No, We Can’t Be Facebook Friends

When I first joined Facebook my criteria for accepting friend requests was fairly simple: Would this person attend my funeral?  Ok, would they attend it if they didn’t have other pressing, out-of-town commitments like being stuck in Malta, or Barcelona (typed with a lisp), or out hiking in the middle of the Badlands, or you know trapped in Waco in some death cult? Ok, would they at least kind of make a sad face that the average person could read as sad and then send a sympathy card to my husband or my parents? Ok, would they at least avoid hitting the “Like” button if my husband posted my obituary?   If I could answer “yes” to any of those questions, they were in – unwittingly signed up for my media shares and occasional thought burps.  When I looked at the final count I was confronted with an awful truth – only a tiny handful of friends and family would actually show for my funeral.  I made a mental note to suggest my wake be held in the backyard shed.  That could be nice, and with three people it might make the space look like it was bustling with mourners. (Mourners are universally known for their bustling.)

As Facebook grew, and more people joined, I had requests from folks like my former Girl Scout troop, high school and college friends, old roommates, people I met in improv, people I knew solely online, friends of friends, former co-workers, and that one girl who claims we went to the same school, but I haven’t a clue who she is. My “Friends” list quickly jumped from 3 to over 3 in no time. Then invariably came requests from current co-workers. I was rather careless in the beginning by accepting any request that came my way in an effort not to appear rude. Once I realized the mistake I quickly discovered the security settings and created a friend limbo which limited their access. I didn’t want to run the risk of having a meeting room meltdown should I actually “unfriend” one of these folks.

There are now only a few co-workers who can see my entire feed (weekly drivel). These carefully selected folks went through a rigorous screening process – the Vegas Vet – or “what happens on FB stays on FB”.  Basically, we don’t talk about each other’s latest post – a knowing nod in the hall suffices.  A simple head gesture that says,  “I know you have a camera, oh and you also have photogenic cats, two fierce Bengal plastic mouse chasers – keep it cool, I’m just walking on by casual-like, ‘’Sup!’”  The day I get one, “I hate that picture of you” “You look weird.” “Why would you post that?” the offender is either removed completely or moved to the special FB purgatory where they can only see my profile picture, but hey we’re still friends – that’s nice right?  (For the record, those are actual remarks I’ve received in the hallway at my office.)

After some careful thinking, I finally resolved to make my life easier by not accepting new friendship requests from current co-workers.

Now here’s where I need to state that I don’t see a FB “Friendship” as a real friendship. If I did, we’d be back to the three people at my shed wake. I see it as a way to find and catch up with people you haven’t seen in a long time. It’s a great way to have very superficial interactions, to catch up with George Takei or Mike Rowe, and it can be a solid personal PR tool –  you can promote yourself, your latest achievement, your business, etc. That’s not to say that I don’t have real friends there, but our friendship is strengthened by our outside interactions (unless they live in Japan)  – not by the latest photo meme being passed around. I accept I may be alone in this assessment.

So back to the co-workers.  I received a new request a couple of weeks ago and realized we were going to have to talk.  I didn’t want to talk.  Talk is perilously close to confrontation and could end with someone getting upset. I talked the situation over with my friends (the three wake shed-ders you’ve come to know and love), and with their advice in hand I politely explained that I liked to keep work separate from home. This is actually true. I’m that person who doesn’t tend to talk about personal things at work. I’m the person people throw proverbs at like, “well, I guess still waters run deep” (which either means I’m quietly treacherous or I take sketch classes, and occasionally show up on stage with a puppet in hand). Plus, my friends might post that awkward picture of me not drinking (because I’m a tea-totalling, uptight prude), and how awkward would that be?

PedroPoopsJoy_Beth

At the end of the brief chat I felt good, I felt adult. I had handled a particularly awkward conversation with great aplomb and it went, in my mind, really well.  Of course it went really well until it didn’t, and that’s when I received multiple texts about how embarrassed they were and how they’d put me in a bad situation, which they hadn’t. They said they hoped we could still be friends. I was at a complete loss and ended up spending the better part of my evening texting them off the FB ledge which included sharing my philosophy about FB not being an actual friendship.  I explained that we were “real” friends and that was more important than any one line blurb I might throw out there or any #TBT baby photo (no Tori, you may NOT go back in time and squeeze my little fat baby cheeks – whoops, sorry I digress).  I eventually got them to a place where they were reasonably ok with the situation.  At least, I think they were ok with it, but you see how well my thinking goes.

