Saturday, September 28, 2013

WTF moments as a Female Service Manager

Names have been changed to protect the ignorant.

"Jan" came into my office, and went straight for my "just in case" box of tissues on my desk.  I wondered to myself what could have happened to produce an inordinate amount of tears...the writer inside started penning intimate details of whatever could have occurred---the car doesn't go into Park and rolls over a loved one...etc, etc, all entailing horror and mayhem.  Jan looks at me---she is a very attractive 30-something, stylish, very cute modern hair cut, makeup fresh and perfect---her eyes are a very deep shade of blue and underneath the tears, they are miles deep.  I am certainly surprised when she starts her story, and I have a hard time sympathizing.  She's going over the details of her "ordeal" and I'm digging for the meaning, trying to embrace what makes this so dramatic---and I just can't get there.  As she tells it...she was driving along, and her TPMS light illuminates.  For those outside of the industry, that's the tire pressure monitoring system, and it comes on when there's a perforation in the tire, or when the tire loses pressure, etc.

And then, after 50 or so miles (!!??) she hears "an explosion" and the car drops "violently" and "without warning, she is stranded ALONE!"

She has 24 Hr roadside assistance, because it comes with the car, but instead...Jan calls 911 because "her life is in danger."

To sum it up, she got Roadside out there and they changed her tire, but her rim was ruined and she needed a new tire.  Funny how that works...the car told her there was a problem, she ignored the problem, and behold---as the tire gets low on air, the sidewall collapses, gets super hot, and gives way.  Remember that friction causes heat---and those tires are spinning insanely fast.  Eventually the heat will destroy the tire. There's only so much it can take.

Back to the story:  This brought on the waterworks.

Back to the soapbox: Listen people---driving out there comes with inherent dangers.  You could have a blowout, you could overheat, you could have engine failure.  You put on the flashers, pull yourself off the road, and call AAA or a towing service.  By participating in the daily commute, you agree that in some ways, you are not a complete asshole, and not a complete idiot.  Be ready for tire failure, have a spare, for Chrissakes---learn how to change a spare, to jump start your car.  And when you make bad decisions like driving with your TPMS light on, or your engine light on, etc, and you ignore it, that the repercussions are yours, and yours alone. If you can't handle the simple dangers that come along with being on the road, you shouldn't be driving.  Period.

How this ended was as ridiculous as the sobbing.  In explaining to her that isn't covered by warranty, and it isn't free, she abruptly cut me off and said, "Is there a man I can speak with?"

Men---please do us all a favor.  If beauty can sway you to make stupid decisions, you are hurting all of us by training women to use it. Now I know that's a tall order, but my job is THAT much harder when half of my customers think they'll have better luck flirting their way through the process for discounts and favors.

I am consistently barraged with moments like this, and the lack of taking accountability is what startles me the most.  Here's a tip from your friend and service manager: those lights come on for a reason.  What comes next is up to you, and only you.

Skeptically Yours.

Thursday, March 28, 2013


       My favorite quote of the day yesterday was not exactly poetry, although it came from someone that has a gift with words.  He said, "I'm firmly against gratuitous violence...but if you get carried away with a new promotion and don't finish your novel...there is a very high probability that I will personally come and punch you right in the tits! I mean that in the most caring of ways.**"  It was born from a conversation where I mentioned how I want to move up, have more responsibility, make more money.  All of those things take sacrifice, and what suffers most in these scenarios is typically the time taken for self.

       Sacrifice has been just a part of life, as I've "back burnered" my own personal goals and desires, if you will.  It was done with open arms, without a thought about it, really, in order to make sure that shit just got handled. That's what I do...I take care of things.  While I was taking care of things, all of my friends and family got married and had kids.  I have my own accomplishments that I am proud of...and I feel like I've done pretty well for a kid that came from a poor family with no overt advantages, but there are things I feel I missed out on. I know there are other 30 somethings out there that feel the same, that feel like they're still getting their shit together.  At least...I hope there are. I hope I'm not the only one.

      The above mentioned novel is not yet finished, and I can blame a lot of things.  Not enough time, other responsibilities that take priority, the fact that my left brain gets most of the exercise and my right brain at this point is like the flabby guy at the gym rolling off of the treadmill...those are all pertinent and realistic reasons that the book isn't done. The others are sheer procrastination, and fear.

My right brain, getting destroyed by daily math.  Statistics: a shot to the balls.  

     What if my book sucks?  That's a real fear a la Marty McFly, "What if they say I'm no good? What if they say, "Get out of here kid. You've got no future"? I mean, I just don't think I can take that kind of rejection."  That is partially true.  The other weirder one is this: What if it's awesome?  What if I had the ability to write for a living, as I've always said I wanted to do, and had access to unlock my happiness?  That kind of change, although I fully realize would be 100% terrific, is scary as hell.

