Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Speaking of Manners

...I just loved this post from DaMomma, titled Shouting the Obvious. I admire her ability to step back from the situation (the first situation she mentions would have made me completely apoplectic) and put herself in someone else's shoes. She applies insight from an unpleasant experience to a completely different circumstance and it allowed her to be kinder and more patient with another human being. I think that's just beautiful.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Art of Annette Lauder (Nut and Bee)

#167, Shake Shake Shake, © Nut and Bee

Nut and Bee is the name under which Annette Lauder publishes and sells her sweet, whimsical artwork. I was fortunate enough to receive Nut and Bee stationary and bookplates for Christmas from The Guy and, of course, had to look her up right away. From a Ninja Giraffe to sheep posing as cloud formations, her style is simple and clean and her subjects are funny and cheerful. The website displays new sketches three times a week and has a link to a shop where you can buy stickers, T-shirts, notepads and an assortment of other stationary emblazoned with her adorable critters.

#155, Toastybreath, © Nut and Bee

The website shares very little information about Ms. Lauder herself, telling us only that: "Nut and Bee goods are designed and hand-assembled by Annette Lauder in Auckland, New Zealand. We aim to spread sweetness, whimsy and pleasant thoughts across the world!"

A worthwhile aim,don't you think?

My favorite - #089 Bunnylump, © Nut and Bee

Polite Conversation

Are people no longer taught the art of polite conversation? Attending a party, while you may disagree with someone during a discussion or you may notice that they have misspoken - there are correct and incorrect ways of handling yourself, of responding to someone you have only just met.

At a dinner party recently, surrounded by close friends and one couple whom I had just met (the man is close to some of my friends, his girlfriend had not met anyone previously), a conversation began about a trip that couple had taken. I was wrapped up in another discussion but they caught my attention when the woman declared that "The food was so good, you could not get a bad meal anywhere!" regarding their vacation spot.

I chimed in that I had a similar experience at another (different) popular vacation spot, and that I had, in fact, used the exact same phrase to describe it.

Woman: "I don't think so. I lived there for a year."

Myself: "Oh? Well I loved the food there. I had some of the best meals of my life."

Woman: "The food may be alright, but none of it is memorable. It's just not that good."

Myself: "How strange. That just wasn't my experience. Even the inexpensive meals from little food vendors were wonderful."

Woman: (slightly agitated) "But is ISN'T memorable food."

Myself: "I suppose it's a matter of differing tastes."
(Cue me standing and leaving the room for a cluster of people talking elsewhere.)

I want to know who taught her that this is a reasonable way to speak to a stranger at a dinner party. I have had people express opinions that I strongly disagree with at social gatherings, and when it is appropriate I may discuss our differing opinions, but I would never say to someone, "No. You are wrong." Particularly not in an instance where the facts of the matter are strictly subjective. I loved the food. She did not. Neither of us is wrong. It's immaterial.

I think the art of conversation has been lost. The ability to discuss differing views in an interested but not heated fashion. As well as the ability to discuss books, films, art and issues without resorting to scandal, vicious gossip or sex. I'm not averse to discussing sex at a dinner party, but I do not do so unless I am sufficiently familiar with everyone at the gathering so as to be certain that no one would be offended. As with gossip, I feel it shows a lack of imagination for sex to dominate the conversation. Some people cannot attend a social function without arguing with someone, making a vulgar comment that does not suit the crowd's comfort level or trash talking about anyone who did not manage to attend. I'm tired of it. Perhaps colleges (or even high schools!) should be offering courses in conversation - how to interact politely and speak intelligently - instead of assuming that simply learning facts about art, culture, literature, film, politics and religion will enable their alumni to discuss these matters like reasonable human beings.

If nothing else, I wish my friends would avoid inviting people to dinner who aren't capable of polite conversation. It ruined my appetite (and totally destroyed my buzz. A waste of perfectly good wine, I tell you).

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Community Theater

Sheila posted this with a link to an essay written by John Barry about reviewing Community Theater.

I held my breath at first while reading it thinking, "okaaaay... This is going to sting." But it was pretty great. And clever. And insightful.

I live in a town with no professional theater. So we are fortunate enough to have some very talented people who were professional actors at some point in their lives involved in our community theater (because it's us or nothing). Some of them are very good. But most of us are policemen and lawyers and students and (ahem) artists, who really enjoy this but know we're just tolerable at it.

