Saturday, July 26, 2003

Yes, a new picture. And a new look.

It's about time, as the photo that I took of myself on the can at The Plaza Hotel in New York City has been up there for almost a year. This photo was taken by my great friend Shannon, an amazingly talented photographer.

I will be playing around more with the look of this blog for a bit, as it hadn't really changed since I started it. Same picture, until now that is, and same colors, again, until now. I've grown tired of them. I've changed since then, so will the look of the blog. There are much better ways this site could be designed than the clunky logo and picture side by side, but I know just enough HTML to be dangerous. Dangerously bad. Same goes for Photoshop. One of these days, I've always said, I'll sit down and learn Photoshop and how to design Web pages. However, it obviously hasn't been that important to me or I would have done it by now. I get bored and ancy when sitting for too long at a desk in front of a computer screen. I concentrate much better when what I'm doing involves my hands or some sort of physicality along with my brain. I'm not complaining. It keeps me thin.

At some point, I also want to add a photo blog. That task should be easier. I think there exists some "ready made" McCode for photoblogs.

I haven't gotten to the archives yet, but will. For now, if you want to look at the old picture, especially now that you know the story behind the photo, go to the archives home page.

So alas, Straight from the hip is growing up a bit. Even if I haven't.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

I came across a neat thing yesterday.

I was reading an article on the sword work done in Pirates of the Caribbean, and a name jumped out at me on the page. I thought it sounded familiar, was puzzled for a moment, and then everything came whooshing back. Mark Ivie, swordmaster. Hmm, swords, Ivie, holy cow, it was Mark from Designworks! I worked at Designworks, a car design studio in Los Angeles, for about a year as a freelance researcher on a team designing concept BMW 7-series prototype.

Mark was a jack of all trades at the company, and I'd remembered that he had a second interesting career as a swordmaster. No, not the kind of swordmaster whose skills are filmed on video tape in the San Fernando Valley, but real sword fighting. Blades, fencing, knives, duels. Errol Flynn kind of stuff.

Only in Los Angeles.

Mark had worked on the movie The Mask of Zorro training Anthony Banderas and Anthony Hopkins and choreographing sword fighting scenes. I remember when he showed me pictures from his work on Zorro, which was filmed in Mexico. He had pictures of himself with Catherine Zeta Jones, Anthony Banderas, and Anthony Hopkins. It looked like a lot of fun, and a lot of hard, arduous work.

In the article, he was talking about coordinating the fights between Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom, and the approaches that they took to each character's fighting style. Johnny Depp's was more casual and free, and Orlando Bloom's character was supposed to have been classically trained, so they instituted the difference in styles into the choreography of that fight scene. I wish I had known all this before seeing the movie, as I would have paid closer attention to the fighting styles.

Mark Ivie (left) on the set of "Pirates of the Caribbean" working with actor Trampas Thompson.

I liked Mark, as he was an odd man out in the company of mostly stick-up-the-ass car designers, as was I. I joked with him at one time that I'd like to take up sword fighting, and he was eager to teach. Perhaps I'll see if he's still game when, not if, I get back to Los Angeles.

That article was just another reminder of the interesting souls that I've known in my lifetime and how blessed I am to have come across them, eccentric beings that they are. I miss having coworkers who have such offbeat and cool lives or interests outside of work. I think that Mark has now dropped Designworks for a full-time job as a fencer/swordmaster. As they say, do what you love, the money will follow. And, you just may get to board a pirate ship and sword up some whoop ass on A-list Hollywood hunks in the meantime. What a trip.

Reading that article served as another tap on the shoulder for me to keep moving foward. And I am. Moving forward, that is. And fighting the good fight.

But I'm using my pen, as my sword.

Saturday, July 12, 2003

I went to see Pirates of the Caribbean tonight with my mom and stepdad. I worked from 8:30-5:00, of course arriving my obligatory ten to fifteen minutes late for work, then met them for Thai food before we saw the movie.

