January 2, 2016
by Annie

Lots Going On Right Now

post on stressI was hoping that 2016 would arrive with time to collect my thoughts and write…and yet, for the last year and a half there has been an enormous amount of stress coming from all directions…and it doesn’t seem to be lightening its load. (run on sentence? You betcha.) All I can say is I must have asked the Universe to give me the full-meal deal…and they gleefully obliged!

At certain times in life we are challenged to our breaking point. Then, miraculously we pull through and find solid ground again. I know that time of great relief will return, but in the meantime, I want to wish all of you a happy New Year. May you have a joyous and healthy 2016 and find good times and many laughs along the way. You guys have been great to hang in there with my sporadic posts! All the best to you!



August 27, 2015
by Annie

Locked and Loaded In Our Techno Trough

gunI wrote this post a few years ago, and find it fascinating that very little has changed. If anything, we seem to accept gun violence as a normal consequence of life.

Yesterday two television reporters were gunned down while doing a live broadcast. If history repeats, I suspect we will see horrific murder headlines and testimonials from those touched by the victims in their brief time on earth. We will analyze how the killer used a GoPro to film the carnage …how he was able to upload  footage onto social media within minutes of the crime…and speculate what might go through the minds of other mentally deranged killers as they see the number of views grow online. Once more we will balance the heartache with a shrine of wilting flowers and weathered messages and move on. When will we stop being silenced by misery and say we’ve had enough?

Gun control is never far from any conversation these days. Everyone has an opinion concerning their right to bear arms. It seems we have become a country hell-bent on protecting our Second Amendment rights, even at the possible expense of infringing upon other equally important ones. The ginned up fear of a massive government takeover prevents a practical dialogue from really getting started. Even with the unspeakable dismemberment of school children, a fog hovers over what a majority supports.

I’d admit I come from a gun slinging family. My father made no secret that he was packing heat. It was an old pistol from the Civil War my great-grandfather pulled off a dead soldier. My dad kept it in his underwear drawer. Psychologically he felt better pointing an unloaded relic at a robber than threatening a fistfight. Frankly, I thought we’d have a better chance loading his briefs like a slingshot than pointing that antique pistol at a crazed crook.

When I was a kid disputes were settled on the playground. Then after the dust settled, hard feelings were mostly dropped. But times have changed. Now differences can turn into deadly feuds as people stockpile ammunition and semi-automatic rifles capable of firing 100 rounds per minute. With an outlandishly easy pull of an index finger, a disgruntled lost soul can unleash devastating lethality from a disengaged distance. Blurring the line between real life and video games, they compete for the highest scores and a shot at notoriety.

To be sure our deteriorating social and moral fabric is being challenged. We are abandoning the simplicity of human interaction and losing a connection with ourselves…our kids…our planet…in the name of progress. Of course it is great to have all the newest gadgets to communicate with one another without being face-to-face, but at the end of the day our human instinctual side needs contact…physical, spiritual and mental. We are starting to see consequences of abandoning the soul-feeding personal touch…in favor of a tweet, a text, or an email. It’s no wonder there is a growing percentage of kids who feel rudderless and ostracized. The resulting alienation is being treated with an array of pharmaceuticals whose side effects often include the very problem they are prescribed to alleviate. Technology is leaving our human physical side in the dust, and the connectedness that was for thousands of years a staple of our existence is being pawned cheaply for glitz, internet speed, and firepower.

If this is truly a democracy by and for the people, and is the model we hold up for the world to admire as we spread it peacefully, and otherwise…we’d better take a good look at where this little 200 year old experiment is heading. I’m not so sure that a nation driven by fear, divided by the powers that be, and semi-automatically armed to the teeth sounds like the one we hear so often touted as, “The greatest country in the history of the world.”

August 5, 2015
by Annie

Roll The Dice and Take A Wife

ElvisI’m in Vegas celebrating my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. They’re reaffirming vows in one of those corny chapels. An Elvis impersonator dressed in a skintight polyester jumpsuit parades my mother down the aisle before a gauntlet of guests wearing fake noses and glasses. There is an entire set of miniature railroad cars sewn down the back of the dress, mother’s idea of a bridal train. I follow, hips thrusting and “a whole lot of shakin’ going on,” while tossing rose petals at their feet.

One thing you have to know about my parents is that they are showbiz people. They love a party and a laugh, sometimes at my expense.

After we celebrate their five-decade marriage, I leave them and head for the casino. I take a seat beside Carol, a woman bejeweled in a sequin tube-top and faux leather pants. She’s hunched over a slot machine.

Carol is a fixture here, spending every day at the same one-arm bandit, fishing into her vinyl clutch for dead presidents. A few years back, she won $1100 with one pull, but since that fateful day the house has eaten her lunch.

“Have you thought of trying another slot machine…maybe Wheel of Fortune?” I ask.

