Monday, August 11, 2014

Robin Williams and Me, In Two Acts

I'm devastated by the loss of Robin Williams. I'm always devastated when someone takes their own life, but when someone who was such a distinctive person, who inspired so many absolutely cannot bear to go on, when someone who has so much feels so down and so alone that they just have to end it, that's a tough one to swallow.

I don't have much to contribute to the situation. But I leave you with two stories, both of which left me with the overwhelming feeling that Robin Williams was not only not such a bad guy, but that he was not the guy that we all occasionally got annoyed by, or hated, or who, at any rate, inspired extreme feelings in people.

First story takes place in my flat in San Francisco. My ex-husband was a reporter for the Marin County newspaper. He once did a story on bicycles in Marin, where for some reason, Robin Williams came up. He was an avid cyclist who then lived in SF, but who logged a lot of miles on the roads of Marin. Someone had a connection to Williams and somehow got Rick through to his people, to get a quote of some sort. His assistant called our house one night to say that Robin had some time to talk that night, and would be calling in a few minutes. In exactly a few minutes, the phone rang. I answered. Robin Williams asked to speak to my husband. I walked into the family room and calmly said: "Honey? Robin Williams is on the phone."

He could have just given a throwaway quote and hung up. But instead, he talked for at least 45 minutes about his love for bikes, and riding, and I guess whatever else was on his mind. When I walked by Rick chatting on the phone with him, I heard him talking, in a clear, distinctive Robin Williams voice, but calm and measured, not like a freak or a hyperkinetic weirdo. Just a guy talking about something he really loved.

The second time I came in contact with Robin Williams, Rick was doing an immersive story where he learned how to be a standup comedian. Mark Pitta, another Bay Area comic, hosted a comedy night in Mill Valley. It was mostly local performing comedians, several steps up from open mic. But they let Rick try out his routine there. And occasionally one of the local guys made good showed up to close the show. Marc Maron was the headliner that night, for which we were very grateful. He was awesome.

Rick went backstage to go on, and I went into the audience with our friends to watch him perform. For his first time, he didn't do too badly. After his set, I went back to the "green room" to talk to him. When I went back, he wasn't in there when I walked in. But a few other guys were, one who looked extremely, obviously familiar. He said hi to me. I said hi. I said, "You look very familiar. Do you shop at Whole Foods?" He laughed.

"Hi, how are you," Robin Williams said modestly, and held out his hand.

"I'm here to find my husband."

"Was he the journalist?" He said. "He did very well."

We chit-chatted for a bit about this and that, and then Rick came out and we chatted some more.

At the end of the night, Maron went on with a brilliant set, then Robin Williams took the stage and enthralled the crowd with a set that was basically stream of consciousness, stole a joke or two, and generally wasn't as hilarious as the initial headliner, Mr. Maron. But, the audience got what they came for.

After the show, we hung out outside Throckmorton with Pitta, Maron, and Robin Williams. He looked straight at Rick, and with a straight face and raised eyebrows, said, "You're one of us now. God help you."

God help you, indeed.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I Remain Pure

I'm happy to report that we made it through airport security this morning with our carry-on bags and our dignity. No scanning, no groping, not even so much as a handshake. Considering we were traveling with the most motley assortment of shit in the world, including an animatronic cat (DON'T ASK), I think we did pretty well. Gianni was even a little bummed that he didn't get to go through the scanner, and also pleased that his least favorite security machine ever, only known as The Puffer and only mentioned in fearful tones, has been retired for a security strategy that focuses less on puffs of air and more on genitalia.

Now relaxing in DFW airport, which resembles nothing so much as a gigantic Greyhound bus station. Mmmmm, urinal cake whiff....

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I'm a Whore....for Convenience

Here at the start of the holiday traveling season, there's a lot of uproar about the new TSA screening procedures. I have to admit I haven't studied them backward and forward, but the gist seems to be:

  • It's gonna take a whole lot longer to get through the god damned security line
  • There will be front and back body scanning
  • Upon refusal to submit to a body scan, there will be groping. Oh yes there will
While I don't welcome yet more delays in my air travel experience and I do think that these measures just add to the growing list of Things That Do Fuckall to Prevent Terrorist Attacks, I'm really a little perplexed and amused by the amount of outcry among people about the impropriety of the body scans and their bastard alternative, the expanded pat-down. There's are movement asking people to Opt Out of body scans and go for the pat-down or even break up with air travel altogether to protest these measures.

