Amanda Kovattana

Middle-aged musings in interesting times

Monday, March 21, 2005

Girls of Grass Valley Just Want to Have Fun

So how do two exhaustively informed, save-the-world, eco-justice-peace activists take a vacation? We book a weekend with our girls in Grass Valley. Our friendship with Diane and Ellen, having survived a three week tour of Italy, now transcends idiosyncrasies and rests on a deeper appreciation and interest in each others' well being. Catherine and I took a couple of days off and drove up for a four-day stay at their classic miner's cabin home in Grass Valley. I called it my reading vacation although it was just as likely to be an eating vacation. Diane had taken over the guest room with projects so we were to stay in the dungeon. What else to call a windowless basement room made of large mortared rocks? She had decorated it in her shabby chic romantic style with a Victorian nude on the wall and Mardi gras masks she got in Venice. Most of the time, though, we would spend in their mint ice cream colored kitchen with its red accents and black and white checked floor. It was here that we would eat and dish while the three dogs scrambled around our legs for toys and favors.

Diane had such an eye for decorating that she was able to visualize the house fully transformed even when it was a burned out shell, which it was when they bought it. The bathroom had been amply enlarged to fit a claw tub and exuded a spacious luxury, while the tiny dining room it opened out into was now further accessorized by the addition of a yellow tiki bar placed at an angle to the lavender walls. She pointed out her most recent addition - a 50's style television. "I want to take the insides out, put a black and white monitor in there and run "I love Lucy" episodes." she told us. " Wouldn't that be fun?" I didn't know, my priorities had been so long out of touch with what was "fun". I did know that Diane had the makings of a career in decorating. During our last visit we had both encouraged her to hang out a shingle and try her luck. She had indeed landed a prospect after putting an ad in the paper. The prospect loved visiting her house and now wanted Diane to give her an estimate on decorating her entire house. I coached her not to set her price too low.

Then it was Diane's turn to give me a tutorial. She had just sold her first item on e-Bay - a dish set that she got for $9 at a garage sale, sold for $400 to a woman who already loved that particular pattern. She offered to show me how to set up an auction. I sat on a bar stool looking over her shoulder as she hunt and pecked out a headline that was practically a foreign language. "So, so 80's costume jewelry, rockabilly, bo ho."

"Bo ho as in bohemian?" I asked.

"Yes, I can sell anything if I call it rockabilly bo ho."

The item in question was a stylized lion's head medallion on a colorful beaded necklace. She then typed a little story about how she had worn this piece with her jumpsuit. "I looked hot and you will too!" she finished. "You go girl," I said catching on. The picture she had taken didn't look quite right, so I was soon persuaded to take my shirt off and model it wearing a dark red shawl that was draped over the hall mirror. Just at that moment the camera ran out of batteries and we broke for dinner. Over spare ribs, Chinese chicken salad, muffins, chicken breasts, asparagus, potatoes and ice cream, which Ellen had picked up on the way home from work, we discussed current events.

"I didn't use to be political," Diane said, "but now I'm reading Molly Ivin's book and she wrote about the same damn things happening in the 70's. This stuff has been going on forever."

"I know, try going back to the 1850's. It was even worse then," I added.

"I think I was better off not knowing," Diane lamented. It was a sentiment expressed by many of my friends who had not before been interested in politics. What to do now that they knew the truth of our countries destructive policies?

But for now I was on vacation. I didn't even pick up the book I was currently reading on the history of our culture's hate crimes. Instead I delved into the four books I had brought to improve my computer skills. I was hot to set up a website.

I didn't think I needed a website, because my clients did not come to me through the internet; they found me in the yellow pages or were referred to me by their friends or better yet their therapist. Recently one had lost my number and was trying to Google me. Of the four pages brought up by my name, no entry easily accessed my contact information, yet all the obscure lesbian journals and anthologies I had ever written for were all listed.

Unlike a visual artist whose work would more likely enhance their day job, my writing was not easily shared with my clients. I wanted to distract them from my self-expression by building a website for my business that would appear at the top of the Google page. That was the plan. On the way to learning how to build websites, I discovered the Blogosphere and my writer's ego again won out. (Such is the Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde story of my life).

