Archive for April, 2008

Re-offender

My skin doesn’t like Vermont very much. Since we moved here, it’s been … well, a mess, really, and not a day hasn’t gone by when I haven’t been rocking what can only be described as pizza face. It did the same thing when we first moved to Florida, and eventually I got into a good groove by finally acquiescing to a decent moisturizing regimen, including a night moisturizer that I really loved (Boscia, if you’re wondering) and the clouds parted, and I had great skin until we got here and it all went to hell in a handbasket. I changed it up last night in an effort to reclaim great skin, and truly, I didn’t think it could get any worse, but hey, um, WOW. IT DID.

I used Burt’s Bee’s Radiance Night Cream with royal jelly, which sounds so absolutely gross, does it not? Like, it sounds like sexytime lube for bees, which I just don’t want to smear on my face. I know that’s not what it is, but dude, it’s called ROYAL JELLY. And it’s a SECRETION. BAHRGH.

No matter. I woke up this morning with FIVE BRAND-NEW ZITS of the extra-ooky variety, if you know what I’m saying. So no jelly for me. And perhaps none for you, for if you have oily skin, dude, RUN. RUN AWAY FROM THE BEE LUBE. Which brings me to the fact that I am now in the market for a new night cream, and because I don’t even live near a department store, I’d like something I can get at Rite-Aid. Call me cheap, but it’s mostly laziness and a hatred for mail-order. Do you have any recommendations?

Speaking of cheap, I got a library card at lunch today, when I realized that I’ve been spending an ungodly amount of money on books for an ungodly amount of time. I don’t even think I THOUGHT about the amount of trips I took to the bookstore, because I told myself, “It’s for books! Books are good for you!” I had a backlog of reading material that carried me through since we moved here, but in the last three weeks, I’ve spent upwards of $50 PER WEEK OR MORE on books. I’m sorry to say as well, that it’s because we only have a locally-owned bookstore here and NOTHING is discounted, ever — I mean, I’m all for buying local, but there’s something to be said for Barnes & Noble’s prices, I’m shamed to admit. Especially when my lifelong voracious reading habits suddenly mean I won’t buy any books at all. (I’m sorry authors! I’m sorry! Local is EXPENSIVE! Like, uh, more than $200-per-month expensive! Reading is supposed to be a cheap, at-home entertainment-type activity!)

Anyway, for some reason, the library card makes me feel virtuous, like the Elizabeth Berg novel I nabbed today helps me to contribute to society. It doesn’t. But I still feel SPECIAL. I have a LIBRARY CARD and am saving MONEY. Someone give me a cookie.

(Also, can I tell you again how much I love Goodreads, as it totally appeals to the listmaker in me and I’m embarrassed at the amount of procrastination I do there by browsing reviews and books and MAKING MORE LISTS.)

And finally, in the land of biting off more than you can chew, I — who have until this point only attempted culinary challenges to the level of SHAKE ‘N BAKE — thought that since we have no Thai restaurants near us, that I would attempt homemade pad thai. And folks, there is a reason that kids don’t grow up eating pad thai as a familiar comfort food, along with meatloaf and mashed potatoes. This is because it’s HARD. AND AWFUL. AND VERY, VERY DISGUSTING. AND NOT LIKE IT IS IN RESTAURANTS. I finished working at 5:30 and started dinner, thinking that it would be easy! The Web site said it was easy! We’d be eating by 6:15!

HA. We ate at 7:30, if by “ate” you mean took one bite each and nearly threw up in our mouths, because again, oh my sweet God.

“It tastes like soap! But it’s … it’s sort of okay.” Adam was horrified, but trying to be a good sport.

“No! NO! It tastes like PASTE in elementary school — no no, PASTE IS BETTER! THIS TASTES LIKE ROTTING PASTE! WITH SOUR FRUIT.” And it was. It was awful. So awful. So, so awfully awful.

I was almost in angry pad-thai’d tears, because dude, it was HARD. There were MANY INGREDIENTS. They were CHOPPED and for chrissake, I used MISE EN PLACE. WITH RAMEKINS. The kitchen was trashed like it has never been trashed before. Scallions littered the floor like confetti, while the refrigerator door was smeared with a slash of tamarind paste that resembled a bloodstain. Splashes of oily garlic were caked to the walls above the stove, and I used every pot we owned, along with the wok, which lay haphazardly askew in the sink, the sticky noodles permanently etched onto its surface, never to be removed again. I was sweating, despite the fact that it SNOWED TODAY. (Did I not mention it fucking SNOWED TODAY? WELL, IT DID.)

And because by the time this all wrapped up, it was 8 p.m., and because we live in a town where NOTHING IS AVAILABLE AFTER SEVEN WITHOUT A BIG PRODUCTION, and I … I had no back-up plan at all … I had a McDonald’s cheeseburger for dinner, while Adam had a Quarter Pounder. Thai food is awesome.

(Seriously? My last meal was SHAKE ‘N BAKE. What was I THINKING? I AM NOT SMITTEN KITCHEN. Also? Tamarind tastes like absolute shit, as does fish sauce, I’m sorry. And as a sauce, together? Over NOODLES? WITH VERY LITTLE BLUNTING INGREDIENTS? NO NO NO.)

Have a great Thursday!

*Travis

45 comments April 30th, 2008

The Golden Hum

Perhaps I’ve just read “Valley of the Dolls” a few too many times, but I’ll tell you, I found it utterly hilarious that the Store Formerly Known as Lerner New York has giant signs up that say, “The Caftan: The Season’s Must-Have.”

The CAFTAN? Honestly? Can’t we come up with something else to call it, as we did with bell-bottoms, which mysteriously became FLARE PANTS once past their prime? Because man, caftan just evokes images of Anne Welles whipping out a Mother’s Little Helper and sporting a flip-do with a lot of hairspray. Oh how I love that book and everything it represents (fluff fiction, absurd vicarious debauchery and … the caftan? I don’t know).

