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Holly Would, If She Could…

Mood: Aspirin, please
Drinking: Water

So the new job is going well, as long as you don’t count the continual forgetting of people’s names and the constant feeling of having no idea what’s going on. Both of which are cured by time, so I refuse to worry about it. Or to type about it. Or to talk about it anymore, because…BORING!

Instead, I’m going to relive for a few minutes the weekend just past. My darling S and I drove LeeLoo and her canine cousin Yoda down to LA and then spent the weekend in Hollywood, shopping on Melrose and wearing swanky boots.

The long version of the story involves a chapter on how I babysat my sister’s dog, Yoda (also affectionately known as the Yodes, Yoder, Fatty, Stank-ass and Lardbutt.)

The Yodes is part Boxer, part American Bulldog, part Piglet, and we love him dearly in spite of his pimply and porcine naked pink belly. He has a sad history involving a deceased previous owner, full-body hair loss and two years doing time in a Chihuahua Rescue (don’t ask!), but my sister and her husband adopted him in January and his life has been much better since then. The LeeLoo likes to push him around, sit on his head and pout when he gets more attention than she does, but all that really means is that she thinks he is swell. Dumb, yes, but swell.

After a week of dog-sitting, S and I embarked on a 7-hour car ride down the 5 to return the Yodes to his home and spend a little time in Celebrityville. (During which we saw nary a celebrity. The trick to celebrity spotting is that, most of the time, you have to actually be looking for someone who has that entitled air about them. Most of the time I am not looking. And therefore the only time I ever see celebrities is if someone else spots them and gives me the elbow.) Since S gave even less of a shit about fame-seeking than I did, we had a celebrity-free zone in Hollywood and enjoyed ourselves immensely.

We spent most of our time on Melrose Avenue, home of the Serious store and several other little goodie-spots, although it’s not quite as chock-full of goodies as it used to be. My new friend L (formerly of Chicago) informed me that I should give up on Melrose and seek out some other happening spots, but I am lazy and it was too late–S and I had already conquered Melrose, all day long.

L, who is very much in the know about all things LA (or at least much more in the know than I am), took S and I to dinner at the Rainbow Room, right next to the Roxie on the Sunset strip. It’s the kind of place you walk into, out of the sun, and have to stretch out your arms so as not to blunder into the walls and knock off one of the many framed and signed photographs of the used-to-be-famous. See, the Rainbow, as L explained it, was THE place to be in the 1980s if you were a rock star. It’s still frequented by the excessively hairy such as Vince Neil, some guy from Pantera, and, a few weeks ago, Vincent Gallo (who posed for a photo with the suddenly star-struck L).

It’s one of those buildings that has a sense of possibility in the air. Sitting in the circular booth, sipping from mega-sized plastic soda glasses and squinting through the red-candlelit gloom, we could almost imagine ourselves to be three mysterious Somebodies, on the verge of stardom or backstage access or dangerous and disease-causing groupie behavior.

Of course, it kinda ruined the mood when we strolled outside after dinner and it was still light enough out to see the line of hipsters winding around the block by the Roxie, straining for a glimpse of Jared Leto as they clutched their tickets for 30 Seconds to Mars.

But me and S, we had two dogs to feed, a whole batch of new clothes to try on, and a midnight date at Bar Sinister. So we said our goodbyes to L and hit the 10. (All stories about LA must have gratiutious freeway references to the 101, the 405, the 5, the 10, the 110, the 710, and on and on. It’s nothing but freeways down there. Freeways, hookers and unemployed script writers.)

Several hours later, after making the trek from the 10 to the 110 to my sister’s condo, playing with the pups and donning our most luscious and boob-enhancing outfits (two girls, two corsets), S finally got to meet some old friends of mine, the Damnits.

A few years ago when I first moved to California, Boy and I stumbled across Bar Sinister on our first trip south to LA. It’s a gorgeous little goth club tucked on a side street just away from the mayhem of Hollywood Boulevard. And there we found Jeffrey Damnit, an old club-friend of mine from back in the Dome Room days of Chicago. (One of these days I have to write about the Dome Room. It deserves its own long-winded and nostalgic entry.)