      While I've always embraced change,  I've never fully embraced this one.  Writing and having it published and actually sell has always been "that ridiculous dream" for me.  It would mean, in a way, I would no longer own it all to myself, in that world existing only in my head, wondering "what if?"  And that...that may be my biggest fear: to expose the story in my head to the viewing public, to attain that goal, and instead of asking "what if" I would be forced to ask "what next?" It's a ponderous thing, how "what's next" can leave me feeling skeptical of both the now and the next.

     It's an uneasy feeling, looking ahead and realizing that this is new territory.  This isn't a cyclic rehashing of old patterns and defenses...this is brand new, fresh out of the box, some assembly required, not-sure-how-I-feel-about this stuff.  This is saying, "I want this to work out" and then trembling in fear as I do something about it.  And then of course, I either sink or swim, which is a terrible metaphor because I am terrified of the water. 

       I know that if I don't finish this novel, I'm in for an unpleasant punch in the tits, and so I will probably start with just avoiding that.   A fear of success is a very real fear, and I certainly have it.  I just have to ask myself the age old question: what's worse: the pursuit of success, or a jab to the boobs?


Skeptically Yours.

**None of my friends actually abuse me, though it is commonly threatened.


Thursday, February 28, 2013

Who we were.

      I come from a small town that revolved, for me as a kid at least, around the beach.  I was allowed to roam free, mostly, as a child, carefree on my pink and grey ten speed bicycle that I received on my 9th birthday.  Some things about that world, as I have learned in my adult life, were not as I remember them and the world was not as safe as I believed.  Perhaps my free roaming rights should have been a little more restricted, but if that were the case, I wouldn't have had those long sun-filled days burning the bottoms of my feet and picking sand spurs out of them at Englewood Beach, grabbing a hot dog and Coke lunch at Circle K; or spent my evenings at Pelican Pete's Playland earning enough tickets for a slap bracelet or some other useless plastic bit and running the go carts until I was out of the money my mom had handed me in the parking lot.

      Englewood is where I was a kid at Englewood Elementary watching the Challenger explode, where I was re-zoned into Vineland Elementary and became a Pop Warner cheerleader,  and where I suffered through middle school at L.A.Ainger where I was both bullied and the bully at one time or another and our class of hooligans was denied the benefits of the classes before and after.  Lemon Bay High School, by comparison to high schools in the city, was a tiny school where essentially everyone knew everyone, and you'd run into them eventually at the beach, because it was really the only place to go in town.

      For that reason, when we lose someone that ran the same roads in high school, that hit the beach on the same weekends, that you can trace all the way back to elementary school---it hits home in a different way than people you lose from your adult life alone.  It's happened again, and it's happened all too often.

      It's different because when I see his face, I see the 11 year old Darrell Baxter that used to run me into the wall on the slick track at Pelican Pete's, but still let me win in the end.  I see the Darrell Baxter with spiked hair giving me a Suicidal Tendencies CD for my 11th birthday, after which "All I wanted was a Pepsi" became a running joke. I see the Darrell Baxter spinning himself on a bar stool until he puked just to make my brother laugh.  I see the Darrell Baxter that made me watch bad horror movies, and then secretly held my hand when he thought no one was looking.  Even in High School, during Mr. Pearcy's History Class, I saw 11-year-old Darrell when we'd talk. He was definitely still in there.

     Who we were back then, in a small beach town with nothing to do, set us on our paths towards the places we'd go and the friends we'd keep.  It also means that when we lose one of the pack, looking back is inevitable and hurtful.  I'm looking back a lot today at the moments I had with my friend, with all my friends in the storied beach town of my childhood, sentimentalized as it may be in my head.  I'd rather look backwards with fond memories and forget the harsh realities that must have co-existed.  And I'd rather remember Darrell as that 11 year old boy, digging in the sand on Englewood Beach with 11 year old me, still mostly sure that things would turn out okay.

Skeptically Yours.

Our friend Darrell took his life on February 27th, 2013.  



Thursday, January 31, 2013


I've been a Bowie fan for a long time (Labyrinth, anyone?). I'd be the type of parent that completely Zappa'd out and named her kid "Bowie."  That's probably why the universe has kept me from procreating, but that's neither here nor there...

I'm the type of music dork that gets hooked on a song for a few hours, clicking the "repeat" sign and just absorbing the song ad nauseum until, somewhere in the fourth hour, I never want to hear that damned song ever, ever again. I do that with TV shows, food, etc.  Maybe it's the part of obsessive behavior I let roam free.  In any case, today it's Bowie, and I can't stop listening to "Changes."  It's this line that nailed me to the floor: "I watch the ripples change their size but never leave the stream of warm impermanence, so the days float through my eyes."

