Friday, December 16, 2005

Friday before Xmas at NerdCo

Writer: (agitated) I need a bottle opener! Do you have a bottle opener?

Editor: No, sorry.

Writer: What kind of an editor ARE you?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

So far out, I'm IN

When I was...oh, nine-ish...I got this Sew Perfect toy sewing machine for Christmas. It had a real needle and actually worked, in the sense that you could stitch two pieces of cloth together and they would stay affixed for a limited amount of time before unraveling. The set came with a couple snap-in thread cartridges and a handful of simple patterns; the only one I ever mastered was the Draw-String Bag: basically an open-ended fabric rectangle with a two-inch seam that you could run a ribbon or a piece of yarn through. A more-capable-seamstress friend of my grandmother's kindly gave me a big box of her fabric scraps, and I stitched up a whole bevy of those stupid Draw-String Bags. I should probably mention that they were all maybe six inches square, so we're not talking handy beach tote or even lunch sack here. But they matched my skill set--of sewing four relatively straight seams.

I also tried my hand at some doll clothes...but all of these garments were ponchos, a square with a hole in the middle. Occasionally a belt, if I was really feeling creative. When, two years ago, I made my own kitchen curtains out of cut-up IKEA tablecloths, on Michelle's machine, everybody asked me "Can you SEW?" Well, girls, I can make A SQUARE. With a rod pocket, too--in essence, the classic Draw-String Bag writ large.

This is a long-winded way for me to get to my admission that I'm addicted to Project Runway again. First, I appreciate the fact that it's a reality show that tests its participants on a measurable skill--it's not just mazes and puzzles in the jungle, or random promotions of salad dressing/toothpaste/Donald Trump spring water. These people make stuff. And of course it helps that the designers are dramatic and dorky and occasionally batshit crazy...but really I'm mesmerized more by the skill itself than any participant histrionics.

I mean, these competitors can think and sketch and cut and pin fabric, and all of a sudden whip up fully three-dimensional garments, literally out of whole cloth/thin air, and then here comes an outfit down the runway on this or that freakishly stomping model. This ability is so foreign to my way of thinking that I'm entirely awestruck each time...astonished as if they'd brought out a dog riding a bicycle or playing the trumpet. My imagination simply does not work that way, and so every single ensemble strikes me as MIRACULOUS. How do they do that?!? So weird, and so cool.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A message from Matlock

My mother's e-mail response to the gingerbread house photos, in its entirety:

Well if you look like you are ready to cook and eat children, I look like I've already had a few too many!! I look just like Andy Griffith on that dumb show where he is a lawyer! I could be his double on film!!! I appear to be in my 70's or 80's!! Today I feel like it too!! Oh well, it was fun anyway! M.

A few too many...children?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

You're the Charlie-Browniest

I curled up last night to watch "A Charlie Brown Christmas," practically a moral obligation in my list of Christmas rituals. And I know I am hardly the first person to notice this, and that I've noticed it many times before...but Jesus H. tap-dancing Christ, that shit is depressing.

It kind of strikes me anew, every time. I realize that part of the weird appeal of Peanuts in general is that Charles Schulz was putting these deeply adult sentiments and philosophies in the mouths of teeny little kids. And he wasn't entirely off the mark, either--children are not simply small adults, but they do have complex feelings and they are, of course, capable of tremendous cruelty. I think the Christmas special reflects that quite honestly on some level, even if the script exaggerates deliberately for effect.

But, those kids are BRUTAL to good ol' Charlie Brown...who himself is so wretched, so admittedly lonesome and depressed, he's hard to watch. Today someone would get him a therapist and a drum of Paxil and probably an Individual Education Plan, but trapped in the 1965 cartoon he just suffers, and...was this intended as a kids' show? When the little tree collapses under the weight of its lone ornament, and Charlie Brown moans "Everything I touch gets ruined"? Holy shit, y'all, I practically have to leave the room. The local alternative weekly paper, The Stranger, once claimed that suicide rates, and calls to helplines, spike every year with the annual screening of "A Charlie Brown Christmas," and while I think they were joking I would not be even a little surprised, because DUDE.

That said, the good edges out the miserable, I think. The Vince Guaraldi score is magnificent and perfectly suited to the cartoon, alternately melancholy and infectiously giddy. Every year, I have to get up off the couch and do the dance with the kids, whipping my head painfully side-to-side like those mysterious twin girls at the pageant rehearsal--do we ever see them again? And I've seen it so many times that even the movements are surely etched into my DNA; I love Snoopy's dance, not just the jolly, vaguely Russian prancing but the lilting side-to-side skips he first performs atop Schroeder's piano. I love the way Charlie Brown, his faith oh-so-momentarily restored, skips home with his little Christmas twig. I love the "loo-loo-loos" of the singing kids at the end, with their pauses for breath--this year, I noticed that Pigpen stirs up a fresh cloud of dust when he inhales for each verse. (And there is another kid that needs a Child Protective Services intervention, because boy is FILTHY with neglect, good gawd.) I love Charlie Brown's disbelieving squat-and-squint at the transformed tree, how he scootches closer.

I love the roughness of it too: the hand-drawn animation, the real kids haltingly speaking lines they clearly don't comprehend. Some of them were so young that they couldn't read and had to be fed their lines, a few words at a time; it shows, and it is somehow completely charming. (My favorite fact Googled up today: Sally was voiced by a child named Kathy Steinberg, who I suspect might not have been crafting a letter to Santa, this or any year.) The Christmas-tree lot Charlie Brown and Linus visit is gorgeously surreal--the "aluminum trees...maybe painted pink" are also polka-dotted, or harlequin-patterned; they remind me of some of the wilder Fauvist backgrounds in some Warner Brothers cartoons. Funny, that the very commercialized trees scorned in the special now look beautiful and nostalgic to me: what I wouldn't give for a sweet, innocent 1965 pink-and-orange aluminum tree. (Note to self: check eBay.)

Anyway. After the classic cartoon, ABC aired a second Peanuts Christmas special I'd never seen, this one plainly much later and composed of weird, brief little vignettes of the kids engaging in different vaguely Christmassy activities. The animation was slick and smooth; the voice actors were precocious, cloying children or, I suspect in the case of Sally, an adult affecting a shrill "kid" tone a la Elmo. The whole thing was glib and self-aware and leadenly paced with beats for laughter, and I HATED IT SO MUCH it made me ANGRY. It was so plainly a sell-out, literally embodying every polished, commercialized Christma$ quality that the original decries. It straight-up trampled the first special's message. Oh, Sparky, what did you do there? Man. THAT was depressing; my heart shrunk two sizes just watching. I'll stick with my Original-Recipe Charlie Brown Christmas, thanks very much.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Amityville cookie

Saturday was gingerbread-house-decorating day, as previously mentioned. Mom, Sis, and I headed down to Ballard proper, toting a few sacks of bulk candy items although SOMEONE FORGOT THE GOLDEN GRAHAMS AHEM.

Our first inkling that I'd perhaps misinterpreted the event surfaced when we arrived to find ourselves the only participants significantly beyond the age of eight. Granted, the other decorators had likewise brought their mommies...but we hadn't needed ours to drive.

It turns out that the charity portion of the event takes place among the local merchants; clever professionals decorate houses for display in business windows, and shoppers are encouraged to vote/bid on their favorites. Amateur hour, on the other hand, was intended solely as a fun family activity. We were much relieved when a young hipster couple showed up at the next table and declared their intentions to craft a "ghetto house;" Hipster Girl was responsible for the photos herein.

Because Cookies is an extraordinarly tiny storefront, the actual decorating took place next door at Floating Leaves Tea. Chinese stringed instruments pinged and poinged meditatively, if incongruously, in the background as we squeezed around the table and proceeded to glue gumdrops on rooflines and our elbows to the table and our fingers together. Royal icing surely has surgical and/or highway maintenance applications that are as yet undiscovered. Sis got a little Howard Hughes over the communal candy tubs, muttering "Kid fingers! KID FINGERS been in there!" as I blithely popped occasional mistakes into my mouth.

Mom seemed to be having a good time, though.

Sis provides chocolate-sprinkle landscaping; I appear to be...eating. Or about to.

At the end, we were further discomfited to learn that we were expected to take our creation home. We each have marauding pets that would make gingerbread-house-maintenance tricky at best. Our hostess suggested that we donate our house to a local hospital, as a common-room decoration or a gift to a lonely patient...and so, candy-crusted abode in hand, we walked over to Swedish Hospital--Ballard and, after wandering the halls aimlessly for a while, located an employee who promised to find our ginger house a home. "I'll give it to that lady," she noted significantly to a colleague. So either an isolated patient received a dose of rather garish holiday cheer, Saturday...or "that lady" is a kind euphemism for "the garbage, you crazy nutbars."

Here, Sis reaches for more ContamiCandy while Mom brandishes the icing bag in a threatening manner and I contemplate using the house to lure, roast, and eat small children.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Them that rejoice

I don't know if it's a lingering sense of catharsis from finishing NaNo, or I'm simply devolving into a sentimental sap, but I am weeeepy today, ready to leak like a busted faucet at the slightest provocation.

I was ready to relax in front of the television, chewing with my mouth open, and so I ordered a celebratory dinner from Thai Siam here in Ballard. Thai Siam is notable first for not screwing around with the spices; I was cowed and humiliated by a three-star dish there some years ago and have stuck with the medium-level since. Anyway...they are also reknowned for their annual anniversary dinner, a day-long bash in which all proceeds are donated to local charities. People line up around the block for this; they've been at it for nearly 20 years.

I went to pick up my food and sat reveling in the loopy warmth of the place: the waiters greeting regulars by name, the flower-wreathed Thai figurines, the enormous Christmas tree looming askew between two tables, the little kid waiting with her family and proclaiming her status as the Birthday Girl.

When I got to the counter, I noticed the stack of fliers they were tucking into every bag.

Free Christmas Dinner For Those In Need

If you know someone who would not be able to have a festive dinner on Christmas Day, Thai Siam Restaurant would like to extend our invitation to a free turkey dinner!

