Friday, January 21, 2011


Retirement is agreeing with me -- more than I ever expected. I feel like I have my head back a little. Even when I wasn't playing the game, it's amazing how much time I spent thinking about it. Derby isn't just a time-commitment. If you take it seriously, you become evangelical.

I don't have much affection for David Brooks, but I liked this bit from his recent New Yorker article:

“I’ve come to think that flourishing consists of putting yourself in situations in which you lose self-consciousness and become fused with other people, experiences or tasks. It happens sometimes when you are lost in a hard challenge, or when an artist or craftsmen becomes one with the brush or the tool. It happens sometimes when you’re playing sports, or listening to music or lost in a story, or to some people when they feel enveloped by God’s love. And it happens most when we connect with other people. I’ve come to think that happiness isn’t produced by conscious accomplishments. Happiness is a measure of how thickly the unconscious parts of our minds are intertwined with other people and with activities. Happiness is determined by how much information and affection flows through covertly every day and year.”

I read this on Saturday, swinging in a hammock, outside the Integratron in Joshua Tree, following a moment of profound disconnectedness from other people. I had bought tickets to see Gregorian chanting in the desert and instead I got a choir of assholes who couldn't actually sing. They came outfitted in blond dreadlocks, five-finger running shoes and gauged earlobes. I got Orientalism and inauthenticity. I got a woman plucking away at an instrument that looked sort of like a sitar but wasn’t exactly a sitar. I got a round room, a dome designed as a beacon for UFOs, crammed full of new age yuppies perched on Navajo blankets and yoga mats holding their hands over their hearts. There was cuddling and there was singing, but nothing that resembled Gregorian chanting.

The point of this event was connection, I presume. A meditation on friendship and peace. But as I looked around the room and saw so many self-satisfied 30-somethings sitting in lotus position, I was filled with hate. I'm pretty sure this was not the emotion the organizers of this event intended for me to experience, and I didn't want to be feeling it, either. I was getting skeeved out by my own negativity and judgment. I felt consumed by self-consciousness and the overwhelming desire too flee. I felt bad for bringing my friends to this place.

It was the poetry that finally sent me running for the Joshua trees: A woman stood and recited an ode to a cactus -- an homage to both the painful and prickly exterior and the oh-so-soft and sweet center. Couldn't we see? They were both of equal value! This was supposed to be a revelation, and so I stood, crawled down the ladder and exited the Integratron. I made my way to the Hammock Village and opened my New Yorker as a sad rendition of "Amazing Grace" pored from the dome, saturating the desert. I flipped the pages. But I was OK again: happy to be in the desert, in a hammock, in the sun, reading something. I was happy that I wouldn't have skate practice tomorrow, or the day after that or the day after that. And when the singing stopped and my friends scattered from the dome looking like they'd witnessed an atrocity, I was grateful for them.

"This why I hate white people," Adriana said. "This is why there is war."

When you walk away from the Integatron, you face a giant mirror. The four of us stood before it.

"Maybe we should take off our clothes and masturbate?" I suggested.

In the car, during the 2.5 drive through the desert back to L.A., we discussed blowjobs, food and Crass (among other things). We were connected. The information and affection flowed, covertly, and we were in a better place.

Monday, January 17, 2011

shop talk

On the heels of this NYT article about America's lack of progress toward creating a national digital library (compared to Europe and Japan), last week OCLC released a report called Cloud-sourcing Research Collections: Managing Print in the Mass-digitized Library Environment. Findings from the year-long study conclude:

  • There is sufficient material in the mass-digitized library collection managed by the HathiTrust to duplicate a sizeable (and growing) portion of virtually any academic library in the United States, and there is adequate duplication between the shared digital repository and large-scale print storage facilities to enable a great number of academic libraries to reconsider their local print management operations.
  • The combination of a relatively small number of potential shared print providers, including the US Library of Congress, was sufficient to achieve more than 70% coverage of the digitized book collection, suggesting that shared service may not require a very large network of providers.
  • Substantial library space savings and cost avoidance could be achieved if academic institutions outsourced management of redundant low-use inventory to shared service providers.
  • Academic library directors can have a positive and profound impact on the future of academic print collections by adopting and implementing a deliberate strategy to build and sustain regional print service centers that can reduce the total cost of library preservation and access.
At one of the two community colleges where I'm adjunct faculty, I work as a database & systems librarian -- a position I share with a tenured librarian, a PhD, who would prefer if the majority of our collection was digital. Particular to the demographic our school serves, it's an opinion I've come to share.

For my birthday this year, Lei bought me a Kindle. On my mental list of Needful Things, an e-reader didn't rank very high, but I'm really enjoying it -- the convenience, portability, the dwindling pile of books on my nightstand. There is less dust in my bedroom.

I'm seriously considering a move come early summer -- just a little east, probably Echo Park or Silver Lake. I keep looking around my apartment and seeing nothing but things that will need to go into boxes. Heavy boxes filled with so many books I will never read again.

Friday, January 7, 2011


When I'm home for Christmas, I run. I run because I have nothing better to do and because I won't accept the holiday season as an excuse for sloth. In spite of this, I always manage to put on a few pounds. Phoenix has never agreed with my ass.

