Friday, December 5, 2008

Blink Faster

The other night I was sitting at a light (why do all my stories begin this way lately?), waiting to turn left. So, being a responsible driver, I had my blinker on. It was a long light. And I drive an old car. Perhaps I should not have been surprised when, about two minutes into the wait, my blinker … went on the blink. Instead of its usual bink.uh.bink.uh.bink it started blinking at a furious rate. Like it was mad. Or trying to give me a heart attack. One of my pet peeves is frantic blinkers – either in my own car or on the tail end of the car in front of me. They seem unnecessarily stressful. I know you’re turning. You're in the turn lane. No need to get all manic and insistent about it.

Anyway, my left-turn blinker would only blink at warp speed for the rest of the night although the right-turn blinker was fine. And the left-turn blinker had returned to its normal rate by the next day. Apparently it was just having a moment. I'm glad. I'd have hated having to give up indicating left turns.


I can hardly believe it’s December already. It seems like only yesterday it was August and 106 degrees here. Now it’s finally cold enough to feel like Christmas. (Thank heaven! I was beginning to worry I wasn’t going to catch up with the holiday until, say, February.) J-Mom is flying in tonight for her annual Christmas visit. Yay! I’ve cleaned up and even decorated for Christmas a little bit.

My one string of plain white fairy lights is a little bit sad. It has to be up way high somewhere, out of reach of my cats. Dickens thinks the little glass bulbs are like popcorn for cats. He loves to chomp on them. He chomped on a couple before I figured this out, which is why only one third of my lights actually shine – the chomping took place about a third of the way down the string. I know I should just get more lights. But I have yet to develop a ceiling-only decorating plan so for now I’m going to use the 33 fairy lights I’ve got and keep an eye on the chomper.

I was born in December and Mom tells me that my first Christmas (not when I was a few weeks old but the next year, just after my first birthday), they had a tree with blinking lights. She thought it was very funny that I blinked when the tree blinked. Every time. If you think about it, that means my first Christmas tree was either always twinkly or always dark.

Hope all your blinks are in sync.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Shopping Tips from the Most Insensitive Person Ever

After work tonight I drove around running errands – picking up drycleaning, going to Home Depot. (I always try to visit Home Depot wearing my girliest clothes. The service is much snappier.)

As I was sitting at a light not really listening to the radio I gradually tuned in to what I was hearing. It was a commercial and it started off something like, “Are you having trouble finding Christmas gifts for those friends who have everything?” I thought to myself, ‘Hm, I know a few people like that.’ So I began to pay closer attention. The cheerful radio Voice continued:

“Well, how about getting them a little confidence? Everyone can always use a little more confidence.” Or something cheesy like that. At this point my own initial spike of interest and confidence in the radio Voice was beginning to fade. Rapidly.

The fade turned into a complete black-out when the Voice got to the punch-line:

“Why not give your friend the gift of laser hair removal?”



That idea had never crossed my mind. Not even once, and I’ve been giving gifts to people for YEARS.

I’ve honestly spent some time this evening trying to picture it and I just cannot come up with any conceivable scenario in which giving someone laser hair removal would be okay. Also, I suspect if someone did surprise you with a certificate for laser hair removal, that unwrapping that particular gift might possibly have the most disastrous effect on your self-confidence EVER.

So I’m thinking the radio Voice belongs to a person who may not understand what gift-giving is supposed to be about – also, the Voice seems to be a little unclear on the meaning of the word ‘confidence.’

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Thread Runs through It

Shakespeare’s King Richard cried, “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!” And you just knew he meant it.

For several days now I’ve felt exactly the same way about cat poop.

And believe me, I NEVER thought I’d say that.

I got home Friday night and over the course of several hours pieced together a little story for what my cats had been up to that day. (I’m actually embarrassed to confess how long it took me. I’d have to give up my life-long membership of the Nancy Drew Girl Sleuth fan club if you only knew.)

Apparently one of my kitties – that would be Wilkie – discovered a spool of thread I had forgotten to put away in full concealment. As anyone would do (come on, you know you would), she chased it all over the house. And when she got tired of that she snacked on it. Ate it all up like Lady and the Tramp slurping up one big long noodle in that famous scene. This being gritty real life rather than a Disney movie Wilkie didn’t fall end up falling in love with a scrappy street dog. No, instead Wilkie then puked up yards of semi-digested thread. (Mistress of the Pleasant Surprise, Wilkie puked up the thread on my bed. She’d have gotten in a lot of trouble for that if I’d figured it out before she fell seriously ill.)

The tricky thing about swallowing a lot of thread – as fun as that must have been – is that sometimes it can get looped around your tongue. So then you’re stuck with thread going through your little kitty digestive system, yet anchored to your poor sore little kitty-tongue. Stalemate, you might say. Eventually – after trying to unsuccessfully to hork up thread every hour on the hour for 16 hours – I figured out what was going on and took her to the vet.

We’ve only lived here a few months so this was our first visit to the vet. Fortunately we got lucky and our new vet – henceforth known in this household as Saint Doctor Baker – knew exactly what was going on. She calmed me down (I was really very worried) and also managed to cure Wilkie without having to operate. The patience-trying, sleep-denying part of the process was having to wait for Wilkie to poop. Days. We waited days.

THREE WHOLE DAYS waiting for a positive outcome. So to speak.

In the meantime, having survived her crisis and come out unscathed, Wilkie is now demonstrating an all-hours, day and night gratitude for being alive. She’s feeling pretty frisky for a middle-aged cat. If she could sing and dance, she would do so. As it is, she is acting at all times like the most friendly, purry, playful 15-pound kitten you’ve ever seen. She asks for belly rubs. She attacks my feet under the covers. She chats chummily whenever I talk on the phone (since she can’t hear the other person, she assumes we’re having a conversation.) And she’s been playing a marathon game of fetch since Sunday morning. She follows me everywhere with cat toys, demanding I throw them for her. I come home from work – there’s a toy by the door, a toy in her food bowl, and a toy in my slippers. I wake up in the morning, there’s a toy by my pillow. I step out of the shower, there’s a toy on the bathmat.