It's that "festive" that laid me out, made me want to roll around in front of the cash register blubbering. Such a lovely word, evocative of so much more than a charitable gesture. The broke, the lost, the lonely...deserving not just a free meal but a festive one. They'll get it, too, packed into that narrow restaurant with the tree and the ornate carvings and the golden origami fish mobiles twirling from the ceiling. Bless us every one, indeed.

I was snuffling into my sleeve until the cashier asked me if I needed chopsticks or forks included in my order.

"Nah, thanks," I said.

"Just gonna eat with your hands, huh?" he asked.


Know someone who needs a little Christmas? You can get more info about the Thai Siam dinner, noon-2:00 on Christmas Day, by calling the restaurant between 2:00 and 5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


I'm done.

184 pages, multiple paragraphs formatted red to remind me that I need to go back and fill in approximately two subplots of at least another hundred pages or so...but I broke the proverbial tape at about 11:10 p.m.

I have a lot to say about this experience, about how much I inadvertently pinned on this insane 30-day-novel project and how spastically emotional it has suddenly rendered me. But right now I've put on William Alwyn's Lyra Angelica, and I'm crying like a little baby girl, and then I'm gonna go to bed.

Thanks, everybody who encouraged me, or cheered me, or simply said "My GOD" whenever I mentioned my word count. I am off to sleep before I start Sally Fielding all over the place.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Dear Santa: Brace yourself

Overheard at the Greenwood/Phinney Starbucks.

Dad: What do you want for Christmas?

Little kid: You know!

Dad: No, I don't. Tell me.

Little kid: A...metal reindeer. That talks. And...walks.

Dad: Did you...see this reindeer, somewhere?

Little kid: No. I just thought of it!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Turkey Story

I've been telling this story for maybe ten years, now, but it's not mine: I stole it from my chef ex (not my ex-chef, which makes it sound as if I was living la vida Oprah). He somehow ended up with all our couple friends, in the aftermath; I got the t.v. and the VCR, which probably surprises no one. I'm taking this hard feelings, Ex. Happy Thanksgiving, wherever you be.

Any PETA members might want to just go watch the Macy's parade or something right now...fair warning. I'm sorry.

When Ex was just a wee lad, his parents were going through that back-to-nature, wheat-germ-on-the-cereal, live-off-the-land phase, as you did in the 70s, and they decided one Thanksgiving to procure and butcher their own live turkey. Papa Ex obtained the bird from a purveyor of such, brought it home in a big cardboard box that had once contained a television or other big appliance, and set the box in the back yard, the day before the holiday.

Thanksgiving morning, or maybe sooner, the Ex clan must have come to the realization that they had neither chopping block nor hatchet. Undeterred, Papa Ex devised a plan: he would use a large Bowie knife to cut a hole into the side of the box. When the turkey's innate pea-brained curiosity led him to stick his head out the hole, Papa Ex would decapitate him with the selfsame knife, and any death throes would be handily contained.

Mama Ex and little Kindergarten Ex were brought forth to witness the edifying departure of the main course. Cue Elton John, Cirrrrrcle of Liiiiiife. As planned, Papa carved out a turkey porthole, and as expected, the turkey's noggin emerged for a look-see and was swiftly dispatched.

At which point--no doubt greatly surprised at this turn of events--the remaining corpus of Mr. Turkey lurched bolt-upright inside the box.

At which point the bottom of the box, thoroughly saturated with 24 hours' worth of turkey poops, gave way in a dissolving mush, and the absent-of-head but highly agitated Mr. Turkey set off at the proverbial trot.

At which point the family dachshund completely lost his mind. Generations of hard-coded hunting instinct spurred Willie into a frenzy, and he lit out after the turkey. They circled the back yard at a weaving sprint, Mr. Turkey still emitting copious gouts of blood from where his head had been, and Willie gnashing and snarling and trying to leap on the turkey's back.

If memory serves, the story was that when turkey and weiner dog were at last parted, the Ex clan were still unaware that dunking a fowl in boiling water eases defeathering. So they dry-plucked it, with the expectedly grisly results. I believe dinner was served around 11 p.m., and that Mr. Turkey proved rather gamy and tough.

I'm not sure whether this Hieronymous Bosch holiday tableau ultimately influenced Ex in his career path. I can say that in his restaurant days he could hack up an entire goat on the chopping block without batting an eye, but that when he once needed four stitches in his thumb he fainted and had to be caught by a nurse; make of that what you will.

At any rate, tomorrow, Sis is handling our turkey, who arrived already dead--the least of our things to be grateful for. I am bringing the Green Bean Casserole, as required by federal law. We intend to observe the day by our own strict guidelines: gluttony, followed by moaning on the living room floor with our respective top buttons undone. Then, a postprandial cutthroat game of Scrabble, concluding with the traditional kicking over of the board in a hypercompetitive tantrum. Finally, pie.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, Interweb friends!


Looka there, looka there:

Michelle is my regular Special Guest Star formerly known as Darcy; when I started the blog I gave her that alias as some sort of convoluted Pride and Prejudice joke. She has packed up her whole life and her husband and captivating, exuberant children and moved to Copenhagen for a job there, and haven't I done well at keeping my heartbroken existential despair out of this blog for weeks and weeks? Anyway. So it is a complete drag that my two best friends in the world (hi, Holly) now live on the other side of the planet...but Michelle is writing now about her own experiences and you should read her.

I discovered Poppy Z. Brite when I clicked a link in a completely random list of "New Orleans-related" blogs in the wake of Katrina, on a news site I've since forgotten. Her account of the evacuation and the terrible wait for most of her pets to be rescued kept me reading her journal for days and days, and I just haven't stopped. I am slightly mortified to admit that I have never read a single one of her books, neither horror nor restaurant, and regardless of any sparkly font; I am a little scared that she might now come and kick my cyber-ass, because she seems intense. But I also mean to add her work to one of the teetering bookpiles that cover every available flat surface in my house.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Need meme (or meed neme)

This one's making the rounds, where you enter the search string "[your first name] needs" in Google and check out the first ten results. Mine as of last week, lying about in a stray e-mail til now:

1. Kim needs to take off the gloves. [Step off, bitches!]
2. Kim needs to talk.
3. Kim needs some hints! [Heloise, if you're listening--how do I get pumpkin innards off my coir doormat?]
4. Kim needs help big time. [Your point, Interweb?]
5. Kim needs to shut up. [Dude--I was just talking...]
6. Kim needs some Guinea pigs [Rodents? or clever folk with pumpkin-removal proposals?]
7. Kim needs to get serious about paying herself first. [Yes. In Fluevogs, actually.]
8. Kim needs a pee. [BRB]
9. Kim needs to go. [BRB, I said!]
10. Kim needs to meet with her executive social committee [ soon as she returns from the bathroom.]

Strangely omitted is my present need to go to bed for god's sake, I'm pushing 36 here.

Friday, November 18, 2005

I said left turn, fool

Oh my God, this is the best thing ever. EVER. Mr. T, providing the driving directions over your car's GPS navigation system. MR. T, FOOL! Not only will he get you there in one piece, but "your kids gonna act right!" when the T is on the line.

I never go anywhere but NerdCo and the store, but I MUST HAVE THIS. I've already played the clips three times and I think my coworkers are hating me right now.

Via Keri, who's right--this really deserves super ULTRA-EXTREME CAPITALS.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

House of pain

In a fit of premature holiday geekiness, I've enrolled Mom, Sis, and myself as a crack gingerbread-house-decorating team at Cookies in Ballard. We are all artistically and culinarily competitive, occasionally at cross-purposes to each other, so I hope that we can collaborate on an appealing edible domicile without getting ourselves thrown out of the cookie store. For fightin'. Or cussin'. (I'll save the latter for Megan's holiday cookies, of course.)

At any rate, proceeds go to local charities--the Ballard Food Bank and PAWS among them, I believe. Sis took a little persuading to spend part of the hectic holiday season mucking around with icing and gumdrops, but I think the Good Cause element put her over the line. I hung up the phone with her, and 30 seconds later it rang.

Me: Hello?

Sis: You know what would make perfect roof shingles? GOLDEN GRAHAMS!

So, yeah, it's on.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Kind of a drag

I dodged a bullet in the automotive repairs category, this weekend. The Pinkmobile had been shifting very roughly between gears, and stalling entirely when the engine was cold. I dropped it off with the Cute Mechanics and spent a day on tenterhooks, praying that the judgment would be more "Oh, we need to adjust your idle speed" and less "Oh, your transmission is going to fall out on the road."

The verdict was a happy medium: leaking transmission fluid. They performed a slightly premature 90K tuneup, ordered me to replace some failing gaskets sooner rather than later, and sent me home for $300 bucks. After April's repairapalooza, when I could actually hear the dollars whizzing out of my bank account, this left me comparatively giddy.

In conversation the mechanic referred repeatedly to my "tranny"--topping off my tranny fluid, luckily we didn't need to put in a new tranny--and because I am twelve years old I had to repress snerks and chuckles every time. Because how awesome would it be if every auto-repair transaction included a 6'4" drag diva in 5-inch platforms and a Dolly Parton wig? TOTALLY AWESOME, that's how awesome! She would have the greatest coveralls, too, all Bedazzled and shit.

Drag queens again. I guess I should talk about my college roomies. Few things are much more entertaining, or alarming, than a 19-year-old baby drag queen away from home for the first time. Junior year I lived with B., who loved to come swanning into the living room in our shared student housing and launch into some Dynasty-fueled improv conversation with whoever happened to be present. He'd address you with something like "Chantal! Where is your gown? Brock Rutherford will be here for the banquet any instant--what are you doing here in the poolhouse?"

Lacking improvisational skills, I was never a suitable foil: "Uh...watching Golden Girls on Matt's t.v.?" I think I disappointed him.

My other lingering memory of B. is when he made up another of our housemates, Libby, for the annual Deb Ball. I want to say that ours was the first college-sponsored AIDS benefit, a fundraising "formal" winter dance that usually played out something like Your Debauched Liberal Arts Leather Prom. Anyway, Libby was a shy little violet who made her own bread and wore earth shoes; we were dragging her to the dance with us and B. begged and pleaded and cajoled her into letting him make up her otherwise fresh, clean Tom's-of-Maine face.

