Anita's Weekly Column

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Never, Ever Call Yellow Cab of Boulder

I’d like to share my experience with everyone I can: Yellow Cab of Boulder went out of their way, not only not to have me as a customer, but to ruin my chances of getting to my destination by any other means.

My car was in the shop for repairs, and I was told that it would be ready for pickup at 5:30pm on Wednesday, July 11. Since I was performing in a show that opened at 7:30pm that night, it was very important to me to pick up my car and get to the theater on time. Since I was staying in Louisville, where bus service is almost nonexistent, I decided to call a cab. I called and checked web sites for several cab companies, most of which told me politely that their cabs don’t come to Louisville. Yellow Cab of Boulder, however, did not say this. Their web site had a form for an “Advance Time Call,” a way to call for a cab 24 hours ahead of time, so I filled out the form on Tuesday, July 10. I noted that the form said “This is not a reservation,” but failed to tell me what, exactly, an “Advance Time Call” is. I asked for a cab to come get me at 5pm the next day, figuring that, even if the time was not exact, if the cab arrived within an hour of the time I asked for, I’d still have no problem picking up my car and getting to my opening night.

At 4pm on Wednesday, I’d had no call, no email, no indication at all that the “Advance Time Call” had been received. I called Yellow Cab, and the call taker assured me that they had my order, and I was “all set.” I thanked her and settled in to wait. At 5:15, I called again to ask if the cab was coming. The call taker told me they were “running a little late,” but assured me that they had my order and she’d let the dispatcher know that I was still waiting. I called again at 5:30, and at 5:45 and was told the same thing. I asked the call taker if she could find out for me whether any cab was even in my city that day. She said she couldn’t get any information; all she could do was tell the dispatchers (who apparently can’t talk back, themselves) that I was still waiting.

At 6pm, when my cab was one hour late, I called and asked if the call taker could tell me if a cab was ever coming to get me. She said she couldn’t; all she could do was tell the dispatcher, again, that I was waiting. When I requested that she put me on hold and ask the dispatcher if any cabs were anywhere near Louisville that day, or any cab driver had been told to come towards me, she said she couldn’t do that. She said there was no way to know anything, because “our drivers are independent contractors,” as if this explains why nobody can speak to them. As further excuse, she argued that my house was not in Louisville, but in Lafayette, (It isn’t. My house is between the Louisville Post Office and the Louisville Police station.) as if this explained why Yellow Cab had repeatedly offered a service they refused to provide. I hung up the phone and sobbed for a while. By this time, it was too late to walk the 3 ½ miles to the car shop, to find a friend I could beg to pick me up, or to find another transportation service. If Yellow Cab did not come through in the next 15 minutes, there was no way I could get my car and get myself to the theater before the curtain rose.

At 6:10, I called again to ask if my cab was ever coming. The call taker assured me that she had no idea. I asked why, since they can’t get anyone to any place at any given time, Yellow Cab is in business at all. Yellow Cab’s customer service didn’t know that, either. She said she’d be happy to tell the dispatcher that I was still waiting, though. I pointed out that, in 5 minutes, it would no longer matter whether a cab ever came. She offered to cancel the cab and take down a complaint. I told her I’d call back in 5 minutes.

At 6:15, still sobbing, I called to cancel the cab and file a complaint, though I couldn’t imagine who would read the complaint—the non-speaking dispatchers, perhaps?—or what anyone at Yellow Cab would do about it. Only then was I put through to a manager, who listened to my complaints, heard that, in my experience, Yellow Cab not only didn’t want me as a customer, but had gone out of their way to ruin my day and make me hate the company. This manager told me that the manger who’d called me back to confirm my Advance Time Call should have told me that they don’t guarantee anything. I pointed out that no one had ever called me back, and that the call takers who were the only people I could ever get a hold of before her had said nothing of the sort, but only made it very clear that they knew nothing about anything. She said she was sorry, and all she could do was put me through to the voice mail box of Travis Menaphee, her manager. I left a message, explaining my whole experience, in Travis’ mailbox.

Travis left a message on my voice mail on Thursday morning, saying he’d like to talk with me more about my complaint. I called back, got voice mail again, and left another message. I have not heard from Travis again.