A blog, short for web log, is the self-publishing domain of writers and many more just terrible would-be writers as well as non-writers who just want to share some information. The first blog I looked at was put up by a fellow Sparrow owner wanting to share their adventures with the car. For the internet surfer, a blog is still a website, accessed in much the same way as other websites, but the archiving format gives the reader the equivalent of finding a diary open to the last entry. This ongoing living commentary is the appeal for readers who bookmark the site and keep coming back for the next installment.

My high-tech readers had been urging me to have a blog so they could find my articles if they got lost in the e-mail queue. Lost? I hadn't thought of that. Once I looked into blogging, the possibilities exploded in my mind like a freshly opened Christmas present. I could hardly sleep. I was virtually tearing around the room in my excitement as I prepared to play with this new toy. It would be a way to organize my articles, store them and show them to new readers. I could post pictures, link to other sites and be seen by strangers, possibly even be discovered, say if I happened to witness the next tsunami or sit next to a shoe bomber. I opened an account at host to 100,000 mostly free blogs. I modeled my blog after the blogs of professional writers who used their name as the name of their site.

"Help me find a nickname," I asked my friends at breakfast after perusing the photo site on Diane's computer.

Since cannot also host pictures, my photos would be stored online at The site catered to Mac users, which may account for the creative bent of the photos. You could see the pictures as they were being uploaded. It was better than surfing 500 cable channels. Dressed up bull dogs, gay boyfriends, girls in Singapore, a man in his hospital bed, art shots, travel shots, stunning nature photography, Sponge Bob and a jar of marmite go to Ecuador. I loved the slice of life of it, the spontaneity of it. It was like being in a glass bottom boat only the fish had names. Every photo had a user name attached to it. Funny names, mysterious names, creative names and wacky ones.

"How about Amanda Bangkok," I asked my friends.

"That sounds like a hooker," said Diane. Oops, yes, so it did.

"Amanda Noo," I tried out adding my Thai name. No response.

"You need a name that goes with what you're trying to sell," said Diane who was still thinking of e-Bay.

Diane's e-Bay name was Phoebelina, named after one of her dogs. I thought through animal names looking for creatures that did service to the earth and were sorely underrated. Of course - the earthworm.

"How about Earthworm?" I announced.

"That could work." said Diane assessing its uniqueness.

That morning one of Diane's auctions ended - an antique baby doll sold for $100, the same price she had bought it for. No bids yet for the Stetson in its original box. That evening she would have a friend come over to be photographed wearing a vintage dress that she would also e-Bay. "Anastasia loves lesbians," she said intriguingly. She didn't tell us that she was also looking for a lesbian lover, though she was already married to a sweet and accommodating man and they had two children between them. Diane called her "our little minxie".

The vision of this young woman, pale from lack of sun and dressed all in black, with dyed black, straight hair was hardly what we had come to expect in the redneck/hippie dichotomy of Grass Valley. Anastasia was trouble. We could see that as soon as she started relating her adventures in the neighborhood bar. Then she addressed Catherine and me as "darlin'" and winked at us when she asked us where the action was in San Carlos. "Well, Trader Joes is quite the happening place," I offered.

As I tried to assess her age and her history, I was taken back to my trawling-for- trouble, black-leather-jacket days of my youth. She was delectable. Once upon a time, I would have spent the entire evening and into the wee hours unraveling the mysteries of such a creature. Now, when I hear aging political activists talk about how so few young people are passionate about politics and social justice, I think - just give them a few years.

The little minxie posed for pictures. Her husband came to join us. He too was dressed all in black. He didn't seem to mind his wife flirting at all, had in fact, Diane told us later, bought his wife a lap dance recently. In the end it was he who showed us all, the remarkable tattoo on her back before she took the dress off. As he traced the outline of the tattoo across her shoulders to just below the waistband of her black tights, he told us that it was a rendering of a piece of jewelry worn by the actress Sarah Bernhardt. It was a stylized dragonfly with spaces where the precious stones had been set. Anastasia turned artfully to give us a glimpse of the nipple rings on her breasts. Of course, she would have nipple rings.

"Are you going to kiss the Goth girl," Catherine asked me when we went shopping by ourselves the next day.

"Only if it would amuse you," I replied.

Kissing women, especially straight ones, was once my most compelling obsession. I thrilled to the chase, the intense friendship, the slow approach, the crossing of the line with the kiss that changed everything.

What thrilled me these days was the dawning of an idea, the waking up to truth, the realization that things were not what we had been told. Perhaps the brain feels the same way about a kiss as it does an idea.


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