WWBD- What Would Batman Do?

Do you remember when you were little and people would ask “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

When I was 5 years old someone asked me that question and there was only one answer.

BATMAN.

batman

Watching cartoons, I’d learned about Batman. He’s the secret identity of Bruce Wayne, an American billionaire who witnessed the murder of his parents as a child and swore revenge on criminals. His vengeance is tempered with the great ideal of justice.

I was captivated. Being the Caped Crusader fighting crime was the perfect job….and he had a butler.

Nearing Halloween my mom asked me who I wanted to be.

I planted my feet, put my hands on my hips and said “I want to be Batman!”

“Don’t you mean Batgirl?” She asked, buying into gender roles.

“NO, Mom. I want to be Batman.”

She wasn’t happy. She looked like she had a row of pins clasped in between her lips.

She’d always wanted a little girl to dress up and have tea parties. Instead, she got a girl who wanted to be a superhero and, not just any superhero, a male superhero.

But I stayed true to my Batman self.  I begged until I got the costume for Halloween.

I patrolled the neighborhood to keep it safe…for a year.

I endured a lot of teasing from other kids:

Where’s your bat cave?

Where’s your bat mobile?

Aren’t you a girl?

I learned something about life. Being Batman was hard.

After awhile, I didn’t wear my costume around anymore, but inside I still wanted to be like my superhero.

In 4th grade, I joined the band program to learn to play an instrument.

I wanted to play the trombone, but my parents couldn’t afford one. My dad handed me a beat up instrument case. “Here. You’re playing this,” he said. It was a trumpet.

When I arrived at band class, I sat with all the other kids who played the trumpet.

They were all boys.

The band teacher looked at me, sitting in the row with all those boys, and said “You need to play the bells.”

He took me over and gave me this big silver instrument you tap at with little wooden hammers. “Girls play the bells,” he said.

bells

Plink- Plank- PLUNK.

This was really boring!  I didn’t like playing the bells at all.

Then, I thought “What would Batman do?”

zap_pow_bam

At the end of class, I told my music teacher “I’m playing my trumpet and that’s how it is.”

And I did from then on, earning 1st chair — the best player position–my sophomore year of high school, beating a senior boy.  Actually, the whole trumpet section was still all boys.

LauraTrumpet

After law school, I became a prosecutor at age 24. I was now involved in the real justice system.

But I also looked like something straight out of Legally Blonde.  I had Farrah Fawcett blonde hair wore short skirts and 4 inch heels.  When I walked to court one day, I heard someone say “She isn’t that smart.”

legally-blonde.jpg

After awhile, I convinced myself I should dye my hair darker so I would be taken more seriously. To maximize my IQ, I went all the way and dyed it black. People instantly thought I was smart.

But it wasn’t me.

I thought “WWBD?” Would he change his life to conform to what other people think he should be? No.

So I dyed it back and I won plenty of cases being Legally Blonde.

It doesn’t matter what people think of you.
Be your own superhero

Because in the end, the most important thing to be in life is yourself.

Unless you can be Batman. Always be Batman.

always be batman.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BLOGGING FOR SUICIDE PREVENTION: ONE YEAR LATER

One year ago today I got a phone call no one should ever receive. I’d lost a close friend to suicide.

I assisted her family by taking over her legal practice and obligations, attended the informal memorial service put on by her friends, because her family couldn’t bring themselves to have one, and learned more about her end days. She’d kept her friends separate, like corn silos in a field, so her death came as a surprise.

But it shouldn’t have.

Looking back, I feel naive. The warning signs had been there. Knowing what I do now, she was screaming at me for help, only her words were stopped by the soundproof glass of my uneducated mind.

roommate_1

Am I done beating myself up because I missed the signs? No

Do I still feel anger and grief? Yes. Although it’s less, it’s still there.

Can I calculate the profound loss that rippled out across the world because my friend isn’t here anymore? Never.

Here’s what I have done:

Walked at an  American Foundation for Suicide Prevention “Out of the Darkness” suicide prevention walk in my friend’s honor, reached out to experts to learn what to do/say in these situations, given money to support suicide prevention awareness and given speeches about what I’ve learned to educate others.The good news:  I’ve heard back that a person who heard one of my speeches reached out and saved a friend.

tumblr_m39l55a7ei1rqbgjuo1_500

Suicide remains one of the leading causes of death worldwide.

  • It’s the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.
  • We lose 22 veterans a day in the United States.
  • It’s the 2nd leading cause of death in young people ages 10-24. More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, COMBINED.
  • Each day in our nation there are an average of over 5,400 attempts by young people grades 7-12. 
  • LGB youth are 4 times more likely, and questioning youth are 3 times more likely, to attempt suicide as their straight peers.
  •  Nearly half of young transgender people have seriously thought about taking their lives, and one quarter report having made a suicide attempt.
  • While males are 4 times more likely than females to die by suicide, females attempt suicide 3 times as often as males.

Stop the Silence. If you think someone you know might be considering suicide, ASK these questions:

Are you considering suicide? Do you have a plan? What will it take for you to stay?

download

 

If you’re considering suicide, no matter how hard it is to believe, you will be taking the lives of a lot of your friends and family with you.

