Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hanky Panky

"After all, computers crash, people die, relationships fall apart. The best we can do is breathe and reboot."
 --Sex and the City, My Motherboard, MySelf

Today I watched the hard drive on my computer crash -- not the lil Pank, but the Mac-daddy, the Mac-daddy where all The Words live. There are disks, of course (I had backed up occasionally; I'm not an Animal), but a lot of those files are 20 years old, and either the software or hardware doesn't exist to read them. They might as well be sanskrit chiseled on tablets, and worn away by a thousand years of rain and sand. I have bits and pieces of three chapters of the next book on the laptop's desktop, but that's it. The rest of it could all be gone, though some of it's in print and could be partially resurrected from that (via a lot of protesting Interns).

It was nothing more than sheer luck that my geek-husband happened to be in the office -- helping me out with a few routine upgrades -- and he must've thought I was Typhoid Mary as every single thing I touched began to die. First, I was about to email him a file, "heyyyyyyy, we don't have Internet," I said. He punched a few buttons, made a few phone calls, and once we got through Bangalore customer service, and three separate people insisting it wasn't on their end, he had that back up and running (it was so on their end). As soon as it was back up, the computer froze, and I did what I usually do, which was to turn the server off and back on (or as he puts it, "that's some high-tech shit").

And, nothing happened.

It didn't come back on.

After a few minutes, he came in to see what was the matter.

We both sat there for a long time, watching. Sometimes, that works. Then an orange and black code flashed briefly, but ominously. "That's not normal!" I said. "It's never done that before." Then it just sputtered, and groaned, and flickered. "Uhhhhhnnnnn, uhnnnnnnnnnnnn, uhnnnnnnn," it said. For about ten minutes.

"Maybe I should call Scott," I volunteered.

"Who's Scott?" he asked.

And then I had to think for a second. Is it appropriate to have two geek-husbands? To let more than one man touch the Pank?  (Metaphorically, of course -- there's no actual Hanky...Panky in either case; I just feel very symbolically married to anyone in charge of my hard drive.)

Really, Scott would be more like my geek piece-on-the-side (again, metaphorically). He answered on the first ring "Long time no see," he said when he picked up. "I know," I said, adding abruptly, in the throes of panic, "And of course I'm only calling because I want something."

"That's what I'm here for," he said reassuringly, and I handed him over to the geek-husband to confer.

They both quickly agreed the hard drive was dying right before our eyes (though it's possible they put it less dramatically than that). It was summarily removed and taken to the off-site hospital where maybe it can  recover. I wanted to go with it, the same way I've always stayed in the room with my dogs while they've undergone surgery -- not because I could help, but just because I felt like I needed to be there.

He called to ask me if I knew anything about why there were two hard drives in one machine (uh, nooooo...given that all I'd heard him say today was "blah blah blah Ginger.") I just wanted to know "when can I come over and pet it?" I can't. It could take five or six hours to get a full prognosis.

Meanwhile, I can't stop thinking about the hundreds and hundreds of drafts that might be gone (for once, I'm not hyperbolizing; it might be closer to thousands).

When I asked my friend Greg if he knew how to get to the new place for Easter brunch this weekend, he said, "I fully expect a short story explaining how to find it. Don't disappoint," adding "unless of course it was on your hard drive, in which case, never mind."

"Well," I told him, "it starts with a pack of chain-smokin' hair stylists," (I'm moving next month from Hot Sorority Visigoths next door to just Goths-Next-Door).... but that's all I have. The rest of that story is in sick-bay.

"It's ok," he said, "I'm already hooked."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Agony of Defeat

"There would be no joy in Mudville, mighty Ace-y had struck out." 
--a midnight text  post NCAA-loss

I had my lucky rituals in place for last night's Game. I started the day with a lucky haircut. I wore my lucky shirt. But all day I had my doubts. Where would we be without the foolproof  Lucky Halftime Ritual?

The bad news was, the Ex was actually AT the game, and while my reach might be powerful, no, I don't think I could extend it that far. I was, of course, invited along but A. I was wildly over-committed with next month's Move, and B. I rationalized, the Lucky Halftime Ritual would not readily lend itself to the Dome anyway (although, if they'd had popcorn boxes where I could've rigged a fake bottom... Well, you get where I'm going. And if not, there's a documentary floating around out there on public television where I explain it. Contrary to popular belief, I haven't gotten kicked out of a movie theater yet [ have been asked to "keep it down"... and no one ever misses the Irony in that.])

It was a busy day, and I didn't get around to breaking the news to everybody til almost game time -- this was after words of encouragement had been trickling in since the Thursday game. "Lucky halftime ritual? Counting on you. Just sacrified a mountaineer." My cousin chimed in, "We can't afford to have you slip up now!"

I even got an emergency pre-tipoff-text from my Ring-Toss/Classmate Ex that said, "Put me in, Coach! A Nation of Millions is counting on you!"  Duly reported. The Nation roared. (And I considered it. For the good of the team.  I certainly don't have any Commitments with any of the Ex-es, but a little serial monogamy through the end of the Final Four dreams seemed the least I could do...) I acknowledged that, while the Bench (of Ex-es) is admittedly deep, it just seemed wrong to win like that. Many are called, but few are chosen.

But as the game turned desperate, so did the fans. One direct message read, "For God's sake, please take matters into your own hands. Would that count?" (No. That's not The Ritual.) I suggested that since there was an entire section of Ex-es in attendance at The Game -- most of whom are acquainted with the lucky halftime ritual (one of them I only dated during last football season, but the skills are transferable) -- they should've stepped up and taken one for the team.

My cousin said, "I'm holding you responsible for this....this disappointment which we have suffered."

As the Nation makes its way home though, I feel sure the day will be filled with happy "halftime rituals," and Reunions, and the healing will begin.

All I know is, Defeat is bitter, and I need something to get that taste out of my mouth.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

I Am A Bad Borrower.

I got the greatest facebook message from my pal Jan earlier this week that she had baked some of my favorite MarthaStewart cookies for her roadtrip to Memphis and that she'd just made a spare batch for me and would drop them off on the deck of depravity on her way out of town -- to be shared with the packing/painting crew. I had just been thinking I needed to do that for them, but the thought (or time) to get to the bakery had eluded me. It's like when you take cupcakes to your friends and relatives in the Hospital -- even if they can't eat, they can use them to reward the nurses (who'll then make a special effort to make sure they don't die). So you can't imagine how much I love Jan right now.

But I am a little worried about our friendship, because as I unpacked the cookies.... I noticed I have practically accumulated an entire set of Jan's dishes by now. This means a couple things. First, I have not returned her plates with reciprocal goodies (as dictated by Southern hospitality). It's true I can't bake, but I could've certainly returned them laden with a few pork chops, or rib-eyes. Second, I haven't even had the decency to return her plates clean and empty.

I was reminded of this because I had just been reading Beth Howard's blog, where she had posted an entry on  Good Borrowers, Bad Borrowers. And I am a Bad Borrower. This is more noticeable as I am in the middle of packing to move and have observed a lot of things around here that don't belong to me. (Though today I found a full bottle of Maker's Mark, so that will be a pleasant surprise for some guests.)

Beth's opinions about graciousness and hospitality mean a lot to me because she is The Pie Girl, and the reason I know about things like World Pie Day (although it is possible that it was National Pie Day, and I inflated it slightly; I could no more bake a pie than I could fly to the moon; my gal Rache was responsible for the execution around these parts -- we enjoyed both coconut cream and chocolate thanks to her). You can read more about Beth (and pie) in this Portland Tribune article.

One of Beth's Bad Borrower friends has one of her grandmother's Limoges plates, and I practically got the shakes just reading about it. I have a Tupperware container of Chef Tom's Thomas Keller chicken and dumplings in my fridge right now, and I am in a state that I will somehow misplace it before I can get it back to him pre-Move. Tupperware is even more sacred than china or crystal in my family. My own mother will barely let me out of her house with leftovers in her Tupperware without some sort of signed affidavit ensuring its safe return.

