Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Just wrote this for "Armchair Commentary," the Movies blog:

Saturday, September 25, 2010

R.I.P., Rufus, First Dog of the Internet Revolution

Today I will be attending a memorial service for a dog. A very important dog, at least in the history of the Internet revolution of the 1990s in Seattle. Yet while would not have been the same place--and probably could not have launched each successive store--without the help of Rufus, Rufus was not a spotlight hog. He preferred to trot around in the background, very low to the ground.

Let me explain. Rufus's mom and dad were Susan and Eric Benson, the lead editorial and development strategists, respectively, of Amazon in its very earliest days, hired away by Jeff Bezos from Netscape. (Susan, it should be disclosed, was my boss at Amazon, and remains to this day one of the best bosses I have ever had, in any job, anywhere.)

Susan and Eric don't have children, but they had Rufus, a self-contained and contented Corgi -- for 15+ years. And Rufus was a constant around the office at Amazon, back in the cruddy old Columbia Building where we were all making history at all hours of the night.

Tradition had it that with each new store "launch"--I worked on the DVD/Video store, which launched in Fall 1998--it was Rufus whose paw "hit the button" at midnight to make the store go live. I'm sure there are photos of these moments in history--I hope today we'll get to see a few.

For a long time, Rufus's likeness was even sprinkled throughout the site, a helpful dog cartoon who'd appear in your shopping pipeline or on your suggested products pages. I'm certain there are still some Easter egg pages with Cartoon Rufus on them (send links if you have them).

Sweet old Rufus died several months ago, and in a few days he would have been 16. So today a bunch of FORs (Friends of Rufus) will be gathering at the Bensons--Jen & Liffy, Neil and Rose, Manine, Barrie and more--to celebrate the life of Rufus, the amazing experience of working with Rufus's mom and dad, and the good old days of the Web.

When a Corgi could launch a whole new website.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Anne & Rob's Excellent Ideas

Rob C. and I had a great time with his wife, Gael, and their daughter, Kelly, at the Puyallup, but the coolest thing was realizing that Rob would make an excellent addition to The Idea Factory, LLC, started by Francine and me.

Genius ideas that we are taking out patents on right now include:

1. The Taser App. Every single woman in America will want one, just as soon as we figure out the volt/battery situation, and the weapons laws in every state. (Milder versions can be rigged for teens who have bad posture.)

2. Speeding School. This has the bonus of creating jobs in the economy, too -- everyone in the country has the *option* (for you Libertarians out there) to take and get certified in a drive-fast-but-smart course. This will cover: Wise use of the left lane, responsible and artful passing and lane changing, smart cornering and in general excellent use of the vehicle, the road, and the time you have available. Those who pass are given free reign in the left lanes across America. (This was Rob's, so he will get most of the royalties for this. And they will be huge.)

Well, there are more (ask us about the 30-foot-2-way-radio app, BumCluster(R), and neck tattoos that are really comfortable and removable dickies.

You're welcome!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What Would You Say If.... got these two e-mails from someone from your past, within hours of each other:

1. "You are my ideal woman, I am certain I am in love with you, you are my soulmate and we would be perfect together. I feel as though I have been searching for you my whole life."

2. "I want to give you a hickey?" [question mark SIC]

No, really, I want to know what you would say.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Elvis and Me

Thirty-three years ago this week, I was standing next to Elvis. He was dead and in an open coffin, in Graceland, at a "press preview," before the tens of thousands of weeping bluehairs were let in to pay their homage.

I got to go because my boyfriend at the time, Marshall Fine, was the entertainment writer at the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, where we both worked. Marshall had to go, and I wanted to, though I didn't exactly have the time off so I drove up and back in less than 24 hours. (More on what it was like to work in the "New South" of Jackson, as a young woman, in 1977, later.)

Marshall resisted, because Elvis had ceased to be cool. That was the year of Johnny Rotten, the Ramones, or at least Springsteen and Emmylou. It wasn't just that Elvis got fat and wore spangles--it was that he, unlike, say, the Beatles, never tried to change and grow with the times.

In hindsight, he was on to something. Why mess with greatness? But at the time, he seemed to be kind of a joke. It was sad that he died so young and messed up, of course, but....his heyday had been when I was a newborn.

Still, who wouldn't want to go see the actual body of Elvis? So off I went in my robin's egg blue Rambler Ambassador, through the Kudzu Corridor that connected Jackson and Memphis. The scene was surreal... even with all his money, Elvis apparently never sprung for air conditioning. It was hot as Hades in the entryway where we were ushered in, along with a photographer from the C-L.

We filed by the open casket, and I want to say there were only about 20 or 30 people, tops, in that room. When Marshall and I came around the corner of the casket lid, there he was.

I once took an aerobics class from Susan Powter, the onetime weight-loss infomercial queen, in Seattle. (She looks much prettier and softer in person, and is truly hilarious.) As she led us through her mega power moves, she yelled over the music, "Know what my goal is? For people to file by me at my funeral, and look into my open casket, and say...'SHE LOOKS GOOD!'"

Friends, I'm here to tell you, Elvis did not look good. He either needed more time in the L'Oreal Paris makeup roomm or maybe the damage he'd done to himself was so severe that warpaint couldn't help him. He was dressed in a sparkly jumpsuit, his hair styled into the immovable pompadour, but... his face looked ill, sallow and quite honestly awful.