I must admit that I did make it to my show. I called my 65-year-old mother, who lives in Lakewood and hates to drive after dark because she can’t see very well at night. Mom rushed all the way to Louisville, I jumped into the driver’s seat and sped all the way to the theater in downtown Denver, and having missed all pre-show preparations and scared the rest of the cast, I rushed into the theater 5 minutes before the curtain went up. My mother waited through the show while the sun went down, let me drive to the closed repair shop (where my car, paid for over the phone, was waiting with the door unlocked and the key in it), got my car, and let my poor mother find her way back to Lakewood.

If Yellow Cab had simply told me in the first place that they had no interest in serving me, I could have called my mother the day before and asked her to come get me in the daylight. I could have called all of my friends until I found one who was available that night. I could have walked 3 ½ miles to the shop. I could have hired a limousine…I could have done many things besides nearly ruining a show on opening night. Yellow Cab of Boulder went out of their way to ruin my night, and their systems are apparently set up to do just that. My advice to everyone who will listen: Never, ever call Yellow Cab of Boulder.

Want Yellow Cab’s side of the story? Call 303-777-7777 and choose the option for Boulder and Boulder County, but be warned that all you’ll get is a call taker who knows nothing and can’t communicate with anyone else in the company.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


There was a violent gang problem at the junior high school I was supposed to attend, so my parents open enrolled me at the next school over, just too far away to walk to. My mother drove me to school in the mornings, and my father picked me up every afternoon. When the bell rang at the end of my last class, I’d collect my books from my locker, rush outside, and eagerly watch the parents’ cars arrive. I couldn’t get away from junior high fast enough.

For the first few days, I was troubled by spurts of false hope. One mother had a Nissan Sentra, dark red, the same model and color as my father’s car. I could not consciously see any difference between the two cars. She usually arrived a few minutes before my father did, so that when she turned the corner into the parking lot, I got all excited, ready to go home, until she got close enough for even a nearsighted kid like me to see who was driving. My heart leapt up, then crashed back into my stomach, and I was trapped at the junior high school for five more incredibly long minutes. She didn’t always arrive first, though. Sometimes my father got there first, so my hopes stayed high, and my disappointment crushing. After a week, though, I found the solution in my subconscious mind. Until the car pulled right up to the curb, I had no logical way to know whether it was my father coming to take me home, or Decoy Mom there to disappoint me. Still, if I could calm myself down enough to feel it, I noticed that something clicked into place in my mind when the car turning that corner really was my father’s car, the one I’d ridden in for years and often looked for in the garage to tell me whether he was home. It was the click of familiarity. I don’t know what I was seeing—a scratch on the headlights, perhaps, or the movement of that particular set of wheels and shocks over the cracked pavement—but when I felt the click, I knew that car was there for me.

As my life goes on, I’ve noticed the click in other situations, and I’ve used it often to inform me or comfort me. It’s most pronounced with people. When I think I see a good friend across the mall, or an ex-boyfriend on the street, I watch the person walk, shift weight, move hands, turn, for just a moment. I’m not consciously looking for anything. I’m relaxing my conscious mind, waiting for the click. If this is someone who means something to me, part of my mind will recognize some little detail—the shape of Rachel’s eyes, maybe, or the way Brian’s feet turn out when he walks—and I’ll know without a doubt who I’m seeing. This is a common experience. I’m only surprised now when I expect a click and don’t feel one.

Last Saturday, when the air in Colorado was a balmy six degrees Fahrenheit, my friend Brian and I went snowshoeing on a trail just west of Boulder. We trudged through a meadow and into a forest, marveling at views of snow-frosted mountains. When my legs started to wear out, we turned around and retraced our tracks. As we stepped out of the forest, me first because Brian suggested that I, being less tough and more tired, should set the pace going back, I saw four more people toddling towards us on snowshoes.

“It’s Anita!” the head of their line sang out. I could tell that the voice was a man’s, but I didn’t recognize it. Nothing clicked. I watched him as he lead his group across the meadow and stopped two feet away from me—a space invasion for a stranger, but a comfortable distance for a close friend. The rest of his group, who I saw now were all women, stopped in a line behind him. “How are you doing, Anita?” he asked, friendly, charming, warm.

