Monday, December 25, 2006

The tree you really are

Last week, I spent $25 on a used CD: a children's Christmas album by Nat King Cole, one I'd worn out in both vinyl and cassette form over the past 34 years. You can't go too wrong with Nat; "The Christmas Song" is a musty old roasted chestnut indeed, but that butter-rum voice of his just pours into every fissure in your soul. It heals what ails you. This particular record has been rereleased multiple times, even recently...but the latest CD has a slightly altered track listing; hence, my costly acquisition from Eric in Texas, who surely has no idea how deeply he's improved my Christmas this year. Brace yourselves, everybody--this will be both long and sentimental.

In December 1972, I turned three years old. My parents and I were living with my maternal grandparents, waiting on the completion of our split-level ranch in the suburbs; Sis was still a seven-months bun in the oven. For my birthday, my great aunt Nannie, Grandma's sister, gave me a record, on vinyl, Nat King Cole's "Christmas is for Children." I can still see the album cover perfectly in my mind's eye: late-60s graphics, broad vertical stripes of red and green. In each stripe was a photo illustration of a little kid opening (or staring with bewilderment at) a glittery wrapped present. All of those pictured kids are comfortably in their 40s, if not 50s, today.

The most current version of the album is missing "Buon Natale," the loopy Eye-talian verve of which is sorely needed, I think. Because the core of "Christmas is for Children"? Is a first-class tearjerker of the highest order. For example: "The Little Boy that Santa Claus Forgot," the protagonist of which looks enviously on at other little fellows' holiday bounty, and then goes home "to last year's broken toys." "I'm so sorry for that laddie...he hasn't got a DAAAAAADDYYY," Nat sings. Apparently this was a big hit during World War II. As a kid in the divorce-a-riffic 70s, a few years later, it meant something different to me...but that's another story. No, the weeper I'm going to talk about here is "The Little Christmas Tree." Penned by Mickey Rooney (!), as I was dumbfounded to learn from the newest liner notes.

Little Christmas Tree
No one to buy you, give yourself to me
You're worth your weight in precious gold, you see
My little Christmas tree

Promise you will be
Nobody else's little Christmas tree
I'll make you sparkle, just you wait and see
My little Christmas tree

I'll put some tinsel in your hair
And you'll find that there's a strange new change
That you have never seen
I'll bring my boy a toy
He'll jump for joy
To see his bright new queen

With me you will go far
I'll show Saint Nick the tree you really are
And there'll be peace on Earth when Daddy lights your star
My little Christmas tree

You're big enough for three
My little Christmas tree
I can only guess, now, at why this song completely devastated me, at three. I think it's partly that reality, when you're that little, is not made up of points on a spectrum, but exists as a level plane. Santa, God, your parents, your pets, Mickey Mouse, stuffed animals, the t.v. clown who hosts the morning cartoons, Sunny Jim smiling on the peanut-butter jar--all are equally valid and sentient beings, with needs and longings as simple and straightforward as your own. Hell, I'd probably just seen Charlie Brown's limp, needle-dropping tree for the first time, too. For whatever reason, I was utterly convinced--and entirely destroyed--by this song. Somewhere out there was a tiny tree, unloved and forgotten on the salesman's one to take it home, decorate it, wrap its base lovingly in an old flannel sheet to keep its toes warm. I was inconsolable; I cried, even as I begged the adults to play the song over and over, lift the needle and reset the little tree tragedy time and again. I went to bed in tears, cried myself to sleep.

And my Grammy listened to me. If I know her at all, I am sure that she first turned on Nannie--why would you buy such a horrible album for a little child!--because she and her sister lovingly, tirelessly bickered every single solitary day of their adult lives, over the trivial and the extremely trivial. But after she finished chewing out Nan, Grammy went to my father. She stuffed a handful of bills into his pocket and told him, "Go out and find the tiniest tree you can buy. Don't come back without it." She was five feet tall and weighed maybe 100 pounds with her wig on, but Dad knew what side his bread was buttered on; he went.

Why did Grammy listen to me, after all? I was three years old, three days before Christmas; I'd had one rough night, but in the morning surely I could be distracted by toys, her clip-on earrings, a frozen waffle. From my friends with kids, I know that parenting toddlers is largely a long daily litany of tiny peace-keeping fibs and distractions: oh, the battery must have run out! oh, Barney isn't on today! sorry, sweetie, but there IS no more candy! But she saw something in my grief, that night, that resonated with her. As an adult, I can look at the story now and see Grammy's own thread running through it. When she was three years old, she lost her mother to breast cancer. December 25, 1925. Merry Christmas.

So she thrust money at my dad. I don't know where he went--a florist? a nursery? Maybe the drugstore, because I saw a few Little Christmas Trees at the Walgreen's last week, exactly like the one he procured: a tiny dwarf evergreen, not 12 inches high, a live tree in a colored-foil-wrapped pot.

And that's what I remember, the confusing Christmas-light haze of being roused from bed and carried to the kitchen. My father sat me on the grey Formica-topped kitchen table next to the tree, and my Grammy said "Look! Look what your daddy found! It's the tree. It's the Little Christmas Tree! Your daddy saved it and he brought it home!"

And I BELIEVED. I sat on that table in complete awe and I BELIEVED with all my heart, that my father had saved that tree, that a genuine Christmas miracle had occurred. Grammy came up with a handful of ornaments the size of gumballs, a garland that might have been one of her own beaded necklaces; we decorated that dinky little tree and stood it on the bookshelf, and for days I stood near it and whispered to it and stroked its bright-green blunt needles like it was a pet. Surprisingly or not, it thrived. It's planted in front of the house I grew up in. It's about the size of a Volkswagen Bug, 34 years later--too big really to dig up under cover of darkness, though there have been tipsy nights since we sold the old homestead when I have thought about it.

I got an embarrassment of riches from Santa in 1972, and all the years afterward--toys I remember playing with, some toys I loved. In between I've had magnificent Christmases, and kind of crummy ones, and at least one where Santa brought everyone the stomach flu and we all spent the hour of Jesus's birth fighting over prime bathroom real estate. But nothing has stayed with me quite like waking up to that little tree; nothing has matched the absolute wonder and joy of that instant, a true Christmas miracle in my eyes, and that rooted my love of the holidays right into the core of my soul. It's the first Christmas I remember, and on some level it remains the very best.

Happy Holidays, everyone who's reading; I hope the closing of the year and the birth of a new one bring you as much astonishing happiness and complete wonder as they bring me. Then, and still.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Winter blast blasts

So! We have survived the great Windstorm '06 here on my block of Ballard. Despite the fact that I have a gigantic evergreen on both the northwest and the southeast corner of my lot, I was not crushed to bits in my bed last night, perhaps because I lay awake keeping the two trees firmly rooted by sheer force of will. The power to the NerdCo campus in its entirety was out, and so I have spent the day in slippers, congratulating myself on my good fortune and wondering why so many service and delivery trucks were driving up my street in reverse.

Whoa! Turns out the south end of the block wasn't as lucky, and another huge honking pine tilted out of someone's front yard and covered the entire road, sidewalk to sidewalk. New tenants, in that house--they've been there maybe a week. I trotted down to check, and aside from pulling down the power lines, nobody had so much as a scratch; the tree just rolled over and settled gently between parked cars, away from the house. So of course we all had to stand around in the street with coffee mugs and camera phones, marveling at this grand, playing-hooky development as well, giddy with our own safety.

I didn't have a restful night, however, between storm terror and the wretched cold/flu I've battled all week. For some reason this one started as a sore throat and has migrated upwards; my sinuses were so swollen last night that I could feel the pressure shift in my gums as I rolled to one side or the other. I am wearing my contacts instead of glasses right now because the bridge of my specs actually hurts my face. I tried to blow my nose this morning and figured it shouldn't hurt in the back of my head, to do that.

So. I finally hauled myself to the hippie co-op and bought myself a neti pot; it was that or a gun. I've resisted this for a while, mostly due to the "ew" factor. A little Interweb research suggests that the average user is way too happy about using his or her neti pot:

The lady pictured on my neti pot package and accompanying materials is positively grinning, something I found too challenging as I hung my head over the sink wearing a towel bib and pouring salt water into each nostril in turn.

But it worked, sort of. It felt a bit like doing an overzealous cannonball into the pool, as a kid--that faint tingling burn--but my nose was actually clear. For about 15 minutes. Sigh.

Oh well. Between this and regular gulps of Safeway-brand CoolBURST nighttime minty blue cold liquid not found in nature, I should be right as rain in a couple more days. Plus, my new nostril kettle informs me it is dishwasher-safe. Good to know.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

They're jingling, baby

Sunday morning, I did the 22nd annual Jingle Bell Run 5K in downtown Seattle, to benefit the local Arthritis Foundation. Mr. Sis decided to do this race, too, but because he is an Accomplished Triathlete, he left in the first wave of high-speed runners, clad in his aerodynamic, body-hugging, moisture wicking, solar-powered tracksuit. I was slotted in the third wave of slow-ass plodders, wearing the giveaway t-shirt and with a few Christmas bows stuck on my head. There was a costume contest, which some folks took quite seriously; if the gent in the full-on Bumble suit a la the Rankin and Bass "Rudolph" special reads this, I'd like to buy him a coffee. Or a beer.

The route took us on a veeeeery subtle-but-deadly incline through the festive holiday streets of downtown Seattle, kicking up a twee cacophony via the free jingle bells distributed to one and all. Then we doubled back uptown through the express lanes underneath I-5, which was fun for about a minute--I'm running on the freeway, yo!--and then dark, echoingly loud, and exhaust-a-riffic for many minutes more. Eh, it was for a good cause. Plus the last four blocks or so were all downhill, so you could make a dramatic show of barrelling through the finish chute Rosie Ruiz-style.

