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.

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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!

Ow!

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.

The blog cheater

OK. This is cheating, I know.

I’m loathed to admit that after publishing my last blog I made a secret promise to post at least two a week. Even with poor public math skills it doesn’t take an Einstein to calculate I’ve failed miserably.

So, here’s where the cheating comes in: I wrote this blog for the Desert Sun’s new LGBT magazine, “State examines proposed ‘gay cure’ ban.” I’m hoping this counts towards my quota.

Here’s an excerpt:

“The bill is hardly a death knell to the religious homophobia that strenuously defends its efforts to ‘pray away the gay’ through conversion or reparative therapies, which came to prominence in the ‘70s with the emergence of Exodus International and the ex-gay movement. But there are signs of cracking. The list of prominent defectors is growing.”

Among them, David Blankenhorn, who testified in federal court in support of Proposition 8 (California’s gay marriage ban), announced last week he now supports same-sex marriage.

“I don’t believe that opposite-sex and same-sex relationships are the same, but I do believe, with growing numbers of Americans, that the time for denigrating or stigmatizing same-sex relationships is over,” he wrote in a New York Times op-ed piece.

It’s not exactly the ringing endorsement gay advocates need or like, but it is a concession nonetheless.

The bill, Sen. Ted Lieu’s office says could get sent to the governor by August.

At the risk of a gross HuffPo aggregate of my own work, here’s the link to the full blog: http://lgbt.blogs.mydesert.com/2012/06/27/state-examines-proposed-gay-cure-ban/

So, that’s one; one to go!

XX gay

What I’m about to share with you only a handful of people know.

There are lots of reasons for my secrecy. Shame and fear of rejection, initially. But oddly enough, the main reason the last several years has been because I’m a journalist. The media is not supposed to have a bias. As if! But because all of us – journalists included – are the sum of our experiences, a journalist pretending not to have a bias is someone who hides it. And we all do it.

So, charging right ahead…

I am an ex, ex-gay. Or, in Spanish, a Dos Equis – my beer of choice. An ex, ex-gay is someone who, unsuccessfully, goes through what is called reparative or conversion therapy, an unscientific program that emerged in the ‘70s geared toward making gays straight.

I say “unscientific,” not as a slam. It’s not science because it is religiously based.

Gay people are always curious about “the program.” Maybe it’s because, living in Palm Springs, so few have actually done it.”

Essentially, becoming straight involved a lot of white knuckling. “Faking it ‘til you make it,” was the expression we commonly used in the program, the idea being that if you make choices consistently and long enough your emotions will catch up, eventually. Or act straight and you’ll become straight, not to put too fine a point on it.

The process also involved a lot of counseling and prayer and – at least in my case – an exorcism, which sounds more salacious than it felt at the time because I was a true believer. I really was. I desperately wanted it to work. I wanted to be acceptable to God. I wanted to be normal.

British research psychologist and theologian Elizabeth Moberly, whom I’ve met, has greatly influenced how the modern Church ministers to gays.

Moberly believes gays have sexualized a very real need to fix a broken relationship they have with their same-sex parent. Said another way, lesbians have a shitty relationship with their mothers and that’s why they are attracted to women. Same-sex relationships for Moberly aren’t the problem, they’re the solution. Unless of course they are the problem!

It is interesting to note that the basis for reparative therapy is that homosexuality is a choice. Gays choose to be gay. All they have to do is chose not to be. If it sounds overly simple it’s because it is. That’s not to say that trying to be something you’re not is easy. It isn’t.

Moberly’s theory, though, subtly blames parents.

In essence, you’re child is gay, parents, because you’re overbearing or controlling or otherwise emotionally unavailable. But the truth is we’re all broken. No one, no life event makes someone gay. And this, I believe, is more in keeping with the idea of free will, the basis for Christian thought.

The argument has been boiled down to this: choice or no choice.

The Church wants to say homosexuality is a choice (although the teaching on this is shifting). And gay rights activists want to say it’s inherent. I believe it’s both. Yes gays are born gay. And yes being in a gay relationship is a choice.