“Great!” I said, trying to match his familiar tone, but I kept staring, trying frantically to figure out who he was. He was bundled up for the weather in a black stocking cap and gloves, a forest green parka, and polarized orange ski goggles that covered half of his face. The other half was sprinkled with dark brown stubble. Still, I felt I should recognize anyone who was so happy to see me. He was small for a man, about my height, thin, and moved with athletic grace. I thought of my former boss, Joe, but Joe was a close friend of Brian’s, and would have called out to Brian, too. Also, Joe would have clicked. This wasn’t Joe. I had no idea who this was.

“Please tell me that the snow gets deeper as we go on,” the man said cheerily.


“No, not really,” Brian admitted for me. The snow was too shallow for snowshoeing, actually. The teeth on the bottoms of our snowshoes had scraped rocks from time to time, and the ground peeked through around the roots of some trees.

“But the view is gorgeous!” I added, still staring, looking the man up and down. As my eyes rested on his parka, it clicked for me right before he pulled off his goggles to reveal sparkling green eyes. “Oh, Ron!” I blurted out. “I didn’t recognize you at all! I recognized your jacket first, but…”

I quickly introduced Brian, reminding Ron what I’d told him in years past, that Brian was a guitarist and a buddy I’d met while working at Sounds True. Then I introduced Ron to Brian. “Brian, this is Ron, my ex-boyfriend from,” I scanned the three women, realizing that at least one of them probably thought she was his girlfriend, “years and years ago.” I remembered that Ron had always hated it when I introduced him that way, as my boyfriend when he was and later as my ex, but I suddenly realized that I had no other way to explain why I knew him. That was the full extent of our relationship. Brian was my former co-worker, my guitar teacher, a client whose cat I had cared for, a musician I admired, and one of my best friends. Ron was simply my ex.

Ron quickly sang off the names of his companions, waving vaguely towards them as he did. Now that Ron and I had finally expanded the conversation beyond the two of us, Brian asked the women if they knew of other good places for snowshoeing. One of them—their names had blown away from me in the rushed introduction—suggested Bear Lake. Then we all nodded and smiled and started off in opposite directions. “It was good to see you again,” said Ron, still wearing his charming smile.

“You too!” I called back. The warm, welcome feeling stayed on me as we stomped up a hill, but then I remembered the relationship I’d had with Ron, which I hadn’t thought of in the months since I’d finally stopped speaking to him, stopped pretending I could be his friend. The pain of trying too hard to prove that I was good enough for him, always feeling that I’d failed, for a year and a half as his girlfriend and two years as we tried to transition into friendship, came flooding back. “Wow,” I said loudly, so that Brian could hear me over the crunching of our snowshoes, “it’s amazing how much he still pisses me off.”

Brian told me that wasn’t too surprising, and he launched into his own story of a cheating ex-girlfriend who threw him away years ago, but who still pulled him down into depression when he ran into her again. As we toddled back to his car, on the ride back into Boulder, and over curry dinners at a Thai restaurant, we talked on and on about old relationships. We wondered what our significant others could have been thinking, analyzed our embarrassments, and marveled at how much we could still suffer from them years later. “I guess the only way to really get over someone you’ve loved is to fall in love with someone else,” Brian said.

I’m not sure I agree. I had misspoken earlier: It wasn’t really Ron who pissed me off. Ron made me feel welcome and cozy in a detached sort of way, like the great party host that he is. I’m clearly not over the story—it still upsets me whenever any little thing reminds me of it—but as for Ron himself, Ron the real person whose life is going on entirely without me, he doesn’t even click for me anymore. My life has gone on without him, too. I wonder if Brian’s statement was simply inside out: Maybe, now that the click is gone, I’ll finally be able to click with someone else.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Assistant Storytellers

The cast of the play I’m acting in is at our neighborhood bar for post-show drinks, and one of my fellow actors is showing me his tattoo. He’s whipped off his shoe and sock, and is wiggling his bare foot next to my chair so that I can admire the wide, serifed X across his big toe.

“Why an X?” I ask.

“Well, it’s…” He trails off, then starts again. “Do you want the real story, or the more interesting one I’ve made up?”