At least partly because of that (and because of my own bad-borrower tendencies), I just do not lend anything. I give away lots of things, but that's as much as I can do. Food goes out the door all the time, but it's always in GladWare or leftover carryout containers (I particularly recommend Thai as those bowls seem to be both dishwasher and freezer-safe...as far as I can tell; I hope I haven't poisoned anyone with them). I don't lend books, for example, but I'm happy to give them away when I'm done with them, with the encouragement that they get passed along. My Sailor apologized profusely that my copy of Bill Buford's Heat now lives somewhere in Greece, but it doesn't bother me. As I told him, as soon as I hand something off, I have mentally let it go. I do love that particular book, but he was moving to Italy, so he needed it more than I did. I could have Amazon'd it to him of course, but I felt like he also needed my margin notes, my highlights and my post-it notes. For a writer, I keep very few books...very few movies...

I may accidentally accumulate things, but I don't intentionally collect anything --  it all reads too much like clutter to the Rainman in me. It's all I can do not to throw away big stacks of photos in The Move.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Sweet and SaltyTaste of Victory

"I sizzle. I scorch. But now I pass the torch. The ballots are in. And one girl had to win. She's perky. She's fun. And now she's Number One."
--"Bring it On" (cheerleader roll call)

I was a little worried when I had to send the Ex over to the Hot Sorority Visigoths to borrow a cup of vodka. I was trying to find the HD version of The Big Game when I hear him yell up, "where's the vodka?" followed by "are we out of vodka?" followed by "what happened to the vodka?"

He knew perfectly well I hadn't suddenly developed a drinking problem. What had happened was, I was running around cleaning frantically because the Rescue Society was coming over for a Home Visit to evaluate me for prospective adoption (no one really wants to be told their home isn't fit for a dog). When I jerked the fridge door open in a rush, the stupid loose door plate came off and everything on that shelf came flying out. The only things that broke, however, were a jar of olives and a completely full bottle of vodka. I cleaned it up as best I could, but I still think that dog drank a floor martini. (I explained it all to the niceVolunteer Coordinators, and I got approved, notwithstanding the chaotic mid-move housekeeping.) I just hadn't thought to replace it.

Knowing I had told him this story at least once, I yelled down, "I told you that Test Dog drank that vodka; Go. Next. Door." (I also knew the Hot Sorority Visigoths would be happy to loan us a cup of vodka.)

The next thing I hear is "can we just have margaritas? We have all the stuff!" Fine. I hit Pause. (The man's 41 years old and still doesn't know how to make a margarita, so the question wasn't "can we have them?" it was "will you come make them?") I slammed down one of the folders I was working on -- at which point, nothing Paused, and I realized the batteries had just gone dead in the Remote. 

"Remember that year you got me all the 40-packs of Duracells in my Christmas stocking?" I asked, as we walked back up the stairs. ("Nope" was the obvious answer there.) "Well, we just used up the last one, so I couldn't pause the game. The Remote's dead."

"No big deal," was Mr. Gadget's confident answer. "We'll just rob something else."

No. I'd already looked, the remotes in the other rooms took Triple As; we needed Double As.

So we were stuck sitting there for a moment, watching the game Live, like Animals... "Oh! I knooooow....." he said, yanking open the nightstand, struck by a flash of genius, suddenly remembering what the 40-pak of Duracells had accompanied in the Christmas stocking.  "Don't bother." I said, without even taking my eyes off The Game. "It's broken."

"What?!" he said, shaking its still, lifeless form in apparent doubt, and mindlessly jabbing its inert buttons. "What did you do? This thing cost, like $140 bucks. It was on Sex and the City! It's supposed to be indestructible. " (They lied.)

"I didn't do anything," I shrugged. "The threads are just stripped." (I hadn't needed it this Christmas, that's for sure, I explained. Unnecessarily, he pointed out.)

A challenge. And he suddenly goes from corporate warrior/Bonfire of the Vanities mogul to Mr. FixIt, stripping off his tie, crudely fashioning improvisational tools from the change-dish on the dresser and working over the jammed battery casing like it was his fulltime job. 

By the time he'd rescued a couple Double-As, it was HalfTime, and by then, we needed them for the Mute.

With such a slow build in the second half, I took a moment to post, "if  we win, homage must be paid. #LuckyHalftimeRitual. #OneHundredPercentSuccessRate." (I wanted credit where credit was due.)

Victory.... Tastes a little like watermelon.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Voice of Color

I am not the "Voice of Color," but it does now follow me on Twitter. They tagged me yesterday in this post, "@RealityTrucks Uses PPG Porter Paint & NO other! http://is.gd/aUzwO & has color goals in mind before painting. We're swooning! Thanks :)" 

I think they'll be disappointed (much like all the high-style design outfits that followed me after I wrote so frequently about Dwell Magazine -- clearly having no idea the shame I was capable of accidentally wreaking -- it being entirely true that I've based many of my palettes largely on Adrien Lyne movies. Or as one of my DesignGays put it, "I'm not sure 'Bravery' is the word we're going for here.")

"Voice of Color" was referring to a recent blog where I did, in fact say I am a Porter Girl (although I do use Ralph Lauren and other lines as color-whores. Everyone knows I don't feel like a house is a home until the first coat of Glyptek White Umber has been applied to the trim. And I don't want to be...untoward... but yeah, I admit I had a little spring in my step all day just knowing my "color goals" had made a Search Engine Optimizer swoon -- complete with an emoticon no less. (It is much better than all the Lenten entreaties/entweeties begging me not to bring certain industries crashing to their knees, so to speak, depending on what I decided to give up for Lent.)

I think it's pretty clear that this is a non-commercial blog, but I felt compelled to promptly post on the blog's facebook fan page (which never links correctly here, so consider that a non-endorsement) that Porter Paint did not pay me to say that (I am sure if they had paid me, they might have asked me to phrase things differently), while adding (in what could be construed as a disgruntled tone) that I didn't even get any free paint from them either. (Where's the love?) Just like none of us ever got any free boxed wine after the famous Bandit boxed wine blog which I wrote right after all the FTC disclosure notices made the news, even though I had never been a recipient of what the NYT characterized as "the days of an unimpeded flow of giveaways," which were evidently grinding to a close.

But no,  my Porter-commitment is based on years of hard-won experience and is one of those things in life I just expect everyone to treat as if it's now established empirical fact, and is neither a matter of opinion, nor up for debate, i.e., Coke is better than Pepsi. It's just true. I was raised in a Pepsi household. As soon as I grew up (and realized I was free to go), I moved out, and switched to Coke. I also grew up in a household that painted every few years, but only ever in May, after the Sears Annual Memorial Day Paint Sale. I grew up, and painted my first apartment one Memorial Day weekend, and that was my last trip to Sears.

My understanding is that "monetizing" frequently leads to "tacky," and while I never say never to selling out (if anybody ever asked dammit, and the price was right), I think I can safely avoid the temptation as long as I can resist 17 cents a month for the privilege of pop-ups like this one turning up in the margins.

So, to this day, I remain uncompensated by Ambien, Bacon, or Sam Shepard, which shocks (shocks) me, and to that I would add, Man, I can't even get arrested at Hermes (...except for the fact that, somehow...I feel sure I could. If they locked Oprah out, prison is probably the least they have in store for me.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Band

The best thing that happened to me this week (so far) was spotting my friend Johnny across 40 aisles at Home Depot, sneaking up behind him, and then goosin' him while squealing "OhMyGod!! KennyRogers! Kenny Rogers! Can I have your autograph?!"

Now, the first thing you need to know is that Johnny really doesn't look like Kenny Rogers. (He just has a beard now.) I only call him that because one day I heard this deeply familiar baritone singing Sinatra to his kids, behind me at the DiscoKroger, while I was getting a Coke out of the machine. I turned around and when he recognized me, he laughed and said, "I bet you were wondering who that KennyRogers-lookin' son-of-a-bitch was, singing so loud."

