Saturday, July 24, 2010

TV Lovers Take Comicon

My cohort and I are obsessed with television. Movies. Books. Celebrity gossip rags. Anything that requires very little finger lifting and unlimited entertainment. Bucket list, shmucket list. Attending even one day of Comicon is an experience for having, an overwhelming, crowded and kind convention for lost boys and girls. The comic book turned everything-that-sparkles-on-paper-and-in-the-blue-light-of-film event draws well over 100,000 people into the San Diego Gaslamp Quarter each year. Flanked by stormtroopers and Ugly Dolls, Lara Croft and Alice out of Wunderland, beneath True Blood banners and surrounded by session rooms that seat 5,000 and exhibits that are surprisingly sparse on the freebies, we flew.

The day began in an elevator in which I'd like to call home, unroll my knapsack and catnap dream with frenemies. For a convention birthed from the mind grapes of comic nerds, the most marketed and signage dedicated agenda items were surprisingly for the HBO vampire and Showtime anti-hero following. Us nerds took camaraderie in the long lines and need to attend sessions before the sessions we really wanted to go to in order to gain entry let alone a good seat.

A seat neighbor from Portugal missed Charlaine Harris, the author of the Sookie Stackhouse novels and thus the mind grape behind the True Blood HBO series, on her visit to Lisbon--so we chatted him up about his thoughts on why glamouring can't be used to coerce for entry into a home and why lemon juice and iron are dangerous to sharp-toothed faires. Very few questions were asked of Ms. Harris in the author's inkpot award session that we all didn't want to know the answers to ourselves. And a few were thrown in there that fell to our amusement. Hint: Don't confuse the books with the show and ask the novelist about a script she's not involved in since rights payday. Though if I was in her shoes ... Well, I'd just be high on Alexander Skarsgard acting out my prose. Sign my Comicon program, Ms. Harris, this here True Blood cast spread.

We also met fellow Dexter fans while wishing and hoping to get into a session room 100 times the size of my condo, for a panel that was at once fascinating and funny. I can't imagine what the Tron and Megamind gathering held. Oh yeah. Lines quindoopling the size of Dexter's that make me question my free time. But the whole trip fast became worth every sore foot muscle and penny and panic. And the trickery involved to get a limited autograph signing ticket helped too. And the swag bags the size of people's bodies. And the vampires who reside in the elevator.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Job No Longer

I feel like my job got up and walked away. After a series of conversations that started with the inevitable notice of a Navy wife and ended with a handshake and smile from human resources. But I lost a friend. My job. My routine. My favorite latte and chats with irreplaceable peeps. My ability to make money writing. (Gotta work on getting that back.) And keeping the hope that social media will keep the best conversations alive.

My going-away party (which would normally have been full up of awkward compliments and goodbyes and vacant stares over something sweet everyone knows will go straight to their ass) was actually pretty sweet. I got my own 'what wil happen to my workload' podcast, my own 'what will happen to Esri events writing' article, my own GIS fleece and Lakers T-shirt, an XL chocolate cake with raspberry and a slice that included one of the giant frosting flowers. So on my sugar high, sitting in my friend and coworker's wheelchair (the best seat in the house in meetings), I instead pocketed the compliments into the vault next to all the secrets, and saved the goodbyes for as much avoidance as possible at the end of the day before sneaking off to HR.

Below are some quotes shared by my cowriter in an e-mail invite to a writers bon voyage happy hour at Mu.

Happy trails to you, until we meet again. Some trails are happy ones, others are blue. It's the way you ride the trail that counts. —Dale Evans

Parting is such sweet sorrow. –William Shakespeare

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch. – Garrison Keillor

It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday. – Boyz II Men

Leave them while you’re looking good. – Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, It might have been. – John Greenleaf Whittier

I must be traveling on now 'cause there's too many places I've got to see … I'm as free as a bird now and this bird, you'll cannot change. – Lynyrd Skynyrd

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Underbelly

I'm fast becoming one of the world's worst women.

Without the melodrama, let's just say I have my moments. And sometimes they last hours. Days.

Not only did I consider leaving my adopted cat behind while I move to Florida for the only reason of what do I do before her litter box arrives (apparently pet stores do exist outside the valley), but I left my dog in 110 degree heat for three days. The biggest user conference of the year for my mapping software employer occurred this week. And in the hustle to grab supplies from work, pack, and set up some timed blog posts and tweets, I pawned my dog off at the last minute--just swing by midday Wednesday for a food and water fill. Didn't check the weather. Didn't follow up with the poor sap. I get a text message mid-GIS for trail management session from husband. The neighbor called. She's been hearing Butters whine for two nights. She slipped in the gate to check on her. No water. It's so hot out. She takes Butters in.

