Thursday, April 27, 2006

Sexual Harassment or Creative License?

The California Supreme Court ruled against the plaintiff in a sexual harassment case involving a writers' assistant and the producers of "Friends."

What did I think of the ruling? As a former writers' assisant, I feel free to give my opinion. Check out my latest column at Click on "TV" in the upper right, then on the name of my column, Notes from the Wasteland, to find out.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Outing Myself... a cat owner.

Almost gotcha with that headline, didn't I?

No, it's time to end this ridiculous stereotype about single women of 40 who have cats. Every time I read something about aging, there's a woman in there somewhere moaning that soon she'll be living alone with cats, and then her life will be over.

Well, I'm here to buck that bullshit. I live alone. I have two cats. I've owned three and had up to five living with me at one time. I've rescued wild kittens and taken cats from shelters to find them homes. I've trapped feral cats and had them neutered before releasing them. I give money to Alley Cat Allies and the Feral Cat Alliance, along with the Humane Society and SPCA-LA. I've never been married, and I have no children.

But you know what? I have a life. I'm not some lonely spinster with nowhere to put her love. That idea is just, well, ridiculous. People need to find a new metaphor for loneliness, because the "Cat Lady" stuff won't fly anymore.

Single women with cats DO:

1. Have sex. In fact, I've had more sex since I became a cat owner. I get a lot of attention from men (not that this validates me as a human being -- but it just blasts the "Cat Lady" stereotype all to hell, and, hey, it's good for my ego). I love men. Yeah, I'm still looking for one great one to spend my life with, but in the meantime, let's just say that life has been good to me. No, I won't go into details. A survey of my single friends indicates no correlation between cat-ownership and lack of sex. Get over it, people.

2. Clean their house. Yeah, I've probably got more hair in my carpet than non-cat owners. But the constant battle against fur and litter prompts me to sweep my bathroom (where the cat box lives) every single day. How many non-cat owners can make that claim? My house does not smell like cats. I've queried my most honest and critical friends to make sure I'm not deluding myself on this point. The worst smells usually come from outside, when my nutty neighbors pee in the hallway or leave their garbage outside to rot. People shed more hair and skin and leak far worse odors than cats do.

3. Love dogs. If I had the space for a dog, I'd get one. Apartment living in a town where few can afford to buy is the culprit here, not cats.

4. Have good taste in home decorations and clothes. Every cutesy cat object I own was given to me. I do not buy them. It just doesn't occur to me. In honor of my dear departed Aunt Janet, I do have one of her cat magnets on my fridge. Cat-wise -- that's it. I don't wear t-shirts featuring fluffy kittens or cats hanging from tree limbs with the saying "Hang in there." Do I go "awww" when I see the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet? Sure. But I've seen grown (married!) men babble like children when they see a cute animal. That's human nature, whether you are single, young, old, married, lonely, or busy.

5. Have a life. This hooey about the lonely cat-loving spinster who never leaves the house would be hilarious if it wasn't so ubiquitous. I've lived in many different cities, traveled to Europe more times than I can bother to count, and floated down the Nile, taking in the sun. I work in what some consider a glamorous industry (TV - believe me, it ain't) and have attended parties and premieres surrounded by famous bozos. I've had drinks at world famous "see and be seen" spots. Hell, I've partied at the Playboy Mansion. Sure, I don't feel like I fit in at these places. I find Hollywood's shallowness and greed dispiriting. But it's yet another strike against the Cat Lady cliche. Take that!

This coming weekend I have plans for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, each with a different person or group. Not to mention yoga, brunch, and writing plans for the weekend days. This is typical for me. Sometimes my social schedule is so busy that it exhausts me, and I shut down and cancel everything to recharge. I'm not complaining -- I'm pointing out the utter lack of correlation between cat ownership and loneliness. There are many nights when I say "no" to invitations so that I can have some quiet.

But I love my life. I've created one that's full of activity, fun, support, and love. I love my cats too.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Goodbye, Grandma

My dear grandmother, Christine Blythe, died of lung cancer on Friday, April 7. The loss is still too fresh for me to really wax eloquent. But my grandmother was a fascinating woman. She was tiny, compared to me, and you could see the Cherokee heritage her family tried to deny in her jet black hair and killer cheekbones.

Born in Oklahoma, my grandmother was the treasured youngest of thirteen children. When she was 17, her 21-year-old boyfriend, LT Moore, was killed while driving drunk. A month later, young Christine found she was pregnant. After my mother, Jacqueline Kay, was born, my grandmother remarried the man my mother thought of as her father. Four more children were born to her -- Jerry, Barbara, Michael, and Tommy. Five years after Tommy was born, she divorced, remarried, and divorced again. Now living in Key West, Florida, my grandmother worked hard as a bartender, in what was mostly a gay bar. She served drinks to Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote, among others.

