Saturday, May 22, 2004

Poop Report

I am quite the proud aunt. Guess what The Baby Formerly Known As Taufling did: Filled a diaper to overflowing. This alone, I know, is enough to award the child a Pell Grant, but he wasn't done yet. As my sister was changing him, he proceeded to spit up. Then, when she paused to decide which mess to clean up first, he peed all over the wall and beamed up at her as though he'd just singlehandly split the atom.

That's my boy.

Friday, May 21, 2004

The Well-Hung Discovery

Last week at the Kennedy Space Center, the first of the reinforced carbon-carbon panels were hung on the leading edges of Discovery's delta wings.

Here is why I'm bothering you and me with this: In terms of retunring to flight, that tiny little carbon square is enormously significant.

Columbia, although destroyed on re-entry, was lost to us on the launch. We lost her the instant the solid rocket boosters lifted her off the pad, when debris falling from her orange external tank punched a hole in generally the same area techs are currently dressing on Discovery. That the titanium frame of Discovery, she who also first carried the torch after Challenger was lost, has now been graced with this vital element means we are patching over the holes, moving forward, inching our way back to the launchpad. I sat awash in bittersweetness when I read the news from my desk at my generous-with-the-benefits-but-not-so-much-with-the-happiness day job.

I don't write about the space program much. This is not because I do not care. It is because I care too much. It is because it pains me to see these lovely ladies grounded, their engines and gears and thrusters totally silent. I can't take that; I can't take the frustrating opposition to a Mars and Moon base, and I can't take the fact that I am now enclosed in a windowless office doing meaningless shitwork when I once stood before the American people with a tiny model orbiter in my hand and said, "This is who we are. And this is how we are, at this very moment, touching something much larger than you and me and John Glenn put together."

When I left the Kennedy Space Center, I badly needed reliability and hothouse handling; and so of course I fell into the emotionally stable world of Thoroughbred racing. Writing is my life and space is my passion, one of many-- but before there was writing, there were horses. Horses are home, the background music of my near-Kentucky childhood. Horses are summer--mountain streams, the anti-cage that was grade school, the aching bliss of an unplanned Tuesday afternoon. A horse has never, not once, asked me to add in my head or failed to call the next morning. A horse may fade in the stretch, throw a shoe, throw a rider, or break your heart when it breaks a leg, but a horse will not fall out of the sky in firey chunks when the best engineering in the history of man took the trouble to put it up there with such care and precision. Horses are nature, akin to God. Spacecraft, built upon numbers and metal and man, are fashioned in an attempt to touch God. I love them both, the runners and the rockets, with all of me; they have alternately wounded and exhilarated me in return. And I carry them both so closely next to me I can scarcely breathe, against my heart, my very being-- exactly the place where, I suppose, other people should be.

All this past year has proven is that structure in any form devastates me. I can't hack it. You who are normal, rejoice. These simple things that other people do every day--arise, make the breakfast, get the bills, do the job, back again--exhaust and frustrate me to a fury. I blame Clinton.

The loss of Columbia, combined with the devastating effects of a year of morale-busting at the hands of a subhuman subcontractor, pushed me here until I can dig myself out again. It was my choice to go there and my choice to leave. I would do it all over again. I miss it terribly. I miss explaining how one goes to the bathroom in space, I miss watching solid rocket booster skirts trundle past me on the highway.

And my God, the silence is deafening.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Over it!

I am done with this, people. I am done with scraping paycheck to paycheck. I am done with being late for work and then putzing around when I actually get there because I hate it so much and just want to run into the ocean and write all day. I'm done with my hair not cooperating, Michael Moore in general, the fact that the highly hateable Rupert was just HANDED one freaking million Survivor dollars and nobody else seems to understand what is so horribly horribly wrong with this, emotions that twerk around like a carousel on a roller coaster, not being in Colorado, headlines that scroll across the bottom of the TV screen (I DO NOT NEED TO KNOW GWYNNTH PALTRO HAS NAMED HER BABY "APPLE" AT ALL, CNN, LET ALONE IMMEDIATELY) and this #*&damn pooching abdomen that will not stop pooching no mater how many @*#damn situps I do (I look like I'm pregnant.) I am done with toll roads. I'm done with socks. I'm done with missing my nephew's first smile and most recent crying spell. I've had it up to here (makes "up to here" gesture in the general vincinity of the mid-chest) with jockeys. I'm done with DisneyWorld, WallyWorld, and We Are The World. I am DONE WITH IT.