Anyway. The disparate finish times gave Mom, Sis, and Mr. Sis ample time to appreciate some of the other wonders of the season...DOWNTOWN! (cue Petula Clark belting here). To wit:

1. The big Macy's, nee The Bon Marche, has for years set up a Christmas train window, with model trains in assorted scales tootling around and around, airplanes whirling from fishing line, etc. This year, it seems there's been a tragic derailment at Gingerbread Gulch:

Note the little plastic child, once innocently frolicking on ice, now cruelly pinned beneath the coal car.

Mommy? I', Mommy...

2. The drunk hobo who leaned directly into Mr. Sis's face whilst the fam was awaiting my return, and said "Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck." According to eyewitnesses, his belly did indeed shake like a bowlful of jelly, and could perhaps have used a shirt.

3. Oh, Mr. and Mrs. Sis, stop acting so corny!

It's that little corn arm waving that makes it art.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Another reason for the season

A semi-rural church in western Washington is drawing crowds with its "Live Nativity" production that includes sheep, goats, actors (in their dads' bathrobes, I'm guessing), and an eight-foot-tall, 2000-lb, one-hump Arabian camel named Hannibal.

Here is my favorite, favorite part, a quote from pastor Chris Hill: "We'd like to think that it is Jesus, but the camel is the main draw."

And somewhere, John Lennon is no doubt rolling in his grave like a pig on a rotisserie. But laughing, probably.

Friday, December 08, 2006


Well, gracious. Two different people e-mailed me messages headed "OMG!!" this morning, noting that my post on cafeteria tray affirmations had been linked by Seattlest. I did a little flattered capering around, then wrapped it up by notifying Sis, who said "What's Seattlest?" But I enjoyed my 15 minutes. Meanwhile, both Gael and Erin flagged my commentary on poor James Kim. I feel a little like I ought to tidy up around here a bit. Sorry about the cat hair and Starbucks cups everywhere, folks.

In an earlier entry, Erin also prodded us to reveal our blog crushes (via Mitali): who would cause you to dork out and stutter a bit if they gave you a mention in their blog? In all honesty, I got plenty excited by the props from the aforementioned ladies I actually know, never mind the Ist-a-verse. I'm usually astonished enough to find that someone besides Mike Pope is reading this thing.

But there are a few writers I aspire to emulate, and who would no doubt reduce me to a blushing, tongue-tied dolt if they had the least clue I existed. Sarah Bunting at Tomato Nation inspired me to start my own blog; likewise, Heather Armstrong of Dooce is so awesome that I am occasionally tempted to compose a grammatically unsound, loony hate mail just to merit her attention. When I grow up, I also want a cool husband, a ham-obsessed daughter, and the ability to hold my liquor just like Mimi Smartypants.

Of course, my ultimate dream job is to be the announcer on "Supermarket Sweep" (speaking of ham! Watch Gloria load up on those smoked hams! Meanwhile Howard is going for the jumbo bricks of Velveeta. But will anyone find the Tide Super Bonus?)But my second-tier dream job would be to recap just about any damn thing on TWoP. Then I would totally be welcomed into the DHAK stable of hilarious smart people, and we would all be BFF and go to the same parties and be the funniest people ever, on Earth. And it would be even better than the time I won the Olympic Gold Medal in figure skating with Scott Hamilton (he learned pairs, for me), or when I got my Oscar and totally thanked everyone except my dad, for holding up the child support checks, and Joanna J. from 4th period social studies because we all know she's a complete bitch. Yeah, man, it'll be awesome!!!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


I'm wrecked by the James Kim story. It seems such an appalling caprice of fate: that these people made a simple mistake, one wrong turn, and that single choice spiraled into horror and tragedy. I don't pray, exactly, I am unconvinced that there is any particular higher power in charge...but for a week I followed this story, sent up a periodic silent supplication to what or whomever might be listening--mostly a litany of just please, please, please. Redoubled when the mother and girls were found on Monday...but there is no happy ending here.

A commenter on Seattlest nailed the excruciating familiarity of this story, I think--pointing out that the Kims are a scant few degrees from being "us." A cute, smart, young family of appealing tech nerds; James Kim a blogger, a technical editor--that detail particularly resonant in my mind. They came north for a Thanksgiving vacation, and on the way home Saturday they stopped for dinner at a Denny's, that road-trip staple of every family vacation I myself remember. Back in the car, they missed their turn, and consulted a map for another option. Probably James and his wife put their heads together over the Rand McNally road atlas, angling it under the dome light. Maybe as they headed into the woods, there was a little friendly ribbing: Honey, are you sure? This is the bucolic wilderness!

The first night was probably still an adventure, scary but a tiny bit thrilling. Tell the girls we're camping out for the night, and count on backtracking out of the snow by daybreak. How long did it take to become a nightmare, to realize they were well and truly trapped? They had a few snacks in the car, baby food and bottles of water, but they must have blown through that quickly. When it was gone, Kati Kim began nursing not only her infant daughter but her four-year-old, kept the girls hydrated and alive. When the gas ran out and the heat shut off, they started burning the tires. How, how did they make the decision that James would walk out for help? What must husband and wife have said to each other, after four days, five, seven, watching their babies grow visibly thinner? One report noted that the little girl had lost so much weight, when she stood up her pants fell off. Yes, that would drive me out into the snow in tennis shoes.

James Kim told them that if he couldn't retrace their path back to civilization, he'd be back in a few hours. Back by 1:00. I can't begin to imagine what Kati Kim went through at 2:00. At dusk. For two more days. Her husband left them to save them; he was a smart man, he knew, of course they both knew, that the lost should stick together, stay put, wait to be found. But it had been more than a week. He left desperate to save them, and he didn't come back.

Actually it shames me, that I can so easily imagine it, a lot of it...let my mind run down that narrow lane dense with snow and contemplate the full love and terror and anguish these people experienced. It's sickeningly easy, a glittering bleak fiction I can conjure out of the air. Except it's real, heaven help them. A holiday drive turned hellish, James Kim a geek with a cell phone who plunged out into the snow in sneakers in a heroic effort to save his family.

No, I don't pray. But I am thinking hard about the Kims tonight, pleading with the universe in my clumsy agnostic way to please please give them any small measure of peace.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Yes, you too

The NerdCo complex is vast enough that we have multiple cafeterias, most of them set up much like those at large universities: there's a salad bar and a pizza line, a burger grill, a Hot Entree of the Day station. When you first walk in, there's an area where you can pick up your tray from a huge stack of identical, neutral-institutional-gray plastic slabs and make your way in to select a meal.

The first time I noticed this, maybe a week or two ago, I thought it was a nice fluke, a random act of kindness: scrawled across the bottom of a tray (they're stacked upside-down) in black Sharpie were the words YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. It was charming and forgettable. But I just saw it again. Different handwriting, too, so for certain another, a second, tray. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.

And maybe it's just a copycat thing, I don't know. But maybe it's a movement. A meme, a message from the universe, spreading the word one dull cafeteria tray at a time. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL, whether you pick up this tray or not. Whether you falter, like I did today, and get the chicken strips instead of a salad, or not. You in the sweatpants; you, engineer in smudged glasses; you in the heels; you in the food-service apron. Me, you, everyone who saw that tray this afternoon--listen. I hope you were paying attention, because hello, we're beautiful.

While I was standing there woolgathering a cafeteria worker appeared with a cartload of freshly washed trays and began randomly piling them onto the existing stacks. He evidently took no notice of the message tray, and covered it up. It's now buried, somewhere in the middle of a clattering gray pile. But too late--I saw it. I know it's there...and now you do too. You are beautiful; pass it on.

Monday, November 20, 2006

God Jul

Yesterday Mom and I decided to attend Yulefest, the annual Christmas festival at the Nordic Heritage Museum in Ballard. Neither of us had actually been to the museum before, and clearly we need to go back when the aisles and exhibits aren't crammed with vendors and musicians and sugared-up children...but it was a fun couple hours.

The vendors offered up an interesting, peculiar mix of objects: there were mugs and flags and imported licorice, but also Fimo clay jewelry and pashmina shawls in sealed plastic bags, labeled by someone with a tenuous grasp on English. Of course there were also more Nordic sweaters than you could shake a stick at; you couldn't turn around without getting hung up on somebody's silver buckles. I was honestly more curious about the food. I did not see any lutefisk on offer, though I suspect that it brings a unique array of liability issues with it.

But there were pastries: a whole table spread with cookies and little cakes and, to my delight, lefse. (I'm also delighted that both lutefisk and lefse appear in Wikipedia, hee hee...but since I had to explain the latter to my personal trainer this morning--a confession, if you will--I'll do so here as well.) Lefse is a Scandinavian flatbread, basically a tortilla made with potatoes. There are savory versions, served with ham or summer sausage in them...but we always had it sweet, growing up: spread with butter and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, rolled into a narrow cone. They had both kinds on offer at the Yulefest booth, a dollar apiece; outrageous, but I nonetheless paid up and eagerly took a bite.

Margarine. Instead of butter, it was spread with margarine.

Which was revolting, and yet made me well up a little, because that was how we had it when I was little. We were cheap, and butter in the 70s was somehow ostentatious and bad for you both, like a rare steak. So my Grammy would spread slices of lefse with Nucoa brand margarine, a soft stick of which was always present in her bright-yellow Melmac butter dish, and that was the flavor of my heritage when I was six or eight or twelve years old. Manna from heaven.

I remember margarine-ing and rolling up dozens and dozens of little lefse tubes with Grammy one night, for a presentation on My Family History in seventh-grade social studies the next day. Did she come to school with me that morning? I want to say yes, but she would still have been pre-retirement, so maybe no. I brought family photos, and my great-grandmother Dina's apron with its handmade lace insets. Even at 13, my waist was too wide to fit...though it occurs to me now that poor Dina might have been crammed into a corset. I rambled on for some appropriate interval and then plied Mrs. Taylor's first period with sugared vegetable shortening on white bread, basically. I was a big hit.