No one gets paid (well, the bookeeper does. But the bookeeper works for us). Even the cleaning is done by volunteers. We get yelled at when something goes wrong in the box office by patrons who don't ever realize that this isn't our JOB. Every year there is the task of deciding on shows for the upcoming season and the stress of balancing edgier fare with not alienating the older crowd (who pay our bills with their faithful attendance... I think some of them skipped Hedwig, though. It did well anyhow). We sell ads in the programs ourselves and design the posters. We pitch in on buying accessories for our costumes that simply won't fit into the budget. Heck, we're not even reviewed. We wouldn't know what to think of it. We're fond of saying, "Well, honestly, it's COMMUNITY THEATER." We know what that means. It's a labor of love.

The old ladies come to Sunday matinees and tell us how wonderful we did and make suggestions for future plays. One of them thinks we should do Phantom next year. She loves Phantom. Because, you know, a huge cast and an enormous chandelier would look great on our tiny stage. (The little old ladies rock. We love them.) Our families and friends say crazy things like, "When you're famous..." and bring flowers and make us feel like we accomplished something. Our community is pretty artsy so sometimes we get a packed house (which is always exciting) and on reception nights they exclaim about what they've seen you in before and tell you you look older onstage (well, maybe that's just me) and say bizarre things and try to be complimentary ("Did you do that lazy eye thing on purpose? That was AMAZING." urg). During performances you can hear people whisper to each other about plot points or clarify which cast member they know. That's my favorite. People will say hilarious things during a show. They talk to the characters. They ruin suspense. They make disapproving noises at the bad guy. Some actors find it distracting but I figure that the lady in the second row who's telling you what she thinks you should do next is REALLY INTO THE PLAY, which is wierd but also pretty great (and makes for a funny anecdote later).

The students all think they're going to be hugely famous someday. They're so cute. Well, the primadonna who demanded that someone do her hair because she is "accustomed to that being taken care of" - yeah her head needed pinching off. But most of them are adorable. The rest of us are just glad we have friends to get together with who don't think "playacting" is too silly for adults and who enjoy Saturday afternoons of set painting and long lunches. It's a thankless task in may ways, but everyone needs a hobby. Mine enables me to meet people I would never otherwise meet. I learn things about using power tools, which has never been a strong point for me. It shows me that inside the teacher and the nurse and the Russian translator and the photographer there may just lie actors and set designers and directors. People just as obsessed with theater trivia and film history as I am. Which is kind of reassuring.

It's just community theater. We know that. But we love it.

Further Evidence That My Little Sister Rocks

She got me this postcard. How cool is this? I love getting gifts that you KNOW the person saw and HAD to get for you because they knew the moment they saw it that it's just something you would be over the moon for. Often they are the littlest things. But the littlest things can be so nice.

Maybe I'll start a collection of dame paraphernalia.

Heath Ledger, briefly

This was my favorite moment in Brokeback Mountain.

If you did not see it, you missed seeing Ledger give one of the great film performances of our time.

In light of recent experience with the very poor media handling of the death of someone I knew, I would like to suggest we all remember a few things.

First, the media always gets a portion of the story wrong. So we can follow the news, wondering what really happened but we'll only ever know a small section of the story and that's really just fine. It's none of our business. All we need to know is that this poor man has died at a very young age.

Second, we did not know him. His performances, his work - that is ours. That is what he shared with us. But we did not know him as a man. By all accounts he was a good person to know and well liked by people who worked with him and a tremendous loss to his family. But that has nothing to do with us.

What we have lost is his future body of work. It is a significant loss, in my opinion. He had both classic movie star charisma (as shown in his earlier work, a warmth and ability to rivet his audience that is truly rare) as well as tremendous acting ability and instincts which were better displayed in his later, more mature performances. Certainly his development as an actor over the years would have been something to behold.

But we did not know him. This is our loss in only a very small way, particularly considering what those who knew him are enduring right now.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Greer Garson

“Starting out to make money is the greatest mistake in life. Do what you feel you have a flair for doing, and if you are good enough at it, the money will come.”
- Greer Garson

My friend Mal says I look like Greer Garson. I should be so lucky.

