January 2006

It’s a proven way to gain control, isn’t it? You make some pleasant item readily available to a subject until the subject has become dependent on it, and then you start taking it away. When the subject then reaches for the item, what is received instead is a punishment. Sharp reprimand, a mild electric shock, a swat. This makes the item somehow more desirable, more of a treat, in its rare accessibility. The subject ends up curled on the far end of the room, hurt and a little desperate, and then you offer the item again. The surprised subject’s gratitude is boundless. You become a god. You grant, in your sparing, meager ways, that tiny morsel of the much-prized item and the subject is at your mercy. You are the salvation, you dictate generosity, you have all control.

This is why children raised by parents who unpredictably give and take away their affections tend to grow up to be the neediest, offering up their bodies in exchange for attention and acceptance. And for love. Ah, the ever-elusive “love.”

Love is the Item. Love enslaves millions. But what is love, really? Just some big, cosmic, chemical joke.

How quickly the tides turn. It rises, and I know it has to come down, but when it does, I’m always strangely surprised. Call me gullible to believe the so-recent promises of the sea. It’s water. It’s fluid. It’s forever changing. Even if the sea hadn’t told me itself of its consistent inconsistence, I should have seen it, known it, felt it.

It just stings, is all. The contrast always rips me, calls me a fool.

I was doing a product search for the Mr. Wonderful doll, and I found out that not only are there key chains available for this product, but there’s also a Ms. Wonderful doll! Ms. Wonderful says things like:

* Don’t feel bad honey, I forgot it was our anniversary too!
* You don’t need a glass, just go ahead and drink right out of the carton.
* Your new secretary is cute! I bet she’s smart too!
* Oh… you’re watching a ballgame. Just stay right there on the couch and I’ll whip up some snacks.
* I’ll finish cleaning out the garage honey, your friends are waiting for you to play golf.
* You’re going out with the boys tonight? You’ve worked hard… Enjoy yourself!
* A new reversible drill, oh honey it’s just what I needed!
* Are you sure it’s ok to wash this shirt? You’ve only worn it for a couple of days.
* Don’t worry about taking the trash out. I can use the exercise.
* It really doesn’t matter if you leave the toilet seat up, it makes it easier to clean.
* You’re right, we don’t need directions, maybe you’ll find a short cut.

HAHAHAHA! Mr. Wonderful says things like:

* You take the remote, as long as I’m with you, I don’t care what we watch.
* You’ve been on my mind all day. That’s why I bought you these flowers.
* Why don’t we go the the mall, didn’t you want some shoes?
* You know honey, why don’t you just relax and let me make dinner tonight.
* The ball game is not that important, I’d rather spend time with you.
* You know, I think it’s really important that we talk about our relationship.

And then there are Wonderful Son and Wonderful Daughter. There are no examples of what they say, but I bet it’s something like, “You’re always right, dad. I wish all my friends’ parents were as smart as you and mom.” Or, “I cleaned my room early today, so with the extra time I’m going to straighten up the living room.” “I’m sorry I got an A on the test. I’ll try harder for an A+ next time.” “Dad, may I interview you when you have some time? I’m writing an assignment about the hero in my life.” “Why don’t you and mom go out for dinner tonight? I’ll babysit my kid brother tonight.”

Sunday evening, Mr. W and I took my parents and maternal grandma out to dinner for Chinese New Year. My parents were eager for Mr. W to try a Szechwan restaurant in Rowland Heights because of his partiality toward spicy foods and trying new, different cultural dishes. Szechwan food is regional to a mountainous part of China where it’s so cold that the people had taken to increasing the spicy factor in their foods to stimulate body heat and metabolism. We had lots of ma la (numb & spicy) dishes. There’s a particular spice that numbs up your mouth and it’s added to very spicy foods in authentic Szechwan cooking. The numbing thing bothered me a bit and I complained about feeling like I’d been rinsing with Chloroseptic, but Mr. W really took to the food. A lot of the dishes were so spicy that my parents were remarking jokingly on the number of napkins they’d gone thru to wipe the sweat from their brows. I chugged ice water as Mr. W enjoyed the tea; I backed away from the spicier dishes as Mr. W embraced them piled them in his plate. My mom remarked that apparently, I’m the white person and Mr. W’s the Chinese one. Oh, well.