“Both,” I say without thinking about it.

“How about this? I’ll tell you three stories, and you guess which one is true.”

“You’re on,” I reply, while thinking to myself, I like this guy! I hope I can keep him as a friend after the play closes! He tells me three stories, and I lose the game. Even though I know that the most mundane of the stories is likely to be the true one, I pick the most interesting and unusual tale, the one with political connotations, the one that says more about him than I already knew. I’m not really playing the game as we’d set it up. Instead, I vote for the story I like best. Even though it’s not true, the story he invented says more about him, how he thinks and what he values, and how he sees me, what he expects I’d like to hear.

I love a good story! This is, at the root of it all, why I’m here tonight. As Harrison Ford put it in his interview on Inside the Actor’s Studio, an actor is merely “an assistant storyteller.” With the help of other actors, the director, the set and lighting designers, the costumer, and the playwright, we have been telling a story that isn’t true. It never happened, and never will. Somebody just made it up. Still, we’re all willing to devote hundreds of hours of our combined lives to telling it. Some, myself included, believe that telling these false stories is the most satisfying and important thing that we do. We are out for drinks to celebrate our success in telling a total lie.

It occurs to me that I will choose a good story over a true one most of the time. I don’t actually believe stories that sound unlikely, but I like to hear them, to roll them around in my mind, and I am more likely to remember them than I am the truth. Even now, two days after my colleague showed me his toe, I remember every detail of my favorite explanation, and only the faintest gist of the true one. Of course, I usually say that I value honesty, and I do value it deeply when it is necessary to give me the power to choose my own path in life. For example, if I’m in a committed relationship and I ask my partner if he slept with someone else while I was out of town, I want him to tell me the truth so that I can freely decide whether I still want to be with him. If I ask my employers whether they’re working on phasing out my job, I want to know the truth so that I can plan my career. If a play I’d like to act in is pre-cast, or if the director is sure that there’s no way she’ll cast me (because I look the wrong age, because she knows I don’t have the skills needed, because my eyes bug out when I’m surprised, or for any reason, really), I want to be told that so I can choose whether to spend my time on the audition. Telling people the truth in matters that affect their lives is a matter of basic respect, of valuing their personal freedom. If I’m part of the story, and it’s happening now, the truth is very important to me.

Still, most of the things people tell me are not factually important to my life. They’re told in order to bond with me in some small way, to share something about who the person is, to impress me, or to entertain us both. A false story can do all of these things just as well as, and sometimes better than, a true one. I don’t need to know the real reason why my colleague has an X across his big toe. I don’t care whether another theater person I know was really a secret member of The Strawberry Alarm Clock. My life and my choices will not change whether or not my best high school friend really had a fling with a hot guy in a Billy Bragg t-shirt while she was in New Orleans when she was sixteen. Still, I love the stories.

One of my favorite vacation experiences came when, on an extended road trip around the eastern U.S., I blew into Savanna, Georgia, and found it advertised as “The Ghost Story Capital of the United States.” I went on a walking tour of supposedly haunted places in historic downtown Savanna, listening to a handsome young man in a Shakespeare festival t-shirt, who later admitted that he was an actor, too. With compelling passion, he told us who had been murdered in this house, and what demons had entered that one because the headboard of the bed was made from iron stolen from a cemetery gate. He told us about a lonely old man who had moved into another historic house, then found his best friend and perfect companion in the ghost of the kindly doctor who had once lived there. As he told us about the doppleganger evil spirit who had attacked one of his college classmates in the mansion-turned-apartment complex on the next corner, I realized suddenly that I didn’t believe a word he was saying. In the next instant, I realized that I didn’t care. I loved the stories anyway. I learned more about the spirit of Savanna from those dubious tales than I would have learned from a dry, proven historical account.