No, no. I was just thinking, MAN, that voice is familiar. And it was, because Johnny's been a key musician in nearly every one of my favorite local bands for the last 20 years. He's a legend.

And for weeks, I wasn't able to get "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town," outta my head. Then I couldn't get Cake's version out of my head. Now I can't stop obsessing about what it would take to get Cake to play here.

Of course, as a rockstar, Johnny had to do time in the 90s as the art director where I worked. His bandmate Rob (also known as Rob v.1, also known as "Big City") worked with us too.  BigCity would shuffle up the stairs to my office every morning (wearing house slippers and a bath robe in my memory of this, but that might or might not be accurate), and greet me in his gravelly voice with, "Mornin' Chiefy. Can I get you a frappuccino?" (He never actually got me a frappuccino. He just said that everyday.)

I knew and loved them when they were young and on the road all the time. And I knew them later when they married happily and then settled down with kids to raise beautiful families, and the transition was pleasantly shocking.

Or as Rob v.1 would put it when he came over to my house many years ago for story meetings, "Man, I bet back in the 80s when you were watching me trash my drumkit on stage, you never thought I'd be storing my wife's breast milk in your fridge."

Yes. That goes without saying. Or it ought to.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Another Day's Wear

Because I didn't get to go to the Hermes sample sale this past weekend, I spent (instead) some quality alone time with their site --- trying to discern the difference between "charitable" scarves and "glam" scarves.  I had just found one with a deck of cards on it and was looking for the 'Ace' when I was interrupted by a text from Linda... who wanted to know what I was doing... and then didn't understand the answer. Her philosophy of fashion, decor, and design, is, and always has been "you know me: it's just another day's wear." (She frequently laments the fact that there's no such thing as Garanimals for Grownups.)

So her text, on the way to pick me up, said "I'd like to run in and look at wall colors in your old place as a reference at my new house." (She currently has quite the manse in the campus-ghetto, but is returning to her suburban roots.) It is entirely possible she was looking for a reference of what not to do.

I helpfully responded, "if you'll tell me what your color goals are, I can probably help. Ridgeway will probably need a different palette than traditional downtown."

I could hear her laughing, even though it was just a text. Her answer was, "Color goals?!! Paint. On. Walls. = Another. Day's. Wear."

How anyone can paint without color goals is beyond me.  Should the room soothe? Relax? Energize? Is the space romantic or is it cozy? Is it for entertaining or.... "enterTAINing?" Expansive, or intimate?

By the time she showed up, I had assembled several sample boards in varying finishes, the entire Ralph Lauren palette (from "modern light" to "urban loft."), swatches, and paint chips -- along with the stern admonition that we only use Porter Paint, never any other. Ralph Lauren and Martha Stewart are our color whores, but we buy Porter paint.

I made her evaluate the subtle sophisication of Lichen Boulder over the earthen hues of frosted hawthorn. She loves the "mercer," "urban living," and "howard" rooms I'm using from the urban loft palette.... but I explained to her she has to walk before she can run. She can have a little jute...a dash of chi.... and a little willow to start. But that's it.

We'll just have to see how she handles that.

Then I told her not to come back till she had established some goals.

And a mission statement.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Alpha/Beta Cooks? I think I'm both.

"True love is like a salesman at Home Depot. It only comes along once or twice in a lifetime so you gotta grab it. Acknowledging the power of love doesn't make me less of a rationalist, it makes me more of one. 
 --Bill Maher
Chatting with one of my college buddies today, she was commenting at first on how "normal people" respond to cute, cuddly things (I think it was babies).... and then she re-phrased it, probably out of sensititivity to not offending me, and modified, "I mean in general, well, mammals, except for you.... they just dissolve and go all gushy when they're confronted with the babies of any species...Unless they're a Predator... Or you.... Not that I think you're a predator." (I didn't think anybody suspected me of eating anyone's young, and I took the observations good-naturedly. I knew what they meant.)

It's a fair assessment and well-acknowledged truth that I'm not a very emotional or sentimental person -- part of it's the inner Rainman -- and part of it's just personality/nature/nurture. But there are exceptions and they manifest themselves in odd ways sometimes.

Tonight I started reading The Art of Eating In, Cathy Erway's blog-inspired book on "How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove."  In the book, she references a 2007 NYT article about alpha/beta couples in the kitchen. I was surprised to read about all the conflict those couples had, finding that I can flip fairly comfortably back and forth between alpha and beta, despite my usual control issues. Especially in the kitchen.

Like when my brother was here this past week, I was relegated solely to the role of sous chef. I washed and roasted tomatillas; buttered and toasted bread; that kinda thing.  You can read about our 2008 Christmas Dinner Collaboration here.-- where he taught me one does not exit the kitchen without calling out for permission first, "Bathroom Break, Chef?" (The Chef says "Aye.") I love my brother; he is a chef and I am a cook; and I am happy to take orders from him.

Maybe not everybody feels this way, but I am deliriously happy to be in the presence of people who are smarter than I am, or better than I am, at anything. I love to learn new things and the presence of excellence excites me. I do not feel threatened. I do not feel insecure. I feel elated. I don't even mind being told what to do. When the collaborations are instinctive, everyone's game gets elevated and it evolves into a fine-tuned power-ballet, with no conflict at all -- just everything stripped down to the best, raw components of art and architecture.

Food might be THE love of my life -- and I am  always happy when I run across someone who will love it with me, whether he's the boss or I am. Just like a regular mammal. (I'm keeping the Remote though.)

Contain it All

One of the things I hate most about moving is the inevitable 473 trips it takes to the suburbs to get all the moving supplies and new-place stuff -- shower curtain liners, paper-towel holders, etc. I tried to make it easier by trying to go to a container store first -- they specialize in that kinda thing, and you don't have to walk an entire warehouse of unrelated stuff to find what you need --  but they either keep insanely brief hours, or they were out of business; it was hard to tell just by walking around it and looking in the windows repeatedly, while mumbling "Ikea. Ikea," despite having read the Mental Floss article  that told me more than I wanted to know about them.

 I feel like a traitor to my gender in my hatred of all-things-shopping. I'm not good at it, and I shop like a man. I can't remember the name of the comic who said his embrace of shopping was limited to a circumstance where, if he got cold, he went in a store and bought a coat so he wasn't cold anymore; then he walked out. Yeah. That sounds about right. And don't even suggest shopping online as an alternative, because the only thing I have ever successfully bought online that looked in person the way it looked online is Harry and David pears. Luckily, we have half a dozen vendors at work who send those every Christmas, so I don't even order those anymore.

My mom's a champion shopper, but hardly ever takes me with her anymore because I just end up tugging on her jacket and whining, "I wanna goooooo hooooooome." I wish I'd had her with me today, because I know she could've gotten in and out and found everything on my list. I, on the other hand, did not buy one thing.

All I found was one rack for kitchen cupboard storage -- and a stack of Oatmeal Express which is my only processed-food vice except for Warm Delights, and is virtually impossible to find since the Krogers stopped carrying it (and yes, of course I prefer to make the steel cut oats when I have time, and yes, I have tried the single-envelope instant oatmeals, and no, they don't taste anything like the Express -- I found a stash of them one time at a local hospital cafeteria and bought 13 of them, which I'm sure the cashier thought was odd).

I was downright angry I couldn't find a wall-mounted paper-towel rack. Everything was a countertop stand model. Really? Are paper towels so design-friendly we all want to put them on such prominent display now? On the other hand, I sure don't want to open a cabinet door every time I need one. Like an animal. But that was nothing compared to walking past the cleaning aisle and being accosted by a chorus of "Jesus Loves Me." (I believe it was within the genre of what is known as "praise music," which I have prided myself on never having heard until that moment.) I also like to think of myself as religiously tolerant, but this was unbelievably jarring, and whether or not Jesus does, in fact, love me, is not the issue. I think discount stores should be more...ecumenical, or preferably, agnostic. If they want to sell Jesus-related merchandise, that is, of course, their prerogogative... but a display that intrudes into the shopping space? No. And this was the sort of display that was so offensively overbearing as it blared into the store like circus/carnie music, that it would make a good Christian spontaneously convert to any other religion on the spot. "Relax/Inspire/Escape,"  indeed.

