December 30, 2012

Let Me Love You

I was talking with a friend recently, explaining to him how I'd written myself off and given up hope on ever finding true love or a life partner.

My friend - like many of my others - has so much hope for me (unwarranted, I believe) that he couldn't believe I didn't have it for myself.

And then he asked me, "But Sandi, if there's no hope for you, why do you keep dating? Why do you keep trying?"

The answer, for me, was simple: because I love falling in love. I just don't think anyone is ever going to love me back.

All I can hope for, I told him, is that someone will one day just let me love them and not run away.

A little over a year ago, I actually had hope for the love to be returned. But somehow in the time that has passed, approaching two years in LA and turning 37 years old, I've come to realize: it just ain't happening.

Besides, I've bestowed my love upon plenty of people - and inanimate objects! - that never loved me back, from stuffed animals to soap opera characters to figments of my imagination.

And I'm not the only one.

There are the lucky recipients of a growing population of social robots (as reported by Pacific Standard) - autistic kids, shut-ins, stroke victims, dementia patients and the like - who fall in love, in a way, with their animate companions, who respond programmatically, expressing preferences, pleasure and displeasure, so convincingly it's easy to forget they don't actually care. They don't know how to care. They only know how to act like they care. When the robots break down, get transferred, or simply run their course, some patients become so distraught and brokenhearted that they refuse a replacement, and continue to ask after their former companion. Some people even prefer a humanized robot to their actual human friends.

And others don't even need the robot to come anthropomorphized. People treat their Roomba vacuums like members of the family, naming them and watching them scoot around as though they were pets.

Their Roomba surely does not love them back. But does that detract from the pleasure they derive from loving them?

I've tried to convince myself that the domesticated animals in my life - the pets of my many friends and family members - love me back, but I know that they don't. Not really. They are genetically programmed to elicit food, scratches, and treats by affectionating. Maybe some of them appear to love me more because they love my scratches more. Or because I let them gnaw on my hand and walk on my face. Because I love them.

Now, I don't have any pets of my own. I don't even have a Roomba. And I've got no one who's letting me love them.

But I keep dating. I keep going out to dinner. I keep kissing frogs. I keep climbing mountains that I may never summit.

After all, it's worth a try.

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December 29, 2012

Christmas With Puppets

Ever since I saw the Halloween Hoop De-Doo at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater in October, I've been dying to see its Christmas sequel, The Nutcracker.

But with my work schedule and their limited showings, I couldn't make it until after Christmas - two days after Christmas, in fact. And as it was, I was running late. And I didn't get there as early as I wanted. And I nearly didn't get a seat.

The usher (also one of the puppeteers) tried to seat me all the way in the back by the door, but "You can't see anything back there!" I insisted, instead leading him to the center of the room, pointing out empty seats to the left and right of the carpeted "stage" area where the puppeteers interact most with the audience. I balked when he told me they were taken. He tried to seat me at the opposite end of the room, right next to where the puppets enter, but again I complained that I wouldn't be able to see anything.

"Well, you could sit on the floor..." he said.

"Oh really? That's OK?" I wasn't sure how the parents would feel about me consorting with their children, for whom the carpet is usually reserved. But, feeling as enthusiastic as any toddler in the room, I cast my concerns aside and plunked down amongst them.

Looking up at the proscenium, knees already aching in their crooked Indian-style position, I realized the best part of all: I would be at eye-level with the puppets.

Unlike the Halloween show, which is a kind of musical revue, a relatively cohesive storyline unfolds during The Nutcracker ...

...told by a selection of the theater's thousands of puppets...

...including a narrator who dreamily sets the stage...

...introducing a little girl and her beloved nutcracker, which comes to life as a prince and whisks her away.

The cast of characters includes the usual suspects of Christmastime lore, like wooden soldiers...

...sugarplum fairies...

...and otherworldly creatures spinning about and swooping in on the floor-seated audience, sometimes sitting on their laps or tapping their shoulders.

