Sunday, December 26, 2004


Driving home from Darcy's around the lake, this afternoon, I saw at least four little kids, wobbling along the path ecstatically on shiny, shiny, dazzling new bicycles as their parents strolled beatifically along beside.

Aw, Santa, you old still know just how to get me.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

NotMe and Ida Know

Julius is demonstrably my Bad Cat. He eats the plants, he tips over his water dish, he torments his sister daily. He goes knickknack fishing when he tires of the vast array of designated kitty toys; I'm forever stepping on something unexpected in the dark of the night on the way to the bathroom. He surfs on the throw rugs and hysterically trash-talks the benign neighbor cat through the windows.

Tulip, on the other hand, is essentially an affectionate decorative throw pillow. With appalling cat fud breath.

So far, the cats have been largely indifferent to the Christmas tree. But among my decorations are little garlands of paper Scandinavian flags...and for about a week I've been coming home to find here a flag, there a flag, everywhere a slightly soggy chewed-off flag, all around the living room. Naughty, naughty Julius, I thought. I've been lightly scolding him for days.

You can imagine my surprise when, last night, Tulip (fresh from a nap) sidled up to the tree, snagged a flag and started tugging. SHOCKED, I tell you. "Hey! No no no," I told her. And she looked right at me, with huge glowing dilated crazy!pupils, and chomped down on the poor little candy-cane bear ornament, dangling adjacent. (He's already got only one eye--cut him some slack!)

Those who say that pets are not like people, let alone backstabbing, sibling-rivalrous children, obviously have none.

I should be relieved, though: check out the Very Bad Cats indeed Iris and Fern, decorating their own tree.

Monday, December 13, 2004

It's not Christmas until Poppy cries

I got to participate in another long-held holiday tradition Sunday morning, actually, when I attended a St. Lucia brunch. My mom's friend Cookie has been doing this as long as I can remember, hosting hordes of people for coffee and pastry to celebrate "the Swedish Christmas." When we were little, Cookie's daughter, DerDer, would play the role of the Lucia Bride, leading us into the dining room with the crown of candles on her head--tipped with gold foil, when we were very small, and thrillingly, fearsomely lit, when she was older. (Apparently battery-operated ones are now de rigeur.) DerDer married, last year, so the celebration has moved to her home.

There were a lot of new attendees this year, neighbors who didn't know the story, so DerDer and Cookie gave a little presentation. I didn't know much about the actual legend, either, it turns out. Lucia was an Italian saint, and it's not clear why the Swedes so fell in love with her. One story has Lucia, a devout Christian, refusing to marry a Pagan husband and putting out her own eyes. Another has her bringing bread to starving, persecuted Christians hiding in tunnels and caves; she wore candles on her head to free her hands and light the way. Yet another has her arriving in a harbor on a ship, bringing light, bringing food to the hungry.

When I was a kid, the processional part of the celebration seemed interminable--though I envied DerDer the attention, and her gripping role, fraught with danger. We'd gather around the table and listen to the traditional hymn--originally on a record, later copied onto cassette--a choir of children warbled verse after verse in Swedish or Latin or whatever, and some of the grownups would fumble along tunelessly, and all I wanted was to get it over with and get to the food. I was eager to line the pockets of my corduroy jumper with gingersnaps and start running up and down the stairs with DerDer and her three brothers, my sister and all the neighbor kids and cousins, shrieking and slamming each other's fingers in doors while the adults drank gallons of coffee and didn't notice when we kept slinking back to the table, keeping our blood sugar levels just on the frenzied side of a diabetic coma.

I don't know when it changed. I think it's partly Poppy's fault. DerDer's stepdad is legendarily, hilariously sentimental; he weeps at the proverbial drop of a hat, at Hallmark commercials and Notre Dame championships. When DerDer announced her engagement, Poppy cried for an entire year at the mere thought of walking her down the aisle. We mock poor Poppy, with great love...but even as we laugh, he has the power to get everyone else going too. (During the father/bride dance at the actual reception, my particular table of friends and family sobbed so hard the d.j. had to crank it to eleven to drown us out.)

So. This year, DerDer and her husband had actually burned the Sankta Lucia hymn onto a CD for her folks. This is close, but not quite the same version; you have to imagine it dubbed and redubbed off the original vinyl, with the pops and scratches, the needle hissing in the groove. DerDer pressed "Play." The introductory measures wavered across the living room. And...

...Poppy let out an audible, gulping sob and abruptly swiveled his Barcalounger to face the wall.

So. Yeah, we all giggled tenderly at Poppy. But it's a long hymn, and you have a lot of time to look at the tree, and the candles glowing, and the faces of family and friends and the babies they have now. You think about being kids, all in a sugared-up Christmas lather; you think of your Grammy, and DerDer's grandma KittyCoat, neither of whom are with us any more. And let me tell you, you harrumph and sniffle and blinkblinkblink HARD at the ceiling to keep from getting mascara face...

...and finally, thank God, it's time to eat. To laugh at yourself, and blot your eyes with an IKEA napkin printed with a little blonde girl in a fiery crown, and hug your own mom and your extra one, Cookie, and Poppy and DerDer, and then hit the smorgasbord. Cardamom bread, generously slathered with butter. Buttered lefse, rolled up with cinnamon and sugar or with summer sausage. Almond ring. "Spritz" butter cookies. Gingersnaps and coffee with cream and soft yeast rolls with butter. Did I mention butter?

It was so lovely. I really feel like the holidays can now get underway. Of course, I consumed nothing but pastry and coffee and red wine for the entire day, so I could possibly be just addled by my nutritional deficiencies.

I did realize that I was fully in a new demographic, staring down the barrel of 35, when I spent a considerable portion of the brunch in DerDer's kitchen, admiring her retro-look electric percolator from Target. It combines classic style with modern convenience!

It's not Christmas until the little baby angels cry

So saith Jacki, one of the regulars at the fifth (!) annual Ugly Christmas Cookie party, which I happily attended at the home of instigator Megan, yesterday afternoon. I'm sure she'll write about it eventually, but I'll tide you over.

I believe that the first Ugly Cookie Day was inadvertent, owing more to the artistic deficiencies of the participants. It was her college boyfriend's particular genius to make unattractive, disquieting, or downright offensive cookies the thematic intent. So every year now Megan and co-conspirator Erica spend a couple days cranking out dozens and dozens and DOZENS of sugar and gingerbread cookies, shaped like everything from trees and snowmen to cowboys and pumpkins. Megan hauls out her array of every food coloring and candy sprinkle known to mankind, and then a handful of us spend four or five hours drinking to excess and obsessively poking frosting around with toothpicks.

We CAN make pretty cookies, and we usually do--in fact, Megan brought a sampling of those that "met the HR bar" to the office today. But there's just something in our sick, sad minds that makes the little frosted horrors so, SO much more fun. Past alcohol-fueled inspiration has produced cookies iced to look like cat barf, eyeballs, poo (both Mr. Hankey and generic), little "ginger whores," cold-sore-spotted lips, far too many "yellow snow" jokes, and a "snowminatrix" in studded leather harness. (Those little silver "inedible"--heh--dragees really come in handy.) A rocket-shaped cookie cutter gets wildly misrepresented each year... ahem. We have made cookies in the likeness of Michael Jackson, Dame Edna, the Green River Killer (God help us all) and the complete GingerVillage People.

Yesterday did not disappoint. We had a tasteful diorama of the effects of mad cow disease. Ginger Martha-in-Prison made an appearance. (Martha, honey--you know we're just kidding. Stay strong, sister-friend!) I frosted a particularly bloated Jason Giambi, and the devil, complete with chocolate jimmies for his vertical pupils. There were Ginger Calendar Firefighters, with big yellow pants and carefully iced abs. This year's winner, in the category of "makes you gag a little even though you know it's just a cookie"? Loreal, the cosmetic-testing laboratory rabbit.

We are nice girls, really we are.

Anyway, I drank three glasses of wine and consumed enough of my "mistakes" to realize, as I do annually, that Ugly Cookie Day is its own punishment. It was 8:30 before I bundled up and started tottering the four blocks home with my own saran-wrapped plate of obscene baked goods. At the end of the block I passed a house blazing like NORAD with holiday lights; if you listened carefully you could hear the dial on their electric meter whizzing around. I glanced through the living-room window and saw...two trees? Crap, how much cabernet had I had? "Wow," I said aloud.

There was a guy having a cigarette in the driveway. "Hey," he said.

"Are there really two trees in there?" I asked. He rolled his eyes toward the house.

"Not even close," he said. "My mother-in-law loves Christmas. Guess."

I shrugged.

"There are FIVE," he told me. "One's in the basement. And they're THEMED!"

"Oh my GOD," I said. "Well...Merry Christmas!"

"YEAH Merry Christmas," he said, and grinned and stomped out his smoke. And I went on, armored against the cold by my flowered wool hat and fleece mittens, smiling, never wanting to see another cookie as long as I lived. Until about four this afternoon, when I slunk down to Megan's office and snagged an innocuous brown bear off the tray.

Dude, it's all about traditions!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Am I getting enough sleep?

I just arrived at the office and blearily waved my coffee in front of the key-card reader. Hellooo? Let me in, you stupid--oh.

Better turn back and get one for each hand, I guess.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

It's beginning to look a lot like OH FOR CHRISSAKE GOD DAMN IT!

Yeah, yeah, I know. That last post just hangs there, piteously comic, doesn't it? And I was gonna write about it; I had some prime material all lined up, me driving home despondent through the neighborhood streets of shattered pumpkins and dead leaves and waterlogged Kerry signs. I spun the needle on the Stages-of-Grief-Ometer more than once, with the denial and the rage and the what the HELL is the MATTER with half of you people? I fretted. I ate far more than my allotment of frozen yogurt. I wondered, what are we gonna do? What are we possibly gonna do for four more years?

Well, if you need a cause, as usual the writers I dream of emulating have done it better. I shall direct you to This Is Not Okay then. Get busy. Moving on.

So. Those who know me well understand that I'm something of a Christmas dork. My birthday is December 22; my parents brought me home from the hospital on Christmas Day, and for many years I labored under the delusion that the holiday hoopla had something to do with me: I got ornaments AND t.v. specials AND cake AND presents AND carols AND pretty lights for, like, a solid month. A rented Santa from the Heart Association once came to my birthday party. You can maybe forgive my childhood assumptions.

