The 3rd Annual Happy Voodoo Panda Toaster Awards
year brought to you by Gatorade Ice ... the official *Oh
My God I'm Going To Die Now [And I'm Taking YOU With Me]* Sports Drink
of The 2,002 in 2002 Project.
it's the changing
of the seasons.
morphing into autumn every year, especially the downshift from
September into October, always seems to bring out The Big Warm
Fuzzy in me.
me want to say *I love you* to the whole world, basically.
maybe it's the new
meds, which are now officially the not-so-new meds, but which have
contributed greatly towards my
frame of mind in recent months.
the other hand, maybe
it's signing onto the Internet every morning and finding another
batch of freshly-squeezed Spam in my e-mailbox, urging me to enlarge my
penis or spy on my husband or watch teenagers engage in coital activity
with farm animals. Maybe it's the moron who rode our bumper all the way
down 880 this morning, or the idiot woman who smokes in the bathroom at
work (and doesn't think we KNOW
that she smokes in the bathroom at work), or the telemarketer who calls
leaves the same fudking canned message on our answering machine,
every single day. ("Wow, I'm
surprised I haven't heard from you yet!")
it's all of the
impending-war talk ... or all of the sniper talk, or all of the sagging
economy talk, or all of the
unspeakable-horrors-lurking-just-around-the-corner talk ...
that life and happiness don't come with a guarantee.
the reason --
whether it's the season or the meds or the daily dose of crap and fear
and uncertainty waiting for us all when we wake up in the morning --
lately I've been in the mood to spread around a little positive karmic
energy. And what better way to spread some of that energy than by
handing out the Third Annual Happy Voodoo Panda Toaster Awards?
I'm a little
tardy with the awards this year. Like everything else in my life -- the
website, the job, e-mail, laundry, regular personal hygiene -- The
HVPTAs have had to take a back seat to our goal of riding 2,002 in
2002. But that's OK: the delay has given me more time to think about
who I want to acknowledge this year ... and why. The
I gave out the awards, two summers ago, I just sort of pulled some
random names out of thin air and called them "winners." Last
, it was mostly about thanking people for helping out with the
year, I wanted to
actually put some thought into the selection
criteria was simple:
if you've contributed some sort of
general cosmic grooviness to the world in general (and to the
household in particular) -- AND if you don't owe us a big bunch of
money, with no visible intention of paying it back in this lifetime --
then you were probably in the running for an award. In the interest of
conserving time and bandwidth, I've narrowed it down to the most
further delay ... the incredibly groovy, incredibly deserving
recipients of the 2002 Happy Voodoo Panda Toaster Awards:
brown-nosing/power-hungry/corporate-ladder-climbing Administrative Ass
worth her steno pad would be giving the workplace edition of this award
to her BOSS ... whether her boss deserved it or not. And there is no
question that JoAnne would totally deserve the award. She has
rekindled my faith in employer/employee relationships this past year.
She has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is Life
She trusted me to take care of the office last month while she went
away on vacation, even after I fudked it up so spectacularly the first
buys those little
fruit sponge things that nobody else likes, simply because she knows
*I* like them.
I'm not a
brown-nosing/power-hungry/corporate-ladder-climbing Administrative Ass.
I don't want a promotion. I don't even own
a steno pad. And the HVPT Awards are purely *my* invention, so I pretty
get to hand them out to anyone I want to.
The New Girl gets the award
this year for two reasons: one, I figure it's probably good *Office
Karma* to give her the award: after all, you never know who you might
end up trapped in an elevator with, someday (and who might be carrying
the very last bag of little fruit sponge things when that happens) ...
... and two: her mere
presence in The Dirt Company office every day is forcing
to be a kinder, gentler, more helpful, more tolerant human being.
I like it or
The E Street Band got me through the one-year anniversary of
911 in one piece, last month ... and they did it without
fanfare or hoopla or screechy, off-key R&B renditions of The
Star Spangled Banner. While my co-workers had a pizza party in the
conference room that afternoon, clustered around a portable TV watching
the local "remembrance ceremonies" ...