I do so enjoy watching Mr. W enjoy my culture even if I don’t have quite the same appreciation for various parts of it. I’ll blame that on my prior stomach ulcer.

I had wondered what would make my morning better than having ice cream at work. The answer came shortly thereafter.

A new clerk came in to look for my court reporter, and I pointed her toward my reporter’s office. The new clerk started to tell me about some cases she had questions on, then stopped in mid-sentence and said, “You look good! What do I need to do to look like you?” I was taken off-guard and I think I stammered something about maybe hitting a gym or something. She told me she recently started walking on a treadmill and asked what I recommended regarding improving her diet. So we talked about health and exercise for a bit. I felt a little like a hypocrite, since I had just finished eating ice cream, but what a great topper to the ice cream, huh? I don’t know how this new lady thought I’d have anything to tell her about health, so I’ll just take it as, I look like someone who’d know something about working out and eating well instead of someone who just naturally stays at a certain weight without effort.

Later, as I was walking back into the building after my lunchtime workout, a security guard noted that I’d lost more weight recently. I thanked him gratefully for noticing as I’d been trying so hard.

I had my commissioned homemade custom ice cream delivered to me this morning by “Stevie Wonder,” I guess he called himself on here. It is delicious! He made the ice cream itself a sort of mocha espresso flavor, and the crunch of the crushed espresso beans adds this great crisp texture, like a Heath bar or a Nestle’s Crunch bar except with more coffee flavored bite, and the Kahlua fudge ribbon is nice and rich. Mmmm! I’m sitting here and the judge is going to be late this morning to give a presentation at his son’s school, so there’s nothing going on in the courtroom except the crunching of my ice cream in my mouth. Do mornings at work get any better than this?

Happy Chinese New Year! Happy year of the dog! Woof!

Saturday (hours ago, yes I realize what time it is), Mr. W had friends over most of whom I know and have hung out with already, and we had a game evening. Some people got drunk and had to be ushered out by their significant others. But over all, it was a lot of fun. We played Cranium and Loaded Questions. Loaded Questions is probably my favorite game. You get a group together, preferably the people know each other, and the person whose turn it is rolls a die to see what category of subjective question will be read. Then a question is read aloud, and everyone answers on their piece of paper what their personal answer is (e.g. “Given your current financial situation, what is the year, make and model of your next car?” I answered my usual, Volvo C-70, and guessed it’d be 2007. I then found my Volvo connection. A guy there used to work as the finance manager for Volvo and he can get me that car at a deep discount. I had been going on for YEARS about not having a Volvo connection.). The papers are passed to the question reader, and the reader of the question reads all the answers to the person whose turn it is, and the person whose turn it is has to guess who responded with what answer. Every one you guess correctly advances you one spot on the game board. Everyone left saying we need to make game nite a regular thing. I’ll say it was a success.

3 of our DAs got promoted and they reserved a room in a local restaurant/bar after work yesterday for open bar/food until 9:30p. I stopped by about 6pm, didn’t eat or drink anything because I was uncomfortable instantly and planned to leave soon. There was a sort of collective effort by quite a few of the people there to delay my leaving, which was successful for about 45 minutes. I was strategically passed from one person to the next to the next as they socialized with me and hugged me and made me feel welcome. I did sneak out about 7:15p, but not without knowing who my friends are. 🙂 I’m gonna miss the ones who are leaving to go downtown to hardcore prosecution (gang unit), but I wish them all the luck they deserve.