It’s a huge relief. We’re all very happy. Especially Dickens who did not understand why every time I heard him scraping around in the litterbox I’d come tearing in there from the far corners of my apartment thinking he was Wilkie. He’d give me an outraged “Do you MIND?!” look and I’d sheepishly leave him to it. He appreciates the return of my disinterest in all cat litterbox activities. As do I.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Vanished into the Old West

Hi! I’ve been gone FOREVER. Sorry about that. I can’t believe October has come and gone. I’ve been traveling a little and working and adjusting to life in Texas and obsessing about the election and doing some more adjusting and navigating the mysteries of car repair. I keep meaning to come back here and write things down but I’m easily distracted these days – forgive me.

To make it up to you I have a fun show and tell for you, all about my favorite recently-moved-to-Texas story, about the 8th Annual Texas Stampede in downtown Dallas. For those of you unlucky enough to have missed it, I’m posting pictures below for your entertainment.

Apparently this happens every year. They block off Main Street in downtown Dallas and there beneath the glass skyscrapers drovers in chaps on patient-looking horses drive 100 head of longhorn cattle past the crowds of onlookers on break from their workaday business. I found this FASCINATING. First of all, do you have any idea how freakin’ huge a longhorn is????

I mean, we all know they’re big, but when you’re standing on the side of the road watching a local police officer shoo one on his way the gigantic-ness really becomes clear.

Look, a cowboy.

Look, a runaway steer. (Okay, you can't tell that he's a runaway in this shot, but right after I took this photo he came over to the barriers and started snuffling bystanders - starting his own little mini-stampede of people running away from him - until a cowboy came and shuffled him back in with the rest of the herd.)

Note his wonky horns. The slightly-terrifying cowpoke-lady next to me announced that he must have gotten in a fight when he was a baby. I was busy blending in with the scenery so neither steer nor cowpoke-lady would notice me or I might have asked for more information.

All this took place near one of my favorite views in downtown Dallas, the one that includes both the round towers of the Old Red Courthouse and the sphere of Reunion Tower.

Let’s be honest, ‘stampede’ was a misnomer. It was a thoroughly-organized, none-too-hurried amble for everyone concerned. The cows got so bored at the end of it that they turned around and tried to go in reverse. The cowboys on horses WITH BULLWHIPS stopped them. I’m telling you, it was a very weird little break in my workday.

At the end of the road, near Old Red, all the animals had to stop and wait while drovers loaded them up one-by-one into cattle-trailers to take them away. They got bored. One giant longhorn peed, which was startling (maybe not for him, but it was certainly startling to innocent bystanders), but then – power of suggestion being strong in a herd – they all peed. Everyone of them seemed to follow some psychic cow cue and they peed a river all over Main Street. It was pretty funny.

This never once happened when I lived in Boston.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Lexicon, Take Three

It’s been a while since I last updated the LaLa Lexicon. Parts one and two available here. This latest version is mostly brought to you by the letter H, though I’m not sure exactly why.

“A yittle or a yot?” Clarification. A favorite quote from one of my nephews, whose relationship with the letter L is somewhat tenuous. (To him, I am Aunt YaYa.) This question is a very useful way to address matters of scale.

Cosmic particles. Noun. Remember back when something coincidental would happen and people would hum the ‘Twilight Zone’ music? The phrase ‘cosmic particles’, when uttered with wide eyes and a knowing nod, conveys the same consciousness of fate’s twists without anyone having to fake half-sing in public.

Fross. Adjective. When something is really gross, it's fross. Courtesy of my nephew Caden-4yrs, who employs a cavalier approach to certain consonants. Example: If you go outside and accidentally step in dog poop, your shoes will be fross.

Herfing. State of being. Word to describe the feeling you get after eating food that you know is bad for you (like Doritos or in Australia certain very dodgy looking meat pies). This word was coined by a friend while we were traveling in Tasmania on Anzac Day, which is a national holiday. We found ourselves out and about with no open restaurants or stores – and we were very hungry. We had to make do with some sort of cheese+meat+beer+shoes pies from a filling station. Example: After eating those pies we were herfin’.

Hoh-kay. Pronouncement, laced with sarcasm. A form of agreement that implies complete disagreement. The more ‘ho-ho-hos’ you include before the ‘-kay’, the more obvious it becomes you don’t agree. For example, Person A says “Gee, I don’t think the American presidential election lasts long enough. Blink and you’ll miss it.” Person B says “Ho-ho-ho-kay” and walks off, shaking her head.

Hork. Verb. To throw up a big ol’ hairball, usually in the middle of the night. A form of onomatopoeia.

Hormotional. Adjective. Favorite new word from Ugly Betty, used to describe the crazy and wildly varying mood swings sometimes attributed to an overabundance of hormones. Note - Men, use this sparingly. It could get you in trouble. Example: Alternately raving, sobbing, and giggling, she displayed a textbook case of hormotional behavior.

Hotpants. Nickname, gender-neutral. ‘Hotpants’ is what I call you when our paths cross and it becomes instantly clear that you are in your 20s, and are convinced that you will always look like that, that you were born knowing more than all the rest of us, and that the rest of us should feel truly fortunate that you chose to condescend so kindly in our direction. One day, Hotpants, you too will be 35. Just remember that.

Hot-umn. Contraction = hot + autumn. First day of fall here in Dallas, high of 90°F. Definitely hot-umn.