I outgrew most of the megalomania (she blathered, on the Internet), and I eventually discerned some of the crap parts of having a birthday that close to Christmas, too, such as a) the "combo" present, and b) it's something like gloves. These days, I am typically too damn busy to celebrate the anniversary of my own earthly arrival. That said, I've still never quite gotten over the giddy glee of it all. I love to haul out the decorations. I love the memories triggered by each ornament. Here is the polar bear seated on an outsize candy cane, one of his eyes now drawn on with a pen, from when my parents were still married; here is the glitter-smudged styrofoam ball Sis crafted in Brownies; here is the brass partridge-in-a-pear-tree my friend Gwyn left on my document stand in first-period Typing I in the 10th grade; here is the tiny snowman from Holly's first year in Germany. Everything gets a spot on the tree--the heirlooms and the ugly ones. Hell, I've been known to purchase an ugly ornament on purpose, just because I think it's funny.

I love to feed people. I like to bust out the Johnny Mathis album, and whip up gingersnaps and peppermint bark and my grandma's ass-kicking rum balls. Okay, actually I don't like making the rum balls, with the Karo syrup and the stickiness and the rolling and rolling and rolling up those little bastards in a fog of rum-stink everywhere. By the time I'm done, I can't stand it. I can't eat 'em, myself. But I like to watch the faces of the people who do.

I love the tree. How it makes the house smell, when you open the door after a long day, darkness to darkness, at the office. How the cats are all "the HELL?" every year when you haul an enormous piece of Outside into the living room. How each tree is more beautiful than the last, when you finally get it trimmed to your liking.

Which is best done when you have managed to get the motherfucking tree crammed into the cheap-ass, worthless, catastrophically useless plastic stand from the goddamn Fred Meyer, and get it fixed in a reasonably upright position without tying it to the WALL, because the four flimsy bolts ROCK back and FORTH in the crummy plastic slots and the tree favors a jaunty 75-degree ANGLE, pointing accusatorily at the COUCH, and your hands are raw from cranking those screws with fucking PLIERS while your NEIGHBOR held the trunk, to no avail.

We used to tease my mother, for approaching Hulk-like rages while putting up the tree when we were kids. I remember her threatening to throw tree, stand, and lights off the balcony of our apartment; I remember her dragging us to that same Fred Meyer, incredibly enough, to purchase a completely new set of lights at about 9:30 p.m. one year. Good old Mommy--she came to the rescue last night, with a monstrous eight-pronged tree stand suitable for Rockefeller Center. That baby isn't going ANYWHERE from now to January 1. I think I could climb it.

"How did you do this as a single parent?" I asked her. "I mean, I know you used to get frustrated, sure...but how did you ever manage to put up a tree without help?"Our Broken Home trees were smaller, granted, but still .

"I don't know," she admitted. "But when we were still married, your father used to do it. And he would about lose his mind, and I wondered why."

So. Christmas made my parents get a divorce! Well...perhaps not entirely. But it was a contributing factor. I haven't even gotten to the story about their 3 a.m. toy assembly crisis, yet...or the one about the Nat King Cole Suicide Christmas album. Heh. I love the holidays, but they sure weren't kind to my folks' marriage, now that I think about it.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Home on the range

All right, y'all, I know I don't have to tell you what to do. But I will: get your asses to the polls and send that raisin-eyed, simian, chuckling dimwit bastard back to the ranch in Crawford. I mean it. Move. Let's go.

Sarah Bunting says it better than I can; so does Cary Tennis. So, even if we don't win, take heart. Stick around for the fight.

But we'll win.

Come on, get excited! Democracy, woooooooo!

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

If I was Mayor McCheese, I'd have the Hamburglar put to death!

According to the local news, several of the folks who helped collar Seattle's Lamest Mugger were given an audience with the mayor and little certificates of good citizenship or whatever. (Check the video links for "Citizen Heroes Capture Would-Be Robber," if you're so inclined.)

Sis must be feeling better, because she's pissed off: where is her commemorative plaque for administering the beat-down? Not to mention, the opportunity to sound off ON TELEVISION...dang! Plus, of course, the opportunity to, you know, thank all those other folks. Apparently she remains unidentified due to being CARTED AWAY IN AN AMBULANCE as intrepid reporters arrived. The cops did call and leave a message at her home, but too late for her to attend the ceremony. "Maybe Mayor Hoss Cartwright will give you your Special Award later," I said.

I am dying to know, however, what the certificates say exactly. What do they Hereby Proclaim?--that you are a member of the community in good standing? An ass-kicking , crime-fighting mutha? What? I hope it at least comes with a couple of Dick's gift certificates or something. That would be awesome. Thank you, Seattle Citizen Hero! Have a cheeseburger, on us!

Saturday, October 23, 2004

You should see the other guy

The karmic dump truck continues to unload on my sister: Thursday, she managed to get herself violently mugged, at 9:00 in the freaking morning, at a cash machine on Broadway (a neighborhood renowned for its hipster squalor--junkies and students and street kids, oh my!).

Some background: A year ago last August, Sis was injured in a random freak accident that's an entire Whole Nother Story, so I won't get into it here; suffice to say she's had three surgeries so far on a badly crushed ankle. She's mobile, but not 100% recovered yet; she was in this particular neighborhood for the express purpose of consulting a new orthopedic specialist for a second opinion.

So. Some doubtless crack-addled fuckwit jumped out of his truck at the curb, and just grabbed her around the neck from behind. Had the shithead seen her limping? I don't know. But he chose her, got her in a headlock, demanded her money. It was so sudden, broad daylight, that at first she thought it must be a friend, someone she knew, goofing around. She said "No!" He tightened his grip around her throat, jerking her backward.

And she turned, twisting around in the circle of his arm, and punched the fucker twice, dead in the face.

Ladies and gents, let me introduce my baby sister, one bad. assed. bitch.

Because next, she hooked her foot--the bad one!--back around his ankle, and when he tried to knock her down, he fell too: she dragged the hapless dumbass down with her, punching and screaming and hanging onto her purse all the while. When her mugger (at the end, wailing "Okay! OKAY!" ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha) tried to get away, Sis actually had the presence of mind to wrap her legs around his and hang on, as other people fought to grab him. He did get loose, scooping up the cash dropped in the struggle, and ran...but a pack of concerned citizens gave chase, and by the time the cops arrived, a crowd had the guy pinned under a car, several blocks away. Boy did this guy make a bad, bad choice. "You did a good job today," one officer told Sis.

She was hurt in the fall, jamming her back and tailbone hard on the concrete, wrenching one finger back...whether in the fall or the fight she's not sure. Her boyfriend called me from the hospital; "Her Irene came out," he said of the battle--referring to our late maternal grandmother, a woman who slept with a nine-iron beside the bed and carried an ice pick in her purse, just in case someone was fool enough to mess with her...sort of the Bad, Bad Leroy Brown of the under-five-feet-tall senior citizen set. Anyway, Sis's injuries will heal...though she's pretty shaken up.

I don't know. I keep vacillating between seeing her actions as insane, over $30, in the please-don't-EVER-do-that-again-are-you-CRAZY? vein...and seeing them as heroic, because: girl is BAD. ASS. It got a write-up in the local paper; I was reading the article to her over the phone yesterday and she broke down, sobbing "Why did this happen to meeeeeeee?" And I can't blame her, of course. It's scary, it hurts, she's had a shit-shellacked 14 months already. Why did it happen to her? But I tried to impress upon her the complete bad-assedness of what she'd done, encourage her to see the good in it: look what you accomplished, look how pissed-off and tough and strong you are, in spite of your injury, in spite of feeling still "fragile" from the accident.

I mean, what would I have done? I'm a wimp. I imagine I'd have gladly surrendered my purse, my car keys, and my latte, if I'd had one--and did you need anything else, Mr. Mugger? Could I give you a ride, help you pick out some other weak-lookin' victims, maybe? Sis said that, had he shown or implied a weapon, she'd have reacted differently. ("No she wouldn't," chuckled Holly, later, when I related the tale. She's known Sis since she was nine.) But I don't know; who can tell how they'll respond, in the feverish swamp of adrenaline?

Thankfully, Sis later called me back, yesterday: she'd fielded about 20 "d'ja know you're in the paper?" phone calls, given her official statement to police, received flowers from work, and had at last consumed some sweet, delicious Percocet and was engrossed in an episode of Little House on the Prairie.

All's well that ends well, ain't it?

And I gotta say, I love her, the ferocious little shit.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Ba-dum bum

Found this while looking up assorted Yiddishisms. So timely!

Four friends are sitting in a restaurant. For a long time, nobody says anything. Then, one man groans, "Oy."

"Oy vey," says a second man.

"Nu," says the third.

At this, the fourth man gets up from his chair and says, "If you guys don't stop talking politics, I'm leaving!"

Nu, an entry

When I was a little girl, we used to go with my mom's friend Cookie and her kids to Matzoh Momma's, a deli in the funky post-hippie liberal enclave that the Capitol Hill neighborhood was in those mid-70s days. At first, the joint was hole-in-the-wall tiny, a space narrow as a bowling lane lined with deli cases and two or three rickety tables. The food,, the food. Toasted bagels slathered in real butter--could you get a genuine, decent bagel, anywhre else in Seattle at the time? (You barely can, now; round bread with a hole in the middle doth not a bagel make.) Kosher dogs on poppy-seed rolls. A perfectly golden chicken broth, glowing as if lit from within, afloat with the namesake matzoh balls. Dr. Brown's Black Cherry soda, in bottles...I don't think it yet came in cans. I didn't know from "kosher"; my entire concept of Jewishness came from the All of a Kind Family books (and, thus, I also had a vague notion that New York City was still trapped in the early 1900s, with streetcars and tinkers' wagons). I remember puzzling over some of the Yiddishisms sprinkled through the menu: "Nu, a Sandwich" declared one section. But the food was classic comfort food, suited to a kid's palate, straightforward and pure without messing around. You could get the chicken soup with matzoh balls, or with pieces of chicken, or just a bowl of the plain, luminous, man. Excuse me while I get a little verklempt and drool on the keyboard. The proprietor of the place was a big guy named Pip, with a huge, wildly curly black Jewfro. He knew us all by name, at the time. Cookie would call him up, when one of her kids was sick, and he'd deliver, actually appearing at the door bearing soup. I thought of Pip like a superhero.