Ladies, don't let the drag queen do your makeup, really. I say this with only love intended. "Ta-daa!" B. cried, thrusting Libby into the room after his furious labors. And...that was a man, baby. It didn't help that the rest of us laughed fit to piss ourselves; Libby locked herself in the bathroom and it took us a good hour to coax her back out and onward to the dance, at which everyone ultimately had a splendid time. I still have the pictures, the housemates dressed to kill in mostly black, Libby still red-eyed and blotchy from sobbing and scrubbing. Aww. Poor Lib.

Senior year there was C., who actually lived in my then-boyfriend's house, not mine. We never knew each other well, but he is fixed in my memory for one vivid reason. The communal house-style housing on campus was notorious for funky electrical issues and plumbing backups, and I strolled into C's shared bathroom one afternoon to confront what I at first thought was THE MOST HORRIFIC HAIR CLOG SINCE THE DAWN OF TIME. The tub was six inches deep in cloudy water and GREAT CLOTS AND CLUMPS OF HUMAN HAIR MY GOD IT'S GOING TO KILL US ALL and I recoiled in, wait.

C. was just soaking and rinsing his eight wigs.

221b Baker Street, right here

I was sitting on the couch, eating some kind of mint-fudge Trader Joe's cookies straight out of the box and weeping openly over the pages of the Heifer International holiday catalog, when it occurred to me: could I possibly be approaching That Time Of The Month again?

* * * * *

In all seriousness, could there be any better way to select a gift for that most exasperating person on your list? If you love someone, hey, it beats another set of novelty golf balls. And if you can't stand somebody, get to feed a hungry family, AND say to your bad boss/wicked stepsomething/creepy uncle, "This year, in your name, I purchased a BIG FAT PINK HOG." And feel damn good about it, too.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Today's reason to live

Overheard at Bus Stop Espresso this morning.

Woman: I danced, in my eighth-grade talent show. To Joan Jett. "I Love Rock and Roll."

Man: Danced! What kind of dance?

Woman: Just...a dance. There was some kicking. I'd been watching a lot of Solid Gold.

Man (sings): Solid Go-oold!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Crackamint mocha

Ohh, Starbucks. My Dark Overlord. You know, as you must, that I am helpless in the thrall of your Winter Seasonal Beverages? That whatever havoc has been wreaked in my dietary needs by the novel would be rendered null? That whatever resolve I had to stem the relentless tide of sugar courses alternating with starch, alternating with some sugary starch, would be utterly undone by the sight of your holiday-decor-bedecked menu chalkboards, your red-t-shirted baristas, your Elton John's Big Gay Christmas Party promotional CD? Ah, the return of a favorite pairing of words, nay, of sensations:

The Peppermint Mocha.

It warms, and yet it cools. It is sweet, and yet it is peppy. It prompts caffeinated alertness, and yet it floats me away on a little minty cloud of joy. It costs more than three damn dollars, Starbucks, I mean COME ON.

It comes in that little red cup, emblazoned this year with holiday lights and a racially ambiguous couple smooching their bliss under the mistletoe. And a little koan of justification, right there on the Tall size: it's only once a year.

Yes. And at least once a day for the next two and a half months, Starbucks, you magnificent bastards. Damn.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

In which I don't quit my day job

I took last night off from the novel, to go vote, and watch some t.v., and cook up a big pot of avgolemono so I'd have something to eat while noveling besides the cold cereal and Kraft dinner I've been relying on. So I'm a day behind, but have absorbed a little nutrition. Week Two, as promised by the NaNo gang, is proving itself to be something of a slog. I am a little concerned to not have a single creative thought in my head this morning. a team meeting yesterday, one of the writers announced his imminent departure, for a writing role at Amazon. I'll disclose here that back in the go-go Interweb boom days, I interviewed there something like six? eight? different times--I've lost count--but somehow never quite meshed with whichever role or hiring manager that had been presented to me. Which is why I am not writing this, this very moment, from my winter villa in the south of France.

So. "Don't forget who your friends are," I joked to the Future Amazonian. I have no beef with NerdCo; it would just be kind of slick to have a short bus commute from my home to downtown Seattle. SINCE THERE WILL BE NO FREAKING MONORAIL GODDAMMIT.

"You know, they're building the team as we speak; I'm the first. They don't have any editors yet!" sez Future Amazonian. I allowed my eyebrows to fly up into my hairline with intrigue.

But I was distracted--by the hue and cry sent up by a couple of my assigned writers on the team, who began to beg and holler and wave their arms in an attempt to break my eye contact with Future Amazonian. Because they want me to stay., you guys! Flattery will get you...quite far, actually.

Also money. And chocolate. You can just put them under my mouse pad for discretion's sake, while I'm grabbing coffee.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Free composting/fashion advice

Have you had some tumultuous rain, of late? If so, you might want to exercise caution when you go to hoist your big honkin' jack-o-lantern off the porch for disposal. It's entirely possible that Jack is full of a couple inches of icy, slimy punkin water, which will pour through his toothy maw and down your entire pantleg. You might want to peep inside his rotting, malodorous head first, is all.


A habit I picked up from my chef ex is reading cookbooks like novels. They're incredible social documents; I collect vintage ones, ranging from the early 1900s to right around the Kennedy assassination...but that's a handy essay for another time. Today, I was doing a little half-assed Google research for my novel-in-progress: would one of my characters have been likely to receive a birthday cake, in late 1920s rural North Dakota? What would it look like? Would there be candles?

I didn't find precisely what I wanted...but this description of an 1851 pioneer child's birthday cake, deep in the wilds of Texas, made me tear up a little:

This recipe was used to make a birthday cake for a small girl eighty-five years ago. There was no flour to be had, and corn was ground on a handmill. The meal was carefully emptied from one sack to another, and fine meal dust clinging to the sack was carefully shaken out on paper; the sack was again emptied and shaken, and the process was repeated labouriously time after time until two cupsful of meal dust was obtained. The rest of the ingredients were as follows: 1/2 cup of wild honey, 1 wild turkey egg, 1 teaspoonful of homemade soda, 1 scant cupful of sour milk and a very small amount of butter, to all of which was added the meal dust. The batter was poured into a skillet with a lid, and placed over the open fire in the yard, the skillet lid being heaped with coals. To a little girl's childish taste the cake was very fine, but looking back through the years, the honoree said relfectively, "It was none too sweet." ---Cooking Recipes of the Pioneer, Bandera Library Association [Frontier Times:Bandera TX] 1936 (p. 23)

From I could read this stuff all day...

Saturday, November 05, 2005

It was a graveyard smash

Eric Lippert's zombie tutorial (via Mike) has belatedly reminded me of my own spook-house experience during college.

At Sarah Lawrence every Halloween, they'd bus in a bunch of kids from a local group home for a party and trick-or-treating in the dorms. There was some sort of mechanism by which you could sign up and indicate that you'd be giving out candy...but the night inevitably devolved into packs of sugared-up children careening through each building knocking on every door in sight, barely pausing to breathe between shoveling fistfuls of mini-Snickerses into their pillowcases. One year my friend Matt and I had the misfortune to RUN OUT OF candy; we huddled in his room with the lights off while scores of treat-seeking orphans HAMMERED on the door in succession. We were certain that at any moment they'd just come on through, blasting a big kid-shaped hole in the wall.

Anyway. So one year I volunteered to help usher kids through a haunted house set up on the campus. We commandeered the student-run coffeehouse located then in the basement of one of the grand old Tudor dorms. We had some fake cobwebs, dry ice, a strobe light; we distributed the roles pretty casually. I was some sort of vaguely witchy guide. One spectacularly woolly kid, a long-haired, bearded neo-hippie who never even wore shoes, was our designated Wolfman: this consisted entirely of him taking off his shirt and crouching inside the giant stone fireplace that occupied one wall. ("Raaahrrr," he'd say genially to the passing kids.) Another debonair young gay man was conscripted as our vampire. He wore a tuxedo shirt and a long black cape (both of which I'm pretty sure he'd already possessed for the asking), slicked his hair back, and practiced rising out of a makeshift coffin, somebody's battered footlocker. Hey, it was gonna be pretty dark in there.

Things went fairly smoothly at first, but as the night outside got darker, and the groups of kids progressively more wired up, it went a bit south. This culminated in a girl of about 12 absolutely FREAKING THE FUCK OUT when Dracula loomed before her. "I vant to suck your BLOOOOOD," Drac lisped through his plastic teeth...and said kid responded by SHOVING Drac in the chest as hard as she could, both hands--nuh UH, bat dude! Drac went down like a telephone pole, becoming firmly lodged in the footlocker. He lay there kicking like an overturned beetle as the kids fled shrieking past.

The best part is that Dracula tore his shirt in the process, snagging it on one of the brass trunk that for the rest of the evening we had to listen to a sullen gay vampire bitch about his outfit between tours. "She ripped my shirt! Did you see that? Look at this! Crap, this shirt was vintage, man! God damn it!"

Then later on I was housemates with two drag queens...but that's a different story. Damn, I miss that place sometimes.

Bad Idea jeans

Before sitting down to write, this evening, I pulled a book off my shelf: Louise Erdrich, The Beet Queen. I just wanted to absorb a little historical detail for my own story, set in a proximal time and place. I meant to skim the first few chapters, breathe the slightest flavor of a much-beloved book.

This unfortunately made me recognize that I am the worst writer in the history of planet Earth, and that not only did I have no business drafting an incredibly sucky, feeble novel, but I should also abandon any professional attachment to the honing of the English language and just do everyone a favor by securing employment at Hot Dog On a Stick as my true qualifications would indicate.

I'm going to look like an asshole in that hat. Thanks, Louise!

