Thursday, January 31, 2008

Queen of the Road

I used to get speeding tickets. Often. It wasn't that I wanted to die young and leave a pretty corpse. I think it was a combination of machismo, not valuing my own life enough and not believing that I could die. Also, I was always running late and if I had died, I would have been late to my own funeral.

I was forced to reevaluate my lead-footed ways when I got a ticket in upstate New York for going 85 mph in a 55 mph zone. Thirty miles over the speed limit is automatic loss of license in New York.

It was looking pretty hopeless because I was caught by radar on Interstate-684, the primary highway through Westchester County to further upstate. The road was a speed demon's dream, several lanes with hardly any traffic. It was a high velocity road.

I was working an hour north of my home at the time, which in blizzard conditions could easily become five or six hours. As the sole support of my children, I had a lot at stake concerning my license. If I couldn't drive, I couldn't work.

As I stared dejectedly at the ticket, I noticed something. I'm sure my mouth dropped open as I read it carefully again, but there was no mistake. The policeman had marked the box for "male."

I decided to fight it in court, and to represent myself as I couldn't afford a lawyer.

My appearance day arrived and the courthouse was full of people. The police officer took the stand first. He described my vehicle, and then he explained lengthily how his radar equipment worked. He told the judge that it had been tested a week before the incident and was 100% accurate at 55, 65, 75 and 85 miles per hour. He was impressive.

When it was my turn, I said there was no doubt that Officer Kelly was a very good policeman and that I was sure his radar equipment was perfect. But I believed he had ticketed the wrong car and the wrong driver because he had checked the box for male, and I had never considered myself a borderline case.

People throughout the gallery tittered and the judge, whose name was also Susan, emitted a snort which she turned into a cough.

"Besides, I don't have a unisex name," I added. Judge Susan nodded slightly.

The policeman, who was a very nice man, said, 'I can't believe I did that to you. I'm so sorry. It's just that most of our speeders are men."

I knew I had to give them something. He was a good cop, and I was going 85. We all knew it.

I told the judge, "I may have exceeded the speed limit, but not by thirty miles per hour. I don't think my old car would even go that fast."

She leaned on her elbow and smiled at me. "How fast do you think you were going?" she asked.

"Oh, maybe 60 or even 62," I said.

Judge Susan turned to the policeman. "Officer, would it be all right with you if I fine this woman for going five miles over the speed limit?"

"I'd pay her fine myself if my wife would let me," he said.

She banged her gavel, I paid the court a $25 fine, grinning the whole time, gave myself some high fives and drove home.

It took all my self-control but I did not exceed the speed limit.

Ticket to Ride

Luuuuu-cy got another parking ticket today. It's been awhile, maybe a year since the last one. Parking tickets are especially heinous in this city, ranging from $40 to $All your blood and your firstborn son, too.

Flip once got one for $189, which seemed like an odd amount, for parking in a tow-away zone, while I have been anointed in the amounts of $40, $60 and $80, depending upon the whim of the parking nazis. I have had more parking tickets than he has, but his was by far the winner. The Mother Ticket. The Big One.

Quality vs quantity.

I always contest them. Occasionally, I win.

The present billet du jour was for parking in a zone restricted for street cleaning near the hospital where I went to have blood drawn. There is a two-hour window for street cleaners and I managed to catch it.

In my defense, the sign was halfway down the block, I parked at the corner and there was a huge SUV parked ahead of me. The sign was not visible. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Does it seem fair to you that I should be bled dry twice in the same day?

The ticket says "can not read." I was quite insulted. Of course I can read. I just didn't see the sign.

Upon further examination, I realized it was my vehicle's vin number that could not be read.

Desi's going to be really mad when he hears about this.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Oliver Twist San Francisco-Style

A giggle of young teen girls loudly entered the drug store behind me. I went about my business and a few minutes later, while I was in line for the checkout counter, they were escorted to the front of the store and delivered to the sidewalk. Meanwhile, several boys of about the same age came running out of a store across the street and jumped into a waiting SUV that was double parked with its engine running.