That wasn't the reason I didn't buy anything though. As soon as I turned the corner where I could see the checkout, I was greeted by a wall of flesh. There was a sea of humanity stretching for what seemed like miles between me and my purchases. And what did I do? I burst into tears of frustration, put down my Oatmeal Express, and walked out.  I rarely cry, and this was twice in the last six weeks -- though in fairness to me, the most recent time, someone had died, so that was not necessarily an inappropriate response.

Luckily, I don't think anybody could tell, because I was wearing my big new Valerie Plame/Spanish Heiress sunglasses. I would've been wearing a coordinating Hermes scarf, but I can't get any of my New York City friends to stand-in-line at their annual sales for me (the first one was in Jersey, so that's fair).

My gal Elle in NYC promises she will take me there in August, allthough I've shared with her my concern that any store that closes the doors on Oprah is probably not going to admit the likes of me --- no, nor any of my folk.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

National Day of Unplugging

"Think about it. A month ago, no one would go on this site because we were worried about getting molested. Or losing our identity. Having it stolen. But now, at a time To Be Determined, all of those problems will be in the past."
--The Office

 I am not Unplugging for the National Day of Unplugging. Consider me a Conscientious Objector. An abstainer. I wouldn't opt out of technology for a day, any more than I would (willingly) opt out of  Indoor Plumbing for a day. I suppose I could go around stringing tin cans between trees to chat with my loved ones, but a quick text seems simpler. (Color me dubious when they're selling little burlap "sleeping bags" for our electronic devices. Really? I sure hope those proceeds are going to charity.)

Maybe I'm missing the point, but I communicate for a living, and I think of technology as just another tool for communicating. I wouldn't give up my pink pens and my pink moleskine notebooks either.

 Though I'll concede there's something to be said for several of the Ten Principles of the Sabbath Manifesto, which encourages one day a week where we:
  • avoid technology;
  • connect with loved ones;
  • nurture your health;
  • get outside;
  • avoid commerce;
  • light candles;
  • eat bread;
  • find silence;
  • give back.
 I could do without the bread, and they'll take my blackberry and netbook when they pry them from my cold dead fingers, but I could go for maybe eight out of ten. I would substitute, say "eat local" for "eat bread."

The thing I avoid on the weekend is the News. After Friday morning's news, I go into a news blackout until Monday morning (when I start by reading the Sunday paper). It's a slightly odd choice in my line of work, but if anything urgent or traumatic happens, my friends (who all know about the weekend blackouts), text me the intel. It's the one way I have of staving off Outrage Fatigue.

I know this "Sabbath/Unplug" movement doesn't come from Luddites -- but I immediately go on the defensive anyway, because I find Luddites smug, and if there's one thing I hate, it's Smug. I know four of them. All men. And all four of them afford the luxury of their eccentricity by having wives or girlfriends who do every bit of their electronic heavy lifting for them, whether it's typing up their manuscripts or maintaining their websites and e-commerce. Give me a break. So they don't mind benefiting from technology, they just don't want to do the work of keeping up.

I've lived through three ice storms that blasted us all unwillingly back to the dark ages, and I have no desire to go back there.  I read See You in a Hundred Years where this couple returned to life a century ago, mostly with the idea of getting a book deal, it seemed. Ever since I read that, "unplugging" has struck me as a little self indulgent.

They Might Be Giants

Thank God there is a new baby in our family so that when I visit, there's somebody around who's smaller than I am (barely), so I don't get stepped on like a toy. In about six months, even he will tower over me.

I get the occasional (ok, frequent) question about my obsessions with size (the big dogs, the monstrous SUV, the last huge house, the wildly oversized ex-boyfriends), but anyone who sees me with all my cousins immediately gets it. Big is the scale I'm used to, so I think that's what 'normal' people are supposed to look like. We all tend to go with what we know. While my parents are average, I would be on the small side in most any room. Fill up a room with my cousins (on both sides of the family), and I am positively Lilliputian. The view I saw growing up looked out though, not in -- with all of the boys "averaging" a little shy of six and a half feet tall. That's what I saw everyday, so that's what seemed typical to me. It was not unusual for them to just pick me up and carry me everywhere when I was a kid (always over my protests and invariably without my permission, but honestly it's not a bad view... and probably explains a lot).

Last night, my Uncle was asking what my next dog would be. (He was the one who got me my first dog -- a Beagle ....who, not surprisingly, in retrospect, never did turn into the Basset I thought I had asked for.  It was the result of some misunderstanding, where I had showed him a picture of what I thought was a basset, and he brought home two Beagle puppies and let me choose one. I went with the little girl, and spent a solid year quietly waiting for "her ears to grow in." They never did, but I never said anything. For a long time, before I knew what a Beagle was, I thought she was just some sort of mutated Basset.)

"Let's get you .... a dash-hound," my Uncle kidded me last night. I screwed my eyes shut and shook my head violently in obvious disgust. "No? ...Well... how about....a Pomeranian? I know exactly where we can get you a fine Pomeranian." Before I could even laugh, my Mom, taking him seriously said, "Brother, you know how those things jump straight up and down. She would hate that."

He reassured her with serious mock sincerity, "Why, that's all right. We'll just put it in a cage."

Now my mom is a little afraid my housewarming present from The Family is going to be A Caged Pomeranian. (He's a kidder, but he would never take a joke that far.)

Friday, March 19, 2010

All in the Family

"Whenever I write about my family, I start by getting their approval. I like to think I write about them with obvious affection. When it comes to the people I’m related to, I consider myself to be very lucky."

--David Sedaris, Q and A with New Yorker readers

Toward the end of last night's family cookout, Chef Baby Brother started passing around homemade fudge. As he offered the plate to my Uncle, I nearly smacked it out of his hand, sharply berating them both: "He can't have that!"

"Why can't he have any?" my brother asks ("yeah, why?" my Uncle innocently echoed.) "Uh. Because you're diabetic."

"Oh," was his nonchalant response as he reached back across the table for the candy, "OK...just half a piece then." (This is the Uncle who's the person I love more than anyone in the world and always have. Now, I doubt that exact word has ever been exchanged between the two of us: but every birthday and every Christmas, the fatted calf [literally] arrives.)  

The cookout was probably the first time we've had our whole family get together in one place that wasn't for a wedding or a funeral in at least a decade. That being said, it is entirely fair to say that my brother makes it home -- from Texas -- to visit more often than I do. It's like Sedaris says, "I always have to be dragged places, and then I have a great time."

Despite the fact that this was a reasonably special and rare occasion -- even though it was just a backyard cookout -- these are the off-brand chips that Max and ("a little Real Lemon/a little Sweet n Low") Lorraine insisted on serving. Though I was extra-nice -- thinking maybe "Clancy's" was some Austin-brand, and these were brought in special. They definitely were not -- though the tomatillas were.

What's in a Name?

When I started writing this column circa 1990, I definitely wasn't thinking about google searchability, and I certainly didn't have any idea how many truck enthusiasts there are out there. David Sedaris has said his editors have accused his book titles of being "willfully obtuse" (but they always make perfect sense once you read them).The title (of this column and the first book) was never about trucks at all; it was a reference to a song Lawrence Tarpey wrote, with a line about crossing the highway of life and getting run over by the "Truck of Reality." I couldn't hum it for you; it's not that kind of song.

Twenty years later, I'm getting comment posts like this one, "One of the largest supplier of OEM and aftermarket wheels and rims in the US offers its inventory of remanufactured OE wheels, rims, hubcaps and wheel covers at 50% off dealer price. Thanks." I am pretty sure they don't know what I write about (sex and donuts), and if they did, they'd be disappointed in my demographic. Meanwhile, over on Facebook, I'm getting fans who represent "thriving transportation companies" i.e., Truckers. Though it is possible, of course, that there are Truckers who are there for the Sex and Donuts, my guess is that they were misled by the title.

