a plastic box to keep out the bugs. I do not want them to vanish by vermin. Time alone will eat away at the clarity and brilliancy of my memory, so to keep these physical reminders safe is as important as protecting any history that shapes, steers, grows, transforms, lifts, enlightens, and devastates.

I got to stop by Trader Joe’s yesterday on the way back from getting my hair cut. (It’s short. I should post a picture!) On the way in, I was stopped by these cute little trees outside the store.

I love trees. I have a ficus in my office that has flourished since I bought it at Ikea years ago. I wish I could have one in my apartment, but it’s too dark. These little Trader Joe’s pine trees were so cute, and I wanted to have some kind of Christmas cheer in my office, and I knew what was going to happen later that night, so I bought one to brighten my pre-Christmas days. Today, I bought little glass ornaments and decorated the tree.

A Little Christmas Tree

How Charlie Brown Christmas is that? It’s so cute. I makes me smile. And since it’s alive, I can keep it in my office year-round. I lived in Boston last time I bought a tiny live pine tree like this, also around Christmas time. I had it for a quite a while. Sadly, it died when I took a trip. Must have been a long trip. This tree, I feel, will be my little Christmas tree for years to come. When it’s the off-season, I won’t even have to disguise the pot; I’ll tell everyone it’s my barber tree.

My mom is wonderful. She sends me cards on every holiday, and though I don’t return the favor, I always love getting them. I’m not much of a card person. I never have the right kind on hand, and it’s not convenient to go find one when you need to. Cards are all candle and fart jokes now, anyway. Who has an hour to sift through that?

Back when I first moved out to L.A., I was a lowly temp at Disney and I actually had an agent. I actually went out on auditions and even booked a couple of ads… despite my agent, in fact. Then I went through the coming-out process, and I put all that on hold to figure out this big part of myself that had been pretty blank for so long.

Today, I noticed in my bag that I had some old business cards in the card slot, and I pulled them out to replace them. Along with the cards was the following:

Believe in Yourself

I had not forgotten this was there, really, but it was a joy to see it today. A mini-surprise. I have transferred it from bag-to-bag since 1995, which I think is when my mom sent this to me. I have always kept it so that I can look at it and feel that I am not foolish for believing in myself and what I want to do.

I never did get fully back into acting, which is not something I’ve been too terribly happy about. But I’ve eased back in, and I fully intend to keep at it on some level or another. The sitcom is the best thing to happen to me, creatively, in years, and I plan on doing my best with that, put my heart into it.

I put my new business cards in the card slot, and this right behind, to pull out another day.

My mom will be reading this, so I might as well thank her for her little cards and notes and mailings. I may not keep them with me like I’ve kept this one, but I love them all. Thank you, mom!

That I can recall, I have received two phone calls from my mother that, thanks to surrounding events, had me panicking in the seconds between the “Hello?” and the moment I was finally told what the call was about.

The first call was some years ago. I had just gotten back from Vegas with my boss. We’d been there to do one of our A/V events, and my folks just happened to be staying there. They delayed their departure for one day so they could watch me do my job, which, even to this day, is not easy to explain to people. Upon leaving, my boss and I drove back to L.A., and my folks drove back to Colorado, planning to stop in Mesquite overnight.

Soon after I got back to the office, my cell phone rang. It was my mom, hysterical. Hysterical. This was the first panic.

Days before, my sister’s husband had told her he wanted a divorce. It was horrible. She was sad and depressed, as were we all, I think. I remember getting her call about it. I was driving into work, and when she told me, I almost literally burst into tears. It was a sight, I’m sure, me driving on the 101, crying and talking into my headset, trying to pay attention to traffic, which suddenly was the least important thing in the world.

So I panicked when I got my mom’s hysterical call post-Vegas. My mind went to all kinds of horrible places. Was my sister okay? Had something happened? I couldn’t understand my mom. She was incoherent. Panic. I finally had to yell at my mom to shut up (yes, I think I actually said that!) and tell me what happened, and once she calmed down, she told me some… rather excellent news. Very excellent news, in fact. News that I have promised not to write about on my website. Bummer, because it’s a doozy!

First panic unjustified.

Yesterday, my sister went in for gallbladder surgery. My parents are in Nashville now. They got to spend some time with sis on her boat, then helped her with all the logistics of the surgery. Everything went well, and my sister returned home, out of it thanks to the pain killers.