Our photographer quickly snapped several photos (which the paper later decided would be 'inappropriate' to run), including one of me and Marshall trying very, very hard to look somber by Elvis's head, but kind of failing. And Marshall had a solo shot of himself doing rabbit ears above Elvis's dead head--and he is probably the only person on the planet who can claim that honor.

The sorrow and surrealism around the moment was palpable throughout Memphis, but I was oddly untouched by the loss of Elvis the icon. I was most struck by how sad the whole event was--the poor guy, rich as he was, didn't even have air conditioning in the palace that became his jail. (Talk about "caught in a trap.") Even makeup couldn't hide the tragedy of what had become of him in his last years.

It was an honor to see his body, I realized many years later, and of course re-appreciated his genius over the years.

And I would give a lot to get another copy of that picture of me and Elvis. So, Clarion-Ledger photographer from long ago, if you read this, let's talk.

And friends, in honor of The King, let us love each other tender.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"You Can't See Me"

Oh yes, we can.

There's a giant food court in Westlake Center in Seattle, and from the inside it feels like the most private areas are far off against the north walls, which happen to be floor to ceiling windows. This area, from inside the food court, is removed from all the seating areas, and gives the illusion of being "in a corner" and private.

However: My office has a full bank of windows that look right on to those windows, and it's been a mini-Fellini movie (thanks, James!) watching what people do, right in front of those windows when they think nobody can see.

Here is what I have just happened upon, just by happenstance:

  • A girl pulling up her thong out of her pants, and snipping each side, so she could pull it out without taking off her pants.
  • A well-dressed lady plucking chin hairs with a gold compact and tweezers (there's a ladies' room about 30 feet away from these windows...but maybe the light's better here?)
  • Two girls and a guy having a mostly clothed three-way PDA that went on and on and started to get ratings from my office staff
  • Two men, maybe in their 40s, looking guilty and surreptitious, and I was afraid something *really* gnarly was about to happen...but instead, each removed his own toupee, and handed it to the other, who affixed it to his own head. No mirrors. (Personally, I thought the original looks were better for each of them.)
  • Several people who wanted to copy SpiderMan, maybe? Who stepped up onto the windowsill and just pressed their entire bodies against the glass and spread out their arms and legs, as though to get as much maximum contact between body and glass as possible.
  • A woman in a business suit who proceeded to change into her gym outfit, piece by piece.
  • Three drug deals, and four people chopping up powdery white substances and snorting lines off whatever was handy, in one case a Time magazine.

Ann Landers used to advise apartment dwellers not to run around naked near their windows because "if you can see them, they can see you." But this is a whole different window on the world--and maybe worth setting up a timed camera with two or three shots a day. And all the faces pixilated, of course.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Toast to Gratitude

Every summer I celebrate--my birthday in June, and my "birthday" in August. I stopped drinking in August 1982 and every single day I'm grateful for that--and every year under my belt feels like another plank in the beautiful deck I've been trying to build of my life.

Recently I visited some dear old friends and relatives I haven't seen in forever, and was awash in the gratitude all over again. First, one of my very favorite relatives (and I have a lot of them) shared that she's been sober for as long as I have--a fact that had somehow escaped me earlier. Well, nothing will bond two ex drinkers like knowing, suddenly, they're sober partners in crime. Did I mention I love this woman to pieces? We shared some war stories and lots of happy ones. She gave me the biggest compliment: "You still have that alcoholic sense of humor, though!"

I also heard about another friend, who's struggling. I don't want to say much more about it, but his story hit close to home--and I was grateful all over again that in my life, with its jillions of ups and downs, had never quite hit that point. He and his family will be in my prayers.

People ask if I ever miss drinking and the honest answer really is no. Sometimes I miss the ritual--and I used to miss the taste of champagne. Some people ask if I've ever been tempted-- and in almost 28 years I can honestly say no...except for one time: right after the Northridge earthquake, when I was living in Santa Monica and thought we were being bombed. It rearranged my molecules and I seriously was white knuckling it, and truly had to cut things down to one day, one hour at a time.

But that feeling passed after a couple of weeks and looking back, I realized I really never intended to take a drink--I just *thought* about it a lot. (I also couldn't bear to go back to Day One, either, which I realize is lame, but my feeling is, anything that keeps you on the right path is a good thing.)

So I'd like to raise a glass of San Pellegrino, no ice, lime or lemon, in honor of dealing with the hand of cards you're dealt. And I am happy every single day that of all my demons, demon alcohol isn't one.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Wisdom of Sages

This really happened to me. I was traveling for days, weeks, years, seeking a guru who would tell me the secret of life. I traveled over deserts, through blinding snowstorms, over rock outcroppings and sunny meadows.

I finally arrived at the mountain top where the wise woman lived. She turned to me, looked me directly in the eye and said: "Never throw pigs before swine."

How's that for a pearl of wisdom?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Surely, the Truth

It's a little after May Day 2010. As PortableStormCloud comes closer to its birth, I'm warming up my engines for my blog, Surely, which will surely be a component of
My promise to you: I will try hard not to waste your time or mine, and be judicious, and brief, in what I share. I welcome suggestions and even a peanut gallery, so fire away.
Cheers, and looking forward to sharing more very soon. Tomorrow, the gala affair at the Four Seasons!