February 23, 2005

Identity Crisis

A friend of mine suggests I consider changing my pen name. He says Gertie is not cheeky enough to represent me. The name doesn't reflect the vitality and girlyness that oft times flirts with the audience. In other words, who he knows, who he reads, and who the blog states wrote it don't jive.

Hmm. Gertie, Gertrude, a true old lady's name. Aren't old lady's names all the rage now? It's part of the whole "name the kid after great grandma, a fruit, or a city" trend. Julia Roberts named her daughter Hazel, Gwyneth's daughter is Apple, and all of us know at least one kid named Paris, Brooklyn, or Dallas. I think I'll name my kid after a country - Bali. Or Mauritius. Or America. But who pays attention to celeb trends anyway?

It would feel wierd to switch up on my readers like that. All of the sudden a girl named Vanessa or Trixie or Francesca has taken over writing? It sounds like the same person. Doi? I'll have to think about it. Guess you'll have to come back soon.

February 21, 2005


I was on the phone with my mom the other day and she mentioned that she and my dad went to see The Aviator, and that she really liked it.

Gertie said: "Yeah, I'm sure it's a good film, but I don't really want to see it because I would never 'see' Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes...and there is NO WAY that actress who plays Katherine Hepburn would ever convince me she is Katherine Hepburn. I mean, who cast that thing?"

My mom said: "I'm really worried about you. You're very negative." I'll spare you the additional commentary on that statement.

Gertie said: "I'm not negative; I'm just extremely critical about films."

Later I realized that I was getting into my Rough City Rut. People who come to San Francisco dazzle at its quasi-European, almost-but-not-quite-New York atmosphere. But there are sides to San Francisco that tourists don't see. Horrendous parking. The most ridiculous traffic. Homelessness. Homelessness is a shame, and tourists do see some of it, but it's pretty rampant in my neighborhood - the Haight Ashbury. After living here for 8 years, I have nicknames for most notable regulars. I never give money, I do give food and I do say hi to the sane, gentle ones. But there are some cuckoos, some real doozies, and they love to pick on me. They probably love to pick on everyone, but it always seems like a personal attack.

I have to work very hard to place an invisible sign on my forehead to let these people know if I am open to interacting with them or not. I try to place "Do Not Disturb" out there, rather than my more natural "Ask me for Directions" look. Unfortunately, once I get a sign up, it's communicated to everyone, all the time. I carry that "talk to me!" or "don't fuck with me" look to the gym, out to bars, on the train.

Until my mom said I was negative, I had no idea it was time to re-calibrate. My re-calibration usually occurs naturally after a quick vacation, but I haven't been on one of those in a long time.

I spent the weekend north of San Francisco in my native Marin, watching a friend's dog. It rained all weekend, but with enough breaks to take that crazed dog out on a trail walk. I am telling you, there is nothing like a freshly rained on fire trail to enhance one's mood. The trickling of water running off the hillside; grass so lushly green you want to lick the raindrops off; the soft padder of your feet walking over the spongy dead pines that fell during the last storm; the wonderful smell of all these things combined. No cars, no bums, no drugged-out-tatt-wearing-pierced runaways, no fashionistas. Just you and the dog, and you're both in a different kind of heaven on that trail.

Then a crazy thing happened, and it almost made me sick to my stomach. I pulled my cellphone out of my pocket to see if I had reception. That's right people! In all that peace and quiet I was getting a lot of things done in my head, including a list of people I needed to call. I was shocked simultaneously by a) noticing I had 3 bars, and b) the audacity of thinking that walking through serenity was a perfect place to catch up. So I shook my head at myself, turned the phone off, put it back in my pocket, and gave the dog a treat.

The funny thing is, almost every time I go running or hiking on a trail, I have this same connection. It's like a reminder of who I am. I am that mud-covered baby in the photo: with the hand-me-down blue smiley face sweatshirt, eating dirt on my first camping trip and absolutely loving every bite. It's a wonder I don't make an effort to hit the trails more than a few times a year.