I guess Jay shouldn’t count on her showing up at the shed.

The Commercial

Last September our little gang got together to hang out and goof around (I mean work hard and shoot a few commercials). Our friends Janet and Steve had recently opened up a computer repair shop in their town and had asked all of us  (Richard, Topping and myself) to write a few commercials.  We all ran off and started typing away.  I came back with this vague idea of a Fox and Mulder (X-Files) or Sam and Dean (Supernatural) bumbling detectives spoof – where sadly technology always gets destroyed in one way or the other.  There’s actually a series of these featuring our head slapping heroes and our favorite cackling bad guys (unshot – but they live on in MY MIND!).  I was able to wrangle my friend Jonathan (the James Franco to my Seth Rogen? The Bruce Campbell to my Sam Raimi? (I flatter myself, go on me)) involved and then managed to trick several of the cast from our Batshyt Crazy puppet gang to come and play, too. HOORAY!

It will never air anywhere except my video feed, but it makes me happy. Plus, I have a running Hutto gag in all of my sketches, so the fact this was actually in Hutto and my actors say “Hutto” makes my heart dance.

From the director’s commentary on the never-to-be-released, because it would be less than a minute long DVD, and well, that seems kind of silly to make a DVD that short:  One of the best parts for me when I’m pulling together a shoot and creating my prop list is to add ridiculous things that you may or may not see in the scene.  There are a few here (not all of them were caught on camera).  However, some you can see live behind our intrepid detectives.  The “most wanted” pictures are made up of pictures of several cast,and crew members who worked on all of the commercials (there are four). Oh yeah, before i get shanked, some very dangerous puppets are also up there. (Of course, to see them in their commercial acting debut our folks need to get to editing and posting for the world.  This is a hint, people!)

As always a huge thanks to everyone who works for food and agrees to be part of my goofiness.

Cool

“You should really thank The Big Bang Theory for making geeks like you cool.”

I stammered in response and finally offered up a fairly well thought out, “uh huh”  right after I did a quick age check to confirm what I already suspected, that I really was too old to care about whether I’m cool.  The fact is that I’ve never, at any age,  been particularly driven to be “cool”. (All of my friends and family just nodded in agreement with that statement.) Call it what you will – a character flaw – a love of Lee when no one could get between Brooke and her Calvin Klein’s – the ability to quote Monty Python or the willingness to argue that yes, Han did shoot first. I’m simply not cool.  And I’m ok with not being cool. Cool isn’t my thing. (Guys, you can stop agreeing.  Sheesh.  I can feel it.)

You see, there’s this implied idea that “cool” is “fitting in.” If you’re “cool,” then  “fitting in” is clearly something every person who has been labeled a geek is surely hoping to achieve, but hasn’t quite figured it out yet. I’m here to tell you “cool” has never been my personal goal (and I’m really quite well-accomplished at not being cool).  On the other hand what is popular shouldn’t be how we define cool in my opinion.  Look at any past trend – old photos from any generation. (You know the ones that show you wearing that bejeweled glove with the neon top and those parachute pants. Are you going to tell me you still feel cool?) To me cool is being comfortable enough to be yourself.  A TV show won’t give you that.

I would love this to be a piece about “how to be comfortable with yourself;” however, I’d be misleading you completely if I said there weren’t time that I’ve wanted to be something different, something more, something better than…

I remember the first time I really thought about labels and contemplated the big “who am I?” question.  “Am I cool?” It was around 1980.  It was the summer before I entered 7th grade and The Dallas Morning News ran an article about teen groups.  There were little summaries about preppies, ropers (which when I moved back to Austin were known as “kickers”), freaks, and I’m sure there were a slew of additional labels like “geek” that I can’t quite remember because I’m old (and kind of cranky).

