Thursday, June 30, 2005

And This Bird You Cannot Change (or Shut Up)

Nick Carter is in rehab, and I’m jobless. Quit playing games with my heart, cruel world!

On this first day of unemployment, I awoke at 5 a.m. This is not because my body clock needs adjusting. Even back in the day when I received a paycheck (yesterday) I set my alarm for 6:18 a.m. 6:18 is a fine time to get out of bed -- slightly later than 6:15, much earlier than 6:30. The 5 a.m. alarm should only ring for emergency-room nurses and Richard Simmons. Next time I arise at 5, I better be saving lives or pumping weights in Spandex. (I realize that sentence is a bit off….I don’t intend to save lives in Spandex. Not if I can help it.)

My 5 a.m. wake-up came courtesy of Fergus the Rooster. I don’t live anywhere near a farm, but my (former) co-worker George does. George, whom we affectionately call “28 going on 85,” raises Fergus, along with Fergus’s harem of chickens, and several cows. He’s like Old MacDonald, only he’s not very old -- hence the nickname. He’s also married, and I wasn’t staying with George….I was keeping Mary company on a house-sitting job. An all-night “drinks and China Castle” fest to celebrate my joblessness sounded great yesterday, but Fergus’s multiple crows wrecked the afterparty.

Another stipulation to add in my browse for Mr. Right: he won’t own a rooster. (I’m sure there’s a dirty aside I could add here, but I’ll leave it to your imagination.)

Speaking of birds, why do I still get goosebumps every time I hear “Free Bird”? I’m not an 18-year-old boy with an E-Z electric guitar, nor am I a Colt 45-drinking 'Bama truck driver. But I like Skynard. It feels so wistful yet rebellious. “I’d like to stay here and be sensitive and watch Nick at Nite with you, but….naah, screw it.”

I must be traveling on now. In a few hours, I’ll pick Mom up from the Scranton airport. After we sell most of my worldly (Honesdale) possessions, we’ll take Andie Acura on that 600-mile stretch of I-84 leading to Tennessee. In between PA and TN, there’s a weekend trip to NYC, where I’m meeting Exploding Airplane Engine Chick. Between the two of us and Mom, we may be able to rid the Big Apple of minor evils, such as unsalted soft pretzels.

If I were a fan of “closure,” I would end the blog now. Goofus has laughed derisively at Gallant for the last time. The Bear Family has minded its final crosswalk. I’ve never been good at goodbyes, though. As “free birds” go, I suppose I’m more like Fergus -- I like to strut, but I find it hard to leave the farm. I’ll be back to share excitement from the Big Apple and our journey south.

In the meantime, I recommend the following sites, which I would link to my site if I knew how:

Friends’ Blogs - My TFA friend Lizzie is a former writing teacher, current paralegal who has the wit of Molly Ivins-meets-Candace Bushnell. Sex and politics and gooey muffins. Good stuff. - Brian is my former high-school English teacher, so you can blame him for my grammar mistakes. His baby puts the Gerber kid to shame. In 50 or so years, when I feel mature and mentally balanced enough to have children, I hope my kids are as adorable as Brian’s boy. At the very least, I hope my kids are allowed on the same playground.

Blog Obsessions: - Meet my French family! Bonjour! Bet you didn’t know I have a French family. Okay, I don’t. But I want my future family to look like this. I can’t read a word of this blog, but I like to think they live in a countryside cottage and eat brie all day. And the girls put on little plays and read Madeline to the baby. La vie en rose! - This guy is People magazine’s “bachelor blogger,” featured in the “50 Hottest Bachelors” issue. He’s not hot, but he drinks too much and writes too much. I want to marry him. He’s not at all my type….he’s extremely sarcastic and gross and he probably smells. I’ve already tracked him down on Friendster. - Found this site in a New York Times Web feature. Apparently, you can write your darkest secret on a postcard, mail it to the site, and have it showcased online. The secrets range from snarky (“I gave my vegetarian sister a meal with beef”) to amusing (“I don’t care about recycling (but I pretend I do)”) to sad or disturbing (“I wished on a dandelion for my husband to die”). You won’t find any of my secrets on this blog. I like to expose my darkest tendencies gradually, in essay form. That’s why I have a blog.

And with that, adieu…to me and me and me. See you below the Mason-Dixon.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Since I'm Feeling Poetic...

How do I hate these pop-up ads?
Let me count the ways.
I hate them twice as many times
As US Airways has delays.

I hate them like Matt Lauer hates Cruise
And Cruise hates Prozac pills
I hate them as I hate “fake news,”
(The kind that FOX News spills.)

I hate them as a Hilton would hate a single-story house
I hate them as a Stilton hates the tooth marks of a mouse.

I hate them in a train or plane, just like Sam I Am
But I doubt I’d hate them any less if I sampled them with ham.

