Friday, June 26, 2009

Live Long and Prosper-- or Don't


It would seem that I am part of some sort of minority-- I prefer the term "Trekker." Despite the apparent name-calling and finger-pointing behind the controversy, quite frankly, I just perfer to think of myself as "one who treks, not one who is trekked upon."

The whole silliness wouldn't be an issue at all if I hadn't sat down and watched 5 movies in a row (there were only 5 at the time) back in the extremely early 90's. Let me tell ya, if 10 hours of Star Trek doesn't brain wash you, nothing will!

At some point, the portion of the fan-base that calls itself "Trekkers" came to my attention-- but possibly after the "X-philes" debate, or it probably wouldn't have made any type of impression. Who knows?

But it seemed perfectly reasonable that fans of Star Trek should be "TrekkERS" -- per my aforementioned "one who Treks, not one who is Trekked upon" interpretation.

Whatever.

I never really bothered to sit down and decide if The Sneetches with Stars had jobs and "lives" while the Sneetches with no Stars Upon Thars lived in their mothers' basements. Or vice verse. Now, of course, the Internet has come to town (and my mother's basement, as it were) and with a few simple clicks I can research millions of peoples' thoughts on the subject; with everyone arguing back and forth about what's correct or not. (BTW: a sad point against the late-- and great-- Mr. Roddenberry... one creates a mythos, one does not create its fans. Fandom is a happy consequence of one's creation.) Quite frankly, it never occurred to me that the fans themselves were busy making fun of eachother.

Wait. I take that back. [cough cough] But, all things considered, I thought we all knew we were making fun of ourselves as well.

No. This Trek-chick has not managed to see the new movie yet. It is a subject of great soreness and I don't want to discuss it. Yes, of all the people you know, I am the one most likely to have been camped outside the theater by 5 o'clock on Thursday evening wearing my Starfleet uniform waiting for the midnight showing. Alas, I was not. So maybe not a Trekker afterall? Or not a Trekkie? I can't even keep it all straight anymore!

Nevertheless, it would seem that a surprising number of seemingly normal people in my life not only beat me to the movies, but have willingly revealed themselves to me as "Trekkies."

To which I have scoffed. Being my official position that true fans would consider themselves "Trekkers." And so it is that with my preciously minimal free time I find myself scouring the internet today, searching for the One True Answer.

Which everyone knows is 42. Which goes to show, I don't really care what you call yourselves, I have much bigger Geek Banners to fly.

But for Trek, it looks like I'm out-voted. [shrug] Go figure.

So, for the record: I still consider myself a Trekker. Not because I claim to have "a life" or have any better grasp on this thing called "Reality" or because I think "Trekkies" are a lower life form or predisposed to being any sillier than myself.

I simply think the definition "One who Treks, not one who is Trekked upon" should stand as a monument to the whole concept of the Star Trek culture-- the Prime Directive-- and Life the Universe and Everything...




Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cabin Fever

After my first backpacking trip, during a 2 week stint at Girl Scout camp when I was 8, I swore I would never do that again!

Of course, one of the first lessons I learned in life was "never say 'never'" and true enough, some 20 years later, out of the blue and with no apparent provocation-- I was sitting in my apartment one day and realized I HAD to go backpacking!

Kinda the same way you realize you HAVE to go pee right when the movie is getting really good.

I just had to do it.

Lucky for me, about 10 minutes after this came to my attention, my good friend Amber called. At the time we lived some 400 miles apart and hadn't been very good at keeping up to date with one another-- that was back when the internet was very young and only doctors and drug dealers had cell phones. Not that the modern marvels of email, text messaging, and Facebook have spurred Amz on to being any better at keeping in touch!

So there we are, chatting away about all that had been happening in our lives, when my dear friend Amber says to me-- completely out of the blue-- "I really want to get into backpacking!"

Wow. Maybe I'd been channeling her enthusiasm or something? Whatever-- backpacking we would go.

And backpacking we did go. And have gone. And will go again. And again.

I have more money invested in my backpacking gear than I do in my car. Or about anything else...possibly second only to my investment in glitter.

No seriously, I have a LOT of glitter! And various colored acrylics, gels, confetti, mylars, and miscellaneous doo-dads crammed into every nook and cranny of my space both at work and home-- but that's for doing nails and covered under a seperate insurance policy-- therefore, it doesn't figure into this conversation.

