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!!

Brand New Neighbor!

I have a brand new neighbor. He's just a little guy - just over 8 lbs actually. My friend and neighbor Miss Krafty had a little boy last week. I don't have a photo to post of him, but I will show you the little cardy I made for him:

Pretty cute, if I say so myself. Only about half as cute as the little mister himself, though. Welcome to the 'hood, sweet pea!

You Lookin' at Me?

Despite the squinty-eyed glare, his reaction to a mid-nap portrait? Prrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.....

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

It's the Little Things

Happy Earth Day! We're doing all sorts of green programming here at the museum today. We're all about the green.

Here's a handy little list of 50 little things anyone can do to help lessen the effects our lifestyle has on the planet. From using pretty reusable shopping bags (the pretty part is important!) to turning the water off while you brush your teeth - every little bit helps.

Monday, April 21, 2008

And Another Good Idea...

Following the genius of the Target on Ice inspiration, I found this listing in today's TV Guide describing tonight's content for the PBS series 'Great Performances':

"America's national parks are celebrated in dance."

This just made me giggle.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Target on Ice

My local Target is about a 20 minute drive from my house. Last Saturday my friend MKA was in town, visiting from NY, and we got up early in the morning to go to Target. (For us, on a weekend, 'early' was 9 am.) So around 10 there we were, driving through my neighborhood on a day that was turning out to be gorgeous. It wasn't supposed to be. According to the weather forecast it was supposed to be cool, gray and rainy, as it had been for the previous 2 days. Instead it was bright blue, cloudless, warm and sunny. It was so gorgeous it was intoxicating.

As you turn into the shopping center that includes my local Target, the access road is lower than the Target parking lot for about half a block, until it rises to the same level at the point of entry. So as MKA drove up the access road and I turned my eyes to our destination I saw a dramatic sight: there in the distance was Target, rising from a broad misty plain. The water that had soaked into the parking lot over the past 2 days was burning off in the morning sun and it looked as if Target had a starring role in some sort of theatrical production that relied heavily on a fog machine.

I realized then and there I'd probably pay good money to see Target on Ice.

MKA pointed out that their ads are lots of fun and their songs are very catchy.

The opening number could go to that song that gets stuck in my head all the time. You know, it goes:

La. Ti-Da. Ti-DAA-A-AH! And I said La. Ti-Da. Ti-DAA-A-AH! (repeat over and over)

Here comes a roll of Bounty on skates, followed by some Iams cat foot and an Isaac Mizrahi sundress. Oo, nice salchow. Some Tide surges around the rink, pausing to twirl with Barbie and a nice array of wrapping paper. Some soft-cover bestsellers and a pair of shoes do a fancy lift.

The closing number would be that song “Hello, Good Buy” and all the products would dance around doing a Rockettes-style kick line just as the final show-off – a Wii – brings the house down with a couple of athletic flips and a quadruple lutz.


Now wouldn't that be better than watching Ariel or Nemo skate around for a couple of hours?

(Oh humor me. We thought it was hilarious.)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Blink. Everything's different now.

Did you ever have one of those moments when you look up all of a sudden and it’s obvious that everyone in the whole world got a memo that you missed? This happened to me a few years back with cell phones. I didn’t have one, wasn’t worried about it, blithely living my heedlessly anachronistic and old-fashioned life and then WHAM! All of a sudden I realized that EVERYONE, including young children, had one and that without one I was like a telegraph in an internet world. Also as soon as I got one I found out that without one I had been missing out on a basic fact of modern life: I *need* to talk on the phone all the time. Why hadn’t I realized it before?! Those leisurely 8 minutes walks I used to take from the grocery store to my house in the evenings after work, lugging my milk and cat food, listening to the tweetlings of birds and the screech of the basketball coach’s whistle in the nearby school gym – no more. I still do that about half the time but I’ve also discovered those walks can be prime phone time.

My mother lives in Australia and comes up to visit about once a year. Because of these frequent but widely spaced visits, she’s a very good source for insight into the types of differences and the rate of change in American pop culture. One year at Christmas she pointed out what we all knew but hadn’t seen: all gifts from everyone and to everyone came from Target. If you mentioned ‘Target’ to anyone between the ages of 15 and 65 they were all “I LOVE Target!” in the dreamy cooing voices formerly used only for high school crushes. Another year there were sunflowers everywhere. (Blech. Really? You like them? They give me the icky-shimmies for some reason. But I do like their seeds. Yum.)

The reason I bring this up is that suddenly, in just exactly the way Malcolm Gladwell describes it in his book The Tipping Point, what used to be a sort of now-and-then in my experience has become everywhere, all the time, by EVERYONE. Until a few weeks ago it was EVERYONE BUT ME, but I did get the memo, however belatedly, and now I’m one of them too. Here it is: Everyone here carries their own shopping bags. Everywhere. I keep a couple folded into the carry-all I take with me to work every day, just in case I stop by a store on my way home. Suddenly, we’re all green and eco-friendly and carrying canvas/linen/polyester reusable bags.

We haven’t yet gotten to the my-bag’s-better-than-your-bag phase (or if we have I’ve missed the memo YET AGAIN) but I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned up at some point.