I'm no Greer Garson. The jawline and the large eyes and the signature red hair - there are some vague similarities. So that's kind of making my day. I'm going to rent Mrs. Miniver and the Olivier version of Pride & Prejudice tonight and, you know, sit there telling myself, "Oh, yeah. If I was taller and had a 25" waist and flawless skin I'd look EXACTLY like that. TOTALLY."

A little fantasy never hurt anyone.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

On Dying

Tomorrow we're burying my grandfather. Exactly one week (to the minute) after the memorial service for my friend. I cannot ignore that the events of this week are unfolding through a perspective altered by that prior loss. Two deaths in as many weeks and they are as different in nature as it is possible for them to be.

So, with more assuredness than ever before at such a loss, I can say this about my grandfather's passing:

He lived a long life.

He married, had two beautiful daughters, five grandchildren, five great grandchildren (so far) and almost lived long enough to meet his first great-great grandchild.

He served his country and saw war firsthand. He traveled. He worked most of his life but he had time for his hobbies and passions. He liked to keep busy. He knew what it was to go without but he also enjoyed financial security later on in life. He took pride in the life he built for his family.

He leaves his family behind a lifetime of shared memories and stories. Things he did when we were little. Anecdotes about his quirky habits and hobbies. Nicknames and phrases. Things he always said and the way he would say them. A legacy of warmth and deeply southern sensibility.

He and my grandmother were married for almost 70 years.

He lived a full life.

He knew he was loved.

He was tired and now he can rest.

He was ill and he is no longer in pain.

He was frightened and he has nothing left to fear.

We knew this was coming at some point in the near future.
We were given time to prepare, inasmuch as one can prepare.

...So I am sad at the loss of my grandfather - for myself and my family. That we will no longer see him. But I am not sad for him. I think he's fine. I've never been one to see death as an altogether terrible thing. I think it's more complicated than that. And after mourning a woman who was taken from us after less than a quarter century of life, I cannot feel any injustice in the loss of a man who lived nearly a full century. We should all be so lucky to have the time on this earth that my grandfather had.

I love him and I'll miss having him near, but I know he was ready.

That being said, and with all respect to my much beloved grandparent...

I must say that his timing could use a little work.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Things I Do For Shoes

I sort of abhor the pouffy top boot movement. Typically, I love boots. Not being of the scrawny stick-leg variety, however, I do not need a pouf of faux fur to make my calves look healthy. I also have no interest in the clydesdale look which is really only cute on anime characters. Or people who look an awful lot like anime characters.

So I have my personal moral stand on the boot situation. Then I went therapy shopping this weekend and fell in terrible, forbidden love with a pair of boots. They have wedge heels and they were 20% off the already low price.

Clearly, I had no choice.

I have purchased them and am determined to take them:


Wish me luck as I strive to strike a blow against fashion lemming-dom and remake my beloved boots in a more perfect image.

(Cue snazzy, inspirational superhero theme music)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Debbie Reynolds

Photo of Debbie Reynolds taken by the inimitable Roddy McDowall

I think Debbie Reynolds looks like sunshine.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Stone Soup

I think most everyone knows the story of Stone Soup. It is an old fable that has been retold and reinterpreted many, many times. The first time I heard it, the protagonist was described as an old woman instead of a couple of hungry travelers. I was spellbound. Listening to the beauty of the clever story, how this old woman convinces the villagers to contribute to her stone soup. How all the people who did not have so much on their own came together to make something wonderful. How everyone has something to contribute. How soup was MAGIC because it made water into food.

Perhaps because we didn't have a lot when I was young, I thought the idea of finding something from practically nothing was amazing. I liked the idea that things that looked worthless apart could together be useful and valued. That when people work together on a big problem, even on something that seems enormous and insurmountable (like hunger), it becomes smaller and more manageable. As a child, I thought Stone Soup was BRILLIANT. I still do.

All this is by way of saying that I think that fable led me to my love of cooking and, more importantly, to a lifelong, deep-seated love of soup. I think of it as food that nourishes the soul as well as the body. I have made some of my best soups a'la the Stone Soup method - by rooting around and figuring out what I already had in the pantry. When I am sad or tired or the world is just a leetle more than I am up for, thankyouverymuch, I make soup. I go through a mental list of ingredients I have at home. I make a shopping list. I go to the store and buy the things I need. I go home and scrub my kitchen till it gleams (because I like to make soup - a time consuming ritual for me - in a spotless kitchen). And then I do my thing.