Took me two and a half hours to recover enough to even turn on the computer. I'm again hovering around the appropriate word-count quota, but at least 50% of it is the crappiest crap that ever crapped, and the other half I'm scared to look at. Sigh. I think for the rest of November I'll have to let all reading materials pile up, and just lull myself to sleep each night with one of the 856 Christmas catalogs that have begun arriving in the mail. Page after page of pretty furniture, pretty clothes, pretty kitchen narrative thrust to speak of. Well, there's J. Peterman, but that one hasn't turned up. Yet.

Dude. The Sumptuous Caftan! Isn't that an Edward Gorey book? Bea Arthur meets Bollywood.

Also, for using the term "Bling-ji"? You are dead to me, Mr. Peterman.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

NaNo no no no NO! IDIOT!!

Okay, truth be told, it hasn't been that bad. Three days into my novel and I'm just a hair ahead of the quota. Praises be.

The first night, though--that was brutal. Never mind shutting up the Internal Editor; I'm one on the outside, too. Says so right on my business cards. I sweated and grimaced and agonized, consuming a slice of toast per written page, smacking myself over how maybe, genius, I could try sticking to A SINGLE POINT OF VIEW in some 1500 measly fucking words? I poked at all the holes in my chosen Noveling Sweatshirt, making them bigger. (Does the fact that the cuffs have devolved into vague ruffles count as one hole per, or...?)

I've mentioned that, as a teenager, I was a figure skater. Not a good one, nothing you'd ever see on your television...but I could swoop and spin and do dinky single-rotation jumps; I had wee lycra skirts and a handful of ribbons and medals. A couple years ago, some friends were taking their kids to the rink; they enlisted me as the ringer. Sure, I said. I figured I could tow the little guys around, give meaningful tips to the adults over my shoulder. Muscle memory! Easy peasy!

Nobody tells you--that shit has a statute of limitations. It had been a good ten years since I'd put on skates; the utter failure of my body, my timorous ankles, to respond with anything resembling balance and confidence, was an appalling revelation. I teetered around the rink, but only just...excruciatingly aware of the imminent shattering of my thirtysomething bones on the cold, cold, hard, hard ice. Goddamn little kids darting in and out like maniacs, were they trying to kill people? "Humbling" does not quite begin to suffice.

So. The first couple hours of NaNo were like that. It's likewise been eons since I've made any attempt at fiction. Despite the fact that sitting down at the keyboard and saying "Okay, GO!" is the whole premise of NaNoWriMo, despite the fact that a board of adults had once seen fit to grant me a Master's degree in making up shit, I gutted out the first couple hours in a pure flopsweat, full of more terror and self-loathing than I've even admitted to myself in a long while.

But the second I wish I could describe it, but maybe anyone who practices a creative art knows the feeling--where suddenly your brain switches on and hands you the next line, and the next, and the next. Put that in! Yeah! This part too! Then this thing! Yeah! What I'd assumed was a secondary character stepped into Chapter 2, literally set out coffee and shortbread, and just pulled the sentences out of me on a spool. I was in the zone. I'd forgotten there was a zone.

Of course I go to bed each night convinced that The Zone is finite--that every day brings me closer to my allotment of creative ability. I close the file and am certain to my soul that I will never, never find that place again. Every story, every sentence, is just a lucky fluke, and any day now I'm bound to run out.

I'm trying to have faith, though. Faith in the invisible bridge between me and the end of the project, stepping out like Indiana Jones and That Cup of Jesus's, waiting for each stone to manifest beneath my feet.

More words tomorrow, then. IF THERE ARE ANY LEFT, DEAR GOD.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Dork suit

I dressed up for Halloween yesterday, for the first time in probably a decade. Inspiration struck, and so I'd outfitted myself as Incarcerated Martha Stewart: a cheap blonde wig that resembled roadkill, a Value Village poncho, and an orange jumpsuit I picked up at the Army-Navy Surplus. It's really a flight suit intended for a seven-foot-tall jet pilot, apparently, so 5'1" me had some pretty deep cuffs. I tattooed "GOOD THING" across my knuckles with a ballpoint pen and brandished a tray of canapes. My (female) boss got it in one guess; the menfolk 'round the office were mystified. Sigh. Whatever; the jumpsuit cost me nearly $40, so I'm just going to be "Incarcerated Celebrity of the Month" for the next 10 Halloweens.

Boss took a few pictures, which reminded me of how I hate the instantaneous feedback of the digital age, because HOLY SHIT I looked like a vast decorative gourd with a dead cat on my head. This did not stop me from finishing off the peanut-butter cups lining the office hallways. I was disappointed that few other sensible adults chose to wear costumes; I mean, I'd pumped gas AND gone to Starbucks in my freak git-up. One of the writing teams showed up in white shirts and ties and claimed to be "IBM Employees," but they were still retaining some dignity, which shouldn't count. I was relieved to encounter an elaborately draped and bewigged witch, coming out of the restroom. "It's hard to drive in this," she said. "It's hard to pee in this," I comiserated. It was--about 15 strategic zippered openings on the flight suit, but none designed to accomodate a lady, y'all.

By two o'clock I had a migraine--or possibly a wig cramp, or a Reese's O.D.--coming on; I left early to take a nap before changing into my Tired Fat Lady Handing Out Candy costume: pajama pants and a faded-to-illegibility college sweatshirt so riddled with holes it appears I've been the victim of severe gunplay. Coincidentally, this will also be my NaNoWriMo uniform. Because Georgia, who's now outed herself as Brooke, talked me into it over brunch last week, and in a pancake-induced delerium I said yes. And elected to novelize my grandmother's brutal, abusive prairie childhood during the Depression, because what could be more fun than that? IDIOT.

I'll end on a better note with my favorite trick-or-treater: the teeny, tiny Spongebob who just opened the door and strolled on in. "He's very into doors," his mother said, apologizing profusely. The kiddo insisted on closing the door behind himself, as well. Hilarious.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Breakfast of champions

It's beginning to look a lot like Halloween. This morning, when I opened my car door in the NerdCo parking garage, I noticed something on the pavement directly below: a little pile of fun-size candy wrappers: Crunch bars, the orange foil of autumnal peanut-butter cups, random twists of cellophane. It amused me; I liked the thought of some engineer sitting down there in the subterranean dark, quickly snarfling down a double fistful of Halloween candy and sweeping the evidence out of the car.

"Mornin', Ralph--hey, whatcha got there?"


Thursday, October 20, 2005

On the highway to the senior-citizens' retirement community

More junior high: In sixth grade, I had this rocker chick school-bus driver. She propped a crummy boom box next to the accordion-door-opening handle and we all listened to the local hard RAWK!! station while being hauled to and fro. And every single morning during the worst of rush hour, the DJs would put on AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" to underscore the a.m. commute.

As an impressionable 11-year-old, I thought this was coooooool. They rocked! They said a swear! H-E-double toothpicks, right there on the radio, a whole bunch of times...could you even do that? Well, they up and did, those AC/DC dudes. I felt a certain solidarity with the tough older kids on the bus, and with the legions of grown-ups grinding along the highways, off to toil at their jobs. Which were LIKE HELL--yeah, I got it. Workin' for The Man, but secretly telling him off through the magic of AC/DC. Aw, yeah.

So when I stumbled across "Highway to Hell" during today's morning commute, naturally I cranked it. I growled and screeched along with the chorus, banged my head ever so subtly...filaments of gray roots creeping out of my tasteful barrette, I'm sure. Hey, fellas, you do not know just how hard the thirtysomething businesswoman in the 1996 Hyundai is RAWKIN'. I'm on the highway to NerdCo! With a quick stop at the Starbucks! Yeeeeaaaaaah.

Then I thought, That...was a quarter-century ago.

Then I drove myself directly to The Home, to reserve a bed and a seat at the bridge tournament.


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

My left foot

In the interest of Improved Cardiovascular Fitness and Significant Ass Diminishment, I bought myself a simple pedometer to keep track of my daily tromping around. They (you know, Them) tell you that you ought to shoot for 10,000 steps a day. I know that's not easy, for folks with sedentary desk jobs and whatnot, but...Monday?


1447! Either this pedometer is a cheap piece of shit (which is about what I paid for it) or I did not clip it to my hip pocket in a way that it clicky-clunks properly in response to my gait, because I am a lazy lady, granted, but I am not A STATUE.

Tuesday I made a point of stamping energetically about the office--taking the stairs, looping erratically through the hallways en route to the bathroom. Things went well until, in a meeting, I somehow managed to mash all the buttons--perhaps they were compressed by a ROLL of HIP FAT--and reset it to zero at 3:00 in the afternoon.

It's not that healthy living is difficult, exactly. It's that it is SO IRRITATING.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Oooh baby baby

I spent part of Sunday with my friend Krispy and her 15-month-old twin sons, exactly what I needed to lift me out of a glum mood. The boys are determined toddlers now, and so going out with them is a bit like squiring around two extremely short, genial drunks; they're adorable and hilarious and OH MY GOD HOW DOES KRISPY GET ANYTHING DONE EVER?

I'd forgotten how parents of small children have mastered the ability to wolf down a meal at speeds invisible to the naked eye. I was still picking at my muffin top when Krispy had finished her breakfast while simultaneously keeping Thing 1 and Thing 2 from riding that nice old lady's oxygen tank or busting gleefully in on the occupant of the restroom. (Doors! So fun to open! And close! And open! And close! Opencloseopencloseopenclose! It's a toddler par-tay, woooooooooo!)

Damn, those kids are cute, though. They do wonders for my self-esteem--they're at that flirty age, so you engage them for ninety seconds and then they grin at you like you are the wittiest, most captivating and beautiful woman on earth, with the possible exception of Mommy. They're so pleased with you and your choices, all "Pumpkin bread? I LOVE pumpkin bread! You're awesome!" and "Look at this leaf! I picked it up for you! No, for me! Okay, for you! This leaf is awesome!" Granted, the actual conversation is a little stilted...but how much can you ask of someone whose vocabulary consists of Mama, all done, and Raaahhr! ("what sound does a lion make?") They're still better dates than at least 30% of the men I met through my last personal ad.