In the same way, I learn more about my friends from the stories they tell about themselves than I would from knowing what actually happened to them. It’s more revealing, actually, when people tell me what they wish had happened, than when they tell me about their real pasts. Now that I think of it, though, my fellow actor’s true story is poignant in its way, as is the fact that he prefers not to tell it. I suppose my favorite way to learn about someone is through his game. I want to hear both stories: what really happened, and what we wish were true.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

It’s not Nice not to Stare

On a lovely, sunny afternoon this past April, I was sitting in a Noodles & Company restaurant in Lakewood, Colorado, waiting for my “to-go” order to be cooked. I was not looking lovely, at all. My right leg was propped up on my left knee, and I was using my hands to hold my bare right foot up higher still. A pair of crutches leaned against the bench beside me. I’d just taken off a painfully tight Ace bandage, so my ankle was now visible in all its glory: black, purple, and blue swirled with neon green and yellow in a tapestry of bruising that covered me from the knuckles of my toes up to my knee. There was a spot of pale, papery white over my Achilles tendon. My ankle, under the bruising, was swollen to three times its usual size. I was not at all surprised when a small boy stopped to stare at this spectacle. I hoped he’d ask me what happened. It was obvious that this was a recent injury, and I had a good story that I wasn’t tired of telling: how a piece of lumber had fallen on me while I was backstage for a play I was acting in, how I’d gone on with the show because, miraculously, my character had an injured ankle, too, and how I blamed the whole accident on the actor who had said “MacBeth” in the dressing room, as every theater person knows that the Scottish play is very bad luck, indeed…

Sadly, my storytelling opportunity was snatched away. Just as the boy opened his mouth to speak, his mother strode up, grabbed his arm, and jerked him away, growling, “Don’t stare!” She didn’t acknowledge me at all.

I was constantly surprised by strangers during my two weeks on crutches. A few people would help me out, hold doors for me, and better yet, ask what happened to me and tell me about the misadventures that had put them on crutches in the past. Overwhelmingly, though, my experience in public places was of being completely invisible. Even on the day when I went to Super Target, and a wonderfully friendly security guard gave me a buzzing electric go-cart of a shopping cart to ride around in, shoppers fell over themselves to avoid seeing me. Small children watched me go by, but were jerked away by hissing parents. Adults looked up at the sound of the motor, then quickly became fascinated by shower curtain rings and wedge-soled shoes.

As my injury began to heal, my invisibility grew more complete. I donated my crutches to charity after two weeks, but I had a pronounced limp for months, rolling awkwardly over my stiff right foot on every other step. My friend Daryl called it “zombie walking” and I laughed because I knew that I would not be a zombie forever. Still, now it was not so clear to the general public that I’d had an accident, or that this was a temporary situation. Not one person held a door for me, even though strangers had often held doors for me when I was healthy. (After all, I am a 32-year-old woman, and not bad looking.) Children were still pulled out of view by hissing parents, and adults still looked up and then quickly away, but nobody asked me how I came by my limp. I felt less and less excited about shopping, or going to libraries, or hanging out in coffee shops. I stayed home more, and spoke more quietly, adding to the cycle of invisibility.

Now, four months later, I look completely normal. I don’t limp at all unless my ankle, which is still weak, has seen heavy exercise lately. A good hike or a tap dancing class will bring back the limp for a day, but otherwise I look comfortingly ordinary. People sometimes hold doors for me again, and children only stare at me if I’m knitting in public. I feel solid again. I’m louder, and easier to see. I worry, though, about those people who are permanently unusual, whether from a disability, a simple physical difference like a deep skin color, being very tall or very short, speaking with an accent because their first language was not English, or liking to wear unusual clothes. The standard in American culture, as in many others, is that it is not polite to stare, but in practice this means that we resist the urge to acknowledge any difference—awful or beautiful or neutral—and in this supreme effort, we refuse to acknowledge an entire person. This well-meaning attempt to be polite, taught so well to most of us that it feels like a reflex by the time we become adults, often causes us to shun people for being interesting. The unusual becomes invisible. Even now that I’m visible again, this effect makes me very sad. I know it’s painful for everyone who is obviously unique, and it’s also a great loss for everyone who refuses to see them.

I saw a surprising example of this on a recent Sunday morning. My Sunday morning ritual these days is to stop by Vic’s coffee shop on Main Street in Louisville, Colorado (Colorado readers, please visit Vic’s. It’s a lovely, cozy place.) to sip green tea, eat a chocolate croissant, and knit while my talented friend Brian plays his guitar for the patrons. A surprisingly large number of people come in on most Sundays—with clipless bicycle shoes clicking, small children in tow, and friendly dogs tied up on the sidewalk outside—order their complicated coffees, and leave. A few folks sit down at the comfortable tables to read the newspaper and chat. Few pay any attention at all to the man in the corner who is improvising amazingly intricate melodies on a guitar.