We’re home, by the way, and really, it’s so NICE to be back in our own beds, for we were like an ad for Hotels.com in my nephew’s room, all snuggled up in separate bunk beds (my nephew was relegated to the basement). Although can I confess that there’s something so delightfully awesome about having your own set of sheets and comforter? Adam and I share a king-size bed — I am decidedly NOT a snuggler, and I NEED MY SPACE. If he touches me, in fact, I freak out, because I need FREEDOM. I am also a hot sleeper, emanating sweat and heat in waves off of my prone, drenched body, so ah, snuggling with me isn’t exactly appealing.

A king works just fine for that, really it does, but where things go wrong is the sharing of the blankets. I like to be wrapped up like a burrito, my feet exposed out the bottom, whereas Adam, too, likes to be wrapped up like a burrito, and two people cannot be burritoed unless they want to be burritoed TOGETHER, which sounds awful and very … close. And sweaty.

At any rate, I’m home, only to leave again on Friday for my nephews’ play, only to sleep in the same bunk bed — this time with my mother on the bottom (uh, ew? That sounds … wrong) as Adam is staying home. And so, on Saturday afternoon, I’ll be in the audience of a (very tiny) production of High School Musical. I know. It’s … it’s bound to be sort of cute, but honestly, it’s guaranteed moments of pain, particularly because both nephews have assured me that it sucks, using those exact words. “It sucks, Auntie. It’s really, really awful.” But honestly, what does one expect of a play cast with 9 to 11-year-olds? Of uh, High School Musical, no less? You expect wonderful, in that awful way, yes?

I neglected to mention, by the way, that I hit Target this weekend, and you know how some things take on a golden glow after you leave them, in a way they never glowed before and never will again? Target SHONE LIKE THE SUN AS IT HAD NEVER SHONE BEFORE. It … it IS that great, and I bought … well, a lot, including an inordinate amount of those swingy shirts that graze the belly area rather than cling to it like Saran Wrap that Target (or, I should say, Mossimo) is so outstanding at producing, despite the fact that they fall apart after three washings (which is why I bought thirteen! Or you know, THIRTY. And yet? My grand total was only $80! THAT IS THE BEAUTY THAT IS TARGET.)

It’s everything I remembered and … and more. And suddenly, I’m wondering if living here isn’t as wonderful as I thought, because Target is love. (That reminds me of the book, “Who Needs Donuts?” wherein they discuss “Who needs donuts when you got love?” Because LOVE replaces DONUTS. BUT NOT TARGET.)

I also walked around an actual mall that featured an actual Apple store and actual STORES THAT PEOPLE SHOP IN TO BUY THINGS MADE THIS DECADE other than … Fashion Bug. Which, again, it appears I am desperate enough to shop in and even appreciate after months of abstinence. Country girls need earrings, too.

And now, if you would, and you have some free time this week, please go to Target. Revel in the aisles, and buy a cheap necklace, buy some Mossimo T-shirts! Isaac Mizrahi! PLASTIC WELLINGTON BOOTS. CHEAP TOTES. WHO CARES? BUY IT ALL. OR AT LEAST A CAFTAN. At a bare minimum, caress it all, every moment you can, because I can’t, and I wish I could.

And finally, a word of caution: even if you LIKE prunes, as I do, they are not nature’s most perfect snack, as Sunsweet promises. They are, in fact, nature’s cruel joke, and are nothing more than the Road to Endless Bloat, which means that if you see a (again, totally fake) stripey redhead floating by your place of residence today — or hell, even THURSDAY, for I will be UP THERE THAT LONG — would you take her out with a rock to put her out of her misery? Please?

Have a great Wednesday.

*Remy Zero

29 comments April 29th, 2008

Kissing the Lipless

Help! I’ve eaten my way through Massachusetts and I can no longer button my pants. No, ah, seriously. I mean, they fit now because they’ve grown with me, but when I wash them, and they’re all stiff and shrunken? I. Am. Toast. Buttered toast, to be exact, because I’ve had plenty of that, among other things, including coffee with actual cream, and when was the last time you did that?

(So good.)

I’ve taken the lowbrow Boston-area culinary tour, if you will, for I have eaten, in no particular order: the entire contents of a deep-fried pu pu platter, plus fried rice and lo mein (and plenty of that pink pork loin basted with Ah So sauce, which seems horribly racist in a Mickey Rooney/Breakfast at Tiffany’s sort of way, yes?); a caramelized onion cheeseburger at Joe’s on Newbury; nachos; incredibly delicious pizza from some mysterious Newton pizzeria and … I’ll stop there, as I’m getting hungry.

We’ve seen lots of family, but it’s never enough, really. It’s frustrating how that works, isn’t it? When you’re with them, it’s wonderful and you swear to see each other more often, but then you don’t, because you get too busy and because, well, you’re an idiot. Or at least I am, because I need to see everyone a lot more often. I have four delicious nephews growing like weeds and Adam’s grandpa won’t be around forever, which is a fact I steadfastly refuse to accept, for I love him so much I get teary eyed when I see him. I also touch him a lot and always go for two kisses at the end our time together, and I tell him I love him a whole lot, but the thing is, I do. A whole lot.

And hi ho! Speaking of lovely family, so during the pizza portion of our show on Saturday, Adam’s aunt took me aside into one of the back bedrooms of her home saying she “had to tell me something.” I really honest and truly had NO IDEA where she was going with this, and I never would have guessed if you paid me, like honestly, NEVER. She took my hands and blurted out:

“I … I found and read your blog.”

And let me tell you folks, I DIED. I nearly fell over. I turned bright red from my legs to my scalp and clapped my hand over my mouth and just DIED. There is nothing else to say, for once again, I AM DEAD.

And then she said she’s been wondering how to tell me (which is awful, I mean, why would she feel like it’s on HER to feel awkward? I SHOULD BE WEARING THE AWKWARD, NOT HER), and she was so complimentary and kind and said she was very proud of me and it was … it was really touching, I can’t explain it, and I was sort of choking back tears. Especially because I have always genuinely liked her so much (and I’m not just saying that because she’s reading. You’d like her, too), so it … it meant a lot, it really did. And then, because I am weirdly conditioned by what’s happened to so many bloggers who got busted by their families — especially their in-laws — I reflexively announced that I would NEVER write anything bad about anyone because I WOULD NOT DO THAT.

