Wednesday, June 30, 2004


Doesn't that sound delicious? It sounds like a new Oriental dish, made of yummy, fried sweet/sour, clog-your-arteries goodness. Before you go running out looking for it at your local Frontier Wok, I'll tell you that this is my friend Wendy's new form of exercise. It sounds better when you say it without the dashes, but I had to put those in so you didn't think it was Wendychipilatesyogchi, because that's just daunting. Not unlike saying "suoicodilaipxesuoiciligarfilacrepus" as only practically perfect Mary Poppins can and sounding like you're showing off. ("Indubitably!") Which, now that I look at that, I don't think that's at all what she says in the actual movie, even though I just typed "supercalifragiliciousexpialidocious" into Word, then repositioned all the letters manually so that it was backwards. I think Mary's tea was spiked with more than just a spoonful of sugar.

ANYway, my ju-jitsu class through the Burbank and Recreation center started last night. Tonight is my first tai-chi class. I need to unblock my chi.

No, more time in the bathroom won't help, but thanks for asking.

Here's how it all started. My hip has been bugging me for a few years. A good friend asked me to dog sit for her. A really good friend, as it turns out, because it really messed up my inner thigh muscle. (Groin actually, but then I sound like a football player.) Her dogs are some sort of Alaskan sled dogs. It doesn't matter if there's a sled behind them or not, they'll pull anything. It just so happened that on the other end of their rope was me. And my thigh muscle. We both got pulled. I got over it, the muscle didn't.

Eventually it started feeling a little better. Then I took up golf. The physiological mechanics of golf are such that while swinging a club, your front leg stays locked into position while the rest of your body torques forward, resulting in all the force landing on your front leg (still locked in a stationary position) so that the ball can go long and straight.

I happen to have a very good swing.

I now happen to have a very messed up hip/butt/thigh muscle.

I went to physical therapy. That an educational sort of way. I found out that there were big muscles that hurt more than others which helped me pinpoint the pain and be aware of that part of my body more than usual. It taught me not to limp as much. I also learned that I probably have bursitis (bursa = the small sack filled with joint fluids located between joints. itis = inflammation of. You do the etymology.) How depressing is that? Thirty-seven years old, and I not only have a golf injury, GOLF! for crying out loud!, but bursitis to boot! Aren't those things that should be happening to old people? With frail joints and bones and stuff? (And now I'm Nancy Kerrigan: "Why me? [sob] Whhhyyyyyyyyyyyyy meeeeeeeeeeeeeeee?")

So, the therapy was nice but I'm a typical American. I want results NOW with little or no effort on my part.

So I went to acupuncture. Yes, the thing where they stab you with needles. No, the American Red Cross wasn't exactly thrilled the next time I donated blood, but I'll tell you what. That has been the only thing that's worked.

Wendychipilatesyogchi and acupuncture? You wonder where I'm going with this? I'll tell you. Each time you go to acupuncture, before they even get around to opening the package of steril needles, you get a mini-physical. They look at your tongue: "Tsk, tsk," they say, scribbling notes in your chart.

"What's wrong?" you ask, though it comes out more like, "Wotgh hong?" because your mouth is still open because they haven't told you yet to shut it.

"Teeth mark in tongue. Very bad. Bad spleen. More hot foods."

Then they grab your hands and examine your fingernails. "Tsk, tsk," they say, scribbling more notes.

"What's wrong?"

"No half-moon. Very bad. Bad spleen."

"Huh." (Never mind that my nail beds are totally small, and the only finger I've ever had half-moons on are my thumbs. They don't care. EVERYone should have half-moons on all fingers.)

They flip your hands over and grab your wrists with four fingers. A western doctor would be taking your pulse, but not here. Well, they're checking your pulse, but in a different way.

"Tsk, tsk," they murmur. (They don't write anything yet because both hands are busy.)

"What's wrong?"

"Weak pulse. Slow, then fast. Thready."


"Thready," they confirm. "Bad. Bad spleen."

With my spleen feeling thoroughly chastised, I'm now ready to get poked. One time though, I got a talkative intern who was willing to tell me what all this meant. It helped that he spoke fluent English, was already a licensed chiropracter, and understood why this was a little confusing to a round-eye such as myself. (Although if you've read my Macy's makeover entry, you would know I'm not really a round-eye.)

He explained about chi -- or energy. In doing a little research on my own, it really means more than energy in a

's law type of a way, but there's not really an English equivalent for all the many meanings of chi. Fen shui is one way of unblocking chi -- in the house. "Feng Shui is an age-old practice that embraces the idea of living in harmony and balance with our environment." Once you start reading about that, you'll see chi mentioned all over the place there.