Matzoh Momma's expanded into a full-fledged restaurant, later, with a full bar and live music. I remember sitting there with friends from high school, still eating that translucent soup and listening to someone navigate "Imagine" on the acoustic guitar, pining madly for the sweet stoner boy I loooooooved who sat beside me but had a girlfriend, not me. (Amusing: a little Googling reveals that Pip Meyerson was a Garfield alum, 1967. Not as amusing: further Googling indicates sweet stoner boy is a strapping, bearded Mac geek who thinks my employer is the AntiChrist. Oh.)

But eventually, the restaurant closed up shop, replaced by a Thai place, which is great because Seattle has only 800 or so to choose from, whew. I grew up and went to college, had to go all the way to New York (which was NOT populated with horse-drawn carts, it turns out) to get my grub on at a proper deli. For whatever random reason, the core group of friends I fell in with at Sarah Lawrence all happened to be Jewish; they assumed I was, too, until someone asked me in our senior year if I was going home for Passover. Nope, sorry--Norwegian-Scots with a multiculti palate, that's all. (I became known as The Honorary Jew for the remainder of our schooling. It's true that I would make an excellent Jew or Catholic, since guilt and shame are pretty much my life's breath.) I came home to Seattle, resigned myself to inferior bagels, occasionally missed matzoh crackers scrambled with eggs but not quite enough to buy a whole box and make them myself.

Today, driving across the bridge to work, I noticed the vehicle next to me: Matzoh Momma Catering. A white van with a logo on the side, a woman, a Momma, lovingly stirring a steaming pot of The Soup! I edged alongside, peering. The driver took a call on his cell, steering with one hand; his hair was steely gray and closer-cropped but still mad curly: Pip. Unmistakable. I nearly drove off the bridge, wanted to roll down my window, shout and wave: Pip! Pip! You knew me when I was in kindergarten! I miss you! I miss THE SOUP!

I didn't, of course. But you can be damn sure I wrote down the phone number.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

One foot in the grave

The other night I had a standard-issue anxiety dream about my high school. This happens periodically: I'm wandering the building, unable to find my locker, my classroom, the exit, as the halls and staircases go all M. C. Escher around me...and tomorrow, always tomorrow, the term paper's due or the final exam is coming, and I haven't studied or gone to class in, oh, SIXTEEN YEARS. Pretty basic. They've lessened over the intervening decade or so, thank God.

Anyway. Today I stumbled across Garfield's Web site, inadvertently, and for shits and giggles decided to look at their daily bulletin. Turns out that next week is Spirit Week, culminating in Homecoming; each day of the week, pep-minded students are encouraged to dress according to an inane theme. Hence:

Monday, 10/18—Sports Day
Tuesday, 10/19—Neon Day (I do not know what this means. Bright colors? Clothes that light up?)
Wednesday, 10/20—Twin Day
Thursday, 10/21—70s/80s Day
Friday 10/22—Purple and White Day

Hold up. 80s Day? 80s Day? What happened to the 60s day we used to have? That was plenty, right? Countercultural? All soul-hippie-freaky? So, next Thursday, the kids are going to we did every day. Because now I AM OLD. Old like MY PARENTS old.

They'll get it wrong, of course. No socks, girls--I don't care if it's October.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Now we are six

When I was leaving Darcy's the other night, her son, a newly minted kindergartener I'll call...Pancake, flung upon the door and hollered after me:

"Bye, Butthead!"

Oh yeah? "Bye, Stink-Pants!" I shouted back.

"Bye, Dork Face!"

"Bye, Freaknut!"

"Bye, Jerk-Freak!"

"Bye, Fart-Breath!"

And I got into my car grinning madly, joyous all out of proportion at calling playground insults across the night-dark, leaf-turning neighborhood street. Love that kid.

Friday, September 24, 2004

A sorry truth

Turns out the flu wasn't as much fun as I anticipated, bink or no bink.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Your science minute

Earlier this week, at lunch, one of my colleagues introduced us all to the fact that, if you soak a gummi bear in water overnight, it absorbs the water and expands in size...sort of like those little novelty-shop pellets that turn into foam dinosaurs in the bathtub. I filed this knowledge away for future reference...

...until yesterday, when I was training our newest writer on all the tools and nuances of Our Exhaustive Documentation Process. He was sitting next to me to view my computer screen, but in such a position that he was not easily visible through the window next to the door. So he was even more surprised than I, when Colleague burst in announcing "Here's your entertainment for the afternoon!" and brandishing a gelatinous, four-inch-long gummi mutant, a-quiver on a paper plate.

So, it really does work! As do we, here at BigOlSoftwareCo, though you might not guess that at first glance.

Thursday, September 09, 2004


Plenty of people call a pacifier a "binky," but it was the ELOML's baby word for "blankie" instead: binky, later shortened to bink. He still had his, a comforter his mother had hastily sewn into a basic red-white-and-blue sack. He called it "the sick bink," perfect for huddling under when you had the sniffles and were capable of nothing more than lying on the couch watching "Hunter" reruns on cable, sipping Theraflu. It had a matching pillow, too.

I'm kind of a fool for binks. I like quilts, know a little bit about the traditional patterns, even though I'm incapable of undertaking such a project myself--the biggest sewing task I've accomplished in my life was making kitchen curtains out of cut-up IKEA tablecloths, and that consisted solely of being able to pin and hem a few rectangles. I have a couple storebought quilts that I love, even if they were cranked out by some Pottery Barn wage slave...she might be somebody's grandma, after all. I have a Mexican wool throw in the back of my car, just in case I get caught in a meteorologically unlikely blizzard on the way home. I have a designated Hideous Pink Picnic Blanket that's impervious to stains, or at least looks none the worse for them.

In a sealed plastic tub under the bed, I have my bink...half of it, anyway. I couldn't be parted from it when visiting Grandma as a little girl, and at some point she cut it in two and bound the edges, ensuring that a portion of bink in each household would alleviate any sleepless nights. It's just a mass-produced, unremarkable quilt, strips of disintigrating blue-and-pink fabric barely clinging to the batting. The corners, however, are reinforced with tough squares of one of Grandma's old housecoats, due to my penchant for drifting off, mauling the blanket corners and occasionally sticking one into a nostril. If I washed the bink, I'm sure it would simply dissolve, its last molecules swirling out with the final rinse. It smells like Grandma's house, though, like Grandma. After she died, sometimes I'd just hold it and breathe it in, for a moment. Then quick, quick, stuff it back in the box, try to preserve that Grandma scent. I'm not sure it's working. It smells more and more like plastic tub, I fear.

A couple weekends ago I went with Darcy to Burnt Sugar in the Fremont neighborhood--what, funky housewares? fabulous retro purses? magnificent soaps? oh, all right, TWIST MY ARM--and there was...a bink. A magnificent quilt, made up of felted patchwork squares of old wool sweaters, in rich shades of rose and burgundy and purple. It had different textures, ribbed and smooth and cabled. It had lime-green rickrack around the hem. Rickrack! I stood petting it with my mouth open until the clerk swished up to me.

"Isn't that wonderful?" he said. "It's on sale." Marked down to $175 from $250. God. No. Must. Not. I looked at the lilac-bright blanket-stitched trim.

"Look--it has a little pocket," the clerk said. One of the sweater squares had a dainty breast pocket still attached; he wiggled his fingers in it, to demonstrate.

I put the quilt and my Visa on the counter five minutes of hemming and hawing later. "Look what you made me do!" I told him.

But we talked about knitting and crocheting and quilting, while the other clerk rang up the sale. About his grandmother, who specialized in tatting: cranking out lace doilies while smoking a Pall Mall and reading her Bible at the same time. "'I'm studying for my final exams!'" he quoted her.

So. I have a new sick bink. I'm eager for cold weather, though summer is dragging its heels outside. I can't wait for a bout of the flu. I'm gonna get on the couch with that quilt and both cats and a cup of tea; I'll put kleenexes in that little pocket. It's going to be wonderful.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Are your ears burning?

Because, yeah, I'm talking smack about you.

Dear person who bashed the shit out of my car in the grocery store parking lot and then, apparently, sped off in guilty or oblivious silence: Fuck the fuck off, you cowardly cocksucker. Yes, it is not a fancy car, my 1996 Hyundai Accent, but I'd prefer that it does not look like a total piece of shit, which is difficult to maintain when you smack your ugly-ass blue vehicle all over the driver's side. Thanks a big bunch.

Dear guy at Starbucks, who when I picked your dropped $10 up off the floor and asked if it belonged to anyone nearby, blurted "That's mine!" and whisked it from my fingers: YOU'RE WELCOME, Rude-y McNoManners. Also? Wearing your sunglasses indoors makes you look like an even bigger jackass. Your mother called and said to tell you she's ashamed.

I am in serious need of a karmic top-off. Sigh.

Friday, July 30, 2004


Working here at SupaDupaSoft, we receive--and distribute--a lot of swag, the corporate-logo-emblazoned giveaway crap that's common to conventions and team-building pep-rally stuff. Mugs and mousepads and key rings and great bales of t-shirts and pretty much any gewgaw you can stick a logo or product name on, you can find in my desk or someone else's. Today I went into the kitchen on our floor and found a yo-yo, touting one of our technologies and abandoned (?) by the recycling bins. Losers weepers; I snagged it immediately. Not only was it an excellent yo-yo, nicely balanced; at the apex of its loop, it both lit up and made an irritating sound. Mine! I strolled yo-yoing back to my office, and bumped into Mike and my boss in the hall.

"Yo-yos are for boys! You're supposed to play with jacks," Mike said.

"You have some gender issues, don't you?" asked my boss. (He does--tsks all over the place when one of his female colleagues cuts her hair short or crumples her petticoat or whatever.)

I round-the-world-ed it close enough to his skull to make him duck. Hee.

