Sunday, September 30, 2007

Celia Susan, A Brief Introduction

Have you ever been real distracted while making fake lemonade and accidentally doubled the flavoring? And since it's clear, you can't tell it's way strong until you take a drink. It hits your mouth and you brace up, kinda shocked by the intensity. Then for some reason, before adding water, you take one more drink of the hard stuff?

Celia Susan is the hard stuff.

Last night on the way home, Starr Ann and I were trying to give our hot new neighbor woman, Jodie Diamond, an idea of what it's going to be like when Celia Susan comes next month to spend a week with us.

I was saying how Celia Susan is just about rabid in her political beliefs. She's not only the most liberal Liberal alive, she cannot keep quiet about anything she's passionate about.

Starr Ann said, "Yeah, like the time Celia bought up all those black W stickers and went around sticking them beside all the black W stickers she could find on conservatives' bumpers, then stuck a 3 right next to them, so all these Republicans were driving around with WW3 on their cars." Starr Ann drifted off at the end, impressed all over again with Celia Susan's nerve and inventiveness.

Then I recalled one of my favorite 'Celia Susans.' I said, "Remember when that lady with all the jewelry and unnatural hair color walked right up to us and Celia Susan at that wedding reception and asked us if we were queer?"

Starr Ann cracked up, and then finished the story for Jodie. "Celia just looked at this lady and said, sweet as anything, 'Yes, ma'am. I'm a lesbian and a vegetarian.' Then Celia took the lady's hand and asked, all interested, 'And ma'am, what are you, if I might be so bold? I'm guessing a fornicating carnivore.'"

I could tell Jodie was starting to like Celia Susan.

We rode on, and after a while, Jodie asked, "Does Celia Susan experience everything with such intensity? I mean, if so, she must suffer terribly when her heart gets broken."

Starr Ann and I exchanged an ironical-type look before Starr Ann said delicately, "She's kinda footloose. I don't think Celia ever actually had a broken heart that outlasted the duct tape residue on her wrists and ankles."

It was true. I nodded agreement.

After another quiet spell of just riding along letting the horses set the pace, Starr Ann said, "And cunt."

I said, "Oh, yeah, cunt."

Jodie asked, "Cunt what?"

So I explained that one of Celia Susan's pet peeves (she has several) is when somebody says cunt like it's a bad or ugly word. Celia Susan hates that.

Anyway, by the time we got home, I think Jodie was looking forward, quite eagerly, to next month when Celia Susan gets here. I know Starr Ann's excited about it.

As for myself, this year I am determined to not sleep with Celia Susan. At least, not every single night. But if it does turn out to be every single night, I'm going to really sleep for at least one or two hours. But if I don't end up sleeping, I'm at least going to make Celia Susan help me with my chores during the day.

Dang! I kinda dread Celia Susan getting here. But I kinda can't wait. Think I'll go make a batch of lemonade. The hard stuff.

Saturday, September 29, 2007


Somebody left one of the gates open...and yes! The girls have gone wild!

Tomorrow I'm finally going to describe Celia Susan. I think. I hope.

So cowgirl on. Cowgirl up. Cowgirl (please insert your favorite preposition). And cowgirl out!

Friday, September 28, 2007


Jodie came riding up all enthused and said she had a photo we needed to see. It was that one up there. She said, "I saw it and thought of you, Starr Ann. Doesn't it look just like her, Margo?"

It absolutely does. Not in a physical way, of course. I mean, where are the dimples? Where's that dusty, careless assurance? Anyway, Starr Ann's eyes don't bug out like that. But the spirit of the little satisfied monster is pure Starr Ann. Funny how a strong underlying likeness can make you unlearn the differences that are right before your eyes.

Anyway, we all agree that picture captures something of Starr Ann's animal self.

Which brings us to the book I finished yesterday. It's the second in a two-part series, so if I'm going to tell you about it (and it's starting to look like I am) maybe we should begin with the first one.

The 100th Generation takes us into the desert with Egyptologist Valerie Foret. Valerie's a scientist, a lesbian with thriving appetites, and an atheist - not your first guess for who the nature gods would choose to help them make their big comeback on the religious stage, where the various monotheisms have been, frankly, bombing for the last few thousand years. But Valerie is exactly who the gods select.

That's it. That's all you're getting of the details. I don't enjoy synoptic reviews, and if you're half the cowgirl I think you are (that goes for you guys, too), then you don't like synoptic reviews either.

Let me just say this by way of further recommendation. Starr Ann and Jodie are sitting outside under our big elm tree right now, reading The 100th Generation. When they saw how awestruck I was after finishing the second book, Vulture's Kiss, they went out right away and got an extra copy of each so they could read together. Isn't that sickeningly cute of them?

Anyway, judging by the way they're both actually reading, and not tumbling all over each other (and it's been a whole hour), I'd say the author, Justine Saracen, has their full attention.

After reading Book One, I even emailed Ms. Saracen to congratulate her on the accomplishment. She was utterly charming, and extended herself quite beyond the usual author-to-fan conversation. To tell you the truth, though, after finishing Book Two, I'll need to work up some nerve to email her again. She's kinda bigger than life for me right now.

So, since those two will be pacified for the rest of the day, I'll go see what kind of trouble I can get into.

I have a wish for each of you today. May you get in touch with your pussycat self. And may it get cookie.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Starr Ann was out upgrading her disaster shelters last night, delivering the new Hitachi Magic Wands that finally arrived yesterday. So that left Jodie and me to fend for ourselves all evening.

You know how you can just tell when someone has an agenda going? Well, by the way she was acting, I knew Jodie was on the lookout for the right moment to steer the conversation someplace she wanted it to end up.

After we finished the dishes, we were just hanging out - having a whistling contest (no need to mention who won), trying on Starr Ann's chaps, having a howling contest (I won!), ransacking the house for Starr Ann's old packs of Pop Rocks (I saw her buy over a hundred packages of them when she found out they were being discontinued due to that urban legend about Mikey from the cereal commercial, and she's only broken out about five packs over the years, so there are a bunch of them somewhere. And just so you know, none of us thinks the ones you can get online are real).

Anyway, we decided to walk down to the barn and spy on the raccoons as they came in to steal cat food. We rounded the corner of the house and were nearly knocked backward by the sight of that big full moon sitting low on the horizon.

Jodie was especially hard hit by it. She stood stock still, just gazing for a moment. In that creamy orangey light, I saw tears come to her eyes. She said, "Margo, so many things are endangered." She took my hand and I could tell it was more for support than friendship. She kept her eyes on that moon, and spoke again. "Do you know that back in the city, people barely notice the moon? The sky is so awash in artificial lighting, we're killing our connection with the very sky." Jodie laughed at herself, real lightly. "Guess I've been affected by all the astronomy material I've been reading for Starr Ann."

Then this strong, confident, assertive woman broke down and cried. Cried hard. Seeing a woman cry over something personal like lost love, hurt feelings, or just plain hormonal incongruity is bad enough. But standing by while Jodie Diamond cried her heart out over the absolutely impersonal, over what we're losing as we strangle the life out of this planet, took my breath away and almost had me in tears too.

She stopped as abruptly as she'd started, though, and chuckled as she wiped off her face. No need for either of us to say anything. We squeezed hands and continued our way on down to the barn.

Baby was there! Baby is an old mama raccoon that's been coming around for three years now. Tame as can be, but we don't encourage that. She simply decided a couple of winters ago there was no need to disturb her cat food dinner just because Starr Ann or I happened to come in. Jodie was delighted with the way Baby used her hands to splash in the water bowl, cleaning her face after eating.

As Baby finished up and waddled toward her exit under the hay rack, she stopped and made absolutely deliberate eye contact with Jodie. They stayed like that for several seconds, and when Baby's butt finally scooted under the alfalfa bales, I turned to see the most wonderful smile spread across Jodie's face.

I tilted my head in question, and Jodie said, "It's going to be okay. We might not be here to see it, but it's going to be okay."

On the way up to the house, I asked Jodie about what she'd had on her mind earlier, the thing I thought she was guiding our conversation toward.

She said, "I was going to ask you about Celia Susan, but let's not dilute Baby's moment."

I totally understood.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Three Tricky Girls

Starr Ann, Jodie Diamond and I cordially invite you to join us at BlogInterviewer for this morning's communique.

That interview turned into a real behind-the-scenes look at The Starr Ann Chronicles, featuring a bunch of never-before-released deleted scenes and outtakes.

Full credit for the fun goes, naturally, to Starr Ann. Right before I started the interview, she brought me a tall glass of something and said, "Drink this. In one gulp."