The idea of impermanence has been something that seriously resonated with me for awhile. Nothing is permanent, and as the song implies, everything changes.  We change.  I use science often as a major defense mechanism against long term relationships, so the idea of change is just...biology, and thus, not scary at all.  Our hormones change.  Our bodies change. We are essentially becoming different people all of the time. 

 So, in the ongoing relentless change that my body and my mind undergo--in my thirties, everything seems different. I feel different. I react differently. I want completely different things. I was laying on the couch the other day with my dog, Joplin, who gazes up at me with deep brown eyes filled with both love and mischief. I felt completely happy and content.  Part of me, at some point in my youth, would have been itching to DO something and not "waste time."  John Lennon once said that "Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted."  I fully agree and understand that now. I also cry easier, tell people "I love you" often, and find myself wishing to be a part of my nieces' and nephew's lives. Changes---you know---oftentimes for the better.

All it takes, really.

I also stopped buying into the excuse that because we change as part of our biological destiny, that we can't maintain good relationships long-term. Obviously, there are plenty of people that have already proved this theory wrong.  I've not been one of them. Or have I?

When I talk about people I know and love, most of them I have known for a decade or so (give or take---28 years with my oldest, dearest friend). Somehow I have maintained those friendships that long (patient friends is my theory). I guess I have always believed in, and been a part of long-term relationships, just...the platonic ones.

Proven then: the acceptance and belief that impermanence is life and vice verse, and change is our only constant, is not mutually exclusive to healthy relationships. The patterns I have created for myself, now that they have been proven illogical, are likely to fade...just like "Changes."  43's enough, already.

Okay, maybe just a FEW more listens....

Skeptically Yours.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Lessons from my past self.

Change and flux, realizations and goodbyes. That's the stuff that 2012 was made of.

The staggering amount of people that left my life last year is still quite dizzying.  I've been censoring myself a little in these last few months, partially because I fear rocking the boat with the people that I know personally that read this blog, and partially because I've curtailed a lot of my skepticism by promising to see the glass as half full (seeing it half full of coffee, or beer, certainly helps my positive outlook.)  I've not committed to hitting the "publish" button on this blog because of those reasons. I've written frequently, but it's not gone to press, so to say.

Besides the people that have gone in 2012, I also started to leave behind some of my own terrible my friend says, my "defense mechanisms" that were once useful, but are no longer necessary.  Those defense mechanisms served their purposes but they also segregated me and hurt people I care/cared about.  They made foggy my moral compass.

So part of my own "therapy" has been to dig though the decade-long practice of journaling, and to read through my past self's experiences, emotions, failures and (perceived) triumphs.  Here are some highlights:

  1. I was a fucking idiot.  In my early 20s, I was exactly the type of girl that I now disdain.  I overused my  lifelines, I wanted things handed to me, and I didn't appreciate what I did have.
  2. I trusted my emotions way too much.  I wish I knew then how deceitful those pesky "feelings" would   turn out to be. Troublemakers!
  3. I never made peace with a lot of the things I should have.  There are a lot of areas where clearly I brushed things under the rug, and largely ignored the issues.  Bitterness seeps through barely concealed language. Early 20's me just needed to get the fuck over shit. Moving on never was my strong point.
  4. Early 20's me had opportunities I foolishly stepped over.  I didn't even see them.
  5. I spent way too much time thinking about men. Worrying about men. Dating. Fighting. Doubting. Early 20's me didn't see how pointless that was, and despite being nowhere mature enough for an actual  relationship, it occupied about 75% of my thoughts.
  6. I forgave too easily. I didn't make people earn it. I kept the douche bags around and I let the good ones go distant, minus a few positive examples.
  7. I thought getting a stupid tattoo was a brilliant idea.  And then I got three more.  I was defaulting on my student loans but sporting a Sagittarius tat.  Someone should have kicked my ass.
  8. I worked on partnerships and relationships more than I worked on myself, and I didn't even realize why those partnerships/relationships didn't work out. Duh.
  9.  The truest of friends are those that drive to your aid because you're having a hair crisis. Keep them.   Keep them forever. This one, I did right.
  10. I didn't apologize enough. I had a lot of asshole moments, and a lot of people should have heard me say,  "I'm so sorry. I'm so FUCKING sorry. I'm a dick."

So, I guess the moral of the story is that if I could tell my younger self from a decade back a few things, it would first start with a thorough ass-kicking.  Then I would pass on the wisdom to apologize often, make peace with the past, take advantage of opportunities and not people, balance your head and heart, and stop justifying why you hurt people.  I, of course, would surely not listen, because what I've also learned from my past self is that I was pretty sure I knew how to live my life.

