söndag, januari 29, 2006

Time and Time Again

The death clock has advised that I am going to die on March 10, 2060. If I list myself as "normal" instead of an optimist, that year drops to 2037. Heck, all this time I thought my optimism was going to make me a wealthy woman. Instead, it's just going to keep me around in a decrepit nursing home for for-e-ver. Hey. I'll take it. From Miss Cellania.

"I think Leap Year is so strange. It happens every two years."
"It does? I thought it was four."
"No, it really does. Can you imagine? You are only half you age because you are born on February 29."

In about 9 hours I can call a washing machine repair person's office assistant who will tell me that I will have to wait another three days for parts. I am wearing pants with pockets on the sides. I mean pockets below the knees and on the sides, and the pants have drawstrings at the ankles. This can only mean that tomorrow I will be forced to wear something all bright and glittery and with only one shoulder, something my daughters have smashed into to the bottom of a drawer. We began piling things up for a trip to the laundry mat, but then I thought, heck, when was the last time I had an excuse to wear sweat pants with a missing cord and the inscription "Hottie" across the ass. If you guessed "never," you would be right. Then my two incredibly stacked girls asked what I would do when I ran out of bras. "She can wear ours," they said to each other and broke out in hysterics.

Hey, I say its time they put their D-Cup Muscles and Leap Year Brains to work at a scrub board.

lördag, januari 28, 2006

Well, Sure

So of course now the washing machine breaks. In many ways. I can't fix this with tape or a couple of choice words. Whatever clothes I have left are now dirty and, ergo, useless. I think this is so funny. This is beginning to sound like a camping story.

fredag, januari 27, 2006

Reason #38 For Not Cleaning

In the process of a deep dig out of three bedrooms and just as many closets I do believe I have managed to give away a large portion of my work attire that I had also set aside for dry cleaning.
This is a problem. I am one step away from the absent-minded professor with a closet lined with five days worth of the the same outfit. I like to look good, but I hate dealing with the process. So, as one that has kept things fairly bare-boned with only a few items ever making the cut and half of them now gone, I am stuck in my retro 70's weekend fare: Gap low rise jeans and Target ribbed turtlenecks. Same styles, four different colors.

I cannot bring myself to go out and buy any office-friendly things right now. I don't have the time or the spare change. I am inclined to wait it out until Spring allows me to drag a box of clothes off the shelf and repopulate that way. Perhaps if I change my hair color every week, people will not notice the clothes. "There's something different about you. Now, don't tell me..."

It's only about 12 weeks. All I have to do is make sure the reds don't clash with the turtlenecks. How exactly does one dye eyebrows?

tisdag, januari 24, 2006

The Good Ol' Days

"I remember my nursery school," my kindergartener said during the dark, car ride home tonight. "Between my old school and my new, I like the old one better. We used to just play and play and then at the end of the day," she rambled on, "We would go outside for a few hours. Now, we just sit and work. Sit and work. We didn't even get to go out today because the teacher said we were too loud. I miss my old school. And I heard it gets really hard when you get to third grade. What do you do?" she asked her sister, a high school freshman.

"Sit and work," the freshman said.

It's been rough going for the freshman too. She was in tears after the Sunday basketball practice. "I work so hard and I never get play time. I am there every practice and other girls aren't. It's not fair." This morning she took my head off on the way to school. She is struggling with coursework that seems light years away from what she left behind in her old district. I suspect that aside from her older sister, she is the only fifteen year old to brood and mope, sense the end of the world, and disappear into a dark silence. I call it the anti-lock brake stage. Sometimes I call it other things.

From her study hall she sent me an e-mail at the office, apologizing. I wrote back, hoping to catch her goofing off on the internet some more before she left for her game:

"Try not to let things dig into you so deeply. For the next couple of years, let what happens to you and around you slip aside like water off a duck's back, like an independent study class in human behavior. Watch people. Learn to read them and become familiar with situations. You won't be able to do that if you internalize too much or expect things to be "fair;" thoughts like these become like sink traps, and don't let anything else through.

See, people don't actually do things to you; people do things for themselves, almost entirely out of self interest with little attention paid to how it might affect another. For example, your friend didn't snub you on Friday because she felt like giving you a hard time; she was just having too much fun where she ended up to think to be polite to you. It's rude, but it doesn't mean she doesn't like you. If she doesn't break that habit, she will have problems later in life. She needs to learn to be considerate. You don't need to drop her as a friend or make yourself even more miserable by putting on a pout. Say something like, "Hey, thanks, jerk," but then let it go. If you have to "feel" something, then feel a little bad for her, instead, and take a memo: "Try to never leave a friend hanging." If you can remember that people are a lot of the time mostly just into themselves, then it might be easier to accept that not every slight, turn down, or less than wonderful day is a personal attack on you.