I also don’t remember much about the actual definitions. I do remember preppies were “cool,” but “freaks” sounded closer to the group that best fit me. They were described as wearing jeans, sneakers and concert t-shirts.  I mean, I did wear both jeans and sneakers all the time and I did own that one “Wings” t-shirt from a show I never attended.  How could that not be me? Preppie certainly wasn’t me. My reality didn’t include anything bearing the name of Izod, Polo, Gloria Vanderbilt or Swatch, so that was out of the picture. Later I did own some Jordache and OP things. I stand by those clothes.  We will discuss this no further. I couldn’t name a single country group other than Alabama at the time, so “Roper” was out. “Future president of the orchestra/bookworm nerd” wasn’t a listed choice. That left me with being a “Freak” if I had to choose a category (and the newspaper seemed to think that this had to happen – all teenagers identified themselves by one of these, a journalist wrote it!). Also, at that time I was really working on being a proper delinquent (which the “Freak” title seemed to embrace), but unfortunately my natural prissiness and penchant for a good rule ultimately got in the way.  I did briefly join an all girl gang in name only, but was always “busy” come fight days. “Sorry, I would love to, but I have to go out of town for the rest of my life and during all of my free time. Maybe next fight?.”  Keep in mind this was a Dallas middle-class girl’s gang.  We’re not exactly talking east L.A. and yay, they did go about intimidating my bullies, which made hallway walking much more pleasant.

Still I didn’t truly embrace any label – freak, geek or otherwise.  I was me.  A me who liked math, science, orchestra, German club and reading books.  When a person would suggest I change who I was (fall under a different label) like my grandmother (the former president of her college sorority, president of various ladies clubs, a socialite – you get the idea) when she pulled me aside and declared, “you need to change how you act or no boy will date you.” (She wanted me to play dumb in this case.) My response was, “if someone doesn’t like me for who I am, then I guess I won’t date,” which was a lot like sassing and sassing was a big no-no and earned my grandmother’s immediate disapproval.  Her message of “be different than who you are in order to be more accepted” was never me.  Of course, I didn’t really date until I was a senior in high school, so she clearly read the omens and was onto something there.

During this time one of my fundamental characteristics became apparent – I really wouldn’t change who I was to gain other people’s approval – to be cool – from how I presented myself, to whom I chose as my closest friends, to what my interests were (and continue to be).

Ok, I lied a bit there.  I did drop out of the math club (don’t tell Dad – it was something I was drafted into and didn’t go to willingly) . Though I loved math (and still love it, it’s really quite beautiful). I already had the stigma of being an academic nerd. The idea of competing with the math club was just too much.

Mu Alpha Theta

If I were to “thank” a TV show, it wouldn’t be The Big Bang Theory though I suppose kudos to them if it helps people be ok with someone else’s love of Star Trek. Just be warned you’ll lose a finger or three if you come at me with your “rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock” (may Leonard Nimoy rest in peace) or if another person says, “you’re a lot like Sheldon.” I may not watch the show, but I do know what you’re saying.  The show I would actually thank is Freaks and Geeks, if I were the thank-y sort.  It’s the one show that got my 80’s right.  In fact, Lindsay is the closest I’ve come to truly identifying with a character (if you threw in a lot more orchestra).

What makes me feel cool? It’s not a TV show saying I’m ok.  It’s being me – doing the things I love and enjoying the things that I do. Sometimes that’s standing on a stage with a puppet.  Sometimes it’s taking improv or sketch classes. It’s watching a Battlestar Galactica marathon, playing spoons while waiting for the opening of The Wrath of Khan, and sometimes it’s just singing “Bad Romance” in a karaoke room with all of my friends.

What makes my friends cool? The ones you would label “geeks”? It’s that they do what they love without worrying about what you think.

We never needed a TV show to say it’s ok to be who we are.

Give Me These Moments Back

Hodi

The day I met her she burst out of a crate, puffed up into a large 1 lb. ball of defiant fur and hissed her displeasure at a very surprised German Shepherd.  Thelma remained curious though a bit taken aback by the sheer hubris of this uppity, fluffy snack.  Her sister, who later became known as Sage stood meekly behind her looking on.  This was Hodi 호랑이 (Holang-i) or more accurantely 검은 호랑이 (geom-eun Holang-i) – the black tiger – named by an ex who spoke Korean fluently and clearly wanted to trip everyone up who happened to possess a tongue

After trying to pronounce the name time and time again (which to me always sounded more like Hodang-i) a friend suggested “Hodi” – much much easier.  And that was the first of many names for our little fussy fuzzy 호랑이.