Anyway. This started a discussion of toys and games and playground fads, whatever craze or chant would suddenly sweep over the schoolyard in the primary grades. Yo-yos were like this for me; when I was in about 4th grade, some...professional (?) ...yo-yo-ists came to a school assembly and performed amazing tricks, spinning and popping and twirling little orbs all over the gym while we sat cross-legged on the floor, awestruck. They gave away four yo-yos to kids in the audience as prizes. The next day, every kid on the playground had a yo-yo, I swear to god. Within 48 hours, a good percentage of us had accessorized the toy with a black eye or fat lip or at least one tender goose-egg rising on the scalp. Within 72 hours, Mrs. Eskenazi had developed a pretty magnificent yo-yo collection in her desk drawer. I wonder if she still has them?

Somehow, I picked up a few tricks over time. In addition to terrorizing Mike with my yo-yo's orbit, I Rocked the Baby, and Walked the Dog somewhat ineffectually on the office carpet. Lucky thing it's annual review time, eh?

What else? Mike suggested "clackers," another nosebleed-inducing toy of the past: plastic spheres on either end of a string that you slung up and down so that, if you managed their parabolic arc perfectly, they'd clack against each other with an irritating sound. If you managed the arc imperfectly, well, later you might have an interesting scar. I never had much affinity for jacks, and marbles were ehhh for whatever reason in most of my childhood, but I remembered jumping rope, both "Chinese" (a loop around two participants' knees, that you hopped in and out of) and regular, with all the chants and ditties. My boss got a sort of "fuzzy memories" look on her face. "Can you still..." she asked, and then simply raised her hands and pantomimed a little hand-jive in the hall. Why, I'll be Miss Mary Mack--I do remember!

It brought up an old fascination of mine...where does that stuff come from? I mean, we all learn it from other kids, the bigger kids...but where did they learn it? Where did it start? I mean, we didn't have the Internet to spread this around. What accounts for the slight regional differences?--I sing, "See See Oh Playmate" and the next kid insists it's "Say Say." And I remember parodies, too, of our own little folk jingles. What little wise-ass came up with this?

See see oh enemy,
Come out and fight with me!
And bring your [something something] three,
Climb up my [uhh...sticker bush? something dangerous]
Slide down my razor blade [my adult self says, eeeeeauuugh]
Into my dungeon door...

When I retire from the software industry and become that goofy senior citizen bothering everyone else in the American Studies PhD program, this is totally my thesis.

Of course, it's been done: One Potato, Two Potato looks like an interesting treatise on the topic. Or you can just start Googling and see where it gets you, which is how I found Julia's blog entry and comments (which alternate between two topics: babymaking, and playground jingles from all over the globe, an unanticipated combo). Plus, there's always the Harvard Dialect Survey; they're no longer taking new entries, but you can look at the results and the maps and it's absolutely fascinating.

This all reminds me of a lifelong burning question--just what were Paul and Julio doing down by the schoolyard?

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Wait up! Hey, you guys, wait up! Hey!

One of the televisions at the gym is perpetually set to ESPN, which has been playing coverage of the Tour de France in the early morning hours while I'm there, slugging it out on the elliptical trainer. It sort of motivates one's lazy ass (or shames it), to be treading blankly in an endless loop, flipping through Entertainment Weekly while the fittest cyclists on the planet ride bikes up a freaking mountain, say.

Anyway. Trek Bicycles is apparently sponsoring a Ride With Lance contest, commercials for which air during the coverage; you can sign up to win a private ride with Lance Armstrong. Logically, I know that I am not the target audience for this contest. I have a mountain bike that I lug out of the garage maybe twice a year; I'm a dreamy cyclist who flinches at traffic and is not so much with the balancing. Imagine if they paired me with Lance, he of the freakishly long femurs and A HEART THE SIZE OF A HAM. What could go wrong?

"Hey, Lance, wait up! A bug flew in my ear! Lance! And I rode off the trail into this ditch! And all the sammiches fell out of my basket! LANCE!"

He would not hear me, of course, because he would be two miles away at this point.

Monday, July 12, 2004

No my first name ain't Baby

Almost forgot--a graffiti tag I saw yesterday in the University District, that I enjoyed muchly:

Mr. Shit Eye

You might want to work on that handle, son.

Jump back!

Well, it wasn't allergies; turns out I actually had some sort of summer cold/flu thing. I spent the first part of the holiday weekend snuffly and feverish and generally irritable.

But. What did I do in this clammy, grouchy state, you might ask? Well, one night when I couldn't sleep, I sat up and watched every last minute of Footloose on VH1's "Movies that Rock."

And...huh. I seem to remember this movie being deeply awesome, when I was 14. Kevin Bacon! So...squintily tortured, as he leapt emotively about the abandoned warehouse! The kids, they just wanted to dance! DANCE! As I did, prissing around my room to the soundtrack album. I was secretly choreographing a figure-skating routine to "Let's Hear It for the Boy" by Denise Williams.

That sentence says more about my early adolescence than anyone should probably ever have known.

So. Age had not been kind to one of us, and I like to think that I've outgrown at least the most visible dorkiness. Footloose did not fare as well. Honestly, what were they thinking? What were WE thinking? A chicken race...on tractors? To the wailing of Bonnie Tyler? "Holding Out for a Hero," all oooh-oooh-Oooh-OOOOOOOH! in the background? And the tight, tight pants for both sexes--however did we walk around like that? Surely putting on jeans so narrowly pegged defied the laws of physics. And the dancing itself! Man, if you busted out that poppin', lockin', western-line-dance crap at the prom today, I imagine the other kids would simply turn on you and kill you.

It's sort of puzzling, too, because there were good actors in this movie. I am always happy to see Kevin Bacon, the hardest working man in show business...but John Lithgow, as the scary preacher who'd banned the sinful gyrations of dance? Dianne Wiest, his wife? Li'l Sarah Jessica Parker, as...the funny best friend? What did they all bring to the set, I wonder? Did they take it seriously? Did they think they were delivering an important cinematic message about oppressed youth, and the freedom to express oneself in a strangely ceaseless storm of glitter?

Finally...was this movie always SO GAY? I don't mean that in the purely pejorative sense; I'm talking about what the TWoP folks call the HoYay! I realize that Kevin Bacon gamely lampooned himself on "Will and Grace" a season or so ago, even doing that freaking dance...but somehow I had completely missed the thunderous homoerotic subtext blasting from every frame of this movie. Mr. Bacon and whichever nice Penn boy that is rassle, and dance, and cuff each other in the head fondly, and should just kiss already for crying out loud. Gayer than the gayest gay in Gaytown, I'm telling you.

Still, though. The climactic, absurd prom scene, all the kids kicking and stepping and doing the splits and backflips and the Robot and whatnot (um...if dancing's been outlawed for years, how did you all...oh, never mind), Kenny Loggins kicking off his Sunday shoes, all balloons and Christmas lights and Jesus, how much glitter IS that? Shit, y'all. That's fun. Any movie where the lead character's last line is to scream, "LET'S DANCE!" ...well, it gives you a little bit of ants in the old pants, it does.

It can't be just the fever.

* * * * *

I should mention that I myself can get to Kevin Bacon in four moves, if you fudge "in a movie with" slightly to "worked with." As teenagers, my sister and I worked in the same local gift shop for one Christmas. Later, in her first major graphic design job, she worked on a Clint Eastwood filmography CD-ROM and got to meet the man (a photo of the team luncheon shows the designers and computer dorks, hilariously paralyzed by awe, and Clint at the head of the table). Clint Eastwood was in "The Bridges of Madison County" with Meryl Streep, who was in "The River Wild" with...Kevin Bacon.

Thursday, July 01, 2004


While I was writing that last post, I heard the ice-cream man tinkling and tootling through the neighborhood. ("A Bicycle Built for Two," very GBC!) I feel so lousy, and a simple orange popsicle would be so so good right now. The tootling got closer, and I actually jumped up and grabbed a handful of change off the hall table and flung open the door...

...Christ on a pony, man, slow the fuck down! I'm not gonna RUN.


Sneezing; linkage

Having another Allergy Blast! of some sort; feel like crap. I'm taking next week off work--24 hours til vacation, and I can hardly even appreciate it. I don't have any original thoughts of my own, so here's a buncha links to other people's. Eventually I'll migrate them over to the list on the right.

Abbie the Cat has a posse...and a blog. It's strangely poetic, moving, and oddly convincing. For a blog written by a cat. It also features the occasional post from the Other Cat who lives there, Martha. I find it fascinating that not only do they have distinctive voices, but Martha seems to be a better typist. Abbie's more the artist, I think. He's been under the weather and the bed, lately, so send your love.

David Wong was my prom date and first boyfriend. He would probably be appalled that I'm telling you that. At any rate, his global adventures are always interesting and frequently funny. "Pandemic Cookie" is the name of my new band.

Heather B. Armstrong at Dooce writes about life and new motherhood with insight, humor, and a filthy dirty sailor mouth, which I think is completely appropriate. Babies? Cute, but they make a fucking MESS, man.

Seth has suddenly posted a flurry of updates to Eminent Romaine, which is good. I think he sometimes blames his preoccupation on his baby. I dunno, Dooce seems to hold it together. But he has my esteem for purchasing To the 5 Borroughs and Sinatra at the Sands on the same day.

Linda is simply a genius.

Well? Go on, then.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Cleanup on aisle 2

How have I gone so long without visiting the Ballard Market? I made my first visit last night. Screw you AND your club card, Safeway! It was so nice--both organic and regular, cheap, possibly toxin-coated produce; chipotle peppers and good ol' Western Family canned tomatoes; Kraft dinner and raw bulghur in bulk. Much less intimidating than Whole Foods, where I fear that all the Hostess cakes and pigs-in-a-blanket meals of my past are visible on my person. Plus, according to this article, the Ballard Market has a motto: "Experience Fresh the Ballard Way." This is much funnier if you know Ballard--sort of the elderly-Scandinavian ghetto.

Anyway, I rambled through the store in happy shopping awe. It smelled good, a positive sign. Actually it smelled kind of zippy. Vinegary, even. Actually, people were starting to sniff and peer around the displays curiously. Actually, it smelled like pickles. Like picklespicklesPICKLES!! right over there, where a weary teenager in an apron was swabbing broken glass and kosher dill slices into a heavy-duty dustpan. Whoopsie.