Among the more secular performers - besides the politcally-incorrect Chinaman, bellydancer, and carpet-riding prince - are a dancing dog...

...and a troupe of whirling dervish bouquets...

...that sweep the story into full climax as a Christmas tree made of golden garland rises from the floor.

Sitting cross-legged with uncomfortably tingling circulation for an hour, I literally had children crawling on me, but I sat still and stoic, mesmerized by the puppets, with hopes that one might sing to me or sit on my lap.

I'm sure those kids - and maybe the puppets themselves - were wondering who that strange lady was sitting with them, her purse between her legs to keep her skirt in place. But I paid no attention to the quizzical stares from the grown-ups, who probably wondered why I was childless. That morning, I was a child, just as excited as any of them to see a magical show.

Related Post:
Photo Essay: Halloween at the Marionette Theater

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December 26, 2012

The One That Got Away

As much as I complain about being alone, the truth is that over the years, I've let a lot of romantic prospects slip through my fingers.

There are those men who didn't know they were gay (yet)...
Those gay men who confessed to thinking twice about their proclivities because of me...
Those straight women who confessed to the same...

The shy
The confused
The worried
The lovelorn
The effusive
The needy
The taken but tempted

Those nice guys who liked me but forgot
or got distracted
or got snatched up by somebody else
or whatever.

Maybe I could've accepted more of their invitations.
Maybe I could've kissed them when they didn't kiss me.
Maybe I could've chased them down better, harder, faster, stronger.

I wonder if any of them are the one that got away.
I wonder if I am, for any of them, the one that got away.

But now, it's too late for me. I've missed my chance. All I can hope for is to catch them the second time around.

Related Post:
A Sliver of Romance

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December 25, 2012

The Mundanity of Meaningful Connections

I need constant stimulation. I seek pleasure and beauty and adventure and romance,
and often encounter one or more of these things in thrilling scenarios in exotic locales.
But I also seek meaning...
in life
in love
in time spent with others.

And sometimes, the most meaningful connections are exciting in the commonest of ways.
Because when you really care about someone
you want to discuss with them the most mundane details of life...
where they went to dinner
what they ate
what they wore
who they saw
how they got there
what they're doing right now
and now
and now
and will be later
and were before.

You want to see their cuts, bruises, burns and bites.
You want to see their new hairstyles.
You want to know everything...
when they sleep
what they weigh
what they're watching
what they're reading
what they're listening to
how they're feeling right now
and now
and now
and were before
and will be later.

And most of all, no matter how much you've hidden in the past,
or how much time you've spent alone, unattended, unnoticed,
you want them to want to know the same about you...
...and you can't wait to tell them.

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My Christmas List

This year I told myself I didn't need snow at Christmas.

For years, I told myself I didn't need family at Christmas.

Forever, I told myself I didn't need presents at Christmas.

But sometimes the Universe and those that love you know what you need better than you know yourself.

Santa still hasn't given me most of the things I asked for last year, but maybe he's working on it.

And if he's not, I know my adoptive family is.

Related Post:
So This Is Christmas

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December 24, 2012

Photo Essay: Bank of Manhattan Clock Tower, Queens, Abandoned

Conveniently, the last two times I've visited New York City, I've been able to catch special art installations in abandoned buildings: last May at the Andrew Freedman Home, and this December at the iconic Clock Tower building at Queens Plaza in Long Island City.

Only an abandoned building could probably get me to return to Queens Plaza by choice. There, the wind funnels under the elevated train tracks like a storm, burning ear tips, searing eyeballs and turning hair curls into tangles.

There, the former Bank of Manhattan has been closed to the public since the mid-1980s, and the remarkable neo-Gothic structure has stood vacant in Long Island City for 25 years, until this exhibit opened its doors to art aficionados and architectural looky-loos such as myself.

Gazing upwards, you can see the two past lives of the tower: its original 1927, high-ceilinged grand entrance, and its mid-century, drop-ceilinged modification with air ducts and fluorescent lighting occupying the space above.