So that rolled lefse tasted ambrosial to me, as Mom and I wandered through the rest of the museum. The building--a former elementary school from the early 1900s--has a tricky and peculiar layout, and at one point we found ourselves peering through an open door into the kitchen. I deeply regretted not bringing a camera, at that moment, because here we discovered the crack lefse assembly line: four snowy-haired Scandinavians at a long table--three ladies, one gent--carefully buttering and sprinkling and rolling a truly enormous quantity of lefse, on down the row. The Costco-sized yellow tub of Gold-n-Soft margarine stood before them at the ready. God bless us, every one, ya sure you betcha.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Two things that made me laugh yesterday

1. An editor, after several days out with a nasty cold, is whooping it up (slightly phlegmatically) in the hallway. I poke my head out to see what the ruckus is all about. "Oh, that's just my codeine!" he exclaims merrily.

2. Sis IMs me compelling evidence that we might be adopted: "I sent Dad a link to our wedding pictures online. He didn't respond, but he did forward me a joke about peckers."

Friday, October 27, 2006

Make like a tree

I had a meeting in another building today and had to traverse part of the NerdCo campus. Across the street, I watched a guy walking parallel to me: a grown man, coffee in one hand, NerdCo ID clipped to his hip pocket. Deliberately and with visible pleasure, he was scuffling along through the ankle-deep leaves that covered his portion of the sidewalk. Shooff, shooff--kicking up great swirls of yellow and orange around himself, 1:00 on a brilliant October afternoon.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Why I am Easily Amused at the P.O.

Among the stamps on offer in the vending machine is a set depicting snowflakes, with "four different designs." Shouldn't that be "an infinite number of designs, no two alike?" I think, and giggle all the way back to the car.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The toughest job, whether you love it or not

Yesterday was the United Way Day of Caring, an annual event where local corporations, NerdCo among them, sponsor their employees to take a day off to volunteer in the community. It's a Wonderful Thing, of course, but also so earnest that it's easy to make fun of, which we all do--perhaps spurred on by the manager I'll leave nameless, who once blurted "Eh, I cared last year" in front of the wrong audience. So for the past week, many statements have been made along the lines of "I am trying to care, but you are making it difficult!" and "Excuse me, The Needy, but could you please go and need outside maybe so I can finish painting your subsidized housing?"

The big boss in my division picks a huge project from the list each year, something that can absorb up to 100 people. Unfortunately, it seems always to be "weeding," in some form or other. Clear this ivy-infested slope next to the highway for eight hours! Pull dandelions from 50 acres of parkland! Big Boss loves to weed, apparently. I do not, which is why my yard looks the way it does. So, this year I chose my own project, and descended with a mob of like-minded souls in matching ugly free t-shirts on Sacajawea Elementary, in Seattle's north end. (Seriously, United Way: you do good work, but this year's shirts are particularly unattractive, as well as being sized for individuals that evidently average seven feet tall.)

The original plan, weather permitting, was for groups of us to repaint four-square grids and hopscotch squares on the playground's surface. This being Seattle, dark clouds threatened. A surfeit of outdoor volunteers set to...weeding. I was relieved to be dispatched to a first-grade classroom instead, to do pretty much whatever the teacher asked for six hours.

And good lord, I don't know how they do it. My mom has worked in the public schools for 26 years, I went through the system myself for 13...and I have absolutely no idea how anyone does it. I enjoyed myself thoroughly, even as I felt...ashamed, nearly, of my cushy NerdCo job, the ridiculous salary I draw to sit in an ergonomic chair and type all day. The kids were cute as hell: ages six and seven, mostly, so their teeth are going every which way, as is their hair in many cases. But they're too little to just sit and drill in rows, you know? So they were in constantly shifting groups: playing with clay or letter puzzles, poring over library books, listening to Caps for Sale on headphones, coloring apples and turkeys and pumpkins and leaves on that day's worksheet. It's school, it's fall.

The building smelled like wax, both floor and crayon, of pencil shavings and rubber erasers, of hot lunch. Though not of chalk, any more--they've all got whiteboards and dry-erase markers. I entered the new students' names in classroom computers, xeroxed mountains of handouts, labeled folders; I sat in a wee blue chair and reviewed sight-reading word lists with individual kids. Some smoked through the columns of "go" and "good" and "like" and "make" like it was a race; others shrugged and sighed over anything longer than three letters, groaning "Are we done now?" Boy, you'll be President one day, I thought darkly. Through it all, the din was happy but controlled, and the teacher was cheerful and magically omnipresent and never had to raise her voice. We should pay these people millions of dollars.

One dreamy, towheaded Walter Mitty child completely cracked me up. The teacher carefully went through a long list of activities kids could choose from after finishing the worksheets: puzzles, writing journals, etc. Immediately Walter raised his hand: "What are we supposed to do?" The teacher laughed, to her credit, and gently reviewed the list again. Whereupon the kid, I guess nonplussed at these choices, asked "Well, what if we fall asleep?" Oh, honey, THEN you are ready to start attending meetings at NerdCo! And again, the teacher laughed, and said "[Walter], if you fall asleep, I will pick you up and carry you to the couch"--a well-worn loveseat, crowded with cushions and stuffed bears, tucked into a nook of the classroom. This, I think, is actually a service we could benefit from at my job.

Lunch in the cafeteria with the kids: hot dogs, tater tots, and little cartons of milk (which, I can assure you, is pretty much exactly what hundreds of other NerdCo minions were also eating, in one of our many cafeterias). After lunch, I was handed off to a pleasant but frazzled kindergarten teacher. "Can you stay?" he and everyone kept asking. "Do you need to leave?" Many of the volunteers had indeed slipped out at noon, taking conference calls in the parking lot, already distracted, their faces clouding over with Real Jobs. I wanted to take in the full day, though. I was ridiculously tired already, amazed at these people who were calmly responsible for HUNDREDS of CHILDREN, educating THE FUTURE OF SOCIETY, for six hours a day and a mere pittance. Put me to work, teachers. I like my job, but in the bright hubbub of the school it seemed ever more distantly absurd.

The kindergarten teacher set me up in the supply room with a die cutter, punching hundreds of shapes out of construction paper: orange squares, green triangles, blue diamonds (aye, me lucky charms!). I did that for more than an hour, breaking a sweat as other volunteers tag-teamed the two copiers, cranking out reams of handouts. (Remember the heady purple ink of mimeographs? Good thing they didn't have us in there doing that for hours; we'd have been high as kites.) "Well look at this," the teacher laughed when I came back in at the last bell with half a dozen envelopes, a representative colored shape taped to the outside of each (yes, I'm compulsive). "We'll use these for years," he told me.

The yellow buses were still loading as I passed up the line to my car. "Bye, Miss Kim," shouted a voice: one of the first-graders, a wild-haired little girl hollering from her lowered bus window. Between snacktime and jump-ropes and turkey-coloring, she'd remembered my name.

It was the most fun I've had in months, even though I went home and passed out on the couch for two hours in sheer exhaustion. Millions of dollars, I'm telling you. They don't print enough money, for what we owe our teachers.

Mrs. Bacon, Mr. Wilson, Mr. Hathaway, Mrs. Eskenazi, Mrs. Chinn...thanks. I'm thinking of you, tonight.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Because the sky is blue, it makes me cry

I remember. Who I called when I sprinted for the phone that morning, how I ate breakfast in front of the Today show in a fog of routine, not knowing what else to do. I chased Peanut-Butter Bumpers around a bowl and watched the towers burn, a fact that still shames me five years on. I was still watching, live, when Matt Lauer said wait, something's happening, something happened, run that back. The first tower was gone, and I stood in my living room, wept and stamped my feet like a tantrumming child, in utter disbelief. Three thousand miles away, three thousand levels of magnitude below "helpless."

When we were still in college, David took me to dinner at Windows on the World. He wore a charcoal suit procured by his uncle, who worked in the Garment District; I had a little black jersey dress I'd gotten at the mall in Yonkers. We met under the clock at Grand Central Station and took the subway allllllll the way downtown, a surprise for me that I figured out halfway. It occurs to me now that we were broke-ass broke, and where did the money for that dinner come from? Uncle Phillip, I have you to thank for this evening as well.

In the elevator, my ears popped twice, it was that high.

We had a table at the interior of the room, rather than being flat-up against the mind-boggling view; I don't know now whether I am grateful for that or regret not having the opportunity, now lost, to take it fully in. I remember that we had pheasant consommé as an appetizer, probably because David mispronounced it. Pheasant! What Richie Rich was always having under glass! The rest of the meal has slipped away from memory. The waiter was unfailingly polite and solicitous and clearly bemused at our youth, our concerted effort to behave as classily as we could imagine people might. We spent $100 and felt like royalty. Afterwards, we convinced ourselves that we could've gotten wine if we'd mustered the nerve to ask, despite being underage. That waiter would have brought us wine, we were sure of it.

I have thought of that waiter a hundred times in the past five years. I don't know his name, can't take even a wild guess as to his age, couldn't choose him from a lineup today. But I've thought about him. Even on that terrible day, I did, and I wondered: do waiters at high-tone restaurants stay on, for years, for a decade? was there a morning shift at Windows? There was, I know that now. Staff and attendees, gathered for a breakfast conference. Those people died horrific deaths, they roasted and strangled on the blackening air or chose a different devil, chose to jump. Would you jump? I've asked and been asked, any number of times. Would you jump, do you think? I want to believe that yes, yes I would--that I would seize upon a method to my fate, that bravery, a last act of defiant will. But I say that knowing I fear fire more than I fear heights. And knowing that I didn't have to choose.