I hope 33 year old me is smarter, more gracious, and more loyal.  For those of you that knew me way back when...I'm sorry...I'm so fucking sorry...I was a dick.  And...thanks. For not killing me.

Summation: Dumb girl, Boys...Boys...boys...Dumb girl...

Skeptically Yours.


Monday, December 10, 2012


It's my Birthday!!

Last year at this time (almost exactly) I stood at Rockefeller Center and felt the pulse of New York City under my feet.  My mother and I were being tourists on a double purposed trip to visit John Lennon's memorial at Strawberry Fields on the 8th, and to celebrate my birthday on the 10th. It was late-day, and as the sun was reclining into the horizon, and the lights of Christmas decorations seem to glitter everywhere, I looked at Prometheus bedecked in gold by the ice, and I almost fainted.

It seemed like the weight of the entire city was dropped squarely on my shoulders and I absolutely reeled, everything a swirl of chaos and Christmas. As soon as the lightheadedness left me, I changed my entire life.

Rockefeller Center and the tortured Prometheus has appeared in my life twice, both during strangely revealing moments. Once, as the background while being proposed to, and the second, the background to breaking it off and leaving all of it behind.

It was sort of an epic birthday for a skeptic like me, to trust some sort of Universal message that led me to make gargantuan decisions and just blindly run for them.  Its one of very few moments that led me so clearly. 

This year, exactly 365 days of, as I've said to many people this year, "trying to figure my shit out," and I still have a lot of chaos swirling around me; I have a few more things figured out, but I am no where near a point where I feel like this year and this universal guidance has come to a close. 

What I know is that one year ago, I started onto the right direction. I am on some sort of path now, still kicking stones along the way, but gradually making progress.  My travels this year have allowed me to reconnect and fall in love all over again with my friends, stay up too late and be too social, go to bed too early and just sleeeeeep, burn the candle at both ends, rescue a dog, enjoy time with my mother, start restoring my Buick, put my Nova back together, take better care of myself, relax and enjoy a few incredible moments, screw up a lot, wake my passions for writing and acting, and move past bitterness that clouded my judgment.

To my friends and family that allowed this year to be all kinds of chaos and comfort, thank you. I have a weird, special thank you for Prometheus also. I often say "there's a reason for everything" is a bullshit statement said by people searching for meaning in a universe that functions mainly on energy and coincidence without any greater, guiding purpose. If I pass on the life-is-meaningless-existentialism for a minute and just look at the symbolism here, it's clear that this statue meant something, that's its somehow not a coincidence that it existed during these moments of both entering into something torturous to me, and the ensuing escape. For the unlikely task of making me think twice about the meaning of it all, thank you, Prometheus.

Skeptically Yours.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

I wore pink. Part 2.

"Why the hell not" turned into a series of brief interviews, during which we talked about everything that happened during these last two years. the good folks from Harley asked mom about the experience with cancer, and right away I think they knew that we weren't going to be average.

Mom talked about the diagnosis very quickly, and the treatment even quicker. She talked about not wanting to join a support group, because in general, it was a bunch of sick people, talking about being sick.

Instead, she wanted to get through it, and fast, and be surrounded by healthy people that reminded her of the future, not the present. The Harley folks were smiling.  We talked about how far we were willing to go, even thinking about running to Mexico for coffee enemas and juice therapy. They laughed, they loved that we were laughing together.

They asked me why I started riding, and I wasn't lying when I pointed at mom and said, "because of this, because of the cancer." I know that was the answer they expected, but as I explained, I hope they knew it was genuine. I had been enamored, but highly fearful, of motorcycles. Involving myself in the car industry meant I got plenty of adrenaline, but bikes---nope. It wasn't until mom's diagnosis that I looked at my list in an old journal titled "things I want to do, but probably won't, because they're scary." So many of them had been checked off, surprising things I can't believe I was actually afraid of, but there were a few that remained. "Ride a motorcycle, " and a few odd ones here and there about love and my intense fear of commitment. I decided to tackle the motorcycles.

They asked my mom what bikes she likes, and she smirked and remembered the bikes I'd been showing her, rattling off "Fatboy, Softtail."  Wow. No wonder we were cast.

On Wednesday, we went to Leo Carillo Beach and met the crew of the print ads. They fed us an amazing breakfast, they put us through hair and make up, they put us on a Sportster and shot pictures for about an hour, fed us lunch, and called "that's a wrap." Before we left, the rep from Harley hugged my mother and I, and gave us Pink Label riding jackets.

Harley Davidson treated my mother like a superstar.

I have always admired the brand, always loved the rumble of a Harley V-Twin, always secretly wished I was a little bigger so I could ride the bigger bikes, and now...I fully respect them more than I could ever put to words appropriately. The people in their ads were real riders, not just pretty (although Holy Christ, they were pretty too!!). The causes they support aren't just on paper. Their brand ethos isn't just marketing.