As you read, please rest easy in knowing none of us were injured in doing the interview. Some of the stunts are a little scary if you don't keep remindin' yourself of that.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Never Too Mature For Phone Games

Here at the Happy Hands Ranch, we like to keep our hands happy. And busy. Because if there's one sure way to find trouble, it's allowing Starr Ann to get bored. When Starr Ann (hi, Starr Ann), Jodie and I had a few minutes yesterday evening with nothing particular to do, Starr Ann rescued us from ennui by suggesting we try to get on the local call-in radio program.

First time she phoned, when the screener asked what she wanted to talk to Dr. Cummin about, Starr Ann said, "I'd like to know what Dr. Cummin thinks about the imminent US strike at Iran's nuclear facilities." The screener got rid of Starr Ann real quick.

She gave them one more chance to stand on their hind legs. Second call, she asked about discussing the failures of the Federal Reserve and Congress with respect to the mortgage default crisis and the fact that subprime lending has been around for enough years that an infant could have spotted the repercussions that were bound to hit eventually. That time, they simply hung up on Starr Ann.

Third time was the proverbial charm. Starr Ann gave Jodie back her cell phone and used mine, in case they had her flagged. Starr Ann always thinks of those types of angles. So, anyway, this time Starr Ann said, "I want, I need to talk to Dr. Cummin about how I've been faking my orgasms."

Jodie and I saw Starr Ann's eyes light up as soon as the screener had a second to digest that, and she snapped her fingers then made the okay sign. We were gonna be on the show for sure.

They quick got rid of the current caller who had some problem with health insurance or something, and came back to Starr Ann right away.

"Hello, this is Dr. Cummin."

"Dr., I need to talk to somebody about how I've been faking orgasms."

Dr. Cummin has a real pretty voice. "Oh, dear. Of course you do. Now, when did this start?"

Starr Ann sighed big before speaking, kinda shaky like. "About two years after my girlfriend and I got together. It's okay that I'm gay, right? You'll still help me?"

You could just about hear Dr. Cummin tallying the show's ratings in her head. "Why, of course we can still talk. What did you say your name is, sugar?"


"Well, Sugar, why do you think it is that you're not having real orgasms anymore?"

"I have them. But only when I'm alone."

"Perhaps you should start at the beginning."

"Right. See, after a coupla years together, we both kinda let ourselves go and don't really have much to talk about. Which is fine. I mean, I'm not really interested in trying that hard anymore. But the thing is, I've had the decency to reduce all that sexual effort and time by bringing things to a quick close, if you know what I mean."

"Go on, Sugar."

"But my girlfriend simply does not get it. How do I signal to her that I'm just pretending, so she'll catch on and do the same? I've tried being super fakey, coming unrealistically hard just about the second she touches me. Not a clue. I've tried making her work, work, work, until I just about fall asleep and forget all about staging the closure. Nothing. So, Dr., what am I to do? I always dreamed of a push-button long-term relationship where everything gets real convenient. How can I make that dream a reality? Please, Dr. Cummin."

They had to take a commercial break, and since it was time to go top off the horses' waters and run with the dogs one more time before bed, we never did get to hear Dr. Cummin's answer. At least this time, I was in on the fun. Remember Starr Ann's last phone prank?

On the other hand, the radio station has my cell number on their caller id.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sixty-Nine Ways To Make A Cowgirl Smile - numbers eleven to twenty

Starr Ann thought up four of these, Jodie wrote three, and the other three are mine. One viewer (you know who you are) emailed a suggestion that even WE couldn't bring ourselves to print. Goddess! I love the five superb women who read our blog.
[The First Ten]

11. Only laugh at her jokes when they're funny.

12. Never buy her a hat. That's too personal a choice.

13. When she asks you to dinner, bring treats for the dogs instead of wine.

14. Let her see when you're feeling bashful.

15. Do something to make her feel bashful.

16. Help her clean the tack.

17. Keep track of her cycle, and proceed accordingly.

18. When she thinks up a fun game, play it with her.

19. Let her overhear you having a philosophical discussion with the cats.

20. Ask your horse to be nice to her horse.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I Did A Bad, Bad Thing

My best friend Starr Ann has the best whisper. Some people get too much wind in their whisper, making the s's all hissy and their breath hot in your ear. Some leave too much vocal cord in it, so it's way too loud and hardly whispery at all. Not Starr Ann. When Starr Ann whispers, her breath feels like a light breeze that might have blown across fresh-cut grass, and it sounds like she just melted butterscotch in her mouth.

So, last night, as I was about to drop off to sleep, Starr Ann sneaked into the room and eased in bed beside me. I knew what was going to happen next, and kept myself as still as possible without being rigid. This time I was determined to make her believe I was already asleep. Very deeply asleep.

Starr Ann got up as close as she dared and whispered, "You awake, Margo?"

I squirmed a tiny bit and mumbled nonsense.

After that, Starr Ann very patiently waited for my breathing to get all regular again before making her next move. Somehow, I kept my heartbeat under control.

Five whole minutes later (Starr Ann was being real scientific and disciplined about it this time), she pushed her face toward me and continued. "Do you know I love you, Margo?"


"Margo, who's this you're talking to?"

"Uuuh, mmm, Starr Ann."

"Good. Now, do you know I love you?"

"Uh huh."

"Margo, what are you getting me for my birthday?"

Now, this is the critical moment. This is usually where my eyes fly open and I read Starr Ann the riot act over trying to trick me into revealing what her present is. But, no. I had been preparing for this all year. This time I would fool her good.

So, she was braced for me to explode, but I just mumbled inconherently again. I could tell by the way Starr Ann's body tensed a little bit then relaxed that she was very encouraged.

She whispered, "It's perfectly okay. You can tell me. What's my birthday present this year?"

I kinda tossed my head from side to side and garbled out the words, "Shouldn't say."

Goddess! She was falling for the whole act. She gave it a few more seconds so I could settle again before saying, real smooth, like she thought she was hypnotizing me or something. "Go ahead, baby, tell me what it is. You are supposed to tell Starr Ann what her present is. Now, what are you getting me for my birthday this year?"

I hesitated, then rolled my head in a way that said I was wrestling with myself over whether to do it. Finally, I said, "Jodie knows." Goddess, I'm good!

Starr Ann didn't say another word. Simply rolled gingerly off the bed and started putting her chaps on. She was no doubt heading directly over to Jodie's place to extract the precious information from her. Of course, I had not told Jodie what I'm getting Starr Ann, so Jodie was in for an interesting night.

Starr Ann was absolutely pleased with herself. She was so happy, with herself and me, that the whole time she adjusted her chaps she sang, very softly, a song that she once caught me singing the wrong words to. For some reason, when Starr Ann is feeling a surge of affection for me, she sometimes sings that song, Donuts make my brown eyes blue.

And then, in a totally predictable Starr Ann move, even though she'd come in by my bedroom door, she slipped out the window. I heard the barn door a few minutes later, and then the hoofbeats of Oatmeal, her trusty steed.

I stayed awake a long time, sending halfway apologetic thoughts to Jodie and humming Elton John's Candle In The Wind, which I once caught Starr Ann singing the wrong lyrics to. Last words in my mind as I fell asleep were, goodbye normal genes.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


Starr Ann and I extend greetings from the unplumbed depths of utter decadence. That's right! This morning, after chores, we showed our adult selves the door and declared a day of shameless indulgence.

Our opening ceremony involved two spoons, a mixing bowl, and a box of brownie mix. After preparing the black sludge, we carried our sacred vessel to the living room and ate raw brownie batter all through Saturday cartoons. If you have never luxuriated in the gritty, gooey chocolatiness of this delight, be vigilant, you may have latent Republican tendencies. I'm so full right now, I can't even think about lunch, which we've already planned - onion rings and french fries. Sweet sure does set you up for wanting salty, doesn't it?

By unspoken agreement, we are only talking about things that make us happy or proud or hopeful today. Or stupid things that crack us up.

We got to talking about Barbara Livingston, the extraordinary equine photographer. Starr Ann and I are always amazed at how we can, at a glance, usually tell it's a Barbara Livingston photo. She just released her second book, More Old Friends, and we cannot wait to check it out. Aside from her uncanny ability to expose something about each horse's unique personality, Ms. Livingston has an engaging prose style that makes you wish you could sit down in a racetrack kitchen with her and spend an hour or two over a greasy breakfast and too much coffee. At least, that's something Starr Ann and I would love to do.

Of course, that got us to thinking about our years on the racetrack. Starr Ann retold her favorite story from the backside. It started when we were up at Arlington Park one meet. Starr Ann got to be buddies with an old, done-for jockey named Ramon. Ramon was foreman of the outfit we were working for and he and Starr Ann shared an insatiable appetite for Greek food. Every day, they took off for the same Greek restaurant as soon as the final horse was done up. Ramon had a little tiny drinking problem. He made it to work every morning, but sometimes found himself short on cash toward payday. Not a big deal, by racetrack standards.