I don’t think I should feel such hate
So early in the day
But I can’t read the Times online
Without an ad display
I hate to leave in such a mood
(especially with the rain)
Blame it on the pop-up ads

Truly…what a pain.

PS: If anyone knows a simple way to get rid of Aurora, please fill me in.

Monday, June 27, 2005

If I Met My Neuroses (An Ode to Anxiety)

If I met my neuroses, I think we would be friends.
We have such common interests, like my leg hair and split ends
And whether that last carb I ate landed on my hips
And how much I should edit lines before they cross my lips.
We both like ruminating on the future close at hand
Thinking “What if every detail doesn’t go just as I planned?”
We wonder if boys like us, and if they do, how much?
Then we think that’s silly, and perhaps love’s just a crutch.
We wish that we were louder and more prone to speak our mind
But then, we must both wonder -- can’t we be more prose-inclined?
We both could stand to know more, about God and books and money
We find each other’s inside jokes ridiculously funny.
In fact, the notion makes me smile….a meeting, face-to-face
Come on in, neuroses! You’re welcome at my place.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Bottoms Up

I don’t think it’s fair to characterize me as a “glass half empty” or “glass half full” person. Most of the time, I drink too quickly to see what’s in the glass.

I’ve always been a “fast drinker,” literally -- the kind of girl who exhausts the water-refill guy at restaurants. You might think this would make me lots of fun at parties, but those of you who’ve seen me at parties know the frontal lobe-pickling drill: drink, drink, drink, flirt and/or make incoherent “observant” comments (ex: “Alanis wrote ‘You Oughta Know‘ about Dave Coulier! Uncle Joey! The Woody Woodchuck guy!”), fall asleep. No need to worry about me in New Orleans. Well, as long as I fall asleep in my own apartment.

As my Honesdale stint winds down, I’m realizing that I may be a “fast drinker” in the metaphorical sense, too. My teaching career ended in a flurry of pink disciplinary slips and check-marked report cards. Couldn’t wait to load “road trip mix” CDs into Andie Acura and hit I-24. Once I got here, I couldn’t wait to start my job at Highlights. Of course, after the job started, I couldn’t wait for Friday. Then, I anticipated specific Fridays. Long weekends, the circus, etc. And now, 50 or so Fridays later, it’s all over.

I feel like I carped a few too many diems.

This isn’t a cautionary tale. Anticipation is part of human nature, I think. We must “look forward,” if to avoid the cubicle walls on either side.

The summer I worked retail in Cambridge, one of my counter-mates was a 40ish, graying woman with a Brandeis degree and a heap of unpaid loans and medical bills. I suspected she had a few mental tics, but we enjoyed chatting about the latest Julia Roberts flick or comically “impossible” customer.

We both hated the job. Really hated it. What’s to like about standing up for nine hours (minus a closely monitored lunch break), straightening sweatshirts and price checking Harvard ashtrays?

I didn’t much want to talk about senior-year plans with my co-worker. It seemed at best impolite, and at worst unforgivably bratty, to describe course selection and kickoff par-tays, when she marked time by the punch-card. But she kept the questions coming: what professors would I have? How would I decorate my dorm single? What would I do for fall break?

I joked about the impossibility of scoring dates at the Tower Court “meat market,” but she convinced me that I’d be engaged by the end of the semester. “You’ll find someone, too,” I said. She lived alone, went to the movies alone (like I did). “Not likely,” she smiled, straightening the shirt on a “I *heart* Harvard” bear. “But, hey” (I still remember her saying) “Hope springs eternal, I guess.”

I don’t know what happened to my co-worker -- I’m not going to mention her by name, because I’m afraid you’ll go to the Harvard bookstore, and she’ll still be working there. I hope I’m wrong. Hope she was a “fast drinker” with a higher-paying, full-benefits job ahead. Hope does spring eternal, and I’m glad. Anxious, tearful, cranky….but glad.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Flinging, By the Book

I feel a little silly blogging three days in a row. This is as good as admitting I don’t, as they say, “have a life.” But it’s a slow week. Work is slow. Reading is slow (I’m just not experiencing the must-consume-next-chapter feeling). Even the crabs are walking more slowly. Mary is house-sitting, and my two fellow Musketeers from high school are visiting each other in Chicago. (Enjoy the wine bar and the….wind?) There’s nothing on tv. I refuse to watch “Beauty and the Geek,” based on long-held anti-Ashtonism.

I could use this time to peruse The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Statistics, which I purchased in a fit of motivation several months ago. I could vacuum or learn Korean. In my letters to Highlights readers who complain of “nothing to do,” I say, “You might use your free time to study another culture or explore a new skill.” It’s my policy never to follow my own advice. I've already tried knitting.

