Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Riding with Strangers / How Chimps Attack

Over pancakes, eggs, decaf coffee (me), and tea (roomie), the roommate and I discussed how chimps attack people (they first go for the jaw, so as to break the mandible, what they themselves use to fight), what it's like to feel caged, and whether it's nature or nurture to find natural body odor offensive. A typical Tuesday morning.  Later I sat in my cubicle at work, judging people in my casting capabilities, gnawing on a banana and wondering how far we've come from attacking each other.

Riding on the bus, I often have time and the olfactory experience to wonder about the body odor question. But for the majority of my bus riding, I really enjoy being car-free.  One of my favorite things in life is to people-watch, eavesdrop and speculate about the lives they lead.  I never did learn the story behind the immaculately dressed elderly woman, a diamond the size of a baseball on her left finger, pulling what looks to be her life's belongings in a collapsible cart while talking to her companion, a Spaniard in a worn suit and long mustache.

Today, I walked up to my stop in Santa Monica and watched the number 10 bus breeze by, as I gave the universal sign "not my bus" by shaking my head and stepping back from the curb.   Unfortunately, my bus-stop friend did not know the signals, and was baffled that her bus didn't stop for her, when she was clearly holding a dollar in her hand.

Jumping on the number 1 bound for UCLA, I asked the driver whether another 10 would be coming by soon.  No, he said, tell her to get on, and we'll try to catch up with her bus.  Erwin the bus driver sped around traffic, quickly eying the stops to make sure he didn't need to veer right to pick up other riders, contacted the 10 bus via his Metro-phone, and timed it just right to catch up, so the lost passenger could hop on her downtown-bound bus.

As I exited my regular stop, I left from the front of the bus, and thanked Erwin once again for taking the time, making the effort to help one passenger.  I enjoyed doing it, he said.  It made me feel good.

It's the little acts of connectedness that keep my faith in humanity alive. These moments remind me we actually are more evolved than chimps.

(Photo courtesy Long Strange Trip)

Saturday, June 04, 2011

CULTure of Beauty

"Life is pain, highness. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something."
— William Goldman (The Princess Bride)

A friend and I went to see the CULTure of Beauty exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography. Walking in I was face to face with many of the models and images I try to avoid looking at lately, in order to maintain at least a slight amount of love for my own hips, thighs, nose and mouth that are uniquely me.

I was also confronted with images of a child beauty queen, a needle inserted into already pillowy lips to plump them further, and an elderly woman whose involuntary shaking made her grip her animal print cane tighter to balance on her black and white pumas, shaking that made her wide-brimmed red hat vibrate violently. In front of every model she ooh-ed and ahh-ed over their slender, air-brushed beauty, and I thought, she just doesn't get it. This is supposed to enrage, not encourage.

But then I realized that I could look at Christy Turlington's face for hours and still find it beautiful. As stated in the short documentary that is part of the exhibit, "beauty appeals to our most base instincts and our highest spiritual longings." The point of the exhibit, for me, was to be aware and mindful of that one image of beauty we're being sold today. And instead, to see the beauty in all faces, especially in the wizened, wrinkled face beaming out from beneath her shaking red hat.