As for word 'cancer' in our house---it's not a death sentence, it's not something we talk about often, and its not something we dwell on anymore. As Breast Cancer Awareness month rolls out and everyone is selling something pink, we haven't really ever participated.  It's been very under the radar.  Now though---now we're about to be on posters and online and wherever else, the faces of people affected directly by cancer, the faces of a brand all about "pink". And both of us will now make the exception to wear the color, so long as it's on our Harley Davidson jackets.

I wore pink. Part 1.

Pink---it's become the color chosen to represent a fight with or surviving from breast cancer. It's also been a color that I always found dreadful both for the girliness attached to it and simply because I hated it. As a symbol, I hated it also, because it reminded me of the very, very vicious disease that has, for decades, been picking my family off one by one. Not just breast cancer of course, I have a virtual medical degree just keeping up with the diseases from which my relatives have died. But breast cancer, surely, was among them.

It's a fact of life, partially from having a very big family.

Also, because it hit home when my mother called me on my way home from work over a year ago now, and told me, with weakness shaking a voice otherwise very strong and opinionated, that she was diagnosed with breast cancer herself.  In the months that followed, I jumped a plane countless times on the trek from LAX to CVG Cincinnati, read countless books about cancer on the journeys to and from, and spent days and nights with my mom as she was operated on, bits of her removed, stuck with needles, chemotherapied, and on and on all countlessly. Medical---very medical. Very clinical. The smell of antiseptic sends me back sometimes to swabbing her sutures, to watching bags of blackness slowly drip into a port in my mother's chest, to waiting awkwardly in a room with other cancer patients who didn't speak to each other for the fear of not seeing them again next week, and knowing why.

If I were an only child, it probably would have broken me. But I am not an only child, and my brother and I switching on and off with my mom meant we both got to spend time with her, we both got a break from the medications and hospitals and heartache. 

My mom, of course, never got a break. She lost her hair, her eyebrows, eyelashes. One never fully appreciates those things until the sweat beads from a torturous Ohio summer stream into your unprotected eyes, or until the snowy winter months leave your home encased in a snowdrift, the heater barely warming your sensitive, bald head. All of this, I observed as a spectator. My mother...well, she had to survive it.

And she did, and she's here, and we don't talk about it a lot because we all agreed to get on with life and leave the past to the immense universal shredder. And we don't wear pink.

Just this once though, I decided to go backwards for a minute and I asked my mother's permission. Harley Davidson, which has grown on me through the years as a favored brand and company and a helluva motorcycle, needed real riders and real cancer survivors to be poster girls for their Pink Line. They donate to cancer research through the proceeds of this line, and their donations may well have touched my mom's life and my life without us even knowing it at the time. In any case, I thought "why the hell not??"

Thursday, August 30, 2012


I was bitten.

Yeah, those little eight legged bastards turned on me. I've been a friend to spiders since I was 15 and learned to cohabitate peacefully with arachnids at camp.  At Peace Camp, as it were, I wound up walking into a giant web made by a Banana Spider who wound up on my face, and I swear I thought I heard the poor guy screaming. It was a lesson, because as I stood silently trying not to die of a heart attack, he was scrambling madly to get the hell off of my face, as I was a giant that just tore down his home.

After that, I became tolerant. After being tolerant, I became fascinated.  And with fascination, I discovered a beauty in these creepy little multifaceted beings.  Even the ones that can hurt you. They're so complex, so varied species to species. What power they have, ya know? Spiders are almost certainly named among people's biggest fears. That's so Machiavellian, to be feared like that. It's brilliant.

So, that being said, my original statement that they "turned on me" was just dramatic flair. I rolled over on one, in the middle of the night, and found myself the recipient of four terrific little fang-marks. On my ass.  The spider was just retaliating in a natural way, and I can't blame him.  I hope he escaped unscathed, though it's an unfair fight, spider vs. human, and I clearly had the advantage.

Before everyone gets frantic about brown recluses' necrotic venom, have no fear. I did see a doctor.  I'm fine, thanks. It was probably one of those little common brown spiders.

Once upon a time, in Puerto Rico, I saved a Cobalt Blue Tarantula from a river.  She was struggling, trying to climb onto a leaf. It was a beautiful struggle, her long, insanely blue legs clinging, alternating as one would slip off, fighting for her life.  I waded out and put my hands under her gently and brought her to shore.  Once on the ground, she turned to me and stood on her rear-most legs in her attack position, backing away slowly.

Its nature to strike out at what you fear, at what could hurt you. It applies to all species. Maybe exposure and an open minded mentality, my process for accepting spiders, would be a useful tactic in eliminating all of the half-crocked irrational fears floating around out there. 