It makes me slow down because my best soups have long cooking times. It's meditative. It's a healing process. It reminds me that everything doesn't have to be hard or complicated. It's like putting together bits and pieces and making something nourishing somehow reminds me that there is good in the world amidst all the ugly bits.

The world hasn't been so great lately.

Tonight I'm making soup.

If you also love soup, I reccommend checking out the Soup Peddler. His book has suggestions for throwing Stone Soup parties (a brilliant idea that is catching on). The book and website also contain his story - which is an inspiration to people looking for their place in life as well as for lovers of soup.

Oh, and there's also this:

My little sister's very fond of The Mighty Boosh... I am not particularly familiar but I figure anyone who writes a silly song about soup is ok in my book.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Secret Lives of Bunnies

Boy bun basking in sunlight.

Today I am offering a rare view into my inner sanctum. I need a pick-me-up and these are the critters whose main duty in life is to be cute in my presence and, therefore, make me a happier dame (I think they would be more likely to list their main goals as 1. dig a hole in the litterbox 2. gain access to every place in the house that has a closed door and 3. destroy the television by finding a way to access - and chew through - the out-of-reach power cords. I have very different ideas about how they should spend their time than they do.)

Girl bun in her favorite place in the UNIVERSE - under the couch.

Rabbits are surprisingly smart pets. They take a lot more work to keep up properly than most people assume. I think people tend to lump them in with hamsters and gerbils as low-key starter pets. This is ABSOLUTELY not the case. They have delicate digestive systems and if they eat something they cannot digest they can die (rabbits are unable to regurgitate). They are also prone to die of a heart attack from too much excitement or a sudden fright. They are sensitive and need an understanding owner who will bother to pay attention to their body language. They are more work than most cats and are rarely an appropriate pet for a child unless the particular bun has a mellow temperment and the child is considerate and clever enough to learn to care for a rabbit properly. They are also naturally social animals and need interaction (most buns are happier raised as a pair or group) and should not be left to live ignored in a hutch - the fate of many a bun purchased as an Easter surprise.

Boy bun noshing.

These little ones hop around my house pretty freely. They are litter trained (just like a kitty) and typically the only mess they make is when I accidentally leave a newspaper or the yellow pages down where they can shred it. They spend a lot of time hiding in what they think are BRILLIANT spots I do not know about, running races around the couch and conquering the mountain that is the chaise lounge (Boy Bun has climbed to the armrest on his own and will perch there to survey his kingdom). And they make no sound. Unless it's a little purring noise they will occasionally make by rubbing their teeth together (called a tooth-purr). It is a strange and wonderful thing to have these silent little creatures sharing my home.

They remind me of Mitch Hedberg's Koala routine: "My apartment is infested with koala bears. It's the cutest infestation ever. Way better than cockroaches. When I turn on the light, a bunch of koala bears scatter, but I don't want them too. I'm like, 'Hey... Hold on fellows... Let me hold one of you, and feed you a leaf.' "

My house is infested with bunnies. It's the cutest infestation ever.

Girl bun dismissing the camera with a withering glare.

All photos ©2008 dameonline.net

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Chocolate or Vanilla?

It probably goes without saying, but this image of Bette Davis is from All About Eve.

“Why am I so good at playing bitches? I think it's because I'm not a bitch. Maybe that's why Miss Crawford always plays ladies.”
- Bette Davis

Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were not fond of each other. Sometimes it's referred to as a feud but it seems to have been simply a natural dislike. They were different types of actors and it is said that their feelings for each other were not, therefore, caused over competition for roles. They only completed one film together, a set on which they were reportedly both professional and interacted without incident. By most accounts, they barely knew each other. Something in the two women was just so diametrically opposed that they were naturally inclined to dislike each other. They both had unflattering things to say about each other over the years (although it seems that Ms. Davis discussed this distaste publicly with more frequency than Ms. Crawford did).

Both were tremendously talented. I enjoy watching both of them on film. I've just always been particularly fond of Davis. I have a theory that it's a "chocolate or vanilla," "John or Paul," "Bert or Ernie" kind of thing. You can like both but you naturally skew one way or the other. I have no idea what it says about you, per se. I think it's just one of those things.