Well, one fine Sunday morning, while I was staring over my knitting at Brian, trying to figure out how he made that last lovely trilling sound, a group sat down at the next table over. A mother was there with a baby in a carrier, a girl of seven or eight, and a friend, an adult woman much like herself. Mom and her friend were chatting away when Brian ended his tune with a flourish. There was a beat of silence, and then the little girl began to clap. I realized, all of a sudden, that nobody ever claps for Brian at Vic’s. Though I love his music, and I’d even told him so from time to time, it had never occurred even to me to clap when he finished a song. Why not? So I’d raised my hands, about to join the little girl, when her mother grabbed her hands, held them apart and hissed, “Stop that!”

Oh, yes. Now I remember. I don’t clap because I’ve been raised, as every kid whose parents value standard American politeness has been raised, not to draw attention to anything. No matter how unusual, how painful, or how wonderful a person’s difference is, we’re not supposed to admit that it’s there.

Well, I say, forget all of that! It may be polite to avoid staring at all costs, but it’s nicer—perhaps I should say kinder, or more useful for creating a better world—in any case, it makes more sense, I think, to admit when something is strikingly different about another person. We all know that everyone is unique, and it’s not likely that that a person with an obvious, visible difference hasn’t noticed it. If you notice in a respectful way, perhaps with a nod and a smile when you catch the person’s eye, it’s just another way to make contact with someone new. If someone has chosen to be different in an interesting way, like a lady wearing a beautiful headscarf, a teenager sporting a green mohawk, or my sudden change from light brown hair to flaming red, that person may enjoy telling you why they made that choice. It’s surely better for you to ask than to pretend it is’t there. If someone looks like he or she may need help, offer it, and if you’re told he or she is doing fine, you can admire more people for the creative ways they’ve found for taking care of themselves. And for heaven’s sake, if someone is different because they’re doing something wonderful, acknowledge their talent and encourage them to do more. In any case, we must stop punishing people for being interesting. Please, let's not let any human being become invisible because we’ve been taught that it’s not nice to stare.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Marriage Business

Check out Traveling Hypothesis, and R.J.’s suggestion that our government “get out of the marriage business” and start recognizing “partnerships” instead. My response to this was so involved that I decided to post it on my blog, instead of his. Here goes:

R.J.: What bothers me about this situation is that the definition of "marriage" as far as the State is concerned has been so thoroughly stretched out of shape that your proposed solution is simply renaming marriage "partnership" and continuing with it as it was originally intended. How progressive of you. Still, silly as it sounds, this little semantic change is what we need to solve the problem.

Let me explain: The religious right, and many other religious people, yell about "gay marriage" and belittle commonlaw marriage because they think that, if our officially secular government recognizes a "marriage"—even if it's just because a man and woman walked into a courthouse and signed a form, or even just filed their income taxes together (Yes, you can get legally married this way, at least in Colorado and some other states which recognize commonlaw marriages.)—it means that they are part of the holy union laid out by their particular religion. That's not what it means. The reason governments got into the "marriage" business is the same reason why you suggest they should be in the "partnership" business, instead.

In fact, that's originally why everybody got into the marriage business. The idea that love has anything to do with marriage is very new. Many cultures still don't think that, and many modern, intelligent, well-educated people still practice arranged marriages for purely social and financial reasons, in whichi love does or doesn't develop after the wedding day. (Yes, intelligent, modern people do this. Does anyone else reading this have a brilliant college buddy who is living happily in an arranged marriage? I have.) From the start, "marriages" have been partnerships set up to ensure that children would be well taken care of. Group marriages are not a new idea, either. From Hindus to Mormons to ancient Hebrews, many cultures have allowed groups (mostly one man and many women, but sometimes with many men, as well) to get "married." It's always for the stability of a family.