As one of the drugstore employees said tersely, "Don't ever come back here. We've got your picture," the girls also ran to the SUV, which took off much too fast for a busy street.

All I can think of is that a modern-day Fagin is running a school which teaches children to rip off stores instead of picking pockets.

It was a stunning little vignette, over much too fast to process. I'm not sure what was going on there, but the little angels were not selling Girl Scout cookies.

The drugstore always has a selection of panhandlers outside, most of whom I know by face if not by name.

Today, the man who sits next to the man with the "Just 23 cents" sign who sits next to the "Why lie, need a beer" man who sits next to the woman with the grungy stuffed animals was talking on his cell phone but flashed me a peace sign as I dropped a dollar into his cup.

How can you not support someone who is in thrall to a wireless phone provider? Maybe that's why he's homeless.

The man who wears a gold crown said, "Hey! What about me?"

The two shopping cart gentlemen whipped their heads back and forth like a tennis match and grinned at me toothlessly.

The last time I donated to the king's cause, he complained that it wasn't enough. I'm sure he's forgotten, but I remember. I won't make that embarrassing mistake again.

There is also a man with a sign that says "Fuck you" who yells threats at passing pedestrians. I suspect he doesn't make a very good living.

My neighborhood is also home to many trust funders. There are probably more Ferraris and Maseratis per square foot here than practically anywhere on the planet, most of them driven by people so young that it is highly unlikely they earned them themselves.

Two worlds exist within the same couple of blocks, two worlds so different that it is almost impossible to comprehend that the highly privileged are in fact of the same species as the totally unprivileged.

Meanwhile, a mere four blocks away, another street of luxury shops exists which used to be exactly the same, but which retains its rarefied atmosphere while the one nearby is beginning to look like a slum.

The other street has no panhandlers and also no bars or police presence, while this one has seen several break-ins in recent months and several storefronts smashed by drunks on New Year's Eve.

"The area is changing," said the clerk at a GNC store next to one that lost its front as he swept up broken glass from his own doorway. "There's some really bad energy here now."

I think the neighborhood is expressing entropy, the inevitable and steady deterioration of a system or society.

All matter and energy in the universe tend to evolve toward a state of inert uniformity. It seems that such polarity cannot continue indefinitely. Something's gotta give.

The panhandlers and the drunks are the engines of change and interestingly, they will probably be the survivors. When the neighborhood declines below the level that is acceptable to the Ferrari people, they will leave and the transformation will be complete.

As long as some people have far more material goods than they need while others have much too little, the life force will strive to equalize things.

Until the haves no longer feel more entitled than the have-nots, there will be no lasting peace in the neighborhood and in the world's neighborhoods called countries.

Such disparate entities will never play nicely together.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Yes, I Really Must Vent

I had a disturbing conversation with a man who clerks at my neighborhood grocery and with whom we swap friendly banter on a near-daily basis. He enjoys greeting us variously as Mr. and Mrs. Flip or Mr. and Mrs. Susan and never tires of addressing us thus.

Today, he beamed at me as he totted up my purchases and said, "What did you think of the New Hampshire primary?"

I said I was disgusted by Hillary's blatant and cynical attempts to pull votes out of people's heartstrings because Obama was the better person.

"Yes," he said, "he is a good man but if he gets elected there will be race riots all over the country. People will be killing each other in the streets."

I was dumbfounded. The illogic of his remark sat over the counter like a heavy gray cloud. Racism is still racism no matter how it's rationalized.

"That's no reason not to vote for him," I said. "That's pandering to racists because you suspect they might do something. How is that good for America?"

"I'll do anything to get Bill back," he said. "Cheating is better than people dying every day. Bill cared about the working man."

I looked closely to see if he was frothing at the mouth.

Personally, I think what Bill Clinton cared about had nothing to do with men, working or idle.

I usually avoid broadcasting my political preferences in this space, but the magnitude of spurious reasoning evinced by Bob, who votes, is so staggering that I cannot help myself.