I was nowhere near the pickles when whatever happened happened, I must insist.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Dos gatos

Yeah, I know, it's been awhile. Life, she intrudes.

One of the things keeping me busy lately is the fact that I've acquired a second cat. This is the part where I should probably point out the big "Sucker!" decal on the back of my t-shirt. I am afraid of being That Lady, a little; I've asked friends to stop me before I get to six.

I already had Tulip, a portly gray tabby a friend had gently foisted on me New Year's Day. She is timid and talkative and so mild-mannered that even interactive kitty toys intimidate her: if you poink her lightly on the flank with one of those feather-wand toys, she scurries away in fear. She prefers the passivity of her catnip-stuffed banana, which she can drool and nap on in peace. So I figured it wouldn't be too difficult to introduce another cat...

...especially the one I'd picked out. I'd first seen his picture online, where the accompanying kitty personal ad listed his favorite activity as "hiding" and his name as the peculiar "Baked Bean." I have a soft spot for orange tabbies, and the PAWS satellite adoption center is walking distance from my house. I dropped by to meet this Bean, who crouched trembling at the back of his cage but, even in his terror, was a Slave to the Kitty Brush in my hand. One of us is a sucker.

I brought him home a week ago Tuesday. I was surprised when he hopped out of his carrier and de-huddled: he's twice the length he appeared in kitty jail. In 24 hours, he was squeezing his lanky frame out from under the futon to greet me when I called; in 48 hours he discovered the cache of heretofore ignored kitty toys and threw them all over the living room in drug-induced bliss. Tulip looked on agahst: "What is wrong with that guy?" He chewed on my plants, splashed water out of his dish for fun, and is sitting on the document shredder beside me as I type this. He is not the shrinking violet indicated in his Web profile. (And THAT has never happened to me before, oh, no.)

After a few days of going through every orange soda, snack food, and baked-bean pun I could think of (Frank?), I settled on the moniker Julius. Hee. There's been a lot of trash talking between the cats, but no real fisticuffs that I've noticed. Tulip has voiced her displeasure to me readily ("That guy is STILL HERE!") but seems to have resigned herself to having a big little brother, as long as he observes a few simple guidelines: he may not sit on The Couch, The Bed, or The Mommy. These are her rules, not mine. So far, peace reigns...aside from the 4 a.m. intervals in which Julius has dragged his favorite mousie into the tub and sent it pattering around and around the porcelain ellipse like it's the Seattle International Raceway.

Yes, do stop me well before I ever get to six.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Unsettling dream

So last night I had one of those extremely detailed, geographically precise dreams in which I apparently was engaged in some classy White Trash Shopping with my mother. We were on Aurora Avenue*, where we intended to do some browsing at Ross Dress for Less...but not before stopping for a meal at the adjacent Burger King, where I was adamant about having "a BK Broiler with bacon." Is that even a thing? I'm scared to find out. Why would I desire this? I haven't been in a Burger King in a decade.

(*For any non-Seattle readers...every decent-sized city has this road: four to six lanes, lined with car lots and motels and check-cashing establishments, coyly named sex-toy stores like "The Love Pantry," and pancake restaurants that started out as a Sambo's or a Denny's but have changed hands at least three times and now have scarily handpainted signage and a big Bud Light neon sign in the window. Yeah, that road. In Yonkers, NY, it was Central Avenue, I remember.)

Monday, June 07, 2004

They've gone and grabbed old Ronnie

(Bonus points if you can identify that line.)

I suppose I should talk about the death of Ronald Reagan. I don't know that I have much to add to the discourse, though...I mean, I have no love for Reagan, the President; I'm a little flabbergasted at the media hysteria, in fact. The Great Communicator! The most beloved and popular and cherished and adored President of all time, forever and ever, don't even try to argue, amen. Really? I don't get it.

I mean, I was a free-lunch kid. So I had Reagan to thank for the threat of a lot of ketchup. He invented and demonized the Welfare Queen; we weren't on the throne, but we were definitely part of the court. I spent no small amount of time in my adolescence fearing a nuclear holocaust, fearing The Russians, fearing it would be "Red Dawn" in the school-bus zone outside Washington Middle School at any moment. (I also feared algebra, the aliens in the movie version of War of the Worlds, and that my mother would die and we'd be sent to live on the farm with our dad, so take that as you will.) I don't remember gleaning anything in particular from the Iran-Contra scandal except, Politicians lie. All the time, like rugs, lie lie lie.

Reagan was the first President I can remember paying any attention to. The pompadour! The apple cheeks! The scary wrinkles! The "Well..." I mean, I knew who Carter was, but I couldn't tell you a single word he ever said. A kid on my bus in second grade went to Washington D.C. on vacation and returned with a wind-up toy, "Jimmy the Walking Peanut," the buzzing clockwork hilarity of which was the sum total of my political consciousness at the time.

Reagan was the first President I could quote. "Honey, I forgot to duck." The Challenger speech, its ending swiped from a poet I could Google in ten seconds but can't remember now. "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" I've heard that 20 times in the past 48 hours...thing is, it gives me a little shiver still, because...they did. Eventually, they did. A big hunk of it stands in my company's conference center, as art. Holly roves freely about in a unified Germany. I don't lie in bed worrying about The Bomb any more...though as an adult I've discovered that there are things so much scarier that it's better to not think of them at all if you ever want to sleep again. Dubya, I'm looking at you. Whatever Reagan's legacy, he was better than the current guy holding the contract for the big red phone.

But. Forget the President. I can spare a little grief for Reagan, the man. There are more violent, more painful ways, perhaps...but I can't think of a crueler way to die than Alzheimer's, for victim and family alike. Nancy, scary Nancy, tiny and brittle and fierce--she looks like my grandmother, who always loathed the comparison--it was obvious that they adored each other, and that she loved him to the end. I cannot imagine the horror of watching your husband, partner, father, friend, recede into silence, an enormous speechless toddler, mobile but without thought. A windup toy. The Walking Peanut.

I've read a lot of bitter forums today, people complaining that however much the Reagans suffered, they had help: Nancy could get the best medical treatment for her husband available, could have respite care whenever she needed a break, had coverage and concern her husband denied scores of poor Americans. It's true.

But. I saw that clip half a dozen times today, while I chugged away on the eliptical trainer at the gym: Nancy, putting her ferociously coiffed head down on her husband's coffin, bereft. Goodbye. I have said those goodbyes, myself, recently enough. Say what you will of the President, but...I can grieve a moment for the man.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Bowled over

My team at AllYourBaseAreBelongToUsCo is having a Morale Event this afternoon. As the fiscal budget comes to a close in June, we're always subject to a sudden flurry of presumably attitude-enhancing activities, ballgames and picnics and harbor cruises. Today's excursion is bowling. I'm a little nervous.

I'm a terrible bowler, for starters. In one of my few prior games, I believe my score was 11. So there is that fundamental humiliation forthcoming. Then, too, it's with your work colleagues, so you can't really prepare yourself appropriately for bowling by getting completely shitfaced and grabbing the Rock-n-Bowl karaoke mike. You still have to see these people on Monday.

But I have some body issues, too. I'm not a tiny girl, and bowling involves a lot of specialized postures. What if there is pants splittage?


Plus, Darcy told me that the last time her team undertook a Morale Event at the lanes, she got a little overzealous and, in hurling the ball at the ol' tenpins, actually flung herself to the floor. It's slippery there. So now I have that to worry about as well. Actually, I admire her self-possession under the circumstances. If that were me, I think I'd just have had to get a new job, possibly in a different state.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Your tone of voice is not very motivating

Whew...that was kind of heavy. Let's move on!

Any 24 fans out there? I hope you've enjoyed Chloe, the social-skill-bereft, slightly Aspberger-y computer genius and new addition to CTU. But have you ever wondered what Chloe dreams, what she'd like to be if she wasn't having to save the world from terrorism and point out everyone else's personal shortcomings all freaking day long? Like, maybe...she'd want to be an indie rock star. (Note: it's Quicktime, takes up some bandwidth, and features some f-bombs, so be careful with the clicky-clicky.)

I actually saw the Girls Guitar Club open for Janeane Garofolo a couple years back, but had no idea that the one on the left would end up my favorite tertiary television character of the year. Mary Lynn Rajskub is totally my pretend television friend now.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Thanks for the liberty, and stuff

Yes, I know--I'm coming to Memorial Day a bit late.

Anyway. Over the weekend, I saw this Bon-Macy's commercial on television: people in convertibles, kids frolicking in sprinklers. The voiceover lady declared with warm pomposity, "Memorial Day...a time to remember...a time to relax..."

Me, scoffing: "A time to shop!"

VO Lady: "...A time to SHOP!"

And I've been thinking about it since, trying to parse out how I feel...wondering how I should feel. How should this make me feel?

I think first of WWII, I guess: because it was a just war; because the memorial (which, honestly, I find pretty ham-handed) was dedicated this weekend; because all the news sources and Toms Brokaw and Hanks are quick to remind us that members of that generation, Great and Merely Average, are dying at a rate of 1,100 a day. A day! I had a grandfather in each theatre: Dad's dad went ashore in Normandy, though several days after D-Day; Mom's dad roved the Pacific, performing some sort of clerical duties in the Navy; a family photograph shows him impossibly skinny and jug-eared, hunched over a typewriter with a worried look. Neither one lived to see their memorial; neither one spoke a single word about their war, in my memory. My mother told me later that her dad's only request upon returning home was that his wife never serve him stewed tomatoes again. Grampa was a legendary junk food junkie, true--but it wasn't that he'd grown weary of canned tomatoes, out at sea. It was that it reminded him of the carnage he'd seen.

What to make of it, then, the crass commercialism that's turned a day of reflection into a bargain bonanza? Should I be offended on behalf of all our granddads, the teenagers in sailor suits or olive-drab helmets who saved the world or died trying, who came home and golfed and mowed lawns and kept their nightmares to themselves? Should I be horrified, being urged to grease up the MasterCard as if it would "honor" the current crop of America's sons and daughters have volunteered themselves for George's morally ambiguous train wreck in Iraq? that the point? Did (do) these men and women fight to uphold our standards of freedom, right up to and including the big-dumb-goodnatured-Golden-Retriever qualities of the American people? Is democracy's best feature the way it entitles us to surfboards and hot dogs and bad television and good deals on bathmats and crockpots and a Free Gift With Purchase at the Clinique counter?