Thoughtless, thoughtless woman I am.

I take the early bus home from the San Diego Convention Center, back to Redlands. I listen to another employee suffering from food poisoning or God knows what else in the bus bathroom, retching for a good 45 minutes. My mind runs over the early morning phone call I got from the moving company that's scheduled to come out in a week and half and pack up our possessions. I remember a friend's suggestion to bring over and inventory other people's expensive stuff. A second laptop. An extra mountain bike. It's gone! I need reimbursement. Tsk, tsk. Bad, Aly.

I keep drifting back anxiously to thoughts of Butters sunburnt and dehydrated and lonely. Her eyes aflame from her allergies. I find more guilt with how I'm waiting until her final physical before flying to pick up some fucking allergy medicine for her since everyone likes to add to my guilt by pointing out that her eyes are so darn red. Is that right one a little swollen? She's so timid, I bet she was abused. Sign. No! She's just shy. It's her personality. Good god, people. Oh wait, right. Wretched pet mom with a short fuse, that's me.

At home I race to the neighbor's. A warm and friendly face and three happy dogs greet me at her door, Butters among them. She's alive!!! After a plethora of thanks yous and understanding comments from a surprisingly angelic neighbor (I didn't know those existed), I realize maybe finding a lover of dogs who weigh over 10 pounds is the key.

While I let Butters gulp down fresh water, wipe sweat off my upper lip, and shove my bags in my bedroom, I contemplate giving the abused pup a bath with the cold hose water in the backyard. I lean against the kitchen counter and rub my neck muscles, soar from computer life. Then Dot barfs. On the stove. All in the grate that sits atop the big left burner. I'm starting to tear up. I want to call husband immediately and complain and maybe scream a little and cry. I want to scream at myself for almost giving into that bad decision that only draws the love of my life into a can't say anything right Web. So I just cry. Hard for 30 seconds. Then I drag Butters into a cold shower with me.

When we reappear, clean and cool, the barf is gone. Dot ate it all back up. Super.

Only a fewNo one was drawn into the underbelly of my day. And now I can curl up and blog about San Diego with the Crystal Light pitcher I down every week and two pets whose lives are in my hands, and whose lives I will try my best not to screw up.

*     *     *     *     *

My world is changing. ESRI is now Esri and pronounced Ez-ree. I'm beginning to find another hole of depression where all the Ezree coworkers that I do adore are going to go when I move. I'm trying to realize permanently that some people will just never like me. And to them, I say the words of my Indian friend, "Get a hike!" But to take a break from the dance of professionalism and friendship, quitting and moving, left behind and wonderment of the future--to forget about a day full of sessions and walking miles and miles around a too cold convention center and too hot Map Gallery--a mish mash of colleagues at about equal levels on the corporate totem pole, head to a diner across the street in the Gaslamp District.

We pig out on nachos and mac'n cheese, sandwiches and eggs. We all luck out except for my Indian whose Caesar salad (pronounced 'Kaiser' to him) has chewy chicken and yet cost the most of everyone's meal. We must not let this get us down; we must move on to the next place and hope for the best. Atop a downtown hotel, rounds are bought, we sit by fires and throw ice and watch it sizzle and melt. I learn the difference between an amaretto sour and a Midori sour. Dr. Pepper or lemonade from Tatooine. We are determined to have a good time. We want to fall asleep in our hotel beds having forgotten the dark side of a day's work; it's work.
Special Achievement in GIS (SAG) Awards 2010; editing 158 award winner Web pages over two months culminates in this ceremony.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Ghosts on Ferries and Sticks

This I miss.

Balboa Island runs two trusty, ancient ferries. $1 a person or $2 a car. Manned by summer camp counsellors wearing things like Vans and logoless windbreakers. While I sit wondering if taking the ferry really is the quickest way to the Old Spaghetti Factory across the bay, and that I should wear my Vans more, I sink a little watching our doppelgängers nestle in the oddly warm air.

Butters was no help curled up on the passenger seat snoring. It takes her three seconds to fall fast asleep. And me three seconds before I give in and yell at her to stop. I just yelled at my absent husband's dog. She looks up at me. I scratch under her chin. Tell her to go back to sleep.