I envy the social realm of babies, a little. I mean...if I were to run up and start tonguing the glass front of the pastry case directly, I'd probably be strongly discouraged from returning to the bakery. And how many times have I wanted to slump to the floor in the Target aisle and loudly express my despair and ennui? Too many to count, right? Right?

A fistful of goldfish crackers can usually set me right, too. I'm just saying.

No, it's not a euphemism

A significant chunk of my commute takes place on a notoriously overcrowded stretch of highway. When I was a kid, the land on which the NerdCo empire now stands was primarily home to bunnies and blueberry farms, and the road capacity reflects this long-gone pastoral past; I now have ample time, in the near-daily traffic jams, to look around at all the personal grooming and other activities my fellow drivers have chosen to multitask with.

This is as good a place as any to point out that, hey, everyone: your automobile is not a magical Invisibility Capsule. I CAN SEE YOU in there, flossing and phoning and eyelash-curling, rummaging vigorously in your nostrils. You, buddy, alternating picking with applying the nose-hair trimmer? I SAW THAT TOO. I've watched a lady drive while reading a magazine and dangling her left leg out the window. My friend Funky D once saw a lady typing away on the laptop wedged between her breasts and the steering wheel. And I have borne witness to at least one instance of consummated erotic passion, which remains unhappily seared on my retinas a decade later.

Today brought a new one, though, as I observed the dude crawling along in the lane adjacent, while carefully taping up his hockey stick. Heh. Points for originality, my man.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Bring it

Across the aisle of the bus, a father and his ten-year-old daughter are engaged in a vigorous round of Slug Bug. "Oh, it's ON!" declared dad, enthusiastically walloping the kid with his newspaper after being first to spot a rusty green vintage Volkswagen.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Dear Abbie

The first time I read Martha Cat's song for all the cats who had gone before, last year, I got a little misty. So I'm not ashamed to say that yesterday, when I learned that Martha herself had moved on to join their ranks, I sat in my office and cried like a little baby. I don't care if it IS a blog written by a cat; it's haunting and lovely and I wept for real. Godspeed, brave pirate Martha. Poor Abbie; poor Abbie-and-Martha's Guy.

How is it that pets affect us so deeply? I have loved and grieved for more than a dozen, just in my lifetime, and it gets no easier with repetition. The only time I've ever heard my father sob openly was when he finally put down his adored 16-year-old dog. I've been breathlessly following the sagas of several post-Katrina pet rescues out of New Orleans--Poppy's multitude of cats, Blake Bailey's lone, cranky one--and feeling slightly guilty for it, because, hello, THE PEOPLE. I know. I know. Maybe the tide of human misery is so vast, so unfathomable, that zeroing in on somebody's sodden tabby is an ever-so-slightly more manageable point of entry into knowing the crisis. I have cats, so I understand how vulnerable they are, how dependent on me, how I couldn't explain an emergency to them. I am unable to even imagine trying to save human friends and family, trying to salvage entire lives from murky, moldering ruin. I have to avert my eyes, throw money at the Red Cross to make it bearable. Kitties, at least, I get.

This poem by Franz Wright ran in the New Yorker in December 2003, right around the time I had to put one of my cats down after her own losing battle with pancreatitis. Petunia. I read it and read it and read it, finally pasted it into the sloppy longhand journal I keep for myself. Last night, I read it again.

On the Death of a Cat

In life, death
was nothing
to you: I am

willing to wager
my soul that it
simply never occurred

to your nightmareless
mind, while sleep
was everything

(see it raised
to an infinite
power and perfection)--no death

in you then, so now
how even less. Dear stealth
of innocence

licked polished
to an evil
lustre, little

milk fang, whiskered


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Vanity, thy name is...probably "Taffy" or something

I stopped for gas on the way to work. At the next pump, a woman, maybe mid-to-late 20s, was filling up her station wagon. She had a vanity license plate: IMAQT. I suppose that IMA GRN WMN W SUM DGNTY N SLF RSPCT is, after all, too many letters.

GOD, it irked me. I snorted with disgust at the plate; I gave QT the stink-eye as she pulled out of the station (hogging both lanes of the driveway) and tootled merrily on her way, oblivious.

I don't know. I believe that "cutie" should be reserved for kittens, children under the age of eight, and those little tofu ice-cream sammiches. Maybe also the occupant of the Death Cab. It just struck me as such a juvenile, precious way to identify yourself to the world. This is the statement you most wish to make to strangers? Your primary quality as a presumably educated, accomplished adult engaged with the world is...your adorability?

I guess it says as much about me, the FURY that this chick's stupid vanity plate provoked in me. Logically, I understand that there is not a finite quantity of self-esteem in the world...but when some dingbat is romping around, advertising more than her fair share of glib, twee the hell are the rest of us poor slobs supposed to get through the day? I ask you.

I know, I know: GRMPY-ASS BTCH, also too many letters.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Ain't that a kick in the head?

Whew. Thanks for joining me on the Emotional Baggage Carousel, there; let's move on. Listen up, Internets--now that I've been given permission, I can announce: Sis done ketched herself a man!

The Future Mr. Sis is good-lookin', kind, thoughtful, funny, and obviously a brave man indeed. He proposed to her on the beach, in Kauai: got down on one knee and presented her with a sapphire, which he chose as both his birthstone and because it reminded him of the Aegean sea over which they shared their first vacation together...whooo, y'all. Sis has a stronger constitution than I, 'cause I just swooned and bonked my head on the monitor. You go, The Future Mr. Sis!

I could tell you stories, about The Future Mr. Sis's many indications that he will be an excellent Mr. Sis and a fine bro-in-law...but I've got to save something for the toast, so I'll just share one: When Sis broke her ankle two years ago, and was miserable and housebound, forced to wear the lone pair of Target sweatpants that would fit over her external ankle cage; when she had both a weepy outlook and gross weepy surgical incisions; when she was going completely stir-crazy on a diet of Judge Joe Brown, painkillers and Pixy Stix...

...The Future Mr. Sis rented a wheelchair and pushed Sis all over the Puyallup Fair, so that she could pet horsies and mock handicrafts and consume her annual corndog and Fisher fair scone, just as God intended.

And that, boys and girls? Is love.

So happy for you both!

Monday, September 19, 2005

You'll never know, dear

Darcy and I tried to sign up, this weekend, for a session in one of NPR's StoryCorps mobile recording booths. The Seattle outpost was, sadly, overbooked. But we poked around the website and examined their brochure, which lists some helpful topics and questions to get an interview flowing: How did you meet your spouse? What was your first date like? Can you sing me some of the songs you used to sing to me when I was little?

That last one. "I could do this with my mom," I said. "She'd sing 'You Are My Sunshine,' and then the last 10 minutes would consist of me sobbing uncontrollably into the microphone."

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are gray
You'll never know, dear, how much I love you
Please don't take my sunshine away

My mom can't sing. This doesn't prevent her from rockin' the karaoke mike after a couple of mojitos, but she pretty successfully evades any particular key, and has a distracting tendency to misremember song lyrics--nothing as entertaining as "scuse me while I kiss this guy," but swapping articles and pronouns just enough to irk the obsessive types who KNOW ALL THE WORDS, MOM.

But when I was very little, she'd try to sing me to sleep. "You Are My Sunshine." It's one of my earliest memories, predating the birth of my sister; I can't be more than two and a half, three years old. We're at Grandma's, Mama lying down with me on the green twin bed in the guest room, hoping to lull me into a nap. (I was extremely nap-resistant, as a tot--ironic, now that I practically need a gallon of coffee and a neck brace just to remain moderately alert and upright in staff meetings.)

The other night, dear, as I lay sleeping
I dreamed I held you in my arms
When I awoke, dear, I was mistaken
And I hung my head and cried

My mother was scarcely more than a child herself; at 19 she'd gone directly from her parents' house to her husband's. At 22 she had me. My dad was likewise young and relatively foresight-free, working strange hours at blue-collar jobs: delivering milk, driving a gravel truck. He had his first affair before I was born; my mother discovered it after Thanksgiving dinner, heavily pregnant with me.

I'll always love you and make you happy
If you will only say the same
But if you leave me to love another
You'll regret it all some day

So we retreated to Grandma and Grandpa's a lot, in the days of my parents' marriage. It was pure prime spoiling, for me, beloved and indulged as the first grandchild; I can't imagine what it was like for Mom, lying with her baby in her childhood room, trying to figure out how to save her own life.

Except--that song. I don't remember any traditional lullabies or nursery rhymes...just "You Are My Sunshine," and while she sang it out of love, I remember being aware on some level that... damn. That's a brutally sad song. It's a plea, to a dark and overcast heaven. The speaker dreams of joy...and wakes bereft, alone. A grownup cries, in that song. I remember recognizing that; it was the time I first understood, however vaguely, that there were some hurts that couldn't be healed with a bandaid, a kiss, a cookie. That I could do nothing in the face of distant, adult grief and longing. That my mama was vulnerable to sorrows I could see but not begin to name.

You told me once, dear, you really loved me
And no one else could come between
But now you've left me, and love another
You have shattered all my dreams.

I own several recordings of "You Are My Sunshine," wildly different. There's Norman Blake's weedy, reedy version on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack; better still is Ray Charles' duet with his chief Raelett, Margie Hendrix, who magnificently, blisteringly roars that last verse until you half hope the cheating bastard comes crawling back sorry. I can listen to these with impunity; I can holler along with Margie and feel straight-up righteous.

Just don't let my mama sing it to me, man. We've all moved on and I'm thirty-odd years grown past it...but that, I could not take.

* * * * *

However did we all survive without Google? Just stumbling through the days, wondering all kinds of shit but never, ever being able to find it out? Thus: "You Are My Sunshine,"written by Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell, is one of the official state songs of Louisiana; Davis used it in all his campaign appearances in his successful run for governor. Here are two verses I, and probably you, have never heard.

Louisiana, my Louisiana,
The place where I was born
White fields of cotton, green fields of clover
The best fishing and long tall corn

Crawfish gumbo and jambalaya
The biggest shrimp and sugar cane
The finest oysters and sweet strawberries
From Toledo Bend to New Orleans.