Being me, I’ve approached this new trend in two ways. First, I’ve started a collection. (Hey, I’m a museum person.) I think about it as a collection, and I try to rotate the bags I use so that the entire collection wears at the same rate, and no one bag suffers from overuse. I now have reusable shopping bags from Trader Joe’s (both with Hawaiian themes for some reason – also the straps are too long for me and I don’t like them as much but they do hold more than any other bag), a green one from Shaw’s supermarket, and a black-and-white one from Fairway Market in Manhattan. Naturally, I will soon add soft red compact ones from Target - they come in their own pouches! For the collection's sake I need bags of varying colors, textures, sizes and weights, but I’m already well on my way to total usefulness. Second, I’ve done some research. I looked online. These are the bags I’ll be adding to my collection soon, Envirosax and Reisenthels. Aren't they pretty? These will be the pretty, girly, boutique shopping bags I'll carry with me. The others are sort of the fashion equivalent of denim overalls - useful, but no one's every gonna say, "Ooooo, pretty" while you're wearing them.

Maybe this is a phenomenon only in the Northeast, but you should keep an eye on the mailbox. Your memo will probably turn up sooner or later.

Let Me Paint You a Picture

Ah, springtime in Boston. I was just talking with my friend Cat yesterday about how disappointing this season usually is in Boston, especially if you grew up in the South, when April really does feel like spring. Up here this time of year is one big dose of never-realized anticipation. Today it's not so bad though. It’s bright and sunny, almost sparkly outside. Rumor has it we may even top 50 degrees. Wohoo!

It’s definitely springier than it was a few weeks ago. I can tell because of 2 visual cues that have just popped up overnight: daffodils and crocus are blooming in flowerbeds all around my neighborhood and in the city, and the Weird Girls in my neighborhood are dressing for spring.

Weird Girls are the deliberately eclectic college students and girls in their early 20s who live in my neighborhood, which is full of them. (‘Deliberately eclectic’ is a generous interpretation. I suppose there could be that many accidents at any one time in any one person’s wardrobe, but it’s hard to believe…) It seems they wear their eccentricities like a badge of honor or prestige – the weirder they dress, the prouder they are of their fashion-sense and thrift-shop conquests. Now, I love a good find at a thrift shop. But unlike Weird Girls I don’t try to wear every good find all on the same day.

An example: This morning I walked to work behind one of these Weird Girls. She was wear black knee-high slouch boots that had a dangly-jangly silver buckle so they rang with each scuffed step she took; white super-lacy tights, the kind you see on chubby baby girls in church on a sunny spring Sunday; a chunky grey knitted, knobby-fringed mini skirt; and a vintage 70s tight leather cropped maroon bomber jacket. She topped this, of course, with the absolutely necessary aviator shades and giant pearl earrings the outfit was screaming for. Naturally.

Another Weird Girl in full spring regalia wore a puffy shiny red winter jacket, a pink flowered calico ruffly skirt, skin-tight indigo jeans cuffed at mid-calf, black tights and green clogs.

I’m telling you, it's not the spring I miss and wish for, but it has its compensations.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Sweet and Mo Sweet

I was away in New York this weekend and when I returned I found a sweet little card waiting for me:

When I opened it up, this is what I found:

This is apparently what happens when you tell the world how much you love rainboots - and your nephews. Internal art courtesy of 2 year old Seth, who refers to all the colors used as "blue and mo blue".

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Confusion Reigns

Ankles or socks? Wrists or sleeves? Bostonians appear to think these are not either/or questions. When it comes to dressing for the season, why choose? Compromise! That's the ticket.

Today I saw a woman wearing corduroy capris. Seriously. That's just weird. I think corduroy capris are as baffling a concept as short-sleeved turtle-necks. I believe rather strongly that if it's cold enough for me to wrap my neck up with material, then my arms will also benefit from material protection. And if it's warm enough for capris, making them of heavy corduroy is not a path to comfort.

I've already spotted a few other signs of spring around here: yellow and purple crocuses are appearing in the gardens along my street, and the first socks-with-sandals combo of the season was recorded on the T last week.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Sugar, Sugar

I have had a cold this week. The usual end-of-winter plague: scratchy throat, no voice, panicky dependence on kleenexes. It's going away slowly. I did have voice enough for a phone interview yesterday so that was a relief.

One of the side-effects of having a cold is that your head gets sort of woolly and vague. At least mine does. Just how vague was made clear to me last night as I was baking a cake for the book club I'll attend this evening. I decided to make the apple-chocolate chip cake I described here - a recipe that is both very simple and very familiar since I've made it several times before. And yet.

I left out the 1 cup of sugar the recipe calls for. That's right. Cake, hold the sugar please. I didn't discover until this morning when I popped it out of the pan and cut a piece to taste (thank heaven I did that!) that I made a CAKE WITH NO SUGAR. And not on purpose because I'm so healthy and all. I just left it out.

The funny thing? With all those chunks of apple and chocolate chips, it tastes all right. Not as sweet as it should by any means. (In fact, a little salty between apple and chocolate bits.) But still. I'm taking it to the book club. They'll get a laugh out of it. I hope.