Huh. Noncommittal commentary. Usually uttered as a stand-alone comment devoid of gestures or facial expressions. Surface meaning: I’m listening to what you’re saying. Actual meaning: I totally disagree with you but am not about to get into it. Example: Person A says, “I think OJ Simpson is just misunderstood.” Person B says, “Huh.”

Sensuous. Contraction = since + you + wuz. “Sensuous up, could you get me a drink?” Courtesy of my friend Nooch, who collects Southern contractions the way some people collect Himmel figurines.

Stampede mode. Noun. That feeling you sometimes get that makes it seem like if you don’t get up and run around really fast right now you just might explode. Admittedly, I don’t feel like this very often, but I used to, and my cats seem to feel it every night around 10 pm. Also known as ‘the rip-snorts’ or ‘the evening crazies.’

Through the looking glass. Descriptive phrase. Courtesy of Lewis Carroll, used to describe that feeling you get when something totally bizarre seems to have happened but no one else seems to have noticed.

W :0 W. Commentary + sign language. This one involves using your hands, and was learned from a few weird girls I met at summer camp during my high school years. (Note level of maturity of the source of this gesture, and use accordingly.) Make ‘W’s’ with both hands (you know, backward '3's), hold them up on either side of your head and say “Wow” in a melodramatic fashion, using your head – or the big O of your mouth – to be the middle of the word. This reaction is usually only prompted by something truly amazing.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Little Blue Heart

I’ve had the same keychain for 11 years. Everyday I pick it up and carry it around many times but most of the time it’s grown so familiar that I don’t see it - probably once a day I'll actually focus on it and see it for what it is. It’s a mirrored blue heart made of scuffed-up plastic with the words ‘Patriotism swells in the heart of the American bear’ engraved on it. It fits just perfectly in the palm of my hand.

Eleven years ago I lived in Melbourne and hadn’t been back to the States to visit friends or family in almost 3 years. Just as I was thinking I really needed to get back for a visit an Australian friend of mine – someone I knew socially but not that well – called me up and asked if I wanted to go traveling with her. She was ready for an adventure and thought I might be interested. Clay (that’s the friend) suggested Europe but I told her I was itching to visit the States and she agreed that that would be fun. So we spent some time arranging an itinerary and that November we spent a month traveling all around the States.

First we visited some of her family and one of my college friends in San Francisco. Then we flew to New York and enjoyed what I later referred to as an international summit of my friends – we stayed with some of my college friends, and my Favorite Tiny British Friend flew over from London for the week to visit too. It was the first time my Australian, British and college friends had met.

We had a grand time – we went to the top of the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building, we visited the Met and the Statue of Liberty, we ate bagels and soup from diners, and of course we saw ‘Rent’ on Broadway. (Hey, it was 1997.) We spent many hours talking and laughing and walking around the city. It was such a good visit.

One of the highlights of the visit occurred one night when we decided to stay in. We were staying with my college friend Moon-Fig at the time. Don’t ask about the nickname. To be honest, I can’t remember much about how he got it, except that Clay gave it to him. Oh, and Clay and Moon-Fig are married now. One of the fateful results of that ’97 visit! But in November of 1997 they’d just met. Clay and my Tiny British Friend and I were camping out in Moon-Fig’s apartment and one night we decided to stay in and watch movies. We chose ‘The Muppet Movie.’ Now, it was Moon-Fig’s tape, Moon-Fig’s remote control and totally Moon-Fig’s prerogative to keep stopping and replaying all his favorite funny bits but after a while I have to admit the rest of us were like, “Enough already! It’s the Muppets! They’re hilarious! Let’s keep watching!” He wanted to make sure we fully appreciated the comic genius and we did, sure enough, but we also really wanted the movie just to keep going.

So later in the movie there’s a sequence of shots that shows the majesty of the American landscape – gorgeous panoramic views of the glorious mountains and plains and canyons. Over these scenes you hear Fozzie Bear singing ‘America, the Beautiful.’ He’s so sincere. So… Fozzie. The last shot in that sequence the camera pans back to a vast and lonely highway somewhere in an empty but beautiful landscape and stops on an old station wagon, barreling down the road straight at the camera. Fozzie Bear drives the car and every cubic inch of space in the rest of that car is crammed to bursting with very irritated looking Muppets. Every one of them is directing a Glare of Death at Fozzie and it is instantly apparent that a) the angry Muppets have chosen not to sing with Fozzie in protest and b) Fozzie has probably been singing for a LONG time. Fozzie finishes his song, heaves a big sigh of oblivious contentment and then says happily, “Ah, patriotism swells in the heart of the American bear.”

At this point Clay, Tiny British Friend and I completely lost it. All three of us simultaneously burst out laughing so hard that we were doubled over, gasping for breath, tears streaming down our faces. And Moon-Fig sat there watching us, looking utterly puzzled. We made him stop and replay it. Again and again and again. And he could not for the life of him figure out why to us that was the funniest thing we’d seen all night when he’d so patiently showed us all the other bits of the movie that were so much funnier. And of course the fact that he didn't get it made it that much funnier. Poor boy.

So later that week we three girls were out being tourists again and Clay and Tiny British Friend decided they wanted to go see the World Trade Center. I had had quite enough of heights so I agreed to meet them elsewhere later. When we met they gave me a keychain, my own blue heart with Fozzie’s line on it – and they each had one too. They’d gotten to the World Trade Center too late to make it to the top but on their way out had stopped by one of those souvenir carts and asked a guy to engrave them for us.

They’re still in my life - Clay, Moon-Fig, Tiny British Friend, and others we visited that month - though so much time has passed and we now live on three different continents. That trip was wonderful and the start of so many things. So that’s why I carry my little blue Fozzie heart with me everywhere – to keep those important people and places in my hand and mind daily, when they’re too far away to be here themselves.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Putting the labor back into Labor Day

I don't know how you all spent your long weekend, but Dickens and Wilkie worked really hard.