Starr Ann used to lend him a little money at the end of the week, which Ramon always paid back the morning after we got paid. Well, one day we got word that our friend back in Kentucky, Celia Susan, needed us to come home right away. We took off as soon as the call came in, having time only to leave a note on Ramon's tack room door, saying goodbye and to keep the $50 he had borrowed from Starr Ann. It wasn't his fault we were taking off in such a hurry.

Now here's the good part. Well, it's not all good. Years later, we heard that Ramon had been in a pretty bad spill. He was ponying a two-year-old that went bonkers and (this was before the new rails) Ramon came off his pony after being dragged along the railing a long ways. Nearly killed Ramon, and he ended up losing his left leg. It had to be at least five years after all that when we next saw Ramon. Starr Ann and I were taking a couple of horses to the track at Churchill, and he passed us, going the opposite way, ponying another two-year-old back toward the barn area.

There was only time for him to holler, "Aphrodite! What barn?" Ramon always called Starr Ann by the name of the only Greek goddess he knew.

Starr Ann told him Barn 18, and we glowed all through the rest of the morning, looking forward to seeing Ramon.

He didn't get to our barn until he'd had time to clean up real nice. As he gimped down the shedrow on his prosthetic leg, we could see that the five years had weighed on him about like twenty. But he still had that great big Ramon smile! Starr Ann hopped down from her perch on the shedrow rail and was about to hug him real hard, but Ramon held up his right hand to stop her. At the same time, with his left hand he was reaching into his shirt pocket. He pulled out a $50 bill and presented it to Starr Ann with the utmost gentlemanly grace. Then he threw open his arms and accepted Aphrodite's embrace. Some people just have class that nothing in this world can rob them of.

I was about to retell my favorite racetrack story, but (remember? I said the adults had left the building) the sugar hit Starr Ann's bloodstream and she got all silly. Sometimes, I swear, the two of us regress to the mentality of ten-year-old boys. So, I'll spare you the rest of this particular conversation, which went downhill fast and ended up featuring a lot of fart references.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Not Tina Louise

Would you call it kismet? Synchronicity? Weird as all get out? I call it all three.

Since Starr Ann is sleeping late this morning, I thought I'd talk about how I ended up stranded on a deserted island with the three things I would have chosen to bring if I were going to get stranded on a deserted island and with a person way up there on my list of women to get stranded with.

It started early this summer when my friend Lori, from Hahn at Home, won a free Olivia cruise. Well, Lori needed to be at home, as her blog’s name implies, so she gave her cruise to me. God, I love cyber friends.

Everything happened in such a whirlwind, that right up to boarding time I still didn’t know where the ship was headed or who the celebrity entertainment was. Still don’t know our intended destination, but I lucked out regarding the celebrity. It was the delectable Tina Fey. Yeah, I know she’s married. But still.

The last tiny speck of land had disappeared on the rear horizon at least a day before the incident occurred. Seems a novice crewmember way over on the starboard side forgot a bit of crucial lesbian-specific training and yelled real loud, “Anybody got a pocket knife?”

Naturally, every butch on the whole ship went running over to that side, groping for their thousand-function pocket pals as they went. They were followed closely by all the femmes aboard, who thought it would be kicky to watch the handy butches assist the hapless sailor.

I identify as a cowgirl, neither butch nor femme, but a joyous blend of the best qualities of each, so I didn’t join the stampede to the right side of the boat. That’s how I happened to be all alone when I slipped on a hastily discarded mango peel and tumbled overboard.

When I hit the water, one hand was still clutching the plastic bag that held my brand new lesbian short story anthology. With the other, I held on for dear life to the deck chair I’d instinctively grabbed for while falling. Lucky for me, the deck chair floated.

Not long after the Olivia cruise ship vanished, my deck chair slammed to a halt and I found myself on that godforsaken island. With no fresh water available, and no food, I started to fantasize about what I would have brought with me, had there been time to prepare. I’d have chosen a GPS for determining my coordinates, an iPhone for relaying said position to the authorities, and something good to read until they arrived.

Well, cowgirls make do with what’s at hand. So I unfolded my deck chair in the shade of a scraggly tree and opened my new anthology, The Mammoth Book of Lesbian Erotica.

It soon became clear that this is not the book you want to be reading in the middle of trying to conserve fluids. So I decided to get vertical and take one more walk around to the opposite side of the island. I saw her just as I rounded a huge mound of sand. Tina Fey.

Since she’s straight, she hadn’t run to that other side of the ship either! And mango peels must have been practically carpeting that deck, because she had slipped on one too! Anyway, we’ll never know all the details of how it happened, but there we were, stranded together on a deserted island. Me and Tina Fey.

Only thing is, as Tina Fey explained, she prepares thoroughly for all contingencies. So when I came upon her there on the beach, she was just finishing up with taking her GPS readings and was about to use her iPhone to contact our rescuers. Tina Fey took one look at me and decided the call could wait a few minutes while she gave me a long drink of water from her cordless miniature desalinator.

When Tina Fey ended her call to Olivia’s main office, she broke the news to me. It would take them 36 hours, at least, to reach us. She then pulled a couple of sandwiches from her little rucksack and sighed. She said, “I can’t believe I didn't bring something good to read.”

I just smiled and produced The Mammoth Book of Lesbian Erotica.

It ended up taking those Olivia people 48 hours to reach us. No worries, though. That gave Tina Fey and me plenty of time to talk and read and talk about what we read. Yeah, I know she’s straight. But still.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Celia Susan Preparedness

Jodie Diamond, Starr Ann and I were finishing supper last night when the phone rang.

I answered, "Happy Hands Ranch."

There was no hello, no nothing. Just, "Those bastards in Washington are bound and determined to bomb Iran before they leave office, and our lazy, chicken-ass Democrats aren't going to do a single solitary god damned thing to stop it."

I extended the phone. "It's for you, Starr Ann."

Jodie cocked her head and I motioned her to the other room. I said, "That's our friend Celia Susan. This'll be her call to announce exactly when we can expect her to arrive for Starr Ann's birthday next month."

"Well, hell, Margo. When were you planning on telling me her birthday was coming up?"

I've never mastered the sardonic laugh, but I gave it a try. "Let's see. Oh, yes, I recall being about to bring it up just moments before you bonobo'd me in the barn the other day." I fluttered my eyes at the end, because I've noticed Jodie's particularly susceptible to when I do that.

It worked again. She cracked up and gave me a nice hug, saying, "Sorry about the third degree. Now, let's take advantage of Miss Starr Ann being on the telephone and discuss her birthday, shall we? Starting off with what you're getting her."

I shook my head. "Shouldn't tell you that, Jodie. Believe me, it's for your own safety. Starr Ann is relentless about sniffing out presents. All I'm going to tell you is that mine doesn't have a physical presence. It's more an activity than an object."

Jodie had turned me loose and was pacing and muttering. "My first big gift to her. Hmmm. Has to be special. Shit! No. Wait. No. Fuck. No, shit. Wait. No, god dammit."

I felt I should help her break this loop. "Jodie. I have a suggestion!"

"You have?"

I led her over to the bookcase. "See all those astronomy books? Those are Starr Ann's."

Jodie's expression turned real soft. She truly adores my Starr Ann. "Yes, when we walk outside at night, she always has something engaging to say about the heavens."

I nodded and said, "That's because she loves reading all this stuff." I motioned to the books again. "But, guess what?"


"She never has gotten herself a telescope. I'm not sure why that is. Anyway, I've sort of been waiting on getting her one for an extra special occasion. Now I realize it should be you who gives it to her."

Jodie locked her fingers together the way she does when she's concentrating. "Catalogs. I'll need catalogs. No, what am I saying? The Net. I can order it on the Net. God fuck it, I know zilch about telescopes! Well, that's going to change very quickly."

Starr Ann came in from the kitchen full of purpose. "Jodie, do you mind if I cancel the rest of tonight? Celia Susan's coming to town and there are a million things I need to tighten up before she does."

I was about to fill Jodie in on the fact that Celia Susan is Starr Ann's match when it comes to survivalist leanings. It was Celia Susan who gave Starr Ann the idea to build her underground shelters in the first place. Of course, Starr Ann's bunkers have far surpassed Celia Susan's in sophistication and accommodation. But I didn't get a chance to say any of that.

Jodie wasn't any more interested in their former plans for the night than Starr Ann was. Jodie just absently kissed Starr Ann on her way out the door. I'm sure that before tonight's moon sets Jodie Diamond will be the second most knowledgeable telescope expert in the county.

As for Starr Ann, she's off checking the water purification systems, the food supplies, and the vibrator functionality in all her bunkers.

And when Celia Susan gets here next month? All we're going to hear is how even if this ignorant Bush administration doesn't trigger a nuclear disaster, we still need those shelters to avoid constant surveillance by our very own government.