Okay, except for boats. Nobody's getting me on a boat.

Scroll down to begin your spider-love. 

Cute, fuzzy!!  The Spotted Jumping Spider. Adorable, no?

(Bigger than this in person.)  This is my absolute favorite picture of the big girl I rescued in PR, safe on a rock.
Skeptically Yours.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sunshine and Unicorns! <---- Lie

Cynicism, pessimism, skepticism...

It's all very tiring, the isms I employ.

And sometimes, I need an outlet for said negativity, and that's where my very good friend, beer, comes in handy.  The conversations that occur over beer rapidly evolve (devolve?) into what seem like life-altering clarities at the time. Sometimes, the next day, not so much. 

However, I think that this time around, I have a few gems to share.

*There is no such thing as "timing," in regards to love.  If two people are drawn together through the amazing power of pheromones or chemistry or whatever you want to call it, "timing" is simply an excuse.  I have an example:  in my youth, I fell in love with someone and he with me.  Neither one of us fit the other's know, that sometimes subconscious picture of the person you need to end up with.  So, despite the love, despite those very strong feelings, it was never going to work out from the beginning.  We blamed "bad timing" when it occurred, but the honesty in the situation was that there was never going to be "a time" at all.

*Everyone has a mold.  Like it or not.  You may not have consciously made a list, but somewhere, through childhood movies or watching your own parents, you have a mold of the person you need.  If you're making excuses about the person you're with/pursuing, maybe it's because you don't meet their mold or they don't meet yours.  Either way, excuses like "timing" will never fix the issue. 

*Sometimes, sci-fi fans, collision IS imminent.  Emotionally speaking, that is.  As in the above example, this was a relationship catastrophe just waiting to happen. It's like seeing an accident that is bound to occur, but not changing lanes.  I stuck with it though because I always abide by the principle that you should take the long way home.  And sometimes, even though it sucks, putting ourselves through these emotional paces and allowing the wreckage to ensue just means that the reconstruction needs to be brilliant.  Sometimes you have to participate in emotional demolition, enjoy the journey, and then survey the ruins. 

*There is a time to stop allowing the collisions to occur.  The reconstruction can only occur so many times before eventually, the frame is warped. 

This conversation was sponsored by the amazing beer at Tony's Darts Away in Burbank and a very good, very smart friend.  Local craft beer, girl talk, and vegan sausages...the damage to my waistline is outweighed (no pun intended) by the minutes of optimism and clarity it induced.  It may not be optimism level: sunshine and unicorns, but for me, it's pretty damned close.

Skeptically Yours.

Friday, August 3, 2012


Plenty of moments are fresh enough in my head that it's better than a photo.

Nowadays, we snap pics of everything with our phones and it means little...yesteryear, each picture had greater value because you had to DO something with had to take the film elsewhere and wait anxiously for the pictures to develop. I remember wondering if I had taken the picture at the right moment, if I had captured what I wanted on film. There was an anxiety about the wait, and anticipation. Nothing digital, nothing immediate.

Those pictures I will always cherish, that's for sure.

But the ones that are most vivid are those that I purposefully and methodically captured with my senses...the smell of the moment, the sounds, the feel of fabric on my fingers, the imperfections. I have many of those photos stashed in the parts of my brain that haven't been eroded yet, and there's one that I would like to share with the universe, in case it makes a single ounce of difference in the balance of good and negative energy surrounding my Uncle Kenny, and his impending death.

My grandmother's table sat crooked because the floor sloped, in felt usually like the entire house sloped, but it was as much a place of comfort as it was chaos. My grandmother was still alive back then, and there was a smell of cooking hamburger lingering in the kitchen, mixed with the cigarette smoke from a mix of Salem Slim Light 100's and Kentucky Best. The house on Crawford-Day Rd was filled always with sounds of Aunts and Uncles and Cousins, back when there was familial gravity and we all convened in Mt. Orab at what then seemed like random moments.

I waited on my Uncle Kenny's lap for my cheeseburger, ignoring him and the smoke and all else that occurred around me. When he spoke, his voice was a sing-song mix of Cat Stevens and Bob Dylan...and just as unintelligible as the latter. His breath smelled like Budweiser, and his beard tickled the back of my neck. I felt nothing but peace and calm in the moment, sitting on my Uncle's lap, and felt very loved as his niece. I felt, in that moment, like my Uncle Ken would have done anything to keep me safe, even if it meant giving up his own safety, or comfort, or freedom.  It's one of the few times I have felt that.

It's one of my only memories of him, and its a very good and simple one. 

Tradition on the Whitaker side is to send along a picture in the casket of a loved one that has passed, so in honor of that long standing practice, I'm sending this memory along before he goes. Maybe it'll help pave the path upon which he is bound to travel shortly.