New Orleans. Well. I think I'll just pluck out my heart and roast it on a little spit, before I tuck in to bed. Criminy.

What can brown do for you?

Yup, I've fiddled with the template; I'm no programmer and so all changes are undertaken VE. RY. SLOW. LY. and with much previewing and saving and cursing and accidentally deleting and hunting for the correct HTML color codes that will render less like "poop" and more like "Brach's Neapolitan caramel chews." Which for some reason you cannot examine on their web site, but which you can still scoop out of a giant bin at the grocery store. And thank God.

Anyway. New stuff to look at:
  • I bumped into my old buddy Georgia this summer at a party; hadn't seen her since our days at our previous employer, Craphole Industries. She is a mad, mad, mad lady who has no patience for all y'all and your bullshit...but she's off to Hawaii on the company nickel, and that has sort of cheered her right the fuck up.
  • PostSecret--haunting, hilarious and devastating, frequently all at once. It's like Found magazine combined with psychic mind-reading powers. Tell everyone.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

A strong foundation

I have two white bras, a sports bra and a plain reg'lar. I grabbed the wrong one this morning and was mid-commute (and pre-coffee) before I figured out that I was bound into the more medievally armored of the two. the event that, mid-edit, I need to leap up and perform some jumping jacks...or a volley of roundhouse kicks ("How! Many times! Have I told you! No! Passive! Voice!") ...I am all set.

Monday, September 12, 2005

On "pep"

Two things have prompted this post: one, Darcy's daughter, Babs, starting middle school last week. (She's attending Hamilton, a classic brick pile that, as luck would have it, my mom likewise attended some years past. I told Babs this, to which she exclaimed "God, how old IS it?" which of course I immediately repeated to Mom with some amusement. Heh.) And two, over Labor Day weekend, finding and sorting through a random sack of old photos I'd taken, with my first crappy Kodak DISC camera, during my own middle-school years.

This was the early 80s, so sartorial and tonsorial missteps abound; apparently I once owned a Pac-Man t-shirt. However, my greasy hair stubbornly resisted all my attempts to reset it into the feathered helmet only the salon professional could achieve. I blithely chucked the worst examples, the pictures of classmates I no longer recognized and step-relations I no longer cared to. But the essence of "junior high" has lingered in my mind, this week.

I remember not liking the building--finding its sterile, bureaucratic 1960s architecture dumpy, after the comparatively new charms of my then-modern, modular, colorful elementary school. And I had fears: of changing for gym; of the complexities of combination locks; of the multitude of little thugs and thugettes who picked on me. (And in hindsight, I wonder: how many of my tormentors are dead? Jailed? Parents of kids older now than we were then? I feel a lot of pity, now, for kids who petrified me at the time.)

I loved things, too, though: changing classes, a stack of excitingly varied textbooks. It was like a dry run at High School, at teenhood. In sixth grade, I began to give a shit about fashion, about my cherished lavender "Mr. Rags" pullover hoodie and the right novelty laces to put through my (absolutely REQUIRED) Nikes. I discovered nail polish. I met Holly.

I had yet to be a cynic. So I was invested in school antics; I roller-skated in the gym and made mocking song dedications of syrupy pop hits ("The Girl is Mine," anyone?), on Activity Days. I also remember standing around in cafeteria dances, while two or three of the boldest kids breakdanced--ha! I'd dress up for thematic spirit days, in sixth grade; I remember sporting a huge purple clown wig, even, for one "school colors" event.

The pictures show some of this: me and my pals, clowning and shrieking in the cafeteria, basic anarchic horseplay on the days when this or that teacher (or all of them) gave up for an hour. There was a set of pics from "Fifties Day"--girls in poodle skirts and saddle shoes, chiffon scarves drooping around our ponytails. I remember well: I didn't have a skirt. So I cuffed my jeans, over bobby sox and Keds, wore a men's white shirt and the obligatory ponytail...and a set of Beatle buttons. I claimed I was "ahead of my time." I remember this so well; I truly thought I was clever, not to mention hot shit. There was a by-homeroom contest for best outfit, and I thought I was IT...and of course lost out to blonde, tiny, popular Marci Cook, who had a perfect poodle skirt, pearls, a matching cardigan, like some freaking Teen Angel. An important lesson learned, actually: for the next seven years, the Marci Cooks are going to win, every single time. Hang in there, little brainiac nerd-girl, "ahead of your time." It gets a lot better, in 20 years.

So. By high school, I'd learned this lesson enough times that I didn't care; I read books during pep assemblies, deliberately, MEANINGFULLY bored, or skipped out of them when I could. Spirit was LLLAAAAAAAAME and I was counting the days.

But I still do remember that first pep assembly, the lone annual one they treated us to in middle school, back when district budget cuts meant we didn't even have sports teams to root for. In sixth grade, I didn't know that they had the EXACT SAME assembly every year...and so I was thrilled, stunned, amazed--jumping around in the stands, probably wearing my purple wig--and I was purely AWESTRUCK when the multiple double-doors on the south side of the gym burst open, and the Garfield High marching band and cheerleaders from up the street came pouring in. This--THIS!--was what teenagers did; THIS was how it was going to be! The band seemed glamourous to me in their purple uniforms, white plastic spats and feathered toques. They played "Tequila," which I'd never heard; I had to catch up with my savvier classmates, shrieking the one-word refrain (did I know what tequila WAS? so very sheltered). The cheerleaders led us in the "two bits" cheer, and for that moment I was utterly invested.

I really like her, now, that funny, dorky little girl, that 11-year-old naif; it's taken me a long time to get back to her, back to the point where I run around in a flowered wool hat the minute it's cold enough; where I have more Halloween and Christmas decorations than a grown person should; where there is in fact room in my life for both the eye-rolling cynic and the besotted, giddy fangirl. I feel very generous towards her, lately--towards me and all my selves, jockeying for position in front of a cheap camera and in my expansive life. Check me out--I contain multitudes.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Four fried chickens and a Coke

Which actually sounds pretty good right now, seeing as how it's That Time of the Month again.

Anyway. I need a Hurricane Katrina break, overwhelmed and appalled by the horror taking place in the Gulf states. Please give what you can to the relief organization of your choice; thank you; thus endeth the PSA. Moving on...

This week marks the 25th anniversary of the release of The Blues Brothers movie. I hadn't thought about it in a long time, but reading the excellent special coverage in the Chicago Sun-Times has brought the "mission from God" back to me quite vividly. I realize now that it's one of a triumvirate of movies I've seen, in all or in part, probably 40 or 50 times, and from which I can quote reams of dialogue and even mime some of the stage directions (the others? Sixteen Candles and A Christmas Story; make of that what you will), like the dance everyone does in front of Ray's Music Exchange. I can still shake a tailfeather with moderate conviction.

I couldn't tell you how many times I rented it or watched it at someone else's house in middle or high school. We'd put it on like a party game, reciting the lines along with the characters and trying to count the number of police cars destroyed in the climactic chase scene (the Sun-Times suggests around 60).

It's such a weird little movie, alternating between outrageous sight gags and deadpan wit, legendary blues performers and moments of gleeful, delirious destruction. The special anniversary coverage is crammed with fun tidbits. For example, I've said for years that I'm going to keep driving my pink, paid-for 1996 Hyundai "until it disintegrates like the Bluesmobile"; apparently that particular effect tooka mechanic months to rig up. Or: the famous chase in the mall took place in a shopping center that had already closed. Apparently the producers stocked the ghost mall with merchandise ("Do you have the Miss Piggy?") for the express purpose of ecstatically running it over.

The mall scene, man! During my years of academia I worked for a chain bookstore in several different malls, and Christmas was always our most excruciating time, beset for extended hours by deranged shoppers who never set foot in a bookstore the other 364 days of the year but were trying to fulfil Aunt Fanny's request RIGHT NOW, BITCH and wouldn't take no for an answer. I never got punched, during the Christmas rush, but I'm sure it was only a matter of time. Anyway. We also sold videos, and above the cashwrap area was a television on which we constantly played whatever flick Disney was pushing hardest, that season, in a continuous loop. I don't remember whose idea it was, but one year a friend and I, at our respective limits, rented "The Blues Brothers" and, on Christmas Eve day, queued up just the mall scene and set it to repeat. Just the mall, Jake and Elwood plowing through the Sunglass Hut and the supermarket and the Toys R Us, endlessly decimating that fucking mall, directly overhead as we processed last-minute freaked-out shoppers until our hands went numb. It played for nearly three hours before the manager noticed and made us shut it off. Good times.

So. A surprisingly persistent, pervasive little musical action-comedy, that...a love letter to Chicago blues and to a Chicago that largely doesn't exist, any longer. Dan Aykroyd has said that he'd intended it as something of a time capsule, that way: a vehicle to preserve the city and the artists and their music, to share them with a wider audience while he could (with a generous dollop of slapstick and crashing to make it go down easy, I guess). I wouldn't have thought of it this way, before, but...thanks to Aykroyd's efforts, an eleven-year-old white girl in Licton Springs, Seattle knew who Cab Calloway was, and liked it. Thanks, Dan--you done good, sir.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

How high's the water, mama?

Oh, hush. I'm already going to hell for so many things, a black-witted post title won't make a difference.

I've never been to New Orleans, though I've much enjoyed the Mardi Gras episodes of "COPS." I did always think that the Big Easy would still be there when I got around to visiting...but that seems far more dubious, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The people on the Gulf Coast are in desperate, horrific straits. Send your thoughts, your prayers to whatever deity towards which you might be inclined. Better, send your cash if you've got some.

Seattle Red Cross-- I'd link to the national site, but it seems to be overwhelmed at the moment. Keep it coming.