I knew he and his blindingly beautiful wife, Star, had moved to California shortly before I did. And I should have expected to run into them at a place like Bar Sin. But for some reason, in California, I am always shocked to run into people that I actually know. I don’t feel like I’ve lived here long enough to have a history, to have random run-ins with old friends.

But there they were, Jeffrey & Star. And it’s been a few years now, but every time I make it to Bar Sin, I’m certain to see them again. So S got introduced to my “Vampireboy” and I got to catch up with old friends AND dance to a bit of NIN, and that in itself made the whole trip worthwhile.

S and I wandered back to the car around 2 a.m., our tired toes complaining inside the confines of our terribly sexy platform boots. Our hair was a bit bedraggled and the glitter was starting to slide off our lashes, but we were flushed with the satisfaction of a very good day. A day that only got better when we got home, kicked off our boots, unbuckled our corsets and crashed into bed.

But for one former punk drummer(yes, she had a mohawk) and one former gothling girl (yes, I had black lipstick), it was just enough of a return to our former glory to keep us happy for another year or so.

-Lo, who makes up reasons to wear those terribly sexy platform boots as often as possible.

The Wicker Chronicles

Mood: Too early to tell
Drinking: Caffeinated beverage

After spending some time reading and re-reading some work by my friend G, I am more convinced than ever that more people should know who he is. Everyone, in fact, should know. There should be shiny hardback volumes with his name imprinted on their spines.

G and I met in the minefield of mid-twenties suburban mega-religion and established a bond over our mutual affection for poetry, snarkiness and the lost wonders of DeKalb.

Upon meeting G, it doesn’t take long to discover that he is a genius. And once he began to share his writing with me, I elevated him to capital GENIUS status. He really is amazing. And although I’m here now and he’s there, he fills my inbox with intrigue every single week, without fail.

This is one of his poems, “Storm”…

“in the sanctuary
hundreds of people open
their good books
and it’s the sound of leaves
rustling in the tops of trees
and all I can think of
is wind and storm,
violence
not love.

the whisper of prayers from
a thousand lips is
a mushroomcloud of moths fluttering
the silver dust from their wings
falling like ash.

the clap of a hundred raised hands
is the distant clatter
of mortars exploding,
all the killing done in
the name of Whatever
flavor of the week
we’re worshipping.

and all the words they use
are bruised and faded,
bleached of worth;
He is hiding in the subtext,
behind tongues,
before birth.

who can hope to understand
the complex mess we’ve made
of earth?

not the books and not the lips
and not the hands

for He is hiding
and is deaf to our demands,

beyond tongues,
beyond death,
such amazing love
to let us live,
breath by labored breath?”

Get more here.

-Lo, who’s getting more G herself very soon. Right, my friend? Dinner. Monday. Downtown.

Still in bed on a Sunday Morning

Mood: Waking life
Drinking: Too lazy to get up and get one

I’m all propped up on pillows with my wicked little laptop whilst the LeeLoo sits here staring at me, all wrinkly and doe-eyed, hoping I’ve got a jar of peanut butter or some other tasty niblet stashed in the bedside table. Boy’s side is empty ‘cuz he’s somewhere in Colorado, heading this way by car with our fabulous friend MTB. After years of baldfaced begging and not-so-subtle hints on our part, MTB is taking the plunge and moving from Gnashville to San Francisco, and we are beside ourselves with excitement about the whole thing. So MTB and Boy, who are former roommates and lifetime friends, are doing the male bonding thing by driving through moutains & desert together for a coupla days.

Believe me, if we could relocate all our friends to our favorite city, we would.

Usually on Sunday mornings I wake up, check the clock and roll back over for my one-day-a-week of uninterrupted sleep-in time. But today, for the first time in a long time, I thought, “Hey, it’s Sunday. And somewhere out there, lotsa people are going to church.” And then I rolled back over.