Consequently, I have no idea what to call the Sequel... Volume 2?

Now as for "Hannah's" recent comment, I guess the theory is that all Insomniacs are also addicted to painkillers, or would like to be, which would account for her willingness to share this helpful advice, "I never go to my doctor anymore asking for pain killers prescription and then be turned down at the end, all I do is order online hassle free and low cost, they have three pain killers listed on their website which are ultram tramadol celebrex that you buy, and the best part is no prescription required!" (Not sure where to put the "sic" in that sentence.)  Really? Do I seem like someone who couldn't get a prescription? And you should see the thriving entrepreneurial spirit at the bus stop just outside my office. Besides, anyone who's read my ordeals in dentistry knows I hate painkillers -- they just make me thirsty and itchy. My solution is to go out of my way to avoid anything that would hurt.

I'm not sure what "Bob C." means when he writes on a recent 30 Rock post "I want a YouFace skin for Facebook." That's probably someone I went to college with.

Now as for our friend "Soju" who posts here so often I get kind of worried if I don't hear from her for a few days, sometimes I still feel like she doesn't know me at all. She wrote earlier today, "I highly entrust the use of Ambien, which you can buy even without prescription." Really? Really Soju. It's almost like she hasn't even read the column.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Greatest of these is Charity

Right now, as we speak, Chef Baby Brother is putting together my Mom's new laptop, and I know this because she just called and said, "what's my facebook password again?" (an account I set up for her last visit). I think she'll enjoy sharing pictures and knitting tips and all that.

But in retrospect, maybe not such a good idea. Because sooner or later, she's going to stumble across this blog. (She already does from time to time when her friends show it to her.) And she's going to have a stroke. And it's going to be my fault.

There is, of course, no end to the ways in which I disappoint her -- but this week, it is going to be the fact that I brazenly asked for help. In a very public way. The combination of packing the old place and facelifting the new place got to be too much for me; everyone asked if they could do something; and I finally came up with a Basic -- could they please feed me til after The Move?

And boy have they?! Aztec Chicken Soup; Pork Chops and Brussel Sprouts; Quiche and Cornbread and a homemade CAKE. All I really meant when I asked them to feed me was, maybe, grab a vat of potato salad at the DiscoKroger for me if they happened to be there anyway. I never expected this (though I should have, because it's well-documented that I have the greatest friends in the world). I think it's entirely possible I sang a few bars of "My Heart Will Go On" when I pulled into the driveway tonight. I don't even know the words (I assure you), but that's how overcome I was with gratitude. (Who even knew my BFF could cook? I didn't. She is so busted at the next Brunch.) Sure, I could've managed carry-out and fast-food for the next few weeks -- theoretically -- but that's presuming I wouldn't just pull up to the speaker and sit there, stupefied and paralyzed. I really felt like I had to get one decision off my plate (so to speak). I don't even want to let anyone into my house right now because I feel like it looks like an episode straight out of Hoarders (although my gal Kimmy swears no one would judge me -- at least not out loud).

My mother, on the other hand, would die before she'd ask for ice water in the desert, and she'd be hard-pressed to accept it, even if it was offered. As everyone knows, my mother has pulmonary fibrosis (and is oxygen-dependent, though her little trolley doesn't keep her from outrunning me at the mall) and my stepdad has come down with some kind of cancer every single summer that they've been married (bladder, prostate, stomach, colon -- most recently esophageal -- not to mention cardiomyopathy and a defibrillator implant). Throughout these bouts, the only help the two of them have accepted has been the stealth kind -- where, say, a neighbor cuts their grass; or somebody lets themselves in with an emergency key and stows a bucket of chicken in their fridge. That is about it. They are pay-as-they-go people, and they don't owe anybody any favors. They hire dogsitters and housesitters and they order pizza when they come home from the hospital. They are the first in line to do anything that needs doing for anyone -- my mother cooks extravagantly for everybody's weddings, funerals, and birthdays; my stepdad has not only fixed every furnace in town and re-wired everyone's houses, he has helped at least two neighbors dig their swimming pools. By Hand. If somebody gets sick, my Mom doesn't just stock their fridges, she goes in and fills their pantry with a six-month supply of toilet paper and paper towels and canned goods, because "you just never know." I'm not keeping score, mind you, I'm just observing. And what I notice is that they never let anybody return the generosity. (They're not generous with themselves either. They are hard on themselves.)

I know it's all very complicated -- I think it has to do with control...with being raised poor and not being willing to accept anything that might smack of charity...with not wanting to be "beholding" to anybody. Whether it's nature or nurture -- genetics or learned behavior -- I know I have every one of these tendencies.

My mother would be mortally embarrassed by all the food that has shown up on my doorstep this week -- much less that I asked for it. I might as well be on the dole, banging my tin cup, and shelling out food stamps for a cartful of Little Debbies. My college buddy Phoef is well-acquainted with my Mom and asked, "Do you need me to bring some cinderblocks over to the new front yard, so we can put your car up on them? Is that porch big enough to put all your dogs under it? Because you've just crossed your Mama's line into White Trash." I know my mother has had to grit her teeth everytime I have talked about this year's potlucks ("what? you invite people for dinner and ask them to bring their dinner?" While it was not an easy concept for me to embrace, it is the single best thing that ever happened to my social life.)

What I've learned, over the years, is that it is a little selfish -- a little less-than-gracious -- to always insist on being the person doing the Giving and never the receiving (unless, of course, you are talking about oral sex -- in which case, most folks are pretty forgiving; or at least they can "get through it.").

Hear that? My Mom's head just exploded.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Feed Me. (Please.)

I was not raised to be a woman who raises her voice. So I was none too proud of myself when I found myself yelling across a parking lot yesterday. "Mike! Miiiiiiiiiike! Mike: do you have a couple convicts I can use to move a fridge?!"


"A Refrigerator! I need to use your convicts. To Move One," I screamed back. (Like a goddamn fishwife you might say, and you'd be right.)

Mike's one of my office neighbors, and he is always rushing somewhere. I don't know his number or anything; I just have to run him down where ever I find him. Sometimes that means chasing him down the street screaming. He is the source of anything and anyone worth knowing -- particularly, how to get convict labor to pick up heavy things and carry them. For not very much money. (I don't even know where they keep the convicts, but Mike does.) The conversation ended with him saying he'd find some of them, and then they'd come find me, and then they'd come move the fridge.

It's the spare Fridge that currently lives in the basement and needs to go live in the utility room at the new house. I could just leave it behind, but it's shocking how much and how often I use it for overflow cooking and freezing. The idea of having two kitchens in full-blown transition for two full weeks is crippling for my inner Rainman. Worse, I realized the contents of both fridges had severely deteriorated during "The Month I Took Nothing But Broth," and currently adds up to half a jar of XoChitl (so-cheel) salsa, a bottle of Sriracha, two limes, gorgonzola cheese, and three pounds of Amish butter (I'm not an animal) -- in short, stuff that I could put on food, if I ever got any food. I'm too paralyzed to re-stock, because which kitchen should I go to? Civilization as I knew it was clearly collapsing.

That's around the point that I came home, curled up in a ball, and began rocking myself while singing "Tis a Gift to be Simple." (Perhaps I was gently weaving a broom. I can't be sure.)

And then, I abdicated and delegated. I realized there's no reason for me to run my life when there are so many people close by who could do a much better job at it. So I put the word out that I was putting myself in their capable hands til after The Move (it took on capitalization this weekend). My BFF called this morning and asked for clarification. She thought (not without some justification) that it might be a metaphor. Once she realized it was real, she got on board and began asking around about condiments (she does not typically cook, nor would I expect her to), and luckily my cousin stepped up to remind everybody "thou shalt not mention mayonnaise."  (I hate to let a date order it on a burger across the table from me, because some of it might actually get on mine.) That's about it in terms of things I don't eat: mayonnaise. And Beets.