Reach out to family, friends or any of the below resources.  You deserve to live.

Logotumblr_nu12tpP7S91u4kbmpo1_500downloaddownload (1)

Cabin in the Woods 2015

Once upon a time there was a cabin built on a pine tree-dotted mountain in Northeastern Arizona. At first, it was a simple A-frame used as a summer home, a respite from the heat of a California desert residence.

cabin

When my parents retired there, some rooms were added, one filled with windows to let in the sun. It provided a peaceful place to watch birds enjoy the plentiful food provided year round.

birdsseedIMG_0934

There was a deck with a porch swing to watch Blue Jays get up their courage to hop down from trees to feast on raw peanuts left on the rail.

IMG_0721 (1)044

A window in the living room with glass shelves displayed a collection of Hummels, porcelain German figurines. Upstairs, ceiling fans cooled a large loft where music by Barbra Streisand, Glenn Miller or Pavarotti might be playing.

When entering the house, the scent of freshly baked bread, cakes or chicken & dumplings filled you. You’d find an assortment of homemade pies cooling on the kitchen counter.  The pantry held boxes of recipes, cookbooks and the ingredients needed, its shelves covered with sticky fingerprints as things were fetched.

My dad would welcome visitors by saying “I’m not well you know”– as he had joked for 20 years. My mom might have a little flour in her hair from cooking or she might be quilting. The house was filled with love, laughter and friends.

dadmad mompiescopy

Then, in 2010, it all stopped. Both of my parents passed on within months of each other.

The next tenant was a neighbor whose house had burned down. She moved in until her home could be rebuilt. Then there was a lovely lady from Sweden who stayed until a family crisis sent her home.

The most recent tenants had a great credit score, no criminal history and were just out of the military. The wife seemed a bit hyper- but anyone on the planet is hyper compared to me, so it didn’t send up any red flags. They paid their rent mostly on time and didn’t seem too unusual. Then, they gave notice that they needed to move out early. I advertised the cabin for rent again, with them agreeing to show the place. I’m in California and most of the property managers I’d interviewed caused more problems than solutions.

One afternoon I received a call from some prospective tenants who had looked at the house…the cabin in the woods was NOT how it had looked in the photos I’d posted with the rental ad

Hopping a plane, I traveled to Arizona with a former military friend, who is easily the scariest person I know. What we found was intermittent destruction.

The minor stuff: The tenants’ dogs had scratched the bottom of doors, curtain rods had been ripped off the frames and bedroom closet doors removed.

Since pictures are worth a thousand words, here’s a tour through before and after photos:

The Hummel display window and shelves had been torn out and the place the shelves had sat were filled in with hammered wood so they couldn’t be used again.

Before Living Room and Window (2)After Living Room Window

The living room and stairs had once featured natural tongue and groove wood paneling. Now, it was painted white and unable to be restored.

Before Stair wall painted white IMG_0753

Random walls were painted dark brown with a wire rack added for no apparent reason.

Before Wall where Wire Rack and painted Brown After Dining Room Wall painted Brown and wire shelf installedIMG_0677

 The carpet in the loft upstairs and a ceiling fan had been removed.

thBefore Loft with Ceiling Fan that was operational After Loft Carpeting and Ceiling Fan Removed

 In the large bathroom, the wallpaper had been partially torn out, a wood cabinet and medicine cabinet removed–revealing a window to nowhere.

After Large Bathroom Cabinets and Wallpaper Removed After Large Bathroom Medicine Cabinet Removed

In the pantry, the doors to the storage and a cabinet had been removed.

After Pantry Without Doors After Pantry Cabinet Removed

The heart of the house– the kitchen– had been painted like a pro in dark brown. But..the cabinet doors, the range hood and the dishwasher had been removed. The hood’s electrical outlet had been drywalled over and the panels in the ceiling lights were removed.

Before Kitchen (4) After Kitchen showing Lights, cabinet doors and dishwasher removed

Now we get to some weird stuff: piles of computers and electronics were in a bedroom and stacked 10×10 feet outside by the garage. The tenants were mining them for “gold.” They even tried to melt them on the barbecue. The cinder driveway and yard was littered with nails, screws, computer parts, glass and other debris. Each time I used a magnet, it took seconds to fill it.

After Electronics Stacked in Bedroom1 After Electronics Stacked by Garage and Backyard IMG_0917 After Debris and magnet from yard and driveway

The best part? They’d used the back of the kitchen cabinets to write in magic marker about conspiracy theory book titles and, randomly,  “Kombucha”. Kombucha is a probiotic drink, written there like someone was going to rip off the cabinet and take it to the store  “Hmm.. what else do I need?”