Incidentally: chocolate. John. Ernie. (and, yes, Bette)

Monday, January 07, 2008

In A Crisis

This was written before my friend was found and is simply my attempt to remember the outpouring of public support as well as the strangeness a tragedy like this can bring out.

We spent Thursday on the side of the mountain my friend was hiking when she disappeared. We arrived at 6am in 10ยบ weather and watched the bizarre circus unfold. I won't hash out the details and I'm not writing this to talk further about my own distress. It's just strange and fascinating how people respond and I have been making notes about it to try to remember everything. How crises bring out the best and worst in people. How much more people care about strangers than you often realize. How much more complicated an effort of this nature is than I ever expected.

There must have been close to 100 volunteers Thursday. Friends of hers, family members, local hikers who know the trails, vacationing hard-core hikers, people with search-and-rescue experience, gawkers, and people who simply wanted their face on the news (seriously, some people just seemed to be hanging out behind whoever was being interviewed. People walking by cannot help it, but the guy standing two feet behind the interviewee and just gazing off as if he didn't notice the cameras? Irritating.).

It was a panorama of personalities and reactions.

The local tradepost owner was wonderful and supportive. My group were the first volunteers to arrive that day and as they would not allow anyone on the trails until the helicopter had first made the rounds to do an infared search, we would have had nowhere to go for hours if he had not opened his store for us. He was very thoughtful and stopped an interview between one of his employees and a TV news reporter to first ask us if we were alright hearing her talk about our friend. He made a very difficult morning somewhat easier and we were all grateful.

The news crews arrived in droves and I found myself struggling with mixed feelings - it seemed distasteful, watching them decend like vultures. But then, the human interest and the resulting increased coverage is what brought out so many volunteers. The increased media coverage may have helped in aquiring more professional search-and-rescue people as we saw that more and more resources became available as public awareness grew. MOST importantly, more people came forward with information. This information led first to the identification of the man who abducted her and then led directly to his capture. It also led to the correct identification of my friend's dog when she was found. It is impossible to overstate the importance of the media coverage in finding everything we know at present about my friend's abduction. We have to thank the news media for that so I am a little ashamed of my initial discomfort and irritation.

The kind and patient men with the fire department organized the volunteers. The most experienced hikers and people with search-and-rescue training were sent out first. There were SO many of them - local people who knew the trails, vacationing hikers who delayed their plans, people with search-and-rescue training who saw her on the news - who just showed up in their gear, ready to go. People who knew her, experience or no, were held back to be interviewed. Once officials saw just how many people that included, however, they settled for interviewing only a few people to get an overview. This meant that some experienced hikers who were close to her were left cooling their heels because they were delayed too long to be sent with the first wave of search teams. I understand the irritation this created, but the Fire Chief was doing his best to organize an effective search while not stepping on too many toes. He had a difficult task.

A delicate, sweet faced woman with short brown hair and glasses showed up with her two beautiful teenage daughters to help me in the kitchen. They were on their annual vacation and had rented a cabin for the week. They showed up at lunchtime and stayed all day, doing whatever I asked. They didn't make a fuss over their sacrifice - just quietly helped and did it in a efficient manner. They said that they preferred to be helping when people realized they were from out of town and were so selflessly pitching in.

The fire chief's father (a genial older gentleman who insisted on being called "Grandpa") showed up with a huge container of beef and noodle soup and hung around all day, alternating between being reassuring me with kind words and unnerving me by saying that, "If it's your time, it's your time. Even if you're young." He meant well, though. He told me they have to rescue hikers "all the time" and then went on about bringing down a man with a broken leg and how it took four hours to get him off the mountain once they located him and generally he kept me distracted in between food rushes.

One man arrived in the afternoon and stood around for two to three hours, just rambling on about himself to anyone who would listen. He talked about how he's from an affluent neighborhood and none of the teenagers where HE lives would volunteer like this. He talked about how this would be a lesson to his 9 year old daughter. He rambled on and on about how people don't understand what's important and how his kids only value Ambercrombie and Fitch and how what's REALLY important is (expansive hand gesture) "THIS"... He also didn't lift a finger all afternoon.