As for your basketball, well, because we don't really know what other factors might be motivating the coaches, remember this. (A) You are part of a team. If you stay pleasant and upbeat, your teammates will always be there for you somehow. (B) You are learning stuff from great coaches with great attitudes. It may pay off because in your Junior year it clicks and you are a starter. Or maybe it will pay off because despite a backup status through all of high school, your husband or daughter loves basketball and you two can watch the games together and enjoy yourself because you really, really, understand the science of the sport. It may pay off because you will have a chance to be a coach, and pass on what you have learned. We never know what life will throw our way. I can guarantee you, however, that you gain nothing by giving up because the coach is not being "fair" and not playing you in a way that seems commensurate with your effort. You don't have control over his actions. You do have control over your ability to focus on the positive.

I suppose what this gets you in the long run is an ability to be more objective, and once you get there you can feel more confident that your decisions are based on fact and probabilities instead of hurt feelings, jealousy, or fear. But I am getting ahead of the story.

Now get off the internet. And there will be no AIM in the house until the grades are up, got it?"

I am sure that the only part she will remember is "get off the internet," so I plan on grabbing the Sarah Vowell off the bookshelf for her to sample. What might hit a chord is Vowells' account of life as it was in the high school marching band. This is a good example of a person who learned how to observe.

If only I could think of a long, inappropriate lecture for the five year old who will get nowhere in life living in the past . . .

söndag, januari 22, 2006

On Empty

"Mom, I ran out of gas just two blocks from home."
"Can you walk home? "

"I am tired and I want to go to bed."

"Yes, it feels particularly good in bed. Where I am. What's the posiiton of the car? Can you walk home?"

"Well, actually, I am about eight blocks from home."

Well, sure. All facts must be dragged out of them and so in the middle of the night I venture to a gas station, buy a plastic tank, and fill it with a couple of gallons of gas. Two men ask me if I had run out. It felt good to be able to say, "No, not me. My daughter." First because it wasn't me, and second because it reminded me that I was on a rescue mission, no matter how dimwitted a rescue mission it was.

I get to her car, keep mine running so it would be warm inside when I got done, and in below-freezing temperatures start to fumble with a pour device that I couldn't quite see. It did not cooperate. Gas slowly trickled down my best ski coat, and less then best pants and sneakers. My now slippery hands could not unscrew the cap to fix whatever I had done wrong, so I started to curse quietly, squatting down low at the back end of her little compact. A driver watched me from his seat in a stretch limonsine parked far across the boulevard and outside a large, dark building. I decided the hell with it. I would suffer the spillage and keep the flow nozzle open by letting my right index finger act as the gas tank opening, forcing the nozzle to release gas into the tank. The only way to effectively do this, however, was to jam the nozzle and my finger up against the car's gas tank opening wth the full weight of my body. For some reason, the tank opening itself didn't cut it. Only a finger locked and pinched in pain would work. Everything got wet and cold, but then I did what I usually do whenever what I want to most is whine: I thought about farmers and winter soldiers and sucked it up.

A guy in his late twenties suddenly appeared at my elbow and said, "Funny my car just ran out of gas, too. Is there a gas station around here?" I thought of him, my daughter, my still running car, and my purse on the front seat and felt all the Samaritan rush out of my soul. He eyed the little plastic emergency tank as he talked to me. I imagined him licking his lips. I told him, thanks, but I didn't need any help, and directed him to a gas place.

Out there in the cold dark night I felt that for once, I did the safe thing by coming to my daughter's aid and sending away the coincidental stranger. I don't generally err on the side of sensibility, especially when someone tells me a sad story. (The stranger's story was sad. My daughter's was not. I cannot explain the difference. That is just the way it is.) I also felt oddly like a dad, so much so that I never said anything more to her than "Stay in the car, honey," and "Now get home." On the way there, of course, I came up with variations of, "What were you thinking?" and "Oh, you had time to put on mascara but not enough time to put gas in the tank?" Seeing that guy who would have been in the vincinity whether or not I dragged myself out of a warm bed, sort of drained the mouth right out of me.

fredag, januari 20, 2006

The end is supposed to be, "Stop, Drop and Roll"

For the sign on the elementary school bulletin board that demanded a different ending:

If your clothes are on fire, what the heck were you doing?