I sat alone in the
empty CAD cubicle (it was Media Deprivation Week, remember?) with a
pair of headphones strapped to my head, listening to my brand-new copy
of "The Rising" from start to finish.
of blackness and sorrow (a dream of life)
Sky of love, sky of tears (a dream of life)
Sky of glory and sadness (a dream of life)
Sky of mercy, sky of fear (a dream of life)
Sky of memory and shadow (a dream of life)
Your burnin' wind fills my arms tonight
Sky of longing and emptiness (a dream of life)
Sky of fullness, sky of blessed life
was as close to a
church service as I'm ever likely to get these days, especially now
that God and I have officially called it quits. And Mr.
and his band were the gospel choir, singing about love and loss and
hope and redemption.
me, it seemed like an
entirely fitting remembrance ceremony.
recognize us when
we call them now.
David and I call the little hole-in-the-wall pizza joint down the
street and order our usual: a jumbo Alameda Special with extra feta
cheese and sun-dried tomatoes. At first I tried to disguise my
voice, the first seven or eight or sixteen times I called,
I was embarrassed to be calling and ordering the exact same thing, week
after week. (Not to mention the fact that I was ordering a pizza the
size of an Indiana crop circle, and that it was obviously going to be
consumed by just two people.)
But after a while I
said "The hell with it" and admitted Yes,
hi, it's me Secra again. We'll have the usual.
it's sort of nice to
be known as a 'regular customer.' Our pizza is always boxed and ready
when we come to pick it up. The nice little counter guy actually smiled
at me last week, for the first time ever,
and he didn't charge me full price even though I forgot my $2 coupon
OK, is OK! You
bring next week, OK?") And the
pizza itself is the BEST DAMN
PIZZA I've ever had in my life
... especially after fifty miles on the Iron Horse Trail and a rousing
Saturday night game of Yahtzee.
eaten cold the next
day, after our Sunday morning ride.)
woman who has ever
shopped on the Internet -- especially
any woman who has shopped on the Internet for something stoopidly
difficult to find, like comfortable shoes or flattering
second-time-around wedding gowns or bike clothes that don't make a
lavishly proportioned forty-four year old woman look like a pot roast
stuffed into a Day-Glo tube sock -- will appreciate the value of a
website that not only makes you feel like a valued customer ...
but makes you feel
like a member of the family.
you, Susan and
This has been The Year
of the Memoir: at least, as far as my side of the headboard bookcase is
concerned. (Not to mention my Amazon.com Wish List, my Barnes &
Noble Preferred Customer Card and the Alameda Public Library System.)
For the past few months
I've been voraciously reading every memoir, autobiography and
first-person narrative I can get my hands on. I am especially drawn to
memoirs written by smart, gutsy, tragically-flawed but
self-aware women who have overcome enormous personal obstacles and
lived to tell the tale.
Let's just call it
Some of my favorites so
far have included Betsy Clark's "Nothing To Fall Back On: The Life
& Times of a Perpetual Optimist," Haven Kimmel's "A Girl Named
Zippy: Growing Up Small In Moreland, Indiana," Jo Ann Beard's "The Boys
of My Youth" and Adair Lara's "Hold Me Close, Let Me Go: A Mother, A
Daughter & An Adolescence Survived." Some of the authors I'm
reading were famous before their memoirs were published -- Betsy Clark,
for instance, was founding editor of New York Woman, and Adair Lara is
a well-known newspaper columnist right here in the Bay Area -- but
otherwise I've been mostly avoiding the big splashy celebrity autobio.
The kind of women I want to read about right now don't have Oscars on
their mantlepiece or lunch with Ray Romano in the CBS commissary every
There have been a couple
of exceptions to this rule, however: Bebe Buell's "Rebel Heart," which
I read earlier this year, and Marianne Faithfull's "Faithfull," which
I'm going to finish tonight before bed.
I fell into the Bebe
Buell book by accident: fresh from renting "Almost Famous," misled by
early reviews that compared Bebe Buell's memoir to Pamela des Barres'
riotously smart and spunky "I'm With The Band." I realized two pages
into "Rebel Heart," however, that not only is it nothing like "I'm With
The Band" ... but it's easily the most vapid, self-indulgent,
idiotically pointless book I've ever read in my life.
(Trust me. It makes
*FootNotes* look like the official *Altruists R Us* website.)