Straights don’t wake up one day and say, “I think I’ll choose to be attracted to the opposite sex.” They just are. It’s the same for gays. We don’t choose this, but we do choose our relationships.

When I first went through ex-gay ministry in the ‘90s they were teaching that God could totally transform gays, from the inside out. I remember an effeminate Sy Rogers, then executive director of Exodus International, saying he was “Joe Jock compared to how he used to be.” The implication for me – a tomboy frequently mistaken for a boy – was that God could make me girly. And God did, if dressing the part was the point. But for all the energy I put into wearing makeup and selecting clothes from the women’s department, it did nothing to change the inside. I still struggled with same-sex attraction.

In fact, a marriage and living as a straight woman for 15 years did nothing to diminish those attractions. I lived in constant fear. And all my choices to do the “normal” thing, to do the acceptable thing did not change my feelings.

In 2006, Focus on the Family’s Love Won Out conference came to the Palm Springs area and I had an opportunity to interview Alan Chambers, the executive director of Exodus International, a worldwide network of more than 350 ministries that promote reparative therapy.

This is Palm Springs, the gay Mecca. Of course I had to ask him about the brewing controversy and the gay protesters. But I also had a personal question. At the time I had just started the long-term, same-sex relationship I am in now and I was struggling to reconcile the religious dogma of my youth with my faith.

Fifteen years living the straight life, I was the success story. Only I wasn’t.

So, I asked Chambers – cloaked in the anonymity of being a pesky reporter – a burning question. My burning question. “What about the person who,15 years after going through reparative therapy, still struggles with their sexuality?”

And do you know what he said?

“The struggle may never go away.”

Then the gay person never really changes.

Here is the scripture that condemns gays trying to be straight as well as the reparative therapy pushed often by well-meaning Christians: “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7)

Change cannot be cosmetic. It has to be in the heart. Reparative therapy didn’t change my heart even though I was highly motivated.

You’ll notice that I’ve written nearly 1,000 words – way over my self-imposed limit of 600 – and I haven’t once uttered the word “sin.” That’s for another day and another blog…

Last week, Dr. Robert Spitzer, who successfully had homosexuality removed as a disorder from the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic list and then later trumpeted reparative therapy as a viable “cure,” renounced his famous ex-gay study. His renunciation comes as the California state legislature is considering a bill banning the therapy and a World Health Organization report that called it “a serious threat to the health and well-being – even the lives – of affected people.”

In the last year of my grandmother’s life, Annie and I visited her several times in the hospital. And I swear to you I was constantly coming out to her. She never remembered. She asked at me each visit if I was gay. Here I am coming out again.

Several weeks ago I attended a writer’s seminar with best-selling memoirist Wade Rouse who encouraged the class to write what we’re afraid of. Well Wade, I’ve finally done my homework.

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.”

Ouch.

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.

Mr. Bat Shit Crazy

It gets better. And I’m not talking about the anti-bullying campaign begun in the wake of a series of gay-teen suicides in 2010. I’m talking about the D league drama.

Let me just say this unequivocally, up front and for the record: Steroids are bad.

So, I’ve been having this exchange with this jerk on Facebook. He doesn’t know who I am. That wasn’t exactly on purpose. The majority of the page “likes” on www.facebook.com/TheDLeague are from personal invites, including the Commissioner,  who by the way has not yet “liked” the page. The bastard. But whatever. I’m not bitter.

The point here – and I do have one – is that it is no secret who the administrator of the page is.

So, back to our exchange.

It started with this reader comment: “Clearly this is somebody assoiated with streetbar. Dude, this page is in bad taste and bad for PSGSL. What are you doing? Who are you? Why do you want to ferment bad feelings, drama, foul language and bad calls.” As if!

And then this personal message, “You should identify who you are in the info. The anonymous status on this page is only going to land you in hot water when people are forced to correct offensive statements made by the D league posters.”

I don’t think he meant himself.