And since I don't know really anything more about it than what you can find out yourself by googling "chi," I'll simply tell you that my chi is blocked which is why my hip hurts. It may be a little more complex than that, and my spleen may or may not be to blame (which, I still have no idea how to tell. I mean, what does your spleen feel like? I've been kicked in the kidneys before, and I've had the occasional stomach ache. But my spleen? What did it ever do to deserve this?)

Tai chi is the ancient Oriental martial art practiced for health. It looks like ju-jitsu in slow motion. (You've seen the wackos in the park, looking like they're a slow-mo replay on a sports channel. Though they're not really wackos, that's what you've thought. Isn't it? ISN'T IT?!) This will help: "in the period of the Three Kingdoms (220 to 265 AD) there was a physician Hua-tu'o who relied not only on medicine but also taught the movements of the five creatures: tiger, deer, bear, ape and birds -- a system he called Wu-chi chih hsi. He believed that the body needed to be regularly exercised to help with digestion and circulation and only by doing so could a long and healthy live be achieved. He advocated a system of imitating the movements of these animals to help exercise every joint in the body. His teaching, and its connection with the movements of animals, is probably the earliest pre-cursor of Tai Chi."

And Lao Tsu (you'll remember him from your World Religions class in college) summarized the philosophy of tai chi in the Tao Te Ching:

Yield and Overcome;

Bend and be straight.

He who stands of tiptoe is not steady.

He who strides cannot maintain the pace.

That, boys and girls, is why I'm taking a tai chi class. I bend and am not straight, but must become straight, so I need to bend.

Yup. I'm going to release my spleen of the guilt of blocking my chi. I'm going to learn to bend. In slow motion.

Which sounds like a topic for later musings on my own "Life: A User's Guide" manual.

Chapter 1:

. Straighten. Unblock.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Water in the Air, AKA Rain

Qwendy: Is it raining up there yet?

EllJayPea: No. it doesn't look like it's going to. It’s quite hilarious, really, since that’s all anyone’s been talking about for hours now.

Qwendy: Yes, it’s quite sunny here, too.

EllJayPea: While it's still dry, maybe I'll run to the store and stock up on canned goods and water. Because I won't be able to get water later on.

Qwendy: I already stocked up on the essentials -- Diet Pepsi, Kit Kats, and Valium.

EllJayPea: Ooh! Do you take valium? I didn't know this about you!

Qwendy: I have taken valium. I love valium, but don't allow it in the house for the reason that I LOVE valium.

EllJayPea: I took it once prior to oral surgery. It didn't really do anything.

Qwendy: I had it prior to oral surgery as well and after it took effect, I grabbed the dentist and said, slurring more than usual, "This is going to be wonderful."

EllJayPea: Hee! That must have caused some eyebrows to raise!

Qwendy: Okay, so I'm watching the local ABC station, with their new radar system, Doppler 7 Thousand.

EllJayPea: What does Doppler 7 million have to say for itself? Have they zoomed in on streets with a trace of precipitation (fog) yet?

Qwendy: So far

Santa Barbara
is being bombarded with this storm, as it quickly moves towards pummeling the Southland. Santa Barbara is reporting .0000000000000000001 in precipitation, and there are strong winds with this storm. Somewhere close to 2 mph

EllJayPea: Wow. Two miles per hour. I can fly a kite! But the “storm” is late. How come Doppler 7 better-than-anyone-else-thousand didn't target the rain arrival time better?

Qwendy: I dunno. Supposedly it will hit Orange County at 4 p.m

EllJayPea: Ooh. Prepare for the worst, OC.

Qwendy: We’re on flash flood watch from 4 to 7.

EllJayPea: Excellent.

Qwendy: The newscaster just said, "We are going to get through this. Just repeat that over and over... to help you get through this storm.” People.. . it's RAIN. FREAKING RAIN!

EllJayPea: Oh. My. Gosh.

Qwendy: It's like...standing in the shower, only outside.

EllJayPea: Water falls from the sky and people are panicking.

Qwendy: That's it. I'm moving.

EllJayPea: To? Where it rains and people don't freak out? Washington?

Qwendy: Away from stupid people.

EllJayPea: Can you imagine the weather forecaster scene in Washington? Sundar 7 Million. "It's going to be sunny today.but don't worry, if we all help each other we can make it through this!”

Qwendy: “People, be prepared to seek shade at a moment’s notice!”