Marianne Faithfull, on
the other hand, is like The Anti-Bebe: her memoir is elegant,
intelligent, thought-provoking, honest ... gossipy without being smug
... confessional without being icky. She actually seems to have learned
something from her experiences (unlike Bebe Buell, who still seems to
be operating under the delusion that Prince is writing songs about
her). Plus her
descriptions of addiction and recovery are as vivid, as lyrical and as
haunting as anything I've ever read, anywhere. This is how she
describes that moment when she knew she was finished with drugs:
"Little did I know I was about to crash through the abyss and come out
on the other side. You fall and fall and fall and fall. It just keeps
getting worse, until you are in the lowest circle of hell and you know
you are still going down and there are other circles beneath that. But
eventually you fall through the lowest circle, and then you fall into
It's not only the kind
of stuff I want to read more of ... it's the kind of stuff I want to
invented toe clips.
I know what you're
You're thinking "Jesus
H. Christ on a pair of CyclePro ATB 100's, Secra! You spend ten months
yammering on and on about how much you hate your toe
... and now all of a sudden you're giving a Happy Voodoo Panda Toaster
Award to whoever invented them??"
And the answer to that is ... well ...
Toe clips were just one
of those things I had to learn to love, like Bruce Springsteen CDs,
or feta cheese and sundried tomatoes on a pizza, or Jackie Chan movies.
(Oh wait. I still
don't love Jackie Chan movies.) I had to figure out how toe
I had to learn how to use them properly. I had to fall down a few times
... if only to convince myself that falling off a bike isn't fatal.
(Painful, yes. Embarrassing, yes. But fatal? Probably not, unless you
fall down in front of a thundering herd of Power Rangers.)
But once I
got the hang of them -- once I realized that toe clips actually make
not harder -- that was all it took. I was sold.
In fact, when I kicked
the single remaining screw out of my left toe clip on the trail last
weekend, and David had to remove the entire clip from my pedal for the
duration of our ride, I felt positively bereft. My foot felt
and exposed. My ride was slower and less powerful. And I fell
off my bike -- twice -- because I'd forgotten how to come to a stop without
(Next year: a Happy
Voodoo Panda Toaster Award to whoever invented clipless
I know what you're
You're thinking, There
she goes again, giving an award to that big
overpaid/underqualified/overexposed network doofus, Matt Lauer.
And yes, it's true that Matt Lauer wins a Happy Voodoo Panda Toaster
Award every year, regardless of whether or not he's actually done
you've got to admit the guy has earned it.
Not only did he have the
nerve to shave off all of that lovely, lustrous dark hair of his and go
Totally Buzz Cut in front of the whole world, but he didn't try to
bullshidt us about it. None of this "My
stylist was drunk" or
"I lost a bet" or "It's
for a movie role" nonsense. He
did it, he says, because he's a balding, middle-aged guy who doesn't
want to look like a balding, middle-aged guy in denial of the fact that
he's a balding, middle-aged guy. There is something to be said for
growing older with grace and dignity.
(Now if you'll excuse
me, it's time to rinse out the Miss Clairol, start the glycolic acid
peel and schedule my next Botox appointment.)
Any good Internet
journaler worth her referrer logs needs four things:
1. A working computer.
It's nice if she also has a private office
with a door that locks, a decent thesaurus, a limitless supply of
Peet's Dark Roast and something more interesting to talk about than her
teeth or her menstrual cycle. But that might be nitpicking.)
2. A little piece of *cyber real estate* to call her own.
3. A fundamental understanding of the way words fit together.
4. An audience.
Over the years I've had
occasional difficulty with items #1-3 ... but right from the beginning
I've had marvelous luck with #4.
This year, two of my
very most favorite readers of all time, Jennifer and Karen, volunteered
to help me plug in some of the holes in the archives: specifically,
they volunteered to transcribe the
long-lost/late-lamented/much-ballyhooed Missing Journals. Granted, I'm
the one who lost them in the first place -- they were at the bottom of
a box of Christmas decorations I hadn't bother to unpack since I moved
to California four years ago -- and I'm probably the only one who has
ever 'lamented' or 'ballyhooed' them much at all. But still. Jennifer
and Karen did what I simply don't have the time/the opportunity/the
carpal tunnel strength to do, anymore: they took these old handwritten
journals of mine, spent weeks wading through page after page of
smeary chicken scratches and faded dot matrix print-outs and turned
the whole mess into nice tidy convenient HTML, ready for airlifting
into the archives.
they're both still speaking to me. I think.
