Going mojo

The things I do for this job.

So, I’m in La Quinta covering a candidate forum hosted by KESQ’s Tamara Damante and I have just about an hour to write a 20 inch story before a 9 o’clock deadline. Tight, but not impossible. Earlier this year Gannett properties across the U.S. went mobile with a fleet of iPhones and laptops. To clarify, I’ve always carried a laptop with an aircard. This is different. The iPhone is supposed to act as a hotspot to power our devices – laptops, iPads, etc. And the new equipment means we can now link into the system. I’m not just emailing a story in, I’m working off my office computer, out of the office.

Have laptop, will travel. Today’s journalists are mobile. Photo by Aracely “R” Herrera.

But Sprint’s hotspot doesn’t always recognize my phone, even when it’s sitting on top of my laptop. I’ve gotten stuck here before with an editor yelling for copy and no Internet access. Tapping out a three-paragraph story on an iPhone sucks, even if you are an Apple fan. So, I’ve taken to driving to the nearest Starbucks, which Thursday was in Palm Desert.

Starbucks’ free Internet is usually a lifesaver. Usually. But not this week. Five minutes before my deadline the counter chick tells me the coffee shop is closing. No problem, I think. I’ll just move my happy ass outside and type out the last bit of my story on the patio. Except that the patio chairs are stacked and locked with a bicycle chain. Shit.

This might be a good time to tell you that I have a Jeep Wrangler. It’s missing the top. Long story. Let’s just say I looked pretty fucking stupid trying to type in the dark because even though I parked under a street lamp, it kept shutting off intermittently. Oh, and the fucking stick shift? That’s a whole other story.

Being mobile sometimes really sucks.


Pep Boys sucks

I just hate that mechanics see dollar signs in a pair of tits.

Pep Boys sucks and I’ll tell you why. In July, Annie and I made a trip up to the high desert to see our friends Carol and Diane and to, well frankly, get out of the desert heat. The engine light came on and the next day the air conditioning quit and then the engine altogether. Thank god for AAA.  We got a tow and then a load of shit from the Pep Boys’ reps in Hesperia.

First the parts guy says that I need a new alternator belt. The one that still looked brand new. I say, Hell no. Then he says it was the wrong belt and that’s why it fell off. Then he says it was too big. Oh, so that’s why the AAA guy couldn’t squeeze the belt back on? Then it was too small.

Let me speak to the manager, I say.

Twenty minutes later I get a call and a new explanation. The harmonic balancer was broken. Now, the first thing that makes sense because there was a reason the belt fell off in the first place. Of course the balancer thingy was another $300 on top of the $200 Pep Boys wanted for the new fucking belt I didn’t need.

A couple of hours later and a yelling match with the parts guy, I drive off with my Toyota and its original belt. I wish that were the end of the story. The next day, I’ve got a squeak. Not just a little AC belt squeak that squeals and then goes away. No, not that kind. This little bitch screams down the road like nobody’s business. And I’m thinking, Fuck this is going to be expensive. I’m a procrastinator at heart, so fast forward several noisy weeks and I drop off the car today with a real mechanic, my mechanic Martin.  

So, what does Martin tell me? My belts need tightening. Of course they do. I mean, what the hell were the Pep Boys shits doing under the hood anyway? Fucking with my car – like a good capitalist – so I’d have to come back.

Barbara the Peeping Tom

A not-so-recovering Peeping Tom lives next door to me. I call her Thomasina under my breath, but her real name is the bitch Barbara.

In the year I’ve lived in my condo complex, I’ve had several run-ins with her. The problems started almost immediately. A year ago, back when she was still Barbara, Thomasina got a wild hair up her ass after our kiddo left a pink BIC razor in the bathroom windowsill.

If you look quickly (and I did) the plastic razor was damn near invisible. Really?! I thought Barbara was kidding. And then, because we literally share a wall, I walked passed her bathroom and saw a row of dingy, sun bleached rubber duckies collecting dust in the window. She also has a very large, white nondescript bottle of something sitting in the sill. Both are things I never much paid attention to before, but now kind of irks me.

The HOA Nazi’s rubber duckies.

Who does she think she is? An HOA Nazi? Oh yeah, that’s right. She is. Barbara is also the HOA president. Which, honestly, only chapps my chalupa even more.