Dickens working on his abs.

Putting their heads together.

Veeeeery sloooooow acrobatics...

Monday, August 25, 2008

News from the Natural World

Okay, so before I tell you news of the animals in my neighborhood, let's wrap up the Karl Malden question.

Frankly, good ol’ Karl remains something of an enigma. A few of you knew exactly who he was – remind me never to play Trivial Pursuit against you! But the majority of you were like me: ‘Karl Malden’ sounds familiar but we can’t picture him and we have no idea why we know who he is. He’s a perfect example of why I’m daily grateful for the invention of Google.

Enough of the mysteriously famous Karl Malden. Let’s talk animals. Today when I got home from work I was greeted with the sight of an artistic yet clearly critical editorial comment from the cats. Message: I have not decorated to their taste. I know this because one of them (or perhaps both, working together in what would be a surprising display of teamwork) somehow popped the lid off one of the plastic storage bins under my bed (WITHOUT THUMBS, mind you) and used the 1” opening to liberate a 4” ball of blue wool. Then the kitties used the yarn to decorate the apartment – the result looked like a yarn version of those old ‘Family Circus’ comic strips where you could follow Little Billy through the labyrinth of his day. Modestly, neither claimed credit for this accomplishment. Also, neither rose to the bait when I accused them of being clich├ęd. Huh.

In the much more disgusting animal encounter of the day, I had a surreal moment with a squirrel. I was talking on the phone to my sister, idly looking out the window, when I saw a squirrel walking around on my apartment balcony, just on the other side of the window from me. I tried to get my cats interested, “Look! Kitties! It’s a SQUIRREL!” They heard me and looked very closely at my pointed finger, but missed the bigger picture. So I picked up Dickens and put his little pink nose to the glass. I’m standing there with the phone against one ear, holding my cat up for a better view, when the squirrel sees us.

And then…

Only 5 feet away from us, perched on the edge of my balcony, MAKING EYE CONTACT THE WHOLE TIME, the squirrel peed on my balcony.

Then he ran away. Dickens went off to investigate his dinner bowl. And my sister and I discussed the fact that my neighborhood squirrel is a pervert. I gotta tell you: my opinion of squirrels is at an all-time low.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

What Does Karl Malden Mean to You?

I'm taking a quick poll. Quick, if you've ever heard of Karl Malden, please raise your hand.

All right, now if you know WHY you've heard of Karl Malden, please keep your hand in the air.

If you know anything about Karl Malden's claim to fame - WITHOUT LOOKING HIM UP - please enlighten us in the comments section. No sneaking away to Google now. This is a pop quiz, no reference materials allowed.


You may be wondering, 'Why the sudden obsession with Karl Malden?' (And if you aren't, please check the pulse on your ol' sense of curiosity.) It all came about because this week at work I had an allegedly professional, completely sidetracked, highly amusing conversation with colleagues in which Karl Malden suddenly came out of nowhere and took over the discussion. It was a conversational ambush. I still get tickled just thinking about it (seemed a lot like my recently-explained-but-for-so-long mysterious childhood fascination with the Norman Luboff choir) and was inspired to conduct this poll.

So please leave a comment: what does Karl Malden mean to you?!

I really can't wait to hear it.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

In a Nutshell

Who am I kidding? I couldn’t summarize the past month in a nutshell even if you broke open the biggest coconut in the world and gave me both halves. But I’ll give it a shot.

I’m in Texas! It’s taken a month to get partially settled and I suspect it will take a full year to begin to feel perfectly home-like. There have been a few things to adjust to, chiefly the fact that it’s been over 100 degrees almost every single day since I got here. Walking outside you get a very clear idea what it must feel like to be a hamburger when the cook uses a spatula to squish it into the grill. Squeezed by heat on all sides.

Also it’s taken a full month to get my new apartment wired for television and internet. For a while there it was like I moved to the past – I never had any idea what was going on unless someone else told me. There was an earthquake in California? Oh. Did not know that. I’m finally connected again and believe me, if I thought they’d appreciate it, I’d have given both my television and laptop huge hugs of welcome. I sure missed them.

Getting to Texas was an adventure. My friend MKA (hereafter known as Nooch) deserves haloes, trophies, treasure and accolades for driving with me the 2000 miles from Boston to Dallas. In 4 days. In a 12-foot banana yellow Penske truck filled with all my belongings. With 2 unhappy cats in the cab with us. While I had a never-ending summer cold. That made me hard of hearing. Seriously – someone buy the woman a drink.

The first day we were a little giggly with the novelty of it: look at us! We’re driving a big yellow truck! You’d better get out of our way! Here comes The Big Yellowness! We figured out how to get our ipods to play on the truck’s radio (believe me, it took figuring out) and we enjoyed the singing-at-the-top-of-our-lungs aspect of the road trip. (The cats really didn’t seem to appreciate that part at all. You’d have thought they might find it comforting, but no.)

We were also really into reading the names of funny towns and snapping pics of funny signs. (We did all the snapping with Nooch’s camera or I’d show you some of them here.) That first day we drove through Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania (which is huge and has a sign on EVERY SINGLE BRIDGE that says ‘Bridge may be icy’. Every. Single. Bridge.), Maryland, and finally stopped in West Virginia. We were definitely a *little* ambitious that first day.

Our first night in a pet friendly motel – um. Perhaps I’ll spare you the details. The cats were frantic. The place smelled a little moldy. But we slept and were able to shower in the morning. Count it a success, if not a monument to aesthetics.