This morning, not long after 6:00, my iPhone rang with the new old-fashioned phone ringtone I’d just assigned to my family. Odd timing. Fuz had already gotten up to get ready for work, so I was already partly awake.

I poured out of bed to answer the phone, and the second panic was now starting. Had something happened in the night? Was Laura okay? I answered and my mom was shaken. Not hysterical, but shaken, holding back some tragedy. I could not think of any good reason she’d sound this way, but I had been wrong last time. Maybe this was a good call…? No. The only thing it could be was complications with my sister’s surgery. Full panic time.

I did not have to yell at at my mother or tell her to shut up this time, but I did have to ask her what was wrong.

My sister’s townhouse burned down in the night. (More coverage here.)

My sister got up to use the restroom at 4:00 this morning. Or did she subconsciously sense something? Whatever it was, she noticed an orange glow from downstairs, went to see what it was, and saw her back deck on fire.

Man, I don’t know how she did it, but in her post-surgurey state, my sister ran around, yelling and screaming, to get my folks and her dog awake and out of the house. Then she ran to the connecting townhouses and woke her neighbors. Everyone got out okay, and no one was hurt.

My sister’s house is destroyed. What is worse, beyond losing the home, is all the memories that are gone. The pictures and videos and all those things you can never replace. My folks lost all the stuff they’d brought: clothing and glasses and ID and credit cards and teeth. The things you kind of need.

On the second call this morning, just as I was getting on the 405 to go to work, my mom told me that the hydrant water pressure was so bad, the firemen could not get the fire hoses working properly. Upsetting. But she also got teary telling me about the Red Cross’ help. They gave my family care baskets, a hotel room and car rental for three days, and vouchers to go buy clothing and necessities. I actually get teary thinking about that because I thought we were beyond that kind of aid in today’s America.

At 6 this morning, because my mind was turning to the worst, hearing that everyone was okay actually made me calm. My absolute worst fears had not materialized, and I was immediately relieved for that, even though a different and very surprising tragedy had taken place.

Second panic justified, but, thankfully, not fully.

Back yonder ’round about 1998, when I finally dove into the world of the PDA (Personal Digital Assistant, otherwise known as a PIM (Personal Information Manager)), I bought a new but discontinued Newton, the MessagePad 100. It was fairly inexpensive, as Newtons went, and I could not afford any of the newer models.

Newton Box

I loved the thing. The handwriting recognition wasn’t nearly as bad as people had made it out to be… though, granted, my 100 had an upgraded engine for that. The Newton was a study in delightful, fun, easy-to-use design and UI. It was an utter pleasure to use. It synced with my Mac, so I could keep all my data together. That data, free of photos, music, and video, could fit in the tiniest of storage spaces.

Newton 2MB Storage Card Box

Yes, that’s a 2 MEGABYTE card. You would not even be able to store one song on that today.

Some time after I got my Newton, I got my first cell phone, a Qualcomm thing where you could slide the earpiece to answer and end calls. It was an amusing phone, looking back on it. But it had a mean streak. One day, I put my Qualcomm on the top of my cubicle storage shelf. I forgot it was there, and when I closed the door to the shelf, the phone came sliding off, and it smashed my Newton’s screen. It was a sad day.

My Newton, Shattered

The Newton being a “dead” platform by then (more on that later), I decided I should buy a Palm Pilot instead of another MessagePad. The “Pilot” part of the Palm name had already been sued out of existence by the Pilot pen company, so the device I bought was simply called a Palm III.

The Palm was nice. It was small, incredibly simple, sipped on battery power, and was perfectly suited for my needs. But it was not a Newton by any means. It had frustrating limitations based on OS design choices, and, worse, synced very poorly with my Mac. Thanks to that, my Palm became my one repository of all phone numbers and calendars. I could access the info via the Palm Desktop app for the Mac, but it was such a terrible program, I simply never bothered. My Mac was cut off from my information.

When the Palm III began to show its age, I upgraded to a Palm Tugsten T. The Tungsten had a color screen, a fast processor, Bluetooth, but was still limited by Palm’s unchanged app designs and inability to sync properly with my Mac.