Paint peels. Plaster crumbles. Original moulding peeks out of the shadows. Brick is exposed.

Upstairs, a horseshoe-shaped, Corinthian column-lined mezzanine wraps around the central lobby of the former bank...

...though now the upper level appears to only house heating, cooling, and lighting for the building...

...with most of its ornamentation hidden.

There are dark, dusty rooms up there...

...with the day's last remaining light streaming weakly through dingy windows...

...reflecting off paint chips and decades of dirt.

Downstairs in the basement...

...amidst the whitely painted drywall and the brightly lit rooms...

...looms the heavy vault door... swung open...

...probably not closed for decades.

A storage area contains original shelving...

...where bare light bulbs dangle...

...and, as part of the installation, illuminate the yellowed pages of an old ledger...

...from sometime after Chase Manhattan took over the bank in 1955.

Other rooms are more fluorescent...

...with an oddly-placed kitchenette...

...and an incompletely swept floor.

The bathrooms are still lit, now haphazardly converted into storage.

Circuit breakers are exposed, but should not be flipped.

Even the exit signs have blanched.

Or were they always that way?

The clock tower itself is lit, and featured a moving shadow installation that was part of the exhibit, but as much as we wanted to go up there and inspect it, entry was verboten. Probably because that's the one area of the building that is not vacant: it is currently occupied by law offices.

And the ground floor will not be vacant for long. It's available for rent.

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December 22, 2012

My Inner New Yorker

"I know you love California and you live in LA now," my friend John said when we met for lunch yesterday during my pre-Christmas NYC trip, "but there's just something so New York about you."

"What, my dark hair?" I quipped. I feel very brunette in the blonde city of Los Angeles.

He then explained it was some combination of dark hair, intelligence, and being "casually fashionable."

I laughed. The fashion sense is recent.

I also didn't feel very New Yorky. I felt very calm.

"Ma'am, you have to move!" an uppity security agent at JFK barked at me earlier today, when I was blocking the entrance to the line.

"OK, fine..." I said calmly, wondering what the fucking emergency was.

Shortly thereafter, I kept my cool in line at the gate when an entire family cut in front of me for our flight to Syracuse, without apology. "That was a very New York thing to do," I said to them, and then discovered they were actually from Florida.

It wasn't hard. I wanted to just ignore it. After all, I'd already evoked my inner New Yorker once earlier in the day. I'd decided to take a cab to the airport instead of lugging my bags and gifts back on the subway, after having dragged them from the Upper West Side to Flatiron to Greenpoint and finally to Carroll Gardens, up and down too many staircases and through too many subway turnstiles. I wanted to be in a car, even if I couldn't be the one driving.

But when I got into the backseat of the cab, the driver turned around and asked, "Do you mind paying cash so I don't have to turn on meter?"

Hmmm. Suspicious.

"Well, I don't know how much I have. How much is it?"

"I charge you flat rate, it's $52."

"Well, there is no flat rate from Brooklyn, only from Manhattan," I contested.

And then he tried to argue with me, until he saw I only had $28 in cash. Then he flipped the meter on and said, "I'm going to take Atlantic all the way, if that's OK. Where are you from?"

"I lived here in New York for 14 years," I sneered. Who did he think I was? 

After some cordial chatter, my driver figured out I wasn't a gullible tourist, but I didn't call him out on his attempted scam. Not even when the meter registered $45 and I swiped my credit card.

So maybe I'm not so New Yorky after all. It's just not worth it. Even if I had agreed to his fake flat rate (which I would have if it was under $45, the flat rate from Manhattan) and figured out I'd been duped, I might've foregone the $7 price difference just to spare myself the fight.

Then again, in LA, I have squabbled more than once about $5 parking fees and $0.40 untendered change.

Related Post:
The New Yorker
You Can Take the Girl Out of New York...

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Mine, All Mine

Just once I would like something to be mine.