Sixty-Nine Ways To Make A Cowgirl Smile - the first ten

My best friend Starr Ann (hi, Starr Ann) and I have been thinking up this list for a while now. We decided to release it ten ways at a time, because too much smiling can make your face hurt. Feel free to add your own ideas.

Tried and true ways to make a cowgirl smile:

1. Ride in thirsty, but water the horses first.

2. Flirt with her, and be brazen about it.

3. Practice hard and get good with your lasso.

4. Never let her win at cards.

5. Draw her a hot bath and wash her back.

6. Remember how she takes her coffee.

7. Always use the boot scraper when you come in from the barn.

8. Let her catch you appreciating her saddle seat.

9. Do something evil right when she's thinking you're sweet.

10. Do something sweet right when she's thinking you're evil.

Saddle up, ladies! Let's round up those smiles.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Adventure Finders

When Starr Ann and I were still little, back in the orphanage, she started up a club called The Adventure Finders. Its purpose was to find adventure. I said we were little, okay?

Naturally, Starr Ann appointed herself president of the club. And she made up this ingenious test of courage that everybody had to pass before they got in. It involved this huge, heavy hardwood door that led into the sacristy. That door was intimidating on a bunch of counts. Not only was it tall and dark, it led to a place we were never to enter unless the nuns were leading us in a group. So, it was just like Starr Ann to devise her test of courage to start off with disobeying a rule.

Once we'd sneaked off to right outside the forbidden room, Starr Ann explained the part where physical bravery came into play. She started off with me, using me to demonstrate her diabolical test. I had to take off one shoe and sock and position the bare foot so my big toe rested on the floor about a millimeter from the peak of that big door's arc as Starr Ann swung it slowly open.

Once we had my toe in position, Starr Ann said, "Now you know in your head that this door can't hit your foot, even though it looks like it's going to ram into it, right Margo? You are absolutely sure that if I slam this door as hard as I can, you are perfectly safe and it's not going to hit you?"

I said I understood, and Starr Ann went over the rules one more time. I had to keep my eyes open the whole time, and flinching meant I couldn't be in the club. I braced myself as Starr Ann opened the door as wide as it could go and slammed it with all her might. Not drawing back was harder than I thought it was going to be, but there was no way I was going to fail. So, I was in.

Then Starr Ann did the initiation herself, just so everybody understood that she wasn't the kind of president to take advantage of her position in any way.

Surprisingly, most of us made it into The Adventure Finders on the first try. A few jumped back the first time, but ended up doing fine the second. There was this one boy, though, named Ruben. He was a kindhearted kid who really looked up to Starr Ann. Poor Ruben just could not find the nerve to keep his foot in place as that scary door flew at it. We were on his fourth try when our lookout came running in to warn us Sister Blissmarie was coming. So we had to scatter and leave things like they were until after lunch.

On the way to the cafeteria, Starr Ann told me she never expected any of us to fail the test. She was real worried about Ruben.

Later, when we were able to sneak back to the sacristy without getting caught, Starr Ann took Ruben aside and whispered something to him. Ruben, who had been looking awful sorry and closed up, all of a sudden puffed out his little chest and walked up to that door. Starr Ann let it rip and that time Ruben faced right up to it.

To this day, I don't know what Starr Ann said to that kid.

The next day, when it came time for Starr Ann to appoint her officers for The Adventure Finders, she made Ruben her second in command. During the ceremony she cited his uncommon sensitivity and said the thing she valued most was the strength to keep on trying your best no matter how scared you are.

Before we fell asleep that night, Starr Ann turned over and said, "It's awful easy to hurt people without trying, you know that?"

I hadn't thought about The Adventure Finders in a long time. Until today, when we accidentally saw a picture of President Bush on the Internet. He was smiling from ear to ear. Starr Ann just gaped at that photo for about a minute and a half. Finally, she said, "After all the lives that creature's lies have ruined. After all the damage he's done. Look at the absolute lack of shame on that face."

Then, out of the blue she brightened up and said, "Ever wonder what happened to Ruben?"

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Big Gun

Naturally, Starr Ann and I thank our lucky stars every day that we're gay. Who wouldn't?

But having said that, we are aware of the fact that there's only one form of emotional turbulence more extreme than cowgirl drama, and that's dyke drama. Mix the two together and you get a species of volatility unstable enough to send a bomb squad running in tears.

So, Starr Ann and I were out on the porch enjoying Cheetos and grape Kool-Aid, when this really high-octane woman rides up on a temperamental horse. She swung down and walked toward us, not smiling or anything. We were polite, though. We stood up and I put out a hand to shake, but saw right away that I had a bad case of chedda-digititis and re-routed my hand to a friendly wave instead.

That lady didn't even crack a smile. She just looked Starr Ann and me up and down and asked if we had any idea where Jodie Diamond's place was. Starr Ann introduced herself, said sure we did, and asked the woman's name. It was Bolinda French.

Bolinda French took an even longer, more disgusted survey of Starr Ann and said, "So you're the two yahoos my Jodie has gotten mixed up with." Then she shook her head, got back on her horse, and aimed him for Jodie's place.

I said, "Hey, I thought you wanted directions."

She jerked to a halt. "I've never needed any help getting to Jodie. Just wanted to take stock of you two before I go straighten her out."

Starr Ann and I hurried inside and were standing together at the kitchen sink washing our hands.

"Where does she get off, Starr Ann, calling us a couple of yahoos?" I held my fingertips up to the sunlight coming in the window to make sure all the orange was off.

Starr Ann said, "I don't know who she thinks she is, but we're going to find out. Real quick." She dried her lips and pushed them out for me to inspect. "Any grape stain left?"

"A little, but you better stop scrubbing, 'cause they're turning red."

Jodie's windows were all open to the day and we could hear that woman's screechy voice laying down the law to Jodie before we even got past the big elm tree at the edge of the yard. Mingled in with Bolinda's cursing we could occasionally hear Jodie's voice, all calm and sensible.

We knocked on the door.

Jodie looked real happy to see us both and gave Starr Ann a hug and a kiss. Well, that launched Bolinda right into space. She threw herself between Jodie and Starr Ann then drew that big gun of hers and pointed it right at Starr Ann. Quick as anything, Jodie jumped back in between and latched onto Starr Ann, covering her up so there was no way Bolinda could have shot Starr Ann without getting Jodie too.

That put Bolinda even more out of control. And on top of that, Starr Ann was struggling with all her might, trying to push Jodie out of the way. Jodie was hanging on pretty good and Starr Ann started kicking her and cussin' like I never heard her cuss before.

Swear to god, I believe Bolinda was getting turned on watching them wrestle like that. Well, I sure wasn't. I took that opportunity to land a foot upside Bolinda's butt and snatch that gun out of her hand. I tried to look threatening without actually pointing the sickening thing at her.

Bolinda laughed in my face. "Go ahead, shoot it at me. It isn't loaded."

True to her lousy word, the gun was empty.

Jodie, Starr Ann and I were still, after all that, open to discussing whatever problem Bolinda had brought with her. She was having none of it. Seems she and Jodie had slept together twice and Bolinda read a whole lot more into their encounter than there was. Simple as that.

When we finally got rid of Bolinda, I left Jodie and Starr Ann to find a way to dissipate all that leftover adrenalin.

In town, on my way to the sheriff's office to deposit Bolinda's gun, I ran into that airport girl I told you about. Must have been the brush with danger that loosened me up around her this time. I found enough courage to ask her name. It's Erin. Erin London. Have you ever heard a more magical name in all your life?

Saturday, September 15, 2007


What a beautiful morning to wake up and find!

My best friend Starr Ann and I finished chores early and went directly over to Jodie Diamond's place. No way were we going to let Jodie stay indoors and work on that book on such a glorious day.

Perfect timing. We got to her place as she was finishing up her bath and the three of us decided to hike to the crest of the farthest hill visible from Jodie's porch. When Starr Ann went back outside to turn the horses loose in the pasture, that left Jodie and me alone together for the first time since Wednesday's festivities.

I put my hands on my hips and looked Jodie right in the eye with an expression I hoped would give her a few seconds to worry about my reaction. Didn't happen. She watched Starr Ann walk out the door then turned to me and said, "If Starr Ann will have me, Margo, I swear to you I'm going to love her as hard as anybody's ever been loved."

It's not easy coming up with a response to something like that. Swear to god, I think what I said was, "Sounds good." I defy anyone to compose a more lame reply.

Jodie turned to face me again once she lost sight of Starr Ann. She raised her arms and laced her hands behind her head as she studied me for a few seconds. Then she dropped her arms and shook her head slightly. "Coming across you two this summer has certainly changed the course I thought I was on."

My brain finally kicked back in. "Yeah, Jodie, speaking of coming across..."