Most of all, though, I'm done with ovulating. Stupid ovulating!

I am not, however, done with fact that when I stomped into work half an hour late and .000001 gallons of gas left in my tank, I discovered that my boss isn't in today, and when I stomped (slightly less stompy, now) into a coworker's office to shriek about life in general, she and the guy she was talking to said, "Wow, you look great today."

Well... thank you. I guess. I'm having a nervous breakdown, yes, but at least The Rack is still stoppin' traffic.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Land That I Love

When you sing "God Bless America," do so with a grateful heart. God has already given us the Rocky Mountains, the F-16, and nine innings of baseball. Let's not get greedy, people.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

"What time is it?"

I just made the ENTIRE LIFE of the MasterCard lady, who took my very polite call about my $1.08 finance charge, which may not sound like much to get one's thong in a wad about, but here on Planet Blonde, that's, like, one entire atom of gasoline. So I dialed, sweetly fuming, and she explained the charge, and I said, "Oh! I understand. Thank you," and there was this pause and then she goes, "Really? You mean it?! You're the FIRST PERSON EVER to understand that on the first explanation! Can you call back, like, every single day?" Then she lifts the phone away from her ear and she goes, "This girl understood the finance charge!" There was another fourteen minutes of telling me how awesome I was for understanding the finance charge, and finally, because God knows I hear how awesome I am all day long anyway, I had to cut her short and so I said, "Well, thank you for your help," and she said, "No, thank YOU, Miss Tink."

Lookit, I know that people, as a general rule, are stupid. In one of my worse Horrible Day Jobs, I used to fend off the loserly at Union Terminal, a converted train station largely known for its GIGANTIC-ASS SEVENTY FOOT CLOCK ON THE FRONT OF THE BUILDING. The information desk where I worked? Had a huge digital clock perched overhead AND a clock over my shoulder so that those of us standing DIRECTLY BENEATH this enormous, unmissable timetelling device didn't have to crane our necks off trying to figure out when lunch was coming. And you KNOW what question I got asked the most. Day after day. Hour. After. Frickin'. Hour.

Seriously? If a dyscalculiaic blonde who gets lost on a gokart track understands about the finance charge where the rest of the world has failed? We are in bigass trouble, my friends. Big, bigass trouble.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Notes On the Back Of a Black-Eyed Susan

Is he kidding me with this? He has got to be kidding me. Twenty-four hours after riding three stakes races, which was twelve hours after riding in the Preakness, which was twelve hours after an eight-hour plane ride from France, not to mention the eight-hour plane ride BACK to France, Gary "I Am The Hardest-Workin' Man In White Pants" Stevens rode today. Three times. I mean, granted, he's still not winning ever since I accidentally jinxed him, but... this is supernatural, people. I was exhausted just watching him ride in ONE circle on Saturday.

-Ryan Fogelsonger? How YOU doin'? Holy CRABcakes, he's hot. Normally I'm not a sucker for dimples, but seriously: The dimples, the dimples! Ryan, join me for some purple passions after the race. The first gallon is for drinking; the rest is for pourin' over you, baby. Ain't no thang that you and WaterCannon came in last. All the better for me to watch your butt go by with an unobstructed view.

-Can I just say how much I love Chris McCarron? Oh, I can? Sweet. I LOVE CHRIS MCCARRON. In fact, he's not Chris McCarron: He's Ivy McCarron. He is Ivy McCarron, because he grows on me every single time I see him interviewed. Ivy is a Hall of Fame jockey who was the race designer for Seabiscuit, and is currently GM of Santa Anita. Readers of this space first met him here, in a thorough discussion of The World's Greatest Twenty Minutes of Television, Ever. Ivy sometimes leads visitors on group tours of Santa Anita. I must attend one of these before one of us dies. I MUST.