For the last 10 years I have spent countless hours pouring over maps, planning trips into the wilderness. And I've spent countless dollars pouring over outfitters' catalogs, websites, and showrooms, amassing a collection of gear that is now sufficient to outfit a small army-- an x-boyfriend actually suggested that I have more tents than I do friends. It goes to note, I have more x-boyfriends than I have tents.

As it turns out, I suffer from an extreme case of "delicate princess syndrome." With joints that don't bear weight well; skin that sunburns, chaffes, cuts, bruises, blisters, and scrapes easily; a slight tendency to tachacardia on uphill climbs at high elevations; and feet that were decidedly not made for walking-- no matter what boots I put them in.

Nevertheless, I keep on going out there. Sleeping on the ground, carrying a pack, putting one foot in front of the other.

Amber, on the other hand, seems to be built of solid pioneer-woman stock. She swears she never had a blister until our Skyline-to-Sea trip 2 years ago when we walked 35 miles over 3 days with her in new shoes. Yeah, right, like that tiny little blister on her toe even counts!

I get blisters on my blisters. Amber has seen me get blisters just walking from the car to the trailhead! She has seen my feet covered in blisters from boots, trail-runners, tennies, sandals, slippers, Uggs, and barefoot. She shakes her head and wrinkles up her face and probably wonders how I manage to live a normal life at all. But then again, Amz brings her own adventure to the table, so she can't say much.

The good news is, after a particularly heartbreaking and painful attempt at a section of the John Muir Trail in 2005-- where no one on horseback appeared to rescue me from my fate, despite my spending many tearful hours slowly trudging on bludgeoned feet promising God that I would never backpack again if only someone would come to my aid (read the story at trailjournals.com)-- after waiting 2 weeks before the swelling went down enough to put shoes back on... I spent several months and hundreds of dollars researching and tracking down just the right boots. The boots, the laces, the orthotics... that would see me through the miles of trail that continued to wait for me.

I can only hope that Montrail never stops making my Blue Ridges.

Well... After a little hiccup in the timeline where Amz moved out of state and the personal budget and boyfriend conspired to chain me to "real life" and "responsibility" -- the planets have realigned once more and I am spending my afternoon sitting on the floor among the topo maps.

Ahhhhhhh.... where will we go first?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

who'da thunk?


Last year we decided to plant a garden. But since we rent a small house inside city limits, and we have dogs-- boy dogs-- we came to the conclusion that we should try our hand at container gardening. Which would keep our veggies high enough to escape being claimed as dogs' personal territory, and ought to keep the landlord relatively happy that we didn't dig up the backyard.

We managed to acquire a big blue, plastic barrel by way of a friendly neighborhood delivery driver who apparently knew someone who had a surplus of big blue plastic barrels. We then cut the barrel in half and proceeded to clean it thoroughly. Then we filled it with rocks and dirt and pepper plants and then decided we should have put our barrel garden in a slightly different arrangement in our back yard.

Our back yard gets very little sun. In every other respect, I consider this fabulous. For one thing, it gets hots in the summer time. Hotter than I think is actually fit for human habitation. Nearly full coverage of our house by trees means cooler temps in our backyard-- all the better for lounging about with a cold beverage sporting a tiny umbrella, and possibly a twist of lemon, since we also have a lemon tree. Shade also helps keep the electric bill a tad bit lower throughout the hot summer months, seeing as how our house was built in 1950 and I think we have the original air conditioning unit still.

However, full shade is not what the little tags that come with vegetable seedlings recommend. So we opted to place our garden behind the garage, in the only place that gets sun throughout the day.

Once we had our garden in place, we discovered that while peppers and tomatoes may prefer "full sun," they may not actually like 110 degree afternoons with the sun reflecting off of the back of the garage. However, plastic barrel halves filled with rocks and dirt are not easily moved, so a clever mister system was devised and we did, indeed, end up reaping the unspeakable rewards of being able to walk out the back door each day to choose peppers from our own garden for dinner.

We eat a lot of peppers. Bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, whatever peppers are handy. The tomato, however...*sigh.*

Well, first of all, I like me a weird vegetable. And we don't really like tomatoes much. They're fine for salsas and sauces, but both us eye them suspiciously as a vegetable on their own-- possibly because they are actually fruits, but then again, so are the peppers. In fact, it turns out that a lot of vegetables are actually fruits. But for reasons I'm still not sure of, we had to grow a tomato, so I picked a green one.