I really am asking, actually. Because I've been thinking about it, and I really don't know.

* * * * *

Hard to tell--after looking at these for half an hour, they're ALL him--but I think that the Wilson in the front row, far left, is my Mom's dad. Have a Snickers or a packet of corn chips in his memory, won't you?

* * * * *

At the grocery store tonight, in their display of red-white-and-blue picnic-type items for either last weekend or the upcoming Fourth of July, I saw a case of what were basically battery-operated, strobing red taillights, like a cyclist would use...except that these had American flag stickers on 'em and were labeled "Spirit of America Patriotic Flashers."

Yep. Expose yourself to democracy!

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Stupid nature!

Bleh. It's been more March-like, lamb/lion weather the past few days, pouring rain, with the occasional premium features of wind, lightning, and hail. It feels like October, if a bit warmer. I'm completely incapacitated by it; the steady drumming on the roof lulls me back into sleep like a little baby. A narcoleptic baby, with a full tummy. Of Benadryl.

It's also disheartening because it keeps me from messing around in the yard. Now that I've finally got all the inside stuff unpacked, I've been trying to enjoy the other perks of home ownership, namely trying to rehab the pitifully neglected garden. The first couple early-spring months were exciting: what would come up? Well, as it turns out, two sprigs of mint and 100,000 bluebells. Which are pretty, but that is kind of a lot of self-perpetuation going on there.

So I've spent several sunny weekends attempting to completely gut, mulch, and replant the little bricked-in beds that wrap around the house. It's a challenge to completely clear a strip and arrange it to my satisfaction...and then stand up and say, "well, that's five feet done." Also, how could "gardening" make me so damn sore afterwards? It's not an Olympic event; hell, the primary activity involves sitting on the ground. People buy special fun floppy hats for this pursuit. Martha can do it without harming her manicure. (Perhaps she can be put on highway landscaping detail?) So how is it that each Saturday afternoon ends with me blotchily sunburnt, coated with a fine layer of grit and unable to lace my own shoes for a day?

My next project is The Lawn. The day after I moved into the house, I looked up from BoxVille to see my next-door neighbor, Brian, zooming past the windows with a mower. Sweetest welcome-wagon gesture ever! I thanked him profusely...and have been surprised and shocked each time he's continued to mow my lawn for the subseqent three months. I am not a complete freeloader--I do ply him and his girlfriend with baked goods in return. But last week I had to admit that the dandelions appeared to be winning. He's mowing ground cover that is green, but has proportionally less and less to do with grass.

So I bought myself one of those weed-pulling step-and-twist doodads. Darcy's husband recommended it; it appeals to his masculine instincts by not only wresting weeds from the ground, but allowing you to SHOOT them from the tool into a handy yard waste recepticle (or, attempt to hit a neighbor child in the butt). I am eager to give it a test firing...though I'm concerned that, should I manage to pull all the weeds, I'll be able to trim the remaining four tufts of grass with scissors. Though I suppose that would satisfy my sense of obligation to neighbor Brian.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Better dead, wait

(Rejected titles for this post include: Red Dawn; Red Alert; Red Scare; Code Red...)

Over in Pamie's blog, she's had a couple mini-surveys this week: "what movies make you cry?" and "what discontinued lipstick shade do you still mourn?" Of course I've had to put my two cents in for both. The former category is pretty much a steep path strewn with butter-and-tear-stained napkins, so I'll let it alone here. But for the latter: Max Factor's "Midnight Mahogany," which I expected to be brown; instead it turned out to be a magnificent 40s Harlot Red. I still have a half-inch stub I save for special occasions.

But it's made me start thinking of my great aunt, who passed away a little over two years ago, at 84. Nannie had always been a pistol, a spitfire, the family beauty. As a child, she insisted she'd been abandoned by "Gypsies," who'd surely return to claim her; as an adult, she looked like Olivia DeHaviland and was known for forcing other drivers off the road in games of Chicken. She loved Jamaica and, inexplicably, the "It's a Small World" ride at Disneyworld. She argued with her closest sister, my grandmother, virtually every single day, over everything from who said what to whom in 1957 to "the sound a piano makes." (Don't ask.) Her wedding portrait shows her in a trim suit and a vast, winged hat the size of a lazy susan. Nannie was badass, no question.

Toward the end, after a series of traumatic falls, she spent several years in an assisted-living facility, an "adult family home." Visiting her there was a torment, to me; the place always smelled like fried fish and old age and befuddlement and fear. She and Grammy would attempt to outdo each other for the honor of Most Horrible Prairie Childhood Memory: remember that time our wicked stepmother killed a litter of puppies and made us watch? Well, remember when mother died and dad threw the Christmas tree out into the snow cursing and crying?

But the point I was getting to: Nannie liked to have Her Face On. When her hands shook too badly, she'd enlist my mother to draw in her quotation-mark eyebrows. Once, she offered her a black felt-tip pen for this purpose: "They'll last longer." She could still manage her own lipstick, if someone else held the little compact mirror steady. "Move--all I can see is ceiling," she'd complain, jerking my wrist around.

She had several remaining lipsticks, little smudged and broken nubs she carried around in a grimy purse. And every one of them was a more shocking, fabulous RED red than anything I've ever owned. What could the names of those colors be? Jezebel? USO Tart? Ruby the Riveter? They were amazing. I admired them, admired and adored her for still wobbling them across her lips, bedridden, cramped by multiple sclerosis, octogenarian.

When she died, my mother handled her affairs. A simple cremation, a scattering from the deck of a Washington State Ferry. (Nannie would have liked it: a dramatic burial at sea that also, even if temporarily, inconvienienced the other passengers and made them look.) At some point, though, I asked my mother who'd been responsible for her makeup.

"Oh, I don't know...we didn't bother," Mom claimed. She plainly didn't see the point--why tart up the earthly remains, just before loading them into the crematorium?

But I was appalled. "You sent her to meet her maker without her face on?!?" I cried. "She's going to haunt your ass!"

We're still waiting, mind you. But I will not be surprised in the least if she starts poking dishes off the shelves in Mom's kitchen.

Thursday, April 29, 2004


Nice Google, trying so hard to provide some ads that relate to my blog content. Apparently related to my allergerific posting last week, the top of my page presently features two links to industrial-caliber sneeze guards. You can even get them with etched glass! Art, that.

Jettisoning the Professional Friend

So, last week I dumped my therapist.

That's probably a loaded phrase, isn't it? But how do you end it--an amicable-but-also-covered-by-the-health-plan relationship like that? You break up with him? You fire him, all Trumpin' it with the little jabby hand-gesture and everything? There isn't a word for it, I don't think.

I have--had?--been "with" the Good Doctor, been "seeing" him, for seven years. Almost to the day, I now realize. When the ExLoveOfMyLife dumped me, seven years ago, I called the number on the refrigerator magnet distributed by the Employee Assistance Program; they entered my global positioning coordinates or somesuch and matched me with the Good Doctor. (The building that held his office also housed a bakery, so I knew that therapeutic comfort of one kind or another would be handily available. Some days, I applied both.)

Seven years. That's longer than the relationship with ELOML that put me on the couch in the first place. It's probably not a stretch to say that it's the longest, most positive relationship I've ever had with...a man. Gender isn't a factor, here...but then again, it is. Isn't; is. Transferrence all over the place. And yes, we talked about that too, over time.

How did I figure this out? The last month or so has been strange. I'm still distracted by my House Joy, feeling generally content and happy. I'm working out; I'm writing this blog; I've lost 6 1/2 pounds. I would go to therapy and find myself groping for things to say, or fretting more about, say, my sister's mental health than my own. We were talking about ice cream. Then, three weeks ago, busy working from home, I completely forgot my appointment--didn't think of it at all until I saw his name on the caller ID, 90 minutes later. Which was a whole new can of worms: he admitted he rarely called the no-shows, but wanted to make sure I was okay. Was concerned. Was worried, maybe.

I've searched myself a lot on this, too--with firm proof that he "worried" about me, am I just fleeing? Is this just responsible Me, fleeing the burden of needing to keep another Grown-Up from worrying, from suffering on my behalf? We talked about that a lot, the next week, but ultimately...I still felt ready. I hadn't missed therapy, whether or not the Good Doctor missed me.

So, we talked about it. I did fret...I hate to be forgotten, after all. I told him a story about revisiting a couple favorite old high-school teachers, when I was a graduate student. English teachers! In whose classes I had cranked out pages of prose, had fancied myself a genius, had laughed and cried and been forced to read Ophelia to my secret crush's Hamlet, the worst indignity ever...anyway. They didn't remember me, couldn't put a name to my face, just four years later. Ouch. The Good Doctor declared that horrible, and said he would be unlikely to forget my name. This moved me deeply...though a bit later it did occur to me that my last name is his first. Heh.

But I was ready. I was grateful, I was happy, and I was ready. He said "goodbye," which I don't remember him saying before. He would not see me next week. And I cried...and did my ears deceive me, or did he sound a little choked up, too? But...I still left.

Absurdly, now, I want to thank him profusely...all "To Sir With Love" about it...or recommend him to others, like a restaurant. How do you thank someone? Where's Lulu when you need her? The thesaurus fails me here, also.

For the record, though, I still possess both crayons and perfume. I'll leave it to you to guess which of those gets more frequent use.

Thank you, Doug.

Friday, April 23, 2004

In your face, gals

Saw a commercial last night for some sorta wrinkle-reducing face cream; the voiceover promised it would help minimize "expression lines." Expression lines! Apparently you're not doomed just for laughing anymore; betraying the least glimmer of all those petty, pesky emotions is a one-way ticket to CrowsFeetVille, you decrepit hag you.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

If you believe in fairies, clap your hands!