No, I’m devoting this evening to a far more productive pursuit: planning my summer fling. I like to fancy myself a seasoned flinger, but I’m still perfecting the art. Summer lovin’ is frivolity that should be taken seriously. There are rules to be followed:

1. The Rule of Three. This is an easy one to remember. Three Bears. Three Stooges. Three months. That’s all you get for a summer fling. After that, no contact. Sounds harsh, but I’m convinced the Danny/Sandy thing only works in musicals. Summer flings are partly about experimentation -- can I deal with a tongue ring? can I get away with professing my Don Henley fetish? It’s hard to experiment when there’s the possibility of repeated autumn encounters. It’s not “three-month limit;” it’s “three-month freedom.” Which leads to the second rule…

2. Quantity, not Quality. Sure, it’s romantic to reenact From Here to Eternity with one person all summer. But you can also do that in a capital-R Relationship. Why not enjoy a variety of beaches? The summer fling is not Mr. Right. He’s Mr. Right Guard. Right Guard smells good on any male, whether or not he pronounces Yeats correctly. I’m not suggesting a total disregard of standards -- “irregardless” is still out, for me. But was/were slip-ups are OK.

3. Kiss and Tell, and Embellish. Here, maybe Grease got it right (tell me more, tell me more…). With its three-month expiration date, the summer fling is ideal for rewind/playback among friends and bored co-workers. For me, the retelling has often been more enjoyable than the flinging. So, Mike says, “Want to see my collection of near-fossilized animal feet? You aren’t really a vegetarian, are you?” And I say, “Um, how about you just kiss my neck?”

It’s already the end of June…time keeps on slipping. Let the games begin.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Snarling Lessons

My therapist calls me a “recovering Nice Girl.” As disorders go, I guess niceness isn’t padded wall-worthy, but it can lead to dysfunction. While smiles and “sure, no problem!”s work fine in most day-to-day situations, they fall a bit flat when, for instance, Ex Who Shall Not Be Named calls to request sympathy points. “Hey, great to hear from you! Long time no degradation!”

Sometimes even Nice Girls must bare their fangs. But my fangs are the vegetarian’s variety -- only sharp enough to pierce an eggplant.

As long as I can remember, I’ve been nice. Maybe it’s genetic. When I was in first grade, I recall an older kid using my head for an elbow rest. We were standing in line for a field day activity, and the kid casually propped himself on my skull, as if I were a side table with a bowl cut. I didn’t say anything. Just winced until his turn for beanbag golf came. If I had spoken up, I might have hurt his feelings. Perhaps he was weary from the cakewalk and needed a rest.

A few little boys with pointy elbows grow up to be big 'n' manipulative, self-appointed gods. Not good. I’m working on my snarl.

But it’s hard in this town. Honesdale thrives on niceness. I’ve mentioned the root-beer incident -- it looks strange in print, but Honesdalians see nothing unnatural in asking a passing stranger to open a soda bottle. I have now pretty much stopped walking with my iPod, because I’m afraid I’ll offend people who try to say hi to me. I wave cheerily at every honking car, because I can’t be sure whether it’s an obnoxious hornball or a harmless senior who saw me at the laundromat. There’s no beating niceness here. We’re the nice leading the nice.

I woke up ornery today, for a change. Haven’t yet recovered from the weekend‘s indulgences, and I could have used an extra four hours of sleep. Also, the charm of my isolated office is wearing off like a fleeting Limerick buzz. I’m tired of making up excuses to come downstairs and rejoin humanity. Thank goodness I’ll be unemployed in a week. Another month in my dismal chamber would likely turn me into Quasimodo. None shall pass!

With such limited human contact, I had little opportunity to be mean. At 5:00 I plugged into my iPod -- root-beer beggars be damned! -- and frowned all the way home. Fifteen minutes later, I wound up at the gym, where I ran four miles. The endorphins hit during my final lap. Returned to my couch, called my aunt. Tonight I find I’m back in nice mode. Bugger.

I’m no longer in therapy -- had my last appointment on Monday. I might have gone for another session, but I started feeling guilty….like maybe I owed the therapist a few more neuroses. Want psychosis? Sure, no problem! I’ll start twitching immediately!

It seems my recovery is a work in progress.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Holy Pseudonym!

Ever since I saw Batman Begins last weekend, I’ve been brainstorming superhero names for myself. Batman parsed his name from “worst fear” + “man.” Therefore, I could be:

1. Meaningless Existence Woman
2. Running Into Mary’s Annoying Neighbor on the Street Woman
3. Water Weight Woman…..kind of has a ring!
4. Missed Deadline Woman
5. Overexcited, Big, Jumpy Dogs Woman

I like the last one the best.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

For Dad, With Extra Garlic and Soul

Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Grandparents’ Day….once when I was little, I asked my mom why there isn’t a “Kids’ Day.” You can guess her answer: “Around this house, every day is Kids’ Day.”

True that, Mom. Still is.