The second day we felt like old pros. Also, we were motivated by a goal: we were headed to Pigeon Forge, TN. That’s right: DOLLYWOOD!!!!!! Having that as our goal made the day’s driving bearable. Virginia is a big beautiful state to drive through and Tennessee was very green. Turning off the interstate to head to Dollywood, Nooch and I were amazed by the succession of incredibly tacky billboards and crazy stuff we kept seeing. Every new thing on the strip left us gaping slightly more than we were before. It was a truly amazing combination of gorgeous green natural scenery and the tackiest entertaining crap ever put up by humans. Amazing.

Another night in a pet-friendly motel. Not a bad place. Certainly had a challenging parking lot for people driving a large heavy truck. There were some perilous moments in reverse on a steep incline that neither Nooch nor I ever really feel like we need to re-live. We were just glad to get through them that one time. And then in the morning we left the kitties in the room while we went to Dollywood.

What can I say about Dollywood? It made moving more enjoyable, that’s for sure. We loved it. The rhinestones, the red-white-and-blue, the singing, the pink and purple stuff – it was all just awesome. The best part was the museum of her life story. You could see many of the costumes from her movies, reproductions of the cabin she grew up in, lots of photos from her early days as a television performer – it’s all there. Even the tiny little coat of many colors her mother made for her – it’s so little! Plus videos of Dolly and recordings of her voice telling you what things are. I tell you. It was fantastic.

So after Dollywood things were less enjoyable – perhaps we should have seen the let-down coming. It’s not like a 4 day road trip in those circumstances is just going to keep getting better and better. And in fact, it did not. Day 3, driving through Tennessee, was just hell. If you look at a map, Tennessee is a very short state to drive through if you’re going north to south. But if you’re driving from the top-most eastern corner to the lowest western corner it is a VERY LOOOOOOONG green boring state. Oh dear heaven it is boring. Not many signs. 10 million trees on your left side. Another 10 million trees out the right window. Always the same. After a few hours it’s enough to make a girl homicidal. Unfortunately the two of us were tired already so it made both of us homicidal. Looking back I’m just grateful we didn’t kill each other. Day 3 was a low point.

About this time Nooch and I reached some conclusions about American highways and truckers. 1) Truckers tend to be creepy and weird. 2) Proof: one trucker drove by us with a rubber penis on his nose just to see how we would react. Ew. 3) In the cities highways belong to people who live there but interstates belong to truckers. Cars are just there on sufferance. 4) A 12-foot truck, while huge to us, was really just a pipsqueak to the real truckers. 5) Nooch and I started referring to ourselves as ‘baby truckers’ when we realized we weren’t anywhere near the same league. 6) It may have been small by truckers’ standards but that yellow monster ate gas like we breathe oxygen. We must have stopped for gas a thousand times in 4 days. Sheesh.

We stayed that last night on the road in Memphis. Apparently without even trying we found the sketchiest part of Memphis and stayed there. Lots of uncomfortable surveillance (on our part and by the people who watched us driving our in our conspicuous yellow truck). Memphis is also the place we made a startling discovery: of my two cats, the one always thought to be kind of the dumb one is actually the smart one. We found out like this.

Our last morning on the road we were pretty cheerful. Wohoo! Let’s get out of Memphis! Let’s get to Texas!! But as I finished getting ready Nooch came up to me with the Big Eyes and the Quiet Voice (never a good sign) and said, “I can’t find Wilkie.” I wasn’t too worried at that point because neither of us had left the hotel room. Wilkie had been there when I went in to take my shower. She couldn’t get out. She was probably hiding because she recognized the signs of departure and didn’t want to get back in that truck. (We could hardly blame her.) So Nooch and I started searching everywhere. Dickens lay on the bed and watched us. Wilkie wasn’t to be found. Then we started poking around under the beds. Being a pet-friendly motel the box springs had been laid on solid metal frames – they looked like a box and were meant to ensure that no animals could get under the bed. Ah but Wilkie was desperate. She REALLY didn’t want to get in that truck again. So she’d ripped a hole in the gauze on the bottom of the box spring and climbed up into the bed in order to hide inside the metal frame. Nooch and I had to take apart motel beds (wordless shudder of horror at the memory) in a pet-friendly motel (extra layer of horror) in order to find her. Two beds – she was hiding in the second one.

Once found we scooped her right into her travel bag – she was swearing and crying the whole time. And Dickens just watched with this look on his face like, “Huh. Wonder what’s going on there. Sure glad I’m comfy on this bed. Hey, what are you doing? Not the BAAAAAAAG!!!!!!” And then he was surprised to find himself in the truck again. Wilkie had seen the pattern. Dickens did not.

As we left Tennessee (shouting hallelujahs of gratitude) we crossed into Arkansas. Did you know that the motto on the Arkansas license plate says ‘The Natural State’? I was afraid there would be a lot of nude Arkansans but thankfully no. Just a lot of very grim billboards about not committing adultery, usually right across the highway from the numerous XXX stores. (Again, truckers are creepy and weird.)

So we finally got to my dad’s place, north of Dallas. Where Wilkie promptly buried herself inside the guest room bed. (We had to take it apart to get her out when it was time to move to my apartment.)

The rest of the story involves settling into my new place, but I’ll tell that one later. I’ve run out of room in this nutshell.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Dream Come True

And NOT in a good way.

Any of you out there completely freaked out by creepy-crawlies? Name your poison: ants, bugs of any stripe, spiders, worms, snakes, mice, etc.

All of those are my poison.

So have any of you had that dream, that – shudder – nightmare, the one where something icky is crawling on you and you can’t get it off?

That happened to me yesterday. I got on the T, sat down, opened my book, and proceeded to join the rest of the 70 people on the car in our game of mutually ignoring each other. (It’s actually more polite to ignore each other on the T in the morning than it is to try to be friendly. Striking up a conversation with a carload of Boston non-morning people is a MAJOR faux pas.)