So why is marriage considered mainly a religious rite? Well, in the early stages of all cultures, religion and government were the same thing. The United States' separation of church and state was a ground-breaking new idea. When religious law and state law split up, we all got confused about which one "marriage" belonged to. And after the split, as we struggled to decide which of our beliefs belonged to religion, and which should belong to everybody.

We've also got all kinds of ideas about what "marriage" means, and this adds to the confusion. Some of us think that it means exactly whatever our particular religion says it does, which is far more than what it should ever mean to the state. Some of us also think it means that we've found our "soul mate," and are just celebrating that we are in deep, true love, and intend to be so forever. And then many folks still get married purely for financial and legal stability. All of these layers are admirable and valid reasons for making a commitment. Most folks who get married are going with many layers at once, and that's great, but no wonder we're confused!

So, as R.J. suggests, I think our governments should quit talking about "marriage," just because the word has become too heavily loaded, and get into the business of "partnerships." Or, heck, "recognized relationships" or "civil unions." Just pick a term that applies just to the government layer. Then it should recognize any legal adults (I really wish our states would quit recognizing "marriages" involving children too young to sign contracts, or to legally have sex outside of marriage. Try Googling "minimum marriage age." It's downright creepy.) who choose to enter into a contract to form a family unit. Any number of people, of any genders, should be eligible. It should be a pain in the neck to divorce one’s self from such a unit, but possible. The units should be given all the legal powers that married couples have now—especially powers like the ability to order medical care for children, and such.

Yes, I do have my own blog. Sorry to ramble so. As you can see, I feel very strongly about marriage. I really like the idea, in all of its layers. If I was really excited about the idea of raising children soon, I would be looking for a good candidate for the state-sanctioned layer—for a firm partnership to make the huge job of raising children easier. It’s such a tough and important job, that a partnership deal is a great idea. I’m not in a hurry to have kids, though, so I won’t settle for that any time soon. I’m not strongly religious, either, so the religious layer isn’t important to me, though I respect folks for whom it is. They should, and do, follow whatever rules their religion sets up, and they care about their faith’s sanction more than the State’s. As for me, I’m dreaming of the “soul mate” layer. I think it can be done, and that’s the kind of “marriage” that I most like to think about, the kind where it doesn’t really matter whether anyone besides you and your mate recognizes the union. You know who you are, you’re devoted to the union, and the only question is whether you want to have a party to celebrate. That’s what many people, gay and straight, have, and that’s the layer I personally like best. But, of course, that part is none of the government’s business.

Friday, April 07, 2006

The World-Wide Web

I’ve just discovered another multi-user blog, and I’m having great fun with it. The first post reads, “Whoever cleans this place must be a man. He didn’t put the trash can back in the stall! Now where am I supposed to put this bloody tampon?!!”

The reply below is says, “Shove it up you’re a*#, you whiney bitch!”

And to this, another unsigned note says, “Why are you afraid to write ASS, when you’re willing to say BITCH?”

“Yeah,” says another, “and your grammar is atrocious. Learn to use an apostrophe!”

The intellectual snob in me perks up. Now the discussion is getting interesting! After this note comes another reader’s thought: “Grammar and punctuation are not important, as long as your point is clear.” This one is actually signed: “~an English minor.”

I’m ready to join the fray. Below the English minor’s comment, I write, “Used properly, grammar and punctuation make your point clear to everybody. That’s why they matter.” I sign my comment, “~an English major.”

Reading on, I see a post that I feel I must comment directly on: “Here I sit all broken-hearted. Came to s*%#, but only farted.”

“Oh, that’s original!” I write, hoping that sarcasm will come across here. Ah, well. I can’t expect brilliant discourse from every post in this place. After all, this is a stall wall in a women’s bathroom on the University of Colorado’s campus. I am surprised and delighted to find a discussion of any interest here, but the truth is that I usually do find some philosophy, and some hearty back-and-forth debate, in any place where people write anonymous graffiti. The tunnels under roads on the University of Northern Colorado’s campus, outhouses on hiking trails, and the tables in funkier coffee shops prove equally entertaining. Sometimes, while typing my thoughts to my friends, I’ve stopped to wonder what we did before we had weblogs, but that just means it’s been too long since I’ve visited a rarely-repainted public restroom. People have been airing their opinions, and hailing or smashing down other people’s, for as long as we’ve known how to write—perhaps longer, actually. I wonder if that’s what the paintings in the caves of Lascaux were really all about.