I've thought long and hard about this. And I've come to the conclusion that: I really don't care if the TSA sees me naked. I mean, really. It's not anything anyone hasn't seen before. And as far as someone getting off on my scanned image or about the world being able to tell it's me if it ends up on Oh PLEASE. These image scans will be about as erotic as an x-ray or a health class filmstrip. So if some fat TSA creep wants to use the body scanner as his government-issue x-ray specs, whatevs. It's not enough to make me opt for the body search, which in my opinion has MORE risk for offending behavior. And as for the expanded searching, I'm perfectly capable of screaming bloody murder if there's a bad touch, and I encourage others to do so. It's within our rights--just ask Penn Jillette.

Am I REALLY going to drive 2000 miles to visit my parents as an alternative to flying? That may be your choice, but it ain't mine. (Yes, I know it's about larger principle, but if we become a cloistered, provincial nation that spends 2/3 of its vacation time numbing its butt on long car trips, the terrorists really have won.)

I'm not willing to forego air travel or raise a stink about scanners. But I AM willing to ask for concessions. Hey, TSA, how about if in exchange for a body scan, you let me and my family keep our fucking shoes on when we go through security? A chance to bypass the family goat rodeo that is security line shoe removal is worth a peep.

And if I let you get to second base in the pat-down, what say you let me take ALL of my hair and beauty products in my carryon instead of trying to wedge negligible amounts of a select few into a 1-quart baggie? Do you think I just get out of bed in the morning looking like this? It's takes a lot of work to look this good for you, TSA.

In all seriousness, I'm concerned with the usefulness of these tactics and where it will end. But at this point, not concerned enough to get bent out of shape for my Thanksgiving trip next week or any near-future travel I may have. HOWEVER-- if the TSA introduces airport shoe mirrors, I may have to raise an eyebrow.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Health Insurance 101

Hey, Rep. Andy Harris. I hear you're having a little trouble understanding why government-run health insurance is a good idea. Mostly because you had to wait 3o whole days for your guaranteed government health coverage to kick in.

I feel your pain. Health insurance IS hard. Let me see if I can enlighten you about how health insurance works.

I'm a 41-year-old woman. I have two kids. I'm separated from my husband but he's still on our group health insurance policy. I have a few pre-existing conditions, but hey, by the time you hit 40, who hasn't? Luckily, mine have nothing to do with a shitty heart, ongoing cancer, high cholesterol, or any of those bad things that often require expensive treatment or drugs. In the big scheme of things, the only bad thing about them is that they do require treatment at all.

I left my job in April and am now enjoying a thriving freelance career. If business keeps going as is, and I keep working this hard, I'll be matching the salary I made at my old job. But of course, there's no subsidized health insurance.

We pay COBRA through my old employer. We pay $1450.34 a month. That's right. EVERY MONTH.

Why on earth would anyone do that? Well, here's why.

In a quest for even slightly cheaper health insurance, I just applied for individual health coverage. As part of that coverage, my kids could be added to my policy for a slightly higher premium. My husband, who has enough pre-existing conditions and expensive prescriptions that an underwriter can't possibly stamp HELL NO on his application fast enough, qualifies to be insured under Colorado's high-risk insurance pool. It's fairly reasonably priced and actually, the coverage is not that bad. If I were to be accepted for individual coverage by a provider, at the very worst our combined cost would be roughly half of what we currently pay for COBRA.

I submitted applications, answered hours of questions, facilitated the gathering of medical records, pieced together documents from 11 years and two cities, let the insurance company take a chunk of money out of my bank account for the first premium. These are all hoops that you have to jump through to even be considered for health insurance. I spent 30 minutes on the phone today tracking down medical records for a doctor that I haven't even seen since 2006, just so they could see evidence that I was 90 percent perfectly healthy during that time.

Let me reiterate: I exercise regularly. I wear sunscreen. My cholesterol, heart rate, and blood pressure are a cardiologist's wet dream. I control any health issues I have proactively with inexpensive medication and regular checkups. I've had exactly one surgery in my life. I have never smoked. I wear a seat belt. I don't eat white flour or refined sugar. I drink in moderation a few times a week. I have regular well-visit checkups. I've never had an abnormal pap smear. The last serious health issue I had was a one-time deal, 11 years ago, well past your statute of uninsurability. I have no allergies. I've never had a cavity.

And today, I was declined for health insurance. Why? Because of one pesky condition that requires (again, INEXPENSIVE) prescription treatment. Once again, people who control their health issues so they don't turn into bigger health issues get reamed.

Consequently, my perfectly healthy kids were declined for health insurance, too.