Today I came home from a day of plumber-wrangling (one step away from installing "FannyCam" at the new house) and found an amazing quart of Aztec Chicken Soup, accompanied by a text from my Publicist and FoodGay Michael Jansen Miller "ChefTom just dropped off Banjo Broth(-ish) at Deck Formerly Known as Relevant."

I hadn't thought of that, but it's true. We now have a new Deck of Depravity (and the new one has a View... directly into the third floor of the Swanky McSwankerton house behind us).

All I know is today, the Plumber made friends with the Painter. And now I have to hope they don't ally and oust me in a bloody coup. I sort of have visions of the two of them living there together. With my dogs.

So far so good. But if things get much more chaotic, I might have to activate the Guard. (Can I do that?)

Straight Outta Compton

As I prepare to move to the new house, far and away (an entire block from the DiscoKroger), selected Straights (particularly those with contracting/design skills) have been admitted to assess the damages/repairs needed before we get to the state of habitability.

 Today for example, Scott and Linda noticed that most of the doors don't close. That was before the upstairs deck doorknob fell off in their hand when they tried to open it to look at the widow's walk.) Not the bathroom doors, the hall doors, the tv room doors, and most distressedly, not the upstairs closet doors (when "everybody knows that is where the monsters hide," as one on-site 12-year-old observed). Surely this could be fixed, I asked innocently? A little shaving of the jambs perhaps? "Yeah," came the contractor answer. "If we can get those painted-over pins out; take the doors off their hinges; and then sand down all the edges with a planer, and re-hang them. Do you have a planer handy?" Well, no. But I'm sure they make them  All I know is, doors that don't open and close are bad, bad ju-ju, so now, I have to find a planer.

The reason I've only let the Straights and the Parents in so far, is because after what they've put me through ("the important thing is that YOU like it honey,"), I don't dare risk the View from the Gays until I've gotten a little further into the rehab.

 I left them to problem-solve while I went to Home Depot for Round 17 for Tri Sodium Phosphate (or TSP) -- for painting prep -- though I kept asking for the TPS (from Office Space, which cracked up the 19 year old stock boy, Zack -- because apparently it's a classic for every generation -- Zack and I are old friends now). I also needed chains -- copious, Jacob Marley-amounts of chains -- so I could begin anchoring all my outdoor furniture.

Now, everyone has pointed out that I am moving one block -- but let's be fair: it is one block Northeast. And THIS is what I found in the yard at the new house this weekend. OK, first, who needs "personal lubricant jelly" so badly, and in such a hurry, that they have to bust open a box in front of a public park? The label says it's pharmacist-recommended, but I find it hard to believe anyone asks their pharmacists for an opinion on this particular product (or that the pharmacist wouldn't go brand-name on this; c'mon, not everything's created equal). But more importantly, I think it should be obvious that anyone in dire enough economic straits to use Kroger-Brand "jelly" is most definitely someone who would rob me, starting with my grill and patio furniture. (Even if it is gentle, safe, non-greasy, and fragrance-free.)

Linda thought nothing of my discovery, explaining that all the porches in her neighborhood (she lives in the heart of the student-ghetto) are fully stocked with toilets and bathtubs. Scott countered that those would never last in his neighborhood, because somebody would promptly steal them, thinking, "hey, I can make a meth lab out of that!"

What followed that was a half hour discussion as to how the yard could be re-configured and fenced. The first thing Scott asked was, "are you in-between dogs right now," and then he laughed, "literally, and figuratively?" He explained to Linda in great detail how he'd met "the Last One" (eyes rolled) at the Disco Kroger and what a good first impression he'd made. "He stood his ground and looked me right in the eye. They never do that." Linda acknowledged that he was ok by her because of the sheer volume of Girl Scout Cookies he'd purchased. Then she laughed, and said, "well you sure can't have a Hard Dog to Keep on the Porch now -- just look at all these..." (and she gestured to the front porch, the porch swing, the brick patio, and the rear deck.)

Yeah. That's what the chains are really for.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Assessment Lottery

"I would've been happy to text him while I was eating Thai with my friends, so he could go eat ribs with his kids. I even offered to eat Mexican with him provided we could take off our clothes before we came in the house, burn them, and then hop in the shower together. I don't like the smell of onions in my hair and I thought this was a fair compromise... To be honest, I never cared what we did together anyway. The whole point of this thing as far as I'm concerned is to meet somebody you can stand, and then stay HOME with them.
--Reality Truck, the column, 2007

Despite all my Rainman-tendencies and my meticulous count of toothpicks, one of the things that doesn't make me nervous is First Dates. It's like Public Speaking and Job Interviews in that I think it ranks high on other people's lists, but barely registers on mine. Don't get me wrong, I embarrass as easily as the next person. I try to dress appropriately and not get spinach in my teeth, but I don't make any herculean efforts beyond that. Sure I guess I want to be liked, but I think it's more important to spend my time deciding whether I like them. I am busy. I have limited time and resources to devote. They better show me somethin' special. (No. Not that.)

Lately, I've been at Home Depot every morning when the doors open so I have time to let the Plumber in at the new house and get him started, where I usually keep him company, working like a slave, schlepping and spackling. This past weekend, I didn't even remember til I got a voicemail reminding me which restaurant I was supposed to be at that A. I had (probably unwisely) scheduled a first date on  top of a day spent as a pack mule, or B. that I had scheduled a date at all  (I must've said Yes when he called post-Ambien). I just wanted to stay home and eat hot dogs and watch HBO. But no, this is my third job right now-- the new house is my second job-- and I'm not one to call in sick.  The impending dog is my fourth job.)

I have a lot of first dates these days -- more than average -- because the instant I got dumped, I put out a press release letting all my friends know that they will each be assessed ONE boyfriend for me this year. I think what I said was, "Have him washed and brought to my tent!"

They have twelve months. They can pace themselves. (It's worked for me before, and it's also how I've found houses and jobs in the past.) I prefer boyfriends to dating. Guys ask me out everyday. Big deal. I have no shortage of men to go places with. This isn't a typical commitment-starved hysterical female stereotype. I'm deliriously happy alone, but if I'm gonna cede time and space to someone else, what I want is someone I can stay home with -- but he can't want to marry me; live with me; or have children with me -- he just has to stay home with me. Sometimes. Not like a hostage, just once in a while, after we get done drinking-for-charity. (Plus I do like the prospect in a committed relationship of really being able to let myself go someday ...Just kidding, I am happy to maintain the landscape. It's the least I can do. Along with all the cooking, cleaning, and twice-a-day Ring-Toss. Yeah. They've really got a rough gig here.)

One of my married girlfriends was in the process of being filled in on the Lottery at lunch the other day when I walked in, and she looked up without batting an eye and asked, "so how tall does he need to be?" And then she took a few notes. By the time I got home, I had a facebook dossier of "new friend suggestions," along with introductions. (Sometimes it gets confusing: a lawyer asked me to lunch via Facebook, and I initially couldn't tell if he wanted to sue me, or ask for my business for his Firm -- but it turned out, one of my lawyer-girlfriends had just "referred" him to me for a little... amicus briefing.)

Size is a tricky question now, because while I have always liked 'em strapping, the upstairs at the new place has so many eaves and odd-angles that two Ex-es (my usual types) nearly decapitated themselves on the ceiling fans when they dropped by to survey it and help paint. So I either have to go back to a delicate petite flower type, or I guess I can just stick with the big boys and hold em down on the new sofa in the new "home theatre" (one of 'em already brought over a little wine fridge housewarming gift, so I assume everybody already agrees that room will be the destination of choice.)