By this time, the Mac had made a huge comeback. OS X kicked ass, and Mac hardware itself was becoming utterly sick, as the kids these days might say. The new OS improved and began to offer wonderful features combining integrated use of calendar and contact data. Because I wanted to use these features, I had to double up on locations for data. In the world of information, you should never do this. You should only ever have one place for personal information, otherwise confusion and mismatched data will ensue. However, technology was not allowing me to work this way, so I made a valiant and very successful effort at managing two contact lists.

In the meantime, I seemed to go through cell phones like water. I was definitely a Nokia fan, as you can see, because their interface was the most well thought-out, in my opinion. (Below are all my cell phones, minus the Qualcomm and my first 6230. From left to right are the 3360, 3560, 8290 (the greatest!), 3120, an unlocked 6230, and the Microsoft mPhone Vista Personal Ultimate Edition.)

All My Cell Phones

The following is not one of my old phones, but I had to include the picture anyway. It’s a circa 1994 Motorola sitting next to the new Motorola WSHR. Thanks to Fuz for letting me have this brick.

Motorola Circa 1994

A year or two ago, I was tired of keeping two sets of records, so I stopped using my Palm for contacts and moved everything to my Mac. My Palm was then only being used for my calendar and a list of all my passwords. The Mac stored my contact information so I could use it seamlessly for iChat and Mail. With .Mac syncing, I had my contact info on my home Mac and all of my work Macs, and if for some reason I needed the info on the road, I could look it up on my Nokia or iPod. iSync did an okay job of syncing a selection of my contacts to my Nokia cell phone, though again, there were limitations.

This was all a mess, but it worked somehow.

When rumors of an Apple phone started to surface years ago, you can understand why I was so intrigued. Many was the time I had been tempted to buy a used Newton 2100 and spend the time to hack it to work with OS X. Believe it or not, people out there still hack the Newton, and you can find solutions to make a now-ancient MessagePad sync with any modern Mac.

The temptation to buy another Newton never took solid form. I had become accustomed to a smaller device. Newtons were huge by modern standards. No, what I really, really, really wanted was a new Apple device. No one else was going to have the smarts or the business drive to make a really good phone/PIM gadget that worked seamlessly with the Mac.

This January, for the first time in maybe 14 years, I got to attend Macworld. I went on Disney’s dime, and so I bought the package that got me good seats for Steve Jobs’ keynote. I have never been to a Steve keynote before. His October appearance at a Studio work event was fantastic, but that was not a keynote. The January 2007 Macworld keynote will, of course, be the one that goes down in history, because it’s when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone. (Download the “Macworld San Francisco 2007 Keynote Address” video if you follow that iTunes link.)

I wish I had a video of myself and Ben at that keynote, because the iPhone, as Steve was revealing its many wonders, turned out to be far more exciting and fantastic and brilliant than I had ever imagined it would be; Ben and I were excited beyond reason. My facial expressions alone would, I’m sure, be priceless YouTube fodder.

Here it is, over six months later, and I’ve had my iPhone for two weeks. I love the thing. The keyboard is much better than people—most of whom had never even used it— have made it out to be. The iPhone is a study in delightful, fun, easy-to-use design and UI. It is an utter pleasure to use. It syncs with my Mac, so I now, once again, keep all my data together.

Between the Newton and the iPhone, I had probably 8 years of simply passable PDA experiences. I am finally at the day I’ve thought about for so long.

Of course, there is another similarity between my old Newton and my new iPhone: both are early version products. Had I been able to own a newer Newton back in 1998, I’d have had a more refined product, with less quirks and a very mature feel. My iPhone, being on version 1.0, has plenty of things it could do better. However, the iPhone feels like it’s already been around for years. As someone else said, verison 1.0 of an Apple product is like version 7.0 of another company’s. What’s so fantastic about both the iPhone and the Newton is that Apple got the basics right from the very beginning. The concepts were sound, the designs were top-notch, and intelligence just oozes out of both products. As the iPhone gets updated over the next few years, I know Apple will fix some things, add others, and the iPhone will only get better.

Old Newton, New iPhone

For a great set of beautiful pics that inspired me to dig out my own Newton, go visit philcarrizzi at Flicker.

From philcarrizzi on Flicker

NOTE: I wrote this on Thursday but did not get a chance to proof it and post it until now. I left all the timings the same.

Fuz, my new boyfriend, found out yesterday that a friend of his died. Ariel and his dad, producer/director Bob Clark, were killed by a drunk driver on the PCH.