His thought process is equivalent to not giving women the vote because some of them might stop darning their husband's socks. Or how about not giving children an education because they might use it someday to become "dangerous" to the dominant culture? In fact, this is the very rationale that allowed segregation in public schools.

Such reasoning would have us continue to elect white presidents forever, whether or not they are the most qualified candidates and despite the fact that we are a multi-racial society, simply to avoid conflict.

If we are so paralyzed by fear that we refuse to advance in any way, we are doomed.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Short People Got No Reason to Live

"There's a Psychic Faire in Golden Gate Park today," I told Flip.

"Did that just come to you?" he asked.

It was pouring. We decided to go downtown instead as he had an underwear errand at Gap.

I won't shop at Gap because I am a logical person while they persist in hanging their smallest sizes on the highest racks where small people can't reach.

How can this be working for them? Do they sit in their giant board rooms and wonder why the Extra-Small and Small garments never sell? Except for anorexic supermodels who are eight feet tall and weigh 63 pounds, chances are that most people who wear the smallest sizes are short. Our little arms don't reach that high and frankly, the merchandise is not worth the neck and back pain which ensues from stretching way over our little heads.

Does Randy Newman own Gap?

I stopped to marvel at a new perfume called Séxual ( In giant letters) by Michel Germain at Bloomingdale's.

Now that's telling it like it is. No beating around the bush or clever euphemisms. Subtlety is dead.

I was afraid to smell it, but I wonder if there's a blue collar version called "Hump" at K-Mart.

Flip tried to sneak a skateboard by me the way he does Fritos and chips at the supermarket. He gravitates toward the phenomenally unhealthy and dangerous while I fervently believe in health food stores and am only a danger to myself in that I am phenomenally careless.

I'm all for the skateboard, unlike the junk food, but the weather we've had lately is more conducive to ark building. It seems like a purchase that could wait until spring. Our closets are already full of boogie boards and guitar cases, and not nearly full enough with the aforementioned Extra-Small clothing items.

There is a ¡PARTY! next door with the horrible stench of deep-fried silage that earned us a visit from the fire department the last time Skankblossom cooked, and of course, wall-to-wall noise. There are about 20 pairs of shoes in the hall while the trollop of the manse prances about in those surgically attached stilettos. And me without a semi-automatic submachine gun.

Who frickin' gives a party in a small apartment?

On a brighter note, Ian at Or So I Thought gave me a "Roar for Powerful Words" award. I like lions (and tigers and bears, oh my.)

Thank you, Ian.

I would like to give it to Lex at On Second Thought for her turbo-charged honesty. She pulls no punches even on herself, is committed to her own growth and questions everything.

Chani at Thailand Gal serves as a spiritual due-North for many of us. She is eloquent, passionate about her beliefs and always kind.

Liz at Los Angelista's Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness is all heart, a beautiful writer, skilled observer of humankind, and deliciously quirky.

David at Witnessing Am I is All Writer, All the Time. He doesn't just use words, he owns them. He excels in noticing the small things that make up a life and recreating them beautifully.

Mariposa at Mariposa's Tales has honored me with a "Wonderful Women of the Web" award.

Thank you, Mariposa. We haven't known each other for long, but you and your delightful blog have brightened my world so much and quickly become a necessary part of my day.

Claudia at On a Limb with Claudia is exactly my idea of a wonderful woman of the world. She is both spiritual and vastly cool, a combination that is not easy to pull off. She writes wondrously, is a supremely independent thinker, and a most joyful, funny person.

Red Mojo at Half a Bubble Off has further honored me with a "You Make My Day" award.

You have also quickly become a friend and I so admire your heart, humor and courage. Thank you for thinking of me.

I cannot choose.

You all make my day, every day, and my life is richer for reading about your lives and your thoughts. I love the community we have established in which everyone is equally important and we all try to support and care about each other.

I honor each and every one of you because you make my day (and my night) simply better.

Thank you!