Yes. A tomato plant that produced green tomatoes. They would never turn red. or orange. or yellow. Just green. And the BF's concerns proved correct when, indeed, I could never quite determine if they were ripe or not.

Not to mention my apprehension about touching the dang plant at all! After growing up with summer vegetable gardens and watching my grandmother hunt for tomato worms each day I am utterly convinced that you cannot grow a tomato plant without also growing tomato worms. I suspect the caterpillar eggs may actually exist inside the tomato seeds! (All the more reason to approach the fruit with suspicion.) And sure enough, considering we only had one plant and live within city limits (really! Where was the next closest tomato plant? The store where we bought ours?!) over the course of last summer we managed to find and kill over 50 tomato worms!

Have you ever seen a tomato worm? Go ahead, click on the link, I'll wait. (hum hum hum) See why I don't want to touch the plant? The notion that I might inadvertently come in actual physical contact with one of those creatures makes me break out in a cold sweat! I'd have to cut off my arm if I touched one of those things! I'm utterly convinced that these things are the work of the devil.

I also discovered that tomato worms are born with those horns. Seriously, the smallest one we found was no more than 5 millimeters long and it still had a horn! That is just WRONG!

So this year, we opted for Roma tomatoes. And a whole lot more peppers! And zucchini. Essentially, we opted for more garden altogether.

So earlier this afternoon I was enjoying the breeze and the uncommonly cool weather, sitting in my garden, admiring all the little plants that are busy blooming and making peppers. Even if my pots aren't as aesthetically pleasing as I'd prefer. When it occurred to me that I am growing several plants.

Actual plants. The kind that grow. And are alive.

I'm growing plants! Growing, not killing!

I am so proud of myself!

Next year I am not growing tomatoes though. I don't care what Guy Clark says, it's just not worth it.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Old friends, good times



As much as I like being a grown-up, it certainly does come with it's dark side. Sometimes that translates into crappy stuff like paying bills and spending all your time at work to make money to pay bills so you have a roof over your head... whatever. Roofs are nice and all, but my dream house is an Airstream trailer-- which are almost as pricey as a house, pricier in fact, compared to some housing markets! Which is why I'm equally ready to accept any small travel trailer. No really, not even a big one! My dream house travel trailer is also only 18-22 feet long!

Unfortunately, the vast majority of people I encounter have these insane notions that living well involves some sort of house that does not come with wheels. Since I live in an area that still has much rural property, I do know a significant number of folk who live in pre-fabricated "mobile" homes...but even they insist that even though their homes came with wheels, those wheels need to go away after the house has been properly put in place.

So basically, what I'm saying, is that instead of living in a travel trailer that I can pull with my Jeep Cherokee, I live in a house. With a roof, and a toilet that is connected to the city sewer.

Whatever!

Jeesh, the things we do for love.

Fortunately, I really really really like my job. So most of the time I don't mind spending most of the week at work, making money.

I work closely with people though. Women, actually. And we are a complex, and often depressing and snarky lot. Most women know this about themselves and actually don't really like spending time with more women. I hear it all the time! "I don't really like women." But we still find ourselves congregating with our own kind quite often. Because even though we know we're snarky and competitive, at least we understand us. As opposed to hanging out with boys-- which we find fairly simple to figure out, it's just that we have such a hard time accepting that they are really that simple! So there's always an element of "boys are stupid and they smell funny" in our minds, no matter how much we enjoy their company.

So anyway-- I work in a salon. I do nails. I spend my days in a very intimate setting with my clients. I literally hold peoples' hands for a living. Face to face, less than 2 feet apart, holding their hands and listening to whatever they have to say.

A lot of people and a lot of different types of people come through my life on a daily basis. Some of them feed my soul and enrich my life. Some of them feed off my soul and drain my will to live. But it's never boring! And I only see each person for an hour or two at a time, so it's easy enough (usually) to shake it off and get back in the groove.

So going to work to make money is rarely a downside to being a grown up for me.

The part that sucks is that it takes so much time to make the money. So by the time you make the money and get the bills paid and figure out if you have any left over to do fun stuff with-- you don't have any time to do fun stuff because it's time to go back to work to make more money.

Now that gets to be irritating!

But that's not what I was talking about. I was talking about the dark side of being a grown up, and I wasn't going to go on a rant about the obvious. I was going to speak philosophically.