She later said that she really enjoyed her life -- that she liked her job, and that she had many good times with her friends. In fact, she was quite the partier, smoking and drinking enough to put the current Spring Break kids to shame. Even as she suffered with lung cancer, she said she never regretted the smoking and parties. She lived her life the way she wanted.

She must've been an excellent bartender, because she chatted easily with anyone. Everyone liked her. Even in her last three weeks of life, when she was taken to an in-patient hospice, she won the hearts of all her nurses and attendants with her easy-going nature and interest in their lives. She hardly ever complained, and enjoyed nothing more than juicy gossip, baseball (especially the Atlanta Braves) and football, particularly her beloved Miami Dolphins.

Nine or so years ago, she came to live with my mother. She was suffering then from various lung ailments and osteoporosis. For the rest of her life she moved around the country with my mother, uncomplaining, making new friends, and reconnecting with Mom, her oldest daughter. This was when I got to know her best. I didn't see her much when I was a child. Grandma was closest to those who were closest -- physically closest. With her in Key West and me in Hawaii, I never got to know her. But when she came to live with Mom I finally got the opportunity to really find out who she was, and to love her. For that and many other reasons, I'm grateful to my Mother for making a home for Grandma. She made a mean martini, watched "Regis & Kelly," and could quote baseball statistics till my eyes crossed. She loved chicken 'n dumplings, and baked carrot cake so good I'd end up having dessert for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

She always carried her soft southern drawl, and wasn't afraid to make tart observations. Her bartender training gave her a sharp eye for character. I asked her what Capote was like. She shook her head: "Mean drunk." And Tennessee Williams? "A flaming faggot."

"Grandma!" I said. "That's not a nice way to put it."

"I can't kindly help it," she said, shrugging. "I had a lot of gay friends, but I never liked the ones who were, you know, flaming. And he just always wanted attention, saying 'Look at me, I'm the big writer.' Well, nuts to that."

I tried to plumb her memories about the man who had been my grandfather -- the biological father my own mother had never known. But she couldn't remember much, and she didn't seem to care that she'd forgotten. Oh sure, she'd been upset when he died, she guessed. But that was all a long time ago. She wasn't a sentimental woman. That served her well during difficult unmarried teenage years with a baby, perhaps. It also lead to some estrangement from her children. And for an unsentimental woman, she nonetheless came to regret that distance. She knew that she'd created it. It had helped her lead the life the she wanted, but it had its cost. In those last nine years together, she and my mother came to an understanding, I think. And I came to love her more than I ever thought possible. She is missed.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Possum Central

I don't understand why people don't like opossums. I mean, look at this cute little thing. She's an arboreal marsupial, not a rodent. And that long, naked tail is prehensile. When she gets old enough, she'll carry her children in a pouch, like a kangaroo.

Her name is Leia, and she's the daughter (or son, possibly) of Lana, the first opossum I started feeding at the Cat Food Bowl of Plenty on my little back porch.

She's very shy. I tried to take photos through my screen door, but the flash just turned the screen into a blur. So I sneaked out, and she fled. I lurked. She toddled back and drank some rainwater out of an empty can of cat food left outside by my neighbors. (They are nice but tend to leave garbage out back for weeks at a time. I'm refusing to clean up after them, until I just can't stand it any more.) Then she made her way back to the cat food and began crunching. Guess she got used to the flash, because she stayed and ate while I got a few shots.

The other night I heard a scrabbling outside my front window. I pushed aside the curtains to see Leia's little paws clutching the ivy growing over the windows. I shone a light on her, to see better and perhaps discourage her from trying that too often, since if she fell, she'd crash through my screen. But she was gone. Opossums are arboreal, dude. They don't look as dextrous as monkeys, but stick 'em on a vine and watch 'em zoom upward.

Latest "Notes"

My latest column's online today at I review the first four episodes of "The Sopranos," a series which is reaching new heights in its final season. If you aren't watching it now, be sure to view it later, when it comes out on DVD.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Chateau by Night

It's a rainy day here in Los Angeles. Rivers criss-cross the parking lot at work, making it an adventure to get to my car. Twas just such a night when I took this photo of my apartment building, not many days ago. It's got the word Chateau in its name and was built, or so I've heard, in the 1920's by movie stars Elsa Lanchester (aka the Bride of Frankenstein) and Charles Laughton (Henry VIII) to house their guests.

In spite of noisy neighbors, difficult parking conditions on weekends, and occasional hooker sightings, I love my neighborhood and my building. I won't live there forever. After all, a woman needs real closet space. But I've been there for nine and a half years -- longer than I've ever lived anywhere else in my life.

At night the lights glow forth from the apartments, and you can see the silhouettes of pet cats staring out the windows.

Wild parrots nest in that jacaranda tree out front. My upstairs neighbor keeps a birdfeeder dangling from a high branch to make sure they never leave us.