If you're interested --
or if you're very, very bored -- you can find The Missing Journals here
(No. 25 is still out there, undergoing transcription: it
landing in the archives sometime soon.) A word of warning:
journals are not an especially happy read. As a matter of fact, they're
pretty darned depressing in places. Written between 1993 and 1995 --
the final journal ends just as I'm discovering the online world: it's
the last handwritten journal I would keep for several years -- this is
The Bad Time just before
The Very, Very, Oh-So-Very-Bad Time. My family
is falling apart at the seams. I hate my job, I hate my marriage, I
hate my life. I use the *F* word lots more than I've ever used it here
on *FootNotes* ... and I don't
spell it with the added "d" for comic relief.
It's a train wreck, in
Still, as historical
documents go, The Missing Journals are as integral a part of our family
history as any of the other journals in the archives, I guess ...
particularly since *FootNotes* originally began as a means of archiving
all the old journals so the Tots could cringe over them someday. I'm
glad to have them restored, finally. And I couldn't have done it
without the help of Jennifer and Karen.
(Now I wonder if I can
get them to type the high school diaries?)
He doesn't use the *F*
He never apologizes for
having an opinion.
He never makes you feel
stoopid if you don't get a reference right away. (David knew who George
Monbiot is, but I had to look it up.)
There is enough
interesting stuff on his website -- in addition to his lovely and
-- to keep the average lollygagging SecraTerri busy and entertained and
distracted from her Concrete Cylinder Test Data reports for most of a
Wednesday afternoon. (Especially on a Wednesday afternoon when her boss
is at the dentist and the rest of her co-workers are playing hooky to
watch the World Series.)
He updates regularly,
and when he doesn't update he tells you why
he hasn't updated.
He doesn't have a "Clix"
banner on his front page.
He doesn't talk about
his menstrual cycle much.
He has probably NEVER
indulged in the RANDOM use of CAPITALS for EMPHASIS in his life.
He writes about his
little daughter the way I imagine my father would have written about
me, had there been personal computers in 1958. Or Internet journals. Or
He is wickedly funny,
relentlessly honest and unfailingly human.
Best of all: he inspires
The Good Writer in me, without intimidating The
Lazy/Unmotivated/Eternally-Procrastinating Writer in me. I read him,
and I think I want to write
like that! I CAN
write like that! I WILL
write like that!
thing tomorrow morning!)
When the sprawling,
unwieldy behemoth that is *FootNotes* threatened to spill over its
dedicated server boundaries, earlier this year, I received this
day-brightening notice from my web host:
Secra ... it
looks like you are about to exceed your allotted disk space (this is
probably due to the fact that you have a popular site and your log
filling up). What I have done is give you an extra 50 MB of disk space;
there will be no charge for this, it's a "thank you" for being a great
I can also do in the future if you need more space is to delete your
log files. Doing this will not affect your website statistics.
let me know if you have any questions.
Isn't it nice to know
that there are still companies like Intelligent Web Hosting who
actually live up to their name?
Imagine that you wrote a
journal entry about your husband's high
a couple of years back -- a silly, slapdash entry designed mainly to
showcase his groovy new black silk shirt with the flames climbing up
the front -- but that the entry spun off, as journal entries are wont
to do, into a raging diatribe all about your own miserable high school
experiences, and about why you've never gone to any of your
school reunions, and about how you would rather juggle flaming cans
of Aqua Net Super Hold, nude and blindfolded, than to walk into a room
filled with your former high school classmates. Imagine that you tossed
a couple of those former classmates' names into the journal entry, just
for the sake of realism: that you said you hoped that the entire
yearbook staff was audited by the IRS, and that you hoped the handsome
football hero went bald...
... and that you hoped
that Carolyn Dopps "got fat."
You don't really
hope that Carolyn Dopps got fat, of course. You just plucked her name
out of the dim recesses of twenty-five-year-old memory, when you were
writing the journal entry, because she was one of The Pretty Girls ...
one of those lovely, lissome creatures with perfect hair and perfect
clothes and perfect figures, laughing in the hallways and dancing at
parties and always looking like they were having a much, much better
time than *you* were. You could just have easily have picked Lorri
Sahlinger or Cherie Elmer or any of the other seriously beautiful girls
graduating class, but you went with Carolyn Dopps because hers was the
first name that sprang to mind when you were trying to remember who The
Pretty Girls were. You didn't know Carolyn Dopps very well, then or
now. You certainly wish her no ill will ... particularly as you've
heard a rumor, over the years, that she went into law enforcement, and
it has long been your policy never to deliberately rankle a member of
the law enforcement community. But you toss her name into the journal
entry anyway, and you post it without a second thought, and you move on
with your life/your career/your website.