“Hell, no,” Carol says. “This is MY machine. Besides, it wouldn’t matter. I’ve been on a losing streak since I got married.” She pulls the lever and watches as two cherries and a lemon roll to a stop. Each time the machine sucks down her money, she takes a sip of vodka, a hearty 80 proof swig, the very medicine for her misfortune.

“I used to be a high-roller,” says Carol “the Queen of free buffets and booze.” She downs her drink and lights a cigarette, blowing smoke at the fruit machine. “Then I met Jimmy, right in this exact spot, and the next thing I know we’re tying the knot. He was building another dice joint when a crane fell on him. Now he just lies on the couch watching NASCAR.”

I have every intention of telling Carol how sorry I feel about her troubles, except her mouth is waiting for no one.

Carol motors on. “The night we met I won big, everything going right, until we pulled up to the Tunnel of Love Drive Thru and got hitched. All I ever wanted was to get out of this glitzy sandbox. Now I’m stuck…until one of us cashes our chips in.”

Maybe it’s the champagne from the Golden Anniversary toasts, but hearing Carol’s story leaves me melancholy. She looks like someone who could have gone somewhere, but now only a faint glimmer remains of that glad rags gal.

Sometimes people confuse marriage with endurance. It’s easy to do. Endurance makes you feel productive…it’s that space where you spend a great deal of time doing what you can’t imagine not doing, because you don’t have the guts to do anything else.

I’m $20 down at the end of the evening, but Carol’s out a small fortune including a sizeable bar bill for a dozen vodkas and a carton of cigarettes.

I want to leave her with some promise of better times ahead, but frankly I’m at a loss for words. What do you say to someone who looks to a rigged machine for a way out of a shitty life?

Then the voice in my head shakes me like a dog with a chew toy. After all, I am a product of show folk.

“Carol, did you hear the joke about the Vegas panhandler who asks a passerby for change?”

She stares at me as if I’m one card short of a full deck.

“Well, there is this guy,” I say “sitting on the sidewalk, real down on his luck. So he asks a tourist for money, but the tourist answers, “Wait a minute, how do I know you won’t use it for gambling?” And the panhandler says, “Oh, I got gambling money!””

Carol’s face lights up. “Haha, that’s what I love about this town!” And with a wave of her hand she’s gone, like a paycheck.

July 28, 2015
by Annie

The Blessing of the Beans

large cup of coffee

I don’t usually hang out in coffee shops. It’s not my thing. Besides, I’m from Seattle where coffee aficionados convert the heathen masses to daily worshippers, expanding the Church of the Anointed Bean across the globe. And the rest…as they say, is history, java joints popping up faster than meth labs.

I remember simpler times, when a tin of Folgers would suffice, but now coffee isn’t coffee without sweeteners, swirls, frappes, infusions, and add-shots. In my day if we needed to enhance the experience we reached for the Wild Turkey.

And don’t even get me started on the long-winded lingo that accompanies these concoctions.

It’s like “I don’t know who’s running the country or anything about global warming, but I can spiel off my favorite battery acid like I’m crushing my SAT.”

I’m already awkward in social situations, but add a pretentious setting and I fall apart faster than road kill in rush hour traffic.

I venture into an L.A. hangout amongst a fast-talking coffee-clutching crowd. Instantly I’m bombarded with smooth jazz and product placement.

In the queue I practice my order, but why bother? I never get it right. It’s almost like those baristas know I’m going to bungle it.

There are seriously WAY too many choices. We talk about simplifying life, but we don’t mean it. What happened to small and large? Do we really need short, tall, Grande, Venti and Trente? Why so clever? I say we call Trente a Big Gulp and be done with it.

I arrive at the counter, where a hipster with pen poised in one hand and a paper cup in the other gives me a “hurry up sister” glare. When I finally do open my mouth, the sequence is backwards and I’ve managed to confuse him.

It appears my biological coffee clock is ticking as he stares at the long line forming at my rear end. I give it another few hurried tries until the puzzle is unscrambled and I’m sent off to wait for another bean bartender to screw up my name.

The only seat in the house is next to a blazing gas fireplace casting a faux glow as Kenny G accompanies my first sip, which seems as culturally significant to rich aroma and butane flames as canned laughter to sitcoms.

To make matters worse, I read in the Urban Dictionary that a “cup of coffee” is code for sex. Don’t I have enough on my tortured mind without worrying that my order might be interpreted as wanting a lay with that latte? I can almost hear the barista give a shout-out into the packed room…“Flat White looking for Tall Black!”

That’s it…I’m going home to brew a batch of brown water in my old Hamilton Beach electric percolator and pour it into my own damn mug. If that doesn’t rev my engine maybe I’ll get creative with the grounds and whip up a skinny no-foam doppio macchiato enema.