So I food reviewed this.

Double-doubles animal style, secret sauce sides, and fresh, potato-y fries--eight coworkers gather around a table for six in the shade and try to ignore the nutrition menu our colleague forwarded us prior to leaving. Just cruel.

If you're not from around an In-N-Out, learn more about underground items to order like 'animal style' and 'the flying Dutchman', 'extra toast' and 'the choco-vanilla shake,' with this guide to In-N-Out's Secret Menu.

And since I can't be in Cola-town to try something like a catfish burger 2x4 with, and glisten alongside, the Care-Bear for another two and a half weeks...

(98% humidity he reports.)
...I choose to make him into a paper gangsta for his best friend's wedding.

Driving north by California cows to the venue in Paso Robles, I remember the double-doubles. Tasty. Worthy? Moderation was my only somewhat viable conclusion.

Just a tad longer, my dear mannequin boy and my slowly saddening self, and we'll be able to nestle and do food reviews and attend weddings together. And then we won't. Such is the cycle of our new lives. I have to say your friends can be pretty entertaining when you're not around but with your head on a stick.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Passages to Plage

Wally Lamb, you rock my world.


When you're the sane brother of a schizophrenic identical twin, the tricky thing about saving yourself is the blood it leaves on your hands--the little inconvenience of the look-alike corpse at your feet. And if you're into both survival of the fittest and being your brother's keeper--if you've promised your dying mother--then say so long to sleep and hello to the middle of the night. Grab a book or a beer. Get used to Letterman's gap-toothed smile of the absurd, or the view of the bedroom ceiling, or the indifference of random selection. Take it from a godless insomniac. Take it from the uncrazy twin--the guy who beat the biochemical rap.

Stephanie Kallos, you're unafraid as well.


There's a special kind of pretending that goes on in small towns. It involves neither willful ignorance nor blindness. It is the opposite of gossip: a pretense of not-knowing.

This pretending is what allows small-town people to continue living in such close proximity. How else could they mingle on a daily basis with the sinners among them? Without the practice of not-knowing, it wouldn't be possible. Were a stranger to enter the societal cocoon of a not-knowing town such as [insert your small town here if you have one] and start asking questions like "Shouldn't he be in jail?" or "Did they ever get married?" or "Has she put on some weight?" the answers will come back. I can't say, You're asking the wrong person, You make a good point, or That's a very interesting observation.

This kind of forgetting can occur within an individual as well. After all, a single life might come to contain many identities, a whole community of selves one has inhabited over the course of, say, seventy-five years. In order for all those selves to cohabitant, one must occasionally direct the power of not-knowing inwardly; for example, should one self ask, When exactly did I start sleeping with my best friend's husband? another self could answer with conscionable ease and genuine wonderment, Why, after she gave me permission to do so, of course! For years, Alvina Closs has managed internal conversations like this with perfect poise.

But now she is the last surviving member…

What's the point? has been the dominant conversational question among the town of selves that constitute Alvina Closs…

It is difficult, so difficult for the aggrieved to open themselves to the complexity of feeling that follows a loss--and many cannot. There is a commonly held misconception that we must only speak well of the dead, encountering them in our hearts and minds with abiding love and unperturbed kindness, fabricating a revisionist view of personal history that excludes pain, suffering, and sin.

And yet grief cannot proceed and healing cannot occur without a willingness to speak truthful of the dead and of our relationship with them. Expressing the full range of feelings toward those who've abandoned us has a scouring effect--and a strengthening one, too; it allows us to stand with firms on the terra incognito of a vastly reconfigured future--possibly a long one. "Till death do us part" is a terrible vow to force upon a married couple. Death doesn't end a thing. What was imperfect in life will remain imperfect after death, whatever was untended cannot be repaired, unuttered words will echo like a curse, unsaid words will become a cancer, and yet this must all be acknowledged and spoken of, in one's own heart at least, if nowhere else.

(New Lamb book The Hour I First Believed looks startling too.)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I hate / I like / I Wanna Be Like Tosh

An ode to Tosh.0, from I likes to I hates. Examples precede my mediocre ramblings. Yes. The examples are better. Much. And maybe when I can afford a new phone, an iPhone I tried to resist until it came in white to be precise, with a video camera to launch my very own YouTube channel, written words will have to do.