All this to say that I have not forgotten, that I won't. I'll remember, even as the President squanders the world's goodwill and leads us ever onward into a morass of war that will take thousands more lives, American and not, than were lost that day. I remembered, when I looked into that yawning hole myself last year--Ground Zero just a huge construction pit to the naked eye, if you didn't know what had happened there you never would. I think of it. I think of that waiter. For me he is its public face, even as I would fail to recognize him if he walked past me on the street. How I hope he might, though I can never know.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Panic in the skies (okay, panic maybe 20 feet in the air)

I pulled up to the Starbucks near my office this morning and was momentarily jarred by the sight of a uniformed police officer, standing on the roof. Oh my God, I thought, there's some kind of terror incident at the Starbucks! This notion flared through my mind pretty much simultaneously with But will I be ABLE to get my coffee?!? Because if there are no mochas, Al Qaeda has won.

I was much relieved to discover that the local police department had simply organized a breast-cancer research fundraiser. Officer Rooftop was actually dangling a plastic bucket full of bills and change from a fishing pole; other volunteers flapped signs below, around his merrily-yellow-tape-bedecked cruiser. Whew, and yaay! coffee! (and yaay, boobies, of course). Once caffienated, I happily threw a fiver in the pot, and called up to the cop about my initial alarm, which made him laugh.

"Yeah, right now this is the SAFEST one," he noted. Arguably true, though he had pulled his stepladder up there with him and I'm not sure how fast he might have been able to fling himself down and tackle a perp from on high.

It was very entertaining, however, to listen to Officer Rooftop use his loudspeaker to chastise other customers in the parking lot. *krrrk* Don't walk in the middle of the street, sir. *krrshk* --as jaywalkers flinched and looked around wildly. That's right, buddy, move it along, on orders of Officer GOD, who can totally see you.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


It's perhaps common knowledge that the tech industry, NerdCo not excepted, has a distinctly lackadaisical dress code. "Business casual" dips to new lows round these parts; we have a few folks who are sharply turned out, and probably an equal number who can scarcely be bothered to put on shoes (which, EW, because a) stop tracking your toejam cooties through the common KITCHEN, and b) you don't know what I or ANYONE ELSE has tracked in on OUR shoes). The vast majority of us fall in the middle, schlumping around in jeans and one or another of the free NerdCo t-shirts that rain from the heavens at regular intervals. One of my writers once complained, "I wish they would start handing out some NerdCo pants; then I'd have some complete, branded outfits!" NerdCo doesn't care as long as you show up, clad at all, and do the work...and I imagine that if even putting some damn clothes on bent your fragile little spirit too much and you complained to the right person, some sort of accommodations could be made.

Recently I and several editors from my group have been working with an editor from another team who happens to be a very dedicated goth girl. Like us, she scorns dangling modifiers and appreciates the unintended hilarity of a poor comma splice; she just happens to do so while wearing a black lace corset top, a hoop skirt, and pink fishnets. Goth Editor is serious, yo. She is very likeable. I can't help being deeply impressed and kind of fascinated by her, because the level of commitment and time investment her daily ensemble and makeup clearly requires is beyond my ken. If I achieve the "shirt/pants/nothing hanging out" trifecta, I'm good; if I've moisturized and actually blow-dried my hair, that's a bonus. I can't imagine--though I would much like to see--Goth Editor trying to get 12 black crinolines into a gym locker, say.

Today we had a meeting in Goth Editor's office, which I was eager to see. It did not disappoint, chock-full of Edward Gorey ephemera and string lights in the shape of bats, plus the huge ergonomic FitBall she sits on--it stands to reason, I suppose, that wearing such a detailed and extensive wardrobe does require real attention to one's core strength. The thing that most blew my mind, though? She had black Post-its. Black! She had them stuck here and there, little notes on them in bright metallic pink ink.

I could not help myself. "Where do you even get black Post-its--Goth Depot?" I blurted. To her credit, she laughed.

"Actually, I found them at Michael's," she said.

And that was the best thing I'd heard all day, man. The thought of this woman, in her skull rings and black lipstick and gypsy-vampire-squaredance clothing, trudging up and down the craft aisles among ladies hoping to make goose-in-a-bonnet suncatchers or whatever--that, Internets, filled me with boundless glee.

Paging George Costanza

Further evidence that New York City is the finest metropolis on the planet: as I heard on NPR yesterday, they cater to the modern businessperson with specialty boutiques just for napping.

MetroNaps has both Midtown and Wall Street locations (as well as, mysteriously, the Vancouver BC airport), and franchise opportunities are available should you want to open your own shop of crazy ergonomic reclining space pods for people to pay to doze in. They offer punch cards (buy six naps, get one free!), and (my favorite page) a selection of Nap Strategies. For when you feel like nodding off at your desk, but aren't sure how to make that most productive, I guess.

I'm so in love. And I'm sure I would need a little nap in my Sleep Egg after ordering in a different variety of mac and cheese for lunch every day, so it's all good. My Manhattan career plans are virtually set!

Saturday, July 22, 2006


Holy Jesus, it's hot--high 90s and humid for the second day in a row; it feels like New York. Granted, I imagine that actual New York is worse, but you have to understand that this is extremely unusual for the Pacific Northwest and we have no clue how to cope. Big companies might have air conditioning, but virtually no homeowners or small businesses do, since this shit happens only two or three times a year. So we're stumbling around limply, all Boneless Chicken Ranch, making unfortunate displays of near-nakedness. A small, sad percent hurry out to the lakes and rivers to drown. Everyone and everything stinks a little. I've been moving myself and the fan from room to room as the sun blasts different quadrants of my house; I sprawl in front of the hot breeze as if dropped from a great height.

This morning I walked (ve. ry. slow. ly.) up to the Greenwood business district for coffee. I find the snippets of life from wide-open doors and windows oddly touching and funny, somehow: the Dopplering drift of the ball game from one home, the 70s Gold hits that perpetually blare from the Tiki Torch Party House. Someone shouts "I can't, I'm all soapy! I'm all SOAPY!" from the shower. The proprietor of the Turkish rug shop is planted on the sidewalk outside, gabbing into a cell phone and incongruously drinking hot coffee; at the faux German bier hall, the door is locked but the high casement windows all yawn open in defeat: if you want to scale the building, topple in, and steal beer, go ahead, they give up.

I went to Starbucks for the air-conditioning. Yeah, yeah, giant ruthless billion-dollar corporation, yadda yadda--my dollars BUY that air-conditioning. It was delicious, and I lingered as long as I dared. Outside again, the heat clapped down like a heavy arm around your shoulders: the boisterous, blowhard colleague, the close talker you just cannot shake off.

In high school, both Holly and I worked in a weird little gift shop on Capitol Hill, selling greeting cards and exotic chunky jewelry, crystal vases and wedding-present-type items. The owner was an older woman with a pronounced Norma Desmond streak; she'd swan around the place in palazzo pants and the occasional turban, and was given to breathy, dramatic declarations: "WATCH these babies fly out of here!" she'd proclaim over a new shipment of lurid handbags, or "I don't want any STOOL-SITTERS." This last meant that you could not simply perch behind the cash register, but had to appear busy, usually by dusting. "Norma" kept vast bales of rags in the stockroom and an endless supply of Windex. Holly and I spent countless Sunday afternoons poking around the dozens of shelves and rearranging the film of dust that lay over every piece of china and stemware.

Norma had several wretched prejudices. She or her husband would count in the cash drawer in the mornings--frequently wrong. The register was ancient, the kind where you had to punch keys for each decimal place: TEN dollars and FOUR dollars and SIXTY cents and FIVE cents, putting your whole weight behind it so that the correct little tabs would pop up in the glass window on top. The till rarely balanced at the end of the day, and Norma would give us the fish eye. More than once, Holly and I crawled on the floor searching for every last dropped coin, or even scrounged change out of our own purses to remain above suspicion. Far, far worse were the occasions when a customer of color would come in while I was working, because if Norma was present she'd sidle up to me and hiss "Watch the BLACK." Oh my God. I was seventeen, mortified but not bold enough to defy her, and so I'd miserably trail around the store behind the rare African-American shopper. I am still sorry about this, still ashamed.

But Norma had her moments of strange tenderness and generosity, too. When Holly and I finished our last summer at the shop and were leaving for our respective colleges, Norma presented us each with a big honkin' footlocker. (Because she'd known my family since I was in kindergarten, I was also shocked to receive two pieces of Oleg Cassini luggage.) At one point or another, three generations of my family worked in Norma's store: my mother had, when she was newly divorced and back in college; my grandmother, when she was freshly widowed and half-mad with grief and needed a distraction. I don't think Norma needed her, frankly--but she saw Grammy's anguish and found space in the budget for her wages, kept her busy dusting dusting dusting and allowed her to empty her mind, an extraordinary kindness.

This is how I prefer to remember her, and what I'm thinking of now when it's blistering hot. The store was in a small brick building that held heat like a pizza oven, and on certain summer days it was easily 20 degrees hotter inside than out. One day like today, Holly and I were drooping like our own dustrags while Norma sat in her windowless office in back, even hotter, a wet towel wrapped around her head to cut the misery. It wasn't enough, and finally she emerged, gruffly booming "It is entirely TOO HOT! We deserve A TREAT!" She stomped regally out the door. Holly and I shrugged at each other.

Ten minutes later, Norma stalked back. Carefully aligned between her fingers were three already-dripping vanilla ice cream cones from the place down the block. "Here," she said grandly, and the three of us loitered at the counter, chasing the rivulets of vanilla, trying to outrun the inevitable mess. No more dusting that day...just a momentary cooling off, a quick sweetness that, it turns out, has lingered.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The greatest city in the world


S'MAC: an East Village restaurant that specializes exclusively in varieties of macaroni and cheese. Evidently served up in big ol' cast-iron skillets. And they deliver.