If your clothes are on fire, you didn't read the instructions.

If your clothes are on fire, your hair will probably follow suit.

If your clothes are on fire, don't let that person ever help you again.

måndag, januari 16, 2006

Mel Blanc Isn't Available . . .

Mr. Carlin has told me all the jokes he has to offer for now, and I have switched to Team of Rivals: the Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, read by John Boy.

I am in a considerably mellower place.

In the past year I have listened to biographies of Presidents John Adams, Franklin Roosevelt, and Theodore Roosevelt. I think I am going to sit the current administration out and wait until it comes out on CD. It just seems safer that way.

Now I did it. I will spend the next week never figuring out who should narrate it. So far I have found Wes Cunningham with the refreshing 50's sitcom flute action, and Victoria Matthew, the Brit in the echo chamber, as candidates, via Voices CC

söndag, januari 15, 2006

Post Scripts

I was shooting hoops with my daughter, half court, at the local gym. I had my Nano on, with huge airport tarmac-type headphones. The computer download jack still attached to the iPod, by mistake. I was looking in her direction while chasing my runaway ball into midcourt. Without paying much attention to anything around me or being able to hear anything, I bent down to grab the ball. As I came up, my head turned toward the other side of the court and my eyes were greeted by an up close wall of real basketball playing guys walking abreast in my direction to get to the drinking fountain. It was The Right Stuff On Growth Hormone kind of moment and my heart jolted. I was old and goofball, sprouting multiple tech wires, and a girl. They were your basic combination of XXL cotton tees and sweat. I was so puny. They were so huge. I said to my daughter, "Can you imagine what it must be like to stand on the court with an NBA team?" She pretended not to know me.

It will be harder than you might think to watch the bichons frises scamper their carnival-midway-prize coats around the show ring at the Westminster Kennel Club show, and not giggle.

Someone in the house has, as soon as lights are out upstairs, taken to immitating the muted singing voices from Charlie Brown's Christmas's Christmastime is Here. Its funny. And weird.

There is a blog, started today, that has been created solely to help a best man plan a bachelor party.

I Cannot Remember What Brought This to Mind . . .

My husband and I wanted to escape. We flew in a plane, rented a car that we could not insure against theft because of our ultimate destination, got lost trying to find a shortcut somewhere between Berlin and Dresden, drove at night under a full moon in an hilly, thickly forested area that made me wonder where, exactly, was Transylvania anyway, got stopped and interrogated under a glaring check point light at the German-Czech border, saw several small flatbed trucks loaded with used cars heading in the same direction as we, passed by prostitutes standing in storefronts spaced far apart and set back from an otherwise dark, deserted and sparse street (I thought they were mannequins, which, has ever since become our code for hookers), ended up in an amazingly beautiful city, and managed to find a quaint hotel room. For two days, we drank $.25 (twenty-five cent) Budweiser drafts, the old world Budweiser, not the light weight version in St. Louis, ate hearty stews, and walked by Kafka's cemetary a bit tilted from the beer. We were tilted, not the cemetary.

For the third night, however, we had to find another hotel room. Things were tough. There was a rock star in town, along with scheduled professional conferences. This was back when Prague was really starting to surface. We got a lead on an apartment that we could rent for the night. We picked up the key from a rental agency and found ourselves in a place that looked as if a single man or young couple had simply gone out for dinner. It was in a Soviet-style blocky apartment, but at least it was a place to sleep the night before schedules forced us to resurface.

When we left the next morning, we followed the instructions and dropped the key in the bleak common area on the ground floor and walked to the front door. The only problem was that to get out, one needed the key. We both immediately looked at the mail box in which we had just put a set of irretrievable keys, focused on the empty 7 am Sunday morning common area, and mentally computed the train and plane schedules we were now never going to meet. Because I was the only American of the couple, I also thought about the absurd design of needing a key to get out of a building and how many people have died in soviet-style apartment building fires, which in turn got my brain out of its shock and into percolating an escape route. Then I did what for my husband was probably impossible, the Eastern European version of asking for directions: I went to the closest apartment door and knocked. A like-aged, tossle-haired Czech came to the door in his t-shirt and pajama bottoms. I talk in an incoherent, disjointed manner under the best of circumstances, so this must have been one beaut of a request, considering the fact that it was in English, massively apologetic, and panicked. Without hesitation or a word, he grabbed his keys, shuffled out, and opened the door.