As I looked down at my book I realized there was a beefy looking ant crawling around on the neckline of my blouse. Ew. Not a fire ant, thank goodness, but still. Not a welcome passenger. So I brushed it off and kept reading. About five minutes later – when I had truly forgotten the incident, how sad is that? – I was shocked to find the ant was STILL ON ME. Crawling around this time UNDER the neckline of my top.

What I wanted to do: jump to my feet, shrieking and swearing, throw everything in my lap onto the floor, jump up and down and shimmy, take off all bug-infested clothes and put on all new bug-free ones, shower, and proceed with my day.

What I had to do because I was on the T: bug my eyes out, not scream, try to find the little vermin without a) sticking my hand inside my clothes and b) alarming other passengers, try not to give in to the hysterical conviction that under my clothes my skin was literally crawling with a thousand bugs, try to resist the temptation to look inside my clothes for hives and bites and stings, and try to press down really hard on my clothes with my hands so if there were bugs in there they were now carcasses.

It was an exhausting 5 minutes of pure hysteria, let me tell you.

And for the guys across the aisle who watched the whole thing I’m sure it was one of their favorite morning floor shows ever.

Friday, June 13, 2008


No not the Mariah Carey variety. Real live sparkly stuff.

In Dallas last weekend I walked around White Rock Lake with my cousin after sunset. It was still hot but not quite so blazing as it had been during the day. The ducks were settling in for the night. Ducks talk a LOT, especially in the evenings, and I got the impression dusk is hard for some of them because they’re not easily able to turn the duck-chat off and settle in for a sleep. Runners and bikers were making the circuit. Redwing blackbirds were flying about and a few late squirrels were heading home.

And under the trees, in the grassy open spaces and near clumps of flowers, everywhere in fact, the fireflies were out. The darker it got the more we could see. It was SO COOL. So many tiny floaty gold lights. They looked like animated glitter. This may be one of the few things that Disney has tried to imitate and utterly failed to improve.

They were so pretty and distracting that I didn’t even think of the other bugs that might be flying around out there. You know, like mosquitoes.

Oh well. The fireflies were worth it.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Notes from the Foreign Country of My Birth, chapter one

When Miss Amazing and I first became friends here in Boston she told me that of all the places I’ve lived (Fort Worth, Melbourne, London, New York, Oxford, Nacogdoches, Boston) the one that held the most fascination for her as a foreign land was Texas, where I was born and raised. (Miss Amazing is from the East Coast, in case you were wondering.)

And now for the third time in my life I’ll be living in Texas, this time after an absence of 5 years. I was just there this weekend looking for an apartment. And I have to tell you, Miss Amazing is right: it’s TOTALLY FASCINATING.

Here’s an interesting little trick I just learned from my sister: when you are driving down a Texas highway and a man in a big ol’ hat is driving the truck in the lane in front of you, keep your eye on his hat. You can watch his hat shift when he checks his rearview and side mirrors and then predict when he’s going to change lanes. This is often a more reliable method than waiting for him to use his turn signal.

How cool is that?! WATCH THE HAT. A little insider tip for people driving in Texas. Don’t you feel wiser now?

I’m sure there will be all sorts of new observations once I’m moved in. For now I’m swamped with the awful packing and moving part of this transition. Just thought I’d come up for air for a sec and share the wonder.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Cue Music - and Buy Stock in Aquanet

Nah-nah-NAH, n-nah-nah-nah-NAH-NAH, nah, nah, NAAAAH, n-nah-NAAAAAH!

You musically gifted folks out there would have instantly recognized that as the theme song for ‘Dallas’.

Wait for it.

I’m moving to Dallas! Yay!! Wohoo!!

Yup, after more than 5 years in Boston I’m moving back to Texas to work for a museum in Dallas and to be nearer my Texas family. And to be warm for most of those months of the year when Boston becomes an igloo.

So I’m going to be mostly absent for a while but I’ll be back in full force in late July when I’ll have officially completed my relocation. I might have to check in with funny moving-related stories now and then but realistically I’ll probably be even more hit-or-miss with my writing than I have been so far this spring. This is a BIG move! A whole truckload of books to move, two very fat cats who loathe and despite wheeled OR winged transport, a car to shop for, an apartment to rent, lovely springtime Boston to farewell properly and sentimentally, all my Boston friends to tell and hug and start missing – this is a very busy time.

So keep singing, and if you have some big-hair tips, please send them my way. I’m out of practice.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Cosmic Particles

When I was in college I came up with the phrase ‘cosmic particles’ to explain things that happened by eerie coincidence. Anything that happened by chance but needed a better-than-chance explanation – that’s when I used ‘cosmic particles’.

Well this weekend there was a doozy of an example of cosmic particles.

I was in Texas for a flying visit with my family. My sister brought her whole crew to my dad’s place north of Dallas and my cousin and I were up there too. More cousins came up the next day. So at the end of the day we’re standing around, saying goodbye to one set of cousins, when Kelsey and I start looking at each other’s feet. (We’re girls. We like shoes. We look at feet.)

I narrowed my eyes suspiciously and said, “What nail polish are you wearing on your toes?”

She said, “Bogota Blackberry.”

I whipped off my shoe, held out my toes and yelled, “BOGOTA BLACKBERRY!”

We both started jumping around and making the big eyes at each other. We were both – BY COINCIDENCE – wearing cute and comfy bright orange shoes (very different styles though) and we were both wearing OPI Bogota Blackberry toenail polish.

Completely. Unplanned. Eerie. Coincidence.

Are you as bowled over as we were?

Yup. That’s cosmic particles.*

*For those of you who are left singularly unimpressed by the power of cosmic particles (because you’re probably lacking some fundamental cosmic characteristic but that’s okay, I’m sure you’re still a lovely person), you should understand – that too is cosmic particles. So there you go.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Domestic Confessions

- I have a tea towel problem.

- I hate vacuuming. It makes me swear. Seriously. My mental monologue while vacuuming would shock you.