After Kitchen Cabinet Writing Closeup

Thus began the forced remodel/restoration of the cabin, done over 2 long weekends. Here are a few things I’ve taken away from the experience:

  • It’s great to have friends– even better to have friends who can do electrical work and carpentry. And even better if they are also skilled in weaponry and defense. The tenants had unsecured assault weapons, so it’s nice when you ask “What if they go for a gun?” and your buddy grins and says “That’s when the fun starts!”
  • Those hideous red curtains the tenants kindly left behind make great drop cloths for painting.
  • There is a thing called “Mountain Time.” Do you believe you don’t get much accomplished? Californians operate at the speed of sound and maybe we should slow down, take time to tell stories and reminisce. I’m not sure, however, if it’s a good thing to do when a customer is waiting to ask a question and you’re a Home Depot  or Lowe’s employee. I did, however, become well known enough there that I had groupies.
  • You can get a lot done in between screaming.
  • The local people know things– like how maybe your tenants might have been smoking a controlled substance. Hmm…that explains a lot.
  • Painter’s tape was invented by a demon from that special part of Hell that makes it rip into shreds or come off in jagged pieces, particularly when you’re tired and want to finish.
  • To the electricians who, over the years, put 10 1/2 pounds of electrical crap in  half ounce holes– if you are dead, my friends and I would like to dig you up and shoot you.
  • Taking time to look at paint samples on the walls is for pussies. Pick some colors from cardboard examples, buy the stuff and rock on.
  • Your problems aren’t really as bad as they seem. I hired a painter who told me about his life, how he’d been thrown out of the house at 13 because his dad didn’t think he was his father and he had to live on the streets. He also he has a son with cerebral palsy.
  • My dad used to say “My wants are many, but my needs are few.” I learned all I needed was a pot to boil water for tea, a bucket of KFC and a few hours of sleep.

In the end, the cabin has been restored, rejuvenated and reawakened- ready for a new chapter. We did a lot in six days:

IMG_0907 IMG_0755 (1) IMG_0873IMG_0931IMG_1102

 

IMG_0874 IMG_0743 IMG_0925

Even though it was emotionally hard to put a fresh coat of paint over those sticky fingerprints, this story is once again on its way to a happy ending…after urinalysis and a modern day version of the Spanish Inquisition for the next proposed tenants.

IMG_0758 IMG_0329

WHY I WRITE

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Hey! Get away from my keyboard!

So rude. I hate it when other people’s characters sneak into my head when I’m writing.

*puts out Do Not Disturb sign*

download

I blame it on all the books I’ve read and the movies I’ve watched.  The authors who created places, people and fantastical stories inspired me to think I could come up with something of my own. Occasionally, I have to stop and tell myself, “You know, that’s a bit of a trope. Do over.”

At age eight, I began experimenting with paragraph-long tales written in colored ink and hidden in a notebook. If it was a story about faeries, I added glitter. I wasn’t monogamous. I played around with all types of genres and became addicted.

When I got older, no matter what I wrote, my characters ran amuck. They waltzed in, spoke their lines and sighed with impatience as I typed their words onto the page. They developed characteristics I hadn’t considered.

When had my tough protagonist become such a pussy?

That’s who I am, okay?”  he said, clearly tired of putting up with me.

Maybe it’s a bit like God felt when Eve went for the apple.

Plot twist!

plot_twists

Writing is like Willie Wonka’s world of pure imagination and limited by nothing except grammar rules and plot conundrums.

Like Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Some people are all about facts and reality, while those of us who write are about slipping into another dimension and turning ideas into stories.

Look, I’d love to talk more, but there’s a character that just came in and she’s got a lot on her mind.

Catch up with you in a good book somewhere.

lost_in_a_good_book-t2

My Lessons about Suicide Survival and Support

My last post dealt with the suicide of a dear friend and colleague. It’s been over a month, but my questioning and self-reflection hasn’t ended. The one abiding question for me remains: What can I do to stop this from happening?

Unfortunately, this is a question many of us will need to ask ourselves. Suicide rates have risen in the U.S. and make it the 10th leading cause of death.

warning-signs-new

In the news this past week was the story of Andreas Lubitz, the Germanwings co-pilot who flew himself and 149 people into a mountain. Since then, it’s been discovered he was depressed and he had researched suicide methods and how to secure cockpit doors.

Also in the news was a study showing no link between suicide rates and deployment in the U.S. military. This study has not taken into account some important subgroups of people exposed to combat that might change their  conclusion.

http://www.stripes.com/news/us/new-study-finds-no-elevated-risk-of-suicide-for-servicemembers-who-deployed-to-iraq-afghanistan-1.337875

Military suicides have doubled since 2005. Active duty suicide has increased. Since 2001, more veterans have died by their own hand than in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined. While only 1% of Americans serve in the military, former service members account for 20% of all suicides in the U.S. The Oscar winning documentary Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 put a spotlight on the overwhelming issues being faced by counselors trying to assist those in the military who are considering ending their lives.

veteranssuicide

 Unfortunately, those former troops with the highest rates of suicide don’t often qualify for assistance because they were discharged for other problems or misconduct. http://www.stripes.com/news/former-troops-with-highest-suicide-risk-often-don-t-qualify-for-mental-care-1.337972

Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in young people between the ages of 10 and 24. LGBT and questioning youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide, having one of the highest suicide rates.

youthsuicide

This is a topic that needs to be openly discussed. Unfortunately, the stigma associated with suicidal thoughts and/or mental illness seems to keep society from having an open dialogue about it.

