Thursday, August 24, 2006

My Very Excited Mother Just Served Us Nine...?

You know what they say: there are no small parts, only small planets.

Only apparently there aren’t. Small planets, I mean. Small parts? They exist. I never believed that fuzzy theater b.s., though I’m not about to disillusion the kid playing Boy Among the Dead #3 in Our Town. I had a small part in my high-school production of West Side Story. One of the Jets’ girlfriends -- not Riff’s. My name was either Patsy or Annette, depending on which source you consulted. The script said Patsy, but our director (whom I still love) consistently referred to me as Annette. “No, no, Annette. Cheat left during the dance at the gym, not right!”

My best friends Hillary and Jessica also had small parts. They were Fernando and Conchita, members of the Sharks gang. During the dance at the gym, they could have danced together -- since Hillary was a boy; Jessica was a girl; and they were both of the appropriate Bernsteinian cult. But our director paired them with other kids. I don’t remember which pseudo-Latina wound up as Hillary’s partner, but Jessica cha-chaed with a middle schooler named Chad, who compensated for his runty height with a voice that might have raised Tony from the dead. “She said cheat LEFT,” Chad hollered. “Not RIGHT.”

There may have been confusion about my character’s name, but at least nobody mixed up my gender. “You’re a GIRL, Hillary,” Chad reminded us. “So you walk with the GIRLS.” But no, Hillary wasn’t a girl. Or Fernando wasn’t. “I’m actually a boy,” Hillary said, patting Chad’s head, which reached her taped chest.

If I were Hillary, I would have protested the random gender assignment, just after I stabbed Chad with a rose corsage. Hillary really did buy into the “small parts” adage, though. After gently correcting Chad, she got right back into character, eyeing me suspiciously across the dance floor. Not only had she memorized the “dance at the gym,” she knew the choreography for the entire show -- from Tony’s opening number through the “Somewhere” farewell sequence. She performed “Cool” as we stood in line for shepherd’s pie at the cafeteria. “Hey, that’s my number,” I protested. “Chill yourself out, peach,” she sneered. “Or I’ll cut you.”

Pluto would do well to take a lesson from Hillary. True, it was not dropped from the Big Nine due to its size. What did they knife Pluto for again? Something about how it interferes with Neptune’s orbit. Were I Pluto, I would tell astronomers to stick it to Uranus. What kind of a name is Uranus? Our middle-school English teacher chose to change Uranus’s name during her Greek mythology unit. After quieting yet another chorus of guffaws, she started calling Uranus by his Roman name, Caelus. I think if Uranus’s title can be altered that quickly, he doesn’t deserve to be a planet. Pluto is a beloved Disney pet, for pete’s sake. Would you shoot a dog?

Obviously, the astronomers pay as much attention to me as Hillary did to Chad. Never mind. To Pluto, I say: keep doing your galactic dance. There’s a place for you. Somewhere.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Ode To My Nokia Cell Phone

You cannot take pictures
Of me at the zoo.
You cannot play music
Or Spiderman 2.
You do not fit nicely
In chic Fendi purses.
You don’t record movies
Or cite Shakespeare verses.
You’re not decked in pinstripe
Or covered in “bling.”
You do not play Britney
Or Snoop when you ring.
Sometimes you dial “6”
When I press number “4.”
Sometimes I get voicemail
You choose to ignore.
It pains me to say it,
But, Nokia, well,
If phones were all mansions
You’d be more like a cell.

But wait just one minute --
Don’t quit on me yet.
We both have done things
That I know we regret.
You’ve heard me sob loudly,
Laugh like a buffoon
And repeatedly murder
The “Happy Birthday” tune.
So, let’s stay together
To reach out and touch
I can’t quit you, Nokia:
You just know too much.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Dr. Living Room, I Presume?


Cotton swabs?

Butterfly needle?

Gauze? No, the extra-long roll. That’s the one.

Thanks for humoring me. I’m wearing my scrubs again.

No, no -- my quarterlife crisis has not directed me to medical school. This outfit was an early birthday gift. No, not from a doctor. But his sister is a doctor. Let me explain. Stat.

From ages 3 to 19, I wanted to be a doctor. Between ages 3 and 6, I also hoped to be a professional bride, ballerina and cheerleader, but I soon learned to answer “doctor” when adults inquired about my career goals. “Doctor” meant “smart,” “noble,” and, I was told, “reasonably well-paid.” My other vocational choices ensured really pretty dresses, but they didn’t seem to elicit the same satisfactory feedback. “You can be a doctor and a bride,” my mother promised. Nope, too much work. What, and give up my hair salon?

In high school I gravitated to the humanities, but, like most teenage girls, I concentrated on the “man” part. Boys, boys, boys . . . unrequited, requited. Whatever. September 10, 1997. I’m 17, and I need some touchy-feely love and a Modern European research paper topic. Funny how things don‘t change.

Here’s what ruined my MD: Organismal Biology, 2000-2001. It sounded cool in the course catalogue, but the Venn Diagram displaying “sounds cool” and “ends successfully” doesn’t overlap a whole lot, as I’ve discovered (other examples: buying leather pants, bonging five beers at once, etc.).

So, now I’m a former English major who watches “Grey’s Anatomy.” As of last week, I can ogle McDreamy in my scrubs. Again, I’ll thank Eric. (Though if you think I’m going to become one of those sonnet-reciting, “what light through yonder…” former English majors in l-u-v, you are so totally wrong. I’m way more “one fish / two fish” than “how do I love thee / let me count the ways.” You know this.)