Fuz told me this last night, late. This was following a major ordeal trying to get a huge-ass armoire Fuz had bought on Criag’s List up the narrow stairwells of his apartment building, which in turn followed a night of rehearsal on episode 5 of Life from the Inside. It was, overall, a tiring night.

We were eating Apple Jacks and Froot Loops we’d bought that afternoon at Costco. With vanilla Silk. It tasted okay. Fuz said, “I have something to tell you,” which means nothing really good.

It was difficult to know what to do. I was so tired, and this was quite some shocking news. I mostly just remained quiet, expressing my sorrow for him and commenting on what a horrible way that was to have to go. Fuz and Ariel had been trying to get together for a while to have dinner, but could never make the time, and were finally going to make sure they got together sometime next week. But now it won’t happen.

When I first started working at Disney, I was the receptionist in the foyer of a former warehouse which contained the Home Video I.S. department. I just sat there all day, answering some phones from time to time, greeting the rare visitor, and e-mailing my friends whose cubicles were just inside the door. I still have these friends today: Michelle, Carol, Marcy (who would come on the scene later), and Steve.

Back in those days, it was not unusual for a few of us to tool up the coast several times a summer to spend the day at El Matador beach. Steve and I took just such a trip one weekend day.

The traffic on the PCH was horrible, the kind of non-moving mass I was coming to learn was common in L.A. At one point, I turned to Steve and said, “I hope this is something like an accident. If I’m waiting in this kind of traffic, it better be for a good reason.”

Of course, it was a “good” reason. An accident. A horrible one. A completely maimed Mercedes convertible, mostly just a twisted wreck, and some other American car. A big thing. This was in the time before SUV overpopulation, so it was probably a Taurus or something. I can’t recall. Whatever it was, it and the Mercedes had hit each other head-on at high speed.

I felt horrible that I had said what I’d said. An accident like that rarely leaves anyone alive.

The traffic was still snarled many hours later, as we were driving back down the coast. I said nothing except maybe to comment on how incredible it was that one accident could cause so much traffic. Life and smooth traffic are both tenuous in L.A.

Back in the warehouse foyer on Monday, doing something no-doubt time-wasting but ultimately more creative than anything I do these days, one of the I.S. guys came in, someone I chatted with often. That morning, he was morose. I asked him if he was okay. He told me a friend of his had gotten killed in a car accident over the weekend, and he was very upset about it.

Deep down, I knew exactly where this was going. Just as you do now. When I got up my nerve, I asked, as carefully as possible, where the accident had happened. Of course, it was the one Steve and I had seen on the PCH. The I.S. guy told me his friend had been riding in a Mercedes convertible. She had been riding with a guy no one knew.

The I.S. fellow’s emotions were particularly bruised because he hadn’t seen his friend for a while, and they were supposed to have dinner in a couple days. But now it wasn’t going to happen.

The coincidence was quite horrifying. Oh, it was exciting, too, deep down, but in a sickening way.

Steve and I related our story to our friends later that day. I told them that so-and-so actually knew one of the people in the accident. But Carol had one more twist to add to the story.

At the time, Carol had a fiancé named Mike, who had a buddy who worked at a car dealership. Mike’s friend had told Mike that one of the guys at the dealership had been killed in a horrible car accident on the PCH over the weekend. He was in one of the dealership’s Mercedes, and was riding with a woman that none of them knew.

I didn’t tell any of this to Fuz last night, even though it all went through my head while I was shoveling Apple Jacks into my not-really-hungry but bored maw. I also didn’t bring up Amelia’s death last year. I wanted to, just to kind of show that I understood what he was feeling. But a three-way coincidence and a child’s death weren’t really going to be helpful now. I know I can’t really do or say anything useful. I just need to be there for him if he needs me.

As for the now-vanished day trips up the coast, those newbie Angelino salad days long ago made way for a too-busy, same-old-grind lifestyle that keeps us from being more carefree. Maybe that’s what happens as you age and settle. You have to make up for it with more extravagant plans, like the upcoming weekend trip Marcy and Carol and Sven and I are taking to Austin to meet up with Michelle, who now lives in Connecticut. Flying to Texas for three days is our new El Matador beach day. Yet these sorts of get-togethers are still too rare, and I’m not exactly enthused about being aware that one day, every one of us will feel some pain over a loss made more bitter due to procrastination of friendship.