- I thought I was going to confess the really embarrassing tunes I have on my ipod but I’m not. I’ll admit to having Juice Newton,* Maroon 5, a remake of ‘Conjunction Junction’ and a swing version of Blondie’s ‘Heart of Glass’ but other than that, the embarrassing stuff is staying in the vault. For my ears only. (* Seriously, you have to watch the video. She's no actress, our Juice. But she is a little twisted.)

- I can go a VERY LONG TIME between laundry loads because I own more underwear than is on sale at Macy’s.

- The bathtub is literally my cleanliness blind spot – naturally I don’t wear my glasses while taking a shower and since I’m in there GETTING CLEAN it never occurs to me that the tub itself could be dirty. (I usually clean it before visitors arrive. Ahem. Mom, it’s ALWAYS clean for your visits.)

- I treat my living room like a clothesline. I don’t like to put most of my clothes in the dryer (they last longer if I don’t) and I don't have a yard with a clothesline, so I hang them up all around the living room. Sometimes it’s like a laundry festival in here.

- I have an egg pan. I get real grumpy if someone cooks non-egg substances in it. (Except bacon. It's hard to get grumpy about bacon.)

- I would bake pretty much every day if I had the chance and a calories-free pass to do so. As it is I wait for occasions, bake, and then give away the leftovers.

- Love houseplants but can’t have ‘em. Dickens would eat them and then hork them up all over the house.

- A fair amount of storage space in my home is always given over to ‘personal archive’ space. I give a lot of old clothes, books and household items to Goodwill but certain items, while no longer in style or the right size or whatever, I’ll never give away. They go in the archive.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Things I Loved in Denver

So here's the thing. I've been in Denver for the better part of a week for a museum conference. The conference was fabulous. I'm serious. I loved it. I'd have loved it just a tiny bit more if they'd served more cookies (let's face it, any cookies) between sessions, but really, that's my only complaint.

My only complaint about the conference, that is. I do have one other complaint about Denver, before I get on with the singing-its-praises chorus I promised in the title. Altitude. Dear heaven, but that city is way up in the sky! [Clue: the nickname 'Mile High City.'] For me personally that translated into every cell in my body going into a simultaneous gasping-for-air routine that rendered me tipsy, achy, queasy, sleepy, grumpy (and probably a few other dwarves, too) all at once. New and profound insight: I am a sea-level creature. I like my oxygen thick, syrupy even, undiluted, unpolluted, and unrestricted. Good to know.

But on with the chorus of praise. Really, I had such a good time in Denver I had to share my list of things to love about it. And if you're a Denver-lover you should chime in with anything I may have left out.

  • The big blue bear at the convention center by Lawrence Argent, actually titled 'I See What You Mean.' He's curious (see, he's saying “Hm, what's in here?”), he'd cuddly, he's bright blue and ginormous. What's not to love?

  • The prairie dogs beside the highway from the airport to downtown. They always look so alert. And concerned. The life of a prairie dog is full of worry.

  • The T-Rex puppet at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. AWESOME. I didn't much like it when he aimed to chomp on my head - although I did think it was funny when he did that to other people. My neefs would be shimmying with joy if they could see it.

  • The Tattered Cover Bookstore. I am a collector and admirer of bookstores. If it were at all possible for a bookstore to have a soul and to be a kindred spirit with other soul-bearing creatures, this bookstore and I were made for each other. Comfy chairs scattered in little nooks, a bakery with yummy smells in-store, a tempting selection of books all over the place in shelves arranged in a non-regimented way, pleasantly worn antique and creaky wooden floors – it all added up to a perfectly delectable bookstore.

  • The Paul Manship bronze sculpture of a turtle at the Denver Art Museum. I saw lots of great art at the museum and the building itself is supposed to be a buzz-worthy new example of architecture, but this turtle is the thing I fell for, the mascot of my visit.

  • Crazy contrast. When you fly into Denver you land on the flat scrubby plateau east of the city. Then you drive into the city which is about a 30 minute drive. The entire time just ahead of you there is a purple haze in the west topped this time of year with snowy peaks. The closer you get to the city the more the haze clears and you realize that right there, just a few miles further away, the Rocky Mountains have poked up right out of the plateau with a gigantic TA-DA! There's no subtle approach, no gentle introduction by way of some little foothills. No way. It goes flat, flat, flat, doo-dee-doo, more flat and then WHAM! Enormous mountains. And when you're in the city, right in downtown Denver, you can be walking along down a street, past a TJMaxx or a Starbucks let's say, and you casually glance to the east and there's blue sky, but when you casually glance to the west, BAM! There they are again. WATCHING YOU. You can turn your back on them, but they're still there. Looming in a majestic and indifferent way. The Rockies. Mountains that never bothered with 'subtle.' They interrupt the sky in an unsettling way for a native Texan, but they're fascinating.

  • Say it with me now: Mayor Hickenloop. My new big crush. I love the mayor of Denver. He's charming and well-spoken, a passionate supporter of the arts, and an innovative one at that. He came and talked to a vast crowd of museum people and by the end of the morning had us all eating out of his hand. (We're pathetic really – we love anyone who loves us back.) I would move to Denver, despite the altitude, just to live in a city where the mayor is such a devoted and creative museum-fan. Seriously. Look him up – he was apparently voted one of the Top 5 American Mayors recently. I know he'd get my vote.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Ridiculously Small Ears

Remember when you were really little, about 3 or 4, and you'd go to the doctor? That was the age when everyone and everything was a lot bigger than you were. Someone probably helped you up onto the examining table and you sat on the edge with your legs hanging over, squinching up the paper with your hands (because of the cool noise it made) and banging on the side of the metal table with your heels (thunk, ker-thunk) until someone told you to stop. Then the doctor would come in and talk to your mom and examine you. He (it was usually a he when I was little) would pick up that doctor thingy, the one with scored metal handle and the light at the top, the one with the disposable tips so he could look up your nose (gross!), down your throat (gag), and into your ears. First he'd grab the little pink usually forgotten shell of your ear in one hand and streeeeeetch it out, until you felt like it was going to come off your head with a pop! and then he'd poke his lighted ENT tool into your ear and make pronouncements. Then he'd do the other side. Afterwards the backs of your ears felt warm, almost as if maybe they'd come apart at the seams and were having to re-attach themselves.