Then there was the parking issue. Barbara has had an absolute conniption over for someone (that was me) briefly parking in a guest spot. Well, I gave her a fit recently after someone parked in my space. To make a point, I pull in and park my front bumper on theirs all but insuring the inconsiderate asshole cann’t get out until I’m ready. It didn’t take long for someone to start knocking on my door. Then banging. And then yelling, threatening to call the cops. It was the bitch, coming unglued.

Don’t even me started about her dog. Of course she walks her brat without a leash, despite the signs throughout the complex threatening a $50 fine.

I guess you could say Babs and I have history.

Even knowing how crazy she is, I was still floored to hear from our goddaughter who lives with us that she caught Barbara straining to peek in through our screen door. Are you sure? I asked.

“Yes, and I’ve caught her walking the property with a footstool, peeking over patio walls,” Aracely told me.

Fast forward a bit.

The other day I see Barbara in the parking lot and I can’t resist. “So, you like to peep into windows, do you?” I say. She’s smiling at me, but I know it’s because what I just said hasn’t registered yet. I wait. And then it does. And her smile vanishes, replaced with a scowl and some lame excuses about how she doesn’t have a reason to peek into her neighbors windows.

No shit.

I know you don’t have a reason that will make sense to ordinary people. That doesn’t mean you’re not as fucked up as the flasher who lived next me in Maui. To my horror, he used to press his erect penis up against his living room window. Or the shirtless guy in a nondescript white van who stopped to ask for directions so he could masturbate to my response. Sick all three.

So, I’m in this frantic rush the other day to get ready for work because I’ve sufficiently dicked around on Facebook. And even though I really don’t have any time, I also stop and wash the dishes in the sink because I’m fucking nuts. I strip and start running the hot water in the shower and then realize I haven’t ironed anything to wear. I get the ironing board up with a clink and I’m spraying starch on my pants and tits when I freeze.

Oh shit, I think. I can’t stand butt naked in front of a wall of windows protected only by a six-foot wall. What if Thomasina has her foot stool?

The scooter chick with the wimpy tattoo

I finally did the deed.

I am no longer a virgin. Not the way dirty minds think. I got a tattoo. A small one. Tiny really. “Annie” on my ring finger.

What the hell was I thinking? I’ll tell you what I was thinking… Something so small and simple can’t hurt that much.

So, Annie, Ms. Poker Face, went first. She sat in the chair like she was getting her nails done. I hate that because I already have a sneaky suspicion that I’m going to look foolish and I hate comparisons. All I can think is she looks so cool and “Nicole” is even one letter longer than “Annie.” I’m gonna look like a pussy, I just know it.

Then Annie says something I didn’t quite hear that she won’t repeat. Aracely, our god daughter (we’re Fairy God Mothers, hee hee!) directs me to a sign that reads, “Whiners will be charged extra.” Great, my $50 tattoo now costs $60 and I haven’t even sat in the chair!

A couple of “buzz, buzzes” and it’s my turn.

I tell the tattoo artist, David Flores, that he’s my first. He tells me he doesn’t get first timers anymore. I tell him to be gentle. I think he hears me when the needle presses into my skin. Oh, I think. That’s not so baAAAD!


That hurt. Like really bad. Only I don’t say “Ow.” The whites of my eyes got as big as saucers and I laugh. Hard. And long. In a strangely awkward and slightly weird way. I grip the chair with my right hand, wishing just one letter in that David was already done. Reminds me of my fucked up hetero marriage, but that’s a god-awful blog for a day when I’m completely shitfaced, which is to say never.

Victoria, our kiddo, her eyes get wide with mine either in horror or sympathy. She’s a teenager so I’m not quite sure which. Now she’s laughing too. My face turns this really cool, deep shade of red. I know this because everyone is remarking at how funny I look in red. And I’m sweating. Profusely. It’s not sexy at all. I can’t even look at my finger. I’m afraid I’ll puke just knowing how many more letters are left.

Now that I think of it, I’m so glad we were the only ones in the shop besides David’s assistant who probably pissed her pants in the back laughing at me.

David lets up on the needle and I think we’re done when he says, “I just have to touch it up.”

Without looking I say, “No, it’s fine. It looks fine.” But he doesn’t listen and he goes in for the kill. Annie, God bless her, distracts me and says something about how laughing releases endorphins and how endorphins are good painkillers. I start to laugh hard again, this time it’s really sort of creepy, but I guess I pull it off because now everyone in the room is laughing, too. And he’s done, thank God.