The mountains and lakes n'all are pretty, but occasionally I have no freaking idea why I moved back home, man.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Decisions, decisions

A mysterious sidebar ad on the Seattle P-I's Web site declares simply "Vote for Ann Coulter!"

Unless that's " be fired from a goddamn cannon into a solid brick wall," then no, I don't believe I'll be clicking.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

It's probably just my clamshell bra

I was in a public restroom at the mall, running a comb through my hair, when a mom with two little girls came in. One kid goggled at me for a moment and then blurted, "Mommy, she has RED HAIR!"

True enough: Feria "Cinnamon", $9.99 a box at Bartell's, dear heart. I chuckled.

After a pause, the kid elaborated: "She looks like ARIEL!"

Well, now I know what to say in my personal ad under "Celebrity you resemble most."

Monday, June 26, 2006

Don't wear those to the library, hon

Starbucks. A little girl, three or four maybe, is stomping around the cafe area in rubber flip-flops that some diabolical marketing genius has outfitted with...squeakers, so that each stride produces the shrill tweet of a squishy dog toy. Squeek SQUEEK squeek SQUEEEEK SQUEEEK squeeeeek squeek SQUEEK squeek SQUEEEEK and holy balls, kiddo, whoever got you those really, really detests your parents.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Hi, hi, hi, hi there...

It's the first full day of summer, both calendarically and academically; the Seattle schools let out yesterday. In a shocking departure from the norm, it's bright and sunny outside. I'm working from home, and at high noon betook myself to the Starbucks for an iced caffeine beverage.

Mistake. My localest S'bux adjoins the magnificent burger joint Red Mill, where folks were lined up outside a dozen deep when I sidled through to get at my damn coffee. Not only is the Red Mill pretty firmly beyond even the widest boundaries of Fat Club dining (...sigh), but the place was TEEMING with kids. SO MANY freaking celebratory kids! Don't get me wrong, I like kids, am thinking about picking up a couple to have around the house myself. But maybe not forty of the little buggers, thronging the burger stand, scraping the metal chairs across the concrete outside, flicking limp strands of onion off their burgers into the shrubbery, hollering "I WANT..." at their dazed mothers and nannies. Only 86 days to go, ladies!

The outdoor tables abut the curb, where there are perhaps two parking spaces at that end of the block if you squeeze. One of these was occupied by a dude on a Harley, and as I was threading my way back through the mob, he kick-started it in a purely deafening, terror-inducing BLATT of noise. The entire crowd leapt reflexively, in unison; the kid next to me's arms jerked so wildly that he threw his cardboard boat of French fries skyward like a double handful of confetti. A rain of fried potato strips pattered around us, pelting heads and shoulders as the motorcycle dude roared away and relieved, self-deprecating laughter swept the patio.

Actually, it's hard to find fault with this kind of first-summer day. Maybe I should take the next three months off.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


As Mike noted recently, the end is nigh for the current incarnation of Seattle's Garfield High School. After 84 years of use and abuse, there's little left to save beyond the ornate Jacobean brick facade. The scheduled remodel is intended to gut the building and, presumably, fill it with shiny new fixtures and Internets and drinking fountains that don't corrode your brain cells while you wait.

I graduated from Garfield in 1988, almost precisely a generation ahead of Mike's kids. The school was a limping hulk even then; during my senior year, we enjoyed both an electrical fire and a flood: a main water pipe in the attic burst, one pre-dawn winter morning, and we arrived to find water pouring down the southeast staircase like a fish ladder. The wooden classroom floors warped and buckled under the deluge. If memory serves, Holly and I cut that day, waded off to the Dilettante for coffee, and sat drinking it in the eye-watering teal-blue chlorine warmth of the pool building.

Several folks sent me information and links to the farewell-party-open-house shindig that alumni and supporters were hosting on Saturday, June 10: The Bash Before the Smash! I'll admit, it took me a while to decide. I had fun in high school, sure...I was no prom queen, but I was smart and witty and I got by with the average amount of teen angst I would've had anywhere. For years after I graduated, though, I had recurring anxiety dreams about the school, always the same basic thing: it was the end of the semester, the day before the final, and I hadn't studied or gone to class in...oh, fifteen years. I was in the school, standing in the main hallway, on the checkerboard tile between the trophy cases, and I couldn't find my locker. Night falling, the final coming and COMING on like Tax Day and Christmas, and I'd wander the empty figure eight of the hallways, searching and searching, increasingly desperate as the shadows lengthened. Again and again I'd retrace my steps, start over: left at the auditorium, up to the second floor, past the chem, wait. In the dreams, the building took on the dimensions of an Escher drawing, too: staircases that ended in blank walls, a fourth level I'd somehow never noticed, the walls and floors angling away like a funhouse maze. I never did find the locker, the book I intended to frantically read; I always woke up still lost.

Despite this, yeah, I figured I'd go. Drop in, get the layout straight in my head once more and bid it goodbye. I imagined a handful of people would turn up, maybe.

Holy crap, was I wrong. It was a mob scene, hundreds and hundreds of people milling through the school--a line to get in and sign the register. They'd opened up the soggy playing field to parking, ribboning rough lanes off between the goalposts. I drove in on the dirt track I'd never managed to completely run around, in the mercifully brief time I'd spent in P.E. Inside, I couldn't stop laughing in sheer amazement at the crowd. All around me people screamed and hugged each other, beaming and pointing. Mini-class reunions were staged in different classrooms--'68 over here, '54 over there. Rumors rippled through the crowd: I didn't see him, but others insisted that a 90-year-old member of the class of 1924, the first to graduate from the building, had turned up for pastries in the cafeteria.

Jazz combos jammed and swung in the dingy auditorium named for Quincy Jones. (It's a source of some controversy--the plans call for the space to be stripped and converted into a student commons, and a new performing arts center will be built, but people are freaking out about destroying Mr. Jones's namesake. Just name the NEW building after him, people. Problem solved!) The lunch line dished up hot dogs; the cafeteria was as inexplicably hideous as I remembered, its bright lavender and orange (orange?!) paint untouched. Cameras flashed in every direction, people calling and waving and saying "Jesus Christ, those BATHROOMS." It was uncomfortably warm. The tiny classrooms were magically even smaller, twice as tall as they were wide. The lead-laced drinking fountains were wrapped up in black garbage bags and duct tape.

I saw Dave's little brother Greg (who's thirty if he's a day), with one of his small daughters on each arm and his newborn son in a sling across his wife's body. Apparently the whole family has been exchanging e-mails, trying to decide what statement to make on a Garfield memorial brick. Between the five siblings, there was at least one Wong child in that building for 15 years straight, Greg told me. A dynasty. (And lord, how the administrators must have slumped to the ground in exhausted relief when the last brilliant, prank-mad Wong burst out through those purple doors.) I saw my 9th-grade bio teacher, who kindly pretended to recognize me, in the Marine Science classroom that still smelled like dirty ocean and formaldehyde. He's teaching at another school, now, but "I put up that poster, and that one, and those fish pictures," he said, pointing around the room at decor left untouched for a decade or more. I saw three beautiful black women doubled over, pointing at each other's hairdos in a 1969 yearbook and screaming with helpless laughter. I saw more purple outfits than seemed statistically possible.

Everybody was taking pictures of each other, their old classmates...but I found myself taking photos of the building, actually waiting for the moments when a hallway would clear and I could capture it, empty. At the time I wanted to capture those details, the battered, grimy surface almost obscuring the weird old beauty we'd all taken for granted. It's not going to be here, I kept thinking, this isn't going to be here any more.

I look at the pictures now (you can too, that link is to the set on Flickr) and it's kind of odd, actually. The place was teeming with people, old Bulldogs come home, and I was surprised by how much that moved me. The crowd was so diverse, all colors, all ages, reflecting the atypical racial and cultural stew that was and is Garfield all along, a lucky accident of geography. We milled and mixed and grinned at each other, crowded the tables for sweatshirts and bumper stickers to take home, all of us different, none of us minding. Another beautiful thing we took for granted, once.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Son, she's no lady, she's your wife

So, it's true: Sis and the now official Mr. Sis are no longer living in sin, having been sanctioned in the chambers of a polite, bored judge in mid-May. Yes, it's been nearly a month. I was a little bit busy, Internets, what with wedding prep and post-wedding recovery and trying to keep various branches of the extended family tree from open fisticuffs in the streets. Because weddings first and foremost are a JOYOUS FUCKING OCCASION GODDAMN IT so let's all try to ACT LIKE ADULTS THANK YOU.

Sis and Mr. Sis had planned for several months to have only a simple courthouse ceremony, followed by a nice party for family and friends. They'd scheduled their reception and honeymoon for August. Then they applied for a court date, and got...May 12. This led to some of the most strenuous, extreme dress-shopping I've yet experienced, and culminated in my steering a nearly catatonic Sis around the Nordstrom's shoe department by the elbow, as she murmured sotto voce, "I'mgonnafreakoutI'mgonnafreakoutI'mgonnafreakout." Strappy silver sandals were thankfully applied in the nick of time.

The morning of the wedding dawned gray and cool. Sis and I had arranged beforehand to be professionally tarted up at Habitude in Ballard, with mani/pedis, makeup, and what the spa cards they handed us referred to as "up doos."

Yeah, yeah, it's My Day--just bring me My Goddamn Coffee.

I was a little worried about the makeup application: first, that they would have the gun set on "Whore"; second, because I watch far too many makeover shows, that I would look magnificently fabulous...but would henceforth require a team of trained cosmetologists to follow me around 24 hours a day to maintain my high gloss. The end result, I think, fell somewhere in the middle. It was nice, but with a lot of shimmering shimmery-stuff layers going on. To me, they emphasized the roundness of my face, so that my head looked a bit like an enormous Gala apple. I didn't care for any of the photos of me, so y'all are SOL.