Grrrrr. Hard day. I woke myself up by sneezing uncontrollably this morning; at first I thought I'd inhaled a stray cat hair in my sleep, or something, but the snuffliness persisted. I popped a Benadryl, the only thing in the house, and headed off to the gym, where I was given cause to wonder, is it possible to fall asleep on a Nautilus machine? Because frankly I was thisclose.

Then to work, where the day was consumed with one of those busywork, cut-n-paste tasks...tedious, but weirdly satisfying at least, when you can quantify the pile of items you've moved to the "Out" heap from the "In." I continued to sneeze and sneeze and sneeze and sneeze, though, in the grip of what I hope is an allergy attack; after six hours and change of trying to blow my face off the front of my skull, I staggered out and caught the earliest possible bus.

But. On the bus, I was unable to stop listening to the conversation of the two women behind me. And believe me when I said I tried. I struggled to doze; I hummed the love theme from "Dr. Zhivago" to myself. But no...I had to pay attention to them, and their first topic, The War. You know, the one in Iraq? (Thank goodness that's over with, huh?) Woman A was insistent that President Bush had "honorable intentions," whatever the hell that means, and that we should stay there and finish up the plan. (Woman B, to her credit, seemed to be taking the "uh, what plan?" tack that was trumpeting in my own head.) Woman A also was very disgusted with those nations now pulling their soldiers out of the region, backing out on their "promises" to help; they were "cowards and quitters!" in her eyes. I wondered whether under her guidance we'd still be sorting out Vietnam. I sneezed. I bit my tongue. Thankfully, they moved on to a new topic: The Gays. Uh oh.

I wasn't going to get all po-litical in this blog. I wasn't! It was going to be all wry observations and pop-culty fun-ness and would you believe the koo-koo things people order at the espresso cart? So if you're here reading for that, scoot on off to TWoP or something for the afternoon, loveys, and I promise you ruminations on hotdish and bingo tomorrow. But at the moment, I have a soapbox to stomp around on.

I'm pro-gay marriage. I have multiple reasons for this; the first is that I see it, at its core, as a church/state issue. Marriage is a legal, civil contract in this country, first and foremost; you don't have to get married in a church, or make religion a part of the ceremony at all, but you do have to get that license in your hand, just like you do to drive or to fish or to dispense cocktails. It's a civil right, and to deny it to a segment of the consenting adult population is discriminatory, period.

I also support it for general cultural (and pop-cultural, I guess) reasons. I don't get the gnashing and wailing over protecting marriage as An Institution. Are you kidding me? Look how the straight folks have botched it up, for crying out loud. (Exhibit A: my poor, young, clueless, ill-suited, now-divorced parents.) How many straight couples are going to court for a Do-Over, or loathing each other through decades of marital acrimony, or throwing their hands in the air and just shacking up, or fame-whoring their way through the latest round of "The Bachelor" on my goddamn television? I hate to break it to you, folks, but The Institution, she is in a world of hurt already. Why not let the homosexuals take a crack at it? There are gay and lesbian couples clamoring to get married; maybe weddings will become a hot new trend. Look at what the Queer Eye fellows have done for belt-wearing. (Thom! Love ya! Need a hag? Call me!)

And I support it for personal reasons. For the record, I'm straight, and single. I just bought a house on my own, and I'm proud of my independence therein, but I long for a boy to play with, and make weekend plans and pancakes and babies with, and possibly get legal with, not necessarily in any order. But friends of mine, people I love dearly, and who love each other dearly...can't get married. They aren't entitled to seize the exact same joys and miseries and legal protections and property rights and social acceptance and big fat Greek wedding and tax status and public declaration of unity that I'm entitled to, someday, just because I happen to be a girl who likes boys. And that's wrong.

It's time, people. It's just plain time.

Back to the ladies on the bus. Woman B, again taking the middle ground, voiced the belief that some folks are just born gay. (Actually, she said that "God made them" that way. I shan't quibble.) Woman A, though, was more dubious; she was "fine" with the gays, as long as they weren't all "in [her] face" about it. Woman B pointed out that she didn't know anyone who ran right up and shouted "I'm gay!" at first meeting. Woman A was still uneasy, though. "I don't mind...I just don't believe in it," she kept saying. Believe in what? Gayness? Gay people? Like ghosts or alien abductions or the Tooth Fairy? (Okay: hee.) I don't believe in blabbing one's sociopolitical opinions so loudly on the bus (yeah, I prefer the subtleties of the INTERNET!)...but dammit, Woman A, you were still there.

So. Recap: allergies, sneezing, gym, work, cranky, yay gay marriage, vote Ron Sims, over and out.

* * * * * *

Got home to find arborists dismantling the giant, limb-tossing, decrepit evergreen in front of the house...which needed to be done, but the chain-sawing and wood-chipping? NOT SO SOOTHING. Grrr.

Friday, April 16, 2004

And how!

Readerboard sign on a church in my neighborhood:


Well, right on. You go, Jesus!

Sunday, April 11, 2004

"A *rabbit*?"

Time for a seasonal reading. I've got a few pieces of writing that I turn to over and over at certain times of year (state-fair time has its own entire category), and this is one of them. C. K. Williams, from "Flesh and Blood," copyright 1987 (don't sue me, I replicate out of love). Happy Easter, everybody.


As though it were the very soul of rational human intercourse which had been violated,
I can't believe you did that, the father chokes out to his little son, kneeling beside him,
tugging at the waistband of the tiny blue jeans, peerng in along the split between the buttocks,
putting down his face at last to sniff, then saying it again, with quiet indignation, outrage,
a power more moral than parental: at issue here are covenants, agreements from the dawn of time.
The child, meanwhile, his eyes a little wider than they might be, is otherwise unblinking;
all the time his father raves, he stares, scholarly, detached, at a package in his hands:
a box of foil-wrapped chocolate eggs, because it's spring, because the god has died, and risen.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Story problem

Is it general knowledge that I am not a math fan? I'm not all Barbie about it, but beyond the ability to balance my checkbook, or determine how much carpet will fit in a room, I've never found much application for the numeric arts in my daily life. I chose a college without a math requirement--that was far from the main reason, but it didn't hurt. Over the past few years, my sister's taken some math courses to fill out her Associate degree credits, and for some reason she'd call me up asking for help. A rocket measuring 54.1 cm leaves a platform 120 cm high and traveling at a rate of zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...just...static, in my brain. Don't need those cells anymore, and they're gone daddy gone.

But. Today's P-I featured this article about transferring the Seattle Public Library's collection to its ever-more-awesome new Central Branch building. They calculated the book volume, in linear feet, in exacting detail--months and pages and reams of diagrams and analysis. Now that's some math! I'm somehow charmed, that all these numbers blah blah blah math blah have been brought to bear on...words. Moving great quantities of tangible literary arts around. Cooooool.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

This mall has everything!

Whoa. In exhaustive detail, word for word:

The Pepsi Syndrome
"Now, the nuclear fuel here is used to generate energy here, which is sent to your homes to make toast."

The French Chef
"Crap! Oh! Oh, now I've done it--I've cut the dickens out of my finger."

Little Chocolate Donuts
"I logged a lot of miles training for that day."

Horses sweat, men perspire, ladies...glow

I sat up later than I might have, Monday night, watching an episode of American Experience on PBS (thereby cementing both my nerdy and snobby status--NerdSnob! SnobNerd!): a film on the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island.

Odd experience, that. I mean, we know that, generally speaking, Things Turned Out All Right. Twenty-five years after the fact, if we could see the gentle glow of the Keystone State from the top of the Space Needle, we'd have caught on. But I was surprised by how much tension the documentary managed to create, Liev Schrieber narrating the blow-by-blow of a really bad week at the ol' plant with measured calm...against a backdrop of bawling evacuation sirens and officials going all Han Solo as they stammered assurances, "Negative, situation normal, everything's fine are you?" President Carter, grimly wading about in his skinny 70s suit and protective yellow booties.

Is it still haunting because we know now how bad it could be? I'm thinking of a link I snagged from Mike: Elena's haunting photo essay of Chernobyl from the back of a motorcycle. "Ghost Town" is a bit of English vernacular that's clearly crossed over to the Russian states, and her blankly terrifying pictures show it: every single day is April 26, 1986, falling slowly, endlessly into poisonous ruin.

I don't know why that, in particular, gets me: the emptiness, the abandonment. How decay marks the infinitesimal passage of time, though the empty world doesn't care whether you live to tell about it or not. In William Langewiesche's series of hotly debated Atlantic articles on the World Trade Center attacks, later collected into his book American Ground, the sequence that continues to stick with me is his regular visits, over a period of weeks, to a conference room in an adjacent bank building, where people had clearly fled their breakfast meeting. He writes about checking on the progress, such as it is, of dust-filmed danishes and the scum of orange juice shrinking away in the glasses. This is the image that continues to cross my mind, beyond what marks the event on television (the planes, planes, planes, always the planes).

Back to Three Mile Island, though. The other--really, only--memory this documentary stirred in me was of what must have been the first "Saturday Night Live" sketch I ever saw. In it, President Carter is touring a nuclear plant when there's a meltdown; exposed to radiation, he grows to tremendous size, Amazing-Colossal-Man-style. Badly bluescreened "huge" through a window, he tells poor teensy Rosalyn that he's leaving her for the plant's similarly affected cleaning lady (who, my brain suggests, was portrayed by Garrett Morris).

I remember finding this hilarious, at the time. What could it have meant to me? I can't imagine my getting any more out of it than "the President is GIANT! that's funny! and that man is wearing a DRESS!" I was nine years old. What the hell was I doing up at that hour, even?

You can find pretty much anything on this here Internet in ten minutes, so I checked: this guy has all the original airdates and episode synopses. Ep 78p, April 7, 1979. Rickie Lee Jones sang "Chuck E's in Love" and, apparently, Belushi extolled the virtues of little chocolate donuts, a fauxmercial I only grew to love in adulthood.

I guess that's the gift of pop culture, what it does: slaps a funny wig on history's terror and misery and boots it out on stage for a laugh. Every night, surely, all over the world in countless television markets, Homer Simpson fishes that glowing ingot of nuke outta his shirt collar and flings it from the car...ahh, that's better! And thank God for it, frankly.