But that didn’t stop my father from designating several Kids’ Days each year -- we called them “Spoil Days.” On Spoil Day, Dad took me to lunch, maybe to a movie. Then, we drove to Toys R Us, where he let me pick out any reasonably-priced toy I wanted. I’m still experiencing buyer’s remorse on a Pound Puppy talking phone. Automated dog voices….what was I thinking?

It’s a little embarrassing to tell you about Spoil Day. Clearly, I was spoiled -- not the sort of child who would get the keys to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. I can only promise that I didn’t whine and shriek like Veruca Salt (much).

And also, I didn’t realize I was special. I thought all dads treated their children to bimonthly Spoil Days. Just as I thought every father told his wife and daughter “I love you” every day. And every dad got a kick out of drumming the steering wheel in tune with James Brown’s “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.”

Mom never interfered with Spoil Day. I sometimes wondered why we didn’t make it a family event. Now, of course, I see that Spoil Day was meant as a sort of Father’s-Daughter’s Day. As I got older -- more enchanted with Claire’s Accessories than with Toys R Us -- I spent most of my time with Mom. She helped me pick out an 8th grade formal dress, heard stories about my first crush, scoped college campuses with me. We met up in New Orleans last month. Travel is hard on Dad, and I have a knack for choosing far-off places to live.

I guess my father always knew our Spoil Days were limited. On those afternoon car trips, we would play our own Abbott and Costello routine: I’d ask, “Dad, what will you do when I turn eight?” Dad would gasp, put a hand on his chest. “Eight! I can’t imagine you getting so old! I just won’t know what to do.” I’d giggle for awhile. “So….what about when I turn……ten?”

And what about….25?

I think Walt Whitman has a poem about being “all the ages we once were,” or something like that. Like my dad, I’m more of an Ogden Nash person than a Whitman person. (“When called by a panther….don’t anther.”) I like the Whitman poem, though -- the gist being, I’m not only 24, but also 23, 22, 21...10...8.…5.

I’m seven years old, belting a Delbert McClinton chorus with Dad en route to Kebab Cuisine, our favorite lunch spot.

I’m twelve, joining my dad on his jogging route around Campus School.

I’m fifteen, as we mutually grit our teeth through the abortive parking-lot driving lessons.

And all those college years….summers full of frying up garlic for black bean enchiladas, cheering Mudcat Brewer in MTSU baseball games, memorizing Seinfeld one-liners (“not that there’s anything wrong with that“).

In the Whitman sense, Father’s Day isn’t just this 24-hour stretch -- it’s all the days leading up to today. All of the birthdays, Spoil Days, lazy Sundays. It’s a lot for a “thank you,” and too much to capture on a blog. Maybe it’s best appreciated with a James Brown whoop or kitchen-pan drumming. Something felt, not said.

But “saying” is all I have today, Dad. So, I’ll say it one more time: thanks.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Lost in Transition

It’s official: I’ve been replaced.

Can’t say I didn’t see it coming. Last week, my boss sent me an e-mail, subject line: “your big move.” She needed to know when I planned on quitting work and shipping out to New Orleans. As my left finger hovered above the 2 (for July 2) a co-worker peeked into my office and asked when I might give the new intern a tour of my apartment. “She’s still looking for a place to live, and yours is within walking distance of the office.”

Tour: June 13. Quit: July 2.

“You have new mail!”

Actually, not to put any pressure on me -- not to push me out the door, or anything -- but my boss was really hoping I could leave sooner. Say, the end of June? “It’s a logistics problem.” The racially diverse children in my Hidden Pictures calendar smiled down sympathetically. “It’s not you; it’s logistics.”

I burst into tears.

I’ve always been a crier, always wished I weren’t. The co-founder of Highlights had two messages for his readership: “Children are the world’s most important people” and “Crying is for sissies.” Granted, the second message has been downplayed, but it’s still there. “Gallant asks Mother for a bandage when he scrapes his knee. Goofus sobs like a baby.” Gallant seems to face any injury or adversity with Boy-Scout cheer. I fully believe that if Gallant, say, lost both of his legs and arms in a bicycle accident, he would crawl over to Mother and announce, “I never knew my torso was so strong!”

That’s not me. I cry when my cable goes out.

And let’s just say “expendability” isn’t one of my favorite feelings. I knew that the new intern needed my office space and my apartment, but, of course, I wanted my boss to announce: “There is no magazine without you. You must stay.”

I now reside in a vacant office upstairs. Really, “office” might be an overstatement. “Storage space” is more accurate. Though it has been used as an office, by several employees long-since restructured. My Room Raiders-style inventory produced the following finds:

One pencil reading “Elect Bob (Bruce) Mackle, Wayne County Treasurer”
One pen from the Virginia Marine Science Museum
a McDonald’s Cat in the Hat toy, good condition
book, Community Building on the Web
book, The Unauthorized Biography of J.K. Rowling
book, Great Pets!
book, Instinctual Stimulation of Children: From Common Practice to Child Abuse
book, Dead Serious: A Book for Teenagers About Suicide (ironic, since “Dead Serious” was the name of the improv comedy group at Wellesley)
book, Putting on a Party

I didn’t bother to move my books and photos to the new office, since I’ll only be there a couple of weeks. I did smuggle some magazines into a desk drawer. Figured, as long as I’m on my way out, I might as well enjoy the slide. The December 2004 National Geographic has an interesting article about “new Earths.” My English-major brain couldn’t digest all of it, but I gather that astronomers may have the resources to find Earth-like planets by 2020. Kepler, a space telescope, will look for Earth-sized shadows on stars.