I have very vivid memories of this, mainly because I didn't grow out of it. My ears apparently stopped growing when I was 6. I have ridiculously, stupidly small ears. I have quite good hearing, I just happen to have baby ears. Because of this I've had the exact same exchange with every medical practitioner who's come near my ears for the past 20 years. It goes like this:

Doctor: coming at me with his lighted doctor thingy
Me: "You'll probably need the child-sized one. My ears are really small."
Doctor: scoffing, because he's the doctor and I'm clearly a moron, "Oh, psha."
Doctor: trying real hard to see into my miniscule ears and failing, "Grunt. Huh."
Me: eyebrows raised, pained expression warring with 'I told you so' smirk on my face
Doctor: proceeds with smaller doctor thingy, "Your ears are VERY SMALL" as if this was a medical pronouncement and brand new information
Me: Um, yeah.

The reason I bring this up is not because I've had yet another circular conversation with a doctor, but because I have finally joined the world of modern technology and bought an ipod nano. I can't tell you how happy it makes me, my itty bitty little square of perfectly designed technology. I love that I can be walking down the street, to all appearances a perfectly ordinary citizen of the sidewalk, but what nobody else knows is that in my head I'm bopping along to Lily Allen or Willie Nelson or Morrissey or the Jackson 5. But here's my problem: the earbuds that come with the nano are TOO BIG for my STUPIDLY TINY EARS. They fall out. They interfere with my ability to walk through this world with a secret soundtrack at all times. And heaven forfend I can't have the lyrics to 'Popular' from Wicked piped directly into my brain any minute of the day. That would be the end of all good things of course.

So. I have to find tiny new earbuds somewhere.

(That's all. If you were expecting a bigger punch line, I'm sorry.)

Friday, April 25, 2008

If All Else Fails, Imitate a Raccoon Backing out of a Chimney

Last month my friend MKA came up to visit. Actually, that's not an accurate statement. For about 4 weekends in a row our social calendars overlapped in a way that might suggest we were near neighbors, rather than friends who live in Boston and New York respectively. She came up one week, I went down to NYC that weekend, back to Boston to work, back to NYC for the following weekend, she came up the next 2 weekends - really, it was getting ridiculous. There were good reasons for all of that - baby showers and reunions and baseball games - but really. It was about time we stopped doing that so we could remember what it was like to miss a good friend now and then.

That first weekend I was in NY the two of us took a road trip to Ikea. We were on a secret undercover mission: MKA wanted to replace the bookshelves in her bedroom while her boyfriend was away. You know, your basic sly stealthy bookshelf switcharoo. Garden variety. So there we were, shopping for bookshelves. (Don't be fooled - it's not as glamorous as I'm making it sound.)

Let me back up a minute. Earlier during that visit MKA and I had rolled all over her living room giggling breathlessly over this post on Dooce's blog. Seriously. Tears streaming down our faces. And for several days we had entertained ourselves and others doing our very best imitations of a raccoon backing out of a chimney.

So. There we are at Ikea, buying bookshelves. Did you know that 72" tall bookshelves, when bundled into a cardboard box, are HEAVY? Yes. They were heavier than the two of us could manage so I set off through the giant Swedish warehouse to find a muscle-y assistant in a blue shirt to help us. The first one sailed past, oblivious to my wave. A second one sailed by - perhaps I was invisible? All this time MKA was laughing and making fun of my overly polite Southern-lady waving, which was okay since it was totally ineffective. At exactly the same moment we both made the switch from laughing at lame waving techniques to imitating a raccoon backing out of a chimney. This cracked us up, mystified and scared various fellow shoppers, and lo, snagged a Blue Shirt for assistance.

So the lesson I learned here is that while Southern-lady waving can be polite, the truly effective way to get help in a retail situation is to imitate an overweight raccoon reversing his way out of a chimney. Good to know.

Tiny Sox, Tiny Parade

I've lived in my current apartment for more than 3 years now. For me that's got to be some kind of record. One of the all-time best and most fantastic things about this place is an annual event that always catches me by surprise.

The first year I lived here I was enjoying a quiet cool spring Saturday to myself. I'd slept in and was reading a book over a late breakfast at my kitchen table when I became aware of the fact that there'd been some whistles and sirens blaring on the street out front for several minutes. I went to the living room windows and realized I was just in time for a parade celebrating the opening of the Little League season. All the Little Leaguers were in uniform and in this part of the world, all the uniforms are tiny versions of the major league teams. So first there was a fire engine, then a bunch of munchkin Red Sox players, followed by little clumps of tiny Mets, tiny Rangers, tiny Mariners, tiny Cubs, etc., all mixed up with parents and strollers containing future tiny baseball players. I didn't see any tiny Yankees but in this part of the world that makes
perfect sense. They'd never recover from the humiliation. (Yankess = boo-hiss up here. ALWAYS.) The whole thing was wrapped up with one more fire engine and a police cruiser.

The parade only took about 15 minutes to meander down the hill in front of my house. And that was it for that spring. But it came back the next year - surprised me again, of course. I guess I hadn't mentally established the pattern yet. But this year I heard the siren and jumped to the window, fully alert and ready to cheer them on. I even took a picture:

(Dickens was watching with me - that's his ear.)

Go tiny Sox!!