This is patently true, of course, and I have said this before, but what horrified me was that it seemed to imply that I had LOADS of awful things to say about her and her family, but was HOLDING THEM BACK FOR THE SAKE OF BLOGGY RESPECT. When THIS IS NOT TRUE. I love her whole family and I think she knows that, but if you’d heard me, you probably would have wondered what dark feelings I’ve been keeping a secret. Which is to say, none.

I am very smooth, you see.

This, by the way, is the same reaction I have when readers recognize me, something that’s happened all of twice, and once doesn’t count, really (it’s a long story). I go into SUPER-AWKWARD HAND-TALKY MODE, and though there are plenty who wonder, is she telling the truth about her awkwardness? Alert reader Stephanie in particular can vouch that yes, I really am that awkward, especially if caught off-guard. I also hug strangely and announce, “I’m hugging you!” as I hug you, which is terribly obvious and also too late to serve as a warning, because the hug is upon you, you cannot refuse.

Speaking of hugs, I also feel compelled to add that Adam’s cousin (son of aforementioned aunt) was the recipient of one of the most awkward hugs of my life a few years ago — so much that it’s affected how I hug him to this day. He leaned in for the hug, I thought he was going for the cheek kiss, and I ended up planting one right in the crook of his neck and worse, I had to point it out, like I was picking at a scab.

“Oh my God, I just kissed your neck. See, I thought you were going for the cheek, but you were hugging and … Oh.” This would have been less awkward if he wasn’t completely adorable and was instead, goofy and hump-backed, I don’t know why. I suppose because I didn’t want to seem like the lecherous older woman married to his cousin, no less, trying to kiss his neck when no one was looking, like some creepy cougar waiting to pounce. It was an ACCIDENT.

I haven’t outed myself to the whole family, by the way, for no good reason, really. I’m not really ashamed of anything here, and in fact, pretty much blurt these things out in real life to anyone. My mother, I’ve been meaning to tell for years, and I’ll be honest in that the only reason I haven’t, is that I know she’d worry. I come so close, and then I think of the questions and her worry that someone will beat me in my sleep with a frozen zucchini and run off with my dog. My mother won’t buy anything over the Internet, as she’s afraid that someone will steal her identity and take all of her money, so writing on the Internet, oh my sweet Lord, I don’t … I don’t know if she’s up for processing that without staying awake nights, but someday, I intend to find out.

Plus, doesn’t it feel awkward to bust out with, “I have a blog, please pass the potatoes!” at a family dinner? (For Keeps, with Molly Ringwald. Oh, I love that movie.)

There’s more, there’s always more, but I’ve tortured you enough, and I’m afraid this is terribly boring. Except I also want to say that if you happen to see someone rolling around New England in too-small pants — on her side, perhaps, like Violet heading to the juicing room — it’s me. And if I still have a cheese stick in my hand, would you be so kind as to cruelly rip it away from me and tell me to stop eating, to think of the CHILDREN or something? And then I’ll announce, “I’m hugging you!” while my fat sausage arms wind their way around your neck, which I will find a way to kiss, although that was not my intention. It’ll be fun.

Have a great Monday!

(P.S., It wasn’t a random find, to those who are harboring deep-seated panic of familial discovery. Adam’s other cousin (not the daughter of this aunt, but same side) has a family-known blog and has read me for years and linked to me, though I’d never thought about it much, but now that I do, it’s a total no-shitter. Like, um, of course? Do I have two brain cells to piece things together myself? APPARENTLY NOT. In other words, this will not necessarily happen to you. I know I’d be wondering if I were you and would be all, PANIC PANIC ALERT ALERT WOOP WOOP. And if it does happen to you, I hope it’s as pleasant as this was.)

*The Shins

21 comments April 27th, 2008

Relax

I was without Internet for the entire day today, and if you thought that this meant that I would be more productive, as I did, then oh, you would be so very wrong. I felt creepily paralyzed, like someone had lopped off my fingers at the knuckle, and I suddenly had to learn to type with nubs. (HA. I said NUB.) Possible, yes; easy, not so much. Generally speaking, although I can get sucked into the Internet Vortex of Nowhere, I am not wretchedly addicted or neglecting my normal life — or so I thought — and there I was, all PANICKED. PANICKED. RED ALERT! LASERS! PEW! PEW! PEW!

I meant to add yesterday, before getting ass-juice splayed all over me, that there should be a giant sign in TJ Maxx to politely request customers to please, DO NOT BRING THEIR CART into the narrow aisles. Must you bring the cart into the eighteen inch space of Misses Tops? Can you not CHOOSE a Misses Top without bringing your cart through and blocking the rest of us out of the Michael Kors past seasons and irregulars so that you can pick up your crocheted Tahari poncho? Or worse, you trap us between two carts with nothing to do but peruse blouses that contain far too many strings and idly wondering, where would I tie that? Do I WANT to tie that? WHY ALL THE STRINGS? (No, seriously, why the strings at the waist? Why?). Park the cart, yes, PARK the cart and THEN shop. Yes, see how easy it is! Easy!

We’re off to Boston this weekend for In-Law Fest ’08, and though I am looking forward to seeing our Newton and Needham relatives, I am most looking forward to the Chinese food. Do you know Boston Chinese food? It is an entirely different BREED of Chinese food, unlike anything you’ve ever tasted. You think you’ve had Chinese food! I know! We’ve ALL had Chinese food! But until you’ve had a pu pu platter from South Pacific in Newton, then you haven’t had delicious, greasy Boston-style Chinese. Well, there are others that will do as well, but South Pacific is my personal favorite. Get a scorpion bowl while you’re there, too, which is something that I’d like to partake in, during I-L Fest (or, you know, TWENTY), but won’t.

(I kid, for they are really lovely people.)