Oh, for God's sake. All RIGHT.

See? Apple. Also, melons, Jesus.

Photos I wish I had: me and Sis at the salon, our hair ratted out like a Phil Spector act (or, simply, like PHIL SPECTOR); Sis on the front walk in jeans and a cowboy shirt, furiously doing the Twist to scuff the soles of her shoes so that she wouldn't wipe out on the marble courthouse floors; Sis and Mr. Sis, getting a first look at each other All Dressed the confines of their kitchen. Parking is difficult downtown; bride and groom carpooled together.

Anyway. I did like my hair--sleek in the front, with this incredibly elaborate Celtic knot woven together in the back. This was secured with 45(!) hairpins--I counted, after the fact--which might explain why my head set off the metal detector at the courthouse. My family laughed and pointed while a bored security guard wanded my Up-Doo.

We spent more time horsing around outside the courtroom (taking faux mug shots, tapping out the Judge Wapner bongo theme) than we did at the actual ceremony, which took approximately eight minutes, paperwork included.

Look at her. You're a lucky man, Mr. Sis.

After a leisurely round of appetizers and multiple exotic cocktails (I believe Mr. Sis had a Blue Hawaii; you go, Mr. Sis!), we returned the happy couple to their humble abode--which their neighbors had festooned with balloons and a Congrats sign that led the rest of the block to believe that Sis was pregnant.

Mr. Sis, Sis, and my nephew Willis.

Other friends brought them a white-trash wedding cake, constructed of tiers of Ding-Dongs and Twinkies. As Mr. Sis noted, this gave their cake an expiration date of 2010.

Ring-a-ding-ding, baby!

So. Reader, she married him. And I can honestly say that I am so happy that these two lovely, beautiful people found and deserve each other...and that I'm lucky enough that now I'm related to both of them. Congratulations, kids. I wish you the happiest rest-of-your-lives.

Seriously, how pretty are they? Mr. and Mrs. Sis, everybody!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I hear ya, buddy

Lady in grocery store: Okay, now we need to get some lettuce.

Little kid: But I don't like lettuce!

Lady: You don't like lettuce?

Little kid: Yeah, I like...BANANA CREAM PIE!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

M is for the many times she did not kill us

* I know, it's been forever, and now I'm recapping the last few weeks all bass-ackwards. Please accept this belated Mother's Day paean to my mum, and I'll cover the nuptials of Mr. and Mrs. Sis in my next post.

A little Interweb research suggests that the Sheila E. song "The Glamorous Life" came out in about 1984. I would have been fourteen or fifteen at the time. (And how deeply distressed am I, to have Googled it and located its versecraft on Holy shit, that's cold.) Man, how I loved that stupid song, and Sheila E's mad drumming skillz. I found the song's anonymous lead sex-ay and sophisticated--as much as a ninth grader would, anyway. She swans around all year in a mink coat! And a big brown Mercedes sedan! She don't need a man's touch! (Particularly empowering, that last, as I was not getting any real romantic action in World Geography or Algebra II.) I think I also labored under the impression that she and her paramour Made Love IN the brown sedan, which DIRTY! And glamorous indeed!

Anyway. Okay, picture in your mind youthful, teenaged, dork-ass Kim. Probably I am wearing a ski sweater emblazoned with little hearts, or bears, or Scottie dogs; probably my hair is in a long French braid with a droopy ribbon tied to the end. Whether I am faring stylistically better than eleven-year-old Sis is debatable, as she is no doubt sporting a pastel-striped rugby shirt and her Stevie Nicks poodle perm. We think we are Hot Shit! Ssssssssssssssss of hissing steam! We are in fact enormous goobers, but let's not spoil it for the girls, hey? We're young.

I don't remember the event we were supposed to attend, that evening. In all likelihood it was something FOR us--a Parent Night at school, an awards banquet or something. At any rate, Mom had to run an errand before chauffeuring us wherever. She instructed us to get ready while she hurried out; she'd return, pull into the driveway, honk, and take us to our important, time-sensitive destination. She left; Sis and I set to primping, with the Big Stereo in the living room blasting accompaniment...and Sheila E. came on.

We cranked it. We got down with our bad selves, Sis and I, wielding the AquaNet and the Dippity Do, air-drumming furiously, the windows vibrating in their frames. We needed a man's man, baby! Diamonds and furs!

Now I will describe the crux of the action in screenplay form.

EXTERIOR. NIGHT. MOM pulls into the driveway below and honks the horn briskly.

INTERIOR. KIM and SIS dance spastically to the very loud strains of Sheila E.

EXT. NIGHT. MOM again honks, more insistently.

INT. The girls apply mousse, gold eyeshadow, etc. Still rocking out.

EXT. NIGHT. MOM leans on the horn. From this angle she can see the silhouetted forms of her daughters in the window, doing the booty bump.

INT. More Sheila E. funk jam antics.

I don't know how long Mom sat down there fuming. I just remember the part where the door EXPLODED open, rebounding off the wall with a crash. If Mom could have kicked it completely off the hinges, I'm sure she would have. She was scarlet with rage, apoplectic, pop-eyed; her voice, when she spoke, fell somewhere between "Hulk smash!" and possessed-Linda-Blair:


Which of course we did--probably sulking and sneering and GOD, mom, CALM DOWN, you don't have to have a total FIT. I still don't remember where we were going, but I am sure my mother laid a patch pulling out of the driveway to take us there.

That was, and is, the angriest I have ever seen my mother. In the intervening twenty years I have known her giddy with laughter and wracked with grief; she's been proud of us, happy with us, hysterical at the girls staggering in their giant shoes on Top Model. She's been weary, and furious, and blissful. But that's the only time I have ever seen Mom go entirely berserk with rage, driven to lose her entire mind simply by the fact of having teenaged daughters...with a little added magic from Sheila E.

Point is...that's a pretty fair average. Borders on sainthood, really. Once more, Happy Mother's Day, Mom. Thanks again for not sending us away to military school!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Our amphibian friend...and also his little amphibian friend

Sis works in graphic design, also in the computer industry. It's like our skill sets were neatly split along some genetic line: I have an obsessive-compulsive eye for the written detail but couldn't draw so much as a map to my own ass, while Sis has designed business logos and user interfaces and elaborate media content.

Today, though, she is in what she described as a career valley. Her employer is hosting a Take Our Progeny To Work Day event tomorrow, and trying to come up with fun activities for the kidlets. One of their corporate mascots (or a client's? I'm not clear on just what represents who, here) is a sort of deranged, animated toad creature. He originates from somewhere in Europe, so he is, you know, alternative , and edgy, and, apparently...anatomically correct.

So. This afternoon, Sis was asked to apply her artistic talents to removing a cartoon frog penis. They're going to distribute the newly neutered logo to the kiddies as a Color Me! handout.

That there? Is a real resumé-builder, I tell you what.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Your mother works neither here nor there

I am, at best, an indifferent housekeeper. It's not Whitney Houston's bathroom or anything, but a) I have two cats who shed so copiously, I can't understand how they have anything left to hork up in hairball form in the laundry basket, and b) I suffer from, and am aided and abetted by all friends in, an addiction to the written word. I dust, I tidy a little...and then the piles of books and magazines and newspapers begin creeping across every flat surface again, like plate techtonics.

I do have a healthy degree of respect for shared public space, however. I've long puzzled over the kitchen messes at NerdCo; not a day goes by when the countertop isn't littered with half-finished beverages, blops of unidentified casseroles, milk souring in the carton 26 inches from the refrigerator. People pour god-knows-what into the sinks, which have no disposals; they mark their path with damp wads of paper towel, like the hatch-marked trail of Little Billy in Family Circus. We had a popcorn machine on this floor that I am sure had not been cleaned in a decade, its glass walls opaque with an electric-yellow film of Butter Flavoring. (One of the writers at last took it upon himself to disassemble and scour the works, with mixed results: some of the crud was baked on there like space-shuttle tiles, plus the machine was...rather harder to put back together than he'd anticipated. Whoops, no more popcorn, kiddies!)

I'd made the default, sexist assumption that most of this kitchen slobbery could be blamed on boys. There are so many of them at NerdCo, vastly outnumbering the fairer sex, wandering around with their Mountain Dew and their foosball and their Y-chromosomes.

However. Through Fat Club, I've been spending a large percentage of my time at the gym, and a good segment of that in the women's locker room (not quite as Alyssa depicts it, though God I laughed), and I have to say: Ladies, YOU ARE PIGS.

Seriously, chicks, what is up with that? It's crowded, we're all in a hurry, I get that...but how hard is it really to pick up your towels and your water bottles and your 87 ponytail bands before scurrying off to the rest of your day? If you accidentally squirt lotion across the dressing area, or crumble a cake of pink eyeshadow onto the counter, take two seconds to WIPE THAT SHIT UP. Perhaps with one of your many many towels? The ones that you do not seem to be using in the shower stalls, considering that some days I have to wade across the tiles? How do you even GET the surrounding area that wet, outside the shower? What kind of sprinkler attachment are you dancing around with in there?

(Side complaint about towels: I don't have a problem with the periodic nakedness in the locker room. People dress and bathe there, both tasks that are easier to start from the default clothes-free condition. But on the other hand, enough with the Nudes On Parade routine for a few of you. I read Our Bodies, Ourselves, I too am proud of my womanness, but this isn't a runway. Wrap it up.)

I think that, in either locale, it's that root sense of entitlement that bothers me most. Do you wander around your home, a trail of sodden terrycloth and assorted garbage in your wake? Surely not. Just because there are people whose job it is to clean, to collect the towels and take out the shouldn't extrapolate that to mean that said people are your Personal Filth Assistants, you know? I seriously don't understand someone who can drop their crap on the floor and walk away, secure in the faith that "someone" will pick it up. It's no excuse to trash the place.