Do you feel uncomfortable talking to someone frankly about their self-harm intentions? Think of it this way: What if you knew someone was going to commit a murder and they had a plan to carry it out? Hopefully, you’d contact the appropriate authority. You shouldn’t feel any different about getting involved if it’s a person considering ending their life. It’s an act of violence, but against themselves.

I’ve met suicide survivors online and have learned more about what to say or do when someone close to you is considering ending their lives. I keep replaying the last conversation I had with my friend. I’ve now learned I should have asked the following questions: “Are you thinking about killing yourself now? Do you have a plan for doing it? What’s going to make you stay?”

Kindness-300x242

Suicide survivor, and Live Through This founder, Dese’Rae L. Stage was kind enough to share some of the things she has learned photographing and speaking with other suicide attempt survivors.  Ms. Stage speaks about suicide and raises awareness, including my own. I highly recommend reading the stories of survivors at her website to get a better perspective of the varied motivations of people who feel like ending their lives. http://livethroughthis.org/

Per Ms. Stage, there are things you should not say. These include: Suicide is selfish and You have so much to live for! She says to tell the person that you love them and support them. If they’re in imminent danger, have them engage with you so you can get them help. Stay involved in their lives to make sure they have a voice in their own treatment and/or recovery by offering to be their advocate. The most important things are to be supportive, receptive and loving. She cautions that none of this will be easy.

HELP-logo

Sam Dylan Finch is a contributing writer for Everyday Feminism, the founder of Let’s Queer Things Up, his blog, and a suicide survivor. He recently wrote an article titled 7 Ways to Actively Support Attempt Survivors. He reminds us of several important facts: 1) Not everyone who attempts suicide will die. 2) One-third of people who attempt suicide will try again within one year. 3) People who have attempted suicide before are at greater risk to attempt again. http://letsqueerthingsup.com/

Most of the survivors whose stories I’ve read wanted and needed loving support, and still do. In the recent book by Jon Ronson, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, he discusses people who have posted to social media then been the recipients of world-wide sturm and drang by people judging and commenting on their actions. Imagine taking that same form of judgment and applying it to suicide survivors, who already feel vulnerable. They get labeled as selfish, unstable, pathetic and other equally judgmental terms rather than receiving understanding and support. It’s not okay to shame and/or label people who are already struggling with mental health issues. Would you approach a cancer  survivor or any other near-fatal disease survivor and say “Wow, I can’t believe you survived. We’re not going to hire/support/care about you because that was selfish.” (Although any cancer survivors are told about how cancer comes back and they’re going to die, but that’s another story.)

I’m not an expert. I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve tried to educate myself since my friend’s death. Now that I know the stats, I’ve come to realize how prevalent this is.  Because of this, I wasn’t shocked when, just yesterday, someone told me about her suicide attempts.

I’ve learned these lessons:

  • When someone wants to talk about suicide,  listen and try to help.
  • Don’t  ask for details or to intrude in their story, but fully hear the survivor’s narrative.
  • Let them know you care and will be there to help get them treatment and any further support they might need.
  • Don’t use the phrase “I’m going to kill myself”  in a joking way about trivial matters . It isn’t funny.
  • Don’t judge, use labels or shame suicide survivors. 

suicide-is-preventable-600-ts300

Here are some great organizations who help attempt survivors and some prevention hotlines:

Military Veterans Support: http://www.veteranscrisisline.net/

The Trevor Project (LGBTQ Support) : http://www.thetrevorproject.org/

Grief Speaks (A discussion of grief, including suicide survivor support)  http://www.griefspeaks.com/

International Suicide Hotlines: http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html

Live Through This (Stories of Suicide Survivors) : http://livethroughthis.org/

Logo

Remember, if you’re going through this, I care. You can always contact me via email at this site (click on the About Me tab) and I will listen.

6Z3o5

Blogging for Suicide Prevention:Ode to a Friend

Four days ago I answered my phone and was greeted by the sound of weeping. The call was to notify me a friend and attorney colleague had died by suicide, and I was being contacted because she’d left a note for me to take over her cases.

I’ve never lost anyone to suicide. Death isn’t a stranger, taking both my parents in 2010 within four months of each other, and many others over the years. Yet, the news of my friend’s final act shoved me into shock.

buddha-grief-quote

There were two immediate questions: How and Why?

The How was easily answered. At midnight, she’d stepped off a 200 foot bridge, a location that’s a suicide magnet in our area. Had she looked out at the lights of the downtown skyscrapers and peacefully left the ledge, her eyes on their twinkling beauty, or had she stared at the water churning below and cast herself into it, wanting desperately to end whatever pain she’d been feeling? I knew she’d made a previous suicide attempt years before and now, perhaps, she needed a certain near-guaranteed finality.