So far, all the prospectives have been practical genetic mutations of height (and would make a heckuva basketball team), so I can only assume that my friends are taking the wish list seriously. All are divorced or never-married (in each case, I have contrived a way to get into their house for at least the 38 second "Mission Impossible" investigation where I can discern there is No Woman living there in any capacity). I'm not there to judge their housekeeping or their taste in art, I just want to make sure they live where they say they do. Alone. As a commitment-phobe who doesn't want to give anyone false encouragement, I would usually save that kinda thing for a 7th or 8th date, but the risk to that is: anyone who's evasive might turn out to be deceptive, so I'm just keepin it real. (And verified. Not that it really matters because Linda invariably runs a background check on everybody I've ever gone out with more than twice -- it's amazing what she's able to discern via public records, PVA, and clerk filings.)

Anyway, I've gotten some cool souvenirs out of all my skulduggery -- a plant cutting (which was my excuse for insisting we drop by for it), a couple heirloom bulbs, a really nice signed black and white photo print, and in one case, half of a leftover homemade lasagne (score). I don't require lovely parting gifts of course, but hey, this is a trend I might begin to encourage. It's like Danny DeVito says at the end of War of the Roses, "So what do we take from this.... other than that Dog People shouldn't marry Cat People?" -- better to get that all on the table up front.

Every time I go into one of these houses I am thinking A. Please don't kill me, and B. thank God I always stuff a lot of cash in my purse before every date. (Because if I see a cat? 231-TAXI. Tampons in the medicine cabinet? That's ok: I wore running shoes!)

By anyone's standards, I have gotten lucky in this process (not that kinda lucky; just so you know, I don't even believe in kissing till at least the third date, so I think I've been unwittingly creating a lot of disappointment in that perhaps these prospects had been led to believe my style was a little more "aggressive." It is....with people I've known, roughly, forever. Naked Time is NOT a casual process for me, much less Ring Toss. It may be spirited, but, it is not casual. Serial monogamy is my preference and it takes me a long time to reach the romantic, sentimental, well-considered decision that I can not better-deal this guy... that he is the best I'm gonna do).

To a man, every one of them has even been Catholic, for chrissake, which is really just "icing," not a requirement. And to a man, they have all also been better looking than I am. And I don't say that as a self-deprecating fishing expedition ("hey everybody, tell me how great I look!"). No, no. I'm fine. And for 40-something, I might even be a little above average (especially once you factor in the ...Tight Ship... I run, having never had children). But most of these guys are 30-somethings, and that's just an edge. I don't want anybody thinking I'm their mother. And laughing.

One of these children sat down at dinner and the first thing out of his mouth was, "by the way, your hair is beautiful." (It turns out, the guy who introduced us on Facebook had told him I might not leave the house for six months because of an unfortunate haircut.) Well, I thought he was being sarcastic, so I snapped back, "Thanks. But it usually looks a LOT. Better." Then I told him (somewhat defiantly) I couldn't read the menu because I hadn't picked up my new bifocals yet ('yeah, you wanna make something of it buddy?'), and he just laughed and held it out for me at varying adjustments across the table until I could make out what I wanted. Sure, it's fine if these whippersnappers want to date someone of my advancing years, but I make sure they know right up front what they might be getting themselves into. ("You asked for it, Sonny!" is what I'm thinking. They better know right now I might be sending them downstairs someday to "fetch my walker!") I think one of the sweetest date offers ever was him volunteering to take me to pick up my new glasses, since we were driving right past. Any guy who'll willingly spend a date night at LensCrafters with you either has massive game, or is at heart, a pretty sweet person.

Now, I will acknowledge that this whole process has been complicated by the fact that my Prostatitis has chosen this very season to act up again  (the docs say Kidney Stones, but I swear, my symptoms fit prostatitis much more accurately on WebMD). And while we all know that's not appropriate date, or dinner conversation, and would make anyone's list of TooMuchInformation, it's a bit of a dilemma. Because I end up excusing myself to go to the bathroom at least six times over an average meal, and if I don't explain it, at some point, they're going to conclude I have a coke habit, or that I'm in there shooting up. It's so embarrassing, but sooner or later, they're all gonna call me CUTI (chronic-urinary-tract-infection). As terms of endearments go, it could be worse.

Although the need for frequent bathroom breaks IS an excellent -- if shameless -- excuse for impromptu detours by their house while we're out. Any straight man who keeps a spotless bathroom even if he isn't expecting guests is above-average civilized. (Or, he just might not be straight. Either way, it's good to know.)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Volume One: The Condensed Version

The last couple weeks, it seems like all I've done is go to production meetings about the new book (there is no way to write that without sounding like a poser; I tried about seven) -- during which, I've had to describe, in great detail, everything I disliked about the last book -- so I can avoid making the same mistakes this time out. It's not that I hated it, exactly.  Mostly, I was just really, really young. That problem has since been solved.

What I am enjoying is Michael Jansen Miller's twitter-ized version of Reality Truck, Volume 1. He posts it in a very DailySedaris style, which is no mean feat, given that he's certainly not got Sedaris to work with for raw material.

It's funny whenever I see him tag things RTv1 -- because when I first got to twitter (a couple years ago), and I saw all the ReTweets (or "RTs") I always did wonder why everybody was suddenly talking to me all the time.

At any rate, here's a sampling of Reality Truck, Volume 1 the way Michael Jansen Miller sees it, 140 characters at a time (along with a few of his related observations):
  • "I asked for a whole new look, I'm just not sure I wanted that new look to say, 'will this be cash or charge?'- Reality Truck V.1"
  • "Life was good, or more important (where I went to school anyway) it looked good.... -RTv.1"

  • "Or as my friend Scott said in pondering my birthday present, 'Does Prada make a crown of thorns for the Catholic who has everything?'- RTv.1 "
  •  "...Then I got *bangs*, and it's essentially all been downhill from there." -Reality Truck V.1"
  • "After hours of sparkling debate, we reached the following conclusion: Everybody lies, but it doesn't matter, because nobody listens. -RTv.1"
  • "I get to my office, open up all my email and mail, and 'work.' Sometimes I 'write' and sometimes I 'edit.' Sometimes I 'cry.' -RTv.1 "
  •  "I have given up hope that I will ever live in a home that would be considered "habitable" by people who have what my parents refer to as 'standards'.-RTv.1"
  • "So we came to the mutual conclusion that he needed a more traditional wife. And I really hope he's found that in Mark.- Reality Truck V.1"
These two were about the same girl:  "For someone with limited musical knowledge (except whatever she gleaned as a groupie), she managed to play both of them like a fiddle.-RTv.1" and "We were 'otherwise engaged' (athletically so- I might add), at the time of her call or I might've paid more attention.- Reality Truck v1.
  • "Here are three words you never want to hear in the same sentence: upper, lower, and GI.- Reality Truck V.1"
  • "Things got off to a bad start when the admissions staff broke the ice by asking if I had a 'Living Will.' -Reality Truck V.1"
  • "I had to give up caffeine, chocolate, and cheap red wine. In short, I had to abandon everything that gives my life meaning.-RealityTruck V.1"

  • "I don't think I have what it takes to be obscenely weathy...namely, money.- Reality Truck V.1." And then he writes, "The Second Coming: Fall 2010. Pray." [And that is when I wondered why he isn't on my payroll as publicist.]
  • "I'd never in my life been so happy to see a person in white shoes. - Reality Truck V.1." He adds, "Shoe on the other foot? Fall 2010: RT: The Sequel
  •   "I have to say there aren't too many friends who'll come over with a spade on their lunch hour and help you bury a dead body.-RealityTruckV.1" (I should maybe clarify, that passage was about my late cat, Steve, and not the Stalker also named Steve, who came along a couple years later, and is, as far as I know, still alive.)
  • "I may be poor, but here are two words I pray you'll never hear in the same breath as my name: Miss. Clairol.- Reality Truck V.1"
  • "The downside is, nothing in my life *goes* with this hair. No *one* goes with this hair.- Reality Truck V.1"
  • "@MissKristina It is fun to SQUEEEZz Ms. R into anything approximating 140 characters. Glad you're liking it!"
  • "Save the date! Reality Truck, the Sequel (in 3D?) rolls into town October 1." [Again, WHY isn't he on the payroll?]
  •  "Ellen is busy alienating all her friends, screwing around on her nice boss/boyfriend, wrecking her career and coughing up blood.-RTv.1" [It took me a minute to remember this was a thirtysomething reference. It may be dated, but it's still my favorite memory of the 80s, and the DVDs will be the first movie night in the new place.]
    And on a totally unrelated note, he posts:
    •  "Lesbian Teen Prom Battle. When I was in high school, the lesbians had NO interest in going to the Prom. And I should know. I took one," along with, "I'm starting to think we could maybe just decide Mayor using #foursquare."
    When I suggested we ought to ditch the real Volume 1 and just publish his version as a little chap-book every coffee table in town would need, he responded,  "Need Ralph Lauren paint samples swatches as end paper-- homage to the future as we honor the past."