So I’m at work this week showing off my tattoo to a former Marine, Nick. Nick just got this really cool tattoo done that damn near covers his back. He tells me the finger is the worst place for a newbie to get a tat because it hurts. No shit. I’ve always thought Marines and bikers were bad asses. Who’s ever seen one tattoo-less? I feel a little bad ass now too, but I know I could never own a Harley if it meant I had to get another tattoo. Maybe I’m really just a scooter chick.

I’m not always funny

Annie says I’m funny. All the time.

I don’t think I’m that funny. I mean, I know I can be. Like the pubic hair I found in the Motel 6 shower. That was hilarious. And gross.  Or the time I thought I lost my work iPhone. Wasn’t too funny at the time, but I can laugh at myself now. Or the time I left my iPod in my shorts pocket and did the laundry.

Oh, I didn’t tell you about that one?

Yep, not too funny at the time. The damn thing went through the spin and rinse cycle and then 45 minutes in the dryer before I found it. You should have seen me doing my Sane prayer in Spanish over my dead iPod. Now that was funny!  I never remember the words. Just the first one, “sane.” And then I usually add lib something incomprehensible like, “Hannah, mana, pana.” (The prayer is supposed to go like this: “Sane, sane. Colita de rana,” which loosely translates in English to “Heal, heal. Frogs tail.”

Although I now have an orange shuffle (which scares the shit out of me because it’s even smaller and likely to hide in my shorts againI!) I can’t bring myself to throw my old iPod away. It’s collecting dust in my jewelry box.

I’m a fuck up, and I guess that’s pretty funny. But being funny on purpose is something entirely different. Or at least that’s what I keep telling Annie. She never listens, though.

So, that’s why I got my peelings hurts a couple of weeks back when I asked her about one of my blog posts. What did she think?

“Oh, it wasn’t that funny,” she tells me. “I didn’t forward it.”


So, if you’re wondering what’s happened to me as of late, I haven’t felt very funny. At least not in writing. I’m still doing stupid shit in real life. And, I’ve been writing a lot as my alter ego, Gabby Blunt, the softball drama queen who sees a sexual innuendo in everyday things and drinks way more fruity alcoholic beverages than I can. Now Gabby, that girl’s funny! You can read about her antics at http://TheDLeague.org.

But this wasn’t meant to be a plug.

I guess this is my way (a long way I know!) of asking for permission. Permission to not be funny.  Permission to share what I think about shit, even if it doesn’t make you giggle.

Pubis & condoms

The view from here sucks.

I’m looking out the window at the vista from my motel room – a national chain that leaves the light on for you – at the first floor roof with its rocks (how do they get here anyway?), some cable chords, broken Spanish tile and what looks like a used condom. Yuck. I don’t even want to know how it got there.

After spending a small fortune for a four-star room on Nob Hill that charges $6.50 for a bottle of water and $14.95 for the Internet service I accidentally clicked on – twice – I was looking for something less pricey. I had been in San Francisco to pitch my little memoir rant to some real live agents at a writer’s conference. I drove home with a lot of notes, but not much money in my pocket.

I had planned to come straight home, but the exhaustion hit me around Ventura, so I began looking for a cheap bed. I guess a condom littered view is what you get nowadays for $49.99.

In about 20 minutes I’m going to head into the bathroom where I’ll find another treasure – a dark pubic hair. It’s not mine. I spot it shaving my legs in the shower. But that’s not the strangest part. It was left for me on the wall above the tile over the tub. All I can think is, How in the hell did it get all the way up there? That’s got to be what? A good 4 to 5 feet above the tub? I can’t even imagine.

I quickly turn away in disgust and that’s when I find another one. This time the pubis is stuck on the wall just above the shower head.


That’s it. I can’t wash in all this pubic hair. I shut off the water and towel off. But as I’m climbing out of the tub, I look in horror at my own little red pubis staring back at me. I scoop it up with a wad of toilet paper because I have this hair thing. I think I told you about it..

OK, so it’s a lot easier to shed in the tub than I realized, but that still doesn’t explain how the darker ones jumped five feet. And it won’t keep me from saying something to Judy, the manager, when I check out.

“Ugh, the bathroom in 201 needs a little sprucing up,” I say.

As I say this, I’m thinking I probably am going to have to use the “P” word in public. That, and I better be sure to let her know it’s not mine because I used the toilet paper for the red ones, I left the others.

Judy stares at me, mouth open and wide eye.