EllJayPea: “I know we don't see it very often, but it's something called SUNLIGHT. Drive carefully out there! It won't last long! The roads will be dry. Repeat: The. Roads. Will. Be. Dry.”

Qwendy: Hee! Okay, we need to move and start our own town: Smartsville.

EllJayPea: How about Alaska? I hear there’re lots of men there. Single men. Oh. Only I guess that's not a criteria for you so much.

Qwendy: Oh now, we can have lots of men in Alaska, or in Smartsville. Well, it depends. In Smartsville, is there an opportunity for "open relationships?"

EllJayPea: Not yet. Sorry. Ooh! But today in class, my kids today wanted to know why men in the Bible were allowed to have lots of wives and concubines, but women couldn’t. I said, "Think about it. Do you really want more than one?"

Qwendy: Oohhh. Santa Clarita just reported rain according to Doppler – 7-Dumbsville. But I can't believe they interrupted Judge Judy for that! They've really got to straighten out their priorities!

* * * 30 Minutes Later * * *

EllJayPea: Oh, my gosh. The most awful thing just happened.

Qwendy: What?! I’m sitting down. Petting my hand.

EllJayPea: I was outside. I had to go across the street for a meeting

Qwendy: Ooohhhkaaaay. . .?

EllJayPea: Everyone in the lobby was talking about the rain and wanting to know if it had started yet. When I went across the street, it was dry. DRY! Then I came back, and guess what? There was this stuff, it was wet, like water, falling out of the sky. Some of it actually HIT ME ON THE FACE! And HEAD!!!! I just didn't know what to do! I mean, it was like being in the shower, only not naked! And I didn't know what to do!

Qwendy: Oh MY! You POOR thing!

EllJayPea: So, I did what any normal red-blooded Californian would do in this case.

Qwendy: you ran around screaming?

EllJayPea: I took off my clothes. And danced. Was that wrong?

Qwendy: No! That's perfect!

EllJayPea: Seriously, when I was leaving, everyone was talking about the rain like it was terrorist attack or something.

Qwendy: No way. They were not! Were they?

EllJayPea: Seriously!

Qwendy: Oh my goodness.

EllJayPea: Then, when I came back, and it was actually, you know, RAINING!, everyone was all, "It's raining!"

Qwendy: [*pounding head on desk.. muttering why oh why are people so dumb*/]

EllJayPea: Just now, one of my aisle-work-mates, who has a window view, says, "It's raining, folks."

Qwendy: Huh. So, it's raining, and? Your point would be?

EllJayPea: So, it ought to hit you, according to Doppler 7Why-are-people-so-small-minded-Million, in about a half hour. BEWARE!

Spring Is In the...Shoe?

I have a spring in my step.

No, really. Literally (LIT-uhr-ully).

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a woman wearing a pair of tennis shoes that looked like something Wile E. Coyote would order from ACME to strap on his heels the better to leap onto a cliff to catch Roadrunner. There were springs, coils, whatever, in the heel of the shoe.

My first inclination was to point and laugh. (Large and spacious building, anyone?) After all, we were in the "909" where the dirt people hang out, so what to expect but bedsprings screwed into the bottom of one's shoes?

But then I started thinking about how very comfortable those shoes probably were, especially for someone like me who experiences recurring chronic tendonitis and plantar fasciitis. I put aside my initial negative thoughts and asked her where she got them. She proudly lifted her pants leg so I could see the logo on them -- Z-Coil -- and told me to go online to get more information. She assured me they were, indeed, very comfortable, and didn't at all seem to mind the fact that she looked like a cartoon character.

I went to the nearest Z-Coil retailer yesterday (the only one in LA County), just to try a pair on. I immediately realized why the 909 lady didn't mind any potential mockery. These things are great. I mean, really. It's like, well, walking on springs, really. All the energy you put into walking is immediately replenished to the foot and leg through this amazing spring. (By the way, I found out that the first prototype by the inventor involved him going to a butcher with his old pair of Nikes to have the heel part of the sole sawed in half, then screwing a spring into the heel. Not so far off from what the initial reaction is.)

