Friday, October 10, 2008


Yesterday, my best friend Starr Ann (hi, Starr Ann) spotted a little ray of profitability in there among all the dark economic news. We were dangling our feet over the edge of the creek bridge, watching minnows and listening to the water, when Starr Ann jumped up and said she had an idea. Cut-to-the-chase genius that she is, Starr Ann had all of a sudden realized that a certain type of photograph is in real hot demand these days. That's right. Media outlets are ravenous right now for shots of stock brokers in full drama queen mode.

Starr Ann practically dragged me back to the house, where she dug out her art supplies and made up a bunch of realistic backdrops like this one:

And this one:

Then Starr Ann had me help her load the backdrops and all of her photography gear in the pickup and drive to a vacant parking lot downtown, where we put out a sign that said: Male Models Wanted - Must Have Suit (Or At Least Wear A Tie)

Starr Ann gave each model the same instructions. She told them to imagine they were money hungry banker types who cared more about money than just about anything, and then to pretend they'd just lost a whole bunch of it.

This guy caught on right away

Starr Ann couldn't keep these two focused on anything but each other

Ronald (below) kept posing like this and screaming "Elaine!" at the top of his lungs

I thought this backdrop was awesome, but Starr Ann's such a perfectionist, she said it needs work

Angela wanted to give it a try, but 'greedy trader' just isn't in her repertoire

It's not in Evan's either

Nor in Chad Anthony's, but he was able to flame his way through it

Anyway, we had a real fun afternoon and made a lot of new friends, not to mention the fact that we have quite a few nice shots Starr Ann thinks she can sell at outrageous prices to the big online news sites. We feel like they look pretty authentic, but we're previewing them here to see if anybody spots anything fake or amateurish about them, which we don't think you will, but still.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Take a Break

Treat yourself to a few minutes of plain old silly laughter.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

This Dog Helped Me Lie To A Polygraph

Yep, I give you my solemn cowgirl swear that I once got away with lying on a lie detector test.

A while back, I got it into my head that I wanted to be a firefighter. Well, because of the danger involved, Starr Ann wasn't exactly crazy about the idea, but that didn't stop her from getting up every morning to go on training runs with me.

Anyway, passing the written test was easy breezy, but since no woman had ever made it through the physical test before, the city got funding that year for the top 20 qualifying women to go through six months of fitness training up to the test. Somehow, I got real lucky and made it into the program. It was called Project Agile.

Poor Starr Ann. Once that happened, she was awful scared, but she didn't slack off. I'll never forget how that girl ran her heart out for me.

One time, when the runs were getting pretty long, Megan, the fitness trainer who ran Project Agile, told us about this visualization that helps you go on automatic pilot when your body tries to tell you it can't push on any farther. You're supposed to imagine that the trail or sidewalk or whatever surface you're running on is an incredibly long treadmill. Then you think of someone strong, the person you trust most in the world, and picture that person standing back at the beginning of the treadmill pulling it, hand over fist, doing all the work for you, while you effortlessly run in place. You just let the person you trust take care of you.

Megan said the technique worked best if you decide ahead of time that the person you choose will always be the one to keep your imaginary treadmill moving and you never, ever tell another soul who it is. Megan said the visualization gains all kinds of power if you stick to those two points.

So, on the fine Saturday afternoon of the physical test, I passed the obstacle course and still had enough in the tank to run a mile and a half in ten minutes and fifty seconds. Starr Ann tried to be happy.

A couple days later, I got a packet in the mail with a bunch of instructions about what came next. One of the things was a polygraph test. No problem. Among the things they'd be trying to weed out with their polygraph test was homosexuals. Problem.

You never heard language like what came flying out of Starr Ann when she found out. She did one of her fake voices and called up a bunch of city offices, trying to find out why anybody cared about the sexual orientation of the person who came busting into a burning house with the intention of saving people, and it turned out they weren't worried about that part. Their difficulty came from the fact that everybody slept in such close quarters at the firehouse.

Once we figured out there was no way we could get the policy changed, we took a closer look at lie detectin'. Heh. Turns out those things don't have a LIE side and a TRUTH side with wherever the needle points that's what you're telling. It's more subtle than that. They hook you up to the monitor and then ask you a few totally bland questions. That part lets them establish your baseline. Then they start asking the real questions and your physical responses apparently give you away when you lie by going off your baseline in a certain way.

So Starr Ann and I figured if I concentrated on something powerfully emotional while I answered the baseline questions, then kept as much of my mind focused on that during the touchy questions as possible, I might be able to swamp the readout the technician used to decide if I was lying. It was worth a try.

That's where that handsome German Shepard comes into the story. For eleven and a half years, back in our racetrack days, it was always the three of us - Starr Ann, Zooey, and me.

We'd said goodbye to our Zoo Boy only five months earlier, and I could still see him as plain as anything, running to me in the snow, or at the beach, or from way down that path up there in that picture. Anyway, when they hooked me up to the polygraph machine, I all but shut out everything in the room except for the barest awareness of the questions I was answering, and lost myself in thoughts of Zooey.