369763048_1280x720

It’s the second question, the Why, that lingers. Speculation and piecing together events will never resolve this. Her detailed notes about what to do with her cases, the list she left of her online passwords, a handwritten letter to her father, the thoughtful paying of her office rent through the coming month…these are acts of someone clear-headed and prepared. On her last day she was seen in court, laughing, talking, smiling and going through her normal routine. Was it because she knew that at midnight she’d drive to her final destination and it would be over and whatever pain she felt would be gone?

download

Initially, the guilt bus rolled in and stopped in front of me with questions. Why couldn’t I have saved her? What could I have done? What had I missed? I replayed all conversations I’d had with her over the past five months. I knew she’d felt increased anxiety and was desperately trying any method, both holistic and traditional, to combat it. Things began to spiral when her mother, who had abandoned the family years before, resurfaced. A few weeks ago, we’d had a long talk. When I’d first answered the phone, her voice had been panicked but, as we explored her feelings, she’d calmed down. I’d offered assistance if she needed me to make court appearances. I’d told her she could call me any time to talk. Then, on her birthday, I’d called and gotten her voicemail. I’d left a message and she’d texted me back, all happy and normal with a smiley face rounding it out. Four days later, she was dead.

jumper

In addition to my guilt, there’s anger. As coolly and calmly as she’d planned for the ramifications of her death, she actually left things in a bit of a mess. Her accounts were frozen. Her office had to be packed up by her grieving father, the certificates removed from the walls, the hidden chocolate thrown out, the contents of her desk and credenza explored. As I helped and locked down my feelings of grief, I wanted to shake her for the anguish I saw in her father’s eyes as he dutifully taped together boxes to pack her things in. My mind played a loop of “What a WASTE” over and over.

Suicide-doesnt-take-away-the-pain

When Robin Williams had killed himself, she’d blogged about how she could relate, and what she was doing to not go down that road. She was smart, always exploring her feelings. She attended self-improvement workshops nearly every weekend and sought ways through alternative treatments and exercise to stay healthy.  As another mutual friend put it so well, she looked like a duck on a lake. Serene, floating along, but under the water where no one could see, her feet were paddling like mad.

duck

Here is where I could list a bunch of statistics about suicide and mental illness. I could talk about how there’s a guy at the State Bar who has dealt with lawyer deaths for 20 years who kept his voice as calm and quiet as a person whispering in church when he spoke to me about what to do about wrapping up my friend’s practice. Or how there’s been at least five lawyers in this county in the past few years who have taken their lives and how the added stress might have contributed. Or how everyone who knew her is still reeling with their own versions of the WHY question and seeking answers.

All I know to say to anyone who is considering ending their lives is:

No matter how isolated you feel, there are people who will be profoundly affected by your death.

No matter how carefully you plan things, you’re going to leave loved ones and friends picking up the pieces.

People LOVE you and want you to stay, even if you are having a hard time believing it.

We will do ANYTHING to help you.

Please let us.

tumblr_m0jqs8aYSv1rnhavso1_500

Logo

OUTSIDE THE USA: http://www.iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/

The Hobbit: The Battle of Peter Jackson’s Ego

Spoiler Alert: Please don’t read any further if you haven’t seen The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies. That’s it. I warned you. 

Yesterday I went to see the final installment of The Hobbit saga with a crowd of moviegoers who were either unsure what to do on Christmas or who wanted an excuse not to have to talk to their relatives for 2 hours and 24 minutes.

I wondered if J.R.R. Tolkien would be happy that Peter Jackson had used some of Tolkien’s obscure notes to stretch his slim Hobbit tome into three bloated…A dragon! Lots of fire! A dragon!

dragon
The dwarf king, Thorin Oakenshield, his crew and our hobbit Bilbo Baggins watch from the mountain as Smaug lays waste to Laketown. Thorin’s mind has been tainted with “dragon sickness,” known today as capitalism.

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG

Meanwhile, his merry band of dwarves do nothing while he threatens them and acts like a general asshat.

fqjfh

The people of Laketown have been promised a share of the treasure, but Oakenshield goes back on his word. Thandrial, King of the Elves, shows up with an army and a flimsy excuse that he wants a jeweled necklace that’s in with the treasure. What he really wants is money to pay for the moisturizer all his elves religiously apply to keep their skin glowing before battle.

HBT3-fs-340682.DNG

All the main characters ride some type of animal. The representative of the men, the Bard, rides a horse. Well, he tries. Thandrial rides a moose while his personal hairstylist follows with a brush.

elfmoose

Dain Ironfoot, another dwarf king, shows up on a…pig. Yes, it has tusks, but it mainly looks cute and completely useless for battle, except maybe for a post-victory luau.

0poyS6j

Then, when Thorin shakes off his crazy and decides to go to war, he and his men get to ride Rams they got from….Um, anyone?

Meanwhile, Gandalf has been captured by orcs and held in an iron cage. (Watch Fellowship of the Ring to see he didn’t learn his lesson about this) Elf queen Galadrial shows up to rescue him.

fqmca

When she has to fight off Sauron, the dark Lord, she turns into a green, glowing zombie queen from Hell. This is the same image she showed Frodo in Fellowship of the Ring, when she refused the one ring’s power, stating it would turn her into a dark queen, beautiful and terrible. (Yes, I’m paraphrasing.) Was Peter Jackson just using old footage to save money v. having Galadriel use a white light of goodness?

galadriel

Finally, the Battle of the 5 Armies. Men, Dwarves, Elves, Orcs and…Eagles. Giant eagles who snatch up an unsuspecting grizzly bear, minding his own business while eating honey and catching salmon, and drop him into the fray. Wow, is he pissed. (Yes, I know it’s Beorn who has transformed into a bear, but imagine if it was just a bear…)