I Like Video
Web Redemption2 Girls, 1 Cup ReactionDemi Moore Picture

I like my DVR.

That's it. I'm done.

Just kidding!

I like my DVR. I like my wallet. I like my dog. I like my condo complex tennis court. I like Hot Tamales. I like how every day is 80 degrees. I like my bangs. I like my Facebook page. I like my coworkers. I like the book I'm reading. I like my conditioner. I like running shoes. I like that little girls use weird things for eye shadow, like the silver Etch-a-Sketch sand. I like pineapple and anchovy pizza. I like four-day weekends. I like my belly button ring. I like Zappos. I like that Rachel on Glee said, "I'm like Tinkerbell, Finn; I need applause to live."I like my birthday. I like T-shirts. I like islands. I like chapstick. I like my last name. I like log cabins. I like the bleaching tray my dad made me. I like sushi. I like sprinklers. I like I like my multivitamin. I like my throw blanket. I like movie trailers. I like fake tanning lotion. I like how texting replaced awkward, time intensive phone calls. I like Swiss cheese. I like my dog's collar. I like my wall decorations. I like my Lady Gaga CDs. I like my cell phone number. I like snacks. I like jeans. I like the Twitter bird. I liked my Grams. I like my glasses.

The word 'like' started to look really weird there for a minute.

I hate how companies think "Got [insert product]?" is marketing; no, it's just lazy and un-clever.

I hate how I still don't know if the length of a license plate number correlates to the state's population.

I hate when the radio loses reception while I'm belting it.

I hate how you're not really successful unless you're skinny too.

I hate mariachi bands.

I hate the holidays.

I hate awkward phone calls when texting is right up there with the other mediums.

I hate product placement when I'm not in the mood.

I hate my cat.

I hate how people think artificial sweeteners are bad for you.

I hate hair commercials. I hate commercials for women in general; we aren't that stupid! Usually.

I hate women drivers.

I hate when people ask you what you're going to get before you order at a restaurant--it ruins the surprise.

I hate people who stare at your ordered food like a crazy person when it comes to the table. Or say it looks good and then turn down a bite.

I hate when I'm not sure if while I just woke myself up in a snore, if anyone else in the hotel room heard or not.

I hate people you know who call your home phone number--you only get that line so you can have cheaper Internet! And I hate people I don't know who call that number.

I hate people who diss a trend just because it's a trend. It's a trend! It's popular for a reason. Be a lemming already. Lemmings are cool when they're not running off cliffs.

I hate people who cite blogs as political source fodder. I do about two seconds of research for every link and fact.

I hate watching TV with my parents.

I hate when people fall asleep watching a movie--just go to bed.

I hate when people say you look tired. Well eff you too!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Return to Oz

Ah the girls weekend. Where we walk a fine line between just that, girls and women. Overly excited with a river of updates, commentary, and tell-all. Buzzed giggles and tipsy strolls followed by headaches and nausea, swearing off that darnded poison. Slowly moving from late nights to naps. Quickly moving from catching up to looking forward. Awww.

What's next? Jobs, classes, trips. Men. Boys. Handling them, loving them. Their plans. Kids. The Girls Weekend is chock full of reinforcement, encouragement that we can have it all. Career and kitchen. Thriving offspring and thinness and success. Good humanity. Encouragement bubbles from that pit in our female bellies, where all our dark things lie (I still don't know if this is the correct usage, Grammar Girl), and trickles into conversations, no trace of the doubt at the source, an evil, useless mineral dissolved by sympathy and hope. As it should be; that's what longtime friends are for, regardless of the differences now, the different lives, the tweaked personalities. They are the ones who hold memories like you, the only ones, the only beings of different blood who saw you evolve, regress with you, still try, off and on, just like yourself.

So what else you ask? Perhaps the curious male coworker thinks. Or Mom, perhaps the only other person reading this blog. What else fills up a girls weekend in 2010? A vampire movie. Of course. Skirted politics. Of course. Sailing. What the what?!