I guess my line didn't stray far from the base because afterward, the guy looking at the graph was all business and looked real bored. Later on, when the rest of my paperwork came through, Starr Ann and I were pleased to note that the polygraph test had an unceremonious check beside it. Then we decided that once in the department, I'd have to agitate to get that stupid policy changed.

So, the reason all this came up is we've sort of gotten out of the habit of running over the last few months and went out for a little 3-mile jog in today's perfect weather. As we trotted back across a mile-wide bridge, I started feeling a little tired and turned to that visualization Megan taught us. Dang. It still works good as ever.

I guess nobody'd have much trouble guessing who it is I trust to pull me home when the going gets rough. And I'd never ask Starr Ann whose strong hands she puts herself in at those times, but sometimes I wonder.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Chop Wood, Carry Water

Last night's air had that sweet-bitter fall feel that makes you real lonesome for something and at the same time real snug. On the walk up from the barn at dusk, the hickory smoke from our fireplace caught my drifting thoughts and swirled them high up into the buttermilk sky still barely showing out toward the west. As I opened the back door, the edgy aroma of Starr Ann's chili on the stove lured me right back down to Earth.

After a deep breath in, I called toward the kitchen, "Holy Goddess, Starr Ann, could you have picked anything more perfect for supper on a night like this?"

There was no answer, and when I found the kitchen empty, I figured I should make sure the chili wasn't sticking and of course once the spoon was down there stirring, it automatically came out full and so there was nothing else for me to do but taste it. Dang, that girl cooks a mean pot of chili!

As the taste faded from my mouth, my mind worked back to where it had been going by default all day. I'd been wondering how the approaching economic straits were going to change life for Starr Ann and me.

Going by the news accounts and all the dire terms like depression, credit freeze, bankruptcy and crisis, you'd think there's not a whole lot to look forward to. I was sitting at the kitchen table, just about to organize all that fearful mental noise into an idea of what it would actually mean for us, when Starr Ann came in from the living room.

She had that one look on her face, the one where you'd swear she'd just had a good laugh with someone she loved, or just heard a heart stopping piece of music, or just seen a litter of puppies being born. But the thing is, with Starr Ann, that look can as easily happen when she takes time to look at a bug close up, or to admire Jodie's butt, or to pay real good attention to the joy of filling then emptying her lungs.

So, she had that look on her face and she was carrying a book. When she noticed me sitting there, she said, "Have you had a chance to think about all this economic failure?"

I told her I had.

"Well, what's your take on it?"

Heh. I'm too smart for that. See, the situation never gets so rough that Starr Ann gives up on being contrary. With Starr Ann, a question worded as broadly as that one is always a trap. If I'd have answered it from the 'terrorists in the White House knew where we were headed and didn't do a dang thing about it until they could go into conniptions and call it an emergency so they could pass another piece of legislation that mainly transfers more power and control away from the people and into the hands of the government' point of view, she'd surely have given me a blank stare and said she meant did I think we'd have to cut back on groceries. But if I'd have answered it from the 'I'm kinda worried we might have a hard time caring for the animals' point of view, she'd have given me the same blank stare and said she was talking more about the Bush administration's last-minute grab at the silverware before leaving office.

I played it safe and said, "From the broad or the narrow perspective?"

Starr Ann narrowed her eyes at me a second and said, "Narrow."

"How narrow?"

More eye narrowing. "Very narrow."

"Narrow like geographically, or narrow like on an individual level?"


At this point, the word 'narrow' was beginning to take on an unreal quality for me, so I quit looking at Starr Ann's un-wide eyes and broke away from the issue of breadth. "Physical or emotional?"


Dang. That was a sure sign Starr Ann was about to go Zen on me. I said, "Okay, Starr Ann, I don't buy into the whole panic thing. I mean, we might have to give up a lot of stuff, but we're both real strong and we can always find a way to feed the animals. If cash gets too short to pay the vet bills, we'll have to barter or figure out some other way, but we'll take care of our family no matter what." Then I started picturing us working real, real hard to keep our little life here together, and the more I pictured everything, it seemed less like hardship than simplification. I said, "You know what?"


"You and I showed up to take on whatever life deals us. All of a sudden I have this real strong feeling nothing as far from the heart and soul as money could ever truly hurt us."

Starr Ann smiled real big and opened the book she'd been carrying. She pointed to a quote: Before Enlightenment chop wood carry water, after Enlightenment chop wood carry water.

I knew she was gonna go Zen on me.

As I was thinking up an intelligent comment on that passage, I had a hard time keeping my eyes from wandering over toward the stove. Starr Ann saw that and laughed, then started setting the table. After supper, I was telling the hard core truth when I told Starr Ann that was just about the best bowl of chili I ever ate.

Anyway, when the Recession or Depression comes, I think at our house we're going to call it the Enlightenment.