I used to be one of those church girls. I grew up in it. My parents were sporadic church attenders, but since they wanted my sister and I to get a good education, they sent us to a parochial school. We got a good education and more than our fair share of irrational guilt. Chapel was mandatory. And they (not my parents, the school) guilted you into church attendance, too. Not just Sunday morning, but Sunday night and Wednesday night. “Every time the church doors are open,” was the saying.

The story of how I came to be the non-church-attending heathen I am today is a longwinded tale, and my fingers have just woken up and haven’t eaten yet, so they’re not even going to attempt the marathon typing session that would require. I’ll just say that all those preachers in all those ill-fitting JCPenney suits who pounded their Bibles at us in all those midweek chapel sessions, well, they were wrong.

They were wrong about a great many things. But in this case, they were wrong when they made fun of people who favored the solace of nature over church. I can’t even count the times I heard the example of the “backslidden Christian” who said, “I feel closer to God out in the woods/beach/desert/mountains than in a church, so that is where I do my worshipping.” And all those small-town preachers used to smirk and scoff and say “Can you believe that nonsense? THE CHURCH is where you worship. Among God’s people. Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together! Mutter, mutter, mutter.”

Well, I have forsaken the assembling. I have forsaken it for the woods and the beach. I have forsaken it BECAUSE of “God’s people”. This is not to say that I think all of those who call themselves Christians are to be avoided. My parents, my sister, my brother-in-law, some of my good friends are all church-attending Christians, and I have nothing but respect for them and for the way they lead their lives. They are amazing, loving, kind and brilliant people.

But, truth be told, the majority of Christians I have encoutered in my history of church are to be avoided. And I have done that, rather successfully, for the past 5 or so years.

But there’s this thing that I did that still connects me to the church world, and today that’s what made me wake up and think of pews. Back in 1998, when I lived in Chicago, a friend of mine asked me for a favor. He was speaking at a Christian conference in this really huge (freakish, frightening) church, about Generation X. (Which was, at the time, all the rage.)

Being the GenX poster child that I was, at the time, and being a practiced performance poet (which I also was, at the time), my friend asked me to write a piece about what it meant to be a GenX’er and read it during his session at this conference. He told me that the audience was 99% Baby Boomers and that they had no understanding of my generation.

So I did. I wrote this piece, an essay-type-thing, titled “This is who I am.” And I read it for this audience of Boomers, a couple thousand of them. I read it with absolutely no comprehension of what a big deal it would become.

Seven years later, people still talk to me about that performance. See, it was videotaped. And the video has been copied and sold and sold and sold. It’s been shown in classrooms and churches and conferences. It’s been taken to Norway and Australia and Florida. And this week I received, through this web site, two separate emails from two people who just saw the video.

I would have been a lot more nervous at that performance had I known how long this thing would last. I definitely would have written it differently. Because us GenXers, we’re not the thing anymore. We’re all grown up and having babies and mortgages and making sure our cars have 4-doors. And yet this video, this little speech about a generation gap, it lives on and on and on.

And people somehow still find it relevant. And moving. And powerful, even. And most of these people are church people. They write and tell me they’re praying for God to “bless your ministry.” And although I appreciate the sentiment (I mean, it can’t hurt to have lots of strangers praying down blessings upon you, can it), it freaks me out a little. Especially since my “ministry” consists mainly of being a bitchy, moody, misanthropic poet.

If they come to this website and find this journal with its prolific use of the word “fuck”, I’m sure they quickly figure out that they may not be dealing with a holy roller. (But then, my little GenX piece, while profanity-free, was definitely not a rah-rah sunday school speech.)

It’s just ironic to me that of all the things I have written, the one that has gotten the most attention thus far is an essay written on assignment for the “people of God”.

I have removed myself so far from the land of Christianese that it is always surprising to receive these emails. They don’t come all the time, so usually I have forgotten about the video altogether and then someone will write and say things like, “What a tremendous impact God has been able to accomplish through your efforts. Thanks for being a blessing for the Lord.” And I’ll be all, “Huh?”