Part of developing wisdom is realizing that as you age, fewer and fewer things still come in black and white. As you get older and fill your head with more knowledge and experience you gain maturity and wisdom but suddenly you discover that it gets harder and harder to take a hard stance on issues that require taking a side.

Which means when it comes to friends, you will either have very few, or you learn to be very forgiving.

Because your friends will do very stupid things throughout their lives. They will do things that you do not approve of and it will be up to you to determine if your disapproval weighs more than your friendship.

Let me just say: Disapproval is a cold companion-- and she won't hang out with you or take you to lunch or loan you $20 when you wallet gets stolen or hike 40 miles into the wilderness with you. So before you choose Disapproval over your friends, you might want to take a minute to seriously consider what Disapproval has ever done for you.

I learned a long time ago that I cherish my friends well and above the company of Disapproval. I'm already holding plenty of grudges (and believe me, I have a death grip on a few of them!) and my hands are kinda full with those. So my friends really have to screw up big time for me to walk away from them.

I can only hope that my friends know this about me and are able and willing to extend the same amnesty to me and whatever I might do that causes them weigh their friendship against their disapproval.

Monday, June 1, 2009

of Ants and Grasshoppers


I'm constantly amazed at how many people were not forced to endure their grandparents tell them this story repeatedly. So, briefly, the story goes:
Once upon a time there was an ant and a grasshopper.
The ant spent all day, everyday through the whole summer working to get ready for the winter. Stocking piling food and water and building a warm, comfy home so he and his little ant family would be safe and happy through the winter months.
The grasshopper, on the other hand, spent his summer having fun. The grasshopper sat by the river and played the fiddle. He danced and sang and generally partied down and whooped it up all summer long.
So when the snow started to fall, the ant holed himself up in his little ant house and spent all winter staying warm and catching up on his reading presumably. While the grasshopper was stuck outside in the cold with no home and no food and he froze to death because he wasn't prepared.
It's a parable-- a story designed to teach a lesson. My grandmother used to tell it to me over and over again because, I guess, she was really hoping I would grow up to be an ant.
(Hang on, let me put down my fiddle.)
Not so much, as it turns out. I'm all about the here and now. I live by a strong, "what if I get hit by a bus tomorrow?" ethic.

My mom has 4 brothers. One of them wanted to take early retirement. For the last 30 years I never saw him awake. He had a wife and 3 kids and a good job. He wanted to retire at 55 and spend the rest of his life with his wife, do some traveling, see some stuff they never had time to get around to, enjoy his kids, look forward to grand kids-- all that stuff we hope to do when we retire.

In order to do this, he had to put in X amount of hours with his company so he could retire early with his full pension and benefits. So, for most of my life, whenever the family got together, he was asleep. He worked double shifts. He worked 7 day weeks. He worked on holidays. When he wasn't working, he was taking classes to stay viable in his field so he didn't get replaced with younger workers.

From my vantage point, he either slept or worked through his children growing up, their soccer games and high school dances. He slept through family get togethers.

For many many years while I was growing up and into my adult life, whenever anyone scolded me about my grasshopper ways and tried to convince me that I ought to be more ambitious and spend more time at work, toiling for money for the future-- I thought of my uncle. Sleeping through the here and now in order to secure a future when the future is never secure.

He was the example that I lived by. I did not want to be that person. I did not want to miss out on where I was-- on where I am, now, at this moment-- I never wanted to trade my present, for a future that might not come.

What if he got hit by a bus?

And then it happened. The family received the grim news that that very same uncle had been diagnosed with cancer. Really nasty, awful, didn't-have-a-prayer cancer.

6 months before his 55th birthday.

6 months before his retirement.

He was given 6 months to live.

So all those years of playing Rip Van Winkle so that he could enjoy his retirement really paid off. As long as he lived to his 55th birthday-- at least his widow would get his benefits.

He did live another 9 months. So he got his early retirement and his widow has his benefits to keep her warm at night.

I can't say that he would have avoided the cancer had he not worked himself so hard-- cancer runs rampant in our gene pool, I don't think the lifestyle can entirely be blamed. But his family would have had more time with him. They would have more memories of the time they had together. They might have photo albums and scrapbooks overflowing with pictures to show the grandchildren who will never know him.

I don't know how I'm going to weather the winter of my own life. I certainly hope I live long enough to figure it out! But I know that I am here, right now and I try to appreciate that.
I truly hope that when I'm gone, at least people will remember me being awake.