Long story a little longer, and not to bore you with my final decision, I got a pair. It's a costly pair, but well worth it. Yes, I'll be mocked, but I won't care. I'll just order some dynamite from ACME to go with my cartoon-y shoes to deal with any pointers and laughers. That should take care of it.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Musical Theater-aholics

I went CD shopping the other day -- something that I occasionally indulge myself in. Not because I don't love music (because I do), but because I have a lot that already doesn't get thoroughly listened to and appreciated, and sometimes I just get too busy to really devote the type of attention to it that it deserves. Anyway, C and I went to Virgin, which even if I never buy anything from there ($$$!), is the best place to go because of the listening posts, and I came out pretty darn happy. I was able to finish my frequent buyer card, which entitled me to a free CD ($20 or less), get a few bargains, and start a new frequency card, all in one fell swoop. All in one expensive swoop, but whatever.

When we got in the car, we both started ripping the cellophane (not ripping, because what is up with CD packaging these days? Remember the good old days with the non-environmentally friendly cardboard boxes that you could tear in half and get right to that new music? Now you need a 3-year old to get into a CD in less than 1 minute, so advanced is the plastic technology. There's the outer plastic wrap, then a sticky thing that was supposed to help you get the outer wrap off, then another sticky label on top holding the whole shebang together, and ...) off to see who could get a CD open first to pop into the car stereo.

I don't remember who won that particular contest. What does stick out in my memory is when C looked in the bag to see what I had purchased, picked one of the CD's up by the corner with thumb and forefinger like it had sneeze germs on it, looked at the title and said with no small amount of disdain, "When did we become our parents?"

"Huh? Excuse me?" (After all, I wasn't the one who had just admitted in front of me, Virgin customers and Virgin staff that I was a Fan-illow.)

"This," she said, gesturing to the aforementioned distasteful CD. "Since when did all you buy start being musicals?"

"Oh. Well, see, that's by-that-guy-on-Bravo-James-Lipton-who-wrote-a-musical-and-I-don't-know-antyhing-about-it-really-except-look-at-that-cast-would-you-I-mean-Carol-Burnett-Nathan-Lane-Bernadette-Peters-Mike-Myers-MIKE-MYERS-for-pete's-sake-there's-nothing-wrong-with-buying-something-like-this--it's-not-like-it's-Rodgers-and-Hammerstein-which-really-is-what-our-parents'-generation-listened-to-and-besides-I-like-musicals."

A smirk is all I received in reply.

So, I admit it. I like musicals. Well, I like good musicals. Which I know is purely subjective and different for each person. But I like music with meaning and meat and oomph. I like music with a lot of stuff going on and conflict and stories and character. I like music that you're just don't find on the local hip-hop or soft rock or even classical station. Don't get me wrong, I like some of that too, but there is something about listening to musicals that's fun and exciting and entertaining, and I shouldn't feel sorry for that.

Hi, I'm Laura.

(Hi, Laura!)

I like musicals. There. I said it.

My latest obsession, (and it really is becoming quite obsessive to the point of trying to figure out air fare, and a cheap, er, inexpensive hotel to stay near the theater district in New York so I can go see it before it leaves Broadway, because it won't start touring until sometime in 2005, and I just really don't see how I can humanly wait until then because the music -- vocals and orchestration -- just does something to me) is "Wicked."

I can't even describe how listening to this makes me feel, other than it gives me a desire to be involved in it. This means taking precautionary measures while driving or being in otherwise public places while listening to it, because I'm liable to start singing and dancing, and for anyone who knows me, participating in those events as a soloist is never a good idea, let alone trying to put them together. But that's what it does. It moves me -- both physically and internally.

I love it so much, I'm even seriously considering rescinding my self-imposed ban of not seeing "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" since I was a child. The flying monkeys scared me then, and I have no good reason to believe they still won't give me nightmares. But I'm willing to sacrifice it if it will help with understanding more layers of "Wicked," rather than slogging through Gregory MacGuire's (the original author) very dry book.

So look for me in NYC sometime this fall. I will be dragging Linda and another musical-loving friend with me there on a Thursday night/Friday morning flight to see shows on Friday evening, then catch a Saturday matinee and evening shows of something else, then fly out on Sunday. No, I'm not kidding.

To feed my cravings, I have season tickets to the Ahmanson -- always a crap shoot at best. I was quite pleased, though, with "Thoroughly Modern Millie" this past Tuesday. So much so that I've gotten my grubby hands on half-price tickets for this Friday. (Note to anyone interested in season tickets at the Ahmanson -- get them for a Tuesday night, balcony seats which are only $22 a pop, then upgrade yourself to box seats just before the show starts. I can't remember the last time I actually saw a show from the balcony.) (Note to anyone who works at the Ahmanson -- can you believe how rude some of these balcony people are? How dare they upgrade themselves to box seats! I demand that something be done!)