She cracked up. "Awfully nice, what happened in your barn, don't you think?"

Starr Ann shot back through the front door right then. Jodie kept her eyes on me, and her smile dipped a bit. "You did want that as much as I did, didn't you?"

I said, "Jodie, do you see this? Do you comprehend the position I'm in? I am standing here with my best friend's lover and my best friend and both of you are suspended, staring at me, waiting for me to say how hot it was having sex with you two days ago, while said best friend happened to not be around."

Jodie and Starr Ann shrugged at each other and said, together, "So?"

"So, let this be a lesson. Spending your life with Starr Ann means finding yourself in one surreal situation after another. I just hope you're ready for it."

Jodie threw out her arms and hugged me real tight. When she drew back, I said, "Now why don't you go put some clothes on, and we'll take that hike."

Covering ground under our own power was a pleasant change from riding the horses. We took Jodie's dogs, Maria and Penelope, with us and they must have run three miles for every one we hiked, with all their darting into the woods and down to the creek and up over every little rise we passed by.

Maria and Penelope were pooped by the time we got back to Jodie's.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Divided We Stand

If you read my account last month of the day we spent with those Republican cowgirls, you already know Starr Ann enjoys messing with the conservatives now and then.

So last night she thought it would be fun to find some Republicans to watch the presidential address with. We weren't game for going back to a straight bar quite yet, but Starr Ann came up with an inspired idea. We could pop over to the Circuit City in the next county, pick out some conservatives to get friendly with, and watch the president's speech with them on multiple screens.

First Republican-looking people we spotted were an older couple, real dressed up. Starr Ann and I drifted over by where they were comparing smartphones and glancing over their shoulders at the televisions every now and then. The lady, Connie, was saying that Jeff would probably like the one with the bigger display. Her husband, Les, took it out of her hands and inspected it a minute before saying, "Yes, this one looks like him. How long do you think it'll take for it to get there?"

We figured Jeff was probably some spoiled frat boy who was about to get a new toy from mommy and daddy.

Starr Ann said something, loud enough for Les and Connie to hear, about wishing it would hurry up and be time for our president to speak. The reaction that got from Les and Connie cinched it in our minds. They were Republicans, all right. Both of them turned toward us with looks on their faces like it was almost Christmas and Bush was a cross between Santa Claus and their favorite rock star.

Our strategy was to have them convinced we were big Bush fans and then, as the speech progressed, voice our slow realization that 30,000 new troops minus 5,000 troops does not add up to a troop reduction. We thought it'd be fun to see how they handled that.

So we were all buddy-buddy with Connie and Les by the time the show started. Not more than five or seven minutes into it, Starr Ann and I were about to begin our ciphering of the situation, because already it was very clear Bush was not going to split with his general and surprise the nation with a genuine pull-back.

As Starr Ann was about to say her part, we both turned to Connie and Les. They'd stopped looking up at the forty or so screens with Bush heads talking on them and were staring at each other with tears in their eyes. Connie started shaking all over and went limp. Les dropped their son's new smartphone as he reached out to brace his wife, and I was lucky enough to catch the phone before it hit the floor.

Starr Ann and I felt like the couple of jerks that we are. Those people were at Circuit City buying that phone because they'd just gotten home from work and found the latest letter from Jeff, who turns out to be anything but a spoiled frat boy. He's an Army corporal from a family that got caught in the subprime mess and lost their home a year back. He joined up, without telling anybody beforehand, to help his mom and dad get out of financial trouble. In the new letter, he made passing mention of his friend's new phone. Connie and Les couldn't wait, even long enough to eat supper or change clothes, to go out and get one for him.

They're real nice people, but not very realistic. They had themselves all worked up and believing this fantasy where Bush was going to come out and surprise the hell out of everybody with his speech. They're so desperate to get their son back in one piece, they'd actually talked themselves into believing the president was going to do the right thing and announce huge changes in the way he's handling the war. Of course, that did not happen.

Starr Ann and I took Connie and Les to dinner after watching the rebuttal. Poor Starr Ann. She knocked herself out, being as charming and funny as she could, trying to pick up Les and Connie's spirits. There's only one thing that'll do that, though.

It was a nice night out, and Starr Ann and I dropped the reins so the horses could find the path for themselves in the dark. We held hands all the way home, and barely said a word.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


My best friend Starr Ann doesn't merely enter a room, she arrives on the scene.

So there I was, sitting beside the hearth thinking about what I had done with Jodie earlier, when the front door flew open and Starr Ann burst through, smiling big. She took one look at me and stole a quick glance at the clock on the mantel. "What are you doing sitting down? It's three o'clock in the afternoon."

I couldn't find my words right away, and that made her smile go away. I said, "Starr Ann, there's something I need to tell you."

That really scared her. "Lightning! Was his foot worse than we thought?"

"No, Lightning's fine. Just the bruise." I stood up and took a step toward her. Then it all came out in one piece. "Starr Ann, Jodie was here this afternoon and we were in the barn, and she was all fresh and wearing that deep red shirt, and she made me laugh so hard a few times I thought my side would never straighten out, and when I had to squeeze past her in the stall doorway something came over both of us, and I swear to you it wasn't even like she was your girlfriend, she was only Jodie and we were pressed up against each other, and Starr Ann I am so sorry, but it just happened, that's all."

Starr Ann stood there still as a fence post for an eternity. Then her eyes filled up with tears that kept right on going and ran down her cheeks. She said, almost reverently, "This is really it, Margo."

My throat was so dry I could barely beg her forgiveness. But I did.

Starr Ann seemed real far off the whole time I was saying I'd do anything to make it up. Anything she said. Then all of a sudden, what I was saying filtered through her daze and she shook her head, kind of laughing when she did, which scared me even more.

She said, "Stop, it, goof. I'm crying because I'm happy." Then her voice changed, went down a bit, and she sounded like she was amazed at her own words. "A couple of weeks ago, Jodie told me she had never committed anything of herself to any woman. Then she gave me that sly smile of hers. You know which one I mean?"


"And she said that if we, her and me, were ever to get it in our heads to take up with each other for good, there were two things she'd like to get clear on first." Starr Ann truly snapped out of it right then. "Jodie told me she'd want to make sure there was no lingering curiosity between you and her about each other." Now she really smiled the huge Starr Ann smile. "Don't you get it? This means Jodie Diamond loves me. I'm sure of it."

My knees went so weak, it took me a minute to get the gumption to light into Starr Ann about how she could have given me a little warning for goddess' sake. "And another thing, Starr Ann, who were you two to decide I was even curious about Jodie?"

She shrugged. "You've only asked me about a hundred times if you could sleep with her."

"And you always say no!"

"And you always say you'll take that as a maybe!"

Well, this was a far cry from the argument I'd envisioned we'd be having. When the relief hit me full force, the giddiness sent me into a laughing fit. Starr Ann had one, too, but I'm pretty sure hers was over this new evidence that Jodie was in love with her. We were leaning on each other to stay upright as we staggered to the kitchen, and then stood in front of the open refrigerator scanning for food.

What we found was cold mashed potatoes and a little bit of extra hot salsa. Best meal I ever ate.

I should've known Starr Ann would have a unique take on the situation. She's always talking about how lucky we are, as lesbians, to be living on a frontier, if you think about it. If you're the adventurous type, it's easy to view being legally left out as being outside the law. We get to make our own exciting way through relationships because there's no container sitting there waiting to, well, contain us.

At one point as we sat at our kitchen table consuming that wonderful meal, Starr Ann quoted an aphorism she likes, one that sums up her take on marriage. It's a single line found in Kafka's diary that goes:

A cage went looking for a bird.

Hearing her say that again, I realized I was silly to think for a single minute Starr Ann would hate me for something that came so natural and didn't take one speck away from what's between her and Jodie.

Finally, I remembered to ask about the second thing Jodie wanted to get clear before they made their promises to each other.

Starr Ann wiggled her eyebrows. "She wants you and me to make sure there's no lingering curiosity about each other."

Salsa out the nose, especially when it's thickened up and slowed down with mashed potatoes, hurts real bad.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Comin' Through

Jodie Diamond is either brilliant or crazy. It might take me a while to figure out which.

You already know about how Jodie and my best friend Starr Ann have spent the past month making bonobos look like a bunch of uptight Baptists. Well, yesterday afternoon, Jodie upped the ante in a way that leaves me sitting here waiting for Starr Ann to come home and wondering what in the world I'm going to say to her when she does.

I was cleaning the barn as Jodie rode up on her pretty chestnut mare Amelia. Starr Ann had left early to check the water supply in her bunkers and it was the time of day when Jodie is usually working on her book. So I was a little surprised to see her fine looking self.

After turning Amelia out in the pasture with Trickster, Jodie said, "Let me help you finish your chores, then how about some lunch?"