Hodi was an oddly shaped girl – a type of Manx called a “rumpy.” She was rather round with two oddly placed tiny back legs.  We finally saw an x-ray of her spine last week and some of the way she moved (which was to hop more than run) was due to a compressed lumbar vertebrae right near her teeny tiny tail. Not a big problem when you’re an agile kitten, but something that affected her more as she grew older especially over the last year.

As the fluffy one, people gravitated towards her – hands outstretched.  She got to the point where she really couldn’t be bothered with strangers and tended to hang back on top of a chair lest those hands muss her fur.  Quite the opposite of her sister Sage who merrily greeted each new person at the door, letting them know, “hi! I’m available for all petting! Right here! I’m down here! Hello, I’m very friendly! Nice lap! Hey there, do you have hands? – psst, please take me away from here.”

Where Sage would go insane for a laser pointer, Hodi would only dain to slap it a bit if it were directly in front of her paws.  No need to get worked up for a light that’s impossible to catch.  Although, sometimes she’d forget and move a whole foot or two just in case her “it’s just a light” theory was wrong.  She wouldn’t want me to mention this, but on rare occasion she’d roll over trying to catch that light.  Of course, she’d quickly realize how undignified that was and then defiantly stare directly at me as I tried to entice her to roll one more time.

For her first two to three years she couldn’t quite figure out laps. They were oddly shaped  and seemed to come apart at unpredictable times or be positioned in odd ways.  They appeared interesting, but the best she could do was put two paws on my leg and lay her head down.  Then one day a fluffy lap blanket appeared and that’s when we learned she loved loved loved fluffy blankets.  If a fluffy blanket presented itself, she’d hop over to my newly fluffied lap and go to sleep.  It took a bit longer for her to realize that legs were the things supporting fluffy blankets and once that light bulb went off, she became a lap cat (though a blanketed lap was preferred and the moment she’d see me lay a blanket in my lap, she’d perk up and start angling for quality lap (blanket) time).

She was funny.  Her favorite pastimes included: stealing the dog’s beds (yes, beds – all of them), trying to steal the dog’s crate, stealing the dog’s under-the-desk cave, blocking the dog from going down the hall or approaching me (this latter pastime would cause serious protests in the form of pitiful whimpering and pleas for me to escort said dog around the kitty roadblock).

She was gentle.  I could bathe her (something long haired rumpies need help with on occasion),  I could pill her easily and I could drive her around without much complaint other than a mrr of protest.  She never bit and rarely swatted (swatting was reserved for when humans would tease her with waggling hands).  The vet and their assistants always said she was super easy to handle (like her sister); she just had a really pleasant temperament.   If something unpleasant was happening, I only needed to extend my hand and she’d rub her face for comfort and I’d rub her forehead.

She would tuck me in.  In fact, the whole house tucks me in and they wait until I fall asleep before clearing the room.  If she was still hanging out on the bed and I was in the middle of tossing and turning, she’d gently pat my hand (how she’d tell me she’d like kitty rubs) and purr me to sleep.  If I paced around the house, which I do sometimes at obscene times in the morning, she’d hop into my lap, pat me and in turn get her pats until I could settle down enough to sleep.  And then my favorite, those moments where she’d rest her forehead against mine.

I miss her pats.  Pats said, “I’m here.” or “I’d like you to lift me to my bowl” or “I just want you to stroke my face for a bit, please”.  A pat followed by a mrr was her way to emphasize the importance of the request.

I miss that gentle paw softly tapping my leg  – softly reaching for my hand.

I didn’t realize that the Monday before last would be the last time she’d hop into my lap at 2:30am and purr us to sleep; I wish I’d stayed in that moment a bit longer. By Friday, she was no longer able to move – unable to reach her bowl that was strategically placed next to her muzzle – all related to complications from her recently diagnosed diabetes that mysteriously almost sent her into an insulin coma (possible pancreatic tumor) with a glucose level so low it was “barely able to sustain life.” The incident left her so weak she couldn’t use her back legs (initially), which they believe led to her injuring her back.  She appeared to be in great pain.