He went back in to his apartment and probably crawled into his bed next to a woman who asked who was at the door so early. I have no idea what he must of said or thought.

Now I remember what made this memory surface. I had found Prague Kolektiv . It features Czech sixties-era hanging lamps that have gotten into the hands of exporters. The thought of how those goods might have been obtained reminded me of the trucks carrying stolen cars across the boarder after midnight.

lördag, januari 14, 2006

Being in it Not Together

My eldest and youngest have taken ballet. The oldest took the bump and grind kind, with loose and enjoyable classes with the annual show full of spangles and jazz numbers accompanied by music that never really sounds like jazz, a concept confusing in its own right.

A victim of relocation, my youngest attends a more rigorous place. Probably just a lot of yelling and bone breaking. I don't really know because parents aren't allowed to see the practices. The head dancer is from a foreign country, which means he has no sense of humor and little tolerance for 4 year olds dressed up in poodles. I sat in the waiting room, listening to the other parents discussing the benefits of sending daughters to private, all girl high schools.

I bit my tongue.

There is only one private co-ed high school in the city, and it costs like body parts in tuition. So I guess unless you want to move to the suburbs, roll the dice with the underfunded city schools, or shell out the limbs, why not talk yourself into the wonders of single gender education. Each girl gets a big sign around her necks that say "Protected by Daddy" on one side and "Boys are Stupid" on the other. Then the little adult ladies can head off to college and hit the book store for Cliff Notes on Boys and Other Strange Creatures.

What Was the Name of That Movie with Quaid and an Ice Storm Covering Manhattan?

It went from almost 60 degrees yesterday to something in the 20's. In the meantime, the sky cracked and it rained. You know what that means? That means it's time for the Car Capades.

torsdag, januari 12, 2006

Yeah, But Did The Poor Guy Die At Some Point, At Least?

A colleague is sick over the Alito nomination.

"Isn't there something I can do to stop it," she asks, with head on desk. Instead of saying the word "crying," she quips, "Pulling an Alito." She is sick over the prospect of having women's reproductive capacities deemed something less than a fundamental aspect of our very being, something not protected by our Constitution.

I let her go on about this for a two days, then asked, "Why all the fuss? It's our own fault, you know. We are 50% of the population and we have no clout. Women need to be in the legislature. We are ridiculously underrepresented, and we have no one to blame but ourselves. "

I am not saying that all women think alike or that we move as one unit, but I heard a joke the other day: "Some guy in the 15th century was hung, decapitated, then drawn and quartered. I gotta hunch there was no woman involved in deciding that punishment."

Anyway, I'm doing my part. Every day I tell my daughter, "You will not be a lawmaker. Do you hear me? I forbid it. Don't even think about running for office, young lady." It's guaranteed to get her in the Senate.

onsdag, januari 11, 2006

Parrot Humor

I find it helpful to listen to written humor. I get a fresh perspective, and new ideas for structure and delivery. For a road trip last summer, I bought the New Yorker's Fierce Pajamas on CD. It was a long, lonely haul, and the series of Shouts & Murmurs essays got into my blood. I came home and wrote a piece that a critic said was the funniest thing he had ever read. By anybody. Ever. Yeah, well, no it wasn't, but it still felt A OK to hear that. I wanted to make lightening strike twice so I grabbed a CD set of George Carlin reading from Brain Droppings and his two Napalm and Silly Putty books. It had been a long time since I heard any of George's material.

Mostly what I am writing now is, "Fuck you."

As I pulled into a parking space at work this morning, I heard him offer, "Tits always look better in a pink sweater." I smiled to myself all day knowing that that asshole's remark is going to have an effect on my entire god damn wardrobe.


Heh, heh, heh. Yep. A different voice.

Do You Think I Can?

"I hate this Hemingway stuff. I can't relate to any of it."

"You're reading it for sentence structure. Focus on how he communicates to the reader."

"I am not following any of it. It's so old school."