The gym features weird giant ceramic urns as both its trash cans and towel bins; they are similar, but different. The other day a woman marched right up beside me and flung her towel into the trash by mistake. "Oh, no," she said, and we laughed.

"I hate it when that happens," I said.

"I know!" she said. Then...she left.

This is why the gym costs a million dollars, folks. I wrapped my own towel around my hand (because surely that is antibiotically protective, yes?), dug her towel out of the trash, and deposited them both in the correct giant ceramic urn. Had I not, that little karmic wrinkle would have bothered me ALLLLL DAY.

Must be easy, to be some other people.

I suppose it could always be worse. A friend's mother was famously forgetful, twice accidentally leaving her prosthetic breast at the pool. (She had another, for day use; I guess this was a regulation swim boob.) That would be a fun one to retrieve from the Lost-And-Found bin, no?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Three things that vexed me today, one with slight mitigation.

1. Vanity plate, MANOWAR. Being a progressive pacifist pinko, I probably would have just stuck to my initial thought--"Like, a giant jellyfish?"--and been on my way...but for the big clipped-to-the-window American flag also flying from the automobile. Then I was given to wonder. Man-o-war as in your car is an armed naval vessel? Man-o-war as in you're a veteran? Or...Man-o-war 'cause you just think war is...kind of awesome? There was some sort of pro-Dubya, God Bless the USA, bomb-Eye-Raq-now vibe hovering over the whole thing that unsettled me, war as a spectator sport. CNN, ESPN, quelle difference?

Though there were not any visible Bush stickers or magnetic ribbons. Perhaps he is just a proud patriot who also happens to be fond of the 80s metal band.

2. Safeway. They were piping in innocuous lite hits, as you do...but as I patrolled the aisles in search of my Fat Club-approved lean proteins and frozen blueberries, I gradually became aware that the song playing overhead was...the theme to the Mickey Mouse Club.

First, buh? That doesn't turn up on your average Time-Life compilation. If there was some sort of promotional tie-in going on, I missed it. Second? I'd never thought about it before, but that song consists primarily of CHILDREN YELLING. At ten o'clock in the freaking morning; what gives, Safeway?

3. Here at NerdCo we are subject to a perpetual onslaught of internal marketing. Lavish banners and posters appear in the night, urging us to check out this or that new Awesome Product TM; glossy fliers are thrust into our thousands of mailboxes. I've never understood this because nine times out of ten, I have been looking at/working on Awesome Product TM all damn day and I KNOW ALREADY, NerdCo! Just who are they trying to reach?

Anyway. New poster in the hall this week, touting something or other, with the bold, bright headline: More Firepower. Less Firedrills.

No, no, NO! Wrong! Bad! FEWER. "Less" goes with numbered items, "fewer" with abstract quantities. (Yes, I am one of those people who wigs out in the grammatically incorrect express checkout lane.) Perhaps they could have spent less dollars on posters, and tapped one of the HUNDREDS of NerdCo editors before this thing rolled off the presses, maybe?

So. Grumpy, I marched back out there with my red pen to correct/vandalize corporate property. Imagine my delight to find that someone else had beaten me to the punch! Editors--we are everywhere, bub, look out.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Reading between the lines

Just got e-mail at work announcing that the parking garage for my particular building at NerdCo is being repainted over the coming weekend: fresh stripes for the drivers of Hummers and other penile enhancements to callously disregard come Monday.

I liked the name of the company they've hired, though: Straight Line Striping. Apparently, Half-Assed Crooked Striping didn't underbid it nearly as much as you'd think.


Yesterday was the Seattle Mariners' home opener. I'm third-generation in the Church of Baseball, and for over a decade the fam and I have observed Opening Day like a religious holiday, trucking down to the Safe (and the Kingdome before it) to slowly grow numb with cold (well, that's new to open-air ball in Seattle), savor the last of the hot dogs left over from last year, and oftener than not observe the M's lose.

Which they did, yesterday--but we were not in attendance. The openers are usually day games, scheduled at weird hours, and Mom couldn't make yesterday's 2:05 start all the way down from Mukilteo. We're going tonight instead, probably a wise choice because the sun is out, for a change.

My reputation precedes me, however. Yesterday at about 1:30, Boss burst into my office brandishing this year's M's schedule. "WHY ARE YOU STILL HERE?" she fretted. I had to explain myself, and reassure her that I had not lost my faith. Heh. I'm loyal; they still have 161 chances to prove me wrong, this year.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The first rule of Fat Club

I've been debating with myself on whether to write about this at all. I've insisted before that this isn't a weight-loss blog, per se; rather, it's a blog where I alternately bitch about and make fun of the things that occasionally penetrate my usual inattention. A mixed-grill blog. Haha.

But. I have decided, after many months of soul-searching, to embark upon a very strenuous, medically supervised weight loss and management program, offered through my gym and, incredibly, co-sponsored by NerdCo and their insurance provider. They are paying the lion's share to help me get this shit under control once and for all, and for that I feel very much blessed, and privileged, and grateful. Also, if I fail to complete the program, I owe NerdCo Health Insurance $10 grand. Consider me incentified.

So. Since the NerdCo-brand Fat Club pretty much owns me from now until Christmas, I anticipate that it will by necessity come up in the blog from time to time over the next 32 weeks. Thus, if my new Nautilus regimen renders me too sore to dress myself, or if I end up eating printer cover sheets out of the recycling bin in a hysterical bid for carbs, ANY CARBS PLEASE BABY JESUS....well, Internets, you will be the first to know.

* * * * *

To enroll in Fat Club, you have to go through quite the battery of tests. Their offices in the gym convey this odd sort of louche, Dynasty Medical Center circa 1989 vibe: plush burgundy carpet, lots of brass and faux marble accents. It's a lot like providing Nordstrom's with a urine sample. The exam rooms are equally glamorous, and I had blood drawn while reclining on a vast chaise lounge upholstered in mauve vinyl. When I give blood at my Regular Doctor's, I sit in a plastic cafeteria chair with an arm chute bolted onto it like a torpedo chamber. I guess Fat Club atmosphere is what you get for the big bucks.

This week, I met with my assigned Fat Shrink. (She is not fat; she is there to counsel me into being less fat. She does, however, bear a striking resemblance to Rachel Dratch, so I fully expected her to bust out with something zany during the entire session. This was distracting.) Together we agreed that I was already getting quite a lot of therapy and so didn't need to talk Fat every single solitary week, and thank goodness.

I also had a fitness assessment on Wednesday. I was very anxious about it, largely because I did not know exactly what it would entail and so could speculate many different worst-case scenarios. What if I registered simply as "inert" on all their diagnostic tools? What if I, like, fell over, or shot off the end of the treadmill? Or tripped on it and abraded the flesh from my lower extremities, like Mike? (Sorry, Mike.)

"You should try and get some exercise beforehand, so your legs don't seize up," my father recommended. I am not sure how incapacitated by blubber my father thinks I am, but nonetheless this statement was not encouraging.

What if they made me jog with one of those oxygen mask-and-tube rigs strapped over my mouth?

"I think tests that sophisticated are really expensive," Boss informed me kindly. Boss is of course one of the healthiest, most active women on the planet and spent her Sunday trotting up 69 flights of stairs for charity; I imagine her fitness assessment would fall somewhere in the "can lift Kim over her head while dancing the can-can" category. Still, I amused and terrified myself in equal measure, imagining a NASA-caliber series of evaluations, culminating in the part where they strap you into the G-force simulator and spin you around, jowls a-flappin'. It's scientific!

It was, for good and ill, nothing like that. For the first half hour we filled out forms and reviewed the degree to which I was signing my life away. They took my measurements and my "Before!" pictures, at which I groaned. "Everybody hates this part the most," said my assessor cheerfully. Can't think why.

I was zapped with electrodes to determine my body-fat percentage, and made to blow into a tube to check my lung capacity. I walked on the treadmill to determine how long it took to elevate my heart rate to a certain point; the hardest part of this was trying to strap on the heart-rate monitor beneath my ample bosom.

I sat on the floor and reeeeaaaached for my toes while holding onto...a little stick on a string, that magically measured my flexibility. They also measured my upper-body strength by having me stand on a platform and curl a bicep bar tethered to it; this whole thing was wired somehow into a computer to record the results. I expected to be able to actually curl the bar; I hadn't realized that the tether was fixed and simply measured the force I exerted. It didn't move, and so I nearly did a back flip with the effort I put into that first pull. Luckily, I'd schlepped a 34-pound bag of cat litter to my car on Sunday, so I don't think my arm tone is entirely nonexistent.

Anyway. All my stats were duly noted and will be provided to my trainer and my nutritionist, both of whom I start seeing next week. At the end of the proceedings, the assessor handed me back my steaming Visa card and said, "Wait, I have one more thing to give you--your $4000 water bottle!"--a 28-ounce bike bottle emblazoned with the Fat Club logo, because yeah, you really want to wave that around. Ha ha ha ha ha.

In truth, I'm looking forward to getting freaking started already, though occasionally indulging in a pie-eyed, muttered round of whathaveIdonewhathaveIdonewhathaveIdone. We'll see how it feels next week, when I'm getting up at 6:00 a.m. for the expensive privilege of toiling under the command of a perky blonde. Energy! Woooooo!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Things that make you say AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH

Dude. Dude. New item on the list of Things I Will Never Be Able to Stop Thinking About Ever: spontaneous globe luxation. Or, as Slate describes it, when YOUR EYEBALL POPS OUT WHEN YOUR EYELID IS PUSHED IN THE RIGHT WAY.