My parents bought me things I needed - a desk, a stereo, carpeting, a dorm room fridge - but claimed that these things belonged to them and they were merely lending them to me.

I've rented apartments since 1997.

I crash on couches.

I lease my car.

I borrow DVDs from the library.

I've borrowed someone else's family.

I always seem to be borrowing someone else's man.

When will something - anything - be mine?

Related Post:
Life for Rent

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December 21, 2012

Upon the Disappointing Lack of a Mayan Apocalypse

As much as I try...


seize the day
live laugh love
stop and smell the roses
fall upon the thorns of life and bleed
live life with no regrets...

That which I regret the most is the one thing over which I never had any control:

ever being born.

Here's to another 40-some-odd years.

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December 20, 2012

Photo Essay: The Healing Powers of Zzyzx (Updated for 2019)

[Last updated 6/9/19 7:03 PM PT]

What you are about to read is the tale of a once-abandoned mineral spa that has been taken over by the CSU Desert Studies Center. Visitors are welcome to walk the grounds but not to enter any buildings without permission.

circa 2019

On the way back from Vegas for my birthday last year, I told the girls I wanted to show them one of my favorite places on earth: Zzyzx.

I'd been there once before, in the summer of 2009 when I spent a month in Joshua Tee, and had taken a road trip up through Amboy and the Mojave National Preserve, and along the old Route 66 through Barstow, Victorville, and back. I was mesmerized.

I'd gone to see the salt flat, Soda Lake (not to be confused with the Soda Lake at Carrizo Plain National Monument), but on my way down Zzyzx Road I'd encountered some bighorn sheep - a rare borrego sighting at such low elevation - and, at the end, the magical mineral springs of the former Soda Springs / Zzyzx Healing Center.

Now, Zzyzx Road and Soda Lake are part of the Mojave Preserve, and the former healing center has been taken over by the Desert Studies Center, a field studies division of California State University Fullerton.

Now, these students are surrounded by magical street names and building monikers...

...which once housed a facility to heal elderly travelers passing through along the old Mojave Road (as well as those stopping over along the old T&T Railroad).

Of course, Zzyzx was founded by a self-proclaimed "last of the old-time medicine men": Curtis Howe Springer a popular radio evangelist from the East who, like many, had come to conquer the west and capitalize on the mineral-rich land. He'd already built some successful resort-type spas in Pennsylvania, and then filed a mining claim on the land, naming it "Zzyzx" as a gimmick to be the last word in the alphabet.

But instead of mining the land, he and his wife built an encampment of tents and concrete buildings around a palm tree-lined oasis (known as Lake Tuendae)...

...outfitted with a fountain which now serves as a perching spot for the wildlife that populates the lake...

...including a number of birds...

...and fish like the endangered Mohave tui chub.

There is also a defunct diving board, and a number of abandoned boats along its shore... of which seems to have converged with the skirt of a palm tree.

Although the minerals were - and are - real at Zzyzx...

...the hot springs were not.

In the pools in the pool house...

...the water was not heated naturally, but by a boiler.

The federal government eventually caught up with the quack, convicting him of making false claims, misuse of the land, and squatting on federal land, and evicted him in 1976, thirty years after he first arrived in the Mojave Desert.

Perhaps his tinctures and tonics and teas didn't cure the ailments that he claimed - hair loss, cancer, hemorrhoids - but, looking out on the salt lake from the pool house, you can imagine the healing power of being out in the dry desert, with its high minerality, warm breezes, and blue skies.

circa 2019

I don't know why I never blogged about it or shared my photos until now. Maybe I wanted to keep it all to myself. 

The two times I've visited, I've only seen a couple other people there, and I'd like to keep it that way.

But maybe I'm one of the few people who finds solace along an empty Boulevard of (Broken) Dreams, alone with the birds, out in the middle of nowhere, with nothing to do, and everything to see. I needed that desperately back in 2009.

I don't think I'll ever stop needing it.