According to the article, “By 2011 or so, Kepler may have detected a few dozen Earth- or Mars-sized planets set just far enough from their stars to be comfortable for life.”

I’m waiting for the memo from God: “We need your Earth space for other life forms. Pack your file boxes.”

In the meantime, I’ll be sniffling behind the packing crates.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

He's Baaaaaaack....

….and he’s watching you with his animatronic eyes.

(This, courtesy of my Dear Friend Who Loves Coldpay, but also Barbie and the Rockers.)

Enough, I say. Enough resurrecting toys from the ‘80s. I was fine with Care Bears, Cabbage Patch Dolls, Smurfs, Muppet Babies, Strawberry Shortcake, Transformers, even the Ninja Turtles. But Teddy Ruxpin? He’s creepy.

Though he served me well in ‘87, when a friend and I used him to scare intruders. Really, there weren’t any intruders -- only my mom, approaching my friend’s front door at a shadowy distance. We thought she might be a kidnapper (too much “Miami Vice”-watching), so we shoved a cassette in Teddy Ruxpin and hid behind the couch. Spooky automated voice, shifty eyes….TR was as good as a mutated German shepherd.

Even more disturbing to me than the planned Ruxpin craze is AdStore’s notion to “target parents who will remember Teddy from their childhoods.” I was born in 1980, so I represent the oldest of the ‘80s “parents.” And I’m 24. So, now I’m supposed to be married and a mom? Teddy, please claw me out of my misery.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Put On Your Big, Funky Bonnet

If we were in a family-friendly summer blockbuster, now would be a good time for the chipper oldies music sequence. You know, that moment when the alcoholic mother and suicidal teen daughter forget their bitter bickering, don antique hats from Grandma’s trunk, and lip synch to “Wooly Bully.”

We need Sam the Sham relief. Well, some more than others. I’ve done top-notch work bitching about the heat to anyone who’ll lend me a sweaty ear. But I have a few very good friends who’ve dealt with more specific…one might say, more relevant miseries.

I promised one amiga importante that I’d find some humor for her. I don’t have a feathered boa, and I can’t summon Gena Rowlands and Juliette Lewis. But I’ll give it my karaoke best.

Uno, dos, one, two, tres, cuatro!

The funniest thing that comes to mind tonight is Honesdale. You thought Hughes was funny….let me tell you about Honesdale.

First, though, I should say that I tease Honesdale much as one chuckles at a beloved, porcelain poodle-collecting great aunt. I love this town -- not in spite of its numerous eccentricities, but because of them.

So, here are 5 things I love most:

1. The people. Like Wal-Mart, Honesdale would be nothing without its people. When I left Arkansas, I prepared myself for loss of Southern hospitality. No more friendly nods in the supermarket. No more cheerful catcalls from loiterers at Red Top Liquor. (“Hey! White girl!”)

Never again will I judge a town based on its position above the Mason-Dixon Line. Honesdale takes hospitality to a new level. One might call this level “intrusiveness.” Last month, a woman chased me down on Main Street. I was walking with my iPod, and I hardly heard her shouting. I think if I hadn’t stopped, she would’ve jogged to my apartment. When she caught me, breathless, she exclaimed, “Excuse me…..would you….open my root beer?”

It’s tough having these enormous biceps, let me tell you.

I popped her drink. Then I put on my red cape and flew away.

2. The teenagers. Honesdale teens aren’t people. They’re a different species. As far as I can tell, none of them attend school or hold jobs. During the day, they roam the sidewalks in packs, like coyotes. At night they call to each other. Although the temperature in my apartment is roughly 2,000 degrees hotter than the temp outside, I can’t sleep with my window open -- the teens start howling and shrieking at 3 a.m. sharp. Do I want to throw them muzzles and condoms? Yes. But I love them anyway, with matronly, groggy affection.

3. The bars. If you visit in the next month, I’ll take you to Leunes’(if you don’t drink, I’ll buy you a tonic, straight up). Unless it’s Saturday night. Leunes’ is only open during the weekday and on occasional Friday evenings. The bartender likes to go out on the weekends. Don’t we all?

The Wayne Hotel bar stays open 24/7, but it’s reserved for the 70+ crowd. Last time I drank there, I spent 45 minutes chatting politely about synthetic bowling lanes. In short: they’re not good for bowling.