And finally, a friend and I went to yoga this afternoon and in addition to vast amounts of Yoga Brain, wherein I was entirely unable to know my right from left or even that hey, if I put my mat underneath a giant half-wall WINDOW, then I won’t be able to use the wall like the teacher ASKED ME TO. But most importantly, I finally had a witness to the insanity that is my yoga studio, with chanting and overgrown armpits and passive-aggressive yogic-ness (“Everyone, please go deeper into your hip stretch. Especially if your name is say … Jonna!” No kidding. She said that.)

But the real coup de grace in our tenuous yogic sobriety was when the teacher’s six-year-old daughter came launching in during our final .. shivasa? Shibasa? Whatever: CORPSE POSE PLUS CHANTING SHIT, and went to the bathroom, wherein we oh’med our way through a solid three minutes of this poor girl’s resounding pee — seriously, it went on FOREVER — while her mother, clearly distracted, as we all were (BY THE FOREVER PEE, seriously was she a CAMEL?), tried to chant about the light in her bowing to the light in me and then there was the TOILET FLUSH that was honestly the loudest thing I have ever heard, and let’s just say I wasn’t particularly relaxed. Like, at all.

And I. Lost. It. I lost it! The chanting! The peeing! The flushing! The fact that while all this was happening, I was strapped in, yet again, to the most ridiculous pose that involved my knees and elbows intertwined in this purple strap-like thing with blocks and blankets and bears, oh my! I honestly broke out in that kind of nasal horking laughter that comes through your nose like you’ve inhaled too much chlorine — when you’re trying to hold it in but can’t — until I snotted all over myself, which only made me laugh harder, I’m sorry to say. And also slightly slimy and unable to give it a proper swipe due to the strappiness of the whole strappy contraption.

It’s possible I might not be allowed back. I’m not sure. I mean, considering I surreptitiously horked and snickered my way through the yoga teacher’s daughter’s pee, I can’t say I blame her. (Note: the daughter did not see any of this, and I have to say, that naturally, it wasn’t her fault, for who knew it would ECHO so? It was just … well, you try relaxing and oh’ming while someone is basically peeing in your ear. Also, why didn’t the teacher tell her to wait? She had to know its echoey properties!)

And with that, I hope you have a wonderful weekend. If you’re in Newton tomorrow night, and you see a (totally fake) redhead in South Pacific, it’s probably me, unless she’s clearly got a wash ‘n set, in which case it is Adam’s Auntie Izzy.

(Also, dude, Lost: WTF? WTFFFFFFEEEECCCKKK?)

*Frankie Goes to Hollywood, of COURSE

18 comments April 24th, 2008

Left to My Own Devices

Can I tell you how much I loved reading all of your responses? You’re all so interesting and diverse and I loved how honest you were — in particular, I loved those of you who admitted that you were, indeed, The Man Himself. HA. But really, I loved it, and it might be one of my favorite comment sections ever — here or anywhere else, and God knows it’s hard competing with yourself — and I mean you, not me, for I had nothing to do with it — because you all rule every day. So thank you.

Separately, I’m a little scared at the amount of people (read: more than one) who’ve told me they’re planning to read Suzanne Finnamore’s “Otherwise Engaged”, and if I’m honest, I’m currently undergoing a bit of recommender’s remorse, because WHAT IF YOU HATE IT? What if you hate HER, and hate ME for wasting your time? It’s totally possible, and then I’ll feel like a total shit. Except when I really think about it, I don’t see HOW it’s possible, because I love her so. But I do need to reiterate: we’re talking CHICK LIT here. Do not look for the Pulitzer. (She’s brilliant nonetheless.)

I feel compelled to say that I have the most riding on TwoBusy, who I believe purchased it for a loved one, and I made the grave error of recommending the film Danny Deckchair to him a while back, to which he succinctly responded a few weeks later, “It bored me to tears. I’m sorry.” Admittedly, my love for the film may have stemmed from my unnaturally strong girl-crush on Miranda Otto. It all started with Eowyn. I know. But she’s so hot! SO hot!

Moving on. One of the strange quirks of my small town is that despite the absence of any store that sells appliances or microwaves — or really, any mass-market commerce whatsoever — there is a TJ Maxx. And a Fashion Bug. Seriously, when was the last time you were in a Fashion Bug? They carry Gitano! Do you remember Gitano? I don’t think I’ve SEEN a Fashion Bug in about ten years. And yet, this combination is common in Vermont, along with Olympia Sports, which is equally perplexing. Surprisingly, I’ve seen at least three shopping complexes with this precise make up of stores. Worse? I uh, have picked up a few things at Fashion Bug. Yes, yes, plain T-shirts and the like and maybe a pair of earrings and FINE. A SWEATSHIRT. But they are NOT THAT BAD, and I promise, none of them are synthetic, applique’d or embroidered. I SWEAR. Just don’t tell anyone, okay? Remember, I DO NOT HAVE TARGET, YOU LUCKY DUCKS.

(But uh, the sweatshirt is Gitano. Look, I know.)

After perusing both stores today, I also think it’s safe to say that there is a bit of an absurd proliferation of hoods out there. Unnecessary hoods, I might add. It’s like someone, somewhere decided that a hood is a convenient way to freshen a tired look, and I’m not okay with this at all. I am only down with the hood if it is FUNCTIONAL in some way, like a sweater or a sweatshirt — you know, an item that you wear in weather where a hood would be quite handy, indeed. I feel quite strongly that a hood should NEVER be on anything sleeveless. Dude, if it’s cold enough to merit a HOOD, then it is certainly wrong to offer it sans sleeves. This dovetails with my well-documented vest aversion, because I don’t know about you, but when I’m out in cold weather, my arms are the first thing to get cold. So tell me, why the vests? Why SO MANY vests, in anything from Polartec to down? I don’t get it. MY ARMS GET COLD.

(Vermont has a lot of vests. Patagonia vests, in fact. This may be a stereotype, but in my experience, it’s true.)