I was nervous about seeing a "hyped" movie on opening weekend, wondering if the crowds would be too much. Especially, seeing a 7:30 show. However, all worked out well. The theatre was packed and moist inside since it had been raining outside, but we still managed an aisle seat. After the lights went down things cooled off and dried up considerably.

The movie was fun and enjoyable, and Johnny Depp just blew everyone away as the pirate Jack Sparrow. Talk about letting loose with a character. He must have had so much fun playing him down to the last finger movement. The movie is worthwhile just to see him vamping around like a drunken alley cat.

And, it's nice to see movies having fun again. Even from my old nemesis, Disney.

On the way home, I got promptly lost and ended up driving around suburban Baltimore. Two lane roads, twisty turns, fog sneaking across the roadway. An almost full moon lit the puffy clouds with a silver sheen and bore down on me like a watchful eye. I could have gotten angry, but I had nowhere else to be. Finally, after about fifteen minutes of guess work, one of the roads led to the last thing I expected. Two police cars blocked the way and several others blocked the road from the other side. Red, white and blue lights strobed in the darkness and a fire engine or ambulance was in the middle. Whatever it was, some major PO-lice activity was going on, and it looked serious. At the same time, I'd come to an end of my patience with being lost, and drove up to the roadblock. I got out of the car and asked the officer for directions to the beltway, and he pointed me back the way I had come before turning off.

Turned out that I had been heading in the right direction, and had I not run into the roadblock, would have found my way to the beltway without having to ask directions. However, it was a reminder of how I'm treating my time in Baltimore as temporary. I have no desire to learn my way around and am completely not interested in exploring the surrounding areas or learning anything about the city. It hasn't tapped my adventure nerve or pulled at me to get into the car and drive. I'm okay with being a tourist here, but at the same time it feels strange to hear the names of roads, restaurants, neighborhoods, and weekend spots that are completely foreign to me yet familiar to everyone else.

When I moved to Los Angeles, I was an exploring queen. I'd get out a city paper and a map and pick somewhere to visit. I'd ask the locals what sights I should see and then take off in my car to experience them. I'd drive through neighborhoods, visited practically every museum, and sought out different coffee shops to hang out in. Within a year, I knew Los Angeles very well, better than some people who had lived there much longer.

I've been in Baltimore almost a year, and know almost nothing about it. I haven't been moved enough by any area in town to make an effort to go back there. I cringe when I think that Starbucks is one of my few choices for coffee shops.

Starbucks. McCoffee house. The HORROR.

In protest, my inner explorer has hung up her compass and taken a hiatus. My mom even called Baltimore Magazine to ask one of the editors where the young, forward, and hip crowds hung out, and he said that honestly, there weren't any that he could think of. He named a sports bar, but knew that wasn't the atmosphere she was looking for and apologized. I thought that was very sweet of my mom to make the effort on my behalf.

I think what I miss having is options. It's so nice to know that so many different options are for the taking if you want them. And here, I just don't get that.

Or, they are just too far and in between to find.

Monday, July 07, 2003

I was talking to my friend Felix on the phone last night and looked out the window to see the trees bent over almost 90 degrees from a violent wind. Just seconds ago when I'd looked out before, the trees had been standing still with the occasional sway from a light breeze.

Lightning flashed, thunder boomed, then a torrential downpour unleashed itself on the city. The large heavy drops were no match for the wicked wind, which blew them horizontally down the caverns of rowhouses. I bid my friend goodbye, then walked downstairs to hear, feel, and smell nature's tantrum.

I took this photo with my digital camera, holding the large heavy wooden door open as the wind pounded on it from behind. The wind would gust, then be still, gust, then be still. I tried to steady my hand, but in the conditions it was near impossible. Spray dotted my view finder as the rain beat against the door like strong sea waves. I wiped it off with my shirt, and took more photos.

The damp smell of torrential rain is luxurious to me. When it rains, especially that hard, the sky is connecting with the earth through ribbons of water. Earth and sky are touching each other for a brief love affair, and we are in the middle of it, caught in the meeting of the titans. Sometimes it is gentle, other times it is passionate and ferocious.