I had to say no to both. "You're too cleaned up to muck stalls, but you can keep me company while I finish. And, sorry, but Doc Blaine is due in an hour to take a look at Lightning's hoof."

Jodie considered her red shirt, good jeans and best boots then took a quick glance at the clock up over the tack room. She nodded her head once and smiled. "Fine."

Jodie sure can weave together a charming conversation. I was sailing through those stalls, barely noticing the work, laughing at Jodie's very dry humor and treating myself to long spells of contact with her happy, pretty eyes. She made some remark I didn't quite catch, and when I asked her to repeat, she hopped down from her perch on the shedrow rail and crossed over to stand in the stall doorway.

It all happened real fast. I needed the rake I'd left standing outside the other stall, and as I maneuvered past Jodie in the doorway, she shifted just enough to block my way. I laughed, but Jodie didn't.

What I'm going to have to admit to Starr Ann is that I didn't think one second about her being so wild about Jodie. All of a sudden, Jodie was pressing me against the door frame and that irresistible chemical change took us both over and stopping was not an option. Fully clothed, jean seam to jean seam sex isn't all that romantic, but it can sure be intense.

I'm not proud of the fact that Starr Ann didn't even enter my mind until it was all over. And I assumed Jodie had been caught as much off guard as I had. Not so.

We still had our arms around each other and she spoke first. "Margo, I can explain why I came over here for this today."

Right that second, here comes Doc Blaine's truck roaring up just outside the barn door. Jodie stayed long enough to get introduced to the Doc and say she'd be giving her a call pretty soon to arrange for Amelia's fall shots. We didn't have another moment alone before Jodie saddled up and rode off toward her place.

Starr Ann should be home any minute now.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Mark Bingham

Starr Ann, Jodie, and I believe in the power of great role models. We do.

Today, we respectfully remind you of an exemplary human being who happened to have been one of our own.

If you're not familiar with Mark Bingham's story, go spend a few moments here. The letter by Mark's mother, in which she reaches out to Muslims and appeals for understanding, is particularly nice reading, as well as vivid insight into where this man got his personal strength and integrity.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Bit Of Inspiration

I love Starr Ann.

That's not her in the picture. I just like looking at that and, hey, there are no grownups around to tell me I can't.

Anyway, I love Starr Ann. You might think it'd be difficult being best friends with the most exasperating woman on the planet. It certainly is! But it's also thrilling, inspiring, wacky, and sometimes dangerous. Bottom line: If I had to notch down my life and spend it among so-called sensible folks, I'd surely die of mental and emotional starvation.

All that is enough to make me thank the goddess for putting Starr Ann in my life. But there's more. Starr Ann is my hero.

I can't tell you how many times I've stepped back and looked at that girl in amazement. Amazement at some incredibly brave, unthinking, heroic act of hers.

Here's an example:

One afternoon in the record-setting winter of 1994, Starr Ann and I spotted a lost German Shepherd dog wandering laplegged along a snow-covered road. Temperatures were in the low single digits. We followed that dog for over an hour, and each time we got close, she darted away, more scared of us than the cold or of being lost.
Her evasion becomes a pretty amazing feat when you realize what we found out later - this dog was completely blind.
Well, she finally made a mistake that nearly killed her and Starr Ann. Her random turns and bearings eventually led to two ponds. One was frozen hard all the way across. The other was spring-fed at one end, where the water's movement kept it slushy on top, but not frozen.
The dog hit the first pond and started falling and flopping all over the ice. Starr Ann ran to one side of the pond and I took the other. We just knew we had her cornered at last. When she came off of that ice, we'd grab her for sure.
Well, somehow, she got herself some footing and darted up over the bank well away from both our positions.
Next thing she did was pop up over the little hill that led to the pond with the soft spot in it. Starr Ann was closer to that hill than I was and as she disappeared over its crest, I had the clearest picture in my mind of finding Starr Ann in the water, in those frigid temperatures, along with the dog.
I ran for all I was worth, screaming and pleading with Starr Ann not to go out on that ice.
But my vision had been accurate. The dog had found the slush and fallen through. By the time I got to the bank nearest them, Starr Ann was in there, too, holding onto that dog like both their lives depended on it and flailing wildly at the slush.
Lucky for us all a woman and her daughter had seen us from their kitchen window about 200 yards from their ponds.
They got there at the same time I did and we quickly fished Starr Ann and the dog from the water. Starr Ann was in the first stages of shock and we had to pry her hands free from the dog's collar. We had to drag the two of them the whole 200 yards to the house, with Starr Ann struggling to look back and make sure we still had the dog the whole way.
By the time we reached that warm kitchen, Starr Ann's jeans were frozen stiff and we had to cut them off her. The lady helped me with Starr Ann while the daughter rubbed the dog's fur and wrapped her in towels.
Later, Starr Ann told of how she could feel heat radiating off the house from thirty feet away. That's a pretty good distance, but she said it felt like a furnace blast, the contrast was so great. Guess that tells you just how cold Starr Ann's surface was by that time.
The dog, we named her Roselyn, came out okay, too. We found her owners, but when they told us they were about to put her down because of the blindness, we didn't send her home. Ros gave us eleven great years after that incident. She didn't give much of a damn about the blindness. Said as long as her smeller didn't fail her, life was way worth living.

There are some strong spirits walking this earth. And I'm proud to know a few of them. A bit of inspiration now and then is good for the soul.

And for those who do not draw inspiration from such tales, which is true, by the way, there's always that neato photo up there.

Sunday, September 9, 2007


My best friend Starr Ann (hi, Starr Ann) is almost never sick. Healthiest woman you ever saw. But some allergen or pollen or mold or something hits the air every year about this time that really does a number on her. Last night her eyes got itchy and her throat was killing her. Starr Ann got so stuffy, we had to saddle up and ride all the way to the drugstore in town for some antihistamine this morning.

Just our luck! We rode up in time to land smack dab in the middle of about a thousand SUVs descending on the drugstore parking lot. Well, it seemed like a thousand. The megachurch down the street was just letting out and all those religious people were stopping to shop at Walgreen's on their way home.

We had to tie the horses way off in the lower lot under the lone tree the developers forgot to kill when they built the strip mall. This adorable little boy saw us and ran over to ask if he could pet the horses. He was very sweet and gentle with them, and when his mother called him back (the name she yelled was Anthony) he remembered his manners and thanked us quite formally.

Starr Ann grabbed a carry basket on our way inside, saying there were a few other things we could use, and since we'd rode all this way we might as well make the most of the trip.

Personally, I thought we passed a few too many Palin stickers on our way in and should make it snappy. But no, Starr Ann just had to circulate and eavesdrop on all the phony, church-afterglow conversations. We hovered around this one group of six adults who were shaking their heads and tut-tutting over how violent those people in Iraq are. One man said that's what you get when you've got a whole bunch of godless religions ripping each other to shreds and refusing to get along. Starr Ann caught my eye and mouthed, "godless religions."

When we finally reached the checkout line, there were eight people in front of us - and the poor teenager at the register wasn't very fast, so it looked like we'd be standing there for a while. I was trying to think of a way to make the waiting more interesting when Starr Ann beat me to it.

All of a sudden, she thrust the basket into my hands and said real loud, "If you aren't even sure who the father is, I don't see why Raymond is paying for your procedure." Then she walked out the door.

Dang. Talk about wiping the after-church compassionate smiles off a bunch of faces!

Since everybody was staring at me, I thought I should say something. So I laughed kinda lightly and said, "How about those Wildcats?"

There was absolute silence as the checker finished up with the customers in front of me. Then, right before it was my turn to pay, I felt a tug on my shirttail. It was Anthony. He obviously hadn't been around for Starr Ann's festivities. I looked down into his gorgeous pastel face - blue eyes, yellow hair, pink lips - and he smiled real wide before saying, "Thank you again, ma'am, for letting me pet your horse."

I was about to tell him he was quite welcome when a hand yanked him away from me, and as soon as his mother got him to the back of the line with the rest of the family, she smacked him, hard, across the face.

My whole body went hot and stingy. Giving in to the natural urge to say something, anything, to take up for that poor baby would only have brought more trouble for him. So I quietly emptied my stuff onto the counter and got my money out.

Throughout the entire transaction, I was so numb I couldn't even appreciate the little surprise Starr Ann had planted at the bottom of the basket. When the checker scanned the condoms and KY jelly I didn't stop him or try to explain those were nothing I'd be needing. Ever. Just paid up and left the store.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Animal Behavior

My best friend Starr Ann (hi, Starr Ann) read a book yesterday. It's title is Dear Violet - letter from a desert grave. It had an effect.