I know, that’s what I thought, I say with an uncomfortable smile.

“Oh my god,” she says muffling a laugh. “I am so sorry. Would a discount help?”

Not really. I didn’t say that, of course.  But I also didn’t take the discount. It just didn’t feel right taking the 10 percent knowing that there was no way in hell I would pass up writing about this.

Are you a Democrat?

I’m a journalist; I’m used to asking questions.

I don’t often get asked questions, though. So, I was a little taken back this week when Darryl Greenamyer turned to me and said, as I was putting my notebook away, “I want to ask you something.”

There was something in the way he said it that made me think this wasn’t going to be an ordinary question.

In my job, you learn to size people up. Is this person scamming me? Telling the truth? Sending me on a goose chase? My time is limited. I can’t do every story. It’s a way of helping me say “no” on my way to a “yes.”  Still, I sometimes get surprised and that’s the really terrific thing about journalism.

I had just spent two hours with Darryl for a community profile. At 75, Darryl is still a record man.

In 1969, he broke a 30-year-old speed record with a modified Grumman F8F-2 Bearcat hitting 483.041 miles per hour. The previous record had been held by Fritz Wendel flying a German aircraft in 1939. Darryl went on to win six national air races with that plane before donating it to the Smithsonian.

Eight years later, with a modified F-104 Starfighter Darryl set a new record with a speed of 988.26 mph. This record still stands – something Darryl is very unhappy about, but you’ll have to read my story for that.

So, back to Darryl’s question. I said to him, “Ak me.”

He paused nervously. Now I’m getting a little worried. I’m starting to think I agreed to answer his question too soon.

And then he looks down at the table and smiles sheepishly. You can see it on his face. He doesn’t know if he should ask or not. He’s a little embarrassed, but he asks anyway.

“Are you a Democrat or a Republican?”

Looks like the interviewee is sizing up the interviewer..

I laugh. Oh, is that all ? I didn’t say that; I thought it.

I’m actually not registered in either political party, although depending on the decade I’ve been a Democrat and a Republican. I tell him I’m an independent, which is sort of a fancy way of saying I don’t vote in primaries.

I don’t think my answer is very satisfying.

He tells me, “I think The Desert Sun is a liberal rag.”

I’ve heard this before. I laugh again. We get called a conservative sheet, too.  As a newspaper, the criticism usually means we cover too many of the things they don’t like and not enough of the other. It’s funny. Whether you agree or disagree with the prolife stance or marriage equality for gays, the story can offer important information. And that’s vital for an informed, and hopefully voting, citizenry.


Layla is conflicted, she pees like a male dog


My dog is confused. She thinks she’s a he. I call her my little tranny dog.

Meet Layla. She’s a rescue. We got her three years ago after I did a story on the growing number of abandoned dogs popping up at no-kill shelters, yet another causality of the foreclosure wave that swept through California and the Coachella Valley.

The Pet Rescue Center in Coachella seemed like a worthwhile organization. That and I thought a lot of the founding owner, Christine Madruga, who refrained from chapping my ass over misspelling “dachshund” in my story. I know. I’m a dumb ass.

So, Layla is a designer dog. That’s P.C. for what we called back in the day, a mutt. She’s a Chiweenie, a cross between a Chihuahua and a wiener dog.  And Layla’s so ugly – with her long hotdog body and big Chihuahua ears – that she’s actually kinda cute. We love her.

Anyway, I actually thought the vet was joking. Layla? A Louis Vuitton accessory? But then I took her for a walk in downtown Palm Springs where the people are crazy about dogs.

“Oh,” a stranger exclaimed. “She’s a designer dog!”

I admit. I ate it up. “Why, yes she is,” I said.

Cross breeding is not new. The term “designer dog” has been traced back to the late 20th century when breeders began crossing purebreds for a new dog with the best traits of both. It has since grown into a full-blown fad tragically complete with puppy mills.

The Layla dog is much more popular in the east valley where I suspect (because of the Latino community) there is much more love for Chihuahuas. But the Chiweenie isn’t the most common mix-breed. That distinction goes to the poodle and all its wacky combinations. Other hybrids include the Labradoodle (Labrador & Poodle), Puggle (Pug & Beagle), Goldendoodle (Golden Retriever & Poodle) and Layla’s distant cousin, the Chorkie (Chihuahua & Yorkie).

This of course doesn’t have anything to do with Layla’s peeing habits. At least I don’t think it does.

I try not to blame myself.