I’m not exactly thin skinned. But he came off a little pushy to me, and as anyone who has plowed into me at second base knows, I don’t like being pushed. Plus, not knowing was driving him a little bat shit crazy. Obviously. I didn’t fess up. Instead I responded with, “Dud, you need to lighten up!” (You be the judge whether I misspelled dude.)

Anyway, I thought that would be the end of it. Clearly he was just warming up.

Mr. Bat Shit: “It’s about the anonymous editorializing highlighting drama bad calls and foul language. Read the mission statement. I want everyone who is playing ball to enjoy the game and make friends. Some, anonymously stir unhealthy competition and fudes, resulting in name calling, bad sportsmanship and hurd feelings. So harless badmaouthing players, think about who it is that is actually paying for your anonymous fun. Do you respect your fellow D league players. I think not.”

Me: “It’s fueds, hurt feelings and bad mouthing. Use spell check, please.” (By the way, checkout Ms. High Horse: I misspelled “feuds.” What a dumb ass I am!)

Mr. Bat Shit: “Yep. Make fun of me. Proves my point. The crator of this page is a bully…”

I’ve got to be honest with you. I’ve been scratching my head wondering what climbed up his ass and died. The only thing he mentions is our tagline, “We’ve got all the D League drama, bad calls & foul language.” Then I noticed the fan page for another D team and rival, the Gorillas. Up until a couple of days ago, his page only had shirtless pictures of the players. But now Mr. Bat Shit is posting game times and gay sports news just like The D League. Hmm.

Friendly Facebook competition? Maybe. You could really send him off his rocker and “like” The D League page.

I did have a couple of supporters – a coach and player – come to my defense. Mr. Bat Shit said they “suck.” Nice. Then he copies/pastes the league’s code of conduct. Thank God. At least it was readable. I hit “like” on his post, but not before he suggests I get booted from the league and wrote a misspelled letter to the commissioner saying so. He also asked for an apology.

Fucking baby.

OK. Here’s my apology: “I’m so sorry you’re off your meds crazy.” Steroids does that to people.

 

Queens, softball & gay drama

I’m not really into gay drama.

You know what’s really fucked up? It’s usually the queens. Why is that?

So, I’m watching the Gorillas play I forget who and I’m cheering for the other team. It’s a boring strategy story. That’s all I’m going to say. Anyway, this guy with huge arms – not much a telling description I know, they all have big arms and occasionally a big bellies, too – steps awkwardly up to the plate.

I’ve seen him hit before. He’s a chopper. I love to yell at him, “Hey, there’s no bunting in softball!” But instead I holler to the pitcher, “Easy out!” and I go on shouting god-knows-what until the Gorillas squeak out a win. They’re funny as hell to watch all pumped up on steroids and adrenalin running ramrod stiff and bull-legged. And they throw like girls. Not all of them, of course. But the ones that throw like they were last picked for the team are the most fun to watch.

Getting back to Mr. Arms…

He gets on base with a grounder that stays in the infield. Now I’ve got to tell you, this is where I stopped paying attention. My voice apparently was still ringing in his ears because a couple of hits later, when he rounds the bases into home, he flips me off. I miss this of course. Goddamn it! But Annie fills me in later because undiagnosed ADD means I’m easily distracted with butterflies.

Fast forward a week.

For shits and giggles, I create a Facebook page with a writer friend I met in San Francisco, Louay. It’s pronounced “Lou-eye” and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fucked it up. Because I already have a Facebook page – Nicole C. Brambila the journalist with only 7 likes (hint, hint) – I had to hit 25 “likes” before I could get a URL. So, I essentially sent out a couple dozen personal invites to friends begging them to like me. Pathetic I know.

Sunday I snap this rather artistic photo of the Gorillas (you’ll have to go to www.facebook.com/TheDLeague to see it, and please like the page while you’re there) and I posted it on their fan page.

And then this asshole shits on my clever tagline: “We’ve got all the D League drama, bad calls & foul language.” I know steroids can make people pissy, but does it also rob people of a fucking sense of humor?

To that I say, “Yes. Final answer.”

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.

OMG.

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.