The Limerick services Honesdale’s greater alcoholic population, though I can’t see how anyone reaches so much as a buzz -- everything is served in shot glasses. Where’s my Hughes 40 oz. when I need it?

4. The festivity. You think the party’s on in New Orleans? Honesdale’s got hay rides. Hay rides all the time. And riding lawnmower races. On Memorial Day weekend, a parade of at least 15 tractors passed down my street. This evening I walked by a middle school band and interpretive dance team performing in the park. Honesdale is always celebrating. I can’t imagine what the Fourth of July will bring. Fireworks over the hay. A volunteer fire service extravaganza!

5. China Castle. China Castle is my Cheers. Where everybody knows my name. And they know I’ll take a small eggplant w/garlic sauce, extra fried wontons. They don’t even tell me the take-out prep time anymore. 10-15 minutes. But I like to think they cut a few minutes for me.

That's all I got. If I can figure out a showstopping encore, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, keep the cameras rolling….there’s bound to be a feel-good ending. (Think the HPD will arrest me for extended metaphor?)

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Three-Year Itch

Mawwage is what bwings us together today. Another high-school acquaintance has “tied the knot” (hate that phrase…who ties knots except sailors?), and the alarm on my life clock is buzzing again. Well, it was buzzing until I threw the whole mess against the wall.

This former classmate is also a former neighbor. Our moms carpooled us to school for a couple of years, until Ellie got her driver’s license. Then, it was school-bus time for me. I could’ve asked her for rides, but as a middle-school lackey, I hardly knew how to approach a sophomore. While I was struggling with an unforgiving puberty (sponsored by Clearasil), Ellie had already passed Algebra I, purchased tampons, and dated a senior. I could only bow, Wayne and Garth-style, before such accomplishments.

And yet, now 27 doesn’t seem much older than 24. Not to me, anyway. As I chatted with Dad about the impending nuptials, he said, “She waited a long time to get married, didn’t she? I guess people are marrying later nowadays.” It was all I could do not to drop the phone and book a church.

“There is a big difference between 24 and 27,” a friend from work assured me. Maybe so. But in the next three years, I must find a decent guy, date him, live with him, become engaged to him, decide DJ vs. band, and get married. So, um, can anyone set me up?

To make matters more complicated, the longer I remain single, higher I push my fantasy Prince Charming on his white steed. Really, he’s not riding a white steed anymore -- he’s in a white Porsche convertible. Three years ago, I might have dated a guy who occasionally used the word “irregardless.” Now, I don‘t think I would. PC also has to fold his own laundry, wear Right Guard, and know the complete lyrics to “Anything Goes” (without being gay). Delightful, delicious, delusional.

If I must be realistic, the idea of marriage isn’t as appealing to me as a wedding. Several single-female friends and I have devoted an embarrassing amount of time to detailing our weddings-to-be. Who cares about the groom….what kind of cake do you want? What style of dress? How many bridesmaids? What about the first dance at your reception? To this last question, I’ve heard answers ranging from Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” to Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine.” I’m deciding between “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green and “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” by Stevie Wonder. Sappy, yet grooveable. I also like Bill Withers’ “Just the Two of Us,” but there's no upstaging Mini Me.

Once the wedding is over, it’s “for better or for ‘You left the toilet seat up again.’” Not so glamorous. For an only child, I believe I’m reasonably good at sharing. But I prefer to have the whole bed to myself. Maybe I can get one of those Donna Reed, twin-bed arrangements.

Good thing I have three years to prepare. Okay, two years, two months, and three weeks. Approximately 811 days. I’ll call the caterer.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Drop It Like It's Hot. Or Don't. Whatever.

All the peeps without air conditioning, throw your hands up at me!

The hottest I’ve ever been was summer of ‘01. That’s the summer I spent living in an (un-a/ced) attic apartment in Cambridge, MA. By day, I sold Harvard shot glasses to Japanese businessmen. By night, I stared at the slanted ceiling and sweated.

That summer, my beta fish Henry met a slow death when the water evaporated from his bowl. I didn’t notice the level getting lower until it was too late. Thereafter, I returned to pesce-vegetarianism, because I figured if I’m ruthless enough to suffocate a fish, I’m ruthless enough to fry it up. With my karma, I’ll be reincarnated as a tuna.

Honesdale tricked me with its seasons. I arrived in September, when the trees were beginning to shed. By late October, we had snow flurries, and I cranked my heat to 75. On the day of the first real snow, sometime in early November, I played Harry Connick Jr.’s “Let It Snow” five times in a row and put an extra blanket on my bed.

Four months of intense winter followed.

But I was prepared -- this is the North, after all. My red Victoria’s Secret sweater didn’t look too bulky, and it went well with my tall, black boots. Snow angels? Hot chocolate? Bring it on.