I rubbed her face on Friday and urgently explained that I really needed her to get up – that I didn’t want to be in a world that she wasn’t in, but she laid there looking vacantly towards the door, occasionally closing her eyes as I’d find that perfect spot on her nose. Gone were the days where we’d sit and quietly contemplate one another.

On Saturday we took her into the vet one last time and stroked her fur.  The vet promised to give her kisses.

Kitten, I will miss stroking your nose until you fell asleep. I will miss your gentle paws and the way you’d nuzzle my head while sitting on the back of the chair.  I will miss you stealing all of the pet beds and walking behind you – the world’s worst drum major in the slowest hall parades.  I will miss sharing string cheese. I will miss sharing all the fuzzy things.  I will miss your mrrs and the way you’d come to me for reassurance when you were nervous. I will miss wrapping my arms around you and stuffing my face into your fur; thank you for being tolerant. I’ll even miss your indifference as you’d block the dog from coming down the hall, or coming in from the back porch, and your refusal to move despite her pleas; you were funny… and beautiful… and fussy… and stubborn… and absolutely lovely.

I hope for a “What Dreams May Come” heaven where I will find you.  I hope you’ll look for me, too.

A woman gleefully declared on Monday, “it’s time to find a new cat!” and my response, “the only cat I want to find is Hodi.” 16 ½ years just wasn’t nearly long enough for me.  It will never have been enough.

The Dare of a Dream

March from Selma to Montgomery – 3/25/1965 William Lovelace—Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Something I read recently stuck in my craw, and after much meandering in circles, muttering to myself, and scaring people in public places I was finally able to put my finger on what it was and why it bothered me.  It was the suggestion of “if you don’t like it, then leave”.  That battle cry for conformity.  Now as a Texan, you’ve probably picked up that I’m not always keen on those of an out-of-state persuasion with their carne asadas when we all know it’s guisada, their boosting the economy, their insistence that “oil” contains more than one syllable, but in truth the real issue is mostly with the mocking of the natives.  Sure, I’d like them to pick up and head out, leaving of course their boons, but that’s mostly that Texas pride rearing it’s incredibly gorgeous crown.  My personal cry for conformity is more of a “stop picking on Texans and accept that sometimes when you throw up condos where our favorite haunts used to be it makes us twitch considerably – it’s ok if we remember (with a considerable drawl) a time when you weren’t here and Armadillo Headquarters was.”

That being said, I’ve never seriously called for people who do not conform to my particular way of thinking to leave and here’s why.

We, as a global society, are at our absolute best:

  • When we do not conform
  • When we question established institutions
  • When we refuse to accept the status quo
  • When we demand change

As a nation our very foundation is based on those very ideals.

Those ideals:

  • Rid us of a monarchy
  • Put an end to slavery
  • Put an end to the notion that there could be 3/5ths of a person
  • Recognized Women’s Rights
  • Recognized Civil Rights
  • Established laws around hate crimes (to protect people who do not always conform to our personal race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or other prejudice)

And while we as a nation occasionally misstep, we keep questioning and we keep striving for the common goal of creating a better world.  Our first amendment gives us that right – to continue to have a public discourse, to disagree, to demand change.  We are not a hive mind.  We are a melting pot of individuals who bring to the table our distinct cultures, our distinct views shaped by our backgrounds.  We should celebrate our differences and how each of us, with our unique perspectives, add to our strength as a community.

And on this day I am reminded of people who challenged the establishment – who dared to have a dream.  And I am awestruck by their courage in the face of adversity that violently demanded they accept the status quo.

People who “didn’t like it” and chose not only not to leave, but to fight for change.

Taking the Moment

I’m not a creative person. Now typing that “out loud” might elicit some “of course you ares”, and that’s super sweet, but I’m ok with it. I promise no one is going to compel you into including that in my eulogy.  The truth is my brain is simply not wired that way or perhaps it’s that my muse is on a smoke break, who really ever knows.  (I would end that with a question mark, but it’s more rhetorical (unless of course you know what became of my muse, then do tell.))  I’m left brained.  Although, judging by my grades from school, it clearly does not convey any special adeptness in it’s left brainy specialties. (Why left brain? WHY?!? It’s just theoretical mathematics. Get that X girl, get it!)