My friend Jin Ah was telling me that her already fashionable daughter was worried sick that Santa would bring her the wrong color shoes with all the wrong charms attached to it.

“Don’t worry, he will know,” said the tired mom.

“But HOW? HOW will he know?” the daughter insisted.

“Fine, do you want me to call him to make sure.”

“You mean YOU have his number!?!?”

It’s so cute how kids believe without a shadow of a doubt in such things. How I envy their innocence. I never believed in Santa Claus. I’ve always known it was just a hoax to get kids to behave. Tho once I did put my tooth in a sealed envelope under my pillow – just as a test, of course.  You can’t imagine just how unbelievably dumbfounded I was the next day when I unsealed the envelope to find a shiny dollar coin instead.

A tooth fairy?? For realz??

My whole world shook apart as my mind raced with crazy and daringÂthoughts that maybe there was indeed some magic left in this world. But within that same minute, I also consider that perhaps my mom replaced the tooth in the middle of night with the coin in a newly sealed envelope - tho that was so not like her to go through all that, I thought.

So the next time I lost my tooth, I tested my theory by tucking away my tooth under my pillow - but this time, I did not tell my mother… or father… or sister.

Of course, it was that next morning that finally killed off any remaining traces in me of whatever it is in kids that encourages them to ask, “But HOW? HOW WILL HE KNOW?”

Yes, I LIVE! And though I have SO much to put up here, I am late getting to bed. What does that have to do with anything? I’m late because I’ve been up watching old Sesame Street stuff on YouTube. My God, could it have been a more brilliant show? Do enjoy these classic bits, before Elmo came and ruined everything.

The Mahna Mahna guy in the rhyming mood:

That is truly classically hilarious. I love how the blue guy gives that surprised double-take every time the purple guy comes in. And as a kid I always thought the first time the purple guy says “bread” was friggin’ hilarious. “BrrEEEAAd.”

Now, I had forgotten about the little bug Muppets until I saw this one:

This is not the one I remember, but it’s the only one I’ve seen on YouTube. The bug family that licks stamp glue together sticks together. HA HA HA!

This next one is weirder than I remember, thanks solely to the synthesizer soundtrack. But it still brings back a bazillion memories.

To this day, I often recall the singing orange when I see those big rubber bands around the office.

Then there were the Martians:

I’d like to find the grandfather clock one, too. Oh, wait, here it is:

Those are brilliant puppets!

Then, of course, was the musician who’d hit his head on the piano in frustration:

Sadly, all I see of the Mary Had a Little Bicycle one is this:

Oh, that’s rich! That banging the head on the keys! How many times did I recreate that when we got a piano in the house?

Now, if only I can find the chef who falls down the stairs with the messy desserts. I also re-staged that awesome scene over and over and over in our house, using pillows or Tupperware lids as “desserts.” They didn’t hurt when I’d crash into them falling down our stairway. If anyone finds the chef online, please pass the link(s) along!

Well, hope youve enjoyed this long-overdue post. I’ll put up some pics of Steve Jobs soon.

I just have to pass this one around, like a platter of Loddiswell Avondale:

During the surprising lightning storm last night—as rare and marvelous a sight in Los Angeles as a woman with natural lips and breasts—Robb’s power went out. Unable to use his computer, he decided to write his blog out long-hand on lined notebook paper. It’s a hoot. Go read it now.

It reminded me of that letter I wrote myself from 1990. Robb’s humorous entry, which pokes fun at the kind of notes one would have written back in high school, made me realize how grown-up I was in 1990, a sophomore in college, because my simple smily faces were, thanks to the nascent influence of my higher education, newly infused with social commentary in the form of anti-nuclear protestations. (Don’t forget, the USSR was still around in 1990.)

And for your information, I did not misspell “smiley.” I simply decided to spell it as I used to in elementary school, when I had created my very own troop of smily faces, each with its own stats page in an illustrative guide. That would be something to scan and post, and if I ever wrestle that big box of my ancient drawings from my folks’ place in Grand Junction to my cramped apartment in L.A., I’ll do so.

But in the meantime, go enjoy Robb’s Grade A Fancy Old-Tyme Blog entry.

As I go through life, creating less and less and merely existing more and more, I stumble upon things I wrote anywhere from one to twenty years ago, and I always get this feeling that I am, somehow, merely existing more and more and creating less and less. It’s a crushing feeling. Until I remember that I have The Wren Forum, and the The Wren Forum is full of genius! (This is a form of faux flattery that gets me through the long, sunny California days.)