Spring lasted about two days. One May afternoon, I took my manuscripts outdoors and let the blossoming crab apple trees shower all over me. I pretended I was in the wedding scene from Sense and Sensibility. Tree branches arching as swords overhead, pink petals floating like confetti. Oh, Colonel Brandon! Isn’t life marvelous? Aren’t we lucky?

Scene change. Now, I’m in Freddy Goes to Hell.

And I do feel Kreuger-esque, with my make-up melting in the humidity as I snarl at passersby. This evening I searched online for psychology studies linking heat and aggression. I recalled from a social psych course that the two variables are connected somehow. The Los Angeles race riots occurred in the summertime, as did the O.J. Simpson car chase. Could be coincidental, but a few studies indicate significant correlation between a high violent crime rate and high temperatures. These are a couple of the sites I browsed:

Did I demolish the punching bag at karate tonight? No. I was too hot. For me, the weather is merely bringing apathy and lack of motivation. I only have enough energy to sweat.

Which is why I’m ending this essay now. I’m going to stick my head in the fridge.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Don't Use This Pick-Up Line....Ever

Last night I was sorting through some old emails and found this note:

hey finer than legally allowed. teach me how to read you like a book that i could start in the middle and work out page after page till i find the one with me in it

This is one of the reasons I'm not on Match anymore. But it begs the question: if I were a book, what book would I be? Horton Hears a Who? Strunk and White? This guy assumes I'm a long book, but I don't feel too War and Peace. How about Sense and Sensibility? Just so I'm not in the bargain bins.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

United We Mope

The preacher today quoted a truism from an anonymous source: “The world can be divided into two kinds of people -- those who walk into a crowded room and say, ‘Hey! I’m here!’ and those who walk in and say, ‘Ah! There you are!’”

Most of the time, I’m Type 1. Why else would I have a blog?

But I have many lovely friends and relatives who are Type 2. Chances are, you’re one of these people. To you, I want to say: thanks for humoring me.

In an effort to be more “room-conscious,” I’ll offer two pieces from today’s New York Times.

The first is “Japan Squeezes to Get the Most Out of Costly Fuel.” The second is “The Case Against Coldplay.” Japan and Chris Martin? Not as harmonious as Sonny and Cher or the Nelson twins, but let me explain.

While we Americans bemoan higher gas prices, Japan has introduced a campaign urging its citizens to buy hybrid and replace energy-guzzling appliances. By 2012, the country hopes to reduce global warming-risky emissions to 6 percent below the 1990 level. The article cites a Japanese environmental planner who says, “The honest feeling of the Japanese people is, ‘How can we do more?’”

Hard to imagine Americans adopting the same attitude. Japan was one of the host nations for the Kyoto Protocol on curbing global warming. The U.S. wasn’t in attendance.

Maybe Bush was at home listening to Coldplay. Okay, okay -- it’s a British band. But it’s self-piteous sentiment sounds American to me, and to NYT writer Jon Pareles, too.

In his article, Pareles takes Martin et. al. to task for “wallowing happily in their unhappiness.” Listing a few particularly moody, “poor me” Coldplay lyrics, Paredes says, “When he moans his verses, Mr. Martin can sound so sorry for himself that there's hardly room to sympathize for him.”

One of my nearest, dearest friends is a Coldplay fan, and she would probably remind me of my tendency to play Radiohead’s “Creep” on repeat during my lunch hour. “I’m a creep. / I’m a weirdo. / What the hell am I doing here? / I don’t belong here.” Not exactly self/world-affirming.

But I think Paredes has a point. Instead of slapping on our “God Bless America” bumper stickers and embracing our God-given right to unlimited whining, maybe we should get up and do something. And by “do something,” I don’t mean sacrifice post-pubescent American boys for foreign oil. We have our own “weapon of mass destruction” -- it’s called the SUV.

At this point in my diatribe, Danny M. would announce “Preach!” Danny was a preacher’s son whom I taught a couple of years ago. “Preach!” was his verbal contribution to any sort of soap boxing. Me: “You can do better than these report-card grades. If you don‘t have a goal, you‘re reaching for nothing.” Danny: “Preach!”

I’ll stop preaching. Thanks again for being in the room with me, even when I pretend I’m at its center.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Ladies and Gentlemen! Children of All Ages!

Think it’s too late for me to run away and join the circus? Probably so. At age eight, I briefly considered becoming a professional clown after I saw a Nova special on clown colleges. Around that time, I also told my parents I wanted to be a scat singer. Mom and Dad owned a lot of jazz records, and I couldn’t think of a better job than joyfully crooning nonsense words. Actually, “clown” and/or “scat singer” still sound like swell occupations to me. Doobie doobie doo, honk, honk, wild applause.

The Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus wasn’t handing out applications today, but they did sell me a soft pretzel and a Pepsi and cotton candy and a t-shirt and tall, puffy hat. When Mary bought tickets for our circus outing, I told myself that if I was going to attend the Greatest Show on Earth, I was going to go all out, man.