I shouldn’t complain. And I’m not, really. I’m just mystified, I guess. And so I sit here in bed on a Sunday morning, all snuggled with the LeeLoo, and to be perfectly honest, just sitting here all contemplative with my computer is better than any church experience I’ve ever had.

So all you folks who stumble across this site having seen that video somewhere, consider yourselves warned. I’m just trying to be up front here: I am not the church girl you might have been expecting. I am happily backslidden. I swear a lot. I worship God in the woods and on the beach. I spend my Sunday mornings communing with my pillow. And I like it this way. I think my faith in God works better this way. Just want to make sure we all understand each other. So I welcome your prayers and your blessings. But not your sermons.

And I am mystified and humbled that a little 7-minute, 7-year-old performance is still making the rounds and moving people enough that they will track me down. But if I were to be completely honest, I would trade all that in-church publicity for a little more name recognition out-of-church.

Because it’s just better out here.

-Lo, who was once asked by a chrome-domed preacher if she was a witch. You know, because “rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft” and all.

Dropping the Ball

Mood: SO over 2004
Drinking: Tea

It’s just another day, really. Turn the calendar, add another year. Yeah, yeah yeah.

I refuse to make any resolutions. Nope. Nada. Huh-uh. If I feel like eating french fries in 2005, I most definitely will. I will also continue to bite my nails and drop the F-bomb and dress the Ler in ridiculous costumes. I will continue to criticize perfect strangers and screen my phone calls and scowl at random children.

If I happen to get nicer, thinner or smarter along the way, well, then, yay for me. But I’m not going to waste my time writing up a ridiculous list to beat myself about the head with later.

I’m not gonna do any countdowns, either. No end-of-the-year top 10s of pop songs or celebrity mishaps or big news events. That’s what TV is for.

I will make one small concession to the New Year tradition, though. Here’s the last list you’ll get from me this year. I’ll call it “Favorite Moments with My Favorite People”. And I’ll even use their real names for once. Here you go, in no particular order:

*Motorcycling with BRUCE.
*Snuggling with the LER.
*Answering the phone and hearing JO say “What are you doing, bitch?”
*Flying down the 5 with CARLY on our way to surprise Jo.
*Sitting on the steps of our new house while BRUCE has his evening smoke.
*Lunch with SARAH, followed by a movie and shopping spree.
*Seeing Yosemite with the WITMER parents.
*Playing phone tag with CHRISSY, complete with diddle messages.
*Random web sites of the day from GRAEME.
*Slinking around Bar Sin with DAMNIT & STAR. Just like old times. Sort of.
*A trip to black sands beach with EO, MICHAEL, ROY, JAN, MISHA & BRUCE.
*A super-long email from KATHEE, just sitting there in my inbox.
*Sharing lunch with COLL & wee little JAKE, before they left me for Texas.
*Watching DENNIS greet LeeLoo with a kiss at Ft. Funston.
*Holding up score cards with MISHA at the Starry Plough Poetry Slam. (We were 2 of the randomly selected judges, and I was the mean judge.)
*Watching our straight-from-the-studio-secret-copy of House of Flying Daggers with the BROWNS.
*SukoThai with JAN.
*Hearing KATIE’s voice on my voicemail on my birthday.
*Watching LEELOO and NELSON do the tango on the hardwood floor.
*Doing Melrose with TRIN & JESSE.
*Wedding dress shopping with JO.
*Yarn shopping at Article Pract with MEREDITH.
*Seeing the MOMMA & the POPPA walking toward me through the airport on Christmas Day.
*Watching ANNA’s face when she saw the Golden Gate for the first time.
*Walking the Ler with SHEL.
*Meeting KATENESS online. Well, we met in real life a long time ago, but not really.
*Reading poetry to SARAH over the phone.
*Welcoming CARLY to San Francisco.
*Getting the Book Crossing addiction from MARGARET.
*Watching CHRIS mix a margarita.
*Sitting for PATTI’S photos.
*Hearing ROY run up and down the back stairs. And up and down again.
*Laying around a cozy cabin at Tahoe with the usual suspects.
*Gossiping with CARLY.
*Visiting Yoda with JO. (Yoda would be a canine, not a small green Jedi-thinger.)
*Bed shopping with BRUCE.
*Walking the beach with LER.