I feel the same way about visors, incidentally. I LOATHE the visor. I don’t like the the top of your head is just floating out there, exposed to the elements. It doesn’t save your hair! It gives you partial hat head anyway! It’s STUPID. I don’t CARE if you’re a golfer!

Oh my hell, you know, there’s more I wanted to write — I intended to talk about more than vests, visors and bad movie recs, but you know what? Do you want to know what JUST HAPPENED TO ME? My dog climbed up on the back of the couch and started barking at her own reflection. She barked so hard that, in fact, she farted in my face. This is not unusual, I’m sorry to say — she’s a pug — and after all, it dissipates and we all move on. What IS unusual, however, is the fact that honest to bloody GOD, she just sprayed — and I really mean sprayed — THE ENTIRE CONTENTS of her ANAL GLANDS all over me. And the couch. I thought it was some kind of ARTERIAL GUSH (it’s uh, reddish) and then, oh my God, I realized what happened. Yes, I am finishing this post with ANAL-GLANDY HANDS. AND SHIRT. AND FACE. YES, FACE. AND GLASSES.

GOTTA RUN.

GHAWRHGTHHEGAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.

(Edited to add later: ALL CLEANED UP. BLARGH. Also, unrelated, thank you for the Goodreads friending, my friends! If you’re out there, feel free to friend me, for I have become addicted, and I love reading your reviews. It’s so useful! I’m Jonniker there, too. And, incidentally, that is also my AIM handle, not that you needed to know. But it is. And it’s a handle for almost everything else that requires … handling. So if you see a Jonniker out there on something, it is very likely me. Unless you don’t like what she’s saying, in which case it’s TOTALLY SOMEONE ELSE, and wow, what a bitch she is, huh?)

*The Pet Shop Boys

37 comments April 23rd, 2008

I’m Not The Man

I’m really hoping, as I’m sure you are, that this is the last thing I say about Eat, Pray, Love, because dude, I KNOW. SHUT UP, ALREADY. But if you can believe it, it reared its ugly head again today as I was thinking about something, and if you can believe EVEN MORE THAN THAT, I’ve gotten no fewer than 126 e-mails and comments COMBINED from INDIVIDUAL PEOPLE who told me they hated the book, too, and they can’t stop thinking about it! They can’t!

Anyway, the one point that continues to stick in my craw like a piece of beef jerky that won’t go down — is that he talks of people who cite children as their greatest accomplishments like they are only saying so because they have no other accomplishments to speak of. You see, they poured all the energy into their kids, when they should have been living their dreams. And though she cites Toni Morrison as one who accomplished both, she’s treated as the exception, not the rule.

Granted, this is my interpretation — I doubt she’d agree that’s what she meant — but I feel the urge to say this BEFORE I have kids, lest someone think I was brainwashed by biology: I think, and have always thought, that having children and raising them to be good people is one of the greatest things a person can do, and you’re successful even if that’s ALL you do — which it isn’t, for anyone because I’m assuming that to raise good kids, you have to be a nice person, and if that’s the case, then SURELY you’ve touched someone else’s life.

(It goes without saying that not having kids also leads to great things, and, in fact, was almost the option I picked, and would have been happy with it. But her words felt so either/or!)

Which brings me to the whole point of how I got thinking about this in the first place, in a roundabout way (success? Lack thereof? I don’t know!): I’ve met surprising number of people — here, more than anywhere else I’ve ever lived, but certainly other places — where a level of education and academic-type knowledge or skill (?) is valued over tangible, real-world success. Perhaps it’s because I live in an academic town that I see this more than other places, but I know an inordinate amount of people who have achieved very little in terms of professional and/or personal accomplishments (by this, I mean a job they like, family, travel, whatever), and cling to prior academic/literary/artistic pursuits, sometimes as far back as HIGH SCHOOL, because that’s the last time they achieved their definition of success (art, writing, literature, whatever).

Apparently, to apply what they love to a real-world job would be selling out and this, of course, is kowtowing to The Man. Ergo, they would rather eschew anything that smacks of sold-out success (read: anything that is remotely traditional, like being an SAHM (D) or working for a corporation-type thing) in favor of … well, I don’t know what. Pride in not selling out to The Man?

I guess I should preface this by saying that The Man and I are really good friends. Actually, I LOVE The Man. The Man has paid my bills for the better part of a decade or more, and lets me tinker with words and semicolons and stuff that I like for the benefit of a paycheck. Yes, I could make more money doing something else, and I have made that choice, and may make it again later in life. I’m cool with that, and don’t hold it against The Man. And though The Man doesn’t do things EXACTLY as I’d like, I never felt like I was in a position to complain, because again, The Man gives me money, sometimes for things like writing bad catalog copy, where as Not The Man does not. The Man sort of rules, even when he’s annoying as shit, is what I’m saying, and since Adam and I have both historically chosen jobs/careers that we’ve (sort of) liked, selling out to him hasn’t been all that painful.

I realize it isn’t this way for everyone, but I’m truly mystified by people who would rather toil away doing something they deplore that makes them miserable and further, doesn’t even pay well (a high paycheck is a totally acceptable standalone reason to sleep with The Man. BTDT, is what I’m saying), for the sake of some kind of INNER SUFFERING rather than “selling out.” And yet I’ve met a surprising number of them! Yes!

And if it were just so that they could work part-time in the salt mines to give them time to pursue whatever it is they truly love then YES, I would be RIGHT BEHIND THEM! Except no! Many of them complain that the mines take up too much time to study Saussure! And having a family is FAR TOO PEDESTRIAN. THEY ARE AN ARTIST. So then I’m left to shrug and think maybe if one’s definition of success is so astonishingly unattainable, then maybe you should redefine it? But I don’t see how knowing 100 ways to refer to Chaucer in conversation helps you, especially if you spend your evenings stuffing envelopes and hating every second of it.