Exhibit A: A story I wrote on a whim in 1994, just a few months after I moved to L.A. and, by happenstance, also began working at Disney as the receptionist for BVHE IS, which was at the time situated in a warehouse in Glendale. I literally had nothing to do all day. Even when I had something to do, I still had to pretend I had something to do. As you’ll see.

I imagine this story is somewhere in the three-ring binder I created for all my new Disney friends sometime in 1996, collecting the best of our stories and e-mails from our two-year romp through the IS department. (Damn, we ranthat place!) I called the binder tome In the Company of Geeks, and it sits like a treasure in my still-doorless, drawerless buffet.

Here’s the story and its e-mail wrappings in their original glory. I only had a desire to change one tiny thing, but I didn’t. No, it’s not the misspelling of Lamborghini. A shiny new penny to the first person who can guess what it is I would have changed.

* * * * * * * *

Author: Steve Lekowicz at HVFS3
Date: 12/13/94 11:15 AM
Priority: Normal
TO: Carol Cichon
TO: Michelle Ferrara
TO: SANDRA KELLY
TO: Steve Rowley
Subject: A Clandestine Bamboozle
——————————- Message Contents ——————————-
The reason I’m typing this is because there are some people here waiting for
Lloyd, and I have to look busy. So let me tell you a little story…

There was a woman named Horace who, though her name was atrocious, was as
beautiful as her father was ugly. Her ugly father, Grant, was a collector of
rare promotional items, like Coca-Cola dim sum organizers and Filter Fresh
T-shirts.

One day, Grant decided to take a long journey in search of The Gilded Beer
Huggy, a very rare item originally given out by MCI to its satisfied customers.
(It was rumored that there was only one Gilded Beer Huggy in existence.) So
Grant set off, leaving Horace behind to watch over the condo.

Horace found her freedom to be delightful, and day after day, she pranced about
the condo in her bare feet, humming lightly-tuned Kenny G songs to herself and
eating Snack Wells fat-free Cream Cheese Delights.

In her third week of solitude, however, she became moribund. She lacked her
previous verve and delight in life. So she set off for the Alpha-Beta to find
adventure. There, in the snack foods aisle, she saw the most handsome man ever.
He turned and saw her. He held a box of Snack Wells reduced-fat Fudge Blops.
Their eyes connected (Horace’s and the man’s, not Horace’s and the Blops’.)

After a brief affair in the bulk foods section, Horace decided to run away with
Linda (for that was the man’s name) and live forever with him in his
rent-controlled bungalow in the Sierra Madres. Just as the two were leaving the
Alpha-Beta, however, a small, pitiful cry rang out from a dark, poorly lit
aisle. Horace was beckoned by name into the dimness, where she found herself
surrounded by Hostess baked goods and Simply Fruit multi-packs. She leaned over
the dark figure calling her name… it was her father, Grant, who had become
stuck in a mass of eucalyptus honey from a broken jar he’d knocked off the shelf
in his quest for the Gilded Beer Huggy.

Horace was torn. She so wished to help her father from the mass and tend to him
in his older years, but she equally wished to run away with the handsome Linda.
Her mind tossed like a salad with Bac-Os and those quaintly-sized Pepperidge
Farm seasoned croutons.

With blind confusion, she dashed to the back of the store. There, she met an old
woman who was gently fondling a package of bratwurst, and the woman said to her,
“Young lady, heed my advice. Care for your father, for it was he who gave you
life.” Just then, the voice of an equally old woman (thumping an olive loaf to
test for ripeness) said, “Follow your heart, dearie, for it will wither if you
do not.” The two old women glared at each other, then leapt upon one another in
a vicious fight. Horace could only watch in horror as the two old ladies
battered each other to death with meat products and newspaper coupons and,
inexplicably, court summons.

As Horace left the carnage behind her, a light dawned upon her. The light was
from the Store Directory, whose fluorescent light was on the fritz. As the
Directory flashed and buzzed, one thing on the list drew her attention the most:
FEMININE NEEDS.

With that revelation, Horace left the damn Alpha-Beta, her ugly father Grant and
the inaptly-named Linda, and bought a Lambourghini, in which she rode out the
rest of her happy years.