Now, that doesn’t stop me from dabbling.  For example, I can draw some of the most adorable dust bunnies with these overly-large, super-solicitous eyes (if you anthropomorphize dust bunnies, you don’t have to sweep them up, because it’s like declaring war on an endangered (endangered because I just typed it) species – this is fact). Granted, I’m more likely to doodle a series of hash marks or cubes, but that’s beside the point.  When inspired, I’m a dust bunny drawing pro.  I’ve tried improv (you remember that brief foray into personal humiliation – the one where all of my classmates were approached to move forward and I was applauded for making regular payments – my pro skill) and then I tried sketch writing (where my teacher actually couldn’t remember my name after 8 months and everyone else was encouraged to go forward with sketch shows and videos).  Now some of this stems from me being a bit odd and squirrelly, but some of it is just genuinely me not being particularly good at it and people recognizing that, (which is always a tad awkward). However, I don’t let my awfulness stop me from trying!  Go me!  I’m content to spread my badness.  Make my videos. Take photographs.  Run up on a stage where they’ve invited two people to come up and then realizing a quick game of “short straw” is going on in the crowd before I get a partner.  Write my blog and ultimately just revel in my creative mediocrity. Go Meh-ness!

But here’s the rub. (No, I haven’t been drinking.) Anyway… the rub! Not everything I see others produce is always great art either, but that whole “treat your friends the way they want to be treated” thing usually compels me to offer them encouragement.  That’s especially true if they’re trying something new or challenging. If asked I offer up my “what if’s,” but mostly I tend to say “great job!”  I make an effort to acknowledge what people are sharing and recognize that a piece of their soul lives is in their art.  Apparently, “wow, that’s right shit!” is discouraging to some.

So, last week I did something that was hard for me and then I displayed it for a small world and got crickets in return, with a couple of exceptions. My soul laid a bit bare and the cool (sarcasm) sound of absolutely nothing. By comparison, I told Facebook I forgot my breakfast and immediately got 22 likes.  Maybe the takeaway is that this is where my real strength lies – not in creativity but my slow, public descent into dementia.  Great. My dreams realized.

Where we stand at this moment – I’m done.  I’m done applauding. I’m done helping. I’m done with “the favor”. I’m done encouraging.  That thing my friend did better meet MOMA standards. If they wouldn’t display it, then don’t think I want to see it as a .jpg in an email attachment.  If it’s not on “Funny or Die;” it’s clearly not worth viewing.  If it isn’t published; it’s not worth reading. If critics aren’t aware of it, and there’s not a blurb stating “Bold!” then you’re absolutely wasting my time.

Ok fine, I suppose that won’t actually be the case, but it really feels kind of liberating and also somewhat  compound sentence-y. I made many words!

Maybe I’ll offer some advice instead of declaratives. If you have friends who have chosen to share with you – whether it’s something completely new to them or it’s old hat, then take a moment to really look, listen and acknowledge.  That’s your one job as a friend; it’s actually your most important job. I guarantee they’ll reciprocate.

To my friends who always take those moments – thank you!

Who emptied the liquor cabinet?

A Big Blue Mess 2014 Video Recap

Here’s a photo/video recap of my various shenanigans over 2014.

Huge thanks to Bruce Thiesen at Ram On for the inspiration and encouragement. (In other words, he’s the guy to blame since I would never have had the idea to create a recap video on my own.  In fact, go to his blog to point fingers at him and then stay to read a few posts.)

Another huge thanks to the cast and crew (aka friends and family) who put up with my goofiness and help make each day an adventure.  You guys are the best   I sometimes share that with other people, too even when you’re not listening.

Also, before I wander away, I need a favor – a promise of sorts: Whatever you do, please don’t let Richard or Topping know that I finally opened up my video editing software and actually spent some time trying not to be overwhelmed by it.  They might get ideas.

Finally, Happy New Year, Y’all! I look forward to more adventures with you in 2015!