Yes, I love me some singing and tap-dancing something fierce. Now go. Shoo. Go see some live theater.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Guatemala Day Five

The rain can be a blessing, as long as you get out of it in time, unlike Saturday when we got stuck in the deluge. Today we lunched (workers eat a real lunch while we eat bread from Dona Maria's kitchen and power bars) at around noon, and resumed work around 12:45. It was very dark even then. At about 1:30, drops started hitting the canopy. I kept sifting, though I did ask Tomas, my bucket carrier and ground flattener if it was my last one. "Falta," he responded – “there's still dirt here to deal with.” (Isn’t it great how all that can be said in Spanish in just one word?) After about seven more buckets, I started to feel the drops. I put on my poncho, Rene ordered the pits to be covered, and Dave, Mike and I all left very quickly.

By the time we got back to the houses, it really wasn't raining anymore, so I felt mildly guilty for coming back early, but not really. I washed my work clothes from today, since the shirt I was wearing had taken more than three days to dry and still smelled like mildew, I didn't want to stay in the same clothes. I dunked my head, washed my hands and arms (I didn't wear gloves today, which reminds me, I think I left them up at the site, because I don’t remember carrying them back. Oh well, one less thing to take home.), changed clothes, all in relative privacy since no one else was here. Ceil came back a few minutes later, then we went to the lab. Once there, Dona Maria decided lunch would be earlier today, so I didn't even get any lab work done before eating lunch. We finished that about 3:00, the time it usually starts, then went to the lab. By 5:15 I was done helping Michael with his bag of shards, so he and Dave and I went to the local bar.

The bars around here are little kiosk type things called after the owner, usually a woman, but this one is called Tienda Don Carlos. It's not a bar so much as a place to buy beer, cigarettes, soft drinks and Cheetos. Mike bought the first round, two beers and a Tiki, which turned out to be a pineapple soda by Canada Dry, all for the price of 18 Qs, or about $3. The boys and I chatted for awhile until Ceil showed up a few minutes ago because she couldn't get into the house.

Sho'nuff, her key doesn't work on the front gate, and the one I got from Judy does. I'm very glad I got Judy's from her! That would have really been a pain in the hiney otherwise to go round up one of the other girls to be able to get in.

It's not quite 6:00 so the water's not on yet for my evening shower. The weather was quite cooperative today -- not so hot at the site that I felt like I couldn't work. But I certainly did get hot enough that I'll easily be able to remind myself of that warmth before I dunk myself in that cold shower. There’s been talk about installing hot water heaters, but I really don’t see that happening. Everything here happens in archaeological time, so to say “in a few days,” really makes me think it will happen in a few weeks, months, whatever. But not while I’m here, I’m sure.

Of course, Ceil hasn't showered yet. She takes little sponge baths and has washed her hair once – ONCE! since she's arrived in Guatemala. (Note: she arrived in Guatemala the day before I did.) I only know this because she makes a point of telling everyone that she won’t get in a cold shower and that she takes sponge baths. She really can't read a room. She told Jonathon all the details about her personal hygiene (or lack thereof) the first night, and you could tell he was like, "What? Why are you telling me this? Weirdo."

And that solar shower I brought here and filled the first day - I haven't used once. It will happily stay here and be willed to the next group of volunteers, but they probably won't need it, if those water heaters do indeed get installed.

Today's big find was actually in the poso or pit I'm working in, number 133 on Mound 15. It's a monument of some sort, but we don't know what it is. There is speculation that it's a frog, but I don't see how it could be – I guess because I don’t have the imagination that they do to see a mouth and two eyes in a large boulder.

The other news is that Andrea, the student in charge of my pit, or my “pit boss” as we’ve taken to calling these graduate students who are in charge of one or two pits each, told me today that she thinks Chris is muy guapo. I agreed, but said he's too young for me, totally tongue in cheek because I knew where she was going. She said, "But he's not for me!" So at lunch, I told Chris that Andrea thought he's cute and was sweet on him. He was like, "Fantastic" (Chris' trademark word). "I was hoping there might be something there, but I couldn't tell if she has a boyfriend or not." I told him I didn't think his advances would be rejected. So this afternoon in the lab, I noticed that there was quite a bit of interaction between the two of them.

Just now, Andrea was down here chatting with me, and I told her it looked like things were going well with her and Chris. She said she didn't think they were, so I told her what he said and her eyes lit up. Of course she has a boyfriend, but she's a relentless flirt, and he's only here for 10 more days, so I'm playing Yenta.

Now, off to the lovely cold shower.