My mother no longer lives in the house where I grew up. Ten years ago, she moved to a bigger house a few blocks away. It is the same neighborhood, dense with the standard issue white stucco, red-roofed homes. This is southwestern suburban living: rocks instead of grass, a barrel cactus or palm tree in the yard. The streets are empty -- even in the 70-degree winter, no one really hangs around outside. When I ran on Christmas day, I saw a few kids riding their new bikes, but generally there are few signs of life. So I run around like I own the place, through the housing developments with the meaningless names I remember from childhood: "Discovery at the Orchard" and "Peppermill Run." I sing along with my Ipod, something I would never do in L.A. When I was a kid, I had a song called "Peppermill Run" that I sang, loudly, as I rode my bike through the empty streets.

I like to run the bleachers and track at my old high school, which I never did as a student. I ran there the day after Christmas, a Sunday, and found men in masks and worksuits, spraying the track the color of so many desert rocks, burnt sienna. So I kept running, past the high school into a part of Peoria I forget exists: a few blocks of older, sprawling ranch-style homes with orange trees in their front yards and barns in the back. There are no sidewalks here, the road is lined with dirt, and a few of these homes feature horses grazing in their front yards. One horse, white with big brown patches, nodded as I ran past, and I recalled the first time I saw a horse with an erection, its penis dragging along the ground like some giant parasitic worm out of a horror movie. Still, I saw no people. Growing up, I never knew the kids who lived in these non-stucco homes.

We moved to Arizona from Long Island when I was eight. We moved because the cost of living was so much lower -- it was a place where my mother could afford to buy a home, something that was very important to her, but remains of little consequence to me. It was also a place where there would be no shortage of employment: my mother is a nurse on the assisted living circuit and Arizona is where old people go to die. Our town, Peoria, borders Sun City on the east. Sun City is the nation's oldest retirement community, constructed in the 1960s by Del Webb. It is 98.5% white and you can drive a golf cart through the streets.

"I'm getting old, Meg," my mother said on Christmas. She'd been lamenting the implementation of computers at her workplace, the transition to electronic med charts. She doesn't know how to type let alone navigate any kind of digital interface and she's having a hard time keeping up. "I'm older than some of my patients now."

My mom often works holidays because she is paid time and a half. We spent Christmas morning together until she disappeared into the bathroom for her daily grooming ritual. Meanwhile, I went running. I was sitting sweaty in the living room when she emerged two hours later looking basically the same.

And then it was off to the old folks home for her 3-11 shift.

I took the mostly deserted Loop 101 to Rick's family's North Phoenix home. I exited 7th Avenue and made a left on Utopia, where churches guarded both sides of the intersection: Methodist to the west, Church of the Nazarene to the east.

For Christmas dinner, we ate crab from the shell. It was my first time. I used a nutcracker and crab juice splattered across my glasses.

Afterward, Rick and I retired to the guest room we were sharing, our clothes, luggage and Christmas gifts strewn everywhere, an obstacle course to be conquered. We curled up in bed and watched Wasteland Utopias on the giant flat screen TV. The documentary makes tenuous connections between psychiatrist/naturalist Wilhelm Reich and construction mogul Del Webb, two men with divergent utopian visions. While Webb was erecting Sun City on the western edge of suburban Phoenix's sprawl, Reich was approximately 200 miles southeast, trying to make rain with his cloudbuster, a device that could drain the atomosphere of Deadly Orgone or DOR. Reich believed that DOR was the antithesis of Orgone, a term he coined to describe a primordial cosmic energy associated with libido.

Reich believed that desert-living was conducive to DOR poisoning, hence his cloudbusting experiments in the Sonoran Desert. In addition to "a dull gaze in the eyes, with an expression of despair of the face . . . emotional outbursts of hatred," Reich wrote that diarrhea is a symptom of DOR poisoning.

When I arrived on my mother's doorstep Christmas eve, my stomach was in knots, and she hugged me so hard I thought I might crap. She clung to me like a hungry parasite and I felt her curved spine, the growing hump on her back. She shook as she sobbed and I fantasized about a porcelain bowl. When I finally extricated myself from her grip, I headed straight to the downstairs bathroom and clogged the toilet. A few ill-advised flushes later, I stood ankle-deep in my own dirty water, dreaming up a way to get out of this shit.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I want to try on your clothes

My team did something very sweet for my last game: during our skakeout, everyone donned fake glasses and argyle socks in my honor (the argyle socks stayed for the game; the glasses, more impractical, did not).

Will the real Judy Gloom please stand up? Photo by Susanica Tam aka Mia More.

The song we skated to was Bikini Kill's "Rebel Girl," one of my teenage anthems. So, I thought I'd share this video of BK's/Le Tigre's Kathleen Hanna covering "Smells Like Teen Spirit" in December. It's more than a cover -- it's a performance piece wherein she talks about the night she spent with Kurt Cobain that inspired the song. And she breaks into a bit of "Rebel Girl" toward the end. It's 10 minutes long, but really fun to watch.

One of my many new year's resolutions is to write more, so I hope that translates into an increase in blog updates. There will be a lot less about derby (obv), and you can probably expect more writerly type stuff as I try to flex those atrophied muscles, but I still hope you'll hang with me. I'm kind of loving 2011 so far.