Ivy was interviewed on ESPN by some incredibly agonizing host team--one male, one female, both asshats-- and he was asked about his 1987 run for the Triple Crown with Alysheba. He mentioned looking over into the track kitchen from the jock's room to see his sisters dancing after his win. "They invented a dance called the Sheba Shuffle," he said, and then. He. DEMONSTRATED. The man lifted his arms up over his head and shook it like a Polaroid picture. It was AWESOME. Rock on, Ivy.

Ivy was seen again a few hours later on NBC, this time interviewed standing up and with one of those shot-from-below "I'M HUGE!" camera angles that attempted to make him look taller than he actually is-- but with jockeys, there's only so much you can do. He was almost a towering 5'6" in this shot. But, alas, no dancing.

I love Ivy.

-I'm the first to admit it: I may have been too hasty in passing judgement on Stewart Elliott. On Friday, Stuey stood before the press corps, arms folded, and straightforwardly answered every single question The Animal had for him about his girlfriend-smacking past. I was an alcoholic, he said. I was wrong, he said. I've changed, he said. Anybody else got any other questions? Anybody? Bueller? Bueller? Let me ride my race, then, please.

See, I'm not normally a fan of people with assualt convictions, but Stuey, he got help, he stood up in front of everybody, he took responsibility for it, and he moved on. I have a lot of respect for that. A lot. We've all got shit. I've got shit, you've got shit. Stuey has his rap sheet, I've got the seminarian I cheated on my then- boyfriend with. You've got-- well, we won't talk about the shit YOU'VE got. But most of us don't have to go through life with the whole entire WORLD finding out about our shit during the most stressful seven weeks of our lives. It's what one does AFTER the shit that matters; specifically, whether or not one is currently still engaged in the aforementioned shit. Stuey is done with his shit. Mr. Elliott, welcome back to my good graces. Enjoy the view of my rack.

Also, did you see him spin his whip in the homestretch after handing Smarty a couple of taps? It was completely unconscious, I think, just the a sort of "This is how I do it" type of thing he's probably developed over the past fourteen billion races he's run. Goddang, that was cool. I very nearly took all my clothes off right there in front of the television set.

-Speaking of, there was this great shot in the jock's room of Gary and Stewart sitting side by side on a table, waiting for the call to head over to the paddock. Helmets on, ready to roll. Not talkin'. Not lookin'. Just sittin'. Oh, AWKward. And the signal comes, and everybody starts heading for the door--except for Gary. He grabs his whip and hops off the table and heads in exactly the opposite direction as all the other jockeys. The camera, of course, follows Elliott, but I would have paid NBC one skillion dollars if they had taken off after Gary. I've got a pretty good idea of where he was headed, and I would have loved--LOVED-- to see Gary turn around, face the camera, and go, "Seriously. Everything? You have to know everything that goes on before the race?" as he heads into the Little Jockey's Room. (Same dif, I know.)

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Oh, shut up.

I don't understand go-karting. I understand even less why I enjoy it. I hate driving. I suck at it, I lose my way in parking lots, and The Bellemobile pees on me when it rains. It makes perfect sense, then, that I should pay the Andretti family $1.25 a minute to... drive.

Is it the little tires piled up alongside the course? Is it the thrill of zooming along at .000001 MPH in a vehicle powered by what is essentially a lawnmower's engine? Is it the getting boxed in by two drunks at a bachelor party and an eight-year-old high on Pixie Sticks?

Ah, non. It's all about finding new ways to get lost.

G-Force and I were going nowhere slowly on the second turn, where the asphalt bore in two directions. One path led to the uphill portion of the track. The other led to the turn-in corral, where drivers left and returned to the course.

You know which path I took.

The fourteen-year-old with the checked flag had to physically pull me out and turn the cart around. Yeah, that was a big fat red-letter day for me and my Master's degree.

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