That’s just a few of the moments that made this a very good year. OK. Drop the ball. Toss the confetti. Toot the little paper horn. Countdown and kiss and clink your bubbly glasses and all that jazz.

Happy 2005, Internet. I’m going away now.

-Lo, who did make a list of resolutions once that contained the item “Be nicer to people.” And we all see how well that worked out.

Mine Are Real!

Mood: Candied-out
Drinking: Water

We attended a memorial service for Dennis on Friday. It was sweet and sad and bizarre, all at once. Never been to a memorial service in a dog park before. I think the worst part was seeing Dennis’ dog, Nika, who was very depressed and in a week’s time had already lost a lot of weight. She’ll never have another guy like Dennis.

Neither will we.

In the midst of all the mourning, there have been holiday things to do. My parents are coming to California for Christmas, so Boy and I are all a-flutter trying to get the place ready for parental inspection. Not that they’ll white-glove it or anything. But still. There is a list, and things must be checked off! (Slightly obsessed with the list-checking, that’s me.)

The Christmas tree itself has been crossed off the list rather triumphantly. It’s all green and woodsy-smelling and fabulous-looking. And it looks perfect as seen through the window from the street. (I am so loving the new house, have I said that yet?)

When I was growing up back in Illinois, we always had a fake tree. I’m not sure if it was about tree conservation or reluctance to spend money on the real thing or what, but every year, our Christmas tree came out of a dusty box that had been hibernating in the attic all year long.

For some reason, it became the Witmer family tradition for my Dad and I to put the thing together. In the early years, that wasn’t so hard. All the branches were color-coded and I could just hand them to Dad–first the blue, then the green, then the yellow and finally red. But then the paint got all scraped off and from then on it was a guessing game. We could have made a hilarious-looking inverted tree if we wanted to.

The housecats (who had better manners than the barncats) would always make little nests for themselves among the lower branches. And some of them–the dumber ones–would eat long silver strings of tinsel off the tree. A day or so later, they’d be running around the house with Tinsel Butt. (Which is really funny and very disgusting all at the same time.)

Other Witmer family traditions: Dad did the lights, then the girls (me and Jo) would decorate with various handmade and sometimes hideous ornaments, as far up as we could reach. Mom would always top the tree with the angel at the very end. Oh, and there were real candy canes that were hung on the tree, but they never lasted long, since my Dad and I are peppermint fiends. There was the Christmas Card Door, also. Every single card and picture we received was carefully scotch taped on the living room door (which led out to the front porch and piles of snowdrifts, so it was always closed off with plastic and duct tape during the winter.)

During the years when there was snow, Mom would make snow ice cream from the tallest, freshest snowdrift. Once I learned in science class that snow particles formed around dirt, the concept of snow ice cream became instantly less delicious, but still. It’s hard to resist fluffy, cold piles of sugar.

Boy and I have made an effort to establish our own Christmas traditions since we’ve moved out to the coast. For the past 4 years, we’ve spent Christmas Day alone, just the two of us, (and last year, LeeLoo, too). We open presents in the morning and then drive down the coast until we find the perfect abandoned beach. We do some beachcombing and ocean-gazing and just generally meander about. It’s the most peaceful kind of Christmas I’ve known.

There were a whole lotta years in there where I hated/dreaded/tried to ignore the whole depressing holiday rigamarole. But now that we’ve found ways to make it our own, it’s not so bad. Especially when you can watch your pup tear the wrapping paper off a stuffed penguin while it sings an obnoxious, tinny, christmas carol. When the Ler is around, it doesn’t take much to entertain me.

-Lo, who never once played the virgin Mary in any of those Sunday School pageants.