Unfortunately, I am not 100% re-calibrated. I know that because when I came back to the City it took me 20 minutes of circling to find parking, during which time I said "fucking retard" under my breath to other drivers at least twice (note this is an improvement, and yes, I am the best driver in the world, so I have license to judge). There. That sentence right there proves my point. The good news is I am going to Jamaica in August, and like I said, every time I come back from a vacation I am absolutely refreshed and POSITIVE. At least for a few months.

February 15, 2005

Thank You, Playboy, My Childhood is Missing

You may think this an odd title for a Valentine's Day entry. It actually has nothing to do with the holiday - it's following my expressive flow.

Here's the scoop. My dad is a photographer. Originally born in Illinois, he grew up in a small town, and he knew it, and he had to get out. He lied about his age and joined the U.S. Navy at 17. Being a creative guy, he became the ship's photographer. He loved travelling, and his experience voyaging the world by boat shaped our family.

I think my mom was "WOW'ED" by his worldliness and artistry, not his looks. Because when they met in Chicago after my dad was released (is that what it's called?), this guy was an absolute phenomenon to her. He was an artist, he loved jazz, and he read the New York Times. An interersting species for a girl from the suburbs of Minnesota who was completely unfamiliar with any of these things.

Here's the thing: when they married, my mother refused to have photographs taken of the wedding. HELLO! the photographer has no photos of his one and only marriage.

And thus the trend began. Soon after my parents tied the knot, my dad accepted an offer to work as a photographer for Playboy Magazine. My parents moved near San Francisco, and gave birth to my brother, The Prodigal Son ("Your brother has come... and your father [in this case, my mother] has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound").

This was the hayday of Playboy. It was never spoken about, but in those 5 years he worked for Playboy, I think the family life took the back seat. Our family photo albums, sparse and few as they are, are riddled in my younger years with glimpses of natural beauties traipsing through wooded groves naked. Like I said, this was the hayday of Playboy, after all.

Now, you may be interested to know that in the '70's Playboy did actually have articles as well as photos. In fact, my dad was mostly responsible for the portraits of the highlighted individuals in the articles. Much to his chagrin. For example, he took pictures of Ron Kovic, the key character of the movie "Born on the 4th of July." And Ron Kovic is a real guy - I met him in a coffee shop when I was just back from living in France, 23 years old. When I told my parents I met him, my dad said "watch out." He was right; Ron, a VietNam vet, invited me several times to visit his "artist's cottage" to view his sculptures. But I refused, and I dirgress.

By the time I was 5, my dad had left Playboy and started working as an advertising photographer. As the second child, constantly curious about my parents' devotion to me, I started looking for confirmation in my baby book and in family photo albums that I was as loved and adored as I should be. There was not much evidence that I was their daughter. In fact, by the time I was 8, I was convinced I was adopted (which is funny now, because I look exactly like my mom).

My brother recently got married, and now he and his wife have a son. The first grandchild. Enter Prodigal Son II. Don't get me wrong, I love having a nephew. But I still have a hard time not being the center of attention. I still have a hard time acknowledging the fact that my baby book is virtually empty. This may be the "youngest child" syndrome, but I blame it on Playboy. After all, my dad rarely memorializes family events. The camera is only for work.

Yesterday my mom and I had a "girl day" and we walked 5 mi. on Blackie's Pasture in Tiburon, then went to Mill Valley to a gallery opening of some dead dude who my dad photographed for a Playboy article back in the 70's. He is now famous and some of his larger ridiculous art is worth $40,000. Apparently, when my dad was shooting photos of this artist at work for the magazine, he was scribbling out a samll piece. The piece was finished before my dad was done shooting, so he turned it over and started writing a story on the back about being photographed. At the end of the shoot, he gave the piece of artwork to my dad. My dad framed and kept it; now it is wortth, with my dad's original photo from Playboy, about $1,500.00.