The orcs get the crap knocked out of them despite their immense numbers due to aluminum foil armor, or some other reason. War bats fly in, mainly to look cool.  Legolas defies the law of physics by catching a ride to a place he needs to go by grabbing one’s feet. I don’t know about you, but most animals that get grabbed unwillingly by someone the size of a person probably aren’t going to be happy about it. Maybe this little bat trip was so we wouldn’t question Legolas not falling from a stone bridge that disintegrates beneath his feet while fighting an orc and running up stairs made of nothing but air.

legolas

The remainder of the movie goes like this:

Alfrid Lickspittle of Laketown is a coward who dresses as a woman to hide and makes off with enough treasure in his bra to give him size E stripper boobs. We’re all bummed when an orc doesn’t get him.

A large, grotesque monster courteously waits to kill the Bard’s children until the Bard can cascade down a path in a wooden wagon and save the day.

Kili the Dwarf and Tauriel the Elf play Romeo and Juliet, but only one dies.

fqmjp

Thandriel shakes his golden hair and advises his brokenhearted son Legolas to forget Tauriel and to go find Strider. That’s actually good advice because Strider (a.k.a. Aragorn) is so hot he’d make anyone forget being dumped for a dwarf.

AragornLegolasTTT71_from_namarie120

Thorin doesn’t know that when your enemy is down, a good double tap will make sure he doesn’t come back. Maybe it’s because that’s a hard thing to do with a sword.

Bilbo Baggins makes it back to the Shire with The One Ring, leading you to rewatch (and/or watch if you’ve been under a rock since 2001) the Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and Return of the King.

hobbit

It’s a last goodbye to Middle Earth. I bid you a fond farewell.

A Halloween Story

Since it’s October, it seems apt that I tell a scary story. It begins when I get notice to move from my landlord. Within a day, I find a suitable place just a few streets away and negotiate a lease for less money than the place is advertised for. Sounds good, right? Do you remember that saying about if it’s too good to be true, it probably is? Keep remembering it.

download

A week later, I receive a call from the property manager, I’ll call her “Sara.” She tells me the landlord has changed her mind about renting to a person with a cat and wants full rent. I tell Sara that I will pay full rent and write an addendum to the lease that if my cat dismantles the place brick by brick, undoes the plumbing, remodels the cabinets and excoriates the rug, I will pay for any damages. I receive a text that Sara has a call into the landlord. Then I hear nothing and, after several days, start to worry. I call a realtor friend, Andrea, who calls Sara. Andrea tells me everything is fine because Sara told her there’s a signed lease in place, presumably mine. That night, Andrea runs into Sara’s best friend and they put in another call to Sara about the place. Sara tells her best friend she’s rented it out- -to someone other than me.

I text Sara. I tell her she should’ve informed me the place had been rented to someone else. She texts me back claiming the place is NOT rented to anyone and that she had told me I was not getting the property. For all you sci fi fans, this is proof of an alternate dimension and someone living in it.

poster.50ftwoman

Now, I have 2 weeks to find another place to live and to move. What I thought would be a leisurely move to a nearby location has become a stress situation. Andrea looks, I look and we finally find a quaint place with a slight ocean view. The only problem is I will have to downsize because it’s smaller and doesn’t have a garage. I get another lease negotiated for less rent and the paperwork is signed.

I put up all my excess furniture for sale on Craigslist San Diego, one item being my desk. I love my desk, but it’s a 5’10” x 5’10” hulk. I see a man has posted a photo of my exact desk and he wants one. I let him know I have a desk that matches his needs and he emails me that he’s happy. Then I hear nothing. After a week, he contacts me and wants more photos of the desk. I take more and send them. Then he wants photos of any scratches, the drawers, the doors and more. I send them. He waxes praise about the desk and how it’s perfect. I ask when he can come and get it because it’s been two weeks of emails with him and time is ticking. I now have 2 days to be out. He says this is a problem because…he’s in Portland, Oregon! I tell a friend about this experience and she says she had the same thing happen to her. Perhaps there are people who troll Craigslist who are desk fetishists, looking to virtually meet the right desk.

deskfetish

Another Craigslist couple contacts me regarding some of the antiques I’m selling. They show up, look things over, definitely want a few pieces…and bring no money. They also rifle through the items I had put out for a yard sale I was having, stack up a bunch of stuff and say they will contact me the next day so I can price everything they want and they will come and pay me for it. I don’t hear from them until 10 p.m and I’ve already redistributed their pile into the sale. I’m told they can’t come by again and not a word about the furniture they desperately wanted.

If you want to be scared this year, don’t go to a haunted house. Go  to a yard sale.

craigslist

My first customer is a woman in hippie attire with long grey hair slowly surveying  the sale. She picks up items then lets out a loud and long moan/hum as she scrutinizes each one. She pretends to be dim, but her sharp eyes catch sight of the Harry Potter Lego collection and she became a shrewd wheeler dealer. Fortunately, my daughter drives a hard bargain.