I'm eligible for the high-risk pool now. Which is good news. But here's the thing: I can't insure my kids. Because there is no rider in the high-risk pool for kids. And in response to the recent health care reform that went into effect, insurance companies would rather not insure kids at all, rather than being forced to ensure kids despite pre-existing conditions. Which, I repeat, my kids don't have.

So what are my options? Well, I could keep applying and applying for individual coverage, which is kind of like applying to get kicked in the nuts repeatedly. I could boot my husband off of COBRA and he could do Cover Colorado for a microscopically slightly cheaper total monthly cost. Always good for maintaining amicable relationships, and financial savings really doesn't balance out that cost. Or, and this is most likely what we'll do, we can stay on COBRA as-is. Which goes up next year to $1522.86. Of course, that will run out in a year or so. But then, I can always just give up my flexible, lucrative, satisfying freelance career and get a shit job so we can have the health coverage. LIVIN' THE DREAM, man.

Anyway, my little doctor Republican Congressman friend, THAT is how motherfuckin' health coverage works. Really, what's not to love? If you need me, I'm moving to Sweden.

Try not to catch a cold in the next 30 days.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pulverizing the hand that feeds you

Am I the only one out there who is irrationally afraid that when I stick my hand down a garbage disposal that's in off-mode, it's going to suddenly turn itself on, Amityville-style, and grind my hand into dog scraps?

I am? Okay, never mind then.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Roadrunner: For mature audiences only

PG? Give me a fucking break!

I took the kids to the movies last night. I was expecting to only get some popcorn and a crappy feature film out of the bargain, but we were treated to something extra: a short cartoon beforehand and the knowledge that people have really lost their minds.

In good news, they've once again started showing Looney Toons shorts before the real movie. That's cool. But get this: after the trailers, they flashed onscreen that the next feature was rated PG. Okay, I thought. I get that. Cats and Dogs, could be a few mature themes about abandonment and dogs and cats living together that may cause kids to ask questions.

But then what followed was....a Roadrunner cartoon. And not even a particularly violent one. The coyote ran into some rocks, got run over by a few trucks, tried and failed to bungee down to the roadrunner as he ate some birdseed. The content was less offensive than your average Spongebob cartoon by a factor of 10.

Allow me to observe: you have GOT to be fucking kidding me. We are putting parental labels on ROADRUNNER CARTOONS now? Apparently I am supposed to sit down with my children before and after the cartoon and have a serious discussion about how you can't actually be slingshotted into a red rock by a semi-truck while a four-foot purple bird watches. Because you know, kids are MORONS.

When I was a kid, I watched approximately 23 hours of Looney Tunes cartoons a day. Yosemite Sam got his face blown off, Tweety got eaten, and let's not even go into the tragic hunting accidents and the fact that Elmer Fudd really needed to find another way to get food. I don't recall ever feeling the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder, or the need for grief counseling. And I'd say that despite constant viewing of cartoon violence, I'm only a mild sociopath today.

In contrast, after the movie, I was putting Tea to bed and read her Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. Now THAT'S a fucked-up story. Fear of being eaten by a lion, helplessness of being stuck as a rock and the nihilism of sitting motionless and dumb forever, the grief and pain of suddenly losing your only child, talk about mature themes. Yet that was one of my favorite kid books of all time. And one of Tea's too. Maybe she's unfazed because it pales in comparison to Barbie and the 12 Dancing Princesses, where an evil dutchess is slowly poisoning the king while she psychologically abuses Barbie and her 11 sisters. Yeowch. And fairy tales, and mythology, blah blah blah. It's all there. But they're not afraid.

You know what I was afraid of as a kid? Assholes, that's what. And my grandparents' dank dark basement with the creepy jumping bugs. And the idea that someone could push a button and launch missiles and blow us all to smithereens. Real stuff that could actually affect me.

So thanks for the warning, MPAA. If my kids decide to order a rocket pack from Acme and some birdseed and move to Arizona, I'll be sure to have The Talk. But until then I'll give them a little credit that they can distinguish between real life and Looney Tunes.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

More Dumb Fun on the YouTubes

I'm not sayin' YOU are batshit stupid for blindly running out and buying the iPhone 4. Or maybe I am. At any rate, this is pretty fucking funny.

There's a rebuttal, too (there are actually a ton of these things out there, I think incongruous, foul-mouthed Xtra Normal movies may be the Hitler meme of the new decade). But it's not as funny.

Once you get done cursing the crap wireless or exercising the Phone Death Grip or whatever it is you iPhone 4 users do, check it out.