Yeah, the bestie from second grade Tiffany who's able to befriend Navy chicks and dragonflies and rocks, got us a gig sailing with neighbors. Yup, there are other people lucky enough to live on the idyllic isle of Coronado, the muse for Oz's Emerald City of which I speak fondly and often. And you pretty much want to beat these residents with a stick like every other person who abides in this residential heaven. Two fifty-something ex-Navy pilots were these covetees to be exact, whose brains I could pick between learning about the Cunningham line and steering a rudder of opposites. Opposite! Get that through your brain, Aly! Pull right to go left. Push left to go right. Left for right! Not to mention a break from the drinks and photos to take a spin on the roller coaster of a bow. I learned hurtling 20 feet into the air on the wake of a yacht actually is my idea of fun. And then 20 feet back down. And then up. The waves go away. Gripping the lines. Shoes drenched. Tha-rilling. Harry scoops up a stray red straw hat. Nic pops it on her head. Perfect.

We eat. Spicy chocolate. French fries soaked in truffle oil. Lemon potato chips dipped in dill cream. Fried green tomatoes. Breakfast sandwiches. Falafel. Coffee ice cream with peanuts. Crackers and sharp white cheddar. Salt and pepper pistachios. Breakfast burritos. We ride. Biking lazily along the smaller streets to avoid Fourth of July traffic, the parade, and find more things to eat and talk about.

I can't stop feeling like I fell into the pages of a J. Crew catalog.

Driving over to Coronado Friday the sun, mist, and clouds hovered at just the right atmosphere, making that connection from up high, making me feel lucky to live. Be here on Earth. There's always gratefulness to be had with friends who remember. Get one laugh in that's so hard it's silent.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


Getting out of it. Or into it. Either way, the open air is calling. New starts and adventure are never a problem with at least one familiar face. And one day, I'm determined to have my inevitable solo flights be my pen name's middle name.

The main things I know about Pensacola--a seaport about 1/3 the size of my hometown Vancouver, Washington, that's the western most city in the Florida panhandle and nestled inside Escambia County and the Central Time zone--are this. (And whatever else is left over are thrills for the making.)

  • Yes, I know, oppressive humidity. When will people accept that there are weather downsides everywhere besides through Orian's Belt? I get it. Can you, please? Plus, I'm not asking you to move somewhere, come with me to Japan or Nowhereville, USA. And need I remind the commentators (probably the same people who will tell me what to expect during pregnancy and Cary's first deployment and ask me to tell them what I'm writing about and then react funny)--I'm excited, adaptable, brave; another plus is that I'm a lizard by birth, not overweight, and happen to think sweat drenched sun dresses and dress shirts and Forrest Gump and vampires can lend this environment some sex appeal and romance. 
  • The Coca-Cola Bottling Company has made its home in Pens, but I don't really see myself as a factory girl just yet. Give it until I consider filing for unemployment.

  • Boiled peanuts are a must-have snack according to my Louisiana-native-Esri coworker; she told me she could eat her weight in them ... The foodie in me will have to try these.

  • The Cole (see, I'm even trying out loving nicknames) is a contender for offering the world's whitest beaches even if the lack of waves did crush my dreams of becoming a surf bum. At least I can have my tar-freckled body nap on this soft, pristine bed footsteps from potential housing (can I get an "Amen" for the area's cheap rent?). Not to mention, just head inland to the lazy canals and spooky lagoons that create a 'Pirates of the Caribbean' ambiance at swimming holes and bars on stilts and covered in moss and twinkle lights. Is that a vampire I spy in the trees?

  • Pens is also home to the first naval air station in the U.S. as well as to the Blue Angels.

  • It's also a first-time home to Mardi Gras. Just found that out this week from one of those compassionate people who only tell me intriguing things and any negative things in a dismissive way like there's no way you wouldn't thrive. Bless them.

  • The Pensacola Civic Center, local amphitheater, and other venues attract surprisingly big names and events, which is great since after the move, any extra money needs to start denting our covet list (which includes a big screen TV, California king, and entertainment such as musicals and Muse and Killers concerts. But come on Lady Gaga, the Cole is all the rage. It's baaad romance.

So with my notice in at work and a final confirmation from Cary to book my ticket to the southern corner of the states by August 1, I aim for a writing life, a screened in porch, a part time job that involves outdoor gear discounts or free lattes, or a cubicle at the PNJ or one of the three teeny marketing firms. Or who knows. Time to pack up the furry children and wind up the computer chords and take one last blast through the house for Goodwill. And then head into the humidity, the pending rejection letters, the unemployment adjustment. And head into rewards that don't come without risk. Cary knew that is a horizon I would want.

One last time, peanut gallery-gawkers, shove it, or you'll be getting a package of boiled peanuts in the mail to prove my point.

Images courtesy of and, respectively.