Skeptically Yours.

  Thank you to my dear and talented friend, Dustin Barclay, for letting me use this amazing song (off of an amazing album) for Uncle Ken. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Foggy memories, that's all that left of Wesley in my brain.  I remember him crying, I remember being annoyed with dealing with a baby.  I was maybe 7, and that's all the exposure I had with my cousin.

My cousin was 7 years younger than me, and through time and miles and family squabbles, he was little more than a stranger to me.  That's what happens when families are large and spread out, honestly, when care isn't taken to stay geographically close to one another. In a family like mine, where Dad was one of 10 and Mom was one of 13, there tends to be little gravity pulling all of the extended cousins together.

For whatever reason, though, when I learned this Sunday that Wesley had died at 25, I was gripped with a feeling of loss.  It shouldn't have meant much to me, this virtual stranger's death, but it did. Coming to grips with exactly why its affecting me at all has been a conundrum, and I'm still not 100% resolved.

I think mainly it points to how short life really is, in varying degrees for all of us. I wonder if Wesley did any of the things he'd set out to do when he dreamed of life as an adult, but if he was like most of us, he probably didn't. Also, since he shared at least a shred of my DNA, there is that dread that the brevity of years will run in the family.

Whatever the case, the simple truth is that once most of us are gone, the vacuum of our disappearance is quickly filled with the fact that life moves forward with a trajectory that's nearly unfathomable.  Maybe that's the hardest part of facing death---knowing that eventually, you'll be forgotten.

I see it a lot at flea markets---very old black and white pictures of people that once were loved, cherished, hated...people that were mothers and sisters and cousins.  And now, they are simply a relic of days gone by, a moment captured on film and then in a blink, forgotten.

Overall, the feelings I believe that I am left with is that of infinite smallness, and of sorrow...sorrow for all of us, living as if we've already died, living as if we're ready to be swept aside into the mausoleums of time.

I believe very much in energy.  Each time I have an amazing moment, I close my eyes and I try very hard to capture the essence and the energy within.  It's my hope that Wesley had these, and that some of the energy contained therein still exists here with the people that knew him better than I did.

Skeptically Yours.

Monday, July 30, 2012


It feels like a lifetime ago...the day I drove in a daze to Ventura to shoot a short film for Forza Motorsports. I remember the Nova was running rich, fuming badly, but I didn't even stop to adjust the carb...I just floored it to make it to the set. The director knew I would be late, and he held up shooting for me so we could proceed as planned.

I had been cast in the film because I had three things going for me: I'm a girl, and I could talk cars, and I had my Nova. The director needed those three elements, and thus....I had a role playing a "Jerk American" that drove Muscle Cars. We weren't supposed to play nice in the film, I remember the direction was to be a little bitchy. So I was. It was easy to let the negativity pop through, because I had been up all night the previous evening, and was not feeling particularly sociable.

In fact, I had called the director at 5 am, telling him there was no way on Earth I could make it and he should replace me.  You don't do that shit in Hollywood---people start to think you're unreliable, flakey, all the bad things that add up to you never working again.

But there were other things going on. A best friend of mine had been in a horrendous accident the night before, and I had spent the wee hours of the morning at the Cedar Sinai hospital with her. I felt lucky to be included, to help her, to be there for the aftermath during which we picked up the pieces. For her to trust me, and think of me first, when shit hit the fan.

So without hesitation, I called the director and said "sorry..."

To my infinite surprise, he said they'd hold up shooting for a few hours while I made my way there, and so I got to do both my friend, and shoot a short film. When I watch this film, I think back to the reactions of my friends and family who criticized my "attitude" in the film. I don't me, it was just was playing a role of a cocky, jerky girl driving an old car. I got criticized for playing a major jerk in a film that I almost missed out on, because I was being a good friend. Interesting the many roles we play in our lives, eh?

That's why recently I started thinking back on this film...

Because its  interesting the many ways we're judged.  As I find myself being judged in new ways, sometimes I wonder if all we're seeing of each other are these superficial roles, the ones we're directed into as we're cast into the characters we have to play each day, and not, as Mr. MLK Jr. would say, for the content of our character. 

Skeptically Yours.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Lost Fight for Lennox

Around the world today, people are mourning a dog that most of us didn't even know. I certainly never met Lennox, as he existed in a country I've never even visited, but had planned to.  I have, however, met, owned, and loved plenty of dogs that look remarkably similar to Lennox,  including my own Staffordshire mix, Joplin.

The summary, in case you haven't followed Lennox's case, is that he was removed from his family in Belfast, Ireland, because he appeared to be a Pit Bull...and in that city, they abide by the most ridiculous concept of Breed Ban legislation.  They intended to "destroy" Lennox, but the family fought it. Fast forward through a couple of years, lots of signatures on a petition to free him, celebrity backing, famous dog trainer Victoria Stillwell making pleas on the BBC, a Facebook campaign, and news coverage...and Belfast City Council killed Lennox this am. 