(Incidentally, I searched a little more and found my other seminal SNL skit memory: Ackroyd, again, as Julia Child, cutting "the dickens" out of his finger and bleeding out in the kitchen. Wah ha ha hah! And I reiterate: why the hell was I out of bed? Raised by wolves, you'd think.)

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

We wouldn't have to eat Kraft Dinner...BUT WE WOULD!

Another random discovery that completely made my day: Ian Golder's consuming devotion to macaroni and cheese dinner.

For the record: always Kraft Dinner; prepared with a wooden spoon (in fact, THE Wooden Spoon, with which Grandma used to chase us around the house, threatening a beating), but eaten with whatever utensil at hand; for dinner, but leftovers may be consumed at any time; more often than I care to admit; directions are for dopes.

Oh--and in adulthood, with plenty of both black and cayenne pepper, but in childhood...cut-up hot dogs. Ambrosia!

(Yes, we probably had some of that, too, with the mini-marshmallows and the nondairy topping.)

Aw. Grammy. I miss her...would gladly take a few whacks with The Wooden Spoon for the chance to tell her so.

Red pen validation

If you're reading this, you probably know I'm an editor--primarily of technical documentation for my JOB job, but also dabbling in things like doctoral theses, updating my mother's resume after 21 years, and "you're funny! Make my personal ad funny!"

Anyway. I'm working with a new writer at the J-O-B: new to me, and new to writing in general. Today she submitted her first-ever draft to me, accompanied by the greatest e-mail I'll likely receive in my career:

"I just checked in my first document for Edit1. Please be really critical so that I don’t start out creating bad habits."

I'm telling you, this reaffirmed my entire accidental, thought-free trajectory into professional nit-picking. As long as we're on the same page from the get-go, we should get along just fiiiine.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Let be be finale of seem

Over a number of years working with my therapist (which in itself feels nicely New Yorker-y--I'm in analysis), we've established that both of us are foodies. We talk about restaurants and compare cheeses; we were gleeful when the Sand Point Metropolitan Market opened; during my house search, we spent more than one session debating the merits of different kitchens. Yesterday, though, it somehow came up that we're both ice cream fiends as well. I can gnaw my way shivering through a cone in 20-degree weather; it was nice to find that someone else shared this particular obsession. I began to tell the story of how a particular strain of Ben and Jerry's fueled my entire Master's thesis, and then they stopped making it--

The Good Doctor (agitated): I know exactly what you're going to say!

Me: You do?

The Good Doctor (vehement): DASTARDLY MASH!

Well, how do you spend your fifty minutes?

Actually, though, that wasn't it. I was a devotee of Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Dough; I'd sit there pecking away on my fourth-hand Apple II C, with the cast-iron monitor stand that weighed about 20 pounds, and alternating between ice-cream pints and the occasional bowl of cold cereal. At some point during the most intense two weeks of composition, I went to chuck a dead soldier in the trash, and got a look at probably half a dozen similar empty cartons. I am still not sure whether to be proud of this.

For the public good, however, I submit to you B&J's Flavor Graveyard, where you can submit a Web Form pleading for the dearly departed staple of your own tender recollection. If The Good Doctor is keeping up with the blog, we know where his vote is going.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Mom said no (volume I)

It appears that Topps is trying to revive Wacky Packages for a new generation.

God, just the sight of that "Scrapple" sticker is making me gag. Mmmm, nostalgia. Actually, the Garbage Pail Kids stickers were the ones that drove my mother completely crazy; they were verboten in our household. But putrid parodies reigned supreme; I remember a friend of mine having a similar coloring book of some sort, with full-size labels you could cut out and paste over actual product packages. We got away with "Crust" toothpaste at Grandma and Grandpa's.

Interesting, that Art Spiegelman was one of the original gross-out sticker artists. Then Holly wrote her doctoral thesis on him. And I edited it. Heh. The ciiirrrrrcle of liiiiiiife....

This is not my beautiful house!

Note to Mike: I promised you an update last night, but the Internet connection that was working so beautifully when the cable guy was standing in my living not. Sorry. Furtive at-work blogging...commence!)

I've settled into my new place, for the most part. I'm not completely unpacked--my Native American name is Lives With Boxes--but the physical transition of my belongings and my life from decrepit rental to My First Home is complete. I'm sore from all the toting and hauling; I'm covered in bruises from the waist down, from walking into the corners of boxes and randomly placed looks like I've been in a prizefight with a toddler, or a midget. Sunday I actually transferred over the remaining stuff out of the fridge, and I bought some accompanying groceries last night, so now I am prepared to offer guests something more than leftover pizza, a single Coke, and Girl Scout cookies. (Thin Mints, of course--do you take me for a Philistine?)

When I started this whole first-time homebuying process, I tended to see each experience as a significant milestone: My First Meeting with the Agent, My First Open House, My First Horrified Recoil at How Much Hovel You Can Buy For $290,000. When I signed the first page of my loan pre-approval package, my heart was pounding wildly; I thought, "I'm doing it! I'm signing! I'm doing it!" After the first dozen pages, the excitement began to wane. After the subsequent bids on two houses, inspection reports, addendums, actual factual loan applications, and closing on my 1942 2-bedroom Cape Cod, my signature is a senseless scrawl that will probably never recover. At the closing itself, I must have signed or initialed 100 times--the document that says you'll live in the house, the document that references that document, the document confirming receipt of those documents, the document attesting to your awareness that gnawing on your vintage windowsills might cause you dain bramage and it's your own damn fault. I lost sight of those keepsake moments, a little.

But moving in has brought it all back. Saturday night, I performed My First Home Repair when I went to close the stopper in the bathroom sink and the whole drain-lever-mechanism-thingy came off in my hand with a metallic zzzzink. I lay on the floor with my head in the cabinet and proudly figured out what to reattach to what. Yay, me!

At 4:00 a.m. Sunday morning, I awoke to My Second Home Repair, sort of. It was pouring outside, and the newly installed downspout just outside the wall I'd put the head of the bed not entirely perpendicular to Earth. Instead of smoothly trickling down the pipe, rain was falling from some high point in the spout and hitting the interior at an angle of juuuusst...five or...six...degrees.

It was REALLY raining. And the raindrops were REALLY hitting. Bong bong BONGabong bing BONGA bongbongbong bing bong, just above my pillow. It sounded like a drum circle at the Folklife Festival. You could almost smell the Patchouli. To my glamorous 16-year-old college nightshirt, I added sweatpants, my glasses, Converse high-tops and a ski jacket, and slogged blearily outside where, in the blackness, I confirmed that the noise was coming from the pipe. What to do? It was the wee hours on a Sunday. I was in my jammies. My downspout--or my house--were minutely askew. This suggested a need for tools. I trudged back in to bed.

Bong bongbongbong BONG BONGA bong. Tossing, turning, anguish, buyer's remorse...until I remembered the earplugs in the nightstand, from two noisy apartments ago. I squished the little orange foam bullets into my ears, listened to them gradually reexpand and muffle the world down to only my own heartbeat. Silence! Problem solved!

This home ownership thing is gonna be a snap.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

What's in your wallet?

It's been a while, I know. I'm in the process of buying my first home--or, I should say, I've purchased a very excellent front doorknob and the bank has graciously agreed to let me live behind it for the next 30 years. So: distracted.

I've spent the last week making random, erratic forrays into packing. This should be relatively simple: I last moved just a couple years ago, and in the intervening 26 months spent assorted free weekends sorting through and streamlining all the crap I'd shoveled desperately into the truck in the preceding move. Did I really need my lecture notes from "Race, Gender, and Identity in Literature" from 1991? There probably won't be another quiz. The mates to stray socks are not waiting at the new house. Waldenbooks pay stubs totalling $119/week can be safely shredded.

I did find myself, last night, going through a bulging, cracking old wallet that I'd stuck in a drawer when I downsized to a just-the-essentials model last year. It's like moving, in a microcosm: Which of these possessions were significant enough to your essential self that you carried them around with you? How do they define, quite literally, your identity? How have you changed? It's an old standby writer's exercise: what's in your character's wallet, and why?

Let's look.

* Driver's license from 1994. I had bangs. I had not previously considered mascara. Hide this one from my future children.
* Reciepts from movie rentals. I think I'm done with "Memento" now.
* Defunct Eddie Bauer charge card. A closer examination of the move-induced Closet Reorg would not suggest that I had let this lapse, what with Mr. Bauer's signature on 82% of everything I own.
* Punch card for Elliott Bay Book Company.
* Punch card for Second Story Bookstore. I'm sensing a trend.
* Two different punch cards for Papyrus, the greeting card store.
* Punch card for Subway.
* Punch card for Taco del Mar.
* Punch card for Lane Bryant undergarments. I sense a more unfortunate trend.
* Staggering amount of loose change that changes the wallet dimensions to more those of a brick.
* Ticket stub from the X-Files movie. Aw. Remember when I wanted to be Scully? Pre-LA, pre-Duchovny leaving, pre-what-the-hell-have-they-done-to-this-show-is-Chris-Carter-on-crack Scully? That was awesome.
* A note from my sister, when she was a small child. I've actually carried this around for maybe 20 years. It's a two-inch stub of notebook paper, outlined and torn from a separate sheet; in green ink, it says, "I like you Kim," and it's signed.

I kept the note, again. It's so her; that's the thing. It's economical: why waste a whole sheet of paper on few words? It has her name on it, too, in case you weren't sure where to focus your attention or reciprocal affection. And it's very particular in its semantics: she likes me. Sure, she loves me; she's my sibling, it's a genetic imperative. But she likes me, too. Or she did, once. I'm not so sure that the adults we've grown into would find enough common ground to be friends, had the established relationship not pre-existed. But the note is evidence of a sort: that we had more than one set of matching dresses, once upon a time...and that we had slapfights over particular rugby shirts and patterned ski sweaters, later. That we have the same wicked cackle and can finish each other's sentences. That I read "Mickey Mouse and the Haunted Mansion" to her so many times I can still quote pages verbatim. That once we fit into the same bathtub. That she'll be 31 next Wednesday, but occasionally I still picture her in a knit Tootsie-Roll pompom hat.

She'll never read this...I haven't tipped the family off to the blog, yet. But happy birthday anyway, sisty.

Oh, and you look like a monkey, and you smell like one too.