And all we can do when they decide to converge, is hold on. Or in my case, meet it on its terms.

I've had my own sudden onsets of fury, mostly happening at work. A couple of times I've wanted to go into the safe room and throw a couple of good tantrums, but don't. Today and yesterday, I wanted to leave work. Sunday, I didn't show up at all.

Today was particularly a struggle, since it was my second early morning in a row and to say that I'm burnt out on the place is an understatement. I've been there nine months, and I'm ready to be born. I've been subconsciously doing mild forms of protest, showing up late or in Sunday's case not at all.

Today I pulled a real beauty and fell asleep during my lunch hour on the bench outside the store. Conditions were ripe for it, a mostly overcast day with holes of blue peeking through the clouds, a soft caressing wind and moist, but not too warm air. Pure comfort and serenity. I secured my hand around my purse, laid my head back and succumbed to my fatigue. I had on a pair of sunglasses that cloaked my eyes, so aside from my slack jaw, it wasn't obvious that I was snoozing. Luckily, I awoke and walked back into the store, through the waddling landbarges, squealing kids, freaking weirdos, badly teased hair crowning cackling women, their gaping bright lipsticked maws revealing grey teeth with more than one gap, ruddy, beaten down men with blank stares looking for their wives, then turning toward the sound of the cackling like a dog who just heard his master's keys at the door, and the occasional but rare regular Joes and Janes just in time to take the helm at the cash wrap.

Did I mention I work in a bookstore, and not Kmart? I'm in the process of looking for a new job, the details that I cannot mention here for fear of jinxing it, and I think the nibbles that I've gotten have made me even more impatient with my current situation. Prone to fits of wanting to punch the wall, or the next sparsely toothed person who says, "must be free" when their bargain book won't scan on the first try. The damage wouldn't be that extensive, as I'd just be knocking the remaining teeth out of their skull that their dental neglect hasn't touched yet.

Many times, I've wondered why I stayed so long. However, perhaps it was necessary for me to get pissed off in order to get on with the program. To feel like that kid again in Topeka who wanted, no HAD to get the fuck out as fast as she could. For me, anger is not a bad thing. It's a motivator. It taps me on the shoulder and tells me to get on with it, and goads me if I fail to heed its urging.

Today, it goaded me. In the morning when looking at the vast ugly complex of the mall, during the morning meeting as I half listened to the managers try to motivate the staff. It goaded me at lunch when I sat on the bench and watched rural Maryland pass by. It stood uncomfortably close to me as a line formed out to the magazines, and snickered when despite several calls for backup cashiers, no one came. It whispered in my ear, reminding me of people who had it better, of when I had it better, of chances I'd missed and opportunities I'd not recognized. Of better times when I went to work every day with smart and innovative people, or when I'd drive up the Pacific Coast Highway in my AudiTT Roadster, top down, the ocean on one side, and the Malibu Cliffs on the other. It hissed, "Bet you never saw this coming during those good times. No one in this line knows that girl ever existed. And moreover, you put yourself here. No one put you here, but you."

And that's when I turn around to face that anger, and say, "You're right, and you're going to help me get out."

Friday, July 04, 2003

Independence Day.

I went down to the Harbor with my mom and two of her friends after eating a 4th of July grilled dinner cooked by my stepdad, Jack. He opted out of the trip to the harbor, nursing sore ribs from falling while jogging, so it was the four of us.

The fireworks were beautiful, coupled with a humid night sitting on the grass near the water. A crowd of families, couples, singles, and hodgepodges of folks like us were gathered to watch the spectacle. During the finale, boats blew their horns, as did a few cargo ships, their loud vibrating bellows almost drowning out the noise of the fireworks. There is nothing more moving than when the world stops to watch something and shows appreciation on such a vast scale. The different sounds of the horns were as varied as the faces in the crowd. Yet we gather for a common reason, to celebrate the nation's independence, and to celebrate us as Americans.

Happy 227th Birthday, America.