    I tell him, "but YOUR version of the book is SO much better than mine." He says, "Yeah. That's what they said to KingJames. I hear that didn't turn out so well.

    Friday, March 12, 2010

    Tamales and Tablecloths

     "It would be a stretch to say that I enjoyed coaxing mattresses up five flights of stairs, but it was nice to work as part of a team. The money was nothing compared with what other people earned answering phones or slipping suppositories into the rectums of senior citizens [but] The cash was bounce-proof and most everyone included a tip."
    --David Sedaris, Me Talk Pretty One Day

    The old saying is "friends help you move; real friends help you move bodies." I think after the age of 30, it's time to leave behind the days of exchanging beer and pizza for heavy manual labor. As with so much in life, there are people you can pay to do those things for you.

    I can't remember the name of the company I used last time, but I do remember they broke two lamps; I tipped them heavily; I provided cold soft drinks and bottled water; and when they admired the contents of my freezer, I sent them each home with a package of thick-cut bone-in rib-eyes. Their crew chief' was a giant of a guy named Roméo (not pronounced like Juliet's boyfriend, but rhyming, instead, with Rodeo Drive). I thought he might come back later and kill me. I'm still surprised he didn't.

    We used an actual convict crew the last time we moved the office, and they were quite a bit more pleasant, BUT every time my back was turned, they had the Interns carrying their own desks. (It's not that I might not someday ask an intern to move a desk, but I didn't think convicted felons should take such cavalier liberties.)

    Finding painters is proving a little more problematic. I actually like to paint, and I'm pretty good at it, but I haven't really had the equipment to do it right (ladders, dropcloths, extenders, etc.) since I sold the last place (where I actually kept scaffolding in the basement, just in case I needed it).

    One friend recommended a guy who "painted the exterior of my little shack for cheap and his wife sent me tamales. He did send a cousin to do most of the work, and at one point we had a communication error that left me thinking that I had either agreed to pay him $200 for a tablecloth that his mother would make...or that she was coming to live with me." Well. That sounds awkward, but... I am pretty sold on the idea that they "did a great job for about a third of the other estimates." 

    I do like tamales, but I am not a big fan of tablecloths or roommates.

    Wednesday, March 10, 2010

    What the Phở-

    Today I tried my very first Phở . I have no idea if blogger will spell it correctly, and since I was cautioned heavily ahead of time, I did not try to order it out loud. ("Fuh" is the best approximation I can manage, and that's only among close friends.) I only pointed at it on the Menu. Even then, our presence was barely tolerated. I felt just like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman when the scornful salesgirl insists they don't have her size, while America's sweetheart (but not mine) waves around a wad of cash, "I got money to spend here!!"

    I have to say, I am not somebody who appreciates even thinly-disguised contempt (gussy it up a little) -- much less open hostility. My food gays walked me through the ordering via text and it was just as they described it: light, bright, fresh, clear, and crisp. But incredibly subtle and sophisticated.

    Speaking as someone who was finally ready to sit up and take a little broth: it lived up to the hype. For once, nobody had to hear me say, "this is good, but you should really taste mine. It's better." And it's just so rare to try an entirely new (to me) flavor profile. I walked out saying I had never tasted anything like it (yeah yeah, that's what she said).

    From now on, I'll go with carryout though and minimize the emotional exposure.

    Tuesday, March 9, 2010

    The Pink Issue

    So I get a text this afternoon -- in medias res -- out of nowhere, that says: "Now I remember why I never go shopping. Not only was the traffic horrible, but I waited nearly an hour to get a knowledgeable sales clerk, and then I left because they never got free of other customers. I'm going to buy this thing online. The biggest problem will probably be the ‘pink’ issue. If you had to choose between higher quality and ‘pink,' which would you choose?"

    My response was "who is this?"
    Which was met with. "Ha. Ha."

    Of course I knew who it was, because there are not that many men who A. are allowed to buy me electronics, and  B. complain about what an ordeal it was just so I'll know how hard they worked at it. It is my own fault, because that is somehow one of the take-aways he got out of all of his "thought that counts" training (as documented over many, many years). He was married for a decade before he ever met me, so he had already learned, in that Divorce, "to be generous to the point of night sweats," (War of the Roses was one of our first DVD nights). That was never his problem; it was the little thoughtful gestures he learned from me. And to this day, if given a choice, he'll err on the side of extravagance every time. Sigh. He means well.

    I never have written about him much because -- like the fact that my size 2s are now falling off me -- a lot of our issues were what's known as  "high-class problems," -- i.e., the kind nobody has much sympathy for, and for good reason. Happy Relationships can be pretty dull (at least when it comes to material... "he's soooo dreamy" -- who wants to read that?) But he's not my boyfriend anymore, and even when he was, my point then was, that I preferred being Loved to being Bought. And then I'd be forced to clarify, hell, I didn't really want to be loved so much as I wanted... a regular supply of doughnuts; a spirited game of Ring-Toss twice a day (once was always plenty for him, and it was an admitted problem....ok, ok, also a high class problem); and then to be left alone. 

    So of course my answer today was: "PINK!" I don't care how high-end this particular gadget is, how much or how little it costs, or even what it is... These 99 cent garden gloves? The highlight of my weekend. And I mean that with all sincerity.

    [ Nowwwwwwww, these roses would of course meet any and every girl's criteria -- they're pink; they represent the very essence of thoughtfulness; they happen to be extravagant; they were very hard to come by; and they came BOXED so that a control freak like me could do my own arranging and thus "let the architecture of the flowers speak for themselves." They were sent to the office -- as appropriate -- and THEN hand-delivered to my house when I wasn't at the office... I think it goes without saying they were a present from the Food Gays. Those two strike fear into the hearts of Straights everywhere. As. They. Should. They ain't been married 27 years for nothin.]

    TommyBoy and The Visigoths next Door

    Along with our budding daffodils, a new boyfriend has arrived at the Hot Sorority Visigoth's next door for the Spring. I typically only ID their rotating boyfriends by car make and model, so all I knew is that we had most recently fallen madly in love with a charcoal gray Ford F150.

    It turns out his name is Tommy and he's been here long enough I am willing to learn his name (though I wrote it down in front of him, so he has to know his odds aren't that great). We hung out on the deck this afternoon and got sunburned. He said, "so the girls tell me you're a writer. What kinda writer are you?"

    I said I was writing right that minute (outlining the 60 columns that still have to be edited into manageable shape)  and showed him the chapter on their roommate who shimmied up my drainpipe and accidentally broke into my upstairs hall as opposed to theirs. I assumed she and her friends had formed a makeshift pyramid and vaulted onto my balcony as their burglary launching point.

    By the time I found her, she was bisected by the hallway window, half in and half out of the house. The top half was in. When I first heard the scuffle, I was expecting, perhaps a racoon -- as opposed to a hot sorority visigoth. So it's fair to say we were both startled.

    Tommy explained to me today she's the smallest of the Visigoths at only about 4'11" and 90 pounds (though it sure didn't make it any easier to drag her ass through that window, I'm here to tell ya) -- as if I was genuinely worried about the security risk she posed. The problem wasn't really that I didn't think I could take her.... the more legitimate concern was how darn relieved I was I hadn't shot her.

    Delightful gal! They laughed...nervously.