And now that I’ve talked and written myself into a corner that is either incredibly offensive (sorry, if so — I don’t mean to be, I’m just EAGER TO LEARN MORE) or incredibly confusing and banal (that’s where my money’s going), because I DO NOT EVEN KNOW WHAT I’M SAYING AT THIS POINT. I ask you: What do you do for a living? (you can be as vague as you want, and yes, SAHM/D is included here). How do you define success? Do you get it from your job or in your family and friends, or both? Something else? Do you sell out to The Man and like it, or do you sell candles (METAPHOR) so that you can do more thinking about Derrida?

(My answer: While I have things I want to accomplish outside of ManWhore-related activities, I am grateful that I’ve gotten paid to do things that I actually enjoy — not always, but sometimes, and that’s enough. And further, I consider myself lucky to have a great marriage with a dude I actually want to have a family with — which I’ve finally seen as a clear accomplishment, thank you maturity — and when I do finally have a family, I like to think that it will be a significant marker for my own success, if only for the enjoyment I derive from seeing kids grow. I would say the same is true for my relationships with my family and friends. Do I always subscribe to this and NEVER engage in self-flagellation? HA! HA! OF COURSE NOT. The Man is not perfect in his wisdom.)

And herein ends the most ill-conceived piece of writing ever. But it’s late, I’m tired and OH YES, I have had wine.

Happy Tuesday!

*10,000 Maniacs

61 comments April 21st, 2008

Warmer Climate

I am not particularly proud to admit that I spent a full two hours in the wee hours of Saturday morning perched on an ottoman watching ants go in and out of the Terro ant traps I laid out for the occasion. I had a glass of WINE, even! And later, a few bits of dark chocolate! It was like TELEVISION, watching these little creatures go in tiny and come out with huge fat bellies full of delicious, delicious poison — bellies so fat that they could barely make it back into their nest, which I’ve discovered behind the windowsill in the sun porch. And more than once, I rubbed my hands together with mad glee and at least twice — oh, at least — I called Adam down from upstairs to check out the action. “Nature at work!” I would yell up to him. “You’ve GOT TO SEE THIS!”

Never mind that “nature” was actually us, with our cruel, murderous intentions and pancake-syrup laced with Borax stuffed in a plastic case.

This all took place around 1 a.m., when anyone who is still young, prurient and single is out at the bars, dancing the night away with tequila sunrises and saketinis, while I was wearing yoga pants and an old Depeche Mode T-shirt clutching a glass of (cheap) wine watching ants carry translucent stripey abdomens of poison back to their queen. It goes without saying that I am now seriously considering an ant farm.

Enter a series of non-sequiturs, as usual:

One of my friends has an odd habit of defining every high-scoring word after she says it. I can’t decide why she does this — maybe it’s because she’s a teacher, maybe it’s that she thinks I’m dim, and I’m not sure what the word means. It’s also possible that I’m not reacting properly, for she often uses these words as a punchline of sorts, as if she’s testing me to see if I get it. It could be that I’m not responding fast enough, and she’s afraid she’s misled me. Oddly, she does not do this condescendingly, which seems incongruous, but there you go.

Either way, it drives me a little nuts, for I have yet to hear a word out of her mouth that I don’t know — the only one I puzzled over for any length of time was thaumaturge, and now yes, please, go look that up and tell me if its use is EVER NECESSARY, because it isn’t. Sometimes an extensive vocabulary is best used judiciously, unless you’re steeped deeply in academia, where such talk is necessary to engage in a lexicon-laden pissing match.

Anyway, instead of enjoying our usually lively conversation, I spend the majority of our time together listening for words she might have the urge to define and arranging my face in the best semblance of comprehension I can muster. Friday afternoon, in fact, I interrupted and preempted her with a definition of “masticate” because I sensed she was about to, and because, yes, HELLO, I UNDERSTAND, but wouldn’t you know, she went ahead and explained it anyway.

By the way, Eat, Pray, Love is over and done with, and Split has been devoured like an ice cream sundae, complete with brain freeze, for I ate it up far too quickly. I do this, sometimes, with things I know I’m going to love, and I’m both intensely gratified and deeply disappointed when they’re over, for who the hell knows when Suzanne Finnamore will publish another novel? Three in eight years do not a prolific author make. But the fact remains that Finnamore is one of my writing heroes, if not THE writing hero of my entire life. No one, and I mean no one, has ever constructed such beautifully rich sentences in so few words, and she makes me want to be a better writer — in fact, she makes me feel like I CAN be a better writer, and I don’t know why that is, but she does.

That being said, please don’t start with Split, if you’re new to her. Otherwise Engaged is the best place to begin. Start there. Maybe now is a good time?

Which brings me, by the way, to the fact that ages and ages ago, I joined Goodreads, and never really used the account. I like the idea of it, in theory, but like anything, I need other people to make me pay attention to it. Thus far, my only friend is Lara, so if you’re a member and feel like friending me, go right ahead. You can make fun of my abysmally pedestrian literary taste and I can siphon good books to read off of your no-doubt superior selections. A win/win for everyone!

I hope you had a great weekend. Personally, I’m about to pass out, as I took the dog for a three-mile walk today (I have to stop treating her like a golden retriever — the girl can’t take it), and both days, we found ourselves at the driving range, hitting golf balls into nowhere in the hot sun. It’s like summer here in Vermont, which thrills and terrifies me, for if it’s this hot in April — seriously, all windows in the house are open, and I’ve worn skirts and flip-flops, like Florida — what the hell do June, July and August hold for us? I should add that the hottest day of my life was in Bennington, VT, at my brother’s wedding. In June. There is no air conditioning here, anywhere. We’re screwed, I know we’re screwed, don’t remind me.

Happy Monday!

*Snow Patrol

18 comments April 20th, 2008

Untold Stories

I liked my new primary care doctor immediately, and oddly, it was because of
Eat, Pray, Love. That book is becoming my new litmus test as to whether I will like a person. That’s not to say that if you liked it, I will NOT like you — I love plenty of people who loved it, surely, and that includes family members — but if you don’t like it, or at least don’t love HER, it’s a marker of sorts that perhaps we could be kindred spirits.

Dr. L walked into the exam room, as I sat there sweating in my open-front cotton robe. She introduced herself, then turned to the book she saw in my purse.