Northwest Medical Teams--

United Way Hurricane Katrina Fund--

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The password is "RUDE"

Kim says:
hey, I'm just paying my phone bill online...and you know how they issue you a temporary password to get started?
Sis says:
yeah, I suppose
Kim says:
On this bill, mine is "FATILEG"
Sis says:
Kim says:
yeah. what are you trying to say, Qwest?
Sis says:
at least it's not worse
Sis says:
Kim says:
Sis says:
Kim says:
Sis says:
Kim says:
Sis says:
Kim says:

Friday, August 12, 2005

Hier kommt der Sohn

Dear Kai,

First, welcome, and congratulations on getting born! Your mama and daddy sent me your picture, you snoozing in your little blue knit outfit, and you look so fine and handsome and none the worse for wear, after what must be such an arduous journey that none of us, luckily, remember. You are not the least bit pointy-headed! Also, something about your forehead, that thing you are doing with your eyebrows, is entirely your mother and made me laugh aloud.

I have known your mama, Holly, since we were in junior high--we sat next to each other in Mr. Zukowski's sixth-grade homeroom, two gawky, greasy, lank-haired girls; I am sure that, by the time you reach that age, modern science will have done away with the prime horrors of adolescence...or, at the very least, yours will be more intriguingly exotic, in Germany. Anyway. Your mom and I have written lengthy tomes in each other's every yearbook; shared birthday parties, sleepovers, albums, M&Ms, New Year's Eves, spa days, and the flu; cut class (which you must never, ever do--be cool! stay in school!) to run to Ezell's in a torrential downpour for mashed potatoes and gravy. Together we have been camp counselors, gone to Prom, and attended our 10-year high-school reunion, all experiences we wish never to repeat. We lugged my 30-pound electric typewriter to her house and sat up all night typing one of her college application essays in shifts; 15 years later, I proofread her doctoral thesis. I signed your parents' marriage license as a witness. Your mom is the one person I know I could call, anytime, from anywhere, if things every got really really bad...and just by knowing that priviledge, Kai, I've never had to use it. For your mom, I'd take a bullet...or at least a lawn sprinkler straight to the face, as I wound up doing inadvertently during the wedding photos (ask her sometime).

And your daddy, Kai--he is the man your mother deserves, after a string of sub-par turkeys. Andreas is kind and smart and possessed of a dry wit so subtle, it took me a couple years to realize how funny he is. He knows everything about anything, and if he doesn't will research it exhaustively, so I am sure your house is now an impenetrable fortress of baby safety (and stocked with only the most edifying toys, to boot). Even when your mama and I explained "pep rallies" to him, he didn't hold our inferior American high-school educations against us...though he did chucklingly murmur "pep!" to himself, in wonder, for about a week. He also stuck up for me when, visiting, I mistakenly used your fancy German super-double-fat-plus cooking butter on my breakfast toast.

There is something so hopeful about a baby, Kai; you're a vessel of pure and limitless potential, a bundle of joy and of tangible proof that anything, anything at all, can happen. I read the e-mail announcing your birth, Wednesday morning, and while I was driving to work I was thinking, for some reason, about your mother and I, a decade ago. She was living in Portland, Oregon, then, just a few hours away, and I wondered why we didn't see more of each other. I had to push myself to remember us then--we were broke and had crappy jobs and cheap apartments and doltish boyfriends whose names I can barely remember. We were young and our lives were narrow and tough, at the time, and we had little chance to get together. But now look! We have houses and cars and happy grownup lives. Our communications fly around the world with the click of a button...and our selves can fly right after them, without much more effort. Your mama has your daddy, and now they have you, baby Kai...and let me tell you, the sight and the word and the very fact of you gives me new hope, as well. In you, Kai, the world is made over, and anything at all is possible.

I love you already and cannot wait to meet you.

Your "pseudo" Auntie Kim

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


I went to Blue C Sushi with my mom, Monday night--it's kaiten sushi, a conveyor belt of delicacies trundling past your seat like an It's a Small World ride for raw fish. I found it both hypnotic and somehow overstimulating--I was sort of grabbing frenetically at things as if they wouldn't come right around again in a minute, and the big-screen anime and dreamy techno music blip-blooping in the background made me feel a bit like I was wandering through an arcade game. But it was fun, and I found that I did in fact have an "Enough Of" limit for California rolls, and I was all right until the morning's soy-sauce bloat set in.

Then I spent the day very fretful and fat and psychotically unstable. I wanted to throw the hott!! housepainter I've hired down on the front lawn and have my way with him, and then cry for an hour, and then eat a cake, and OH MY GOD WHAT WAS WRONG WITH MEEEEEEE?

Well. Since I've been menstruating regularly for nearly a quarter century, you might think that I've acquired a little more hormonal self-awareness, month to month. Alas, you would be wrong. But it is a relief to realize that, no, again, I had not suddenly lost my entire mind. Yet.

Friday, July 01, 2005

It's going to be hard to reach the mouse from down there

From today's editing docket, an example of why correct comma parsing is important:

19. Collapse, and then expand the nodes in the control.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Where is Grandpa's automobile?

Last Saturday was the 13th annual Greenwood Car Show, one of my favorite combinations of cornball civic event and red-blooded 'Murrican passion for any damn thing on wheels. I've been attending for close to a decade, now, and the show has gone from a handful of hobbyists to an astonishing 15-block stretch of street rods, classic cars, and virtually any mode of transport that can be considered antique, unique, or some degree of both.

The best thing about this show, actually, is that it's open to all comers; while many car shows are exclusive, limited to British classics or muscle cars or whatever, Greenwood takes anybody that has the $20 for the registration and the commemorative t-shirt. Got a cherry '65 Mustang convertible or an outrageously customized, pearl-pink '49 Chev? C'mon down. Vespa? Sure. Colossal Mercedes UNIMOG? You're in. One year I saw a lovingly restored General Lee of "Dukes of Hazzard" fame, one of the dozen or so Dodge Chargers the show had had for alternate takes on the gully-jumpin', still-crashin', hood-slidin' antics of the Duke boys. The owner had driven the car cross-country, and provided a photo album of snapshots of the General, posed in front of various landmarks: the General Lee at the Grand Coulee Dam, the General Lee welcomes you to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada.

Sis has been showing her vintage MINI at Greenwood for three or four years, now. She has a 1963 Riley Elf; it's one of several models built on the MINI chassis, and in the Riley's case features a trunk about the right size to put a croquet set in. It's a deep turquoise with a white top, so it looks like the Pyrex casserole dishes of the same era. It also features right-hand drive; she taught herself to manage the stick shift lefty style. Whenever I ride with her, I always feel vaguely fretful, as if I ought to be doing SOMETHING over there on the left to help, with all that naked dashboard in front of me.

I live a few blocks from Greenwood Avenue, so Friday night we had a Thirty-Something Slumber Party, which involved going out for Indian food and then smearing on our respective wrinkle goops and conking out by 10:30. Girls gone wild! Of course, we had to get up at holy shit o'clock to convoy to the site with the rest of the local MINI club. The processional was pretty awesome, I have to say: fifteen wee British automobiles creeping down the block in a row, the air thick with diesel fumes and Krispy Kremes. I could feel individual brain cells fizzling out in all the exhaust, but nonetheless it was cool. In the other lane, Model A Fords and tricked-out GTOs trundled past us. One guy joined our group in a tiny two-cylinder Mazda hatchback, the only one in the U.S. according to him. It looked like a cross between a Honda Civic and something that Fisher-Price people would tool around in. "What the hell IS that?" hollered a knot of tattooed greasers who'd already chosen a spot, with their deeply-cuffed jeans and their matte black hot rods.

And's eight hours of sitting in camp chairs behind your parked car, getting sunburned, eating chicken wings, shooting the shit with approximately 7,000 clones of My Dad, and everyone's dad. It's a little ridiculous, and a little boring, and a lot of the straight-up evident love love LOVE Americans have for their cars. Does this translate to other cultures, I wonder? Holly, are there classic car meets like this in Munich? It is so dorky and tacky, and somehow I adore it so. There is musical entertainment: good, like the Dixieland jazz combo that set up across the street from us, and...less good, like the pudgy bar band down the block, laboring through the "Grease" soundtrack with gusto if not so much talent. Enterprising little kids come out to hawk lemonade or Tollhouse cookies sealed in individual sandwich baggies, 25 cents. ("Do you want change?" the cookie girl asked me politely when I handed her a dollar, and whoever taught her to say that was a genius because what stingy bastard is going to demand 75 cents back from a third-grader? The kid was raking in bills.) The Masonic Lodge grills weenies, which you can get with chips and a pop for an amazing $2, and they'll give you the most-burnt one if you ask nicely. The boys down at Fire Station 21 have hot dogs, too, and hold an open house for neighborhood kids to climb on the truck and stagger around in giant fire helmets, or take turns aiming the hose down 73rd Street. (Every year, I tell myself this is the year I ask, "Hey, can I play with your hose?" and every year I wimp out and slink past, gawping and trying not to run into anything. Hot firefighters! Damn! Can't form sentences!)

We were chillin' with the MINI club when we noticed a woman gently running her hands over Sis's car. This is a pretty strict no-no for 98% of the show, what with the untold hours most owners spend on blood, sweat, tears, and buffing. I know from experience to peer daintily through windows and under hoods with my hands clasped behind my back and my purse secured in an armpit. But then we noticed the woman's companion, fingerspelling into her hand: she was deaf and blind.

Mom's an interpreter for the deaf. She went over and introduced herself, and took the woman's hands in her own, began telling her about the car. Sis joined them and opened the driver's door; Mom translated between them, as the lady traced the Riley's little cartoon shape, slipped into the seat, gleefully turned the wheel like a toddler would. Her face, Mom's face, Sis's face...all lit up. There was a guy across the street with a 30s Caddy; he'd refused to let her touch it, the man with her said. But she'd really wanted to "see" the MINIs. She beamed, sitting in my sister's bubble-sized toy car. They went to the car show every year, they told us.

That was cool.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Bloody hell

Yet more Oversharing is imminent. Squeamish? You might want to run off and look at outrageously expensive but undeniably gorgeous photos of adorable babies, instead, today. (I told Krispy, "Those pictures made my uterus send up a flare!" which she claimed was patriotically appropriate, with the pending Fourth.)