"What are your intentions, exactly? To get through life on Laguna Beach dialogue?"

tisdag, januari 10, 2006

OCD, a/k/a, Better-'N-You

"I think I have OCD," says the oldest.
"You do not have OCD," I respond. "You don't wash your hands 10 times and hour and put on gloves to turn door knobs."
"Well, that's true. But it makes me crazy that you and Haley leave things in the wrong place all the time."
"Your sister and I are not neat by nature, I guess, but that doesn't make us super bad people. I used to be a lot worse, actually. When I was a teenager, my room was always a mess. I just didn't see it. Don't get started with that 'Neat people are better people' garbage. Don't start."
"Well, what was the life changing event that made you more neat, then?"
"Oh, I don't know. The prospect that some guy might come over and I didn't want him to see my underwear all over the place, maybe. Or how about when I had to start paying for my own things and I decided that food and clothes didn't necessarily belong in the same pile if I wanted either to be any good. Is that life changing enough for you? And by the way, this qualifies as 'starting.' Don't start."
"But what can you two do to get better. It really annoys me."
"Has anyone ever told you you have OCD and that all conditions get worse as you get older?"

The Zoom Button

"We only have 8 minutes to get you to school. It's gonna be close."
"Can't you put this car on 'Fast'?"

In a way.

måndag, januari 09, 2006

CAT, PIG, Whatever

I watch one kid play basketball and it takes me back to shooting hoops for hours with my brothers. So I go to the gym and practice, just for fun. "Hey, wanna play CAT?" I ask.

"You mean, PIG?"

Sure. Right. That's what I meant.

The next morning I couldn't lift that section of my arm between the shoulder and the elbow off the mattress.

"That amount of soreness shouldn't kick in until the second day," someone offers.

Right now I am seeing a whole lot of checker boards in my future.

onsdag, januari 04, 2006

Being 6

Association is a dangerous thing.

Somebody in the office said something about paper clips or malpractice deadlines or something like that which immediately got me wondering about the name of the cartoon I watched as a kid that had odd figures situated underwater that moved up and down when they walked and human moving lips underimposed on a staid face.

Nobody remembered this particular cartoon.

So, seven hours of group research later, we found Stingray and Space Angel. Stingray's marionette action explained the oddball up and down motion that I was recalling. The Space Angel cartoon featured a storyboard-type face, with human lips moving underneath. I had joined them together somehow. I don't have any recollection of ever seeing a complete Stingray or Space Angel episode. I think that these shows would catch my attention as I was about to run out the front door, and I would look at them out of the corner of my eye in a way that, well, let me say to the extent that a six year old could be weirded out.

In the process I came across this post by one older than I, but the images of the old tv guides took me back.

Now, back to the NCAA Football rules.

måndag, januari 02, 2006

Don't These Guys Have Lawyers?

Notre Dame scored in a play where it appeared that the ball made it as far as the entire width of the Ohio goal line, but the nose of the ball never made it into the end zone. So, a debate ensued as to whether the ball had to actually get into the end zone or if we were blind.

You be the judge of the NCAA Rules.

Rule 1-2 "...each team shall be allowed opportunities to advance the ball across the other team's goal line..."

Rule 2-11-1: "Each goal line is a vertical plane separating an end zone from the field of play when the ball is touched or in player possession."

Rule 2-31-2: "The field of play is the area within the boundary lines other than the end zones."

Rule 8-2-1-a (Touchdown) "A runner advancing from the field of play is legally in possession of a live ball when it penetrates the opponent's goal line (plane)."

So, does it have to actually cross the back edge of the goal line and get into the end zone? It never really says that. It says things like "across" and "penetrate", but as we get used to life in a micro world, a four inch white line has lots of space to penetrate, even if the ball never noses past the back of the goal line.

The Interpretations of the Rules, at Approved Ruling 8-1-1-I: The runner is thrown or falls to the ground on his opponent's one-yard line, but his momentum causes him to slide across the goal line. RULING: Not a touchdown unless the ball's forward point was on, above, or across the goal line when any part of the runner's body except his hand or foot struck the ground."

I guess the ball doesn't have to go all the way through the line and get into any part of the end zone. I think. Well, it's still college, boys. The rules reflect that they have soooo much to learn in order to truly score.

(How much time did I put into this little novelty?)

söndag, januari 01, 2006

How Do Football Players Get Such Large Necks

Happy New Year.

Is that ok? Did I offend anyone? Was I too secular, mass consumptionist, or frivolous in my willingness to let 2005 go in exchange for whatever is behind door number 3? I hope so. Anyway, this is promising start.

I got the garden hose off the outside spigot and into the basement. I am not upset about being so behind.

I read the Bowl Championship Series website and still have no idea why Ohio played Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. And that is ok with me.

I bought Life Aquatic and the dvd kept skipping to the end every time scene change after scene 15. I returned the dvd and the same thing happened with the new dvd. I know that some day I will see it on a movie channel.

See how easy life gets when you replace your broken music box and exercise every day?