Oh sweet Jesus, I could totally have my eyeball come boinging out accidentally at any time. It was kind of Slate's Explainer to describe how to relocate my fucking eyeball back in my fucking skull, there at the end of the article, but at that point I was not paying much attention because of having leapt backwards over my desk chair, causing it to twirl emptily as I writhed on the floor holding my hands over my face JUST IN CASE.

Nighty night! Sweet dreams!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

June Cleaver is dead

(Actually, after I composed that title, I had to run over to IMDB and check. I'm delighted to report that the lovely Barbara Billingsley, perfectly coiffed and fluent in jive, is very much alive and well, and was working as recently as 2003, bless her heart. Jus' hang loose, blood!)

My mom is a capable but largely indifferent cook. I mean no disrespect; she kept us adequately fed and everything, but Sis and I have no explanation for our own competitive culinary excesses and kitchen's some genetic quirk that may have skipped multiple generations, we think. Mom was given detention in junior high for throwing lemons around like softballs in Home Ec, so maybe she missed something that day? At any rate, she was fun, but not at all a cake-baking sort of mom...more the "smuggle contraband candy into the movies" kind of mom, which has its own merits.

This is a lengthy prelude to saying that I can remember my mother baking only two cakes in my entire lifetime. One was for my twelfth birthday: a round layer cake frosted to resemble a giant hamburger, with real sesame seeds sprinkled over the top "bun." I had begged and pleaded and cajoled for this cake, which I'd found in a kids' cookbook, and I'm not sure what aspect of my whining finally propelled Mom to forgo the Albertson's bakery and approach the oven. She entered the kitchen with the grim focus of a Los Alamos physicist; I wasn't invited to participate in the endeavor, girlish bake-bonding be damned. But at the appointed birthday hour she emerged dazed but triumphant, burger cake in hand. She could, it seems, follow an existing template. I was ecstatic, as this was the coolest preteen hipster cake I could imagine. For a brief afternoon, I ruled the sixth grade.

Five or six years ago, Mom endeavored to bake a lemon cake for Sis's birthday. I think there were intimations that she could not do this, and she took umbrage. Over the years, Mom's limited-to-begin-with selection of decent cookware had continued to deteriorate, but the fact that she possessed one round and one square cake pan did not deter her. Maybe I should mention here that in her spare time, Mom is a collage artist? So. Sis received a square bottom layer of cake, with a vaguely starburst-y bunch of irregular cake cutouts arranged on top. Mom had covered this all with a Jackson Pollock motif of different-colored icings, some of which contained alcohol. "Is this the cake from MacArthur Park?" I asked, which made Mom mad. (You can tell when she is mad, because she says "I'm not mad!!" and smiles very very hard.) Anyway, the cake was delicious, if terrifying in appearance.

Last Saturday, we celebrated Sis's 33rd birthday with a plethora of curries at Bombay Grill. I don't know what prompted Mom to attempt another cake...but several hours before the meal, she called me in a state of some agitation.

It was quite the litany of woes. Again armed with a single round cake pan, she'd elected to pour the boxed mix into a sheet pan rather than baking three separate layers in shifts. The oven in her new house is somewhat overzealous, and so the edges and bottom of the resulting cake were...kind of charred. Mom decided to turn it out onto a cutting board, trim off the offending blackened bits, and then cut it down the middle and plop one half atop the other: layers! Sadly, the cake was not as architecturally sound as she had hoped. Increasingly frantic applications of cream-cheese frosting to spackle it all together were, likewise, temporary solutions at best. Martha should avert her eyes here, because Mom is not so much having the revolving cake pedestal, or the offset spatula, or the skillful crumb-coating. At some point in the decorative process, her frustration got the best of her.

Here is the cake Mom presented to Sis, to honor her birth:

Note the shoring up of the foundation, here (and that Mom had run out of the cream-cheese frosting at this point). It appears to be proceeding apace with the NOLA levee reconstruction as performed by the Army Corps of Engineers:

I wish I had photos of us all completely falling out in the kitchen. Alas, these were taken once we'd had time to calm down and catch our breath. We were too curry-stuffed to partake, but Sis brought the cake to her office the next day and it was a smashing success.

"As God is my witness, I am never baking a fucking cake again. I want you all to hear me," Mom announced formally over this production. Which in my mind is a real shame, actually. I am closer to 40 than 30...I kind of want all of my birthday cakes to make this same rousing declaration, for the forseeable future.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

An open letter the person who parked next to me yesterday:

Hey! Hi! So, remember how you parked your expensive German automobile with wacky disregard for the pretty white lines painted on the ground to indicate regular, ample automobile spaces for all? So that I had to shimmy into my vehicle through an improbable six-inch gap, giving myself a free mammomgram in the process and pinching a nerve in my shoulder such that three fingers on my left hand are still a little tingly? Yeah, that! Well, I might have opened the door of my 10-year-old Korean crap car very vigorously into the door of your car. Two or three more times. You know, just to see that everything was working properly, what with the neurological damage and the mashed boob and all. Sorry about that. Except, completely and totally not, dickweed.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Nothing says "I love you" like unbridled panic in the parking lot

Spotted during this morning's coffee stop:

1) Wild-eyed man exiting Safeway with dozen red roses in cellophane.

2) Wild-eyed dude in skater-boy knit cap, randomly picking up chocolates and teddy bears and coffee tumblers in the adjacent Starbucks and examining each with grave uncertainty. What does she want, man? WHAT?

Happy Valentine's Day, everybody. For some reason I'm decidedly cheerful today; I've bought my own truffles and am wearing socks with hearts on them. Singularity be damned!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Meme me me ME me me meeeee....

It's so peculiar for Mike to tag someone with a meme, I sort of feel obliged/compelled. Mike, you are putting a lot of pressure on me for content this week, man.

Anyway, yes. All in fun; if you choose not to play, ignore me like a credit offer from the First Bank of ScamFraudia.

Remove the blog in the top spot from the following list and bump everyone up one place. Then add your blog to the bottom slot.

1) Haligweorc
2) King Alfred
3) polyglot conspiracy
4) mike's web log
5) pagooey

Next select five people to annoy. Uh, to tag. Tag!

1) Alyssa
2) David
3) Michelle
4) Brooke
5) Erin

What were you doing ten years ago?

I was nearly a year into my first grown-up, career-type job, writing software training manuals for a small local company. I made $24,000 a year and baby, I. Was. Rich! At the time it seemed extraordinary; in hindsight it was basically 11th grade, with a salary. Today I have to watch "The Office" between my fingers because it's just too real. I was living with my then-boyfriend in a crappy apartment with a severe mildew problem. In rainy season. We scrubbed the walls with bleach on a weekly basis, to no avail. I blame that shithole for the breakup, actually!

What were you doing one year ago?

Preparing to embark on a long-awaited trip to NYC, to visit my college mentor and see Christo's installation of "The Gates" in Central Park. Gorgeous and fun, until I contracted the Bird Flu. Beyond that, my blog archives suggest that I was doing mostly the same things: bitching about Valentine's Day, sustaining housework injuries, and failing to update with any regularity.

Five snacks you enjoy:

1) Tortilla chips--just plain, not Cool Ranch Margarita Blast!! or some shit
2) Toast
3) Those little Laughing Cow wedges of cheese
4) Potstickers
5) Chocolate and peanut-butter chips, the kind for baking, straight out of the bag (hides face in shame)

Five songs you know the words to:
Dude, I know TOO MANY SONGS. It falls somewhere between "curse" and "talent;" on my deathbed, I won't remember my children's names but will be able to bust out "Copacabana," "Embraceable You," or the entire Beatles catalogue.

Five things you would do if you were a millionaire:

1) Take care of my loved ones, first.
2) Supplement my humble abode with an apartment each in Manhattan and Paris.
3) Endow...oh, something, at my alma mater. Pour money into their scholarship fund, without which I would not have enjoyed the privilege.
4) Help these guys.
5) And these, too.

Five bad habits:

1) Saying "I could do that" instead of a plain yes or no, when invited to or offered something. It's verbal hedging, me trying to avoid actual decision-making. Michelle called me out on this; I'm still working on it.
2) Binge shopping. I can't buy a lone CD, a single book.
3) Deferred maintenance. I dawdle when faced with doctors, dentists, or mechanics.
4) Free candy? Don't mind if I do!
5) Unresponsive to most of the 5394 items currently in my e-mail inbox.

Five things you enjoy doing:

1) Reading.
2) Cooking; I'm powerless in the thrall of a new kitchen implement.
3) Lolling around in the tub with various girly bubble products, my pink inflatable pillow, and a couple water-wrinkled magazines.
4) Cat naps, accompanied by cats.
5) Being outside, near water, on a bright blustery day.

Five things you would never wear again:

1) Miniskirts. Stacey and Clinton forbid it!
2) Stirrup pants.
3) God, I don't know. I came of age in the 80s; terrible things happened. Neon-colored garments? knickers? pastel overalls? green mascara? patterned shoelaces as hair ornaments? I think I can say with certainty that none of these will appear on my person again.
4) Okay, one more: an extremely...frivolous, itchy, garment I picked up at Victoria's Secret as a college student. (Look away, important business colleagues! Skip to the next item!) I needed an engineering degree to put the damn thing on. What do you do with such a thing, outgrown, anyway? I've never had the nerve to toss it into the Goodwill bag, matter how hard I work at losing weight and improving my fitness, ain't no way I'm ever gonna be 21 again. The eliptical trainer does not, to my knowledge, have a "Time Travel" feature.

Five favorite toys:

1) TiVo.
2) Food processor.
3) Le Creuset silicone spatula. I cannot wreck it!
4) My new Mr. Clean Magical Bathroom Wand thingie. Incredibly awesome for a short lady, plus no impaling myself on the shower door track trying to reach a far corner.
5) Dishwasher. My beloved!

Enough about me. What do you think of me?