Anyway, Happy Valentines Day to my mom and dad, who, even though they never photographed it, have loved me absolutely unconditionally for 32 years. And Happy 35th birthday my dear brother - may you take as many pictures of your 2nd child as you do your first. And Happy Valentine's Day to Cade, my one and only true love first nephew!!!!!

February 08, 2005

Reconstructing Gertie

Word on the street for a while now is that 40 is the new 30. When a friend told me she was turning 41, my jaw dropped in awe of how amazing she looks. In San Francisco you see gorgeous, hip women on the positive side of 35 all the time. Apparently, women should no longer be scared to turn the "Big 3-0." In my book it's 32 they should worry about.

When I turned 30 I didn't change much. I still looked 26. And even though I still act 26 to this day, here I am at 32 and it appears I am starting to physically deteriorate. The whisper of future wrinkles I saw when I was 30 are now digging in and actually becoming features! My admired firm tush has decided to distinguish itself by adding a shelf. And where the hell did my tricep definition go?! Strangers are even calling me "Ma'am" more often than "Miss."

Then! Just when starting to contemplate all of this! A TV commercial came on: a girl enters her apartment, drops her purse, goes to the fridge and grabs a slice of chocolate cake. She takes the cake to the couch and starts eating it while watching TV. When she finishes, she sets the empty plate down, leans back on the couch and lights a cigarette. I am loving the commercial, waiting for what is next, because this girl is me. Chocolate cake for dinner and a relaxing cigarette after! Nice (though if it was me I would have eaten more cake). And here is what came next. Fade to black, and: Eat right. Exercise. Don't smoke. Live healthy.

%^&@!!!!!!! OK, OK, I get it. So, with the universe screaming "YOU'RE AGING AND UNHEALTHY" I am slowly reconstructing Gertie. That's right folks, in the face of my changing face, it's time to focus on some long-term preventative maintenance. In fact, I've already made some strides of change:

1. Replaced my daily ritual of the morning coffee to green tea, and reverted back to the pre-collegiate days of "social" coffee drinking. I did this to increase the anti-oxidents (anti-aging), but you can't imagine the recovery of lost energy I've had. Plus, coffee begs for a cigarette, green tea really doesn't.
2. If any of you have followed along my blog journey, I mentioned in "Bad Gas" that only the hint of love was enough to get me to floss regularly. Happy to report that I floss about 3 times a week, compared to previously which was more like once every 3 months. Not a huge step, but your mouth ages too, people.
3. Cutting back on the cigs. I take 5 out of the pack in the morning and that's all I have all day. Unless there's a party. Or alcohol involved. No, it's not the same as cold turkey. Baby steps, folks, baby steps.

Well, it's not a complete 360 lifestyle change. I've still got to work on the food intake. You were probably wondering how a cute, slim girl like me keeps her figure - it's not the diet. As it stands, I eat like crap, run 30 minutes 2 times a week and come out okay. Here's what I ate yesterday:

8:47 am: green tea
9:14 am: 2 slices toast gopped with butter
9:28 am: 2 more slices of toast gopped with butter
9:42 am: 2nd cup of green tea
11:51 am: heated up can of Trader Joe's Low Fat chicken noodle soup
4:16 pm: a bowl of chicken flavored Top Ramen
7:46 pm: peanut butter an jelly sandwhich (Yes, I know I'm 32!)
9:12 pm: too many chocolate-covered raisins to count

Did you notice the theme of 2's in there? I probably had 2 pb&j's as well. Hard to keep count. Hey and there's another theme - did you catch it? Right. It's vegetarian - just kidding. Theme number two is NO FRUITS OR VEGETABLES. I am real enough to admit that a chocolate-covered raisin is not a fruit.

Well, at least I can say I already had some good habits in place (sunscreen, eye cream, daily moisturizer and drinking lots of water), and I don't think I'm off to a bad start here with my newest trends, either. This is even more exciting than having New Year's resolutions! Ah, yes, change in the name of vanity and longevity...now, if you'll excuse me, I'm under construction.