Fare Thee Well

Mood: Waking up
Drinking: Toothpaste aftertaste

Yesterday my friend S and I took our dogs for a walk at Fort Funston. The Fort is not really a fort, not anymore. It may have been all soldiery and official at some point during World War I, but now it is just rolling dunes with rubbery ice plants, lots of twisted cypress and secret, sandy trails, and cliffs that fall off a hundred feet down to the beach below.

It’s the best place in the city to go dog-walking, because you can let your little pooch run free and wild with hundreds of other dogs. There are crows to chase and lots of butts to sniff and a watering hole with three or four perpetually filled bowls of water. There are caves and buttresses and a long run down a huge dune that leads to “Dog Beach” below. At dog beach you can cavort in the waves and fetch sticks and pee on driftwood–if you are a canine and you’re into that sort of thing.

LeeLoo loves it, and so does her boyfriend Nelson (S’s dog), and we were all having a grand old time–the dogs chasing each other in maniacal circles and S and I laughing at them until our stomachs hurt. I was especially looking forward to the highlight of every trip to Ft. Fun–stopping by the twin benches on the cliff path to see Dennis and his dogs Nika and Rocky.

Dennis is a dog trainer, and he worked miracles with us and LeeLoo when we first adopted her nearly 2 years ago. She was scared and aggressive toward other dogs and was known to try to rip balls off random men for no apparent reason other than that she didn’t like the shoes they were wearing. Dennis helped us turn LeeLoo into the lovable, happy, carefree little lump of a Boxer she is today.

He’s a grizzly looking guy–tall with a beer gut, a windswept white pony tail and a way of yelling that makes you toe the line like you’re in boot camp. He served in Vietnam with the K-9 troops and then ran a school of dog training in New York City for years. He also has a shady story about being on the lam and changing his name for awhile, but when we met him he had been living and training dogs in San Francisco for 20 years or more.

Dennis quickly became more to Bruce and I than just a dog trainer. He was like the gruff and burly uncle you hope comes to family functions. We invited him to dinner at our house so he could meet my mom and dad when they came to visit. He took us to his favorite taco place in the Mission. We’d talk about motorcycles (he used to ride) and sometimes we stopped by his house just to say hi. Despite how tough and hard he seemed on the outside, he was a big old marshmallow underneath. LeeLoo was his favorite pupil, and he’d would cry out in delight whenever we’d stop by the bench after a long walk at Ft. Fun.

“LeeLoo, baby!” he’d yell “Come over here and give me a kiss.” And she would, butt wiggling in glee, and he’d kiss her back. “Look at this face,” he’d tell friends, new students, random passersby. “Now that’s a face only a mother or a dog trainer could love!”

About a year ago, Dennis asked Bruce and I to help him write a dog training manual. He had all the information from years of experience, so he’d get it on paper and I’d pretty it up and Bruce would lay it out and the book was almost finished and ready to go. We saw Dennis last week and he was all excited about it. We made plans to get together for dinner and finish it up.

But when S and I stopped by the bench yesterday, Dennis wasn’t there. Instead, there was a huge pile of flowers and candles and some posters with pictures of dogs. I thought it was weird that somebody left a bunch of crap on a bench, and I kept walking. But S stopped and said “Oh, these memorials always make me so sad. I wonder who’s dog died?” So I turned around to look, too. But then I saw that the pictures stapled to the bench were not just pictures of dogs. They were pictures of Dennis. My Dennis. And they said he was dead.

I’ve seen people cause scenes in public before, shaking and wailing. And I’ve always walked by them thinking, “Calm down, freak!” But suddenly, I knew why they didn’t calm down. They couldn’t. Because I was shaking and wailing. “Dennis! Not Dennis!”

Our friend, our grizzly uncle, died of diabetes complications on Thursday. He was just here, and now he’ll never be here again. He was just here and he was fine. He gave me the customary hug and scratchy kiss on the cheek, “Hi, sweetheart. So good to see you.”

Dennis, wherever you are, we miss you. We mourn for you. And we desperately hope that you have some dogs to keep you company until we see you again.

-Lo, who doesn’t care how maudlin this entry is. It’s something she needed to do.