HTB1ykQnFVXXXXXgXFXXq6xXFXXXE

Then we have to endure a father with a 12 year old son who’s still not old enough to be embarrassed to be seen with his dad. He should be. The guy picks up numerous items, making a wisecrack or demeaning remark about each one while his poor kid pretends to find this all amusing. Then Dad wants to see the Lazy Boy recliner I have for sale. He nearly wrecks it by slamming it back into the reclined position like he’s tackling a linebacker. Apparently satisfied with his Mock Fest, they buy $4 worth of piano music and depart.

images

In the middle of all this, the realtor who is selling the house I’m moving from sends a young couple over, telling them I will show them the house. I didn’t know I had a real estate agent license, nor was there any discussion about a possible commission if I did sell it.

The wealthy people are the worst. Several come by just so they can sniff disapprovingly at things. A couple with a small boy won’t pay $20 for a $250 music box, acting like I’d insulted them. To make up for it, I give them one heck of a deal on a toy accordion for their son. He whales away at it, making screeching noises so disturbing I hope they finally recognize it’s the sound of karma .

fairy-tale-world

On moving day, everything is packed, organized and disassembled except the entertainment unit. I’d hire a guy off Craigslist who specializes in moving antiques. Let’s call him “Joe.” I’ve used Craigslist the past two moves and never had a problem. The first problem I see when Joe shows up is he’s FAT. Who moves furniture for a living and is fat? When he sees the entertainment unit, he exclaims “I can’t possibly move that!”  After that auspicious start, he walks through every room, gasping like he’s never seen a piece of furniture before and exclaiming about the problems he will have moving it. To top things off,  he speaks to me like I’m back in preschool. ” I have a big twuck and you have to go weally, weally slow when I follow you to your new house…”

After Joe leaves later that day, I get a piece of paper and write something for our gratitude jar. It says “I’m grateful I didn’t kill anyone or myself today.”

self-restraint

We settle into our new place and…what’s that smell? The windows have been open for a few days, it’s not just a musty odor. I’m suspicious when we start to cough and sneeze. I hire a guy and get a lab report because the former prosecutor in me doesn’t accuse anyone without proof. Lurking in the kitchen and both bathrooms is….MOLD. The normal number is 1400 spores per cubic meter. In the kitchen alone it’s 19,000 spores. And my mold expert sees evidence there was previous mold testing. Not a good sign. I type up a lengthy email to the property manager, detailing 10 problems with the place, of which one is the herd of cockroaches my cat is occupied with annihilating, and ending with the M word.

moldcover

After finally seeing the problem (namely, me) won’t go away quietly, the property manager lets me know there was a water leak in the kitchen about a year ago. What the clean up will entail is unclear at this point, but it involves words like HEPA filters, mold remediation and insurance underwriters. I might even have to move again. If I do, I know who I won’t be calling.

In the meantime, if you want to be scared for Halloween, come stop by my kitchen.

basement-mold

Nine Inch Nails and My Spontaneous Life

Yesterday I was reading the local paper (don’t ask me why I still do this) and noticed that Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden were playing a concert at the Chula Vista Ampitheater, formerly Coors Ampitheater, now Sleep Train Ampitheater, which is rather embarrassing to even say. I knew NIN was my daughter’s favorite band. We’ve been under a lot of stress packing and getting ready to move so I casually ask her “Want to see Nine Inch Nails?” Of course, she does. “When is it?” TONIGHT.

NIN

I get online and find 4th row tickets for a shockingly reasonable price. I purchase them and follow it up with an online chat with a representative about the logistics of receiving them. She says she’ll call me back after she gets with the seller. I go back to packing. Time goes on. I finally check my email and there are 3 increasingly urgent messages from the ticket people. I call. They are very sorry, but they can’t fulfill the order. They will give me a discount coupon worth $50.

concerttickets

I find tickets that are VIP access in the mysterious row d, not D. I call and no one seems to know where this is. I figure with VIP parking, they’re probably good. I purchase them. I call to find out the logistics of receiving the tickets and am told that I can be emailed the tickets, but I won’t get any of the VIP privileges. Oh, and d was a typo, it’s row D or the 4th row again. They offer me $100 off or 3 extra tickets, but I decide it’s all kind of odd and decline.

By now it’s 4 p.m. The concert is at 7 p.m. and I still don’t have any tickets. For the same price as the mysterious VIP tickets, I find 2 front row seats that can be emailed to me. I buy them and follow up with a phone call. I get a delightful representative in Texas who is wondering why someone my age (over 30) is going to see NIN. Gee, thanks? Uh, they’ve been around awhile and “older” folks do go to concerts.

old-woman-cigar

Finally, I get the tickets and we race to the border to the concert venue. Race? If 10-20 mph traffic for 35 miles can be called that. Then we were subjected to a full pat-down and purse search before being allowed in. Was I attending a rap concert in an inner city by mistake?

patdown

We missed early opening act Cold Cave and they’re setting up for Soundgarden. We are in front row, center seats! To our right is a beer drinking couple who probably wouldn’t cause trouble if you paid them. They were quiet, shy and had their tickets for months. The man professed to be a fan for 20 years of NIN, but had never listened to Hesitation Marks, NIN’s newest effort.  My daughter said just contemplating that made her mad and that he shouldn’t have even come to the concert. Judgmental? Us? Then there was the duo on our left, a female lawyer and her male makeup artist friend who she always introduced, repeatedly, as “my GAY friend.” How about just “friend?”

gayfriend

Soundgarden played an eleven song set, for which I was enthusiastic for about seven. I knew a lot more of their music than I thought I would, including the one that seems to stick in my mind most, Black Hole Sun, perhaps because I had to hear (and hate) it so much.