After snatching a passing grade from Bio (barely), I swore off prokaryotes and eukaryotes (who should be named “conkaryotes.” I mean, come on.). I did not, however, defer my dream of owning medical scrubs. They just looked so sexy-yet-comfortable. And they said “intelligent” in a way that Juicy Couture did not.

Unfortunately, psychologists don’t get to wear scrubs. There’s little chance your neuroses will splatter all over my Gap shirt. Fate forced me to 1) marry a doctor or 2) seduce a fellow blogger whose sister is a doctor. I’m sure there were other options, but they didn’t immediately occur to me.

Eric presented me with these scrubs, along with two collections of New York Times crossword puzzles, for my 2-6. Thank you, Murky (and Murky’s older sis). I’ve found that scrubs are the perfect attire for working crossword puzzles around the house. They’re also excellent as dancewear. How did George Clooney avoid turning his OR into a discotheque? Last night I had the best intentions of preparing this eggplant salad from Epicurious, but once I turned on the radio . . . paging Dr. Groove. I fell instant victim to Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker,” with dance moves that should not be resuscitated. Ever. In the words of Jackson Browne: “Doctor, my eyes!”

Florence Nightingale, I ain’t. Nor Katherine Heigl. But if your psyche needs TLC, I will happily Macarena until you feel better.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Criminey! Look Ma, No Mapquest!

Sorry for the extended absence, but I’m in love.

Don’t choke on your fish oil pills, Eric . . . it’s not you. I’ve fallen for a woman. Wait: it gets steamier. I don’t know her name.

I’m not certain what she looks like, either. Sometimes I imagine a short, mid-30s blonde librarian, like Shirley Jones in The Music Man. Other days I think she’s older, bookish, bespectacled -- Donna Reed sans Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life. (Also a librarian, actually.)

I picture her as well-read, with a comprehensive knowledge of Faulkner’s Mississippi backroads, Irving’s New England byways, and Nicole Richie’s Cali freeways.

But maybe she’s not a reader. Maybe she’s never ventured beyond “The Amazing Race” on CBS. In which case, she’s not really my type.

It hardly matters. I’m a smitten kitten.

Where Madame GPS System goes, I will follow.

GPS arrived in New Orleans several months before Eric. When Eric asked how GPS and I met, well, I lied. I value honesty in relationships, but I’m a bigger fan of not looking stupid. “I bought it awhile back,” I said. “I was tired of getting lost all the time.” Eric nodded. “How much did it cost?” Hmmm. “500 bucks,” I said, silently praying that Eric would not insist on Googling GPS systems when we got back to my apartment. “Not too bad,” he shrugged. “Ready to get sno cones?”

Here’s the sordid truth: I did not buy GPS for myself. It was a gift from my mother. I wasn’t terribly concerned about my busted internal compass, but Mom had grown a bit weary of fielding frantic calls from the highway, e.g. “Mapquest told me to turn left on Madison Avenue, but now I’m at Millard Fillmore Drive, and I think I’m getting on the interstate! Can you search online for the nearest gas station, or possibly arrange a squad-car escort?”

Yes, I’m 26 years old (nearly), and I still phone home for help. That’s not the embarrassing part. When Mom lovingly introduced me to GPS, I smiled, expressed gratitude, and, after Mater Familias turned her back, shoved the system in my glove compartment. See, I was sure GPS was a nice gal and all, but I wasn’t exactly ready for a relationship. I had issues. “Cold feet,” some say. Specifically, I was scared to drive farther than Winn Dixie.

That’s why I made Eric do all the driving when he visited last week.

(I’m not going to say much more about Eric’s trip to NOLA. If you’re one of my four or five friends who reads this blog, then I’ve probably given you most of the Goofus Musings/Murky Words Rendezvous details, anyhow. If you don’t know me, you don’t care. And if you know me but you aren’t my friend: hey, who are you?)

Unfortunately, Mr. Words couldn’t play chauffeur forever. He left on Tuesday; the American Psychological Association convention started in the Quarter on Thursday; and by Friday I was composing flowery apologies to GPS. “Sorry I’ve neglected you for so long. Don’t hate me.”

GPS flickered. She sighed. She said: “Please drive the highlighted route.” And we were off.

Our affair has not been without potholes. “Recalculating” is GPS’s code for “You messed up, babe.” On a particularly bad stretch, GPS advised me to “make the first available U-turn.” I have lost my temper with her, as Eric can attest. I have cursed her. She, however, has not once raised her voice. And she’s always guided me home.

That’s the best thing. As long as I have GPS, I can get home again.

I’ve heard people compare a good romance to the feeling of “coming home.” I guess the idea is that “home” isn’t a street name -- not Bourbon or Basin or Tchoupitoulas. It isn’t about knowing where you are. Or even who you are. “Home” is just another way of saying “you’re okay.” You can eat the whole sno cone, then show off your wild-cherry red tongue. You can sing Dr. Seuss’s Whoville Christmas song in the middle of Jackson Square, completely sober, and count on a chorus. You can unleash your goofiest, dorkiest self, and not feel particularly goofy or dorky.

Dorothy got it right: there’s no place like home. I might start calling GPS “Dorothy.” How does Dot feel about driving in Boston, I wonder?