THE END

* * * * * * * * *

Well, those people have come and gone, but at least my story is done.

–Steve

* * * * * * * *

WELCOME BACK TO 2006. I see I still use rows of asterisks to separate text ideas. And it turns out I want to change one more tiny little thing. But not here. Oh, no. Here, the story remains pure. But a shiny new nickel to anyone who guesses the second change.

This post has derived from the discussion going on over at Thank Goodness This Didn’t Require a Senate Confirmation Hearing. You might wish to visit there to discover the origins of blinds, shades, whatever you want to call them.

What Matt is referring to is a little incident on our flight out to Oahu on Hawaiian Airlines in February. The sun was fairly low in the sky, but not blindingly low, and they had asked people to put their shades down to darken the cabin. (I call it a shade, not blinds, and thus my semantic confusion with Matt’s reference.) I didn’t shut mine because part of the deal with being on a plane is you get a wonderful view of the earth from way high up. Asking everyone to shut their window shades is horrible. See, instead of everyone being cooped up in their sad abodes watching crappy movies on their crappy TVs and ignoring the world outside, they are cooped up in a poorly-ventilated, flying cattle car watching crappy edited movies on miserably maintained LCD screens or projectors more crappy than their crappy TVs at home and ignoring the fact that they are FLYING VERY HIGH UP IN THE SKY! There should be no movies on planes. Only the Zen delight of soaring up over the landscape and clouds. It’s one of the only remaining delights of flying in this post-9/11-excuse world.

So I never close my shade on those rare occasions when I’m sitting by the window. I enjoy the sunlight and the view.

A stewardess (once again, the outdated title is deserved) came upon Matt and I to serve us food. Hawaiian Airlines is one of the very few airlines left that serves food on their flights, you see. Anyhow, as the woman came to us, she asked me, not politely but not rudely, to close my window shade. I said, “No, that’s okay. I’m using this,” as I pointed to the view of the ocean below. Her second, more horror-film-worthy personality surfaced without warning. She reached over and, slamming my shade down, said, “Just shut it!”

Wow. I was taken aback. I did not understand the vitriolic response. My only thought was that she was blinded by some kind of glare while trying to serve us and needed my window shut. If that were the case, she could have asked nicely and I would have done so. As it stands to this day, her actions were still uncalled for.

Just like the time back on a trip I was talking in the halcyon days of my youth, traveling with school friends. It was probably the national leadership conference thingy in Oklahoma City when I was in junior high. I do not think it was the high school trip to Europe, the one where we were on the TWA flight from Rome to Greece that, upon its return trip back to Rome, was hijacked by terrorists. This was the general belief on the tour bus the first morning after our flight, anyway, when we all found out about the hijacking. It may have been the same plane returning to Rome the next day, or it may not have been. I to this day believe it was the same plane because doing so creates a layer of mystery to my life that makes me prime meat on the dating scene. But this… this is simply too many digressions within digressions. Wherever it was I was heading as a young lad, I was a little upset that the best part of the meal on that flight was missing from my tray: the pickle. I asked the stewardess (no derision, for that’s what we were all calling them back then—though I guess that certainly is a weak excuse) if she could bring me a pickle since I did not get one. The look she gave reminds me now of a look Khandi Alexander might give as Catherine on NewsRadio. The stewardess said nothing, and walked away, leaving her withering stare behind to stir me into verbal rebellion with my friends. I do not have to finish this parenthetical by telling you I never got a pickle.

After Matt and I got our meals, window shade still smoking from the friction of being shut so quickly, my confusion was replaced by indignation. Screw this haughty air whore! I wanted my view! I put my shade two-thirds back up as soon as she moved away.

The sad thing about this is that, while I was in the middle of my little rebellious tiff and indignant fulmination, I was actually cowering inside, wondering if the polyester-enrobed sky harpy might return and some kind of altercation would ensue. Though I was ready to fight, I was cowering because I didn’t want to go through the nonsense of having to do so. Not on a flight to beautiful Hawaii.

The bitter vixen did not return, so I put my window shade all the way back up. The meal was abysmal.

So that, dear friends, is what Matt was talking about. In fact, this has turned into such a fantastic little essay, I’m going to give it a post all its own, an ancillary benefit being that the pathos of the original post won’t be sullied with tales of ill-tempered traveling termagants. (Yes, I had to find that word in the thesaurus.)