Breed Ban Legislation is the foolish notion that by criminalizing an entire breed of canine, the "danger" imposed by that breed will diminish.  It bases its "logic" on foolish statistics that claim AmStaffs and Bull Terriers (and Rottweilers and German Shepherds and Akitas, et al) are vicious.  Statistics, my friends, are not unbiased, because the gathering of said statistics is done in a flawed system, by flawed people, and though Math is objective, the system in which its collected and weighed is very much subjective.

The idea that we can become safer because we eradicate a creature based on looks and background has been proven incorrect time after time.  The eradication of an entire breed sounds a lot to me like genocide, and although at this time it's perpetrated against dogs and not humans, it doesn't make it any less foolish.  It's a disgusting, amoral activity that solves nothing.

I tell the story often of the "most vicious dog I've ever met." He was a poodle and made of something like 60% rage and 40% muscle. He attacked me with the intent to rip off my face.  Wisely, my parents chastised the owners and not the dog, because he was a product of idiot owners.  I know idiot owners of dogs, idiot owners of guns, idiot owners of cars, idiot "owners" of children.  They are all potentially dangerous, potentially murderous.  "Potential to murder", "potential to harm," that's all still Innocent before proven Guilty.  Living in a world where we are Guilty before Proven Innocent means we are all doomed before given a chance to either fuck up, or do well.

I'm skeptical about any blanket statements, anything considered a "blanket truth." No such thing, such thing.  Breed Ban Legislation is one of those Blanket Statement Laws....because the X equals Y, it's bad and it has be destroyed. Insert your own values, and realize that this an evil, foolish equation, and a slippery slope into letting our "leaders" into our homes to decide what elements of our lives are acceptable, and which of them are evil according to the state and must be removed.

I say BULLSHIT.  I won't have a moment for silence for Lennox.  I will spend a lifetime yelling "bullshit."

Skeptically Yours.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Birth of a Gearhead.

"How'd you end up working in the Auto Industry?"

What's a Seat Belt?
I get asked this frequently when I meet new people, and I start into the tale pretty much in the same way every time, talking about growing up around cars, watching my father work on them, my mom telling stories about racing on country back roads with her brothers.  I often forget that growing up with terms like cherry picker, dual carb, Deuce...these are things that are pretty rare nowadays.  I forget that your mother punching it hard, aggressively cresting a hill just for a rush of adrenaline while reminiscing about the long-gone Chevelle with the 396 is a bit of a storied, all-American childhood.  It's hard to believe that not every child got to be carted around (sometimes even in the rumble seat) in a '28 Model A Roadster.

Carcinogens? Nahhhh....

As a child, I crawled around under my father's project cars, screwdriver in hand, unafraid and unprotected from the hazards of such an occupation.  I listened to my mom ask questions of muscle car drivers, like "you running a 383 in that Road Runner?" 

I rarely find myself in the position where I'm waving an American flag and feeling immensely patriotic, because I've always been on the skepical side about our country, our motives, our actions.  After reading "Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq" by Stephen Kinzer, my notions about the corruption of the USA were solidified. (This is a must read.  In order to advance and improve, we must know our own past indiscretions. )  Buy here:

'Cept for the desk job is cleaner.

Still, minus the politics, minus the negatives, minus the mass-displays-of-ignorance...I feel lucky to have grown up in a culture of Americanism that many missed out on.  It instilled a passion for history, for individuality, for independence...for adrenaline.  I feel bad for the apathetic youth that don't have something that they feel is worthwhile, worth fighting for, worth pursuing. I never thought these early exposures to the automobile would seal my career destiny, but alas, it did, and I can't say I don't feel like it's appropriate for me, and that it hasn't paid my bills. It is, and it does. 

Passions are valuable.  There are a lot of different people who have famously said that if you find something you LOVE doing, you'll never work a day in your life. I find that a lot of the generation coming up behind me don't know yet what their passions are, and thus...they live an unsatisfying existence.  Growing up a gearhead, filled with passion for cars, landed me in just about every positive experience of my life, from being able to shoot films in Los Angeles as both a driver and an actor, working on cars to help my friends, and eventually, for the Big L, in the air conditioning, with benefits.

Genetic destiny at play.

It's not the 80's anymore, and I don't know a lot of people that have access to the type of freedoms I feel like I had as a kid.  Maybe trying to find one's passions in such a restrictive environment is a futile edeavor.  We've traded a lot of our freedoms for security, and it's in the opinion of this skeptic that in some cases, its the freedoms that we need more desperately.

 Skeptically Yours.