021_edited-1

The lead singer, Chris Cornell, was Mick Jagger thin in the de rigour tight jeans, t-shirt and poodle mop hair.

032_edited-1

Lead guitar was Kim Thayil, ranked 100th greatest guitar player of all time by Rolling Stone magazine.

043_edited-1

His bass man was Ben Shepherd, who spent most of the concert looking immensely bored, randomly knocking over things or swinging some type of plastic rope, kind of like a fat sadomasochist. At the end, he just chucked his bass over his shoulder onto the floor. I know it was the last concert of a long tour, but still.

036_edited-1

After men in black swarmed the stage to transition it for Nine Inch Nails, out comes a small man in a black skirt/legging outfit and he starts playing “Copy of A.” That’s Trent Reznor? I think. We’d seen NIN in LA at the Staples Center last year, but we were in the nosebleed section. Up close, it’s a whole different world.

062_edited-1

The energy, the nonstop music and beat of a fabulous seventeen song set made the whole experience feel like we’d only been listening for five minutes. It was fun to watch Trent’s young stage hand jump up and down from the stage with microphones, water bottles, wires and more. The concert was dotted with calls (typically by men) of “I LOVE you, Trent!” and wafts of weed. What photos I could get were lucky because smoke and burn your retinas lighting was a prime factor in the production. Not fun was getting splashed with a large glass of beer someone decided to chuck at the stage and having a glowering mountain of a security guy occasionally plant himself in front of me, typically when I was about to get a pretty good photo.

049_edited-1

088_edited-1

Of note, Trent sang “Closer,” which he had gotten bored with, but brought back for his fans on what might be his last tour for awhile. He closed it out with “Hurt,” from his Downward Spiral album. It’s a song filled with emotional loss and his pain radiated off of him as he sang it, tears in his eyes. Or maybe sweat. I’m not sure.

099_edited-1

At the close, after I complimented the stage hand on his hard work, he gave Kat a copy of the NIN set list as a souvenir.

NIN2014SetList

The concert was exactly what we needed to renew our energy and take us away from the daily grind of life. I now have a taste for front row seats and life is going to be an expensive, but fun, proposition.

LaKat

Why My iTunes is Library is Like Life

Rock, Country, Alternative, Blues, Jazz, Dance, Electronic, Folk, Hip-Hop, Rap, Experimental, Industrial, Instrumental, Classics, Metal, New Age, Pop, Psychedelic, Soundtrack, Unclassified…

I love music and these are just a few of the categories listed in my iTunes library. I’m still old school enough to subscribe to Rolling Stone magazine and scour it for new artists and music whenever it arrives. This has led to a diverse collection and it isn’t the only place I check out music, so exciting new tunes regularly find a home with me.

music

When my sizeable library ate up the space on my computer, I transferred it all to an external hard drive. That was great, until the external eventually ran out of room and I bought a new external with more storage space. What came after that has been an ongoing, epic battle fraught with peril and leading to new problems.

My playlists are gone, my music folder isn’t named iTunes library anymore, there are duplicates galore, music is scattered all over my computer and external in various places. I’ve bought program after program to try to reign in the terror and get it all back under control, with little to no luck. The programs either freak out and stop working when they see the size of the problem or completely refuse to work and throw up an error box whenever I try to launch them.

iTunes-Error

What began as an enjoyable diversion morphed into a problem that, because I’d neglected it due to other things going on with my life, turned into a mega mess. It’s like The Little Prince and his discussion about the Baobab trees.

A baobab is something you will never, never be able to get rid of if you attend to it too late. It spreads over the entire planet. It bores clear through it with its roots. And if the planet is too small, and the baobabs are too many, they split it in pieces . . .

littleprince

“It is a question of discipline,” the little prince said to me later on. “When you’ve finished your own toilet in the morning, then it is time to attend to the toilet of your planet, just so, with the greatest care. You must see to it that you pull up regularly all the baobabs, at the very first moment when they can be distinguished from the rosebushes which they resemble so closely in their earliest youth. It is very tedious work,” the little prince added, “but very easy.”

If I’d taken the time to figure out how to properly move my iTunes library to a second external hard drive, even though it might have taken some time to carefully read and understand how to do it, it also would’ve saved me the mess it is now. After spending way too much time on this issue, with little/no good results and fear I’ll completely lose my collection somewhere along the way, I see a trip to the Genius bar at the Apple store in my future. Or hiring a teenager who will get it all together in seconds.

From now on, I will try to stay on top of things and not let them get out of control. When I wake in the morning, I’ll say “Beware the Baobab Trees!” and deal with problems before they explode my little planet.

alfredamontapert109332