I learned a similar lesson from a recent trip to San Francisco. When I’d returned to Colorado, I was explaining to my friend Ron why I had taken a snapshot of an old wooden telephone pole, encrusted with staples. “Oh, this is cool!” I gurgled. “Izu, the guide on The Haight Ashbury Flower Power Walking Tour, says that this was the main message post in Haight Ashbury during the Summer of Love. If you were looking for someone, you’d just staple a note up here and wait for a few days. Eventually, your friend would walk by, read the note, and staple one up for you, telling you where and when to meet him. If you were new in town, and didn’t have a place to stay or food to eat, you’d staple up a note asking for help, and someone would leave a note for you and hook you up. The hippies took care of each other back then, and this was how they made contact.”

“Ah,” said Ron, nodding sagely, “the original Craig’s List. I knew it started in San Francisco!”

He was right! This was the pencil-and-paper version of Craig’s List, where today I find places to stay again and again, I find jobs to help me put food on my table (or whoever’s table I’m using that week, traveling neo-hippie that I am), and where I meet new friends to exchange stuff and advice with. The Haight Ashbury message pole was, of course, just a large-scale version of the community bulletin boards that have graced churches, community centers, and grocery stores for decades. People have been taking care of strangers since long before 1967, and they continue to do so today.

I am in love with the Internet. I love all of the things and ideas and people I can find on Craig’s List. I love the power of blogs: My brilliant friend Rachel kept me informed about all sides of the latest Presidential election by linking important news stories to her blog. My dear friend Ron is extremely busy and often out of town on business trips, so I rarely get to see him or catch him on the phone, yet I read his blog and post my comments and feel that we’re still in touch. Having just broken up with an incredibly kind, but not-quite-compatible guy, I was afraid to call or visit, for fear of upsetting him even more. Still, when I thought of him, I could check his blog and rest assured that he was okay. My own blog helped me sort out a complicated friendship by telling my friend how I'd felt about him, six months after I felt it. I love the Internet! This is my favorite and most powerful way to connect with people! Still, from the hippie pole in San Francisco to the ladies’ room down the street, I see examples everywhere of the ways we have always connected. The World Wide Web is real, but it is older and more ingrained than any electronic network. The web of community is as old as humanity itself. That, I think, is particularly groovy!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Creep Update

For those of you who read my post "Creep," I have wonderful news!

After a while, I decided that my old friend Brian was never going to speak to me again, and curiosity was killing me, and... well, I'm a jerk, so I downloaded and listened to Brian's CD after all. He's good. He's really good. I'm still amazed that I know such a person personally. If you like acoustic guitar, folky rock, or blues, I especially recommend him. Brian's greatest heroes include Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and David Gray, but Brian is particularly good at singin' the blues. He also has a really cool voice, though he doesn't seem to know that.

In even better news, I can, in good conscience, tell you all about Brian and recommend his music. You see, to my great surprise, Brian has started speaking to me again! (Apparently he's forgiving, as well as talented. I just hope he doesn't change his mind after reading "Creep," which, in fairness, I felt I should invite him to do.) Thus, I have his permission to recommend his music to all three of my loyal readers (and anyone else who might wander by)!

Give him a listen. His full name is Brian Blommer. His CD "Live: An Audience of One" is available on the CD Baby web site at and also from iTunes, MSN Music, and Walmart's online music store, to name the few places I've found so far. Just search for the artist "Brian Blommer" on any of these sites. You can listen to samples first, of course. CD Baby has longer free samples than iTunes, so I suggest you sample there. I'll add the CD Baby page to my links on the right side of this blog, too. Listen! Enjoy!

Brian also has recorded an electric, in-studio blues-based CD, "Too Young to Feel This Old," which he's let me hear, and which I hope he'll put on CD Baby soon. He's thinking of playing out in public more often, too. If I hear about any future performances, I'll let you know. (I know he plays acoustic improvisational stuff at a coffee house every Sunday, but I'd like to ask him if he minds before I send you all there...)