Layla didn’t always hike up her leg. But somewhere between learning to squat on a doggie pee pad and the long walks around my palm tree littered neighborhood, Layla became conflicted. We try to be accepting. We never ridicule or let her overhear us saying we wished she was normal, like all the other dogs.

I guess it’s working. The skin and bones Chihuahua that didn’t bark three years ago, yaps all the time now and thinks the bacon on the stove is for her.

This is all new to me. I haven’t found a dog whisperer or author

I never considered having a dog. Largely it’s because I have this bizarre hair thing I can’t fully explain. I hate it floating along a tile floor or in the bathroom sink. It just makes me want to retch. But life happens and you get married and out voted and someone brings home a dog.

So, here I am with the rescue turned tranny that sprays like a male dog.

I’m still not really a dog person, but I’m learning to be.

Manny the snarky commenter

It took fewer than 12 hours to get my first snarky blog comment. I was so excited because you’re not legit until you have a critic. I guess I’m the real thing now.

Incase you hadn’t noticed, I like profanity. My colorful language is forever getting me in trouble at home. But here I get to be uncensored.

Anywho, my first critical commenter – misspelling “don’t” I might add – said I should use better grammar.

“I dont know you and you dont know me as well. (True.) The economy is not good because of the political climate that the government got us into.” (Yes and no. Laxed regulation and the greed that fed the boutique home loans and the housing bubble got us into this economic shithole. But anyway..)

And then, he calls me unprofessional. Now that’s just rude. Besides that, he should hear the potty mouths in the newsroom. I’m pretty tame in comparison. I told him as much. But I also thanked him for checking out the blog in an email saying, “I hope the colorful adjectives don’t keep you from reading.”

I thought that would be it. With all my years in the newsroom, I should have known better. Manny writes back.

“I have been around that kind of language and I dont much care for it It tells me alot about you and what kind of person you are. I would not recommend you to anyone in my business. Have a good life Bye.”

And that’s it, right? Nope. A couple of hours later he sends me a forward. You know the kind, one of those chain emails.

OK, bud. First of all, if you’re going to criticize my grammar, make damn sure to correct your own misspellings. And if you’re going to write me off, don’t keep emailing. But please do keep fucking reading.

Losing my iPhone & how to find it..

I’m an idiot.

So, I got an iPhone for work. I’m not a techno junkie. I’m never the first one to get the next new thing because, quite frankly, technology scares me. That said, it only took five days to fall in love. It’s not the apps. Although with gas prices close to hitting $5 a gallon in southern California, I’m really working over the Gas Buddy. Shazam keeps me from playing an embarrassing round of “Name That Tune” off key. And don’t even get me started on the ringtones, which I’ve scoured, downloaded and now can’t figure out how to attach to a contact. (My favorite is the cursing babies.)

No, what really hooked me (because I’m a closet list maker) is the way my phone synchs with my office calendar and contacts. I’ve always been a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of gal who jots down and loses important numbers on sticky notes. Now, as long as I keep my phone charged, I don’t have to be that girl. But, I’m still a lay-things-down and forget-where-I-put-it kind of gal.

OK, so I’m at the Dollar Store picking up things I really don’t need because it’s a bargain when it suddenly dawns on me that my hands are strangely empty.

Oh shit. Where’s my phone? And I do say that – out loud.

I’m also a freaker. And not just because the phone is $649 to replace. Freaking is just what I do. I check my bag, then my front pockets. I walk outside to see if I left it in my Jeep, a 10-year-old yellow Wrangler with no top and no locking doors.

Goddamn it.

And then I remember I have my cell phone, the one that took a skip across my Jeep’s dash board and onto the highway last year. I call myself. Both phones are old school. They have a distinctive ring in that they actually ring. They don’t play Top 40 or rap. And because I haven’t figure out the ringtones yet, that cute baby voice isn’t yelling, “Shut the fuck up you asshole!” with each call. (I don’t know why that makes me laugh..)

A phone like mine rings three times and then quickly goes silent just as I hear it. Fuckers. I just know someone snatched it! I call back as I walk into the store. It’s ringing in there, too. It sounds really close to me, but not too close. I scan the store, then check my bag and pockets again because I’m a nerd and that’s what nerds do. I retrace my steps through the store and call myself one more time. It rings again, just to fuck with me.

My head is just about to explode. Then, in a moment of sudden clarity I remember, I stuck the damn thing in my back pocket.