Imagine that two or
three years go by, and one day you get up in the morning and you
open up your e-mailbox and you find that there is a message waiting for
It is a message from
in the world is Carolyn Dopps writing to me??,
you ask yourself in panic ... but deep in your heart you know exactly
why Carolyn Dopps is writing to you: because she is mentioned by name,
somewhere within the vast rambling expanse of your Internet journal,
and she has somehow managed to stumble across it, just like Ron
McClamrock and The Martian Hop Guy and Penelope Houston and the drummer
from Translator and the nephew of Earl Peterson, Michigan's Singing Cowboy
have stumbled across their
names in your journal, while they were ego-surfing, and have written to
ask you about it. And now Carolyn Dopps is writing to yell at you. Or to arrest you, maybe.
Imagine that you
cautiously open Carolyn Dopps' e-mail, after first fortifying yourself
with two and a half cups of Peet's Dark Roast and an Everything Bagel,
and you begin to read.
Terri, she says. Tonight,
for some reason, I decided to put my name in a search engine when guess
what happened? I found my name in your journal.
no, I'm not upset in the least, in fact I was very flattered. Maybe I
shouldn't be, but I was.
Oh. OK. Whew.
mentioned something about how you hope Carolyn Dopps gets fat,
her e-mail goes on to say. I
didn't know you in high school ... I don't think I ever even had a
conversation with you and just always thought you were this gorgeous
girl I didn't know in my class, so I was very surprised to read about
your low self esteem, depression, etc. You are probably sitting there
thinking, "why is this person writing me and why does she think I care
what she thinks". But I'll tell you what I think anyway.
Uh oh redux.
am VERY impressed with your writing,
she says. The courage it took
for you to post your life long journal with all your ups and downs on
the internet is amazing. Of course I've only read a couple hours worth
but you should be very proud of yourself. I wish you the best in your
life and in your sobriety. Here's to wishing I could have known you.
Imagine that you just
sit there in front of your computer for a few minutes, after you've
finished reading Carolyn Dopps' e-mail, feeling pleased and
flattered and RELIEVED
(time to go back into the archives and start applying pseudonyms again)
and nostalgic and weirdly sad, in a way you can't really put your
finger on ... as though maybe you, too, missed out on knowing a really
great person in high school.
Gutless Shidthead Bicycle Thief.
I'm pretty sure that
when the Gutless
Shidthead Bicycle Thief
was sneaking into our "security" apartment complex last spring, getting
ready to walk off with my brand-new bazillion-dollar bike, he wasn't
saying to himself, 'Gosh,
wouldn't it be great if this actually turns out to be a POSITIVE
GROWTH EXPERIENCE for everyone
But it did.
As he sliced through my
steel cable combination lock with his twelve-inch bolt cutters, he
probably wasn't thinking, 'Wouldn't
it be nice if the woman I'm ripping off has this vast worldwide support
system of friends and family and readers, and they all rallied together
and chip in to buy her a replacement bike ... restoring her faith in
people, enabling her to continue on her quest to ride 2,002 miles in
2002, and providing her with lots of groovy new material for her
But I do, and they did,
and it did.
As he removed the sliced
cable from the concrete stairwell, two feet from our front door, I'll
bet he wasn't asking himself, '
I wonder if -- by committing this gutless act of thievery -- I'm
inadvertently spawning the creation of The
... which, in turn, will inspire women around the world to change their
lives, and to take charge of their health and their thigh muscles, and
to park their big flabby sedentary butts on a bicycle for the first
time in three decades?'
But he did.
And as The Gutless
Shidthead Bicycle Thief wheeled my brand-new bazillion dollar bike out
the front door of our "security" apartment complex, I'm pretty sure he
wasn't thinking, 'Gosh ... I
hope this gets me a Happy Voodoo Panda Toaster Award!'
But it did.
And there you have them:
this year's crop of Happy Voodoo Panda Toaster Award recipients. Some
of them may seem more deserving than others, but all of them have,
in some way -- deliberately or not-so-deliberately -- contributed
karmic energy to the
household this past year.
And for that ... I thank
Have a great weekend,