“You love it? Everyone seems to.” She was assessing me coolly, but not unkindly.

“Not really. I think she’s self-absorbed. And I just finished India, which was the worst part.” I had already told the nurse AND the receptionist this, when both asked. It seems I can’t even be polite about Liz Gilbert when strangers ask me this question, and I give a stone-cold answer every time.

“No,” she shook her head grimly. “Indonesia is much, much worse. She thinks she shits GOLD in Indonesia.”

And so began a doctor’s visit wherein I almost threw my arms around my new physician with mad love, but refrained from doing so, not only because I would have pressed my entirely naked body against her (why open in the front? WHYYY?), but because I was inexplicably sweating like I have never sweat before. Yes, it was 70 degrees out today, but that was absolutely no reason for the sweat. It was like a Bikram yoga session — and worse, the more I stressed about it, the more I sweat. I had nearly drenched the see-through robe by the time she arrived, and though she was incredibly disarming and kind, I continued to pump out sweat like it was my job to provide mineral water and skin bacteria to the entire town.

Perhaps more upsetting, however, is the fact that I asked her for a recommendation for a gynecologist and ended up telling her of my experience at Dr. Leans-A-Lot. And something in her reaction made me think that I wasn’t the first to complain about him, for she was quick to say, “No, ah, I think you’re going to have to go to the city for what you need. I’ll make some calls to get you in.”

And FURTHER, the nurse came in and asked about it and — please tell me you’re ready for this, as in YOU MAY WANT TO SIT DOWN — she noted that I’d recently had a pap smear with Dr. Lean-O, and when I told her it was during the uh, active phase of my lunar cycle (yes, THAT lunar cycle: think Moon Cup) at the doctor’s insistence , she let out a heavy sigh and said, “Oh GREAT. Of course,” and then shook her head. And … and then she followed it up with, “Yes, um, that seems to be his thing. And I’m going to stop before I get in trouble. But I trust you’re not going back there?”

HIS THING. EW. ARE YOU DEAD YET? BECAUSE I HAVE DIED.

And that was before I even TOLD HER ABOUT THE LEANING.

And the worst part is that I’m probably not going to do anything more about it than what I’ve already done. After my appointment, I got a survey from the hospital system asking me to evaluate my visit, and I sort of let it rip. It claimed to be anonymous, but I’m pretty sure that like anything, they could trace it to me based on appointment time/identifying information. But seeing as I saw The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, I’m kind of all set with turning in the creepy gynecologist, and I wish I could say I was above being influenced by a fictional film, but I’m not. I don’t want to die, and I don’t want my gardener turned in for child molestation. Honestly, I’m irrationally afraid of getting in trouble for writing this, like I’ve identified him and given you his phone number or something. Because again, I’m TWELVE.

With that, I hope you have a great weekend. Thanks to you all, I’m buying Terro and eradicating the remaining ants (only three today!). I’m also finishing the albatross that is Eat, Pray, Love and going on a hike, as it’s supposed to be beautiful. And Split is here! It’s here! And I cheated and already started it and might finish it by morning, because I’m a greedy shit. Although would you believe there are greedier shits than me who already reviewed it on Amazon? It came out TODAY.

Are you doing anything fun? Tell me about it either way, if you’re so inclined. Spring is here! It’s here!

*Sinead O’Connor

39 comments April 17th, 2008

I Got Ants In My Pants (And I Want to Dance)

Well, I don’t actually feel like dancing, but if this keeps up, I will TOTALLY have ants in my pants. AGAIN.

I woke up this morning and decided to do laundry before having a cup of coffee, which was stupid, but what was I to do, given that I spied a load in the front-loading window that had CLEARLY been there for a few days, guaranteeing that we’d be walking around with Mildew Scent? It was early — around 7:30 — and I just … I just poured the laundry detergent onto the floor instead of the dispenser. I just POURED it onto the floor and proceeded to go brush my teeth like nothing had happened, and it was only when I saw the puddle did I realize what I had done.

And then oh, I just clackity-clacked all the livelong day like a happy little worker bee and ate lunch like a normal person in a kitchen that looked completely normal and didn’t, say, have ants crawling all over the windowsill, sink and walls. Oh, what’s that? YES, ANTS. HA HA. Things got rather … Biblical around this here kitchen today, for when I went to wash my spoon after an afternoon snack of Liberte Mediterranee yogurt (Motto: “Happiness is Creamy” and yes, yes it is. Fifteen grams of fat worth, and it’s effing INCREDIBLE) to discover a few ants on the windowsill, which was freaky enough until my eyes followed the trail to the cabinets to … TO THE WALLS. THERE WERE HUNDREDS. IN DROVES. BIG BLACK ONES. ON THE WALLS.

How did this happen so fast? It was a few hours! AT BEST.

Did I mention they were on the walls? I mean, have you ever SEEN ants on walls? Because I’ve had ants before, but I’ve never had them ON THE WALLS. It was like a witchcraft movie where some evil witch makes bugs appear in plague-like proportions and I was waiting for the worms to come crawling out of the toilet and oh yes, then there would be maggots pouring from the planters outside! And snakes climbing on the windows! And giant beetles swarming under the doors! Isn’t that how it goes? (Uh, anyone else see The Craft?)

Let me say it again: I HAD ANTS ON MY WALLS. And then, just to demonstrate that I am, in fact, twelve and still rely on my mom for everything, I called my mother to scream “THERE ARE ANTS ON MY WALLS. WHAT DO I DO?” but she wasn’t home! And then, because I have TWO moms that I call in such emergencies, I called my stepmom for the same question. And she wasn’t home! And then I called my sister! Who is also like my mom, for she is 13 years older than me, and, you guessed it: SHE WAS NOT HOME.

THREE MOTHERS. NO HELP. Honest to God, I would have called ANYONE in that moment who could talk me through the process of REMOVING ANTS FROM MY WALLS. Be glad I don’t have your phone number. Because I was about to call you to scream, “THERE ARE ANTS ON MY WALLS. WHAT DO I DO?”