One woman who actually does know our friend (and probably meant well) kept talking about her loudly IN THE PAST TENSE. She cornered family members and friends. She babbled cheerily all afternoon. All the while slipping into the past tense and then saying, "Oops!" and correcting herself. "Did you know her?" "She was a tough girl! I mean, She IS. I keep doing that! I mean IS." "So, Were you friends with her?" Top volume. All day.

The Fire Station's Chaplain was there non-stop. Not only making himself available to anyone who needed to talk and leading people in prayer, but also helping with the food and just pitching in wherever he was needed. He's a tall man with glasses and a big, bushy moustache (I find facial hair reassuring. Santa. My Dad. My favorite Uncle. Tom Selleck. So many of my favorite men have facial hair). I felt better just having him around.

An thin older woman in a formless grey sweatsuit and a tough looking leather biker jacket signed up to volunteer and then waited in case she was needed. She asked if we were saving food for my friend because she was going to need energy bars when found. I reassured her that certainly the EMT's who were standing by had appropriate supplies at the ready. She asked one of my companions if she and our missing friend had ever talked about girl stuff, "like what you would do if you were stranded in the woods." We puzzled over that for a while, as niether of us recall any "girl talk" conversations with female friends having covered lost-in-woods scenarios.

A couple of sweet teenage boys kept coming up to me and asking if I needed anything and just generally stayed around all day looking for things to do. Opening doors for people. Waiting to see if they were needed. They were quiet, they were respectful, they didn't go near the cameras. They just wanted to help.

My friend's godmother is the family's spokesperson and she was both emotional and firm. She did media interviews, she made announcements and thanked the volunteers, she spoke with such a fervor that I think some part of her hoped to bring our friend back by sheer force of will. She has continued to this this non-stop for days now. I think my friend would be both proud and deeply moved to see how her godmother has handled herself and tried to protect my friend's parents from the media glare.

I think volunteers who were not used may not see that they did something. They made themselves available. They showed up and said, "Here I am. Use me if you are able. I want to help." So many people did. When seven of us left together at 5am, we had no idea what to expect in terms of manpower. We didn't know if we would be a large percentage of the group searching or if there would be huge teams of law enforcement on the ground or WHAT. To watch droves of people arrive as the day went on was so reassuring.

Most of us know nothing about how these things happen. When you want to help, who do you call? Where do you go? Few people who volunteered expected to work with the food or do other tasks. They showed up to search. Much more support is needed than the actual people out looking. None of us understood that organizing volunteers was such an enormous task. Many friends and family members were left waiting, restlessly coming in and out of the building; sitting, standing, hugging, talking, calling people. But nothing to do. The waiting was and is awful. Every person present who knows her was there because they not only wanted to help, but NEEDED to. Looking back now I am kicking myself for not finding a way to draft more people into the kitchen. For their sake. Did it make a difference that I ladled soup all day? Doubtful. But I FELT as if I was doing something and I should have made an effort to help other people who were also struggling with that need.

For all that something like this reminds you how ugly humanity can be, it also brings out the best in people. As I sit watching the news now; waiting for more information, worried by the facts we have learned, my out of practice tongue whispering fervent prayers for a missing friend and her grieving family - there are hundreds of strangers doing much the same thing. Hundreds of strangers who searched the woods in below freezing temperatures or sent food or posted flyers or called about her dog or kept an eye out in their neighborhood for that man or just kept her in their thoughts. Hundreds of strangers who in their own big or little way did whatever they could to help are also watching the news and saying quiet prayers and becoming very familiar with the face of a pretty woman whom I very much wish they could all someday meet.

These Things Happen To Other People

I cannot remember a time when I did not know that other people could hurt you and were not to be trusted lightly.

Not in a childlike "don't talk to strangers" way. In a concrete, visceral, premature distrust of the world way.

My friend was abducted while hiking alone in the woods with her dog. The man responsible for her disappearance is in police custody and is being charged, for now, with kidnapping and causing bodily harm. Sufficient evidence has surfaced that the authorities have officially declared this to now be a search and recovery effort instead of a search and rescue. Honestly, though, every single person who knows her is still trying to hold onto hope that she will miraculously be found alive. The evidence has made it clear that she will not be found unharmed.