And that’s one perk of being an adult at the circus -- I could purchase whatever junky food and overpriced souvenir my kid-at-heart craved. Nachos? Sold. Snow cone in a unicorn cup? Sold. Flashing light saber? Zing, zing. As Mary and I took our seats on row K, a child behind me begged for circus snacks. “No, son,” the Responsible Adult intoned. “We just ate.” I licked the pretzel salt off my fingers and smiled. (Goofus, not Gallant. Told you.)

Here’s another reason 20-somethings should attend the circus: the performers aren’t sequined super-beings…they’re just like us. By “just like us,” I mean close to our age but with tighter hamstrings. I don’t remember much about circus outings from my childhood, but I do know that the tightrope walkers and trapeze artists seemed as cartoonish as Tom and Jerry. Tom puts firecrackers in Jerry’s mouse hole; Jerry reroutes the fuse to Tom’s litter box and escapes through a window. Yawn. As I watched Mr. Daredevil Clown teeter atop the Rings of Vertigo, I thought, “This guy might actually fall.” Also, “Wonder how he amuses himself on the weekends. Does his wife make him rotate the tires?”

On the ride home, I contemplated the metaphorical meaning of big-top frenzy. How is life like the circus? How is my life like the circus?

I know this would make a good essay, but I can’t come up with anything clever. Maybe my brain is clouded from salt-and-sugar overdose.

Shakespeare said it better, anyway. All the world’s a three-ring circus. On the left, the slapstick clowns, stumbling over their enormous shoes and slipping on banana peels, getting a kick out of their mistakes. In the center, the animal tamer, teaching a sharp-toothed beast to dance on its hind legs, and trying to hide the fact he’s scared out of his mind. Stage left is something calmer, like a softly singing Chihuahua. It’s all happening at once -- the pratfalls, the fear, the singing and giggling. All part of the show.

I’m glad I have a seat, and I can buy my own candy.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

My Baby's All Growed Up!

Fifteen minutes ago, as I was standing in the kitchen pouring my Grape Nuts, Connick climbed into a new shell! I'm slightly disappointed that he picked a less-attractive shell....but perhaps he shares my "function over form" mentality. Pa, get the camcorder!

Might As Well Face It

I’ve figured out why fools fall in love. They’re just searching for a fix. That’s according to this article in The New York Times:

For the first time, neuroscientists have mapped the brain activity of people newly in love, and it turns out that new love resembles hunger, thirst, and…drug addiction.

The article quotes a Rutgers anthropologist who states, “’When you're in the throes of this romantic love it's overwhelming, you're out of control, you're irrational, you're going to the gym at 6 a.m. every day -- why? Because she’s there.’”

In the immortal words of Robert Palmer, “The lights are on, but you’re not home.”

A SUNY study analyzed 2,500 brain images from 17 college students who had recently fallen in love. These subjects gazed at pictures of their boyfriends or girlfriends while an MRI machine scanned their brains. The images were later compared with images taken when subjects looked at photos of acquaintances.

The “love-charged” brains showed increased activity in areas containing dopamine-producing cells. Dopamine is the chemical released by cocaine use.

Addicted to love? Absolutely.

Which is more satisfying -- coke or love? Love has a longer buzz, but its high also fades. Another study compared the brains of “new lovers” with those of couples who’d been together for two years.

As the article says, “Compared with the students who were in the first weeks of a new love, those who had been paired off for a year or more showed significantly more activity in an area of the brain linked to long-term commitment.”

Kind of deflates the “why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” argument. Sooner or later, you won’t want the milk for free. You’ll feel a biological need to buy the cow.

Why am I interested in this? Because since I returned from New Orleans, I’ve suffered a mad craving for love. N.O. is full of romantic scenarios just waiting to be played out. Strolling hand-in-hand by Lake Pontchartrain. Hitching a horse and buggy ride through the French Quarter. Dining by candlelight at Commander’s Palace. Swapping study notes on the campus green.

My brain cells are ready to produce the dopamine, but it takes two to neuro-stimulate.

I didn’t fall in love tonight, but I did break a board. In order to gain my orange belt in Tang Soo Do, I have to snap a plastic board in half. It’s not quite as dramatic as Ralph Macchio in Karate Kid -- the board is made of two pieces, designed to break upon the right impact. After about 15 tries, I fired an on-target side kick. KRAAACK. Instant #1 on my list of Top Ten Most Satisfying Sounds (#2 being plane wheels touching down in TN; #3 Queen‘s guitar riff on “Bohemian Rhapsody”).

I also broke the board with my elbow, though I misfired painfully more than once.

Didn’t Freud write about the thin line between passion and aggression? My brain liked hitting that board. I can’t prove it with an MRI, but I know. It was love at first kick.

So, maybe board-breaking will be my gateway drug. Until the real thing comes along.