Starr Ann has decreed that today she, Jodie and I will stay clear of computers in favor of breathing the air outside, running our hands across horseflesh, getting all sweaty tidying the barn, and taking a long walk down to the pond. I'm sure Starr Ann and Jodie will be sneaking off at some point to roll around like hussies, too. I expect nothing less of them and their newfound lust. Don't know if they're calling it love yet.

We're going to top off the day with watching the US Open Women's Singles finals (tennis) later on tonight. We're all three for Justine.

So, I've been given exactly ten minutes to shut down this machine.

Put on your play clothes and have a beautiful Saturday. See you tomorrow.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Club Topsy-Turvey

Jodie Diamond has the best toys!

Last night she brought over this addictive new computer game she found. Of course, she couldn't just tell us outright what she had in that bright purple box. No, she had to put it on the matelpiece, pat it once, and then proceed to skirt around the subject of cruising, bars, one-night stands, and awkward breakfasts for two. I swear, if that woman isn't about as bad as Starr Ann when it comes to being aggravating.

But I have not studied at the Starr Ann Institute of Exacerbation all my life for nothing. When it started looking like Jodie was going to keep us in suspense about that box all the way through dinner, I marched out to the kitchen, picked up the phone, and cancelled our pizza. That got Professor Diamond's attention.

Jodie shot me a look that said she owes me one and sauntered to the mantel.

When the disc loaded, these lavender letters came tumbling across the screen and when they settled down, they spelled out Club Topsy-Turvy over a graphic of the outer door to a glamorous nightclub.

Jodie clicked the Enter button and we were whisked inside this giant leather bar just packed with women.

First thing we each had to do was create a profile. Starr Ann and I peeped over Jodie's shoulder to see what she chose.

Starr Ann said, "You're saying you're a bottom? What the hell?"

Jodie laughed and said, "Believe me, it's better to start out this way, until you get used to how the game works. First one I did was a top, and those sim dykes just about got me thrown out of the place. Bitches also managed to get in the way every time I spotted a woman to flirt with. Just biding my time until I learn the ropes a little."

I did mine next and decided to follow Jodie's advice on the top/bottom thing. I went in as a bottom, named Tiffany, who drinks sloe gin fizzes. That seemed sufficiently bottomy to me.

Of course, Starr Ann had to be Mustang Queen, a top who drinks ouzo shots with beer chasers, no glass for the beer, just leave the bottle, please.

So we go into the main room and wander over to the bar. Right away, Jodie, I mean Creamy Girl, gets a message that someone wants to buy her a drink. She checks the profile real quick and smiles. "Met this fine figure of a woman last night. You girls have fun, I'm going to accept this drink request and see what develops."

Starr Ann and I drifted over to the pool tables and a tall blonde all in black shiny leather kept standing next to me after she took her shots. She was a flashy pool player by the name of Angel Stick. I lost track of Starr Ann after that.

Later on, we put things on hold to eat. Jodie and I were all hyped up over our virtual exploits, and were talking a mile a minute. We both noticed at the same time that Starr Ann wasn't saying much. She wasn't eating like usual, either.

Since Starr Ann wouldn't tell us what happened, Jodie got the laptop out and brought up Mustang Queen's history. Her eyes got bigger and bigger the more she read. One time, she reached over and touched Starr Ann's hand, saying, "My poor baby." Then, she saw something that made her lose it altogether. When Jodie stopped laughing, she said, "Starr Ann, honey, what ever possessed you to choose Yes on the blindfold question?"

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Spin Is Everywhere

Seems I can't stop thinking of horses this week. One more post about horseracing and I think I'll be fine.

Starr Ann and I weren't satisfied with hotwalking and grooming for long. We really got the itch to gallop horses. Just about everybody does. So one summer we took jobs at a small training center, where the foreman promised us he'd throw us up on some horses in exchange for taking slightly less in pay. Sounded like a great deal to us.

We worked for several weeks, and hadn't been on one single horse yet. We watched the exercise riders and memorized every move they made. We got them to show us how to cross reins, how to set stirrups, how to distribute our weight in the saddle.

Finally, out of the blue one morning the foreman, Bruce, told me I'd be galloping Compact Lady. I'll never forget her name. I had to borrow a helmet from my friend Luis. It was too big for me and kind of clunked around on my head, but my adrenaline was firing like crazy and I barely noticed the discomfort.

Bruce said to gallop her around once, and watch out for her little trick. She enjoyed trying to flick off her rider by snapping a quick sidestep when you least expected. That first day, Compact Lady was a perfect lady indeed. Piece of cake. Same with the second day.

On the third day, Bruce said to take her around twice. I was really starting to enjoy my two thrilling minutes each morning and doubling the pleasure was a welcome idea. Only thing was, my legs weren't quite fit for galloping yet and by that third day, they were mighty sore. The first time around the track was okay, but about a quarter of the way around that second time, my legs were done for. Well, horses know when they have the advantage. One minute Compact Lady and I were sailing along in harmony, and then she did her whiplash trick. Don't ask me how, but I ended up on my belly, stretched out over her rear end, gripping the back of that tiny saddle. And the filly was picking up speed.

Did I mention that this rinky dink training track didn't have a rail? Nope. They had laid a dirt oval around a bean field. At the end of summer, that field had been harvested and it was full of spiky stalk stubble. In the fraction of a second I was still holding onto that saddle, I realized I had to let go before Compact Lady decided to cut across those stalks. The dirt would make for a much nicer landing.

I let go and fell flat on my stomach and chest, knocking all my wind out. The second I hit I knew I wasn't hurt, but I couldn't pull enough air to get up. What I didn't think about was that helmet. Being too big for me, it had twisted on my head at a real awkward angle.

Well, Starr Ann had been watching from up in a tiny wooden observation tower beside the track. She saw me fall and just lay there with my head looking like my neck had to be broken, broken bad. They said she knocked two other grooms out of her way getting down the stairs. She ran across the track and when she got to me, she grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me like a ragdoll. If my neck had been broken, Starr Ann would have finished me off for sure. That was one of only two times in my whole life I've ever seen Starr Ann hysterical.

Here's the other time.

We don't have a television, so some friends invited us over to watch Barbaro's Preakness. Starr Ann was in the kitchen during part of the post parade. They had the camera on Barbaro a lot and I noticed that the jockey had looked back at the horse's right hind a couple of times. I called Starr Ann to come look. Sure enough, the next time they put number 6 in the lens, there was the jockey, looking back again. Only this time, he had raised out of the saddle and leaned out, where he could get a good look at the lower right hind.

Now, a world class jockey like that is an extension of the horse's body. Every detail of the track's condition, how the horse is putting its feet down, any minute sign of being "off" transmits directly up to the jockey's brain.

Starr Ann and I warned everybody else at the party that the big horse of the day might end up not running. We were that convinced, that early, that Barbaro's jockey was detecting a problem.

It was a good thing I called Starr Ann when I did, because somebody at the network must have seen what we were seeing and the camera stayed well away from the favorite after that.

Then as they loaded the gate, we all know Barbaro came crashing out alone, ahead of time. First thing you have to guess drives a classy horse like that to make a move so green is pain. Starr Ann and I had no doubt the stewards would scratch at that point.

Turned out scratching was never on the table, though.

In the space of about ten minutes, a lot of people failed that horse. What a spot for a jockey to find himself in. Derby winner, heavy favorite, huge stakes. You can see him picturing the end of his career if he made the call to scratch and ended up looking like a fool. Same for the vet that okayed him back into the gate. Same for everybody. The moment was so overblown and surreal.

And surreal is the only way to describe how Starr Ann and I felt when we realized they were still going to send him.

As everybody knows, they reloaded him and his race lasted about two seconds.

That was the second time in my life I've seen Starr Ann hysterical. But I only saw her like that for a second, as I ran from the room. To this day, I haven't seen the footage of the breakdown and I hope I never do.

The spin began almost immediately. The network had enough real horse people on hand to know what really transpired out there. But they cannonized the jockey on the spot and skillfully reshaped the whole thing into the huge spectacle it became in the months to follow. Spin is everywhere. Our society expects it.

Today, neither Starr Ann nor I see this affair in the blacks and whites that we did those first few days. Another Ruffian-effect would have caused a lot of horses a lot of suffering. In the end, the truly honorable efforts of the owners and trainer have been beneficial. They've had a positive effect on horse slaughter legislation and raised big money for laminitis research. Those are good outcomes.

But the failures of the moment were a shame.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Feel Like Flying

That charming woman in the photo is Harriet Quimby. In a minute, I'll get around to why I'm all of a sudden interested in women aviators.

Starr Ann and Jodie are in heat again. Lucky disgusting things. In about two days I expect they'll crawl out of Jodie's room and come over here looking for food. Of course, the requisite chocolate cake and Mexican beer will be on hand.