I grew up in a fairly bad neighborhood. A poor neighborhood. I remember being very young and hearing that a police officer had been shot late at night in the park two blocks from my house. And I thought, "Doesn't he know it's not safe in the park at night?" I learned about the birds and the bees because my best childhood friend was molested by her next door neighbor. I ran home one day when a man offered me a watch in order to lure me to his car and then followed me.

So I don't feel any less safe today. Because I never really felt safe to begin with.

Like everyone who cares about this woman, I am torn between frustration that she took the risk of being out on the trail alone and knowing that I would not have wanted her to be a different person. I would not want her to be someone who lives in fear. She is more physically capable than most any woman I know. She is trained to fight and to defend herself. She even had a fairly large dog with her for company. But clearly those things aren't enough.

I'm a door locker. Windows, too. I keep a phone next to my bed at night. I keep a light on outside the door so neighbors can see anyone who approaches my door at night clearly. I don't walk to my car alone in the dark. I am not particularly friendly with strangers, although I will converse with them if I am in a sufficiently public place. Perhaps I'm a little paranoid. I also live my life. I traveled to another country by myself. I've taken a cross country road trip alone. I don't let my fear keep me from living, but I try to be careful. I acknowledge that every stranger or person I do not know well could potentially be a threat.

To be clear, this friend and I are not close. We get together in a group to watch bad tv and talk about girl stuff on a semi-regular basis. Until yesterday I could tell you about her excitement over her new job or who her favorite contestants are on ANTM but not where her family is from - that kind of friendship. I am fond of her. People I love, however, have known her for years and are very close to her. So this is not happening to me. This is happening very near me to people I love and a woman I very much care for.

There is no good in this. But perhaps there is a warning or a reminder. When we watch the news so many of us forget that these are real people and not just stories. These are people with families and friends and lives being halted or altered horribly by the events we see unfold in flashy television updates. And those people you see grieving on the TV news live feed could someday be people you know and care about. Today they are people I know and care about.

We are all hoping for her to be returned to us. I am also hoping that people will hear about her and be a little more careful in their choices. More hesitant to trust a stranger met in an isolated place. More likely to find someone to go hiking with them so they are not alone. More likely to get someone to walk them to their car at night. (Edit: To be clear - I do not think my friend was careless. You SHOULD be able to go hiking with your dog in the middle of the day and feel safe. I just think a reasonable level of healthy distrust can save your life.) Bad things can happen to anyone. Taking precautions will not change that, but it is the one thing we can do to stack the odds in our favor.

We can also all learn from this to keep a closer eye out for our fellow man. If only one of the several people who witnessed this man talking to my friend (and some said it gave them a bad feeling) on the hiking trail had stopped to check that everything was alright, perhaps she would be safe at home today. I certainly don't blame them in any way, but it is hard not to think that small changes in the actions of the people who saw her that day might have made a difference. Awareness of a witness might have altered that man's choices.

I (surprisingly) actually believe that most people are good. I still think 9 out of 10 people who stop to help you on the side of the road can be trusted. The problem is this: We all look the same. People who knew Ted Bundy thought he seemed like a pretty nice guy. The man who abducted my friend looked like a crazy, freaky old man. But most of the old men I've met who look bizarre and freaky are actually great people. You just can't tell, so you can't take risks with your safety and you shouldn't make assumptions about people based on too little information. For your own sake and for the sake of the people who love you. Live your life fully, but exercise caution.

My friend is an exceptional person. Right now everyone who knows her hopes that will translate into her beating the odds in what have become an increasingly grim sequence of events.

“I have learned two lessons in my life: first, there are no sufficient literary, psychological, or historical answers to human tragedy, only moral ones. Second, just as despair can come to one another only from other human beings, hope, too, can be given to one only by other human beings.”

- Elie Wiesel


Edit: They found my friend and I am sad to say that she is dead.

Take care out there. The world is a wonderful place but there are some frightening people in it.

“My heart has joined the thousand, for my friend stopped running today.”

- Richard Adams

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

People Who Look Like Bunnies

The Buh-RILL-iant people over at Hopscotch are doing a lookalike photo series called "People Who Look Like Bunnies." I think it's divine. Click the photo or the text link to view the brilliant. Liv Tyler and Jared Leto are my two faves after Alice Cooper. HILARIOUS!

Figured that starting the year out with a bunny link and a smile was DEFINITELY the way to go.