Anyway. So today, while I was sitting at my desk, my back itched...just in that spot you can barely get at. So, contorting myself appropriately, I scratched it. I could feel a little teeny bump, mole or mosquito bite or blemish, dunno. It didn't hurt...but my fingers came away wet. With blood. Eeek.

I squirmed around, trying to figure out what exactly I'd done, continued to bleed. And bleed. The hell? I finally slunk into the restroom and stuffed a folded wad of t.p. under my bra strap, struggling to align it with the steadily bleeding, miniscule spot I still couldn't...quite...reach. Having stuffed the entirely wrong part of the bra, so to speak, I went back to my desk.

Where after about twenty minutes, I noticed that the t.p. felt clammy.


I obviously have no dignity left in my life, people. I mean, yesterday I went back to the doctor for MORE examination of my complexion woes, for which I now have two ointments, one of which, the pharmacist announced to the room at large, I must SWAB IN MY NOSTRILS with a Q-Tip. And TODAY, I had to go to one of the female managers, and hike up my shirt, so that she could put a band-aid on my apparent mystery SHRAPNEL WOUND in this place I could neither see or reach.

It soaked through in half an hour.

I IMed Darcy in a bit of a state. "You have got to help me," I said (she works in a different building). Mercifully, NerdCo has incredibly well-stocked First Aid cabinets, with antiseptic wipes and ointments and gauze squares; I was afraid I'd have to tape a maxipad to my shoulder. As it was, I simply had to DISROBE huddled in Darcy's office, holding the blinds and the door shut and holding my bra on and praying that no one would actually come by to DO SOME WORK FOR GOD'S SAKE while poor, dear Nurse Darcy mopped up the inexplicable HORROR MOVIE on my back and plastered me with bandages. I am sure I will have the adhesive remnants of a square outline on my skin for the rest of the summer...but we seemed to get it stopped. What the hell did I do, anyway? Scratch off a mole by accident? Spring a leak? Develop some sort of breakfast-donut-induced hemophilia instantaneously?

"That is so weird," Darcy said. "It's tiny. It looks like this." She drew a wee dot on a sheet of paper.

Just another fun day at the office: deadlines, annual reviews, and two different people seeing me IN MY BLOODY BRA. My genuinely bloody bra! STREAKED AND STAINED WITH GORE! It looks like it belongs to a knife-fightin' whore, people.

Stay tuned for tomorrow, when that nightmare I have where all my teeth fall out PROBABLY COMES TRUE.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A haiku from today's commute

I saw your three-foot bong
Lost, fallen on I-5
Seriously: bummer

Friday, June 10, 2005

What it's like to work here

You know, at NerdCo.

Across the hall, one of the tech writers is tussling with a tightly-sealed box. It suddenly begins to emit "k-pow! k-pow!" laser-blasting noises.

"What are you doing over there?" I ask.

"My Batmobile," he explains, fully wresting the model from its packaging.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Mole-y like the break room at CTU

Because no information is Too Much Information on the Interweb, I shall now share with you my ongoing skin issues. My blemish situation has continued to the point that, after looking up various horror-movie skin conditions it MIGHT be (the Interweb: a hypochondriac's wet dream), I finally went to my doctor. She seemed nonplussed--apparently, at this life stage, I get to worry about pimples AND wrinkles. Supposedly, I have a mild staph infection; I am just grateful that it's not the HUGE JOB-LIKE BOILS variety. Anyway. The doctor prescribed a topical something-or-other that came in a bottle "with a dauber applicator;" this statement made me chuckle as it reminded me of those specialized Bingo pens. Turns out it's EXACTLY like a Bingo dauber, except filled with magical zit-blasting fluid instead of, say, purple ink. (And thank God.)

But! Since I was in there having my cranky flesh examined anyway, I decided I'd ask her about a couple little skin-tag moles on my neck--what my friend Krispy helpfully refers to as "booger moles." "What do I need to do to get these removed?" I asked. I imagined a dermatological consultation, a specialist with little tools for freezing or burning or cauterizing. So I was a teensy bit disappointed when the good doc whipped out A PAIR OF STERILE SCISSORS and snipped off the two worst offenders, zip zap. It was both thrilling and gross. I didn't even require a band-aid.

"That was easy," I said, visions of my nail clippers at home dancing in my head.

"Don't try it yourself. You don't want tetanus," said the doctor, reading me like a book.

Stay tuned for next week's exciting episode of Pustule Theater!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Live long, prosper, have a cookie

An e-mail thread at work yesterday spurred some debate over this kind of snarky article on the pending demise (for now) of the Star Trek franchise. I am utterly indifferent to all things Trek...but it reminded me of a favorite story about my late grandmother that I figured belonged in the blog.

For several years in the early 90s, Grammy was a canteen volunteer for the Puget Sound Blood Center blood bank in north Seattle. She was bored in her retirement, and I'd nagged at her to find something in the community to do. She was so tiny that she didn't weigh enough to be a donor, but she could provide juice and cookies and cocoa to the exsanguinated and make sure nobody passed out over the Xeroxed word-search puzzles the center kept on hand. It was an ideal grandma job, plying a captive audience with snacks and bad riddles, and she loved it.

This one day, though, she came home from her shift and declared, "Oh, we had such a time at the blood bank today, when the Klingons came in!"

The who and the what, now? You can probably picture the expressions on the faces of the entire fam. We KNEW that Grammy was not a science fiction fan; it was HIGHLY unlikely she'd ever seen a single episode of Star Trek, and probably couldn't have picked Shatner out of a lineup. I was grimly certain, for a moment, that this was some menacing symptom of Alzheimer's they didn't tell you about: you lose your keys, forget names...start seeing Klingons.

But. After some carefully worded questioning, the story finally emerged, more or less: apparently there was some sort of sci-fi convention in town, and a group of attendees had decided to do something altruistic before heading off, in full costume and makeup, to bump elbows with the rest of the galaxy. So maybe half a dozen of them descended on the blood bank. Eventually, photographs were pinned to the center's bulletin board: several fierce, glowering interplanetary warriors, several beaming phlebotomists, my tiny cookie-dispensing Grammy. The bulletin board also had little signs declaring "Give Blood" in a dozen different languages; before leaving, the visitors had helpfully printed it out in Klingon, jagged angular characters on a strip of colored construction paper.

I'm still pretty sure that Grammy didn't completely grasp what was going on; I imagine she believed these folks were nice, a bit strange, and some unusual race and/or religious sect. Rastafarians, Hare Krishas...Klingons. No matter. You get poked, you get a cookie and a "Be Nice to Me--I Gave Blood Today!" sticker on your body armor. Be who you are, that was Grammy's philosophy.

I'd give my eye teeth for that picture, now.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Turkeys, lurkey

From MSNBC, in its entirety:

CRANFORD, N.J. - Residents of this New Jersey town say they are being terrorized by wild turkeys.

Police have gotten a-half dozen complaints about the aggressive gobblers, most of them from a letter carrier. He bashed one of them with a stick after a group of turkeys surrounded his mail truck and wouldn’t let him out, the officials said.

Wild turkeys can grow as big as 4 feet high and are fast flyers, reaching maximum speeds of 55 mph.

My grandfather, after his stint in the Navy, was a legendarily hapless postal carrier, frequently lost, dog-bit, or tender of foot. But damn, he was never held hostage by a gang of marauding turkeys.

Though there was an incident in the deer pen at a petting zoo, in which he was savagely divested of several packets of snack peanuts.

Four feet high? Okay, I might be induced to cry and flee a turkey the size of a fourth-grader...that could attain highway speeds. Cripes! We're getting into Night of the Lepus territory, here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Happy BirthdaAAAAAAIIGH!

Following a Google link to something else (which I've completely forgotten, at this point), I spotted this item on the page, sadly already purchased by some lucky and/or freakish bidder: 1974 Vinyl Clown Head For Helium Machine. Of course I rushed to alert Sis immediately, having wrapped several of her last birthday gifts in Creepy Clown paper (bless you, Archie McPhee).

The seller is really, really into the Clown Head, don't you think? Twice, she mentions what a great mask he would make for Mardi Gras. Or, you know, for when you brutally slaughter your next serial victim.

"He easily slips over your head (I know. I had it on when my husband opened the front door for me when I brought it home)." Counseling. I recommend counseling.

Oooh, agh--look at the other picture, the one of the flesh-toned Vinyl Clown Head interior. SHUDDER.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Easy, breezy, beautiful

Because an excess of junk in the trunk is the least of my problems, I've also had a bit of a blemish situation this week. (Bring on the chocolate-covered pretzels.) Sis, ever helpful, has alternately suggested that I have impetigo, or the flesh-eating bacteria--just like the gals on America's Next Top Model! While furtively searching the Intarweb for various and sundry dermal horrors, I was suddenly visited by another fond memory of our late friend Barb.

As a doctor, Barb was on a number of intriguing mailing lists. Assorted drug-manufacturer swag poured in to her home and office on a daily basis--free samples, or little notepads that posed sympathetic, rhetorical questions like "DIARRHEA?" across the top. One set of lapel buttons featured photographs of assorted people grimacing in agony, their distorted features a rictus of headache pain; she gave those to me and I still have 'em. In addition to all these goodies, Barb received her share of esoteric medical journals. A standout among these was Cutis magazine--a journal of skin disorders. Every month, this thing would show up without so much as a plain brown wrapper, each cover featuring a close-up color portrait of some suppurating pustule or flaky, blistered welt. Cutis was better than a violent comic book. It also proved useful in one of the finest insults in the history of smack-talking, originated by Barb's own kids and gleefully embraced by us: "Oh yeah? Well, you're the cover girl for Cutis magazine!"

Oh, stop Googling. Of course they're now online!

"I'm afraid to click," Sis said when I alerted her to this Intarweb presence. Sadly, this month appears to feature your average brown melanoma--not all that exciting. However, some of the headline links suggest things I want absolutely nothing ever to do with, such as "Multinucleated Atypia of the Vulva." Aaaaaaaah! No atypias, ESPECIALLY of the vulva, thanks much.

On the other hand, "What's Eating You? Fire Ants!" is possibly the best title ever. If anybody asks me what my problem is, I now have a new answer.