Imagine this scenario. A girl’s hanging out with a couple of her friends at a bar, waiting for her boyfriend to meet up with them. Meanwhile, the conversation is about the girl’s concern that the boyfriend’s been driving too fast and too carelessly, and her friends encouraged her to not only bring it up to him, but to put her foot down about it because when he drives like that, not only is he endangering his own life, but he’s endangering hers, too, when she’s in the car with him. Seeing the seriousness of this car-racing behavior, the girl is worried and when the boyfriend comes in, she brings it up to him. He laughs at her, as she had already told her friends that he would. He feels that he drives competently and that driving like this is fine because he has yet to get into a car accident due to his driving. She tells him that it’s better to be safe than sorry; better to be bored that driving dully takes too long to get to the destination, than to be sitting on the shoulder of the freeway waiting for the ambulance to arrive and wishing that he had slowed down. The boyfriend looks to the girl’s friends while ridiculing her and to the girl’s surprise, her friends laugh with him, meet his eyes as if understanding his pain at how paranoid she is, and join in the ridicule. He even looked at the bartender at some point in this, seeking support, and the bartender smiled sympathetically at him (despite the fact that the girl was the customer and it’s in the bartender’s best interest to stay out of it, if not kiss her ass). She’s not too blind to see this, and she’s not too stupid not to recognize it. She doesn’t need her friends to fight her battles for her, but some support such as stating the statistics stated to her earlier would be nice, and if they don’t want to be involved, they should’ve just completely stayed uninvolved in the conversation. The boyfriend did agree to drive more carefully, but not without throwing a last smart-ass comment/joke out about it. Something about would she like them to just stay home from now on so they don’t have to drive anywhere.

Altho one of the friends, at the first opportune time, had privately come up to the girl to apologize, the girl finds herself now resolving to allow her boyfriend to drive like a speed demon, and she finds herself hoping that they are met with some misfortune due to it, just so he knows that he’s wronged her.

The injustice that the above is an analogy for kept my heartrate up more effectively than my weightlifting and biking did at my lunchtime workout.

I read something in another blog that made me focus on an occasional fluttering in the back of my head. A lot of us, probably most, have something in our personal histories that we wish never happened. Certainly we don’t want to admit to its existence, which feels like glaring proof of our embarrassing past idiocy. I have a few of those. Sometimes something would remind me of one, causing me to wince uncomfortably, and my brain would try to change to subject. (Along the same lines, Diana just wrote to me in an email, “i would never to admit [my] awful experience except to those who already knew. i would comment on [the other blog entry] but it reminds me of too many things that i rather just forget. “)

Cirque du Soleil my junior year in high school, for instance; I allowed myself to get caught up in Grace’s enthusiasm to ditch the show during intermission and walk across the street to South Coast Plaza so that she could buy her then-boyfriend an anniversary present and surprise him. Thinking only of being a good friend and not a responsible officer of the high school club we had taken out there by 3 chartered buses, I offered to carry the goody she bought so that her boyfriend wouldn’t suspect she got him something, and subsequently she and I got in the biggest trouble of our lives for a stupid decision, and I was blamed for leading the decision, which I did not deny, all in the name of being a good friend.

One day, I’m supposed to look back on that day and laugh. Today is not that day. Maybe if Grace were alive, we’d be laughing at it tomorrow. She would tell me, though, that that incident is but a small eddy in the tsunamis of our lives. And she’d be right. There has been larger things since; stupider decisions that impacted me in more detrimental ways than a scalding lecture from some teachers, embarrassment in front of my peers, and a Saturday Swap (detention) at the high school. I look back at my decisions and wonder if I knew better at the time. I’d like to think that I knew what I was in for but just gritted my teeth against the hope that it’d turn out in my favor as I stepped into a calculated risk. I’d like to think that I don’t stumble clumsily, without cognition, on a tightrope while grinning like a dope, a froth of drool hanging off my lower lip. Of course that’s not me. I think way too much about life to have that ever be me. But is it better to see a pitfall and register a pitfall and fall into it anyway?

No one likes to look back and diagnose their past experiences as just a symptom of stupidity. And yet on the larger, more recent hurt that I’ve endured, I know I’d always suspected. Maybe even expected. Then why was I there? Why did I constantly talk myself into thinking it’d all be okay?

Maybe because it is. I look around me, and the shit I had to sift through has become fertilizer for my riches in life now. Great new friends (from one of whom also springs this blog), great life, new appreciation, clearer eyes. I can’t say I didn’t know what “bad” was before I had to learn it the hard way. Sure I knew. But it’s better defined now, and I can smell it a mile away like the ammonia- and sulfur-emitting rotting carcass of some unnamed evil. With the clearer definition of “bad” came my clearer recognition of “good.” I have that in my life now, too. I used to say, “I don’t need to be cheated on to know that cheating’s bad; why did I have to learn this lesson myself?” Au contraire. There are so many gifts that spring out of the manure that we couldn’t ever see before for the stench of the manure.

And maybe, that’s the meaning of life.

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