If you were wondering: I went after each and every one of them with a paper towel! And Ortho Home Defense! And every time a single one wouldn’t die instantly, I screamed, and it wasn’t a delicate scream, it was a high-pitched scream like you see in horror movies, and one time, I actually clutched my cheeks like Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone as I stood there with my mouth open. And oh yes, I was standing on a STOOL. Over an ANT. While SCREAMING. (“Eek! An ANT!”)

Honestly I sprayed so much that my throat hurt from the fumes, and it wasn’t until I soaked the garbage (ANTS WOULD NOT DIE IN PAPER TOWELS. KILL KILL KILL.) that I realized that I had a dog that I was very likely MURDERING with every spray and oh God, I just don’t even want to think about it anymore, and yet I can’t. I can’t stop. (Incidentally, this is why I prefer using environmentally friendly methods when it comes to pest control, and I’m not just saying that because I’m in Vermont. That stuff is AWFUL and oh-so-toxic, but when you have ANTS on your WALLS, you tend to not really notice if you’re killing yourself and your pets, because all you want is ANTS GO BYE BYE ALL GONE. WHO CARES WHO DIES)

You know that whole thing that happens to you after you see bugs, like your skin is crawling because THEY ARE THERE? Well. I took a shower after a run this evening and the water running down my legs was enough to send me screaming again, because RUNNY THINGS ON MY LEGS OMG ANTS.

And what the HELL, dude? WHAT. THE. HELL. If you recall (and uh, why would you?) this happened to me when I first moved to Florida. In fact, that was the first ant infestation of my life, when I woke up to ANTS IN MY PANTS and IN MY HAIR. DEAD BODIES IN MY HAIR. (And yes, uh, this was separate from the ants in my underpants, which means I am an ant MAGNET. SEND RAID.)

Other than that I … I got nothing. Oh, except for the fact that I did get my teeth cleaned and examined today (I was deemed a grown-up and given a speedy appointment) and when they complimented the crown work I had done last year, I beamed beatifically and said “Oh THANK you! They ARE lovely!” as if I had performed the dental work myself. And also, my new dentist does Botox, in addition to dental work, and I’m wondering: does this strike anyone as odd? Do these two things seem related to you? I mean, the hygienist tried to sell me on the whole, “he’s a head doctor!” argument, but Botox? And fillings? Really?

I hope you have an ant-free Thursday.

*James Brown.

39 comments April 16th, 2008

Bottle It Up

I always feel crappy after railing on something I didn’t like — I mean, certainly I meant what I said, but wow, harsh much, Jonna? Because, of course, I whine and bitch on this here website about things that, when compared with things like mass genocide and missing children, are a bit on the petty side. But meh, I didn’t like it and yes, I did want to slap her, albeit very gently. I did! And I’m sure plenty of people have wanted to slap me and I’m okay with that.

And after that tirade, it’s with great irony that I tell you that the book I am most looking forward to this year is almost out and I AM BESIDE MYSELF. And HA, guess what? It’s a memoir! ABOUT DIVORCE.

IT BURNS LIKE THE SUN.

Incidentally, I will finish “Eat, Pray, Love,” because I have this odd compulsion to finish every book I start. This actually came up in therapy once, several years ago, and my therapist was determined to make a THING of it, like it had some sort of DEEPER MEANING. I didn’t like that therapist much, because she was looking for meaning everywhere, and after a while, it was just plain exhausting. Sometimes you just want to finish a book you started so that you can say you finished the book and whatever time you put into it wouldn’t be entirely wasted. You see? Sometimes a bad mood is just a bad mood and sometimes finishing a book is just a compulsion.

Ahem. At any rate, the whole point is to recommend Suzanne Finnamore, who has another book coming out on Thursday, and it might be the first book I pick up the VERY SECOND it’s available. In fact, I pre-ordered it from my local bookstore, which is something I’ve done precisely zero times before, not even at the height of Harry Potter panic.

(Please don’t make me defend my Harry Potter habits again. I … I read them all. Gleefully.)

If you haven’t read her before, “The Zygote Chronicles” is one of the best pregnancy memoir-type books (fictionalized memoir, I’m betting), and “Otherwise Engaged,” (also a fictionalized memoir, if you ask me) is equally good, and I have a battered, dog-eared copy that I’ve had for years. Both are fantastic and razor-sharp, and I am incredibly disappointed that the family I sort of watched the formation of has obviously crumbled. She’s not everyone’s cup of tea — some find her elitist and a little out of touch with the common (wo)man — but I can’t help but adore her. Also, if it’s not obvious, what I’m recommending here is not highbrow literature or even mid-brow literature, so come back another day if that’s what you want — this is pure, puffy chick-lit, albeit in a slightly more intelligent form.

Aand I know what I’ll be doing this weekend, which means I’d better pump through “Eat, Pray, Love” before then, which is painful, as India is SO PAINFUL. So uh, woo hoo.

So! Onward! I called the dentist for a cleaning today and when I asked if the doctor was taking new patients, the secretary actually replied with, “Well, yes, the doctor is taking new patients, but you might want to have your mom and dad call and schedule for you! A grown-up needs to make those appointments, sweetie.”

A GROWN UP.

This also reminds me of a vague logistical question: say you’re trying to uh, plant a tulip, and are tentatively planning one last vacation for your fifth (FIFTH!) wedding anniversary before the tulip blooms, realizing that because of the tulip gestational period, a tulip cannot bloom before, say, August, when your anniversary is. Is there any reason why one shouldn’t go ahead and book this? I mean, aside from the sort of maybe puking and exhaustion during said vacation. And if you were wondering, this would be to a beachy type place where lying next to a puke bucket is totally acceptable, though it may be out of the country.

And further, there is no guarantee that the bulbs will even be planted, so why NOT, is kind of what I’m saying, because if I don’t, then come August, it would be very disappointing and foolish to not go on a vacation that was not scheduled because of an event that didn’t happen.

But maybe I’m wrong.

Happy Wednesday!

*Sara Bareilles

35 comments April 15th, 2008

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