Yesterday afternoon, soon as Starr Ann left for Jodie's, I hightailed it over to the small general aviation airport not far from here. Starr Ann's birthday is at the end of October, and I had an inspired gift idea - an airplane ride for her, Jodie, and me. It's perfect!

But here's the thing. When I got there, the airport's office was empty. Nobody home. I was just about ready to venture out to the hangar and see if I could find a mechanic or somebody, when this little blue airplane, robin's egg blue, comes rolling up, right on the grass, and shuts down outside. Real cute plane.

A couple of seconds after the propeller calmed down, out steps what I have to say is the most gorgeous woman I have ever seen up close. You could have told me I was watching an old Natalie Wood movie and I'd have believed you. I had a few seconds to admire her as she leaned against that robin's egg background, which did nothing to hurt the effect of her dark brown eyes and shiny brown hair, to write something in her notebook. I really hoped she'd walk through the office on her way to wherever she was going next.

She did! When she saw me there at the empty counter, she tossed her pad onto a shelf and asked what she could do for me.

That was a cue if I ever heard one, but my mojo was totally not working. This never happens, but I was entirely cut off from my supply of catchy lines. Nothing. Went through the whole transaction of arranging Starr Ann's flight without one suggestive remark, one significant look. I was visited by an attack of clumsiness, though. Dropped the pen she gave me, twice. And I know she saw my hand hover over the space for writing my address. I was blank. Where the FUCK do I live? Then, a miracle occurred, and I remembered.

Did I get her name? No. Check for a ring? No. Make one single memorable impression? Yes. She surely saw me as a chronic mumbler with the motor skills of a two-year-old.

All the way home I kept telling Trickster it was no big deal. Probably never see her again. She's more than likely straight. No big deal. I'm cool.

So, I switched my thoughts over to the purpose of going to the airport in the first place. Starr Ann has talked for ages about flying in a small plane, and I know she's going to love sharing that with Jodie and me.

The other great part about this present, the genius factor, is that Starr Ann has zero chance of finding it before the big day. That girl tears this place apart every time I have a present hidden and she usually finds it. Not this time!

Guess I'll go clean stalls, mow the pasture, maybe clean out the barn and vacuum the floors here in the house. Who am I kidding? I'm going to sit here in this stupor, dying to spend a couple of days with that airport girl working up the need for chocolate cake and Mexican beer.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

On One Hand, On Another Hand

Starr Ann and I figured that growing up in the orphanage was about like growing up anywhere else - it had both good points and bad. The nuns were awful good to us, especially Sister Blissmarie. We always wondered if we didn't have a whole lot more in common with Sister Bliss than any of us ever talked about.
Anyway, Starr Ann and I were still pretty young and feeling wilder by the day when we realized there were two choices in front of us. We could stay at the orphanage and eventually disappoint the nuns real bad, or we could strike out on our own and see what there was to see. We were sixteen when we ran away, with $50 to our names and no idea where we were going.

By some miracle, and we still don't know what led us there, we wandered onto a racetrack and got hotwalking jobs within the week. Never spent one day hungry or without a place to stay. Believe me, we know how lucky that was. And to this day, we are conflicted about the whole business of horseracing.

Have you ever used a magnifying glass to focus the sun's energy and start a little fire? Entering the racetrack backside is like stepping onto the hot side of that lens. Seems like all the loveliness, cruelty, kindness and meanness from out in the world gets concentrated there.

The horses, of course, from cheap claimers to graded stakes winners, are the most beautiful part by far. The sheer visual luxury of being surrounded by all those fit, gleaming creatures alters your brainwaves, keeps them close to alpha most of the time. And the excitement of the races is addictive.

But like everywhere else, there's a definite flipside. For one thing, the whole setup is unnatural. Horses are not meant to live in a ten by ten pen. They are not meant to be separated, prevented from nudging up against each other, dropping their heads to graze, taking off for a gallop just because it feels good.

That's what's so confusing to anyone who loves horses and is drawn to horseracing at the same time.

Starr Ann and I have watched Ruffian's races so many times, we know them by heart, the way some people know their favorite songs. And she was put together like poetry, like the queen that she was. When she broke down so tragically and so publicly, the horseracing industry suffered mightily for an entire decade. As people stayed away the betting windows, the loss of revenue trickled downhill until it reached the horses, causing more suffering, poorer conditions. The public's genuine concern and disgust ended up hurting the horses most of all.

Starr Ann and I figure the whole thing comes down to reconciling the answers to two questions. How can you condone or support an endeavor that is often not in the best interests of so many horses? How can you not get chills when you watch a race like Rags to Riches' Belmont Stakes?

We're going to try again this evening to sort it all out and come up with a way to get comfortable with our love of racing and our acquaintance with its dark side. If we get anywhere with that, I'll let you know.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Happy Labor Day!

Neither Starr Ann nor I have any children that we know of, but we're always happy for an excuse to take a holiday.

So today, we're having a weanie roast! We talked about this first, and don't really think it's insensitive or too soon after the domestic unpleasantries in Russia a couple of weeks ago.

Veggie weanies, of course. How people can eat the processed pork product ones is quite beyond us. Those things are bound to be full of sodium, trans fats, Condi Rice droppings, and everything else.

Anyway, enjoy the holiday. We intend to.

Gotta run. Starr Ann is fascinated with fire and she really shouldn't be left unsupervised around the grill.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

A Dream And Something Else

Starr Ann and I took a thermos of coffee to the woods early this morning, so we could wake up with the animals and trees.

Poor Starr Ann had some bad cramps going and when we passed by a big boulder covered with sunlight, she couldn't resist stretching out across it to let it heat her achy abdomen. That felt so good, she urged me to go on down to the pond alone while she soaked up the warmth. I took one cup of the coffee with me and left the rest there for her.

When I came back, Starr Ann was sitting on the ground facing that boulder, sipping her coffee, looking wide-eyed and sleepy at the same time. She told me that two extraordinary things had happened while I was at the pond playing with the frogs. First, that big rock had spoken to her. Then she had fallen asleep and had a marvelous dream.

I said, "You mean you had two dreams?"

"Not at all. I was awake for the rock part. Swear."

Then she asked to borrow my notebook, so she could get it all down, because she was pretty sure the details were fading. Here's what she wrote:

Dispatch from a stone---
Notice me. I experience. I feel changes in temperature and moisture as acutely as mammals might experience sight and sound. Creatures of all sorts pass me here on their way to the water. Now water, that's something I understand well. Water and me go way back. An incredible volume of passing water gave smoothness to my beautiful roundness. In exchange, I gave water a direction for flowing, and that formed this very trail near which I sit.
You mammals are mobile to an unfathomable degree. I try to imagine moving, not just the sensible millimeters per year, but feet per minute! I cannot identify with such a scale, let alone the dizzying 'miles per hour' that my deep knowing tells me you are capable of. I wonder if you are capable of any form of focus or wisdom at those paces. Can beings so erratically busy possess a soul?
My life is ideal. In morning, I stay cool while the sun rises behind tall trees that grow to my east. As the sun marches over me and around to my west, I begin to warm. Then there is a cool-down when the sun leaves again for the night. On rainy and snowy days, water and I have a nice reunion. After a big rain, the path beside me washes out and the sound and feel of it takes me back to when water was working on me constantly.
My existence is by no means static. Wind, rain, bacteria, animals and the freezing and thawing of my outer self keep me changing. But there is time to be. And that, after all, is all that can be asked. I am, fully, a rock.

Extinction dream---
There was a woman. She put her hand at the small of my back and all the pain slid away. Then she took my hand and walked me through the woods, off the path, but stepping through the undergrowth was easy as could be. We came to a spot where something had spent the night and mashed down the ground cover. The woman spoke very deliberately then. Here's what she said.

Your environmentalist concerns over saving the planet presuppose that humans have the power to kill it. This is consistent with the anthropocentric viewpoint, but inaccurate. Even your perceived political, military superpowers absolutely lack the ability to annihilate the transcendent microcosmic suprapower. You are free to dump all your chemicals, explode every one of your bombs, fowl the air, and let slip the soils. But bacteria will scarcely notice. On the morning after apocalypse (and there will be a morning after because you are powerless to alter the celestial orbits or rotations) bacteria will be up bright and early to commence the next blossoming of biodiversity, maybe more careful next time to reroute its evolutionary path to avoid additional experimentation with impractical rational organisms.

The woman asked me if I understood and I said yes. Then she asked me if the knowledge made me feel better and I said yes to that too.

When Starr Ann finished writing, she handed the notebook to me. All I could do was stare at her after reading it.

Starr Ann stood up, brushed the dirt crumbs off her butt, and laughed. She said, "I believe that's about the best cup of coffee I ever tasted. Were the frogs funny? Did they make you laugh?"

I put my hands on my hips and asked, "You're kidding, right? When have the frogs ever failed to crack me up?"